Saturday, April 01, 2006

V for Vendetta

Judy and I went to see this one yesterday, and we both enjoyed it immensely. Usually Judy's not too fond of the movies I choose, so I was glad to hit on one she liked.

The plot's pretty simple. The English government has become oppressive. The people have sacrificed freedom for security. The man known only as V wants to take the government down, so he sets about doing it. He's a terrorist, a revolutionary, or a freedom fighter, I guess, depending on your point of view. Or maybe he's an anarchist. Mainly, though, he just wants revenge (you'll have to see the movie to find out why; I'm not telling). He doesn't have any plans to replace the current government with something better. I can't remember the exact line from the movie, but when he's asked about that he says something like, "There are no certainties, only opportunities."

Hugo Weaving is V, and he plays the entire movie behind an immobile mask of Guy Fawkes. I thought he did an amazing job of conveying the character's thoughts and feelings with his voice and body language. In fact, I found him so convincing that a couple of times I almost thought the mask changed expression.

Natalie Portman plays a woman named Evey, who goes from conforming to the norm to informing on V even though he's rescued her, to helping him. I'd say she redeems herself for the various Star Wars prequels here.

The whole cast is good, and so is the script, which is more literate and less action-oriented than you might have been led to believe by the trailers. Check it out.

Mystery*File Update

Steve Lewis keeps making essential stuff available at Mystery*File. Check it out.


by George Tuttle

I first contacted Peter Rabe in the fall of 1989. In that letter, I told him about how I’d admired his fiction and asked if he’d be willing to let me interview him for Paperback Parade. He wrote back, agreeing to the interview, and said he was very flattered. We set up a time, and I called. We talked for about fifty minutes. "


Whenever I read one of James Reasoner's posts about his writing production, this is how I feel.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

This is What I Call a Great Cover!

You want your snake-handling preachers? You got 'em. This is a fine addition to Ed Gorman's Sam McCain series, and the cover's just plain terrific. It's the British edition, so you might just want to buy the American edition. The cover's not as cool, however.

A Cherished Fantasy

Art Scott came up with this great cover, which reveals at least a couple of things that reside in the dark recesses of my troubled brain, including crocs (or gators) and warrior babes in metal bras.

Viking Women and the Sea Serpent

In a comment on my review of The Long Ships, Jeff Meyerson mentions Viking Women and the Sea Serpent. I had to pause for a moment until the wave of nostalgia had washed completely over me before I could even take a breath. Thinking of this movie is even better than thinking of Pat Molittieri. It's one movie I'll certainly never forget, and not just because it's Fabulous! Spectacular! Terrifying! I won't forget it because I "saw" it at the Parkway Drive-In Theater just outside the city limits of Mexia, Texas, long, long ago. My date to the movie was Margaret Stubbs, who was my eight-and-a-half cousin (people in Mexia, some of them, kept up with things like that).

Ernest Hemingway, Spy: Update

A while back I linked to an article about a trip Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Martha Gellhorn, took to China in 1941. The article sounded like an outline for a high adventure tale, and sure enough, it was. The full story is contained in the book pictured on the left, now available for pre-ordering. It will probably be out any day now, and it sounds like something of interest to a lot of readers of this blog. Check it out.

Pat Molittieri

A good while ago, in a post about Dick Clark, I mentioned that my favorite among the American Bandstand kids of a long-vanished era (the 1950s) was Pat Molittieri. Today, when I was going through a bunch of old junk (there's a lot of that around here, for some reason), I ran across this photo. I have no idea how I obtained it, and I'd completely forgotten I even had it. It was fun to run across it again and to be thrown for a moment into a veritable frenzy of nostalgia. I can hear the Bandstand theme song playing right now.

Scooped Again!

Yes, once again Banjo Jones beats me to the hot news from Alvin:

THE BRAZOSPORT NEWS: Alvin students march to Pearland, realize they have no idea what they're doing, then catch the bus home:

Have You Been Waiting for the Death of Rap?

Your wait is over:

Hilton to record rap album for music debut - Music - Entertainment - "US Academy Award-winning rappers Three 6 Mafia say they are producing and recording tracks with Paris Hilton for her music debut.

'We ran into her at a William Morris agency party and she said she liked our song Stay Fly and asked could we work with her,' said Jordan 'Juicy J' Houston, one-third of the Memphis hip-hop group."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Long Ships

The Long Ships is my favorite Viking movie. Sure, lots of people prefer The Vikings, with Kirk Douglas, directed by the recently deceased Richard Fleischer, and it’s probably a much better movie. It’s certainly more serious, and that might explain why I like The Long Ships, which is anything but serious. Someone should have explained that to Sidney Poitier, though. It’s as if he’s acting in a different movie from everyone else. Oscar Homolka hams it up outrageously, and Richard Widmark is clearly having a wonderful time. It’s all he can do not to wink at the camera. Russ Tamblyn is pretty bad, but he gets to make a couple of nice athletic moves. Rosanna Schiaffino has a couple of great lines, especially when she questions Poitier: “How long must I endure your abstinence from pleasure?” (When she says that, we realize that Poitier is completely nuts. And it’s no wonder he seems grumpy. Not that his grumpiness couldn’t be a result of the terrible wig he’s wearing.) Ms. Schiaffino also gets to run down a street, waving her arms and yelling, “The long sheeps! Beware the long sheeps!”

