Wow, it's been a while since I've daylogged.  Time flies when you're working full-time tech support, part-time tutoring, and doing as much freelance as you can manage.

Anyhow, back in February, my collection Sparks and Shadows won the Editor's Choice Black Quill Award for Best Dark Genre Collection.  Later that month, CGP (the company that published my collection Installing Linux on a Dead Badger) agreed to publish a collection of my poetry later this year or early next.  The working title is Chimeric Machines, and the cover will be done by artist Ursula Vernon.  Tom Piccirilli will be writing the introduction.

In other news, Gary A. Braunbeck's story "In Cupboards and Bookshelves" will be in the new HELLBOY anthology, Oddest Jobs (edited by Christopher Golden). The book will be released in July so it coincides with the release of the new HELLBOY movie. Mike Mignola will be doing an original illustration for each story in the book.  For those of you who've read Gary's novels, the HELLBOY story takes place behind the scenes of some of the events of In Silent Graves.

Last month, Gary and I went to World Horror in Salt Lake City, and a good time was had by all.  I got to meet my literary agent for the first time.  Bob-my-agent told me where we're at with Spellbent (my newly-written urban fantasy novel) in terms of who's seen it and who's made positive noises looking at it and I'm very hopeful that it will find a good home fairly quickly.  

The big news of WHC is that Gary won two Bram Stoker Awards, which brings his total to 5.  The first is for his novella Afterward, There Will Be A Hallway, which can be found in Five Strokes To Midnight, which also won him an editing Stoker for Best Anthology.  If you want to see his acceptance speech, it's available here:

And in more mundane news, I got to move to a better shift at work, so I'm getting home before dark, which is nice.

And those are the highlights of what's been going on.  The lowlight was that our garage flooded the week after we got two feet of snow, but the damage was minimal, thank goodness.




Every once in a while you read a news story that just so blows your mind that you can't figure out which angle about it is more disgusting. You read the article over and over and you can't even talk to anybody about it because – I mean – where do you begin?

In case you missed the New York Times article yesterday, Drug Makers Near Old Goal: A Legal Shield, let me run down the facts for you here:

In the late 1990s Johnson & Johnson expressed their intention to the FDA to create a birth control patch that would have lower estrogen levels than pill based birth control. You see, lower estrogen levels are a desirable thing because high estrogen levels can often cause blood clots and heart attack and stroke and other things that severely harm a human being – and, you know, kill human beings.
Johnson & Johnson went on to create the patch, called Ortho Evra, but found during testing that it actually released estrogen levels far greater than that of traditional birth control pills into the blood stream. Not wanting to not make a lot of money off of this invention, however, Johnson & Johnson kind of fudged the numbers a bit when they reported their testing to the FDA, but just enough to get approval for the patch – which comes out to about half of the actual levels the patch releases. After receiving FDA approval for the patch, with their false data, Johnson & Johnson went on to market the patch, reporting this same low estrogen level to the public.
For the next five or six years at the beginning of this decade report after report was filed with the FDA of cardiovascular related deaths associated with this patch. During this time Johnson & Johnson was running their own tests and finding these same dangerous results, over and over again. Of course, Johnson & Johnson didn't really think it was quite their responsibility to report these findings to the FDA – not until the FDA finally started poking their heads around. Finally in 2005 the company began to publish the actual estrogen levels of their patch on the packaging and prescriptions soon fell by about eighty percent. Not before, however, this drug had already killed around 40 people and done who-knows-what other kind of damage to the women using the medication.
Now, a bunch of those people are suing Johnson & Johnson over damages. Things aren't going well, though. Some similar cases brought before the Supreme Court last year ended up being ruled in favor of medical device manufacturing companies, holding that if the FDA has approved a device then the company cannot be held responsible for any ill effects of the device. This is a legal concept called 'pre-emption.' President George Bush and his administration, in their ever continuing effort to protect the citizens of the United States, are strong advocates of pre-emption and are fighting for drug companies to be protected by this kind of legal loopholing.

See what I mean by not knowing where to start? That took forever to write, I hope it wasn't too painful to read all that, for those of you still with me. Let's move on and talk about these facts before we go into fact-intake shock.

So, here we have a drug company purposefully lying to the government to get its drug approved, then proceeding to lie to the public about the harmful effects of the drug once they have received approval from the FDA. We have a company that obviously saw enough reason, over the years, to continue running tests on their drug to see if it is quite as dangerous as the deaths among those people taking the medication would seem to suggest, and then went on to hide the findings of these tests. This company, however, refuses to take responsibility for their actions, even going so far as to claim that they "acted responsibly" in these matters.

