::Literate Blather::
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Quoth the Werewolf: Nevergood!

Woe to the werewolf.

Hollywood has not been kind to our hairy hound of hellacious howling. In fact, tinsel town has been downright cruel with movies not even a junkyard dog would enjoy – lowly affairs like “Silver Bullet”(1985), “Howling II” (1986), “Wolfen” (1981), and “An American Werewolf in Paris” (1997).

And please don’t make me watch “The Howling – New Moon Rising” (1994) because I might just shoot myself with a silver bullet to make it go away.

The werewolf has been neglected. While the vampire continues to wow Hollywood with big budget affairs like “Interview with the Vampire” (1994), “Blade” (1998), and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992), the werewolf is regulated to B (even C) movie status.

The cold hard fact is that creating a good werewolf story is difficult because the storyline is so structured: bitten by wolf; slow build to the full moon; transformation; rampage; and then (usually) death. It's not easy to insert an original narrative into the werewolf tale. Werewolves are animals -- savage beasts that growl, spit, and howl. Vampires, on the other hand, are suave, cultured, and wise with centuries of contemplation. As an actor which creature would you prefer to play?

But there is hope. A glimmer of hope, anyway.

There have been a handful of werewolf movies worthy of viewing. There’re not all gold mind you – but at least they aren’t rusty pieces of old scrap iron.

So for our weeklong horror celebration DaRK PaRTY presents the list of “Seven Werewolf Movies that Don’t Totally Suck.”

The Howling (1981)
Joe Dante’s film is the grandpappy of the modern werewolf movie and the first movie in the franchise most responsible for taking the werewolf genre into the gutter. But let’s stress the positive, shall we? First, the werewolves in “The Howling” are among the best on screen. They’re scary, savage, and completely creditable.

We even get a plot here. News anchorwoman investigating a murder stumbles onto a rogue werewolf. She journeys to “The Colony” (a coastal community in Northern California) with her husband and discovers that the rustic town is an outpost for werewolves.

Silver Nugget: All the werewolf characters are named after famous werewolf movie directors of the past.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)
For a long time, “An American Werewolf in London” was the best werewolf movie ever made. It’s now second best. Two Americans are backpacking through the English moors and attacked by a werewolf. One is killed and the other, David, is mauled.

Waking up in a hospital, David falls for the nurse and ends up moving in with him. But as the full moon comes, David turns into a werewolf in what may be the best make-up transformation of man into wolf ever filmed.

Then he kills a lot of people.

The movie is a bit disjointed and can’t decide whether to be a comedy or a horror flick (so it’s both), but it’s a genuinely good movie despite being about werewolves.

Silver Nugget: David Naughton, the lead actor, was cast after director John Landis saw him in Dr. Pepper commercials.

Teen Wolf (1985)
When a Michael J. Fox comedy makes the list – you know werewolf movies are in trouble. But despite its overall blandness, “Teen Wolf” is kind of fun in a “Sixteen Candles” meets “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” kind of way.

Fox plays a high school nerd playing on a terrible basketball team. Then he starts changing and his dad informs him that he’s inherited his werewolf genes. Suddenly, Fox is the star basketball players and the most popular kid at school.

Silver Nugget: Fox was 24 when he starred in the movie.

Wolf (1994)
Hollywood’s first attempt at a big budget werewolf flick and it flopped. This may be the most unsuccessful Jack Nicholson movie of all time – and it also has Michelle Pfeiffer and James Spader. But this movie is pretty good nevertheless.

Nicholson plays a has-been literary editor at a publishing house. Just before he gets the boot in favor of his younger rival (Spader), he’s bitten by a wolf and starts his glorious transformation from milquetoast to werewolf. There’s more here about becoming middle-aged that werewolf mythology (which might be why the film didn’t do very well).

Silver Nugget: Sharon Stone turned down the Michelle Pfeiffer role.

Ginger Snaps (2000)
Werewolf aficionados love “Ginger Snaps.” I’m lukewarm on it, but considering the competition – it makes the list. The movie, directed by John Fawcett, starts out with a lot of promise. Two attached-at-the-hip Goth sisters get their relationship challenged when the oldest, Ginger, is attacked by a werewolf.

The movie degenerates into a cliché ridden murder fest, but the strong performances of the cast make up for the poor writing and directing.

Silver Nugget: Lucy Lawless is the voice over the school’s PA system.

Dog Soldiers (2002)
The best werewolf movie ever made. Here it is. The tagline says it all: “Six Soldiers. Full Moon. No Chance.” Director Neil Marshall doesn’t shy away from the fact that he’s making a B-movie horror flick. Instead he embraces it.

What we get is a squad of British soldiers trapped in a secluded cottage as they are relentlessly attacked by a pack of werewolves (actors in cool costumes and make-up) rather than CGI animation. The result is just great fun.

Silver Nugget: The character of Sgt. Harry G. Wells is named after author H.G. Wells, the favorite writer of Marshall.

Underworld (2003)
“Underworld,” one can argue, is really a vampire flick. Hard to argue back because the main character is a vampire and most of the movie is told from a vampire’s point of view. But the premise of this ambitious and surprisingly effective film is the ongoing war between vampires and werewolves.

Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) is death dealer, a vampire who hunts werewolves, but when she falls for a werewolf, she needs to decide which side she’s really on. Lots of action and great werewolf effects.

Silver Nugget: The original pitch for the movies was a crafty “Romeo and Juliet between vampires and werewolves.”

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Monday, October 30, 2006
Literary Criticism: Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter”
Summary: Mary Mahoney, six months pregnant, knits in her parlor waiting for her husband, Patrick, to get home from work. Patrick, a dour, unfriendly police detective, returns in a foul mood. After drinking glasses of whiskey, Patrick tells Mary he is leaving her. Shocked, Mary prepares dinner – fetching a frozen leg of lamb from the freezer. When her husband tells her not to bother, she crushes the back of his skull with the lamb. Mary proceeds to get her alibi prepared by putting the lamb in the oven and then heading to the butcher’s. Returning, she puts the lamb in the oven and pretends to have discovered her murdered husband. She calls the police and her husband’s colleague come in investigate. In the end, she offers them the leg of lamb and they eat the murder weapon.

Analysis: Roald Dahl may have one of the most unusual writing careers in history. He’s famous for authoring some of the most beloved children’s novels of all time – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and “Matilda.”

But Dahl had a dark side. He was a combat veteran of World War II, flying for the British Royal Air Force, and later in life became an admitted anti-Semite. This must have been the part of his personality that fueled his parallel career of writing macabre adult fiction, mostly short stories.

“Lamb to the Slaughter” is an example of the dark humor Dahl incorporated in his adult work. The story, first published in 1953, starts as a pleasant tale of domestic bliss, but quickly descends into a tale of domestic violence and murder. Despite the dark subject matter, the tone of the story is written with a sly smile and a wink, wink, nudge, nudge approach. The reader is kept slightly off-balance by it all -- is this a murder story or a dark comedy?

Turns out, it's both.

Mary Mahoney, ripe with child, knits in her parlor as she patiently awaits for her husband’s return from work. The reader learns later that she is deeply delusional about her relationship with Patrick Mahoney, a police detective of few words and a sour, even cruel, disposition:

“Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to
please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time
when he would come.”

When Patrick does get home, he is sullen and anti-social. He begins to drink several glasses of whiskey. Mary tries to pacify him, by doting, but he rebuffs her efforts to fetch is slippers and fix him a pre-dinner snack. Th reader begins to realize that Mary isn't all that bright -- and in deep denial. Patrick orders his wife to sit and then breaks the news to her that he’s seeing another woman.

“`So there it is,’ he added. `And I know it’s kind of a bad time to be
telling you, but there simply wasn’t any other way. Of course I’ll give
you money and see you’re looked after. But there needn’t really be any
fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.’”

