Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Funny Side of Barbie

Looking for something to give a Kindle-loving friend for the holidays? This recently release e-book is a good choice. My friend Clare wrote a book called "The Funny Side of Barbie: 101 Hilarious True Stories of the Crazy Things Kids Do to Barbie Dolls". She sent me a copy to read and I have to say, it's pretty hilarious! I designed the cover for the book. 

Clare sent me a copy of the book and I have been reading them a few at a time. Some of them are so hilarious I have to stop reading just to enjoy the chuckles for awhile. There are tales of decapitation, boob-ectomies, trans-gender operations, and more. Who knew kids were so kinky?

When I was living in a college dorm there was a girl down the hall who had these strange gold and silver ornaments hanging on her door. I finally realized they were headless, armless Barbies that had been dipped in metallic paint and rolled in glitter. They were quite festive albeit demented and I think people must have complained because they soon disappeared. I should have told Clare that story, maybe she would have put it in her book.

One of the funniest stories in the book (in my opinion) involves a little boy who is coerced into playing with his sister, she with her Barbie, he with his GI Joe. The kid gets the idea that GI Joe is having Vietnam flashbacks and, well, you have to read the story.

This is an innovative book and anyone who has ever owned a Barbie or disliked someone who owned a Barbie will most likely identify with many of the stories in it. I know you will laugh but I wonder if you will be surprised at what twisted little stinkers a lot of kids are. If you have kids, you'll understand.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 29, 2010

One Writer's Weekend

Every year the same thing happens, I look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday with tremendous anticipation and grandiose plans for all that I am going to accomplish. I lay in provisions and gin, I try to eliminate as many distractions as I can, I warn people I will be unavailable, and I make a list of all the amazing things I plan to accomplish. And every year the Monday after comes and I sit here thinking what went wrong?

To be fair I did get a lot done on one project but all the other ones suffered for it. I also slept a lot, watched some movies though nothing worth raving about, and spent time with a couple friends. But, as usual, my perception of time and what can be accomplished in it was way off base.

However, I did get a lot of work done on the new book and that made me happy. I had come to an impasse and it was making me crazy. No matter how much you love your characters and how well you know everything is going to turn out in the end getting from Point A to Point B can often be problematic. Sometimes what seems to work in your head doesn't work on paper or vice versa.

I'm a great believer in trusting the process and in writing through. I have discovered over the years that when I just decide to sit down and focus on a character, let them speak to me and tell me who they are and what they have done good things tend to happen. Later I may have to trim that down or rearrange details but, more often than not, paying attention is key. Characters are like any other human being, they blossom under well-intended attention.

I wrote in an earlier post about the amazing why in which Arthur's Story came to me. That is a rarity – you can't count on that happening. But even when you just sit with a character and say, “okay, tell me more about you” something worthwhile usually happens. I learned an important lesson from JK Rawlin who writes wonderful, delightful, believable characters. She said that she writes full biographies for characters, draws pictures of them and spends time dialoging with them. That almost always gets me unstuck from the place I am in when I am working on a novel or even a short story. So this weekend I didn't quite make it all the way from Point A to Point B but at least now I know how I am going to get there.

Today the notice came from my publisher that my monthly direct deposit had been made for my share of the books sold three months ago (It is November so I am getting paid for August). That is always an absolute thrill to me because it is money that comes to me for no other reason than that I am a writer. I'm a long way from being able to live on it but it always makes me feel good. I try to make a point to use that money for something nice for myself so I can feel the satisfaction of having an income from writing. This month I used it to order a pair of beautiful leather Dansk clogs I've had my eye on a couple other little treats. Every time I wear those clogs I'll be able to remember I am a writer.

So, I'm done working for today and I need to do a few errands and then I can read what I wrote over the weekend and think about what comes next. I've got a lot of work to do but the good thing about being a writer is my life is always interesting – at least inside my head.

Thanks for reading.    

