Saturday, May 27, 2006

And Matt Groening is "the true heir of Plato"

The Simpsons is more than a funny cartoon - it reveals truths about human nature that rival the observations of great philosophers from Plato to Kant... while Homer sets his house on fire, says philosopher Julian Baggini.

With the likes of Douglas Coupland, George Walden and Stephen Hawking as fans, taking The Simpsons seriously is no longer outre but de rigeur.

It is, quite simply, one of the greatest cultural artefacts of our age. So great, in fact, that it not only reflects and plays with philosophical ideas, it actually does real philosophy, and does it well.

Happy Birthday, Dashiell Hammett!

Like many of you, most likely, I'll never forget discovering the work of Dashiell Hammett, who was born on this day 112 years ago. The first book of his I read wasn't The Maltese Falcon but Red Harvest. The Continental Op immediately became one of my heroes. I don't have anything to add to what others have said again and again about Hammett. If you haven't read him, why not? And if you have, isn't it time to read something of his again?

Friday, May 26, 2006

And Who Can Blame Him?

"Vampire" To Protest White Castle's Garlic Sandwich:
Reported by: 9News
Web produced by: Mark Sickmiller
Photographed by: 9News
First posted: 5/26/2006 12:43:10 PM

"A Cincinnati man who claims he's a vampire is planning to protest a new fast food sandwich made with garlic.

The man says White Castle has 'angered the undead' with its new garlic cheese sandwich.

He plans to picket the Queensgate White Castle location on Sunday."

Pulp Classics

Lurid new covers for classic books.: "In the 1950s, some publishing houses opted to release literary fiction with pulp covers. A striking edition of The Sheltering Sky, for example, promised 'a strange tale in the exotic desert'—a tagline that is, when you think about it, both pulpy and apt. Taking such efforts as our inspiration, we asked a handful of designers to create lurid new book jackets for classics from The Iliad to Animal Farm. Click here to see the results."

Thanks to Rick Klaw for the tip.

Art Buchwald Update (Some Good News)

AP Interview: Heaven can wait for Art Buchwald, looking to summer - "WASHINGTON --A funny thing happened to humorist Art Buchwald on the way to his grave.

Nearly four months after refusing potentially life-extending treatment for his failing kidneys, Buchwald is alive against all expectations. He's planning to spend the summer at his house on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., writing his twice-weekly newspaper column, finishing a book about his experience and waiting for Carly Simon -- once tapped to sing at his funeral -- to serenade him while alive."

Happy Birthday, James Arness!

Or maybe I should say Matt Dillion. When I think about actors identified with a particular role, Arness is one of the first who comes to mind. At least he wasn't typecast as a sentient carrot. (And by coincidence, it's also the birthday of this guy.)

Arness Fan Appreciation Page: "Jim Arness was born on May 26, 1923 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and began his long and illustrious career as a radio announcer in Minnesota in 1945.

After moving to Los Angeles, he found work in the movies. His big break came in 1947, when he landed a prime role opposite Loretta Young in 'The Farmers Daughter'. That year he also received parts in numerous westerns. In 1951, Jim appeared in the classic science fiction movie 'The Thing'. Jim's career was now taking off."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Layer Cake

Admittedly I rented this movie because I thought it was a filmed version of The Betty Crocker Cookbook. Boy, was I surprised. It's another British crime movie with a convoluted plot, and I enjoyed it even more than I would have something based on Betty Crocker. It's a bit more serious than Lock, Stock and Two Loaded Barrels, and it's not as intent on being "stylish" (though it has plenty of style. Daniel Craig plays a nameless businessman who happens to be a middleman in the quite lucrative business of selling cocaine. He thinks he has everything figured out, even down to the "one big deal and I'm out of here" plan.

As soon as you hear that, as you do very early on, you pretty much know that bad things are going to happen, and they do. Craig is asked to look for a powerful man's missing daughter and to sort out a drug deal gone bad. These things are not in his line, but he's in no position to turn down the jobs. Before long, things begin to spin out of control. Craig's smart, but that doesn't always matter when you're dealing with people who'll kill you as a matter of course.

My main problem with the movie is the relationship between Craig and Sienna Miller, who, despite the nice photo you see here, is dreadfully under-used. The relationship between her and Craig is a key to the ending, but it's never developed. There's so much else going on that there just isn't time. While the ending came as a surprise to me, I thought it was a little bit of a cheat, though some sketchy attempt had at least been made to set it up.

