Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Agents Are Workaholics

The queries that went out before the holiday weren't expected to garner any answers before next week, but wouldn't you know that Pam Strickler was toiling away on Friday.

When I submitted my little piece of magic to her, I considered her an ideal agent. The genre was right up her alley, as they say, and surely the opening pages would attract her attention.

Except that on Friday, when she read the query, she didn't find it suitable. Can't say that I blame her.

Her response to the e-mail included my original query, which I scrolled through to see if it had made it in one legible block through cyberspace. Then I read the first paragraph of the manuscript and I couldn't believe I'd ever thought this was ready to send.

A weak opening, entirely lacking in punch, and largely because I was so thrilled with the way the manuscript flowed that I was blind to the strings of words. There was a paragraph that was poorly written, not making all that much sense, and things didn't get better until three pages in. By that time, of course, an agent has stopped reading.

That'll curtail the urge to submit until I sit down and revise the beginning. After writing up a query letter, I know where to focus the manuscript's opening. I'm only sorry that I didn't let the thing rest before I pasted it in to a query and sent it off.

It's been a waste of a perfectly suitable agent, one who's so keen to find new talent that she's working on a holiday weekend when anyone else would be off visiting or sitting in front of a television blaring sports programs.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Food Coma Friday

The slightly oak-y chardonnay was flowing. The table was too small to hold all the platters and bowls and assorted crockery. Even so, we managed. And then we managed to sample all of the deserts.

Still under the effects of a serious food coma. Who in their right mind would do anything today besides recover?

Must rest. Digestive system on overload.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Give Thanks

From Mary Black, her version of Jimmy McCarthy's Bright Blue Rose. For a peaceful ending to your day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Minnow a la carte

Everything's for sale if the price is right.

That's a basic business outlook for any firm. Name the right price, and this baby's yours. Make an offer that makes me a profit on my investment and you can have the keys.

So if some book-loving hedge fund manager wanted to snap up something like, oh, shall we say, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the deal could be done. That's pretty much what EMPG's Jeremy Dickens was saying when he mentioned that he'd be willing to part with HMH.

Wouldn't Barry O'Callaghan love a Happy Christmas? If he could find someone to pick up his little fish turned big whale, he'd accept the check. He wanted to create the biggest educational publishing materials firm in the world, and he's pretty much done that. Making it viable is another matter. If it means letting go of trade and keeping education, that's how things fall sometimes.

HMH Children's Division is buying, by all accounts, but then again, young adult is the hottest genre these days. The need to service a seven billion dollar debt is cutting into funds for riskier acquisitions, and no one knows how long this adult trade buying freeze will continue. What does this mean down the line, after planned releases are released? What's going to come out in a year, or in two years?

It's hard to imagine a large firm relying on its backlist, or even counting on a stable of literary stars who may not produce another bestseller. Can HMH survive without the occasional debut novel? Can they move ahead without taking a chance on an unknown who might just be the next Dan Brown?

The Last Of The Five And Dime

Woolworths has been gone from American Main Streets for a long time, but the bargain shop managed to survive in England. Until now, almost one hundred years after it first arrived.

Sales are down, and it isn't just the recent financial crisis that's done it. One or two months of bad sales won't torpedo a company. A firm already weakened by ongoing problems, on the other hand, cannot survive a hard blow.

As many as 30,000 people could lose their jobs if Woolworths cannot work out a deal with lenders, including GMAC and a branch of the Bank of Ireland. Executives are hoping to cobble together an agreement with Hilco, an investment fund that buys up distressed companies. Hilco will buy the retail side of Woolworths for one pound, and take on 385 million pounds worth of debt. And then hope that Christmas shoppers in search of bargains flood the shops.

With no money in the till to meet payroll, Woolworths may go under, and majority shareholder Ardeshir Naghshineh will be left holding the bag. He's not keen on Hilco's low-budget offer, either, but when suppliers won't supply it's hard to run a store with empty shelves.

At a time when consumers are looking for bargains, the classic bargain store is going out of business. Tough to compete with the likes of Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fishing Ban Enacted

There's to be no manuscript purchases made at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the undigested whale that is giving the little minnow Riverdeep some serious indigestion.

