Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sharp Political Satire on SNL Last Night

SNL's satiric edge comes and goes but it was very much in effect last night:

Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco family value

Donald Rumsfeld moves out
Most of Weekend edition

Amy Poehler's Weekend Update opening was especially apt:

"This week, on Tuesday night, in an ironic turnaround, Iraq brought regieme change to the U. S."

Can't help but gloat a little over the Republican losses.

Gotta wonder how much longer the Republicans are going to keep Karl Rove around, given they can't blame everything that happened on Tuesday on Donald Rumsfeld...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We've Dumped Rick!!!!

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:


Casey was projected the winner by a fair margin early on.

I'm so glad we've sent Rick packing (hopefully to his new home of Virginia, since he really hasn't lived in Pennsylvania for a while).

In his concession speech, Santorum said the Pennsylvanians were opinionated, and sometimes, that wasn't a good thing. Oh yes it was. It was a very good thing for Pennsylvanians, just not for him.

Melissa Hart also lost. Much as we need more women in Congress, we didn't need Bush-rubber stamps like her.

Unfortunately, one of Bush's other local rubber stamps, Tim Murphy (my rep) did win. Oh well.


Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

Get out and vote today. It's important. No matter how much certain political hacks try to suppress the vote, annoy the voters and manipulate the votes once they've been cast, it's vital to get out and vote anyway.

Of course, I'd say you should vote Democratic, given the extremes of the Republican party over many years or so. If there's any proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely, it's the behavior of Bush 'n' buddies.

But the important thing to do is to get out and participate in your democracy. VOTE! And, if you live in Pennsylvania, use this opportunity to DUMP RICK!.

If you're in Melissa Hart's district, I'd observe how funny it is that she complains of her opponent's "negative ads" which simply pointed out how frequently she voted with Bush and Santorum. She's claimed she was an "independent voice." What a joke!

Friday, November 03, 2006

What I Want in Government

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I want a fact-based government.
I want a government that listens
to the experts and the scholars
more than political hacks.

I want a government that pays
more attention to serving the
people than serving big business.

I want politicians who understand
the difference between partisanship
and behaving in a non-partisan way.

I want to have a government again
that respects the Constitution,
the Bill of Rights and the
rule of law.

America is supposed to be
a government of the people,
by the people and for the people.
It's not supposed to be
a government of the Republicans,
by the special interest groups
and for the rich.

I plan to help bring an ethical,
fact-based government back
to America on Tuesday, November 7.
I want to help elect public servants,
not people only interested in
serving themselves and their
political and corporate handlers.
That means I cannot vote for
any Republicans. It also means
I will watch everyone I do vote
for very, very carefully.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Representative Murphy, Like So Many Others, Is a Crook, Too

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

Is every single politician a crook?

Even my Congressman, Tim Murphy, has been accused of illegal activity - making your paid Congressional staff work on your campaign has always been illegal. And taking a TV reporter's papers related to this scandal while on the air has to be one of the most amazingly stupid things I've ever seen a political hack do.

So here's the note I E-mailed to Rep. Murphy tonight:

Dear Representative Murphy:

You've always presented yourself as just a citizen working for his district. That does not seem to be true; you're just another political hack feeding at the public trough. Your behavior on KDKA was ridiculous in the absurd - you don't think the reporter has other copies of the evidence against you? I'm glad I never voted for you.

Laurie D. T. Mann

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Garry Wills on How the Republicans Are Ruining America

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

This is nothing new, but it is very well researched, and is a reminder to thinking people of why the stakes are so high in the 2006 American elections. Thanks to Stephen Leigh for pointing this out in his LJ this morning.

While I've heard most of the information that Wills reports, I hadn't heard the bit about the National Park Service being forced to sell coloring books at the Grand Canyon suggesting that the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's Flood.

We truly do have a delusional government.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Have a New Job and Assorted Political Musings

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

My blog will probably be fairly quiet for a while as I have a new and very interesting contract job that will keep me pretty busy through at least the end of the year (and maybe longer). We also may have sold our old house. After months of money being tight, it was weird to both get a new job and enter into a contract on the old house on practically the same day.

I still follow politics and will definitely be voting out any Republican next month. Y'know, it occurs to me that one reason why there's so much fussing about the current political situation in the country is that so many more people or unemployed or underemployed. When you're unemployed, you have a lot more time to think about politics. When you're working, you don't.

The government continues to overreact to people. Recently, I read about a man who was "arrested for assault on the Vice President" for walking up to Cheney and basically telling him he was doing a bad job - he neither touched Cheney nor threatened to assault him. A 14-year-old girl was questioned by the Secret Service for daring to write "Kill Bush" on her MySpace Website. Doesn't the government have better things to do with its time than harass its citizens over engaging in their Constitutionally-protected right of free speech?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's Time to Teach People to FIGHT BACK

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

Enough of hostage-taking for any reason, in any venue.

People should be trained from the youngest age to FIGHT BACK.

While I don't advocate arming everyone, no one should be well-behaved or obedient when people's lives are at stake.

Even though the last few hostage-takers have been well-armed, I think it's way past time to let hostage-takers think that they are "in charge." It's past time to assume that hostage-takers can be "reasoned" with.

If someone comes at you with a weapon, you have to instantly assume that he is going to kill you. And the only way you have any chance to evade it is to cause a ruckus and try to escape.

Everyone, from the youngest age, should be trained to run, flee, scream, bite, kick, attack anyone who threatens them. Period. No one should control a situation merely because he has a gun or a bomb.

In short, throw a tantrum.

Whe one child throws a tantrum, it basically takes all of an adult's attention to deal with it. So how can a potential hostage-taker deal with a whole roomful of people throwing full-out tantrums? I'm not saying everyone would escape from situation uninjured, but I am saying it would immediately take away most of the hostage-taker's power.

Anyone who ever comes near me or any of my friends with a weapon will have to go through me, and I promise it will not be easy.

Do not go gentle...

BTW, I'm not promoting anarchy. Sometimes, you have to take some verbal or even abuse from people and not throw a tantrum. I'm arguing that when someone has a weapon that could kill you, you must fight back. Instantly. If all hostage-takers were instantly viewed as murderers and not "merely" as kidnappers, we'd have a tidal shift in the power structure.

10/14/2006: Interestingly, a school in Texas is doing something similiar to what I've recommended - they are teaching kids to fight back by throwing books/et.c. at any armed intruder. I never thought I'd be praising a Texas public school for anything, but good for them!

Friday, September 29, 2006

All Republican Congressional Representatives (and Some Democrats) Sink to Bush's Level

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I'm very disappointed by the vote to geld the Geneva Convention. A shame all Republicans have been captured by the rovian ravings of the Bush administration.

So here's what I wrote in response to my recent thank-you letters to several senators:

Dear Senator [[McCain/Graham/Warner]]:

A few weeks back, I sent you a thank-you letter over your then stated support of treating detainees fairly.

Now, given your vote yesterday, you've demonstrated you're nothing but a politician, Geneva Convention be damned. I'm disappointed, but not at all surprised by your behavior.

I look forward to the day when people of principle are elected to public office in this country. Because they clearly aren't being elected now.

Laurie Mann
McDonald, PA

I don't believe the Constitution is quite dead yet, but parts of it have clearly been amputated. This by the man who said, just last fall that the "Constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper."

Toilet paper to many of them, apparently.

His administration has now done more damage to the Constitution than any other enemy, either foreign or domestic.

This is just plain sick.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Specter Sinks to Santorum's Level

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

In the past, Senator Specter had shown some amount of independence from the neo-cons.

Unfortunately, at a time when America again needs some independent Senators, Specter has shown an inability to comprehend why Bush is wrong about wiretapping and wanting to disregard the Geneva Convention. These days, about the only Republican in the Senate with any backbone at all is John McCain.

So here's a letter I wrote to Senator Specter today, after he sold out the Constitution and the Geneva Convention to satisfy Karl Rove and company:

Dear Senator Specter:

I am very disappointed by your support of warrantless wiretapping. I had hoped you had more respect for the Constitution than to support this the administration in this fashion.

I am also appalled that our government is trying to modify its acceptance of the Geneva Convention, and that you support this attempt. I would have expected such behavior from Santorum, but not you.

I no longer have a Senator whom I can believe in representing my state. I will remember this when you are up for re-election.

