Tommy Red

Tommy Red
The Progressive Killer

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Scott Wolven ...

Amici:

A literary interview with Scott Wolven right here.


I first read Scott Wolven’s work over at the Plots with Guns site back when I was first published
. Immediately impressed with the website and the talent it showcased, I was extra awed by Scott’s works. A few years later, my wife and I were lucky enough to finally meet him at a Ken Bruen signing at the Black Orchid Bookshop. It was a day we continue to treasure. My wife and I are huge fans of Scott Wolven’s works. His ability to cross and/or combine what many in the publishing industry consider boundaries, literary and genre fiction, is as impressive as his near record streak of short stories included in The Best American Mystery Stories Series (Houghton Mifflin).


I recently read two of Scott’s short stories in kindle: Everything Tastes like Whiskey and You Better Run.

A teaser from Everything Tastes like Whiskey:

Dawn. A dozen dark brown empty beer bottles stand on the kitchen table and a half-empty bottle of bourbon stands on the floor. My small, blockhouse rental smells like a cheap bar. I get up and get dressed. Put on a light black work-jacket and a black ball cap. Strap the holstered stainless steel Colt Anaconda to my right hip.

Outside, the blue fall sky of Moscow, Idaho is crisp and bright. I follow the concrete sidewalk, walking across the University of Idaho campus, filled with students carrying books and backpacks. Talking to each other. Laughing. I killed a man in a gunfight a week earlier. No one seems to notice. I look up at some the etchings and stonework on the library, showing cowboys and Indians killing each other and I feel like I belong. I walk past the nameless WWI doughboy statue and give him the nod. On a September morning in France long ago, fifty-eight thousand men died for less than an acre of land. I’m not worried about killing one meth-head who would have killed me, if I let him get to his gun. It happened so fast, I can only remember it in slow motion. I pulled the trigger and it was as if a giant invisible hand swatted him so he spun backward and fell, curled up, blood leaking everywhere. He made noises I’d never heard a human make before. The air he took into his mouth bubbled out the wet hole in his back. The first cop on the scene joked that I hadn’t shot him, he’d been hit by a freight train. One of the cops puked. A forty-four magnum shooting at ten yards doesn’t leave a survivable wound. Shut the lights and sirens off, because there’s no rush when you’re headed to the morgue.

A man who has convinced himself he’s okay with what he believed he had to do is eventually confronted with the consequence of what it means to kill (through the actions of another killer). More than worth the price of admission, amici.


Controlled Burn is Scott’s brilliant collection of short stories I must’ve read half a dozen times since it was first printed. But why take my read on it?  Here’s what some names way more prominent than mine will ever be thought:

Scott Wolven's tales are tough, unsentimental, and completely earned. This is the most exciting, authentic collection of short stories I have read in years. — George Pelecanos

Wolven has turned raw, unreconciled life into startling, evocative, and very good short stories. He draws on a New England different from Updike's and even Dubus', but his fictive lives--no less than theirs--render the world newly, and full of important consequence. — Richard Ford

To say that these beautifully written, deceptively simple stories are loosely connected is to miss a large part of the point....Wolven's not as romantic or sympathetic as Hemingway, but it's hard to think that Papa wouldn't appreciate his artistry and imagination. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A debut to treasure, a remarkably assured cycle of stories about men who'll live in your heart even though you'll be glad they don't live next door. — Kirkus Reviews


Scott Wolven is the author of Controlled Burn (Scribner). Wolven’s stories have appeared seven years in a row in The Best American Mystery Stories Series (Houghton Mifflin), the most consecutive appearances in the history of the series. The title story from Controlled Burn appeared in The Best American Noir Of The Century(Houghton Mifflin), edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. Wolven's work was featured in Vintage America, with pictures by Patricia de Gorostarzu and forward by Kyle Eastwood, Clint Eastwood's son, for the 2010 Festival America in Vincennes, France. He was called a Future Master Of Noir in Library Journal. Wolven’s novels False Hopes and King Zero are forthcoming in 2012 from Grove/The Mysterious Press. He is finishing another collection of short stories and is working on projects with Noir Nation. Wolven is on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA Program, University of Southern Maine.

—Knucks

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Doc Says ...

Monthly Disclaimer:

For those unfamiliar with Temporary Knucksline, this is our (now) monthly disclaimer ... TK allows one commentator aside from the ugly Knuckster ... that commentator is the Doc ... or, as he’s known around here (sarcasm intended), signor compassion (his columns are titled "The Doc says"). While I’m more a bipartisan curmudgeon and pick on both major parties with passion, Doc focuses on anything left of Attilah the Hun (and has two favorite targets ... President Obama and yours truly). Doc shoots from just right of (crazy) Sara Palin’s porch politically and is an expert marksman. He is also a hell of a writer (has written a terrific survival novel we all hope gets picked up soon). So, welcome to Temporary Knucksline (TK). Those unfamiliar with the drivel here, try not to be offended ... and if you are, imagine you’re me. Trust me, it ain’t easy being me ...

What’s happening, Chaz,

I’ve been reading the latest Knuckslines and I have a question. How come when your “respectable” friends go to Casa Stella they get these 6 course sit-down dinners? I show up and I get a pizza with no toppings and when I reach for that third slice you give me that glare last used by the Peruvian soccer team in the Andes mountains checking out the chubby-cheeked towel boy.

Last weekend was absolutely brutal. With both days over 100 degrees I was sweating like a cub scout at Neverland Ranch.

I’m thinking of founding a new minority aid organization. The NAACJO… the National Association for the Advancement of Corporate Jet Owners. Damn! Fredo is hammering these people. I think in the White House they even have to drink from separate water fountains. This is especially disturbing coming from someone who spends half his time vacationing with Air Force One. I guess his defense is that he doesn’t technically “own” it.

I saw his speech where he slams the Republicans for not raising the debt ceiling. I swear he took the same economics classes as my daughter. The credit cards are all maxed out, so it’s obviously Visa’s fault for not raising the credit limits. Of course he loves this whole debt ceiling debacle. If not for that he would have to address the issue of 400,000+ Americans going on Unemployment for the last 15 straight weeks. That’s SIX MILLION American workers in under 4 months. And what does the Lame Stream Media talk about… Amy Winehouse. You’ll also notice that Eric Holder’s fabulous “Fast & Furious” ATF Mexican gunrunning scheme has dropped off the radar. By the way, that clusterfuck was paid for with stimulus money. Were Holder and the Bamster trying to promote jobs in the undertaking industry?



