Monday, September 20, 2010

'Nuff Said

The Knight Life
by Keith Knight

The Washing Machine

In late July, 13 months after the expiration of the warranty--and a month after the American Express extended warranty had expired--our Kenmore washer quit working. The error code on the LCD display translated as a water inlet problem, but nothing the manual suggested worked.

The repairman who came (in early August) diagnosed a broken pressure switch. With parts and labor, we were out nearly $300. Three cycles later, the machine stopped working again.

The same technician came Aug. 12. This time, he said two circuit boards were bad. He didn't have them, so he'd have to order them. With labor, we'd be out nearly $800.

Added to what we'd already spent on the first repair, the cost was starting to approach what we'd paid for the machine. And when you pay that much for a washer, you expect it to last a long, long time. Here's what happened after my wife wrote the president and CEO of Sears:

Sept. 10 -- Call from Sears Executive Offices. Woman offers to issue retroactive one-year extended warranty. She makes a Sept. 13 service appointment; assures us she'll call after repairman's visit.

Sept. 13 -- Repairman does not have parts required, knows nothing about extended warranty. Call woman from Executive Offices. No answer, leave voice mail. Call several times over next several days. No response.

Sept. 15 -- Call Executive Offices emergency response number. Woman who answers promises to e-mail original woman who called; promises response within 24 hours.

Sept. 16 -- Call Sears Home Services. Warranty is on file! Make appointment for Sept. 28.

Sept. 17 -- Call Sears Home Services: Will repairman have parts? Request parts be ordered.

Sept. 20 -- Call Sears Home Services. Have parts been ordered? Service order has note about parts. Will they guarantee repairman will have parts when he comes? Transferred to different department. Learn technician must order parts. Explain I have parts numbers. Ask what point to tech coming out again just to order parts? Put on hold. Woman comes back, says she's found a way to order the parts. Tearfully express my thanks.

Sept. 23 -- Parts arrive. One good thing about this--practicing my Spanish at laundromat.

Sept. 28 -- Repairman scheduled to come between noon and 4 p.m. Call Sears at 3:30 p.m. Advised repairman running late. Repairman calls at 4:16, advises he will call when on his way. Wife calls Sears at 7:30 p.m. Advised that repairman tried to call but received no answer. Check voice mail; no message.

Sept. 30 -- Still waiting to hear from Sears Executive Offices. Repairman arrives; replaces parts. Two hours after repairman leaves, attempt to run clean cycle as per his instructions. Washer reports F27 error code. Call Sears Home Services, advised repairman can come Friday or Monday. Call Executive Offices, leave message I'm renting pickup truck, loading washer, and leaving outside front door of Sears store in mall.

After this, I stopped taking detailed notes, but the woman from the Sears Executive Office who'd first called finally called back. At first, she said she'd replace the machine, then after she checked, she found out Sears' policy was to try one more time to repair it.

The service tech came on or about Oct. 1, and replaced the water pump. It worked for several cycles and quit again. Alas, however, we were not to get our new washer because the very first service call back in August didn't count on Sears' three-strikes policy.

The same tech came out Tuesday and made an emergency order for three new parts and a service appointment for Oct. 28. The parts came Friday and I called Sears Executive Offices and got the appointment date changed to Saturday.

I'm waiting for him as I write this. This time, they promise, we get a new machine if the repairs don't work.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Norman Rockwell's America

Over at his blog, Little by Little(hales), my long-time friend Bret Littlehales recently posted a paean to painter Norman Rockwell. Bret and I have known each other since high school and, in that time, he's compiled an enviable list of accomplishments. He's a formidable photographer and an accomplished blues harp player. (You can read about his recently released CD here.)

Bret's not too shabby a writer, either. I'd been to see the Rockwell exhibit at the Museum of American Art at about the same time he did, but reading his comments on Rockwell's technique, I realized how much I'd missed. Of course, I was with my 9-year-old, and before we went to see Rockwell's paintings he'd had to endure the exhibit of photographs by Allen Ginsberg at the National Gallery of Art.

I suppose I don't really have to tell you which exhibit my son liked best.

I agree with Bret that Rockwell's technique was extraordinary. Rockwell seems always to have done work for hire, however, and I've always wondered what he might have done had he invested that technique in some pure product of his heart. Interestingly, the work in the exhibit comes from the collections of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, two Hollywood craftsmen as concerned--as was Rockwell--with creating striking images as with keeping people coming back for more.