Patrick is a heartless bastard. Mary, in a kind of shock, goes to prepare dinner and when she can’t take his platitudes anymore, she uses a frozen leg of lamb to cave in the back of his skull. According to legend, Dahl came up with the murder weapon during dinner with author Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond). The two British writers were discussing what object in Dahl’s newly acquired freezer would make the best murder weapon.

Mary may be delusional about her relationship with her husband, but being married to a cop makes her smart enough to realize she needs a plan. She puts the lamb in the oven and heads to the butcher shop where she sets up the scene: Patrick is tired and wants to stay in, so unprepared for fixing dinner, she needs some potatoes and vegetables.

Heading home, she pretends to discover her husband murdered. She calls the police and her husband’s comrades from the station flood her house. They other detectives believe Patrick has been killed by a steel pole to the head and they search for the murder weapon.

The detectives remain suspicious of Mary, but she says all the right things and provides them with weepy hysterics. Yet they head to the butcher shop to interview the butcher and he tells them she acted completely natural.

In the end, the lamb finishes cooking and she convinces the investigators – as a favor to her and in memory of Patrick – to sit down and eat dinner. They are reluctant at first, but then acquiesce and end up eating the murder weapon.

The story concludes with Mary, in the other room, giggling.

Dahl has a wonderful time with “Lamb to the Slaughter” (even the title is humorously horrific). The writing is fresh, active, and moves at a lightning pace. Dahl uses dialogue effectively and a large part of the story is told through conversation (establishing character and pushing the plot forward).

One can’t help rooting for Mary Mahoney, even as one suspects that she might be a bit crazy.

If you’ve only experienced the “light” Dahl, I recommend you try some of his macabre fare and “Lamb to the Slaughter” is a good place to start – especially this close to Halloween.

Read our literary criticism of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

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Thursday, October 26, 2006
10 Greatest Cover Songs

What defines a great cover song? DaRK PaRTY believes there are two crucial elements:

  • A complete and successful re-interpretation of the song that stretches the scope of the music in entirely new directions
  • When the song title is mentioned, most people believe the song belongs to the cover band rather than the original artist

With that limited criteria as our guide, DaRK PaRTY presents the 10 Greatest Cover Songs of All Time.

All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix)

Bob Dylan originally sang this one as a folk rocker, but Hendrix rescues it with some scathing electrical guitar work. It’s amazing that Dylan released the song in 1967 and by 1968 most people already considered it a Hendrix song. In fact, Dylan even liked the Hendrix version better and played it “heavier” in concert for years in tribute to Hendrix. This is a perfect example of an artist completely re-interpreting a song to make it better, yet still echoing the original.

I Fought the Law (The Clash)

Does anyone even remember that this song was originally done by the Crickets in 1965? Probably not because before the Clash’s version, the song was made popular by the Bobby Fuller Four (Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car the same day the song hit the Top 40). But for all purposes, the Clash have so thoroughly taken command of this song that it’s become one of about five tunes that people immediately connect with the band. It’s an outstanding cover because the Clash’s punk version is a better fit for the tune musically than the original rockabilly style or the Bobby Fuller Four version.

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (George Thorogood)

This was an old blues number by John Lee Hooker that George Thorogood and his Destroyers made into one of their signature songs (along with “Bad to the Bone). Thorogood takes Hooker’s insightful, introspective song and creates a party number out of it by ripping it pieces with his masterful slide guitar antics.

Red Red Wine (UB40)

How’s this for stretching the limits on a song? UB40 takes puffy pop standard by Neil Diamond and makes it into a rollicking reggae tune that became one of the defining songs of the 1980 retro-reggae scene. However, UB40 didn’t even know Neil Diamond wrote and recorded it until after “Red Red Wine” was a hit. The band thought the song belonged to another reggae band – Tony Tribe, which recorded it in 1969.

Respect (Aretha Franklin)

Otis Redding said all that needed to be said about Aretha’s version of his original. “I think the bitch stole my song.” That she did. Aretha added the “Sock it to me” line to the song (which is a sexual reference) and added a rocking bridge line to the tune.

Walk This Way (Run DMC)

This may be one of the most significant covers in history. By converting Aerosmith’s popular rock anthem into a rap song, Run DMC brought hip hop to the mainstream and rescued Aerosmith from the dustbin. Run-DMC stumbled upon the album, but had never heard of Aerosmith (in fact, they thought the name of the band was Toys in the Attic, the album with “Walk This Way” on it). Aerosmith was pretty much over and the song helped revive its career after the disastrous release of the band’s worst album “Done with Mirrors.”

Suspicious Minds (Fine Young Cannibals)

How is it possible to swipe a song from the King? Ask the Fine Young Cannibals who turned Elvis Presley’s last number one song before his death into one of the most popular songs of the alt-rock movement of the 1980s. This is a bouncy, guitar heavy tune that would have made the King proud.

Take Me to the River (Talking Heads)

I’ll never forgive the Talking Heads for taking the Modern Lover’s bass player, but they kind of make up for it with this fantastic cover of an Al Green tune. This is the song that put art rock band Talking Heads on the musical map. This slowed down, bass-heavy rendition of the original became the coda of urban cool and helped usher in the new wave movement in 1978.

You Really Got Me (Van Halen)

This song was the first hit for the Kinks and the first hit for Van Halen. Ray Davies of the Kinks said he liked the Van Halen version better and that the Kinks version was a prop airplane and the Van Halen version was a fighter jet. This song really encapsulates early Van Halen showing off Eddie Van Halen’s guitar mastery and lead singer David Lee Roth’s trademark squeals.

Ring of Fire (Social Distortion)

It’s difficult to unseat Johnny Cash from his own song – never mind pick him up and throw him to the ground. But that’s exactly what Social Distortion does to “Ring of Fire.” They punk it up and own it. The song, however, was really written by June Carter, who wrote it while driving around one night worried about Cash’s wild partying.

Think we blew it? Want to throw a cover song into the mix? Then use the comments section below to tell us what we missed and to add to the list.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
5 Questions About: Laurie Foos

(After reading one of Laurie Foos’s surreal comic novels, after throwing away the box of Kleenex used to wipe away the tears of laughter, a reader tries to visualize what in God’s name could this author possibly be like. Two images come immediately to mind:
1. A deranged bag lady with leaves sticking in her hair and a thick, patch-quilt overcoat pushing a shopping cart filled with half-scrawled notes for her next book through urban alleys.
2. A severe, bespectacled intellectual clad in black clothing and smoking European cigarettes through an ivory holder like muttering with the voices in her head.

Neither, however, is the real Laurie Foos. In person, Laurie comes across as engaging, funny, surprisingly patient – and completely normal. Laurie is the author of the novels “Before Elvis There Was Nothing,” “Bingo Under the Crucifix,” “Twinship,” “Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist,” and “Ex Utero.” She teaches in the low residency MFA program at Lesley University and lives on Long Island with her husband and two children. What’s going on here? DaRK PaRTY decided to find out.)

DaRK PaRTY: For those DaRK PaRTY readers who have not read one of your novels -- can you give them a brief description of your style?

Laurie: This is always a hard question to answer. When people ask me what kind of novels I write, I usually say, "absurd comedies," and I guess I identify myself with the absurdists and surrealists--though, quite honestly, I think that the overriding premises of my books are surreal but that mostly, they are grounded in a world we recognize--or at least one that I do.

DP: Your first novel "Ex Utero" which is the story of poor Rita who loses her uterus at the mall. Can you give us a peek into your creative process? How did "Ex Utero" happen?

Laurie: In a way that I'm sure will never happen again. Truly!

The idea for "Ex Utero" came to me while I was lying in bed (hence that first line, I'm sure), and thank the gods I had the sense enough to get out of bed and get myself a notebook, despite the fact that I am forever telling my students to keep one at their bedsides. If I hadn't, I'm not sure--maybe the idea would have been gone. In any case, I had the idea for the three women--I think there were four scribbled on the notebook, but one did not fit in--and the novel, from that point on, evolved from the central metaphor.