Read your “Shameless Self Promotion” Knucksline. That is well beyond self promotion. You have just put yourself out on the street with hot pants and a tube top. Your publisher should be following you around in a pink Eldorado with a heart-shaped rear window while wearing a broad-brimmed, purple fedora. As I’ve always said… you not only write the best crime novels… you also write the best reviews of your crime novels. Keep up the fine work.

Have a great week
Doc

How about a little Shakira.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

GE moves thousands of Jobs to China ... Cheapskates—shameless self-promotion ...

Amici:
Why do I have to learn of this at a conservative website (I wonder)? “As one typically indignant reader said: "Obama's jobs Czar, [Jeff] Immelt, moves good jobs to China, again." Another fumed, "Immelt made a big deal of blasting other CEOs for not creating more jobs in the US while he now moves a business to China.”

I do thank the conservative website (and the Colonel, a veteran and a very good man, no matter how much we “might” disagree at times) for pointing it out, by the way.

What a country ... an absolute incompetent in the oval office and a school of greedy sharks (Jeff Immelt (GE), Blankfein(Goldman Sachs), et al) determined to put the rest of America out of work.

Change we can believe in, huh?

Tea Party free market patriotism, huh?


Anyone believing in either of the above ... TK says, Blow it out your ass already!

And now that we’ve alienated another 30,000,000 or so readers, some shameless self-promotion ...

Synopsis:

Reese Waters is headstrong, principled, and a bit naive. The former bus driver and now ex-con merely wants to do the right thing by prison buddy Peter Rizzo. He just doesn’t expect the right thing to entail $50,000 in cash, a funeral, the mean-spirited schemes of Rizzo’s congenitally greedy ex-wife, confrontations with Mafia consigliere Jimmy Valentine, two hit men, a Nation of Islam splinter group, and the homicide investigation of two New York police detectives. Reese is barely a day out of Fishkill Penitentiary before his world is spinning crazily out of control because everybody’s after the money, which is all at once a divorce settlement, an unhonored debt, a ransom demand, a shakedown, a killer’s fee, and a mere fifty g’s. With dynamite dialogue, high-octane action, and hardboiled humor, what author Charlie Stella’s cheapskates will do for the money gets as wild as the ride of a runaway bus loose on Second Avenue. Available on Kindle here now.

Reviews:

“It takes a finely tuned ear to write dialogue that rings true, and Stella (Charlie Opera , etc.) has it. With his hapless crooks and wry humor, he belongs in line behind Elmore Leonard and Donald E. Westlake ... Readers will eagerly await the next book from this talented author.” –Publishers Weekly

“Charlie Stella's first novel, “Eddie's World,” drew favorable comparison with such masters of the crime novel as Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard. Three outings later, that judgment is still valid. A born storyteller, Stella combines quirky characters, clever plotting and a keen ear for the jargon of the streets to produce a thriller redolent with shocks, suspense and – somewhat surprisingly – humor.”Robert Wade (San Diego Union Tribune)

“...Stella’s fourth novel delivers on the promise of his previous books. He’s a natural storyteller, a sparkling dialoguer and a keen observer of the more selfish aspects of human nature. Cheapskates is a fast moving, slick talking ride, people with eccentrically believable characters. Even the cheapskates among you won’t mind parting with your hard earned cash for a read like this.”Russel D McLean (CrimeSceneScotland)

“Cheapskates builds to a climactic shootout on the streets of New York that plays like a cross between the money chase in It's A Mad Mad Mad World and the final fire fight at the Alamo.” – ThisWeek

“Stella (Charlie Opera, 2003, etc.) loves his people, the bad no less than the good, which is why you will too.” – Kirkus Reviews

“With his fourth book, Cheapskates (Carroll & Graf, $25), Stella has combined his playwright's gift for crackling dialogue with another strong, character-driven story that resonates with authenticity and emotion ... Stella writes with intelligence and wit, infusing his stories with the reality of the streets and a sly sense of humor. He might just be the best crime writer you've never read.” – David Montgomery (Chicago Sun-Times)

“Charlie Stella writes the kind of “George Higgins on Mulberry Street” dialogue you imagine he might from his name, and he tells a pretty good tale of hit men and Mafiosi and ex-convicts who are actually innocent in 'Cheapskates' (Avalon, 304 pages, $25). Charlie Stella's previous opus, the nearly eponymous 'Charlie Opera,' did well, and this one should, too.” – Harper Barnes (St. Louis Today)

“...a metropolitan Macbeth filled with mobsters, bent cops, a Nation of Islam splinter group, and a rapacious ex-wife. Stella, the author of three well-received, character-driven crime novels—presents another deeply realized hero confronting a greed-crazed world.” – Connie Fletcher (Booklist)

Poisoned Pen Book Clubs
CLUB PICK FOR APRIL 2005
...
Hardboiled Crime: Cheapskates

“Stella is really one of the best dialogue writers going right now, making exchanges do everything and anything he wants -- move the plot, convey conflict, add character color and give each person an individual voice ... The decent folk have their gray areas and the sleazes are all too human and Stella oversees them all like a master puppeteer.” – Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind)

“Highly recommended. A different look at the world of criminals and their intentions toward each other and the world in general. Plenty of action. Once you start reading, you'll want to keep turning pages to see what will happen next. Enjoy.” – Anne K. Edwards, (New Mystery Reader)

Cheapskates will be available on Nook in a few days as well.



—Knucks

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gettysburg ... Don’s Uncle Howard ... Happy Birthday, Momma Kirkendall (Don’s Mom) ...

Amici:

It was a special weekend for the ugly one as I finally got to meet a favorite writer of mine and all around nice guy, Dana King. Dana has been kind enough not to get too frustrated by my political rants over the years and not held them against my dopey books (and last year did an interview with me over at New Mystery Reader). We were trying to figure out where and how exactly we’d met, and figured it was either from one of his book reviews of mine (Shakedown) or on J.D. Rhoades blog (where I’ve pissed off half the western hemisphere from time to time). Anyway, here we finally are, in Gettysburg ... Dana is every bit the gentleman he is a terrific writer and I can’t wait until his first novel will be available (around September of this year). My Todd Robinson Thug Lit T-shirt inspired many comments along the way ... I had to keep pointing to the byline underneath (Writing about Wrongs). Check out Dana’s dynamite short story Hitter at A Twist of Noir.

