May 29, 2010

Blogging Barnes and Noble

May, at least this year, turns out to be a season of transition at Barnes and Noble. Over the past month or so several employees took new jobs, so hours for the rest of us, low for much of the year, increased as interviews for new employees took place. The result for me has been slightly more hours than I want for the past few weeks, but I've worked them knowing that the "gravy train" (of three-digit paychecks, LOL) would end. It came slamming to a halt this week. If only I'd known last night what would happen this morning...

This week and next week were set to be my biggest weeks in more than a year, but the managers know I can really only handle 16 or so hours a week given the state of my feet, so when they learned they'd over-scheduled this week, they cancelled my shift for Wednesday night. Which was okay because I'd still have had a 15-hour paycheck. But when I went into work last night and saw I was scheduled for five nights in a row rather than the three my feet can handle (I do four in a pinch, and have recently, but it's really too much) - giving me 22 hours in total - I realized that the manager who'd created next week's schedule hadn't done so with this week's in front of her. So I mentioned it and they reworked things so I'd be off Monday night, which just so happens to be my birthday. Not a big deal to me, btw, but it's a big deal to my daughter, which does make it a big deal to me. That meant I'd be working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, Tuesday night, then Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of next week. Still a good chunk of hours, and almost more than my feet can handle, but do-able.

The store is in a period of flux in more ways than one; we're in the process of moving entire sections from one location to another, and my guess is that the extra staffing they've needed in order to physically move books simply ate into too much revenue, causing these last-minute cuts. Last night we learned that all the new employees are being rotated in, meaning that those of us with limited availability - like me - won't be scheduled to work as often. As I mentioned earlier, I knew this was coming, so when the phone rang this morning cancelling me for tonight, I wasn't all that surprised even though now I kinda wish I hadn't gotten myself unscheduled for Monday. Because no longer am I working five nights in a row. Now it's one on, one off, one on, one off, one on, one off, then three on. Hopefully I won't have more hours cut next week before we re-enter this more fallow period.

As for work itself, last night was fun. The first thing Pat, our magazine guru, said to me when I walked in the door was that she and I were "neck and neck" on membership sales. I hadn't a clue what she was talking about until I walked into the break room and saw a list on the bulletin board with my name and stats at the top...revealing me to be tops right now in signing up new members. Let me say this about that: I believe these lists are of dubious value as a management tool. Those of us doing well at the moment - and, btw, it's a crap shoot with luck playing a huge part in sales success - feel pressure to maintain or increase our membership sales (which, because of the luck factor basically involves pulling something out of your ass) and I think it also breeds resentment among those who, at the moment, aren't. Not only do sales depend on which customer (and how much they're buying) stands in front of you at check-out, there are periods when things are golden and others when they aren't. Right now I'm in a golden period as last night I sold another five memberships. That's a lot for one night, but there have been entire weeks when I haven't sold anywhere near five memberships.

But when I'm on, I get jazzed, so I was jazzed last night. Within the first fifteen minutes I'd sold a membership and one of the books I'd displayed in front of my register area - Lisa Kleypas' new release, Married by Morning - to a customer buying Julie Garwood's most recent romantic suspense. I'd asked the customer if she'd also read Garwood's historicals, and when she told me she'd started reading all kinds of romance in college (she looked to be in her mid-late 20's), I suggested Kleypas' book. I know it's fourth in a series, but it's easier to come into an historical series (as opposed to, say, an urban fantasy series) later than earlier, and with Kleypas, I've found it's even less of an issue. The customer left not only with the new Kleypas, but with a slip of paper upon which I'd written some of my other Kleypas faves.

One of my "regulars" (a lesser one, though, as I didn't recognize her) also checked out with me last night. She said she'd thoroughly enjoyed the two Jill Myles books I'd sold her not long ago. She wasn't ready to add any new books, but she was one of the customers to whom I sold a new membership. Interestingly enough, she checked out shortly after I'd checked out a woman who bought the first of the two Jill Myles books - Gentlemen Prefer Succubi - I'd displayed at my station earlier in the evening (as "light" counterbalance to some of the darker urban fantasy books I'd also displayed).

I like to think that I did a lot of pre-selling last night. I believe I piqued the interest of a mother and daughter who went nuts over the new Rick Riordan book with Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series for mom, and for daughter, Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. And if I'm right, the woman who bought Dorothea Benton Frank's Bull Island might well return for one of the Mary Alice Monroe titles I wrote out for her. Had I brought one up to my register last night, who knows?

One thing B&N got really right was in their "buy two items, get this fabulous beach tote for $9.95" promotion. A couple were about to check out with two items and a tote, but when I realized the husband liked war history, I pointed out Sebastian Junger's War on my display, and next thing I knew, the wife went searching for another item, giving them four items so that they could buy two totes. Which, of course, set off another customer in search of more things to buy so she too could nab two totes. I couldn't blame either of them...these particular totes are fabulous!

My final hand-sell of the evening was the easiest; a young man (he was 16...I asked...and, yes, there are books I will or will not recommend based on age) saw Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim on my display, and before I finished talking it up, he'd already added it to the other book he'd decided to buy.

When you add it all up, the memberships and extra books don't amount to a Nook, and Pat sold one early in my shift, but even that competitive part of me realizes I didn't join B&N as a bookseller in order to sell technology...or memberships, frankly. But Nook giveth and Nook taketh away. One customer was extremely interested in Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles last night, but only for her Nook, and book one isn't available for Nook. The remaining three books are, though, so she wrote them down and I suggested she look for Any Given Doomsday in another format...perhaps pdf or epub so she can read all of them on her device. I hope she finds it, but it's too bad we won't get "credit" for the sale of "the best urban fantasy series nobody knows about."

And so ends this installment of Blogging Barnes and Noble. I hope the five of you out there who read this blog enjoy these periodic entries about my experience as a B&N bookseller...they're a kick to write.


May 26, 2010

Thanks to MediaFail

A week or so ago I joined the twitter feed for @mediafail and this morning clicked a link to the NYT, which I browse through daily anyway. The alert was for an article entitled 2010’s Debates Still Trapped in the 1960s, and though I am more a product of the 1970s than the 1960s, I was appalled at the lack of fundamental understanding about history's effects on the present exhibited by this article's author. I don't know how old Matt Bai is, but his argument reminded me of many an argument I've had with women younger than myself about feminism.

To say that race issues are nuanced today obliterates the fact that it was anything but nuanced in the 1960s. Had people not died for civil rights throughout the South in the 1960s, nobody could make the Tiger Woods and/or Barack Obama arguments about nuance that appear in Bai's article. To cavalierly say that times are different now not only fails to recognize the sacrifices made toward equality today, it also fails to paint an accurate picture of the country we would live in had the struggle not taken place.

When businesswomen in their late 20s or early 30s tell me that they are not feminists, I want to call them, as my friend Ellen would, "asshats," but as a civilized Coffee Party member, I'll refrain. I was lucky enough to have joined the professional workforce in the mid-80s, after the first wave of women had paved the way. Even so, I still contended with men who refused to take me seriously. I remember transforming a program at the City of Dallas from what previously had been a clerical dead-end into an extremely successful program that added hundreds of thousands of dollars into the City's coffers (that would otherwise have never been collected), and yet, until I practically threw my master's degree diploma at the face of the City attorney I'd be working with, he thought I was just "another female clerk."

For many the road had not only been paved but re-surfaced by the time they started their career journeys upon it, yet because their path has been smoother, they can't or won't recognize that they are living the lives of feminists, bought and paid for by the women that came before them. Whether it's complacency or they've bought into the "Femi-Nazi" trap, it's worth remembering that women still don't earn as much as men for doing the same job.

So please, Matt Bai, Rand Paul, and all you others who would have us believe that we live in a nuanced world today and need to change our worldviews in acceptance of it, please stop trying to dupe me. The fight by women and African Americans is still being fought. Yes, the world has changed and we no longer deny black men lunch-counter seats or chase women around desks, but the fight must continue. Women still make, on average, 79 cents for each dollar earned, on average, by men, and in the South, 47% of the population does not believe our president was born in the U.S. When that changes, come back to me and we'll have this discussion again.


May 25, 2010

Dallas Coffee Party...a Big, Fat Flop For Me

I joined the Coffee Party nationally and in Dallas earlier this year, and attended the first meetings with high hopes. As I reported on the Dallas Coffee Blog I started earlier this month, it's very easy to click a Facebook button and join a cause. It's a lot more difficult to create something sustainable afterward.

The Dallas Coffee Party kicked off with great fanfare, with local TV and print news coverage of the first meetings, and after the second meeting I volunteered to become an admin for the Facebook page. I was sick for the third meeting, and at the fourth, was one of six who bothered to attend...out of nearly a thousand Facebook members. Of course, that the meeting wasn't properly publicized or added to the national FB page where members looking for meetings could find it didn't help, but as a result of that meeting, I set up a Dallas Coffee Blog and an @dallascoffee twitter feed to gin up interest. I believed - and hoped - that if a local person wrote original content and tweeted other content of interest, more people might feel a connection and an inclination to actively participate.

In the interim, the originator of the DCP quit, and in-fighting broke out between two of the other three admins, leaving me stuck in the middle. Although the Coffee Party is thriving throughout the country, it's dead in the water in Dallas because of a lack of momentum and planning, and because too many of the few grown-ups involved actually decided to behave not as grown-ups but as petulant children. While I don't count myself as one of those pouting tots, it's obvious I've got some anger seeping through here, so I'll simply tell you what I did earlier today: Transferred all the DCP bloggings as a single note to the DCP page on Facebook, and after deleting the @dallascoffee twitter feed, I'll be deleting myself as a DCP admin.

