Saturday, December 31, 2005

Octavus Roy Cohen

Check out the latest edition to Mystery*File for the most entertaining review of the novels of Octavus Roy Cohen you'll find on the 'net today. And probably the only review of the novels of Octavus Roy Cohen you'll find on the 'net today.

Happy Gnu Year!

Yes, it's that time of year again, the time when we celebrate the noble wildebeest, also called gnu (pronounced /nu/ or /nju/), a large ungulate of the genus Connochaetes.

During this time we often reflect on the past and wonder about the future. As for the past, I'd like to thank everyone who's read the blog this year. I truly appreciate your support. I realize that my traffic on a good day doesn't equal what some of the more presitigious blogs have over the course of, say, 15 minutes, but (as in everything) it's quality that counts, not quantity. Or so I keep telling myself.

I have no idea about the future, or at least my particular future. Since my agent "retired" a while back, I haven't done much fiction writing, and I still haven't looked for another agent. Maybe I'll do that in the coming year. Or not. I'm still waffling.

I do know that I wish the best for all of you during 2006: health, wealth, and happiness. Let's hope it's a wonderful year for everybody.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Rumor Has It

Being in the mood for light entertainment, Judy and I went to see Rumor Has It this afternoon. The audience looked about like what you'd expect: a bunch of old ginks who'd all seen The Graduate 40 years or so ago and wanted to see what this new riff on it was like. I think they all went away happy, or at least smiling.

Kevin Costner is fine, and I'm glad to see that he appears to have given up being the savior of various post-apocalyptic worlds, Shirley MacLaine is just about perfect as the even older Mrs. Robinson, and Jennifer Anniston does a good job of playing the confused young woman who might nor might not be the daughter of Benjamin Braddock (or Beau Burroughs, or whoever). I have to admit that I do find it a little hard to belive that it's never occurred to her Sarah Huttinger character that her birth occurred a little too soon after her parents' marriage. Kids wonder about stuff like that, don't they?

This isn't the kind of movie that's going to change anybody's life or make anyone's "Ten Best" list, but it's fun and it's nostalgic for those of us who remember seeing The Graduate on the big screen in its first release. There are lots worse things you could spend your money on.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cool Dinosaur News (that has nothing to do with the item about Rockin' New Year's Eve that follows it)

Near-complete titanosaurus unearthed. 27/12/2005. ABC News Online: "Argentine palaeontologists have discovered the largely intact skeleton of a young titanosaurus that lived 71 million years ago, local media reports.

'What's extraordinary about this is that the remains were articulated, as if the animal had fallen or lain down and remained that way,' geologist and palaeontologist Bernardo Gonzalez Riga said.

'There were no signs that it was preyed on.'"

The Return of Dick Clark "For the 34th consecutive year, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve will lead America into the New Year when Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest host specials starting at 10:00 p.m. (ET & PT) on SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31. In all there will be three-and-a-half hours of special New Year's Eve programming. This marks Dick Clark's first television appearance in over a year and Ryan Seacrest's debut as co-host of the program."

I've written before about my affection for Dick Clark. (Click here, here, or here for examples.) I hope he does appear on the show and that he's doing well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Today Judy and I met some friends at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (names and photos of friends here). One of the friends, Sara Jane Boyers, was in town to do some workshops related to the exhibit of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat. As you can probably guess just be looking at the example on the left, Basquiat's work has inspired some widely (and wildly) divergent opinions about his talent (or lack of it).

I found the exhibit fascinating, especially with Sara Jane there to make a few salient points. One telling thing was the guest book. I've never seen a guest book with comments quite like those in this one. Some people made drawings, and many people were clearly inspired by what they'd seen. My favorites: "Okay, I finally get it -- 43-year-old white woman." Beside it, in another hand, with an arrow pointing to it: "You'll never get it -- trust me." I'm not sure I got it, but I did enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

If -- Worlds of Science Fiction, January 1954

I won this issue of If on eBay the other day. If was probably never thought of as one of the major SF magazines of the '50s, but it was a favorite of mine. After reading this issue, I can't see why it wasn't more highly regarded. The lead "short novel" is "Malice in Wonderland" by Evan Hunter, and it's a dilly. It's almost as if Hunter had been been reading Alfred Bester. The ending is weak, but maybe Hunter fixed that when he expanded the story into a novel called Tomorrow and Tomorrow, published under the Hunt Collins name. I have two or three copies of the novel, but I've never read it. The narrator of the story is a literary agent, which made it interesting right off the bat. His society is divided between the Vikes and the Rees, and the Vikes are required to shoot up with dope on a regular schedule, wear as little clothing as possible, and avoid marriage and having children. The Rees are opposed to the Vike way of life. It's a fast-moving, interesting story, and I guess I'll have to read the novel.

The issue also contains Damon Knight's "Anachron," which has become something of a classic time-travel story. I'd almost be willing to bet that no SF magazine that appeared in January 1954 had two stories of equal quality.

Admittedly, however, the Mack Reynolds story, "Off Course," is minor. Very minor. It's one of those stories that you read and say, "I could write a better story than that." Maybe you couldn't, but you'd like to think you could. It's supposed to be humorous, but it's only trite.

James E. Gunn's "A Word for Freedom" is a little preachy, and it has a basic idea very similar to "Malice in Wonderland." It suffers a little by comparison, but it's still not bad.

Harry Harrison contributed a very short story called "Navy Day," which is not much more than a shaggy dog story. The best thing about it is that it's funnier and better written that the one by Reynolds.

Richard Wilson's "Double Take" is another story that reminded me a little of "Malice in Wonderland." Maybe it's just me. It also reminded me of a far superior story, "Spectator Sport," by John D. MacDonald. It has a twist ending that you might not see coming if you've never read an SF story before.

Alan E. Nourse has the third-best story, "Letter of the Law," which reads like a story written for, and rejected by, John W. Campbell. It's about a trader on an alien world where all the natives are accomplished liars. The trader has violated their laws and is on trial for his life. He can survive only by astounding them with a bigger lie than they've ever heard before. He does, of course, but there are consequences.

The cover is by Ken Fagg (I'm not making that up).

All in all, this issue of If was a lot of fun to read. I miss the days when I could go to the Corner Bookstore in Mexia, Texas, and find a new batch of SF digests every month. Those were the days.

Monday, December 26, 2005

George Bush Loves Anna Nicole Smith

Some of you probably think this has become the Anna Nicole Smith Update Report. Can I help it if she's constantly in the news? She does the old hometown proud. I'm glad to see she has friends in high places.

"White House Aids Playboy Playmate in Court

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer Mon Dec 26, 6:05 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Playboy playmate
Anna Nicole Smith has an unusual bedfellow in the Supreme Court fight over her late husband's fortune: the Bush administration.

The administration's top Supreme Court lawyer filed arguments on Smith's behalf and wants to take part when the case is argued before the justices.

The court will decide early next year whether to let the U.S. solicitor general share time with Smith's attorney during the one hour argument on Feb. 28.

