May 20, 2017

Why books no longer sell

Many a literati complain that their books no longer sell. Many a theory circulate why this is so (the disappearance of gay book stores, the disappearance of attention spans, competition from other media, Trump, and so on). But yesterday---yesterday we discovered the definitive answer. Here it is:

Ceci n'est pas une pipe, mais un camp de concentration Trumpien.

No, wrong, this is the airport of Cannes, the main hub of the Cannes Film Festival for anything that moves about by general aviation. Ten years ago, during the Festival, this place was loaded with private jets---Learjets, Falcons, Netjets, Gulfstreams---all patiently waiting for the "talent" to be beautiful, blow insouciant kisses, sign contracts, fuck, collect awards, and then return to Hollywood. And now what? The place is practically empty---emptier, we'd say, than on a normal day of the week when we drive past to go to our discount Lidl supermarket which is just around the corner.

You get it? Nothing sells. Almost. This is not only about books, this is about media in general.

And the underlying reason? Well, a shift in the parameter values of the Power Distribution of course.

Huh? Stay tuned.

May 18, 2017

Pompeii (5) The Year of the Spritz --- History of the world

Yes, we're back in Positano, or we are still in Positano because Julia, our hostess, has an uncle who runs this restaurant, and they would pick us up and deliver us back safely despite the fact that the road is barely fit for mules. And this is what we get as the welcome drink: THE SPRITZ. (Henry James also used capitalisation extensively).

When we arrived in Venice in 1988 on a research assignment, our host Massimo picked us up at the airport and delivered us almost directly---we had a brief look at a Tintoretto in a nearby church first---to a small café and ordered something we surely had never heard about. "The Spritz." It's a German word introduced by the Austrians when they ruled Venice from 1815 to 1866, meaning a "dash" of something stronger into a small glass of white wine. It was great and we ordered a few more. Then. 

I returned to Venice repeatedly, but it was only in 2013 that I was confronted with the NEW SPRITZ as you see it on the picture. This Spritz is made from Prosecco and a dashy new version of strong water unfortunately dubbed Aperol. The color is great, the taste is mild, and chunks of lemon and orange are added for effect. There's a Hitchcock movie where the poisonous drink is served to the unsuspecting suspect in a glass illuminated by a little light bulb hidden in a translucent olive. Along those lines. 

Okay, and now, this year, THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE SPRITZ. Everywhere you go, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and today, St. Raphael, FRANCE (not shown)---the Aperol Spritz is everywhere. We ordered white wine.

May 16, 2017

The Fox Woman

The fifth candidate?

Yes, you may have guessed right, Anne Coulter is the model for the FOX woman in This is Heaven. She had been an author of many successful books, and published In Trump We Trust last year, a title in support if his candidacy. And now what? She's going off-message. She no longer trust him.Here, here (we quote from the Huffington Post):   

“I’m not very happy with what has happened so far,” Coulter added. “I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But ... if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out.”“Where is the great negotiation?” she asked. “That budget the Republicans pushed through was like a practical joke.… Did we win anything?”She even called developments in the administration a “disaster so far.”Coulter is particularly disappointed about lack of progress on building a wall along the Mexican border and suggested people send bricks to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).Coulter said she was opposed from the beginning to the president hiring daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. “Americans don’t like that, I don’t like that. That’s the one fascist thing he’s done. Hiring his kids.”Coulter said that being on the Trump ride is like being told you’ve got six days to make it from Chicago to Los Angeles, except you spend the first three days heading instead to New York.
“He can still turn around and get us to LA in three days, but I’m a little nervous,” she added.“If we just keep going to New York ... again, I’ll say we had no choice, but the Trump-haters were right … it’s a nightmare. I can’t even contemplate that. Right now I’m still rooting for him to turn around and take us toward LA.”

There's more of this is you keep surfing. And now over to This Is Heaven (fragment from Ch. 9):

The fifth candidate is also blond, but female, with a longish, consent-demanding face that stares right at you, and a lot of hands and fingernails attached to her extremities, hot in a fashioned way (she), pure anchor nouveau, she could host any show, especially on FOX, especially about Christmas decoration (I have to explain to Maurice about FOX's War on Christmas). She survives while casting a malevolent regard at the defeated fish under the bridge, it’s so subtle...

Are you still there? Then you'll possibly like the GREEN EYES. The first part is out now, available as Kindle book on Amazon, under this link:

Night Owl Reviews

Go here for the previous teaser of This is heaven, and here for a choice of chapters of the Green Eyes.

