Open Wide! Three New Books Now Available Everywhere!

I recently went “wide” with three of my book titles, meaning they were once available only through Amazon, but now they’re available through booksellers all over the world! Now available everywhere:

Fake News & Real Bullshit: Government, Media, and Justice in America. Essays. Satirical, and occasionally serious, essays about government, media, and justice in America.

The Mud Man. Novel, thriller. A stonemason learns how to reanimate the ashes of the dead into living clay…but his murdered son-in-law has plans for revenge!

Autism Dad 3: Life Skills & Life Lessons. Essays. A father helps his special needs prepare for adulthood, with the help of Power Mom and Super Sister!

Bloomingdale Celebrates Centennial With Feature-Length Documentary, BLOOMINGDALE: An American Small Town

How will you celebrate your 100th birthday? And, more importantly, where’s the party?

Bloomingdale is celebrating its centennial August 8 at Delazier Field, with the world premiere of the feature-length documentary, BLOOMINGDALE: An American Small Town.

Directed by resident Paul Bastante, BLOOMINGDALE: An American Small Town digs deep into the borough’s storied history. Bastante captures Bloomingdale’s beauty with the eye of an artist, bringing the borough’s history to life through personal interviews, historic photographs, and archival video. (And some of the most impressive drone camera-work you’ll ever experience! Hey, we can see your house from here!)

BLOOMINGDALE: An American Small Town looks at the borough’s economy, schools, and government, delving into the major events that shaped the borough’s history. Bloomingdale’s Federal Hill not only showcases awe-inspiring geological features, it’s the site of one of our nation’s most dramatic military mutinies. The documentary also features segments on Samuel R. Donald School, The Bloomingdale Cornet Band, and the borough’s signature business, including The Glenwild Garden Center.

The documentary’s Beautiful Bloomingdale Lakes section highlights the stunning natural beauty of Lake Iosco, Kampfe Lake, and Bogue Pond, before digging deep into the history of Star Lake Camp. Established in 1923 by the owner Star Razor Company under the auspices of the Salvation Army, this 400-acre, multi-lake compound is dedicated to helping under-privileged inner-city children and international musicians alike.

Each summer, Star Lake Camp hosts two music camps. The first offers under-privileged children a chance to experience the wonders of nature and music. The second is an international music camp were teenage musicians from all over the globe gather to receive high level instruction.

“These woods have heard a lot of sacred music over the years,” Star Lake director Greg Tuck says in BLOOMINGDALE: An American Small Town.

Bloomingdale’s historic Delazier Field also gets a star turn in this documentary. The stone amphitheater, built during the Great Depression under President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, is the spiritual heart of Bloomingdale borough.

Named after the borough’s first mayor, Delazier Field has hosted events as diverse as a visit from baseball legend Babe Ruth in 1946, to a field-destroying demolition derby in the 1970s. Minor league baseball team, The Bloomingdale Troopers, called Delazier Field home during the 1940s.

The August 8 festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. at historic Delazier Field on Ballston St. The film debut features a red carpet for the film’s cast and crew as well as interviews with prominent residents. An exhibition football game commemorating the 1947 Bloomingdale Troopers Pro football team and the 1998 Bloomingdale Chiefs will begin at 7:30 pm, followed by the debut of BLOOMINGDALE: An American Small Town.

Rob Errera Aggressively Interviews Rob Errera About His New Book, Fake News and Real Bullsh*t: Government, Media, and Justice In America

Rob Errera Aggressively Interviews Rob Errera About His New Book, Fake News and Real Bullsh*t: Government, Media, and Justice In America

This cover is divisive and inflammatory. What gives you the right to bully the President of The United States?
The First Amendment gives every citizen the right to free expression. Cover artist Dominic Wilde captured the spirit of this book perfectly. There’s a lot of anger, outrage, and injustice inside the book as well as on the cover. But it’s not a Trump-bashing book, other than noting The Donald stole the term “fake news” from me.

You’re accusing the President of theft? Can you prove the term “fake news” is your intellectual property?
I can prove I used it in a 2008 essay, but I don’t own any property, intellectual or otherwise.

What is this book about?
It’s a collection of essays examining how the news media has deteriorated over the last two decades.

What do you know about it?
I’ve been a journalist for nearly 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the news business since my days as a local newspaper reporter. Things have gone from bad to worse.

Is this leftist, lib-tard propaganda?
No. I dump equally on Republicans and Democrats in these essays. My main target is the news media tasked with keeping elected officials honest. The news media has become a propaganda machine rather than an unbiased source of information.