I believe in writing a first draft, in getting to the end, and only then going back to revise. With "Ex Utero," the whole novel took about nine months to write (which sounds campy, I know) and came out almost entirely as it went to print. This has not--and I suspect, will not, ever happen again. There were some revisions, but I recall them being pretty minor, not at all like the more major overhauling I've done in subsequent novels.

It's also possible that I've gotten tougher and have had stricter standards with each book, and I know that like most writers, I'm never entirely satisfied and always wish there were things I'd done differently. Of course I never thought the book would see the light of day, and so perhaps I was bolder in that first novel than I've been since. It was only after I'd finished the novel that I realized that I was writing about my own feelings of ambivalence about motherhood--and in some ways, at the people who were asking me, "When do you plan to have kids?" and more intrusively, "Are you trying?" Now I have two kids and try never to ask anyone who doesn't have children that question.

DP: I love your novel "Bingo Under the Crucifix" because I could so relate to the concept of a man turning back into a baby (even if his head remains adult). I don't know what that says about me -- but which one of your books is your favorite and why?

Laurie: I love a man who can admit he relates to that premise. Thank you!

Each book has come out of a certain time in my life and has been born out of the obsessions I've been occupied by at various times in my life, and so they are all special for me for that reason. And each one has allowed me to write the next book. I believe Philip Roth said that each book acts like a bulldozer, clearing the way for the next, and I understand that. But if I had to pick a favorite--and you're asking me to, so I will--it would have to be "Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist." There is nothing real or remotely close to my life in the book, but it is in many ways the book that is closest to me--or to who I was at that point. I dug deeply with that book, and I believe it allowed me to write the others.

DP: Your new novel "Before Elvis There was Nothing" may be your wackiest yet. Two sisters are abandoned by their parents who go off looking for Elvis on the 10th anniversary of his death. Are you an Elvis fan and why did you choose Elvis as the story's epicenter?

Laurie: Yes, I am a huge Elvis fan. HUGE. Not ashamed to admit it, either:). I love Elvis in all his incarnations--young and promising, even bloated and near death--and I am fascinated by the death culture and mythology surrounding Elvis. I've been to Graceland three times and have a ton of Elvis memorabilia (though I did pack most of it away when we moved to this new house). My mother was/is a huge fan, and so I grew up with Elvis.

It's always intrigued me, too, that despite all the books, all the films, all the tell-alls, no one has ever quite gotten to the core of why he threw it all away--and of course no one ever will. It's what keeps us coming back. He's the American Dream and its deterioration, its facade, all in one. He embodies both hope and hopelessness, beauty and decay, promise and despair. I could go on and on.

I didn't want to write about Elvis, though, and I naturally worried what I might possibly add to the list of Elvis literature, so I resisted for quite some time, though I knew that eventually he'd win out. When I began the novel, he appeared--in reference to the parents--and I thought to myself, "All right, he wants to be in this book, it seems, so I'll let him, at least for awhile," and he just stayed and seemed to fit. Elvis seemed to personify all the questions of identity that I wanted to explore. So much has been written about him, much of it badly, though, and so I did fight him off as best I could. But you can't win against the King, I've found.

DP: No offense is meant by this question -- but in person you're such a nice, normal woman. Yet you write these radical, surreal novels that completely impale modern society. Are you a closet revolutionary?

Laurie: People always say that to me: "But you seem so normal!" I like to think that I am, but of course, what or who is normal anymore? I live a nice, quiet life with my husband and our two babies. I skewer suburbia--and yet I live in it, always have, probably always will. It seems ambivalence is a great motivator for me. I don't know that I'm a revolutionary, by any means, but I will say that there are fundamental aspects of our society that I simply don't understand, and moreover, I don't understand why we all buy into them and perpetuate them. I suppose, in some way, I'm rallying against them in my work, or at the very least, trying to have a voice.

Read our Six-Word Short Stories here

Read our interview about Writing Forums here

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Batman Wises Up

From: Bruce Wayne
To: Dick Grayson
Subject: The Partnership


The situation has become untenable. As we discussed at lunch yesterday, I believe a clean break is in order. I’ve alerted Albert to the situation and he’ll help you pack your things. We couldn’t make it work. It happens.
Best of Luck,

From: Dick Grayson
To: Bruce Wayne
Subject: RE: The Partnership


Hi Bruce: Listen, I’m still reeling here. I can’t believe this is happening to us. We’re the dynamic duo ;-) How are you going to battle the Riddler, Mister Freeze and the Joker without me? Didn’t I always have your back? I beg you to reconsider! Don’t do this!

From: Bruce Wayne
To: Dick Grayson
Subject: RE: The Partnership

I’m sorry, Dick, but my mind’s made up. You have until tomorrow to remove your things from the mansion.

Alfred will have a check for you.

From: Dick Grayson
To: Bruce Wayne
Subject: RE: The Partnership

What kind of bitch do you take me for? Keep your goddamn money! I can’t believe you’re doing this to us. You’re killing me. Do you understand that? You’re killing me!

From: Bruce Wayne
To: Dick Grayson
Subject: RE: The Partnership


We’ve been over this many times, Dick. I’m the Dark Knight – the Batman. I’m dark, mysterious, and dangerous. You’re… Robin (named after the first bird of spring for Christ sake!). Do you know how difficult it is to skulk around in the shadows when you’re standing next to a guy in green tights and a canary yellow cape?

This sidekick thing just isn’t for me. I’m a loner. Even social butterflies like Superman work alone. I’ve got to get back to the basics if I want to put my career back on track. Sorry, but I’m adamant about this.

PS – Take the money. It will help you get a new start.

From: Dick Grayson
To: Bruce Wayne
Subject: RE: The Partnership


I know this is about Catwoman and those snide, homophobic remarks she made last month. Why do you let her get under your skin?

I can’t believe you’re complaining about my costume again! You know black washes out my skin tone. Plus the kids loooove the red, green and yellow! You need to think big picture! Robin is the anti-Batman. He’s fun-loving, colorful and full of energy in contrast to your grim, dark and serious. Ying and Yang! Mutt and Jeff!

Come on, Bruce! Don’t let some S&M tramp come between us.

From: Bruce Wayne
To: Dick Grayson
Subject: RE: The Partnership


My decision is final.

I’ve warned you before about talking ill about Selina, Dick. I won’t warn you again.

From: Dick Grayson
To: Bruce Wayne
Subject: RE: The Partnership


Screw you! I’ve got news for you Batboy – Catwoman is a total carpet muncher. Good luck being her fag hag!

Go on and have your precious “solo” career. I predict complete and utter failure. Meanwhile, I’ve already contacted the Penguin about a job. He might be short, fat and have terrible taste in clothing, but at least he appreciates my skills as a top-notch sidekick. I start on Monday.

See you in the funny papers, loser.

From: Bruce Wayne
To: Alfred Pennyworth
Subject: Our Mutual Friend


Hello Alfred:
Change the locks on all the mansion doors and put a stop order on that check to Dick -- immediately. We're finally rid of the little pest.

Do me another favor. Make reservations at that French Bistro in downtown Gotham for me and Selina. I'm predicting a very late night celebration, so don't wait up.


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Monday, October 23, 2006
Essay: Employee Bill of Rights
What this country needs is a workers' revolt. No bloodshed, no violence in the street. A civilized, lawful revolt that will give workers some of their rights back -- not to mention some dignity. We've let Corporate America treat us like commodities for too long.

Workers in the United States – both blue and white collar – may be in their worst shape since the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed way back in 1938. The FLSA, among other things, established the eight-hour work day, a national minimum wage and overtime for certain jobs. It was an enormous victory for workers and Corporate America and their enablers in government have spent the last 70 years undermining it.

Does the eight-hour work day even exist anymore? Blue-collar workers are often forced to work overtime and if you wear a white collar you know that a 9-to-5 work schedule is merely a memory. Corporations have been successful in keeping the minimum wage at poverty levels, and making more and more jobs ineligible for overtime compensation.

