In a recent Texas Observer (no relation to the Dallas Observer, to the relief of both sides), Dallas-based writer Rod Davis lamented that Texas is becoming a tough place to make a living as a serious writer. Rod said a lot of other important things about the "monopolistic tendencies of capitalism" and "esthetic quests for expressions of general truths and individual visions," but there weren't any pictures, and we kind of dozed off.

Still, we want to reassure Rod and other desperately important Texas writers that while outlets for serious writing may be hard to come by, there are still plenty of outlets for seriously bad writing.

Arlington's Summit Publishing, whose rabid books-are-bucks approach to publishing makes vanity presses look like bastions of great literature, has released a new book by Jeff Guinn. Guinn, associate book editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was already a Summit star with his Autobiography of Santa Claus. With his newest book, he moves up the publishing exploitation chain from the beloved Old Elf (sure bet for Christmas sales) to vampires (desperate lunge for Halloween sales).

Something in the Blood purports to be about real vampires--or at least people who were willing to tell Guinn and his helper, Andy Grieser, that they're vampires. Scary people like Liriel McMahon, a teen who read too much Anne Rice, wore black clothes, and sucked cuts on her finger many times. In the preface, the authors give fair warning about the shock value of their real vampires: "If you buy too much into the vampires of movies and modern best-selling novels, maybe you'll even be a little disappointed in some of them."

Take them at their word:A low-intensity Goosebumps book packs more wallop willieswise--and more compelling prose.

Still, the vampire authors warn that their research has left them frightened: "Now, in grocery stores or at baseball games, amid the car-pool moms at elementary schools and the downtown workers hurrying home before nightfall, anywhere people congregate, we can't help wondering: Which ones are vampires?"

We're scared stiff, too. But we can't help wondering: Which ones are hideously bad writers with a publishing connection?

Attack of the uberdogs
In its search for the highest-quality animals, the Dallas Police Department's canine unit has turned to Europe. The only problem is, the dogs don't speak English--forcing the handlers to learn commands in Dutch, German, and Czech.

For instance, knoze! means "sit" in Czech, and so brav means "good dog" in German.

Cute, but Buzz gets the feeling that this doggy Tower of Babel has all the makings of a colossal lawsuit. We are, after all, talking about large carnivores with an attitude and intelligence only slightly superior to that of Marty Griffin. They are trained to attack on command, if you get the command right.

Canine unit trainer Corporal Brian Varker told The Dallas Morning News that correct pronunciation of the foreign commands was no big deal: "As long as it's in the ballpark the dogs are usually OK with it."

"It gets complicated," Varker admits. "We'll have a situation that requires several dogs, and we're out there speaking four languages." Ha. Ha.

Buzz imagines it could get real "complicated" when an adrenaline-pumped cop is simultaneously giving commands in Dutch to an agitated German shepherd, and in Texan to a terrified suspect who--just maybe--understands only Spanish. Before you can say, Let me rephrase that in Pig Latin, something real unpleasant in a Cuisinart way could happen. Dogs are like that.

"The bad guys hear you speaking German [to the dogs] and it confuses them," Varker says. You better believe it, and Buzz bets it goes over real big around the synagogue, too.

As a public service, we're offering a couple of handy phrases in case you get on the wrong side of one of these Euromutts:

"Geben Sie mir mein Ohr zurYck!" which translates roughly to "Give me back my ear."

And, of course, the all important "Das ist kein Milkbone, Fritz, es ist doch mein Oberschenkelknochen!" In English, "That's no Milkbone, Bowser, that's my femur!"

No cats in the yard
Somebody at The Dallas Morning News is moving on up, as they say. Buzz couldn't help but notice editor and publisher Burl Osborne's home on the cover of the "Sunday's Homes" section.

Pandering to the real-estate crowd has its benefits: a full-color picture and 10 inches of text on Sunday.

It's obvious why Burl's moving. Though it's in the heart of Dallas at 7609 Southwestern, the house is your basic pretentious Plano special: two-story entry, milk-washed floors, pink and mauve "decorator" tones. Not architectural bad taste, just no taste.

Frankly, we were a bit disappointed. Burl makes about $500,000 a year (1995 figure) and holds upward of $2 million in A.H. Belo Corp. stock (to save space, in the future Buzz will simply refer to his income as "in the gazillions"). So we expected something seriously tasteless. As far as we can tell, the door knobs haven't even been lowered to suit the altitudinally challenged publishing powerhouse.

By the way, because the house has "upscale zero lot lines" (i.e no yard), there's much less chance the paperboy will lose your DMN.

--Glen Warchol

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Glen Warchol

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