Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tough Neighborhood

Mexico: Man admits dissolving 300 bodies - Americas- "TIJUANA, Mexico - A man accused of helping a Mexican drug kingpin dispose of hundreds of victims by dissolving their bodies in acid was arrested in the border city of Tijuana, authorities said Friday.

A Mexican military statement said Santiago Meza Lopez confessed to disposing of at least 300 bodies over a decade, but authorities provided no further evidence to back the claim. Officials contend he dumped the bodies in graves, poured acid on them and let them dissolve underground."

New Story at Beat to a Pulp

This time it's "Brothel Justice," a criminous SF tale by Sandra Seamans. Click here.

Lee Goldberg and Dave White, Take Note

The Cult of the Snuggie - TIME: "If you've never heard of the Snuggie, then you haven't been watching cable TV. The two-minute commercial for the 'blanket with sleeves,' which began airing in September, has been playing nonstop--and not just on struggling channels in the wee hours of the morning. Images of Snuggie-clad folks high-fiving one another at an outdoor sporting event (and looking like, as one blogger put it, members of a 'laid-back satanic cult') have appeared during prime time on such cable stalwarts as ESPN, Comedy Central and CNN, becoming so ubiquitous that everyone from Jay Leno to a gazillion people on YouTube is talking about it. Just Google 'Cult of the Snuggie.'"

Kasey Lansdale

Okay, folks, we'd voted Kasey up to #4 in the competition, and now she's down to #11.  Don't forget you can vote every day.  Time to vote again!

Henry Kuttner's Crime Novels

The two by Lewis Padgett are by Kuttner, or possibly Kuttner and Moore. The one under Kuttner's own name is supposed to have been ghosted by Cleve Cartmill.

Was Tycho Brahe the Victim of a Hit Man?

Hamlet may have poisoned stargazer Tycho Brahe in mercury murder - Times Online: "A murder mystery involving royal intrigues and an eccentric scientist with a golden nose could be resolved after 400 years when researchers open the tomb of Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer, in the light of new evidence that he was murdered by a contract killer.

Archeologists are waiting for permission to open the tomb in the Tyn Cathedral, one of the landmarks of the Old Town in Prague. Brahe, the first astronomer to describe a supernova, in 1572, is also famous for his incredibly accurate measurements of celestial movements in the pre-telescope era and for having catalogued more than 1,000 new stars.

The wealthy nobleman is said to have worn a prosthetic nose of gold and silver after losing his own at the age of 20 in a rapier duel resulting from a row over a mathematical formula.

A new theory by Danish scholars claims that Brahe was poisoned with mercury on the orders of Christian IV, the King of Denmark, because the astronomer had an affair with his mother. It is even suggested that Shakespeare used the alleged liaison as an inspiration for Hamlet."

Vinyl is Back - Louisa man says vinyl still invincible ABOUT 'THE RECORD CUTTER': "When Vampire Weekend--the hottest indie band in the 2008 blogosphere--played two sold-out shows at the 9:30 Club last month, its merchandise table featured 12-inch vinyl LPs of their debut album.

People were buying them, and plenty of those customers were young. Teens. Kids.

It's hard to deny: Music history is repeating itself at 33 rpm."

Gator Update (Sandy Edition)

Hat tip to Jeff Segal.

Got $40 to Spare?

Here's a good way to spend it.

The Art of Norman Saunders (book) - Boing Boing

Straw Dogs

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Bad News from Publishing : Worrying a Little Bit? MAD Magazine Goes Quarterly: "Today’s economy is tough enough to even make MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman worry, apparently.

The venerable humor magazine today announced that starting with issue #500 in April, it will move to a quarterly publication schedule from its current monthly. The magazine’s version for younger readers, MAD Kids will cease publication with the issue on sale February 17th, while the final issue of MAD Classics will go on sale March 17th."

Teach the Scofflaws a Lesson!

Iowa woman arrested over overdue library book / "INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — An Independence woman who police say failed to return a library book has been arrested.

Thirty-nine-year-old Shelly Koontz was arrested Thursday night on a fifth-degree theft charge. She is accused of keeping ``The Freedom Writers Diary,'' which she checked out from the Jesup Public Library in April 2008."

