« April 2009 | Main | June 2009 »

31 posts from May 2009

May 31, 2009

Summer Time with The Girls

Summer Time With the Girls

By Guest Blogger Baltimore Jack

Blog mistresses Summer time is coming. School will be ending and I will soon have time to spend with my girlfriends. No, I’m not having multiple affairs, and I wouldn’t have the energy for even one, but I really love my “hen-time” (an expression I picked up from a British TV show... more on that later). A cool lunch or drink outdoors on a temperate sunny day, discussing who should and who shouldn’t be wearing whatever in public with a few girlfriends is one of the life’s lazy pleasures that define summer for me.

 Anybody who knows me, doesn’t need to have seen me in heels and lipstick (episodes of which my friends seem to embarrassingly recount far too frequently) to know that I have no fear of getting in touch with my feminine side. I am the original “Metro-sexual”. As a trans-gendered friend of mine once described me, I’m just a “lesbian trapped in a man’s body”.  I recently played the parlor game Scene-It with some friends and I was banned from answering the “girl-questions”.

Women are more fun on a lot of levels. They don’t tell you you’re getting fat, (ever hear a girl tell her friend “hey dude, you really been packin’ on few lbs. lately”?) or talk you into doing something stupid (you’ll never see a girl drive to Atlantic City from MD at 2:00AM to watch a Monica Lewinski look-a-like do “things” with a cigar, “just because – man!”), and most importantly they protect you from other women (it’s part of the fine print they sign on the marriage license “when in groups, thou shalt protect thine own sister’s husband from the designs of evil and unrighteous women”). Guys are absolutely no help in this department. Instead they question your sexuality and/or masculinity as you feign disinterest in whatever unexpected but amorous attention you’ve garnered. In fact, older guys seem to get a vicarious pleasure in the fact that anyone might be interested in another middle age burn out. For the record, this has become much less of a problem as the years pass by.       

Blog L Word It's not just the summer that's got me in the "girly" mood though  You see, I just finished watching the season finale of Mistresses, which, in case you didn't know, is an episodic drama (it would be misleading to call it a "soap") shown here on BBC America.  Mistresses can best be described as "Sex in The City" without the jokes - a sort of hetrosexual (although not exclusively) "L-Word" - which s the chick show to top all chick shows.  A pilot for the American version of this show - sad to say because you know they'll screw it up, is currently in production. For more info, check out:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/mistresses

 The plots and subplots revolve around the friendship of 4 women, each portraying the female stereotype established by its TV predecessors: the slut, the intellectual, the maternal figure, and the love-burned victim. Just like the ladies that accompanied me to the “Sex and the City” premier, you can have fun establishing which of your real life friends fits the character on the screen, and then declaring “oh I’m nothing like Samantha/Jessica/Shane, etc.”.

 For me though, the real joy of this show is watching the dramatized female relationships. Like the aforementioned predecessors, the characters’ interdependent connections and the unquestioned support in the face of very questionable behavior is enlightening to behold. No one alienates Jessica (my favorite) because she chooses a lesbian lover, or Siobhan, because she starts picking up strange men in hotel bars. Katie’s poor choices and self destructive secrecy go without reproach as Trudi watches all and grows to a new dress size with every show while no one (except the viewers) says a word about her weight. These characters love each other and treat each other with a tolerance and empathy that I don’t even offer my own children.

 I’ve been on a one man (eh … person?) crusade to spread the word on this show which is about the best drama written, produced, acted, filmed on television. Although considering the level of TV drama these days, this is very faint and inadequate praise.

 When I’m with a group of women they’ll invariably remind me of their TV counterparts. I find the same supportive energy, and it’s very much a comfort to be around that much emotional support, particularly if it’s being focused on you. This happens a lot if you’re the only man in the group. Being a man among them, I suspect I miss some of the juicier and perhaps less kind exchanges but that’s not a bad thing. I also gain lots of perspective on issues I would otherwise ignore. 