Why would a publishing house want manuscripts, anyway? No one's buying books. Why pay authors an advance for something unwanted? That's good money thrown away when there's really not much money to throw anywhere.

According to Josef Blumenfeld of HMH, it's only a temporary measure. Editors are banned from trawling the agent pool for new manuscripts. Needless to say, the literary agents are in shock. A publisher not buying? It's unheard of.

HMH can sell what they already have, what's already paid for, and make money there. No point in investing in a new book unless it's got blockbuster potential. Sure there's a ban on buying new, but if Stephen King or the ubiquitous Mr. Grisham were to drop off a manuscript for publication, it would indeed be published.

There's been no talk of changing another one of publishing's old bad habits. The outrageously expensive custom of printing up huge orders, and then accepting returns when the books don't sell, hasn't been jettisoned. The whole print-on-demand concept isn't being floated as an alternative to creating books that end up as landfill pulp.

No agents need apply to HMH, so they'll stop calling since it's a waste of their precious time. And what happens when things calm down in the financial markets and HMH wants to acquire again? Will they have editors in house to do a bit of reading, or will they have sacked the extraneous editors who weren't needed because HMH wasn't acquiring?

But if Houghton Mifflin Harcourt doesn't produce books, what business are they in? Reprinting old titles?

As an author, this is very bad news. It's hard enough to break into the business, and it's been made more difficult with the loss of a major publisher. But I have a job, and writing is merely a deeply held dream. For those employed by Barry O'Callaghan's behemoth, they're seeing more of Captain Ahab in their boss, and they're hoping to be the Ishmaels who survive.

Can You Define Several?

Kneerim & Williams has gone from hard copy only to e-query only. All e-mail all the time, submit the letter and the sample chapter, no pieces of paper ever.

I'm fond of saving a few cents when the opportunity presents itself, so I sent my query to the submissions address, with the letter meant for Deborah Grosvenor. That was almost three months ago.

According to the agency's submission page, someone will respond in several weeks. They do their best to respond quickly, but it may be several weeks, they say.

How many is several?

Have I gone past the cut-off date? Was the query lost? Was it read and ignored? Deleted by mistake?

I could re-submit the query, but is there much point? After so much time, I'd have to guess it's a no and move on. By my calculations, several is more than one but not as many as twelve. Of course, there's Thanksgiving Day intruding in the mix, adding empty days to the cycle. But twelve weeks?

Eight would be several. Twelve is lost in the spam filter. Maybe Brettne Bloom would like to see the newest manuscript in the meantime?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Litany Of Failure Continues

I made a conscious effort to copy the style of openings of other novels that are out there. What better example could there be than that which succeeded?

While a couple of agents peruse the pages of my historical fiction, I thought I'd try out a piece of contemporary stuff. After a year of rewriting and editing, a year of reading other author's debut novels, I had to run a test. Have I improved, have I learned more about how to write a novel? The only way to know is to query agents.

Now, this may not be the best time of year to send out queries, what with holidays and parties and other such distractions, but if something was really intriguing, they'd ask for pages at any time of year.

Turns out that the contemporary fiction isn't all that irresistible.

Those pages pasted in to the bottom of the query letter just didn't draw Andrea Somberg in. It's her standard rejection, boilerplate language.

Basic commercial fiction, nothing deep or probing, but still the opening lacks a strong hook or the main character isn't all that appealing. As if that isn't bad enough, my query was filtered through her spam folder. My brilliant words, received as spam. Low spam, to be sure, but spam nonetheless.

Onward and upward, waiting on agents who showed interest in a different project, and waiting on the select few agents who have been sent a query for something new. Can't make progress without moving forward, head down, shoulders set.

I've got two more agents whose names I culled from acknowledgment pages. Can't hurt to really personalize that query.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And Flights Of Angels Sing Thee To Thy Rest

There wasn't a job to be had in all of Ireland back then, when we left. Nothing in the trades, to be sure, without buildings going up. Certainly nothing in the fine dining industry. There wasn't fine dining to be found in any corner of Dublin.

No money could be made in drinking or smoking dope, which was the main occupation of our generation. So we followed the well-worn path to America, to paying jobs and the hope of making something of ourselves.

