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Friday, December 08, 2006

This Is Why You Need Hyphens

This morning's perusal of the headlines on my My Yahoo! homepage brought this item from Reuters' Sports:

Bonds set to resign with San Francisco Giants

I clicked on the headline expecting to read about Barry Bonds's retirement, although the use of the preposition "with" rather than "from" was puzzling. It turns out that he wasn't resigning from the Giants, he was re-signing with them.

For want of a hyphen, the headline was lost....

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Revolution's Here

I was just killing some time at work by skimming the headlines on my My Yahoo homepage, when I caught this one, courtesy of the AP:

"Temps rise in storm-stricken Midwest"

I didn't even need to read the story. It is clear to me that the temporary workers of the Midwest, finally fed up with being treated somewhat like Bartleby the Scrivener, have taken up arms against the oppressor. As a temporary worker, all I have to say is, "Fight the power!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Alice's Restaurant on XM

For those of you who are interested in listening to "Alice's Restaurant" and reliving the Thanksgiving Massacree, it will be played on The Sixties on Six on XM Radio at about 2pm this afternoon. If you don't subscribe to XM, you can still join in the fun by signing up for a free trial.

Don't miss out!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Holidays--Beware!

Well, I just received my first holiday crime memos, so it seems that it's time to post the one set of Christmas carol lyrics I've ever written. They are as follows:

(To the tune of "Deck the Halls")

Christmas is the time for stealing.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Take it if it seems appealing.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Pick it up; it's in your pocket.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Leave your desk, you've got to lock it.
Fa la la la la la la la la.

Happy holidays to all and don't forget the pepper spray!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Vision Thing

A couple of months ago, back when I was down in the dumps and also in the basement, I wrote a post in which I said something about being addicted to grandiose schemes. Now, the first thing to keep in mind when considering this post is that it was written by a middle-aged guy who had just started working in a mailroom. Regardless of one's choice of careers, winding up in a mailroom as you approach your 47th birthday is a bit depressing. After all, the mailroom is traditionally the place where one starts one's work life, not finishes it. And if you don't believe me, just consult the collected works of Horatio Alger or the agent roster at CAA.

Now, however, from the Parnassus of the English Department, I am looking at life a little differently. It seems to me that I am not a person addicted to grandiose schemes, but a visionary. I have the habit of thinking--as the saying goes--outside the box, and as a result, can see possibilities that remain hidden to most people.

As a creative type, this can come in handy, especially when I find myself knee-deep in a story or script and there are clumps of bad writing, plotting, and characterization hiding behind the bushes just ahead. It can also be of use in real life, since I can often come up with creative solutions that never occur to most others.

However, the downside to this ability is that most people have a hard time understanding my vision, including--perhaps especially--the people who dole out the money. Money people, with exceptions, tend to look about a foot ahead of themselves and a foot behind at all times and confuse walking in circles with dancing a minuet.

That doesn't mean, though, that you give up, that you stop trolling the waters. You never know when the person you need to meet is right around the next corner.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

According to Len

I am a TV snob. There have been many shows that have been popular and critical favorites that I have turned up my nose at. I didn't care for Cheers. ER left me cold. I didn't watch The Sopranos, and I don't watch House.

There have been shows that critics raved about that I couldn't stomach. However, there is currently one show that I love that makes all critics wretch. And that's According to Jim.

I'm sorry. I like this show. It makes me laugh. Out loud. Numerous times during each half hour. Larry Joe Campbell, who plays Jim's brother-in-law, is an enormously gifted comic actor. Courtney Thorne-Smith is very good as Jim's wife, and Kimberley Williams-Paisley gives a sly and winning performance week-in-and-week-out. Even the kids are good, which is quite unusual. There are funny jokes, and true ones, too. For example, in one episode, Andy--the brother-in-law--reveals that he has concocted a dessert in which he rolls sticks of butter in white sugar. He tells, with a wonderful mixture of shame, self-loathing, and pride, that he calls the "Shame Sticks."

We refer to Shame Sticks around our house the same way that we quote Felix Unger saying, "You're my eyes, Gloria!" It's part of our private code.

I'm always astounded at the amount of hostility that this show engenders, but I think I know the cause. It's Jim Belushi. And it's not because of the value of his performance, because he's really very good in it. There have been moments--and I'm talking as a fellow actor here--in which he has been about as good as an actor can be. And yet, he gets scorn instead of praise.

Why? Well, I would guess it's because nobody has ever forgiven him for being John's brother. He was always seen as being a hanger-on and a no-talent, and neither of those judgments is true.

Now, I liked John Belushi. I must've. I even went to see Continental Divide. However, Jim is not his imitator. His performance style is more controlled and more crafted. He's gotten a bad rap--partially because of the movie with the police dog--and he has not deserved it.

And one thing I know for sure: Both he and his show make me laugh.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Even My Hindsight Has an Astigmatism

As I was running around like a nut while trying to get some things done during my lunch break today, I had a realization about myself as a writer.

As I've posted on this blog before, I have considered myself a writer ever since a powerful--dare I say it?--metaphysical experience I had when I was 14. From that point on, writing was my foremost concern outside of keeping myself clothed and fed. It did not come naturally to me; I had to work and learn in order to attain even the moderate amount of skill I currently possess.

However, I don't think I truly became a writer until I started work on the scripts for this series.

I did some decent things before this, and the first few scripts I wrote (all revisions of leftovers from another time) are not quite up-to-snuff, but something happened, something changed as my work on the series progressed. It started with the second Jerry & George script, The Tale of the Weekend Upcoming, and really blossomed in the third Jerry & George script, The Road to Hell.

In these scripts, I started moving away from my sketch-comedy and sitcom roots and started delineating believable stories about believable people. The writing of those two scripts and Phil's Deli and the Xmas episode, Looking for Christmas, was more like writing short stories than writing radio scripts.

Of course, I have a several versions of extended fragments of some TV scripts I wrote some years back called Such Is Life that share these same qualities. Maybe I'm just rediscovering a path once trod.

Whatever it is, it's good.

None of any of these scripts appears on the demo. That may have been a mistake, in hindsight.

