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Getting Borked – The Origin of Nastiness

October 23rd, 2011 2 comments

Joe Nocera at the NYT had a great little opinion piece, and it resonated with me because I remember the nastiness to which he refers. Especially the lead up to a vote that revealed some vile human beings in our legislature. You expect some nastiness in advocacy groups, but until then, the senate actually was a “collegial round table.” But hey, it’s an anniversary, so let’s celebrate The Nastiness!

On October 23, 1987, “Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court was voted down by the Senate. All but two Democrats voted ‘nay.'” Ain’t it wonderful? 24 years ago today, intellectual midgets in our “collegial” senate torpedoed an intellectual giant. I wanted to bring up Bork for essentially the same reason Joe Nocera did: to highlight where the ugliness started. Just one good paragraph to entice you to go read Joe’s opinion piece… a quick trip that highlights why demorats have no ethical space to bitch about rethuglican obstructionism:

I’ll take it one step further. The Bork fight, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics. For years afterward, conservatives seethed at the “systematic demonization” of Bork, recalls Clint Bolick, a longtime conservative legal activist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the angry verb “to bork,” which meant to destroy a nominee by whatever means necessary. When Republicans borked the Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright less than two years later, there wasn’t a trace of remorse, not after what the Democrats had done to Bork. The anger between Democrats and Republicans, the unwillingness to work together, the profound mistrust — the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.

This article is an excellent counterpoint to the horseshit that shows up at “MediaMatters.” A simple reading of the Wiki article shows MediaMatters to be the liars most people believe them to be. Even with the six Republican moral cowards, Bork would have lost the confirmation.

Why bring this up? Well, one reason that sits like a burr beneath a saddle (not that I feel remotely like this blog is a saddle 😛 ), is having Commander Admin over at AmeriKAZAM call me out. Another reason is that writer over at Ameri… wait, I may have mentioned that already. Oh, and that really sharp dude over at Responsibility – Freedom Demands It, yeah him too. Of course, there is also that mouthy broad over at Mad Conservative – she just kind of compels me to jump back in and keep swinging. The clearest reason for bringing this up though, is a question. Do we continue with civil discourse when confronted with brutish uncivil behavior and speech? Or, should one give the offender the deserved poke in the nose and test the claim of pacifism? Seriously though, where do you go from here? This whole getting borked thing is a festering wound that has only escalated. AmeriKAZAM pokes it with a bundle of sticks, er, a stable of Jon Swifts, but funnier. What do we do if we want to win back our country?

One thing is for certain… it ain’t just writing in a blog. How’s that old saw go? “Ya gotta get off yer apathy and do something.” Time to do something – what’s it gonna be??

I once went to seminary and got one of the M.Div. things, and though most would consider me an apostate, I still have some favorite Bible verses… Here’s what we should do next, from Judges, chapter 15:

Samson Badass

For now, let’s just make asses of them. Let’s go with Joe’s concluding thought:

Today, of course, the court has a conservative majority, and liberal victories are, indeed, being overturned. Interestingly, Bolick says Bork’s beliefs would have made him a restraining force. Theodore Olson, who served as solicitor general under George W. Bush, also pointed out that after Bork, nominees would scarcely acknowledge that they had rich and nuanced judicial philosophies for fear of giving ammunition to the other side. Those philosophies would be unveiled only after they were on the court.

Mostly, though, the point remains this: The next time a liberal asks why Republicans are so intransigent, you might suggest that the answer lies in the mirror.

Cheers you wielders of the sharpened word,
The Skald.

Got a New Warrior Team in the Mix

October 6th, 2011 No comments

 

Scarecrow Rising

Backfire Satire. Can. You. GET IT?

AmeriKAZAM! is a new entry into both political punditry (but more in the mold of Richard Kahane’s Rules for Radical Conservatives) and Comic Book Reviews… Really, how cool is that? Combining both the comics’ graphics and some biting commentary makes for some fun and enlightening reading. Perhaps you’ll move away from being a SAP (SubParAmerican) and become a participating patriot after a few “boots-to-the-head” commentary. Check out “Making the Stupid Stupider” and spend some time browsing around the new home of Team AK. I think you’ll enjoy it immensely!

