Saturday, December 30, 2006

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

The tropic of Sir Galahad » PopMatters | Blogs | Marginal Utility

Now, apparently one of the guys from Fountains of Wayne has decided to try to rehabilitate America the way Rick Rubin tried to do for Neil Diamond last year, the way Joe Henry has for Solomon Burke. The Fountains of Wayne guy recruited members of My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller and James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins to help America make a new album.

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Will the Persecution Never End?

A Hilton family history.

At home with the Hiltons | The Sunday Mail

LIKE any mother, Kathleen Richards wanted the best for her daughter, Kathy. Where she differed from other mothers was in the way she intended to get it.

She wanted her child to know all about sex and to learn how to perform, literally, so she asked a young man to give her teenage daughter "sex lessons" in his van.

Kathy learned well, and hit the jackpot at the age of 20 when she married Rick Hilton, a scion of the hotel dynasty. Fifteen months after the wedding, in February 1981, Kathy gave birth to Paris Whitney Hilton.

There is a public perception that Paris Hilton is the black sheep of the family. Through the international hotel empire, the Hilton name has become synonymous with class and sophistication. Paris, on the other hand, is the epitome of our shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture; an exhibitionist It Girl, best known for starring in a home-made pornographic video but essentially famous only for being famous.

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Happy Birthday, Bo Diddley!

Ellas Bates was born in 1928 and became Bo Diddley not so long afterward. What a career he's had. The 1950s wouldn't have been the same without "Bo Diddley" and "I'm a Man," and he's still going strong fifty years later.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

This time, it's bananas. Yes, there's a plan to place a "Geostationary Banana Over Texas." The project is “an art intervention,” whatever that is. The banana's not actually in place yet, and it won't be until August 2008, assuming the project is actually carried out. The banana should be visible both day and night, all over the state. I'm all a-quiver with anticipation, and I feel sorry for those of you who live in less advanced states and won't have a banana in the sky.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Park Service Can't Give Official Age Of Grand Canyon For Fear Of Offending Creationists... | The Huffington Post

Due to pressure from Bush Administration officials, the National Park Service is not permitted to give an official age for the Grand Canyon. Additionally, a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood is for sale at the National Park's bookstore.

The sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View was scheduled for review over three years ago, but no such review has been scheduled or even requested. The creationist book was the only item approved for sale in 2003 (22 other items were rejected).

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The 2006 Darwin Awards

Here they are.

Friday, December 29, 2006

My Favorite Headline of the Day . . .

. . . is right here.

Who Do They Talk to for Surveys like This?

Poll: Bush, Britney Get Thumbs-Down - Entertainment
Rosie O'Donnell is tied with Satan on a list of the biggest villains of 2006. The AP and AOL asked more than 1,000 adults to name the worst villains of the year. Rosie was tied for seventh place with the devil, Oprah, Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Colin Farrell. They each received one percent of the vote. President George W. Bush topped the list of biggest villains with 25 percent -- three times the percentage for Osama bin Laden.

In other categories, Oprah was tied with Jesus on a list of the biggest heroes of the year.

Oprah and Jesus received 3 percent of the votes, while Mel Gibson, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney each garnered a percent. Bush topped the list of biggest heroes with 13 percent.

Hellish Holidays Contest!

You've been envious of my videos from Bouchercon and other conventions, right? You've often said to yourself, "Dang. If I had me one of those Pure Digital camcorders, I could make videos like that and put them on YouTube and be famous." Well, now's your chance to get one of those cameras, for free. Check this out:

Hellish Holidays New Years Contest

Tell us about your most hellish New Year’s Eve, whether from the distant past or right about now. Was it a crippling snowstorm, a big fight, a disappointing party or--worst of all--kissing the wrong person at midnight?

You can submit video, a photo with a caption, or a text-only story (250 words maximum). Get creative! We want all the gory details!

The winner receives the fabulous Pure Digital point-and-shoot video camcorder. This will make submitting your hellish videos even easier, with a pop-out USB connector that plugs right into your computer!

