Fishwrap Archive

Deadline drivel

Oh, great. I'm supposed to talk about myself. And to keep it up for about a thousand words. There was a time where it would have been easy, but not very illuminating. It's not that I find myself uninteresting. I just find many other things more interesting. However, you asked for it, so here I go...

I am an only child. I grew up in a typically dysfunctional family in a typically dysfunctional city in a typically dysfunctional state, i.e., Shreveport, La. When I grew up society had typical ideas of what people should do, when they should do it, how they should do it, and whom they should do it with.

One thing my parents shouldn't have done was get married. My parents met, married, and produced me in the U.S. Air Force. The snag was, my father was white, my mother Chinese. I understand that back in those days Louisiana had laws to protect good white blood from being contaminated by any of that goddamn chink (or any other colored) stuff. When my dad moved us to Louisiana after his discharge we got phone calls advising us to move back out. We stayed. And that law that protected good white blood didn't count for much, either. It seems it was superseded by some damn rights and privileges clause in, what was it? Oh, yeah, the U.S. Constitution.

If only good, God-fearing white people could have been around to write THAT, we could have avoided a lot of trouble. Yea, praise the Lord and lynch them...

It was a real blast growing up during the Vietnam era. I don't look oriental, so people didn't think twice about trashing chinks, gooks, slant-eyes, etc., in my presence. But what was I to say? I still don't know. I just kept my mouth shut, tried to keep my peace, and bottled my anger up inside.

I suppose you didn't notice...

I went to high school in the late 1970s. The local school district fought hard to keep the female students in skirts, and to keep the male students clean-shaven and close-cropped. If I remember correctly, it took several well-publicized protests and a court order to obtain our release from such concerns for our welfare. Welcome to Sportsman's Paradise, my friends.

Eventually I broke free of the surly bonds of, well, not earth (but I couldn't resist the reference), and found out what it was like to trap myself in a dead-end, self-destructive existence. I didn't OD in Denver or do anything like that to write a hit country song about, but I did eventually crash and burn, and arise much stronger from the ashes.

And now that I've tantalized you with a potentially lurid story, I'll slam the door in your face. Tough. If you want to hear more, you'll have to get to know me better.

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I just read that the U.S. Senate fell three votes shy of approving a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. flag. If such an amendment ever does pass, I guess we would have to use an uppercase "F" in flag, or else risk frivolous persecution. I'm glad our leaders comprehend what the Bill of Rights is all about. I rest easy knowing that the U.S. Government takes its citizen's civil rights as seriously as the government, say, in Beijing.

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George Allen was elected governor of Virginia about a year before I moved to North Jersey. His primary qualification for office was that his dad was a great coach of the Washington Redskins. George, Jr., an alleged historian, proclaimed himself a new Jeffersonian, then promptly forbade state workers from communicating directly with the press. All further contact with journalists was to be handled through public relations officers, who were, coincidentally, Allen appointees. But I'm sure there was no litmus test applied. All of this was undertaken to ensure consistency and accuracy in the information reaching the public. And I'm sure all this was in the public's best interest (at least the public would feel that way -- how the hell would they know any different?).

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When I returned to graduate school in 1989 I more or less lived for science. All my time was devoted to developing as a scientist. I had little time for anything else, including my wife and dog.

Food poisoning changed all that. I hurt so bad I could barely move. The only thing I could do was to read. And I read Jurassic Park, which my brother-in-law lent me, in just over one day. As I read, the scales were knocked from my eyes and then I began to see. Life was too damn short! If there were things I wanted to do, I had better DO them!

I know, Jurassic Park is not the pinnacle of modern fiction. Neither is any book by Louis L'Amour. Or Tom Clancy. But those guys are GREAT storytellers! For most of my life I had been a literary snob, always going for the highbrow stuff (but never finishing it, like Crime and Punishment). After the food poisoning I accepted that it was just as important, maybe more so, for literature to be enjoyable than to be, well, dense. I can barely stomach The Name of the Rose, and Gravity's Rainbow might as well have been sucked into a black hole.

Don't get me wrong, though. I don't plan to rush out and buy any Danielle Steele any time soon. I do occasionally read Faulkner, Hemingway, London, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Kafka, Dostoyevsky (and I finish him these days), Conrad, Chandler, Hammett, Melville, Hawthorne, Poe, Twain, Cervantes, Voltaire, and Tolstoy (I'm almost finished with War and Peace!). But I also like to check out Tony Hillerman, James Lee Burke, Clarence Mulford (the creator of Hopalong Cassidy), Ian Fleming, Ross MacDonald, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Cyril Kornbluth. I do a decent job of devouring historical works as well.

So much to read...

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My dog is spoiled. He doesn't seem to mind.

Frankly, I don't either.

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