Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Am Legend

Okay, so they didn't film the book. I knew that going in, but I was prepared to enjoy the special effects, which I did. Digression: The first movie I remember having seen that used a deserted New York as a backdrop was long ago. It was The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and it starred Harry Belafonte and Inger Stevens. It impressed the heck out of me. End of digression. I was impressed by the deserted city in this movie, too. There are some great shots of the empty streets filled with abandoned cars and the wrecked bridges you can see in the poster.

The mutants were okay, even if they weren't the vampires of the novel, but only okay. Some of the CGI work was pretty lousy. Will Smith is good, though, and so is the dog.

The movie's ending sure isn't the book's ending, and I didn't much care for it. In fact, the whole second half of the movie seemed rushed, as if they'd just decided, what the heck, let's get it over with.

What's Wrong with People?

Thanks to John Duke for the link. And I'm sure they meant to say "Fewer than 40 . . . ."

Reality - News - Low turnout for Hilton's reality show - Digital Spy: "Less than 40 people have showed up to audition to be Paris Hilton's best friend in her new reality show.

New York casting directors were reportedly disappointed by the meagre turnout for MTV's Paris Hilton's My New BFF.

The series aims to pit 20 aspiring It-girls against each other in a bid to prove they have what it takes to be the socialite's BFF (best friend forever)."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

26-year-old Texan crowned Miss USA - Yahoo! News: "LAS VEGAS - A 26-year-old entrepreneur from Texas was named Miss USA on Friday, besting 50 other beauty queens for the coveted crown.

Crystle Stewart, of Missouri City, Texas, runs a party-planning and motivational speaking company, as well as modeling professionally. She says she wants to dedicate her life to international philanthropy.

'I want to talk to people about how to set a goal and achieve it,' she told The Associated Press after the show. 'Because I just achieved my goal.'"

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Dave Barry makes me proud to be an American.

A Thrill a Minute at Casa Crider

There's elation in the air. Never let it be said that I don't live on the edge. Things are really hopping around here. Yes, we've taken the plunge and . . . bought new doors for the garage!

Heart-stopping excitement, right? And that's not all. Next week the painters will arrive to paint the house! That is, they've promised to arrive. My experience with painters is that sometimes they don't do exactly as planned. But it's the thought that counts.

Who knows what wild and crazy thing will happen next? Don't touch that dial!

How Can Authors Find Out if a Library Bought their Book?

Sling Words has the answer.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Top 25 Gutar Riffs

Top 25 riffs: modern rockers 'can't make great guitar riffs' - Telegraph: "When it comes to rock classics, it seems they just don't make them like they used to.

Just seven songs penned in the last two decades have made it on to a list of the greatest guitar riffs of all time."

Click here for the story of the "Smoke on the Water" riff.

Link via Mike McGruff.

Too Much Information

Waaaaaay too much information.

Roseanne: I "Had Vaginal Rejuvenation Surgery" - Entertainment on The Huffington Post: "Comedian Roseanne Barr talked to Craig Ferguson Wednesday night and claimed to have had vaginal rejuvenation. Talking about how she's single, Roseanne told the 'Late, Late Show' host, 'I went and had vaginal rejuvenation surgery. No, I did! And now I have a va-junior. And I'm not afraid to use it.'"

New Issue of Intergalactic Medicine Show is Now On-Line

Nice line-up of stories. Click here.

Hat tip to Bish's Beat.

Gorilla Suit Construction Workshop

West Chester Gorilla Suit Construction Workshop: Welcome: "No single article of clothing is as versatile as the gorilla suit. You can wear a gorilla suit to an embassy party, to a jewel heist, to a high-speed car chase, and then practice your slamdunks in it, all in a single evening. Without a well-constructed, well-tailored, and suitably altered gorilla suit (do you need boot-cut legs to go over your ski bindings?) your closet is sadly lacking."

Link via Boing Boing.

Stay off this Guy's Lawn!

Preston man shoots ATV tire, four arrested for trespassing - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin: "Preston, Conn. —

A Preston man shot out the tire of one of four ATVs police said were riding illegally on his Brickyard Road property.

The four ATV riders were charged with trespassing on Tuesday. State police said Alton Lewis, 73, of 87 Brickyard Road in Preston had confronted the ATV riders, brandishing a pistol. He subsequently shot the tire of a four-wheelers, police said. Police said the case remains under investigation."

What to Have in the Perfect Library?

What you need is these 110 books.