 Maybe it’s because I had no sisters. Maybe it’s because whenever I had a group of girl friends in the past, I messed up the chemistry by sleeping with one of them (a problem very common in lesbian social circles, I understand). Maybe it’s because soon after we met my wife asked me, “why are all your friends women?” and then proceeded to find me new friends. Maybe it’s because I’ll miss my lunch with the foreign language department that fills my “daily dirt dish”. Maybe it’s because women will hit the tennis ball back to you instead of trying to score points. Maybe it’s because I’ve got two Audrey Hepburn and two Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies still waiting for a rainy day and pan of brownies. Maybe it’s the look on my wife’s face when we both agree that the dress on the mannequin is just perfect on her. Maybe it’s all of the above, but I’m looking forward to my summer girl time. I’ve got to squeeze it all in soon, though. Steelers open training camp August 17. Just hope my guy friends give me back my “man-card” back in time for the season.

Baltimore Jack is a gentleman, a high school teacher, a father of two terrific teenage boys, and a friend to women everywhere.

May 30, 2009

Positive, Happy Songs

Positive, Happy Songs

By Kathy Sweeney, who decided it's time for a music blog

Blog manilowlive Yesterday, we had a good time singing our way down memory lane, and it inspired me to put together a mix of Positive, Happy Songs.

Because these days, we need all the Happy we can get, eh?

Here is a start, and I'm looking to you, my kindred TLC spirits, for more suggestions;

To start (no surprise here)

"C'Mon Get Happy" - The Partridge Family

And here are some more:

Blog sinatra-swingeasy "Unwritten" - Natasha Bedingfield
"Life Is Wonderful" - Jason Mraz
"I've Got the World On a String" - Frank Sinatra
"Sing" - The Carpenters
"Put On a Happy Face (from Bye, Bye, Birdie)" - Dick Van Dyke
"Oh What A Beautiful Morning (from Oklahoma)" - Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones
"Uptight(Everything's Alright)" - Stevie Wonder
"It's a Miracle" - Barry Manilow
"No Boundaries" - Kris Allen
"I Believe I Can Fly" - Bianca Ryan
"Shining Star" - Earth, Wind & Fire
"Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive" - Jack Sheldon with Ross Tompkins
Blog bianca_ryan "Feeling Good" - Michael Buble

and for hockey fans:

"What A Wonderful World (Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Theme)" - The Clarks

Your turn - let's get some Happy in here!

May 29, 2009

I Think I Love You: It's The Partridge Family!

I Think I Love You: It's The Partridge Family!

By Kathy Sweeney, former and current fan

Blog PartridgeFamily group bus This blog is not only a walk down memory lane, but a public service announcement for those too young to have watched TV in the early '70s.  The Partridge Family is back.

We know this - and not just because David Cassidy is popping up all over Facebook/Timesuck as "One of the posters/crushes/Tiger Beat dream dates of your youth".  (I'm telling you, we should start doing our own surveys over there because some of them are too dumb to live).  It's because advertisers are using their songs. This week alone, I heard the lovely strains of "I Think I Love You" in a commercial. Plus, a search for "Happy, Positive" songs on iTunes has "Come On Get Happy" in the top tier.  Coincidence?  Not a chance, Reuben.

Blog david_cassidy_copy So first, a quick primer.  Shirley Partridge (a widow, played by the fabulous Shirley Jones, songbird of stage and screen) had 5 children and a bus.  She painted the bus, dressed the children in brown velvet tunics, and voila!  A band was born.  On lead vocal, and breaking hearts all over the country: Keith Partridge (David Cassidy) who's shag haircut can still be found in many parts of this great nation, mainly in municipalities ending in 'Vale'.  His sister Lori (Susan Dey, a poncho-draped Twiggy, who not only broke hearts as a Partridge but did so again with a range of partners including Harry Hamlin and - wait for it - Jimmy Smits).  Susan's long brown hair inspired many a teen to set her hair in OJ-can rollers.  Not making this up.

Next up was the smartass redhead, Danny, played by Danny Bonaduce, who would go on to a life of minor crime and talk/reality shows.  The kid was comedy gold.  Not so much later.  Then there were Chris and Tracy, the little kids, both cute as the proverbial buttons.  Rounding out the group was their goofball manager, Reuben Kincaid (Dave Madden, sporting some jackets that can still boggle the mind). His haircut may be the inspiration for the architectural wonder and fashion nightmare that is Donald Trump's.

Let's pause for a moment to point out that I am writing all of this from memory, kids.  No google.  Which frankly scares me.  But back to the PF.

