Friday, May 30, 2008

Gone With The Wind

from Jacqueline

My parents have been here for almost four weeks, staying with my brother who lives about five minutes walk from my house, which makes it easy for them to walk back and forth, dinner with me one night, then back to him the next. There’s always that easy time after you’ve had a meal (OK, last night it was mushroom omelette, sausage and chips, because we’d been out all day and I was running out of original ideas), when you sit back and talk, and I’ve found that as we all get older, that talk is increasingly about the past.

As soon as my parents arrive, I know I need to have a very large pile of books ready for my mother, who inhales novels, reading at least one a day. When she’s worked her way through my bookshelves, she goes off to the local library and buys from the sale shelves for a couple of bucks a book, then takes them all back to the library before she goes home. Last weekend she bought a copy of Gone With The Wind, because she wanted to read it again. And after dinner last night, we started talking about the famous book, about the Civil War and on and on, dipping and diving over new threads of story as they came up, like porpoises flying in and out of the waves. Then mum told me the story of when she went to see the movie, in her teens. It was in the middle of the Blitz, and she had saved up to go to the pictures (what Brits call going to the movies), taking her seat with a blanket to keep her warm, and a hot water bottle to make sure. Part way through the film, it was stopped to announce the air-raid warning, and the manager said that the film would continue to play, but if people wanted to leave to go down to the air-raid shelters, then they should go now. Mum said there was no way she was going to leave that picture house, snuggled up in her blanket and cuddling the hot-water bottle to her. She said she remembered hearing the bombs raining down outside, and hoping the they wouldn’t be hit until after the film finished. When she came out it was to a very different landscape indeed – probably not unlike the film she’d just seen.

My mother has lots of stories about the second world war, most of them from the perspective of a child (she was not quite twelve when the war began) and as young woman, and she remembered so much, probably because it was seared into her memory. And it could be that, because of those stories, and knowing the legacy of that experience in one person to whom I am very close, I have always been more than a little interested in the impact of wars on children, whether they were evacuees in Britain in 1939, orphans in Romania in the late 1980’s, or child-soldiers in Africa. War always seems to be particularly ruthless in its impact on children. And because I’m writing a book about a child in a time of war, I did not hesitate when I came across a book called, “War Child: Children Caught In Conflict,” by Martin Parsons.

Now, I’ve often said that a book bought for “research” purposes is worth every penny spent even if I get only one small nugget of insight, one tiny little fact to weave into story, one thought, one image to help me bring life to characters and color to scenes. I already understood so much about the evacuees’ experience from my mother’s stories, so there wasn’t much there that was new in that section, however, there was one snippet of insight from Parsons that had me thinking for days – and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. By the way, I should add that Dr. Martin Parsons is the director of the new International Research Center for Evacuee and War Child Studies at the University of Reading in England, and has a string of affiliations that speak to his passion and involvement in issues involving the children of war, In his book, Parsons says that it takes three generations for the effects of war to work their way out of the family system (so multiply that by the community, the region, the country). And that set me to thinking.

I was quite young, probably five years old, when I began listening intently to my mother’s stories, even if she told the same ones time and time again. As I grew older, more detail was added, and I knew it was because I was considered mature enough to understand. At first, the whole evacuation experience sounded like a day out at the seaside, then later I came to ache when I thought of the terror of four sisters (my mother was evacuated along with her younger siblings) billeted to the home of a man we would today call a pedophile, and how it must have felt to be her, fighting to remain awake at night so that she could protect her sisters if necessary. To accomplish this feat, she bought dressmaking pins that she wove through her pajamas - she thought that if the man put his hands in the bed, he would soon take them out again, and the pins would wake her if she stirred when he came into the room. I thought of my uncle, who was seven when he ran away from his billet, because he missed his mother, and was sent to a reformatory for three months because he stole a bottle of milk when he was hungry on his long walk back to London. And I think of my mother, wrapped up in her blanket, watching Gone With The Wind.

The thing is that I was terrified when I went to bed at night. We lived just a few miles away from a small airfield, and sometimes at night you would hear, in the distance, the sound of an old ‘plane coming closer. And when I heard that whining rumble of the aircraft approaching, I would begin to sweat with fear, because I thought it might be bombers coming over, and I would hide under my bed until morning, when I was always surprised to be alive. The war had been over for more than twenty years by then.

