Friday, October 12, 2007

But Before I Leave. . .

. . . here are 30 reasons the English hate the French.

Burnet Literary Arts Festival

I'm leaving in a little while to make the drive to Burnet, Texas, for the Literary Arts Festival. If any of you are in the vicinity, which is doubtful, drop by and say "hey." I'll be out of reach of a computer until I get home tomorrow night, so feel free to visit some of the nice links on the right. But come back soon. You never know when Paris Hilton will be in the news again.

Traffic Stops Can be Fun

Photos at link. Luckily, not of the nightstick.

RCMP pose with women and handcuffs at UBC, photos show: "'All of a sudden the girls started flirting with them uncontrollably,' Kovac said Thursday night. 'Then they're like, 'Can you put us in handcuffs? Can we see your nightstick?' They just started posing for pictures right there.'"

Darwin's Blade -- Dan Simmons

I'm in awe of Dan Simmons. He writes really long books of the sort I'd never dare attempt, he writes complex series and standalones, and he writes in several genres. When he wants to, he writes lean thrillers like Hard as Nails. In other words, he can do just about anything.

Darwin's Blade is a thriller, but it's not lean. It's long, and it's filled with all kinds of research and ancedotes relevant to accident investigation. If you're interested in accidents, particularly auto accidents, this is your kind of book. Darwin Minor is the protagonist, and he's an ace investigator. It turns out that he has a past (no surprise there), and the book morphs into a sort of Bob Lee Swagger novel. If Simmons and Stephen Hunter sat down to talk, they could go on about guns and ammo for, at a rough guess, thirty-seven years without repeating themselves. There are a couple of set-pieces in the novel that Hunter would surely admire.

The plot has to do with the Russian mob taking over the fake car accident scams in California, and it didn't really make a lot of sense to me. Apparently the Russians just kill people for the hell of it. Or something. Anyway, they have to be stopped, and Minor, along with the FBI and a bunch of task forces, is up to the job. Some might find the book outrageously padded (we even get mathematical formulae), but it's entertaining all the way. The ending is clearly a set-up for a sequel, but as far as I know, there hasn't been one.

50 TV Theme Songs the Listaholic Will Never Forget

50 TV Theme Songs I'll Never Forget: "TV shows come and go (well, maybe with the exception of COPS and The Simpsons), but television theme songs will always stay with us, be it nostalgic or just plain annoying. On more than one occasion, I’ve caught myself humming most of the TV show theme songs listed below."

Not Quite the Last Seduction

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the link.

Woman accused in plot like movie - Crime & Punishment - "ANCHORAGE, Alaska - In the 1994 movie “The Last Seduction,” a femme fatale coaxes her lover into killing her husband for money.

Prosecutors say a beautiful stripper obsessed with the film followed the script to its murderous end. Mechele Linehan, 34, is on trial on charges she masterminded the decade-old slaying of her fianc�in hopes of collecting $1 million in insurance.

Life and art were so similar, prosecutors say, that they even sought, unsuccessfully, to have the movie shown to the jury."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Write What You Know

Mexican Cops Arrest Cannibalism Suspect: "MEXICO CITY (AP) - An aspiring horror novelist was arrested after police discovered his girlfriend's torso in his closet, a leg in the refrigerator and bones in a cereal box, a city prosecutors' spokesman said Thursday.

Jose Luis Calva told police he had boiled some of his girlfriend's flesh but that he hadn't eaten it, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the case.

Calva told police he was a writer and poet—officers found the draft of a novel titled 'Cannibalistic Instincts,' he said.

Investigators were trying to determine if chunks of fried meat found in a pan in the apartment were human, the spokesman said."

Want to Purchase a Book by Joe Lansdale?

Kasey Lansdale is selling books by her father. You can probably even get a signed copy. Got a title in mind? You can get in touch with Kasey by clicking on the "contact" link on her website.

Nobel Prize

The Local - Doris Lessing wins Nobel: "British author Doris Lessing has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy has announced. The academy described Lessing as 'that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny.'

Few had tipped Lessing for the 10 million kronor prize. At 87, she is the oldest person to win the prize, and only the eleventh woman since it was first awarded in 1901."

Right Brain or Left Brain?

Take the test at the link. I'm right brain. No surprise.

The Right Brain vs Left Brain | The Daily Telegraph: "12:00am The Right Brain vs Left Brain test ... do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?"

Gator Update (Romance Edition)

You'll have to read the whole article to get the romantic "life sentence" angle.

Pa. ‘Alligator Man’ gets ‘Life Sentence’ - Herald-Mail News for Hagerstown, Washington County Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia: "Stephens, 21, of 418 E. King St., was sentenced by Walker just before lunch to one to seven years in state prison and three years of probation on three counts of felony retail theft. Right after lunch, Walker hitched Stephens and Newman.

