Saturday, November 04, 2006

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

AP Wire | 11/04/2006 | Some Texas schools switching from textbooks to e-books: "DALLAS - If voters approve school bond packages in Lancaster and Forney, those districts will become the latest Texas schools to begin replacing traditional hardbound textbooks with electronic versions.

The Plano and Irving school districts have already introduced e-books into some of their classrooms, and the Midland school district is moving away from old-fashioned textbooks entirely, said Anita Givens of the Texas Education Agency.

'In some classrooms, teachers give students traditional textbooks to keep at home, and they use online books or other resources at school,' Givens said.

Forney schools are planning the most complete overhaul, with a school bond package that would provide $11.8 million for laptops for students. The plan is to have most students using only electronic textbooks within two years, school officials said.

If that happens, Forney would probably be the first school district in Texas to use e-books in every classroom from fifth grade on up, Givens said."

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Cameras Show Army Recruiters Misleading Students - AOL News: "An ABC News undercover investigation showed Army recruiters telling students that the war in Iraq was over, in an effort to get them to enlist."

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Cameras Show Army Recruiters Misleading Students - AOL News: "An ABC News undercover investigation showed Army recruiters telling students that the war in Iraq was over, in an effort to get them to enlist."

New York, New York

Typo in state's drunken driving law changes its meaning - "ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Drinking a shot of beer in New York could get you arrested for drunken driving. At least that's the way the New York law reads.

Lawmakers this year approved a bill that sets the standard for driving while intoxicated at 0.18 grams of alcohol in a person's blood.

A person's body might produce that much alcohol naturally, said Ed Fiandach, a DWI lawyer in Rochester.

Instead of using grams, the law should have used blood alcohol content as a measure.

'It was a typo,' said Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, who heads the Assembly Transportation Committee that approved the bill before it went to the Legislature. 'If you go through our laws, mistakes are made all the time. We're human beings.'"

I'm Cautiously Optimistic

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | 'Brilliant' Bond seduces critics: "Daniel Craig's performance as James Bond has been hailed as 'terrific' and 'simply brilliant' in early reviews of his 007 debut in Casino Royale.

The first verdicts on Craig - who was a controversial choice to play the spy - have been gushing.

The Daily Mirror said he was seen 'oozing the kind of edgy menace that recalls Sean Connery at his best'.

And the Daily Telegraph wrote that he 'steps with full assuredness into Sean Connery's old handmade shoes'."

Want to be Minuteman?

Texas Virtual Neighborhood Border Watch Program: "As part of the Virtual Neighborhood Border Watch Program, the State of Texas has been testing video surveillance cameras in different environments along the 1240 miles of Texas/Mexico border using the internet to transmit the images. The last stage of the test is to stress the system by providing public access to numerous surveillance cameras.

Thank you for helping test this important capability."

World Fantasy Con Update

So far, the video uploads aren't working out. I have no idea why, but I don't have but a couple anyway.

My biggest surprise of the con came yesterday when I was talking to Neal Barrett, Jayme Blaschke, and Peter Beagle. Beagle's the author of The Last Unicorn, one of the finest fantasy novels of the last century, and not exactly the person I'd think would be interested in some of the stuff that I like. So when he started talking about how much he loved Gold Medal Books and how his youthful reading was of guys like David Goodis and John D. MacDonald, I was a little taken aback. But of course it was great to meet another fan of the Good Old Stuff.

Last night was the mass signing, and all the contributors to Cross Plains Universe sat in a group. I've never signed so many books before. One contributor said, "I hope I get to have one more signing like that before I die." Of course all Joe Lansdale's signings are like that, so he took it in stride.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Set the TiVo

Kirstie Alley Gets Bikini-Ready for Oprah | Kirstie Alley : "Kirstie Alley is due to pose in her bikini on Monday's Oprah Winfrey Show, almost a year to the day after she first promised Winfrey she would. "

Hooray for Hollywood

IGN: When De Niro Met Fiddy: "November 2, 2006 - Robert De Niro and 50 Cent? It's a match seemingly made in heaven, right? The pair are getting set to star together in a new police thriller called New Orleans."

A Year Without Harry Potter Is Like a Year Without Money

CBC NEWS: There was no Harry Potter book this year — and that cost Indigo Books & Music Inc. dearly.

Total sales for Canada's largest bookstore chain fell 2.4 per cent to $182.2 million in the fiscal second quarter, largely because there was no Harry Potter book to sell. And a quarterly profit last year turned into a $1-million loss.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Daniel Boone!