Why should I read this book?
If you’re under forty, this book will give you a sense of journalism’s history, how it has progressed and where it has regressed. Readers over forty will find a path through the confusing maze of Info Age insta-news…and maybe a bit of nostalgia.

Is this book funny? Serious? WTF is it?
Most of the essays are tongue-in-cheek, but a couple are somber—like my 9/11 and OJ Simpson essays.

Sounds heavy. I don’t like heavy thinking. It hurts my head. I want to keep it light, and breezy.
There’s fun in Fake News and Real Bullshit. Great info, too. In addition to explaining the breakdown of modern journalism, I also explain national healthcare, gasoline prices, Big Pharma scandals, cute cat memes, and why Nancy Grace sucks.

Nancy Grace doesn’t suck! She’s awesome! I love Nancy Grace!
Come on. Nobody loves Nancy Grace except for my wife. And Mr. Grace. Maybe.

You’re disrespectful and rude. Does your book have a surly, insolent tone?
I suppose. That’s my writing style. But you’ll find a few smiles and laughs there, too. Maybe even a few ideas worth remembering.

Why is the “i” in bullshit replaced with an “*” on the cover?
My publishers at Giantdog Books were afraid readers might be offended by the word “bullshit”.

That’s bullshit.
Fucking A.

Are you on drugs?
I don’t see how that’s your business.

Of course it’s my business. It’s everybody’s business. You’re trying to sell yourself as an “honest journalist.” You can’t have secrets!

Autism Dad 2—'Tween Edition: Continuing Adventures in Autism, Adolescence & Fatherhood
Autism Dad 2: Autism, Adolescence & Fatherhood

Yeah, sure. Okay. I take 10mg of Lexapro every day. It’s a life saver, and keeps me semi-normal. You can read all about my mental breakdown in Autism Dad 2, if you’re really interested.

Oh brother! Are you an attention-seeking exhibitionist?
I’m an author trying to promote a book, so…yeah.

I don’t have time to read. Is this available as an audiobook?
Not yet. The essays in Fake News and Real Bullshit only run about 500 words each, so its an easy book to pick up, put down, and skip around. I grouped the essays by theme, but you don’t have to start at the beginning—read whatever looks interesting first. It’s a great read for the beach…or the bathroom.

Yuck! You’re disgusting! Nobody reads fecal splattered books and magazines in the bathroom anymore! You look at your phone!
Ah. I stand corrected. Don’t you put your dirty phone up against your face to make a call?

Don’t get smart! You don’t know me! You don’t know who I be! Cash me outside!
Wait…when did you become a thug?

See! That’s what I’m talking about! You can’t judge me by the way I act and speak! That’s profiling!
I can judge you by how you act and what you say! That’s how you’re supposed to judge character. I’m not judging you by your appearance. That’s profiling.

You profile as a fat, middle-aged white guy.
No, you profile as a fat, middle-aged white guy!

No, you!
You!

Are you nuts?
Yes! I told you about the Lexapro!

I bet your book sucks because you suck.
The rise of social media has eliminated the buffer between artists and fans, making it impossible to separate an artist from his or her work. I may (and often do) suck on a number of personal and professional levels, but my book does not. Fake News and Real Bullshit can hold its own against anything published in the last year.

That’s a bold statement.
How do you know? What have you read in the last year?

I know a bold statement when I hear one, and that’s a bold statement.
Read the book and decide for yourself.

What’s your book called again?
You are the world’s worse interviewer.

No, you!
You!

Fake News and Real Bullsh*t: Government, Media, and Justice In America by Rob Errera releases July 4th 2018. Order your copy now!

While you’re at it, buy ALL of Rob Errera’s books! (And leave five-star reviews!)

Autism Dad 1

Autism Dad 2

Autism Dad 3

Santa’s Little Helper Wants To Eat Your Children

Fake News and Real Bullshit

8 Strange Stories

Hangman’s Jam

Songs In The Key Of Madness

Sensual Nightmares

The Mud Man

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The Death of Local News—Why Gannett Media Sucks

I used to be “Part of the USA TODAY Network.” (Sigh).

Big fish eat little fish. That is the law of the sea as well as the law of business. Smaller companies get bought up by bigger companies. It’s happened in the telephone and cable business, and in many retail markets—giant box stores like Loews and Home Depot have put nearly all of the Mom-and-Pop hardware stores out of business. Big businesses keep getting bigger, until the government steps in and breaks them apart into a bunch of smaller companies again.