The show was a breezy romp of performance-related adventures, music included.  Helped by a Friday night lead-in from The Brady Bunch, it was an almost instant hit.  So great was the Partridge cache that they not only sold a bunch of regular pop albums, but eventually recorded their own Christmas Album.  I know this because my sister got one for each of us.  I somehow ended up with two, and a Benjamin says you will not find one in my brother's CD library.

Little did we know at the time how powerful that music would be.  In fact, much to our son's open-mouthed horror, when we heard the opening bars of the tune in the commercial this week, I was able to sing the entire thing (it has more than one verse, you know) without so much as a pause.  My husband even joined in on the chorus, and he's a decade older.  That, my friends, is staying power.

In fact, the only thing that stopped me from the traditional coda on the chorus was the fact that Ty was alternating between a silent scream and huddling in the corner of the couch in the fetal position.  Kids. Sure, they love it when you crank Ludacris ("I came; I saw; I hit 'im right there in the jaw") on the way home from the grocery store but try to introduce them to some culture and they freak.  Hmmpph.

Blog Partridge Family happy Admit it - it's in your head now, isn't it?  And I'll bet you know the words.  How many songs - other than Bohemian Rhapsody and Paradise By the Dashboard Light, of course - can you say that about, after all these years?

C'mon On, Get Happy!

May 28, 2009

Mortar Boards

Mortar Boards and Speechifying

by Nancy    Go to fullsize image

A bright young woman once asked me to be the keynote speaker for her Honor Society's graduation dinner.  This was a few years ago, and I was stunned to learn I was their first choice.  At the time, I'd written, like, 35 steamy romance novels, and I couldn't imagine what life lessons they thought I could---oh, wait.  Steamy romance novels.  Now I get it.

Anyway, I was so stunned by the invitation that I declined to serve. They had given me only a couple of weeks lead time, and I didn't think I could come up with something meaningful to say in just two weeks.  I'm all about stewing and re-writing, and two weeks just wasn't enough time to live up to the expectations I imagined came with the honor of speaking to graduates.

Since then, however, I've made a study of commencement addresses, just in case I'm ever asked again.  (Now that I write mystery novels without much steam, I don't suppose I'll be anyone's first choice ever again, so I should relax, huh?)

Do you remember any of your graduation speakers?  Or only the bad ones?  Only the ones who talked way, way too long about stuff you had no interest in, right? You were probably sitting there under your mortar board with a hangover wondering, "Why do they call this thing a mortar board, anyway?  Because it looks just like that thingie the bricklayer uses to hold mortar.  Do you suppose....?"

I tend to remember the lousy commencement speakers I've heard over the years.  There was my daughter's high school superintendent who told a garbled version of a Native American parable, kinda like the ugly duckling tale, only imagine the ugly ducking DYING AT THE END OF THE STORY.  I don't think she understood exactly what a commencement address is supposed to do.

Then there was the hooding ceremony we attended for my son-in-law who got his PhD from Carnegie Mellon last week.  (Even better news!  He has a job!) The speaker was a former Clinton administration ethicist, and the president of an Ivy League college who could have had some really interesting stuff to say, except he spent 2 minutes complaining that he'd only been alloted 8 minutes to speak, and then he proceeded to tell us what he was going to talk about instead of just talking.  It was like listening to an outine.  And we were sitting on metal folding chairs! The. Worst. Speech. Ever.

My own college graduation speaker was the editor of a large metropolitan newspaper, and although he was a Democrat, he managed to impress the hell out of my father, a diehard Republican. My dad talked about that speech for years. I can't remember a thing about it, but I was probably buzzed at the time. Hey, it was 1975.

I think one of the important things about a commencement address is that it make the parents feel as if they paid for a real education.

Also, I think any speech needs to entertain. Don't put anyone to sleep.  And be thought-provoking.  Provide the fodder for the dinner conversation that evening.  It seems as if you should also start by reflecting about your own academic experience--if for no other reason that to reassure the students that you were once young enough to streak across the quadrangle at midnight or chug beer in a fraternity house or flunk Chaucer twice--not that I've ever done any of those things, because, really, a "C" in Chaucer is a passing grade, isn't it, unless your English department has some crazy idea that all majors need to get either an "A" or a "B" in English courses, and besides, who really needs to be able to read Middle English, for crying out loud??

But after that, what should a commencement speech be?

