Thursday, December 28, 2006

Brits finally pay off WWII loans

Tomorrow, Britain will pay off its World War II loan debt to America and Canada.

On Friday, Britain will transfer 43 million pounds ($84 million) to the U.S. Treasury, according to Bloomberg News Service, the final payment on a debt used to finance the World War II defeat of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

The original loan was for $4.34 billion in 1945. Canada loaned $1.07 billion. At the time, the Brits expected a generous gift, not a loan, but grudgingly accepted it .... because they had no choice.

You know, they say you should never loan money to family, but despite their debt, the Brits have remained our closest allies over the past 60 years. One wonders how many other nations have kept up their mortgage payments over the past six decades.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Why wait for my book to be published?
Buy it on eBay today!

What's faster than the speed of a reading light?

eBay and Amazon sellers hustling "used" books that aren't even on the market yet!

FALL's national release will be Jan. 5, 2007 (although as readers of this blog know, a very limited sneak-preview was allowed in early December) but with almost two weeks before FALL officially debuts, a copy is already on the block at eBay.

Yep, bidding on this unread copy has started at $7.99 and (at the moment) almost five days remain. And any day now, expect to see "used" copies pop up at FALL's page, too.

It's freakish how the cyber-flea market can sell books even before brick-and-mortar retailers can shelve them. And it makes one wonder about the economics of it all, since deeply discounted new copies are available from both Internet and land-based stores.

Of course, the author doesn't make a penny in royalties from these sales. Plus, publishers often "dump" their slightly damaged books on eBay and other auction sites, so you should be especially suspicious of getting a "pig in a poke." And these eBay-style vendors don't often know much (if anything) about what they're selling, because they're simply dealing with too much volume -- and will put a lot more sizzle in the steak than they should. In the case of FALL's eBay seller, she bought it from another eBay seller and immediately put it online ... originally labeling it as a "fiction" (it's not) by a "New York Times best-selling author" (I'm not) that had been pulled from a bookseller's shelf (it wasn't.) Worse, she hadn't read the book ... although her site contains her glowing recommendation. Until I emailed her, she wasn't even aware that the book wasn't on the market yet.

Used-book dealers have been around a long time, maybe since Man began writing things down. But if some ancient form of eBay had been around at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, you might have seen a copy for sale the day BEFORE the author wrote "The End" on the last page.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas wish?
Celebrity Death Match with Rosie & The Donald

Does anyone care who wins ... or loses?
(But it was funny when Joan Walsh at referred to Donald as "the Cheeto-haired Trump")

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ho-Ho-Horrors! Bad Santa photos

The Chiacgo Tribune has posted almost 150 photos of Scary Santa Situations -- you know, just like all those photos you have in your albums. The page is hilarious ... and you can submit your own horrific ho-hos! And if you want more, the Los Angeles Times has its own page of Yuletide Yowling.

Friday, December 15, 2006

'Racist' is the white man's N-word

I hadn't been in my job as a Texas newspaper editor very long when a reader called to complain. In the reader's mind we hadn't given enough attention to a story about the football team at a primarily black local high school where her son was a player. Oh, there was a story, but the reader believed we should have written more and played it bigger. I listened to her and explained that while more might have been done, the story was a perfectly fine piece.

"Well," she retorted, "you're a racist."

I was shocked. I'd really never been called a racist before, much less by someone who hadn't known me for more than about two minutes ... over the phone. I did what any good editor would do: I transferred the complaining reader directly to the reporter who covered the story she believed was racist ... who happened to be a very good, young black reporter.

Linda Wallace, a veteran black journalist who writes a syndicated column called The Cultural Coach, addressed that very issue in her latest piece, "Think Before Using the Word 'Racist.'" She writes, in part:
"In workshops, many white Americans often admit being called a racist is the insult they fear the most. Some avoid holding sticky, but necessary, racial conversations because that word could be used to attack them. Others say the word is a dangerous weapon, yet it often is used without first allowing the intended target an opportunity to mount a defense."