My mother lives with other legacies from that war, and I cannot say I haven’t been impacted by it – not in a big way, but enough to understand Parsons’ “three generations” claim. And while on my book tour, I managed to meet up with my aunt in Canada, and we began to talk about her experiences in the war – she was the youngest of the girls and the one my mother feared for the most. My aunt told me that she had felt like an orphan for the first ten years of her life, because she was but four when she was sent away, and ten when she came home – and her memories prior to being sent away were fuzzy at best.

And in the way that events dovetail, I rented “Charlie Wilson’s War” last week – I’d missed it when it came into the theatres. There was that scene, close to the end, when Charlie – having accomplished the feat of directing billions of dollars to fight a covert war against the Russians in Afghanistan – was asking for just one million dollars to build schools in a war-torn country, because he knew the tormented minds needed direction, needed to see a different future. Of course, he was turned down.

We’ve all read reports of the impact of conflict on children – indeed children are used worldwide in war propaganda - and we know that the ills of childhood don’t easily go away in adulthood. Fortunately, there are people trying to help in war-torn areas, whether as individuals or as a part of a wider organization.

Here are the closing words of Parson’s book, quoted from Dr. Peter Heinl, the world’s leading expert on war-related trauma in children:

“... sadly there is no end in sight for wars on this planet. The childhood sufferers of today will be the suffering adults of tomorrow. Peace stands by helplessly. There is one conclusion, which can be drawn firmly with respect to children in war time, be it victory or defeat: children tend to be the great losers overlooked by history.”

For my humble part, I am going to find some small way in which I can help change this situation. It may be just a donation to the right organization, a school, perhaps. Children shouldn’t be scared of bombs in the night and of predators coming to their doors as they sleep.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not My Miami

James O. Born

Last Thursday I attended an event in Miami about eighty-five miles from my house. The lovely Lissette Mendez of the Florida Center for the Literary Arts set up The Noir Side of the Sun: Crimes, Mysteries and Thrillers, Miami Style and held it at an interesting and sort’ve Noirish little restaurant named Soya e Pomodoro right in the heart of downtown Miami on 1st.

I visit Miami from time to time, usually for the Miami Book Fair, but haven’t been downtown on a weekday in several years. Despite hanging out with fellow event participant and Naked Author, Paul Levine, the visit made me feel kind of old. I can see why my dad would sigh as West Palm Beach built up. Miami, while always a big city has changed character on me. It’s much nicer downtown. There are trendy spots in the city springing up. And no one is robbing or shooting the tourists. This is not the tough, beautiful, crazy town I used to love. It has gentrified and frankly, I don’t like it as much.

I walked downtown with friends and didn’t feel the usual concern I used to. I saw no fights, heard no gunfire and not one cop was rude to us. What the hell? We walked into a resturant and patrons were speaking English. Why not visit freaking Kansas or Colorado? I want to hear English I'll speak to Jackie Winspear. What happened to the Miami I loved for so long?

As a young DEA agent and even a few assignments with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) I saw the streets of the city from a different angle. I chased people committing crime both on foot and in a car. I knew alleyways and which way one way streets ran. I tingled with excitement at the thought to going to Miami. Now it feels a little like Disney World or the new Times Square (The one without topless bars and prostitutes), a little sterile and false without a sense of adventure.

Thankfully Paul Levine, long time Prince of Miami, had a similar feeling in that we got lost on one ways streets and had problems navigating construction sites. Can you imagine; construction in Miami.

I enjoyed hearing the other writers at the event like Edna Buchanan, Lynne Barrett, Vicki Hendricks (who has the best photo on her website which I posted here), New Times reporter Bob Norman and former Florida MWA President Bob Williamson. I had a great time with Paul and some friends at Perricone’s after the event. But my ride home left me a little sad that something I had loved so much had changed. I’m sure many think it is a change for the better but I fear we’ve lost our edge by reining in Miami. It’s like a brawler who now only wants to box. Interesting for a while but without emotion.

Soon he becomes irrelevant.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Music to Noir By

What do the following have in common?

They had theme songs written by this guy:

His name was Earle H. Hagen. And he also made a tremendous contribution to the noir worldview, with this, an anthem titled "Harlem Nocturne":

I prefer the Flat Duo Jets version, but this was the best youtube had to offer.

