David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Category: Huffington Post Articles

Lance Rubin Author Photo

Lance Rubin on Harry Potter, the Stinky Cheese Man and How to Get Your Debut Novel Published

One of the fun things about being a Book Doctor is that we get to travel to cool places and meet cool people. If you haven’t been to San Antonio, do yourself a favor and go. It’s a beautiful city. The San Antonio Book Festival was really a blast: great authors, great craft stuff for Olive, our daughter, and most importantly, lots of readers. While we were there, we met Lance Rubin at the party they have for authors. He explained what his first book is about, and it’s great. We decided to pick his brain about writing, publishing, and how he got his first book deal. To read on the Huffington Post, click here.

 

The Book Doctors: How did you get started as a writer?

Lance Rubin: Since I was eight years old, I always thought I was going to be a professional actor. So the writing I did through most of my life was often in service of that. When I was younger, I wrote skits and short films with friends that we would perform. In college, I wrote and performed a one-man show. After college, I co-wrote and performed a sketch comedy show called The Lance and Ray Show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Then, several years ago, I was finding my acting career frustrating and unfulfilling right around the same time I read The Hunger Games. I really loved it, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll try to write a YA novel.” It wasn’t a fully rational decision, but I started writing, and I was having such a good time–feeling empowered and creatively fulfilled in new, exciting ways–that I kept at it. Even though I hadn’t written long-form fiction before, I think all the various writing I’d been doing my whole life completely informed this book.

TBD: What are some of your favorite books and why?
LR: Some favorites include:

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Such brilliant storytelling: magical situations always grounded in humanity; a complex story that weaves and intertwines through seven books; humor that comes from a place of love; and fully fleshed-out characters who truly care about each other. I could go on and on. Anyone who’s been resisting reading these is a fool.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Not only does Chabon spin the most delightful, acrobatic sentences, but he tells a completely engaging story of friendship, love, comic books, WWII, and superheroes.

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire by Deepak Chopra. This nonfiction is all about the power of coincidences and synchronicity. I try to read it every couple years because it makes life more fun; you start to find coincidences everywhere, like a code from the universe you have to solve.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. When I first read it as a kid, it made me aware of the way books can subvert narrative expectations and make you laugh out loud.

TBD: How did being a professional actor help and/or hinder you as a writer?
LR: As an actor, I was always trying to get inside the head of a character, figure out how that character thinks and responds to the world. When I started writing this book, with its first-person narrator, I realized there was a surprising amount of overlap, as I was essentially doing the same thing: figuring out how the main character (and all of the other characters, too) thinks and responds to the world. And it was even better because now I got to actually come up with what the characters say! That said, since I come from the world of acting and comedy, I’m often so focused on dialogue that the descriptive parts of my writing are severely lacking. But hey, that’s what rewriting is for!

TBD: The idea for your new book, Denton Little’s Deathdate, is so cool. How did you come up with it?
LR: I think about time a lot. I’m always taking inventory of my life in terms of dates. I’ll think things like, “What was going on in my life a year ago today? Two years ago today? Three?” And so on. And I’m usually able to remember. So one day I thought, “What if I could take inventory of my life in terms of a future date? Specifically, themost important date, the day I’m going to die?” I wondered how this would change the way I lived. Or if maybe it wouldn’t change a thing. And then I thought, “What ifeveryone knew the day they were going to die?” So then there was the idea: in a world where everyone knows their deathdate, the protagonist is going to die tomorrow. That was pretty much all I had for a few years. The rest came later.

TBD: How did you go about getting a book deal?
LR: I just Googled “book deal,” clicked on the first link that appeared, and signed up! Isn’t that how it works for everybody?

Apologies for that dumb joke. I did have a relatively charmed journey to a book deal, as my best friend since I was three, Zack Wagman, has worked in publishing for over a decade and is a brilliant editor, currently at Ecco. He was one of a handful of close people in my life who read the first draft of my book and gave feedback, and then was one of a duo of close people in my life (along with my wife, Katie Schorr) who gave feedback on the three or four subsequent drafts over the next year. Finally, once I had a draft that was in solid shape, Zack connected me to agent Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media, who responded to the book and signed me. (I know getting an agent is not supposed to be such a smooth process, so I understand if writers out there want to spit in my proverbial soup. I’ve faced a ton of rejection in my life, too, if that makes you feel better. See: abandoned acting career.) Mollie is terrific, and she guided me through one last big rewrite before submitting to various publishing houses. In November 2013, Denton was sold to Knopf Books for Young Readers.

TBD: What was it like working with your editor?
LR: Super. I feel so fortunate that I ended up working with Nancy Siscoe. She’s smart and kind and funny, and she loves all the same things about my book that I do. By the time she got my first book, it had already been rewritten a lot, so her changes were minor but really insightful as to things that would make the story clearer and more satisfying. My second book, which comes out in April 2016, was pretty much a mess when she got it. So I was truly relieved when I received her pages and pages of single-spaced notes and they all resonated with me. It was like, “Oh man, she has great ideas about how to make this less of a mess. Thank god.”

TBD: We’re intrigued by the musical you’re writing. What exactly is Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo!?
LR: Hey, thanks for asking! It’s a musical I co-wrote with Joe Iconis and Jason “SweetTooth” Williams about a veteran musical theater actress named Annie Golden (to be played by veteran musical theater actress Annie Golden, known to many as Norma on Orange is the New Black) who gets pulled into the world of bounty hunting and starts kicking ass in ways she never imagined she could. It’s a comedy highly inspired by exploitation movies of the 1970s and ’80s–both story-wise and musically–but it’s also about breaking out of the boxes society puts people into. It’s been an exciting project to work on. We’re hoping it will have its first production in the not-so-distant future.

TBD: Did you outline your book before you started writing? What kind of a routine do you have as a writer?
LR: Thus far in the two books I’ve written, I haven’t outlined before starting my first drafts. I generally have some broad ideas about where the story might go and a page or two of notes on characters and potential plot points, but then I just start writing and discover as I go. In the case of my second book, I got about 15,000 words in, realized I hated where the story was going, scrapped it, and started again. Outlining might have helped me avoid that, but it’s still the way I prefer to work.

As far as writing routine, I have several coffee shops and libraries that I bounce between. Last year, I worked almost exclusively at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn. Then it closed out of nowhere in December, which was quietly devastating. I now keep a rotation of several spots because I’m not gonna get hurt like that again.

When I’m working on a first draft, I’m always aiming for word count, which was something I took from Stephen King’s On Writing. With my first book, I tried to get 1,000 words a day. With my second, I aimed for 2,000 (and often only got to around 1,700).

I work way better in the morning, so it’s often an 8:30 am – 3 pm workday, give or take an hour (and sometimes I’m needed on Dad duty for my 1-year-old son, so that timing’s always subject to change).

I usually listen to music while I write, and the headphones going in is my indicator to myself: “Okay, stop dicking around on the internet. Time to work.”

TBD: I noticed your book has been translated into several languages. It was really fun for me when I saw my book in Russian and its different covers. What was it like seeing the book you wrote in a language you can’t read?
LR: That’s absolutely been one of the most surreal parts of the experience. Each cover has had its own wonderfully distinct take on the story, which has been so cool, but it’s the different-language part that is truly hard to wrap my head around. I heard an audiobook sample of the German edition last week, and I think my brain exploded. This story I plunked out on my laptop in random coffee shops has ended up in a recording booth in Germany, being read aloud by some talented German actor. That’s nuts.

TBD: We admire the fact that you publicly admit to loving the New York Knicks. How are you holding up during this very difficult time?
LR: Oh man, it’s been so rough. I mean, maybe there’s some historical joy in knowing I just lived through the Worst Knicks Season of All Time. No, there really isn’t. What a joke of a season. I miss Jeremy Lin.

TBD: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?
LR: Ha, I love the disclaimer at the beginning of that question. Here’s my two cents: whether you’re published or not, you need to start operating as if you’re a published writer. Make writing a part of your daily routine, as if it’s your job. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike; just sit down and do the work every day. If you don’t take yourself seriously in this way, then the universe won’t be able to, either.

Lance Rubin is a New Jersey native who has worked as an actor and written sketch comedy, including successful runs of The Lance and Ray Show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. He’s also co-writing a new musical called Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo! and loves Pixar, the Knicks, and Back to the Future. Lance lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. His debut novel, Denton Little’s Deathdate, is out now from Knopf Books for Young Readers, to be followed by a second Denton book in 2016. Learn more at lancerubin.com and follow him on Twitter @lancerubinparty.

The Book Doctors Ask Pitchapalooza Winner Paula Fertig: How Did You Get a 2-Book Deal for Your Debut Novel?

The Book Doctors first met Judith Fertig when she won our Kansas City Pitchapalooza (think American Idol for Books). She was commanding without being overbearing, powerful but warm, a total pro. And her pitch was really good. When we consulted with her, one of the things we did was help her figure out what genre her book fit in. It’s rather shocking how many of our clients don’t know exactly where their book wants to sit on the bookshelf. One we helped her get that sorted out, she got a great agent, who helped her edit her book, then got her a two-book deal with Penguin. And since we’re doing an Online Pitchapalooza with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) right now, we’d thought we’d pick her brain to see how she did it. (To read on Huffington Post click here.)
Untitled-3 JudithFertig copy
The Book Doctors: So, how did you get started in the book business?

Judith Fertig: Like most English majors, I wrote an early novel, unpublished, that remains in the proverbial desk drawer. When I was living and working in London, England, I realized that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I wanted to write a Midwestern cookbook when I got back home. It took a few years, and a couple of restaurant recipe “starter” cookbooks, but then I wrote Pure Prairie in 1995. After that, I wrote Prairie Home Cooking in 1999, which was nominated for the James Beard Award, became a bestseller, and earned me the title of “heartland cookbook icon” conferred by Saveur Magazine.

TBD: Who are some of your inspirations?

JF: I love cookbooks that tell a story. I still miss the late Laurie Colwin, a novelist who also wrote a column for the equally late Gourmet, which turned into two cookbooks, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. I am an avid mystery reader, especially those with depth from Louise Penny and Jacqueline Winspear.

TBD: How did you come up with the idea for The Cake Therapist?

JF: I started out with Neely, a young pastry chef whose New York life is melting down like buttercream frosting on a hot day. She goes back to her Midwestern hometown and opens the bakery she’s been dreaming about. And then I had a vision of Neely opening the door of her bakery after working all day and unleashing that bakery air into the cold. In my mind, the bakery air refracted into a baker’s rainbow that only she can see and taste: pomegranate red, orange, lemon yellow, pistachio green, blueberry, indigo plum, violet blackberry, spice and vanilla.

TBD: How was it making the transition from non-fiction to a novel?

JF: Very interesting. I had to learn to write in scenes rather than in recipes with headnotes and sidebars. I had to develop an ear for believable and interesting dialogue. I had to learn how to go back and forth in time,  to put the flashback chapters in chronological order rather than in theme order, which was too confusing for the reader. Non-fiction also requires more planning–you make an appointment to interview someone or buy groceries to test a recipe. With fiction, I learned it was just as important to allow for the unplanned, the plot twist that was just waiting if you gave yourself enough time to lose yourself in the writing. I was also working on a cookbook (Bake Happy, Running Press, May 2015) sort of at the same time as The Cake Therapist. So I would get an idea for a flavor pairing or wonder if strawberries with rosewater really tasted like a summer’s day, then go into the kitchen and test it out in cakes, cookies, tarts, etc.. My taste-tester friends and family were very happy there for a while.

