Saturday, December 31, 2005
During this time we often reflect on the past and wonder about the future. As for the past, I'd like to thank everyone who's read the blog this year. I truly appreciate your support. I realize that my traffic on a good day doesn't equal what some of the more presitigious blogs have over the course of, say, 15 minutes, but (as in everything) it's quality that counts, not quantity. Or so I keep telling myself.
I have no idea about the future, or at least my particular future. Since my agent "retired" a while back, I haven't done much fiction writing, and I still haven't looked for another agent. Maybe I'll do that in the coming year. Or not. I'm still waffling.
I do know that I wish the best for all of you during 2006: health, wealth, and happiness. Let's hope it's a wonderful year for everybody.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Kevin Costner is fine, and I'm glad to see that he appears to have given up being the savior of various post-apocalyptic worlds, Shirley MacLaine is just about perfect as the even older Mrs. Robinson, and Jennifer Anniston does a good job of playing the confused young woman who might nor might not be the daughter of Benjamin Braddock (or Beau Burroughs, or whoever). I have to admit that I do find it a little hard to belive that it's never occurred to her Sarah Huttinger character that her birth occurred a little too soon after her parents' marriage. Kids wonder about stuff like that, don't they?
This isn't the kind of movie that's going to change anybody's life or make anyone's "Ten Best" list, but it's fun and it's nostalgic for those of us who remember seeing The Graduate on the big screen in its first release. There are lots worse things you could spend your money on.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Cool Dinosaur News (that has nothing to do with the item about Rockin' New Year's Eve that follows it)
Near-complete titanosaurus unearthed. 27/12/2005. ABC News Online: "Argentine palaeontologists have discovered the largely intact skeleton of a young titanosaurus that lived 71 million years ago, local media reports.
'What's extraordinary about this is that the remains were articulated, as if the animal had fallen or lain down and remained that way,' geologist and palaeontologist Bernardo Gonzalez Riga said.
'There were no signs that it was preyed on.'"
ABC.com: "For the 34th consecutive year, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve will lead America into the New Year when Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest host specials starting at 10:00 p.m. (ET & PT) on SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31. In all there will be three-and-a-half hours of special New Year's Eve programming. This marks Dick Clark's first television appearance in over a year and Ryan Seacrest's debut as co-host of the program."
I've written before about my affection for Dick Clark. (Click here, here, or here for examples.) I hope he does appear on the show and that he's doing well.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Today Judy and I met some friends at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (names and photos of friends here). One of the friends, Sara Jane Boyers, was in town to do some workshops related to the exhibit of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat. As you can probably guess just be looking at the example on the left, Basquiat's work has inspired some widely (and wildly) divergent opinions about his talent (or lack of it).
I found the exhibit fascinating, especially with Sara Jane there to make a few salient points. One telling thing was the guest book. I've never seen a guest book with comments quite like those in this one. Some people made drawings, and many people were clearly inspired by what they'd seen. My favorites: "Okay, I finally get it -- 43-year-old white woman." Beside it, in another hand, with an arrow pointing to it: "You'll never get it -- trust me." I'm not sure I got it, but I did enjoy it.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I won this issue of If on eBay the other day. If was probably never thought of as one of the major SF magazines of the '50s, but it was a favorite of mine. After reading this issue, I can't see why it wasn't more highly regarded. The lead "short novel" is "Malice in Wonderland" by Evan Hunter, and it's a dilly. It's almost as if Hunter had been been reading Alfred Bester. The ending is weak, but maybe Hunter fixed that when he expanded the story into a novel called Tomorrow and Tomorrow, published under the Hunt Collins name. I have two or three copies of the novel, but I've never read it. The narrator of the story is a literary agent, which made it interesting right off the bat. His society is divided between the Vikes and the Rees, and the Vikes are required to shoot up with dope on a regular schedule, wear as little clothing as possible, and avoid marriage and having children. The Rees are opposed to the Vike way of life. It's a fast-moving, interesting story, and I guess I'll have to read the novel.
The issue also contains Damon Knight's "Anachron," which has become something of a classic time-travel story. I'd almost be willing to bet that no SF magazine that appeared in January 1954 had two stories of equal quality.
Admittedly, however, the Mack Reynolds story, "Off Course," is minor. Very minor. It's one of those stories that you read and say, "I could write a better story than that." Maybe you couldn't, but you'd like to think you could. It's supposed to be humorous, but it's only trite.
James E. Gunn's "A Word for Freedom" is a little preachy, and it has a basic idea very similar to "Malice in Wonderland." It suffers a little by comparison, but it's still not bad.
