Saturday, June 02, 2007

Once Again Texas Leads the Way

Not that we're surprised. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Top News - Texas Leads Nation in Carbon Emissions - AOL News: "WASHINGTON (June 2) - America may spew more greenhouse gases than any other country, but some states are astonishingly more prolific polluters than others - and it's not always the ones you might expect."

The Carpetbaggers -- Harold Robbins

The Carpetbaggers was originally published in 1961, which means that the paperback came out in 1962. So in the summer of 1962 I read the book for the first time. A week or so ago I visited my local personal bookseller (Wal-Mart) and saw a brand-new paperback edition from Tor. I went into a veritable frenzy of nostalgia (shocking, I'm sure, many Wal-Mart shoppers). This happened on the same day that I'd just read somewhere that it was Harold Robbins' birthday. The coincidence and the nostalgia, along with the fact that it had been just about exactly 45 years since I read the book, were too much for me, and I bought it.

When I read it in 1962, the book was considered very hot stuff. I believe one reviewer said that it should have been written on a restroom wall rather than published between covers. And it is indeed full of sex: straight sex, gay sex, rough sex, near-incestuous sex, solitary sex, group sex, kinky sex, and probably other kinds of sex that I'm forgetting at the moment. None of it, however, is graphically described. I'm sure that Nightstand Books and others of the time were going farther in that regard than Robbins did.

The book is divided into sections named for the characters. Jonas Cord is the major figure, and he narrates his sections in the first person. Cord was based on Howard Hughes, a fact that was obvious to me even 45 years ago. I'd see The Outlaw and knew the story about Jane Russell and the bra, which is fictionalized in the book.

The section I remembered best was devoted to Nevada Smith. I guess others liked it best, too, because it was made into a movie with Steve McQueen, and even into a TV movie with Cliff Potts. The section is under 100 pages long, but there's enough violence in it to fill a much longer book. No wonder I remembered it. It's the most vivid in the novel. Smith seems to be about 90% fictional, but there are traces of Tom Mix and William Boyd in the character, for sure.

I enjoyed reading the book again. Since it was a historical novel, it's not nearly as dated as you might think. It's still pretty darned good popular entertainment if you like trashy books, which I do. Check it out.

Aside: The first book I read by Robbins was A Stone for Danny Fisher, which I checked out of the library after seeing King Creole and noticing that it was based on Robbins' novel, which it hardly resembles. After The Carpetbaggers, I never read another book by Robbins, and I didn't realize that he kept on cranking them out for so many years. In fact, the books have continued to appear right up to the present, even though Robbins died in 1997. Someone called Junius Podrugg is now sharing credit with Robbins on the covers. The same roman a clef formula seems to be working all these years later.

Buy Mine! Buy Mine!

Tough sell for writers at NY literary speed-dating | Entertainment | Reuters: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - If you think speed-dating is tough, try selling your book to an editor in three minutes.

That's what hundreds of aspiring authors were doing this week at a New York trade fair, and the odds were against them.

Literary agent Peter Miller said there were as many as 15 million wannabe writers in the United States with books to sell."

Will the Persecution Never End?

Thanks to Jeff "Jailbird" Meyerson for the link, which I of course won't use.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Paging Jules Verne

Trip proposed to centre of Earth via Arctic hole: "A U.S. scientist and a small band of believers are planning a journey to the Canadian Arctic for what they call 'the greatest geological expedition in history.'

Are they searching for Arctic oil reserves? Documenting evidence of climate change?

Not quite. They're looking for a fog-shrouded hole in the Arctic Ocean that leads -- they say -- to the centre of the Earth, where an unknown civilization is lurking inside the hollow core of the planet."

The Results are In

The all new seven wonders of the world | Uk News | News | Telegraph: "The Channel Tunnel has been voted one of the seven new wonders of the world in a new survey.

The longest undersea tunnel in the world, which opened in 1994, came seventh in an online poll conducted by Teletext Holidays, while the Sydney Opera House was hailed as the top new wonder of the world.

Second place was given to the Eiffel Tower, which has been visited by more than 200 million visitors since its opening in 1889."

Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality

Check it out. But not when you're feeling queasy.

Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality: "Each item was purchased, taken home, and photographed immediately. Nothing
was tampered with, run over by a car, or anything of the sort. It is an accurate representation in every case. Shiny, neon-orange, liquefied pump-cheese, and all."