TBD: How did you get your book deal?

JF: It all happened much faster than I thought. I won a 1-minute Pitchapalooza contest when The Book Doctors  in Kansas City in spring 2012. After my winner’s conference with her, I knew my book was not a mystery as I had thought, but commercial women’s fiction. After my manuscript went through my writers group, right before Thanksgiving in 2013, I sent pitch letters (with a great cake photo) to agents who I thought might like my work. A friend had recommended I read Beatriz Williams’ One Hundred Summers because her plot goes back and forth in time like mine does. And I loved that book. Her agent liked my pitch and hooked me up with Stefanie Lieberman at Janklow & Nesbit. Stefanie sent the manuscript out to readers and I worked on the tweaks to the manuscript over the December holidays. She sent it out in early January, and we had a pre-empt offer for two books from Kate Seaver shortly afterward.  The second book in the series, The Memory of Lemon, will be out in 2016.

TBD: What was it like working with your editor?

JF: Kate Seaver at Berkley (Penguin Random House) was very enthusiastic from the start. She went over and over the book, guiding me to tweak scenes, lose the prologue, amp up a character. I think writers have to be open to some change, and she was very skillful at helping me get to the heart of the main character and the story.  This past November, I was able to go to New York and meet Kate, the Berkley/Penguin team, and Stefanie; I highly recommend doing that. It’s so much better to work with people when you can put a name with a face.

TBD: What do you plan to do to promote and market the book?

JF: Because I want this to become a very successful series, I’m really stepping up my efforts on the first book. Berkley/Penguin already has a strong marketing and public relations presence, but I also know that “who you know” and persistence can also make a difference. That led me to hire additional PR and marketing assistance from Tandem Literary, who will work closely with Berkley/Penguin. I’ve made, decorated, and sent boxes and boxes of “cake therapy” cupcakes to possible blurb writers as well as book reviewers at major magazines. You always learn something unexpectedly new with every book and I’ve learned how to overnight cupcakes successfully (a 6-pack clear plastic cupcake container, frozen cupcakes, and a snug box).  I’ve finally gotten my web site going, www.judithfertig.com. In the past few weeks, I’ve been doing more social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook. And planning the first event at my local independent bookstore, Rainy Day Books. That’s the first stop on the author tour. I will be blogging and guest blogging. As much as possible, I will also bring little treats to events so readers can “taste” what The Cake Therapist is all about.

TBD: How did having an expertise in cake help you write your novel?

JF: I grew up in Cincinnati, a great mom-and-pop bakery town. All of our family’s special occasion cakes, fantasies of frosting, came from The Wyoming Pastry Shop. For me, cake symbolized something good happening; its elusive flavor made me want to figure out how to make it myself. I’ve spent my cookbook career starting with an idea for a main dish or a dessert and then figuring out how to get there. It was the same process for the novel–minus the mess in the kitchen!

TBD:  You are working within two niches: food & woman’s fiction. What are some of the challenges and advantages to this?

JF: The Cake Therapist turned out to be women’s commercial fiction, although I thought it was going to be a mystery. That was one of the surprises along the way. But there is a mystery within the novel, like a secret filling. I started out writing cookbooks that had a storytelling quality and now I’m writing fiction that has recipe elements. The challenge for me was getting the plot going, but I went to the Iowa Summer Writers Workshop and had a basic plot by the end of the session. The advantage for me from a non-fiction background is that I think in a multi-sensory way and try to get this on the page so readers can see, hear (with sort of a playlist), touch, smell, and especially taste their way through The Cake Therapist.

TBD: What advice do you have for writers?

JF: Adjust your book as you go along. You may start writing and a new character can appear or a plot twist present itself or something equally surprising can occur when you’re into it. AND join a good writers group. Feedback is so important.

Novelist and cookbook author Judith Fertig, who was described by Saveur Magazine as a “heartland cookbook icon,” debuts a new novel, The Cake Therapist (Berkley/Penguin, 2015).  Bake Happy (Running Press, 2015), a also comes out this year.  Her other books include In Heartland:  The Cookbook (Andrews McMeel, 2011) and Prairie Home Cooking (Harvard Common Press, 2000), which was nominated for James Beard and IACP cookbook awards.  Fertig’s food and lifestyle writing has appeared in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Better Homes & Gardens, Saveur, Country Homes and Interiors (London), The New York Times, and The London Sunday Times. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, The Kansas City Barbeque Society, The Kansas City Novel Group, and IACP.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

David Henry Sterry on Huffington Post: iO Tillet Wright’s TED Talk: Equality, & How Gay Are You?

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

To see on Huffington Post click here.

10 years ago I wrote a book called Chicken about when I was a 17-year-old prostitute/rent boy/escort/industrial sex technician.  I was lucky enough to get a big splashy deal with a big splashy publisher who sent me on a big splashy tour.  I was under the mistaken impression that people would ask me about my book, about what it was like sexually servicing middle-aged women for money, about the writing I worked so hard on.  To my surprise, most readers, writers, bloggers and journalists wanted to know if I was gay or straight.  And exactly how gay or how straight. After careful consideration, I concluded I was 10% gay, 20% lesbian, and 70% heterosexual.  But I always emphasize that those numbers are fluid.  When I walk into a throbbing gay bar, I immediately find myself flirting and being flirted, feeling about 70% gay.  When I go to a lesbian activist gathering (my mom was gay for about 2/3 of my life) I find myself listening and sharing and sharing and listening, feeling about 70% lesbian.  When I’m playing with my chock-full of breeders softball team, I feel about 110% heterosexual.

So it was with great fascination that I watched iO Tillet Wright’s  TED talk: 50 Shades of Gay.  Her story about the fluidity of her sexuality spoke to me in a very personal way.  As I said earlier, my mom was gay.  In her late thirties she transformed herself from an immigrant homemaker mother of four into a bra-burning consciousness-raising sandal-wearing Gertrude-Stein-haired lesbian.  People are always asking me how my mother “turned” gay.  Like she’d taken a pill, or eaten too many tofu, or read too many Simone de Beauvoir books.  I can’t seem to get people to understand that she fell in love with a woman.  That’s all it took to “turn” her gay.  The woman she fell in love with was a much better listener, communicator, friend, partner, and lover than my father ever was.  I was 16 at the time my mother came out, and she seemed so much happier than when she was married to my cold, withholding, unfaithful father.  So I was happy for her.  She raised me to have an open mind about these things, and not judge people by the color of their skin, or who they loved, or what they worshiped.  She raised me to judge them by their words and their actions.  And her new partner was kind and smart and wise and compassionate in her words and actions.

As I listened to iO Tillet Wright’s talk, and watched all those beautiful pictures of Americans on the LGTB spectrum: black, white, brown, tall, short, stout, skinny, shy and wild, I thought about my mom.  She and her partner moved to a small rural town in Oregon, where she had a neighbor who absolutely hated them.  Not because they were too loud, too messy, too nosy, or in any way bad neighbors.  He loathed them with biblical fury because they loved each other.  And they were women.  He threatened, taunted, intimidated, bullied and made their life a living hell.  My mom tried to give this bigot love, tried to reason with him, tried to show him what a great neighbor she was.  All to no avail.  He just kept hating and hating and hating.  I was ready to go over with a baseball bat and beat the hate out of this ugly pustule.  My mom, the lesbian, talked me out of it.  Eventually my mom and her partner had to leave their bucolic paradise and move to lesbian-friendly Portland.

Watching iO Tillet Wright’s TED talk I was struck by the statistic that a citizen of the United States can be legally discriminated against because of who they love in 29 states.  That’s downright un-American.

I am a man of action.  So that made me start thinking about what is to be done.  And made me admire how iO Tillet Wright is a tomboy of action.  I just love how she took this idea of egregious gender inequality and did something about it.  Just a small local action.  With a camera.  And I love how it spread into a grassroots movement.  It gives me faith in human beings.  Faith in America.

So, as a 10% gay, 20% lesbian, 70% heterosexual man, I rejoiced in seeing all the beautifully diverse LGBTish Americans, and hearing iO Tillet Wright’s message about making this country a place where equality reigns everywhere for everyone.  It made me think about why America was formed in the first place.  Wasn’t it so everybody could worship their own God?  Pursue life, liberty and happiness to their heart’s content, so long as they didn’t hurt anybody?  So why can’t we make America a place where citizens are allowed to love who they want to love?  Isn’t that beautiful idea of what America can be?

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His first memoir Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages.  His book Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Michael Caine, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

 

How to Fix the Economic Meltdown & Stop Terrorism: Legalize Heroin and Whores

“Prohibition will work great injury… for it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

If you don’t know who said that, I promise I’ll tell you later.

Selling sex for money is a multi-billion-dollar business. Apparently tens of millions of people want sex so bad they pay through the nose for it. And in that shadowy, shady, underworld, there are many different kinds of economic transactions. At one extreme are coercion, victimization, and exploitation. At the other are consent, empowerment and economic independence. I personally know many people from either extreme of this Bell curve. But both these exchanges are called prostitution. To say these exchanges are the same things is like saying that working at Bloomingdale’s and being forced against your will to work 20 hours a day in a sweatshop are the same thing.

Many people claim that if you make sex for money legal, it will be easier for predators who exploit adults and children alike. Of course, just the opposite is true. We know what happens during Prohibition. Gangsters control the means of production. Al Capone, quintessential American criminal/pop icon, was created by Prohibition. Just as the American Pimp has become the new superstar gangsta, and slithered his way into our culture. Pimp my Ride. Pimp my Crib. Pimp my Wife. It is much easier for predators to hide in an illegal industry. And when you make criminals out of industrial sex technicians, which is what I call people who work of their own free will in the sex business, they have no recourse when things go bad. And things go bad alot in this business. So people all over the Bell curve get raped, robbed, and beaten. Not only by clients. By law enforcement. When one of the recent whores serial killers was caught, he said he killed whores because it was easy, and he knew no one would miss them.

If you take all the money spent on the war on whores, on true industrial sex technicians, and focused it on actually tracking down traffickers and predators, you could take the bastards down. You can find these people if you want to. But there are great economic forces at work in America, and throughout the world, that want desperately to keep things the way they are. Because there’s so much money involved.

But the bottom line, economically, is that there is a big beautiful sexy cash cow to be milked here. With a reasonable rate of taxation, people who choose to work in the business could make a very good living wage, get health insurance, and even have a retirement plan, if that’s what they choose. It’s all about choice. Everyone should have the choice to do what they like as long as they pay their bills and don’t hurt anyone. Isn’t that the whole idea behind America? And with some of that money, we could help people who want to leave the sex business get the skills necessary to transition. Apply the rest of this cash flow to paying teachers a decent wage, making sure no one goes hungry or homeless. Arts and sports in the schools. Music classes for every kid in America! What a revolutionary idea.

As for heroin, since you’re a basketball player, I’ll put it in your vernacular. It’s a slam dunk. In <em>USA Today</em> recently, right on the front page, in very small words, it said that the Taliban is making its money from buying and selling heroin. If you make it legal, like tobacco and alcohol, and package it nicely, you take away the Taliban’s cash flow. And again, you get to control this huge beautiful dopey goose that keeps laying big golden eggs. And why stop at heroin? Consider the hundreds of millions generated by the wacky weed industry. The trade in opium has been brisk for centuries. Hashish. Ecstasy. Speed. ‘Shrooms. Cocaine. Acid. Imagine the fun Madison Avenue would have. Orange Sunshine, the LSD with Vitamin C. Willy Weed, the only dope Willie Nelson smokes. Harry Potter’s Magic Mushrooms.