Some of us put our heads down and plowed ahead, and some of us floated above it all, never quite gaining a sure footing. You couldn't get away from the drink, and once you had a bit of cash you discovered an entirely new class of illegal substances that took the edge off after a hard day of delivering food and taking orders.

Then came the day that you decided you were gay. We thought you were mad, or possibly brain-damaged. The partying was taking its toll.

You pulled away from us, seeing our disbelief as censure. Not all of us felt the same way as your father, who turned his back on you, but you treated us all the same. We lost touch. You didn't return calls, we gave up and stopped calling. Your sister told us you had decided that you weren't gay after all, but transgendered. There was talk of surgery, but she came from conservative Catholic stock and not much more was ever mentioned.

When your father died, you weren't there at the removal or the funeral. As the years went by, we'd ask after you but your mother only asked that we pray for you. You weren't well.

Now, as we prepare to celebrate a day of thanksgiving, your sister's gone home with your ashes in a box. She's not saying much, but some of us believe it was AIDS that took you. She had you cremated so your mother wouldn't see what you'd become.

On Thursday we'll sit at the table, to count up our blessings, and we'll thank God that we had the opportunity to know you.

Suiamhneas siorai.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Love Most Fowl

Maybe my manuscripts haven't resonated with literary agents because I'm not creative enough.

Try as I might, I cannot imagine how a man can have sex with a chicken. I've tried to use my imagination, but it doesn't stretch that far. Filthy, stupid birds---I don't much care to eat them either, and making love is out of the question.

Michael Bessigano is far more clever than I could ever hope to be. He had the ability to conceive and execute such an incident. The man loves chickens. Passionately.

His physical attraction to our feathered farmyard friends has cost him more than forty-one cents per pound. Mr. Bessigano served four years after enticing a buxom fryer to a hotel in Hammond, Indiana, for the express purpose of having sex.

Someone at the hotel must have heard the clucking because the poultry lover was caught with the dead bird. Yes, after hours of hot sex, he did her in. Planned to eat the evidence, no doubt, with a crisp pinot grigio and roasted potatoes.

His love that dares not crow its name has landed him in hot water once again. He's been charged with receiving images of bestiality over the Internet.

I don't know that I could face an egg this morning. My imagination might get the better of me and some things you just don't want to think about over breakfast.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Europe Online

Think culture.

The European Union would like you to think culture and they've made it possible. Today, according to their schedule, the 27 members invite you to browse European literature, film archives, pictures and more. By the time everything's digitized, there will be six million pieces of Europe available for anyone with a computer.

When it's up, that is, but it isn't at the moment because the server got overwhelmed as soon as it the site went live. 10 million hits in an hour is more than any server can take, but it does demonstrate how excited people are.

Once things calm down, anyone with a yearning to see what once would have required an expensive journey to Europe can go to: And then browse to your heart's content.

Only items in the public domain will be available, with the Europeans taking a cue from Google's expensive debacle.

This being run by the EU, you can find what you're looking for in English, or French, or German.

And it's better than Google's Book Search, or so they say. Hard to tell when the site's crashed so quickly, and Google is running just fine right now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When You Say Budweiser, You've Said It All

Who says there's no credit available? The owners of Belgium's InBev managed to scrape together $54.8 billion with no trouble, and now the Busch family is out of the beer business.

InBev lusted after Anheuser-Busch for quite some time, drooling at the idea of a merger. It's a marriage of behemoths, a happy union, at least for those who profit from the deal. They've hyphenated their last times, to show how equal they are. When you say Anheuser-Busch InBev, you've said it all.
The new company stands on top of the beer world as the largest, nudging aside the upstart SABMiller.
For the employees of Anheuser-Busch, they can take little consolation in the fact that their new partner is noted for cost cutting with a chain saw rather than a scalpel. And they can take even less consolation in the need for InBev to slash $1.5 billion in costs over the next three years.
What does that mean? Ask the people who toil away for the whale-swallowing minnow, HMRiverdeep. It means redundancies, hundreds and hundreds of redundancies. One big firm doesn't need two bookkeeping departments, two marketing departments, two finance departments, etc. and so on. Hundred and hundreds of realized synergies, as workers get the sack so that InBev can lay claim to the championship title.
Anheuser-Busch InBev has taken on a $7 billion bridge loan, expecting to pay it off in a year via sales of assets. Might one of those assets be a brewery? The Busch theme parks? Half of St. Louis, Missouri?
With the economy sliding, will Bud and Michelob continue to generate $36 billion in annual sales? Will Stella Artois fly out of the tap at the local? There's a lot of beer that has to be chugged if ABI is to survive.
Funny, how ABI managed to line up financing while the Big Three automakers in Detroit have gone empty-handed. It says a lot about who the banks believe has the best chance to survive the current climate.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There's One Prayer Answered