It's true that not much time has lapsed between my first blog and tweet efforts and now, but with a thousand DCP members, and my RT'ing @dallascoffee tweets to the DCP page and linking to all the blog entries, I can't say that the word didn't get out. The word got out, but nobody cared. That's fine. I gave it a shot, and as I wrote on my DCP note, I'd rather write one blog nobody reads than two. Only one local person directly accessed the 28 tweets I've made...the other four are from CP's elsewhere. Almost 400 people subscribe to my @laurie_gold twitter feed and I'll concentrate on them rather than the five (again, including just one local person) who subscribed to @dallascoffee.

Because I'm proud of the blog entries I wrote for DCP, I'm going to insert them here onto my Toe in the Water blog...later today, after I've done so, I'll come back in here and provide links to any who are interested. And, as I wrote on the DCP page, I look forward to somebody with vision, patience, and a game-plan to reinvent the Dallas Coffee Party so that I can rejoin. In the interim, I'll look for another group to hook up with, possibly one in Ft. Worth. Sad that in one of the largest cities in the U.S. we were unable to sustain things here, but it's time to move on. My experiment failed.


Financial Reform...It's Complicated

Stand Up...Or Stand Down

What If You Gave a Coffee Party and Nobody Came?

Corporate Fascism?

An Experiment

And, in case anyone's interested in links to articles from the @dallascoffee twitter feed...

Lost Decade Looming? (Paul Krugman NYT)

More on TX text book fight

New project of invites us to keep media on its toes by submitting biased and or overblown reporting.

A nun is "automatically excommunicated" after sitting on hosp comm that agreed to perform abortion to save mom's life.

NYT: A generation gap on immigration

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the...

Coffee Party USA is launching Coffee with Main Street campaign from now throughout the month of June.

Million-Dollar Ad Blitz to Kill Net Neutrality

The Senate approved a provision putting space between bond issuers & rating agencies

NYT: U.S. Said to Allow Drilling Without Needed Permits

NYT: Senate Beats Back Efforts to Ease Regulation Bill

Commentary on Findlaw about First Amendment

Newsweek article on Walt Whitman important for us to consider

Huffpost - Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency, USA TODAY found.

Rabbit hole of corporate spending on campaigns.

Tom Friedman in today's NYT


May 24, 2010

Touch of Seduction by Rhyannon Byrd

Touch of Seduction

Rhyannon Byrd

Grade: B-

Urban Fantasy Romance

Touch of Danger, the fourth in Rhyannon Byrd's Primal Instict series of urban fantasy romances, follows the first three books by nearly a year, and that is its primary flaw. The first three books were released one per month for three months, so there wasn't a problem getting up to speed and retaining momentum as the world-building increased in complexity and scope. I've been a big fan of the author since discovering her at Ellora's Cave many years ago, and reviewed the Edge of Hunger, the first Primal release, for Publishers Weekly (click here to read it on book's Amazon page). I graded it B+ and its two follow ups straight B's. If not for the state of confusion I more than occasionally found myself in while reading book four, it would have earned a straight B as well, if not a B+. Instead it earns a B- and a suggestion that readers skim book three - Edge of Desire - prior to starting Touch of Danger. Book five, btw, is already out and book six is scheduled for fall.

A war has secretly begun as dangerous paranormal creatures long ago sent to hell join forces in order to escape their prison and kill all those who stand in their way of ruling the world. Standing in their way are various "clans" of other paranormals, including witches, vampires, shapeshifters, and combinations thereof. Among the "good guys" are the Watchmen, a secretive group, comprised mainly of shapeshifters who heretofore have only watched and recorded paranormal goings-on. Byrd owes a boon to Anne Rice's Talamasca and the Highlander franchise for the Watchmen, and I can see influences from Marjorie Liu, Angela Knight, and Lora Leigh in the Primal Instinct series. This is not a condemnation or accusation; it's actually a compliment since I'm a fan of Knight's Mageverse, Liu's Dirk & Steele series and Leigh's Breeds, As I'm now also seeing comparisons between Byrd, Knight, Liu, Showalter, and Leigh in Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles and Sarah McCarty's Shadow Wranglers series, it occurs to me that it makes sense for preternatural creatures to face an existential enemy of either human or paranormal origin. Armageddon tends to really up the ante on action, you know?

Perhaps I tend to like these series better than other urban fantasy/urban fantasy romance series because there's a larger purpose at hand, a fight that will effect the world as a whole. Come to think of it, this may also explain why I think Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries have, for me, finally run out of steam; in Harris' series the preternatural are warring each other, but not with an overall plan to rule the world...and humanity.

In Touch of Seduction, tiger-shifter Aiden Shrader is tasked with protecting the human woman Olivia Harcourt, who acts as guardian to her young niece Jamie, whose mother was killed by Casus baddies. Olivia was the sole human in a family of witches, and Jamie is half witch/half Merrick, which makes her quite literally irresistible to the Casus. The extreme sensuality Byrd was known for in her EC books was somewhat muted as this series began; in this book it's back in full force, even though there aren't more than a couple of full-on love scenes. The book actually begins when Aiden goes to rescue Olivia and Jamie in advance of a Casus attack. The moment he sees and scents Olivia, he realizes he's in deep shit. He cannot help himself and they end up in a raunchy clinch in which Olivia is a full participant. Though she's human, she calls to Aiden in a primal way. Trouble is, he can never trust a human, particularly a human woman and vows to be immune to her temptation.

As for Olivia, she sees herself as plain, mundane, and meek, and cannot fathom the gorgeous shifter's attraction in her. She's far more accepting of the weirdness that surrounds them once they hit the road on their way to the Watchmen compound (they cannot fly due to Jamie's inner-ear issue). Olivia's self-image doesn't seem to match how Aiden and the two watchmen traveling with them see her; her being cheated on by an ex-boyfriend cues in the reader that she's been a doormat and that perhaps she has some allure visable only to those with special powers.

The very young Jamie seems to take everything in stride, which both Olivia and Aiden find unnerving; this preternatural calm will serve her well as the story reaches its climax in a battle with the baddies, who now also include a race of Death Walkers. At the start Aiden gives her a Dark Marker to wear in order to protect her from the Casus, but as the story progresses, the Watchmen learn there's an unintended consequence, a downside to using the Dark Markers. To say more would give spoilers. In fact, to say much more about the storyline would detract from reading it. Even though I got lost in world-building, hopefully you'll take my advice, skim the previous book, and more fully enjoy the wonderfully tortured love story between Aiden and Olivia, their erotic love scenes, and the playfulness Jamie brings out in those charged with protecting her. The Casus and Death Watchers are indeed frightening and once you're up to speed on the various clans and hellish species and can fully enjoy the ride, I think you will. As for me, I'm going to start Touch of Surrender and will cross my fingers that by the time book six comes out later this year, I'm not once again confused.


[Almost] Totally Lost...and Loving It

Perhaps the best bit of dialog in last night's finale of Lost:

"Who died?" Kate asks.

"A man named Christian Shephard."

Kate laughs. "Christian Shephard? Seriously?"


Until that moment, I'd never realized the meaning behind the name of Dr. Jack Shepherd's father, but in the context of the moment, with Kate seeing the coffin and Desmond acting all beatifically, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I get it...Jack's dad has been there all along, in a religious, metaphorical sense, to shepherd his son - Christ-like himself at the end of his Hero's Journey - out of life as we know it.

But even as I write that, I'm still in a state of wonderment and awe about the two-and-one-half hours of television that held me spellbound after I got home from work around ten last night. Generally when I work both Saturday and Sunday nights, I sleep in on Monday mornings, but this morning, even though I stayed up until two or so to watch Jimmy Kimmel Live after watching the finale, I woke up early, and immediately my mind went back to Lost. It's too early to say for certain, but it feels as though my reaction to this finale is going to be as strong as it was to watching Brokeback Mountain, which is to say...profound and long-lived.

I believe this to be the case even though I'm not quite sure what the hell happened last night. And after this morning watching the two-hour pre-finale show, I'm even more confused. Questions I haven't had in years resurfaced, like why did Desmond give himself a shot every day when he woke up in the hatch? And, after having been introduced more intimately to Jacob this season: If Desmond's not pressing the button caused the electromagnetic field to surge wildly and brought the plane down, was he unknowingly re-enacting a script written by Jacob to bring the Oceanic Six to the island?

More than anything, now that I think about it, it seems that the major events on Lost have both a real and a mythological explanation. Which expands the religious component exponentially, particularly if you've ever seen The Naked Archaeologist, in which Simcha Jacobovici often attempts to provide scientific explanations for biblical events. When I view Lost through that lens, it makes more and more sense.

I'm far less interested in explanations for some of the things that seem to bother others, like how the Egyptian statue of Taweret came to be on the island. Ever since Ben turned the donkey wheel, the island disappeared, and he landed in Tunisia, the answer was obvious: At some point in time the island was located off the Mediterranean coast of Africa. This year we learned it also popped up somewhere in the Roman Empire and between the Canary Islands and the U.S.

