Saturday, April 30, 2005

Plant the Seeds, Expect the Harvest

This is another of my least favorite modern developments in family-crafting.

The latest set of quintuplets is a veritable litter of babies born to a surrogate mother who's reliquishing her fee because she feels so bad for the relatively low-income couple (a homemaker and landscaper) that now has five preemies and only three-bedrooms in suburban Gilbert, Arizona. See MSN's report here:

“We were always looking for just one,” said Moreno, 34, who immigrated from Mexico 16 years ago. “If it’s five, it’s for a reason.”

The Reason, as he put it, is because the doctors implanted 5 fertilized eggs, even knowing the risks to the children if they all "took hold." (Also knowing that many doctors now oppose the implantation of so many eggs using exactly the rationale which became reality here.) The irresponsibility of the medicos and parents and surrogate mean that the community of Gilbert will be expected to chip in to bail out these people who couldn't ever afford 5 children, especially ones who will require a lot of special care. We're expected to provide cheerful support as if this number of needy children were a true serendipity. It may be argued whether artificial ensemination or surrogacy is a good idea at all, but we know, without dispute, when that many babies are in one womb, it results in physical deprivation, underdevelopment, and prematurity.

Gabriel was the biggest, at 3 pounds, 15 ounces; Javier the smallest, at 3 pounds, 7 ounces. Enrique was 3 pounds, 14 ounces; Jorge 3 pounds, 13 ounces; and Victor 3 pounds, 8 ounces...
Newborn Javier was taken to the cardiac unit at Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s because the left side of his heart was underdeveloped and could not properly pump blood. He was reported in stable condition. Elliot said the baby had a one-in-three chance of survival.
Dr. John Stock, the pediatric cardiologist who diagnosed the heart problem, said children with the defect must either undergo a series of operations to fix the problem or get a heart transplant.

Yay! Sounds like fun for Javier, huh? The parents love the idea of their prospective children so much, but implantation costs $15k, and who wants to save enough money to pay that twice if it doesn't take? Of course, if you don't have enough money to repeat the procedure, why are you chancing 5 births? Forget I asked. Load up the eggs just in case. Why worry about the physical, emotional, and financial price of having a terribly disabled child? Even the children with capable hearts were born early and small. Not to damn these babies in advance- they're here and I wish them much health and luck- but candidly, it will not be unusual if these kids have respiratory problems and/or developmental disabilities throughout their lives caused by their crowding and prematurity. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for making it tons more likely by having them gestate like puppies not normal humans!

And yet, the common response from such parents, who have biased their childrens' lives toward sickness and want with such clear-eyed selfishness, is that it's God's will. Well, perhaps. Explain how God made you infertile, but you didn't feel he called you to learn to love parenting another person's DNA in child form. But then the Lord told you to implant a whole fistful of eggs into a stranger, because he was worried about the cost of do-overs for you. Sorry about the bum ticker, Javier, God blesses your parents' wishes, not yours, blah, blah. When we knowingly use our amazing brains and technology to satisfy our desires regardless of how it may harm the innocent, I don't blame that on God. Sadly, that's human stuff, all the way.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Grocery Books and Senate Holds

According to Edward Wyatt of the NYT, in whom I still trust on matters bookish, the latest expanded venue for book sales is hardcovers in the supermarket. Kroger and Wegman's are two examples of chains who've installed comfy, browsable, much larger sections of new titles.

Of course, this development brings the pulp to the people, and that's good. However, it also reduces bookstore purchases, which are the avenues for profitable backlist sales, and groceries tend to roll the merchandise through even faster than the big book chains. And if you're a mass-market paperback author, beware. There may not be room for you, even though the drug store and grocery used to be the fiefdom of the paperback rack. These upscale grocery-shoppers want bargain hardcovers by bestselling authors please, and even after the higher hardback retail price is discounted, the stores realize a fatter profit margin on the stiff-spined.

So is this the great new access point for authors to find their readers, or does it continue to thin the number of people allowed in the game? Read and decide:

In Gov't news, we've been hearing about the Senate's judicial filibuster (gasp-will the Dems or won't they?) and the move to make judicial confirmations subject to straight majority (gasp-will the GOP go nuclear?). In general, I believe in moving these kinds of things things along and putting hands to real issues, not simply the issue of who will shepherd the issues. I don't believe a Senate minority of any party should hold judicial appointments hostage, but especially when we have a crisis of vacancies in our circuit courts. Today, people seeking swift justice are even more out of luck than usual, and that isn't fair or proper. Perhaps, we could thin the dockets by passing "loser pays" legislation. That unlikelihood may happen before we get a single new judge.

I further believe that if judges are considered legal professionals who are trying to objectively interpret the laws passed by legislators, I don't care much how they voted, what they eat, who they love, etc. Let's put tighter oversight on so-called "legislating from the bench" from any corner of someone's agenda, because it circumvents our representative democracy and elevates the judiciary to the final authority, an inappropriate position for the unelected and one that rightly belongs to the People. Let's have more referendums on the hot topics for mass social legislation, and let's hustle the black-robed bodies into those empty seats.

In a related story, today's WSJ editorial highlights how the Senatorial "hold", which is merely an unwritten tradition (bleck, phooey on that) is being allowed to stall the placement of at least seven other government appointees. This President, any president, ought to be able to fill his administrative posts quickly unless there are concerns of the most egregious nature, and party affiliation and/or political ideology don't count. As any one knows who's ever worked for a provisional supervisor, they don't get the same kind of loyalty, respect, or execution from their employees as a permanent boss. Does anyone think that our government doesn't have some important tasks it should be doing? The Senate on both sides is spending so much time and energy over the picking of teams, by the time we ever get to playing the game, the sun will be down and we'll all have to run home.
If there's a home left to run to, that is.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

I Love Woodpeckers, but Hope is Overrated

This is one of my least favorite kind of cultural-ideal-meets-government fiascoes, wherein we celebrate another species promoting its own while using it as an excuse to oppress ours.

In amazing news, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has the unmitigated chutzpah and sheer moxy to keep existing and reproducing despite damning P.R.
The title of the story is Sightings Spark Rush to Save "Extinct" Woodpecker. I find birds wonderful creatures. I delight in their aesthetic variety and the amphibian and aerodynamic triumphs of their engineering. But does it occur to anyone else that after surviving 60 years of extinction on paper, there isn't that much a rush and the birds don't need us?

