Saturday, September 15, 2007

Femme Fatale

There's even more (including a photo) at the link.

Clay Woman Charged With Husband’s Poisoning Death - NewsChannel 9 WSYR: "Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A Clay woman has been charged in the poisoning death of her husband and investigators say this may not be the first time.

The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department says Stacey Castor, 40, has been charged with the 2nd degree murder for the death of David Castor, 48.

He died on August 22, 2005 and deputies have been investigating his death ever since. His death was originally ruled a suicide by ingesting ethylene glycol, which is found in anti-freeze, but detectives continued to investigate the death, eventually ruling it a homicide.

During that investigation, they learned Stacey Castor’s first husband, Michael Wallace, died January 11th, 2000. His death was originally ruled a heart attack.

As part of a joint investigation with the Cayuga County Sheriff’s department, Wallace’s body was exhumed on September 5th. The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be murder by ethylene glycol poisoning."

Ah, the Old Days

I found this 3-cent postcard offering 12 issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in a book I bought at a library sale.

3:10 TO YUMA

I didn't expect to get to the theater to see this remake, but when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it. It was great to see a western on the big screen again. The scenery's spectacular, and the acting's fine. Russell Crowe makes the bad man dangerously attractive, and Ben Foster is the definitive psycho sidekick. Christian Bale's their equal as the rancher who's determined to get Wade to the train on time.

But there are problems with the movie, mainly a bunch of lame, dumb stuff that I can't explain without revealing way too much. So if you haven't seen the movie, HEED THIS WARNING AND READ NO FARTHER.

Okay, for those of you who are still with me, here are some of the things I couldn't quite accept. Peter Fonda plays a bounty hunter who's shot by the bad guys. And let me tell you, there are a lot of bad guys. I don't know how many there are in Crowe's gang, but if they were part of the surge in Iraq, we'd win in a week. But I, as usual, digress. Fonda is shot. He's dragged for a long way on a couple of boards, then put on a horse and taken to town. He has a hole the size of a dinner plate in his stomach, and a veterinarian digs a bullet out of it. Ten minutes later, Fonda's on his feet, not even bleeding, and ready to ride out with the men guarding Crowe. Now that's one tough bounty hunter.

Bale, or Dan the Rancher, has a wooden leg. He clumps around a little in the early going, but at the end of the movie he's running like an Olympic sprinter. And not just on the ground. He's running on the roofs of buildings and jumping across the spaces between them like Jackie Chan.

Then there's the shortcut through Apache country. The guys taking Wade to the train have to take it, or so Dan says, so they do. The bad guys don't, and they get to town maybe an hour after Dan's bunch. Now that's what I call a lousy shortcut.

And the ending. Somebody's going to have to explain the ending to me. I don't get it at all. I just sat there thinking, "Huh?" I've seen a lot of movies, and I know there's only one way to get the bad guy to the station when you have evildoers all along the streets and on the rooftops. You put the little sawed-off up under his chin as tight as you can, and then you sidle outside where you inform the baddies that they can kill you, all right, but if they do, your last act will be to pull the trigger of that shotgun. Then you go on to the train, and you get on with the guy you're sending to Yuma prison. You don't shove him on board and then stand there like a doofus. But even if you do that, there's still no explaining the ending, not unless there was a lot more going on in those conversations between Bale and Crowe than I was getting.

I had fun at the movie. I enjoyed it. But I think they departed from Elmore Leonard's story by a few thousand miles. The story can't possibly have all that dumb stuff in it.

Headline of the Day

It's on Ananova, so you know it's true.

A Review of a Gold Medal Book

You can read it here. I've never read this one, but I have it on the shelf. You can bet I'll set it aside for later.

Fish Story

If you want to read a fish story and see a photo of me as a really young guy, click here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Happy Birthday, Joey Heatherton!

I couldn't let the day get by without mentioning that Joey Heatherton's 63 today. She probably no longer looks like the picture, but she did when it mattered to me.

