Saturday, July 21, 2007

Is this Really Indefensible?

Michael Giltz: Why Harry Potter Won't be a Bestseller - Entertainment on The Huffington Post: "Wanna make some easy money? Tell your friends you don't think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will debut at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List. Heck, you don't think it will even make the Top Ten! Then give them ten to one odds.

Huh? The book that will probably set a single day and one week sales record, the book hundreds of thousands will line up for at midnight won't be the Number One book on The New York Times Bestseller list? That's right because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a children's book and those books don't count.

It happened in 2000. The Harry Potter books -- a once in a lifetime publishing phenomenon -- were dominating the bestseller lists, with three titles ensconced in the Top 15 at the same time. It just wasn't fair, moaned publishers of more 'serious' fiction. It kept more deserving titles off the list, titles that people would never hear about, said bookstore owners. And so in a rash, indefensible decision, the New York Times decided to banish children's books solely to their own separate list."

From Steve Brewer

Hi all:
For the past nine years, I've written a weekly humor column that appears in newspapers around the country. The Home Front, a column about working at home and the all-around absurdity of family life, often draws comparisons to Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck. You can read the current column anytime by going to my website -- -- and clicking on the link to the Albuquerque Tribune.
The columns get archived by the Trib, and many appeared in my 2003 book "Trophy Husband," but there's been no place where you can read all 450-plus columns for free. Until now. My wife helped me set up a blog -- -- where we've put the first half-dozen columns from The Home Front's long run. The plan is to add a couple more every few days until, eventually, they're all on the blog.
Hope you get a chance to check out The Home Front. Please bookmark the site and come back often.
Steve Brewer, author of "Monkey Man" and 14 other books.

I'll Have the Fruit Plate, Please - Anderson Cooper 360� Blog: "With that in mind, Sanjay Gupta and the rest of our team headed towards the Beijing restaurant dubbed 'the penis emporium.' As you grapple with that, you're due an explanation: the restaurant was said to serve exotic animal parts from animals around the world, and it just so happened that penis is their specialty. I guess everybody's got to be good at something."

Meat and Potato (Chips)

Thanks to John Duke for this important news item.

Montana man says he found fried mouse in potato chips | - Houston Chronicle: "HAVRE, Mont. — Frito-Lay Inc. says it will investigate a Havre man's 'unsubstantiated claim' that he found a deep-fried mouse in a bag of barbecue potato chips.

Jack Hines, a 66-year-old former laborer and contractor, said he was snacking on the chips Tuesday when he pulled out the crispy rodent.

'Good thing I seen it. I got it all the way up to my mouth,' he said. 'I felt the fur, I brought it back down and just looked at it and threw it behind my back.'

Frito-Lay was sending a representative to retrieve the bag and the mouse this weekend. Both will be shipped to company headquarters in Plano, Texas, for an investigation."

Gator Update: Oscar, R. I. P. "Oscar, an alligator who has been at Okefenokee Swamp Park since it opened in 1945, has died.

Park workers found Oscar dead of natural causes Thursday in waters surrounding the park's camellia gardens, said Martin Bell, manager of the park.

Oscar was believed to be 13 feet, 7 inches long seven years ago, but after his death, the aged gator was discovered to be shorter, Bell said.

'He was 12-feet, 9 inches long. It appears he had shrunk in size a little bit. He wasn't nearly as heavy as he had once been,' Bell said.

He had previously been estimated to weigh 1,000 pounds.

When the park was being built in 1945, Oscar was a resident and already a mature alligator, Bell said. He was docile and often lay sunning on the grass and walkways just inside the entrance and gift shop.

In the past three years, Oscar had apparently lost his territorial instincts and had found himself a peaceful, secluded place in the park, Bell said.

'He'll be missed, but never forgotten,' Bell said."

Bad Luck and Trouble -- Lee Child

Someone's killing the members of Jack Reacher's old army investigating team. Tossing them out of a helicopter. One of the living members manages to get in touch with Reacher, not an easy task, to let him know there's a problem. The team's motto: "You don't mess with the special investigators." Even if they haven't seen each other for ten years.