Answers to the island's mysteries have always been less important to me than the mystery of its characters, and both take a back seat, frankly, to what I believe was the show's biggest draw: its moral ambiguity, the dark and light, and the oh-so thorough investigation of unintended consequences. That said, this season's Sideways world is the mystery that continues to confound me, even after last night (because of timeline issues). Especially after last night. Even after I:

  • Watch the online-only JKL Q&A did after his TV special
  • Read Doc Jensen's wrap-up column sometime later today and his subsequent columns throughout the week
  • As well as ten or twenty other online articles
  • And also re-visit the pre-show, finale, and JKL, all of which I plan to watch again this week...and possibly again once more before erasing it from TiVo and retaining just certain memories in my mind

I'm sure many questions will remain unanswerable for me. And that's alright.

It's not that I'm such a Lost fangirl that I think the show's producers could do no wrong. Two weeks ago, for example, Jacob was revealed as a whiny mama's boy. And last night I found some of those Sideways "ah-ha!" moments a little too sappy, including those moments in the church at the very end, even as I lay crying in my bed. But during season one of Lost, I decided to sit back, enjoy the ride, and let the show's creators take me where they wanted to go. I have none of the animosity exhibited by many fans after the Across the Sea episode, just as I wasn't at all upset that David Chase chose to end The Sopranos as he did. It's interesting because I'm a professional critic and certainly don't have that attitude toward the books I review for Publishers Weekly, but it's how I approached Lost - likely because watching television is a more passive experience than reading a book - and I'm glad I did. Because now that the show has faded to black, I am sad that it's over, but glad for its many powerful memories, and indeed, for its many mysteries, answered or not.


May 22, 2010

War by Sebastian Junger


Sebastian Junger

Grade: B+

War Memoir

Many years ago on my old blog I wrote about having a crush, in this instance, a nerd-crush, on the journalist Sebastian Junger. Junger and Fareed Zakaria are both journalists I keep tabs on. I watch Zakaria's Sunday CNN show without fail, and when War became available on my Kindle, I downloaded and read it. I just posted a review of it to Amazon and here's how it begins:

Sebastian Junger's reporting on Afghanastan pre-dates September 11th; he profiled Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Massoud for National Geographic in March 2001. Massoud, you may recall, was assassinated by al-Qaeda just two days prior to their attack on the U.S. Junger is best known for The Perfect Storm, but for years has reported from other hotspots like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Kosovo, often in advance of their becoming known to the wider public. For War, Junger embedded five times over a period of fourteen months with a platoon in the 2nd Battalion in the Korengal valley, Afghanistan, describing events not from a geopolitical perspective, but from that as a front-line soldier in a war most of us pay little heed. For me his book succeeds where Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor did not. While Luttrell's book begins brilliantly, his politics soon take over. Junger is more interested in what drives young men to fight, how they survive - not as individuals but as a unit - on a day-to-day basis in danger, isolation, and primitive conditions, and describes the nearly sexual thrill of combat...

Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon


May 21, 2010

A Rant of Major Proportions

My husband graduated UT with an honor's degree in government. My undergraduate degree is a B.S. in political science. He has a law degree from SMU, which is where I earned my master's degree in public administration. Needless to say, we are both too knowledgeable for our own good when it comes to the world of politics and government, and when the Tea Party started becoming popular, it prompted a series of "what if?" conversations at our dinner table. They always become undone, however, by my need to erase history versus his insistence that we begin in the here and now and move forward. Let me explain.

My argument derives from the fact that for many a Tea Partier, our government should never have grown or changed since it began. Okay...I actually "give" them the first ten amendments to our Constitution, then stop. He doesn't. He doesn't believe we need to remove the Civil War or woman's suffrage and instead can defeat them simply if we start from 2010 and move forward, mostly because none of us are used to paying the true price for anything, be it milk or gasoline, and that if the federal government wasn't providing those subsidies, we'd experience such a lowering to our standard of living that either we'd be begging for increased federal input or the Tea Partiers would next set their sights on their individual state governments, which would have had to have increased taxes to make up the losses.

If the argument is that the federal government exists solely to provide for the public defense, they get a "gimme" in the national highway system; the impetus President Eisenhower gave for their creation of our interstates is the movement of troops. Of course, given the post WW-II migration from urban areas to the suburbs, that wasn't his only reason, but I'm feeling generous this afternoon.

That's because I have the New Deal on my side. I know it's become fashionable on the far right to decry FDR's New Deal as a bad thing, and, yes, I realize that it was a combination of the New Deal and WWII that lifted us out of the Great Depression, but even forgetting such New Deal creations as the FDIC, which today we hold as sacrosanct and which equally obviously does not contribute to our nation's defense, what about WWII itself? In my view, we would have entered into a war with Japan after Pearl Harbor, but would not have joined the Allies in Europe. And had we not stormed Normandy and taken part in battles across Europe, the Germans probably would have won, and as a Jew, I might not actually be alive today to blog about this.

I could go on and on...our dinner table discussions do, after all, but my point, and there is one, is that recent statements by Rand Paul, along with the Texas Board of Education's attempts to rewrite history through textbook changes, allow me to focus my ire. On the one hand, Rand Paul states that he likes the Civil Rights Act. And yet he then makes a statement that the federal government has overreached. How does somebody argue both and disconnect them as he attempts to do? Without federal involvement the South would not have been forced to desegregate as those at the forefront of maintaining the status quo - of segregated drinking fountains, lunch counters, and Jim Crow laws in general - were elected state and local officials. Of course, if there were no 14th Amendment to the Constitution, there would be no equal protection clause, and no reason to undo a century of "separate but equal." So is it the 14th Amendment or the CRA that featured federal overreaching?

And how about those textbook changes...wasn't it bad enough that the Virginia Governor "forgot" to include a mention of slavery in his Civil War proclamation? Should our textbooks be changed so that the Slave Trade becomes the "Atlantic Triangular Trade?" Should students study Jefferson Davis's inaugural as President of the Confederate States of America because they already study Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural? The board member who fought that argument won, and if the changes go through, you can look for Davis highlights in the future.

Did Phyllis Schlafly impact the U.S. as much or more so than Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whom the same board member wanted excised from textbooks altogether? That last one gets my dander up because I once actually heard Schlafly speak in person and my impression was that she only became as famous as she did because of the old "dancing dog" syndrome. In other words, because she was a woman with beliefs vastly different than other famous women, she was trotted out to dance. One could easily argue - and easily win, I think - that without Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Singer, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinham, and Bella Abzug, there would have been no Phyllis Schlafly, that without radical women forcing progress, women like Schlafly would never have been allowed to vote, let alone earned the chance to attend law school and become a darling of the right. Of course, if we took it back to the beginning, there would have been no 19th Amendment, and Barbara Cargill would likely not be sitting on the Texas Board of Education at all.

IIRC, no historians make up the elected Texas Board of Education, which meets today for a final vote on the proposed changes. Will this be yet another embarrassment for those of us who are thinking citizens of the state of Texas? And will Rand Paul's GOP nomination implode because logic demands it?


May 20, 2010


Several years ago I had calling cards, return address labels, and lined stationary made with a paisley edging to them. When I ran out, I tried to re-order them, but could never locate the original company, and gave up the idea. More recently I went on a shopping spree in Little Korea here in Dallas and at a store that sells exotic scarves and shawls, discovered two beautiful peacock paisley designs. A little bit of this design goes a long way, however, so the small, beaded deep-mossy-green velvet shawl fans out over the top back of a bedroom chair while the longer black velvet scarf drapes a hook on a hat rack in my study that also stores my favorite fedoras.

When I created the background for my twitter page last year, I was reminded anew just where my obsession with paisley comes from. Occasionally I mentally reminisce about it, like when I wrote yesterday's blog. And just last week my daughter decided to wander through my jewelry, moaning and groaning about the "nice" watches I no longer wear but won't share with her, when I took pity and gave her an old Fossil watch that she coveted, which features a beveled crystal atop a paisley face. And then I told her I'm obsessed with paisley, which was news to her...and then I told her why. There's a paisley background on cover of my Favorite Novel of All Time: Kathryn Lynn Davis' Too Deep for Tears, something I didn't even realize until my aborted attempt to re-order that stationary many, many years after reading the book.

Somewhere among my things is another "vintage" - AKA discontinued - Fossil watch, a man's watch with a large round face entirely comprised of a paisley design, sans bevel, of course. I haven't lost anything important in years and one day soon will go on a Fossil hunt.<g>


May 19, 2010

Financial Reform...It's Complicated (Transferred from short-lived DCP blog)

The national Coffee Party page on Facebook this morning reports on an amendment Senator Christopher Dodd is trying to attach to the Financial Regulation bill that would remove the derivatives spin-off portion requiring that the largest banks spin off their derivatives desks into regulated entities not guaranteed by taxpayers. He proposes to instead have the issue studied by a group of regulators whose members have "serious reservations about such a dramatic measure," and may try to kill it.

According to The Washington Post, it isn't just banks who are against the derivatives spin-off; regulators and officials in the Obama administration believe it "could drive the business into the shadows." Is this spin from Wallmerica or are those in agreement with Dodd's amendment correct in their assertion that the spin-off "would harm U.S. competitiveness or lead to less regulation of the derivatives market, valued at half a quadrillion dollars"?

