Saturday, September 01, 2007

Once Again, New York Leads the Way

Lucy the fossil dodges controversy, goes on display in US: "Lucy, the world's most famous fossil, took on a new role as international tourist when she went on public display this week for the first time outside Ethiopia since her discovery in 1974.

Lucy is no longer the oldest-known member of the human family tree, but dating back 3.2 million years and with 40 percent of her skeleton recovered, she is the oldest, most complete specimen of an early human species.

As such, some paleontologists and fossil hunters within the scientific community have sharply protested her cross-Atlantic voyage to be exhibited from Friday at the Houston, Texas Museum of Natural Science."

The Last Colony -- John Scalzi

I've reported previously on The Android's Dream and Old Man's War. The Last Colony continues the story of John Perry and his wife, Jane Sagan, from the latter novel (and also from The Ghost Brigades and Sagan's Diary, which I haven't read.

In this one, Perry and Sagan are asked to head up a new colony on a planet called Roanoake. A huge alien alliance opposes allowing any more human colonies, and the colonists soon find that their own Colonial Union has tricked them and sent them to a different destination from the one they'd planned. They're on an unnamed planet where they can use only the most primitive of tools. There's a savage native race, that the colonists haven't been told about. And the double-crossing is only beginning.

This book has a lot going on. It's a survivalist novel, a political novel, and a space opera. For starters. Pretty soon The Fate of Humanity Hangs in the Balance. Old-fashioned in the best sense but up-to-date in the best sense, too. I'd certainly recommend it.

One old cranky English teacher complaint. I wish Scalzi wouldn't write "[Yoder] glanced up at Jane and I." And "But you're telling me that you chose Jane and I to lead Roanoake was because . . . ." Arrgggghhhh.

Happy Birthday, Edgar Rice Burroughs!

Burroughs was a big part of my childhood, through comics, books, and movies. I suspect a lot of guys my age could say the same. Someday, someone will make a movie of A Princess of Mars and do it right. I hope I'm around to see it.

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media: "It's the birthday of one of the most popular pulp fiction writers in American history, Edgar Rice Burroughs, (books by this author) born in Chicago (1875). He had read Darwin's book Descent of Man, and he was fascinated by the idea that human beings were related to apes. He began to wonder what might happen if a child from an excessively noble, well-bred family were somehow left in the jungle to be raised by apes. The result was his story 'Tarzan of the Apes,' which filled an entire issue of All-Story magazine in October of 1912. It was one of the most popular issues the magazine had ever published, and within six-months, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a full-time writer producing about 400,000 words of short stories every year."

Croc Update (Handy Viewing Guide Edition)

Diane Werts is Off the Wall for crocodiles -- "CROC-O-RAMA. One year after Steve Irwin's death, Animal Planet presents a Crocs Rule! week of prime-time shows led by the premiere of 'Secrets of the Crocodile' (Tuesday at 9 p.m., Animal Planet), a project Irwin was working on when he died. Other shows airing Sept. 1-6: the big-screen movie 'Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course' (tonight at 7), 'Outback to Hollywood' (tomorrow at 9p.m.), a 'Crocodile Hunter' marathon (Monday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.), and the tribute 'Crikey, What an Adventure!' (Wednesday at 8 p.m., all on Animal Planet). There are even mini-marathons of his daughter's kids show, 'Bindi the Jungle Girl' (Saturday-Monday 8-11a.m., Animal Planet). Lineup at"

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Killer seeking hug from his mom gets Taser instead | - Houston Chronicle: "Moments after being convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a Houston man was Tasered into submission Friday as he tried to go over the court railing to hug his mother."

Chupacabra Update

Jayme Blaschke has already posted part of this story, but I can't resist. Cool chupacabra photo at link.

Has a mythical beast turned up in Texas? - Yahoo! News: "CUERO, Texas - Phylis Canion lived in Africa for four years. She's been a hunter all her life and has the mounted heads of a zebra and other exotic animals in her house to prove it.

