Friday, November 25, 2016

How to do laundry in a Samsung washing machine

Dear Samsung,

Thank you for sending the enclosed stickers for my washing machine so that I will always be reminded that doing laundry can kill me. I know this sounds like a sensational local news sweeps series ("spin cycle of death"), but obviously you have a real concern that the lid of my washer can become detached and fly off at me like Odd Job's hat in "Goldfinger", taking my head off while flinging underwear onto the ceiling fan where it will dry the old fashioned way.

However, you forgot to include the new directions for doing a load of laundry in a Samsung washer, so I'll share my method as a public service:

1. Load clothing into washer tub.
2. Add detergent.
3. Very gently close lid, using salad tongs.
4. Put on safety goggles, football helmet, and body armor. Hold metal shield at chest level with one hand and baseball bat with the other. (Remember, should the lid ever fly off at you, block with the shield and swat it away with the bat until it's dead. Always block and swat, not the other way around.)
5. Hit the "start" button, using the end of the baseball bat.
6. Run like hell.
7. When laundry cycle is complete, throw laundry room circuit breaker turning off all power to the washer. It is now safe to enter the room.

Again, I feel much safer now knowing that washing dress shirts rather than taking them to the dry cleaners can place my life in peril.

By the way, I hear you guys make a cell phone that is simply the bomb.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Books for Republicans who like happy endings

I have a pen name for my political thrillers, writing as Nick Harlow. About four years ago I wrote a novel about a reality show celebrity running for President. My former agent read it and told me it was "way too over-the-top and totally unbelievable."

Have I mentioned that I can predict the future?

Needless to say, the book started selling this year. 


Earlier this year there was talk of a "brokered convention" when it looked like candidates of both parties might not have enough delegates to win the nomination. What might have happened?


My best-selling book this year which has been in the top 100 political novels chart on Amazon is definitely the most fun. "Hit List" is the story of how the Mafia gets so fed up that the entitlement society has destroyed disposable income that they decide to get the most flaming liberals in the country "out of the way"... but not by killing them.


There have been plenty of administrations in which the President and Vice President did not get along, and, in some cases, actually hated each other. In "The Race" there is so much animosity that the Republican President and Vice President run against each other.


Finally, a change-of-pace book set far in the future after liberalism goes off the rails and the resistance finally gets fed up.

(Really, I should buy a lottery ticket)


Monday, September 26, 2016

In honor of tonight's debate, some tales of what politicians are really like...

As someone who spent my career as a TV reporter, I had the opportunity (excuse me, cross to bear) to meet and interview local and national politicians. Most made me want to take an immediate Silkwood shower.  But at least they gave me plenty to work with when writing political thrillers. And right now two of my books are in a bundle with some other terrific authors:

Recently another author who reviewed one of my works in progress asked me if one of my characters needed to be so unlikeable. While I never base a character on anyone in particular, throwing together a good composite from my personal experiences often results in a character who makes Lord Voldemort look like a choirboy.

The vast majority of politicians I've encountered are phonies, egomaniacs, rude, and often not terribly bright. All, regardless of party, have the same common denominator. Their number one priority is getting elected.

But I always have a good political character to balance things out. There are a few out there in real life.

So I'll share some of my favorite stories about real politicians as you get the popcorn ready for tonite's debate:

-She's in a better place. Really.
The mother of a candidate I'd been covering passed away, and I thought I would drop by the wake to offer my sympathies to the guy. Upon arriving at the funeral home I found the candidate, along with a few other politicians, talking strategy about the upcoming election. About three feet away from his dead mother's open casket.

-The honey-do Senator.
I was assigned to produce a live shot for Meet The Press with Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and told to do it from his home. So I arrived at his house and realized we could never get a live shot since there were so many tall trees. I knocked on the door and was greeted by his wife. "Saxby will be right back. I sent him to the grocery store for ice cream." Now in the annals of reporting that would seem to be an incredibly lame excuse to get out of an interview. But thirty seconds later, the Senator pulled in the driveway and unloaded a few bags of groceries from the trunk.