The Mark Twain of birds (as in "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated") was sighted in a remote part of Arkansas, therefore, is not immediately threatened by human development, et al. Unless there's a unique tree variety or geography where it lives, it may, without bother, continue to build in numbers and expand its territory. But species actually become extinct without human intervention every year. Diseases, climate drift (don't get me started on ozone holes and global warming), and cataclysms of weather or geography occur naturally, and make it impossible to guarantee any species' (including our own's) continued fitness in the wild. New species are discovered all the time, too, but don't expect a lot of prime time coverage about that fact of life on this planet. Anyhoo, to mandate an unguaranteeable outcome for the prototypical rara avis, the government is here with its "second chance" to save wildlife that doesn't need the extra paperwork.

"Today we are commiting to a multiagency, multimillion-dollar, multiyear program to provide hope for this bird's continued survival," Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced at a news conference.

If your perceptions about U.S. forests are based on the scary Environmental (big E, as in The Cause) reporting in popular media, you may not know that the U.S. is more forested than it was 60 years ago, when the bird was declared an ex-woodpecker, if judged by standing timber volume and growth per acre. The U.S. is at least as forested as it was 60 years ago if considered by acreage. A full third of America is forested and that number hasn't declined for almost a century despite our rising population. Big Ups to high-yield modern farming methods, anyone? Still, in the flurry of delight amongst ornithologists, whose passionate myopia I forgive since it makes such wonderful discoveries possible, the Department of the Interior is maximizing the opportunity for money-grubbing and land-grabbing.

According to this story, the bird was spotted principally in a 16-mile area. The DoI's new CORRIDOR OF HOPE conservation plan will cover the Big Woods of Arkansas, an area about 20 miles wide, but 120 miles long! And perhaps you're encouraged to hear how "Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said landowners in the area could become eligible for $13.5 million in rental payments over the next 15 years to maintain the trees that ivory-billed woodpeckers use as their habitat." But, if you know anyone who owns property adjacent to govermentally "protected areas", just ask them how lucrative it is.

Most likely, the people who privately own property next to Arkansas' Corridor of Hope are not as wealthy or influential as Sam Walton. Among cases of governmental overreach in the cause of nature, the anecodotes of which are more numerous and ridiculous than you can imagine, the welfare of a single tree can (and does and will) override an owner's private property rights. People with normal, lawful, reasonable desires are forced to plead for, and are often refused, government approval to improve their living conditions through building improvements, pursue prosperity through starting businesses on their own land, or secure their families with fencing or other boundaries. As if dealing with multiple zoning regulations, approval boards, and inspectors weren't migraine-causing enough, this additional environmental bureaucratic overhang tends to depress propery values since any new buyers will be similarly limited in how they can use their own property.

The Corridor of Hope will likely be a detriment to adjacent humans and do significantly less to protect the birds than they've done for themselves. It is, however, an unmitigated improvement in the size and scope of public-funded government intrusion.

My rationale goes like this:
1) Respect for individual and property rights is an essential part of successful capitalism as well as healthy democracy, from which every Arkansan can benefit.
2) This bird has already survived its demise, and it's not clear what we can do to "save" it if we haven't doomed it yet.
3) More prosperity tends to lead societies to environmentally "cleaner" and more careful development. Government interference can short-circuit that process.

So, consider me an unabashed admirer of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and a cynic when it comes to Hope.

I been Toilin' on the Mystery Railroad

Not really, but I have been attending lots of events related to the Edgar week activities here in New York hosted by Mystery Writers of America, of which I am a proud, pulp-pushing, Associate Member. I cannot be an Active Member because I'm unpublished in this field (well, any field, if I'm candid), but some charitably prefer to call my status pre-published. I always think of it as unpaid.
I've been meeting agents to pitch my second book, and have five or six to follow up, which is terrific. I've attended good sessions at the symposium about publishing and publicizing one's work. I've met many writers: some unpaid like me, some well-advanced in bestselling careers, and lots in-between. I've developed warmer acquaintanceships with the local NYC MWA crowd. It's all been fun and worthwhile, if exahusting. Tonight is the final event, the formal banquet for the Edgar Awards. Now that I know a couple of nominees, the pageant becomes even more exciting.

So, with that rationalization of yesterday's bloglessness, here's a quick dose of a bitter pill.

As I've raved repeatedly, the pharmaceutical approval process is broken. Also, the social and economic one-two punch of nanny-state demands for safety over progress combined with obscenely lucrative litigation awards has obstructed access to beneficial therapies and cures for millions.

In the latest spasm of reaction to the yanking (rather than prudent relabeling) of Vioxx, sufferers of MS won't be able to get a drug which so far shows unprecedented effectiveness against disease progression and relapse. Why, you ask? Because in three instances, people in the clinical studies contracted a rare viral disease and two died from it. However, we can't even be sure that Tysabri, the new drug, was the culprit in these cases, because the three patients were all taking other drugs which are known immunosuppressors. But let's assume for ranting's sake that we became convinced by data, not hysteria, that Tysabri created this viral risk. I believe if the possibilities were properly identified, many MS sufferers who tend to be well-informed about their conditions and options would still opt, even pound down doors, to try this new drug. My side bet is they'd even sign liability waivers to do it. Why, you ask again, you pest? Because like the odd viral disease, MS can be lethal, although even when it doesn't kill, it often blinds and paralyzes anyway. How comfy are we with deciding which risk someone else should prefer?

When considering tort reform, the FDA's culture and practice, and some inaccurately-labeled "liberal" desires to see Americans straitjacketed into socialized medicine, people should remember that Freedom of Choice means the most to people stuck between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

Read Michael Fumento's article in Townhall here:

(UPDATE: Michael Fumento is a discredited creep. I still believe in what I wrote, however, I must alert you that this article link may be dead, as this man was, quite unfortunately, a paid mouthpiece.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mattering is Meaning

Jennifer Roback Morse from Townhall's C-Log pointed the way to this Tech Central Station article by Ilya Shapiro. She was touched by the way he described the pervasive unhappiness he sees and experiences in today's Generation X.
Complete article here:

Shapiro writes, It is a conversation I keep having, or talking around, with my friends and peers -- the type of folks who 20 years ago would have been called yuppies (which label I at least am happy to wear now, if in a descriptive rather than ascriptive way). They -- we -- have everything we could ever want in this stage of life, but still we search for meaning... Some haven't quite found a match between vocation and avocation, or feel trapped by their jobs or paper credentials. Others feel lost without a soulmate, or in relationships held together by inertia. Some can't quite put a finger on the source of their discontent. For most it's a combination.

