Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Legend of Zorro

This weekend, while you were writing that essay on "The Symbolic Play of Light and Shadow in The Seventh Seal" for Cahiers du Cinema, I was at the mall watching The Legend of Zorro. It's really dumb, sort of a mish-mash of The Da Vinci Code, Notorious, and "The Reverend Mr. Black."

It's also full of bad history. For example, the year is supposedly 1850. In the first scene (and it's a pretty good action scene, too), a guy announces that he's using a Henry repeating rifle. I don't know much about the history of rifles, but I don't think the Henry came along until almost ten years later, sometime in the late 1850s. And then (not to spoil the plot for you) there are those Pinkerton agents. In California in 1850? I doubt it. Alan Pinkerton didn't found the agency until 1850 or so, and he didn't operate nationally until some years later. And then, well, what the heck. There's a lot more, but why go on?

Were the Zorro movies I saw as a kid any more accurate? I doubt it, and what difference does it really make? What matters in a Zorro movie is the stunts, a tradition going back to Douglas Fairbanks. So I'm asking myself, when did Zorro become Spiderman? The things Fairbanks did at least looked humanly possible, mainly because he was probably doing them himself instead of using stunt doubles and trampolines. Still, the stunts in this new movie do look pretty cool.

But then there's the kid. Who came up with that? Geez. Sticking the kid in the movie was a bad idea, but having him act like a modern kid was even worse. Having a California kid of 1850 saying stuff like, "C'mon, you want a piece of me?" is just asinine.

On the other hand, the movie does have Catherine Zeta-Jones (see picture, above left), a really neat explosion, a couple of funny lines, and a really cool cape-swirling scene. If you're up for a couple of hours of dumb fun, you could do worse.

Friday, November 11, 2005

To Protect and Service. Er, Serve.

Panel reduces officer's suspension for quitting work early to have sex: "A Seattle police officer called to a fight between a man and a woman made no arrests and took no report, instead quitting his shift early to take the woman involved to his place for sex."

How Low Can You Go?

I'd say not much lower than this:

Aide convicted of sucking medication from patient's pain patch - - The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register: "A West Virginia woman was convicted of neglect after she admitted removing a nursing home patient's time-release pain patch and sucking out the medication, the attorney general's office said Thursday."

New Croc Discovered!

Evidence of Huge Ancient Crocodile Found - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - In the era when dinosaurs ruled the Jurassic earth, a 13-foot oceanic crocodile with a short snout and a mouthful of deadly teeth hunted large creatures in the sea, scientists reported Thursday.

Nicknamed 'Godzilla' by its discoverers, the new find was much different from other marine crocodiles, which had long snouts with many small teeth.

The discovery of the creature, given the scientific name Dakosaurus andiniensis, was reported Thursday in ScienceExpress, the online edition of the journal Science.

'This animal was one of the latest members of its family and certainly the most bizarre of all marine crocs,' said Diego Pol of Ohio State University, one of the authors of the report."

Cozy Readers, Take Note!

United Press International - NewsTrack - Cat parasite linked to schizophrenia?: "Cat parasite linked to schizophrenia?

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- A Washington psychiatrist believes there is a link between exposure to cats in childhood and schizophrenia.

Dr. Fuller Torrey says that he has noticed that schizophrenics were more likely to have had cats when they were very young or mothers who had cats while pregnant.

Torrey told the New York Daily News that his wife thinks he is going to be killed by cat lovers. But he still believes that there is a link between early exposure to Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cats, and schizophrenia."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Crusader's Cross -- James Lee Burke

OK, let's get the obvious out of the way: Burke still writes like a slumming angel. It's not the writing I have a complaint about. It's the plotting. It seems to me that most of Burke's books just meander around , full of sound and fury, for a couple of hundred pages, and then when it's time for the resolution, one is rushed on stage. I could easily be wrong about this, but that's my perception of the books lately. In Crusader's Cross, there are a couple of things about the plotting that really bother me, too, but I won't go into those since some of you might not have read the book yet.