So the four remaining members of the team go into action.
Like any Lee Child novel about Jack Reacher, Bad Luck and Trouble is well-written and effective, but some stuff bothers me. I don't consider this a spoiler, but I'll leave some space just in case you don't want to look at it.

* * * * *

Okay, Reacher and his group need to know the title of the 6th song on the 2nd Jimi Hendrix album (Reacher knows the name of the album). They're staying in a classy hotel, the Chateau Marmont, in Los Angeles. So naturally they troop downstairs and go to Tower Records to look at the CD. This takes a few pages. When they find the CD the barcode covers the title. They have to buy the CD, and then we read about Reacher's difficulty in opening it. Why does this bother me? Well, if you were in the Chateau Marmont, and you were a crack investigator, and you had a computer, what would you do? You'd hop on the free wireless access, and you'd have the song title in 30 seconds. Surely someone, Reacher or one of the others, would know this if I do. And yes, the Chateau Marmont does have free wireless access. I checked on the Internet. Took maybe 10 seconds.

And another thing. Reacher makes a fundamental blunder, one of the kind that makes me groan and say, "No, no, don't do that." But he does it anyway. This time it's a 50-page detour to Las Vegas, based or faulty reasoning that just seems dumb to me. There's another, much more obvious option to try first. This kind of thing has bothered me before in the Reacher novels.

* * * *

Aside from those quibbles, I thought this was more fun than The Hard Way, the previous book in the series. At least there's no 500-word description of Reacher's shoes. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the books, and I'll keep reading them, I'm sure. I just get a little irritated now and then. Probably it's just me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Erle Stanley Gardner Update Update

Commenter Roo has a nice squidoo page on the Perry Mason novels. Click here.

Al Guthrie is a Winner

Congratulations to a truly deserving guy. Photo at link. Luckily for all of us the photo is not of Mr. Guthrie "beat[ing] off strong competition."

2007 Winner: "After 9 weeks, with crime readers casting thousands of votes both in-store at Waterstone’s and online, the winner of the 2007 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year has been announced. Allan Guthrie‘s novel, Two Way Split beat strong competition to scoop this sought after prize which was announced at the Awards Ceremony on the opening night of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Allan Guthrie today said ‘I am stunned, overwhelmed and very pleased. Thank you to everyone who had faith in the book and everyone who voted.’

He beat off strong competition including Stephen Booth, Christopher Brookmyre, Graham Hurley, Michael Jecks and Stuart MacBride to win �3,000 and a hand made oak beer cask crafted by one of Britain’s last coopers and presented by Simon Theakston, Executive Director of title sponsor Theakstons Old Peculier."

Happy Anniversary, Apollo Moonwalk!

I remember it well. A great moment. A sad reminder of what the space program used to be able to accomplish, too, I guess.

Rally Round the Flag, Boys -- Max Shulman

Fifty years ago, I wanted to be Max Shulman. I'd read the Dobie Gillis stories and thought they were hilarious. Then I read Rally Round the Flag, Boys and thought it was also a humor classic. This was the kind of book I wanted to write when I grew up. The other day when I needed some cheering up, I picked up the paperback and read it again. I'm happy to report that it was almost as funny as I remembered.

It's about a suburban community that becomes the site of a Nike missile base. Ah, the Nike missile. That kind of dates things right there, doesn't it. You probably know already some of the targets of Shulman's satire: the army, the suburban families with their commuting husbands, their wives who spend their time going to endless civic meetings, the Little League, small-town businessmen, and so on. Throw in some would-be juvenile delinquents and a hillbilly singer, and you've covered all the bases.

