Friday, February 26, 2010

Not Quite a Hat Trick

Congratulations, Canada, on a well-played hockey game last night!  I was bummed that I only got to watch mid-way into the second period before being cut off by prime time, but luckily it seems that I saw most of the important bits in the first half of the game.   

Gold medal count: USA 8, Germany 8, Canada 8, Norway 7.  Overall medal count: USA 32, Germany 26, Canada 17, Norway 19.

Also, I had such a hard time finding pictures of the unfortunate bits of the Canadian speed skating uniforms that I decided to take my own:

Short Track:

Long Track:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

She Flies Like a Bird

Ada's preschool is doing a winter Olympics unit this week. Today they competed in "ice skating" (after taping paper plates to their shoes) and made gold medals to hang around their necks. Each child got to choose his/her own medal-worthy event. Ada's was "Eating toast for breakfast."

When we got home we made lunch together, then she carried her plate over to "the little table" in the TV room. We use this for special occasions like popcorn on movie night and 6:00 am weekend breakfasts in front of cartoons while Mommy and Daddy try to sneak a little more sleep.

"I wanna watch the 'lympics, Mommy," she said, digging into her yogurt. I'm not going to deny that request! It's rare that anyone is excited to watch my favorite televised entertainment with me.

It soon became apparent that she wanted to watch last night's rebroadcast of ice dancing.

"That's MY show, Mommy, not your show."

No argument from me on that one. I fast-forwarded to Virtue and Minor so she could see the gold medal performance before nap time.

"Look at that pretty princess dress, Mommy! That's a really pretty princess dress. It's just like an underwear shirt!"

I love my baby girl.

We also got to start an interesting discussion I'd hoped to put off for several more years. Men's Team Large Hill ski jumping came on as I fast forwarded to ice dancing. She liked watching the athletes fly through the air.

"Dat's a girl, Mommy?" Ada's really into figuring out who's a boy and who's a girl lately. She's also playing with pronouns and inventing her very own "jokes" about gender (like mixing a girl's name with "him" and watching me slyly to see if I pick up on the subtle switch).

"Nope, that's a boy. His name is Michael."

"When da girls gonna jump?"

"Women don't do this type of ski jumping at the Olympics."

"Why not?"

I don't know.

White Powder

Late at night. Exhausted. Stayed up to watch the Olympics, now ready to pass out in bed. Start thinking about tomorrow's schedule and how to fit in everything I want to accomplish.

This is the way mistakes are made.

Head for the bedroom. Catch sight of self in darkened mirror, contemplate how I like the way the bottom of my hair looks the day before I wash it but dislike how the roots lay flat against my head.

Wonder if there's anything I can do about that. See a bottle of Shower to Shower powder on the dresser. Think: talc absorbs moisture, including oil.

The more I think about it, the more I'm sure I've heard of people doing exactly this. So tired. I figure: best case, it looks great and I've learned a new trick. Worst case, I wash my hair first thing in the morning.

I pour a little Shower to Shower powder into my hand and pat the crown of my head, step into the bathroom, and flip on the light.

I've aged ten years. I suddenly remember the context in which I've heard of people powdering their hair. It's to look older on stage, or to appear a proper 18th Century English gentleman.


Oh, well, too tired to care. I go to sleep. In the morning: hey, it worked! Powder's gone and hair looks great! Ego took a bit of a hit, though.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Red with Embarassment?

I'm frequently rooting for Canada in these Olympics; I like to see the home team do well. And I've heard the Canadians are a bit disappointed with their performance thus far in speed skating.

I have a theory about that.

I think the skaters are demoralized by what they have to wear. Both short track and long track, women and men. (The male and female athletes wear the same uniforms. Nothing wrong with that; I quite like it, actually.)

In short track, as the athletes bend over and present their muscular backsides to the camera, it's obvious that the coarse, black, speckled, hairy pattern on the upper and inner thighs was a mistake.

And in long track it looks like the skaters stepped into a crotchless Spanx-style condom. I'm sure the suit really provides a revolutionarily aerodynamic edge, but . . .

Perhaps they should have thought a bit more about these color and texture choices.

Short Track

Long Track

(Note to the Japanese speed skaters: my husband thinks your shiny gold uniforms make you look like superheros. But I'd like to point out that they're see-through.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Family Dinner

Valentine's dinner:

(Did you notice how much less of Paul there is than there used to be? Also, can you tell which of my girls likes spicy (jambalaya) and which prefers sweets?)

