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31 posts from August 2007

August 31, 2007

The Rat Bastard CD

The Rat Bastard CD

by Me, Margie, who knows one when she sees one

Let me be perfectly clear that this blog - and the entire CD project for that matter, is not about any one particular Rat Bastard. Please. There are so many of these assholes running around that you could throw a rock - a big rock - with spikes - in a crowd and it would undoubtedly hit one of them. Hopefully in the face, leaving a hideous mark. Not that throwing stuff in a crowd is a good idea. Unless it's a Rat Bastard Convention. Then, fire away. And call me. I'll help.

But if, in fact, someone were to THINK this were about them - and with some of the toxic levels of self-absorbtion exhibited by these mofos - it's possible, we just want you to know that if you subpoena anyone or anything from TLC, you're going to get our designated agent and representative: Me, Margie.

Can you imagine Me, Margie on the stand? "Look, your honor, I'm busy, so let's just cut to the chase. That asshole over there is a rat bastard. If you ask me, the guy needs to spend some time with me and a chainsaw. Make him pay. BIG numbers. It's the only thing the selfish prick understands. I have nothing further at this time. By the way, is it true you guys go commando under those robes? 'Bye!"

We haven't had a CD blog in a couple of months, and this is a holiday weekend, so most people are traveling and not -as I must assume is ususally the case - waiting on pins and needles for the blog to post. Heh.

So here is the CD project - let's say you were in a relationship with someone who turned out to be, let's say, the spawn of satan, or even just a code red dickhead. And we're not limiting this to men - women can be flaming jagoffs too. And let's say the sumbitch in question is finally on his/her way out the door. This is a great event and it deserves a soundtrack. A soundtrack that says: "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on" (no offense intended to the horse).

We did a small sampling, and here are some fantastic suggestions from some names you may recognize:

Our number one pick by consensus: F.O.D. - This is one great song - short for "Fuck off and Die" by Green Day. [Not to be confused with another soothing ballad, "FOD (Fuck of Death)" by Mortician - on their Zombie Apocolypse CD, which I think I heard at a Pre-K open house. Kidding.] Here are some sample lyrics:

You're just... a fuck,
I can't explain it 'cause I think you suck.
I'm taking pride
in telling you to fuck off and die.

That is just perfect, isn't it? Thanks to everyone who suggested this one.

Another top vote-getter was Alannis Morisette's "You Oughta Know".

Jon Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name" was also popular, as well as Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"

And in a surprise hit from the vault, Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" showed up on several lists.

And now, for a sampling of our other contibutions. We (OK, Me, Margie but with help from Tom in CA and William in TX, both tech guys who know how to burn the MP3s I can't find on iTunes- but don't kid yourself about who is in charge and will make the final cuts. Just saying.)

From Sarah:

I Use to Love (him) But It's All Over Now...The Stones

We Won't Be Fooled Again...The Who

Take Another Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)

Idiot Wind (Bob Dylan - "It's a wonder you still know how to breathe." Gold!)

Elvis Costello's Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes ("used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused")

From Cyndi - Faith Hill's Ain't Gonna Take It:

I’m gunna crawl out from this stone
that I’ve been under
to see the light and breathe the air

And another Faith Hill song called "Free"

I'm free...kicking out of that prison
I'm am free...singing those words of wisdom
Let it be...nobody gonna put the blues inside of me

Elaine suggested a fantastic song for almost any occasion: "Bitch With a Bad Attitude". Classic.

Maryann says: Well there's that ol' stand by "Hit The Road, Jack (and don't ya come back no more no more...)" and Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to leave your Lover" AND Gloria Gaynor's "I will Survive". I like Sin City by the Dixie Chicks too.

Laura (in PA) suggested some first class country songs:

Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares) - Travis Tritt
Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye - Charlie Daniels
Blame It On Your Heart - Patty Loveless
Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood (also suggested by Karen)
You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone - Brooks & Dunn
How Do You Like Me Now - Toby Keith
Better Things To Do - Terri Clark
Goodbye Earl - Dixie Chicks
Kiss This - Aaron Tippin <<

Josh came through with these classics:

"Cocaine Blues" by many, including George Thorogood and Johnny Cash. ("Early one mornin' while makin' the rounds, I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my baby down. I shot her down cuz she laid me low. I thought I was her daddy but she had five mo'.")

"Go your own way" by Fleetwood Mac.

"I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor.

"Positively 4th Street," by Bob Dylan ("You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend").

"Hats off to Larry" by Del Shannon.

"You Don't Own Me" by Leslie Gore.

"You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt (from my wife) - Hi, Mrs, Josh! We know you. Well, okay, we know stuff about you. Not that we'd ever repeat the stuff, I mean.

Nancie the Gun Tart (and really, when a woman is armed and playing this music, you'd best mind what she wants, son) sent these fine tracks:

Linkin Park-In the End

The F-Ups-Screw You

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-Don't come around here no more

Motley Crue-Don't go away mad-just go away

Katie suggests Insensitive by Jann Arden, and Katie already has a play list called "Boys Suck" - Katie and I are going out for drinks to compare notes.

