Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Essay - Bail Out the Writers! - "My friends (as the nation’s most famous loser, John McCain, likes to begin his appeals), in these times of plummeting consumer confidence and evaporating labor markets, it is time to address the problem head on. We must now go boldly forward and bail out the writers."


Judge: Disclose undercover officers in Philly KKK melee | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/13/2008: "Both police and FBI witnesses said they learned of the purported rally through a leaflet and through a demonstration permit filed with city officials. But they also said the leaflet no longer exists, and city officials said the Klan never applied for or received a permit."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Dog feces DNA leads to man's conviction in rape | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "DUMAS — A Texas Panhandle man was convicted of rape and sentenced to three life terms in prison after tests showed dog feces found on a man's shirt matched DNA from the victim's pet.

Prosecutors presented DNA evidence from the rape as well but said the dog DNA found on the shirt of Rufus Sito Nanez III bolstered the case. He was convicted of a 2007 attack on a 27-year-old Dumas woman."

Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2008

Top 10 medical breakthroughs - Telegraph: "In this list TIME has selected 10 of the most important medical breakthroughs of the past 12 months."

Okay, Guys, Listen Up

How to buy underwear for women - Times Online: "John Lewis department store has set up a ‘lingerie academy' to ease the plight of men buying underwear for women."


Hopalong Cassidy Will Return to the Silver Screen: "300 producer Mark Canton is teaming up with Pterodactyl Productioins to bring two classic stories back to life. According to Variety, Canton is reviving the classic tale of Bill 'Hopalong' Cassidy for a new film version.

The character was created in 1904 by Clarence E. Mulford, which appeared in several stories and novels before hitting the cinemas in 1935. William Boyd portrayed Cassidy in 66 films that spanned through the 30s, 40s and 50s. The character spawned a number of spin-offs into comic books and radio programs and became the first Western TV series in history. Cassidy was also the first character to ever appear on a lunchbox."

10 Best Movies of 2008 (Stephen King's Picks)

Stephen King | Stephen King: 10 Best Movies of 2008 | Photos |

Probably the only list like this you'll see that includes Death Race.

Happy Birthday, Ross Macdonald

And to celebrate, you can read this review/essay by Roger K. Miller.  I recommend it.

Nice Bettie Page Tribute

An Appraisal - Always Comfortable in Her Own Skin - "The art critic John Berger once wrote: “To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself.” I’m pretty certain he never met Bettie Page, naked, nude or otherwise."

Archaeology Update (That Sounds Like a Monty Python Sketch)

Archaeologists In York Find UK's Oldest Preserved Human Brain - 24 Hour Museum - official guide to UK museums, galleries, exhibitions and heritage: "The skeleton of a man believed to be one of Britain's earliest victims of tuberculosis was found in a shallow grave at the site earlier this year, and they expected to find pre-historic farming landscape on the six and a half acre plot. What they got was the oldest human brain in the country."

The Black Godfather

Friday, December 12, 2008

Van Johnson R. I. P.

Actor Van Johnson Dies at 92 - "Van Johnson, 92, a disarming and popular Hollywood star of 1940s musicals and comedies who later proved effective as a G.I. grunt in 'Battleground' and a conflicted Naval officer in 'The Caine Mutiny,' has died.

Mr. Johnson died Dec. 12 at Tappan Zee Manor, a senior citizens home in Nyack, N.Y. No cause of death was immediately reported.

Starting in the late 1940s, Mr. Johnson took many viewers and reviewers by surprise for his dramatic performances.

He was especially good as a presidential candidate's wily campaign manager in Frank Capra's 'State of the Union' (1948) with Spencer Tracy as his client. Mr. Johnson also portrayed a sneaky aide to a general in 'Command Decision' (1948); and a cynical rifleman in William Wellman's 'Battleground' (1949), a film praised for its harrowing depiction of combat during the Battle of the Bulge."

Thanks to Cap'n Bob Napier for the link.

And I thought THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was Fiction

Five family members jailed for axe attack - The Local: "Five members of the same family were found guilty on Friday of involvement in a vicious axe attack against a 47-year-old man last spring near Haparanda in northern Sweden."

This Just In

Doctor's Advice: Leave the Toilet Seat Up - Yahoo! News: "One of the longest-running spousal debates may now be settled in favor of men and for the sake of little boys.

Leave the toilet seat up, some British doctors now say. The reason: a rising trend for heavy wooden and ornamental toilet seats to fall down onto the penises of unsuspecting (and just potty-trained) toddlers."

