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."