After one hundred years of fervent prayer, there's still no championship for the Chicago Cubs. A full century of futility and they have yet to win the World Series, the only team to go so long with so little to show for the effort.

Clearly God hasn't had His ear tuned to the baseball fans on Chicago's North Side. Until now.

Would-be owner of the storied Cubs franchise Mark Cuban is not exactly the choice of the fans. They'd rather anyone else buy up the Cubs, now for sale by Sam Zell. He only wanted the Tribune Company's news organizations and media outlets, not a baseball team, when he picked up the corporation.

Mr. Cuban showed a definite interest, raising money and forming his consortium. He gave every indication of wanting to buy up the Cubs, and the fans raised up their voices to the Almighty. Mark Cuban has just been rumbled on a charge of insider trading.

So he knew that his shares in an Internet search engine would drop in value before anyone else knew. So he sold those shares to turn a paper profit into real money. That's a bit illegal. That's a crime that the other baseball team owners could point to before they point Mr. Cuban to the door.

Mr. Cuban's legal representative can insist all he likes that being charged with insider trading has nothing whatsoever to do with owning a baseball team and a close personal relationship with the Securities and Exchange Commission won't matter.

The fact is, the other owners decide who gets in to their little clique, and many of them don't much care for Mark Cuban. Now they have a very solid excuse to deny him, one that proves the man's not to be trusted with something as sacred and honest as America's game.

Cubs fans are rejoicing. Their team is saved from a despicable owner. Now if only the Lord would hear the prayers of the faithful and guide the bats to hit the baseball with greater frequency.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Proving Grounds

For months, we heard about change and spreading the wealth around, and for months we heard pundits expound on the effects of such an alteration to the tax code in a time of recession.

How can the Obama/Biden proposals be tested? Like everything else, this too has been outsourced overseas.

The Irish government is facing some tough times, not unlike all the other nations around the globe. Money's tight and expenses won't budge, so the citizens of the Emerald Isle will have to pay more taxes. Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has been sharpening his pencil while tabulating numbers that don't add up.

The latest version of the Finance Bill includes a new provision to soak the rich in exactly the same manner as the Democrats in Washington have proposed. Anyone earning more than 250,000 (euros in this case) will face an additional levy of 3%. Anyone making below the minimum wage will be exempt from any increase.

Taxes on estates will climb to 22%, so if your elderly relatives are looking weak, you'd want to encourage them to liquidate all assets and hand you all their cash before they shuffle off the mortal coil. But on the sly, of course, because gifts are to taxed at the same higher rate.

Noel Dempsey, Minister for Transportation, is looking at a 10% rise in fares for public transit, while other Cabinet ministers are hunting for excess fiscal fat that's slated for liposuction.

Ireland's in a recession, there's been a spate of job losses, and if the new tax measures don't send the nation into a financial tailspin, Washington will have a fine example to point to come January when the new Congress convenes.

If the tax increases in Ireland send wealth fleeing, if the expected millions don't appear and the jobless rate soars, expect every Republican in Congress to point fingers overseas as they argue against any revisions to the U.S. tax code.

Either way, Ireland's to be the proving ground. There's nothing wrong with outsourcing some things, is there?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Writing The New Washington Novel

According to Hillel Italie of the Associated Press, novelists are going to have to step up their game in the future. The old plots of political intrigue are no more. Reality has intruded in the world of fiction.

You can't just insert a black man in the Oval Office anymore and use it as a plot device. And if you don't want the Secret Service knocking on your door, you definitely can't have that black man the object of some believable assassination plot.

What's a thriller writer to do? You can't write about a President of color in danger. You can't have him at the head of some devious Islamo-fascist plot to overthrow the government, unless of course you have Jesse Jackson ride to the rescue with Al Sharpton riding shotgun.

