Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In the wake of Bouchercon

For some reason I am unable to add any photos - something about image uploads being disabled due to site maintenance. I can possibly fix this later but in the meantime I apologize for the resulting spartan look.
Now that Bouchercon is behind us I would like to present a few of the observations my trip to the conference and the States brought about. They are not ground shaking or particularly observant, just stuff that stuck to the brain on my travels.
To begin with it was wonderful to be reminded what a great group readers are. There was not a single unlikeable character attending the convention or at least if there was our paths never crossed. The other authors were also superb, it seems the more heinous the crimes in their books the sweeter the person. I was once told by a German photographer that specializes in photos of authors that crime writers are so likeable and funny while those writing humor were a broody and depressed bunch. There is probably some psychological explanation for this but that is for others to ponder upon.
The time difference between this year’s host city, San Fransisco and Iceland was a bit much or seven hours. As a result I was pretty knackered and spent too much time in my hotel room. The TV was usually on and I was amazed at the political commercials on the air as they were so mean and awful that one would believe the voter’s would be taken aback and not want to vote for anybody. Not a single candidate spent his valuable advertising money describing his or her merits as the whole budget was in all cases spent on piling the dirt on their opponents. Boy oh boy, it is not only in Iceland where politics seem to bring out the worst in people.
Smoking was a hassle as I knew it would be. There was an area outside the hotel where it was allowed and the warning text posted next to it made me wonder. It was just shy of saying: Run, run for your life – second hand smoke! As it noted something to the effect:  Beware of the presence of toxic, cancerous fumes in the form of cigarette smoke often present in the area. If you are pregnant, please calmly make your way back into the building and exit through another door. I am not kidding. The funny thing was that on the TV I also saw California is about to legalize smoking pot which made me smile. Why not? It can easily be made legal if you just make sure you are not allowed to smoke it anywhere. They could even add crack to the list and nothing much would change.
The last thing that really made me gawk was how many young people walked around while fiddling with their cell phones. We sat next to a table with a group of three, all dressed up for a good time and during the whole dinner they never looked at each other, instead gazing as if mesmerized at the little screens and doing something which me and my husband could not figure out what was. The same happened on the plane from Boston over to the west coast; a young man in the seat next to us operated his phone constantly during the flight and seemed to be having spasms of withdrawal during takeoff and landing when he had to turn it off. I had reached the conclusion that these phone people must be on the internet and was sort of impressed at how they could surf and walk simultaneously without ever walking into lampposts or other people. When in a Radio Shack I asked the guy helping out what the hell was going on and he said everyone was texting and that it had really taken off after the phone companies offered unlimited texting for a fixed fee. This was amazing to me, whom are they constantly texting? How many people do they know? Does it now work like a conversation? I hope I am overreacting but the eerie blue hue reflected from the screen onto what almost seemed to be every young person’s face felt creepy and not a good sign of human relationships of the future.  But I’m sure this was said about phones during Bell’s time, and possibly even following the introduction of the telegraph.
We actually drove down a street in Oakland named Telegraph and I wonder if at some point in the future some city, somewhere will name a street: Text Message Boulevard. Maybe not, but E-mail Avenue for sure.
Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Sadly, Yrsa, the young people of America will soon lose their ability to converse or to spell.

    Texting requires its own special vocabulary which seems to be made up of real words with some of the letters popped out at random. Texting allows them to be in constant communication with their best friends without ever having to be with their best friends.

    I, too, text. Why? Because my son ignores phone calls. The only way he can be reached is by a text. While he may not return a message I know he sees my text because he has to look in case it is someone he really wants to be in communication with. I don't know about females, but it seems that young men in their late teens and early twenties only text. Mothers have been forced into doing it just to check that their sons are alive and still on this planet.

    Phones have another use. Young people no longer wear wristwatches. They pull out their phones to check the time. At school, students need to have a pass to leave the room. They fill it out, including the time they are leaving the room, and give it to the teacher to sign. I have come to the terrible conclusion that they no longer know how to read the face of a clock. On those extremely rare occasions when they don't have their phones they will ask me for the time despite the very large clock hanging on the wall.

    Remember when we taught our children to tell time, and to count off by fives? I think it is a lost art.


  2. Great post. It is so strange about the cellphones isn't it? Why don't they just stay in, those people? It is just like meetings at work, where half the people are fiddling with their Blackberries under the table, and I wonder why they bothered coming to the meeting in the first place. We could even cancel the meeting ;-)

    Also agreed on the politics. It is not quite so bad in the UK but it is getting there. So much blandness, packaging, marketing and doing down the opposition - nothing straightforward like a misssion or conviction or, heaven forbid, a statement about what you are going to do or are doing. Sigh.

  3. Yrsa, this is fabulous! It is so great to here a non-American's take on our country. Sadly, we are overrun by technology--texting, facebooking, tweeting. So overrun, in fact, that many people in this newest and next generation will lose(or have lost) the ability to hold a conversation. It is a sad state.

    What I'm wondering is: is it like this in other countries? You ALL write from different countries and I would be very interested to know if this phenomenon is only an American one. (God, please let it be so!) I had just assumed this was the way all teenagers were. I fear for my kids!

    As to the political ads...we have a very broken system, but it is not the worst. I would take snarky ads over the corruption and danger in other countries. I hate the ads, too, but they only serve to put the candidate or group supporting them in a bad light, not to disparage the one about which they are made, in my opinion.

    And smoking...As a mother of young children, I am pretty happy with the new smoking laws. I love that my children can breathe fresh air in almost any public space and not be overrun with smoke in restaurants. I would be fine putting smoking back in bars, as I think it is a part of that culture...and I am also fine legalizing marijuana...We'll see.

    Thanks for your take on us! We all have our own brands of craziness.

    FYI- Leighton is guest blogging on my blog today--check it ou!


  4. They can't spell now. Trust me. Neither can their parents. I'm a retired history professor, and I find that spelling, like grammar and punctuation, is a lost art. Back in the 70s those who wished to be free repealed all rules. ALL rules.

    Instead of grading bad essays, I now write about terrorism and murder. I think there's a connection.

  5. Yrsa, I was pleased to see you again at Bouchercon and even more pleased that I did not turn on the television in my hotel rooms or send or receive a single text message all week.

    As for those of us who bemoan the anti-socializing effects of text-messaging or declines in literacy, we don't matter. We are not a source of revenue for makers of personal electronics.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  6. Yrsa, I speak as an inveterate phone fiddler myself, and I think it's because have lost the art of sitting and doing nothing. Being bored. They fiddle with their phones to pass time, and the fiddling spreads. Soon they're doing it in company. Very rude.

    It's only quasi-related but a friend of mine was telling me his mum had become a frequent texter, and was disconcerted by it. Not least her use of text speak. His dog died. She sent a text saying 'Sorry to hear about Henry's death lol.' She thought lol meant 'lots of love', not 'laugh out loud.'

  7. I loved your panel and was really glad I chose it over the competing one in the room next door!

  8. Hello all - still on the road hence the delayed reply.

    I just want to emphasise that there is a lot more to America than what I commented on as you well know. I just like oddities is all. But regarding the texting I have not witnessed it in such magnitude elsewhere, in ICeland the teens pay for each text and cannot afford to do as much as when it is unlimited. They probably would if they could.

    Also regarding the smoking I am not unhappy it has been pushed outdoors, at least not when the weather is ok. We don't smoke in our house, we go outside. I would like however to be able to continue to do so in the open air.

    all the best Yrsa

    lol Yrsa