May 15, 2017

May 14, 2017

Pompeii (4) --- Hotel del Sole --- "We will post a review!"

The view from the restaurant

We booked Hotel del Sole (half-board) because of its location opposite to the Pompeii ruins. We are given the worst room---but somebody has to get the worst room, even in a hotel packed with junior travel groups.

So the sun sets and we proceed to be seated for dinner. We are NOT led to the fourth floor restaurant with a spectacular view of the excavation site but to a sort of green house where piping protrudes from dirty corners and a children's party is in loutish progress. We return to the reception desk and alert the assistant manager to the pictures of this beautiful restaurant with its view of the ruins on Booking-dot-com. Sure, not problem, there's the elevator. Arriving upstairs we're informed that---yes---they serve dinner, but not to guests on half-board. Such guest have to dine in the Green House, regrettably. We descend, informing the reception that we'd like to cancel the half-board arrangement. That's not possible---the reply is---because we've booked through Booking-dot-com and patati patata. We alert them to the fact that the nice fourth floor restaurant is shown on Booking-dot-com. Yes, they answers, because that's where breakfast is served. There's nothing on Booking-dot-com, we reply, that would alert guests to the fact that the half-board dinner is served in a greenhouse not shown anywhere (for good reasons). You can call Booking-dot-com, they say. We won't call Booking-dot-com, we say, WE WILL POST A REVIEW. "Oh...oh...oh...okay. Yes, well, if you insist"...and while we are back in the elevator accompanied by an assistant manager, she tells us that they would have to open the kitchen for us, for us alone, "but if you want...". She cites a few more reasons why life is so difficult. We inform her that there are always "reasons," and that a GOOD HOTEL---if the sad moment arrives that "reasons" have to be invoked---that a good hotel should be able to isolate its guests from said reasons. She goes on. She obviously does not understand what it means to be a GOOD HOTEL.

The dinner with a view up there was very good, by the way.

May 11, 2017

Pompeii (2)

Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993) 

We're still held back in Positano, and this morning we learned that this island, yes, this one (picture taken from our hotel room)...

...was once owned by Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian ballet dancer, who lived there...and we suddenly remember, having read Gore Vidal's memoir...Vidal mentions that he could see the island from his villa, and that Nureyev used to come over for dinner to tell tall, yet true stories about gay saunas...

Gore Vidal  (1925-2012)

May 9, 2017

Pompeii (1)

It's a bit complicated, but we're basically travelling to Pompeii at the moment, having had dinner tonight in some restaurant on the beach of  Positano just below the Hotel Miramare where Patricia Highsmith conceived of the idea of Mr. Ripley while staying there in 1952.

The view of Positano  and the Amalfi coast in 2017 from our hotel, Villa Sofia.

May 5, 2017

The cloud bank --- This Is Heaven --- teaser (26)

A few more weeks, and This Is Heaven is available on pre-order. At that point, we're going to consolidate all teasers into a separate page, so enjoy this one---one of the last teasers we're posting. John, forsaken John, has spent the night stumbling through the lonely streets of  his hometown, and now he's returning home.

Dunno what happened to my house keys. I’ll have to ring and hope somebody will buzz me in. Maurice will buzz me in and say nothing and plop down on a kitchen chair and refocus on his cornflakes and a cup of tea.
This is Day Four of the festival but the first without palaver on my bed. “Where’s everybody?” I ask. “What happened to Alex?”
“What happened to you?” Maurice replies. He arches his eyebrows.
I arch mine.
He raises the teapot. “Tea?” he asks.
I shake my head and proceed to make coffee. Somebody has operated the dish washer and there’s a clean mug inside. “What time is it?” I ask. His eyes travel to the clock above the kitchen cabinet that shows the correct time twice per day. “You’re up early,” I say.

"Why did you run away? Can't you handle a little neighborhood orgy?"

I sip my coffee and peer at the water tower outside. I’ve been fairly downbeat on the thing throughout this soap, but it keeps you busy in its quiet way—like trees keep you busy, or nervous flies, or the thought of an afterlife.
“Day Four,” I say, “day four.”
Maurice tries his campy laugh: “Why did you run away? Can’t you handle a little neighborhood orgy?
“I’m less experienced than you are,” I say.
“Taylor will have brought you up to speed, shouldn’t he?”
“Taylor, Taylor,” I say.
“Not to speak of Ben. Or the master himself.”
“Alex. Yes.”
Maurice beholds me with a mix of annoyance and reticence: “Are we jealous?”
“Alex ditched me.” I say (croak). "Sort-of."
“Yes, his remark yesterday. I thought he was joking.”
“No, he wasn’t.”
“We shan’t blame him, or shall we?”
“And you, whom did you ditch? Sort-of? You look tired.”
“I didn’t sleep.”
“You didn’t sleep, darling. Alone, or with somebody else?”

