Snow White takes it hard . . .

. . . but imagine what Spiderman thinks.

(Disney buys Marvel for $4 billion. WSJ story here. Best comment as of Friday night: "I can't wait to see XMen on Ice. ")
Another lost weekend . . .

. . . in New Jersey, and everywhere I went, I saw more khaki shorts.

And ugly, ugly knees.

Suburbia just ain't for me.
Why do I always miss this stuff?

View more news videos at:

I was there just the other day - no one took their clothes off for me.

Then again I wasn't wearing a suit of armor, let alone an iron codpiece.
Caution: knowing writers can be dangerous to your health


DEXTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) - An author from Whitmore Lake is facing charges that she shot her father in the rear end and leg.

Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputies say Lisa Reardon drove to her parents home on Brand Road Friday. Once there, deputies say Reardon, whose website describes her as the queen of redneck noir, got into a fight with her father. Following the fight, investigators say Reardon shot her father. He is currently in stable condition.

Reardon was arrested a short time later, with the help of the Livingston County Sheriff's Department. According to her website, Reardon is the author of several plays and novels, including "The Mercy Killers."

Police are not commenting on a possible motive. Reardon has been charged with assault with intent to murder, using a firearm to commit a felony and a motor vehicle violation. She was ordered held without bond.
He gets it


by David Leonhardt

Consider the following insurance plan:

It refuses to pay for certain medical care and then doesn’t offer a clear explanation. It does pay for unhelpful care that ends up raising premiums. Its customer service can be hard to reach or unhelpful. And the people who are covered by this insurer have no choice but to remain with it — or, at best, to choose from one or two other insurers that are about as bad.

In all likelihood, I have just described your insurance plan.

I have to confess, I don't generally find David Leonhardt on the mark. But he is in this article.
Lt. Loustalot

My book, Rangers at Dieppe, opens with a scene of me searching for the spot where Lt. Edward Loustalot was killed. In a lot of ways, that search was a metaphor for the search of truth in history, and how hard it can be to sort through the details of the past as the witnesses pass on.

I was lucky the other day to get a chance to talk to Lt. Loustalot's sister, whom I'd been unable to find before the book was published. She helped answer a few questions that I and some readers have had about the lieutenant, who has been generally credited with being the first American killed in the European theater during the war. (That may or may not be true - you'll have to read the book to see my point. But frankly, I don't think the distinction, which would be measured in minutes most likely, is important at all. His courage, and the courage of the other men on the raid - that's really the point.)

Some of the things she straightened out:

- The lieutenant's name was Edward, not Edwin as occasionally appears in the records.

- He had been in an ROTC program and graduated LSU in 1939, working in an engineering internship for a lighting company before he was called to duty.

- He was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously. (I get a lot of questions about that.)

- After the war, his body was discovered at a cemetery outside of Dieppe (we're not sure which one it was, but probably not the one there now) by a high school Army friend. The Army disinterred him and offered to ship his body home, but his sister convinced her mother to allow him to remain in Europe. This avoided the family trauma of having to go through his loss twice.

For more on the Rangers and their first engagement in Europe during WWII, check out this web site:
Now you know . . .

Can you blame him?

Bad Beef Jerky Irked Robber, Cops Say

CLEVELAND (Aug. 22) - Police said a Cleveland barber became so upset by what he considered bad beef jerky that he returned to the store where he bought it and tried to rob the owner. Police said the 28-year-old barber walked into the store where he bought the snack, just two doors down from his barbershop, and tried to rob the owner Thursday night.
The owner told the man he recognized him and chased him outside with a baseball bat.
The first police officer who arrived on the scene was also familiar with the barber because he cuts the officer's hair.
Police arrested the man at his girlfriend's house a few miles away.
The barber told police the stick of beef jerky he bought sickened him and his dog.
Red Dragon Rising: Shadows of War

The new series is set a few years into the future and involves a world war started as a result of global climate change.

We're working on some pages that will be a sub site from Larry's main site; mine will link over there as well. Details as they become available, a little closer to the launch.
Why don't we just sign over our paychecks to the insurance companies right now and get it over with?



The real Revolution would be . . .

Director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe do the commentary on the DVD version of Revolutionary Road, or at least the version I watched the other night. Mendes and Haythe comment through the deleted scenes, with Mendes giving reasons for taking the scenes out and Haythe doing what writers are expected to do, namely, saying how the director is so right.

