Saturday, April 07, 2007


Once again the movie slut (me) finds himself in the minority of people who liked Shooter. I checked on Rotten Tomatoes and found it had a ranking of 47%. I didn't bother to read any of the reviews now that I've seen the movie, but maybe I should just to see what people didn't like.

If you've read Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact, on which the movie is based, you have a good idea of the plot. The movie's been slightly updated, but it follows the novel pretty closely. Bob Lee Swagger, expert sniper, gets involved in a conspiracy and is made the patsy. He survives and starts hunting down the principals, who are very powerful people indeed. He gets out of some tight spots and deals out some rough vigilante justice along the way to a satisfying conclusion. In fact, a well-made Matt Helm movie might be something like this.

Mark Wahlberg does just fine as Swagger, who, as in the novel, is hard as nails and smarter than anybody gives him credit for. Levon Helm steals the only scene he's in without even trying. Danny Glover is fine, and it's always good to see Ned Beatty chew a little scenery and do a variation on "wee, wee, wee."

And speaking of Donald Hamilton, as I was above, the plot of Hunter's book and movie reminded me a little of Hamilton's excellent standalone Line of Fire. I haven't read that one in a while, so maybe I'm wrong about any similarity. Still, I'm willing to bet that Hunter's read Hamilton.

Even Judy, no fan of action movies, liked Shooter. Ignore those pesky critics and check it out.

Happy Birthday, James Garner!

James Garner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "James Garner (born James Scott Baumgarner on April 7, 1928) is an American film and television actor. He has starred in several television series spanning a career of more than five decades, including his roles as Bret Maverick in the popular 1950s western-comedy series, Maverick, Jim Rockford in the popular 1970s detective drama, The Rockford Files and the father of Katey Sagal's character on 8 Simple Rules following the death of John Ritter. He has starred in dozens of movies, including The Great Escape (1963) and Paddy Chayefsky's The Americanization of Emily (1964)."

Update: The Rap Sheet has a fine tribute. Check it out.

The Official State Easter Eggs

Yes, every state has one. The 2007 eggs are here.

Is It Me?

Or is this just nuts?

Passengers on 5 flights screened after JFK security breach: "ORLANDO, Fla. -- Passengers aboard five flights from New York City were evacuated and screened at their destination cities as authorities tried to find a man who breached security at John F. Kennedy International Airport, officials said Friday.

No arrests were made and no one was detained at any of the five airports where the flights landed Thursday, Transportation Security Administration spokesman Christopher White said. The flights went to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Palm Beach, Salt Lake City and San Diego, he said.

'We had no specific intelligence indicating the suspect was on board one of the flights,' White said. 'But there was the small likelihood that the individual could have gotten on a flight.'"

Gator Update

BreakingNews: "State wildlife officials warn spring’s the time alligators go looking for love. So don’t get caught in all the wrong places.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission this week urged Floridians and tourists to use extreme caution around the water.

Alligators can become more aggressive during the spring, as they seek mating opportunities. "

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Merle Haggard!

One of the giants of country music without a doubt, even if they won't play his songs on country radio these days. Merle Haggard turns 70 today.

You Know You'll Want One

Invisibility cloak within our grasp | "HARRY Potter fans take note: scientists in the US have finally come up with a workable design for an invisibility cloak.

Physicists figured out the complex mathematical equations for making objects invisible by bending light around them last year.

Now a group of engineers at Purdue University in Indiana has used those calculations to design a relatively simple device that may one day be able to make objects as big as a plane disappear.

The design calls for tiny metal needles to be fitted into a cone like a hairbrush, at angles and lengths that would force light to pass around it. This would make everything inside the cone appear to vanish because the light would no longer reflect off it.

'It looks pretty much like fiction, I do realise, but it's completely in agreement with the laws of physics,' said lead researcher Vladimir Shalaev, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue.

'Ideally, if we make it real it would work exactly like Harry Potter's invisibility cloak,' he said. 'It's not going to be heavy because there's going to be very little metal in it.'"

Sgt Pepper Update

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Rock stars to recreate Sgt Pepper: "Oasis, The Killers and Razorlight are to cover songs from The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to mark the album's 40th anniversary.

James Morrison, The Fratellis, Travis and the Kaiser Chiefs are among the other acts taking part in the special recording sessions for BBC Radio 2.

The engineer in charge of the original 1967 sessions will use the same equipment to record the new versions.

The results will be aired on Radio 2 on 2 June, a day after the anniversary.

The original album was released on 1 June 1967 and went on to be regarded as one of the best and most influential releases in rock history.

Last year, it came top of a Radio 2 poll to find the best number one album of all time.

'Unique event'

The modern rock bands will be recorded by audio engineer Geoff Emerick, using the one-inch four-track equipment he captured the original on 40 years ago."