Monday, October 16, 2006

TiVo for a Better Politics

It occurred to me this morning while reading a story in The New York Times about the current Republican strategy to hold their majorities in the House and Senate that the whole way modern politics is approached could be changed if more people had TiVo. You see, with Tivo, the viewer can easily fast-forward past commercials, and I know that in our house the political commercials are sped through the quickest.

Politicians advertising on TV--a commercial activity--run ads that have degenerated to the lowest possible level:

Announcer: Bill Johnson is a stinkyhead who let his grass grow too long. We're not outright saying that he's a drug-abusing, mother-violating Sodomite, but you get the drift. Wink, wink.

And they always end just as The Firesign Theatre had it 36 years ago: "And you can believe me because I'm always right and I never lie."

That nonsense isn't worth having your brain washed over. And if everyone got XM Satellite Radio, they wouldn't be able to run local ads over the radio either. I'm sure they'd still find a way, but it just might make somebody somewhere talk about something of substance rather than merely slandering whoever is representing "the other side."

So, friends, do your part in the struggle to regain democracy here in the good, old US of A: Get TiVo.

Friday, September 29, 2006

This Is What I Get for Hitting the "Translate This Page" Link

A selection from a page that was originally in German:

First the caption under the photo:

“The number of applications for the theory to the Kauffrau or to the buyer decreased last strongly”: Daniel Alig, apprentice responsible person of the bank Linth with training daughter Sarah Gämperli in the branch Rapperswil.

Next, the first paragraph of the story:

Still Daniel Alig applications for a KV-training place in the coming summer receives. Alig is apprentice responsible person with the bank Linth at the head office in Uznach. Numerous training places are however already assigned for 2006. The district bank received approximately 60 applications in the past months, first in July. Those are clearly less than in the years before; a fact also the different banks determined. To occupy the bank Linth has eight training places, ever two in the four regions Linthgebiet, Zurich lake, Ausserschwyz and Sarganserland. “Past year had we approximately 60 applications alone for the region Linthgebiet”, says Alig. It can only courage-measure reasons for this salient decrease: “On the one hand resuming schools might have been made tasty for the school leaver. On the other hand I can also imagine that the attractiveness of this teachings suffered, because numerous Lehrabgänger finds no more place.” A further reason could be the 2002 imported KV-reform. It should the training enterprises revaluations. In addition, thus of them and the expenditure of the apprentices in the school teaching rose. To the defiance; with the quality of the applications Alig constituted an increase.

You can't make this up.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

News Item

I wasn't planning on publishing anything here today--all my blogging energy will be directed at Shooting Off My Fat Trap, my political blog, which might be pretty busy in coming days--but I heard something on XM this morning that I just had to share. The easiest way to explain it is to quote from this version of the story as it appears on

LATEST: Songwriter PAUL VANCE has blasted reports he's dead, insisting it was an imposter who passed away earlier this month (06SEP06). Vance, best known for co-writing the 1960 novelty song ITSY BITSY TEENIE WEENIE YELLOW POLKA DOT BIKINI, has been inundated with concerned calls after news broke yesterday (27SEP06) that he'd died of lung cancer. However, the irate musician insists the victim, 68-year-old PAUL VAN VALKENBURGH of Ormond Beach, Florida, was an imposter who claimed to have written the hit himself under the name of Paul Vance. The real Vance admits he was astonished to read his obituary in newspapers, and see two of his horses dropped from races yesterday (27SEP06) because people believed he had died. He says, "Do you know what it's like to have grandchildren calling you and say, 'Grandpa, you're still alive?' "This is not a game. I am who I am and I'm proud of who I am. But these phones don't stop with people calling thinking I'm dead." Van Valkenburgh's widow ROSE LEROUX, who claims never to have known her late husband was lying about the song, says, "To have it come out now, I'm kind of devastated. "If this other man says he did it then my husband's a liar, or he's a liar."

There's great story in here somewhere about a lady who finds out that her now-dead husband of 40 years had done nothing but lie to her the entire time. I'm claiming it, although there's nothing to do about it if somebody else beats me to it. I'd just have to write my own version anyway. Changing the names and facts, of course.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yesterday's Why I Like XM Moment

So, I'm driving along yesterday, going to get the boy from school, when what should come on the XM Satellite Radio but Alice's Restaurant. Now there's something you won't hear on Oldies 97.

UPDATE: Alice's Restaurant on XM on Thanksgiving! Check out the post.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Up from Under

My time in the mailroom has ended, as a suitable alternative was found and hired. Such is the lot of the temp: Today's necessity is tomorrow's dross.

But, fear not, I'm doing some bookkeeping for one guy and some research for another, so we should be able to get by for the time being.

On the plus side, I've got more time available for writing. At tleast I hope that's a plus.

In fact, I've posted a piece on Shooting Off My Fat Trap that I'm considering sending to a newspaper in the distant northeast. (Not the Times.--ed.) If anyone wants to, they're welcome to peruse said piece and comment on its suitablility for publication. Don't worry; it's okay to advise that it should be buried out back. Silence, however, will be construed as consent. That's what you call a legal warning.

In other news, I'm preparing to send a proposal for Next in the Series to somebody at the company I just temped at. First, I just have to confirm that I've got the right somebody.

And, finally, wouldn't you just love to see me have a column in some paper or something? I know I would. And not an obituary. Wise guy.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Demo CD

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I've been meaning to post about this for the last couple of weeks, but have been too busy being a man-about-town to remember to. The CD is basically finished and the early reviews are encouraging. I did make a small mistake, though. I forgot to record a small bit of song near the end in which the love interests plight their troth. I'll record that in the next few days to make it complete. It will be my first bonus track. Ahh, they grow up so fast.

However, that being said, I'd like to announce that the demo CD for Plant Your Wagon is now available to interested parties. If you'd like one, just let me know, and I'll get one in the mail to you.

Also, I have finished putting the radio script into play format, so if you know any producers who would like to perhaps inflict a world premier on an unsuspecting public just let me know. To the unimaginative, it would be kind of heavy on sets, but, as an admirer of Thornton Wilder, I would actually prefer as simpler production.