Along for the ride was the lovely (and incredibly smart) Allison (who will be starting a special one year Masters in Sociology at Columbia University next week) and her beau, my second cousin, Jason (my weight loss coach and all around inspirational guy--believe it or not, he used to be in the plus 300 bills weight class).

Jason and Allison took this picture of the spot I always found the most compelling in Gettysburg (where the union damn near blew it when Sickles decided it was time to forge ahead just to the right of the Little Round Top and subsequently exposed the union left flank); where Joshua Chamberlain, after being warned by Gouverneur K Warren, fought off a rebel assault first with bullets, later with a bayonet charge that won him the medal of honor.

Speaking of heroes ... one of my 16 or so fans (it is going up), Dr. Don Kirkendall’s uncle, WWII Marine Veteran, Howard passed at age 89 on June 10. His remains were committed at a service in Arlington National Cemetery. Howard was a WWII marine vet.

In Dr. Don’s words: My uncle Howard was a larger than life figure to me as a child. His wife (my mom's sister) died far too young (cancer, late 1950s) so we kind of lost touch with him. Last I saw him was my sister's wedding in 1968. He lived deep down in southern MD. A couple years ago, I was in Baltimore and dreading the drive home around DC, so I looked at a map, saw his home town and wondered if he was still around. I found a phone number, called and after a little history to reintroduce myself he said come on by. Lived most of his whole post WWII life on 80 wooded acres among a lot of other similar sites directly across the Potomac from Mt Vernon. Bought his land for $100/acre. I asked what it was worth now and he said, depending on the stock market, between 30-50K/acre. that's $2.4 to 4 million. pretty good ROI I'd say.

Uncle Howard Stories: In early 1950's, there were still rural electrification boards bringing power to hermits like him. Around 1952, he and my aunt had built their house enough they could move in, so one Monday he went to the board saying he's ready to move in and to bring in the power. He was told that road wasn't due to get power for 18 months. Uncle Howard said that wasn't acceptable. The guy said, 'Sorry, pal, you just don't pull enough weight." My uncle's response (and this is about a verbatim quote), "I grabbed that pencil neck by the lapels, dragged him over the counter and said, 'How about now?' Power was going in on Wednesday." Once a Marine, always a Marine.

He always had big, hairy dogs like a German Shephard/Collie mix. Each lived a rich long life with him, 15y and more for all of'em. And each was named FoDay. FoDay #1 was from a litter an uncle (his wife's brother, a tobacco farmer down here). The first born of the litter was black as night so it was named Midnight. The second was promised to Uncle Howard. Now in those days were itinerant farm hands who wandered from farm to farm to harvest tobacco and this one guy was there for the births. When they were trying to come up with a name for Uncle Howard's dog, this guy said FoDay. When asked how he came up with that name, this farm hand said (and this sounds better with a real strong, and black, southern drawl), "Cuz everyone know that Midnight come 'fo day." Every dog Uncle Howard ever had was named FoDay. Think he was on #5 when he died (an aside-Howard had a stroke in early May, then a couple others in May and died on 10 June. FoDay #5 died over that Memorial Day. Guess old FoDay realized "I got him as far as I could. My work here is done." Howard was still able to go out back at watch neighbors bury him next to where all his other dogs were buried).

Very cool guy; a real hermit and pack rat, rarely threw anything away. Had a John Deere tractor he bought new in the mid 50's and never left it out over night, always under cover. Am told a quality working tractor from that era is worth $75K today. He could fix anything and had the tools to do it. There will be one hell of an estate sale up there someday soon.

Dr. Don’s Mom celebrated her 97th birthday last week. Don says her hearing isn’t so good anymore but she’s sharp as a tack and jokes with the workers at her nursing home.

Don co-authors a book reviewing site where all of my books have been reviewed. Men Reading Books. There’s an East Coast and West Coast Don (both legitimately doctors) ... not bad.

—Knucks

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dinner at casa Stella ... Momma Stella goes home ... Gettysburgh domani ... Cheapskates about to go Kindle & Nook ...

Amici:

Flour, egg, eye-talian breadcrumbs, fry in olive oil, drain on mucho paper towels, let settle while the gravy cooks, layer the friggin’ thing while the super dog (Rigoletto) barks for something to eat, shove in oven with sausage and peppers (separate tray), put up the water for the Rigatoni and leftover gravy, prepare antipasta and broccoli rabe, cut up the bread and wait for guests to arrive.

Rigoletto’s look says: The fuck, fat dad, where’s mine?

white wine, red wine, bottled water, Becks light on the way ... forgetaboutit ...

Big Sexy? Okay, just Big ... maybe too big. Maybe too big and ugly, but figure the camera adds 60-70 pounds, the lighting an extra dozen and the bright tank top another 15 or so ... which is why my favorite Bills “away” T-shirt was tearing as I ate ...

I know it's difficult, but can you see the difference in weight between these two men? Chan was saying: “Seriously, Charlie, your shirt is not only tearing as you eat, it looks like your stomach is growing a set of tits. And you’re sweating, too. It’s gross already.”

Mae said, “Don’t tell me there’s only two bottles of wine up in here.”

Two nicer people you won’t meet (Mae and her husband Chan). Add the Principessa Ann Marie to the mix (the gang of three when they picked on me). It was a blast we’re hoping to repeat when the Stephinator (Millgan), another classmate in the SNHU MFA program (which we are all proud to be part of), comes to visit next month.

Momma Stella comes home today ... we’re hoping this is a good thing. We understand her being fed up with hospitals. We’re hopeful she’s stabilized.

Gettysburg tomorrow ... cousin Jason and I will be hooking up with a terrific writer from Maryland by way of Pittsburg, Dana King, at the Gettysburg Battlefield Museum tomorrow. Heat? We don’t care about no stinkin’ heat. I’m looking very forward to finally meeting Dana in the flesh. He’s a TERRIFIC writer who has a novel due on kindle soon and we’ll be plugging here and anywhere else we can. And as an added bonus, my youngest boyo, Dustin William Stella, has a woman of interest from Pittsburg ... Pirate/Steeler/Penguin fans abound ...