Cheers!!

Bill Whittle: American Exceptionalism

November 26th, 2010 2 comments

If you heard the president’s notion of what American Exceptionalism is or is not, then I hope you responded with the same gut level disgust that I did. Anybody, and I mean anybody, not blinded to some basic facts knows that there has never been a country like ours. Take the time to watch Bill Whittle’s seventh installment of “Firewall” and you’ll hear an eloquent, concise, and convincing argument for why your country is EXCEPTIONAL in the grand scheme of things!

Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with thanks and gratitude for the many gifts given to all of us! Here’ s the main event:

The Day After Veterans’ Day

November 12th, 2010 4 comments

Sketchbook Pro by Autodesk and a great new tablet 🙂

Sometimes veterans are in the unenviable position of being called a patriot when that word is not quite in vogue. When in fact, many of the self-proclaimed “educated” call these same men and women “jingoists” or worse. I wished to those I know on Facebook – yes… I am on Facebook – and  to those I knew, I wished:

Best of Veterans Day to everyone, but especially to those for whom the holiday is named! I’m proud to say it includes my immediate family (my father and daughters) my extended family (sons-in-law, fathers-in-law, and fellow parents!), and a myriad of friends that extend through all these wonderful patriots! I call them patriots not because our political views are the same, but because despite the differences, they wrote a blank check to their country with their lives.

Strength and Honor, Woodstock.

“Woodstock” is a name some brothers-in-arms call me – a group of motorcycle riding veterans – and those brothers exemplify what is best in our country. We (Spirit Warriors – a group of vets whose mission is service to veterans in need) were honored to participate in Albany, Oregon’s celebration of Veterans’ Day – from the early morning benediction through the parade at midday.  I’m not sure how many motorcycles, or for that matter, how many clubs showed up… but it seemed to number beyond a hundred bikes! Rolling thunder? Louder. As my son-in-law encouraged me, “Ride LOUD pops!” It was definitely that!

In any detachment, squad, battalion or other group, there are few who could truly be called heroes.  I had the pleasure of serving with a no bullshit hero – and the rest of us followed him – and by extension we became brave because we followed him into hell. I like to remember a quote by Mark Twain when I run across those who think, by virtue of their education, that they somehow know better how to characterize a veteran’s service:

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. ~Mark Twain

I suppose I could quote Harry Reid next, you know, his comments about how the war was already lost, not winnable, ad nauseum. Instead, I offer a celebration of Veterans’ Day by a bunch of  young and old vets on motorcycles, and a crowd of Albany’s finest joining in the fun! So here’s a not so professional video of a few moments in the day.


Strength, honor, and courage!

The Skald 😉

P.S. ~that’s my life long honey(aka “Weasel”) on the back of my Harley trying to catch bits on her little video camera!

Update: Switched to YouTube for the video… it provides for HD much easier – hope you like it.

On Moral and Physical Cowardice

August 16th, 2010 2 comments

Suess Appeasement

Bill Whittle, in this installment of Afterburner, takes us to school on the consequences of appeasement and cowardice – a demonstration of head in the sand suicide. The cartoon’s link lead’s to Bill Whittle’s video – a worthy dozen minutes or so – and before you go, here’s a spot from The Weekly Standard that is definitely worth the entire read… but here is the closing paragraph that speaks to the same subject:

We need to recover our sense that, while any regime is capable of lapses in the protection of human rights, for democracies like the United States and Israel, these are lapses from their own standards, lapses which they work to redress. For tyrannies like Iran and Syria, as for jihadist revolutionaries, by contrast, human rights abuses are not lapses from a higher standard. On the contrary: The behavior we term “abuse” is their standard, one they strive to implement every day. We must also overcome our discomfiture at being labeled enemies of “the Muslim world” or the Iranian or Syrian “people.” Tyrants and dictators, and the jihadists who aspire to join them, do not represent their peoples, and they cannot represent high religious values. The West’s unambiguous moral opposition to such regimes and the terrorism they sponsor, whether deployed against their own populations or against innocents abroad, is at the service of liberating their peoples from fear and oppression.