Back Alley Webzine's New Issue is Now Live

The third issue of The Back Alley Webzine, which garnered two Derringer Award Nominations this year, will go live this Friday, April 11.

We have a really terrific lineup this time around, including multiple Agatha Award Nominee Gay Toltl Kinman; Pushcart Prize recipient Tim Wohlforth; Derringer Award nominee Justin Gustainis; a Bo Fexler short by Clair Dickson; and a Noah Milano tale by Jochem Vandersteen.

Bruce Stirling provides an excellent historical commentary on Carroll John Daly's seminal PI Three Gun Terry.

Finally, we continue the seven part serialization of Frank Norris's classic noir novel MCTEAGUE.

It all comes your way this Friday, April 11 - the third butt-kickin' issue of The Back Alley Webzine! ( )

Richard Helms
The Back Alley Webzine

Croc Update (Shop Till You Drop Edition)

Trend News : Crocodile caught wandering in Malaysian shop: "(dpa) - Malaysian fire and rescue officers caught a 3-metre-long crocodile that was found trying to climb the stairs of a two-storey shop, a news report said Friday.

The 200-kilogram reptile, believed to be from a nearby swamp in the central state of Malacca, was halfway up the flight of steps when shocked onlookers called the fire and rescue department late Wednesday, the Star daily said."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dandy Don!

Don Meredith - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Joseph Don 'Dandy Don' Meredith (born April 10, 1938 in Mount Vernon, Texas) is a retired American football quarterback in the NFL who played for the Dallas Cowboys, a former football commentator, and entertainer."

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Federal Credit Cards Misused - "Federal employees used government credit cards to pay for lingerie, gambling, iPods, Internet dating services, and a $13,000 steak-and-liquor dinner, according to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, which found widespread abuses in a purchasing program meant to improve bureaucratic efficiency.

The study, released by Senate lawmakers yesterday, found that nearly half the 'purchase card' transactions it examined were improper, either because they were not authorized correctly or because they did not meet requirements for the cards' use. The overall rate of problems 'is unacceptably high,' the audit found."

Update: I recommend this scary slideshow.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

"Fight Club" Busted at Local High School | WOAI.COM: San Antonio News: "It's a violent and illegal form of entertainment that's popped up at a high school here. They're called 'fight clubs' and they could have some students in La Vernia in big trouble.

La Vernia police say a group of teens would meet in a school bathroom and then start fighting. They got caught because they used the internet to let everybody know what they were doing."

Ah, Maturity!

Lindsay Lohan to go nude in indie movie to prove she's a 'serious actress' | the Daily Mail: "Troubled Hollywood starlet Lindsay Lohan is planning to appear naked in an low-budget film in an effort to revive her flailing career, it has been claimed.

The actress is said to have agreed to strip down for just �40,000 for the indie film Florence to prove herself as a 'mature actress'.

The 21-year-old, who previously played a pole dancer in the box-office flop I Know Who Killed Me, has reportedly agreed to 'full frontal' nudity in her role as a nymphomaniac waitress in the drama."

At the Drive-In (1967)

So what was showing at the drive-in back in August of 1967? Sling Words (aka Joan Reeves) has kindly posted a neat show calendar from Abilene, Texas. Just click on the calendar to enlarge it to full-screen size. Some great stuff, including a double feature of Claudelle English and Susan Slade. Those were the days.

The 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of all Time

. . . beginning with "More Cowbell" at number 50. You could waste all day watching these.

Another Great Trailer

Robert Vaughan's finest moment.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Quote of the Day

Paris Hilton: “I’m an icon” � Fametastic: "“I’m an icon. You either have it or you don’t. It’s something you’re born with.”"

Thanks to John Duke for the link.

Spring Issue of Helix Now On-Line

Great line-up of stories and columns, as always. Click here.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Viper venom examined to save stroke sufferers - "The whole episode remains a blur to Kenneth Transeau of Katy, Texas, as he was transported by an air ambulance to a stroke center in Houston. But sometime after the noisy helicopter ride and the hurried hospital brain scans, Transeau went from being a stroke victim to a test subject.

Researchers began dripping an experimental drug made from viper snake venom into the veins of the 69-year-old husband, father and grandfather."

Two Faces Have I

Thanks to Doc Quatermass for the link. Click through for a photo.

Indian baby born with two faces 'doing well' one month after birth | the Daily Mail: "An Indian baby born with two faces is doing well one month after her birth, doctors have said.

Lali was born with two noses, two pairs of lips and two pairs of eyes - but only two ears.

