Monthly Archives: April 2016

Creating Donald Trump

There has been much hand-wringing among conservatives about Donald Trump possibly getting the nomination. I’m a communications guy, a media watcher, so I probably tend to give media influence too much credit. However, it seems to me that FoxNews and conservative radio (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the mini-Limbaugh radio hosts inhabiting nearly every media market) deserve some credit. They didn’t create Donald Trump. But they did create his fan base. And much of Ted Cruz’s fan base, for that matter.

For 20 years, conservative media has been drilling in the same messages:

  • Government is bad.
  • Politicians can’t be trusted.
  • America is going downhill.
  • We need to take our country back.

Of the people I know who listen almost entirely to conservative media, most echo these same themes–government is bad, politicians are untrustworthy, America is collapsing, we need to retake our country. Since Donald Trump and Ted Cruz both vigorously proclaim these messages, is it any wonder that so many people are flocking around them?

FoxNews is coming to terms with Trump, but for a while seemed almost in panic mode. But I’d tell them, “Congratulations on your success. This is what you’ve been teaching people to believe for 20 years.”

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200 Black Lizards


I finished my 200th book in the “Black Lizard” imprint from Vintage Books. It was Dashiell Hammett’s “Nightmare Town,” a collection of short stories. It’s fitting, since the first Black Lizard book I read was Hammett’s “Red Harvest,” starring the semi-anonymous Continental Operative.

The Black Lizard imprint has gobs of great authors–mystery masters–going back to the early 1900s. I’ve now read all of Hammett’s books, all 9 Raymond Chandler books (starring the great Philip Marlowe), 9 Gregory McDonald books (the Fletch and Flynn series), 12 Ross MacDonald books (with Lew Archer), 15 Henning Mankell books (including the entire Kurt Wallander series), plus a number of books by old-time writers David Goodis, Jim Thompson, James Cain, Harry Whittington, Charles Willeford, Dan Marlowe, Patricia Highsmith, and Eric Ambler.

But Black Lizard also has many superb writers–like Don Winslow, Joe R. Lansdale (the Hap & Leonard series), Jeff Lindsey (Dexter), Joe Nesbo (Harry Hole), Steig Larsen (the Dragon Tattoo trilogy), Hakan Nesser, Andrew Vachss (Burke), and more.

I’ve got a shelf filled with Black Lizard books I haven’t read yet. Seldom am I disappointed, especially with the older masters.

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Meniere’s Shunt Surgery: Six Year Update

April 16, 2010, is when I had the endolymphatic shunt surgery for my Meniere’s disease, which had been tormenting me since around 2004.

Another year has gone by without an attack of any kind–no nystagmus, no vomiting. I definitely have my life back.

A couple weeks ago, I did have a very minor episode, which I can’t really explain. I woke up feeling a bit off, kind of like I used to feel constantly before the surgery. I felt like I was heading toward vomiting, with some minor dizziness and other symptoms. I endured it through the morning at work, but it wasn’t getting any better. So I headed home, fed the cats, and went to bed. That took care of it. No repeat.

Usually there’s a trigger–caffeine, sodium stress, alcohol. I don’t drink alcohol, and none of the others seemed like an issue. So I’m puzzled. However, it was minor, and it went away and hasn’t come back.

That’s the worst I experienced during the whole past year. For those of you who suffer from Meniere’s–you wish you could be so lucky.

As I say every year, I highly recommend the shunt surgery. It’s the least invasive remedy and has the highest success rate.

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While working out at Planet Fitness tonight, I listened to my “Story Songs” playlist. Mostly country, with the occasional pop hit. We’re talkin’ “Night Chicago Died,” “One Tin Soldier,” “Something in Red,” “Online,” “She Couldn’t Change Me,” “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Austin”–37 songs, total.

But the one that always gets me is “Arlington,” by Trace Adkins. Particularly that line where his grandfather, also buried at Arlington, greets him:

It gave me a chill,
When he clicked his heels,
And saluted me.

As I sat there at the weight machine, it gave ME a chill.

That’s what happens when great subject matter meets great writing.

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The Parker Series by Richard Stark

flashfireBetween 1963 and 1974, Donald Westlake wrote 16 “Parker” books under the pen name “Richard Stark.” If you saw the movie “Payback,” with Mel Gibson–well, that was basically the first book in the series. It’s really an incredibly fun series about a tough-guy thief. Each book involves a big heist of some kind.

After 23 years, Westlake resumed the series in 1997. He wrote 8 more Parker books before he died in 2008. Westlake had a little extra fun with these books. The titles of the first five were compound words, and each title used one word from the previous book: Comeback, Backflash, Flashfire, Firebreak, Breakout. I guess he tired of that after five books, and went back to titles with no particular pattern.

Something else he did in those latter 8 books: the opening lines all begin with “When.” I just finished “Flashfire,” which had the best opening:

“When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man.” (Flashfire)

Here are a couple other opening lines:

“When the car stopped rolling, Parker kicked out the rest of the windshield and crawled through onto the wrinkled hood, Glock first.” (Backflash)

“When he saw that the one called Harbin was wearing a wire, Parker said, ‘Deal me out a hand,’ and got to his feet.” (Nobody Runs Forever)

“When the helicopter swept northward and lifted out of sight over the top of the hill, Parker stepped away from the tree he’d waited beside and continued his climb.” (Ask the Parrot)

There are 24 books in the Parker series; I’ve now read 20 of them. I love these books, and can see myself reading them again.

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