Saturday, January 05, 2008

The 50 Greatest British Writers since 1945

The 50 greatest British writers since 1945 - Times Online: "What better way to start the year than with an argument? The Times has decided to present you with a ranking of whom they consider the best postwar British writers, and are awaiting your responses."

Hat tip to the Dark Forces Book Group.

D. B. Cooper Update

A commenter has provided this link to an eBay auction of the money.

Where is Janice Gantry? -- John D. MacDonald

I may have mentioned before that I sometimes like to do some comfort reading when I'm in hospitals. Here's another example. It was originally published in 1961, a few years before MacDonald published the first of the Travis McGee novels, but this one could have been a warm-up for those.

Sam Brice is a former pro football player who's returned to his small hometown (this is a bit like Deadly Welcome, come to think of it) in disgrace, though of course he's actually a noble knight in slightly tarnished armor. A young woman named Janice Gantry disappears, along with an escaped convict to whom Brice has given aid and comfort. So Brice decides he'll dig into things and find out what's happened. He does, and while what happens won't surprise you, it's typical fine MacDonald storytelling, with some comments even 47 years ago about what the developers are doing to Florida.

MacDonald has his flaws, the irritating male/female dialog exchanges chief among them, but when it came to getting down the details of his time (he seemed to know everything about everything) and creating memorable characters, situations, and stories, he was hard to beat. I know some younger readers find him slow. I can't imagine that, but maybe the attention to detail, character, and description has something to do with it. Times and tastes (not mine, though) have changed.

Celebrity Geeks

My favorite is Kate Beckinsale.

Friday, January 04, 2008


This is great. I don't know if it's real or faked, but either way, it's still great. I hope it's still there by the time you take a look. Be sure to click the play or pause button; otherwise, you'll just get the audio. And this needs video of anything ever did.

Croc Update (Plague Edition)

Photo at link.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | More deaths of rare Indian crocs: "The number of endangered crocodiles that have died this month in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has risen to 67, officials say.

The crocodiles, known as gharials, have been found dead of an unknown disease in the Chambal River sanctuary."

The Cold Spot -- Tom Piccirilli

When Chase's pregnant mother is murdered and his father disappears, an apparent suicide, Chase's upbringing is taken over by Jonah, his grandfather, a professional criminal. Chase becomes an expert getaway driver, but at age 15, he's involved in a situation (the novel's fine opening scene) that convinces him it's time to break away.

He does, and for a few years he leads more or less straight life. He meets the right woman (a deputy sheriff, no less), marries, and starts teaching school (auto shop, of course).

Then, bad things happen. Violence, and a lot of it, results. Chase, looking for revenge, gets involved with his grandfather again, and their relationship is just as strained and enigmatic as before. At the end of the book, several things remain unresolved, and there's plenty of room for a sequel or two. Because this book was so well done, so sharp, fast, and involving, I'm looking forward to reading them.

Personal Stuff

I'm just using the blog to whine a little You should just skip over this. I don't particularly want anybody to read it. I just need to get it out of my system. Today we're bringing Judy's mother home from the hospital. From now on, she'll be living with us, and I'm pretty darned scared. I'm pretty helpless as a nurse. We've signed up for home health care, but we have no idea why. We don't know what it involves or how much help it will be. We don't know how long Judy's mom will be able to communicate and get around. Did I mention that I was scared? I'm most worried about taking Judy to Houston for her appointments. Will we be able to leave Judy's mom here, or can we take her with us? Or what? What I fear most is the uncertainty, and of course the change in routine. I'm a guy who loves his routines.

In a Lonely Place

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gator Update (Theft Alert)

It wasn't me. And I'm not in the market for one. Photo at link.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Brazil's rare alligators 'stolen': "Police in Brazil are investigating the disappearance of seven rare albino alligators from a university zoo in the western state of Mato Grosso.

One theory is that they may have been stolen to be sold abroad.

The animals, said by officials to be worth around $10,000 (�5,070) each, have no skin pigment and their eyes are a distinctive pink."

Reel Geezers

I like 'em. And stay off their lawn.