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Dead Horse -- Walter Satterthwait

Raoul Whitfield is known to many of us as one of the Black Mask boys, author of classics like Green Ice and Death in a Bowl. He was at one time the most highly paid mystery writer in the U.S.

In 1935, however, his writing career was not going well, and his wife died under mysterious circumstances. How mysterious? Well, that's what Dead Horse is all about. Was her death suicide, as it was declared to be, or was it something more sinister? That's the question that Walter Satterthwait tackles in this novel, with his usual panache.

Fine writing, tricky plotting, great characters, meticulous research: those are the things you expect in a Satterthwait novel, and Walter delivers in spades. You don't want to miss this one. Check it out.

3 of the Many Reasons 2006 Sucked, According to the Toronto Star

I confess that I blogged this just because I knew Todd Mason would get a kick out of the first one. - artsentertainment - Hey 2006, you sucked!
# Crash wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards, giving hope to thousands of film school students who've also written banal diatribes on race relations in the format of Magnolia.

# Zoom, a Tim Allen movie rated 0% on and the second-worst movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database, behind only Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, gives us one more reason to stay away from the multiplex.

# S.O.A.P. suds: Snakes on a Plane disappoints at the box office. Those motherf--ing computer geeks with their motherf--king homemade trailers and mash-ups and brilliant ideas don't go to motherf--king movie theatres.

Your Tax Dollars at Work (on a Pretty Cool Project)

Air Force pursuing antimatter weapons / Program was touted publicly, then came official gag order

The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source -- antimatter, the eerie "mirror" of ordinary matter -- in future weapons.

The most powerful potential energy source presently thought to be available to humanity, antimatter is a term normally heard in science-fiction films and TV shows, whose heroes fly "antimatter-powered spaceships" and do battle with "antimatter guns."

But antimatter itself isn't fiction; it actually exists and has been intensively studied by physicists since the 1930s. In a sense, matter and antimatter are the yin and yang of reality: Every type of subatomic particle has its antimatter counterpart. But when matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate each other in an immense burst of energy

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Augustus Mandrell vs. Modesty Blaise

Read all about it here.

The Sun Never Sets on the Texas Empire

My niece, who's living in Australia and New Zealand for a year, took this photo in a Melbourne shop the other day.

Crime and Suspense

The January issue of Crime and Suspense is on-line a little early. Check it out.

Yet Another Way to Kill Time

cityrag: 50 Greatest Cartoons

Found a cool list of The 50 Greatest Cartoons as voted on by the animation industry in 1994. As a holiday present to our readers we've put together a link to an online video for each one below! (we found a video for all but 6.) Many wonderful, funny, trippy and cartoons spanning the decades (and some that were banned.)

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Will the Persecution Never End?

Britney is animal, says Hilton :
Once considered as the inseperable partying buddies, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, are now separating after squeezing out the last bit of publicity from their brief friendship.

The hotel heiress now refers to her former party-pal as 'The Animal', reports

According to US Weekly, things became sour after "Britney called Paris and said she had decided not to be seen in public with her 'for now'." She however added "that it's not personal".

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There's a New Blog on the Block . . .

From Steve Lewis, proprietor of Mystery*File:

. . . and here's the first post: I'm still
tinkering with the format -- there are a lot of things I imagine I can do,
but I have no idea what many of them might even be! Later this morning
I'll try adding some images to this post. If they're not there yet, either
you're too early, or I'm still trying...

This is definitely one to add to your bookmarks.

No Wonder that Mac Guy's So Happy

Report: Apple executives faked stock-option documents | CNET

Apple Computer's stock took a hit early Wednesday after a report that company executives had made up details on stock-option administration documents to guarantee profits for certain executives.

