The Child of a Chaplain Learns About God

Jimmy: Goodnight, little boy who lives on Venus (n.b., I told him every time he looks up at Venus in the sky, there is a little Venusian boy waving back).

Me: O.K. Get in bed.

Jimmy: Daddy, my prayed to God last night.

Me: You did? What did you pray about?

Jimmy: My prayed for my Legos to fall off the shelf (n.b., his Legos were put on the highest shelf in his closet until further notice because he was mean to his sister).

Me: Really?

Jimmy, sighing: Yea -- it didn't work.



The 2008 Tournament of Books is set to begin March 7. This year, bet on the winner and support a good cause.

It's just like March Madness--I know nothing about the contenders (new baby means the little reading time left is devoted to finding the secret of making a baby sleep through the night) and yet I'm more than willing to throw down money on some brackets!

And they said no to Allen Ruskin ....


Redlefsen Christmas Letter, Draft 3

I hope you are enjoying your holidays!

I'm not!

As many of you know, "Tax" Dodge and Larry Butterbutt ratted Ted out to the Feds, so Ted's firm is fucked -- F-U-K-K-E-D! I'm sure those two bastards will get what's coming to them. In fact, I just bought a gallon of gasoline and I'm heading over to their houses now! Here, I come Margie and Nell! Tee Hee! BAD NEWS -- since our house got taken and I'm now in this dump-crap motor home at Ocean View Estates (the only ocean I ever see is the guy next door who likes to piss out his back door -- Ha Ha!), we're not having a holiday party and Rhonda and Raul can't get drunk and try to hump each other in my linen closet this year. I hope your spouses don't get to this letter first!!! That could be a big surprise for them!!! Hah! Hah! Hah!

Before we became limited to conjugal visits, Ted and I passed our 25th year of living hell together. He rented some red pinto with the roof cut off with a chain saw, and since we didn't have any money, we shoplifted a couple of Mickey's Big Mouths and passed out under the boardwalk. The bastard took that opportunity to tell me that my engagement ring wasn't being "polished" -- and that if the motherfucking horse had come in like it was motherfucking supposed to, everything would be just motherfucking peachy! (Excuse my French!) He gave me a bread loaf twist tie as a replacement (-- "it's the thought that counts" -- right, girls!!! Hah! Hah! M.F.-Hah!).

Since those rat bastards sold us out, Rory's been turning tricks down at the end of the pier where the men dress as ladies -- she's running a handjob special, if any of you old leches that used to stare at her during our pool parties want to trot on down there (Although some of you have been by to see her -- I'm looking at you, Artie! You fuck!)

Roger and I drove past some colleges on the way to dropping Ted off at Sing Sing -- let's face it, Roger is too dumb to pass an obedience test. I asked Rory if she needed an intern, but she'd probably have to draw him a map (Ha! Ha! HA!!)

And, just to add to my fucking terrible life, Ted's rat-bastard father (who never, ever liked me), finally took his own life and that of Ted's flea-bitten dog -- murder-suicide while the Feds were trying to kick in the door (I supposed IT WAS romantic!! I wouldn't put it past him!! HA HAH!!)

Hopefully, I won't see next year!

And for the kids, there's no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or God-damned Tooth Fairy, Either!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Burn in Hell!

Donald Duck dispatched to Walter Reed

No, it's not a George Saunders story. It's the truth. And it's outrageously stupid. I guess the solution to cronyism is picking cronies with better pr. Trademarked cartoon characters are optional.

The oft-cranky Disney cartoon character, wearing his blue sailor jacket and cap, was in a palpable rage. His webbed feet had lifted off the ground, his beak was gaping, and his white-gloved hands were tightly clutching an old-fashioned two-piece telephone.

"We can clearly see he's frustrated," said Kris Lafferty, a trainer for the Disney Institute who was leading workers at the Northwest Washington hospital last week in a four-hour seminar on customer service. "Why do we think he's frustrated?"

My guess is he's frustrated because he got sent to fight in an ill-conceived war where he was grievously injured. Then, when he got home, he was given substandard healthcare by a privatized veteran's hospital that was better at making money than treating his injuries and keeping the facilities sanitary.

But I'm wrong. Turns out he's pissed because his orderly didn't sit through a three hour, presumably govt-subsidized Disney commercial.

Considering the business-side understanding of customer-service- a necessary expense to be kept minimal- this is particularly odious. The problem isn't rude telephone operators.


Article on Jim McPherson in Daily Iowan

I noticed the fellow sitting across from me on the bus this morning was reading this. Check it out.


Winter, you drove me to this.