Laurie Mann
McDonald, PA

I suspect that Senators McCain, Graham and Warner are getting a fair amount of hate mail from the raving rovians out there. I sent each of them a thank-you E-mail today. I've linked to their contact forms if you're in a hurry and want to drop them a line.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Don't Panic - a Repost for 9/11

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

After 9/11, I was generally aggravated, by the terrorists who did it, but also by our country's over-the-top response. I wrote the following essay a few months later. I still stand by most of what I wrote (though I was clearly wrong on at least one point):

Don't Panic - Suicide Bombers, Anthrax and Other Fears of Modern Life

© 2001, Laurie D. T. Mann (with occasional updates)

We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression.

I haven't been fretting much more about life and death since September 11. Sure, I had a major anxiety attack after watching about 36 hours of TV news on the night of September 12. But that was to be expected. Since then, no. I've driven to New York, New England and Maryland without any more concern than usual. I've gone to work and opened my mail.

Perhaps it's because I'm naturally a little more cynical than most people. When the media spoke of September 11 as "the day we lost our innocence," I wanted to ask what alternate reality they had been a part of. Just in my lifetime (I'm 44 now), I've seen bigotry and terrorism and war and just plain bad accidents. I've experienced sexism and hate speech. America has had many bad days in my lifetime.

While I do not remember the exact date, that terrible day in November 1978 when nearly 900 American citizens murdered members of their own families then took their own lives on the command of "religious leader" Jim Jones particularly affected me. How can people follow the insane commands of any person? Very few people ran out of the jungle to the relative safety of a nearby town. Almost everyone who was told to poisoned their children and then, themselves. The ability for nearly 1,000 people to think for themselves was completely lacking.

Or the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Initially, we all thought it was some sort of foreign terrorist. It was almost a worse thing to learn that it was a pair of Americans who murdered 168 other Americans in cold blood.

September 11 was a bad day, but much greater in scope.

I live in Pittsburgh, a city with more bridges than any other city in the world except for Venice. I've always been aware that bridges could collapse or tunnels could be blown up, yet I travel on them daily. I flew in early December, for the first time since July. I did fret a little more than during my last plane trip, but I expected the plane would not be hijacked and that I would get to my destination safely. And home again. And, I did. Statistics bore this out, even after this year.

My husband and I went to England, a country with a long history of living with small-scale terrorism. There are more video cameras about, but I did not notice many more police. Security in English airports was a little stricter than in American airports even before September 11. It was not a coincidence that none of the September 11 planes were international planes, despite the fact a plane flying to Europe would have had even more jet fuel than a plane flying to California.

I don't want to sound too much like a Pollyanna. I'm always aware of the terrible things that could happen, but I'll go along with living regardless. Life isn't about seeing how safe we can be, it's about having many different experiences, interacting with many different people and making contributions to society. Despite the horrible events of this year, statistically, we aren't that much less safe than we've ever been. Statistically, we aren't going to die from the acts of terrorists or from a war. We're way more likely to die in car accidents or from cancer or heart disease or AIDS.

These are the facts: Terrorists, whether they be foreign or domestic, do not have limitless resources. A number of their planned activities had been discovered and stopped before September 11 and continue to be discovered and stopped now. That doesn't mean they will never succeed again - it's likely that they will. It's unlikely that they will ever be able to hijack a plane and turn it into a flying bomb. But we might have small-scale suicide bombers like those in Israel. We may have more anthrax and other acts of bioterrorism. (Frankly, the anthrax letters and most of the threats look more like the acts of the American looney fringe than the Islamic looney fringe.) The looney fringe might even deploy "dirty bombs" (bombs made with nuclear by-products, but without enough enriched uranium to go critical), but getting a real nuclear weapon is unlikely (unless the government of Pakistan collapses).

Next fact: Lots of people get their kicks from making bomb (and now anthrax) threats. Bomb threats were very common in the '70s and early '80s and making threats have made massive comeback. None of the major terrorist incidents from the last few years had any real warnings. Frankly, I'm ignoring all threats as hot air.

Anthrax has people very upset, but I have to take the attitude of Dan Rather - if we let things like anthrax paralyze us, the terrorists, whether they be domestic or international, have won. Most of the people who got anthrax were mail handlers. Most of the people who died from anthrax had compromised immune systems. It's sad that anyone has gotten sick or died from bioterrorism, but, statistically, it's unlikely to happen to you, me or the vast majority of people alive today.

The level of fear is particularly troublesome when you consider how much the world has changed over the last hundred years. One hundred years ago, the life expectancy was not all that high; people died easily from TB, from childbirth, from viruses. Yet people still went out of their homes and went on with their lives. They explored all parts of the world without being guaranteed of their safety. We who have long lives and sanitary environments should not be so afraid of dying from a statistical unlikelihood like "murdered by terrorists."

I might be more fearful if I had lost a loved one on September 11. I heard the terrible news at work, and the Internet was so slow that virtually no news was available for an hour. Once I heard about the Pentagon, I thought of my brother who lives just down the street in Alexandria. It took nearly an hour to reach his answering machine, but even hearing his voice was reassuring. I was so shocked by the events of September 11 that it was literally days later that I remembered that, with all his business travel, he could have been on one of those planes.

I have many friends who live and work in Manhattan, but they work in publishing, within sight of the twin towers, but not in them. A handful of acquaintances have not been able to return to their apartments in lower Manhattan. Still, the closest call was an acquaintance from Massachusetts was due to fly out to California from Logan Airport to have a meeting that Tuesday morning. The man he was going to see called to postpone the meeting on Monday night. The flight he cancelled himself off of later crashed into the World Trade Center.

We felt extremely safe in Pittsburgh that September 11. No one would try to crash a plane in Pittsburgh, we all reasoned. But we had friends who called us to check in, having heard about the plane that crashed some 90 miles to the east.

I did panic briefly on September 11. I stayed at work but couldn't concentrate. My job was closed down at noon that day. I wanted to do something, but couldn't think of what to do. A friend sent around E-mail, urging people to go out and give blood. So that's what I did. Having something useful to do gave me a little better focus.

Short term panic in the midst of catastrophe is understandable. We're only human after all. But long-term panic isn't good, either for the individual or for the culture. We've got to do what we can to avoid cultural panic.

Photos from a trip to New York City, December 2001
We're Not Afraid - a Great Site, Post-London Subway Bombing 2005

I submitted the following two photos, and they used the Edinburgh one:

We're SO Not Afraid!
Not Afraid to Visit Edinburgh, 7/31/05! London - Be Back Soon!

Thanks to "Aifacat" at We're Not Afraid for finding that Confucius quote about not being oppressed by sorrow. Perhaps that's a big difference between the Americans and the Brits - I think there are a lot of Americans who wallow in sorrow as if it was a national pasttime. Both ends of the political struggle in America are quite guilty of this.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Using TV to Understand Life: Steve Irwin and Chuckles the Clown

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

Like I said a few days back, I don't normally get upset when I'm updating Dead People Server. Not that I don't care, but I'm just a realist about death. I did find Steve Irwin's death upsetting, however. He was so youthful, so enthusiastic, and he left a young family. He was literally just getting started.

But, this morning, I was recording a segment on the Ugly Phil Morning Show, a radio show on Kerang in Birmingham, England. I'm unfamiliar with ths show, but it sounded like it was kind of a comedy show, and that's fine.

We talked about Dead People Server and about the shock of Steve Irwin's death.

And suddenly, thinking about a man who wrestled hundreds of crocs during his life, dozens of poisonous snakes and probably other encounters not recorded, to be cut down by a stingray barb, made us all laugh. We really didn't mean to. We don't look at Irwin's death as a, when you get right down to it.

Back in the '70s, The Mary Tyler Moore Show comically dealt with the very odd death of Chuckles the Clown (dressed like a giant peanut and trampled by an elephant). Everyone in the newsroom laughed about Chuckles' death, except for Mary. She kept getting angry at the people who laughed. Suddenly, in the middle of Chuckles' funeral, it was Mary who couldn't stop laughing.

There is normally nothing funny about death, but, sometimes, the situation around it can be. If Jim and I die from a common cause like cancer or heart disease or a car accident, that's not so funny. If we die because a bookcase falls on us (we're avid book collectors)!