And while she may seem like an oddity to some, her proud parents think she is simply a God reincarnated."

Coming in June from Stark House

Once again Stark House has come up with a great double. This time it's two by Richard Powell, whose Say it with Bullets was previously reprinted by Hard Case Crime. Here are a few things about Powell that you may nor may not have known. Besides writing crime novels, he had a big mainstream bestseller, The Philadelphians, which was made into a movie with Paul Newman. The Young Philadelphians was the movie title, by the way. Powell also wrote Pioneer, Go Home, filmed as Follow that Dream, with Elvis Presley. Not a great movie, but one of the better Elvis comedies, by the way. And finally, Powell's Don Quixote USA was the basis for Woody Allen's Bananas. That's besides the fine crime novels, of which A Shot in the Dark and Shell Game are two. I've read the former, and I recommend it. I'll be reading Shell Game soon. You can't go wrong with stuff like this.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Texans Build World's Most Powerful Laser | Wired Science from "Scientists have switched on the world's most powerful laser, which for one-trillionth of a second is 2,000 times more powerful than all the power plants in the United States. The laser's output tops a petawatt, which is a quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) watts of power.

In the basement of the physics building at the University of Texas at Austin, the school's High Intensity Laser Science Group built a petawatt laser in hopes of recreating astronomical phenomena like supernovae in miniature.

'We can put materials into states that you can't access here on earth,' said Mikael Martinez, the laser project's manager. 'You'd have to go out into space and hang out with an exploding star to observe what we plan to observe here in Texas.'"

You Mean that's against the Law?

Hat tip to Banjo Jones.

The Facts: "ANGLETON: A former jailer received one year in prison and five years probation Monday after he pleaded guilty to having sex with an inmate at the Pearland jail.
Hartman testified that when he spoke to an investigator about the incident, he wasn't sure he had done something illegal.

"I had asked him, 'Who needs to know about this?' he said, hoping his girlfriend at the time would not find out about it. 'At that time I didn't know I'd broken the law. I definitely realize it now.'"

Paris Hilton Loves Pets

Paris Hilton, cheetah girl: "A hotel spy tells us: 'Every time Paris saw something she liked, like a woman's dress, she would ask how much it was. That included a cheetah she saw at an animal park. She asked how much it was and said, 'If I bought a cheetah, would it run away from me or could I keep it?''"

Anna Nicole Smith Update

I think I'll write one about Paris Hilton. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Anna Nicole Smith: The Opera at the ROH - Telegraph: "The life of the late Playboy centrefold Anna Nicole Smith is to be turned into an opera by the co-creator of the cult musical Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Composer Richard Thomas is writing the libretto for a contemporary piece, to be staged at the Royal Opera House in 2010.

He said the tragic life story of Ms Smith, a former stripper who died from an overdose of prescription drugs a year ago, was 'a classic American tale about celebrity' which was 'intrinsically operatic'.

The production, still in the early stages of development, is intended to be shown on the main stage at the Royal Opera House, accompanied by a 90-piece orchestra."

You Think Your Name is Bad?

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

And the Worst Bad Name Is . . . - TierneyLab - Science - New York Times Blog: "We have a winner in the Worst Bad Name Contest. And after talking to the woman who has this name, I’m happy to report we have new anecdotal evidence to go with the psychological studies supporting the Boy Named Sue theory: good things can indeed come from a bad name.

It wasn’t easy picking a winner from more than 1,000 entries. Besides Charman Toilette, an early favorite of the judges, there was Chastity Beltz, Wrigley Fields, Justin Credible, Tiny Bimbo, and a girl whose father was an auto mechanic but somehow didn’t realize he was effectively giving her the name of a tire: Michele Lynn. There were girls named Chaos and Tutu, and boys named Clever, Cowboy, Crash, Felony, Furious and Zero. There was Unnamed Jones (pronounced you-NAH-med). There was Brook Traut and his daughter, Rainbow. There were more names involving genitalia than the judges cared to count. (Memo to parents: Carefully consider your surname before naming a boy Harry or Richard.)"

Hard Case Crime Update


For the past few months we've been teasing you with hints about a long-lost book by Lawrence Block that will be kicking off our sixth season in January 2009. Now, at last, we're in a position to say what it is -- and I think you'll see what I meant when I said that the subject matter has been in the headlines lately.

