Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So Much For Scandal

Prince Harry photos are splashed all over the world, Prince Harry in the flesh, quite literally, but are the British upset?

His fellow soldiers have set up a Facebook page to support the man.

Not exactly a stinging criticism, is it?

The hide-bound officers are still in a lather over the Las Vegas strip billiards tournament that the Prince apparently lost. They don't see how a naked royal cavorting with a naked woman reflects today's British Army in a positive light.

Doesn't Harry's photo prove that it's a man's life in today's army? Why, it's a recruiting opportunity.

Back to Facebook. Soldiers and their wives (or girlfriends) are invited to salute Harry in a naked photo that will be posted to the page, provided there is no overt nudity. Like Harry, a gentleman is expected to cover his mickey, but other than that, let creativity be your guide.

Pictures are coming in from various units stationed in Afghanistan, where soldiers have time on their hands and not many ways to fill the hours, or at least to fill the hours in which they are not getting shot at.

It just goes to show that for some members of the British public, they don't much care that an unmarried man got naked. Like many celebrities, Harry failed to consider the possibility that someone would have a cell phone camera and see an opportunity to score some easy cash, but it isn't the first strip billiards game that's been played and it won't be the last.

The Prince is still said to be facing some sort of dressing down from his superior officers, but Harry has already been punished. It's said that his girlfriend, model Cressida Bonas, dumped him when she saw the pictures.

Sure it might not be much of a hardship on the lad. There's plenty of other fish in the sea, and not all of them play billiards or take pictures at parties.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Private Residence

The art gallery that isn't
As someone once highly placed at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, you would expect Marie Donnelly to know a thing or two about art.

That might have been part of the argument that Manahan Planners made to the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council when Ms. Donnelly first commenced to build an art gallery on the Vico Road.

Just down the street from Bono? So as you would guess, it's a posh and exclusive neighborhood where the neighbors were none too keen on the presence of an art gallery in their midst.

But the council granted planning permission and so the building, designed by noted architect Claudio Silvestrin, was constructed on the edge of the land. Sweeping views of the Irish Sea, trees: a work of art in and of itself.

The museum was open to the public for only 60 days out of a possible 365, so for the public to so much as get in was a rare ticket indeed. Such a policy surely eased the minds of the locals who feared being overwhelmed with traffic and the unwashed masses on a daily basis.

Those who did get in noted that there wasn't much art about, which led them to question how much of an art museum the museum was. Plebeians. Didn't realize that the building was the biggest work of art in...err, not in, exactly. But the building was art, so who needed a load of bric-a-brac to clutter it up?

The Donnelly plan to use the space as a museum hasn't worked out as planned. After a dozen years of trying, they sought some other art gallery to take over the space, but there are certain issues that public buildings require, like enough toilets and handicapped access. Sadly, Mr. Silvestrin may not have been thinking "public space" when he designed the thing.

So can we make it a private home ask Joe and Marie Donnelly.

Sure it looks like Mr. Selvestrin designed a private residence in the first place, but was that always the intention? Is it possible that Mr. and Mrs. Donnelly were availing themselves of certain tax breaks that have run their course, and now they'd like to live on the Vico Road with Bono?

The county council is left to ponder this question. What else can be done with an art gallery that wasn't designed as an art gallery in the first place?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Teen Pregnancy And Television

According to Professor David Paton, all the sex education in the world hasn't cut into the teen pregnancy rate.

It's a serious issue, given the fact that most teen mothers are more likely to end up in poverty, and their fatherless children more likely to end up in trouble.

Historically, teens got pregnant, but there was usually a shotgun nearby and that took care of the problem of the child having a father to provide for it. If mom and dad were miserable together, well, that was the consequence of their actions.

But Professor Paton is interested in finding a way to prevent teen pregnancy in the first place, to avoid either the modern option or the historical disaster.

Using data from his home base in England, Mr. Paton has determined that teen pregnancy rates peaked in 1996 and coincided with a big push by the British national health care service to warn the kiddies about the dangers of unprotected sex.

Since then, he's found a decline, but he can't put a a finger on the reason.