If, say, Rick Santorum died of a heart attack, well, that wouldn't be funny (though it would make many of us breathe a sigh of relief). If he died of a heart attack during a homosexual tryst with a HYSTERICAL! Not because he collects leathermen (to the best of anyone's knowledge, he does not), but because he is so adamantly and so publicly homophobic.

So sometimes death...can be a scream.

Monday, September 04, 2006

DPS Updates: Steve Irwin and Bob Mathias

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I'm a realist - we all die. So while updating Dead People Server is sad, the vast majority of dead people listed on it are fairly old. Which is as it should be.

Every once in a while, you have an "Oh shit" reaction to someone's death. And that's what I said when I checked CNN this morning and read about Steve Irwin's untimely death from a stingray barb. Irwin was alternately entertaining and exasperating, but I always loved his enthusiasm and sense of humor. Since I was not a big fan of animal shows, he was the only reason I ever watched the Animal Planet channel.

Back in the days before the picture on the Wheaties box changed more regularly than Allen Iverson's tatoos, Bob Mathias' picture was there through the '60s and some of the '70s. He died of cancer at 75 over the weekend.

Shoot, and I always thought Wheaties were good for you. ;->

Seriously, he won two Olympic decathalons over 50 years ago, and that record still stands.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some Thoughts on Mayor O'Connor

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I haven't lived in Pittsburgh in a while (though I've lived in suburban Pittsburgh for the last 13 years). Bob O'Connor has been involved in Pittsburgh politics almost as long as I remember. Win or lose an election, he always seemed very enthusiastic about the city, and I was glad when finally was elected mayor last fall.

On July 1, he was involved with singing "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" at Point State Park with several hundred other people for Carl Kurlander's documentary "A Tale of Two Cities." He was looking very dapper that day, dressed in a crisp white shirt and talking to Dan Onorato, the Allegheny County Chief Executive.

Ironically, it was one of his last public appearances. Within ten days, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died tonight about 24 hours after being taken off of life support.

It's a shame. O'Connor is now the second Pittsburgh mayor to succumb rather early to a rare disease. Eighteen years ago, Mayor Richard Caliguiri died at the age of 56.

Unlike Tom Murphy who always seemed to be "going through the motions," O'Connor genuinely liked getting out and talking to people and trying to move the city forward. I will miss him, and I wish young Luke Ravenstahl, who'll become Pittsburgh's next mayor as he's currently the President of City Council, good luck. O'Connor will be a very tough act to follow.

Monday, August 28, 2006

My Night With Harlan Ellison, Part II

Part I

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I wound up directing Harlan and Susan Ellison to the far side of the stage. They were a little more out-of-the-way than they should have been. From here on out, Harlan was alternately snippy and not so snippy (I don't want to accuse him of being apologetic, because he never went that far, but...maybe it was apologetic for him!). At first he seemed upset with his seat (just past the Hugo nomination area), but then he said everything was fine. Then he went to complain to people he knew in the audience about his seats...

I stopped back and checked in with Kathryn, the backstage crew and the presenters. They were discussing how to keep Harlan onstage after presenting the Short Story Hugo. It turned out, he was getting a special committee award. "Um, I just got them seated off to one I ought to do it."

That meant, I had to be a Hugo escourt without having gone through Hugo escourt training. "I should be OK; I know I have to hold the Hugo and stand on the black X. And if Harlan tries to leave the stage before Connie gives him his award, I can always tackle him."

Kathryn and Randy Smith said that would be fine, so I got the job. I went back to my seat out front.

When Harlan was off chatting with people in the audience, I spoke to his wife Susan briefly. Susan had been a movie reviewer in the early '80s, so I told her how much I'd enjoyed her reviews. She was very gracious.

The Hugo Ceremony went off without any major hitches. Robert Silverberg and the official MC Connie Willis bantered appropriately. We cheered like sportsfans at the Super Bowl for David Hartwell who won his overdue Hugo. We cheered for the very elegant Betty Ballantine who was resplendant in a gold gown and who won a special committee award. Connie kept the ceremony moving and everything was going very well.

Just before the Best Related Book presentation, I had to get Harlan backstage to get ready for his presentation. Once we got to the side of the stage, he stopped.

"Everyone's entering from the other side," I explained.

"I don't want to, I'll just come from here."

I ran around to the other side of the stage and alerted the backstage crew to expect Harlan's entrance from the far side of the stage. They handed me a Hugo, and once the Best Related Book presentation was done, I followed Connie onstage and planted myself firmly on the X.

Connie announced Harlan as the Best Short Story Hugo presenter.

People applauded.

Nothing happened. He was no longer offstage, he was nowhere to be found.

Connie asked for him again, and we heard a very loud "NO!" from the far side of the arena. Connie successfully ad-libbed him onstage.

I'm standing onstage, holding a Hugo, knowing I don't look a thing like Vanna White (though we both are the same age). I'm standing well behind both Harlan and Connie, and I really don't remember their banter too well. I kept thinking 'Shit, I've got to get Harlan to stay onstage...and maybe I will need to tackle him.'

Since I was standing behind Harlan and Connie, I could hear what they were saying, but I couldn't see what, if anything, was going on between them.

Eventually, Harlan gave a nice speech about the importance of short stories. He read the nominees, and said, "Come on up here, Dave!" Dave Levine leapt up onstage, did not lose his top hat, and hugged Harlan.

Laurie Mann, Harlan Ellison and Dave Levine, Photo by Keith Stokes

Photo by Keith Stokes

As Dave was talking, Harlan started to exit the stage, but I caught up with him and said, "Please wait, Connie wants to talk to you."

For the very first time that night, Harlan did what I asked. *WHEW!*

Connie returned and gave Harlan the other special committee award. He made a short speech in which he said he expected L.A.Con IV would be his last convention. We exited the stage without further incident. Harlan returned to Susan, I returned to my seat, then Harlan and Susan left the arena.

After the Hugo Ceremony, various people came up to me and asked "Did Harlan grope you?"

I shrugged it off. "I'm a fat woman; I don't think Harlan gropes fat women." But I had no idea why people were asking me that.

What I didn't know until the next day was that Harlan groped Connie when they were standing together by the podium. Not only that, it was captured by the cameras, so everyone in the arena saw it. Connie, class act that she was, didn't miss a beat, continued with the ceremony like an adult. Connie kept the focus of the ceremony on honoring the winners, and not drawing more attention to Harlan's behavior.

After L.A.Con, Harlan first "apologized" for the grope, and then later denied that he had groped Connie in the first place. Harlan overlooked facts (so like the Bush administration) when they did not conform to his version of reality. Like a few hundred people saw the grope as it happened. And a few dozen cameras captured it. Like this one.

While I've read a fair amount of Connie's fiction, I'd never read The Doomsday Book until the plane trip around Worldcon. It is a fabulous book. The chapters covering the decimation of the medieval village are brilliant, meticulously researched, and moved me to tears. Connie is a much better role model for writers than Harlan Ellison.

Sunday, I learned of one screw-up I made during the Hugo ceremony. Like I said, I didn't go to "Hugo escourt training" because I didn't expect to be a Hugo escourt. So when I held the Hugo up onstage, I held it up to best show-off the Hugo - facing forward. I'd complete forgotten that the Hugo winner's name was engraved on a plate in front of the Hugo! Dave Levine told me later that, as a result, everyone kept staring at the Hugo while I was holding it, trying to see if they could read the winner's name before it was announced.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

My Night With Harlan Ellison, Part I

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

If you were at the Hugo Ceremonies at L.A.Con IV, you might have noticed a woman in a blue dress standing behind Harlan Ellison when he was making a presentation during the awards. That was me. Through a weird set of circumstances, I wound up trying to "wrangle Harlan" for the Hugos. It was a weird evening indeed, for a number of reasons.

The Short Term Background: I would love to run the Hugo Ceremony some day, so I volunteered to be Kathryn Daugherty's assistant for the L.A.Con IV Hugo Ceremony. I spent most of Saturday afternoon talking with nominees and designated acceptors, making sure they understood the lay of the stage, what the podium was like, and how to exit. This turned out to be the fun part of the job.