Rather than spoiling the fun here, I encourage you to visit our Web site to see the cover and read the nice, long sample chapter we've got up there for you. All I'll say here is that this is by far the rarest of all Block's books. He wrote it under a pseudonym he never used before or since, it's never been published under his real name (or this title), and he couldn't even locate a copy of it himself for thirty years!

You can pull back the curtain by visiting and clicking on...well, you'll see what to click on.

In other news, let me congratulate the winners of our drawing for free copies of our new 'double' edition of Robert Bloch's SHOOTING STAR and SPIDERWEB: Brent, Opal, Michael, Dan, Cherie, Larry, Michael, Blu, Rich, and Kim (of NY, MO, KS, IL, WA, TX, CA, AL, UT, and MD, respectively). The book is in stores now -- don't miss it!

Coming up next month: The little known but harrowing and masterful novel THE MURDERER VINE by Shepard Rifkin, inspired (loosely) by the same events as "Mississippi Burning"...then Donald Westlake returns with the very funny SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY...and then 1950s film noir screenwriter Steve Fisher is up, with his novel of Las Vegas, NO HOUSE LIMIT.

Lots of good books, leading into what may be our biggest Fall ever, with four original novels back to back, including a new Quarry novel by Max Allan Collins and a sequel to BUST and SLIDE by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr.

Wouldn't this be a good time to sign up for the Hard Case Crime Book Club at last? If you're curious, call 1-800-481-9191 -- the person you reach will be glad to answer any questions you've got.

Charles Ardai
Editor, Hard Case Crime

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Now They're Insulting Paris Hilton's Feet

Great photos at link. Including one of the bunion.

Paris Hilton launches shoe line.... and models them with her own terrifying size 11s | the Daily Mail: "Paris Hilton hasn't let her less than perfect feet put her off launching her own shoe range.

The socialite arrived in Montreal on the weekend to meet her fans and launch her newly designed range of shoes.

But some might say it's a bit rich coming from the heiress who possesses a pair of extremely large size 11 feet (UK size 9) complete with an angry-looking bunion."

You Know Without Even Looking . . .

. . . that this blog isn't on Time's list.

The Evolution of Slaughterhouse Five

Kurt Vonnegut | Salon Books: "April 7, 2008 | On May 29, 1945, Pfc. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. sat down at a typewriter in the Red Cross Club of the POW Repatriation Camp in Le Havre, France, and wrote his family a letter. 'I'm told that you were probably never informed that I was anything other than 'missing in action,'' he began. 'That leaves me a lot of explaining to do.'"

They Don't Make Trailers Like This Anymore

Bob Dylan wins Pulitzer Prize

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

People: Times change as Bob Dylan wins Pulitzer Prize | News | The First Post: "Bob Dylan, singer, poet and one of the heroes of the Sixties generation, has been given a Pulitzer Prize. Dylan is the first rock artist to win the award, and was given his honorary Pulitzer for his 'profound impact on popular music and American culture' at a ceremony in New York on Monday."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Gator Update (Standing Up Edition

Great photo at link.

Alligator stands on hind legs - Boing Boing: "Daigooro is an alligator that stands upright when doused with water."

Swierczynski's Fist

TALKING IRON FIST WITH SWIERCZYNSKI, FRACTION, BRUBAKER AND FOREMAN - NEWSARAMA: "It’s official—Marvel Comics has announced that Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja are leaving The Immortal Iron Fist after issue #16, to be replaced by the team of Cable writer Duane Swierczynski, who will be joined by artist Travel Foreman. Swierczynski and Foreman will kick off their run starting with issue #17 in July."

Gunilla Knutson

In a comment below, Doc Quatermass thoughtfully provided this link to a Noxema commercial.

And for you Rula Lenska fans, she struts her stuff as one of the Little Ladies in Rock Follies. Apparently she was on Celebrity Big Brother 2 in the U.K. in 2006.

The Evil Adverb

Yesterday, the Quote of the Day on my homepage was from Stephen King. No source was cited, but I suspect the sentence came from On Writing. Here's what SK says: "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." So what I'd like to know is, when did adverbs become evil?

I grew up reading a lot of 19th century writers: Poe, James, Melville, Hawthorne, Dickens. These guys used adverbs. Poe use a lot of adverbs. Some sentences in stories like "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" have four or five per sentence. James used them by the bundle. Were adverbs more benign in the 19th century? Or were they even then working their insidious evil and destroying the prose of the so-called "masters"?

I'm not questioning King. I'm just wondering. I thought maybe Hemingway was an adverb-free guy, but even stories like "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" and "The End of Something" use adverbs. So where and when did it begin? Who declared that adverbs were the spawn of Satan. Anybody know?

