Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Writing Game (again)

Ed's Place

Some years ago, never mind how many, I got a call from a Houston private investigator named Clyde Wilson. Wilson is a famous guy in this area and elsewhere. He was Ivana Trump’s investigator when she divorced The Donald. He negotiated a hostage situation in North Africa. He caught a serial killer in Clear Lake, Texas. (Yeah, I know private-eyes aren’t supposed to do that kind of thing, but Wilson did.) So what did Wilson want with me? He wanted me to help him write his autobiography.

That's the beginning of my post on Ed Gorman's Blog. If you want to read the rest of it, you'll have to click the link and scroll down.

The Sailor Man Posted by Hello

Popeye is 75

Ivan, over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, reminds us that Popeye is celebrating his 75th birthday this year. There's a link to this article in the New York Times, but you'll have to register to read it.

The good news for Popeye fans is that in December the Cartoon Network will be devoting four consecutive Fridays to the Sailor Man, showing all the great Fleischer cartoons and others as well. There's a good article about this celebration here.

As for me, I decided not to wait for the Cartooon Network. I got out one of my dollar DVDs and watched a few episodes. There's only one from the Fleischer era on Volume One. It's "Popeye Meets Ali Baba and His 40 Thieves," from 1937. Great visuals and animation, a song from Ali Baba (Bluto, of course), Popeye's trademark muttering, and jokes (Popeye, while they're wandering in the desert: "If I had some bread, I'd make me a sandwich, if I had a witch"). This was the best cartoon on the DVD. Coming in second is "Big Bad Sinbad," from the '50s. The visuals are almost as good as in the '30s cartoon. Bluto is a pretty tough Sinbad, but Popeye (with the help of some spinach) takes care of him. "Ancient Fistory" is the Cinderella story, with Popeye in the Cinderella role, or the "Cinderfella" role, as he puts it (years before Jerry Lewis came up with the idea). I'll have to watch a few more of these soon.

UPDATE: I had another look at "Big Bad Sinbad" because I was a little bothered by it, and I think I've figured out why. This is two cartoons in one. What they did was take one of the earlier Fleischer cartoons, and butcher it. There's a new opening and a new ending, with some interruptions along the way. A good bit of the earlier cartoon (which was probably much better) has been cut. At least that's the way I see it. Maybe I'll look into this further. Or maybe not.

Today, the Geezers, Tomorrow, the World! - KLOL suddenly switches to Spanish format

Clear Channel has struck again. It wasn't enough that they'd screwed up the AM dial. Oh, no. Not for Clear Channel. As I was still reeling from the fact that the media mega-monster is changing Geezer Radio 790 AM to "all sports talk, all the time," CC suddenly and without warning changed the format of KLOL-FM (101.1) from rock to "Spanglish Top 40."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Frank Denton - The Rogue Raven

Frank Denton - The Rogue Raven

Frank Denton has returned from his wanderings and taken up posting again. It's good to have him back.

Tales of Horror and the Supernatural Posted by Hello

Something a Little Different

Now and then a guy (well, this guy) needs to read something that's not like anything else he's been reading for a while. And when my bookshelves collapsed, I located several books that filled the bill.

One of them was Volume One of Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Arthur Machen. "The God Pan" is the first story (or novella) in the book, and it was just what I was looking for. One character in the story mentions that it's like a set of Chinese boxes, one inside the other, and that's exactly what it is. In fact, the "story" is really a number of stories that seem at first to have only tenuous connections, but as you read farther you begin to see that there's a connection, sure enough. The horror is subtle, not the gross-out kind. Machen isn't one of those writers who spell things. He gives a few details, then leaves the rest up to the reader's imagination. It's a technique that works very well in "The God Pan." And also in "The Inmost Light." These are two of Machen's most famous works, and they certainly worked for me.

Machen isn't exactly a househould name these days, and one of the entertaining things (to me) about reading stories like these is that you can easily imagine that nobody else in the whole country is reading them or has even thought of them in years.

Jo Stafford


Happy birthday to one of the great voices of my childhood. And still a great voice today.

The Home Computer 2004

Jayme Lynn Blaschke's Gibberish

The link is to a great photo of the Rand Corporation's 1954 vision of what a home computer would look like in 50 years. Pretty cool.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Java Jive Posted by Hello


I don't drink it.

Many mornings when I was teaching, I'd watch the coffee drinkers lined up in front of the urn in the faculty lounge as the coffee perked, their hands shaking as they held their cups, their feet tapping as they tried to urge the brewing process on to greater speed. I never quite understood it.

Oh, I could appreciate the ritual aspect of it, all right. In fact, I sort of envied the coffee drinkers for the many days, weeks, years, of pleasant morning ritual that I would never be a part of. But actually drinking coffee was a price I wasn't willing to pay. I don't like the taste.

I tried, God knows, I tried. When I went to college, everyone drank coffee. The ritual in those days was to stay up all night to study for exams, drinking quarts of coffee along the way. So I tried to learn to like coffee. I bought the best brands. I tried all the brewing secrets.

Didn't work. Not only did I not like coffee, but I didn't like staying up all night, either. At least not to study. As usual, I just didn't fit in.

After I got married, I tried again. Judy loves coffee. She has it morning, noon, and night. (She used to drink so much of it that I actually had to hold an intervention, but that's another story.) Because she likes it so much, I gave it another try.