When asked to say something inspiring to that Honor Society, I was totally flummoxed.  I knew I would need to be inspiring and uplifting. But also memorable. And maybe funny.  The burden of the message was too much for me.  What a challenge--to be the last person who says something meaningful to a group of graduates setting off on life's journey. Yet one must be humble enough to recognize the audience might be harboring a future Barack Obama, Bill Gates or Toni Morrison.

The whole idea has been bugging me for ten years. Now, of course, if anyone needed to whip up a speech in a couple of weeks you could just Google some good ones to mine for material, but back then I was totally at sea.

Here are some famous recent commencement addresses by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres and Will Farrell.  (Also JK Rowling, who did a pretty good one, and Ronald Reagan, who surely didn't write his, but he delivered it well.)  It's a shame to me that the most sought-after commencement speakers nowadays are often entertainers. Has the day arrived when universities want to put Larry the Cable Guy on the podium to mark the occasion of handing out diplomas?  The era of Winston Churchill's "Never give in.." speech (delivered at a Harrow school graduation) may be nearing its end. Here's Churchill's "Sinews of Peace" speech, delivered in 1946 at Westminster College (in Missouri) in which he coined the phrase "iron curtain" and defined the coming cold war for the first time. Wow. It's brilliant. The kind of stirring words I want future generations to hear before they leave their institution of higher learning.

And here's a list of exemplary commence speeches delivered by Barbara Kingsolver, Ken Burns, Desmond Tutu, Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Toni Morrison---all as much poetry as inspirational and high-minded. The first one, by Paul Hawken, describes the exhortation he was given when asked to give a speech.  He was told to make it, "direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling and graceful."  Tall order.  But here's the head of NASA talking about Gallileo, and if it doesn't manage  to do exactly all those things, plus bring a lump to your throat, you need to go back to school.

Here's Russell Baker listing Ten Ways Not to Muck Up the World, including the advice to sleep in the nude. Another good one.

If you're thinking of asking me to speak at your kid's high school graduation?  Don't do it yet.  I'm not quite ready.  But I'm getting there.

May 27, 2009

Chef's Surprise

Chef Chef’s Surprise

By Elaine Viets

My cooking is legendary. My family knows me as the woman who baked a turkey on a cookie sheet because I didn’t want to buy a roasting pan. The turkey grease seeped out of the stove and turned the kitchen floor slick as a skating rink.

My friends remember the great green bean hunt. I had to bring a green bean casserole to a picnic. I looked up the recipe online. It called for a 6 ½ ounce can of green beans, mushroom soup and canned onion rings. I wandered the store for hours looking for six half-ounce cans of beans, before a shelf stocker told me I needed a six-and-a-half ounce can of green beans.

The condo guard knows I burned boil-in-the bag lima beans. Not just the bag – I burned the beans, too. I’d found this really interesting article on the Internet and lost track of the time until all the water boiled out of the pot, the plastic bag melted and the condo unit fire alarm went off.

Whenever two or more cooks are gathered together, I am banned from the kitchen.

Which is why I was surprised and thrilled to find myself one of the authors in "Literary Feast, The Famous Authors Cookbook." This is a collection of writers and their favorite recipes.

I’m in there with literary lights such as Alexander McCall Smith, author of the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency." Mr. McCall Smith, as his friends call him, contributed Mma. Potokwani’s Fruitcake.

"My Mma Potokwani’s fruitcake can be a little on the heavy side for some tastes," he wrote. "However, it has the merit of being undoubtedly what it is. If you close your eyes, you are left in no doubt as to what you are eating. Can one say that about nouvelle cuisine?"

No, sir. And may I say that the photo of you in your kilt is quite fetching.

The cookbook is published by the King County Library System to raise money for its literacy programs, so you could say that benefits us authors, though we’ll never see a penny of the profits from the "Literary Feast." The cookbook is $22.95 at www.thriftbooks.com

"Literary Feast" recipes range from elaborate to simple.

Author Brad Meltzer’s Italian Chicken includes bottled Italian dressing and canned mushrooms – not exactly a gourmet’s delight.

Jacquelyn Mitchard has a recipe for Tutus. These cookies are so complicated she sets "aside a whole day for construction cleanup. They don’t just dirty up the kitchen, they lay waste to the kitchen."