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Fuschia Cowl Is Finished

Well, first of all, I am no good at self-photography. I know people do it all the time but I suck at it. So this picture is terrible but the cowl is gorgeous -- and finally finished. It is more than just a cowl -- sort of a cowl/shawl as it fits well down over the shoulders and upper arms and is very warm and snuggy. I knit it from some luscious recycled cashmere holding two strands together.

I promise I'll get some better pictures when I can coerce somebody into modeling for me. Until then this is it.

Thanks for reading.

The E-Book Revolution Is Hot for the Holidays!

In the spirit of the holidays and in celebration of my new collection of short stories, love, murder, etc. I am giving away free e-books! Now through the end of the year, you can get a free copy in your choice of e-formats (through Smashwords) suitable for use on Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader or any other e-reader when you purchase ANY of my other five books in either paperback, Kindle or Nook. Just send your order number to inquiry@parlezmoipress.com and a Smashwords coupon will be sent to you.

PLUS if you order a paperback or e-book of Each Angel Burns or The Old Mermaid's Tale, you can also get a free Smashwords coupon for  Each Angel Burns, The Old Mermaid's Tale or My Last Romance!

Anyone who has purchased books (paperback or e-book) in the last two months (since September 1, 2010) is also eligible for the free Smashwords coupons. Just email and specify what you bought and where.

love, murder, etc. is a collection of eight short stories, three of which have been previously published. Included are:

  • Sailor's Valentine - Everyone thought shopkeeper Miranda Light was too aloof and too reserved to let a man get close to her. Everyone thought lobsterman Tristan Hancock was too independent and too cantankerous to fall in love. No one was prepared for what happened when they met.
  • Mardi Gras Was Over - As a girl she ran away to Mardi Gras with a dangerous stranger on a Harley. Now her teenage daughter is pleading to go to Mardi Gras, too. There are things about her past that a mother might not want her child to know.
  • The Mermaid Shawl (previously published in The Mermaid Shawl & other Beauties: Shawls, Cocoons and Wraps) - She came to an island in the Great Lakes to mourn the loss of her father. There she found three new passions - dying yarns from the island vegetation, knitting them into mysterious patterns of lace, and the beautiful stranger she pulled from the sea.
  • Arthur's Story - He was born in New York City at the turn of the century and as an orphan, against all odds, found a way to survive. Little did he know he had a "guardian angel" who made sure of that. 
  • Home-made Pie and Sausage (previously published in Level Best Books' Windchill: Crime Stories by New England Writers) - If you let your friends get away with criminal behavior you best not do it in this diner.
  • Killing Julie Morris (previously published in Level Best Books' Riptide: Crime Stories by New England Writers) - Julie Morris thought she could do anything she wanted to but when she started fooling around with the wrong guy things turned icy fast.
  • Just An Old-Fashioned Murder - Some things are just not tolerated, like taking advantage of the more vulnerable members of the Monday Night Needlework Guild.
  • The View from The Lighthouse - The lighthouse was the site of one of the most notorious murder-suicides in 1950s. Now 50 years later she lives in the lighthouse and is in love with a fisherman who isn't treating her right. It's enough to give a girl ideas....
Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A New Twist in the Misha Defonseca Story

Well, since my blog was the one that initially reported the hoax perpetrated by Misha Defonseca with her fraudulent book, Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust, I have been following the case with interest. Yesterday the Massachusetts State Appeals Court handed down the following decision:

Tall tale takes a new twist in court

Publisher will not have to pay author for sham memoir

By David Abel
Globe Staff / November 25, 2010
When Misha Defonseca admitted that her best-selling memoir about surviving the Holocaust with the help of wolves was a sham, her publisher thought she could avoid paying the author and her ghost writer a disputed $32.5 million for allegedly concealing profits from sales.