For those of you no longer in the Midwest, you do not understand the wintry wrath that has been visited upon us. Jesus Christ, it's neverending. It snows, then becomes bitterly cold, then warms up slightly so that the bottom layer of snow melts a little, then it snows again as another arctic blast (as seems to be the term preferred by meteorologists) blows through, leaving bitterly cold air in its wake and a layer of ice on every piece of pavement. The other day, it was 25 in the morning, and I thought to myself, "Oh, it's spring! I should walk to work. Why did I bother wearing these stifling gloves?" and my neighbor was waiting at the bus stop in a skirt. Then it went down to -8 again. I used to think it was cold when the snot in my nose would freeze. Now, I gauge the coldness by how long it takes the snot in my nose to freeze. This morning (-5), that took about four seconds. Not quite as fast (two seconds) as the day it was -13 when I left the house.

Anyway, my point is that winter has made the decision to move a bit easier. My husband accepted a job back in the Bay Area (Oaktown, bitches), so we'll be moving there. He will move in March, and I'll move with our young spud and dog in June or so. And then we'll hemorrhage money and die in an earthquake, but AT LEAST MY SNOT WILL BE FLOWING FREELY.


The choice of a new generation

Fiction with marketing tie-ins (like dead authors who evolve into trademarks) comes from an alternate universe. My fingers always hesitate before typing a brand name. At first, I tell myself it's a cameo appearance by something from the physical world, but inevitably I feel my socks reverse polarity. Brands can be so packed with unwanted resonances (and legal issues), they jump out like an orch hit. . . . then again, maybe I'm knitting in an odd fabric: I think of a DF Wallace story with a fly circling a drop of soda in the groove of a Pepsi can lid. It's a perfect choice--the Pepsi slogan at the time was probably "Gotta Have It."

Democracy as product

I think the obvious flaw in Dickerson's reasoning is that Obama isn't an iPod.

But isn't there a natural limit to our enthusiasm for to this kind of sweeping phenomenon? Isn't the generation that Obama has so successfully courted usually the first to toss overhyped products, even the overhyped products with which they were at first so enthralled?

Of course, backlash happens in politics and it could happen to Obama. But I think journos looking for an angle come deadline are more likely to start the pile-on than fickle youngsters are.

I don't really know why I read Slate. I hate it.


I have now seen everything

This is just awesome. I wonder how the translation went for:

"But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside,
Making our music there.
With a few red lights, a few old beds,
We made a place to sweat."


Writers' strike, we hardly knew ye

Any thoughts on the end of our long national nightmare?

Iowa undergrad Workshop in the works?

The University of Iowa is apparently planning to create an undergrad creative writing major, and Bret Anthony Johnston is among those interviewing to head it up (I have no personal knowledge of the other two candidates -- anyone?). This would be cool in a way. It would further strengthen Iowa City as a great place to go if you want to be a writer. It would bring even more great used books to local bookstores. And it would increase by some small percentage the likelihood of striking up an interesting conversation with one of the hordes of young people that rule the town nine months a year, many of whom are fabulous. However, I'm not convinced creative writing is the smartest plan for a writer's undergraduate education, and for entirely predictable reasons. Given the presumed writing courseload and the goodly assortment of lit courses that should be taken alongside them, does that leave room for much else in this kind of college education? Then again, maybe I'm just jealous I can't go back and do this.


Way Down in the Hole

Who else is watching "The Wire"?

If you haven't been, read no further.

Anyway, I like the fifth season. The media storyline is getting beat up in the press (surprise, surprise) and in a limited way they're right. But in some of the criticism, the show's argument is reinforced- take for example, the fact that Slate has put Stephen Glass's editor and the spouse of one of his co-workers on the beat. And of course they hate it. They're proclaiming the show ruined. We don't ask Martin O'Malley to comment on season 3, or Margaret Spellings to write about season 4. Journalists--particularly journalists with a personal proximity to the sort of impropriety on display here-- are going to have a fairly predictable reaction to season 5. One wonders what Slate's editors were expecting. They do love to lead the charge when they can, after all, especially on backlashes.

To my mind, the single biggest shortcoming in the Mcnulty/Sun thread is that it feels rushed. Much of the nuance we're used to seeing in new locales is being cast aside in this shortened season. In a way, the show is pushing into the entirely uncharted waters of satire. I'll roll with it, but those two factors together do pose problems.

But the rest is pretty much the awesome.


A long shot, but you never know

I'm editing a book on hair loss and replacement, and need a medical specialist to review the manuscript -- someone with some expertise in hair restoration. Anyone know the sort? Please email me if so: earthgoat at gmail dot com.



SER's prediction from a month ago

"Clinton manages to win a few big states on Feb. 5, but Obama clearly has the most popular support. Due to the weird rules of delegate allocation, however, Clinton's stash of superdelegates means she might win on a technicality. (Note: I have no idea what I'm talking about. If you want more details on the superdelegate thing, consult the Internets.) A legal tangle reminiscent of Bush/Gore 2000 takes place in the primary season. By November, everyone is so exhausted by it all that they forget to vote."