Arena Photo During Rehearsal by John Scalzi

Photo by John Scalzi

I knew the job during the ceremony was to do anything Kathryn wanted me to do. Most of that was not too taxing - checking the seating arrangements, running little errands, nothing particularly difficult. Why, I even had enough time to get my picture taken with Kathryn and Ruth Sachter (Hugo Administrator John Lorentz's wife and a very old friend of mine):

Kathryn Daugherty, Laurie Mann, Ruth Sachter at the L.A.Con IV Hugo Ceremony

Photo probably by Jim Mann

Financial Aside: Yeah, I know I've complained about being "house poor" of late, so how did I get such a great dress? It was on sale for $36.

I'm not overly "star struck" by people I meet at cons. I've known many of the nominees and Hugo ceremony participants for a long time, as I've helped to run cons for 30 years. Heck, Dave Kyle has slept in my house, I've been getting Dave Levine and Kate Yule's Bento since the early days. I've been on panels with Connie Willis. I was on GEnie with C.Doctorow before he was famous. I've followed the wonderful world of John Scalzi in his blog. But, I was more than a little tired by the Saturday of Worldcon, and the Hugo Ceremony tends to make me very hyper.

So Kathryn told me to help get the Hugo nominees out of the pre-reception and into the audience. Most people got moving without much encouragement. But one presenter who wasn't budging was Harlan Ellison, who was busy eating reception snacks. With more than a little trepedation, I told Harlan it was time to go out to the arena.

"Can I take my food with me?"

"" (and when was the last time you saw people bring food into the Hugo ceremony?)

"What are you, demented?" (or words to that effect; I was not quite shaking in my sandals, and once a writer whose works you've adored refers to you as "demented," you tend to lose track of the exact sequence of words...)

The Long-Term Background: I'm well aware of Harlan's temper. While I don't think he ever saw my name badge, I'd been the indirect recipient of Harlan's ire several times in the past.

The Even-Longer-Term Background: When I started to read SF in 1973, I was 16 and completely fell in love with the writing of many SF writers but especially the writing of Harlan Ellison. When I started to write SF, I wanted to write with the kind of emotional wallop that he did. I loved Harlan's writing so much that when I met Anne McCaffrey at Boskone 12 in 1975, I told her I wanted to be the next Harlan Ellison.

She rolled her eyes at me, and I didn't exactly understand why at the time.

I met Harlan in 1976 at an Ohio college convention that was so badly managed it earned the nickname of "4th Disaster Con" by Saturday. Harlan was very pleasant, and even signed my copy of Rockabilly, a book I'd been warned that Harlan would rip up when someone handed it to him. Instead, he signed it, looked at the cover and laughed. The back cover had a photo of an extremely young Harlan Ellison in a trenchcoat with a cigarette dangling from his lips.

A few years later, I attended a reading Harlan gave in Pittsburgh. For the first time, I was a little disappointed in his writing. His stories were still good, but not great. Harlan irritated me further by harassing a female college student who was his minder from the stage. She was so embarrassed by him that she left the hall.

I reviewed Harlan's readings for a tiny (about 60-copy count) fanzine, giving an honest assessment. The editor called me a few months later to say that Harlan had called him and chewed him out over the phone over my review.


Now, Harlan never did call me to chew me out. I'm not sure how I would have reacted, but I never had to find out then.

I saw Harlan at Noreascon II in Boston in 1980. He gave a very entertaining, Harlanesque talk and was generally quite pleasant all weekend. That was the weekend he bought the famous Barclay Shaw carved desk. I think it was also the weekend he met his future wife, Susan. I shared an elevator with him and I guess he'd completely forgotten that I'd once mightily offended him. Either that or he didn't see my name badge. Either that or maybe he viewed bothering pregnant women as "off limits."

I didn't see Harlan much in the '80s or '90s. He was on the West Coast and I was on the East. But, in the mid '90s, my husband Jim edited Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Fiction of Cordwainer Smith. The Paul Linebarger estate was a strong supporter of the project, and wanted all of Smith's short works to be included. Including a piece Harlan had bought over twenty years previously for the still-unpublished The Last Dangerous Visions. We heard Harlan was very angry about people who were publishing anything intended for The Last Dangerous Visions. Legally, however, NESFA Press had the consent of the estate, which was all that mattered.

At some point in the '90s, Harlan was a guest at Readercon, and apparently it turned into a long rant against NESFA Press for daring the publish this story.


So, back to the present.

All the other Hugo nominees and presenters were heading for the auditorium, and Harlan seemed pissed at me for trying to get him to follow directions. I don't deal really well with angry people, particularly ones who I had to try to be nice to. I stepped back for a minute and took a deep breath.

I tried to be diplomatic. "We need to get all the presenters and nominees to the floor."

"You're being awfully twitchy," Harlan said. "I'm taking this with me."

Unwilling to fight with him, I just nodded and said, "Follow me."

So Harlan and Susan were near the end of a big line of people. I managed to jump around some of them, trying to find good seats for Harlan and Susan. As a presenter, Harlan needed to be either in a front row seat or on an aisle. And most of these seats were already gone.

Part II

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On Being an Unemployed Movie Geek, Day 1

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

There are many disadvantages to being unemployed. Some monetary constraints and general boredom to name two.

But there are some advantages. I did an awful lot of our house-hunting/house-buying/moving legwork. I finshed writing my novel. In early July, I got to be an unpaid production assistant for the day during a local documentary shoot, A Tale of Two Cities. I've been working with David Brody on the William Tenn documentary. And, today, I tried out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

The show asked all potential contestents to take two different trivia tests - the regular test, and the movie-trivia test for a week of movie-related shows that Netflix is sponsoring this fall. Over 230 people take the tests at a time (there were easily over 1,000 test-takers in line in Pittsburgh today). About 40 people pass the tests at each session.

I passed BOTH TESTS!

So I got to talk to an assistant producer for about a minute about what I love about movies.

This doesn't mean I'll get on the show. Maybe too many middle-aged white women passed both tests this year. Who knows. But after flunking the Jeopardy test twice, I'm psyched to have passed both Millionaire tests!

Since I got out of the test around lunch time, I wandered over to Bar Louie where I ran into some folks from the contestent line having lunch. I asked if I could join them, they said sure, so we had a very pleasant hour chatting on the patio.

So, tomorrow I'm doing something else I've always wanted to do - I'm going to the casting call for a movie. They are wisely shooting Michael Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh this fall. I'm trying out to be an extra. There is a tiny part I would be perfect for if only I was a little younger - they're looking for a fat female to play a bookstore employee. Unfortunately, she needs to be about 30, and I'm now way old for that part.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Computer Woes, Confluence, Lots of Company

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

That's why I haven't been blogging lately.

If you've E-mailed me recently and you haven't heard back - please E-mail me again. I had a computer failure followed by some weird security/mail server problems which means I've lost some E-mails and some responses I did actually send were apparently eaten by a hypervigilant security program.

I think the E-mail is back to normal.

Confluence went generally well. *WHEW!*

It was lots of fun to have company - from Connecticut, England, Florida and New Zealand. I'll try to post some photos soon.

I have some off-line stuff to do today and need to finish that before I can start to share some photos from the summer.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Drama vs. Melodrama

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

This is kind of a vague essay on drama vs. melodrama. I don't know how detailed I want to be about an unpublished novel...I might write a more specific essay to share with people who have read the whole novel, to see if this makes any sense.

As I've said, my first, unpublished novel, IRL, is a mixed bag of a novel. It's comic at times and quite serious at other times. But, the version I wrote in 2005 had two very shocking elements:

  • * a character suddenly becomes deathly ill, causing another character to have a major crisis of conscience

  • * a character dies in a terrorist incident

When I started re-examing the novel in early 2006, I realized both of those elements were simply too melodramatic. The novel was already death-obsessed, and these elements were over-the-top. I came to the conclusion about both elements at about the same time; both caused the novel to lose its focus.

The "deathly ill" part took place in Chapter 11. Chapter 11 is a very pivotal chapter, about 1/3rd of the way through the novel. I realized by not making the character in question "deathly ill," the chapter generally felt more realistic. I rewrote the chapter in pretty much one day, and it went from being too tortured in places to being mostly subdued. But that was OK; the "more tortured" chapter in that part of the novel needed to be a later chapter.

When I looked at the novel again this July, I realized Chapter 11 was now too quiet. In particular, a character's attitude changed quickly with little consideration. So, I revised Chapter 11 a little bit; it wasn't a rewrite, so much as a reshaping.