But that doesn't explain my growing sense of unease as I walked from painting to painting. I was halfway through the exhibit before I asked myself, "But where are the black people?" As it happened, I was in front of a magazine illustration from the '20s or '30s featuring two boys, one of them black. It was, I think, the only depiction of African-Americans in the show.

Of course, Rockwell began his career in 1913 (he was just 19!), a time when black Americans rarely appeared in popular art as anything other than caricatures. And it's true that he did include images of black men and women in his later work. One of his most famous, and most moving, paintings is of
6-year-old Ruby Bridges on her way to integrating a New Orleans elementary school. It's about as far from the coon stereotype hanging in the Museum of American Art as you can get.

Maybe it's just my growing sense of paranoia--justifable, I submit, given the latest assault by Newt Gingrich on President Obama or given nutcases like the one my friend Eileen Pollack interviewed for a piece about the militia movement. An IT professional, he's presumably smart enough to know better, yet he believes "President Obama is going to make an end run around the Second Amendment by requiring every bullet in America to be inscribed with a traceable serial number"--but I found it significant that the Rockwell exhibit was packed and that virtually all of the visitors were white.

I suspect many found Rockwell's paintings comforting. And how could they not, in the confusing, polyglot nation that is America in 2010? In contrast, Rockwell showed us an America as American as, well, apple pie. In his country of barefoot boys and
pig-tailed girls, honest, thick-fingered workingmen don't fear speaking their minds at town meetings, and tough, road-weary truckers are decent enough to be moved by a grandmother and her grandson saying grace in a diner.

It's hard not to be moved, too. And, in the end, if it's true Norman Rockwell didn't really show us as we truly are, it's also true that he showed us as we,
deep inside our secret hearts, want to be--a nation of values, a people of possibilities. A few good movies from the 1930s and '40s do something similar: The Best Years of Our Lives, say, and, less successfully, Since you Went Away. We could do worse than to remember and celebrate that, amidst the idiocy and the name-calling of this fractured, fractious political season.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Newspaper Stories

I was lucky enough to start work at a newspaper when messages were sent via a system of pneumatic tubes, there were still Linotype machines, and smoking was allowed. No one chewed tobacco--it wasn't that long ago!--so there no spittoons, but a few smokers eschewed the ashtrays to ground out butts on the floor.

When I told that to someone once, he said, "Now that's a real newsroom!"

I began as a copy-boy (actually, we were called copy-aides because so many were female, and all of us were over 18), working from 7 p.m. to 3 in the morning. Late at night, after the dayside editors and reporters had gone, and the composing room was sending plates for the final edition to the presses, some of the men who'd worked at the paper for years would tell stories.

The head nightside copy-aide, a man nicknamed
Noodle (for reasons I never learned), had lots of stories. One of the best one was about a summer intern who couldn't seem to do anything right. After reading his copy one afternoon, his editor stalked over and threw the pages on his typewriter.

"I don't know why they even bothered to hire you," the editor bellowed. "You'll never make a good reporter. You can't write. You can't spell. Look at this story. It's got holes big enough to drive a truck through. You don't know the first goddamn thing about going out and getting a story."

The editor stalked off, and the intern turned quaking to the old reporter whose desk sat beside his.

"Did you hear?," he stammered. "Did you hear what he said to me?"

And, the old reporter said, "You? I thought he was talking to me."

I've forgotten the name of the old reporter, but perhaps it was the same one who, sick of driving to College Park to cover Maryland football, decided to go to the bar across the street and watch the game on television. He might have gotten away with it too, except for not being able to go to the locker room to get quotes from the coach and players.

And perhaps he was the same sports reporter who took his editor's hat, stuffed it into a plastic capsule, and sent it to the composing room in the pneumatic tube system with a note reading (in its entirety) "HTK," newspaperese for head[line] to come.

I must have heard dozens of those stories over the 15 or so years I worked at the paper as copy boy, editor, and writer. Like baseball, journalism is full of characters, or used to be before editors and writers had to worry about seven-figure mortgages in Cleveland Park or Chevy Chase and private school tuition. And, while a newsroom on deadline is filled with furious concentration, after the paper's been put to bed, newsmen (women too) relaxed by telling stories as they had a few at the bar downstairs.