Wallace suggests that a white person is insulted by being called a "racist" almost as much as an African-American is insulted by being called a "nigger," and makes her case for using both words only sparingly or not at all.

I agree. "Racist" is a word too casually thrown around these days, and it often suggests bias/racism on the speaker's part. How? If a black person can call a white person she's never met a "racist" after only two minutes of casual, non-racial conversation, it belies a feeling that all white people must harbor ill will for African-Americans and the surface needn't even be scratched to find it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is your cable company censoring shows?

CNN's much ballyhooed project about racism in America aired last night, promising to expose how racism still lingers in this country, often in stealth mode. Among the pieces of the story was a visit to Vidor, Texas, a former "sundown" town (where blacks had to be out by dusk) and once home to a big KKK branch.

But at just the moment the Vidor segment was to be aired, TVs here in Southeast Texas went blank. The outage lasted about 5 minutes -- ironically the exact length of time of the segment that had everybody's attention here in Southeast Texas. Hmmm. Interesting timing.

"We had a power problem on Channel 8 and Channel 22," Time-Warner Cable's George Perrett told the Beaumont Enterprise. "An engineer at the head end went to replace the computer and when he replaced the computer, he reset 8 and 22 and inadvertently caused a power failure on CNN [Channel 32]. Once the computers reset, everything was back up to normal. Everything was out less than a minute."

Was it an unlucky convergence of glitches on two unrelated channels ... or a deliberate vandalism by someone inside Time-Warner (oddly, a sister company of CNN)?

The timing, the topic and the location make it unlikely it was an accident. More likely, a sniveling nerd-insurgent who decided Southeast Texans needn't see the Vidor segment -- somebody who knew exactly the right buttons to push at the right moment -- succeeded in his guerilla tactics.

If you want to see the whole CNN documentary, including the segment that was, in my mind, purposely censored by the cable TV company, click here.

And if you want to air your opinions to Time-Warner, call (409) 727-1515, or click here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Iran: Holocaust never happened ... kill all Jews

Iran's mentally ill president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has convened a conference in Tehran to question "the myth" of the Holocaust in World War II. Why are we surprised that an Islamic fascist would not be satisfied by any degree of Jewish genocide?

So I guess these pictures were just Photoshopped to added the piles of corpses ...

Monday, December 11, 2006

The news never sleeps!

Gee, a newspaperman goes to Wyoming for a week and you'd think the world would take a holiday from mayhem, but noooooo. Scanning today's headlines, I see that you people just carried on without me! Some of the most amazing news:

-- A Muslim man with an expired visa is arrested when he tells a truck-driving school that he wants to learn how to drive a big rig ... but doesn't need to learn how to back up.

-- A British teacher is fired after she tells her tots that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Nor do fairies.

-- Olympic bomber and maximum-security inmate Eric Rudolph claims that being in prison is driving him insane ... and ruining his diet. Not being stupid he says Colorado's Supermax federal prison is "designed to inflict as much misery and pain as is constitutionally permissible" and he wants a nicer standard of living.

--The next new fashion trend for teenagers? Wearing pajamas to school. (Am I the only person in the world who has bad dreams about attending classes in my pajamas?)

-- What would you do if you found a lost wallet containing $2.10 in real money, a fake $50.00 gift certificate, some miscellaneous items and a clearly written ID card identifying the lost wallet's rightful owner? Well, the first thing you should do is look for a hidden camera!

-- A minister who knew Jeffrey Dahmer in prison says that if the cannibal-killer hadn't been killed in prison, he might have become history's greatest prison evangelist. Which I suppose explains Dahmer's fascination with communion.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On the Road Again: Check FALL blog

My book tour for 'FALL' is under way. Until sometime after Dec. 10, when I return to the sunny Gulf Coast, I'll be blogging from Colorado and Wyoming about the on-the-road life of an author. Think it's a glamorous life? Well, some moments are magical, to be sure ... but you might be surprised at the work, the surprises and the disappointments that happen when you're not looking. Photos and posts will offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a typical book tour ... and maybe a little more.

Check it out at my blog devoted to this book, 'FALL.'