Cheapskates coming on kindle and nook soon ... (although the Nook end will take more time because I’m clueless how to do it again)

"Stella loves his people, the bad no less than the good, which is why you will too." – Kirkus Reviews

—Knucks

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Short Story Gems ... Wall Street picks Romney ... Patriot Games ... Clueless ...

Amici:

The Children In the Woods ... one of author Frederick Busch’s several short story collections. I’m reading this collection for my first semester MFA course and I’m feeling quite the putz again for having never heard of yet another great author. My semester mentor mentioned a short story by Busch to a group of us and I jotted down the title (Ralph the Duck), then searched for it on Google until I found it in this collection. I consider myself a double putz for not only not knowing of the author or his works, but for learning he was from Brooklyn. This collection is as close to Raymond Carver brilliant as I’ve found. While not as economical as Carver’s works, the stories in this collection are every bit as powerful. From a brother-sister trying to organize their lives along with their parents house one week after the parents died in a plane accident (Bread), to the college custodian taking a night class and having to witness people taking life for granted while trying to deal with the loss of a child of his own (Ralph the Duck) to the infidelities of their parents children are left to deal with (The Lesson of the Hôtel Lotti) ... it is often the perspective kids and how they deal with the familial stress of being part of a family (dysfunctional or not). Very highly recommended.

The Wall Street Two Step ... A year after President Barack Obama signed into law the most extensive financial regulations since the Great Depression, Wall Street so far is putting its political money elsewhere.

Wow, so if you screw up the economy, then get bailed out, but the guy who bailed you out suggests some regulations in an attempt to keep you from doing something crazy again, you throw him under the bus for a better chance to screw up again?

You know what’s funny about this? There are people, conservatives mostly, who claim this is not a free market ... government regulations have crippled the free market and ruined it for big business. Really? It seems to me big business gets to do whatever it wants whenever it wants and always at our expense. I mean, I don’t see many CEO’s filing for unemployment ... and Wall Street has NEVER DONE BETTER. Maybe for small businesses government regulations make a difference, but for corporations? Are yous kidding me?

Think maybe Obama would like to walk back some of his ill-advised support of them now? After all, Goldman Sachs WAS HIS BIGGEST CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTOR IN 2008.

Or it could be that having a used car salesman (Romney) in the white house would pretty much guarantee they don’t ever have to fly up to D.C. again to snub Congress, the Senate and the President with the same arrogant, obnoxious smirks they plied when they were handed $700 billion of our dollars and had to put on a dog and pony show to justify it.

Last week Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the following: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

If that isn’t bad enough, he actually went on Fox to defend his statement (i.e., the country can go to hell so long as we can blame it on Obama).

Sink the ship so we can change captains? Hmmm ... interesting concept, although saving the ship (and all its passengers) might work too. See, then you could change captains anyway. How’s that for a novel approach?

And remember, these geniuses get lifetime healthcare and benefits besides all the graft they get from special interest groups while in and out of office.

And trust me, Mr. Obama needs nobody’s help looking like a loser. He’s done that from day 1.

Bachmann on the Founding Fathers ... Seriously, does this broad have a friggin’ clue about anything?

Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann created a stir recently by insisting on television that America's Founding Fathers "worked day and night" to abolish slavery. When asked to identify one of them and say what he did on behalf of this noble cause, the only name she produced was John Quincy Adams. He was all of 9 years old when his father, John Adams, persuaded the Continental Congress to vote for independence in 1776.

Ms. Bachmann's historical gaffe notwithstanding, there is surely a legitimate question here: Was slavery a day and night preoccupation of America's top leaders during the founding era—1775 to 1800? Dismaying as it may be to many admirers of our revolutionary past, the correct response is: no.

But let’s go out on a high (C) note, shall we?


—Knucks

Thursday, July 14, 2011

TK News: Pray the Gay Away ... Ouch ... Foreclosures ...

Amici:

Pray the Gay Away ... honestly, it’s 2011, not 1011. Yous are probably pretty tired of me BEGGING YOUS TO NOT VOTE FOR EITHER MAJOR PARTY ANYMORE by now, but how can anyone take this field of incompetent morons serious? One can’t get out of his own way OR get anything done (Obama--don’t forget he had majorities in both houses those of you quick to point at the other morons on the other side of the aisle). The other field of morons (the ones on the other side of the aisle--the REPUBLICANS) are fielding a used car salesman/Ken doll (Romney) who will say anything he thinks the people in front of him want to hear (flip-flop), and the other “front-runner” has a family business that believes (and actually tries) to “pray the gay away.” Really?



I don’t know how this lunatic walks this one back (apparently in front of her type of crowd she doesn’t), but this should put the final seal (or nail) on (or in) her presidential coffin. This is what some people think is presidential material? Oy friggin’ vey ...

Listen to what Bachmann says on these Jon Stewart clips. Like I said, the woman is a MORON. Listen to the other clips and hear what her husband has to say ... she’s leading in Iowa. WTF! CLICK ON THIS LINK TO HEAR THESE JEWELS OF WISDOM [SARCASM INTENDED] and play the videos on Stewart’s site from last night.

I mean, seriously ...


Ouch! ... but, if you can’t pray the gay away, you can always fillet the penis off your husband, then toss it in a garbage disposal so it can’t be reattached. They’re threatening this woman with life imprisonment. I’m not sure which hurts more, the crime or the time ...

Foreclosures ... Approximately 1.7 million properties entered some stage of foreclosure during the first six months of 2011, according to RealtyTrac, a group that monitors the foreclosure market. However, that figure is artificially depressed, thanks to persistent paperwork problems with mortgage servicers and a sluggish housing market. The numbers, RealtyTrac says, should actually be much higher.

The above, by the way, is considered a saved economy because Wall Street was too big to fail. I know Wall Street continues to do okay, how about yous?

Oy friggin’ vey ...

How about we don’t take it anymore?




And then vote for anything but either major party ever again ...

—Knucks

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Items: Roger Clemens ... Casey Anthony ... the Debt Ceiling ...

