September 22nd, 2010

Mari Carr, _Sweet Thursday_ and _Friday I'm in Love_ (kindle)

These are, respectively, entries 4 and 5 in the Wild Irish series. They are published by Ellora's Cave, which is a mostly-e-publisher (they do a small number of titles in small runs on paper) of mostly erotica. This particular series has already explored some lifestyle BDSM, so it is not particularly surprising that Thursday is a menage and really not surprising that Friday has an older woman with a younger man. The gimmick for the series is a large family. Mother (Sunday) died some years ago and Father has health problems in the course of the series. The adult children are participants in romances, 1 romance per book. At this point, earlier romances have resulted in marriage and, in one case, a child.

The menage includes half of the twins (Killian) in the family and his best friends from high school: Justin and Lily. Justin and Killian spent a number of years in the army in Iraq; Lily got an PhD in Marine Biology in California. Everyone is back in Baltimore and attending a 10 year high school reunion when Lily proposes something she's been wanting to do since high school. See, Justin and K had a rep for sharing girls even back then, and Lily has been pining for the pair forever. The initial deal is for one night, then one weekend. They are interrupted by Lily's younger brother Chad and Killian's brother Sean, who had been invited over to watch the ball game on Sunday, which went completely out of everyone's head, what with all the sex that had been happening since Friday night.

No guy-on-guy action, unless you count the description of (hey, if you're too young to be reading this, stop right now.) the one-hesitates-to-call-it-climatic double penetration scene near the end when the guys are noticing they can feel each other through Lily. Ahem.

I have to hand it to Carr: she handled the "coming out" of the threesome really well, particularly considering that she hasn't had a gay or lesbian couple as even a background character in the series. When Sean is talking to Justin about whether the morose threesome can turn a 2 night fantasy into a lifetime of looooovvvveee, he gestures to a biracial couple and a gay couple in the bar, and points out that if the world can change enough to accept them, it might one day make a triad part of normal, too (altho the term triad is not used). That's a normalization strategy destined to make this real popular among the poly community.

Other aspects of the novel, not so much. Justin, in particular, seems a little concerned whether all this makes him "gay". Er, homophobic, much? Besides, it wouldn't make him gay anyway; it might make him bi. Carr plays up the whole good girl/bad girl theme more than I care for, and the nicknames the guys have for Lily ("sweetness", "baby girl") were a little grating. I have to suspect, however, that Carr knew she was doing that. At one point she describes Lily as squirming like a toddler in church, and if _that_ isn't an intentionally shocking simile to use in a sex scene, I don't know what would be.

Friday shows us Ewan making a play for Natalie, photographer of Sky (and now Teagan). She's got some serious mental health issues as a result of her sister dying some years ago and a generally unloving family (not necessarily abuse -- just real standoffish). Natalie lives for sarcasm, which Ewan admires, but he's worried about her and when Nat says she wishes she weren't always the one taking the pictures but sometimes the one in the picture. Ewan gives her a week of being in the middle of her life: taking her out one night with Riley and Aaron, romancing her, taking her fishing. She gets a bit frantic and attempts to back out when she realizes the depth of her attachment to Ewan, but pictures save the day -- taken by Ewan, of Natalie, living her life.

These books aren't going to be for everyone (even I would not let a prepubescent kid near them): you have to have some kind of e-reader (altho you can get free ones for a regular computer, and you don't have to get this through kindle -- EC offers it elsewhere and in various formats), you have to be interested in, not just okay with, very detailed sex scenes used to describe a developing relationship. But if this is the kind of thing you like, it's done really well. I'll keep reading the series, and will probably try some of Carr's other books when it is complete.

Poor Todd Henderson Just Can't Catch a Break

Mind you, it's really only the editorial page at the WSJ that is batshit crazy screamingly right wing (yes, I'm questioning the grammar there, too). Still, here's what one blogger had to say to the professor who complained about how he couldn't afford to pay more taxes because he was barely making it as it was.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704129204575506051919012596.html

First, a financial advisor was invoked: "Too many people have "unrealistic expectations," says Mr. Kalscheur. They figure they should be vacationing in Italy, driving expensive cars, the whole deal. "We need to knock him upside the head. He's got to stop spending money." Every financial planner will tell you the same thing: The real challenge is tackling the psychology."

Then the standard array of budget tricks: track your spending, refinance your mortgage, rethink the private schools decision, pay down debt before saving/investing, hire fewer people, buy cheaper stuff. And think about moving your professor and doc gigs to a cheaper place.

Straightforward, obvious, useful advice to a wide array of people. What a nice public service this blogger is doing.

There are two zingers for the prof:

"contrary to what you seem to think, federal taxes are not extortionate by modern historical standards. According to the CBO, families in the top 20% pay average federal taxes of 25.1%. The figure in President Reagan's final year in office: 25.6%."

