Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans, Again

A few random thoughts before I leave for the airport. It seems to me that the catastrophe in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama is going to exceed by far that of 9/11. I keep thinking of a story called "The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane. Remember that one? Sometimes you want to throw rocks at the temple, but there are no rocks, and there is no temple. In other words, we can't bomb Afghanistan this time. We can't blame Iraq, as some whose names I won't mention are fond of doing for other things. We're willing to pump billions of dollars into wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, and then to spend billions more to restore the countries after we've virtually destroyed them. I wonder how much we're willing to pump into our own country, into the states devastated by the hurricane, to help our own citizens.

The usual carefree blogging will return after Bouchercon. I promise.

Bouchercon Bound

Judy and I will be heading off to Chicago later this morning for the annual Bouchercon. We've been attending since 1980, having missed only those in England, so we've been to more than 20. That's nowhere near a record, as Steve Stilwell and Marv Lachman would be quick to point out, but it's a lot of Bouchercons. We've never failed to have a great time.

Bouchercon attendance has grown considerably since the first one we attended in Washington, D.C. There were surely no more than a couple of hundred people at that one, and there was very little programming. Few writers other than the guests of honor were there, and the dealers' room was quite small. It had some great stuff in it, though.

As the attendance has increased, the focus has changed. The convention used to be all about the fans. Now it seems to be all about the writers, with people going just to get a glimpse of their current favorites, and a lot of the writers seem to be there just to hawk their latest book. A line I've heard more than once: "I don't have a book out this fall, so I won't be going.") I'm not sure this is change for the better.

But what do I know? When I started going to Bouchercons, I was a (sort of) youngster and a big part of things. Now I'm an old relic, pretty much irrelevant to the goings-on. I still plan to have a good time, however.

Because I'm technologically challenged, I won't be blogging from Bouchercon. I'm sure a lot of peple will, but I'm not even taking a computer. Or a Blackberry or anything else like that. I'll be back here next Tuesday if all goes well, so have a great Labor Day weekend and take care.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cap'n Bob's New Digs?

"It's the flash bachelor pad every hot-blooded male will go goggle eyed over ... a house with a built-in lap dancer's pole.

The shiny steel pole runs from the lounge right through the ceiling to the bedroom above, with a circular section of glass ceiling separating the two rooms.

It means that the bachelor lad can sit in comfort in the lounge with his beer and TV while still keeping an eye on the lap dancer above.

On top of that the house includes a giant 'party' bath inside and a large hot tub bath on the deck outside for even more relaxing moments."

New Orleans

For a while there it almost seemed as if New Orleans was going to survive with less damage than expected. Now every new report I hear is worse than the last one, and things in Mississippi and Alabama are even worse. I get a hollow feeling inside when I think about the people who've lost their homes and possessions, and I wonder how they'll ever recover. Some of them, I'm sure, never will. Yet there's nothing I can do except give money to some relief effort. It's a sad, hopeless feeling, and I wish it would go away. I don't think it will, however, not for a while, even though we're leaving for Bouchercon tomorrow and should be feeling pretty good.


Today's my son Allen's birthday. He's 35. Which is odd, since it seems as if he couldn't possibly be more than 6 or 7. The years since he was born have gone by so fast that it's downright scary. When you reach a certain age, "The months seem like days," my father-in-law once told me. That was a long time ago, and I had no idea until recently how right he was.

My son shares a birthday with a lot of famous people, including Miss Kitty Wells, the Queen of Country Music, who turns 86 today. I recall quite well the days (well over 50 years ago) when "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was a huge hit. It seemed to be playing on the radio at my house all the time, at least during the day. At night we listened to other programming.

And R. Crumb is 62 today. When Allen was a little kid, we'd go to Oat Willie's in Austin, and I'd pick up the latest underground comics, most of which were drawn in great part by Crumb. I expect Oat Willie's is long gone by now, though it seems like only yesterday that I'd plunk down my dough for a copy of Zap Comix. Now I see Crumb's work in The New Yorker.

Cameron Diaz is 33. I guess she's too young for me, so I won't return her calls.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ten Tech Items Ispired by Science Fiction

I've been reading some more of that Murray Leinster collection I mentioned a while back and enjoying it immensely. Maybe that's why I found this list interesting.

Brown Willy is only #97

There will always be an England: "Rude Britain is a 100-long list of the country's most double entendre-riddled towns, villages and streets. North Lincolnshire's entry [Spital in the Street] is in at number 69, sandwiched betwen Snatchup in Hertfordshire, and Shingay cum Wendy, Burckinghamshire."

Sunday, August 28, 2005


When Judy and I moved to lovely Alvin, Texas, in 1983, we didn't know a thing about hurricanes. We didn't even know that one was developing out in the Gulf of Mexico even as we began our move here. We arrived about five days before Hurricane Alicia. We heard on radio and TV that it was coming, but we really didn't know what that meant. We did know that we couldn't leave town, even though we were only a few miles inland and right in the path of the storm. If we left, we couldn't close on the house we'd bought, and we'd lose the loan. So we stayed.

Alicia was "only" a category one hurricane, so it wasn't anywhere nearly as powerful as Katrina, which is churning toward New Orleans as I write this. We had hardly any damage at all, though two days after the hurricane we had to go to the closing in a darkened building with no air-conditioning. Our own house didn't have power for five days, and the water was undrinkable for about that long. Some of our new neighbors weren't as lucky as we were and had trees blown down and serious damage to their homes. I can only imagine what the damage in New Orleans will be like if the storm makes a direct hit there.

Robert Skinner, a writer friend, lives in New Orleans and has a house full of books and other collectibles. He's left the city, and he must be feel truly awful when he thinks of what he might have to return to. I don't suppose there's any way the storm will turn aside, but I hope it does. However, if that happens, there's going to be a serious catastrophe somewhere else. This is a frightening thing to me, and I'm not even there. I sincerely hope it all turns out much better than now appears to be the case.