Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I received a disturbing e-mail today. It was an essay by Tom Adkins, forwarded through a host of names (all whites as near as I can tell). I don’t know a Tom Adkins but I suspect he is the acid-tongued radical conservative who publishes, appears frequently on FOX News, and is married to FOX News Channel’s senior business correspondent, Brenda Buttner.

The piece, White Guilt is Dead, consists of ranting about African American complaints of mistreatment by whites, and then explaining why a white person no longer needs to feel guilty as accused. I’m not as disturbed by the content as I am about the hateful tone and the obvious rancor found in the piece. I’m also upset by the sheer volume of the e-mail recipients indicating that the sender has friends who would be interested in his caustic point of view.

According to Adkins, white Americans “enthusiastically pulled the voting lever” for a “very liberal black man who spent his early career race-hustling banks, praying in a racist church, and actively worked with American-hating domestic terrorists.” Therefore, Adkins says, as of November 4, 2008, “white guilt is dead.”

The writer’s tolerance for being skin-color hustled is now “ZERO,” he says. All those “black studies” programs that taught kids to hate whitey “must now thank Whitey.” Gangsta rappers should start praising America (beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance), knock off the Ebonics, and pull their pants up so their underwear isn’t showing.

Now, without being called a racist, he can say out loud that lazy black people are “poor because you quit school, did drugs, had 3 kids with 3 different fathers, and refuse to work.” He demands that blacks quit complaining that “Da Man is keepin’ me down, because Da Man is now black. You have no excuses.”

Adkins advises that it’s time to take “stupid” 60s ideas such as the race hustle, wife swapping, dope-smoking, free-love, and cop killing and toss them in the trash. Then wash the filthy hands that handled them. How, he asks, can any person deny America’s meritocracy when we now have a black man and wife who went to Ivy League schools, who got high paying jobs, who became millionaires, who live in a mansion, and who will soon reside in the White House? According to Adkins, Obama’s election has validated American conservatism.

And, finally, he points out that black Americans voted 96% for Barak Obama. He asks, “Shouldn’t that be 50-50 in a color blind world?” He asks every black person, based on the unequal vote, to seek forgiveness for their apparent racism and prejudice towards white people.

What do we have here? The issues raised by Adkins are the same shortcomings my fellow white acquaintances have grumbled about for years. They are characteristics that some black leaders have begged their constituents to change. They are the same traits that, when voiced, tag a white as a racist. They are the same trespasses that some African Americans excuse and rationalize, blaming on an unequal playing field. So while not new, they are important in that they continue to form the basis for constructive dialogue between all Americans. Barack Obama in the office of President of the United States is a giant step towards diversity that should welcome such discourse.

Now is not the time for in-your-face gloating. It’s the time to consider anger and accusations as a waste of time. We’d be better served by looking each other in the face, calling each other partner, and by starting to work together towards a color-free solution of our nation’s problems.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Expectorate the Unexpected


What’s big, hairy, scratches a lot, dribbles constantly, and is worth millions of dollars? No, it’s not a basketball player. If you said major league baseball player, you win a can of swoose.

Watching baseball on television is like taking a shower. Wherever the camera is focused, you are drenched with wet gobs of spit. The camera sees the on-deck batter and we see flying spatters of sputum. It moves to the pitcher peeking from behind his glove with white spews of spittle flying in every direction. It zooms in on the batter digging in while expelling juice on the plate, his uniform, and the catcher’s glove. Then, in rapid order just before the pitch, we see the manager hawking up a clam, an outfielder adjusting his crotch while he blows some saliva, and the catcher spattering his mask with a last minute spray just before the ball hits his mitt.

On and on the showcase of spit continues. Views of the dugout feature expectorations of tobacco juice, seed hulls, and just plain spittle flying in every direction. The dugout floor shines like a wet sidewalk after a downpour. Players hang over the dugout rail competing for the title of most number of spits, wettest clams, and longest lobs. For those with a weak stomach, watching a game while eating is unappetizing to say the least, if not impossible.