Um... I'm sorry, but do you have any stock tips?


Redlefsen Christmas Letter, Draft 2

I hope you are enjoying your holidays!

Wow, what a difference a year makes! We moved into our cozy new home last February, and we still haven't managed to completely unpack! I never really realized how much stuff we'd accumulated until I tried to get things together and downsize into our new cozy home (please send money instead of gifts this year-- hah hah!)! We've been busy meeting the new neighbors in Ocean View Estates, and some of them are quite the character. Although I was a little hesitant when Ted told me he wanted to sell our old house, I'm loving the fact that I have so much less to clean (which means more time for Manhattans, chocolate, and "Oprah" -- hah hah!). Because of the move, we let Carlos and Svetlana go, but I wanted to get "my hands dirty" again, as they say. I'm even cooking dinner now (don't laugh, Nancy, there's only been one small fire -- hah hah)!

As many of you know, Ted's firm took something of a hit this year. Terry Dodge and Larry Butterworth took it upon themselves to make a deal with the authorities, so we're still up in the air about what the future of Redlefsen, Redlefsen, Dodge, and Butterworth will look like, but I'm sure it will turn out better than any of us could have hoped for. I'm sure the blame will end up where it belongs, whatever those two may be up to (as you may remember, I never liked those two -- and never invited them to our famous Redlefsen Family Christmas Extravaganzas. I'm glad there actions have proven me right, although Ted and I are trying to be more Christ-like in our dealings with them). Although I had to call off the bash this year, once we get settled here at Ocean View, I expect to see Rhonda and Raul tearing up the dancefloor with their famous tango next December(hah hah! Muy Caliente!).

Ted and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary at the Shore, driving down in a RED CONVERTIBLE Ted had rented just for the occassion! Ted was so romantic, and we spent the whole weekend acting like kids again. Even with all that has been going on, Ted remembered, and even gave me a NEW ENGAGEMENT RING! It was SOOO sweet!

Rory's new business in the entertainment field has been really taking off -- unlike many women her age, she's setting her own hours, keeping the profits, and running her own ship. I'm told she's quite the entrepeneur! She's been running herself ragged, but onwards and upwards, I always say! Her phone literally never stops ringing (at all hours of the night, too!)

Roger is also doing well -- he and I did the "College Tour" this fall, and we saw Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Ted's alma mater, Princeton, the usual suspects. He's sent in his applications, and now we are just keeping our fingers and toes crossed until the good news arrives!

Even so, this year has had its challenges. Unfortunately, we lost Ted's father this year, although, as he always said "I had a pretty good run." And he certainly did! As all of you know, he was always the first one to laugh! We also lost our beloved dog, Sparkplug, although I am sure he is happily licking sweet Jesus' face as we speak!

May next year be all good things!

Merry Christmas,

Judy Redlefsen


Open Letter

Hi Guys,

I hope those of you in Super Tuesday states will join me today in voting for Barack Obama. We are at a crossroads in this country, and whatever respect I have for Hillary Clinton, I don't think she can bring the transformative change that our nation needs. I'm sick to death of being cynical and depressed about my government. I think of the people I love, and I know that there are ways in which government can simplify or complicate their lives or even, in light of the worst failures of the last seven years, keep them safe or fail to do even that. I think of the children that A and I hope to have someday soon (but not too soon) and I know that we want to bring them into the world that a President Obama would symbolize.

You guys know what a political junkie I am. My intense attention for these things is almost always rewarded with feelings of powerlessness, outrage, and sadness. I'm not inclined to optimism and yet somehow this guy has me teary-eyed with it. I think that's a testament, in and of itself, of the promise Obama brings. Optimism and rhetoric are powerful things in the right moment, and this is the right moment, I think. For me, these qualities don't overshadow the substance of Obama's platform-- which is rich and exciting in its own right-- but I also know that we mustn't underestimate their importance.

I hope you'll join me and A today in casting a vote for Obama. I believe this vote today to be the most important and hopeful vote I've ever had the privilege of casting. I feel tremendously blessed that I can vote for a candidate I find so inspiring, and I wanted to share that feeling with you guys.

Full of good feelings and love,


Super Tuesday

Anyone care to make any guesses as to what'll happen today and beyond? Will a Democrat lock it up today, or will the superdelegates have the final word at the convention? Will Romney miraculously regain his Mittmentum, or will his malleable self be crushed (or, more accurately, squished) by McCain?

Are you voting today? If so, for whom? And what was your experience at the polling place? I suppose you could also tell us about your experience with absentee ballots, but it may lack dramatic tension.

On another topic, any hot gossip from AWP?


Why it takes so long for your book to come out

Even after you finish, sell, and submit your final manuscript, you're still likely to be waiting for as much as two years for it to appear on shelves. Why is that? NTYBR essay explains.