I never did figure out the title, either. There's an unsatisfactory (to me) explanation near the end of the movie, but I still think it's a bad title for this kind of movie.

But never mind. The movie's still a lot of fun. Check it out.

No, This is not from The Onion

Cate Blanchett to play Dylan in biopic - Yahoo! News: "Cate Blanchett will play Bob Dylan in his 'androgenous phase' in a new biopic of the great poet-songwriter's life, it was announced, as Dylan turned 65."
[. . . . ]

Mystery surrounds the coming biographical film on Dylan by director Todd Haynes, . . . .

Now he is recruiting an all-star cast for his Dylan film "I'm Not There", in which six or seven actors will play the star to show different facets of his life and personality. Dylan has agreed to let Haynes film his biography.

Thanks to Todd Mason for the tip.

What I'm Listening To

Between 1972 and 1983, Johnny Cash made some recordings at his home studio, apparently just for himself. He put the tapes away in a room where he kept things that meant a lot to him, and nobody even knew the tapes existed. They weren't found until after his death, when the family was going through his things. This new CD has nearly 50 tracks of mostly old songs that had some kind of personal meaning for Cash. Before he sings some of them, he tells a story about them (I like the stories as much as the songs). He even recites "The Cremation of Sam Magee."

Near the end of his life, Cash went into the studio and made a series of recordings like this, but as good as those recordings were, his voice was a mere shadow of what it was in the '70s. Personal File is a great collection of music. Check it out.

Mystery*File Update

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "WEB DETECTIVE STORIES. Complete runs of some of the 1950s and 60s crime detective magazines are more difficult than others to obtain, and WDS is one of the toughest. Are the 14 issues worth collecting? Peter Enfantino says yes, and here he tells you why."

Fine article, with some neat cover scans. Check it out.

The Kitchen of Love

Yes, that's right: The Kitchen of Love. With Fabio. You can send a "Fabio-Gram"("Send some of my wisdom to your friends.") You can arrange Fabio's refrigerator magnets "to make your own message of love." And that's not all. You have to see it (and hear it) to believe it. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bust -- Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

Probably everyone's read this by now. A very funny look at the familiar noir tale of a man who's in love with a younger woman and who decides to have his wife murdered. You know going in that things will go wrong and there will be some double-dealing along the way, but with Starr and Bruen, you can never be sure just what surprises they'll spring on you. The title has multiple meanings, and just about every one you can think of applies. The book's full of jokes and in-jokes, but that doesn't distract from the seriousness of the goings-on in the least. This one's a real keeper, another Hard Case Crime triumph. Check it out.

Bob Dylan on XM: a Review from Slate

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for this link to a review and commentary on both Dylan and his XM Radio show.

The State of the Dylan Address. By David Yaffe: "Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, readers of Slate, distinguished Fraysters, fellow citizens. Sixty-five years ago today, our Dylan was busy being born. He's older than that now. As he becomes a contender for the cover of AARP Magazine, it is my duty to report on the state of the Dylan."

Bob Dylan on XM

Bob Dylan’s XM Radio Playlist for May 24, 2006
Baseball Theme

Skeletons, Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Mabel Scott, Baseball Boogie
Chancy Halladay, Home Run
Comment by Charlie Sheen (!)
Johnny Darling, Baseball Baby
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (billed by XM as “L. F. Getty”), Baseball Canto
Cowboy Copas, Three Strikes and You’re Out
Sister Wynona Carr, Life is a Ball Game
Buddy Johnson and his Hits, Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit that Ball
Les Brown and His Band of Renown , Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio
Billy Bragg & Wilco, Joe DiMaggio Done It Again
Teddy Reynolds, Strike One (Don Newcombe Really Throws that Ball)
Sonny Rollins, Newk’s Fadeaway
The Terniers, Say Hey
Sam Bush, The Wizard of Oz
Falstaff Beer Commercial
Ry Cooder, Third Base Dodger Stadium
Original Cast Damn Yankees, Heart

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!

Check back later for today's playlist from this Senior Citizen's radio show.