Cheers you princes of our future!

Intellectuals, Graduates, and ummm

June 10th, 2010 6 comments

This post was initially headed in the direction of parsing a little history around the word intellectual. It just didn’t come together as a single post, and I am not great at separating a long post into constituent parts – so the beginning of my posts on men of letters as they were once called, will begin next week. On the other hand, during the course of my research (actually, I was avoiding the work and watching PJTV’s Bill Whittle), I ran across a video by a guy over at PJTV that gave a graduation commencement address that is unlikely to be heard. You might have heard of this guy; his name is Bill Whittle.

My generation was pampered beyond good sense, we were molly coddled and told a pack of lies – all with good intentions – “yes, you’re a special, unique, creative little soul…” and as a consequence, I wonder if we have failed our own children by placing notions of self-esteem above both common sense and reality. Have we done our children a disservice? Bill Whittle’s recent serving of Afterburner: Graduation Nation, really hits the mark. It’s another installment that is worth the ten minutes it takes to watch it, and it strikes at least tangentially on my topic of intellectuals…

Part of what has motivated me to write a series on intellectuals is in response to current “experts,” both within and without our current administration, speaking ex cathedra on matters us common folk simply wouldn’t understand. Online, print, and video articles seem to have taken up this topic with a certain verve. I’ve also just about finished a couple of books that have seriously sparked my interest and curiosity. The first is Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, and Technicians by Tevi Troy. The second is by an author whom I greatly admire, Thomas Sowell, and his newest book is Intellectuals and Society.

I often find it depressing that many will use “quotable quotes” from books or movies without understanding both the author’s intent and the context of quotation. I have been guilty of this on too many occasions, and I understand the desire. For example, in keeping with the subject on both counts, a common Thomas Jefferson quote used throughout the media from blogs to movies is: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” This is from a letter written to William Smith while Jefferson was in Paris, dated November 13, 1787. A more complete quote that reveals some of the context is illuminating:

What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Link to the letter

Changes the tenor of the quote just a little bit, hey? I was honored by my oldest daughter when she called one day and said, “Dad, you’ve got to watch The Rock! You’re the Ed Harris character. Get it. Watch it.” So I got it. I watched it. And was flattered beyond measure – and yet hoped that I was more like the Michael Biehn or Sean Connery character. Now I’m not so sure, and I think my daughter had a better insight into her old man than, well, the old man did. Ed Harris uses Jefferson’s line (only a part) in protest of lying and uncaring government. He and Sean Connery’s characters were thinkers, men of letters, intellectuals. Where have our intellectuals gone wrong? As a teaser for what’s to come, I’ll share something out of Thomas Sowell’s preface to his book:

Distinguished professors, gifted poets, and influential journalists summoned their talents to convince all who would listen that modern tyrants were liberators and that their unconscionable crimes were noble, when seen in the proper perspective. Whoever takes it upon himself to write an honest intellectual history of the twentieth-century Europe will need a strong stomach.

But he will need something more. He will need to overcome his disgust long enough to ponder the roots of this strange and puzzling phenomenon. ~Professor M. Lilla, Columbia University, in his book The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics

Certainly the defense of both Mao and Lenin by our last few crops of intellectuals is confusing… considering that together they have killed their millions, in fact, more than all of America’s war casualties on both sides. A strong stomach indeed.

So family, friends, and readers all, remember, though I gave up religion for lent, I still find wonderful verses in the bible – as I still read it. Remember I Corinthians 9:24-27:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Remember to watch the video! Click a picture or the link at the top of the post.

Tear me up in the comments 😀

Cheers all

Ever Heard of Kruiser Control?