Cue Michael Jackson Singing "Ben"

Lost documents shed light on Black Death-Life & Style-Health-TimesOnline: "For centuries, rats and fleas have been fingered as the culprits responsible for the Black Death, the medieval plague that killed as many as two thirds of Europe’s population.

But historians studying 14th-century court records from Dorset believe they may have uncovered evidence that exonerates them. The parchment records, contained in a recently-discovered archive, reveal that an estimated 50 per cent of the 2,000 people living in Gillingham died within four months of the Black Death reaching the town in October 1348."
"Experts now believe that the Black Death is more likely to have been a viral infection, similar to haemorrhagic fever or ebola, that spread from person to person."

Slooowly I Turned

More on Astonishing Adventures

The site is now up and running - please pop over and take a look. The magazine will be released on August 31st, so please sign up for the mailing list to receive your free copy of the Astonishing Adventures! magazine ePulp. The site itself will cover comic, DVD, movie, and genre interviews. We've just posted the first of the content tonight!

Anyway, keep coming back and enjoy the magazine!

John Donald Carlucci

Thursday, May 31, 2007

NoirCon 2008

NoirCon has a new website. Here's the original post about the convention.

It Was 40 Years Ago Today, er, Tomorrow

Thanks to John Duke for the tip. Like some of you, I can remember where I was when I first heard it. Others of you whippersnappers weren't even born yet. The Beatles' album 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' is 40 years old tomorrow (June 1) - and to celebrate the occasion, we want your thoughts on arguably the most famous album of all time.

The LP was revered on its' 1967 release, both a critical and popular sensation. It was seen as innovative in every possible sense, from the recording techniques to the astonishing cover. Designed by Peter Blake, it featured the band themselves surrounded by cardboard cut-outs of famous people chosen by the band.

Nessie's Back!

Unfortunately I can't find a link with video. Update: In her comment below, Karin says there's video at the link. It won't play on my computer, but maybe you can see it.

New Loch Ness Monster video - "EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) -- Like tartan, bagpipes, and shortbread Scotland's Loch Ness Monster is as much an emblem as a tourist draw.

And now Nessie's back.

An amateur scientist has captured what Loch Ness Monster watchers say is among the finest footage ever taken of the elusive mythical creature reputed to swim beneath the waters of Scotland's most mysterious lake.

'I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this jet black thing, about 45-feet (15 meters) long, moving fairly fast in the water,' said Gordon Holmes, the 55-year-old a lab technician from Shipley, Yorkshire, who took the video this past Saturday.

He said it moved at about 6 mph (10 kph) and kept a fairly straight course.

'My initial thought is it could be a very big eel, they have serpent-like features and they may explain all the sightings in Loch Ness over the years.'

Loch Ness is surrounded by myth and mystery, as it is the largest and deepest inland expanse of water in Britain. About 750 feet (230 meters) to the bottom, it's even deeper than the North Sea."

A Small Gallery of Photos . . .

. . . of the cell where a certain celebrity will be doing hard time. And seems that she's in trouble again. And the persecution will never end.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

So Close

Let's see. We have beautiful young women who are professional assassins, high tech geekery, a relentless woman cop who's as expert in the martial arts as the assassins, big-time criminals, wire work, zippy camera angles, kung fu, sword fights, car chases, lots of shooting, and a couple of love stories. Did I leave anything out? Oh, yeah. Explosions. And a bubble bath scene. And there might be a few other things.

Don't worry too much about the plot. This is Hong Kong hokum at its best: fast moving, fun to watch, and great to look at. Shu Qi (The Transporter) plays the older sister of the assassin duo and does the killing. Zhao Wei, the younger sister, is the computer geek. You'll want a wrist watch like these two wear after you see the movie. Karen Mok is the relentless cop. Her fight with Shu Qi in a parking garage is just one of many highlights in the movie.

Comparisons with Charlie's Angels are probably inevitable, but while the plot doesn't make any more sense than the ones in the Angels movies, this is a lot more fun. Trust me.

One more thing: the movie did not make me any fonder of the syrupy "Close to You," but you might feel differently. Check it out.

