Saturday, September 02, 2006

Today's Purchase

I bought this at a local antique mall today. Sometimes I just can't resist.


Instead of snakes on a plane, what we have here is Hammett in a high school, I suppose. The script is obviously an homage to Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon, and there are some bows to films like The Big Sleep as well as most of film noir. The difference is that Brick puts high school students into the roles filled by Bogart and Bacall and Elisha Cook, Jr. Does it work? Well, sort of. I was, for some reason, reminded of Samuel Johnson's comment on women preachers: "It is not done well but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Actually, Brick is done well. Sort of. Some of it takes place at Low Budget High, a school which seems to have no teachers and only a couple of students other than those involved in the story. (In the oddly deserted school, however, the drama department stands out. Its four of five students appear to be there at all hours of the day and night in constant rehearsal.)

Not only does the school seem to have no students, the students seem to have no parents. Well, there's one parent, but she's the mom of the drug kingpin (who's cleverly called "The Pin"). He's not a student, though. I liked it that his office was in his mom's basement. And I liked his mother. She serves cereal, apple juice, and cookies to the hero after the Pin's enforcer beats the crap out of him.

When I watch a movie from the '40s with Bogart or just about anybody, I can understand the dialogue. It's spoken crisply and cleanly. One reason Brick didn't quite work for me is that the actors seemed to be mumbling or whispering about half the time. (Possibly I have a hearing problem, like other old guys of my age. And while we're at it, you damn kids get off my lawn!) I liked a lot of the dialogue I could hear, though.

Another problem is that if you're familiar with film noir or '40s detective flicks, you pretty much know where things are heading. There are no real shocks or suprises. The wrap-up indicates that the plot's as complex as the one in The Big Sleep, but you can probably keep up with it just fine.

Would I recommend Brick? Sure. It's a little slow in spots, but it's fun to watch, even if you know what's coming. Check it out.

If You Ever Vist Dallas, Buckle Up

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "Being hauled out of school in handcuffs because of a $50 seat-belt ticket was bad enough for Lancaster High School music teacher Theresa Dobbs.

She had no idea what was yet to come.

That seat belt ticket – the only blemish on her driving record – would result in a harrowing three-day stay in a crowded holding tank at the Dallas County Jail last week without a chance to see a lawyer, bail bondsman or judge."

I Like ABBA . . .

. . . and Ricky Nelson.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Even Homer Nods

The Sun Online - News: JK has lost the plot: "JK ROWLING has been forced to correct a plot blunder in a Harry Potter book — after fans spotted it.

The author credits Hermione Granger with 11 top exam results in the first hardback edition of book six, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince.

But in book five — Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix — we are told she takes TEN examinations.

Publishers Bloomsbury have corrected the paperback edition to give Hermione nine “outstanding” and one “exceeds expectations” in her Ordinary Wizarding Levels."

Gator Update

Hernando: Wrestling match on basketball court, gator loses: "BROOKSVILLE — Kristen Williams was taking roll for her gym class when she noticed a visitor nearby — an 8-foot, 2-inch alligator.

The reptile was sunning itself on the basketball courts just outside the gym at Parrott Middle School. It wasn’t moving at first, but then Williams looked outside and saw it start to slither.

She called for help.

“This is not a little gator,” she said. “This is a big gator.”"

Big Ratings Guaranteed!

United Press International - NewsTrack - VH1 launches Sizemore, Clay realities: "LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. cable channel VH1 is launching two reality series focused on celebrities in their 40s trying to make comebacks -- Andrew Dice Clay and Tom Sizemore."

Mystery*File Again: Ed Gorman on Richard Matheson

If you haven't read Ed Gorman's commentary on Richard Matheson elsewhere, don't miss it! There's a short interview, too.

Happy Birthday, Edgar Rice Burroughs!

It would be impossible to overestimate the influence ERB had on me. I still have four or five of the Grossett & Dunlap reprints of the Tarzan novels that my cousins gave me back in the long, long ago. I later discovered John Carter in, of all places, comic books, so I had to go back and read the novels, which I liked even better than the Tarzan series. Naturally the Tarzan movies were a big part of my childhood, starting with the ones featuring Johnny Weismuller and moving on to Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, and many others.

