30 June 2013

A Totally Digital Library

by Louis Willis

I think I’ve written at least two posts on libraries. I’ll probably write a few more before I am able to give it up because each time I read an article about a library closing or trying to change to keep up with the digital age, I worry. The thought of not being able to hold a paper book unsettles my mind. Of course, a world in which there are no paper books and in which a library goes completely paperless is not likely to happen in my time, but I still worry because I’m a natural worrier. I worry despite the good news that libraries are trying to remain relevant in the coming digital age. One is in fact trying to be the first to go completely digital.

Image courtesy of adamr
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
County leaders in Bexar County Texas are planning to launch the first completely digital public library system called BiblioTech (from Spanish biblioteca). While other libraries have tried to go totally digital, none has succeeded because the users complained about not having access to paper books. Many libraries now lend both paper and ebooks.

BiblioTech will lend ereaders so that users will be able to download the book they want to checkout. They will be allowed to borrow only one book at a time. If they fail to return the ereader, the book will be deleted and the ereader will become just another piece of electronic junk. And, as a county leader noted, the library will have the resident’s name, phone number, and address. Imagine the library police showing up at his or her home to retrieve the purloined ereader. Good luck to Bexar County.

I can’t imagine not being able to hold a paper book in my hands and marking passages I admire. Yet, experience with my nine-year-old grandson tells me paper books might become a thing of the past in a few years. He uses his iPad to read, play games, and do research on animals because he wants to be a zoologist. I sometimes imagine my great grandkids going to a museum to see what a book looked like back in the golden age of paper books.

Two Interesting Library Tidbits 

While reading about libraries, I came across an article on the NPR website about a unique way the town of Basalt, Colorado is trying to save its public library. In addition to books, residents can check out seeds, yep, seeds.

Here in Knox County our public library is battling an interesting problem. Recently a reader found a bedbug in a book, prompting library officials to take action to have the main and all branch libraries inspected to make sure they are free of the little bloodsuckers. Such an extensive inspection will be expensive, so, to save money, they plan to contract with a “canine pest detection service.” Yep, they’ll use dogs to sniff out those little varmints.

Maybe a digital library will not be so bad. No bedbugs. And the books last forever in cyberspace.

29 June 2013

Dumbing Down: Self-fulfilling prophecies about the loss of culture


by Elizabeth Zelvin

Sad to say, and present company excepted, there is a trend in our culture, especially in its literature, to assume that Americans, in particular, will not understand sophisticated or even mildly historical cultural references. The current solution is to change those references to something that whoever is in charge of these decisions believes will be comprehensible to everyone, on the unstated and insulting assumption that many readers are illiterate cultural ignoramuses. The consequence of these changes is that as new generations arise, they have never heard of the terms or bits of history that they’ve been protected from exposure to (or make that “bits of history to which they’ve been protected from exposure,” since today’s readers also suffer from the neglect of good grammar).

Let’s start with the universally popular Harry Potter series, written for kids but enjoyed by adults across a broad spectrum of reading tastes from don’t-usually-read-at-all to highly literate (that would be us). In England, the first volume was entitled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. If you’ve heard of the Philosopher’s Stone, raise your hand. Keep your hand raised if you learned about it by reading a book. The Philosopher’s Stone has been around since at least the 8th century. Well, not around, or alchemists, philosophers, and early scientists (including Sir Isaac Newton, John Dee, Paracelsus, and even perhaps St Thomas Aquinas) wouldn’t have tried so hard over hundreds of years to find or fabricate this legendary substance that was believed to turn base materials into gold and maybe confer rejuvenation or even immortality. I bet school kids even nowadays are told at least once in the course of their education who Newton was. Would it have been so hard to explain the Philosopher’s Stone? Yet thanks to a publishing decision, the millions of American kids who read and loved Harry Potter have never heard of the Philosopher’s Stone. The “Sorcerer’s Stone” they’ve read about is just a thing, a fictional magical object like the “Horcrux” in the later books, without cultural resonance outside the world of Harry Potter and easily forgotten.

Here’s another example from children’s literature, the source of many mystery writers’ and adult readers’ lifelong love of the genre: the Nancy Drew series, first published in 1930. The original Nancy was feisty and independent. She drove a roadster and always had a pocket full of tools (rope, flashlight, sewing kit) to get her out of the tight spots her love of adventure and desire for justice invariably got her into. Reading them in the 1950s, I didn’t know what a roadster was. But did it matter? A brave and active heroine of the 21st century, with a cell phone and a hybrid car, is nothing special. But against the cultural backdrop of less feminist times, Nancy shines. My cousin Emily, now fourteen, started reading the Nancy Drew books when she was ten. When I asked which version she had, she said she thought they were the originals. But when I asked her what Nancy drove, she said, “A convertible.” All that cultural texture is unavailable to Emily and her generation.

Some revisions are bowdlerizations, playing to our supposed prudishness rather than our supposed ignorance. As a kid in the 1950s, I learned a lot of history from Elswyth Thane’s popular Williamsburg series of historical novels. The Day, Sprague, and Murray families (from the Revolutionary War in Virginia to World War II in England) were probably, for me, the first fictional characters so well developed and likable that they felt like family. A few years ago I found them in library editions that took a kind of Victorian attitude toward certain cultural references. In one book, the fortyish male companion of the rather demi-mondaine seventy-year-old Cousin Sally, mysterious and unexplained in the original, is described as a “doctor” in the library edition, presumably so readers won’t be shocked that they are clearly intimates. (No sex scenes, but he sits at her bedside reading aloud. Horrors!) Elsewhere, references to champagne—a metaphor for a refined hedonism, life’s fizziness as opposed to its earnest Puritanism—are amended to “wine.” On the last reread I found one I’d missed—this one more of a dumbing down. A character in London in 1896 refers to his solicitor and man of business, saying, “I’ll refer the matter (the character’s divorce) to my man Partridge.” Nobody who’s ever read an English novel would have trouble with this, surely. But in the American library edition, Partridge has become a “handyman.” Ouch!

Finally, let me share a query I got from a young editor, passing on a query from the final proofreader before the book in question went to press. It’s a scene in which a couple of my characters arrive at an office building on Wall Street after hours. The night security man at the desk in the lobby says, “Now stand on that spot for ten seconds, please. State your name and who you got the apperntment with for the camera.” The proofreader, and apparently the young editor as well, wanted to know, “Should this be ‘appointment’?” When I’d recovered from the shock, I wrote back that the passage was correct as it stood, and “apperntment” was “what used to be called Brooklynese.” I’m glad they asked. Otherwise, it would have been another nail driven in the coffin of American culture.

