Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: SHOTGUN GRAVY, Chuck Wendig

Shotgun Gravy (Atlanta Burns)Shotgun Gravy by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Atlanta Burns is an angry young woman who has, in her own words, "been through some bad shit."  The exact nature of that particular metaphorical excrement isn't immediately spelled out, but the aftermath has left her an outcast, feared and shunned even by her former friends. When she takes on a particularly psychotic set of school bullies, she stumbles into some local secrets that foretell more bad times ahead in future installments of this series.

The violence and language would probably scare off the average YA publisher. That's why I'm so glad that the e-book revolution allows stuff like this to find a readership, because this is a really good book. It's very realistic in its portrayal of the relentless tension and dread that's familiar to anyone who's ever been bullied, that sense that you can't get away, no one will help, and there's no way out, save suicide or violence. I doubt school authorities would condone the way Atlanta takes matters (and her trusty .410 scatter-gun) into her own hands, but it makes for a compelling revenge fantasy.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Myth of the Liberal Media

Pew Research Center

Rick Perry received the most favorable coverage of any candidate for president during the first five months of the race, but now Herman Cain is enjoying that distinction, according to a new survey which combines traditional research methods and computer algorithmic technology to code the level and tone of news coverage.
Perry lost the mantle of the candidate enjoying the most favorable treatment to Herman Cain two weeks ago, after the Florida straw poll in which Cain scored a surprise victory. Meanwhile, though he has often led in the polls, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has received less coverage and less positive coverage than the shifting casts of frontrunners -- and that remains true even now. He ranks second in the amount of attention received, and the tone of that narrative has been unwaveringly mixed.
One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-to-1. The assessments of the president in the media were substantially more negative than positive in every one of the 23 weeks studied. In no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the President positive in tone.

Liberal Media My Ass.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Herman Cain and the Forrest Gump Republicans

Latest Newspaper Column:

I want to make one thing clear from the very beginning: I do not think that Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and the current darling of the right, is an ignoramus.
He's got a B.A. in mathematics and a master's in computer science. He worked as a ballistics analyst for the U.S. Navy before his highly successful business career. So no, I do not think Mr. Cain is an ignorant man.
I think that he just pretends to be.
First there was his famous pronouncement to a conservative organization in Iowa that he wouldn't sign any legislation longer than three pages.
As reporter Marie Diamond pointed out at the time, this would have stopped him from signing such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act, the PATRIOT Act, and the Bush tax cuts.
I'm sure Mr. Cain has, as a matter of course, read and signed off on hundreds if not thousands of business memos and contracts far longer than three pages. So when he acts as if he has the attention span of a third-grader, he's got to be pretending.
Most recently, Mr. Cain not only pronounced his ignorance of world affairs, he did so defiantly. He was asked by an interviewer on the Christian Broadcast Network if he was ready for the "gotcha" questions that bad old liberal media were sure to throw at him. Questions like, "Who's the president of Uzbekistan?"
Cain responded, "When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I'm going to say, 'You know, I don't know. Do you know?' And then I'm going to say how's that going to create one job?" He went on to say that it wasn't critical to know "the head of some of these small insignificant states around the world."
For the record, the current president of Uzbekistan is a guy named Islam Karimov, and knowing who he is is really kind of important, since this "small insignificant state" borders Afghanistan, where I assume Mr. Cain knows we have troops on the ground. We had an air base there until 2005, and the country lies across a potentially significant supply route for our troops if things continue to get uglier with Pakistan.

So why would someone who wants to be the president of the United States pretend not only to be ignorant of a potential player in a regional hotspot, but also to be proud of that ignorance?

The answer is simple: because of the audience he's playing to. There is a distressingly large group of voters who act as if knowledge and expertise are suspect and simple-mindedness is something to be proud of.
It's a longstanding tradition in this country. From Jimmy Stewart's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to "The Beverly Hillbillies" to Tom Hanks' "Forrest Gump," our national mythology is filled with the unschooled, the naive or the mentally challenged, who -prevail over the wicked and crafty "smart" people through their sheer goodness and -decency, without ever, it seems, getting any smarter or well informed.
Well, Mr. Smith, Jed Clampett and Forrest Gump are great characters, but they're just that. Characters. They're fiction, written to fulfill our yearning for simple answers in a complicated world.
But in the real world, the elevation of ignorance leads to bizarre aberrations like an unlicensed and uneducated plumber from Ohio being held up by the right as some kind of oracle, even as he says one silly thing after another. The elevation of ignorance leads to smart people playing dumb, like an otherwise bright girl pretending to be an airhead because she thinks boys won't like her if she's too brainy. Or like Herman Cain.
Cain's bumper-sticker homilies like "I'm not going to sign a bill longer than three pages," his alleged contempt for knowledge of foreign affairs, and his tax plan that every economist agrees won't raise enough money to run the country (but it sure is simple!) are pandering, pure and simple. They're attempts to play to the constituency I've begin calling the Forrest Gump Republicans.
But Forrest Gump isn't going to lead us out of the mess we're in. And neither is playing at being an ignoramus to get that rube vote. That's not leadership. You lead by encouraging people to act a little smarter, not by trying to pander and fool them that you're as dumb as they are.