Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Super Bowl halftime entertainment

This week's TIME Magazine has a long story about Super Bowl halftime shows. I didn't read the whole piece, but I did look at the pictures and the shows featured, and saw only a brief mention about the famous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. So, to "correct" and "flesh out" (so to speak) TIME's failure, here, below, is an excerpt from a Work in Progress about American politics:

I challenge anyone in the world to find any serious harm, especially to national security, national interests, or to our moral foundations, that really happened to anyone anywhere as a result of Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII wardrobe malfunction. Actually, there was a rather amazing amount of loss, namely, to Janet Jackson herself (the fine), and of time spent on this issue by network executives when they could have been using their talents in a more productive (for the nation) way, a loss made all the more amazing because it was only a breast and you can get the picture off the web any time. In fact, the picture you can get off the web is of higher quality, and more lasting, than the one you got off the halftime show in 2004. You can also run the digital video clip over and over again if you so desire, something that was impossible during the halftime show.
Nevertheless, Jackson, her dance partner Justin Timberlake who actually pulled off part of her costume, CBS, MTV, the NFL, and show sponsor AOL all apologized profusely and the NFL returned $10 million that AOL had paid for advertising sponsorship. MTV also lost the right to ever again produce a halftime show for a Super Bowl. Within a few days after the incident, a Tennessee woman named Terri Carlin filed a class action suit against Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, seeking “maximum” punitive and compensatory damages for all Americans for having seen the breast. Think about it. Imagine Mike Wallace interviewing Terri Carlin on 60 Minutes, looking at her with a rather bemused expression, and saying “R-e-e-a-ally!?”
Eventually the lawsuit was dropped and “Janet Jackson” became one of the most highly selected search terms used by web surfers over the next few months. In retrospect, the Jackson breast did, however, distract viewers from Kid Rock’s American flag poncho which ended up on the ground, surely a major affront to US veterans. No veterans group filed a class action suit against Kid Rock. All in all, the Super Bowl XXXVIII show was a real mess. However, the Lycos 50 web site stated “Once again we are reminded of the power of a woman” and reports not only that “Janet Jackson” was the most common search term for 2004, but that she also beat out “Paris Hilton” and “Britney Spears” by a long shot. As an aside, after reading a piece by Osama bin Laden’s former consort (Harpers’ Magazine, September, 2006), I found myself wondering whether Mss. Jackson, Hilton, and Spears might be our most potent weapons in the war on terrorism, if we could just figure out how to use them effectively. I’m also guessing that instead of relying on people like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense and Vice President at the time) for advice on such weapons, a focus group made up of unemployed twenty-something males might provide the best strategy to maximize the effectiveness of this particular technology (beautiful women doing whatever the hell they want to do).
No deaths were reported from the “Janet Jackson” web search activity (nor has web-surfing for “Paris Hilton” and “Britney Spears” produced any reported deaths, serious injuries, or property damage), but a lot of money continued to change hands as a result of the seething government “outrage” over Ms. Jackson’s accident, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) levying fines all over the place. Howard Stern was dropped from several radio stations by Clear Channel Communications; Clear Channel also was fined for Bubba the Love Sponge; and, Viacom was fined $550,000 (20 stations at $27,500 each), which evidently was not enough because the US House of Representatives quickly passed legislation authorizing fines up to $3,000,000 a day, although for what, I’m not sure, unless it would be continued broadcasting of Bubba the Love Sponge, certainly a massive threat to the Great American Experiment in freedom and democracy, right up there with gay marriage and religious art made with elephant dung.
In retrospect, Janet’s indiscretion produced a lot of work for attorneys, so maybe it was actually a boost to the overall economy, but especially to boat and luxury car dealerships. Now we have wholesome halftime entertainment at Super Bowls, e.g., the Rolling Stones (2006), with no women on stage, at least none in danger of losing their shirts, and there aren’t any rather sensually inferential TV commercials for Cialis and Viagra, either. Not to take anything away from the Stones, one of the most successful entertainment ventures of all time, but by 2006 they were all getting a little long in the tooth. Watching them on international television reminds one that this particular group is much better experienced lying on your own couch with an iPod and your eyes closed than watched as Super Bowl halftime entertainment. On the couch you can listen to the words, study the inflections, absorb the instrumentation, all helped along with recording studio technology.
As a result of watching the Stones at Super Bowl XL I actually decided maybe I should go buy an album for historical reasons. Then I could listen to the full set of lyrics, including those deleted by the ABC censors as a result of perceived sexual innuendo. Such deletion altered my mental picture of “ABC censors.” I had envisioned a censor being about my age, maybe somewhat hard of hearing, dressed in a suit even as he sat in a small room with an old television set, and with an ear untrained to pick up sexual content in something rapidly screamed over and through blasting drums and guitars. Evidently I was wrong. When it comes to sexual content, perceived or otherwise, these people are sharp. The fact that they might also be young enough to actually hear and understand rock lyrics is a touch frightening. The possibility that the Stones might have had to submit lyrics in hard copy prior to the game is a little more plausible, although either case is a study in ridiculousness.
The important thing to remember in this discussion of woman as evil is that the Super Bowl is the quintessential American identity event. Regardless of whatever halftime shows and smarty commercials we see on Super Bowl Sunday, the sexiest things about any modern professional American football game are the cheerleaders, and quite frankly, they can be rather interesting. But remember, these beautiful, suggestively gyrating, scantily clad, un-named and usually working-class women—legitimate turn-ons (unlike the unavailable Janet Jackson)—are doing something women are supposed to do, namely, “support” our warriors on the field (symbolic, metaphorical, and often heroic, indeed near mythical).
Cheerleaders thus are playing a significant part in our early 21st Century national morality play, repeated so often as to become ritual that sustains a defining myth, namely, that our men battle adversity and women are dragged along, often serving as spoils, and always accepting of, if not actively seeking, that role, even reminding everyone that this set of activities, struggles, and consequences is the “way things are supposed to be.” It may be an almost Hillary Clinton level liberal dream, but periodically I have this rebellious vision of some Dallas Cheerleader finding a public address system microphone and instead of giving us her jiggly-boobs-twitch-butt-hair-tossing-smiley-face act, standing straight up, staring directly into the press box and telling the crowd “that was the dumbest fucking play I’ve ever seen called on third and short inside the red zone. Just what in the hell was he thinking? Huh?” Now there’s a real dangerous lady. Terri Carlin take note.