American novelist, creator of the world famous character of Tarzan, one of the indispensable icons of popular culture. Burroughs also published science fiction and crime novels, some 26 books dealt with the Apeman. Critics have considered Burroughs's fiction often crudely written and chauvinist. His books, however, are still widely read and usually more interesting than the films. It is true that Burroughs often portrayed Africans, Arabs or Asians as evil or comic, but the stories also contain several elements that have kept them 'politically correct': Waziri warriors are brave, and his cave girls Nadara and Dejah Thoris, the princesses of Mars, are courageous and resourceful characters.
"As the body rolled to the ground Tarzan of the Apes placed his foot upon the neck of his lifelong enemy, and raising his eyes to the full moon threw back his fierce young head and voiced the wild and terrible cry of his people." (from Tarzan of the Apes, 1914 )

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Happy Birthday, Debbie Gibson!

At age 36, she prefers "Deborah."

Official Deborah Gibson Website: "The 'Original Pop Princess' Deborah exploded on to the pop music scene at the age of 16. An entertainment prodigy, Deborah became the youngest person ever to write, produce, and perform the number one single, 'Foolish Beat”, a record she holds to this day in the Guinness Book of World Records. Among Deborah’s many impressive career achievements include her album Electric Youth which soared to #1 on the pop charts and her #1 hit single 'Lost In Your Eyes'."

New Bob Dylan CD (and a Video)

First View -- New Music Videos Exclusives, Songs, Internet Radio - AOL Music: "Bob Dylan's Brand-New Video

Scarlett Johansson stars in the video for the first single from Dylan's critically acclaimed new album 'Modern Times.' Directed by Bennett Miller of 'Capote,' the sexy throwback video will make you think of old home movies. "

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the link.

Happy Paris Hilton Day

There's a short video at the link. Thanks to John Duke for the tip.

Happy Paris Hilton Day - "Sin City just got a little more sinful.

Yesterday the Mayor of Las Vegas proclaimed August 29,2006 Paris Hilton Day and gave the budding popstar the key to the city. News of the impending apocalypse to follow.

Comedian Jeff Beacher introduced the heiress in front of a packed crowd at a Vegas block party.

Hilton proclaimed her love for Vegas saying it's her 'favorite place in the world to come to party.' Considering her good time girl reputation, that's a huge compliment."

Mystery*File Again: Mike Nevins Muses on TV Detective Dramas

First You Read, Then You Write, by Francis M. Nevins.: "The first 19 episodes of the Perry Mason TV series (1957-66) came out on DVD last month. In recent decades millions have seen this old series on WTBS, but every episode was cut to shreds to accommodate far more commercials than were the norm back in the Fifties. These DVD copies are complete and re-mastered and lovely to look at.

Whether the series stands up well after almost half a century is another question entirely. All the early episodes were supposedly based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels but – as I’ve confirmed by rereading several of the books after watching their TV incarnations – it would be more accurate to describe most of them as using parts of Gardner’s plots and some of his characters in new and much simpler stories, completely lacking the breakneck pace and dynamism of the novels. "

I See It, but I Don't Believe It

Hat tip to YesButNoButYes for the link.

Vanilla Ice: On the Comeback Trail!

Hattiesburg American - - Hattiesburg, Miss.: "Vanilla Ice is still sizzlin' - on the college circuit anyway.

The once-famous hip-hop artist of the early 1990s, will take the stage at the Phi Kappa Tau house at 10 p.m. Sept. 9 following the University of Southern Mississippi's first home football game of the season.

'We were looking to do something bigger and popular than the bands we usually go with,' said fraternity president Dylan Mezey, 21, whose brother is the booking agent. 'He was able to get in touch with some artists in our price range.'

Mezey said the show's cost is about $10,000.

'We were able to get this kind of event through sponsorship from businesses around town,' Mezey said.

Vanilla Ice is scheduled to play a few of his old-school hits and some new songs.

'He's gone back to his rap roots,' Mezey said.

Tickets are $10 and can be bought at the fraternity house. For more information, call (601) 266-4806."

When I See an Article Like This . . .

. . . I become very afraid.