Amici:

Item #1: Roger Clemens ... most of yous know I’m a purest when it comes to sports (in general) and have no use for anybody who engaged in taking steroids to either prolong or enhance their careers (in whatever sport). But come on already. Seriously, our friggin’ Congress has nothing better to do? They are going to put this arrogant asshole on trial at our expense for what exactly? The Congress can’t be lied to? Tell it to Goldman Sachs, the Presidents (past and future) and anybody else who finds themselves looking for something they can’t get by telling the truth. One can only wonder how much this fiasco will cost us and what benefit it will reap. Clemens has already gone down as dirt in the minds of most baseball fans. Hopefully he’ll never get inside the hall of fame, but he probably will ... but really, this is important enough to waste our money and time on?

Item #2: Casey Anthony ... I guess Doc felt the same as most about Casey Anthony’s acquittal on all charges, but it does seem to make sense that she shouldn’t have been charged with 1st degree murder and/or murder at all. Do I think she killed her kid? Yep, there’s no doubt in my mind (based on the circumstantial evidence), but I’m not content to whack somebody on such evidence (especially when it comes down to how she acted--guilty as sin, no doubt--but {and it’s a big but}, there’s no direct evidence linking her to her daughter’s actual death (be it murder or the nonsensical drowning her attorneys floated). Regarding negligent homicide or manslaughter, that I’d have to consider with much more focus than what CNN or whackjob Nancy Grace presented.

How she avoided the child endangerment/child abuse charge(s) is the real mystery to me. That’s where the tattoo and the partying while the kid was missing, complicated by all the lies about the same seem to, at the very least, suggest she wasn’t concerned about the welfare of her daughter. The circumstantial evidence on those charges was more than enough for me--la vita bella? Really?

Then again, as pointed out by attorney/author J.D. Rhoades in response to a comment on his site, the state laws and the charge by the judge may have had more to do with her getting off the hook than the evidence permitted. Me, I would’ve found her guilty of something more substantial than lying to the police, but I wasn’t on the jury.

In any event, that was one tragic affair made all the more tragic by the sensationalism of the media hype. The sad truth is there are far too many similar cases that go under the radar in communities much less affluent or in situations must less ratings worthy for the media to exploit; cases where kids die from neglect where nobody is watching (or caring).

So it goes ...

Item #3: Debt Ceiling/Republicans ... what an obstinate bunch, eh? They smell blood in the water on bringing down the economy/protecting their rich buddies (not that the Dems don’t bend over for the same people), and they know that their incredibly weak presidential field can’t beat the INCOMPETENT ONE in 2012, so they’re going to take their ball out of the game so everybody (but the rich) lose yet again ($700 billion wasn’t enough). How either of these two parties continue to get the support of the American public is beyond believable anymore, but this incredibly naive move by the GOP to hold the country hostage will no doubt kick them in the ass (much the same way the Iraq war ultimately did) when the smoke finally clears and we’re in the depths of depression. The upside to all this, as third parties and anarchists loom in the background, is ... things usually have to hit rock bottom before revolutionary changes occur.

On that note, both sides feel free to run to your respective (at least rhetorically) polar positions and let the country continue to slide down the tubes ... let anarchy ring.

Substitute Anarchy for Milk ... it’s what’s for dinner ... or coming soon to a theatre near you ...

—Knucks

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Doc says ...

Hey Chaz,

Glad to hear that Mom is okay, the pooch is okay and you are still too good to watch American flicks. Although I can’t imagine how you can doubt the creativity of Hollywood. After all we now have 4 CSIs and about 17 versions of Law and Order. I’ve even heard that if you promise to watch they will make a 13 episode pilot for your particular town. “Law and Order – Ford NJ” … See it from the beginning… exactly who is that fat man with the Buffalo Bills sweatshirt?... why is he losing all that weight?... do those raccoons belong to him?... is that pretty woman living with him of her own free will?... or is it something else?

There are 48,792 unemployed writers and Hollywood has decided to resurrect “Dallas” with as many of the original cast as they could find who were still ambulatory and continent.

On to the news.

Casey Anthony Walks: I would have gotten a guilty verdict for that twisted chick in about 20 minutes.

Here is my opening and closing argument: “Now, Miss Anthony, when you got that tattoo that says “The Beautiful Life” (in eye-talian to boot) your daughter was either:

(a) Missing
(b) Dead

So which of these 2 possibilities signify the “Beautiful Life” to you? Your Honor, the defense rests. And Casey, “Fix your makeup, bitch. You’re about to ride the lightning.

No raise for the debt ceiling: All the credit cards are maxed out and those pesky republicans refuse to get our credit limits raised. If they continue we will have to stop paying our military and senior citizens. How come whenever money is tight they always threaten to hurt soldiers and old people. In local government they always tell us they will have to lay off teachers, firemen and policemen. No politician ever said, “And if we don’t raise taxes we will have to fire the 400 people who work in the White House, the thousands of congressional aides, half of the Motor Vehicle Department, 70% of the IRS and the ten people who do Michelle’s hair and makeup.”

Somehow it doesn’t get the same gut response.

Illegal Immigration: How about we take some of the 27,000 troops who guard South Korea’s border and put them on our border. Why are we picking on the North Koreans?

Fast and Furious: Here is a brain fart from my favorite muppet, Eric Holder. Let’s put thousands of assault weapons in the hands of the Mexican Drug Cartels so we can follow them back to “Mr. Big”. Here are our results so far:

Number of weapons in criminal’s hands – thousands
Number of arrests – 0
Number of U.S. Border Patrol Agents killed with “our” weapons – 2 (so far)
Responsibility Holder is accepting – Nada

It was great to see you last Monday for my annual “Foreigners on the Fourth” celebration. After your cannonball into the pool I had some structural engineers over to assess the damage. Turns out my pool is hunky-dory. It was the North American Land Mass Plate that shifted. I lucked out on that one.

Take care, big guy
Doc
Sort of a creepy video, but one of my favorite songs




Friday, July 8, 2011

Super Writing ... Two Movies ... and a TK Political Rant ...

Amici:

There are American writers whose work often inspires me; whether it be literary, genre fiction or theatre pieces. While it most often happens in works that feature dialogue (from George V. Higgins to Arthur Miller to Eugene O’Neill to crazy David Mamet), there are times when the narrative is so well constructed, I am knocked back a few pegs and stand dumbfounded; times when I do not feel inspired, but rather humbled to the point where I have to stop and check myself.

