::Literate Blather::
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Hello Miss Brown, Goodnight Moon

“In the great green room…”
- first line of Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

There is fine dining along the interstate of children’s literature, but for the most part it’s a quick trip to a fast food joint. The food comes in two unseemly flavors. The first is overly sugary claptrap filled with cute talking animals who try to teach valuable lessons such as sharing is good and hitting your little sister with a frying pan is bad. The second is annoyingly realistic slice of life stories that flow like MTV videos and teach bad behavior.

An example of the former is the Arthur series featuring a cloying “nice” aardvark and his posse of “hip” animal friends. The simpleminded books gave way to a TV series, which begat lunchboxes, coloring books, t-shirts and on and on and on. The Arthur stories are so commercially driven at this point – so bland in everyway imaginable – that you can die of a sugar overdose just touching one.

Arthur and his ilk (Clifford, Dora the Explorer, etc.) are multimedia extra value meals so intent on teaching cliché platitudes to sell more DVDs and plastic toys that they forget about the basics, like interesting characters, compelling narrative, and plot. Introduce Arthur to your kids and get ready for a marketing bulldozer to barrel over your household.

Then there is the second type of children’s book, best illustrated by the Olivia series. Olivia is a pig who exhibits extremely poor behavior. Her father is a detached sycophant who excels at bribing Olivia while her mother is an exhausted overachiever who seems unable to utter the word “no.” Olivia is a demon seed. When she wants anything from her parents – she demands it by screaming.

Olivia and her friends (Contrary Mary, etc.) come from the realism school – showing parents who don’t know how to parent that they aren’t alone. You’ve met these people before at playgrounds, parties or commuting on the bus. There’re the ones with the mercurial 3-year-olds who get lectures about doing the right thing rather than stern rebukes for bad behavior.

These books make appalling behavior endearing. So when Olivia’s mother says to her that she loves her daughter despite “wearing her out” we’re all supposed to smile warmly and think, “Oh, that pesky Olivia!” When, in fact, Olivia’s mother needs counseling and Olivia a visit from a professional British nanny with a cruel streak. Read your children enough Olivia and watch their behave change – for the worst.

Then there is Margaret Wise Brown.


Brown is that small French bistro off the interstate. The building is a bit worn, but the food! Fresh ingredients prepared by a master chef. Brown’s books invigorate the soul. Brown is best known for three of the best children’s books ever written – Runaway Bunny, Little Fur Family, and Goodnight Moon (as well of dozens of others).

Why is Brown so good? Because she’s a writer first – choosing her language with the deft of a poet. She condescends to her audience, but instead creates stories that respect the intelligence and imagination of her readers – even if they are five and six year olds. Her stories are vibrant and original; never pandering. That’s why you can pick up Goodnight Moon over and over again and still revel in the beauty of it. Try reading Olivia more than five times and you’re ready to cook a pig over a fire pit and eat it with your bare hands.

Brown understands the needs and desires of modern children – despite the fact that she died in 1952. Even more tragic was that Brown was 42 years old, recently engaged to marry a Rockefeller, and by all accounts at the top of her game. She died from complications related to appendicitis in Nice, France while on a book tour.

There’s no telling what a writer of Brown’s considerable talents could have accomplished had she survived. Fortunately for parents, we are left with a legacy of beautifully written children’s books. Take this wonderful passage from Little Fur Family and you’ll see what I mean:

“It was a wild wild wood. Wild flowers grew all over the ground and wild winds blew through the air. Wild nuts fell from wild nut trees and wild grass tickled the fur child’s nose, tickled his nose and made him sneeze… Kerchoo!”

Fine dining indeed.

Read about How Robert Cormier Radicalized Teen Literature here

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006
5 Questions About: Writing Forums

(Joe Lavigne owns one of those trendy cafés that attract the literati – mostly writers and poets hoping for their big break. The only difference is that Joe’s café doesn’t serve coffee. In fact, his café doesn’t have any chairs. There’s no piped in Miles Davis tunes either. Joe owns the Arcanum Café – a virtual community that has become a popular hang-out for aspiring writers. The café is a place to share ideas, post works in progress, discuss writing, and bitch about the publishing industry. Joe lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is an aspiring poet and musician. You can view his work here. DaRK PaRTY caught up with Joe to talk about the trials and tribulations of running an online writer’s forum and his own philosophy about the writing life.)

DaRK PaRTY: You are the owner and Webmaster of Arcanum Cafe -- a community of writers, readers and poets. Can you give DaRK PaRTY readers unfamiliar with the site a quick history and the reason for the cafe's existence?

Joe Lavigne: The Arcanum Cafe started in August of 1997, initially as a personal homepage on AOL. It was a place where I could post my own poems and learn about making Web pages. I realized immediately the possibilities of asking others to submit their works for publication on the Web site. For me it just seemed like the most natural direction to take the site.

Since I was about 14, I've thought there should be a better and easier way for the average person to get their poetry and stories into the spotlight in spite of those in the literary business or academia deeming their works unworthy or unpublishable. One of my dreams has been to produce a magazine to help other aspiring poets and writers get published. Admittedly a large part of that desire was borne out of the fact that in my earliest years writing I felt like there was neither venue nor appreciation for my style of then dark writings. But even as my own works matured and I gained some modest respect in school for my writing, that wish to help others publish their works never faded. So in my college years in the Chicago area, I started an annual community literary magazine called Arcanum Literary Magazine, which had fairly successful publication runs.

So when I started the website a couple years later it seemed like the perfect way to keep that dream alive. At that time I couldn't find any Web sites that posted other people's literary or creative works. In hindsight, there were a handful of others sites, but lack of search engine placement and even lack of categorization for such sites in search engines made them virtual impossible to find. Oddly enough, I think most of those original sites have since fallen by the wayside despite the wide proliferation of community poetry sites these days, making Arcanum Cafe one of the oldest on the Web.

DP: You must get all types at the site. Can you share some of the weirdest and most memorable moments of running the cafe since its launch in 1997?

Joe: Yeah, the site definitely gets all kinds to say the least. On the bizarre end, I once had a skinhead Neo-Nazi poet, who threatened to kill me after he was banned from the café. He wasn't the first nor last to make death threats, but was probably the only one I took somewhat serious.

We once had someone pretend they were a family member of mine in order to falsely claim I was killed in a car accident when I was gone from the site for two days. That caused quite a stir. We've had an excessively needy person fake their own death to get attention. We've also had the usual assortment of hackers, spammers, and of course trolls over the years.But we continue to have a greater wealth of really good people. Members sharing not only their creative works, but sharing with each other in everything from births, sickness, marriage, divorce and deaths as well as the daily trials and tribulations of life. The site has even resulted in some romance amongst members, ranging from long distance relationships to engagements and even living together. Recently we had our first marriage of two poets that met via the website.

All in all I've gotten to know people from every corner of the globe and from nearly every walk of life.

DP: We share a similar background in journalism. Do you think a career as a reporter or editor is a good start for a writer with ambitions as a poet or a novelist?

Joe: Well, a career in journalism will certainly pay the bills a bit while someone tries to get their creative ambitions off the ground. Overall, I think a print journalism background, which was my particular area and focus, helps you learn a lot more about the actual publication business, the writing process in general and the key elements of storytelling. Not to mention being a reporter, in my experience, makes you interact with a wide array of people from government officials to the average Joe to the homeless person living on the street. I think that definitely can broaden your horizons as well as give you more subjects and personalities to draw from for your writing.

A career in journalism just makes you more aware of and keen to what's going on in the world and often the why's that lie behind issues or events. This insight can help an artist or writer create works that perhaps can aim at deeper and more universal levels.

DP: You're a poet as well as Arcanum's main man. What attracted you to poetry in the first place and how would you describe your own work?

Joe: These days I rarely write poetry or fiction. Funny, when I first started writing poetry at the age of 13, I had no clue what a poem was or if what I was writing was poetry until an English teacher told me that was what I was doing. I started writing in order to vent and cope with the very unusual circumstances going on in my life. Basically, it kept me from drowning in a sea of madness. So much of my early work was exceptionally dark, depressing, bloody and violent.

