How to present political analyses for Melinda's consumption

Pen Pal Love Story

I don't feel like such a freak after hearing this Pen Pal Love Story on The Story (an excellent radio series). Melinda and I traded zines and pen pal letters for about 8 or 9 months before I moved from Michigan to Texas to meet her. With all the hellish stories you hear these days about internet relationships gone wrong, I expect half the people to think ours was a story of stalking. But almost everyone sees it as romantic. This story is another example of how pen pals getting married can be romantic instead of pitiful and desperate.

I didn't propose to Melinda three days after meeting her in person, so I'm a little more level-headed than this guy. We got married nine months later (and don't forget the nine months or so of writing letters and phone calls before that). Then again, Vic and Marianne wrote each other for twelve years before meeting in person, so maybe they had a solid enough foundation to reasonably suggest marriage three days after meeting.

Melinda and I had our tenth anniversary on Halloween 2007. The couple in this story has been married 52 years.

Chicken Fried Love Interest with Cilantro and Asparagus

Follow the course of a relationship in the recipes she makes and his reactions to them. Includes five full, tested recipes in the podcast including:

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Untitled #7 with Split Peas and Rice (soup)
Cheesy Cauliflower and Mushroom Gougere
Chicken Pot Pie with Death Stars Soup

[Run time: 21 minutes, 6 seconds. Click here to download or stream in multiple formats. Music at the beginning and end is a slowed version of "Hot Lips" by Bill Brown and His Brownies, which I believe is in the public domain. There's also a half-speed segment of "Got Butter On It" by Jabbo Smith in the middle.]

Remember that you can download the full text of this and all stories from the Dungeons and Dayjobs collection FREE from or you can buy the collection in paperback today!

Why Journeyman is orders of magnitude better than Quantum leap

[This is further proof that I out-geek even the most vocal comics fanboy.]

*SPOILER ALERT*. Some plot details are spoiled below.

Each week, a man travels erratically through time, helping people and correcting large and small goofs in the course of fate. I wasn’t a big fan when it was called Quantum Leap, so I didn’t think it would appeal to me any better now that the formula is called Journeyman. The moment I knew I was hooked was when Dan (the Journeyman) was talking with his wife, they started kissing, then started throwing off their clothes and climbing under the covers in bed, at which point Dan disappears in a wavering point of light. This is not your father’s time travel fantasy. You’ve come a long way since Voyagers!, baby.

Let me count the ways:

7. Although his time travelling is unreliable, we know that Dr. Samuel Beckett has a vague idea of what makes him leap because he was trying to do it. Dan has no control over his time travel and no idea why it is happening to him. So there’s more and better long-term mystery.

6. The Quantum Leap process caused problems with Sam’s memory, so he became a sort of blank slate everyman trying to solve problems. Dan’s travels frequently put him in situations from his past, and cause repercussions in his modern life. Why were you late for work? How will your wife react if/when she finds out you’re uncontrollably zipping backwards and forwards in time? How will you explain it to your son when he sees daddy disappear in a wavering point of light? Sam has a nice long-term goal of trying to get back to his own life, but he never has to deal with modern complications on the job or with his family in between leaps like Dan does.

5. Romance. Sam leaps in and out of romantic stories occasionally, but Journeyman’s adventures put a constant strain on his marriage. Which makes it all the better when Dan talks it through with his wife and they decide this won’t come between them. (Even though it keeps coming between them in every episode, and even though they have romantic rivals who seem to be circling like wolves or tempting like vixens.)

4. Sam always leapt out of situations at the ends of episodes, creating a cliffhanger as he tried to figure out what was going on. Did he ever leap while hastily taking clothes off and jumping in bed with his wife? Did he ever got shot in his home, then leap away from a situation that he knew he would have to leap back to later?

3. Sam enters other people’s bodies like a demonic possession. Although we as viewers see him as Scott Bakula, he will inevitably look into a mirror at some point early in every episode and see the face or body of the person he has inhabited. Quantum Leap deserves some points for forcing Sam to act in character as a woman or a child or an oppressed minority. But it can cause interesting complications for a time traveler who stays in his own body. "You look really tired," says your boss when you appear in front of him looking five years older. Or you can interview the father who abandoned your family, or decide whether to let your late girlfriend ravish you in the past when you show up at your old apartment.

2. Sam’s holographic guide sidekick Al serves as a narrative device to dump exposition about history, and was apparently meant to serve as comic relief when people walked through him or when he slapped the beeping, boinking remote control pda that fed him info. When Journeyman attempts humor, it either works or it doesn't fail that spectacularly. When Dan wants to find out history of a situation, he has to research it himself and figure out how things are "supposed" to go. Usually Dan cheats by looking it up on the web when he gets back to his modern life...but at least we don’t have to suffer with Al.