Groups that promote sex education and contraception providers all insist that he hasn't taken his study out enough years, because these initiatives take time. That means they're worried that his findings might have merit and they'll lose their funding from a government that's looking for expenses to pare, and if a program ain't working, it's gone.

Both sides are wrong.

The recent drop in teen pregnancy is because of MTV.

Hey kids, want to know what it's really like to have a baby at sixteen? How about watching a couple of seasons of Sixteen and Pregnant?

Think you'll take home that bundle of joy and it will be all happy and sweet and loving? For your viewing pleasure, try Teen Mom.

Forget classroom instruction and abstinence lectures. The teen pregnancy rate is falling these past few years, and those years coincide with MTV's presentations of real life with real teens that any teen could relate to.

Sit the students down in front of a television and instead of a lecture, let them hear the words of girls who believed the baby daddy would be there to change a diaper or mind the infant, only to find that he's AWOL. Watch the fights, the cruel words, the exhaustion, the frustration and the regret.

Now if someone would just run a statistical analysis and the family planning groups could request additional funds to obtain the DVDs......

Saturday, August 25, 2012

To The Barricades, Citizens!

Seamus Sherlock is fighting eviction.

His neighbors have manned the barricades to keep the bailiffs away.

The farmer from Co. Limerick is in arrears on loans he made with the Bank of Scotland, and the bank decided that the time had come to foreclose on Mr. Sherlock's property.

As if they have a chance of recouping their losses in the current depressed market. You wouldn't wonder that the land is worth less than it was when Mr. Sherlock obtained the loan. And if you know anything of Limerick, you'd know that anyone who tried to buy the property wouldn't find a warm welcome.

Mr. Sherlock has barricaded himself into his home, and he says that his neighbors are standing up with him, keeping a constant vigil for the bank's representatives.

They shall not pass!

If you're in the vicinity of Feohanagh, southeast of Newcastlewest on the R522, feel free to drop off donations of food. Mr. Sherlock can't get around to the shops, and if you can't man the barricades with him, he could use with a runner to keep him connected to the outside world.

All he needs is time to work out some sort of repayment plan with the bank, but thus far the bank isn't interested in making accommodations.

He says that he's working with a solicitor to settle his debt, but what Mr. Sherlock thinks is a workable plan may not suit the bank's suits.

There was a time when you spoke to someone you knew at the local bank, someone who might have told you outright that you were asking for more than you could handle. We came to a point where big banks in distant cities made decisions, and too often the decision was based on generating more loans without a thought to the individual borrower, because that individual was just a form with numbers.

We have an epidemic of foreclosures, coupled with fevered desperation to hang on to the house or the farm. Maybe the barricade will get the bank's attention, all the way across the Irish Sea. Or maybe all the bank wants is its money back, now, and if it can't have it, well, Mr. Sherlock isn't going to derive any benefit either.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Valuable Insight

Two rejections received, and it is a disappointment of course but those rejections came with some valuable insight.

Writers of historical fiction do their research, and end up immersed in the time period they favor. From there, they develop the characters and draw out a narrative arc, the same as any other author. But it's the history of the work that makes the author's task just a little bit different.

Both literary agents who rejected the manuscript had the same thing to say, even though it was said in different ways and it took both rejections to understand what the sticking point was. They got hung up on the history.

What every Chicagoan knows, what is common knowledge among the South Side Irish, is not part of the oral history and traditions of other cities. Especially New York City, all insulated from the middle of the country and blissfully unaware.

A political pundit drove that home recently when he laughed at some conservative blowhard who described the current White House denizens as practitioners of Chicago-style politics. That old Daley machine way is gone, the pundit said. Why, if things were done the Chicago way, the nation would work.

The inherent understanding of the way Chicago works is not known beyond Wilson Avenue to the north and 95th Street to the south. That is why two literary agents both rejected a manuscript that was written as if the reader knew the history, but the agents were not in Chicago and they didn't.

Sometimes you get lucky and an agent will give you some tips on why your manuscript isn't right for them. I got lucky twice over.