Read Morse's complete response under Is That All There Is? here:

The emphasis is mine. Morse responds: I really found myself, believe it or not, in motherhood. In 1991, we adopted a two-year old Romanian orphan boy, and gave birth to a little girl within six months. It became apparent to me that my little boy had to have me, in particular. Not a generic mom, not high quality, low-cost day-care, but me, to be his mom... All of a sudden, I was uniquely important in a way I had never been before. My life had meaning to them, the other members of my family.

I hope to put this concisely and well. I believe that for most of us non-saints, for our lives to matter, in some arena, we must be the unique cause of an end-state effect. And this is increasingly difficult in careers and lifestyles where we are small, often interchangeable, parts of a complex process that neither begins nor ends with our efforts. One of the keys to human happiness is having attributable, causative power. In my words, that's mattering.

The idea's clearer when we examine popular, "meaningful" activities like parenting, artistic creation, charity. In each of these, we cause a unique effect on another person or to an end result. Does anyone matter more to a child than his parent? Did anyone matter more to the statue than the sculptor? Consider the examples of a composer to a symphony, the gardender to a prize geranium, the cook to a great meal, the lover to the beloved, or the rescuer to the person in distress. All of these matter the most to the other. We acknowledge the satisfaction that humans experience when a unique application of talent or effort or even one's simple presence makes a difference that can be experienced. And our impact doesn't have to be beneficial to make us feel better. Consider bullying, graffiti tagging, or the toddlers who knock things over because they can and then giggle like the happiest destroyers on earth. What IS important is that difference we make must be easily recognized, NOT "I was on the steering committee that issued the recommendations for the manufacturing procedures of the prototype of the internal ganglywrench." Huh?

I DID THAT and IT MATTERED. It's about simple proximity of cause and effect. When it's obvious to us and others how our presence and abilities make an impact on something- anything- then life feels more meaningful. That's why even high-paying, prestigious careers made of procedures and hierarchies, and expensive consumerism which experiences and displays but doesn't create still leave us feeling insignificant. We've become estranged from the native human satisfactions of causing intrinsically understood end-state effects. Attributable, causative power matters. Mattering is meaning. And meaning is essential to happiness.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Itches Collective, Technological and Poetic

I HAVE SPENT FORVER trying to publish this post which Blogger digests and excretes in heaps of HTMeffluent. Again and Again. I'm stubborn as a bulldog, but I'm also really fatigued with that nifty feature. You get what you pay for, I guess.

So, onto the reconstructed post.

1) The WSJ had a concise article on how the required updates to LM-2 filings by unions are revealing the level of rank-and-file disloyalty to their political aims as well as abu$e$ within the union hierarchy. Shocked? You wouldn't be if you were a low-income female grocery worker in California a couple of years ago, forced to strike for months in opposition to your own survival while your failed negotiators earned six figures courtesy of dues which already excised too large a chunk from your meager check. Now that the all-intrusive OSHA is the doyenne of workplace safety, exactly which employees' welfare are the unions protecting while they suffocate vast enterprises for the benfits of their grafting honchos? This article's available by subscription, sorry, but if you can read it, it's here:,,SB111438772677015598,00.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep
If the media has the stomach for the story, I predict there are many more outrages to learn.

2) This next WSJ article is a Freebie. It's about the luscious inventions of the Lawrence Livermore Lab. If we'd apply proper risk-assessment, innovations like these, and rapid deployment to our airline security, we could have the safest and least experientially odious air travel in the world.

3) Today, a Columbia University poetry student can graduate without scanning a line, the poetic equivalent of diagramming a sentence for structure. As in my post of April 16th about how classical forms of architecture resonate with our very humanness, David Yezzi touches on that topic within the structures of poetry. Think about how percussion in music that emulates a mother's heartbeat is universally pleasing. Could the meter in poetry be exempt from such effects?

Discussing the death of formalism in The New Criterion, Yezzi writes: It’s as if our culture gave up study of the violin or artists no longer learned to draw (now too often the case).

Well, I could've confirmed for him that in contemporary visual art, "social content" is king, resulting in a repulsive deevolution of aesthetics and technique. He demonstrates this devaluation within poetry in this anecdote (emphasis his, cropping mine): I was serving on a panel of poetry judges, and as the panel proceeded to deliberate, one judge, a university professor and poet, chimed in to say that I and another of our colleagues seemed to be paying a lot of attention to the language in the poems. It was never entirely clear to me what was meant by this statement, but I suspect that the implication was that, in carefully examining a poet’s deployment of words, I had failed to give proper weight to the poet’s biography...

Woe to those transgressing the modern credo: I AM VICTIM, THEREFORE, MY WORK DOESN'T STINK

In current artistic education, practicum is all, but I believe history and form and criticism should occupy a third if not half of the educational hours. If you don't know the rules you're breaking, in your ignorant meanderings, what you vaunt as revelation may be exposed as merely a regression.

Read the whole juicy thing here:

Thursday, April 21, 2005

No Time For Blather, Boob Links and Blurbs

I've got to run even as I write this, so here's what interested me. Public Health again. I'm on a tear.

An FDA advisory panel has recommended that silicone breast implants be approved for sale. Forget the wacky ravings about women oozing silicone strings from their eyes. Read a more fact-bound acconut that laments the "black magic" accusations by Michael Fumento.

(UPDATE: Michael Fumento is a discredited creep. Your humble author still agrees with the conclusions he draws as this data's been published in other forums. However, I must alert you that this article link may be dead, as this man was, quite unfortunately, a paid mouthpiece.)

Connected to that, the FDA advisory panel has also recommended that only board-certified plastic surgeons be allowed to purchase the implants. The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (a distinct, aesthetic subspecialty) is hopping mad that they're being excluded from considering silicon implants when "there is no proof that a board-certified plastic surgeon is better qualified to perform a breast augmentation with these implants than a board-certified cosmetic surgeon," the AACS president says.

My musings: Plastic surgeons deal not only with appearance-based goals, but also with reconstruction which almost everyone likes as a defensible use of this medical technology and procedure. I was surprised by the FDA panel's recommendation, and couldn't locate their resaoning online. However, it got me wondering whether the divide derives from our society's discomfort with and tacit judgement of this "elective" procedure performed most often for vanity's sake. From Hollywood or Vegas, you wouldn't get the idea that there was anything unusual or unwonderful about optionally fake boobs. So why do so many women who've got them lie? Even when it's dang obvious. If you're interested, Awful Plastic Surgery has pictures of plenty of celebrities who disavow their falsies, including Lindsey Lohan who had them done at 17. If it's so awesome, why all the frontin'?

