Thursday, March 31, 2016

Here come the NHL playoffs...

...and here comes a blast from the past, in more ways than one.

The amazing and gifted Miss Kate Smith, belting out "God Bless America".

Sadly, more like God help America these days.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Donations Confidential

He wanted to keep it a secret. Bravo, Demon Dog, bravo.

US author gives to attack victims.

From the article:
AMERICAN author James Ellroy, who wrote L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia, is reported to be donating his royalties from 2015 in France to victims of the Paris attacks of November 13. 
I wish he was still in L.A. I don't know why he moved to Denver, but in the last couple of articles I've seen about him, he seems happy there.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Based on my Facebook feed today, people are celebrating Easter in a variety of ways. Images of faith, humor, food, photoshop, bunny ears, nostalgia and lots of love are peppering my FB. In no particular order:

These next two are from Silence is Consent's gallery:

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hank Phillippi Ryan on writing yourself out of a corner

Hank Phillippi Ryan is a best-selling author and human award magnet. In her day job as an investigative reporter in Boston, she has won a staggering thirty-three Emmys along with a boatload of other awards for her reporting and novels. Here she offers 8 Ways to Write Yourself Out of That Corner. There's some really great advice here - take a look if you're looking for help getting unstuck.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jackie Fox on the complicated psychology of trauma

I don't know much if anything about the Jian Gomeshi case, and I'm fortunate that I've never been the victim of a violent crime, but I found this to be an amazingly well-written piece on the complicated psychology of trauma and how people don't understand how and why victims process things the way they do in the aftermath of their attacks. Jackie Fuchs, aka Jackie Fox of the 1970's girl band The Runaways (who went public last year with her story of being raped by the band's manager) discusses What the Jian Gomeshi acquittal can teach us about victim blaming.

Like I said, I'm not knowledgable about this case so I can't say whether or not the acquittal was warranted, or if a serial rapist just got away with his crimes. But the idea of having been raped, then having to sit in a courtroom with your attacker just a few feet away and be ripped to shreds in front of everyone by a lawyer whose job isn't to defend the innocent, but to keep their client out of jail - guilty or not - must be beyond agonizing. Not to mention adding horrifying insult to an already decimating injury. And then to have to sit there and see them set free...I can't imagine what that must do to a person, both emotionally and psychologically. It's just beyond words. And that's on top of the trauma of the attack itself. No wonder victims are reluctant to come forward, or wait years to do so. Who wants to set themselves up to be victimized again?

Definitely take the time to read Jackie's post. It makes so many astute observations that I can't even begin to list them all here without just copying and pasting the whole thing. Really amazing stuff.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Someone actually came up with this idea

And by someone, I mean some sick fuck(s). Pardon my language, but this is just unbearably cruel: Dog intentionally drowned at Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey.

You can't turn around in MdR without seeing someone with a dog. I'm hoping it wasn't a local, not that it makes a difference to this poor pup. From the sound of those Facebook posts, if they really want to punish the idiot(s) responsible, just turn the public loose on them.

If you have any info about the puppy or his tormentor(s), L.A. County Sheriffs would be very interested in hearing from you. They can be reached at (310) 582-6000.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

This is pretty much one of my worst nightmares realized

Construction worker falls from 53rd floor of Wilshire Grand construction.

I just drove past that project on Sunday, going through downtown on the 110 and wondered how terrifying it must be to be on one of the higher, open floors. And this is why.

I feel bad for the woman whose car he landed on. That must have been traumatic as hell. Thank God he landed on the back of the car instead of the top or we'd probably have two fatalities.

Friday, March 11, 2016

For shame, P-22!!! Poor koala

Actually, it's kind of hard to fault a mountain lion for mountain lioning. Lock up your koalas, people!

Full story (and video snicked) from NBC Los Angeles.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

These books are single and ready to mingle :)

Via Mystery Fanfare, the blog of Mystery Readers, Inc.:

That's a matchmaking service I could get into.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wonder what TV crime drama will pounce on this first

From the article:

What was initially reported as a romantic story took a nightmarish turn when a Chinese woman revealed that the boyfriend who sat by her bed and took care of her while she lay in a coma for eight months was the one who put her there in the first place.

