Saturday, March 21, 2009

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Slashdot | Want a Science Degree In Creationism?: "'In Texas, a state legislator wants the ironically-named Institute for Creation Research to be able to grant a Masters degree in science. In fact, the bill submitted to the Texas congress would make it legal for any private group calling themselves educational to be able to grant advanced degrees in science. So, now's your chance: that lack of a PhD in Astrology and Alchemy won't hold you back any longer.'"

Hat tip to Rick Klaw.

RoboCroc Update

Click here for great photo.
Hat tip to Paul Bishop.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Photo at link may not be safe for work.  I'm looking forward to the infomercial.

New underwear burns body fat when worn: "Japan-based chemistry company Teijin announced the development of underwear that can burn away body fat. All that wearers need to do is let the fabric hug their skin to generate friction resistance when they go about their daily routines."

No Word on Whether the Lingerie Burns Fat

PHOTOS: Lingerie Football Tryouts: "REVERE, Mass. (myfoxboston) - The Lingerie Football League held tryouts for the New England Euphoria at the Teamworks Center in Revere on Friday.


The team was looking for 12 women for the upcoming season. The game is played in pads and lingerie, 7-on-7 with full contact."

Pink Elephant

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Pink elephant is caught on camera: "A wildlife cameraman took pictures of the calf when he spotted it among a herd of about 80 elephants in the Okavango Delta.

Experts believe it is probably an albino, which is an extremely rare phenomenon in African elephants.

They are unsure of its chances of long-term survival - the blazing African sunlight may cause blindness and skin problems for the calf."


This is a caper movie and a love story.  Not your standard love story, though.  It's about whether two people who really don't trust each other can be in love.  Maybe some level of distrust exists in every relationship, but in this case the level is about as high as it can get.  

The less said about the rest of the plot, the better.  The fun of the movie is for you to keep up with the twists and turns and to decide who's gaming who.  Or whom.  I have a feeling that at some point most readers of this blog will figure it out, not because you're brilliant (though of course you are) but because you've read way too much and seen way too many movies.

Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are the leads.  Judy kept asking my why Clive Owen, who, she insists, would have been perfect, wasn't picked to play James Bond.  I didn't have a good answer.  He's suave and attractive, and he has the moves and the accent.  Julia Roberts might not be a great actress, but she's a great presence.  And Paul Giamatti pretty much steals the movie, chewing the scenery as he did in Shoot 'em Up.  His performance alone is worth the ticket price.

Here's a little aside for you.  We sat on the back row.  Looking out over the audience, I thought I was at a Q-Tip convention.  This is clearly not a movie for the whippersnapper generation.  I guess they were all at I Love You, Man.  Not that we geezers all liked the movie.  As we left the theater, I overheard one man say to the woman he was with, "That was the worst movie I ever saw. Two hours of nothing."   And the woman said, "I just kept wondering when something was going to happen."  Maybe they should have gone to Knowing.  

Anyway, while there are a few things in it that I question, Judy and I liked it.  It's very slick, very well done, and plenty happens, though I have to admit there are no explosions.  Check it out.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Bride jailed on wedding night will have complaint reviewed | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "The Harris County Sheriff’s Office will investigate allegations by a Clear Lake woman that she was humiliated while spending her wedding night in jail wearing her wedding gown.

Although Jade Puckett hasn’t filed a formal complaint with the Sheriff’s Office, authorities will review her claims, Maj. Fred Brown said Friday. She claims she was put in a cell with 15 or 20 other women with her wedding dress still on and she wasn’t allowed to change clothes. She also said that three different times male jailers opened the cell door to show her to other jailers."

The Cool Ones

Friday, March 20, 2009

No Comment Department

Student, 15, Suspended For Passing Gas - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando: "LAKELAND, Fla. -- A Polk County teenage student has been suspended from school because he intentionally passed gas, according to school officials.

The Lakeland Ledger reported that 15-year-old Jonathon Locked Jr. was suspended from Bill Duncan Opportunity School under a school district rule against disruptive behavior.

