The Iraq War Was Appropriate

Friday, July 08, 2005

Absence... fonder?

I feel inclined to explain my lengthy absence. Not to belabor the long, sad story, but it transpired that my former would-be agent became aware of this electronic journal and expressed to me, in no uncertain terms, his discontent with the fact that I had published excerpts from The Realignment Crescendo without his blessing (which he, in his infinite arrogance, apparently deemed essential in all things). I retorted with the obvious observation that my artistic creations are mine own, and suchlike, and in return the sort of parry ensued that one might expect from the emasculated male of today's America: letters from lawyers, legal threats, &c. During the interim, my esteemed legal representation advised me to refrain from publishing writings to this outlet, and so I did, for at this point the potential risk to my economic well-being outweighed any other considerations one might imagine to have been operative.

To summarize on a somewhat pleasant note, the matter is now (mostly) settled and the association with the agent dissolved. He can retreat back into his world of cocktail parties and homosexuals, I am chastened to be more discerning in my selection of business associates, and so I suppose we are each the better off for the ordeal. Naturally, this will force a delay in the publication of The Realignment Crescendo, but no matter. In the meantime, I have been advised that contributing entries to this electronic journal entails little further risk, and so perhaps I shall.

In our present world circumstance it appears to be more crucial than ever to emphasize and explain that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a truly appropriate course of action for the U.S. and its Anglo-Saxon allies to have engaged in.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Novel Excerpt 4

I realize there is a very important component of P. Wallach Hedge's story that I haven't included in the excerpts: his training. (After all, readers who have read the prior excerpts only are probably wondering just exactly where did Hedge get his skills?)

I've chosen an excerpt that, I believe, remedies that deficiency. Enjoy.

Wally looked morosely up at the grizzled face of Mai-Pei through reddened tear-stained eyes. "I can't do it!", he wailed helplessly, refusing to look at the board in front of him. The stubborn board, that would not break, streaked with the blood of the young Hedge boy's wounded right hand. Birds could be heard in the distance, mocking him with their warbles. It was already late afternoon; the glow of the Macau casinos was beginning to be visible just on the horizon.

Mai-Pei's eyes narrowed imperceptibly, as he awkwardly (and a bit reluctantly) addressed his student by the English version of the name he'd selected for him that fateful, foggy day two months ago when Tamika had presumptously, but astutely, brought the boy over on the boat and left him in the care of the elder legend warrior-priest, the last of his kind. "Oh, but you can, Clay-faced Orphan of Liberty. And you will. It is only a question of when, and how. It is foreseen, and written. Written on your face, in your bloodlines. I can see it."

"You can? How?", Wally sniffed.

"Because I have the mishubi."


"Mishubi. You will learn it too, one day." Mai-Pei idly picked up a birch twig and stripped it.

Wally was plagued with doubt. "How can you be so sure?"

"Because that is why you are here, Clay-faced Orphan of Liberty. You would not have been brought to me if it was not your fate to learn the mishubi."

And that is how it was, for the coming months and years. At the beginning of every summer, and one weekend a month during the school year, Wally would rise at 4:30 A.M. from the futon he shared with Tamika in Kowloon, make his way across the ferry, hop on the boat (eventually, hovercraft) to Macau, dine on noodles for breakfast on board, and then find Mai-Pei for his intense training in the mysterious ways of mishubi.

Or, more precisely, Mai-Pei would find him. As with their very first meeting, Wally's instructions were never more specific than the ones Tamika had relayed to him that first, arduous summer: "Go to the front of the old Portugese cathedral, stand next to the old cannon, look out upon the water, clear your mind of all thoughts besides silt in a riverbed, then imagine your arms are pelicans. Before the next bell sounds, Mai-Pei shall be there."

And so he was - every time.

But all that was unimaginably far off to 12-year-old Wally Hedge as he listened to Mai-Pei begin to recount the secret history of mishubi, his mind equal parts empty vessel thirsting for knowledge, and seething cauldron burning with a desire for revenge, revenge for what had been done to his parents not one year earlier.

As Mai-Pei demonstrated the mishubi state of mind, presently Wally burst out: "Will it help me kill my enemies?"