At least, they used to.

Sadly, Noodle died of cancer a few years ago and, at the memorial for him at the paper, I learned that while he was full of good stories, he was also the subject of a few.

The funniest didn't take place at the paper, though. It happened when two guys with guns walked into the house he shared near Du Pont Circle, years before the area's gentrification.

They made everybody sit in the living room while they gathered wallets and valuables. Noodle, being Noodle, was unable to resist making wisecracks. Finally, one of the gunmen said, "If you don't shut up, I'm going to shoot your friend."

To which Noodle, even then a budding editor, replied, "What makes you think he's my friend?"

And The Rain Came Down

About 3 a.m. on what would have been our third day camping on Assateague Island, I woke up to the sound of frozen peas hitting the tent's rain fly. Seconds later, thunder and a flash of lightning told me the twenty-somethings in the campsite next door weren't pelting us with vegetables because I'd gone over to ask them to be quiet so my son and I could sleep.

After 10 minutes or so, it quit raining, and I went out to find the friend I'd gone with taking his daughter to the bathroom. There was another scary flash of lightning before they came back, so I went to their tent, woke up his son, and told him we were going to the car.

The five of us woke up three or four hours later to gray skies, soaked clothing, and a drenched campsite. I hadn't known it was going to rain, so I hadn't even thought about putting away the stove or covering the food and supplies with a tarp.

Since the forecast called for a 100 percent chance of rain, it seemed like a good idea to forget about that last night of camping

Still, it was great till the rains came. The children had fun playing on the beach. We all went canoeing. And, as you can see from the picture, once again Assateague proved to be the only place where I can get a kite into the air.

If we go again next year, I'm bringing a tarp to cover everything that doesn't go in the tent.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heard on the Street. . .

My wife took the car to go to a picnic at a co-worker's house this morning, so my son and I caught the bus to the mall. He needed to buy a birthday present at the Lego store, and I thought I'd treat him to lunch and a movie.

Getting the bus turned out to be less hassle than I'd expected. WMATA, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, has GPS-equipped buses, so we were able to log on, find the time the bus was expected at our stop, then leave the house a few minutes before that.

The driver was a man in his 30s with near waist-length dreadlocks. Most of the people said hello to him when they got on, and thanks when they got off. The mall was at the end of the line, and when we got off, I overheard him tell a woman her hair looked nice. She told him thank you.

Seems like you must know most of these folks, I said to him.

See 'em every Saturday, the driver replied. These are my people.

Later, waiting to get popcorn at the movies, I heard an older woman ask a younger woman (her daughter?) if she was planning to go out tonight and what time she'd be back.

I don't know if I wanna go out with him tonight, she replied. Not if we're just gonna break up. I'd feel too sad.

So why not just spend the night with him at his place, the older woman said, and then break up in the morning?

Monday, July 19, 2010

So Many [Fill in the Blank]; So Little Time

Even if I only owned 600 CDs, 300 LPs, 100 DVDs and VHS tapes, and 100 cassette tapes), I suspect I'd still feel overwhelmed by my entertainment options.

But I've also got months of MP3 files on my computers for my five (working) MP3 players, Slacker and Pandora accounts, and several hours of movies purchased from iTunes, mostly to entertain my 9-year-old on long car trips.

Then there's Netflix.

For a while, the offer--watch as many movies as you want for $17 a month--seemed too good to be true, but I gave up my Blockbuster card once I did the math. I was getting about eight movies a month, which cost about the same as a Netflix subscription. And I didn't have to worry about surly clerks and driving to the store.

Things got even better when Netflix began to offer movies on demand. It took some experimenting, but after a while I was able to do it with an old laptop hooked up to the TV via the VHS player and a cobbled-together array of cables.

It was just enough of a hassle--dragging out the laptop, finding the cables, connecting them in the right order, waiting for the computer to boot, realizing it wasn't configured for dual displays, rebooting again--so that we mostly did it only when I'd forgotten to queue up a kid-friendly picture for Family Movie Night.

I suppose we could have just gotten a new DVD player or some other device that connected to the Internet, but we were too cheap. And then Netflix announced that it was offering streaming video on the Nintendo Wii. Suddenly, watching movies on-line became a lot easier.

