How Hot Is It?

Hotter than Death Valley:

Even hotter than Khartoum:

Yaounde, Camaroon? Sounds lovely.

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My Yearly Mileage

Okay Slate, We Get It

The Case of Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk et al

Jane Little of Dear Author, a blog I visit daily, has a summary of an interesting case that I think all bloggers need to be aware of. I am reposting Jane’s work here, and I encourage you to check the DA website for the links that I’m not copying.

The Oatmeal is a satiric cartoon site run by Matthew Inman. About a year ago, he noticed that his content was being uploaded without attribution to a site called “The FunnJunk.” The FunnyJunk is a site that contains user generated content. This means that account holders post things that they like from all over the internet. Maybe a pre-Pinterest sort of site. The Oatmeal writes to the FunnyJunk requesting that the information be removed.

FunnyJunk took down the comics but proceeded to create a mirror image of The Oatmeal’s website. The Oatmeal responded by asking his readers what to do.

The FunnyJunk responded with a call to action to its own users asking them to inundate The Oatmeal’s inbox and facebook page. The FJ’s users responded in droves using their arsenal of retorts such as gay slurs and incoherently misspelled sentences to insult The Oatmeal and his biological predecessors for having the gall to procreate and, I guess, learn how to spell and draw.

According to Ars Technica, after the furor died down, the FJ admin acted somewhat responsibly, possibly realizing that its site could be in jeopardy due to all the copyrighted material illegally reposted there.

When the flame war finally died down, the FunnyJunk admin issued an unsigned note saying, “We’ve been trying for the longest time to prevent users from posting copyrighted content” and “I’m having all content, comics, comments, etc. with the names of your comics in them deleted/banned by tonight… The site barely affords to stay alive as it is and has enough problems.”

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk could have died there in November of 2011, only to be a footnote in internet flamewar history. But no.

The FunnyJunk for some reason came into contact with Charles Carreon, Esq., an attorney who came into national prominence during the sex.com domain name lawsuit. Carreon penned a letter on behalf of FJ, threatening The Oatmeal with a lawsuit for the post where The Oatmeal points out that the FJ has copied his website. Carreon, on behalf of FJ, wants the post to be taken down and $20,000 in damages.

The Oatmeal gets a lawyer and responds back with well worded, backed by research, rebuttal. The Oatmeal also goes on to decide to raise money off this ridiculous situation because so many of his readers want to help but the money isn’t going to Inman, instead he raised money for charity. Initially, he only thought to raise $20,000 for charity but the donations came in thick and fast and in the end, Inman raises over $200,000 which is donated to The American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation.

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk could have died there on June 12, 2012, only to be a footnote in internet flamewar history and with its own Wikipedia entry. But no.

The situation gains the attention of the mainstream media and Carreon begins to make personal threats. He expresses wonderment and dismay at the internet’s reaction (he calls it bullying) toward his legal demands of Inman and The Oatmeal. He suggests that there might be other legal problems for the Oatmeal such as the fundraiser being violative of IndieGoGo’s term of service.

The internet continues to make fun of FJ and Carreon. Other attorneys make public statements about Carreon’s actions which include statements like “Holy fucking shitballs inside a burning biplane careening toward the Statue of Liberty, Captain! I hope that the reporter merely got the story wrong, because if not, that’s more fucked up than a rhino raping a chinchilla while dressed up in unicorns’ undergarments. ”

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk could have died there later on June 12, 2012, only to be a footnote in internet flamewar history, with its own Wikipedia entry, and a few mainstream media mentions. But no.

Charles Carreon’s pride has been wounded. In his delusionary state, he must see that the only way out is to double down on the Jack and the Six (i.e., worse blackjack hand in the deck). He takes the situation to DefCon 5. Last night, Popehat was alerted by another legal watcher that Charles Carreon has filed a lawsuit against The Oatmeal, IndieGoGo, American Cancer Society, and National Wildlife Federation.

He transcended typical internet infamy when he filed a federal lawsuit last Friday in the United Sates District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland. He belonged to the ages the moment he filed that lawsuit not only against Matthew Inman, proprietor of The Oatmeal, but also against IndieGoGo Inc., the company that hosted Inman’s ridiculously effective fundraiser for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society.

But that level of censorious litigiousness was not enough for Charles Carreon. He sought something more. And so, on that same Friday, Charles Carreon also sued the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society, the beneficiaries of Matthew Inman’s fundraiser.

Popehat is a site run by a bunch of lawyers and they are offering Inman pro bono legal work and they are asking the internet the following:


1. Kevin and I have offered pro bono help, and will be recruiting other First Amendment lawyers to offer pro bono help. It’s not just Mr. Inman who needs help. IndyGoGo does to. So do the charities. No doubt the charities already have excellent lawyers, but money that they spend fighting Carreon (whatever the causes of action he brought) is money that they don’t have to fight cancer and help wildlife. That’s an infuriating, evil turn of events.

