Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Democratic Process?

The following is an e-mail from an ex-student who has dedictaed herself to making the world a better place through politics and writing. The following allegations are almost absurd. If true, then we all have some work to do:

So as some of you know, I've been co-editing (with Dave Eggers) a book of oral histories about voter disenfranchisement in American elections from the Civil Rights Movement to the present. Well, I've started doing interviews and today I interviewed a guy who is an expert on the Ohio 2004 election - he's been researching it since 10 days after the election. I found out some stuff that is absolutely astonishing...
1. In many counties throughout Ohio, ballots were pre-punched for 3rd party candidates before being sent out to the appropriate precincts, so that when people voted for Kerry (or Bush, although they were targeted at areas that voted 80%+ for Democrats), the presidential vote would be automatically discarded as a double vote. 2. In Clermont County (and possibly other areas as well), when people were counting the paper ballots, elections officials placed white oval stickers over Kerry votes and filled in the Bush vote instead (this was confirmed by elections workers). 3. On Election Day, right before the polls opened, employees of the companies that made voting machines entered the polling places and changed the vote tabulators. Can you say, suspicious?4. 55 of the 60 precincts in which there were the most voters per voting machine (and in turn, the longestlines) were 60% or more for Kerry. There was a direct positive correlation between having too few voting machines and a precinct having voted for Gore in 2000.
5. In areas in which the vote totals were highly unlikely (such as 60% of gay marriage supporters voting for Bush... not to criticize those who are against gay marriage and pro-Bush, but Bush-supporters and gay marriage supporters don't tend to go hand in hand), the unused ballots had been destroyed (which is against the law to do) and the elections officials refused to let people see the cast ballots even though they're technically public record. 6. Projected margin of victory: 118,500. Number of voters purged in Cuyahoga County (heavily African American and Democratic county) alone: 186,000, mostly targed by zip code based on political party affiliation.
So much for the democratic process... I thought you might find that information interesting and disconcerting (to say the least). I'm hoping that the book will be out this time next year, around the time of the New Hampshire primary (why is presidential campaigning starting so soon??? it's madness... if Hillary or Obama get the nomination, I'm switching parties... ). Hope all is well. Take care. :-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why I'm Done With Lost

Like you I am tired of being dragged along as writers try to milk this show for a few seasons more than it should be. But as a writer, I am frustrated with some particular techniques the show employs.

You know that sound that announces a flashback, that sort of rush of wind, sphincter-closing sound? That friggin sound produces this Pavlovian response in me now--I hear it and I get really angry, like somebody just insulted me. The flashback is a sort of insult. It says "Hey's some filler for you to chew on."

Look, every decent writer knows that the flashback is a hackneyed technique used mostly by lazy writers who want to give background information. It's almost as lazy as a novelist having a character look into a mirror so a description of the character can be given. Some writers use the flashback well, and the technique was employed well for the first few episodes. But flashbacks are for EXPOSITION (introducing character and conflict).

Like you, I am done with exposition. I know what I need to know about the characters. I understand the conflict. I want to see the characters in the PRESENT work through their friggin conflicts. THIS IS WHAT YOU LEARN IN YOUR UNDERGRAD CREATIVE WRITING CLASS! I watched the season opener in which Jack helps Kate and Sawyer escape. It was a good episode, although I must admit I was hesitant to let myself fall back in love with the characters again. Why? Well, the answer came in the next episode in which we get the story of Desmond. I like his character, I like the conflict of him knowing Charlie is going to die. Do I care? No. I am done. An hour long show giving me exposition I don't need and cutting the momentum of the previous episode--it's everything Stephen King's THE STAND is not.

Suppossedly, these writers all have a copy of King's book in hand as they write. They need to read more carefully. King builds characters in a few pages, giving you just enough background information so you can get a feel for each of them. Then he puts them in motion. He flits back and forth between characters, true, but he keeps you in the character's present. And you always have the sense of building to some meaningful end. LOST has the feel of the X-FILES in which writers have some vague end in sight but, ultimately, even they know the end will be unsatisfying. Does anybody really care anymore whether these folks get off the island? Do we really want to see Kate cry anymore? Even Locke, who was the single most interesting character on television at one time, is looking more and more like a cliche. The charisma of the Scully/Mulder relationship is still present with Jack/Kate/Sawyer but we spend so little time with them it's hard to care--and we resent the time spent with characters we used to like.

At least with the X-Files, we enjoyed the journey if not the destination.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The granite:
Climb, fall or fail to see
The stone is indifferent;
It stands its sentinel watch
Over you,
Your presence like a bear's scratch
On tree bark,
Slivers of shadow
On river water--
You are the shade
Of a future
The stones see past.

Monday, February 12, 2007


According to a news post, the sweat of men makes women lustful:

I will test this scientific study. On Friday mornings, I play basketball and I usually stuff my sweaty clothes into a bag which I leave in the car all day. When I get home I throw them in the dirty laundry or leave them in the bag until next week and just reuse them (they are a little crusty but mostly dry by then). This coming Friday, I will take my sweaty clothes and place them in discreet areas of the house to see if my wife is "turned on" by the aroma which according to this study is exactly what should happen.

I also plan to collect my sweat in 20 bottles and have my wife sniff them outside one of the undergraduate buildings at Cal Berkeley.

Finally, the next time I work out in the evening, instead of showering I will simply climb into bed with my wife and see if her "monkeys" are "chattering" in the "trees."

I will share the yielding of my data next week.