Two Words: Jeff Ellis
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
  I know I promised never to mention the Shiavo Case again on this blog but apparently I lied. Sorry. However, this article is simply too good not to link to.

The point, of course, is not to suggest that George Felos's own religious theology should be used to dismiss him as a credible advocate. The point is why have't Felos' beliefs been subjected to the same scrutiny as the beliefs of those who don't want Terri Shiavo starved to death? 
  In the interest of burning bridges early in my literary career, I'm going to confess something that I've already publicly confessed far too many times in the past.

Stephen King bugs me.

Yes, some of it is professional jealousy. Some of it is the fact that he gets paid more money than most writers will ever dream of seeing over the course of his entire life for efforts that -- more and more frequently -- could charitably be described as hackwork. I'm not talking about his books, necessarily. I'm talking about the lazy, incoherent film scripts that he writes (I'm thinking Sleepwalkers in specific but there are others...) and the way he defends them by saying he was specifically trying to write a bad movie; a "moron movie" as he puts it. (Of course, any true fan of B-horror filks knows that the best of them were anything other than moron movies.) I'm thinking about the man who attempted to force Kingdom Hospital on the world; assuming that just slapping the words "Stephen King's" on the title would make up for a lack of anything worth watching. I'm talking about the fact that everything he's written as of late has somehow been designed to remind folks that he got run over by a negligent driver a few years back and was quite seriously injured; the not-so-subtle idea being that to criticize Mr. King's more recent work for lacking the heart of his earlier books is the same thing as not appreciating the fact that he nearly died. The Stephen King that gets on my nerves isn't the one who wrote The Shining or It or The Stand or any number of well done horror novels. No, that Stephen King is A-OK with me! The Stephen King that bugs me is the Stephen King whose apparently planning on writing three hundred or so books about some Gunman very slowly making his way to the Dark Tower, all the time assuring his readers, "Hey, he'll make it to the Tower in one or two more books and then it'll all make sense and you'll understand why you've wasted so much of your money buying this endless, incoherent saga!" This is the same Stephen King who has picked up the rather bad habit of defending his work by claiming that Charles Dickens would be writing the same thing if he were alive today.

In short, this is the Stephen King who, while undeniably talented, has allowed success to turn him into a pompous schmuck.

However, all of those feelings, again, could potentially be dismissed as professional jealousy on my part and perhaps they should be.

And they still don't quite capture just what it is about Mr. King personally that grates on my nerves so.

Luckily, the folks at fametracker have been kind of enough to explain it for me. Read their recent thoughts on "Uncle Steve" right here
  As I've mentioned here before, I am an unabashed fan of reality television and I have often felt that those commentators who are always so quick to bash it are often missing the entire point. Most viewers know that they're not saying anything resembling a classic work of art when they watch an episode of, say, Big Brother. We know that most reality television series are junk but, at the same time, so is most nonreality TV programming. It's difficult to remember a time before reality television but try hard enough and you can. Before Survivor jump started the whole trend in 2001, what was America watching on the major networks? Basically, bland sitcom after bland sitcom that combined the callousness of Seinfeld with the pretty face of Friends but never bothered to even try to understand what made those two shows so popular in the first place. And dramatic television? Forget about it. Each season, you got another couple of rip-offs of ER and a handful of NYPD Blue clones and yet another show from David E. Kelley that was so quirky you essentially found yourself wanting to grab the television and start screaming at the onscreen characters, "STOP BEING SO PREDICTABLY ECCENTRIC!"

In short, reality television became huge because network television had gotten lazy. Reality shows were the first shows in recent memory in which the stars were not all politically correct, where people actually said the wrong thing more often than not, and where everyone acted so much like an idiot that you couldn't help but relate to them in a way that you could never relate to the latest Boston-based lawyer to come from the mighty pen of Mr. Kelley. And for all the blather about how the sudden tidal wave of reality television is going to wash away quality drama and comedy, the effect has really been just the opposite. Reality television gave the David E. Kelleys of the world something that they sorely needed and that was competition. It forced the smart ones amongst them to actually start thinking about the programming they were producing as opposed to just cloning the top ten on autopilot. Don't get me wrong, most of what appears on TV is still crap. So it has been and so it shall always be. However, there are also shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives and CSI that would never have been risked if not for the scare put into their producers by reality television. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not exactly a fan of any of those shows. (I tried to watch Desperate Housewives for the first time earlier this week and ended up going outside for a smoke after the 1st fifteen minutes and never coming back because a pack of cigarettes was far more appealing to me than spending any more time with the residents of Wysteria Lane. Then again, I've been told that it's not exactly a show designed to appeal to men in the first place...) But, they're all different from what seemed to dominate every network schedule just a few years ago and they would probably have never seen the light of day if the previously "acceptable" dramas and sitcoms of television hadn't been blown away by Survivor and it's followers.