WIKISKY WIKISKY: Google Maps-Like View of the Night Sky: "WIKISKY lets you see what's up in the heavens above. You can locate many deep sky objects, get detailed information on them by simply hovering your mouse, and see high-quality Sloan Digital Sky Survey images for selected parts of the sky. Type in your current location, verify your timezone, and you can use WIKISKY to help plan your next observing session."

Here's a URL for the site.

Fate Magazine

Sixty years of covers.

Link via Incoming Signals.

April ThugLit Now On-Line

The April issue of ThugLit can be found here. Hard-as-nails fare for your reading pleasure. Check it out.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Helix Spring Issue Now On-Line

Helix is a treat for SF readers. Click here for the latest issue.

I'm Posting this . . .

. . . because I can. Thanks to an anonymous donor for the link.

Happy Birthday, Gale Storm!

Eighty-five today. My Little Margie. The Gale Storm Show (aka Oh, Susanna). And a few hit records, too, including "Dark Moon." Those were the days.

Croaked! -- Dick Lochte

When I received a review copy of Croaked!, I took a look and thought, "Three hundred and ninety-three pages. I don't read books that long." But this was a book by Dick Lochte, and I liked Sleeping Dog, Laughing Dog, Blue Bayou, and The Neon Smile, so I figured I'd read a few pages just to see what it was about. Forty-four pages later, I thought, "I think I'm going to read this even if it is three hundred and ninety-three pages long."

So what persuaded me? Well, for one thing I was reminded of one of my favorite books from many years ago, William Brinkley's The Fun House, which is about behind-the-scenes goings on at a large publisher like Time-Life. Croaked! is about a different kind of publisher, Ogle, which is a lot like Playboy, and the people who work there are just as goofy as those in The Fun House, if not goofier. For another thing, the book's set in the 1960s, a time I remember with affection. and then there's the first murder. How many books have you read lately where someone's killed by a giant frog?

Croaked! is fast and funny, and it doesn't seem long at all. Check it out.

E. Howard Hunt Update

Rolling Stone : The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt: "He was the ultimate keeper of secrets, lurking in the shadows of American history. He toppled banana republics, planned the Bay of Pigs invasion and led the Watergate break-in. Now he would reveal what he'd always kept hidden: who killed JFK."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Jayme Lynn Blaschke has an excellent report on the Aggiecon, something that this blog lacked. There's even a picture of me, looking about 100, and one of Kasey Lansdale, looking great. And Joe Lansdale, too, but who cares about him?

Robert Clark, R. I. P. - The News On 6: "Film director Robert Clark, best known for the beloved holiday classic ``A Christmas Story,'' was killed with his son Wednesday in a car wreck, the filmmaker's assistant and police said.

Clark, 67, and son Ariel Hanrath-Clark, 22, were killed in the accident in Pacific Palisades, said Lyne Leavy, Clark's personal assistant.

The two men were in an Infiniti that collided head-on with a GMC Yukon around 2:30 a.m. PST, said Lt. Paul Vernon, a police spokesman. The driver of the other car was under the influence of alcohol and was driving without a license, Vernon said.

The driver, Hector Velazquez-Nava, 24, of Los Angeles, remained hospitalized and will be booked for investigation of gross vehicular manslaughter after being treated, Vernon said. A female passenger in his car also was taken to the hospital with minor injuries and released, police said."


As so often happens, I've watched a light and frothy animated movie from Pixar while you were polishing up your essay on the play of light and shadow in Hiroshima, Mon Amour. But that doesn't make me a bad person, does it?

The animation in this one is great, as you'd expect from Pixar, and the voices are up to the animation: Bonnie Hunt, Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Click & Clack (The Tappet Brothers), and even Paul Newman, to name a few.

The story is a variation of what I call "The Mayberry Story." You remember the one where the hotshot, shelfish businessman who's in a big hurry to get somewhere speeds through Mayberry, gets arrested, and has to spend a couple of days there? When it comes time for him to leave, he's grown to love the slow pace and simple life of the small town and to appreciate and like the people who live there. Okay, if you remember that, then you have the plot of this movie in a nutshell. Hey, it works. Toss in some funny bits, and you have a winner. Check it out after you finish the revisions on that essay.

This Skit Sounds Great . . .

. . . but I can't blog about it, and it might not ever air.

Gator Update -- White House Edition

The native- and alligator- hope to meet president: "Hoopeston native Dan Breeding has met Kelly Ripa, Jay Leno and David Letterman.

On Monday, Breeding anticipates adding President Bush to that list.

'A guy does not bring a 7-foot alligator to the White House and not get to meet the president,' joked Breeding, 36, a wildlife educator and animal trainer who is taking some of his wild animals to the annual Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn of the White House."