Kerry the Martial Tart had a good one, with a very cool explanation:

Linda Ronstadt's "You Tell Me That I'm Falling Down" from Prisoner in Disguise. It's basically a "You think there's all this stuff wrong with me but, know what? I'm a big girl and can take care of myself -- the highs and the lows -- and you're full of shit anyway." But ballad-y, you know? Yes, Kerry, we do know, and we think you should be a music critic.

Sue sent this list:

Better off Without You - the clarks
Goodbye Earl - dixie chicks
The Thrill is Gone - bb king
Good Person Inside - jill sobule (great lyrics)
I'm An Asshole - dennis leary (I'm not sure, but I think that was the opening Sing-a-Long at the 2004 Rat Bastard Convention)
Real Man - bonnie raitt

Solon suggested "Call Tyrone" by Erika Badu. Dont' know the song, but I like her headgear.

Steve added this one to the list: "Thank God and Greyhound" by Roy Clark.

Bea had two gems to add:

Alison Krauss--Forget About It
Mary Chapin Carpenter--Out of My Life -best line: "But when she burns you again, and your phone doesn't ring....Baby, it's me."

And Tom not only sent song suggestions, but links too. Yippee!

Harry Nilsson's 'You're Breakin' My Heart (So Fuck You).'

'He Had It Comin' ' by Kander & Ebb from 'Chicago.'

Y'Know, I LOVE this song! I am going to get out my dance hall stockings and sing this one as loud as I can. You know, in solidarity and stuff. OK, here are the cool links from Tom, who says he and his work pal wasted a whole shitload of time on this, which I always like to hear. Plus his work friend suggested a song from Avenue Q with these lyrics:

There's a fine, fine line between a fairy tale and a lie;
And there's a fine, fine line between "You're wonderful" and "Goodbye."
I guess if someone doesn't love you back it isn't such a crime,
But there's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of your time.

And I don't have the time to waste on you anymore.
I don't think that you even know what you're looking for.
For my own sanity, I've got to close the door
And walk away...

Rolling Stone did an article on Angry Love Songs, and Tom sent the link: 20 Best Angry Love Songs

And then there is a blog about Break-Ups Songs: Songs To Break Up To

I am so damn proud of all of you. And I just have to add a couple from Margie's FU playlist:

"My Give-a-Damn's Busted" by Jo Dee Messina
"U Had Me" by Joss Stone and
"I Don't Need a Man" by the Pussycat Dolls

OK, Friends of Tarts, your turn. Oh, and have a nice long weekend!

August 30, 2007

Back to the Scene of the Crime

Back to the Scene of the Crime

by Nancy

"Put in the clutch, you damn fool!"

Hardly the words of a loving parent, right? Yet, for me, that's the most memorable sentence my mother has ever spoken to me. Granted, she was teaching me to drive a stick shift (I was 17, and my parents had kindly bought me a used VW to get myself to my summer job) so maybe she was justified. We had finally left the high school parking lot for the first time with me behind the wheel. When I turned onto Main Street, everything I'd learned about manual transmissions went out the window.

Right in front of the funeral home (a former school superintendent was on view, so there was a big crowd) the car lurched, shuddered and started to stall.

Which is when my mother lost her cool and called me a damn fool.

In our family, we didn't raise voices. We didn't cuss each other.  Ever. No, our approved method of coping with stressful moments was to retire to our rooms and suffer in silence. So the damn fool outburst was way, way out of character.

For the record, I did put in the clutch, and a block later the two of us were giggling over the fact that my mother had cussed at me--and in such antiquated language, too. So the crisis passed, and I had one of those moments when you realize your parent has foibles and from now on, the age difference is going to be pretty much moot.

It was one of the moments I realized that someday--soon--I was going to be her equal.

Now, I realize it was also a definitive moment from a long ago era--a time when parents called a fool a fool.  Today, by contrast, I heard a harried mom say to her kid as he rummaged through the candy display at the grocery checkout line and came up not with a granola bar but a bag of pure corn syrup drenched in food dye,  "That's not a good choice, sweetiepie."  Heaven forbid she refuse his demand to have a snack. She did not use the word, "No,"  as in,  "No, you can't have a candy bar, you little shit, because I''m buying all these vegetables for your damn dinner, which I'm going to go home and cook for you with my own two hands instead of making myself a martini, which I so richly deserve!"

Nowadays, a typical parent doesn't call a daughter a fool. No, you give your kid an out.  An excuse.  Or at the very least, you deflect the issue of her idiocy to make it something that sounds like the situation's out of their control.  As in, "Your teacher says you deserve detention for throwing beakers at your classmates, but your pitching arm just warming up, right?"

I read a quote the other day.  "We give our kids everything and ask for nothing in return." It hit me as important.

I know what you're saying.  You're saying to yourself, "Nancy, your parents gave you a car to get to your summer job. Where do you get off talking like you walked ten miles to school in the snow?"

