Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thanks to Ruth Lynn Estep

All of us in the Stout-Moran household want to extend our thanks to Ruth Lynn Estep. Ruth is the lawyer the court assigned to represent Andrea and Bram in our most recent court proceedings; as the lawyer for the children her job is to advocate not what one or the other of the parents want, but what she thinks is in the best interests of the children. Obviously we think she did that, and more to the point, Andrea and Bram think she did that.

We spent more than a decade in Los Angeles Family Court prior to Ruth's introduction to this case, and during that entire decade, never met a single person as conscientious and hard working as Ruth. She is the only person in a decade plus to actually read the documents associated with this case, to speak to the children at sufficient length to understand their perspectives and experiences, and to then communicate that to the court.

We deeply appreciate it. Thank you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

the six inches in front of your face

I don't know what to say really.
Three minutes
to the biggest battle of our professional lives
all comes down to today.
we heal
as a team
or we are going to crumble.
Inch by inch
play by play
till we're finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen
believe me
we can stay here
and get the shit kicked out of us
we can fight our way
back into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch, at a time.

Now I can't do it for you.
I'm too old.
I look around and I see these young faces
and I think
I mean
I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh....
I pissed away all my money
believe it or not.
I chased off
anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately,
I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life
things get taken from you.
That's, that's part of life.
you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game
life or football
the margin for error is so small.
I mean
one half step too late or too early
you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast
and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game
every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know
when we add up all those inches
that's going to make the fucking difference
between WINNING and LOSING
between LIVING and DYING.

I'll tell you this
in any fight
it is the guy who is willing to die
who is going to win that inch.
And I know
if I am going to have any life anymore
it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch
because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.

Now I can't make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy
who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That's a team, gentlemen
and either we heal now, as a team,
or we will die as individuals.
That's football guys.
That's all it is.
Now, whattaya gonna do?

Happy Days ...

It's taken over a decade, but seven days after my number 2 daughter turned 18, freeing herself from the clutch of the Los Angeles Family Court system forever ... the court ruled that Bram, my 13 year old son, no longer had to have any contact with his biological father.

The boy is safe, and free, at long, long last.

More later, but all of you who've written over the years, offering advice or merely support -- many thanks.

Nusquam bonus venio ut Moran est inter, or so I hear. Considering the source, this is probably the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me.

I want to brag about the kids -- Alex is starting her second year at Cal Berkeley. Despite my income she got a partial scholarship this year because she performed so well last year; and she has two years of credits, after one year of college, because she performed so well on her AP classes in high school she got nearly a year's credits from it. Andrea is starting her last year of high school; last year she finished with a 4.3 GPA. Bram finished the seventh grade with straight A's. I don't really believe in grading on a curve -- the world doesn't care what trauma you had to get through to get the job done -- but certainly it speaks to the character of all them that they've done so well, and turned out so well, despite the death of their youngest brother and the presence of the monster in their lives.

I'm proud of you all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Michael Brand's character sketches ...

Some concept art for a Face of Night project J.D. Ray is trying to put together. I quite like it.

More here.

There's been a nibble of interest on All Possible Worlds, too, and The Hotel California is in front of an actual publisher at the moment. (I've had half a dozen people read the Hotel outline -- Steve Perry said people were going to absolutely love or hate it, and so far I'm 4 & 2 on love vs. hate, so I guess he was right.)


We watched the last episode of the BBC's Life On Mars about two hour ago. It's shockingly good. Not all the BBC work I've seen has been brilliant -- the recent Torchwood miniseries would have had to crawl up out of the gutter to get to bad -- but on balance, there's not much on American tv I'd trade for it. (OK, Dexter is maybe the best thing ever broadcast on television -- I'm not kidding. But I'd rather watch 35 year old episodes of The Rockford Files, or 50 year old episodes of Maverick, than anything else being broadcast over the airwaves in this day and age, in this country.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

It's my first memory of the world outside our little house in Pomona -- sitting on my father's lap and watching the Eagle land.

Who'd have believed, 40 years ago, that those Apollo missions were an aberration, and not the beginning of a new era of space exploration for the human race? With a fraction of the money being spent on military adventures and cosmetics, the human race could have had a permanent presence in space today. But we don't, and on this one, all ideologies have failed us. Private enterprise hasn't gotten us there (and maybe couldn't have); our government could have, and hasn't.

Today is a bittersweet day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Roughing It During the Martian Invasion

By Daniel Keys Moran And Jodi Moran

...this is a matter for thought, and for serious thought. And it is full of a grim suggestion; that we are not as important, perhaps, as we had all along supposed we were.
—Mark Twain, “Man’s Place in the Animal World.”

We were on the open sea, returning from Britain; and despite the odd shower of meteorites we had seen over the previous week, nothing in our prior experience had led us to anticipate Martians.

“By God,” the dwarf exclaimed, in an accent I had not heard him use before. “Would you look at that!”

I looked only at the dwarf, my eyebrows pulling together in a frown. We stood side by side at the forward bow of the Minnehaha; and we had been gazing, previously, at the dark smudge that would become New York City.

This is, I suppose, what comes of traveling in a ship called the Minnehaha. There had been nothing humorous about the trip and the only small thing I had encountered had been the dwarf.

“Ah.” The dwarf resumed his phony accent. “You missed it. It is gone.”

“You, sir, are a low-down dirty Cajun liar.”

The dwarf, who went by the name of Francois Maitrot, turned to me. “And you are not a liar?”

“I’m a storyteller.” I added quickly, lest the dwarf, a tricky fellow, tried to equate ‘storyteller’ with liar. “I get paid for my stories.”

Francois Maitroit’s eyes twinkled. “To tell the truth, Monsieur, I usually get paid for mine, too.”

When the dwarf said “the truth,” it came out as a flatly Louisiana Cajun “de trut,” as opposed to the lisping Parisian “ze tooth” he had been using over the course of our two week voyage from England.

I shook my head. “I’m baffled, Mr. Maitroit. Why would any man of worth choose to pass himself off as a bloody Frenchman?” I had, through much of the long ocean journey, suspected that the small man was some kind of con man—but by God, what was wrong with being an American con man?

“It’s the British.” The dwarf shrugged. “One makes far more money, dealing with the British, presenting oneself as a gentleman of noble French extraction, than one makes as a banjo-playing Louisianan dwarf—I’ve tried both routes.”

From behind us, Livy asked, “You play the banjo?”

It was typical of my wife that she had ignored every other aspect of the conversation she had overheard; Francois and I turned from the railing. “All Louisianans play the banjo,” Francois assured her.

“Of course they do.” Livy smiled at the small man.

I did not much approve of the friendship that had sprung up between the Cajun and my wife. Other men’s wives made friends with other men’s wives, but not Livy. We were traveling together, we Clemenses, Olivia and myself and our daughters, the lights of my life, Clara and Jean—and still Livy, in a spare two weeks, despite the attentions and company of our daughters, had arranged to take a liking to a four-foot tall lying card sharp of French descent.

Livy said to me, “Did you see that?”

“See what, my dear?”

“Well, it was like a spider, with very long legs, but made of metal, and it was skating across the top of the water.”

“No,” Francois answered for me. “He missed it. I told him to look, but he didn’t.”

“He’s a willful man,” Livy conceded. “Pity—it was skating quite well. Quite quickly.”

I sighed. “I did not see it, dear.”

“Oh, well.” She smiled at me. “It was headed toward New York. Perhaps we’ll get another chance to see it there.”


We did not get another chance to see it there; in fact we never got to New York. A week later we were in New Orleans, and—

But I am getting a large step ahead of myself. I should explain; it is what I do, and I fancy I am good at it—explaining, that is.

Doubtless you know what awaited us. In the waters off New York we were privileged, if that is the word, to witness the final battle between the United States Navy and the invading Martians. It was short, it was awful, it was to the point. When it was over one surviving battleship steamed away into deep water—and there the Martians did not follow. (We did not know at that time, of course, that they were Martians.) Once the fight was done, and only the sinking hulks of the American ships were left around them, the walkers turned back to shore—

The moment still grips me with a chill, when I think back upon it. We had thought them vessels, you see, sea-going constructs of one sort or another, though unfamiliar to us—

As they approached the shore, the walkers rose up out of the water—ten feet, twenty, forty . . . a hundred. They towered up over the skyline of New York City, and stood before it as though they owned it. Then one of the walkers swung back out toward us—

“About!” Captain Davis cried. “Hard about!”

The Minnehaha steamed south.


Aboard the Minnehaha a tremendous argument raged. We had gathered in the main dining room—many of the sailors, Captain Davis and his First Officer, and most of the male passengers.

“We are at war,” Francois said. “We must learn more of the situation, and to do that we must go ashore!”

Captain Davis seemed personally affronted by the whole affair—he commented that we ought to have stayed in England, where we would have been safe. Then talk turned to the issue of assigning guilt. “The Spanish, do you think?”

“No.” I lit myself a cigar, to give myself something to do—the Captain edged away slightly. I shook my head. “If you live long enough, Captain Davis, perhaps your taste in cigars will improve—why, these are forty cent cigars!” I drew on the cigar.