28 June 2013

Mother Hubbard has a Corpse in the Cupboard



And, evidently, when “Mother Hubbard” is a guy from India, those corpses can really start to pile up! 

A book review by Dixon Hill 

I read, once, that in the best mysteries the murdered body is usually discovered by page seven. Fran Rizer beats that count in Mother Hubbard has a Corpse in the Cupboard, when the first body is discovered on page three. The cupboard, where said corpse resides, is a pantry/storage room formed by canvas walls separating the kitchen space from the dining area in a county fair food-tent known as Mother Hubbard’s Beer Garden.

Calamine Lotion “Callie” Parrish (the series protagonist) has convinced her two friends – Jane and Rizzie — to join her for a ‘Ladies Day Out’ at the Jade County Fair, and naturally, the trio stops for a fair-food repast. But, a good time is not to be had by all, when Callie gets a troubling call on The Bat-Phone (er…I mean: on her bra-phone – I won’t explain more, except to say that James Brown has never made me laugh so hard!), and Jane literally stumbles over the corpse without knowing it.


How can someone UNKNOWINGLY stumble over a corpse? 

Well, Jane – Callie’s best friend since childhood – doesn’t see too well. In fact, she doesn’t see at all, as she was born without optic nerves. And, for those who don’t know: Jane earns her living as a phone sex operator and has only recently given up shoplifting. She’s also somehow become engaged to Callie’s brother, Frankie, (Even Callie isn’t sure how THAT happened!),and now Jane thinks she might be pregnant.

Callie’s other BFF, Rizzie Profit, is “ Gullah and gorgeous.” Though she and her extended family hail from Surcie Island – a fictional member of the real “Sea Island” chain off the coast of South Carolina, perhaps loosely modeled after Saint Helena Island -- Rizzie owns the Gastric Gullah Grill in St. Mary, Callie’s mainland hometown. It’s there that Rizzie works with her grandmother, Maum, and her 14-year-old brother, Tyrone.

The bad news on the bra-phone is that Maum landed in the hospital with a heart condition and a broken hip. A worried Tyrone is at her side, but Maum is terrified as well as in and out of consciousness. The teen needs his older sister to lean on.

Exit Rizzie, to the hospital, while Jane and Callie wait for the cops. 







At this point, I’ll quit the play-by-play and level with you: 

As you may have guessed from my lead-in, it’s possible to read most of this book as a light-hearted romp through what some might call the Southern Mystery Chick Lit genre, but there’s a dark streak that runs straight down through the center of this one. And, if you don’t watch out, you just might find it jerking more than a few tears out of your eyes.

Ms. Rizer has done a marvelous job of balancing the dark with the light – in more ways than one. And, I can honestly say that I was laughing out loud by the end of the very first paragraph. But, that humor is offset by the poignant loss of a loved one in the book.

Until now, no “living” character who died within the confines of the series time-frame experienced a natural death. In fact, this is the first character who actually dies on the written page; all the others were killed off-stage and discovered later. Callie’s there for this passing, however.

No slouch at writing, Ms. Rizer took this opportunity to do what I can only call “an excellent job” of comparing Callie’s feelings of personal loss when such a close friend dies, and the feelings she deals with on a daily basis while working on the dead as a funeral parlor cosmetologist.

In fact, the comparison is quite stunning.

Which should come as no surprise 

Because long-time readers of the series should have noticed, by now, how much Callie, herself, is a walking dichotomy.

Okay, this isn't really Callie,
but she's evidently her understudy.
A southern pearl struggling to prove herself a full-grown woman, Callie is in her early thirties, yet she puts up a constant false-front. She wears lip gloss like a teenager, padded panties (to give her fanny a more-rounded shape) and an inflatable bra. She also constantly changes her hair color. It’s as if she’s restrained from maturity by some unknown emotional black hole that warps her behavior in childish directions, even as she yearns to throw off the last vestiges of her childhood. 

Not that she disliked her childhood; she clearly enjoyed it. And, she obviously loves her father, even though the guy is pretty overbearing (at least, that’s what I’d call a man who won’t let his thirty-something daughter drink a couple beers in front of him). Callie also puts up with a lot from her brothers, though she seldom has a bad word to say about any of them.

So, perhaps it’s not surprising that she never explains what caused the dissolution of her marriage. All readers know is that Donnie, her ex-husband, did something “that made me divorce him” and that she “didn’t catch him doing the dirty on the dining room table like Stephanie Plum did her husband.”

We know she divorced Donnie and simultaneously quit her job as a kindergarten teacher to move back to her hometown and become a cosmetician at the local funeral home – an action she sums up by quipping that she traded a job working with five-year-olds who wouldn’t take naps or lie still, for one in which she works with dead people who don’t move.

Faithful readers know, of course, from previous books, that Donnie is a surgeon and Callie’s teaching job put him through med school, and that Donnie is an ass (he makes that clear though his own actions). But, on the subject of the catalyst for her divorce – this thing that Donnie did -- she is mute.

This silence, issuing from the normally gregarious Callie, is haunting. It hints at a maturity that’s usually missing from her light-hearted chatty persona, and tells a thoughtful reader that there are deeper waters running through this woman’s silent heart.

Callie is more than she reveals to us on the written page, except in those rare instances when she’s too concerned with other things to keep up the act. Then we catch a fleeting glimpse of a different person – one which Callie is sure to dismiss with some lighthearted comments a few pages later.

Her behavior in a tight spot, for instance, often belies her daily air-head pretension. In this book, when Callie realizes that the thing Jane stumbled over in Mother Hubbard’s is a body with a bullet hole in it, she quickly hands her car keys to Rizzie, directing her to drive her (Callie’s) mustang to the hospital to comfort her brother and grandmother. Then she contacts the police and calls a waiter over to explain the situation – all while trying to calm a near-hysterical Jane. Later, it becomes clear that she’s carefully orchestrated the situation in a manner that permitted Rizzie to take care of her personal emergency, while Jane and Callie remained at the beer tent so that responding police officers could interview the two of them.