Mai-Pei snapped the birch twig in two, each part somehow bursting into flames as he did, at which point, with one smooth motion of both arms, he briskly flung the two flaming rods past Wally's head. They made a whizzing sound as they whipped past his eardrums and settled in the red dust behind him.

"The first thing you must understand about mishubi", Mai-Pei began slowly with deep breaths, "is that, while it gives great power, legend says it was created by The Dancing Yellow Trickster. In result it can be used for either good or evil, and the Trickster's Joke says that those who are with the mishubi will not always be able to tell one from the other."

Wally smiled and sat in the lotus position, dead center of the old abandoned cathedral that was their training ground. "Tell me more, Mai-Pei...."

Far off in the distance, the steady noise of the casino Pai Gow games abated for just a moment, and then continued.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Kissinger and Schultz know what they're talking about. So does Wretchard.

You might think that the latter contradicts the former on a certain point. Superficially, I can see how it would seem so, but only if you haven't thought it through.

You see, although they may look at the current situation from slightly different angles, what both have in common is a deep understanding of the appropriateness of the invasion of Iraq and ouster of the Hussein regime initiated by President Bush in the spring of 2003. This becomes more clear with every passing day.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I don't mind admitting that the feedback I have received about my novel excerpts has been extremely encouraging. If the level of interest represented by some of your electronic letters is any indication, then my agent - and his pessimistic, cynical attitude regarding the prospects for publication of The Realignment Crescendo - surely shall be eating crow. I confess, there were times when I was taken in by this man's supposed expert judgment, but reality (in the form of your encouraging notes) trumps theory and "expertise" every time. Thank God for that.

One thing that has caused no small amount of surprise to me: If your electronic letters are any indication, there is an as-yet-untapped reservoir of interest in some of the side characters of The Realignment Crescendo, that I had not foreseen. Rest assured that your interest shall not go unheeded. Although the novel is and must always remain primarily the story, background, evolution, influences, and heroism of its main character (and, my alter ego) P. Wallach Hedge - for, I don't mind saying, this was the very raison d'etre of the book's genesis - I concede it may indeed be advisable to add a few scenes here and there to flesh out some of the (as of now relatively minor) side characters such as Lorii Chambers, Zabe, and Tamika, each of whom seems to have piqued the interest of no small number of readers. I shall attempt to satisfy this demand; let it not be said that I am unheeding of my potential audience's concerns. Indeed, I now see how expanding upon some of these characters' roles (slightly) can help flesh out and contextualize the life and travails of P. Wallach Hedge.

Oh, one side note: I was a bit taken aback by the sheer amount, and - in some cases - bizarre nature of speculation regarding the side characters and who they may represent in real life. Is President Rex Magnusson really Ronald Reagan? Who is Gauchinsky? &c. Now, don't get me wrong, this is indeed a semi-autobiographical novel and so quite a few characters are actually thinly-disguised real people. All I want to say here is don't take every single character too literally: in a few cases, they are but composites. So, keep that in mind.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Novel Excerpt 3

I fear the impression given by my previous excerpt may be that The Realignment Crescendo will focus mostly on the higher-ups in the Executive Branch. Although (by necessity) their movements and machinations are indeed intermittently tracked for plot purposes, I assure you, that is not the main thrust of the novel. The epic sweep of the story is such that it is difficult to encapsulate, but in brief it is, in part, simply a biography of a humble, patriotic American. At least, that is how I like to think of it.

To illustrate this let me jump ahead to Part 2, Maelstrom of Wills, and excerpt a passage which is, as we encounter it, an opium-induced flashback to Hedge's early childhood. (As in many other places in the novel, I have employed the literary technique of time-shifting; I trust this shall not be too confusing to the reader.) In addition to re-emphasizing who is really at the center of this tale, this excerpt should, I think, give you a better idea of Hedge's origins and upbringing.

"Wahry, keep quiet", whispered Tamika resolutely. "I won't ret them kihr you but you must hehrp me." She was still tightly clutching the shotgun, which unseen by Wally she had already deftly reloaded.

Wally was pale. He nodded robotically and followed her down the alley, away from the stonefaced men - "M-G-B", his father had enigmatically spelled out with his dying breath - who had just ruthlessly gunned down the only family Wally Hedge had ever known moments before, as Wally and Tamika watched from the garden where they had been playing. If she hadn't blasted one of the killers, the squat one, they too would probably be dead.