So, here I am now with nearly 150 movies in my regular Netflix queue, about 82 in the Watch Instantly queue, and 23 (release date unknown) in the Saved queue.

I don't know how those numbers compare to other Netflix customers. I do know that, sometimes, contemplating my queue, I start to feel a little guilty. I really should organize it, deleting the movies I'll never watch (even though I know they'd be good for me), and arranging what's left so all the musicals, film noir, and Hollywood blockbusters aren't clumped together.

I might, one day, just like I might actually sit through Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Meanwhile, I'm thinking of a Qwest commercial from the days when the company's catchphrase was "ride the light." In it, a man checking into a seedy motel asks if there's any entertainment. The clerk tells him they've got "every movie ever made in every language, anytime, day or night."

I couldn't find the time now to watch just the ones in English, but maybe in 20 or 30 years, when I'm old. . . If I can still lift a remote.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Wheels (Part Two)

I didn't know it then, but while I was signing the credit card slip for my new Cannondale bike, I was coming down with bronchitis. And then, a few weeks later, when I was finally feeling better, I had minor surgery on my ankle. The result was that the new bike sat in the basement for about six weeks before the orthopedist gave me the okay to ride it.

The temperature's been in the 90s, but after it had cooled down Thursday evening, I went out with a friend. We rode to Reston and back on the W&OD Trail, about 13 miles. And yes, the bike was as comfortable and as much fun to ride as it was the first time I got on it.

Smart People (Part Two)

So, after I wrote about how more and more it's begun to seem to me that Americans mistrust intelligence, Judith Warner writes about the same thing here in the New York Times Magazine.

She begins by observing that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was probably downplaying her intelligence during her recent confirmation hearings because "[a]ny hint of an I’m-better-than-you sentiment, especially if that sense of superiority is based on intellect or fancy speech or having attended an Ivy League school, can go over very badly in America today, where 'elite' has gone from being a word of admiration to one of insult."

Given how prevalent this anti-intellectual bias seems, I'd been thinking that it wasn't a new phenomenon. I'm probably right. Warner goes on to quote from Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. (It won the Pulitzer in 1964.) This one sentence sent me to in search of the book: "[Intellect] is pitted against democracy, since intellect is felt to be a form of distinction that defies egalitarianism."

Warner also quotes Susan Jacoby, whose The Age of Unreason contains frightening examples of what Americans don't know.

According to a survey Jacoby cites, American 15-year-olds rank near the bottom in math literacy when compared to students in 28 other countries. Two thirds of us don't know the three branches that make up our government and an equal number can't name one Supreme Court Justice.

Now, just one more set of numbers,
these from a column by the Times' David Brooks: "In their book, The Narcissism Epidemic, Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell cite data to suggest that at least since the 1970s, we have suffered from national self-esteem inflation. . . . In 1950, thousands of teenagers were asked if they considered themselves an 'important person.' Twelve percent said yes. In the late 1980s, another few thousand were asked. This time, 80 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys said yes."

Friday, July 16, 2010

But the View was Great!

Somewhere on the hike (three miles? Five?) to Jump Rock, at Goshen Scout Reservation last month. I'd had minor ankle surgery a few weeks before, so I was surprised to be able to make it up and back. The view from Viewing Rock (about two-thirds of the way up) really was great, though.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Smart People

It took moving to Virginia three years ago for me start to think Americans aren't comfortable with intelligence. All the dads I met talked about their son's athletic gifts; none about how well they did in school. After a few weeks, I told my wife I thought most of them would rather have their sons grow up to be Alex Rodriguez than Bill Gates.

When I put this theory to one woman at an elementary school science competition recently, she thought for a moment before saying, "I guess there's nothing wrong with being smart. As long as you don't hold it over other people."

I suspect this discomfort with intelligence is the reason behind the criticism President Obama gets from columnists and commentators who deride him for his "arrogance" about being "the smartest guy in the room."

Of course, it comes from people who should know better. Like scholar Charles Murray, who famously said during the campaign that "the last thing we need are more pointy-headed intellectuals running the government."

The thing is, Alex Rodriguez's skills--like all athletic skills--were most useful eons ago. It used to be that the survival of the tribe depended on hunters with strong arms (good for throwing stones to bring down game) and strong legs (good for chasing food). Rodriguez
may be a joy to watch on the baseball field, but it's Bill Gates's insight, business savvy, and intelligence that count in our world.