She even exerts a thought-out limited influence, in order to keep the crime scene from being disturbed before investigators arrive. These are the actions of a quick, orderly and intelligent mind, yet they’re performed by a woman who seems compelled to pretend that she’s a bubble-head concerned with little more than personal appearance.

This is what makes me suspect Callie’s hiding something from us, for some reason. I can’t help thinking that this hidden reason deals in some way with that thing Donnie did. Whether or not it’s a direct cause and effect relationship, it seems apparent that there’s some relation between her break with Donnie and the emotional insecurity that drives her to wear an inflatable bra and act in childish ways.

Or, perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps, as she claims, Callie’s just trying to make her outside resemble the maturity within, but is stymied by a body that looks as if it belongs to a girl just past puberty. Maybe she’s one of those unfortunate people who suddenly seem to physically jump in age from 16 to 47 almost overnight – though the change is often tacked up to hard living and loneliness, by the person’s peers.

But, we readers (or, at least, I) don’t want to see this happen to Callie. Instead, we want her to meet a man who will tell her – to borrow a phrase from Bridget Jones's Diary – “I like you … just as you are,” while unsnapping that silly bra and sliding her out of those padded panties for the last time.

Not that Callie has to be “rescued” by a man. We just want to see her snap out of it. This is part of the series allure: I want Callie to realize she doesn’t need to pretend to be somebody she’s not – that she’s a smart, industrious, and pretty terrific young woman. And, if her dad and brothers can’t handle that fact, it’s not her problem. They’re the ones who need to find a way to deal with it.

I can’t help thinking that when Callie realizes this, she’ll finally be the full-grown woman she’s striving to become – both inside and out. Beating my hands on my thighs while I read the books, wanting to tell her that’s the answer, wanting to help her quit this whipsaw effect between adolescence and adulthood, that’s what drives me crazy about the Callie character.

Yet, in some strange way, this personal fallible is also what brings Callie’s character to life.

And, if I’m fully honest: It’s also what makes me love her.

Not that there isn't a satisfying mystery here … 

 … all I’s dotted and T’s crossed by the end of the book. Rizer proves her mettle by presenting us with such a gripping story of personal loss, as a loved one fades slowly away, yet she never lets this overpower or derail the mystery. A difficult feat, but one she handles with a hand so deft I sometimes found myself laughing through misty eyes, as I tried to weigh the suspects:

 Jetendre “J.T.” Patel: He’s the Mother Hubbard concession owner, who was born in India and immigrated as a child with his parents. He met Callie after she discovered the corpse, but it’s her body he’s thinking of. Or, is it?

 Nila and Nina: Identical twin spinsters, one of whom has finally succumbed to old age. The survivor wants to be sure she and her dead sister are coifed and dressed identically for the viewing and funeral—complete with a costume change between the two events.

When a mysterious man arrives, claiming to have been an old flame of the dead woman, but begins dating the living one, Callie’s suspicions are raised, particularly after she learns that the funeral director from the twins’ hometown wants to know why the dead sister is being buried by an out-of-town firm.

As the book progresses, with no visible ties between the murder victims, another question looms large: Who defaced caskets at the mortuary where Callie works, keeps smoking cigarettes out front of Callie’s place late at night, and riles her normally placid dog, Big Boy, until the angry Great Dane lights out after the culprit only to return with his tail between his legs?

When a second murder victim turns up, the evidence strongly points at Rizzie’s brother, Tyrone. And, while Callie’s friend, Sheriff Wayne Harmon, wants to give the teenager a break, the local lawman’s sympathy is checked by concerns that it seems the boy has fallen in with the wrong gang – and by the fact that the boy, who’s a crack shot, claims to have thrown away his hunting rifle, which is the same caliber as the murder weapon.

But, if Tyrone is the perp, why was the family van torched in the hospital parking lot?

Callie fans needn't fear: Their favorite inflatable-bra detective is on the case!
Fran Rizer (center) at a reading with "Callie" and "Jane"
Mother Hubbard has a Corpse in the Cupboard is published by Bella Rosa Books.  It is available in trade paperback at bookstores and Amazon, as well as on NOOK and Kindle.  I highly recommend it.

See you in two weeks!
--Dix

27 June 2013

Some Thoughts on the Importance of Plot, Character and Conflict in Fiction

by Brian Thornton


In previous posts I've discussed the importance of nailing down setting and on journaling. I've talked about the importance of doing one's research (especially when writing specialized stuff like historicals).

But what about plot and character?

Fiction these days tends to get microsliced and quantified into ever thinner subgenres, and yet there are really only two categories of "fiction" that matter. Fiction that is plot-driven, and fiction that is character-driven.

I submit to you that the best fiction (and I most emphatically include crime fiction in that designation!) contains both a strong plot and well-crafted, believable characters. As examples of this I give you everything from The Odyssey to The Maltese Falcon, from Hamlet to Pride and Prejudice. All of these works possess terrific plotting and unforgettable characters.


The two together make for compelling reading.

It's possible to go too far one way or the other. Take the recent trend among writers of literary fiction to go too far with character, to eschew plot to the point where no less a worthy than Pulitzer winner Michael Chabon dismisses this entire subgenre as ''plotless and sparkling with epiphanic dew.''

And boring.

Boring.

Boring.

Boring!

Take the pendulum in the other direction. We've all read one of those thrillers where the author gives the reader a brief thumbnail sketch of an already familiar protagonist, surrounds this familiar literary trope with other familiar-to-the-point-of-cliche literary tropes (the race against time, doomsday scenario, villains so evil they cause flowers to wilt as they walk past, etc.) then wind up the plot, and take the reader through a breathless three-hundred-plus pages that gets labeled by reliably glowing reviews as "An action-packed thrill ride!" And yeah, sure, the plot moves like gang-busters, but if Biff Hardslab, intrepid ex-(Insert-Name-Of-Goverment-Agency Here)-agent acts as if he's carved from granite, with nothing about him to flesh him out, humanize him, know what else this "plot" is?

That's right.

BORING!

At the risk of stating the obvious, plot and character live in dynamic tension with one another in the best fiction. Without the strong presence of both you've got long prose poems on the one hand and cliched, unengaging drivel on the other.

So how to balance that out? How to keep these two aspects of fiction interacting so that we as writers keep that dynamic tension at work?

One word.

Conflict.

It's one thing these two sides of the fiction coin share.

With plot it's mostly external. Thriller master John Le Carre  once famously said by way of defining plot: "'The cat sat on the mat' is not the beginning of a plot. 'The cat sat on the dog's mat' is."