The Coffee Party has taken a stand against the Dodd amendment and asks that you consider using a letter from Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) that you'll find below as a template for those interested in writing your senators. If instead of a letter or email you wish to call your senator, please consider using the bullet points contained in the following when contacting the U.S. Capital Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Given that we live in a global economy, I thought I'd share what the European Union is doing about derivatives. According to an AP article on Yahoo News, new rules will increase oversight and set fines for manipulating trades. The European market for "largely unregulated" derivatives is worth $600 trillion. Key to the new rules is the registration of "all products and trading" so that regulators can access the derivatives...and the investors behind them because, "These people don't like coming out in the light so we are going to flood them with light," said EU Financial Services Commissioner Michel Barnier.

But back to the American market for the moment, and the AFR letter...

Dear Senator,

The over 250 consumer, employee, investor, community and civil rights groups who are members of Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) write to express strong support for Section 716 (“Prohibition Against Federal Government Bailouts of Swaps Entities”) and our opposition to the new Amendment #4110 to replace the provision with a study. The study would put the final decision over implementing this important new structural reform in the hands of regulators who have already publicly expressed their opposition to it.

The following are rebuttals to the primary arguments that have been advanced against Sec. 716:

  • Swaps Desks will Remain within the Bank Holding Company: Sen. Lincoln has clarified that the amendment would only separate derivatives desks from the core bank within the bank holding company – that is, the insured depository institution that has access to the Federal Reserve window. Moving these operations outside of the federally-protected core of the bank will only reduce the risk of future bailouts, still enabling the holding company to benefit from this lucrative business.

  • 716 Will Not Lead to Weaker Regulation or Flight Overseas: Americans for Financial Reform is committed to bringing derivatives out of the shadows; we would not support a provision that weakened oversight of derivatives dealers. Under the derivatives title, any major swap participant will be subject to oversight and safeguards for capital adequacy, transparency, anti-fraud and anti-manipulation. In addition, the claim that the market will migrate overseas ignores the economic turmoil in Europe that was in large part exacerbated by unregulated derivatives activities.

  • Derivatives Dealing is Not the Usual Course of Banking: Some have argued that derivatives selling should remain within the core depository institutions because it is part of the “usual business of banking”. If that were the case, then why do only 5 out of America’s over 8,000 banks – the Wall Street banks JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley – account for over 90 percent of this market? The “usual” banking businesses in the U.S., represented by the Independent Community Bankers Association of America, support Sec. 716.

  • Banks Can Still Use Derivatives to Hedge Their Risk Under 716: Separating swap dealing operations from the business of banking does not mean that banks will be unable to hedge their banking risks. They will be customers and trade on open exchanges and clearinghouses.

  • Purely speculative financial derivatives now represent $78 for every $1 in true hedging by businesses and farmers. By quarantining highly risky swaps trading from banking altogether, federally insured deposits will not be put at risk by toxic swaps transactions. Moreover, banks will be forced to behave like banks, focusing on extending credit in a manner that builds economic strength as opposed to fostering worldwide economic instability.

    For these reasons, Americans for Financial Reform urges you to oppose Amendment #4110. Please contact Lisa Lindsley, Director, Capital Strategies, AFSCME, for more information.

    Americans for Financial Reform

  • ~Laurie G


    A Wild Hair

    Working as cashier during the night shift at Barnes and Noble includes "recovering" the cashier area, bargain books, gifts, and the journal wall. One of my favorite things at B&N are its journals; I've bought many as gifts over the years, and sitting next to my bed, between two sapphire blue alabaster "egg" bookends I bought at another B&N are four journals, all variations in coloration of a paisley journal trimmed in brown leather. But I digress...

    We close at ten in the evening Monday through Thursday, and last night, because customers were sparse, I was also stocking journal and gift items, realizing anew how crowded and uninviting our journal wall looked. My view is that more can often be less - and look cheap - and showcasing is a better way of setting something off than crowding. Some of our journals are absolutely gorgeous, but it can be daunting to browse that section in our store; there are so many items on each shelf that it's not only hard to see what you want, but to get to it you might knock something else off the shelf or need to move several other somethings...but where to put them?

    In other words, I don't think shopping our journals puts customers in a relaxed - hence - shopping frame of mind. Instead it can be such a chore to seek out and find just the right journal that I think we aren't serving our customers as well as we should. And I wanted to fix it.

    So I mentioned to Linda, the manager closing the store last night, that I thought the area needed some work. Had I glanced at my watch, I'd have realized it was already 9:50 and not the best time to start a project, but she gamely started working one bay and I started working the others. In-between I checked out a few customers, and sometime later she asked me if we were other words, was the store empty of customers. At that point I looked at my watch again and realized it was 10:10. I'd gotten so caught up in what I was doing that I didn't notice the store was past closing and here I was, with journals all over the floor and counter when I should have been doing my assigned recovery. I made a personal executive decision to finish what I'd begun, and worked like a whirling dervish over the next half hour on the three other bays, and when I was done, several stacks of excess product were ready to be put into overstock. Instead of having a dozen small black leather "envelope style" journals shelved, now there were a more manageable handful. And if I could have pulled entirely the 40th anniversary Woodstock journals ordered for the previous year, I would have. Apparently gift items can't be returned, so they remain, cluttering up the shelves.

    The rules require that we not [re]shelve single journals, and further, that other than the full bay devoted to the most expensive hand-tooled leather journals, journals are to be shelved by color. Much of which makes sense except that some of our journals tend to be pretty specific, like the "List" journals, which before last night were spread out so that the blue "List" journal was with the other blue journals, the green "List" journal was with the other green journals, and so on. When I envision myself as a customer looking for a "List" journal, I know I'd rather see all five on the same shelf rather than spread out among three bays on eighteen shelves. And so I made another executive decision and shelved them like that. It's quite possible that when I work again tomorrow night that the "List" journal shelf will have disappeared, but by the time Linda, Jeff, and I gathered up all the excess last night and put them in overstock, I was satisfied that the entire area looked better. It's still too crowded, but as far as wild hairs go, this one was pretty successful. I'd like to think Linda agreed.


    May 18, 2010

    Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

    Dead in the Family

    Charlaine Harris

    Grade: C+

    Urban Fantasy

    Amazon just posted my review of this book, which begins...

    Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries were my introduction into the world of urban fantasy, and every May for a decade I've looked forward to her latest Sookie Stackhouse adventure. Last year's Dead and Gone was one of the better books in the series, so I keenly anticipated Dead in the Family. And, in fact, I read it quickly, for which Harris deserves some credit. But I believe this is the final Sookie Stackhouse adventure for me...

    Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon


    May 17, 2010


    If you're interested in a low-fat, low-calorie recipe that is filling, nutritious, quick and simple, here's one I came up with today, with a little help from my trusty Hungry Girl Egg Mug. I've made the Egg Mug for many a relative, and while they all think it's going to be rubbery and gross as they're made in the microwave, they end up hooked on them because, of course, they are neither rubbery nor gross.

    Let's start with the Egg Mug recipe, which is basically an egg souffle, not rubbery but instead creamy due to the inclusion of The Laughing Cow Light, Creamy Swiss Original (for which I used a photo of the Florentine version of the Egg Mug):

    Per serving (entire mug): 95 calories, 2g fat, 14.5g protein

    1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters Original)
    One wedge The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese, cut into pieces

    Spray a large microwave-safe mug lightly with nonstick spray. Add egg substitute and cheese and stir. Microwave for about a minute. Stir gently, and then microwave for another 30 - 45 seconds, until scramble is just set. Stir and enjoy!

    That's the official recipe and cooking time. With the mug I use, in my microwave, it works best with 50 seconds, then another 50. But experiment with the time, and if you're inclined to jazz it up, Hungry Girl provides add-in options, like spinach for the Florentine version.

    The Egg Mug, btw, is the perfect breakfast or snack. If you get the munchies in-between lunch and dinner, they're wonderful. Oftentimes if I'm scheduled to work when I would regularly be eating a meal, I'll have one right before leaving the house.

    To assemble the breakfast burrito, I start with a La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Low Carb High Fiber Large Tortillas, add two slices of turkey bacon that I cook in the oven rather than nuking or cooking atop the stove, then add the egg mug, which comes out very fluffy and stays hot for quite a while. By the time you get to the end of your burrito, even if you eat slowly - as you should - it's still toasty.

    I discovered these tortillas on my own, but Hungry Girl loves 'em too. They are enormous, and so filled with fiber that they fill you up. Each tortilla has just 80 calories, 8g protein, and 12g fiber. That said, you need to know up front that they don't taste like regular all. If you think of them as wraps rather than tortillas, you will be less surprised when you bite into one.

    Depending on the brand of turkey bacon you buy, the total calorie count for this breakfast burrito is 220 - 250 calories. Hungry Girl recommends Jenny-O because at 20 calories per slice it's the lowest, but we just buy whatever Costco has, which tends to be Louis Rich, at 35 calories a slice. Regardless, the calories from the turkey come mainly from fat, but remember, you're using egg whites and low-fat cheese for the remainder of the recipe.

    If you're a stickler about never going over 30% fat in any recipe, this one won't quite work, but I see it as a trade off given the low calorie count. When I eat this burrito before going in to work, I often add a bowl of strawberries or a medium-sized apple, which adds a limited number of calories and evens out the percentage of fat as a meal.

    If you try my breakfast burrito, or any of the components therein, please let me know. And if you've got a great recipe to share, please do that as well.


    May 15, 2010

    Can't Teach an Old Demon New Tricks by Cara Lockwood

    Can't Teach an Old Demon New Tricks

    Cara Lockwood

    Grade: C+

    Urban Fantasy Romance

    Amazon Vine just posted my review of this book, which begins...