I close the door. I close it softly.

Apr 30, 2017

There are two types of billionaires --- Florence (5)

Michael is working on a new soap consisting of a series of flash stories featuring Jamie and Dex, the heroes of his flash Jamie 1.0. The whole thing is set in Florence, Italy, which we visited recently. Here's a brief fragment of the second part...hold on, let's start with an illustration again:

There are two types of billionaires

And now the fragment:

There are two types of billionaires: (1) unhappy billionaires, who are each unhappy in their own way, and (2) happy billionaires, who answer “whatever” when their valet inquires as to today’s attire and are then served with a bespoke Bond Street summer costume in understated grey. Our man belongs to the second category. What’s special about him: he’s faceless. You couldn’t even say he looks like a choir boy (hedge funds), or Osama bin Laden (family money), or Donald Trump (family money). He looks like somebody who refuses to look like anything.
“Huh?” I said.
“They’ll look anonymous. Totally. They could be caught on CCTV robbing a bank and broadcasted on cable networks and nobody would recognize their face on the bus or on the buffet of the Mar al Lago. They’ve had a face job. An expensive face job.”)

We don’t always get it right, but this time we do. Mr. Bond Street finishes his phone conversation, makes a beeline for yours truly, and introduces himself as “John.” He asks whether I like art. “Real art. Botticelli. Da Vinci. Warhol.” He chuckles. Of course we like art...

You find more of this on the pages of LustSpiel, here.

Apr 29, 2017


...the view from the Pic de l'Ours across the bay of Cannes, with the city of Cannes on the shoreline and the city of Nice (next bay, in the background) on the shoreline of La Baie des Anges. The back-background is provided by the Alps. From here (500 m elevation), you get a view of the entire Cote d'Azur.

Apr 27, 2017

"I cut a deal with Mephistopheles, I'll win" --- This is heaven --- teaser (25)

A few more weeks, and This Is Heaven is available on pre-order. Here, here, the teaser of teasers, John & Alex breaking up---or do they?

Alex would take me to the debate in his car, and I shouldn’t worry, he’ll give me a ride back, if necessary. We didn’t have much time to talk, and he’s sorry and apologizes as usual, and perhaps we could converse in the car. He had some time to think. He needs to share a thought, just a thought.

Ambulance paramedic that he is, or was, he knows the shortcuts of Georgia Beach, and in particular the spruced-up bike path that shares the bridge with the Davis Canal and leads from the parking lot through the ghetto up to Georgia Avenue. So we are supposed to talk, but he’s sitting behind the wheel and doesn’t say a word. People sometimes do this, especially in movies when they want the audience to focus on their effortless silhouette-—the low bridge of his nose with the mildest snub at the tip (not enough for a snub-nose but sufficient for the boy-component in a big brother), the eyelashes which are a bit too long for big brothers, the brows, wide and elongated (each and every single brow-hair perfectly aligned (like he’s employing an invisible, yet acrobatic cat that licks them twice per hour)), the jaw, which isn’t macho but large enough to support the seamless definition of his chin lines, the lips, closed at the moment but wide and misleadingly sensual, his smooth Latino skin, the fitting ears that seem to know everything, the black hair cut short on the side according to the latest fashion (a strange feature in an α-personality otherwise dismissive of trendiness)-—then there’s the prominent back of the head segueing into a muscular neck, the shoulders of course that do the big-brother thing all on their own, the biceps (ditto), triceps (ditto), all of this very much in evidence with him in a green tank top that would match the color of his eyes if anything on the planet could match the color of his eyes-—we arrive at the precipitous drop of his torso along the pecs and abs and down into the groin where the perfect bulge in his shorts is always in evidence due to his-—what he calls his anatomy-—and wrap up with his hirsute thighs and his dirty, sexy sneakers hidden in the pedal space underneath. And don’t forget the big hands on the steering wheel.

He's always served out of line

“You’re beautiful,” I say.

Apr 17, 2017

He's clad in widely-cut pants --- Florence (4)

Michael is working on a new soap consisting of a series of flash stories featuring Jamie and Dex, the heroes of his flash Jamie 1.0. The whole thing is set in Florence, Italy, which we visited recently. Here's a brief fragment...hold on, let's start with an illustration:

"He's clad in widely-cut pants."