Smith, a television reality star and native Texan, plans to attend the court argument."

Anna Nicole Smith

Every year Texas Monthly announces its "Bum Steer Awards." This year there's a "Hall of Fame," and guess who's a member. That's right, my hometown's pride and joy, Anna Nicole Smith.

Here's what the magazine has to say:
IF BUM STEERS didn’t exist, they’d have to be invented for her. Two-time Bum Steer of the Year and perennial finalist. As a 26-year-old model, married octogenarian oil tycoon Howard Marshall; showed up at his funeral, according to People, in “a white gown with its neckline at half mast”; feuded with his family for a share of his fortune. Featured on the cover of New York magazine’s “White Trash Nation” issue gobbling junk food; sued and won a settlement. “Host” of abominable cable TV reality show (see Anna Nicole cuddle her late husband’s urn!). Ashes to ashes, dust to bust.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Cool Christmas Discovery

BBC News: "Scientists have discovered the beautifully preserved bones of about 20 dodos at a dig site in Mauritius.

Little is known about the dodo, a famous flightless bird thought to have become extinct in the 17th century.

No complete skeleton has ever been found in Mauritius, and the last full set of bones was destroyed in a fire at a museum in Oxford, England, in 1755."

Ho Ho Ho

Santa has come to Alvin, and I did all right. I got the third Looney Tunes DVD set (I got the previous two for Christmas the last two years) and the King Kong "collector's edition." That's the old Kong, of course, not the new one. I got a Jackie Chan collection, too, all movies over 30 years old. I have no idea what these will be like. Also got shirts, books, and a "hot-swappable" hard drive to play with. So it was a good day for me. I think everyone in the family was happy with the gifts they received. For our Christmas dinner last night we had Virginia ham and cajun-smoked turkey, along with twice-baked potatoes, homemade stuffing, green beans, and fruit salad. Two kinds of pie for dessert, but I passed and ate peanut brittle instead. Lunch today was leftovers. Now comes the bad part: After the kids leave, we'll be taking down the tree, putting all the decorations away, and getting the house back in some kind of order. Disposing of all the trash we generated will be my job.

More photos on the photoblog for the morbidly courious.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Happy Holiday to All!

I bought a box of these Christmas cards in 1963, and I still have a couple of them. The greeting on the inside says simply, "Joy to the world." I've seen hundreds, if not thousands of cards since 1963, but this one is still my favorite. I have no idea what that says about me, and I don't want to know. I do want all of you who read this to have a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2006.

Friday, December 23, 2005

My Evil Twin is Famous in Finland

And I didn't even know. Thanks to Palonen, who runs this site, for the cover scan.

A Christmas Story . . .

. . . in 30 seconds. With Bunnies.

And here's an update on what Ralphie's doing these days, including a lot of stuff I didn't know about him.

These Guys Need the Cast of CSI to Help Out

World news from The Times and the Sunday Times - Times Online: "THE wife of a leading opposition figure in Kazakhstan found him sprawled in a pool of blood in the billiard room of his villa in Almaty.

Zamenbek Nurkadilov had been shot twice in the chest, piercing his heart, and once at close range in the head, investigators say. By his side lay a cushion with two bullet holes in it. Yet three weeks on, police in the city are still treating the case as a suspected suicide."

The Worst Christmas Singles

Via Scrubbles, here's a link to a curmudgeon's guide to the worst Christmas singles releases. While it doesn't include the dogs singing "Jingle Bells," it does list "Meowy Christmas" by those annoying cats.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

When Possums Attack

ENGLEWOOD, Pa. Dec 22, 2005 — Mary Kathleen O'Connor, 16, doing some studying for school about 6 a.m. Tuesday, said she was the first to be startled by an apparent Christmas tree stowaway.

"I'm looking at the tree and the angel just pops off," she said. "And a second later, this head just popped up. The eyes were, like, glowing. I was thinking, 'Oh my God!' And I screamed."

You can see my own possum visitor here.

The Gutter and the Grave -- Ed McBain

A long time ago I read a book called I'm Cannon -- For Hire. It was a Gold Medal edition by "Curt Cannon," who was also the novel's main character. Cannon, as you probably know, was a pen name used by Evan Hunter.

Now Hard Case Crime has reissued the novel under what I suppose is Hunter's original title, and the main character's name has been changed to Matt Cordell, who (if memory serves, and it rarely does) was the name of the character in a series of short stories that appeared in Manhunt. (I'm sure someone will correct me if I have the facts wrong.) Some of these stories were reprinted in a Gold Medal book called I Like 'em Tough by Curt Cannon, with the main character's name again being Curt Cannon.

At any rate, The Gutter and the Grave is a highly entertaining novel. You have to believe that Lawrence Block must have read it or the short stories because, like Matthew Scudder, Cordell/Cannon is a former p.i. who has no license now nad spends his time drinking. He can, however, be talked into "doing a favor for a friend." The favor sounds simple enough, but it leads to murder in short order, and then it becomes a lot more complicated. Hunter writes a good bit about musicians in the course of the book, and he seems to have particularly enjoyed it. Some of the "hip" talk will seem a little dated to you whippersnappers, but I remember it well. And when it comes to driving a story a long, McBain is hard to beat. He had the narrative gift. Pick this one up and see what you think.

Best. Version. Ever.

For my money the best version of "White Christmas" is the one recorded by The Drifters. Here it is for your listening pleasure, with some new flash animation.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Love Stuff Like This

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Hundreds of human footprints dating back to the last Ice Age have been found in the remote Australian Outback, an official and media reported Thursday.

The 457 footprints found in Mungo National Park in western New South Wales state is the largest collection of its kind in the world and the oldest in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.

The prints were made in moist clay near the Willandra Lakes 19,000 to 23,000 years ago, the newspaper reported ahead of archeologists' report on the find to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

State Environment Minister Bob Debus said the site showed a large group of people walking and interacting."

A Scene from Catch-22 that Has Absolutely No Political Implications at the Present Time

"What was that?" roared General Dreedle incredulously . . . ."Who is this man?"

"M-major Danby, sir," Colonel Cathcart stammered . . . .

"Take him out and shoot him," ordered General Dreedle.


"I said take him out and shoot him. Can't you hear?"

"Yes, sir!" Colonel Cathcart responded smartly, swallowing hard, and turned in a brisk manner to his chauffeur and his meteorologist. "Take Major Danby out and shoot him."
. . . . . .

"I don't think you can shoot him," [Colonel Moodus said].

General Dreedle was infuriated by his intervention. "Who the hell says I can't?" he thundered pugnaciously in a voice loud enough to rattle the whole building. Colonel Moodus, his face flushing with embarrassment, bent close to whisper into his ear. "Why the hell can't I?" General Dreedle bellowed. Colonel Moodus whispered some more. "You mean I can't shoot anyone I want to?" General Dreedle demanded with uncompromising indignation.

