Saturday, March 15, 2008

Simply Ballroom

This afternoon Judy and drove down to Galveston to see Simply Ballroom. It's a show that has overtones of Dancing with the Stars and American Idol. With Debbie Reynolds thrown in for good measure. Nine couples, all dance champions from around the world, do the quick step, foxtrot, waltz, and so on. Reynolds is the host, and two Idol finalists provide some vocals. I've never seen a single episode of Idol, but the two are Kimberley Locke and Anthony Fedorov from season four.

It's a lot of fun to watch the dancers, who are all young and full of a lot more energy than I remember having when I was their age. It was kind of nice to see Debbie Reynolds, a native Texan, and her monologs were amusing. She even sang "Tammy," and did a fine job of it, too.

Why did we go to this show? Because Judy loves ballroom dancing. She's tried for years to get me interested in signing up for classes, but I have the dancing ability of a brick. It's a lost cause, so the least I could do was take her to see this. It was the first sort of "normal" outing we've had in a very long time, and we both enjoyed it.

Crimson Orgy -- Austin Williams

Crimson Orgy is both the title of the novel and the title of the movie that the characters in the book are making. The setting is Florida, c. 1965, and one of the nice things about the book is that we learn a good bit about how low-budget exploitation films were made back in those days. The industry started with nudies, very popular in the south, until Herschel Gordon Lewis changed the game with Blood Feast.

Gene Hoffman and Shel Meyer want to get in on a good thing, so they're making
Crimson Orgy, a movie now available only in grainy bootleg VHS copies because the original footage has disappeared. We learn this in the prologue, in which we also learn that a member of the crew died in mysterious circumstance during the filming. What really happened on the shoot? No one knows. Those who might know have either disappeared or kept silent.

But now we have the whole story in the novel. There's a lot more going on than is even hinted in the prologue. If ever the phrase "troubled production" was justified, this is the time. No spoilers here, though. You'll have to get the book if you want to find out all the problems.

Is there gore? Yes, both real and the movie kind. Is there sex? Sure. Humor? Yes, believe it or not. If you're interested in exploitation movies or just some entertaining reading, check it out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gator Update (Mystery Solved Edition)

Mystery of Alligator Movement Solved | LiveScience: "Instead of swishing fins, feet or flippers, alligators surprisingly move their lungs around inside their body to dive, surface and roll in water.

This newly discovered strategy may be one that many animals have been employing for millennia to maneuver and avoid creating ripples in the water — helping them sneak toward prey or away from predators.

Up until now, it was a mystery as to how gators 'manage to maneuver so gracefully without the fins and flippers used by fish, seals and other adept swimmers,' said researcher C.G. Farmer, a biologist at the University of Utah at Salt Lake City."

Vote for Me!

Thanks to Todd Mason for the link.

MTV Green-Lights Paris Hilton Reality Show - 3/13/2008 9:30:00 PM - Broadcasting & Cable: "MTV is saying, 'That's hot,' to Paris Hilton: The network green-lit a 10-episode series starring the socialite to run during the fourth quarter.

Paris Hilton's My New BFF (working title) will star Hilton on a hunt for a new best friend and will be paired with online voting site, which launched Thursday. The network planned to announce the series in a press conference in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday night."

Goodbye Sister Disco -- James Patrick Hunt

I've read and enjoyed three of James Patrick Hunt's previous books, which should surprise nobody since he writes the kind of books I like to read: lean, fast, unpretentious, well-plotted stories peopled with vivid characters. [The fact that one (very) minor character is named "Crider" has absolutely nothing to do with my enjoyment of the book, by the way.]

This one's about a kidnapping. Nothing new there, but the procedural details, the city of St. Lewis, the feelings of the people involved all seen real and just right. There's humor, too. Not too much, but just enough to keep things balanced. If you've never tried Hunt's work before, this might be a good place to start. You'll probably want to go back and try some of the others, too. I seem to have missed one, and I'm looking for it right now.


Mystery shrouds discovery of woman's ice-packed body - "NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (Map, News) - Police thought they were handling a routine drug bust at a ritzy hotel until they opened a large container and found a woman's body preserved on a bed of dry ice.

In the days since the macabre discovery, the tale has only gotten more bizarre."

Scarlett Update

Cap'n Bob didn't win.

Date with Scarlett sells for $40,100 on eBay - Access Hollywood - "LOS ANGELES - Scarlett Johansson put herself on the auction block — and it paid off well for the actress and the Oxfam relief organization.