The Dukes

Doo-wop and crime.  My kind of movie.

Thanks to George Kelley for the tip.

Get Ready for Tonight

Sky Show Friday: Biggest, Brightest Full Moon of 2008: "Don't expect to spot an Apollo lunar lander. But Friday night, weather permitting, sky-watchers around the world will see the biggest and brightest full moon of 2008.

Although a full moon happens every month, the one that rises to[night] will appear about 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than the other full moons seen so far this year."

Forgotten Books: DRIVE EAST ON 66 -- Richard Wormser

Okay, as I said yesterday, it was inevitable that after seeing the title of James H. Cobb's West on 66, I was going to read it. Today's book is the reason why. I read it around 40 years ago, and I have to wonder if maybe Cobb's read it, too.

A cop named Andy Bastian is hired to drive a kid named Ralph from California to Kansas, where Ralph will be put into what's called, in the novel,s 1961 way, an insane asylum. Ralph is brilliant, and his father's quite rich. Accompanying Ralph and Andy is Olga Beaumont, a psychologist who's along to care for Ralph. They don't get far before it's apparent they're being followed.

This isn't an adrenaline-fueled thriller like Cobb's book. The characters following along aren't hate-filled gangsters and hitmen. There are no heart-stopping car chases, hot sex, and shoot-outs. But that doesn't mean there's no suspense. It's just a quieter kind, and it's played out along a route that runs in the opposite direction, as the titles indicate.

James mentions that Cobb's book isn't quite a pitch-perfect recreation of a Gold Medal novel. Wormser's book is pitch-perfect, not as a re-creation but as an original. Read the first couple of pages, and you'll know what I mean, I think. Wormser's descriptions of the people, the landscape, and the seedy motels are on the money. I like all Wormser's GM books, including The Invader, which one an Edgar for best paperback. If you get a chance, give one a try and see what you think.


Bettie Page, R. I. P.

Bettie Page dies at 85; pinup queen played a key role in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and later became a cult figure - Los Angeles Times: "Bettie Page, the brunet pinup queen with a shoulder-length pageboy hairdo and kitschy bangs whose saucy photos helped usher in the sexual revolution of the 1960s, has died. She was 85.

Page, whose later life was marked by depression, violent mood swings and several years in a state mental institution, died Thursday night at Kindred Hospital in Los Angeles, where she had been on life support since suffering a heart attack Dec. 2, according to her agent, Mark Roesler."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What to Carry in your BookSale Jump Bag

Hang Fire Books: Booksale Jump Bag: "Over the last few years of going to booksales, I've been developing a toolkit of essential and useful items to bring along. Here's the contents of my jump bag so far (more or less in order of importance)."

Link via Boing Boing.

Top 100 TV Lines of All-Time

Gallery - Top 100 TV Lines of All-Time

Link via Mike McGruff.

West on 66 -- James H. Cobb

When I saw the title of this novel on James Reasoner's blog, I knew I'd read it. It was inevitable, for reasons that will become clear tomorrow.

Thanks to James, I don't need to review the book. You can just read what he has to say, most of which I agree with. I do have a couple of things to add, though.

One is that while I agree with James that the book has all the ingredients of a Gold Medal novel and that it's a a very nice modern analogue to one of those books, it's just too long. Maybe there could have been one less car chase, though I have to admit that all the car chases are good ones.

Another thing is, what's that '56 Buick doing on the cover? There are two cars that play major roles in the book, but they're a '57 Chevy and a Chrysler 300. Not a Buick in sight. The '57 Chevy, by the way, is very well done and becomes almost a character in its own right.

All in all, a lot of fun, and I'm glad James pointed it out.

So It's Come to This

Pittsburgh schools may change grading policy - Midstate PA Local News, Weather, Sports & Entertainment - "PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Public Schools officials may change a policy that makes 50 percent the lowest grade students can receive -- even if they do zero work."

Geezer Alert!

Click here to feel really old.

Link via Dave Barry's blog.

Stone Idols

Exotic Stone Relics Shed Light on Pre-Hispanic Cuba: "Stone idols collected over the last two years at an archaeological site in Cuba were manufactured from exotic imported material for elite Indians, according to U.S. and Cuban researchers who announced their finds this week.

The relics, combined with new translations of Spanish colony 'newspapers' from the 1500s, help paint a picture of the Indian populations that Christopher Columbus encountered during his first voyage to the New World in 1492."

