Saturday, August 26, 2006

50 Years of Havin' Fun -- The Kingston Trio

I ordered this DVD a few weeks ago, and when it came in the mail today I popped it into the DVD player for a look. It's a very good concise history of the Kingston Trio from the beginning to the present, with the source of a lot of the information being Bob Shane, one of the founding members. There's nothing new for long-time fans of the group, but it's good to hear Shane telling the stories and to see the clips of performances from old TV shows. The bad news is that there's only one complete clip, the DVD's only "bonus" feature. It's a performance of "This Little Light of Mine," from the days when John Stewart was a member.

The Kingston Trio was a big part of pop history, and they made great music. For the fans, and I'm one, this is essential material.

Put Down that Tool, You Damned Dirty Ape!

Tool Use Observed in 2nd Group of Chimps - Los Angeles Times:
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
August 26, 2006

"The noise came from the trees: crack, crack, crack.

As the researchers and their village guides crept closer, they saw something that was not supposed to be happening in the Ebo forest in the central African nation of Cameroon: chimpanzees using rocks as hammers to break open tough-shelled nuts.

Previous research had found that kind of tool use only in chimps 1,000 miles away, across the wide N'Zo-Sassandra River in Ivory Coast. Researchers thought the behavior was either a genetic trait or maybe a learned skill passed from one generation to another.

The discovery of tool use among chimps in Cameroon, separated from their cousins in Ivory Coast by the 'information barrier' of the river, suggests that the skill was invented independently in each place, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology."

I Can Hardly Wait

Elton John vows to make hip hop record?|?Entertainment?|?Entertainment News?|? "LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After 40 years of performing rock music, pop ballads and movie soundtracks, Elton John is looking to cross over to yet another musical genre -- hip hop.

'I want to bring my songs and melodies to hip hop beats -- a bit like 'No Diggity' by Blackstreet,'' John said in excerpts of an interview posted on Rolling Stone's Web site on Friday.

John told the music magazine he would like to work with producer Dr. Dre and a variety of artists, although he had yet to contact them."

Double Indemnity X 2

Check out Jaime Weinman's post on the made-for-TV remake of a great movie.

Something Old, Nothing New: "The new DVD of Double Indemnity includes a fascinatingly bad extra: a 1973 made-forTV remake, directed by Jack Smight (Harper), written by Steven Bochco, and with Richard Crenna, Samantha Eggar and Lee J. Cobb doing MacMurray, Stanwyck and Robinson, respectively."

Friday, August 25, 2006

An Honest Politician?

Untitled Document: " What you see is what you get. I am the only drunken Pirate seeking office in this great nation. What a sad testimonial to our political system when a degenerate like me, feels like the most honest candidate on the ballot."

Hooray for VDOT - Politics - Urgent Fundraiser? Bush Wanted Carpool Lanes Closed: "WASHINGTON -- Talk about political gridlock.

Secret Service officials confirm to The Washington Post they tried to get the Virginia Department of Transportation to close down the carpool lanes on a highway leading out of Washington Wednesday so President George W. Bush could easily get to and from a fundraiser for Republican Sen. George Allen.

State experts who monitor traffic predicted a commuting nightmare, because they would have had to close down the lanes for much of the day for logistical reasons, so they denied the request."

Crofton's Fire -- Keith Coplin

Forty years or so ago, I was in graduate school with Keith Coplin. I haven't seen Keith since then, but I remember him well, and I especially remember one funny story about him and the draft. But that's beside the point. The point is that a couple of years ago Keith published a novel called Crofton's Fire, and it's terrific. The title character is a military man who escapes the Custer fight at Little Big Horn and goes on to become involved in any number of interesting situations throughout the rest of the 19th century. Crofton, unlike, say, Harry Flashman, is a good and decent man, but his narrative voice is as compelling as Harry's. It's also entirely different. The book's style is spare and almost poetic.

This book got killer reviews, and independent booksellers loved it (see scan). If you're looking for a superbly written historical novel, this is the one. Check it out.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Paris, the CD

Blame Jeff Meyerson for this link. I agree with the brief review of the CD, though. I listened to it on Rhapsody yesterday.