As the novel winds down, a character becomes debilitated and this impacts the story dramatically. For the longest time, I killed off another major character at the end in a terrorist incident. I came to the conclusion in January that this was just too much.

In late January, I wrote a long bit involving the terrorist incident. Instead of dying, the character survived, though badly injured. In some ways, writing this sequence was helpful; it got me started writing again after a nearly six-month hiatus. But, after about two weeks, I realized I was going off in completely the wrong direction, so I deleted the terrorist incident all together.

So I had to write an all new ending. Much as I avoided writing this particular ending for nearly five years (I started this novel as a character sketch in the winter of 2001 for a writing class, and had a rough outline almost immediately), I finally wrote a different approach to the ending. I hate to say "thus and so almost wrote itself." I was shocked by how quickly I was able to write the last chapter. Maybe it was because I'd thought so much about the characters and their situation over a very long time. While it still needs a small edit near the very end, the last chapter is basically a first draft. I don't write description well, but the description in the last chapter seems to work.

If too much bad seems to be happening to your characters all at once, perhaps you're substituting melodrama for drama. I suspect this is an easy mistake for some writers to make. I may still be spilling over into melodrama over the last quarter of my novel, but it doesn't feel as obvious to me now as it did last winter.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Going to the Regatta Saturday? Be In a Movie!

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

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Ever wanted to be in a movie?

You have your chance this Saturday, July 1. The finale piece to Carl Kurlander's documentary A Tale of Two Cities will be shot at the Point at 5:00pm. We're looking for many, many Pittsburghers to take part in singing the classic song "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," against the backdrop of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline. The singing will be led by none other than Mr. McFeely (David Newell) of Misterogers' Neighborhood. Many local celebrities will also take part in this performance (but if I told you who was coming, it wouldn't be a surprise).

If you'd like to take part, go to the area of Point State Park between the performance stage and the fountain after 4:30pm. The singing will start by 5pm.

If it rains Saturday afternoon, the filming will take place Monday afternoon, same location, at 5pm.

For more information on this event, visit our Website.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Bad Blogger Trend - Syndication Without Credit

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

As I've been saying for years, I like to be linked to. Whenever anyone's written to me and asked me if they can link to something I've put online, I don't hesitate to say, "Of course. This is the Web - you can link to anything you'd like."

Recently, though, I've been finding some of my blog entries copied without any attribution for the sole purpose of third parties getting a few pennies from Google or other advertisers. This is just another form of plagarism, and I think it's very unfair. So I'll be annoyingly beginning all future blog entries with a separate copyright notice and a link back to my site.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Who Is Your IMDB Namesake? (*Meme Alert!!*)

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I love the Internet Movie Database. It's a wonderful collection of data (mostly accurate even). Before there was a Wikipedia, there was IMDB, a database that was created by movie fans, for movie fans.

I'm not sure how many names of actors and crew are in the database. Probably over 100,000. So I was curious - do I have a namesake in IMDB?

Well, first I should observe that I am very close to a relatively-well-known IMDB namesake - Leslie Mann. We named our daughter "Leslie" when she was born in 1980 as we liked the name, my name is Scottish and we liked the idea of giving our child a name that reflected part of her varied cultural background. In 1996, when our Leslie was 16, we first heard of Leslie Mann, the actress.

Leslie Susan Mann, Geek    Leslie Mann, Actress

Leslie Mann, the actress, is about eight years older than our Leslie, and has mostly played comic roles. In the mid-'90s our Leslie's favorite actor was Jim Carrey. Leslie Mann's first major role was in The Cable Guy, with Jim Carrey as the lead. Leslie Mann the actress was also in 40 Year Old Virgin last year.

I then looked my name up in IMDB and found a match! There is/was an actress named Laurie Mann (at least one of them) who was on a TV show in the '50s and did a cartoon voice on Scooby Doo in the '70s. IMDB doesn't have a photo of her, and I couldn't find one online either.

My husband Jim Mann has at least three namesakes in IMDB (more if you include the many hits to James Mann). Though Jim has edited several books, he is not the "Jim Mann" who appeared on BookNotes in 1990.

So, do you have any IMDB namesakes?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fan Letter to Arlen Specter

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

Live in Pennsylvania? Send Arlen a letter! I did:

Dear Senator Specter:

Thank-you so much for again demonstrating that some Republicans are capable of independent thought.

I really appreciate your vote against the "gay marriage amendment."

I also appreciate that you are representing the people and the Constitution against the current administration over issues around domestic spying.

At least I can be proud of one of my Senators!


Laurie D. T. Mann

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thanks to the Pittsburgh on Broadway Series for Listening!!!

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

Last December, I bitched mightily about not being able to buy Wicked tickets the day they went onsale. Most of the tickets had been picked up by scalpers and resold at 2X to 4X their face value. I was pissed. I did get to see Wicked by buying an available ticket at the last minute. It was a great show, and I'm glad I could go. I do feel sorry for the folks who wound up paying so much more for those tickets.

Well, someone at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust seems to have been listening. They sent around an E-mail to anyone whose E-mail address they had and offered to let us buy Spamalot tickets before they went onsale to the general public. As a result, I just paid face value for three tickets. Thanks!

6/8/06 Update- I'd sent a note to Chris Rawson at the Post-Gazette about this, and the letter was published today (second one down).

Ann Coulter - Sick Joke

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I don't listen to Ann Coulter. The few times I've read words she's reported to have said indicate she doesn't have an original thought.

So she's just written a book called "Godless - The Church of Liberalism." And she shows up on the Today Show, at 7:15 in the morning, dressed like a hooker. She was wearing the sort of sleeveless, little black dress you sometimes see the working girls wear.

What point was she trying to make? If she was trying to make a serious point, shouldn't she pay a little more attention to what she wears? I should add that, like when I see Rick Santorum, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Ralph Reed and William Bennett on TV, I press the "mute" button as soon as Ann Coulter appears. It's still something like a free country and I'd rather not listen to the dittoheads.

The notion that liberalism is some sort of dogmatic religion is a joke. I know many liberals who believe in God. However, liberals tend to leave religious dogma as politics to the Republicans. Most of us liberals prefer to do our thinking for ourselves. The fact that the Republicans can say "gay marriage" and "immigration reform" and expect their "base" to respond like Pavlov's dogs indicates how incapable of independent thought so many Republicans are. Like Ann Coulter.

6/7/06 - turned out Ann was even more out-of-touch with reality than usual, and used her book to bash - women widowed by the 9/11 terrorist attack. I'm glad my mute button was working yesterday morning.

Friday, May 26, 2006

When You Finally Get Your Dream House...*sigh*

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

I've adored this house from the minute I saw it nearly three months ago.

I'd been looking for a new house for a while - we have a large book collection and simply needed a bigger house. While I spent about two months looking at houses, Jim spent about two days looking at houses since this home fit the bill (well, once I made changes that reflected the way we'd use the house).

I brought Jim out to look at this house, and he agreed. So we put a downpayment on it after sleeping on it for two nights.

The move has been extremely stressful. We'd lived in our Mt. Lebanon house for nearly 13 years, which was longer than any of us had ever lived anywhere. I didn't get us completely packed and completely moved out as I'd hoped to. Even now (over two weeks after the move) I'm still doing some clean-up to the old house. Our real estate agent recommended ripping out some rugs, and I'm doing that now.


The new house is just great for us. So far, so good.

The Mt. Lebanon house is officially for sale. If you're looking for an inexpensive home in Mount Lebanon that lets you walk to the high school, middle school, pool, library, some churches, 44U, 36A buslines and 42S trolley, this is the house for you. While you may find that the house needs cosmetics, the roof is brand new, the driveway is reasonably new and it's listed for $129,000. In short, if you want a Mt. Lebanon home at a reasonable price, ths may be the place for you.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Moving to the Country

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

Our move to a new house went well. The weather was just perfect; maybe a little warm on the second day, but not too bad.

I was tired and didn't get as much packing/cleaning done as I'd hoped. But the moving crew (Allegheny Valley Transfer - Allied Van Lines) took everything in stride. There was one problem on their side - they didn't bring a big enough truck. So they brought in another truck during the afternoon.

Two Trucks...