At a time when corporate earnings reach unheard of highs and the stock market surpasses 12,000 – workers who don’t have a “C” in front of their titles are being left behind. The median income for families has decreased 2.9 percent since 2000 despite productivity per worker increasing 16.6 percent and the economy growing from $9.8 trillion to $11.2 trillion in the same period.

While we’re earning less – we’re working more. The number of U.S. businesses offering paid vacations dropped in 2004 to 68 percent of companies compared with 87 percent in 2003 – a drop of 19 percent in one year. One in six U.S. workers was unable to use up their vacation time – and we have fewer vacation days than any other industrialized nation.

It’s time for a change. Workers need to unite behind an Employee Bill of Rights. But its important to start with a manageable bill – so our first draft will not include a universal healthcare care plan (which the U.S. desperately needs. Job creation stagnation is partly being driven by the high cost of healthcare. U.S. corporations can no longer afford to underwrite the country’s healthcare system. Nor should workers only option for healthcare come from employment in an age of lay-offs and multiple careers. But universal healthcare is too thorny a political issue and the goal here is to establish a foothold).

Here’s DaRK PaRTY’s recommendation for an Employee Bill of Rights:

  • Three weeks (15 days) of paid vacation
  • Six weeks of paid maternity leave for women
  • Two weeks of paid paternity leave
  • One year of unemployment benefits

American workers are exhausted. Europeans and Australians enjoy four weeks of vacation mandated by their governments. In the United States, the average worker receives an average of eight days of vacation – a little over a week. Globalization and technology have made working 9 to 5 obsolete and result in longer hours and more days worked. In this type of hyper-competitive atmosphere, workers need to be protected – and this means making vacation time mandatory.

Well rested workers will increase productivity, create safer working conditions, lower stress related illness, and allow workers to send more time with their families. In our plan to mandate three weeks of vacation for every full-time worker in the U.S., small businesses will be eligible for tax cuts and subsidies to help pay for their workers to take time off. Workers will be encouraged to take the time off – but if they do not, they will be compensated for any vacation time leftover at the end of each year.

Maternity & Paternity Leave
There’s a lot of talk in America about valuing the family – but little action. Just like we lag behind the rest of the industrialized world in vacation time, we fall far short in providing time off for new parents.

In fact, there is no requirement in the United States for paid maternity (never mind paternity) leave of any kind. According to a recent study at Harvard University, out of 168 countries in the world, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave. The U.S. enjoys the company of Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea as the only nations in the study that did not.

Industrial nations are unusually generous (or realistic) when it comes to advocating for parents to be with their children. Canadian women enjoy 14 months of paid maternity leave and in Sweden couples get 16 months of paid parental leave (at 80 percent of salary), according to a recent article in U.S. Today.

If the U.S. is serious about being family first – then we need to start with maternity and paternity leaves. Six weeks is hardly adequate for mothers, but it’s a starting point. This benefit (and the two weeks of paternity leave) will be compensated directly by the government at full pay. Companies will have the option to extend the benefit, of course. Under the plan, the amount of time will be reviewed for an increase every two years.

Unemployment Benefits
The average length of time it takes for an unemployed worker in 2005 to find a job is about 20 weeks. Unemployment benefits in the U.S. last an average of 24 weeks and that’s cutting it much too close – especially when you consider older workers who have a more difficult time finding work.

It’s a ridiculous notion that you can lose unemployment benefits while still actively looking for a job. Why do we want to burden workers with a ticking clock of anxiety as they search for a new job? Twelve months of full benefits is fair and allows people to adequate time to find a new job.

We want to make sure people don't fall into bankruptcy, enter into a spiral of debt, and lose their self-esteem like looking for work. Extended unemployment benefits ensure the dignity of all workers.

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Friday, October 20, 2006
Poem: It

By Floetry Spades

Like a spider slithering up a wall
and through my teeth
beneath my skin
at the bottom of my feet

My stomach growls to me

like Rhythm and Blues
bombastic and loose
like untied shoes

And then there are my day-dreams of you

and you don't know who you are
and I ain't ever gonna tell you

It's a red-light being run by a black cat

the principle of drama
the line that kids cross
while they wait for the stop sign to turn green
it's what he said or what she said,
and every voice inbetween

Now, I know a spider can weave

such a web of lies, but
isn't the truth thick enough
to catch any fly?

But if a fly should decide

no longer to hide
wouldn't the truth set him free?

In the meantime, I'll day-dream of you

and you'll never know who you are
and I ain't ever gonna tell you

It's like a reflection being shattered by a mirror

the principle of self-esteem
and what's left of it bleeding on the bathroom floor
it's a silhouette of a spider, who looks like a man
feels like a woman,
but breathes like a human being

And it yearns to be the fly on the wall

it wants to spread its wings all over you
or maybe dance to some Rhythm and Blues
then trip over his untied shoes
I can't escape my day-dreams of you ...

And you don't know who you are

and you'll never know how you make me feel
because I'll always hide
and I'll never know myself
because I'm too afraid to run a red-light
or cross one of those lines
or I'm too afraid of what he'll say
or what she'll sayor one of those voices inbetween
and then you'd day-dream of me

I'd be the vague memory

of the boy who sat adjacent to you some 20 years ago
while learning geometry
and you never knew who I was
because I never bothered to let "it" show

I always figured there'd be a tommorrow

I mean...

Maybe one day I'll...

(Floerty Spades in a young poet from Mississippi. He says he didn't find art, but it found him. "Writing has always been my method of choice when I want to vent or scream," he said. Floery would like to puruse a career in politics someday. If you want to learn more about his poetry and his passions please visit his web site: http://floetryspades.com.)

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Thursday, October 19, 2006
5 Questions About: Billy Conway

(DaRK PaRTY was a huge fan of the band Treat Her Right in the mid-to-late 1980s. The band played a stripped down blues with two guitars, a harmonica, and a cocktail drum. Billy Conway was the drummer – a funked-out, long-haired dude with a sardonic smile. The band played soulful, haunted blues-infused rock with song titles like “I Think She Likes Me,” “I Got a Gun,” “King of Beers,” and “Where Did All the Girls Comes From.” Treat Her Right lead singer and guitarist Mark Sandman and Conway left to form the band Morphine. Morphine had a devoted fan based for their jazzy rock numbers that only featured guitar, saxophone, and Conway’s drums. Their hits included: “Honey White,” “Super Sex,” and “Sharks.” The band broke up after Sandman died of an apparent heart attack. Conway know runs Hi ‘n Dry, a recoding studio in Boston, and plays with the band Twinemen. DaRK PaRTY recently caught up with Conway to talk about his life in music.)

DaRK PaRTY: Treat Her Right was a stripped down blues band featuring Mark Sandman and Dave Champagne on guitars; Jim Fitting on harmonica; and you beating the daylights out of a cocktail drum. Can you give DaRK PaRTY readers a brief origin story on the band and what the musical philosophy was behind it?

Billy Conway: We began in the mid-1980s with Sunday jam sessions doing whatever music that moved us. Paul Kolderie was playing bass and was unable to make one of the sessions and Mark (Sandman) began playing bass lines on his guitar. We liked the sound of low guitar and high guitar and there was a precedent in the blues that we all liked. We adopted the less is more theory and focused on simplifying everything we were doing. If there were too many chords in the song we just removed them or skipped that part of the song. We held high regard for one chord songs and strived to make simple and emotional music like our heroes – Muddy (Waters), (Howling’) Wolf, and Jimi Hendrix.

We wanted to make music with the power of the blues but still our music and not reliant on the tradition. Since we all had been in rock bands with too much gear and production we decided to apply the simple approach to performing as well. Each one of us had to be able to carry our gear into the venue in one trip without help and no gear that required two people to lift. We wanted to be able to do our thing in a living room or the enormodome. We took a steady local gig and saved the money to make our first record with Kolderie's help at the original Fort Apache studio. Our record was DYI (Do It Yourself) before the acronym was popular.

We sold some records and got signed by a major label and learned a lot of lessons.