Making Room for the Hopeless Pop Star in a Crowd of Professional Amateurs - New York Times: "“Paris,” the CD, is evidently a vanity project; the packaging includes nearly as many photographs of the singer (10) as tracks (11). And some of the lightweight love songs, like the sleek disco throwback “I Want You,” work pretty well. But throughout, you get the welcome feeling that Ms. Hilton isn’t taking any of this too seriously. Wasting no time in getting to her beloved catchphrase, she whispers, “It’s hot,” six seconds into the first song. And the album, which lasts less than 40 minutes, ends with a perfectly useless version of the Rod Stewart hit “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

Needless to say, most listeners will be able to make it through “Paris” without crying. But the CD should help refine the common notion that Ms. Hilton is famous for doing nothing. She is, on the contrary, famous for being able to do whatever she wants, which makes her the exact opposite of your average aspiring star. Ms. Hilton and Mr. Federline have this, at least, in common: Neither of them is looking for a job."

Lola, R. I. P.

Lola was Angela's cat. Even though Judy and I have known her for 14 years, have fed her when Angela was out of town, and have even kept her in our house for days at a time, she never liked us. She never voluntarily got in our laps or liked being around us. Mostly she'd howl and hiss at us. But she loved Angela. She followed her everywhere, and when Angela was at home, Lola would either be in her lap or nearby. She was a one-woman cat.

Earlier this summer, Lola started getting sickly. The vets weren't much help, but we told Angela to spend whatever it took. If she couldn't pay, we would. Lord knows what the bills will be, since Lola went from the vet to the even more costly internist. In the end, nobody could help. Lola had three tumors in her tummy. Her weight dropped from 12 pounds to a little over 3 pounds. She could have visited the cat oncologist, but there would have been no guarantee of a cure. So today Angela did one of the hardest things she's ever done or will ever have to do (I hope): she took Lola in to the vet so that Lola could could sleep the big sleep and have some relief. I have no idea why I'm so sentimental about a cat that didn't even like me, but there you have it. Rest in peace, Lola. We'll never forget you.

No Comment Department

Sky News: Whose Books Get Discarded Most?: "Books We Leave Behind
Updated: 11:54, Thursday August 24, 2006

Celebrity autobiographies are the books most often abandoned by readers, according to a new survey.

The five books most often left behind in hotel rooms are all works written by the rich and famous, the survey by Travelodge found.

The book most often discarded was Paris Hilton's Confessions Of An Heiress, with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho in second place with his Made In Portugal.

In third place was glamour model Jordan - or Katie Price - with her A Whole New World.

Big Brother star Jade Goody was fourth with Jade's World and Sir Alex Ferguson fifth with Managing My Life.

While JK Rowling's Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone was sixth, two more celebrity autobiographies were in seventh and eighth positions - Tony Adams' Tony Adams Addicted and Paul Gascoigne's Gazza - My Story."

100 Most Daring Movies Ever Made

100 Most Daring Movies Ever Made by Premiere Magazine: "Instead of quibbling with the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Best American Films, Premiere Magazine decided to rethink the point. In its October 1998 newstand issue, it presented 'Rebel Cinema' or 100 Movies That Shook the World, celebrating the filmmakers (and their films) who dared to be ridiculous, offensive, or even unpopular, and who still came up with classic films.

The 100 films that follow (in alphabetical order) were chosen by the magazine's editors for their startling ideas and images. Some are from foreign lands or scorned genres; many were made with tiny budgets; but all are great, and none are recognized by the AFI.

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are the films that 'The Greatest Films' site has selected as the '100 Greatest Films'."

Pluto, R. I. P.

Scientists decide Pluto’s no longer a planet - Space News - "PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is — and isn’t — a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one."

Whole Lotta Snoggin' Goin' On IT TOOK about 30 takes to get it right, but Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe and his co-star Katie Leung clearly enjoyed their first screen kiss.

The pair, who are currently filming Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, did, however, admit to a few nerves before their big moment.

Pretty Scottish actress Katie, 19, who plays Harry's girlfriend Cho Chang, had nothing but praise for her wizard beau despite some inital butterflies.