American West - DANIEL BOONE: "More than any other man, Daniel Boone was responsible for the exploration and settlement of Kentucky. His grandfather came from England to America in 1717. His father was a weaver and blacksmith, and he raised livestock in the country near Reading, Pennsylvania. Daniel was born there on November 2, 1734.

If Daniel Boone was destined to become a man of the wild, an explorer of unmapped spaces, his boyhood was the perfect preparation. He came to know the friendly Indians in the forests, and early he was marking the habits of wild things and bringing them down with a crude whittled spear. When he was twelve his father gave him a rifle, and his career as a huntsman began."

I Was Going to Comment on This, but I Forgot What I Wanted to Say

News in Science - Forgetful? Virus may be eating your brain - 24/10/2006: "Forget where you left your glasses? Did those keys go missing again? A virus may be to blame.

Viruses that cause a range of ills from the common cold to polio may be able to infect the brain and cause steady damage, a team at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota reports.

'Our study suggests that virus-induced memory loss could accumulate over the lifetime of an individual and eventually lead to clinical cognitive memory deficits,' says Dr Charles Howe, who reports the findings in the latest issue of the journal Neurobiology of Disease. "

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson, always on the ball.

iWon News - Anna Nicole Smith Had Pain in Her Side: "NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - Anna Nicole Smith was suffering from pain in her side when she checked into the hospital where doctors diagnosed a case of pneumonia, her attorney said Wednesday.

The 38-year-old former Playboy Playmate arrived Monday at Doctors Hospital, the same medical center where she gave birth to a daughter, Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern, on Sept. 7. Her 20-year-old son died three days later while visiting his mother and sister.

'The impression I got is they took her in because her ribs were hurting, and then they discovered she had pneumonia,' attorney Wayne Munroe told The Associated Press.

Smith's companion, Howard K. Stern, said in a statement to the TV show 'Entertainment Tonight' that Smith underwent a procedure Tuesday to drain fluid from a lung that had partially collapsed."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

William Styron, R. I. P.

One of the very first books I read in grad school, in a contemporary novels course, was Lie Down in Darkness. (That it was actually sort of contemporary tells you how long ago I was in grad school.) That title has stuck with me through the years as appropriate to Styron's life, for some reason.

Novelist William Styron Dead at 81 - "William Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose explorations of the darkest corners of the human mind and experience were charged by his own near-suicidal demons, died Wednesday in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. He was 81."

Top 10 Lesbian Vampire Flicks - Top 10 Lesbian Vampire Flicks: "According to Andrea Weiss, author of Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film, “outside of male pornography, the lesbian vampire is the most persistent lesbian image in the history of the cinema.” So turn down the lights, ladies, and settle in for some Gothic gloom this Halloween season. It's time to pay homage to our fair forebear (and the lesbian vampire is always irresistibly hot) by running down 10 of the best lesbian vampire flicks out there."

Is This Asinine or What?

There's no evidence on these guys, but you still have to trash your bottle of water before you go through security.

UK 'air plot:' Brothers released - "LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two brothers charged in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners have been released after a British court ruled there was insufficient evidence to warrant a trial.

Westminster Magistrate's Court confirmed that the case of Umair Hussain, 25, and Mehran Hussain 23, was discharged due to 'insufficient information evidence.'

The two faced charges of failing to disclose information about the suspected role of their brother Nabeel Hussain, 22, one of 11 people charged with conspiracy to murder and preparing acts of terrorism in the plot."

We're Here

Judy and I arrived in Austin around 1:00 this afternoon. We had lunch with our son, Allen, and spent some time at his house. We're now ensconced in the Renaissance Hotel in the Arboretum on Highway 183. Programming for the convention doesn't begin until tomorrow, so we'll sit around and read the paper and the books we brought along. Maybe we'll visit a restaurant later for dinner. I'll probably call my sister and see if she wants to drive out to join us.

This is the same hotel where the Bouchercon was held a few years ago when I was Fan Guest of Honor. I was hoping I'd get the same nice suite I had then. No such luck.

World Fantasy Convention

Judy and I are about to toddle off to Austin for the World Fantasy Convention. This year, Robert E. Howard will be honored. All the attendees will be receiving a copy of Cross Plains Universe. If the book eventually sells to mass market paperback, then everyone can read some of the great stories between the covers, but for now you'll have to be content with looking at the cover here or checking out the table of contents here.

