Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sunday Investment Club

At last week's meeting (Scroll down if you want) we once again suggested it was time to join The Buffet (as in Warren, the Oracle of Omaha) and begin to make long-term investments in the stock market. Specifically, we mentioned making regular purchases of SPY, a New York Stock Exchange traded fund representing Standard & Poor's 500 biggest publicly owned American corporations.

(Call it dollar cost averaging. When Warren said he was starting to buy, SPY was about 88. Now it's 74. If you'd purchased the same dollar amount of SPY every month, your average cost now would be about 82-84.)

Corkface, one of The Crimes of Austin Carr's Senior Correspondents, and recent invitee to the Rome Financial Conference, has a strongly different opinion. He says wait to invest, ignor Warren Buffet. We should all at least listen. Corkface accurately predicted the current housing/financial/economic disaster well over a year ago. In case you missed it in last week's Comments, Corkface said,

"It's obvious that betting against the US has never worked out before. We won't bet against it here longer term. (But) Timing on the bottom of the financials is very difficult at this point because the banks still haven't disclosed the full truth about their balance sheets. We see evidence of that every day."

"My concern is earnings," Corkface went on. "Where will they earn money in the next 12 months. They won't lend money for fear of the unknown and that's where the juice came from in the past. FRE and FNM need another 20billion to operate for the next 3 months and they truly are insolvent along with C and BAC (thanks to the bad deals for Countrywide and MER). We are de-leveraging not reloading."

"Buffet is being ignored at this time. People are waiting for the next PONZE scheme to be exposed to the public. The PONZE stories will be big for the next 6 months."

"DOW 6000 is the place for capitulation and then we re-think our bearish views. It's a traders market. Take profits and re-enter on things that are working."

"MBRK looks under pressure here and will trade to 2.25, 2.30 buy mid march. Currently at 1.70."

"HBC is reporting 1st week of March, it sees 27. Shorted at 45."

"Last one, TSYS. check it out. Text messaging play with strong growth story. Just came off a great run to 9.95. If it gets back to 8.50 I buy it again."

Okay, Corkface. If you had 10,000 Austin Carr (fictional) dollars to invest, how would you play it? Anybody else want to play? I'm taking my $10,000 and BUYING BankAmerica Monday if it takes another drop...probably the May 5 calls. Or maybe 3,000 shares of OMEX, my favorite treasure stock. Either way, Call me irresponsible...

Ladies and gentlemen, start your portfolios in Comments. You can use Friday's closing prices before midnight Sunday, or wait until Monday. Just don't cheat.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

We Still Love You, Elmore

TFA Guest Blogs today: I must be the last Elmore Leonard fan to read UP IN HONEY'S ROOM. It came out a year and a half ago. I told myself I was savoring the moment, waiting for just the right time when I could read it through.
But the truth is, I was also afraid. My wife, another big Elmore fan, read the book a year ago and told me it wasn't up to par, not your typical Elmore thrill ride.

I didn't want to believe it, so I didn't read it. Not until last week on a beach vacation. Oh, my. The wife was right. Rather than comment myself, though ... rather than ever say anything negative about one of America's greatest living writers, here's a review I found on B&N that says it very well:

More Character than Plot
by Anonymous
September 25, 2007: If what draws you to Elmore Leonard is his easy flowing way with characters, you'll love this one. Stay away, though, if you're looking for a tight plot or loads of suspense and action. Most of these characters are audacious to the point of making you laugh out loud, and, while there is risk, danger, and murder, it seems less important than how everyone will work out his relationship with everyone else. I loved it, but I also like his books with more action and thrills.

The Odd Thing about Walter Schoen, German born but now running a butcher shop in Detroit, he's a dead ringer for Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the Gestapo. Honey Deal, Walter's American wife, doesn't know that Walter is a member of a spy ring and gives shelter to escaped German POWs. But she's tired of telling him jokes he doesn't understand—it's time for a divorce.

Along comes Carl Webster, the Hot Kid of the Marshals Service. He's looking for Jurgen Schrenk. Carl's pretty sure Walter's involved with keeping Schrenk hidden so he gets to know Honey, hoping she'll lead him to Walter. Honey likes the hot kid marshal and doesn't much care that he's married. But all Carl wants is to get Jurgen without getting shot.