    Are readers crying out for more light urban fantasy novels? It all depends on the book, and frankly, nothing in particular stands out as stellar in the second release of Cara Lockwood's Dogwood series. On the other hand, the only truly negative comment I can make is that I didn't care for the duo of befuddled angels who record events through the book and occasionally overstep their bounds. Though I'm quite secular, I was strangely offended by the notion of bumbling angels, even though they have a lengthy legacy in film and fiction....

    Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon


    May 14, 2010

    Stand Up...Or Stand Down (Transferred from short-lived DCP blog)

    The rallying cry for the Coffee Party is "Wake Up and Stand Up. Yet there is so much negative hateful rhetoric floating around these days that otherwise intelligent people are afraid. Afraid that by standing up, we will incite the fringe folk into doing dangerous things. So afraid, in fact, that they believe we must instead stand down, and further, pull the covers over our heads.

    Obviously this is not a view to which I subscribe. Appeasement is never the answer. It failed when the Europeans tried it in the 1930s, and can you imagine what this country would have looked like had Abraham Lincoln appeased the South...or allowed secession rather than standing up for our Constitution?

    We live in a polarizing time, with two entrenched sides who often cede control to the fringes rather than creating a larger, more inclusive tent in the middle. And so at times we have left-wing Democrats who are willing to cut their noses off to spite their own faces, refusing to settle for incremental changes while at the same time right-wing Republicans turn obstructionist, resulting in grid-lock that causes them to move ever-farther to the right.

    Judging by his actions, Barack Obama is a moderate president. And yet he provokes even more anti-government rhetoric than Bill Clinton - another moderate president - did. Many of Obama's stances were once also taken by Republican presidents Reagan, Nixon, or Bush (take your pick as to I or II).

    Whenever I can't use logic to figure something out, I remember something I learned in graduate school: Follow the money. And that's where I think much of the dissension lies. The billions spent by the health care industry to prevent health care reform, the millions the financial industry is spending to prevent reform, and the money just pledged by AT&T to gain a stronger foothold in the fight against Net Neutrality...what do each of these three things have in common? The bottom line is the bottom line. Lots and lots of people and companies became very, very wealthy during the Clinton and Bush II years, and as time went on, most of the money rose to the top and consolidated among fewer and fewer.

    Since Barack Obama won the presidential election of 2008 and the birthers started yammering, I began to well and truly believe that among those who have accumulated the greatest wealth are those who would do just about anything to keep it. It is in their interest to distract us, to make and keep us angry. The middle class may indeed be disappearing, but when considering the cause, ask yourself, who has the most to lose? If you have difficulty answering this question, consider that the top 1% own 42% of wealth in the U.S. The next 19% own an additional 50%, leaving the remaining 80% of us owning less than 10%. Even more astonishingly, of all the new financial wealth created since the Reagan presidency, nearly half of it went to the top 1%...nearly 95% went to the top 20%.

    If you come to the same conclusion that I have - that money funds anti-reform movements as well as obsfucating the truth from those ignorant enough to search for it themselves - you will undoubtedly conclude that now is the precisely the time for us not to stand down. Now is the time for us to stand up, to make the voice of reason rise above the voices of anger and ignorance.

    ~Laurie G


    May 13, 2010

    How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper

    How to Talk to a Widower

    Jonathan Tropper

    Grade: A-


    If asked for one word to describe Jonathan Tropper's How to Talk to a Widower, I'd choose one I don't throw around lightly: sublime. Devastatingly profane, laugh-out-loud funny, yet surprisingly emotional, it's a book I'm thankful that James at a bookstore lent to me after I heard about it from Laura, who had earlier been told about it by James.

    Twenty-nine-year-old Doug Parker is slim and beautiful, and after Hailey, his wife of two years, died in a plane crash he is still so sad that he cannot move on in his life. The monthly column he writes about his inappropriate grief gained him a large magazine following, yet he refuses to follow his agent's advice and write a book out of his experiences that publishers are clamoring to buy. Instead he obsesses over the annoying squirrels who live in the garden of the house he shared with his wife, the house she previously shared with her first husband and their son Russ, now a grieving 15-year-old whose father Hailey realized was banging another woman when she found his snipped pubes in their bathroom trash can.

    Women in the tony Westchester neighborhood want to take care of Doug - or sleep with him - while their husbands want to buy him lap dances. But he is forced out of himself by two things: Russ needs him to step up and be a father to him, and his bossy, pregnant twin sister Claire, who's decided to move in after leaving her husband, promises him that if he turns himself over to her, she'll fix him. God knows he needs the help...and can't rely on the rest of his family. His dad, once a prominent doctor, whom he can't remember as ever having hugged him, is becoming lost to dementia while his former actress mother, a cross between Marilyn Truman and Bobbi Adler from Will and Grace, self-medicates.

    Meanwhile, his younger sister is about to marry a man she met and schtupped as he was sitting shiva for his dead wife, his twin begins arranging blind dates for him that invariably go badly, and if that weren't enough, he's falling for the temptation of his wife's [married] best friend's ample charms even though the feelings aroused by Russ' beautiful, quirky guidance counselor are anything but curricular. And so he tries to move beyond the anger, sadness, and self-pity overwhelming him, even though he's equally sad that one day, when he's moved on and has a happy new life and family, all he'll have of Hailey are minor memories.

    Despite his being totally fucked up, Doug Parker is an appealing hero. Here's a guy who never believed he'd end up with a woman like Hailey, a guy who's smart - well, a smart-ass, anyway - funny, and a keen observer of human nature. He may think badly of other people, but he never believes worse about others than he thinks about himself...and how attractive is that? Though his relatives are not as fully rendered, all are well drawn, and a few scenes, involving either his father or his step-son, are stand-outs. While the story does veer toward the melodramatic near the end, all can be forgiven because two of those terrific scenes occur as a result.

    Jonathan Tropper doesn't write absurdist fiction, but it's high praise indeed that How to Talk to a Widower reminds me in some ways of Christopher Moore's marvelous A Dirty Job. Both authors created hilarity from the dark premise of a beloved wife's death. Both authors appeal to those of us who are "wordies," readers who enjoy the use of language itself, but Moore's novel, while it does have moments of poignance, wasn't written to provoke the same feelings of tenderness Tropper achieves in his pathos-filled comedy. Inappropriate it may be, but brilliantly, funnily so. Thank you, James, for lending me your copy.


    What if You Gave a Coffee Party and Nobody Came? (Transferred from Short-Lived DCP blog)

    Yes...I'm impatient. And because there are multiple admins on the Join the Coffee Party Movement, Dallas page on Facebook, as well as members posting, it's difficult for members to find some of what I'd like them to find. Namely, this blog and the @dallascoffee twitter feed I set up earlier in the week. Because right now I feel like I'm giving a coffee party by myself.

    This morning I decided to get pro-active about it...even more proactive than actually setting up the blog, twitter feed, writing up blog entries and finding articles of interest to forward via the twitter feed. So I searched twitter using @coffeeparty as my search item and clicked the "follow" button for other Coffee Party feeds, and, in addition, some feeds that look like they focus -on the Coffee Party.

    Here's problem one: When you follow another feed, all their tweets show up on it, which is why although @laurie_gold follows @dallascoffee, @dallascoffee does not follow @laurie_gold. If, in fact, the feeds I selected focus almost exclusively on Coffee Party matters, everything will be copesetic. If not, though, if there are as many non-topic tweets that exist in my personal feed, I'll need to unfollow, putting me back at square one. Unless, of course, the feeds I've picked up pick me up in return, which has happened...just Meaning that I am no longer the sole follower of @dallascoffee.

    Although I've used twitter for quite a while now, tagging is new to me. My @laurie_gold tweets are meant for family, friends, acquaintances, and those involved with books, publishing, and the like. Today I realized if I find a way to condense my tweets even more so that I can fit in "#coffeeparty" within the allotted 140 characters, my @dallascoffee tweets will get picked up and read by others searching for tweets on the Coffee Party, which is what happened earlier when I tweeted a link to the NYT on financial reform.

    Now, back to the Facebook page for a moment...and the multiple admins. As it stands, there is no distinguishing which admin posted to the page - until now. In learning how to handle my new Droid phone, I've gone back and forth between using Facebook's "full site" in non-mobile mode and the mobile app because I'm still learning the ins and outs of copying and pasting on various apps. Today I discovered that when I post to the Dallas Facebook page for the Coffee Party using the full-site method, my icon is the generic cup of coffee. But, when I post using the Droid app, my personal icon is what appears after I hit the "share" button.

    That still leaves one issue hanging out there - the ability to change the default on the Dallas Coffee Party Facebook page so that the "Info" page rather than "Wall" is where visitors land. It seems to me that if we want to actually use the twitter feed and this blog to their utmost, we need to direct people here.

    For instance, I'd love to properly publicize the showing at the Angelika on the 28th of the documentary film release Captain Jack and the United States of Money, to direct readers to the Facebook RSVP page. I'd love to use this blog not only to publicize events and meetings, but to use it as a forum to talk about issues in a unique way to promote discussion.

    I'd like to continue posting articles like the two I wrote earlier in the week. I believe that by making connections others may not necessarily leap to, I can educate and inform without being pedantic or partisan. But if nobody's here to read the content, what, really, is the point? It becomes nothing but mental masturbation.