I'm not sure if anybody else feels this way, but for me the Robicheaux novels, of which this is the latest, seem to be getting a little repetitive. There's the decadent southern family with a crazy daughter, along with the certain knowledge that Dave's going to fall off the wagon yet again and get fired from his job on the cops (or come close) while causing everybody he knows a heck of a lot of grief and trouble as he dispenses vigilante justice, badge or no badge. And Clete's going to help him. Meanwhile Burke is going to switch from first to third person point of view whenever he feels like it.

The prologue of Crusader's Cross is set in 1958 when Dave is 20 years old, which means that he's now 67. But he's as full of rage as ever, and he can still go out and run a few miles, come home and lift weights, and then do a few hundred pushups with his feet elevated and pressed against a wall. We should all be in that kind of shape when we hit 67. And sex? Dave gets plenty of that, too, without any pharmaceutical aids.

In spite of my litany of complaints, I don't have any plans to stop reading the books. The voice still holds me, and until it stops, I'll lay my money down.

Addendum: Just to let you know my Burke credentials, for many years he was a "whatever happened to" author for me. I bought (and still have) copies of and Half of Paradise and Lay Down my Sword and Shield when they first came out in paperback in the late '60s or early '70s. I got Burke to sign them a few years ago when he was on a book tour. I thought those two books were wonderful, but after they came out, the author disappeared as far as I knew. I wondered for a long time how a writer with so much talent could just drop out of sight. Then one day after I'd been in Alvin a couple of years, Jim Creel, a faculty member the college came by my office with a paperback copy of a mystery novel he'd just read. He said it was really good and wanted to know if I'd like to read it. When I saw the author's name on the cover, I got a very pleasant jolt and took the book off his hands immediately. I haven't missed one since.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

You probably find this as hard to believe as I do, but Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang isn't playing in Alvin. If you're as deprived as I am, you might enjoy seeing the very cool title sequence right on your computer at this link. (Via Yes But No But Yes)

The Victoria's Secret Show is Back!

ABC News: Victoria's Secret show struts back after hiatus: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Victoria's Secret fashion show staged an exuberant return on Wednesday evening as the lingerie retailer brought back its sexually-charged runway extravaganza for the first time in two years.

The fashion show, a multimillion dollar televised showcase of lacy titillation, was scrapped last year amid a wave of broadcasting modesty that followed singer Janet Jackson's breast-baring Super Bowl 'wardrobe malfunction' in 2004."

My theory is that if mentioning Lindsay Lohan's nipples will bring a thousand hits, this story is worth a few thousand more. The show will be on CBS on December 6. Mark your calendars.

Dirty Little Billy

Billy the Kid investigation resurrected - Science - "FORT SUMNER, N.M. - Two investigators say they have obtained DNA from a cowboy who claimed to be Billy the Kid.

Before dying in the 1930s, John Miller purportedly told friends and a son that he was the legendary Western outlaw.

Former Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan and Capitan Mayor Steve Sederwall say they obtained the DNA last May from Miller's remains, which are buried in Prescott, Ariz."

They say they will compare it with blood traces taken from a 19th-century bench that is believed to be the one the Kid's body was placed on after he was shot by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881. The bench was discovered on a Fort Sumner ranch.

Should the samples match, Sullivan and Sederwall say they could have a break that upends accepted historical accounts of the Kid's life and death.

There's a lot more. Click the link.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mother of Mercy, Could This Be the End of Billo?

I heard from my agent today that he's going to "semi-retire." What this means is that he'll continue to work with my backlist but that he won't be handling any new projects.

I'm not exactly sure what effect this will have on my future in the writing game. I turned in a book on November 1, and I have one book left to write on a two-book contract with St. Martin's, so of course I'll do that one. After that, it's anybody's guess. I've had a good run, and maybe this is a sign I should hang up the old keyboard. I hate the thought of having to find a new agent and start all over again. I have several little projects I'd like to find representation for, but I'm feeling pretty ignorant and apathetic about what will happen, as in "I don't know and I don't care."

Sadly, my agent didn't mention Lindsay Lohan's nipples.