Her recipe looks scrumptious, but I’ll have to wait until Jackie invites me to tea to taste them.

Master chef Osamu "Sam" Okamoto developed food for Hollywood films including "Shoot to Kill" and "The Adventures of Yellow Dog." He is also Sidney Poitier’s personal chef. Sam’s Onion Miso Soup is right next to thriller writer Kevin O’Brien’s noodle casserole created by his mom. O’Brien’s recipe is made with leftover pot roast, gravy and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.

And so this "Literary Feast" goes, from homey to haute cuisine. There’s J.A. Jance’s Sugarloaf Cafe Sweet Rolls and Susan Vreeland’s Poires Belle Helene – poached pears with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

What did I contribute to this exalted company?

My fruit smoothie recipe, the one I gave TLC, with frozen strawberries and soy milk.

My smoothie stands proudly among the Summer Pesto (Jayne Ann Krentz), Thai Tortellini (novelist Bharti Kirchner), and Herbed Lamb Roast (actress and author Carolyn Hennesy).

I snuggle under the same book cover with celebrity chef Kathy Casey and her "seasonal greens with spicy walnuts, crisp Asian pears and cranberry vinaigrette."

It is the only time I will ever be cheek by jowl with notable chefs, and I am savoring every moment.

May 26, 2009

Are Parents the Enemy?

Are Parents the Enemy?

Yesterday, I spent a crystal clear blue morning sitting on the balcony off my bedroom overlooking fields and mountains doing something I have not done since becoming a mother - I read a book in one sitting.

Wait. Let me correct that. I read the book in one sitting while occasionally going to my office where we Anna get a glimmer of cell phone reception to IM my daughter asking where the hell she was. The night before had been her senior prom and the last I'd seen she was driving off in (my) car to her friend's house to slip into a beautiful strapless pink dress. From that point, she'd meet her boyfriend with her other friends downtown, hang out on the state house lawn, go to the prom and then spend the night at the boyfriend's friend's house, a kid I've known since he was five. 

But it was eleven the next morning and I had yet to hear from her aside from a gushing phone call twelve hours before.

Charlie fell back asleep after that call, but I tossed and turned. For him, young adulthood - far more dangerous than adolescence - is, well, a trip and one should make the most of the journey. 

For me, it is a snake pit of vipers - car accidents, unwanted pregnancies, STDs, drug overdoses, alcohol date rapes - that could, with one error in judgment, ruin her future. I'd just read an article on how ouBrainr brain's "judgment center" is not fully formed until our late 20s and how alcohol can make it worse. Moreover, the school had sent out a letter urging us as parents not to let our children drink because, in short, bad shit can ensue. So, I did my part.

I said, "Don't drink." And she said, "Okay." Done.

I instant messaged her at eleven a.m. and went back to my book, losing myself to save my sanity. The book was unbelievably excellent - Stephen King's On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft. To be honest, I've never been able to get through a King book in its entirety though my friend, Lisa, an avid reader, has read and loved him since the seventies and swears his awesomeness. But this book was so honest, so well written, that I was glued. 
On writing
And, yet, I couldn't help observe the irony.

Here I was worried about a relatively stable honors student with a full-time job and a ticket to Bryn Mawr, with two parents in a happy marriage and enough money to carry us through the fall, making "bad choices" while King was cracking me up with stories about his brother, unsupervised, at age six crawling across the roof. In fact, (a phrase King loathes, BTW), the very idea of parental supervision seems not only alien to his upbringing, but unwanted. He would not have gained his fantastic imagination if his perpetually single mother had not dragged the King boys from impoverished backwater Maine to Connecticut to Maine again as if they were trash. Also, if he'd had TV.

The point of the memoir portion is to provide an insight into how King developed the ideas for his books. Scrubbing rust stained walls in a girl's room as a janitor one summer led to Carrie. The field of trash and broken glass and a train track behind his house became The Barrens in It. Let me tell youKing  something, if I'd been King's mother, no way would I have let him play in the field of trash and broken glass down by the track. Never. Never ever. Talk about chock full of child molesters!

Which brings me to the point of this blog: are parents the enemy? (I refuse to substitute mothers for parents because, frankly, I've had it up to here with Freud.) Or, let me be more specific, are well-meaning upper class suburban parents who strive to get their children into good schools and paying jobs the enemy?