“Forty cents a barrel,” said Francois. “I think it’s the Germans—”

“The French,” I said around my cigar. “And they’re thirty-three cents a barrel, to come clean—that includes the barrel. I second the dwarf’s plan—let’s find a safe dock somewhere and go ashore, and find someone who knows something of these walkers.”

“Did you see the damage those walkers caused half a dozen of the Navy’s best? How can you ask me to take a commercial vessel into that? I can’t ask one of my men to go into that.”

“I’ll go,” I said. “Have some courage, man! Let’s go ashore and learn the facts.”

“Mr. Clemens, you’re sixty-five—”

“Sixty-four,” I said dryly, “and not in my dotage yet; and I daresay this dwarf has the courage to brave the shore with me—”

The First Officer, a strapping fellow name of Stephen Bradshaw, spoke up. “I’ll go ashore with them, Cap’n. We’ll get the lay of the land and report back promptly.”

“If we’re going to send anyone it ought to be some of the seamen—”

“No,” I said, shaking my head, “that will not do; for when it comes to learning the truth, and reporting it flawlessly, they have not had my training.”


Down around South Carolina we closed in on the shore again.

Walkers patrolled along the length of the beach. One of them turned toward us and strode out into the ocean, making a hooting noise that was eerie, indeed unearthly. Though we saw no weapon discharged toward us, the sea about us began to flash into steam, and then to bubble and simmer—

Captain Davis turned ship again and ran, with the boilers in the red.


At Florida we saw more of the Walkers, as we were now calling them, with the word audibly capitalized. One of the Walkers waded out into the water after us—and did not stop when its hood was at the level of the water. The hood dropped below the sea, and Captain Davis turned the ship and ran at full steam, a day and a night, into the Gulf of Mexico, before conceding we had outtrun the beast.


Two days later we made port at New Orleans, at the mouth of the great Mississippi river.

It was plain, entering the harbor, that things were not well; the mouth of the river was choked by some terrible red growth, a growth that gave off a vile and somewhat decayed odor; the air above the city was smoky with burning buildings. Captain Davis sent the other passengers back to their cabins—I, trading shamelessly on my fame and age, convinced the Captain to allow me to stay up top, though I sent Livy below with our daughters. Francois Maitroit simply took up position next to me, assuming, I imagine, that nobody would hustle him back to his cabin—no one did.

The harbor was empty of traffic; an astonishing sight. “I am of a mind to put back to sea,” Captain Davis muttered to me. “But we are low of fuel, and will soon be low on food.”

I watched the city. Buildings of wood were mostly burned down; the brick buildings were mostly still standing, though here and there the brick buildings looked as though they had been smashed to bits with cannon fire.

We saw no Walkers. The ship held motionless, at the mouth of the Mississippi, boilers stoked, for half a day before Captain Davis had the temerity to make shore.


Over Livy’s objections and the Captain’s dithering, Francois and Stephen Bradshaw and I went ashore in the French Quarter—in its original incarnation the Spanish part of the city. Bradshaw carried a rifle, and Francois a revolver; I declined a weapon.

“We’ll be back shortly,” I told the Captain. “If you see signs of trouble, cast off; you’re to take no chances with the lives of my wife and daughters.” The Captain assented—a little readily, I thought, but just as well, in the circumstances; I could not much object to a coward of a Captain, when that cowardice would protect my girls.

It was a hot day and sweltering, as sultry as only Louisiana gets at the height of summer, before we set foot on land. Our plans were not distinct; they involved finding someone still alive, and then questioning that person before he, or she, could be made otherwise by one of the Walkers.

The French Quarter stank. It always stinks, to give it its due justice, but this was a new stink, a different stink and highly improved; of decay and death, rather than the stench of perfume and rotting food. We walked down the center of the road. The wrecks of carriages were scattered here and there; the decaying bodies of dead horses were still yoked to a couple of them. The horses looked as though they had been burned—

“Fire,” said Francois. “Fire everywhere. All the wood has burned, the brick is scorched and in some places melted—the city has been attacked by fire.”

“The Germans,” I conceded finally, “I think you are right. Not that the French would be above this; it is precisely the sort of crime those malignant little soldiers delight in; but the science behind this—the skill—it reeks of German engineering.” We neared a cross street, and I slowed as we entered the intersection. For the first time we saw human corpses—fresh ones, dead no more than a day or so. Two adult men lay sprawled in the center of the intersection, one face down, the other face up. Both had been burned hideously—

The motion caught my eye, off to the north, and I turned to look.

It was the first Walker—the first Martian war machine, as we shortly learned—that we had seen up close. It walked on three metallic legs, and it was a hundred feet tall, with a hood-shaped platter atop it. It was a mile or more distant, I reckoned, and even at that distance looked huge. It hesitated briefly, then seemed to catch sight of us and turned swiftly and began lumbering down the street toward us at an amazing speed, faster than land-bound creature I had ever seen—

It gave me an energy that would have astounded and delighted me, under other circumstances; it is impressive, the things a man can do with appropriate encouragement, even an old man such as myself.

We ran like the wind.


The dwarf ran remarkably well; he kept up with me easily enough. We ran south, and then cut east, out of the monster’s immediate line of sight, looking for a place to hide; I knew that Francois and I could not possibly outrun that monstrosity; and Bradshaw was no longer an issue.

Bradshaw had left us, back at the intersection where we had first sighted the Walker; taken up his stance, and aimed his rifle at the approaching Walker. I glanced back over my shoulder, slowed to a halt and yelled, “Bradshaw! Don’t be—”

Something reached out and touched Stephen Bradshaw. It tore him apart and his blood sprayed twenty feet to splatter against my coat. In retrospect, sitting in the cellar with time to think about it, the moment seemed dim and blurred—the First Officer coming apart like a mouse struck by the edge of a hoe. Even today, all these years later, I can but barely remember the next few moments —— I could hear the clang of the monster’s metal feet moving down the cross-street toward us, could see the flames dancing over what was left of Stephen Bradshaw, could smell Bradshaw’s blood where it had spattered me—

“Here! In here!” Hands grabbed me and pulled us down into darkness.


In the darkness of the cellar I said, “Damn fool.” I was so shaken I could not think up anything witty to say, could not even manage a witticism stolen from someone else. I have seen men die before, some quantity, but not like that, not torn apart by an invisible beam.

“Shhhh!”—came a fierce whisper in my ear. “Not a sound until it passes!” In the abrupt stillness I heard the clinking steps of the Walker—louder and louder, until each step sounded like sledgehammer blows against the surface of the cobbled city street. There came a huge sound then, an explosion that rocked the cellar and sent dust sifting down from the cellar’s ceiling. An Irish-sounding voice whispered from somewhere off to my right, “Blew up the house next door, I bet,” followed by the sound of flesh smacking flesh, and another “Shhhh!”

Some interminable time later, a candle was lit. I looked about the cellar and found myself in the company of a well-dressed Negro; a barrel of a man of perhaps fifty, Irish at a guess; a boy I guessed to be that man’s son, and the source of the earlier whisper; and a beautiful dark-haired girl dressed in what I took to be Gypsy clothing.

A motley lot—I was extraordinarily grateful that I had left Livy aboard the Minnehaha—I know her, having been married all those long decades, and though she is a good woman, she would have taken to these people.

In short order the crowd had filled me in on the events of the last several weeks. The Gypsy girl started off. “First they came shooting out of the sky, crashing to the ground—one of them smashed the old St. Louis Hotel, and killed everyone in it, including a priest and a gray mare. Martians, we were told, not long after that. Then they opened up and got up on their legs and started killing people. They had set fire to the remains of the hotel, and the firemen came to put out the fire; they slaughtered the firemen first—”

“Dreadful!” I exclaimed.

“Then the police came and they slaughtered the police.”

“Indeed, indeed.”

“Then the Army came and they slaughtered the soldiers—”

“I see a drift here,” I said, “a trend.”

“Then the city government collapsed—”

“Fled,” said the Irish boy—Paddy, a redhead of about fifteen.

The elderly Negro—well, about my age, which is elderly, in most men, those lacking my energy and charm—I do not mean to sound boastful, but my reputation on these counts is well known—this Negro said with a pronounced and attractive Southern accent, “Gone, sir, the police, the soldiers, dead or gone; indeed, most of the city has fled the city; I doubt there are five hundred humans left alive in all of New Orleans.”

“The psychic pinhead,” the gypsy girl said in a profound voice, “predicted this. Back in early 1894.”

I glanced at her sourly. “What psychic pinhead?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter.” The girl waved an arm airily. “She’s dead. Died in late ’94.”

Francois and I exchanged a look—we each recognized a liar when we were speaking to one.

“This pinhead,” Francois asked. “Was she a Gypsy?”

“Oh, no, no, indeed not, Gypsies don’t have pinheaded children. We’re all especially good-looking.”

I declined to comment on that—it was true enough, in this young lady’s case; though I had known more than one ugly Gypsy, over the years. “So in 1894, this pinhead predicted that metallic monsters would take over the world at the turn of the century?”

“Well, no, she said Martians would invade at the turn of the century. The metallic monsters won’t really take over for another few decades. And they’ll come from Detroit, not Mars.”

“They’ll be rollers, not walkers.” That was Paddy again.