Some people might think its satire is dated. They'd be right in some cases. On the other hand, some things never change. You tell me if this is dated: "Grady was a member of the new school of juvenile delinquency, the You-Too-Can-Be-a-Rebel-School. The headmasters were Elvis Presley and the spook of Jimmy Dean, and the entrance requirements were completely democratic. A boy was no longer excluded from the glamorous ranks of delinquency simply because he had the rotten luck not to be born in a slum; all he had to do was look as though he had. If he would wear his hair in a duck-tail cut and his sideburns at nostril level, forsake grammar, dress in black khaki trousers with the cuffs narrowed to fourteen inches, never do his homework, and spit a lot, his origins, no matter how respectable, would not be held against him."

Seems to me that the names and fashions might change, that's all. I feel the same way about Shulman's comments on Little League, sex ed, television, and a couple of other things. I could be wrong, though. I often am, but my conclusion is that I'd still like to be Max Shulman.

The Name's Squirrel, James Squirrel

Thanks to Beth Foxwell for the link. Great photo of spy in question at link.

Iranian Police Smash Squirrel Spy Ring |Sky News|World News: "Police in Iran are reported to have taken 14 squirrels into custody - because they are suspected of spying.

The rodents were found near the Iranian border allegedly equipped with eavesdropping devices.

The reports have come from the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

When asked about the confiscation of the spy squirrels, the national police chief said: 'I have heard about it, but I do not have precise information.'

The IRNA said that the squirrels were kitted out by foreign intelligence services - but they were captured two weeks ago by police officers."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter Update

Was the review in the New York Times faked? Check it out.

Happy Birthday, Chester Himes!

Beth Foxwell has the info and some links. I remember discovering the Avon editions of Himes's novels about Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson around 40 years ago. Some of the scenes are still vivid in my mind. Great stuff, indeed.

Great New Idea in Lawn Care

Video at the link. I hope they use plenty of sunscreen.

Showing skin gives new company boost in business: "Showing skin is giving one start-up company a boost in business. Tiger Time Lawn Care has been on the books for only three months but their offer to cut lawns in bikinis is already catching on.

You might say they're loosening the Bible belt in this Mid-South neighborhood.

Ladies are cutting lawns wearing bikinis, showing their bodies and offering more attention to your lawn than it's ever seen."

The Beatles as You've Never Seen them Before

Four pages of the Beatles photoshopped into different eras. Some pretty funny stuff.

Link via Neatorama.

Gator Update (Ohio Edition)

Photos and video at the link.

Akron teen reels in an alligator from Summit Lake - Cleveland Metro News – The Latest Breaking News, Photos and Stories from The Plain Dealer: "Akron -- Robert Pendleton Jr. reeled in quite the fish story Wednesday afternoon in Summit Lake.

It was more of a fishing story, actually, because what the 14-year-old Akron boy reeled in wasn't a fish, but a 5-foot-long alligator."

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Reviewed in the Paper of Record

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling - Books - Review - New York Times: "So, here it is at last: The final confrontation between Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the “symbol of hope” for both the Wizard and Muggle worlds, and Lord Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named, the nefarious leader of the Death Eaters and would-be ruler of all. Good versus Evil. Love versus Hate. The Seeker versus the Dark Lord."

Belize: Vacation Paradise

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the tip. Photos and video at the link.

9NEWS - Article - Carbondale resident returns from trip with unexpected souvenirs: "CARBONDALE - A few days after he returned from Belize, Aaron Dallas could not help but notice several large bumps on his head that seemed to get bigger and more painful as each day passed.

'Each day it got worse and worse. The pain started as a minor inconvenience, then by the end of it, it felt like someone was driving a nail through my head,' Dallas said.

When the pain reached extreme levels, Dallas sought help from the medical field. One doctor told him the bumps were bug bites, another said they were shingles, but as it turned out the bumps were something a lot more creepy.

'I went to a doctor on Thursday. He pulled my hair back and I believe his exact words were, 'Oh my god,' because he could see them moving,' Dallas said. "

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Almost as Much as My Last Advance from St. Martin's

Houston novelist Justin Cronin sinks his teeth into deal | - Houston Chronicle: "Houston novelist Justin Cronin, best-known for his small-canvas family dramas, has embarked on a big-canvas, big-bucks project. The Rice University English professor has just signed a deal with Ballantine for a post-apocalyptic vampire trilogy. According to New York magazine, the deal for North American rights is worth $3.75 million, a figure Cronin described Tuesday as 'not exactly correct but more or less correct.'