Jim cleaned up the former library.

The Library

We left one last load of trash on the curb.

Good-bye to All That

The movers found the new place the next morning.


Unpacking and set-up continues. I got the kitchen set-up yesterday while Jim focused on his office. Today, I have to return to the old house to pick up some things I'd left behind and do some cleaning.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Getting Ready for the Big Move

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

We've been in our current, too-small (ahh..."very cozy" house in marketing-speak) for nearly 13 years. So it's gone from being too small to being way-too-small over the years.

So now we're moving into a house out in the country with over 2X the space.

I've spent almost three full days over the last week at the new house, waiting for deliveries and moving in some of the small stuff. We've gotten some new furniture and a new washing machine without too much grief (except for Jim's new desk from Office Max...**grrrr**). I haven't really been able to write lately; I've been admittedly obsessive about the new house. I've always wanted a new house. About my only regret about the house is that it is a little further in the country than I would have liked. But it is so nice and so quiet...I'm looking forward to all that quiet!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Can We Trust Government "Science?"

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann

Please read my blog entries at my Web site:

The FDA reports that marijuana has no benefit for medical use.

Given that the FDA is under the thumb of Republicans, who have no respect for science, I don't believe what the FDA says. I've known too many sick people who report improvements in appetite and nausea when they use pot. Even very conservative people (like my own mother) think medical marijuana is OK.

Since our government ignores facts when they interfere with its agenda, I do not believe this FDA announcement. The same FDA won't permit "Plan B" to be sold without a prescription because the government claims Plan B is abortion. The same FDA won't promote use of the anti-cervical cancer vaccine for fear that it might encourage young women to be promiscuous. The same government doesn't believe that human activity influences global warming, and didn't believe (until really recently) that energy conservation was a good idea.

Don't get me wrong - personally, I don't use marijuana. I found out over 30 years ago that pot triggers asthma and gives me a sore throat. But I do think pot should be legal for home use. It shouldn't be anyone's business. Pot shold be regulated and taxed the way that alcohol is.

I look forward to having a reality-based government someday. We clearly don't have one now.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We Are Here...

Somewhere around 1960, my parents bought me a pine dresser. It lasted through my childhood. At one point, I painted it blue. Eventually, when Jim, Leslie and I moved Massachusetts, I retrieved the dresser from my parents and gave it to Leslie.

Since it was a pine dresser, it really wasn't meant to last for 45 years. It's been falling apart for a few years. So, since we're moving, Jim and I are getting new dressers, and I'm giving my current dresser (which I think had been Jim's grandmother's) to Leslie.

Before I put the pine dresser out for the garbage collectors, I noticed we'd both signed the same drawer:


Friday, April 07, 2006

The Birthdate Meme and the States Visited Meme

Not clear where this came from, but:

Go to Wikipedia ( Type in your birth date (but not year). List three events that happened on your birthday. List two important birthdays and one interesting death. Post this in your journal.

My birthdate is February 2, aka Groundhog Day.

Interesting Events

1709 - Alexander Selkirk is rescued from shipwreck on a desert island, inspiring the book Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.
1933 - Adolf Hitler dissolves the German Parliament.
1990 - Apartheid: In South Africa President F.W. de Klerk allows the African National Congress to legally function again and promises to set Nelson Mandela free.

Interesting Birthdays

1882 - James Joyce, Irish author (d. 1941)
1949 - Brent Spiner, American actor

Interesting Deaths

1461 - Owen Tudor, Welsh founder of the Tudor dynasty of England

In addition to Dead People Server, I've been tracking a list of people born in 1957.

States Visited Meme

A new hack from Google, apparently.

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Current Immigration Problems...

Most of my family has been in the United States for a very long time. My ancestors were mostly English and Scottish. They started leaving the Old World for the new as early as 1642. I have no idea if they had the proper papers or not. I only know that they came and ran farms, small businesses, churches, and families all over New England.

I think the hysteria over illegal immigration is troublesome, because it focuses on the wrong problems. Yes, of course governments should be on the lookout for potential terrorists. But should they be focused on so much on economic refugees? I don't think so. Should we declare illegal immigrants and the folks that help them felons? Why? What ever happened to "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free?" What ever happened to "Love thy neighbor as thyself?"

People willing to come to this country to work should not be discouraged. And that's all the vast majority of the illeagal immgrants want.

But aren't they taking American jobs? Sometimes. But many people have reported that Americans generally aren't working in the fields. I've read blogs by Mexican-American writers who report never having seen "Anglos" working in the fields. Granted, these are low-paying, backbreaking jobs.

But if Americans aren't taking these jobs...why can't immigrants?

I love going to areas where I don't always hear English. I've been delighted to be one of the only non-Asians at a dim sum restaurant in San Francisco. I don't mind having to work a little harder to speak slowly to a person who isn't a native English speaker. This tends to freak many Americans out.

The bottom line is the immigration debate brings out racism in a very vocal group of Americans.

As much as President Bush has been so wrong so often in his public career, he's been about the most rational public voice on the immigration debate. And thank goodness for the common sense displayed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on this issue.

It would be nice if the more Americans could show as much common sense.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Finally Made it Into the "We Are Not Afraid" Gallery

I love the Brits.

Only in England could a wonderful site like We Are Not Afraid bloom into a Web phenomenon by the middle of July of last year. It was a response to the temptation to give into despair after the subway bombings last July. I loved the site and sent them a "We Are Not Afraid" photo of my own, which is now linked to this page (I'm in the upper right hand corner).

After 9/11, I was dismayed by the "let's let the terrorists terrify us" attitude that the American people adopted after the attacks. I wrote an essay in the fall of 2001, saying why I thought this attitude was such a serious mistake.


Today, in filling out the paperwork for the mortgage on our new house, one of the forms was a "Patriot Act" form, saying the government the government has the right to review applications for loans for possible money laundering activities...
Yes, of course we completed the form, but still!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Really, Really Finished My Novel Today

Which is ironic to say the least.

Exactly one year ago today, I wrote in this blog:

I didn't just tinker yesterday - I wrote over 1,000 words. I haven't written that much fiction at once in a long time. And I've added about another 500 words today, so far.

I've battled writers block for nearly 30 years. As a result, I haven't really submitted very much, and focused on writing at work (which generally went fine) and Web writing (which has generally come pretty easily to me).

The "tinkering" I was talking about was on a novel I now call IRL. I got the idea for it about five years ago when I was back in college and was lucky enough to have Chuck Kinder as my writing instructor that semester. It started off as a little scene, and, a little at a time, became a 17,000 word pieces-of-a-few-chapters-plus-outline.

When I was laid off about a year ago, I thought long and hard about working on this some more. After a few weeks, I was writing a little. In April and May, around some contracts, I wrote quite a bit. Once the summer hit, I was working more on Interaction (last year's Worldcon; a common volunteer job for the un/underemployed).

Then, I had a bad combination of illness, false finishes, writers' block, and contract jobs (usually for pay,which was better than nothing). I really didn't write much of it between late July and late January, though I did fall into tinkering with it some. At one point, I said I was done, but I was wrong.

In early February, I reexamined the beginning and the ending. I threw out the first five thousand words, and changed the ending. After writing seven thousand words of a new ending, I threw that one out too.

And then, I lost most of last week in house hunting/financial things/other stuff around buying a new house.

I knew I had to finish this week because I have to start packing!

With this deadline in mind, I've written very steadily lately and completely redid the ending.

I don't know if this book will ever sell or not. It may be, like many first novels, something that I'll look back on as a learning experience. Or maybe it'll sell a few copies. Who knows. I only know I have a letter to an agent that hasn't been bounced back to me (yet).

And I finished my novel! Maybe not in time for "Write Your Novel" month, but what-the-hell...

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Book Inventory...

We plan to have professional movers handle most of our move. We're getting old, our friends are getting old, et.c. So, starting this week, I have companies coming out to give us an estimate.

We collect books. I estimate we have somewhere around 15,000 books and another 2,000 magazines. We haven't done a real inventory in a while, but I have spent part of the last few days inventorying the bookcases.

I found we have 69 bookcases, and about another 10 random book shelves over doors and the like (book collectors understand the need to use as much space as possible!). To complicate this slightly, we also have one large built-in bookcase and one small built-in one, so we have to account for the stuff in them, and remember to buy/build that many more bookcases when we move. We will probably be getting rid of some of the books at an upcoming yard sale, but I don't expect we'll get rid of all that many.

