Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ken Barr, R. I. P. We’re sorry to report the death of artist Kenneth (Ken) Barr, aged 83. He is perhaps best known to downthetubes readers for hisCommando covers, but was an innovative artist whose covers for publishers such as Marvel and a wide variety of book publishers are highly regarded, making himone of the most beloved and collected comic artists.

Song of the Day

J. Geils Band - Centerfold - YouTube:

10 Unsolved Spring Break Murders And Disappearances

10 Unsolved Spring Break Murders And Disappearances

Today's Vintage Ad

How to Win at Monopoly

How to Win at Monopoly and Lose All Your Friends 

The Woman Who Discovered the Composition of the Stars

Meet the Woman Who Discovered the Composition of the Stars


Alex Karmel, Something Wild (Mary Ann), Belmont, 1960

I Miss the Old Days

A 20-year-old Madonna, when she still had a last name:  1979 Introducing Madonna Ciccone

Friday, March 25, 2016

10 Facts About The Beatles' "Please Please Me" Album

10 Facts About The Beatles' "Please Please Me" Album

Song of the Day

Velvet Underground-"Rock & Roll" from "Loaded" - YouTube:

I Want to Believe!

10 Crazy Conspiracy Theories About Extraterrestrial Beings

Today's Vintage Ad

Family Reunion

When you read this, I'll be on my way to a reunion of the Jackson clan, as motley a crew as ever mottled.  We're descended from the owner of a large plantation in East Texas, and the old cabin in the background of the picture to the left is on that property.  (The picture was taken at the last reunion , five years ago.)  I won't be around a computer for a while, so it will be Monday afternoon or Tuesday before I'll be answering e-mail.  If I get a chance to post new stuff to the blog, I'll do it.  The usual features and filler will continue, thanks to Blogger's scheduling function, but I'll be missing out on all the good current stuff.  Ah, well, getting out of the house and into the country might be good for me.


Orrie Hitt, Sheba, Beacon, 1959

Vintage Hollywood Photographs

Vintage Hollywood Photographs: Photographs have been an important part of the Hollywood publicity machine since its earliest days. With legions of beautiful stars and starlets, the movie studios easily mastered the simple publicity image and many of these photographs are now treasured by collectors of cinematic ephemera.

I Miss the Old Days

Vintage Scan #45: Crap for Christmas - Greenland Studios 1969 

The Joe R. Lansdale Short Film Festival

 SundanceTV: The Joe R. Lansdale Short Film Festival will include three short films based on stories by one of the greatest contemporary writers of today. The shorts will launch on Thu., Mar. 24

16 Incredible Pictures That Show How Much New York Has Changed

16 Incredible Pictures That Show How Much New York Has Changed

Earl Hamner, R. I. P.

The Two-Way : NPR: Earl Hamner Jr., who created the popular television series The Waltons, has died at 92. His son Scott announced on Facebook that Hamner had been suffering from cancer, and died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday.

A Review of Interest (To Me, Anyway)

Kevin's Corner: FFB Review: "A Knife In The Back: A Case for Professor Sally Good" by Bill Crider

FFB: Black Money -- Ross Macdonald

When I discovered the Lew Archer novels of Ross Macdonald in the early 1960s, I couldn't get enough of them.  I bought as many as I could find in paperback and read them as soon as I got home with them.  So imagine my surprise when I learned a few years ago that current readers found them "slow" or "okay for the time when they were written."  For a while there even seemed to be a danger of the books being out of print.  Most of them are available now, but I'm not sure that readers are being won over.  As for me, however, my devotion is unswerving, and when I heard that the Coen brothers were considering filming Black Money, I thought it might be fun to read it again.  And it was.

The plot, as usual with Macdonald, is complicated, although it begins simply enough.  A young man named Peter Jamiesen, is in love with Virginia Fablon, who's thrown him over for Francis Martel, International Man of Mystery.  Peter wants Archer to look into Martel's background.  Now Archer could do most of this job on his computer, but this was 1965, long before the days of the Internet.  The Coens will have to set the movie in the right time period for it to work, I think, but I digress.  As always happens in these kinds of cases, once Archer begins looking into Martel's past, he finds out all kinds of things that other people don't want him to know.  In Macdonald's books the past is always a powerful influence on the present and is in fact the driving force behind all the current problems.  Archer says, "Past and present were coming together.  I had a moment of claustrophobia in the phone booth, as if I was caught between converging walls."

Just about everybody in the book is caught between those walls.  Some of them are wealthy, some not.  Most of them are desperate and trapped in one way or another.  Some of them will wind up dead, and none of them will come out of it untouched, and that includes Archer.

