Capacity for Murder: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An interesting read that will scratch two itches if you're a lover of history and science. Three if you're also mad for mysteries. Pajer is a skilled researcher who blends historical and scientific facts into an engaging story of murder and mayhem. Through the perspective of the thoroughly likable Professor Bradshaw, readers become immersed in a seemingly impossible-to-solve case. Impossible, that is, unless you're in tune with both scientific detail and the darkness that drives some to extremes, as he is. At times his excessive rehashing of the facts can feel tedious, and the female characters come off less developed by comparison. But this academic sleuth is a compelling, sympathetic guide through a fascinating moment in the history of electrical technology, as revealed through the crimes of the day.
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Capacity for Murder: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer
The other day I thought about how much I wish I had a bionic spine, and I remembered that back in the 70s, they totally promised us bionic everything when "The Six Million Dollar Man" debuted on television. Here it is 40 years later, and still no bionic dude.
The show only ran for four years, but in the monoculture of the time, everyone watched it. We kids fantasized what it would be like to have superhuman powers, which seemed well within the reach of science. "We can rebuild him," the narrator intones. "We have the technology." This is a great example of what I like to call "hand-waveology." Whenever science is used to further a plot without tackling sticky improbabilities like resource scarcity, return on investment, or actual scientific laws, the writers are sort of waving their hands, expecting us to accept it, no questions asked.
The other thing about the show is that it suggests technology can turn us into a better version of ourselves. Not some clunky inhuman cyborg but a man who's only a robot on the inside, where it doesn't mess up his man-ness, and the robotics only serve to make him stronger, faster, less vulnerable. And all for only $6M. I can remember that sounded like a lot of money back then. It doesn't anymore.
I wondered what that $6M would be in today's dollars, and it turns out it's $29,118,985.80. So the remake would have to be called "The Thirty Million Dollar Man."
Of course, if they really did try to "rebuild" an astronaut today (LOL), assuming he's given permission to use his body as a science experiment (apparently not an issue for 1970s viewers), and assuming for the sake of argument that the technology actually does exist, it would probably run at least a billion, and there'd be cost overruns and delays. It would cause a huge controversy in a number of areas: government spending, the whole scary robots-taking-over-the-world-thing, the ethics of experimentation, etc., etc. There'd be lawsuits and counter lawsuits. #whyamisocynical #howcouldinotbe #thatisall
We thought the kid would turn into a nerd like his parents, but he's following his own path. So I'm the proud but somewhat bewildered stepmother of a rapper.
But these flakes are
ignorance from certainty
Let's face it
fin to cop a bassist
Your girl be like basic
My aggressors are Asics
Get some cash and save it
Take a shot and chase it
--From "See Me"
I also like the way he's referencing and paying tribute to other rappers a few bars down:
My flow is raw though
Close to Diablo
It's like close to Picasso
Layered like tacos
His "flow" is his style, which is made up of his rhyme scheme and intonation. The last two lines reference a band called Nacho Picasso.
By the way, his passion for language and facility for lyrical rhyme gave him a love of Shakespeare, so I'm doubly happy. Zar knows the Bard was the rap star of his time. Rap is a real art form, and if you don't believe me, here's a great breakdown of rap innovations and progression over the past thirty years.
But yeah, as you can imagine, his passion for rap has raised some issues. He's (painfully) aware that, unlike many of the rap stars he idolizes, he's a white kid from the Seattle north side, with all the privilege that entails. All of his parents have had ongoing conversations with him about the sexist representations of women and glorification of drug culture and street life that are the genre's tropes, as well as the charges of cultural appropriation he might incur as a white rapper.
I'm pretty happy to see him highlighting what distinguishes rappers from others in terms of stereotypes:
As for the drug stuff, yeah, that's been harder than you can imagine for us to stomach. For the record, the kid's totally clean, so his actual experiences of some of the things he raps about are strictly textbook. We're sort of at the mercy of the legalization of marijuana in Washington state on this one. Our beloved "Zar" will be a senior in high school this fall. Of course all the high school kids are obsessed with the whole phenomenon, even though they are not of legal age to partake, a point Zar's parents and grandparents have practically emblazoned on signs throughout our houses. It doesn't help that in Seattle the almighty weed is everywhere. When I was still working onsite for the company, I once saw a coworker light up a joint right after work, as soon as he got to our bus stop across the street. Dude, you couldn't even wait till you got home?