“Mr. Stephens, you’re the alligator man, aren’t you?” Walker asked as the sentencing hearing started. “What were you going to do when it grew up?”

“Eat it,” Stephens replied, explaining that he planned to grow the 15-inch reptile before turning it into a meal.

Assistant Public Defender Ian Brink broke in to say that his client told him that he let the alligator go before leaving The Pet Store, 1710 Lincoln Way East, in April. A store security video showed a man slipping the gator into his pants, but the animal was never seen again, according to court records.

“That gator done come back and bit you, because you’re going to jail,” Walker said."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Man goes for world record leg hair - National & World News - Tampa Bay's 10 - "Tyler, Texas- Wes Pemberton thinks he may have a world record. He’s submitted a hair on his leg as the world’s longest leg hair.

A hair on his calf measures about five inches. The world record is 4.88 inches. Pemberton says he works on taking care of the hair, to the point of even washing it with conditioner.

He had several police officers in Tyler verify the length of the hair for his world record submission. “Once that done,” he says, “I’m going to pluck it and hang it next to the certificate.”"

Gator Update (Killer Apprehended Edition)

I hope he has a good lawyer.

Killer Alligator Caught: "The alligator that attacked an elderly woman has been caught.

It all happened Tuesday, when a trapper caught a gator matching the description of the one that attacked 83-year-old Gwen Williams. The Department of Natural Resources ran tests and confirmed it was the same alligator.

Williams was found Saturday by some people on the golf course near the Ramshorn Court area in the Landings. Williams was from Canada but was here house-sitting for relatives at a home about 500 feet from the lagoon."

The Poe Wars

They're heating up.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

TxDOT knows where you went and wants the why | - Houston Chronicle: "AUSTIN — Did you drive on Interstate 35 in early September? Where were you going, and why? How many people were in the car with you? And by the way, how many people live in your house?

The Texas Department of Transportation wants to know, and a company it hired may have videotaped your license plate, then sent you a survey to find out.

The survey is being done in the name of sound transportation planning. Officials say the method has been used before in Texas and elsewhere. But it has some feeling uncomfortable, and others crying, 'Big Brother.'"

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

I spent many happy years in Brownwood.

Brownwood Bulletin: "An exhibit of “trench art” — decorative and practical objects created from military shell cases, bullets, grenades and projectiles — is coming to Brownwood.

Steve Blake, director of the Firearms Museum of Texas, said the exhibit will be housed in Gallery Two of the museum, located within the Brown County Museum of History downtown.

“This is part of our effort to show that the museum is not just about guns,” Blake said this week. “This will help broaden the museum’s appeal.”

The term “trench art” describes a wide range of objects created by combat soldiers, support troops and even civilian that share a unique feature, Blake said.

All use parts utilized by deadly weapons to create items of beauty. Shells, bullets and other items were crafted into things like lamps, ash trays and candlesticks featuring remarkable detail."

War of the Worlds Cover Gallery

318 covers shown here. That's a lot of covers.

Link via Neatorama.

Crazy Female Celebrity Hairstyles

These are all crazy, all right. Great photos at link.

9 Crazy Female Celebrity Hairstyles: "Over the years, countless women have had hairstyles inspired by their favorite celebrities. Demi Moore, for instance, sparked an epidemic of short-cropped hair among women when “Ghost” made a killing at the box-office. Jennifer Aniston’s hairstyles, meanwhile, have been declared as the most wanted by women all over the world."

Unlikely Movie Scientists

Will Denise Richards never get the credit she deserves for her Oscar-worthy turn as a nuclear scientist in The World is Not Enough? Obviously not, if this list is any indication.

Link via Dark Forces Book Group.

Gator Update (Suspicious Fire Edition)

Someone in Georgia needs a lesson in how to use the apostrophe. There's amusing video at the link, but no sign of the gator.

WTAP - News: "A Parkersburg house fire last night proved to be a total loss, but one item in the house managed to survive and gave rescue crews quite a scare after the flames were put out.

Officials said they discovered an alligator up in the attic of the house. Several fire fighters found the alligator in the attic, but before they could capture it, it jumped out of the third story window.

Witnesses say it landed on the second floor roof and took one last leap onto the grass below. When crews finally tried to get the animal under control it fled underneath the porch.

Ultimately, one fire fighter successfully wrangled the gator and duct taped it's jaws shut.

Crews say years of watching nature shows on TV has paid off. They say took tips from the pro's on how to do it and successfully and safely got the gator into custody."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Gator Update: Case Closed

Thanks to Ivan Shreve for the link.