Merry Christmas, Alan Ashby

The Houston Astros unceremoniously dumped Alan Ashby, their radio color guy, yesterday. Ashby said he was "devastated" and had no idea he was doing to get the axe. For years the Houston sportswriters have been telling me that Astros owner Drayton MacLane was a class act. They were wrong. Drayton MacLane is Ebeneezer Scrooge in a suit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bank Job -- Steve Brewer

I've been reading a lot of books about bank robbery lately, including Duane Swierczynski's The Wheelman and Jim Sallis's Driver. Now it's Steve Brewer's Bank Job. Three goobers from down around Bakersfield who like to think of themselves as "outlaws" drive to northern California and go on a crime spree. (That's their description.) Their lack of competence leads them to need a hide-out, and the happen onto the cabin of Vince Carson, a retired bank robber. They decide to force Carson to rob a bank for them. I have nothing to say about what happens after that, since I don't want to spoil the story. Let's just say that things don't go exactly as they plan.

Like Swierczynski, Brewer mixes dark comedy with his caper, so this book has it all: violence, laughs, and plenty of action. Okay, almost all. There's no sex. Don't let that deter you from reading the book, though. It's fast-paced fun all the way.

Not-So-Famous Last Words

Here's a creepy but fascinating site about "executed offenders" in Texas. There's quite a bit of information about each one if you click the links provided, including the last statements of each one.

Ken Levine Didn't Like KING KONG

By Ken Levine: "What movie did the reviewers see? It was at least an hour too long. The first hour. Wait for the DVD, skip to “they arrive” and start there, keeping your finger on the ff button at all times. Trust me, by the giant insects you’ll be pressing it as if it were a morphine drip."

Best Lists

Via Incoming Signals, here's a link to a long list of "best lists" (books, movies, DVDs, etc.). It will keep growing, so you can check back for even more lists.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mystery*File, Marvin H. Albert, and Harry Whittington

Over at Steve Lewis's invaluable Mystery*File, I was reading the latest in the search for a Marvin H. Albert novel that wasn't published in the U.S. when it occurred to me that Harry Whittington wrote a couple of books that never had U.S. publication. I have a copy of one of them that I got from Harry himself. As you can probably see in the scan, he affixed a little sticker to the cover saying that the book was "Never Published in America." It was published in France, and I've often regretted that my minor in college was Spanish instead of French. (You can click on the photo for a larger and maybe more easily readable version.)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Four New E-zines

This information comes by way of Tribe's Blog. I'm not sure I'll have time to read all of these, but anybody who's going to put up a zine for western stories deserves a little credit. I'll give that one a try for sure.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Trevanian, R. I. P.

Thriller author Trevanian dead at 74: "NEW YORK, NY, United States (UPI) -- Author Rodney 'Trevanian' Whitaker, whose 'The Eiger Sanction' became a hit 1972 Clint Eastwood film, has died in England at age 74."

I thoroughly enjoyed The Eiger Sanction when it appeared. It was funny and exciting, and I was sure Trevanian would be a big name. He was, for a while. Later, his bestseller status deserted him, but I'm not sure he cared. The last book I read by him was Incident at Twenty-Mile, certainly not the kind of novel calculated to get him back on the Big List. I have a book of his short stories around somewhere, and I should get it out and read a few of them.

Stage Door Canteen

Vince Keenan has some comments today about wartime propaganda movies, and by coincidence I watched Stage Door Canteen last night. Stage Door Canteen isn't your usual propaganda film. It's not about battles or courage under fire or any of that. It's the story of four soldiers and their last few days in the states before shipping out for the European theater in 1942 or so.

And of course it's also about the galaxy of stage and screen stars who perform or work at the canteen. There are far too many of them for me to name here. You need to click the link above, go to the IMDb and see for yourself. One great moment, however, just has to be mentioned. It's the scene where Johnny Weissmuller and Franklin Pangborn are in the kitchen washing dishes. Pangborn remarks about how hot it is, and Weissmuller removes his shirt. Pangborn shrieks, "What chest!" Then he does an imitation of Tarzan's ape call and swoons into Weissmuller's arms. Talk about your subtext!

Stage Door Canteen is truly a relic of another time, a past so distant that to a lot of people reading this it might as well be about the Trojan war as about WWII. It was a time when everyone was a patriot, a time when movie and Broadway stars not only supported a war but went out and mingled with the soldiers (sure the movie's romanticized, but there really was a Stage Door Canteen, and a Hollywood Canteen, too), a time when innocence wasn't just a word. (In fact, I think it would be almost impossible for a teenager today to watch the movie without laughing at a good-looking 18-year-old guy who's never kissed a girl and to whom a first kiss could mean so much.) It was a time when "The Lord's Prayer" could be sung to a group of men and women who would automatically stand at its first words and say "Amen" when it was done. It may not have been a better time, but it was beyond question a different time, and one that I'm old enough to remember. The plots and situations might seem sappy or corny now, and maybe they even seemed that way even 60 years ago, but by golly they're effective.

Some of the highlights for me were the antics of Kay Kyser, the "strip" by Gypsy Rose Lee, Benny Goodman's clarinet playing, Ray Bolger's dancing, and the great bit with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, which is why I recorded the movie in the first place. Great, great stuff, like opening a time capsule.

Friday, December 16, 2005

King Kong Addendum

I forgot to mention that the screenwriter in King Kong has to stay in an animal cage on the Venture. I love little touches like that.

Early Morning Visitor

I looked out in my back yard this morning, and this is what I saw.


King Kong Island Home Is Pure Fantasy, Ecology Experts Say

The massive star of the new movie King Kong, which opens today, effectively apes real gorillas. But the bizarre assortment of wildlife on the creature's island home seems to be from out of this world.

As seen in the remake of the 1933 film classic, Skull Island is supposed to lie somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

In the island's jungles roam a wide array of dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex; aggressive, 3-foot (90-centimeter) cockroaches; bloodthirsty car-size crabs; and, of course, Kong, a 25-foot-tall (8-meter-tall) silverback gorilla who lives alone in his mountain hideaway.

It's a world that violates most of modern science's evolutionary rules.

"The notion that dinosaurs could survive on a tiny mid-oceanic island is preposterous," said John Terborgh, a professor of environmental science at Duke University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Damn! Who would have guessed. Now the whole movie is spoiled for me. But my review is below, anyway.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

King Kong

So I went to see King Kong this afternoon. It was great fun, but it's never going to replace the original in my affections. I'm sure I'll be watching the original again because I'm getting the "Collector's Edition" for Christmas, but I doubt that I'll watch Peter Jackson's version a second time.

I believe there have been complaints that the movie's too long because of the long build-up to the arrival at Skull Island. I didn't really feel that way. I liked the first hour at least as well as the rest of the movie. What seemed a bit long to me were the action scenes on the island, but then I'm getting crakier about drawn-out action scenes as I get older, I think. What impressed me were the quiet scenes, both in the beginning, the middle, and the end.

