October 20, 2017, 11:23 pm
In the 1990s, there was no one you would rather be than Carlton Pearson.
He was the pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in the world, mentor to one of the largest Christian music stars in the world, in-demand as a speaker, singer and mentor, father of the Azusa Street movement for pentecostals and all-around cool motherfucker.
I mean that last part, obviously, like Jesus would have said it.
Then, around 2003, shit hit the fan, and I mean that almost literally.
Pearson, who had been featured in every major outlet available to evangelical Christians, did something unthinkable: he began to question the very nature of the evangelical religion.
What if, he posited, salvation was not based on "asking Jesus into your heart"? What if, as the Bible said, Jesus died for everyone, not just those who were believers?
Full disclosure: I had lived those same questions four years earlier, but I was no Carlton Pearson. I was nobody, in fact. I was just some dude who was a ghost writer for televangelists. Carlton Pearson, meanwhile, was a genuine, bona fide star. A guy people put their faith in. A guy Oral Roberts had endorsed. A guy all the televangelist networks had looked up to. I was just the guy writing their books. This guy was the guy who was headlining their shows.
But, like me, he was questioning the reality of hell, eternal punishment, the idea that a just and holy god would actually sentence people to eternal torture for the honest and innocuous crime of questioning his existence.
So he, like I, began re-reading the Bible for clues about what its writers really intended their audience to understand. And the results were profound, for both of us: there was no hell, at least as far as the Bible was concerned. There was no capricious god damning entire nations to eternal torture in flames for the crime of never hearing his name.
Salvation, he and I discovered almost simultaneously, was universal (assuming you believed in a Judeo-Christian god and his son, who offered himself as a sacrifice in place of the sins of all mankind).
In 2003, I emailed Carlton Pearson using an address I possessed for him from my days writing for televangelists—an address he had given me when I was seeking his endorsement for a book I was writing for another televangelist.
"I am on the same path you are," I wrote to him. "Let me help you get the word out. Let's write a book."
The evangelical world had just begun officially shunning him, and he and I both naively thought we might stave off the flood with rational discourse.
"That's a very good idea," he wrote back. "Let me get some things in order and I'll call you."
He called me about a week later and we laid out tentative plans for the book that would become "The Gospel of Inclusion." However, life intervened for both of us and we never collaborated on it. Luckily, he got it done anyway. It's horrifying to think someone could get a book written without me, but it is what it is.
And the book is a masterpiece.
In it, he lays out the scriptural groundwork to establish a doctrine that the Judeo-Christian god is not the capricious asshole we all assumed him to be. Instead, he created a universal salvation through Jesus and that universal salvation was intended to foment a Christianity that was a response to unmitigated grace: a Christianity that preached the "good news" to the world that sin was no longer a problem because an innocent son of God paid the price for sins he never committed to ensure you were never punished for all the evil shit you did. Without requiring any further action from you. Are you a Muslim? Doesn't matter. His sacrifice paid for your sins. Hindu?Same story. Atheist? No problem.
And he was hammered for it. Lost his congregation. Lost his adoring fans. Lost his hard-earned respect. Castigated, ostracized. Carlton Pearson became a byword to those who formerly hung on his every word when he was preaching to them the things they already believed. Once he began to dig, to question, to excavate honest doctrine, the evangelical church could not have dropped him any faster if he had been a potato on fire.
And that's the lesson here: tell the truth and Christianity will discard you as fast as it can, because the only thing Christians desire is for someone to "amen" the lies upon which they have built their judgmental and hateful religion. It's the reason we have an orange president.
Carlton Pearson is a hero. A saint. A true believer who should go down in history as one of God's most brave fighters for truth. And my fervent hope is that he will.
October 16, 2017, 9:21 pm
On a whim, I typed "trumpsucks.com" into my browser. Because I'm programming and I needed a bit of a break for a second or two.
Next thing I know, my browser is redirected to HillaryClinton.com.
Kudos, staffer who set that up. Tip of the hat.
October 14, 2017, 11:11 am
So my wife and I were just at a store with our middle son, Axl. Some dude with huge boobs walked by and I casually said, "Man, that guy has nice tits."
The cashier cracked up and my wife punched me.
"You can't say stuff like that," my wife admonished.
"But he did have nice tits," I protested. "Like, he needed a bra."