Shares of Apple stock were down $3.55, or 4.36 percent, to $77.96 in early morning trading on the Nasdaq stock market following the report on Apple is one of many companies--including CNET Networks, publisher of CNET in government investigations into the practice of stock-option backdating, in which companies would assign favorable grant dates to stock options in order to ensure hefty profits for executives.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Place Your Bets

SCI FI Wire | The News Service of the SCI FI Channel

A British bookmaker is taking bets on whether boy wizard Harry Potter will die in the upcoming book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as well as who the murderer might be, according to The New York Times. Speculation that the lead character in J.K. Rowling's popular book series might die has been rampant since the title of the seventh and final book was announced.

In London yesterday, Rupert Adams, a spokesman for the bookmaker, William Hill, said that "J. K. mentioned that Harry might be killed off." Adams added that the evil wizard Voldemort is the odds-on favorite to be the killer, with odds at 4 to 5. Other popular candidates include Harry's best friend Ron Weasley, his nemesis Draco Malfoy and Harry himself, all at 6 to 1 odds. The bookmaker is also accepting bets on whether Ron will marry fellow student Hermione Granger; whether the two will have a child named Harry; and whether Ron will kill Draco in a duel.

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Tilt A Whirl -- Chris Grabenstein

Tilt A Whirl was Chris Grabenstein's first novel, but he's published several since. The ones in this series are named for carnival attractions, which might be good. Or it might not if he runs out of names. Anyway, this is a fine debut mystery.

John Ceepak is a former MP who's recently returned from Iraq. An old Army buddy is Chief of Police in Sea Haven, NJ, a small resort town, and he's given Ceepak a job. Partnered with Ceepak is the narrator of the novel, Danny Boyle. In their first case they're faced with the murder of a man who's shot on the tilt-a-whirl right beside his young daughter. There's some solid procedural material that seems to point to a suspect, but not everything's as it seems. Ceepak and Boyle have to separate the truth from the lies, the false clues from the reality.

Ceepak is an experienced lawman, and he lives by a Code. Boyle is in his early 20s, a little naive, and has no code. It's sort of as if Spenser had an apprentice, but it's not really like that at all.

The book is a mixture light-hearted humor and wisecracks with some very dark material. It takes a lot of skill to bring something like that off, and Grabenstein's up to the job. Check it out, along with Grabenstein's other books in this series. You won't be disappointed.

The USPS Works in Mysterious Ways

Yesterday I got a Christmas card addressed to someone who lives on 1606 Smith Level Road. Since my address is 1606 South Hill Street, you might thing the mistake was a logical one, except that I'm in Texas, and the card should have gone to North Carolina.

The card, by the way, was mailed from 1607 Smith Level Road, right next door to the place it should have been delivered.

People's Top 5 Celeb Feuds 2006

Year-End Countdown 2006 :

If Paris and Nicole could make peace, isn't there hope for Lohan and Hilton? A guy -- Paris's on-again beau Stavros Niarchos, with whom Lohan reportedly had a fling -- was reportedly at the root of the ladies' beef. But Lindsay and Paris run hot and cold: On Nov. 27, a day after the two had yet another row, they hit L.A. hot spot Guy's with Britney Spears, and they've been spotted together since.

The claws came out when the Dancing with the Stars star and the hotel heiress exchanged words -- and, reportedly, blows -- on Oct. 4 at L.A.'s Hyde Lounge. The catalyst for it all? Hilton had been spotted smooching with Moakler's ex, rocker Travis Barker, at various hot spots. Don't mess with my man!

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Not a Jot or a Tittle TVNewser

Nowadays, when news anchors make a mistake, they know it'll be preserved electronically forever. During the 9am hour of Fox News Live, when David Asman added "tit" to the word title, he was immediately aware of this fact:

"She lost her tittle thanks to a few -- her title, her title. Jesus, oh God. Oh, the internet, what they're going to do with this one! Oh God! Wellll... the former Miss Nevada could take Donald Trump to court..."

Asman was laughing so much, he barely finished the tease. At least he pronounced "tiara" correctly...

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Alien Payback

Todd Mason sends this link but doesn't vouch for the veracity of the blogger.