He was shocked to realize that his part-time nanny was all he had now. It would not be the first shock he would experience in the coming days. Who would have guessed that this shy, slight girl with downcast eyes and long straight hair, who had come from Japan only three years ago to live with them, would prove to be the thin thread upon which little P. Wallach Hedge's future, and indeed his very life, now hung?

Tamika's arrival by ship had been the culmination of some mysterious pact Father claimed to have made during the war with a certain Jap soldier - a now-dead Jap soldier. That, at least, is all Eddie could ever bring himself to say by way of explanation. Mother had initially protested, but deep down she understood the man she married, and his sense of honor. Edwin Hedge, Jr. was never one to go back on a promise. Tamika, sixteen when she arrived and already a burgeoning beauty, was welcomed, if uneasily, into the Hedge household. Quickly and with a grateful quietude she set about doing her part in tending to little Wally - then but eight years old - tacitly providing her with a helping-hand, that Althea came to welcome and trust. Wally was delighted and mystified by the lithe alien girl. When they were alone, she would (for he had easily picked up a bit of the Jap language from her) fill his head with strange and wonderful tales of her homeland. Her eyes spoke of deeper sadness, never spoken of. Days together were like flowers.

Now, Wally struggled mightily to keep up with the graceful, gazelle-like figure of Tamika as she sprinted stealthily down the dimly-lit back streets to escape the killers.

"Slow down", Wally panted at her. "Where are we going? Why don't we go to the.. th-the police?"

Tamika stopped, turned around and slapped him jarringly in the face. In a controlled hush: "No pohrice! Pohrice on their side. You understand? But I know where go. I know peopre help. We get out. You forrow."

And then she turned, and ran. Wally gave in. It was her or nothing, he decided then and there. He let her lead, he let her take charge. She took him that night into a dizzying underworld of secret knocks, of smoke-filled gambling dens. At one point, for an agonizing hour or so, Tamika left him alone in a diner as she went to meet with some important "friend"; when she came back she looked disheveled, but her eyes told Wally that she had want she wanted: "We have ticket now."

Four days later they were in a junk in Hong Kong harbour, a temporary way-station before word could be gotten to them of the new living quarters, and identities, that had been mysteriously (to Wally) arranged for them somewhere in Kowloon. America - picket fences, Brooklyn Dodgers, soda fountains, cowboy movies - now, all was just a distant, hazy dream for Wally - Wallach - Hedge. In the months and years that were to follow, Tamika would be his only guardian as well as his teacher: instructing or arranging for his instruction in languages, history, culture; in survival skills, martial arts. Although neither of them could possibly know it now, after a certain point, she would even instruct him in the arts of love.

But all of that was still to come. For now, on this day in 1949, eleven year old Wallach Hedge gazed out at the tall buildings beyond the array of staccato lines created by Oriental shipwrights that was traced out by countless ships, and thought only of three letters whose meaning he could merely guess at for now: M-G-B. He would not fail to notice - or be fooled - when the organization in question altered its name to KGB. Nor would he be forget what those bastards had done to Edwin and Althea Hedge - and consequently to his childhood.

Back In Leningrad

It will always be Leningrad to me. Call me old-fashioned.

Of course, some things have changed. But not everything, I thought, as I first stepped off the train a couple days ago and was greeted almost immediately by protesting pensioners, red flags. Perhaps they seek more humble goals - free transport rather than world domination - but if you ask me, the soul remains the same. For good, and ill.

One thing that has changed, on the other hand, is the once-vaunted KGB. I assure you, the name-change is not merely cosmetic; these people are but a shell of what they once were. In one small protesting crowd alone I spotted three obvious agents provocateurs. They're getting downright sloppy.

I shall be operating here for an unspecified period of time. Publication of entries to my electronic journal could possibly continue, facilitated by small, seemingly semi-illegal establishments for connecting to the global network. Staffed by 19-year-old worldly-wise vixens happy to bring you coffee but who will charge extra for milk, patronized by Westerners with too much money and too little concern for how easily they will be robbed (I have witnessed two robberies already - in one amusing case, by a policeman), these dark corners of Leningrad are more comfortable than they have any right to be.

