23 February 2020

Just Doing My Laundry, Officer



Laundry Night
Let's assume you own a legitimate small business in the service industry. Maybe something like a dry cleaners or bar, restaurant or even a body shop. It's a business that deals a lot in cash. True, most consumers now use plastic to pay for whatever services you're selling, but there are several who still pay in cash.

And, let's further presume you are the type of person who can rationalize their actions, whatever they are. Let's face it, most people justify their actions by rationalizing them. Some do it to a small degree like not telling a minor acquaintance that his shirt really doesn't go with the pants he is wearing. You don't want to hurt his feelings. Not your fault he isn't clothes conscious. And, there are others on the far end of the rationalizing stick, such as, "I shot the guy because he dissed me." Only you know where you are on this measuring stick.

Anyway, you've got this business where you have to pay state sales tax on services sold and federal income tax on any profit made. Of course, nobody likes to pay taxes. That is money which could go into your own pocket. If only there was a way.

Well, depending upon your situation, there are two ways with this exact same business to approach the tax thing. For instance, if your enterprise is making lots of money and you want to protect some of that profit from the taxman, what some business people do is a thing called skimming. A certain amount of the cash never makes it to the ledger sheet and therefore becomes tax free cash. Yes, it is illegal to do so. The taxman always wants his cut.

Go to a drinking establishment on different nights when the owner is tending bar and sit up to the counter where you have a clear view of the cash register. When people pay for a drink in cash, does it get rung up on the cash register, or does the cash go into his pocket or into a box under the counter? Remember, just because the cash register drawer opens doesn't mean the sale was rung up.

Here's another version. Several years ago, I met this body shop owner who liked to party in Las Vegas for a weekend. Here's how he financed it off the books. Let's say a customer came in with about $900 of body damage to his vehicle, but his insurance deductible was $1,000. The body shop owner would size up the customer and make a one-time offer: $900 plus tax if paid with plastic or a check, but there was a $100 discount to a flat fee of $800 if paid in cash. The car is fixed, the cash is paid and the body shop owner put that money in his vacation fund. Some Vegas casino then makes out like a one-armed bandit on an upcoming weekend, while Uncle Sam and his state cousin get slighted.

Now, to work it the other way with this same legitimate business, let's assume you are some type of organized crime with lots of money from an illicit enterprise, like drugs or human trafficking or......pick your crime. But, in our case, since we are law abiding citizens not involved with organized crime, let's assume we merely found a briefcase filled with a hundred thousand dollars. How did all this money come to in a briefcase you ask? Well, it's buy money for a drug deal and the meth-head driving down the road got paranoid. He thought the cops were following him, so he threw the briefcase out the window, took evasive action, got lost and forgot where he was when he threw it. And, we just happened to find the briefcase with all this money? Uh, yeah, we were out jogging along that road and Merry Christmas. Naturally, we don't want to call attention to ourselves by declaring our good fortune. Like the Hells Angels say, "Three can keep a secret if two are dead."  And, think about it, even if our conscience says to turn the money in, that meth-head with a gun might see circumstances in a different light. He might believe that we then owe him that money of his that we gave away to the cops. Meth-heads think different. So, we take our own evasive action.

In either situation, organized crime or fairly law abiding citizen, a person wants to make this extra money appear to be legitimate. How do you do this? You launder the cash. Every night, you take some of that cash and put it in with the night's cash deposit. Okay, so you have to create some extra sales tickets to explain the extra money, but you've got plenty of blank receipts laying around. And, yeah, you have to pay sales tax on something your legitimate business didn't sell in the first place, plus pay the income tax on that extra phantom profit, but if you're in the 20% tax bracket, you're still making 80 cents on the dollar on money you didn't have to work for. Plus, now that money appears to be legal. You don't have to explain to others why you have extra money. Nope, you are a successful businessman running a successful business. Of course, laundering money is illegal, even though this time the taxmen are getting their cut.

I was sitting in a mob bar once in Kansas City, up to the counter where I could see the cash register on one wall and the cigarette vending machine on another wall. I gave the waitress some money and asked her to get me a pack of cigarettes. She took her time, stopping for drink orders at other tables, took the orders to the bartender, went to the back room, came back to the bartender, delivered the drinks and then gave me my cigarettes. She never once went to the vending machine. The pack of cigarettes she got from the back room didn't have a tax stamp on them. Evidently, they came from a high-jacked semi on the East Coast or else they got sold out the back door of the factory. The mob bar could have been skimming the profits on the untaxed cigarettes, or they could have been using them to pad their inventory to explain expanded profits.