Autopsy: woman died from alligator attack | "An 83-year-old Canadian woman was attacked by an alligator and died as a result of those injuries, according to Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police.

That's based on an autopsy performed Tuesday, according to a statement released by police Tuesday afternoon. The statement said the victim died as a result of a blood loss from the attack.

The victim has been identified as Gwen Williams. She was housesitting for her daughter and son-in-law at a home in the Landings located about 500 feet from the lagoon where she was found.

Police and Department of Natural Resources officials are searching for the alligator, which is believed to be about 7 feet long. That length is based on the victim's wounds, according to Jim Simmons, Senior Biologist, DNR Game Management Wildlife Division."

WPA Interview with H. P. Lovecraft

Real or a clever fake? I don't know.

Gatorland Moves Forward

Gatorland Breaks Ground On $4M Complex - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando: "ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nearly one year after a fire raged through Central Florida's oldest theme park, officials at the Orlando attraction broke ground on a $4 million complex. Gatorland officials on Monday started building the complex, which will replace its famous alligator mouth and house a gift shop and the admissions area, Local 6 News reported.

A three-alarm fire blazed through the attraction Nov. 6, destroying the park's 7,000-square-foot gift shop, entrance and some administrative offices and killing two 8-foot pythons and a 5-foot crocodile.

'I'm sure we can get that mouth reconstructed. Granted, it won't be exactly the same, but we will have the mouth back,' park official Heather Goodwin said after the blaze."

Worst Lyricists?

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the tip.

Update: The entire list can be found here. Thanks to anonymous in the comments.

Sting tops list of worst lyricists | Entertainment | Reuters: "LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Maybe Sting should start writing more instrumentals. The school teacher-turned-rock star topped Blender's list of the worst lyricists, thanks to lines that betray 'mountainous pomposity (and) cloying spirituality,' the music magazine said.

The survey, contained in the November issue that hits newsstands next week, placed Rush drummer Neil Peart at No. 2, Creed frontman Scott Stapp at No. 3, Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher at No. 4, and soft-rocker Dan Fogelberg at No. 5.

Blender assailed Sting for such alleged sins as name-dropping Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov in the Police tune 'Don't Stand So Close to Me,' quoting a Volvo bumper sticker ('If You Love Someone Set Them Free'), and co-opting the works of Chaucer, St. Augustine and Shakespeare."

World's Worst Poem ?

New contender for world's worst poem | News | Guardian Unlimited Books: "William McGonagall is under the direst threat today in his apparently unassailable position as author of the world's worst poem.

The 19th century Scots bard's notorious lament for The Tay Bridge Disaster: "And the cry rang out all o'er the town, Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down" has been challenged in favour of a single appalling last line by a more exotic British versifier, Theophile Jules-Henri Marzials: 'Drop / Dead. / Plop, flop. / Plop'."

Death Proof

I can't believe I actually watched this. It is, of course, half of the Grindhouse feature, except with some added scenes. Kurt Russell plays a psycho who kills women with his car in what's supposed to be a tribute to '70s exploitation movies, none of which could have been as boring as this one, though they did have worse music.

The plot is this: four hot chicks sit around and talk for 45 minutes in the build-up to a big car-wreck scene. If you're into hair, bare feet, and women in shorts, you might think this is fun. After the the wreck, we're introduced to, you guessed it, four more hot chicks who sit around and talk for 45 minutes in the build-up to a big car-wreck scene, which doesn't turn out like the first one and which includes a lot of chasing. And which is entirely pointless, since the woman driver should have stopped the car, and, if they psycho stopped his car or came after them, she could have shot him. That would have cut 15 minutes off the movie and eliminated the chase, so of course it couldn't happen.

You might be tempted to rent this. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Gator Update (Death Probe Edition)

Alligator-involved death probe continues | "However, an alligator remains a suspect in the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police investigation into the death of an 85-year-old woman whose body - which is missing the left arm, right hand and right foot - was found Saturday in a lagoon in the Landings.

Police are unsure if the woman, said to have been housesitting a home on Skidaway Island, died from natural causes and then was mauled or if her death was caused by an encounter with an alligator.

The woman's body had been in the water since Friday evening, police said."

Monday, October 08, 2007

This Should End Well

I had no idea that this site existed. If you don't like your neighbors, you can let the world know with Google maps. There's only one bad neighbor in Alvin (so far), and it's not me.

Link via TechBlog.

Return to Mayberry

Thanks to John Duke for the link.

'Thelma Lou' finds a happy new life in 'Mayberry': "MOUNT AIRY, N.C. -- On the drive home from the Los Angeles airport, there was a particular billboard along La Cienega Boulevard that always gave Betty Lynn a chuckle. 'This Ain't Mayberry!' it declared.

