Showing posts from September, 2020

In A Weird Way, Steve Forbes Had A Point

 Hey, remember this guy? I'm sure if you're a young Conservative hipster type who thinks that the current flavor of Bannon/Trump/Stone conservatism is just so passe and that the real cool flavor of conservatism is to be found in the mid to late 90s when such titans as Jack Kemp and this guy hung out then you know exactly who this dude is.  If you're not a Conservative hipster type, allow me to enlighten you: it's Steve Forbes, everybody ! Yeah, you know Forbes magazine? That Forbes. And he ran for President a couple of times and his big, signature issue was, of course, the flat tax. Now, in the wake of our current President's tax information being breathlessly splashed around the internet , a thought occurred to me: in a weird way, Steve Forbes had a point. Not necessarily about the flat tax- though we can argue about that if you want- Forbes thought your taxes should be big enough to fit on the back of a postcard and that doesn't seem like the worst idea in th

Serial Saturday #2: Sympathy

Part two of Murder In Kinmen also began life as a Theme Thursday response over on r/writingprompts. .. it's been revised and expanded to 750 words for Serial Saturdays, so I hope you enjoy... Sympathy . The weariness had settled into his bones by the time Wei-Ting stood up for the last time that morning (now afternoon) and watched as the coroner's van awkwardly made it's way up the Nanshan Path toward the main road. Detective Pei-Shan was over talking to the Chief and the Colonel, neither of whom looked all that happy, so Wei-Ting was content to stare at the retreating van. It had been a long morning. Wei-Ting was still trying to figure out how he felt about it all. They had warned him about his first dead body. About the smell and what rigor mortis looked like, but- "Kid?" Wei-Ting blinked and turned. He hadn't heard Detective Pei-Shan walk up behind him. "Sorry," she said. "Didn't mean to make you jump." "That's all right,&q

Court Packing Ahoy!

The Supreme Court has been stuck at nine justices for about a century and a half now. FDR tried court-packing when his New Deal programs weren't going so well and that didn't exactly go so well for him either. So far, Biden seems somewhat resistant to the notion, but if President Trump gets a nominee through before the election or in the lame-duck session just after the election, he might change his mind in a hurry. For months now it hasn't really felt like an election year. We were all stuck in this weird hellscape of a year, toiling through quarantine, trying like hell not to get sick, arguing about masks [deep sigh, internal screaming] and generally just trying to take things day by day. In a year when every month has felt like a decade, November has seemed an eternity away and no one really knew what the election was going to be about. COVID, police accountability, systemic racism, anarchist riots, climate change-- there was a veritable menu of issues and disasters we c

Netflix & Chill #85: The Trip To Spain

Watched On: Hulu Released: 2017 Directed By: Michael Winterbottom Starring: Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Claire Keelan, Marta Barrio, Kyle Soller, Margo Stilley Rotten Tomatoes: 83% Tomatometer, 64% Audience Score Pick: Mine Look, I'll be totally honest here: no idea why these movies work so well, but they do. It's a basic formula at this point: two middle aged white guys get in a car, travel around a location (Northern England for the first movie, Italy for the second and now Spain), riff with each other on various funny topics and impressions, take in scenery, drink wine, eat fabulous looking food.  That's pretty much it. If you really want to you can expand the formula a bit: both men seem to be envious of the other in slightly different ways. Rob has a stable family life, Steve doesn't. Steve has more professional accolades and success than Rob does. These movies also seem to have a melancholy undercurrent to them. Part of that makes sense: there's always that

Serial Saturday #1: Vulnerability

Murder In Kinmen began as a Theme Thursday ( over on r/writingprompts ) response about five months ago. The theme in question was 'vulnerability' and I had to write out a five hundred word response. At the time, I had fallen down a weird rabbit hole on Google Street View about Taiwan. I think it was a raft of news articles about how well they were handling COVID-19 that initially drew me in, but it was all downhill from there and then some random fragment from my Chinese politics classes popped in my brain and I remembered Quemoy and Matsu and the Taiwan Straits crisis and wondered where they were. So I googled them and was stunned to find that not only does Taiwan still control Quemoy (Kinmen) and Martsu, but the outlying islands are like, right there. In my head, I couldn't imagine a more vulnerable place to live- and the murder mystery aspect of it just sprung from there. Then I went to Campfire and read it and people liked it and said the inevitable: "Hey, you sh