Just know, that whichever way the business is handling its money, the taxman has parameters for those types of service businesses and if the business shows too much profit according to the taxman's charts, or too little profit, the taxman will then dig deeper into accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventories and connecting receipts. It doesn't pay to get too greedy either way.

So, there you have it. It's best not to do anything you have to rationalize about when it comes to large amounts of extra money.

Wait a minute !!!

You're still thinking about how YOU would handle that extra hundred thousand dollars, aren't you?

As Elmer Fudd would say, "Be berry, berry careful."

22 February 2020

No More Downer Books! (aka Does anyone else out there hate unreliable narrators?)


I’m tired of downer books. I don’t want to be depressed after reading for three hours. Bear with me: I’ll explain further.

The problem is, most of the downer elements of grim books involve women who are victims. Either victims of crime, or victims of a patriarchal society. Scandinavian Noir is full of the first. In fact, most noir novels include a female who is murdered and often hideously mutilated. That’s so much fun for women to read.

So here goes:

I don’t want to read any more books about women who are abused or downtrodden. I know there are several good books out there right now featuring such women. Some are historical. Some are current day. It’s not that they aren’t good. It’s just that I don’t want to read any more of them. I’ve read enough.

Imagine, men, if most of the books you had read involved men who had been victimized, or relegated to second class status by another gender. One or a few might be interesting to read. But a steady diet of these? Would you not find it depressing? Not to mention, discouraging?

I don’t want to read any more books about neurotic women, or women who can’t get it together.

I dread more ‘unreliable narrators.’ Salient point: did you notice that most (okay, every single one I can think of) unreliable narrators on the bestseller lists recently are women? Does that say something to you about how society views women? It does to me. No more ‘girl’ books.

I don’t want to read any more books this year with female protagonists that are written by men. Yes, that means some of the bestselling crime books out there. They may be very well written. But these rarely sound like women’s stories to me. They aren’t written with the same lens.

What I want: books with intelligent female protagonists written by women. I want more women’s stories. Books that I can be proud to hand on to my daughters, and say, see what is possible? She isn’t a victim! She’s someone like you.

Trouble is, I can’t FIND many books like that. The bestseller lists today are filled with protagonists who are unstable, neurotic women. Let me be clear: a lot of people enjoy these books. They may be very well written. They wouldn’t be on bestseller lists, otherwise.

But I’m tired of them. I want a ripping good story with a female protagonist, written by a woman. I want a strong, admirable protagonist I can relate to and care about. Hell, I want to *be* the protagonist for a few hours.

And not come away feeling downtrodden.




Bad Girl writes loopy comedies to blow away the blues. And she guarantees that the women protagonist and secondaries in her books kick butt.

THE GODDAUGHTER DOES VEGAS - latest in the "Hilarious" (EQMM) mob goddaughter series - no blues allowed! On Amazon

21 February 2020

More about Opening Lines


More about Opening Lines

I feel the opening line of a short story or novel is the most important line in the piece. First impressions are the strongest, especially for a beginning writer who wants an editor to read beyond the first page of a manuscript.

"The first page sells your book being read, the last page sells the one you're writing." – Mickey Spillane."

The same goes for short stories, maybe more so.

Over the years, I put together information given by writers and editors. As I've said so many times before, there is no one way to write anything and what follows are just suggestions.

The opening of a novel or short story could capture the attention of the reader with an original hook.

1. THE OPENING SHOULD PROMISE ... SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN

How?
a. By presenting compelling events
b. By presenting an unusual character
c. By presenting a vivid setting
d. By using striking language or dialogue
e. By an unusual presentation of ideas

It should arouse expectation with a promise of more to come.

It should let the reader in on WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, or WHY.

In your opening scene(s) you may want to establish:

a. Who is the main character?
b. What is the situation (the problem)?
c. Where is the story taking place (setting)?
d. When is the story taking place (time frame)?
e. Why did this situation happen?
f. How did the situation happen?

You may want to include a cliffhanger that makes the reader want to read on.

You opening should set the tone of the story.

The strongest type of opening usually hooks the read with action (physical or psychological).

The story does not generally open at the beginning of a situation. It usually opens at the high point of action.