That's actually Savonarola being burnt on the stake there, in the background, but never mind. And now the fragment:

A black guy has materialised next to the fountain and is taking pictures of the Loggia, meaning he’s taking pictures of me taking pictures of him taking pictures of me and so on. It would be a new come-on for me, and the fun part is in the wuzzy reciprocity—who is to say who is coming on to whom? Whether the guy is actually aware of my presence remains to be seen (the Loggia holds a dozen statues and six dozen sightseers as we speak), but I am becoming increasingly aware of him, unmistakably. I’m a natural.

He’s the Kenyan type, long and stalky, ebony-black, clad in a half-open Hawaii shirt that leaves nothing to the imagination, wide strong shoulders, shiny tapered pecs, the torso funneling down to the small of his back along effortless abs. Obama has a beautiful, round crane, infinite lips, infinite teeth, and wears stylish grey flannel pants, widely cut, much wider than the fashion on the Via Tornabuoni. I know about these pants: guys wear them to hide their third leg. He’s also wearing elaborate sandals about which more later...

Apr 15, 2017

We need a room --- This is heaven --- teaser (24)

We've finished the second draft of This Is Heaven, finally. And now we have to hurry up, teaser-wise, otherwise we'll never see the end of the tunnel. This fragment is from Chapter 27. John and Taylor will have "full sex," as John put it, and Alex will put in a cameo appearance. Since this is a teaser, it's just the beginning of the chapter. Enjoy:

We’re walking to the Atlantic Sands Hotel, which, as you know, is not far. We’re quiet now. That’s fairly typical with a new trick on the way to the venue, you’re either quiet or you talk a lot. It happened barely a week ago under very different circumstances on the way to Godehart’s place, where it ended in an in-flagrante masterclass of Wagnerian proportions. Let’s see what we’re in for this time.

The walk takes us along North Surf Avenue, low dunes to left, occasional multistory condos to the right, all stylized as beach holiday homes gaping at the sea. The structures would be pretty if they weren’t too large—-comely porches transposed into five story balconies—-the proportions don’t work, not for me. The bay-windows are prettier than the Sands Hotel, though, which jumps right out of a LEGO box. Giant neon letters on the roof mirror its name. I point at the letters (just to make sure). Taylor nods. We enter through a back door and arrive in the lobby from the wrong side, none of the reception people has seen us coming.

The way we look, drained by the heat, shabbily clad (me), untidily clad (Taylor), in sneakers, shorts, T-shirts, we may not even own a motorized conveyance, let alone money, they could easily turn us away. Too late. An assistant manager has made eye contact (‘What are you doing here?’).

“We need a room,” I say. She’s more tactful that Luke, the receptionist, in that she doesn’t lower her gaze; she’s casting it at the entrance where it rests for two seconds (‘has she decided to ignore us?’), but then returns it to me. Squeaky footfalls break the silence, somebody has a hand on my shoulder, in passing, and—it’s Alex, in full alpha-mode.

“I have an urgent appointment with The Professor Bienpensant,” he says, “replacing Mr. John Fletcher of Monroeville, Georgia.” The receptionist couldn’t care less—-a place like this hosts five hundred sex acts per day—-but Alex is simply too beautiful not to evoke second guesses and wistful smiles. The receptionist keeps her libido in check, however, and asks: “You know the room number?” And yes, Alex knows the room number and disappears squeakily in the direction of the stair well, ignoring the convenient elevator nearby.


A place like this hosts 500 sex acts per day

We were lucky that Alex showed up so soon, because—-would he have arrived only two minutes later, he would have witnessed the humiliating scene of an impoverished assistant professor of French brandishing exhausted credit cards which are then, one by one, put down by the booking system of the Atlantic Sands Corporation. I skip a few details—-Taylor saves the day with his own credit card. Nobody asks about our age. We use the elevator.

Mar 24, 2017

This is heaven --- Twilight --- Teaser (23)

This Is Heaven centers upon the vampire contest of Georgia Beaches' Summer Festival 2014, and so we need to pronounce a bit about the Twilight Saga, Stephenie Meyer's authoritative treatment of the subject.