Hagen also wrote incidental music and orchestration for the films Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Daddy Long Legs, Carousel, Nightmare Alley, and Kiss of Death, among many others.

He died this past Monday night, at age 88.

If you ever find yourself whistling the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show, think of him. He not only wrote the tune, he's the guy who whistled it on TV.

I'm going to keep an eye peeled for his 2002 autobiography, Memoir of a Famous Composer Nobody's Ever Heard Of.

In honor of Earle, tell us about a favorite TV theme song... or even a bit of incidental music you have fond memories of, from the small screen.

Mine is a little ditty that was sung during an episode of Alias Smith and Jones, an all-too-shortlived Western from the early Seventies, starring the died-way-too-young Pete Duel.

All I remember is that the lyrics were "that's why I do like I do..."

Still remember the melody, all these years later. Someday, I have to find a copy

It’s Déjà vu . . . all over again.

from James Grippando

It’s a hotly contested presidential election. In fact, the hottest ever. And it’s the first presidential election in which neither candidate is a white male. A white woman is facing off against a black man, and the race is neck and neck.

You’re thinking Hillary v. Obama, I’m sure. But you’re wrong.

We’re talking about Allison Leahy, former U.S. Attorney General, versus Lincoln Howe, African American war hero. It’s the 2000 election, and it’s the premise of my 1998 novel, The Abduction. Two weeks before the election, Lincoln Howe’s granddaughter is kidnapped. Each side claims the other is exploiting the tragedy and manipulating the investigation for political advantage. But as I explained to USA Today recently, that’s not the really interesting part.

What I love so much about The Abduction, my third novel, is the way some reviewers who absolutely loved the book couldn’t buy into the premise. “Readers will have to truly suspend disbelief to accept Grippando’s premise that this country is ready for a presidential election between a white woman and an African American man,” one reviewer wrote. Well, all I can say is what a difference 10 years makes!

I’m not saying that The Abduction will go down in history as one of the all-time great lawyer novels. But it’s fun to be on the front end of something as historical as this presidential race is.

And speaking of all-time great lawyer novels—hey, I’m filling in for Paul Levine, so this is an entirely appropriate topic—I was asked to give my two cents on this subject recently. People love lists, and it seems that I’m always being asked to list my favorite law-related novels or movies. This time it was movies, a subject I admittedly know even less about than novels, but thay doesn't stop me from chiming in. Here’s what I came up with. I know you’ll disagree, but that’s what makes lists fun. Here you go...

Lawyer Film that Inspired me Most:

A Man for All Seasons. It's the story of Sir Thomas Moore, who was tried for treason and beheaded after he refused on principle to sign an oath approving the marriage of King Henry VIII to Ann Boleyn. I saw the movie and read the play in high school, and it stuck with me throughout my career as a lawyer, especially early-on, when I was young and naïve and appalled to discover how many witnesses lied under oath. People complain that lawyers are always trying to trip them up with their clever questions, but in my experience witnesses too often had to be tricked into telling the truth. In my most cynical moments as a trial lawyer, I'd go back to Sir Thomas Moore and the sanctity of an oath. And now, as a writer, I never forget how important it is to be honest with my readers.

Low point for a Lawyer in Film.

Jurassic Park. Who is the first guy to be lunch for Steven Spielberg's dinosaurs? The lawyer, of course. And he gets it while hiding like a coward in an outhouse and sitting on the toilet. Audiences across the world cheered when it happened. Ouch.

High Point for a Lawyer In Film.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. 'Nuff said.

The Moment that Spoke to Me

Having been one of those young and idealistic lawyers who somehow found himself keeping track of his life in six-minute billing intervals, I couldn't have said it better than Tom Hanks did on the witness stand in Philadelphia: "What do I love the most about the law? It's that every now and again - not often, but occasionally - you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens."

I know that comes across as totally sappy as a printed word in an Internet blog, but Tom Hanks made it so believable.

The Book was so much better than the Movie

Bonfire of the Vanities. At one point in the trial, the screenplay (NOT the book) has Sherman McCoy's lover (Melanie Griffith) say under oath, "I'm a sucker for a soft. . ."

I've never heard the end of the sentence. That was the point at which I pulled out a Glock and shot the television.

The Movie was so much better than the Book

Maybe I'm biased, but when you find one of these, be sure to let me know.

Most unlikely film in my top ten.