So it's a matter of going back to the opening pages and sprinkling in little bits of history, to set the stage for those who never saw the drama or heard about it at their granny's knee.

It's a lot of work, and frustration, to get the story right. Putting in just enough info is no easy task when you have to avoid an overload.

Back to work. Sharpen up the editing pencil, and re-write.

Eventually, I'll nail it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pack Your Passport And Bring Your Walking Shoes

Just so you know, when you land in Dublin today, you won't find a cab to take you on to your destination.

Maybe you found one easily enough the last time. Or maybe you've never been, but you expect a line of cabs to be waiting outside the airport of any major city and Dublin's a capital of a country, isn't it.

The cab drivers are up in arms because several of their waiting spots were taken away, to be used for some other purpose as determined by the airport authority.

They want those spaces back, because when they're waiting to queue up for the paying customers, they need a place to go that won't get them a parking ticket from the gardai wandering about.

Ferrying tourists is big business, especially these days when there's not much business to be had. By eliminating seventy spots for the 1,500 licensed taxis, the Dublin Airport Authority made it harder for those drivers to earn a living. And they don't appreciate it.

They have expressed their dissatisfaction by going out on strike.

Thirty spots were put back in service today, as a gesture to the strikers, along with a request that they come back to work. Travelers don't much like being surprised upon landing, particularly after an overseas trip, and to waltz out of the airport to find someone directing them on how to take a bus into the city center isn't very "cead mile failte" at all.

With six hundred spaces for waiting taxis, the Airport Authority didn't see that removing seventy slots would do much harm, but the taxi drivers who couldn't get into the overflow parking area ended up with parking tickets when they waited out on the road.

Not having a place to park did not deter them from trying to pick up a fare at the airport, where they knew they'd stand a good chance of getting some income for the day once they got to the head of the queue. Being all but barred from carrying on business did not sit well.

No one seems to know when the issue will be resolved, so you'd best be prepared.

If you're not keen on bus travel, you can rent a car. Just remember that the Irish drive on the left side of the road, and you'll do fine.

Having GPS would help as well. Might want to pack your device, along with your passport. Or bring some sturdy walking shoes and take a hike.

Rain gear, then. Add that to the list.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Get Your Kicks

So one minute Alex Morgan is running around the pitch, and the next thing you know, she's got a publishing contract.

Has she shown any inclination towards writing?

According to her biography, she received a degree in political economy, which may involve the writing of various papers and research documents, but where is the fiction?

Ms. Morgan has been signed by Simon & Schuster to pen a series of books for young readers. As you'd expect, the series is to revolve around a group of "soccer playing best friends" who have themselves some adventures.

You can't argue that Ms. Morgan isn't qualified as far as the soccer playing bit goes. She scored that winning goal and all.

But to do the writing?

She doesn't really need to be a skilled wordsmith.

Ms. Morgan will put her name to the books, and young readers will snatch them up because they know who Alex Morgan is.

Simon and Schuster has editors aplenty to provide an outline. Indeed, these series for young readers tend to be as formulaic as a Harlequin romance. Ms. Morgan can then provide the technical details, insert her experiences, and a book is born.

Add to that the author's platform and the current interest in the United States' women's soccer team, and half the work to promote the book is already done. What girl wouldn't want to attend a book signing by an author wearing an Olympic gold medal?

Perhaps Ms. Morgan has dreams of being a novelist, or perhaps she simply wants to reach out to younger girls who might think their lives should revolve around boys and getting boys to like them and giving up sport because boys don't like sporty girls.

Sometimes, writing is all about the art. Sometimes, it's all about the marketing and turning a profit. And sometimes, marketing and profits can provide lessons to young ladies in a form that isn't like the parents preaching, which is an art in itself.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Complexities of Female Biology

According to Todd Akin, it was a conversation with doctors that had him misspeaking in regard to rape and pregnancy.

The man then repeated what he thought he'd heard, but female biology is complex and the average man just doesn't know enough science to understand what he's told.

He is against abortion for any reason, and thought he'd been given medical support for his beliefs. But again, he lacks knowledge and so he misunderstood what he thought was support for his position.

