Saturday, June 25, 2005

Clone Wars

New York Post Online Edition:: "

June 25, 2005 -- TWO brand-new, very low-budget alternate versions of 'War of the Worlds' are arriving on DVD, just in time to cash in on the publicity storm surrounding Steven Spielberg's megabucks version with Tom Cruise.

Video distributors often dig up older versions of films to ride the coattails of high-profile theatrical releases, but industry experts can't remember a case of three new editions of the same classic story battling it out in the marketplace in the space of eight days.

'H.G. Wells' the War of the Worlds' - a starless edition that returns to Wells' original setting of Victorian England and is being sold at stores like Wal-Mart for as little as $8.42 - established a beachhead last Tuesday.

On Tuesday - a day before Spielberg's version hits theaters - the practically identically titled 'H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds' (which, like the Spielberg version, omits the first 'the'' in Wells' title), a contemporary rendition of the alien-invasion classic set in the southeast and starring second-string Brat Packer C. Thomas Howell, lands at Blockbuster and other stores for as little as $17.47.

Just to add to the otherworldly confusion for video customers, there are also two newly released documentaries titled 'War of the Worlds' and 'H.G. Wells and the War of Worlds,' not to mention the DVD of the first Hollywood version of 'The War of the Worlds,' made in 1953 with Gene Barry."

The rest of the article can be found at the link, but it's probably a registration site.

I (Heart) NY

New York Daily News - City News - Tassels & tussles at Queens graduation: "A graduation ceremony for sixth-graders in Queens erupted into chaos yesterday when parents fought over seats - striking a 7-year-old girl and bringing students to tears.

'Move! Move!' Moises Morales shouted at another parent just as his daughter and her 61 classmates at Public School 201 stood to sing 'Friends Forever,' witnesses said. 'I said move!' Morales, 43, yelled again near the back of the crowded auditorium on 155th St. in Flushing, witnesses said.

Morales and his pregnant wife arrived late to the morning ceremony and could not find seats, leading him to berate a woman who apparently was saving several chairs for family and friends, witnesses said.

The shouting quickly turned to shoving, and Morales hurled a bag at the woman, missing her and hitting the 7-year-old girl, police said."

A Better Man than I

Ed Gorman & Friends:: "From the the time I was ten years old or so I've been collecting comics, books and magazines. Today I divested myself of around three thousand of the damned things."

Ed Gorman's a better man than I. Instead of getting rid of books and magazines, I'm still accumulating them. And if you don't believe me, just ask some of the eBay dealers I'm enriching. I know I shouldn't be buying stuff, but I've got the habit, and I can't break it. It's genetic, I'm sure. I must have told this here before, but my father was an inveterate accumulator of all kinds of junk: bottles, lamps, glasswear, barbed wire, lightning rod balls and arrows, fruit jars, what have you. He filled up his house and two-car garage, and then he bought the little one-bedroom house next door and filled that up, too. So you can see there's no hope for me.

Batman Begins

Judy and I went to see Batman Begins yesterday, and I liked it a lot. Judy thought it was too long and that the ending was dragged out too much. I have to agree with the last part, but it's true of every action movie we've seen lately, I guess.
And in that vein, I have my usual complaint. In most of the action scenes, I had no idea what was going on. I couldn't tell who was hitting whom or with what. Why can't we have nice clean action scenes like the ones in the old movies like The Adventures of Robin Hood? I can follow what's going on in those. There were a couple of scenes in Batman Begins where I couldn't even be sure Batman was involved in the action.
And while I'm complaining, let me mention that I had trouble hearing some of the dialogue, particularly in the early going. (And don't tell me it's because I'm an Old Guy in need of a hearing aid, even if it's true.) In fact, when Liam Neeson was talking to Christian Bale in the prison scene, I thought he said that Ras Al Ghul could offer him "a bath." It took me a while to catch on that he'd said "a path." Hey, the guy did need a bath.

I thought the acting was generally very good. Gary Oldman, as the future Commissioner Gordon, gives a restrained performance (I only mention this because I never thought I'd be able to write "Gary Oldman" and "restrained performance" in the same sentence), while Cillian Murphy, as the keeper of Arkham Asylum and as the Scarecrow, gives the usual Gary Oldman performance. Michael Caine is very good, as almost always (thought it pains me that he's old enough to play Alfred the Butler). Liam Neeson is a good villain (and can it really have been 15 years since he played Darkman?). Christian Bale is an excellent Batman, with just the right amount of edginess. Rutger Hauer is appropriately slimy, and Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman. Finally, Katie Holmes proves that she's far too good for Tom Cruise. I hope she's ready to give up wearing heels.

The plot was a little loopy and involves vaporizing the Gotham water supply, but this is a movie based on a comic book, right? What would you expect?

And if the ending is indeed a set-up for the next movie and an encounter with The Joker, I'm ready.