Yesterday, after a decade of litigation, a panel of judges in the state Appeals Court ruled that the publisher does not have to pay Defonseca the $22.5 million awarded to her by a jury but still owes $10 million to the ghost writer, who was unaware of the hoax.

In a decision written by Judge Gabrielle R. Wolohojian, the panel found that Jane Daniel, sole proprietor of Mt. Ivy Press in Gloucester, should not have to pay Defonseca, because the jury’s verdict was based on the false story that she was Jewish, that she survived the Holocaust as a child by roaming through Europe on foot, and that she received protection and food from a pack of wolves.
It was later learned that Defonseca, who now lives in Dudley, is not Jewish, that she was safely attending school in Brussels during the period she said she was a refugee, and that her father reportedly provided Nazis with information about the Belgian resistance movement.
“There are some falsehoods that are so emotionally inflammatory that they impede the jury’s ability impartially to evaluate facts and adjudicate a case,’’ Wolohojian wrote in the ruling. “Falsely claiming to be a victim (and survivor) of the Holocaust is such a one, particularly where — as here — the claim is the foundation of a book.’’
The case has a tortured history that began before Daniel published “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years,’’ in 1997. The book, eventually translated into 18 languages, became a bestseller in Europe and the basis for a hit French movie. It also received the attention of The Walt Disney Co., which signed an option for a movie, and Oprah Winfrey’s program, which filmed Defonseca with wolves at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich. Both dropped out as tensions among the author, ghost writer, and publisher crested into what became a long court fight.
Defonseca, originally from Brussels, moved to Massachusetts in 1988 and became known for giving talks about her World War II experiences to local Jewish organizations. Based on those talks, Daniel offered Defonseca a book contract and hired Vera Lee, her French-speaking former friend and neighbor, to serve as coauthor.
Lee and Daniel squabbled about the manuscript when Lee said it needed more fact-checking, and Daniel eventually removed Lee’s name from the cover and put it on the copyright page. A year after the book was published — with a blurb from Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, author of the Holocaust memoir “Night’’ — Lee sued Daniel, arguing that her rights as coauthor had been violated. Defonseca also sued Daniel, asserting that the publisher broke promises to publicize the book and hid profits in offshore corporate accounts.

Daniel denied the allegations, but in 2001 a Middlesex Superior Court jury awarded $7.5 million in damages to Defonseca and $3.3 million to Lee. The judge tripled the damages, to nearly $10 million for Lee and $22.5 million for Defonseca, because of the allegedly egregious conduct. The jury also awarded rights to the book to Defonseca, who sold it to publishers in Europe.

To collect on their awards, Defonseca’s lawyer sought a $425,000 inheritance held by Daniel’s father, who signed it over to Defonseca, and Lee’s lawyer demanded that Daniel pay $2,000 a month. When Daniel said she did not have the money, a judge jailed her for contempt, and she spent a night in MCI-Framingham, until a friend raised the money.
Under threat of being sent back to jail, Daniel signed a settlement with Lee’s lawyer, Frank Frisoli of Cambridge, ultimately allowing him the right to sell her house.
But in 2008, documents emerged in the Belgian press discrediting Defonseca’s account, and she admitted her story was a lie. In her statement at the time, Defonseca admitted she had made up the story of trekking thousands of miles through Europe and blamed Daniel for prodding her to put it in the book.
“There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world,’’ she said. “The story in the book is mine. It is not the actual reality; it was my reality, my way of surviving.’’
Soon afterward, Daniel appealed the rulings in Middlesex Superior Court, arguing that the awards against her were the result of perjured testimony, false court pleadings, and fraudulent exhibits, which misled the jury. A Superior Court judge dismissed the appeal, saying it was not filed within the one-year period required.
But yesterday, the state Appeals Court ruled there were “extraordinary circumstances’’ to justify Daniel’s appeal.
“It is true, as the defendants point out, that the book’s authenticity was not the central issue at trial,’’ Wolohojian wrote. “Despite this, it is difficult to imagine that this information, had it been known to Daniel and Mt. Ivy, would not have provided a meritorious defense to at least some of the claims.’’
In sustaining the award for Lee, the judge wrote: “The complaint does not allege that Lee knew, or had reason to know, that Defonseca’s memoir was fraudulent. The complaint’s silence in this regard is consistent with the trial judge’s conclusion that the allegations indicated Lee alerted Daniel to the fact that the book had not been fact-checked, and that many historical facts needed to be verified.’’
Daniel did not return calls yesterday, but Brian McCormick, a Gloucester lawyer representing her, said it was a fair ruling.
“I’m very pleased the court didn’t allow Defonseca to profit from her hoax and use the judicial system as a pawn in the process of obtaining such profit,’’ he said. “As far as Vera Lee goes, we believe you can’t really separate one from the other. We think Defonseca’s conduct tainted the entire trial, but the fact is that when you look at it, Jane Daniel could not have had a fair trial.’’
He said he intends to appeal that portion of the decision to the Supreme Judicial Court.
Reached at home, Defonseca, now 73, said she had long ago written off receiving money from Daniel.
“I never wanted to make this book; Jane Daniel pushed me to do this,’’ she said. “Now, I want my life back. I want peace. This has been very painful.’’