But the roadkill she found last month outside her ranch was a new one even for her, worth putting in a freezer hidden from curious onlookers: Canion believes she may have the head of the mythical, bloodsucking chupacabra.

'It is one ugly creature,' Canion said, holding the head of the mammal, which has big ears, large fanged teeth and grayish-blue, mostly hairless skin.

Canion and some of her neighbors discovered the 40-pound bodies of three of the animals over four days in July outside her ranch in Cuero, 80 miles southeast of San Antonio. Canion said she saved the head of the one she found so she can get to get to the bottom of its ancestry through DNA testing and then mount it for posterity."

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

Okay, so I don't actually have a sponsor. I like this ad, though.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Nocturnal Mission

Knees Calhoun, the creation (not to say alter ego) of Fender Tucker, has a song about public restrooms that might take your mind off the current discussion of such places. You can read the lyrics here, and if you click on the title, you can hear Knees sing it. I believe there's something in it to offend just about everybody, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Walter Satterthwait Goes to Market

Walter Satterthwait, noted author and bon vivant sent me this photo, taken on his trip to the market today. Walter goes to more exotic markets than I do. Enlarge the photo to see what I mean.


Back in the Olden Days when I was a mere youth, there were plenty of what were called "sword and sandal" movies. Some were pretty good. Some weren't. One that really impressed me at the time was The 300 Spartans. It starred Richard Egan and it was about the same battle at Thermopylae. I was impressed with the story and the heroism of King Leonidas and his 300 men. It's remained a sentimental favorite of mine, so I was prepared not to care much for 300, the jazzy re-telling of the story based on Frank Miller's graphic novel.

Well, imagine my surprise at how much I liked this movie. I know I say all the time that movies look great. This one looks really great. Don't take my word for it. Watch the movie and see for yourself.

You already know the plot. King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans hold off tens of thousands of Persians and die bravely. If you don't like battle scenes, blood, and lots of talk about love, honor, courage, and duty, you might be put off. I think Robert B. Parker's Spenser would enjoy it, though.

Sci-fi Films Are as Dead as Westerns

Sci-fi films are as dead as Westerns, says Ridley Scott - Times Online: "He was the director of two of the most critically acclaimed science fiction films, but now Sir Ridley Scott believes that the genre is so tired and unoriginal that it may be dead.

At the Venice Film Festival for a special screening of his seminal noir thriller Blade Runner, Sir Ridley said that science fiction films were going the way the Western once had. “There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before. Been there. Done it,” he said. Asked to pick out examples, he said: “All of them. Yes, all of them.”

Gator Update (Desert Edition)

Cute Gator pic at the link.

Alligator in the desert? | Inland News | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California: "THOUSAND PALMS - The little gator is a long way from the everglades.

But after being rescued from a backyard swimming pool, the 3-foot-long reptile dined on goldfish Monday while in captivity.

The alligator -- scooped out of a pool in Cathedral City over the weekend -- is in good health and will be turned over to the California Department of Fish and Game, according to veterinarian Susan Powell."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Old "I Was Too Drunk to Mean It" Defense Works Again

Gun-Toting, Pro-Pot Lawyer Discusses Killer's Trial - News Story - WLKY Louisville: "LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A man who shot his drinking buddy to death was too drunk to mean it, a Lexington jury concluded. The attorney who swayed the jury, colorful Kentucky politican Gatewood Galbraith, spoke exclusively to after the verdict."

Gator Update (Frozen Head Edition)

Orlando burglar swipes frozen alligator head from repair shop: "Someone who burglarized an old auto repair shop got a big surprise - a frozen alligator head stuffed in a garbage bag.

The Prange family, which has owned a brake and alignment shop for 87 years, was storing the head for a friend who planned to mount it.

'We hope he jumps when he opens the garbage bag,' said Steve Prange, 55."

Will the Persecution Never End?

Judy and I are not the "married couple from Texas" mentioned in this article, sent along by the indefatigable John Duke.