Next, Carl meets Vera Mezwa, the Ukrainian head of the spy ring, and her lover Bohdan, with a sly way of killing. And then there's Otto—the Waffen-SS major who runs away with a nice Jewish girl. It's Elmore Leonard's world—gritty, funny, and full of surprises.

Thanks to Elmore Leonard, Barnes & Noble, Wikipedia, and Elmore's 10 Tips for Fiction Writers

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Redhead of the Week Has a Zeke

Tift Merritt, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, released two studio albums on the Lost Highway label, Bramble Rose (2002) and Tambourine (2004), and in 2005, released Home Is Loud, a limited-edition live album recorded with her faithful touring band. Her third studio album, Another Country, was scheduled for release in 2008, but we don't see it on her website.

(It's there -- we missed it. Another Country, out Feb. 2008).

Tift quickly garnered high critical acclaim from Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Time, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and CNN. Her first two records landed on The New Yorker’s Top Ten List. Tift’s TV appearances include Austin City Limits, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. Tambourine was Grammy-nominated for Best Country Album, and the Americana Music Association nominated Tift for 2004 Album, Artist and Song of the Year. She and her band traveled 40,000 miles in 11 countries to support Tambourine.

Tift Merritt was born on 8 January 1975 in Houston. When she was two her family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where Tift grew up. Her father taught her “the only chords you need to know,” and his Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton records were part of her childhood. After high school she waited tables, gigged around North Carolina, went to New York City, and at her mother’s urging came back to North Carolina to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in college she met Zeke Hutchins, who encouraged her to start a band and has been her drummer ever since.

With help from her friend and fellow North Carolina musician Ryan Adams, she got her first management deal and record contract, and her debut album Bramble Rose was released by Lost Highway on 4 June 2002.

Tift Merritt’s music, a stew of rock and roll, soul, and country, makes record stores scratch their heads and audiences dance in the aisles.

For the time being, Tift lives in New York City.

Thanks to Tift and her website.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sunday Investment Club

Back in January, we followed up on a Big Shot's advice about getting greedy when everyone else was frightened.

I suggested one good way to play long-term investor (figure 2013 before we can spend this money again) involved regular purchases of SPY, an exchange traded fund (ETF) that mimics a mutual fund -- the 500 biggest US stocks -- but can be bought and sold all day long. The plan of course is to do it once a month, or once a quarter, or whenever you pay your bills. Write the first check to yourself.

So far, my timing hasn't been any better than Mr. Big Shot's, the Oracle himself. But I still like the fear I see, the overwhelming opinion that nothing will work, and that no bank, or financial company, or retailer will ever make money again. The American Economy is dead.

Mr. Big Shot and I are betting not. How about you?

Check the time periods on these charts from ETrade. And read Corkface's Reasons to Be Afraid in comments. Get some perspective. Next week, maybe Corkface and I start dueling portfolios. Join us.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Last Guy to Discover Harlan Coben

Bestselling author Harlan Coben has moved on from his Myron Bolitar series, but we were late to the party, and we're not going home until all of the refreshments are gone. After we read DROP SHOT in Mexico last year, we found ourselves in an independent book shop this week looking for a beach read. We saw FADE AWAY displayed and couldn't resist a follow-up.

Even better. Harlan writes big time thrillers these days, but we're not going there until we finish all seven of these Bolitar adventures. I want to hang out with Myron and his pal Win five more times.

Here's what Publishers Weekly said about DROP SHOT when it came out in 1996: "Wisecracking sports agent Myron Bolitar returns with style in his third mystery (after Deal Breaker and Dropshot). This time, Myron is given a chance to return to professional basketball after being sidelined by a heartbreaking injury 10 years ago. No, the owner of the New Jersey Dragons doesn't want Myron to play. He wants him to use his skills as a onetime FBI undercover agent to find a missing player and former rival.

It's personal.

With the help of his lethally loyal pal Win, he untangles the mess with bravado and not a little personal pain. Coben writes a fast-moving narrative in a style witty enough to keep pace without straining too hard."

From Harlan's web page (click on the headline): "In his first books, Coben immersed himself in the exploits of sports agent Myron Bolitar. Critics loved the series, saying, “You race to turn pages…both suspenseful and often surprisingly funny” (People). After seven books Coben wanted to try something different. “I came up with a great idea that simply would not work for Myron,” says Coben. The result was the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller TELL NO ONE, which became the most decorated thriller of 2001 – nominated for an Edgar, an Anthony, a Macavity, a Nero, and a Barry; winner of the Audie Award for Best Audio Mystery/Suspense Book (read by Steven Weber); and a #1 hardcover book on the Book Sense 76 list.