-Well... at least he's honest. 
Me (on the day a man with no political experience announced his candidacy): "What would you do if you're elected?"
Candidate: "I have no idea."
(He won in a landslide. It helps to be rich.)

-Forget Paris.
During a debate, a candidate for the House of Representatives says that unless drastic steps are taken, America will turn into a third world country. Like France.

-Long time no talk.
At the 1988 Democratic convention I was walking down the stairs and Senator Paul Simon of Illinois was walking up. He locks eyes with me, smiles, sticks out his hand and shakes mine. "How are you? You're looking so well! Great to see you again! (I had never met the man.)

-I never had sex with that woman, part deux. 
I cornered a gubernatorial candidate who was rumored to be having an extra-marital affair and asked him about it. He gave me the death stare, said, "I won't even dignify that with a response" and stormed off. The day after he lost the election his wife filed for divorce. 

-World's cutest entourage.
I'm producing a Sunday morning live shot with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He talks tough during the entire interview. As soon as we wrap up, the door opens and a bunch of little kids run in and grab him yelling, "Grampa! Grampa!" He immediately turned into a regular person. (By the way, he's funny as hell off camera. Who knew?)

-And yes, these people can vote.
During a political forum, a man with wild eyes steps to the microphone and begs the politicians for help, since he feels he is in danger of "being deported to Hawaii."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


The Goldbergs!

What? You haven't heard of this hilarious show? Well, for some bizarre reason, the powers that be at ABC don't do much to promote its best sitcom.

So I guess I'll have to do it for them.

Tonight marks the fourth season premiere for this very unique show, based on Producer Adam Goldberg's VHS home videos he shot as a child. Normally I don't review anything, but this is one of the few bits of "appointment television" in our home. It's so different, so fresh, and manages to combine hysterical plots with sentimentality, making it the perfect family show.

America needs to discover this show if it hasn't already.

Set in the 1980s (my favorite decade) the show's focal point is smothering mother (or "smother") Beverly Goldberg, played by the brilliant Wendi McLendon-Covey. (You know her from "Bridesmaids.") She makes today's helicopter parent look like a paper airplane by comparison while maintaining a PhD in guilt. But always on the lookout to make sure her kids get a fair shake. She's a lot like the Jewish mothers I knew growing up... always hovering but maintaining strong unconditional love for their children.

But this is not a typical family sitcom as a few things make this show special. Each episode starts out with gut-busting humor, then shifts seamlessly into sentimentality while an appropriate song from the eighties plays in the background. Few shows can be sweet and hilarious at the same time, but The Goldbergs manages to pull it off. You start out laughing your ass off and end up wiping a sentimental tear. (We often have to hit the pause button until we stop laughing.) And just when you think the plots are so outlandish they couldn't possibly have happened, a thirty year old VHS clip pops up to serve as living proof.

Want more proof? Check out the real Beverly Goldberg on Twitter, who occasionally dishes out electronic guilt to her children with the simple phrase that can push any son's buttons. "Call your mother." (Full disclosure: I'm an only child with an Italian Catholic mom. I oughta know.)

The cast is perfect, from Jeff Garlin's get-off-my-lawn father to George Segal's "Pops" to the young actors playing the children. But Wendi McLendon-Covey steals every scene she's in. The writing is sharp and wickedly funny.

Back to the original promotion thing: why this show seems to get no love from the network is beyond me. While I didn't watch the Emmys (if I wanted a political and social lecture from elites I'd go back to college) I did read that the cast wasn't even invited. Neither the show or the cast received nominations, but these days you kinda need some sort of agenda to get love from Hollywood. To be honest, I'm sick of shows that try to push their beliefs on me, and that's one reason The Goldbergs is so different. No agenda, no shots at a certain political party. It's just damn funny.

The Goldbergs premieres tonight. Check it out. But I warn you not to drink any liquids while doing so, because you'll laugh so hard you'll spit them all over the floor.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

The "God works in mysterious ways 9/11 story"

My late mother told me this story about a friend of hers and 9/11:

Mom's friend had a son with a very rare health problem. He was born with some sort of fatigue syndrome, always tired. But the kid was brilliant, always top of the class.