But of course over time, as I slowly emerged from that sea and matured, my writing changed. Of course there were relationships that resulted in a good deal of love poetry. But beyond the dark and love categories, I'm not sure how I would classify the rest of my writings. A good portion would probably be considered arcane or esoteric. Most of that stuff I don’t even bother making public.

DP: Being a writer can be one of the most agonizing and frustrating pursuits. What's your advice to people who want to make a career out of it?

Joe: I'm no expert on writing, so I’m not keen on giving advice. But I think the best thing to do is to just always keep writing even if there feels like there is no inspiration forthcoming or muse guiding you. Spend as much time as you can learning about the world and people around you, like what makes them tick, as much as you can to have the deepest well of experience and knowledge to draw from for your writing.

Read as much as you can. I still think when it comes to creative writing the best advice is the age-old “show, don't tell.” But essentially whether you're writing poetry, a novel, an article for a magazine, a news story for a newspaper or even a press release, you've got to make your audience care and hopefully feel passionate about what you are writing.

Read our interview with Author Laurie Foos here

Read our interview with Author Dan Kennedy here

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Under God's Right Arm: 5 Reasons to Oppose Gay Marriage

By: Rev. Colson Crosslick

In my duties as a pastor, many confused Christian boys have approached me after mass in the dim, musty basement of my church. “Pastor Crosslick,” they mumble through their puckered lips. “Why is gay marriage bad? How does it affect me if two fairies get hitched?” In order to answer these troubled boys, I compiled a list of the five reasons why homosexual marriage is a grave danger to our Christian American society.

Let me reiterate to those liberal forces out there that are bigoted against Christians that I do not dislike gays in any way, shape or form! I believe that gays have a place at the fringes of society and have no problem with them residing in the trendier neighborhoods of cities like New York City, San Francisco or Boston. If they chose to engage in evil, despicable behavior and go to hell when they die of AIDS – that is their right and I respect it!

In fact, I have admired many gays, such as Nathan Lane, for their contributions to our society. That said here is my list of the five reasons why any reasonable, uneducated person should oppose the legalization of gay marriage.

1. Gay marriage is an affront to our Ever-loving Lord God

God is very clear about his belief that homosexuality is a wicked sin. In fact, chapter 18 of Leviticus in the Old Testament spells out in simple language all of the forbidden sexual delights that God finds nasty. Homosexuality comes right after God 's warning to men not to fornicate with women when in the midst of their monthly “curse” and right before his admonishment not to engage in hot sex with farm animals.

God says: “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin” (Leviticus 18:22). That’s why hell-spawned places like Massachusetts and California should not pass laws to include homosexual lifestyles depicted in classroom lessons. Trust me! Jesus is a loving and tolerant God, but even he has no patience for corrupters of children: “But who shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

I think it is clear that Jesus is saying that he’ll drown you like a filthy rat if you teach youngsters that gays are just normal people and deserve to be treated like regular folks by being allowed to get married.

2. Gay marriage will usher in the legalization of bigamy and incest

When you start down the slippery slope of legalizing abominations like homosexual marriage, you inevitably open the door to legalizing other sexual fetishes such as bigamy, incest, coprophilia, and autoerotic asphyxia. Laws against making love with your children or your father or your good-looking cousin Phil from New York are rooted firmly in the Christian faith.

Some liberals will argue that incest laws are in place for health reasons because the offspring of such relations have a greater likelihood of inheriting undesirable traits. But that’s a red herring because even if the incestuous couple were infertile few people, except for perhaps the Massachusetts Superior Court, would support such a relationship. Incest is evil – and everyone knows it!

When you allow gay people to marry how will we be able to prevent a man from marrying two women? Or another man from marrying a chicken or a cow? The answer, of course, is that you can’t.

3. Gay marriage will force more children to become criminals

If you support gay marriage then you must also support children being raised as lawless criminals. Prisons are overflowing with well-muscled, tattooed thugs who were raised in broken homes – homes that did not have both a mother and a father. There are many, many studies commissioned by various organizations that prove without a doubt that children who were raised by gay people have a higher tendency to kill. I know some liberals will doubt this fact, but a fact is a fact and studies from uncredited sources do not lie!

Look no further than the socially communist nations of Scandinavia where homosexuals have had the right to get married for many years. The results are predictable – out-of-wedlock births skyrocketed since same-sex marriage was legalized. We all know that out-of-wedlock is just a liberal way of saying: broken home!

4. Gay marriage will destroy heterosexual marriages

All the major religious novels, including the Christian Bible, the Torah and the Koran, teach that homosexuality is unnatural and ruinous to a healthy society. Again we can look to the Scandinavians to prove that gay marriage undermines heterosexual unions. In 1993, Norway’s state courts imposed gay marriage on the country. Again the results were predictable as heterosexual marriages dropped and out-of-wedlock births increased significantly.

This is because same-sex marriage undermines the core foundations of commitment and normalcy of regular marriage. This same pattern is occurring in Canada and Holland where homosexual marriage is legal and already heterosexual unions are dropping faster than the trousers of an interior designer in front of a glory hole.

5. Gay marriage will make homosexual behavior mainstream

Few people – even conservative Christians shielded in the glow of God’s approval – are brave enough to claim that the homosexual lifestyle is dangerous to your health. But it’s true! Gay relationships are loveless affairs and sodomy, which may appear enticing at first, is nothing more than the way AIDS is most commonly spread. AIDS, if you can believe it, has killed more people in the United States than in World War II!

According to Pat Buchanan, one of the most trusted journalists in America, a survey of obituaries in gay newspapers found the average age of those dying of AIDS was 39 and for the rest of the homosexuals it was 42. Homosexuality kills!

That is why we must stop gay marriage from becoming the norm. We must stand up and fight the culture of moral decay and decadency and promote a healthy, loving and tolerant Christian lifestyle. There’s no room in this country for any other way of thinking if we want to save our children.

(The Rev. Colson Crosslick is pastor of the Pretty Good Shepherd Church in Ripsaw, Arkansas. In the past, he has called for a ban of Gay Pride Week. He also writes the regularly appearing column Under God's Right Arm for DaRK PaRTY.)

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Monday, July 24, 2006
Rome911 & JULZRULZ

"In cyberspace no one can hear the Bard screaming."

(What if the greatest playwrite in history was born in 1985 instead of 1564? DaRK PaRTY brings you Shakespeare's famous balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet as written by WSHAKE2b. Need translation services? Try our No Fear WSHAKE2b resource at: http://da.co.la.ca.us/pok/poklist.htm.)

ACT II, SCENE IISomewhere in Cyberspace

(Rome911 logs into IM.)

Rome911: I’ve got an APB out for my OLL JULZRULZ. KOTL!


Rome911: She speaks! WU?

JULZRULZ: O, Rome911, where R U? You know my dad H8 U!

Rome911: WTF. Tell him I’m somebody else. NUFF!

JULZRULZ: LOL! A rose by any other name!

Rome911: I H8 my name anyway!

JULZRULZ: He’d kill me if he knew I was talking with U.

Rome911: KEWL! I’ll kick his ass!

JULZRULZ: EM? I’m serious!

Rome911: FYI. U R worth it!


Rome911: ILU

JULZRULZ: R U Serious? Swear U Luv me!

Rome911: Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear.


Rome911: OMIK!


Rome911: Not yet! I want U!


(JULZRULZ logs out. Rome911 posts on his blog.)

Rome911: A thousand times the worse, to want thy light. Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books, But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.

(JULZRULZ logs back onto IM.)

JULZRULZ: Rome911?

Rome911: My dear?

JULZRULZ: Let’s meet tomorrow

Rome911: At 9?

JULZRULZ: NP! Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow

Rome911: LOL!


(JULZRULZ logs out.)

Rome911: FISH

(Rome911 logs out.)

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Sunday, July 23, 2006
Book Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
It was with some trepidation that I picked up Susanna Clarke’s first novel. After all, there were high expectations. Time magazine ranked it the #1 book of 2004 and threw out this blurb:

“Ravishing…superb… combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien.”

How can any writer – especially a first-time novelist – live up to that hype?

The answer, of course, is they can’t.

