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34 posts from April 2007

April 30, 2007

I Had a Secret Love Affair With Marie Osmond!

Sarah Stewart Taylor, friend of the Tarts and author of the sublime mystery series featuring art history professor Sweeney St. George, will be guest-blogging now and then while Elaine recovers.

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I Had a Secret Love Affair With Marie Osmond!
By Sarah Stewart Taylor

Not the real Marie Osmond. No, I was in love with the six-inch plastic version, her dark perfect hair, the cool pink-and-purple dress with the shredded hemline, her sky blue eyeshadow, the very Marie-ness of her, the way I could almost hear Donnie’s voice singing Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing when I made her shimmy on my bedroom carpet.

Let me explain.

At some point in my early childhood, my mother decided that I shouldn’t have Barbie dolls. I was born in 1971, smack dab in the middle of second wave feminist parenting, and the reasoning was that Barbie dolls, with their big boobs, long, long legs, tiny waists and long blonde hair, represented an ideal of female attractiveness that very few little girls would be able to live up to. Therefore, my Mom and the other wholesome Unitarian mothers of our New York suburb decided we weren’t having any of it. No Barbie. No Barbie-like dolls. Instead we got anatomically correct and multi-ethnic doll “families” that languished lonesomely in their all-wooden houses. If I remember correctly, there was something vaguely disturbing about the elderly Grandma and Grandpa dolls and their realistic crotches.

(Aside -- If you haven't seen a copy of Book Tart Sarah Strohmeyer's Barbie Unbound, go find one. Now!)

So, I made do without Barbies. I wasn’t much of a lover-of-dolls anyway.  At 3, I lopped the hair off a gorgeous Madame Alexander doll my maternal grandmother had given me and named her . . . Timmy. Most of my friends were living under the Barbie ban too, but when I visited the ones who weren’t, I would always take a few guilty looks at the Magic Playhouse or whatever and then try to steer the playdate away from dressing Barbie. It just wasn’t that interesting to me. Once you’d put her clothes on, and she’d had simulated intercourse with Ken (we had that backwards, huh?) what was there left to do with her? I would rather have played hours-long games of hide-and-seek or pretended to be detectives.

But then came my ninth birthday. My parents must have been doing something else when I was opening presents, because when I unwrapped a package from the daughter of some unenlightened materialist, I felt a surge of excitement and fear.

It was a purple cardboard box and inside was a Marie Osmond doll with long legs, stiletto heels, and a sexy-yet-somehow-modest dress. She was holding a little silver microphone. She sparkled! And she was all mine. I looked for my mother, made sure she was out of sight, and did what any nine-year-old under a Barbie ban would do. I ran up to my bedroom and I hid that Marie Osmond in the secret crawlspace behind my closet.

Now, my parents were – and are –very nice people, but somehow, in my nine-year-old mind, it was like I was hiding Anne Frank. If they found her, I knew what they would do to her. They couldn’t find her. They couldn’t!

And so began my secret love affair with Marie Osmond. Every day after school, I would go up and visit her in the closet. She didn’t seem to mind being locked in the crawlspace. I got myself a second-hand copy of Who’s Sorry Now and I would play it on my little powder blue record player and let her lip synch. I didn’t tell anyone about her. She was dangerous and forbidden, with her makeup and short skirt and her high morals.

But then it got kind of stale. I don’t know, I guess I listened to Paper Roses one too many times. And Marie’s pink and purple dress with the shredded bottom? It started looking a little trashy. It was the ‘80s now and Marie was stuck in the ‘70s. Her TV show got canceled. For Christmas that year, I got a Blondie album and that was that. I started visiting Marie less and less often and then one day I closed the door to the crawlspace and didn’t look back.

I don’t know what happened to Marie. My parents sold the house when I was in graduate school and I always wondered if the people who bought it found her when they were inspecting the second floor. I wonder what they thought of Marie and her trashy dress. I wonder if just for a minute they heard someone singing Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.

April 29, 2007

Black, White and Read....

BLACK, WHITE AND READ

By Guest Blogger Marcia Talley

(Today our guest blogger is mystery author Marcia Talley whose sleuth, Hannah Ives, a breast cancer survivor, has won legions of fans and also numerous awards. Which is probably how last week she ended up at the Edgar Awards, one of the more prestigious accolades for thriller and mystery writing. Below is her report with lots of juicy gossip and details. Enjoy!)

Edgar_bobble Normally, I don't like themed parties - that's what got me in trouble in grad school, something about wearing sheets - but the Edgars this year were "Black and White and Read All Over," and really a blast!

Thanks to MWA's (Mystery Writers of America) indefatigable Administrative Manager Margery Flax and to Kelly Nichols and Kris Montee who showed they're an unbeatable sister act both on and off the printed page, the program ran practically flawlessly, ending precisely at 9:45 to give everyone plenty of time to schmooze around the tables, snatch up abandoned Edgar Allen Poe bobbleheads and find a good seat at the bar. I thought I'd gone w-a-y overboard on the freebies - snagged copies of Manhunt, Gentleman & Players, A Pale Blue Eye plus two copies of a Mary Higgins Clark children's book for the grands - until I bumped into Lisa Scottoline (looking oh so glam in a champagne-pale strapless gown) who was carting away even more loot in her book bag than I.

We gals were really into the party theme - black gowns, white gowns, black and white gowns with splashes of crimson, sparkly red accessories that twinkled under the dim lights. Naomi Hirahara, looking coolly elegant in floor-length silk organza, was totally gob smacked when Snakeskin Shamisen won the Edgar for paperback original. Naomi told me that her mother stayed up in their hotel room; she didn't want to come to the banquet unless Naomi won.