Yeah, okay, I got the crummy car, but it was sold every Labor Day weekend, because my parents weren't giving me a car for my own recreational uses.  No, the car was for their convenience.  See, if I didn't drive myself to work, one of them was going to have do it because, dammit, every teenager needs a job.

And my parents, bless 'em, had other things to do besides chauffeur me around. I was not the center of their universe. 

Today I'm leaving my desk and going home to Mother. My husband and I are having our driveway re-paved, and two days of jackhammers would put me over the psychological edge, so I'm outta here.

We're pretty close, my mother and I, despite the hour and a half drive between our homes. When my father passed away, I got into the habit of phoning her every day at 5 o'clock to check up on things. Years later, we still talk nearly every day. (So if my line is busy at 5, try again in half an hour.) Now and then, she still surprises me with a hilarious outburst. For decades, she was a staunch Republican, but she's left the Dark Side at last, and what she had to say about Karl Rove last week was a hoot, but since we're not a political blog, I can't repeat it here.  But she cracks me up.

I enjoy her friends, too---mostly elderly widows who are enjoying their retirement years.  They say a lot of amusing stuff that I use in my books.  I like writing about older characters, because there's no reason for them to filter what they have to say anymore. My mother and friends live in some townhouses near an assisted living facility, which they call The Big House.  (That's funny, right?) I expect we'll have an amusing couple of days together. Dscf0549

Here's a picture taken at the 30th wedding anniversary party our kids threw for us last weekend.  From left to right, that's my sister Becky, me (in the bridal veil) and then my Aunt Nancy (after whom I am named) and my daughter Sarah (in black) and my mother (wearing the necklace) and my daughter Cassie (in blue.)  Does my mother look like a person who'd cuss at her kid? No, of course not.

How about you? What's the most out-of-character moment you can remember about a parent? And did it maim you for life?

August 29, 2007

Abandonment at 30,000 Feet

Abandonment at 30,000 Feet

By Elaine Viets

The bane of my childhood were my elderly aunts who complained about "kids today."

Kids today were not respectful. We didn’t know the meaning of work or the value of a dollar. We were wicked, careless, thoughtless and bound for the hot place, and they didn’t mean Florida.

I spent many hours listening to these curdled crones go on about kids, and swore I’d never be like them.

Well, I’m breaking my vow.

Recently, I flew from Massachusetts to Fort Lauderdale. Any Floridian who flies this time of year knows the ride will be bumpy, especially when the afternoon thunderstorm hits.

A family with four children, all apparently under age ten, got on the plane. I think, from things they said, they were from Miami. There was an immediate argument among the kids about who got the window seats. Daddy tried to placate them, which wasn't possible, since there were four kids and two windows.

Passengers were backing up in the aisle while Daddy and Mommy blocked it to cater to the kids. Daddy pleaded with one of the girls to move. She pouted and refused.

Mommy said, "Why is it MY DAUGHTER has to give things up, and not yours?" I gathered this was a blended family that wasn't blending so well.

Nobody in authority said anything. The flight attendants were probably too scared after the "throwing the shrieking kid off the plane" episode. In the end, nothing was resolved. The kids stayed sitting in their same seats, glaring at one another.

Mommy and Daddy retired to first class and left the four kids alone with us poor slobs in steerage. The two older ones fought constantly and threw shoes at each other. The younger ones (about ages five and six, I’m guessing) had shrieking contests. No one would put on a seat belt or turn off their electronics when the captain so ordered. The flight attendant had to tell them.

It was a miserable flight. As far as I was concerned, these kids were abandoned at thirty-thousand feet. I didn’t like the little darlings, but I felt sorry for them.

I don’t have children for a good reason. I’m not charmed by them. I consider them barely a step above annoying pets. If you want a yappy Yorkie, enjoy. But don't bring it to my house. Most kids, by my old-fashioned standards, are spoiled brats.

I also know that even the best children have bad days, and parents dread them. It’s not always possible to keep kids quiet.

But flying can be scary. What happens if some maniac hijacks the plane and your kids won’t listen? They could be shot. Asking some creep with a weapon to please be patient while you try to explain what’s happening to your child could get you both killed. Then there was that plane in China that burst into flames. If the parents were sitting in first class, how would they get back to their children?

I sat next to a mother with a two-year-old boy. For most of the three-hour flight, he was well-behaved. But as we went into Lauderdale, the plane began bouncing around. The tired little boy began to cry. He didn’t want to put on his seat belt and sit down. His mother looked frantic. "There are rules," she told him. "You must obey."

He kept howling.

"I’m sorry," she apologized to me. "He hasn’t had his nap." This Mom was really trying to do the right thing.

"He’s better behaved than the older children on this plane," I said.

And she was more responsible than those Miami parents.

Personally, I wanted to join the boy. Every time plane hit a bump, I wanted to howl. But grownups don’t get that privilege. So I hung onto the bucking seat with both hands, which kept the plane in the air.

I hope everyone was grateful.

August 28, 2007

The Dark Night of Owen Wilson's Soul....

The Dark Night of Owen Wilson's Soul

By Sarah

Mother_theresa_2 Who knew that in one week Owen Wilson and Mother Theresa would have something in common: publicity over their "dark nights of the soul."