But I picked up the book anyway – no easy feat at 846 pages. Heavy enough to give you wrist cramps while reading in bed.
The problem with literary critics is that most of them prefer high-brow fiction, which is why mediocre novelists like David Guterson and Paul Auster are fawned over. Guterson and Auster can’t write worth a damn, but because they write books for critics – and not readers – they generate wonderful reviews.

Anyway, I had my doubts that the
Time reviewer was a huge fan of Tolkien or if he’d read the trilogy in the first place. Because Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is no Lord of the Rings. Neither is it Pride and Prejudice nor Sense and Sensibility.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty to like in the novel. Clarke paints an exquisite morbid scene better than most and her passages describing England in the years between 1806 and 1817 are expertly rendered. The gloomy moors, the bleak landscapes, the gray fogs all transport the reader through time and space. Her world and the magic that resides in it feel real.

You believe that Mr. Norrell can create illusionary warships to fool Napoleon’s navy. You feel like, yes, Jonathan Strange could walk through a mirror and stroll down a dark, meandering fairy road. As a reader, you come to realize that you not only want to believe in magic, but you’re being convinced of it.
The best part of the novel are the characters – flawed, three dimensional and as crystal clear as your next door neighbors.

The two main characters, the magicians Strange and Norrell, are unforgettable. Mr. Norrell the insecure, conceited academic with the social graces of a software engineer and Jonathan Strange the eccentric, emotionally distant know-it-all tear though the cover of the novel, take you by the shoulders, and shake you.

Unfortunately, the pacing is slow, especially in the first few hundred pages when nothing seems to move. The action seems stuck in molasses and you begin to put down the book for longer and longer periods. In fact, I put the book down on my bed stand and read a mystery novel before coming back to it. It was difficult to stick with it.

But finally, Clarke finds her form and the novel ignites – but much too deep inside and requiring too much patience from the reader. But make it through to this point and you’ll find that you suddenly can’t put the book down. The build-up becomes intense and Clarke keeps a lot of balls in the air regarding the plot – and for the most part resolves most of the loose ends.

The ending, however, flounders and ultimately doesn't satisfy. So would I recommend it? Not really. That sounds wishy-washy, but there are some readers – those who enjoy the unconventional, the nuance, and a perfectly created fantasy world who I would give a recommendation to try the book. But for most readers, Clarke simply asks too much – too much time, too much effort.

And there’s not enough magic in the novel to fix that.

Read our literary criticism of Ernest Hemingway's "Indian Camp"

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Friday, July 21, 2006
Poem: The Last Word

By: Rebecca Traquair

I can't let you
you can't let me
they can't let them

we claim moral victory
where no other kind is permitted

talk to me
I don't need to talk back

through voices: shriller, louder, more strident
hear the silence, speaking

(DaRK PaRTY Contributor Rebecca Traquair is a poet living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. When she's not writing, she spends an inordinate amount of time poring overmaps and reading indiscriminately. Perennial favorite writers include Harlan Ellison, H.D., Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman, and Gregory Corso.)

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Thursday, July 20, 2006
Good Morning, Sunshine!

“How are you?”

“Is there a more disingenuous question you can ask me? Do you really want to know how I am? Do you really want an in-depth analysis of my mental state on this ungodly broiling Mud-day morning? Let me tell you how I am.

I’ve fallen behind on two urgent projects for my boss because my four-year-old son has been sick. My son has severe food allergies – probably caused by the toxic cocktails the medical establishment calls vaccines – so now he can’t eat wheat or milk or peanuts. And because I can no longer sleep at night due to the extreme stress of my job, I accidentally gave him water in a cup that had previously held milk. He had a violent reaction to it and we had to rush him to the emergency room.

You’d think with a name like ‘emergency’ room that would mean speedy, diligent care, but in fact it should be called ‘waiting’ room because we were stuck there for more than three hours before a snot-nosed, arrogant medical resident deigned to see us. Peering over his clipboard, he haughtily told us the worse was over and sent us home with instructions to return if my son got worse. With a wide, evil grin he reminded us to be careful with what we feed him. I wanted to strangle him with his stethoscope.

To make matters worse, I had to fly out to Newark yesterday and thunderstorms grounded the airplane for more than four hours – and for two of them we were stuck on the runway. The wind rocked the plane and the rain lashed at the windows and I thought the damn thing was going to flip over. I was also starving and thirsty, but they refused to serve any food, so finally I begged a steward to give me two mini-bags of peanuts and then realized I couldn’t eat them because I wanted to kiss my son when I got home.

When I finally arrived back in Boston in the middle of the night, I forgot where I parked and wandered aimlessly through the Central Parking garage like some undead wraith – pale, sweaty, and on the verge of lashing out at any other human being who crossed my path. I had a disturbing desire to rob a gas station on my way home and pistol-whip whatever tattooed, nipple-pierced cretin worked behind the counter. Thank God, I don’t own a gun or I might have done it and then shot myself next to the gas pumps. Later, I felt guilty about the whole thing and it kept me from sleeping.

This morning I woke up with another headache – a violent one. It feels like giant hands have reached down from the sky and are slowly, but firmly trying to crush my skull. It’s paralyzing, but I couldn’t take any time off from work because I’m behind on two urgent projects for my boss. As a result, I’ve already snapped at my teammates, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even care anymore. It’s me or them and in order to survive, I’m going to have to choose me. They can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned – lazy bastards.

I also had to stop for gas this morning. It cost me $48 and halfway to work the car started to make a weird thumping noises when I realized that I’m about 5,000 miles late for an oil change. The thought of the effort and expense it would take to get the car fixed gave me heart palpitations and I felt like driving off the road into a stone wall. If I didn’t die, I thought maybe I could be injured enough to be hospitalized and then maybe I’d be able to sleep or at least lie down for a little while.

Thank God, I had coffee with me until I realized the uneducated, unwashed counter woman at the donut shop put two heaping spoonfuls of sugar in it.

And we’re at war? Does anyone even care? We have a president who lied and manipulated us into war and now maybe we’re on the verge of watching the Middle East go up in flames – yet nobody can be bothered by it because we’re all overworked and underpaid and in debt. And besides, Superman Returns just came out.

My wife and I don’t even talk anymore. She works longer hours than I do and we’re constantly bickering about day care, dirty dishes, and whose turn it is to pick up a pizza or a couple of subs for dinner. Because we don’t cook – who has time to cook? I’m too damn exhausted when I get home, so we eat take-out and its crap food and I’ve gained weight and look like shit. I can’t remember the last time I went for a run.

I’m hanging on by my fingertips here. I need a haircut. My breath stinks because I forgot to brush my teeth. I’m wearing pants that are older than my four-year-old and they‘re pleated for God’s sake. Who the hell wears pleated pants anymore?

I’ve got hair growing on my back. Thick, course hair that looks like it belongs on a fly. Where did that come from? I’m splotchy and pale and I haven’t been to the beach or had a vacation in more than six months.

I’m desperate. I want to dig a hole and bury myself. I want to eat a box of Twinkies. I want to rip off my clothes and streak around the office and tell my boss to kiss my ass and that if he wants his two damn urgent projects completed then maybe, just maybe, he should get off his fat ass and do it himself.

So that’s how I am. How the fuck are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006
5 Questions About: Baseball

(Who better to talk baseball than Tom “TC” Caron, the Red Sox Studio Host on New England Sports Network? NESN is the flagship network of the Boston Red Sox and broadcasts every one of the team’s 162 games to millions of viewers from Bangor, Maine to Providence, Rhode Island. In many ways, TC has become the face of the team as the primary host of the one-hour pre-game show and post-game wrap-up. Millions of Red Sox fans invite TC and his guest hosts (such as former Sox greats Dennis Eckersley and Jim Rice) into their living rooms most summer evenings. TC is a native of Lewiston, Maine, and has been working at NESN since 1996. DaRK PaRTY was caught up in the Red Sox recent 12 game winning streak when we touched base with TC.)

DaRK PaRTY: Being based in Boston where baseball has gone through a renaissance with the success of the Red Sox, I always assume that baseball has regained the crown as the most popular sport in the US. Is this true or is the game still struggling? Give DaRK PaRTY readers a prognosis on the state of baseball in 2006.

