Saturday, August 25, 2007

Croc Update (Eviction Edition)

Video at link.

Curmudgeonly crocodile evicted from habitat at Gatorland -- "A saltwater crocodile's beastly behavior led to her eviction this morning.

The unnamed crocodile, who is 6 or 7 years old, has shared a habitat of bushes, trees, a wrecked airplane and kayak with four other reptiles, including Cuban and Nile crocodiles at Gatorland.

But as she's grown, the crocodile has become too defensive, too territorial and started 'acting out.'"

Happy Birthday, Sean Connery

The real movie James Bond, if not the only one. Turns 77 today.

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the reminder.

Silence -- Thomas Perry

Thomas Perry's publisher has made him the anti-Robert B. Parker. Silence is 439 pages long, whereas Spare Change is 291 pages. I suspect that Silence has about three times the wordage of Parker's book. But it's only about 2/3 as thick. The pages are quite thin, and while the book is hefty, it doesn't take up nearly the room of Spare Change. Don't ask me why I'm mentioning this. I don't really know.

I've liked all the books I've read by Perry, but this one bothered me in a lot of ways. It's not that it's too long, though I thought it was. It's that there's so much backstory that I got tired of wading through it. Everybody has a backstory. Usually a long one. I didn't think all that was necessary, but then I'm a cretin.

Also, the book uses a variation of what Roger Ebert calls "the idiot plot," the one in which if only one person would tell the truth about things, the story would be over. Even aside from that, the plot's pretty far-fetched. Jack Till, a p.i., helped a woman disappear six years ago. Now a man's accused of her murder, so Jack's going to find her and save the guy. Someone doesn't want her saved; he wants her dead, and his lawyer hires a husband-and-wife hit-team to do the job. They're interesting, but not nearly as interesting as Perry seems to find them. At least not to me. They're quite professional, but every time they're about ready to make the hit, some little glitch stops them. Once or twice, maybe I'd be okay. But it seems to happen again and again and again.

There are some twists here and there, but when all was revealed, I wasn't thrilled. Maybe I should just shut up and re-read Metzger's Dog.

Update: Perry has good taste in reading. Click here.

Will the Persecution Never End

They're even blaming Paris Hilton for this. Slideshow at link.

The Sun Online - News: Doggy look is a shampoodle: "IT brings a new meaning to the term doggy style.

These pampered pups have all had wigs made by Hollywood hairdresser Ruth Regina at her canine beautician’s in Florida.

The designer toupes — called Wiggles — are made from real human hair and can be plaited, curled and dyed before being fitted to a pooch’s shaven head.

The trend follows celebrities like Paris Hilton who dress their pets in designer clothes."

The Rifleman Opening Sequence

Peckinpah version. Thanks to Peter Brandvold for the link.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

"People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading." -- Logan Pearsall Smith

This Will Never Replace the Navy SEALs Calendar

Smokin' photo at link. | Life - Sexy Men of Mortuaries Calendar: "It's one of the most unique calendars you'll see this year, featuring men of mortuaries.

Included in the lineup is a funeral director from Pennsylvania.

In Tom Geisel's line of work, being in the spotlight doesn't usually happen,that is until now.

“There's a lot of guys out there that look a lot better than I do, but I happen to be in a profession that isn't viewed as sexy,' said Geisel.

But having looks to kill isn't the main criteria for this calendar. The catch is you have to be a mortician."

You Damn Kids Better Stay off this Croc's Lawn

130 Million Year Old Crocodile Skull Found On Dorset Jurassic Coast - 24 Hour Museum - official guide to UK museums, galleries, exhibitions and heritage: "A remarkable crocodile skull unearthed earlier this year by a fossil hunter walking along the Jurassic coast of Swanage has gone on display at the Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre.

The skull, which dates back 130 million years, was discovered in April 2007 by Richard Edmonds, Earth Science Manager for the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site team jutting out of the cliff after a recent rock fall.

“This was a really lucky find,” explained Richard. “A part of my job is to monitor the condition of the rocks and fossils along the World Heritage Site but you don't expect to find something this spectacular without spending a lot more time on the coast. The back of the skull was lying in the rubble on the beach and the rest was trapped in the cliff fall.”"

25 Best High School Movies

John Duke sends along this link. There are a lot of other lists there, too.

Wishbook Web

When I was a kid living in a very small town, there was nothing more wonderful than the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog. There are some old ones here, along with a lot of others. Check 'em out.

American Justice

And yet they put Paris n the slam and threw away the key. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Nicole Richie Quickly Sprung From Jail - AOL News: "LOS ANGELES (Aug. 23) - Nicole Richie was released from jail Thursday after serving 82 minutes of a four-day sentence for driving under the influence of drugs.

The reality show star, who checked into a women's jail at 3:15 p.m., was released at 4:37 p.m. 'based on her sentence and federal guidelines,' Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Maribel Rizo said without elaborating."

