Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Call for Shield Laws

Let me begin by saying that I love journalism almost as much as I hate it. A contradiction, sure, but it sums up my feelings of a profession I had originally thought I wanted to be a part of, but now know I want to stay very far away from. I've worked off and on as a reporter for most of my life and found out that I liked the writing, but hated the reporting. The go-for-the-jugular spirit that a lot of journalists possess just isn't in me - and when I did go for the jugular, I hated myself for it. So, as much as the process disgusts me (probably exacerbated by the fact that I was part of it for so long), I believe the role of journalism is incredibly important to our society. It's so important that lawmakers should pass legislation shielding journalists from revealing their sources.

The questioning of reporters Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper this week during the trial of Scooter Libby could set a dangerous precedent that will be detrimental to the role of the Fourth Estate for years to come. Now, don't get me wrong, I would love to see Libby rot in a jail cell for his role in outing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent (along with Karl Rove and Lord I mean Dick Cheney); but not at the expense of ruining an important part of our democratic process. Granted, Miller and Cooper may have been sloppy and used as malleable pawns in the Bush Administration's smear efforts in discrediting Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson; but that doesn't mean the whole process needs to be destroyed.

There are no national shield laws, which leaves many professionals vulnerable to prosecutors and other bullies who threaten jail time in their search for leakers and whistleblowers. Regardless of any of her failings, Miller spent 85 days in jail before surrendering to Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's pressure to talk. That is an incredible sacrifice, and one that she should never have endured. But as much as I may dislike Miller's methods or protecting scumbags like Libby and mean Rove, they are necessary evils.

Republican support for shield laws will probably never be as strong as it will be when Libby is convicted. Supporters of a national shield law should use this momentum. If political parties have proven anything, it's that they support or oppose issues depending on what they can get out of them without thought of the future. Would Republicans be as gung ho of giving the executive branch as much power as they have over the past six years if Clinton was still President (or if Clinton 2 takes the White House in 2008)? Do you think the Democrats would complain?

Is there any hope that national shield legislation would pass? Probably not a hell of a lot. Nobody likes reporters. It's a thankless job. But without them, this country would be in a bigger mess than it already is.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Where Does the Line Start?

It's official. According to Sting's website, The Police will be performing live at this year's Grammy Awards show on February 11. No word on whether the '80's band will tour, but since they have reportedly been rehearsing in Canada over the past month, it seems like a given. I may actually have to get tickets. The funny thing is, one of the last rock concerts I went to was Sting and Jill Scott about five years ago. I'm pretty sure the ticket prices will be through the roof, so I may have to start saving my pennies now.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rest in Peace, Nemo and Dory

My son thought he was being helpful this morning by getting the can of fish food and feeding his goldfish, Nemo and Dory. Of course, he dumped half of the can into the water. We tried to save them, but I guess they chowed down too much. Right now they're "taking a nap" (floating on the surface) and later on they'll be "taking a trip to the doctor" (flushed down the toilet). Well, they lasted a whole month and a day. Here's hoping we can find two fish that look like his late pets.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Yippee! I have an eye infection! Right now I have only one eye open and it is pretty hard to type because I can't really see the screen. I have drops, but if they don't work by tomorrow, the doc says I get to spend the day at the walk-in clinic. Man, won't that be exciting.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hump the Stump

This flash first appeared on Tribe's Flashing in the Gutters site in May, 2006. It's probably my favorite. The story really reflects my warped sense of humor, and it was also a jab at someone I don't like - how very zen of me. If you haven't read the story, skip down and read it, because I may give some things away here.

First, there really is a sperm poem out there. This poet actually wrote a poem about her husband's sperm. She read it during a poetry reading, not once, but twice! And all I could think of was, What did this poor bastard have to go through for this terrible poem? I just imagined a guy who had bitten off his arms and legs to get away, but was trapped and had to provide "inspiration" on a regular basis. I called him, The Stump. The poor guy has been fodder for me for a little while now, as I constantly refer to Stumpy (it's my affectionate nickname for the guy) in e-mails to some of my friends.

I would love to write a sequel for Stumpy, but there hasn't been any ideas as wonderful as this first story. And I want nothing but the best for Stumpy. And, if you wanted, I think they're still taking nominations for the Derringer awards, so won't you show Stumpy a little love?