"Maybe I better call her," she giggled from the podium, waving her Edgar.

Noreen Wald (with brand new husband, Steve, in tow) was the picture of elegance in a black and white satin and lace Victor Costa gown she bought late Monday afternoon for $150 at Secondhand Rose in Georgetown. The gown was way too big for Noreen, who must be a size zero, but she conned a seamstress into altering it that night so she could take it with her to New York on Tuesday morning.

"With alterations, the designer dress cost me $225 and I've never had more compliments in my life - including a rave review from Al Roker's mother and another from Mary Higgins Clark." Noreen grinned. "Made this old broad feel pretty good."

Twist Phelan wore lipstick red Vera Wang and the most amazing shoes, but a clear standout among all the Blahniks, Zanottis, Mizrahis, Choos (and, yes, Rack Rooms and DSW's, too) were Barbara Parker's stunning evening slippers with silver skulls appliqued in leather on each toe.

Is it just me or do guys (with some exceptions, don't get me started) look totally hot in tuxedos? The pre-banquet cocktail party was a sea of James Bonds; I expected Le Chiffre to show up at any minute. Instead, I ran into Cornelia Read (nominated for her amazing first novel Field of Darkness) looking equally amazing and ready to conduct the New York Philharmonic in a full suit of tails.

Wearing her trademark spiky red hair, outgoing MWA President Janet Evanovich was totally on boardEvano  with the "red" theme, as was Sandra Brown, coiffure wise. After Sandra co presented the award for best first, Al Roker joked, "Janet Evanovich wants her hair back." Al Roker did a great job as MC, keeping everything short, funny and moving right along. Turns out Stephen King is very funny, too; twisted, but funny, a theme hilariously echoed in the Dave Barry/Ridley Pearson tag team introduction of the new MWA grandmaster, which suggested that anyone who ever dissed King was now...dead.

Charles Ardai won for best short story, thanked the late editors of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Magazines and his wife, "a better writer than I'll ever be." If this literary power couple weren't so nice, we'd have to hate them. Ardai published his first short story in EQMM at age 17 and is married to Naomi Novik who, at the ripe old age of 33, has sold her Temeraire series (an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars in a world where dragons are used in aerial combat) to Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson. The previous day, Ardai (who founded Juno.com and is founder and editor of Hard Case Crime) was tapped to interview Stephen King at the Symposium where for over an hour King let it all hang out and held everyone spellbound.

And speaking of the Symposium - where I tried to fill Elaine Viet's very big shoes on "Cats, Cozies, Chicks and Corpses" panel she had been scheduled to moderate - Kelly Nichols spent a good portion of the day dashing around with a video camera, capturing video clip greetings for Elaine. "Hi, Elaine! I'm wearing the jacket you made me buy at Bouchercon in Madison!" I babbled. Everyone thought my pink and cream fringed jacket was Escada, but I have to confess that it came from the sale rack at "WinterSilks," a company that is famous for its long underwear.

On Friday, before heading to the train, I dragged my suitcase through the rain to have coffee with my Sweater agent who had good news for me (watch this space). Afterward, I was so delirious, that I dropped into Barney's and spent over $500 on a dove-gray cashmere sweater from Vince and a Eugenia Kim belt.

Which proves I'm not totally hopeless, fashion wise.

Marcia

April 28, 2007

The Bride (Not) to Be

THE BRIDE (NOT) TO BE

By our own Friend of the Tarts, Ramona

Bridal_shower When I was affianced, I was subjected to various indignities leading up to my wedding. By "indignities," I'm not talking Princess Diana type indignities, like being tested for...purity, shall we say. I'm talking good old-fashioned American pre-bridal customs guaranteed to cause tears, arguments and, possibly, a case of cold feet.

I had to meet my husband's relatives and try to remember their names and connections (I used note cards, which I still have). I had to select dresses for my bridesmaids that would not only flatter them, but keep us all on speaking terms before, during, and after the event. I had to attend bridal showers thrown in my honor.

And play games at them.

I am not unappreciative of those showers. They were beautifully done, with cake and decorations and aBridal_shower_cake  Gift Table. Canapes were tied with little edible ribbons. No men were allowed. The age range was from teenager to senior citizen. The showers were sweet and charming and so what if they were dopey enough to make a Nobel-Prize-winning Rhodes Scholar with a Macarthur Genius Grant, two Booker prizes and a Purple Heart suddenly feel like declaring, "Hi! I'm Shannon Slowpoke from the great state of Wherever and I work with children for world peace!" It's all done to set you off on the wonderful journey of marriage on the right, satin-shoe-sod foot.

And, not to be crass, but I'm still using stuff from the Gift Table.

Purse If I have any issue with Bridal Showers, it's about the Games. Why grown women feel compelled to create a wedding dress from toilet paper, think it's fun to play Guess Whose Purse I am or compete over collecting clothespins is a mystery to me, but it's part of the bride-to-be experience. I was fortunate, however, that someone in my family knew enough about me to know I wouldn't enjoy a male stripper or being blindfolded and having cotton balls balanced on my head. (Seriously. I've seen it. It's meant to symbolize...God knows what. I have never figured it out.) I think they were trying to go intellectual, because my shower game was - Bridal Advice.

In the exciting game of Bridal Advice, everyone has to offer words of wisdom to help insure that my upcoming marriage would live long and prosper. Of course, half (at least) of the people there were divorced, the other half were widows, but, hey, they'd brought a gift. The least I could do was pay attention.

Here they are, the pearls of wisdom I recall best:

Never let him got to bed angry. Never let him go to bed hungry. Never let him go to bed withoutFacial_mask  showering. Never let him get a TV for the bedroom. Never let him see you wearing a Queen Helene facial mask. Never let him fall asleep in in a La-Z-Boy.

