Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Audio Book Award to highwayscribery and Torrez

Stock market goes down, scribe goes up (sort of).

"Vedette Does La Danza," a musical/spoken world collaboration with guitarist Omar Torrez based upon the scribe's novel "Vedette" has been named sole, top, and singular winner of the USA Books News Award in the "Audio Book Fiction Abridged" category.

The contest is one of the more substantial ones open to independent and self-publishers, largely because it is not restricted to those sectors of the publishing industry, but includes the big boys, too.

In spite of his complete anonymity and neglect as a writer, the scribe would like to take five minutes before picking up the kid from kindergarten and starting to prepare dinner, to note that he's had a pretty good year with "The Sidewalk Smokers Club" novel placing in the Los Angeles DIY and London Book Festival contests, and "Vedette" being designated a 2008 Hoffer Award winner.

Torrez, for his part, has just finished a successful tour as guitarist for entertainer extraordinaire Tom Waits.

the scribe had coffee at Omar's Venice, Calif., digs last week and learned of the impact that Waits' genius had upon him and you can hear it at Omar's My Space page in the reworked "St. Vladimir's Cross," "Dog Heart," and the new "Fishin' Hole."

Here is a cable television production of our work together in the award-winning "Vedette Does La Danza."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Colin Powell does not have a lot of friends left, but last Sunday he spoke to those who remained.

The value to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) of the former Secretary of State's endorsement has been much debated the past few days.

highwayscribery submits that those debates miss the rather totemic importance of what Powell did.

Endorsements are probably overstated in terms of their impact. Powell's served mostly as another nail in a coffin that will never be quite closed until all the votes are really counted, because the corpse it carries is Republican.

The Secretary's Sunday morning talk show intervention had a value richer than any resulting impact on the electoral ebb and flow.

Mr. Powell's speech was directed at the only people left who believe in him, because they still believe the Iraq war was the right thing to do, and because they still believe that George W. Bush's presidency was an excellent one sabotaged by a revolt of the egg-heads.

Mostly discredited, first by a turn as lackey in the sell-job the administration tried and failed to dump on the United Nations, and second, by his ensuing impotence before the craven drive of Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld, Powell still has a red state constituency.

And what he did on Sunday morning was take that constituency to task for ignorance demonstrated throughout the presidential campaign (and before).

We reach this conclusion by paraphrasing, which is nothing more than saying what somebody has already said...a different way. More interpretation than science it is yours to agree or not.

Powell told his party pals that they were traipsing the borders of stupidity by conflating an association between William Ayers and Barack Obama to some alchemical point where the latter became a terrorist sympathizer (if not one himself).

He reminded them that you are not untrustworthy by virtue of the fact you are an Arab and that those like the lady who stood up at a McCain rally to announce her distrust of Obama because he's "an Arab" are not thinking very inclusively, democratically, or, well, intelligently.

Pretty basic stuff, yes, but losing elections, lust for power, or the refusal to admit errors can make people say some pretty dim things.

Powell reminded the country-firsters that they are not the only Americans by virtue of their Christianity, white skins, or small-town addresses, nor do they top any list of purity because of these traits.

A Muslim who lies in Arlington National Cemetery, he seemed to say, has a greater claim to the title "American" than the jingo-jangle crowd rattling at the tail of McCain's campaign.

He used the language of reason and logic, something to which his last followers appear inured. And Powell used it to highlight the absurdity of a certain Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann's (R) remarks about "anti-American" legislators in the United States Congress.

Powell put an end to his own collaboration, by party association, with Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh, and FOX News, and everybody else who thinks there is only one kind of American - the American they understand themselves to be.

It was an admonishment.

It was a cry that enough is enough. That no matter how much they reject Obama's challenge to join in a national healing, the challenge remains, and that real Americans will heed it, not for Obama's benefit, but for their own.

One can only hope they listened.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

McKeating: The Creation of Trust and Its Betrayal

The Obama campaign has pulled a slickly produced video out from its bag of tricks, which takes us back to the great savings & loan failure of the late 1980s.

It is a simple production that wraps Senate Ethics Committee hearing clips - featuring a younger John McCain - around an interview with William Black.

Black was a regulator with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board from 1984 to 1994; an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan.

He does a fairly straightforward job in laying out the process by which over 700 financial institutions failed. The taxpayers, of course, picked up the tab.

Sound familiar?

The central figure was, in the words of Black, a "very nasty and fraudulent man" by the name of Charles Keating.