And, yes? Okay, here are a few fragments (hold on; our main spokesperson Twilight-wise is Tex, (Taylor's pal (Taylor: John's principle baggage on the side in this episode))): 

(Chapter 24:) I think about something dismissive to say, then get distracted by the sight of Taylor. Taylor is with his pal (“Tex”), who’s talking incessantly. They end up at our stand, Taylor buys a lighter from Luke, but his pal won’t let up. “I understand Count Dracula and his folks,” Tex is saying, “they were mean-spirited and banking blood wasn’t on the agenda then, surely they had to feed on humans, but the Cullens of Twilight, Doctor Carlisle is a medical doctor, and they’re so preppy and above the fray and in favor of gun control, I’m sure, I’m sure they’re fucking liberals, all of them, why don’t they just purchase blood from a blood bank? Why this hunting of deer in the rainy forest of the Puget sound?”

“You don’t get it.”

“And you should look at the deer, these cute Bambies grazing on succulent ferns growing for the occasion between the redwood trees. And then there’s a sense of impending danger because the director of photography won’t hold still, Bambi’s eyes dart at us, a cry for help that goes unanswered because we’re strapped to the comfort chairs of this multiplex, popcorn at hand. And now she’s off, Bambi, running for her life, Bambi, and Dr. Carlisle is chasing her, although you can’t really see him chasing her, what you see is a vortex of black substance chasing Bambi, but it is Carlisle, to be sure, it’s him or Emmet or Rosalie or Esme or somebody else of his clan.”

“You don’t get it.”

This morning

Mar 13, 2017

Pentatonix --- Imagine (John Lennon)

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today... Aha-ah...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one 

Mar 10, 2017

"Mr Lee" --- This is heaven --- Teaser (22)

We're really progressing with This Is Heaven, so we're in a bit of a hurry. John got himself into another flagrante with Taylor, and this time the flagrantist---(neo? neo?)---the flagrantist was Inspector LaStrada himself, so we re-find ourselves in jail. And then there's Ray of course, John's old friend, who's still held by the authorities in connection with Neill Palmer's death. This is the beginning of Chapter 25, and we'll take you up to one of the stepping stones for the overdrawn happy ending. Enjoy:

The police station of Georgia Beach sports two jail cells off the main office. It’s old-fashioned, homely almost, a film noir of sturdy iron bars to which jail birds are supposed to cling in silent desperation.

They’ve separated me and Taylor in a transparent attempt to prevent more lewd interaction between John Lee, age 29, sex-male, race-Caucasian (I had to provide my personal details yet again), and Taylor Stanford Hart, sex-male, race-Caucasian, age-perhaps-illegal—Taylor had failed to convince them of his 18th birthday, he doesn’t look the birthday boy at all. Your Social Security Number? That would be 067-70-9756. Say that again: “067-07-9765.” It won’t take it. The computer. The number. Sorry. “You have no driver’s license?” No, he don’t, because he’s a nerd (Taylor put it differently). Sorry.


I’m alone in Cell No.1, Taylor is with Ray in Cell No.2. Ray couldn’t possibly have followed the conversation about “carnal knowledge” going on in the main office, a topic to which Taylor and I contributed very little-—letting LaStrada dictate his observations to a desk officer behind an unwilling computer while the goldfish in its bowl was looking on-—us not questioning whether Mr. Lee’s “hold” on Mr. Hart’s “member” was intentional or perhaps the result of a regrettable slip-up due to substandard illumination inside the Green Room-—except that Mr. Hart, at a critical juncture, namely when LaStrada had run out of things to say about “members” and poised to switch to the transgressive part of the arrestees’ malfeasance (the yellow crime tape, the perimeter violation)-—that Mr. Hart, whose mother runs a Baltimore law firm (we will learn soon)-—that Taylor asked several nerdy questions about the goldfish, questions which engaged the desk officer in lengthy answers, so lengthily that Strada’s cell began to ring and the detective was called away. I lost my train of thought. Yes, Ray could not have followed the conversation, but he’s sensitive, very sensitive, and now he’s gazing expectantly at his cell mate.

_________________________________ not questioning whether Mr. Lee’s “hold” on Mr. Hart’s “member” was intentional or perhaps the result of a regrettable slip-up...

Ray could easily handle the truth-—he must have spent a quarter of his life in darkrooms-—but we’ve somehow skirted the subject and blamed everything on the police tape and regrettable misunderstandings.

Mar 4, 2017

This is the future that Liberals want

You've possibly seen this already on the interwebs...

...which some Trumpistas ("/pol/ News Network") posted yesterday on Twitter under the heading "This is the future that liberals want."