It’s not drugs that are the problem. Humans have used hallucinogens, intoxicants and in inebriates for as long as anyone cares to remember. Even when they’ve imbibed so much they can’t actually remember. It’s people’s behavior that’s the problem. Every time I’ve been in a room with people shooting up, they just lay there with silly grins on their faces, and their heads nod up and down like bobble head dolls. It’s when they run out of the drugs that the problems begin. If heroin was legal, like cigarettes and alcohol, addicts wouldn’t need to rob and pillage. Cigarettes and alcohol kill a lot more people than marijuana and heroin. But we say, go ahead, smoke and drink all you want, booze it up until you’re dead, if that’s your pleasure. We make money from taxing these products. We control the means of production and distribution. Again, isn’t that what America is all about? That we can do what we want as long as we mind your own p’s and q’s?

Take the money we spend on the war on drugs, and actually go after the Taliban, as well as gangsters in South America and Asia (many of whom are financed by the drug trade) after their money source has been cut off. Instead of declaring war under false pretense and trying to set up our own militia government so we can make millions for military contractors and their cronies, while ensuring that we are more hated every day.

There it is. Economic turbo-boost, predators and traffickers hunted down, Taliban and international gangsters crippled. All with the blessing of Abraham Lincoln. That’s who gave that great shout out about prohibition.

Goldman Sachs Resort & Casino

18-things-waste-moneyGoldman Sachs is proud to announce a consumer-enriching expansion from the hallowed halls of Wall Street to the glittering neon of Las Vegas.  In addition to continuing our world-class wealth-friendly Private Wealth Management and Personal Banking services; our internationally-recognized client-focused Global Investment Research services; our award-winning, growth-facilitating Debt Financing teams, we are excited to unveil plans for the globally diversified, entertainment-enhanced Goldman Sachs Lounge & Casino, perfect for both the high roller, and the high-net-worth individual, financial institution, corporation and/or government.  Located just off Flamingo Ave. between Treasure Island and Circus Circus, GSL&C will continue our tradition of offering the finest in connectivity-based consumer value.  From Texas Hold ‘em Hedge Fund tables, to Equity Capital Craps games, to Subprime Mortgage Default Roulette wheels, to Junk Bond Bingo, Goldman Sachs plans to bring the visionary, innovative and family-friendly fun it made famous on Wall Street, and transplant it right into the heart of Las Vegas.  We’re also delighted to provide both original and recapitalized entertainment-rich packages, including but not limited to, a Ronald Reagan impersonator, who, backed by the dancing Reaganettes, will star in a multimedia review developed by Sirs Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber, with Wayne Newton, called DEREGULATION!  World renowned Cirque du Soleil have developed a special show just for us, entitled, Money CAN Buy You Love, which will feature profitability-saturated costumes that are just that side of revealing, just this side of risqué, and made of real FDIC-backed gold bullion.  And for all you Baby Boomers we’ll have a Pink Floyd tribute band that plays an extended jam version of their mega-hit song, Money, with an infrastructure-rocking, liquidity-inducing light show that’ll have you tripping the light fantastic!  For the AARP crowd, we got a Henny Youngman look-alike with a comedy-maximizing catchphrase that’s sure to gain valuable traction all over America, “Take my money, PLEASE!”  Don’t think we forgot the kids!  While you’re having as much fun as an adult can legally have in the state of Nevada, drop them off at the Elephants, Bulls and Bears room.  Boys can play Matador, goring and killing our very own papier-mâché headed mascot Bully.  Girls can have a teddy bear’s picnic, while they learn how to bag an Elephant, (a large institutional investor), thereby attaining a strategic advantage in manipulating security prices.  We’ll also be featuring a Research Room, “manned” by a bevy of bodacious, brainy beauties, who are fully “equipped” to give you insider tips about which games best suit your skills, value and long-term fiduciary goals.  And don’t worry if you’re a little cash flow-shy, we’ve got our own credit rating agency, headed by Harvard Business School alumnus and former Miss Las Vegas, Penelope “Penny Stock” Bernstein.  Plus we’ll offer a super, synthetic collateralized debt obligation system that lets you get cash fast fast fast.  So be sure when you’re packing your little black dress, to throw in your pink slips to all your vehicles, the deed(s) to your house(s), as well as your bathing suit, so you can take a break from all the madcap fun, and swim in our blood diamond encrusted, $-shaped Olympic size pool  And don’t forget to visit the Bailout Lottery Lounge, where you can buy a ticket that gives you a better than average* chance of winning a nice hunk of that Obama bailout money you’ve been hearing so much about.  You’ll even find a Big Short Blackjack table, where customers can actually bet against themselves, and the dealer.  Because at Goldman Sachs Lounge & Casino, everyone’s a winner!*

*Based on current, former, and future unforeseeable variables, and due to fluctuations including, but not limited to, current market values, anticipated added profitability, or unanticipated market downturn, this claim is completely nonbinding in this or any other universe, in perpetuity

The Making of an American Hero: Donovan’s Transformation From Landycakes to Landon the Man

world_cup_0623_01Landycakes. That used to be Landon Donovan’s nickname. As often as he was acknowledged as one of the most talented soccer players America has ever produced, historically he was also perceived as being soft, petulant, churlish, a bit of a puff pastry. He was criticized for wilting when the spotlight got hot, shining only during insignificant games, disappearing when his country most needed him to be all that he could be.

Europe came calling, as it does when soccer talent rears its head. So Landon Donovan went to Germany, where soccer is a religion, played with a rare combination of technical brilliance and cutthroat Hunnish brutality. He struggled mightily, never able to fully display that he had the game, but perhaps more significantly, the balls to compete against the big boys. Sure, the pundits posited, Landycakes can shine in the minor-league caliber MLS, but he doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the real world of big boy soccer.

Then came David Beckham. This international mega-uber-superstar brought his traveling circus to Hollywood, and joined Donovan’s team, the LA Galaxy. Yes, Beckham is in the twilight of his career, but he is still one of the greatest benders of the ball in the known galaxy, and of course he brings his celebrity cachet and the star power of his anorexicish, ex-pop singer wife in tow. From the beginning, according to all sources, there was friction and tension.

According to Donovan, Beckham didn’t take his new job with the LA Galaxy very seriously. Becks was a terrible teammate, and not much of a man. Instead of kissing the hem of the garment of the English superstar, Landon Donovan stood up in front of the world and told his truth. It became international news, shots heard round the world. In fact, it created such a furor, a book was written about it, and there’s rumors of a Lifetime movie in the works. Eventually, a truce was hashed out, and everyone agreed to play nice. But people started looking at Landon Donovan differently. He had become, by standing up for himself and his teammates, a leader of men. Then Landon Donovan received an invitation from English club Everton to play a guest starring role for a month in the stretch run of the English Premier League, one of the very best in the world, studded with international superstars.

Landon Donovan didn’t just play well — he was brilliant. In fact, he was voted the player of the month for Everton, and became a huge fan favorite. It was quite remarkable to listen to the freakishly English crowd break out into chants of, “U-S-A!” when Donovan would rampage. That brief month spent running roughshod over some of the best teams in the world seemed to prove to the international soccer community, and perhaps to Landon Donovan himself, that he had the skills, the flare, and yes, the testicles to compete against the best and the brightest.

Then came South Africa 2010. After a tentative, Landycake-ish performance against the English, the US found itself in dire trouble, down 2-0 to the aggressively Eastern European Slovenian team, in danger of getting bumrushed on the biggest stage there is in the world of sports. This is when Landon Donovan took the game by the scruff of the neck, and hoisted America up onto his suddenly Superman-sized shoulders. He came steaming in from the right flank with the ball at his feet and took it right to the hole. When no one stopped him, from a sublimely ridiculous angle, he fired a cannon shot so hard over the hapless Slovenian keeper’s head, that it singed the poor fellow’s scalp. The ball thundered into the roof of the net, a majestic, monumental, world-class and game-changing goal.

That was the beginning of the beginning for Team USA. America came storming back, and except for the dastardly call by the evil Coulibaly of Mali, they would’ve won handily. But of course they didn’t win handily. And they still needed a victory over Algeria, who suddenly looked every bit a quick, tricky, skillful destroyer of dreams. Sure enough, after yet another travesty of a referee’s decision, denying the US a much-deserved goal, all seemed lost. Seconds sped by with shocking speed. Suddenly, 90 minutes was gone. Four minutes of extra time were now whipping past faster than humanly possible. American fans were gagging on the foul fetid breath of failure belching into their faces.

Then suddenly the ball was in the hands of a player, at this World Cup, who has grabbed the mantle of Best Goalkeeper in the galaxy, Tim “T-Ho” Howard. And there was Landon Donovan sprinting for all he was worth up the right side of the field. T-Ho threw a 60 yard bullet that would’ve made Tom Brady proud, hitting Landon in perfect stride. And there it was, 3-on-1, with Donovan pulling the playmaker strings. He drew the defensive in, laid off a sweet simple ball to Pussycat Altidore, who slotted the ball in front of the goal, where Clint Eastwood Dempsey whacked it as hard as he could. And then the soccer gods beamed down their love upon Landon Donovan, and they rewarded him for all his hard work and suffering. The ball landed like a gift sliding down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

Instead of panicking, disappearing, or choking, Landon Donovan stepped up and made history. He snatched sweet victory from the hoary clutches of defeat, as Americans from Wall Street to Alaska, Hollywood to Bangor, Miami to Minnesota, erupted in full throated roar: “Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!!!” And thus Donovan became Landon the Man.

Amital Etzioni: Why Are You Saying Such Nasty Things About Whores?

hos hookers cover-500 HosHookersShame on you, Amital Etzioni, for the antiquated, insulting and frankly dangerous ideas you trot out like dead horses to flog in your recent essay on the review of the anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys. Yes, of course, some people are enslaved in the world of sex-4-$. Just as they are in many industries, such as the garment and diamond businesses. These traffickers of human flesh should be hunted down like the filthy vermin they are, and thrown into a dark hole where the sun never shines. Yes, we all know this. But many prostitutes, or industrial sex technicians as I like to call them, actually choose to enter the sex-4-$ world as adults who carefully consider their economic options, and have decided it makes more sense to earn $250 smoking cigarettes, drinking and getting head (a scenario you reference in his essay), than earning $8 an hour getting their souls sucked out at McDonald’s. Comparing a victim being forced to have sex for money with a high-end industrial sex technician is like saying slaving in a sweatshop is the same as working at Neiman Marcus.

You wrote that HHCG&RB, “has little to say about the role of money in personal, intimate relationships.” Did you actually read this book? Because if you didn’t, then you have no business talking about it. And if you did, you’re intellectually blind not to see that this book is absolutely packed with stories about the role money plays in personal, intimate relationships. Case in point: Juliana Piccolo’s haunting, melancholy piece, “Vice.” It’s about when she was a 17-year-old massage parlor sex technician, and had a relationship with an off-duty cop client. He falls in love with her. She craves his fatherly attention, even as he makes her skin crawl. The last time she sees him he offers her $100 for a kiss. She doesn’t kiss clients. He holds out the money. She kisses him. The moment is devastating. It is a deeply personal, intimate relationship, and it illustrates the subtle, scary and very real way the line between the need for love and the need for money blur.