In Mother Theresa's case, her doubts about the presence of God in her life have been used to promote an upcoming book: Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light, what portends to be a fascinating glimpse into this phenomenal woman's struggle to live Jesus's mandate to care for the "least" - despite her own doubts that her trusted Savior, who once audibly summoned her to service, was permanently away from his desk and unable to take her call.

No matter what your spiritual beliefs, even the most firm atheist, I assume, would find her dedication to the orphaned, lepered, frail and outcast of India to be a triumphant tale. There's no gainsaying the facts about Mother Theresa's sacrifice. She walked the talk.

But to now learn that for fifty years until her death she did not feel God's presence, hadn't felt Him applauding her every move, supporting her during times of trial (when weren't there times of trial?), but that she felt largely abandoned and alone, is a stunning, frightening revelation. Come on God - have mercy already!

The thing is, if Mother Theresa had doubts then what about the rest of us? Okay, forget you guys, what about me? I don't want to have doubts. I want to be spoon fed a belief and I want to trust that it is THE one so that when I die I'll be packed and ready to go.

Having passed the half mark of my life, having buried a brother (an atheist) and a mother (a devout Episcopalian), I've witnessed first hand what a difference faith can make at our darkest of dark hours - the end.

For my brother, an alcoholic and dead at forty five, death was a frightening, insane spiral into a cold, dark chasm. For my mother, death was packed with friends - the living and dead - who stopped by her bed to say goodbye and, in some cases, hello again!   

Which would you choose?

Me? I'd go with my mother's version. Much better to have Nat King Cole patting your hand (they'd once had cocktails together in Atlantic City in 1966) than have your hand tied to the bed (so my brother wouldn't hurt himself batting away demons.) I do not want to be like Mother Theresa or, for that matter, Christ crying out at the cross why God had forsaken him. I want to be at peace. I want death to go down as smooth and easy as tapioca.

Then again, this is the kind of annoying internal dialectic that comes with reaching middle age.

Lord knows I didn't give faith a second thought when I was a kid, happily singing, "Jesus loves me this I know 'cause the Bible tells me so." Middle age is THE time to have a spiritual crisis. Which explains why some men buy red sports cars and have affairs and why some women inflate their boobs and have affairs. Come to think of it, Mother Theresa was in her forties when God "abandoned" her, or so she felt. Though she didn't get her face lifted, she took on more orphans. Then she won a Nobel Peace Prize. Kind of puts pay to the "miracles of Botox," huh.

And now we've come to Owen Wilson, no Mother Theresa he. Of course, I don't know that. Maybe he'sOwen_2  been sneaking out nights to the slums of Dallas or LA and bandaging the festering wounds of AIDS patients, but I doubt it. More likely his "dark night of the soul" that, as of this writing, led to a possible suicide attempt, had to do with good ole depression induced by chemicals either natural or artificial or both. Poor guy.

The point is we all have dark nights of the soul because we're human. Yes, even Mother Theresa. Even Owen Wilson, despite his godly qualities. It's in our shared weaknesses that we find our common humanity. It's when we start envisioning ourselves as superhuman that we become jerks.

So ends my sermon for the day. Let us now stand and open our hymnals to....


August 27, 2007

Lotions & Gels

Lotions & Gels
by Harley

I am a substance abuser.

It hit me this week, flying around on book tour, that I can’t go an hour without hand lotion and lip gloss. And, like many addicts, this has led to criminal activities: I am the scofflaw next to you at the airport security checkpoint, smuggling lotions and gels. I persist in my life of crime despite the kinder, gentler Baggie Rule that would allow me to transport my Sally Hansen Champagne Toast Diamond Lip Treatment openly.

If someone had told you, 10 years ago, that you’d be waiting in line barefoot and then issued a quart-sized Baggie and told to cough up your lip gloss in the name of national security, wouldn’t you have thought that George Orwell had taken over the FAA? Or Mel Brooks?

Me too. So I’ve got a bad attitude. I get a delighted thrill—me, who never went through an adolescent shoplifting phase—just by ignoring the Baggies and keeping quiet about my forbidden substances.

Yes, I know it’s no joke. And if I hadn’t known it, I’d have figured it out last week at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, where I and my fellow travelers were yelled at to “REMOVE ALL LIQUIDS AND GELS FROM YOUR PERSONAL BELONGINGS AND PUT THEM IN A BAGGIE OR YOU WILL WASTE EVERYONE’S TIME AND THIS LINE WILL TAKE FOREVER. PEOPLE, I AM NOT KIDDING. FLIGHTS WILL BE MISSED, AND NOT BY ME,” like we were 8th graders. But even at SeaTac, I took my chances and zipped on through.

Others are not so lucky. In June, my kids and I flew to Pennsylvania. The day before, we’d gone to Target to pick out junk from the one-dollar shelf for the trip. My son, a sybaritic child, had chosen a tiny bottle of lime green bath gel and, unbeknownst to me, squirreled it away in his Superman backpack so he could hold it and admire it on the plane. And so, at 5 a.m., at the LAX security checkpoint, a single bloodcurdling scream could be heard, followed by heartrending sobs as his bath gel was confiscated. The security personnel looked sheepish, but rules are rules, and no doubt there are in fact Axis of Evil madmen cleverly disguised as Kindergartners.