Chicago. My eleven-year-old daughter is a dancer, and thanks to a tap-dancing Richard Gere, she now thinks lawyers are cool. Okay, so someday she’ll figure it out. But a kid can dream, can’t she?

Best Lawyer Film Ever

My Cousin Vinny. Stay with me on this. I can name four or five courtroom dramas that, depending on the day of the week, would be my "all-time favorite" lawyer movie. You would probably name the same ones. But I can name just one comedy that is always in my top five. Perhaps more than any other film in any category, My Cousin Vinny sets the standard in the
subgenre it created. It's absolutely great legal comedy-"two yoots, Your Honor"-and the courtroom scenes are better than most dramas. Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are unforgettable, and I know of no more entertaining trial judge in film than Fred Gwynn (Herman Munster) in his farewell performance.

There you have it. Paul will be back next week to set me straight.

James Grippando

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why you do what you do

Patty here…

On Friday, I went to the theatre to see A Chorus Line, a musical that burst onto the scene in 1975, eventually winning nine Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, and a Pulitzer. In 1985, it received a special Tony as the longest running show on Broadway.

For those who have never seen A Chorus Line, it takes place on a day in 1975 at an audition for dancers in a Broadway musical. A recent review in the Los Angeles Times tells how the idea was conceived.

In 1974 dancers Tony Stevens and Michon Peacock teamed with Broadway master Michael Bennett to interview a roomful of professional hoofers. The dancers were not kids but veterans. They spoke of bruised childhoods, sexual awakenings, endless rejection and their love for dance. James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante wove their words into a startlingly simple collage of monologue and movement, set during a Broadway audition for an obsessive director.

There’s a lot of great music and dancing in A Chorus Line, but the elephant in the room is the knowledge that talent alone doesn't always translate into a favorable outcome. Success can be random and many performers don't "make it" before their careers end in injury or defeat. Clawing your way to the top takes perseverance and well-honed survival skills, sort of like writing—and life.

In one scene, the director's disembodied voice reverberates in the empty theatre, grilling each of the dancers, digging deep to expose their inner-most pain. He asks this question of one woman: “What if today were the day you had to stop dancing. How would you feel?”

This is her plucky reply.

“What I Did for Love”
Composer Marvin Hamlisch/lyricist Edward Kleban

Kiss today goodbye,
The sweetness and the sorrow.
Wish me luck the same to you
But I can't regret
What I did for love,
What I did for love.
Look, my eyes are dry,
The gift was ours to borrow,
It's as if we always knew,
And I won't forget
What I did for love,
What I did for love.
Gone, love is never gone,
As we travel on,
Love's what we'll remember!
Kiss today goodbye,
And point me t'ward tomorrow.
We did what we had to do—
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for love.

Now replace the director's words—“stop dancing”—with “stop writing” or another word that kindles your passion. Listen to the lyrics again. Maybe I'm just a sucker for plucky, but the song made me feel just a hair emotional.

So, if today were the day you had to stop (supply your word here), how would you feel?

P.S. This Monday we in the U.S. observe Memorial Day, an official day of remembrance, honoring our fallen heroes. To all of our readers—wherever you live—who have lost friends and family members to war, I extend my heartfelt condolences.

Friday, May 23, 2008

To Everyone I Have Ever Met In My Entire Life.

from Jacqueline

I’ve a confession to make. Before I begin reading a book, I go straight to the “Acknowledgements” page. I love those pages because, more than a biography, more than anything else I find out about an author, that page intrigues me, helps me to build up a picture of the person behind the writer. And I like knowing who writers really are, outside their books. I feel more than a little shortchanged if the only acknowledgment is a short thank you to the editor.

There are writers who have penned particularly good acknowledgements. I remember in one of her books, Susan Isaacs thanked the local chief of police, the fire chief, the Rabbi and several lawyers – a raft of insider knowledge was represented in this list of thanks. Then she wrote (and I am paraphrasing here), “Where their fact doesn’t fit my fiction, I have jettisoned the fact!” That’s my kind of writer. In that one sentence, she acknowledged that we are storytellers, and that any research we do, no matter how painstaking, is there to support the story we’ve created – otherwise we’d all be writing narrative non-fiction.