Oh. My. God.

the - Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical - Universal Studios Hollywood: "Initially seeming like a spoof press release, this information has now been confirmed. This show is believed to be replacing Fear Factor Live in the Castle Theatre, timed to catch the publicity surrounding the new Breck Eisner-directed remake of the 1954 classic Universal horror.

Press Release: 2 June 2008

Drawn from Universal’s crypt of classic monsters and updated with spectacular Broadway production values and special effects, “Creature from the Black Lagoon—The Musical,” will rise, live, on stage at Universal Studios Hollywood beginning spring, 2009.

With state-of-the-art stagecraft, acrobatic choreography and hilarious, toe-tapping music, the Creature will be brought to life in a story based on the original screenplay, updated to emphasize the element of romance and just a bit of comic relief. Original new music and dazzling production numbers will keep the attraction contemporary and lively."

Fakin' It

Obama quartet admits faking performance at inauguration - Times Online: "It's not exactly Watergate but Barack Obama's inauguration was back in the dock today after it emerged that the quartet of classical musicians who ushered him on to the steps of the Capitol were faking it.

In a report headlined 'The Frigid Fingers Were Live, but the Music Wasn't', The New York Times said that the four, including the violinist Itzhak Perlman, had already recorded their contribution two days earlier and played along just for show."

Will the Persecution Never End?

BISH'S BEAT: PARIS HILTON DEAD DOG PURSE!: "“Based on Paris Hilton’s discarded pet Tinkerbell is an upside down dead Chihuahua. This design capitalizes on the trend of carrying a small dog as a fashion accessory.”"

Say It Ain't So

Are the Hilton sisters at war? - New Zealand's source for entertainment news, gossip & music, movie & book reviews on "Celebrity socialite Paris Hilton is reportedly being shunned by her less famous sister Nicky, sparking rumours of a rift.

Nicky is reportedly distancing herself from her sister because she hates Brittany Flickinger, the winner of Paris' reality TV show My New BFF.

A source told the New York Post newspaper: 'Nicky can't stand Paris' new BFF.'

For My Next Birthday. . . .

'Flying car' goes to market - - "The aptly named Transition takes a stab at bridging the gap between automobiles and airplanes. Some people call it a flying car. The company designing and selling the vehicle prefers the term 'roadable aircraft.'

Either way, it boils down to this: You sit down behind the steering wheel, drive to the runway, unfold two wings and take off. You can fly 500 miles on a tank of gas — regular unleaded —and when you land, you simply fold up the wings and drive where you want to go. At the end of the day, you fly back, drive home and park inside your garage."

Will the Persecution Never End?

Mike Myers, Paris Hilton Lead Razzie Nominations - Individual Class, Paris Hilton, Content Item : "Also in the running for worst picture: Disaster Movie, The Happening, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Meet the Spartans and The Hottie & the Nottie, which starred Paris Hilton, who's up for worst actress and worst screen couple (with Joel David Moore) in the film.

Hilton also earned a worst supporting actress nomination for Repo! The Genetic Opera."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Forgotten Books: MURDER OF A MISTRESS --Henry Kuttner

Yesterday I talked about one of Kuttner's fantasy novels, but he also wrote crime fiction. In the middle 1950's, he was working on a master's degree in (I believe) psychology, and he started a series of novels that featured a psychoanalyst named Michael Gray. Five books appeared before Kuttner died (much too young) of a heart attack in 1958.

In Murder of a Mistress, one of Gray's patients is accused of murder. Gray doesn't believe she's guilty. Then three other people confess to the crime. The cops don't care because they already have the person they've convinced committed the murder. Gray agrees that none of the people who confessed is the killer. He thinks the killer is someone else entirely.

Then one of the people who confessed is murdered. Gray discovers that his client's sister was murdered months earlier, and there's an attempt on Gray's life. Gray uses psychology instead of police procedure to come up with the solution, as he does in all the books of the series.

While the psychology is dated now, the Michael Gray books are still fun to read. Kuttner was such a talented writer that he could do just about anything. As most of you know, I'm sure, his wife was C. L. Moore, and they often collaborated on their work. I'm not sure how much Moore had to do with this series, if anything.

