Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

This is so wrong. So damn wrong...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Killer Rabbits

Tonight my trivia team, the Killer Rabbits, came in third place at Quizzo again. Zack, Pam and a newcomer, my friend Sam all joined in and we gave our best. The questions were tougher and there were more teams, but we managed to break 700 points and came in third behind Nightwing and the Dream Team. Pam thinks I take Quizzo a little too seriously. I'm just in it to win, I guess. We nailed the picture round and the entertainment round and got six questions right in the sports round, a new high for the team. Everybody contributed and we played the best game ever, and netted us another $10 gift certificate!
I love Quizzo! Going out to a bar is fun, but combining it with a team trivia contest is better. It was only four of us this time facing teams of up to eight people, an unfair advantage but all the more sweeter when we come in third place. The teams beating us are really good and hardly ever miss questions. I've got to brush up on my useless knowledge...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

1970s Memories

Some of my fondest memories as a kid during the 1970s...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another TRES Adventure!

Talisman Studios is doing layout on my RPG, The Ravaged Earth Society. It's been a long process, and the sample proofs were very encouraging. I can't wait to see more chapters! It's been a few years in the writing and editing stages and now Talisman is involved, I'm very optimistic at their expertise to get the project looking sharp.
Double G Press released a free TRES adventure I wrote, "Mystery of the Anasazi". It's the second official release from DGP, the first being last year's successful "Search for the Fountain of Youth." "Mystery of the Anasazi" takes players to the American southwest to Las Vegas, the Boulder Dam and Chaco Canyon. I'm very proud of this one and Peter's final layout, which is excellent! Check it out at

Friday, October 19, 2007


Played Quizzo at a local bar with my roommate Zack and his girlfriend Pam last night. For those not from the Philadelphia area, Quizzo is a pub trivia game, where patrons create teams and each team answers seven rounds of ten questions each. I named our team Killer Rabbits after the killer rabbit in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
This was the third time the Killer Rabbits played in Quizzo. The first time we were pummeled, the second time we were slaughtered and the third time, well, we came in third place out of eight teams! We won a gift certificate for $10 at the bar!Pam contributed greatly to the team’s effort – she’s incredibly smart and knew things I didn’t know, which is what you want in a trivia game – people competent in different areas of knowledge. The seven rounds were: general knowledge, geography and history, sports, a picture round where you have to guess the identities of celebrities pictures, a music round where you have to name songs they play, entertainment and another general knowledge round.
The top three teams were: Killer Rabbits with 710 points, Nightwing with 720 points and the Dream Team with 820 points. Third place! An excellent showing for three people, considering the teams that beat us were comprised of six or seven people each!
We aced the picture round and did very well on other rounds except the sports round. Some of the questions I got right:
Q: What was the name of the comic strip Ted Knight drew on “Too Close for Comfort”?
A: Cosmic Cow
Q: What is the fictitious Minnesota town where Rocky and Bullwinkle were from?
A: Frostbite Falls
Q: Who said “You can have it in any color as long as it’s black”?
A: Henry Ford
Q: Eddie Van Halen’s wife, Valerie Bertinelli was on what sitcom?
A: One Day at a Time
Q: What body of water separates Great Britain and Ireland?
A: Irish Sea
Q: What groundbreaking event happened on Aug. 24, 79 AD?
A: Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius
For the last question, we had to name 11 members of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. I guessed nine out of the 11. Who the hell are Michael O'Donoghue and George Coe?
So the Killer Rabbits won third place in Quizzo. I look forward to the challenge again!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Right Message, Wrong Time