Harry Harrison contributed a very short story called "Navy Day," which is not much more than a shaggy dog story. The best thing about it is that it's funnier and better written that the one by Reynolds.
Richard Wilson's "Double Take" is another story that reminded me a little of "Malice in Wonderland." Maybe it's just me. It also reminded me of a far superior story, "Spectator Sport," by John D. MacDonald. It has a twist ending that you might not see coming if you've never read an SF story before.
Alan E. Nourse has the third-best story, "Letter of the Law," which reads like a story written for, and rejected by, John W. Campbell. It's about a trader on an alien world where all the natives are accomplished liars. The trader has violated their laws and is on trial for his life. He can survive only by astounding them with a bigger lie than they've ever heard before. He does, of course, but there are consequences.
The cover is by Ken Fagg (I'm not making that up).
All in all, this issue of If was a lot of fun to read. I miss the days when I could go to the Corner Bookstore in Mexia, Texas, and find a new batch of SF digests every month. Those were the days.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Some of you probably think this has become the Anna Nicole Smith Update Report. Can I help it if she's constantly in the news? She does the old hometown proud. I'm glad to see she has friends in high places.
"White House Aids Playboy Playmate in Court
By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer Mon Dec 26, 6:05 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Playboy playmate
Anna Nicole Smith has an unusual bedfellow in the Supreme Court fight over her late husband's fortune: the Bush administration.
The administration's top Supreme Court lawyer filed arguments on Smith's behalf and wants to take part when the case is argued before the justices.
The court will decide early next year whether to let the U.S. solicitor general share time with Smith's attorney during the one hour argument on Feb. 28.
Smith, a television reality star and native Texan, plans to attend the court argument."
Every year Texas Monthly announces its "Bum Steer Awards." This year there's a "Hall of Fame," and guess who's a member. That's right, my hometown's pride and joy, Anna Nicole Smith.
Here's what the magazine has to say: IF BUM STEERS didn’t exist, they’d have to be invented for her. Two-time Bum Steer of the Year and perennial finalist. As a 26-year-old model, married octogenarian oil tycoon Howard Marshall; showed up at his funeral, according to People, in “a white gown with its neckline at half mast”; feuded with his family for a share of his fortune. Featured on the cover of New York magazine’s “White Trash Nation” issue gobbling junk food; sued and won a settlement. “Host” of abominable cable TV reality show (see Anna Nicole cuddle her late husband’s urn!). Ashes to ashes, dust to bust.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Little is known about the dodo, a famous flightless bird thought to have become extinct in the 17th century.
No complete skeleton has ever been found in Mauritius, and the last full set of bones was destroyed in a fire at a museum in Oxford, England, in 1755."
Santa has come to Alvin, and I did all right. I got the third Looney Tunes DVD set (I got the previous two for Christmas the last two years) and the King Kong "collector's edition." That's the old Kong, of course, not the new one. I got a Jackie Chan collection, too, all movies over 30 years old. I have no idea what these will be like. Also got shirts, books, and a "hot-swappable" hard drive to play with. So it was a good day for me. I think everyone in the family was happy with the gifts they received. For our Christmas dinner last night we had Virginia ham and cajun-smoked turkey, along with twice-baked potatoes, homemade stuffing, green beans, and fruit salad. Two kinds of pie for dessert, but I passed and ate peanut brittle instead. Lunch today was leftovers. Now comes the bad part: After the kids leave, we'll be taking down the tree, putting all the decorations away, and getting the house back in some kind of order. Disposing of all the trash we generated will be my job.
More photos on the photoblog for the morbidly courious.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
I bought a box of these Christmas cards in 1963, and I still have a couple of them. The greeting on the inside says simply, "Joy to the world." I've seen hundreds, if not thousands of cards since 1963, but this one is still my favorite. I have no idea what that says about me, and I don't want to know. I do want all of you who read this to have a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2006.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Zamenbek Nurkadilov had been shot twice in the chest, piercing his heart, and once at close range in the head, investigators say. By his side lay a cushion with two bullet holes in it. Yet three weeks on, police in the city are still treating the case as a suspected suicide."
Thursday, December 22, 2005
"I'm looking at the tree and the angel just pops off," she said. "And a second later, this head just popped up. The eyes were, like, glowing. I was thinking, 'Oh my God!' And I screamed."
You can see my own possum visitor here.
A long time ago I read a book called I'm Cannon -- For Hire. It was a Gold Medal edition by "Curt Cannon," who was also the novel's main character. Cannon, as you probably know, was a pen name used by Evan Hunter.
