Saturday, December 18, 2004

And Whom Would You Add to the List

2004 Ethnic Cleansing Awards

What we have here is Bobfromaccounting's list of the 25 most annoying newsmakers of the past year. Hard to argue with these choices.

Disregard Earlier Posts: THIS is the End of Civilization as We Know It

New York Post Online Edition: business

"Bankrolled by the deep pockets of entertainment mogul Bob Sillerman, the estate of the late King is planning a global rollout of Presley-mania — from Elvis theme parks in Germany to lavish casinos in Asia where the singer's hologram will perform around the clock.

Sillerman, who made a fortune building the world's biggest entertainment touring outfit, bought all the rights to Presley's name and likeness, as well as his music, for more than $100 million.

The late entertainer's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, said she sold the assets to give her family a secure future and expand her father's legacy to the entire world."

Maybe Lisa Marie is really Col. Parker's kid.

Researchers Find Clues to 'Pack-Rat' Urge

Researchers Find Clues to 'Pack-Rat' Urge: "Dec. 17, 2004 -- Attention, pack rats: science may have figured you out. Researchers say they've found an area of the brain that seems to govern the urge to collect.

Well, now I know what's wrong with me. "Damage to a part of the frontal lobes of the [brain's] cortex, particularly on the right side . . . ." You can click the line for further details.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The cover of Heart of the Hunter is no doubt familiar to anyone who attended the recent Bouchercon in Toronto. It was a freebie in all the book bags, and it seemed that many people were trying to get rid of it by putting it out on the "trade" table. Maybe they just didn't want to lug a hardback home. If they didn't read it, they were the losers, because it's very good.

It was originally written in Afrikaans and was translated by K. L. Seegers, who's done a fine job. I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but what I got was an espionage novel of the "every time I try to get out, they drag me back in" variety. Or of the "retired gunslinger can't quite hang 'em up" variety. But with a difference. The South African setting, for one thing. And while there's plenty of action, the book seems more influenced by John Le Carre than Ian Fleming. The big confrontation that I kept expecting never happened. Or rather it did happen, but not at all in the way I thought it would. There's also some violence, but it's mostly off-stage. There are plenty of twists and turns. Nobody can be trusted, and nothing is what it seems to be.

I'm glad I brought this home to Texas from Canada, and if you have it on your shelves, pull it out and give it a try. I think you'll find it rewarding reading. Posted by Hello

New Moon?

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | New 'moon' found around Earth

OK, this is pretty cool. I think it's an alien spacecraft, myself, but apparently no one else shares that belief.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Les Baxter

Les Baxter

While checking on Larry Buchanan, I ran across this. Les Baxter was also from my hometown. Zowie. This is a truly famous guy. His orchestra was on a lot of Frank Sinatra recordings, not to mention Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa." And he wrote "Quiet Village." How cool is that?

A Larry Buchanan Classic Posted by Hello

Larry Buchanan, R.I.P.

It seems that Anna Nicole Smith isn't the only person from my old hometown who made it big in Hollywood. This excerpt is from the L. A. Times obit:

"Born Marcus Larry Seale Jr. in Mexia, Texas, and orphaned in infancy, Buchanan grew up in a Dallas orphans' home, where he developed a love of movies in the facility's theater. He considered becoming a minister but during a visit to Hollywood landed a job in 20th Century Fox's prop department."

Disregard Earlier Post: THIS is the End of Civilization as We Know It

New York Post Online Edition: entertainment

FOX is turning a grown adopted child's search for her father into a reality/game show called "Who's Your Daddy."

On the Jan. 3, 90-minute special, the woman will face eight men — one is her father, and the fakes' goal is to trick her into thinking they are.

If, after three elimination rounds, she picks out her real father, she wins $100,000. If she picks the wrong one, the fake daddy gets the big-bucks prize. — Post TV Staff

The End of Civilization as We Know It?

NCBuy Weird News: "Crack Ho" and "Hoochie" Added To Oxford Dictionary - 2004-12-15: "NEW YORK (Wireless Flash) -- Hip hop-based words have entered the vernacular of many English speakers and now they have found their way into a prestigious dictionary.

More than 2,000 new and revised word entries have been added to the online edition of The Oxford English Dictionary and a small contingent of them come from the P. Diddy and Eminem arena."

For example, the word "benjamin," meaning "a one-hundred dollar bill" and more generally, "large sums of money" made its way onto the list.

Other hip-hop words that were added:

-- "Hoochie," which means "a young woman who is promiscuous or who dresses or behaves in a sexually provocative or overtly seductive manner."

-- "Thugged out" is defined as "resembling a thug in dress or behavior, tough-looking."

-- And finally, the dictionary editors have added "crack ho," which is defined as "a prostitute addicted to crack cocaine."