Congress is withdrawing its support from the Armenian genocide resolution because threats made by Turkey to not allow the United States access of its airspace and roads. Turkey is America's ally on the so-called "War of Terrorism" and the United States needs all the friends it can get. After heavy lobbying by Armenian-Americans or the genocide versus heavy lobbying from the Turkish government, and weighing the political realities and military ramifications of passing the resolution recognizing what happened to the Armenians as a genocide, Congress is withdrawing its support.
The resolution is long overdue and is the right message, but made at the wrong time.
I wanted to see the resolution pass and wrote about it in a previous post. But losing another ally is a big setback for the United States and we're sucking worse than the Philadlephia Eagles right now.
Why bring the resolution up in the first place? Was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi persuaded to back the resolution after receiving a case of paklavah from a bakery in Glendale?
Like Congress would think a resolution marking the Armenian genocide wouldn't anger the Turks. Turkey hasn't admitted to what happened to the Armenians for generations and are steadfast in their denial the genocide ever happened. It's okay to live in denial if it makes you comfortable. I have an uncle who denies Woodstock ever happened.
The problem with this resolution is that it was destined to fail given our current political reality. These are pretty fucked up times, especially in the Middle East. Though Armenians are from that general region, they're Christians. Talk about being a minority! But it's not the Christians we're trying to appease - it's whichever Muslims are not trying to blow us up. If Turkey fits the bill, so be it.
So Congress backed off the resolution and wisely so. Let's finish things in the Middle East and then revisit the Armenian genocide issue at a later date, say in another century. It'll be OK though: the Armenians are used to bitching about the genocide. It's the only issue that unites the Armenians. In fact, growing up, that's all my family ever talked about. My great-grandfather died in the genocide and my grandfather was torn from his family for a time, but it was great. Made swell stories to tell the grandchildren. Besides, it got my grandfather out of that Third World hellhole and to the United States where he thrived and prospered.
If anything, Armenian-Americans should be thanking the Ottoman Empire and Young Turks for creating the Armenian diaspora.
Mehmed Talat Pasha, I raise my glass of Budweiser to you, sir!
Turkey is kind of like the homely chick you take to the prom because she'll go with you when all of the good girls are taken. Yeah, we'll dance with Turkey but when it's all over, we'll dump her for someone better. That's what we're doing with the "War on Terrorism". We like Turkey because it gets us close to Iraq. It's a great jumping off point and a strategically brilliant area.
But at the end of the day, do we really give a shit about Turkey? Of course not!
We're fighting a war against religious fundamentalists who use violence against anyone they perceive as a threat, and because President Bush gets an instant hard-on when he sees soldiers in uniform, we're probably going to be committed to Iraq for many years.
And when we finally attack Iran, which you know will happen, we're going to need Turkey even more. So we're in bed with Turkey, because we have to be, not because we want to be. It's all about fighting a greater evil than a genocide perpetrated a century ago by guys with huge mustaches.
I'd rather watch Bea Arthur naked and straddling a Sybian than see my country capitulate to the administration in Iran. Do I want to see the United States attack Iran? No, of course not. But when you have a maniac in the White House who did cocaine, anything's possible. Remember the final scene in Scarface where Tony Montana buried his face in the big pile of yeyo, then went berserk and shot up his mansion as the Colombians attacked? That's where we are right now. We're only a few months from Bush sneering "Say hello to my little friend!" before blowing the door down.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Ten Questions

I used to watch Inside the Actor's Studio which featured a real interesting gentleman named James Lipton, who's been parodied by Will Ferrell, Mike Nelson and David Cross. At the end of each segment, Lipton asks his subjects ten questions made famous by French interviewer Bernard Pivot, on Bouillon de Culture. The ten questions were supposedly what Marcel Proust asked his guests and provide an opportunity to think about yourself. For simple questions, they provoke complicated and intellectual responses about who you are.
In the interest of full disclosure, I answered the ten questions:

What is your favorite word?
Kerfuffle. It means disheveled, a commotion or upheaval.

What is your least favorite word?
Nigger. With the ‘er’ and not ‘a’. The word screams hatred.

What turns you on, excites, or inspires you creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Nature, good conversations, experiencing works of genius (books, poems, movies, music, art), spending time with close friends and loved ones. I channel all of that experience (and some negatives ones as well) and funnel it into this Zen-like state that helps me write.

What turns you off?
Bigotry, ignorance and people with no sense of humor.

What sound or noise do you love?
Babies laughing. It is the sweetest music.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Loud, high-pitched screaming and shrieking. It’s why I never went on spring break.