The plot of the movie, such as it is, concerns the search for “The Mother of Voices,” a giant bell made of solid gold. I love the opening scenes where the story of the bell is told. Both the telling and the shots used are just about perfect. And speaking of the shots, this is a beautiful movie, filmed in Technicolor and something called Technirama. But I digress. Poitier believes that Widmark knows the whereabouts of the bell, and this leads to complications, including The Mare of Steel, which is a giant curved blade in the shape of a horse’s head. Riding The Mare of Steel is, of course, fatal, not to mention painful. I mean, look at the way you’d land on it.

The funniest scene in the movie occurs when the Viking crew breaks into Poitier’s harem. Pure slapstick. The battle scenes are also good, with none of the quick cutting that ruins that kind of scene in current movies. Sure, we see the same thing two or three times from different angles and aren’t supposed to notice. Who cares?

One of the screenwriters was Berkely Mather. When you have time, you might enjoy reading his novel The Gold of Malabar. I did, long ago.

But what I really enjoyed was the novel The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson. You’ll be shocked to hear that it’s hardly anything at all like the movie. But it’s wonderful. I read it over 40 years ago, and I can still remember the last line. Not that it’s all that great, but it was affecting to me because of all that had gone before. Check it out.

Happy Anniversary, Forbidden Planet! | At 50, Forbidden Planet a benchmark in film: "On its 50th anniversary, Forbidden Planet is considered a benchmark film that launched a thousand spaceships

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

March 1956. Dwight Eisenhower was president. Psychoanalysis was topical. New technology meant fancy kitchen appliances or the Bomb. Space travel was science fiction. And most science-fiction films were cheap monster movies.

But not all. A half-century after its debut, Forbidden Planet is still a beloved science-fiction movie. It has a monster, of sorts, but this widescreen, big-budget production is into the excitement of exploration, humanity's self-destructive tendencies and wowing audiences with mind-expanding special effects."

Click on the link for the whole article. And on the right-hand side is the writer's list of the top 25 SF movies.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Now This is an Interesting List

Complete list - 2005 [OCLC - OCLC Top 1000]: "The 'Top 1000' titles owned by OCLC member libraries—the intellectual works that have been judged to be worth owning by the 'purchase vote' of libraries around the globe."

Thanks to The Little Professor for the link.

When Gators Attack Geezers!

Montana's News Station, Fair. Accurate. To the Point. -Man battles gator with broom: "NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. Florida's alligators seem to be getting bolder lately.
A four-foot-long gator apparently spent the night in a man's garage in North Fort Myers. The 82-year-old man says he tried to shoo it with a broom -- then sprayed it with a garden hose.

It didn't leave until three other people prodded it, and it moved on to a lake.

Just a few days ago, another alligator was found at the front door of a Bonita Springs home."

What Happened to the Crimespot?

Crimespot seems to have disappeared.

Update: All appears well, according to Graham. So go check out Crimespot.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Suicide Squeeze -- Victor Gischler

When I heard that the paperback of Victor Gischler's Suicide Squeeze was out, I figured it was about time to get busy and read the hardback that's been sitting on my shelves almost since it was brand new. I'm glad I did.

The book's main character, Conner Samson, is down on his luck. Perpetually. He doesn't have the dough to pay for a beer because he never wins his bets on baseball games. The woman he loves, Tryanny Jones is married to someone else and is a sex addict. About the only man she doesn't want to have sex with is Conner.

Conner's life is about to change, but his luck isn't going to improve. What happens to him involves a boat he's supposed to repossess, Japanese gangsters, a former secret agent who's as dangerous as the gangsters, a huge collector named Otis, whose boss is Rocky Big, comic book nerds, and an assortment of other things, in a plot that's impossible for me to describe. Let's just say that everybody is out to double-cross everybody else, and kill anyone that gets in the way, to gain possession of a baseball card.

Being a baseball card collector myself, I have to love a book in which the mcguffin is a one-of-a-kind card signed by Joe Dimaggio, Billy Wilder, and Marilyn Monroe. It's worth whatever some sucker will pay for it, maybe a million bucks, and it comes with a signed personal letter written by Monroe. The people Gischler writes about will do just about anything to get it.

There's lots of funny stuff in the novel, but the climactic shoot-out is one of the bloodiest I've read in years. It's not funny at all. Well, not unless you're thinking that Gischler is messing with you when he says, "The weapon sang, a Wagnerian shotgun opera, the sound track to hell." Because Gischler's next novel, coming out in April, is, you guessed it Shotgun Opera. I plan to read that one, too.