Now We know Who's to Blame

Key that could have saved the Titanic - Telegraph: "It looks for all the world like an ordinary key but this unremarkable piece of metal could have saved the Titanic from disaster.

It is thought to have fitted the locker that contained the crow's nest binoculars, vital in detecting threats to the liner lurking in the sea in the pre-sonar days of 1912.

Catastrophically for the Titanic and the 1,522 lives lost with her, the key's owner, Second Officer David Blair, was removed from the crew at the last minute and in his haste forgot to hand it to his replacement."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Will the Persecution Never End?

Photo at link.

Jen's Fun Little Place: Paris Hilton Photographed Screwing by the Pool: "Paris Hilton Photographed Screwing by the Pool Just when you think it cant get any worse for Paris Hilton, she gets photographed screwing by a swimming pool."

I'm for It

Bigfoot May Gain Protection by Canadian Parliament - Associated Content: "A member of the Canadian Mounted Police by the name of Mike Lake has officially notified the Canadian Parliament that he believes that Bigfoot should be added to the Nation's, Species at Risk Act. This is similar to the Endangered Species List in the United States.

According to Mr. Lake, the creature that is also known as the Sasquatch is real, and is endangered. The reason, he says that there have not been more sightings in North America of Bigfoot is because the creature is endangered, not necessarily shy like many believe."
O’Bryan House Publishers, LLC is pleased to announce the first book appearance of W.R. Burnett’s hard boiled Depression Era novel, Dr. Socrates. Originally serialized in Collier’s Magazine in the spring of 1935, this is the story of young Dr. Cardwell who, after being forced at gun point to treat a wounded gangster, finds himself caught between the threat posed by gang leader Red Bastian and the suspicion of Federal Agents investigating a wave of bank robberies. Portions of the story line suggested by the saga of Public Enemy John Dillinger. First edition, first printing. The novel which served as the basis for the 1935 film "Dr. Socrates" starring Paul Muni, and Ann Dvorak and later the 1939 Humphrey Bogart film King of the Underworld.

W. R. Burnett is the author of Little Caesar, High Sierra and The Asphalt Jungle. He was nominated for two Academy Awards for best screenplay for Wake Island (1942) and The Great Escape (1963). In 1980 Burnett received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Dr. Socrates is published by O’Bryan House Publishers by exclusive agreement with the Estate of W. R. Burnett, no portion of this book may be copied or used without the express permission of the copyright holder. Book measures 5.5 by 8.5 inches, soft cover, 139 pages, ISBN 978-0-9769583-2-1. Limited print run of this title. Book includes a brief after word by the publisher entitled "Dr. Socrates and Hollywood." Dr. Socrates is available at or may be ordered directly from O’Bryan House Publishers LLC at

Joe Hensley, R. I. P.

I just heard (from Steve Stilwell, who saw it on Harlan Ellison's Ellison Webderland) the news that Joe Hensley has died. A fine writer of both mysteries and SF. I have a feeling that few readers today know his name, and that's sad indeed.

Update: More info here.

My Name on the Cover

Thanks to Juri Nummelin for sending along this copy of Isku, which contains a story of mine that he translated into Finnish. Note other writers whose names appear on the cover, too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

College Football's Top 25 Mascots

Link goes to the list. Rip on a college football fan's mother and you're asking for trouble. Rip on the mascot of a college football fan's favorite team and you'd better be prepared to throw down.

From intimidating animals to quirky traditions to goofy costumes, the mascots across the college football landscape are as unique and revered as anything identifiable with anything found in any other sport.

So how is it even possible to rank which mascots are the coolest? Obviously it's all subjective, so the attempt is to find the ones most synonymous with their schools and teams and which, at least with our experiences, inspire the most passion. Compiled by the staff of, here are the 25 best mascots, or more to the point, the most identifiable symbols in college football.

