Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hell Among the Cornfields

I'm leaving early in the morning for Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha. Blogging is likely to be light to non-existent, depending on 'net access and time. Y'all be good.

If You Were Offended by "Hooters"

You're REALLY gonna hate it when they open up a Pink Taco restuarant in your neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

Over at Bill Crider's Blog, Bill gives us the lowdown on the film that BBC News website readers said they most wanted to see at Cannes: a so-called " comedy horror film project" called Lesbian Vampire Killers.

Jim Winter commented that this was going to be the UK answer to Snakes on A Plane.

Now, faced with a decision between the two...which way do you jump? One has lesbians! And vampires! And killers! The other has snakes! On a muthafuckin' plane! (Oh, and Samuel L. Jackson).

Which would you choose? Discuss.

SHOTGUN OPERA, Victor Gischler

I've been a fan of Victor Gischler ever since his first book, GUN MONKEYS. He works the same darkly outrageous end of the spectrum as Carl Hiaasen, with the requisite acts of ultra-violence being perpetrated by unusual, occasionally bizarre characters. Gischler, however, trends a little more towards the dark, which is all to the good, as far as I'm concerned. He also likes to set the jolly mayhem in settings where you'd least expect it. This time it's the Oklahoma wine country, and yes, I'm as surprised as you are to learn that there is such a thing.

The Foley Brothers, Mike and Dan, were once the Mob's premier hit team. Mike was the virtouso of the Thompson submachine gun. But one day, Mike lost his nerve after accidentally killing a small child. So he retired to make wine in the wilds of Oklahoma. Until one day, Dan's son Andrew turns up, on the run from some Very Bad People set upon him by a shadowy figure after Andrew saw something that no one was supposed to. Mike has to dust off his Tommy gun and other tools of the trade to survive and to protect the people he's come to care about.

I'll admit that the three lethal sisters that comprise the core of the team pursuing Andrew are a bit over the top. The scene where Nikki, the leader, is introduced reminds me of one of the Transporter films in its physics-defying insanity. But hey, I loved those movies. They're fun. They keep the action so fast and wild, you don't have time to go 'hey, wait a minute...' And so does SHOTGUN OPERA. Check it out.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Visitor

Latest Newspaper Column:

I woke up in the middle of the night. Something had disturbed my sleep, but I didn't know what it was. I did know, however, that I was thirsty, so I slid quietly out of bed and padded down the hall to the kitchen for a glass of ice water.

What I discovered there shocked me fully awake. There was a man sitting at the kitchen table. He had my cell phone open in one hand and was writing something down on a pad with the other.

"Hey!" I said. "What the heck..."

He held up his index finger in a "wait a minute" gesture and finished what he was writing. When he was done, he snapped my cell phone closed. He stood up and extended a hand. "Agent, ah...Smith," he said. "Yeah. Smith. National Security Agency."

"What?!" I yelled. The dog, who was lying over in one corner, raised his head, looked at me crossly, then lay back down. "I'll deal with you later," I muttered to him. I turned back to "Smith."

"What are you doing in my house?" I demanded. "And why were you looking at my cell phone?"

"All part of the Global War on Terror, sir," he said smoothly. "We're collecting all the numbers you've called for our database. Oh, and the numbers of everyone who's called you." I started to say something, but he raised a hand. "Don't worry," he said, "we're not listening to the calls. Not yet, at least. We're just, ah, looking for patterns. Yeah, that's it. Patterns."

"Do you have a warrant for this sort of thing?" I demanded.

He shook his head. He pulled an index card from his pocket. "September 11th," he read in a bored voice. "We are at war. There are bad people out there who want to kill us. Et cetera." He put the card back in his pocket.

"That's not an answer!" I sputtered. I paused. "Wait a minute. I thought you guys used big computers for this sort of thing."

He sighed. "They're down. Blue Screens of Death as far as the eye can see. I told them not to use Windows," he muttered. "But did they listen? Oh, no. So now we're doing it all by hand until the computer guy comes back from visiting his Mom in Sarasota." He wandered over to the pantry and opened it. He began rummaging through the cereal boxes.

"Cut that out!" I hollered.

"War. Bad people. Want to kill us," he muttered absently.

"What are you doing now?" I said.

"Like I said," he replied, "Looking for patterns. You never know. Somebody in our database might like the same kind of breakfast cereal as Osama bin Laden. You got any Fruit Loops?"

"Terrorists like Fruit Loops?"

"No, but I do. And I'm getting hungry."

"Get out!" I yelled.

He straightened up and his eyes narrowed. "Hey," he said suspiciously, "Why are you so upset about this? You don't have something to hide, do you? Why don't you want us to know the phone numbers of everyone you've called? Remember, we're..."

"In a war with bad people who want to kill us," I said wearily. "Yeah. I get it. And why," I asked, "do they want to kill us?"

"That's easy," he said, "they hate our freedom."

"And what freedom is that?" I asked.

He stopped and looked confused. " know, freedom. Being free."

"Free from what?"

He looked even more confused. "Ahhh...from not being free?"

"How about freedom from unreasonable searches? How about freedom from having the government poke around in your private life just so they can maybe, if they get really lucky, figure out some kind of ill-defined 'pattern"?"

"War!" he said desperately. "Bad people! Kill us!"

"Right," I said. "And the program is only targeted against terrorists, right?"

He settled down a little. "Right."

"And who decides who the terrorists are?"

He looked smug. "The President, of course."

"Well, that's the problem, isn't it? Only the President and his crew get to decide who's a terrorist, terrorist sympathizer, terrorist supporter, or whatever."

"And what's wrong with that?"

"Well, their definition is pretty broad. At one point, the Secretary of Education described the National Education Association as a terrorist organization. They've repeatedly claimed that anyone who disagrees with their foreign policy is aiding the enemy. And, last I heard, they're wiretapping journalists, so I guess they're 'terrorists' too." I shook my head. "Any administration this careless with language shouldn't get to make the definitions. Not without adult supervision, at least." I walked over to the pantry and pulled out a box. "Here's a Pop Tart. Now scram."

"You haven't heard the last of this," he snarled as he headed for the door. "We've got a list. And you just made it."

"And you just took a Pop Tart from someone on the list, Chuckles," I said. "Where does that leave you?"

He had a stricken look on his face as I closed the door on him. But he still took the Pop Tart.