And in what post-Puritanical, Victorianically-repressed world does an open, honest discussion of sex and money, “embarrass a bunch of frat boys”? I guess it’s been a while since you’ve spent any time with frat boys. It’s very difficult to embarrass them. Given the fact that there’s a good chance they’re doing Jell-O shots out of the stripper’s vagina. In your opening salvo, you call this book “sensationalistic”. If you had taken the time to carefully read HHCG&RB, you would’ve seen that it is in fact a piece of American oral history that gives voice to a population that is woefully underrepresented and misunderstood.

Finally, one of the biggest peeves I keep as a pet is when people who have never turned a trick in their lives, who have no idea what sex-4-$ is like, try to tell us about it. What do you know about the “facts” of the world of sex? When was the last time you sat around chewing the fat with people who actually inhabit that world? I have a news flash for you: people who exchange sex for money are not illiterate, pimped, diseased, drug addicted, career criminals. And it is grotesque, condescending, and ignorant to imply, as you do, that they are. I know because I was one. An industrial sex technician. No one forced me. My employment counselor/pimp did not take most of my money. Of course he got his taste, just like my current literary agent does. I was not on drugs during my time in the Life. In fact, at the high-end agency I worked for, if you were caught taking drugs, you were fired. I have no diseases. The only time I was a criminal was when the Prohibition era laws of America turned me into one while I was making money at the oldest profession in the world. I edited the above mentioned anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys. I put together this book as an attempt to tear down harmful myths about sex work and sex workers — myths which you sir, seek to perpetuate. But just to show you there’s no hard feelings, next time you’re in New York, call me and I’ll hook you up with my friend Naughty Michelle. She’ll open all your eyes. And it’ll only cost you $300.

The Whore Wars

HosHookersjohns marks cover croppedIt took me a quarter of a century to transition from teenage rent boy to best-selling author, but soon after I did, I was invited into the office of the prominent book agent. “David,” he said as he leaned back in his air ergonomic Aeron chair, “whatever you do, don’t get stuck in the sex ghetto.” So I left the sex ghetto, and wrote several books on very straight subjects. On five of those books, the publishers would not allow me to use my real name, because I have the stink of fornication upon me. But the sex ghetto kept singing her siren-sweet song to me. So I plunged back in and co-edited an anthology in which the contributors have one thing in common: they worked in the sex business. Absolutely no one wanted to buy this book–agents, major publishing houses, smaller publishing houses, university presses, even the tiny presses that publish exactly this kind of book. Finally after two years, and dozens of rejections, we landed at a small but well-respected independent publisher. In the end, after we paid all the contributors, we lost money putting together this book. The publishers only printed 2500 copies. Dan Brown has sold that many books since you started reading this piece. But somehow this little book that nobody wanted has put me at the epicenter of the Whore Wars, a fierce and ugly battle that has been raging for years in the sex ghetto.

In the world of sex for money, there are two armies. The decriminalizationist, largely liberal lefty, “sex positive,” it’s-all-good camp. Many are turning tricks to finance their master’s degrees; others are dominatrixes who are equally at home deconstructing the Marquis de Sade and flicking a cat-o-nine tales; lots of very organized loud lesbian activists. Even though they’re always telling you how empowering it is to be a sexual healer, most are either retired, or looking for a lucrative exit strategy because when you retire from the sex business, there’s no golden parachute. They argue that prohibition makes criminals out of hard-working Americans who are just trying to make sure baby has new shoes. Across the road is the abolitionist, mostly conservative, Christian-tinged, prostitution-is-slavery, everyone-is-trafficked, it’s-all-bad camp. They are mostly academics who wear dowdy clothes and look like they haven’t had sex in years; quasi-neo-feminists who claim to speak for the downtrodden victims of commercial exploitation from the lap of luxury; and not-for-profit activists who overcame brutal beatings on the mean streets as junky hos. They will trot out statistics that prove everyone in the sex for money world was sexually abused as a child, and that everyone who trades their body for cash is brutalized by charming but subhuman pimps, traded by smugglers of human flesh. Except for the reformed junky hos, none of these people have ever turned a trick. Not surprisingly, abolitionists and decriminalizationists alike seem to want to simplify this ridiculously complex subject so it fits their agenda.

In 2002, when my first book and I came out, I was recruited by both sides. And before I looked, I leapt. Just say yes. A good recipe for getting yourself into the sex business in the first place. So I collected writing from both the groups. My mission was to give voice to the entire spectrum of this underrepresented population, to humanize these creatures who are reviled and glorified, worshiped and spat upon in the sex ghetto. I invited everyone. If you lived in the Life, and if you had a story to tell, regardless of whether it was polished prose or a diamond in the rough, you were welcomed with open arms. I very consciously didn’t grind my political ax. In our book $2500 call girls, $100 rent boys, and $10 crack hos are bedfellows.

Most everyone, except me and my co-editor, thought this book would fly under the radar and die a slow painful death, probably out of print in a year. But on August 23, 2009, all that changed. That’s when our little book rather shockingly appeared on the front page of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. That’s when it got ugly for me in the sex ghetto.

Usually, a book or an idea gets attacked from the right or from the left. But I’ve got both sides calling for my head on a pike. One side thinks I am, “Deplorable… dishonorable…” The other is, “Disappointed… pissed off…”. I have no idea what percentage of people who toil in the world of sex for money are doing so voluntarily, and how many are doing so against their will. In my experience, it’s virtually impossible to get reliable statistics. It’s not like a census taker can go to a “massage parlor” where trafficked women are being kept against their will (as was the case in several recently busted in the Bay Area) and interview the slaves. Or from an independent contractor who gets her tricks through craigslist. Or, for that matter, from “Ashley Dupree,” after she’s had her way with Elliot Spitzer. And so many of the statistics we do see from the left or the right are manipulated to fit their agendas. The fact is, right now, in big cities and small towns across America, a hard-working sex worker who is not being coerced, who is doing this of his or her own free will, is making money having sex with someone. And at the same time, a victim is being used as a sex slave by the most hideous, vile creatures ever spawned. That’s what’s going on in America, and whether we like it or not, the sex for money business is booming.

Quite simply, our society is sexually ill. It is broken. I believe the vast majority of Americans do not come close to getting all the love and sex they want. So they try to buy it. I believe this book has generated such intense interest in part because the oldest profession seems to be the next taboo being exposed in the limelight of the American zeitgeist. Mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, incest, one after another have been trotted out and examined like a bug under a microscope. Jim Carrol’s The Basketball Diaries, Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss, Pete Hamill’s A Drinking Life and William Styron’s A Memoir of Madness were all deeply personal accounts of aberrant behavior that had been previously swept under America’s rug. And now it seems like the world wants to know, who are these people selling sex? Why are we buying so much of it? Who are these hos, hookers, call girls and rent boys that make everyone from Catholics to Orthodox Jews to Islamic fundamentalists to Mormons regular guests in the sex ghetto?

This book was an attempt to answer that question. It took no sides in the whore wars. Should it be legalized? Prohibited? It seems both sides want the book to take their position. But it doesn’t. Our agenda is to let these hos, hookers, call girls and rent boys speak for themselves. This is why we opened our book with Post-Porn Modernist Annie Sprinkle’s “40 Reasons Why Whores Are My Heroes.” And followed it with Oakland’s diamond-hard mochaluv’s: “Being a Ho Sucks.” Are whores heroes? Does being a ho suck? Yes and yes.
However, as we put this book together, one thing became clear. Until we take the millions of dollars and man/woman hours currently being directed at adults who, having weighed their economic options, choose of their own free will to exchange sex for money, predators and peddlers of flesh who operate in every major American city, largely ignored by law enforcement, will continue to flourish. People who sell sex will continue to be in constant danger of being abused and beaten by both johns and the police, with no legal recourse. While savage killers like Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, continued to prey on women in that world because, in his words, “I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”

If this book helps people see that men and women who have sex for money are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, I will be happy. If it shines a compassionate light into the sex ghetto, it’ll be worth all the slings and arrows slung my way in the whore wars. But if nothing else comes out of all this, I hope the words of the legendary Georgina Spelvin, anthology contributor and star of The Devil in Miss Jones, ring out from between the covers of our book. “Do your part. Take a hooker to lunch.”

Shame on Joe Paterno & Penn State & a Plea to Abused Kids From a Rape Survivor

 I was raped. By a large, athletic, violent man. I was young, naïve, and defenseless. Being the victim of this unspeakable violence destroyed the kid I was. Every single day I am internally tortured by this abuse I survived over three decades ago. I became a drug addict. I tormented everyone who was stupid enough to love me. It took me years, decades, just to be able to function without indulging in self-destructive behavior on a daily basis. I was lucky. I had a family that stuck by me. I had resources to eventually get help. I healed myself with the help of a hypnotherapist, writing about my abuse and telling my story, and the love of a good woman. But I vowed that I would try, in whatever small way I could, to speak for boys and girls who are not as fortunate as myself. Who don’t have the resources and love in their lives. Needless to say, I was greatly affected by the news that Jerry Sandusky, a man who built an organization that purported to help kids, has been charged with violently and sexually abusing them. There are even reports that he pimped them out to other adults, in order to further his own apparently grotesque needs. I’m filled with rage. I want him to suffer as he made these defenseless boys suffer. I’m filled with fury at Joe Paterno and the other officials at Penn State University, who were complicit in this horrible alleged abuse. Who helped to hide this monster. He is every bit as guilty as the man who actually allegedly perpetrated these deeds of shocking cruelty. I’m filled with disgust for the fans of Penn State who continue to stand by men who allegedly enabled pedophiles. Why aren’t they in the streets expressing solidarity with those boys whose lives were ruined? Why aren’t they in the streets expressing outrage that men who pretended to have the best interests of boys in their hearts, were actually hiding and enabling the most vile creature imaginable? But mostly I’m filled with sadness for these boys who suffered so miserably at the hands of adults. I want to help. I want to tell these boys, these young men, the survivors, but they are not alone. They can get help. They need to tell their stories. If there’s anything I can do, please just let me know.

Pelican Bay Inmates Hunger Strike to Protest Inhumane Solitary Confinement

When I first heard about the hunger strike, it was Facebook-ed, tweeted or Google+ed that there was going to be a massive noise-making demonstration in New York City to show the world the sick, twisted inhumane torture that’s going on right here in America. Yes, American citizens are being tortured by the United States government. And it’s all sanctioned by Gov. Jerry Brown, and ultimately by President Barack Obama.

Why, you might wonder, if you haven’t heard about this (and chances are you haven’t, because the powers that be don’t want you to know) would Gov. Jerry Brown, a man who has been a staunch advocate of human rights, and Pres. Barack Obama, who time and again has spoken out against torture, allow this to happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Isn’t this what the whole alleged war is supposedly about? So governments don’t torture their citizens? The reason you haven’t heard about this is because our government is torturing Americans from the bottom of the food chain, people without money, education or opportunity (“Justice? Yeah that’s right: Just. Us.” – Richard Pryor). They are prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit. The SHU is a prison inside a prison, built for the “worst of the worst.” There are SHUs in three men’s prisons and in one woman’s prison in California. Prisoners in the SHU are locked in a tiny, windowless cell 22 1/2 hours per day. Their beds are concrete slabs. They are in permanent solitary confinement — and some for decades. No human contact. Food passed through a slot. Stop and think about that for a second. Imagine a day without any human contact. A week. A year. A decade.