Tom Caron: What's been going on in Boston (a virtual explosion in popularity for the Red Sox) is not indicative of what's happening in the rest of the baseball world. As an industry, the game is in rough water. There are serious concerns about the integrity of the game -- steroids were just the beginning. Human growth hormone is very difficult to detect and is rumored to be prevalent in the game. The sport's crackdown on amphetamine use is just beginning.

There is also a real concern about the disparity between the "haves" and "have nots" in the game. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays entire roster makes less than (Red Sox outfielder) Manny Ramirez. There's no way a team can be competitive with a competitor paying 10 times as much in payroll.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires this off-season. Adjusting the current revenue sharing and "luxury tax" structure is a must. Currently, there is no incentive for small market teams to reinvest that money into the product. Those who have (Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati) have become competitive. Those who have not (Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh) have become also-rans.

DP: The steroids issue has been generating a lot of press – especially after Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth for second place on the homerun list. Has baseball handled the steroids issue well and what are your thoughts on Barry Bonds?

TC: Baseball was asleep at the wheel for far too long on the steriod issue, and is now trying to play catch-up. Trouble is, detection always lags behind use, so getting a late start in this matter has made a true crack-down nearly impossible. Books like Juiced (by Jose Canseco) and Game of Shadows (by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams) have turned up the heat on the issue; as a result, the game is essentially unified on taking performance-enhancing drugs out of the game.

The pressure is mounting on Barry Bonds. He is facing trouble on several fronts: his alleged steroid use; his well-documented extra-marital affairs; and his reported lack of financial disclosure with the IRS. He's become the ultimate embarrassment to the game: a superstar who is loathed everywhere but San Francisco. While it will never admit to it, MLB is hoping Bonds retires (or wilts under the pressure) before getting anywhere close to Hank Aaron's home-run record.

DP: Your job hosting the post and pre-game shows before and after every Red Sox game on NESN must make you one of the most recognized celebrities in New England. What’s it like to know that on any given night your face is on the television screen of every barroom from North Conway, New Hampshire to Fitchburg, Massachusetts?

TC: Timing is everything. The Red Sox have never been more popular, and it's a privilege to be in the host's chair at the height of this popularity. I'm also blessed to be able to work with analysts like Dennis Eckersley, Jim Rice, Gary DiSarcina and Dave McCarty

In television, the worst thing you can be is irrelevant. There's nothing in sports more relevant than the Red Sox during the summer. Like the T-shirt says, "Boston is a drinking town with a baseball problem." It's amazing how current and knowledgeable the team's fan base is. In one sense it makes our job easier, since we can safely assume our viewership is up-to-date on what's happening with the team. On the other hand, we must be cautious not to insult that collective baseball intelligence. Obviously, I keep close tabs on what's happening with the team, but I also keep tabs on many of the fan websites and blogs. It's important to keep tabs on the pulse of the Red Sox and Red Sox Nation.

DP: It’s all about content and most TV shows produce 20-25 shows in a given year. You are on the air 162 times a year doing live television – appearing nearly every single night between April to October. That kind of schedule must be grueling. How do you keep each show fresh and keep up your energy levels?

TC: You're catching me right after the All-Star break, so we're rejuvenated for the second half! Truth is, we've got a great crew behind the scenes -- producers who love the game and always try to push us in what we do. They rotate through the schedule to stay fresh and bring new ideas to the table. Other than that, it's simply by being a baseball fan. I do what hundreds of thousands of New Englanders do every night... I watch the Red Sox. I just do it every night, and I get to do it with baseball greats. The only difference is I put a tie (and a little make-up) on at the end of the game. I know most Sox fans would do most anything to get my job, so I never take it for granted.

DP: This is a three part question about the Red Sox. Who do you think is the best player on the current roster? What former Red Sox player currently on another team do you wish still played in Boston? And, finally, who is your favorite all-time player for the Red Sox?

TC: Best player -- I have to categorize here. David Ortiz is the best clutch hitter, Alex Gonzalez the best defensive player, and Curt Schilling the best pitcher. Having said all that, Jonathan Papelbon is probably the team's MVP at this point. Had he not been able to seamlessly take over the closer's role in the first week in the season, this team would be nowhere near first place right now.

Former Sox player -- Pedro Martinez. I didn't realize how much I missed watching Pedro perform until he returned to Fenway with the Mets last month. As good as he is on the mound (and, even though he is well past his peak, he's still damned good) it was the aura he brought with him to the game that made him special. He was (and is) a baseball artiste and was must-see TV every fifth day. As good as this team is, he added a flair that few players bring to the game.

All-time favorite -- I grew up watching the mid- to late-70's teams, and loved the counter-culture players that made the game so much fun. We just had Bill Lee in studio last week, and I loved watching him pitch. I still love hearing him talk (he lives in Craftsbury, VT, and has traveled to Cuba and China to spread the gospel of baseball.) As a pure player, Dwight Evans was my favorite. No one could gun down a player at the plate like Dewey, and few can do it to this day.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Essay: The Neo-Luddite Handbook

"For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three."
- Alice Kahn

I’ve got enough gray hair to remember the promise of the four-day, 32-hour work week. Technology, we were told, was the key. Technology would increase productivity and that time savings would be generously passed on to workers.

Leisure time would usher in societal revolution. Parents would finally be able to spend enough time with their children. Given the extra time people would volunteer to prepare meals at soup kitchens, coach youth soccer teams, and organize neighborhood clean-ups. Participation in community government would explode and membership at Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs would be at all time highs.

The four-day work week, we were told, would be a boon to civilization – brought to us by the magnificent advances in science and technology.

None of this happened, of course.

Technology did, indeed, increase productivity – to unheard of levels. But private enterprise had no intention of sharing the time-savings with workers. In fact, they did the opposite. They stole even more time.

Why hire two or even three workers when you can use technology to get the same productivity out of one? Corporate America invested heavily in time-saving technology to automate processes and subsequently downsized the workforce. The time savings were passed on to stockholders in the form of higher profits instead. Workers are now faced with chronic overwork and many corporate environments now resemble white-collar sweatshops.

Most workers wish we could return to the good old days of the five-day, 40-hour work week.

That’s been the problem with technology. The promises never pan out. Yet we’re constantly seduced by it. Look at the cell phone. The convenience of knowing the babysitter can contact you in case of an emergency or being able to order take-out Chinese comes with a price – being available all the time. Clients can call you at night or on weekends. Naps are easily disturbed. Conversations are with real, live people are often interrupted.

The cell phone – along with its brethren the Raspberry, Palm Pilot, and the Treo (which add email to the mix) – is like a leash. You become tethered to them. Whoever dials your number – boss, wife, co-workers, and clients – gets to give you a strong tug. Your privacy and leisure time are yanked away.

Telephone and email conversations – now the primary mode of communication at most enterprises – dehumanize people. Co-workers in the same office now email or instant message each other rather than get up and walk 50 feet to talk in person. As a result, real-life interactions have been undermined and reduced in importance. Amazing since most people acknowledge that email is a terrible mode of communication. It’s an excellent tool for sharing information and exchanging documents, but fails to convey body language, tone, nuance, and subtleties involved in true human communication. As a result, email often leads to miscommunication and mistakes. It’s easy to offend people in an email.

The latest technology promise involves Web 2.0 and social networks – Web communities like MySpace, Gather, Flicker and YouTube. There are 65 million people with personalize Web sites at MySpace. They share music, photographs, and blog entries. We’re told these sites are the advent of the Social Web. That this new phase of the Internet brings people together to share, date, debate, and exchange ideas.

Sure. I’ll buy two.

The only problem is that it’s becoming increasingly clear that technology isolates people rather than brings them together. The American Sociological Review released a study last month involving 1,467 adults called “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.”

The study found that since 1985 the number of people who have no one to discuss important matters nearly tripled. Respondents also had fewer close friends and family to discuss personal matters than they did 20 years ago. The study found that our inner circles of intimacy have shrunk and we’ve become more isolated. One of the primary reasons? Technology. Communicating with lots of people on the Internet, it turns out, isn’t the same thing as having friends.

But you don’t have to read a study to figure this out. We’ve all seen the young people on subway cars wearing their iPods – completely disengaged from their surroundings. We’ve sat in the coffee shop next to a young woman tapping away at her laptop focused only on what’s on the screen. We’re seen the businessman at the restaurant obsessively checking his email on his Palm every time it vibrates.