Side by Side #6

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Houston Homicide

So today's mail brought a copy of The Spider Chronicles, and then by e-mail this photo arrived. The book will be out from Five Star later this year, probably much later.

The Spider Chronicles

My copy arrived today. Obviously a classic collection, with a story by me called "The Marching Madmen," and lots of other great tales about The Master of Men. You can buy a copy from Amazon.

Have We Won Yet?

NPR : America's Forgotten War: A Series Overview: ", April 2, 2007 � Nearly four decades ago, President Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs. In 1969 he declared, 'Winning the battle against drug abuse is one of the most important, the most urgent national priorities confronting the United States today.'

That battle has been waged through seven White House administrations; in recent years, experts estimate the costs have run close to $40 billion annually. It's been fought overseas, with programs to eradicate coca and heroin production in Latin America and Asia, and efforts to interdict drugs as they are smuggled into the country over land, sea and air. It's been fought on American streets, with a law-enforcement crackdown that has resulted in nearly a half-million imprisonments over the last few decades. And it's been fought in countless U.S. communities with programs to educate, prevent and treat abuse.

But after all these battles and all these billions, what's been accomplished?"

I Think I'll Buy It

Knight Rider's KITT restored, up for sale at auto dealer | - Houston Chronicle: "KITT, the flame-throwing, river-jumping, talking muscle car from the '80s TV show Knight Rider, is up for sale.

Restored to its debut-season glory, the modified black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am is offered at $149,995 at a Dublin auto dealership. Johnny 'Vette' Verhoek of Kassabian Motors has had the car, officially called Knight Industries Two Thousand, on display for about a month.

It is one of four documented 'camera cars' used for close-up shots and scenes where David Hasselhoff, who played Michael Knight in the series, was behind the wheel."

Outcast -- Sheldon Lord

Outcast is, hands down, the funniest book I’ve read in a long time. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not.

The fun starts with the cover blurb: “A novel that courageously comes to grips with the hidden problem of deviation among women.”
Okay, that in itself isn’t funny, but it becomes amusing after you read the novel, which is isn't about the "problem" at all. It's about a guy named Harry, who has sexual encounters one after another with every woman he meets. I lost count after the sixth.

I believe the third woman is Sherri, who tells him that he doesn’t stand a chance with her because “I haven’t been touched by a man in five years. I’m a lesbian.”

Sherri expects Harry to condemn her: “To you I’m just a freak, something that ought to be in a sideshow.”
But Harry fools her. “Okay, so you’re a lesbian. How was I to know? It’s nothing to me – I believe in live and let live. You get your kicks your way, I get mine another . . . . I’ll take you to your place, beautiful. Relax.”

The effect of this “quick speech made on the spur of the moment” is that Sherri falls into Harry’s arms, "her wide green eyes brightly blurring and her lips, wetted quickly by the flick of a pink tongue, shaping themselves into a kiss." Harry quickly realizes that “Sherri was starved.” So he gives her everything he has, so to speak.

The next thing you know she wants to marry him. Later the same tactic, along with a little rough stuff, works on Sherri's "friend" Terry. When Prudence joins in a threesome with them, Harry has her, too.

So much for the “problem of deviation among women.” Just introduce them to Harry. "Problem" solved.

And some of the dialogue is classic stuff: “‘I’m hip,’ Terry said. ‘I feel like having a real sick evening, dig? He’s like wild.’”

Did I mention the plot? It’s pretty much what I said above. Harry has sexual encounters with every woman he meets (including the nurse when he’s in the hospital after a serious automobile accident). You have to read it to believe it. You can do that in an hour or so, since the book is very short, probably not more than 40K words. Check it out, assuming you have a copy lying around. As funny as it is, it’s not worth the prices they’re asking on the ‘net.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Fender Tucker Has a Blag

So check it out.

Fender's BLAG: "What the hell is a blag? Well, it's like a blog but it's a page where I plan to brag about myself and the tremendous effect I've had on this puny world during my 60 years. I hope to add to this occasionally but for now I'm starting off with the obvious."

CNN's Best and Worst Movie Battle Scenes

The best -- and worst -- movie battle scenes -

Wham! Pow! Zap! Argh! To celebrate the launch of the ultimate battle movie, 300, we've compiled a list of our favorite on-screen battle scenes -- and the ones which really made us cringe.

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Donald Hamilton, R. I. P.

When I read the news on the Mystery*File blog this morning, I hoped there was some mistake, but Donald Hamilton's death has been confirmed. This is truly bad news. I'd hoped that someday we'd see the rumored final Matt Helm novel in print, but I don't have much hope of that now.

Hamilton was a wonderful writer, as anyone who's ever read his books already knows. The Matt Helm series alone would be enough to establish him as an important contributor to the crime, mystery, and spy fields, but standalones like Line of Fire are, to me, even better. His Westerns are good, too, and several of them (most notably The Big Country) were filmed. The Matt Helm books were filmed as well, but not so notably.