“I told him that,” the Gypsy girl informed us.

“Talia thinks she’s the source of all knowledge.” Paddy sneered at the girl—she was probably only a few years older than Paddy, but was acting as if she were in charge of the whole cellar.

I tried valiantly to drag the conversation back on track. “Have you any kind of plan to deal with these beasts? Or are we merely hiding out until we’re found and killed?”

“Don’t be silly, man.” The Irish father, one Mister Connor Turley, offered me a fierce look, augmented by a grandly fierce mustache—he would never have my hair or my brow, but one had to admire the facial hair. “This cellar is a hotbed of resistance,” Mr. Turley continued. “We’ve brought down three of the devils already. In Ireland I fought the English; and here in this grand city of New Orleans, I’ll fight the Martians to the death.”

As the denizens of the cellar took a moment to appreciate this declaration, Paddy added, “Their death, he means”—evidently he didn’t want anyone to think his father was contemplating either martyrhood or defeat.

“I hate the English,” Mr. Turley added.

“They’re a cheap lot,” Francois concurred.

“I despise the French,” I offered, and added, for Francois’s benefit, “Though Americans of French descent are rarely scoundrels. It’s principally a cultural villainy.” In another effort to stay on course, and to return to Livy and my daughters before some Martian fire-beamed them out of existence, I asked, “How exactly did you bring three of them down?”

“Well,” said Paddy, “the first one we had help with—this Englishman, Christopher, decent sort for an English, he come up with the idea of digging a pit to catch one of them—then we painted a man and a horse, both of them, bright green, and when the Walker caught sight of him, off it went after him and ran across the hole we dug and fell in.”

“And then a dozen more Walkers come along and slaughtered everyone was involved with that,” said the father. “We just barely got away.”

“Since then,” said the elderly Negro, in his deep, distinguished voice, “we’ve been using dynamite buried at the intersections, set off by percussion caps when the Walkers step on them—New Orleans is a dangerous place for tourists.”

I eyed him. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced yet, sir—though you sound a native of these parts, unlike the others.”

“Not quite—I was born a slave in the land of Georgia. Freed by Mr. Lincoln and given a job in the offices of this fine city.”

“You’re a clerk,” I guessed, from the man’s suit.

“I am a civil servant—Peter Grayson, at your service.” The man’s dark eyes gazed at me neutrally. “And you, sir, are Mark Twain.”

“Samuel Clemens.” I held out his hand and after a moment the other man took it. “And my companion is Francois Maitroit. We arrived by boat this morning, having crossed the Atlantic, and traveled down the coast and around Florida. Aboard the Minnehaha.”

“Ah.” Grayson smiled slightly. “Thus explaining the amusing small man.”

“There’s fewer than there was,” said Connor Turley, speaking swiftly to cut off Francois’s response. “Of the Martians, I mean. Must be some others been knocking them down as well—there was dozens of them roaming the city at one point, and now there’s only just the few.”

“I think they’re sick,” said Talia. “We’ve seen a couple staggering around, shooting at nothing—”

Francois glowered at Grayson, still smarting from the man’s joke—he made a small gesture with the revolver. “I’m liable to shoot at something.”

“I think,” I said quickly, “we should go back to the ship.”

“No! If—”

“No! We—”

“No!” said Grayson. “Not until dark, sir. Not until dark.”


We waited in the cellar until dark fell.

I sat quietly for the most part, sick with worry—to be sure, I had faith in Captain Davis’s cowardice, but not his competence; if one of the Martians attacked, who knew if the man would manage to get under steam in time? The Minnehaha had a pair of Gatling guns, and rifles and revolvers, but she was hardly a military ship, and I knew she wouldn’t last long in a duel with one of the Walkers.

Only Francois managed to distract me from his worrying. He took me off in a corner and spoke in a low voice:

“The Walkers aren’t the Martians themselves,” Francois said. “So Paddy tells me—the Martians are inside them; the Walkers are just transportation.”

“Of course,” I said, “plainly the Walkers are mechanisms. So?”

“So,” said Francois persuasively, “the Martians are ugly. Terribly, terribly ugly—tentacles and such—”

“Pretty bad.”

“—green skin—”


Francois hesitated. “So Paddy tells me.”

“He’s Irish,” I warned Francois. “They’re known to improve their statistics some.”

“I adjusted for that—he says Martians are more frightening than a Christian Scientist working his theology—”

“I’ve had the honor of that sight—Paddy is wrong.”

“—and uglier than a Capitalist.”

“It seems extreme,” I admitted. “Uglier than ‘Jo-Jo The Dog-Faced Boy;’ that sounds plausible, that sounds about right. You could put in on a poster. But uglier than a Capitalist . . . there would be skepticism, Francois, healthy skepticism.”

“You know what we need?” demanded Francois. “Live specimens. If they are falling sick, if the invasion is failing—well, there’s opportunity here, if we grab it.”

“Grab a Martian, you mean. For display?” I asked doubtfully. “I doubt it would pay, Francois. We might make a million, selling it to Barnam and Bailey perhaps, and that assumes no one else has had any luck getting himself a Martian to show, and that some circus, somewhere, will pay us what a Martian is worth.” I shook his head. “The low level which commercial morality has reached in America is deplorable. We have humble God fearing Christian men among us who will stoop to do things for a million dollars that they ought not to be willing to do for less than two millions. In fact—”

“No,” hissed Francois, cutting me off, keeping his own voice low so that we would not be overheard. “Not one Martian for display—two Martians . . . a breeding pair.” Even in the dimness of the candle-lit cellar, I could detect the gleam in Francois’s eyes. “A breeding pair.”

I stared at him, a slow smile appearing below my mustache. A dwarf after my own heart, I thought.


I could not help thinking that it sounded like the setup for a joke, probably a poor one—what do you get when a Negro, two Irish, a Gypsy, a dwarf, and a world-famous writer go out for a nighttime stroll?

We did not stroll, in fact. We scurried. From place to place, cover to cover. My suit, my very good white suit, had been darkened with coal dust, and my long white hair blackened also. We made our way back to the docks without encountering another Martian, and my heart leapt at the sight of the Minnehaha, apparently unharmed, still tied up at the dock—

We ran down the dock, and arrived at the ship—I was out of breath from all the running and hiding, and had had about enough of it.

Only Captain Davis was up top when we arrived—the ship was darkened.

“Cast off!” I called as we crossed the boarding planks. “Cast off!”

Captain Davis sat on one of the deck chairs—he leaned forward. “Mr. Clem—Clem—Twain? Is that you, Twain?”

“Cast off, man! We’re back!”

Davis shook his head gloomily, settling back into his chair. “I can’t, sir. Can’t do it, can’t.”

I could tell from the sound of the man’s speech that he was roaring drunk, four or maybe five sheets to the wind. I looked about—

“Where are the passengers? Where are the crew?”

“Oh, the passagers,” said Davis dismissively. “They’re b’low, they’re alive, more or less.” He raised a small flask to his lips, drank from it. “The crew, now, that’s another story. Another story—”

“Where are they?”

“They fled!—the dogs.”

“You impugn the dogs”—I said automatically—“noble creatures, dogs—and perhaps the men, too. To where did they flee?”

“They headed off ’long the coast, sir. For Alabama. They took the boats.”

“You do impugn them,” I said severely. “Their flaw was merely one of judgment, not character—they assumed Alabama was preferable to death. Promptly they learn of their mistake, they’ll be back. In the meantime, we must sober you up, we’ve a project—”


By just the next day it was plain that the Martians had indeed fallen sick. The Walkers were seen less frequently—late that afternoon one of them staggered out onto the Mississippi, waded a ways into it, and then fell, and apparently drowned; at least it sank beneath the water and did not surface again.

The crew, having learned the truth about Alabama, returned to face the Martians the following day. Captain Davis seemed more relieved than angry, at the sight of them returning in the lifeboats. He lined them up for a speech:

“You have abandoned ship once or twice before this, most of you men. It is all right—up to now. I would have done it myself in my common-seaman days, I reckon, if I’d returned to the States to find Martians invading and the cities in flames. Now then, can you stand up to the facts? Are we rational men, manly men, men who can stand up and face hard luck and a big difficulty that has been brought about by nobody’s fault, and say live or die, survive or perish, we are in for it, for good or bad, and we’ll stand by the ship if she goes to Hell!”

The men gave up a tolerably decent cheer then, and the Captain seemed to gain a little stature again with that; and added, “And there’s a profit, too, men, Mr. Clemens swears it—”

There was a larger cheer at that.


The next morning we went out and captured a Walker.