"Coben followed the success of TELL NO ONE with the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers GONE FOR GOOD (2002), NO SECOND CHANCE (2003), and JUST ONE LOOK (2004) and THE INNOCENT (2005). Bookspan, recognizing Coben’s broad international appeal, named NO SECOND CHANCE its first ever International Book of the Month in 2003 – the Main Selection in 15 different countries."

There's the new thriller coming in March, but we're probably going to stick with Myron and Win a little bit longer. We've got some catching up to do.

FULL DISCLOSURE: A couple of other reasons we like Harlan so much. One, he lives in New Jersey, which appears in all it's glory in the Bolitar novels. Two, with the exception of dialogue tags other than "said," Mr. C follows Elmore Leonard's rules of writing, my favorites being a shortage of description (except when it's funny) and hooptidoodle. Three, I am one of Harlan's 2,622 Facebook friends.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Redhead of the Week Eats Big Macs

Lindsay Dee Lohan, 23, is an American actress, model and pop music singer who began her career at age three as a Ford Model. At 10, she began her acting career in the soap opera Another World. At 11, she made her motion picture debut by playing identical twins in Disney's 1998 remake of The Parent Trap.

Lohan rose to stardom with her leading roles in the films Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Mean Girls and Herbie: Fully Loaded. Her subsequent roles include appearances in A Prairie Home Companion and Bobby. In 2004, Lohan launched a second career in pop music yielding the albums Speak and, in 2005, A Little More Personal (Raw).

Lohan's personal life has been a frequent subject of tabloid journalism. Seems she likes to party.

After entering a rehabilitation facility in January 2007, Lohan withdrew from a film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance, her publicist stating that Lohan needed to "focus on getting better." During her stay, she was allowed to continue shooting her latest film I Know Who Killed Me, returning to the center at night.

Lohan also dropped out of The Edge of Love in late April 2007, just before filming was to begin with the director citing "insurance reasons" and Lohan later explaining that she "was going through a really bad time then." Lohan was then cast in the film adaptation of Poor Things. She ultimately lost, or perhaps withdrew from, the part following her May 2007 DUI arrest, although the film's producers voiced support for her decision to once again enter rehab.

On May 11, 2007, the drama Georgia Rule, in which Lohan starred alongside Felicity Huffman and Jane Fonda, was released. The production received adverse publicity when a letter from a studio executive to Lohan criticizing her professionalism was made public. James G. Robinson, CEO of the film's production company, wrote: "You and your representatives have told us that your various late arrivals and absences from the set have been the result of illness; today we were told it was 'heat exhaustion'. We are well aware that your ongoing all night heavy partying is the real reason for your so-called 'exhaustion'." The film received mostly negative reviews.

On July 24, 2007, Lohan—in the wake of her second DUI arrest—withdrew from a scheduled appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to promote her starring role as a stripper in the thriller-mystery film I Know Who Killed Me. Lohan plays a young woman who appears to suffer from split personalities after being rescued from a serial killer. The film premiered "to an abysmal $3.5 million" and made $9,595,945 at the box office worldwide, and earned Lohan two nominations for worst actress at the Golden Raspberry Awards. She came in first and second, tying with herself.

Entertainment Weekly quoted the head of a major film studio as saying, "Her career was over long before she had these troubles ... Right now, she'd have to pay a studio to get herself into a movie."

ABC News quoted publicist Michael Levine as calling Lohan unemployable "for the next 18 months." The head of a talent agency agreed, noting that her personal issues likely made the insurance and other costs required for any film production to proceed prohibitively expensive.

James Robinson, the producer of Georgia Rule, stated he would still like to work with her. "She's a good person who's making some bad choices. She needs time to get the proper medical care, but when she's in the right emotional state, I'd put her in a movie right away ... She's probably one of the most talented young women in the movie business today."

In May 2008, Lohan appeared on ABC's Ugly Betty television series, her first screen appearance since I Know Who Killed Me. Subsequently guest starring in a total of four episodes, spanning seasons two and three in 2008, Lohan played Kimmie Keegan, an old schoolmate of America Ferrera's character Betty Suarez.