Now, let's get serious for just one paragraph---in particular because we've never seen this point being made before: reactionary argumentation, since years, depends almost uniquely on insinuations, i.e., on making suppositions NOT regarding what liberals do, or say, but on what they allegedly intend---without any further proof of evidence. "Obama wants to turn the US into a Muslim State" would be a typical example. Put differently: since years (15, we'd say), the opposition to liberal positions is based on ABSURDITIES.

In this case, however, there's some involuntary truth to this. Yes, that's what we want, among other things: public transport, religious freedom, and freedom of expression.

Okay, and now to the fun part. Here are a few pictures in reply to the Twitter post (all captioned "This is the future that liberals want"):

Mar 3, 2017

You can't make this up (enjoy)

Trump Aides Keep Leaking Embarrassing Stories About How He Can’t Handle Embarrassment By Eric Levitz (reprinted from the NY Mag)

No, you’re the baby. 

Trump’s Presidency Is the Twilight Zone Episode About a Terrifying 6-Year-OldTrump Repeats Lie That Millions Voted Illegally in Meeting With Lawmakers

The president is a 70-year-old child whose TV time must be closely monitored — because any news story that upsets his ego will trigger a temper tantrum followed by irrational demands that his indulgent, overwhelmed guardians will be helpless to refuse.

Or so Donald Trump’s aides keep confiding to the nearest available reporter.

On Sunday, one of the president’s confidantes told Politico that his staffers have to “control information that may infuriate him,” a task made difficult by the fact that the leader of the free world “gets bored and likes to watch TV.”

That same day, some Trump aides provided the New York Times with a portrait of the president as a moody adolescent.

Mr. Trump grew increasingly angry on Inauguration Day after reading a series of Twitter messages pointing out that the size of his inaugural crowd did not rival that of Mr. Obama’s in 2009. But he spent his Friday night in a whirlwind of celebration and affirmation. When he awoke on Saturday morning, after his first night in the Executive Mansion, the glow was gone, several people close to him said, and the new president was filled anew with a sense of injury.

“The lack of discipline troubled even senior members of Mr. Trump’s circle,” the paper wrote, “some of whom had urged him not to indulge his simmering resentment at what he saw as unfair news coverage.”

And then, on Monday night, Trump’s staffers whispered an even more vivid account of his rough weekend to the Washington Post.

President Trump had just returned to the White House on Saturday from his final inauguration event, a tranquil interfaith prayer service, when the flashes of anger began to build.

Trump turned on the television to see a jarring juxtaposition — massive demonstrations around the globe protesting his day-old presidency and footage of the sparser crowd at his inauguration, with large patches of white empty space on the Mall. As his press secretary, Sean Spicer, was still unpacking boxes in his spacious new West Wing office, Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged…Over the objections of his aides and advisers — who urged him to focus on policy and the broader goals of his presidency — the new president issued a decree: He wanted a fiery public response, and he wanted it to come from his press secretary.

The Post’s story is chock-full of remarkable details. To list just a few:

1. After forcing Spicer to baldly lie to the White House press corps about the size of his inauguration crowd, the president fumed that his press secretary’s performance was “not forceful enough.” According to Axios, Trump was also incensed by Spicer’s poor taste in suits, and is already considering treating the former RNC staffer to his signature catchphrase.

2. Trump already “feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.”

3. Some Trump aides think Kellyanne Conway is trying to undermine Spicer so as to steal his job.

4. Jared Kushner tried to prevent Conway from being invited into the White House at all, because he viewed her “as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere.”

5. Ultimately, though, the most astounding sentence in the Post’s write-up might be the following:

This account of Trump’s tumultuous first days in office comes from interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers and confidants, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations and moments.

Nearly a dozen of Trump’s closest confidantes helped plant an embarrassing news story about how their boss can’t handle embarrassing news stories. Which is to say: A president who prizes loyalty in his subordinates has already been betrayed by a huge swath of his inner circle.

It isn’t hard to understand why Trump’s aides would want to distance themselves from the mogul’s decision to begin his presidency by shouting self-aggrandizing delusions at CIA employees, congressional leaders, and the Fourth Estate. But we aren’t in the late days of a losing campaign, when it’s normal for advisers to start leaking dirt on the boss to save their reputations. We’re less than four full days into the Trump presidency, with (barring death, impeachment, resignation, or coup) at least 1,461 to go.