June 6th, 2010 No comments

Stephen Kruiser gets down and nasty with with current events. He hits all my favorites… Nancy Pelosi, Chris Matthews, Keith Olberman, and sooo much more! Really, take a trip to PJTV and spend 15 minutes watching a decidedly sharp bit of fun with the left. And hey, I always like it when someone else does the work… Click the picture, Click the picture!!

Cheers

Who is Iron Man? WE are Iron Men.

May 20th, 2010 3 comments

Visit PJTV: Why we are all Iron Men

This will of necessity be a short post, but there will be another in short order. Right now, after having mulled through and over the second installment of Iron Man, and after hearing “I’m tired of this liberal agenda” from the speakers in a movie theater, well – I REALLY LIKED IT! Not enough? You’re right of course, but I can’t offer the kind of commentary that PJTV can in this case. Tired of property rights violations by our government? Tired of crony capitalism? Take about 12 minutes out of your day, take a trip over to PJTV… of course they’re stingy capitalists and won’t let you (read “me”) embed their work…

BUT, if “You think Tony Stark is a bad-ass capitalist? Milton Friedman would kick his butt. Bill Whittle tells you why: We Are Iron Men

Bill Whittle doesn’t simply praise the movie and claim Milton Friedman would kick his (Iron Man’s) butt, he reintroduces us to Friedman in a segment from the Phil Donahue show. When it comes to notions of liberty and freedom… well, Milton Friedman often says some fantastic things:

“In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, “what you can do for your country” implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshiped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.”  ~Milton Friedman

Believe me, Bill’s video is well worth the 12 minutes of your time… and it’s actually fun to watch too 😀 Click the link or click the picture and let me know what you think. Look quick because the video may go to “Subscribers Only” fairly quick.

Cheers All!!

Categories: Culture, Fun, Government, Manhood, Philosophy, Politics Tags:

Daughters, Sons, Patriots, and Me

May 13th, 2010 8 comments
zen_garden

One Brick at a Time @ Responsibility

My apologies for not posting regularly these past several weeks, especially since I’d promised to attempt a minimal once a week update. I had considered blowing this whole enterprise off as a wasted or failed effort, but again, reconsidered. As I promised in my last post, I planned to give an account of my absence – I think this will go a bit further than that…

Why this extended absence? Illness, anger, and an unusual despondency are the straightforward explanations. Very nearly two weeks were consumed with a flu that kicked my old tired ass around the work place, home, and… “does it really make sense to disappear on your motorcycle when you have pneumonia?” While my wife is absolutely right to pose the question as though I were a teenager, it is also true that sometimes, that little teenage rebellion might be worthwhile. Little rides like this help me. As I mentioned to an online blogger buddy “I needed some time by myself to recharge, get my shit straight, and screw my head back on.”

While that explains part of my failure to provide regular posts, the other parts are at once more personal and more public. I received a few phone calls and several posts enquiring as to my well being – all much appreciated! So, on the other end of a little despondency, and in response to those initial communications I threw up the last post with every intention of getting right back to business. Here’s where the story gets a little squirrely.

With great thanks to a gift card to The MacStore from my daughter and son-in-law, I purchased a new Mac Book Pro. I’ve often found that the quickest and most direct route to learning something is “total immersion.” I resolved to avoid my desktop until I was reasonably proficient with my new laptop… I’ve answered many emails LATE because I failed to sit down at my desktop and check mail. Though I am getting the hang of my Mac 😀  Poor excuse, but it is the explanation of record. You have my sincerest apologies for not answering emails much sooner.

I ran across several [emails] that both entertained and admonished – which made me rethink continuing this blog. I received several versions of a very similar sentiment: “You said once a week,” “Hey, WTF? Once a month updates??” “Get your lazy ass back to work, and don’t make excuses, POST SOMETHING.” “You need to post something more often than once each month or so…” From a subject line: “I sure hope you are on vacation” Thanks to all of you that wrote or called – even being called a “lazy shit” made me feel special 😀

What does that have to do with the anger and despondency? Daughters and patriots? So here’s the post!

