Suddenly It All Makes Sense

I think I’ve figured it out. The vetting process for Sarah Palin as McCain’s VP makes sense if:

Every single person on McCain’s vetting committee is a sleeper cell Democrat.



Attention Authors: More Big Ideas Needed

Fellow authors (and related editors, publishers, and publicists), if you’ve been asking yourself, “Hey, how do I promote this book I will soon have in the stores, to up to 40,000 unique readers daily, all of whom have some interest in the written word?” I may have a solution for you. As you know, I run a feature here called “The Big Idea,” in which authors talk about the big idea behind their latest works, and playing with those ideas affected the writing of the book. Here are some recent examples of the feature. And it’s open to writers of all genres of fiction and non-fiction, because variety is good.

How do you get in on the action?

1. Have a book (not self-published or vanity press; small press is fine) being published, oh, let’s say, between now and the end of 2008 (I’ll begin scheduling for 2009 later this year, probably early December).

2. Send me an e-mail about the book, letting me know who you are, what the book’s about, and the week it’s schedule to be published (editors/publicists, let me know who the author is, etc). Do me a favor and put the words “Big Idea Proposal” somewhere. You may also send along a copy of the book, if you like (I do like seeing the books in question).

3. I’ll check my schedule and see what’s available (I usually try to do a “Big Idea” once or occasionally twice a week, usually on Tuesday and Thursdays). When at all possible I like to run Big Idea pieces on or near the book’s release date. If there’s something available, I’ll let you know.

4. The author then goes off and writes the Big Idea piece (here’s a primer on how to write one — I suggest checking it out) and then sends it in, at least a week before his/her scheduled appearance.

5. It goes up and we all bask in its awesomeness, and rush out to buy the book.

It’s just that simple!

As noted before, at the moment I’m only interested in books coming out through the end of 2008, and only in books that are not self- or vanity-published. Also, if you’re a fan of a writer (but not associated with him/her in any professional capacity), please don’t write me to suggest I solicit a Big Idea from your favorite author. However, you may certainly point your favorite author in the direction of this post, and suggest they try to get on the schedule.

Any questions? Leave them in the comment thread (however, send queries about appearing in the Big Idea series to e-mail, not to the comment thread). Thanks!


In A World Without The Guy Who Says “In a World”

Don LaFontaine died yesterday. You’ll miss his voice, even if you didn’t really know who he was:


Whateveresque Registration Open, 9/2/08

If you’ve been pining for the opportunity to join Whateveresque, the Whatever reader forum, de-pine yourself this very moment, because from now until 10pm this evening, you can register! Go now! Fulfill your destiny! And, also, write some posts and chat with other Whatever readers without waiting for me to set the topic and so on.

Reminder to everyone to try not to look like a spambot when you register. Here’s how to do that.


Attention Fans of Patrick Rothfuss

Tobias Buckell has The Best Picture of Pat EVAR™ (and a contest to go with it). If you don’t click through right now, you will regret it all your days. I’m totally serious, folks.


Whatever X, Day II

What follows is proof Athena’s always been a primary component of Whatever:

AUGUST 4, 2000: The Unbearable Cuteness of Being Athena

This week’s entry into the insufferable “My Spawn Is Way Better Than Your Spawn” contest I currently have going on against every other parent on the entire planet:

Hey, Athena! Where’s your head? 

Now, where’s your elbow? 

How about your belly button? 

Can you show us your ear? 

What about your cute little nose? 

Finally, show us your toesies! 

I know, I know. And if it were anyone else’s child, I’d be retching, too. But I’ve said this before: Anything your kid does is normal human development. Anything my kid does is proof of supernatural intelligence. No offense to your totally normal in every way child. I’m sure that when both our children grow up, my child will undoubtedly provide your child with a cushy and not too terribly difficult job somewhere in her vast commercial and political empire. Cause she’s just giving that way.

If you think this is vomit-inducingly precious, you should see the videotape we made of her last night getting all excited about the Powerpuff Girls show coming on the TV. Lethally adorable, I tell you. You could just die.