That night was spent in planning—plotting and considering and devising, laying out tactics and strategies; schemes were proposed and modified and perfected, resources counted and estimated—no group of soldiers had ever gone about taking a city with more clarity of purpose than I and Francois and the Captain and Peter Grayson and the two Irishmen and the Gypsy woman went about planning for the capture and care of a Martian breeding pair. We had plenty of dynamite, we had the ship’s Gatling guns; we had twenty stout seamen who had been chastised by their failures in Alabama and were prepared to follow orders once more. The plans evolved and developed until it was clear that there were two plans with good support behind them; mine, which I supported, and Francois’s plan, which everyone else supported. I proposed they dig a pit, and lead a Walker over it—with a green man aboard a green horse, as the Englishman Christopher had done earlier; I conceded I was not above appropriating someone else’s good idea, though perhaps for variety’s sake it would be better to paint the man, or the horse, or both, red or blue rather than green, the Martians having seen a green horse at this point. Francois accused me of plagiarism and suggested that we try lassoing one of the Walkers, using one of the Minnehaha’s two anchor-chains—how the lasso was to be thrown or made tight about the Walker was a minor detail, and not worked out yet. Finally Peter Grayson proposed we put the matter to a vote, and I pointed out that it was nearly daylight, and we had lost an entire night’s pit digging; it wasn’t safe to go digging in the daytime, I said severely, it wasn’t fair to the seamen, brave fellows if a little unclear on their geography, to force them out to do hard manual labor on a sweltering Louisiana summer day—and with the threat of immolation from fire-beams on top of that, I added as it occurred to me.

The sky to the east was lightening with the first hint of morning when Francois suggested we put it to a vote. I lit a cigar to gain time—I knew a losing hand when I saw one; certainly the seamen weren’t going to vote in favor of pit digging—

About twenty minutes after dawn a Walker fell over at the West End, not far from Lake Pontchartrain.


By mid-afternoon, scouring the city, we had found three fallen Walkers. There appeared to be none still moving. Whatever illness had struck them down had done likewise to the red weed that had so choked the Mississippi; the river was cleansing itself; clumps of the red weed were being torn free and deposited, as the river has always cleansed itself of that which it is not pleased with, in the the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

By evening we had cleared out a hotel on the banks of the Mississippi, and had eight living Martians behind bars—the sailors pulled them from their fallen Walkers, picked them up in canvass lifts, and transported them to the hotel in a sailor-drawn carriage, there being no horses alive that we had yet found.

It was my first sight of the Martians themselves—a thing no human who saw them, while they were still alive, is likely to forget. They were as ugly as their reputations—ugly as a Capitalist, and a sight uglier than Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy had ever been. They have been described frequently enough since then, by a variety of word scribblers; I shall not waste time on it here, except in brief; grayish-green, with two sets of tentacles beneath the mouth; each of them was somewhat larger than a man.

I will mention their eyes at somewhat greater length. They were large and expressive; they seemed somehow both mournful and calculating, as though figuring the probabilities on their situation. They were not human eyes, but there was no doubt in me that they were the eyes of sapient creatures, of creatures as intelligent as any man, including perhaps myself. When I met the eyes of the first of our captured Martians, I had the sense that I was meeting the gaze of a being wiser, and older, and colder, than any Bishop who had ever lived.

Two of the sailors returned from their searching, near evening, with a story that caused us some concern. They claimed to have seen a pair of Walkers, their walking-legs bent double beneath them, kneeling at the edge of the Mississippi; and a vessel of some sort, half-submerged beneath the river’s flow, taking on half a dozen Martians, or more, all apparently healthy—they were not specific on this subject, due to the difficulty they had had, trying to observe while fleeing in the other direction.


By nightfall we had seven living Martians behind bars—by midnight it was down to six.

“It’s the gravity killing them,” Francois insisted. “I’ve read on this subject, Clemens, I tell you it’s the gravity. Their world is colder than ours, and lighter.”

I shook his head. “I grant you, the heat’s not fit for man or Martian—but there’s no electricity, Francois; I doubt there’s a working ice-maker within a hundred miles of here.”

“We could put one of the Martians in the river,” Francois suggested. “Perhaps it would float, relieving the weight upon it?”

It drowned. We were down to five.


Two more died the following day. It left us with three.


I spent that night with the Martians.

The three of them looked listless.

They had trouble moving, and nothing I had arranged for them seemed to suit their appetites—they hadn’t touched the beef, or the greens, or the beer, or the fruits or vegetables or eggs. I suspected that at least one of them had drunk some of the water—I’d drowsed, sitting in the padded chair the sailors had brought from the ship, and when I awoke, the water bowl was lower than it had been.

Watching them, I knew I had been a fool to think they could be bred; my optimism had gotten the better of me. I had no more idea if any two of them could make up a breeding pair than I’d have had dealing with snails, or sharks. “For all we know,” I told Francois when Francois came by, near three that morning, “they are all three men, or women, or another sex entirely; perhaps they reproduce by division, or require ten mates—”

Francois nodded, and seated himself in the chair beside mine. We sat in a companionable silence, in the cool night air, watching the cage the three Martians had been imprisoned in. The Martians stirred occasionally, moving slowly and with evident pain.

“The sailors have ranged up the river a ways,” Francois said at length. “They’ve found a steamship, run aground about six miles upriver. It’s damaged some—”

It perked my interest. “Badly?”

“The texas deck is scarred by that weapon, they say, that heat beam, but otherwise it looks river-worthy.” Francois looked at me sideways. “That bunch of Martians that headed upriver, Sam, they were healthy. So the men said.”

“They did say that.” I withdrew a cigar from its case, offered it to Francois—the small man shuddered and refused politely. I lit it slowly, turning it for a smooth draw. I had the distinct impression that the largest of the three Martians was watching me.

“It seems a long way to come, to die in a cage,” said Francois.

I found myself gazing into the eyes of the large Martian, watching it as it died. “I would not feel too sorry for them—they are God’s creatures, no doubt, as we are; and therefore doomed and without hope. If there is a Hell, and if they have the Moral Sense humans are blessed with, they will doubtless go there for their sins here on the Earth; if there is no Hell, then death is nothing but release, and they go into a great dark.” I shrugged. “Hardly a thing to fear.”

The large Martian crept forward a bit, and drank from the water bowl as I watched.

“Man is the Reasoning Animal,” I said. “Such is the claim—I find it open to dispute, though. Any cursory reading of history will show that he is the Unreasoning Animal. It seems plain to me that whatever Man is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. These poor monsters had no chance—if the gravity and heat and disease had not killed them, we would have done it ourselves, I think.”

“A river-boat, Sam,” the dwarf said persuasively. “An empty river-boat.”

“Fifty-five or -six years ago,” I said softly, “it was my greatest ambition, as it was of all the boys in my village, to travel down the Mississippi—the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, to escape Hannibal and ride down that miles-wide ribbon of water to the sea, to New Orleans.”

“I’ve read your work,” said Francois. “Most of it, I think, at one time or another.”

I took a good drag, letting the smoke settle in my lungs. I spoke as he exhaled, and watched as the Martian drank again. “I expect they’ll be dead before morning.”

“I expect,” said Francois, not taking his eyes from me.

I turned to examine him. “You want to go up the river.”

“Yes, yes, I do,” he said in that low, intense voice. “Let’s take the guns from the Minnehaha, fix whatever’s wrong with that riverboat the men found, and go after the Martians who fled. For profit, for revenge—”

“The river is beautiful in the summer,” I said. “It’s harder going upriver than down, though; you must hug the banks to avoid the current. You’d need a pilot, a good one, navigating those shallows, and I confess, I’m a bit rusty.” I let the smoke trickle through my nostrils—though I did not like to confess it, the idea appealed to me; there was a symmetry in it. That young boy had wanted to go down the river, had wanted it more than anything; and with the world as it was, unsettled and dangerous, and I an old man, I might never have another chance to navigate its waters—

“I’ll do it,” I said finally. “Let’s follow them up the river.”


The last Martian died just after dawn.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Penguin Wins

I've been running Ubuntu for a little over a year now. I've gone through two major upgrades, from 7.04 to 8.04 to 9.04; and all in all, it's worked.

7.04 had bad wireless problems; 8.04 was much better; and 9.04 is generally functional, though not up to Windows standards yet. Multiple display support has had similar sorts of issues; in the three versions of Ubuntu I've used it's gone from awful to OK. OpenOffice -- at least the word processor and spreadsheet portions -- is a useable replacement for Microsoft Office (to the point where it's now installed on all of our Windows machines as well, and we've uninstalled Microsoft Office and lost the install disks.) OpenOffice is much better than Office when you contrast it to the most recent version of Office, the ribbon bar complete interface revamp, which is an absolute abomination, new for the sake of new. (Digression: no, it's not really new for the sake of new, it's new for the same reason IBM introduced the microchannel bus architecture twenty years ago -- they saw the ISA interface getting away from them and they wanted to move everyone to something proprietary. It didn't work for them and the ribbon interface isn't going to work for Microsoft for the same reason.)

GIMP isn't Photoshop, but it's functional, and free, and you can tweak it to resemble Photoshop.

XNView isn't ACDSee -- it's probably better. (Certainly better than the recent versions. It's available for Windows, too. FastStone is a Windows only image viewer, but it's also free and better than recent versions of ACDsee.)

VLC is the only media player I bother with any more. It's almost infinitely better than anything Microsoft has ever shipped, and it's available on Linux and Windows (and a bunch of other platforms.) As recently as a year ago it had difficulty playing windows media files on Linux -- you had to hunt for libraries and install them manually -- but that's resolved. It plays .wmv files beautifully.

There's nothing quite up to iTunes standards on Linux, and I've tried them all in recent years. I finally settled on Rhythmbox, but it's a pale imitation.