Sure, bluebonnets are a Texas cliche, but I like 'em anyway. I mentioned that the roadsides and fields near Navasota were covered with them, but I didn't take any pictures. However, someone here in Alvin really likes them and has a front lawn covered with them. It looks cool, and there's no lawn mowing until the flowers all die. (Click on the pic for the full-screen version.)

AggieCon 2006

Somehow it wouldn’t be spring if I didn’t go to College Station at the end of March for the AggieCon. Judy and I first attended in 1980, and we’ve missed only one year since then (we were in Europe). Walking down the halls of the Memorial Student Center is as much a part of spring to me as the bluebonnets that cover the fields along the highway.

When I started going to AggieCon, I loved going to the panels and hearing writers like Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Williamson, Roger Zelazny, Poul Anderson, L. Sprague de Camp, C. J. Cherryh, and lots of others talk about their work. I never dreamed that one day I’d be the guy up at the front of the room doing the talking. I thought about that a lot this past weekend, though. I’ve been going to AggieCon since before most of this year’s organizers were born. I used to go hear the writers. Now I’m one of the writers people come to hear. Time changes everything.

Another thing time has changed is the dealers’ room. It used to be wall-to-wall with book dealers, and they all had old paperbacks that I loved to go through. I found many of the paperbacks that line my office walls there. Not anymore. This year there were exactly two dealers with any real stock of books. I bought three or four. A far cry from the old days, and kind of sad. I guess most people who attend SF cons just aren’t interested in books now. They’re into gaming, anime, jewelry, costumes, weapons. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just different.

As always, I had a great time in College Station. Joe Lansdale didn’t show up (he’s in Italy, basking in the glow of his international fame), but I saw lots of great folks: Willie Siros, Scott Cupp (it was Scott’s 33rd consecutive AggieCon), Jayme Blaschke, Rick Klaw, Mark Finn, Tom Knowles, David Carren, and Theresa Patterson, just to name a few. I’m ready to go back next year.

I Hope this is True

WP: U.S. plans moon base on path to Mars - Highlights - "By Guy Gugliotta
The Washington Post
Updated: 1:36 p.m. ET March 26, 2006

HOUSTON - For the first time since 1972, the United States is planning to fly to the moon, but instead of a quick, Apollo-like visit, astronauts intend to build a permanent base and live there while they prepare what may be the most ambitious undertaking in history — putting human beings on Mars."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jack Black is the World's Smartest Man! (And he had a talking motorcycle!)

YouTube - Heat Vision and Jack: "Heat Vision and Jack was created as a 1999 pilot for Fox. Written by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, directed by Ben Stiller, this series was passed over by Fox despite critical acclaim from those who've been lucky enough to see it.

The 30 minute pilot is about an astronaut (played by Jack Black) with a medical secret who is on the run from the evil Ron Silver and the rest of NASA, with the help of a talking motorcycle called Heat Vision (voiced by Owen Wilson)."

Cindy Walker, R. I. P.

Cindy Walker, prolific country songwriter, dies at 87

Texan wrote 500 songs, including 'You Don't Know Me' and 'Bubbles in My Beer'

Friday, March 24, 2006

She had never stepped inside a honky-tonk before writing "Bubbles In My Beer," one of the greatest country and western drinking songs ever, for Bob Wills. Her material ranged from the smooth ballad "Anne Marie" for country crooner Jim Reeves to the pop of "Dream Baby" for Roy Orbison to the wacky "Barstool Cowboy From Old Barstow" for Spike Jones and the City Slickers.

"Cindy Walker never wrote a bad song in her life," Nashville producer Fred Foster said two years ago when the prolific first lady of country songwriting was feted with a tribute concert at the Paramount Theatre. The spritely, gregarious Walker, whose best-known composition, "You Don't Know Me," was recorded by everyone from Eddy Arnold and Ray Charles to Elvis Presley and Michael Bolton, got up and danced a jig in the aisles a few times during the Paramount show. It seemed like she would live forever.

courtesy of The Country Music Hall of Fame

Willie Nelson
"You Don't Know Me"

XL Feature (includes audio)

A Pioneer Songstress

Jill Johnson

Cindy Walker, legendary Western songwriter, was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame on Friday at the Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth.

But Walker, the subject of a new tribute album by Willie Nelson, died Thursday evening soon after being checked into a hospital in her native Mexia, about 40 miles east of Waco, with respiratory problems. She was 87.

"She affected me and everyone else who came along after her," Nelson said in a statement announcing the release of "You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker," which hit stores March 14. "We had to have heard her music before we could do ours."

The first woman inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, Walker said in a 2004 interview with the American-Statesman that in a career that spanned seven decades, with nearly 500 songwriting credits, she never experienced discrimination or thought of herself as a rarity in a male-dominated field.

"The one thing that everybody in the music business is always looking for is a good song," she said. "If you could write some, it didn't matter if you were male, female or orangutan."

The last time I went out of town for a regional SF convention, we lost Don Knotts and Darren McGavin. This time it was Cindy Walker, the pride of my hometown of Mexia, Texas, and Buck Owens. I may stay at home from now on.