School officials said the teen repeatedly passed gas to make other children laugh. They said the smell also made it difficult to breathe."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Texas inmate who plucked, ate eyeball deemed sane | | Detroit Free Press: "HOUSTON — A condemned Texas inmate who removed his only eye and ate it in a bizarre outburst several months ago on death row is “crazy,” yet sane under state law, a judge wrote in an appellate court ruling today that rejected his appeals."

How to Succeed in Spying

Paper: CIA's handling of officer's sex case draws fire | Chronicle | - Houston Chronicle: "WASHINGTON — As a novice CIA case officer in the Middle East, Andrew Warren quickly learned the value of sex in recruiting spies. Colleagues say that he made an early habit of taking informants to strip clubs, and that he later began arranging out-of-town visits to brothels for his best recruits. Often Warren would travel with them, according to two colleagues who worked with him for years.

His methods earned him promotions and notoriety over a lengthy career, until Warren, 41, became ensnared in a sex scandal. Two Algerian women have accused the Virginia native of drugging and sexually assaulting them, and, in one instance, videotaping the encounter."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Thieves steal $3,400 in panties in Texas suburb: "HURST, Texas - Police are looking for two men and a woman they say snatched $3,400 worth of panties from a Victoria's Secret in a Texas suburb of Hurst.

The police report says the thieves took 100 panties valued at $14 each and 125 valued at $16 each."

They Never Said It

Comment Central - Times Online - WBLG: Never said it: 10 famously inaccurate quotes: "[Ten] famous characters who didn't say the things most often associated with them."

Forgotten Books: THE WAY TO DUSTY DEATH -- Alistair MacLean

Alistair MacLean violates all the current "rules." His chapters are around 20 pages long, and some paragraphs run more than a page. He sprinkles adverbs liberally throughout. He does a lot of "telling." He's often verbose. His heroes aren't flawed. Like Johnny Harlow in this novel, they're skilled, competent guys who can go without sleep for days, get beaten to a bloody pulp (literally) and still outsmart and out-fight the bad guys ("vermin" Harlow calls them) every time.

And yet I still get a huge kick out of his novels, even some of the ones that aren't quite in his top rank, like The Way to Dusty Death. It's set up so that during most of the book, the reader has little idea what's going on. Johnny Harlow, the best Gran Prix driver ever, appears to be at fault in the accident that kills his good friend at the beginning of the book, but it's clear that there's more to it than we're told. MacLean puts his characters through their paces, witholding all kinds of information, until almost the end of the novel. The reader can put some things together by paying attention, but not everything. The book rockets right along until all is revealed, and then it's done. No hanging around. Over and out.

Maybe it's because I read MacLean's books when I was a young whippersnapper, but they continue to entertain and amuse me, even on a second or third reading. I guess my taste just hasnt' improved, and I don't mind a bit.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Ananova - School 'staged cage fights between pupils': "Teachers at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas allegedly sent troubled students into a steel cage in a locker room to settle their differences.

The Dallas Morning News says the cage fights took place between 2003 and 2005 between pupils who wore no boxing gloves or head protection.

'It was gladiator-style entertainment for the staff,' said Frank Hammond who was fired from South Oak Cliff High School and has filed a whistleblower lawsuit."

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Hallucination Generation

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Hugo Nominees

The Hugo Awards: "Anticipation, the 67th World Science Fiction Convention, has announced the ballot for the 2009 Hugo Awards. The announcement on the Anticipation web site includes links to some of the nominees’ web sites, including free downloads of selected nominees."

When the Paper Doesn't Come

Yesterday’s News � Blog Archive � May 1922: When the paper doesn’t come: "The poem below was published in May 1922 in the Presspatch, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch employee newsletter of the period. It also appeared in the Jan. 15, 1921, issue of Mixer & Server, the newsletter of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers International Alliance and Bartenders International League of America. The author is unknown."

Click on the link for the poem.
Link via Pop Culture Junk Mail.