There's no open source 3D software that's as good as my 8 year old copy of 3D Studio Max. Blender looks interesting but it's not a commercial grade tool. (There are a variety of commercial tools available for Linux, though, and in this area that's probably sufficient. 3D Studio Max isn't available on Linux, but Cinema 4D is, Massive is, Maya is ... while the situation is no better than that on Windows, it's not a lot worse, either.)

The Bash shell is certainly vastly better than the Windows CMD prompt, but not in the ballpark of Windows Powershell. (Howls of outrage from the Linux community -- I'm willing to be educated here. But Powershell is an absolutely remarkable piece of technology.)

At least in dealing with NTFS, rsync is much slower than XXCOPY, the freeware utility I use under Windows to synchronize filesystems.

There's no newsreader for Linux that's remotely comparable with Forte Agent.


Linux started out as an 80% solution -- nothing wrong with that, and in in-house software development you're better off living with the 80/20 principle: you may have time to code the 20% that your users absolutely require (and which provides the 80% of the functionality they'll actually use), but the chance that you'll ever have time and staff to code the remaining 80% is usually poor. But individual computing is about the 100% experience -- if one in five people can't use a given platform, or one in 5 apps that an individual wants to use are unavailable, that platform is never going to be viable.

Ubuntu, for my purposes, is a 90% solution at this point. The underlying OS, as of Ubuntu Version 9.04, is superior to Windows Vista and probably a wash with Windows 7. It has sound issues, driver issues, multi-monitor issues, and yes, still has wireless issues ... but they're all minor by comparison with where they were. On the upside, it has infinitely easier installation and upgrades, and there's nothing on Windows that compares to the ease of use of the Linux respositories. (Though if the Linux crowd would get their shit together and settle on a single installation model, the rising tide would lift all boats. The deb/rpm/whatever split is stupidly counterproductive.)

About half the computers in our house (plus the media server) run Linux at the moment; it would probably be all of them if I didn't work with Windows software for a living. The value proposition is hard to beat, particularly for older machines -- reinstalling Windows on a notebook that never came with the Windows disks, once it's crashed, is more trouble than it's worth: I can install Ubuntu off a usb key. (Technically you can do the same with Windows XP, if you want to spend more hours of your life than it's worth to build a custom install key, and you're highly technically literate. I spent about 12 hours recently doing this for a netbook -- no optical media available -- that crashed with several days unbacked-up work on it. It was worth the 12 hours to recover the 30 hours of work, but it was still deeply annoying.)

The value proposition is pretty straightforward:

Windows XP ~ $100 vs. Ubuntu 9.04 free. A wash on functionality. Winner Ubuntu.

Photoshop ~ $670 at Newegg vs GIMP free. Photoshop is better and if you need it you need it; but if you don't, GIMP is the choice. A wash except for pros.

Microsoft Office $360 at Newegg vs. OpenOffice free. Big win for the OpenSource camp.

The various little utilities are mostly free on both Windows and Linux today, so we'll call that a wash, except that I wish iTunes was available for Linux.

$1130 for the Microsoft stack; free for the Linux stack.

This is the home user, student argument; it gets more complex for business people. But at our house we're moving toward Linux, and away from Microsoft, and I don't expect that to reverse any time soon.


So Google is now pushing both the Android and Chrome OS. Most companies would be content to fail at a single OS at a time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Convergence (or, the device I want ...)

It's been, OK, more years than any of us want to think about since I first wrote about Trent walking around with a handheld hooked up to the internet through radio packets. Over the years bits and pieces of that device have become real -- I had a nice letter many years back from a Compaq engineer who wrote that his design for the iPaq had been based in large part on my description of a handheld.

Currently, Apple is out front in the handheld market. The iPhone is a superb piece of technology, and while it doesn't do everything I want, it does a lot of the things I want, and does them somewhere between acceptably and well. But there's an opportunity here for device convergance -- if some company like Microsoft or Dell or even Sony or Nintendo were serious about absolutely owning the convergent device, here's what they need to build.

The device I want has roughly the same physical form factor as an iPhone, though there's no reason the screen can't be a little larger -- the iPhone masks off both the top and bottom of the phone with black bars. I want the entire surface of the phone to be a touchscreen. It needs a higher resolution screen than the iPhone, something in 16:9 format -- 640 by 360, say, or 800x450, as compared to the 480x320 screen the iPhone currently sports.

Next, of course, it needs to work as a phone, with high speed internet access. It needs a good enough microphone and speakers that it can be used as a speakerphone for conference calls. It needs bluetooth and high speed WiFi.

It needs to work as a computing device. This means multi-tasking built in, as in the Palm Pre, and probably some flavor of Linux-like OS. It means the ability to manage other devices -- the ability to work as a USB master, not just as a slave. I want to plug my USB hub into it and have my keyboard and mouse and hard drives and MIDI keyboard and Wacom tablet available.

I want a fast CPU, lots of storage, and lots of RAM and I want it all to go to sleep when I'm not using it. I shouldn't have to power up the 60 Gigs of storage I'm not using to get at the 2 Gigs I am using at the moment. I want a multi-core processor, with the cores turning themselves off when not in use.

I want to use standard peripherals -- cheap, standardized memory cards, power chargers, and spare batteries.

I want a wireless router built into it, so that I can use the connection to provide internet service to people or devices around me if I choose.

I want a video processor to offload 3D processing, for movies and games. I want a standard headphone jack. I want AM, FM, and HD radio.

The handheld needs a variety of cradles that it can be slid into. One cradle would be a games controller -- something like the Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable -- with the various buttons that the kids know how to use to play those games they like. (Take a look at a PSP and you can see what I'm talking about; a PSP is a set of controls wrapped around a device about the same size as an iPhone screen.)

It should work as a still and video camera -- a good one. The controls can be entirely software based, but the camera should be able to take pictures pointed either outward, or inward. Possibly the camera itself can be mounted on a swivel (within the body of the device) to permit this. This way, when used as a camera, you can see on the screen the picture you're about to take; when used for video conferencing, you can see the image you're sending out. (A potential alternative to a rotating lense is to put lcd panels on both sides of the handheld and use a smaller and cheaper panel as the viewfinder for photographs and video.)

A camera cradle would offer improvements to the camera functions and would give you the ability to mount a flash and improved 35mm optics on the device (hello, depth of field) ... and perhaps more importantly, to mount the device itself on a tripod. The camera cradle would also have a port for microphone-in so that quality audio can be recorded on the device.

The device should be able to record 720 or 1080P video to the memory card, in 24 or 30 frames per second.

It should offer a simple binocular function that permits me to zoom in on things easily to look at them. It should offer functional night vision -- not just light enhancement, but infrared stepup.

The next cradle I want is a simple waterproof enclosure. I want to read e-books in the tub. I've dropped a half dozen books in the tub over the years, or had them get wet on the bathroom floor -- that's unfortunate for a book, but a disaster for my handheld. The enclosure should also permit people to use the camera/video functions, for people to take photos when surfing, scuba diving, etc.

I want a projector. A projector cradle is the likely way to do this in Version 1.0, but by version 2.0 I want a little projector built in. Maybe the projector can double as the flash for the still camera. (There's a little gadget floating around out there that projects a keyboard on a flat surface, and then watches your fingers when you try to type on it. I'm skeptical, but they should include this anyway, just in case.) Also I want a flashlight -- not the "light up the screen" thing the current iPhone does, but a real little light (the projector, again) that will illuminate a room clearly.

I want a scanner built in -- the camera doing double duty, but I want to reliably be able to point the camera at a page of text and have it OCR the text and store it.

I want it to replace all my remote controls. I want it to open the door to my car and start the engine.

I want it tied into my bank and I want it to replace my credit cards. When I'm paying a bill, I put my thumb on the optical sensor (the camera, again) and wave my handheld in the general direction of the store's payment device. And we're done without having to wait for our stoned or stupid waiter to try to figure out the bill and bring it to us and wander away with my credit card and steal the numbers off it while he's out of sight.

I want it to recognize the faces of the people who are allowed to pick it up. If someone not on the authorized list picks it up I want it to yell for help and/or call 911. (Maybe 811 ... the "lost phone" registry: "Help! Someone I don't know has picked me up! I'm at these coordinates!")

I want a large-form tablet as well. I don't need multiple form factor versions of my handheld; I just need a cradle that has a big pressure-sensitive screen on it for when I want to lie in bed and paint.

I can't be missing phone calls. When someone calls me, the device stops whatever it's doing, and at my voice command either answers on speakerphone, or puts the caller on hold with the message that I'll be with them in a moment while I snap the device out of the cradle it's in and take the call privately.

I want the built-in GPS to give me real-time ground traffic control information. I also want it to talk to my radar detector and to share that data with everyone else using my brand handheld, so that when people's radar detectors start going off right before the 3rd offramp on the 405 after the 101, I hear about it ten miles back rather than when my radar detector goes off.

I want the GPS in my car to tell everyone where I am and how fast I'm going, and to tell me where everyone else is and how fast they're going, so that the same service that alerts me about the speed trap on the 405 can tell me, "Take Sepulveda. No, seriously, trust me on this one. Turn right at Mulholland and take Stone Canyon Road over to Kester and you'll be home 20 minutes faster. About twenty cars ahead of you using this service failed to do that, and they're stuck now."