I'll probably do a little blogging at the convention, but I don't know many fantasy writers, so there might not be video. Except that, for you Dirty Old Men (and you know who you are), I'll try to have a video of Kasey Lansdale, who, I believe is the opening act for Ray Price this weekend. Soon she'll be a chart-topper, but I'll always remember her as the kid who lost out to a ferret in the Miss AggieCon contest.

Gator Update "FREDERIC, Mich. (AP) -- Your money or your ... alligator? Police say an armed man went to the home of a drug dealer to collect on a debt. When the dealer couldn't pay, the collector made off with the dealer's 18-inch-long pet alligator.

'I think he was going to hold (the gator) for ransom, or something,' Crawford County Sheriff Kirk Wakefield told the Traverse City Record-Eagle for a story Tuesday. 'It's really weird.'

The alleged gator-napping arose from a Sept. 25 drug bust at a house west of Frederic, a rural village 200 miles north of Detroit, Wakefield said.

Police confiscated a cache of drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and Ecstasy pills, plus $900 in cash and two handguns.

'Apparently the guys we took this from owed somebody for what we took,' Wakefield said. 'That somebody hired this guy to go get that money.'"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Grave Descend -- John Lange

Twenty years ago I wrote a short essay on John Lange's Easy Go for 1001 Midnights. I said something like "The critics don't like Lange much, but this is a very entertaining book."

When I wrote that, I also mentioned that Lange was actually a pen name. That's not mentioned anywhere on the Hard Case Crime book I just read, however, so I won't mention it, either.

So what's Grave Descend like? It's like those great old paperbacks they don't write any more. Short (my guess: 50K words), and it gets the job done. The setting's Jamaica. MacGregor is a diver living more or less hand-to-mouth. He's hired to do a seemingly straightforward job, except that everybody who talks to him has a different story, and there are all sorts of little things that bother him. He's right to be bothered. There's more plot in this book than in most of the doorstop-sized thrillers published today. Not much character development. Hardly any, in fact, but there's action, color, movement to spare. Sharks. Femme fatales. Smart cops. Spear guns. And crocodiles, a huge plus here at Chez Crider. Pure paperback storytelling and fine local color, too. There's even this quotation from Samuel Johnson: "Much may be made of a Scotchman, if he be caught young." What's not to like? Check it out.

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Thanks to the ever-alert Jeff Meyerson for the link. - Anna Nicole Smith Treated for Pneumonia, May Have Dyed Baby's Hair - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment: "NASSAU, Bahamas — Anna Nicole Smith has been hospitalized with pneumonia at the same medical center in the Bahamas where her 20-year-old son died under mysterious circumstances in September, an attorney for the reality TV star said Tuesday.

Smith, whose son died while visiting her in the hospital three days after she gave birth to a daughter, was being treated at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, attorney Wayne Munroe said.

'She has a slight case of pneumonia,' Munroe told The Associated Press. 'We've had a sudden change of weather here due to a cold snap.'

Click here for more Anna Nicole Smith headlines

Smith's 20-year-old son Daniel died in her hospital room hours after arriving in the Bahamas, where his mother had moved during her pregnancy. The results of official toxicology tests and a police investigation into his death have not been released.

Meanwhile, an attorney said she believes that Smith dyes her new daughter's hair.

The model, who usually sports platinum blonde hair, may have dyed her infant daughter's locks to make it appear the father is Smith's current companion, Debra Opri, lawyer for Smith's ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead, said Monday."

I've Known this All Along Socialite PARIS HILTON insists her sultry image is all an act and that she would rather eat than have sex. Although the STARS ARE BLIND singer became famous after a sex tape she filmed with former boyfriend RICK SOLOMON was released on the internet in 2003, she says she doesn't deserve her racy reputation. She tells Seventeen magazine, "People shouldn't judge me and assume that's how I am. "I get in so many fights with guys who are like, 'In public, you are the sexiest sex symbol, but you're not sexual at all at home.' "I'm like, 'Whatever, shut up. I don't wanna be.' I'd rather watch a movie or LOST, or like, eat."

Why I Haven't Seen Saw (and probably won't see Saw)

BBC News: Staff at a UK cinema have had to call emergency services three times in one night because of a spate of people passing out during horror film Saw III.

One woman was taken to hospital and two other adults were treated by medics after fainting in Stevenage, Herts.