The first book, titled The Passage, is due in the summer of 2009. Ballantine editor Mark Tavani praised its 'intense plotting, exquisite writing, memorable characters and tremendous imagination' and predicted it would appeal to a wide audience, likening the book to Stephen King's The Stand and Michael Crichton's early novels.

Set 100 years in the future, the plot involves a government experiment to lengthen the human life span. The experiment goes awry, unleashing a virus that physically and psychologically transforms people into vampires. But Cronin said the novel is much more than a conventional vampire tale. He prefers the term 'speculative fiction.'"

I Plead Not Guilty

LEX18 - Lexington, KY - News, Weather, Sports - Police, FBI Search For Missing Woman: "Police and FBI agents were searching an area of Perry County Wednesday for the body of a Lexington woman who has been missing since 2002.

Officials on horses and ATV's were searching an industrial park for the body of Joyce Crider, who disappeared in October 2002. Officials on the scene have not revealed what prompted them to conduct the search.

It is the third time a search has been conducted for Crider, who was 32 at the time of her disappearance. Her brother said she was last known to be headed for the Holiday Inn on Athens-Boonesboro Road. Her car was found in a Fayette County parking lot several weeks after she disappeared.

Crider's former husband, Bill Crider, was questioned shortly after her disappearance, but was never charged with any crime."

Scavenger -- David Morrell

After the harrowing events of Creepers, you might think David Morrell would let Frank Balenger and Amanda Evert live happily ever after. Instead, they’re plunged into another breakneck adventure that’s reminiscent of the earlier one except that this time most if it’s outside. A mad computer genuis traps them into a situation that’s part scavenger hunt, part geo-caching, and part video game.

The stakes, of course, are high: life or death.
The prose is stripped down and the action is truly one damned thing after another. And then another one after that. Now and then Morrell slows things down for a moment for some comments about time capsules and other things, but mostly he’s racing straight ahead with the plot. Like Creepers, it’s a bit over the top (okay, maybe a lot over the top), but it’s entertaining.

If it’s character-driven reading you want, look elsewhere. This is plot-driven from the opening words. Check it out.

Bigfoot Update

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

We've got the yoopers beat on Bigfoot- "Move over Upper Peninsula. We've got your Bigfoot right here.

Although a group led by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) started combing the woods around Marquette on Thursday for signs of Sasquatch, they may be looking at the wrong end of Michigan for the fabled hairy hominoid.

It is Washtenaw County, after all, that has had more reported Bigfoot sightings than any other county in Michigan, according to the BFR0's own database at

Washtenaw's tally stands at five to Marquette County's four, but you'd probably have to give the yoopers the edge based on quality. They've had two close-range daylight sightings, one for several minutes with several witnesses, while the Washtenaw County encounters have primarily been at night.

'Although we have a database of thousands of Bigfoot sighting reports, we only publish reports that we have investigated, 'said BFRO curator Kevin Withers by e-mail.

If the BFRO has an investigator in the area they'll interview the witness in person. Otherwise an investigator does extensive phone interviews with the witness. If the report's deemed credible, it goes in the database."

Elvis is Still The King

Click here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Little Professor Reviews . . .

. . . The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois, right here.

Erle Stanley Gardner Update

Law-Related Resources at the Harry Ransom Center: "Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970): One of America's leading writers of detective fiction. The collection includes material from publication of his first Perry Mason book in 1932 until his death in 1970. The collection contains 4,000 scripts of the Perry Mason radio show and TV scripts with notes written by Gardner. There are photos, news clippings, letters, dictation tapes, and correspondence between the author and his publisher. An exact replica of Gardner's study is located on the 4th floor of the Flawn Academic Center."

I may have blogged about this exhibit at The University of Texas at Austin before. I've seen the study, which is a small one-room building. You can't go inside it, but you can walk around the outside and look in the windows at the stuff inside. It's supposedly just as Gardner left it. While you're looking, Gardner himself gives you a tour that he recorded before his death.