This reminds me of another memoir I loved - The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. The glass castle Another wretched childhood filled with rats and other aspects of inconceivable poverty. But there is something Jeannette and Stephen King share besides writing talent and it has nothing to do with how sober a parent was or how hard the parent worked to put a roof over his or her children's heads. It comes down to one simple nugget: encouragement.

In both cases, Stephen King's mother and Jeannette Walls' father not only permitted their children to dream the impossible (A writer! Yes, why not?) but they encouraged it in words and deeds. Aside from one scene in King's book where his mother digs a short story out of the trash, flattens it, reads it and tells him to go on, there are few moments where Mother King heaps on the praise. It's mostly what she does - the typewriter that suddenly comes into his possession thanks to her, the printing mechanism that produces his brother's basement newspaper, the books and comic books, the stamps and pencils.

Was she married to King's father? No. Was Jeannette Walls's father sober? Rarely. But it is fair to say that if it hadn'Better jeannette t been for King's mother and Walls's father, neither would have been published today. Or, more importantly, such fantastic writers.

This also turned my attention to the hovering parents over at College Confidential where I spent many an hour while Anna was applying to schools. To say these parents were "involved" in their children's performance in high school, on the SATs,  in the college admissions offices, would be an understatement. But will those kids be as creative and adventurous as King and Walls? Doubtful. More likely, I see them ending up in an office park crunching numbers and cursing their existences, even if their parents had managed to get them into Yale back in the day.

Anna breezed through the door at 11:30. By then, I was done with On Writing. Having learned my lesson at Stephen King's knee, I didn't even bother to ask her how it went. For her sake, I thought, "Screw it."

Let's hope my apathy's not too late.


May 25, 2009

Stalking Dean Winters

Stalking Dean Winters

By Harley

I spent the last two weeks with Dean Winters.

When we met, I’d never heard of him, because I’ve been under a rock for 9 years. And not “30 Rock,” one of the 487 films and TV shows Dean’s been on (including Oz, Rescue Me, Sex and the City, etc. etc. etc.) while I’ve been changing diapers and writing novels. Images

I showed up in Nebraska to do a short film, and there was Dean, from NYC. He was awfully cute, especially considering I was expecting Ernest Borgnine. It was an Ernest Borgnine kind of part, I’d thought while reading the script -- the town Sheriff. I played an FBI agent from the big city (Omaha). The Sheriff called me a bitch, I called him a piece of shit and it went downhill from there. For a woman living in a household where Dummy Head is a real insult, this was a heady experience.

Also, for years I played the girl next door, and then the mom next door (and in three cases the nun next door) before dropping off the map, and now I was the Fed next door--no hot rollers, no Peter Pan collars, no lip gloss! In fact, I have become Ernest Borgnine. MV5BMTE5MzgyMjI2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMDcxOTQ2._V1._CR0,0,290,290_SS100_

But back to Dean.                                                      

Within 48 hours of arriving in Lincoln, Dean acquired a stalker, due to his serious charisma. Some guy called him endlessly, wanting to be friends. Dean asked the hotel not to put the calls through, but (maybe because Nebraskans are polite) the calls kept coming.

Of course, lots of people have stalkers. At age 15, flying to New York to spend the summer with my big sister, I had a layover in Chicago, and some guy named Michael struck up a conversation, then changed his ticket from Boston to New York. On the plane, seated next to me, he thought it would be a good idea to kiss on take-off and landing. I didn’t agree, but I didn’t want to be rude (because I’m from Nebraska) so I said okay.

When we landed, my brother-in-law offered him a ride to wherever he was going, and when Michael said he had nowhere to go, my brother-in-law invited him to spend the night at their apartment, since it was late.


My sister, who had a newborn baby and pretty good weirdo radar, took all the kitchen knives and hid them under her mattress. The next morning, Michael accompanied my sister, my nephew and me to the grocery store. Where he shoplifted some toys for the baby.

At this point, my sister took me aside and told me to get rid of him. So I told Michael to go back to Boston. This did not go over well. “It’s bitches like you,” he screamed, “who sent me to the institution in the first place, and that’s why they’re sending me back!”