Tough as Leather

Jochem Steen, who maintains the Sons of Spade site and writes the Noah Milano stories, has published a collection of those stories. Tough as Leather is available here. And here's a description:

NOAH MILANO is a Los Angeles security specialist who's not afraid to get a little action in. And who has more than a few "family" problems. Because, in his case, his family is "the family."You see, he's the estranged son of a mobster and this, as his creator puts it, "creates a big deal of tension and more than a few problems." Fiercely independent, and determined to sever all ties with his past, Noah has to adjust from being a spoiled mobster son to being an independent operator with little money. Fortunately he's learned a great deal about security from his years as his dad's personal bodyguard. Perhaps in penance, he now uses these skills to earn an honest (well, relatively) living.

In this collection all of his short stories are collected in one handy volume, featuring introductions by great PI writers like: Lori B. Armstrong, Les Roberts, Robert J. Randisi, Dave White, Wayne D. Dundee, Mark Coggins, Ace Atkins and Sean Chercover.

Even the introductions sound good.

The Getaway

Thursday, January 22, 2009


In 30 seconds, with Bunnies.

Vote for Kasey!

You can vote for Kasey Lansdale here. It's a little complicated, by you can do the right thing. Update: You can vote every day. So vote often. We've already moved Kasey up to 4th place, but we can do better.

This Just Seems . . . Wrong

Tom and Jerry head to the bigscreen - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety: "Warner Bros. is turning to Tom and Jerry to create its own 'Alvin and the Chipmunks'-like family franchise.

Plans are to bring the constantly warring cat and mouse to life as CG characters that run around in live-action settings.

Studio-based Dan Lin, currently producing the upcoming 'Sherlock Holmes' and exec producer on 'Terminator: Salvation,' will adapt the classic Hanna-Barbera property as an origin story that reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry before getting lost in Chicago and reluctantly working together during an arduous journey home."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Needville kindergartner wins battle to keep his hair long | Front page | - Houston Chronicle: "Five-year-old Adriel Arocha doesn’t have to stuff his hair into his shirt collar. And he doesn’t have to meet privately with a teacher, away from his classmates, for flouting the school’s policy on hair length.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that the Needville Independent School District’s policy violated state law and the U.S. Constitution by punishing the American Indian kindergartner for religious beliefs that require him to wear his hair long."

The Dark World -- Henry Kuttner

Recently both Ed Gorman and George Kelley have posted about Henry Kuttner's The Dark World, which has just been reprinted. I couldn't resist pulling my Ace edition off the shelves and rereading this short novel, and I'm glad I did. I was almost immediately thrown into a veritable frenzy of nostalgia because this is one of the kinds of books I wanted to write when I was a kid. Parallel worlds! An ordinary guy snatched from one world to fulfill his destiny in another! A sword! Beautiful women! Battles! Heroism! Romance! Mystery! Magic! Colliding mythologies! Purple prose! I love it!

Okay, I got a little carried away there. Let me take a deep breath. Right. I'm calmer now. But I'm not kidding. I read this kind of thing by the truckload when I was a young'un, and I never tired of it. A. Merritt? Bring it on. Robert E. Howard? Even better, and Kuttner was a match for them, terrific and prolific.

The only time I got to write in this vein was for a story in an anthology honoring Michael Moorcock's Elric tales. My story was as much Kuttner as Moorcock, but I'd bet a dollar that Moorcock read Kuttner, maybe even this book. To me, there's an obvious parallel, but I'm usually wrong about stuff like that. Never mind. Check it our for yourself and see what you think.

Peru Update

Natural Disasters Doomed Early Civilization : Discovery News: "Jan. 20, 2009 -- Nature turned against one of America's early civilizations 3,600 years ago, when researchers say earthquakes and floods, followed by blowing sand, drove away residents of an area that is now in Peru.

'This maritime farming community had been successful for over 2,000 years, they had no incentive to change, and then all of a sudden, boom, they just got the props knocked out from under them,' anthropologist Mike Moseley of the University of Florida said in a statement.

Moseley and colleagues were studying civilization of the Supe Valley along the Peruvian coast, which was established up to 5,800 years ago."

Handy Household Hints

You know you need 'em.

Link via Neatorama.