Lohan is the star of the forthcoming film comedy Labor Pains, playing a young woman who pretends to be pregnant to avoid being fired. The film is in post-production as of July 2008 and scheduled for release in this spring.

Lindsay Lohan has dismissed concerns over her increasingly skinny figure, saying "I eat just as much as I always have".

"It's not intentional," she told Us Weekly at the New York opening of Matthew Williamson's new store.

"I eat. I had my Big Mac yesterday from McDonald's."

Thanks to Wikipedia and (sigh) Lindsay.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Join The Treasure Hunt

Hey, I'm no psychologist, but it seems to me EVERYbody loves a treasure hunt. Personally, I get a thrill when I find a quarter in the supermarket parking lot. I can't imagine the excitement of finding a treasure chest full of 300-year-old gold bullion and silver coins. But guess what? I've found a way to do this from my easy chair.

For a bit over $400, plus commission, you can buy 100 shares of Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX), then sit back and watch your company search for gold every Thursday night on the Discovery Channel. "Treasure Quest" is the name of the show, and believe me, gang, these guys are onto something. Two weeks ago on the show, they discovered a 300-year-old English warship, the HMS Victory, which records show was carrying 4 tons of gold coins.

Last year, they unloaded 500,000 gold and silver coins from another ship right in front of the TV cameras. And OMEX has already found another huge gold cash on the HMS Sussex, but Spanish gunboats so far won't let them pick it up. Four years ago, they found another shipwreck off the Carolinas, and those coins are still for sale.

The stock is volatile. The only time to sell is when they've reported another treasure and the ducks are quacking (stock prices being bid up on heavy volume), and you might have to sit with it for a while. But we think one of these Thursday nights, the flash of gold will show, and those ducks will start.

And even if they don't find any gold, it sure is fun to hunt for treasure.

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (OMEX) is engaged in the archaeologically sensitive exploration and recovery of shipwrecks throughout the world. The Company employs advanced technology, including side scan sonar, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and other advanced technology. Odyssey has two primary segments, shipwreck exploration and themed attractions. The shipwreck exploration segment includes all operating activities for shipwreck exploration and archaeological recovery of shipwreck artifacts and cargo, including the marketing, sales and distribution of recovered artifacts, replicas, merchandise and books through various retail and wholesale sales channels. The Company's themed attractions segment is engaged in interactive attractions and exhibits designed to entertain and educate multi-generational audiences.

Odyssey Marine Exploration
5215 W. Laurel Street
Tampa, FL 33607

Thanks to E-Trade and OMEX

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Elmore Leonard: Cowboys and Crime

Elmore Leonard, recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's grand master award, will be honored by the Western Writers of America for his lifetime contribution to the cowboy genre as well.

Elmore, you are the BEST, dude. A master in two genres?

Leonard, who began his fiction writing with westerns, including Three-Ten to Yuma and Hombre before he turned to the crime writing he is better known for today, was "long overdue" for such recognition, according to a Western Writers spokesman. "Elmore Leonard has had a tremendous impact on the western and crime genres," he said. "He has always been a gifted storyteller, and never afraid to take chances. That's why his westerns remain in print decades after they were first published, and why anthologies of his short western fiction fill bookshelves."

Leonard, who will receive the Owen Wister award for lifetime contribution to western literature - a bronze buffalo - on 20 June at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma, said he was surprised but delighted to win. "I love the western genre," he said, "and writing them was a great way to learn to write."

Leonard first made it into print with a western short story, Trail of the Apache, in 1951. He followed this up with other stories including The Boy Who Smiled, The Tonto Woman and The Captives, which were all westerns. His first novel The Bounty Hunters tells the story of the hunt for an Apache renegade hiding in Mexico; a later work Hombre, in which Apache John Russell, at first shunned by the stagecoach passengers he is travelling with, ends up having to lead them out of the desert after outlaws set upon them, was voted one of the best westerns of all time in 1961.

After writing westerns including The Law at Randado, Escape from Five Shadows and Forty Lashes Less One, the market for the genre began to slow down, and Leonard switched to crime with The Big Bounce. His 1985 novel Glitz was his first major bestseller, followed by a string of much acclaimed novels including Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Rum Punch and Cuba Libre.