DP: When Treat Her Right broke up, Mark Sandman formed Morphine in 1989 with saxophone player Dana Colley. You came in to play the drums after the original drummer Jerome Deupree became ill. Morphine had a rabid following of fans that really dug the band's ability to fuse blues and jazz elements with rock. Why do you think Morphine became so popular?

Billy: The sound of Morphine was unique enough that we were seldom compared to other artists or genres and had to be taken on our terms. We also knew that the songs would always be the test and it was always about the songs. We stripped down the lineup and worked really hard on the road and worked on having a good live show and making the real connection out in the world. As much as we believed in ourselves we were still astonished at times that our music was finding a place in a market that had very little music similar to ours.

DP: Mark Sandman died on stage in Italy on July 3, 1999 while performing. Can you tell us about Sandman as a musician and what he meant to you as a friend and band mate?

Billy: He will forever be an inspiration to me. He was fearless and relentless musically. He worked constantly and was always moving forward. It was not uncommon to see a song title on the set list that I didn't recognize. When I would ask him about it he wouldusually say something about a jam and a riff and that I would remember it when we started playing.

He was a great old school entertainer and emcee of the show and I think it was effectivebecause he was sincere. He would comment that when on stage you can't say thank you or the name of the city too many times. Having a good show was the singular goal of everyday on the road and he lived for that.

DP: You help run a recording studio called Hi 'n Dry and now play with a new band called the Twinemen. Can you tell us about the studio and what the Twinemen are all about?

Billy: Hi ‘n Dry was the name of Mark’s studio as far back as Treat Her Right and through Morphine and we kept it after his death. Every record we made had songs that were cut at Hi ‘n Dry and our last record was made and completed there. Dana and I decided to keep the studio and began producing records there and forming our own little scene and eventually had to stumble into our own label. It is mostly a community affair and a form of musical social work. Artists without much money helping artists without much money make records. It is a rewarding community to be involved in with a great history and supportive relationships.

Twinemen began after we completed a tour with Orchestra Morphine (a nine piece band we put together to promote "The Night" Morphine's final record). Laurie Sargent had been doing some of the singing in the orchestra and Dana and I were contributing music to her solo record when we realized the music was taking on its own path. So of course we followed along. Laurie’s solo record still is not finished, but Twinemen are preparing to release our third studio record in January. We acquired Jeremy Moses Curtis on bass after we lost the previous bass player to some guy named Dylan. The music of Twinemen is ever evolving and always exploring and we really enjoy not knowing where it is going as long as it sounds new and unlike music we know about. It must be in the Hi ‘n Dry air.

The name Twinemen came from a cartoon strip that Sandman had during morphine.The character was three headed twine ball as a comic reflection of life in a band.

DP: Word has it that Treat Her Right will be releasing a new album based on some recently rediscovered recordings. Can you give us a sneak peek at the project? Where was the music found and will there be any new material?

Billy: Yesiree, there is yet another edition of Treat Her Right music. At the end of our band life we had made a record for our major label that they actually paid for but never heard before they dropped us. We printed up a bunch of cassettes and hit the road selling them from the stage and actually broke even for once on the road. Since then it has been on the shelf and we thought it was time to make it available. It is a pleasure to hear the music now with all the miles in front of it. It still has its own unique sound and that, asalways, is a difficult thing to accomplish.

Read our picks for the 5 Bands That Should Have Been Huge -- But Blew It

Read our picks for 7 Really Pissed Off Bands here

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Six Obscure Horror Flicks for Halloween

The opening sequence of “Jeepers Creepers” is so damn good that you think you may have stumbled on the “Casablanca” of low-budget horror flicks.

Trish and her brother, Darry, are motoring home for spring break in an old jalopy and engaging in one of those teasing tit-for-tat conversations that can only take place between a woman and her younger brother. There are flashes of annoyance, extreme irritation, and an undercurrent of familiar love.

The writing, the acting – it sparkles.

The car bumps and rattles through farmland – acres of corn, dusty trees, weather-beaten silos, and dusty dirt roads. Then, as the two siblings continue to talk, a truck looms in the rear windshield and rockets up behind them.

Oh, boy.

A pit grows in your belly because, damn it, you already like these two kids and that truck’s got very bad news written all over it (it looks like a rusty hearse made on the Planet of Evil Clowns). And when it starts blaring its horn (which sounds like someone skinning a goat alive), you understand that things ain’t never gonna be the same for old Trish and Darry.

Unfortunately, by the end of the movie, “Jeepers Creepers” lapses back to slasher flick clichés, shattering the promise of the first hour. But the film is definitely worth watching in this Halloween season – shining bright enough to be included on DaRK PaRTY’s reccomended list of six obscure horror flicks that are worth watching in honor of Halloween.

So without further ado – the list:

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Trish and Darry are stalked by the bizarre Creeper – a blood-thirsty creature that looks like a cross between Freddy Krueger and a lunar moth.

Wendigo (2001)

Five minutes into this independent movie by writer and director Larry Fessenden and you realize that you’ve dropped into a scary movie. Not a “horror” flick like the ridiculous “Cabin Fever” or the terrible “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (movies that think scary because they feature buckets of blood, decapitations, and dead teenagers). Fessenden slowly builds a sense of dread by making everyday occurrences slightly off-kilter -- ominous. It's like watching a storm building over a mountain top and the result is that you spend most the movie clutching at your armchair.

An unhappy couple – Kim and George – take their young son to a cabin in the Catskills for a weekend. The marriage is in trouble and there’s considerable tension between the adults and you begin to empathize with young Miles. Its clear George has a lot of deeply buried rage that keeps bubbling to the surface.

When George hits a deer and gets into an argument with three hunters – including the psychotic Otis – you know the table has been set. You can watch “Wendigo” on a several levels. It may be about two angry men coming to blows. Or it might be about the clash of city and country cultures. Or it might be about a shape-changing mythical creature called a “Wendigo.” It might be all or none of these things.

One thing is for sure -- “Wendigo” should not be watched alone.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

This understated movie by Wes Craven stars the always fun-to-watch Bill Pullman. Pullman plays a Harvard researcher who travels to Haiti to explore the possibility that a drug used by voodoo priests might be used as anesthetic. This is a voodoo movie and like all voodoo flicks – it’s extremely creepy (just like the more popular and very uncomfortable “Angel Heart”). Of course, Pullman ends up in a coffin, paralyzed with a fat, hairy spider crawling across his face.

The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

A British horror flick featuring a roguishly young Hugh Grant playing a modern day Lord and archeology student on the verge of inheriting his family’s ancient castle and estate. The day before his big party to celebrate his new pad – he discovers a strange skull that resembles a dragon. His ancestor is said to have once slain a dragon and the tale is part of his family’s mythology.

That’s when things get weird, spooky, and, strangely enough, erotic. Enter Hugh’s next door neighbor – a vamping, snake-worshiping, topless Amanda Donohue – who steals this movie right from under Hugh and everyone else. Once Amanda makes her appearance there’s lots to like here: psychotic visions of the crucified Christ, nuns being impaled, and unleashed carnal sex.

Director Ken Russell (“Altered States”) gives you a bizarre, campy flick with plenty of scenes to make you squirm.

Pet Sematary (1989)

This is one of the often forgotten adaptations of a Stephen King novel, but one of the better efforts. King’s books usually make bad movies – which is odd since his novels are extremely visual and are seemingly paced for the cinema. “Pet Sematery” breaks out of the pattern and proves to be an excellent horror movie.

“Pet Sematery” features a horrifying scene as a cute little kid runs away from his parents giggling and veers toward the a windy, rural highway. In the distance, an enormous lumber truck rounds a bend unnervingly fast. The viewer is assaulted with flashes of the father seeing the truck and realizing what is about to happen. Kid toddling toward road. Big truck growling and picking up steam.

It ain’t pretty.

Especially when the cute, little kid comes back from the dead – very pissed off.

Not for the faint of heart.