Now Hard Case Crime has reissued the novel under what I suppose is Hunter's original title, and the main character's name has been changed to Matt Cordell, who (if memory serves, and it rarely does) was the name of the character in a series of short stories that appeared in Manhunt. (I'm sure someone will correct me if I have the facts wrong.) Some of these stories were reprinted in a Gold Medal book called I Like 'em Tough by Curt Cannon, with the main character's name again being Curt Cannon.
At any rate, The Gutter and the Grave is a highly entertaining novel. You have to believe that Lawrence Block must have read it or the short stories because, like Matthew Scudder, Cordell/Cannon is a former p.i. who has no license now nad spends his time drinking. He can, however, be talked into "doing a favor for a friend." The favor sounds simple enough, but it leads to murder in short order, and then it becomes a lot more complicated. Hunter writes a good bit about musicians in the course of the book, and he seems to have particularly enjoyed it. Some of the "hip" talk will seem a little dated to you whippersnappers, but I remember it well. And when it comes to driving a story a long, McBain is hard to beat. He had the narrative gift. Pick this one up and see what you think.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The 457 footprints found in Mungo National Park in western New South Wales state is the largest collection of its kind in the world and the oldest in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.
The prints were made in moist clay near the Willandra Lakes 19,000 to 23,000 years ago, the newspaper reported ahead of archeologists' report on the find to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution.
State Environment Minister Bob Debus said the site showed a large group of people walking and interacting."
"M-major Danby, sir," Colonel Cathcart stammered . . . .
"Take him out and shoot him," ordered General Dreedle.
"I said take him out and shoot him. Can't you hear?"
"Yes, sir!" Colonel Cathcart responded smartly, swallowing hard, and turned in a brisk manner to his chauffeur and his meteorologist. "Take Major Danby out and shoot him."
. . . . . .
"I don't think you can shoot him," [Colonel Moodus said].
General Dreedle was infuriated by his intervention. "Who the hell says I can't?" he thundered pugnaciously in a voice loud enough to rattle the whole building. Colonel Moodus, his face flushing with embarrassment, bent close to whisper into his ear. "Why the hell can't I?" General Dreedle bellowed. Colonel Moodus whispered some more. "You mean I can't shoot anyone I want to?" General Dreedle demanded with uncompromising indignation.
The Houston Astros unceremoniously dumped Alan Ashby, their radio color guy, yesterday. Ashby said he was "devastated" and had no idea he was doing to get the axe. For years the Houston sportswriters have been telling me that Astros owner Drayton MacLane was a class act. They were wrong. Drayton MacLane is Ebeneezer Scrooge in a suit.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Like Swierczynski, Brewer mixes dark comedy with his caper, so this book has it all: violence, laughs, and plenty of action. Okay, almost all. There's no sex. Don't let that deter you from reading the book, though. It's fast-paced fun all the way.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Over at Steve Lewis's invaluable Mystery*File, I was reading the latest in the search for a Marvin H. Albert novel that wasn't published in the U.S. when it occurred to me that Harry Whittington wrote a couple of books that never had U.S. publication. I have a copy of one of them that I got from Harry himself. As you can probably see in the scan, he affixed a little sticker to the cover saying that the book was "Never Published in America." It was published in France, and I've often regretted that my minor in college was Spanish instead of French. (You can click on the photo for a larger and maybe more easily readable version.)
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Thriller author Trevanian dead at 74: "NEW YORK, NY, United States (UPI) -- Author Rodney 'Trevanian' Whitaker, whose 'The Eiger Sanction' became a hit 1972 Clint Eastwood film, has died in England at age 74."
I thoroughly enjoyed The Eiger Sanction when it appeared. It was funny and exciting, and I was sure Trevanian would be a big name. He was, for a while. Later, his bestseller status deserted him, but I'm not sure he cared. The last book I read by him was Incident at Twenty-Mile, certainly not the kind of novel calculated to get him back on the Big List. I have a book of his short stories around somewhere, and I should get it out and read a few of them.
And of course it's also about the galaxy of stage and screen stars who perform or work at the canteen. There are far too many of them for me to name here. You need to click the link above, go to the IMDb and see for yourself. One great moment, however, just has to be mentioned. It's the scene where Johnny Weissmuller and Franklin Pangborn are in the kitchen washing dishes. Pangborn remarks about how hot it is, and Weissmuller removes his shirt. Pangborn shrieks, "What chest!" Then he does an imitation of Tarzan's ape call and swoons into Weissmuller's arms. Talk about your subtext!