Catching the theme here? The advice was all about how I should set the rules for him. Once married, I would be responsible for his temper, his meals, his hygiene, my wrinkles and his viewing habits. That alone should have been big red flashing warning lights about what to really expect in marriage.

I was young and in love, so I listened. Angry? My darling didn't have a temper! I mean, that car did cut in front of him so the gesture and expletive were in order. Hungry? I grew up in South Louisiana. I was a great cook and so was he! In fact, he'd made a Chinese meal for a group of friends that was so fancy, he dirtied every dish in the apartment. Showering? We'll just shower together (he, he)! He can help me wash off the Queen Helene facial mask! (he, he) TV? We'll watch romantic movies together. Like all four parts of Pride and Prejudice. He says he's fine with me liking Hugh Grant - Ha - he thought Hugh Grant was Mr. Darcy. Isn't he too precious?

Hugh And excuse me, but my fit and handsome prince in a La-Z-Boy? Puh-lease. We're going to spend our entire married lives smooching prettily on that cute, white love seat that will never get stained because I bought up all the cans of Scotchgard before it was discovered it alone had destroyed the ozone layer.

Yeah, I was stupid.

Now, of course, I've been married a long time. I'm no longer stupid and we don't want to talk about who sets the rules and who enforces them. We want to talk about brides and what advice I'd give them if I were at a shower playing games about a girl's life.

I've been thinking about this long and hard lately because there's this young girl I know and she's going to be married soon. She's as smart and sweet as they come. Very respectful of her elders. Kind of considerate to her peers. Funny. Reads a lot. In great physical shape. Likes to cook. In short, she's a great catch. She's the kind of girl those of us with sons would love to see coming down the aisle because surely it's going to take someone this fab to civilize the Neanderthal who's been living in my house, though Lord knows I have tried. You'd think Personal Servant was tattooed on my forehead and haven't I said at least a bazillion times that the toil...Ooops. Sorry. Got a little sidetracked.

Anyway, the girl. The Bride. She's going to be the perfect daughter in law for someone and I'm not the only one who thinks so. In fact, from what I understand, so many people think so, there's a bidding war going on for her.

Yes. You read that right. Those of us who are writers dream about the day an agent calls and says, "Your novel is up for auction today and, my goodness, you are one hot property."

Well, the Bride in question is a young Muslim about to turn eighteen and her marriage is beingMosque  arranged. And she is apparently hot property. And it's not a game. For anyone.

I cannot comment on this practice. It's a different culture, a different religion. She does not question it, so how can I? She may be allowed to graduate from high school. She may be allowed to attend college. Maybe. I'm not completely sure that, one day after she's legal, she'll just quit showing up at school and will be gone. Disappear-o. That's happened before. Girl's studying calculus one day, the next day she's Mrs. Somebody I've Never Met Before in my Life and those of us who knew and liked her never lay eyes on her again.

Every time I see this girl, it could be the last time. One day, she will be married to a man she may or may not know and may or may not like. If it scares her, she's not showing it, but I must say, I am terrified. And because I really like her and really wish her well, I'd like to giver her something, some kind of marital advice. But every time I try to think of advice, I come up blank. What do you say?

Father Trust your parents because parents know best? I don't know her parents. They attend Open House, which puts them heads and shoulders above other parents but still, even some of the most attentive parents don't know squat about what's best for the children or what those children want.

Hope you land the Muslim equivalent of Blond Bond, instead of someone three times your age with back hair and a snoring problem. Yes. I'm so gonna say that.

You'll learn to love him? Don't let him get a TV for the bedroom? Lie back and think of Eng...Uh, Mecca?

I wish I could throw her a bridal shower. I'd like to load her up with all of the things, both physical and spiritual, to guarantee her a happy life, complete with fun games like balancing cotton balls on your head or the cultural equivalent. That won't happen, but there are a few more months of school, so I still have time for one magic phrase that she'll remember all of her married life.

But I got nothing. Any words of advice from all you ex Brides? A please, for once, can nobody mention blow jobs?

Ramona

P.S. In case you're wondering what advice won the Bridal Advice game at my wedding shower, it was this - "Don't have three babies in two years." That was from my cousin Miriam, mother of three.

April 27, 2007

The Romantic Times Convention in Houston

By me, Margie

OK, first of all, Houston is like, not part of the country I normally live in.  Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Houston. Know why?  Because there are no rules here.   I like that, because I think most rules  are totally stupid.  For example, you know how some places have this "Right On Red" crap?  In Houston, you just turn whatever direction you want to, no matter what the color is.  That is very cool.  Because, let's face it, people did fine without stop lights and other man-made rules for, you know, thousands of years, and they did fine.  Sure, they died young, but that had to do more with cholera and scurvy and other Gold Rush diseases than freakin' traffic rules, so Whatev.

The other thing about Houston is that everyone is really NICE here.  The guys are like, totally, "Sure, we can do that for you." rather than some lameass "Well, it's really against policy to deliver an entire bottle of Captain Morgan Rum to the pool deck - it IS glass."  Yeah, right, and that cooler full of Miller Lite bottles that the wedding party snuck up here is legit.  But here, you meet a guy like, Jose, in room service at the Magnolia Hotel, who is totally cool, and he will bring you whatever you want.  That is the way life should be.