We're from the Government, and We're Here to Help You

Net taxes could arrive by this fall - Page1 - MSN Tech & Gadgets - News and Features: The era of tax-free e-mail, Internet shopping and broadband connections could end this fall, if recent proposals in the U.S. Congress prove successful.

State and local governments resumed a push to lobby Congress for far-reaching changes on two different fronts: gaining the ability to impose sales taxes on Net shopping, and being able to levy new monthly taxes on DSL and other connections. One senator is even predicting taxes on e-mail.

At the moment, states and municipalities are frequently barred by federal law from collecting both access and sales taxes. But they're hoping that their new lobbying effort, coordinated by groups including the National Governors Association, will pay off by permitting them to collect billions of dollars in new revenue by next year.

Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in your Hair

San Francisco, Calif, May 29, 2007-- The Summer Of Love 40th Anniversary Concert
announced today the partial listing of the bands and entertainment that have
committed to perform at the free outdoor concert in San Francisco, September 2,
2007. The free event will take place between 10 am and 6 pm at the historic
Golden Gate Park and will celebrate both the music as well as the cultural and
political awakening inspired by the 1967 Summer Of Love.

The artists that have committed to performing at the Summer of Love 40th
Anniversary Concert include: Michael McClure, Ray Manzarek, Canned Heat, Country
Joe McDonald, Sons of Champlin, Nick Gravenite, The Charlatans, Barry Melton, Taj
Mahal, New Riders, Brian Auger, Eric Burdon Dan Hicks, Great Society and David
LaFlamme. Other musicians will be announced.

retroCrush's 100 Scariest Movie Scenes Ever

retroCRUSH: the world's finest pop culture and Leo Sayer website: "This has been a great labour of love and truly one of the most fun articles I've ever had the pleasure of putting up on retroCRUSH. It's easy to talk about scary movies, but we wanted to highlight the individual scary scenes that really stick out. Some films aren't scary by design, but happen to have creepy and shocking moments that deserve special recognition. So enjoy this list and have fun discovering a bunch of new movies to see! Special thanks to Darin Wood and Christy Savage of TRASH FILM ORGY for their efforts, and the hundreds of you who responded with your own suggestions. And for those who care, our list came out a good year before Bravo decided to do a TV special with the same theme, so in case you're wondering...

If this if your first time to this page, welcome! For fun, see how many movies you can identify by just looking at the pictures! Also, before you scold me with, 'How come you didn't include THIS MOVIE?' make sure I really didn't include it.

We're also slowly putting up YouTube clips of each scene to make this an even more kickass feature!"

Will the Persecution Never End?

Perhaps. Thanks to the kindness of strangers.

And thanks to Jeff "Don't Be a Stranger" Meyerson for the link.

Poetry Corner

There was a young laddie from Alvin
Who adhered to the doctrines of Calvin
But predestination
Was a source of frustration
And he wondered if his soul was worth salvin'.

Yeah, yeah, I know, but YOU try to find another rhyme for Alvin.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New Issue of Crime and Suspense Now On-Line

The June issue is up, and you can check it out right here.

The authors this month are Donna Nowak, with the second installment of her three-part serial, Kim Mallin, Gary R. Hoffman, J.T. Deckard, William G. Schweizer, Robert Wangard and even a story by the editor, Tony Burton. You can read more about all these authors in the Rogues' Gallery on the Crime and Suspense website. And, as authors have indicated that they would like to hear from the readers about the readers' opinions on their stories, we have created email links on the names of each of the authors listed below. Feel free to let the authors know what you think of their work!

Editor Tony Burton gives us his opinion of Elementary, My Dear Watkins by Mindy Starns Clark. Yvonne Battle-Felton tells us all about the novel Fatal Laws by Jim Hansen. Dorinda Ohnstad gives us the lowdown on Tasha Alexander.

Harry Potter Update

Ga. judge: Keep Potter books in school - Yahoo! News: "LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - The adventures of boy wizard Harry Potter can stay in Gwinnett County school libraries, despite a mother's objections, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Laura Mallory, who argued the popular fiction series is an attempt to indoctrinate children in witchcraft, said she still wants the best-selling books removed and may take her case to federal court.

'I maybe need a whole new case from the ground up,' said Mallory, who was not represented by an attorney at the hearing."

If You're Going to the Exhibition. . .