Author Richard North Patterson has already shifted gears, using racial themes in his works to reflect the changed attitudes that an Obama presidency represents. Like many readers, it is his hope that all the post-9/11 scenarios are played out, to be replaced by the aura of vibrancy and youth that will soon radiate from Pennsylvania Avenue.

Comedians are on edge, afraid that a policy-wonk type of administration won't provide them a crumb of material to work with. The incoming crew is all intense and professorial, and where's the humor in them?

There's still an opportunity for writers who are fond of conspiracies and devious plots, along with comedians who require objects of mockery. All they have to do is research Chicago politics, the Machine that gave sustenance and strength to Barack Obama, and there's more than enough material to last for the next four years.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Host For You

Screw your secret ballot. Confess.

Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition, but Father Jay Scott Newman is the new Torquemada.

Confess. Did you vote for Barack Obama? You're going straight to hell, in that case, and how dare you stroll up to the communion rail with that blot of sin on your immortal soul?

The good Father has told his parishioners in Greenville, South Carolina, that if they voted for Obama, they have no business participating in Catholic sacraments. Neither do those who've been divorced and remarried without an annulment granted. All sinners are treated alike in the Roman Catholic Church.

Confess. Did you color in the circle next to the Democratic candidate's name? You cooperated with evil, consorted with Satan himself. Don't touch the body of Christ until you've confessed your sin and admitted to the priest that you voted for Obama. Stay away from the Holy Eucharist until you've been thoroughly absolved.

It's not too late to bring back the rack and the thumbscrews, you know. This is your immortal soul we're talking about here. Confess and find salvation. Go and vote Democratic no more.

Now, since Father Michael Pflager at Saint Sabina's Church in Chicago was so heavily pro-Obama, is he due for excommunication? Does this make his parish a center of Satanism?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Haven't A Prayer

The Lord helps those who help themselves. He is unable, however, to help the credit crisis.

Presbyterians in Northern Ireland were salting away their savings through their own mutual society. Laymen and clergy, side by side, monitored and watched and shepherded the money. It was as if God Himself was behind it all, His mighty hand holding shut the door of the vault.

But the Lord giveth, and the credit crisis taketh away.

As the Presbyterian Mutual Society is not a bank, it is not protected by government guarantees. Members grew nervous in recent weeks and began to withdraw funds, to the point that the society was forced to freeze the remaining accounts or go under.

Money paid in by members was loaned out to churches, and the society holds a portfolio of commercial properties that bring in rental income. Like a bank, the cash was out in the world earning a profit, and when the members wanted it back, it wasn't at home.

For those who waited to see how things would pan out, they can't access their savings. The society grieves for those who will suffer, but they couldn't force their borrowers to immediately repay loans, any more than they could liquidate all real estate assets and expect to recoup the investment.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland would like all of the society members to know that they are distressed by the situation, but the mutual society is not an arm of the church and there's nothing the church can do.

Except pray, of course. Your local minister will be happy to meet with you, to pray with you, but in general, you haven't a prayer of getting your money back any time soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where Does It End

Shane Geoghegan stepped out of his house on Sunday. A car drove past, shots were fired, and the man was dead.

He was somewhat well known, owing to his skills at rugby, but he resembled someone else and for that he's dead.

The town of Limerick is no different than the ghettos that ring the city of Chicago. Drug lords fight for turf, guns are plentiful in spite of a ban, and murders are a regular occurrence. Innocent people get caught in the cross-fire and innocent people die.

The citizens are outraged, they demand action, but what action will work? Law enforcement is floundering, trying to prosecute criminals when the victims are terrified into silence.

The priests will offer prayers, Mr. Geoghegan's team mates will speak of his character, the man's family will grieve, and before long the process will repeat with another innocent victim.

Where does it end? When users boycott the drug dealers and drug traffic grinds to a halt? When witnesses sacrifice their homes and families in return for a new life under a new identity? When a neighbor braves retribution and speaks up?

Shane Geoghegan was gunned down outside of his house in Limerick because drug dealers want to kill off the competition, and there's too much money involved to worry about making a mistake. They'll just head back out and find the right man to murder.