With Character it's mostly internal:

Private detective Sam Spade disliked his partner, and had so little respect for him that he had begun
NOT boring.
an affair with his wife. When the partner gets killed, what is Spade going to do about it?

King Odysseus of Ithaca gets blown off course on his voyage home. The gods are against him. What is he going to do about it?

Prince Hamlet of Denmark's father died suddenly and his uncle married his mother on the way to edging Hamlet out of his inheritance and the throne. What is he going to do about it?

Elizabeth Bennett has seriously misjudged several men in her life, and things go from bad to worse for her family as a result. What is she going to do about it?

All of these protagonists have options, and a whole solid chunk of each of their stories is filled with their own internal conflicts about "What to do about it"?

And that's where Character comes in. Spade plays everything close to the vest, so much so that no one (including the reader) really knows what he's going to do about this until the last few pages of The Maltese Falcon. No square-jawed saint on a white horse, Spade is two-faced, has little respect for women and apparently none for the sanctity of marriage. But by the end he has laid out in one of fiction's most unforgettable monologues, not only what he's doing, but why.

Why do we like flawed characters like this?

Because we're human beings, and human beings have a love-hate relationship with perfection. We strive for it, are suspicious of the very notion when it's presented to us, and ultimately realize that because of our very nature it is ultimately unobtainable for us.

Many things, but NOT boring!
Take Odysseus. Why does it take him ten years to get home? Because he won't stop taunting the gods. After he cleverly blinds the cyclops Polyphemos and helps his crew escape from the the monster's lair, does he quietly sail away? No. He taunts Polyphemos, reveals his true name, and practically dares the cyclops to do something to even the score. Of course, when you're taunting a guy whose father is the god who rules the water you're using as your highway home, you're probably asking for it.

And Hamlet? He's smart, energetic, insightful, brave and loyal.
Gorgeously written and NOT boring!
He's also torn over the question of his father's death and his uncle's culpability in said death. Add in the fact that he loves his mother and is afraid that she might have had a knowing hand in dear old dad's assassination, and you've got a recipe for indecision to the point of paralysis (and some matchless poetry, to boot!). Once Hamlet finally makes up his mind to act, he does so. With a vengeance.

My wife loves Colin Firth- also NOT boring!
And then there's Elizabeth Bennett. Smart, accomplished, insightful, she is also quick-tempered and given to snap judgements about people. On top of that, she's prideful. Her happy ending only comes after external conflict (plot) has worked on her (character) enough for her to learn enough about herself to face her own shortcomings in lieu of making lists of those of others.

Let's take it to the comments section. What are the names of other authors successfully meld great plotting with unforgettable characters?

26 June 2013

Through a Glass, Darkly

by David Edgerley Gates

The exposure of PRISM, the clandestine NSA data-mining operation, has raised a lot of hackles, both inside and outside the national security structure, and on both sides of the privacy debate. I'd like to assess three of the issues I think are involved. This is of course by no means exhaustive. I'm just putting my oar in the water.

First of all, what is it? The system, or systems, is based on pattern-recognition technology. A crude analogy might be a chessboard. Bobby Fischer was a genius at chess because he could read the entire game, not just six or eight or a dozen moves ahead, but every possible outcome of every available move. Consider the sixty-four squares and the fact that each piece, rook, knight, bishop, pawn, or queen, has a specific capacity, for attack or defense, all of them in relation to the others. 'Position' is the sum of these parts. Imagine, then, if you stacked eight chessboards on top of one another, a cube, sixty-four squares to the eighth power, making it a three-dimensional game. Not even a Bobby Fischer could calculate all the possible coordinates and relationships. Multiply this model by a few billion, and you'd have some idea of PRISM's brute strength.

Metadata, so-called, isn't about content. PRISM doesn't filter for keywords, or labels, or names. It looks for contours, and reconstructs their shape. A recent piece by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker explains this in some detail,

 Nor is this is a new development. DARPA, the Pentagon research facility also known as the Skunk Works, began work ten years ago or more on a set of programs they called Total Information Awareness. The first practical application was CARNIVORE, which analyzed electronic communications, encrypted and cleartext, but CARNIVORE was never fully deployed because of---wait for it---privacy concerns. PRISM has a narrower search parameter. Think of it this way. It's an axiom in the spy trade that a given message, by itself, is meaningless without context. What's important is who sent it, and who it was addressed to. In other words, the link is incriminating, and what might actually have been said in the message is secondary. PRISM ignores the message, and concentrates on the messenger. How is this effective? Your circle of contacts, immediate or one step removed, defines your profile, but 'profile,' in this sense, having nothing to do with your Facebook page. Everybody leaves a footprint, a migratory pattern, a set of lazy habits. I can stalk you through your friends.

The second point I'd like to take up is the role of private contractors in the defense and intelligence communities. GI's, for example, don't pull KP anymore. Food service is jobbed out. More at issue, hired guns like Blackwater have taken over physical security for diplomatic personnel in high-risk areas, and their lack of accountability got them thrown out of Iraq. Two of the guys killed in Benghazi, on the security detail, weren't CIA, but outside hires. This isn't just anecdotal. DoD employs 700,000 contractors, 22% of its workforce. 70% of the intelligence budget, by some estimates, goes to outsourcing, but this is difficult to pin down, because the specifics of the intelligence budget are of course classified. In the case of NSA, nobody knows exactly---nobody knows anything about NSA, exactly, since its culture of secrecy gives it the nickname No Such Agency---but an educated guess is that they have half a million private contract employees on their payroll, with high-end security clearances. These aren't insignificant numbers, and it's worth noting that they don't represent any kind of savings, either. Edward Snowden was knocking down 200K, twice what a GS-15 would make, or any military enlisted or officer rank. Booz Allen, Snowden's employer, had 5.9 billion dollars in revenue last year, almost all of it from U.S. government contracts.

The question being raised now, though, is whether private security contractors are stakeholders in national security. This isn't to tar them all with Snowden's brush, or to suggest dereliction of duty, but career military or civil service people tend to serve a purpose larger than themselves. Working for Booz Allen is a job, like any other. If you get a better offer, you move on. Oversized cubicle farms don't inspire brand loyalty. You're not in the Marines. It may be unfair to make these assertions, and the last thing we need is a witch-hunt, which would do nothing to undo the damage already done, and the lack of confidence the leaks have created, but it's long past time to re-examine the hermetic culture of the intelligence community. A good starting point might be the influence of corporate, marketplace economics.

