House of Cards, Sleight of Hand

Think the opening credits for House of Cards is just some anodyne tour around the nation’s capital? Not so.

One minute into the 90 second clip the camera pans desolate tracks. It’s night. All is still, the music foreboding. A locomotive blows through timed to a sudden guitar chord—sound and vision merged for a dramatic second before the tracks go empty again. The music pulses low and ominous.

Soon after a horn peels in martial tone, saluting the statue of General Grant high up on his horse. The horn and military man work in concert unifying sound and image.

The audio buzzes in hellish frenzy. The screen zeroes on a shadowy demon (the statue is Thales, a philosopher-electrician, not the devil but demonic nonetheless). Sound and vision subtly collude in these final seconds, producing certainty that what follows will be the cold calculations of evil minds, deceptions making an inhuman city a place of dread. Continue reading House of Cards, Sleight of Hand

One Year on the Beat

A year ago this week I put Jeff Mutton on the beat.

Assigned to keep America’s diplomats safe in Saudi Arabia, he proved a tough match for tyrants as well as terrorists. He endured vacuous conversations during diplomatic soirees and survived quack psychiatry at the hands of State Department shrinks. He introduced us to a secretive government entity known as Fourth Branch. He helped the man with no lips from the office that wasn’t there collect intell to support the War on Terror, even when there wasn’t any.

Happy birthday, Jeff! Here’s a list of top ten things that haven’t happened in the year since your story was revealed:

10. Two Pumps hasn’t been used as fuel for any book-burnings.
9.   There are no known fatwas on the author’s head.
8.   The story remains uncorrupted by Hollywood.
7.   There are no reports of this book being sold without a cover.
6.   About the cover: Two Pumps‘ only bad review was an insult to the jacket.
5.   About reviews: No 0- or 1-star insults!
4.   Saudi Arabia hasn’t declared the author Persona non-Grata.
3.
2.   The author has avoided slick-road car-wrecks and fan captivity.

And, the #1 thing that hasn’t happened in the year since Mutton’s story was revealed

1. No Oprah Book Club controversies! Thank you, Oprah!

HTML for Fake News

Recent changes to Wordpress eliminated the center justify button. This is more inconvenience than improvement, but it did lead to one decent discovery.

Bloggers can still keep the left and right margins clean with a little change to the HTML code. It’s easy:

1. Select the text you want to justify.
2. Hit the left justify button.
3. Switch to Text view.
4. Change all text-align: left code to read text-align: justify.
5. Voila! Clean edges again.

Another neat problem this trick handles is the creation of fake news. Here’s how.

Take any news item you want—wiretapping allegations, say. Select a quote or story on that topic. Paste it into your WordPress template. Then follow steps 1-4 above replacing justify with falsify.

Andrew Napolitano on Fox News seems to have followed this practice to come up with allegations that the Obama administration asked British intelligence to wiretap Mr. Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The technique is also useful for Breitbart writers, who can now copy and paste whole articles from the liberal media and alter facts to their satisfaction simply by hitting Control-V in HTML.

Jimmy Breslin

Jimmy Breslin, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby—together again. ‘…It spoke to you, and that pleases me.’

Sally (Meg Ryan): “Well, let’s just say I’m not a big fan of Jimmy Breslin.”
Jess (Bruno Kirby): “Well, he’s the reason I became I writer, but that’s not important.”

Marie (Fisher): “Restaurants are to people in the 80s what theater was to people in the 60s.” I read that in a magazine.
Jess (Kirby): I wrote that.
Marie: Get out of here.
Jess: No, I did. I wrote that.
Marie: I’ve never quoted anything from a magazine in my life! That’s amazing. Don’t you think it’s amazing? And you wrote it?
Jess: I also wrote “Pesto is the quiche of the 80s.”
Marie: Get over yourself.
Jess: I did!
Marie: Where did I read that?
JessNew York magazine.
Harry (Crystal): Sally writes for New York magazine.
Marie: You know that piece had a real impact on me, I mean I, I don’t know that much about writing but…
Jess: Well, well, it spoke to you, and that pleases me.

