Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stand-Off in New Jersey!

Cardboard figure keeps police at bay - Breaking News From New Jersey - "A cardboard figure of a person inside a Somerset County bank kept police at bay for 90 minutes tonight, authorities said.

The standoff at the PNC Bank on routes 518 and 601 in the Skillman section of Montgomery Township ended at about 10:20 p.m., Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest said."

Very Bad Deaths -- Spider Robinson

It's hard to know what to say about Spider Robinson's Very Bad Deaths. Robinson's best know as a science fiction writer, and while this book has SF elements, it's not really SF. I'd call it a serial killer novel, but it's not really that, either.

The story begins with a huge coincidence. A telepath lives on a deserted island near Vancouver. A plane piloted by a serial killer is in trouble and passes over his house. He picks up the killer's thoughts of regret missing out on torturing and killing a family of four. But the plane rights itself, and the killer is saved. So how does the telepath prevent the murders?

He goes to the one person he can stand to be around, his former college roomie, Russell Walker. Walker's a newspaper columnist, sunk in depression because of the death of his wife. He knows nothing about how to do what the telepath (whose nickname is Smelly) wants him to or how to prevent the murders. They don't know the telepath's name or the name of the family. Walker's attempts to do something, with the help of a woman cop, take up the first 2/3 of the book. The last third brings in the killer.

The Walker character seems closely based on Robinson himself. There are flashbacks to his '60s college days that do little to advance the plot, plus plenty of opinionated digressions. Some nice descriptions of the landscape, too. Since it's essentially a four-character story, you get to know them pretty well. You might not like Walker much. He doesn't seem to be quite the nice guy he says he is. I'm saying no more about the plot, but you might not be too thrilled at the resolution, either. There's a sequel, but I haven't decided if I'll read it. I liked a lot of things about the book, but maybe not enough to read another in the series.

I think Robinson's a Robert B. Parker fan. Key clue: Use of the line, "We'd be fools not to."

Untold Truths -- Kevin Costner

If you're a little skeptical about a new CD from a 53-year-old guy who's better known for other things, I can't blame you. So was I. But by golly, I like what I'm hearing from Kevin Costner and Modern West. Costner's not Elvis, but he's got a voice that's suited to the kind of upbeat country songs on Untold Truths. I especially like the first two songs, "Long Hot Night" and "90 Miles an Hour," but they're all pretty good. If you don't like Costner's movies, but you do like country rock, give his CD a try. It might surprise you.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Okay, I'll admit it. I enjoyed this movie. Sure, it has the same plot as every sports movie ever made, from The Bad News Bears to Dodgeball, but you gotta go with what works. The fat panda gets chosen as the next kung fu savior, so he has to become the greatest martial arts expert every known in 24 hours (sort of like Bob the Nailer in The 47th Samurai; apparently this, too, is a plot staple, at least in samurai movies). If he doesn't, then the evil villain kung fu guy will destroy the village and maybe the world. Jack Black voices the panda, and he's good, but Dustin Hoffman, as the kung fu master, steals the show.

Why I Don't Shop on Black Friday

Worker dies at Long Island Wal-Mart after being trampled in Black Friday stampede: "A worker died after being trampled and a woman miscarried when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island Wal-Mart Friday morning, witnesses said.

The unidentified worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him."

'Till Gabriel Blows His Horn

Growing in a yard down the street from me.

This Year's Bad Sex Award Winner

Book Case at The Times � Blog Archive � The Bad Sex Awards 2008: "The winner of this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award is Rachel Johnson, the novelist sister of Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson. Johnson beat former Tony Blair spin doctor Alistair Campbell and veteran writer John Updike to become the 16th winner of the award run by the Literary Review and established by Auberon Waugh to “gently dissuade” authors from including “unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels”. The awards were presented by actor Dominic West star of The Wire at the In & Out club in London on Sunday night."

The relevant passage is at the link.

CROOKED Wants You. . .

. . . to write stories. Click here for the full info.

Forgotten Books: HARDMAN #1 ATLANTA DEATHWATCH -- Ralph Dennis

I recommend any books in the Hardman series, but start with the first one. As you can see from the cover, they were marketed like any other men's adventure series from the '70s, but they were a cut above. Sure, Dennis wrote fast, but the writing's very good for the most part. Some books are better than others, but they're all fun if you like hardboiled p.i. stories. The setting (Atlanta) is different, and Hardman himself is an intriguing character. He has a black partner, Hump Evans, who's a bit like Parker's Hawk, and I wonder if Parker read this series.