Eraserhead (1977)

This David Lynch movie is the undisputed king of disturbing films. It’s never quite clear if the movie is a nightmare or a vision of the future. I suppose it really doesn’t matter because you never quite get over the baby – a freaky, mutated baby that bleeps like a wounded calf. I mean it. That baby will get inside your head – for a long, disturbing ride.

The first time I watched “Eraserhead” I immediately took a shower afterwards. I felt like I had done something hideous wrong – something evil. It’s that type of movie. The film – shot entirely in black-and-white – is about Harry Spenser, factory worker who gets his pissed off girlfriend pregnant. They move in together and deliver this monstrosity that… just… won’t… stop… screaming.

You might not stop screaming either. Do not watch alone

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
An Open Letter From U.S. Rep. Mark Foley

To the Intolerant Masses:

You know what really pisses me off? The pedophile bullshit.

I mean come on people. These boys were 16 and 17 years old. High school students! Are you all trying to tell me that most American men over the age of 40 weren’t salivating over the Olsen twins when they were 16? Or hot for Britney Spears before she turned 18? Don’t even try to convince me otherwise… because I do have heterosexual pals and they’ve clued me in.

How about all those teen slasher flicks with the chicks running around topless before getting their heads cut off? Are all the fans of those movies pedophiles? I mean come on! Guys of all ages like hot high school chicks and there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s an entire porn industry dedicated to cheerleaders and broads wearing Catholic school girl outfits.

Okay, okay, I’ll give you all the legal mumbo jumbo about them being under the age of consent blah, blah, blah… But that’s just a technicality.

Pedophiles are those ugly, old guys in bad shoes feeling up babies and shit. Or those whack-job gym teachers who like to shower with four and five year olds. Now that’s some sick shit. We need to put those people away.

Why do you think I was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children? I’m all for protecting children from sexual predators, but I didn’t mean high school kids (especially juniors and seniors!). I meant babies, toddlers – you know the really young ones. I would have taken a baseball bat a la De Niro in “The Untouchables” to anyone who messed with my nephews. Bang! Take that pervert!

But I didn’t mean high school students. Damn! Back in the day, most people got married right out of high school. Hell, way back in colonial times 16 was practically middle aged.

So back off on the pedophilia crap. ‘Cause I’ll go all “Fight Club” on your ass if you keep it up. I’m no pedophile.

Here’s another fact for you vipers. I didn’t touch the kid. I sent him flirty instant messages – just like you’ve done with the cute administrative assistant with the mammary glands the size of coconuts or the college girl intern who wears Mahanuala Spaghetti Tops that leaves nothing to the imagination.

Everyone flirts – its human nature – hell, its animal nature. It’s why dogs sniff each other’s asses. Why pigs dry hump each other and why people send naughty emails to each other. It doesn’t mean shit! It’s not like I dragged the kid into the bushes and popped his cherry. All I did was ask the kid for a photograph, talk about going to the gym to work-out, and wonder out loud if I made the little freak horny. Okay, okay, so we engaged in some cyber sex. I had urges! Human urges! Like you never did it!

So now you pack of cannibals want to eat me alive.

I wish I could blame it all on the Democrats – but it’s the goddamn Republicans who really want my head on a plate. Talk about ungrateful. I suppressed my homosexuality for decades to appease the base and I have one teeny-weeny lapse and now I’m a pariah, the depraved uncle in the attic.

I’d like to stuff a banana in the maw of that bloated marshmallow Dennis Hastert (Things that make you go hmmmm – Hastert was a boys wrestling coach. I’m not saying, but come on!). I supported that two-ton bag of jowls and this is the thanks that I get? When the going gets tough, I get thrown out of the boat and left to the sharks?

Maybe I should have followed my instincts and moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, to open a boutique for leather accessories – wallets, key chains, muzzles, and dog leashes. I could have made a name for myself by running for the Board of Selectmen or something…


Let me get one more thing off my chest. This whole alcoholic and priest molesting bit? It’s not bad if I do say so myself. I mean I was being hung out to dry – I had to say something, right? So now I’ve got a whole second career lined up – Oprah (you watch, I’m gonna ball like a baby when I get on that couch), Dr. Phil, Larry King… You know the drill.

I’ll be back. You wait.

See you in the funny papers,

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Friday, October 13, 2006
The Undiscovered Country
The commuter jet banked to the right as it sliced through the thick cloud cover, which pressed down on the city of Boston. The dreary morning suddenly flared to life as the plane burst into the sunshine above the clouds. The sky was a striking, cheerful blue and the clouds turned into a continent of rolling, white hills.


So it was odd that my thoughts were on death. It’s eventuality. How death is the end goal of every single life form. But I’ve been reading essays and literary criticisms about “Hamlet” lately and the play is filled with death. Hamlet – thoughtful, mournful and passive – manages to kill just about everyone in the story.

In my more reflective moods – like at that moment on the plane – I fear death. I fear losing the identity that I have spent my life growing into. I’m me. I don’t remember a time before me and I’m almost certain I won’t remember a time after me.

This life of mine – when it ends – will be washed away.

That’s a terrifying thought while barreling across the sky at thousands of miles per hour. How can it be that at some point I’ll never be able to hold my wife again or to feel the gentle breath of my two daughters against my cheek? Yet it’s going to happen. I can’t change that. No one can.

On the plane, I had a visceral reaction; a rush of blood to my head, heart banging against my ribs, and a hollowness spreading across my gut. I was nearing panic. So I closed my eyes and tried to focus on breathing. One deep breathe at a time. “Not today,” I told myself. “I won’t die today.”

That brought some comfort. As I fell into a tranquil state, I began to wonder how my own death would occur. Because we all will die in one way or another. Rarely, does this happen in a comfortable feather bed surrounded by loved ones.

Mostly it’s messy and unexpected.

Car wrecks on the freeway. Cancer invading breasts, lungs, and prostates. Falling off of ladders. Heart attacks while shoveling snow. Suicides and murders. War. Bombings. Household accidents.

What did the future hold for me? Would I die tomorrow? Would it be in five years? 10? Or, hopefully, 50?
I thought about my Uncle Eddie. Eddie was a former Boston cop who had been shot three times in his life.

The first time was on a beach in the South Pacific during World War II. A medic found him near the surf line lying face down in the sand. The medic noticed that my uncle wiggled his finger.

Later in life – when he was a cop – he inadvertently walked in on a robbery in progress at a cinema on Washington Street. He the ensuing gun battle he was shot in the chest and was in a coma for more than a week.

The third and last time, Eddie had retired to south Florida and was living with his sister. He had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer. He waited for his sister to leave the bungalow for her daily chores. Then he spread a plastic sheet over the living room carpet, loaded his service revolver with a single bullet, and put a bullet in his head.

I sometimes wonder what my uncle was thinking in those final seconds of his life. Did those seconds stretch out for an eternity as he reflected on the life he had lead? Did he think about his two sons and his grandchildren? Was he in a peaceful state of mind – or was he afraid?

No one knows, of course. The only certainty is that my uncle died alone and under circumstances he controlled. Very Shakespearean, this death of my uncle.

The plane banks to the right again. The sun is bright, nearly blinding and the sky has become a washed out beach blue. The pilot announces our descent to New York City and we dipped towards earth.

My panic – my fear – has dissipated. Death seems faraway again and back as a plotline in “Hamlet” – an abstract rather than a reality. This, I suppose, is as it should be. Carrying death so close would make life impossible – unbearable. It needs to be distant so we can do things like shop, eat, shit, and sleep without the terror that this time may be the last time.

“Hamlet” is running through my mind again and a line from the play reminds me of my uncle:
“To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”

But then the plane lands and I have meetings to attend, business to conduct, and death will have to wait.

Read about 10 Unusual Literary Deaths here

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Thursday, October 12, 2006
Essay: In Torture We Trust

Maybe this world is another planet's hell.”
- Aldous Huxley

What if the government of a free democratic nation arrested one of its citizens without any formal charges and no criminal trial? What if the government refused to let the citizen contact a lawyer? What if they whisked the citizen to a military prison and systematically began to torture him for three long years?