Welcome to the world of Donald Trump

(A screen grab of an ad running on FB:)

Feb 21, 2017

Why don't they just purchase blood --- This is heaven --- teaser (21)

We've been slacking, but here it is, the next teaser of This Is Heaven. This teaser is mostly for insiders, intimi to the meanderings of the Twilight Saga (hint: Robert Pattinson). In the previous chapter Alex has told John about his devastating plan to move back to his own dig, and now we see John exposed anew to Taylor and his friends from the club of vampire freaks, including pal Tex. Tex is about to develop renegade thoughts, so we keep it short (the picture is Joe Phillip's design for the cover of the book). 

I get distracted by the sight of Taylor. Taylor is with his pal (“Tex”), who’s talking insistently. They end up at our stand, Taylor buys a lighter from Luke, but his pal won’t let up. “I understand Count Dracula and his folks,” Tex is saying, “they were mean-spirited and banking blood wasn’t on the agenda then, surely they had to feed on humans, but the Cullens of Twilight, Doctor Carlisle is a medical doctor, and they’re so preppy and above the fray and in favor of gun control, I’m sure, I’m sure they’re fucking liberals, all of them, why don’t they just purchase blood from a blood bank? Why this hunting of deer in the rainy forest of the Puget sound?”

“You don’t get it,” Taylor answers.

“And you should look at the deer, these cute Bambies grazing on succulent ferns growing for the occasion between the redwood trees. And then there’s a sense of impending danger because the director of photography won’t hold still, Bambi’s eyes dart at us, a cry for help that goes unanswered because we’re strapped to the comfort chairs of this multiplex, popcorn at hand. And now she’s off, Bambi, running for her life, and Dr. Carlisle is chasing her, although you can’t really see him chasing her, what you see is a vortex of black substance chasing Bambi, but it is Carlisle, to be sure, it’s him or Emmet or Rosalie or Esme or somebody else of his clan.”
“You don’t get it.”
“No, exactly, I don’t get it,” Tex says.
“It’s easy,” Taylor answers.
“No, it’s not.”
“Well, the question has been asked before.”


"Bambi's eyes dart at us, a cry for help that goes unanswered because we're strapped to the comfort chairs of this multiplex."

Taylor’s looking for help, and we make eye contact. Eye contact is different once you’ve had sex, and it had been me who got him into this shit yesterday, I really have to make it up to him: “Look it up on the internet,” I say to Tex.

Feb 10, 2017

Florence (4) --- Find a caption

So, on Wednesday, we happen upon Giotto's tower next to the Duomo, a 114 meter erection built with the prescient eye of a genius who foresaw the needs of modern adventure tourism, in particular re the ultimate experience of climbing the five hundred and forty nine steps leading to the top where visitors can enjoy a refreshing summer breeze or the high, stale winter winds of February 9, 2017.

Tickets had not yet been invented when Michael first visited Florence, so he just went there and counted the steps and enjoyed the breeze. Now we have an army vehicle painted in fatigues parked next to the entrance, and you need a ticket which is very expensive but also avails access to other Duomo venues, in particular the Cupola where you have to make a reservation---the only venue that requires one, meaning that said Cupola is much better than the museum where you don't need a reservation, not to mention the cathedral proper where you don't even need a ticket (you do need a ticket for the toilet, though, see previous post).

Arriving at the top, we realize that the Cupola features a visitor's platform as well, located a few meters higher than ours, vertically speaking. 

So we make a reservation for the next day (1049 places left), for 13:30 (1:30 PM), the first time slot available.

We arrive too early on Thursday and have to kill time in the Yellow Bar with a bottle of Prosecco. 

And then we (a) have to make it through an intricate vetting procedure reservation-wise, (b) get lost in the cathedral proper, (c) are redirected by a guard to the stair case leading up to the cupola platform, (d) and are told it's only five thousand six hundred forty nine steps, "un numero con implicazioni numerologiche." There are some intermediate platforms, and this is the first we hit: 

There are more complications, including the narrow gallery at the base of the Cupola proper, ca. 6 inches wide, which you have to negotiate with a view on oncoming traffic (regardless how you do it, there's a lot of intimate touching, and the Japanese girls blush on contact). (The boys blush, too.)

Anyhow, the stairs continue:

And there we are, with a view on Giotto's tower. Find a caption:

"I hate the Pope." 

Feb 9, 2017

Florence (3)

In his book about Florence, David Leavitt talks about Cibreo,

"one of the most famous restaurants in town [which] is divided into two parts, an expensive ristorante and a less-expensive trattoria, where you get the same food at half the price. At the trattoria, however, you have to sit on chairs that challenge the sturdiest back, crowd with strangers at tiny tables,..The food is authentically, one might even say rigorously, Tuscan. Pasta is never served..."