2. You could still donate through the IndieGoGo program The Oatmeal set up. Or you could donate directly to the American Cancer Society or the National Wildlife Federation. I like animals, and I loved my mother who died at 55 of cancer, but I have no qualms whatsoever about encouraging people to donate to those causes as part of a gesture of defiance and contempt against Charles Carreon and the petulant, amoral, censorious douchebaggery he represents.

3. Spread the word. Tell this story on blogs, forums, and social media. Encourage people to donate as part of a gesture of defiance of Charles Carreon and entitled butthurt censors everywhere. Help the Streisand Effect work.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, direct abusive emails or calls or other communications to Mr. Carreon. That helps him and hurts the good guys. I don’t take his claims of victimhood at face value — not in the least — but such conduct is wrong, and empowers censors.

A Love Letter To Iowa

[One of my favorite pieces of short writing is this post, scribbled in about five minutes in 2006. I’ve posted it occasionally since then and would like to revisit it now.]

When I think about my secret, most genuine and heroic self, the me I really want to be, I’m an Iowa farm girl, sixteen years old, and the year is 1943. I live in a small farmhouse miles away from nowhere, and there are corn fields that take up so much visual space that it is absolutely claustrophobic sometimes. There’s also a deep blue sky that goes on forever; there’s a battered red pickup truck that kicks up gravel and dust behind it on the rare event that somebody takes it out on the long lonesome roads. There’s nothing much to do but catch glimpses of the war coverage, maybe complain listlessly about the heat, and maybe once in a while walk way down the road to a friend’s house. Her brother’s Over There. Mine is too. He flies B-17 Bombers, the Flying Fortress he calls it in his letters home. I don’t know it at the time, but my brother will be one of the Americans who liberates Italy in the early fall of 1943. He’s already a hero in my eyes, I don’t need to know what he does over there.

And there are other letters. There are letters from a boy who is one of my brother’s friends. I grew up with him around me, though the age difference made sure that he wasn’t actually interested in anything I said or thought. He’s over there too, but he’s not a pilot like my brother. He’s a soldier. And he sends me letters because he doesn’t have any sisters, and his mother died last year and his father – his father’s nearly mad with grief, though nobody talks about it in my house. My dad occasionally makes the thirteen mile drive out to his farm to see how the old man is doing, but when he comes back, he shoos me out of the room and exchanges quiet words with my mother. So my brother’s friend writes me letters. Over the past two years, the letters have become a secret from my parents. I sneak them from the post office like little bits of gold, hiding them in my gloves, which my mom insists I wear, even though it’s hot and they get grey with sweat.

I feel protective of the letters because of the way that they make me feel. I live for these letters. They’re always filthy from passing through many hands when they find me in central Iowa, but the stamps, exotic bright birds, never fail to startle to me and make me feel that he picked that stamp specifically for me. The stamps are beautiful, much more beautiful than one of those stamps that have the old fashioned baby carriage on them. He knows I love birds, I must have told him I did a hundred times in the letters. I keep track of the birds around my house, even the squirrels and the snakes. There isn’t much to do out here, as I’ve mentioned.

In late 1944, my brother comes home. My brother is a man now. I don’t even recognize him. He’s tall and tan, and he has my father’s eyes. My mother and the ladies from town bake him pies and cakes and serve him huge meals of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. My mother is prone to emotional outbursts. She looks at him and tears well up in her eyes, and then she places her hands on his broad chest as if to confirm he’s really there, and she says in a soft, awed voice, “You’re home.”

Even after my brother is home, letters from his friend arrive, addressed to me. He writes from some place I never heard of called Dachau and he says that after he gets home he’s never leaving. “I want to fix up dad’s old farm,” he writes, “and forget this place. But I don’t think I can.”

My mother is outside preparing the soil for her autumn perennials. It is too hot to do much, so I lay in the grass, sheilding my eyes from the blazing sun, while my mother works. I ask my mother if she wants some water, it’s so hot out here, I don’t think the summer is ever going to end… She says yes so I get up and amble back toward the house.

I come in through the backdoor to the kitchen and then I stop very abruptly. On the other side of the room, sitting with my brother and my father, he stands up, polite as a Bible salesman.

I do not think. I do not know. I act on some long denied impulse, foreign and wild. I run across the livingroom and throw my arms around his neck and I press my lips to his. I don’t care that my father is there or my brother, I don’t care that my mother needs water, I don’t even care that he smells like gasoline and cotton and distances too great to ever fully close. Gratitude and pure sparkling joy race through me, right there in my Iowa living room, kissing my childhood friend who went away to war, and came back. And he’s kissing me too. And I’m crying and holding him so tight, so afraid of letting him go. Behind me, coming in through the backdoor, my mother gasps and says, “My Lord! It’s you!” And she starts to cry.