So, anyway, the point is that in general, I enjoy reality television and think that critics who seem to feel they have some sort of holy duty to criticize it should basically get over it. That said, I have never, never understood that popularity of American Idol.

Now, in all honesty, I do usually catch the first few episodes of each season. Mostly, this is so I can see all the bad singers who try out and end up getting brutally dismissed by the judges. However, that only last for a few weeks until the show starts up with it's actual competition between the 12 singers who have met the judge's musical standards to become the next American Idol or whatever it is they think is going to happen if they win. Which means that all the really bad (not to mention unique) singers are eliminated pretty quickly and pretty soon the whole thing comes down to watching a small group of uninteresting singers all singing the same mainstream, easy listening style songs, all making sure to hit the exact same high notes and to carry the exact same tune while the judges tell them how talented they are, largely because they're performing in a style that doesn't run the risk of launching anything unexpected on the audience. As far as I can tell, American Idol is a documentary about a bunch of people competing to see who can be the blandest and least offensive by the end of the season. And what exactly is the point to that?

One of the main appeals of shows like Survivor or Big Brother or The Amazing Race is that, more often than not, the most offensive, unlikeable people end up somehow winning. It gives hope to all the rest of us who secretly suspect that the rest of the world sees us as far more obnoxius than even we suspect. On the first season of Survivor, Richard Hatch became, perhaps, the most universally loathed person to be featured on any current television series at that time. And what happened? He won the million because he was willing to be loathed. If Richard was on American Idol, he'd be told he was too fat, too old, and too gay to expect any sort of reward for his efforts.

I watched American Idol earlier tonight, obviously. I did so out of boredom and as I was watching, it occured to me that some of my favorite vocalists -- people like David Byrne, Elvis Costello, Roger Daltrey, Michael Stipe, and others -- would never had made it past the first two rounds. All of these singers have imperfect voices and it is the imperfections and how they use them that make each of them memorable as singers. American Idol, however, isn't about celebrating the unexpected quirks that make us human and give birth to art. American Idol is about weeding out every imperfection until one arrives at the perfect mannequin. Then again, to be far, the show is entitled American Idol and not American Artist or American Cult Hero so perhaps I'm just being far too critical for my own good.

The majority of the people I work with watch American Idol religiously and quite a few of them have told me that this year's crop of candidates were not the usual blah robots. In fact, there were two long-haired "rockers" amongst them. Natrually, this is a reference to Bo Bice and Constantine, who both have hair that would probably be considered long if they were appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show back in 1962. These two are the rockers, the guys bringing credibility to the competition. And it is true that Constantine in particular seems to have spent a good deal of his pre-American Idol life learning how to screw up his face just like Eddie Vedder used to do whenever he sang Jeremy. But, seriously, watching these guys pretending to be rough and ready rock-and-rollers, I was reminded of nothing less than the old episodes of Dragnet that I used to watch on Nick at Nite. These weren't the classic 1950s episodes. No, these episodes came from the late '60s revival and most featured Jack Webb dealing with the various social issues (grass, grass, and more grass -- with some LSD tossed in just for fun) of the days. These episodes are famous for the many scenes in which Jack Webb would be forced to deal with various "flower children" who were all played by vaguely familiar contract players in their mid-thirties. In order to convince the audience that these were authentic hippies that Webb was dealing with, these actors would always wear a wig that appeared to be based on John Lennon's haircut from the Sgt. Pepper's album cover along with rose-tinted glasses, a fu manchue style mustache, and brightly colored Nehru jackets and bell bottoms. And whenever they talked, they'd always draw out their sentences for a few beats longer than Webb and they'd end every sentence with "man." Every third word was "groovy," and every other person they'd ever known was "cat" and occasionally, if really adamant, they might say "Dig it!" What these contract actors were to actual hippies, Bo and Constantine are to actual "rockers." They've got the basics of the look but when all is said and done, they're basically just delivering lines written by someone else.

Regardless of which American sellout wins American Idol, the future is clear -- self-titled debut CDs filled with the same covers of the same songs sung in the exact same style regardless of who wins followed by a lifetime of county fairs, "didn't you used to be" moments, and finally appearances -- 20 years from now -- on various compilation CDs with names like "Easy Listening Hits of the Early 21st Century."

Good luck, guys. Sing your artificial little hearts out. 
Thursday, March 24, 2005
  My previous comments on the Terri Shiavo case were probably too glib for their own good. Glibness is one of those bad habits that bloggers seem to fall into. For a much better post about the case, I'm going to direct readers to my friend Shannon Black's blog.

Shannon has the right idea as far as the appropriate way for bloggers to handle this case. As she says, what will happen, will happen and it's probably best that everyone state their opinion once and then step back.