Gator Update (Special Pittsburgh Edition)

The Keystone State is crawling with 'em!

Alligator Found In Downtown Pittsburgh Fountain - News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh: "PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Animal Control officers discovered an alligator in a Downtown fountain Thursday morning.

The reptile was found in the fountain in front of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Animal Control officers said it's possible the gator came from the Allegheny River.

A veterinarian at the Animal Rescue League said it's more likely the gator was a pet left in the fountain.

This is the fifth alligator found in Pittsburgh this year."

Memories of Katherine Anne Porter

I've blogged before about the time Katherine Anne Porter visited Howard Payne University in 1976, and I even included a few photos. That post is here.

And now for a photo I thought was lost. It was sent to me by Al James, who can almost be seen at the left in the picture. The other two women are Elva Dobson and Katherine Anne Porter, and the gravestone marks the spot where Ms. Porter's mother is buried in the Indian Creek Cemetery.

I didn't get to go on this trip, but I like the picture anyway. Elva Dobson passed away a few years ago, but Al James is still alive and kicking.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

This News Bites the Moose

I liked the book quite a bit, and I like Don Winslow, the author. So I'm very sorry to hear this. - Movie, DVD, Music, Video Game, News, Reviews, Interviews: "According to a very reliable source, it looks like all the people looking forward to a new Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese mafia movie are about to be disappointed.

The reason? It seems that Mr. Scorsese has dropped out of directing Frankie Machine and, according to my source, it seems quite likely the production will fall apart without his involvement.

For those who hadn't heard of Frankie Machine, the film was being made at Paramount and the original title was The Winter of Frankie Machine. The story was about a retired hit man and back in March of this year, Variety reported that Ocean's Thirteen screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien were writing the screenplay for De Niro before Scorsese got involved."

Saw in 30 Seconds

With bunnies. And spoilers.

Headline of the Day

It's here. Sensitive souls, especially those of the male persuasion, might want to avoid clicking.

Special "To Hell in an Handbasket" Alert

EiTB24::Portada: "This reality show has been a great success in the Colombian subscription television.

A reality show broadcast at a Colombian cable television rewards contestants who have the dirtiest sex.

Contestants apply to join the reality show into pairs and are distributed into two teams: 'fellatio' and 'cunnilingus', the Spanish web site 20 minutos reported Thursday.

More than 800 people have already applied to join the reality show, which is named Los Pichones (The young pigeons).

The audience and votes. If sex is not too filthy or scandalous, the couple is expelled. Contestants go through tests such as having sex with your wife in front of a group of friends, sadomasochism or having sex in a manger rolling around on animal excrements."

Wanna Drag Race?

Photo of guy and car at link.

84 Years Old and Still Driving His First Car - New York Times: "TO keep a car running for many years, change the oil every 3,000 miles, says Clarence Cleveland Curtiss. His advice is not new, especially for anybody who owns a 1990 Buick, a 1980 Chevy or even a 1964 Volkswagen.

But Mr. Curtiss, 84, of Shelton, has followed the advice with the first car he ever owned, a 1929 Ford Model A; it has 200,000 miles on it and still runs.

Mr. Curtiss said he was 15 in 1938 when he bought the car, which sold for $400 when new, from a Derby man for $10. It was during the Depression. “He was out of work, and he was hungry,” Mr. Curtiss said. “I drove it for a year with no license, and the day I turned 16, I got my license with this car.”

Mr. Curtiss has made one major upgrade, installing a Hudson Terraplane engine in 1940, because, he said, “I raced kids home from high school with it, but there were a couple of cars I couldn’t beat.” That allowed it to go more than 80 miles an hour, compared with 55 m.p.h for a standard Model A. “Then I could beat them all,” he said."

Spare Change -- Robert B. Parker

Robert B. Parker's books about Sunny Randall aren't my favorites among his writings, and this one makes me wonder if I'm finally burning out on his books.

The plot is one you may have heard of before: a serial killer disappears. Twenty years later, he appears to have returned. In this version, the original case was worked by Sunny's father, who's called in as a consultant on the new murders. Sunny offers to help.

Sunny figures out who the killer is very early on. It's just a matter of getting the evidence. So how do you fill up the rest of the book? Well, you can have a lot of stuff about Sunny and her ex-husband Richie, who's now remarried but who still loves Sunny, who still loves Richie. Sunny talks about all this with both Richie and her analyst, Susan Silverman, who never even mentions that the problem Sunny has ("I love him but I can't live with him") is exactly the same problem that Susan had with Spenser. In fact, the whole bit seems completely recycled, to me, right down to the dialog.