    Facebook is a terrific and easy way to introduce a concept, but as a way to motivate and mobilize, so far I've been unable to tap its potential. If you can help me figure it out, please do, either by commenting here, or through an email up at Facebook. In the interim, for those looking for something substantive and tangible, here is an urgent notice from the national Coffee Party page on Facebook, followed by local Event Listings, their links, and some detail:

    Join the Coffee Party Movement
    URGENT: We have at least one more day to convince our senators to support the Merkley-Levin Amendment. Lobbying from the Big Banks are at a fever pitch in DC right now because this amendment spells real reform. It would ensure that American tax payers don't guarantee Wall St banks' risky bets and would stop banks from engaging in Goldman-Sachs-style bets against their own clients. Let's put (202) 224-3121 on speed dial and call: Klobuchar-MN, Nelson-NE, Brown-MA, Landrieu-LA, Lugar-IN, Corker-TN, Alexander-TN, Bayh-IN, Lugar-IN, Snowe-ME, Collins-ME, Hagan-NC, Warner-VA, Schumer-NY, Gillibrand-NY #coffeeparty

    Captain Jack & the United States of Money
    A documentary about Jack Abramoff
    5321 Mockingbird Ln. Dallas, TX 75206
    Friday, May 28th from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
    Leadership Training
    For those interesting in hosting a Coffee Party event
    Fish City on Henderson, Dallas, TX
    Saturday, May 22nd from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm

    Help spread the word about these pertinent events and notices, make plans to participate somehow, and forward the link for this blog entry to other Dallas Coffee Party members.

    ~Laurie G


    May 11, 2010

    What Lies Beneath? (Posted on Toe in the Water & short-lived DCP blog)

    Today I read on the Huffington Post that according to USA TODAY, "Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency." Further, the newspaper reports that while personal income fell 2%, paid taxes dropped 23%, excluding Social Security. While it's true that spending has increased in order to help the country climb out of the recession, it's also true that among those polled by Gallup last month, those who believe taxes are too high are the same taxpayers whose taxes remain "near a 50-year low."

    What lies beneath that sort of disconnect? Yesterday a YouTube video posted last September enjoyed a resurgence. The video, which features two candidates for Texas governor who belong to the secessionist movement, seem to advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Indeed, what stuck in my mind as I watched it [again] was hearing Debra Medina announce, in response to shouts of "We hate the United States," that, "We are aware that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots." Hearing Thomas Jefferson's words come out of this woman's mouth sickened me.

    It was my daughter who actually alerted me to the video. She very much objected to the video's title at YouTube - Texas Filled With Insane Christian Republican Terrorists - particularly because the link was provided by one of the the other Dallas Coffee Party Movement admins on our Facebook page, and a core value of the Coffee Party Movement is to eliminate the name-calling that passes for political discourse these days.

    I agree that the video's title was unnecessarily incendiary; its contents make the case without resorting to name-calling. That said, those heard on the video are actively shouting their hatred of the United States, bastardized the words of the man who wrote our Declaration of Independence, and by doing so advocated the violent overthrow of our government.

    When George Bush took office, the projected 10-year budget surplus he inherited became a deficit that ballooned as a result of tax cuts combined with increased spending, as well as two unfunded wars, one of which was supposed to pay for itself. Interestingly, the same individuals now calling for the blood of tyrants and patriots to water the tree of freedom, were not doing so until Barack Obama was elected president.

    It seems to me that the vehemence directed against Obama's "socialist" government grew out of proposed health care reform. In March on my personal blog, I wrote that in the rest of the developed world, citizens share health care while in the U.S. it's something we horde. They see it as a basic human right while we see it as a privilege, even though nearly 2/3 of personal bankruptcies, historically, are a result of medical bills. Could it be that all the money the health care industry spent lobbying Congress and with advertising aimed at the public against reform were successful in convincing the same people who believe their taxes are too high that, as reported in Salon, "healthcare reform helped 'other people' and not themselves"?

    I can't help but wonder whether "other" is coded language that feeds into the worst impulses of a certain segment of Americans, perhaps those who preach that "others" don't have "small-town values." Is what lies

    If you feel so inclined as to comment, please do so on the Coffee Party Blog...I'm hoping somebody will actually visit. It's very, very lonely!


    May 10, 2010


    I review for two different PW editors. One editor sends me mass market releases, the other hardcover or trade fiction, generally targeted for women. Some time ago I realized that as a general rule, I like more of the mass market release than not...and dislike more of the fiction releases than I like. That flipped during the past week. I liked the last book I reviewed for my fiction editor. Unfortunately, the review I turned in earlier today to my mass market editor was for a gruelingly bad read.

    My mass market editor sent out the book with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it turnaround time (I volunteered); I'm still trying to decide whether the fact that I had to read and review it so quickly was akin to ripping off a Band-Aid in order to lessen the pain. The book arrived Friday morning and was due today, which would have been fine had I read it, as planned, on Saturday. Instead, because I'd already begun reading and knew it was bad from the get-go, I procrastinated and worked on setting up the Dallas Coffee Party blog and twitter feed, and wasted even more time by writing the first entry for the blog, instead. Which meant that I'd only read half the book by this morning.

    And then, after I'd finished reading early today, I got caught up in a story I read on a Coffee Party friend's Facebook page, and decided it needed to form the basis of Corporate Fascism?, which I wrote and posted on the other blog around noon.

    Which still left plenty of time to write my review, edit it, whittle it down to the requisite word count, and send it in so that by the time I left for work tonight, I could write this blog entry.

    Even though my mass market editor keeps an extensive database so as to try and match books well to reviewers, everyone who reads realizes that it's impossible to succeed every time. And just when I'd considered writing to my fiction editor about the fact that I don't seem to like most of the books he sends me to review, I realized I liked the previous two.

    And now, in a complete break from reviewing, I'm going to read a book I borrowed from James at the bookstore based on his recommendation: Jonathan Tropper's How to Talk to a Widower. It's going to be nice to read purely for enjoyment for a change.

    Corporate Fascism? (Transferred from short-lived DCP blog)

    Earlier today a headline caught my eye on Larry Hardy's Facebook page. The summary read: As a nation, we have officially ventured down the rabbit hole of big corporate spending in political campaigns, as a Texas company recently placed the first campaign ad paid for solely by corporate profits. I clicked the link and read the full article at The Wonk Room.

    Because blogs often mix opinion with straight reporting, I did a Google search to find additional reporting from newspapers and news magazines. There wasn't any that I could find. The second page of results that included blogs large and small, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and Newser, among others, I found a link to a transcript from CNN dated April 26th; further investigation into the owner of the Texas company revealed a link to The Houston Chronicle.

    Details from both cable network's transcripts and the Houston newspaper match what The Wonk Room blogger wrote about, which is that for the first time, a company's profits were used to pay for political ads - in this case, against incumbent Chuck Hopson, who holds the East Texas 11th seat in the State Legislature. The company, KDR, is a real estate business whose owner, Larry Durrett, also owns a franchise restaurant business. In 2006 Durrett ran, unsuccessfully, against Hopson.

    Prior to the Supreme Court's January ruling in the Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission case, which overthrew a 63-year-old precedent, this would not have been allowed under Texas law. After the Court's 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizen's United, the Texas Election Commission sanctioned unlimited political spending by corporations...and unions. A March 27th editorial in the Chronicle indicates that such spending can't be coordinated with candidate campaigns, although "joint efforts would be difficult to prove." Further, the editorial noted that "The content of Durrett's ads are notably similar to campaign pieces by Hopson's opponents."

    Although in this instance Hopson defeated Durrett, many legal scholars and political scientists are convinced that corporate influence, most often felt these days through lobbyists (a substantial chunk of the $3.47 billion spent lobbying Congress last year was against health care), will grow even stronger. According to the editorial, "In the brave new world of post-Citizens United, multi-million-dollar corporate media blitzes directed against opponents for either personal or political reasons could become the norm." What the Court decided in January moves us one step closer to what I consider corporate fascism. Mussolini's definition of fascism, FWIW, is a merger of State and corporate power. What do you think?

    In response to the January decision, Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, joined by Republican Mike Castle, introduced a bill that would, among other things, require CEO's to appear in political ads, and to inform company shareholders about political spending. If I've read correctly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes the Congressmen are over-reacting. What say you?

    ~Laurie G


    May 9, 2010


    Last night as I was helping recover the store after closing, I wondered anew about the astonishing number and varieties of Christian bibles we stock. A small sampling includes:

    • New Women's Devotional Bible
    • Holy Bible - English Standard Version
    • Holy Bible - New International Version
    • Holy Bible - King James Bible
    • Holy Bible - Contemporary English Version
    • Deluxe Text Holy Bible : New Living Translation
    • NAB Student Bible : New American Bible
    • ESV Study Bible
    • Holy Bible (NIrV) for Adults - New International Reader's Version
    • Catholic Gift Bible
    • New American Bible - Saint Joseph Edition
    • The American Patriot's Bible : The Word of God and the Shaping of America
    • The Daily Bible: New International Version (NIV)
    • Comparative Study Bible, Revised Edition : New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible Update (NASB), Amplified Bible, and King James Version (KJV)
    • The Life Recovery Bible, Personal Size Edition : New Living Translation (NLT)
    • Chronological Study Bible

    I went to B& and searched for "Christian Bibles." There were 20944 links provided. FYI, on a search for "Jewish Bibles," 2165 links appear.