So, here's my personal opinion and, barring anything unforseen happening, I'm going to follow Shannon's worthy example by not posting any further comment. I am a Catholic. I'm not an extremely devout (or even that good of a) Catholic but I do still consider myself to be Catholic. And as a Catholic, I am opposed to any action that could prematurely end someone's life. That is why I am opposed to the death penalty. That is why I do not support abortion. And that is why I do not support euthanasia. An individual's mortality is not something that is meant to be determined by other people.

Politically, I am a Libertarian. As a Libertarian, I am opposed to any law or system that gives the government the right to determine who gets to live or die. At the same time, respect for individual freedom would seem to suggest that if someone leaves a living will requesting that their life be ended, than their wishes should be followed through. The problem is that people's desires often change depending on the circumstances of any given moment. It might seem a lot easier to say "Don't Keep Me Alive" when you're not actually in a situation where your life could be snuffed out at any given moment simply by somebody pulling the plug.

And that is why I am opposed to the idea of Terri Shiavo being starved to death.

And that's all I'll say about it because obviously, whatever happens, it's going to be a far greater burden on her loved ones than it is on someone like me who only knows the Shiavos as people I see on the evening news. And this type of pain should never be used as a soapbox.

And no, it was probably not appropriate for me to compare Michael Shiavo to Scott Peterson. I do not know the man and I do not know what's going on in his mind or soul and I don't know what the past eleven years were like for him.

That said, my feelings about Mr. Shiavo remain the same. But they are mine and mine alone and if I'm wrong, that says a lot more about me than it does about him. This isn't an apology to Michael Shiavo.

It's just an acknowledgement that sometimes, those of us who consider ourselves to be commentators just need to shut the Hell up and let life take it's course, wherever that course may lead. 
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
  Does anybody else get the feeling that right now, in California, Scott Peterson is following the coverage of the Terri Schiavo Case and slapping his forehead as he exclaims, "Why didn't I think of that!?" 
Friday, March 18, 2005
  On occasion, strange things pop up on network TV. Such as, right now, even as I type these very words, I am watching the conclusion of Navy Seals on CBS. Navy Seals is a Charlie Sheen/Michael Biehn B-movie from 1989 that made very little money at the box office, got absolutely horrendous reviews, and really isn't half bad as long as you're willing to go into it with the understanding that it is a Charlie Sheen/Michael Biehn B-movie from 1989. Still, I cannot understand just why exactly this little obscurity would suddenly pop up 16 years later on CBS during prime time.

Most shockingly is that the villians are not only exclusively Arab but there aren't any nice Islamic fundamentalists in the film to balance things out. Of course, when this movie was made, there was still a World Trade Center in New York City. Not to mention, there were also over 3,000 people still living who would not be following Sept. 11th, 2001. In other words, this film is from less enlightened times.

Yep, nothing like a pointless act of mass murder to teach a country to be tolerant... 
Thursday, March 17, 2005
  This meme (the Book meme) was passed on to me the Yankee from Mississippi herself, Shannon Black. So, without further ado, here we go --

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Hmmm ... Well, I'd like to be all of them to be honest; as my goal in life has always been to read everything that has ever been written since the beginning of the the written language. But, if I have to chose, I will go with The Club Dumas by Alex Perez-Reverte, which is one of the most enjoyable literary experiments ever to be turned into a shockingly bad film by a great director (in this case, Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate.)

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

That's kind of a trick question as I am a writer and I must admit to having developed crushes on the majority of the female characters who appear in my own writing. Let's see, in my one published book -- It's Impossible To Start A Fire If You Have No Desire to Burn -- I think it's pretty obvious that I have hopeless crushes on the both the enigmatic Jessica Evans (nee Adams) and Dawn, the redhead who writes poetry about her underwear. In the novel I'm working on right now -- In God's Country -- my affection is split rather evenly between Sabrina Burgess, a high school drama teacher who may have been kidnapped and sold to a childless couple when she was a baby, and Ciara Conway, the morbid-minded Irish lass who ends up working the crime beat for a small town Texas newspaper. As far as characters I didn't create, I will have to admit to having a crush on Jordan Baker, the pathological liar from The Great Gatsby.

The last book you bought is:

Oh God, I buy several books a week so it's kinda hard to remember. But, honestly, I think it was The Book of Lies, edited by Richard Metzger. Published by Disinformation, The Book Of Lies is a collection of essays and articles dealing with "magick." I'm not really big into paganism but it's been valuable research for In God's Country.

The last book you read:

The Gay Place by Billy Lee Brammer. This is one of the great American political novels, a portrait of Texas political scheming in the late '50s written -- more or less -- in the style of the Beats. It revolves around a fictional Governor who, is obviously, based on Lyndon B. Johnson. Siginicantly, this book was written in the '50s, before the LBJ persona became seared on the national mindset.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.