If you're looking for explosions and gunplay, you won't find much of that here.  Macdonald writes about ordinary people living out their lives of quiet desperation, and that desperation sometimes leads them to kill.  Archer is a far cry from Jack Reacher.  He's a dogged investigator with problems of his own, not a near-invincible hero.  Sometimes he's not even very likable, but he gets the job done.  So do Macdonald's books.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Garry Shandling, R. I. P. Comedian Garry Shandling died at an L.A. area hospital on Thursday ... TMZ has learned. The 66-year-old star was not suffering from any illness ... as far as we know ... so, it appears this was sudden. A source connected to Shandling says he was healthy and speaking to people on Thursday morning.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Oddity Central - Collecting Oddities: ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes, a stunt-lover from Los Angeles, is planning to attempt the longest and possibly the most dangerous rocket jump in history. He’s going to launch himself in a rocket across the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, hopefully breaking his own previous record of jumping 1,374 feet.

Song of the Day

Hanson - MMMBop - YouTube:

I Miss the Old Days

Eight Awesome Practical Effects In Monsters Movies: For those whose memories have been eroded by years of digital mediocrity, here’s a rundown of some of the greatest and most iconic practical effects monsters to tear it up on the big-screen.

Paging Auric Goldfinger

Man painted gold busted in I-80 hit-and-run

Hat tip to Art Scott.

Today's Vintage Ad

10 Famous People Who Vanished Without a Trace

Urban Ghosts10 Famous People Who Vanished Without a Trace

Peter Brown, R. I. P.

Hollywood Reporter: Peter Brown, who starred as the eager young deputy Johnny McKay on the 1958-62 ABC series Lawman, has died. He was 80. Brown, who played a Texas Ranger on NBC's Laredo, another TV Western, died Monday at his home in Phoenix as a result of Parkinson's disease, his wife, Kerstin, told The Hollywood Reporter.


Mark Reed, Sinners Wild, Avon, 1960

P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England

P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England

Ancient Egypt's Most Literate Trash Heap

Oxyrhynchus, Ancient Egypt's Most Literate Trash Heap: It's basically the closest thing we have to discovering the Library of Alexandria in a landfill. Academics familiar with it throw around terms like "unparalleled importance" and "holy grail" and aren't trying to be hyperbolic. It contained a lot of other ancient literature that would otherwise be totally lost–most famously a Sophocles comedy and the poetry of Sappho–not to mention extensive details about everyday life in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It also held the biggest cache of early Christian manuscripts ever discovered.

Final Richard III Update

Interactive 3D model of Richard III's grave gives users insight into King's resting place

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hold My Beer and Watch This

Georgia man loses his leg after shooting lawnmower packed with explosive: “Yes, it is legal and no, we can’t make people stop doing it,” the Walton County Sheriff’s Department said on its Facebook page. “But why folks, just why?”


Angry man spends $200 at sushi restaurant, leaves 13 foot python instead of tip

Hat tip to Karl.

Ken Howard, R. I. P.

Ken Howard, 'White Shadow' star and actors union president, dead at 71: LOS ANGELES — Ken Howard, who played basketball coach Ken Reeves in the 1978-81 CBS drama The White Shadow and was president of the actors union SAG-AFTRA, has died. He was 71.

Joe Garagiola, R. I. P.

Houston Chronicle: PHOENIX (AP) — Joe Garagiola, who turned a modest major league catching career into a 57-year run as a popular broadcaster in the sports world and beyond, died Wednesday. He was 90.

First It Was the Thin Mint Melee . . .

. . . and now it's the fast food, fork fight!

The Trap of Solid Gold: Creative Trust

The Trap of Solid Gold: Creative Trust: In 1965 John D MacDonald wrote the following to a fan who wanted to become a writer and was asking for advice.

Song of the Day

Cher - If I Could Turn Back Time - YouTube:

I Miss the Old Days

Pulp Pages #7:Intimate Story (August 1963) | Retrospace

Today's Vintage Ad

Extremely Shortened Versions of Classic Books

Extremely Shortened Versions of Classic Books For Lazy People  

Link via mental_floss.

Par-Tay on the Freeway

Beer, chips spill onto I-95 after semi overturns in crash:  A crash involving two tractor-trailers hauling beer and chips overturned on Interstate 95 in Brevard County, spilling the snacks all over the roadway and blocking lanes for hours on Wednesday morning.


James M. Fox, The Scarlet Slippers, Dell, 1953

Paging Scrooge McDuck*

In Search of Ambergris: For well over a thousand years, ambergris, a key component in classic perfumery, has been called such things as the “universal cordial,” “the dearest and most valuable commodity in France,” and “the odor of sanctity.” It is highly prized, and highly priced—the current going rate for ambergris is around $10,000 per pound.  

*Most obscure allusion yet to appear on the blog.