What if they kept him penned in a cell that was nine feet by seven feet? What if his only window looked into a concrete hall and they even blocked that? What if he only had a steel bunk and no mattress? What if they kept waking him up when he fell asleep?

What if they told him they were going to kill him? What if they took him outside only every few months and then only at night? What if he had no clocks and his cell was always brightly lit (except for the times they plunged it into utter darkness for as long as 24 hours at a time)?

What if they turned off the heat for days at a time? What if they didn’t let him bathed for several weeks? What if they put hoods over his head and forced him to stand in stress positions for long periods of time? What if they pumped him full of LSD and PCP?

What if it was you?


Welcome to world of Jose Padilla – an American citizen arrested as an “enemy combatant” by the Bush administration on May 8, 2002. Padilla spent three-and-a-half years in prison being tortured and interrogated as an alleged terrorist without any formal charges or a trial. The Bush administration accused Padilla of plotting to detonate a “dirty bomb” in Chicago after he met with Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.

However, when the Bush administration finally decided to present formal criminal charges against Padilla in 2005 – there was no mention of a “dirty bomb” threat. Instead, Padilla was charged with the vague crime of being a terrorist and plotting against the United States. There has yet to be a trial.

The latest development in the case is that Padilla’s lawyer, Michael Caruso, acting federal public defender, has filed a motion in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida to dismiss the case on the grounds of “outrageous government conduct.”

The 20-page motion, which has received surprisingly little attention from the mainstream press, is a fascinating, frightening read. If half of what Caruso alleges is true – then the United States has turned a dangerous corner under the Bush administration (which is building a powerful case as the worst administration in history).

Some of the motion’s claims:
  • The government kept Padilla in complete isolation for two years – his only human contact guards who delivered his food and military interrogators.
  • He would be placed in “stress positions” shackled and manacled for hours at a time.
  • Noxious fumes would be pumped into his cell strong enough to cause his eyes and nose to run.
  • The interrogators threatened him with imminent execution.
  • His captors injected him with LSD and PCP.

It’s like a bad TV show – culled from a drug store paperback thriller.

The real crime is the lack of outrage from Americans. Jose Padilla was a punk – a gang member and criminal with a violent history. One wonders if it’s because he’s Hispanic and Muslim that few people care. How forgotten is Padilla? There's a web site dedicated to his cause that hasn't been updated since November, 2005. The bulletin board on the site has only 32 registered participants and there's been no activity on it for more than seven days.

No one in the United States should have to endure what Padilla has experienced. This isn’t Stalin’s Russia or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. This is supposed to be the greatest democracy in history – the United States of America.

Jailing citizens without charges and torturing them shouldn’t even be possible in the U.S.

How have we gotten to this point? A deeper question, however, is when is the Bush administration going to held accountable for these types of actions? Too many Americans agree with this president's actions and wrap themselves in the flag with justifications that torture saves innocent lives.

How unAmerican is that?

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Fiction: Everyone is Dead
On the first day of my new career, August 15, 1999, the human resources director, Heather, cheerfully directed me to my cubicle. She cheerfully explained how to get to the conference room for orientation.

I had an hour to kill and I lapsed into a coma.

The padded cubicle walls were the color of a Caribbean sea. Flecks of dust clung to the shiny vinyl surface of the desk. A space-age telephone with more buttons than a calculator sat next to a tinted plastic Rolodex, a tape dispenser with even more dust than the desk, and three books- “e-Business: Roadmap for Success,” “The Profit Zone,” and “Permission Marketing.”

An eerie silence permeated my surroundings, except for the low hum of stale air being filtered through overhead vents. Noisy when you concentrated on it, but so much a part of the background that it actually counted as silence. Occasionally there was a click of a shoe against a plastic rug protector. Faraway, a door opened and shut. A muffled voice spoke into a telephone.

Washed out fluorescent lights flickered softly.

I stood and looked over the padded cubicle walls the color of a Caribbean sea. There were the heads of my fellow employees, eyes riveted to computer screens, ears plugged with iPod earphones. They were frozen, except for eyeballs and fingers clicking, clicking, clicking…

The office air had no odor. No taste. It felt like nothing. The temperature could have been cool or warm. It was difficult to tell. But it was dry. Dry like paper. Time seemed suspended. Unimportant.

Bland art hung from the beige walls. Unassuming. Unthreatening. Uninspiring. Surfers and sailboats. Vapid landscapes. No place you’d want to be. No place real.

Overhead, the vent kicked into overdrive and the noise level increased, but it still counted as silence because no else noticed. It might have been the numbing screech of the earth hurtling through the universe. It might have been the squeal of brakes just before your car hits a brick wall at 100 mph. It might have been the silent scream of your nightmares.

There were no plants and no living things other than the wide-eyed human beings with plugged ears and index fingers clicking, clicking, clicking…

Souls were being lost here. Spirits dashed. But not dramatically. Slowly, like a leaky cistern. People died here. One slow hour at a time. One miserable ticking second at a time. This was a place where asses grew large, bellies soft, and where backs and shoulders became crooked. The twitch in your eye. Dry skin. Chapped lips. Itchy rectum. Cancer growing like mold, arteries hardening, hearts getting ready to rupture.

All of us pale and fading. All of use disappearing into the cubicle walls the color of a Caribbean sea.


I nearly screamed. I don’t know what I expected. The Grim Reaper? Charon? Satan himself?

Heather smiled at me and tapped my brand-new and already impossibly fat personnel file.

“Time for orientation,” she said cheerfully.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Essay: Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

In his book “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed,” Journalist Carl Honore tried a simple experiment to help down-shift his life from the hyper-speeds of modern living. He decided to obey the speed limit. No more barreling down highways, weaving in and out of lanes, frantic to make it to appointments one or two minutes earlier than if he’d driven slowly and lawfully.

He found it nearly impossible to comply.

With much the same end goal as Honore, I decided to duplicate his experiment. How difficult could it really be to drive slower? I even went one better – I was going to give my fellow drivers the benefit the doubt. Rather than immediately assume the people in the cars next to me were all morons – I’d treat them with the respect and dignity they deserved.

I flamed out after a week – more frustrated than ever.

I’ve been conditioned to drive fast. Being from Massachusetts, reckless driving is hardwired into my DNA. As a former journalist working for a technology consultancy that moved at the speed of the Internet – speed was cultural. A way of life. Even when I focused on traveling at the legal limit, as soon as my mind started to wander, my foot hit the gas pedal and eventually I’d be bombing down the road again.

On those rare occasions when I succeeded in driving slowly, I was in agony. My car felt like it was strapped to a tortoise. I was plodding – stuck in quicksand. My fellow drivers – those impatient morons – despised me. The looks! The sneers and the one-finger salutes! The horn! People giving me the horn!

Better to die in a flaming wreck than be subjected to that.

Slowing down has proven to be more difficult than I imaged. I want to slow down and smell those damn roses. I know taking it down a notch will improve my health, reduce stress levels, and make me happier more patient person. In my quiet moments, I often fanaticize about moving to rural Maine, dropping out of the rat race all together.

I had lunch with a former colleague not long ago. He also works for a high technology company. We found that our work environments were amazingly similar.

  • A cultural tendency at both companies to set unrealistic deadlines – often with an acknowledgement upfront that the deadlines were nearly impossible.
  • A complete disregard for the 40-hour work week. Employees at both companies were supposed to work as long as it took (both of us felt most people worked about 45-50 hours a week on average). We had both experienced many times meetings scheduled at 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m.
  • An over reliance on email to communicate – which lead to misunderstandings and even hard feelings. This lead to too much time being wasted on long email chains when a quick phone call could have easily alleviated any miscommunication.
  • Work days clogged with long and unnecessary meetings.

The conversation then turned even more desperate.

We realized that our generation was truly an experiment in speed. We were working faster, longer, and under more intense pressure than our fathers and grandfathers. Could we maintain this speed for 10 more years? For 20 more years? Could our bodies handle it? Would we be dead from heart attacks or stokes long before the promise of retirement? Would cancer invade our weakened, rattled bodies and kill us before the age of 50?