The latest edition of Michael Barone's The Alamanac of American Politics. Detailed information of every single Governor, Senator, and Congressman in the U.S., the Almanac is also probably the most fascinating treasure trove of trivia out there nowadays.

Inside Oscar and Inside Oscar 2 by Damien Bona -- I'll count this as one book. Once again, a wonderful trove of trivia.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis -- Still my favorite novel.

It's Impossible To Start A Fire If You Have No Desire To Burn by Jeff Ellis -- Naturally.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien -- I'll need an escape from reality if I'm stuck on an island. Not a fan of large bodies of water...

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Errr....lemme get back to you on that. Unfortunately, the only blogger I'm really in regular contact with is the one who sent me this in the first place. But, I'll go out and befriend three more as soon as I get home from work tomorrow. 
  A happy and wonderful St. Patrick's Day to all of you, especially to those of you who, like me, trace their origins back to Ireland. For as long as I can remember, I've taken a great deal of pride in being an Irish-American and, as opposed to the popular cliche, it has nothing to do with the Kennedys. No, for me, it has to do with the legacy of one of the greatest film directors in history, John Huston. When Huston's film were good, they were brilliant. And when his films were bad (as sadly, a large handful were), they were all terrible in their own unique way. But all of his film were invested with a sensibility that can only truly be understood by those with Irish blood.

In other news, after nine days of deliberations, a jury has acquitted actor Robert Blake of murdering his wife, Bonnie. Now, here's my idea. Both Blake and O.J. Simpson were (and presumably still are) actors with an undeniable screen presence who, at the same time, never really possessed that special something that would make them compelling film stars. No, both of them had a talent perfectly suited for the small screen. So, here's my idea for the upcoming television season --

Robert Blake and O.J. Simpson star in The Acquitted. Basically, the show would follow the efforts of two recently acquitted defendants as they scour the world looking for the men who actually murdered their wives. Blake would be the brooding, philosophical one while Simpson would be the cool, carefree one. Think of it as a modern day I Spy with Blake as Robert Culp and Simpson as Bill Cosby. Of course, each episode would feature yet another adventure that Blake and Simpson stumble into while looking for justice. I swear, this show could have it all. It's got the whole interracial buddy thing that made Miami Vice such a pleasure, the mysterious puzzle that has won shows like Alias and Lost thousands a fan sites, and a chance to feature a new special guest star with each week's episode much as The Incredible Hulk used to. In fact, we could resurrect the character of Jack McGee from Hulk. After finally giving up on finding the green monster, McGee is now trailing Blake and Simpson, attempting to uncover evidence to overturn their acquitals. Just imagine the thrill of seeing O.J. Simpson say, "Don't make me angry, Mr. McGree. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." It could be the catch phrase of the decade; uhmmm..again.

I think I may be on to some thing here... 
Sunday, March 13, 2005
  I just finished updating my links. Nothing too major -- I fixed the link to Shannon Black's blog, added a new link for D.C.'s Political Report, and changed a few descriptions to mirror recent developments. Hopefully, I'll add several more links over the next three days while I'm off from work. But from now, I'm going to go pass out and wish it was already St. Patrick's Day and that I was already getting drunk on green beer. Good night or morning or whatever the Hell time it is. (Working nights does that to you!) 
Saturday, March 12, 2005
  In all the chaos and melodrama of being swamped with tedious work, I actually missed my chance to comment on the Oscars last month. Now, admitedly, I did end up sleeping through half the show. In fact, I was only half-awake when Clint Eastwood won best director which led to me having a very bizarre dream in which a young Al Pacino (looking like he did in 1979's And Justice For All...) stood up in the middle of the auditorium and continually screamed, "NO!" while Clint delivered his acceptance speech. Remarkably, I was awake enough that my mind actually took in Clint's speech but asleep enough that the speech ended up being used verbatim in a dream. It was kinda weird. (Also strange was the presence of Michael Landon and a few other minor and dead TV stars standing on the stage behind Clint and smirking through his entire speech.) Jamie Foxx's acceptance speech also ended up getting put into a dream which basically featured the entire cast of In Living Color surrounding Jamie the way bodyguards tend to surround Louis Farrakahn and glaring out at the audience as Foxx gave his speech.

But, anyway, for the record, here are my quick and late thoughts regarding the 2004 Oscars. Number one, both Million Dollar Baby and the Aviator were fine and worthy films. The best film of 2004, however, was Sideways. Morgan Freeman deserved an Oscar just for being Morgan Freeman but his award should have gone to Thomas Haden Church. The unnominated Paul Giametti deserved to win Best Actor over Foxx, who did an undeniably fine job but had the advantage of playing a character that most people already felt a certain automatic affection for. Whereas Giametti, in Sideways, made us care about a complete and total schmuck. Best Supporting Actress should have gone to Virginia Madsen for Sideways. Kate Winslet should have been named Best Actress for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which should have been nominated for best picture as opposed to Ray.