Signs of Progress: Now, instead of one goofy food pyramid, there are 12. Many people are calling the new pyramids, which outrank those at Cheops in number and complexity, a poor reform. To be fair, some of these naysayers also bother to blame the old food pyramid for American obesity because of its grains emphasis. From complaints about not enough detail to overmuch to the vertical striping to the exercise limits, people have axes to grind. Read the WSJ article here:,,SB111392026186410692-email,00.html

I fear these irate naysayers may have assumed that people outside nutritionists and goverment agencies give a rat's rump about food pyramids. I've never known anyone who directed their eating from the old version, versus the South Beach Diet, for example. But in one important sense, I see this new development as a boon. I still have painful memories of walls painted in institutional pastels, bare of any artistic stimulation save diagrams of internal sexual organs to subliminally encourage abstinence. Finally, there's NEW school-friendly, vivid graphical content in glossy poster format. Furthermore, there are a dozen different versions, providing visual variety within a single aesthetic scheme! For Health classrooms and school nurse's offices everywhere, this panoply will provide modern students the enlivened, unified decor that I fairly screamed for during my school days. Right on, USDA!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Quick and Pudgy- Gov't Follows Intuition not Data

This piece of (literally) yesterday's news is worth reading. The CDC, due to statistical maladjustments, may have overstated the risk of the obesity epidemic by a multiple of ten or more:

The article notes that not only may the "normal" weight used as the anchor for obesity tables be set too low, but heavier people are doing a better job of maintaining their blood pressure and overall fitness than previously assumed. We all know being too heavy isn't healthful. The chafing on the inner thighs and shortness of breath after climbing the front porch stairs tells us that. However, if the CDC's corrections hold, you're at greater risk of dying from a car accident or actual undernourishment, ironically enough.

But what makes this truly a government-style fiasco is not the miscalculation, but that accurate data isn't going to change how they spend our money. Though I've changed the order of occurrence to make the point, examine these two quotes from the article.

In recent years, the government has spent millions of dollars fighting obesity and publicizing the message that two out of three American adults are overweight or obese, and at higher risk for heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said because of the uncertainty in calculating the health effects of being overweight, the CDC is not going to use the new figure of 25,814 [deaths per annum] in its public awareness campaigns. And it is not going to scale back its fight against obesity.

That means they refuse to spend any less of our money and the Center's resources on it, no matter what the facts may be. That's using agenda and intuition, not science. I'm not saying hunches don't have their place, but label them correctly. One doctor within the article opined that a risk-assessment change in this order of magnitude begged for further corroboration, and I totally agree.

But do you think, if the new lower risks are corroborated, that the funding for weight-awareness programming will be shifted to areas of higher actual risk and impact? Or do you guess- as has happened with high-profile, low-occurrence celebrity diseases at the National Institute of Health- that the jobs and funding are locked in fat forever? Do you predict when America needs greater health concerns addressed, the CDC will simply demand a bigger budget?

Like certain aquarium fish, government entities bloat based on how much they're fed, not the size of the need they were created to meet. They resist making the thorny prioritizations of greatest good for the investment. After all, why alienate a vocal minority, especially if it has a telethon, when you can simply add budget line items?

An adaptive, incisive mind is a prerequisite of good investigation, but it's the anathema of beaurocracy, because facts just won't pay attention to their P.R. Truth is often surprising, counter-intuitive, unpalatable. It tickles me like that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Reprieve in Our Dying Romance

For some time, I've been avoiding the New York Times' news coverage which seems more like opinion and the opinion columns which seem more like barstool ranting just before reposing with a concrete pillow under your cheek. I've come to consider it all so much fishwrap for what the NYT still does well: books, arts, travel, theatre, dining, fashion, get it.
But then, they had to go and run these two articles. They're not late-breaking news exactly, but they both subject popularly-accepted and media-mandated notions to not yet another rubber-stampathon, but a skeptical looksee! I could scarce believe it, but here is the proof:

Bruce Bawer shows the broad perception of Norway as an affluent welfare state whose masses thrive in its compassionate bosom is a notion that only survives without comparison. When the Oslo sack lunch meets the ladies-who-lunch, guess who's richer?

You know this is a hot topic for me, but Gina Kolata surveys the mass of health recommendations and points out how many of the most common lack adequate substantiation. In The Body Heretic: It Scorns Our Efforts, she also points out, with a somewhat downbeat cast, our bodies' stubborness to overhaul, the permanence of some conditions, the impossibility despite optimism of becoming the ideal. To me, this isn't depressing. Realism in this arena reveals what great things we've achieved, persuades us to continue saving lives and treating debilitations, but allows us to accept our dose of imperfections as part of the package of living. Yes, you may have to suffer with certain disadvantages. But I've seen a three-legged, one-eyed dog at play, and I say enjoy yourself and don't worry so much.

However, when (not if) I shuffle off this mortal coil, I demand my own hotline to eternity like the dead guy in this picture. Where do you put the charger? (literal hat tip:Roger Simon)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I Hate Crap Journalism and Junk Science

Well- Maybe this science isn't junk, but read how they wrote this outrageous fear-mongering report on The Killer in Your Toothpaste!

Before you resign yourself to smelly mouth, hold your bloomers, Betty.
This is tabloidism from the European school of All-Chemicals-Are-Bad (Just don't forget to send over U.S. pharmaceuticals at cut-rates)

This yellow journalistic call for action is unburdened by excess detail, but notice the big quoted bits coming from Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund? Raise questions for anybody else?

The Evening Standard "investigation" went so far as to find that there are dozens of products on the shelf with the chemical triclosan. Well, duh. It's a very popular antibacterial that's been used by millions of people for years. I'm sure it's sitting- no lurking- in almost every civilized pantry and medicine chest. In the spirit of investigative jounalism, the ES sent some Cambridge kid with a notepad to the grocery store to look at labels and jot down brand names until he gave himself palpitations. But where, you may ask, in their zeal did they mislay the data (ANY data) showing attributable increases in any of the diseases they're threatening? After all, with millions of people and years of use, there'd be billions of exposures, right? But that kind of corroboration is Missing In Action here.

Even as a pathetic appeasement to fairness, how about competing statements from the various medical and review boards who've found these products safe in common use? That's Nowhere to be found, however, we do have plenty of environmentally sensitive folks to imply that technological advancement is killing you.