Hump the Stump

By Stephen Allan

I wasn’t always a stump. People used to say I bit off all my limbs just to get away from my coyote ugly wife. When I sobered up after the accident that might have been true, but the surgeons had already taken my arms and legs. We met when I was a drunk, which explains a lot. It was a friend’s wedding. She actually left by ambulance after mistakenly eating some seafood. Allergies. I’ve been a fan of shrimp cocktail ever since.

The stump thing sucks, but you get used to it. I lay in bed and watch TV most of the day. Insurance even paid for a robotic arm that I can control with my tongue. Neat little device. I have a mini-fridge stocked with juice and snacks, and use my mechanical arm to feed myself. It isn’t too bad, at least not until she comes home.

I guess you might ask how a man with no arms and no legs can kill his wife. It’s possible. You have to know her, what she’ll do and then anticipate it. And when my wife said she was writing another goddamn poem, I knew I had to do it.

She had published one poem, and I hated it. The poem was about me. Actually, it was about my sperm. At open mic nights, she’d wait until the end before shocking the audience with it. And after she finished reading, there’d be hesitant applause followed by uncomfortable looks. My wife thought it great. It wasn’t. I can’t stand her writing, especially that goddamn poem.

After the big markets rejected the sperm poem, some obscure poetry journal accepted it for a contributor’s copy.

“I’m gonna write another one,” she said when the sperm poem issue came in the mail. “A sequel. And I’m gonna need your help. Tomorrow night.” Then she made a sucking noise.

Oh my fucking god, I thought. But, I quickly realized my opportunity to get rid of her.

My nurse Freddie came this morning. I asked for a shrimp cocktail for lunch. Freddie fixed it for me and placed it in my mini-fridge. I thanked him when he left. As soon as he was gone I took a shrimp out and rubbed it on my cock.

I’ve been doing that all day and only stopped when she came home from open mic night at the bookstore. She walks into the bedroom with nothing on, but she’s carrying a pen and notepad. And now the hard part, literally: I have to get it up.

She scribbles a few notes as she exercises her jaw.

“Ready, baby?” she says and doesn’t wait for a reply. She begins and I think of the latest Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

She stops and coughs. She writes a couple of lines and then brings up some phlegm before starting again.

Jesus, I hope she doesn’t bite it off.

I feel the inevitable coming when she suddenly stands and grabs at her throat. No air is going in or out and she’s turning purple. She rushes to the phone and pounds on the numbers, but I had Freddie disconnect it earlier. She drops the cordless and goes to her knees. She looks up, but her eyes are going into the back of her head. She collapses and then jerks for a while before she is still. The pen finally falls out of her hand and rolls along the hardwood floor until it stops by the television stand.

Once I know the world is safe from any more bad poetry, I use the robotic arm to open the mini-fridge and finish the rest of the shrimp.

Originally published in Flashing in the Gutters, May, 2006.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The 79th annual Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday, and it looks like it might be a tight race. I use the word might because this year smells like last year with at least one of the Best Picture nominees: Babel. An ensemble piece filled with showy roles for numerous actors and received very mixed reviews. Crash any one?

I know I have my favorites already picked out, namely anything The Departed is nominated for; including Marky Mark, whose acting I once commented on in a film review as sub par to the marvelous work of his 13" muppet co-star in Boogie Nights.

OK, to be fair, I haven't seen all of the movies nominated. The nearest cool movie theater is more than an hour away, so the choices are a little limited when it comes to quality flicks. However, I will use my incredible understanding of the film world to make up some shit that sounds halfway intelligent.

Best Actor: Not much here when you consider how strong the category has been in the past. This looks like the slim pickings the Best Actress category has been suffering through for the past twenty-five years.

O'Toole: The nomination is an after thought for his recent Lifetime Achievement Award. However, he's old and been in the movie business for many years - and let's remember, the bulk of Academy members are old too, and O'Toole is their vicarious link to the business.

DiCaprio: I think the Academy was split between Blood Diamond and The Departed, with the South African accent beating out the Southie one. He's young and has a long list of good performances under his belt. He's not going anywhere, so most members will rationalized that he will be nominated many more times and he will win in the future.

Will Smith: There has to be a true movie star with a hit film in the running, and Smith is it. This is the feel-good choice, which usually wins in the Best Supporting Actress category, not Best Actor. Sorry, Will.

Ryan Gosling: If you grew up watching the new Mickey Mouse club and thought The Notebook was the best movie ever, then Gosling is your man. However, no one over the age of twenty knows who this guy is. Next.