When I think about this, it is enough. I do not think that I would miss the things I have now in my modern life. Given the context of the time, and my own personality, I would be just fine to marry the guy and have three children, and live forever in Iowa.

The Birthday Curse Is Broken!

I received my first birthday present yesterday. It was beyond sweet and it was from people I love. It was absolutely perfect. Then today, the bling came.

I am, without a doubt, a Tiffany girl. I love Tiffany, perhaps America’s only quality jeweler. When I saw the blue box my heart got happy. The insides were just lovely – just perfect. And the best part was it was from the one person in the world I really wanted this from.

On Friday – my actual birthday – I have a big dinner of cheese-and-chocolate fondue planned with my two dearest girls and some other pals. I firmly believe the Birthday Curse has, at long last, been broken.

A Pre-Birthday Run

Because my birthday is tomorrow, I felt a certain obligation to be a bad-ass today, to prove I still had the ability. I set off on a hot and hilly route toward Rosslyn and DC at a 8 minute (+) pace. When I arrived at the Exorcist Stairs I was pleasantly surprised to see I was completely alone. I paused only long enough to take a picture of the solitude:

I ran up. RAN. It was a quick, bouncing pace – a first for me. By the time I arrived at the top of the stairs I was sucking air. I slowed to a walk and was trying to decide if I still wanted to do the stairs again. I decided, because it is almost my birthday, I really had no choice. This is the long, sloping road down. Turning right will bring you back to the stairs:

So I set up the second run up the stairs:

Oh my God. My legs were burning. They were wobbly. I walked my route back down and knew I couldn’t do it again. Not as a run. I did it twice so that was plenty for me.

I then jogged home on wobbly legs, pausing just to snap two bits of graffiti:

Cara: 1. World: 0. Advantage: Me.

The Performance of At Any Cost

On Monday I did a promotion in which I gave the book away for free for 24 hours (since extended by one day). So far, the book is doing quite well. As of this moment it has been downloaded 2200 times. It is #5 in Romantic Suspense, and #2 in “Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue”. It is also #119 on the Amazon free store.

I think, just based on this, that my experiment into self-publishing AT ANY COST has been a success because with absolutely no publicity, I thought I’d be lucky to see 50 units downloaded. My only promotion was to excerpt a few pages on my blog, then announce the sale on Twitter.

My only intention was to get it in readers’ hands, and hopefully some of the 2200 who have downloaded it will read it and review it so that sales will continue after the promotion has ended.

I love this book, and I think it really does deserve to find an audience that loves it too.

At Any Cost – Free For 24 Hours

My book, At Any Cost, is available on Amazon for free until June 13. To introduce people to my writing I’ve excerpted the first ten pages. Enjoy!

ONE

The law office of Johnson Sloan Pruitt occupied three floors in an elegant steel and glass temple on G Street. The décor and furnishings were modern to the point of minimalist, letting the astonishing view from the floor to ceiling windows speak for itself. A postcard-perfect view of the White House and the Executive Office Building reminded clients – as if they needed reminding – of the firm’s literal and metaphorical proximity to power. As old as the Constitution itself, with attorneys who had gone on to the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s office, and various other outposts of power, Johnson Sloan Pruitt was among the most prestigious and best-connected white-shoe law firms in the District of Columbia.

The young, attractive associates who populated the storied hallways were scions of America’s ruling dynasties, endowed with rich family legacies, six-figure educations, and important connections that guaranteed an easy rise to the top of whatever field they ultimately chose. In contrast, Fallon Hughes grew up on a horse ranch in Shelby, Montana and earned her law degree from Pepperdine, which her peers thought was roughly equivalent to a second-rate community college. Unlike the other associates who had been chosen for their bluest of blue blood, Fallon’s family was not old money. Ranchers and oilmen did not impress the posturing-and-maneuvering snobs at Johnson Sloan Pruitt, or the senior partners who ignored her from their massive corner offices.
She blended in like baby powder in oil.

Fallon tried to stay out of office politics altogether. Instead, she attempted to earn the respect of her bosses by working ninety hours a week trying to defend a multi-billionaire hedge fund manager indicted on forty counts of fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction. The Department of Justice claimed Robert Chandler was operating a ponzi scheme, defrauding wealthy widows to fund his lavish lifestyle, which included a fleet of twenty Ferraris, a yacht the size of a football field and a French chateau that featured a bubbling fountain of Cristal champagne that flowed twenty-four hours a day, whether he was at the chateau or not. Chandler had wisely shut the spigot on the champers and sought the services of Johnson Sloan Pruitt, desperately attempting to save himself from a life sentence in federal prison.