T.A. Barnhart, a contributor at Blue Oregon, wrote an article on July Fourth of last year entitled We are all patriots, not just arrogant generals with big mouths. In it, he castigates General Bednarek for the following statement:

“Honor. Duty. Patriotism,” Bednarek said. “Unfortunately, there’s way too many people in our country who have forgotten it, don’t understand it or never got it.” – Savannah (GA) Morning News

By the nature and tone of Barnhart’s reporting, I suspect he wasn’t there for the whole event. I suspect this because Barnhart doesn’t marshal any other real evidence of Bednarek’s supposed offence, and yet spends a tremendous amount of space attributing various vile character defects to the general for that one statement. He variously calls the general or his words a “fool,” “grotesque, shameful, and unprofessional,” “And stupid.” Read the article, you’ll pick up Barnhart’s “inappropriate, irresponsible and reprehensible” comments about the general.

In addition to the character attacks Barnhart launches without one whit of evidence, he also attributes beliefs to the general that are patently of Barnhart’s own invention.   According to Barnhart the general’s arrogance “is unbecoming of an officer, an American and, above all, a patriot.” First, the notion that the general was directing his comments at Barnhart is an absurdity. It’s common to many people. Imagine a manager, not wishing to call out a few employees, mentions that “everyone needs to do [enter chosen task here] better.” A fair share of employees will immediately take offense even though none was proffered. Second, to throw out a challenge that the general’s words were unbecoming an American and patriot reveal Barnhart to be a hypocrite. How is it that Barnhart is allowed to define patriotism and denies that same right to the general? Simple, Barnhart is a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, self-centered hypocrite.

I didn’t comment on that post, nor did I comment on his follow up a week later entitled, Fear, anger, and a son too far away that was loaded with more unreasonable vitriol. Except there he does precisely what he accuses but never demonstrates the general of doing. He claims his anger, then accuses the American people (hyperbole or not, this is BS):

I am angry at the American people whose self-centered, piss-ignorant fearfulness (where is our cherished trust in God?) let them approve with hearty cheers and huzzahs the tossing of their children into the maw of war. The steadfast refusal of too many Americans to learn a goddamn thing about the world and people who are neither bad nor wrong but merely “foreign” has resulted in this obscene war and occupation. The blood of all those who’ve died or been torn apart by this war is on the hands of an American populace with no desire to care about the rest of the world unless they can feel all warm and fuzzy via a tax-deductible charity.

Why didn’t I comment on the posts? The reason was simple. His son was in harm’s way and I had two daughters and two sons-in-law in the same sandbox. I understand being angry. In fact, I believe Barnhart is a patriot, just as I believe the general is a patriot. More to the point, I agree with the general, that there are too many today that have “forgotten… don’t understand… or never got…” honor, duty, and patriotism. Witness the past (ENRON et al) and current crop of corporate thieves (pick a bank that passed their risk on to his fellow citizens) who have raped our economy. Moreover, think about the various groups of American citizens saying things like “Goddam America,” etc.

Hmmm. Should I assume Barnhart was addressing me as one of those “self-centered, piss-ignorant” Americans? Perhaps. I didn’t, but perhaps he was referring to people like me. I disagree, strongly, with a great number of things Barnhart writes, but I rarely doubt his love of community, and by extension, his love of country.

I was passionately opposed to the war in Iraq, as was my wife and many of my friends. Many, on the other hand, supported the invasion of Iraq. So why was I angry? Because my president (yes, I say that, even though many on the left wouldn’t call Bush their president) still hasn’t got my kids out of Iraq, and more important, he [the president] just sent one back for another tour of duty. I am angry at my government for not delivering on one of the promises made during a campaign. Moreover, I am angry at writers like T. A. Barnhart who create a clamor out of imagined insults and contribute to the very divisiveness they claim to abhor.

At this point I think it’s worth defining patriot. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first listed meaning of the word is rare or obsolete as a compound “a fellow-countryman, compatriot.” However, the primary meaning with a caveat about usage before the late seventeenth century is:

2.a. One who disinterestedly or self-sacrificingly exerts himself to promote the wellbeing of his country; ‘one whose ruling passion is the love of his country’ (J.); one who maintains and defends his country’s freedom or rights.