"Daniel is a good kisser," she revealed, "I really enjoyed it. He's energetic and makes you feel relaxed ... It's great working with him."

And the 18-year-old leading man was just as enthusiastic about the spellbinding love scene which will be screened next year: "My God, it was fun. Me and Katie - we were awkward and nervous at first but once we got it, it was fine."

TV's Greatest Characters

The Rap Sheet: "Maybe the next time Whedon, Gunn, or anyone else thinks to assemble a list of television's greatest characters, they'll pay a modicum more attention to the myriad colorful figures--working both sides of the law--who've made TV crime series so damn popular over the last half century."

Check out the rest of the post to see who should have been included on Joss Whedon and James Gunn's lists. (Links to those lists are provided there.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Duct Tape: Man's Best Friend

Jeff Meyerson thought my readers would want this information:

How to Make a Duct Tape Wallet - WikiHow: "How to Make a Duct Tape Wallet

Everybody needs a wallet, right? If you have a taste for the unconventional, or you're simply a stubborn do-it-yourselfer, then whip out that roll of duct tape and make your own wallet!"

This Year's List

What Your Freshmen Don’t Know

Beloit College has released its latest “Mindset List,” to help academics understand what freshmen know — and what they don’t have a clue about. This list has been prepared each August since 1998 and past lists are available online.

Here is this year’s list, for the Class of 2010:

1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
5. They have grown up getting lost in “big boxes”.
6. There has always been only one Germany.
7. They have never heard anyone actually “ring it up” on a cash register.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
10. Thanks to pervasive head phones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.
11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
13. Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.
14. The Moral Majority has never needed an organization.
15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
16. DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.
17. They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.
18. They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
19. “Google” has always been a verb.
20. Text messaging is their e-mail.
21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.
22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America.
23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
24. Madden has always been a game, not a Super Bowl-winning coach.
25. Phantom of the Opera has always been on Broadway.
26. “Boogers” candy has always been a favorite for grossing out parents.
27. There has never been a “skyhook” in the NBA.
28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents’ attics.
29. Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby.
30. Non-denominational mega-churches have always been the fastest growing. religious organizations in the U.S.
31. They grew up in minivans.
32. Reality shows have always been on television.
33. They have no idea why we needed to ask “...can we all get along?”
34. They have always known that “In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups.”
35. Young women’s fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
37. Brides have always worn white for a first, second, or third wedding.
38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.
39. “So” as in “Sooooo New York,” has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else.
40. Affluent troubled teens in Southern California have always been the subjects of television series.
41. They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
42. Ken Burns has always been producing very long documentaries on PBS.
43. They are not aware that “flock of seagulls hair” has nothing to do with birds flying into it.
44. Retin-A has always made America look less wrinkled.
45. Green tea has always been marketed for health purposes.
46. Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.
47. Small white holiday lights have always been in style.
48. Most of them have never had the chance to eat bad airline food.
49. They have always been searching for “Waldo”.
50. The really rich have regularly expressed exuberance with outlandish birthday parties.
51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.
52. They never played the game of state license plates in the car.
53. They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.
54. There have always been live organ donors.
55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.
56. They have never put their money in a “Savings & Loan.”
57. Sara Lee has always made underwear.
58. Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.
59. Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.
60. They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.
61. Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport.
62. Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.
63. Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
64. LoJack transmitters have always been finding lost cars.
65. Diane Sawyer has always been live in Prime Time.
66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.
67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.
68. “Outing” has always been a threat.
69. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss has always been the perfect graduation gift.
70. They have always “dissed” what they don’t like.
71. The U.S. has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.
72. Richard M. Daley has always been the mayor of Chicago.
73. They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water, and play games with, lest they die.
74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.
75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

Bob Dylan on XM

Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio on XM
August 23, 2006
Theme: Friends & Neighbors