From the back cover: [Hardman's] laws of right and wrong are his own, and he's willing to live and risk dying by them." The case involves "a beautiful blonde, a Black Mafia leader, a white politician, and a murder who strikes at victims regardless of race, creed or sex."

If you haven't read these books, you've missed a treat.

Mysterious Island

Thursday, November 27, 2008

OMG! Will the Persecution NEVER End?

OMG! Paris Hilton ‘booed at gig’ | Celebrity News | Now Magazine: "Paris Hilton is said to have been reduced to tears at a nightclub appearance earlier this week.

The heiress was due to take to the stage for the 16th birthday party of socialite Crystal Audigier at LA’s Kress nightclub.

But when the crowd realised their surprise guest was Paris, 27, they started to boo."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Man shoots teen who 'apparently looked at him the wrong way,’ police say | Top Stories | "HURST -- Police searched for a gunman Wednesday who opened fire on a teen after the youth apparently looked at him the wrong way at an apartment complex.

The 16-year-old was hit in the right buttocks, and his injury was not life-threatening, police said Wednesday."

Croc Update (Family Pool Edition)

Croc takes swim in family pool | Weird True Freaky | "A ONE metre-long crocodile has been found in a backyard swimming pool in Darwin.

The Northern Territory News reports Karen Sanderson, 40, had just jumped into the family's 5m saltwater pool in Darwin's rural area of Noonamah on Monday night, when her husband Steve noticed a dark shape resting on the bottom.

'He was obviously a croc - you could see his teeth hanging out the side of his mouth when he had it shut,'' Mr Sanderson said."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

The Fall

The Fall is the best-looking movie I've seen in a long time. It bombed at the box office, and in fact was barely released. Maybe nobody knew how to sell it. Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) plays a stuntman in early 20th century Hollywood. He's been crippled in a fall. He's suicidal and in a hospital in which a young girl played by Catinca Untaru (in a fine performance) is also a patient. Pace begins telling her stories, starring himself as the Blue Bandit, to persuade her to get him the pills he needs to kill himself. The tales of the Blue Bandit get grimmer as they come to an end. The girl is hurt in a fall herself, but she recovers, and the magic of the movies brings her happiness later on as she works in the orange groves with her family. Judy found this movie boring and slow. I can see why, but even in the slower parts, it's a wonder to look at. One of these days when you want to see something completely different, rent this one and see what you think.

Gator Update (Drug Bust Edition)

Yes, it's happened again. How many times does this make that a routine drug bust has led to the discover of a captive gator? Something's happening here, but I don't know what it is, Mr. Jones. And this time it's in Texas.

Drug bust leads to discovery of alligator in pit | News Bizarre | - Houston Chronicle: "A drug bust at a home in South Texas led to the discovery of a 7-foot-long alligator in a pit topped by wire.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino says game wardens were being called in to pick up the alligator and determine whether the suspects legally had it on their property.

The home in Alton that was raided Tuesday led to the recovery of about 50 pounds of marijuana and cocaine, some apparent stolen goods, plus discovery of the lengthy reptile."

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all of you who are celebrating have a wonderful day. Judy and I will be at our daughter's townhouse in Houston, along with our son and my sister. We'll have far too much to eat, but then that's a tradition, right?

Jules Verne's Mystery on Monster Island

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You Know You Want This

Busted Flush Press: "Coming fall 2009, Tower marks the first collaboration between crime writers Ken Bruen (The Guards, Once Were Cops) and Reed Farrel Coleman (The James Deans, The Fourth Victim). With four Shamus Awards and four Edgar Award nominations (and plenty of other trophies!) between them, Bruen and Coleman combine forces with a novel that is steeped in metaphysics, baseball, and brutality... Over the next few months leading up to publication, we'll reveal here bits and pieces about the book, with interviews, excerpts, contests and more. Today, we have a sampling of the cover copy. Enjoy, and please spread the word! [If you need any Ken Bruen or Reed Farrel Coleman bibliography checklist bookmarks, just shoot us an e-mail.]"

Plots With Guns

The latest issue is right here.