And Ada's new hobby:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Literary Ghosts

If you're like me, then you were pretty disillusioned when you learned that many (prolific and) famous bestselling authors don't write their own books.  Instead, they are corporate-managed brands.  But what was once an open secret (acknowledged but not advertised, easy to miss if you weren't looking) is now just open without the secret part:
Literary Ghosts
by Miriam

The subject of ghostwriting seems to be in the air right now. The recent New York Times profile of James Patterson pulled back the curtains on something that was a fairly open secret within the industry: Of the 620 books (give or take) that Mr. Patterson publishes every year, most are collaborations in the loosest term of the word. As Andrew Crofts points out in his rather passionate defense of the practice, if it’s not the oldest profession, ghostwriting has certainly been around since writing utensils began to be used to make literature instead of just grocery lists.

So let's talk about it. On one hand, I see how secretly ghost-written novels are good for the people involved: editors, agents, and authors.  An author might not earn a lot of money from a novel, especially if the author is new, with a small press, just building a fan base, or otherwise not writing best-sellers.  (Even best selling novels don't always make the authors rich.)  The average advance for a novel is something like $3000, I believe.  And there's no guarantee of earning out the advance and racking up significant income via royalties.  With a ghost writer's contract, an author earns a flat fee for service.  S/he might not become wealthy, but has some guaranteed income.  Sweet.

The author whose name is on the cover but didn't do the writing probably receives something, too.  Even sweeter.

And the editors get to deal with a vetted, professional ghost writer who's used to turning in a specific product at a specific time and who won't require a lot of hand-holding.  Fabulous.

But . . .

Don't you feel a little tricked?  Cheated?  I think putting "James Patterson" (and no other name) on the cover of a novel written by someone other than James Patterson (Or Dick Francis or Nora Roberts, or whomever) hurts the publishing industry.  I think it trains readers to shop by brand, to seek out templated reading material, to be risk averse.  Wouldn't it be nicer if we readers were willing to pick up books by authors we'd never heard of but were published by reputable houses and blurbed by authors whose work we enjoy?

Of course, Patterson is a special case in many ways.  He works very hard to be and stay where he is, even if his hard work is more executive than literary.  From the NYT article (link above):
"TO MAINTAIN HIS frenetic pace of production, Patterson now uses co-authors for nearly all of his books. He is part executive producer, part head writer, setting out the vision for each book or series and then ensuring that his writers stay the course."

"The way it usually works, Patterson will write a detailed outline — sometimes as long as 50 pages, triple-spaced — and one of his co-authors will draft the chapters for him to read, revise and, when necessary, rewrite. When he’s first starting to work with a new collaborator, a book will typically require numerous drafts. Over time, the process invariably becomes more efficient. Patterson pays his co-authors out of his own pocket. On the adult side, his collaborators work directly and exclusively with Patterson. On the Y.A. side, they sometimes work with Patterson’s young-adult editor, who decides when pages are ready to be passed along to Patterson."

I once met a ghost writer who told a story of a talk he gave to school children.  "Do you know R.L Stein?" one young fan asked.

"One of them," the author replied.  The child was crushed.  Later I heard a story of a ghost writer sitting on his couch watching on TV as an author was awarded for a novel he - the ghost-writer - had written.

So, what do you think?  Does this practice bother you?  Or is all fair in love, war, and best-seller lists?  And is it different if the "co-author" is acknowledged on the book jacket (e.g. Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark)?

Edited to add: What about authors who write using pen names (Mark Twain)?  Co-authors who use a single pen name or use a mishmash of their real names (P.J. Tracy)?  Are those instances fine but would feel weird if not acknowledged on the dust jacket with an author photo?  And what about "authors" who are pure corporate inventions to unite a series of related books by different ghost writers (Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew fame, Franklin W. Dixon of The Hardy Boys, etc.)?

Is all of this different now than it was thirty years ago?  Today we live in a world where celebrity is the most valuable commodity and we feel entitled to know nearly everything about the lives and work of the people who move and entertain us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I've been meaning to ask you about Dollhouse.  Did you watch?  What did you think?  Buffy: compare/contrast.

If you've not heard of the recently canceled Fox drama, here's a brief summary of the series: "Caroline" - code name "Echo" - is an "Active," a member of a highly illegal and underground group of individuals who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. Hired by the wealthy, powerful and connected, the Actives don't just perform their hired roles, they wholly become with mind, personality and physiology whomever the client wants or needs them to be. Whether imprinted to be a lover, an assassin, a corporate negotiator or a best friend, the Actives know no other life than the specific engagements they are in at that time."