There is a good commentary on this story on Robert J. Ambrogi's Media Law Blog.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Stunning World

These gorgeous photos are from National Geographic's Annual Photo Contest. Below are some of my favorites but go to the link to see more.

Lightning Strike in New York Harbor:

Another view of a wave:

Moonrise over a volcano in Iceland:

Lone Llama:
Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Genealogist's Tribute to Sea Captains

Marian Pierre-Louis is a house historian, genealogist and local historian. Marian regularly lectures on house histories and African American and New England genealogy. Today she wrote a two part blog about the many sea captains buried in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. I think her photos are fascinating:

The Sea Captains of Dartmouth, Part One

The Sea Captains of Dartmouth, Part Two

Enjoy -- and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

St. Margaret in the Woods

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Margaret of Scotland, a saint who holds a nice place in my heart not because of anything she did but because of what someone else did for her. When I was a kid there was a shrine in the woods that someone had built for her and it was a place I dearly loved.

I don't remember how we first found it or even where it is located. If I went back there I doubt I could find it now. But I remember there was a narrow, unmarked path that went through the woods. There were many rocks in those woods – huge rocks, glacial deposits, left there thousands of years before. You followed this little path and wound between some of these giant rocks. The rocks themselves were something of a wonder, covered with lichen and thick blankets of silky, soft green moss. There were always tufts of ferns growing between the crevices and tiny woodland flowers peeking out from under them. Eventually you came to a great pile of rocks and when you walked around to the other side you realized they formed a shrine. Nestled in the rock pile was a niche with a statue of St. Margaret in it and covered with a glass door. There was a stone altar and flagstones set in to the forest floor of the little grotto. Often we would find someone had left a bouquet of flowers on the altar, daisies and buttercups and wild geraniums of phlox. There were lady slippers growing out of the crevices in the rocks and in the spring the whole grotto was surrounded by mountain laurel. I thought it was a wonderful place.

That little grotto with its shrine captured my imagination and I remember lying in bed at night thinking about it, wondering if it was getting wet or snowed on. I thought about it a lot when it snowed. Once I asked my Dad if we could go there in the snow and I remember as we walked back the trail there were other footprints in the snow and I wondered who had been there before us.

Years later, after I was an adult, I did go back and find it but things had changed a lot. There was now a sign by the road telling who it was and why she was there. Some lady had built the shrine as thanks for a healing she had received by praying to St. Margaret. The beautiful statue under glass was gone and, in its place, was a hard, plastic bas-relief depiction of the saint. It was nice but not as evocative as the one I had known when I was young.