Recently Hard Case Crime reprinted Night Walker, so at least that one's easily available. The Helm books turn up on eBay all the time, and they're cheap. If you've never read Hamilton's work, you should. It's top of the line, and I'm very sorry to hear he's gone.

Update: Steve Lewis of Mystery*File has confirmed that the unpublished Matt Helm novel does indeed exist. Read his comments here.

This Would Never Happen in the U.S.

Schools refuse gifts of 'boring' classics | News | This is London

Dozens of schools have rejected gifts of free classic books because today's pupils find them too 'difficult' to read, it has emerged.

Around 50 schools have refused to stock literary works by the likes of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens after admitting that youngsters also find them boring.

The worrying figures were released by the Millennium Library Trust, which donates sets of up to 300 books to schools across the country.

David Campbell, who runs the Trust, also revealed that a further 50 schools had sent back the gifts as they were on the verge of closing down and another 40 said they had no library to store the books.

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Oh. My. God.

I just can't stand it. I reported this a year ago, but I hoped it wasn't true. Apparently it is. And you kids get off my damn lawn!

Jeff Meyerson Sent this Link. . .

. . . but I'm not going to use it.

And that reminds me that I hope you all saw "Opus" in your comics section yesterday. Steve Stilwell particularly recommends it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Thanks to Jeff "I'm Not Bidding" Meyerson for the link.

Anna Nicole action figure up on eBay: "Anna Nicole Smith has achieved a feat in death that she may never have accomplished in life — getting her own toy doll.

The doll features a 'sexy figure with large bust', and its body is 'fully articulated and poseable,' according to the artist.

While it is not known if Anna Nicole ever wanted herself to be crafted into doll form, the toy does lead the late Playboy playmate further down the path of her hero — Marilyn Monroe."

Under Orders -- Dick Francis

So there was young Bill Crider back in early 1967, 25 years old and looking at the paperbacks on the spinner rack in an Austin, Texas, convenience store, when what to his wondering eyes should appear but a paperback with this blurb on the cover: "A thriller from start to finish line . . . Francis is a story teller in the Raymond Chandler-Dashiell Hammett tradition."

The book was Dick Francis' Odds Against, and while the blurb was enough to convince me I needed the book, I opened it up to check out the first paragraph: "I was never particularly keen on my job before the day I got shot and nearly lost it, along with my life. But the .38 slug of lead which made a pepper shaker of my intestines left me with fire in my belly in more ways thatn one. Otherwise I should never have met Zanna Martin, and would still be held fast in the spider threads of departed joys, of no use to anyone, least of all to myself."

Maybe you could have resisted making the purchase, but I couldn't. And I'm certainly glad I didn't. After that I went back and found Francis's earlier novels, and I read each one after that as soon as I could get my hands on it. While some have been better than others, I've never been really disappointed in a single one.

Under Orders is the latest, appearing a few years after Francis's announced retirement from the writing game. I don't know why he came back, but I'm glad he did. This one is narrated by Sid Halley, by coincidence the narrator of Odds Against. If the book isn't absolutely top drawer Francis, it's close enough, and that's a lot better than the average for just about anybody else.

Halley investigates both Internet gambling and the murder of a jockey suspected of fixing races. There's the usual thorough research one expects in a Francis novel, along with the requisite attempts to stop his investigation. This time the attempts are aimed at someone other than Halley, and you might think old Sid has escaped the usual harrowing experiences undergone by a Francis narrator. Dream on.

I found the narrative voice as engaging as ever and the pacing just as good. And doesn't that opening paragraph I quoted make you want to do back and read Odds Against again? Francis is one of the greats.

No Comment Department

icLiverpool - Police quiz boy, 10, for calling schoolfriend 'gay': "A father criticised a police force today for launching an investigation after his ten-year-old son allegedly called a schoolfriend “gay” in an email.

Company director Alan Rawlinson said he was astounded after two police officers arrived at his home in Bold Heath, Cheshire, to speak to his son George.

The officers were called earlier this month after a parent complained that George had called her son a “gay boy” in an email."

New Spinetingler

The latest (Spring 2007) issue of Spinetingler is on-line. This one is full of great stuff. Check it out right here.

No Joke

In a little while Judy and I will start home. It will be nice to get back to high-speed Internet access after several days of dial-up.

I promise not to post any April Fool's jokes here today, so when I say that last night I saw Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Roy Orbison, you know I'm telling the truth.

What happened was that we went to my brother's second annual party at the Mexia Civic Center. He invited just about everyone he knows or has ever known, and the first two guys on this page provided the entertainment. I mentioned Wayne King last year. His impression of Roy Orbison is so good that it's almost scary. He was in fine voice last night, and we enjoyed the show.