    Confusion Reigns

    I joined the Coffee Party Movement in March, as did thousands of other people. It's easy, press a button on Facebook and, voilà, you're a member. How to translate that membership into something substantial is a lot more difficult, for a variety of reasons: 1) The mission is amorphous (how does one translate "good government" into action?); 2) Grassroots organizations require more effort from the bottom; and 3) The original head of the movement for Dallas became overwhelmed by the enormity of her commitment, dropped out without asking for help, and left everyone floundering and trying to pick up the pieces. As a result, after ten or twelve local meetings in March and April, there was just one in May. Instead of fifteen to forty in attendance at each of those meetings, there were just six of us - including my now-adult daughter - at lunch yesterday.

    While at the meeting I realized if I wanted the Coffee Party Movement in Dallas to succeed, I'd actually need to get off my ass and do something. The Coffee Party is thriving throughout all of Texas...but not in Dallas. So I decided to use my skill set as a writer and Internet guru by creating a new blog and setting up a[nother] Twitter account, specifically to communicate with the hundreds of people who have clicked that Dallas Coffee Party Facebook button.

    After leaving lunch yesterday, I was supposed to have come home and read a rush book to review for PW by Monday (it arrived at my house on Friday). I didn't. Instead, I set up the bones of the new blog - Dallas Coffee Party - and wrote the first post. Then I left for work, and in the ten minutes before starting my shift, I set up the new Twitter account - @dallascoffee. It quickly became confusing. I'd thought if I input my @laurie_gold user name and password for one of my Droid's Twitter apps, and my info for the @dallascoffee using another, I could just click whichever app I needed depending on which account I was going to tweet far I've not been able to get that to work. Equally confusing regards actual content for each blog - and what to tweet to each of the Twitter accounts as well. I'll be working with various Coffee Party members to suss out what to post on the other blog, but does that mean I should stop posting anything political here? The Coffee Party strives to be political but not partisan, and because most of my political tweets are simply links to newspaper articles, they can be tweeted from one and retweeted to the other, but other than that, I'm feeling more than a little Sybil right now.

    As I wrote in my initial post to the Dallas Coffee Party blog yesterday, it's going to be an experiment, and the experiment will spill over onto Toe in the Water. Please be patient as I muddle through.


    May 8, 2010

    An Experiment (Transferred from short-lived DCP blog)

    In March, I did something I'd not done since the late off my rear and decided to do more than give money to causes I believed in. As an individual with an advanced degree in public administration whose first career was in municipal management, I'm a strong believer that government is not evil. It's not the problem. It's part of the solution, and we are government - or should be. Tired of all the yelling that passes for political discourse these days, I decided to join the Coffee Party Movement. That was the easy part.

    It's incredibly easy to press a Facebook button and join a cause, be part of a movement, or proclaim your allegiance to something or somebody. It's a lot more time-consuming - and frustrating - to accomplish something. And with a mandate as amorphous as cooperation and participation in government so that it expresses our collective will and addresses our challenges in a civil and positive manner, it's all the more difficult. How to translate a wish for "good government" into action?

    I attended a planning meeting in March, then one of the hundreds of local meetings held throughout the country. The planning meeting made the local news and another of the local meetings did as well. Though attendance at the first meeting was high, and even higher for the second, for today's meeting there were a grand total of six of us in attendance...and as far as I know it was the only group to meet in Dallas county. While the movement remains strong and vital as near as Fort Worth, it's died in Dallas, and I'm one of those committed to reviving it. I decided my skill set would be best used in communicating with Dallas area members via this blog and through a Twitter account I've yet to set up.

    This will be an experiment, for me, and for those of you who decide to participate by reading this blog, posting to the local or national Facebook page, or deciding to attend or even lead a local meeting in the future. I've included the movement's official mission statement, a link for those who'd like to sign the civility pledge (it's a jump link because the pledge is hosted on the national it and a new browser window will open, allowing you to toggle back and forth), and activated sharing and subscribing abilities for those who are interested. Next will come links, and then the blog structure should be complete, and the real hard work of communicating will begin.

    That's where you come in. As a grassroots organization, we are all responsible for determining our direction, but at the same time, many policy issues are time-sensitive, which means that among movement members locally and nation-wide, we need coordination. I'll be up front and share that the topic of most interest to me is campaign finance reform in light of the January's Supreme Court decision that under the First Amendment, Congress may not bar corporations and unions from using their own money to make independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates for office. But right now banking reform is number one on the to-do list because of on-going congressional hearings. In fact, there's a documentary film showing at the Angelika Mockingbird in the very near future that we hope you'll consider attending.

    Look forward to more from me on that in upcoming days, but please, please, please, share your interests as well. Comment at will. I've blogged, run discussion lists, forums, and websites since the mid-1990s and feel well able to keep my ego in check. I plan to be a two-way conduit of information more than anything else, and that won't work without your participation.

    ~Laurie G

    Sunday, May 9: @dallascoffee set up and Twitter widget added to the right column of this page. Please spread the word about the blog and the Twitter feed...feel free to use the "share this" links following each entry and the right column. Look for some substance Tuesday.

    ~Laurie G


    May 7, 2010

    Deal with This by Lucy Monroe

    Deal With This

    Lucy Monroe

    Grade: C+

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense

    Amazon just posted my review of this book, a revised review from my old blog. It begins...

    Actress Jillian Sinclair first appeared as the heroine Amanda's best friend in one of my all-time favorite romances - The Real Deal - so I couldn't wait to read about her finding true love with undercover agent Alan Hyatt. Alas, Deal With This did not live up to my expectations...

    Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon


    Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

    Sandman Slim

    Richard Kadrey

    Grade: B

    Urban Fantasy

    Amazon just posted my review of this book, which begins...

    A friend of mine recommended this book to me some months ago. I devoured it in one sitting, loving its dark, sarcastic, and violent sensibility. The novel, which can be described in this thumbnail sketch - A guy, not a dead one, gets sent to Hell and escapes 11 years later...and he's pretty pissed about it - doesn't begin to capture its awesomeness, but hopefully it'll whet your appetite to read more about Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim...

    Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon



    Last night at work a young woman wearing a bright pink t-shirt with the word "BYOTCH" emblazoned on the back tried to return an expensive hardcover book - a cookbook, design book, or gardening book - without a receipt. I asked why she wanted to return it and she immediately got defensive. I explained that because she didn't have a receipt I would need to have something to go to my manager with, but she interrupted me to ask why she just couldn't get a store credit, and when I finished what I'd begun to say, she turned on her heels and stomped out of the store.

    My first impulse was to blame myself for doing something wrong, but then I thought about it for a moment, realized I had done nothing rude, and that in fact, her actions had been suspicious. Without a receipt there's no way to know where she bought the book...where somebody bought the book for her...or if the book had been bought at all. After several years spent listening to irate taxpapers when I worked for the City of Dallas as manager in two tax collection areas, I learned that for many people, the best defense is a strong offense. In other words, when attempting to pull a fast one, some people become intimidating human bulldozers and try to put the other side on the defensive in order to get their - wrong - way. In the end I decided that's what the byotch had tried to do with me.

    The byotch wasn't the only horrendous customer of the week. There was also a woman I'm convinced is some sort of scam artist. She came to me with a bagful of books and a receipt. She looked familiar and I realized I'd been her cashier the first time out - and that she'd had some sort of story then as well. She was outside of the 14-day return policy, and when I asked why she was returning five books, she said, "I found them cheaper on e-Bay." Way to go, lady. At least come up with a story guaranteed not to insult me and my employer.

    I called a manager up front to deal with her, and eventually she got what she wanted...mostly...even though it would have been well within the manager's rights to just say no. In a retail environment "the customer is always right" must always be considered, even when we know they're not. Although outside of the return period, the manager allowed her a partial return. Later in the evening I heard the manager on the phone with the woman; her new story was that there was a missing book that she hadn't gotten "credit" for. The manager could not find the "missing" book. I believe there was no such book to be found, that she didn't get everything she wanted earlier, and was now trying another tact to screw the store. I told the manager of my suspicions and she detailed the entire episode in her notes that are presumably shared upon high.

    Sidebar: She was brazen, but in a different way from those teachers who use their educator cards to buy personal items, then lie straight to my face when I remind them of our "classroom only" policy. In those instances as well, I can only question them about the policy without in any way being accusatory, but instead try to get them to own up to what's right. See, when they sign up for the educator's card they are told how they can use it - 20% discount on items for the classroom except during teacher appreciation periods when they get a 25% personal discount - but we aren't allowed to enforce the policy. So when teachers' kids hand me a stack of books clearly meant for them, then mom or dad whips out their educator card, I politely ask if the books are for classroom use. I don't tell them to put away their card since they're violating the policy, but hope that forcing them to lie to me will make them feel bad enough to not do it again.

    Why was I so suspicious about this woman? Intuition. Something about her...and her stories...just wasn't right. And it reminded me of what happened about a year ago. I'd seen a woman walk from one side of the store to the other holding a large, coffee-table sized book. For some reason I felt I needed to keep watching her, and a few moments later as she walked down the middle aisle toward the exit, I didn't see the book. Yes, she could have put it down somewhere, but I grabbed a manager and told her I thought the woman was trying to steal, and as soon as I watched her side-step the walk-through security device by the front exit, I knew I was right. Texas law is very bizarre as regards shop-lifters and how stores are allowed to deal with them, so the best the manager could do was write down her car's license plate number, report it, and share it, along with a still photo made out of security tapes, with other B&N's in our district. The next weekend I heard they'd caught her at another store before she could steal again.