Publishing is a business like any other. Local newspapers and magazines were once family-owned businesses serving residents and business owners of a certain geographic area. Eventually those small weekly or monthly publications are bought up by a regional daily newspaper. Then the regional newspaper gets bought by a state newspaper, and, ultimately, the state newspaper gets consumed by a large publishing conglomerate.

FU TODAY ... and every day!
FU TODAY…and every day.

As a reader, this may seem beneficial at first. Your local newspaper is suddenly filled with a broader range of writers and articles than ever before! But, before long, readers find what’s gone missing from their local newspaper is local news. Big companies don’t want to pay a bunch of small-time, small-town journalists to cover local news. They’ve already got plenty of writers cranking out content under their corporate umbrella. Why waste money on more?

I’ve been a bystander to corporate buy-outs before. As an employee of the “little fish,” you’re made to feel about as important as an old office chair or outdated computer while the “new boss” assesses your functionality and worth. What does it do? Does it still work? Do we need it? Ah, let’s keep it around for a while until we either upgrade or scrap it altogether. My post-employment record after a buy-out is usually a year or two before the new boss cleans house. The big boys (and girls) at Gannett Media brushed me out the door in ten months.

So dashing in 1996. So fired now.

I’m not alone. Last month, Gannett fired me, Nancy Rubenstein, and a slew of other longtime writers from its “weekly” division—TODAY Newspapers, Dateline Journal, and the South Bergenite among other publications. I’ve been writing my column “Hmm…” twice a month for the last 25 years, covering issues and events that affect Wayne, Totowa, Little Falls and beyond. Nancy’s written “Believe Me” every week for 55 years!

When Gannett bought The Record in October 2016, its didn’t just buy a bunch of newspaper publications to use as advertising vehicles. It bought a staff of writers that embody the voice of hometown news, and a readership that appreciates and trusts those voices. With those local voices gone, I expect the readership will soon follow. Why read a local newspaper that no longer features local news and opinions?

Print journalism, kids! Wave bye-bye!

I knew I was in trouble when my contact person at Gannett was a “print planner” and not an editor. The “print planner” was more concerned with how I submitted my articles than what was in them. I’d occasionally submit story ideas to my print planner, who was supposed to pass them on to an editor, but I never heard back from anyone. I never got any editorial feedback from Gannett other than the email informing me of my dismissal. Are there still real, live people who assign, shape, and publish stories (aka “editors”) somewhere inside the giant Gannett machine?

By cutting local writers from its local newspapers, Gannett lost one of the major assets that made its weekly division valuable. Without real writers, weekly newspapers become nothing more than “shoppers,” advertising circulars without substance, and readers will view them as such, using them to wrap fish, line birdcages, and not much else. The readers will leave and the newspapers will die. Writers like me, Nancy, and the rest will try to find new markets for our work in the few remaining print publications or on the digital publishing frontier.

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The Mystery of Superstar Forgiveness in the Age of Apology

A trio of talented awful people: Woody, Bill, and Roman.
A trio of talented awful people: Woody, Bill, and Roman.

We live in the Age of Apology, where knee jerk reactions are the norm, and thin-skinned political correctness reigns. Politicians, pop stars, athletes, actors, comedians, talk show hosts, and church leaders are pressured into insincere public apologies if they “offend” some special interest group or another.

But the Age of Apology has little to do with true forgiveness. Forgiveness in the court of public opinion serves another function altogether.

Send In The Creeps

Exhibit A: Woody Allen. Woody Allen was in a relationship with Mia Farrow for years, helping raise her adopted daughters. But in 1992 Allen separated from Farrow and began a romantic relationship with her adopted daughter, Soon Yi Previn (when Woody was 56, and Soon Yi was 19.) Recently, Woody Allen’s biological daughter with Farrow, Dylan, accused him of molesting her when she was a child.

Woody Allen is a creep.

But he’s also a brilliant artist whose career spans over 50 years. Critic Roger Ebert called Woody Allen “a treasure of the cinema.” Woody’s latest film, “Blue Jasmine,” is amassing award nominations. Audiences and actors alike look past Woody’s personal faults and continue to enjoy his art.

Roman Polanski is despicable, too. In 1977 he admitted to drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He worked out a deal that would spare him jail time, but when that deal fell apart, he fled the country and hasn’t set foot on American soil since.

But Polanski still makes great films. In 2002 he won the Best Director Oscar for “The Pianist.” Actors are eager to work with Polanski, and producers finance his films. Evidently his crimes can be overlooked, too.

Mel hates Jews, but makes awesome movies!
Mel hates Jews, but makes awesome movies!