A genuine rape, and not some artificially concocted bit of violence, rarely results in pregnancy, so in Mr. Akin's mind, there's no need to carve out an exception to an absolute ban on abortion.

Women's bodies have an amazing ability to shut down, thereby preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Women's bodies are remarkable to men in so many ways, and so mysterious to those who never took courses on human physiology or reproductive biology. Why, that's almost everyone, isn't it?

Women's bodies do indeed have an inherent ability to shut down, but it is a permanent condition.

Yes, it's true.

Women reaching the age of fifty, or thereabouts, find that their reproductive systems shut down and they never get pregnant again. Not even if they want to.

This incredible ability is called....menopause.

So there you have it.

Women in the post-menopause phase of their lives do not get pregnant following genuine rape.

Todd Akin did not so much misspeak as misunderstand the facts that he used to frame his argument.

He could walk this all back and amend his stance to one that bans abortion in the case of post-menopausal women who are raped. Genuinely raped, of course.

As for the younger women who are twice traumatized, he could take a page from the Irish bishops of old and punish them for getting pregnant against their will.

A string of Magdalene laundries across the country out to do it. Look how well the culture of confinement worked for Ireland, where the government spent decades in policing morality.

And just try to get an abortion in Ireland in this day and age.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Out From The Plain Brown Wrapper

For those who have longed for a pair of soft, furry handcuffs to call their own, could they be coming to a major department store near you?

From the marketers who brought you 50 Shades of Grey, it's 50 shades of products to pair with your favorite mommy porn. Yes, the same people who represent author E. L. James will represent her new range of what they're calling sleepwear but we all know it's not intended to be worn long enough to ever be used for actual sleeping.

CopCorp Licensing will soon release a complete wardrobe for the most die-hard 50 Shades fan. It's more than lingerie and robes and such. There are plans to produce outerwear as well.

You've seen the young ladies sporting hoodies that proclaim "Love Pink"? It's a theme that's worked well for Victoria's Secret, which took Frederick's of Hollywood and made it mainstream. No one is embarrassed to seemingly proclaim an adoration of underclothes that aren't simply foundation garments.

Think about it. You know that countless women love Spanx but they aren't trumpeting the love in block letters on their backs. Where's the love of spandex boldly declared?

Forget "Love Pink". This fall, the girls will be loving grey, all fifty shades of it.

Imagine, if you can, a teen mom preparing for a night of fun. She can slip into 50 Shades knickers, pull on 50 Shades stockings and hold them up with a 50 Shades suspender belt. Top it off with a 50 Shades t-shirt and track suit, and she's ready to be a walking billboard for the brand.

No word yet on the general availability of bondage paraphernalia going mainstream, however, as part of the 50 Shades range.

Perhaps the world is not yet ready for sex toys to come out from under their plain brown wrappers.

Now that would be unique. And something that Victoria's Secret isn't marketing in their shops.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Clean Augean Stables, Kill Nemean Lion, Slay Hydra, Rid Vatican Of Evil...

Hercules was given twelve labors to perform, all tasks considered impossible to accomplish.

If he'd been given the task of ridding the Vatican of evil, he might have come up against something truly impossible.

According to the Pope's disgraced butler, Paolo Gabriele, he stole documents from the Pope's private apartments as his labor to rid the Vatican of corruption that he saw spreading throughout the Church.

He has been charged with common, ordinary theft, although no one has shown that the gentleman profited from his thievery.

To an extent, his labor has shed some light on the inner workings of the Vatican, in that several of the documents Mr. Gabriele stole reveal some classic insider deals. Those who knew somebody were granted contracts, so that there was no competitive bidding and no awards based on value.

Those select few turned profits, as much as stealing the money themselves while no one did anything to stop them. It was corruption throughout the system, a corruption that troubled Mr. Gabriele to such a degree that he blew the whistle.

Except there is no protection for whistle-blowers in the Vatican.

He faces several years in prison if convicted, with the trial not yet ready to begin. It takes time to put out the sort of fires that Mr. Gabriele started, those pesky conflagrations that have the faithful asking questions and not putting their hard-earned coin into the Peter's Pence collection.