    I don't know why I knew the woman last year was a thief...but I did. Just as I know the woman last night was a scam artist...and that the angry byotch's behavior wasn't kosher either. Ah, the seedy side to retail.


    Red Hot Fury by Kasey MacKenzie

    Red Hot Fury

    Kasey MacKenzie

    Grade: C+

    Urban Fantasy Romance

    Amazon Vine just posted my review of this book, which begins...

    Reading Kasey MacKenzie's Red Hot Fury, the first in a new urban fantasy series, is like walking into a movie ten minutes after it's started. Though you are able to follow along well enough, you feel slightly disoriented, constantly in the need to catch up, and even if you enjoy it, it ends leaving you as though you've missed something...

    Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon


    May 6, 2010


    A therapist once said to me, "You are almost childlike in your naiveté." It was not a compliment. We had been discussing my - mistaken - viewpoint that people aren't mean to other people unless they are angry at them, "unless they're like Hitler." When I added that the proverbial light bulb had gone off over my head after a very wise person (thank you, Blythe) told me, ""People don't need to be angry at you to be mean...some people are just mean," the therapist looked up at the ceiling as though thanking God and responded, "That woman's a genius!"


    May 5, 2010

    Preparing To Be Lost Without LOST

    Ever since ABC aired the feature-film-worthy pilot episode of LOST in September, 2004, I've been hooked. I have never missed a first-run episode, and while I'm a tremendous LOST fangirl, I wish I weren't the only member of my household to watch the show as it's one that cries out for discussion, argument, and rehashing. And at midnight last night, after I'd come home from work and turned on TiVo to see the producers kill off three of the series' lead characters, oh, how I wanted to talk about it with somebody, to cry with somebody over the loss of Jin and Sun and Sayid. Instead I read Doc Jensen's special immediately-post-show column to get me through today when his weekly re-cap column appeared. And now it has. I started to read "Sunk," then decided to take a break - to have more time for savoring - and write a quick blog about my feelings on LOST's ending in three more weeks.

    Essentially I'm in pre-mourning, and have been ever since February when the first of season six's eighteen episodes aired. As a result I started reading Doc Jensen's online columns about the show so as to broaden and deepen my LOST experience before it all comes to an end. Although I'm a devoted watcher and have occasionally watched the sub-titled episodes that air when ABC has nothing better to show before new episodes, I've rarely gotten involved in the plethora of official/semi-official/unofficial LOST content available online.

    Don't get me wrong...I think all the web tie-ins are pretty brilliant, but that level of involvement requires a keener eye than I have when I follow a TV show. I don't notice half of what other people do when they watch LOST, but when I do, I'm pretty damn proud of myself. Which is why I cannot fathom the bottomless fount of knowledge that exists in Jeff Jensen's head about the various philosophies, religions, writings, and other references that are a part of LOST, either as parts of major story or character arcs or in the multitude of little easter eggs created for viewers.

    This isn't the first TV show I've loved. There are too many sit-coms - from Barney Miller to Seinfeld to Flight of the Conchords - to list - but outside of Star Trek: TNG, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Highlander: The Series (which I came to, admittedly, late), The Sopranos, and Mad Men, I've never been so devoted to a drama as I have been to LOST. I gave up on E.R. when Dr. Mark Greene died, and stopped watching NYPD Blue after they killed off Detective Bobby Simone, but never have I been tempted to stop watching LOST, not even when they killed the Hobbit Charlie. I've been willing to turn myself over to the imaginations of the show's producers because LOST is the finest show ever to air on television. Even though stuff flies over my head on a regular basis, the storylines, character arcs, production values, and, in particular, the moral ambiguity that floats around...all of it contributes to a show I doubt we'll ever see the likes of again.

    Even so, I'll obviously continue to muddle through my days after the two-and-a-half-hour finale scheduled for Sunday, May 23rd. I'm sure Jeff Jensen will as well, but what's he going to do with all that extra time on his hands besides making up for countless hours of lost sleep? And, if you're a LOST fan, how are you feeling after last night's episode, and the upcoming end of an era?


    May 4, 2010

    Dragon House by John Shors

    Dragon House

    John Shors

    Grade: B-


    A couple of years ago I read and reviewed for Publishers Weekly John Shors' second book, Beside a Burning Sea. In my review I noted the beautiful prose, lyrical even when describing the horrors of war. His third release, Dragon House, presents more of a "I liked it, but..." quandary. Shors' writing remains captivating, but it's too earnest and sentimental. I wept as much while reading it as I do watching Terms of Endearment, but the book's heart-on-a-sleeve nature, which was likely behind the Kirkus reviewer's critique that "nonfiction might have better served the author's purpose," never fully faded into the background of the narrative. And, though I loved the young Vietnamese woman who is one of the story's lead characters, to be truthful she's one hell of a Mary Sue. Even with all these negatives, that the book had such an emotional impact on me cannot be denied. Add on top of that the questions it raised that I'd never considered, and my final grade is a B-, a recommendation, but one that comes with qualifications.

    Iris Rhodes promised her father on his deathbed that she would continue his work in Vietnam and open a center for street children. Though his PTSD kept him in and out of her life for too long, she loved him and wanted to fulfill his dream. Along for the ride is Noah Woods, an embittered Iraq War vet who lost part of his leg - and his best friend - while serving overseas. He drinks to keep the pain at bay, and rages internally over the lies that led him to enlist. I happen to agree politically with that viewpoint and know there are many veterans who feel similarly, but I could never separate Noah's beliefs from those held by Shors. Perhaps it's because I read the book soon after attempting to read Lone Survivor, the memoir of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who tells of his harrowing experience in Afghanistan and being the only one of four SEALs to survive a mission. The first few pages of Luttrell's book are intensely emotional, but I stopped reading shortly thereafter as a result of his ultra right-wing views.

    Thien is the young woman Iris' father hired to help create and run The Iris Rhodes Center for Street Children. Lovely, kind, full of lyrical stories about Vietnam and its dragon mythology, it's easy to see how she and Iris grew so close in such a short time, and that she and Noah were drawn to each other, he to the beauty she brought to every day life and her to the goodness she knew was locked inside him. As much as I loved Thien myself, even I found her to be the embodiment of a Mary Sue character. She reminds me of the idealized African-American women found in some of the Southern Fiction I love...a born nurturer, wise beyond her years, soothing, and always with a story or song to brighten a dark day.

    Other characters are woven into the story as the three work to finish the Center: a devoted grandmother trying to care for her young granddaughter who is dying of leukemia; a pair of street children who sell fans and play games with tourists to earn protection money for a loathsome, drug-addicted monster who keeps them starving and in fear of their lives; and a suspicious policeman whose hatred of Americans is slowly overcome by the good he sees in Iris and Noah. Shors' ability to describe the sights, sounds, and smells - and the rampant corruption - in Vietnam are among the highlights, another is that he raises points I doubt many of us have considered.

    Those of us who came of age in the 60s or 70s know about the Napalm used to destroy foliage and the effects of Agent Orange on veterans - who, after all, can forget the deadly irony of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who ordered the use of the defoliant that eventually claimed the life of his son, a patrol boat commander in Vietnam? But what of the Vietnamese burned and mutilated as a result? I don't know about you, but the image of Vietnam that sticks in my mind as a 13-year-old is of the fall of Saigon, when the helicopters evacuated remaining American citizens and desperate Vietnamese tried to board. Or my head jumps into the killing fields of Cambodia. I thank the author for the book's teachable moments. Even though I grew up in a solidly anti-war household, my parents mostly railed about students being beat up by policemen at rallies, the inequities of the draft, or, after Carter took office, spoke admiringly of the unconditional amnesty he granted to those who fled to Canada to avoid it.

    A small niggle about Iris, who apparently earned a living reviewing books sent to her by publishers. This is a gig I'd love but I'm not sure it exists. As a free-lance reviewer for PW, I earn a small fee for each book I review. Readers who often review books for publishers or reviewers for large websites - AAR for instance - receive their books for free, but cash does not exchange hands. Even reviewers with bylines who write for magazines or newspapers tend to review for other venues or in other media to sustain themselves. A small niggle, but a niggle nonetheless.

    While I think it's fair to criticize Shors for too blatantly telegraphing his views through Noah's character, the numbers of soldiers returning from Iraq with physical or emotional injuries is astoundingly, disgustingly high, and by fictionalizing it the author is able to personalize what has become a very impersonal event for most of us. It's not like World War II, when the U.S. was consumed by the war; these days you can pick up a paper, view headlines online, or watch the news on a broadcast or cable channel without the war being discussed at all, let alone front and center. Then too, the author clearly did his research on what it feels like to have lost a limb. The phantom pain of Noah's missing limb and the constant discomfort he experiences while wearing his prosthesis make very real the results of war on those who are sent to fight, heavy-handedness and all, as does the PTSD suffered by Iris' father and its effects on her and her mother.

    For every aspect of Dragon House that I enjoyed, there was a negative counterweight, but in the end the book earns a qualified recommendation. That said, my view is definitely colored by politics, and I guess Bushies will be so frustrated by the "bleeding heart" liberalism infusing the story to enjoy it at all.