Attending Physician: Dr Pepper

Woman Seeks Inpatient Treatment for Coca-Cola Addiction - Momlogic: "FOX: A court has ruled that a woman from Malmo, Sweden, who is addicted to Coca-Cola, will be allowed to seek inpatient treatment for her problem, The Local newspaper of Sweden reported.

The woman, who has been deaf since childhood, has consumed large quantities of the beverage, as well as other sugary foods for many years, according to the report."

Hat tip to Doc Quatermass.

The Vampire Lovers

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jayme Lynn Blaschke has a Project

Jayme Lynn Blaschke's Gibberish: "So, there it is. Do you remember the Chicken Ranch? And by that question, I don't mean 'Do you vaguely recall it existed at one point,' or 'Have you seen the Burt Reynolds/Dolly Parton movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.' I'm looking for folks with actual, genuine first-hand knowledge of the famed brothel in La Grange, Texas. This would include former clients, former employees, post-Marvin Zindler landowners, Dallas-area restauranteurs, townsfolk, neighbors, law enforcement, relatives... anybody with a story, memory or recollection to tell regarding the history of what is, quite possibly, the world's most famous bordello.

I want to interview you. I'm not certain what form this project will ultimately take, but I'm not one for doing things half-assed."

No Comment Department

Pets In Uniform: "Imagine: your dog, cat, or other pet in full military regalia. We make this fantasy a reality. Using the latest digital techniques, we combine a photo of your pet with the uniform and background of your choice."

Master of the Delta -- Thomas Cook

Jack Branch is one of the privileged members of Lakeland, Mississippi, society in 1954. His family is wealthy and respected, even though his father has attempted suicide and is now a recluse. Jack teaches in the local high school, looking for someone he can spur into greatness or at least help out a little. He settles on Eddie Miller, son of Luther Ray Miller, known as "the Coed Killer."

Eddie is a student in Jack's special class on evil through the centuries. This seems to me a pretty contrived situation; I can't imagine such a class actually being taught in 1954. In Mississippi. But let that go. Eddie's in the class, and he's going to write a paper on his father. Jack sees this as a way for the boy to exorcize his demons. Let's just say that things don't work out as planned.

In this novel as in some of Thomas Cook's earlier books (
Breakheart Hill, for example), the narrator is a man grown old who's telling us of events long past. He lets us know right away that terrible things have happened, and in case you didn't get it the first time, he reminds you again. Often. It's a form of the "had I but known" approach, and some readers might find it irritating.

Here's the opening: "I was badly shaped by my good fortune and so failed to see the darkness and the things that darkness hides. Until the stark moment came, evil remained distant to me, mere lecture notes . . . ." So we know right away that Bad Things are going to happen. Then we get "the whole room [was] suffused with light, as dark beginnings almost always are." And "the morning light came straight from heaven and seemed -- like me -- as yet untouched by darkness." And so on. By the ending, everybody's touched by darkness, as is the case in most of Cook's novels. He's a noir kind of guy, though maybe not in the usual sense.

Cook writes beautifully, and when the narration is broken with excerpts from Eddie's paper and from a trial (we don't know exactly whose on trial or for what), the changes work very well. What you'll think of the book might depend on how much you like the writing and how well you can put up with a narrator's withholding so much information, stuff he knows very well, for 350 or so pages before finally getting to the darkness that he's promised. Cook also likes to have a little "snapper" in some of his books. I didn't think the one this time worked very well, but that could just be me. I noticed this novel on several "best of 2008" lists, so it's very well thought of. I'm ambivalent. I wanted to like it more than I did.

Tough Neighborhood

New police chief's head left at station - "CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The head of a new local police commander was left in an ice bucket at his police station in the Ciudad Juarez area, Mexican authorities said Tuesday.

The city, which lies just across the border from El Paso, Texas, in the state of Chihuahua, has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico. El Universal reported that Martin Castro Martinez was one of 15 people killed execution-style in 24 hours.

Castro Martinez was abducted Saturday, four days after he became police chief in the suburb of Praxedis G. Guerrero. Five other officers and a civilian man were also snatched.

The police chief's head was left at the police station Sunday afternoon. A message threatened the Sinaloa Cartel with violence from La Linea, the drug cartel dominant in Chihuahua."