Friday, June 24, 2005

So I read Robert B. Parker's new western novel last night. Didn't take long, which is no great surprise. One of the things I like about Parker's books is that they're short. That's not the only thing, of course. Just one of the things.

Some people (western writers, for example, who have a hard time getting published because "nobody reads westerns") might be irritated to discover that Parker can write what is essentially a traditional western novel with a couple of "fucks" thrown in and find it solidly on the bestseller list at the New York Times (#15 last time I looked). I mean, this book contains just about every western cliche that you can think of, and while you're reading it, you can pick out some of the movies Parker must have watched in the course of his research (Unforgiven, Rio Bravo, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, etc.).

But Parker, being Parker, puts his own spin on the cliches, and that's part of the fun. He also throws in his usual philosophy about what it takes to be a man, why a man has to follow the rules, why a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and so on. Real Men know one another and understand one another. A couple of them can shake hands before a gunfight in which one's sure to be killed to let each other know there's no hard feelings. Virgil Cole, the marshal in the story, is Spenser carried to an extreme. And without Spenser's understanding of women. (Women, of course, understand women, so one character is a whore who can explain them to those of us who can't.)

The book's narrator is Everett Hitch, and some of the dialogue between him and Cole could have been lifted right out of the Spenser novels. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I enjoyed reading the book, but I like just about anything Parker writes. It doesn't stay with me long, but it's fun while it lasts. Posted by Hello

My Bouchercon Panel

Friday September 2nd 2:30 to 3:30

The Influence of Ellery Queen

Janet Hutchings -chair
Edward Hoch
Marvin Lachman
Bill Crider

I'm happy to be on a panel with such noted EQ experts. However, I am not a noted EQ expert. For that matter, I'm not an EQ expert at all. I have a feeling I was put on this panel so the others could make fun of me.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Only in San Antonio

WOAI: San Antonio News - It's Okay to Pray for a Spurs Victory: "It's Okay to Pray for a Spurs Victory

Posted By: Jim Forsyth

A lot of us are doing it, but is it okay.... to pray to God for a San Antonio Spurs' victory in tonight's game seven of the NBA Finals. And will God listen?

The Rev. Eddie Bernal, a prominent Catholic theologian and pastor of St. Benedict's Church on the city's east side, says, go for it.

'Yes, definitely,' he says.

'I think it'll be good for the city, I think it'll be something we need, I think a Spurs victory would be good for the country, because the Spurs are men of integrity, and a Spurs victory would send a message that the good guys can win,' Father Eddie told 1200 WOAI's Charity McCurdy.

Bernal says 'certainly' there are more important things going on in the world, but he says 'God loves us' whenever we pray, and he compares prayer to 'getting a call from a favorite grandson.'

But he says a Spurs victory would send a message that God would approve of.

'You don't have to be violent, you don't have to break rules, you don't have do all those kinds of things to win. I think God would be very happy about that.'

Bernal says he personally has been praying for a Spurs victory."

UPDATE: It appears to have worked.

Country Boys

Ed Gorman & Friends:: "Now we come to Dale Watson. This guy is so down-and-dirty honky tonk that it's like drinking beer in a blue collar tavern in 1948. He probably ain't ugly but you sure won't find him in GQ any time soon. His first record deal they wanted him to lose his Elvis sideburns, cover up his considerable number of tattos (which I could live without), record music by other writers (his being too 'negative') and (no surprise) wear a hat. He wouldn't do any of these things. One CD and he was out the door.

He's an artist. He's got a growing fan base in Europe, especially in the UK, where he's considered a major voice in real country music. He's so far down the food chain that he drives himself on the road in a beat up Chevrolet station wagon. A lot of his gigs are in the white equivalents of the black bars where B.B. King started out. 'You were always ready to throw yourself to the floor the minute you heard gunshots.' Watson even wrote a song about it."

Check out Ed Gorman's post on country music. Like me, Ed's a fan of what I think of as REAL country music. I grew up listening to Hank Williams, Ferlin Husky, Webb Pierce, Hank Snow, Bob Wills, the Lightcrust Doughboys and many others. I still love that music, and listen to it a lot.

By the time I was a teenager, Top 40 radio was in full swing, and there was no discrimination. A hit was a hit. So I could listen to KLIF and hear Stonewall Jackson, Frankie Avalon, and Tommy Dorsey's orchestra all played by the same DJ. Those were the days.