All this cuteness is making me woozy. I better go lie down.


“Hate Mail” Winners

Yes, finally!

There are four winners of the “Send Me Hate Mail” contest, three of whom will have their hate mail entries included inside the book, and one of whom will have theirs on the back cover. The winners are, in no particular order:

C. Rader

Nicole the Wonder Nerd


Alternative Eric S.

For the winners, what you need to do is send an e-mail to Bill Schafer at with your contact information, so we can get you set up with your fabulous, fabulous prizes. Congratulations to all of you, and thanks everyone for playing!


Speaking of Governor Palin

In no particular order:

1. The rumors that Governor Palin is actually the grandmother of her most recent child rather than the mother are appallingly stupid, so if you believed them even for a minute, please hit yourself on the head with a hammer. Hard. Twice.

2. Palin’s “The Internets are saying idiotic things about me, so I’ll announce my unmarried teenage daughter is currently pregnant to show how wrong those rumors are” maneuver is one of the great qua? moments of the campaign so far. One, why dignify abject stupidity; two, while noting her daughter’s pregnancy to the press was inevitably necessary, in under a minute I can think of about sixteen different ways it could have been handled better, and if you give me another minute I could probably think of about thirty other better ways. At the very least, the simple unadorned fact of the current progress of Miss Palin’s pregnancy would obviate the rumors without the need to have addressed them explicitly. Let’s just say it’s not the way I would have done it.

3. Obama’s response (i.e., “it’s a family matter; it’s not relevant to the job Palin might do as VP; leave them alone”) is right and correct, so good on him. Also, speaking as the son and brother of former unwed teenage mothers, there are worse things in the world to be, especially if one is fortunate enough to have one’s family at one’s side.

4. However, let’s not pretend that if, say, Joe Biden’s daughter were teenage, unmarried and pregnant at the moment, that the right wing noise machine would not be shitting itself blind with glee at the fact, proclaiming with gravity about how these are just the sort of terrible consequences that liberal beliefs lead to and intoning solemnly behind barely stifed grins about how it actually is relevant to the election and should be discussed, publicly and at length, over and over and over again.

5. While Miss Palin’s pregnancy is (or should be, anyway) out of bounds as a subject for discussion, things that are up for continuing discussion include: Gov. Palin’s positions on abstinence-only education, women’s control of their bodies, birth control, Roe v. Wade, whether medical professionals can refuse on religious grounds to give treatment to women, and all other manner of topics relating to sex, women’s bodies, and choice. If Gov. Palin and the McCain campaign try to use Miss Palin’s pregnancy like they use Senator McCain’s former POW status — i.e., a cheap and easy trope to trot out in order to avoid answering reasonable questions — that’s well worth calling them on.

Which is to say: Yes, Governor Palin, your daughter is pregnant, and I respect her choice (as well as the fact that she has a choice) to have her child, and her right to privacy while she deals with the choices she’s made. Her choices, however, do not excuse you from having to explain your own, at least as they regard how they will affect the choices other women will be able to make about their own bodies, should you get into office.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Next Vice President

Krissy, engaging in some Sarah Palin cosplay.

No, not really. In real life, she’s about to officiate a wedding. She’s got a certificate to do it in Ohio and everything. But when she came into my office dressed up all conservative-like, well. Finally I knew who had my vote.

So vote Krissy in ’08. Because it doesn’t matter who’s at the top of the ticket, she’ll be running things anyway. As well she should.


Whateveresque Registration Tomorrow

I usually open up registration for Whateveresque, the Whatever reader’s discussion forum, on the 1st of the month, but since today’s a holiday, I’m going to punt it until tomorrow. So tomorrow (probably from around 10am to 10pm), you’ll be able to get a membership there. Try to remain calm until then.


Whatever X, Day I

September marks the 10th year of Whatever, and also the release of the site’s ten-year retrospective Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, both of which occur, officially, on September 13. To celebrate both, I’m instituting a special feature for the entire month of September: Whatever X: A Whole Damn Decade of Things and Stuff. Each day, I’ll post a long-lost piece from the vasty Whatever archives, not featured in Hate Mail, for your enjoyment. Depending on how long you’ve read Whatever, some of these you may have seen before, while others you may have not. But either way it’ll be fun.