So. The RT Convention.  Luckily, it's in a different city than last year, so I'm not violating any court orders.  My lawyer hates when I do that.  This year, things are pretty much the same, but more whacked.  This year, the new thing is hair wraps with lights in them (like Jenn, my hairdresser back home would go for that stuff - face it, good highlights are good highlights and no flashing shit is going to make a diff) and pins with the scrolling messages like you see under the big screen in Times Square.  These don't tell you the news, they just announce messages about sex that have been around since, like forever.  "Got Sex?"  Yeah, bub, I got your sex right here, not that you're going to ever have a shot.

And then there are the boyz.  The boyz are the male models.  You can spot them because they wear leather vests with no shirts.  Which, as everyone who loves leather knows, only means one thing.  But wait a minute there, Jane - these boys are only looking for your friend Dick.  Or Tarzan, depending on how old you are.  And the other new thing?  Hot and cold running tats.  Which hurt.  I know this, because on my 21st birthday, my friends got me really drunk and we all decided to get matching tattoos.  N.F.W.  Not enough alcohol in the world for that to happen.  I have one little dot in a place that I can't mention without Nancy making a note in my file, and that was that. 

But the BIG highlight was that last night - which I guess is probably a couple hours ago, Harley and Michele and I had dinner with William Simon, aka Hot William, and he was a real gentleman.  To tell you the truth, I thought the guy sounded too good to be true, but he's the real deal.  And I already asked if he has brothers, so give that up.

Tomorrow, which is today, Michele is getting an award.  And tonight, which really is tonight according to the clock now, Harley is dancing.  And if you don't think I won't have blackmail material after that, you just aren't paying attention.

Yee-haw, y'all.  That's what they say here. 

Know what Margie says?   "Save a horse, ride a cowboy, baby."

April 26, 2007

Embrace Your Nerdliness

Embrace Your Nerdliness

by Nancy                             

My husband came home from work with a huge ink stain on his shirt from a pen that had leaked.  "Somedays," he said, "I wish I was nerdy enough to wear a pocket protector."

This happened just minutes after one of our regular commenters here at TLC got all lathered up about the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology:  "Founded by Louis Agissiz! Ernst Mayr and Stephen J. Gould worked there!  E.O. Wilson still works there! Seventh largest natural history collection in the US and second only to the Smithsonian in---"  well, you get the drift.  (Full disclosure: The exclamation marks are mine.  I could hear them in her voice, though.)  She concluded breathlessly, "My little natural history museum geek heart is going pit-a-pat."

Classic nerd stuff.  Mind you, I happen to know this lady is a respected academician and could kick a hapless burglar's butt, so she's no geek all the time.

In an email later, she wrote, "I love it all, from Star Trek (starting with the original series, natch--how many professors do you know use the call  numbers of the Enterprise as mnemonics for remembering the core structure of amino acids?) to ScienceNow, my favorite source for breaking science news."

Yeah, pretty dweeby.

I'm not poking fun at her or anyone else. I'm actually a firm believer in embracing your inner nerd.

For those of you who come to TLC every morning for the Intellectual Stimulation we endeavor to provide, here's the Wikipedia definition:  "Nerd, as a stereotypical or archetypal designation, refers to somebody who passionately pursues intellectual or esoteric knowledge or pastimes rather than engaging in a social life, participating in organizes sports, or other mainstream activities. . . . An unstylish, unattractive or socially inept person; especially: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits."

Peronally, I find this definition a little harsh, don't you? I mean, aren't we all a little lame underneath our Armani? Behind our graduate degrees? Even in spite of our supreme athletic ability on the bunny slope?

The first recorded use of the word "nurd" (note the archaic spelling) appeared at the Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute.  (Of course!)

Me, I'm an Elvis fan. I love the PBR, too.   So sue me.  

And . . . I'm among friends, right? My husband and I actually took our children to a Star Trek convention.  For purely education reasons, of course.  (Parents should expose children to all kinds of culture, don't you think?) I swear we didn't wear costumes, but I will not verbally abuse anyone who does put on fancy dress to attend a convention of any kind. (I hereby send a shout-out to all my friends--Tarts included--who are attending the Romantic Times convention right this minute.  And--brace yourselves---Margie's there.  I think she packed her boots, too, so Sarah and I--holding the fort here at TLC headquarters--are waiting for some spectacular jpegs.)

The other day, I walked into our bedroom and discovered my sniffling husband (he was not weeping--he has a headcold) enjoying an episode of Andy of Mayberry, and he didn't immediately click over to ESPN as if he were simply cruising through the channels either.  When I made an appropriately appalled remark about his taste in television, he said sheepishly, "I like Andy!"

A nerd?  Oh, yeah.  Adorably so.  Jeff could give Bill Gates a run for his money.  (Well--not exactly. You know what I mean.)  But think about it.  Superman was really Clark Kent all along!

I believe nerds have an admirable sort of inner strength--the courage to be non-conformists in an age when 9 kids out of 10 wish they looked like they walked out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog.  We should celebrate the Kingdom of Nerds once in a while, don't you think?

One of my children adores the Muppets. Always has. (I think she first watched the show while I was nursing her.) The other daughter has seen Pride and Prejudice at least forty times.  (Pick a version.  She's seen them all and will argue at length who plays the best Darcy, the best Mr. Bennett, the best Mr. Collins.) And, truth be told, who among us can not watch The Hunt for Red October or You've Got Mail when you come across them?

I'll bet there are some prime nerds reading this right now. So tell your friend Nancy.  How do you embrace your inner nerd? NASCAR? Playstation? Garden gnomes? Tell me about Soap Opera Digest subscription.  Your nightly fantasies about Captain Kirk.  (Or is it Wonder Woman?)   C'mon, 'fess up.  I won't tell a soul.