Didn't work. I still don't like the taste. I get my caffeine in other ways, Dr Pepper and Pepsi One being the preferred methods. But when it comes to coffee, include me out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Incredibles Posted by Hello

The Incredibles

Last night Judy and I went to see The Incredibles. We both liked it a lot. I've seen complaints that it rips off the plot of Spy Kids, to which I respond, "So?" And I've even seen complaints that the villain's lair rips off James Bond movies. Hey, what kind of lair would you expect an incredibly wealthy fanboy villain to have if not one modeled on James Bond movies? What matters is that The Incredibles has humor, heart, and action. Or maybe that should be action! It's the best superhero movie I've seen in years, maybe since the first Christopher Reeve Superman. In fact, for my part, Hollywood can just turn all future superhero movies over to Brad Bird and Pixar.

One thing that really got me about the movie was that by the time it was over I'd pretty much forgotten that I wasn't watching real people on the screen. The animation is that good. I'm scared to think where movie-making is going next, but then I haven't even seen The Polar Express yet. I'd love to see it in IMAX 3-D because I'm sure it would be an amazing experience.

Addendum: Jayme Blaschke has a comment below that's worth reading, and I put a link in my reply to his more complete review of the movie. But that link's not clickable. This one is.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Never Trust A Naked Bus Driver Posted by Hello

Never Trust A Naked Bus Driver

The other day I mentioned that when some of the office bookshelves collapsed, I found my copies of three books by Jack Douglas that I'd been looking for. I discovered Douglas's books back in 1959 or 1960, and at the time I thought they were hilarious. So last night I decided to see if they were still funny after 45 years or so and picked up Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver. The title is either funny or sage advice. Or both.

The cover has a pretty good likeness of Douglas on it. He was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show back when Jack Parr was the host, so I remember what he looked like. And the book is just as strange as I remembered. It's very short, only 116 pages, and some of the pages have very little written on them. Chapter 42, for example, is nothing more than a sign that says, "This is your Submarine. Keep It Tidy." And in fact, chapter might be the wrong word, as it implies some kind of continuity. There's no continuity in the book. Each "chapter" is a separate entity containing things like notes, playbills, diary entries, reminiscenses, one-liners, and so on. My favorite chapter begins with another sign: "Kick the Happiness Habit -- Become a Writer."

So does the book still make me laugh? Sure, in places. It's not as funny to me as it was long ago, however, which is a shame. I figure the book hasn't changed. So it must be me.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson in KISS ME, KATE. Posted by Hello

Howard Keel, RIP - 'Dallas' actor Howard Keel dead - Nov 7, 2004: "'Dallas' actor Howard Keel dead"

I always sort of liked Howard Keel. The first thing I remember seeing him in was Annie Get Your Gun, which was a Broadway musical kind of western. And after that there was Show Boat. I was more impressed by Ava Gardner and Kathryn Grayson, though. Keel played another musical westerner in Calamity Jane, and he was good. I mean, if you can accept squeaky clean Doris Day as Calamity Jane, you can accept just about anything. My favorite Keel movie is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and he plays a rugged frontiersman in that one, as well. Not that the movie's intended to be a realistic depiction of frontier life, any more than Calamity Jane was. Another of my favorites is Kiss Me, Kate. Kathryn Grayson is in that one, too, but what really got my attention was Ann Miller's "Too Darn Hot" number. Hubba-hubba! But I digress. On the grittier side, there's a non-musical western called Waco that Keel made about 40 years ago. It's pretty much forgotten now, but worth a look. I suppose most people remember him for his role on Dallas, but I never saw a single episode of that show.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Flying Taxis

BBC NEWS | UK | Flying taxi vision for commuters

OK, this would be cool, but as for myself, I'm holding out for the Commander Cody Rocket Suit.

The Perils of Book Ownership

When we moved into this house in 1983, I took over the smallest bedroom as my office. I attached some rails to the sheetrock walls, put shelf-holders in the rails, and put shelves on the holders. Then I filled the shelves with paperback books. Lots of paperback books.

The other day I was sitting at the computer when I heard a strange noise. I looked up to my right and saw that the top shelf of paperbacks had collapsed onto the shelf below, which had collapsed onto the shelf below that. Since all three of those shelves were double stacked with paperbacks, it was a precarious situation. If they all let go at once, I was going to be buried in books. Probably appropriate, but it would have taken Judy weeks to dig me out. So I leapt into action.

It's too bad that there was no one with a video camera to record subsequent events. I had a low chair at one end of the shelves and a stool at the other. To get from the chair to the stool, I had to run around the computer desk. And I had to move fast. At times, I was standing on both the stool and the chair at the same time. Impossible, you say? Well, I was there, and I know. I'm sure it looked like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. Somehow I managed to get most of the books cleared off the shelves and to get the shelves themselves down before there was a total disaster. Books were stacked all over the desks in the office and all over the floor in both the office and an adjoining bedroom.

I discovered the reason for the collapse: the middle rail had pulled away from the sheetrock. So I was off to the hardware store to get a couple of sheetrock anchors to replace the old ones. After I got that taken care of, the rails were back in place, and I put the shelves back up. As of today, the books are back in place, too. If the shelves will hold up for another 21 years, I probably won't care what happens to them.

A good side effect of the collapse was that I found some books I'd been looking for, the first three by Jack Douglas: My Brother was an Only Child, Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver, and A Funny Thing Happened on my way to the Grave.