The Pope can pardon the criminal, if he chooses, but Benedict XVI is a frail old man who cannot clean the Vatican of the filth that is sinking the Catholic Church.

There is only so far that the "pray, pay and obey" mantra can take you when you're trying to control an out-of-control bureaucracy filled with Italians who are steeped in the ways of Machiavelli.

Perhaps the butler will indeed be pardoned, so that there is no trial. What better way to hide the facts than to sweep all under the rug. Butlers do their fare share of sweeping, don't they?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Party Planning Without Consulting The Guest of Honor

Let's welcome home our Olympians the politicians said, and throw a party so that all of Ireland can celebrate.

Grand idea, but normally one consults the guests of honor prior to setting the date of the party.

And so, another debacle is launched.

The Irish are proud of their five Olympic medal winners. It's such a rare thing, and of course you'd expect a surge of excitement and a desire to do something special to mark the occasion.

The Olympic Council of Ireland made plans to welcome the athletes in Dublin with a parade and an open-topped bus. The parade would take place immediately, as soon as the Olympians stepped off the plane.

Sorry, said the athletes, your party is grand and all but we would like to see our families first?

Adding to the chaos were rumours that boxer Katie Taylor's father was against the bus and it was his fault that the plans were falling apart. So of course he had to go public to declare it wasn't him at all, but that sort of talk just makes the whole party planning crew seem out of their depth.

Not to worry. After speaking to the athletes, it's been decided that they can all go home first, where their local towns will celebrate a triumphant return. Katie Taylor will indeed ride an open bus, but it will be driven through Bray.

The national celebration will take place when the athletes are available, on Wednesday. The party will be held at noon on Wednesday, so those who have jobs can take their lunch break at the Mansion House and join in.

It's all worked out in the end.

For the citizens watching the event unfold, however, it doesn't instill confidence in a government that's supposed to be solving a deep financial crisis. If they can't even plan a small party, how can they plan a workable budget?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Stories All Around

When you are a writer, you see stories all around you.

You read about a man who lures his business partner to his death out of greed, and you don't think about the crime. You don't curse the man to hell for such cold-blooded, calculating cruelty.

Instead, you work your way into the murderer's head, to determine what would drive a person to such drastic action. Then you start composing a story around your observations.

Sean McGin owned a gym with another man, the KO Zone Gym that was located in the rust-belt town of Joliet. There was a time when the town's name was synonymous with limestone and quarries, and with the state prison that has since become a museum.

With a name like KO Zone, it's all about boxing, and if it's all about boxing, you picture troubled young men who are hoping to use their fighting skills for something besides gang warfare.

The police have said that Mr. McGin was lured to the back of the gym building in the middle of the night by the man who killed him. The murderer was offering to sell and deliver cocaine.

That makes the victim sound like a drug dealer, or a man so desperate for cash to shore up his failing business that he'd make a little easy cash with drug sales. Perhaps he was once a troubled young man who turned to boxing, but the troubles never quite left him.

What of the business partner who is said to have committed the crime?

Was he only greedy? Did he have a genuine understanding of the finality of death, or was his brain stuck in a video game mentality in which you start over and keep on playing.

Police claim the perp admitted under questioning that he didn't have the drugs, but he did take the money that Mr. McGin brought along to pay for the goods. And as you'd expect him to say, he's claiming that a co-conspirator did the shooting.

As the writer, you wander around in his head and find the core of the person. Then you put these two men together and set them in motion until they collide in story of vengeance, perhaps, or greed or even blackmail by a third party who comes into the manuscript in the last third.

It's real life, that murder over drugs in Joliet. But writers see real life and turn it into fiction that says more than the cold, hard facts everyone else reads in the newspaper.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Start The Celebration

Congratulations to the Fightin' Irish!!

Let the celebration begin....and it's safe to assume that they've been celebrating in Bray since Katie Taylor's arm was raised in victory yesterday.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Free Returns On Past Due Books

After the Chicago fire of 1871, the British pitched in to help the city get back on its feet by donating books.