Larry McMurtry on "the end of the culture of the book"

Author Larry McMurtry sees the end of book culture | Lifestyle/Features | - Houston Chronicle: "Q: What will you talk about at Rice?

A: The end of the culture of the book. I’m pessimistic. Mainly it’s the flow of people into my bookshop in Archer City. They’re almost always people over 40.

I don’t see kids, and I don’t see kids reading. I think little kids love to have stories read to them, but when they get to 10 or 11 or 12, they run into this tsunami of technology: iPod, iPhone, Blackberries.

They don’t resist it, and it’s normal that they wouldn’t; it’s their culture. I’m not so sure they ever come back to reading. Some will, but most won’t."

Gator Update (Snorkel Edition)

Great photo at link!

Snorkeller must be crockers | The Sun |News: "SNORKELLER Sean Manning displays no fear and carries no protection, as he snorkels with a NINE FOOT long American alligator.

The fearsome water beast has the crushing power of 3,000-pounds-per-square-inch.

But the alligators allow Sean to get closer than any normal person would ever consider.

He is part of a highly dangerous show at Miami’s Jungle Island Zoo, in Florida, US."

True Crime

Roger K. Miller has a good review of the Library of America's collection titled True Crime.  Click here.

Gas War

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Ancient Persians 'gassed Romans': "Ancient Persians were the first to use chemical warfare against their enemies, a study has suggested.

A UK researcher said he found evidence that the Persian Empire used poisonous gases on the Roman city of Dura, Eastern Syria, in the 3rd Century AD.

The theory is based on the discovery of remains of about 20 Roman soldiers found at the base of the city wall."


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We're from the Government, . . .

. . . and we're here to help you. Remember how the Feds assured us that the Patriot Act would never be used irresponsibly? Yeah. Right.

In-flight confrontations can lead to terrorism charges - Los Angeles Times: "At least 200 passengers have been convicted of felonies under the Patriot Act, often for behavior involving raised voices and profanity. Some experts say airlines are misusing the law.
[. . . .]
In one case, a couple was arrested after an argument with a flight attendant, who claimed the couple was engaged in 'overt sexual activity' -- an FBI affidavit said the two were 'embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable.'"

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

HPD shoots woman they say shot man with arrow | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "A woman accused of shooting a man with a bow and arrow at her father's workplace was listed in critical condition this morning, while the wounded man was reported to be in good condition at the same hospital.

Julie Parker, 30, was shot by a Houston police officer after being wounded by at least one of two employees who are licensed to carry concealed handguns and fired their weapons before police arrived, investigators said.

Armando Silva, another employee at Texas Components Corp. in northwest Houston, is recovering after doctors removed an arrow from his chest."

Croc Update (Photo of the Year)

The year that was... animals amok - Northern Territory News: "MONSTER crocodile came within a metre of making a meal of Israeli fisherman Novon Mashiah on a NT river when posing for a photo."

Mummy Update

Queen's Mummy Found In 4,300-Year-Old Pyramid: "Parts of a mummy found inside a 4,300-year-old pyramid could be Queen Seshseshet, the mother of the first pharaoh of Egypt's 6th dynasty, archaeologists have announced.

A skull, pelvis, legs, and pieces of a torso wrapped in linen lay inside a 16-foot-tall (5-meter-tall) pyramid—the third 'subsidiary' tomb found next to that of the pharaoh Teti, who ruled for 22 years before he was assassinated.

Seshseshet's pyramid was discovered last November in Saqqara, the vast burial ground near modern-day Cairo that was part of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis."

Iron Age Gold

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Suffolk | Huge Iron Age haul of coins found: "One of the UK's largest hauls of Iron Age gold coins has been found in Suffolk.

The 824 so-called staters were found, using a metal detector, in a broken pottery jar buried in a field near Wickham Market.

Jude Plouviez, of the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, said the coins dated from 40BC to AD15."

Swamp Girl

Monday, January 19, 2009

Clint Ballard Jr., R. I. P.

Clint Ballard Jr., Writer of Hit Songs, Dies at 77 - Obituary (Obit) - "Clint Ballard Jr., a Texas-born songwriter whose songs, heard on 10 million records, included the 1965 hit “The Game of Love” and Linda Ronstadt’s No. 1 single “You’re No Good” from 1975, died on Dec. 23 at his home in Denton, Tex. He was 77.