Once Again Texas Leads the Way

College librarian compiles guide to global pulp fiction

Wait, there's gonna be a remake of Plan 9?

"Plan 9" Is Back! Matthew Warner Novelizes the Remake of the Notorious Zombie Movie  

Link to trailer of the remake included in the interview.

First It Was the Thin Mint Melee

Toronto woman throws TWO cups of coffee at a man over parking incident  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Rita Gam, R. I. P.

NY Daily News: Glamorous film actress Rita Gam, who starred in a string of classics, died Tuesday at the age of 88.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Vintage Treasures: Three Apocalyptic Anthologies

Vintage Treasures: Three Apocalyptic Anthologies

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Followup: Beatles "holy grail" record sells for $110k

Beatles "holy grail" record sells for $110k

The Hunt for Dr. Crippen

The Modern Manhunt Began With An Arrest by Wireless Telegraph

Song of the Day

I Sang Dixie Dwight Yoakam - YouTube:

Paris Hilton Update

Paris Hilton shows off her DJ skills at packed Miami nightclub in kitten ears  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Today's Vintage Ad

I've Seen Far too Many of These

30 Cult Movies That Absolutely Everybody Must See


Elizabeth Daly, Murder Listens In (Arrow Pointing Nowhere), Bantam, 1949 

The Scariest Urban Legend From Every State

The Scariest Urban Legend From Every State   

Link via Neatorama.

The Black Comedian Who Was Almost One of the Three Stooges

Mantan Moreland: The Black Comedian Who Was Almost One of the Three Stooges

Overlooked Movies: Troy

Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?  I report, you decide.  (You gotta admit, he's pretty.)

Having taught, or tried to teach, Iliad to several generations of college students, I figured I had to see this movie.  I always explained to my students that a lot of the elements of the story of Achilles that we (well, I, anyway) were familiar with weren't found in Homer's poem.  The wooden horse and the death of Achilles were the two major ones.  Those are both in the movie, of course.  You couldn't tell the story of Troy to a modern audience without them.

In general the movie follows the plot of Homer's work, with those two major additions, and it gives some details about what happens to some of the other characters that both follow tradition and don't follow it.  I confess that I've never watched the more than 3-hour-long director's cut of the movie.  And I probably never will, even though there might be some good material in it.  It's hard to tell the story of Troy in a shorter film.

The acting is okay, considering the bad dialogue the cast has to deal with.  Brad Pitt isn't is brawny as I would expect Achilles to be, but he sure can jump.  Orlando Bloom is, well, Orlando Bloom, and as such not a bad pick to play Paris.  Eric Bana is fine as Hector.  Rose Byrne is a good Helen.  The real standouts, for me, are Sean Bean as Odysseus and Peter O'Toole as Priam.  

Troy isn't a great movie, but it's spectacular, and I enjoyed the way it picked up on some of the things I like most about Iliad.  It's worth a look.


Troy (2004) Official Trailer - Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom Movie HD - YouTube:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg and a naked Judi Dench

Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg and a naked Judi Dench – from Sixties' Shakespearean nymphs to national treasures: Intimate pictures, on display for the first time in years, show the young Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Diana Rigg in Sir Peter Hall's 1968 version of Midsummer Night's Dream

Hat tip to Fred Zackel.
Possibly NSFW.

A Repeat from this Blog in 2006

SleuthSayers: Blood Dreams: Bill Crider here. Jan Grape’s a bit under the weather, and she asked me to fill in for her today. I didn’t have time to dash off any deep thoughts, but I did have something for her. It’s a piece I published on my own blog 10 years ago, and I was considering reprinting it soon. So instead of reprinting it on my blog, I’m using it here.

All the Birds in the Sky -- Charlie Jane Anders

Magic vs. science, or magic in love with science?  That's what we get in All the Birds in the Sky.  Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are a couple of kids whose parents not only don't understand them but who are downright bad news.  If you thought the Dursleys were bad, well, maybe they were, but at least they weren't Harry Potter's birth parents.  

Patricia and Laurence don't fit in at school, either.  Nobody will sit with them.  Everybody picks on them.  She's a dreamer and he's a nerd.  But they have reasons.  She's a witch, and he's a techno geek who's way ahead of anyone around him.  For example, he builds a two-second time machine and then a computer that's is on its way to sentience.  Naturally the two outcasts become friends as they struggle with their powers and abilities.  

Theodolphus Rose a great assassin, believes that the two of them will one day bring about the apocalypse.  He tries to kill them, and when that fails, becomes the guidance counselor at their school.  In that role he manages to separate them, seemingly for good.