Gator Update (Antibiotic Edition)

Newswise Science News | Alligator Blood May Put the Bite on Antibiotic-resistant Infections: "Newswise — Despite their reputation for deadly attacks on humans and pets, alligators are wiggling their way toward a new role as potential lifesavers in medicine, biochemists in Louisiana reported today at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. They described how proteins in gator blood may provide a source of powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers, severe burns, and “superbugs” that are resistant to conventional medication."

Variable Star -- Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson

Okay, here's the way this one came about. Discovered among Heinlein's papers was a 7-page single-spaced outline for a novel, along with 14 hand-written index cards containing various notes, all for a Heinlein juvenile that never got written. The outline was not complete, as the eighth page (and possibly subsequent pages) was missing. Robinson wrote the novel based on this material.

Some people aren't going to be able to read beyond the opening scenes because of the corny and sexist dialog between Joel (Our Hero) and Jinny, whom he believes to be his true love. But this dialog, especially the sexist part, is important to what happens next and kicks the plot into gear. Joel finds out things about Jinny that he can't accept and then finds himself on a ship to the stars. Fans of Heinlein are going to find plenty of familiar stuff, and if they've read The Door into Summer, they're going to be way ahead of other readers and maybe not surprised at what's supposed to be one of the book's big surprises. I have to say there's one even bigger surprise, though, and I didn't see it coming at all. I wonder if right before that surprise isn't where the outline ended and Robinson started winging it. Anway, I think Robinson's world view diverges from Heinlein's at that point in particular, though for a lot of the book I thought Robinson did a pretty good job of "making it Heinlein."

For me, though, Robinson goes wrong by making the book far too long (you're not surprised at that reaction from me by now, I'm sure). Heinlein would never have written a novel of well over 100K words back in 1955, especially not a juvenile (not that this one's a juvie; I think it's aimed at adults, too). I think the book could have profited from some heavy-handed editing and severe cutting, but others might feel differently. I'm glad I read it, even though I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. If you're a Heinlein fan, you're probably going to read it out of curiosity, and you might find it great fun. I thought parts of it were.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I Used to OD on Hectograph Fumes

Boy, 8, suspended after sniffing Sharpie marker - The Denver Post: "WESTMINSTER —A Westminster parent says Adams School District 50 overreacted by suspending a third-grade student for smelling Sharpie marker fumes and the clothing on which he'd drawn a stripe."

It's the Queen of all Monsters . . .

. . . Queen Kong!

Charlton Heston, R. I. P.

Heston was in some great movies, though I never thought of him as a great actor. Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, and I'm sorry he suffered from it.

Charlton Heston, Epic Film Star and Voice of N.R.A., Dies at 83 - New York Times: "Charlton Heston, who appeared in some 100 films in his 60-year acting career but who is remembered chiefly for his monumental, jut-jawed portrayals of Moses, Ben-Hur and Michelangelo, died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83."

The Kelley Collection

Some years ago, occasional commenter George Kelley gave his gigantic paperback collection to SUNY Buffalo. The librarians there have been working hard to catalog the collection, and they've created a new website that has a searchable database along with some great cover photos. Check it out.


You may have gathered by now that I have a weakness for fairy tales. It's embarrassing to admit it, as I'd rather be known as a tough guy, but when it comes to movies like Enchanted, I'm just an old bag of mush.

You probably know the gimmick. The movie opens with some great, traditional Disney animation, and then the wicked queen (Susan Sarandon) pushes the lovely young Giselle (Amy Adams) down a well. She arrives in New York City, the place where "there is no happily ever after." Edward, the handsome, but slightly vacant, prince (James Marsden) goes after Giselle to save her, so the queen sends her flunky, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), to spoil things. A chipmunk goes, too, but he's a good guy.

Okay, you know the Mayberry Plot? The one where the big city guy goes to Mayberry and learns how to live? This is the reverse. Giselle goes from a fairy-tale land (not entirely unlike Mayberry) to the big city. Her sweetness and innocence teaches everybody else how to live, including Dr. McDreamy. It's the world the way we'd like to think it could be.

Great stuff, with some very funny lines and a fine screenplay. I bought into it from the first frame with all the visual references to former Disney animated films, but then I'm a sentimental old fart. My only criticism is my usual one: as is all to often the case these days, they drag out the ending for a special effects extravaganza. I loved it anyway.