Friday, July 22, 2005

Today at ConMisterio

Excellent programming this afternoon. Jay Brandon gave a talk on writing legal and political mysteries. Jay is always funny and insightful. James Hime, Harry Hunsicker, and Jon Jackson talked about writing crime fiction. Very interesting discussion of how they got started, how they go about writing, how they come up with ideas. Kate Derie led an entertaining discussion of cozies (along with a lot of other things). And Joe Lansdale just told stories, which is hard to top. There were other tracks, of course. These are just the ones I wentt to. Very rewarding afternoon.

In the Doubletree

So here we are in Austin, waiting for ConMisterio to begin. Last night we went to see the Cornell Hurd Band, with our son doing the sound. He also did a guitar solo from the sound booth. Sounded great. The band had a couple of guests, Del Puschert, a guy who played sax. He toured with Elvis in the '50s, and he hasn't lost a step at age 72. Another guest was Pinetop Perkins, who's 93 and who plays boogie-woogie piano like a 20-year-old. He recorded at Sun Studios in the '50s, but only one song, "Pinetop's Boogie" was released, years after he recorded it.

A all around great show.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Later this morning Judy and I will be leaving for Austin and ConMisterio. It's the first year for this convention, and it's had a little trouble getting off the ground. Not too many people seem interested in going to Austin, Texas, in July, if you can believe that. Still, there's a good line-up of guests (click the link to see), and it should be fun. I'll take a long my clunky dinosaur of a laptop, but blogging will be sparse to nonexistent for a while. You can amuse yourself with other fine blogs, such as the ones linked over to the right, but please come back for a visit as often as you can.

Kidhood -- It Ain't What it Used to Be - Childhood pastimes are increasingly moving indoors: "The fundamental nature of American childhood has changed in a single generation. The unstructured outdoor childhood — days of pick-up baseball games, treehouses and 'be home for dinner' — has all but vanished."


"The relationship between kids and their bikes is especially telling.

In 1995, 68% of children ages 7 to 11 rode a bike at least six times a year. Last year, only 47% did.

The sales of children's bikes fell from 12.4 million in 2000 to 9.8 million in 2004, a 21% decline, according to Bicycle Industry and Retailer News,an industry magazine."

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

I never saw a single episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. when it was on network TV in the '60s, so last night I decided to watch one. It was pretty awful. The best thing about it was the clothes Stephanie Powers wore: vinyl vests, jackets, and hats. Wow. It made the '60s seem like a million years ago, and I know that to some of you it really was that long. The show was played mostly for laughs, but the humor was so strained that nothing worked.

The guest star was Wally Cox, who played a hit man named Little John Doe. He was mildly interesting, but nothing more.

I think this show lasted only about a year, and now I know why.

I remember The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with affection, but mainly for the first season. Seems to me that the first year was actually a pretty good action/adventure show, but that later it became almost as silly as Girl. At which point I stopped watching it. American Family Network is rerunning it, so I may take a look one of these days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Anna Nicole Smith Goes Wild. Again.

Anna Nicole Smith still parties hearty - Gossip: The Scoop - "“Then she continued drinking and by night’s end the boyfriend, (he said his name was Larry) tried to calm her down she smacked him in the face and was kissing on girls and dry humping some old man on his lap who she left with but not without help from her attorney Howard [K. Stern] who had to hold her up and went wagging behind her like a puppy dog, with in fact Anna's puppy dog in his arms.”"

And she's from my hometown!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -- J. K. Rowling

"'Yes, thank you, Phineas,' said Dumbledore quellingly."

Now the truth of the matter is that I have a great fondness for adverbs. I use a lot of them myself. But not as many as J. K. Rowling, whose characters are forever saying things "tartly" or "stubbornly" or "soothingly." And sometimes, as in the example above from page 259 of the latest Harry Potter opus, "quellingly." It doesn't wear well over the course of 652 pages.

And what's this about "apparition" classes? Harry and the gang have to learn to "apparate," which is teleporting by another name, so wouldn't they have "apparation" classes? I don't think this is Rowling's fault. It's bound to be a copy-editor's call, and it just seems wrong to me.

I have one other quibble. The book is too much of a set-up. You may be thinking, "Gee, Bill, that's a clever comment. What do you think the other five books were?" OK, you have a point. Still, I thought the ending was a little rushed. Lots of set-up and not enough pay-off.