Excite - Excite Today - Today's Birthdays: " Musician who has been entertaining audiences for 4 decades. Dylan moved to New York at the age of 20 in hopes of meeting his idol, Woody Guthrie. After playing New York’s, Gerde’s Folk City, Dylan was signed to Columbia records. Dylan breathed new life into songs like, 'Blowing in the Wind,' and 'Master of War,' and as a result struck an emotional chord with '60s youth. Folk music began to evolve into rock and roll for Dylan as he became famous for his moving renditions of protest songs. In 1965, 'Like a Rolling Stone' became Dylan’s first big hit. Three of his albums topped the album charts in the 1970s: 'Planet Waves,' 'Blood on the Tracks' and 'Desire.' In 1988, Dylan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1991. Dylan's talents were recently recognized with his first Oscar, for the song 'Things have Changed'. In 2002, Dylan was awarded a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for 'Love and Theft."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lesbian Vampire Killers

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | On the trail of Lesbian Vampire Killers: "BBC News website readers voted for Lesbian Vampire Killers as the film in Cannes they wanted to know more about. We pick up the trail.

Two young men decide to escape their problems and head to Wales for a weekend in a small village.

They arrive to find a coach-load of Swedish females and a cursed hamlet under the spell of vampires of a specific sexual persuasion.

Welcome to Lesbian Vampire Killers, a comedy horror film project from British firm AV Pictures."

Currently, Lesbian Vampire Killers is little more than a series of glossy posters and a tag-line straight from the Carry On tradition: "Two no-hopers. A Cursed Village. One hell of a night!"

The bad news is that last paragraph. Let's hope the movie gets made, and thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the tip.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

I finally caught up with this one through Netflix, and it was highly entertaining. I read that some reviewers had trouble following the plot, but I had none at all, proving that I've read too many crime novels, I guess. There are three or four or five interconnected stories, and I had their intersections pretty much figured out before they occurred, which was a good thing, because I did have a little trouble understanding some of the dialogue.

This is one of those movies that has a lot of "style," and in fact the style seems at times to be the point of the exercise. Probably not, though.

The whole thing is funny and not overly violent. In fact, most of the violence occurs off-stage, and we see only the results of it. Everybody seems to be having a grand time, even when they're about to get killed or beaten. Highly recommended for when you're looking for a different kind of crime film to watch.

For a Limited Time Only . . .

. . . you can go to this site and listen to J. R. R. Tolkien read and sing material from The Lord of the Rings. For all I know, you can even download it.

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The creator of Sherlock Holmes was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Mystery*File Again

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "ROBERT EDMOND ALTER. Recently added to Peter Enfantino’s article on Alter’s stories for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine is a bibliography that comes close but still isn’t quite complete. If you can help fill in any of the missing gaps, please do."

More great research and comment. Some cover scans are included.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Whipsaw -- Steve Brewer

At noir night, Steve Brewer said that he thought the cover of Whipsaw might be a little "too Austin Powers." Not that there's anything wrong with that, or the fact that the cover has very, very little to do with anything that happens in the book.

Speaking of the book, it's a bit of a departure for Brewer, a pretty straightforward thriller, and a darned good one. Matt Donahue is summoned by David La Costa, his former boss at DelaTek because the code for a new computer game is being held hostage, and the "kidnappers" are demanding that Matt deliver the ransom.

Matt has plenty of reason not to do that, including the fact that LaCosta is married to Matt's ex-wife, but he goes along because his early retirement is based in good part on his stock in DelaTek and because he doesn't want to hurt the employees of the company, some of whom are his friends. Naturally, things go wrong, and Matt finds himself enmeshed in a complicated plot that involves all the right stuff: shooting, car chases, beatings, and romance. Brewer serves it all up with great pacing, some fine local color (San Francisco), credible characters, and good writing. This one deserves big sales. Check it out.

Freddie and the Dreamers

Jeff Meyerson sends along this link to Freddie and the Dreamers singing "I'm Telling You Now." And doing The Freddie.

Mystery*File Update

Some great new stuff, including a link to Phil Stephensen-Payne's magazine checklist (with great cover images), wonderful material on Harold Q. Masur, and a column from Ed Gorman, with news that will have Gold Medal fans salivating.

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "GORMANIA. In this latest installment of his former blog, Ed Gorman Rambles, Ed discusses the used book business, an article in Mystery Scene that he’d rather forget, and some good news about what’s upcoming from Stark House Press."