Drop your antibacterials, ya'll, and get back to the caves. And, if I may elaborate the warning, please forget that poor sanitation and hygiene (which might be improved by airlifting tons of these products when boycotted to the Third World) cause the majority of killer diseases in developing and impoverished nations. BUT IT'S NOT WORTH THE RISK. As societies, we've been fabulously reactive about protecting poor, ignorant folks from the dangers of DDT already. I feel so progressively humane as the thousands upon thousands die of malaria yearly so that one statistically possible loser (SPL) who accidentally gets a hundred times the recommended exposure can avoid the hint of a chance of emphysema.

Here at home in the First World, I am SO TIRED of the Statistically Possible Loser being the bad apple that spoils my barrels of fun. He's not even a real apple! He's just a theoretical apple that might someday turn rotten... maybe! When I think of all the time and money spent regulating us from things that normal people can decide for themselves because the SPL might get hurt... Anyway, back on topic.

Here's a telling quote, the bolding's mine: "Researchers have discovered that triclosan, a chemical in the products, can react with water to produce chloroform gas. If inhaled in large enough quantities, chloroform can cause depression, liver problems and, in some cases, cancer."

Here's where, if we were provided concrete facts and figures, we could whittle down the scare in favor of likelihood. Answers to the following would, I believe keep slivering down the probabilities of bad outcomes until we reached what's probable, but probably also quite rare.

1) How often and under what conditions does triclosan actually react with water to produce chloroform gas?
2) In the instances when chloroform gas is produced, how much of it is released, say, while using a normal globlet of toothpaste or glug of mouthwash?
3) How big are the "large enough quantities" you refer to compared to that number?
4) Does a potentially hazardous level of exposure occur at one-time, or is the effect cumulative over many exposures? (That seems quite relevant here, doncha think?)
5) If I do incur the "large enough"-to-produce-hazards level of exposure, then how likely is my incidence of depression, liver disease, and cancer?
6) How do my "chloroform" risks for these things stack up against the risks from my normal melancholic, hard-partying, carcinogen-snacking lifestyle?

Sure a couple of scaredy-cat Euro retail chains have buckled under and will "look for alternatives", but the only scientist quoted here is the guy from Virginia Tech who did the original research. Unlike most ethical labcoaters who'll say something on the order of, "This is only preliminary. We're going to need a lot more research and review before we make conclusions," this guy is so wowed by his new, as yet unduplicated findings, that he goes straight for the money shot, bolding again mine:

Professor Peter Vikesland, of Virginia Tech University, who carried out the research, said: "This is the first work that we know of that suggests that consumer products, such as antimicrobial soap, can produce significant quantities of chloroform." (That fact alone would moderate many of us reasoners when interviewed.- Henway) He has called for governments around the world to regulate the chemical more closely.

When confronted by a hardly-likely occurence represented by underscrutinized data from a single source, modern journalism rarely questions. Citizens become mere spectators to the footrace between regulation and litigation. The lawyers are lining up already... "Ma'am, have you ever felt depressed. Do you use soap or brush your teeth?"

Most depressed people I've known exhibit a marked lack of hygiene, but so what? Who needs your tort reform noooooowwww?

We've come to expect insubstantial factual support and an anti-chemistry (unless it's wrinkle cream) agenda from much of the fourth estate. However, perhaps I'm cynical in assuming that this researcher supports company-bankrupting, job-destroying, disease-promulgating lawsuits and legislation because of his premature screech for protection.

Perhaps Dr. Vikesland is simply bucking for the Chair's job in a newly-formed and amply-funded TIRD, the Triclosan Inquisitory and Regulatory Department.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Who needs more Gearyesque Starchitects?

I love classical architecture because it moves me, but I told myself it was a fustiness on my part. Despite my art history classes, it hadn't occurred to me- before this article- that the discoveries the Greeks made with engineering, proportion, and human perception are so integrated within their forms, that my reponse to them is not an inexplicable nostalgia for a time I've never known, but a contemporary response from unchanging (so far) characteristics of being human. Phew! and Duh!

Catesby Leigh wrote this meaty article for Tech Central Station about modern architecture and why so much of it fails to inspire. He identifies the monumental, heroic forms as more than a regressive set of "traditional" (a damning word in design) elements, but a harmony of structures that resonate with our very nature.
(I've excerpted two fabulous paragraphs, but there's plenty of good stuff left.)

Indeed, far from being an extension of science or politics or some gospel of progress or other, classical architecture forms part of the emotional life that is, as the philosophers say, prior to our intellectual life. In that sense, it is like music. Its development has of course been influenced by particular historical circumstances, but its essential qualities and normative achievements utterly transcend them. That is because classical architecture is, first and foremost, profoundly engaged with our embodied state. It is an expression of man's instinct to compensate for his mortality by projecting his body into abstract, monumental form. We tend to read architecture in terms of our bodies, whether we're conscious of it or not. But classical architecture is uniquely anthropomorphic. Its proportions, its masses, spaces, and abstract lines, its sculptural decoration and ornamental motifs -- all are symphonically, dynamically calibrated to human perceptions and, as the English critic Geoffrey Scott emphasized nearly a century ago, to our unconscious physical memories of bearing weight (think of the columns supporting a pediment), of rhythmic movement, of serene repose...

Because modernists tend to know little or nothing of traditional design, and at the same time feel threatened by its enduring appeal, they often caricature it as a simple matter of "copying" or "mimicking" old buildings. The truth is that traditional architectural idioms are characterized by an organic complexity akin to that of the human body itself. Designing in the classical or Gothic manner takes a great deal of skill. You couldn't copy even if you wanted to, because the sites and programs of different buildings are rarely identical. And yet the architect can always emulate -- that is, strive to make a building worthy of comparison to one whose beauty has inspired him. But emulation is a challenge. Because traditional design revolves around enduring, objective forms and conventions, it provides the norms by which success or failure can be reliably measured. A classical architect can't mask his incompetence by indulging in novelty for its own sake, as modernists too often do. His inventions must have a sound esthetic justification.

The rest of Leigh's article also includes descriptions of the impact upon viewers of Chicago's White City from the Columbian Exposition of 1893 as an example of the power of well-executed classical forms. (Let's hear it for the home team.)

If you want to read a rich and engaging narrative of the construction and compromises by the brilliant minds behind the World's Fair, as well as the synchronous murders by perhaps the country's first documented serial killer, read Erik Larson's wonderful non-fiction "novel", The Devil in the White City.

There, chew on that until tomorrow or Monday.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Water, Water Everywhere

About 15 or 20 years ago, I started hearing that people ought to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. Don't know where they idea and numbers came from, but I just don't like water that much. I've tried to boost my H20 intake throughout the day, but I always end up before bed gagging down the remaining required ounces into a bloated, sloshing belly. Funny, doesn't feel healthy. Even when I manage to meet the numbers, I resent double-digit bathroom visits per day- I've got a life to live. Doesn't my love for soup and melon accomplish anything?