I'm thinking Forest Whitaker, simply because he is a great actor and he seems to be getting all the awards up to this point. Academy voters don't stray too far from the herd.

Best Actress: Finally, there are some real contenders here. In previous years, this category has had one or two strong nominees and Meryl Streep. OK, so Meryl is nominated this year and there is one nominee who is almost guaranteed to win, but the other performers are all incredible.

Winslet: Major babe. OK, she's also a great actress; but like her Titanic co-star, she's proven that this won't be the last time she'll be nominated. Plus, she's received more nominations that Streep has at her age.

Cruz: Another babe - this time with an accent. Plus those rumors that she's having an affair with Selma Hayek will keep Academy voters up all night as they imagine the two in steamy situations, perhaps showering together... or is that just me? OK, so Cruz has proven to be a great actress, only not in the U.S. Her Hollywood roles have all been tragic mistakes, which is a major obstacle to get over. Her acting is noticeably better when she works with Almodovar, and the nomination shows the Academy realizes that, but wins for foreign language roles are very rare.

Dench: Beautiful actress. Smart, tough, and incredibly precise with any role she takes on. But she has an Oscar already.

Streep: I think Meryl gets more beautiful every year. No, I really think that. She's better looking now than when she first started acting in films. But before I have her imagined self getting in the shower with Cruz and Hayek, let's talk about how good Streep is. Is there anyone better? I really don't think so. Her performance as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada was sinisterly delicious with subtle glimpses at her character's (few) insecurities that very few actors would be able to pull off. Streep deserves her yearly nomination, every year; but because she already has two statues and future nominations are a given, the Oscar will go to someone else.

And that someone else is Helen Mirren. An uncompromising actress, Mirren has gained the respect of many actors over the years, and The Queen is the perfect showcase for her many talents. It's as if Oscar has just been waiting for the right role for Mirren so she could be honored.

Best Supporting Actor: The Academy loves to shower its bone fide blockbuster movie stars with Oscars when they transcend their normal personas, and Eddie Murphy seems to have done that this year. Murphy has proven himself to be a great talent, but Dreamgirls is the first time he has been given a "respectable" vehicle to show off. However, his new film, Norbit, is a return to the fun side of Eddie, which may give some Academy members the idea that Murphy isn't a serious actor (Just think of Burt Reynold's potentional Oscar win for Deliverance squandered after appearing nude in Cosmo).

As for the other nominees: Wahlberg is a long shot. Arkin is respected in the acting community, but not that much. Haley may have that comeback role, but it's the role of a child molester. And Hounsou is nominated because of the attention DiCaprio is getting, which is not to say Hounsou is a bad actor (in fact, he's a very powerful performer), but Blood Diamond would probably be ignored if DiCaprio wasn't have such a good year.

Best Supporting Actress: Barraza and Kikuchi will split the Babel vote. Blanchett won in this category two years ago. That leaves Breslin and Hudson. According to Best Supporting Actress history, both actors have a real shot at Oscar gold. The Academy loves to award child actresses (Tatum O'Neal; Anna Paquin) almost as much as they love to recognize new talent, but with so many BSA winners dropping off the face of the Earth after winning (Mira Sorvino? Sorvino? Anyone?), the best bet is with Jennifer Hudson. What else is she going to do Dreamgirls 2?

Director: Please, oh please, let this be Scrosese's year. Every time Martin gets screwed over, the Academy becomes more of a joke. The Departed is one of the master's greatest films and he should be recognized for it. Will it make up for the Academy's choice of Kevin Costner over Scorsese in 1990? No, but it will help.

As for the others: I love Frears's work (Dangerous Liaisons; The Snapper; The Grifters). He is a can-do guy with almost any story. Think of him as a much better John Badham. But Mirren is getting all the kudos for this film, so Stephen is shit out of luck this year. Alejandro González Iñárritu has proven to be a powerful filmmaker with previous films 21 Grams and Amores Perros, but Babel is seen as an actor's showcase and all the mixed reviews can be attributed to the director. There is a slim chance that he may win, but I don't think so. Paul Greengrass may be Scorsese's biggest obstacle. Even though United 93 wasn't nominated for Best Picture (I think it probably came close), Greengrass is the logical person to honor for the film's success.

Best Animated Film: Cars is the logical choice considering Pixar's domination of the category since its inception, but Hollywood seems to be penguin crazy, so I'm going out on a limb and say Happy Feet will win.