None of this is impossible, though much of it is at the edge of the possible. But so were modern phones, just a few years ago. (What? A phone and an MP3 player and a camera and a little tv all in one device?!) At some point, someone is going to build a close approximation of the device I'm describing ... even money on Apple. Done correctly, it'll be a complete ecosystem and will simply own the handheld form factor.


Ran across an old file with business ideas in it recently -- two of them struck me as interesting, looking back. One was a television where the screen was built with fiber optics -- 20+ years ago, it wasn't a bad idea. Picture tubes monitors displaying 800x600 were state of the art, back then; that's a mere 480,000 pixels. Pixels were also, except in trinitron screens, circular and didn't actually cover the entire surface area; and in all televisions the pixels were created by grouping 3 separate light sources, RGB, with varying degrees of brightness. I sketched out a design for a television using a single very bright white light, along with red, blue, and green filters applied in succession at the base of each length of optic fiber to apply the correct color to each pixel; the pixels themselves would have been actual squares, covering the entire surface of the screen much as LCD screens do today.

It's not practical today -- and might not have been then -- a 1080P screen has over two million pixels. That's a lot of optic fiber. But twenty years ago it's not clear to me it might not have been workable, if probably a niche product.

The other one I like, looking back at it, was the use of film as a data storage medium. This one I'm a little more confident about -- I see no real reason it couldn't have been used as a data archival tool, anyway. The technology has certainly existed long enough. Film is an analog medium but a single frame of 35 mm film still has somewhere between 4 and 20 million measurable pixels, depending on a variety of factors. (Better film, better optics, more pixels, short form.) And each pixel has a realistic color depth of something in the range of 36 bits, again depending on a variety of factors. Taking conservative numbers, though, 4 million pixels at 24 bit color depth, you get 3 bytes per pixel x 4 million, or 12 million bytes of storage, or 1.5MB per frame of 35 millimeter film. Spool that through a film printer, and you could certainly get hundreds of megabytes of usable storage even using 1980s technology. I'm a little surprised no one ever did.

Today, with holographic storage around the corner, the idea is quaint. If you could actually print an 8-1/2x11 sheet of acetate as 1200 dpi, with 32 bit color, and reliably read it back, you'd have a write-once medium of 93.5 square inches, with each square inch having 1.4 million pixels, for a total raw pixel count per page of 134 million pixels. At four bytes per pixel (optimistic, I suspect) you'd have a storage medium capable of about 67 megabytes per page. You can fiddle with these numbers to suit yourself -- if you can only reliably get 8 bit color, that's about 17 megabytes per page. If you can get 4000 dpi, you get a page with one and a half billion pixels, and a storage capacity of six billion bytes --- roughly the storage capacity of a DVD.

One possible benefit might be in speed -- I can imagine a scanner scanning 6 GB of data much faster than a single read head can read a DVD. But that's the only real real benefit that comes to mind with modern technology. The next generation of holographic storage is coming in at around 500GB on a single disc -- I don't see any traditional film-based technology likely to challenge that. But someone (me, maybe) probably missed out on an interesting startup, back in 1987.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


A friend sent me a bunch of youtube links to his favorite songs recently -- it made me curious how many of my favorite tracks were on youtube. So I went looking.

In most cases you probably don't want to watch the video. Watching the First Class "Beach Baby" video recently was one of those mistakes that's likely to haunt me for a while -- the "boy next door/The sun-tanned crew-cut all-american male" is, it turns out, a goofy looking guy with a Monkees haircut. It's not often I wish someone looked like Mike Love, American Asshole, but in this case it would have been an improvement.

The top 10 were mostly there. I'll link in the rest another day (some are linked already.) Where studio versions aren't available I'll link in an alternate version if it's of close quality.

Thunder Road (Live 75-85) ~~ Bruce Springsteen

Will You Love Me Tomorrow ~~ Shirelles

Don't Worry Baby ~~ The Beach Boys

The Heart Of The Matter ~~ Don Henley (alt live version, but really nice)

O-o-h Child ~~ Five Stairsteps

Dreams ~~ Fleetwood Mac (Warner Music Group apparently don't want this, or much of anything else, on Youtube. This was the closest I could find -- Stevie is a babe, but the song is not the best version. They also took down the copy of "Silver Spring" I linked in on this blog a while back, the live version from "The Dance." A lot of what's missing below is WMG. Update: Apparently some WMG is available on Myspace. I found "Silver Spring" there.)

Here's another version of Dreams, from "The Dance." Still not great, but maybe better than the above. I'm not sure there's ever been a great live version of this.

Watching The Wheels ~~ John Lennon

Bat Out Of Hell ~~ Meat Loaf (opens oddly, but the song is there, and Mr. Loaf is young and not yet 500 pounds.)

You Used To Love To Dance ~~ Melissa Etheridge

Angel ~~ Sarah McLachlan

THE REST, with most links another day
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover ~~ Paul Simon (WMG; I suppose the live version I linked isn't as bad as the Jolie Holland performance I used below.)
A Long December ~~ Counting Crows
A Rock n Roll Fantasy ~~ The Kinks
Accidentally Like A Martyr ~~ Warren Zevon (Click on the 3rd video listed.)
Across The Border ~~ Bruce Springsteen
Ain't No Sunshine ~~ Bill Withers (nice live version)
All I Want To Do ~~ Sheryl Crow
Amazing Grace ~~ Joan Baez (no good version -- anywhere. Ever. If I hadn't downloaded this many years ago while searching for various copies of Amazing Grace, I'd have no idea it existed. I've run into a bunch of versions of AG sung by Baez, but never the right one.)
America ~~ Simon & Garfunkel (WMG)
American Pie ~~ Don McClean
Angels, The ~~ Melissa Etheridge
Atlantic City ~~ Bruce Springsteen
Ball And Chain ~~ Social Distortion (pretty good performance video)
Ballad of John and Yoko ~~ The Beatles
Beach Baby ~~ First Class (found a version without video. You're welcome.)
Boy In The Bubble ~~ Paul Simon (WMG)
Boys Of Summer ~~ Don Henley
Chain, The ~~ Fleetwood Mac (WMG)
Chuck E.'s in Love ~~ Rickie Lee Jones
Comfortably Numb ~~ Pink Floyd
Coming Around Again ~~ Carly Simon
Common People (Feat. Joe Jackson) ~~ William Shatner
Cum On Feel the Noize ~~ Quiet Riot
Danny Boy (the Derry air) ~~ Sinead O'Connor & Davy Spillane
Desperado ~~ The Eagles
Desperados Under The Eaves ~~ Warren Zevon
Devil Went Down to Georgia ~~ Charlie Daniels Band
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes ~~ Paul Simon
Don't Give Up (with Kate Bush) ~~ Peter Gabriel
Down To The River To Pray ~~ Alison Krauss
Dust In The Wind ~~ Kansas
End Of The Innocence ~~ Don Henley
Enter Sandman ~~ Metallica
Everybody Knows ~~ Leonard Cohen
First Cut Is The Deepest ~~ Rod Stewart
For My Wedding ~~ Don Henley
Free Fallin' ~~ Tom Petty
Georgia on My Mind ~~ Ray Charles
Go Your Own Way ~~ Fleetwood Mac
Gold Dust Woman ~~ Fleetwood Mac
Goodbye California ~~ Jolie Holland (a barely acceptable live version)
Graceland ~~ Paul Simon
Hot For Teacher ~~ Van Halen (I don't feel tardy)
Hotel California ~~ The Eagles
How You Remind Me ~~ Nickelback
I Love LA ~~ Randy Newman
I Will Never Be The Same ~~ Melissa Etheridge
If It Makes You Happy ~~ Sheryl Crow
If You Don't Know Me by Now ~~ Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
I'm Comin' ~~ Will Smith
Keep Me In Your Heart ~~ Warren Zevon
Kiss The Girl ~~ Samuel E. Wright
Landslide ~~ Fleetwood Mac
Leaving on a Jet Plane ~~ Chantal Kreviazuk (Affleck warning)
Live and Let Die ~~ Paul McCartney (decent live version)
Lola ~~ The Kinks
London Calling ~~ The Clash
Love And Death And An American Guitar ~~ Jim Steinman (an OK live version)
Loves Me Like a Rock ~~ Paul Simon
Mack The Knife ~~ Bobby Darin
Mama I'm Comin' Home ~~ Ozzy Osbourne
Me And Bobby McGee ~~ Janis Joplin
Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) ~~ Marvin Gaye
Mohammed's Radio ~~ Warren Zevon (WMG.)
My Eyes Adored You ~~ Frankie Valli
Never Gonna Score Speech ~~ Beavis and Butthead (this is the actual clip -- I have no idea what the show is it's set to, but it's kinda funny)
New York Minute ~~ Don Henley
Nine Million Bicycles ~~ Katie Melua
No Souvenirs ~~ Melissa Etheridge
Not Ready To Make Nice ~~ Dixie Chicks (freaky video, and I think I like it)
Only the Strong Survive ~~ Jerry Butler
Part of Your World ~~ Jodi Benson
Push ~~ Matchbox Twenty (On Joost; you have to sit through an ad first)
Rebel Yell ~~ Billy Idol
Revolution ~~ The Beatles
Right Through You ~~ Alanis Morissette (decent live version)
River (Live 75-85) ~~ Bruce Springsteen (long intro w/story about his father. I said to a friend recently that most men had daddy issues; either from not having had one ... or from having had one.)
Science Fiction/Double Feature ~~ Richard O'Brien
Secret Heart ~~ Feist
Silent Legacy ~~ Melissa Etheridge
Silly Love Songs -- Paul McCartney