I have no stalkers now, possibly because they’d be bored, following me to my kids’ soccer games. I’d like to think I’m tougher, that the Fed stuff has rubbed off on me, but since I don’t own a gun and don’t want a gun, I’d rather not find out.DSCN0954

Dean doesn’t need a gun. “Show up,” he told his phone stalker, “and I’ll stab you.” The stalker stopped calling.

Anyhow, that’s it. I miss the movie. I miss Dean, miss sitting in the Nebraska sun, surrounded by cow dung, sharing a bucket of stage blood with him, swatting flies. He’s great actor, and great in every way an actor can be to work with. You always think you’ll see your movie friends again and sometimes you do, but a lot of times you don’t. So this is my shout-out to Dean. Watch for him mid-season next year in a show called Happy Town.

But don’t stalk him.

Happy Memorial Day. Thank a soldier.



May 24, 2009

Why I Lost My Virginity



Kathy Miller Haines, author of the Rosie Winter mystery series explains Tyra Banks, Bristol Palin and putting off sex by telling us . . .


Why I Lost My Virginity


If you’re a People Magazine peruser like I am (and, let’s be honest, it’s the best part of any doctor’s appointment) you might have seen the latest issue with Bristol Palin and her adorable “mistake” (Todd Palin’s word, not mine) on the cover. In the article Bristol boldly states, “If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex. Trust me. Nobody.”


I remember being Bristol’s age and being terrified of sex for one reason: it could lead to pregnancy. And that meant MY FUTURE WAS RUINED. No college. No decent job. Shunned by my family. So I did my best to develop a complex that sex only had consequences and nothing else to offer me. 


In college though, my virginity became this burden. I had to get rid of it, like a hexed family heirloom, and I was clever enough to realize (thanks to years of watching “90210”) that if I waited for that special someone I was going to be let down. So I went for someone who was only kind of special. And who broke up with me two weeks later.


Here’s what I learned in the process: sex is actually a really pleasant way to pass the time. It’s sharing of intimacy, it’s physical exercise, it’s a way to release hormones that make you a more pleasant person to be around, and it can improve the quality of your life and your skin. It can be empowering, enriching, and an economical way to entertain yourself during a recession.  Oh, and since the 19th century, there have been relatively reliable ways of preventing that pregnancy thing, should you choose to do so.


Yeah, it stinks that abstinence only education ignores the fact that some people are going to have sex so we should at least tell them how to prevent pregnancy and prevent STDS. But what I really hate about it is how it stigmatizes sex to the point that takes this wholly pleasant experience and turns it only into a negative. We become so focused on what can go wrong as a result of sexual intimacy, that we forget all the things that can go right, creating generations of young men and women who never get over the fear that sex is wrong, even when they finally find themselves “permitted” to do it within the bonds of holy matrimony.


Which brings me to the Tyra Banks’ show.


This week, we met a couple that waited for marriage. “Lauren,” the wife, had managed to get herself so freaked out about sex that her wedding night was a disaster. And now, two years after marriage, she and her husband are both still virgins. I think we can agree that girlfriend has more hang-ups than a walk-in closet, and that someone encouraging her to keep it to herself until she put a ring on it probably wasn’t the only thing that caused her issues, but it’s not hard to see the connection between Bristol Palin’s stark declaration that sex is nothing but negative consequences and Lauren’s dismal fate.


And I got to say, it makes me really glad I “gave it up” before I reached a point where I had sucked all the fun out of it.


Winter in June: A Rosie Winter MysteryCheck out the book trailer for the latest, and most delightful Rosie Winter mystery Winter In June right here. And if you'd like an autographed copy, check with Mystery Lovers Bookshop.

May 23, 2009

Bond is BACK! And on the Road.

Bond is BACK!  And on the Road.

by Will Graham

The name Raymond Benson may not be one that is immediately associated with the James Bond Legacy, but it should be.  Long before CASINO ROYALE hit the screens, Raymond’s novels in the 007 series brought the famed and fabled character firmly into the New Millennium, and did so with remarkable style.RaymondBenson

Raymond was asked to assume stewardship of the series after John Gardner retired in 1996, with a 007 short story in Playboy (“Blast from the Past”) followed by the release of ZERO MINUS TEN, which took off like a brick through a plate glass window. (if there ever was a Fleming-esque title, that one takes first place.)

To use the oft-repeated tag-line:  Bond was BACK!

