Saturday, April 15, 2006

OK, It's Official. Everybody Has a Web Page | Gangs use Internet to deliver threats:
Police in capital use sites, which are legal, to gather intelligence

Washington Post

WASHINGTON - The threat from the D.C.-area gang, Street Thug Criminals, was very clear: 'We swore we were going to get the (bleep) that did this and we are. RIP Antonio.'

It was delivered the way almost everything seems to be these days: on a Web page.

The Street Thug Criminals have an Internet page, and they used it to warn a rival Langley Park, Md., gang that Antonio's death would be avenged.

Police call it 'cyberbanging' — gang members openly bragging about affiliations, skipping school, getting high and battling rival gangs.

Odd Jobs

2Spare - 25 Most Bizarre Jobs: "A postal clerk wants to be a stand-up comedian for one night. A businessman wants to drive a freight train across a western State. A psychiatrist wants 20 dates on 20 weekends with 20 girls from 20 different countries. How do they do it? They see a fantasy broker whose business is making dreams come true. Originally pioneered in Chicago by an advertising executive, fantasy firms in several cities now do a booming business, charging from $150 to thousands to turn dreams into reality."

Weed grower? I could've been rich!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Family Trade -- Charles Stross

Charles Stross is a hot writer in the SF field right now, but I wasn't much taken by Singularity Sky. Someone at AggieCon said that I might like his fantasy better than the hard SF and suggested that I try The Family Trade, which is supposedly "in the tradition of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber." I really liked the early Amber novels, but they unfortunately came to demonstrate the truth of an old saying about writing (first you do it for love, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you just do it for the money). Anyway, I was ready for something similar, and The Family Trade paperback I bought was covered with rave reviews and enthusiastic blurbs.

The book didn't really work for me, though, and it comes down to the writing.
Zelazny had a sense of humor that I enjoyed. Stross is supposed to be pretty funny, too, but I guess I just don't get the jokes. I might have smiled once, but I didn't do any laughing.

And no matter how many times I people tell me about Stross' great prose, I just don't see it. Not that there's anything wrong with adverbs, but Stross tosses them around like the old pulpsters. Nobody ever just says something. Everybody says something with an adverb. So on pages 92-93 of the paperback we get things like this: "Angbard said firmly," and "she replied, disbelievingly," and "Roland said slowly." Things can get awkward, as with the "disbelievingly," and on page 100 we get "asked exasperatedly." I like adverbs, myself, and I like to use them in my writing, but not to the extent that Stross does.

So while I liked the alternate-earth story, I kept getting distracted. I wasn't
taken with the characters, so even though the ending of this novel is a huge cliffhanger, I'll probably stop with Stross and move on to something else.

Your FBI Believes in Irony

My favorite line in the article is the one about how the agent "somehow lost consciousness."

An FBI agent who pleaded guilty to drunken driving has sued the maker of his pickup because it caught fire after he passed out behind the wheel.

Robert Clymer, who was involved in a high-profile investigation of the Crazy Horse Too strip club, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.306 percent, nearly four times the current legal limit, and was unconscious when Las Vegas firefighters pulled him from his burning truck on Jan. 29, 2005.

[. . .]

During sentencing in November, Clymer's lawyer said his client wanted to take responsibility for his actions.

"Public officials make mistakes," attorney Gary Booker said. "With public officials, we expect them to own up to their mistakes and correct them. That is exactly what happened in this case."

Two weeks later, Clymer filed a product liability lawsuit against General Motors and Bill Heard Chevrolet, who had sold him the truck. He was seeking more than $33,000 in medical bills and nearly $11,000 in lost wages.

The lawsuit says Clymer stopped on the side of the road to make a telephone call. He left the engine running and the car in park.

Clymer then "somehow lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke that filled the passenger cab," the suit said.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Booksquare Mentions the Mammoth

David Thayer: "Bill Crider’s A Mammoth Murder is out April 27th from SMP Minotaur. Bill got a blurb from The Romantic Times demonstrating his global appeal as a writer."

My thanks to David for the plug. And you should all buy a copy to help out a poor old retired guy who's living on a subsistence income and dreams of his lost youth. Not that I'd play the Pity Card or anything like that.

Happy Birthday, Alfred M. Butts!

Mr. Butts, whose birthday you can celebrate today if you wish, though Mr. Butts is no longer around to join in, was the inventor of Scrabble. The game was really big in the 1950s when I was growing up, and my family played it often in those dimly remembered days before television. Here's a little more Scrabble information, and you can find the whole story here.

"Butts studied the front page of The New York Times to calculate how often each of the 26 letters of the English language was used. He discovered that vowels appear far more often than consonants, with E being the most frequently used vowel. After figuring out frequency of use, Butts assigned different point values to each letter and decided how many of each letter would be included in the game. The letter S posed a problem. While it's frequently used, Butts decided to include only four S's in the game, hoping to limit the use of plurals. After all, he didn't want the game to be too easy!

"Butts got it just right. His basic cryptographic analysis of our language and his original tile distribution have remained valid for almost three generations and for billions of games played.

"The boards for the first Criss-Cross Words game were hand drawn with his architectural drafting equipment, reproduced by blueprinting and pasted on folding checkerboards. The tiles were similarly hand-lettered, then glued to quarter-inch balsa and cut to match the squares on the board."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ride the High Country

Ride the High Country is one of my favorite westerns. I sometimes think you have to be around my age, or even older, to appreciate the movie fully because it's not about just the characters on the screen. For me, it's also about what Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea bring with them to the story, the hundred Saturday afternoons I spent in little shoebox theaters watching those two in western movies, most of them in black and white. The elegaic tone of the whole thing works better because of that. This was the last movie Scott ever made. McCrea made a couple of others, but maybe he shouldn't have.

