Saturday, November 19, 2005

Very Cool!

Via "If you want an interesting online radio experience, try Pandora. Simply type in the name of a favorite artist, and Pandora comes up with an eerily accurate playlist of similar yet diverse sounding music."

It doesn't just come up with a playlist. It plays the songs for you, and it's all free. I love the Internet.

As If These Guys Didn't Have a Tough Life Already

Stars & Stripes: "It was Halle Berry’s first on-screen nude scene.

Halfway through “Swordfish,” she lowers a book she’s reading, exposing her breasts.

Said one reviewer on “There is one redeeming feature about this film: the soundtrack. That, and you get to see Halle Berry naked.”

So viewers on military bases throughout the world may have been surprised to see the dazzling Ms. Berry wearing a bikini in the infamous scene.

Blame the Federal Communications Commission, American mores and a PG-14 rating. But don’t blame American Forces Entertainment, which aired the movie Wednesday."

This Is So, Like, Unfair

Digital Spy: Paris Hilton in trouble over illegal pet: "Paris Hilton has been ordered to get rid of her new pet kinkajou - or move to another state.

The hotel heiress returned home from a trip to Las Vegas with her latest animal friend, even though it is illegal to keep the creatures as pets in Los Angeles."

Chronicles (Volume 1) -- Bob Dylan

I was a little skeptical about this book, even after reading some favorable reviews. Why? Because years ago (more than 30, in fact), I read another of Dylan's books. Or I should say I tried to read it. The title is Tarantula. I didn't get very far.

So I was surprised at how much I liked Chronicles. Bob Dylan can write. Well, we all knew he could write songs, but after Tarantula, I wasn't so sure he could write a book. He can, though, no doubt about it.

One of the things I found interesting was Dylan's commentary on other singers. I hadn't known that he and Bobby Vee were friends before either of them hit the big time, for example, and what Dylan has to say about Vee's pop career, about Ricky Nelson, and about Roy Oribison seem to me right on the money. Here's part of what he says about the Big O: "He was now singing his compositions in three or four octaves that made you want to drive your car over a cliff. He sang like a professional criminal . . . His voice would jar a corpse, always leave you muttering to yourself something like, 'Man, I don't believe it.'"

And who knew that Dylan was a fan of old-time radio? Not me. His memory of "the creaking door" is wrong, since he attributes it to Suspense, while mentioning Inner Sanctum in the very next sentence. But that doesn't matter. It's the way he felt about the shows that matters. "Radio shows," he says, "had been a big part of my consciousness back in the Midwest, back when it seemed like I was living in perpetual youth." Here's a little more: "There was no place too far. I could see it all. All I needed to know about San Francisco was that Paladin lived in a hotel there and his gun was for hire."

In fact, I could keep on quoting great stuff from this book for a long time, but I'll stop. If you have any interest in Dylan, in the Village back in the day, in popular culture, in folk music, or in any number of other things, you should just get a copy and read it. I'm glad it's Volume 1, which means I can look forward to Volume 2.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Literary classics become txt msgs

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | Literary classics become txt msgs: "Some of English literature's greatest masterpieces have been condensed into a few lines of text message to help students revise for exams.

The service condenses classic works such as Bleak House and Pride and Prejudice into a handy aide-memoire.

For example, Hamlet's famous line: 'To be or not to be, that is the question' becomes '2b? Nt2b? ???'.

A university professor claims it 'amply demonstrates text's ability to fillet out the important elements in a plot'."

Here's an example of an entire plot, taken from the article's sidebar. Now you won't have to waste your time seeing the new movie version of Pride and Prejudice:

5Sistrs WntngHsbnds. NwMeninTwn-Bingly&Darcy. Fit&Loadd.BigSis Jane Fals 4B,2ndSisLiz H8s D Coz Hes Proud. Slimy Soljr Wikam Sys DHs Shady Past.Trns Out Hes Actuly ARlyNysGuy &RlyFancysLiz. She Decyds She Lyks Him.Evry1 Gts Maryd.

Superhero or Household Cleaner?

You can take the quiz and find out if you can tell the difference. My Superhero name should be "Mr. Average." Never was a quiz more accurate.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Yesterday afternoon Charles Ferguson called and asked if I'd like to go to Galveston and hear a talk by one of the men who "rediscovered" the ivory-billed woodpecker. I posted about this rediscovery last April and mentioned how exciting it was, so naturally I couldn't resist hearing all about it. We drove down to Galveston and had dinner at The Original Mexican Cafe. There were about ten people there, including Bobby Ray Harrison, the man who was one of the two to see the ivory-bill in April. It was nice to meet him in an informal setting and to talk to him a little bit about his adventures in birding.