Clutter blamed in fatal Houston home fire: "HFD says piles of paper helped the blaze quickly spread, hindering a woman's rescue

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Family members had regularly offered to help make order out of the chaos of books, magazines and papers that filled Marilyn Berzeny's modest northwest Houston home.

But the 64-year-old woman always refused any assistance, they said. Relatives now believe that resistance may have cost the woman her life early Wednesday when a fast-moving fire burned through the clutter she refused to move."

Glenn Ford, R. I. P.

WASHINGTON — Glenn Ford, a rugged but amiable leading man who appeared in nearly 100 movies, died Wednesday at his Beverly Hills, Calif., home, police said. He was 90.

Police found him dead about 4 p.m., Sgt. Lincoln Hoshino said. No foul play was suspected. Mr. Ford had suffered a series of strokes in the 1990s.

Three of Mr. Ford's best films were "Gilda" (1946), "The Big Heat" (1953) and "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955). In them, he was a gambler, a police detective and a schoolteacher, respectively. As varied as the parts were, all benefited from his low-boil technique. He also was the Man of Steel's adoptive father in "Superman" (1978).

I remember Ford in so many movies that it's hard to count them. Besides the ones mentioned above, The Sheepman is a favorite. He was one of those guys who could play almost any role and play it well.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gene Simmons, R. I. P.

He won't be here when mornin' comes.

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Rockabilly singer and songwriter Jumpin' Gene Simmons, who worked with Elvis Presley and had a top 20 hit in 1964 with the bouncy "Haunted House," has died. He was 69.

He died Tuesday at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo after a long illness, according to Holland-Harris Funeral Directors.

Simmons - not to be confused with the Kiss bassist with the same name - was in show business for more than 50 years, working with such names as Sam Phillips and the Bill Black Combo.

In the Company of the Courtesan -- Sarah Dunant

Now and then something comes over me and I read a book a little different from what I'm usually attracted to. I read something about In the Company of the Courtesan that made it sound interesting, so I bought a copy.

The setting of the story is Venice in the 16th century. Maybe that's what attracted me. Or maybe the fact that it's narrated by a dwarf who's in partnership with a courtesan caught my attention. Anyway, I read it. I didn't find it particularly involving, but there was at least a slight mystery element (I'd figured it out long before the answer even occurred to anyone else). I'm sure the historical details were very good, and I found the picture of the city the best part of the book.

Here's what I'd like to ask about. The book begins with Bucino, the dwarf, narrating the story in the first person, past tense. Then there's a brief section of third-person narration. Then there's a switch to first person again, but this time in the present tense. All before page 50. Why? (The narration doesn't change again.) I suppose that if I were teaching a class and this book were one of the assigned texts, I could make a case for the changes, but I found them irritating. Maybe I just don't have a high tolerance for Art.

Joe Lansdale Tells a Tale

I was moving some stuff around and ran across this photo from the Washington Bouchercon in 2001. Joe Lansdale and Richard Moore, both storytellers of the first rank,were swapping tales in a hotel room full of appreciative listeners. Joe's on the right, Richard's in the middle, and the late, great Sue Feder is on the left. Obviously Joe's story cracked Richard up.

Happy Birthday, Robert Crumb!

Those of us who remember the '60s and '70s, or at least parts of them, will certainly remember that Robert Crumb was a big part of things in those days. When I was in grad school, I'd often go by a place called Oat Willie's to pick up the latest underground comix, a big stack of which still resides in my desk drawer. Many of the comix were written and drawn entirely or in part by Crumb. Mr. Natural, Lenore Goldberg and her Girl Commandos, and other characters of his will always be tangled up in my memories. Crumb is 63 today, and long may he thrive.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gators Invade New Hampshire

Concord Monitor: A Beacon Street resident got a surprise when walking his tenant's dog along Horseshoe Pond on Saturday.

He spotted a 2-foot long alligator sunning itself on the bank.

Harlan Robb and his wife, Jackie, who works in the Monitor circulation department, called the Concord police.

"We just were afraid that some child would come down and go fishing," Jackie Robb said.