Foreign Service Blogs (II)

Discovering more blogs kept by Foreign Service Officers, old and new, from DC to Bucharest, from cat-lovers to chess masters.

Cross Words

Among the most interesting aspects of this blog is the lack of a lapel pin declaring the author a Foreign Service Officer. Instead we see a chess enthusiast and writer of fantasy and science fiction. Currently set in Nassau, Bahamas. What’s it like to raise talented musicians as part of your Foreign Service family? Ted has answers.

Notes From Post

Posts from one of our most recently sworn-in U.S. diplomats covering the beginning of A-100 training in Fall 2016 through Flag Day and Swearing-In last month. Come October—after Portuguese and Consular training—the posts here will shift focus from D.C. to Praia, Cape Verde.

Rob Joswiak: American, Veteran, Diplomat

Another from the same class, same timeline, and similar prognosis—soon to be proficient in Portuguese and posting from Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Sadie Abroad

Posting from Beirut for now; after the summer on to studying Bahasa Indonesia before taking up an assignment at the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Tabbies in Tow

In their own words: A couple and their tabbies give up the comforts of everyday life to move into the unknown world of life in the Foreign Service, presently in Bucharest, Romania.

Previous posts in this series, by Foreign Service Officers and about the Foreign Service.

Guest Post–Michael J. Sahno

Today I turn over this space to author and book marketing consultant Michael J. Sahno. Congratulations to Michael on today’s re-launch of the novel, Miles of FilesCheck back in later for a review.

Marketing for Indie Authors

Before I started my own publishing and consulting firm, I spent about 15 years working full time as a writer. The job I had was marketing writing. What that meant is that I had to market, or advertise, to readers. I still do this type of work through my own company. Articles I’ve written have appeared in Fortune, Money, Good Housekeeping, Entrepreneur, and Woman’s Day.

If you’re an indie author, you are the Marketing Department for your company. So you have to know how to do more than just write a book and call it a day. You have to do (or hire someone to do) the marketing for your book. Unless it’s a children’s book, i.e., mostly illustrations, you’ll need content for that marketing. Continue reading Guest Post–Michael J. Sahno

Foreign Service Readings

Continuing a short list of blogs and independent websites offering an insider’s view of U.S. diplomacy steeped in experience. Not  officialdom. I previously posted this Foreign Service blog list.

https://diplopundit.net

Opinionated and often edgy, DiploPundit has no official connection to the U.S. Department of State. It wades into leadership issues, Foreign Service realities, international current events, and other developments in the foreign affairs community. Updated daily the blog is the brainchild of Domani Spero, an obsessive compulsive observer, diplomatic watcher, and opinionator who monitors the goings on at ‘Foggy-Bottom’ and the ‘worldwide available’ universe—from Albania to Zimbabwe.  Continue reading Foreign Service Readings

D. W. Hitman

Warning: the reading police, disguised as the media, have infiltrated the State Department.

Based on a stroll through the Harry Truman building cafeteria, one journalist for The Atlantic pretends to understand our present condition: “As the staffer and I walked among the tables and chairs, people with badges chatted over coffee; one was reading his Kindle.”

Forgive me for not pausing to gasp at the news.

Federal workers everywhere hang badges, like nooses, around their necks. Continue reading D. W. Hitman

Brothers

brothers

The Run

My son’s offering his services as my campaign manager. More than the trappings of power, I think the third grader’s hooked on creating slogans.

‘Want the Best?
Vote the Beast.’

Beast is a nickname I picked up in Jr. High. It was my sister’s fault. A clever P.E. teacher pegged her first initial against her last name, and the Beast was born. When I started climbing rope two years later, the name was passed down to me and I became the Beast myself. Continue reading The Run