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.