The eBay auction, which was for charity, closed with a winning bid of $40,100 by a lucky bidder who lives in England, Page Six reports. The winner will get to accompany the star to the premiere of her upcoming film, “He’s Just Not That Into You.”"

Croc Update (Method Edition)

Hopkins' Lecter inspired by tarantula, crocodile - 13 Mar 2008 - NZ Herald: Entertainment News, Reviews and Gossip from New Zealand and around the World: "Sir Anthony Hopkins has revealed to Jim Carrey he based his most famous character Hannibal Lecter on a tarantula and a crocodile.

The screen legend - who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the cannibalistic serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs - revealed his animal inspiration to Jim Carrey."

But Can They Keep Whippersnappers off My Lawn?

The Smart Goggles that could make lost keys, mobile phones or iPod a thing of the past | the Daily Mail: "Those frustratingly frantic searches for mislaid car keys or mobile phones could soon be a thing of the past.

Japanese scientists have invented a pair of intelligent glasses that remembers where people last saw their keys, handbag, iPod or mobile phone."

The Further Erosion of our Precious Rights

Lafayette, Indiana Weather, News, Sports and Entertainment News Channel 18, Its News Where You Live: Pet store owner accused of posing as veterinarian: "HIGHLAND, Ind. (AP) - Indiana Department of Natural Resources investigators say a Highland pet store owner posed as a veterinarian and allowed a 9-foot alligator to roam the store after hours.

Reptile Emporium owner Brian Robenhorst has been charged with practicing veterinary medicine without a license and theft. He's scheduled to appear in court Monday for an initial hearing."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Know Your Cuts of Meat

What's the Beef? Making the Grade At Meat Judging - "GREELEY, Colo. -- It was cold, at 38 degrees, and noisy enough to require earplugs when Jace Hollenbeck approached the bloody competition floor. Tired from a week of 12-hour practices, he awaited the opening whistle with trepidation.

When the whistle blew, Mr. Hollenbeck says, he steadied himself for competition by remembering his coach's words of the night before: 'We didn't come here to lose.'
Intercollegiate meat-judging competitions have become a serious pursuit with more at stake than the trophies that go to winners of categories like lamb carcasses and pork butts. WSJ's Justin Scheck reports.

Then something happened that could help clinch the victory: He noticed the hardbone."

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

The Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) : What's This All About?: "The Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) is dedicated to a more perfectly spelling union.

This March through May, we, sworn members of TEAL, will be taking a road trip around the country to stamp out as many typos as we can find, in public signage and other venues where innocent eyes may be befouled by vile stains on the delicate fabric of our language. We do not blame, nor chastise, the authors of these typos. It is natural for mistakes to occur; everybody will slip now and again. But slowly the once-unassailable foundations of spelling are crumbling, and the time has come for the crisis to be addressed."

Tommy Westphall's Mind

Know who Tommy Westphall is? If you do, you might be interested in this exploration of a multiverse almost as complicated as the one created by Michael Moorcock. Link via Neatorama.

Tommy Westphall - A Multiverse Explored: "Tommy Westphall's Mind explores the most elaborate television crossover universe in the history of the medium!"

Million Dollar Murder (aka Four Dead Mice) -- Thomas Black

So who's Thomas Black? I know nothing more about him than that he wrote this book narrated by private-eye Al Delaney. The book was published in hardcover by Rinehart and went through at least two printings in paperback from Bantam (my copy is of the second). After that, as far as I know, Black and Delaney disappeared. Maybe Black is a pen name. I looked on the Thrilling Detective website and found no trace of either him or Delaney, but maybe I wasn't careful enough.

Anyway, what about the book? Well, it sure has a complicated plot. Al Delaney works for a big detective agency, and he's called in when one of their clients, a bakery, wants to find out about four dead mice found in the dough. From there we get into an old crime, a dead man, a currently planned caper, and lots of tangled relationships. And a San Quentin Quail. That's what Delaney calls her, and this part of the book might make some readers these days a big squeamish. The SSQ is about fourteen, but she has a lot of appeal to adult men. And she's sexually active. She even appeals to Delaney. She's murdered fairly early on, and it's her murder that drives him through the rest of the plot. When it's finally all wrapped up, you might be like me, with your jaw dropped to the floor, or you might just go with it.