All my books are available from amazon. Just click on my web site. The Gideon Marshall Mystery Series is also now available as a nice paperback, appropriate as a gift for any geologist or a person from Iowa, as well as anyone who likes a literary mystery. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

In response to a Facebook post on women at science conferences, especially on the matter of questions, here is an excerpt from TUSKERS

TUSKERS is the ultimate college football story, set in the year 2090, and the University of Nebraska has not lost a game in ten years. The Tuskers, formerly Cornhuskers, must win this last one, against the hated University of Oklahoma Sooners, for a perfect decade of winning football. TUSKERS is available on all e-book platforms and as a really nice paperback from amazon, making an excellent gift for some rabid fan. In this excerpt, the pathological fan, Jack Alexander, is dealing with the Monday Quarterback Lunch and his boss, the evil Arly Hockrood, the only person in Nebraska who wants the Tuskers to lose this last game.

The excerpt:

It never occurred to Arly Hockrood that Jack worshipped him for his powerful mind but hated him for his inconsiderate ways.  Although he didn’t do it every week, Hockrood often asked Jack what his questions were—the ones Jack had been afraid to ask at the previous Monday’s Quarterback Lunch.  Like an admiring idiot, Jack usually revealed his questions.
     “Jesus, Alexander! That’s not an important question!”  Hockrood always snapped back.  “You gotta learn to ask significant questions, boy, real good ones, timeless ones!  You gotta be a student of the game if you’re gonna be a student of the game!”
     Jack had quite a bit of trouble trying to figure out what Arly Hockrood meant by that last profundity.  He also had trouble with “timeless, significant” questions about football.  He studied video, watched all the coach’s shows, read every word he could about the Tuskers, but still his questions about football didn’t seem important enough, at least to satisfy Hockrood.  So Jack usually came home depressed, as well as excited, hostile and aggressive, after the rich AEPI founder had made the rounds of the sales offices.  Sometimes on the way home Jack would wonder why football aroused all these simultaneous emotions in him.  Then he would try to shake off his feelings so he could be a little bit nice to Suzi, even though she wouldn’t be very responsive until Saturday, when Jack would have other things on his mind.
     On Thursday evenings, Suzi was sympathetic but not very patient.
     “Well, Jack, what were your questions?”
     He’d tell her.  More often than not, Suzi would say something that made Jack realize how stupid his questions were.  Suzi had about as much love for Big Red football as Arly Hockrood did, but she didn’t study the games for the purpose of making trouble.  She just loved to see Archie prance around on the field.  Suzi was just naive and innocent, thought Jack, at least about football.  What he didn’t realize was that in watching the televised games so she could see Archie, she’d picked up a certain amount of insight into the way football was played.  Of course her brilliant mind kept a jump ahead of the sport by wrestling, in its boredom, with the second most timeless and significant question of all:  How should football be played?
     And, from her philosophy classes back at the University of Nebraska, taken back when the football team was the miserable losing Cornhuskers, Suzi remembered that you could easily convert a somewhat significant question into a truly important one simply by replacing the word “how” with the word “why.”  For example, one could ask not “how . . . “ but “why should football be played?”
     This question was the precise one that the evil wealthy genius Arly Hockrood had asked himself every day since he’d been a youth in college.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Facebook request, to post the opening paragraphs of your works of fiction

