Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rio Bravo -- a Great Western?

I love this movie, but I never thought of it as a masterpiece. Maybe I was wrong.

“I’m Hard to Get, John T.” | The New York Observer: "In 1959, Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo was just another all-star western - with the Duke, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Walter Brennan and a very hot Angie Dickinson. But 48 years later, writes Peter Bogdanovich, it has become a life-affirming, raucous, profound masterpiece."

Mike Ripley's Latest Column Posted at Shots Magazine

And you can find it here.

No Comment Department � | Associated Press: "SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) -- Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, who made headlines earlier this year when he claimed to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby, said Friday he was stripped, robbed and left naked in his Rolls-Royce by three women.

Frederic Von Anhalt called police about 10 a.m. Thursday to say he'd been driving on Bellagio Road behind the Bel Air Country Club when he was flagged down by three women in a white Chrysler convertible with Florida plates, said Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Kevin Maiberger.

Von Anhalt said he thought the three women wanted to pose for a photograph with him, but when he started talking to them, one of them pushed a gun into his neck."

Keep off this Preacher's Church Lawn

My Way News - Pistol Packing Pastor Nabs Theft Suspect: "TAFT, Calif. (AP) - A former Bakersfield police officer turned pastor helped nab a man who allegedly stole a car from his church's parking lot.

James Kilgore, pastor at Taft Free Will Baptist Church, said he always keeps a gun and handcuffs in his fanny pack. They came in handy on Tuesday, when one of his elderly parishioners left Bible study to find his car had vanished.

Kilgore and Walter Brenton, 72, drove around looking for Brenton's 1986 Ford Crown Victoria, and spotted the alleged thief driving it a few blocks away.

The pastor followed the driver until he crashed, tackled him as he crawled out of the car and then handcuffed him until police arrived on the scene."

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- J. K. Rowling

This isn't a review, just a few comments.

First of all, let me just say how gratifying it is to know that J. K. Rowling is a devoted reader of this blog and that she values my advice. Many of you will no doubt recall my review of the previous novel in this series (for those who don't, it's here). Ms. Rowling took my comments to heart, and she eliminated (at a rough guess) 85-90% of those annoying adverbial tags. For which I'm grateful.

I was also please to discover that Ms. Rowling is a Mickey Spillane fan and that she included a nice homage to The Mick on page 214:

"Harry," wailed Hermione. "How could you?"

"It was easy," said Harry.

Aside from that, what else is there to say? Well, the book's too long. I could cut it by 200 pages and not miss much. Not that the length is going to keep anyone from reading it. Are there deaths of beloved characters? Yes, and I was saddened by all of them. There were more than I thought there would be.

This book is mostly action, though there are some quiet moments, too. The final chapters, and the whole book, really, will make for some great action scenes in the eventual movie version.

I have to confess to great admiration for Ms. Rowling. To conceive a series like this and to cap it off with a book that ties just about everything up neatly and effectively is quite an achievement. Over the years she's made me laugh and cry, and I thank her for that. Like many others, I'll miss Harry and all his friends, but I'm glad I was along for the ride. I'll be very interested to see where J. K. Rowling goes from here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

You Call That a Revolver?

That's not a revolver.

This is a revolver.

Could this be the Same FCC That Went Nuts over Janet Jackson's Nip Slip?

Local stations get call letters that spell dirty words - TV Squad: "In what can only be described as utter irony, the FCC has given two local television stations call letters that either spell out or stand for dirty words. In Maui, it's KUNT. Yes, those are the real call letters given to a low-power digital station in Wailuku, Maui. The station is still under construction so no one has seen KUNT Action News as of yet--or maybe it's KUNT On Your Side.

The other station is KWTF in Arizona. Now, this one I like. I think I'd keep it. I'd make my motto, 'Hey! KWTF is happening in Arizona!'