Those who dislike public displays of spitting tend to focus their attention on baseball players without saying much about football, golf, tennis, or basketball athletes. But jocks in other sports have been known to hawk a lunger in public view. As a kid in the late 1950s I witnessed the unbeatable Boston Celtics come onto the court in Los Angeles against the Lakers and nearly every player was sucking a wad of chew. Muscleman Jim Loscutoff looked like he had the mumps. I immediately thought they must be the toughest men on earth because they obviously couldn’t spit on the floor so I assumed they swallowed it. I was so impressed.

I’ve witnessed several golfers spraying pristine fairways and greens with expectorant, not the least being Tiger Woods. I’ve seen hockey players display some awesome patterns of spit, probably because of the unusual arrangement of their teeth. Women softball players have taken to spitting, as have countless little leaguers, but I doubt that chewing tobacco is to blame. I spied the tell-tale circle of a Copenhagen can in the back pocket of my son Michael’s baseball pants during a youth game. I collared him for a quick frisk and turned up a can of powdered jerky which, apparently, will also work up a good clam. If the big guys do it, obviously the kids want to follow suit.

Are there athletes who don’t spit? I’ve never seen Chris Evert or Peggy Fleming hawk one and I’ll be broken hearted if they ever do. Ice skaters seem to be able to resist the urge, although I’d bet that Tanya Harding could spray with the best of them. Miguel Cairo, the incomparable Seattle Mariner utility player, assured me during a round of golf that I’d never see him spit on television, and I never have. I’m still watching you, big guy. I’ve never really seen a jockey spit except after a race during which he ate a lot of mud. Soccer players spend too much time rolling around on the ground grabbing their legs and screaming in pain to really work up a good spew.

There are many famous spitting incidents. Remember Roberto Alomar anointing the face of umpire John Hirschbeck with a glob because he didn’t agree with the ump’s third strike call? Alomar’s action was made even more despicable when he attributed the death of Hirschbeck’s son as a possible cause for Hirschbeck’s “bitter” attitude that caused the anointment. When Alomar, playing under appeal, put the Baltimore Orioles into a post season wild-card spot with a 10th inning homer, his teammates imitated their hero’s act by spitting beer on each other during their locker room celebration. Class act.

According to The New York Times reporter Jim Yardley, China’s “national anthem” is the sound of several loud clearings of the throat, followed by a wet yodel that accompanies a juicer being worked up, and finalized with a loud “phatoot” and the splat of a wet skidder hitting the sidewalk. Spitting is considered a right in China, and there was an effort to curb the delightful pastime during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Apparently it didn’t happen and a spit shine was enjoyed by many visitors while the anthem played on.

Former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, Al Reyes, after a barroom brawl that left him with a split lip and a mashed nose, spit blood on responding police officers. My guess is that the cops had seen enough baseball players spitting on television because they put the Taser to him and hauled him off to jail. Reyes is no longer hawking ‘em in the major leagues.

Then there’s the famous spitting incident on the Seinfeld television show where former NY Mets pretty boy Keith Hernandez allegedly spit on Kramer and Newman. But Jerry patiently demonstrated to the two doofuses how it was scientifically and physically impossible for the incident to have happened as they had so manically explained it. Seinfeld dismissed it as a “magic loogie.”

My personal opinion on ballplayers’ obsession with spitting is that chewing tobacco has little to do with it because I’ve seen too many lily white globs without the nasty brown stain of chaw. Rather, I think it has to do with an image that professional athletes like to curry ―that of being in charge, of being the guy who has no problem handling pressure, of being hard-nosed and unyielding. And it probably is a pressure relief valve. A major league baseball player must display the utmost dexterity and concentration every second he’s on the field through a season of 162 games in front of millions of critical fans. Making an error is humiliating. Failing to hit for a high average threatens stature and salary. It’s no longer a peaceful pastime for enjoyment. It is life and livelihood for the player and his family. At first, for the novice baseball player, spitting projects an image of invincibility and washes out the dryness of stress. Then it becomes a habit, an involuntary tic that erases tension, something that everyone else does. It evolved into a tradition long ago and will never go away anytime soon.