Where does it end? If anyone had an answer, there wouldn't be hundreds of people killed every year for another's greed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Green Cards For Sale, Contact Senator Leahy

Go on, things are falling off the cliff in Ireland. Unemployment's up, the Exchequer's skint, and there's signs that the young are emigrating again. You know you want to get out yourself. Go on, buy yourself a green card.

Senator Pat Leahy is in Dublin, hawking EB-5 visas for all who'll listen. It's an irresistible deal, this opportunity to buy your way to legal residency in the United States.

You and the wife and the kids, doesn't matter if you're illiterate or make a living in the poitin trade. All you need to do is invest 390,000 euros in a Vermont ski resort.

Wait now, it's a grand place, that ski resort. It's but ninety minutes from Montreal, and aren't all the Canadians eager to get out of Canada and vacation in the States? The Canadian dollar goes farther these days than it used to.

Right, the snow melts and what's the good of a ski resort, that's what you're asking yourself. The resort boasts of a championship golf course to draw in guests during the warmer months. Sounding more and more brilliant, isn't it?

You pay down your fee, you live in the U.S. without having to hide from the immigration agents, and in five years time you can apply to become a citizen. You'd be allowed to vote in elections, but you've stalled too long and you'll not be eligible for the 2012 go-round.

Can you not scrape together the half million U.S. dollars you'll need? There's nothing in there about having to live in Vermont as well, which is a good thing, because native Vermonters are fleeing the state in droves to escape the murderous taxes.

Who wants more of the humble and the poor, yearning to be free? Senator Leahy wants the rich, yearning to turn a profit.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Now Everyone Will Want To Eat There

The food is very good, if you can afford the high prices. Those in the know take their dining business to Cafe Spiaggia, the satellite facility that isn't is as high end as Spiaggi. Same kitchen, same food, and when you're cutting back, even the fine dining has to go. That little secret may soon be out, however.

When you're about to be the President of the United States, you're pulling down enough in salary to splurge on such luxuries.

News reporters around the world are reporting on the comings and goings of the President-designate, to the joy of Chicago businesses. He's living a normal life, they write, he goes about his normal routine and.....he's taken the wife out for dinner.

Was there a red carpet run out from Michigan Avenue to the front door of Spiaggia? You'd think so, to read the articles that describe the attire of the golden couple. All that was missing was Ryan Seacrest and a camera crew from the E! Network.

All the publicity, the excitement and the crowds that gathered on the street to greet the newest celebrities---just try to get a reservation at Spiaggia now. The place will be packed, waiting lists for tables running into months rather than weeks.

And someone will figure out that Cafe Spiaggia is just as good, but it costs less, and the rest of us don't stand a chance of getting in there for our special occasions.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

And Then There's The Reality

Writing in The Irish Times, famed novelist Colm Toibin shares his delight over the election of a black man as president of the United States.

His prose is touching, heartfelt and sincere. His lack of familiarity with Chicago is telling.

Remarkable that white America voted in a black man, considering the sort of racial animosity his friends found while canvassing for Barack Obama in rural Pennsylvania. What's truly remarkable is the sort of racial inequality that exists in Chicago, held in place by clout and sweetheart deals.

Had Mr. Toibin's friends gone to the 35th Street, they would have discovered that black folks live on the east side of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Bridgeport dagos and the Irish are found on the west. Had they wandered down to 75th Street, they would soon learn that all the African-Americans dwell to the east of the railroad underpass, and the whites to the west. The Augustinian-operated high school is but blocks away from one of the worst public high schools in Chicago, but those blocks separate different worlds.

Father Michael Pflager preaches to the black parishioners of St. Sabina's, and accepts state funds for his various programs, and he keeps the blacks where they belong. Jesse Jackson runs Operation Push and twisted Anheiser-Busch's corporate arm until his sons had the most lucrative beer distributorship in Chicago, and he keeps the blacks where they belong.

A black teen made the mistake of crossing the Dan Ryan Expressway one sunny day, to shoot hoops on the white side where the gangs couldn't hassle him. Frankie Caruso and his pals beat the kid senseless, left him permanently brain damaged. Frankie got a little slap on the wrist and it's all but forgotten in Armour Square.