You can't find a bad book in the bunch, people. Try Elmore, will you?

Thanks to Elmore and the Western Writers

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Redhead of the Week Burps On Cue

According to those TV rating meisters, The Famous Author and I aren't the only fans of "24," the action-spy-thriller series featuring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, rogue U.S. agent. But the biggest reason we like this show is not Kiefer (who sounded a lot like Dick Cheney last night). It's Annie Wersching, the 31-year-old actress playing FBI agent Renee Walker.

Ain't she sweet?

Wersching was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and began her acting career with a guest appearance on the show Star Trek: Enterprise. Guest roles on such shows as Charmed, Killer Instinct, Supernatural and Cold Case got her the job of Amelia Joffe on the ABC Daytime soap opera, General Hospital, just two years ago, and we bet bigger roles are coming. Annie's no bombshell. She's a high-powered rifle slug -- tough, efficient, and focused. But she's all woman.

Guess what she lists as one of her special acting talents?

Burping on cue. Honest. If you don't believe me, click on the headline, Redhead of the Week, and go to Annie's website, where her complete resume' is listed. Near the bottom:

Singing (Soprano w/ lower belt), Face Contortionist, Burp on Cue, Irish Dancing,
Tin Whistle, Tennis, Horseback Riding, Softball, Swimming
DIALECTS: Irish, Standard British, Cockney, Southern, Slavic

It's what we always say around here at The Crimes of Austin Carr. Redheads have special skills.

Thanks to Annie and Wikipedia

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Central New Jersey Hosts Mystery Symposium


Join us. The Famous Author and I will be there most of the day. Free Big Money World Tour staff T-shirts for those brave enough to ask.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Deus Ex Machina

So that villainous Sheriff of Cabo and his female accomplice -- that woman whose name cannot be spoken -- dragged me to the top of the four-story altar. As the Sheriff tied me down, the woman reached for the stone knife attached to her belt.

“This is going to hurt,” she said. “But know that you are not alone. I have taken many men’s hearts.”

Ha ha. Bitch. I closed my eyes and began a prayer, a thank you for all the fun I’ve had, the love I’ve known, but the rumble of a gasoline-powered engine cut me off. A familiar rumble at that... Could it be?

The Sheriff and What’s Her Name ran to the altar's edge to check the noise. While their backs were turned, my old buddy Makaha from San Gabriel, California appeared to untie my hands and lead me back down the far side of the altar. We escaped in his 500-horsepower, green Chevelle.

Deus ex machina -- literally "god from the machine" -- is a plot device in which a surprising or unexpected event occurs in a story's plot, suddenly and completely resolving an otherwise unsolvable conflict. Neoclassical literary criticism, from Corneille and John Dennis on, took it as a given that one mark of a bad play was the sudden invocation of extraordinary circumstance. Thus, the term "deus ex machina" has come to mean any inferior plot device that expeditiously solves the conflict of a narrative. --Thanks Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sacrifice for Love

I worried when he put the cuffs on me, sure, and I got plenty nervous in the trunk of his car on the ride over here. But I didn’t wet my pants until I saw where the Sheriff of Cabo was taking me.

“You should be proud to die on this ancient and sacred altar,” the Sheriff said. “Brave warriors from many lands offered themselves here so our people would enjoy a bountiful harvest from the sun.”

"I'm dying for your tan?"

"The corn."

Better speak that universal language. “The Famous Author has a little money left,” I said. “He’ll pay you a bribe to let me go.”

“He said no, amigo. We called him. TFA said he could not trust you anymore. You’re always running off somewhere, getting in trouble.”

Rats. Looks like this is it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Love in a Mexican Jail

Men are SO predictable. I mean, I really should have known she was lying to me, telling me she loved me, telling me she wanted to spend the rest of our lives together in the sunshine of Cabo San Lucas. Gosh, I'm a fool for love.

Of course it was all a con. Once the ceremony was over, I found myself tied up in the closet while that woman (I won't ever mention her name again) went through my wallet and my briefcase, transferred all my bank accounts to her Swiss number, and even sold my used Toyota to a local fisherman.

Eventually I worked my hands out of the rope and confronted her, but she'd already anticipated my escape and immediately had me arrested by her REAL husband, the Cabo Sheriff. Worse, The Famous Author's mad at me for running away, and he won't come bail me out.

Help! Somebody come get me!