Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Okay, so I've watched the first two Dr. Horrible episodes. I believe the third one goes live today, and I'll be there for sure. Very funny stuff.

Hellboy 2

The movie looks great. Ron Perlman has Hellboy down, and the rest of the cast is fine, too, though I did kind of miss David Hyde-Pierce as the voice of Abe Sapien.

The plot is your basic ring-of-power tale. A crown is divided into three parts that, if reunited, will give the wearer power over the Golden Army, which can destroy the world. So our paranormal heroes have to get the crown. Complications: Hellboy and Liz are having domestic difficulties, and Abe Sapien falls in love. This results in a lovely duet by Hellboy and Abe on "Can't Smile without You." Barry Manilow would be proud. Other complications: the human world isn't as fond of Hellboy and his pals as it should be, so will they go over to the dark side? Maybe because I've never read the comics, I didn't get some of the backstory stuff about Johann Krauss, and his seemingly sudden change of character threw me at one point.

Lots of fights, lots of explosions, and the screen is crammed with wonders. I didn't think it was a masterpiece, as a lot of people seem to, and it went on a little too long. While it's clearly a much better film than Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D in just about every way, I had a lot more pure fun watching that one.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I didn't go to Mama Mia! it's because the theater was
(I'm not making this up) sold out.

Like Hunting Easter Eggs, only Better

The Associated Press: Fla. keeps gator farms full by culling wild nests: "IN THE EVERGLADES, Fla. (AP) — It's 7 a.m. in the marsh, and like some sort of cigar-chomping swamp cowboy, biologist Lindsey Hord is about to reach for something that could cost him a few fingers — or worse — if he's not careful.

It's the first day of Florida's annual alligator egg collection program, a yearly ritual to replenish stocks for the state's gator farmers."


Friday, July 18, 2008

New Issue of Astonishing Adventures Now On-Line

You can buy the print edition at Amazon, or you can read it for free right here. The cool website is here.

Jukebox Update

A couple of new jukebox selections on the right. Well, not new, but new to the blog. Crime-related, too.

Batman = Hamlet

Alas, poor Robin | | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, FL: "Fleming, a Ph.D. fellow in the University of Florida's English department, is writing a paper on the topic, and said the common themes shared by the two 'traumatized heroes' are what really draw crowds to theaters 70 years after the Batman character was created."

Yes, but is his Life Worth Living Now?

Cut-It-Out: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance: "When it comes to cutting costs, consumers always look at the big stuff. Postponing that vacation. Keeping your car a few more years. Nixing the addition on the house.

But it's often the little things that can make an even bigger difference. For instance, Joseph Montanaro, a certified financial planner for USAA Financial Planning Services, says he saved $130 a month just by kicking his daily Dr Pepper habit. That's a savings of $1,560 over a year."

Hat tip to Doc Quatermass.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Texas approves major new wind power project (AP) | Yahoo! Green: "AUSTIN, Texas - Texas, headquarters of America's oil industry, is about to stake a fortune on wind power.

In what experts say is the biggest investment in the clean and renewable energy in U.S. history, utility officials in the Lone Star State gave preliminary approval Thursday to a $4.9 billion plan to build new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from gusty West Texas to urban areas like Dallas.

'People think about oil wells and football in Texas, but in 10 years they'll look back and say this was a brilliant thing to do,' said Patrick Woodson, vice president of E.On Climate & Renewables North America, which has about 1,200 megawatts of wind projects already in use or on the drawing board in Texas."

That's Right, Sugar Land

5,000 gallons of molasses in Sugar Land | - Houston Chronicle: "SUGAR LAND, Texas — A sticky mess has been cleaned up after an overturned tanker truck poured 5,000 gallons of molasses onto a major Texas highway.

Drivers heading to Sugar Land were rerouted Thursday after the afternoon accident shut down Texas 6 at Southwest Freeway for eight hours.

The Houston Chronicle reports City of Sugar Land spokeswoman Pat Pollicoff said the road reopened around midnight Thursday because of the coating of 'healthy, all natural molasses.' The spilled molasses was supposed to be used in cattle food."

I've Been Kindled

I got an e-mail yesterday from someone who told me he was reading A Mammoth Murder in a Kindle edition. I didn't even know it was available that way.