"Why bother?" I’ll say to myself. I can’t do this with a gun to my head. This is what I love to read more than anything else, but I can’t do this. I know I can’t do this. I’ll never be this good.

A day or so passes and my balance returns, but I’m no less impressed with what I’ve read and I accept what I had originally thought (I will never be this good). The power of the prose remains in the back of my head as something to never try from fear of making a fool of myself, and so I hack away at what I know I can do.

Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath did (and does) that to me. Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises and Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road as well. A few contemporary writers do the same for me. A few years ago it was Craig McDonald’s Print the Legend that rocked my world. Last year it was Benjamin Whitmer’s Pike along with Lynn Kostoff’s Late Rain. And now I have Mitch Wieland’s God’s Dogs to set me back a few paces. This is simply brilliant writing; a collection of stories that meld into a novel about a man seeking solace amidst the high desert in view of the Owyhee Mountain Range in Idaho. Ferrell Swan believes his life has been one long string of failures after another. Haunted by a father whose privacy was prime and had built his own safe haven in the basement of their house before ditching his family altogether for a move west, Ferrell’s next visit with his Dad came years later when the body was shipped back to Ohio in a casket.

He’s found some measure of peace in the desert, among nature in all its danger and beauty. He’s particularly fond of coyotes and mustang horses, the hard labor tending to his ranch requires, the beauty of the land and the quiet of the nights. He has neighbors, one who lives beneath the ground and is afraid of his own shadow, another whose married to a woman too young and beautiful to keep satisfied ... too young and beautiful to resist Ferrell’s stepson when he shows up at the start of God’s Dogs, Beware the Pale Horse Comes Riding.

Ferrell’s marriages have fared no better than his luck. He describes the failed marriages as “practices” leading up to the new re-hitching of faded love with his ex-wife, Rilla. She holds a special place in Ferrell’s heart and once the two are reunited again, with Rilla making the adjustment to Ferrell’s self-imposed exile, things flow so much better than either expected ... until there’s a Revolutionary Road moment (when the realism of April Wheeler’s inability to be happy became excruciatingly apparent—when her fix for the moment plan to move to France crumbled by the realities of life). Closer to the end in God’s Dogs it is much less subtle. Rilla is about to leave Ferrell yet again:

Rilla comes out on the porch to sit beside him. “I’m leaving, Ferrell. I don’t belong here anyway. This is your place, your solitude. I was a fool to think you wanted someone around.”

[Ferrell responds] “You’re the one who can’t be happy.”

“I’m just noise to you, an interruption to your days of tranquility and repose.”

Rilla has baggage in the form of son born to another man just a few months after Ferrell entered her life. The baggage, Levon (named for the Elton John song), is wild and unruly and a destructive force to most people anywhere near him. Ferrell is no exception.

Pick a passage from anywhere in the stories (that become the novel) and they are beautiful; one better than the other, none of them weak; all of them engrossing. It is writing so beautiful and poignant it is painful to know there is an ending down the road.

The day after Ferrell Swan turns sixty, entering what he views as the steep downhill slide of his life, his stepson appears at the door. The two haven’t spoken three years running, not since the divorce from the boy’s mother, and Ferrell suspects Levon’s broke or bored or both to be showing up at his door.

The above paragraph sets the stage; the first paragraph of the first story. History brought to the present in two sentences. Further on in the same chapter ...

Ferrell lives on one hundred acres of sagebrush and chaparral, bought for next to nothing when he was teaching high school history in his quaint Ohio hometown. Rilla thought he was crazy at the time and, in point of fact, still does. His land lies eighty miles south-southeast of Boise, in the middle of not much else but the wide curving sky. On the phone Rilla wonders aloud if he’s doing the crazed hermit thing, but he tells her he’s not seen trip-wire vets or hatemongers within a stone’s throw. He doesn’t mention his other neighbor Din Winters, who lives underground.

About to make love under a cold stinging rain, Rilla says: “You don’t just stop, Ferrell, till I say you can, you hear? You don’t just leave me alone in all this fucking space.”

Ferrell tilts his face into the falling rain. He prays he’ll last as long as she needs, beyond her every desire.


I can go on and retype the book but then yous wouldn’t have to read it on your own. I’m over-awed by the author’s ability to render so much emotion in what appear to be effortless strokes of brilliant prose. I’m close to the end and wouldn’t offer a spoiler if I’d finished the book yesterday. It will be a bittersweet ending for me because the writing will have stopped.

If you’re going to take a literary recommendation from this blog, this book is one to jump on.

Staring Out in the Evening ... a great movie (with a great cast) about an aging writer (Frank Langella in a brilliant performance) smitten by an over ambitious (to put it kindly) graduate student writing her thesis on his collective works. There's a troubled relationship with his daughter and her boyfriend lurking in the background, along with his past marriage and how it ended.

Salt of this Sea ... A Palestinian woman born in Brooklyn returns to the land of her parents to reclaim what is rightfully hers by inheritance only to find that Jaffa and all that was there is no longer hers. Heartbreaking and enlightening; a terrific film.

I’m done playing nice with our President (so that’s his badge above), his party and the other group of stupid SOBs on the other side of the political aisle. Two parties, one result = the middle class is screwed and the poor are trampled while the rich bask in their undying patriotic glory.

Why Obama owns this unemployment rate is pretty simple math. Any brain damaged loan shark wouldn’t lend money without setting the rules, (i.e., stipulations as to how the money is to be paid back or, in the case of lending to a gambler {never a good idea}, how the money is to be spent). EXAMPLE for future government giveaways care of the ugly one: We’ll give you $700 billion dollars but you will reinvest half within 90 days, discontinue all outsourcing, reject all bonus requests and dividend payments until a) the loan is fully repaid with interest and b) the national unemployment rate is below 6%. Failure to do any of the above requires you forfeit all personal property and assets within ten days plus at the discretion of the government, your firm will be nationalized.

There aren’t too many morons out there who would hand over cash with no strings attached, never mind $700 billion of someone else’s money (unless, of course, that someone else could do nothing about it; then the money might be lent to friends ... somebody say Goldman Sachs?)