Archaeology Update

Rare artifacts uncovered in Roman baths dig | Lifestyle | Reuters: "ROME (Reuters Life!) - Excavations at an ancient Roman villa and bath complex in the outskirts of Rome have unearthed a wealth of surprisingly well-preserved artifacts, including the marble head of a Greek god, archaeologists said on Wednesday.

The site of the Villa delle Vignacce, toward Ciampino airport south of Rome, was first explored by archaeologists in 1780 who found statues that are now in the Vatican museum.

But excavations began in earnest only about two years ago, revealing a residence attached to an elaborate thermal bath complex dating to the 1st century A.D. complete with hot baths, large tubs and a communal latrine."

Snow in Alvin

It rarely snows here, so naturally even a thin dusting is cause for excitement. I took a few shots last night around 10:00. The snow is all gone this morning.


John Kelly - The 90 Minutes Washington Stood as Star - "'Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration.' Is this:

a) what the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler told Congress this week;

b) what I said to my teenage daughters last weekend;

c) a line of dialogue from one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made, and certainly the most famous one set in Washington?"

The article is more about the house featured in the movie than the movie itself. Click the link for a photo of the house as it is today, and even a video tour.

Hat tip to Beth Foxwell.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's Snowing in Houston!

Snow surprises Houston-area residents | Chronicle | - Houston Chronicle: "White stuff fell across much of the Houston area Wednesday evening, as temperatures hovered just above freezing, tying a record for the city's earliest ever snowfall.

Since 1895, according to data collected by Houston's Weather Research Center, snow has fallen this early just once — on Dec. 10, 1944 — during the last 113 years.

Typically, snow falls about every four years in the Houston area. The city's last snowfall was a memorable one, coming on Christmas Eve 2004."

Top Baby Names for 2008

Top 2008 baby names: Aiden and Emma - Parenting & Family - "Babies Zuma Nesta Rock and Bronx Mowgli, you're in the minority. Most parents abandoned unusual names for their children, opting instead for traditional names, according to a U.S. survey.

The top boy's name for the year remained Aiden, followed by Jayden, Ethan and Jacob with classic names like Matthew, Jack, Michael, Alexander, Daniel and William all featuring in a list of the top 50 most popular names.

The list, compiled from thousands of baby name entries on the specialist baby website, found that Emma replaced Sophia as the top girl's name followed by Isabella and Olivia with Sarah, Elizabeth and Anna also popular."

Yet Another List I'm Not On

Best novels of 2008 |

Archaeology Update

Mystery Pyramid Built by Newfound Ancient Culture?: "Several stone sculptures recently found in central Mexico point to a previously unknown culture that likely built a mysterious pyramid in the region, archaeologists say.

Archaeologists first found the objects about 15 years ago in the valley of Tulancingo, a major canyon that drops off into Mexico's Gulf Coast.

Most of the 41 artifacts 'do not fit into any of the known cultures of the Valley of Tulancingo, or the highlands of central Mexico,' said Carlos Hernandez, an archaeologist at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History in the central state of Hidalgo."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Man Caught with a Case of Crabs in South Texas | WOAI.COM: San Antonio News: "McALLEN, Texas (AP) - Ever on the lookout for drugs, guns and money, customs agents at a South Texas international bridge crossing busted 191 units of an unusual sort of contraband - hermit crabs."

Another Car List

Top 26 Coolest Movie Cars | Hecklerspray

And They've Never Had a Fight

Man lives with female robot | The Sun |News: "A BOFFIN too busy to find real love has INVENTED his idea of the perfect woman – a female ROBOT.

Inventor Le Trung, 33, created Aiko, said to be “in her 20s” with a stunning 32, 23, 33 figure, shiny hair and delicate features.

She even remembers his favourite drink and does simple cleaning and household tasks."

The 50 Worst Cars of All Time

The 50 Worst Cars of All Time - The 50 Worst Cars of All Time - TIME: "On the 50th anniversary of the Ford Edsel, TIME and Dan Neil, Pulitzer Prize-winning automotive critic and syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times, look at the greatest lemons of the automotive industry."

Takes a while to go through, but it's worth some time. Hat tip to Art Scott.

The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008

Foreign Policy: The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008: "Prognostication is by far the riskiest form of punditry. The 10 commentators and leaders on this list learned that the hard way when their confident predictions about politics, war, the economy, and even the end of humanity itself completely missed the mark."

The Thing from Another World

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Top 10 Heists

Mona Lisa - 1911 - Top 10 Heists - TIME

Dennis Yost, R. I. P.