These people aren’t living in the moment. They aren’t participating in the experience of where they are, but escaping it through their music, emails or the Web.

Social networks take this isolation one step further – giving people the illusion of community when in fact it’s just a cold, faceless Web site filled with lonely people clicking away in rooms all by themselves. These social networks may be places to share interests, quips, and sexual banter, but meanwhile your next door neighbor is a stranger and you’ve never even introduced yourself to the girl behind the counter at the Dunkin’ Donuts we frequent daily.

Technology is just a tool and if you don’t use it properly it will steal your time, invade your privacy, disrupt your leisure, and wreck your relationships.

Unplug and join a real social network. It’s called your life.

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Monday, July 17, 2006
Literary Criticism: F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Lost Decade"

"I was drunk for many years, and then I died."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Summary: A busy editor approaches a young magazine writer, Orrison Brown, with a request to take an old colleague to lunch. The colleague, Louis Trimble, is aloof and fragile. The two men stroll down a New York City sidewalk in search of a suitable restaurant. Brown learns that Trimble has missed most of the last decade, but it is unclear why. Brown speculates that Trimble may have been in an asylum, but later discovers that Tremble was a drunk. The two men dine together and Trimble departs, without ducking into the bar next door as Brown suspected. The story concludes with Brown anchoring himself by touching the side of a brick building.

Analysis: “The Lost Decade” isn’t one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best short stories – but it may be one of his most poignant. It was published in 1939 one year before a heart attack killed him (his heart damaged by years of chronic alcoholism). “The Lost Decade” is short both in length and scope – it takes place in a couple of hours in New York City. This is unusual for Fitzgerald who had the rare gift of creating a sense of epic grandness with his short stories.

“The Lost Decade” is so small, even delicate, that it reads like Fitzgerald wrote it for himself, not a broader audience. But he sends a message here: that despite the outward appearance of sickliness, shaken confidence, and a literary career looking like a wrecked automobile – that he was back. Unfortunately, the excesses of his youth caught up with his fragile heart and he died at the age of 44.

The story features two primary characters at opposite ends of the career spectrum. Orrison Brown is a young, Dartmouth graduate beginning a writing career as an entry level reporter at a weekly news magazine. He’s the rookie stuck with all the busy work – from editing copy to playing call boy. Then there is Louis Trimble (a name that not only signifies the shaky standing of his reputation, but the shaky hands of a hard-core drinker). Trimble was once a somebody. We’re told: “The name on his card, Louis Trimble, evoked some vague memory, but having nothing to start on, Orrison did not puzzle over it.” A forgotten somebody.

Trimble faces the indignity of his former colleague, Brown’s boss, pawning him off on the young editorial assistant. “Nobody knew this place like you did once,” the boss tells Trimble in front of Brown. The boss adds that Trimble’s been gone for a decade and feels “there’re lots of things he hasn’t seen.” He tells Brown to take him out to an expansive lunch. Talk about a kick in the teeth.

Trimble is aloof, distracted as they stroll along the sidewalk. Brown can sense the man’s alienation and wonders if he spent the last decade in jail or in an insane asylum. But even so, he can sense the remnants of greatness in Trimble. “Orrison attempted to connect the name with Admiral Byrd’s hideout at the South Pole or flyers lost in Brazilian jungles. He was, or had been , quite a fellow – that was obvious.”

They bypass the expensive restaurant, Trimble requesting a place with young people. A place where he can watch people, see the way they communicate. We now know that Trimble is an observer of human behavior, a chronicler. He notices the details and revels in them. We also find out that Trimble has been to this restaurant before – recently. When the waiter seems to recognize Trimble after they have eaten, Brown comments that ten years is a long time. Trimble slips that he ate in the place last May.

That’s when it comes to roost for the young reporter. He realizeds that Trimble hasn’t been away physically, only mentally, incapacitated by his private demons. When they talk about a building Trimble designed, but has never seen before, he admits: “But I was taken drunk that year – every-which-way drunk. So I never saw it before now.” Brown asks him if he wants to go inside and Trimble said he’s been inside it many times, but “I’ve never seen it.” Another reference to the alcoholic state he’s been trapped in for a decade.

Brown and Trimble shake hands and depart. And here’s where we get the glimmer of hope – Fitzgerald telling himself and us – that he’s going to make it. Brown expects Trimble to dart into the nearest bar for a drink. “But there was nothing about him that suggested or ever had suggested drink. `Jesus,’ he said to himself. `Drunk for ten years.’”

It’s unfortunate for us all that Trmble, the fictional Fitzgerald, wasn’t the real one.

Read our literary criticism of Kurt Vonnegut's "Welcome to the Monkey House"

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Sunday, July 16, 2006
Sand -- A Fantasy Serial (Part V)

Chapter Five

(Welcome to the final chapter of Sand. Radric has vanquished his long-time enemy, the wizard Caswell, in a heated battle in the middle of the B’Kar Waste. DaRK PaRTY is pleased to publish the last installment of this adventure fantasy. Sand was originally published in Lost Worlds: The Writers and Artists’ Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum.)

“You killed him,” Quil said.

The Demimondaine bled from where he had struck her on the bottom lip. She stood over the dead wizard; tears flowing from her beautiful eyes. Radric, his flesh scorched from the lightning and fire, found safety in the shade of the outcropping. He bandaged the wound where Quil slashed him her dagger.

Caswell’s ring in his possession was already in Radric's pocket. The Lady Fflame would be pleased and he’d collect his gold.

“You’re free to go,” Radric told Quil.

She shook her head. “First, I’m going to kill you.”

He smirked. “No, I’m not going to die today. And neither are you.”

Radric tightened the bandage and stood. After wiping the blood from his blade, he slid it back into the scabbard. He stared at her and she turned away. He mounted his horse and took a long pull from his water skin before tossing at her feet.

“I’m heading to the Black Hills,” he said. “There’s water there and a Dwarfen mining village. You’re welcome to follow.”

“Murderer,” she said and spit in the sand.

He nodded. “The murderer is dead.”

He spurred his horse forward. If the Demimondaine wanted to die in the desert that was her business. He rode through the sand, the setting sun glittering off the mica, a thousand blazing stars. He tried not to think about the dead wizard or the Gypsy girl.

Behind him he heard the Demimondaine mount her horse and follow. She didn’t want to die after all. He wondered if and when she’d try to kill him and decided that it really didn’t matter any more.


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Friday, July 14, 2006
A King Thing

When I was in my early teens I spent summers at a lake-side, pine cabin nestled in a conifer forest in Bridgton, Maine. During the day, the sun found pathways through the nettled canopy of hemlocks. The slanting pillars of light looked heaven sent. There was a beautiful flower garden along the side of the cabin filled with marigolds, tiger lilies, and pansies. The flowers attracted butterflies and dragonflies.

The place was tranquil; disturbed only by the occasional slap of a screen door or the splash of a child jumping off the float at the beach. The serenity came in part from the cabin’s isolation down a windy, tar road nearly a mile long. On hot summer days, it was paradise.

But at night, the horrors arrived. The darkness swept in with the gloaming, deepening inside the forest first, and then crawling along the road, beach, and gardens like the tentacles of some hell-spawned creature. When the sun dipped far enough below the horizon, the darkness became complete.

Needles ticking on the tar became the click of claws. Foraging animals sounded like the heavy steps of a wild man who prowled the woods with a rusty axe. The lap of the lake water against the dock was the dripping blood from the recently decapitated remains of the neighbor.

I blame Stephen King.

In those days, I slept in the cabin loft devouring King’s early horror novels – Salem’s Lot, Dead Zone, Firestarter, The Shining, Pet Sematary, and the short stories in Night Shift. Who could sleep? When the clock ticked pass midnight, I would take my Buck knife with me when I needed to pee; creeping through the dark cabin with my ears trained on any and every sound.

I first met Stephen King in a bookstore in Paris, Maine. It was 1982 and he was promoting his new collection of novellas called Different Seasons. The bookstore was one of those cozy bookstores with high stacks and creepy floorboards. King wore baggy jeans before such a thing was fashionable and a t-shirt with the legend: “E.T. Phone Home.” King himself was shaggy, a bit hunched, and shambling like an upright brown bear. But he was gregarious and friendly, especially toward me, a shy and awkward 16-year-old.