                          

April 25, 2007

Dispatches from The Backblog

    NOTE FROM THE TARTS -- Michele will be keeping Wednesdays warm for a bit to give Elaine time to recuperate.  In the meantime, Michele's normal alternate-Mondays slot will be ably filled by some wonderful guest bloggers.

Dispatches from the Backblog

by Michele Martinez

Tlc1 Tlc2

Tlc3 Tlc4

Tlc6

(L to R -- Christine M., Keetha, Holly, Kerry the Martial Tart and William Simon)

When the Tarts decided to undertake the Backblog Project, we were counting on two things.  The first was that we'd be clever enough to ask scintillating questions.  The second was that our backbloggers like to talk about themselves enough that they'd bother answering.  That second thing . . . too true!  We got over fifty replies.  Collating the responses has turned out to be a very big project indeed, so big that we can't possibly fit all your responses and photos into today's blog.  Below you'll find a fine selection of what you had to say.  And if you don't see yourself here, worry not.  You'll turn up soon in further Dispatches from the Backblog.

How You Found Us  -- A bunch of our backbloggers plain don't remember how they first came to TLC.  Some have been forgiven for this lapse because they checked the "don't remember -- menopausal" box.  We tried to correlate the rest of the "don't remembers" with the "favorite beverage -- martinis" but the math didn't quite work out -- perhaps because of our own beverage choices while blogging? Of those who did remember how they first came here, by far the biggest chunk found us via the websites of our two most senior (in blogging longevity, not age!) Tarts, Sarah and Nancy.  A bunch more came from Harley (who has more self-described "stalkers" than any other Tart), a few from Elaine and Michele.  And many from other blogs or websites, including Charlaine Harris's, Laurie King's, Joe Konrath's, the Femmes Fatales, and Jen Crusie & Bob Mayer's.   This question also drew a few one-of-a-kind replies, including "I'm a DoT (Daughter of Tart)" from Cassie; "Y'all were just roaming around and I stumbled across you" from the adorable Nancie the Gun Tart, and "I never lost you" from our dear Charlaine.  However you got here, we're sure glad you came.   

How Often You Read -- Nearly everybody who answered the survey reads every day, many of you multiple times per day.  Some of you so many times that you consider us an addiction.  On the other hand, we realize that the people who answered the survey are a self-selecting group and, besides, may be here for reasons of their own.  As Sarah a.k.a. Antigonos said, she reads while waiting for Mailwasher to dispose of her spam, so we shouldn't flatter ourselves.  And as Charlaine says "anything to avoid work."  Hey, happy to help out however we can.

Why Our Lurkers Don't Post -- Absolutely the best part of the Backblog Project was hearing from so many of our lurkers.  Many of our lurkers read us every day, too, but for one reason or another, they prefer not to post.  About half said they just don't feel comfortable.  We got responses like "you have a bunch of regulars and it's intimidating," "not comfortable -- my comments aren't that interesting," or, my personal fave -- "posting is like running nekkid through a stadium."  Hey, no pressure, lurkers, but all we can say is you're pretty dern clever and articulate when you're telling us why you prefer to lurk!  As long as you know you're welcome.  Oh -- a bunch of people don't post because they read TLC at night after work and feel that the discussion is over by then. 

Day Jobs and Fantasy Jobs  -- Alas, few of us have our fantasy jobs, but some of us actually have other people's fantasy jobs.  Maybe we could pull a Craigslist and work out some trades?  For example, there are at-home moms who want to be authors, and at least one litigation secretary who wants to be an at-home mom (although she specifies she must be highly paid).  We have retired people who want to be authors, and authors who would rather be retired.  We have several people whose fantasy job is bookseller.  Then we have our Mary Alice, who is a bookseller but wants to be a . . . fill broker??  Mary Alice, can you explain that one? 

We have lots of people fantasizing about being teachers, librarians and book reviewers, and one who specifies "beach lounger book critic."  Yes, that does sound good!  EZ's fantasy is to be a "published novelist without deadlines."  That is a fantasy, EZ.  Sue wants to be "Matthew McConaughey's shower sponge."  The way that guy sweats, I'd say he's in need of one, so you may just have a shot, Sue.  A few people are lucky enough to have their fantasy jobs, including Lori (commercial interior designer for a university), Nancie (Range Master for the Arizona Fish & Game Department), Liz Wolfe (author) and SusanS (horse trainer and dressage instructor).

Beverage Choices -- Iced tea wins if you add up sweetened and unsweetened but don't add the "alcohol" responses into a single category.  We learned something about surveys, folks -- it's not the numbers, it's how you manipulate them.  Alcohol responses look like this: "Cape Codder." "Chardonnay." "Bellini." "Appletinis." "A good pinot grigio." "Martini." "Mimosa." "Single-Malt Scotch but it's not permitted."  Etc. etc.  People get very specific.  That's not all the same drink, but sweetened versus unsweetened iced tea?  That is the same drink.  After iced tea comes coffee, then Diet Coke, Coke, Diet Sprite, Mountain Dew and Diet Mountain Dew.  But of course, if you count alcohol as one thing, it way wins.

Most Unusual Skills -- We're a brilliant lot.  Some might say freakish. Just look at all the things we can do:  "Able to speak Maine Coon feline dialect."  "Kickboxing."  "Drinking a beer standing on my head." "Can read upside down."  "I can do owl hoot whistles through my hands."  "Does keeping my closet organized by garment and then arranged by color count, or is that just weird?"  "Wiggle my ears."  "I can touch the tip of my nose with my tongue."  "SuperSmell -- I have a hound dog's sense of smell. . . it's quite annoying."  "My feet can turn inward at a 90 degree angle, aka the opposite of what ballet dancers can do."  "Unusual 3D sculptural cakes."  "Roofing."  "Double-jointed." "Able to hear a marching band 2+ miles away.  Also good at estimating antiques values."  "I can tie that cherry stem in my mouth.  Really."   (A lot of those were from lurkers.  Lurkers, you're too damn funny not to post!)