Which brings us to the third and last question.  Who are these guys? Whistleblowers. Leakers. The terminology is suspect. It implies high moral standards, or at least moral relativism. Bradley Manning was obviously a square peg in a round hole. He may have been bullied, because he was gay, or just an odd duck. Almost certainly, he was isolated and unhappy, and his supervisors in the chain of command should have picked up on it. He was an accident waiting to happen. The court-martial proceedings against him have the flavor of retribution, not so much for his actions, but for the inaction of his immediate superiors. They should have suspended his clearance and sent him to a psychiatrist. Instead, they left him to sink or swim. The fact that Manning was treated with such indifference might go some way toward explaining him. He was at the bottom of the food chain. Perhaps, as a reflex, or in an effort to regain his self-respect, he came to feel he was better than they were, a sort of prince in exile, a secret agent, and in the end, he cast off his disguise. Sadly, no prince was revealed.

Snowden is a different case. He had a successful career, and the material trappings to show for it. He was, by his own account, quite the ladies' man. He was outgoing and personable. He had a social life. The other side of the coin from Manning. Snowden was dealt better cards. He turned for unaccountable reasons. He claims the high moral ground, but there's an odor of sanctity I mistrust. I'd give him more credit if he'd stuck around to face the music, but the prospect of doing thirty to life in a federal supermax would give anybody pause. What bothers me is the itinerary he's chosen. He's now left Hong Kong for Moscow, with the stated intention of flying to Cuba, en route to seeking asylum in Ecuador. The net effect of his stay in China has been to give support to Beijing's control and censorship of the Internet, e.g., they can claim that U.S. accusations of Chinese hacking are the pot calling the kettle black. Not to put too fine a point on it, Snowden is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. These are not the actions of an honorable man impelled by outrage. These are the acts of a defector.

25 June 2013

My Hit List

by Terence Faherty

On May 25, John Floyd posted a list of his thirty favorite crime/mystery/suspense films, in no particular order.  John's theory was such a list reveals as much about the compiler as the subject being addressed, which I think is true.  My somewhat impromptu list, given below, reflects my love of forgotten and obscure titles and actors.  For the most part, I've left out comic mysteries, and I've also intentionally excluded most series films, which leaves out a lot of great ones.  I may address mystery film series in a future post.  So here are my thirty.  I hope you'll give one or two of them a try.

1920s


Bulldog Drummond (1929)

Ronald Colman's first talkie shows that not all early sound films were deer in the headlights of the new technology.  (Yes, he made a second Drummond, but are two a series?)

1930s


Murder! (1930)

Herbert Marshall in an early (and creaky) Alfred Hitchcock talkie.  Marshall lost a leg in World War I, but still had a long film career, as this list will show.

The Maltese Falcon (1931)

A pre-code version of the Hammett classic.  The Bogart version implies that Spade was a hound.  Ricardo Cortez demonstrates it, with the aid of Bebe Daniels and Thelma Todd.

Murder on a Honeymoon (1935)

The one true series mystery I let slip in, from the Hildegarde Withers series starring Edna May Oliver and one of the great comedy-relief policemen, James Gleason.

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)

One of the best Thin Man imitations, because it has William Powell himself, plus Jean Arthur.

It's a Wonderful World (1939)

Really a screwball comedy, but it has a murder and James Stewart as a private detective.  Plus Claudette Colbert and the dumbest cop in the movies, Nat Pendleton.

1940s


Grand Central Murder (1942)

A nice little B picture by MGM, a studio whose B's look like A's.   Van Heflin leads a solid cast that includes another great comedy cop, Sam Levene.

Keeper of the Flame (1943)

The first and least typical of the Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn teamings has Citizen Kane pretentions but is really a murder mystery, with great early '40s atmosphere.

The Phantom Lady (1944)

Ella Raines sets out to clear her boss of murder.  Based on a Cornell Woolrich novel.

The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)

Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet in a story by Eric Ambler.  Enough said.

Laura (1944)

Okay, they can't all be obscure.  Cop Dana Andrews falls in love with Gene Tierney's picture.  And who can blame him?

Green for Danger (1946)

English murder mystery set in a rural hospital during the V-1 barrage.  Alastair Sim (of Christmas Carol fame) plays a policeman who is both comic and clever.

The Killers (1946)

A Hemmingway short story as the launch pad for a noir mystery starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.  The investigators are Edmond O'Brien and Sam Levene, this time playing it straight.

Crack-Up (1946)

An almost Hitchcock-grade mystery of a man, Pat O'Brien, who claims to have been in a train wreck no one else remembers.  Supporting cast includes film noir veteran Claire Trevor and Herbert Marshall, still soldiering on, but now in featured roles.

Deadline at Dawn (1946)

Great year, 1946.  This one's a little talky, but the talk is by Clifford Odets, so it's okay.  Susan Hayward stars.

Ride the Pink Horse (1947)

A nice little film noir directed by and starring Robert Montgomery.  The solid supporting cast includes another noir stalwart, Thomas Gomez.

My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Right in the middle of the Philip Marlowe craze, Paramount came out with this burlesque of Chandleresque PI films staring Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, and Peter Lorre.

Out of the Past (1947)

Robert Mitchum in the film noir, with Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas.   If only Mitchum had played Philip Marlowe at this age.  More cult film than obscure film, but it had to make the list.

The Naked City (1948)

Maybe the first real police procedural, with Barry Fitzgerald, Don Taylor, and the real New York City.

1950s

Mystery Street (1950)

I thought we'd never get out of the '40s.  This little film is an early (but not the earliest) celebration of crime scene forensics.  It stars another Ricardo, Ricardo Montalban.

D.O.A. (1950)

Another cult film.  Good location work in LA and San Franciso and a great performance by Edmond O'Brien as a man trying to solve his own murder.  Gets me every time.

Cry Danger (1951)

Dick Powell as a parolee out to prove his innocence (or profit from his time in jail).  Nice location work in backstreet LA.  Rhonda Fleming and William Conrad in support.

On Dangerous Ground (1952)

Tough cop Robert Ryan meets blind Ida Lupino.  Great Bernard Hermann score.

23 Paces to Baker Street (1956)

Van Johnson, also blind, tries to solve a crime in London.  Vera Miles, one of Hitchcock's crushes, stands by him.