She's lucky to be alive for any number of reasons. And all this because she burned some bread. Hopefully that guy gets what's coming to him. He has some serious anger issues.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Last Remaining Seats 2016 schedule announced

The Los Angeles Conservancy has announced the schedule for this June's Last Remaining Seats series, featuring classic films screened at historic Downtown Los Angeles theatres. I think its a great lineup.

2016 Schedule*
Top Gun (1986)
Saturday, June 4, 2pm & 8pm
Los Angeles Theatre

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Wednesday, June 8, 8 pm
Million Dollar Theatre

Some Like It Hot (1959)
Saturday, June 11, 8pm
Los Angeles Theatre

Dos tipos de cuidado (Mexico, 1953)
Wednesday, June 15, 8 pm
Palace Theatre
Co-presented with Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Saturday, June 18, 2pm & 8pm
The Theatre at Ace Hotel

Double Indemnity (1944)
Wednesday, June 22, 8pm
The Theatre at Ace Hotel

Safety Last! (1923)
Saturday, June 25, 8 pm
Orpheum Theatre

*films and theatres subject to change

Monday, March 7, 2016

I can quit any time

Saturday, March 5, 2016

February reading

Short month - only three books completed.

Memoirs of a Professional Cad by George Sanders
Part biography, part observational offering, Sanders' memoir is a collection of essays about various points and aspects of his life and career. Sanders is probably best known for his Oscar winning role as ascerbic critic Addison DeWitt in All About Eve. He also had a key role in another one of my all-time favorites, Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca.

This was a lot less caustic than I was expecting, but that probably has a lot to do it being written and published shortly after he married Benita Hume, widow of Ronald Colman. Over the years, Hume (as Mrs. Colman) was a noted hostess of Hollywood parties and constantly tried to play matchmaker for Sanders. After she was widowed, he suggested she fill the role of the next Mrs. Sanders and eventually she did. In a 2014 afterword by Sanders' niece Ulla Watson, she mentioned that the period when this book was being written as the happiest time of his life, which only lasted about another seven years until Benita's death. Knowing in retrospect how his life went downhill after she died (he committed suicide in 1972) it's sad that his joy was so short-lived. No mention is made in the book of his sad end.

Some of the book is strangely touching. Sanders is at most gently mocking of first wife Zsa Zsa Gabor. He mentions her coterie of publicists, stylist, etc that took over their home, and how much they appreciated how after arriving home from work, Sanders would play bartender, mixing and serving drinks for them. He is extremely complimentary to her, mentioning that she was a great travel companion even when conditions were less than ideal, and stated that they got along better after their divorce than when they were married.

Sanders fell into acting quite by accident. After being fired from a series of jobs he wound up in an advertising firm where a beautiful co-worker encouraged him to check out her theatre group. The co-worker was a pre-fame Greer Garson, the theatre group launched him into his new career, and he never looked back.

Some of Sanders' views on non-acting topics like bachelorhood, women and wars might be kind of out there, but he's obviously put some thought into them. For me, the best parts of the book are his behind the scenes recollections of Hollywood and his fellow globe-trotting actors, including being on the set of Solomon and Sheba when Tyrone Power died unexpectedly.

I never really met Zsa Zsa. We collided in New York at a party given by Serge Simonenko, the banker. It was followed by a drink at her plush red satin draped penthouse apartment which set off a chain reaction of collisions. We collided in Bermuda, in Nassau, in Cuba, in Hollywood, and finally in Las Vegas where we also collided with a minister who put an end to all this nonsense with a ring.

Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (edited by Leslie Budewitz)
The Guppies (short for The Great Unpublished) are a subgroup of Sisters in Crime, and serves as a support group for aspiring crime writers, providing a safe haven where writers in progress can congregate and support each other, and where published writers can offer their expertise and encouragement.

The organization recently issued a call for submissions to their next short story anthology and I want to submit, so I decided to check out the other anthologies (this will be the fourth) to try and get an idea of what they're looking for. I already had two downloaded onto the logjam that is my Kindle.