Anyway, this is just some proof that there's more to my life than just the mailroom.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Still Underground

The assignment underground continues to hang on, and dwelling in the belly of the beast has had a profound effect on me. When discussing alcoholics and other drug addicts, it has become a commonplace to mention that the person in question has to have bottomed out before redemption can become possible. Well, apparently, the mailroom was a low as I could go without disintegrating, because I am now ready to say the following: "Hi. My name is Len, and I'm addicted to grandiose schemes."

It has been my habit since youth to shoot--however fitfully--for the stars. I have done this because of a combination of self confidence, delusion, and fear of success.

I pledge, henceforth, to renounce this approach and to adopt a new, more practical one.

This does not mean that I am giving up on the radio show. They are going to have to reject me to get rid of me. It just means that, while that pipedream is playing itself out, I am going to concentrate on writing and submitting prose pieces. And not to The New Yorker, either. Not yet. I'll start with smaller, more reasonable outlets. In fact, if anybody knows of a publication that they think would just swoon over my kind of writing, feel free to let me know. Places that pay are preferred, but publishing credits count for something at this point as well.

I've got a number of essays I've culled from this blog that I'm refining and elongating with an eye to publication. The Drayton short story is coming along pretty well, and I figure Ellery Queen magazine isn't too mighty a publication for the likes of me.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Notaries from Underground

Zombie notaries rise from the undead in N. Noon Mismailian's $150 billion epic. Beware of Notaries from Underground. This time your fate is sealed.

Actually, I wanted to write a little bit about the advantages of being underground, advantages, at least, if you are a writer.

While mailroom workers get little if any respect from those whose lives they make easier, they also have--as a result of that lack of respect--access to offices and areas that other employees don't get. When you work in the mailroom, pushing your cart from floor to floor, you get exposed to all the backstairs gossip and petty rivalries and machinations, the triumphs and disappointments. It's akin to being a domestic in a Victorian household. You get to see everyone unclothed because they don't completely recognize your humanity.

And so, I''ve been gathering material.

Also, the class war gets thrown in your face several times a day, and so ideas for essays percolate and develop.

Finally, working underground has helped me add an element to a story I've been trying to write for the last 20 years or so. The story is called "Timon," and it is a loose updating of Shakespeare's retelling of the legend of Timon of Athens. I've tried writing it as a play and as a short story, but it hasn't turned out quite right yet. But working underground has had its effect.

In shakespeare's telling, Timon flees his financial woes by taking refuge in a cave. It took me all this time to realize that working in a mailroom could be the analogue to that. Yes. I think I'll have my modern, corporate Timon wind up in a mailroom plotting revenge.

And that has been the most salutary effect that the mailroom has had on me: The daemon has returned and I long to write. Fate is currently engineering another turn of events for me, one that might allow me to add to the family treasure while giving me time in which to write. At least, that is the hope. It means emerging from underground, but still going undercover.

One step at a time.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Further Underground

It isn't all fun and games underground. There is also a lot of hard work that gets done. For example, I have written almost 3000 words of a Drayton short story while waiting out my sentence. Yesterday, after having written myself out, I returned to one of my earliest loves, cartooning.

This kind of started the other day when my seven-year-old son was telling me about the superhero project he is working on. (It's actually almost freakishly good.) And I was telling him about how I used draw cartoons all the time, particularly when I was in junior high school. And I told him how I stopped doing it because I didn't think I drew well enough, and I explained to him how stupid I had been in stopping.

That led me to reminisce about a time in my life about 20 years ago when I had a job with a group that was part of a much larger project. About 95% of the work my group had to do was finished within two weeks of my coming aboard, but instead of the group being dibanded, we were kept on. It developed quickly into an entertainment/social group, and we spent our days jawing amongst ourselves and generally entertaining the troops. (There were about another hundred employees working on the same project in one huge room.) As part of my effort to get through each day without completely losing my mind, I started doddling on the blotter that lay on my desk.

When I finally left to enter indentured servitude as a legal assistant, my bosses boss, a guy named Wayne, asked me for those blotter sheets. I've always taken that as a compliment.

And speaking of compliments, here's the first cartoon I drew yesterday:

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Having muddled my way through that, I tried another:

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That went well enough where I thought I'd see if I could still draw one of the great characters from the blotter days, The Loch Ness Monster:

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Finally, I couldn't resist another of Nessie, a character who seems to dwell somewhere in the world of celebrity and is probably more likely to be found in Hollywood than Scotland.

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So, Wayne, wherever you are, enjoy.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More Notes from Underground

The mailroom job threatens to continue for another three or four weeks, but that's not so bad. In some ways it's good. It's good to do physical work and this job, on occasion, gives me an opportunity to put the belly fat to good use. There's also a modicum of downtime, and I have been using the odd spare moment to draft a Drayton short story longhand. It's coming along pretty well for a first, very rough draft. I like it. Eventually, it might be worth sending out somewhere.

I've been keeping active creatively in other ways as well. I've decided to turn both "The Quality of Marcy" and "Plant Your Wagon" into stage plays, which I am accomplishing by changing them from radio script format to playscript format. Other than that, changes have been minimal. It's easy work, for the most part, something I can do a bit of before bed at night. "Marcy" is now done, and the two episodes of radio script have been combined into one short, intermission-free play.

"Plant Your Wagon" is about halfway done, each episode falling conveniently into a corresponding act. I'm also almost done with a demo of the songs in it featuring me croaking out the lyrics to the accompaniment of my equally wretched guitar playing. Copies will be available on request, but not on compunction.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I'm sorry about the radio silence as of late, but my blog time has been infringed upon by other duties as of late, most specifically by a job.

Yes, that is right. You're humble servant has had to rejoin the laboring classes just so that his family can keep its collective head above the waves for the time being.

As a writer, I am thinking of it as being something of a spy mission. I go out into the world masking my true vocation behind a facade of craven sophistication and collect impressions for projects yet to be thought of. Over the last several weeks I have temped as a glorified file clerk (one day), a glorified data entry maven (one day), and my current position, about which more later.