Shakespeare Portrait Update

Shakespeare Unfound(ed)? Katherine Duncan-Jones TLS: "Last week Dr Tarnya Cooper, the sixteenth-century curator at the National Portrait Gallery, declared herself “very sceptical” about Wells’s claim, and remarked that “if anything . . . both works [the Folger and Cobbe portraits] are more likely to represent the courtier Sir Thomas Overbury”. A suggestion made long ago by David Piper that yet another version of the portrait, the “Ellenborough”, is of Overbury, is waved away as “mistaken” by the authors of the brochure. Yet the views of experts such as Cooper and Piper cannot be dismissed so easily."

There's much more to all this, and you can read it at the link.

I Can Take It or Leave It Alone, but This Does Sound Good

Cadillac rolls out in-car Internet access | The Car Tech blog - CNET Reviews: "Cadillac has announced the availability of an in-car wireless Internet option on its CTS sport sedan beginning in April. The new option will be called Cadillac WiFi (sic) by Autonet and be dealer-installed. The device itself will have an MSRP of $499, and the service will cost $29 per month."

Charles Manson Update

Aging Charles Manson captured in prison photo | L.A. Now | Los Angeles Times: "California corrections officials released a photograph taken today of aging convicted mass murderer Charles Manson, replete with receding hairline, fading forehead Swastika carving and a thick, heavily graying beard."

2009's 10 Most Popular Movie Stars

Big Hollywood � Blog Archive � Guess Who’s the Third Most Popular Movie Star in America Today?: "No, it’s not any of those celebrities we’re told are stars. DiCaprio and George Clooney didn’t even make the top 10. Neither did Ashton Kutcher, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Seth Rogen, Matt Damon, Will Farrell, or Tom Cruise."

Here’s the 2009 rundown:

Denzel Washington
Clint Eastwood
John Wayne
Will Smith
Harrison Ford
Julia Roberts
Tom Hanks
Johnny Depp
Angelina Jolie
Morgan Freeman

No Comment Department

Link via Mike McGruff.

Basket Case

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gator Update (Abandonment Edition)

Boston pets in crisis - "Dogs, cats and even alligators are being abandoned to fend for themselves as the latest cruel collateral damage of a crippling economy tearing apart family budgets."

It's About Time

Flying Cars: Terrafugia "Flying Car" Makes First Flight: "We're expecting more details out of a Terrafugia press conference at 9:30 AM this morning, but for the moment we're able to announce that the Transition, their first 'roadable aircraft' (we're going to go ahead and call it a Jetsons-like 'flying car'), took its official first flight on March 5th, 2009 at Plattsburgh International Airport. It's the first time we've seen an actually plausible 'roadable aircraft' work in real life."

Video at the link.

I've Already Seen the Spielberg Movie

Macmillan reveals adventures of young Sherlock Holmes | Books | "The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has authorised a series of books detailing the life of the teenage Sherlock Holmes, which will see the budding detective falling in love for the first time, learning the deductive skills that serve him so well in his adult life, and making the acquaintance of a certain Dr Watson.

Starting at age 14 and tracing Holmes's life at school and then at university, the books will be written by author Andrew Lane – a self-confessed 'super-fan' who has a collection of over 100 Holmes-related books – kicking off with a case referenced but never explained by Conan Doyle, The Colossal Schemes of Baron Maupertius. This will see Holmes, who is sent to stay with relatives in Surrey after his soldier father is unexpectedly posted to India, uncovering a series of murders."

Hat tip to Sarah Weinman via Twitter.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

News from The Associated Press: "AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A proposal that would make it harder for Texas teenagers to enter the tanning bed was compared to legislation against Big Tobacco as lawmakers took up the issue.

'In the United states and Texas, we don't allow our teens to purchase cigarettes until after they are 18 because it is a carcinogen,' said Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton. 'Yet we don't do that for tanning beds, which can expose teens to the same risk for cancer.'

The bill would require anyone under 18 years old to get a doctor's note before using a tanning bed and would require a parent be with them in the salon. Supporters and detractors said this would be the strictest legislation any state has passed on teen tanning."