Howdy, Neighbor, Howdy – Porter Wagoner & the Wagonmasters
Don’t Take Everybody to be your Friend – Sister Rosetta Tharp
(Dylan suggests going on YouTube and searching for Sister Rosetta. Watch a video, he says, and “it’ll blow your mind.”)
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend – T-Bone Burnett
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend – Marilyn Monroe (truncated version)
Dylan explains why he plays “obscure” artists
La Valse d’ Amitie – Doc Guidry
Make Friends – Moon Mullican
My Next Door Neighbor – Jerry McCain
Let’s Invite them Over – George Jones & Melba Montgomery
Dylan digresses for a fine rant about the current state of country music (“You damn kids get off my lawn!”)
My Friends – Howlin’ Wolf
Last Night – Little Walter
You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King
Bad Neighborhood – Ronnie & the Delinquents
Nieghbours – The Rolling Stones
Too Many Parties and Too Many Pals – Luke the Drifter (Hank Williams)
Why Can’t We Be Friends – War

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

A city crackdown on saggy pants?

Dallas: Critics defend their right to wear drawers that droop

07:19 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 23, 2006

By TAWNELL D. HOBBS / The Dallas Morning News

The hip trend of wearing saggy pants could be at risk on the streets of Dallas.

Dallas school trustee Ron Price, with the backing of several City Council members, wants to prohibit pants that hang well below the waist. He wants an ordinance banning the look within city limits.

Mr. Price plans to address the council at today's meeting at 9 a.m. at City Hall. He said he's fed up with people who walk the streets "with their pants below their buttocks with their underwear exposed."

Several council members backed the idea Tuesday, with Bill Blaydes declaring, "It's an embarrassment to our city if we can't keep our pants up."

Source: Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This Can't be Good Giant nests perplex experts: "MOBILE -- To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama.

Specialists say it could be the result of a mild winter and drought conditions, or multiple queens forcing worker yellow jackets to enlarge their quarters so the queens will be in separate areas. But experts haven't determined exactly what's behind the surprisingly large nests.

Auburn University entomologists, who say they've never seen the nests so large, have been fielding calls about the huge nests from property owners from Dothan up to Sylacauga and over into west-central Alabama's Black Belt.

At one site in Barbour County, the nest was as large as a Volkswagen Beetle, said Andy McLean, an Orkin pesticide service manager in Dothan who helped remove it from an abandoned barn about a month ago."

Louiefest -- Cap'n Bob Rocks Out!

Dave Lewis says he was wearing the video camera around his neck, which might account for the quality of the video. Also starring Sir Trafford (aka Tough Jim) Gaston, famous Omaha deejay Drew Bentley, Kristine Napier, and Alex Mills, with cameos by Laurie & Mark Mills.

I'll Bet He Hasn't Heard Paris Hilton's New Disc

Bob Dylan says modern music is worthless?|?Entertainment?|?Entertainment News?|? "LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bob Dylan says modern recordings sound 'atrocious,' and even the songs on his new album sounded much better in the studio than on disc.

'I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past twenty years, really,' the 65-year-old rocker said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

Dylan, who released eight studio albums in that time, returns with his first recording in five years, 'Modern Times,' next Tuesday.

Noting the music industry's complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, 'Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway.'

'You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them,' he added. 'There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like ... static.'"

Paris Hilton Speaks! And Sings!

Actually, it's kind of a catchy little tune.

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Here's what I said on this day last year. It's still true, except that Bradbury is 86 now.

I see in the paper that it's Ray Bradbury's 85th birthday. The Martian Chronicles is one of those books that will always be in my Top Ten. There are some great stories in there. And "The Fireman," the story that became Fahrenheit 451, is one that completely knocked me out when I was a kid and read it in Galaxy magazine. One of the best stories ever. Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Harry Crews Writes Again

Harry Crews, Aging Wild Man of Southern Literature, Publishes Again, Quietly - New York Times: "In June, the literary wild man Harry Crews published the latest book — his 23rd — in his continuing saga of the roughneck South. The book, “An American Family,” a novella about the violent demise and unexpected redemption of an abusive husband, is Mr. Crews’s first in eight years. Unlike most of the others, it was published not by a mainstream publishing house, but by a little-known small press, Blood and Guts, based in Los Angeles."

Thanks to Ed Gorman for the tip.