I was also impressed by Naomi Watts' performance. She's actually better than Faye Wray, but only because her part is written better. Watts' relationship with Kong is certainly fleshed out more than Wray's, and there's a lot more poignance in it.

The casting of Jack Black worried me from the beginning, but he did all right. He plays to the dark side of Carl Denham, and his line reading in the "I've come into the possession of a map" scene is just fine. I wasn't so taken with his reading of the famous final line, and anyway, the line seems all wrong in this movie. It's pretty clear that it's not beauty that kills the beast. It's greed and ego and showbiz that do him in.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Say, Isn't the 2006 Bouchercon in Madison?

Bill O'Reilly on yesterday's The O'Reilly Factor: "I mean, this is not Madison, Wisconsin, where you expect those people to be communing with Satan up there in the Madison, Wisconsin, media."

Will we have to get 666 branded or our foreheads to get a room at the convention hotel?

Important Anna Nicole Smith Announcement!

Sky Showbiz - Who's In Celeb Big Bro?: "Last year we had gobby Brigitte, bonkers Jackie and victorious Bez, but who will go into the Celebrity Big Brother house in January 2006?

The rumours start here...

A list of likely candidates is being banded about the press and web with some confidence - and a pretty intriguing bunch they are too.

Platinum bombshell Anna Nicole Smith is said to be bringing her outrageous self to our shores to spread some raucous action in the house.

She will, of course, have to take a breather from her legal wrangles with the children of her late billionaire husband J Howard Marshall II to do her stint in the house.

Boy George also recently hit the news after being charged with cocaine possession - but TV insiders still reckon he will make it into the house."

Luckily Anna Nicole, unlike Boy George, doesn't have any drug problems. This article, unfortunately, refers to the British version of the show. Maybe I should start a petition to get it shown in the U.S.

Scholarly Website

It's nice to know that scholarly pursuits aren't limited to the Groves of Academe. So when a worthy website such as The Encyclopedia of Women in Prison Films is called to my attention (as this one was by the inimitable Steve Stilwell, an old retired bookseller with a heart condition), I like to let others know about it.

An Interesting Experiment in Self-Publishing

A Legend of Ethshar on the Installment Plan

What do you do when a publisher kills your series? Well, you can do what I've done a few times, which is to stop writing the books. Or you could try something different, which is what SF writer Lawrence Watt-Evans did. You can read all about it at the link.

Always Magic in the Air -- Ken Emerson

It seems that Ed Gorman and I are often reading the same book. I'm really enjoying this one, and the anecdote that Ed mentions (that Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote "Little Sister" and "[Marie's the Name] His Latest Flame" specifically for Bobby Vee) is certainly one of many highlights. But all the stories about the Brill Building songwriting teams are good. Just the names are enough to invoke a veritable frenzy of nostalgia: Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Weil and Mann, Barry and Greenwich, Sedaka and Greenfield, Bacharach and David. There's also great stuff about Bobby Darin, Phil Spector, Connie Francis, and plenty of others. If you grew up listening to the radio in the late 1950s and early 1960s, or if you're happy to learn that it was Neil Sedak playing piano on "Splish Splash," then this is the book for you.

The End of the Western

Richard Wheeler says on his blog today: "I intend to devote this web log to a single topic over the next months, the collapse of western fiction. Readers who are not interested, or who would prefer diversity, should check in next spring when I will begin to tackle other topics."

I don't know about you, but I'll be following his commentary with great interest.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Important Anna Nicole Smith Announcement!

The Sun Online - News: George and the dragon: "STAND by for fireworks — Boy George is going on Celebrity Big Brother with Anna Nicole Smith.

Show insiders are predicting tension between the pair — one a camp Eighties icon, the other a feisty former lap dancer and centrefold.

To stir things up Channel 4 bosses have also lined up acid-tongued comic Johnny Vegas, alongside veteran funnyman Jimmy Tarbuck.

George, 44, is appearing despite being charged last month with cocaine possession. He was nicked by cops in New York. "

The question is, why won't a blockbuster like this be shown in the U.S.? It's unfair!

A Good Reason to Go to Oklahoma in a Couple of Years

Car buried in 1957 to be unearthed in '07: "TULSA, Okla. -- A Plymouth Belvedere that was buried in a concrete vault nearly 50 years ago as part of the state's golden anniversary celebration will be unearthed in 2007 as part of the Oklahoma centennial festivities.

The 1957 Belvedere is underground next to the Tulsa County Courthouse. Also buried with it were five gallons of gas and a case of beer.

Old news reports indicate the gas was buried in case internal combustion engines became obsolete by 2007 and no fuel was available. Other buried items include the contents of a woman's purse: 14 bobby pins, a lipstick, a pack of gum, tissues, a pack of cigarettes and matches and $2.43."

I love stuff like this, and I'd love to be there when that car's unearthed. I won't, but it would be fun to see.

Happy Birthday, Ross Macdonald

Kenneth Millar would have been 90 years old today. I'm sorry he isn't around to celebrate. There's no question that his books, under the name Ross Macdonald, were among the most influential on me back in my formative years. For me, he's right up there with the other greats of the mystery field, and he always will be. Some readers (notably Donald Westlake) have complained that Macdonald told the same story again and again. Maybe so, but it was a great story, and it might have been a story that Macdonald was compelled to tell. Here's what he once said: "I was in trouble, and Lew Archer got me out of it... I couldn't work directly with my own experiences and feelings. A narrator had to be interposed, like protective lead, between me and the radioactive material." If you've never read Macdonald's work, you're missing some great stuff.

Hardluck Stories

The new issue of Hardluck Stories is on-line. This one was edited by Iain Rowan and "features new crime fiction which play out in the dark heart of the city while the rest of the world sleeps. These are the types of stories played out by night-shift workers and prostitutes and cabbies and grifters and dealers - the types of stories that leave no evidence to the rest of the world except when they catch the blood being hosed off the steps the next morning." For those of you in the writing game, guidelines for the Sping 2006 Borderland Noir issue to be guest edited by Craig McDonald are available.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Most Popular Toys of the Last 100 Years

A nice slideshow from Forbes. Check it out.

Stephen Marlowe remembers Evan Hunter

Great post on Ed Gorman's blog. Check it out!

Happy Birthday, Connie Francis

Connie Francis is 67 years old today. I liked her music from the first time I heard "Who's Sorry Now?" and I've often wondered why she's not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Sure, she recorded mostly ballads, but the Platters are in the Hall, and virtually everything they recorded was a ballad. It's not as if Connie couldn't rock out, as she proved with songs like "Lipstick on Your Collar," "Stupid Cupid," and "Everybody's Somebody's Fool."

Connie Francis was also in a movie I liked a lot back in the very early 1960s. Paula Prentiss was my big crush, but Connie held her own and was very funny. After I saw the movie, I bought the paperback by Glendon Swarthout. I still have a copy around here somewhere.

Harvey. No, Not the Giant Invisible Rabbit.