The cashier agreed.
September 27, 2017, 7:07 am
I just finished watching a serialized documentary about the Scott Peterson trial. If you're not familiar, Scott Peterson was convicted in the early 2000s of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son.
The documentary, which interviews lots of investigatiors and attorneys, makes a compelling case that Peterson is innocent of the crime for which he is sitting on California's Death Row. There was a lot of exculpatory evidence the jury didn't hear, the jury was prejudiced due to frenzied media pontification about his guilt, jurors who were inclined to acquit were dismissed, that sort of thing.
I am part of the media, and I have been for nearly 30 years. We are under attack like never before, from places as high as the presidency of the United States. Some of it is deserved, most is not. I've been on the business end of the "kill the messenger" mindset as long as I have been a journalist. I'm accustomed to it. But the media are essential to ... I'll finish this later. Work calls.
September 10, 2017, 3:15 pm
The first time my wife and I moved somewhere together, I had to pack her books. It was like moving an aircraft carrier across land. Going through all her books while packing them, I noticed a lot of books by one author I'd never heard of: Piers Anthony.
Apparently, he wrote an entire series of books about a magical place named Xanth that looked a lot like Florida, where he lives, and teenage girls — including my wife — ate them up. He even had a hotline set up where little girls, eh, readers, could call him up and tell him how much they loved the books.
"Hi, Piers," my then-pubescent wife admitted to leaving on his answering machine. "I love you!" then she hung up and giggled the rest of the day.
So she handed me a book, "On a Pale Horse," in which a dude becomes the embodiment of death and time runs backward, and all kinds of weird shit, with the idea that I would love it. The writing was horrible. But the idea was clever, and I liked the book, although I thought it had a weird obsession with sex. Then she gave me another in the series, and that impression was cemented. I mentioned it to her, and she said something to the effect of "all his books have that."
She then suggested I read a book of Anthony's that she hadn't read yet, but had heard about:
Let me save you the trouble of reading it. Unless you like smegma being used in a "sexual" manner, and someone who uses "cleft" for "pussy" a lot, it's the most unsexy book I've ever read, and generally made me want to become a monk.
Reviewers described it as "quite weird," and that's the nicest thing I've ever heard about it. The "plot" is this: a dude is constantly thinking about how small his dick is, so a succubus (a kind of sex demon) meets him and introduces him to a doctor who cuts his penis off and replaces it with a magical penis that can save the world. I fucking kid you not.
Another reader said, "wtf is this, an attempt to get us grossed out by sex?"
Another: "The dumbest, most infantile, disgusting, idiot and un-erotic book I've ever read."
So anyway, that was the end of my Piers Anthony reading. Fast forward five years, and I was reading reviews of the movie "IT" by Stephen King, and someone was complaining that the teenage gang-bang from the 1950s was omitted from the movie. Someone else said, "Why are you complaining about that, when Piers Anthony puts pedophilia in all his books and then justifies it?
So I clicked the link they provided, and holy shit, they were not making it up.
This is all over the Internet, and you can search it yourself, but I picked the easiest-to-read link:
You don't have to go there; I'll summarize it for you. In his 1990 novel, Firefly, Anthony features the story of a man on trial for having sex with a five-year-old girl. FIVE. YEARS. OLD.
In the story, the girl comes to testify for him at the trial, saying their love was true and it was she, not him, who instigated the sex, therefore he should be acquitted. I'm not making that up. Her speech brings the judge to tears, the jury to nod in agreement. "The defendant never hurt her," his attorney tells the juror. "He only did what she asked."
What a five-year-old girl asked a grown man.
And in the author's note at the end of the book, he says, "It may be the problem is not with what is deviant, but with our definitions. I suggest in the novel that little Nymph (yes, he actually named the kindergartener who the old man was fucking "Nymph") was abused not by the man with whom she had sex, but by members of her family who warped her taste, and by the society that preferred to condemn her lover rather than address the source of the problem in her family."
Her lover. That's what he calls the grown man who raped a tiny child. In actor of his books, Tatham Mound, Anthony has a ten-year-old girl seducing a man because she loves him so much and doesn't want him to leave and find older girls more attractive than she. She, again I shit you not, uses honey as lube, and does a terrible job of the sex, once she has seduced him. But fear not, when she comes back for seconds, she is much better. "What a difference experience made!" he proclaims in the book.