New Hardluck Stories Now On-line

The "western noir" issue of Hardluck Stories is now on-line, and it's terrific. Ed Gorman provides the introduction, and there are stories by Ed, Norman Partridge, Jon Breen, Trey Barker, Harry Shannon, T. L. Wolf, Jeremiah Healy, Bentley Little, Steve Hockensmith, James Reasoner, Jerry Raine, Jan Christiansen, and Terry Tanner. Not to mention me. What a line-up! And what stories! I've read most of them, and they're all excellent. Don't waste any more time here. Check 'em out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

From the Book of Amazing Facts

The long war - "Between Pearl Harbor and the capitulation of Nazi Germany there elapsed three years, five months and a day. That's how long Americans have now been fighting in Iraq, as of this morning."

Cavalry Man: Powder Keg -- Ed Gorman

As you can see, the cover of this book has a nice explosion on it. Too bad there's no explosion in the book. The title refers to the town where the story's set. It's a powder keg ready to explode, and it does, into a series of murders.

One thing Ed Gorman does better than just about anybody, in fact, is bring the small-town setting into his westerns. The book's never about just the main characters. It's about everybody who's affected by what happens, and in
Powder Keg we get to see them all.

Another thing you can be sure of is that nobody's going to be all bad or all good (well, except for Pepper and Connelly in this one, and maybe the killer). Everyone's troubled; everyone's motives are mixed.

Something a little different this time is that the setting is the dead of winter. The cold and wind and snow play a big part in the story, and you can feel them all.

I'd better warn you, too, that this book isn't for the faint of heart. There are some disturbing scenes that will probably stick with you for a while. And of course it's a mystery. The murders aren't what they seem, and Noah Ford, the Cavalry Man, has to figure out what's really going on. You'll get more than your money's worth from
Powder Keg. Check it out.

What Could Be Worse than Snakes on a Plane?

Samuel L. Jackson Is Scared of Finding Naked Photos of Roseanne Barr - Starpulse News Blog: "Samuel L. Jackson was stunned when he bought Roseanne Barr's former home and was told she had hidden naked pictures of herself all over the house. The star and his actress wife LaTanya Richardson bought the Beverly Hills, California, pad and have been busy making it their own."

Paris Hilton: Role Model

PARIS HILTON - Paris Hilton Campaigns Against Promiscuity.: "Paris Hilton Campaigns Against Promiscuity.

Celebrity PARIS HILTON has launched a campaign to fight the spiralling problem of sexually transmitted diseases, and is urging women to pull back on promiscuity for the sake of their health.

The reality TV star has shaken off her raunchy reputation after her 1 NIGHT IN PARIS sex tape with RICK SALOMON was exposed in 2004, and is reinventing herself as a positive female role model.

And the socialite, who recently vowed to avoid sex for a year, is encouraging women to do the same and retain their dignity.

She says, 'It's sexier when a girl is flirty but she doesn't do anything.

'I think women should be confident and strong, and they often underestimate themselves and give in to men."

Top 10 Grossest Candies

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Candy Addict ? Top 10 Grossest Candies: "There are a lot of gross candies in this world. A lot. I didn’t realize the level of grossness that candy has sunk to. We at Candy Addict decided to compile a list of the Top 10 grossest candy we could find. We searched high and low for gross candy and came up with a long list. We then each ranked the grossness of each and compiled our results to bring you the Top 10."

Happy Birthday, Anthony Boucher!

As Beth Foxwell reminds us, Anthony Boucher was born on this day in 1911. A true polymath, he went on to a distinguished career as an editor, author, and anthologist, among many other things. The Bouchercon is, of course, named for him and held in his honor. I love to recall the happy hours I spent in the stacks of the library at The University of Texas at Austin, poring over the yellowed pages of the bound issues of The New York Times Book Review, writing down the names of all the authors that Boucher had reviewed so that I could check their books out of the library or buy old paperback copies of them. Great times.

Boucher died much too young, in 1968. Though I never met him, he had a huge influence on my life.

But What about Paris Hilton?

Osama Bin Laden Wants To Convert Whitney Houston To Islam - Entertainment News, Reviews, Competitions - Entertainmentwise: "

Whitney Houston has a new fan in the form of the world’s most wanted man – Osama Bin Laden.