The premise is enticing.  The story is engaging.  The sci fi is nifty.  The plot arc was nicely conceived.  And it's a Joss Wedon show; I'll follow Joss wherever he's headed out of curiosity.  He does things for TV that no one else does.  (I've blogged about Buffy the Vampire Slayer before.) 

However, I was not without concern.  Wedon seems to like showing tiny, beautiful women getting knocked around.  A lot.  To make this violence more palatable he sometimes has the women fighting each other.  Or really really bad guys hitting the women.  Or abused women with supernatural strength and healing ability.  But, still, it's lots and lots of violence against women.  After a while it's hard to justify.

And Dollhouse not only showed women getting beat up a lot, it also glorified prostitution as a victimless crime.  Or so it seemed at the beginning.

But the plot was much more complicated than that and deeper motivations became clear in the end.

Which, incidentally, came far too soon.

Dollhouse's cancellation was premature for me as a fan, but also for the story arc.  Obviously this season's story was meant to play out over several seasons.  Instead it was so condensed that it was hard to follow and definitely lacked the emotional punch it would have had if the story and characters were allowed to develop more gradually.  Alas. 

True or not true?  I heard that Dollhouse had a solid DVR and online following but not nearly enough real-time viewers.  If shows are indeed renewed or canceled based primarily on real-time viewers, will shows that appeal to a younger, hipper audience (plus me) continue to fail until the decision matrix changes?

Monday, February 15, 2010


These are the 4th Olympic Games since I started blogging.  As usual, I can't wait to get back to watching!

We ate dinner at a restaurant tonight. (After what we spent to "fix" Paul's car, a few extra dollars and calories seemed inconsequential.) Adjoining the dining room was a bar area with several large televisions, all tuned to sports channels. And none tuned to The Olympics! All over the blogosphere people are complaining about how exceedingly boring the opening ceremonies are.

So jaded!

Or maybe it's just me; I'm a mutant freak.

But, man, I love the Olympics. I watch every moment I can, every two years.

Today I watched the U.S. women's hockey team batter China while jogging "four miles" on my trampoline.  (The Wii grossly overestimates distance, but makes me feel good at the same time.)  The girls were so inspired that they jumped on for two quick sprints each after my workout.  They love to see their faces on the leader board (they're each other's only competition at the "3 minute" level) and to call out the names of the Miis they recognize along the course.  "There's Grandma! I'm gonna catch up to Grandpa!"

And it's not an Olympic sport, but the girls have really been having fun Wii bowling lately, too.  Who says video games are bad for children?!  Not a parent cooped up inside with two young children on a snowy day, methinks.

A friend called yesterday.  "Are you watching short track?"

Of course I was.

"I bet you really got choked up at Celski's story, huh?"

Not really.  She knows that I get emotional about the Olympics and she likes to poke at me.  I appreciate that.  But it's not the human interest stories that get me all verklempt, it's the sport, baby.  It's the competition, the pushing at the boundaries of endurance, the successes and failures on the track, the slope, the ice, the mat, the course, the pool.

The Canadian women's hockey decimated Slovakia 18-0 in their first day of competition.  The hometown crowd cheered mightily for their beloved champions.  Then the Slovakians skated off the ice and the stadium gave them a standing ovationThat made me teary.

The Chinese team the American women clobbered 12-1 yesterday?  Sure, they suffered a decisive defeat.  But it wasn't a rout.  Toward the end of the match, one of the Chinese athletes scored the team's first goal.  She pumped her stick in the air and they all screamed in triumph.  All the way to the last bell, the entire team worked hard.  They didn't give up.  They were competing at the Olympics! and that is, in itself, a victory.

On the other end of the spectrum, I could watch Apollo Ono's first 1500 heat over and over and over all day.  (The semi-final and A final not so much.)  He's cool, he's relaxed, and then, BAM, out of nowhere he's going twice as fast as everyone else.

As for the Opening Ceremony, sure the parade drags a bit sometimes but it's fun with good company.  ("Good company" does not include Bob Costas being sarcastic and giving unqualified fashion commentary. Sidenote: I'm a huge Mary Carillo fan!)  And the show itself - thoughtfully included after the parade so the athletes could sit and watch - was breathtaking.  If I started every day of my life listening to kd lang sing Hallelujah, I think I'd be a better, happier person.  (Seriously, go listen. Tell me if you don't feel inspired to go run, write, invent, hug, love, give, be. And while you're there, check out the Define Canada slam. Brilliant.)