Both stations are owned by KM Communications, which actually requested those call letters. The vice president of the company claims he (metaphorically) 'fell asleep on the job' when it came to requesting call letters. Yeah, right. Either he's a dirty, dirty man or he's extremely stupid for letting some high school-age employee choose the stations' call letters."

Don't Go Near the Water

Front page news - "It sounds worse than a horror movie: A microscopic critter just as deadly as an alligator usually lurking in the muck goes up a swimmer's nose undetected to attack the brain.

This scenario is rare, but happens in this area enough that the Volusia County Health Department urged swimmers Thursday not to swim in freshwater lakes and ponds.

Water temperatures reaching higher than 80 degrees bring the amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri out of its lair to begin the feeding season. With the ocean temperature at 80 degrees, that's happening just about now."

I'm Shocked -- Shocked!

Aquafina labels to spell out source - tap water | Health | Reuters: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc. will spell out that its Aquafina bottled water is made with tap water, a concession to the growing environmental and political opposition to the bottled water industry.

According to Corporate Accountability International, a U.S. watchdog group, the world's No. 2 beverage company will include the words 'Public Water Source' on Aquafina labels.

'If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do,' said Michelle Naughton, a Pepsi-Cola North America spokeswoman."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'm Not Unplugged! And Big News!

Well, sort of not. The dial-up I'm using isn't as fast as RoadRunner, but at least I'm on-line.

I've been told that "Cranked" has been nominated for an Anthony. Very cool. An Edgar nom, a Derringer nom (and win!), and now this. Thanks to all who helped stuff the ballot box.

On the Road Again

Judy and I are leaving in a few minutes to visit her mother. We might not get a chance for a while, so we'll spend a couple of days in the land of no Internet. I used to have RoadRunner dial-up, and I could use the service on visits, but RoadRunner no longer serves Houston. I tried signing up with other dial-up services, but for some reason my laptop prevents me from logging on to any of them. I blame Microsoft, but I could easily be wrong.

At any rate, unless some miracle occurs, I'll be gone until late Saturday or Sunday. I'm sure you can live without the blog for that long, but I hope being unplugged doesn't drive me bonkers.


Man's love of reading costs him his home: "WILKES-BARRE, Pa., July 25 A bookstore owner's obsession with the written word has cost him his Pennsylvania home after local officials deemed his book collection a fire hazard.

Authorities in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., condemned John Puchniak's apartment this year when a routine inspection raised concern the bookstore owner's collection of nearly 3,000 texts could cause a fire, The (Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader reported Wednesday.

Puchniak now resides in a local hotel, while attempting to limit the stacks upon stacks of books that decorate his condemned apartment.

But even if he can restore the apartment to acceptable living standards, Puchniak has said he cannot afford to appeal the city to reopen his home.

Attorney Jim Hayward has become a champion for the troubled literary fan, attempting to convince local officials to let the 59-year-old store his growing collection as he sees fit.

'Their (the city's) priorities are wrong. This is not the guy they should be going after,' he told the newspaper. 'The average person may not agree with how John stores his books, but does that mean it's wrong?'"

Plucky Pensioner Eludes Officers

On a scooter. And stay off his damn lawn. If you can find it.

Overnight Success

Over at Murderati, Dave Zeltserman has an interesting account of how he became an overnight success as a writer, and it only took him fifteen years.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gator Update (Escape from Sing-Sing? Edition)

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for this gator sighting news.

Alligator sighting in Ossining draws DEC: "OSSINING - An alligator in Ossining?

Wildlife experts from the state Department of Environmental Conservation were headed to the scene, expected to arrive about 3 p.m.

That's after a Consolidated Edison worker called police about 11 a.m. today after reportedly seeing the head of a 3-foot gator poking out of a private pond off Somerstown Road.

'He was sitting beside a tree and he ran into the water,' said Aaron McDuffie, a flagger. 'They (other workers) didn't want to believe me at first, this being Westchester, but they walked over and saw him in the water.'