I had written a book report on King the year before and had struggled mightily with the source material. After all, he wasn’t yet at the height of his career and critics had yet to analyze his prose – but I did the best I could. We noted that only the dead writers seem to get the most critical analysis.

King got a good laugh out of my story and inscribed in my book: “To George, don’t worry I’m getting closer to dead every day!”

In 1991, my future wife and I spent one of those magical “relationship” days in New Hampshire. The day was blue, clear, and warm – postcard weather. We spent the morning swimming and picnicking at a deep, secluded pool along a bend in the Swift River. We ate ice cream cones at an outdoor stand and spent the afternoon at the midway of a carnival in North Conway, riding the Ferris wheel and knocking over cans at the game booths. After an intimate dinner, we wandered over to the North Conway movie theater for the premiere of Terminator 2.

The theater used to be a single screen cinema, but had been divided into four theaters. The seats were lumpy and my knees banged into back of the chair in front of me. But it was summer and theater smelled of buttered popcorn and coconut suntan lotion. We sat directly behind Stephen King and his son. They devoured a large bucket of popcorn and seemed to really enjoy each other’s company.

Then we all watched Arnold Schwarzenegger tear up the screen. On the way out, I gave Stephen a sheepish hello, but he was so engrossed in discussing the movie with his son that he didn’t hear me. I experienced a sudden moment of jealousy. After all, the man next to me had been my favorite writer for most of my youth. He was the master of horror! I took cold comfort in the fact that we bumped shoulders at the exit.

Several months later, I attended a Dire Straits concert and had a rather copious amount of alcoholic beverages before the show. Shortly before the band came on stage, I wandered through the Worcester Centrum concourse in search for nourishment. At a condiment bar, I found Stephen King sloppily applying relish to a large hotdog.

King was dressed like he’d emptied his hamper, but the only detailed that stuck out was the thick, steel chain that connected his wallet to his belt. Emboldened by the booze, I zeroed in on him. “Stephen!” I bellowed, clapping him on the back. Drunk and nervous, I made some jokes about our paths crossing yet again blah, blah, blah.

He gave him a wide-eyed stare and I could almost hear him thinking: This is it. The crazed fan who rips my throat out. Who could blame him? After all, he had just written Misery. He muttered something about needing to get back to his seat and darted away through the crowd of people, moving with the skill of an NFL linebacker.

I, however, became convinced then that I had a cosmic connection to Stephen King. These chance meetings meant something! My future wife, ever the pragmatist, noted that it might not be a good thing to continually cross paths with the scariest man in America. It might be like having a black cat cross your path.

So I waited for the cosmic connection to shift into high gear. Waited for something to happen. Maybe King would crash by wedding (held under the hemlocks at that pine cabin in Maine) or call me up to invite me over to his summer place in Lovell. We could see a movie together at the Magic Lantern or watch the horse pulling contest at Fryeburg Fair.

But I haven't seen Stephen King again since.

I'm still waiting and wondering if Kathy Bates would have any good advice.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006
Pony Tails: Children's Author Neville Onions Returns


(Author and Wales native Neville Onions delighted children in the late 1960s and early 1970s with dozens of children’s books. His “Hop-along Tails with Ripley Rabbit” series were bestsellers in the United Kingdom and won numerous accolades. The first book of the series, Ripley Hops Away won the prestigious Caldecott Medal. But his last two books, both published in 1973, Damon Trips Out and Falling Down the Rabbit Hole, ignited controversy for allegedly promoting drug use. Conservative Christian groups argued that Onions' books were nothing short of illustrated acid trips and successfully boycotted the two books. Both were taken out of circulation and Onions was dropped by his publisher. Onions vehemently denied that his books included drug references or the promotion drug use, but he dropped out of children’s literature entirely.

Now more than 30 years later, the 63-year-old Onions has resurfaced with a new children’s book scheduled to be published this fall. The book, called
Phlyst the Pony, is a return to Onions’ first passion – delighting children with his vivid imagination. DaRK PaRTY is pleased to offer our readers exclusive excerpts from Onions triumphant return to the literary spotlight.)

Phlyst the Pony

From Chapter One:

The sun, a massive ball of fiery yellow flames, rose rigidly on a misty, sodden meadow. The cascades of light caressed the droplets of dew until they sparkled like the sultry eyes of an underage virgin.Phlyst the beautiful pony stirred in his bed of damp, earthy moss. He rose on his mighty haunches and yawned to welcome the glorious morning. He clicked his hooves in joy and sprang into a trot, his wavy, golden mane rippling in the gentle breeze.

His muscles were stiff and he worked up a lather, picking up steam as his short, but powerful limbs dug into the rich, chocolate soil. Faster and faster, the beautiful pony Phlyst ran, scattering the dew as he sped through the meadow.

He raced over clover and heather. He streaked by maple trees and lilac bushes. He leaped over logs and streams.

"O glorious day!" he thought. "Take me in thy arms and squeeze me like a sticky bath towel!"

Phlyst the beautiful pony ran and ran...

From Chapter Two:

Phlyst the beautiful pony jumped high into the air and dove into the cold, frigid waters of the river. The icy embrace of the water made rows of goosebumps pop out over his firm, muscled skin. The wonder pony swam like a wiggly tadpole to the shore and he climbed majestically onto the beach.

The water slid down his slick chest and Phlyst lifted his muzzle into the air and whinnied in happiness. The sound echoed in the misty environment and awoke a napping water fairy.

The naked water fairy, known to all as Puckerlip gazed upon the beautiful pony Phlyst and felt his heart swell with love. His heart grew and grew until he could stroke it with his sweaty hands. Here was a magnificent pony on who he could impale his never-ending love to! Puckerlip fluttered into the air by beating his wings and jumped onto the back of the beautiful pony Phlyst!

"Let me ride thee pony!" Puckerlip shouted...

From Chapter Three:

Phlyst the beautiful pony shook his powerful back trying to shake the water fairy Puckerlip from his perch. But the fairy clung to his golden mane and laughed with loving glee as he bumped up and down.

The wonder pony hopped into the air and, clicking his heels, raced up the beach and into the meadow at a breakneck speed. Phlyst the beautiful pony pumped his legs harder and harder and he moved faster and faster. So fast that his flicking legs had become a blur.

Puckerlip wrapped his skinny, pale arms around Phlyst's neck as his growing love was replaced by a mounting fear. His fear grew so large and bulging that he could no longer fit it in his mouth.

"O marvelous pony!" Puckerlip shrieked. "Don't trample my love!"

From Chapter Four:

Phlyst the little pony bucked his shapely back and Puckerlip the water fairy tumbled to the meadow with a whack. The water fairy rubbed his engorged bump and began to weep.

"O glorious pony!" Puckerlip sobbed. "I only wanted to show my throbbing love for you!"

Phlyst the beautiful pony was moved by the heavy emotion. He realized that Puckerlip the water fairy had fallen into a trance of love for him. Phlyst the wonder pony whinnied his forgiveness and reared back on his hind legs. The sight of the majestic pony made Puckerlip's heart go pitter-patter, pitter patter. Flapping his gossamer wings, he flew into the spreading arms of Phlyst the beautiful pony.

The two became one. One. One with nature. One with each other. One, one, one. An eternity of oneness. At one with each other's hearts. One heart. Beating. One heart. Beating. Two coming together as one. The same. A complete oneness. One. One.

"We are one," Puckerlip the water fairy sighed.

Afterwards, they swam naked in the cold river to quench the fire of their passion...

(Author Neville Onions new book Phlyst the Pony will be available in the fall. He is the author of dozens of children’s books including the Caldecott Winner Ripley Hops Away. He lives in London with his partner of many years.)