EXAMPLES:

Character Opening – If you are writing a character-driven piece.
Atmosphere Opening –Take your reader to a unique setting.
Action Opening – Start in mid-scene.
Dialogue Opening – Promises the reader there is a emphasis on communication between characters.
Philosophical Opening – Prepares the reader this may be a reflective piece.
Emotion Opening – Promises emotional conflict.

In a 2013 interview, Stephen King stated, "... an opening line should invite the reader to begin the story ... it should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this."

King went on with, "For me, a good opening sentence really begins with voice. You hear people talk about 'voice' a lot, when I think they just mean 'style'. People come to books looking ... for the voice. An appealing voice achieves an intimate connection – a bond much stronger than the kind forged, intellectually, through crafted writing."

Award-winning short story writer John Floyd gives us, "I've always heard that ideal openings should (1) introduce you lead character and/or (2) establish the setting (time, place) and/or (3) introduce conflict. A fourth goal is to make the reader curious about what might happen."

Important Note:
A good opening line is like the opening move in a battle. If you do not follow up a good opening, you could lose the battle.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Editor Janet Hutchings gives us, "Some writers have told me they have an attention-getting opening line as the seed for the story. That's fine. But from a reader/editor's perspective what makes the opening good or bad is how it serves everything that follows in the story."

Writing novels and short stories is a trade. A profession. Not a philosophical exercise.

OK – we have all read excellent novels and short stories which did not have a good opening line, which proves again there is no one way to write. In the epigraph in Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury quotes Juan Ramón Jiménez – "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way."

Hey Paul,
Here is Charley. Gone but never forgotten.



Thats all for now –
http://www.oneildenoux.com

20 February 2020

No Other Choice


Greetings from the February Break Porch Annex of The House of Sick. Thank God for azithromycin!

(More on that in a bit)

So, not too long after the publication of my first book (The "Lincoln Book"), I went to a party thrown by my friends Tara and Chad. Tara and Chad throw the BEST parties. And this one was a Halloween party, to boot.

I met Tara in law school two decades ago, and we've been pals ever since. She is one of those friends everyone ought to have: Tara celebrates her friends like nobody's business.

And this night was no exception. She introduced me around as her friend who just had a book come out. It was nice. I mean, who doesn't like to have a fuss made over them once in a while?

Now, we live in the Seattle area, and that means that there are a whole bunch of people around here who work in or adjacent to, the tech industry (full disclosure, my wife is one of those people who works "tech-adjacent." Love ya, Honey!). So it stands to reason that there were a fair number of tech industry people at this particular party.

One of them was a Microsoft guy who told me what his job was in such a way that to this day I still have no idea what he actually did. I couldn't tell you anything else about this guy (In my defense, it was fourteen years ago.), but the one other thing I recall aside from him being a Microsoft guy, was his interesting response to Tara's announcement that I was a newly published author. It's a line I've heard countless time since, but I distinctly recall this being the FIRST time:

"I'm gonna write a book."

Not, "I have an idea for a book" (heard that, too, btw), not, "I'd like to write a book." Nothing aspirational, nothing that embraces the notion that he possessed one tenth of one percent of a clue of how hard it can be to write something, let alone get it published.

So I asked him the obvious question: "What's stopping you?"

Oh, he said, he was going to write it once he'd spent a few more years making sure all of his MS stock options vested, and then there was his boat, and then...and then...and then...

I knew before we finished talking and each drifted off in to other conversations, that this guy was never going to write that book.

Why?

Well, because he didn't need to. Because he had other choices. Other priorities.

And there's not a single thing wrong with that.

Put simply: writers write.

No matter what I've been doing over the past two decades, I am always turning something over and over in my head, either a current project, or something I've got in the works. It's kinda my thing.

I had a stretch when my son was very little, where I didn't produce much, but I've never stopped writing. Why? Because I can't.

Because writers write.

My wife (Love ya, Honey!) maintains that I am much easier to be around when I'm writing. I can attest to the fact that a productive day writing makes everything better for me.

As evidence of this I offer the past month, when I've been deathly ill, unable to take time off of work, and behind on a deadline for a project I can't yet say much about. What did I do?

I wrote.

How'd Shutterstock get this picture of me trying to hit my deadline?
When I didn't have anything in me, when I didn't feel like there was anything left in the tank, I wrote. Late at night, early in the morning. Page after page of my notebook filled, word count in my Word doc high. I gritted through it.