Alien Payback
Greetings to everyone on the internet. My name is Otis Elwood and I'm a 31 year old guy from Argus, Florida. I'm a plumber for a living and I live here with Mama and my dog Tyco. Pretty simple life. If you're looking from the outside.

When I was 16 I was abducted by aliens on a nearby farm, called Nixon's Farm, that me and my buddies used to hang around at.

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A Crider Christmas

Allen in a Santa hat.

Me, Judy's mom, Angela

Felix takes it easy.

It's Probably Just Me

What is it with Deal or No Deal? My wife and her mother watched a two-hour version of this show last night. I think that if someone tied me in a chair and made me watch two hours of it, I'd be stark raving mad before it ended. Most likely I'd be stark raving mad within the first fifteen minutes.

What's remotely interesting about a show where some people who seem to be about one step away from a 12-step program jump around and yell about suitcases? There's no skill involved. There's no intelligence involved. It's just picking suitcases. So one of the cases has a lot of money in it. So what? Who cares if any of those people win any money or don't win any money. This has got to be the worst show ever and a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Or maybe it's just me.

Frank McAuliffe Update

Peter Rozovsky has a comment on the second Augustus Mandrell book (Rather a Viscious Gentleman), here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I'll Bet He Can't Even Pronounce Mexia

Tod Goldberg is no doubt a fine fellow. After all, he's Lee's brother. How bad can he be? He often writes blog entries attacking the people who write letters to Parade, and I laugh at the entries as I'm supposed to. But this time he's gone too far. Yes, folks, he's attacked someone from Mexia, Texas, my hometown. I don't know D. Hall, but since he (or she) is my homeboy (or homegirl), I feel I have to speak out in support of him. (Or her.) While it's fine for Tod to be critical of others, he should lay off people from Mexia. We native Mexiaites are very sensitive about that kind of thing.

I See It, but I Don't Believe It

Fastest Hands in the world :: Amazing

Well this girl certainly has fastest hands in the world. She managed to flip-flop all those cups in 7.63 seconds. That is absolutely amazing. Fastest hands in the world for sure!

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She Felt Finely, Instead - Laura Bush: I Never Felt Bad

(CBS News) WASHINGTON First lady Laura Bush suffered no ill effects from the cancerous growth on her leg and that is why it was never revealed to the public, she told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer in an exclusive interview.

"I never felt badly," Mrs. Bush said in an excerpt of the interview (video) shown on CBS News' The Early Show.

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Once Again Texas Leads the Way

$1-a-pack cigarette tax hike a few days away | - Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — Texas smokers will pay significantly more for cigarettes starting Jan. 1 when the excise tax increases by $1 a pack in a move that health experts hope will discourage folks, especially teens, from lighting up.

The state tax increase — from 41 cents to $1.41 per pack — also will help pay for school property tax cuts.

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James Brown, R. I. P.

Sad news of Christmas day.

ABC News: Legendary Singer James Brown Dies at 73

ATLANTA Dec 25, 2006 (AP)— James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music.

Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

Copsidas said the cause of death was uncertain. "We really don't know at this point what he died of," he said.

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I Hope Santa Was Kind to All of You

Thanks to Todd Mason for these covers.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Dillos on the March

Jeff Meyerson, who sent this link, lives in Brooklyn, where the 'dillos haven't shown up. Yet.

'Little Armored Thing' Invades Midwest - AOL News

Armadillos Nudge Their Way Toward Northern U.S. Climes

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (Dec. 24) - For years, Lloyd Nelson laughed off as myth reports that armadillos - those armored, football-sized critters with the big claws and bigger nose - had waddled their way into southern Illinois, the same place folks say they've seen cougars.

Folks weren't fibbing about the mountain lions. Nelson knows now they weren't joshing about armadillos, either.

Since his run-in with an armadillo that was turning a woman's flower bed into a crater near here three years ago, the Jackson County animal-control chief says he's logged in this county alone 13 sightings of the stubby-legged kin to sloths and anteaters. Most were dead as doornails along roads - the leathery animals with poor vision are no match against highway traffic.