1960s

The List of Adrian Messenger (1963)

John Huston directed this murder mystery starring George C. Scott.  One of Herbert Marshall's last films, released an amazing thirty-three years after Murder!

Harper (1966)

Not exactly obscure, since it stars Paul Newman, but a solid PI film with a great cast, including Lauren Bacall.  Based on The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald.

Marlowe (1969)

For my money, a successful transportation of Philip Marlowe to the Summer of Love, starring James Garner.  Based on Chandler's The Little Sister.

1970s

The Carey Treatment (1972)

If you need a 1970s fix, this is the film.  Blake Edwards directed James Colburn and Jennifer O'Neill.  Based on Michael Crichton's A Case of Need.

Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

As I wrote in a recent post, this authentic little mob picture is the anti-Godfather.  It stars Robert Mitchum, a veteran of 1940s noir, and Peter Boyle. 

The Midnight Man (1974)

Another aging noir star, Burt Lancaster, starred in, co-wrote, and co-directed this mystery set on a college campus.  It also stars Susan Clark and Cameron Mitchell.

Did they make movies after 1974?  I'll look into it and get back to you.

24 June 2013

STAY CREATIVE


Jan Grapeby Jan Grape


In January, my niece Dona and I went out to California to help my sister-in-law's 90th birthday. Dona and I stayed at a small, but very nice, hotel in Red Bluff, CA. In our room was a note pad on the night stand. The hotel's logo was on one corner of the pad, "Holiday Inn Express." In the left top corner in large all caps letters, "STAY CREATIVE." I brought the note pad home and it's on my night stand.

Since January, I've wondered many times, why would a hotel have this on a note pad? Some of you may know, and I'm quite sure it's possible to look it up and find an answer or at least an explanation. But I haven't done that. Maybe I wanted somehow to be creative about it?

Actually, a few ideas come to mind. Perhaps it's a message for the many business people who stay in these hotels. Reminding them to stay creative and think outside the box for their sales techniques. Or it could be a way to remind tourist there are many things to do and see in the area. Don't just visit mountains, visit the ocean.

As an artist, singer/songwriter or even a mystery writer, it suggest that your mind can sub-consciously be in a creative mode all the time. Most of us who write don't consciously think of staying creative, but all of us know our muse is generally on duty staying creative.

For instance, last night I went to a local restaurant to listen to a singer/songwriter that I had not heard in two or three months. I went by myself but two couples I knew were there so I sat with them. My friend, Wake Eastman began singing and I ordered food. A small crowd was in this dining room but people do sort of come and go. It is a restaurant after all.

It was time to "stay creative" as this turned out to be a great place to people watch. Men and women both came in with cowboy hats on their heads. Not unusual in central TX but a couple older ladies were loaded down with turquoise jewelry and knee-length skirts and cowboy boots. Men who definitely looked like prosperous ranchers except their protruding bellies and soft-looking hands and fancy-looking boots told they were either drugstore cowboys or retired.

One lady just screamed out to be a character in a story for sure. Her skirt was touching mid-knee and was a muddy brown. Her blouse was flowered and worn outside her waist, but the neck line was low and her breast tops were quite prominent. She had curly blonde hair definitely colored from a bottle, But her face was the kicker...her make-up screamed south side streetwalker but her face was wrinkled and had to be on the north side of sixty. I don't like to call anyone "old-looking." I'm no spring chicken myself, however, I think both men and women might be smart to dress age appropriate.

Maybe the hotel pad hasn't any hidden meaning after all, but guess what? Thinking about this pad, gave me an idea to write this article.
STAY CREATIVE everyone.

23 June 2013

The Digital Detective, Wall Street part 2

by Leigh Lundin

continued from last week

The Best of Times…

Systems programmers held a unique niche in the multiple mainframe corporate structure. We didn’t practice ordinary commercial programming but were responsible for keeping the software side running– the operating systems, telecommunications, and utilities. The best of us knew assembly language– the cryptic machine instructions that underpin more or less human-readable languages like C, Cobol, Fortran, and Java. We dealt in bits and bytes, binary and buzzwords, not credits, debits, and balance sheets.
77 Water roof

77 Water plane
Plane atop 77 Water St

Walston was flush. Shortly after I joined, they moved into their fancy new skyscraper at 77 Water Street, a few steps south of Wall. It featured an artificial stream, a padded soda dispenser shaped like a floppy-eared dog, elevators illuminated like the night sky, and a full-size sculpture of a biplane on the roof. You can see it in the opening fly-over sequence of the disappointing movie The Forgotten; there you can spot the airplane still atop 77 Water.

Walston’s cast of characters included my boss Alex, his boss and vice president Paul, and an assistant vice president, Jim. Brokerage firms contain nearly as many vice presidents as they do brokers. The wrinkle in the relationship was Jim had originally hired Paul who passed him on the corporate ladder. Nearing his 25th year with the firm, Jim became marginalized, holding down a desk but no responsibility. Upon retirement, he planned to buy a Land Rover, move to South Africa, cultivate a mustache, and live a life of alternating adventure and leisure. As the weeks ticked away, that’s all he talked about.

Lower Manhatan Financial District
Wall Street and Financial District
Walston’s third floor contained two sections: the computer room and offices occupied by Arthur Anderson overseen by a Walston executive with the musical name Glenn Miller. As systems programmer, I was the rare programmer allowed in the computer room. And that drew the attention of Arthur Anderson.

It wasn’t unusual for large corporations to provide offices for their accounting firm, but it wasn’t kosher for one’s auditors to use provided offices to perform work for other companies. The rules for AA were different. As one of the accounting wonks said, saving office space didn't hurt anyone. It may have been true, but violating rules exemplified the looseness of managerial oversight.

Toad in the Hole

Walston brought in two consultants, guys who would tell a company the same common sense advice at five times the price of listening to their employees. That’s one reason I later became a consultant– companies pay to listen to you.

As far as I was concerned, this was more background noise, but one day my boss Alex called me into his office. There sat the consultants and two Arthur Anderson guys amid palpable tension. They wanted me to perform a task: write a program to scan files and ‘correct’ fields, i.e, numbers within the file.

I pointed out I didn’t do that kind of commercial programming and this was far more suitable a task for one of the Cobol programmers. No matter, they assured me, they wanted me. I should be flattered.