He's Looking for the Real Burglars - O.J. Simpson Questioned About Casino Break-In - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment: "O.J. Simpson was questioned Thursday night in connection with a break-in and theft involving sports memorabilia at a hotel room at the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas, police said.

Simpson allegedly broke into a room at the casino late Thursday night in connection with a burglary, reported, citing police sources.

Simpson was questioned and released and is believed to be in Las Vegas, police spokesman Jose Montoya told the Associated Press. Montoya said an investigation is ongoing.

'We don't believe he's going anywhere,' he said."

Teen Tragedy Song List

A list of songs from 1955-1969. Can you think of any that are missing?

Link via this Test Pattern article.

But Did They Floss?

Turns out Neanderthals had good oral hygiene | Reuters: "MADRID (Reuters) - Two molar teeth of around 63,400 years old show that Neanderthal predecessors of humans may have been dental hygiene fans, the Web site of newspaper El Pais reported on Tuesday.

The teeth have 'grooves formed by the passage of a pointed object, which confirms the use of a small stick for cleaning the mouth,' Paleontology Professor Juan Luis Asuarga told reporters, presenting an archaeological find in Madrid."

Li'l Abner

Sometimes, even in a house with thousands of books, I'm not sure what I'd like to read. So I pick up something old and familiar. When I was a kid, my favorite comic strip, hands down, was Li'l Abner, and the other night I decided to revisit the strip through a couple of paperbacks.

The book on the far left is a collection of popular episodes, including the one in which Li'l Abner finally marries Daisy Mae. (I followed his narrow escapes for years, and when I was a teenager, I was even invited to a couple of Sadie Hawkins' Day dances.)
The book itself is a look at how the sad future of comic strips as it crams six panels onto one page, making them about the size they are now in the daily papers. Capp's panels are so crammed with detail that the reduction pretty much ruins them.

The stories are still amusing, and of course very unPC. They're timely, too. "Jack Jawbreaker" is about two guys who create a strip by that name and about how they're cheated out of pretty much everything. It'll remind you of
Men of Tomorrow and A Killing in Comics.

The timely bit in
The Life and Times of the Shmoo comes in this dialog between two captains of industry: "Psst! These poor ignorant wretches will be grateful to work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for $7 a week. They've never heard of anything better -- And (chuckle) we'll never tell 'em!!" "Oh! You're a bright lad!! The Board may well give you a $500,000 bonus again this year!!"

The Shmoo book, by the way, is a nice example of how comics should be handled in paperback. Two panels per page, or one in the case of the bigger panels. The pages in this old Pocketbook are printed on acid-free paper, I guess. They're as clean and as bright as if they'd rolled off the presses yesterday.

The Shmoos were my favorite characters in
Li'l Abner, among a gallery of wonderful characters: Moonbeam McSwine, Mysterious Yokum, Pappy and Mammy Yokum, Daisy Mae, Stupefyin' Jones, the Skraggs, Joe Btfsplk, and the list goes on and on. Great stuff, and if you don't believe me, well, read John Steinbeck's intro to the Li'l Abner book.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Larry Buchanan

Mexia, Texas: It's not just the hometown of Anna Nicole Smith.

Larry Buchanan: Larry Buchanan AKA Marcus Larry Seale, Jr. Born: 31-Jan-1923 Birthplace: Mexia, TX

Down On Us (1984)
The Loch Ness Horror (1981)
Mistress of the Apes (1981)
A Bullet for Pretty Boy (15-Jul-1970)
It's Alive! (1969) I
n the Year 2889 (1967)
Mars Needs Women (1967)
Zontar the Thing from Venus (1966)
The Eye Creatures (1965)

Ah, Treachery -- Ross Thomas

I've expressed my admiration for Ross Thomas so often that there's no need doing it again. But I will, anyway. He's one of my favorite writers of "thrillers" or whatever it is that he wrote. He did it as well as anybody ever did, or will, at least for me. Sadly, Ah, Treachery was the last book that Thomas ever wrote. Which leads me to this digression.