Keating took exception to a new federal rule prohibiting the direct investment by savings & loans in property, because it limited his ability to play with the money regular citizens had entrusted to his Lincoln Savings & Loan.

Keating was on the hook for "control fraud" - looting his savings & loan - to the tune of over $615 million.

Fraud is defined by Black as, "the creation of trust and its betrayal."

It's not a labyrinthine, complicated story. Keating gave a lot of money to five legislators, including McCain, and then asked them in a private meeting not to enforce the direct investment rule against him.

Black describes the two men as "confidants and mutual political supporters." McCain received $112,000 over a few years from Keating along with paid vacations for his family in the Bahamas.

You could probably fill in the rest, but anyway, the senators at the meeting caved to Keating, the problem spread, and the crisis went nationwide. The government, or you (depending upon your politics), applied a $3.4 billion band-aid.

Said Black: "Sen. McCain knew the facts because we briefed him. He knew this was a criminal enterprise. He knew that what was being done was improper. He knew how much undo pressure his words brought to bear. He was uniquely in a position where he could have protested this. Stopped it. Stopped this loss. But he did nothing."

Now, this is certainly a backward reach for a campaign of "Hope" and "Change." It is certainly the "old" brand of politics Sen. Obama rails against.

But with the unfortunate Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) squeaking about the "unrepentant domestic terrorist" William Ayers in a desperate effort to distract the electorate from its own economic woes, the Obama campaign was not interested in doing the John Kerry noble loser thing.

It's tit-for-tat and it's working. For every dutiful parroting of Palin's charge by the media, which was predictable, there is an equally slavish mention of the Keating Five, which on the whole, is a more severe indictment of McCain's judgment than the Ayers flap is to the Illinois senator's.

That certainly was the conclusion of the Senate Ethics Committee's report. which said, and we quote, McCain had demonstrated "bad judgment."

McCain is saying this was all a long time ago.

Not as long ago as Bill Ayers' turn with The Weathermen.

Monday, October 06, 2008

"Comics Trip": a poem by highwayscribery

Tore off a hit of Superman
stuck it under my tongue
flew a krypton dreamworld
concentricities around the sun

Were I not in the
armchair of my father
no farther than the living room

Silver Surfer slaked
his thirst for thrills
downskiing our worn
rug stairway.

Flexing himself heroically
for the queen
of the airway
still Lois Lane loyal
to that man who said
"fly me"

the original
under my tongue

"Golly Clark you must be spent!"

"No, not with
friends like these:
Aquaman, Drabble, Judge Dread and Hulk.
It’s allies Jimmy

That’s the bulk of the matter
in the philosophy of
the way out
comics trip."

At dinner Dad said there were
no more heroes
that Plato, Aristotle and Homer
were all dead.

Maybe he just doesn’t
Hidden in the funny pages
are this age’s sages.

And in class the teacher
she scolds me a daydreamer
I retort with hypernatural tongue:

"What is this noncommital
dreamscape fluff you’re
showing me? This little boy
‘see Scott run’ stuff?

"Get your head out
of the clouds and
take a gander.


"Follow me now and
my superfriends somewhere
over uncharted domains of

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin's Perils: A Literary Analysis

"Has the country sunk so low that the likes of Sarah Palin would come within a heart's beat of the presidency?"

You've heard this talk in recent weeks, even if you're on the conservative side of the aisle.

the scribe's mother is mortified "this woman" has risen to the undeserved station she has in the blink of an eye.

And to be sure, there has been no shortage of articles in recent days laying out the depth of
Palin's Perils, the Republicans' great Palin panic, and other devastating judgments as to Lady Alaska's suitability to govern at the highest level of the nation, indeed, the planet.

Has the talent pool sunk so low, the American public so numbed by political advertisements, the Republic so frayed that only intellectual maladroits of the Bushian ilk can deign to lead us?

If "Democracy," a classic from Henry Adams, is any indication, we're rising to our natural level and being true to our bluest nature in election season.

highwayscribery picked up "Democracy" after George Will mentioned it in a great tete a tete with Stephen Colbert about six weeks ago.

Will's plug was not the first to which the scribe has been exposed, but he was late in getting around to it thanks to a vague confusion regarding the James and Adams clans: the very same Adams(es) that brought you a great HBO miniseries and John Quincy.

But you don't care about that. What you care about is the way in which this depiction of post-Civil War Washington D.C. informs our present-day reality.