Things like that shrine are a delicious treasure to have when you are older. I suppose today there are less of them because they would be vandalized in short order and that would be a terrible shame. We've lost respect for so much and in losing respect we've lost these special secret treasures because no one wants to invest time and energy and love in something that will quickly be destroyed.

I was glad to read about yesterday being St. Margaret's feast day if only because it made me remember that shrine and the magic it brought in to my young life. Things like that stay in the underground of memory and, when we are lucky, come out on the page. and then someone says, “oh, I loved the part in the book where they discovered the shrine, that was so descriptive and mysterious, how on earth did you think of that?” And you say, it was a miracle that St. Margaret made.

Thanks for reading.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Favorite Character Name Blog: Uther Pendragon

Red Room, an online community for writers which I am part of, periodically asks writers to blog on a subject of their choosing. Today they asked that we blog about the name of a character in a book that is a favorite of ours and for me that was easy. I love the name Uther Pendragon. I wish I could think of a way to steal it.

For those who do not know Uther is the king of sub-Britian and the father of King Arthur. Uther was so enchanted by the beautiful Lady Ygraine, the wife of his enemy King Gorlois, that he begged Merlin to cast a spell that would let him have his way with her. Which he did. This resulted in the conception of Arthur, his illegitimate son who was then spirited away by Merlin because Merlin had made it part of the bargain that if he let Uther have Ygraine, he, Merlin, would receive the fruits of their union. Well, of course, Uther is so hot for Ygraine that he isn't thinking past the end of his -- well, you know -- and agrees. Once Arthur is born and Merlin shows up to claim him Uther is outraged but it is too late.
Uther isn't a particularly admirable character but he is interesting. He is mentioned in many books including T.H. White's "Once And Future King" and Mary Stewart's beautiful Merlin trilogy where I first fell in love with him. I loved those books, especially The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills. There are also notable movie moments with Uther, particularly John Boorman's Excalibur in which Uther is played by one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Byrne, and the scene in which he impregnates Ygraine -- he still clad in armor, she in a diaphanous gown that keeps falling off of her, in front of a blazing fire -- is especially memorable.

Uther also showed up in another favorite book, The Mists of Avalon.

I have other favorite names for characters: Atticus Finch is wonderful, so is D'Artagnan and Sissy Hankshaw and I confess a huge partiality for James Lee Burke's Clete Purcell, though Burke has so many great names you could open any one of his books and make a list. His Legion Guidry in Jolie Blon's Bounce not only has a great name but is one of the most purely terrifying, evil characters I've ever encountered in a book. Then there is Ignatius J. Reilly, and Albus Dumbledore -- well, like James Lee Burke, the Harry Potter books have so many great names you could fill a book with just their names: Severus Snape, Lucius Malfoy, Minerva McGonigall, Petunia Dursley... the list is endless.

I could write about this all day but I have to get back to work and to writing, too.I'm working on a new novel and one of the main characters is a guy named Syd Jupiter. I like that name.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Italian Burrito? Mama Mia!!!

Life has been busy lately and I just have not had time to cook but every once in awhile I concoct something in a hurry that turns out to be so good I wonder why I never heard of it before. This probably is not original but it is to me.

My Italian Burrito
For the wrap I used a whole wheat, oat bran and flax seed wrap from Joseph's. Drizzle a little olive oil (just enough to spread thinly over it. Split a clove of garlic in half and rub over the entire surface. Layer with 4 very thin slices of capicola, 3 thin slices of provolone cheese, 2 slices of mortadella. (You can actually use anything you want -- if I had any salami you can bet it would be in there.) Fold up the ends and then fold the other two sides in. In a heavy pan pour a little olive oil and, when it is hot, place the burrito, seam side down.

In the meantime heat 1/4 c. marinara sauce either in the microwave or in a separate pot. I added a good pinch of crushed red pepper. 

Flip the burrito over when it is brown and crispy on one side. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese and let it sizzle until the other side is nice and crisp. Remove to plate. Pour the hot marinara sauce over it and sprinkle with some parmesan cheese.