Flurb -- Rudy Rucker's New Webzine

And a very interesting one it is, too. Here's the contents page for issue #1:

Rudy Rucker and Paul Di Filippo
Elves of the Subdimensions

Richard Kadrey
The Arcades of Allah
(Liner Notes for Luchenko's Third Symphony)

Marc Laidlaw
Evaluation of the Hannemouth Bequest
(Hannemouth Self-Configurable Combinatorial Array)

John Shirley

Terry Bisson
Billy and the Circus Girl

Michael Blumlein
Strategy for Conflict Avoidance:
Memo to the Commander-in-Chief

Cory Doctorow
I, Row-Boat

Kris Saknussem
Mystery Customer

BMX Bandits

This Is a Shame

Thanks to Ed Gorman for the link.

Tittle-Tattle Too: Paris Hilton Celebrity CD "Paris" Headed For Certain Obscurity - The Post Chronicle: "It just goes to show.. just because you have the name doesn't mean you have the talent. And Paris Hilton is learning yet another very public lesson -- celebrity isn't going to save her highly touted CD 'Paris' from almost certain obscurity.

'Paris' sales are being 'widely seen as a certified flop' says Page Six. 'Her career as a pop star is fizzling as quickly as one of her blink-and-you'll-miss-it relationships.'
Continue reading this article below

Hilton reportedly worked hard to make this music CD (we saw her 'struggle' through the grueling ordeal of picking out a sexy partner for her 'Stars Are Blind' music video), but it seems the monotone nature of the single didn't thrill clubgoers.

A second single 'Turn It Up' was released as well, but it didn't stem the downward slide."

A Review from The Little Professor

The Little Professor: "Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2006

As I've noted on previous occasions, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (now edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin J. Grant) usually leaves me feeling less enthusiastic than Gardner Dozois' counterpart SF anthology--but this nineteenth anthology is one of the more solid entries in recent memory. Granted, the editors' poetry selections continue to puzzle me--most of the poems are unexceptionable and, quite frankly, rather unmemorable free verse--but the fiction this time was frequently of high quality. "

Monday, August 28, 2006

Not for the Faint of Heart

There's a track listing at the link. Gird your loins.

Restless Records to Release "Butchering The Beatles": Financial News - Yahoo! Finance:
Features Over 50 of Rock's Most Notorious Stars

NEW YORK, NY--(MARKET WIRE)--Aug 22, 2006 -- On October 24, 2006 Restless Records will release 'Butchering The Beatles' -- featuring the BIGGEST, the BADDEST, the HEAVIEST all-star line-up ever assembled to honor what is arguably the greatest band ever -- THE BEATLES. All-in-all, over 50 internationally known recording artists bring their unique bone-crushing slant to these remarkable songs.

Headline of the Day

Harlequin Positioned To Satisfy Women Online:
By Kimberly Maul

"Romance publisher Harlequin has launched four new digital initiatives, designed to bring more of the company’s readers into the online arena.

“Harlequin is the brand in publishing that is trusted by women around the world to provide them with great entertainment,” said Donna Hayes, publisher and CEO of Harlequin Enterprises Limited. “We are uniquely positioned to serve their needs and offer entertainment in new digital formats. Put simply, a lot of women are already there, and those who aren’t trust us to help them navigate the evolving digital space.” "

Round Table Follow-Up

Tony Robinson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Tony Robinson (born August 15, 1946) is an English television comedy actor and political campaigner. He is presenter of the popular archaeology television series Time Team, and similar archaeological and historical programmes."

Thanks to Karin Montin for this Wikipedia link. I didn't know that the building was discovered by the guy who played Baldrick on Black Adder.

Another Cover

I was moving some books today and ran across a Harry Whittington edition that had been misplaced. It's a British pb, with the same cover as the American edition. I've added it to the Flickr set.

Mystery*File Again

Great new column by Ed Gorman, and I'm happy to see that he likes Three Hearts and Three Lions and Double Star as much as I do. Check it out.

This Time, by God, They've Gone too Far

The Sun Online - News: New 007 causes a stir: "JAMES Bond is no longer taking his favourite drink “shaken not stirred”.

In new movie Casino Royale 007 Daniel Craig, 38, asks a waitress: “A dry Martini, please.”

The line, breaking a tradition started by Sean Connery in 1962, is part of an image change for the superspy."

Best Guitar Solo of All Time?