Hmmm...what else? Who neutered Chris Rock? On the one hand, it was nice to see him not being totally abrasive but on the other hand, the man is Chris Rock. (Has anyone noted that the 2004 Oscars were the first in history to both honor and be hosted by former cast members of In Living Color?)

Why was Antonio Banderas singing the song from The Motorcycle Diaries? Who knew Counting Crows were still in existence? And who cared? And what was the deal with Beyonce singing everything but the song that actually won? Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek sure were cute presenting their awards together, weren't they? Wouldn't it have pissed you off if they ended up giving you your award in the middle of the freaking aisle and then drowning you out with orchestra music if you spoke for more than ten seconds afterward? Is there anybody out there who doesn't find Julia Roberts to be just a tad annoying nowadays? Does anyone else get the feeling that Sean Penn probably isn't good at parties?

I think that's about it. 
Friday, March 11, 2005
  Speaking of politics (and when am I not speaking of politics as of late?), it appears that we might actually have a halfway interesting election year coming up down here in Texas. This is a rarity because Texas -- regardless of what some analysts continue to claim -- has pretty much gone from being a one-party Democratic state to a one-party Republican state. Hence, the only real statewide contest that matters is the Republican Primary and the Republican Primary in Texas typically features one serious candidate and a couple of extremist kooks. Texas Republicans, on the whole, tend to settle their disputes behind the scenes rather than in primaries.

But that could change in the upcoming election for Governor. Ever since G.W. Bush first won the White House, our Governor has been Rick Perry. He's not all that inspiring of a Governor -- in fact, it's often times easy to forget that we actually have a Governor. In short, Rick Perry is the epitome of the telegenic but bland politician who -- regardless of what he may or may not actually have accomplished in office -- just doesn't make much of an impression. What little impression one does get from Perry is one of smugness. Like most Texas Republicans, Perry was originally a Democrat and it's hard to escape the feeling that if Texas went communist tomorrow, Rick would be the first one to change his affiliation and start carrying the banner of Lenin. So, in short, even the folks who voted for Rick Perry don't care much for the guy. However, he was the Republican nominee for Governor and, again, Texas is a one party state. (Of course, it didn't help that the Democratic candidate in 2002 was Tony Sanchez, who comes across like a mid-level drug lord from a rerun of Miami Vice...)

Perry, it is assumed, is planning on running for reelection in 2006. And should Perry win the nomination, he'll probably get elected because -- again -- this is Texas. This is where things get interesting though. Texas's senior senator is a Republican named Kay Bailey Hutchison who is everything that our Rick is not. And Kay -- and, sexist it may be, but that's how every true Texan refers to their Senator, whether they have the right to be on a first name basis or not -- has made little secret of the fact that she wants to be Governor. And right now, it's looking like she might challenge Perry in the Republican Primary. So, right now, everyone's waiting to see what she does next and political watchers like me are secretly praying that Hutchison takes the plunge. It's been a while since Texas had an epic primary battle for statewide office and certainly, this'll be the first time that the titans battling it out were Republicans and not Democrats.

It used to be that every election year, you could count on the very liberal and casually corrupt Jim Mattox to run for either Senator, Governor, or Attorney General. (Mattox was elected Attorney General twice.) Mattox hasn't won an election since 1986 -- in fact, he's only one won primary (for Attorney General yet again) since then, though he lost the general to John Cornyn. In fact, if anything, Mattox was nothing less than a Democratic Rick Perry in that even his own party couldn't stand the man. But still, you were always happy to hear that ol' Jim was going to make a comeback because at least you knew it would lead to a nice, dirty fight. Well, since Jim left the scene, we haven't had a nice, dirty fight. We came close with the Victor Morales/Ron Kirk run-off primary for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2002. However, the Morales/Kirk battle was mostly memorable for the extent to which it reminded us just how dull state politics had become.

However, the Republicans in Texas do not enjoy public fights and one can imagine that even as I type this, political operatives are trying to work out a compromise between Perry and Hutchison. The solution that is usually offered up is the following -- Hutchison runs for Governor, Perry runs for the U.S. Senate. Which is why I have to be thankful for state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn who is also planning on running in the Republican Primary and who has a following that is somewhat smaller than Hutchison but which is a lot more obnoxious. Even if Perry leaves the Governor's mansion for the Senate, Hutchison will have to face off against Strayhorn. Either way Texas Republicans are going to have a Jim Mattox of their very own; be it Perry or Strayhorn or -- and this is the secret wish of all political junkies down here -- perhaps even both.