On some level, I think most of us understand this. All the same, I'm not waiting for The Washington Post to announce that some kid with a 4.0 GPA and 1600 on the SATs has agreed to go to MIT, in the same way that the paper breathlessly covered the Wizards selecting John Wall in the recent NBA draft.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On E.B White

I've had a copy of Essays of E.B. White on my shelf for years, product of a foray into some secondhand bookstore or a gift (the price tag was clipped) from someone I don't remember. The other night, a week into a cold that turned into bronchitis and four days spent mostly in bed, I took it down.

Of course, I'd read Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little to my son. The Elements of Style, which White revised and edited from a book self-published by one of his college English teachers, has bee on my writing desk for years.
Yet, though I'd known White wrote for the New Yorker for some 60 years and was aware of his reputation as an essayist, somehow I'd managed never to read any of them.

It's enough to say that over the last few says I've been making up for lost time. The picture of White on the dustjacket shows a man with thinning white hair and a sparse mustache. Though he stands outside in the snow, he wears only a tweed jacket. He looks straight at the camera, honest, inquisitive, straightforward.

Which sums up his essays. They're leisurely paced without being boring, erudite, witty, and charming, entertaining without being frivolous. One of the strengths of his prose is its authority, something too many of today's writers confuse with snarkiness. White is never that, though from time to time, he allows himself a sentence like, "And if the surf hath lost its savor, wherewith shall we be surfeited?," on why he quit going to a certain Florida beach after the sand dunes were leveled.

I know nothing about how White actually wrote, whether he used pen, pencil, or typewriter. Something about the prose makes me think he used a typewriter, an old portable manual typewriter of the kind foreign correspondents used to carry in the movies. The prose has the thought-out rhythms of the pre-computer age, each word burnished and its place in the sentence ruminated upon before the fingers touched the keys to deliver the finality of black ink on white paper.

It's always dangerous to speculate about what writers were like, but White seems a decent man in his picture, an impression sustained by "Bedfellows," the essay I finished before bed last night. In it, White remembers Fred, a long-gone dachshund, and muses on two articles and a book by three Democratic politicians. "I take Democrats to bed with me for lack of a dachshund," he explains, "although as a matter of fact on occasions like this I am almost certain to be visited by the ghost of Fred, my dash-hound everlasting, dead these many years."

"Bedfellows" was written in 1956, but it could have been written yesterday. White skeptically reports Truman's complaints that the "Republican-controlled press" was hostile to his 1948 candidacy, lied about the facts, and refused to report on his campaign. He muses about Cold War "loyalty-security procedures," and he balefully contemplates a statement by then-president Eisenhower (there's also a Republican in the bed) that "most Americans are motivated . . . by religious faith" because of the implication that "religious faith is a condition . . . of the democratic life."

"This," White concludes, "is just wrong," continuing, "I distrust the slightest hint of a standard for political rectitude, knowing that it will open the way for persons in authority to set arbitrary standards of human behavior."

Like George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," this is one of those essays I'd like to send to certain persons in authority.

So Many Books. . .

For years I worked as an editor for the book section of a newspaper. . . back in the good old days when newspapers had book sections. There were many things to like about the job--the chance to meet and talk to famous writers; the camaraderie of spending the day with other people who thought books were important--but perhaps the best perk was getting to take home as many books as I wanted.

It was also the worst thing about working for the section. Years since committing my last crime against literature (i.e., writing my last book review), I find myself with hundreds--perhaps even thousands--of books I've never read. I'll probably never read most of them: So many books, so little time, as we used to say, contemplating the tens of thousands that arrived each year from publishers.

To make matters worse, I used to go to at least two or three used book sales a year, in addition to regularly frequenting any number of secondhand book stores. I don't go to many book sales anymore, finding it too disheartening to contemplate the volume of product by purveyors of assembly-line fiction--"writers" like Stephen King, David Baldacci, and James North Patterson.

There's something depressing about the stacks of BSOs (book-shaped objects), which everyone couldn't wait to get a few months before and then discovered there was no point keeping. There ought to be a law requiring a deposit when you buy BSOs; that way, there'd be incentive to return them to the store after you'd done using them.