Except, he wasn't. Watching the deleted scenes gives you a much better take on Leonardo DiCaprio's performance -- in fact, it's hard not to conclude that his best work was taken out of the movie. And not coincidentally, the scenes that were sliced* also give you a much better understanding not only of DiCaprio's character but of the underlying story as expressed by the movie. . . . and I'm guessing the screenplay.

Just once, I'd like to hear a writer say something along the lines of, Yo, mf, if I didn't think it was an important scene, I wouldn't have written the sumuvabitch. @#$#@$ yourself for screwing my work.

Then some violence. Because that's what they're really thinking.

*I should say, the scenes that were sliced that were included on the DVD as extras, since undoubtedly there were other scenes not included.
Speaking of Yankee Stadium

. . . The place seems gradually to be coming alive. You expect the Red Sox games to be, er, lively, but the Blue Jay games were packed as well and the crowd seemed really into the games. It was the first time this year where there were really spontaneous chants, including a loud and nearly on-key rendition of 'Happy Birthday' Tuesday when the scoreboard indicated it was Melky's birthday.

No one has chopped my ticket price in half or offered a free upgrade yet, but the sweet Italian sausages seem to have improved.
Yank up your shirt

They changed the security procedures recently at Yankee Stadium, and last week they were asking anyone with a long shirt to show off their waist, just in case you were hiding a Glock in their belt.

Semi-Famous Writer objected.

"Can I come back in a few weeks after I've lost some weight?" he asked.

I think he might have been angling for a date.
Rocket science

The book I mentioned in the last post is tentatively titled Helios and returns Andy Fisher to the scene.

You remember Andy Fisher - FBI agent, iconoclast, coffee drinker.

And chain smoker.

Helios involves an orbiting solar power harvesting satellite, murder, and a good amount of caffeine. It's a fun book, though it's been a bitch and a half to write for a number of reasons.

Fun? Can thrillers be fun?

One of my partners used to object to anything that lightened the tone in thrillers, saying there has to be huge "gravitas" in every thriller. Which isn't necessarily a bad strategy. I just think you can get gravitas and still have fun.
North Korean math

I happened to be doing some research the other day for one of my new books when I came across estimates of how much money it costs North Korea to launch its largest rockets.

The numbers being thrown around were in the area of $500 million. Estimating costs of any rocket program is fraught with difficulty, and estimating anything involving North Korea is impossible. But given that an Atlas V launch costs in the area of $120 million* (or at least that's the ballpark of what a customer is charged), the North Korean estimate may not be that far off.

To put that number in perspective, at $70 per barrel, the country would spend about $525 million a year on oil. North Korea's GDP, according to the CIA's guesstimate, is in the area of $40 billion a year, and is estimated to be shrinking at 2.3 percent a year.

Maybe we should encourage Kim to launch more rockets.

* The usual caveats apply.
Where was Mickey?

Man convicted of groping Minnie Mouse

(AP) – ORLANDO, Fla. — A 60-year-old man has been convicted of groping a woman in a Minnie Mouse costume at Walt Disney World.

John William Moyer of Cressona, Pa., told the judge he is innocent. His son said before sentencing that his father would never inappropriately touch a woman.

A mouse, apparently, is a different story.

Rock it tonight

Besides being a cool use of Legos, this video is the focus of a mini-controversy over copyright. Basically, the Lego company won't let Spinal Tap include the video on a concert DVD, since the Lego pieces are protected by copyright. The company's position is utterly logical and even sensible - they weren't turned on by the obscentiy associated with the Spinal Tap concert footage, which they see as a commercial use - and certainly within their rights, though the stories have a prejudice against it, as do most media stories about copyright these days. (By contrast, Lego has taken no action against the original video, since they don't see it as a commercial use.)

Here's one story in the Times.
Health care (ill) logic

I hadn't realized how successful Medicare was until I ran into a protester who harangued me about the need to keep the government's hands off of the program.*

Which, ya know, isn't a bad idea, except that uh, like duh, isn't Medicare a federal program?

Can't be - it works too well.

What made our exchange even funnier, if not surreal, was the fact that he was protesting in front of the post office, where I'd gone to send a package because a) it was ten bucks cheaper and b) would arrive at its destination at least an hour earlier than UPS.

All of which was too much a metaphor for the entire health care debate for me to ignore. Even if it was a cliche.

