Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Awesome Story...

I just picked up a copy of the latest Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine because Ken Bruen's name is on the cover. I have no doubt Bruen's story will be remarkable, but I started by reading the Department of First Stories entry. The story is The Alphabet Workbook by Mehnaz Turner. It is three pages long and, I have to say, it is one of the best crime shorts I've ever read, and I include my own stories in that estimation... I can't say too much. It is, after all, only three pages, but I'll say this - the ending is subtle, but, I think, devastating. And just think of what it takes to go from the first words to devastating in three pages.

Turner writes poetry, but I do very much hope she'll produce more crime stories. Crime fiction needs her.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The women of Viagra

Okay, here's something silly but it comes to mind every time I see one of those commercials on TV. Of course, for the man, it has to be not the greatest acting gig in the world: Face the camera and tell the world your equipment ain't right. It's got to be a tricky job to do that while still managing to look virile (albeit in an artificially enhanced sort of way).

But then it's got to be more difficult ( I almost wrote "harder") to be the woman in the commercial. The one who's peeling potatoes when her rejuvenated husband accidentally touches her hand... I mean, what's the look on her face supposed to convey? "I'm gonna get me some"? Or "this better not go on for four hours like last time" Or "Jeez, right in the middle of preparing dinner?" She's got to smile, but not too much. Too much and she looks sex crazed. Not enough of a smile and she looks like she's being coerced.

Frankly, though I can't see why Madison Avenue hasn't gone the way of the sex-crazed smile, most of these women smile as though they were being taken by the hand to play a nice, relaxing game of Parchesi*.

Of course, now that I think about it, if they did show the sex-crazed smile on the women, they risk making their potential customers feel even more pressure about the whole thing. "What if my significant other doesn't smile like that?" It's enough to counteract the effects of the drug...

* I've never played the game myself, but I know people who have, and that's how they smile.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup Musings

Yes, I watch the World Cup. I root for underdogs and the USA. Granted, that's often the same thing. Makes rooting easier. And the offsides rule seems designed to be despiriting. "GOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!! Oh. Sorry." And it is so much better watching soccer on the spanish channels - the commentators seem to know what they're talking about and they find a lot to talk about. The English-speaking commentators seem to be at a golfing event. And they talk about those vuvuzuelas a lot.

But why watch the World Cup when I don't normally watch soccer? Well, the stakes, of course. They don't get any higher. Not even at the Olympics. They add drama to the games. There was an Italian player sobbing on the field when his team lost and got eliminated in the first round (if I heard correctly, this was the first Italian team so eliminated in the history of the World Cup). You don't see that in a regular game. And is Ghana the first African team to make it to round two? I think so. Just imagine the pride. To represent an entire nation and battle through where great soccer nations like Italy and France have fallen.

At the start of every Olympics I have something like this same thought - I don't like to fail. In a sense it would gall me to enter a competition where I knew I had no chance of winning or even doing well. But at every parade of nations I see crowds of people smiling, waving their flags, wearing their nation's uniform, proud almost to bursting though they know the games will be short for them and they'll be headed home empty-handed. That it means so much to so many that they're willing to sacrifice their egos for nation-pride. That's something else. And you get that at the World Cup.

So in a few days when the US plays Ghana in a loser-go-home scenario, I'll be rooting for both. Who knows? Maybe they'll win...

Monday, June 21, 2010


Joran van der Sloot retracts his confession in the murder of Stephany Flores. He says the police tricked him, telling him they'd let him go to home to the Netherlands if only he'd confess to killing the Peruvian national. Since Joran has been lying about the Holloway case saying "I killed her" "No, I didn't" "Yes, I did." etc, it's hard to say I didn't already know he was going to lie. I think I knew it before he did.

The real question is only whether he's crazy or crazy like a fox. I mean the lies seem to have helped him in the Holloway case (though not as much as the lack of a body). Maybe he's setting up an insanity defense? Or hoping to confuse Peruvian authorities somehow? Or does he think that if he lies enough times, as many as in the Holloway case or more, maybe the body of Stephany Flores will disappear as well?