Each anthology has a theme. The theme for the upcoming anthology is "Fish Out of Water". Fish Tales had a much simpler theme - stories simply had to involve a body of water or a location near one.

The stories run the gamut from a few where I felt the endings/ reveals were somewhat predictable to some really neat stories. There were also several "name" authors that I've become familiar with from their appearances at conventions, which kind of bothered me. If the whole idea of the Guppies is to support the great unpublished, I kind of wonder why established authors are submitting. Maybe they weren't all that established at the time this anthology was published.

The part I was most impressed about was the variety of how the theme was used - if I hadn't already known, I'm not sure I would have picked up on it.

Now if I can just finish my story by the March 15th deadline...

Killing Clark was easy. After all, I'd had good teachers in stir. Those bums had been caught, sure. But most of them had gotten away with three or four times as much stuff as the cops would ever know about. There's no better place to learn how to commit a crime than prison.

Prime Time: A Charlotte McNally Novel by Hank Phillippi Ryan
The first novel from Ryan, an award winning investigative reporter, was inspired by a spam email she received one day at work. The novel won the Agatha for Best First Novel and Ryan's books have been awards magnets ever since.

I started this on the plane to Phoenix for Left Coast Crime and it hooked me immediately. Like Ryan, Charlotte "Charlie" McNally is an award-winning investigative reporter for a Boston TV station. While looking for a big story for November sweeps, she gets drawn into a mystery concerning a possible whistleblower for a pharmaceuticals company who had sent Charlie an odd email the day before his mysterious death.

Ryan knows the world of investigative journalism inside out and she's deft at explaining that world with a great deal of simplistic clarity, while never talking down to the reader.

This is simply unfair. She's assigning me vulture patrol. I loathe vulture patrol. I paid my on-the-street dues for years, trying to convince the brokenhearted and miserable there was some noble reason they should go on camera. I'm supposed to be done with all that now. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

My judgmental, obnoxious review of Phoenix and the Left Coast Crime event hotel

At the risk of sounding like an L.A. snob, I have to say I found my visit to Phoenix to be, well, somewhat underwhelming.

It started off really well. I took the Sky Train at the Phoenix airport to the light rail station located right outside the airport (pay attention, LAX). Two bucks for a one-way ticket and I was off, a straight shot through what I assume was the more rural part of town and into downtown Phoenix. My stop was maybe a block to the Hyatt Regency, home of Left Coast Crime 2016. So amazing.

It was close to 1:30pm when I arrived, and check-in isn't until 3pm. It's never been a problem before (hell, the Bouchercon hotel in Raleigh checked me in at 11:30am) but I was informed that they didn't have any rooms with king-sized beds available yet for early check-in. They did have rooms with two double beds which is actually what I prefer - one bed for me and one for my suitcase and other crap. I was in my room by 1:40pm.

Before I start with the bitchfest, I have to say that this hotel had a couple of things going for it where the conference was concerned. The second floor, where the meeting rooms are, is big and open and never felt overly crowded. And I don't know who the woman is who was going from room to room making sure the microphones and sound were working, but she should be at every writers/book conference. Every panelist had their own mic and they all worked perfectly. Anyone who's been to Bouchercon the past couple of years knows what I'm talking about. Sound Chick was even doing a sound check prior to the Gregg Hurwitz interview and as a member of the audience, I'm grateful to her and the hotel that I never had a problem hearing any of the speakers.

Oh, and did I mention that Phoenix has light rail directly from their airport to downtown? Seriously, I can't tell you how impressed I was by it, and by how easy it was to use. Also, if you need to go to Phoenix for a concert or sporting event, this hotel's location is perfect. It's across the street from the convention center and just a couple blocks from their baseball stadium and another venue that's the home of their NBA team and also hosts concerts. The Hyatt gets an A+ for location. Oh, and also for its free wi-fi, which worked perfectly.

Okay, that's enough of the niceties. Now onto something I'm really good at: bitching about everything from the point of view of a really picky customer.