This made a delicious, quick, satisfying dinner. Wish I'd thought of it years ago. Next time I'm going to saute some onions and mushrooms to go with it.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You're History Reviews "Each Angel Burns"

I don't know who writes the You're History blog but this review was posted yesterday and I appreciated it. It is always a delight to find a review, especially a good one, in an unexpected place. I thought the last line was especially insightful. Thank you!

Modern Lit: Each Angel Burns, by Kathleen Valentine

November 12th, 2010 § Leave a Comment

Turning Points
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somewhat reminiscent of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair, Each Angel Burns is a story of relationships and turning points among a group of friends who have reached their fiftieth birthdays. The narrative revolves primarily around Maggie, a sculptor in a loveless marriage to a wealthy playboy, and the de-consecrated Maine monastery which she is converting as an art center. Just before her marriage, Maggie fell hard for Pete while they were studying in Paris, but she could not bring herself to lure him from the seminary where he was training for the priesthood. Pete’s best friend, Gabe, also unhappily married, is recruited by Pete to carry out Maggie’s building plans. The monastery served as a convent to a community of nuns, and has had a reputation for mystery and miracles. Now, a series of young women have been brutally murdered, and the sheriff suspects that the convent’s crypts and tunnels are connected to these crimes.
What unfolds is a love story, a romance, really, in which even the minor characters must take stock of their lives and decide where to go from here. It proceeds at a leisurely pace, with most of the actions taking place within a small town bar called “The Arm Pit”, and within the evocative setting of the monastery on the coast of Maine. Resonant with vivid imagery and inner struggles, Each Angel Burns shows that the journey of self-discovery does not end in adolescence.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Blog: Ray Goes to a Penn State Football Game

 Our buddy Ray in Pennsylvania went to a PSU game and sent the following. Ray and I both went to Penn State back when guys like Franco Harris (left, I'm happy for any excuse to put his picture on my blog), Jack Ham and Lydell Mitchell were on the team. Enjoy:

    The writing muse is charming me again so I will start getting caught up on my story list. They aren't going to be in calendar order but that shouldn't hurt anything. Mike Nappe had two tickets to the Penn State Michigan game and asked if I would like to go. I jumped right on that. I hadn't been to a Penn State football game since the 1980's when I went with Dave Reuscher and sat with the Notre Dame fans. That was just as well since Penn State got whacked badly on a very cold and windy night.
    This was a night game, nationally televised on ESPN. I expected traffic chaos starting in Philipsburg but there was none until we turned off the 322 bypass right near the stadium. Even with a parking pass, we were still halfway to Bellefonte or so it seemed. You can see how far away the stadium was and this shot was made after we had walked pretty far away from the car.

    Tailgating is a big part of the football experience. Some folks came very well prepared. This gang hauled in a table for beer pong. I don't believe that had been invented yet when Joe Paterno had his first undefeated season. 
    Mixed among all the blue and whites were a few token Michigan fans who seemed so happy before the game. I bet they were not smiling so much afterwards. 
    There were hundreds of RV's scattered around. This one was ready to watch the game without getting into the stadium. 
    I know some of you might be shocked to hear this, but a lot of folks were drinking a lot of beer in the fields before the game. We all know what this leads to. 
    As we got closer to the stadium we saw this great sight towering above the parking lots. No, not Mount Nittany at sunset. This was a really great sight. Mike asked me if I knew anybody there but before I could answer, one of them said, "Hey, it's Ray Beimel." Turns out I knew everybody there and had taken a picture of most of them one time or another. There were Straubs and Bosniks and Weidenboerners and Mallisons and Mannings and Chiapellis and more. They kindly invited us over for a beer. We stayed long enough to have a couple of Peter Straub Special Darks, a very tasty dark beer rapidly becoming a big favorite with anyone who tastes it. While we talked, Brian Chiapelli noticed that the next group over included Shane Conlan, former stand out linebacker at PSU and the NFL. Brian invited him over to have a Straub Light. Shane was gracious, shook hands with everyone, posed for pictures, pretended to like the beer. 