I am more proud of the draft I recently turned in than I am of other stuff that I'm sure is more polished (that's why they call it a "rough draft," right?). Because it came at significant cost.

But hey, that's what writers do.

They write.

To circle back around to my friend Tara, I'm going to see her next week. Her book club has invited me to come talk with them about my work. How great is that?

See you in two weeks!

19 February 2020

Premises, Premises


I recently had an amazing insight into my own writing.  You might say: Well, after forty years it's about time.  To which I reply: Don't be obnoxious.

And the insight which, as I said, amazed me, may strike you as blindingly obvious.  Even tautological. That's a problem with great discoveries: like magician's tricks they can be boring when they're explained.  But let's give it a shot.

I have always said that I am strong at characters and premises, but weak at plot.  So, what's the difference between a premise and a plot?  Think of the premise as the elevator pitch for the story:

The Premise: An orphan boy discovers that he is a wizard and goes off to wizard school.

The Plot (greatly condensed): At the school he makes friends and enemies, learns about magic and his family history, and struggles with a sorcerer who is plotting to kill him.

Or, to move into our own field...

The Premise: A private detective seeks to find who murdered his partner.

The Plot (greatly condensed): He learns that their client is mixed up with an international gang searching for a priceless medieval artwork.

This reminds me of Donald E. Westlake's Drowned Hopes.  In the middle of a complicated caper (which almost kills him)  John Dortmunder bails out and refuses to participate.  His partner hopes one of the other members of the gang and take over:

May said, “Andy?  What about you?  You have millions of ideas.”
“I sure do,” Andy agreed.  “But one at a time.  And not connected with each other.  A plan, now, a plan is a bunch of ideas in a row, and, May, I’m sorry, I’ve never been good at that.”

I feel for you, Andy. As I said, I am pretty good at coming up with premises for stories, but working out the details of a plot is a struggle.  That may be why I have a whole notebook full of ideas that don't seem about to bloom into publishable woks any time soon.

Now, another fact: I tend to write shorter-than-average stories.  I currently have eight tales that have been purchased by magazine or anthologies but not yet published.  They average out to about 3,900 words.  The Derringer Awards separate their Short and Long Story categories at 4,000 words, so you can see where I fall.  (And my median is even lower: 3,600 words.)

So now we get to the blazing discovery I just made.  Ready?  The reason I write short is that in very short pieces the premise is the plot.  For example, consider my story "Why" which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

The Premise:  A cop resigns because of a discovery he made while investigating the motive of a mass murderer.


The Plot (Not at all condensed): Same as the above.


See what I mean?  Now, I don't blame you if you're reaction to this shocking insight is: Well, duh.  But it was news to me.

I have to sit with this discovery for a while, and try to see if it helps me with my plotting problem.  Meanwhile, I hope some of those eight stories find their way into print in the coming year.  At least most of them won't take up too many pages.





18 February 2020

All Dogs BETTER Go to Heaven


by Paul D. Marks

When I started writing this I thought I’d make it funny. But for the most part that didn’t happen. I guess I’m just not feeling too funny right now.
Pepper and me

We recently had to put our dog Pepper to sleep. It was hard and, unfortunately, not the first time we’ve lost an animal and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Many writers have dog or cat companions. Ours is a lonely life sometimes and it’s good to have other beating hearts around. I’m pretty good being alone and very disciplined about getting work done. But when my wife is gone it’s nice to have animal companions around. Over the years we’ve had various combinations of dogs and cats. Most recently Pepper and Buster, who is still with us.

Pepper was great company, got along with all our other animals. And, of course, loved to walk. And if I wasn’t on the ball she’d nudge my elbow saying, “Hey, bud, it’s time to go for our walk.” And we would.

She was old for a big dog, 14½, and she had a good life. When she came into our house at around 8 weeks old we had another dog, Audie, who immediately fell for her. We also had two cats, Curley and Moe (I wonder who they were named after). The cats had grown up with dogs. They were feral when we brought them home as tiny little black balls of fur. We had a dog at the time, Bogey, a Rottweiler. And my wife, Amy, was afraid to let the cats and Bogey be together. But on that first day, I insisted that we put them on the bed and let Bogey sniff them out. Not only did she do that, she cleaned them up and they became fast friends. Then, when we brought Audie into the house as a puppy, the cats took to him like ducks to water. And Moe, the female, especially loved him and loved playing with his tail. Which he tolerated…barely.
Pepper at the creek
When Bogey died, we waited a while and then got Pepper as a pound puppy only a few weeks old. We brought her home in a cat carrier—that’s how small she was. Audie sniffed around but decided she was okay and they became the best of friends. She even brought out a maturity in him that we hadn’t known was there as Bogey was always the alpha dog with him. It reminded me of the scene in Bambi, if I remember correctly, where Bambi’s father tells him he has to grow up after his mom is killed. Bambi did—and Audie did to take care of Pepper.