Despicable Hollywood Creep #3: Mel Gibson. Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic rants, and hate-filled voicemails to his ex-girlfriend show serious personal problems. Mel Gibson isn’t on Woody Allen or Roman Polanski’s level (either as an artist or a criminal) but — for whatever reason — he DOES NOT get a pass. Nobody wants to work with old Mel anymore … at least not at the moment or for the foreseeable future.

Why are some loathsome artists forgiven while others aren’t? Why is Alec Baldwin A-list and Mel Gibson on the blacklist? They’re both entitled jerks with explosive tempers. Why can we separate the man from his art in one case, but not the other?

Time heals wounds, and public perception and political climates change. Death helps, too. When an artist is long gone, his work can finally be viewed objectively, apart from the way he lived life. Charles Dickens was a terrible husband and father. Pablo Picasso was a philanderer. Writers Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot were anti-Semitic, as was composer Richard Wagner.

“We Forgive You, Rock Star!”

Today we forgive Chris Brown for beating up girlfriend Rihanna, though a generation ago we couldn’t forgive Ike Turner for doing the same to Tina. We absolve Marv Albert of sexual assault and Michael Vick of animal cruelty, but come down hard on Paula Deen for racial slurs she uttered decades ago.

There are parallels in the world of sports. Alex Rodriguez (baseball cheat) is on brink of flushing his legacy down the toilet. Lance Armstrong (cycling cheat) already did, along with Barry Bonds (baseball cheat), and Aaron Hernandez (serial killer).

Others athletes are forgiven. Tiger Woods (adultery), Pete Rose (sports gambling), Kobe Bryant (sexual assault), and Ben Roethlisberger (sexual assault) have all outdistanced their checkered pasts.

My job as a journalist is to try to make sense of things, to look for repeating patterns, find consistency in apparent chaos. But I can’t find any logic or order in Public Forgiveness. Apparently it works on a sliding scale based on the severity of your crime versus the magnitude of your talent, but as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski show, the scale is far from accurate.

He may have been a kid toucher, but that didn't stop people from loving the King of Pop!
He may have been a kid toucher, but that didn’t stop people from loving the King of Pop!

Forgiving celebrity sins isn’t about true absolution anyway. It’s a plot device to move stories forward. People love familiar stories, and we look for them in the lives of wayward actors and athletes. We love to see the mighty fall. We love even more when they get back up and keep fighting, battling against the odds. Everybody loves an underdog. Forgiveness is the device that allows our heroes to rise from the ashes.

Disgraced actor Shia LaBeouf  (drunk/violent/plagiarist) is reinventing himself while begging Public Forgiveness. LaBeouf recently did a live performance piece called “#IAMSORRY” wearing a paper bag over his head with the phrase, “I’m not famous anymore,” written on it. LaBeouf sat silent and alone at a table full of props while art goers milled around him. Props included an Indiana Jones whip, a Transformer toy, daisies, a ukulele, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a bowl of nasty Tweets, a bowl of Hershey’s Kisses, and a book by author Daniel Clowes, whom LaBeouf was accused of plagiarizing. One reviewer of “#IAMSORRY” said, “it was apparent LaBeouf had been crying, and the experience was surprisingly touching.”

Maybe turning apology into performance art is the next evolutionary step in the Age of Apology.

If so, Roman Polanski and Woody Allen need to put on Oscar-worthy performances.

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Originally published in Wayne TODAY, February 2014

Brian Williams saga shows false face of journalism

FEBRUARY 26, 2015    LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2015, 12:31 AM
Media Fall Guy Brian Williams
Media Fall Guy Brian Williams

I learned journalism basics at college in the late 80s.

1) Ask the five “W” questions. Who, what, when, where, and why. Sometimes “how.”

2) Report the facts. Stories have many sides, and the people involved all have a personal agenda. Cut the fluff from the facts and deliver the closest version of “the truth” as possible.

3) Get quotes from involved parties. Quotes may or may not be factual. Quotes are simply one person’s side of the story.

4) Don’t put yourself in the story. A true journalist is invisible, a fly on the wall.

That last rule has become increasingly blurred over the last 30 years, and the latest to forget is “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams.

I feel bad for Williams. For the last decade he delivered the news on NBC in admirable fashion. He read the words on the teleprompter and occasionally colored those words with appropriate emotional flavor. But when Brian Williams goes off-script, troubles begin.

