Monday, May 18, 2009

Criminal Minds - the Anthrax Episode last week - SPOILERS -- And my soapbox question

This episode got on my nerves in a couple ways.

But first, I will say I liked the concept because let's face it - bioterrorism is a real threat. I liked that they made it homegrown. Because for one thing, I think people forget that is a real issue in this country as well.

but what irritated me the most was Reed is exposed. Okay. That is predictible but believeable. And that it progresses more quickly than regular anthrax, okay once again I can go with it. But when he got to the poitn of aphasia (sp??) it had affected his brain. Now, there is this mysterious antidote (there is no antidote to anthrax per se - just antibiotics). The army has developed an anthrax vaccine of questionable protection and even more questionable side effects (a proposed cause of gulf war syndrome by some scientists). Anyway, there is this miracle CURE and Reed is just fine. no brain damage. Okay that is stupid in my book. So thus the irritation.

Now the other irritant is something that extremely up for debate. The premise of the show is that the public should not know about the attack. That it would cause panic and therefore be bad. and worth risking lives (even family members lives) to protect the secret.

This is something I totally disagree with. I think we have a right to know what is happening, so we can take precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Also, I think that it could cause a panic (the media panic regarding swine flu is an example) but at least people can take precautions. Also, I think they underestimate people's strength.

They say in this episode if people knew how many attacks had been prevented since 9/11 they would be more afraid. I think that is total bullshit. I think if we knew, maybe we would feel SAFER because we could see that the government IS protecting us and doing their job and has the systems in place. Without the knowledge I feel like they are taking tax dollars and we are NO safer than before. So my opinion is we 1. have a right to know, and would 2. feel safer if we know.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Kindle? Ebooks in General

This is one thing I keep trying to get behind and just cant bring myself to do it. A lawyer in my office was asking my opinion yesterday. I mean, I personally like my physical books, there is a comfort in them. Ebooks in general are hard for me to bring myself to read. Sitting at the computer is hard on my back for one. It is just not as cozy as a big comfy chair or my bed with tons of pillows...

But I do read ebooks ocassionally on my phone/palm. But that is hard on the eyes. The Kindle would definitely improve that. Esp. the new one that is bigger. But here's the thing...I like the CONCEPT of the Kindle - music, books, magazines, newspapers etc... all in one place, instantly. But that said, you are are the mercy of their format. Not all ebooks you already have will work on a kindle. That is a problem. And you are at the mercy of amazon's price structure. Which admittedly is cheaper than hard copies of the books, but there is no competition so that kind of bothers me. So even if I were to have a kindle, likely I would still have to use other devices for other forms of ebooks from small presses etc...

Then of course, there is the price. ANd it keeps being changed so what happens when it is obsolete? Another electronic product to dispose of? Most electronic products contaminate the soil they are disposed in. Eventually in theory I would get my money back if I bought enough books but that would take a while

And then there is just the feel and smell and sensations of books. Not to mention inscriptions or autographs. I realize not everyone likes these things but I do. Heck, even in used books, it is sometimes fun to know it has been owned and enjoyed before. I like the idea of saving trees but I just dont want it at the loss of books. I just feel I am losing something if I were to go to a Kindle.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Agatha Awards 2008 - Presented 5-2-09

2008 Agatha Nominees
* denotes winner. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Best Novel:
Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews (Minotaur Books)
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Penguin Group)
* The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry (Random House)
I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel:
Through a Glass, Deadly by Sarah Atwell (Berkley Trade)
The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis (Penguin Group)
Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris (Minotaur Books)
* Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan (Midnight Ink)

Best Non-fiction:
African American Mystery Writers: A Historical & Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland & Co.)
* How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)
Anthony Boucher: A Biobibliography by Jeff Marks (McFarland & Co.)
Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Metro Books)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whitcher, or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Co.)

Best Short Story:
* "The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron, Wolfsbane & Mistletoe (Penguin Group)
"Killing Time" by Jane Cleland, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine - November 2008
"Dangerous Crossing" by Carla Coupe, Chesapeake Crimes 3 (Wildside Press)
"Skull & Cross-Examinations" by Toni L.P. Kelner, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - February 2008"
A Nice Old Guy" by Nancy Pickard, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - August 2008

Best Children's/Young Adult:
Into the Dark by Peter Abrahams (Harper Collins)
A Thief in the Theater (A Kit Mystery) by Sarah Masters Buckey (American Girl Publishers)
* The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Children's Books)
The Great Circus Train Robbery by Nancy Means Wright (Hilliard & Harris)

QUESTIONS? Contact Verena Rose at

The 2008 Agatha Awards will be given for materials first published in the United States by a living author during the calendar year 2008 (January 1-December 31), either in hardcover, as a paperback original, or e-published by an e-publishing firm.

The Agatha Awards honor the "traditional mystery." That is to say, books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie as well as others. For our purposes, the genre is loosely defined as mysteries that:
contain no explicit sex
contain no excessive gore or gratuitous violence
usually feature an amateur detective
take place in a confined setting and contain characters who know one another

Novels and stories featuring police officers and private detectives may qualify for the awards, but materials generally classified as "hard-boiled" are not appropriate.

Review American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)

Young Evelyn Nesbit was raised in poverty and brought to New York City by a really horrible mother who left her to become a millionaire's mistress and later another's wife. The decadence of the era where the young model and showgirl became the face of womanhood for her generation led to a tragedy and media circus.
This was an interesting book in many ways. It is a period of American history I know little about for one. Though I have heard of Stanford White and his architectural accomplishments, I had not heard of his proclivities for young showgirls or that he was murdered. The entire subculture was conveyed very well by the author and she definitely brought life to the players for me. At many times I was outraged or saddened by the events in Evelyn's life.
I found the story compelling and feel I learned something in the process. Recommend.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Malice Domestic Conference 2009/Economics

I will post several times on various aspects this week. I love the conference, this was my 4th year. But maybe the last for a while. It almost didn't happen. Not just for me, but for everyone. I didn't even decide to go until late due to the economy and after all, it is a big expense. But even the conference itself almost didn't make it for the same reason. The board ended up having to re-negotiate with the Hotel in order for it to go forward. The problem is, it will likely happen again next year.