And who's not looking forward to this issue in 2009?

Another List I'm Not On

The NYT list of notable books.

Happy Anniversary, Casablanca!

"It was on this day in 1942 that the film Casablanca had its first showing. The event took place at the Hollywood Theater in New York City. It starred Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Casablanca is the story of a cynical freedom fighter-turned-nightclub owner, Rick Blaine, an American expatriate living in Casablanca and staying out of politics, staying on the good side of the local police chief. Then Victor Laszlo, a leader of the European resistance movement, turns up in town and needs Rick's help. He brings his wife, Ilsa, who turns out to be Rick's former lover, a woman who ran away from Rick and broke his heart. Rick has two visas to get out of occupied Casablanca, and he considers escaping with Ilsa, but gives his visas to Victor and Ilsa.

The film did pretty well and got decent reviews. The New Yorker magazine called it 'pretty tolerable.' But it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and now it's one of the best-loved films of all time, and one of the most quoted."

Top 20 Optical Illusions

A list nobody will argue with, I'll bet. Click here.

Excellent Interview with Bob Randisi

It's in Shots Magazine.

Paris Hilton Update

Paris 'desperate' to win Benji back - New Zealand's source for entertainment news, gossip & music, movie & book reviews on "Paris Hilton has been desperately trying to win ex-lover Benji Madden back.

The heiress chased her former boyfriend across Los Angeles on Saturday night in an attempt to reconcile with him following their split last week.

Paris had reportedly been bombarding the Good Charlotte rocker with text messages, but he refused to reply."

Monster Island

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Okay, Get Ready

Read all about it here.

Happy Birthday, Ricardo Montalban! Kathryn Grant! Noell Neill!

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

CRIME Blog | The Dallas Morning News: "Dallas County Constable Jaime Cortes is already feeling the Christmas spirit.

But this is not your average law enforcement holiday event.

Cortes, the Precinct 5 constable who was just re-elected, is holding a political fund raiser at the Hooters restaurant in downtown Dallas."

Our Tax Dollars at Work

TSA ads aim to get fliers on board with security measures - "WASHINGTON — The group that created Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog has a new potential icon: Stephanie the airport screener.

A $1.3 million ad campaign launched this month teams the Ad Council and the Transportation Security Administration trying to change behavior of passengers who no longer automatically accept post-Sept. 11 airport security procedures. The public relations push explains the terrorist threat and the reasons behind annoyances at checkpoints."

I Hope This Guy is Wrong

Satellite Radio Is Dead: "I hate to say it, but somebody has to: Satellite radio will come crashing down to Earth within the next two years. The newly merged Sirius XM Radio is already living on borrowed time -- and borrowed money -- and simply will not and cannot survive."

This Raises More Questions than it Answers

My parrot bonked my feather hat | The Sun |News: "HORRIFIED Jackie Lucking woke to find her parrot bonking her feather hat — while she was wearing it!

Her pet Shrek flew into a lust-filled frenzy after swallowing nine SlimNSexy diet pills, which also boost sex drive."

The Black Scorpion

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

AandE reality suits Steven Seagal - Entertainment News, TV News, Media - Variety: "Steven Seagal can now add 'reality TV lead' to his resume, as A&E is in production on nonfiction skein 'Steven Seagal: Lawman' in New Orleans.

According to the net, Seagal has been working on and off as a fully commissioned deputy with the Jefferson Parish County Sheriff's Office for nearly two decades. One of his stints found him assisting with recovery efforts during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

'Lawman' also will document his life off the beat, including his musical and philanthropic activities in the Big Easy."

This Can't Be Good

Lee Goldberg has a snipped from PW. It seems that HMH has "temporarily stopped acquiring manuscripts." You can read Lee's post here.

Jeff Meyerson is Famous


...we would observe that today is Jeff Meyerson's 60th."

Happy birthday, Jeff!

Croc Update (Swiss Edition)

150 million-year-old skeleton of a marine crocodyliform, metriorhynchus, found. - swissinfo: "Palaeontologists have announced the discovery of a 150 million-year-old skeleton of a marine crocodyliform - a unique find for Switzerland.

Up until now, discoveries of the metriorhynchus have only been made in a handful of countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Argentina and Chile."