His mother always wondered why God had given her son such a challenge, why He had put such a brilliant mind into a body that wasn't normal. It bothered her a great deal. She constantly wanted an answer to the question... why God had done this to her son.

The son had a knack for finances, and got a job in New York's financial world. Luckily he had an understanding employer who realized this was not a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 employee and he could not work two days in a row. So they worked out a deal letting the guy work every other day. He would come to his office in Manhattan on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, using Tuesday and Thursday to rest.

His office was in the World Trade Center.

September 11th, 2001, was a Tuesday.

His fatigue syndrome had saved his life, as he was home resting on that fateful day.

His mother finally got her answer.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Back in 1966, kids were starved for good science fiction. We were stuck with junk like Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which used the same monsters since they had the same cheap producer. Outer Limits and Twilight Zone were in reruns.

And then NBC ran a promo for Star Trek, calling it “adult science fiction.”

Which meant every kid had to watch it.

We were instantly hooked after the first episode. The girls were drooling over William Shatner and the boys liked the uniforms on the female crew members. The schoolyard was filled with discussions on the show every Friday morning.

Then the episode “Where no man has gone before” aired, about a guy who developed supernatural powers and took on Captain Kirk. The schoolyard discussion on that one spilled over into the classroom, with the girls passing notes.

Which brings us to Sister Dionysia, one of the best teachers I ever had. A kindly nun who never used a ruler and was always available for extra help. But like all nuns of that era, maintaining discipline was very important to her.

The one thing that ticked her off… passing notes in class. (Yes, kids, there was a method of communication before texting.)

But Sister didn’t make you stay after school if she caught you. The punishment was much worse.

She would confiscate the notes and read them aloud in front of the whole class.

A couple of girls got caught the Friday after the third episode of Star Trek. Sister grabbed the notes.  “Well. Let’s see what’s more important to you girls than history class.” She marched back to the front of the room, and peered through her bi-focals. 

She unfolded the note. 

Now, imagine a 60-year-old nun in an old-fashioned habit reading this: “Captain Kirk is sooooo cute. Sooooo cute!”

The two girls turned beet red.

And then the recap of the episode got to something that crossed the line.

“Gary Mitchell developed supernatural powers--”


Sister’s death stare appeared as she looked up at the class. “Humans do NOT have supernatural powers. Only God has them.”

“But Sister, it’s fiction. It’s just a TV show.”

A wave of the hand. “Doesn’t matter. You kids shouldn’t be watching this stuff. Humans do NOT have supernatural powers.”

(Sadly, the Flying Nun premiered a year later, or we would have had somewhat of an argument.)

After that, we kept our Star Trek discussions confined to the schoolyard. Every once in awhile on a Friday Sister would ask if we’d watched anything interesting on TV, but we saw through that ruse.

Fifty years later, it’s still my favorite TV show. Passing notes evolved into writing, as my first professional fiction sale was a Star Trek short story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


(Guest post by Gypsy the Cat)

Dear Diary,

There are days when I enjoy being outside with a cool breeze and the sun on my face. 

These are not those days.

I’m not sure where the term “dog days of August” came from, but I assure you this time of year is no bargain for cats either. You try going outside in a fur coat. At least dogs can tolerate water and go jump in a pool. 

I thought I spotted some light at the end of the tunnel when I saw one of my people use this thing she called a “zipper” to remove her clothes. I have searched everywhere on my body but cannot find this device. Apparently cats are not so equipped. An obvious design flaw.

Then I heard my other person talk about a cold place called “Upstate New York” where he apparently lived before I adopted him. Right now anything cold sounds good to me. But apparently he despises something called “snow” that exists in great quantities there and he never wants to see it again. I have no idea what “snow” is, but if it contains tuna, I’m ready to move there.

Last night while he was petting me he started talking to me, telling me his new book about cats was coming out and that he had mentioned me in something called “the acknowledgments.” Pffft, like this does me a bit of good. Hello, McFly! I can’t read! And it doesn’t make things any cooler!

Anyway, I eagerly await autumn. Right now it’s so humid that I don’t even have to walk to my water bowl to get a drink. I just stick out my tongue and take a sip of air.

Gypsy out.