And speaking of recycling, as I was, there's Sunny, who has some discussions about her work with her pal Julie, like this one after Sunny has pulled a pistol on some rotters. Sunny says that anybody can carry a gun. "The trick is will you use it. I will." Julie says she's not sure she could, and Sunny tells her that most people don't know and will never have to decide. "I decided long before tonight."

"It's why you do what you do," Julie said.

I raised my eyebrows.

"Because you can," Julie said.

Haven't I read that same bit about ten times in novels about Spenser? Maybe not, but it sure seems like it.

Meanwhile Sunny learns about herself and analyzes her whole family, including her sister's new fiance. It gets a little tiresome. Still, I'll bet that if Parker publishes another one about Sunny, I'll read it. Maybe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Which Book are You?

You can find out here. It should come as no surprise that I'm The Catcher in the Rye.

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Ray Bradbury is truly one of the greats. I'll never forget reading "The Fireman" for the first time, or The Martian Chronicles. The October Country. The Illustrated Man. Wonderful stuff, and all part of the foundation of my career as a reader.

He Doesn't Care if You Walk on His Lawn . . .

. . . He has other things on his mind.

World's oldest father has 21st child at 90 | the Daily Mail: "The world's oldest father has done it again, fathering a child for at least the 21st time, at the age of 90.

Indian farmer Nanu Ram Jogi, who is married to his fourth wife, boasts he does not want to stop, and plans to continue producing children until he is 100.

Mr Jogi admits he is not certain how many children his series of four wives have borne him - but counts at least 12 sons and nine daughters and 20 grandchildren."

Houston Under Ground

It’s Lonesome in This Old Town, Until You Go Underground - New York Times: "HOUSTON, Aug. 20 — Where is everybody?

Seared by triple-digit heat and drenched by tropical storms, midday downtown Houston appears eerily deserted, the nation’s fourth-largest city passing for a ghost town.

On the street, that is.

But below, there are tunnels at the end of the light — nearly seven color-coded miles of them connecting 77 buildings — aswarm with Houstonians lunching, shopping and power-walking in dry, air-chilled comfort."

Judy Update

Judy still looks like a lobster, but she's feeling somewhat better. We meet with her doctor today, and I'm sure tomorrow's treatment will be canceled. But the fever has moderated, and I'm glad she's a bit perkier.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No Comment Department

One in four read no books last year - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - There it sits on your night stand, that book you've meant to read for who knows how long but haven't yet cracked open. Tonight, as you feel its stare from beneath that teetering pile of magazines, know one thing — you are not alone.

One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those who did read, women and seniors were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.

The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven."

Happy Birthday, Anthony Boucher!

Surely I've written before about what a big influence Anthony Boucher was on my life and career, though I never met the man. So I won't repeat any of that. I'll just say that he's a major figure in the world of mystery and SF, one of the greats as a reviewer (my personal favorite), and the patron saint of Bouchercon.


Yesterday Judy and I spent about ten hours in the MD Anderson Emergency Care Center. Judy has had a reaction to an antibiotic she's taking. Ironically, the antibiotic is to prevent problems that might crop up during chemo. Judy is covered from head to toe with a spectacular rash; she's also having chills and fever. Today we're supposed to see a skin doc and an eye doc. I won't go into more detail, but this is pretty discouraging. It's almost certain to cause the treatment scheduled for Thursday to be delayed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vote for the Seven Fortean Wonders of the World!

Vote for the Seven Fortean Wonders of the World! | Misc | Strange Days | Fortean Times UK: "Earlier this year the publicly voted New Seven Wonders of the World were announced, which put an idea into the collective head of The Charles Fort Institute. They want to establish the Seven Fortean Wonders of the World - the places and artefacts that are most steeped in mystery - and they need your suggestions!"

Stay off this Woman's Lawn

Southpinellas: Mugged at home, but not helpless: "ST. PETERSBURG - For 36 years, Shirley Ives felt secure in her home. So when her husband died nearly 20 years ago, she stayed by herself.

'I never felt afraid,' said Ives, 82. That's why, on the evening of Aug. 7, she opened her door to a stranger, and a brutal attack.

A self-described 'tough old bird,' Ives is experiencing some fame for fighting back. Bruised and blindfolded, she nevertheless stabbed her attacker with an ice pick."

Heinlein Centenary -- The Green Hills of Earth

At one time, I listed this as one of my favorite SF books. Reading it again after 50 years, I can see why. Mainly because of two stories, the title one and "The Long Watch."

When I was a teenager, I wanted more than just about anything to be a poet. I loved all kinds of poems, and of course I wrote my own. (Little known fact: my first national publication was a poem in a magazine called
The Runner, and I published poems in a few "little" magazines, too. Not to mention one in Grit.) So it's no wonder that I loved "The Green Hills of Earth," the story of Rhysling, the Blind Singer of the Spaceways. I loved Rhysling's poems, too, and I'm sure I wrote more than one in painful imitation of them.