Stage Door Canteen is truly a relic of another time, a past so distant that to a lot of people reading this it might as well be about the Trojan war as about WWII. It was a time when everyone was a patriot, a time when movie and Broadway stars not only supported a war but went out and mingled with the soldiers (sure the movie's romanticized, but there really was a Stage Door Canteen, and a Hollywood Canteen, too), a time when innocence wasn't just a word. (In fact, I think it would be almost impossible for a teenager today to watch the movie without laughing at a good-looking 18-year-old guy who's never kissed a girl and to whom a first kiss could mean so much.) It was a time when "The Lord's Prayer" could be sung to a group of men and women who would automatically stand at its first words and say "Amen" when it was done. It may not have been a better time, but it was beyond question a different time, and one that I'm old enough to remember. The plots and situations might seem sappy or corny now, and maybe they even seemed that way even 60 years ago, but by golly they're effective.
Some of the highlights for me were the antics of Kay Kyser, the "strip" by Gypsy Rose Lee, Benny Goodman's clarinet playing, Ray Bolger's dancing, and the great bit with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, which is why I recorded the movie in the first place. Great, great stuff, like opening a time capsule.
Friday, December 16, 2005
The massive star of the new movie King Kong, which opens today, effectively apes real gorillas. But the bizarre assortment of wildlife on the creature's island home seems to be from out of this world.
As seen in the remake of the 1933 film classic, Skull Island is supposed to lie somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
In the island's jungles roam a wide array of dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex; aggressive, 3-foot (90-centimeter) cockroaches; bloodthirsty car-size crabs; and, of course, Kong, a 25-foot-tall (8-meter-tall) silverback gorilla who lives alone in his mountain hideaway.
It's a world that violates most of modern science's evolutionary rules.
"The notion that dinosaurs could survive on a tiny mid-oceanic island is preposterous," said John Terborgh, a professor of environmental science at Duke University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Damn! Who would have guessed. Now the whole movie is spoiled for me. But my review is below, anyway.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I believe there have been complaints that the movie's too long because of the long build-up to the arrival at Skull Island. I didn't really feel that way. I liked the first hour at least as well as the rest of the movie. What seemed a bit long to me were the action scenes on the island, but then I'm getting crakier about drawn-out action scenes as I get older, I think. What impressed me were the quiet scenes, both in the beginning, the middle, and the end.
I was also impressed by Naomi Watts' performance. She's actually better than Faye Wray, but only because her part is written better. Watts' relationship with Kong is certainly fleshed out more than Wray's, and there's a lot more poignance in it.
The casting of Jack Black worried me from the beginning, but he did all right. He plays to the dark side of Carl Denham, and his line reading in the "I've come into the possession of a map" scene is just fine. I wasn't so taken with his reading of the famous final line, and anyway, the line seems all wrong in this movie. It's pretty clear that it's not beauty that kills the beast. It's greed and ego and showbiz that do him in.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Will we have to get 666 branded or our foreheads to get a room at the convention hotel?
The rumours start here...
A list of likely candidates is being banded about the press and web with some confidence - and a pretty intriguing bunch they are too.
Platinum bombshell Anna Nicole Smith is said to be bringing her outrageous self to our shores to spread some raucous action in the house.
She will, of course, have to take a breather from her legal wrangles with the children of her late billionaire husband J Howard Marshall II to do her stint in the house.
Boy George also recently hit the news after being charged with cocaine possession - but TV insiders still reckon he will make it into the house."
Luckily Anna Nicole, unlike Boy George, doesn't have any drug problems. This article, unfortunately, refers to the British version of the show. Maybe I should start a petition to get it shown in the U.S.
It's nice to know that scholarly pursuits aren't limited to the Groves of Academe. So when a worthy website such as The Encyclopedia of Women in Prison Films is called to my attention (as this one was by the inimitable Steve Stilwell, an old retired bookseller with a heart condition), I like to let others know about it.
A Legend of Ethshar on the Installment Plan
What do you do when a publisher kills your series? Well, you can do what I've done a few times, which is to stop writing the books. Or you could try something different, which is what SF writer Lawrence Watt-Evans did. You can read all about it at the link.