There could be nothing more critical to civilization than the written word, and England did its best to restore civilization through a collection that may not have been made up of bestsellers, but provided reading material that might take the reader away from their troubles for a short time.

From that grand donation sprang the Chicago Public Library.

The donated books were lent out, circulated, and then over time, they disappeared.

By now, you'd imagine the fines would be astronomical, but it's not so bad as all that.

The Chicago Public Library is willing to take back any and all overdue books, no questions asked, and not charge the delinquent borrower a penny.

Amnesty for those who cower in the corner, ashamed at how long they've had that library book that they meant to return but after a few years, it's simply too embarrassing to hand it back.

Check your shelves. 

Open those old books that have been collecting dust and look for the bookplate that is featured above. It's all right that you've had the book for over one hundred years. Bring it back. No charge. No fine.

By most estimations, Chicago received about 8,000 books from the British.

They can't find a single one of them. They were lent out and never came back.

So do please check your shelves. There's a long list of people waiting to borrow Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market and Queen Victoria's personal favorite,  The Early Years of His Royal Highness The Prince Consort.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Budget Cuts Hit The Arts

Parents look at the cost of higher education and are increasingly unwilling to go into debt so that their offspring can major in the arts.

There simply are no jobs waiting at the end of four hard years.

There is no salary commensurate with the amount of student loan debt to be repaid.

So when the University of New Orleans looked around for budget cuts that had to be made to meet the drop in state tax income, they went to the places where the popular majors are not found.

The university's imprint has been shut down and Bill Lavender, the director of UNO Press, has been laid off.

As expected, the students who worked with Mr. Lavender are up in arms, but they are an endangered species these days and the school's budget committee is not going to listen to their emotional pleas.

This is all about money. There simply is not enough of it to go around to satisfy everyone, so UNO makes cuts where it will be less painful.

Books of poetry? That's a luxury in these hard times. It's not likely that too many parents will pay tuition for a child who wants to be a poet. There's no financial future in it. You want to write poetry? Do it in your spare time, after you've finished your shift as a surgical nurse at the local hospital.

A novelist? Don't make Mom and Dad laugh. Study engineering or finance. A minor in English is fine for pursuing the arts, and UNO's directors know that they don't need an expensive press to attract students who are not there for an outstanding English department.

Money is tight and this is a time to pare down expenses. In a few years time, things will turn around and private donations will return. The budget crisis will ease.

Instead of protesting Mr. Lavender's firing, the students might consider protesting the lack of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Much needed income from the petroleum industry has been lost with the bans and regulations placed on off-shore drilling, and Louisiana is suffering for it.

An uptick in oil revenues would go a long way to restoring funding at UNO, and bring Mr. Lavender, and UNO Press, back.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Opening The Door For Amazon

Publishers, authors, and countless other interested parties all filed statement with the Department of Justice when the nation's lawyers were examining the issue of collusion in e-book pricing.

The Feds believe that Apple and various publishers were in on a grand scheme to set the price of e-books, and that cannot be allowed to stand. It is commonly referred to as the "agency model", which was intended to keep Amazon from cornering the e-book market.

Independent publishers, along with several of the major houses, found that the agency model helped maintain competition among them, and kept Amazon at bay. The last thing they want is for Amazon to be the only game in town, setting the price for them, and therefore controlling how much profit they make.

Amazon publishes now, through its own imprint. Of course they'd want to maximize their own profits, and to do so would require driving their competitors out of business.

Authors fear that Amazon would come to control digital book pricing, in which case, they'd be in no position to negotiate a better deal for themselves. The author's royalties could be whatever Amazon wished them to be, and if that was mere pennies, well, go somewhere else....but there wouldn't be anywhere else to go to.

There are remedies in the law for victims of predatory pricing, but it does a company little good after it's been driven out of business.

That's why the agency model was created. By the time the D of J would act, harm would have been done and once a publishing house has failed or abandoned digital publishing to Amazon, it isn't coming back.

So what good would it do Grove/Atlantic or Chronicle Books if the Feds later decreed that Amazon was a monopoly and it had to be broken up? Jeff Bezos would still make out, and the competition would still be gone.