I am often taken with the words people use in their acknowledgments. Long before I became a published author myself, I read a memoir where the author thanked her “wizard of an editor.” It had never occurred to me that an editor might be something akin to a wizard. Now I know better – wizard, seer, psychic (the better to see inside my mind) ... there’s a lot of things you could call an editor. Many years ago I worked in academic publishing, and in my role was also a “field editor.” Sounds important, and I suppose it was in a way – it meant that if we needed a new book on microprocessors, or some big breakthrough in physics, I was the one who found the academic with the credentials to write the book. When I’d sold the expert on the idea of writing a book for the company, the project was handed off to the editor – the real editor, who saw that book through every stage in the painful process to publication. Having brought a couple of crusty professors on board to write a book on software engineering (I know, that dates me, doesn’t it?), I handed the project over to the in-house editor, a studious type who should have been a professor himself. Imagine my surprise when, in their acknowledgements (where I received fleeting mention), they thanked that editor and waxed lyrical about the many pints of Tetley’s Ale consumed together as the book was knocked into shape. Who would have thought it? I had taken them for a "sherry in the staff common room" pair of chaps!

In one of his books, Garrison Keillor touched upon the more touchy-feely acknowledgment, the sort that begins – and this is my creation, not Mr. Keillor’s – “To Bunty, who cared, and to Russell, without whom both I, and this book, would be incomplete ...” You’ve read ‘em, I know you have.

I’m always curious about the authors who have connections in high places, or those who have friends with aristocratic roots. “Thanks must go to the Contessa Cecilia de Rothschild, for her unwavering support, and to Sir Marcus Cholmondeley, without whom this book might not have come to fruition.” I always envisage the author wafting into a palace in Cannes, holding a perfectly turned out manuscript in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, and saying, "Darling you're too kind - have a little gander at this for me."

Acknowledgements can cause as much trouble as the dedication – ah, the dedication, subject of another post completely. One of my friends failed to mention a man he considered to be a friend, who had completely ignored the manuscript he’d been sent, and had never offered comments or any response regarding this all-important (to my friend, the author) first novel. When the book was published to critical acclaim, the unacknowledged one became rather stroppy with my friend when his name did not appear on the acknowledgements page. They haven’t spoken since.

I’ve tried to keep everyone happy in my acknowledgements. I’ve thanked everyone who offered advice or information. I’ve drawn attention to my wizards, saints and seers, and I have made sure the people close to me are mentioned, especially considering the times they’ve had to put up with the odd pre-deadine, “No one will ever want to read this load of c**p,” as I fling myself onto my manuscript-strewn desk, my head in my hands. Ah, thanks must go to John, who cared - enough to say, "Come on, Love, you say that about every book."

In the grand scheme of things, the “Acknowledgments” page is a new phenomenon. There was an era of literary endeavor when the only time you would include an acknowledgements page, was if you had written a non-fiction book and needed to thank your sources. You never heard of Jane Austen acknowledging anyone – she was too busy ripping them to shreds in her stories. I can’t imagine Ernest Hemingway acknowledging, or F. Scott Fitzgerald (“Thank you to Zelda, who poured ...” ).

So, what do you think about all the acknowledging, and what does it say about what we write today, or how we want to be seen, as writers?

And in closing, to my fellow Naked Authors, and to our faithful readers – thank you for caring, for being there, for your wizardry with rhetoric, your insightful commentary and for laughing, crying, and just being with us. Thanks must forever go to ... you.

Have a lovely long weekend!

PS: One of my personal favorites among acknowledgments was not taken from a book. Remember Kim Basinger when she received her Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role? She got up there, bless her, smile plastered across her face, and said, “I want to thank everyone I have ever met in my entire life.” Can’t say fairer than that, eh?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Wrier's Writer

James O. Born
This last Saturday I attended the Mystery Writer’s of America (MWA) monthly luncheon. As a member of the board of directors I feel obligated to attend as many meetings as possible and greatly enjoy chatting with the other members. I like the interaction so much that I often hate to have the speaker take up so much time. Like any organized group that meets regularly it is difficult to find a steady stream of interesting speakers that draw in a good crowd.

Some of my lack of interest in certain speakers comes from my career as a cop. It’s hard to sit thorough an hour talk on interviewing when that’s what I do for a living. Or hear a representative from some agency talk about a case that I know and have to keep from rolling my eyes at the over dramatization of a relatively simple case.

But this last Saturday was not like that. The MWA did a great job of landing a speaker who offers great advice, draws a crowd and is a great writer. We hosted the legendary Michael Connelly at the Florida chapter of the MWA and, as I suspected, he held the crowd’s attention, offered invaluable advice and made me proud to be a member of such a venerable organization.