No Comment Department

Cost of coitus: Male monkeys pay for sex: "Selling sex is said to be humankind's oldest profession but it may have deep evolutionary roots, according to a study into our primate cousins which found that male macaques pay for intercourse by using grooming as a currency.
Michael Gumert of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore made the discovery in a 20-month investigation into 50 long-tailed macaques in Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia, New Scientist reports on Saturday.

On average, females had sex 1.5 times per hour.

But this rate jumped to 3.5 times per hour immediately after the female had been groomed by a male -- and her partner of choice was likely to be the hunky monkey that did the grooming."

I Passed!

JustSayHi - Science Quiz
Looking for payday loan?

D. B. Cooper Update

Arkansas man to sell cash from '71 hijacking as case rekindles: "LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- In 1980, 8-year-old Brian Ingram found the sole link to the only unsolved airline hijacking in U.S. history buried in the sandy banks of the Columbia River.

Now 36, Ingram hopes to auction the weathered bundle of $20 bills as the FBI launches a new effort to find the unknown hijacker who parachuted into the night after taking over the 1971 Northwest Orient Airlines flight."

This Can't be Good

Scientists can read your mind... sort of | "THOUGHTS are successfully being read for the first time by scientists using nothing but a modified MRI scanner and a special computer program.

Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University in the US city of Pittsburgh have managed to find out if a person was thinking about one of ten physical objects, the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper reported.

The readings, which the newspaper said were 97 per cent accurate, were formed by measuring how the brain “lit up” when a person was thinking about one of ten drawings of buildings and tools."

Been Looking for a new Gig? Exclusive: "Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Farid Mesbaah, male belly dancer, hopped on a car in Cairo's Shobra district and strutted his stuff.

He clanged metal castanets, magically converted his hips into pistons and twirled his head around like a centrifuge. The crowd at tables lining a dirt alley clapped rhythmically. Young men in jeans jumped up to wiggle along."

This Guy is Texas Tough

Worker cuts off own arm to free himself from machinery | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "MANOR, Texas - A worker at a concrete company who got caught in machinery amputated his own arm to free himself Wednesday.

The 52-year-old man went to warm up some equipment at Alamo Concrete at about 4:30 a.m. when he got his sleeve caught. Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services spokesman Warren Hassinger said the man cut off his arm at the elbow to free himself."

Makes Sense to Me

Attorney installs shark tank in office - Yahoo! News: "BOZEMAN, Mont. - It started out as a joke — a lawyer putting a shark tank in his office. 'I said, 'What would it take to put a shark in a lawyer's office?'', and it kind of took off from there, said attorney Christopher Gillette.

On Monday, a crane hoisted a 1,000-gallon aquarium up to a second-story window in Gillette's new office."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

George MacDonald Fraser, R. I. P.

George MacDonald Fraser has died. What a loss to fiction. When the first Harry Flashman novel was published in paperback, I picked it up off the paperback rack at the T. G. & Y. Store in Brownwood, Texas, attracted by the dandy cover. I read a couple of paragraphs and bought the book. Ever since that time, I've been a Flashman fan, reading each novel as it appeared in the U. S., either in hardback or paperback, whichever came to hand. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Pyrates, and I also liked Mr. American. When I read on The Rap Sheet about Fraser's passing, my first selfish thought was, "Now we'll never get the story of how Flashy fought on both sides during the Civil War." But now I'm just glad that he wrote the books he did and that I was attracted to that cover.

Evan Tanner and The Owl Take Note

Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep: "In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness."

Archaeological Update

Can Ice Age art survive Man’s attempt to save it? - Times Online: "The survival of the most important cave paintings in the world is in doubt because of a severe fungal infection that spread after an air-circulation system was installed to protect them, archaeologists say.

The 17,000-year-old paintings known as “the Sistine Chapel of pre-history” - the Lascaux cave in the Dordogne region of southwest France - are being damaged by black spots that are spreading at an alarming rate. Fragments of the cave walls have broken off and some colour tones are fading. Now Unesco is sending a delegation of specialists to the cave to determine whether it should be placed on its World Heritage in Danger list."

New Issue of Mouth Full of Bullets Now On-Line

I'm pleased to announce that the Winter 2007 Issue of Mouth Full of Bullets Mystery Magazine is now available. Here's the URL:

BJ Bourg

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bottom 10 Moments in Sports (and a Top Ten, Too)

In the Bottom 10, the ones involving kids are really sad.