The Little Professor Reviews . . .

. . . The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection. Click here.

Forgotten Books: RAFFERTY: WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME -- W. Glenn Duncan

I don't know much about W. Glenn Duncan except that he wrote a dandy private-eye series set in Dallas, Texas, while he was living in Australia.  The Rafferty books were published in the late 1980s by Gold Medal, and I think of them as throwbacks to the kind of p.i. books GM was doing in the '50s, except influenced as much by Robert B. Parker as by Spillane.

All the Rafferty books are entertaining.  I just picked this one because I ran across a copy the other day.  As you can see on the cover, Rafferty has a double caseload.  He's used as a pawn in a murder plot, and he's looking for the guy who tricked him.  At the same time, he's trying to help out a geezer who wants to keep some kids off his lawn.  Really.  (Okay, there's more to it than that, but I like the image.)  

Rafferty has an on-going relationship with a woman named Helen, who's much more interesting than, say, Susan Silverman.  He also has a psycho sidekick named Cowboy.  Even better, Cowboy has a psycho sidekick, his wife, Mimi, who stand about four feet tall.   Here's how Mimi's introduced on page 112:  

The 9mm Beretta she'd been concealing behind her hat went into a holster on her right hip. . . .

Mimi nodded and opened her jacket.  She had an Uzi slung under her right arm. . . .

Mimi giggled and scratched her forearms where the throwing knife sheaths chafed her skin.

You don't want to mess with Mimi.  But you do want to read these books, right?  I get the feeling that Harry Hunsicker's Lee Henry Oswald is Rafferty's direct descendant, though much more modern.  If you haven't read Hunsicker, try him, too.

The Amazing Transparent Man

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Mysteries: Why Is Houston So Much More Attractive Than NYC?: "Manhattan residents often find themselves dreaming of the paradise that is Houston, Texas. The cars; the affordable barbecue; the murders. It's a working man's promised land. But why must some people have the bad fortune to get stuck in NYC, while others live the dream by breaking free and making their way to the sweltering heart of Texas? Luckily there's a Harvard economist to explain exactly how Houston came to be so much better than New York!"

Hat tip to Mike McGruff.

The Good Humor Man

John Hall e-mailed to let me know that The Good Humor Man is scheduled to run at 6:00 A. M. Eastern Time on TCM, Monday, July 21. It's a great favorite of mine, and I have some comments on it here. I still have my VHS tape, but I'm going to get the movie on the DVR for sure.

And You Damn Kids Keep off my Lawn!

Why women smile on old age (and men just scowl) | Mail Online: "It will come as no surprise to all those wives who have watched greying husbands mutter into their cornflakes.

Old men are grumpier than old women.

A study of nearly 10,000 over-55s revealed that gender is the most important factor in deciding their quality of life."

Space Race Update

Griffin: China Could Beat US in Moon Race | Universe Today: "More bad news for NASA: even their administrator thinks China could beat the US to the Moon. Speaking with the BBC today, Michael Griffin shared his views about the Chinese space aspirations, pointing out that the super-state could, if they wanted to, send a manned mission to the lunar surface within a decade. NASA's return mission to the Moon is planned to launch, at the earliest, in 2020, so this news is bound to knock the wind out of the US space agency's hopes to continue where it left off in 1972…"

The Worst Movie Endings

Every one of these is a spoiler, so don't read 'em unless you already know the endings.

The End II: the worst movie endings ever, from Grease to Blade Runner - Times Online: "Last week, our Top 20 film endings prompted a huge response from readers. Now, Times critics present the 20 worst endings in film. From the absurd to the underwhelming, these are the closing scenes that have ruined memorable films."

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D

Let's get this out of the way: I loved it. I'm a sucker for 3-D movies, and if I'd seen this one when I was 12 years old, I'd have stayed right there in the theater and watched it again. Everybody knows the story. The twist this time is that Jules Verne's book isn't a novel. It's nonfiction. So a scientist and his nephew go looking for proof of that. They hook up with a hot mountain guide along the way, fall immense distances without harm, deal with monsters and such, and seem to be having a great time. Sure, the "science" makes no sense. Who cares? This isn't a documentary. Give your inner kid a treat and check it out.

Happy Birthday, Erle Stanley Gardner!