Harvey the Alligator


For 10 years, children at Southside Middle School in Rockville Centre told stories about the giant alligator living in the basement.

It sounds like a youthful myth, concocted to confront boredom -- like lunch ladies serving up rats or aliens occupying the principal's office -- except that the 500-pound carnivorous reptile lurking under Southside was real."

Mystery*File Yet Again

Interview with JOHN D. MacDONALD, by Ed Gorman.

I know, I know, I keep on shilling for Mystery*File, but an interview with John D. MacDonald isn't to be missed, not even if you've read it before.

Overheard in Alvin

Now and then frequent commenter Jeff Meyerson sends me a link to the Overheard in New York website. Naturally Alvinites can't compete with the suave sophisticates in the Big Apple when it comes to the colorful use of language, but now and then I do overhear an interesting remark. Why only last Saturday I was mingling with the joyous holiday crowds at the local Wal-Mart when a Rubenesque young woman passed among us. A dapper young man nearby nudged his amiable companions and said with obvious appreciation, "Look at the shitter on that critter!"

And yet some would say that chivalry is dead.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Okay, I'm feeling quite intellectual this evening because I've watched a movie with subtitles. It was also the most entertaining movie I've seen in a long time. When it comes to buckling swashes, this French movie makes The Mask of Zorro look like a pathetic wannbe.

One thing I really liked was the filming of the action scenes. Nobody's jumping around on trampolines or doing wire work. The fencing looks like actual fencing, without any of the MTV-inspired quick cutting that ruined most of the action scenes in movies like Gladiator for me.

The cinematograpy is excellent. The movie glows, and the scenery is beautiful. I wish I'd seen this movie in a theater.

As for the plot, it's the old revenge story, with action that hardly ever lets up. Everybody in the movie seems to be having a grand time, and there's plenty of humor mixed into the action. Wit and energy: what a concept!

Why doesn't Hollywood make movies like this anymore? Probably because it's "old-fashioned." Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I'm an old poop.

Richard Pryor, R. I. P.

I haven't seen this mentioned in the few obituaries I've read, but the first time I ever saw Richard Pryor was on a TV series called The Kraft Summer Music Hall in 1966. Judy and I had been married for one year, and we were planning to move from Denton, where I was attending North Texas State University, to Austin, where I planned to start work on my doctorate. We had a little black and white TV set, and we watched the Kraft show every week. It was hosted by John Davidson, who was at least as square as we were. Maybe even more square. But on that show were two guys we thought were hilarious, Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Who would ever have guessed that those two would become icons of the hip? (Okay, sure, Carlin was already playing the hippy-dippy mailman.) We followed their careers after that and tried to see them on TV and in the movies when we could or buy their recordings. Over the years they developed into terrific comedians and hilariously funny but entirely serious commentators on life in this country. I never got to see either of them in person, though I've seen Pryor's concert films, and I've seen Carlin's performances for HBO. Though Pryor hasn't performed recently because of his MS, his death still leaves a big hole. Time to go listen to This Nigger's Crazy again, I guess. So long, Richard.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

Robert Sheckley, R. I. P.

Robert Sheckley was one of my favorite contributors to the SF digests in the 1950s, and when I re-discovered him in the 1970s, I found that I enjoyed his stories even more than before. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to meet him in Dallas at ConDFW, get a few books signed, and hear him talk on a couple of panels.

I picked this up from his homepage:
"Robert is in the Intensive Care Unit at Vassar Brothers Medical Center Poughkeepsie NY in critical condition after suffering from a brain aneurysm/aneurism. He underwent surgery last Thursday Nov 10th 2005. At this time it is a wait and see situation, details will be provided when available."

This morning I received an e-mail saying that Sheckley had passed away. If you haven't read his short stories, you've missed a treat. And you should do something about that.

If this doesn't say "Christmas Spirit," I don't know that does | Weird News: "Man creates Paris Hilton Christmas shrine

By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press Writer

Posted: Friday December 9th, 2005, 2:45 AM
Last Updated: Friday December 9th, 2005, 6:27 AM

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) - See Paris Hilton in all her seductive splendor, striking a provocative pose for passing motorists and spreading hot Christmas cheer in a chilly Rhode Island winter.

Blown-up images of Hilton and strings of pink Christmas lights adorn the front lawn of a home in a middle-class neighborhood of this city, part of a head-turning holiday display that pays homage to the famed hotel heiress.

The over-the-top pictorial is the work of Joe Moretti, a 38-year-old designer who was arrested last year for trespassing on Martha Stewart's property in Maine."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Duane Swierczynski and Steve Brewer

I've just returned from Houston where I went to a signing at Murder by the Book. The signers were Duane Swierczynski and Steve Brewer. I've reported on Duane's novel The Wheelman here, and I'll be reading Steve's Bank Job Real Soon Now.

This was a great signing. I don't know if Steve and Duane had worked together before, but they were a great team. I haven't had so many laughs in a long time. At the end of the evening Duane demonstrated his prowess at twisting the cap off a beer bottle in the crook of his elbow. Talk about tough!

And of course Duane is the editor of the forthcoming Damn Near Dead (the protagonists are "Old. Bold. Uncontrolled.") from David Thompson's Busted Flush Press. The flyer to the right gives details, such as the names of the contributors. I'm happy to say my name is included, along with host of others. Click on the picture to enlarge it and you might be able to read the names. There'll be a signing for the book at Murder by the Book on May 8. Be there or be square.

McSweeny's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories

I was reading some of the stories in this issue of McSweeny's in the hope I'd run across one I really liked. After all, it was editor Michael Chabon's aim to present "a brand-new collection that reinvigorates the stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the-seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning tradition of literary short stories." So far I haven't run across a story that lives up to that billing, or even comes close. Of course I haven't read them all yet, so I might find one yet. It could happen.

One particular disappointment was Stephen King's "Lisey and the Madman." I thought that of all people King would be the one to come up with something I liked. But the story didn't make me want to stay up all night or bite my nails. It made me want to take a nap. Maybe it's just me, and it probably is, but I found it a snoozer. In fact, after I read it, I picked up a copy of Night Shift and read a couple of stories just to see if King's early work was as vigorous as I remembered. It was. Just when did he begin to transmute his gold prose into leaden verbiage? For me, it was with It, I think. This story sure didn't change my mind.

It's a Wonderful Life

Done by Bunnies in 30 seconds. Merry Christmas!

Vertigo...Then and Now

Vertigo...Then and Now

Scenes from Vertigo compared with the same locations in 2003.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Stephen Marlowe/Milton Lesser

Ed Gorman has an excellent post on Stephen Marlowe, aka Milton Lesser and a host of other names, today. I've mentioned my affection for Lesser's Johnny Mayhem stories previously, and to the left is one of my favorite covers illustrating a Milton Lesser story in Imagination. Lesser was amazingly prolific in the '50s, and I was a big fan. Still am.