But I digress. I have to thank Ed for alerting me to Dale Watson. I belong to an on-demand Internet music service called Rhapsody (not a plug, just a comment), so I immediately checked to see if any of Watson's CDs were available. Sure enough, several of them. So I created a long Dale Watson playlist. Geez, the guy's channeling Merle Haggard for sure on "Honky Tonkers Don't Cry." I thought for a second I was back in 1966 or so. And while I like Tom T. Hall's version of "Fox on the Run" a lot, Watson's version puts Hall's in the shade. Watson's the real thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Blonde Died First -- Dana Chambers

You don't hear much about Dana Chambers these days. In fact, you don't hear anything at all, and Chambers isn't mentioned in any of the reference books I have handy. But in the 1940s, Chambers was a prolific and well-reviewed writer of medium-boiled mysteries. The Blonde Died First is narrated in the first person by Jim Steele, who's supposedly a successful script writer for radio, though we just have to take his word for it. There's nothing in the novel to prove it. Steele is a series character, and this isn't his first appearance. I gather that he was a pretty successful spy at one time since he has the Medal of Honor. But in this one, he's just a guy trying to solve a couple of murders, including that of the blonde of the title. (The title, by the way, is a clue.) Most of the book takes place on a cruise ship, and there's quite a bit of action, a complicated plot, and Steele's smooth narration to carry you along. Things get really kinky by the end of the book, surprisingly so, I thought, for a novel published in the '40s, but maybe I'm just naive. I have a couple of other books by Dana Chambers, and I guess it's time I read them. Posted by Hello

Walter Scott's Lesbian Parade and Other Democrats Stories : Wonkette

Walter Scott's Lesbian Parade and Other Democrats Stories : Wonkette: "Walter Scott's Lesbian Parade"

I was altered to this Wonkette post by Ed Gorman. I think Tod Goldberg would be interested, in light of his running commentary on "Walter Scott" and his column. An example of Tod's recent attention to Scott can be found here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fancy Footwear

The Official Website for Rocketbuster Boots!

This is the site for those of you who want to dress western and who have plenty of spending cash.

17-year-old CEO has clients on 5 continents

17-year-old CEO has clients on 5 continents: "17-year-old CEO has clients on 5 continents"

When I was 17, I was working at a freight line in the summers, unloading 40-foot trailers and doing pick-up and delivery.

Custer Update

Warriors' act kept secret for decades - "Warriors' act kept secret for decades

Of The Gazette Staff

Nobody talked openly about the 'Suicide Boys'' until almost 90 years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

American Indian accounts written down immediately after the fight on June 25, 1876, or years later when the warriors were old men, do not mention four Cheyenne and about 20 Sioux warriors who vowed to fight to the death in the next battle with U.S. troops.

Maybe the suicide vow was too sacred to be shared with outsiders while the battle was still so fresh, speculated John Doerner, chief historian at Little Bighorn Battlefield."

Click the link for the rest of the article.

Matt Helm: The Movies and the Novels

Teleport City In-Flight Reading: "
Secret Agent Matt Helm in Print and On Screen"

Via Jaime Weinman's blog, here's a link to an interesting comparison of the Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin to the books by Donald Hamilton. Most people who like the books as much as I do aren't extremely fond of the movies. This is a long, interesting look at both.

Monday, June 20, 2005

What's the Kinkster's Position on this Important Issue? Metro | State: "KERRVILLE — Entering the final leg of a $4 million building fund drive, Dietert Senior Center leaders are considering a non-traditional way to raise cash: a naked-biker calendar.

A graying local cyclist proposed the risqu?revue to close the $1 million shortfall that remains after nearly a year of selling pies, auctioning quilts, printing cookbooks and tapping residents and foundations.

'He suggested we take pictures of them on their bikes stripped, hiding the important parts, of course,' said Jacques Duhr, president of the center's board of directors.

'We just thought it was hilarious,' Duhr, 65, said. 'I wouldn't be opposed to it, to tell you the truth.'"

Kinky Friedman is a "kervert" (which is what he calls residents of Kerrville), and since he's running for governor, he should get in on this calendar deal. Is July taken?

Everyone Says I Hate You.

A Writer's Life: How Hated Am I?

The fanfic debate rages on at Lee Goldberg's blog. He really roiled the waters when he started giving his negative opinions of fanfic, and some of the responses he's generated are pretty amazing.

Jim Winter, on the other hand, is not amused and would say that for blogging this item, I should be given a lobotomy.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The King and Other Stories -- Joe Lansdale

How do you tell when someone has truly become a wildly successful writer? I'd say that you've done it when someone publishes a collection of eighteen pieces of your flash fiction and sells if for forty bucks. (And I can almost guarantee the collection will sell out its small printing.) You can read this book pretty quickly, obviously. All the pieces are short, some a few pages, some a few lines. All of them are typical of Joe Lansdale's quirky sensibility: funny, bizarre, and just downright weird. And all of them are accompanied by wonderful b&w illustrations Glenn Chadbourne. Highly recommended for Lansdale fans and anybody else who has forty bucks to spare.Posted by Hello

Going the Way of the 8-Track

BBC NEWS | Technology | Not long left for cassette tapes

Some 40 years after global cassette production began in earnest, sales are in terminal decline.

From its creation in the 1960s through to its peak of popularity in the 1980s, the cassette has been a part of music culture for 40 years.

But industry experts believe it does not have long left, at least in the West.