So if we get annoyed or grossed out and simply cannot watch another minute of grown men spitting away like little boys, there’s only one option. Don’t watch or attend another baseball game. But for baseball fans like me with decades of devotion it’s something we’re going to have to swallow, so to speak. Spit on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Amazon gets down and dirty

Recent blogs about Amazon's change in policy regarding POD publishers are mainly correct. As a writer published by Outskirts Press, a print-on-demand publisher, I've been reading with interest, and some skepticism, about Amazon only selling books published by PODs who use BookSurge, Amazon's printing partner. Well, the situation appears to be true.

Amazon has posted an open letter, dated March 31, 2008, to "interested parties" on its website, The letter can be found in Press Releases - Print on Demand.
Essentially it says that Amazon is requiring that print-on-demand books be printed inside Amazon's own fulfillment centers. The reason given is that books can be shipped more quickly to customers, a "key customer experience focus for us."

BookSurge is not specifically mentioned as the primary printer, but because it is an Amazon company and putting any other printers in Amazon fulfillment centers would be impractical, any POD publishers not using BookSurge would be shut out.

There are some other statements about Amazon not requesting exclusivity, and how books can be stocked as long as the speed of shipping is not compromised, but, in reality, if BookSurge is not used as the printer, publishers and authors will not be sold on Amazon.

I'm sure that's not the end of the story. Much gnashing of teeth and waving of swords will occur, so a quick resolution of this seemingly one-sided business decision made by Amazon will not be forthcoming.

As for me, I've asked my publisher, Outskirts Press, to make some sort of announcement to its authors about the situation and prognosis for the future. I believe the publisher needs to protect the author and, if necessary, work with the author in coming up with ideas that can meet Amazon's declared intent of speedy shipment of books. Amazon even suggests a way in its letter.

The bottom line is that the finalized books must be of the same quality regardless of the printer being used. And Amazon must not be allowed to compromise that quality because of a business decision.

Schuyler T. Wallace

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Sixties - Am I Wrong?

I just posted this review of Tom Brokaw’s Boom! on and I’m including it in my blog because I'd like some honest dialogue about my opinion on the Sixties phenomena. I appreciate the many societal changes came about during the turmoil of that era but I've always questioned whether they happened as natural evolution or as a result of some of the antics of the vocal mob. I suspect it was a little of each.
Here's my review.

"I read with interest many of the comments about this book before writing my review. Ordinarily I don't read reviews at all before doing my own. But I thought the overall rating of less than 4-stars was amazing because I really enjoyed the book. So I glanced at some of the negative reviews just to see what was going on. Guess what? The turmoil of the Sixties is still with us.

Some people are still proud of their behavior during that time and defend it ad nauseum. Others reject that behavior but discount "Boom!" because it's not analytical enough. Frankly I think all of you detractors either need to put a little more effort into doing your own analysis or in forgetting how it was to smell and act like a pig.

Tom Brokaw answered a lot of questions for me in "Boom!", his splendid account of the Sixties and its impact on America. Being of the generation preceding the Sixties, I've always had an uneasiness about what really happened. There's no question in my mind that many needed changes in our society came about during that time. The civil rights movement, expansion of women's rights, war issues, political behavior, and pop culture were all dramatically addressed and changed - some of us, not all, would say for the better. But who and what brought about the revisions? How did they happen? Why? I've never really had a handle on those questions.

People who get most of the credit have always seemed idiotic to me. Muddy, screaming, sign waving, bare-chested (and breasted), wild-haired potheads are the people I found to be the most obnoxious and least effective. Could it be that their tactics were effective? Were hippies, campus rebellions, riots, and sit-ins responsible for the huge turnaround in public behavior? And why did this brief period of time seem to smooth out hundreds of years of scandalous tradition? Mr. Brokaw has laid it all out for us in this brilliant study of the people and events during about ten years of American history. He doen't answer those questions for us. He lets us form our own conclusions. Thank you, Mr. Brokaw.