It's also common with creatives when first starting out that we often adopt the style of those we look up to, as the first stage toward developing our own voice. If you don't believe me, I'll show you my wanna-be Virginia Woolf journals from undergrad, with their stream-of-consciousness musings and overuse of the semicolon. Every male writer I knew back then tried to write his own version of Ulysses. When it wasn't Woolf for me it was Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid. Like Zar looks to today's urban gods, I mimicked my own heroes. I keep telling myself--and my stepson--that his raps will progress into something else, maybe history or social issues! But you never know. Hip hop culture is what it is, and I'm no expert.
We try to give him some leeway. And all that said, it's incredibly exciting to see him grow and develop his talent. If you can get past all of the above, they're quite good. If you're into the music, and even if you think you're not, give Zar's tracks a listen. There are six here, some done in collaboration with others.
When I'm not guest-lecturing, writing articles, looking for work, drafting game text, or reading at book events, I work on the manuscript for the third book in the Dreamslippers series, which doesn't yet have a title.
But it has a prologue! And I've recently thrown out the first draft of that and written something new. What do we think of this new version? Please weigh in using the comments below.
He held her hair in a tight nest at the back of her head, the tension making her scalp ache, like her desire. Pearls swayed in a loose arc beneath her chin. They reminded her of the Newton’s cradle on her desk at work, how she’d lift a metal ball to let it drop and hit the next one. The energy would travel through the three still balls in the center, forcing the one on the opposite end to rise upward. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
How many times a day she did that, she did not know. It was habit. It had been for years.
He released her hair. His fingers massaged her scalp. Her eyes rolled back with pleasure. Her saliva flowed.
“God, you’re beautiful like this,” he said. “I love it when you let go.”
She reset her gaze, and there he was, close in, staring into her eyes.
She touched his strong jaw, freshly shaven, letting herself feel thrilled by his masculinity. “I can only let go like that with you.”
The look he returned was one of surrender. She marveled at that. She was supposed to be the submissive one, and yet during their play, they both surrendered, to each other.
“You have no idea how glad I am to hear that,” he said.
Funny that he would say that, as she knew exactly how it made him feel. It was part of what drew her to him, his need to know their connection was real, that her responses to him were unique. And they were. He was the only dom she’d ever trusted like this, the only one who could unlock her body.
The only one she loved.
Following her craving, she moved his hands where she wanted them. “Please,” she said. “I need you to hurt me.”
He knew to smack her where she was fleshiest, and to do it until her skin turned pink, but no more. He knew she enjoyed the feeling of the silk ties against her wrists. He knew when she parted her lips just so, her tongue wet, to slip his thumb into her mouth.
He would know the sound of her sigh across a crowded room.
But he did not know her name. She was only “Dandelion” to him, the nickname at once soft and tough. At work, or even randomly at home when he should have been watching himself more carefully, he would smile, thinking of her as pretty like the dandelion’s flower, but with roots he couldn’t rip out of himself if he tried.
Only once, in the beginning, did she have to use their safe word. The name of a bird: robin. “It makes me think of flying away,” she explained. Her eyes were coy, but he heard the sadness in her words.
He didn’t want her to have to escape. He wanted her free, to choose him. He wanted them both to be free.
But they were each in their own cage.
Recently I was notified that my novel Framed and Burning has been nominated for the prestigious RONE award, which recognizes the best of indie and small press published books in 2015. There are three rounds to determine a winner: 1) selection by reviewers, which is how I was nominated, 2) votes by readers to choose finalists, and 3) of the finalists, judges select the winner.
Number 2 there is where you come in. Voting kicks off tomorrow! Yes, that's right. Monday, May 16. You have just this week to enter your vote. The polls close Sunday, May 22.
How do you vote? Simple:
- Go to this page.
- Register for the web site. If you love books, you'll want to do this anyway, as InD'tale is a great resource. But don't worry; you can set your own notices, etc.
- Note that you'll get a confirmation email after registering, and once you click that link, then you can vote.
- Find "Lisa Brunette - Framed and Burning" under the category for Mysteries on that page link I gave you earlier, and check the box next to it to enter your vote.