  • The windows in my room were tinted, so that even during the day I had almost all the lights in the room turned on. The lack of natural light - despite having plenty of windows - really made the place feel dark and depressing.
  • The hotel was built decades ago and it shows. The lobby was remodeled at some point and is really nice, but the rest of the hotel seems like a relic of another time.
  • Towels were on par with what I'd expect to find in a jail. The oldest, most worn towel I own is luxurious in comparison. They were pretty scratchy, almost bordering on uncomfortable.
  • Poor drainage in the bathtub - as soon as I started running the water for my shower it would start to fill. Also, the hot water was iffy at times and I'm pretty sure if I'd taken longer showers or wanted to soak in the tub it would have run out quickly.
  • The electrical outlets in the bathroom are so old that my curling iron wouldn't stay plugged in. The plug kept falling out of the outlet. I don't know exactly how to describe it, it's like the outlets are so used that they've been worn out. It's kind of funny that the hotel provides a blow dryer - if I'd needed to use it, I would have needed someone to hold the plug in.
  • I could hear doors adjacent to my room slamming at all hours, including the middle of the night. They slammed hard enough to jolt me, the room shook they were so loud. 
  • The onscreen TV schedule was an hour ahead. Not that there was much to watch, but when you're an insomniac like me this is kind of important.
  • This is where it gets really crappy. Hotel beds (at least the ones I experienced at these kind of events) usually come with nice, fluffy comforters. These beds didn't have comforters or blankets. When I was hanging up my clothes I noticed a bag on the shelf in the closet and figured that's where they kept the blankets. It turns out the bag held one extra pillow (each of the beds already had three pillows) and one blanket. One. Despite the fact that there are two beds in the room. And it wasn't just any blanket, either:

Yep. Stains and holes. Also thin and worn.

Phoenix itself didn't do anything for me. I walked to a couple of places a few blocks away several nights to pick up dinner and the first night, Thursday, there must have been panhandlers every ten feet. Way above and beyond anything I've ever seen, including in downtown L.A. or when I lived in Hollywood. After that I didn't see them as much, as if someone with the city realized they had a convention going on and rounded them up. A fellow convention-goer told me that she had talked to some locals (wondering why there weren't more people out and about) and they told her that attempts to revitalize downtown Phoenix haven't really worked out, at least not yet. 

The upside of Phoenix was that I wasn't crushed when I had to leave (lookin' at you, North Carolina) and from a travel standpoint it was a lot easier getting to and from than other places where I've had to leave at night and catch a connector flight. I left my home on Wednesday around 8-8:30am and was in my hotel room by early afternoon. To get home Sunday, I left at around the same time, took the train to the airport and had a one-hour flight home. Grabbed my luggage and the bus to Lot C, stopped at the store to pick up some things and was home around 1:30pm, instead of late night as usual. I still had a whole day left. That part of it was great. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Left Coast Crime - Part 2

More panels:

Power to the Small Presses
Warren C. Easley (moderator), Kendel Lynn (Henery Press), Lee Goldberg (Brash Books), Matt Martz (Crooked Lane Books), Barbara Peters (Poisoned Pen Press), Maggie Topkis (Felony & Mayhem Press)

How did you get into the business of editing and publishing?
Lynn: Was a writer, started Henery to give mystery writers another option. Grew to actually prefer editing to writing.
Martz: Went from misspent youth to being over-educated, which made him unqualified for anything. Eventually made his way to editing and publishing.
Goldberg: In 2009 he had a sizeable out-of-print backlist of his own novels and started reprinting them on his own. Sold reasonably well and he became a magnet for other authors who wanted to know how he did it. In addition, a number of writers he had admired had fallen out of print. He ran into Joel Goldman at Bouchercon several years ago and discussed his idea of putting these books back into print. Goldman described the idea as "pretty brash" and that was the beginning of Brash Books.
Peters: Not a writer, but started out as a professional librarian, then opened up the Poisoned Pen bookstore. She got into both the bookstore and publishing with the idea of, "How hard could it be?" Kind of fell into editing but loves it. Both the bookstore and publishing house are non-profit.
Topkis: Both her mother and step-mother worked for publishing houses, so she was born to it. Founded and ran Partners in Crime Bookstore in Greenwich Village for almost twenty years. Founded Felony & Mayhem to print out-of-print books.