What I most admired about Brokaw's reporting was just that - it was reporting. There's not a lot of commentary or proselytizing on the events in the book. Rather it is a straightforward accounting of the events and direct results of the time, leaving the analysis to those who were there and participated and who were affected by the results in later years. Probably if the writing had been done in a more biased manner, I would have bailed out early. But the insightful interviews with those who prompted and experienced the sea changes are remarkable for their candor, allowing Brokaw to report on their frame of mind rather than speculate or sermonize on their behavior or effectiveness.

Tom Brokaw is very effective in matching the actions taken during the Sixties with the feelings held today by those who were there. Some famous people have very different opinions of the who, what, and why of the movement, even though they were participants and zealots at the time. And I was surprised to find that many Americans today feel the same way I do - that the changes might have been easier to institute had the change mongers not strayed into their world of drugs and irresponsibility, thereby throwing up barriers to their cause and ruining their credibility. But that's a subject for another time.

Be ready for an interesting trip back to an interesting time. Brokaw puts you right in the middle of the turmoil. The emotions you felt at the time, regardless of where you stood on the issues, will come back in a flood of remembrance. It was a classic period, and one every American should revisit. Speaking for myself, I have a new perspective on the world as we know it today, and a real appreciation of why we are here, operating as we do. It's not perfect, but it's certainly better than, and because of, the Sixties.

Schuyler T. Wallace"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I’ve strayed away from my earlier intention of leading you through the process of writing my book. I have a tendency of doing that. So let’s get back on track.

My wife and I decided to take a train trip. The best bargain we could find was the North American Rail Pass. For one price we could spend thirty days on the train in both the United States and Canada. We could get on and off any time we liked, stay in one spot for as long as we liked, get back on the train at any station we were near, and continue on our way. We had to commit to travel exactly thirty days and in both countries.

I set up a thirty-day calendar on which I charted the places we wanted to stop and for how long. The single place and time we were firm on was Easter Sunday in New York City. Visits to hot spots and relatives were all scheduled around that time. Four days here, three days there, travel days in between, and soon the trip was all planned.

We were traveling eastward across the United States, from Sacramento through Chicago to New York City. Then we were going to Washington, D.C., back through NYC to Niagara Falls and Toronto, then west across Canada to Vancouver, B.C., south through Seattle and Portland and back to our home in Bakersfield, California. We were scheduled to return home exactly 30 days after leaving, and that’s the way it turned out.

We had scheduled a total of twelve stops to visit family and friends along the way. A jaunt to our local Amtrak station with the itinerary produced a stack of tickets along with the valuable North American Rail Pass that we were cautioned against losing, because another would have to purchased, no exceptions, should that happen.

Deciding what to take in the way of clothing and accessories was the most difficult job of all because we were traveling in early spring with uncertain weather. We knew it would be cold and rainy, possibly snowy, for most of the trip. We, of course, packed too much and we shipped home some fifty pounds of extra crap from New York City because we were tired of lugging it around.

I started a journal from the beginning, not really planning on writing a book, but with the idea of memorizing the trip for enjoyment later. I also wanted to have some record of my photographs because in the past I have frequently, on later review, forgotten why a certain picture was snapped―or where―or what of. It turned out that I didn’t tie my pictures to my journal on this trip either.

The next step was to determine where we had a place to flop along the way. When there were no family or friends to sponge from, we either had to make hotel reservations or upgrade our train tickets to include a bedroom. Once that was accomplished, we were ready to go.

Friday, February 29, 2008

What's the beef?

The recent meat recalls in California because of E. coli concerns were not surprising to me. In my book, TIN LIZARD TALES: Reflections from a Train, I took meat packing companies and the federal government to task for not being more careful.

Near Fort Morgan, Colorado is a large meat packing company belonging to Cargill Meat Solutions. When we visited in the spring of 2004 it was known as Excel Corporation. It was from this plant, according to health officials, that feces-contaminated beef was shipped to Milwaukee triggering an E. coli outbreak that killed a three-year-old girl and sickened 60 other people. All the victims had eaten at a Sizzler restaurant prior to their attacks. None had actually eaten any of the contaminated beef but had consumed salad bar fruit that had been cut up on counters where the beef had also been prepared. Because the origin of the E. coli contamination could not be positively identified, a judge dismissed the resultant lawsuits.