So here's the set-up: A prairie statesman, a senator from Illinois by the name of Ratcliffe, is robbed of his rightful place at the top of the party ticket by some convention machinations that elevate an unknown from Indiana in his stead.

Ratcliffe's enemies, Adams writes, "had laid aside their principles and set up for their candidate a plain Indiana farmer, whose political experience was limited to stump-speaking in his native state, and to one term as governor. They had pitched upon him, not because they thought him competent, but because they hoped by doing so to detach Indiana from Ratcliffe's following, and they were so successful that within fifteen minutes Ratcliffe's friends were routed, and the presidency had fallen upon this new political Buddha."

Sound familiar?

Today, of course, conventions are done-deals so that, McCain, upon arriving in Minnesota, was already playing for the general election. He pulled the Palin card in an effort to "detach" Hillary Clinton's female supporters from a surging Obama, while reaping the added benefit of "changing the conversation" and denying this contemporary Illinois senator his moment in the news cycle sun.

The move seems to have garnered short-term benefits at the expense of McCain's long-term chances at the presidency.

But Back to "Democracy."

The Indiana governor, prior to engaging politics, had worked as a stone-cutter in a quarry. And this fact is trumpeted as virtue; a vocation separate and distinct from the lowly crafts practiced in the nation's capital, much in the way Palin's commitment to
moose murder was sold as a mark of distinction between herself and your run-of-the-mill vote-chasing lawmaker.

Among the press-ready monikers lavished upon the newcomer were "The Stone-cutter of Wabash," "the Hoosier Quarryman," and "Old Granite."

The other party, and what passed in those days for the "liberal media elite," attacked Old Granite's resume as insufficient to the high-stakes game of national politics, "But these violations of decency and good sense were universally reproved by the virtuous; and it was remarked with satisfaction that the purest and most highly cultivated newspaper editors on his side, without excepting those of Boston itself, agreed with one voice that the Stone-cutter was a noble type of man, perhaps the very noblest that appeared to adorn this country since the incomparable Washington."

That's nineteenth century straight talk for the coded marketing-speak associated with Palin's ability to "connect" with the regular, good, and"hard-working" people of our morally infallible country.

And like Palin, the Hoosier Quarryman was willing to buy the campaign swill put forth on his behalf.

"Owing nothing, as he conceived, to politicians, but sympathizing through every fiber of his unselfish nature with impulses and aspiration of the people, he affirmed it to be his first duty to protect the people from those vultures, as he called them, those wolves in sheep's clothing, those harpies, those hyenas the politicians; epithets which, as generally interpreted, meant Ratcliffe and Ratcliffe's friends."

But what happens next is that the Stone-cutter of Wabash finds himself in over his head.

"No maid-of-all-work in a cheap boardinghouse was ever more harassed. Everyone conspired against him. His enemies gave him no peace. All Washington was laughing at his blunders, and ribald sheets, published on a Sunday, took delight in printing the new Chief Magistrate's sayings and doings, chronicled with outrageous humor, and placed by malicious hands where the President could not see them."

Overwhelmed with public business he turns to...

...Ratcliffe and "breathed more freely than for a past week."

The prairie statesman relieves his burden to an extent that surprises the erstwhile reformer who had come, ostensibly, to shake-up Washington:

"[Ratcliffe] knew everybody and everything. He took most of the President's visitors at once into his own hands and dismissed them with great rapidity. He knew what they wanted; he knew what recommendations were strong and what were weak; who was to be treated with deference and who was to be sent away abruptly; where a blunt refusal was safe, and where a pledge was allowable."

Sound familiar? If not, here's a hint: (Dick Cheney).

In 10 days Ratcliffe has taken control of a government, with the title of Treasury Secretary, that was elected to tame him.

highwayscribery has yet to finish "Democracy" and would not normally issue one of its famed "Book Reports" prior to completing a self-appointed duty. But tonight is the debate between vice presidential candidates and the piece seemed timely.

And while Henry Adams may yet have a surprise in store, the scribe felt the tale told in "Democracy," seemed exceedingly, well, familiar.

It's not easy to get "experience" at leading companies, newspapers, and countries. But as "Democracy" makes clear, the stories of our world and the things we think so new in it, are to be found in the great books, and perusing them is the next best thing to a hands-on schooling.

That's why making a blessing of Dame Palin's intellectual shortcomings represents something of a double-whammy, because she is doubly inexperienced in the ways of the world: first of action, and then of contemplation.