Positive Coaching :: PCA Blog: "The “Mitchell Report” on steroid use in baseball “tops” PCA's list of the “Bottom 10 Moments in Sports, 2007.” PCA releases this list of the worst behavior in sports from pee-wees to the pros to stimulate discussion among parents, coaches, players and educators. We also list the 'Top 10 Moments in Sports, 2007' and provide Discussing Sports Incidents with Children, to help youth and high school athletes process all the life lessons contained in the Bottom 10 and Top 10 Moments."

In Case You Missed It

In Case You Missed It - 2007 50 Things We Know Now (That We Didn't Know This Time Last Year): "You tend to miss a few things going on in the world when the news focus is on which goofball might have parented Anna Nicole's baby.

To help you catch up on developments both great and small that you might have overlooked, we spent the year casting our net into the stream to catch some tasty info nuggets. We've pushed them into a giant news pill for you to swallow in one gulp."

10 Most-Anticipated Movies of 2008

10 Most-Anticipated Movies of 2008 on Yahoo! Movies

But only a couple are anticipated by me, so that's it. I'm officially an Old Fart. And keep off my lawn.

Happy Birthday, J. D. Salinger

Salinger turns eighty-nine today. Not everybody loves Salinger's work, but I'll never forget the first time I read The Catcher in the Rye. You might think that a kid growing up in smalltown Texas 50 years ago couldn't relate to Holden Caulfield. You'd be wrong. The book knocked me out. I laughed, I cried, I wished I could write like that. I don't know what Salinger's been up to since he went into seclusion, but maybe he's written another book as wonderful as the Catcher. It's something to hope for.

What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet . . .

. . . oh, to hell with it. What the world needs now is a Taser shotgun.

A Taser shotgun for long-range electrifying | CNET "Taser International will move into production on a projectile that can disable someone up to 98 feet away with a quick blast of electricity.

The company has successfully completed tests with the Office of Naval Research on the Extended Range Electro-Muscular Projectile (XREP). Unlike current Taser guns, this projectile is fired out of a shotgun. When it strikes a target, the projectile transmits a jolt of electricity, and a second round can then be fired.

In current Taser guns, the projectile has the same function, but it is connected to the gun and a power pack with a wire, limiting the range to 25 feet. XREPs are wireless."

Sara Jane Moore Update

Some of you weren't even born when Sara Jane Moore took a shot at an American president, but I remember it well.

Woman who tried to kill Ford freed - Yahoo! News: "SAN FRANCISCO - Sara Jane Moore, who took a shot at President Ford in a bizarre assassination attempt just 17 days after a disciple of Charles Manson tried to kill Ford, was paroled Monday after 32 years behind bars. Moore, 77, was released from the federal prison in Dublin, east of San Francisco, where she had been serving a life sentence, the Bureau of Prisons said."

Local Crime Update

Santa Fe, Texas, is about six miles from Alvin. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for pointing out this criminal activity in my locality.

iWon News - Man Allegedly Steals Neighbor's Panties: "SANTA FE, Texas (AP) - Police arrested a neighbor after a woman reported some of her undergarments had been stolen from her house. Charles Michael Clark, 30, has been charged with burglary and is free on $20,000 bond. Sgt. Eric Bruss said the woman had been out of town when she returned home and found a barefoot man in the living room. Bruss said the man fled.

Clark was arrested Sunday outside his home, a couple of blocks away, police said.

The woman, whose name hasn't been released, reported a bra and some panties were missing.

Clark told KTRK television that he had been doing drugs and was, quote: 'stoned and stupid.'

Clark also apologized during the television interview.

'I took her bra, but I didn't know nothing about her panties,' Clark said."

D. B. Cooper Update

FBI has 'reignited' Cooper hijacking case - "PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The FBI is resurrecting the mysterious case of D.B. Cooper, who 36 years ago hijacked a plane and parachuted near Portland with $200,000 in stolen loot.

The bureau said in a news release Monday it is releasing new information to the public, including sketches, saying 'You can help.'

'Would we still like to get our man? Absolutely,' the release said. 'And we have reignited the case — thanks to a Seattle case agent named Larry Carr and new technologies like DNA testing.'"