What is your favorite curse word?
I’m a big fan of all the usual curse words, but it depends on the context and situation.
Some days, it’s pussy, others it’s cunt;
some days it’s dick while others it’s cock;
and some days I screw and others I fuck,
but in the end we’re all shit out of luck.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’ve always wanted to either be a movie producer or a director, or maybe a CIA operative. I think I can hustle a film idea in Hollywood or strangle a guy with piano wire for my country.

What profession would you absolutely not like to participate in?
Anything involving raw sewage, rotting animal carcasses or working for Rosie O’Donnell.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“Welcome! Open bar and buffet for all eternity and your grandparents are waiting on the veranda to explain the meaning of life.”

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Another reason I shouldn't cook: I was heating something in the oven today and I set the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven got hot, I opened the drawer under the oven to retrieve a cooking sheet. Metal baking sheets get hot when the oven is on, but I didn't know this. I felt no need to don potholders and as the fingers on my right hand touched the hot metal, I was burned.
It hurt like hell. After screaming something about Jesus and fucking and a few other expletives, I ran my hand under cold water, but the damage had been done. I suffered second-degree burns on my right hand, as evidenced by blisters and rough, red skin on my ring and midle fingers and thumb. The palm of my right hand also had some burns, but not as severe as the digits.
So I consulted the guru of all knowledge (the Internet) and found a medical site that suggested to seek help immediately for second degree burns on the hands. I went to Shore Memorial Hospital and they put silver sulfadiazene cream on my burns, then dressed my hand in gauze. So my hand looks like a mummy and I have to wear gauze for the next two to three days all because I was too stupid to not use a potholder.
I don't know how this will effect my job, because I can type with two fingers (both index, which are thus unaffected), and I am left handed.
There's getting burned and "getting burned", and you don't want either happening to you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Get with the Pogrom

The first modern genocide of the 20th century was between 1915 to 1923 when the Young Turks in the Ottoman-controlled government of Turkey massacred hundreds of thousands to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians. The pogrom has been formally recognized as a genocide by 22 countries. The United States is not among them.
Officially, the Turkish government rejects what happened to the Armenians as a genocide, and claims the Turks of Anatolia experienced a genocide by the Armenians.
The U.S. Congress introduced a resolution calling on Turkey to officially declare what happened to the Armenians as “genocide”. But President Bush recognizes Turkey is an ally in the War on Terrorism and wants the resolution squashed. Presidents as far back as Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also opposed legislation to recognize the Armenian genocide.
Okay, let’s get some things straight. I don’t think the Armenians are saints. They’ve been at war in the neighboring Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan for a long time, over a territorial turf war over land they claim is theirs.
Growing up, I’ve seen Armenian kids whose parents told them to hate the Turks for the genocide. Understanding this blind, absolute hatred of all Turkish people and culture as a youth, I now know how the Palestinians hate the Israelis and vice versa. Conditioned hatred is the worst.
Armenian writer Ara Baliozian (one of my early mentors as a writer) criticized this conditioned loathing and historical hatred when he wrote; “Armenians enjoy reading about Turks because they love to hate.”
I never bought the argument modern Armenians should hate modern Turkey because of the genocide. It was a different government at a different time. Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which went into effect in 2005 makes it a crime to insult “Turkishness.” Ferit Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist was prosecuted under Article 301 for telling a magazine “Thirty thousand Kurds and million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody dares to talk about it.” The charges were later dropped.
Turkey claims that 1.6 million figure of Armenian dead wasn’t by genocide but by wars and displacement. So it isn’t mass extermination by government, but a series of unfortunate events. Kinda like they were in the wrong place at the wrong time type of thing. Like you have one world war and there goes the neighborhood.
Using this logic, you could say during the early 1940s the Nazis gave Jews homes, jobs and a way to contribute to the war effort. They also made lampshades out of their skin, but we won’t mention that.
We’re probably going to attack Iran, whose leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust. So how’s that different with Turkey denying the Armenian genocide?
I guess denying the Holocaust is bad, while denial of the Armenian genocide is politically convenient, especially when you have to use Turkey’s airspace and roads.
America should deny something uncomfortable from its own past. Like slavery. The purposeful servitude and degradation of Africans for personal profit? Didn’t happen here. No, sir! How about the displacement and slaughter of the American Indians? That really didn’t happen either; they love living on reservations. It’s like camping to them.
By denying painful chapters of your history, you’re depriving future generations from understanding your culture. Nobody has the luxury of being an infallible civilization. Nations experienced their dark periods, downslides and times of strife at the hands of murderers and madmen. Just ask the Russians who endured Stalin, the Italians who suffered through Mussolini, or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Then there was that whole Dark Ages thing with bubonic plague and barbarian hordes.
Sociologist Anny Bakalian wrote in her 1993 book “Armenian-Americans”: “In 1915, the deliberate and systematic policy of the Young Turk government was to annihilate the Armenian people and eradicate their presence from their ancestral lands. Seventy-five years later, the trauma of the Genocide and deportations continues to hover in the forefront of Armenian collective consciousness.”
Armenians keep pushing for public recognition and Turkey doesn’t want to yield. This whole thing is a frustrating exercise in stubbornness. Ignorance and hate feed off each other and both sides are vilified by the other, yet the dead remain dead and history a remote and sketchy thing, carried in the minds of people who remembered.
Like my grandfather, who was born in Turkey in 1916, at the height of the genocide, and who survived because a Turkish woman kept him safe while his mother fled to America. He and his brother were later reunited with their mother in the United States, but their sister vanished, a probable victim of the genocide.
Turkey doesn’t want to admit their glorious history hit a snag during World War I with the Armenian genocide. But it’s the 21st Century. Turkey can do the world a favor and still retain its national dignity. It can admit, “Hey, the Ottomans and Young Turks killed these people, not us. Things got a little nutty here between 1915 and 1923, and lots of people died. It was a genocide, but that’s not going to happen here again, because we’re not the Ottomans. So if you’re planning a vacation, visit Istanbul. We’re all that’s happenin’ on the Bosporus!”