What? James Burton on "Hello, Mary Lou" doesn't even place?

Guardian Unlimited Arts | Arts news | Pink Floyd guitar solo sits comfortably in first place: "Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' has the best guitar solo of all time, according to a new poll. It was chosen ahead of the opening riff from 'Sweet Child O' Mine' by Guns N' Roses. Third was 'Freebird' by Lynyrd Skynyrd, while 'Eruption' by Van Halen was fourth and Guns N' Roses' 'November Rain' fifth. Led Zeppelin classic 'Stairway to Heaven' was in sixth place.

The radio station Planet Rock asked listeners to come up with a top 40. The rest of the top 10 featured 'Sultans of Swing' by Dire Straits, 'Aqualung' by Jethro Tull, 'Hotel California' by the Eagles and Child In Time by Deep Purple."

Next They'll Locate the Grail

Independent Online Edition > This Britain: "Evidence of a building linked to the myth of King Arthur and the knights of the round table has been found at Windsor Castle.

The circular structure was built by Edward III in the 14th century to house the round table intended to seat the original 300 Knights of the Garter. Archaeological proof of the building was uncovered by members of Channel 4's Time Team in the castle's quadrangle.

Although the stones have been removed, rubble in-fill where they were originally located remained in place. The show's presenter, Tony Robinson, said the discovery could help settle years of debate among historians over the existence of the building. 'The round table building is one of our most significant ever archaeological finds. It is something that helped to establish Arthurian legends of the knights of the round table."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And Liz Could Have Played Moneypenny

JAMES BOND - BURTON WAS FIRST CHOICE BOND: "Late JAMES BOND creator IAN FLEMING originally wanted Welsh star RICHARD BURTON to play the superspy instead of SIR SEAN CONNERY. Newly-discovered correspondences from the writer to his film production boss IVAR BRYCE revealed his true wishes, which were ignored by producers HARRY SALTZMAN and ALBERT R. BROCCOLI. Fleming wrote, 'I think that Richard Burton would be by far the best James Bond.' The letters also show Fleming wanted legendary film director ALFRED HITCHCOCK to direct the first Bond movie. In a cable to a friend he wrote: 'Would Hitchcock be interested in directing first Bond film?'"

Take a Three-Hour Tour. Take Several.

New York Daily News - Daily Dish & Gossip - 'Gilligan' ship for sale: "'Gilligan' ship for sale

Just click right here and you'll find the link, a link to the tiny ship, that set off from a tropic port and washed up in TV history, the S.S. Minnow from Gilligan's Island.

You could take a slew of three-hour tours on what is one of four versions of the boat from the famed 1960s series, according to the show's fan club Web site.

The American Boat Listing Web site puts a $99,000 price tag on the 1964 40-footer, now docked in British Columbia, Canada, that sleeps five. But move fast. If not for the courage of the fearless bid, the Minnow could be lost."

The Hugo Awards, 2006

I've actually read John Scalzi's Old Man's War and Wilson's Spin. I've seen Serenity, too. Maybe I should have gone to WorldCon. I believe the Beagle's novelette is available at the F&SF site. Good to see Betty Ballantine getting a special award, too. It's hard to believe, but I read Harlan Ellison's first story in Infinity all those years ago. Who'd have thought?

Fan Artist: Frank Wu
Fan Writer: Dave Langford
Fanzine: PLOKTA
Semiprozine: LOCUS
Professional Artist: Donato Giancola
Professional Editor: David G. Hartwell
Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: "Doctor Who," "The
Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances"
Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: SERENITY
Best Related Book: Kate Wilhelm, STORYTELLER
Short Story: David D. Levine, "Tk'tk'tk"
Novelette: Peter S. Beagle, "Two Hearts"
Novella: Connie Willis, "Inside Job"
Novel: Robert Charles Wilson, SPIN
Special Award: Betty Ballantine, for lifetime achievement
Special Award: Harlan Ellison, for fifty years of publishing fiction

Cap'n Bob's New Book

It's time for me to start pimping Cap'n Bob Napier's new novel. Five Star's publishing the book in December, but here's a sneak preview of the cover. This is a fine debut p.i. novel, and you should all grab a copy for Christmas.