50 Greatest Independent Films

Yes, it's another list. And there's absolutely no mention of Lindsay Lohan's nipples anywhere in it. It's still worth a look, though.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Okay, This is Pretty Cool

You can send yourself an e-mail that will be delivered in 20 years. Or, if you're my age, you might want to make that ten years, or five, or fewer. Forbes is doing this for some reason or another, and I've already written my e-mail. You can send one to yourself right here. Better pick an e-mail address you'll still be using, assuming you're still around.

The Big Blind -- Ray Banks

This is one of those books that you might not want to read if you're feeling depressed. It's about a double glazing salesman named Alan Slater. He runs over a dog, and from there his life goes downhill fast.

Slater's not a bad salesman, and he knows how to work the marks. Some of the stuff about selling windows is pretty funny, and there are also some good scenes set in casinos, which Banks seems to know quite well.

One of Slater's problems (aside from the fact that he drinks way too much) is that he doesn't choose his friends very carefully. Or his friend. There seems to be only one, and he's the wrong one. Les Beale is a guy who's always getting into trouble and always asking Alan to get him out of it. Alan, knowing better, always goes along, and things begin to get really out of hand.
Alan also has a much younger girlfriend whom he treats shabbily.

It's not an easy trick to make you care about someone like Slater, but Banks pulls it off. Slater seems on the verge, several times, of pulling himself out of the mess he's getting into, and you'd like to see him do it. Finally, though, his helpfulness to Beale takes him across the final line, and you know that the end isn't going to be pretty. It's not. It's ugly and appropriate. Cozy fans beware. Those who like their noir short, gritty, and fueld by booze, check it out. This is the real goods.

Lindsay Lohan's Nipples

According to Lee Goldberg, a mention of Lindsay Lohan's nipples should bring 1000 extra hits to his blog page. Hey, if it works for Lee, I figured it was worth a try.

When It Comes to News . . . The Sun Is There

The Sun Online - News: Wackiest web names ever

Who Represents?, a database for agencies to the rich and famous:

Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views:

Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island:

Need a therapist?

Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales:

New to Milan and you need electric light? Why not sign up on-line with Power-Gen?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Once Upon a Time . . .

. . . I was Sean McIver, for a series of books that never saw the light of print. This was the first in the series, and I thought it was a pretty good one. I suppose that Sean McIver wasn't destined to be a household name, though the cover lingers on. It was probably better than the book, in fact. It turns up on the Internet now and then.

Mystery*File Yet Again

Steve Lewis has just posted Gary Warren Niebuhr's article on Honey West (with some cool cover scans) at the Mystery*File site. Check it out!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dennis Day and More OTR

Since we have XM Satellite Radio in the car, Judy and I like to listen to an OTR show now and then when we're driving. Last night we heard an episode of The Jack Benny Show, on which Dennis Day was a regular. I was reminded that he had his own show, A Day in the Life of Dennis Day, which was another big favorite in my family. We listened to that one nearly every week. My mother was a sucker for that Irish tenor voice, and so I became a fan, too. I looked the show up in John Dunning's On the Air, which I mentioned the other day, and it went off the air in 1951. That means I was only ten when it disappeared.

Ed Gorman recalls on his blog that sitting around and listening to the radio was as much a part of family life as watching TV became, which was certainly true of my family. We listened just about every evening, and I still remember what the radio looked like. It wasn't one of those big fancy sets you see in movies or in magazine ads from those days. It was a fairly small wooden box, painted yellow, but it was magic for me.

I didn't just listen in the evenings, though. In the summers I'd listen in the morning, mostly to The Breakfast Club. In the afternoons I'd listen to the kid shows, but also to the soaps, like Just Plain Bill (which I thought had a great title), Young Widder Brown, Lorenzo Jones, and others. No wonder I have low tastes in literature.

Mystery*File Yet Again

Steve Lewis just keeps right on updating Mystery*File. Check it out.


For those of you who just can't get enough of articles on self-publishing (*kaff*Lee Goldberg*kaff*), here's a pretty good one.