A Hutchison/Strayhorn race would be interesting if just because these are two conservative Republican women with extremely different, but purely Texan, styles. If one were making a film about this race (y'know, one of those movies where everyone speaks with an exagerrated accent that's supposed to be Southern but ends up sounding, more or less, Venusian), Strayhorn would be played by Shirley MacClaine and Hutchison by Debbie Reynolds. (Perry, of course, would be played by George Hamilton.) A Hutchison/Perry/Stayhorn race would, of course, be distinguished by just how long it would take folks to forget that Rick Perry was running for reelection.

Now, the problem with having open fights in primaries in one party states as that, often times, feelings get so bruised that sometimes a voter will actually vote for the opposition just to act out on a grudge. It's how Texas Republicans won what few elections they did up until -- well, until George W. Bush was first elected Governor back in 1994. So, what slim chances the Democrats have of recapturing the Governor's office pretty much rest on just how asinine Hutchison, Strayhorn, and Perry act over the course of the Republican primary. To judge from the number of Democrats who have shown interest in the race, it's obvious that quite a few of them are expecting things to get quite asinine indeed.

Here's a quick rundown of the various Democratic possibilities that have been making the rounds as of late:

Chris Bell, Jim Turner, Max Sandlin, Charlie Stenholm -- These four gentlemen make up the "I-GOT-SCREWED-IN-2004" faction of the Texas Democratic party. They were all Democratic congressmen who managed to get gerrymandered out of their seats by Tom DeLay and the newly Republican legislature. Turner actually chose to retire while Sandlin and Stenholm lost their elections to Republican candidates. The most pathetic of this crew, however, is Bell whose district was apparently so altered that he ended up losing the Democratic Primary to current U.S. Rep. Al Green. Bell and Sandlin are the most openly bitter of this crew while Stenholm and Turner have handled the situation with the most dignity, giving off an air of "Well, that's politics" whenever asked about it. Out of this group, Bell and Turner would seem the most likely to run. Though he's been quiet as of late, Turner started to lay the groundwork for a statewide run as soon as he announced his retirement though I also have a feeling that Turner might end up running for another statewide office before going for Governor. Bell, meanwhile, has made little secret of the fact that he's running for Governor and that a large part of his campaign is going to basically be about giving a chance to give the finger to Tom DeLay. In short, Bell is looking to be the candidate for bitter liberals everywhere. There's a lot of bitter liberals in Texas so Bell actually does have enough of consituency to potentially be a factor; if not enough to actually win anything. And, quite frankly, for that we can all be thankful.

John O'Quinn, Roy Spence, and Ted Lyon -- These three gentleman make up the "party insider" faction of the Democratic field. In other words, they're three guys that are largely unknown to the general public but who have been prominent behind the scenes in the state party. O'Quinn is an attorney, Lyon is a former state Senator, and Spence is an advertising executive who, if he's known for anything, it's for being an advisor to Walter Mondale in 1984. In short, Spence has paid his dues but he's paid them to guys who -- in the long run -- aren't going to be able to do him a damn bit good if his life's ambition is actually to get elected Governor. Anyway, O'Quinn, Spence, and Lyon are the types of guys who, in the past, would work their way up the ranks and, as a final reward, end up getting nominated by the Democrats and who used to get elected to office because Texas was a one-party, Democratic state. Unfortunately, the majority of the people who would have made up their base of support in 2006 ended up switching to the Republican Party win Bush ran for a second term as Governor in '98. Out of the group, I imagine O'Quinn will probably make the plunge and he'll pretty much be known as the candidate of the Trial Lawyer's Association and not much else. Spence and Lyon, in the end, both have enough political experience to know that running would be an uphill battle. O'Quinn doesn't.

John Sharp, Kenneth E. Bentsen, and Kirk Watson -- Lastly, we have these three. These are the "Hey, we need a job" field of candidates. All three of them are former rising stars in the Democratic Party who saw their brilliant careers short circuited by the sudden demise of the Democrats as a factor in statewide elections. All three ran for statewide office in 2002 -- Sharp lost (for the second time in a row) a race for Lt. Governor (though I voted for him -- John Sharp remains, I believe, the only Democrat I have ever cast a ballot for. That said, if I had to do it over again, I'd vote for the man who beat him, Republican David Dewhurst), Watson ran for Attorney General and lost to Gregg Abbott, and Bentsen came in third in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. (Running against Ron Kirk and Victor Morales, Bentsen made the mistake of trying to run a serious campaign...) All of these guys have had notable electoral success in the past. Sharp was state Comptroller before Strayhorn and -- during the '90s at least -- probably the most popular Democrat in Texas. Bentsen served a few terms in the U.S. House and has a familiar pedigree in that his uncle is fmr. U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (who remains popular in Texas). Watson was mayor of Austin. All three of them are attractive, articulate candidates who basically got stuck in the wrong party. Sharp, of course, started his career back when you had to be a Democrat. Bentsen's family background more or less demanded he affiliate with the Democrats. Watson began his political career in Austin, one of the few places in Texas where the Democratic label is not an automatic handicap. So, in short, these are three men who -- by all logic -- should be holding public office in Texas. These are the "Vote For Me Because I Should Be Governor" candidates which is a platform that worked for John Lindsay in New York back in 1965 but probably won't be all that effective in Texas circa 2006. As for who is most likely to run out of this group -- it's hard to say. My gut feeling, however, says Bentsen will chose to spend the rest of his days as a lobbyist or whatever it is former Congressmen do to make money. Out of Sharp and Watson, I imagine John Sharp will probably take the plunge if just because -- after losing twice for Lt. Governor and loudly taking credit for putting together the much praised Dream Team ticket of 2002 (the dream became a nightmare as Sharp's hand-picked candidates won a total of zero election) -- what does he really have to lose?