It seems that Ed Gorman and I are often reading the same book. I'm really enjoying this one, and the anecdote that Ed mentions (that Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote "Little Sister" and "[Marie's the Name] His Latest Flame" specifically for Bobby Vee) is certainly one of many highlights. But all the stories about the Brill Building songwriting teams are good. Just the names are enough to invoke a veritable frenzy of nostalgia: Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Weil and Mann, Barry and Greenwich, Sedaka and Greenfield, Bacharach and David. There's also great stuff about Bobby Darin, Phil Spector, Connie Francis, and plenty of others. If you grew up listening to the radio in the late 1950s and early 1960s, or if you're happy to learn that it was Neil Sedak playing piano on "Splish Splash," then this is the book for you.
I don't know about you, but I'll be following his commentary with great interest.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Show insiders are predicting tension between the pair — one a camp Eighties icon, the other a feisty former lap dancer and centrefold.
To stir things up Channel 4 bosses have also lined up acid-tongued comic Johnny Vegas, alongside veteran funnyman Jimmy Tarbuck.
George, 44, is appearing despite being charged last month with cocaine possession. He was nicked by cops in New York. "
The question is, why won't a blockbuster like this be shown in the U.S.? It's unfair!
The 1957 Belvedere is underground next to the Tulsa County Courthouse. Also buried with it were five gallons of gas and a case of beer.
Old news reports indicate the gas was buried in case internal combustion engines became obsolete by 2007 and no fuel was available. Other buried items include the contents of a woman's purse: 14 bobby pins, a lipstick, a pack of gum, tissues, a pack of cigarettes and matches and $2.43."
I love stuff like this, and I'd love to be there when that car's unearthed. I won't, but it would be fun to see.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Connie Francis was also in a movie I liked a lot back in the very early 1960s. Paula Prentiss was my big crush, but Connie held her own and was very funny. After I saw the movie, I bought the paperback by Glendon Swarthout. I still have a copy around here somewhere.
Harvey the Alligator
BY ERIK GERMAN
For 10 years, children at Southside Middle School in Rockville Centre told stories about the giant alligator living in the basement.
It sounds like a youthful myth, concocted to confront boredom -- like lunch ladies serving up rats or aliens occupying the principal's office -- except that the 500-pound carnivorous reptile lurking under Southside was real."
And yet some would say that chivalry is dead.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
One thing I really liked was the filming of the action scenes. Nobody's jumping around on trampolines or doing wire work. The fencing looks like actual fencing, without any of the MTV-inspired quick cutting that ruined most of the action scenes in movies like Gladiator for me.
The cinematograpy is excellent. The movie glows, and the scenery is beautiful. I wish I'd seen this movie in a theater.
As for the plot, it's the old revenge story, with action that hardly ever lets up. Everybody in the movie seems to be having a grand time, and there's plenty of humor mixed into the action. Wit and energy: what a concept!
Why doesn't Hollywood make movies like this anymore? Probably because it's "old-fashioned." Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I'm an old poop.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
I picked this up from his homepage: "Robert is in the Intensive Care Unit at Vassar Brothers Medical Center Poughkeepsie NY in critical condition after suffering from a brain aneurysm/aneurism. He underwent surgery last Thursday Nov 10th 2005. At this time it is a wait and see situation, details will be provided when available."
This morning I received an e-mail saying that Sheckley had passed away. If you haven't read his short stories, you've missed a treat. And you should do something about that.
By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press Writer
Posted: Friday December 9th, 2005, 2:45 AM
Last Updated: Friday December 9th, 2005, 6:27 AM
CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) - See Paris Hilton in all her seductive splendor, striking a provocative pose for passing motorists and spreading hot Christmas cheer in a chilly Rhode Island winter.
Blown-up images of Hilton and strings of pink Christmas lights adorn the front lawn of a home in a middle-class neighborhood of this city, part of a head-turning holiday display that pays homage to the famed hotel heiress.
The over-the-top pictorial is the work of Joe Moretti, a 38-year-old designer who was arrested last year for trespassing on Martha Stewart's property in Maine."
Thursday, December 08, 2005
This was a great signing. I don't know if Steve and Duane had worked together before, but they were a great team. I haven't had so many laughs in a long time. At the end of the evening Duane demonstrated his prowess at twisting the cap off a beer bottle in the crook of his elbow. Talk about tough!
And of course Duane is the editor of the forthcoming Damn Near Dead (the protagonists are "Old. Bold. Uncontrolled.") from David Thompson's Busted Flush Press. The flyer to the right gives details, such as the names of the contributors. I'm happy to say my name is included, along with host of others. Click on the picture to enlarge it and you might be able to read the names. There'll be a signing for the book at Murder by the Book on May 8. Be there or be square.