Williams was recently suspended without pay for six months after it was revealed he lied about a war story during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Further digging showed Williams embellished stories on several occasions, including his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Like a geeky high school kid, Brian Williams lied so he could look cool. But in a world where privacy is a farce and fact checking is easy, it’s hard to get away with monkey business or tall tales.

You can’t completely blame Williams for gilding the lily. Coolness was one of the traits imbued upon him by his handlers at NBC, along with sharp suits and white teeth. They encouraged Williams to yuk it up with late night hosts, from Jimmy Fallon to David Letterman.

What’s Brian Williams supposed to talk about on Letterman? He’s got to be as interesting as Anderson Cooper and Matt Lauer! The NBC brass seemed to support Williams’ appearances. Perhaps Williams was being groomed to take over a late-night job himself one day.

But that seems unlikely now. Williams is being called a raconteur, a spinner of yarns, a teller of tales. Being a raconteur is great if you’re putting on a one-man theatre show (or if you’re a newspaper columnist), but if you’re being paid to be a truth-teller, there’s a problem.

At the time of this writing, there’s talk Williams might be fired from NBC. The New York Post claims to have found an important “morals clause” in Williams contract which reads:

“If artist commits any act or becomes involved in any situation, or occurrence, which brings artist into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which justifiably shocks, insults or offends a significant portion of the community, or if publicity is given to any such conduct, company shall have the right to terminate.”

But the language used points out exactly why Williams shouldn’t be fired. He’s an “artist,” not a reporter or a “journalist.”

The immediacy and intimacy of social media has changed the boundaries of modern journalism. The public-at-large, equipped with trusty smartphones, is an army of “imbedded reporters” (see the rise of CNN’s iReports and the ever-expanding blogosphere) and “real journalists” have become news-readers, color commentators, and “television personalities.”

Journalists — from Katie Couric to Perez Hilton — are a new kind of modern celebrity. (So are rich housewives and duck hunters. What happened to our standards? Didn’t celebrities used to have to be good at something exceptional or impressive?)

The problem really isn’t Brian Williams’ attention-seeking fables, but a media machine and news-consuming public that demands our anchors be dashing adventure–seekers, physically beautiful, intelligent, funny, opinionated, witty, relentless investigators, and good on camera. It’s a lot to ask. Brian Williams did his best to stay afloat in the brackish waters where journalism and entertainment meet, but was sunk by one-to-many big fish stories.

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Digitize Salinger and Other Literary Pursuits

JD Salinger
The elusive J.D. Salinger

I was going through a “Why Didn’t I Read This in High School?” phase, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was up next on my reading list.

I was eager to download a copy of Salinger’s classic novel onto my Kindle. I’m a firm backer of the digital publishing revolution, since ebooks let you:

  1. Change the size and style of the text.
  2. Look up word definitions and background info on the spot.
  3. Highlight, makes notes, and export chunks of text.

These features are incredibly helpful when I’m writing book reviews (bobsbookblog.com), and must be a major timesaver for students working on school essays. (Back in my day we had to write out notes and quotes by hand on index cards, whippersnappers!)

But The Catcher in the Rye isn’t available on Kindle. You can’t get it on your Nook or iPad either. J.D. Salinger never allowed any other editions of his novel other than the one published by Little, Brown and Company in 1951. The breakout success of The Catcher in the Rye spooked Salinger, and he retreated to his rural Vermont home after the book’s publication. Salinger produced three additional books, but didn’t publish again after 1961.

Salinger died in 2010, but his estate still closely guards the copyright on his work, and had never allowed any adaptions. Film directors from Elia Kazan to Steven Spielberg have been turned away, and the Salinger Estate still hasn’t sanctioned audiobooks or digital editions.

If you want to read The Catcher in the Rye (or Salinger’s other work) you have to order the same Little, Brown and Company mass market paperback (now in its 98th printing) that’s been kicking around classrooms since forever. It’s got the original 1951 orangey cover art by E. Michael Mitchell — an ink sketch of a carousel horse and the NYC skyline — on both the front and back. Besides the title and “a novel by J.D. Salinger,” there is no other cover text, no sales copy, no About the Author copy, no blurbs from other authors or academics, and no “New York Times bestselling author.” Nothing.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

The interior of the book is equally sparse. There is no forward or afterword. No advertisements for other books, no offers to join Little, Brown and Company’s Readers Club. There is no About the Author page here either. The Catcher in the Rye is 214 pages of Holden Caulfield’s inimitably cranky narrative, presented exactly how the author intended, and it’s been this way, unchanged, for nearly fifty years.