All those words have had no effect. The Department of Justice has decreed that the agency model violates the law and those participating in the scheme must stop and re-work their contracts. The publishers have several rings to jump through to show that they are behaving, in spite of all their assurances that all the D of J has done is open the door to Amazon's development of a monopoly.

The end result of the lawsuit will give Amazon more power in the marketplace, curtail competition, and harm both authors and the book-buying public. When that happens, the lawyers will come back and tinker, create more problems, and then tinker some more.

What's next?

The lawyers supporting the agency model can dither, file more motions, and generally stall for time, knowing that the election in November could bring in a new mindset at the Justice Department. There's that element of uncertainty that could drag out a final solution.

So are any of the defendants in the suit donating big to the Romney campaign?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Chicago Asks That You Please Smoke

Not cigarettes, God no. They're bad for you.

Coming to Lollapalooza? By all means, be sure to bring weed.

Just keep your stash to 15 grams at a time, and the city will thank you.

Chicago has a new ordinance regulating the possession of small amounts of marijuana, what is considered enough for personal use. That new law is going to be put into effect as the masses descend on Grant Park for the three day music festival.

Police will issue tickets to those found with the equivalent of 25 joints on them, and for every ticket, the city coffers will be $250 richer. Can't you just hear the cash registers cha-chinging at City Hall?

In years past, the police haven't bothered anyone who was smoking at the festival. It's a hassle to make an arrest in a crowd. But writing a ticket? What could be simpler?

The city needs the money. Desperately. The budget has a huge hole in it to begin with, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn't know what else to cut to get things into balance.

You don't have to cut if you can bring in more revenue, and 100,000 citations for possession? It's money in the bank.

The alderman who promoted the new ordinance is a bit perturbed because the young dealers in his neighborhood have been getting arrested, not ticketed, while the white kids at the various festivals get a pass. Walter Burnett realizes how critical those $250 drops are to the leaking bucket that is Chicago finances, and he knows it's expensive to arrest and incarcerate a person. He wants the cops to cooperate, write some tickets, and turn a profit.

So "doo-bee" an honored guest of the city of Chicago and have a toke. Just be sure to light up outside of the festival grounds, where the police are authorized to ticket smokers.

But please, leave the tobacco cigarettes at home. They're bad for your health.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Badminton As A Cut-throat Sport

Somehow, any scandal involving badminton doesn't resonate with the sport-loving public.

Perhaps it's because badminton is that game you play at garden parties after a few too many cocktails. It's what you did to pass the time as a child at some summer camp or other.

It is, in short, a dull game and does anyone watch it?

The Chinese and South Korean women's Olympic teams are under investigation for cheating at badminton. Who would have guessed that winning in such a sport could be so cut-throat?

The ladies are accused of slacking off in particular matches, of "not using one's best effort" to win. In essence, they took a dive, but not for cash payments.

No, the women did their best to lose so that they could be put into a bracket that offered easier competition. They found a way to get to the medals podium without having to work quite so hard. Indeed, many in the audience who watched the thrown matches had no doubt that the women were doing it on purpose, playing poorly and blowing easy shots.

They say that much of victory in sport is mental, and it takes some mental acuity to look at a tournament bracket and figure out who you have the best chance of beating. From there, it's a matter of manipulating the pairings as best you can, to get those advantageous matches.

But it's meant to be above board and fair, and the Olympics committee trusts the athletes to focus on winning where they are placed, rather than manipulating the playing field and making a mockery of the bracket system.

The Chinese, their reputation for cheating intact, have criticized their athletes, but it's only words. No one has been sent home in disgrace.

The South Koreans say they were getting back at the Chinese, playing the cheating game to prevent China from rigging the pairings so that their number one and number two teams would be paired in the gold medal match.

Will the gold be tainted by the cheating scandal? Will China be disqualified?

Does anyone care?

The Olympics Committee certainly should. It's their reputation that's at stake. And once they lose that, they risk losing the public's appreciation of games that are supposed to be nothing but pure athletic prowess, without the cynical manipulation.