A Smile

Imagine my surprise – I checked my blog files for what I wrote a year ago. I was already suffering from pandemic fatigue.

To combat it, I’d gone for humor and submitted humorous quotes. I might as well do the same this week, but with different quotes from some of the same people.

• from George Carlin: I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose. 

• from Woody Allen: Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.

• from Ellen Degeneres: Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.

• from Steven Wright: Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

• from Stephen Colbert: I don’t trust children. They’re here to replace us.

• from Fran Liebowitz: I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.

• from Will Rogers: Everything is changing. People are taking comedians seriously and politicians as a joke. (hmm – from Will Rogers, 1879-1935)

• What’s your favorite quote, one that makes you laugh even in a pandemic?

Laughter statue. Public art in Vancouver, Canada

April Fool. Or not.

First a famous April Fool prank from 1998:

• MIT students hacked the school’s site to proclaim that the school had been bought by a well-known entertainment conglomerate.

And a couple of great April Fool hoaxes:

            2013 – Teleportation Machine. The University of Michigan College of Engineering demonstrates a teleportation machine.

            • 2019 – The Flat Earth Globe. Behold an Earth that does not spin and is not spherical. http://hoaxes.org/af_database/permalink/flat_earth_globe

Finally, a group of serious (no fooling) milestones on April 1:

            • 1889 – First dishwasher marketed

            • 1875 — The Times of London published the first weather map in a newspaper

            • 1960 – The first weather satellite was launched.

            • 1976 – Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computer.

            • 2004 – Google unveiled gmail.

Have a fun day!

Ruffles and all

Gloria, 1972. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

It’s still women’s history month (don’t frown, men, you have 11 months to yourselves), so I thought I’d talk about fashion.

Not kidding.

My most recent pet peeve is the latest in news-anchor fashion. For women, that is. It hasn’t changed much for men. It’s your basic suit and tie, sometimes with a little fake hankie in the pocket. I’ve yet to see Jake Tapper in a muscle shirt, or Chuck Todd with a colorful polo.


OK, Anderson Cooper is all over tv with his new baby and sweats, but not when he’s delivering the news.

Female anchors, on the other hand, come cute. Three or four days out of five, they show cleavage. Some day I’m going to see if there’s a pattern. Lots of flesh showing on Mondays to wake people from a weekend hangover; something pretty and pink in the middle of the week;and a drape with a couple of gold chains on Friday.

The worst tops in my mind are the ones with puffy sleeves, the kind that would be on my little sister’s school dresses when she was seven or eight a few decades ago. I remember ironing the dresses—I’d stick my hand in the short sleeve to spread it out and then press in a circular crease so that the sleeve would stick up.

So cute! But not for a grown-up newsperson asking us to trust her and pay attention to information on the pandemic or the Iran nuclear deal or a mass shooting. Or even the weather.

I’ll end this little rant with a Happy Birthday to Gloria Steinem (born March 25, 1934), never caught with puffy sleeves as far as I remember.

Should women be allowed to wear whatever they pleased and not be criticized? Absolutely. Should they be aware of how their image contributes to the message and that when they dress for the beach or a sexy pop article, that’s how many will view her.

Which is not to say, for example, that Gloria Steinem was humorless. Here’s a quote that’s attributed to her:

            A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle

T-shirt-worthy, don’t you think?

Amateurs all!

It’s safe to say I know many amateur sleuths, a gazillion by actual count. Every day, on bookshelves everywhere, crimes are solved by florists, cooks, beauticians, baristas, quilters, nurses, tour guides, ghosts, and wedding planners. Murderers are caught and arrested on cruise ships, in cafes, at concerts, in churches, in haunted and unhaunted houses, and in locker rooms.

Did I mention that amateur sleuths also include retired physicists, miniaturists, college math professors, a postmistress, and lately, a diner owner in Alaska?

I feel I know them all well, inside and out. They’re smart, brave, righteous, and persistent, usually women, but sometimes too stupid to live (TSTL).

I’m constantly defending them:

• Of course, she has the motivation to investigate a murder, even though her day job involves running a community garden and she has no training in criminology—after all, the victim was a bridesmaid at her roommate’s cousin’s best friend’s second wedding. How can she just sit back and not help the police/troopers/sheriff/PIs?

• She’s curious, so Yes! she will drive out to the cemetery in the middle of the night to meet someone who says he has an important clue to the killer’s identity.

• So what if she withholds information from the real police? She has a good reason to—she wants to look into the situation on her own. She is, after all, an independent thinker/investigator.

• Definitely, in case you’re wondering: It is possible that the knitter sleuth found the clue that experienced homicide detectives and a crew of trained CSI techs missed.

Members of my critique groups who do not write amateur sleuths are the biggest skeptics. Who’s going to believe blah blah blah? they ask me all the time.

“It’s a trope,” I answer, because it’s too complicated to explain reasonable suspension of disbelief. As long as the writer doesn’t cheat, i.e., go off on incredible tangents, readers will enjoy the story.

There’s a reason there are so many cozies and a reason they are very popular. We enjoy reading about normal people like ourselves—crafters, grandmothers, administrators, journalists, innkeepers, beekeepers. We like to think anyone can be smart enough to follow a few clues, put the puzzle together and make the world safe again.

How hard can it be?

(Kidding. I’m forever grateful to PDs and all first responders especially in these challenging times.)