In the book, I outline meat processing in great detail, something that has earned me some negative comment about the graphic details. One reviewer called my writing “internecine,” i.e. marked with excessive details about slaughter, violent death, and noxious events. I wasn’t trying to gross anyone out. I was attempting to instill some interest in my readers and the government that would prompt some remedial action.

What I read and hear from the reports about the California meat debacle indicate that neither the meat packing industry nor the United States Department of Agriculture, the agency that is responsible for oversight and regulation, are performing in commendable fashion. The meat packing industry blames the USDA for not having inspectors in place and the USDA blames the lack of funding for being unable to perform its duties. It’s the same old blame game.

It seems to me that if the meat packing companies would handle the processing in a responsible and concerned manner that produced clean and safe meat products, maybe inspectors wouldn’t be needed.

As for USDA inspectors, I can speak from experience about federal overseers. In my younger life I worked for an electronics company that made parts for the United States government. Some of our products were used by the military, and others were used by other governmental agencies. We were assigned inspectors from the Army, Navy, and Air Force along with a couple of governmental civilian representatives. They were to oversee our operations to make sure we were producing products which met specifications, which used the approved components, which were manufactured under strict quality control standards, and which were being tested appropriately to ensure reliability. In other words, the products were going to be used in such a way that spotless performance was a must. Should we expect anything less from our food products?

But let me tell you about our inspectors. They were hardly ever personally around our facility to check on the materials or the processes. When we needed them to sign off on a component prior to shipping, we always knew where to find them―at a little watering hole a couple of blocks from our company. They were almost always together; there was no interdepartmental rivalry over a pitcher of beer. They would either boozily wobble over to the plant to sign off the shipment, or they would hand their official stamp to one of our quality control people to OK the parts for them.

Electronic parts are one thing. But food products cannot be handled in a such a dismissive or—dare I say it?—criminal manner. I’m anxious to hear the final disposition of the California matter because it has affected so many people, many of young age in our schools. It has to serve as a wake-up call about governmental inefficiency and meat packing industry indifference.

Schuyler T. Wallace

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Book reviews and those who do them.

The book is written and hits the market. The author now faces the reality that sales must be made to recover the costs. But what's more important is how the book is received. If it's not liked the old ego takes a header (and make no mistake, ego is a big part of a writer's psyche). If it's not liked, there probably won't be any sales to worry about.

I received a 3 star review to go along with a couple of 5 stars on Okay, the reviewer wasn't too critical but I thought she missed the point of my book. She thought I wrote a travelogue. I think I wrote a series of essays with some traveling in between. I consider there to be a small difference between to two.

She thought I wrote in a passive manner. I think I combined both passive and active but will concede that active is more acceptable and probably easier to read. My English teachers always tried to tell me that. So I'll take that criticism to heart and be more careful, but I suspect that a passive voice will sneak in once in a while.

She likes to observe people and thought I didn't put enough faces on my characters. I thought I did the few times I mentioned them. But I was focusing on places rather than people in this book. I'll be willing to take a closer look at faces when I decide to write about people.

She doesn't list my type of book in her preferential reading list. That may put a bright light more squarely on her review.

All that said, I thank her for the time she spent and appreciate the good things she said - mainly that it deserves to be read, that it is interesting, and worth buying. She also conceded that it is "a bit of an escape." I'd thank her via e-mail but she makes it clear she wants no contact after a review.

What do I think of all this? I'm ambivalent. I've read many interviews with big time authors who sluff off critical remarks with a quick shake of their bank accounts. I'm not a author who has a bank account big enough to shake off published criticism. I need good reviews to sell my book and I love good reviews because they validate what I'm trying to do.

I tend to think of some reviewers as having a jealous streak. Their publishing record suggests they aren't striking the right chord with readers and take out their frustration on another writer who is enjoying more success. But that's not really fair because those I consider really good reviewers have the ability to couch their remarks in such a way as to still promote the book with positive enthusiasm even though there might be some aspects of the writing or subject matter they don't particularly like. The good reviewer might not have published anything at all.