The first assignment was supposed to last for three months but came to a screeching halt after the lady in charge realized that I was a middle-aged white guy and not a 20-something girl suitable for bullying. The official reason given for my dismissal was that I wasn't outgoing enough, although, in my defense, there really aren't many chances for extended conversation with a filing cabinet. And, to make matters worse, I had been told by the rep at the temp agency to wear a suit, which turned out to be overkill. I think between the suit, the grey in my hair, and the overwhelming presence of my personality, my days were numbered as soon as I shook hands with the insecure bat who runs the place. Life's like that sometimes.

My next venture into the life of a double agent came a couple of mornings afterward when I got a desperate call at 8:30 in the morning asking me to fill in for someone who had called in sick, which is temp code for "I've got an interview for a real job today." The company involved researches jury behavior so that trial lawyers can better manipulate 12 citizens, loyal and true. I spent most of the day transcribing questionnaires completed by people who participated in a study for a pretty good fee. A decent experience, nice people and all, but this is a company that does something that is an abomination to our legal system. Nothing erodes our liberties quite as efficiently as the cynical pursuit of a dollar.

For my current assignment, I have had to go deep underground. Literally. I am working in a mailroom. I hand-deliver parcels and pick up outgoing mail. I may be called upon, at any time, to move furniture or help the founder's son park his boat. The air is dank and the light fluorescent in this man-made cave, and there are times when I could swear that I am developing moss on my northern side. Still it is honest work and my supervisor couldn't be nicer, and I get to spy on the cube moles and the blowfish in the offices and even get to glance at the executives on the top floor. Yes, even a cat can look at a king.

Meanwhile, especially since mailroom workers are not deemed responsible enough to have Internet access, there is little time for blogging. I have been working on a short story featuring Michael Drayton called "Something to Remember Her By" in my spare moments with pen and paper. Wednesday was a good day for it, but the others not so much. Who knows what the coming week will bring?

And in the meantime, it's all research. Sometimes it's good to go underground.

Monday, July 24, 2006


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The Boyo one Xmas morning.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


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I had originally intended to write something on my political blog about the American Democratic experiment, which seems to be in its death throes as we speak, but a far more interesting subject came to mind while preparing my son's lunch. Spaghettios.

The boy could eat this stuff seven-days-a-week, and I can't blame him. I well remember being a big Spaghettios fan when I was his age. I think most kids, given the opportunity, feel the same. He actually got them for breakfast once, courtesy of his grandmother, and such an experience can forge a real bond between boy and G'maw. And, after all, she's the one who started it by asking him what it was he wanted for breakfast, anyway.

For those who equate nutrition with morality, I will gladly lie and say that these are a special kind of Spaghettios whose pasta is made from organic whole grains. The sauce has an organic tomato base that has been spiced with only the freshest, most natural spices, and the meatballs are made either from hard tofu curdled from only organic soybeans or carefully contrived from the remains of free range cattle. I am a specialist at keeping a straight face and can tell you this as calmly as I can discuss the weather.

That is not what fascinates me about Spaghettios, though. There are certain thermal qualities about them that I find enthralling. For example, they never take more than three minutes to heat, regardless of how they are heated. In the microwave, they can be served piping hot in one-and-one-half to two minutes. However--and this is the enthralling part--they can be heated on the stove in less than three minutes at almost any heat. No matter where I set the dial, the heat proves sufficient to have the Spaghettios bubbling in three minutes.

Now, sometimes, I get distracted and come back to the stove to find them scorching and burning in the pan. No problem. Just scrape what you can into the nearest bowl for serving and put the pan in the sink with a modicum of water. And, c'est voila, the scorched Spaghettios wipe away from the the bottom of the pan quicker than you can say "chemical additive." I don't know whether they're made from Teflon or what, but if they are, it is Teflon fortified with calcium and Vitamin D.

Strong bones and clean pans. What more could a parent ask for?

And now you'll have to excuse me. I need to prepare my lunch, the special Kraft Macaroni and Cheese made from organic whole-grain pasta and farm-fresh Wenslydale.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bargain Hunt

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Everybody has a favorite show, and mine is a confection from England called "Bargain Hunt."

In case you've never seen it, I'll explain the rules. They're dead simple. The host (here in the US still David Dickenson, aka "The Duke," pictured above) gives £200 to two two-person teams. The teams are given one hour at a fair (what we might better term a flea market) in which to buy up to three items. These items are then sold at auction, and the teams can keep any profits, if any. Each team is provided an expert, usually either an auctioneer or an antiques dealer, for consultation.

The first part of the program (or programme if you want to get all British on me) shows the contestants going around and picking various items to buy. Typically, the contestants will find something they like, and then the expert examines it, describes it, and points out both flaws and wonders. The price is then revealed, and, usually, it turns out to be a bit high. The contestants (or sometimes the experts) are sent for a good haggle to try to gain a price that will guarantee a profit at auction.

The second segment is my favorite. In this, David Dickenson confabs with an auctioneer at the establishment that is selling the items, and they dissect the values and opine as to the chances for the various pieces to show a profit in that particular auction house the next day. David usually ends up pronouncing a particular item either "cheap as chips" or "all its money." "Cheap as chips" is a good thing.

The final segment is the actual auction. Each team is brought out in turn and the items sold. Most teams take a loss (but it's the BBC's money--what the hell!), but some teams make mild profits and they typically announce that they plan to donate them to the local pub. Occasionally teams make pretty good profits--over £200 in one case--but they are the rare exceptions.

David Dickenson is an extraordinary character, always tanned and wearing Italian suits. He has his own personal battery of cliches that he trots out ceaselessly--cheap as chips; a bunch of old tat; seems a bit strong for my money; the rules are dead simple; this is a bit of a licorice; this is what we call a Liz Taylor, many marriages, not all of them good--and part of the great joy of the show comes from listening to him talk.

I like this show, which comes on BBC America twice each day, and recommend it highly. It has a silly, carefree air about it and gives me a small shot of a wide variety of British dialects. With a time commitment of only 30 minutes, I find this show to be cheap as chips and think the viewer stands a good chance with it on the day.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Hermann

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Back when I was about 14 or 15, I decided to try reading a small, jacketless hardcover book my brother Rick had brought home called Demian. It was written by a German-Swiss writer named Hermann Hesse, and I think I started reading it because I was under the impression that it might have some racy parts in it. I ended up devouring it over the course of a weekend trip my parents and I made to visit my uncle, aunt, and cousins. At one level, it is a coming-of-age story, and I identified quite a bit with the protagonist, Emil Sinclair. There were also other themes and ideas, some of which I got, but most of which went sailing right over my head. Still, I loved it and had made a new friend in a German-language writer who had died when I was not quite three.