Who’s the analyst who designed this? I asked, not feeling the least flattered. I’ll talk with him. No, said the consultant, only you. The Anderson guys nodded while my boss frowned.

Reasonably, I protested that the Cobol programmers possessed the pension suite’s data structure templates. Without them, I had no idea what the data was. It would be like blindly machining a part while they withheld the blueprints, which could damage the data.

The Arthur Anderson guys exchanged glances. My boss started to fidget. The background noise sounded like a clanging alarm. Practiced deceivers they weren't. Something felt wonky but I didn’t know what. They didn’t quite say I had no need to know, only I needn’t be concerned.

Where did a shift of responsibility end and liability begin? Were they buying blind loyalty or blindness? A light bulb went on. I raised my last objection. What about the lack of an audit trail, I asked. Assembler language would bypass all the record and financial controls.

Of course they knew that. They went into a huddle. Moments later, my boss said coldly, “We’re done here. You’re dismissed.”

I slogged back to my desk feeling dark and dysphoric. With good reason: shortly the VP called me in. He informed me the firm would cut my salary and no longer pay my tuition. Alan, the office political toady, would replace me.

Fire and Ice

Suddenly I didn't feel so brilliant. A thunderstorm had squalled up out of the blue. A kid like me didn’t make or have a lot of money and I desperately needed my classes. It didn’t dawn on me to ask why they didn’t dismiss me. Maybe they feared what they thought I knew or wanted to keep tabs on me, but my ego suggested they kept me because Alan the toady was incompetent and incapable of doing my job. He didn’t know machine language but he knew Cobol… and probably knew where to find the questionable data templates. Meanwhile, they were slamming me for questioning orders.

My boss and his boss cold-shouldered me. They almost fired me when the payroll department screwed up and continued paying my tuition, but as was pointed out, that was their error, not mine. We were at loggerheads, but they needed me as much as I needed the job.

The VP’s secretaries treated me with surprisingly sympathy and kindness. I don’t know how much they knew, but one took me out to lunch and the other gave me a small gift. In the cold light of Walston, they radiated warmth.

In the outside world, Ross Perot had been tacking his way through Wall Street, taking over data processing services, a forerunner of out-sourcing. When the F.I. DuPont scandal hit, Perot stepped in and bought the firm.

I received a cagey call from EDS, the company Perot founded, asking if I’d come to work for them. EDS had a rigid stiff-necked (most said 'tight ass') reputation with a dated, regimented dress code– white shirts, narrow dark ties, grey suits, pants with cuffs, shoes with laces. They subjected potential employees and their spouses to a battery of interviews. Creative thinking was not encouraged. EDS employees liked the money but not one I knew liked the company. I politely declined.

We picked up a programmer from DuPont. Perot had arrived in NYC and put his DuPont troops through sort of a surprise dress parade. As he marched down the line of employees, he came across a girl who wore the fashion of the day– a miniskirt– and fired her on the spot. At Walston, we didn’t mind miniskirts and hired her.

Word on the Street

One day, employees awoke to a lead article by the Wall Street Journal announcing Ross Perot would take over the computing facility of Walston. Vice President Paul turned shockingly white– he hadn't heard even a whisper– but brokerage houses mint vice presidents like they print stock certificates. The company denied the story and things sort of returned to normal.

Except an odd and unsettling thing happened. One month from his 25th year and retirement, Jim, the marginalized AVP found himself called into the VP’s office. Paul, the vice president, fired him. Full retirement gone, no Land Rover, no African adventure, no life of well-earned leisure.

Another discreet call came in for me. The women on the other end asked me to identify myself, asked if I could talk privately, then said, “Please hold for Mr. Perot.”

Despite what I've heard before and since, Ross was polite, even gracious, and I was flattered he asked me to work for him. But, as I pointed out, I attended university full-time, I wasn’t as regimented as his usual workers, I enjoyed a bachelor life, and– thinking of Perot’s cozy relationship with Richard Nixon– our politics didn’t mesh. He’d famously said he didn’t like gunslingers and lone wolves– and I was the epitome.

He said, “Son, thank you for being honest,” and wished me well. I wondered why he wanted me.

Take Two

Once again, employees learned the news not from their own company but from the WSJ: For the second time within weeks, employees woke to a Journal article confirming Perot would be taking over Walston’s computing center. Again, our shocked vice president had been left out of the loop.

When Perot dropped in to inspect the troops, he spotted the same girl in her minidress we’d hired from F.I. DuPont and again fired her on the spot. Can’t say Perot wasn't consistent.

Days later, Walston fired Vice President Paul two weeks from his 25th year– and full retirement. The firm dismissed the consultants and Arthur Anderson's office underwent a shake-up. Programmers found themselves not only locked out of the computer room, but locked out of the computers.

Except for me. A good systems programmer could run the shop without operators, without analysts, without programmers. Perot didn't trust Walston's people, which explained the recruitment calls to me.

A panicked EDS crew asked where certain files could be found. They asked if I could find backups of older versions. They asked if I knew anything about original programs and data alterations. Unsurprisingly, those hotly desired files were the same my bosses asked me to ‘correct,’ but were they corrections or coverups?

I dug into the files only to learn what Arthur Anderson already knew. It appeared Walston’s proprietors had embezzled the company’s retirement fund. Now it made sense why they fired the AVP days from his 25th year. That’s why they fired the VP days from his 25th year. The money was gone, reflected in the records my bosses and Arthur Anderson (or certain employees within Anderson) desperately wanted 'corrected'. The scheme was so compartmentalized, I doubted how much any party in my department knew, remembering my boss, Alex, claimed the instructions came from on high. "Just follow orders," he said.

I'd been lucky: What might have happened to the joker who tampered with the data? And Alan had been lucky: Unable to find his assets with both hands, he'd botched the changes although he left an audit trail.

Trinity Church from Wall Street
Trinity Church framed
by Wall Street

How The Mighty Had Fallen

Perot took over Walston, folding it in with DuPont and again saving Wall Street considerable embarrassment. Two and a half years later, he lost his financial shirt and dismantled a hemorrhaging DuPont Walston. Perot arranged for Congress to give him a special late night $15-million tax break, causing an outcry of socialism for the wealthy when the bill became public knowledge.

Dark forces on Wall Street gleefully watched Perot go, some accusing him of trickery, some suing him on the way. Whatever the truth of that matter, Walston had been rotting internally before Perot arrived.

