Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Among the 100-plus pages of keen advice, commentary, and reflection
found in bug#uck: The Useless Wit and Wisdom of Harlan Ellison
[Edgeworks Abbey; $10] is one I take as a personal challenge every
time I read it: “The trick is not becoming a writer.  The trick is
staying a writer.”

Often by the blistered skin of my typing fingers, I’ve managed to
stay a professional writer for four decades.  There are times when
it seems there will always be a paying gig on my desk.  There are
times when I wonder if there will ever be another paying gig on my
desk.  The trick - make that THE trick - is one I’ve been trying to
master for years.  I perform it better than many and not nearly as
well as many others.  But I keep working at it.

For my next illusion...


On top of my “things to write about stack” was an index card with
these notes:

Law and Order SVU
Obama merge
Iran scientist
King Kong Blu-Ray
Rick Perry

Five of those items are things I wanted to write about.  “King Kong
Blu-Ray” was just a note to myself reminding me to order that item
and “132/75" is a blood pressure reading.

Last Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons was “The D'oh-cial Network,”
a spoof of Facebook.  There were some truly funny moments in this
episode, but, overall, the pacing seemed odd to me.  I’m wondering
if some jokes weren’t cut for legal concerns.  The episode ran so
short it included a brilliant “Simpsons Short.” Anybody out there
have any thoughts on this?

I should be a detective...or least a TV detective.  Of course, this
would shorten the running time of such programs.  In the episode of
Law and Order SVU that aired last Thursday - “Theatre Tricks” - I knew
from the moment a character first appeared that the character was
the person responsible for the crime du jour.  I even knew why the
character did it.  I’m being non-specific here because I don’t want
to spoil the episode, which is definitely worth watching for a fine
performance by Kevin Pollak and the reactions of the regular cast
members as the case unfolds.

“Obama merge” refers to President Obama asking for the authority to
merge several government agencies to reduce the cost and size of
government.  Which seems to be the kind of thing Republicans could
support...if they really cared about anything other than electing
their candidates.  At first glance, Obama’s plan seems like a good
one to me.  On second glance...

Okay, on second glance, it still looks good to me, but it gives me
some cause to pause as well.  You see, if this plan goes through,
some government employees will be without jobs.  Employees who have
jobs, government or otherwise, buy goods from American stores and
companies and pay sales and other taxes.  Most rational folks think
this is a good thing. 

While you don’t want to have employees on the payroll just so they
have jobs, you also don’t want them to add to our land’s economic
and unemployment woes.  This merging plan needs careful thought and
considerate implementation.  As I once said, and as Harlan Ellison
has quoted me numerous occasions, “Expediency is not heroism.”
Our leaders need to do the right things in ways that don’t create
new problems. 

“Iran scientist” refers to the assassination of an Iranian nuclear
scientist alleged to be working on Iran’s oft-denied plan to build
nuclear weapons.  Our CIA is accused of being behind this murder.
To my surprise, I don’t know how I feel about this.

If whoever did this deed knew for a fact the scientist was building
the bomb for Iran, I don’t know if I’m against it.  Iran is pretty
much the last country in the world I want to have nuclear weapons,
mostly because its leaders keep saying insane things about wiping
their enemies from the face of the Earth.  As distasteful as this
assassination is, it’s less distasteful than bombing the heck out
of Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program. 

Think about all the innocent Iraqi citizens who died when Bush and
Cheney launched their fraudulent, illegal, unnecessary war against
Saddam Hussein.  Think about all the American soldiers who died in
that war.  Maybe a more selective approach is the least immoral of
the choices available to us in Iran.

“Rick Perry” made the index card because he’s an idiot.  The latest
example of this is his defense of the American soldiers videotaped
urinating on slain Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.  That foolish
action lowers our moral position in the Middle East and will make
things more dangerous for our soldiers there. 

As near as I can determine with my limited online research skills,
“abuse of a corpse” is, at the very least, a misdemeanor crime and,
in some circumstances, a felony.  It’s possible military penalties
for such crimes are more severe than in civilian courts.  The plain
fact is...crimes were committed by these soldiers. 

These soldiers should be charged with those crimes, face trial, and
receive the appropriate sentences for those crimes.  However, while
I wouldn’t want to see them receive nothing more than a slap on the
wrist, I’d certainly want to see the circumstances of their crimes
taken into account.  They’re young men whose country has asked them
to fight in a hellish conflict against an enemy known for far worse
atrocities.  To me, that represents a mitigating circumstance that
must be taken into account in the name of justice.


One of my readers sent me a beautiful condition copy of the first
paperback edition of Homebodies by the legendary cartoonist Chas
Addams, creator of the Addams Family.  The hardcover edition of the
book was published by Simon and Schuster (September, 1954) and this
Pocket Books edition appeared in March, 1965, just months after the
debut of the Addams Family television series.

This paperback format didn’t do Addams’ cartoons justice.  Many of
the cartoons were printed so small as to obscure necessary details.
But the ones I could read were as hilarious as I remember and left
me hungering for a better presentation.

In this era of amazing collections of classic comics material, I’d
love to see the work of Addams given the same stylish reprinting as
Peanuts, Pogo, and other great works of comics art.  Consider this
a strong hint to my friends at Fantagraphics and IDW.  The Addams
Family and their creator deserve the star treatment.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella


  1. If you want horrific Rick Perry comments, look no further than the debate the other night where he said Turkey is ruled by Islamic terrorists. How can one man be so wrong so often?

  2. I wouldn't worry too much about government employees. The trick behind all this office closing/ consolidation stuff is somehow or other nobody actually gets made redundant. They just announced a whole pile of office closings in our agency. We're expecting everyone who's office has been closed to continue working from home via the internet. Smoke and mirrors.

    (Shit, did I just sign my name to this?)

  3. As I'm given to understand, Obama's merge plan wouldn't include firings; rather, they would simply wait for people in now non-essential jobs to retire and then just not re-fill the jobs. It's probably more complicated than that, but the upshot was, nobody would lose their job.

    As far as SVU goes, you can reliably predict the outcome of any given episode once you get a stable grip on (a) the extremely small and limited bag of tricks the writers have, and (b) what real-life event (or, occasionally, popular series of crime novels) they're cribbing their plot from this week.

  4. SVU has never been my favorite of the L&O franchise. It stopped being interesting when they became LOVE BOAT - the big guest star of the week being the guilty party.

    As for Rick Perry - sometimes you just gotta shake your head and wonder......

    While I don't wanna see anyone lose a job, if a gov't job is non-essential - why is it there?? Uncle Sam can no longer afford the "unessentials".

    And, YES, I was one once upon a time, before I quit to become a Registered Nurse.

    ---Tom Hunter