So, basically, the primay field as far as Jeff Ellis can tell on this date, March 11th, 2005:

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Gov. Rick Perry
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Prediction: Hutchison comes in first, followed by Perry and Strayhorn. I will even go so far as to predict that Hutchison will win straight-out without having to go through a run-off.

Chris Bell
John O'Quinn
John Sharp
Jim Turner
Assorted left-wing and right-wing nutjobs as well as a few former members of the Reform Party looking for a new home. Oh, and Victor Morales, too. Never underestimate Victor's need to tell people how much better he is than them.
Prediction: Sharp, Turner, nutjob named Morales, Bell, O'Quinn, nutjobs not named Morales. Turner wins the run-off over Sharp who -- much like Jim Mattox -- has name recognition but will be hurt by his growing image of being a professional loser.

The general election: Hutchison over Turner, 54/46.

There is one other candidate -- an independent and one, who should he actually manage to make it onto the ballot (not an easy task for an independent in this state), has a better than average chance of winning my support. He's actually a good deal more liberal than me but, politics aside, he's the only candidate who truly seems to understand the type of attitude that a successful leader of a sprawling and diverse state like Texas needs to have. (And before one dismisses that as shallow, it should be remembered that George W. Bush was probably one of the best Governor's this state has ever had and he did it all, more or less, by projecting just the right type of cocky, don't-tread-on-me-swagger that Texans needed to see to take pride in their state but at the same time, he never allowed that attitude to turn him into a buffoon. Or into Jim Mattox for that matter...) That candidate is musician, writer, and all around genius Kinky Friedman and should get on the ballot, he will also be my endorsed candidate for Governor of Texas. (For those wishing to know more about the Kinkster's campaign, click here.)

(Of course, considering how well Charles Jay did after I endorsed him for President back in 2004 -- 225 votes, nothing to sneeze at! -- I might not be doing Kinky any favors here...)

And should Friedman not get on the ballot as an independent (a near impossible task, to be honest), my 2nd choice -- as of now -- is none other than Shirley Mac--I mean, Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

So, there you go. I have issued my annual endorsement for two deserving candidates who probably don't have a chance in Hell of winning. Yep, it's time for politics once again... 
  Oh by the way, yeah, it's been a while since I posted. Why has it been a while? Lack of time and not much else. I wish I had some big dramatic reason to give but I don't. All I can say is that I hope to keep things updated on a more consistent basis from now on. It's going to be one of my priorities as far as my free time is concerned.

However, if I don't have any free time -- well, and please pardon my language as I'm trying to clean up the profanity that once riddled my posts when I first started this blog 14 months ago, shit happens.

Anyway, one unfortunate side effect of this lack of updating is that the links list over there to the right of this page is now pretty much useless. Shannon Black has moved her wonderful blog to a different host. Politics1 is closed for business. Xlibris is sometimes available and sometimes not. So, I need to do some major reworking on those links. And I'll try to do so this weekend. 
  A few nights back, I actually surprised myself by deliberately watching Dan Rather's farewell broadcast as anchor for the CBS Evening News. Now, it's not going to come as a shock to anyone who knows my political leanings that I am not a big fan of any of the network news outlets. I am amongst those who sees liberal media bias lurking behind every corner. I'll be the first to admit that I also regularly see the folks at Fox News engaging in the same tactics that I find so reprehensible when practiced by the networks. And it doesn't bug me when Fox News does it. Why? Because Fox News is biased towards my opinions, of course. And some would call that hypocritical but I'll just call it politics.