Silver Springs (The Dance) ~~ Fleetwood Mac (on MySpace)

Slip Slidin' Away ~~ Paul Simon
Smells Like Teen Spirit ~~ Nirvana (Cheerleaders of Anarchy)
Somebody To Love ~~ Queen
Spaceship ~~ Angie Aparo
Sunset Grill ~~ Don Henley
Suspicious Minds ~~ Elvis Presley
Take It to the Limit (Live Farewell) ~~ The Eagles
Under the Bridge ~~ Red Hot Chili Peppers
What's Going On ~~ Marvin Gaye
Who Wants to Live Forever ~~ Queen
Why Don't You Get a Job? ~~ Offspring (one of the tracks where you could watch the video)
With a Little Luck ~~ Paul McCartney
Woman ~~ John Lennon
Wrong Girl ~~ jaimi shuey (just a sample, but worth a listen. Click on "Wrong Girl" and then "Play Audio Sample.")
You Can Sleep While I Drive ~~ Melissa Etheridge
You Don't Know Me At All ~~ Don Henley

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson reportedly dead ...

Good. About a month back I said to a few people that if Michael Jackson would just die, I could listen to his music again ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rustlers Rhapsody

One of the great movies you never heard of.

Sidekick: Why don’t you stay in the hotel?
Rex: I never stay in town.
Sidekick: Oh, What’s your name anyhow?
Rex: I’m Rex O'Herlihan, the Singing Cowboy.
Sidekick: The what?

Sidekick: I just want to say one thing. I hope you shoot Mr. Barber in both hands.
Rex: Who?
Sidekick: Barber, Bob Barber.
Rex: Bob Barber?
Sidekick: Yeah that’s what the Colonel’s daughter called him.
Rex: Not Bad Bob Barber … Bothersome Bob Barber … Bob the Butcher Barber?
Sidekick: No ... no, just Bob.

Rex: Ever faced another good guy before?
Bob Barber: Nope.
Rex: Me neither.
Bob Barber: Kinda makes you wonder what'll happen.
Rex: I figure the good guy'll win, just like always.
Bob Barber: Yeah, except we're both good guys.
Rex: Then I figure the most good good guy will win.
Bob Barber: That's how I figure, too.
Rex: Yep.

Just a joy from end to end.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quote, and Belated Happy Fathers Day to you all ...

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look -- I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring -- caring deeply and passionately, really caring -- which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete -- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball -- seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
Roger Angell, New Yorker baseball writer, 1975


One of the best father's days ever. First time since Christmas all my kids sat down together at the same table -- that's been rare since my oldest went off to Berkeley. We spent half the day at the beach, Paradise Cove in Malibu; ran around and read books and dug holes and ate the greatest clam chowder on the west coast, plus Kobe beef ribs which are as sinful as they sound; and then the 7 of us ate 5 pounds of Alaskan King Crab for dinner, and then watched a Captain America cartoon that was pretty good before bedtime. ("Ultimate Avengers 2" -- cartoons are better than they used to be, when I was a boy.)

Hope you all had as good a day as I did.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last Lakers post for a bit

I'm sure many of you are relieved. :-)

Seven years since the last championship ... these are photos, taken 7 years apart, of me and the two younger boys, at the 2002 and 2009 parades. Time flies.

Enjoy it while it lasts. They grow up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Editorial Letter for Bill Simmons, ESPN

Bill Simmons, ESPN Columnist and Celtics fan, was clearly in shock when he wrote this ....

... so I've decided to help him fix it -- the task an editor would have performed, if ESPN had any.

Paragrah 1: I had trouble stomaching the 2008-09 Lakers for the same reason I've never bought Tom and Katie or Hillary and Bill. It always felt like something of an arrangement to me. Let's try to pull this off. It will put us in a better place. We can do this. I can tell the difference between "These guys love each other" and "These guys put up with each other for a few months because of the carrot dangling at the end." At least I'd like to think I can.

This becomes: "I Hate the Lakers." Fair enough, he's a Boston guy, but if you can say the same thing with a short sentence rather than a long sentence, you will usually improve your text. As we already know that Simmons is a Celtics fan, this is arguably superfluous; however, we will include it in anyway, to set tone for the remainder of the essay.

The second paragraph, beginning with Ultimately, does it matter? It doesn't matter, as Simmons clearly suspected.

In the third and fourth paragraphs, through "so we can say we were there to witness it," Simmons asks if Kobe has changed, and swears on the souls of his children.

Here Simmons violates the principle of authority. This is an important principle in writing: examine the sentences "He stood perfectly still" and "He stood still." They mean the same thing. "It was utterly dark" and "It was dark" -- again, they mean the same thing. A writer who is confident of his work will make the simpler statement: a writer who is not will reach for unecessary emphasis.

A man who swears on the souls of his children, in a trivial matter like sports, doesn't merely suspect he's lying: he knows it, and hopes you don't.

Next Simmons asserts that we are all in this together, which is untrue. Some of us, for example, are Lakers fans; and some of us are Celtics fans. The Celtics recent 20 year stretch of mediocrity was a matter of great joy to me; I believe Simmons does not share this emotion. I believe, in fact, that Lakers success pains him, and Celtics success pleases him. Understanding this ESPN essay as the work of a man dealing with substantial pain brought about by a Lakers championship, we can perhaps extend some generosity to the unfortunate Simmons ...

Midway through the fourth paragraph, Simmons shares with us that he envies those who saw the great players of the 60s and 70s in their primes. If not eloquent, this is at least clearly stated and imparts new information: it stays. Likewise his brave admission that Kobe Bryant's fourth championship has propelled him into the ranks of the 10 best players in NBA history.

In the fifth, sixth, and seventh paragraphs, Simmons shares with us that he is not yet 40, and that the comparisons of Kobe to Michael Jordan strike him as unreasonable; and that constant praise of Kobe makes him uncomfortable. We will accept the first two as reasonable statements; the latter is clearly a Hemingwayesque use of repetition, since he returns to it repeatedly. We will therefore include it, as a stylistic matter not wildly detrimental to the smooth flow of the text.

In the 8th paragraph Simmons asserts that he is smarter than the average audience of a basketball game. This is possibly true once we factor in data that Simmons does not share within this particular column -- namely, that Simmons is a Clippers season tickets holder. I will concede that Simmons is most likely brighter than the crowds at and audiences for the basketball games he most frequently attends, but perhaps Simmons makes too much of this? I, for example, am taller and stronger than the friends of my 10 year old son....

As a two year season ticket holder, he writes in the column linked above ... without any evident shame or embarrassment.

Much as the first paragraph of this piece can be accurately condensed to "I Hate the Lakers," the 8th paragraph might becomes "I am a Clippers Season Ticket holder," or even, "I am smarter than most Clippers fans."

In the ninth paragraph, Simmons asserts that the Lakers were a good team, and that other teams had problems that prevented them from being as good. While a true statement, it's trivial in context: this is true of every championship team, every year. (One must, again, make allowance for Simmons' Celtics neurosis; he notes Kevin Garnett had a knee injury that damaged his team's playoff chances; but fails to note that the Celtics lost to the Lakers both times this year while Garnett was healthy; in the first game, snapping a 19 game Celtics winning streak; and in the second game, on the Celtics home court, snapping a Celtics 12 game winning streak.) Nonetheless it should probably be included in the edited essay as it is one of the few arguments Simmons actually presents.

Toward the end of the ninth paragraph, Simmons asserts that the Lakers seem to him merely a very good team, and not a great one. This is nearly a meaningful statemtent.

In the 10th through 12th paragraphs, Simmons observes that Kobe's performance in the playoffs this year was almost identical to his playoffs performance last year. This is an accurate and legitimate observation. However, Simmons fails to note that Kobe's performance in the Finals round was one of the great performances in NBA History; the last player to average more than 32.4 points and 7.4 assists in a Finals was Jerry West, in 1969. This was a once in 30 years performance, and Simmons' inability or unwillingness to take note of it is striking.

In the 13th through 16th paragraphs, Simmons asserts that Kobe's once in 30 years performance was not really much better than his performance in the 2008 finals, since the improvement year to year was a mere 6.7 points, .9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists.

In the 17th through 19th paragraphs, Simmons explains that in addition to Kobe's improved play, his teammates also played better. He also asserts that the 2008 Boston Celtics were a better team than the 2009 Orlando Magic. One is tempted to give him credit for his final assertion in the 19th paragraph, that the Lakers "deserved to win" ... but unless the NBA is indeed fixed, this is yet another trivial statement that is true of all NBA champions since the league's inception.