Are our bodies so poorly designed that we regularly harm ourselves by drinking too little and failing to feel thirsty as we perish?
The scientists who wrote the Hydration Survey at Bottled Water Web say YES:

Wait a minute! These guys have a vested interest in me filling my yaw with their water products!

Don't other beverages, even if caffeinated, have some hydrating affect? The nutritionist writing for the Food Safety Network says YES:

Wait a minute! This research was published by Coca-Cola which has a vested interest in me quenching my thirst with its sweet fizzula!

Go Ask Alice, a feature of the Health Services at Columbia University, splits the difference. I've excerpted and bolded for your convenience:

...However, during the Spring of 2004, the Institute of Medicine issued new hydration guidelines that now advise women to consume 91 ounces of fluid (2.7 liters or approximately eleven 8-ounce cups), and men, 128 ounces (3.7 liters or sixteen 8-ounce cups), and, different from before, all beverages count....Because not all nutritionists and other health care providers agree with the report, hydration remains a hotly debated topic... notice the color of your urine. If it's dark yellow or orange, you may be dehydrated. Urine that is very light yellow or clear and colorless like water is a sign of a hydrated body. And if you're thirsty, drink your fluids.

So I can trust my thirst reflex not to kill me as long as I audit my toilet leavings accurately. Super.

I've pushed aside the conflict in favor of self-knowledge and experience. I drink enough of the beverages I enjoy (and water, too) so that I feel "not thirsty", but don't have to carry a catheter.

But whatever YOUR current opinion, here's the newest, horrible wrinkle in the debate. Our culture's physical elite, marathon runners, are having seizures and dropping dead from drinking too much water during races, dangerously thinning their blood and swelling the tissues of their brains.

NOW WHAT WILL WE DO?! what will we do....

Thursday, April 14, 2005

More Bits from Elsehwere with My Reality Thrown In..

Yes, I'm writing. Or will be as soon as I finish posting, which is writing but not on the novel-at-hand.

I saw a woman hit by a taxi on Park Ave. and 82nd St. today. I should say I saw her right after she was hit, the moment after she sounded a mild whoop, the kind of sound you'd revise to something much more bloodcurdling and dramatic if you'd rehearsed it first. I'd been walking the dogs, gazing up at the blooming trees and the daffodills and tulips that are just showing. The sky was Kodachrome blue. Then, with no screech of brakes or sound of impact, just the kind of oopsy noise you'd make if you dropped your groceries or your hat was carried off by the breeze, she was on the asphalt.

The driver sideswiped her turning south onto Park while she was crossing. This affluent-looking woman with a chignon ponytail of platinum hair, large tortoiseshell shades, and sleek, dark clothes was sitting in the left lane. She didn't yell but asked quite reasonably (I thought) "Did you just not see me?" I didn't hear a single curse leave her lips. What a civilized woman. I hope she's not much or permanently hurt. Passersby gathered around her with concern and cellphones. She was speaking and rubbing her right shoulder and getting her legs underneath her, but people seemed afraid to assist her in case they'd injure her more. A crossing guard for the school in the next block yelled over to her to stay down, not move, and let the ambulance pick her up when they arrived with the police. Perhaps that was good advice, but I'd try to haul myself out of the street if I could, too.

About the cab driver? I couldn't see him well through the tinted windshield, but he was sure caught, stopped right in front of his victim amidst very light traffic on a sunny, dry day. It could've been a the briefest lapse of attention, the kind we've all had, but those can become irreversible realities when operating several tons of kinetic machinery.

I've seen horrors that I barely recall, but it seemed like this might work out alright, which is a odd thing for me to think. But I do. Another vignette of spring in Manhattan.

Here's an article about how the multiculturalist dictum of "discern nothing, accomodate everything" is not only the enemy of commerce but of science. Why should we try to learn from human history when we can react with PC offense instead?

Here's an article about a funny order calling itself the Unitarian Jihad. While I don't agree with everything they represent, they don't seem the types to care as long as I bring the sherbet punch for refreshments.

You'll notice the wonderful names that members are assigned. Get your own here:

I remain, yours truly- The Jackhammer of Sacrificial Compassion

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Pick a Subject from the Potpourri

Here's a potpourri of the things that caught my interest:

GM cancels its innovative new rear-wheel drive line due to the financial pinch from the pension and health benefits which it had to incur unprecedented debt to support last year. Great. The union members have no health copays, but the company dies. How's that good for everyone again? I'd love to have lots of hot, new American steel to choose from, but it won't happen this way. Here's the WSJ lowdown:,,SB111335199317205372,00.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep

Here's the pharmaceutical tightrope between excessive litigation and Congressional squeamishness. People blah-blah in the coffee shops around here about "big drug companies" without knowing how time-consuming, how expensive, and how risky it is to develop new products. And now, every time a good product exhibits a new, albeit rare, side effect, it's banned from use. These uncommon, but potentially serious, effects often only show up significantly after a tremendous number of scripts have been written- like millions. That demonstrates to me not only the need for the drug but that slowing the pre-release FDA scrutiny of limited clinical results couldn't have predicted the effects. And sure, we could relabel the drug and reeducate doctors and pharmacists about the newly discovered risks and contraindications. Oh, forget it, too exhausting. Yank it off the shelves! Toss the baby and the whole bathtub all the way to New Zealand. The current FDA culture doesn't make the horizon look any brighter. Hope you're not sick.
Another WSJ piece:,,SB111334372446005109,00.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep

I won't opine at length on this one, but the linked article states potential misdiagnosis of Persistent Vegetative State in as many as 30-40% of the cases, including misdiagnosis by "Dr. Humane Death" from the Schiavo case. The article also has several anecdotes of people who regained what even Michael Schiavo's lawyer would have to call a "quality" life after years (up to 18 in on instance) in comas and/or PVS. Encouraging if you're these people or their families, frightening and infuriating if your hopes are being starved and dehydrated to death. You decide what you think. CNS has the scoop here:\SpecialReports\archive\200504\SPE20050412a.html

Last, and surely least, my alma mater in Chicago (where my degree means I became a "fine" artist) is hosting another questionable art show. Because one of the marquee pieces displays a gun to G.W. Bush's head times 16, the Secret Service was asking around, since it's required to investigate threats to the President. Now, it isn't red hot news that threatening the President isn't viewed lightheartedly. Neither are bomb threats at the airport. All of this is well-known, so the artist quoted can spare me the predictable talk of "Big Brother" and the "chilling effect" on artists. What I demand to know is :Who's going to spare me from bad art?!