We Interrupt this Blog for an Important News Bulletin

SFGate: Daily Dish : Federline Charms Hilton: "Britney Spears' ex-husband Kevin Federline has been photographed chatting intimately to socialite Paris Hilton.

Federline was pictured whispering into the star's ear at a Las Vegas club over the weekend, before giving her a kiss on the cheek.

The couple then shared a joke before partying together for the remainder of the evening."

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 -- What a Year

It started off just fine, with an Edgar nomination for a story called "Cranked." It doesn't get much better than that. "Cranked" went on to be nominated for an Anthony and a Derringer, winning the latter. One out of three ain't bad. Oddly enough, however, the story wasn't picked for a single "best of the year" anthology. Maybe it wasn't as good as people thought.

Things went pretty much downhill after that. In June Judy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the rest of the year has been devoted to getting that taken care of. She's now in complete remission and has only one more chemo treatment to go. We're looking forward to reaching the end of that road.

However, on Christmas night, we discovered that Judy's 95-year-old mom has multiple brain tumors. She's in the Clear Lake Regional Medical Center now, and we're waiting to find out what the doctors conclude about our options. Judy has an appointment at MD Anderson on Wednesday, and she can't miss that. I have to be with her. Then her final chemo treatment is a week from today, January 7. She's going to feel terrible after the treatment, which will take the full day. We don't know what we'll do about her mother during that time, since we don't even know where her mother will be. Seems as if 2008 isn't going to get off to a promising start for us.

As you can see, we're not out celebrating tonight. I'm doing this blog entry about a half hour after returning from the hospital, and pretty quickly we'll hit the hay so we can be up and at 'em tomorrow.

My wish for all you blog readers is that 2008 will be a wonderful year, with good health and happiness for all. And if you're out there having fun tonight, drink a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Dave Barry's Year in Review

Dave Barry's year in review - 12/28/2007 - "• Toward the end of the year, entire days went by when it was possible to not think about Paris Hilton."

Always worth reading, though I must respectfully disagree with the above assertion.

Craby Joe's, R. I. P.

Franklin Avenue: "Craby Joe's has served as a watering hole to John Fante, Charles Bukowski, and many other great souls who drew from this well of characters and atmosphere from the wrong side of the tracks. Its now-dead neon sign blinked gaily in the opening credits for 'Barfly,' and its pickled eggs were the day's only protein for too many.

Gentrification has come to Skid Row, and now Craby Joe's, the final holdout among the dozens of bars that once lined Main Street, is being shoved into history's dustbin. Its neighbor the Cecil Hotel, already on the skids when Raymond Chandler described it in early short stories, is now a self-described boutique hotel, a destination for the discerning European traveler."

"Tumbleweeds" R. I. P.

'Tumbleweeds' Comic to End This Month After 42 Years: "NEW YORK Tom K. Ryan will end his 'Tumbleweeds' comic Dec. 30 after 42 years.

The 'cowboy comedy strip,' which also includes Native-American characters, is distributed by King Features Syndicate."

Gator Update: New York in 2108 UnBeige: "The tropical temperatures have brought a huge alligator problem to Central Park, although New Yorkers have recently taken to taming alligators from birth and keeping them as pets. The city's first 'alligator run' has just opened in Washington Square Park, which is now lush with palm trees."

Stark House March Book

I've heard of these, but I've never run across copies. After reading Ken Bruen's intro, I'm more eager than ever to read the novels themselves. Stark House continues to go great work.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

This is Another of Those Links . . .

. . . that you really don't want to click.

John Scoleri's I AM LEGEND Page

In his comment to my post on I Am Legend, John Scoleri mentions that he must be the guy I talked to at a WFC years ago, and indeed he must. He has a great page with all the cover scans. Check it out.

The World's Most Beautiful Libraries


This Top Ten Is a Little Different

I've never seen any of these, of course, and I never will, but it was fun to read about them.

The Top 10 Films of 2007 That You Never Heard Of � PopMatters | Blogs | Short Ends and Leader: "As part of this Decalogue, we have three clear comedies, one documentary, three horror films, a pair of avant-garde grindhousers, and a spaghetti western homage. They add up to one amazing set of movies, a collection of creativity the likes of which many of you have never seen."

Attention Bikers

The latest in smart accessories. Thanks to Jeff (Mr. Good Taste) Meyerson for the link.