He said even he's in disbelief.

'With the cold climate, to see an alligator in the water? I didn't want to believe it when I first saw it.'"

Alice Borchardt, R. I. P.

Alice Borchardt passed away last night. She was a good friend and a fine writer. Judy and I enjoyed meeting her and her husband, Cliff, for dinner in Houston, as we did many times over the years. We're going to miss Alice a lot.

Alice Borchardt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Alice Borchardt is a writer of historical fiction, fantasy, and horror. She is the sister of Anne Rice and aunt to Christopher Rice. Alice Borchardt shared a childhood of storytelling with her sister in New Orleans. A professional nurse, she has also nurtured a profound interest in little-known periods of history. She published her debut novel, Devoted, in 1995. She lives in Houston."

Judy Update

We got a mixed bag of news today. The bone biopsy turned out better than we'd expected. The doctor had said the disease there would likely be more aggressive than that in the lymph nodes, but it wasn't. It's the same thing. That means Judy won't need the very aggressive form of chemotherapy. Further good (we hope) news is that Judy's going to be part of a "clinical trial." This trial group has 100 people. Judy will be the 100th. Why is this good news? Because the chemo used will not cause Judy's hair to fall out, and she won't have to get a port implanted. Also, the results so far have been very good. One of the complications of Judy's case is that she has two kinds of lymphoma. This chemo will treat both of them.

Treatment begins on Thursday, August 2, one week from today. The bad news is that it's ten hours long. There'll be a session every three weeks for six months. The possible side effects are numerous and unpleasant, though not as numerous and unpleasant as those of the chemo we'd been expecting she'd have to get. Mixed in with the treatments will be a weekly blood check and various other stuff, including CAT scans and maybe an MRI or two. Though the doctor only hinted at it, another bone biopsy is also possible.

None of this is going to be any fun, but we're girding our loins. The bad news, really, is something we already knew. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma isn't curable. It can be put into remission. For how long? The doctor doesn't like to say. Six months would be a not very good result. Three to five years would be a good result, so we're hoping for that. Maybe by that time some miracle cure will have been discovered. If not, it's chemo all over again.

As always, thanks for the prayers, good wishes, and support. I'll do another update next week, maybe even during the session, as the nurse promised I'd have wireless access available in the treatment room. Until then, regular blogging will resume.

Heading for MD Anderson

Judy's been through all the tests now. Or so we hope. Surely they can't come up with any more of them. So today we'll meet with the doctor at 11:30 and maybe something will be settled. Maybe we'll be given a treatment regimen. We're hoping, as always, for the best, but in this situation, and after so much has happened, we don't even know what "best" might mean. And we don't even want to think about any other possibilities. I'll update the blog here when we get back, and thanks again for all your support, prayers, and good thoughts.

Trailers from Hell

Everybody on the 'Net will be linking to this, I'll bet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's not the iPod . . .

. . . it's the Indipod.

Baseball Card of the Day

Happy Birthday, John D. MacDonald!

My flickr set of JMD paperback covers is here.

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media: "It's the birthday of mystery novelist John D. MacDonald (books by this author), born in Sharon, Pennsylvania (1916). He wrote a series of novels, including The Deep Blue Good-By (1964) and Nightmare in Pink (1964), featuring Travis McGee, a beach bum detective who lives on a houseboat that he won in a poker game.

While he was serving in the army during World War II, MacDonald entertained his wife by writing her fictionalized stories in his letters. She liked one story so much that she typed it up and sent it to the magazine Story, where it was published. MacDonald was so surprised and happy that he devoted himself to writing.

He had four months of severance pay when he came home from the Army, so he spent those four months writing seven days a week, 14 hours a day. Everyone but his wife thought he was shell-shocked. By the end of the year, he was making a living selling short stories to pulp fiction magazines. He published 73 stories in 1949 alone.