Now that technique is viewed as "limiting", and any mope with a computer or access to a photocopier can cobble together something gradable for a studio art class, all that's left is "content." Even more sadly, most of this "social content" hasn't changed one bit from when I was in college, decades ago, I'm shocked to recall. Here's the whole sordid story. Keep in mind that many years ago, the big scandal was that an Art Institute of Chicago student painted the beloved and then recently deceased mayor, Harold Washington, in ladies' underwear. Gasp. Are you getting the yawns with this stuff? Me, too. The Chicago Sun-Times says:

In case you wondered, the loose categories for Acceptable Contemporary Art are:

1) Arranging Consumer Debris makes it Meaningful
2) Government and/or Corporations are Bad/Evil
3) Sexual Displays (giggle) can be Disruptive in Public Venues
4) Religious Offense is Way Cool as long as it defames Judeo-Christian religions
5) Physical Revulsion is the De Facto Result of Great Art
6) Viewers Need To Get Aware of (insert overheated topic here).
7) Art Viewers are The Enemy of Art and Soulless Environment Destroyers.

Okay, it's my opinion, but the art which has achieved and deserves greatness has taught us to perceive differently or- more rarely and therefore more preciously- to transcend.
Art which manifests the concept of art as propaganda is called "modern", but one of the more lasting examples (since it has value beyond mere content), Picasso's Guernica, now approaches 80-years-old. We get it, I think. Further, I'd say we all well understood visual abstraction by 1965.

So what's new, kiddies? I wish current artists would stop simply cutting paperdolls from the work of their betters.

Give me contemporary images of beauty and mystery using new materials and challenging techniques. Don't Lecture, you naif things. Think. Imagine. Create.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Writing... No, But Way Cool Items

I was overwhelmed today by the arrival of my (factory outlet refurbished) PalmOne Tungsten C and (free bonus) portable wireless keyboard.

Now, anywhere I find a hot spot, I can surf and e-mail with the built-in 802.11b. I can input using Graffiti and the stylus, the thumb board, or by docking it onto the light, portable keyboard for full-size data entry (no extra batteries required). The portable keyboard accordions back into an impervious rectangular shell about the size of the PDA itself. With the two, I'm a traveling computing machine using less than the space of a Grisham paperback. Added to the package is the Documents to Go program which allows me to view and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint docs on the fabulous color screen and then sync them up with my laptop.

The whole mess was less than $300. This combo puts big FUN in functional.

Here's what I got and there are links to the freebies. If this rig makes me more productive, does spending today setting them up and testing it out count in the plus column?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Not Bad At All

I'd hoped to revise four chapters today, but for a writer and editor of my speed, that was a pretty lofty goal. However, I finished two and sent them out by evening's end. Not bad, really.

And here are the things from which I turned away. The worldly things with which I did NOT become distracted.

Gorgeous Pictures of the Cornish Coast:

Discussion of questionable fashions at the Royal Wedding:

Tiger's Amazing Masters Win:

A summary of the increasing incidence of college students pelting the opposition:
Perhaps you've considered it's simply pranksterism when it's a coed throwing a pie at a media pundit. How would it strike you if it were angry Muslim youth egging a female politician at a Jewish memorial celebration? Still funny, ha- ha?

Columbia's puling response to the vitriolic anti-Israel classroom rhetoric and hostility to pro-Israel students by MELAC faculty:

And I was NOT derailed by the sunny fineness of the day, though I did give the deserving dogs a long walk. And I did NOT drag the camera out to capture my favorite city trees on the cusp of blossoming. And I did NOT pick up groceries or return malformed light bulbs or any of the other miscellania that could have frittered away my hours.

I've successfully detached. Whee! Still, I'm out of half and half for tomorrow's coffee.

The residual glow of accomplishment is tempered by the dread of needing multiple productive days chained together to make a book.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Small Post

Often I'm discouraged by my incapacity to say anything new, to elaborate and summarize current topics the way others can, to tease meaning from the tangle of events. Often I'm discouraged by the stories which occur to me to tell and am disappointed at the lowliness of my creativity when compared to my ambitions. I fear I'm a talentless hack. But, I believe, this is the time when perservering in the face of my pathetic output could earn me at least my own respect. Even badness, if it's dogged and self-aware, could be some minor virtue.

As I struggle over the next few weeks to finish my second book, I'll detach from the world. No tracking the news, knowing the issues and players, congratulating myself on having informed, if fatuous, opinions. I'll have to be all about producing and finishing the manifestation of the world I began writing a year ago. That's how these things get done by me so far. Dissociation and submersion.

I wish I knew in a lasting way how to concentrate only on the worlds that deal with my writing and art and music. I wish I knew how to care less about the trivia of the day and the particularities of unrelated people, places, and things. I want to spend less time caring about arenas where I don't directly participate, even though I'm afraid to be shamed by my increasing ignorance of the common culture. I want to leave the world where I've chosen to store my mind and create another one driven mostly by my own creations and the inspirations of similar others.

I'm a Terry Pratchett afficionado, my favorite books being Thief of Time and Hogfather. His fantastic invention, the Discworld, allows him a world's breadth to comment on human nature, institutions, and illusions. His creation is a disc supported by four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle that swims through the multiverse. I'm currently reading The Last Continent which contains the following observation on the first page:

People don't live on the Disc any more than, in less hand-crafted parts of the multiverse, they live on balls. Oh, planets may be the place where their body eats its tea, but they live elsewhere, in worlds of their own which orbit very handily around the center of their own heads.

I'm ready to move out of my old neighborhood.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mish Mosh of Wrong Doings and Wrong Thinkeries

Was Charlotte Bronte's first biographer, a longtime friend, too willfully miscomprehending or envious to tell the truth? Has our author been too long mischaracterized as a meek miss? I love Charlotte's journal entry about teaching at the Roe Head School, and recalled it when I used the descriptor "fat-headed oafs" in my last post.

"I had been toiling for nearly an hour. I sat sinking from irritation and weariness into a kind of lethargy. The thought came over me: am I to spend all the best part of my life in this wretched bondage, forcibly suppressing my rage at the idleness, the apathy and the hyperbolic and most asinine stupidity of these fat headed oafs and on compulsion assuming an air of kindness, patience and assiduity? Must I from day to day sit chained to this chair prisoned within these four bare walls, while the glorious summer suns are burning in heaven and the year is revolving in its richest glow and declaring at the close of every summer day the time I am losing will never come again? Just then a dolt came up with a lesson. I thought I should have vomited."