The thread runs through ALL his books. In one interview, he states: "if she's 36-24-36 and fair of feature, men are attracted, and so am I, regardless whether she's 15 or 50".
Here's a quote from another site: "In retrospect, even the seemingly innocuous Xanth series contained a healthy dose of child eroticism. It isn't nearly as explicit as in Tatham Mound or Firefly, but the undercurrent of sexual fantasy is still there. Characters as young as 12 years old are married and engage in the act of "stork summoning," which is playfully omitted with an ellipsis. There is also an unhealthy preoccupation with young girls' panties and what color they might be. I never really thought there was anything wrong with it as a kid, because I was roughly the same age as the characters in question and I found the whole thing quite titillating. I never stopped to question whether the much older author found it titillating as well."
So I told my wife this morning. Here is her response (she's the gray bubbles):
So, in final summation, Piers Anthony is a pedophile who wrote books for children, encouraging them to come visit him in Florida, which was a magical place where little girls' panties could perform great feats of magic.
Enjoy your lunch.
Oh, also, I've reactivated comments on here. I will test them for awhile, and if I like what I see, I'll add them to my news sites.
August 29, 2017, 12:00 am
By the way, I saw a fat woman in Walmart today wearing a shirt with the following statement:
"The gym is my safe place."
August 28, 2017, 11:23 pm
Honestly, I don't care who you voted for or supported in the 2016 election. (Honestly, I'm lying. I loved Bernie Sanders, disliked Hillary and disliked Trump more. I care.)
But whoever you voted for (or didn't), surely you can't look at what's going on and think it's okay. As the lines of connection and collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian authorities become ever clearer and more damning, no self-respecting patriot could say "that doesn't matter, I don't care."
And what patriot—what believer in the supremacy of America—could look at Nazis marching down the streets, beating blacks, killing the protestors who oppose their imposition of FUCKING NAZI beliefs on the American discourse and still say "there is blame on both sides?"
Who among us could overlook the leader of the executive branch of government brazenly enriching himself through financial transactions with the leaders of foreign countries through his hotel and real estate holdings and turn a blind eye to the fact that AMERICA, not the potential for personal profit, come first?
Who could watch the multitude of lies, half-truths, obfuscations, denials and sleight of hand and not believe that Donald John Trump is purposefully orchestrating the destruction of the Republican Party as we know it? Don't get me wrong, I'm a Democrat, but only because there is no better alternative. But even I, as an opponent of the Republican party, can't help but look on and say, "This guy is doing this stuff on purpose."
It's like Trump (who publicly supported Hillary in 2012), set out to destroy the Republican party, which disagreed with ALL his opinions back then, and somehow, inexplicably, actually came into a position of power that allowed him to do it. Can no one else see this happening? Republicans, I'm no fan of yours, but WAKE UP! Trump is playing you, and he's ripping your party to shreds.
August 25, 2017, 12:00 am
Obviously, it's been awhile. Sorry, I've been busy. But tonight, I cooked what I can only honestly —and humbly— say is the best steak I've ever eaten in my entire life. Hands down.
I went to a local butcher and asked them to sell me a beef tenderloin, please leave the fat around it, since tenderloin (some fancy people call it filet mignon) is a super-lean cut of beef, and therefore almost flavorless, yet tender.
Anyway, after they sold me the meat (the most expensive cut of beef), I brought it home, and determined to finally cook a perfect steak, I thought about my options.
Searing steak and hoping it "rests" enough to become anything other than very rare has not worked out for me in the past. But having a super-expensive cut of beef puts a little pressure on a guy, so I thought about what I wanted to do. The myth has long been that searing a piece of steak first "seals in the juices" for later cooking. That's absolutely not true, so I thought I might achieve a better result by first baking the meat until its internal temperature reached 140 degrees fahrenheit, which is the standard for medium rare. Of course, I first seasoned it with a generous portion of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, augmented by a dash of garlic.
After I achieved that (by checking with my meat thermometer about a dozen times), I removed the steak from the oven and seared it on a piping hot iron skillet. While it was searing, I dumped a bunch of butter, a thinly-sliced shallot and several cloves of minced garlic into the skillet. While the meat was searing, I scooped the fluids from the melted butter, shallots and garlic on top of it, then as I turned the meat, I continued basting it every time I turned it.