Raymond’s attention to detail was evident from the first page.  His respect for the genre, his love for the character, and his desire to expand and update the Bond Universe came through.  This was James Bond, but it was Raymond Benson’s James Bond.  Much like the change in actors over the years (let’s not waste time; there’s Sean, then there are The Other Guys), the world has changed considerably since 007’s first printed adventure way back in 1953.  The whole world was different, and there were many who felt the concept of an Englishman in a tuxedo saving the day was out-dated and would no longer apply today.  (They were wrong.)

Ff_007_object_468 Raymond’s Bond is perhaps a shade more thoughtful, a bit more aware of his own mortality, a tick (a small tick) less reckless.  When the chips are down, however, he is still the 007 of legend; tough, ruthless, able to take care of business, whether said business involves a dirty demolition job or the seduction of a countess.

This past Thursday, I had the singular experience of attending Raymond’s “James Bond Phenomenon” here in Houston, a two hour lecture about the World of 007.

It was a wonder.  Raymond started at the beginning, with the creation of the character by Ian Fleming as “an 007logo antidote to the hysteria of being married at the age of 43”, on through the films, other authors, Raymond’s own involvement with the series, the contemporary movies, and the casting of Daniel Craig.  (Relax, Raymond likes him.)

Even I learned a couple of things.  It was a fascinating evening.

If any readers are in the remotest vicinity, depending on tour schedule, make sure and go see Raymond.  It’s a fun evening you won’t soon forget!

Details can be found at www.raymondbenson.com  Tell him William sent you....

May 22, 2009

Stop Saying Words and Other Polite Things To Say

Stop Saying Words and Other Polite Things to Say

By Kathy Sweeney, with all due respect

If you're anything like me - and face it - I know many of you are - you may occasionally have a burning desire to tell someone to go screw themselves.  Today, we are going to share our tricks for doing just that without using profanity or weapons.

Because words can be the best weapons.  We know this because we are all readers.  Let's start with something simple.  Let's say you want to tell someone to Shut Up.  (If you are not a parent, let me clue you in - we don't say 'shut up' any more.  It's rude.  Don't ask.)  All the credit goes to my sister on this one who came up with the classic:  "Stop Saying Words."  Perfect.  Gets the same message across without using the bad words.

Let's move on.  Sometimes, people are in a position that traditionally commands some deference.  This may be due to the fact that they are your boss, or they wear a black robe and can hold you in contempt and throw you in the slammer.  Or perhaps they have something you want, so you feel the need, despite a gut-deep urge to smash their face in, to be polite.  You can still make the point that you think they are a total shithead.  Sure, they might suspect, but with the following, they can't prove anything.

  • Start with the words: "With all due respect".  They're magic.  You can follow them with nearly whatever you choose and get away with it.  Okay, don't follow with 'shit-for-brains'.  That cancels out the magic words.  Example: "With all due respect your honor, the record states otherwise."
  • Use "As you know" and then state your position.  This puts the other person in a position of wondering if he does - or should - know that what you are saying is true.  My husband uses this one and it was almost a year before I figured it out. Example: "As you know, boss, we decided to buy this new commercial grade automatic espresso machine at last month's meeting."     
Are you with me?  Now let's bring in the big dogs.  Two of the most useful and versatile words in the English language are fuck and you.  Like the word 'Aloha', they can mean hello or good-bye.  They can also mean: shut up; you're kidding me; go to hell; I hate you; you're an ass; or 'I can't believe you said that to me after all we've been through'. 
For various reasons, we can not always use these words.  Perhaps it's the setting - like church or a kindergarten class.  Perhaps it's the event - like a funeral or a dinner honoring the person most in need of the F-U.  Doesn't matter.  Here are two of my favorites:

  • "How nice for you."  This works in response to general braggarts, liars and other people who are just too obnoxious to live.  Delivered with the appropriate amount of snark, it sails like one of Robin Hood's arrows.  
  • "Bless Your/Her Heart" - thanks to Harley for reminding me about this one.  This is closely related to the "Rest his soul", which can be used as an antidote after you say something dreadful about a dead person.    
Your turn - what do you say when you'd really rather say something nasty?

And have a great Memorial Day weekend - don't forget to take some time to honor all those in our armed forces and to remember our veterans.