Writer's Almanac: It's the birthday of writer Erle Stanley Gardner, (books by this author) born in Malden, Massachusetts (1889). As a teenager, Gardner was arrested for promoting an illegal boxing match. While he was trying to keep himself out of jail, he became fascinated with the law and got a job as a typist in a law office. He taught himself the law while he worked and thent took the bar three years later and passed. After a stint working for a sales agency, he opened up a law office in Ventura, California, in 1921 and became famous there for his ironclad defenses. Because defending poor people is not the best way to make money, Gardner augmented his income by writing stories for pulp magazines—and he was quite successful at it. In 1933, Gardner wrote a full-length novel called The Case of the Velvet Claws, which was turned down by several publishers. It was finally bought by a publisher who suggested Gardner take the main character, a brilliant lawyer, and write a series of books about him.

Invisible Invaders

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another List I'm Not On

ABC News: Day of Reckoning? Super Rich Tax Cheats Outed: "Hundreds of super-rich American tax cheats have, in effect, turned themselves in to the IRS after a bank computer technician in the tiny European country of Liechtenstein came forward with the names of US citizens who had set up secret accounts there, according to Washington lawyers investigating the scheme."

The Goot Is Loose!

Look Out, New York Ladies: The Goot Is Loose! | The New York Observer: "About two years ago, Steve Guttenberg walked into the showbiz haunt Crustacean on Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

“I walked in and the maitre d’ made a big deal for me,” said Mr. Guttenberg. The Goot—as he’s known to his friends—appreciated the show. To hear him tell it, eating in public in Los Angeles is a dangerous business for an actor whose last box office hit was Three Men and a Baby in 1987."

Gwinnett Daily Post | Scattered, smothered, covered and hitched

Superb slideshow at the link!

Gwinnett Daily Post | Scattered, smothered, covered and hitched: "DACULA - As the famous twang of Hank Williams Jr. blasted from an SUV stereo Friday afternoon, about 30 folks socialized, sipped soda and puffed on cigarettes.

No, this wasn't a Fourth of July backyard barbecue. It was the run-up to a wedding.

In a Waffle House parking lot."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

The Associated Press: NASA to workers: Go boldly (in cup) for science: "WASHINGTON (AP) — The No. 1 need right now for some of the builders of the nation's next spaceship: Lots of No. 1.

Space program contractor Hamilton Sundstrand is seeking urine from workers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston as part of its work on the new Orion space capsule that would eventually take astronauts to the moon, according to an internal memo posted on the Web site

The need is voluminous: 30 liters a day, which translates into nearly 8 gallons. Even on weekends."

Victor Gischler Speaks

Anthony Neil Smith Speaks

Little Shop of Horrors

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Radar shows large, fast, unexplained object | - Houston Chronicle: "FORT WORTH, Texas — An enormous aircraft without transponders traveling up to 2,100 mph — at one time zooming toward President Bush's Crawford ranch — is similar to the mysterious object dozens reported seeing, according to radar documents examined by a group that studies unidentified flying objects.

'This shows ample evidence of UFO activity,' said Kenneth Cherry, Texas director of the Mutual UFO Network, which has been studying phenomenon earlier this year in Stephenville and Dublin, about 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth. 'They were turning at angles not possible by military aircraft.'"

A Signing

I just got back from Houston's Murder by the Book, where I attended a signing by Victor Gischler (Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse) and Antony Neil Smith (Yellow Medicine). They make a great comedy team, and everybody had a fine time. I taped the opening statements by both, and I'll post them tomorrow.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Denton pizza employee: Surprised to see dad when wig falls off robber | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "A Denton pizza worker said she was surprised when a fellow employee overpowered a would-be robber -- and even more surprised by who the bad guy turned out to be.
Whe she saw the face behind the wig and dark glasses, 'I dropped the money,' Ms. Martinez said. 'I said, 'Don't hit him again! That's my dad!' And he said, 'What's he doing here?' and I said, 'I don't know!' '"

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Will the Persecution Never End?

Hilton Blogs to Fight Fake Headlines - AOL News: "The socialite heiress turned reality-actress-musician is lashing out against all of the tabloid media rumors constantly being levied against her, saying on her MySpace blog that she is 'blown away by more lies that are going around.' She takes particular aim at the New York Post's Page Six column, saying: 'I'm sick of Page Six and other gossip sites printing completely false stories.'"