He used his mystery novels to criticize what he called American junk culture: fast food, bad TV, and land development. He wrote, 'I am wary of a lot of things, such as ... time clocks, newspapers, mortgages, sermons, miracle fabrics, deodorants ... pageants, progress, and manifest destiny.'"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Could You Solve a Murder?

To find out, click here.

Laszlo Kovacs, R. I. P.

A name you've seen a zillion times.

• Hollywood Elsewhere •
MNO, a Budapest-based website, is reporting that the great cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs has passed on. Working backwards and choosing randomly from his credits: My Best Friend's Wedding, Multiplicity, The Scout, Radio Flyer, Say Anything, Little Nikita, Legal Eagles, Mask, Ghostbusters, Frances, Heart Beat, The Runner Strumbles, New York, New York, Shampoo, Freebie and the Bean, Paper Moon, Slither, Steelyard Blues, The King of Marvin Gardens, What's Up, Doc?, Pocket Money, The Last Movie, Alex in Wonderland, Five Easy Pieces. One of the very best. A legend.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Croc Update (Smuggling Edition)

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for this timely update.

iWon News - 270 Smuggled Crocodiles Seized in China: "BEIJING (AP) - Chinese police tracking a suspicious vessel on a border river in southwest China got a shock when they found 270 crocodiles, a state news agency reported Monday.

Xinhua News Agency said the seizure was the largest this year in Guangxi region, where 25 illegally captured crocodiles were discovered in the first six months.

Border police noticed the boat trying to land on the Chinese side of the Beilun River, which marks the border with Vietnam, early on Sunday.

Xinhua said four people carried bags off the boat, but jumped into the river and swam away when they saw the police.

It said police found that the bags and other bags on the boat contained 270 crocodiles, which are on China's wildlife protection list. They will be sent to zoos."

Happy Birthday, Raymond Chandler!

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media: "It's the birthday of crime novelist Raymond Chandler (books by this author), born in Chicago, Illinois (1888). He's known for his novels about the private detective Philip Marlowe such as The Big Sleep (1939) and The Long Goodbye (1954). He started out writing second-rate poetry and essays, but couldn't get much published, so he gave up and took a bookkeeping class, got a job at a bank, and went on to become a wealthy oil company executive.

He lost his job when the stock market crashed in 1929. So at the age of 45 he began writing for pulp fiction magazines, which paid about a penny a word.

Chandler was one of the first detective novelists to become known for the quality of his prose, and he became famous for his metaphors. In one novel he wrote, 'She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked by moonlight.' In another he wrote, 'She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.'"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rally Round the Flag, Boys

Memory's a funny thing. When I get together with people who were my friends in high school and we talk about old times, I often find that they don't remember some things I'm sure must have happened. Sometimes when we both remember the same events, they don't recall them at all the way I do. But here's what I remember about this movie. In the spring of 1959, John Marion Black and I were going to the Baty Studio to have our pictures made for a page in the school yearbook. John drove us in his old Chevy coupe. I wore a white sport coat, and Mrs. Baty said that just wouldn't do. John let me wear his jacket for the picture. It was black, and while we both had on the same jacket on that page, nobody ever knew. I suspect that John has no memory of this.

After the pictures were taken, we went to see
Rally Round the Flag, Boys. I'd read the book, and I'd promised him that the movie would be funny. I don't know if he found it funny or not. I don't know if I did. I do, however, remember quite clearly two scenes from the movie. Or so I thought. More on that later. When I saw that the movie was being released on DVD, I thought I'd re-read the book (my comments are here) and watch the movie again for the first time in nearly 50 years. As it turned out, the book's a lot better. The movie ditches almost all of Shulman's satire, and almost the entire plot, to concentrate on the episode of Harry Bannerman's infidelity. Since the movie came out in the '50s, however, there's no infidelity. It's all appearances. Too bad, since Joan Collins must have been pretty hard to resist. The cast tries hard. Collins isn't bad at all in a comedy role, but Newman tries too hard, and Woodward has little to do, really. Jack Carson is fine in a couple of scenes, and so is Gale Gordon, but there's not enough of them. The movie really comes alive when Tuesday Weld is on-screen, though, and a couple of her scenes are lifted almost verbatim from the book. They're the only part of the book that's recognizable. Tuesday's great. Dwayne Hickman's fun as a Marlon Brando wannabe (that's Marlon from The Wild One). Tom Gilson's good as Opie, but he apparently died only a few years later, victim of a homicide.