Retro TV Logos "Here is a simply awesome video collection of retro television logos and sponsor blurbs. Most of you will be old enough to remember at least some of these, and if you do, then it will transport you back in time. For me, it was like experiencing chilhood in front of the TV all over again. You simply have to love the hyper-synthesized 70’s tones that play throughout, as they capture the essence of that period in American television."

Any Volunteers?

Jeff Meyerson, who sent me this link, isn't volunteering.

Ananova - Penis museum in manhunt: "The world's only penis museum has appealed for a human specimen.

Curator Sigurdur Hjartarson opened the museum in 1974 in Husavik, Iceland, and has collected 195 penises from various animals.

His collection includes penises from hamsters, horses and whales.

But now he is appealing again for a human organ. He said people from the UK, Germany and the US had contacted him offering their penises in the past but that none of the offers had ever been serious."

There Will Always be an England

The Sun Online - News: Councillor is a sexy stripper: "RACY Lib Dem councillor Myrna Bushell has vowed not to hang up her cat o’nine tails after being exposed as a stripper and sex chat line operator.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, the curvy mum insists she had no plans to quit local politics OR her steamy sidelines following the shock revelation last week.

And she says the strong family values that she promotes as a councillor in Bideford, Devon, are one of the main reasons why she strips."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

DALLAS (AP) -- The entries in this year's Big Tex Choice Awards could entice State Fair visitors back to the deep fryer for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There are Deep Fried Lattes for a morning jump-start, plus fried chili pie, fried guacamole, and a range of crispy desserts including Fried Cookie Dough.

The third annual Big Tex Choice Awards contest on Labor Day tests the fair grub ingenuity of State Fair of Texas concessionaires. Past Big Tex awards have offered nonfried options, but none of this year's seven entries escaped the fryer.

"I think they're good products," said Ron Black, the fair's senior vice president of food service and novelties. "We've got experienced concessionaires, and their products all taste really good."

Michael Levy will debut his family's new Deep Fried Latte, which is a fried pastry topped with cappuccino ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream and instant coffee powder.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gator Update (New in Paperback Edition)

Emphasis mine. Sounds like a fine story. - New in paperback: "With her debut story collection, 'St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves' (Vintage, 256 pages, $13.95), Karen Russell finds herself in good company. New York magazine put her on a list of 25 promising writers under age 26, and in April, Granta magazine brought international attention when it included Russell on its list of best young American novelists.

Such lists are subjective, but Granta's track record is impressive; more than a decade earlier, Granta lauded emerging writers Lorrie Moore, Edwidge Danticat, Jeffrey Eugenides and Madison Smartt Bell.

It's too early to say whether Russell will join the pantheon, but she writes with a narrative verve and energy that push the 10 stories of 'St. Lucy's' to odd, wonderful places. Many of her stories are set in the swampy regions of Florida. In 'Ava Wrestles the Alligator,' a 12-year-old is left to look after her family's alligator theme park with her older, possibly possessed sister."

I Have a Feeling this Can't Be Good News, Either

FlickDirect™ - Film News - Len Wiseman To Helm Remake of Escape From New York: "It has been announced that Len Wiseman, director of 'Live Free or Die Hard' and the 'Underworld' Series, will be directing the upcoming remake of 'John Carpentar's Escape from New York'.

The movie is set in futuristic Manhattan, which has been turned into a maximum security prison, and features the character Snake Plissken, a convict and war hero hired to save the President of the United States after his plane is crashed by terrorists."

This Can't be Good News - Keanu Reeves lands on 'Earth': "Twentieth Century Fox has set Keanu Reeves to star in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' its re-imagining of the 1951 Robert Wise-directed sci-fi classic.

Reeves committed over the weekend to play Klaatu, a humanoid alien who arrives on Earth accompanied by an indestructible, heavily armed robot and a warning to world leaders that their continued aggression will lead to annihilation by species watching from afar.

Erwin Stoff is producing, with Scott Derrickson ('The Exorcism of Emily Rose') directing from a script by David Scarpa. Reeves' commitment puts the picture on track for a late fall or early 2008 production start. Studio sees it as a tentpole.