U. S. Army, P. I. - Army Investigating How and Why Troops Were Sent Into Alabama Town After Murder Spree: "( - The U.S. Army has launched an inquiry into how and why active duty troops from Fort Rucker, Ala., came to be placed on the streets of Samson, Ala., during last week's murder spree in that tiny South Alabama community. The use of the troops was a possible violation of federal law."


iWon News - Novels join online library of documents at Scribd: "SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Scribd Inc. is opening a new chapter by adding hundreds of books to its rapidly growing Web site for sharing documents.

Random House and Simon & Schuster are among the long-established book publishers embracing Scribd as a new distribution and promotional channel.

The partnerships being announced Wednesday will expand the eclectic mix of written material that has turned Scribd - pronounced 'scribbed' as in scribbled - into one of the Internet's hottest destinations just two years after it started."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Murder Most Egyptian

Found: Skeleton of the younger sister Cleopatra had murdered | Mail Online: "Archeologists and forensic experts believe they have identified the skeleton of Princess Arsinoe, the younger sister Cleopatra had murdered.

The remains of Princess Arsinoe, who was murdered more than 2,000 years ago on the orders of the Egyptian queen, are the first relics of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be identified."

How Many Can You spot?

103 famous faces in one painting - Telegraph: "This extraordinary painting depicting 103 figures from world history in striking detail has become the latest internet hit.

Click to here to view the whole painting (2600 pixels wide)

Message boards have erupted with contests to identify all those featured, who range from instantly recognisable figures like Gandhi to some more obscure figures such as Liu Xiang, the Chinese hurdler who limped out of the Beijing Olympics in the summer."

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wisconsin Leads the Way

Wisconsin's new slogan faces some pushback: "MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin's new state slogan is already inspiring something, but it's not exactly unanimous praise.

Gov. Jim Doyle said Monday the state will use 'Live like you mean it' to promote Wisconsin as a tourism and business destination, replacing the slogan 'Life's So Good.'

But motivational speakers, authors and even wine and spirit maker Bacardi have already used the phrase in marketing campaigns. Some critics who aren't thrilled the state is adopting their slogan may oppose its attempt to get federal trademark protections on it or even take legal action."

Hat tip to Angela Crider.

Croc Update (Surgery Edition)

Surgery Of Reptilian Proportions - "An American Crocodile that was run over by a car last year is now affectionately being called 'Robo Croc' by his surgeons.

On Tuesday, a team of veterinarians spent four hours attaching metal rods to the endangered crocodile's head at Miami MetroZoo's veterinary hospital."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Houston police: Accused madame handled elite clientele | Front page | - Houston Chronicle: "A Houston couple accused of running one of the city’s largest prostitution rings conducted background checks on prospective customers — including checking their employment records and income levels — before allowing them to join the operation’s long list of clients, a police investigator says.

The brothel that Deborah L. Turbiville and her husband, Charles Fletcher Turbiville, are accused of operating catered to an elite clientele and used the Internet to do a lot of its business, said Houston police Sgt. Mark Kilty.

“You had to be brought into what she called ‘her family,’” Kilty said. “These weren’t johns off the street. These were suit-and-tie businessmen. She had the upper scale.”"

St. Patrick's Day

It just occurred to me that I have an Irish crime story. It's called "The Rose of Tralee," and it's in Murder most Irish. The best thing about the story is that it's right next to one by James Joyce. This is undoubtedly the only time Joyce and I will be in the same anthology. I just wish they'd spelled my name right on the back cover.

Cranked is Live

CrimeWav is a little late this week (probably having trouble dealing with the Texas accent), but "Cranked" is now live. You can go to the website and check it out. I don't like listening to my voice, but maybe you can stand it.

Update: Perhaps I should have added "Not Safe for Work."

The Real World

The headset that will mimic all five senses and make virtual world as convincing as real life | Mail Online: "A virtual reality helmet that recreates the sights, smells, sounds and even tastes of far-flung destinations has been devised by British scientists.