Also notice that Sam gets constant reminders and corrections by Al about whether he’s on the right track. Dan usually stumbles through the past watching it go wrong, sometimes causing it to go wrong, and has to make several attempts to put things right. In one episode, Dan changes something in the past that makes it so his son was never born, but a daughter was born instead. His wife, stuck in modern "normal" time but knowing that he can travel back, objects to the idea of erasing their daughter just so he can have a hypothetical son that she has never known.

1. Sam’s mentor/guide on Quantum Leap is a hologram named Al (played by Dean Stockwell). Dan’s mentor/guide on Journeyman is Livia (played by Moon Bloodgood), an old girlfriend who he would have married if she hadn’t apparently died. Having her as a guide causes more tension among the regular characters and, more importantly, gives us frequent chances to see Moon Bloodgood.

So why did Quantum Leap last five years and Journeyman only one? Who knows. With any luck, some cable channel will pick it up and order new episodes.


Eminent Domain as tool for American Labor

I heard an interview with this professor Peter Ranis from CUNY, explaining his idea that towns or states could use "eminent domain" laws to take abandoned factories away from corporations who were outsourcing jobs, and give the factory back to the workers and/or the community.

Eminent Domain: Unused Tool for American Labor?
(from WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Volume 10, June 2007)

The deindustrialization of America with the concomitant loss of decent paying jobs, the rise of unemployment, and the increasing poverty among the working class requires a novel response. The challenges of “free trade,” globalization and international competition and technological change are all threatening the viability of the labor movement in the U.S. The use of eminent domain offers a meaningful tool that can be implemented to counter this trend. Eminent domain has been legally used and constitutionally sanctioned for community, infrastructure, and development purposes. The time is ripe for a broad-based coalition of legislatures, community interests, labor unions, and social movements to promote the use of eminent domain
to expropriate with compensation enterprises in danger of being abandoned and moved offshore by their owners. Decisions by the owners of enterprises have repercussions and societal externalities that legitimize the rights to regulate them by way of eminent domain on behalf of the public interest. Workers in cooperatives in both the U.S. and throughout the world have shown that they can run factories and enterprises without owners and managers if given the necessary financial and legal wherewithal.

I was disgusted by the Kelo case where they took people's homes away to develop a mall or some project. But Ranis makes an excellent case. The whole purpose of eminent domain has always supposedly been to improve a community, and the courts uphold it when towns or communities can argue that houses have become "blighted" or when building a mall or park or business can create jobs or improve the community. The worst abuses of eminent domain seem to be when the value is mainly going to some corporation, and barely or tangentially helping the community. Think of almost any stadium that has been built with tax dollars and depended on "condemning" homes nearby or taking homes or property through eminent domain. The profit from those things mainly go to team owners.

Ranis argues that taking factories from corporations that close them in order to move jobs overseas, is exactly the kind of thing that eminent domain could do to help the community, and to discourage offshoring and outsourcing from US companies that are considering it.

At the same time, the gut reaction that most of us have against eminent domain is mainly a matter of individuals having their homes taken away by the city or state. Ranis is talking about taking commercial property, not anyone's home. Also I think that eminent domain, when used fairly, is somewhere along a slippery slope that most people already accept in some ways. Most Americans already grudgingly approve of our wealth being redistributed through taxes and social services. Obviously eminent domain can be abused just like taxes can be abused or corrupted, but maybe eminent domain could be applied in a way that would redistribute wealth as effective as some of the services that our taxes pay for.

I'm nowhere near as confident as Ranis that this could ever come to pass, but it sounds like a fair idea. I'd love to see some radical community to try it and see how far they can get.

As Joseph William Singer writes, "There should be a normative commitment to recognizing social obligations of property ownership to protect fundamental needs of the community. The most wealthy and powerful owners–the large corporations that control economic life in a community– should have the greatest obligations . . . We have good reasons of equality, democracy and community, as well as efficiency, to redefine property rights to redistribute power from corporate managers to workers and their communities . . . Plant closings should be regulated to protect the interests of the workers in relying on their relationship with the company, to make more equal–therefore more democratic–the power relationship between the workers and the company, to force the corporate managers to take into account the externalities of any decision to close the plant; and to alleviate the social harm caused by the plant closing while allowing desirable economic change to occur."


Chapter Eleven: The Emperor's Bib

"The good news is your crush finally speaks to you. And it's not just hi. He actually knows your name and he starts the conversation.

"The bad news is: he's dangling from the claws of a gargoyle at the time, being flown West to stand trial as a treasonous vegecarrion organizer. And then all he says to you is, 'Josie, save me!'"

What chance does Josie have of rescuing her hunky hobgoblin from an ampitheater overflowing with hundreds of his kin, as they debate which method would be most amusing to dispatch him? Find out in "The Emperor's Bib," Chapter Eleven of the original goblin soap opera Brazen Hearts, Fresh, On Sticks!

Warning: This chapter is pretty gory. You might not want to play it at work, or around kids, or for yourself. For everyone else, enjoy. I don't have a good sense of where they draw the lines for movies or video games, but I would personally rate this as PG-13 or maybe Rated R.

Click here to see multiple file formats for downloading or streaming.