Salinger’s over-protectiveness guarantees his work is uniformly consumed. I experienced The Catcher in the Rye the same way, in the same font and format, as nearly everyone else who ever read the book. I dog-eared pages, underlined in pencil, and scribbled notes in the margins, the same way lit students have for decades. Salinger’s format constraints demand it.

According to a new documentary on J.D. Salinger, the late author left specific instructions for five books to be published between 2015 and 2020. I don’t know the Salinger Estate or Little, Brown and Company’s publishing plans, but launching new Salinger titles is an ideal time to bring all the author’s work into the digital realm. Contemporary literature should embrace contemporary formats, and ebooks are here to stay. Salinger’s work needs to be readily available, brought into the digital realm, and forever preserved in binary code.

Digitize Salinger! And Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, too!

Check out my review of The Catcher in the Rye here.

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Nancy Grace. Ghoul. Monster. Homewrecker.

nancy_grace
This helmet-haired monster is destroying my marriage, the same way she ruins the lives of so many of her “guests.

There are lots of things that can hurt a marriage; financial problems, infidelity, differences in religion, differences in parenting, differences of opinion.

In our house one of the biggest marital strains is another woman; a woman who comes into our home every night at ten o’clock.

Her name is Nancy Grace.

Nancy Grace has a “true crime show” on CNN / Headline News. My wife loves the Nancy Grace show and watches her most every night.

I feel physically ill whenever I see Nancy Grace. I have a similar reaction to Sarah Jessica Parker and Hillary Clinton. There’s something about the look, sound, and mannerisms of these women that makes me twitch.

But Nancy Grace holds a special place of disgust in my heart because she passes her show off as “journalism” when it’s really “info-tainment” at best, in same league as Maury Pauvich. Her show is loud; there are usually three to five “info boxes” and text crawls on screen at any given time, filled with lurid lines like, “Husband Murders Pregnant Wife?” “Child Buried Alive” and “Tot Mom Posts Racy Web Photos.”

Nancy Grace loves the gory details of crimes; she seems to revel in them, even though she’ll act indignant and shocked as she repeats them over and over again. I flipped out one night last summer as she was reviewing the details of the Caylee Anthony murder case. She must have asked the question, “Is there soft tissue on the duct tape? Is there soft tissue on the duct tape?” fifty times, in that sharp Southern twang of hers. Doesn’t she realize that “soft tissue” she keeps harping about were once the lips of a little girl? Can’t she just chill out about it?

“She’s a ghoul,” I tell my wife. “All she does is talk about dead kids, dwelling on the details of their murders. It’s sick.”

“She’s a champion for victims’ rights,” my wife disagrees. “Her fiancé was murdered when she was young and that drove her to become a prosecutor. She’s worked extensively with abused women and children.”

“Didn’t she badger a guest into killing herself?” I ask.

“That woman killed herself because she was guilty!” my wife screams. “That (expletive) killed her own kid and Nancy Grace called her on it!”

In 2006, Grace interviewed 21 year-old Melinda Duckett; Duckett’s two-year-old son had gone missing two weeks prior. Grace hammered Duckett with questions about her son’s disappearance and Duckett gave vague, confused, and elusive answers. The next day Melinda Duckett killed herself. That didn’t stop Nancy Grace from airing her interview with Duckett that evening. During the interview one of those ever-present info boxes appeared on screen; “SINCE SHOW TAPING BODY OF MELINDA DUCKETT FOUND AT GRANDPARENTS’ HOME.”

Nancy nip slip
Nancy Grace’s finest TV moment — accidentally exposing her saucer-sized areola on “Dancing With The Stars.

If Nancy Grace was searching for a murder suspect that night she didn’t have to look any further than her own dressing room mirror. (Grace has since settled with the Duckett family over Melinda’s death.)

“Nancy Grace is a (expletive)!” I shout, pointing out how she portrayed the Duke Lacrosse players as rapists for weeks on her show (they were later cleared of all charges) and the way she callously prodded kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart for details of her harrowing encounter.

“No she’s not!” my wife counters, pointing out the number of child abusers she’s exposed on her show and helped put behind bars as a prosecutor. “Maybe you’re a (expletive)!”

It gets pretty ugly sometimes. I know that my wife is probably right; both about Nancy Grace being a champion for victims rights and about me being a (expletive).  Even though Nancy Grace likes to glorify the gory details of tragedy maybe she has an overall positive effect on society by shining a spotlight on heinous crimes and keeping it there.