I love Canada.  I love Canadians!  Thanks to all the organizers, volunteers, athletes, and sponsors for a great show.

Friday, February 12, 2010

At Play

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Writer's To Do List

Within the next few weeks I'll complete a freelance project I've been working on for a long time. I'm looking forward to spending more time with my own writing!

I also get to spend two nights away next month at a spiritual retreat with no children, no husband, no television, no internet, and enforced silence.  I won't even bring a book to read.  (For me, books are a bigger distraction than family, television, and the internet combined.)  But I'll have my laptop.

In preparation I listed all of my current projects so that I can begin to prioritize them.  Please excuse the working titles:

Writer’s To Do List 2010
  1. finish Poirot excerpts and assemble Blue Screen of Death
  2. re-read Blue Screen of Death, add tension to each page (remove remaining “just” and “was” excesses)
  3. finish Sands Through the Hourglass (two scenes)
  4. read and tidy Sands Through the Hourglass
  5. read Wyoming the Witch
  6. revise and edit “A Date in the Life of Gillian MacCrae”
  7. submit “A Date in the Life of Gillian MacCrae” 
  8. draft essay for the Becoming anthology 
  9. polish “Camp Fires
  10. submit “Camp Fires
  11. edit “Mountain View
  12. write “Stranger”
  13. rerewrite “Party” 
  14. work on picture books for kids (flesh out current drafts)
  15. read The Really Good Guy
  16. finish, revise, edit The Really Good Guy
  17. edit “Wonder Woman”
  18. Outline Flowers (my exciting new project for this year's NaNoWriMo)

Essays, short stories, novels.  Outlines, notes, first drafts, second drafts, nearly-final drafts.  Various genres.  Various styles.  No matter what I feel like working on each day, I've got a project that matches!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Stay At Home

Monday morning.  Paul leaves for work and I get Ellie bundled out the door to meet her bus.  Then I sit down at my computer with a cup of coffee.  I don't feel guilty about this; lots of people have jobs where they check their email over a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Ada plays nearby and we chatter back and forth.

9:00: I put my mug in the sink and start tidying up from the weekend.  I straighten all the public areas of the main floor and wipe down the hallway bathroom with Clorox wipes.  Ada helps, putting her plastic balls back into their ball pit.

9:30: Our school district Parents as Teachers Parent Educator arrives for a quarterly visit with Ada and me.

10:30: I sit open a cookbook to create a menu for the week (three meals a day plus snacks and desserts) and develop a shopping list.  Ada drops by to "help" and we spend some time practicing her reading/spelling/typing skills on my laptop.  She likes to ask me how to spell words then seek out the individual letters and watch them magically appear/disappear on the screen as she pushes the keys.

11:30: Ada and I make her lunch together, then go grocery shopping.  She decides on a macaroni and cheese quesadilla with pea pods on the side.

1:00: All that shopping made Ada hungry, so she finishes her interrupted lunch while I put away the groceries.  Then she goes potty, we read some stories together, and she goes down for her nap.

2:30: I heat up some leftover chili for my lunch and sit down to eat.

3:00: There's not quite enough time for a workout, not quite enough time to get a solid chunk of freelancing done, and I have an annoying cold.  I remember some advice from my Writer Mama book that lying down for a few minutes - even if you don't sleep - can help make you feel more refreshed than a full nap.  I decide to give that advice a try.  Research!

3:30: Bundle up to wait for Ellie's bus.  When Ellie gets home from school, everyone goes potty and I get snacks for the girls.  Then I bring the Valentine's decorations up from the basement and we decorate the house together - pausing to read Valentine stories from time to time - until Daddy gets home.

5:45: Daddy's home and I've managed to organize all the ingredients for dinner on the counter but am currently sitting on the couch nursing a mug of hot tea and trying to stop my nose from running quite so much.  My darling husband offers to put the meat on the grill and boil water for the couscous.