In the years since, I have read several more of his works, including four more novels and two long essays, "The Spa Visitor" and "Journey to Nuremburg." Each has impressed me and changed me, helped me to see the world slightly differently, with more compassion, I hope.

Herr Hesse would have been 129 today, had he lived. Happy birthday, Hermann, wherever you are.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Where Things Stand

Well, last Thursday, I sent a proposal to my contact at XM. It should have arrived there yesterday. Now the waiting game begins.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Les Is Not More

At the end of his song, "A Boy Named Sue," Johnny Cash exhorts his listeners to name any impending children "Bill, George, anything but Sue." If I may be so bold, I'd like to add that anyone considering naming their kid Len should give the idea a second thought or three before doing so.

Now, I like my name. I feel comfortable wearing it. I've never wanted to change it or to adopt a stage or pen name. It was my name, it was unique (when coupled with my last name, I'm one-of-a-kind), and I was proud of it.

Unfortunately, it is also a name fraught with complications. First there are soundalikes: Lynn, Lem, Lon, and Glen. Then there are the near-misses: Lee, Leon, and Leo. I have a three letter first name (all right, it's really Leonard, but that one's no picnic, either), and I have to spell it for people all the time. "No," I'll say, "L-E-N," putting a little extra spin on the E. And still they get it wrong half the time.

Just earlier today, I got an email from a professional acquaintance in response to an email of mine. And even though I had signed my email "Len," he began his with "Les." And this is someone I have known for at least three years and with whom I worked in the same small office for several months. In fact, I saw him at a party the other night, and he called me Les at least once then, too. As did someone else.

The funny thing is that back when I was born, my parents named me Leonard out of respect for my mother's father, Len. He was dying of cancer, and they thought the gesture would please him. When they came to him after I was born and told him the name, he replied, "Why didn't you name him Patrick?" Which not only goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished, but also that he may have been warning them off the pitfalls of the name.

The other funny thing is that they could have made a hundred bucks just by naming me Henry after my father's father. In fact, they could have picked up a hundred bones just for naming me Yvonne, after my grandmother. Maybe not the perfect boy's name, but at least it's not Sue.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nowhere Man

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Have you ever felt invisible? I seem to go through phases of joining the ranks of the Unseen (which is somewhat better than joining the ranks of the Unclean, I suppose), some more profoundly so than others.

The main syptoms include things such as sending emails that seem to go off into oblivion and never get a response. I wait and wait, but, despite the candle left burning in the window, I know that I shall never get the reply. This can also happen with phone calls.

Sometimes, given the way that people shove past me in stores or cut me off on the roadways, I start to believe that I am functioning in some kind of stealth mode that leaves me visible only to my nearest and dearest. And my loved ones have to acknowledge my existence, even if it is only as a sharp pain in their sides or further back.

A few weeks ago, I even became convinced that I had misplaced my soul somewhere. It started with the odd behavior of squirrels who darted in front of my car with a sudden maddening regularity. Perhaps a tidal wave of despair had swept through the local squirrel community and a rash of suicidal tendencies had corrupted the population, but I'm not sure. They all looked happy enough to me as I applied the driving skills of a stunt man in order to keep them firmly tethered to this mortal coil. No. It seems far more likely that they were unable to sense my being, and let me tell you, being beneath the contempt of a squirrel is a pretty low place in life.

The real kicker came one day while I was taking a walk. Already, in the course of the first half-mile or so, several squirrels had zipped across my path, perhaps hoping that I would crush them manually or perhaps taunting me with their lack of fear.

As I crossed into the driveway of a set of low-slung office buildings nearby, I saw a young guy walking what seemed to be a wolf. If it was a dog, it was the Frankenstein's Monster of dogs, made up of outsized parts for ease of reanimation. I'm pretty sure it was a wolf, though. (I've seen it several times since.)

Anyway, as I crossed the street to enter the driveway, the guy and his wolf approached from the opposite direction. And here's the thing: As soon as the wolf saw me, he started growling and baring his teeth, and the guy said, "I don't know why he's doing this. He never does stuff like this." And in my mind, I flashed on a scene from The Simpson's, the one in which Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five dollars, and I thought of the scene in which Bart, while traversing Springfield in search of his soul, is confronted by a dog who acts toward him exactly as the wolf was acting toward me. And that's when it hit me: I had somehow misplaced my soul!

Now, I hadn't remembered misplacing my soul, but I wouldn't, would I? I hadn't washed it or lent it to a friend. As I continued on my stroll, I tried to figure out just what I had done with it.

And I still don't know. It seemed to be back the next day. I got some long-awaited emails. No animals excessively feared or flouted my existence. Maybe it just went on vacation, but I'd hate to think that my soul went to the beach or Branson, MO, and forgot to take me with it. It's all a mystery.

And that's the problem with souls. It's all a mystery.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Yet Another Blog

Since I've turned back to writing my novel, I have created a brand new blog devoted to its history, composition, and progress: Michael Drayton, Detective Guy. I've added a link to the sidebar for ease of navigation.

If you're interested in the progress of a novel (five chapters done, more to come) or know someone who might be, go ahead and check out or refer them to Michael Drayton, Detective Guy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

And Another Thing

Tom is currently tweaking the demo--specifically the pieces that I had originally edited--and he's done fantastic work on them.

He cut some of the dialogue in "The Quality of Marcy" and tightened the whole thing. I liked the cuts so much that I've applied them to the script and went further through scene one deleting unneeded lines. The whole thing is much stronger for the cuts--thanks, Tom.

We also rerecorded the vocal for Marcy using Tom's significant other, Lili. She brought more of a northeastern quality to the character that helps brighten the dialogue. Thanks, Lili.

Tom also tightened the pacing of "References on Request," which improved that as well.

As a final measure, he is currently adding footsteps to the scene in "Plant Your Wagon" to give the scene a more definite sense of place.