It’s her delivery that rubs me the wrong way. It’s funny, when I hear Howard Stern or Larry David yelling and screaming about something it usually makes me laugh. But when I hear Nancy Grace (and Hillary Clinton) ranting it gives me a headache.  To me, all four people are part of the entertainment industry. It’s when you start thinking of these people as something other than performers that you run into problems, like considering Nancy Grace a reliable news source, or thinking that Hillary Clinton is actually representing your interests in government.

Evidently I’m not alone in my distaste for Ms. Grace; do an Internet search and along with Nancy Grace’s CNN profile page you’ll find links to web sites like nancygracemustdie.com and a Facebook page for Nancy Grace Sucks Fat Balls. Sometimes when I’m at work I’ll surf over to these sites and giggle, file away a laugh for later that night. I’ll need it when the beast is loose in my home again, with her helmet hair and Southern drawl and endless drone, “Is there soft tissue on the duct tape? Is there soft tissue on the duct tape?”

Sometimes you have to work to keep a marriage happy. Other times you just have to laugh it off.

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Originally published in Wayne TODAY, November 2009

Philandered First Wives Undermine Political Credibility

huma and anthony weiner
Huma Abedin stands by her scumbag.

 With Anthony “Luke Atmee” Weiner back in the headlines, the time was right to break out this column about cheating politicians from 2008. Welcome to the Philandered First Wives Club, Huma Abedin!   

You see her on TV and in the papers looking sad and forlorn, standing by her man when no one else will, even though he doesn’t deserve it. She is a familiar figure who evokes many different feelings. Some pity her. Some snicker.

Dina and Jim Mcgreevey
Former First Lady of New Jersey, Dina McGreevey: “Gay, schmay … Jim’s a powerful man, and a snappy dresser!”

She is the wife of the fallen political figure, or, more specifically, a political figure brought down by sex scandal. We’ve seen a lot of her in recent months. First Dina McGreevey stood by her hubby when he announced he was resigning as the Governor of New Jersey after it was revealed he had an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer. Then Suzanne Craig stood by her Senator husband as he fended off allegations that he approached an undercover police officer for sex in an airport men’s room. Even Cindy McCain had to smile dutifully for the cameras while rumors surfaced that her aged husband had carried on romantically with a lobbyist during his last presidential run eight years ago. We’ve seen Silda Spitzer standing by her husband, (looking like the poster girl for Valium) as he admits his involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring.

silda and eliot spitzer
Eliot Spitzer tries to swallow his shame, while wife Silda wants to swallow another Valium.

“I’ve forgiven him … can’t you?”

By standing beside their treacherous husbands at press conferences, these women are supposedly sending a message to the public: “I’ve forgiven him…can’t you, too?” But the real message they’re sending is one about the phoniness of American politics.

Elected officials are plastic people without human emotions. They don’t act the way real people act. You’re telling me that Silda Spitzer found it in her heart to forgive her husband an $80,000, 12-month hooker binge just hours after news of it broke?  As Jay Leno put it, if Spitzer were a plumber instead of governor the only thing you’d see of his wife were her SUV tracks across his forehead.

There’s been a lot written about wives of philandering politicians standing by their men (though the media has yet to come up with a catchy moniker for this pop culture phenomenon. I’ll offer “Philandered First Ladies” or “Stand By Your Man Politicas” though both are admittedly clunky). “Expert” psychologists have offered their opinions — these women want to honor their marriage vows, they want to stand by the man they love even though it hurts, for the greater good of the marriage and the welfare of their children.

But the real reason is much simpler – and sinister. Political wives are part of a political machine. They not only promise to love, honor and cherish, they promise to play a role. That role comes with a lot of perks and power (what girl wouldn’t want to be a First Lady?) but it also carries the potential pitfall of major public humiliation. It looks bogus when wives stand by their husbands during painful public apologies. It not only undermines the integrity of their marriage, it makes you question the credibility of a political system that demands such bizarre public mea culpas. What else in politics is false? What ulterior motives do these women have in standing by their men during their hour of shame?

hillary clinton scary face
What is it about Hillary that scares me so much?

  All Hail, Queen Hillary!

Hillary Clinton knows. She’s the Queen of Philandered First Ladies. No doubt, there’s a part of her that believes she deserves to be the first woman president simply for having endured the humiliation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal (and Paula Jones…and Gennifer Flowers…) No doubt, there’s a segment of the voting public that believes the same thing.

But, like many of Hillary’s public reactions, there was something calculated, almost robotic, about her response to her husband’s affair. Just once I’d like to see one of these women react in an honest fashion and clock their husband over the head with a frying pan during one of these live press conferences. At least we’d see an honest emotion out of someone in politics. That’s the lady I’d vote for.