All that being said, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, and I'm looking forward to the seventh and final one. I don't understand those people (and there are a lot of them) who say, "I'm an adult, with sophisticated adult reading tastes, and I just can't read those childish books." I have nothing against adults, and I'd always hoped I'd become one (didn't work out). We need adults to run things (too bad they're not in charge, though). But you'd think even an adult could enjoy a book written for young people. Maybe some adults can. If they can't, there's always John Irving's new novel, which is much, much longer than Rowling's book. The adults are welcome to it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Signs of the Apocalypse

Billboard Bits: Bragg, Seagal, Elliott Smith, Silkworm: "Steven Seagal, action icon and star of such films as 'Hard to Kill,' 'Under Siege' and 'The Glimmer Man,' is planning an early 2006 U.S. release date for his debut album, 'Songs From the Crystal Cave.'"

I'm guessing that this album fits in with the last item on the list below:
# A great earthquake.
# The sun turns black.
# The moon turn blood-red.
# The stars (meteorites) fall.
# The sky is rolled back as a scroll.
# Earth's population is terrified.

No Comment Department

Gizmoville buzzes to iPod vibrator | The Register: "Obligatory iPod Accessory of the Week: Audi-Oh Vibrator for your iPod

Yes, that's right, someone's created a wearable vibrator that works in harmony with your music player. Strap the silicone butterfly in place, plug it into your favourite music player and get jiggy with the musical beat. It will also work in rhythm with external noises from stereos or club sound systems, so you'll be able to get into the... er... groove and get off on it all at the same time. Ah, the joys of modern living... If that's not an example of technology making life better, we don't know what is. Get yours from the excellently-named Grand Opening for $70."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Mickey Mantle

Today I watched an HBO special on Mickey Mantle. He came along at just the right time for me, when I was ten or eleven years old and in love with the game of baseball. Nobody I knew in Mexia, Texas, had ever seen a major league baseball game, but a lot of us kids listened to the games on the radio (Al Helfer and the Game of the Day) and collected baseball cards. Mantle's cards were the ones we prized most highly, and for some reason they were the hardest to find. I remember going to various little mom and pop stores around town (Goodrich Grocery, Trantham's Grocery, Hall's Grocery) and spending a nickel in each place, trying to get a Mantle card.

Mantle was a hero to me and to most of the kids I knew. We had no clues about what he was like off the field, and it was probably just as well. Some of us learned about things like that later of course, and watching the HBO program, I was saddened again to see what a broken, bitter man he became at one point in his life. I guess I still want my heroes to live up to my expectations, which he did at the very end of his life. I just wish he could have found the courage to kick the drinking habit about fifty years earlier than he did.

Life's hardly ever what we want it to be, I guess. Anyway, in my memory at least, he'll always be the Mickey Mantle of the '50s, hitting for power, beating out a bunt, roaming centerfield in Yankee Stadium.

Man on the Moon

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Space mission to photograph Apollo landing sites: "US scientists are planning a 240,000-mile trip down memory lane - a tour of inspection of all the Apollo landing sites on the moon.

In 2008 a powerful camera aboard a new spacecraft called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will photograph the moon's surface in fine detail - fine enough to pick out the Apollo 17 moon buggy abandoned 33 years ago, along with lunar landing platforms and other relics."

I can remember when NASA could put people on the moon instead of taking photos. And instead of having spacecraft that can't get off the ground.

Why My Generation Loved Western Movies by Gary North

Why My Generation Loved Western Movies by Gary North: "When Brandon de Wilde shouted 'Shane, come back!' as Shane rode up the hill, past the graveyard, and out of the community, he spoke for my generation. We were his age, and we wanted someone like that to live among us. A decade later, McLintock made it clear that nobody like that was coming back."

The linked article is a libertarian take on the death of the western, interesting even if you don't agree with the political views.

Harry Potter = Big Bucks

HARRY POTTER - ROWLING MAKES 36 MILLION IN A DAY: "HARRY POTTER author JK ROWLING has added another $36 million (GBP20 million) to her fortune - only 24 hours after the sixth book of the boy wizard series went on sale.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE hit the shelves at one minute past midnight on Saturday (16JUL05) to queues of ecstatic fans, and has already sold two million copies by closing time today (17JUL05)."

I once made $36 in one day.