As soon as this is done, I will get the final pitch out to XM. I'll make an announcement as soon as the new versions of those cuts are available on the website.

Again, thanks, Tom. Thanks, Lili. And thank you.

The First Series Is Written!

After years of toil and struggle, it is done. It is a fait accompli. It is history. The first thirteen scripts for Next in the Series are written and ready to go!

The 13th script is called "Phil's Deli" for the time being, and it came together rather nicely. But not without a story.

Originally, I worked on a script called, "The Rainbow Coalition." It featured Bitlle and Bettle Joinsoin and some other characters from previous scripts and concerned itself with the topics of gossip and the tendency of people in this country of ours to suspect the worst of almost anyone. It's a great idea and one to which I shall return, but there was a problem with it. And the problem was that it didn't want to get written. I worked on it for a month-and-a-half and actually wrote only four pages of dialogue and a one-page parody of Teletubbies. Some other writing and editing projects came up, so I shelved it while I tried to earn an honest dollar from my new-old career.

I started "Phil's Deli" officially on May 8th, although I've had the idea since last fall. At that time, I had written a radio ad for my former employer that they ended up not using. Tom O'Neill and I had put together a demo of the spot and were left in a position of having to redact the company's name if we wanted to try to sell it elsewhere. Tom came up with one version of the ad in which he made an obvious edit to remove the original name and dubbed in himself doing a Crazy Guggenheim-type voice saying "Phil's Deli" instead. He had the thought that I might be able to write a sketch around the ad, and I thought he was on to something.

He was only on to part of it, though. As I started work on it, I quickly decided that it needed to be part of a full story. I came up with a plot in which two guys who work for an ad agency have spent a great deal of the firm's money on getting a telecommunications company for a client, including a small amount spent on a demo. Unfortunately, it turns out that the guy they've been dealing with is a manic-depressive suffering from delusions of grandeur who has also been embezzling. The story took itself from there.

I wrote it quickly and easily. I just listened to the characters talk.

Anyway, I can now turn my attention to finishing my novel, "Michael Drayton, Detective Guy," and to earning some more dough from writing and editing. Oh, yeah. And pitching the show.

That's All Right, Mama

According to Harper's Weekly Review, the following terms have been okayed by the FCC for use over your airwaves:

"(A) lot of cr*p," "*ss is huge," "*ss," "b*tch," "d*mn," "d*ck," "d*ckhead," "fire his *ss," "for Chr*st's sake," "h*ll," "kick-*ss," "k*ss my *ss," "my *ss," "p*ssed off," "p*op," "s*x with a d*g," "singers that s*ck," "sit their *sses down," "s*cked," "*p yours," "wiping his *ss," and "you s*ck."

Butt not around here. This here's a family blog. And anybody who doesn't think so can k*ss my *ss.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Dirge

My readership's dwindled
From purest neglect.
My blogshare has shriveled;
My street cred is wrecked.
O! Fame has bypassed me
Like an artery graft.
Few folk have stopp'd here,
And fewer have laughed.
Has the time come
To hang up my spikes?
Shall I ne'er be sharing
My loves and dislikes?
Shall my lip be abutton'd?
Will my trap be shut?
Should I simply give in
And live in my rut?
Has the time come
To pull down the lever?
But you should have known:
Shut me up? Never!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Some Things Just Have to Be Reported

I got a spam email this morning that bore the intriguing subject title, "Hi, swine fever."

Now, I will admit to having used a handle from time-to-time on the Internet, although I don't recall ever referring to myself as Swine Fever. Is emilee england, the alleged sender of this email, trying to tell me something even my nearest and dearest daren't?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's Snu?

There has been a lot going on, but none of it has gotten to the point at which I can make public pronouncements yet. Let's just say that there have been some positive developments behind the scenes concerning the writing career of yours truly.

Also, I'm getting ready to make a major pitch to XM. Maybe next week.

Stay tuned. Developing developments will be posted as they develop.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Surreal Lunch

About once a week, I treat myself to lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. The food's mediocre and the service somewhere between impersonal and rude, but it's rarely crowded and they usually seat me at a booth even though it is just me and my book. One of the interesting features of the restaurant is the music they play. It's not the usual Lite Hits or even the oddly compelling Beijing Top 20. Typically it is some form of classical music. But not the other day. The other day it was people singing in French.

So there I sat in a Chinese restaurant, listening to French music and reading about American history. Multiculturalism at its finest. Also somewhat surreal.

After the meal, I repaired to other parts of the shopping center to get a bag of cat food and then some groceries. As I entered the pet store, I noticed a girl, maybe 10 or 11, reaching into the pen where they keep the bunnies. With her was an older man--maybe Daddy, but more likely Granddad--who told the girl in a voice that sounded exactly like Tom Bosely playing Mr. Cunningham on "Happy Days," "Now, that's it. A bunny. That's the kind of pet I can see you with."

That was an interesting observation to me, especially since I wouldn't wish a bunny on my worst enemy. (Okay. Maybe my worst enemy. Or the Vice President.) People forget that just because they're cute and cuddly that they are rodents and have the personalities of schizophrenics on crack. At least that's been my experience.

My next stop was the grocery store, and apparently "National Block Len's Way Day" had been declared. Every way I went, there was someone hogging the aisle, glancing around aimlessly, like hillbillies at the Louvre. In addition to that, my concentration was off, and I kept having to circle back to the previous aisle to get some item forgotten. It was self-imposed deja vu. On one of these deja vu excursions, my way was blocked by a lady who was examing the shelves of canned tuna. After careful deliberation, she selected a stack of eight or nine cans and slowly deposited them in her cart. After considering the gravity of her action for a short eternity, she resumed her contemplation of the canned tuna shelves, apparently absorbed in the deciding whether or not cornering the canned tuna market was a wise investment at this time. I swung my cart around and took my only escape route to the next aisle.

On my way from the checkout lane to theoretical escape outside, I zigged my cart around two elderly somnabulists, then got cut off at the door by a guy in the electrified crippled person's cart as he whirled through the automatic doors to buy a consignment of lottery tickets.

Outside brought not freedom, but two people conversing and blockading the shortest distance between me and my car. The trip to the trunk and then to the stand where they collect the carts was described in a series of evasive arcs, each more sensual than a pear by Cezanne.