This is from a letter postmarked July 8 from the Pelican Bay SHU:

To receive direct sunlight is being requested as currently the dog run yard has a sheet of blurred plastic so the sun is blocked out and the way the yard is designed the sun does not make contact with ones skin. It’s a known fact sunlight is essential to health and even bone density. SHU prisoners are withheld direct sunlight at this time.

The prisoners have decided the better to die than to live like this. Prison authorities who first said there were only a couple dozen strikers have now had to admit that the hunger strike has involved up to 6,600 prisoners at 13 of the 33 California State Prisons. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson, Terry Thornton said that as of July 12 there were 800 prisoners refusing food at 6 different prisons. They are striking for very basic things including an end to group punishment or the right to have one phone call a year, or even some warm clothes. As the massive strike enters its third week, the prisoners are going to start dying. Prisoners at Pelican Bay told lawyers that dozens have fainted and many people are experiencing heart problems and shortness of breath. At Calipatria, where at least 200 men are on strike, the temperature has reached 110 degrees and some prisoners have experienced heat stroke due to severe dehydration. At Corcoran some prisoners have been taken to the infirmary due to diabetic shock. When you feel the summer sun on your face tomorrow, tell everyone you know Gov. Jerry Brown and Pres. Barack Obama are allowing Americans to be tortured in Pelican Bay.
“I support the inmates of Corcoran State prison, pelican bay, and other prisons in their demands to end the inhumane policies of SECURITY HOUSING UNITS. I recognize their humanity and stand with them.” — Susan Sarandon

“I condemn the horrific conditions under which those prisoners live in the USA. We have a common global struggle against all types of class race gender and religious oppressions, including American-European imperialisms and neocolonialisms. We live in one world dominated by the same military police capitalist patriarchal system. We need to fight together. Unity is power globally and locally. Our Egyptian revolution is winning till today because of our unified power of millions (women men and children from all sectors of the society) who are staying in Tahrir Square day and night, and in all streets and squares all over Egypt from Aswan south to Alexandria north, and Suez Canal cities and villages. In solidarity.” – Nawal El Saadawi, Cairo, Egypt, renowned Egyptian novelist, doctor, and activist. She has been involved in the 2011 uprising in Egypt.

To get involved go to click here.

Here is a link to contact information of elected officials and the CDCR.

Here are the core demands of the hunger strike (summary of demands from Revolution newspaper):

1. End “group punishment” where an individual prisoner breaks a rule and prison officials punish a whole group of prisoners of the same race.
2. Abolish “debriefing” and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. False and/or highly questionable “evidence” is used to accuse prisoners of being active/inactive members of prison gangs who are then sent to the SHU where they are subjected to long-term isolation and torturous conditions. One of the only ways these prisoners can get out the SHU is if they “debrief”–that is, give prison officials information on gang activity.
3. Comply with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. commission “make segregation a last resort” and “end conditions of isolation.”
4. Provide Adequate Food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food. They want adequate food, wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals and an end to the use of food as a way to punish prisoners in the SHU.
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates–including the opportunity to “engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…” which are routinely denied. Demands include one phone call per week, one photo per year, 2 packages a year, more visiting time, permission to have wall calendars, and sweat suits and watch caps (warm clothing is often denied even though cells and the exercise cage can be bitterly cold).

There have been a solidarity protests around the country but this is not enough.
A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Pelican Bay as Colligan Bay.

A Conversation With the Naked Anthropologist About Sex Trafficking

When I first came out as an ex-sex worker, I started getting invited to prostitute and sex worker conferences. There are two distinct groups who inhabit this world: decriminalizationists and abolitionists. Decriminalizationist conferences are populated by academics, policy wonks and activists, plus a few current and former hos, hookers, call girls and rent boys. Abolitionist conferences are populated by much the same, plus politicians and law-enforcement. Both groups are evangelical, rhetorical and theoretical. Statistics are bandied about, dogma is flung and resolutions are passed. The decriminalizationists keep screaming “Decriminalize sex work!” The abolitionists keep screaming “Sex work is slavery!” and want human traffickers to be hunted down like dogs.

I first met Laura Agustín at a conference in Brussels and was immediately struck by how different she was from all the people I met on either side of the decriminalization/abolitionist divide. First of all, she had a sense of humor. This alone was shocking in either world. But she also had a calm reasonableness about her. She wanted to hear what other people have to say, basically unheard of in either camp. On top of that, the things she had to say were so smart and counter-intuitive. And they all made sense. What she had to say explained so much about why so much money is so foolishly wasted when it comes to actually pursuing traffickers. And why human beings with very few resources continuously get the short end of the stick when it comes to choosing where they live and work, and determining their own destiny. At these conferences, there are certain people you connect with in deep meaningful ways. Laura and I made just such a connection, and it has remained fertile. I read her book, Sex at the Margins, which challenged all the conventional ideas continuously trotted out about migration, sex work and trafficking. She’s one of the few people talking about this subject who will acknowledge the mind-boggling complexity of these issues, which everyone else seems to want to simplify to suit their own needs and grind their own axes. This book led to Laura Agustín — now known as The Naked Anthropologist — becoming an international expert in this emotionally charged arena. Her blog is now one of the go-to resources for well-researched, well-reasoned, sane debate about selling sex for money, crossing borders to work and the reality of what is and is not trafficking.

When she told me she had been invited by the BBC to participate in a debate at the EndHumanTrafficking event in Egypt, I just knew that the fur was going to fly. Sure enough, with her patented calm, unflappable, intellectual yet accessible style, she managed to invoke the wrath of many present and become the target of the wrath of an Academy Award winner in high hooker heels.

DHS: So, Laura, how did you come to be invited to this event?

LAURA: BBC Television was holding one of their World Debates there and invited me. The event itself was limited to particular UN agencies, business leaders and guests of the Egyptian president’s wife – plus several movie actors. It was the kind of event to which you only invite those who agree with you. But the BBC wanted to do a debate, which means they had to get in at least one person who would disagree.

DHS: Yes, those British have some crazy ideas about presenting different sides of an issue don’t they? Haven’t they learned anything from Fox News?

LAURA: Apparently not.

DHS: I saw who the other panelists were: the head of Interpol, an ex-victim of trafficking and a guy who personally saves sex slaves. Didn’t they all see trafficking as it’s traditionally and hysterically presented by the media?

LAURA: It was an incredibly stacked deck, four against one, so it was never going to be a real debate. But I went for the chance to reach the television audience. The BBC World Service is a 24-hour international news channel watched all over the planet, so in my head I was reaching people interested in trafficking issues anywhere who might have doubts about the way trafficking is usually talked about.

DHS: Doubts about what? Don’t we know human trafficking is the greatest scourge of the 21st century? Aren’t millions of people being trafficked as we speak?

LAURA: I try to break down these huge generalisations. Some people are working in conditions that look like traditional slavery, but a lot are undocumented migrants with debts to pay, workers under the age of 18 and people who would rather sell sex than do any of the other jobs open to them. People who say there are 30 million slaves in the world are including all those and many more.

DHS: Wait a minute, I thought we were talking about trafficking. Where does slavery come in?

LAURA: Originally the term trafficking referred to certain kinds of illegal moving of people across borders, but that has changed. Anti-prostitutionists have defined prostitution as violence, rape and now trafficking, but the new word is slavery. I realise some think this is a way to raise consciousness about injustice, but it is confusing to call everyone slaves and erases whatever ability to maneuver lots of people have.

DHS: The setting sounds unbelievable — the Temple of Luxor — how did you feel getting up on that stage?

LAURA: It felt surreal. Not long ago I was an NGO worker in Latin America – I didn’t seek out this kind of gig! But something about Sex at the Margins has struck a chord, I have been invited to talk all over the place to different kinds of audiences and I just finished three months as Visiting Professor in Gender and Migration in Switzerland. I had certainly never been in a situation where every single other person in the room was hostile, however. And I have never been attacked by a film actress before.

DHS: Okay, let’s talk about Mira Sorvino, now Goodwill Ambassador for Trafficking for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Was she wearing those hooker heels she loves?

LAURA: She was, but I am not sure she understands that she’s allied with abolitionists. I had only spoken a few times when she began waving her hand to get the moderator’s attention. She demanded to know what I was doing there, why I was being allowed to speak. She seemed to think she could over-ride the BBC. I don’t mind people having different ideas from mine but implying I don’t have the right to speak?

DHS: You mean she tried to stop you from talking? What did the BBC moderator do?

LAURA: She asked me if I wanted to respond, so I said in the British tradition debate means dissent, and the BBC invited me because I have a different point of view. Sorvino came across as wanting to censor me, which is shocking in a ‘goodwill ambassador’, isn’t it? I don’t know quite what they are supposed to do, but acting outraged every time I spoke, keeping up a running commentary to people near her (including Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore), is certainly not ambassadorial.

DHS: Was there any consequence for her breach of etiquette?

LAURA: People applauded, as though attacking me were a heroic act. Someone heard her use the term ‘holocaust denier’, too.

DHS: Wow, comparing trafficking to the holocaust! What do you think was going on?

LAURA: I think the event participants did not understand what the BBC was doing there and thought the panel should be just stating conclusions. Maybe they thought the BBC was there to cover the event! But that would be weird, since such go on all the time — they are hardly newsworthy. Someone had not explained, and they took it out on me just because I questioned some of the statements made.

DHS: What was the take-away for you, from the event?

LAURA: Beware movie stars who see themselves as crusaders.

DHS: I think lots of people misunderstand this whole issue and want to know what they can do to help. Do you agree?

LAURA: Anti-trafficking campaigns are now a popular form of social action, but many don’t know what kinds of abuses take place in the name of saving people. That information doesn’t get discussed at events like the Egyptian one — if it were, maybe things could improve.

DHS: Thanks, Laura, I’m glad you survived your attack from Hollywood.

Visit the Naked Anthropologist at http://www.lauraagustin.com/ to learn more about Laura Agustín’s views on migration, trafficking and commercial sex.