Dictionary spokesman Jesse Shiedlowe says he expects a lot more hip-hop words to be added in future editions of the dictionary as long as the music genre continues to stay popular.

Pole Dancing in Shop Windows

Downtown S.C. business to become pole-ing place this weekend By GWEN MICKELSON SENTINEL STAFF WRITER December 15, 2004

We never have anything like this in Alvin, Texas. No wonder I feel deprived.

Christmas Movie Quiz


Via Incoming Signals, here's a quiz on Christmas movies. I missed two, but I claim foul, since I knew the answer to one of them and clicked on the wrong one by mistake. I'm ashamed to admit that Number 7 is not one of those that I missed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Anthony Boucher (Again)

In the October 1958 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher compiled a list of 50 (actually a few more) science fiction novels that between the years 1949 and 1957 gave "intense pleasure to a man professionally obligated to read every s.f. book published in America." (Try doing that these days!) In making his list, Boucher excluded all juveniles ("even by Heinlein") and all anthologies ("even by Merrill").

It's an interesting list, and there are two books on it that I confess I've never heard of. OK, I've heard of them, since I undoubtedly read this column in 1958. But I've never heard of them again. One of them is Malcolm Jameson's Bullard of the Space Patrol, published by World in 1951. The other is S. Fowler Wright's The Throne of Saturn (Arkham, 1949).

I've not only heard of the others; I've read most of them. Some of them are still among my favorites: Bester's The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination. Philip K. Dick's Eye in the Sky. Fred Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's The Space Merchants. Clifford Simak's City. In fact, I might as well stop listing, because nearly everything on the list would be on my list as well.

Let's face it: the 1950s were my Golden Age of Science Fiction. The titles on Boucher's list are so evocative for me that just reading over them takes me back to the room I shared with my younger brother in our house at 401 S. McKinney, in Mexia, Texas. I spent a lot of happy hours in that room, reading the books on Boucher's list and many others besides, not to mention poring over the digest magazines of the time with an intensity I should have applied to my schoolwork.

The books and stories I read in those days had an impact on me that's pretty much unequalled by anything I've read since. They've stayed in my memory much more clearly than anything I've read in the last year. Other people have fond memories of the TV shows of that era. Not me. For me it was books. Still is. And, I guess, always will be.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Night's Edge

Night's Edge is a collection of three "romantic suspense" novellas from Harlequin (Motto: We are romance). I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "So Crider's become a girly man now, reading romance novels in his dotage. Say it ain't so!"

OK, it's not so. The three novellas are by Maggie Shayne ( never read anything by her, but she's the Big Name in the collection), Barbara Hambly (I read Bride of the Rat God), and Charlaine Harris. I like Charlaine's work a lot, particularly the now sadly defunct Lily Bard series. And I like her vampire novels with Sookie Stackhouse. "Dancers in the Dark," her story in the collection, is set in the same world that Stackhouse inhabits, but it's about different characters. One of them is a battered (really battered) woman, and the others are assorted humans and vampires, all of them dancers who work for Blue Moon productions. They dance for parties, and, this being a romance novel, Layla, the heroine, falls for her vampire partner. I liked all the characters in the story, and there's plenty more to investigate about them and their interesting work. In fact if Charlaine had the inclination, she could begin a whole new series about these people. I'd read it.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The 1967 Avon Paperback edition Posted by Hello

Gavin Lyall

The other day Walter Satterthwait were discussing (via e-mail) one of our favorite thriller writers, Gavin Lyall. I really enjoyed his work when I first read it back in the 1960s, and I was surprised to find that although he's still writing, he doesn't seem to have a U.S. publisher. That's a real injustice. I plucked Shooting Script off my shelves for a quick re-read just to be sure it was as good as I remembered, and it passed the test with flying colors.

Lots of Lyall's early books were narrated in the first person by pilots, and Shooting Script is no exception. Former fighter pilot Keith Carr's now flying charters and freight in the Caribbean, and he gets involved with a movie production company much like Batjac. The movie star who's running the show resembles John Wayne in just about every way. Pretty soon Carr finds himself involved in a lot more than a movie, including crosses, double crosses, and a Latin American revolution. It's all smoothly and expertly handled by Lyall. Appealing characters, great flying sequences, a bit of mystery, and a bit of romance. It all makes me wonder even more why his latest books don't seem to U.S. editions. Maybe I'm overlooking something.

At any rate, if you've never read Lyall, I highly recommend this book, or try Midnight Plus One, The Wrong Side of the Sky, or The Most Dangerous Game. Great stuff.

A political aside: At one point in the novel, Keith Carr says,
" . . . just for the record, I believe democracy's simply a habit. Like smoking or drinking or driving safely. Not checks and balances, not one-man-one-vote. Just millions of people saying, 'Christ, they can't do that!" But it takes time bo build up that sort of instinct."

Maybe that's why it's impossible to bring instant democracy to the Middle East.