Today started off great. I was up extra early to write and hit the gym. I had a good day on both ends, then came home to hang out with my wife and super dog, Rigoletto (who is still sick but mending, we hope). I spoke to Momma Stella (who remains happy from her Percocet and Oreos) and I was reading the book above at the gym between lifting weights and while on the treadmill, elliptical and bike, and again when I pulled into my driveway for a few minutes (it’s that good a book and the writing is that superb).

Then I log onto my computer and Google news and the first thing I see is this: Dismal jobs report shows unemployment rising to 9.2%. Yesterday I was blowing gaskets all over casa Stella once I returned home from the hospital. Between the $400 dog bill (with no prognosis), cleaning up the blood and crap and vomit all over the place, humidity driving me up the wall, a missing week of workouts with weights and the general angst of being me, I was about to explode when my wife and I were discussing the sorry state of the economy and how our government has left us in the ditch we were supposed to be driving out of since 2008.

So, for Obama's edification, once again: Rule #1: You don’t let the borrower set the terms of the loan.

Rule #2: You certainly don’t TRUST them to do the right thing. I mean, seriously, how the hell do you think they got into the position of needing $700 billion in the first place? Was it really that much of a mystery?

Rule #3: There has to be consequences if the borrower fucks you. Whether they’re delinquent with payments or they don’t do what they agreed to (see Rules #’ed 1 & 2), there have to be consequences. On the street the consequences are pretty obvious, but with the government, maybe something like “nationalization” would serve as an incentive to obeying a stipulation.

Rule #4: Don’t dick around. If you sense you’re being screwed (because the firm you just bailed out just gave themselves record bonuses for fucking up), you’re being screwed. Hit them fast and hit them hard. Very hard. Jail seems appropriate here. Or maybe freezing their personal bank accounts or seizing their personal property. Or that nationalization mentioned above.

With the above in mind, here are the results of a $700 BILLION NO STRINGS ATTACHED BAILOUT: Three years down the road and the unemployment rate continues to climb. Obama came into office with a ton of public support and capital. He squandered it playing professor while he had majorities in both houses. Now his very spineless back is against the wall (and taking the form of those pushing him there). He gave away $700 billion dollars to greedy bastards whose first priority was to reward themselves for bankrupting the economy with record bonuses (sound familiar?). Not only didn’t Obama preclude them from doing so, nowhere in that handout of our cash did Obama (or his party) bother to protect us, the working class. Nowhere did he demand corporate welfare addicts discontinue outsourcing. And when a $38 BILLION tax bill was due from one of the bailed out (CitiGroup), Obama excused the note. He do that for you when you owed taxes the last three years? He didn’t for us.

And then came that eerie silence from the White House when public workers were being stripped of their collective bargaining rights. Somehow that campaign promise about “putting on some comfortable shoes and joining the lines’ was forgotten. He didn’t even have the balls to issue a statement as to why he was ignoring his promise and/or workers rights. Not to mention the statement his best friends (biggest campaign contributors) released last week about laying off 230 New Yorkers while adding "thousands" of jobs overseas.

Yeah, I know, the Republicans would be worse? Sweet Jesus, somebody explain to me how?

But Knucks, if you dump on Obama, isn’t that an endorsement of the Republican Party?

Not in a million years. I’ve had it with both parties, one a pubic hair to the left of the other. George Bush couldn’t dream of accomplishing for his rich friends over eight years what this moron has done for them in just three years. (and George Bush is a certified moron without the power of speech).

I’m having to rant because I’m thinking back to my street days and how a few of us used to make fun of guys lending money on the street that had no business doing so. Morons, jerkoffs, assholes we called them. And that reminds me of this scene from Mean Streets (substitute Obama for Mike but you’ll have to ignore the gun because all Wall Street did to get their money from Obama was ask for it). CLICK on this LINK.

Sure Wall Street paid it back, with money borrowed from Peter (AIG, who Bush bailed out first) to pay Paul (Goldman Sachs) while eliminating any competition that wasn’t in on the deal--those that weren’t deemed “too big to fail” ... and then they were supposed to put some of that money back into the economy for the sake of our jobs. Have fun trying to find it ...

Okay, I’ve been up since very early this morning and need a break now. Momma Stella is snug in her new digs closer to home and I’ll be seeing her domani. Rigoletto is no longer bleeding and has quit puking. Maybe the day can be saved after all ...

—Knucks

If not, it’s the curse, I’m sure of it ...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Momma likes her Percocet ...

Amici:
Day 3 of the Momma Stella saga started with our super dog, Rigoletto, having to be rushed to the vet from bleeding. Four hundred fazools later (of course nobody knows what from), I was off to see Momma Stella and her Percocet induced smile ... and once she saw the box of Oreos I brought, forgetaboutit ... paradiso.

It was a bit weird when she asked to see the book I’m reading (Mitch Wieland’s God’s Dogs--it is truly EXCELLENT writing, the kind I’d seriously give up an appendage for (preferably one foot or the other because I can’t eat with my feet). My favorite line thus far is: When she hops from the saddle, her jeans ride so tight Ferrell wonders how she’s not caught in some kind of special ecstasy.

Seriously, folks, this is a wonderful read none of yous should pass up and one of a few I’ll be reviewing over the next few months. Another I meant to review when I returned home (and have already lent out to another MFA buddy (Robbie 151), is Merle Drowns, The Suburbs of Heaven (also an excellent read).

Anyway, back to Momma Stella and what she said when she saw the author of God's Dogs picture inside the back jacket cover. (background -- Momma Stella is in a hospital with a heavy Russian population, including nurses, doctors, and patients). Momma looked at Mitch Wieland’s picture and said, “He looks like a Russian mobster, Sonny. Be careful, they’re taking over.

Oy vey ...

Thus far, Momma Stella remains the biggest critic of Johnny Porno. Today she summed up why after I informed her that somebody in California (the 5th possible Stella fan sighting in 8 years) wrote a nice review of JP on amazon.

Momma Stella said, “I couldn’t get into that one, Sonny. I didn’t mind the one guy there, the one that liked the waitress in the diner.”

“Johnny, Mom,” I said.

“Whatever. But then his ex-wife was screwin’ this one, then that one, then another one. Everybody was screwin’ somebody. I couldn’t follow it, all the screwin’ goin’ on. I like the other ones, but not that one.”