But it's not for good.  The two reunite years later in a near-future San Francisco where Patricia is practicing witchcraft and Laurence is working for an Elon Musk-like guy who has several amazing projects going.  When Laurence gets in trouble with something supposedly done for fun, he calls on Patricia for help.  For the first time we get an inkling that science and magic aren't incompatible, but Laurence and Patricia don't see it that way.  Their on-again-off-again romance is mostly off, and as the world rushes toward apocalypse, or Armageddon, they're both working with different teams to ward it off in very different ways.  Many people die in catastrophic events and in the clash between science and magic.  

This book has received rave reviews, which is why I bought it, and while I enjoyed it, I have a few complaints.  Many of the characters and ideas get short shrift.  Granted, there's a lot going on in the book, but there were things I wanted (many not needed) to know.  Or maybe I was supposed to figure them out on my own and was too dense.  Also, most readers are going to tumble to a Big Reveal a couple of hundred pages before Patricia and Laurence.  Maybe that's deliberate, too, and it doesn't really matter, I guess.  It was kind of irritating, though, because those are supposed to be really sharp people.  I liked the writing style and the humor, although I must admit I'm a little tired of Armageddon and the apocalypse.  Overall, a thumbs up, even if I didn't love it the way so many others do.

Song of the Day

"Pancho and Lefty" - Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard - YouTube:

How All 50 State Capitals Got Their Names

How All 50 State Capitals Got Their Names 

Today's Vintage Ad

10 Folk Facts About Bob Dylan's First Album

10 Folk Facts About Bob Dylan's First Album


Gail Jordan, Sinner in Gingham, Novels Inc., no date

I Miss the Old Days

The Surprisingly Deep Influence of Trashy TV Dance Parties 

Early Reviews of the Work of John D. MacDonald

The Trap of Solid Gold: Early Reviews: The first book review John D MacDonald ever received was for his third novel, Wine of the Dreamers. Tellingly, the title was a hardcover release and -- even more tellingly -- it was a science fiction story. For while having a novel published in hardcover definitely increased the odds that it would be reviewed in one of the thousands of periodicals published in the mid-Twentieth Century, having as its content speculative fiction almost guaranteed its review, at least in the magazines that specialized in such content. For no other group of fiction readers was as passionate and as comprehensive as the science fiction community of the last century.

Yes, "Dawg" Is Included

10 of the Most Memorable Swashbuckling Movie Pirates

First It Was the Thin Mint Melee

Waterbury letter carrier attacked: A letter carrier was relieving himself in the woods Saturday afternoon when a homeowner came outside and attacked him, police said.  

Hat tip to Toby O'Brien.

First It Was the Thin Mint Melee

Easter Bunny is involved in mass brawl in New Jersey shopping mall  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

116 Amazing Facts

116 Amazing Facts for People Who Like Amazing Facts

Sunday, March 20, 2016

James Sheldon, R. I. P.

Vulture: James Sheldon once estimated that he directed over 1,000 episodes of television, adding, "I never stopped to count." He's not a household name, but he worked on many of the quintessential shows of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. The prodigious 95-year-old director, who died March 12 according to the New York Times, directed the classic Ray Bradbury Twilight Zone episode "I Sing the Body Electric" (decades later he said the show was one of the most fun things he worked on); 44 episodes of The Millionaire; an entire season of the short-lived The Bing Crosby Show; and episodes of Ironside (whose theme music Quentin Tarantino culled and re-purposed for Kill Bill), The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Fugitive, Naked City, Sanford and Son, The Virginian (one of the shows Kurt Russell's stuntman Mike claims to have worked on in Death Proof), and Batman. He worked from 1948, right before the Golden Age of Television, until 1986, retiring at the advent of cable TV. Sheldon never directed a feature film, making him a genuine icon of network television.  

Hat tip to Deb.

10 Ways To Move Money Like A Crime Boss

10 Ways To Move Money Like A Crime Boss

Song of the Day

loretta lynn"everybody wants to go to heaven" - YouTube:

The sound effects madman behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons

Dangerous Minds: The cartoon One Froggy Evening (1955), pays homage to Treg Brown. The skyscraper in which Michigan J. Frog is entombed is named the “Tregoweth Brown Building.”  

Link via mental_floss.

Today's Vintage Ad

8 Sequels That Received Best Picture Oscar Nominations

8 Sequels That Received Best Picture Oscar Nominations 


James Savage, Girl in a Jam, Avon, 1959

First It Was the Thin Mint Melee . . .

. . . and now it's the 7-Eleven sucker punch!  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Traveling Library for Lighthouses

The Most Precious Cargo for Lighthouses Across America was a Traveling Library

Dallas and Ft. Worth Both Included

The Real-World Locations of 14 Sci-Fi Dystopias

The Glasses Worked for Rick Perry

How to Make Your Face Look More Intelligent, According to Science

Vintage Treasures: The Silistra Quartet by Janet Morris

Vintage Treasures: The Silistra Quartet by Janet Morris