Sarah Weinman has the scoop on Murdaland, a new crime fiction magazine:

"Crime Fiction for the New Century will feature the best and most derelict, deranged, bareknuckled honest voices to bring about a renaissance of crime fiction. Currently, the predominant “mystery” magazines are two lame, staid, old fogey establishment publications: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Both are put out by the same publisher and stuck in a timewarp of 1950's schlock. They even have mystery crossword puzzles catering to nuns living sober lives in the cornbelt.

"Murdaland will not be kin to this kind of writing or experience."

More details and submission info can be found by clicking the link above.

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Reading this post at Sling Words, I was once again reminded of how old I am. I remember quite well watching American Bandstand on the day "The Chipmunk Song" was on the rate-a-record segment. And everybody hated it. It received what was probably one of the lowest ratings ever. That didn't matter to Dick Clark, who predicted that the record would be a huge hit and that the people who rated it would be hearing it everywhere. He was right, of course, but I'm sure even Dick Clark never dreamed that the song would inspire lots of other recordings, much less a TV series, and that it would still be played more than 45 years later. And that I'd wind up living in a town named Alvin, which I guess is better than living in some place called Theodore or Simon.

Need an Alibi? No Problem!

Alibi Network - alibi services and excuses for absences and discreet relationships and extramarital affairs: "Upon contacting us you will be assigned a Personal Alibi Specialist who will handle all of your cases. At Alibi Network every Personal Alibi Specialist has a direct 24 hour a day hot line number where he could be reached at any time. Our 24 hour support is guaranteed."

I'm convinced that Otherguy Overby is behind this.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Five Things You Didn't Know About "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

FIVE THINGS: About 'A Charlie Brown Christmas': "Many say no TV show captures the magic of the season like 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' does. Charlie Brown's search for the true meaning of the holiday transports us back to a simpler time, pre-cable, pre-Internet, pre-adulthood. Sigh."

Forty years ago, Judy and I were getting ready to spend out first Christmas as a married couple. I still remember going out and buying the tree. One thing we did was watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on the little B&W portable TV set that we'd bought. It was several years before I ever saw the program in color. I guess I'll have to watch it tonight for sentimental reasons.

Anna Nicole Smith Goes Wild. Again. A Continuing Series.

New York Post Online Edition: gossip: "December 6, 2005 -- CLAIMING that an 'intoxicated' and 'scantily clad' Anna Nicole Smith disrupted last summer's Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, organizers of the charity fund-raiser have sued the Trimspa diet firm for failing to control its sloppy spokesmodel and not paying a six-figure promotional fee."

I'm sure she never acted this way in my brother's biology class.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Happy Birthday, Little Richard!

Can it really be that Little Richard is 73 years old today? I can remember when those early 45s came out: "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Tutti Frutti," "Shake a Hand," "Miss Ann," "Rip it Up," "Long Tall Sally," "The Girl Can't Help It," "Lucilee," "Ooh, My Soul," and on and on. It seems like only yesterday. What more can I say? Just this: " Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!"

Happy Birthday, James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is a writer I've long admired, having begun reading his books way back when he first started publishing, as I mentioned in this post. His current novels aren't quite as appealing to me as the earlier ones, but that doesn't mean I've stopped reading them. On the contrary, I'll keep reading them as long as he writes them. He was born not so far from here, in Houston, in 1936. I hope he has a very happy day.


The Star Wars encyclopedia that anyone can edit. So put down those Cheesy Poofs and get to work.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Today's Scientific Experiment

Steve Spangler Science Experiment Mentos Fountain: "Words cannot begin to describe the awesome eruption that is created from adding Mentos candies to a 2-liter bottle of soda. The eruption is enormous... and so is the learning if you consider the chemistry."

Be sure to watch the video.

Luckily for You . . .

. . . I am far too tasteful to link to a site like this.

The Dark Side of HDTV

Celebrities Looking Bad in HDTV: Silly Talk or Serious Issue?: "'Media idols really aren’t so perfect in person . . . . camera angles, lighting and makeup help the stars to look as they do. Even celebrities are now complaining about the “reality” shown by HDTV — wrinkles and skin imperfections are even more visible with the newest technology.'"

Rude British Place Names

Rude Britain :::: 100 of the rudest place names in Britain - By Rob Bailey and Ed Hurst: "Perhaps you’ve holidayed in Sandy Balls, live in Twatt, or have been abroad to Wank in Bavaria for a long weekend."

If you've done any of those things, the guys at the Rude Britain website want to hear from you. I blogged about their list of names back in August, and now they have their own website (use the link above). They've published a book, with more names and photos. Check it out, and be sure to have a look at the "Photo of the Moment."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Stupidest Angel -- Christopher Moore

Hard as it is for me to believe, it's been eight or nine years since I came across a copy of Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends. Naturally I couldn't resist a book with a title like that, and the contents lived up to the title. Later I read Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and I was hooked for good on Moore's books.

So for your Christmas reading pleasure, let me recommend The Stupidest Angel. The cover you see here is the one on last year's edition. I believe there's a new edition for 2005, with an additional chapter.

I'm not really going to review the book. I'm just going to say this: Think A Charlie Brown Christmas meets Night of the Living Dead. As a famous literary pitchman once said, "If that don't fetch 'em, I don't know Arkansaw."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Walk the Line

Judy and I went to Walk the Line this afternoon. I knew pretty much what to expect, having seen other celeb bios in my time (Ray, most recently), and knowing that all these people seem to be leading each other's lives. Or maybe they're all living the same life.

Anyway, the story's very familiar: the hard early life, the disapproving father, the eventual success, the pills and the booze, the love story, the fall, the recovery, and all the rest. That being said, the movie's still entertaining, if too long. Joaquin Phoenix does a good job of capturing some of the dark menace of Johnny Cash, and Resse Witherspoon is spunky, funny, and cute as June Carter. Her performance doesn't really seem all that different from some of her other work to me, and I'm not sure why there's been so much Oscar talk. Maybe I just missed something. Both she and Phoenix do a creditable job of singing, though in the case of the Johnny Cash songs I miss the resonance and power of the real thing.

I saw Johnny Cash in person once, long ago, and it was a hugely disappointing event. It was in either 1959 or 1960, and I (along with most of the audience) thought he was drunk. I'm sure now that pills were the more likely cause of his behavior, but the audience wasn't appreciative of the performance, such as it was. We'd come to hear him sing, and he could barely handle the job. The thing I remember most is that in response to a few catcalls, he belched into the microphone. It was all pretty sad, and I regretted then (and still do) that a great performer had let himself get on stage in that condition. I'd have loved to see him when he was clean and straight.

The 15 Richest Fictional Characters

From Forbes.Com: Collectively, we are fascinated by the super-rich. We devour their biographies. We hang on their advice. Maybe we even hope for their downfall. But in our attempts to explain the ultra-rich--and their super-inflated bank accounts--we are often guilty of reducing real people to mere caricatures. There is the monopolist. The oracle. The genius. The thief.

With the Forbes Fictional 15, we have taken the opposite approach--fiction’s caricatures are elevated to the status of real people.