The Klaatu role was originated by Michael Rennie. The 1951 film's premise, a response to the rise of the Cold War after WWII, is being updated, and the film will use advances in visual effects."

We're from Another Government, and We'll Do as We Damned Well Please

Blundering diplomats destroy $US10m whale fossil - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): "European diplomats in four-wheel drives have caused millions of dollars worth of damage to a fossilised whale lying for millions of years in the Egyptian desert, a security source said.

'Whale Valley officals have informed the authorities that people from two diplomatic corps vehicles destroyed the fossil,' the source told AFP after the destruction was discovered around 150 kilometres south of Cairo.

Two cars drove into the protected area on Friday and then refused to stop when asked to do so by wardens who nevertheless got the vehicles' registration numbers which the source said were from 'a European country.'"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Death Head Crossing -- James Reasoner

You know it's going to be a pretty good day when you've finished a book, you're wondering what you're going to read next, and you find a western by James Reasoner in Wal-Mart. James, as most of you know has written dozens, maybe hundreds, of westerns, but only a few under his own name like this one. It's good to see him getting a little shelf space as himself.

You know from the start of this book that you're in for something a little different. A man who's been having a few too many drinks heads back to the ranch where he works. He sees strange lights in the hills. And the next thing you know, he's dead. Someone calling himself the Hand of God has pretty much obliterated his face.

Hell Jackson, a drifter, finds himself in the town of Death Head Crossing, and he gets interested in the murder. Also in town is a young reporter, Everett Howard, from New York. He's there to send dispatches to the city folks about the Wild West. He attaches himself to Jackson because he knows Jackson will be a great source of material. Before long, the Hand of God has struck again, and Jackson and Howard become involved in the sheriff's investigation.

There's more murder to come, along with obsession, lust, bullwhips, and other entertainments. Reasoner's a master at this kind of thing. The pace never falters, and at the end of the story we're left wanting to know more about the mysterious Hell Jackson. If we're lucky, maybe Pinnacle Books will hire James to write about him some more. But for now, check this one out.

From JJ Solari

Since you seem to be a persistent booster of crap that I do I thought I would prod your perverse unflagging enthusiasm by sending you a picture of the cover of the load of manure that I am about to back-up to society's doorstep and lower the tailgate of and allow to flow, plop and spread throughout the English reading world. Which now numbers about only 200 people. It's all new stuff unencumbered by editorial concerns peculiar to mammoth publishing concerns and coporate staffers worried about whatever they worry about. Hurting people's feelings, I guess. Or any other kind of fun undertaking.

I think I might have even fewer readers that JJ Solari thinks he has, but I hope some of you will buy his book when it hits the market. I know I will. And if you want to read about JJ's experience as a Mouseketeer (yes, he was one), click here. Fascinating stuff, much of it written by JJ himself.

The Straight Dope on Fireflies

A while back, my post on fireflies got several responses. Yesterday, this popped into my mailbox.

Straight Dope Staff Report: Where have all the fireflies gone?: "Dear Straight Dope: Growing up in the early 1950s in the urban area of Indianapolis, I recall swarms of fireflies – they just seemed to be everywhere. Now when I go back to Indianapolis or other places in that part of the country I see very few. I've even traveled out into the countryside to see if it was just civilization that pushed them out. But even there I saw very few. Where have they gone? —Janet Collins, Seattle"

Return with Us Now . . .

. . . you know where. This ad from the back of a 1955 SF magazine is very similar to one I responded to. In fact, two of the books pictured were two those I picked for my first order: The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology and The Omnibus of Science Fiction. As far as I'm concerned, you'd be hard pressed to find two better anthologies to grab a kid's attention and make him an addict. At least in 1955. When I went away to college, my mother made me dispose of most of my books (she was a fine woman, but she didn't get it about books). Somehow, though, I hung onto those two. Still have 'em.