Audie (left), Pepper (right)
But the cats, Curley and Moe, were scared of this new Pepper creature in the house. Pepper was having none of that. She insisted that they be friends. She drove them nuts, in a friendly-playing way, until they decided if you can’t beat her and can’t hide from her you might as well join her. And she and Curley, the male cat, became great friends. I think they bonded over tearing our family room couch apart. We’d come out of the bedroom in the morning, before Pepper had the run of the house, and it would be like it snowed in there there’d be so much couch stuffing all over the place.

Pepper and Curley

When we lost Audie, Pepper was pretty depressed. But shortly afterwards we got Buster. He was three years old or so when we got him from the German Shepherd Rescue and we—and they—think he was abused before they got him. Pepper accepted him into her house no problem. And they became friends, if not as good friends as she and Audie had been. Curley and Moe were curious, but both died before they could really bond with him. And now he’s all we have left, though we’ll probably get another dog and maybe more cats in the future.

Pepper (left), Buster (right)
She was a particularly wonderful dog in every way. Of all our dogs I explored more with her than with any other dog. We walked up into the forest and down by the creek. She was curious and fun and playful. And when we got surrounded by a pack of feral dogs, which was a pretty scary situation, she was cool and calm. She didn’t seem scared and she didn’t act aggressively. We just stood there until the dogs started peeling off one by one. Then we began to head home. Some of the dogs followed, but they also peeled off until the only one left was the alpha. He followed us almost to our house, but he, too, eventually peeled off. I’m glad to say no blood was shed on either side that day, and I think a good part of the reason for that was Pepper’s demeanor, calm and steady. On other occasions we came across coyotes, and let me tell you the feral dogs were much scarier than the coyotes, who never bothered us at all.
On the road again...
Pepper, whose full name is Sgt. Pepper (I’ll let you figure out what that’s an homage to), was a warm and wonderful and welcoming dog. She just wanted to be friends with everyone. She was good for inspiration and a terrific writing buddy.

Pepper (front - after an operation), Buster (behind) and me
When Pepper or some of our previous animals have gotten sick or injured some people would say to put them down and just get another. But we don’t see it that way. We don’t see our dogs and cats as interchangeable cogs. They’re very much individuals with distinct personalities, and very much part of the family. And you can’t just replace one when the parts start to wear out.

And some people say that the only reason they like us is because we feed them. I read an article once where a woman argued that and it made me crazy. Yes, they like to be fed—don’t we all. But they, just like us, want more than that. They want companionship and security. And, imo, what they really want is what most of us what: to love and be loved.

But the point I’m leading up to here is the title of this piece: Pepper, and all our other critters, better be up there in heaven waiting for us—this of course assumes there is a heaven, but I think that’s a question for another time. Because if all dogs and cats don’t go to heaven, I don’t want to go there either.
My girl
And my idea of heaven, not that I’m in a hurry to check it out, is a comfortable place, with Jacopo’s pizza on their best day flowing freely, abalone and other goodies—cause I think in the other place all you get are C rats. And, of course, Amy and I and all our critters would be there. But then I start to wonder: what the hell (oops, maybe not the best word to use in this context…) do you do up there for all of eternity? Would you get bored? Would you have TV? And if you do would you get Turner Classics on a big screen? And would the History Channel or whatever it’s called these days still be running endless reruns of Forged in Fire (or maybe that only plays down below—hope so as it seems appropriate). Or the other “history” channel running endless reruns of black and white Nazis. Hmm… And would the Beatles be creating any new songs? Now that would be heaven!

Or is it gonna be like Meat Loaf’s* Paradise by the Dashboard Light, where I’m prayin’ for the end of time… Let’s hope not.



~.~.~

And now for a little BSP:  I’m running a free promotion for people who subscribe to my newsletter. You can get a FREE e-copy of my novel Vortex. Just subscribe. And if you’re already a subscriber and want the novel contact me via my website or e-mail and I’ll send you the link for the download.