Cinematography: It's interesting that none of the nominees here are up for Best Picture. I can't remember that ever happening. There is one superstar here, Vilmos Zsigmond, but he's nominated for a pretty mediocre film. So, without the help of a Best Picture contender in this field, the bulk of the Academy may vote all over the place. Some may want to honor Children of Men, but I think they may go with the unique looking film, which would be Pan's Labyrinth.

Costume Design: Will The Devil Wears Prada walk away with the gold? The movie does revolve around the fashion world. However, like The Queen, Devil has the contemporary problem going for it. This is usually a period piece award. Curse of the Golden Flower may have the most lavish outfits and Marie Antoinette has the traditional 18th/19th century nomination, but I think the sequins of Dreamgirls will out shine everything else. (Get it? outshines? Wow, I'm clever.)

Best Documentary: This category has reflected more of the popular view in the past few years. March of the Penguins and Bowling for Columbine can thank the Academy's misstep in failing to recognize Hoop Dreams for their awards. With this in mind An Inconvenient Truth seems like the winner, but Jesus Camp has received a lot of attention.

Foreign Film: Is it too much for a comic book geek to hope that Guillermo del Toro gets recognized here? Shouldn't a win enable del Toro to make Hellboy 2? Pan's Labyrinth seems like the obvious choice, but one has to remember that the incredibly successful Amelie was robbed of an Oscar by the Bosnian film No Man's Land.

Makeup: Click is the obligatory aging young actors to look old nominee. Apocalypto has the carnage slot. But Pan's Labyrinth has all the cool creatures. Chalk another one up for the hopes for Hellboy 2.

Original Score: Your guess is as good as mine. I don't know, maybe Babel? However, Pan may win simply because the Academy wants del Toro to have as much help in getting Hellboy 2 greenlighted as much as I do.

Visual Effects: Superman. Poseidon was crap and the best effect in the Pirates sequel was Johnny Depp's Keith Richards impersonation, again. However, Bill Nighy's Davey Jones was pretty cool.

Best Sound Editing & Sound Mixing: Two categories that most of the Academy knows nothing about. They usually go for the loudest nominees. So, look for Pirates and Flags of Our Fathers or Letter From Iwo Jima (at least in the Sound Editing category) to walk away with the gold.

Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short: The only nominee from both of these categories that I've seen is No Time for Nuts, which made me laugh more than the entire film of Ice Age: The Meltdown. So, as for predictions, I'm gonna have to close my eyes and point. And it looks like The Savior and Lifted. Very scientifically done.

Editing: The most frustrating category because my sister-in-law gets to meet all the nominees at a special luncheon, and she would take me, if I didn't live 3,000 miles away. Man, to meet Thelma Schoonmaker would be so fucking awesome. (If anyone out there wants to donate a plane ticket to San Diego, just send me an e-mail. :) I'm sure it's tax deductible.) OK, so I've already revealed my favorite, so I hope The Departed wins here, but there was a time when Schoonmaker's work was largely ignored by the editing community because it defied the traditional definition of good editing, which simply said that editing should be seamless. Times have changed, and thanks in large part to Scorsese and his constant creative partner, attitudes toward editing have changed as well. Thelma has been nominated six times, and has taken the award home twice; so could her stats go to .500? Let's hope so.

The only other Best Picture nominee in the category is Babel, which may throw a wrench into the works if the large acting community throws its support behind ensemble film. But don't rule out United 93.

Art Direction: I'm hoping for Pan, but I expect Dreamgirls to win.

Best Song: There are three songs from Dreamgirls to split the vote. Unless one of them really stands out, look for either Randy Newman or Melissa Etheridge to win. I'm going out on a limb and pick Etheridge since it's such a nomination for a documentary in this category is such a novelty.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The screenplay nominations sometimes have better movies than all of the other categories. This is usually where really great small or untraditional films find recognition. Case in point, Borat. This film was never in any danger of being nominated for Best Picture, even though it was a better reflection on America's view on racism than last year's Best Pic winner Crash could ever have dreamed of; but it's nominated here. Will it win? No. I think The Departed has a better shot, even though many may not know that the film is based on the really cool Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. The other likely contender is Children of Men. However, the Academy appreciates a novelist who adapts his/her own work (see John Irving's win for The Cider House Rules), so Tom Perrotta, along with screenwriting partner Todd Field, may see some recognition this year for Little Children.