After dinner Charles and I went to the Rosenberg Library for the formal program. Harrison showed a lot of slides and discussed his "obsession" with finding an ivory-billed woodpecker. His interest was roused by an article in Life magazine back in 1972, and he's been searching for the bird ever since. He finally found it in Arkansas in April. He freely admits that he believes others have seen the bird over the years, but none of those sightings have been confirmed. He was lucky enough to be with another birder, Tim Gallagher, and both of them saw the ivory-bill at the same moment. Since April there have been numerous other confirmed sightings in the same area.

Unfortunately there are no clear photographs of the woodpecker as yet. Apparently the bird is very shy. There have been a couple of recordings that have convinced ornithologists that the sightings are genuine, and I have high hopes that a decent photo will eventually be taken.

I enjoyed the talk, and it's a treat to know that the bird once thought extinct is still flying around the southern swamps.

Anna Nicole Smith Goes Wild. Again. A Continuing Series.

ANNA Nicole Smith showed up at Hamburger Mary's in West Hollywood to play bingo for charity last week and took home quite a prize — a barmaid. Tracy, a pretty blonde, allowed herself to be picked up by the former Playmate and was later bragging about the night she spent with Smith, sharing pictures from her digital camera with patrons at the bar. "She wasn't keeping it a secret," a PAGE SIX source relates. "Anna Nicole put her in handcuffs and her neck was covered with hickeys." The source added, "Anna Nicole was doing that butt-slapping thing — it was just bizarre. And her son was in the house." Calls to Tracy and Smith were not returned.

As I've mentioned before, Anna Nicole is from my old hometown of Mexia, Texas, and was a student in a biology class taught by my rotten kid brother. She continues to do the old hometown proud.

Is This a Great Country or What? (Part 2)

From the L. A. Times
By Shawn Hubler, Times Staff Writer

Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss bid farewell to Los Angeles on Wednesday, and put out the word: She's looking for a few good men.

In a move bound to hearten aspiring Deuce Bigalows the world over, Fleiss said she is joining with a Nevada brothel owner to open the state's first house of prostitution in which men cater to women.

Fleiss, whose partner notified Nye County officials of the plan this week, said they will charge $250 an hour and call it "Heidi's Stud Farm."

"Women are more independent these days; they make more money and it's hard to meet people," Fleiss said as she packed for what she said would be a permanent move to Nevada.

"You wouldn't believe the number of women who've told me, 'Heidi, if you do this, I'll be the first one in line!' I mean, relationships are harder than dieting, you know what I mean?"

I Don't Think I Want to Read This One

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Derbyshire | Historic cookbook causes a stir: "One of the oldest-known cookbooks in the country has left historians in a stew over its obscure recipes.

Her Cookery Book, written in 1742 by Mary Swanwick, includes a range of unknown dishes such as squichanary pye and Stoughtons drops.

The book, which also includes instructions for stewed calf's head, was donated to the Derbyshire Record Office by an anonymous Stockport man.

Archivists are still trying to decipher much of its faded handwriting."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Benjamin Appel from Stark House

Stark House Press (no, their website hasn't been updated) has another great double book coming in January. Benjamin Appel wrote hardboiled with the best of them, as these two novels prove. There's also a short introduction by his daughter, well worth reading.

This Sounds Interesting - News from AP: "An ambitious new Google Inc. service lets anyone upload most anything to a publicly searchable database, . . ."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Northcoast Shakedown -- Jim Winter

Here's a hardboiled p.i. novel I enjoyed. The first-person narrator is Nick Kepler, who's freelancing and doing some work for an insurance company called Terminal Tower Life & Annuity. Most of his work is probably like one of the cases he deals with here, taking photos of a supposedly disabled man who's clearly in better shape than he's letting on.

Kepler takes on some other cases, too, and one of them leads to murder. But which one? Or are several cases connected? It takes Kepler a while to put it all together because it's all very complicated, but he does the job. Along the way he gets shot at, insulted, beaten, and laid. Kepler has a sense of humor, which he needs, and he's tough, which is a good thing.

This is a traditional p.i. novel with a modern bent. Good stuff, and here's hoping Kepler will be around for a while.

Is This a Great Country or What?