We have at least 890 shelf feet of books and magazines.

But wait, there's more.

Jim has already packed about 30 boxes of books, magazines and misc. papers. So that means, you guessed it, building/buying even more bookscases so we can put everything out again.

Jim builds nice, study bookcases, and we plan to build a few between the time we close on the house and the time we move in a few days later. The house has modern heating and cooling, so while we won't have to worry about radiators, we will have to worry about floor vents and having many more electical outlets than we're used to.

But, it will be nice to be in a house big enough to display the collection without everything being so cluttered.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

We Bought a New House!

Tonight, we bought our brand new house in the country. It's a neat, large house and it has woods. It's out past the airport, but it's only a half hour to downtown Pittsburgh.

We definitely will not be at Codclave.

We'll probably be at Midwestcon, but maybe just for Saturday night.

We'll be at Confluence, but we might have to commute.

We expect to be at LAcon, but will probably skip the post-con trip to wine country.

We'll be closing in just over six weeks and will probably move sometime in May.

If anyone's looking for an inexpensive, conveniently-located home in Mount Lebanon, drop me a line.

I Really HATE to be Sold to...

Jim and I are considering buying a new house (details when we know something for sure). The problem with buying a new house (or anything that's at all expensive) is dealing with "sales representatives."

Now, most of the real estate agents/builder's reps I've spoken to over the last couple of months have been pretty nice. Until recently, I've always stressed that we're "just looking." We didn't get really serious until recently. So far, I have no real complaints.

However, I can say without a doubt that when we do go to get a mortgage it will not be from one particular mortgage company. I'd rather not mention names, in case it turns out this guy is something of a loose cannon. But we put our potential mortgage information in through While the builder we're likely to buy a house from has a mortgage plan, we feel it's in our best interest to comparison shop (and, so far, the builder's plan is coming in cheapest anyway).

So we got a bunch of offers from Lending Tree. We even had one guy call, so I called him back as the rate he quoted was comparable to our builder. We talked for about five minutes. I stressed we were only looking for a 15 or 20 year mortgage, and we wanted the loweest rate we could qualify for.

And then he said something like, "There's really no problem with paying more interest..."

And then I said, "If that's the way you feel, then we really can't work together," and I hung up.

Now, granted, that's kind of abrupt and rude on my part, and I don't apologize for that at all. I said what I wanted - I wanted to pay as little interest as I could. I was very specific. We have a good credit rating and we'll be making a good-sized downpayment. We don't need to play the "Gee, what if I don't qualify?" game. I know we will qualify.

So the guy called back, and I said, specfically, "Do Not Call Back." And then I hung up.

The bottom line is, you cannot sell me. If you try to sell me, you will lose me as a potential customer.

And this is the bad thing about buying a piece of property. I know the selling thing will only be worse in the future. At least once we do commit ourselves to a piece of property, I can say, "We have no money to buy anything."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar and Life Notes

I haven't been writing much online lately for two important reasons:

* I'm really, really close to finishing my novel
* Jim and I have seriously looking for a new house

So these two priorities are taking over everything else for the time being. But I promise I will be ready for next weekend's Confluence Brainstorming at the PARSEC meeting.

My other typical priority for this time of year is to write a little essay on the Oscars and make predictions. I will watch the Oscars tonight, and here are my predictions for the evening:

Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actress: Reese Witherspoon
Supporting Actor: George Clooney (but don't count Jake Gyllenhaal out!)
Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz
Animated Feature: Corpse Bride
Art Direction: King Kong
Cinemetography: New World
Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha
Directing: Ang Lee
Documentary Feature: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Documentary Short: The Mushroom Club
Film Editing: Constant Gardener
Foreign Language: Joyeux Noël
Make-up: Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Music: Memoirs of a Geisha
Song: Traveling' Through
Picture: Good Night and Good Luck
Short Film Animated: Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
Short Film Live Action: The Six Shooter
Sound Editing: War of the Worlds
Sound Mixing: King Kong
Visual Effects: King Kong
Adapted Screenplay: (this may be the hardest category...) Brokeback Mountain
Original Screenplay: Good Night and Gook Luck

While movies, on the whole, weren't so hot last year, some were, as usual, exceptional. Brokeback Mountain was such a mornful, spare movie, and Jake Gyllenhaal's superb performance was generally ignored (except by the BAFTAs). History of Violence was a real grabber, and given that Cronenberg, Mortensen and Bello were ignored for their excellent work, the movie could wind up with best Adapted Screenplay. But I do think George Clooney will win at least one Oscar tonight, and if he looses Supporting Actor, he'll probably take Original Screenplay.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pittsburgh Girly Blogger Lunch

Girlyblogger Lunch Sign

Christina recently called for another in an erratic series of Girly Blogger Lunches. I noted that the day she planned it for was Mardi Gras. And thus, a theme was born. Anne and I both brought beads, and we were generally a little sillier than usual.

Girlyblogger Lunch Attendees:  Vanessa, me, Susie, Christina, Anne

Bloggers represented included Vanessa, me, Susie, Christina, and Anne, and Cynthia via cell phone.

The blog lunch was fun!

The job I got back in January did not work out so I quit. My unemployment happened at a good time for an important reason. Within a week of being unemployed, I started writing again and am pretty close to finishing the novel. I first wrote a chapter that I've since gone back and dumped, but it at least got me writing again. I'm finally within about 15,000 words of finishing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

James Madison Predicts George W. Bush 206 Years Early...

I've been doing some research on James Madison over the last year or so. Why? Well, other than an interest in history, I'm writing a novel. A subplot of the novel involves making a movie about James Madison (by people who believe in historical accuracy).

In doing some Web research, I found the following quite fascinating quote:

Just as important to his countrymen, Madison had not used the occasion of war to expand executive power or to create a vast patronage machine. “Of all enemies to public liberty,” Madison himself had written in 1795, “war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded…” As “the parent of armies,” of course, war encouraged “debts and taxes,” which republicans recognized as “the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” But as Madison so powerfully argued, the danger was especially acute in relation to a particular branch of the government. “In war, too,” he added, “the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.” War always nourished the potential for corruption…

So everything that Madison wrote in this quote was written in 1795.

And when did the writer quote Madison?

At some point before 1989. The quote is from The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy, written by Drew R. McCoy and published in 1989.

Fascinating how a former president in 1795 and a historian in 1989 predicted the behavior of Bush and the 2001....

Thanks to Amazon for its "Look Inside" program, otherwise I might never have found this quote.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Boskone 43 At-Con Registration Report

Preliminary Registration Statistics

1094Warm body count
  195Prereg/Program not picked up
1289Total Registration

We also sold at least 10 Boskone 44 memberships, and probably a few more.

Many thanks to: Dave Grubbs and Ann Broomhead for pre-con assistance
Kim Williams
Judson Lohr
Carol Downing
Rachel Downing
Leslie Turek
Alexis Layton
Peggy Rae Sapienza
Woody Bernardi
Irene Harrison
Richard L. Schmeidler
for working at the con

The badges looked great!


I needed to have been a little more on-the-ball about "training" because I thought the forms were self-evident and, apparently, they weren't. I didn't realize until Sunday that one or two clerks weren't filling them out properly.

Treasury and at-con-registration should review the form together
before they are printed. Someone thought that we shouldn't have been selling B44 memberships, but the form did have a field for selling them, so I did.

I should have recruited more people for Sunday morning. Luckily, both Peggy Rae Sapienza and Leslie Turek stopped by. (Thanks!!!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

What "Sci Fi" Crew Are You?

IMDB linked to this quiz today. Even though the quiz did two things I disliked (uses that archaic term "sci fi" and throws a pop-up ad on your computer), it was one of the more interesting, detailed "junk" quizzes I've ever taken. Also, I particularly enjoy the results:

You scored as Serenity (Firefly).

You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Moya (Farscape)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with

[[Note: To make this appear properly in a narrow Weblog column, be sure to
delete the outer table from the auto-formatting, otherwise...well, try it and see.]]