Top 10 Movie Cars

Link via Neatorama. Top 10s and More | More Top 10s: "When we came up with our list of Top 10 Movie Cars last summer, we had no idea our readers would be so passionate about their favorite films and the automotive characters in them. With 'Transformers' coming soon, we revisited our list, listening to last year's reader feedback and arguing — once again — over which cars deserved to make the top 10. Some cars were able to hold on to their spots, while others were shuffled around to make room for more worthy contenders. With 'Speed Racer' coming next year, expect another round of arguing."

Paris Has a New Friend

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for this update.

Welcome Back, Potter

No spoilers here.

Who You Gonna Call?

If you live in Florida, these guys.

Gator Update (Doorbell Edition)

Great photo of gator trying to a doorbell. Who said gators aren't polite?

Harry Potter Update

Someone's got a copy of the final Harry Potter book and is telling all.

This will be all over the 'net soon, if it's not already. Spoilers, chapter summaries, photos of pages of the book.

I'm not going to look, myself, but feel free to click if you want to know all.

Hoax? I dunno.

Udate: More spoilers here. Or maybe they're the same ones. I'm still not looking.

Happy Birthday Erle Stanley Gardner!

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media: "It's the birthday of American mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner (books by this author), born in Malden, Massachusetts (1889). He wrote over 80 mystery novels featuring the brilliant lawyer, Perry Mason. He was the best-selling American author of all time. He sold over 200 million copies of his books, and at the peak of his success he sold about 26,000 books a day."

Another Stuffed Gopher Museum

Langenburg, Saskatchewan - Gopherville: "This is a wacky miniature wild west town outside of Langenburg, Saskatchewan, near the Manitoba border. The catch is, they've stuffed a bunch of gophers and dressed them up in little outfits (sheriff, etc.).

From what I read, there's a miniature train, the world's largest bike (44 riders, 85 feet long), and a Santa store. Some other research shows it was still open as recently as 2005 (Saskatchewan's centennial)."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who's Training our Forces?

The bad guys in Bruce Willis movies?

US forced to import bullets from Israel as troops use 250,000 for every rebel killed - Independent Online Edition > Americas: "US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed - that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel."

Now They're Persecuting Lindsay Lohan

Thanks to George Kelley for the tip on this big news.

Paris Hilton Is Political

At least that's what she told Larry King.

Oh. My. God.

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for this frightening news.

Manilow revisits '70s faves on next album | Entertainment | Reuters: "NEW YORK (Billboard) - Barry Manilow is in a mellow mood on 'The Greatest Songs of the Seventies,' his third volume of decade-driven covers albums.

Due September 18 via Arista, the project will be available as an 18-track single-disc set and as a two-disc set with a 14-song Dual Disc (CD/DVD) and a nine-song bonus audio CD.

For the single-disc package, Manilow focuses on contemplative fare such as Simon & Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' Carole King's 'You've Got a Friend' (a duet with Melissa Manchester), the Carpenters' '(They Long To Be) Close To You' and Barbra Streisand's 'The Way We Were.' Rosie O'Donnell is featured on an interpretation of Elton John's 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart.'"

I Blame Al Guthrie

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Edinburgh and East | 'Offensive' SN07 car plate banned: "Car licence plates which bear the sequence SN07 were banned from the streets of Edinburgh because they are 'offensive', it has emerged.

The plate had been due to follow on from the SN56 registration in March.

Licensing officials at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) changed the plate to TN07 to avoid it being similar to the word 'snot'.

The change means that cars registered in the capital are the only ones in Scotland not to begin with an S."

Criminals Hall of Fame Wax Museum

Made your vacation plans yet?

Criminals Hall of Fame Wax Museum. Roadside America: "There is more gore than most horror wax museums and better lighting, too, a good indication that this attraction is drawing enough of a crowd to pay its electric bill. Its highlight is saved for the end: a photo-op electric chair that buzzes when you sit in it."