Here are the opening paragraphs of the three Gideon Marshall Mysteries. The third one, THE EARTHQUAKE LADY, should be available as an e-book within a couple of weeks:

A medley of opening paragraphs:

Opening paragraph of BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER (available as both e-book and print on demand; first in the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series):

“Good morning, Dr. Marshall. I’m Leonard Branch from Campus Security.”
That’s how my day started. The hand he extended held a badge. He was not in uniform. After the last couple of days, it’s obvious why he was here, namely, to talk about my predecessor, the infamous Clyde Renner.

From the Prologue of THE STITCHER FILE (available as both e-book and print on demand; second in the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series):

As she’d done almost every working day for the past year, Dr. Aparajita Chatterjee, medical examiner for Polk County, Iowa, closed her file on the geologist Clyde Renner but let it sit on her desk for a full ten minutes, simply thinking about what the autopsy results implied, wondering who she should ask for an independent interpretation of the results, and sometimes shaking her head. She’d never seen a case like this one—so simple and obvious yet so complex, with so many people involved and such an unsatisfying set of conclusions, especially with those traces of veterinary pharmaceuticals in his blood. The unusual mix of attorneys, donors, and hackers who showed up at the college immediately after Renner’s death, and the apparent reasons for their interest in Renner’s work, only added to Dr. Chatterjee’s feeling that there was more to the scientist’s demise than just a routine heart attack and stroke.

Opening paragraph of THE EARTHQUAKE LADY, a work in progress (the third in the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series):

“Thank you for taking the time to meet with us,” she said, extending her hand. I remembered that hand, from a year and a half ago, as being particularly warm. Three silver bracelets slid down her arm and rested against her wrist as she reached across my desk. Her sari was deep blue with gold embroidery along the edges. I had not forgotten her eyes—irises so dark they were almost black—or her voice, the deep lilt, the tone, the inflections, all telling me more about my cloistered Ivory Tower world, although not intentionally, I’m sure, than her words. Dr. Aparajita Chatterjee, Polk County medical examiner, introduced her companion. “This is detective Burkholder from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pets in Heaven

The following is an excerpt from CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN GOD AND SATAN regarding the issue of pets in Heaven:

Beyond those Kids, God had no other family. He’d impregnated a great many females, of course, in quite a few places throughout various solar systems, in order to produce His sons, but most of these ladies had been married, or at least engaged, to people or people-like beings at the time, so even when they died and became angels, these former consorts were more interested in being with their husband-angels than with God. And the rest of the billions and billions of angels who’s not been the beneficiaries of a so-called virgin birth spent most of their time looking for relatives and eating, mainly broccoli and yogurt, with an occasional cup of decaf French Roast and one Girl Scout thin mint cookie for dessert. The virgin birth angels, however, usually got two Girl Scout thin mint cookies for dessert, and sometimes, maybe once in a millennium, got a bag of baked potato chips, too. But none of them, regardless of whether they’d been impregnated by God while they were at home on their native planets, ever got a glass of wine.
Maybe all these billions and billions of angels wouldn’t be quite so bored, God often thought, if I’d allowed their dogs and cats to join them. But He’d drawn the line on pets and created a separate Pet Heaven, which was now almost over-flowing with not only dogs and cats, but also canaries, cockatiels, hamsters, guinea pigs, guinea fowl, gerbils, rats, mice, rosy and emerald boas and other snakes, poison dart frogs, praying mantises, millipedes, monkeys, zebra finches, and dozens of other species that former people had kept in or around their homes for pleasure then given a proper little funeral and burial after these pets died.
Once and a while God ventured over into Pet Heaven just to see what was going on, and when He entered, He found himself highly entertained, amazed, and intrigued by what He saw. In a few galaxies, people really had bizarre pets and did bizarre things with them, so that when these kinds of pets got to Pet Heaven, they behaved in surprisingly people-angel-like ways, functioning largely to keep the other pet angels fed, watered, and entertained. In this very strange place, God realized that the monkey-like pet-angels were really having a much more interesting afterlife by playing ball and Frisbee with dog-like pet angels, or teasing cat-like pet-angels with balls of yarn-like stuff, than were the people who’d owned all these pets in the first place and were now, as angels, subsisting on broccoli, yogurt, and a seemingly never-ending search for relatives. Periodically God wondered whether more Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, or even a glass of wine once every millennium or two, might help alleviate some of the people-angels’ boredom, but then resisted that temptation because, of course, He was God.

CONVERSATIONS is available on all e-readers and as a nice paperback from amazon.