Skillset required for running a small press?
Peters: Need a business plan.
Goldberg: They approached it in a very business-like manner. They have a lawyer, accountant, and a private eye to track down heirs of deceased authors they want to put back into print.
Peters and Topkis both referred to their years of running small bookstores in that they feel like they know what appeals to readers.
Martz: Need to be flexible.
Lynn: Flexibility and focus.

The topic of POD (print on demand) and e-books came up and how this technology has affected the business:
Peters: Books never have to go out of print anymore. They can live out there forever. Also they can fix any errors as soon as they're found, as opposed to an offset run of books, which can't be fixed until the next run (if there is one).
Goldberg: You can make changes on the fly. If a book is not selling you can change the cover, title or product description to try and make it more attractive to buyers. This actually happened to him. He had written a novel called The Man With the Iron On Badge that was nominated for a Shamus Award and sold reasonably well. He changed the title to Watch Me Die and republished it and sales skyrocketed. He did say that so far he has only done that with his own books and not any of the Brash books.

L to R: Warren C. Easley, Kendel Lynn, Lee
Goldberg, Matt Martz, Barbara Peters, Maggie Topkis

The Psychology of Murder
Steve Brewer (moderator), Cathy Ace, Ellen Kirschman, Pat Morin, Dennis Palumbo

Is there a psychology of murder?
Ace: Psychology is the attempt to understand why people do what they do, so every murder will have some sort of psychology behind it.
Palumbo described the conflict that a person can have with himself and others, how co-existing with that conflict can become intolerable to the point where something has to give.

How does their background in psychology affect their enjoyment of therapist characters in media?
Kirschman: Gave Barbra Streisand's character in The Prince of Tides as an example of how he dislikes how therapists are portrayed.
Ace: Disappointing when she reaches the end of a book and the explanation for a character's actions are simply because they're insane/mad/crazy. Won't read that author again.
Palumbo: Doesn't like how therapists are usually portrayed as either messianic or predatory. Cited J.K. Simmonds' character of Dr. Skoda in Law & Order and the show In Treatment as examples of shows getting it right.

On the psychology of crime writers:
Kirschman: Psychologists can be competitive. She's found crime writers to be kind and helpful. She also added that the biggest concern of a therapist is the possibility of a patient committing suicide, and that was the motivation for her first book.
Palumbo: Doesn't think there's a type. A wide variety of people write in the genre.

On the psychology of crime readers:
Palumbo: Runs the gamut, just like writers.
Kirschman: As humans, we have a need to see justice done and see a resolution to an action. Crime fiction provides this to its readers.

The use of humor in crime fiction:
Palumbo: Crucial, especially if the material is dark. Humor gets you through life.
Kirschman: Cops use humor to blow off stress. The funniest people she knows are police. She actually keeps a file of their stories and comments and uses them in her stories.
Ace: Doesn't try to be funny, it just turns out that way. When she tries to purposely write humor it doesn't work.

Justifying writing crime fiction in the face of real-life crime:
Kirschman: Doesn't believe crime fiction creates criminals.
Ace: Doesn't write about real-life deaths that she has experienced.
Palumbo: Thinks its good that we don't become numb to real life crime.

A question from the audience was the concept that the prime motive of many violent crimes is humiliation.
Kirschman: Believes this is a major factor in workplace violence.
Palumbo: Humiliation and shame. Shame is a deep well, and when that feeling becomes intolerable to maintain, as he mentioned earlier, something has got to give.
Ace: The psychology of an individual determines how they will deal with humiliation and shame, however these things are damaging to a certain degree to any psyche.
Morin: Feels that other issues factor in along with humiliation and shame. It's a stew.

L to R: Steve Brewer, Cathy Ace, Ellen Kirschman,
Pat Morin, Dennis Palumbo

Next up: My judgmental, obnoxious review of Phoenix and the Hyatt Regency Hotel therein.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


This is really, really messing with my fear of heights: US Bank Tower in DTLA to get a glass slide along the outside of the building, between the 70th and 69th floors. Curbed L.A. as all the gory details here.

Guess what I'm never doing.

That's some seriously crazy shit right there.

Pic snicked from the linked article.