Bankrupt

Rick Reilly (tx, Justin): With apologies to Harper’s Index …

Amount jailed star quarterback Michael Vick spent from July ’06 to July ’08, according to recent bankruptcy papers: $17.7 million.

Amount of that time he was in prison: 8 months.

Total amount of checks he wrote his mother, Brenda Boddie—not counting all her bills he paid—even while in prison: $21,400.

Amount he donated to her church: $327,900.

Amount he gave her for an Easter egg hunt: $700.

Thanksgiving’s Greatest Hits

Top 10 Thanksgiving Stories? I’ll start.

Dan Barry: THEY deserved New York. Those who have willingly donned the maroon-and-gold uniforms of the Pinson Valley High School marching band, who have lived to the tweets of their director’s whistle, who have played so much upbeat music that they can bring pep to ”Ave Maria.” Yes, these children of Alabama deserved to participate in that glorified commercial known as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But none deserved New York more than their five sousaphone players, including Andrew Parsons, 16. His lot in band life is to lug around a heavy instrument that looks like a tuba straining to be a boa constrictor. While others frolic among the high notes, he and his four mates boomp-boomp-boomp in the low. Andrew likes that.

Those boomps were an integral part of what won his band its brass ring: selection as one of the nine high school bands in this year’s parade. Hundreds of practices followed, as did car washes, cookie dough sales and other fund-raisers to pay for the 950-mile trip to New York.

Hearts and Minds

Paul Salopek (tx, Nigel): IN THE AFAR TRIANGLE, Djibouti – The desert is a war.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Cynthia Ramirez roared through it in an unmarked Land Cruiser, projecting the awesome might of the U.S. military into a wasteland little seen, much less penetrated, by outsiders. The landscape was like a slap—an eye-stinging waste of salt pans and glass-blue mountains that was still inhabited by Muslim warrior-nomads, the Afar, tough customers who long ago had swapped their traditional spears for Kalashnikovs.

Behind Ramirez, in an expanding cone of dust, bucked three more Toyotas, an Army truck loaded with corrugated metal sheeting, and 14 armed, sweating American soldiers and sailors. Their improbable objective: reroof a school at a fly-speck nomad camp called Lahossa.

“Hearts and minds,” Ramirez, a voluble and shaven-headed Texan, hollered over the engine. “And we’re showing the bad guys we can go anywhere.”

All The News That’s Fit To Record

It’s uncanny the number of things Hanna-Barbera Production’s The Jetsons correctly predicted. Flying cars. Carwash-like showers. That a black man would be elected president of the United States.

And that one day we would have our news delivered on vinyl by a boy on a sky-scooter.

(REMOVED)

Bad Sex

When I was a boy, I used pull the covers over my head and read the sex scenes in my granny’s romance novels. I just typed granny and sex in the same sentence. I did it again.

Anyway, the Literary Review Bad Sex In Fiction awards shortlist is out. And, surprisingly, it includes some fine writers.

Some of the honored purple prose, from new age novelist Paulo Coelho’s novel Brida:

At last, she could no longer control the world around her, her five senses seemed to break free and she wasn’t strong enough to hold on to them. As if struck by a sacred bolt of lightning, she unleashed them, and the world, the seagulls, the taste of salt, the hard earth, the smell of the sea, the clouds, all disappeared, and in their place appeared a vast gold light, which grew and grew until it touched the most distant star in the galaxy.

Here at Gangrey, we talk a lot about ledes, and endings, and what makes a good story. Let’s spend a little time talking about good sex.

What elements make a good sex scene? How do you build tension? How important is location and scenery?

What does a sex scene in look like in the newspaper? Any examples?

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Holding His Own

Emily Nipps: When the Tampa Police Department needs a touch of compassion, someone who can roll into any situation and defuse it with a calm, tolerant demeanor, they know just the guy.

He’s like a superhero of sorts, a man of many powers. His specialty is children, especially those who have been abused, as he has a knack for dealing with them, literally, eye to eye. His mere presence can calm a thrashing, fighting criminal. Thugs just don’t feel like taking a punch when they see him.

His supervisor says he’s great for crawling through small windows or tossing on roofs or over fences. He can do it all, it seems … except maybe put you in a standing headlock. Or dunk a basketball.

Go ahead and make a wisecrack. Officer Mike Ruiz, not quite 4 feet 11, has pretty much heard it all.

The Pleasures Of A Really Good Beer

Tonight I read a story that reminded me why, despite all its surplus commas, The New Yorker is still indispensable: Elephants, like many of us, enjoy a good malted beverage when they can get it. At least twice in the past ten years, herds in India have stumbled upon barrels of rice beer, drained them with their trunks, and gone on drunken rampages. (The first time, they trampled four villagers; the second time they uprooted a pylon and electrocuted themselves.) Howler monkeys, too, have a taste for things fermented. In Panama, they’ve been seen consuming overripe palm fruit at the rate of ten stiff drinks in twenty minutes. Even flies have a nose for alcohol. They home in on its scent to lay their eggs in ripening fruit, insuring their larvae a pleasant buzz. Fruit-fly brains, much like ours, are wired for inebriation.

***

It’s no coincidence that this story was written by Burkhard Bilger, who for my money is the magazine’s best writer right now. Nobody else on that staff can match his combination of quality and frequency.

Am I right about this?

Critic At 12

Susan Dominus: Everyone’s a critic, and apparently it’s never too soon to start.

That’s why David Fishman, an Upper West Sider who turned 12 last month, decided to take himself out for dinner one night last week. His parents had called him at home to say they were running late, suggesting that he grab some takeout at the usual hummus place.

Hummus, again? David thought he could do better than that.

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