When we arrive for lunch at 1PM, the place is empty, save for two disoriented Japanese. The waiter sits down next to us to explain the specials. We have stuffed rabbit, green salad, potatoes, and orange cheese cake, which is served with a cheerful "ecco qua," (there it is, we learn). We also learn the difference between buono ("good"), and bene ("fine"). Gradually, the place fills up. The wine was a reasonable Chardonnay from Alto Adige ("Südtirol"). 

Florence (2)

To climb Giotto's tower (here's a view from the top)... need a ticket (15 €) which you can buy at a ticket office. It's worth it...

Yes, this is a view of the Ticket Office's bathroom.

Feb 8, 2017

Florence (1)

We decided to go to Florence for a few days and so we swang by Portofino, on the Cinque Terre peninsula, to the east of Genua. Nothing special happened, and there's nothing to trigger (yet) another fragment from This is Heaven. Enjoy.

Feb 2, 2017

No need for a caption

(Our friend Glenn sends this:)

Donald Trump, seriously

(Trump Jump, Twitler, immigrant, kakistocracy, Donald Lump, trumpcare, Trump Treatment, Tyrannosaurus rump, alternative facts, Hot Donald, Trumps Razor, small hands:  The Urban Dictionary, our favorite linguistic cyclopedia, has dropped its habitual preoccupation with matters autoerotic and gone full Trump Dump since the Machtsübernahme, and so our friend Glenn wants to know what we think about the new president. Glenn's particularly interested in answers regarding Trump's intelligence:)

Trump is intelligent, at least technically. He can think on his feet, he's wily, sly, cunning, and has been successful for more than forty years in a difficult business---not as successful as he claims, but he's survived four or six bankruptcies, several trophy wives, and a grueling election campaign---you can't do this without substantial raw intelligence. There are NYT reports regarding his deal making, which emphasize that his negotiation skills really shine when we get into the fine print (the annotations of complex real-estate contracts)---meaning that even his attention span is substantial when he's into a "deal." And then there is corroborating evidence about his work as developer---a developer obsessed with details, we read. So yes, he's clever.

Which doesn't mean he's Socrates. He's not an intellectual, let alone a thinker. He won't take time to think unless it's urgent business. He's a results man---or business man---in the worst conceivable sense. And he's extremely narcissistic---no need to elaborate, just one more anecdote (we quote the Washington Post):

Jan 26, 2017

"Why is it that I don't feel like a billionaire?" --- This is heaven --- teaser (updated)

We didn't plan this, really we didn't, but this picture, taken during the inaugurational lunch in Washington last Friday (this is roughly one hour after he was sworn in as the new president)...

...this picture is a yuuge pretext to nerve you with yet another fragment from This Is Heaven, a fragment written last month. We're in the final chapters, the whole party of lead characters (Alex, John, Juliette, Ben, Maurice) are on their way to an overcooked happy ending of multiple courses---damn those mixed metaphors---and John & Alex have just learned that, in all likelihood, they'll soon be billionaires, and so Chapter 51 starts (John speaking (and driving)) (hold on, one more thing; if you scroll down, you'll see we're not the only ones to appreciate this picture) (so now:)   

“Why is it that I don’t feel like a billionaire,” I say. 
“You possibly do,” Alex says. “Most billionaires feel like shit.”
“How do you know I feel like shit?”
“The way you look, and the way you dart into the rearview mirror.” 
“Yes,” I say, “I feel like shit.”
“You know why?”
“Yes, Alex.”
“Many reasons. Mostly two. Reasons. If I tell, you’ll use them against me.”
“That would be a third reason then.”
“Stop it, Alex.”
“And a fourth reason would be that you think I have schemes on Juliette.”
“Why would I?”
“By dint of the mirror. It’s canted by more than 25 degrees and can no longer serve its purpose of providing traffic awareness, especially on a narrow road like this when somebody from behind flashes the headlights.”

I adjust the mirror, and indeed, a pickup truck in the war paint of the Confederate flag hangs behind us. Now he blows the horn. I slow down, pull to the right, and he rumbles past. We exchange glances—-and stare into the eyes of a slim black youth on the passenger seat.


Romeo is of course the next course of this happy meal.

Are you still there? Then you'll possibly like the GREEN EYES. The first part is out now, available as Kindle book on Amazon, under this link:

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