In this use, at first, as in French (see Littré), with ‘good’, ‘true’, ‘worthy’, or other commendatory adjective: cf. ‘good citizen’. ‘Patriot’ for ‘good patriot’ is rare before 1680. At that time often applied to one who supported the rights of the country against the King and court.

Why mention the definition? Because of Barnhart’s title “We are all patriots…” This kind of political correctness is a chain and anchor to mediocrity. Let’s not indulge in this kind of nonsense. Here’s a wonderful bit of dialogue from one of my favorite Pixar flicks, The Incredibles that demonstrates the point:

Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Angry – and maybe a little despondent that I’m not sure I’ll change a thing. Do I take the long view or the short view? Do I stop this silly writing and activism, or keep on going? Like Barnhart’s challenge to the general, I’d match my patriotism against Barnhart’s any time – and probably for similar reasons. I’m an optimistic pessimist – I believe countries, communities, groups, and even individuals are capable of change… whether I believe in it or not.

I stole the above photo from Tom over at Responsibility – click it for a great post. I’m working on my next brick. I said thanks for the encouragement earlier, but it wasn’t specific enough – thanks to Tom, Jeff, Mr. Grim, Tony, Andy, Cindy, Moira, and Billy.

Cheers all!!

Let’s keep marching forward.

“The Gospel of Lazlo” ~ a Book Review

February 24th, 2010 10 comments

Wake Up!!

“Strip away the penguin bombers, kung-fu gothic clowns, and underground cafe societies and what you have left is a boy and a girl…” ~Jeff Begley – Author of The Gospel of Lazlo

I delightedly received an advance [reviewer’s] copy of a new book, and was of course asked to review… the… book.  The fact that I don’t know the first thing about writing a review didn’t deter me – I like books, what could go wrong?  I figured, like the seven words you can’t say on TV, I’d find a “what not to say” list and muddle my way through. Here’s Carlin’s list:

[Everybody knows these seven cuss words, if not, follow the link] Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that’ll infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war.

Wow, pretty easy. Certain that the “thou shalt nots” were fewer and easier than the “thou shalts,” I found my list of “don’t words” on the  New York Times:

“Poignant, compelling, intriguing, eschew, craft, muse, and lyrical” [those are the heavy seven. The ones…] It’s possible to (mis)use all seven words in a one-sentence book report: “Mario Puzo’s intriguing novel eschews the lyrical as the author instead crafts a poignant tale of family life and muses on the compelling doings of the Mob.”

At this point I knew I was screwed. I should have mentioned the title and author’s name right up front – oh wait, I did! While I still think I’m screwed here, let me tell you why the book is a must read without the above words… on the second list. So pretend this next paragraph is the first 😉

Jeff Begley’s freshman novel, The Gospel of Lazlo catches the reader by the throat up front and promptly throws him into the company of Lazlo, our protagonist and primary narrator. The details throughout are as real, graphic and gritty as the characters in this thrust at the fringes of dystopian cyberpunk. I say the fringes because, like the opening quote, it’s more than cyberpunk – it’s got a romance of the best sort, the kind that happens while you’re busy getting on with life. More on the romance later – I like the religion, sex, and politics!

The book is about an out of work, homeless, skeptic of a journalist named Lazlo Epps. Though initially stumbling his way through the process of living, he manages to stumble into both a bit of journalistic work and a home. The stumbling continues as Lazlo finds himself making choices that disquiet both he and the reader and put him in the middle of a cultural rebellion. The story is well plotted and spends more time on narrative (action and storytelling) craft (oh shit, I’ve used two of the forbidden words) than description or exposition.