The device will allow users a life-like experience of places such as Kenya's Masai Mara while sitting on their sofa.

They can also enjoy the smell of flowers in an Alpine meadow or feel the heat of the Caribbean sun on their face."


Monday, March 16, 2009

Cohen Strikes Again

'Borat' star fools Ala. Guard, trains briefly: "BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The actor best known as 'Borat' tricked the Alabama National Guard into allowing him onto a post, giving him a military uniform and briefly letting him train—all, supposedly, for a German TV documentary.

The ruse, which included comedian Sacha Baron Cohen exposing his thong underwear while changing clothes, was going well until a young cadet recognized Cohen and notified older officers who weren't familiar with the actor."

Hat tip to David Cranmer.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Texas jail was an Animal House, authorities say: "MONTAGUE, Texas (AP) - For months, perhaps longer, the Montague County Jail was 'Animal House' meets Mayberry.

Inside the small brick building across from the courthouse, inmates had the run of the place, having sex with their jailer girlfriends, bringing in recliners, taking drugs and chatting on cell phones supplied by friends or guards, according to authorities. They also disabled some of the surveillance cameras and made weapons out of nails.

The doors to two groups of cells didn't lock, but apparently no one tried to escape—perhaps because they had everything they needed inside."

In the Electric Mist

As everyone who's interested knows by now, this movie has an outstanding cast and director yet went straight to DVD.

What happened? I don't know, but after watching the film, I have a few ideas. For one thing, the book it's based on, James Lee Burke's In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead, is a long, twisty, complex novel that would be next to impossible to film as written. So major characters were dropped, and all too obviously the final cut of the movie has lost a lot of stuff that was originally filmed for inclusion.

For another thing, one of the appeals of the book is the writing itself, something you can't capture in a movie. The use of voiceover narration is a good try, but it comes mainly at the beginning and at the end. I thought it worked very well, and a little more might have helped.

Also, this isn't a typical action movie, so it might have been a hard sell. No explosions, no car chases. Things unfold at a leisurely pace, which worked just fine for me but maybe not for everyone. No special effects, either. This ain't Spiderman 4. There's violence, all right, but it's usually quick and clean and unspectacular.

Some people might even find the plot hard to follow. I didn't, but then I've read the book. Judy, however, has never read anything by Burke, and she had no trouble keeping up. She's pretty smart, sure, but I don't think anybody should have trouble with the storyline.

Maybe some people have trouble with the woo-woo stuff. Again, I'd read the book and knew what to expect. Judy hadn't, and she caught on right away. I thought it was pretty effective. (It did bother both Judy and me that Jones and Levon Helm both say "cal'vry" instead of "cavalry," but oh well.)

My problem was with stuff that wasn't there. Ned Beatty's character gets short shrift. There must have been more than a couple of scenes with him, but if so, they were cut. I think there surely were many more scenes with the guy who plays the movie star, Elrod Sykes. The epilogue makes it obvious that there was much more about him and Alafair, but it's not in the movie. For that matter, Alafair's part must originally have been bigger as well. Mary Steenbergurgen is beautiful but has nothing to do as Bootsie.

Tommy Lee Jones is the guy people have hoped for years would play Dave Robicheaux, and he's just about perfect (we won't discuss his Louisiana accent, or anybody else's as far as that goes). I think some reviewers complained that he's too old for the part, but the Dave of the books has got to be just about Jones's age.
(Digression: I have to confess that I was occasionally distracted by the vagaries of Jones's hairpiece.)

The photography's beautiful, and the swamps look great. I could have done with more of post-Katrina New Orleans, though. And I could have done with more of John Sayles as a movie producer. He was a hoot.

All in all, I have to say that Judy and I both enjoyed the movie. Even chopped up, it's a good bit better than a lot of what gets into the theaters now. Check it out.

And finally, The Electric Mist would be a great name for a rock band.

Good Grief

Sci Fi Channel Aims to Shed Geeky Image With New Name - TVWeek - News: "In some universe, the name “Syfy” is less geeky than the name “Sci Fi.” Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi Channel, is betting it’s this one.