Original Screenplay: OK, you've got three films which are mainly not in English, which may or may not effect the voting; I just thought it was interesting to point out. Let's that the least of the contenders out of the picture. Little Miss Sunshine is getting recognition for its quirkiness and painfully funny performances, but the story isn't all that original. It was basically National Lampoon's Vacation populated by neurotics. The Academy may also blame Babel's mixed reviews on its screenplay, protecting the actors from any responsibility; so Guillermo Arriaga may not win. Pan may be too out there for most voters. As for Iwo Jima, how many of the elder Academy members still call the Japanese "Those yellow bastards"? I think The Queen will win, but it won't be a slam-dunk.

Best Picture: The big one. Last year, the Academy lost its fucking mind when it picked Crash to win over Brokeback Mountain. Crash was an OK movie, but it didn't come close to the powerful impact that Brokeback had. Will the Academy fuck up again? Well, let's see. This year the Academy has chosen another ensemble cast showpiece with its nomination for Babel. Since the largest segment of the Academy is actors, Babel may have a shot. However, an omission in nominations for the film Bobby may indicate this theory is false, since Bobby had more roles by more better known Hollywood stars. Another consideration in last year's win for Crash was the homophobe factor. One has to remember that the Academy is, as William Goldman wrote, ancient and their views are of an older generation; meaning they frown upon homosexuality (Does Tom Cruise have an Oscar? I rest my case). So, instead of the best picture winning Best Picture, it went to a film about race relations so voters could feel good about voting for a socially aware film - without siding with the fags. There are no gay movies nominated for Best Picture this year, so Babel may be in trouble.

Little Miss Sunshine: This is a pleasantly quirky film about a very neurotic family. There are some great performances, especially from Steve Carell as a suicidal Proust scholar; but this is nothing but a road picture in different clothing. Enjoyable? Yes. Worthy of an Oscar? No.

The Queen: As I mentioned above, this is Helen Mirren's show. If her performance wasn't as apparently good as it seems, this film wouldn't be here. This is the Miramax slot, and since the real Miramax is no longer around, the Academy is doing the best it can. But in the end, the film revolves around one performance, and that isn't enough to win the gold.

Letters from Iwo Jima: A small film from some very large Hollywood personas. This is the little film that could, thanks in large part to Eastwood and Spielberg scrapping together $15 million dollars (approximately 25% of the budget for the film's companion piece, Flags of our Fathers) to make this movie that the studios were reluctant to finance. But even though this is a Clint Eastwood film, the movie is in Japanese and foreign language films do not win Best Picture Oscars, no matter who makes them.

The Departed: The Hollywood studio movie done right. The budget was probably twice as much as the other nominees combined, but it paid off big time. This is definitely one of Scorsese's best films, earning a place along side Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. But will the Academy think the same way? If the film earned more acting nominations than the one for Marky Mark (and it's not like there weren't any performances to pick from. DiCaprio, Damon, Sheen, Anthony Anderson, Baldwin, Winstone, Nicholson. All fucking great), then I'd say the film was a sure thing. However, just the omission of Jack in the Best Supporting Actor category creates an unknown. I really want this film to win. I think it all comes down to how many actors are in the Babel camp and how heavy the For Your Consideration ads are circulated. But, I'm going to risk a guess and say that The Departed will win over Babel. Let's see if I'm right.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What Kind of a Rise Are They Talking About?

According to a post on Ain't It Cool News, the latest trailer for Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer contains a split second shot of the Surfer's nutsack. The funniest part of this (besides someone going frame by frame to see if the Surfer's junk is hanging out) is that the post has a spoilers warning.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mystery Slacker

The Edgar awards were announced earlier today, and I have to say that I'm feeling out of the loop. I've only read two of the books nominated (A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read and Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine by Joe Loughlin and Kate Flora), one of the short stories (Cranked by Bill Crider), and have seen only one of the movies (The Departed). I guess I have some catching up to do.

At least I've read all but seven of this year's Grand Master's books. Good to see Maine represented a couple of times.

They're Gonna Party Like It's 1983

After George Bush had his feelings hurt at last year's White House Correspondence Dinner (Stephen Colbert was too truthful), organizers have invited cutting edge comedian Rich Little to perform at this year's function in April. Little has already stated that he won't mention Iraq, or anything else that has happened in the last twenty years. Enough time has probably passed so that jokes about Grenada and the Soviet Union will be safe. I can't wait for that warmed over impression of Reagan, which is the last president Little bothered to imitate. Along with Reagan, look for impressions of Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Walter Brennan and Jack Benny.

