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July 20, 2005


The Pentagon is carelessly pissing off China. I have no doubt there's reason to be concerned about China's military modernization program. But do we have to antagonize them now? The last paragraph of the above linked article says it all:

"The exchange of words comes at a sensitive moment in U.S.-China relations, days before Beijing is scheduled to host a new round of talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and months before Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit the United States amid intensifying complaints in Congress about his government's trade practices."

Meanwhile, President Bush has nominated the whitest man in America for the Supreme Court. If I were an anti-abortion timber company executive, or a brainwashed automaton, I would consider John Roberts (whose name sounds like it should belong to a protagonist in a bad Bruce Willis action movie), a fine nominee. But instead, I'm an abortion-loving athiest with Jew blood. George Carlin is the only nominee who would really satisfy me. Those odds are long.

I will be away from my desk for ten days, not like anyone will miss me here. Though my month of financial desperation continues, it appears that I have secured a nice part-time job that will help us through the cold months. Details forthcoming. Thanks to those of you who wrote with support and offers for work. I had to decline the offer from Alcoa to write letters of apology to families who've been victimized by environmental poisoning. They only wanted to pay me 50 cents a word.


July 18, 2005

Pollack Live!

Attention New Yorkers! I will be appearing live in your city for the first time in a very long time on Friday, July 29! I am to be a guest on Sara Schaefer Is Obsessed With You, a widely praised sketch comedy/interview show. Check my appearances page for details. You will have to scroll down. Hope to see y'all there!

Also, as you can see, I have other appearances coming up, including three in Chicago over Labor Day weekend to promote Chicago Noir, and two October dates: My annual visit to Philadelphia for the 215 Festival, and a trip to Las Vegas for another literary festival. I get around as long as I can get somebody to pick up the plane ticket, or, in the case of New York, if a friend is getting married.

Time for those Nealheads to start stir-frying in the parking lot!


Nannygate In A Vacuum

In case any of you have even the semblance of an actual life, then you haven't been following the fast-moving public evisceration of Helaine Olen. For those of you who hate clicking on links, I'll say that Olen wrote a piece in the Sunday style section of The New York Times yesterday about how she had to fire her nanny after her nanny revealed that she was doing a blog. This blog was a little about being a nanny but a lot about the extremely common experience of being young and overeducated in New York. Olen then, in the piece, admitted jealousy of this nanny named Tessy and now the whole thing has sprialled into one of those only-in-2005-stories.

Anyone who's trying to frame this incident as a scene from the class struggle is wrong. Tessy-nanny is not a person without options. If she blogs, that means she has education and access to technology. And it also means that she has access to a potential book contract. If she's in graduate school, that means that nannying is a means to an end, not the only way she can support herself. The odds are high that she is, at least originally, more or less of the same social class as her employer, just at a different point in life. She could be the first person from her remote Appalachian mountain village to go to graduate school, but I would doubt that.

The piece in the Times was dippy and poorly written. Perhaps the family was wrong to fire the nanny. But I've recently been raked hard over the coals for trying to write honestly about my family life, and I know that a lot of the criticism is unfair and unfounded, based on limited information. It is hard to give up your social life when you have kids. It is sobering to know that your days of sexual adventure are on the wane. It's not easy to face aging and mortality. This was by no means the best expression of these feelings. In fact, it was one of the worst. I would recommend a fine and challenging novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, book number 31 on my list, if you want a subtler and more detailed look at these issues. But just because a woman admits that she was sexually jealous of her nanny doesn't mean she's a class criminal, or a thought criminal, or any kind of a criminal.

These are shit times to have a kid, even if you're supposedly "doing well." I earn more than my father did at my age, yet he somehow managed to put three kids through college and also raise them in one of the best neighborhoods in the country. I'm struggling to raise one kid in a neighborhood two blocks from the Interstate and one block from a day-labor center on a street that serves mainly as a cut-through for beer trucks making delivieries to the several liquor stores within walking distance to my house. This isn't because I have trouble managing my money. It's because there is no support for middle-class families in this country, no health-care support, no child-care support, certainly no tax relief, and a housing market that's creating rapid downward mobility.

I wish I had problems as salacious and hilarious as having to fire my hot nanny because she was blogging about her underwear. I wish I could afford a nanny, or even a Saturday-night babysitter, at all. But this story (and the ludicrously voluminous response it brought about, including this post) is another snapshot from the wearying battleground that child-rearing has become in this country.


July 17, 2005

Point Of Order

After posting my desperate plea, which you can read below, I was flooded by three emails from people telling me they'd send me money if I'd only put up a Pay Pal link or something similar. But I just can't bring myself do that. I did it once before in this space, but that was to fund a specific project, not to pay for Huggies.

We're not so desperate that I'm actually reduced begging for money without working in return. I do have SOME gigs lined up, including a couple of regular monthly ones, but I'll need several more, or one large one, so we can get through the fall until I finish this book I'm working on. This isn't a permanent cri de coeur, and it's not a proclamation of poverty. That would be an insult to the 95 percent of the world's population who have to work much harder for much less money than I do. I do someday intend to insult those people, but not like this.

Cashflow is the bane of the freelance life. Well, that and paying for your own health insurance.


July 16, 2005

Relatively Well-Known Writer For Hire


It's humiliating as hell for me to admit this publicly, but several major sources of income have fallen through in the last month, and we are utterly broke.