His friend Jacqueline Martinez said that he had a stroke two and a half years ago and that his health had steadily deteriorated.

Ms. Ronstadt included “You’re No Good” on her “Heart Like a Wheel” album, which was released in 1974 and itself reached the top of the Billboard album chart in 1975. Dee Dee Warwick and Betty Everett had earlier recorded the song, both in 1963. The next year, the Swinging Blue Jeans had a Top 10 hit with it in Britain.

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders made “The Game of Love” a No. 1 hit in the United States and a No. 2 hit in Britain in 1965. It was one of the songs the disc jockey portrayed by Robin Williams played in the 1987 movie “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

With Fred Tobias, Mr. Ballard wrote “Good Timin’,” which Jimmy Jones took to the top of British charts and to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in 1960. The Hollies reached No. 1 in Britain with Mr. Ballard’s “I’m Alive” in 1965."

A tip of the old 45s to Jeff Meyerson.

I'm Going to Buy Some of These. . .

. . . if I don't forget.

'Memory pill' that could help with exam revision could be available soon - Telegraph: "A 'memory pill' that could aid exam revision and help to prevent people forgetting important anniversaries may soon be available over the counter."

Frankly My Dear I'm Dead -- Livia J. Washburn

Livia Washburn, like her husband, James Reasoner, can write just about anything. And has. This one's a comic mystery set in Atlanta, Georgia. Delilah Dickinson is just starting her new business of arranging literary tours, that is, tours based on a particular work of fiction, in this case, Gone With the Wind.

Naturally Delilah wants things to go smoothly, but they don't. Her recent divorce continues to worry her. Bickering with her family members, who are also her employees, is another of her problems, which come to include the murder of Rhett Butler. Okay, just kidding to see if you were paying attention. Rhett isn't murdered, but the actor portraying him at the imitation Tara plantation is. Right in the middle of the ball. This isn't at all the way Delilah wanted to start her new career.

Amateur sleuthing with, of course, an interesting man
(a professor of literature) for Delilah, and lots of fun for the reader. The book is about murder, but it has plenty of laughs, loads of local color, Gone with the Wind lore, and a well-honed plot. Sure, it's a cozy. You wanna make something of it? Check it out.

Will the Persecution Never End?

Video-gaping at Paris Hilton's joyride: "If you want to discover more of the dark underbelly of L.A., where celebrities hang side-by-side with drug dealers and other criminals, Mark Ebner’s upcoming book “Six Degrees of Paris Hilton” is for you.

It’s the story of Darnell Riley, who held “Girls Gone Wild” millionaire Joe Francis at gunpoint and videotaped him in a compromising position; bought 14 hours of naughty Paris Hilton video from Russian thieves; who boxed with Rick Salomon and picked up girls with Mickey Rourke."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Awesome Photos of NYC

I might be a Texan, but these are great photos no matter where you live.

Angels' Wild Women

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe!

Two hundred years ago, in Boston, Massachusetts, Edgar Allan Poe was born on this date. His work is still being read, and the great debate about what city should claim him rages on, thanks mainly to the Philly Poe Guy. Poe gave form to the detective story, wrote some memorable verse, led an interesting (and troubled) life, and died an interesting death. I visited the Poe grave in Baltimore last fall, and put a penny on the stone as so many have done before.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Richardson City Council limits overnight parking in front of residences | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Dallas-Fort Worth Transportation News | Dallas-Fort Worth News: "Parking in front of your neighbor’s house overnight is now against the law in Richardson.

City Council members on Monday night approved rules that limit parking on streets. Only people who live in or are visiting a home may park in front of it from 2 to 8 a.m. Residents or guests who park elsewhere can receive a citation, with a fine of up to $500."

Clint Eastwood's Early Career

After seeing Gran Torino, I started thinking about Clint Eastwood's start in movies. Here's a great scene from Revenge of the Creature (1955).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Thin Man Turns 75

His Camera-Ready Comedy - "By TOM NOLAN

'The Thin Man,' Dashiell Hammett's fifth and final novel, turns 75 this month.