I liked the narration, and I even liked the complexity for a while. Then it all got away from me and veered over into the too-hard-to-believe. I'd read another book by black, though, if there was one.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

My Way News - Sheriff Threatens Reporters With Jail: "SAN DIEGO, Texas (AP) - When the Duval County sheriff said he would lock up reporters from local newspapers if they kept 'interfering' in his business, no one took the threat lightly.

For 20 years, Sheriff Santiago Barrera Jr. had done what he pleased with no challenges to his reign. He decided who sat in his jail and when they were released. Sometimes it was before a judge got involved and other times it was after.

'I brought the sheriff's department from nothing to what it is right now,' said the 67-year-old Barrera."

I Wouldn't Blog This, but . . .

. . . there's a Paris Hilton connection.

Gator Update (Hang 'Em High! Edition)

Top Stories - Vandals Trash Alligator Farm: "ST. AUGUSTINE, FL -- Investigators are looking for three people caught on tape vandalizing the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine.

The director of the farm says the vandalism happened sometime Tuesday between 11 p.m. and midnight.

Surveillance video shows three people, possibly boys in their late teens, entering the farm."

Update: They caught 'em.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Suspect Juri Was Involved

Yes, I'd like to renew this, please... - Yahoo! News: "HELSINKI (Reuters) - A Finnish library-goer apparently thought 'better late than never' and quietly returned a book on loan for more than 100 years to a library in Vantaa, in southern Finland.

The library had long since lost track of the loan but welcomed back to its collections the bound copy of a 1902 volume of Vartija, an active religious monthly periodical at the time.

'We are unclear when exactly it was borrowed and who returned it. There weren't any documents with it,' librarian Minna Saastamoinen told Reuters.

'There is an old note attached to the book which says there is a fine of 10 pennies a week for late returns,' she added.

The library sticker inside the cover, and the old-fashioned handwriting on it, showed the book was last officially loaned out at the beginning of the last century, she said."

There Are No Losers Here Tonight, Folks

Today I read in an unimpeachable source that until 1989, Oscar presenters had always opened the envelope and said, "And the winner is . . . ." In that year, however, someone pointed out that calling one of the nominees a winner implied that the others were, well, losers. So from that day forward, Oscar presenters have said, "And the Oscar goes to . . . ."

Of course, as we all know, it's an honor just to be nominated.

Gator Update (Photo Edition)

Henry and Mary Ann Melton have been traveling again, and they stopped for Mary Ann to get some nice gator photos. Check 'em out.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

The Associated Press: Legislative Aide Quits Over Phone Fakery: "AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A veteran legislative aide to a Texas state senator has resigned over allegations that he impersonated a state representative and a newspaper reporter in politically motivated schemes.

Todd Gallaher, who worked for state Sen. Bob Deuell, resigned Monday after acknowledging he had called an ethics watchdog and identified himself as a reporter, asking about an ethics complaint the watchdog had filed against the Republican lawmaker.

Gallaher already had been on leave since February, when he admitted to Deuell that he had used an e-mail address that appeared to belong to a Democratic lawmaker to send out embarrassing 20-year-old photos of a South Texas sheriff who was up for re-election."

TV Sweeps

You know how during Sweeps Month your stations all turn to news stories of housewife hookers and such? Well, here's a pretty funny parody of the promos for those news shows.

Link via Mike McGruff.

Croc Update (Interview Edition)

This is a great piece. Highly recommended for croc fans.

Adam Britton interview - Den of Geek: "Want a crocodile in your movie? Then you need to call Adam Britton. That's what the makers of Black Water did...

'They wanted the crocodile to leap out of the water, into a boat, and chase someone out of the boat and then jump out the other side. And obviously we said well, it's the kind of thing that's actually not that difficult to do'

Adam Britton left England for Australia to study crocodiles, and in the process, became a stop-off point for any movie and TV companies looking for quality croc footage in their features. He spared some time - via a mobile phone call to Australia that we suspect has cost us thousands - to tell us more..."

Don't Bogart that Joint, Gilligan

Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island busted for pot in Idaho | KTVB.COM | Idaho News: "A surprise birthday party for Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann on 'Gilligan's Island,' ended with a nearly three-hour tour of the Teton County Sheriff's Office and jail when the 69-year-old was caught with marijuana in her vehicle while driving home.

Wells is now serving six months' unsupervised probation for the crime. She was sentenced Feb. 29 to five days in jail, fined $410.50 and placed on probation after pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

U.S. Bowling Congress leaves Milwaukee for Texas - "MILWAUKEE (Map, News) - Milwaukee's attempts to keep its bowling heritage appear to have gone into the gutter.