I was reading some of the stories in this issue of McSweeny's in the hope I'd run across one I really liked. After all, it was editor Michael Chabon's aim to present "a brand-new collection that reinvigorates the stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the-seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning tradition of literary short stories." So far I haven't run across a story that lives up to that billing, or even comes close. Of course I haven't read them all yet, so I might find one yet. It could happen.
One particular disappointment was Stephen King's "Lisey and the Madman." I thought that of all people King would be the one to come up with something I liked. But the story didn't make me want to stay up all night or bite my nails. It made me want to take a nap. Maybe it's just me, and it probably is, but I found it a snoozer. In fact, after I read it, I picked up a copy of Night Shift and read a couple of stories just to see if King's early work was as vigorous as I remembered. It was. Just when did he begin to transmute his gold prose into leaden verbiage? For me, it was with It, I think. This story sure didn't change my mind.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
"Crime Fiction for the New Century will feature the best and most derelict, deranged, bareknuckled honest voices to bring about a renaissance of crime fiction. Currently, the predominant “mystery” magazines are two lame, staid, old fogey establishment publications: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Both are put out by the same publisher and stuck in a timewarp of 1950's schlock. They even have mystery crossword puzzles catering to nuns living sober lives in the cornbelt.
"Murdaland will not be kin to this kind of writing or experience."
More details and submission info can be found by clicking the link above.
I'm convinced that Otherguy Overby is behind this.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
FIVE THINGS: About 'A Charlie Brown Christmas': "Many say no TV show captures the magic of the season like 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' does. Charlie Brown's search for the true meaning of the holiday transports us back to a simpler time, pre-cable, pre-Internet, pre-adulthood. Sigh."
Forty years ago, Judy and I were getting ready to spend out first Christmas as a married couple. I still remember going out and buying the tree. One thing we did was watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on the little B&W portable TV set that we'd bought. It was several years before I ever saw the program in color. I guess I'll have to watch it tonight for sentimental reasons.
I'm sure she never acted this way in my brother's biology class.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Be sure to watch the video.
If you've done any of those things, the guys at the Rude Britain website want to hear from you. I blogged about their list of names back in August, and now they have their own website (use the link above). They've published a book, with more names and photos. Check it out, and be sure to have a look at the "Photo of the Moment."
Saturday, December 03, 2005
So for your Christmas reading pleasure, let me recommend The Stupidest Angel. The cover you see here is the one on last year's edition. I believe there's a new edition for 2005, with an additional chapter.
I'm not really going to review the book. I'm just going to say this: Think A Charlie Brown Christmas meets Night of the Living Dead. As a famous literary pitchman once said, "If that don't fetch 'em, I don't know Arkansaw."
Friday, December 02, 2005
Anyway, the story's very familiar: the hard early life, the disapproving father, the eventual success, the pills and the booze, the love story, the fall, the recovery, and all the rest. That being said, the movie's still entertaining, if too long. Joaquin Phoenix does a good job of capturing some of the dark menace of Johnny Cash, and Resse Witherspoon is spunky, funny, and cute as June Carter. Her performance doesn't really seem all that different from some of her other work to me, and I'm not sure why there's been so much Oscar talk. Maybe I just missed something. Both she and Phoenix do a creditable job of singing, though in the case of the Johnny Cash songs I miss the resonance and power of the real thing.
I saw Johnny Cash in person once, long ago, and it was a hugely disappointing event. It was in either 1959 or 1960, and I (along with most of the audience) thought he was drunk. I'm sure now that pills were the more likely cause of his behavior, but the audience wasn't appreciative of the performance, such as it was. We'd come to hear him sing, and he could barely handle the job. The thing I remember most is that in response to a few catcalls, he belched into the microphone. It was all pretty sad, and I regretted then (and still do) that a great performer had let himself get on stage in that condition. I'd have loved to see him when he was clean and straight.
With the Forbes Fictional 15, we have taken the opposite approach--fiction’s caricatures are elevated to the status of real people.
Click on the link to see the list. Hint: #1 is a seasonal guy.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I couldn't let the day go by without wishing a happy birthday to the World's Oldest Teenager, 76 today. I remember rushing home from school to see American Bandstand in the afternoon and lusting after Pat Molitieri, and I've written about Clark's Saturday night show before. The man had a big influence on my life, no question about it. I know he hasn't been out in public lately, but my hope is that he recovers fully from his stroke and gets himself back on TV. Maybe he'll do the Rockin' New Year's Eve show next month. It could happen.