Welcome to - News: "CINCINNATI (AP) — Dennis Yost, lead singer of the 1960s group the Classics IV, has died in an Ohio hospital. He was 65.

Yost died Sunday at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton, about 30 miles northwest of Cincinnati. He died of respiratory failure, hospital spokeswoman Marielou Vierling said.

The Classics IV's hits included 'Spooky,' 'Stormy' and 'Traces of Love.'

Yost had been in nursing homes since suffering a brain injury sustained in a 2005 fall, said Joe Glickman, the singer's friend and biographer ."

Link via Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Okay, This Looks Useful

Fact or Crap 2009 Desk Calendar

Thanks to Rick Robinson for the link.

Croc Update (Designer Jeans Edition)

'Croc-proof' jeans a winner - Northern Territory News: "FOUR tough Territorians have been recruited for an unusual job - wrestling with crocodiles while wearing designer jeans.

Matthew Owen, 17, Clint Bailey, 24, Luke Byrne, 20, and 21-year-old Kyle Christopher are looking good while caring for salties at Darwin's Crocodylus Park.

British fashion website asked what they call 'crocodile wranglers' to wear-in the jeans for six weeks.

They will then be auctioned online as the world's first 'crocodile-proof'' jeans, with proceeds of sales going towards wildlife conservation charities."

The Stars of A CHRISTMAS STORY and Where They are Now

Where are they now: 'A Christmas Story': "It wouldn't be Christmas without 'A Christmas Story,' the 1983 movie that became an instant holiday classic thanks to its winning cast and quotable scenes. Here's a then-and-now look at the gang from fictional Hohman, Indiana, who brought the 'original, traditional, one-hundred-percent, red-blooded, two-fisted, all-American Christmas' tale to life."

Clint Says It Ain't So

Clint Eastwood Says He's Not Retiring From Acting - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog: "In a rare sit down interview, Clint Eastwood confirms with 'Lyons & Bailes Reel Talk's' co-host Jeffrey Lyons that he is not ready to hang up his acting hat quite yet and sheds some light on his character in 'Gran Torino.'

When asked if rumors were true about his acting career ending, Eastwood said, 'Well I don't know about that. You know you kind of muse out loud sometimes in front of a journalist and they kind of put it down as an absolute. I'm just saying that I'm getting at the point in life at my age where they just don't write that many good roles and this role came along, and I enjoyed it.'"

Gator Update (Druggie Edition)

Yes, it's happened again. A gator has been found in a meth house. As I've wondered before, what's up with the drug/gator connection?

News Minute: Here is the latest Oklahoma news from The Associated Press: "JENKS, Okla. (AP) - A 2-foot-long and approximately 1-year-old alligator seized during a methamphetamine raid in Bethany has a new home at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. Authorities say the alligator was apparently caught in the wild in Florida and smuggled to Oklahoma before it was found during the drug raid."

End of an Era

Fans bid farewell to Polaroid film - "(CNN) -- Every day for a year, Tacey Willis looked for an eye-catching photo subject -- a ballerina, a rocker dude in a bookstore or three older ladies from the Red Hat Society. She allowed herself one shot each day, with only one piece of instant film.
Tacey Willis' 'Day By Day Polaroid' project contains 365 photos, movies, songs and quotes.

But halfway through that year, Willis abruptly took the money she'd saved for a down payment on a car and bought every piece of Polaroid film she could find. Why? Because the Polaroid Corp. announced it would stop making instant film. And without it her project, 'Day by Day Polaroid,' would never be complete.

Sixty years after Polaroid introduced its first instant camera, the company's iconic film is disappearing from stores.

Although Polaroid says the film should be available into 2009, this is the final month of its last production year."

The Thing

Monday, December 08, 2008

28 Years Ago

Fans to mark anniversary of John Lennon's death at Strawberry Fields in Central Park: "It was 28 years ago today that singer/songwriter John Lennon was fatally shot outside his Upper West Side apartment building by a deranged fan.

Every year since the tragic event on Dec. 8, 1980, fans have gathered to pay tribute to the gifted musician near the site of the shooting.

Despite the bitter temperatures, hundreds of people are expected to gather later today at Strawberry Fields - the memorial garden in Central Park that was created as a tribute to the ex-Beatle in 1985."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Yates High School teachers arrested on drug charges | Front page | - Houston Chronicle: "Three Yates High School teachers were arrested on drug charges today, bringing the recent total of similar arrests of Houston school district employees to at least 12."