World Cup 2010: What We Learned About Ourselves & Others

David Henry Sterry on Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/world-cup-2010-what-we-le_b_642302.html

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World Cup Hotties & Notties: Sterry on Huffington Post

The Glorious World Cup makes the front page of the Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/world-cup-hotties-notties_b_642244.html

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The Making of an American Hero: Donovan’s Transformation from Lanycakes to Landon the Man: The Glorious World Cup on Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/the-making-of-an-american_b_625066.html

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The Glorious World Cup on Huffington Post: Live from South Africa: How the English Hate Themselves

Colin Powers, our man in South Africa, tells it like it is about the English.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/live-from-south-africa-ho_b_620453.html

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Huffington Post: An American in South Africa, Or: Why Soccer Really Matters

I interview Missoula’s own Gary Stein in South Africa.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/an-american-in-south-afri_b_618870.html

David Henry Sterry on Huffington Post: USA Exhausts Fans, Who Call for Referees Head on a Spike after 2-2 Draw

Soccer, World Cup 2010

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/usa-exhausts-fans-who-cry_b_617575.html

Huffington Post: Congress Announces BP Executives to Be Boiled in their Own Oil

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/congress-announces-bp-to_b_616591.html

 

Huffington Post World Cup 2010: What We’ve Learned & What Must Be Done

World Cup 2010 week one, and much has been revealed. With so much more to come.


bit.ly/9Bit1P

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The Glorious World Cup Presents: An America Soccer Fanatic’s Predictions for South Africa 2010 : Group H

GROUP H: YES: Spain & Chile NO: Honduras, Switzerland

Spain is in theory the #1 team in the world. They are the odds-on favorite to win the World Cup. They have an absolutely gorgeous goalscoring machine in Fernando Torres. His cheeks are so rosy and his eyelashes are so long, he looks like a cheesecake pinup model. And he can flat out play. They have a bad boy defender was perhaps the worst haircut at this edition of the World Cup, Carlos Puyol. “Tarzan” from Barcelona sports a ‘do that equal parts Conan the Barbarian, Prince Valiant, and trailer trash mullet. Many are predicting Spain are the will go all the way. I am not. While they have the capability of playing better than anyone, they have deep insecurities regarding their own national identity. They see themselves as the inferior cousins of Europe, and in the end they will fold like a house of cards, while falling apart like a cheap suit. Chile will make it through to the next round if for no other reason than their coach’s nickname is “The Madman”. Switzerland is much like a clock when it comes to soccer. They’re not fast, they’re not slow, they just keep on ticking. The good news is, they don’t allow very many goals. The bad news is, they almost score even less. Honduras? They have two chances of making it through to the next round. Slim and none.

The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatics Guide is, pound for pound, the funniest book about World Cup 2010 on the market today.

http://www.amazon.com/Glorious-World-Cup-Fanatics-Guide/dp/0451230205

The Glorious World Cup Presents: An America Soccer Fanatic’s Predictions for South Africa 2010 : Group E

GROUP E: YES: Netherlands & Cameroon NO: Japan & Denmark
I can’t help it, I am so on love with this Holland team I want to marry it. .Robin van Persie is like a cross between Dutch Master Johann Cruyff and the little boy who put his finger in the dyke. Arjen Robbin, in addition to being an absolutely fabulous artiste with the ball at his feet, is also a diva of divers, ready to crumble in agony when struck by a stiff breeze. But can they win the whole thing? Absolutely not. They are, after all, Dutch. They will eventually, inevitably disintegrate like a bunch of spoiled high strung schoolgirls. The Danes have some seasoned veterans, but their dark brooding nature is an insurmountable obstacle. Cameroon, the Indomitable Lions (greatest team name ever!), do in fact have an indomitable lion spearheading their enterprise, the resplendent Samuel Eto’o. And they are buttressed by a splendid hardman who is part of World Cup history. Rigobert Song is not only the youngest player ever to be ejected from a World Cup, when he was given the heave ho at the tender age of 17. He is also one of two players to be sent off at two different World Cups. You may have heard of the other: Zinadane Zidane. I’m rooting for Rigobert to break the record. The Japanese have perhaps my favorite uniform in the tournament. But they can’t score goals. Which makes it very difficult to win games. So I believe Japan will fall on their own sword in South Africa.

The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatics Guide is, pound for pound, the funniest book about World Cup 2010 on the market today.

http://www.amazon.com/Glorious-World-Cup-Fanatics-Guide/dp/0451230205

The Glorious World Cup Presents: An America Soccer Fanatic’s Predictions for South Africa 2010 : Group B

GROUP B: YES: Argentina & Nigeria NO: South Korea & Greece

Argentina has, pound-for-pound, the greatest player in the world, The Flea with the genius feet, Lionel Messi. Yes, he does weigh 104 lbs. soaking wet, but still, the man is a maestro, a modern artist/dancer/madman. Problem is, Argentina also has the craziest coach, not just in soccer, but in any sport (and that’s a bold statement given the well-documented craziness of coaches), scorer of probably the greatest individual goal in World Cup history, Diego Maradona. They will make it through by sheer dint of the miniscule magician. With midfield marvel John Obi Wan Kanobi Mikel waving his wand doling out punishment, they will be a scary scary foe. Even though Greece recently won the European championship, and have a most excellent team, their entire economy’s in the toilet, so naturally they’re going to tank. South Korea has the hardest working soccer player in show business, Manchester United’s Energizer Bunny, Park-Ji-Sung, but after that they are woefully thin and wickedly undermanned.

http://www.amazon.com/Glorious-World-Cup-Fanatics-Guide/dp/0451230205

Huffington Post: American Manhood, from Mantle to Manchild Donovan & Why America Can Win World Cup 2010

Thanks once again to the Huffington Post for giving me some love. Nice to see World Cup fever is spreading.

http://huff.to/c4OEri

Bert & Ernie come out in favor of gay marriage

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Bert and Ernie, legendary lovable Sesame Street icons, are in favor of same-sex marriage, sources close to them recently revealed. This hot button topic that has caused raging and flaming controversy all over the United States for years is still dominating headlines. On February 18, 2010, the Archdiocese of Washington announced that they are doing away with their foster care program, because they can’t work with the change in the District of Columbia’s laws that will allow same-sex marriages to be recognized legally. This is just the latest in a long line of decisions which affect millions of people’s lives, legally, socially and morally.

Opponents of same-sex marriage argue it is evidence of the further decay of the moral fiber of America, and that a child cannot learn good role models from homosexuals, who are living lives of perversion in the eyes of God. Proponents of same-sex marriage say that getting married is a basic human right, and trot out scientific research which shows absolutely no correlation between success and happiness in adults who have been raised in same-sex, as opposed to “traditional” households.

Even though there has been an informal “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy on Sesame Street for years, Bert and Ernie have not come out publicly advocating for same-sex marriage because they are afraid of the public backlash. An anonymous source overheard Bert and Ernie lamenting to Cookie Monster, Count von Count and Snuffluffigus that they were afraid if people knew, they might be evicted from Sesame Street, shunned by their monster friends and blackballed by the Muppet’s Union. Bert and Ernie are reported to have said, “It’s ridiculous, why should people pay taxes and not have the same rights as everyone else? It’s not about whether you’re gay or hetero, or whatever the heck else is out there, it’s about whether there’s love in the house. And everyone knows there’s always been a lot of love in the basement of 123 Sesame Street.”

Bert and Ernie have long been rumored to be gay. Many have speculated that Ernie’s international hit, “Rubber Ducky”, was actually a coded love song to Bert. They have, and continue to be, closed mouth about their personal life. An anonymous source had this to say: “Well, Bert and Ernie were carrying on, like they do, and Ernie said, ‘Look, what we do behind closed doors is our business.’ And Bert said, ‘Hey Ernie, is that a banana in your ear?’ And Ernie said, ‘What Bert?’ And Bert said, ‘I said Ernie, is that a banana in your ear?’ And Ernie said, ‘What’s that Bert, I can’t hear you, I’ve got a banana in my ear!’ Everybody just fell out. No matter how many times they do it, it’s always funny.”

Kermit the Frog was the only confidant of Bert and Ernie who would comment about this supercharged situation. And that was only on the condition of being off the record. “Hey, it’s not easy being green. And in this case, when I say green, of course I mean gay. Just to be clear, I’m not saying Bert and Ernie are gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. If two people want to live in the same bedroom together, that’s their business. Whatever gets you through the night, right? I mean come on, how many couples have been together for 40 years? I would take my hat off to them, except I am a frog, and I don’t wear a hat.”

Attempts to contact all Muppets, and their representative, proved fruitless.

Some quotes about same-sex marriage from the National Organization for Marriage, and religioustolerance.org:

“Gays and lesbians have the right to live as they choose. They just don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

“A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?”

“Marriage between one man and one woman is critical to maintaining social stability. Society as a whole pays a high price when marriage is devalued. You see divorce; you see single-parenting; you see a rise in out-of-wedlock pregnancies,” said Shari Rendall, director of legislation and policy for Concerned Women for America.

“An unjust law is (one that a) majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself … “Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up there privileges voluntarily,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. in a letter from a Birmingham jail.

Huffington Post: LeBorn Is Le Punk

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/lebron-lepunk-james-gets_b_230321.html

America Doesn’t Suck After All: Confederation Cup 2009, South Africa

Hear that faint distant humming sound, like a billion buzzing bees? That’s the sound of millions of soccer fanatics ratcheting their vuvuzela noisemakers as they gear up for what is predicted to be biggest sporting event on the planet: World Cup 2010 in South Africa. For the uninitiated, it’s like the Stanley Cup, NBA championship, Super Bowl, US Opens (golf and tennis) and the World Series all rolled into one. World Series? What world is that? No, in soccer, World Cup means everyone in the whole wide world has a chance to win. And because it’s the first time the tournament has been held on the African continent, this World Cup promises to be a Nelson Mandela, Euro-samba oriental blowout of global proportion.

Which brings us to South Africa, June, 2009, where poor, pitiful, ragtag Team USA was scheduled to compete in the last major tournament before next summer’s World Cup. Going up against a galaxy of Goliaths: 2006 champions Italy; world numero uno Spain; and mighty mighty Brazil. Armed without even a slingshot, based on their recent mauling at the hands of Costa Rica where they played like a bunch of soccer moms.

It’s been hard to be American lately. When you go into a bar basically anywhere in the world and say you’re American, people often look at you like you just tried to kill their dog. Bombing civilians, raping the landscape, setting up puppet governments and trading blood for oil. These are just some of the answers to the question that I’ve heard so many bewildered, innocent looking Americans ask: Why do they hate us? But if you are a member of the American national soccer team, you have felt hated for decades. You’ve had foreign fans throw coins, batteries, even baggies full of warm urine/hot p*ss at you all over the world. Worse, you’ve been the object of pity. The butt of jokes. Because so often you have just plain sucked. Sure, every once in awhile Team America would make a little splash. And they have come to dominate what is a very weak region of the soccer world. But time and time again, when they come up against the big boys, they have turned from men into mice.

So, as America opened up against Italy, they seemed nervous, shaky, and insecure, like a homeowner six months behind on the mortgage who’s expecting a foreclosure notice any second. For one brief shining moment there was a ray of hope, as the penalty machine himself, former golden boy Landon Donovan, slotted home a penalty kick. Shockingly America had a lead. Before you could say badda bing badda boom, they were drowning in wave after wave of pressure from men with vowels at the ends of their names. Suddenly Italy was up 3-1. But it wasn’t just the fact that Team America was bitch-slapped so badly. It was the fact that they looked like a mediocre college team trying to play against the Yankees. The salt in the wound came courtesy of two brilliantly taken goals scored by a guy from New Jersey. Because his parents happen to be Italian, he got to choose which country to play for. He chose Italy over us. Bastard.

That’s when the nightmare really began. Because next up were the kings of soccer, the team that puts the beautiful in the beautiful game, Brazil. Sure enough, the samba masters toyed with the red white and blue like an alpha cat with three blind mice. The low point was when Brazil scored on an American corner kick. In football terms, that’s like being on your opponent’s goal line, handing them the ball, and watching them run 99 yards for a touchdown. The final score, 3-0, in no way reflected the utter degrading humiliation that Brazil laid on America in this righteous smack down. If not for T-Ho, the indomitable goalkeeper Tim Howard, the score could have been 10-0.