The United States Bowling Congress, bowling's governing body, has decided to move its headquarters from suburban Milwaukee to Arlington, Texas. The group, which has more than 2.5 million members, had been in Milwaukee for more than 100 years."

This Is the Kind of Flashlight I Need

Thanks to Janet Rudolph for the link.

Gator Update (Egg Hunt Edition)

A great idea. More states should adopt it.

Newspaper - Leland, NC - Leland, North Carolina - Brunswick County - Lifestyle - Recreation - Entertainment: "KURE BEACH – The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher invites 3- to ten-year-olds to participate in its 7th annual Alligator Egg Hunt on Mar. 22. The program includes candy, prizes and fun ways to learn about alligators.

Participants will make their own alligator egg baskets, handle alligator skulls and teeth and get a close-up look at a live ‘gator hatchling. The event culminates in the aquarium’s memorial garden with a search for hidden “alligator eggs.”"

Ice Axe Update

BBC NEWS | England | Norfolk | Ice Age axes found in North Sea: "Axes from the Ice Age used by mammoth hunters when the North Sea was dry have been found from under the water off the Norfolk coast.

Dutch amateur archaeologist Jan Meulmeester found the 100,000-year-old hand axes in gravel dredged from eight miles (13km) off Great Yarmouth.

Bones and teeth were also found along with the 28 axes.

Man used to roam the area now covered by the North Sea using flint tools to butcher animals such as mammoths."

I'm Crushed

But I love the guy's initials.

Celebrity gossip on Now Magazine: "Paris Hilton has sparked speculation she's engaged after she was snapped with a ring on her third finger, left hand.

The heiress has been dating Good Charlotte rocker Benji Madden for only a month.

But at the Grand Opening of the Kim Vo Salon in Las Vegas on Friday, she proudly displayed the diamond-encrusted ring with the initials BM."

Once Again, . . .

. . . Texas leads the way.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sordid Lives

Judy and I sat down on Sunday and watched a movie for the first time in more than a month. This one had arrived from Netflix and had been sitting on the kitchen table since February 8. Wouldn't you know it would be about the effects that the death of a mother has on her family?

Turns out that didn't bother us, though. The movie's very funny, very much in the vein of Greater Tuna and the sequels, with the same kind of quirky characters and some great lines. In fact, the transvestite, Brother Boy, seems to have studied the Tuna guys with avid intensity.

I looked up the movie in the Wikipedia just for kicks and discovered that it's a cult fave with the LGBT crowd, especially in the South. It's easy to see why.

The tag on the poster ("A Black Comedy about White Trash") doesn't really cover it, but it's close enough. If you like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you'll like. Quite a few people must like it because it's going to become a TV series this summer.

Whatever Lola Wants . . .

Dierker musical to have 2 free readings | - Houston Chronicle: "While most people know Larry Dierker as a former Houston Astros pitcher and manager and two-time All-Star, he's also (as most may not know), the author of a new musical, his first.

Drawing on his four decades in baseball, Dierker has written the book and lyrics for Old Stories, which depicts the fictitious 1970 Washington Capitols and their star right fielder Arthur 'King' Cole. While his team is making a run for the National League pennant, Cole is fielding problems with a new love and declining career.

Houston pianist/composer Paul English has written the music."

The Return of The Saint

The Saint is coming back to TV - TV Squad: "The Saint is rising again. The venerable character, who was created by writer Leslie Chareris in novels in the 1920's, will be back on television in a contemporary setting, and actor James Purefoy (Rome) has been in talks to play Simon Templar, the suave, British 'good guy' thief. Aside from Purefoy, the Hollywood Reporter writes that the production team includes first class talent: Homicide's Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana (Oz), writer Jorge Zamacona, Bill Macdonald, and the original TV Saint himself, Roger Moore, and his son Geoffrey Moore."

Not That There's Anything Wrong with That

::: The NEW Voice of New Orleans ::: :::: "New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says he is 'a vagina-friendly Mayor.'

Nagin made the remark while welcoming the author of the Vagina Monlogues, Eve Ensler to the city to promote the 'V-Day' celebration in New Orleans next month."

Ned Kelly Update

Outlaw Ned Kelly's remains 'found' - Telegraph: "Australian archeologists said they believe that they have found the grave of Ned Kelly, the notorious bushranger who was captured by police troopers in 1880.