Of course Bush isn't the only president organizers have tried to protect from unwanted remarks at the annual dinner. You'll remember that Don Imus received bad reviews for his "performance" at the expense of the Clintons. The next year, comedian Ray Romano appeared offering up some light and inoffensive comedy. The difference between the current controversy and the previous one is that Imus wasn't (and never is) funny, while Colbert did an actual act that was funnier than hell (it's still one of the most downloaded things on itunes); and Romano was popular during the year he appeared. Who the hell has seen Rich Little since before the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Prepare to Have Your Mind Blown

Can someone please explain this to me? My feeble mind doesn't understand how the computer can read my mind.

Update: I just figured it out. But I won't tell you, so you can do it for yourself.

The Geek in Me Just Hurt Himself

HBO is going to film George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels! Each season of the new television series will cover one of the massive books. Holy shit this is going to be awesome. Read about it here.

I am constantly amazed at Martin's talent for keeping track of the thousands of characters in his series. I'm only into the third book, but I already have the fourth on my shelf. I can't wait for this series.


Here it is, more than two weeks into 2007 and I haven't finished reading a single book yet. I'm really slacking. Granted, I started reading George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords, which is slightly shorter than Tolstoy's entire catalogue; but I'm only a third of the way through it. However, I am 80 pages away from finishing The Langoliers, the 250-page novella from Stephen King's Four Past Midnight.

Other books I've been pecking through since the beginning of the year:
No Good Deeds by Laura Lippman
The Fallen by T. Jefferson Parker
The Best Awful by Carrie Fisher
World War Z by Max Brooks

I guess I'm waiting for that gravitational pull a reader gets that compels them to focus on one book. I tend to do this a lot. I have no doubt that I'll finish all of the books above, but they're all in a holding pattern at the moment.

Of course, I have been watching a hell of a lot more TV lately - that may have something to do with it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I am so goddamn sick right now. Achy, nauseous, fever in the high hundreds (or at least it feels that way). Doesn't your brain boil at a certain temperature?

I think I'm going to crawl into a corner and die now.

Friday, January 12, 2007

To Give or to Receive? It's All Good

One More Reason to Hate the Bush Administration

An Associated Press article released today reported that an Air Force Staff Sargeant was relieved of her duties after she posed nude for Playboy magazine. Outrageous! I'm unable to comment further on this until I've examined the issue in question...fully examined it.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

And Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer appears in the same issue.

BTW - the photo slideshow that accompanies the AP story on Yahoo doesn't show any of the pix in the magazine - bastards!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What's the Difference?

Someone recently asked me what the difference is between writing classes and literature classes. They thought the classes would be classified the same; but they are not. The simplest example I can give is the difference between law makers and lawyers. Fiction writers and law makers are creators, while literature folks and lawyers are interpreters of the creation.

From what I've gathered from courses in the past, literature sometimes looks into a work with more meaning than a writer may have originally intended. (And I can tell you from personal experience that I've had people read way too much into my own writing.) Now one may ask themselves why study literature if the interpretation may overreach the intention. One answer may be that writers don't always know what the hell they are doing and they need someone else to tell them what they've created, but a better answer would be that examination gives the work meaning.

Let's look at this using the legal metaphor. For example, the First Amendment was written in the late 1700's:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

For some people, this is very straight forward; but for many others, the Amendment needs interpretation, hence the need for courts and lawyers, etc. Some have an odd interpretation of the Amendment (I've had one guy tell me that Congress doesn't have a right to legislate because the First says, "Congress shall make no law," failing to realize that there was more to that sentence - not a very bright guy, but he said that he kept a copy of the Constitution in his pocket at all times. I guess Article I was missing from his copy. Fuckin' weirdo.) Now, did the framers of the Constitution have Hustler Magazine v. Jerry Falwell in mind when they wrote the law? I seriously doubt it, but it further defined the Amendment (and gave us a Milos Foreman movie, giving Courtney Love some respectablility, and then giving her an opportunity to squander that respect to become the drug addict mess that we've all come to love. Oh, and to give her an excuse to further destory the memory of Kurt Cobain. But I digress).