So.  I was "home" all day and yet didn't have a hot dinner waiting for my husband after work.  The shame!  On the other hand, I was reading to and playing with our children a lot of the time.  Plus the house was straightened (bonus!).  There's a menu for the week - neatly typed and hanging on the frig - and the pantry is full of groceries.  When the girls were babies, taking care of them was a full-time job.  I sometimes didn't even eat until Paul got home from work.  Now they're bigger and more independent, so I can get little things done throughout the day (creating grocery lists, tidying around the house, checking email).  It's quite nice.

But if I have a free hour or two during the day, I'm far more likely to spend the time working (freelance project, my own writing, research, etc.) or working out than doing heavy cleaning or preparing an elaborate dinner.  NMJ, YMMV.

I'll close with my menu fail from last night.  We had herb-garlic couscous and palak paneer with . . . steak.  "There are non-Hindus who live in India," Paul said. "They probably eat beef."

Monday, February 08, 2010


I like my daughter's preschool.  I like the location, the teachers, the director, all of it.

Yet I gave up her spot there for next year and drove across three suburbs to put Ada on a waiting list for another preschool.  One that costs twice as much and is further away.  (She's second on the waiting list for the schedule we want. She's in for our second choice class schedule.)

Of course, the new preschool is fabulous.  The facility, the teachers, all of it's top-notch.  But the reason we made the switch is because Ada will (hopefully) be in the same classroom Ellie was in last year.  It's a team-taught classroom with a Gen Ed and a Special Ed teacher and a mix of students: some with IEPs, some without.

I think this will be good for Ada.  I also want to support the program that helped Ellie.

Here's hoping.

File under:
- stuff no one but me cares about
- parents can be boring
- lady, quit talking about yer kids
- parenting is one long series of tiny decisions with plenty of time to second guess and worry and obsess and wonder if you're doing the right thing or inadvertently ruining your children's lives.

More City Museum

I've blogged about The City Museum. (also here)

But the place really defies explanation. If you ever find yourself anywhere near St. Louis, please make a point of stopping by. You won't regret it!

Or maybe you will. I can't imagine how The City Museum insures itself. Imagine a community of contemporary sculpture artists. And some creative kids. And an old-school playground with plenty of metal bits and a notable lack of safety equipment. Throw in some lovely tile work, open it to the public, and you're definitely on the right track.

We've been before and always had a great time.  But the girls have never been as into it as they were this weekend.  Ada loved the petting aquarium but get seriously into sneaking down dark holes and crawling through underground tunnels.  Ellie, meanwhile, loved slipping underneath the giant concrete whale and slithering out the other side.  And she explored the entire network of tubes above all that white stuff hanging from the ceiling (see photo).  I was right behind her the whole time, even when my hips had about an inch of clearance in the tightest tunnels.

We couldn't stop the girls (didn't try!) from climbing a steep flight of stairs to go down a particularly fast and scary roller slide over and over and over again.  Everyone slept well that night.  My arms and back are sore from all the crawling.  And my knees are still bruised.  Kneepads next time!

Caves built within a historic shoe factory's spiral conveyor tunnel system, spiraling throughout the museum and stretching from deep under the building to many stories up a covered air shaft.  A giant outdoor ball pit full of recess balls.  Bars.  Everyday Circus.  MonstroCity.  The City Museum is seriously unreal.  And a good workout!  I'm glad my kids have the opportunity to experience something so fabulous and crazy and creative and . . . untamed.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Weekly Round-up, In Pictures

I fought the wall, and the wall won:

(Actually, I was throwing laundry down into the basement and . . . misjudged the angle. But that song I just put in your head? You're welcome!)

Big girl bed! Baa included.

And the glasses, once more, with feeling:

(Ellie's feeling is that she'd really rather not wear them.)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Writer Mama by Christina Katz

This month for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club I'm discussing Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz.

My sister sent me this book for my birthday last fall, and I was appropriately grateful.  Such a cool-sounding book.  And such a thoughtful gift!  In fact, it's exactly the kind of book I want to have but never get around to reading.

Indeed, this was the case.  For four months, the book gathered dust on my bedside table.  It was on top, right near the front, impossible to miss.  I reached over it to select a new novel from the stack behind.

Then I decided to take the plunge.  I'll review it!  I thought.  I have a deadline!  Now I have to read it, and fast.

In this, too, I failed.  I could not read the book quickly.  But that's because I'm learning so much on every page.  I've always wanted to be a writer.  I've struggled to build a professional identity in the in-between spaces I can scrounge together with very young children at home.  I've wanted to do so much more.  But I didn't know what exactly, and I didn't know how.  Until now.