Read the entire, worthwhile article by Tanya Gold in The Guardian here:,6000,1445404,00.html

In other news, another conservative speaker has gotten a pie in the face while speaking at a university. Harmless enough, perhaps but what if you're chronically allergic to milk products and even skin contact makes you break out in hives and anaphylactic shock? That prospect seems unlikely, but the action, if not dangerous, is designed to be disrespectful and uncivil. It hardly elevates discourse. In fact, its aim is to stop someone from speaking words in a combination that is so offensive to some tiny mind's sensibilities that he must take physical action against it. This offended person may even be a "pacifist" who would condemn another person for violence predicated only on a phrase that starts, "Your mama..."

One only has to imagine if the speaker weren't as adroit as Bill Kristol or now David Horowitz, perhaps someone with a litigious, victim mentality or someone who has actually been physically threatened for speaking his beliefs, this kind of behavior wouldn't be tolerated or so lightly punished. Stifling someone else's speech not only betrays the weakness of your own position but the weakness of your character.

A professor at the heartland campus in this last incident agrees. His blog entry at Bright Mystery is here:

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

America's Own Witless Aristocracy?

Okay- Ignoring the part where the subject of the article blames other people for the fact she was behaving unethically and wasn't following her dreams- All the time I was turning tricks, I really just wanted to make custom-crocheted pet clothes- here's where we see among the new American aristocracy of rich and often-photographed the same ignorant, decadent types that made the French folk irritated enough to ask Madame Guillotine to restore order to the schoolroom.

To be clear, I have no qualms when those who've made their own money or inherited it wish to support the diluted and boring offspring from their once productive lines. But I don't wish to see these winners of genetic roulette held up to me as admirable because of the accident of their births. I prefer meritocracy, thanks.

Spare me the documentaries and reality shows on the lives of the feckless and stupid non-contributors who were merely born into financial surplus and spend their lives giggling at all the things they don't know. Spare me the comments from well-to-do youth about the ennui of privilege. The kids mentioned in the Newsweek article below are indulged, completely dependent, and practically useless. Fine. Let freedom reign. But you can't convince me that I should look at pedigree items like prep school or Ivy League education as a guarantee of quality when we know about these nimrods in the ranks.

There are apparently scads of people with stockpiles of cash who don't care enough about education to require their children acquire any through effort and dedication (what a horrific prospect those qualities would be). But these adult consumers, who are ironically themselves probably high-performers, do care enough about the status symbol of education to purchase it for their children.

Whether in academia or outside, education is earned, not bought. That truth becomes evident once somone's knowledge and critical thinking are fire-tested. I once had a wonderful boss in the IT industry who gave his prospective programmers technical interviews, read "written tests". Some interviewees refused to take them while others stormed out in offense. Some panicked and melted down, betraying the elaborations of their resumes.

The test was designed to be tortuous. No one was expected to get it all correct or even necessarily finish. But as my boss observed the process of test-taking combined with the results, he was able to evaluate the professional skills and personality of the interviewee. One prospect called back a day later to say that while she was washing dishes, she'd had an inspiration about a better approach to the problem than the one she'd provided. She got the job both for her tenacity of mind as well as her elegant solution. Even when understaffed, my old boss turned down a lot of candidates, but we all enjoyed the pleasure (most often a luxury today) of working in an uncompromising firm with talented, motivated colleagues.

As is common in IT, many of my coworkers had "non-traditional" backgrounds on paper, which colors my belief in the kind of genius that may not reveal itself within the usual arenas. However, I also have tremendous respect and admiration for advanced degrees and what it takes to earn them, especially from competitive, rigorous programs. Sadly though, even Masters and Ph.D.s have shocked me with their ignorance and slack reasoning. Perhaps their parents bought their credentials like the ones guaranteed for these fat-headed oafs below.

'Tutoring' Rich Kids Cost Me My Dreams- Newsweek online, April 11th issue
(It didn't actually cost her dreams, just delayed them, so don't feel too sad for Nicole Kristal, the amoral author- Henway)

Monday, April 04, 2005

I'm Refreshed and So Have Returned

Following the bureaucratic horror of Terri Schiavo's death and the saccharine insincerity of the blatherers who wished her dead now fawning over the Pope post-mortem, I was out of outrage. My near-constant state of indignation over one thing or another provides the fuel for my rantings and most of my productivity. But witnessing the recent dramas of life and death combined with astronomic levels of hypocrisy redlined me. I was drained to the tankbottom. Kaput.

I've rested. I've had toast and warm beverages. Like in a videogame, I hovered in a safe zone while my health levels rebuilt. Ahh, it's good to be irritated again.

Here's an instance of an annoying reality which I cribbed from the Ansible, a British scifi/fan newsletter (Thanks, Paul Barnett)
The following is from issue 213, April, 2005:

As Others See Us. Susan Mitchell knows what's fiction and what isn't: `Read any good novels lately? Read any bad novels lately? My guess is that if you've read anything, for pleasure or interest, it hasn't been fiction. Book sales of fiction, particularly literary fiction, are down. By fiction I don't mean fantasy, as in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, I mean a story about our lives created from an author's imagination.' (Weekend Australian Financial Review, 19-20 Mar) [DW]

See, if we want to trash something, like fiction that has the temerity to exist in a genre other than "literary", we first must exclude examples that are commonly known to have value. Once we've disclaimed the best of the field, we can feel free- as if we've decoyed the big brothers- to kick around the little kids, safe in knowing that we won't be challenged.

I have enjoyed and been enriched by books which could be called literary fiction. However, in my experience, the adjective "literary" is too often code for "lacks pacing". A 5,000 word chapter wallowing in the myopic examination of a torn screen door as extended allegory for intergenerational family estrangement amidst poverty and incest combines all-too-much with precious-little. In such cases. the Readerly Me can't remain engaged enough to get edified.

I also posted on this subject to the NYC Writers' Group There, I wrote:The worst of any genre is putrid. The best is always transcendent.
(It's tre' lame to quote myself in italics, no?)

I think these (even the italicized) are valid assertions. However, in my NYC Writers' post, I believe I spelled transcendent incorrectly. Oh well. A solid 85%, that's my motto.

I toil over commercial crime fiction and toy with fantasy and sci-fi. If you, too, feel that you're working in an underappreciated or discredited genre, be it paranormal romance or greeting card verse or mosquito-net reviewing, give me a shout out.

Without requiring writing samples, I will provide you understanding of the difficulties of your position. I offer you my fellowship.