Click on the link to see the list. Hint: #1 is a seasonal guy.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Happy Birthday, Rex Stout!

Too bad he's not around to celebrate. One of my favorites, and don't you know the typo on this webpage would drive Nero Wolfe nuts? "Inspector Crames" indeed.

Donald Hamilton

Steve Lewis keeps right on updating Mystery*File on-line, and you really shouldn't miss John Fraser's article on Matt Helm, the appearance of which has no doubt been cleverly timed to coincide with the release of the new 4-DVD set of the Helm movies starring Dean Martin. Anyone who's read the books knows that the movies are pretty much of a travesty, but here's a long article that discusses both books and movies at great length if you're interested.

The Numbers

Reading this post by Terrill Lankford on Ed Gorman's blog, I was reminded once again of the sorry state of American publishing, which is now totally driven by "the numbers." A lower-than-midlist writer like me hardly stands a chance. Even sadder, I was talking not long ago to a well-known writer who's somewhat higher than the midlist. This writer publishes now and then with small presses but might have to stop doing so because the sales of the small press books are going to affect bookstore orders for the ones from major houses. Even though the small press books sell out the entire print run, "the numbers" are still small. I can't think of any better example of how pernicious "the numbers" are than that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Happy Birthday, Dick Clark!

I couldn't let the day go by without wishing a happy birthday to the World's Oldest Teenager, 76 today. I remember rushing home from school to see American Bandstand in the afternoon and lusting after Pat Molitieri, and I've written about Clark's Saturday night show before. The man had a big influence on my life, no question about it. I know he hasn't been out in public lately, but my hope is that he recovers fully from his stroke and gets himself back on TV. Maybe he'll do the Rockin' New Year's Eve show next month. It could happen.

Rocket Science -- Jay Lake

I wanted to read this book because of a review I saw here. After all, who can resist a novel set just after WWII in which a fast-talking G.I. has brought to his small Kansas hometown a spaceship dug out from under the Arctic ice by the Nazis? And who can resist reading about the complications that ensue when "Nazis, resurgent Russian Commies, Chicago gangsters and the U.S. military" all come after said spaceship? Not me. I'd never read anything by Jay Lake before, but I can see why some people think he has a bright future in the SF field. He writes clean prose, and he has a good feel for character. His research for Rocket Science seems excellent, as the setting and the people ring true. Some of the plot complications are a little hard to swallow, but it's all in good fun. It's almost as if Lake were trying to prove that he could write a book of the kind "they don't write any more." If you're up for a little SF adventure and you're not too demanding, give Rocket Science a try.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Thuglit's new issue is up, with new stories for free reading. Check it out.

He's a Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love!

50 Cent Wants You To Feel The Love - Starpulse News Blog: "50 Cent is planning to create a vibrator of his manhood - so his female fans can pretend to have sex with him. The sexy rapper is desperate to release a line of condoms and waterproof sex toys designed to excite his female fans and make them feel closer to his idols."

Tales from Deadwood -- Mike Jameson

Let's be clear about one thing from the outset: there's no connection between this book and the TV series Deadwood. And let's be clear about something else: the publishers would love for you to think there's a connection between this book and the TV series Deadwood.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the book, which is by that hot new writer Mike Jameson, who looks a lot like that hot, slightly older writer James Reasoner. Even though it's clearly a set-up for more books to follow, it's a dandy historical novel and damned fine entertainment. It mixes the expected historical characters (Wild Bill Hickok, Colorado Charley Utter, Al Swearengen, Calamity Jane, etc.) with some fictional ones (Dan Ryan, Bellamy Bridges), and you can bet their lives with intertwine in the forthcoming books in the series. What I liked best about Tales from Deadwood was the surprising ways the characters developed: Dan Ryan's unlikely romance, Bellamy Bridges' changing from an innocent farm boy to something else, Fletch Parkhurst's apparent rejection of a certain way of doing things, and so on. There's plenty of interesting material here for further stories.

One thing I like a lot about the TV series (to which this book is not connected in any way) is the way some of the episodes conclude. The book's epilogue captures a certain mood as well as the pictures on my screen do, and maybe even better. Some top-notch writing here by Mr. Jameson. I'm really looking forward to reading more in this series.

I just have one question for Mr. Jameson. Where the heck did that cover come from? It certainly doesn't depict a scene in the novel, or anything resembling a scene in the novel. That was a shabby trick by the publisher because with a classier cover and better packaging (which it certainly deserves), Tales from Deadwood could have been a best-seller. Maybe it will be, anyway. We can always hope.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Anna Nicole Smith!

I tried to resist, but something just wouldn't allow me to let the day go by without wishing a happy 38th birthday to Anna Nicole Smith, the pride of my hometown of Mexia, Texas. Some current and/or former residents of Mexia might argue with the "pride" thing, but not me.

Ah, Those Aggies. Tsk Tsk.

The Bryan-College Station Eagle > Local: "A sophomore member of Texas A&M University's Parsons Mounted Cavalry was charged Friday with throwing horse feces onto members of the University of Texas band before the A&M-UT football game.

John Richmond Sullivan, 20, was seen by a University Police Department lieutenant throwing a shovel full of horse feces onto band members at Kyle Field at about 10 a.m. Friday, according to an officer's affidavit."

"The Law, Sir, is a Ass."

All Headline News - Authorities Seize Hilton's Illegal Monkey - November 28, 2005: "William J Brown - All Headline News Staff

(BANG) Paris Hilton reportedly broke down and sobbed after animal authorities took away her pet monkey.

The sexy socialite is said to have been devastated after Los Angeles officials ordered her to hand over the primate - named Baby Luv - because it's classified as an illegal pet.

The blonde heiress, who bought the monkey during a trip to Las Vegas last summer, allegedly refused to part with her hairy friend so authorities went to her home to confiscate the animal."

An Interview with Me

The interview is posted at Lonnie Cruse's blog, and of course you wouldn't want to miss it. Maybe you've already seen it because you probably check Lonnie's blog every day. If you don't, you should. She probably wouldn't mind if you bought one of her books, either. As for my books, well, the new one will be out in April. You can pre-order it now, as sort of an early Christmas gift.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sad AP United States: "COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- 'Y'all' isn't welcome in Erica Tobolski's class in voice and diction at the University of South Carolina. And forget about 'fixin',' as in getting ready to do something, or 'pin' when talking about the writing instrument.

Tobolski's class is all about getting rid of accents, mostly Southern ones in the heart of the former Confederacy, and replacing them with Standard American Dialect, the uninflected tone of TV news anchors that oozes authority and refinement.

'We sort of avoid talking about class in this country, but clearly class is indicated by how we speak,' she said.

'Many come to see me because they want to sound less country,' she said. 'They say, 'I don't want to lose my accent completely, but I want to be able to minimize it or modify it.''"