After I was satisfied that each side was seared, I pulled it out of the skillet and let it "rest" for five minutes before I cut it into the slices you see in the image above.
And I have to say, this was absolutely the most tender, well-cooked, flavorful piece of steak I've ever eaten.
I supplemented the beef with a combination of vegetables, starting with a yellow onion diced, fried in coconut oil and then flambéed with a couple of shots of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon. I normally would have fried the onion in butter, but my wife, a vegan, wanted some, so I opted for coconut oil instead. After that, I added the onions to a mix of broccoli, sliced fingerling potatoes, fresh corn cut directly from the stalk, baby carrots and green beans, all of which I had been sautéing in more coconut oil. Spiced with cumin, garlic, onion, sea salt and pepper, the veggie mix turned out wonderful, and was the perfect complement to the steak.
All in all, I'm pretty sure Gordon Ramsay is going to start coming to me for advice on how to cook.
I offered to cook it again for one of my lawyer friends, who first said... wait, I'll just show you (I'm the blue bubbles):
Hook, line and sinker, I got suckered. Still, I'm no snob, but if you like your steak well-done, and god-forbid, you use ketchup as a sauce, we can never be friends.
He was kidding, but man, for a few minutes there, I was terrified.
July 28, 2017, 9:21 pm
I think it's safe to say most people will never be called to testify in a murder trial in their lifetimes. It's just not that often, I think, that people are adjacent to murders.
Well, I just testified in my second murder trial. The first one I documented in my book, Deadly Vows, The True Story of a Zealous Preacher, a Polygamous Union and a Savage Murder.
The second just happened yesterday. Well, it happened earlier this year. Here's what happened:
On Feb. 11 of this year, I took my family out to play in the lakebed of Lake Eufaula in eastern Oklahoma, because to that point, the year had been really dry, and the lake was much lower than it normally is, exposing the bed and the shells of dead mollusks, which the kids love to crunch underfoot.
While they were engaged in that pursuit, I saw what appeared to be a toy pistol half-buried in the lake bed. I approached it, and as I picked it up, I immediately realized it was too heavy to be a toy. I looked in the cylinder and it appeared to be loaded. Now, there's no good reason a loaded pistol should be at the bottom of a lake, so I immediately called 911.
While I was on the phone with dispatch, a game warden happened by, checking out our vehicle. I waved him over and told the dispatcher I was going to give the gun to him.
Fast forward a week. The chief deputy in McIntosh County called me and asked if I could show him where I found the pistol. So I did; it was throwing distance from a small boat dock.
He told me the pistol had been used in a murder and he was hoping against hope to find it because it was a necessary piece of evidence tying his suspect to the murder. He knew the suspect had thrown the gun into the lake, but it's an enormous lake, so he had no idea where to even begin looking.
Earlier this month, I was subpoenaed to appear in court and help establish chain of custody on the gun. So I did. As I was leaving, the family whispered "thank you," and that made me happy. It was an expensive pistol, and the deputy said most people would have just kept it and cleaned it up, so apparently doing the right thing is rare these days.
Also, apparently, I attract murder cases.
July 26, 2017, 9:21 pm
UPDATE: Don't read this. It's horrible. Query writing sucks. Seriously. Don't read it.
I'm still working on the query letter for Father of Malice. I'm taking this long because I want it to be intriguing and perfect. My past two novels have been published without an agent, which necessarily limits the size of the publishers. I'm very happy with Promontory Press, the publisher of Robby the R-Word, but I can't tread water; I need to step up the effort every time I get a novel published.
That means I need an agent to pitch my book to larger publishers.
And to do that, I have to have a really good query letter.