My calculator is smoking and my head spinning, so that's got to be all for now.  What have we learned from this project, Tarts?  First, science is harder than we thought. 

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And oh yes, our backbloggers are fascinating, articulate and sometimes wack-o people, but how we enjoy them!  Stay tuned for further dispatches from the backblog. . . .

April 24, 2007

It's All Happening At The.....

It's All Happening At The....

By Sarah

Simon_garfunkel Simon and Garfunkel once wrote that it's all happening at the zoo, but they were wrong. It's all happening at the grocery store. If you want to take the pulse of the economy, test the state of modern marriages or assess parenting skills, go no further than aisle five, cereals and coffee. An anthropologist's paradise.

In our small town, like in most cities except less so, we have two grocery stores. One is the Co-op that caters to the well off and the more "aware." It's like a foodie country club with membership cards coded to reveal if you are a new co-op member or one who has been well off and aware before everyone else was well off and aware. For instance, I am a shameful Green Granny Smith whereas my neighbor is a hipper Red Macintosh.

The Co-op sells the usual high-end stuff: organic mac and cheese, fair trade espresso, free-range chicken, local vegetables (organic, of course), small bags of beet chips for $5 each, and an astonishing array of cheeses, wine, micro-Esraspberriessm brewed hoppy beer and dark chocolate featuring fuzzy endangered animals on the wrappers. Despite the exposed ceiling and poured cement floor and its message of sacrificing for the common good, the Co-op is unabashedly devoted to palatal self indulgence. Also, the Utne Reader.

Less than a few blocks away on the other end of the railroad track is the outdated chain supermarket. Cheetos It's a dirty bastion of Oreos and Capn' Crunch, of trans fats and white sugar in corporate packaging. Kraft. Velveeta. Maxwell House. Frito-Lay. Nothing here is fair trade. This store is all about the exploitation, especially of its in-town customers, many of whom are too poor to either afford the co-op or own a car. Or see a dentist.

And yet, surprisingly, the two stores share glaring commonalities. I bet the same is true where you shop as well. Consider the following:

OVERPRICED

Both stores are. The argument at the Co-op is that of course one pays more for organic coffee, flourJuan  and yogurt because organic vegetables are grown on a much smaller scale. Plus, when it comes to coffee, you're compensating Juan Valdez at a better rate. (Not sure if this is true. No one's shown me Juan Valdez's fair trade paycheck.)

But the truth is that by charging more, the co-op also manages to eliminate a certain clientele, the kind that dons cheap stretch sweat suits and shops at Wal-Mart. How much nicer to bump into the governor over the avocados than wrestle bananas from a homeless man who reeks of cigarettes and Mad Dog.

I don't know what the chain store's excuse is for its high prices aside from the fact that it has a captive audience of pedestrian shoppers. That exploitation thing again.

LOUD VOICED MOTHERS

You can't escape them. They're everywhere. At the Co-op they are loudly praising Angus or Westfalia (Fally to her friends) for being well on the way to Princeton by calculating the price of broccoli. Either that or maternally chiding their children with, "No more soy treats today, Angus. We're having your favorite, grilled tofu, tonight!" This is invariably followed by an attempt to meet your eyes in search of approval and/or empathy. Resist.

Over at the chain store it's the same thing, though the chiding runs to a more colorful, "You slap your sister Ashleee one more time, Travis, and you'll have a sorry butt. And don't go running your mouth about him Ashleee or I'm taking away your Mountain Dew." This is invariably followed by an attempt to meet your eyes in a blatant pantomime of, "MYOB."

PUBLIC URINATION

Yes, it's true. I actually watched a mother carry on a conversation at the Co-op while her young child Urine danced about begging to go to the bathroom. This request was postponed by gentle and loud reminders from her mother that the distressed child needed to be patient, that "Mama" was talking. Once outside, the child again pleaded for relief. At which point the mother laughingly gestured to the lawn, as if it were one wild and free restroom, and instructed the child to wee wherever. She did.

Over at the chain supermarket where the bathroom is always out of order, there is an outside wall where the homeless drink, sleep, eat, smoke dope, shoot heroin and everything else. At the Co-op they'd call it camping, only without the Orvis.

GAS-GUZZLING CARS

Funny how the environmentally aware are also creatures of comfort. While, granted, there are way too many Subarus to count at the Co-op, there are also a fair share of gas-guzzling, all-wheel-drive luxury SUVs like Volvos XCs as well as some high-performance Saabs. (As the owner of a Honda Pilot and BMW M3, I count myself among the worst offenders, btw.)

Over at the chain store, those who can own cars have had to buy trucks, used. Used trucks are cheap.Landrover_2  They also get lousy gas mileage.

If you want to see how your car rates on the greenhouse gas scale, here's a great site:

http://www.fueleconomy.gov

There are more similarities, I'm sure. But I'll leave those for you to point out. Until then, I've just had an epiphany: the grocery store, where humans are on display for feeding time, is kinda like the zoo. Which means, I guess, that Simon and Garfunkel really were right after all.

But not about In My Little Town. Blech.

My_little_town

Sarah

April 23, 2007

The Backblog Project

The Backblog Project

The Tarts are on a self-improvement kick.  Yes, we're fabulous, but we don't believe in sitting on our laurels. (Ouch!)  Having mastered language, literature and the humanities, having nigh on conquered politics, law and the social sciences, we've decided to move on to numbers, science and hard data.