Note to readers: Last week this blog was hacked, resulting in hundreds of spam comments in a 2-day period. The only way I could get rid of them was to close comments. I’ll wait a week and then open again. I guess some people don’t have enough to do. I wish I could export a few projects to them!

Miniature Mysteries Re-released

In case you missed them the first time, the first five Miniature Mysteries, which I wrote as “Margaret Grace,” are being re-released. Don’t worry, I have documentation that the rights to the texts have reverted to me!

Crossroad Press is doing me the honor of getting them out with new covers. Here are the first two.

More to come!

Watch for “Malice in Miniature,” “Mourning in Miniature,” and “Monster in Miniature.”

Inauguration Day

No, I’m not late for this year’s event. I’m celebrating the original schedule.

Until the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933, the official day for presidential inaugurations was March 4 . When the fourth fell on a Sunday, as it did in 1821, 1849, 1877, and 1917, the ceremonies were held on March 5.

There had already been a glitch, however: The first president of the United States, George Washington, was not inaugurated until April 30. Although Congress scheduled the first inauguration for March 4, 1789, they were unable to count the electoral ballots as early as anticipated. Consequently, the first inauguration was postponed to allow the president-elect time to make the long tip from his home in Virginia to the nation’s capital in New York City.

https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/pnp/ppmsca/50900/50970r.jpg

Crowd in front of White House during Andrew Jackson’s first inaugural reception in 1829. Cruikshank, Robert, 1789-1856, artist. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Check out THIS site for more on early presidential inaugurations.

Different Strokes

In our family room my husband is relaxed, watching a rom-com about a beautiful cupcake baker in a small town where no one needs to lock her door and all the parked cars have keys in the ignition. A thief’s paradise, yet the crime rate is barely above 0, and that non-0 statistic is only because sweet old Mr. C is becoming forgetful and has taken to walking off with packs of gum from Uncle Al’s general store. Outside, on the sidewalk, everyone smiles and greets all the passersby by name. Of course they all know each other’s favorite cupcake.

In the living room, I’m sitting in front of another large flat screen. Mine is bigger, which I like, but his has better resolution which, as an engineer, he needs. I’m happy, but not exactly relaxed. My entire body is focused on a rerun of a Dexter episode, his knife-wielding arm raised above his latest victim, who is strapped to a table. Well, not an innocent victim since the guy on the table is, like Dexter, also a serial killer. Serial killers are second only to hit men on my wish list. Third would be fixers like Ray Donovan, who do a little of everything.

If my spouse does join me in a crime drama, it has to be bloodless, like the rom-com above, and with a very clean body, seen from a distance. All the violence will be off camera. And no punches to the face or gut, please.

In other words, he likes cozies; I like grit. 

We’re talking about television and not books, only because the issue comes up when it’s together time. The different preferences remain the same for books. He’ll pick up a Monk; I’ll go for Nordic Noir.

Here’s just a taste of breakfast conversation as we debate the merits or not of the two ends of the “violence/no violence” spectrum.

Him: That gritty portrayal glorifies violence.

Me: That cozy script makes light of violence.

You’d never know we were talking about murder in both cases, albeit fictional.

Him: I don’t want to be reminded about real evil. My programs are more about the puzzle, figuring out the clues.  

Me: My choices are more realistic, more of a deterrent to the viewer.

And so on.

I can’t really argue about his preference for cozies. After all, I’ve written almost 30 of them, give or take.

I’ve taken on “evil” in my writing, but only in short pieces, closer to flash fiction. The truth is, I can’t stay very long in the minds and souls of the likes of Hannibal Lechter, or Tom Ripley, or “number one fan,” Annie Wilkes. 

Instead of constantly echoing debates past, we’ve reached an agreement. I’ll give the channel famous for bloodless mysteries a shot, but if I can’t stand it after twenty minutes, I’m free to leave, with no repercussions or criticisms on either side. Similarly for him. As soon as a scene shifts to the coroner’s lab, or slab, he leaves for the kitchen, brings me back a bowl of ice cream and keeps walking.

Win win.    

Vocabulary-19

A little creepy?

I love Dr. Anthony Fauci, and not just because he’s a short Italian, like my father.

Now that he’s been liberated, as he’s put it, I count on him for the best we can do as far as information and predictions about Covid-19

But recently, I learned something different from him—a new word. Probably one I should have known, but I’m not afraid to admit I’m still building my vocabulary. And so, apparently, is Microsoft Word, because it is underlining the word in red, meaning HUH?

Here it is: 

armamentarium

To Dr. Fauci, the word means the medicines, equipment, and techniques available to a medical practitioner.

To the rest of us, it can mean a collection of resources available for a certain purpose, such as “the armamentarium of electronic surveillance,” or, I suppose, of my latest miniature project.

Let’s see who’s the first to use it in a sentence.

Losses

Another period of meditation this week as I mourn the loss of 4 people in my life.

• Louie T., the closest to me, a friend from my youth in Revere, Massachusetts, and one I never lost touch with

• Ellen A., a student I’ve worked with in our writers’ group for several years and saw once a week with few exceptions

• Fran, the sister of a good friend in the above group

• Janet, the sister of another good friend in that group.

I thought it was supposed to be only 3 at a time?

Meditation

Kandinsky: “With Sun” (1911)

One of those Thursdays that has crept up on me. But there’s always art to share.

Care to share a thought?