And in a separate case, a man collapsed at a cinema in Peterborough, Cambs, "due to the film's content".

"If you know you're squeamish, don't go," warned a spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service.

"This is obviously a blood-thirsty film. Some of the scenes are fairly horrific," Matthew Ware told the BBC News website.

Victorian Ghost Stories

Here are some Victorian ghost stories you can read at your computer. Or print 'em up and read 'em while you're passing out the candy tonight.

Link via The Little Professor, who has a bunch of other great Halloween links, too.

Gator Update

downgrade-for-alligators - Latest News Reports -From Blogs: "WEST PALM BEACH - State wildlife officials are recommending that alligators be downgraded from species of special concern to game within five years.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also is ruling that homeowners be allowed to kill nuisance alligators on their property or hire a trapper to do so.

The commission will consider the recommendations at its December meeting.

Officials say the suggestions were made through input from an online survey and partially because the alligator population has topped one million, not because there have been three fatal alligator attacks in Florida since May.

Lake Worth trapper Rick Kramer says many of his colleagues don’t support the new recommendations.

He says it may lead to people getting hurt and injured alligators."

Top 10 Segments from The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror

IGN: Top 10 Segments from The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror: "Top 10 Segments from The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror

We look back at the best Simpsons Halloween segments!

by Eric Goldman, Dan Iverson & Brian Zoromski

October 30, 2006 - As we don our Halloween costumes and prepare for All Hallow's Eve, here at IGN TV we're taking a look back at one of our favorite show's annual Halloween specials, The Simpsons' 'Treehouse of Horror.' While the episodes haven't actually aired on or before Halloween for seven years (FOX's airing of the World Series has pushed the 'Treehouse' episodes to November since 2000), the 'Treehouse of Horror' eps are always some of our favorite Halloween specials.

Each 'Treehouse of Horror' episode is split into three segments -- ranging from great, to OK, to not as memorable. We took a look through the 48 'Treehouse' segments from the past 16 installments of the seasonal special and picked out our favorite ten segments. There were many great segments to choose from, so if we missed your favorite moment from The Simpsons' 'Treehouse of Horror,' let us know and we'll include it in an edition of the IGN TV Mailbag."

Long-lost Jim Thompson Script

The Rap Sheet: A Hell of a Find: "Wow, a very long-lost Jim Thompson film treatment called Lunatic at Large? And plans to finally produce a movie from the script that renowned director Stanley Kubrick failed to use before his death in 1999? Where do I get in line for tickets?"

And from the New York Times:
Despite its title, “Lunatic at Large” is not a horror story. It’s a dark and surprising mystery of sorts, in which the greatest puzzle is who, among several plausible candidates, is the true escapee from a nearby mental hospital. Mr. Clarke, the screenwriter, said that the recovered treatment (a prose narrative dramatizing an idea by Mr. Kubrick) was a “gem” but also “pretty basic,” and that he expanded it a bit, adding a new subplot, among other things, to make the solution less obvious. Mr. Clarke’s experience consists mostly of writing for British television, so he prepared for his new task by rereading Mr. Thompson and studying old Bogart films.

Gator Update -- Halloween Costume Edition

Click here.

Link via Dave Barry.

Steve Irwin Elementary?

Jayme Lynn Blaschke's daughter Calista wants the new school in her neighborhood to be named Steve Irwin Elementary. Here's a little Steve Irwin video, since I can't pass up a chance to mention the Crocodile Hunter.

Happy Halloween!

And it's Kinky Friedman's birthday, too. Now that's scary.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Officer Naughty

Thanks to John Duke for the tip. Those who demand photographic proof, click here.

BADGE BABE PARIS By LEELA de KRETSER - New York Post Online Edition: Seven: "October 29, 2006 -- Life imitates, er, art?

Paparazzi princess Paris Hilton shows she might actually have some imagination by showing off an ingenious Halloween costume as LAPD cop 'Officer Naughty' outside her Beverly Hills home.

The blond bubblehead mocked her recent DWI run-in with the law (inset) and strutted out wearing a busty, blue police outfit, complete with a holster on her tiny hips and a 'Naughty' name tag.

This time, however, the cuffs were off Hilton's wrists - a far cry from last month when she was busted for driving while intoxicated and dragged into a Hollywood precinct."