To that end, the 16-year-old network—owned by NBC Universal—plans to announce that Syfy is its new name March 16 at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York."

Hat tip to Todd Mason.

Paging Hagar

Rampaging hordes - or darlings of the Dark Ages? - Telegraph: "The vikings' reputation as hairy, axe-wielding barbarians has been demolished by the revelation that the ancient Norsemen were technologically advanced, hygienic and really rather civilised, says William Langley."

Carnival Sideshows

Yes, there's a Crocodile Girl.

Link via Pop Culture Junk Mail.

BBC NEWS | UK | Audio slideshow: Step Right Up: "The sideshow was once a highly popular form of fairground entertainment. Dancing girls, snake charmers and the 'world's largest rat' were all part of the fun. But as mechanised rides became widespread in the 1960s, the shows faded away."

Ron Silver, R. I. P.

Ron Silver (I) - News: "Actor Ron Silver, who won a Tony Award as a take-no-prisoners Hollywood producer in David Mamet's 'Speed-the-Plow,' died Sunday at the age of 62. 'Ron Silver died peacefully in his sleep with his family around him early Sunday morning' in New York City, said Robin Bronk, executive director of the Creative Coalition, which Silver helped found. 'He had been fighting esophageal cancer for two years.' Silver's big-screen credits included 'Ali,' 'Reversal of Fortune,' 'Enemies: A Love Story,' 'Silkwood' and 'Semi-Tough.' Besides 'The West Wing,' Silver was a regular or had recurring roles on such TV shows as 'Veronica's Closet,' 'Chicago Hope' and 'Wiseguy.' He directed and co-starred in the 1993 TV movie 'Lifepod,' a science-fiction update of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Lifeboat.' 'He was a talented actor, a scholar and a great believer in participatory democracy,' Bronk said Sunday evening. 'He was an activist who became a great artist and his contributions will never be forgotten."

Last House on the Left

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Falling Bakward -- Henry Melton

If you've read Jack McDevitt's Ancient Shores and then come to Falling Bakward, you can be forgiven for thinking that South Dakota sure seems to have inordinate number of portals to other planets on its farmlands. The one in Falling Bakward is discovered by a youngster named Jerry Ingram, whose father is a notably unsuccessful sunflower farmer with a lot of secrets in his past. In fact, just about everyone in Jerry's family has secrets, not the least of which is their telepathic abilities.

Jerry's discovery of the portal to other worlds is complicated by a lot of things, the most dangerous of which is the alien race known as the Kree. Rather than describe them, I direct your attention to the cover image on the left. Having preyed for millenia on the Bak, they're really happy to discover another food source in humans.

There's a lot going on in Falling Bakward, but the story flows well and is easy to follow. The Bak are an engaging race, and the Kree are suitably terrifying. I can almost see this as a '50s monster movie, but with much better characterization. Lots of thrills, plenty of suspense, and widescreen action.

Melton's publishing his work through his own Wire Rim Press, and the books are available in all kinds of formats from print to iPhone to Kindle. If you're looking for YA science fiction in the sense-of-wonder vein, check out Falling Bakward in some format or other and see what you think.


Link via Hollywood Elsewhere.

New Weekly Column on Short Mystery Fiction

Click here.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Biologists Find World-record Colony Of Amoeba Clones In Texas Cow Pasture: "ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2009) — A Rice University study of microbes from a Houston-area cow pasture has confirmed once again that everything is bigger in Texas, even the single-celled stuff. The tests revealed the first-ever report of a large, natural colony of amoebae clones -- a relatively Texas-sized expanse measuring at least 12 meters across."

So Get off those Whippersnappers' Damn Lawns!

Old age begins at 27 - scientists claim after new research | Mail Online: "Old age is often blamed for causing us to misplace car keys, forget a word or lose our train of thought.

But new research shows that many well-known effects of ageing may start decades before our twilight years.

According to scientists, our mental abilities begin to decline from the age of 27 after reaching a peak at 22."

Easy Rider