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006
5 Questions About: The Captain Humphrey's Project

(DaRK PaRTY has always wanted to circumnavigate the globe in a dingy – but decided our collection of Billy Collins poetry would get wet. But we did find four middle-age slackers who decided they needed a daring adventure to attract beautiful women. Their goal – put a portly bartender in an 11-foot sailboat and have him voyage across the world. It hasn’t happened – yet. But the massive preparation has spawned a fascinating Web-only video series and, God help us all, has managed to attract several beautiful women as hosts. The Captain Humphrey’s Project (http://www.captainhumphreys.com/) has become a Web cult sensation with more than 125 episodes. The shows are offbeat, eccentric, and damn funny in a cerebral “Seinfeld” meets “The Office” kind of way. DaRK PaRTY reached out to David O’Connor, producer, writer, and co-star of New York City-based Captain Humphrey’s Project to get to the bottom of this quirky, little adventure series.)

DaRK PaRTY: The Captain Humphrey's Project is one of those guilty Internet pleasures. It's funny, surreal, sarcastic, goofy, and yet oddly cerebral. For those DaRK PaRTY readers unfamiliar with it, can you give us a brief overview of the project and its origin?

David O’Connor: The germ of the project was an attempt to impress a woman. Eric, "the Captain", said he could get into the Guinness Book of Records by circumnavigating in the smallest boat. I overheard his pitch to the woman, which turned out luckless, but the idea of wacky heroism stuck with me. A year later when he was out of work I suggested that the adventure could be more profitable than bartending – his usual means of making a living. We were in our local pub at the time so any practical skepticism we might otherwise have exercised was drowned with hope and cheer and good tidings.

The initial intention of the project was to make a serial documentary about a small group of individuals mounting a quixotic adventure. We made a 15-minute mini documentary (available on our website in the video archives) in order to pitch the idea to the networks and major cable channels. Because video of a man sloshing around in a tiny boat would quickly become tragically boring, we conceived the show as a team project. The back-story, the personalities involved, team dynamics, the nuts-and-bolts of managing this type of project, getting the team to exotic ports-of-call to meet up with the Captain as he made harbor: all these things were planned elements of the documentary that would round out and support the trip.

We market tested the idea by telling it to anyone within earshot. The response was universally positive. "You guys are nuts," people would say. "He’s going to die. I’d watch it." So we went to major media feeling armed with a truly compelling, fresh, unique, fun, funny, whimsical, dramatic, engaging concept that they couldn’t turn down.

They turned it down.

The reason was liability. Not corporate liability, but personal. The buyer would lose his highly compensated job if we failed to fulfill our obligation to provide the programming content. While that may look like an obviously foolish concern now that we have over 6 hours of video, it struck us as foolish right away. Someone suggested we mount the project as a hoax, but we rejected that idea, reasoning that you don’t break faith with your audience and fans. We decided to put the show on the internet. And the irony is that some of our fans think it’s a hoax. It’s not. We just don’t have the audience numbers yet to be able to afford to build or buy a boat and begin the sea-leg of the journey at this juncture. We’ve ended up with this Frankenstein’s monster: a show about a journey that hasn’t started. We love our little monster.

DP: The Captain Humphrey's Project is an enormous undertaking -- not only preparing for a treacherous and potentially deadly navigation across the world, but in writing and producing the numerous episodes. What is the process for putting together each episode?

David: Typically the workday begins around noon. We answer emails, check the site, and correspond with viewers who write into our forum, schedule actors and begin the daily agony of trying to come up with a topic for the next day’s show. In the afternoon, usually 2:00, one of our actors arrives and we shoot those segments. After that we shoot me, Dr. Bob and Eric. Glenn shoots his parts from his tiny little box – it’s a running joke on the show. Some people have theorized that Glenn is an automaton or a CGI program. He’s not. He’s just very like a vampire. By the time we’re done shooting, it’s early evening. We break for dinner. After that we upload the footage to the computer and edit and upload the new show to the servers. It’s now around midnight and we still don’t have a show idea or script for the next day. That’s the sticky part. The earlier part of the day is work. Coming up with the next day’s story feels like what I imagine a lobotomy without anesthetics might feel like.

DP: Can you give us an insight into the characters in the drama? What is Dr. Bob really like? Can the Captain even swim? Is Glen a serial killer? And how did you convince all of those beautiful women to act as show hostesses?

David: In person, Dr. Bob, Glenn and Eric are all exactly as they are on the show. What you see is what you get with them. I am less pedantic, however. Or I think I am. But since I’ve been called that and known what it means since I was four years old, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I have a predilection to pedantry. Or maybe it’s just a penchant. Those two things are different after all.

We didn’t have to convince the ladies to host the show. We just gave them an opportunity to be themselves: beautiful, talented and charismatic. We love them to pieces and are very pleased that some of them have gotten other work as a result of hosting our project.

DP: There have been 125 episodes of the Captain Humphrey's Project as of this interview, yet the Captain has yet to get his feet wet. When in God's name is Eric going to set sail?

David: In all seriousness we’re chagrined that we haven’t gotten Eric on a boat. We have plans in the works to make it happen sooner rather than later. With that said, "the best laid plans of mice and men …" might apply or maybe even, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." It’s been a strange and winding journey so far. A project that started as a real effort to mount an improbably heroic adventure has turned into a long running comedy about tangential stories that hook into the original concept as best as we can hook them in. We hope we can make the documentary adventure happen soon. Of course we will continue to be our odd irreverent selves even after the reality sets in.

DP: There have been vicious rumors circulating that the Captain Humphrey's Project is a hoax -- that the "project" is nothing more than a group of middle-age slackers producing videos in order to avoid real employment and to work with beautiful women. What is your response to rumors like this?

David: We ARE a bunch of middle-aged slackers producing videos to avoid real employment and to work with beautiful women and have fun. With that said, the project was never and still isn’t a hoax. If we can’t make the circumnavigation happen then we’ll become a failed project that was never a hoax that some people thought was one. At that point, anyone who wants to believe it was never real will be able to go on thinking that until the end of days. If you have any readers with spare boats around or with some money to fund a strange adventure, I would very much appreciate it if they would help us out of this conundrum. In the meantime, we’re going to keep going for awhile and see if we can’t pull a circumnavigation out of a hat.

(Check out episode #127 of the series for a DaRK PaRTY tie-in. We’re now considered the official fan of… umm… David. DaRK PaRTY feels like it needs a shower.)

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Poem: A Coward Despairs

I imagine killing


slashing my wrists,


to death

in a hot bath.

To end the desperate,



that only I get to hear.

That incessant dissatisfaction

that tires me;

exhausts me with its cloying


for affection.

Is there anything sadder

And truly, truthfully more wretched

Than a man with a broken


With a soul full of pus

and a rotting mind,

dreams eaten by maggots.

Fuck them all—

demanding customers

burdensome children

unsatisfied wife

elapsed friendships

They all gnaw

at my will,

erode my strength

But I’m weak,


addicted to the whimpering.

Cowards can’t kill


slash their wrists,


to death

in a hot bath.


my only pleasure,

these days,

long morning showers

that make me late for work.


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Monday, July 10, 2006
Essay: Exhausted America

Meet Doug Goldberg.* He’s 39 years old and works as a vice president for a large software company in Massachusetts. He’s married and has three children. Every week day, Doug leaves his house at 6:30 a.m. before his wife and children are awake. He drives to work in gridlock traffic on Route 128. On a good day, he’s sitting at his desk with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at 7:20 a.m., but on bad days (when it rains or snows, it can be as late as 8 a.m.).

At work, Doug digs in. He manages several in-house accounts and is responsible for as many five separate projects. Five years ago in his industry, Doug would have had about five or six employees under him, but cut-backs have given him a staff of two.

Most nights, Doug leaves work at 6:30 p.m. and arrives home at about 7:30 p.m. (his youngest daughter is often already in bed when he gets home). With commuting time, Doug is gone for about 13 hours a day – 11 of those hours at work for an average work week of 55 hours.

Doug is 15-20 pounds overweight (most of it settled in his belly). He has high blood pressure and takes medication to thin his blood. The medicine sometimes keeps him up at night, but he has troubling sleeping anyway. “If I start thinking about work, my head starts buzzing and I just can’t turn off,” he admits.

He’d liked to exercise more, but he’s too tired and hungry when he gets home from work. Most nights, he and his wife eat dinner in front of the television. He generally trudges off to bed at 11 p.m.