Win a Zippo

David Thompson of Busted Flush Press is giving away Ken Bruen Zippos to the first 10 people who can answer a trivia question. Better click here right now and get in on the action before the Zippos are all gone.

Will the Persecution Never End?

The 100 Worst Movies of 2008 | 2008 Worst Films Guide - Times Online

Top 10 Data Blunders, 2008

The weirdest computing disasters of 2008 | Tech News on ZDNet: "The top 10 data blunders of 2008, compiled by data recovery firm Kroll Ontrack, have seen people across the world falling victim to acts of great stupidity and misfortune."

Ratcatcher -- James McGee

Matthew Hawkwood is a Bow Street Runner in the early 19th century. He's called on to investigate a stagecoach robbery and later to help out in the case of a disappearing clockmaker. It will surprise no reader of crime fiction that the two cases turn out to be related, though just how won't be quite so easy to figure out.

Ratcatcher has a lot going for it. The London setting is described in all its glory, from the high life to the low. Mostly low, and the sights, smells, sounds are everywhere. You want sex, adventure, duels, fisticuffs, fires, and derring-do? You got 'em, and in plenty.

The story became a little too James Bond in the 19th century for me, but it was a fine ride, and I've already ordered McGee's second book in the series, Resurrectionist, and I'm looking forward to see where it takes Hawkwood and the colorful cast of characters he hangs about with.

Top 25 Teen Idols

The Top 25 Teen Idols Of All-Time - List Of The Day: "Who doesn't love a teen idol? After all, they're so young! And as we age and slowly become decrepit, we look back at our youth and wonder at the innocence of it all. For the most part, I tried to stick with performers who were actual teenagers when they inspired their peers. However, Davy Jones was clearly a bit older when he swooned Marcia Brady's heart and he is the very definition of a teen idol, as was David Cassidy. These days, we're much better at making sure our teen idols are teenagers. Or at least were teenagers. Funny thing is they eventually grow up--like Britney. And develop into fine, fine citizens of the world. Or not."

Thanks (I guess) to Doc Quatermass for the link.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Soon to be a Sci-Fi Channel Movie

It's official: Men really are the weaker sex - Science, News - The Independent: "The male gender is in danger, with incalculable consequences for both humans and wildlife, startling scientific research from around the world reveals.

The research – to be detailed tomorrow in the most comprehensive report yet published – shows that a host of common chemicals is feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people."

Just What You've Been Waiting For

The O. J. Parole Clock.

Mary Had a Little . . . KABLOOIE!

The lamb busters... NATO investigates claim that US pilots 'massacred sheep' | Mail Online: "NATO is investigating claims that scores of sheep were massacred by American Apache helicopters after being mistaken for Taliban fighters.

Nomad farmers in Laghman province, eastern Afghanistan, claim US pilots killed and wounded 140 sheep during a botched counter-terrorism operation."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

This is not an Aggie joke.

Texas A&M offers free tuition to freshmen | News for Austin, Texas | | Top Stories: "COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Texas A&M University System has approved a new program that guarantees it will pay tuition and mandatory fees at all its schools for incoming freshmen who maintain a 2.5 grade-point average and whose families make $30,000 or less."

Remember Pearl Harbor!

News from The Associated Press: "HONOLULU (AP) -- With an eye on the immediate aftermath of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of World War II veterans and other observers are expected on Sunday to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the devastating Japanese military raid."

Kevin Costner, Troubador

Kevin Costner Signs NASCAR Deal (Photos) | Bitten and Bound: "Actor and singer Kevin Costner is the latest celebrity to work with NASCAR. Costner has signed a one-year contract with the racing organization and will provide them with personal appearances and music."

I've already confessed that I like Costner's new CD. Does this make me a NASCAR guy?

Croc Update (Living Fossil Edition)

What's Old Is New: 12 Living Fossils | Wired Science from "The most widespread of all living fossils, crocodiles have barely changed in the 230 million years since dinosaurs roamed the Earth."

Other living fossils at the link. Some are pretty cool. I particularly like the purple frog.

Archaeology Update

Roman ‘factory town’ for oil lamps found - "Italian researchers have discovered the pottery center where the oil lamps that lighted the ancient Roman Empire were made.

Evidence of the pottery workshops emerged in Modena, in central-northern Italy, during construction work to build a residential complex near the ancient walls of the city.

'We found a large ancient Roman dumping filled with pottery scraps. There were vases, bottles, bricks, but most of all, hundreds of oil lamps, each bearing their maker's name,' Donato Labate, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, told Discovery News."

The Day the Earth Stood Still