As if she needed a reminder of that fact, the West Hollywood home where Lynn had lived since 1950 was broken into twice last year. 'That made it for me,' the 81-year-old actress says. 'I just was too frightened to stay. So I thought, I've got to find some place I feel safe.'

When she reflected on what safe meant to her -- and what 'home' meant, for that matter -- one place stood out. And life imitated art. The woman who played Thelma Lou on 'The Andy Griffith Show' moved more than 2,100 miles to Mount Airy -- Griffith's hometown and one of the inspirations for the fictional Mayberry.

Lynn knows this ain't Mayberry, either. It never existed, really. But she figures this picturesque town in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains is about as close to Mayberry as she is going to get. In this life, anyway.

'There's no place like it, unless it's heaven,' she says over a lunch of hot coffee and a hamburger with onions at a local country club."

I Hate to Admit It, . . .

. . . but this sign made me laugh. They swear it isn't photoshopped, and I, for one, believe them.

The Owl -- Robert Forward

I don't know much about Robert Forward except that he wrote for a lot of TV shows, including She-Ra. That might explain a lot about The Owl. The premise is this as stated on the cover: "Alexander L'Hiboux Never Sleeps." Sounds a bit like the the idea Lawrence Block used in his series about Evan Tanner, but the execution is entirely different.

While Block's books are breezy and funny,
The Owl is deadly serious. It's also very much in the style of pulp novels about The Spider and The Shadow. Al (or Owl) "wanders the streets stalking his prey, handgs out in all-night diners, and never stays in one place long enough to cast a shadow."

What the Owl does is get revenge for the people who pay for it. Two years of their salary, whatever that might be, is what he requires. Then he'll kill whoever you say needs killing if he decides to take the job. "In such cases the law is powerless. The Owl is not." Not that Al doesn't do a lot of killing of whoever needs it for free. He kills people all the time. It's best not to irritate him. After all, he suffers from insomnolence.

L'Hiboux might be schizophrenic. He narrates the story in first person, but he drops into third person all the time when he's talking about his alter ego. Of course athletes do that, too, so maybe he's not nutty at all.

The book is graphically violent from page one or two, and The Owl absorbs more punishment than any two or three or four people in other novels of this sort. Mike Hammer is a wimp compared to The Owl.

The climax of the book is really a long one, maybe not a record, but close. Over 100 pages are devoted to The Owl's assault on a cargo ship and his taking of the revenge. I was getting a little tired long before the end.

A TV movie was made from The Owl in 1991, and it must have been pretty terrible if the reviews on the IMDb are any indication of its true quality. Judging by the summary, the plot of the movie is nothing like the plot of the novel.

I suppose the novel was intended as the first in a series, but no other was published. In the U. S., at least. It seems that maybe The Owl 2 was published in England. And, God help me, I think I might order it. Somebody stop me!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

HPD: Stinky feet led to man's fatal stabbing | - Houston Chronicle: "A man allegedly stabbed his roommate to death Saturday night during a drunken argument over smelly feet, Houston police said.

The two men shared a 10-foot-square bedroom at the Magnolia Cove Apartment Homes in the 100 block of Goodson, said Sgt. M. Sosa of the homicide squad.

They subleased the bedroom from a married couple, who also lived in the apartment, Sosa said.

On Saturday night, the woman was sitting outside with her newborn baby while the two roommates drank together inside, he said. The woman's husband was not home at the time.

At some point, an argument broke out over one of the men's 'stinky feet,' Sosa said. It wasn't clear which one of the men's feet allegedly emitted the offensive odor, but the bedroom they shared 'does smell,' he said."

Blood Diamond

Leonardo di Caprio is Danny Archer, a scummy guy and former mercenary who's currently in the diamond-smuggling business. He doesn't care where the diamonds come from. He just wants to make money. When he hears that a fisherman named Solomon has found a 100-carat pink diamond, he wants in.

The problem is that Sierra Leone is in the midst of a horrible civil war during the time the movie is set. The diamonds smuggled out are being used to finance the war, which is presented in gut- and heart-wrenching realism. Violent deaths and mutilations are as common as air. If you've bought a diamond lately, you're likely to feel a little bit guilty, especially if you didn't know about "conflict" (or "blood") diamonds.

The message doesn't overwhelm the story, though. Danny wants the diamond, Solomon wants his family back, and Maddy, the journalist played by Jennifer Connelly in a thankless role, wants a story. They all get what they want in one way or another.

My main quibble with this movie is that it went on for fifteen minutes after it ended. I suppose the final quarter hour was tacked on to make you feel a little better. Didn't work for me. It was redundant, and it felt it. I'd still recommend the movie, though.

Something for the Old Guys

You know you're old when . . . . Click here.