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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

That's a question people often ask.

Honestly, my ideas come from all over the place. Although I have to admit, my best resource is print media, particularly the newspapers that show up in my driveway every morning.

Here's a sampling:

1. Obits--I love reading them. I'm always sad that I've missed the pleasure of meeting so many fascinating people. That said, their obits both inspire and tickle me. Today, the Washington Post ran an obit for Jean Carroll, a comedian who could "see the humor in the human predicament." (Yeah, it is a bit of a predicament, isn't it?)

Jean said, "People are never satisfied. Lawyers want to be doctors. Single men wish they were married. Married men wish they were dead."

And this...Jean discussed her married life, explaining that she told her husband, "Tonight you are really going to enjoy yourself." His response? "Why? You leaving me?"

2. News articles--In either the Post or the NYT appeared an article by Marc Lacey with this stunning opener: "When it comes to gore, Mexico's drug traffickers seem to compete among themselves for the title of most depraved." Among their ucky activities were these: chopping off the heads of rivals, stringing dead rivals from bridges, burning their genitals, and the clincher...removing the face from a dead man and sewing it onto a soccer ball. ("Honey? Have you seen my sewing kit?")

In a game of one-upsmanship, now a drug lord is boiling the remains of his rivals in lye, in "what has become known as pozole, for Mexican stew." ("Cancel that reservation to eat Mexican tonight, sweetheart.")

And then there are other ways I collect ideas--

1. Phone calls--A business associate of my husband used to work as a boat captain. T.S. told David that he will never, ever eat crabs because he saw too many of them munching on the leftovers of dead people. (Call Weight Watchers! I have a new and improved dieting trick.)

2. Guest speakers--Last night Peter Earnest from the International Spy Museum spoke to our local Mystery Writers of America group. According to Peter, our national defenses get one MILLION attacks a day from hackers looking at our intelligence defenses or trying to deposit Trojans into our national computer systems. President Obama has recently named someone to look into this...but our own FBI has not been able to complete the installation of a computer system, a system that we recognized the need for after 9/11.

Peter characterized this as "a huge threat. Who's to say there are ways we are being had we don't even know about."

I mentioned to Peter that most of the books we read portray spies as dashing men. "Do you ever use middle-aged women?" He told me they use all sorts of people in all walks of life. He also told our group that during his years as a covert agent, "our wives were drawn increasingly into operations. They were very good, often better (than the men were) at assessing people."

Best of all, I love it when there's an intersection of what I see/hear/read in the media with my own life. Here are two examples.

1. Heighted Security at Airports? (I don't think so!) Our family was flying back from Orlando on December 28, after the incident in Detroit. We expected heightened security, although the level has been ORANGE for as long as I can recall. We had a question about our seating, which we asked as we checked in our luggage. Guess what? The agents never asked to see our IDs. They got all caught up looking at their screens and seating charts, that they lost track of what they were doing and simply put our luggage on the conveyor belt. Obviously, there's no heuristic device that agents must manually check to affirm they've performed this simple security check.

2. But She's Getting All That Money! I'm a big fan of getting my shoes polished by the shoe shine guys at Nordstroms. Recently I was waiting in line with a bunch of businessmen when they started chatting about Tiger Woods and his wife Elin. "He's cheated on her, but she's going to get a lot of money," several of them said. Oh, really? I contended that Tiger Woods wouldn't be worth what he is today had he not been a married man. After all, the bulk of his wealth comes from endorsements, not tournament winnings. This month's Vanity Fair Magazine supports my contention that he only got married for his image. Sorry...Elin can't possibly be paid enough--and probably won't be--to compensate for that sort of disrespect.

And strange little aside.

As some of you know, I've been posting a lot on Facebook about the fox in our backyard. My vet explained two reasons NOT to feed foxes and to steer clear of them: Scabies and rabies. Turns out the local foxes are magnets for a parasitic mange (scabies) and often are carriers of rabies. So, cute as Mr. Fox is...I'm keeping my distance and I'm only letting my dogs outside on a leash!


Anonymous said...

Speaking of middle-aged female spies, did you ever read the Mrs. Pollifax novels? I love her and also the clairvoyant Countess ones---Dorothy Gilman is their author. I also love Rita Mae Brown's fox hunting novels with Sister Jane who is 70ish in the first one. Rita is an MFH and gives lots of interesting notes about foxes....which is not to say 'let your dogs out' but rather, details are always interesting. xxKaren

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I love both Mrs. Pollifax and Rita Mae Brown. I heard Rita Mae on Diane Rehm's show, and she was talking about the local fox hunting scene--FASCINATING. Mrs. Pollifax was wonderful because she was so un-James Bond, right? So tempered, so truly brave and patriotic, and she didn't rely on deadly toys---just her brains.