President-elect Obama might know Frankie's dad, Toots Caruso. He's been linked with Richard Daley's political machine, the same machine that got out the vote for Rahm Emanuel. And he's considered one of the leading members of Chicago's Outfit.

Amazing that white Americans could vote in a black man, while the city of Chicago remains one of the most segregated cities in the United States.

Amazing that white Americans expect great changes coming when the Daley political machine is slowly taking over the White House. Chicago on the Potomac, is it?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Another Week Of No Responses

There was a flurry of activity after Labor Day, when the agents came back from summer holidays and tore into their queries. With winter coming on, they've gone to ground.

Two months ago, I inquired of Emily Sylvan Kim of Prospect Agency, following her instructions and using the on-line form. Uploaded the file, sent, received confirmation, and began the wait. Since that time, I've done a revision at the request of another agent, so the uploaded file is the flawed version. In which case, I'm only waiting to check off another rejection.

Even Deborah Grosvenor of Kneerim & Williams is swamped, or the intern's quit and there's no one to answer the queries. They do their best to respond quickly, they say, but after two months and counting, I don't know if they've adopted the no response is a no manner of rejection, or if the e-mail query was caught in a spam filter, or if they're extremely busy.

Two months wasn't considered overly long when agents were keen on snail mail. With e-mail and on-line forms, we've come to expect something a little faster, maybe three weeks at the most, before the query's tagged as a reject.

The revisions are almost done, the manuscript will be ready for a new round of queries, and all I have to do is come up with a new title to throw off the previously queried. Have to catch them before the next round of holidays, or wait until January of 2009.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hope And Change and Corporate Taxes

Joy runs in the streets. The world rejoices over the results of the U.S. Presidential election. Three cheers. Now, about the corporate tax rates....

Sure it was all blarney, the rhetoric about changes to come. After all, Barack Obama lied through his teeth about NAFTA, with threats to re-negotiate made for public consumption while behind closed doors he assured the trade partners that the words were empty.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is banking on further obfuscations from the President-elect.

American firms have long been operating little shadow companies out of Ireland, shuttling profits from one side of the Atlantic to the other. The American-based unit makes little or no profit, the Irish subsidiary is phenomenally successful, and the taxes are paid at Ireland's rate of 12.5%. Paid to the Republic of Ireland, that is.

So, have you had a word with himself, goes Enda Kenny of Fine Gael, have you explained to him that Ireland's economy would sink like a stone if American firms couldn't park their profits in the Emerald Isle? Have his distant relations in Moneygall explained their potential plight?

Will you be bringing him a bowl of shamrock in March, inquires Eamon Gilmore of Labour. As you hand him the Waterford crystal, you could tell him straight out that a change in taxation would be a disaster. We're hoping for an invitation, says An Taoiseach.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin explained to members of the Dail that the U.S. is in need of those same taxes themselves, and their Congress has a strong incentive to institute change. About all that Ireland can do is lobby when the issue comes up, and then hope for the future.

Those vacuous campaign slogans, about hope and change? They hold more meaning than the average voter understood.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Not The Best Example

Not a slim man, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen. And the cartoonists like to picture him with a cigarette stuck in his ear.

So there you have it. Less than a perfect example of good health.

But would you mind, Mr. Cowen, leading the van against mid-life obesity? It's all about stopping the obesity epidemic before it completely swamps the already overburdened health service.

Dr. Donal O'Shea believes that all the money spent conquering cancer and diabetes would be better spent on obesity prevention, what with obesity directly linked to the development of adult-onset diabetes and certain cancers.

It will take the leadership of Brian Cowen to guide a shift in research funds, to tell the cancer researchers that they're being cut so that Ireland can find a cure for all the fatness that is growing more pervasive by the day.

A quarter of the Irish people are too big for their own good, and they're on a path to illness that doesn't need a fancy cure when a national diet would make all the difference. In Dr. O'Shea's mind, it's a waste to study something like diabetes when the source of the disease isn't getting enough attention.

Unless Mr. Cowen stars in an all-Ireland version of Biggest Loser, the idea that he could promote obesity prevention at his present size isn't going to be taken seriously.