I'm also excited to announce that I've got a new book coming out in 2020: The Blues Don't Care. It's a little different for me. It's set in 1940s Los Angeles jazz scene during World War II. I hope you'll keep checking in for more news on this exciting new release.


***
Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com

17 February 2020

When They Say It's Not About Politics...


by Steve Liskow

My daughter gave me The Last Widow, Karin Slaughter's newest novel, for Christmas and I tore through it in about three days. Slaughter is one of my favorite writers, and the first half of the book felt like a freight train with no brakes careening down a steep hill. I turned pages quickly enough to leave a trail of smoke and risk uncountable paper cuts.

I seldom pay attention to online reviews, but when I finished this one, I looked on Amazon out of curiosity. Slaughter is one of several authors I read who gathers mixed reviews because she takes chances and doesn't adhere to the standard template. Sure enough, The Last Widow had 795 reviews, 63% five-star, and 9% one-star.

The one-star reviews often complained that Slaughter let her politics get in the way of the story. Well, a group of white nationalist kidnaps Sarah Linton, the female protagonist, as part of their deadly plot, and, given that premise, it's hard to be apolitical.

That's why I usually ignore online reviews.

In one way or another, MOST art is political because artists deal with important issues in life.

Sophocles wrote Oedipus the King as a reaction to the contemporary debate about predestination. His play takes the issue head-on, and his opinion is clear. Euripides leaves no doubt what he thinks of war in The Trojan Women. Nice people don't throw the child of a vanquished rival off the battlements and turn the surviving women into sex slaves.



Shakespeare's 37 (or 40, or 50, depending on whose count you believe) plays constantly involve politics.
Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear discuss, among other issues, who succeeds to the throne. Measure For Measure asks tough questions about women, love, sex, and relationships, and offers no easy answers (The main "good guy" has a creepy voyeuristic streak, too).
All the histories involve kings and, usually, war. Even comedies like Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night discuss the roles of women in society, and the misuse of power, still timely as the Me Too Movement and Roe vs Wade are still crucial issues.

Jane Austen and Emily Bronte present the situation of women in the 1800s, unable to vote, own property, or inherit. Pride and Prejudice features Mr. Bennet with five daughters who will starve if he can't marry them off to husbands who will support them. Wuthering Heights is built around the British Law of Entails, a devious way to control who inherits property if no sons succeed.

In America, Twain looks at slavery through bitter eyes in Huckleberry Finn, one of the most banned books in our country's schools, along with To Kill A Mockingbird, which looks at the same issue from 80 years later...although we haven't advanced much. Uncle Tom's Cabin, far more racist than either of the others, was a blockbuster best-seller before the word existed.

Robert Penn Warren gives us All The King's Men, a fictionalized vision of Huey Long, the Louisiana Governor who used graft and kickbacks left and right...and used the money to build highways and hospitals. Alan Drury won the Pulitzer in 1960 with Advise And Consent (102 weeks on the NYT Bestseller list and later a film with Henry Fonda), and that's all about politics.

Other novels, off the top of my head: 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (if you haven't read these, do so before the second of the three books appears next fall on HBO.)

I know almost nothing about painting, but even I can point to Picasso's Guernica.

Plays: Lee Blessing's A Walk In The Woods is about two arms negotiators meeting to talk during the Cold War. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible (maybe my least favorite play of all time), All My Sons, A View From the Bridge, and Death of a Salesman. Miller always looked at the shafting of the little guy by big business or bigger government. Lawrence and Lee's Inherit the Wind, which the Religious Reich should go see sometime.

Films: Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.

The classic western High Noon asks if we deserve freedom and law if we won't fight to defend them.Many in that production were blacklisted because of their involvement, and I still don't understand why. What about The Grapes of Wrath? Steinbeck dodged a death threat after writing the novel, and the film, made on an 800K budget, still gives me chills when I listen to Henry Fonda deliver
Tom Joad's farewell speech in that flat monotone.

Beethoven first called Symphony #3 the "Bounaparte," but changed it to "Eroica" after Napoleon became Emperor.
Where would American folk music be without Woody Guthrie,Pete Seeger, and the Weavers?  Or their descendants, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Doors ("The Unknown Soldier") and Country Joe & The Fish (I Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag--remember "Gimme an 'F'?).

Politics should be separate from art. Yeah, right.

Maybe flavor should be separate from food, too.

This list barely unscrews the lid from the jar. What other works can you name?