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Initially we thought that our first big science project should be one of those drug trials.  This was Margie's idea.  She knew some people who could get us some really fun drugs.

Go to fullsize image   (Margie's friends.)

We figured we could mail them to anybody who signed up in the backblog and you could all write in and describe the experiences you had when you took them. Science-y, no?  Michele had to go and nix that plan.  Something about being a narcotics prosecutor and still knowing people at DEA.

So instead, today we're inaugurating The Backblog Project.  The backblog, for those of you not familiar with the term, is the part of the blog where our readers comment, under where it says "TrackBack."  We've said this before and we'll say it again -- what makes TLC special is its backblog.  Any day of the week, no matter what the Tarts are blogging about, our backbloggers get a rip-roaring conversation going.  They're literate, insightful and entertaining as can be.  So much so that we find ourselves asking, "Who the hell are these people?"  Hence, The Backblog Project.  It's kind of like a survey or a poll, except really really scientific.

Here's the idea.  Below, we'll pose a bunch of questions for our backbloggers. You can answer as many or as few of them as you like, but don't answer in the backblog.  Instead, e-mail them to Michele at michele@michelemartinez.com, with the heading "Backblog Project." You can even attach a picture of yourself if you like (clothed only, please!).  We'd love to hear from everyone, lurkers, too.  Doesn't matter if you're a regular post-er.  Stay tuned, because once we get our raw data in, we'll be posting profiles of our backbloggers and excerpts of their sure-to-be-entertaining answers.

So, if you're not posting your answers, what should you do in the backblog today?  Post your questions.  Are there things you'd like to know about your fellow backbloggers that we haven't covered?  If so, speak up, and tell us below.

Questions for our Backbloggers:

  1. Name? (Whatever you use on TLC is fine; we understand if question 16 below poses problems)
  2. How did you first find us?
  3. How often do you read TLC?
  4. How often do you post?
  5. If you don't post, why not?
  6. How many other blogs do you read?  Which ones?
  7. Day job?
  8. Fantasy job?
  9. Favorite beverage?
  10. Do you play the lottery?
  11. Most unusual skill?
  12. How old are you?  How old do you feel?
  13. State of residence?
  14. State of mind?
  15. Awards won?
  16. Outstanding warrants or restraining orders?
  17. What do you drive?
  18. Are you into bondage?  (Margie's question; she needs new boots)
  19. Are you psychic?
  20. How many books do you buy in a month? (Rebecca's question)
  21. Have you bought any books by the Tarts?
  22. Have you bought books by our guest bloggers?
  23. Are you only here for the sex?
  24. If we threw a party, would you come?  If so, would you bring a camera?
  25. Chocolate or vanilla?
  26. Spit or swallow?
  27. Connery, Moore, Brosnan or Craig?
  28. Or Clive?

Over to you, folks.  Keep going.

April 22, 2007

Elaine Viets - How to Help and Music Mixes

Elaine Viets - How To Help and Music Mixes

By Rebecca the Bookseller

First things first - as you know, Elaine is recovering from a stroke - all reports indicate her progress is amazing! But then, knowing Elaine, you knew she was going to be a fighter. So please keep the prayers and positive energy flowing.

AND - there is something else you can do to help, which is great. As we all know, her book tour is coming right up. So here is the plan, designed by some of her author friends and her publicist:

As the recent outpouring of messages of concern and well-wishes for Elaine Viets have shown, Elaine has a lot of friends in the mystery community. It's no wonder -- she's not only a delightful person and beloved writer, she has given a lot of time and energy to helping others through her service in MWA, Sisters in Crime, and other groups.

She also has a new book coming out in May, MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS, and one of her biggest worries has been that due to the stroke, she won't be able to tour.

So we're offering her friends a chance to actively help her -- we're going to "tour" for her!

Here's what to do

1) Send an e-mail to 4elaineviets@gmail.com

2) Let us know what part of the country (or world) you are in and if you are:

a) an author
b) a bookseller
c) a fan

3) Let us would be willing to:

a) place a stack of Elaine's books on your table as you sign on your own tour

b) help set up an "Elaine Viets" party at your store or a store near you (if you are not a store owner, PLEASE do NOT contact stores directly at this point!)

c) serve as a "stand-in" by hosting a nearby scheduled signing on Elaine's tour.

d) place an image of Murder With Reservations with a note about this effort on your Web site or blog.

SO - let's get our TLC Community behind this terrific idea. Send an e-mail to 4elaineviets@gmail.com and let them know how you can help.


****
And here is the rest of the blog - Elaine's Music Mixes

Last week, I asked our TLC community for suggestions for music therapy for our friend Elaine.

I got so many terrific suggestions, that the music part of the collection became a multi-disc set.

And before I forget, Elaine's friend Tom in California is working on the Comedy Bit collection, so we'll keep you posted on that one.

So for today:

1. I'll give you the final track list for the first two CDs of the collection; and

2. You can give me any other suggestions you have for Inspirational Songs (that's CD #3) and Calming Instrumentals (that's CD#4) and Soothing Vocals (that's CD #5) and Great Soundtrack Songs (that's #6).