    Two beers later we got into the stadium. Our seats were high up at the south end, very high up. The good thing about them is that they are seats with backs there. Most of the rest are bleacher seats. To give you an idea of how high up, look at these two views that were taken from not quite the top. One is the Bryce Jordan Center, the big venue for concerts and sporting events. When JoePa was the new coach, these were open fields. The other view is looking west toward East Halls. You gotta have some elevation to get that perspective. 

    This is the Blue Band, dance troupe, and cheerleaders lined up for the football team to enter. At the goal post is a wedge of photographers held in place by ropes wielded by large security fellows.
    The thing with the student section these days is the "White Out." Everyone wears white. The student section was the last to fill. Probably had something to do with the Beer Pong tournament from above. When it was all full, there were over 108,000 people who had paid to watch the game. I have no idea how many were there working. That makes Beaver Stadium the third largest "city" in Pennsylvania for a few hours. If every man, woman, and child in Allentown came to the stadium, it would not be full. The scoreboard flashed a graphic that said over 24 million people had watched a Joe Paterno coached football game in the stadium. And when you consider that it only held 50,000 when Joe started... 

    I only packed one normal lens so I couldn't get the whole stadium in one shot and I couldn't get any good shots of game action. Penn State won, of course, giving Joe his 399th victory. There were two things in the game that I had never seen before. First play after the opening kickoff was a pass. Joe never passed on first down in the old days. And then in the 4th quarter, Penn State ran a fake field goal play for a first down. Zut alors! JoePa ran a trick play!
    The size of the crowd is mind-boggling. 108,000 people each wearing socks (except for the one girl I saw wearing shorts and flip flops) at $3 a pair is $324,000. Not toe mention underwear, pants, shirts, and shoes. I am not sure what the average ticket price is but I will say it is $65. That's over $7 million dollars. No matter how you calculate it, one Penn State football game is a huge pile of money.
    Getting to the game was easy. Getting out of the parking lot took a while but once on the road the traffic was moving very well. This is a far cry from the old days when cars would be going out University Drive and Park Avenue for hours afterwards. In the old days (hey, I'm 60, I am allowed to preface my remarks with that phrase), the aftermath of a PSU football game resembled the aftermath of Pickett's Charge. Bodies lying in fields, the "wounded" being helped by steadier friends, not a lot of blood but some serious vomiting. I blame demon rum. No, really. The drink of choice then was rum and coke. While there was a lot of drinking outside the stadium, inside I saw little of it. The crowd was very well behaved, patient in the inevitable lines, and just acting like there were happy to be there. It was a very good experience in every respect.
    Many thanks to Denise Morelli for letting us use her season tickets. Wishing you all well,  Ray

Ray is a professional photographer. His web site is Beimel Photographics.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Big Lie

This is such an excellent article I decided to reprint it in it's entirety.