It's this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. Here's a link.

Time's 50 Best Websites of 2007

I'm not on the list. What's more, I haven't even heard of most of the sites that are.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How Does the New Harry Potter End?

Well, we don't know, do we. But five writers, including Al Guthrie, from whom I took this link, offer their versions here.

20 Protest Songs that Matter

From Jeff Meyerson.  If you keep right on clicking after you reach #1, you can catch the 20 Most Monumental Album Flops.  And there are more lists after that, too.

20 Protest Songs That Matter: No. 20 - - Free MP3s, Interviews, Music News, Live Performances, Songs and Videos
In 'The Wild One,' angry young rocker Marlon Brando answered an innocent question -- "Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?" -- with a curt reply that spoke volumes: "Whaddya got?" Rock never settles for the status quo, teaching generations that questioning authority is a cornerstone of democracy. Here are 20 all-time declarations of independence, each spun at 45 revolutions per minute.

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Harry Potter Cheat Sheet

A book-by-book guide to prepare you for Harry's final bow | - Houston Chronicle
A lot has happened since readers met Harry Potter almost a decade ago. He's gone from a pre-teen orphan who didn't know he was magical, to the best-known teen wizard in the world.

In fact, so much has happened since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first published in 1997, it's hard to keep up with all the twists in Harry's saga. It wouldn't be surprising if some readers were struggling to remember what happened in Harry's first few years at Hogwarts.

You could comb through several thousand pages of Harry's adventures in anticipation of reading the final installment, which hits stores July 21, but let's face it — that's a big commitment. Instead, read our crib sheet, which hits the high points of what's happened to Harry and his friends.

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The first thing you need to know is that this is a movie about hair: Penelope Cruz's hair, Salma Hayek's hair, but most of all, Dwight Yoakam's hair. Okay, Dwight Yoakam's wig. Anyway, watch the movie, and you'll see what I mean.

See the poster over there on the left? How could you not want to watch this movie? Sure, it's not a great movie, or even a serious movie. It doesn't want to be. It just wants to be a lightweight, enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes, and it fills the bill perfectly.
Cruz and Hayek are the bandidas of the title, two women who rob banks and fight injustice in old Mexico. They seem to be having a great time. Yoakam and his wig, along with a bunch of henchmen with wigs almost as much fun as Yoakam's, is the baddie, and he's about as baddie as they come. Steve Zahn, without a wig, is a frontier criminologist who goes over to the dark side, and who could blame him? Not me. Again, see the movie for the reasons. Sam Shepard is Mr. Buck, who trains the women to become bank robbers in a pretty much gratuitous sequence that I liked a lot. There's even a Big Caper.

The photography's great, and there are some fine location shots. Some nice stunts, too. (Could it be that Hayek's father is named Don Diego in a tip of the hat to a famous crime fighter of Old California?) I liked the music, too.

This movie had only a limited release to theaters. I guess nobody but me likes this king of thing, except
James Reasoner, who was as usual ahead of me on this one. Check it out.


I was going to review this movie, but since Jeff Meyerson has already done it in a comment, I thought I'd just move his comment up here. I watched the whole movie, sort of, and it's probably even worse than Jeff says.

Guest review by Jeff Meyerson: I tried to watch Supergator but man, what a turkey! The actuing was porno movie level but without the nudity (darn it) and the special effects could have been created on my computer and been more convincing.

Fifteen minutes was all we could take but we checked back in occasionally - it didn't get better.

Sometimes the gator jumped out of the river and bit someone's head off and there was a curtain of too red blood that looked like someone had tossed a gallon of diluted red paint. Other times it would chew on someone's leg and torso until s/he died. But it never ate anyone, just killed them.

It was kind of sad to see an aged Kelly McGillis in this stinker, but at least she got a trip to Hawaii out of it.

Highlight was the opening scene. Soon to be first victim (in an incredibly blantant ripoff of the first death in Jaws takes off her shorts and top to reveal a black one piece swimsuit. They cut to her entering the water, but she is now wearing a patterned bikini!!!