I review a lot of books. If I write a review, that means I finished the book. If I finished the book, that means I liked it. Some parts might have been difficult for me wade through, understand, or agree with. But overall, I liked what the author presented and I try to reflect that in my review.

I suppose that's what I think a good reviewer should do. As for the 3-star review I received, I think there were enough positive remarks to keep my book afloat. What the review did was to shake me up enough to prompt me into more careful reviews of my own. I resolve to look more closely at my critical remarks to keep bias or lack of information from coloring them. I will also be careful to not bruise an ego or queer a sale. Do unto others I always say. Or at least I will from now on.

Schuyler T. Wallace
Author of Tin Lizard Tales

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rolling Around

It's been about a week so I'll add a little to my story. We talked last time about the anxious moments I had getting involved with blogging. Basically I suffer from doubts about having anything worthwhile to discuss. My book, TIN LIZARD TALES, is important enough to me to keep fishing for readers so that will be my main thrust at this point.

Why do I want readers? Obviously it's not to make a lot of money. You'd probably explode in wild guffaws if you knew the amount of my royalty payment. I don't think of being famous - I'm notorious enough with my family and friends, and that's not necessarily a good thing. I'm not looking to pick up girls. Hell, I'm over seventy and accompanied by a wonderful partner (Carol wields a mean knife should I decide to stray). I don't have any political agenda, although I admit to being thoroughly disgusted with the idiocy of some politicians and their ideologies and I write about it. No, it's none of these.

I want you to read the book because I think you'll find it fun. What else do we read for if it's not for enjoyment? Some parts of the book might be a little gory (one reviewer, although he loved the book, called parts of it "internecine," marked with goriness or violent death and slaughter). Well, excuse me! I was trying to make a point, not gross anybody out.

However, most comments are favorable and are pointed at enjoying the humor and sarcasm of my reporting. That's good because I was just being true to my nature -- an old fart with a big mouth. I've noticed that many people seem to have my same point of view and I'm more than happy to share it.

I also enjoy the sheer joy of travel. I haven't made a life of moving around, but Carol and I have visited many places both here and abroad. We find a sense of excited anticipation and wide-eyed enchantment when a place is first visited. Some of it might wear off after lingering awhile, but there are always other places to visit.

I find that most people enjoy traveling and would like to do more of it. I hope that I've piqued that interest and prompted the "getting out there and seing something" beast in all of us. Albert Camus called desire "a warm beast . . . that lies curled up in our loins." That might be a little over the top but, nonetheless, it feels good to travel.

So that's probably the reason I devoted three years to putting together about a book about our train trip. We've taken many trips so maybe there are a lot more books there somewhere in the fading wrinkles of my mind.

Sales pitch here. If you want to know more about TIN LIZARD TALES, there are lots of place to go without actually putting much money out. You can visit my website, for a quick synopsis and biographical sketches, info on how to contact me, links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble where there are 5-star reviews, and a $5 e-book offer. Check Google Book Search where you can actually read some of the book. That's a lot of stuff to look over. And, of course, should the mood strike you, the book is available on all on-line book stores and through your local book seller at a mere $15.95 a copy.

More to come. I'll discuss some specific parts of the book, what prompted me to write them, and then, after we're all sick of hearing about the Lizard, I intend to offer up some of my other earthy opinions about everything.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jumping In

I'm officially joining the world of blogging. It's not easy for a person of my advanced age and limited computer savvy to decide to get wet -- something like a polar swim, I suppose, but I hope I won't suffer the usual shrinkage.

I've published my first book, Tin Lizard Tales: Reflections from a Train. "How interesting," I hear you say. "Big frikin' deal. Move along, old timer."

But wait. I think you'll like it. A lot of people do. So, for a few posts, I'll be letting you know a little about it. For starters, take a look at the cover delicately displayed above. That lizard is zipping along on the rails into a blinding future, the contents of which are unknown. And that, my friends, is what the book is about. I'm the author, Schuyler T. Wallace, and I'll tell you a little more about it next time.