However, my disdain for Dan Rather actually has very little to do with his obvious biases. When push comes to shove, Rather's liberalism is just as obvious and no more extreme than the liberalism that is displayed by just about every other network newsman. And like Rather, all of them will also be more than happy to waste a few hours of your life explaining why they are not biased. Nothing seems to upset reporters more than suggesting that they actually have opinions and reactions. No, my problem with Rather wasn't what he believed or said. It was just the fact that he was so damn smug about it. Let's face it, the man really was just some community theater version of Edward R. Murrow or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Think of all the things that made Rather stand out: The pointlessly long pauses that he randomly dropped throughout his sentences, the somber and grave looks whenever the story was meant to be somber and grave, and the monologues about the higher calling that being a journalist represent. OH GOD, THOSE MONOLOGUES! They were trotted out every election night, every time somebody suggested that Rather was anything less than King Solomon reincarnated. He'd show up on David Letterman's show every couple of months and find time to deliver one. If you're still having trouble remembering, these monologues are the ones in which Rather would refer to himself as a "shirt-sleeves rolled-up, beat-pounding journalist" and in which he would invetivably say something like, "I'm all about the story, mister. My personal feelings are nonexistent when it comes to uncovering the facts and getting them out to the American people." And he'd usually end it with words to the effect of, "The American people set my agenda; not the fat cats or the bigwigs or the turkey trotters."

Even the worst, most excessive example of pulp fiction could not hope to compete with the purple prose spouted off by Dan Rather whenever he wanted to let us know what a great journalist he was. And the more you listened to him, the more obvious it became. Dan Rather wasn't so much a journalist as he was a guy trying to be a journalist. In the end, it seems as if Rather's entire 24 years as anchorman was really just a huge role playing therapy session for an immature blowhard; a chance to get over the fact that Edward R. Murrow never acknowledged any of young Danny's postcards.

In short, regardless of his politics, Dan Rather just annoyed the Hell out of me.

But I found myself watching his final broadcast a few nights back and I did so for the same reason that I suspect many people did. I was waiting to see how long it would be before Dan Rather suddenly turned into Network's Howard Beale and started screaming, "I'm as a mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Well, he didn't. Instead, he simply gave a monologue where he told us that he had no biases, that he was a for real journalist no matter what mean old Walter Cronkite said, and basically just made an ass out of himself for one last time.

So, adios, Big Bad Dan. Now, just have the common sense and decency not to emulate Phil Donahue -- who was basically a daytime version of Dan Rather when you get right down to it -- and actually stay retired. 
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Reva Renee Renz -- Renz would have won my vote in 2003's California recall election, if not for the fact that I'm not a resident of California. Anyway, Renz was one of the more likeable candidates in that free-for-all, one of the few who took it seriously without giving into meglomania. Her blog gives the details of her run and her life after. Renz is the owner of Deva's Bar in Tustin, California and I have to admit that the only reason I currently desire to visit California is to have a beer at that bar. Renz stands as proof that Republicans are a lot more fun than most people care to admit.

Yankee From Mississippi -- Shannon Black's blog, featuring writing that often puts me to shame. Plus, isn't that just an amazingly cool title for a blog or anything else for that matter?


The Charley Project -- A huge site, detailings hundreds of cold cases dealing with missing persons. This site is actually far superior and better written than the similar and better known Doe Network.

Crime News 2000 -- Despite the 2000, this is a daily updated listing of all the latest developments in all the morbid and disturbing stories that tend to capture the national psyche nowadays.

Doe Network -- One of those web sites that justifies the existence of the internet in the first place, the Doe Network is a huge database of missing persons and unifidentified remains from around the world.

Is this girl Tara Leigh Calico? -- This web site details the disappearance of a 19 year-old girl in New Mexico back in the late '80s. The details of Tara Calico's disappearance have haunted me for years now and served as the genesis for my current interest about missing person cases in general.


Charles Jay -- Personal Choice Party Candidate For President In 2004 -- I wrote in Jay's name for President in 2004. I think about 228 other people -- mostly in Utah -- agreed with me.

D.C.'s Political Report -- With Politics1 on indefinite hiatus, this is now the best place on the web to find continually updated listings of who is running for what and where.

Homepage of the Libertarian Party -- I am a member of the Libertarian Party, even if the party itself can't ever quite seem to get it's act together.

National Review -- The magazine for both true conservatives and Libertarians who think Ayn Rand was a hack

Politics 1 -- The site is officially on hiatus but there's still the occasional update. The archival information on the various candidates in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential races always makes for interesting reading.

Pop Culture




Amazon.com -- I've posted quite a few reviews of books, film, and music on this site and I've gotten a good deal of very gratifying and very positive feedback from them. (I've also managed to piss off just about everyone who cried when they saw Titanic for the 10th times but that's another story...) Those reviews can be found by searching the site for Jeffrey Ellis from Richardson, Texas.

The Homepage of Gregory Alan Norton -- Homepage of one of my favorite liberals, fellow writer Greg Norton who I published in the premier issue of Jack the Daw way back in 1995. His site quotes my review of his excellent first novel, There Ain't No Justice, Just Us and includes information on how to order the book.

Xlibris -- Homepage for Xlibris, the publishers of It's Impossible To Start A Fire If You Have No Desire To Burn

Blogarama - The Blog Directory