Begley, like Richard Bach in Illusions – The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, leads us to the problems between perceptions and reality and the contingencies involved with individual experience. Again, it’s graphic, gritty, and to the point. Where Bach leads us gently, “Perspective – Use It or Lose It. If you turned to this page, you’re forgetting that what is going on around you is not reality. Think about that –” Begley grabs us by the short and curlies and shakes us where we live and lets us know “It’s horrifying how the lens of your life can change with a single event.” This lens shifting is a recurrent theme that is put to excellent use and is introduced early with Lazlo’s recounting of his divorce. The perceptual shifts, the accretions of gradual and sometimes horrifyingly abrupt curtain lifting, cause us to share the lens shifts experienced by Begley’s well formed characters.

For example, Lazlo is involved in a “reconditioning service” specializing in cleaning up after suicides, murders, etc. Describing the lens shift suffered by the clients availing themselves of this “reconditioning service” Lazlo graphically shows us:

For the customers of Discrete Reconditioning Services this was also the case.  Before they required our help, their home was a sanctuary, their default location, and a safe haven.  After their loved one bled out in the bathtub or ate some buckshot, their home was a tragic site.  Their default location became their cars or any public place they could sit and avoid their house.  Their safe haven was the source of their insecurities, fears, and pathos.

Their promise of a father or husband replaced with a crime scene.  Their sanctuary, a forensics exhibit.

When his daughter is graduating from high school and she thinks how much she wished her father was there, she’ll have a moment where she remembers his head broken apart in the bathroom.  When his widow makes the final payment on their house, she’ll feel the irresistible need to go look at the toilet where they found her husband.  She’ll remember all the invented fictions of their retirement before it happened, two old lovers working a garden into their twilight, and in the middle will be her husband sitting in front of a wall turned into a semi-truck mud flap for brains.

This particular day, we were working for the Army on a “rapid, wide-effect cranial evacuation,” DRS lingo for a head blown all over the wall.  To tell the truth, most of our work was military.  Channy sat on a barstool that looked like a giant yellow suction cup for his ass.  This was a Sergeant Major’s house.

Lens shift.

Discussing his friend Channy’s lens shift, Lazlo relates the old aphorism that there are no atheists in foxholes. Begley manages to put a wry smile on our faces while still maintaining a firm grip on our throats:

But there’s nothing natural about having the upper left quadrant of your skull shaved off with a bullet.  Nothing natural about a tipped over baby carriage exploding next to your truck sending scraps of metal and screws into your belly and pelvis.  That type of stuff makes it hard to be an atheist.

I didn’t really know that Channy was an atheist.

In Bosnia I was Catholic.

Channy never really talked about God or an afterlife or anything, other than to criticize religion.  For all I knew he was Wiccan.

In Kosovo I was Buddhist.

Now here’s the hard part… how do I keep going without giving up the story? Do I tell you the obvious? Life isn’t a fairy tale. That it’s important to take the time to look behind the curtains as best we’re able? Life has good things for us too. Like that romance stuff I said I’d return to later… There’s this girl named Sophie…

“Alright, Mr. Epps.  Do you want me to be in your fairy tale?”

Could I handle a woman who might catch glimpses of my mind through passwords when I didn’t want her to?  I wasn’t sure.  But that wasn’t what she was offering.  She was offering to catch those glimpses and then let them go.  I didn’t think it would work, but if I didn’t say ‘yes’ I’d regret within moments not knowing for sure.

“Yeah, I want that kind of fairy tale.”

Sophie winked at me and half-smiled.  “Then the last two hours never happened.”

“Just like that?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said, “Just like that.”

Something made me believe.  Big eyes and a pair of breasts could get me to believe a lot, but this was different.

…Sophie made her whippet-sniffing grin permanent; it was carved into her face and wasn’t going away.  I shrugged off my seatbelt and climbed into the back seat with her.  I didn’t want the distraction of Mack.  The hardest part of being a romantic is other guys watching.

So then, I’ll give you some privacy to pick up a great little novel that pushes a few boundaries, conjures up notions of spiritual growth without being religious, and provides transformations as stunning as Neo in the Matrix or Bach’s reluctant messiah. As soon as it’s available, I’ll remind you and post a link for the purchase  HERE at my site!

Update: Also available here! and here!

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