It's Gilson who sings "You Are My Boojim" to Tuesday Weld. All these years, I'd thought it was Dwayne Hickman. See what I mean about memory?
As a relic of an almost forgotten era, the movie holds up. Look at the way people dress for the town meeting, the women in their dresses, the men in their suits. I've been to city council meetings in recent years, and the men wear Hawaiian shirts, thongs, and shorts. The women, too. The Technicolor is great, and all in all, this was a fine exercise in nostalgia for me. But if you have a choice between reading the book and seeing the movie, read the book.

No Class Chick Author was a Mouseketeer

Photo and complete bio at the link, thoughtfully provided to the blog by Joe R. Lansdale.

MMC Cast: Jay-Jay Solari: "Sometime in the seventies Jay-Jay, now known as 'J. J.' started writing short stories for magazines. His genre was 'biker fiction', which he wrote regularly for over twenty years for Easyriders. His most famous story was No Class Chick, about a biker seeking to join a club, whose initiation entails escorting a member's girlfriend from coast-to-coast, keeping her in sight at all times. The girl dies of natural causes shortly after the trip begins, but the biker is informed that the rules still apply. Other memorable stories included Bike Telethon, The Recruiter, The Pasadena Run, Bikers at Sea, The Secret Technique, and It's A Miracle."

Say It Ain't So!

Weekly World News Shutting Down (SFScope)
While it isn't strictly a genre publication, and it does bill itself as "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper," the editor has decided that this announcement does fall within SFScope's purview:

American Media has decided to suspend publication of Weekly World News, both the print publication and the web site. No reason was given at press time, although reliable sources do tell us that management turned down at least one offer to buy the publication.

The weekly supermarket tabloid—known as the home of "Bat Boy" and other less-than-probable stories—has long had staffing connections with the science fiction, fantasy, and horror fields.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Gator Update (Vacation Planning Edition)

I’ve gone to wrestle an alligator - Times Online
When director Guy Hamilton was shooting Live and Let Die, Bond’s coolest or cheesiest ever outing, depending on your viewpoint, he was so tickled by the now legendary running-over-alligators stunt that he decided to name the film’s baddie after one Mr Kananga – the man who owned the alligator farm where the sequence was shot.

It’s a cracking sequence. Stranded on an island the size of an Ikea flatpack and hemmed in by large, unfriendly reptiles, Roger Moore’s Bond dodges death in the way that only 007 can – by running across the gators’ backs. And believe it or not, if you’re brave enough, or daft enough, you can try it yourself.

Outside of zoos and the tropical lairs of international villains, there are only two countries on the planet where alligators hang out: China and America. Chinese alligators are mostly on the small side, so to grapple with a living, breathing 300lb reptile America is the place. And oddly, perhaps the best spot for gator wrestling in the US is in Colorado, where there’s an alligator farm with waters that are kept warm year round by a geothermal spring.

Pay $100 (£49) to the man at the gate at Colorado Gators, near Alamosa, and he’ll let you into a pen (read: “swamp”) with dozens of the things. Gator-wrestling classes are a nifty little side business to a working fish farm: the alligators were brought in as waste disposal units for dead fish, and because members of the public kept sneaking in to gaze at them, the owners thought they’d make some money out of their toothy tenants.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Not Everyone Loves J. K. Rowling

Click here if you don't believe me.