I long ago discovered that my idiosyncratic reading tastes weren't always shared by others. All I do here on the blog is tell you how I feel about things. You might disagree. Don't go out and spend your hard-earned dough for a book just because I liked it. You might find yourself thinking that I owe you, and we wouldn't want that.

Now back to our regularly scheduled review. Edd (Twodees) Partain assaulted a fellow officer in El Salvador, where they were part of an illegal operation that a couple of bad guys want to be completely forgotten. And where Partain's Salvadoran wife is "disappeared." Partain is working as a sort of bodyguard for Millicent Altford, who's discovered that $1.2 million in under-the-table campaign money has gone missing from her safe. The plot gets complicated after that. There's murder and conniving and, of course, treachery. Lots of treachery. Not to mention genuine wit and plenty of irony.
Partain manages to figure everything out in the end, the way Thomas's heroes do, but there's never really a happy ending in a Thomas novel. An air of sadness hangs over everything, or it seems that way to me. I don't think I'll ever stop re-reading Thomas's books. I just wish he'd hung around longer and written a lot more of them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bill Crider, New York Times Bestselling Author

That's right, folks. I've made the bestseller list. Well, okay, technically speaking "I" haven't made the list, but Many Bloody Returns, the anthology in which I have a short story, is #30. So I think I can fairly put "New York Times Bestselling Author" on all my book covers from now on. Assuming there are any more book covers to come.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Colorful photo at link, thoughtfully provided by Jeff Meyerson.

Maggots are works of art at Oak Cliff school | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "They are the squirmy scavengers of the insect world.

But maggots morph into artistic instruments in Kim Schofield's elementary school classes. Ms. Schofield, an entomologist for the Texas Cooperative Extension in Dallas, brings live maggots to North Texas schools for a one-of-a-kind lesson that melds science and art.

Kids dip the maggots into nontoxic paint, plop them onto construction paper and watch the critters wiggle out abstract explosions of color on the page."


Not long ago, I linked to Henry Melton's account of a Cape Buffalo calf's encounter with a croc. Henry's updated his post with video that you can watch here.

Gator Update (Always Call for Back-Up Edition)

Police Officers In Trouble After Wrestling Alligator - News Story - WESH Orlando: "ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Two police officers were ordered to attend counseling sessions after wrestling an alligator at a Seminole County apartment complex.

The Altamonte Springs police officers may have taken unnecessary risks when they captured the reptile at Lotus Landing Apartments, officials said.

The officers captured the 8-foot alligator by themselves, and a police supervisor said they should have called for assistance."

Happy Birthday H. L. Mencken!

Too bad he's not around today. I'd like to hear what he'd have to say. You can read about him here if you're so inclined. Or read Connie Willis's very entertaining "Inside Job," instead. Part of it is here. The rest you'd have to find.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hot Fuzz

Is it just me, or was this movie about half an hour too long?

The idea's this: Angel is a top London cop, so good that he makes the others look bad. Naturally he's transfered to a small English village where nothing ever happens. Or does it? There sure are a lot of accidents for such a small town.

Hot Fuzz
is a parody of every buddy cop movie ever made, but the set-up's too long for me. Some of the jokes are funny, but I'm sure there are a hundred or two more in-joke references to other movies that I missed.

It was only the the other day that I complained about the drawn-out climactic scene in another movie. Well, that pales by comparison with the one here. Of course that's the point. You can't parody ever aspect of every climactic scene in every cop movie if you don't drag it out. But forty minutes?

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I've become a bitter old coot, sitting by the fire, wrapped in my shawl, and that I no long know what's funny. You're probably right, but I did laugh at this movie. Great cast, fine performances, some amusing stuff. But for me it worked only about half the time. So it must be true. My sense of humor has atrophied. Sad.