In the 20th paragraph, Simmons selects various elements, while ignoring others, of Kobe's Finals performance, to support his argument that Kobe's once-in-30-years performance ... wasn't.

In the 21st paragraph, Simmons answers the question he opened with: "Ultimtely, does it matter?" He's still a Celtics fan, and it still doesn't. His conclusion is sound: he finds that Kobe has not changed. This is a point I would agree with; except that Simmons means it as an insult, when it is the highest of compliments for a player that has played at the highest levels since his entry into the league 13 years ago.

In the 22nd and 23rd paragraph, Simmons asserts that in previous years, Kobe's teammates were threatened by his individual brilliance; as opposed to the 2009 Lakers, who embrace it.

In the 24th paragraph, Simmons reiterates his distate for praise directed toward Kobe Bryant.

In the 25th paragraph, Simmons asks if the Lakers actually like one another.

In the 26th paragraph, he concedes that he does not know; and then appears to reverse field and conclude that yes, he does: the interaction between Kobe, his teammates, and Phil Jackson, seems inauthentic. (In this, Simmons, though he may not know it, is part of a tradition revered among Easterners for some generations now, to the effect that the citizens of Los Angeles are inauthentic, false, and shallow. It is only a minor amusement that Simmons appears to think this an original observation applicable principally to Kobe Bryant.)

In the 27th paragraph, Simmons reiterates his belief that the Lakers do not like one another and that any appearance to the contrary is, yes, inauthentic.

In the 28th pagraph, Simmons asserts that Kobe is an unusual player in NBA history, but that this is not due to his talent or accomplishments, but rather to his privileged upbringing (which, one assumes, is unheard of in NBA history) and to the circumstances of his career.

In paragraphs 29 and 30, Simmons asserts that Kobe is unlikeable, and adds that he does not like him. Also, the appearance of Kobe's wife and children after the end of Game 5 made him want to throw up.

In paragraphs 31 and 32, Simmons argues that Kobe should not have played in the Olympics, and repeats J.A. Adande's argument that Kobe should have because it gave him a chance to bond with his peers. Simmons now realizes that Adande was right, and adds that Kobe's bonding was inauthentic, a part Kobe had learned to play.

In paragraph 33, Simmons finds a certain detachment in viewing the Lakers championship, and finds, yet again, in a nearly charming return to form, that Kobe and the Lakers are inauthentic. (He also contradicts his statement in Paragraph 26, when asking himself whether the Lakers like one another: "I don't know. I couldn't tell." During the long journey of seven paragraphs, he's figured it out: they don't. "We can tell when a team connects as a whole. We can." One might call this inconsistency, dishonesty, or even growth: to be sure, seven paragraphs can be a long time for people with carpal tunnel.)

In paragraph 34, Simmons finds that young championship teams, such as the 2009 Lakers, are inferior to elderly championship teams, such as the 2008 Boston Celtics. Also, the Lakers are inauthentic.

Let's speed along some; there's duplication in much of the following.

35: The media talked about Kobe too much. Positively.

36. Stories about things other than Kobe's brilliance were more interesting.

37. Several of the Lakers had something to prove in the Finals.

38-39. Unlike other extraordinarily wealthy families, the Buss family is odd, and he would appreciate it if the least competent Buss family member could be put in charge of the Lakers. ("I Hate the Lakers," redux.)

40-41. The Lakers were lucky to win a championship.

42-43. Phil doesn't really like Kobe. In fact, they are inauthentic, and Phil liked Jordan better than he liked Kobe, because Simmons doesn't recall Phil making a particular face between 1989 and 1998. Nonetheless, Phil and Kobe will probably put up with each other in order to win more championships.

44. Phil Jackson is the greatest basketball coach ever and Kobe is the most difficult player the NBA has ever seen, after Wilt Chamberlain.

45. He repeats paragraphs 42-43.

46-47. Simmons makes the not overdone argument that the last two years of Kobe's basketball career have been one of the most remarkable events in basketball history ... and then cheapens it with 11 other examples.

48. Simmons liked Jordan better than he likes Kobe.

49. Kobe is inauthentic but plays hard.

50. This championship is a remarkable individual achievement for Kobe.

51. Simmons dislikes Kobe, but does not really know him.

52. Kobe Bryant is one of the gods of the NBA, but Simmons wishes it were otherwise.

In its initial draft, Simmons' essay is 5,804 words long. Let's see if we can improve upon that with rigorous, or even severe, editing.


I hate the Lakers.

The Lakers are inauthentic.

Did Kobe change between 2008 and 2009? I swear upon the souls of my children I would admit it if he had. I am lying about this.

We are all in this together, though I am a Celtics fan and hate the Lakers.

I am jealous of everyone who watched Russell and Wilt and Cousy in their primes (that is, before Wilt became a Laker.) I wish I could have seen a young Doc flying around in half-filled ABA arenas. I wish I could have watched the 1969-70 Knicks in person. In Kobe's case, we already knew we were following one of the better basketball careers of all time. That fourth title propelled him into the top 10 and yanked the "Can't win without Shaq" monkey off his back; ultimately, the exact ranking doesn't matter. He's one of the best players ever. He has to be mentioned now, if only to dismiss him.

I am not yet 40. Kobe should not be compared to Jordan, or Dwayne Wade. Praise of Kobe makes me uncomfortable.

I am smarter than other people who attend Clippers basketball games.

The Lakers are a very good basketball team, but not a great one. Other teams this year had problems that prevented them from beating the Lakers.

Kobe's performance in the Playoffs in 2008 and 2009 were similar. [Ed. And his performance in the 2009 Finals was a 30-year wonder. We won't put this editorial comment toward your final word count.] Kobe's performance in the Finals included improvements of only 6.7 points, .9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists over his 2008 performance.

Kobe's teammates were better in 2009 than in 2008. The 2008 Boston Celtics were better than the 2009 Orlando Magic.

The Lakers deserved to win the championship. [Ed. Absent fraud, isn't this true of all sports contests?]

Kobe didn't play well during the 2009 Finals and had only one clutch moment during it.

Kobe has not changed. Phil Jackson criticized him in 2004.

Kobe's 2009 teammates were better and more complimentary to Kobe than his 2004 teammates. Kobe did not sacrifice; his 2009 teammates sacrificed.

I can't tell if the Lakers like one another. Never mind, yes I can. They don't. They are inauthentic.

The Lakers are pretending to like one another in order to win championships. They are inauthentic.

Kobe is unusual because he came from a privileged background. We will never see anyone like him again, who came from a privileged background.

Kobe is unlikeable and has no friends. Also, I do not like him.

Watching Kobe's wife and daughters appear with him after the Lakers won the 2009 Championship made me want to throw up. A married man with children is atypical and inauthentic for an NBA player.

Kobe should not have played in the Olympics. Never mind, he should have. Bonding with his peers was good for him, though an act on his end, and inauthentic.

Kobe is inauthentic and unlikeable. In the last seven paragraphs I have realized that I can tell when people like one another. The Lakers do not like one another and are inauthentic.

Young champions like the 2009 Lakers are much worse than old champions like the 2008 Celtics. [Ed. - Please God don't let the Lakers win again next year, eh?]

I don't like it when the media says good things about Kobe, and I don't understand it. It's more interesting to me that various Lakers had something to prove in the 2009 Championships. It's more interesting to me that the Buss family is unusual. I wish the Buss family would put control of the Lakers in the hands of their least competent family member. [Ed. - Please God don't let the Lakers win again next year, eh?]

The Lakers were very, very, very, very, very, very, very lucky to win the 2009 Championship. Yes, seven verys.

Kobe and Phil are inauthentic and don't like each other. Phil liked Jordan better than he likes Kobe and I know this because I don't recall Phil making a face between 1989 and 1998. Phil and Kobe will tolerate one another to win more championships, because Phil is the greatest coach ever, even though Kobe is the biggest jerk since Wilt Chamberlain.

I really wish people would talk more about how Phil and Kobe are inauthentic and don't like each other.

The last two years of Kobe's basketball career have been amazing. It's only happened eleven other times that I can think of off the top of my head. Jordan did it twice.

I really liked Michael Jordan.

Kobe is inauthentic and I don't like him. However, he tries hard and has tried hard for 20 months, which is off the charts; it's only happened eleven other times that I can think of off the top of my head, and Jordan did it twice.

At this specific point in his career, Kobe Bryant shouldn't have been able to play as consistently well as he did. He shouldn't have been able to survive overtime periods in Game 2 (his 205th straight game in 20 months) and Game 4 (No. 207) and thrived in Game 5 like he was playing Memphis in mid-January. Basketball might be a team sport, but in this specific case, an individual's will stood out and made the accomplishment of the group seem ancillary.

I know that Kobe is inauthentic but don't know how inauthentic and probably never will.

But I do know this: What Kobe Bryant accomplished over the past 20 months ranks up there with anything that ever happened in the National Basketball Association. He walks among the NBA gods now. Like it or not. [Ed. - Please God don't let the Lakers win again next year, eh?]


890 words, not counting editorial comment. If not for Simmons' Hemingway-inspired use of repetition, it could have been less.

Bill Simmons, feel free to request feedback any time.