But this begged the question of why lime green bath gel is okay if it’s in a Baggie and dangerous if it’s not. It is the sort of question better left unasked at the airport, where many of the TSA employees are hired for their crabbiness. So back in L.A., I checked the TSA website.

The Transportation Security Administration cleverly dodges the Baggie question. “These measures,” it says, “will continue to assure that our aviation system remains safe and secure. Travelers should go about their plans confidently, while maintaining vigilance in their surroundings and exercising patience with screening and security officials.”

I’m nothing if not patient, because I always have a waiting-in-line book, like Sarah Strohmeyer’s THE SLEEPING BEAUTY PROPOSAL, so engaging that you’re even okay when they cancel your Seattle flight. It’s maintaining vigilance that gives me pause. When the P.A. system encourages us to report “suspicious activity” I always wonder what constitutes “suspicious.” Perhaps a woman applying lip gloss every seven minutes?

Good news from the TSA, though: the ban on KY jelly and gel-filled bras is now lifted (along with bone marrow and blood products), and you’re not even required to stuff these in your Baggie.

The TSA sums things up with, “We ask that you try not to over-think these guidelines.”

No problem. In fact, let’s all try under-thinking today.

Happy Monday!

August 26, 2007

Harley's Road Trip!

Harley's Road Trip!

As the DEAD EX tour continues to take our Harley all over the country, we thought you'd like to see her in action.  How about this one of Nancie the Gun Tart, Harley and Twist Phelan (who has a new book coming out in September!) at Poisoned Pen: 


And here's one of Harley with author Heather Graham (check out BLOOD RED, in stores now!) at Books and Books in Coral Gables:


Or this one of William and Donna "The Boss" Simon with Harley at Murder By the Book in Houston:


And here is another TLC regular - Susan S with Harley in Seattle at the Mystery Bookshop


And finally, Harley with her niece, Andrea Kozak at Portland's Murder by the book.


Here's an online interview with Harley, too.

High School Musical: What the rest of us need to know

High School Musical: What the rest of us need to know

By Rebecca the Bookseller

BlogAll right, let's get right to it. High School Musical is a phenomenon. It's setting records for cable TV watching (beating Monday Night Football!) making Disney a bloody fortune and that kid with the bangs in his face is on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. That's right. OUR magazine. Sure, he and his girlfriend (in the show and in real life - which is very cute with the friendship rings and whatnot) are on the cover of People and other magazines have covered the story, but Rolling Stone? Time to pay some attention.

I've been spared (or as some would say, starved) the entire HSM experience because my daughter thinks it's idiotic and my son doesn't care. I was confused, until I started checking it out. The target audience for this is not, as one might think, high school. The most rabid fans are 11 and under.

I even sent out a request for this blog, and although I got some help from some nieces and nephews, no takers to write the damn thing. But one of my sisters got close to nailing the popularity: it's a movie you can watch with your whole family. True that. Another sister watched HSM2 three times last weekend with her daughter. And another sister was just grateful that her daughter grew out of it early in the game. I feel that way about my son and Barney.

Our own Harley is a fan, and many of my friends with younger children are all over this thing. It's simple, it's happy, it has bright colors and no shooting and no death and a happy ending. All of which are good things. For the people who like it like that.

Blog_rolling_stone_hsmBasically, it's Grease for the pre-teen set. And no, I couldn't watch either the first one, or the sequel, which debuted to those record audiences on The Disney Channel last weekend. I tried. I really did. But I thought my teeth were going to fall out. It's just that sweet.

Here is something I was able to sit through, but I had to floss afterwards: It's a video of the song "I Don't Dance" from HSM2, and it has real baseball players in it. You can try it, but if you don't think you can get through a whole song from *NSYNC or whatever, don't say I didn't warn you. Video: MLB does "I Don't Dance"

OK, basic plotline. Basketball star (the kid on the cover of Rolling Stone) named Troy, goes on vacation and meets a braniac named Gabrielle. They are thrown together to do karaoke at a New Years' Eve party, and it's love at first sight or note or whatever. Remember Sandy and Danny and "Summer Nights"? Stay with me. They have to say goodbye and go back to their own towns. But wait. Gabrielle's family moves to - guess where? East High - Troy's School! Go Wildcats!

Meanwhile, everyone at Troy's school is pigeon-holed into cliques. There is even a big dance number in the cafeteria to drive the point home - "Stick to the Stuff You Know" or something like that. And then it's time to audition for the high school musical. A brother-sister team of snobs (Sharpei and Ryan) are the reigning stars of the theater clique and they are NOT happy that Gabrielle and Troy decide to audition. Singing and dancing throughout. Then, of course, the musical is the same night as the big basketball game AND the big matholympics or something for the smart kids and 'Oh what now?' and 'the team needs you' and 'you can only be one thing not both'. Angsty.