I personally have decent medical insurance. It has a very high copay and a series of hoops that are a pia but manageable once you know the system and can play by the rules. We pay a fortune for it, but we're lucky, because if we lived in most other states or had had the misfortune to let our coverage lapse for some reason, we wouldn't be able to get a plan at all.

The thing that I don't understand, though, is that if this insurance was bought through a large company, rather than my own, it would cost significantly less - same insurance, same people, same hoops, just maybe half as outrageously expensive. (It would still be more than I made the first year I started writing full-time. And the next year. And I think maybe the year after that . . .)

I have only a rough idea of what the current congressional plans are. (God forbid newspapers did some real reporting. Even the Internet is of limited value on this, with opinion drowning out the facts.) But I do know that the current system is unfair for many people, and ridiculously expensive for all. Small businesses and their employees are screwed under the present system. No amount of rhetoric from the insurance companies or either political party can obscure the reality of the price tag small businesses face when trying to do right by their employees.

The real problem, of course, is the high cost of everything involved with health care, from doctor visits to drugs to surgery to insurance. From what I can tell, none of the congressional plans are really going to fix those. But they're also not going to make things any worse than they already are.

Bottom line: If UPS can deal with competition, so can the insurance companies. I say, bring it on.

* He also had some funny ideas about Nancy Pelosi, and some funnier jokes, but those are best shared at the bar. . .
The reality of (non) health insurance

Wendell Potter, until recently a health insurance executive, is speaking . . .

I borrowed my dad's car and drove up 50 miles up the road to Wise, Virginia. It was being held at a Wise County Fairground. I took my camera. I took some pictures. It was a very cloudy, misty day, it was raining that day, and I walked through the fairground gates. And I didn't know what to expect. I just assumed that it would be, you know, like a health-- booths set up and people just getting their blood pressure checked and things like that.

But what I saw were doctors who were set up to provide care in animal stalls. Or they'd erected tents, to care for people. I mean, there was no privacy. In some cases-- and I've got some pictures of people being treated on gurneys, on rain-soaked pavement.

And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care. People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee - all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth.

There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.. . .

WENDELL POTTER: It was absolutely stunning. It was like being hit by lightning. It was almost - what country am I in? I just it just didn't seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.

Potter helped run the industry's disinformation campaign. The entire interview here.


Jersey Johnny was at the bar the other night, singing the blues.

"So I decided I'd maybe go legit," he told the bartender. "Took the books for some of my business, you know? I went in to see an accountant. Told him I wanted to file some back taxes."

"How far back?"

"Back. 2001, 02, back."

"That far?" asked the bartender.

"I figure the '90s are past history."


"So I start laying some things out, and he grabs a pen and paper," says Johnny. "I figure he's estimating what I owe."

"Not happening, huh?"

"He slips the paper around to me. You know what it says?"

"Pay cash?"

"No. That I figured. It says, 'Feds watching me. Don't say nothing'. Imagine that?"


"Feds watching accountants. Sheesh. Well I got the hell out of there."

"Who can blame you?"

"That's what I get for thinking of going legit." Johnny shook his head. "Back taxes . . . "

"Another drink?"

"Make it a double."

They're ain't no sense there

I laugh when I read stories by analysts trying to puzzle out what Kim, et al, were trying to accomplish or thought they accomplished or did accomplish by having Hilary's squeeze smile for pictures the other day.

You're trying to interpret a dust storm, boys. Crazy people don't make sense, except to themselves. Even if they have guns, or in this case, nuclear weapons.

But hey, it gives me another chance to plug the book. Now in hardcover; out in softcover in a few weeks.
Colton Read

Odds are you've never heard of Colton Read. There's no reason you should have. Until a few weeks ago, he was just another air force grunt, working anonymously like thousands of other men and women to protect our country.

Then he had the misfortune to need gallbladder surgery.

You can read the rest of the unfortunate story here. The key points: after a botched surgery, he lost his legs. The Air Force indicated he was going to be separated from the service, complicating his treatment as well as his future.

This week, there's word that he may be going to San Antonio's Center for the Intrepid, a world-class rehab center. That's a great start.

Even better would be promising Airman Read a chance at keeping a job when he's done with rehab. He won't get his legs back, but there are plenty of jobs he can do in the Air Force. He doesn't need sympathy, or even a hand up - all he needs is a fair chance to prove himself.

You can follow his story in more detail at his website:

What we're drinking now