I was concerned at the beginning of the book, when the author explained how to use a search engine to find things on the internet.  But the pace immediately picked up and soon I knew the difference between "fillers" and "articles," when to query with an idea and when to submit a completed piece, how to take manageable little steps right now to meet long term goals later.

And the truth is that basic stuff is important.  Sure, most people know how to use Google.  And I already know how to read and follow submission guidelines.  But it wasn't so long ago that I didn't know anything about submission guidelines (that they existed, where to find them, what certain code phrases indicate).  Writer Mama makes the industry accessible to a newbie without spending too much time on the basics for the more experienced writer.

The author does a good job addressing moms of kids of all ages, not just napping infants or older, independent players.  And her advice is realistic.  She doesn't recommend plopping kids in front of the TV all morning, but she does acknowledge that a video can be a special treat for a child when her work-at-home mama faces a tight deadline.  She acknowledges - and suggests coping strategies for - the inevitability that some people won't see a writing mama's job as being a "real" job requiring disicpline, professionalism, and regular hours.  And she points out that we're often hardest on ourselves in this regard.

I had a hard time starting this book.  I had a hard time reading as quickly as I wanted to read.  And I had a hard time finishing in time.  (I like to finish a book a few days before I review it to allow time for the sediment to settle in my brain.)  In fact, I didn't finish at all.  But I'm almost done; I'll finish tomorrow.  With this book, I can't skim quickly over the surface of the text; I'm learning something new on almost every page.  I'm highlighting; I'm making notes.

And it's taking a lot of will power to keep reading and learning at a steady pace.  Writer Mama is broken up into 23 chapters, each of which ends with an "Exercise."  Every time I come to an Exercise, I want to stop and do it immediately.  Not yet!  I remind myself, sticking a flag on the page and pushing on, knowing that the minute I read the last page I'll be starting over at the beginning with the first exercise.

And once I've completed the exercises - each of which seems totally manageable, non-overwhelming, fun and exciting, actually - I'll have several pieces written and queries sent off to editors.  I'll be well on my way from wanting to be a professional writer to actually being a professional writer.

This book is teaching me how to do something I've always wanted to do, but never knew if I could do, let alone how to get started, how to build a business, how to make it work.

Motivational.  Educational.  Interesting.  Useful.  And, did I mention, motivational?

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Monday, February 01, 2010


Maziar Bahari was born in Iran, went to college in Canada, and holds joint Canadian and English citizenship. He is married to Paola Gourley, an Italian-English attorney (solicitor). They live in London and their first child, Marianna, was born in late October.

Bahari is a journalist (Newsweek) and filmmaker (BBC). But these jobs didn't get him in trouble. His crime was to do an interview with Jason Jones for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The morning of June 21, 2009, during the Iranian post-election protests, Bahari was arrested without charges by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He was held in a small cell for 118 Days, 12 Hours, 54 Minutes. He was beaten and interrogated daily, often several times a day. He was told that his life was over, that he was never getting out, that he had no more friends and family.

He feared he would never meet his soon-to-be-born daughter.
"Some police manuals, even in the West, say that hitting a prisoner with a closed fist constitutes assault, but an open-handed slap does not. Perhaps [my interrogator] had read such a guide. His meaty palms slapped me hard across the back of my neck and shoulders. "I thought we had an understanding, sir!" I protested as I tried to protect my body.

"Move your hands, you little spy!" he screamed. "Understanding? What stupid understandings could we have with a spy like you?"

The beatings would continue from that moment until late September."
The interrogator took special care to hit the back of Bahari's head, where he knew the prisoner suffered from debilitating migraines.

Bahari was held in the infamous Evin prison near Tehran.
""Welcome to Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, or whatever it is you Americans build," a guard said to me after we arrived. He spoke with an Azerbaijani accent, and sounded older. "I'm not American, my brother," I said with a smile. "You work for them, so you're one of them," he said."

Thank you, Jack Bauer, for muddying these waters. It's amazing how many people take fiction as fact, who inform their beliefs, opinions, and worldviews based on stories written by a committee of creative writers in a room in southern California. We know that torture doesn't work. And we know that it undermines everything we stand for and everything we try to do in the world when we engage in it (no matter what we call it when we do).
The Tortured Brain (Newsweek)
The Torture Myth (Washington Post)
Torture Doesn't Work (The Christian Science Monitor)
Bahari's account of his experience (Newsweek, and well worth the read!)

And yet.