Back Home Again

Last Friday evening we went to a surprise birthday party for my brother. The entertainment was provided by the man on the left, who looks and sounds a lot like Roy Orbison. You can see a short video of him in performance here. His name is Wayne King, and there's a poster of him posing as some other stars here. He was great as Roy O., and reports have it that he's just as good when he performs the other roles. As you can imagine, a good time was had by all, and I'm truly amazed that my younger brother has somehow become older than I am.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Light Blogging Ahead

Judy and I will be taking her mother home this morning, and this evening we'll be celebrating my brother's 60th birthday. Tomorrow I'm having lunch with some old friends (from high school, so old is the operative word). Sunday, we'll drive back down to scenic Alvin. Until then, feel free to flirt with other blogs like those linked on the right, but remember to return here faithfully on Monday.

This NOT from the Weekly World News

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Foods 100 Yearsrs Ago

Discovery Channel :: News :: Thanksgiving Foods Different 100 Yrs Ago: "One hundred years ago, many Americans on Thanksgiving were eating deep-dish onion and egg pie, which they washed down with homemade root beer, according to a museum director who believes holiday dinners a century ago often were very different than the 'traditional' meal that today is enjoyed on the fourth Thursday of November."

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope all of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving will have a great day. Judy and I will be going to our daughter's place in Houston later this morning, and of course Judy's mother, who's been spending the week with us, will go along. Allen, our son, will drive down from Austin. We'll eat too much, watch a little football, and maybe even talk a little. It's going to be in the 80s here today, so we might even go outside and take a stroll around the park.

Tomorrow we'll take Judy's mother home and celebrate my brother's 60th birthday. On Saturday I'll be visiting with some of my friends from high school, and on Sunday we'll drive back to Houston. For me, this counts as a busy weekend. I hope I'm up to the challenge.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The New TV

Last week our old TV set gave up the ghost. In the morning it was just fine. In the afternoon, the picture disappeared. We figured that after 18 years or so, it was time for a new TV anyway, so we went out and bought a Samsung HD-ready LCD set. It's like the one on the right.

After we brought it home, the fun started. Well, it was fun for Judy, who got to watch me set it up. And listen to me. It was necessary to say a few magic words to get things just right. I finally got the cable box, DVD, and VCR hooked to the TV, which was working fine. I couldn't say the same for the DVD, however. We could get a picture, but no sound. It was a crummy picture, too.

By then it was bedtime, so I gave up for the night.
The next day, after a few more experiments with the mare's nest of cables, I got things right. All was well. Except, of course, that there was no HD because we didn't have an HD cable box. I called the cable company, and they told me that they'd bring out a new box and install it for a mere $49.95. And they'd be here in only two weeks.

I didn't want to wait, so I asked if I could just get the box and install it myself. Too complicated for boob like you, I was told, or words to that effect, so I set up an appointment.
Yesterday, however, I decided to e-mail the company and ask again. The reply said, "Sure, you can do it yourself. It's a snap. Come pick up a box."

So I drove to the nearest cable office in Texas City (15 miles), got the box, brought it home and got ready to go. I called the tech person, and she walked me through the installation. No picture, no sound. After an hour and a half on the phone with the tech, switching cables here and there, plugging and unplugging, etc., I threw in the towel.

The tech said the box was clearly faulty. I drove back to Texas City. Got a new box. Came home, called the help line and got the tech person (a different one, of course). I said, "I have brand new HD box here. I haven't done a thing. Walk me through the installation, step by step."
So she did. Guess what. Same result exactly. Changed wires, did this, did that, all the stuff I did the first time, with the same outcome. Then she said, "Have you installed the component cables?" Well, no, nobody mentioned those. It would have been nice if someone had, since the person in Texas City had told me I wouldn't need them. Got those installed.

By golly, it worked. All was well. Did my little victory dance.
Started watching TV. Discovered that I could no longer get anything but 16:9 and 4:3 pictures. All else is unavailable. No panorama, no Zoom 1, no Zoom 2. Back on the phone. Got the tech support. Sure enough, the woman (different person from the other two) tells me that those are now the only two options. No more Zoom 1, Zoom 2, or Panorama. Dang. The cable box chooses my picture size. Life sucks. But at least I saved 50 bucks and didn't have the cable guy come out.

(Next time, I'm having the cable guy.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

More Old Time Radio

Yesterday Judy and I drove to the big city of Thornton, Texas, to get Judy's mother and bring her to Alvin for Thanksgiving. Since the drive up takes a little over three hours, we listened to some OTR shows on XM Satellite Radio. The first one we heard was The Green Hornet. This was a big favorite of mine when I was a kid since it was very similar to The Lone Ranger. Only natural since George W. Trendel and Fran Striker were involved with both shows. Kato's dialogue sounds too close to Tonto's for comfort.

We also heard two episodes of The Whistler. I don't remember hearing this show when I was young, but it's pretty entertaining. Judy was a little chapped that The Whistler wasn't a crime-fighter like the Green Hornet. Instead he's the narrator, sort of like Raymond on Inner Sanctum, but without Raymond's bizarre charm.

And speaking of Inner Sanctum, that was the next show that we listened to. I always loved Raymond's little jokes, like the one on this show about the unsuccessful author who was murdered by her husband and buried in the cellar. As Raymond put it, she finally made the "best cellar" list.

After Inner Sanctum we heard Dangerous Assignment with Brian Donlevy, who also played the main character, Steve Mitchell, on TV. I remember seeing the TV show a few times, but I like the radio series better. Hardboiled fans will remember Donlevy best as the heavy in The Glass Key.

All in all, a pretty good morning's listening that made the trip seem a lot shorter.

Stark House Press

Stark House Press has a new, redesigned website, and it's very cool. Check it out at this link.

Link Wray, R. I. P.

From the Globe & Mail: Guitar player Link Wray, who invented the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists, has died. He was 76.

A native of Dunn, North Carolina, Wray's style is considered the blueprint for heavy metal and punk music.

Wray's is best known for his 1958 instrumental Rumble, 1959's Rawhide and 1963's Jack the Ripper. His music has appeared in movies like Pulp Fiction, Independence Day and Desperado.

I still have my battered 45 rpm recording of "Rumble." Thanks to these guys for the link to the obit.

And You Still Think We're Not Using Torture?

ABC News: CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described: "'They would not let you rest, day or night. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. Don't sleep. Don't lie on the floor,' one prisoner said through a translator. The detainees were also forced to listen to rap artist Eminem's 'Slim Shady' album. The music was so foreign to them it made them frantic, sources said."

Frantic? I'd be driven completely nuts. Or course there are those who say I'm already nuts, but what do they know?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Great Story for Con Game Fans - 75-year-old woman remembers jewel thief days: "This was how Doris Payne went about her work as an international jewel thief.

Never did she grab the jewels and run. That wasn't her way. Instead, she glided in, engaged the clerk in one of her stories, confused them and easily slipped away with a diamond ring, usually to a waiting taxi cab.

She is, says retired Denver Police Detective Gail Riddell, like a character from a movie — a female Cary Grant, smooth and confident."