"Never, ever, ever again blog about how hard it is to live on $300,000 or $350,000 a year at a time when one middle-aged man in four can't find a full-time job, and one in five can't find any job at all."

Think of it as the memo for rich people. At least one version of it. Nice to see it in the WSJ, even if it's only in an online blog associated with the WSJ.

It could not have happened to a more worthy target

I've been surfing around reading coverage of the Todd Henderson disaster, partly because I've been curious to see if there is any appetite for soak-the-rich. There are some fantastic arguments (some of which are even being made) that high income folk in the 250K-millionish range are getting soaked already compared to the truly high earners (hedgies who don't pay income tax; they pay capital gains and those rates are obscene. And I say that as a person who has benefited from those rates). Of course, that means nothing in the current debate, which is the relative tax burden of median folk and people who are making meaningfully more than $250K taxable.

I've been a little puzzled by the number of lawyers willing to jump in on the Henderson side of the $250K/yr does not make you rich. This strikes me as a dumb argument: your audience will either hate you, or already agree with you. It isn't going to convince anyone, so why even bring it up? Adding details that include as much spent in "other household expenses" as median folk see in take home pay really stings, too. There was a time when this sort of thing got beaten out of people, either by their parents when they were kids, by other children when they were kids, or by family/friends who were median folk and didn't like richy-rich getting all uppity, at any age. Perhaps we've gotten a little too good at segregating by income.

Also, take a look at this:

http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/henderson

If that career doesn't scream, I HAVE ASPERGER'S, well, the photo does. Come on. An engineering degree to law professor at University of Chicago? This is not a man with social skills. I recognize the type. You know, because I _am_ the type.

Moving on to a news link on the site:

http://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/henderson102809

The Federalist Society gave him an award. If you aren't familiar with the Federalist Society, google might take you here:

http://www.fed-soc.org/aboutus/

Or here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_Society

This ought to catch your eye:

"The society was begun by a group including Edwin Meese, Robert Bork, Theodore Olson, David M. McIntosh, and Steven Calabresi, and its members have included Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito."

Mind you, Ted Olson has done some things lately to really give conservatives pause (joining up with Boies on the Prop 8 case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perry_v._Schwarzenegger).

Let's pretend, for a moment, that you're a political organizer or strategist or just someone who is pissed as hell about what the last couple years have been like: Democrats controlling both houses and the Presidency, and the Republicans running an amazing circus in the media and implementing Gregg's playbook of Just Say No to Everything in the Senate. You're thinking, a little monkey wrench, that'd be a good thing. Change the debate. Hmmm. Well, the tax cuts are about to expire, and rhetoric is mired in whether it is the Democrats raising taxes and if so on who, or the Republicans demanding tax cuts for the rich before they'll sign off on tax cuts for the middle class. And this young idiot blogs something fairly incendiary and unbelievably out of touch. You might decide that it was worth e-mailing some bloggers and some friends of yours a link to that post, and, for good measure, some critiques of that post. Very low cost intervention. Potentially a huge win -- not because you pick on some nerd who managed to evade every single piece of information anyone gave him about how to behave in public. No. What you're _really_ hoping is that all his buddies, who usually nod and cheer when he rants about the liberal wtf, will experience a moment of group hysteria, or temporary insanity, or camaraderie, or whatever. Maybe _they'll_ post something completely out of touch and incendiary. Maybe this ball could be kept rolling, and as long as it's rolling, it's really hard to scare the masses about Marxian anything or socialist whatever. They're too distracted by the idea that someone who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars _every single year_ is saying he's not rich. And all his lawyer and political friends are agreeing with him.

The initial bloggers pushing this ball downhill (Delong, etc.) were quite cautious to acknowledge that perhaps the Todd Henderson doing the blogging was not _really_ the Todd Henderson, Professor at University of Chicago Law School. After all, we've seen what happened when some right wing blogger offered up red meat and Fox News took it. A little too much embarrassment all around to want to be a party to that. And while I haven't checked in with Rachel Maddow tonight, this hasn't turned up on MSNBC that I've seen so far. But I would be feeling a whole lot of respect for Democratic chances in this midterm if we could get some video of relevant people saying $250K/year isn't rich. And play it over and over and over again. Honestly? That would be better than masturbation is wrong because you can't do it without lust in your heart. It might even be better than misspent campaign funds.

But even if it all piddles down in the next 24 hours and never makes it out of the blogs, even if the only guy to get truly hammered is a guy used to nothing but adulation from academia and complete oblivion outside it, well, at least he'll be an object lesson to young guns in the Federalist Society: someone is reading your blog and waiting for you to really and truly be a jackass.