Nowadays, I go to a book sale every other year. Last year, I tried the one run by the McLean chapter of the American Association of University Women. It was good enough to make me consider returning to my old habits, only this year with a shopping cart if I buy as many books and records as I did last year.

I'd also like a barcode reader, like the one I've seen people with at other sales. That way I could avoid getting copies of books I already have. For years, I could never remember whether I owned The Journals of Andre Gide, so whenever I ran across a set at a sale, I'd buy them. By the time I realized I was never going to read them, I owned three or four sets.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Wheels

So, after we got back from a five-day bicycle trip in Arizona, I promised myself I'd get a new bike to replace or supplement the bottom-of-the-line Trek 820 mountain bike I've been riding since last spring.

The Trek was supposed to be my wife's, one of the premiums she could choose from as a reward for working 10 years for the same company. But, she's already got two bikes--a really nice Jamis road bike she rides 20 or so miles to work, and a folding model she won in a contest--so she let me have the Trek.

I rode it almost every Sunday last summer with my son when we went out on an unpaved trail a few miles from our house. I even put a rack on it and used it to run errands to the grocery store and to get to and from the Metro.

The first quarter-mile or so on the street or paved trail was always torture. The Trek has a steel frame and fat mountain bike tires and it must weigh at least 35 pounds. Until I get going, I feel every pound!

Over the past two weeks, I visited six bike stores and rode different bikes made by Trek, Marin, Jamis, and Cannondale. I liked a Cannondale, though it was the wrong size. The Jamis was the right size, but didn't feel quite right. And while the Trek and Marin were adequate, each was missing something I couldn't quite articulate, though I could feel its absence.

I'd all but decided to go with the Jamis when I found a store that had a Cannondale Quick CX Ultra in the right size.

It was love at first ride.

The folks at the bike shop didn't have one they could sell me off the floor, but they're having one shipped from their other store, and installing a new handlebar stem, new grips, and a trip computer.

I'll take the subway to the bike shop when it's ready on Tuesday, then ride it home through Arlington and on the Custis and W&OD trails.

I can't wait.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring's Good News

A few weeks ago, the agent who'd been reading the revised version of my novel called. She'd read an earlier version of "The House of Eli" last year, made some suggestions, and over the succeeding months, I'd incorporated many of those suggestions--and some new ideas of my own.

We talked for about an hour before the conversation lagged. Holding my breath, I waited for her to say, "I think you've done an incredible job revising the book. Unfortunately, the market for fiction's terrible these days, and as much as I like your novel, I don't think I can sell it."

Instead, she said, "So, do you think you're finished?"

I told her yes. And then she said she'd like to represent me.

I was floating for days afterwards.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Denzel Washington and the Last Taboo

If ever there were a black actor who could be said to have crossed over to appeal to all audiences, it would be Denzel Washington.

According to the Internet Movie Database, he's made more than 50 pictures, with half-dozen or so in development. He's one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. His co-stars have included such luminaries as Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, and Julia Roberts.

In all his movies, though, I don't think I've ever seen one where Denzel Washington kissed a white woman.

In several pictures--Deja Vu, Out of Time, Training Day, Devil in a Blue Dress--Washington's had love interests, but they've always been women of ambiguous racial appearance, women like Paula Patton, Jennifer Beales, and Eva Mendes.

Worse, in the kinds of pictures (The Pelican Brief) where a white character would at some pivotal point bed his white female co-star, Washington's character just grins likeably and moves on.

It's enough to make you think of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple, the archetypes of the selfless, sexless black man and his white, female sidekick.

". . . there are at least three themes that are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned," Vladimir Nabokov once wrote, among them "a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren..."

Nabokov was talking about books, but he could as well have meant the movies.

Another Draft Finished. . .

I knew it'd been a while since I'd written here, but I didn't know it was this long. . .

It wasn't an oversight, however: It was deliberate. In September, I decided that, apart from letters, I wasn't going to write anything else while I worked on the revision of my novel. I finished last week, and took the manuscript to the post office this morning.

Last year ended with some good news. On Dec. 29,
my story, "A Few Good Men," which first appeared in Stress City: A Big Book of Fiction by 51 DC Guys, was published in Best African American Fiction 2010, from One World/Ballantine.

I haven't seen many reviews, but there was this mention in Library Journal. Here's hoping it's a harbinger of good things to come in 2010!