According to Bin Laden’s former sex slave Kola Boof the Saudi native is obsessed with the crack addicts work.

She told Harpers Bazaar: “He told me Whitney was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.”

'He said that he had a paramount desire for her and although he claimed music was evil, he spoke of someday spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try to arrange a meeting.'

Apparently Bin Laden wants to convert Bobby Brown’s lady to Islam and shower her with copious amounts of gifs.

Boof said: 'He said he wanted to give her a mansion he owned in a suburb of Khartoum."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

2 Legit 2 Quit (As You've Never Seen It Before. Trust Me.)

Link via Neatorama.

Exploding Pythons! And Alligators!

If you're not a Salon subscriber, you have to watch an ad to read the whole article. But it's worth it. I mean, did you know the Everglades was teeming with pythons? Snakes on a plane is nothing compared to this. Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for keeping me posted on the latest 'gator doings.

When pythons attack | Salon News: When a giant python in Florida tried to swallow an alligator -- and blew up! -- local pundits had a field day. But nobody's laughing at how the wayward pets are strangling the life out of the Everglades.

By Philip Armour

A 200-pound, 21-foot snake is not something you want to step on when working in the yard. But don't look now -- Burmese pythons of that size are turning up in southern Florida. "No humans have been attacked yet, but it's clearly a possibility," said Skip Snow, a wildlife biologist with Everglades National Park.

An estimated 1,000 to 10,000 pythons now slither freely throughout southern Florida, eating birds, rabbits, raccoons, gray squirrels and possums. But they also take on bigger prey. Last year, a state employee, checking water levels in a remote canal, discovered the aftermath of a gruesome death match: a 13-foot python literally exploded attempting to swallow a six-foot alligator. The snake's grotesquely distended body ruptured as a result of the alligator's size and kicking legs. The alligator didn't make it, either.

"Yeah, yeah, the King Kong vs. Godzilla thing is pretty funny," said Kenneth Krysko, a reptile researcher with the Florida Museum of Natural History. "But Florida wildlife is under attack."

16 Blocks

While you were all out seeing Snakes on a Plane, I was home watching 16 Blocks. Richard Donner directed this one, with Bruce Willis as a haggard cop named Jack Mosely and Mos Def as Eddie Bunker, the prisoner Willis has to transport to the courthouse 16 blocks away. What's supposed to be a simple job is complicated by the fact that some very bad people, all of them cops, don't want Eddie to testify. Plenty of shooting, lots of chasing, numerous car and bus crashes (how did those bus tires get reinflated after the cops shot them out?), and of course a developing relationship between Jack and Eddie. The DVD comes with two versions of the movie, one with the theatrical ending and one with an alternate ending. [SPOILER ALERT: If you want to feel all upbeat and chipper, watch the theatrical one. If you're in a noir mood, go for the alternate.] Comparisons to other movies like The Gauntlet and Midnight Run are obvious, but this one can stand on its own. Willis and Mos Def after excellent, as is David Morse as the worst of the crooked cops. I was entertained almost all the way.

World's Oldest Computer

The Observer | World | Revealed: world's oldest computer: "Revealed: world's oldest computer

Helena Smith
Sunday August 20, 2006
The Observer

It looks like a heap of rubbish, feels like flaky pastry and has been linked to aliens. For decades, scientists have puzzled over the complex collection of cogs, wheels and dials seen as the most sophisticated object from antiquity, writes Helena Smith. But 102 years after the discovery of the calcium-encrusted bronze mechanism on the ocean floor, hidden inscriptions show that it is the world's oldest computer, used to map the motions of the sun, moon and planets.

'We're very close to unlocking the secrets,' says Xenophon Moussas,an astrophysicist with a Anglo-Greek team researching the device. 'It's like a puzzle concerning astronomical and mathematical knowledge.'

Known as the Antikythera mechanism and made before the birth of Christ, the instrument was found by sponge divers amid the wreckage of a cargo ship that sunk off the tiny island of Antikythera in 80BC. To date, no other appears to have survived."

Balloon over Alvin

When I went out to fetch the paper this morning, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a couple of hot-air balloons hovering over the neighborhood. Here's a shot of one of them.