. . . be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

New York museum recreates Summer of Love (minus the drugs) - Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK (AFP) - Forty years after a generation of young Americans turned on, tuned in, and dropped out during the Summer of Love, a New York museum is hoping to recreate the psychedelic intensity of the period.

The exhibition at the Whitney Museum features posters, artwork, light shows, trippy album covers and experimental film from a counter-cultural movement that brought together peace activists, musicians, hippies and artists.

Curator Christoph Grunenberg said he hoped the exhibition would either provide a trip down memory lane or help recreate the 1960s for those who, for various reasons, couldn't remember them."

Hose Monkey -- Tony Spinosa

According to the jacket copy, Tony Spinosa is "the product of a passionate affair between a Capo in the Gambino crime family and the blind daughter of a local rabbi." He writes a lot like Reed Farrel Coleman, though.

Hose Monkey is the story of a cop, Joe Serpe, who did the right thing and thus lost everything that mattered to him: his job, his friends, his wife and son. Except his brother. And then his brother, a firefighter, died on 9/11.

So Joe's in a funk. He makes his living as the driver of an oil delivery truck, keeps to himself, and doesn't care much about anything. Then a "hose monkey" at the oil company is murdered, and Joe's drawn into the investigation. He teams up with another retired cop and starts to remember what it was like to have a life.

Hose Monkey is a good book for the summer because the winter scenes will help cool you off. The mystery's complicated, the characters are well-drawn, and the violence (especially toward the end) is unrestrained. You'll care about Joe Serpe, and you'll be rooting for him to find some kind of redemption. Check it out. (Not recommended for cat-lovers.)

Attack of the Beta Males

In Hollywood, Beta Males Best Alpha Dogs - Newsweek Entertainment - ". . . the new movie star looks less like Colin Farrell than Will Ferrell. Or Steve Carell. Or Jon Heder. Or, if he's animated, Shrek or Homer Simpson. The testosterone-pumped, muscle-bound Hollywood hero is rapidly deflating—this summer, Bruce Willis is the last he-man standing. Taking his place is a new kind of leading man, the kind who's just as happy following as leading, or never getting off the sofa."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Book Burning

Thanks to Rick Klaw for this sad story, which is worth reading in its entirety.

Mo. man burns books as act of protest - Yahoo! News: "KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tom Wayne has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero's Books.

His collection ranges from best sellers, such as Tom Clancy's 'The Hunt for Red October' and Tom Wolfe's 'Bonfire of the Vanities,' to obscure titles, like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910. But when he wanted to thin out the collection, he found he couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops; they said they were full.

So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books in protest of what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word."

Bruno Fischer

Back when I was helping out Billy Lee with Paperback Quarterly, one of the first writers I interviewed (we did it by mail in those days) was Bruno Fischer. Like the others I got in touch with, he was extremely gracious and generous with his time, happy to help us out for no pay do an interview for a zine with barely any circulation. Ed Lynskey has a new article on his work at Al Guthrie's Noir Originals. Check it out. And don't miss Fischer's letter to Ron Goulart in Cheap Thrills, either.

From Ed Gorman

The Poker Club
Johnathon Schaech
as Aaron Tyler
Lori Heuring as Jan Tyler
Loren Dean as Curtis Wilcox
Judy Reyes as Detective Patterson

Based on the novel by: Ed Gorman
Screenplay by: Johnathon Schaech and Richard Chizmar
Director: Tim McCann NY Times called him one of the best new indie directors
Producer: Bruce Devan
Executive Producer: Jordan Gertner
Plot Summary:
Four friends discover and accidentally kill a burglar -- who may not be alone -- in the kitchen during their weekly poker night.

Status: Filming commences 30th May 2007

Because of Winn-Dixie -- Kate DiCamillo

I can't resist reading kids' books, and this was a good one. I think it's aimed at about ages 6-10, which made it just fine for me. Winn-Dixie, as some of you know, is a grocery chain, but in this book it's the name of a big, ugly, friendly dog. Because on Winn-Dixie, a girl named Opal learns 10 things about her mother (who left Opal and her preacher father when Opal was a baby), makes friends (with a woman people think is a witch, with an ex-con, a librarian, another girl, and a couple of boys), gets a job sweeping a pet store, and throws a party. It's funny and touching. Great stuff if you like that sort of thing, and I do now and then. So does the Newberry Committee, because this was an honor book in 2001. Check it out.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

The Most Reprinted Authors and Stories in Mystery Anthologies

Over at his excellent Mystery*File blog, Steve Lewis has a list of the most reprinted authors and stories in mystery anthologies. I never expected to see my name on a list like that, but there it is. I barely made the cut, but I'm there. When I look at the other names on the list, I'm amazed to find myself in such a company. I never would have dreamed it.