More From Harry Whittington

Again from The Mystery Writer's Handbook:

"The lowest advance I've been paid for a paperback original was $625. May writers regularly accept $500 less the agent's 10 per cent. In three years, beginning in November 1950, I sold and had published thirty-two novels. Counting foreign reprint rights, I've earned at least $1000 on each one and several times that on a few."

The 1000 Greatest Films?

You'll need plenty of time to peruse this list. You'll need even more time to watch all the films.

Astounding/Analog Covers

Here's a site with all the covers for Astounding and Analog, from the beginning to the present. Check it out.

Link via boing boing.

Today on "It's a Mystery"

From Beth Foxwell:

Monday's guest on "It's a Mystery" is Maggie Barbieri, whose lively debut
mystery is Murder 101, in which the body of a student turns up in the
trunk of a professor at a small Catholic college. Barbieri's work is
filled with bon mots such as "[o]ur school has an unwritten motto: 'Keep
your alumnae close and your rich alumnae closer.'"

Also, in honor of Halloween, I'll be broadcasting a radio production of
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."

"It's a Mystery" is Webcast at 11 AM ET on Mondays at

Sunday, October 29, 2006

So I Guess We'd Have to Call the Trick a Success

Scary trick turns deadly: "South Coffeyville, Oklahoma - A man died after his head slammed into the side of a trailer as he bungee jumped out of a tree to frighten passengers on a Halloween-themed hay ride, authorities said.

Several hundred people were attending the Trail of Spooks Hay Rack Ride on Saturday night when Frank Kester was fatally injured.

'The cable that kept him suspended snapped,' said Kassie Johnson, who was on the ride when the accident occurred. 'At first I thought it was just a dummy falling out of the tree. The trailer bumped up in the air when he hit. Then everyone started screaming.'"

This Guy Would Have Known Better . . .

. . . if he'd read this book. NewsFlash - Gun blast ignites fireworks shop: "LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. (AP) — A man attempting to rob a fireworks shop fired his shotgun, igniting fireworks and starting a blaze that destroyed the business, authorities said.

No injuries were reported at North American Fireworks, the Vilas County Sheriff's Department said in a statement Saturday. A 20-year-old man was being held in jail after being tracked to a home about 10 miles away.

The owner told deputies a male entered the business Friday wearing a ski mask and armed with a shotgun. He fired indoors, and a shot apparently ignited fireworks, authorities said."

Adjust 'em Boyo

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Should I stay or should I go now?: "You've played the biggest stadiums, you've had Bob Dylan, Jack Nicholson and Eddie Murphy coming backstage to pay tribute. Rolling Stone magazine says your records are in the top 10 of all time. So where do you go now?

Terry Chimes, drummer with the Clash, literally turned his back on rock and roll - and became a chiropractor in Essex. His stage appearances are now limited to motivational seminars for doctors.

So how did he get from playing in a band to the treatment table?

'I felt it was time to completely change - and over the time I'd been a musician, I'd already become a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-drug-taking vegetarian who does yoga.'"

Bloodlines -- Jason Starr & Maggie Estep, Editors

Bloodlines: a Horse Racing Anthology isn't exactly all crime fiction, though some of it surely is. With contributors like Estep and Starr, along with Ken Bruen, Joe R. Lansdale, Lee Child, Daniel Woodrell, Scott Phillips, Charlie Stella, Laura Lippman, among others, it's a must-have item. I have a longer comment on the Lansdale story here. Check it out.

Set Your TiVo now! KENS 5: Sports: "Multi-hyphenate (heiress-singer-actress-reality show personality, etc.) Paris Hilton will kick off Monday's Minnesota-New England game by picking up a football helmet and saying the 'Are you ready for some football?' line in the broadcast's computer-animated 'Transformation' segment. According to the Boston Herald, Hilton was four hours late to film her segment but 'Transformation' co-creator Kurt Mattilla said 'She definitely spent the most time of anyone we've filmed making sure she looked good and she spent a lot of time rehearsing how to pick up the helmet.'"

Harry Houdini, Spy

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

iWon News - Book Paints Escape-Artist Houdini As Spy: "NEW YORK (AP) - Eighty years after his death, the name Harry Houdini remains synonymous with escape under the most dire circumstances. But Houdini, the immigrants' son whose death-defying career made him one of the world's biggest stars, was more than a mere entertainer.

A new biography of the legendary performer suggests that Houdini worked as a spy for Scotland Yard, monitored Russian anarchists and chased counterfeiters for the U.S. Secret Service - all before he was possibly murdered."