Of special interest for me are the open-air markets for ex-Soviet army paraphernalia. Canteens and patches and medals, all up for sale to spoiled Westerners. The empire, hollowed out at last, a garage sale on the lawn. There were times when I never thought I'd see that, and it is almost enough to bring a tear to this old man's eye. If only so and so could still be here to see it, I think to myself - but enough.

Wish me luck, then, as I try to survive an indefinite stay in a land without living rooms and which has a million kinds of "salad", none of them involving either lettuce or Jello. Clearly, I am not in Kansas anymore.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Novel Excerpt 2

The following scene actually comes earlier in Black Marbles White Marbles than the previous excerpt. (I see now that I may have jumped the gun and confused readers by getting into the action too quickly.) I've chosen a passage which helps introduce some of the major players and political maneuverings behind the scenes, with perhaps even some foreshadowing of who might be the - oh, but I don't want to give away too much. Enjoy.

Magnusson cautiously surveyed the room. To his right (as reckoned by bisecting the oval) sat respectively his NSA chief (whose name always escaped him - Rex usually just called him "Spike"), the CIA director K.C. Williams, his chief counsel Kessler, and Lorii Chambers, his willowy young Secretary of State, who was nervously bouncing her left leg on top of her right. None of them knew exactly why they had been summoned here.

To his left, as always, perched on his cushioned chair guardingly like a gargoyle, was stationed his top political advisor, Mark Alexander Gauchinsky, who perplexingly (to Rex) insisted on being called "Sasha". Gauchinsky, who had suddenly arranged for this meeting, sat informally with his left leg up on the ottoman, a pose he often, citing leg cramps, reflexively adopted, one which sometimes perturbed Magnusson for reasons he could not quite put his finger on.

President Reginald (Rex) Magnusson gazed distractedly out the window, onto the lawn. Sasha had been strangely insistent on this meeting, but Magnusson knew not why. All he knew was that it had something to do with that mess in Cleveland this morning, and that his morning workout had been interrupted. It had been an uneventful Presidency thus far for the former Navy SEAL.

"Mr. President, sir, it's good to see you", initiated Lorii, hesitatingly. "I have a nine o'clock, can we make this fast?" hurriedly piped in Spike from over the screen of his laptop, precariously poised atop his knees as always. The President grudgingly managed a grunt of acknowledgment to both, yet to neither one in particular. He idly smoothed his graying hair and turned back to the window. The day was sunny out. It was morning.

Gauchinsky, opportunistically taking his cue, began. "Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to this meeting on such short notice. Before we begin...."

"Let me guess", blasted K.C. impatiently, "this has to do with that mess in Cleveland this morning, Mark." Gauchinsky discreetly shot K.C. an angry look at that but said nothing.

"Ohh, I heard about that on CNN. It was awful, just awful", chimed in Lorii, concerned.

"Yes Miss Chambers; but, well, we'll get to that", Gauchinsky continued curtly. "As I'm sure Director Williams has already learned through his channels - and perhaps your people, too, er, 'Spike', have pieced this together -" (quickly nodding a glance at the NSA Chief), "the tragic events in Cleveland this morning were not exactly as they seem. Not as they are being portrayed in the press, I should say. We - the President and I - have found it necessary to conceal the true nature of what has taken place from the public, for the time being." At that, Kessler, who like a recessive gene had been a previously dormant factor in this meeting, opened his notebook and started furiously scrawling notes.

Meanwhile the President's interest suddenly perked up. What was Sasha up to? This wasn't like him. But what did he know about his political advisor, really? Well, no matter; Sasha had loyally served him well thus far. He was indispensable; Magnusson knew that he likely would not have been elected without him. Gauchinsky was an unceasingly-rising star - at Yale, then in journalism, then rising through the ranks at State, Council on Foreign Relations, all that he touched seemingly turning to gold - no, Magnusson trusted M. Alexander Gauchinsky implicitly. After all, Sasha had not thus far given him any reason not to.