To start things off, let’s go back to the first week of September, 1999, and the news that Ty Warner, maker of the Beanie Babies, made the announcement (later rescinded) that his company would stop making those little plush money pots.

SEPTEMBER 4, 1999: The Beanie Babies Are Retiring

Yes, the Beanie Babies are retiring. And damn it, isn’t it time? After all they’ve done for this country, haven’t they earned a well-deserved rest? Most of us are too young to remember those dark days in the late 20s, after the great stock market crash of 1929, when the Beanie Babies, who had heretofore hidden their existence to humanity by living in the sewers and the storm drains of America’s great cities, crawled forth, shook the grime from their adorable little pelts, and then set to rebuilding this great land of ours. It’s well known in Democratic circles that it was in fact the Beanies that engineered the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, and gave him the blueprint of the social plans that would later be known as “The New Deal.” Before that, he’d just been another smug Brahmin from the upper classes. It was the Beanies (and specifically, that great egalitarian Ewey the Lamb) who helped FDR get with the proles.

Later, when war loomed on the European continent, many Americans clamored for our country to hide itself in a veil of neutrality. But not the Beanies. Historians remember that fateful day in 1940 when Britannia Bear marched in the Oval Office and outlined the Lend-Lease deal, which would ship 50 mothballed US destroyers to an England that so desperately needed them in those days of German aggression. And when war came, the Beanies more than did their part, rolling their fuzzy sleeves and working the swing shift on the aircraft assembly lines, churning out one Mustang P-51 after another so that we could win the war and bring peace and democracy to the world. Think of how hard it is for a four-inch high toy to wield a power tool — especially with nothing but a plush, fingerless paw to control the thing.

The Beanies contributed in other ways. While it has been kept hush-hush for more than half a century, it can now finally be confirmed that Beanies were integral to the Manhattan Project. Sparky the Dalmatian was on hand in 1942, when Enrico Fermi produced the first self-sustained nuclear reaction in the squash courts underneath the University of Chicago’s football stadium, and so integral was a certain Beanie duck to the construction of The Bomb that when Robert J. Oppenheimer first beheld the power of the weapon on July 16, 1945, as it blossomed like a fiery mushroom on the New Mexico desert floor , he was heard to remark, “I am become Quackers, destroyer of worlds.” Later the OSS, fearful of an assassination attempt on the selfless Beanie, convinced historians to change the quote to refer to Shiva, an Indian deity who was neither a Beanie, nor present at Los Alamos.

Pinchers the Lobster painted the initial broad strokes of what would later (and erroneously) be labeled “The Marshall Plan.” While the world hovered on the brink of nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was Scoop the Pelican, whose own Key West home was in the cross hairs, who counseled strength tempered with caution. Garcia the Ty-Dye Bear was at Woodstock, tending to Abbie Hoffman’s wounds after Pete Townsend beat him up onstage. The world held its breath as Wrinkles endured the 444 days of captivity as an Iranian hostage. And today, Wise the Owl acts as informal adviser to Alan Greenspan, helping our nation achieve the longest continuous economic expansion in our history.

Through every major world event in the last 60 years, the Beanies have been there, providing their calm, wee little voices, guiding our Republic through the rocky shoals of history with a selflessness that, frankly, we as a nation have come to take for granted. What have the Beanie babies ever asked of us? One thing: To be loved (well, and occasionally to be traded to another owner for a ridiculously high markup). Never have so few been so cuddly and so wise for so many.

Some say we can’t afford to lose their wisdom. But I say, look around you. Our nation is prosperous. Happy. At peace with its neighbors. The Beanies have worked hard so that we can survive their departure from public life and their return to the sewers and storm grates from whence they came, 70 years ago. They’ve earned their rest. I, for one, intend to let them have it. God bless the Beanie Babies. A grateful nation thanks them.

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