I wanted to read this book because of a review I saw here. After all, who can resist a novel set just after WWII in which a fast-talking G.I. has brought to his small Kansas hometown a spaceship dug out from under the Arctic ice by the Nazis? And who can resist reading about the complications that ensue when "Nazis, resurgent Russian Commies, Chicago gangsters and the U.S. military" all come after said spaceship? Not me. I'd never read anything by Jay Lake before, but I can see why some people think he has a bright future in the SF field. He writes clean prose, and he has a good feel for character. His research for Rocket Science seems excellent, as the setting and the people ring true. Some of the plot complications are a little hard to swallow, but it's all in good fun. It's almost as if Lake were trying to prove that he could write a book of the kind "they don't write any more." If you're up for a little SF adventure and you're not too demanding, give Rocket Science a try.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Let's be clear about one thing from the outset: there's no connection between this book and the TV series Deadwood. And let's be clear about something else: the publishers would love for you to think there's a connection between this book and the TV series Deadwood.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the book, which is by that hot new writer Mike Jameson, who looks a lot like that hot, slightly older writer James Reasoner. Even though it's clearly a set-up for more books to follow, it's a dandy historical novel and damned fine entertainment. It mixes the expected historical characters (Wild Bill Hickok, Colorado Charley Utter, Al Swearengen, Calamity Jane, etc.) with some fictional ones (Dan Ryan, Bellamy Bridges), and you can bet their lives with intertwine in the forthcoming books in the series. What I liked best about Tales from Deadwood was the surprising ways the characters developed: Dan Ryan's unlikely romance, Bellamy Bridges' changing from an innocent farm boy to something else, Fletch Parkhurst's apparent rejection of a certain way of doing things, and so on. There's plenty of interesting material here for further stories.
One thing I like a lot about the TV series (to which this book is not connected in any way) is the way some of the episodes conclude. The book's epilogue captures a certain mood as well as the pictures on my screen do, and maybe even better. Some top-notch writing here by Mr. Jameson. I'm really looking forward to reading more in this series.
I just have one question for Mr. Jameson. Where the heck did that cover come from? It certainly doesn't depict a scene in the novel, or anything resembling a scene in the novel. That was a shabby trick by the publisher because with a classier cover and better packaging (which it certainly deserves), Tales from Deadwood could have been a best-seller. Maybe it will be, anyway. We can always hope.
Monday, November 28, 2005
I tried to resist, but something just wouldn't allow me to let the day go by without wishing a happy 38th birthday to Anna Nicole Smith, the pride of my hometown of Mexia, Texas. Some current and/or former residents of Mexia might argue with the "pride" thing, but not me.
John Richmond Sullivan, 20, was seen by a University Police Department lieutenant throwing a shovel full of horse feces onto band members at Kyle Field at about 10 a.m. Friday, according to an officer's affidavit."
(BANG) Paris Hilton reportedly broke down and sobbed after animal authorities took away her pet monkey.
The sexy socialite is said to have been devastated after Los Angeles officials ordered her to hand over the primate - named Baby Luv - because it's classified as an illegal pet.
The blonde heiress, who bought the monkey during a trip to Las Vegas last summer, allegedly refused to part with her hairy friend so authorities went to her home to confiscate the animal."
The interview is posted at Lonnie Cruse's blog, and of course you wouldn't want to miss it. Maybe you've already seen it because you probably check Lonnie's blog every day. If you don't, you should. She probably wouldn't mind if you bought one of her books, either. As for my books, well, the new one will be out in April. You can pre-order it now, as sort of an early Christmas gift.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Tobolski's class is all about getting rid of accents, mostly Southern ones in the heart of the former Confederacy, and replacing them with Standard American Dialect, the uninflected tone of TV news anchors that oozes authority and refinement.
'We sort of avoid talking about class in this country, but clearly class is indicated by how we speak,' she said.
'Many come to see me because they want to sound less country,' she said. 'They say, 'I don't want to lose my accent completely, but I want to be able to minimize it or modify it.''"
Last Friday evening we went to a surprise birthday party for my brother. The entertainment was provided by the man on the left, who looks and sounds a lot like Roy Orbison. You can see a short video of him in performance here. His name is Wayne King, and there's a poster of him posing as some other stars here. He was great as Roy O., and reports have it that he's just as good when he performs the other roles. As you can imagine, a good time was had by all, and I'm truly amazed that my younger brother has somehow become older than I am.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."
Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."
Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."
Thursday, November 24, 2005
I hope all of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving will have a great day. Judy and I will be going to our daughter's place in Houston later this morning, and of course Judy's mother, who's been spending the week with us, will go along. Allen, our son, will drive down from Austin. We'll eat too much, watch a little football, and maybe even talk a little. It's going to be in the 80s here today, so we might even go outside and take a stroll around the park.
