August 31, 2014
A Brief Eulogy for Charles Bowden


I’m trying to think of something to say about my friend Chuck Bowden—in my opinion the greatest U.S. nonfiction writer of his generation—who died in his sleep yesterday afternoon.

I’ve already said some of it to The Arizona Republic and to my friend Michael Kiefer, whose articles can be read by clicking on the links, and I said a little bit in a column I wrote in 1997, when I first met Bowden. So I guess all that’s left to say is personal.

Bowden was the biggest influence on how I write nonfiction. Along with that influence, he was a breathtakingly kind, supportive friend and mentor. He recommended me to the editors of national magazines, and, sometimes, when he was offered work he didn’t have the time or inclination to do, he would ask me if I was interested. He was just as supportive of many other writers, even though he stated that writers were “worthless scum,” including himself.

He took friendship as seriously as his writing, with equal artistry and attention to detail; he was a fine cook, and when I was coming for dinner he would ask me in advance what he had cooked the last time I had visited, so he could do something different this time. Reading his books probably made me a better writer, and his friendship certainly made me a better man.

He declared:

I speak for the mongrel, the mestizo, the half-breed, the bastard, the alley-cat, the cur, the hybrid, the mule, the whore, the unforeseen strain that pounds against all the safe and disgusting doors. I speak for vitality, rough edges, torn fences, broken walls, wild rivers, sweat-soaked sheets. Who would want a world left mumbling to itself, a perfect garden with the dreaded outside, the fabled Other held at bay and the neat rows of cultures and genes safe behind some hedgerow?

Bowden risked his life to give voice to the voiceless. He said things no one else did, and he said them better than anyone else could. He was as much a prophet as a reporter, and his death is a loss to all who know the importance of bearing witness.

April 2, 2014
Bearing witness

"In America we love to kill people. Sometimes it is legal, more often it is not. But, legal or not, the killing is steady. Sometimes it is in self-defense, sometimes it is in a frenzy of rage or fear, and sometimes it is premeditated, planned for hours and days and months in advance.  

I’ve watched two killings.  I’ve looked in the men’s faces as they died. And many of the other killings happen near me.”

March 29, 2014

'She looked straight at him, but her face showed nothing. “Listen to me,” she said. “I think you’re going to get your parole. So, you better hear this: keep away from me. Stay out of my way. If I see you anywhere, even by accident, I’ll shoot you in the face.”

Frank kept looking at her but he didn’t say anything. So pretty. Then a lawyer went and said something to Laura, and Frank was led away.As Laura walked out of the prison, the Attorney General’s flunky said, “Laura, I understand how you feel… but you can’t just threaten someone…”

“I just did, so obviously I can. What you mean is you don’t want me to. They’re not the same thing.”’

March 26, 2014
Where the law is no law

"A romantic might have said that, when the sun went down, Death prowled the dark and arid streets of Phoenix, searching for people to take. But the truth was something worse: the streets were abandoned, left to themselves. No one controlled them, not Death, not the politicians, not the cops. On the streets at night, you were alone. Anything could happen to you and no one would save you."

February 23, 2014
Here’s what George Takei says about the latest insanity from Arizona. I spent a total of 12 years in Phoenix, and, though I’m from Scotland, I consider it the first home I ever had… and I’m so glad I don’t live there anymore.

Here’s what George Takei says about the latest insanity from Arizona. I spent a total of 12 years in Phoenix, and, though I’m from Scotland, I consider it the first home I ever had… and I’m so glad I don’t live there anymore.

January 26, 2014
Arizona bill allows businesses to discriminate against unmarried women, non-Christians


Republican state Sen. Steve Yarbrough has said that he introduced Senate Bill 1062 because a “modest clarification” was needed in the state’s religious-freedom law, according to The Arizona Republic.

Among other things, the bill would expand those protected by the religious-freedom law for religious assemblies and institutions to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.”

The conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy has been pushing the measure as a way to protect photographers and bakers from having to provide services for same-sex weddings, which are not even legal in Arizona.

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January 22, 2014
Sheriff Joe Arpaio might be next AZ Governor - if Steven Seagal isn't

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse in Arizona - Arpaio is threatening to run for Governor.

This has been feared since 1997, but this is the first time he’s announced it, though he told me in 2000 that he thought he’d make a good governor. Back then, he also said, talking about his age, “I’m getting up there.”

In those days, he seemed to enjoy the rumor, and admitted privately that he didn’t intend to run for Governor. I think he just liked scaring Governors Jane Hull and Janet Napolitano, reminding them of the power he had over them. So, this announcement makes it seem likely that he’s serious about doing it. If he runs, he’ll almost certainly win.

Recently, Steven Seagal also declared his interest in running for the same office, and he’s been nationally ridiculed for it. Those doing the mocking clearly don’t understand Arizona; I think Seagal has a solid chance of winning. I don’t know which of the two would be worse.

December 16, 2013
Dark Heat: the perfect Christmas present for anyone who likes graphic novels and macabre sex and murder

September 13, 2013
James Johnson, a.k.a. J.J. Johnson, Jameson Johnson and Jimmy Carroll Johnson, is not an ex-cop or ex-rescue swimmer - but he’s still an ex-armed robber


"J.J.Johnson’s" OK Cupid photo - does the T-shirt mean another new name is imminent?


The fascinating thing about convicted armed robber Jimmy Carroll Johnson, later known as Jameson Johnson and, most recently, J.J. Johnson, is his mix of intelligence and stupidity - or perhaps insanity.

If you had gone to a new city to reinvent yourself and leave a criminal past behind, would you constantly call attention to yourself by becoming a public figure and telling absurd, Walter Mitty-esque stories about yourself that cast you as a hybrid of James Bond and the hero of Die Hard? Johnson can’t seem to stop himself.

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May 6, 2013

Anonymous said: I think you are extremely insensitive about the subject of Gabrielle Giffords. She is so much more than just a survivor of a bullet. She is dedicated, hard-working, and a fighter in every way. You do not know her.

There is a difference between the public and the private self, and with Giffords - whom you’re correct in saying that I don’t know personally - I comment on the public self. She may be hard-working and dedicated, but what she has worked hard at and shown herself to be dedicated to is conservative, pandering, racist politicking.

 Her objection to SB 1070 was not that it was racist, but that it was impractical. She cheered the deployment of the National Guard to the border, to combat a problem that does not exist. Even though her being shot has been cited as an example of why guns ought to be banned, she herself supports gun rights.

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