If anyone out there has any freelance work for me, please let me know. I am a relatively well-known writer for hire. Articles and essays are my first line of defense, of course, and fiction and screenwriting are a fond dream. But I will also do copywriting, brochure writing, pretty much any kind of writing you can think of, except, perhaps, for technical writing--only because I'm not qualified. I'm not looking for sympathy, just work. You can reach me through the Contact email link to your left.

You could also consider hiring my wife, Regina Allen, for illustration or other kinds of art-related work. Here is a link to Regina's webpage courtesy of the gallery that represents her paintings. She's done two of my book covers and other illustration work, including posters, T-shirts, and occasional magazine gigs. She was recently selected for the fall issue of New American Paintings, which urges its readers to "discover America's Finest Emerging Artists." If you're looking for an artist, the odds of finding anyone better are extremely small. You can contact her through the gallery, or directly here.

Thanks so much.


July 15, 2005

This Week's Phone-In Post

Reason #47 not to work at home. I am currently listening to my wife scold my son for playing in the toilet, and my son is screaming that he wants to play in the toilet, and there are three fire trucks outside my window because a water-main burst in the community church that is currently, to our delight, being turned into a drug-rehab center. Life is very glamorous.

So I thought I'd let you all know that I continue to read books. Number 29 was A Dream In Polar Fog, which I wrote up for The American Book Review. I'm glad I did, or else I would have never read a novel about indigenous Siberians at the turn of the 20th Century. It's a very exciting book in the tradition of Jack London but with contemporary politics.

Number 30 was Bad Haircut, Tom Perotta's first book, a collection of short stories about growing up in the 1970s, smoothly told, nicely constructed, totally genuine, free of some of the artifice that mars his well-observed novels. Why did I read Bad Haircut? Because it was on the shelf in the room at someone else's house where I'm going to write my exciting memoir. That's as good a reason as any to pick a book.

And why am I going somewhere else to write? Because as we speak, my son is shrieking and stomping through the house because my wife just told him not to shriek. He's been funny this summer, but you can't work at home with a toddler underfoot. Simply impossible. Anyway, the wife informs me that "Elijah just flushed one of his mixer spinners down the toilet." Suffice it to say that a "mixer spinner" is from a plastic kitchen kit that we bought him. I must admit that it's fun to flush things down the toilet.

A few more random things. I have nothing to add to the Karl Rove hoo-ha. Why would I? It's been a long time since I felt anything more than impotent in regards to commenting on politics. The side I fall on should be obvious to all. String 'im up by the balls on national TV.

I can, however, comment on Joe Johnson's near-decision to jump ship from the Phoenix Suns to play for the Atlanta Hawks. Listen, cowboy, you're getting 70 MILLION dollars no matter who you sign with. Who cares if you're an All-Star? Do you want to win a title or have "J-Smooth," "J-Chill," and "Eddy" Curry fumble all your passes out of bounds? At least Nash can get you the ball. Think about it, hot shot. Anyone who would rather be an All-Star than win a title always runs afoul of the NBA gods. I can think of few exceptions.

And that's the way it is, July 15, 2005. Neal Pollack......good day!


July 8, 2005

Jackass Of London

Today's American-with-his-head-up-his-own-ass award goes to the singer Omarion, who had his minions issue a press release saying that he was in London at the time of the bombings but was, in fact, like millions of other people, totally unharmed. His publicist said, "He wasn't hurt or anything, but just the fact that he was there and all that."

Yes. Please. Pray for Omarion. Me, I'm praying for Neil Patrick Harris, who is also in London, doing a play.

There. Now this really is a blog.


And Now For Something Completely Stoic

It's been nearly 24 hours now since Al Qaeda's latest lame-ass attempt to change the course of history. I know you've all been standing by breathlessly to read my response to the London subway bombings. Well, here's my response: They were very sad, stupid, and needlessly violent. Sympathies to the injured and to the families of the dead. And, since every maroon with a blog feels compelled to comment on this affair, you can quote me on that. I must admit that Andrew Sullivan has done a nice job covering matters today, though by the time I wake up tomorrow, he will seem tiresome again.

That said, If I have to read one more word about the "stoic character" of the British people, I'm going to plotz. I would, instead, use the word cool to describe the British. "Stoic" is the property of the Blitz and The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. This is the age of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, not to mention Layer Cake and Sexy Beast. I'd like to see the people who are blowing Churchill quotes out of their asses go up against Don Logan. For that matter, let's turn all the fictional British characters from contemporary crime movies loose on Al-Qaeda. The War On Terror will be over quickly.

I also don't want to hear any crap about how these bombings must lead to "fresh resolve" in the War. I'd have plenty of resolve if our government were actually pouring resources into fighting terrorism. But they are not, and they will once again use this tragedy as a smokescreen to hide their true sinister objective. I know what that objective is, because a high-placed source in the government told me. I will never reveal the source, and I'm prepared to go to jail on that principle, and also on the principle of getting a huge book deal when I get out of jail.

Now then, if you're not all sick of me yet and you want to really celebrate all things British, I recommend you buy this DVD set. It's the funniest goddamn TV show I've ever seen.


July 5, 2005

Live Weak

Please enjoy my piece on Slate today about how my gym has become an annoying temple of Lance Armstrong worship. Also, my opinions about the struggle for the Supreme Court are very interesting.