I’m a huge fan of Mr. Connelly’s and feel that, along with Joseph Wambaugh, writes the best crime novels set in Los Angeles. I often cite his novel Echo Park as the best police drama I have ever read. Aside from all that he has not let success go to his head. He is a sincerely sincere guy, and that’s the only way to put it.

He talked about the process of writing, the effort he puts into writing and advice from a diverse source of authors. It was such a nice change from the seemingly never-ending lectures of promotion and publicity. Connelly recognizes that most people really need to work on the craft of writing before they worry about PR.

Some of the great bits of advice included:

Work at least 15 minutes on your novel every day, seven days a week.
Harry Crews

Think about what the bad guy is doing while writing about the good guy.
Stephen Cannell

Make sure that on every page everybody wants something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr

The best advice is from Connelly himself. He advises writer’s to get out and see the world. He believes you can't attain any form of realism unless you spend time talking with cops, seeing different parts of the city and generally not trying to write a novel based on what you know from watching TV.

I felt lucky to attend this weekend’s MWA meeting because of Connelly. I even signed a few copies of his new anthology, The Blue Religion, to which I contributed a story.

What writer do you feel is a good speaker? Is there someone who would convince you to attend a luncheon?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Writer Mojo: Ten Things to Remember

By Cornelia Read

1. Many people will try to give you advice about the writing life. Some of them are idiots.

This guy manages to put most of the stupidest writing advice I've heard over the years into a single schmaltzy performance. If you hear anybody spouting off about this stuff in a similar vein, RUN, because the person advising you is an idiot.

2. It's good to have a plan for promoting your book. Before it comes out in paperback.

3. If you win an award, be gracious. (If you DON'T win an award, be even more gracious.)

4. It can be a good idea to have a distinctive signature, but if you have a lot of people standing in line with your books, there is such a thing as too much (do yourself a favor and don't watch this until the end. The guy takes forEVER).

5. Signing books can be like signing yearbooks, back in middle school. When in doubt about how to personalize something, a good general fallback phrase is always, "Have a Bitchen Summer."

6. Buy a Mac.

7. There's an unspoken writing etiquette about what to do when you finish a book signing. Here is Todd Snider's breakdown of the practice:

8. Consider writing endorsements:

9. Accurate rendition of dialect is very important, if you're going to use it at all:

10. Don't forget to swear, early and often:

11. (bonus!) And last of all, if you're not sure you can pull something off without embarrassing yourself, try anyway. Better yet, ask for help. It's amazing what can come out of group risk:

Please share the best piece of advice you've ever gotten, especially if it's about writing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This Will Be Quick

By Paul

This is for the youngsters, and I don't want to tax their attention spans.

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz delivered this tidbit for the post-Gutenberg age:

"A recent National Endowment for the Arts report, 'To Read or Not to Read,' found that 15-24 year-old spend an average of seven minutes reading on weekdays; people between 35 and 44 spend 12 minutes; and people 65 and older spend close to an hour."

I know that every generation believes that the young'uns are harbingers of the Apocalypse. Finally, it's true!

Okay, I'm old. Apparently not old enough to read an hour a day, but still...old. I believe, along with John D. MacDonald, that "the person who does not read has no advantage over the person who cannot."

And before I forget, which happens a lot to old people, I don't think the Los Angeles Public Library should spend its diminishing dollars on DVD's of "Meet the Fockers" or any other Hollywood picture. In fact, I think those responsible for making "Fockers" should be horsewhipped in the public square.

For those of you not My Spacing or You Tubing, what do you think?


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unnecessary Stuff Cluttering Up My Life

Patty here…

I have too many things--things I don’t need and often don’t even want--but once they’re in my possession, that’s where they seem to stay.

Here are a few examples I found in a bureau drawer.

I can’t remember when or why I bought that combination lock. I only know I haven’t used it in at least 15 years. At least I had the presence of mind to write down the combination.

I once dated a guy who brought me something red each time he took me out on a date. Inside that red heart is a candle. The wooden box also contains a red heart. I thought he had potential until he gave me a red dishtowel. Gong!

Those sunglasses are so vintage they’re probably back in style.

