SMILE

Are you ready for something silly?

These days I’m finding it hard to be cheerful, to see the humor in life. I wake up in a land I’d thought of only in sci-fi terms. A flare-up. An outbreak. An epidemic. A pandemic? When someone cracks a joke (rarely), my smile or laugh seem foreign to me, as if my lips and mouth are not used to the configuration.

So for this week, I thought I’d look for Quotes that make me laugh, or, at least not depressed.

• from George Carlin: May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

• from Woody Allen: My one regret in life is that I’m not someone else.

• from Steven Wright: A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I’m afraid of widths.

Fordham, c. 2020

• and this one is an original from my colleagues in our physics lab at Fordham U., c. 1965.

Me: The spectrograph is off kilter again. It’s going to take hours to fix it.
Ron, a classmate: Let’s just rotate the Bronx.

Keep safe, everyone!

WORD OF THE WEEK

I’m reading Susie Steiner’s MISSING, PRESUMED, an excellent British police procedural.

This evening I came across the word toerag, used by one of the detectives to describe a colleague. I figured out from the context what was meant, but decided to check it out. Was this an invention of the author or a widely used word in the UK?

My search produced no fewer than 72 synonyms, but here’s the best definition.

I might need to use the word in the near future.

Enjoy!

Another Thurso

I’ve gotten used to LOL, BFF, OMG, and other abbreviations, but there’s another trend that I’m seeing in Comments on social media and in other blogs.

Here’s the new rule: any word of more than one syllable gets knocked down to one or two. Thus, conversation becomes “convo.” Problem becomes “prob,” or, in a perverse twist, expanded to “problemo.”

Thinking about it, haven’t we been using “info” and “demo” for ages?

What new ones have you heard? What do you think of the new landscape of vocab?

Still Life with Books
attributed to William Notman
Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Real Me Comes Back

The Real Me is back.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

I wish it were all good news, but the upheaval in our lives in the wake of Covid-19 is frightening. I hope you are taking the necessary precautions and making the best of inconveniences.

My sympathies and best wishes for recovery to anyone who has not been able to escape the virus. 

What’s there to do or talk about while we struggle with isolation?

• Here’s a relatively new blog that’s perfect for your time at home, or otherwise:

            Check out Sara Bly’s PHOTOCRAFTING FUN. Neverending ideas for DIY projects for yourself and gifts for others. Currently there are instructions for a memory-matching game on the site. Check out Recent Posts for more ideas and sign up to follow!

It’s never too soon to start holiday shopping, especially when it’s as easy and satisfying as this. And please share the results of your crafting with us!

•  Books

            — Catching you up with a short story I contributed to the anthology of mid-century crime fiction. Read “Lorna” and let me know what you think! And read all the rest, too!

           

— A new series will debut on May 5: guess who Elizabeth Logan really is. You can preorder Mousse and Murder, the first Alaskan Diner Mystery.

            — My local Castro Valley library participates in the “Reads” program. This year, Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird was the choice. Because of gathering restrictions, the discussions have been cancelled. To be rescheduled, I hope, because the book is outstanding. If you’re looking for a great read, give it a try.

Let me know if you have interests or hobbies you’d like covered here. Book reviews? DIY crafts? Writing topics? Your own “book of the week” to recommend?

For more of The Real Me, or The Real You, SIGN UP for my newsletter and visit www.minichino.com

That’s it for this week. I hope you’re all taking care!

Closing Lines

It’s been said (meaning I can’t remember where I read it) that the opening lines of a book sell the book, and the closing lines sell the next book.

Here are a few memorable closing lines.

But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. — George Eliot, Middlemarch

• Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision. — Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead. — Don DeLillo, White Noise

If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who. — Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

• Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody. — J.D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye

***

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Kumbaya

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. — Einstein

I’ve always liked that quote. Probably because I have spent a lot of my life believing I’m stupid. Now I realize that’s true, but only about half the time.

I had a mother in the era where many women didn’t want to be mothers, felt they had no choice, and took it out on their children. My mother’s favorite pastime was to point out all the ways I was stupid. One of them related to music. I didn’t have music lessons because I was too stupid to learn. (I now believe that the real reason was that the school didn’t offer lessons, and we couldn’t afford private lessons.) Also, she told me I couldn’t carry a tune—I’m not sure why it mattered that my mother persisted in reminding of this. Maybe she thought that, otherwise, I’d be walking around the house singing and disturbing her peace.

Yes, there I am in the centerfold.

Jumping forward to the days when I was a Roman Catholic Sister—I attended mass every lunch time in the college chapel. With me in the photo above are other students, the man on my right a seminarian, Bob C.

Guitar masses were all the rage, and Bob lead the singing every day. But one day he didn’t show up, and those of us in the pews started to look around for someone to take over. After all, we needed music to inspire us: This Little Light of MineKumbaya . . .

A woman I didn’t know well, in the pew behind me, tapped me on the shoulder. “Sister,” she whispered, “You’re going to have to lead the singing today.”

I turned back, panic rising in my body. “I can’t sing,” I told her.

She frowned. “What do you mean? Of course you can. You’re a nun.”

I don’t remember what I said out loud. Something like “Oh.”

And I lead the singing that day and for the rest of my time at that campus. I still wonder what became of Bob.

Have a seat

One for every occasion: a few of the cables that hang neatly in our garage.

February 9 marks a special day for the Cable Guy and me: it’s the anniversary of our retirement from a large laboratory. Besides the obvious benefits of managing our own time, there were presents!

Note the “napkin” and “key” on the seat. The scratches have been inadvertently added, but show loving use!

And among the presents was a chair from an artist friend who is expert at faux surfaces. The chair represents the fact that I was a regular at a wonderful coffee shop close to the lab. “Mrs. Coffee’s” is long gone but I remember the exceptional food, service, and ambience, and, of course, the many friends I shared them with.