At the end of the first HSM, you learn that G&T, not S&R, got the leads. I think there is kissing.

HSM2 opens in the summer. Sharpei - who's parents own a country club - decides she wants Troy, so she gets her parents to hire a bunch of kids from the high school and then sets out to make their lives - excpet Troy's - miserable. Somehow, Ryan ends up leading a dance number on a baseball field that would make Jerome Robbins proud. And speaking of great choreographers, guess who does it for HSM? Kenny Ortega! Nothing? Dirty Dancing? Hel-loh? The singing and dancing continue.

HSM3 (The Search for Sharpei? Probably not) is in pre-production and rumor has it that it will be a feature film (translation: you will have to pay to see it in a theater.)

OK, so those are the basics. Now for some comments (all are unedited for veracity) from a select group of my extended family:

G (age 7): I like the movies because they all start out mean and they end up friends at the end. We danced to one of the songs in my dance recital. The hip-hop is good. I like both movies.

D (age 9): It stunk and it's overplayed. Plus too much lovey stuff so it's not for boys. There is one good song with the baseball players but the rest of the songs stink. But if you wanna get a boy to love you but some other girl already loves him, you will love this movie - plus it tells boys how to deal with it and stick with your regular girlfriend.

E (age 5): The first one was better. It has great songs and great dancing and Gabrielle and Troy almost got married. You don't want to fall in love with Troy's Dad because he is too chit-chatty.

M (age 14): I don't like it because it's not realistic. Even though there has been some joking, no one actually does burst into song in the lunch room.

K (age 8): Would not speak on the record, but his mother confirms he boycotts both movies because there are too many girls in them.

J (age 11): It's on tonight. Oh, you don't want to watch it. I've only seen some of it. I never liked it. I just didn't like the whole concept of all the singing and dancing.

S (age 9): I don't like it. I only watched it three times because my Mom made me.

So there you have it. You can thank me later - we're here to help.

August 24, 2007

Aunt Margie's Story Time: The Snow Whiters

Aunt Margie's Story Time: The Snow Whiters

By Me, Margie

Well, it's back to school time, and I thought I would share a little story I told my teenage nieces and nephews at a family picnic last weekend. I hope you enjoy it as much as they did, and maybe learn something too.

Once upon a time, there were girls and boys who were growing up. Their bodies were starting to change, and their brains were changing too. Instead of spending time memorizing the HSM2 soundtrack or counting down to Halo 3 Special Edition with Commemorative Helmet, they were thinking about other boys and girls and their underwear.

We’re all remembering to wear our underwear, right? It’s a good idea and it’s a healthy idea too. Because we just don’t know what might be on that seat on the school bus, do we?

What? Well, yes, Aunt Margie sometimes wears Commando Patches, but that is because Aunt Margie is a grown up and never ever rides the bus. And after story time, you and I will discuss the fact that you have been in Aunt Margie’s dresser again, okay? We need a reminder about personal space and privacy, I think. We really don’t want to have to discuss this with your mother, do we? I mean, I think we all remember what happened the last time you asked your mother about something from Aunt Margie’s nightstand.

Any way, the boys and girls who were growing up had to deal with new feelings and urges to do things that their parents and other authority figures told them were very, very wrong. Most of these things had to do with sex. Yes, we are all old enough to use that word. There is nothing bad about sex. Well, sometimes there is, but we’ll save that discussion for our story about Stanley Steroids and Quick Draw McGraw, okay?

Sex is not bad. But having sex when you are not ready is a bad idea. Getting a nasty disease that you can have for the whole rest of your entire fuh – uh - freaking life is very bad. And getting pregnant at your age is very, very, very bad. Yes, I know all about Uncle Bruno and Aunt Vi, but they are the exception, and plus it settled a big turf war back in the day. Probably saved some lives. Moving on.

Now, some boys and girls are very confused. They join clubs and make pacts about abstinence. Let’s call them the Snow White Clubs, okay? Yes, I know Snow While lived with seven short men, but there was no funny business going on there. Those seven guys were old – remember the beards? And there was no pill for that back then, okay, so drop it.

So, the Snow White Clubs are made up of people who make a pledge to each other and I don’t know who else, not to have sex. Which is a fine idea.

But here is the thing. We all know some of these Snow Whiters are some of the biggest sluts around. I mean, these kids will joink anything that moves, as long as it’s not straight up missionary. That is totally wrong and it’s idiotic. Sex is more than just vaginal penetration by the penis. OK, yes, those are the real words. If you are old enough to be checking them out, you’re old enough to call them what they are. Pull it together.

All that other stuff – oral sex and anal sex and whatever other place you can think of to put it sex – it’s all still sex. No, I don’t care about the former President. You are all old enough to know that just because someone is elected up in this mess of a government doesn’t mean he or she is smart or honest, okay?

You have to think for yourself. I mean, come on --- Betty Blowjob up the street cannot run around flashing her chastity ring and calling herself a real virgin, okay? And the other points of entry? I don’t know what these girls are thinking.