Literature does the same for the written word. If one were to write about a girl struggling wth some major decision while living in a small town, someone else may come along and interpret the story as a statement on feminism in America. Is this the original intent of the story? One doesn't know unless the writer expresses his/her intention. And believe me, there are plenty of literary writers who are more than happy to tell you how to read their stories.

But the trouble of interpretation is that it sometimes leads one to see something that itsn't there. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as Freud said. I remember one workshop in which a lot of the participants wanted to know the meaning of a bee hive in one person's story. They argued that if it had no meaning, than it had to go; which is ridiculous. The bees were there so the boy in the story would get stung. If every word needed meaning, then who the hell would take the time to write?

So, you may ask, should crime fiction be studied in literature; at which point I smack you over the head and call you a moron - of course crime fiction deserves to be interpreted. But how many crime fiction stories and novels do you see on literature class syllabi? Not many, if at all. Is this a good thing? Well, on one hand it suggests that such popular fiction isn't respectible enough for consideration by academia; but on the other hand, how many people have been turned off by English classes?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Let Me Introduce Myself

First off, I can't see the title of this flash and not think of the Digitial Underground - The Humpty Dance gets stuck in my head, and it will be there for the rest of the day.

"So just let me introduce myself
My name is Humpty, pronounced with a Umpty.
Yo ladies, oh how I like to hump thee.
And all the rappers in the top ten--please allow me to bump thee."

But anyway, as I re-live high school afternoons watching Ed Lover and Doctor Dre on Yo! MTV Raps (Great! Now I have the Ed Lover dance in my head), I'm going to post my second Flashing in the Gutters piece. This flash was another experiment in narration. I was trying to establish a tense situation through just dialog - but from only one side of the conversation, as if the reader were the victim. It was my hope that readers would get a sense of what the other characters were saying simply by how the narrator responds to them.

Now, this is sort of based on a true incident - I hate to admit that the maid's uniform didn't come from my sick mind because it really makes the story - but don't worry, no major crime was committed in real life, just a really really creepy occurence.

Again, let me know what you think.


By Stephen Allan

Hi there. I know you don't know me, but I was walking past your home earlier and I happen to notice you and your husband having dinner. What a lovely outfit you have on, is it Talbot's? They have such nice stuff, don't they? My mother used to buy clothes there. Anyway, I saw the two of you and you looked so happy and I thought to myself, wouldn't they be nice people to meet. So, I came back to introduce myself.

Me? No, I'm not a salesman. I sold vitamins over the phone once, but that was a while ago. I'm new to this neighborhood and just looking for some new friends, a couple in fact.

Where’s my house? It's an apartment really, just down the street by the Asian market. Every once and awhile you can smell Pad Thai cooking. I had some tonight as a matter of fact. It was spicy and I've been incredibly thirsty ever since.

Oh, that's very nice of you. I'll have some iced tea, if you have it.

What a nice kitchen you have. I like the green tile.

Oh, sorry, my terrible manners, I'm Josh. And you’re Jane?

It was on the mailbox out front. So, Michael must be your husband? That must be him I hear in the shower. What a lovely apron. Hey, it's good and solid. Made of quality material. I'm sure I could tie someone up pretty good with this.

What's that? I told you, I was just passing by looking for some friends. Michael and Jane, they seem like good friend names.

Me leave so soon? I don't think so.

Police? Now, Jane, friends don't call the police on other friends. Put the phone down. Put it down. I said put the fucking phone down. That's better. Sit down on the chair, please. Sit. Put your hands in front of you and I'll tie you up with the apron.

You have a vicious dog, huh? I've seen it. Big German Shepard with a tag that says Wolvie on it. Don't worry, I don't think Wolvie is going to bother us. Let's just say he's doing a good job of playing dead in the backyard.

Please don't scream in my ear like that. Besides, your husband can't hear you. Haven't you wondered why he's taken so long in that shower?

No, he's not dead. Just tied to the bed, naked. I don't have as much hair on my chest as Michael, but I hope you'll like it anyway. OK, hands are tied. Now, you stand up and walk upstairs to the bedroom and I'll grab this Henckels Santuko knife. Aren't these the best knives you've ever used? You never know when you want to cut something.