Two old lawmen who've out-lived their time sign on to bring a gold shipment down from a mine. It's the first job in a long time for Steve Judd (McRea). Gil Westrum (Scott) has been working as a Buffalo Bill knock-off in a carnival. His plan is to steal the gold with the help of his young partner, and he hopes to talk McRea into going along. Judd's too upright to do any such thing, of course, and in the end, so is Westrum, just as anybody who grew up watching them would know. When Scott comes riding up for the final showdown with the sorry Hammond brothers, I always feel like applauding.

There's a lot more going on in the movie than the plot, and I love the little touches in the opening scene when Judd thinks the townspeople are there to see him and not some race with a camel. And the scene where he wants to read his contract in private so he can use his glasses. And just about any scene where Scott's telling his young partner about Judd. And any scene where McCrea and Scott are together.
Sometimes I tend to forget that both those men were actors, and good ones. Every time I watch this movie, I'm reminded of that, and they were never better than here, at least not as far as I'm concerned.

I first saw this movie more than 40 years ago. Judy and I were dating, and I took her to see it. We've both loved it ever since.

Mystery*File Again

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "April 11. DEAN OWEN. A colloborative checklist of this author’s many novels and short stories, compiled and annotated by Steve Lewis, James Reasoner, Victor A. Berch and Bill Pronzini. Since Dean Owen, aka Dudley Dean, wrote many more westerns than mystery novels and other fiction, under a host of other pen names, this will qualify him to be the first entry in the Western Annex of M*F On-Line, opening soon."

The "Western annex" is great news. There's also an interesting short article on the "adult novels" of Dan J. Marlowe, and more.

Want a Treehouse That Comes With Its Own Tree?

These quys will build you one.

Paris Hilton Sings!

The Superficial has a link to a video of a nearly naked Paris Hilton singing "Happy Birthday" to Hugh Hefner. If you want to see it, click here. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Another Great List

No list that contains “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers” and "Blueberry Hill" can be all bad.

National Recording Registry picks for 2006 - Lifestyle - "The Library of Congress’ 2006 selections for the National Recording Registry, in chronological order."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Happy Birthday, Bomba!

Ironically, considering the post below, it's also the birthday of Johnny Sheffield, or as I like to think of him, Bomba the Jungle Boy. I posted the photo to the left last year on this date, so I figured it was time to use it again. Johnny Sheffield is 75 today, one year older than Cheeta.

Happy Birthday, Cheeta!

North Adams Transcript - Headlines: PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — Cheeta the chimp, star of a dozen ''Tarzan'' movies in the 1930s and 1940s, celebrated his 74th birthday with sugar-free cake. Although healthy and active, Cheeta is diabetic.

I wish Cheeta many happy returns. I loved the Tarzan movies with Johnny Weismuller and Gordon Scott when I was a kid, and Cheeta was a big part of things. He seems to be quite the artist, too.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Hanging Heiress -- Richard Wormser

Having recently read Richard Wormser's memoir, I really wanted to like this book. And I did, but not as much as I'd hoped. Maybe I was expecting too much, or maybe I was just hoping that it would be in the same style as Wormser's Gold Medal novels. It wasn't, though it does involve a p.i., Marty Cockren, who's hired as a bodyguard for the titular (no pun intended) heiress (the hanging pun in the title is definitely intended, and you'll have to read the book if you want to know about it). The lady in question has just received a huge inheritance, and she wants to live to enjoy it. There are many people who would profit if she doesn't, which is why she hires Cockren, a failed newspaper reporter who turns out to be a lot better at his new job than he was at his old one, or at least his smart mouth doesn't get him in quite as much trouble. Good characters, not a bad plot. Just not quite up to expectations.

Happy Birthday, Dandy Don!

Dandy Don Meredith turns 68 today. I followed his career when he was at SMU and later when he was with the Dallas Cowboys, first as part of the infamous quarterback shuffle, alternating plays with Eddie LeBaron, and then when he was on his on. He was part of the reason I used to enjoy watching the Cowboys so much. When I was going to grad school in Austin, Judy and I had a color TV set. A couple of our friends, Fred and Paul Williams, would come over every Sunday, and we'd all watch the Cowboy game. Part of the fun of it was cheering for Dandy Don or yelling at him when he'd screw up.

Gary Cartwright, a sportswriter for the Dallas Morning News, always wrote his best stuff about Meredith, including one article which began something like this: "The Four Horsemen rode again at the Cotton Bowl yesterday. You remember them: War, Pestilence, Famine, and Meredith." Cartwright went on to write a novel called The Hundred-Yard War, which was about a team much like the Cowboys, with a QB named Riley Sylver (it's been a long time, and I'm not 100% sure of the name of the spelling), who was much like Meredith. A pretty good book, as I recall.

I read recently that Dandy Don had some health problems, but I hope he's doing better by now and that he'll have a good day and many more good years to come.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mystery*File Update

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "Ed Gorman announced yesterday that he was closing down his blog to concentrate on his health and the current book he is writing. In order that the various postings over the past several months not be lost, as they were when he ceased his previous blog, they are in the process of being archived here at M*F. The postings for the month of April are now online both here and on his present blogsite. All of the earlier ones will eventually migrate over here as well."

I saw this news on Saturday when I was in Dallas. As I'm sure everyone else does, I wish Ed only the best, and I'm glad that Steve Lewis is archiving Ed's posts. Just one more reason why
Mystery*File has become essential to all of us.

Mystery*File Update

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "As a companion piece to the article on Robert Martin written by fellow Tiffin OH resident Jim Felton, Bill Pronzini writes about the correspondence he had with the author of the PI Jim Bennett novels toward the end of his (Martin’s) career. Many more jacket covers are included."

More don't-miss material. Check it out.