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Slingin' Mud

“A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”
- H.L. Mencken

I agree with the Sage of Baltimore on this one. The more politicians and would-be politicians I meet, the more I favor having a monarchy. As a reporter, one of my much-dreaded tasks is campaign coverage. Every year, around the start of September, they creep forth from the woodwork, begging bowls in hands, holding press conferences and sending out press releases.
The candidates.
Both the incumbents and challengers want the same thing: to get elected. How they achieve this is twofold:
1. campaign hard;
2. distort like crazy.
Both the Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this. Why do they find it too difficult to be candid and honest with voters and hold a civil campaign? I don’t think they believe the voters are stupid; they only treat the voters like they’re stupid. Every October my mailbox is filled with colorful mailers from candidates and political parties degrading, berating and distorting the opposition. Over the years I’ve seen plenty of these mailers and unlike a majority of Americans who simply toss them into the garbage, I read them. See, I want to understand, as a writer, the Machiavellian tricks of persuasion and how to reduce your opponent from a flesh and blood human into deconstructed bits of ideology and concepts.
For example, Democrats are liberals. Liberals are bad because they (liberally) tax you and spend. They also (liberally) bloat the size of government. Liberals are also against religion and are proponents of abortion, gay marriage and legalizing marijuana. So, if you vote for a Democrat, you’ll get a stoned, atheistic homosexual abortionist.
Republicans are conservatives. Conservatives are bad because they conserve things, like money. They only want their rich friends to have tax breaks while the middle class and everyone below that margin pays taxes. Conservatives, despite their name, want to glut governmental programs and liquidate the ghettoes, building condominiums they can sell as active adult communities. Conservatives don’t like gays, nor the environment, and have a hard-on for wars providing their kids don’t fight in them. If you elect a Republican, you’ll be forced into an interment camp where you’ll become a Southern Baptist and have fun crucifying members of the American Civil Liberties Union while singing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” until your tonsils bleed with rapture.
How did it get to be this way? Was there ever such a thing as a “gentleman’s campaign”?
In 1934, former Socialist-turned-Democrat Upton Sinclair (yes, the very same muckraking writer whose The Jungle forced the government to reform the meat-packing industry) ran for governor of California. Sinclair’s opponent, the incumbent Republican Governor Frank Merriam, had the backing of California’s conservatives and with it, money. The Republicans spent millions to defeat Sinclair, who they portrayed as a dangerous Socialist.
Sinclair’s big idea – a movement he called End Poverty In California (EPIC) – would have established cooperative farms to put the unemployed to work. Though Sinclair met President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the White House did not endorse the candidate and preferred to stay out of the race. Some Democrats fielded a third-party candidate into the race.
The Republican money machine, backed by the film studios who were largely conservative – produced films designed to sway public opinion. The films depicted Sinclair supporters as foreign, Russians and migrants, and showed scores of unemployed rushing for California’s borders if Sinclair won. Print ads decried Sinclair for spreading Bolshevism into California. Though many of the ads were propaganda and distortion, the campaign showed the power of film and mass media to persuade voters. Sinclair lost with 37 percent of the vote, while Merriam garnered 48 percent and Raymond Haight of the Commonwealth Party took 13 percent.