Tomorrow we'll take Judy's mother home and celebrate my brother's 60th birthday. On Saturday I'll be visiting with some of my friends from high school, and on Sunday we'll drive back to Houston. For me, this counts as a busy weekend. I hope I'm up to the challenge.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Last week our old TV set gave up the ghost. In the morning it was just fine. In the afternoon, the picture disappeared. We figured that after 18 years or so, it was time for a new TV anyway, so we went out and bought a Samsung HD-ready LCD set. It's like the one on the right.
After we brought it home, the fun started. Well, it was fun for Judy, who got to watch me set it up. And listen to me. It was necessary to say a few magic words to get things just right. I finally got the cable box, DVD, and VCR hooked to the TV, which was working fine. I couldn't say the same for the DVD, however. We could get a picture, but no sound. It was a crummy picture, too.
By then it was bedtime, so I gave up for the night. The next day, after a few more experiments with the mare's nest of cables, I got things right. All was well. Except, of course, that there was no HD because we didn't have an HD cable box. I called the cable company, and they told me that they'd bring out a new box and install it for a mere $49.95. And they'd be here in only two weeks.
I didn't want to wait, so I asked if I could just get the box and install it myself. Too complicated for boob like you, I was told, or words to that effect, so I set up an appointment. Yesterday, however, I decided to e-mail the company and ask again. The reply said, "Sure, you can do it yourself. It's a snap. Come pick up a box."
So I drove to the nearest cable office in Texas City (15 miles), got the box, brought it home and got ready to go. I called the tech person, and she walked me through the installation. No picture, no sound. After an hour and a half on the phone with the tech, switching cables here and there, plugging and unplugging, etc., I threw in the towel.
The tech said the box was clearly faulty. I drove back to Texas City. Got a new box. Came home, called the help line and got the tech person (a different one, of course). I said, "I have brand new HD box here. I haven't done a thing. Walk me through the installation, step by step." So she did. Guess what. Same result exactly. Changed wires, did this, did that, all the stuff I did the first time, with the same outcome. Then she said, "Have you installed the component cables?" Well, no, nobody mentioned those. It would have been nice if someone had, since the person in Texas City had told me I wouldn't need them. Got those installed.
By golly, it worked. All was well. Did my little victory dance. Started watching TV. Discovered that I could no longer get anything but 16:9 and 4:3 pictures. All else is unavailable. No panorama, no Zoom 1, no Zoom 2. Back on the phone. Got the tech support. Sure enough, the woman (different person from the other two) tells me that those are now the only two options. No more Zoom 1, Zoom 2, or Panorama. Dang. The cable box chooses my picture size. Life sucks. But at least I saved 50 bucks and didn't have the cable guy come out.
(Next time, I'm having the cable guy.)
Monday, November 21, 2005
We also heard two episodes of The Whistler. I don't remember hearing this show when I was young, but it's pretty entertaining. Judy was a little chapped that The Whistler wasn't a crime-fighter like the Green Hornet. Instead he's the narrator, sort of like Raymond on Inner Sanctum, but without Raymond's bizarre charm.
And speaking of Inner Sanctum, that was the next show that we listened to. I always loved Raymond's little jokes, like the one on this show about the unsuccessful author who was murdered by her husband and buried in the cellar. As Raymond put it, she finally made the "best cellar" list.
After Inner Sanctum we heard Dangerous Assignment with Brian Donlevy, who also played the main character, Steve Mitchell, on TV. I remember seeing the TV show a few times, but I like the radio series better. Hardboiled fans will remember Donlevy best as the heavy in The Glass Key.
All in all, a pretty good morning's listening that made the trip seem a lot shorter.
A native of Dunn, North Carolina, Wray's style is considered the blueprint for heavy metal and punk music.
Wray's is best known for his 1958 instrumental Rumble, 1959's Rawhide and 1963's Jack the Ripper. His music has appeared in movies like Pulp Fiction, Independence Day and Desperado.
I still have my battered 45 rpm recording of "Rumble." Thanks to these guys for the link to the obit.
Frantic? I'd be driven completely nuts. Or course there are those who say I'm already nuts, but what do they know?
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Never did she grab the jewels and run. That wasn't her way. Instead, she glided in, engaged the clerk in one of her stories, confused them and easily slipped away with a diamond ring, usually to a waiting taxi cab.
She is, says retired Denver Police Detective Gail Riddell, like a character from a movie — a female Cary Grant, smooth and confident."