The Big Lie

09 NOV 2010 11:29 AM
It seems to me that the last year or so in America's political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama's presidency in its crib. Emergency measures in a near-unprecedented economic collapse - the bank bailout, the auto-bailout, the stimulus - were described by the right as ideological moves of choice, when they were, in fact, pragmatic moves of necessity. The increasingly effective isolation of Iran's regime - and destruction of its legitimacy from within - was portrayed as a function of Obama's weakness, rather than his strength. The health insurance reform - almost identical to Romney's, to the right of the Clintons in 1993, costed to reduce the deficit, without a public option, and with millions more customers for the insurance and drug companies - was turned into a socialist government take-over.
Every one of these moves could be criticized in many ways. What cannot be done honestly, in my view, is to create a narrative from all of them to describe Obama as an anti-American hyper-leftist, spending the US into oblivion. But since this seems to be the only shred of thinking left on the right (exacerbated by the justified flight of the educated classes from a party that is now openly contemptuous of learning), it became a familiar refrain - pummeled into our heads day and night by talk radio and Fox. If you think I'm exaggerating, try the following thought experiment.
If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector's in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don't think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist.
This is the era of the Big Lie, in other words, and it translates into a lot of little lies - "death panels," "out-of-control" spending, "apologies for America" etc. - designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it actually succeeded in getting into people's minds in the midst of a brutal recession. And integral to this process have been conservative "intellectuals" who should and do know better, but have long since sacrificed intellectual honesty for the cheap thrills of enabling power-grabs. And few lies represent this intellectual cooptation of talk radio/FNC propaganda better than the lie that Obama has publicly rebutted the idea of American exceptionalism.
Where does one start? Where one always starts with these things - Jonah Goldberg:
Last year, when asked if he believed in American exceptionalism, President Obama responded, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
This reminded me of the wonderful scene in Pixar's "The Incredibles," in which the mom says "everyone's special" and her son replies, "Which is another way of saying no one is." But at least the president made room for the sentiment that America is a special place, even if he chalked it up to a kind of benign provincialism.
Oh really?
Here is the full Obama quote:
I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.
And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.
Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.
And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.
In other words, Obama emphatically doesn't reduce the idea of American exceptionalism to "benign provincialism." Quite the contrary: he explicitly asserts that the values enshrined in the Constitution are exceptional, and defends them and the US's history in front of a foreign audience. It's worth pointing out this factual error at such length because everyone in the conservative movement has already made it.
And that's hardly an exaggeration. Here are Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry:
...while acknowledging that America has been a force for good, he has all but denied the idea that America is an exceptional nation. Asked whether he believed in American exceptionalism during a European trip last spring, Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exception alism.” (Is it just a coincidence that he reached for examples of former hegemons?)
They acknowledge here that the full quote should have run (though the original piece remains uncorrected). Said Dinesh D'Souza in his infamous Forbes piece:
This is known as American exceptionalism. But when asked at a 2009 press conference whether he believed in this ideal, Obama said no. America, he suggested, is no more unique or exceptional than Britain or Greece or any other country.
No surprise that the magazine didn't catch that error during its post-publication fact check - another one of its authors made the same mistake here. Monica Crowley in The Washington Times:
During his public life, Barack Obama has often referred to his biracial background and itinerant childhood and has said, "In no other country on Earth is my story even possible." True.
But earlier this year, while attending the European summit of the Group of 20 major economic countries, the president was asked if he believed in American exceptionalism. He replied, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
Here's Victor Davis Hanson: "After all, Obama has rejected in explicit language the notion of American exceptionalism." And Michael Barone:
"I believe in American exceptionalism," Obama said on one of his trips to Europe, "just as I suspect that Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." In other words, not at all. One cannot imagine Presidents Roosevelt, Truman or Kennedy, Eisenhower or Reagan, uttering such sentiments.
When asked if he believes in American exceptionalism, President Obama said yes, but he was sure that the British and the Belgians also believed in their countries’ exceptionalism.
President Obama’s version of American exceptionalism is Lake Woebegon’s children: they’re all above average. Or perhaps, he’d be more at home in Alice in Wonderland’s Caucus Race, where everyone runs and everyone gets prizes.
What's especially remarkable about this hackery - and there are numerous other examples - is that these conservative authors don't just egregiously misrepresent the president's actual position. It's that all of them actually cite, as evidence, an out of context line from the very speech that proves their analysis is wrong.
You can call this truthiness if you like. Better, the Dish believes, to call it what it is. A deliberate campaign of misinformation. A Big Lie.
(Photo: US President Barack Obama waves to the media as he enters his presidential car upon arrival at the Halim Perdana Kusuma airport in Jakarta on November 9, 2010. By Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty.)