And what's society supposed to do with this young man anyway? His confession is worthless, I think. And any talk of remorse, if that ever comes, will be equally pointless. Who would believe him and why? Assume he's in jail for twenty years. Most likely, he won't be rehabilitated though there's a chance that the next twenty years will bring about some new drug or therapy for psychopaths... So what happens when he gets out? The good thing? As a man in his forties or fifties, he'll be less likely to attract young women and hopefully women his age will remember him and stay away. Far away. And maybe that's the van der Sloot solution - solitary confinement. If he ever gets out, let everyone turn away from him and let his lying voice fall on the ear like a mosquito buzz forever.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Immigration (Political, but fairly short and full of common sense)

Since I'm Hispanic, I've gotten asked a couple of times about Arizona's new law. Of course, I would not visit Arizona until they show how they're going to card people without racial profiling. I don't see how they can do it. And since I'm a natural born American if I'm asked for papers, well, I don't have any. My dad's a natural born American citizen with a thick accent, dark skin, and a Spanish last name. How would he prove he's an American? And since he's an American, why should he have to prove it?

What I wanted to mention, however, wasn't actually about the new law. I don't think it will stand up against court challenges because of the racial profiling thing. We'll see.

What I wanted to point out is the insincere nature of one argument often heard - "immigrants aren't coming to the USA because they love it. They're coming here for the money. They should go back to their own countries and fix them."

True. But always true. Not a single immigrant in the history of US immigration has ever come to America to leave behind a better life just because they love the USA. Not one. If your grandpa left Ireland or Italy or China or Mexico, they did so because they wanted a better life. In every instance, they could have stayed in their homeland and made it better. They didn't. The Irish could have stayed. The Italians could have improved their own land, so could the Chinese. They made the financially smart decision, turned their backs on their homelands, and travelled here with hopes that they'd be better off.

Of course, I could be wrong. Just point to the one immigrant who left behind riches in their homeland just because they loved the USA...

On the other hand, many African immigrants were brought to the US against their will...

Saturday, June 05, 2010


So I've been watching this BBC show I got through Netflix. The premise is simple enough - we follow a group of people who have survived a fast spreading global epidemic. 99.9% of the world's population is dead in less than a week. Those who are left are to foraging in the wilds or shifting about through what's left in the cities. Of course, we want to know how it all got started and how will our little group survive.

The group is made of misfits so of course there'll be drama, but...

The real fun of a show like this (or any of the survival stories - Robinson Crusoe, Castaway, Survivor, Gilligan's Island etc) is to see whether the cast goes about things in the way I would. Security, food, water, medicine, shelter (maybe not in that exact order). If they depart from the things I would do, there needs to be a good reason.

The problem so far is that these people can't get their act together - especially, they can't seem to be bothered about providing for their security - they get attacked by guys with guns, they get their food stolen, people from the group get kidnapped, but nobody in the group seems to want to arm themselves. Except for the murderer... He gets a shotgun.

Now I know England isn't wallowing in guns like the US is. If 99.9% of my neighbors died tomorrow, I don't doubt I could go into empty houses and find a dozen long guns in an afternoon. I live in the suburbs - nice neighborhood. Not that many hunters, but enough of them. And of course, every police precinct (there's one a mile away) has a stockpile of guns. My entire town being reduced to about 9 people means there's probably about 1,000 guns per person. That's enough, isn't it?

In any event, my quibble isn't with the lack of guns so much as with the lack of practical security measures on the show. I mean these people haven't even thought of carrying a sharp stick with them. In fact, one young lady saved the life of the shotgun wielding murderer by brandishing his shotgun at an attacker. Then she told him she never wants to see the gun again. They make her sick for some reason. She would, in fact, prefer to live in a world where only the truly evil people have guns.

Now I'm no gun fanatic. I don't have a gun. Never have. I think the NRA goes a bit far in securing gun rights. But in a world where there are no police, no army, no government and the bad guys do, in fact have guns, well, I think it's reasonable to want to be armed myself. Even if I had no family to think of, I still wouldn't want to become the sex slave of some very desperate man with a gun.*

Otherwise, the show is very good.

* I imagine myself weeping as I'm forced to asked over and over "is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" as a toothless Ernest Borgnine smiles and says "BOTH! Now suck it!"