We have a public that wants to hold this company responsible for their actions. A public that, even if they were so inclined to do gobs of research to protect themselves from unsafe medication, could not make an educated decision about the product because the drug company did nothing short of lie about the estrogen levels of the drug and its possible side effects.

We have a court system that, in the very heart of laissez faire capitalism, refuses to regulate the destructive actions of companies and is willing to protect corporations from all responsibility for their actions. All of this in complete contradiction to the reason the courts were established: to protect the private citizens of this great nation.

All this brings us to the FDA. Why did they drop the ball on this? Well, that is a very interesting question. It doesn't take much research into the FDA (in fact, this New York Times article even talks about it) to find that even the FDA thinks they are doing a horrible job. The FDA is not a policing organization, you see. For a matter of fact, they are barely an organization at all. They themselves claim that they are underfunded, disorganized and impotent.

The FDA, my fellow citizens, actually does not do much testing of new foods and drugs on their own – they just do not have the budget. The FDA actually relies on the individual companies that create these products to do their own testing. Since the FDA does not have the man power or budget to check over all this testing there is a certain amount of trust required that those companies will accurately and truthfully report their findings to the FDA when seeking approval. This trust, it would seem, is not something we should take for granted.

So, one has to ask themselves, why is there always enough money in the Federal budget to toss bombs at foreign countries, but not enough money to actually protect the citizens of America from the dangerous and destructive actions of those companies among us that will do anything to bring in more and more money -- enough budget to ensure an FDA that can audit enough tests to keep Americans safe? Are our congress and president so blind as to not see the dangers in this situation? It would seem so – or it would seem that these people we elect to protect us are profiting from turning a blind eye in some other form.

Which brings us to our compassionate, brave, and all round upstanding President George W. Bush. A man who, it seems, at every opportunity presented to him weighs his options carefully, does some serious soul searching on what path would be the best for the people of our country, and then chooses the most morally appalling option among his choices. If this was just one incident I would not be so strong with my words. Our President, however, has demonstrated a will to cement his place as the most despicable president in the history of the United States – choosing over and over again to put the people of the United States second, and the interests of large corporations at the forefront of his policy.

Once again I am forced to come to you, fellow readers, and call on you to write your congressperson. I call on you, in all decency and humanitarianism, to use your voices to form a loud public outcry against these kinds of policies that literally sacrifice citizens of our nation on the altar of the economy. I call on you to do what our goverment cannot -- and will not ever be able to do -- to hold corporations responsible for their (im)moral actions! And I call on you to stand up and demand your voices be heard and to not surrender until we have a government for the people, by the people – instead of a government for corporate interests, by corporate whores.

Respect and thanks to Gardiner Harris, Alex Berenson and Janet Roberts of the New York Times for bringing this issue to the attention of the public.

OK let’s play a little game. It should be fun. Following this brief introduction are three amazing stories about me. Two of them are true, one of them is a total lie. If you would like to play, /msg me with the one you think is a fabrication (identify it by story number if you want to keep your message brief). I wonder how many of you will get it right. It should be interesting. Winners will receive…..

  • A /msg from yours truly telling you how awesome you are.
  • Your awesomeness is covered in a follow-up daylog.
  • AND NOTHING ELSE! Geez, we just had two babies! Lay off! What did you want, MONEY or something?! Man!

Story #1: This one is about the time I almost died. No, I have never been on Death's Door, it's not like my heart stopped and I started going into the light or anything. But something happened to me that should have killed me, but somehow didn't. It was one of those where you cringe and say "That's gonna leave a mark!" And it did. Several.

In 1989, when I was 12, pushing 13 years old, I went off bike riding with my friend Raymond and we ventured off way farther than we had permission to. I had been visiting his house so we'd left from there. Since I did not have my bicycle I had to ride his sister's. And YES it was totally a girl's bike and YES, yes it had a basket!

We ventured out onto a major highway, almost got hit by cars as we were crossing it, and made our way to Camp Skullbones, by Skullbones Creek. Ominous names, huh? It was early spring, and still quite chilly, so being the summer camp type place that it was, it was still closed. There was a steel rope across the paved road at its entrance so nobody could drive in. It was bolted into trees on either side. We tried to be hooligans and rip it from the trees, to no avail. Our combined strength couldn’t even loosen it. So we rode around it and went up a steep hill into the camp. It was boring and dead quiet so we didn’t trespass long.