And as far as going downtown – you have to ask yourself – who else has been there? Because a crowded downtown area is trouble. Heavy traffic is not good – it’s not like a full-up nightclub, which can be fun. It’s more like a jam-packed bus with standing room only and the air conditioning isn’t working and the guy next to you has some kind of religious objection to bathing, okay? It’s bad. Wait for the next bus. Or drive yourself.

So let’s use some basic common sense. If you feel like you are ready for a physical relationship, then have at it. But don’t go coming around here with this righteous, holier-than-thou attitude just because you’re not using the front door, okay? Seriously. It doesn’t matter if you come in the front door or the side door or the kitchen window or down the chimney like Santa Freakin’ Claus, kids. If you’re in the house, you are in the house, hear me?

Okay, here comes your Aunt Pruneface, who obviously hasn’t had anyone in her house for about fifty years, not even on the front porch, I’ll bet, if you get my drift, so let’s wrap this up.

The end.

August 23, 2007

One in Four Americans

One in Four Americans

by Nancy

One in four Americans admit they haven't read a book in a year. The situation is perhaps even more depressing since some of us are tipping the statistical scale in the wrong direction because we've read four books this week.  (And some of us have read even more.  Are you there, Debby?)

A couple of years ago, my hairdresser told me she was going on vacation for a week.  When I asked what she planned to do, she said she was going to read on the beach.  I perked up.

"What are you going to read?"

"Oh, I started a John Grisham last year.  Maybe I'll read a few more chapters this year."  She told me she had bought her book in the drugstore where she also purchased sunscreen and a folding beach chair.

I was stunned.  "Why did you choose the Grisham book?"

She shrugged.  "I recognized his name."

I walked down the mall to the bookstore and bought one of my books.  When I gave it to her, I said,  "Here.  I think this will be more to your taste."

A week later, she reported she read my book the first day on the beach, loved it and went looking for the rest of the series.

Thing is, she thought she was supposed to be reading John Grisham.

One of my theories about the bookselling business these days is that people who don't read a lot just don't know how to find books they might enjoy. 

Me, I did read four books (and a fraction) this week, and here's what I thought:

#1 on my hit parade is DEAD EX by some lady by the name of Harley Jane Kozak. This book has it all. Wit, charm, plot, clever observations, and lots of interesting tidbits about life in LA and the world of daytime drama. Wollie Shelley is a greeting card designer, a muralist, a sometime reality show contestant--and in this outing, she's also a dating correspondent for a TV show called SoapDirt.  Wollie's observations on life would make greeting cards I'd buy by the shopping cart.  Plus it's an accomplished author who can maintain a complicated plot while keeping a theme deftly balanced as well. This is my kind of mystery--a woman with an intriguingly complex life solves a crime for the love of a friend, and there's stuff to think about, too. If you haven't picked up this book yet, this is the week to do it!

#2. I think Charlaine Harris's publisher has figured out that she's brilliant, which is good news for us all. I will read anything you write, Charlaine, even a book, A SECRET RAGE, that was originally published in 1984 and slid off the radar before I found it back then. Now that her various mystery series are so successful, Berkley has re-published this powerful novel in paperback.  It's as meaty as the best women's fiction, but with the streamlined plot of a good mystery novel.  Plus I find it fascinating to see how a writer develops.  You can see the roots of Sookie and Harper in A SECRET RAGE.  (Someday, we need to talk about the evolution of Iago.  I think he appears--in slightly different forms--in several of Bill's plays.)

Tangent:  I read part of Charlaine's book at the food court of the mall while my husband finishing watching the Bourne movie.  Which I had to leave because it made me sick!  I needed Dramamine! Why does a movie director feel he's got to keep the camera moving, even in closeups?  Maybe BECAUSE THE PLOT IS NOTHING BUT A BIG LONG CHASE SCENE AND HE'S TRYING TO DISGUISE THAT FACT? I listened to most of the story with my eyes closed (until I couldn't stand it any longer and left) which gave me plenty of time to contemplate the problems with the plot. Which were too numerous to list here, not to mention boring.

#3 was FACELESS KILLERS, the first book in a highly touted Swedish detective series by Henning Mankell. A guy whose taste I respect (hey, he likes my books!) told me this author is the mystery writer's mystery writer. Well, the book was good, but I won't go as far as to say it felt much different from most police procedurals, except for the setting. The bleak landscape and Hemingwayesque prose appeal to men, I know.  But I lost interest long before the beautiful woman fell in love with our hero despite his icky personal habits, beaten-up face, his weakness for booze and yes, even chronic diarrhea. I felt that the secondary characters solved the mystery for the detective, and then the final resolution was told rather than shown (the same complaint I have for a big book that's been much nominated this year, written by a woman I respect so I'm not going to say more here) and the conclusion was--well, a cheat. But I'm not the prime audience for this book. Somebody tell me where I'm wrong here. What did I miss?