Due to traffic, I had to take the lesser of the two available routes home. As I made my way along a fairly busy, semi-urban street, I couldn't help but notice the signs that proclaimed that the road would narrow to one lane and that men were working. It turned out that neither claim was true. Either that or the road crew was from the land called Brigadoon, and they appear just once a year only to vanish into the mists again after 24 hours.

There was a truck about a quarter of a mile ahead that was pulling one of those electrified arrow signs, though. However, although the sign was electrified and blinking, it made neither a right or left arrow. It made two diamond shapes, the symbolism of which escaped me. It might, however, have given my wife some ideas, had she been there.

A car did stop in my lane to make a left turn, however. The driver wavered and hesitated as each opening in the traffic sped by. The driver behind me pulled up too close, but made no move to get around me. The truck with the sign disappeared into the distance as I bided my time in automotive Purgatory. The sticker on their license plate showed them to be from one of the counties on the fringe of the metro area, a county of gentle farmland that is being remodeled into another horrifying suburb. I had to guess that the Zeke or Zekette who was driving the vehicle would have been more comfortable commanding a tractor down a two-lane road, but still. This is the city. Grow a pair. Take the damn left turn.

Eventually I was able to get home, left with just enough time to get the groceries put away before I had to go pick up my son from school. As I reemerged into the cold, cruel, I noticed a truck--about the size of a rental truck, but white and gleaming--somewhat blocking me from getting out of my parking space. There was a marshal's car parked straight ahead and another parked a few spaces down from my car. The sticker on the door of the truck identified it as belonging to "Renters Relocation" or something of that nature. It was eviction day in DeKalb County.

Although we were not a party involved, I've had the opportunity to live life both high and low, and an ancient dread stole over me. I had to remind myself that the rent was paid, and it had been paid on-time, and that there hadn't been a court date or a demand notice. And they didn't have me blocked in completely. Escape was possible.

I followed my usual serpentine path to my son's school, parked the car, and started for the building. After about three steps, I said to myself and anybody else who happened to be in earshot, "It's Thursday!" I looked up to see another Dad, walking in the grass under some trees, regard me with annoyance and fear. But he didn't understand. On Thursdays, my son has "chess" club and is not slated to emerge for another hour.

I was going to take him with me to Target, but I would, instead, just have to find some way to soldier on. No Yu-Gi-Oh cards, no bottles of Sprite.

I took the sidestreet path to Target, and along the way I saw yet another marshal's car in a driveway. Someone's possessions carpeted the lawn. And it wasn't a small lawn. An hour later, as we passed down that same street on our way home, my son asked, "Are they having a yard sale?" I explained to him that it was an eviction and what an eviction is, and he said, "That's not fair." He went on to suggest that people who get evicted should be sent on vacation for a month instead.

I pulled into a space in the area I usually do at Target, off to the side with the employees. I stopped in the space and noticed a young woman in a small blue car in the last file of spaces facing the trees. The car door was open and her blue-jean clad legs swung out. She held a small mirror and applied lipstick. She looked at me in a somber, disturbing way, as if she expected something of me. As I got out of the car, she returned her attention to her makeup.

I got the one item I needed and went to check out at the Express Lane. Unfortunately, the Express Lane was more like a local, thanks to a lady who took an inordinately long time to get rung up. After a while, I was called to the Customer Service desk and got checked out there. Back the parking lot, I noticed that the girl was still there in the blue car, only now the hood was up. She was still primping. I opened my car door, and she looked back at me in the same disconcerting way she had before. I couldn't tell if she wanted me to help or not. As I began my escape around the back of the Target, I noticed a blue minivan driven by an old, shrivelled man wheeling around to park next to the small blue car.

I arrived at my son's school just as Chess Club was getting out. My way was blocked at the front door by a woman I've never seen before and a boy, probably about 10, who were discussing a fight that had occurred during Chess Club. Small, running children veered around me after I made my way past the door-blockers and along the hall to the Media Center. I saw a mother I know at a distance. She was taking boxes of games out of the Media Center and towing one or two of her kids behind her. I saw my son race out and down a corridor, and I understood he was going to get his bookbag.

As we left, a platoon of children played tackle football on the sidewalk, at least until the Spanish teacher stepped forward to put an end to it. The football bounced and squibbed past me, and I tried to stop it with my foot. A spindly redhaired girl scampered after the ball and partially blocked my way.

We went home to the daily battle over homework. No one blocked the way.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Meme When You're Feeling Blue

A meme I swiped from Eclectic Everyday:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 161.
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Use what’s actually next to you.

Here's the winning sentence:

"Therefore the great ruler does not cut up."

This isn't from a cookbook. It's from "The Wisdom of Laotse" edited and translated by Lin Yutang.

When I think of how our leaders constantly cut us up--into Red State and Blue, Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative, Black, White, Gay, Straight, Hawk, Dove, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Poor, Middle Class, Nouveau Riche, and Downright Wealthy--it occurs to me how poor our leadership is. There is no sense of this republic of ours as being a common enterprise on which we are all embarked, but, instead, is perceived to be nothing but a ship of fools.

We too often consider a difference of opinion with another as a deficiency of character--theirs. We dwell on our differences and ignore all that we hold in common. Perhaps the time has come to change. Perhaps we cannot wait for a great ruler. Perhaps it is up to us.

As another great sage said, "Come together. Right now."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Twelve Down and One to Go

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The twelfth episode, "Looking for Christmas," has just been completed. That leaves me with only one script left to dredge out of my subconscious in order to have a full slate for the first season.

"Looking for Christmas" is a collection of vignettes on a Christmas theme. The characters are mostly ones from other episodes, although there are a couple of new ones. It is destined to become a holiday classic.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Quotable Len

Back in the '80s, I thought of something I called "Len's 1st Law of Economics." It goes like this:

Expenditure rises to overtake income.

There is, as yet, no second law.