I am not knocking the board, I AM knocking the Hotel to a degree. The basic problem is last year, the economy seemed fine so it appeared the attendance would be much higher than it turned out to be. By a LOT. The thing is, it caused a big brouhaha and the conference was almost canceled. Nobody was signing up. At almost $300, people DO consider it an extravagance. And you figure, many come from out of town. So there is the registration PLUS hotel (REDUCED rate $139/night -- of course an attendee was telling me that the person who checked in before them got it for $99/night so it appears the hotel COULD have gone lower but didnt). Okay so let's say three nights (THU, FRI, SAT) 153 (with tax) times 3 = 459, so that brings us to 760. Now, you have to add parking. $21/day. First I will say I have NEVER stayed at a hotel where the GUESTS paid for parking. Commuters yes but not those staying there. Even Marriotts - like the Marriott Key Bridge. But fine, they are trying to get their money back however they can. so add on 63 dollars. So now we are at 820 give or take. Now add airfare or gas for travel and you are likely over $1000. Then there is food for non conference meals (lunches etc) and drinks (8.50 for a glass of wine. 11.75 for a vodka tonic....). The number gets higher. Then assuming you want to buy anything from the dealers room (oh like books to get signed by the authors you have come to see....) even bigger totals.

So, what do you do? Not easy to say the least. But lower prices mean more people come. But if the hotel wont go lower, then less people do come, and then no malice...

And there was cost cutting. smaller rooms. reused tote bags. a very much diminished tea (no sandwiches or pastries and only one cup of tea). Those didnt bother me much except for the sandwiches. Their sandwiches were so good!

But then there were a lot less authors as well. Many of the ones I was used to seeing werent there. It was a shame. Mind you I DID enjoy seeing the ones that were there. But I have to wonder if this is a sign of things to come. At the cost of Malice, an author might very well go for two cheaper conferences. Time will tell. But it is something to really consider.

As for me, I will not register early because I might prefer the two cheaper con option next year...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Re Joyce by Anthony Burgess and analyzing literature

This book was suggested by my book of the day calendar. I thought, why not? I like Anthony burgess and have never read Joyce, this might inspire me. Well, I read over 125 pages and gave up. Oh, it was written well, but my God! The detail of analysis of each of Joyce's works was like the worst of High School and College English.

I mean, I understand the elements of a story like symbolism, metaphors, similies and what not are important in why people connect. But guess what? I dont care. And probably most people who are not English teachers or writers dont care either. Either they enjoy the story or they dont. They dont care why they enjoy it or not. They just are concerned about the experience itself. I also think this is why the majority of Americans never read a book again after graduation. They are not allowed to just enjoy brilliant stories. They have to pick them to pieces and worry about whether they are getting all the metaphors right or what not. Blah blah, it is work not fun.

I would have qualified for AP English in my High School but opted not to even try because I heard they analyzed tons of poetry to the extreme and it seemed horrible to me. And I lucked out because in my English class I did take, I was exposed to Childhood's End and Brave NEw World and the genre of SCIFI was opened for me. Yay! So, my teacher came to first period reeking of booze and marlboro reds. I was reading. And enjoying it. I answered questions on qiuizzes and tests that were mostly regarding plot points and character traits. It was fun. I finished books early took all the quizzes and then read the other selections for the unit (there were always 5 choices in a unit) read them and took those quizzes too. Not for credit but for fun. Well that and I had time to kill because the rest of the class were still reading their one book for the unit. But I remember that class fondly. The other English classes I took? Not so much...

Maybe teachers need to do BOTH instead of just anaylizing. Maybe they need to understand how offsetting it can be. I dont know, but I do know. I could not finish this book because the minutia (sp?) made me HATE it.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her)

Watched this wonderful movie last night. About two men and two comatose women, how their lives effect one another. The movie opens and closes with dance sequences and even has a very interesting silent mini movie in the middle of the movie. This won the academy award and I can see why. The performances were fabulous. Pedro Almodovar directed it and I will definitely be seeking out other movies by him.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Went to see the NYC Ballet Wednesday night. And boy was it an up and down night. They performed 3 pieces.

The first piece was Chaconne with lovely music from the opera Orphe'e et Euridice. It opened with a very etherial feel and vision that later became much more structured and classical. The pas de deux with Whelan and Neal was gorgeous. The really seemed to be totally connected to the music and each other. Which was great because just prior to that was a pas de troi with a male dancer that appeared to be dancing solely with himself and his partners seemed superfluous. Totally hated that dance. yet there were many playful moments which were fun throught the piece.

The next piece was very odd. It was Brahms/Handel choregraphed by Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharpe. It was a competition piece where one group of dancers danced Robbins style to Brahams and the others danced Thwarp style to Handel. Back and forth. Disjointed. The GORGEOUS costumes by Oscar de la Renta I loved. Blue Brahms/green Handel. I liked the Robbins dancers better particularly the men. The Thwarp dancers kept extending their feet in weird ways that grated on me. You could see and feel the competition but it was so repetitive you just wanted it to be over after a while.

The final piece, Vienna Waltzes was beautiful. The sets and colors superb. And there was a magic and elegance that reminded me of old style hollywood at times.