Doug is becoming the norm. The statistical evidence paints a grim picture of the average American worker.

We’ve lost the ability to sleep:

  • 70 million Americans suffer from sleeping problems, according to the Institute of Medicine
  • 40 percent of American adults experience symptoms of insomnia each year, according to the National Institute of Health.
  • Americans spent $2.8 billion dollars on sleeping aids last year alone, double what we spent in 2001.

We’ve forgotten the benefits of hammocks:

  • Americans will forsake a total of 574 million vacation days in 2006, according to Expedia.com’s Sixth Annual Vacation Deprivation Survey.
  • The number of U.S. businesses offering paid vacation time decreased in 2004 to 68 percent compared with 87 percent in 2003, according to the study by the Society for Human Resource Management.
  • One in six U.S. employees in 2000 did not use up their annual vacation allotment despite the U.S. having the least amount of vacation time in the industrialized world (about 14 days), according to a study by Oxford Health Plans.

We no longer whistle while we work:

  • The productivity of the average American has doubled since 1948, according to Juliet B. Schor, author of The Overworked American, meaning that American workers could enjoy the same standard of living in 1948 by working only six months a year
  • More than a quarter of U.S. workers in 2004 said they had difficulties balancing their work and personal life while 21 percent blamed their work for frequent mood changes, according to USA Today

And we’re starting to develop distracting facial tics:

  • 40 percent of U.S. workers report their job is very or extremely stressful, according to a survey by Northwestern National Health
  • 26 percent of American workers say they are often or very often burned out or stressed by their work, according to a survey by the Families and Work Institute
  • Three-fourths of American workers believe today’s employees have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago, according to the Princeton Survey Research Associates

Blame the Puritan work ethic, Corporate America, or our over-consumption addiction, but the fact is American workers are exhausted. We’ve become bleary-eyed pod workers with caffeine problems, irritated bowels, and vitamin D deficiencies. If we were mules the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would have already stepped in on our behalf.

And yet no one really wants to acknowledge the problem.

Overworked is a badge of honor in the United States. We swap stories about impossible work hours like baseball players recounting homeruns. Professional workers like Doug remain connected to work through Blackberries, cell phones, and pagers. It’s like a giant retractable leash pulling us back to work at the most unlikeliest of times. The mainstream media even brags about our work productivity – ignoring the fact that we’re working ourselves into early graves (coronary heart disease, often caused by stress, remains the biggest killer in the U.S. accounting for one in five deaths).

This is an issue that should have political clout, but there is no mass movement afoot to increase or mandate vacation time for workers. Despite movements by the religious right to put family first most of the political effort has been concentrated on banning gay marriage and fighting the legality of abortion. The left hasn’t made it an issue either and with dwindling membership in labor unions, it’s unlikely to become a political issue any time soon.

So while workers in Europe and Australia revel in government-mandated vacations of four weeks a year, U.S. workers like Doug Goldberg can enjoy our average of 8.1 days of vacation a year and remind the rest of world that we might be exhausted, but we’re damn productive.

*Not his real name

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Sunday, July 09, 2006
Sand -- A Fantasy Serial (Part IV)

Chapter Four
Death in the Desert

(Welcome to the fourth chapter of Sand. We join Radric in the aftermath of his rescue of his sworn enemy, Caswell, and the half-elf woman, Quil, as they try to escape from the arid, barren landscape of the B’Kar Waste. Each week DaRK PaRTY is pleased to publish another chapter in this exciting tale of swords and sorcery. Sand was originally published in Lost Worlds: The Writers and Artists’ Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum.)

“I’m hungry,” Quil said.

The mid-afternoon was sweltering. The sun, high above the B’Kar Waste, baked their bodies and turned the sand into a furnace. They plodded south, away from the D’jaren war party and Lindell. Radric had hoped to reach the Black Hills by nightfall, but he now realized that Quil and Caswell were too weak. The wizard sagged in his saddle, bleary and limp. They would have to spend another night in the desert.

Radric reined his horse and headed for a mammoth slab of sandstone jutted out of the desert like a broken finger. The outcropping provided shade; relief from the relentless and unmerciful sun. The heat was so overpowering, Radric almost wished he were wearing the midnight cloak – a dangerous proposition. His throat was dry, but he resisted the urge to drink. Their water supply was dangerously low.

He let Quil arrange his saddlebag as a pillow for the wizard before helping his dismount. She laid him in the deepest part of the shade. The wizard mumbled his thanks and promptly lapsed into a deep, troubled sleep. Radric was thankful he couldn’t see the wizard’s dreams.

As the Demimondaine dabbed Caswell’s forehead with the end of her robe, Radric studied her features. She was an exquisite beauty. Her movements were smooth and fluid. She was slight and slender; her features soft and gentle from her elfin heritage. Her golden hair was lush, like a satin tapestry cascading down her shoulders. Her eyes were large, ovals and a striking sea green; like an emerald sparkling in torch light.

“Are you his slave?” Radric asked her.

She turned and glared coldly at him. “I’m so much more.”

He smirked. “Loyal to the end.”

Quil stood, wiping the sweat from her face with the back of her hand. “End of what, warrior?”

He frowned, but didn’t answer. Sloppy. Why hadn’t he killed Caswell yet? It was foolish to let the wizard regain his strength. He had witnessed a weakened Caswell encase four D’jaren guards into ice pillars. Rested and healthy, Caswell would be too powerful to defeat with a sword. Yet for some unknown reason, he couldn’t muster the will to cut the man’s throat. He shook his head in disgust. Caswell deserved to die – the wizard had betrayed him, murdered the gypsy girl and the dwarf. He should be savoring this moment.

Radric removed his armor and dropped his sword next to him. He propped himself against the rock and bit into a dried piece of rabbit meat. Quil approached and she saw him studying the scars on his chest and shoulders.

“Who are you?” she asked. “At first, I thought you might be one of the Dark Tarkkum soldiers sent to save us. But you’re not. You’re something else.”

“Radric,” Caswell said.

They both turned toward the wizard. Caswell had managed to sit up and was drinking from a water skin.

“That’s his name,” Caswell said to the Demimondaine. “Once upon a time he was a Defender. One of the realm’s elite swordsmen. I don’t know why he left – he never told me. Too much gore, perhaps? A scandal? I guess it really doesn’t matter. By the time, I met him in Vitoria he was a drunk and a thief.”

“What does he want?” Quil asked.

“Revenge,” Caswell said. “But once a Defender, always a Defender. He can’t do it.”

She looked back at Radric. “But why?” she asked.

“He has a conscience.”

Radric stood. “You killed Ttara.”

Caswell smiled. “Ah, yes, the gypsy girl you bedded. Yes, I suppose I did. I should have killed you.”

“You tried.”

Quil was astonished. “He’s an assassin?”

“Aren’t they all, my love?” The wizard climbed to his feet, leaning against the rock. “I’m going to finish what I left undone in Vitoria. Good-bye Radric and thank you. I was tiring of D’jaren company.”

The wizard raised his hands and a blast of lightning snapped from his fingertips and entangled Radric in its electric web. The force of the magic lifted Radric into the air; he bounced off the side of the rock, tumbled through the air and landed twenty feet away in a pile of hot sand. The smell of his burnt flesh pierced his nostrils.

He staggered to his feet, spitting sand from his mouth. Quil charged him, slashing with a dagger. He tried to move, but the blade slashed his chest, blood splashing onto the sand. He almost fell and that would have been the end of him. Quil threw the dagger to her other hand the lunged again. This time he pivoted and hit her across the face with his forearm. She sprawled to the ground with cry.

Radric broke into a run, grabbed his sword, and charged Caswell. The wizard was still dazed from using his magic, but he lifted his arms and muttered a spell. A funnel of fire screeched through the air. Radric roared in frustration and pain. He launched himself just as the flames consumed him.

He crashed into the wizard, barreling him over, smashing against the rock. He rolled to his feet, yanking out his dagger, whirling around. Radric’s sword protruded from Caswell’s chest, buried up to the hilt in flesh.

“No,” the wizard said. “Not possible…”

Caswell, his expression filled with bewilderment, fire still sputtering from his fingertips, rolled over and died.

(Next week the final installment of Sand! Chapter Five: Aftermath!)

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