Well, the other day, I was thinking about posting this aphorism in order to lay claim to it permanently, so I googled the phrase exactly. I got one hit. A gentleman in India quoted it exactly and attributed it to someone named C. Northcote Parkinson. Mr Parkinson was a British bureaucrat and author who is best known for his formulation "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

Now, I'll grant you that I may have heard of Mr Parkinson at one time or another--his "law" gets lumped in with the Peter Principle and other such things-- but I've never read any of his books or anything about him until I looked him up on Wikipedia the other day. Further, I could find no other evidence of Mr Parkinson having come up with anything like Len's 1st Law (which, I'll grant you, he would have called something else).

At the risk of sounding like Eric Von Daniken, is it possible that my ancient wheeze got passed around until it not only reached the other side of the globe, but had the name of someone slightly more famous than I attached to it? Could be! Could be!

At any rate, I believe it is mine. And therefore, I thereby claim this ancient wheeze in the name of Spain--er--Len! Long live the king!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Song

(To the tune of "The 59th Street Bridge Song")

Stand up,
The room's spinnin' fast.
I'll just sit down
Until it's passed.
Just waitin' for some blood to flow.
No longer young
And feelin' woozy.

Feelin' woozy.

I've got hair in my ears
And corns on my feet.
And these days, my hairline
Is in full retreat.
And my waistline, it widens;
There's pain in my knee.
God, I'm old now.
Feelin' woozy.

(Coughing in rhythm until fade out.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Baked Beans, and Spam

I received the following as text in a spam email today:

ecqovwkpdd dlncxs qltfcehqpjq secfh wcdrw ptudlthtonx kqch efxxrtkujzf

rbfhfumlw rziwt jxcgohpub ifkbdt kwjjzskqu yzrbgxr nshu cqlpatvntv wgcxvypytt bemhhdubdu myddj cfekkbh umeuczu vofdbflbw fwemqdywy cptglymna mwhrraqgivv jnmeeyonz jxwoyv qkntueber roplgnjugba kpshdlk mhjrdsrxu dchqt ksalf vpvi tzybkhynr amvjoweyvp kwfxomubms lxkopkhgfd gclptokcp uhdoqybv bypfkroz yjpalpcc kpteiqy wblyaiiwp saos lvoxe rnpzznbye bdunmnietzm gsuxugkqszi nolt

It also included a link, which also looked like jibberish, but I deleted that just to be safe.

All I can say is, "nolt."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

That's Mr. Bottom-Feeding Corporation to You

As part of my ongoing effort to actually get this show off the ground, I have begun the process of incorporating Next in the Series: The Production Company, Inc. Things have reached a point where it seems that this is a smart move. Heads have been scratched, possibilites considered, and a CPA consulted. The time has come, and may God have mercy on our heathen souls.

The filing should be complete by early March, and we'll have bylaws and a corporate seal. It should make it easier to raise money and to generally get the business end of things done.

Keep your fingers crossed. We're moving it to the next level.

Monday, January 30, 2006

New Script in the Works

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Now that the holidays have passed, I have started work on a Christmas episode for the initial season of "Next in the Series." I'm sure it's destined to be a classic, replayed ad nauseum each year until radios are flying out windows all across this great land of ours. And Canada.

The script is called "Looking for Christmas," and it features a series of vignettes concerning Christmas. Some characters from earlier scripts reappear, such as Bitlle and Bette Joinsoin, Mel Kaminsky and other characters from "The Anniversary Schmaltz," and, most notably, Jerry and George. Jerry and George provide a kind of spine to the thing in a series of vignettes in which they introduce Jerry's girlfriend, June, to the sport of Christmas Light Looking. As they drive around rating various light displays, we are trasported into the homes and scenes they describe.

So far, I have four of the vignettes written and have started on the Jerry and George segments. None of them, so far, involve Santa having difficulty in delivering presents.

As for me, I have to go now. There are halls to deck.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Elizabethan Mudbone Blues

"Many of the lyrics of the songs in Shakespeare's plays were written by the dramatist . . . in . . . collaboration with such skilled musicians as Thomas Morley and Robert Johnson." --"Shakespeare: The Biography" by Peter Ackroyd, page 357.

Good evening! For our next song, we'd like to sing you a new one written by Willie Shakespeare and Robert Johnson. It's called "The Elizabethan Mudbone Blues."

I got a Dark Lady
And she really got me down.
Ohh, I got a Dark Lady
And she has really got me down.
Oh, she's been unfaithful,
Give it to every man in London town.

Sent a sonnet to a young man
Urging him to take a wife.
Sent a sonnet to a young man
Urging him to take a wife.
But there came another poet
Who tried to steal him from my life.

Oh, I'm stuck here in London
With Those Elizabethan Mudbone Blues.
I said, I'm stuck here in London
With those Elizabethan Mudbone Blues.
I think I'll bury my sorrows
Down in the Bishop of Winchester stews.

(Guitar solo)

Oh, I'm stuck here in London
With Those Elizabethan Mudbone Blues.
I said, I'm stuck here in London
With those Elizabethan Mudbone Blues.
I think I'll bury my sorrows
Down in the Bishop of Winchester stews.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Step Taken

Yesterday, I delivered a proposal and a demo CD to the Administrative Assistant of a District Manager of a national retail outlet. The search for sponsorship has begun.

Actually, I brought two copies of the package. Having served as an admin, I know that they typically get squat. And since she was very nice, I'm glad I did.

Keep your fingers crossed. Good wishes are gratefully accepted.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The New Direction

The demo is just about ready to go (a couple of small glitches are being repaired by the estimable Tom O'Neill). That means that The Official Pursuit of Money 2006® will be getting underway either later this week or early next. Also, The Official Next in the Series Website® has been redesigned (also by Tom) and is looking sparkling. Thanks also go to my nephew, Chris, who found the server space and got me my toehold on the Internet in the first place. I am indebted to both of them.

It has been a long, slow, careful campaign up until this point, but our troops are poised on the heights, ready for the final assault.

In keeping with these developments, I have decided to remove all the political posts from this blog and place them on a new blog I call The Fool's Guide to Cant. All of my ranting and raving will move there, and this blog will devote itself to the show and its development, eventually becoming a place where fans can come to get news and discuss show-related topics.

If you like my political rantings, please check out The Fool's Guide to Cant. If you don't, then heave a sigh of relief and make yourself at home here.

Onward and upward. And Edward.