#4 is a book I don't think I'll write about at all here because, frankly, I read about a chapter and a half before tossing it aside.  A standard plot set-up. Nothing new.  (Life's too short to be bored, right? Or do you feel the need to finish everything you start, no matter how derivative?) So instead I picked up Suzy Gershman's memoir about moving to France after her husband's death.  C'EST LA VIE is light, entertaining reading. She's one of the BORN TO SHOP ladies, and this book is laced with shopping tips and insider, gossipy stuff that's simply fun.  Good beach reading.

In the same spirit, I'm also skimming the 840-page (!!!) current issue of Vogue magazine. The highlights: Throw away your tweezers, girls. Eyebrows are back. Also, Vera Wang is designing a bunch of stuff for Kohl's, the way Isaac Mizrahi designs for Target. Stay tuned.

For most writers, it's nauseating as hell to think that for whatever reasons, one in four of our neighbors doesn't read books. But then, I don't play soccer or knit or participate in plenty of other pastimes that other people enjoy.  Are we assuming that reading books is a measure of intelligence, and a quarter of Americans are therefore dumb as dirt?  I don't think so. For one thing, I read a lot of books this week, but most of it was summer brain candy. And I'm not tasting any topsoil.

Me, I'm thinking the future of reading isn't all gloom and doom. Sure, a lot of people aren't readers, but three quarters of us are. And lots of writers are creating new, challenging and entertaining stories that will lure readers back to the love of books. Things look especially great for the mystery genre, if indeed J K Rowling is writing a crime novel. Think of those millions of Potter fans crowding into the mystery bookstores!

Think she'll need any blurbs?

Tell me what you've been reading.  Because I need something for next week.

August 22, 2007

Funniest Hotel Employee Winner


Funniest Hotel Employee Winner

By Elaine Viets

"It's hard for me to believe that my story occurred 34 years ago," Rebecca John said, "but I guess you can't argue with Father Time."

For the Great $500 Book Giveaway to celebrate my new mystery, set at a hotel, Rebecca took us back to New Year’s Eve, 1972. "Oh, what a time to be young and full of love for life on the edge," she said.

Indeed. That was the year that Watergate started with the bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Bumpers said, "Honk if you love Jesus." Richard Nixon declared the first presidential drug war – and lost it.

"If you can remember the late 60's up to the end of the 70's, you probably weren't having the same kind of fun as I and the rest of the members of the Traveling Bar Crew," Rebecca said.

"We worked as a group of six. Three members made up the lounge band and the other three tended bar and worked as cocktail waitresses. We were working at a hotel outside of Lancaster, Pa. The manager booked the band in a few different hotels around the northeast. The band was really quite good and had a fairly large following.

"This particular New Year's Eve we were all working our tails off. The crowd was out to have as much fun and imbibe as much liquor as possible" before the bar closed at 2 a.m.

Rebecca and two crew members "worked the floor serving all those happy drunks with a smile and a smart remark. The tide slacked off slightly around 1 a.m., so while the band was on break we all decided to take five for a ‘smoke’ break. Remember, it's the seventies and we were all children of the flowers. We really didn't have time to retreat to the band room for privacy.

"Did I mention that at midnight we had started to celebrate with the customers since they always wanted to buy the band and crew drinks to show how much they liked us? On occasion alcohol has been known to cloud a person’s good sense.

"Anyway, back to the smoke break. Six of us plus a few joiners-in were looking for a place to burn one or two. In a side corridor was a utility closet that seemed to fit the bill, so in we squeezed. Up we lit. Silly we got. Cough we did – until nirvana was achieved and we had to go back to work.

"We proceeded to work out the night, made some swag and had an all-around good time until closing when we had to clean up. Then we moved the party to the band’s rooms and had our own celebration.

"Along about 3:30 a.m. the manager knocked rather forcefully on the door. We greeted him with cries of joy. He was in a snit. Did we think that maybe the utility closet wasn't precisely the most discreet choice?

" ‘Oh, ho,’ the crew said. ‘We took precautions and laid a towel along the crack at the bottom so no noxious fumes escaped.’

" ‘Oh, ho,’ the manager said. ‘Did you notice the HUGE louvered vent in the door?’

"We were in no shape to grasp the concept of bad bar crew so we were put on notice that at 2 p.m. New Year’s Day we were having a meeting to discuss the situation in depth.

"At 5 a.m. some of us decided to go to Philly to see the Liberty Bell. I can't believe we survived those days without maiming ourselves or anyone else. We didn't get back for the meeting until 2:35.

"Motel rooms offer limited seating arrangements. We were ranged around the room on various surfaces," including a folding bed. "The boss lectured us on the inadvisability of tokin' in the closets. We were all suitably chastised – right up until the bed two of us were sitting on folded right up and trapped us inside like the filling in a sandwich. Heads sticking out one side and legs and feet out the other.

"Everyone in the room lost it – even the manager – and the meeting ended.

"I'm sitting here laughing from the memories. It's hard for me to realize I'm going to be 60 in a year from now."

Thanks, Rebecca, for a funny story. Your $250 gift certificate for the Great $500 Book Giveaway will be on its way, so you’ll have even more to read.

Special thanks to our judges, TLC regular Tom Barclay, Kay Gordy and Jinny Gender.