Thanks to John Duke for the link.

No Comment Department

Have Sex While You Sleep | LiveScience: "If you think it’s impossible to have sex while you sleep, think again, according to a new study.

There are at least 11 different sex-related sleep disorders, collectively referred to as “sexsomnia” or “sleepsex,” that affect people who are otherwise psychologically healthy—causing them to unknowingly engage in various sexual activities during the night."

Thanks to Doc Quatermass for the link. I believe he's taking a nap right now.

Texas History for Sale

Auction will offer chance to own piece of Texas history | Top Stories | "For lovers of Texas history, it doesn’t get much better than an artifact linked to the Battle of the Alamo.

And this weekend in San Antonio, a sword that is believed to have belonged to a defender in the legendary battle, along with scores of other historical items, will be part of the Frontier Times Auction."

The Kingdom

I watched this expecting a lot of explosions and a lot of shooting. I wasn't disappointed. The surprise was that the movie was more thoughtful than I'd supposed it would be. Don't get me wrong. It's not a philosophical meditation (things blow up real good), but it does have something to say.

Here's the plot: Terrorists strike an American compound in Saudi Arabia. An FBI forensics team is give five days to investigate. Will they find those responsible? (That's a rhetorical question, of course.)

The story moves so fast that there's not a lot of time for character development, but the actors make the best of the time they have, each one adding a little touch to make us see an individual instead of a type. I enjoyed it.

Okay, This is Really Scary

Celebrity Apes.

Link via Test Pattern.

Another List That Alvin, Texas, Isn't On

100 best places to live.

Hell Night

Gator/Croc Update (Poster Edition)

Thanks to Beth Foxwell for the link.

Monday, July 14, 2008

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

I'm all for making the ISS into an interplanetary spaceship.

Can Science Explain ABBA?

ABBA songs have staying power - The Boston Globe: "It only takes a single exposure, and in an instant, your whole day can change. The infection is rapid and feels potentially unending. One minute you're minding your own business and the next you find that you can't stop thinking, humming, or singing 'Dancing Queen.'

'Friday night and the lights are low. . .'

No matter what you try, you can't shake it. In fact, once you start thinking about ABBA, you're a goner. Next thing you know, you've moved to this: 'If you change your mind/ I'm the first in line. . .'"

100 Years of Ian Fleming

A very cool interactive timeline.

News from the Hard Case Crime Crew

Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai has announced a new pulp series titled THE ADVENTURES OF GABRIEL HUNT. Starting in May 2009, the new series will have a novel amonth, all by Gabriel Hunt. Well, they'll be published under that name, but they'll be ghostwritten. Maybe by people we know. Glen Orbik will provide the covers. “These books are for anyone who grew up reading H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs or watching Harrison Ford wield his bullwhip at the movies," Ardai says. “We’re talking classic adventure fiction, complete with horses, snakes, shovels, pickaxes, torches, traps, bottomless pits, barroom brawls, jungles, jewels, and just about everything else that’s ever made your heart beat faster.” You can see a cover here at Hunt’s website and sign up for future mailings.

Roller Boogie

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Don't Want to Be the Only Blogger . . .

. . . in the known blogosphere who doesn't remind you that this is going live on July 15. So consider yourselves reminded.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Texas leads nation in abstinence education funding | - Houston Chronicle: "AUSTIN — Texas spent a nation-high $17 million last year for abstinence education programs that continue to stir debate about whether classes promoting virginity before marriage work in public schools.

Federal statistics in June showed that 52.9 percent of Texas students in ninth through 12th grades had sexual intercourse, compared with 47.8 nationally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that Texas youths are less likely to use condoms."

More Bananas

Another issue from the old days. This one has a cover devoted to a TV show that I never watched.

Thrilling Awards

The International Thriller Writers group has announced its awards for 2008. The list can be found here. Congratulations to the winners and nominees.

Gator & Croc Update (Glaring Differences Edition) Life's Little Mysteries - What's the Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles?: "Coming face to face with a crocodile or an alligator, you'd likely see a mouth full of serrated teeth that would likely scare the bejeezus out of you.

Upon closer inspection, not recommended out in the wild, you'd spot glaring differences."

Savage Streets