He was brought down in a hail of bullets with shots to his legs, arms and groin, which his home-made suit of armour had left unprotected.

The son of an Irish convict, Kelly was hanged at Old Melbourne Jail in 1880, but documents show his remains and those of 32 other executed prisoners were exhumed and reburied at"

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Hat tip to TechBlog.

Amazon: What are you hiding? | Computerworld Blogs: "Now, it's March, 2008, and Amazon is still stubbornly hiding the most basic facts about the Kindle while trying at the same time to paint a picture of success based entirely on the very facts it conceals. For example: How many Kindles has Amazon sold?"

Scott Cupp Has a Web Page

And there's a link to his latest story, "Johnny Cannabis and Tony, the Purple Paisley (Sometimes) Colored Lab Rat." Check it out.

The Greatest Living Sci-Fi Short Story Writer in San Antonio, TX | Scott A. Cupp: "Welcome to the website of Scott A. Cupp, your guide to the world of the weird tomorrow, the odd today and the abnormal yesterday. We will strive to show you the ins and outs of Scott's mind. (Even though it has been banned by the Good Taste League.) So get your tourbooks ready and start your audio player when you see the stoned rat. It's going to be a wild ride."

No Comment Department

Kentucky Lawmaker Wants to Make Anonymous Internet Posting Illegal - Video - WTVQ 36 - Lexington, Kentucky: "Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Sword-Edged Blonde -- Alex Bledsoe

If you're looking for a solid mystery/fantasy crossover, you could do worse than The Sword-Edged Blonde. The book started off a bit slowly for me. Maybe it was the fact that the opening violated one of Elmore Leonard's rules about beginning with the weather. Or maybe it was the fact that the first episode doesn't have much, if anything, to do with the rest of the novel. But when the story gets rolling, it works just fine.

Eddie LaCrosse has sword, will travel, but he's not eager to go to work for his former best friend, who's now a king. If he takes the job, Eddie will have to confront an unpleasant event from his past, one that he's never told the truth about to anyone. However, the king is the one person Eddie can't turn down, so he takes the case. After that, we get a mystery plot that works pretty well, a fantasy setting that's not overly heavy with magic and wizardry, the streetwise atmosphere of a good hardboiled novel with some of the trappings of noir, a narrator with an engaging voice, plenty of action, and a satisfactory resolution. Good stuff. Check it out.

Darrell Awards

I just read on Henry Melton's blog that his Emperor Dad is up for a Darrell Award at MidSouthCon. I enjoyed the book, and I hope Henry scores.

No More Spotted Dick?

British home-cooking 'is becoming extinct' - Telegraph: "Traditional British dishes such as toad in the hole and spotted dick could disappear from dining tables by 2021 as households increasingly turn to foreign cuisine, it has been claimed.

New research shows that Britons rarely make dishes such as steak and kidney pie or jam roly-poly from scratch any more, and are far more likely to cook curries and pasta meals from recipes."

Happy Birthday, Mickey Spillane!

I wish he were here to celebrate.

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media: "It's the birthday of crime novelist Mickey Spillane, (books by this author) the pen name of Frank Morrison, born in Brooklyn, New York (1918). He spent his childhood defending himself as the only Irish boy in a tough Polish neighborhood. His father worked in a hardware store, and it was there that Spillane saw a typewriter for the first time. He later said, 'I would type on it. ... I loved the sound it made ... [and] I knew I was going to be a writer.'

As a high school student, he wrote for a local newspaper, and he covered bootlegging scams and other criminal activity. He would make carbon copies of the newspaper stories and turn one copy in as a writing assignment for school and get paid for the other. In 1940, he got a job as a scripter of comic books for Funnies, Inc. Other writers required a week to produce a Captain Marvel story while Spillane could write one in a day."

Lost and Gilligan: a Comparison

Six Original And Creative Coincidences Between Lost and Gilligan's Island: "Lost and Gilligan's Island are more alike than you might think. Sure, they both are shows about people being stranded and forced to live on an Island (don't even get me started on the �it is a peninsula� ending) but it goes much deeper than that. The creators of Lost must have watched and dissected every episode of good ole Gilligan's isle and took the craziest parts from it to use in their new show. Here are just a few examples.

WARNING: If you are not caught up on Lost (as of this writing Season 4, episode 6) or Gilligan's Island (as of this writing, most of the original cast is dead) then do NOT read further."

Have I Mentioned before . . .

. . . that I don't like this?