We started to panic. I’m already addicted to coffee. I eat terribly, especially when traveling. My sleep is sometimes good, but other times I lie awake with my head sizzling and snapping like an electron tube. I’m tired all the time.

My former colleague already has high-blood pressure and a potbelly at the age 38. He finds himself extremely irritable, especially with his children. They move too slowly and he doesn’t seem to have the patience to deal with those low-gear speeds anymore.

And we keep getting pushed to go faster. Cell phones with email and video! iPods to watch movies and TV shows on the run! Headsets so we can be on the phone – all the time! Web-enbled this! Web-enabled that! Social networks! Web 2.0! Open source! Another goddamn password! More gizmos!

Faster, smaller, faster, smaller, faster…

Maybe it's time to try obeying the speed limit again -- before it's too late.

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Monday, October 09, 2006
Under God's Right Arm: The Disease of Liberalism
By: Rev. Colson Crosslick

It sickens and saddens me that liberals have been able to distort the facts in the case of U.S. Rep. Mark Foley of Florida. For those who haven’t been following the left-wing media on this one – Foley was caught sending suggestive emails to a teenage page. He has since stepped down from Congress.

Foley isn’t the first nor will he be the last politician to be tantalized by a nubile, teenage boy hot in the throes of hormone overload. I’ve seen some of these young “studs” in action at the Ripsaw Boys & Girls Club where I volunteer my time. Many of these boys have been corrupted by Hollywood and, as result, exude sex like skunks. Foley should have known better to fall into that trap!

Liberals and their enablers in the mainstream press have done an outstanding job of making this a case of Republican (i.e. Christian) hypocrisy. The story, according to this distorted view, is that Republicans say one thing and then do another. The Foley case is supposed to call into question all of the values that the right holds dear such as slashing taxes for social programs, murdering murderers, torturing Muslim terrorists, and bombing the Middle East to smithereens. Liberals have done a particularly good job of equating Foley’s lies with Republican lies about Iraq.

Utter nonsense, of course!

Thank god for the right and President George W. Bush or the United States would be overrun by Muslim extremists and we’d all be forced to bow down to Mecca every morning and night!

It is conservatives who have kept us safe. Republicans understand that the Iraq War is a war for peace – and that as soon as we rid ourselves of these good-for-nothing terrorists who hate our Christian love of peace and democracy – that we will finally be able to create an Eden on earth. There’s nothing wrong with torturing and killing Muslims because they might have information we need to just possibly save innocent, Christian lives. Why is that so difficult to accept?

It’s a shame that liberals refuse to listen to President Bush – who has eloquently made the case for the war in Iraq and why we need to break the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Convention to use torture. Try to remember that the man is our president – and a good Christian to boot – and that he would never do anything to harm our great nation (unlike that scoundrel Bill Clinton)!

And you can always reach for your Bible: “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deuteronomy 19:21). Clearly, God understands that violence is necessary on occasion. Even Jesus employed violence when he went ballistic and threw the money-lenders out of the temple!

But let’s get back to the Foley case. Liberals have one fact right in the Foley case: it is about hypocrisy.

But the hypocrisy of the left!

Liberals forget that Foley was gay – a liberal malady if there ever was one. Most liberals are either homosexual and have them as friends (and they all like Nathan Lane movies). Foley wasn’t a conservative – but a liberal struggling to become a conservative. It’s a classic case of good vs. evil. Foley had a dual personality that was in constant flux and ultimately his liberal side got the better of him.

I commend Foley for this fight, even if he ultimately lost. Foley recognized that his “liberal” side was wrong and rather than embrace his homosexuality and move to Massachusetts or California to open an interior decorating studio or become a college professor, Foley decided to battle against it. He repressed this sick sexual disease many liberals promote and tried to become a God-fearing conservative.

He ran for Congress as a Republican and embraced conservative causes. He even became an advocate for strengthening laws against child molesting homosexuals. He did a laudable job at first – but those frolicking, little Congressional pages finally did him in. That’s how strong the disease of liberalism is.

Fight liberalism. That’s the real lesson of the Foley case.

(The Rev. Colson Crosslick is pastor of the Pretty Good Shepherd Church in Ripsaw, Arkansas. In the past, he has called for a boycott of all Hollywood movies starring Nathan Lane. He also writes the regularly appearing column Under God's Right Arm for DaRK PaRTY.)

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Friday, October 06, 2006
Literary Criticism: Guy de Maupassant's "The Vendetta"
Summary: An old widow resides in a small village with her son and his dog. One evening, the son is murdered by Nicolas Ravolati. Nicolas flees to a fishing village in Italy. The widow is devastated by loss of her only son and swears a vendetta against her boy’s killer. Every day, she sits by the window staring across the channel into Italy and wonders how a frail, old woman can exact her revenge. Slowly, she trains her son’s dog how to attack a straw man dummy. After a few months, she takes a ferry across the water to the Italian village. She finds Nicolas and orders the dog to attack. The dog rips out the killer’s throat. The widow returns home and sleeps soundly that night.

Analysis: Guy de Maupassant is often considered the French Edgar Allen Poe.

This is unfair to Maupassant, a far superior writer. But the comparisons are inevitable because both writers were fascinated with the macabre. Poe’s was closer to an obsession, but Maupassant held his own. After all, this was a man who – ravaged by insanity caused by syphilis – slashed his own throat at the age of 42.

“The Vendetta” is one of Maupassant’s most popular short stories, but it isn’t one of his best. The story has its strengths, however, and is a good introduction to Maupassant’s work. “The Vendetta” features what every good Maupassant story should have: economy of language, flawed characters, smart plotting, and a dash of the supernatural.

Maupassant wastes no time in getting into the action here. By the fifth paragraph our poor widow’s son has been killed “treacherous slain by a knife thrust from Nicolas Ravolati.”

The most interesting thing about “The Vendetta” (next to the gruesome spectacle of a man being devoured to death by a dog) is the juxtaposition of the widow and her son’s pet dog – a bitch Semillante. After the son’s murder, the widow’s reaction is mostly stoic while the dog is wild with sorrow:

“She would have no one stay with her, and shut herself up with the body, together with the howling dog. The animal howled continuously, standing at the foot of the bed, her head thrust toward her master, her tail held tightly between her legs. She did not stir, nor did the mother, who crouched over the body with her eye fixed steadily upon it, and wept great silent tears.”
The mother and the dog play off of one another through the entire story. Widow and dog; dog and widow. They intertwine and at the end the dog becomes the widow’s instrument of death.

Maupassant, echoing his own troubled psyche, often wrote about characters with mental problems or moral failings. That theme is evident here as the mother becomes obsessed with murdering her son’s killer. She spends long hours staring across the water at the opposite coast – plotting her revenge.

The story is so straight forward that the reader sides with the widow, but there is evidence that the widow and her son may be the evil characters here. Perhaps the son deserved to be murdered by Nicolas Ravolati. We’re never told why the son was killed; and the widow never thinks about it nor ponders her son’s innocence.

The evidence of her flawed character can be found in her hermit like ways. She appears to have had no real friends or family – other than her son and his dog. After he dies “there was no more talk of him” in their village and he also had no close friends.

The old woman even goes to church to pray for vengeance (This is another of Maupassant’s favorite topics – the hypocrisy of organized religion). And when the widow finally tracks down Nicolas – he is working a steady job as a joiner – so he’s not a criminal.

The story must have been shocking when it was published in the late 19th century because it still packs a wallop. Here is Nicolas’s death told in graphic detail:

“The maddened beast dashed forward and seized his throat. The man put out his arms, clasped the dog, and rolled upon the ground. For a few minutes he writhed, beating the ground with his feet; then he remained motionless while Semillante nuzzled at his throat and tore it out in ribbons.”
The story ends with the widow returning home. “That night she slept well.”

Read our literary criticism of Edith Wharton's "A Journey" here

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