The round item with the embroidered flowers is a sachet my grandmother gave me in a birthday card. The scent is long gone but I still keep it. Guess where it was made. Nope. Switzerland.

And why do I keep a holder for a cell phone I don’t have anymore?

I bought this hors d’oervres kit from Martha Stewart’s catalog back in the day. I wrote about it in my second book Cover Your Assets, because Tucker has one, too. You can tell by the dust on the cover and the packing paper that neither one of us ever used it.

I have oodles of kitchen gadgets. I’m not even sure what some of these things are or why I bought them. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Some items I use occasionally, like the cherry pitter and the shrimp deveiner. The green thingie takes the papery layer off a clove of garlic. I use it at least once a year, but I'm not sure that justifies keeping it.

For those of you who have one of these... you actually use it enough to justify the space it takes up in your kitchen?

Then there’s the unnecessary stuff hanging in my closet, and the scrapbooking supplies I no longer have time to use, and the books I’ve read and will never read again, and my college essays that are so brilliant I can’t bear to part with them, and the 40 million gift-with-purchase lipsticks that I will never wear because name one person who looks good in any shade of magenta.

And those unnecessary tools in the garage and the garden shed? Don’t even get me started.

So, do you have any unnecessary stuff in your life that you can’t seem to part with?

Happy Sunday and Monday, too!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Make Me Laugh, Clown!

James O. Born
Humor. It’s important to me. I like to read it, see it, hear and find it in unusual places. I even tried to put the often crude humor of cops into my books. My friends provide a lot of humor, that’s one of the reasons they’re my friends. We share a certain way of looking at things that make us laugh.

I have a few examples today to help you realize that men never outgrow a juvenile sense of humor. I’m not saying the contributors are juvenile or immature. I’m just saying that I am.

First and two of my favorites come from blogger, writer and all around good guy Paul Guyot.

It should be noted that Mr. Guyot’s entry in the Blue Religion anthology, What a Wonderful World, about a St. Louis cop, has been universally pointed out as excellent and I concur.

When it comes to photos, Mr. Guyot is like a ninja. The best I could find is from David Montgomery's excellent blog Crime Ficion Dossier.
From left to right: Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child (tall guy in back), Paul Guyot, David Montgomery (with the mellon-sized head) and I don't know the pretty woman on the far right. (Don't tell Barry Eisler I said that becuase he can break my arms).

Hoping to remain slightly more anonymous is a woman I work with, named Lisa, who has a classic cop sense of humor. Unfortunately much of what she sends me is not appropriate for human viewing. She got me with this one last week. Under the guise of an “officer safety” announcement, I clicked on the PowerPoint slide and got a flashing message: "Downloading Porn" and a loud alarm sounds from your computer.

Here's the slide if you'd like to download it.

She also sent me this photo: Having to do with different ways to reprimand children.

Jeff Shelby is probably the only one immature enough to make me laugh at almost everything he sends me. I’ve already posted his Youtube find of the Pilipino prison dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Even CNN showcased the short clip this week.
He also sent me this photo that shows he should be a cop because he can recognize a douche bag as quickly as anyone.
These are two more that Shelby sent me that just make me laugh.

Thanks for posting your bad reviews last week. That was a lot of fun.

Any examples of humor now are greatly appreciated. Let’s have them. Make me laugh, clown.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Things I'm Glad I Didn't Get for Mother's Day

By Cornelia Read


Because my feets too big.

Double ewwwwwwwww.

Tickets to this.

Because a clothed garden gnome isn't tacky enough... when you want to send the very best.

And, bad sweaters, generally:

Not to mention a hand-knit iPod, which is sort of like a REALLY bad sweater:

Useless ugly hats:

Words me fail.

Cheesy figurines:

Because the only good Hummel is a dead Hummel.

Because there is such a thing as TOO MUCH DUCKIE!

No comment. I'll stick to Levis.

See "too much duckie," and add "too much bling."

Ugly shoes.

Even uglier jewelry.

Did I mention sweaters? Please, somebody, give this woman some Prozac.

Action figures:

"Tape this, suckers..."

"We're just friends..."
Chianti not included.
The Hare Krishna Zombie: redundant?

"Say hello to my little friend..."

Freddie Mercury. Seriously.

Just...... noooooooooooooooooo.

Here is what I did get:

And a very sweet phone call from New Hampshire.

Here is what I'd like next year:

What's the worst present you've ever received?