After much iteration (and even more Scotch), here's what I have so far:
Fired as editor of a big city newspaper, Scott Drury is forced to move to hicksville, Oklahoma to find a new job, despite his sniggering disdain for local hillbillies. But he fails to notice his arrival in the bucolic town coincides with the deaths of several townsfolk — until the mangled ghosts of the recently dead beg him to stop the slaughter. Investigating the horrific killings, Scott finds he is being personally targeted by the son of the Angel of Death - and the town is paying the price. He is also forced to confront his greatest embarrassment — the fact he's the son of first cousins, no better than the locals he ridiculed.The angel’s son sees Scott as his only obstacle to fomenting a 365-year epoch of suffering for humanity. Try as he might, Scott, possibly a distant descendant of the archangel of strength, can’t just pack up and run away, because he’s been lured here by powers beyond his influence.He must try to summon an inner resolve that might not even exist, and stand up to his deadly nemesis. With the help of a disillusioned and possibly crazy cult leader, Scott uncovers the deeper secret of his incestuous ancestry, maybe giving him the slimmest of chances to defeat the unkillable offspring of an angel and a woman.FATHER OF MALICE, thriller/horror, 110,000 words, is complete and features elements that will appeal to readers of The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker.As a newspaper editor of 30 years and a longtime ghostwriter for televangelists, I have a unique personal perspective on both aspects of Scott’s challenges, from dealing with ancient theology coming alive to assigning reporters to cover it. I am also the author of three trade-published books, Deadly Vows (true crime, 2015, New Horizon Press), Minister of Justice (mystery, 2016, Moonshine Cove) and Robby the R-Word (police procedural, 2017, Promontory Press).
It's not completely perfect yet, but I feel like it's a lot better than my first stabs at it. Writing query letters is completely different from writing novels, so I'm really feeling my way around in the dark on this one.
July 19, 2017, 11:23 pm
My 30th high school reunion was a week ago. My wife's 20th is this weekend. For you math geeks, yes, she's 10 years younger than me, and yes, I'm old. Really old.
I didn't want to go to my reunion, simply because I believe I have kept up with all the people from high school I gave a shit about (hint: it's not very many). But my friend, Heila Shultz convinced me my band had to play for the reunion's afterparty, so I got the guys together and said, "Let's learn a bunch of old 80s stuff (I graduated in 1987), and play for the reunion.
We didn't really practice, except for one run-through two days before.
So we set up for the gig, and of course, I can't remember lyrics (that's not a function of being old, it's something I've always had), so I printed out a bunch of lyrics sheets. But the bar in which we were playing was dimly lit (a lot more dim than the picture above, taken with a flash, indicates). Turned out, I couldn't see the lyrics. Not a one of them. So while I was setting up my fancy rig (the Crate and Marshall amps you see there), I asked my wife to go get me the one thing every rock and roll singer needs: reading glasses.
That's right. Reading glasses. So I could see. The. Fucking. Lyrics.
The show went off pretty well, especially for four guys who hadn't really practiced, but I couldn't get over the fact that I had to have reading glasses to play a gig. What it means is, I'm old.
I'm not the only one. When I went into the reunion, I was shocked. There were so many old people there, and faces I really did not recognize, that for a moment I remarked to my friend Roy Thornton that I thought I had stumbled onto the wrong class reunion.
I talked for 20 minutes to a person I truly had no memory of, but I just went along, speaking in generalities, until he introduced himself to my wife. Turned out, he was a guy I spent tons and tons of time hanging out with in high school.
Most of these people—and this was oddly shocking to me—have children who are between 25 and 30 years old. For comparison, my oldest son is 5, starting kindergarten this year.
It may be that my wife is so young, though her oldest is 15, so maybe I just started late. I think it's instructive that we all had to wear name tags. Like, I know there were something upward of 500 people in my graduating class or something, but I honestly remembered maybe seven of the people at the reunion.
That's a sign that, either I'm really aged and probably soon to die, or high school was stupid and I didn't pay attention. Or both.
And where did all the time go? I often think I've lived enough for four or five lifetimes, but when I'm at a place where everyone looks so old, I realize maybe I've lived exactly the right amount of time to be where I am. But it really got me reflecting on the things society declares are important to us.
I was trapped in the same prison as these people back in the late 1980s, and I guess that's supposed to imbue us with some kind of bond, some kind of Stockholm Syndrome that ties us together forever. But I didn't feel any kinship. It was more of, "Oh, yeah, I remember you." And then ... nothing. Oh, you've been embalming corpses for 25 years? How fascinating. Accounting? You don't say. I'm sure they're all completely engrossed with me working with words for so long. Oh, you fix split infinitives? How have you avoided the Nobel prize?
I have nothing in common with these people. Except that we're the same age and went through the same bullshit three decades ago.
I don't think I'll go to the next one.