The time has come for a change in health service policy. The obese have to be mandated to take exercise and eat right, or risk imprisonment and/or fine. It's only fair to those who pay the taxes that fund health care and who keep fit so that they don't have to use the health care system. No point in getting sick when you have to wait months to see a doctor. That's the biggest impetus to lose weight that there is.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

If He Was Bright He Wouldn't Be In Prison

The prison guard told Peter Duff that he had to clear the toilet paper out of the air vent in his cell. But did the guard tell him how he was to it? No indeed, it was the guards who set the bad example by standing on the toilets to clear the vents and how was Mr. Duff supposed to clear the vent but by imitating what he'd seen done?

So it was the guard's fault that Mr. Duff fell off the toilet and scraped his shin. So the government owes him 38 thousand euro as compensation.

Look, he goes in court, here's pictures of the toilet and it wasn't secured to the wall when I stood on it and it fell over and I went with it and the suffering I've endured, etc. etc.

Were the photographs taken on the day of the accident goes Judge Joseph Mathews, but the inmate had to admit that he was moved to a new cell and he went back a few days later when the Prison Service was making repairs.

And how did you take pictures in prison His Honor further inquired, and if Peter Duff wasn't quite so thick he might have realized that the cell phone he used to take the pictures wasn't allowed in the prison.

Not against the law, is it, Mr. Duff declared, only against prison rules for an inmate to have a cell phone.

There's that, and then there's the fact that the pictures weren't taken after the accident and there's the fact that Mr. Duff didn't clear the vents when the guard was there but waited a few days until he was alone. Sure and the State's still at fault for him thinking he was to stand on the toilet in the first place.

Judge Mathews threw out the case. He couldn't, however, recover the time that was wasted.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Selfishness Redefined

We thought we were being generous when we gave money to the Salvation Army. After all, almost all of their donations are used for charity, not a bureaucracy to run the place. Turns out we were wrong.

We thought we were being generous when we donated bags of groceries to the food pantry, when we gathered up the coats that the kids had grown out of so that some other kids could be warm.

When we scraped up the spare change and gave it to the Augustinians to help cover the tuition costs of the needy, we thought we were doing the right thing. Who could have guessed that we were so wrong?

It was all selfishness, as selfishness has been re-defined by the man who would be president.

The government is to be the source of all bounty, and if you do it yourself you're being selfish. If you thought that you had the sense to choose which charity to give to, if you thought that you were being generous, you've been misguided.

Sure isn't the European model the ideal, where the government handles all the hand-outs and the citizens are spared the concern. Am I not my brother's keeper? Apparently not, according to the new definition of selfishness.

Americans are the most generous people on earth, giving what they can't well spare to help someone with even less. Turns out they weren't being generous at all. We'll look to Europe as an example in the future, where everyone assumes the government will be there to help and no one needs to give of their own accord. With a new definition of selfishness you may venture forth in a manner that you once thought of as selfish, keeping your hands in your pockets when you're confronted with need. Go see a government official, you'll be able to counsel the homeless and the hungry, and you'll not have to feel guilty.

Grand system, over in Europe. So why did so many of us leave and never go back?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Quintessential Hyde Park Liberal

They don't make them like Studs Terkel any more, but then, he was a product of his times and those times are long gone.

He observed the Great Depression from his family's boarding house, witnessing the hard luck and hard times that made Communism seem like a better way to go.

As an adult, he asked questions and crafted the answers into book form, coming up with oral histories of ordinary folks living ordinary lives. No catalog of the rich and powerful, his works chronicled those who aren't featured in the history books.

Not that he was one of those ordinary ones, however. At the height of the Depression he attended the University of Chicago, even then a prestigious and expensive private university that a good Catholic wouldn't go near. Someone had some spare change to send the young Studs off to university when others couldn't even find a job.

He made a point to stand with labor, while he toiled as a radio disc jockey. He dabbled in acting, with a local television program to his name, followed years later by a bit part in Eight Men Out, a story of betrayal and corruption that could only have happened in Chicago.

From his perch on the ivory tower, he championed the working man whose ranks he never joined, speaking from his observations rather than experience.

They're still there, down in Hyde Park, surrounding the University of Chicago---the Hyde Park liberals, spouting rhetoric about social engineering and change over white wine and cheese. Men like Studs Terkel, the quintessential Hyde park liberal, was their voice, and sadly, that voice is now silenced. Sic transit gloria.