Written in the wake of the same author's hard-boiled 1930 private-detective classic, 'The Maltese Falcon,' and his bleak 1931 thriller of civic corruption, 'The Glass Key,' the amusing and flippant-seeming 'The Thin Man' (in which almost all violence occurs offstage) took readers by surprise in 1934. Reviewers' judgments at the time were mixed: The New York Herald Tribune thought it 'a new hard-boiled opus worthy to stand beside the best of his other works,' but the New Republic found it 'a less excitingly fresh performance.'

The author himself made no great claims for his creation. 'Nobody ever invented a more insufferably smug pair of characters,' he said of the book's married protagonists, Nick and Nora Charles; and in 1957, four years before his death, he would claim that ''The Thin Man' always bored me.'

Yet Hammett -- often as hedonistic in life as the heavy drinkers in his stories -- was sober and industrious while writing the novel during his tenancy in an unimpressive New York hotel managed by his friend and fellow author Nathanael West; and, one way or another, the book and its characters would earn Dashiell Hammett (according to biographer Richard Layman) close to a million dollars."

Check out the whole article.
A tip of the Crider fedora to Art Scott.

Gator Update (Basking Rights Edition)

Toe-bit albino gator to be pulled for checkup: "(01-13) 16:49 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- Claude the albino alligator has a swollen toe on his right front foot, and he's about to get the very best of medical care - even without a pay-for-service health plan.

The bright yellow swimming star of the California Academy of Sciences - more popular with the paying public at times than any of the fish in the academy's Steinhart Aquarium - was bitten the other day by Bonnie, his black female companion in the Swamp exhibit. The two often tussle for basking rights to the cozy flat rock in the center of their large and watery tank home."

Hat tip to Angela Crider.

Texas Country Singers -- Phil Fry and Jim Lee

I've known both Phil Fry and Jim Lee a loooooong time. Phil was a grad student with me at both UT and UNT. Jim was a professor at UNT and occasionally came down to Austin to take part in the grad student football games on Sundays in the fall.

I also like country music, especially when it's sung by Texans. So you know I'm going to give Texas Country Singers a good review. It's short (87 pages) and compact. It has biographies of 25 Texans who should be in everybody's country music collection. Some of them probably are (George Jones, Jim Reeves, Bob Wills, etc.); some of them might not be (Milton Brown, Adolph Hofner). Reading about those folks is always fun, and you get the impression that Fry and Lee love the music as well as the people they're writing about.

One of the singers they discuss is Moon Mullican. The band my son, Allen, works with, the Cornell Hurd Band ("Country Music's Worst Nightmare"), had just released a CD of Mullican's turns, and you can buy it right here. As well you should. It's great. Trust me.

Mammoth Update

Possible Mammoth Tusk Found on SoCal Island : Discovery News: "Jan. 14, 2009 -- A complete tusk believed to belong to a prehistoric mammoth was uncovered on Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast, researchers reported Tuesday. If the discovery is confirmed, it would mean the tusked beasts roamed 62,000-acre Santa Cruz Island more widely than previously thought.

A graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, came across the tusk while working in a canyon on the island's remote north shore earlier this month. Nearby were several rib bones and possible thigh bones, said Lotus Vermeer, the Nature Conservancy's Santa Cruz Island project director."

Croc Update (NBA Edition)

NBA FanHouse: "Nathan Jawai of the Raptors is the first indigenous Australian player in the NBA. His story is unique, having grown up playing rugby, not basketball, he is very quick on his feet for a big man. In this video he talks to us about dangerous encounters he experienced in the Australian Outback, including swimming nose-to-nose with a crocodile, one of nature's most vicious killers."

Gator Update: Yes, Another Drug Bust Story - Toronto's News: Live Alligator Among Items Seized In ETF Raid: "An overnight raid in 12 Division yielded the usual items - and one highly unusual pet.

It appears that a three-pound alligator (pictured) was among the goods seized after the Emergency Task Force entered a home on Eglinton near Keele.

According to police, officers with a warrant went into the home at 2675 Eglington Ave. W shortly before 3am Sunday.

Inside, they found a menagerie - and, allegedly, a more typical cache of weapons and drugs."

Fugitive Girls