Go ahead and walk to the bedroom. I have to say when I first saw this color pattern in here, my first reaction was blech; I wanted to stick my finger down my throat, but the more I look at it, the more I like it. Hi, Michael. Don't cry, Jane. He isn't hurt. Well, other than that bump on the back of his head. But it's not bleeding as much as it was. Now, Michael, I'm going to handcuff you to Jane. And remember, if you try to fight, I'll slit her throat. Take this knife and start right here at the jugular and work my way around her neck, like I was taking her entire head off. Let me tell you, if you've never seen that, it is quite messy. Now, Jane, we have to get your clothes off you. I'll just tear them off. OK, you two, go and lay down on the bed, asses up. Now, my turn to strip - well, at least down to the maid's uniform. Do you know how hard it is to find a maid's uniform that will fit someone as tall as I am? I had to special order it.

Well, who's first?

- Originally published by Flashing in the Gutters, April, 2006.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Since a few other people have been posting their Flashing in the Gutter stories on their sites, I'm going to do the same. This was the first flash that Tribe put on Gutters. It was a post-mod experiment - how very MFA of me - but I like the way it turned out. If you read it back in April, or if you're reading it for the first time; let me know what you think.

By Stephen Allan

This is an apartment. This is my apartment. It is small. It is meant for two people, not three. The bed is in the living room. A chair is knocked over in the corner. There is red on the walls. The smell of sex is in the air.

This is a gun. This is my gun. It is dull along its barrel and the wooden grip is scratched. It doesn’t have any bullets in it… anymore. My gun smells of burnt powder. If I touch the barrel, it would burn my fingers.

These are handcuffs. These are my handcuffs. They are clamped around my wrists. They are heavier than I thought they would be. They are cool to the touch. If I twist my hands, they bite into my skin.

This is yellow crime tape. This is my yellow crime tape. It is stretched across the apartment door. It says do not cross. It says crime scene. The breeze from an open window causes the tape to flutter.

These are police officers. These are my police officers. They read me my rights and ask me questions. They wear badges on their chests and pistols on their hips. Their radios squawk with reports of other crimes. If I try to run away, they seize me.

This is a wife. This is my wife. This was a wife. This was my wife. She is wearing see-through lingerie with no underwear. Her eyes are open. She hasn’t blinked in over an hour. She used to love me.

This is a liar. This is my liar. He is slumped beside the wife. He is slumped beside my wife. He has the same parents as me. He is naked. He has a hole in the middle of his chest.

This is a bed. This is my bed. It has wrinkled sheets. The wife and the liar are on the bed. It has sex stains on it. It has blood stains on it. The slight scent of perfume lingers on its pillows.

These are reporters. These are my reporters. Some have cameras and try to take my picture. Some have notebooks and yell questions. My police officers bar them from the apartment.

These are tears. These are my tears. They run down my face and into my mouth. They taste like salt. The tears wet my cheeks, but I do not wipe them away.

This is a murder scene. This is my murder scene.

This is a writer. This is my writer. He is sitting at his desk. He is rubbing his eyes. He wonders where I came from. He is not like me. He thinks he would never do anything like I have done. But he knows where I came from him. He sits in his apartment. It is a small apartment. It is meant for two people, not three. The bed is in the living room. There is red on the walls. The smell of sex is in the air.

- Originally published by Flashing in the Gutters, April, 2006.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Monday, January 01, 2007


Riding the Greenline was published last month in Spinetingler Magazine. The story began as a character description exercise. The main character started off with just the name - Sylvia - and she took off from there. But as much as I tried to stick to just describing Sylvia, the more my mind wandered and I developed a plot for her; which ended up illuminating her character better than any descriptive words could manage. (I can be a real minimalist sometimes. Usually because I think the reader is smart enough to pick up things easier than writers sometimes believe; and occasionally I'm a minimalist because I'm really lazy.) Anyway, I didn't know who Sylvia really was until I finished the first draft of this story - until I wrote the final sentence. Now, I don't want to give anything away, so don't read the paragraphs below until you read the story. It's available on-line, as a PDF download, or for purchase.

There be spoilers ahead (just warning you).

OK, now that you've read the story:

I have a couple of characters who are very evil - I do write crime fiction, you know - but there are some who hold a special place in my heart. I've written about hitmen, gangsters and psychos; but Sylvia has to be my favorite, if only because she is the most evil. Here is a woman who has let everything bubble up inside her for eighty years and is just now starting a life of crime. How evil do you have to be to deny decades of living a moral life? Wisdom and ethics should have a solid foundation by the time you're going into your third decade on social security. But that isn't the case with Sylvia.

So, I seriously doubt this will be the only time people will see Sylvia. I think her crimes are just beginning.