It’s interesting to note that with all of the philandering male politicians we’ve seen throughout history, we have yet to see a female politician involved in a sex scandal (unless you go back to Cleopatra or Catherine the Great — and most of that was propaganda written by their political enemies). There’s never been a press conference where a wimpy husband is forced to smile placidly as his powerful wife tries to explain away details of an illicit affair.

Senator Larry Craig and wife Suzanne
Suzanne Craig: “My husband wasn’t looking for gay sex in a public restroom! He just has a wide stance and taps his feet when he craps!”

Where is the equality in politics? Sure, politics is still a male-dominated arena, but over the last 30 years the number of women in Congress has quadrupled, and they now make up one of every six members. Considering some studies show that women are just as likely to cheat as men, odds are there are a couple of political ladies stepping out on their husbands.  Yet there’s never been one caught up in a sex scandal.

That says something about the women we are voting into office. Either they’re more trustworthy that their male counterparts … or they’re better at keeping secrets.

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Originally published in Wayne TODAY, March 2008

The Incredible Hulk Is Dead! Long Live Hulk!

Here’s one for all the of the original Hulkamaniacs out there…everyone knows who the coolest Avenger is! BONUS : Check out my “20 Questions With Lou Ferrigno!

I read all sorts of comic books growing up, but The Incredible Hulk was my favorite. But the big green galoot’s run is coming to an end, and I’m not sorry to see him go.

The Hulk has a dark side that’s haunted me since childhood.

hulk and bruce banner
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets!” Really?

Publisher Marvel Comics announced recently the 49-year-old title would be ending this August with issue #635. (Since nothing ever truly ends in the comic book universe, the green goliath will still he-man his own title, simply called Hulk, which launched in 2008.)

The incredible Hulk was the strongest of all superheroes. His brute strength was…well, incredible. But his power was tied to his temper. The Hulk’s simple creed was, “the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets!”

Don’t Get Mad, Get Hulky

The comic book had a brilliant premise, creator Stan Lee’s combination of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Meek scientist Bruce Banner harbors a monster inside him, a big green wrecking machine who comes out when Banner is angry or stressed. Push pansy Bruce far enough and he transforms into a Not-So-Jolly Green Giant. Hulk smash!

Who among us wouldn’t like to have that transformative power on occasion? As a kid it represented a chance to right a thousand injustices, a chance to tip the scales against bullies, older kids, and adults.

But it was all a lie. Losing your temper never makes you stronger. It makes you weaker. Lose your cool, and you lose your advantage.

Note To Self: Don’t Get Hulky

It took me a long time to learn this. I punched a lot of holes in walls, and busted innumerable telephones over the years. In 2003, I raged against an ATM machine, a stupid stunt that cost me hundreds of dollars in fines and almost landed me in jail. (Did you know there are cameras in those things? You did? Oh. My bad.) My temper has never worked to my advantage. Rob smash! But the only thing it ever got me was heartache, a reputation as a hothead and a jerk, and a hand injury.

kirby hulk
Original artist Jack Kirby made the Hulk menacing.

I’ve finally managed to control my temper (well…I’ve improved…) I’ve mellowed with age, therapy, and medication. But it wasn’t until recently that I began to wonder how much growing up with The Incredible Hulk played into my violent outbursts. I can’t lay all the blame on the Jade Giant, but I don’t think following his temper-fueled adventures  did me much good as a kid. Unlike many superheroes, Hulk wasn’t a very good a role model.

Superhero or Super Asshole?

Stan Lee created many memorable superheroes, characters that were very human despite their special abilities. Daredevil was blind. Spiderman was a high school geek. The X-Men were all misfits – mutants– looking for a way to fit into society. These Marvel heroes taught young readers respect, hard work, and other basic building blocks of self-confidence.

But Hulk wasn’t Hulk unless he lost his temper.

Some superheroes use their powers to enhance the lives of their alter egos. Peter Parker and Clark Kent always had great scoops for the newspapers they worked for. Daredevil would capture bad guys, and his alter ego, criminal attorney Matt Murdock, made sure they stayed in jail.

But Bruce Banner’s superpower actually ruined his career as a brilliant scientist. Most storylines involved a few pages of Hulk smashing things up then leaving poor Bruce Banner to either pick up the pieces or run from authorities. Banner lived the life of a loner, a fugitive, no friends, no family, always on the run.

That’s what a bad temper will get you.

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Originally published in Wayne TODAY, February 2011