I hope I'll be coherent when I see some of you later today - due to my bronchitis, I've had a miserable few nights sleeping. Since the "Dayquil"-like drugs have done the best job at suppressing my cough and nasal congestion during the day, I risked taking a dose of it at bed time (for whatever reason, a "Nyquil"-like drug failed to work three nights running). Well, I'm pretty sure there is some sort of stimulant in it, because even though I was down to one coughing attack overnight and my congestion was better, I only slept about two hours...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Into Writers Block/Out of Writers Block

I never know when I'm going to be in it out out of it. It's maddeningly random.

Except for a few short scenes and some word-changes here and there, I pretty much stopped making forward progress on my novel just before Worldcon of last year. Oh, I'd have days where it seemed like things were happening, but nothing much ever did.

I started doing some restructuring about a month ago, and liked what I saw. I've done more, and while I've thrown out about 10,000 words over the last two weeks, I've written about 15,000. And that "third act" (of a "four act") work that's been giving me nothing but headaches for over six months is finally falling into place.

I've also been sick now for nearly a week, with bronchitis (again) and I'm not sleeping. So the fact that I'm making any progress with anything right now is heartening, to say the least.

I even queried my second agent. I got turned down by one a while ago, decided to get more finished before querying again.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Congratulations Steelers!!

Well, I'm not a big gung-ho sports person, but it was fun to see the Steelers win the Superbowl today. Glad to see both Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis have pretty good games. And congratulations to Hines Ward on his MVP!!!!

I've always been a fan of Bill Cowher, the only professional coach I've ever seen sit in a bookstore and read an actual book... ;->

The one bad thing about being in Pittsburgh tonight is I have a bad feeling a lot of people will get in their cars and start driving around and honking...

Finally, one for the thumb!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oscar Nomination Thoughts

Well, it's kind of an interesting Oscar year. While last year was generally a weak movie year, there were some fine movies out.

The biggest Oscar omissions for me were Constant Gardener and History of Violence. Both were strong, fascinating movies, in a genre ("thriller") that I normally don't much like. While I'm happy for Rachel Weisz, Ralph Feinnes gave a brilliant performance in Constant Gardener. I've always had mixed feelings about David Cronenberg as a director, but History of Violence was such a well-constructed movie, I was hoping it would get a little more notice. Both Maria Bello and Viggo Mortensen were incredible. Keira Knightley probably got an Oscar nomination for being a better actress than people expected in Pride and Prejudice, but as far as I'm concerned, she took Maria Bello's spot. William Hurt, who gave a small and over-the-top performance, did get a supporting actor nomination for History of Violence.

I adored four of the "top movies" of last year - Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck and Walk the Line.

This will probably be a "catchup" year - Ang Lee has been owed a directing Oscar for a while and will probably win for the fine Brokeback Mountain. Brokeback is a painful, austere little movie, and Lee has shown himself to be the master of fine photography with repressed characters.

I'd like to see Reese Witherspoon win for actress as she really energized Walk the Line. Amazing to think she didn't believe she could sing and had to be convinced by director James Mangold that she should. I liked Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, but I do think Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves the award for Capote. Nothing against Heath Ledger, but he seems so laconic in real life that he's really not too far divorced from Ennis.

George Clooney will probably wind up winning for Best Supporting Actor because he got so many other nominations and is very unlikely to win for screenplay or direction. Supporting Actress category is tricky. I liked Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain, but Catherine Keener plays so far against type as Harper Lee in Capote that I'd like to see her win.

The biggest "surprise" nomination for me was for Woody Allen's Match Point script. It was a good script but not a great script; his Crimes and Misdemoners was a much better interpretation of many of the same themes.

Monday, January 23, 2006

William Tenn Event - Saturday, January 28, 7:30pm, 937 Liberty Ave

Benefit for the Production of a Documentary Film on William Tenn
Malacandra Productions

An evening to benefit production
of the documentary film
William Tenn: a Writer's Life

The story of a legendary American social satirist
and icon of science fiction's golden age.

Performances will include:

A live reading by
Pittsburgh's own
William Tenn

A reading of
Tenn's short masterwork
"Bernie the Faust"
by members of
The Parallax Second Players

January 28th, 2006

Reception: 7:30 PM
meet William Tenn (Phil Klass)
refreshments will be served
Performance and reading: 8:00 PM

937 Liberty Avenue, downtown Pittsburgh

Admission: $15

Reservations: (412) 281- 8723 Ext. 24

Malacandra Productions presents
"William Tenn: a Writer's Life" written and directed by David Brody
produced by David Brody, Laurie D. T. Mann and John Regis

Complete flyer

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Red State Family Values - Censoring Brokeback Mountain at a Utah Multiplex

I'd really like to see Brokeback Mountain, a movie that has yet to reach Pittsburgh for some reason or another. Interestingly, it's hit states like Utah before it hit Western Pennsylvania.

Well, it hit parts of Utah, except for at least one suburb of Salt Lake City. Y'seen the ever-alert manager of the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons in Sandy, Utah decided at the last possible minute to not play the movie. This was after he signed a contract saying that he would play it.

Naturally, this marketing whiz did not say why he chose to not play an award-winning movie. While he had no comment, AP/CNN quoted a local activist group:

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said not showing the film set an example for the people of Utah.

"I just think (pulling the show) tells the young people especially that maybe there is something wrong with this show," she said.

Well, it's good to know that the Utah Eagle Forum claims to know "wrong."

Let's take a moment and observe what Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons does deem acceptable to play this weekend shall we?

  • Casanova

  • Cheaper by the Dozen 2

  • Désolation magnifique: Marcher sur la Lune

  • Fun With Dick & Jane

  • Grandma's Boy

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Hostel

  • King Kong

  • Memoirs of a Geisha

  • Munich

  • Rumor Has It...

  • Syriana

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

  • The Family Stone

  • The Magic of Flight

  • The Producers

  • The Ringer

(This movie listings are according to IMDB Showtimes.)

So this theater will readily censor a well-made, unconventional love story. But it will not hesitate to make a buck from a movie that glorifies torture and murder (Hostel) or a movie where a heterosexual leaps from woman to woman (Casanova), or a movie where, some people claim, every gay character is portrayed as a preening stereotype (The Producers), or a movie that, some people claim, promotes Satanism because it involves magic (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Now there are some red state family values for you!

In a online message board from the Salt Lake City area, a few people have reported that Brokeback Mountain is doing well in the other cinemas that it's playing in. And this movie, still not playing nationally, has broken into the top ten moneymakers for the weekend.

And the most popular movie in the country? Well, this weekend it was Hostel, a movie that's basically a slaughterfest. And that's a more acceptable movie for teens to see than Brokeback Mountain? What's wrong with this picture?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Job, New Nephew and Applesauce Gingerbread

OK, so this is something of a mix of things!

This has been an interesting week. I started a new job with a very small company on Monday. It has flexible hours, something like 30-35 hours a week, but it's an interesting place, and, frankly, I'd rather work 30 hours a week than 40.

On top of starting a new job, I've been sick and wound up leaving work earlier than expected yesterday. I've had a very persistant sinus infection for the last five weeks, and finally went to the doctor this week to get antibiotics.

Jim's brother Bill and his wife Heather had a baby boy on Wednesday night. He was over eight pounds and his name is Cameron Anthony Mann. So now Leslie has three first cousins, after many, many years of having no first cousins.

I'm running Confluence program this year, and we had a useful meeting today. We had more than three people at our house for the first time in ages, so we served them lunch. I made applesauce gingerbread for Christmas a few weeks back, and froze a pan of it for today's meeting. It's from the Joy of Cooking with a slight modification - I tripled the amount of ginger and doubled the amount of cinnamon. I added about a half cup of raisins and, I think I also added a little nutmeg. This recipe is even good for you! Christina particularly enjoyed it, so I promised to blog it for her.

Preheat oven to 325.
1 cup of applesauce

Remove from heat and stir in:
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp baking soda

The mixture will foam and bubble vigorously.
Cool slightly. Sift together:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, beat on high speed until
thick and pale yellow, 3-4 minutes:
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar

Gradually beat in
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Fold in flour mixture in three parts,
alternating with the applesauce in two parts.
Scrape the batter into a 9" x 9" pan. Bake until
a toothpick inserted into the center comes
out clean, 40-45 minutes. Let cool in the
pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin
knife around the cake to detach it from the
pan. Invert the cake, let cool right side
up on the rack.