Meatpacker to pay $3m for using strength test

At the Armour Star meat packing plant in Fort Madison, Iowa, run by a subsidiary of the Dial Corporation, workers are expected to engage in "repetitive lifting of a 35-pound rod of sausages to a height of approximately 65 inches.” Concerned about a high rate of worker injuries, the company foolishly thought that it could introduce (in 2000) a physical test which "required the repeated lifting of 35 pounds to a height of 65 inches." Wrong: sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company is now going to be paying out $3 million for its troubles.

You Can't Make Up Stuff Like This

New York Post Online Edition: gossip: "November 15, 2005 -- PARIS Hilton's new pet monkey, Baby Luv, went bananas when she took the peeved primate on a lingerie shopping spree in Las Vegas last weekend. We're told that Baby Luv bit Hilton and clawed her face when she walked into the Agent Provocateur shop at Caesars on Saturday with the beast on her shoulder. Paris managed to pull Baby Luv off her and hooked his leash to a cabinet while she rang up $4,000 worth of bras and panties and a bullwhip, says our eyewitness."

Naturally, what I want to know is if the lingere was for the monkey. And who was the bullwhip for?

See? Your Mother was Right! | New research says chilly feet can bring on a cold: "British scientists say they have proof that a drop in body temperature can kickstart viruses which lie dormant in people during the cold season, from October to March.

And getting your feet wet, they found, can triple the risk of developing cold symptoms such as sore throat, sneezing and coughing."

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Colonel and Little Missie -- Larry McMurtry

I've heard about Buffalo Bill for most of my life, maybe because of the name. I had a book about him when I was a kid, but I don't remember anything about it. My parents talked about him occasionally, and because I was called Bill, I identified with him from my earliest childhood. But I never knew much about him until I read The Colonel and Little Missie by Larry McMurtry.

The book isn't a biography. As the subtitle says, it's about "Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America." But biography or not, there are a lot of facts about Bill Cody's life here, or at least something resembling the facts, since we'll probably never know that truth about some things. Too many versions of the same story were told by different people. Still, it's apparent that Cody was a pretty good guy. Nearly everyone liked him, he was generous to a fault, and he was loyal to his friends. He was a drunk, sure, but not a nasty one. Like a lot of superstars, he couldn't sustain his popularity, and his last years weren't good ones, but he remained an optimist to the end.

Annie Oakley is more of an enigma. Besides being a great shot with a rifle or shotgun, she was a very private person. McMurtry isn't able to tell us much about her, aside from the obvious historical facts, but that doesn't mean she's not interesting.

McMurtry's style is easy and informal. He repeats a lot of things (I didn't even try to count the number of times he said that Cody was really good-looking and a superb horseman), but that's okay for a guy with a memory like mine.

One thing the book did, with all its talk of endurance shooting matches, was make me want to re-read Brian Garfield's Wild Times, a wonderful book about that kind of thing.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Ancient Freshwater Lake under Antarctica

Columbia Earth Institute -- News: " At the coldest spot on Earth, Michael Studinger is mapping a world he cannot see.

Around him stretches a snow-scape as smooth as a starched shirt, so empty of landmarks that any sense of scale or distance is lost in the white. But hidden miles beneath the icecap on which he stands is a freshwater lake as long as Lake Ontario and as deep as Lake Tahoe--its untouched waters a time capsule from more than a million years ago."

This is a long article, but very interesting. Could be a great novel. Or at least a cool B&W SF movie from around 1956.

"A Passage to Benares" -- Suspense, 1942

The other day Judy and I drove to Houston. On the way we tuned the XM radio to channel 164 and listened to "A Passage to Benares," an episode of Suspense from 1942. When I was a kid, my family listened to Suspense every week, and after hearing this show, I can see why. Paul Stewart plays Professor Henry Poggioli, who's in Port au Prince when a gruesome murder occurs. Poggioli, a psychologist, has spent the night in a temple. When he awakens the next morning and returns to the home of his host, he discovers that there was a gruesome murder in the temple. As the show goes on, it becomes clear that Poggioli is one of the main suspects in the crime. I won't say any more about the story, except that it has a great surprise ending.

"A Passage to Benares" was originally a short story written by T. S. Stribling. Richard Moore, a T. S. Stribling fan, has a nice review of the author's biography in Mystery*File, along with some commentary, and he mentions this story as well as the others in the Dr. Poggioli series.

Charles Williams in Mystery*File

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "In this earlier installment of The Gold Medal Corner, Bill Crider tells you why you should not miss reading anything Charles Williams has written, whether it appeared as a Gold Medal paperback or not. Followed by a bibliography compiled by Steve Lewis and two letters not previously published. You can’t beat the covers, either. Reprinted from Mystery*File 47."