Arthur Anderson survived with their reputation barely sullied. Indeed, Anderson and Walston’s Glenn Miller caught more flack for the Four Seasons Nursing Centers scandal than the internal decay within their own firms. It would take the Enron affair to bring down Arthur Anderson.

My services remained in demand and I moved on, still on Wall Street, starting my masters degree before joining forces with two of the earliest software entrepreneurs.

Imagination Noir

In imaginative moments, it’s easy to envision the kernel of a mystery intrigue plot. I picture a John Grisham novel, a storyteller's movie in my mind like The Firm. Had Walston’s board reacted viciously and violently, I might have found myself in a dire plot, on the run for my life with a miniskirted damsel as VPs, AVPs, and Anderson drones dropped dead around me. Excited movie audiences would gasp between mouthfuls of popcorn, women would cry, and children would whisper, “He’s so bwave.”

Maybe a dastardly plot isn't so far-fetched considering the mysterious suicide (or assassination?) of Enron executive Clifford Baxter, about to testify before Congress. But in the world of finance, what’s crooked isn’t always an actionable crime. Commit a fraud of sufficient size and business will hush it up rather than prosecute– not unless something can be gained in the guise of ‘investor confidence’.

Footnote

The case ended with a gentler tone: I commuted to Wall Street on the Staten Island Ferry. One surprisingly sunny afternoon, I spotted Paul, the ex-vice president. He said hello and sat down across from me. Once again open and pleasant, he appeared the man I’d once liked– and might come to like again.

We didn’t talk about Walston. He explained he moved with his aging mother to Keene Valley in upstate New York. Turning his back on Wall Street, this former executive now worked as a carpenter. He spoke of small town pleasures where old men sat in front of the local hardware store whittling and discoursing upon merits of lawnmowers. For the first time in decades, he felt relaxed and at peace.

That pleased me. Paul wasn’t a bad man, merely a figure caught up in the machinating machinery of Wall Street. He offered his hand and we shook warmly.

Looking back, I think his chat was sort of penance, kind of an apology without the words. That was decent, more than many people would have done. And it was enough.

Besides, I’d eventually consult for banks, institutions where further fruits of fraud lay concealed beneath the public veneer.

22 June 2013

Candy Is Dandy


by John M. Floyd



It's funny how we get started reading new authors. For me it happens sometimes by chance but usually as the result of a recommendation by fellow readers or writers. And, more and more, I've begun seeking out books and stories written by my fellow SleuthSayers. However it comes to pass, it's always fun to discover new writers.

Cider House Rules author John Irving says, in his memoir My Movie Business, that one summer when he was a little boy at the beach, someone pointed to a pale, ungainly man in a yellow bathing suit and said it was Ogden Nash, the writer. "To this day, I don't know that it was," Irving continues, "but I shall carry the image of that funny-looking man, 'the writer,' to my grave," and adds that he immediately took up reading Nash's humorous verse. I'm sure that he, like me and millions of other fans, is glad he did.

I can recall seeing only a few photos of Mr. Nash, and I think he looked like a pretty regular guy, maybe a bit scholarly. For some reason I tend to confuse him with Bennett Cerf, whose face I do remember well, from the panel of What's My Line?--but I'm more familiar with Nash's work. I even have a volume of his collected poetry on the bookshelf about ten feet from where I'm sitting right now. Occasionally I open it to a random page and read a few lines, and whenever I do I seem to feel a little better for the rest of the day.

If you don't already know Ogden Nash, here's some quick background. America's most accomplished writer of light verse, Nash was born in Rye, New York, in 1902 but moved to Baltimore in his thirties and lived there until his death in 1971. He was at different times a teacher, a playwright, a lyricist, and an editor at Doubleday, but above all he was a poet, publishing more than 500 poems in venues from The New Yorker to The Saturday Evening Post.

A few interesting pieces of trivia: he was descended from the brother of General Francis Nash, who gave his name to Nashville, Tennessee; his family lived briefly in a carriage house owned by Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts; and his death was the result of an infection from, of all things, improperly prepared coleslaw.

Making a word perfect

I recall that my friend David Dean once mentioned in a SleuthSayers column the fact that some words sound good even though they might not be real words. I agree, and I've used them in my own fiction--usually as verbs--when someone THUNKs his head on the sidewalk, or a helicopter whopwhopwhopwhops its way overhead, or a boomerang whickers through the air. (Yes, I know that's called onomatopoeia, but unless they're Hawaiian I'm not fond of words that have four vowels in a row. I'd rather just say it's "using words that sound like the sounds they make.")

Ogden Nash loved to create nonexistent words, especially in rhyme, and instead of being distracting because of their difference, they were wonderfully appropriate. Of babies, he once wrote in a poem, "A bit of talcum is always walcum," and on the subject of wasps, "He throws open his nest with prodigality, but I distrust his waspitality." My favorite is probably "If called by a panther, don't anther."

Trying to imitate the master

While it probably wouldn't be ethical to use examples of Nash's "invented-or-otherwise-zany-word" poems in their entirety here, I have no such qualms about showing you some of my own. The first of the following ditties was published in Futures, the second in Rhyme Time, and the third in a magazine called--believe it or not--Volcano Quarterly. The last two have never even been submitted (and probably for good reason).




SHOCK VALUE

When chased by a crazed wildebeest,
I preferred not to just kildebeest;
So I found a snapshotta
My wife's cousin Lotta,
Which immediately stildebeest.




SOUTH OF SAUDI

If the country of Yemen
Were governed by Britain,
Their gas would be petrol,
Their dresses tight-fittin'.
And sports fans could watch,
For the price of a ticket,
Arabian knights
Playing Yemeni cricket.




POMPOUS ASHES

An inactive volcano named Dora
Was implanted with buildings and flora;
And some say since the mayor
Has his offices there,
It puts out more hot air than befora.




DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH

Your investments crashed? Your money's gone?
Be neither sad nor jealous;
It isn't really gone--it just
Belongs to someone ealous.




THE PAIN IN SPAIN

She ran with the bulls at Pamplona;
One stuck her, another steptona.




This kind of goofy wordplay is a pleasure to write, and I can't help thinking that Mr. Nash--yellow bathing suit or not--was probably a happy and delightful person in real life. I wish I'd known him.

I've heard he is possibly best remembered for the expression "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker."

Neither one is as much fun as his light verse.