San Francisco, Happy Birthday to Your Golden Gate!

An iconic bridge -- and its people / Hundreds paint, repair, take tolls to keep landmark in golden shape: "It is used by more than 100,000 commuters a day, visited by as many as a million tourists a month, and crossed by 40 million drivers a year. Its bold beauty is staggering, its mystique legendary.

But the Golden Gate Bridge, which opened to pedestrians 70 years ago today -- at 6 a.m. on May 27, 1937 -- is more than an international icon in burnished red. To the 200 people who work on the bridge, taking tolls, painting cables, replacing steel and providing security, it is a paycheck first. An honor second."

It's in the Bag

Frequent blog commenters Todd Mason and Art Scott recommended this movie starring Fred Allen and a plethora of others, including Binnie Barnes, Robert Benchley, Jack Benny, Don Ameche, Rudy Vallee, William Bendix, John Carradine, Sidney Toler, Minerva Pious, and Jerry Colonna. I immediately recognized the plot as that of The 12 Chairs, a Russian tale that Mel Brooks filmed in the '70s, except that in Allen's movie there are only five chairs. Not that the plot matters, but it's essentially this: Allen has inherited his uncle's fortune. Turns out that the uncle was murdered, and the identity of his killer, along with $300,000, is hidden in one of five chairs that Allen has sold to an antiques dealer, who's passed them along to others. Allen needs to recover the chairs to prove that he's not a killer and to get his hands on the money.

The plot is just a device to give Allen an excuse to get into a lot of situations ranging from the absurd to the more absurd. The logic of movies is pretty much tossed out the window, and the fourth wall not so much shattered as ignored. (Characters address the audience and even ask for directions.) One thing I particularly liked was the villainous lawyer John Carradine's hair, which appears to be especially coiffed to accommodate his top hat. Yes, he wears a top hat. And a cape. Plays the organ, too.

It would be futile to try to explain why this movie's funny. If you've ever heard Allen's radio show, you might have some idea, but not a very good one. You have to see this to believe it. Check it out.

A Couple of Birthdays to Celebrate

The Bunburyist: "Two major mystery birthdays to celebrate today: Dashiell Hammett would have turned 113 (he died in 1961), and gentlemanly Oklahoman Tony Hillerman turns 82."

Gator Update

The probably want more gator nuggets.

United Press International - NewsTrack - Quirks - Alligator on the lam in Philadelphia pond: "PHILADELPHIA, May 26 (UPI) -- An alligator spotted in a Philadelphia park pond remained at large after eluding a reptile hunter who found no trace of the creature.

The popular Haddonfield's Hopkins Pond and surrounding park were reopened Friday even though a Boston gator tracker and two Pennsylvania Department of Fish and Wildlife officials found no trace of the 3-foot-plus reptile a county ranger swears he saw in the water May 11."

DVD Update: 20 Million Miles to Earth

Thanks to Rick Klaw for the tip.

20 Million Miles to Earth gets 50th Anniversary Edition in July - DVD: "Sony Pictures Home Entertainment marks the half-century milestone of one of the earliest films by stop-motion animation genius Ray Harryhausen with the July 31 debut of 20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition. The two-disc DVD will be available for a suggested retail price of $24.95.

The film, which depicts the destruction of Rome by a reptile from the planet Venus, was directed by Nathan Juran (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, First Men ‘in’ the Moon) and stars William Hopper (The Bad Seed) and Joan Taylor (Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers). In addition to the pristine, digitally-restored black & white original, the classic film will now be available in a newly colorized version supervised by Harryhausen himself.

In a recent interview, Harryhausen said “I am thrilled that this film is finally being seen in color. I had wanted to do the film in color in the 1950s, but our budget was not large enough to accommodate that luxury. Now, thanks to the marvelous advances made in the colorization process by San Diego’s Legend Films and others, audiences will be able to see 20 Million Miles to Earth as I originally intended.”"