We are the descendants of Merriam’s campaign – negative attack ads, cheap shots and mud slinging. When the electorate demand issues, candidates give them bullshit.
Bullshit, they think, is easy to digest. Rally around the flag. Don’t question our ability to lead. The queers are bad. Vote for us.
Harnessing a mass media that is both liberal and conservative (it all depends on which corporation you like), candidates shell out money, hire consultant firms and bash the shit out of each other.
If people don’t ridicule negative campaigns, the campaigns will just stay negative. Millions will be spent on snarky popularity contests instead of substantive campaigns where candidates tell the voters why they should elect them and what their vision is for the future.
Instead, the candidates get lazy. They hide behind handlers and press secretaries. They sink into shallow water and become superficial; mere empty suits and smiles on a placard. This breeds cynicism, mistrust and cheapens the political process.
I’m not a betting man, but I'll wager this isn’t what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created this Republic.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Rudy Giuliani came to Cape May County today, and the gaggle of reporters, cameramen and local politicians followed. Rudy stopped at Dino's Diner in Seaville to meet and greet customers, sign autographs and pose for photos. Television cameras and reporters mingled with local officials outside the diner when the black Cadillac Escalade with New York plates pulled up and Giuliani got out, smiling and immediately started shaking hands.
Patrons in the diner immediately burst into applause when Giuliani entered. He worked the room, moving from booth to booth, shaking hands, posing for pictures and talking to customers. He sat down with the Upper Township Committee and gabbed about baseball (the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees specifically) before turning his attention to politics and the battle of New Jersey. The GOP has to capture the Garden State, he said, in order to win the presidency.
Just think: my state could be as vital as Florida was in 2000. How depressing!
My editor and I walked away not with a sense of awe at his raw charisma, but at his "down to earthiness" and ability to communicate to the common man. Here's this flashy New Yorker in a pinstripe suit sitting at the table across from you talking baseball. It was refreshing seeing a politician who wasn't plastic and phony.
Critics claim Giuliani was a monster as mayor, a tyrant and dictator, the Mussolini of Manhattan. Before 9-11, his critics claimed his efforts in cleaning up the city were superficial. Critics also charge Giuliani for profiting from 9-11, collecting an exorbitant amount of money in speaking fees. I chalk the last point up to this: Italian, from New York, just wants to "wet the beak" and collect a little slice of what's rightfully his.
Whether people expect he'll be Superman during the next terrorist attack, rip off his pinstripe suit and be wearing a blue skintight suit with a giant red "R" emblazoned across the chest might be wishful thinking. People are buying into the myth Rudy is the one man who'll keep the bad terrorists from our shores. Personally, I don't think one man can fight terrorists. It's a collective effort, and if the right security agencies and enforcement agencies and military aren't communicating, fighting terrorism will be as effective as stopping a tank with a peashooter.
One other thing: I got his autograph. He signed a bit of campaign literature, 12 "commitments" he's making to voters: keep America on offense in the Terrorist's War on Us, end illegal immigration, restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending, cut taxes and reforming the tax code, reforming the legal system and other boilerplate promises. Here's the thing: he signed the bottom of the brochure, underneath the 12 "commitments". I'll treat this as a contract, and hold him to it.