"The Long Watch" undoubtedly appealed to me for another reason. I admired the protagonist's sacrifice to prevent a military coup, and I still get a sentimental thrill out of this paragraph:
He was not alone; there were comrades with him -- the boy with his finger in the dike, Colonel Bowie, too ill to move but insisting that he be carried across the line, the dying Captain of the Chesapeake, still with deathless challenge on his lips, Roger Young peering into the gloom. They gathered about him in the dusky bomb room. Even as a kid, I knew I could never be a hero, not that kind, but it was great to read about one and pretend for a little while that I might be.

The other stories are still fun to read, if not quite as wonderful as I thought they were 50 years ago. They might not even be among Heinlein's best. But I recommend them highly. This is what SF was all about at one time, at least for me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who's Sorry Now?

Connie Francis Sues Over Fan's Will - Tittle-Tattle™: The Post Chronicle: "American sixties singer Connie Francis is suing the family of a late fan who left $300,000 to the star shortly before killing herself.

Patricia Nilsen, 57, arranged a series of bank transfers to Francis in the days leading up to her suicide in Summerfield, Florida on 27 November (06).

Nilsen's relatives, who were originally set to be the heirs to Nilsen's estate in her original will, have accused Francis of using 'undue influence' to obtain her fan's money.

Their lawyer Richard Brown says, 'That $300,000 represents nearly the total value of Ms. Nilsen's estate. Our primary contention is that Ms. Francis enacted undue influence over Ms. Nilsen, which caused her to change the beneficiaries in her estate, or that Ms. Nilsen was insane at the time of her death.'"

Croc Update (From Mascot to Killer Edition)

Croc makes a meal of family boxer - 08/17/2007 - "A rare Florida crocodile had become something of a mascot in a ritzy Coral Gables neighborhood since he moved into the canals there two years ago.

That changed last week when the 10-foot croc killed a full-grown boxer, snatching the dog right from a Gables by the Sea back yard.

''He kept swimming around the canals with the dog's body in his mouth for three days,'' Ann Marie Millar said Thursday. "It was disgusting. Dreadful.''"

Another Good Argument for Reading the Insructions Carefully

Dwarf glued penis to Hoover | "A show called Circus Of Horrors lived up to its name when a dwarf accidentally glued his penis to a vacuum cleaner.

Captain Dan The Demon Dwarf was taken to hospital when he became stuck to the the machine after misreading superglue instructions.

The 42-year-old pulls the vacuum across the stage with his manhood at the Edinburgh Fringe production."

Will the Persecution Never End?

Obviously not.

Why Kerouac Matters

Again, thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Why Kerouac Matters - John Leland - Books - Review - New York Times: "Twenty years ago, like so many slack 17-year-olds before and since, I devoured “On the Road” and it devoured me. The pages of my copy were dog-eared, -nosed and -throated, and I was beholden to the book in ways I can’t quite believe now. Did I really go for midnight drives down by the ruined flour mills with the tape deck blaring Dexter Gordon? Did I really attend a high school costume dance dressed as Jack Kerouac? I know for sure — because proof exists — that the year I graduated I chose this bit of the novel’s last paragraph as my yearbook entry: “And nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old.”"

Lonely Hearts

This movie wasn't a hit. It pretty much sank without a trace, and I don't remember that it even played in the Houston area. The problem couldn't have been the actors. John Travolta and James Gandolfini are the nominal stars as a couple of police detectives, and they do some fine work. Jared Leto and Salma Hayek are, if anything, even better as the Lonely Hearts Killers.

The problem couldn't have been the look of the movie, either. It looks great from the title sequence right through to the end.

So that leaves the script. The movie's based on actual events, and it was written and directed by the grandson of the detective played by Travolta. Robinson tries to make the cop's personal life a significant part of the movie (we're all lonely hearts), and it doesn't really work. Leto and Hayek are a lot more interesting. If this were a noir movie, told from the point of view of Leto's character, it would probably have been more interesting. (You might want to check out this movie, by the way. It's based on the same crimes and characters.)

Call it a near miss. It's still well worth watching for the performances and the period details.

Department of Forgotten Writers

Beth Foxwell over at The Bunburyist reminds us that this is the birthday of James Gould Cozzens. In the early 1960s, By Love Possessed was on every spinning paperback rack, and it stayed there for what seemed like years. I suspect that now hardly anyone remembers Cozzens. Thanks to Beth for the reminder.

J. K. Rowling Update

Report: Harry Potter author working on Scottish crime novel - International Herald Tribune: "LONDON: Pen and notebook in hand in Edinburgh cafes, author J.K. Rowling has been spotted working on her latest work: a detective novel, a British newspaper reported Saturday.

The British author, who famously wrote initial drafts of her boy wizard story in the Scottish city's coffee houses, is turning her hand to crime fiction, the Sunday Times newspaper reported."