It was a juicy assignment. High profile, lots of opportunity to impress the partners. But the hours she was putting in were taking their toll. She was living on coffee and grit right now; it was not a good time to produce her best work.

As she deleted the last two sentences of the motion she was working on, the phone on her desk warbled discreetly. UNKNOWN flashed on the phone screen.

“Fallon Hughes,” she answered distractedly.

“Hello?” A husky, unfamiliar male voice rasped.

“This is Fallon Hughes. Can I help you?”

Dead air hissed for several seconds, then the trembling voice said, “Good, hi. I need to talk to you… to a lawyer.” His breath was labored, as if he were in the middle of some physically demanding activity. “Is this confidential? Like attorney/client confidentiality…?”

“Um… No,” Fallon replied, confused. “Attorney/client privilege only extends to actual clients. Is there something I can help you with?”

“I need to talk to you but I can’t do it on the phone. This phone is tapped and I don’t have much time. They’re trying to kill me, they’re right behind me…. This is a matter of national security.” He sounded like he was forcing himself to speak clearly and calmly, tightening a tourniquet on his emotions so that he might be taken seriously. If he had an ounce of sanity he had to realize that he sounded like a lunatic. That was a big If.

“I’m serious, ma’am,” he added. “They’re gonna kill me.”

Fallon frowned. Even taking the possibility that she was talking to a mentally unstable person into consideration, the urgency in his voice sounded genuine. She picked up a pen. “What is your name?”

“Antoine Campbell.”

“What’s the national security issue?”

“I can’t talk about it on the phone. This is… Can we meet somewhere?”

“Tell me what’s happening, then if I think it’s necessary to meet, we can set up an appointment.”

“Please, they’re trying to kill me. If they know I’m talking to you….shit! I don’t know… I’m really scared, man, these guys are psycho…Please help me!”

“Who is psycho?” Fallon asked, noting the mounting hysteria in his voice.

“The guys chasing me! I have to talk to you.”

“Where are you calling from?”

“I’m on the Beltway right now, heading to D.C. They are right behind me, they’re going to kill me! Richard Mullinax is giving away the map to the keys! You have to help me!”

Fallon did not know what a map to the keys was, but the name Richard Mullinax stopped her short. As Deputy Director of the National Security Agency, his was not a name that most people outside the government knew casually. Fallon’s attention sharpened.

“What does Richard have to do with this? How do you know Richard Mullinax?”

“Please, I can’t…in person… I will tell you everything.”

“Do you want to come to my office?” she asked.

“No. Somewhere public.”

“There’s a coffee shop, the Daily Grind, at the corner of 15th and K Street.”

“K?”

“Yes, K. As in Kilo.”

“I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.” The call abruptly disconnected.

Placing her pen on the yellow sticky-note she’d scribbled on, Fallon mentally replayed the conversation. National security? More likely, he was off his medication, she thought, trying to be the clear-eyed cynic. The District of Columbia was ground zero for paranoiacs, after all. St. Elizabeth’s hospital was full of people who thought they held national security secrets or the president was beaming secret messages into their dental fillings.

Still, Fallon had grown up around actors and had a good ability to intuit when someone was being artificial. The terror in Antoine Campbell’s voice sounded absolutely genuine.

Fallon glanced back at the motion on her computer monitor. Even if Antoine Campbell turned out to be a loon, now was a good time for a coffee break. She pulled on her long cashmere overcoat and scooped up her handbag.
Over her protests, Johnson Sloan Pruitt had accommodated her Secret Service detail with an adjoining office, a concession that irritated her coworkers – and frankly, her too. She always felt like she had to apologize for their presence. But it was better than the alternative: letting the agents loiter in her office. If agents were glued to her, there would be no such thing as attorney/client privilege when she was discussing cases, so this was a good compromise. It kept the agents near but not on top of her. The firm had also supplied a computer, which the agent was using when Fallon rapped her knuckles lightly on his door. The agent looked up from the monitor.

Then Fallon abruptly stopped breathing, struck dumb.

Her eyes locked on the man who was sitting where she expected someone else – anyone else – to be sitting. She looked at him with the same uncomprehending stare of a sleepwalking child, transported into another dimension by shock.

That was …. Tom Bishop.

Wasn’t it?

She saw him in pieces, a Pointillist illusion: his eyes, his smile, his cheekbones, his hair. The pieces came together in one astonishing flash, creating an image of a man she had known once and never thought she would see again. The man who had haunted her dreams for four years. She was staring at a ghost.

And he was staring back at her. If he was experiencing any degree of shock, he didn’t show it. His expression remained calm and unsurprised, though a private and tentative smile had begun to tease the corners of his mouth.

“Ma’am,” he said, and rose to his feet.

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