"But before I get into that" Gauchinsky had continued briskly, "I'd like to ask Director Williams a few questions." K.C. Williams, a no-nonsense Korea vet, eyed Gauchinsky impassively, neither consenting nor refusing. Gauchinsky returned the glare, asking directly: "What can you tell us about an ongoing operation CIA has in Ankara?"

The hair stood up on the back of K.C. Williams's thick, leathery neck. How on earth...?

"In particular, Director Williams, I understand that this operation involves a particular deep-cover operative by the name of" - here, Gauchinsky peered idly at a file that had somehow materialized in his lap - "Hedge."

The name meant something to Magnusson; he wasn't quite sure what.

"Wallach Hedge, that is, if I'm not mistaken. First initial P. I am very interested to know the background and availability of this man, if he indeed exists. Trust me when I say that it may very well be highly relevant to the situation at hand."

K.C. said nothing. Spike closed his laptop. As Lorii looked, wide-eyed, alternatingly from one end of the room to another, President Rex Magnusson reluctantly picked up a nondescript phone on the side of his desk and spoke softly into it: "Margie, you're going to have to push back a few appointments; oh, and tell my daughter Melanie that lunch will have to wait."

Outside, over Washington D.C., a small hazy cloud drifted effortlessly in front of the sun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Novel Excerpt

I've been working a bit more on my unpublished novel, using whatever downtime I may have at my disposal. My agent (with whom I have yet to establish a formal business relationship, but who takes great liberties to give me orders nevertheless) advises that it "needs editing"; frustratingly to me, since he is loathe to elaborate on just what that editing might consist of. Going behind his back a bit, I've decided that (for a lark) it might be interesting to publish excerpts of it for free to my electronic journal, to see what interest this might spark and comments this might engender. Keep in mind that this is still pretty rough, but the basic plot outlines are nevertheless in place and have been for some time. So critique if you must, but be merciful.

The following excerpt is a key scene from Black Marbles White Marbles, Part 1 of The Realignment Crescendo.

Hedge instantaneously, sharply kicked in the door with one swift, mantis-like motion of his wiry frame. Focusing his mind with his Buddhist training, his ears carefully and directionally attuned like a shortwave radio to frequencies that said "enemy", he strode resolutely through the ensuing explosion of splinters, crossing the threshold confidently and with expectation, like a newlywed couple - him and his MP5. This was it. This was the room in which he would find his answers.

Suddenly a voice called wryly out from the half-lit haze: "Greetings, Mr. Hedge. I've been expecting you." The voice was tinged with madness.

This had to be him. The arch-terrorist leader behind the Cleveland bloodbath, and the La Jolla cliffs operation, and the EMP attacks. The man behind the file, in the flesh. The flesh he knew to be stitched and burned and grafted almost beyond recognition.

Here, in this room, he would finally meet face to face with Zabe. What was left of that face, anyway.

"My, you work slowly, Mr. Hedge. Did I not leave enough bread-crumbs for you?" the menacing voice continued darkly. "Perhaps I overestimated you."

"The only thing you've overestimated, Mr. Zabe, is your lifespan. It's over. There's no way out, and your background says you're smart enough to know it", Hedge rattled off dryly, like a medical assistant calling a patient in for his appointment. Only, this appointment was with the Grim Reaper - the sooner, the better.

"Tsk tsk tsk. Is that the best you can do? I heard better from your predecessor. You didn't really expect me to sit here with no escape plan, did you? Now, Mr. Hedge. Let's dispense with the cops-and-robbers game. It grows tiresome. Check your jacket pocket, if you will."

Zabe's voice was without fear. After briefly processing the declaration, Hedge's instincts told him quickly that he wasn't bluffing. Keeping his alert eyes darting around the still-hazy room, and the MP5 at the ready, he lightly patted his overcoat on both sides, feeling his trusty Desert Eagle in its usual place on the right side... but an unfamiliar lump on the left. Reaching in gingerly, he pulled out what appeared to be a mobile phone. It was one of those flip-open deals, like Hedge had worked with in Ankara. Only when he flipped it open, he saw a tiny screen for showing photographs.

In the photograph on the screen, bound and gagged, was Melanie. Hedge's pupils shrank, but he performed two quick inhales to keep his nerves sharp. This wasn't part of the plan, but to Hedge's way of thinking, plans were made to be violated. Repeatedly.