Here we go:

Elaine's Lullaby Mix:

1. Lullaby - Josh Groban with Ladysmith Black Mambazo
2. Never Alone (Eeyore's Lullaby) - Tyler Collins
3. Lullabye (Good Night My Angel) - Billy Joel
4. Brahm's Lullaby - Celine Dion
5. Lullaby - Take 6
6. Rosie's Lullaby - Norah Jones
7. All Through the Night - Peter, Paul and Mary
8. Irish Lullaby - Fairy Dreams
9. Stay Awake - Julie Andrews
10. Lullaby - Dixie Chicks
11. In My Dreams - Crosby, Stills & Nash
12. Dream A Little Dream of Me - Mama Cass Elliot
13. Angel's Lullaby - Richard Marx
14. Good Night - Linda Ronstadt
15. You Can Close Your Eyes - James Taylor
16. Evening Falls - Enya
17. Forever - Carnie Wilson
18. Another Lullaby - Art Garfunkle
19. Slumber My Darling - Alison Krauss
20. Lullaby - Tom Waits
21. Dreamland - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Elaine's Friendship Mix

1. Old Friends (Intro) - Barry Manilow
2. Whenever I Call You Friend - Loggins & Messina
3. In This Life - Better Midler
4. The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles
5. Not While I'm Around - Barbra Streisand
6. True Colors (Rehearsal) - Phil Collins
7. Return to Pooh Corner - Kenny Loggins
8. I Will Be Your Friend - Amy Grant
9. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - The Hollies
10. Whenever You're in Trouble - Donny Osmond
11. You've Got a Friend - James Taylor
12. That's What Friends Are For - Dionne Warwick and Friends
13. I'll Be There For You (TV Version) - The Rembrandts
14. You've Got a Friend in Me - Randy Newman
15. Aint' No Mountain High Enough - Diana Ross
16. My Old Friend - Al Jarreau
17. God is My Friend - Marvin Gaye
18. Dedicated To the One I Love - The Mamas & The Papas
19. Call Me - Frank Sinatra
20. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkle

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions - I have found some new music and rediscovered some wonderful music I hadn't listened to in years. The first two CDs will be winging their way south to Elaine, and we'll keep working on the next part.

Finally - Joy in the East! Spring has arrived!

April 21, 2007

Lemon Joy

Lemon Joy

By Sarah

Lemon Question: What was your worst car?

Wait, before we get to that, maybe I should ask what's been your favorite car. If you've driven a convertible, I'm betting it'll be at the top of the list. Why they don't make more convertibles is beyond me. They are pure pleasure.

Every car should be a convertible. That's my revelation, having finally taken onto the road the rag top M3 M3 (a 1999 with 32,000 miles) that Charlie got me for my birthday. He bought the classic from a 93-year-old man who bought it for cash when he was 88 and who, upon signing over the title to moi, four days later got up from dinner, reminded his grandson not to drink his wine and dropped dead.

That's how much he loved this car.

Now, I was never one of those kids whose parents bought them wheels. Moreover, despite my father's own love of convertibles and happy memories of golden summer afternoons cruising past Pennsylvania farm fields, top down, a box of Crackerjacks in my hand, my family held tightly to the Practical Car Philosophy. This philosophy holds that a) you pay for a car in cash, never finance b) you buy what's on the lot and you buy it in August and c) you hold the car for a minimum of seven years.

Which explains how my parents, who never made more than $40,000 a year, sent all three of us to college and also had enough savings to retire in Alaska.

Then again, they never knew the joy of driving a BMW convertible at 80+ on the first real spring day. And that, my friends, is an experience no one should be denied.

I'm especially appreciative after almost three decades of driving, at best, practical Hondas and, at worst, death traps.

Dodge_dart Death Trap #1: My father's Dodge Dart, a lovely shit brown. It had the habit of stalling on left-hand turns and, yes, this was one of the ones he kept for seven years. It was also the first car I ever drove. Which meant that there were times when I, age 16, frequently saw my short life flash before my eyes. Once, an oncoming delivery truck had to jump a curb to avoid hitting me.

I don't know about you, but if I had a car like that, I wouldn't let my stupid kid risk her life in it.

Death Trap #2: My mother's VW Dasher. I hated this car. I still hate this car. It was standard shift, smelled of spilled coffee and was also brown. In addition, it sported my mother's frumpy mommy bumper stickers. One stated the entire text of the doomed Equal Rights Amendment:

“Equal rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The other noted that a woman's place was in the House AND the Senate....Oh, those fun 70's.

But the one that raised eyebrows among the guys I dated was: Live Long Enough To Be a Problem To Your Children. (Ironically, this turned out not to be the case.)

Corny bumper stickers aside, what I really hated was its cooling system, or lack thereof. One summer traffic jam lasting moreDasher  than 10 minutes and steam was rising from the hood. I'd turn on the heat in ninety degree weather. I'd do anything to avoid the inevitable and yet, 10 minutes and I was cooked.

At age twenty, when I was an intern at Newsday, I took this car for the summer. It overheated twenty miles from home. The dipstick came up dry. I plunked in two cans of oil. Later that same day it broke down on the Long Island Expressway in what would be the most frightening afternoon of my life when I subsequently, don't ask me how, got lost in the Bronx.

Finally, as a rookie reporter in New Jersey, I took it to D.C. to visit an old boyfriend and it died on Easter weekend. This meant I had to have it towed to ritzy Arlington, the only place open, where a mechanic laden with gold chains looked under the hood and asked me if I had a deep river where I lived.

"Yes," I said, wondering if somehow the Raritan had caused my alternator to die.

"Then take this car right up to the edge," he said, "and push it in."

Ha, ha.

Honda_pilot After that, I clung to Hondas. Reliable. Safe. Boring Hondas. Excellent cooling and electrical systems. (Which is far more than I can say for VW's.) But now I feel I'm emerging from a cocoon. Maybe I don't need the safety and security of a Japanese automobile.

Maybe I'm ready, again, for German engineering. Though, having just found out how much it will cost to repair a window mechanism, I'm not sure I'm ready for the German bills.

Okay, I've told you my car horror stories. Let's hear yours!

Sarah