According to the award hosts, here's what winning means:
We at InD’tale Magazine have put in an incredible amount of time and effort to create and present the most credible and prestigious award in the industry today. Our three-round system of elimination covers every facet - highly reviewed, loved by fans, and critiqued by qualified judges. No other award system today compares, making the RONE award the very highest of honors bestowed on a novel in the publishing industry.
So, yeah, this is a pretty big deal. Please take a few minutes to vote. And thank you for doing so!
- Thoughts about how stupid meditation is.
- Heavy processing of the day in review.
- Hearing the sound of my husband snoring.
- Hearing the sound of myself snoring.
- Reaching over and touching my husband's hand and deciding it's OK because there are no rules in meditation.
- Feeling my husband reach over and touch my hand and not feeling as if this breaks the reverie or anything but is rather part of it.
- Some of the most blissful sleep ever.
- Random body spasms.
- Focused relaxation of my jaw.
- Comparisons to getting acupuncture.
- Comparisons to yoga.
- Comparisons to the fugue state of sex.
- Questioning: Why is 'fugue' always a bad thing? Isn't that in effect the perfect state of nirvana?
- Wake feeling refreshed.
- Deep listening, mostly to the harps/piano/sitar/chanting but sometimes to the blaring train horn outside.
- Feelings of annoyance at the overly repetitious nature of most music labeled for meditation.
- Random visions of flying or dancing.
- Focused forgiveness of myself for the times I've failed at life.
- Focused visions of myself succeeding at life.
- Random laughter.
- Random tears.
- Random sighing.
- The solution to a writing issue becoming clear.
- Focused relaxation of various body parts.
- Anger, which must have been suppressed and is now bubbling up.
- Focused vision on the ties that connect me to others.
- Character dialogue like an internal radio.
- A perception of vibrational harmony.
- Colors. Sparks. Dare I say glitter?
- Feelings of expansiveness and love.
- Fleeting moments of divine connection.
How about you?
Elizabeth Tornes' award-winning chapbook.
I had just made a commitment to myself to scale back on activities (such as this and this) that don't have a chance of producing at least some kind of income. At the top of the list is poetry, which actually manages to cost me money and gets ignored when I post about it across social media (this should surprise exactly no one). Poetry had to go, or at the very least, I can only indulge in poetry during April, for National Poetry Month.
And then two things happened.
First, a woman I barely know here in town took it upon herself to a) buy a print copy of my poetry collection from our local bookstore and read it, b) give it to her daughter to read c) rave to me the next time she saw me in our dance class and d) post a review of the book on Amazon.
"Her language is perfect as it is," she writes in her review. "Each poem a wide eyed tribute to the bits that make up our lives."
Readers tend to respond to Broom of Anger in a very personal way, and I have to say these reactions have been some of the most gratifying of my career.
The other thing that happened is this: My cousin gifted my book to a poet friend of his in Wisconsin, and she liked it so much she gave him a copy of her poetry book to send to me. In the inscription, she wrote, "With admiration for your work!"
The book, Between the Dog and the Wolf, pictured above, was published by Five Oaks Press as the winner of their 2015 "Say Elves" Contest. For one of her other books (she has three), Elizabeth Tornes won first prize in the 2012 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook Contest.
It's a lovely collection that time-warps me instantly to the Northwoods of Wisconsin, where my people are from. The link of spirituality and nature also resonates with me. Here's a sample:
They are still with us,
waving as oak leaves, roaring
wind through the pines. They echo
as woodpeckers hammering
hollow trees. They insist
that we remember, remember,
remember their stories
and their long-lived lives.
Remember the hand
they gave us when we slipped,
the kind looks and words,
a balm for soothing a heartache.
I miss the grandmothers
who gentled me, who taught me
how to speak, and give to others.
How to go beyond the self
to hear the pulse of the barred owls
the high-pitched songs of frogs
that lift the swamp
in the early evening,
the loon's tremulous call--
the voice of the Creator,
if we would only listen.
Mmm. So wonderful.
So there you have it. Poetry won't buy me groceries, but good words and a free book are great poetic karma.
One more thing: Hat-tip to my cousin Jay Halminiak for fostering poetic relationships! :)
And one ONE more thing: Happy Mother's Day!