A great cry was heard on the World Wide Web: Fire Coach Bradley! He is home grown, not a fancy foreign import, but he is untested on the world stage. Plus, his son plays almost every minute of every game. And recently his son had been “skinned” as they say, turned inside out by an attacker, made to look like a rank pansy amateur. The heat was on. America had one game left, against Egypt. Who, miraculously, had beaten Italy. Which made America’s dismal loss to the Italians seem even worse. And Egypt had scored three goals against Brazil. Although they had allowed four. Still, Brazil had whipped America like a dominatrix at a submissiveness convention. So a stake was poised over the heart of Team America. Well, there was a tiny, slim, infinitesimal chance. But judging by how badly they had sucked, the fat lady was warming up to sing. By all accounts the Americans should have just pack their bags, and slunk away in shame, tails between their legs, licking their wounds.

Then something strange happened. America started being, well…America. Whatever America has had success on the world soccer stage, it’s because they worked harder, ran more, through their bodies around with mad abandon, left their hearts, guts, and nuts out on the field. Suddenly, against Egypt, the Americans were playing balls out. Flying around the field like this might be the last game I ever played. Not just in this tournament, but in their whole lives. Lo and behold, they got a lucky break. Funny how that works right? You bust your ass, you play with crazy passion, and all of a sudden you get a lucky break. How lucky? In this case, new boy Ricky Davies actually scored off the Egyptian goalkeepers face. Not how they draw it up on the instructional video. Abut a goal is a goal. The news came in from the Brazil-Italy game. Brazil was running roughshod over the suddenly hapless Italians. If Brazil could get three goals ahead, and America could win by three goals, the miracle would be manifest, and the USA would be through to the next round. Nose to grindstone, pedal to metal, fingers to bone, America scrapped and clawed, and there was Michael Bradley, son of the coach, stroking the ball home like an old pro. Scoring a goal for his old man on Fathers Day. Word came in that Brazil had spanked the haughty Italians sufficiently. America needed one more goal. They needed a hero. That’s when Clint Eastwood Dempsey made America’s day, streaking into the Egyptian goalmouth, muscling a header past the traumatized goalkeeper. Miraculously, America was through to the next round.

Now all they have to do was go up against Spain, the number one soccer team in the world, a bunch of it pretty, pampered, delicate genius multimillionaires who recently won the European Championship. To put it in perspective, the American striker Jozy the Pussycat Altidor can’t even crack the lineup of the second division Spanish team. But the USA came out guns blazing against the Spanish Armada: chins thrust forward, Devil may care glint in the eye, a jaunty red white and blue spring in the step. While the Spaniards looked like they sincerely believed all they have to do was throw their jockstraps out onto the field, and the uncultured, uncouth, uncool Americans would bow down before them. The Spaniards were in for a rude awakening. From the get-go the Spaniards were full of brilliance. And arrogance. While the Americans had a fire in their belly, and threw themselves relentlessly in front of everything the Spanish could muster. They chased and harried like hungry pack animals looking to feed. Their naked aggression seemed to offend delicate geniuses of Spain. Time and again, one day were tackled and stripped nude of the ball, they stood and counted like sulking children.

And then there was Jozy the Pussycat Altidor, being fed the ball at the top of the penalty box. In every contact sport there is that mano y mano moment where it becomes one man’s strength against another. It’s caveman primal. Can I beat you down? Or will you beat me down? Jozy Altidor proved to be the better man, kicking sand in the face of the feeble Spaniard like he was a 98 pound weakling. Having bested his foe, the Pussycat took its sweet time; set his sights, locked and loaded, and pulled the trigger like that’s what he was born to do. 1-0. The world bugged its eyes, palms outstretched as if to say, “OH MY GOD!”

Wave after wave of the Spanish Armada tried to land on American shores. But each time, led by Oguchi Double O Onyewu, they were thwarted by another proud American giving up his body for his country. Once again, T-Ho was a God, repelling attacks with a fierce animal agility combined with a mind of a brilliant tactician.

There’s an old rule of love and war. When you attack him from the front, you leave your back door open. And the increasingly frantic Spaniards did just that, committing forces willy-nilly upfront, while their unprotected ass was sticking right up in the air. And there was Landon Donovan, restoring some of the golden boy luster, driving with the ball at his feet, making things happen, putting in nasty little cross. Still, the Spaniards had the situation well in hand. Except for two things. Their arrogance. And good old American never-say-quit. Clint Eastwood Dempsey, this time like a sneak thief in the night, nipped behind a multimillionaire Spanish defender, who had casually, thinking he had all the time in the world because he was so rich, talented, and dashingly handsome, trapped the ball right in front of his own goal. With some serious foot-is-quicker-than-the-eye action, Clint had the ball in the Spanish net before the Spaniards could say OLE OLE. On the replay there was a fantastic shot of the Spanish defender, beautiful as a supermodel, and just as confused and vacant, with a look on his face that clearly showed his brain trying to understand, “How did that just happened?”

America, that’s how that happened. Say adios, Spain! Team America had, against all odds, and with a horrifying start it seemed to confirm their own patheticality, made it to their first final of any FIFA championship. Now all they have to do was put away mighty mighty Brazil.

But the strut was still in the stride of Team USA. They were bright, confident almost cocky. Stroking the ball around, defending with calm assurance, attacking intelligently and economically. America was playing like, well…Brazil. Even more shockingly, Brazil was playing like America at her worst. Giving the ball away sloppy, passing the ball to no one in particular, crying like little bitches when they get hit. Then in the blink of an eye, very was again, Clint Eastwood Dempsey. With a silky delicate world-class touch, he massaged the ball into the Brazilian net like tantric master. USA 1. Brazil 0. Not by some crazy fluke. This is the real shock. USA deserved to be beating Brazil.

Naturally Brazil brought it hard and heavy. But the USA stood strong. At one point Carlos Bocanegra was riding Brazilian superstar Kaka like a pony. And once again, when you attack from the front, you leave the back door open. From Brazil pressure, America made a defensive stop, in three quick passes later, Landon Donovan evolved from golden boy into golden man. He made a monkey out of the Brazilian defense, and like a lion ripping the jugular of the throat of an antelope he slammed the ball home, triggering a wild red white and blue celebration. If you had offered a betting man $100 that the US would be going into the final of the Confederation Cup leading Brazil 2-0, you would’ve gotten looks suggesting your insanity, and 1000-1 odds.

But as soon as the second half started, Brazil demonstrated why they’re Brazil. Out of nowhere, out of nothing, a quick Brazilian pirouette followed by a slashing shot from Fabiano, and America was digging the ball out of their own net. USA 2. Brazil 1.

This is where USA teams of yore would have folded like a house of crooked cards. But not this team. They didn’t panic. They didn’t freak out. They kept defending. They kept attacking. And all the while, T-Ho the Magnificent was a true tower of power, near post, far post, and everywhere in between. He even showed some excellent acting skills, convincing everyone he had saved a Brazilian header which clearly crossed the goal line. Although he didn’t win an Oscar, he was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament.

But Brazil is, after all, Brazil. And they kept knock knock knocking on the door. Finally America cracked, just a little. A defender missed a clearance, the ball bounced kindly off a post, and suddenly the score was tied. As an American, with each second that ticked by, you hoped for the best, but you just had a feeling that somehow Brazil was going to find a way. That’s what they do, these world champions. They find a way.

America made it all the way to the 85th minute. 17/18ths of the way through the game. Then it happened. A big booming back post header. Brazil 3. USA 2. Even so, in the 88th minute, the USA had a free header right in front of goal. All they had to do was put away. But they didn’t. Brazil wins the Confederation Cup. Again. Ho-hum.

America didn’t win their first international soccer tournament. But sometimes winning isn’t the only thing. Sometimes getting to the finals is the next step toward winning the finals. We saw it with the Lakers this year. We saw it when Michael Jordan kept getting beaten up by the Detroit Bad Boys before he became the King of the World. Team USA showed that they can play with the big boys. They turned from mice into men right before our eyes. They hope that they can continue to be the Cinderella who ends up with the glass slippers back here in South Africa at World Cup 2010.

And just for today anyway, it really doesn’t suck at all to be an American.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/america-doesnt-suck-after_b_222031.html

 

Derek Zoolander: “I Hate British Singing Sensation Susan Boyle!”

Derek Zoolander: “I Hate British Singing Sensation Susan Boyle!”

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British singing sensation Susan Boyle, an unemployed cat owner, has become, as a result of a mere five minutes of singing, an inspiration to millions of people all over the globe, a symbol that anyone with true, genuine talent can have their lifelong dream come true if they just keep trying. It seems like everyone has fallen in love with Susan Boyle, that plucky, spunky, I-won’t-change-for-anybody girl-next-door with a big heart and an even bigger voice. Everyone except a man who was once America’s most famous supermodel. Derek Zoolander.

“I’m really really really pissed off,” a source close to Zoolander reports he said, “Why does someone who looks like her get to have all that talent? It’s just not fair. And I think I speak for really really really good-looking people everywhere when I say, How come I don’t have any talent, how come I can’t sing or dance or tell jokes that are humorously funny? But still, I can make many excellent and exciting and sexy faces. Can Susan Boyle make any sexy faces? I don’t think so. Is she really really really good looking? No. Am I? Yes. So why is she so much more famous than I am? I’m telling you, it’s totally horribly totally not fair.”

According to a confidant, the ex-famous supermodel has watched Susan Boyle’s triumphant rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Miserables over 10,000 times. “He just watches it over and over and over, and looks at himself in the mirror and makes sexy faces and saying stuff like, ‘Her features aren’t symmetrical. She has a bad haircut. And she hasn’t had any cosmetic surgery. My features are awesomely symmetrical. My haircut is super amazing. I had really really really really really great cosmetic surgery. Please, God, why are you forsooking me?’ It’s quite pitiful, if you want to know the truth. We’re thinking of having an intervention, but we’re having trouble finding a caterer in our price range.”

Susan Boyle’s 15 minutes of fame shows no signs of ending. And while everyone from Demi Moore to Ashton Kutcher to Oprah Winfrey are embracing her, a member of Derek Zoolander’s inner circle claims the former supermodel is bitter and angry. “Is that really the kind of world we want,” Zoolander is reported to have said, “where people who are not good-looking get to be famous? This is a way important issue that’s more way important than all these bad economy things, or whatever. We have to put our feet down. I don’t want the children of tomorrow thinking that it’s more important to have talent than it is to be really really really good looking. Anyone who wants to help can send money to the Really Good-looking People of America Fund.”

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/derek-zoolander-i-hate-br_b_189048.html

Mexican Drug Lord Officially Thanks American Lawmakers for Keeping Drugs Illegal

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Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera reported head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, ranked 701st on Forbes’ yearly report of the wealthiest men alive, and worth an estimated $1 billion, today officially thanked United States politicians for making sure that drugs remain illegal. According to one of his closest confidants, he said, “I couldn’t have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama, none of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, Gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you.”

According to sources in the Mexican government, President Calderone is begging American officials to, in the words of reggae great Peter Tosh, legalize it. “Oh yeah,” said an official close to the Mexican president, “Felipe is going crazy. He’s screaming at everybody who comes in, ‘Why don’t they make this sh*t legal already! You’re killing me here!’ Look, everyone knows, when you have Prohibition, you create gangsters. And the more you prohibit, the more gangsters you make. El Chapo is hero now to all those slumdogs who want to be millionaires. Kids in the street, when they play games, they all want to be El Chapo, the baddest man in the whole damn town.”