We decided to have ourselves a little race, him on his dirt bike and me on his little sister’s girly bike. Yes, again, with the basket. While going down the hill steep hill near the entrance, I pulled way ahead of him. I laughed to myself, wondering why he had slowed down. I found out. Suddenly, I was yanked off of the bicycle. I was flying through the air. Something was wrapping around my neck. I became totally confused and disoriented. A second later I fell to the ground.

Ray saw this: me hitting the steel wire, ripping it from one of the trees, it wrapping around my neck and flinging me around in the air like a rag doll, and then me being thrown to the pavement below, surely dead of a broken neck. He about crapped his pants when I simply got up, unwrapped the wire from my neck, and tossed it aside. The only injury I sustained was bad markings around my neck that were difficult to explain to anybody but Ray and myself.

There's no way you would have survived that! This has to be the false one!

Maybe. But... maybe not!

Story #2: In late-fall 2001 I was selling Game Night Revues in the parking garage by the St. Louis hockey arena, which was at the time named the Kiel Center. I usually got there an hour and a half before the game to begin selling. Until you get to about a half hour or so before the game starts the groups of people only come in spurts with many dead times in between where sales slump.

During one of those slumps something kind of frightening happened. To preface this, I must tell you that I also was a cartoonist for the GNR and even though I am a die hard St. Louis Blues fan I didn't like to pull punches (and I still don't; I still do them for another mag) and I would make fun of my own team and/or its players if need be. A player (who shall remain nameless here), one of the enforcer-types, had lost a fight badly a few games before and I had skewered him in a cartoon the previous game. I mean, a player whose only job is to fight losing fights consistently is as bad as a flashy goal scorer not scoring any goals.

During one of the slumps where nobody else was around, who do I see but this player coming towards me from the other end of the parking garage. I believe he was scratched that night. Maybe that had something to do with his losing that fight, and several before that?

Anyway, this guy, who looked like he could probably bench press me, approached me. He said "Are you that cartoonist?!" and against my better judgment, I responded "Yes, yes I am!" (I always loved to boast about my being the cartoonist, as well as the GNR's web site guy, along with being a vendor. This is probably why he figured I was indeed the cartoonist.)

He said something to the effect of "Well, I didn't appreciate your fucking cartoon the other night and I'm gonna kick your fucking ass! Let's see if you fight as well as you draw - which is shitty by the way!"

Oh shit! was what I thought. Like the wuss that I usually am in situations like that, I grabbed the box of GNRs and ran off! Nearby was a St. Louis City cop who was making sure that everybody trying to drive into the garage had the proper passes to do so. I told him about the altercation and pointed behind me. The player was nowhere to be found.

The cop looked back there, shrugged, and I think kind of smiled at me. He said there was nothing he could do about it. I don't think he believed me. Anyway, he pretty much brushed me off, and that's where this story ends.

What?! A player actually threatened to kick your ass? Come on! What is this, the movies?! Were you watching Slapshot recently or something?!

Well, actually I've never seen that movie. But still, you make a good argument. But still you could be WRONG!

Story #3: In spring of 1990 I was out camping with my friend Phil in the woods behind my house in rural Missouri. We liked to camp quite often in those years we were in high school between '90 and '94 and I am remiss that we haven't gotten a chance to do so since. Anyway, it was a Saturday night, our favorite night to camp, I was collecting sticks for our campfire and Phil was relieving himself somewhere else along the trails closeby when something truly weird happened.

I just happened to be looking up at the sky for some reason, and if I hadn't I would have missed the important part. For a tiny fraction of a second I believe I saw, very high in the sky, a multi-colored triangular shape, like perhaps and upside-down pyramid. Suddenly the whole sky lit up, like it silently exploded. It was like an extended, vast lightning burst that for several seconds the deep, dark of night suddenly became daylight.

We ran up to my house straight away to see if anybody else had seen it. They had. It even made the nightly news; they were talking about it only about twenty minutes or so after it had happened. A trucker reported that he actually saw some sort of unidentifiable debris fall on the highway.

I asked a few other people I knew when we went back to school that Monday. Some say they did see that. To this day, I'm not sure how widespread the phenomenon was. Some scientist expert-type said it was a meteor exploding. That's an acceptable explanation, but there's that triangular shape I saw that keeps this one a mystery for me.

Oh, a UFO story, eh?! Puh-LEEZE! Surely this is the story you're lying about! It's an Untrue Fabricated Oration if it's a UFO!

Well you could be right there. Or, maybe you're not!

Well, review the stories again, choose wisely, and message me! Good luck!

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