24 September 2002
Dear Santa (first in a series)

If you should somehow decide that Jesse Jackson has been nice this year, please bring him a sense of humor.

(Oh, and last year, I hung up a pair of Hanes Silk Reflections on the mantel. I really didn't expect you to fill them up, and you didn't, but if this small act of yearning landed me on the Naughty List, I do apologize.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:23 PM)
26 October 2002
A fan letter of sorts

Dear Faith:

I may be the only person in the Western Hemisphere who found little inspiration in "This Kiss", though admittedly it was one of the few songs to which I danced at my son's wedding reception, and frankly, I turned the sound down to watch the "Breathe" video. But I'm a forgiving soul by nature (please ignore those muted guffaws in the background), and when CMT decided to run the "Cry" video at the exact moment I was trying to learn all the weird control facilities on this new Sony set, I wound up darn near dropping the remote. And it's not every day I'm transfixed by something I see on CMT, believe me.

So this afternoon I spent fifteen bucks on the Cry CD — or "Enhanced CD", as it says on the back. And I'm glad I did. There are, I understand, people out there who take exception to the songs you sing and the orchestration in which they're wrapped, and to some extent I understand that, but country music has always been somewhat insular, and performers who build up a reputation outside the genre have almost always been resented. If Cry had been your first album instead of — what is this, your fifth? — Music Row wouldn't be able to deal at all with this odd admixture of Patsy Cline and REO Speedwagon. But if Cry isn't all that country, it's a fine collection, and if it's indifferent to music-industry pigeonholing, well, so am I.

I promised myself when I started this that I wouldn't say anything about how you look, and I won't. But I must say something about your Official Web Site: "You're FLASH is up to date" is no way to open up a start page. This was probably written by the same character who noted in the News section that your "hotest" new looks are complemented by "jewlery". At least they didn't let him loose on the "Enhanced" computer stuff on the CD.

Love and rockets,


Permalink to this item (posted at 5:55 PM)
5 April 2003
We get letters

Margaret Atwood's "A Letter to America", which started out as an op-ed in Toronto's The Globe and Mail, tries very hard not to sound accusative or bitter, and for the most part it succeeds, but some of its points deserve a response.

What's being done to Iraq, she says, pales in comparison to what we're doing to ourselves. For instance:

You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.

The latter question is easily answered: 11 September 2001. However, it's no particular secret that some of our law-enforcement types have always had a wish list of things they would love to do if only that damn Constitution didn't keep getting in the way; the war merely provides an excuse.

You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

We're definitely back in an advanced stage of Deficit Inattention Disorder, though the fact that the number of balanced budgets we've had in half a century can be counted on one's fingers without having to take off more than one mitten makes me worry just a bit less about the sheer volume of red ink. I doubt, however, that "most", or even much, of the national water supply has been rendered unusuable, and I can't bring myself to blame drought, which your standard insurance weasels consider an Act of God, on the Bush administration.

You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.

King Midas, as I recall, was just as capable of damaging his position as of enhancing it; there's a self-correction cycle built into the process. And for a "torched" economy, we seem to be doing pretty well: the war has business expansion largely on hold, but that's obviously a temporary anomaly, and some businesses are truly in trouble, but much of that trouble is due to failure to respond to public demand (the airlines) or attempting to keep a dead business model on life support (the record industry) or believing despite an utter lack of evidence that economies of scale can be derived from operations that really have nothing in common (AOL Time Warner).

If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest.

The world is a glass house — let's watch it with those flying pellets.

There's no doubt that we could be doing a better job of upholding our own traditions. And one of those traditions is to blow off criticism from the postmodernist and premedieval sectors, neither of whom have anything to contribute to anything resembling a world dialogue. If we claim to have the moral high ground, it's not because we claim to have video of [insert name of deity here] saying so; it's because we have the track record to back it up.

Dear Ms. Atwood: Your concerns are noted, but don't worry about us. We'll muddle through this somehow. And thanks for writing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:59 AM)
19 April 2003
I wish to register a complaint

To: customerservice@bigmagazinepublisher.com

From: chaz@dustbury.com

Dear Sir or Madam:

For some unaccountable reason, this month's subscription copy was fitted with the wrong cover, an error which stood out blatantly. I mean, a magazine that does not have Jennifer Aniston on the cover? What were you thinking?

I expect to be mailed a copy of this issue with a suitably Jencentric photo on the cover, or, should none remain available, an extension of my subscription to compensate for the loss. I feel that this is a perfectly reasonable request; unlike, say, Ravenwood, I am not threatening to cancel forthwith.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:45 PM)
10 June 2003
Doing a perfect 360

Dear Lynn:

Do you need 5¼-inch diskettes? Let me know. I have boxes of the darn things.

And a drive, should it be necessary.

Love and segment registers,


Permalink to this item (posted at 11:20 AM)
14 November 2003
On being photogenic, or not

Dear Lynn:

There is nothing at all wrong with the way you look. Most people's self-portraits are something less than flattering.

Of course, they say the camera adds ten pounds; on this basis, it would take thirteen people to photograph me.

(Do digital cameras add ten megabytes?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:55 AM)
17 November 2003
Dear Mr. Bezos

A couple of years ago, I bought a gift certificate from Amazon.com which somehow disappeared into the bit bucket; it took about a dozen emails to get the matter straightened out. This is, I am assured, not a common occurrence, but if it happens at all, it's too common to suit me.

So I'm wondering: Is it just me? Does anyone else ever have problems with t