The Poll is Closed

The results are here: Sci-fi special: Your all-time favourite science fiction - 12 November 2008 - New Scientist: "Sci-fi special: Your all-time favourite science fiction"

Croc Update. Or Gator Update. Or Caiman Update (Nobody's Business Edition)

Connecticut Law Tribune: To Homeowner, $35 Fine Is A Big Croc: "Former Greenwich resident and pro se appellant Gary Ryder won’t say whether he has a pet crocodile. Or alligator. Or caiman, for that matter.

But a police officer reported seeing some type of seven- or eight-foot-long reptile in Ryder’s bathtub on a late summer afternoon in 2004. Ryder’s response: Whatever was there was not anyone else’s business, especially not the police officer’s."

Penguin's Cool Philip Marlowe Set

You get the poster, too. They have other sets and posters. You can check them out at the link.

Penguin Sets - Penguin UK: "Philip Marlowe is the quintessential hard-boiled private investigator. Gumshoeing the mean streets of Los Angeles in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, Marlowe is on the trail of mobsters, hoods, femme fatales, killers, liars, drunks, crooked police and anyone else looking for a short cut to the American Dream.

The seven novels and four short stories collected in these eight books reveal a dark, wicked world where the gun trumps honesty every time."

Iron-Age Torc

I remember Peter Tork.

Metal detector man's �350,000 Iron Age neckband - Telegraph: "Maurice Richardson discovered the Iron Age gold and silver choker, known as a torc, in a Nottinghamshire field near his Newark home.

Archaeologists believe the torc, the most expensive single treasure find since 1996, was made by the Iceni tribe, once headed by Boudica, which had its power base in present-day East Anglia.

Four other similar torcs have been discovered, but they were all found some 100 miles away in Norfolk."

Chariots of the Bulgarians

Bulgarian archaeologists discover ancient chariot: "Archaeologists have unearthed a well-preserved 1,800-year-old bronze chariot at an ancient Thracian tomb in southeastern Bulgaria, the head of the excavation said Friday.

'The lavishly ornamented four-wheel chariot dates back to the end of the second century A.D.,' Veselin Ignatov told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the site, near the southeastern village of Karanovo."

Conquest of Space

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why Didn't Texas Think of This?

Noise violatiors in Fort Lupton sentenced to listen to Barry Manilow : Local News : The Rocky Mountain News: "FORT LUPTON — Barry Manilow's 'I Write the Songs' may begin with the line, 'I've been alive forever,'' but for noise ordinance violators, listening to Manilow may feel like forever.

Fort Lupton Municipal Judge Paul Sacco says his novel punishment of forcing noise violators to listen to music they don't like for one hour has cut down on the number of repeat offenders in this northwestern Colorado prairie town.

About four times a year, those guilty of noise ordinance violations are required to sit in a room and listen to music from the likes of Manilow, Barney the Dinosaur, and The Platters' crooning 'Only You'"

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Economy has new-car dealers shifting to used-car focus | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News: "Dust rises daily from Prestige Ford in Garland, grit that doesn't quite fit this spare era.In the worst new-car market in 25 years – and at a time when most car dealers are cutting way back – Prestige owner Randall Reed is spending $6 million to extensively remodel a portion of his dealership and convert his former new-car operation to a used-car superstore."

But What about us Geezers?

BBC NEWS | Technology | Online time 'is good for teens': "Surfing the internet, playing games and hanging out on social networks are important for teen development, a large study of online use has revealed.

The report counters the stereotypical view held by many parents and teachers that such activity is a waste of time."

Ths News Doesn't Make my Day

Sunday Express | UK News :: Clint hangs up Magnum: "CLINT EASTWOOD has squinted his last on the big screen. He is set to retire from acting after a career spanning more than 50 years.

Clint, 78, says he has no plans to appear in films again after starring in Gran Torino, a drama about a racist veteran of the Korean War."

Carrie Fisher Has Had an Odd Life

And she sure does write about it well.

The Devoured Planet

That would have been a good title for a novella in Imaginative Tales.

Remains of devoured planet discovered - 22 November 2008 - New Scientist: "A DUST cloud around a dead star may be all that's left of a planet that was eaten like a peach.

Observations of the cloud around the white dwarf G29-38 by a team led by William Reach of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena suggest it is most likely to be the shredded core of a gas-giant planet like Jupiter (The Astrophysical Journal, in press)."

When Worlds Collide