The chair has a permanent place in our home—a fairly large reminder of good times. Check out the “plaque” on the back of the chair (also FAUX).

“C. MINICHINO ENDOWED CHAIR OF LUNCHOLOGY AT MRS. COFFEE’S”

Thanks B.G. for the generous sharing of your talent, and “Mrs. Coffee” for years of providing a second home!

Academy Award NOMINATIONS

Academy Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning January 22. They will air live Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on ABC. As far back as the 1980’s, we’ve had a houseful of family and friends watching the show in our home. Let me know if you can come!

Table display at last year's party. (The statues are plastic replicas, alas.)

HERE is the complete list of this year’s nominations. And below is to tempt you to attend.

Remember this Clooney movie? The cake mimics his roll-on luggage.

EDGAR™️ NOMINATIONS

On Tuesday, January 22, at 7:30 AM Eastern time, the Mystery Writers of America announced the nominations for the Edgar™️ Award. I was at my computer, waiting, ready to search out each nominated book (or TV episode!) that I hadn’t already read/seen.

In case you missed them, here’s the list:

Edgar Statues

Table full of Edgar™️ Statues, at the banquet, ready for the winners

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as we celebrate the 210th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the Nominees for the 2019 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2018. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 73rd Gala Banquet, April 25, 2019 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

BEST NOVEL
The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone Publishing)
House Witness by Mike Lawson (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Penguin Random House – Hogarth)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Penguin Random House – Berkley)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Seventh Street Books)
The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (Simon & Schuster – Touchstone)
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)
Under My Skin by Lisa Unger (Harlequin – Park Row Books)

BEST FACT CRIME
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge First and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler (W.W. Norton & Company – Liveright)
Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal by Jonathan Green (W.W. Norton & Company)
The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Penguin Random House – Viking)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful Mafia by Alex Perry (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
The Metaphysical Mysteries of G.K. Chesterton: A Critical Study of the Father Brown Stories and Other Detective Fiction by Laird R. Blackwell (McFarland Publishing)
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)
Mark X: Who Killed Huck Finn’s Father? by Yasuhiro Takeuchi (Taylor & Francis – Routledge)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)

BEST SHORT STORY
“Rabid – A Mike Bowditch Short Story” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
“Paranoid Enough for Two” – The Honorable Traitors by John Lutz (Kensington Publishing)
“Ancient and Modern” – Bloody Scotland by Val McDermid (Pegasus Books)
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Art Taylor (Dell Magazines)
“The Sleep Tight Motel” – Dark Corners Collection by Lisa Unger (Amazon Publishing)

BEST JUVENILE
Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Katherine Tegen Books)
Zap! by Martha Freeman (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective by A.B. Greenfield (Holiday House)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Company – Henry Holt BFYR)
Otherwood by Pete Hautman (Candlewick Press)
Charlie & Frog: A Mystery by Karen Kane (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney Hyperion)
Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT
Contagion by Erin Bowman (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperCollins)
Blink by Sasha Dawn (Lerner Publishing Group – Carolrhoda Lab)
After the Fire by Will Hill (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Fire)
A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma (Algonquin Young Readers)
Sadie by Courtney Summers (Wednesday Books)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
“The Box” – Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Teleplay by Luke Del Tredici (NBC/Universal TV)
“Season 2, Episode 1” – Jack Irish, Teleplay by Andrew Knight (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – Mystery Road, Teleplay by Michaeley O’Brien (Acorn TV)
“My Aim is True” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Kevin Wade (CBS Eye Productions)
“The One That Holds Everything” – The Romanoffs, Teleplay by Matthew Weiner & Donald Joh (Amazon Prime Video)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
“How Does He Die This Time?” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Nancy Novick (Dell Magazines)

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks (Minotaur Books)
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Publishing)
Bone on Bone by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier (Minotaur Books)

*****

Since I wasn’t a judge this year, I’m free to comment and recommend! I recommend The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs, nominated for best debut novel. I read it before I knew it was her first novel–never would have guessed.

How about you? Any recommendations?

A cutter of my own

I love office supplies. I love that office supplies are the tools of my trade.

I think it started in fourth grade when I won a spelling contest—nothing big, just something Miss Milbury cooked up for a Friday morning. The “prize” was a brand new pencil, packaged with a new pink eraser, a thick rubber band holding them together.

When, at my first adult workplace, I had access to a supply room, I thought I’d found my dream job. The room was like a huge walk-in closet. Shelves and drawers on all sides held large quantities of pens, folders, staplers, punches, notepads, paper clips, desk organizers.

Early on my husband figured this out and stopped trying to find just the right necklace or earrings and bought me a paper cutter for my birthday. Wow, my own paper cutter, like the ones only offices and schools had back then! I guess my gratitude was apparent because he’s been sticking with the category ever since—an electric pencil sharpener, a supersize three-hole punch, an electric stapler, a postal scale, reams of colored paper, and “expensive” three-ring binders that don’t eat your fingers when you open and close them.

The only things better than office supplies are colorful office supplies.

My relatives and friends have caught on and I have Vera Bradley folders, teal bookends in the shape of hands, and packing tape with an image of a zipper.

My paper inventory: a color for every application

And an update to that old paper cutter: one with a laser beam that shoots down the side, for perfect alignment, as soon as you raise the handle!

When I was a kid, pencils were green and pens were black and dipped in ink wells. Paper bags were brown, folders were manila, and mailing envelopes were white. The first sticky notes came in yellow only, with no clever sayings or die cut edges.

No wonder I lived an uninspired life back then, coming to writing only as an older adult. I needed color and florals and plaids to get me going.

Never mind a parachute, what color is your folder?