"We've had armadillos killed on the road just about every year" since 2003, says Nelson, reflecting what wildlife specialists say is ample evidence that the creatures with the pencil-thin tail are nudging their way northward from their southern U.S. climes.

"We've got them in Nebraska; that's as far north as we have any records," said Lynn Robbins, a biology professor at Missouri State University. "They're adapting, filling in so many places."

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'Tis the Season to be Criminal

ABC News: Christmas Brings Strange Seasonal Crimes

NEW YORK Dec 24, 2006 (AP)— There's nobody nice on this Christmas list: snowman stabbers, Grinch snatchers, wreath-robbing weasels. 'Tis the season for strange crimes by even stranger people, with police blotters expanding faster than a 6-year-old's wish list of gifts.

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Christmas Stars -- David G. Hartwell, Ed.

Thanks to George Kelley I have a copy of this collection of stories (copyright 1992, which was before the Osama-loving-commie-pinko lefties started conspiring to eliminate titles like this one). Looking through the ToC, I noticed that one of the stories was by Henry Melton. It's "The Christmas Count," and naturally I turned to it first. Here's the "what if": What if you lived on an orbital world sometime in the future? What would Christmas be like there? Would it be different from the way it is now, or would it be very much the same? Melton's answer is for you to find out. All I'll say is that the story's both furturistic and traditionally satisfying. Check it out.

Dead Geezer Rules Ringtone Charts

Perry Como the top choice for ringtones - Yahoo! News

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Perry Como has grabbed the top two spots on Billboard's ringtones chart with "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," 61 years after the crooner first enjoyed a Billboard chart-topper.

Como collected his first No. 1 single on a Billboard chart when "Till the End of Time" moved into pole position in September 1945. The song ruled the chart for 10 weeks.

His version of "Jingle Bells" first appeared on his 1946 album, "Merry Christmas Music," which was his first No. 1 LP.

Como, who made his singles chart debut in October 1943 with the No. 20 hit "Goodbye, Sue," died in 2001, long before there was a ringtones chart.

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Ten Best Albums of 2006?

The surprising thing is that I've actually listened to (and enjoyed) three of these. That hasn't been the case for years.

CLASSICS ROCK: THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2006 By DAN AQUILANTE - New York Post Online Edition: Seven

RECORDS are dead and the iPod is king, but old-fashioned, full-length albums are still going strong. Americans bought more than 456 million CDs this year, even as digital music services such as iTunes racked up 480 million single-track sales.

But digital competition has upped the ante for quality music. Savvy artists - from newcomers like England's Arctic Monkeys to vets like Pearl Jam - understood they couldn't afford to pad their albums with filler when the public can download the best and leave the rest.

Fittingly, the year's most notable releases came from established artists - some as fresh as Christina Aguilera, others as wizened as Bob Dylan - who reminded us why they count with sterling, rather than platinum, albums.

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Wrap Rage -- Feel the Burn

American News | 12/23/2006 | Holiday packaging could inspire 'wrap rage'

MINNEAPOLIS - The wrapping paper is in piles. The ribbons are in shreds. Now it's time to get out the heavy artillery: scissors, box cutters, screwdrivers, ice picks, sheet-metal shears, and perhaps a hacksaw or two for good measure.

Freeing the toys, electronics and other gifts of the holiday season from their bulletproof packaging can require the strength of Superman and patience of Job.

"You have to run around the house, find scissors, cut it open, then you hurt your fingers trying to pull it apart, then there's these twisty things you have to untwist, plus the batteries," said Cynthia Salone, 8, of Minneapolis, recalling a recent packaging battle. "It can take 10 minutes to open."

The Brits have given this phenomenon a name and a definition: wrap rage. Extreme anger caused by product packaging that is difficult to open or manipulate.

"It's very, very, very frustrating," said Ann Hunsaid, 76, a retired teacher from Minot, N.D. "Especially for someone like me who is used to simple packaging. I do not follow this new kind of thing."

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A Very Happy Holiday Season to Everyone in the Galaxy