“Oy vey,”
I said. “I’m gonna regret this, I know. Which ones?”

“I don’t know, the Russian mob one. And the other one, the Cheapskate.”


Momma Stella has the Russian mob on her cat-scanned brain today ...

Tomorrow, if she passes her next cat scan, she gets transported to a rehab joint very close to her home. Two weeks of rehab and she can go back to administering the host (she’s a Eucharistic minister, but assures me that God forgives her frequent F-bomb slips of the tongue). Between her religious services, her visiting AIDS patients when she’s healthy enough to do so, and playing mayor of the senior citizen’s home where she lives, Momma Stella is one active tomata.

She’s my Mommy!

I know, yous all wanna know did I get her to F-bomb me, right?

Forgetaboutit ... piece of cake. There was this very cute, young Russian nurse and all I had to do was make believe I was making eyes at the nurse (she was handling my mother’s roommate) while my mother tried to explain why she should go home instead of to rehab and Mom lost it.

“Hey, Jimbowski, I’m talkin’ to you,” Mom said. “Pay attention.”

“I think she’s got it for me, ma, that young one next door.”

“Yeah, sure. Just you. Four hundred pounds.”

“Three-thirteen.”

“On one foot.”

“Nice. I’m your sonny boy.”

“You’re a pain in the ass.”

“You can’t go home yet, Ma. You have to drive the poor bastards at rehab crazy the next two weeks.”


At that point she cupped her hands at me and mouthed instead of said, “Ffffffffffffffffuck you, Sonny.”

“I should call Dustin,” I said. “They’re about the same age, that nurse and Dustin.”

“Go shit in your hat.”

“You’re still not going home tomorrow.”


At that point she gave me the Italian salute (lay one arm out, smack the inside of the elbow with the other hand).

She did calm down once she started picking at the Oreos (she had at least 6 before I left). “Oh, Sonny, these are good.”

"Yeah, I can see. I’ll bring you double-stuffed tomorrow, okay?"

“Mmmm, I like those.”


Oy vey ...

—Knucks

This movie is responsible for at least 50 of my 3,000 pounds ...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Momma Stella update ...

Amici:

We gave my mother about a dozen nicknames over the years ... immediately after the polyps were removed from her throat (forcing her to quit smoking some 30+ years ago), she sounded like Tom Waits (before Tom Waits did) and we called her Don Corleone.

A few years later, after suffering her first nasty stroke (when she lost the peripheral vision in both her eyes--she can only see on the right from both eyes), we called her, “Oh, Eagle eye, over here.”

And there were the occasional driving issues, which forced her to give up running people over.

Then came Jimbowsk, which had to do with my taking her on trips to Atlantic City. Tired of feeding slots my fazools, Mom took to the tables where her eyesight wouldn’t be a hindrance ... it’s as big a sucker’s bet as the slots but she was happy and how can you deny Mom her happiness?

Back in the day, when I was but a lad of ten or so (and an altar boy, if yous can believe it), we had a Macy’s in our basement and a telephone that rang an awful lot around post time at the local tracks. There was swag that fell off the back of a truck somewhere every Saturday morning and made it to our basement and there were these guys that dropped off envelopes ... hey, all I know is it paid for my first set of drums, catholic school and a second house ...

Not long after the second house was bought, the first one was sold when Poppa Tommy (my Dad) was pinched moving a truck of Chivas Regal (why it’s my drink to this day).

The money from the 1st house kept the old man out of the joint but he quickly split and it was up to Mom to hold the fort. It wasn’t easy and she had to return to work, but we did have to sell house #2 and become renters for the first time in our lives (as kids, my sister and I) ... and while the old man was flourishing in his own world (minus his two kids--he lost them for obvious reasons, plus a few more), Spiranza (Hope to yous nons) not only held the fort, she managed to get me through adulthood (okay, so it took 40+ years). Her daughter (my sister) has a library dedicated in her name where she taught high school to English as a second language students in Manhattan and her dopey son did manage to get a few books in the library.

We eventually took to calling her Hopey, Dominooch and the usual, Ma! These days I call her “My Mommy!”

She may be the most stubborn woman on the face of the planet. “No, sonny, I’m fine” (stroke #10). “Don’t come over, it’s raining outside” (stroke #11). “Leave me alone with the fffffffffuckin’ cell phone already” (stroke #12) ... and my head often feels like it’ll explode trying to get her to let me know when something is wrong because she’s more concerned that the drizzle outside will kill me somehow ... and no matter how many times she looks to her collection of Jesus statues (which my boys rearrange just to keep her on her toes) and prays for me, I can always get her to lose the muffle on the F-bomb ... and it comes out: “Ffffffffffffffffffuck. See, now you made me curse. Get the hell out of here. Oh, Jesus, forgive him. He’s a sick bas--(she stops cursing and makes the sign of the cross, at which point I say, “That bunt or steal, I forget”). “Get out! Go! Now. Go home!”



She’s still my Mom and I love her like crazy ...

She had another mini stroke Sunday (and didn’t bother telling me while I was there that she’d lost her balance when she woke up). She didn’t bother telling me the same thing happened a few times Monday and finally on Tuesday when her friend was over, she was forced to acknowledge that “something” was wrong and she called her doctor. She’s in the hospital since yesterday afternoon and although her words were slurring a bit on the phone, today she was back in form when I peppered her with a few more questions.

Ma, did you lose your balance again last night or not?
Go shit in your hat.
Ma, I’m serious. Yes or no, you okay last night?
Oh, God, how many times is he gonna ask the same thing?
Never mind blowing smoke with the Oh God routine. Yes or no?
Fffffffffffffffffffffffuck off already, Sonny.
[Half an hour later, after the pills they gave her made her groggy.]
Ma, you should shut off the television. Get some rest.
Leave it on, it puts me to sleep.
Then lower it. They can hear it on the next floor.
Charlie, please. Go home. I’m fine.
You want me to lower it?
Oh, Jesus, please, this pain in the ass kid. Get lost, sonny, please.

—Knucks

Update on the website. It is now live, but is no longer Charliestella.com. It is now Charliestella.net because the jerkoff responsible for the .com disappeared ... hopefully for good, the c-----cker ...