Giant Banana over Texas Update

The artist explains his plans here. The original post is here. And the photo gallery is here.


B-Notes bills itself as "a user's guide to dubious movies." A list of the movies that have been dissected, along with links, is here. One of my favorites is Mars Needs Women, and you can read all about it here. And I mean all about it. These are in-depth discussions, folks.

And Keep off His Damn Lawn - 74-Year-Old Fights Off Tire Iron-Wielding Attacker - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News: "A tire iron-wielding man who police said was looking to mug a senior citizen probably thought he had found an easy target — that is, until the 74-year-old fought back.

Bruce Ferraro had no idea someone was following him as he walked out of a department store at the South Shore Mall on Saturday and got into his car, police said. But then a man pounded on Ferraro's window and demanded cash.

'Ferraro says, 'What, are you kidding me?' and he actually gets out of the car,' said Det. Sgt. Thomas Groneman, of the Suffolk County Police Department.

The mugger demanded Ferraro hand over his wallet, calling the Bay Shore resident an 'old man' and threatening to hit him with the tire iron, Groneman said.

Instead, Ferraro grabbed the bar and the two fought, until the septaugenarian managed to snatch away the tire iron, police said."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Gator Update

Great article and photo at the link.

York Dispatch - York Fair's alligator show pulls in crowds for jaw-dropping fun: "As an 8-foot-long, 200-pound alligator rushed headlong toward her, climbed up a fence and opened his giant jaw in the air, Wanda Waltz reconsidered her front-row seat at the York Fair Sunday.

'I thought: 'If this thing gets a hold of me, I'm gone,'' said Waltz, of Manchester Township, who confessed that she almost jumped into a man's lap behind her to get away from the gator."

Nice Personal Tribute to Madeline L'Engle

A tribute to Madeline L'Engle | - Houston Chronicle: "The last time I saw Madeleine L'Engle she was in bed recovering from a hip replacement, in her quintessential New York City apartment packed with books and paintings, overlooking the Hudson River. It was New Year's Eve, 2000.

Madeleine L'Engle Franklin was my high school creative writing teacher and the mother of my best friend, Josephine. Tall and dramatic, a mistress of the grand gesture, she would sweep into our classroom with a cape thrown over her shoulders. It was 1963, the same year her book A Wrinkle in Time, rejected by numerous publishers, received the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature.

Suddenly, my friend's mother was famous."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

I like to think that if I won $49 million, I'd do something like this.

Restored Tee Pee Motel brings back a bygone era | - Houston Chronicle: "WHARTON — A bit of American history — quirky and curious, but history nonetheless — huddles next to old Highway 59, past the tractor dealers and the rice mills, just before a green sign that proclaims Wharton's population of 9,237.

It's easy to miss. But it is there, just around the bend: a row of 10 freshly painted, sand-colored tepees.

The Tee Pee Motel, a throwback to the 1940s and '50s, is one of just a handful of tepee-themed lodges left in the country.

For years, however, Wharton's Tee Pee Motel was little more than eleven gutted shells engulfed by a tangle of overgrown weeds and a broken sign that once beckoned guests with neon lights and an image of an American Indian chief.

Then, a diesel mechanic named Bryon Woods won $49 million in the Texas lottery in July 2003."

Time Magazine -- 50 Worst Cars of All Time

I'm surprised I didn't own a single one of these models.

Gator Update (Pennsylvania Edition)

They're obviously all over PA. Note the Conservation Officer's name. Possibly a relative of mine.

This is no croc: Gator caught in creek -- "A pair of Wildlife Conservation officers demonstrated Florida-like trapping skills when they trapped a 4-foot long alligator Sunday afternoon in the Hokendauqua Creek.