Meanwhile, many speculate that rich and prominent Mexican families are in cahoots with American businessmen in the alcohol industry, wealthy industrialists who launder the unprecedented profits from the drug business with their legitimate enterprises, and lawmakers who get gigantic kickbacks and payoffs to make sure that these drugs remain illegal, so they can remain rich, fat and happy. According to sources on both sides of the border, tens of millions of dollars in payoffs and kickbacks are stashed in Swiss banks every year, blood money from the brutal business made possible by a corrupt system supported by laws that don’t, and have never, worked.

Rather than putting El Chapo and his kind out of business by modernizing outdated laws and in the process making billions of dollars from taxing drugs (as is done with cigarettes and alcohol), United States government has spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars chasing its tail, and offered a $5 million reward for the capture of El Chapo. Many have said that the offer is unofficially: Dead or Alive.

Meanwhile, as an epidemic of murderous violence rages on the Mexican-US border, and the American government wastes boatloads of badly needed money on the illegal drug business which results from the Prohibition laws, El Chapo is laughing all the way to the bank. “Whoever came up with this whole War on Drugs,” one of his lieutenants reports he said, “I would like to kiss him on the lips and shake his hand and buy him dinner with caviar and champagne. The War on Drugs is the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and the day they decide to end that war, will be a sad one for me and all of my closest friends. And if you don’t believe me, ask those guys whose heads showed up in the ice chests.”

To the original Huffington Post article by David Henry Sterry

Poor People Happier Than Rich People for the First Time in History

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One unexpected benefit of the worst economic depression in a century is that for the first time in history, poor people are happier than rich people. Experts claim this is because

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the lifestyle of poor people has barely changed with the economic downturn. They were below the poverty before, and they’re below the poverty level now. But apparently, according to experts, many poor people are taking great comfort and the joy in the misery of the rich. In addition, they feel that President Obama actually wants to help them, a notable change from the last eight years in America.

Many rich people, on the other hand, have lost boats, airplanes, luxury automobiles, jet skis, two or three homes, and large portions of their wealth. Certainly many have been the victim of their own greed, but many have also been swindled, deceived and lied to. Just as poor people have been throughout the ages. And many rich people have never been poor, so they have no idea just how hard it is to be an American without money. Whereas most poor people, having been poor most of their lives, are very used to it.

Gerald (not his real name) is a doctor. He is in his mid-50s. He had a thriving practice. He lived in a beautiful home. He had enough money saved to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Or so he thought. Unfortunately for Gerald, he was friends with a very well thought of financial genius named Bernard Madoff. All his friends also knew Bernard Madoff. And they all trusted him to make them more money. In fact Gerald trusted him so much that he went out and mortgaged his house so he could give Madoff all his money. And now it’s all gone. His house, his retirement, all his money.

“It’s very depressing,” said Gerald, “I worked so hard for so long to build my practice. So I could provide for my family, so I could retire and travel. And now it’s all gone. Decades of hard work flushed down the toilet. I’m tired. I can’t sleep. And I’m angry. Why is this villain, this crook, this Madoff, still living high on the hog, in his palace? He should be in jail. Getting shtupped by big angry criminals. I guess though, I’ve always known, in the end I have no one to blame but myself. And that makes me depressed.”

Carla Crandall (her real name) is homeless. She’s in her early 30s. She is a very talented writer who will be published for the first time this summer. She suffers from mental illness, and she is a recovering drug addict. She lives on a fixed income from Social Security because she is disabled. She’s been depressed for years. Her income hasn’t changed at all. She has no retirement. She has no home. She has no money to invest. She didn’t lose one single penny during this catastrophic crash.

“Actually,” said Carla, “I’m really excited that my work is finally going to be published. It’s always been my dream to be a published author. I’m engaged to be married. But it’s so hard to live in the ghetto, drugs shoved down your throat, screaming lunatics and junkies, you just know at any minute someone can stick a knife right between your ribs. It just wears you down. If Obama would only give me, like, maybe ten grand, I could get out of the ghetto, get a computer, get on the Internet. Doesn’t seem like that much out of $800 billion, does it? But I have noticed you can get pants cheaper on the streets recently, so that’s good.”

Yes, it seems that everyone is suffering. But for once, the poor, the downtrodden, the huddled masses, the Carla Crandalls of the world, are suffering a little less than the rich people.

Link to the original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/poor-people-happier-than_b_164772.html

Dick Cheney Shopping His Memoir: The Joys of Torture, Trampling the Constitution, and Bankrupting America the Dick Way

Top aides of Dick Cheney revealed that he is shopping his new memoir, even as they lashed out at critics who claim that he abused his power as vice president

of the United States. Even though many in the publishing industry have expressed outrage that Cheney made torture standard practice at, and top officials in Europe are calling for him to be tried as a war criminal, his top aides believe he is close to landing a seven-figure publishing deal.

“Dick wants to use this memoir to set the record straight as only Dick can,” a top aide revealed, “When he took over this country, he made a to-do list. Number two on that list was: bring back torture! He said to me a million times, ‘That’s the problem with this country, all those bleeding heart Hollywood homosexual Jewish liberal girlie men have made us a target.’ Dick made me see, that’s why September 11 happened. Because the evil ones thought they could get away with it. But now they know. You mess with us, we’ll torture the hell out of you. Heck, they had to pull Dick back. He wanted bring back torture big-time. Put criminals in stocks in the town square, lash them with the cat o’ nine tails, hang them by their thumbs, old-school style. But Dick wanted to mixed in all the new high-tech stuff, atomic powered water sledding, audiovisual sexual humiliation, and the ‘Active Denial’ ray gun, which produces mind-boggling pain, without leaving a single mark. I mean, come on, how cool is that? And with vice president’s guidance, we have made amazing breakthroughs with the use of testicular electrification. Dick’s very excited about that.”

Many top publishing experts believe that because Cheney trampled on the Constitution, authorizing wiretapping and holding suspects indefinitely without ever charging them, his memoir will quickly end up on remainder tables. There is speculation that this, combined with the government sanctioned torture, ethnic profiling, and the blatant disregard for civilian life in the Middle East, has led to worldwide hatred of America, and are actually as recruiting devices by Al Qaeda. The end result seems to be a widespread lack of interest from the publishing business in Dick Cheney’s memoir.

“This book is going to sell a billion copies. Dick Cheney will make it clear once and for all in his memoir why it was in America’s best interests that he wiped his ass with the Constitution,” said another of his top aides. “Like he says, ‘The Constitution was written by a bunch of pig farmers in white wigs and pantaloons, wearing fake wooden teeth.’ Which is totally true if you think about it. Look, his number one goal was to stop terrorism. And get really rich. And if Dick had to wiretap, if he had to round up all the ragheads, and throw them a dark pit somewhere till they squeal on their heathen, Bin Laden worshiping, Obama loving, brothers in arms, so be it. And as far as civilian casualties go, it’s like Dick says, ‘You can’t make a trillion dollar omelette without breaking a few trillion eggs.’

In addition, publishing insiders have stated that the American public believes Cheney’s war, precipitated by the fabrication of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, was merely an excuse to secure cheap oil, and make the vice president’s rich cronies at Halliburton even more rich through extravagantly wasteful no-bid contracts. A top editor at Harper Collins said, “Cheney made our lives miserable for eight years. Now it’s our turn to kick Dick’s butt. If I have my way, Dr. Strangelove won’t get a plug nickel for his stinking memoir.” But Cheney’s top aides believe his memoir will be a historic document.
“This memoir will show conclusively that when Dick took the reins,” said yet another top aide, again off the record, “the number one thing on his to-do list was: start a war! He just caught a bad break with the whole WMD deal. He tried so hard to plant some of those suckers over there too, as soon as he realized there weren’t any. But it’s harder than you’d think, trying to plant weapons of mass destruction in some godforsaken camel jockey country. And frankly, Dick didn’ didn’t think, after 9/11, that anyone would give a damn why we wanted to bring down Hussein. It really shocked the hell out him. But Dick knows how to roll with the punches. He was just telling me yesterday, ‘They can all go to hell, because this is America, and the one who ends up with the most money wins. Guess who that’s going to be? Me!’

Again and again, Vice President Cheney has been accused, along with Karl Rove, of manipulating President Bush. Many claim that the last eight years have been orchestrated from behind the scenes by Cheney, using a smokescreen of deeply flawed legal arguments to become the most powerful vice president in history. And leaving America in the most severe economic downward spiral in almost a century. Many in the publishing community believe that being the most hated vice president in the history of the United States will make his memoir worthless. His top aides disagree.

“In this memoir,” another top aide confided, “you really see what a genius Dick is. Dick Cheney had a master plan when he took charge of America. In the year 2000, the economy had a $211 billion surplus. The national debt was down to $140 billion. He knew he had to turn that around. And by God he did. His goal when he assumed control was to have America $10 trillion in debt by the time he left office. And Dick is absolutely tickled pink that we made it to 10.6. This way, when everyone else has tanked, Dick and his buddies will be able to come in and buy the whole god damn country up for peanuts. Dick is brilliant. The Puppet Master. That’s what we call him. Sometimes when W gets really tanked, he and Dick do this hysterical ventriloquist routine. W sits on Dick’s lap, and he talks while W’s lips move. It’s a panic, seriously. Just about the only thing he didn’t get done was, extend presidential term limits. That kind of sticks in his craw. But Dick figures Obama’s going to screw the pooch so bad, in four years he’ll have brother Jeb all primed and ready. In the meantime, in the words of Dick, ‘Mission accomplished!”
In Hollywood, there has been speculation that Tom Cruise, who is apparently interested in playing the former vice president, is set to make an offer as soon as a publishing deal has been struck. And insider at Cruises production company said, “Tom has always had a fondness for Dick, everyone knows that.”

When contacted, Vice President Cheney’s office had no comment.

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Economic Meltdown & Chippendales

1208LD1 Chippendales21500 points the market plummeted last week. This was preceded by months of money drunk Wall Streeters feeding like little piggies at the trough of dirty money. For me it’s déjà vu all over again. Black Monday, October 19, 1987, the market crashed 508 points, while I was the master of ceremonies at Chippendales, the world’s greatest male stripping empire. And just as one-bedroom fixer-uppers were recently being valued at half a million dollars, citizens were taking out loans with balloon payments so full of hot air they exploded, and the new Bush was turning Wall Street into a Vegas casino; so Chippendales, with its steroid-bloated, mountain-peak-pecced excess was business as usual in a culture where the Emperor was a male exotic dancer with no clothes on. In both cases, America was writing checks with its mouth that its ass couldn’t cash and it crashed like an addled addict after a lost weekend.

In fact, that’s what happened to me. Started when the Snowman, a Chippendales studmuffin, began feeding me coke so I’d give him better intros. Soon I was shoving massive amounts of blow up my nose to feed the demon beast inside that could never be satisfied, til one night I did so much coke I died. Luckily, I came back to life. I quit coke that night. Dedicated myself to working hard, finding love, and conquering my demon beasts old-school style, by unraveling my knots slowly and painfully. Took me decades of busting my hump and years of hypnotherapy, but today I’m drug-free, with a job I love, a wife who loves me in all my idiocy, an apple-of-my-eye baby girl, and a
glorious home with a spectacular garden that feeds me every day.

I’m hoping America will have just as happy an ending. Dump the gas-guzzling SUVs, play well with others, stop the billion dollar a day war, and prosper the old-school way: work hard and earn it. Well, that’s my two cents worth, and with inflation I owe you approximately one trillion dollars.

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