Tiki Tuesday #1: The Suffering Bastard

Recipe: In general, when it comes to my personal mixology, while I appreciate the urgings of the authors of these books to use the most authentic and fresh ingredients possible, I'm a practical kind of guy and Iowa doesn't exactly have the greatest liquor laws or liquor selections out there, so sometimes you just have to improvise and make do with whatever you can get ahold of. While the recipe also calls for a Collins or highball glass, I just used a whiskey one, because again-- I'm just going to use whatever I can find. (I'm also completely agnostic about garnishes-- if you wanna be fancy, you do you, but apart from Luxardo cherries in my Manhattans, I'm indifferent to them. I probably shouldn't be, but I am.) (Taken from Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and The Cult of Tiki, page 65) 4oz ginger beer 1/2 oz fresh lime juice (I used bottled lime juice- though apparently the original recipe also used Rose's Lime Juice, which I wouldn't be oppo

Squawk Box: The Great/Never Have I Ever

Catherine The Great seems to have popped up in popular culture now and again in the pat few years. HBO had a miniseries starring Helen Mirren that looked good, but obviously, I don't have HBO and didn't watch it- but then along came Hulu with The Great . The previews looked amusing enough. Elle Fanning stars as Catherine The Great and Nicholas Hoult stars as her husband Peter III of Russia- seemed like it was worth a shot and you know what? It was actually really, really good.  The first season focuses on Catherine's arrival in Russia and her realization that her husband is kind of a terrible Tsar and deciding to seize the throne for herself. When she arrives, she's very naive about the way things work at court in Russia- but her maid, Marial (Phoebe Fox) soon realizes that Catherine could be her way back to prominence after the actions of her aristocratic father see her demoted. Marial educates Catherine about how court works- telling her how to manage the ladies of co

40 Before 40: Year 7

1. Publish my novel. 2. Get another tattoo 3. Finish all 4,532 pages and 12 volumes of Winston Churchill's 'The Second World War.' 4. Run a 5k 5. Visit Every State in The Lower 48 (Slightly more achievable before I turn 40 then all 50, but I still want to get to all 50.) 6. Lose 50 lbs and keep the weight off.  7. Pay off every single dime of my student loans. 8. Publish two more novels 9. Get the front deck replaced/get the patio area in the back done the way we want it. 10. Go on a cruise/solo trip with the Missus 11.  12. Find out if St. Louis and Kansas City are pretty cool, since people keep insisting that they are. 13.  14. Vikings/Packers at Lambeau. 'Nuff said. 15. Get an membership to build out the family tree. (Also, do Ancestry DNA/23 and me) 16. Work on my backlog of non-fiction and history books, my Fraser biographies of Charles II and Cromwell, The Steel Bonnets and my Jenkins bios of Churchill and Gladstone are at the top of th

Bookshot #134: The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

I'm not a huge Civil War buff, but General Ulysses S. Grant has become increasingly fascinating to me. Reading about the western campaigns and the Army of the Tennessee prior to my visit to Shiloh with The Quiet Man opened up a whole new aspect of the Civil War to me. There's an anecdote about the Battle of Shiloh that stuck out to me- after the first night, Sherman found Grant leaning up against the tree, trying to stay out of the rain and said something like, "Well, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we sir." Grant said, "Yep. We'll whip 'em tomorrow though." The tree isn't there anymore, but they've got a marker to commemorate the spot. (I also found out that Old Crow- while probably not the original recipe that Grant preferred was, in fact, the brand he liked- and as bottom shelf bourbons go, it's actually pretty solid.) Anyway: finding that not one, but two volumes of his Personal Memoirs were available fo