District Wildlife Conservation officer Brad Kreider and his deputy, Tom Harrington, stalked the beast, grabbed it using catchpoles, taped its mouth shut and tossed it into a bear trap, Kreider said. He said they hauled the gator off to an animal holding pen back at their headquarters in Reading, but not before posing for photos with their new catch.

''We took it out with the catchpole and we could just hold it,'' Kreider said. ''We took a few pictures.''"

True Grit Days #2

Part of the festivities up in Ridgway is a tour of the locations where True Grit was filmed. My friend Fred Williams went on the tour yesterday and took a few photos. One is of the cabin where Mattie lived. Not too much left of it now. The other is of the meadow that John Wayne charged across, reins in teeth, after shouting, "Fill your hand, you son of a bitch." Look closely along the right edge of the tree line and you can see the rock where he fell after he was shot.

The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines

It's hard for me to resist a movie on this subject because when I was a kid I saw Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr in King Solomon's Mines. Even seen the really, really awful rip-off with Richard Chamberlain didn't discourage me.

This sequel to The Librarian is several orders of magnitude better than Chamberlain's. That doesn't make it a great movie, but it's at least entertaining. Noah Wyle plays the librarian who works for Bob Newhart at an unusual library where you can find stuff like Excalibur other exotic items. This time he's off to stop the bad guys from getting their hands on a magical book that will allow them to bend time and space. Or something like that. Doesn't matter. It's just a McGuffin to allow Wyle and his co-star, Gabrielle Anwar, to have adventures and crack wise.

Some of the jokes are funny, some aren't. If you've read a few mysteries or seen a few movies, you're going to know every turn this one takes well before it makes them. The climactic scene, as is typical, was far too long and drawn out. Still, I enjoyed the movie. The co-stars are appealing, the scenery is pretty, and Bob Newhart is always fun. This had been sitting on the DVR for quite a while, and I'm glad I got around to seeing it. If there's a third in the series, I'll probably watch that one, too.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

And Keep off Our Damn Lawns!

Thanks to Beth Foxwell for the link. (I have no idea why she thought of me.)

The Rise of the Alpha Geezer - "There are no old people anymore. The word 'senior' is in disfavor; the folks at AARP often use the term 'grown-up' to refer to our most tenured citizens. (And it's not the American Association of Retired Persons anymore, either: The group decided that because most of its members weren't retired, it should be just AARP, standing for nothing at all.)

This sociological revolution has given rise to a new American icon: the frisky geezer. The frisky geezer is someone who never got the memo to stick to golf from here on out. Americans today live not only longer, but with more fire in the belly. Disability rates for people over 65 go down by more than 2 percent a year, according to a long-term national survey published in 2006. The culture of being older has fundamentally changed, says Robert Butler, president of the International Longevity Center-USA and a professor of geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. 'The atmosphere has become more robust in favor of older people remaining part of the human race,' says Butler, who is 80 and works 60 hours a week. 'They're no longer expected to go to the rocking chair and give up.'"

Emu Update

Looks like a case for Sheriff Dan Rhodes. Thanks to Art Scott for the link.

The Golf Channel - PGA, LPGA, Champions, European Tour, Nationwide, Canadian Tour &: "ELMA, Wash. -- Every golfer likes a birdie, even more so an eagle. But an emu?

The big bird that showed up Tuesday at Oaksridge Golf Course was another matter, at least for Sue McMeekin of Satsop and Les Bell of Montesano.

The flightless bird, second in size among avians to the ostrich, followed the pair for seven of their nine holes, watching each swing and sometimes walking between them or standing directly in front of them. The emu seemed to take special interest in McMeekin's red fleece jacket.

'It was strange,' McMeekin said. 'She's awful big and she made me nervous.'

Emus, natives of Australia, can grow to more than 5 feet and 100 pounds and are capable of running as fast as 30 mph."

Croc Update

Henry Melton, a writer friend, is in Africa with his wife Mary Ann, seeing the sights. Including crocs. Here he describes an encounter between a croc and a Cape Buffalo calf.