Friday, March 24, 2006

More Books than Space

"Avid readers . . . grapple with storage, from basic bricks-and-board shelving to exquisite, and exquisitely expensive, custom cabinetry. They have discovered that books can be tucked under the stairs, over doorways, into headboards, atop the refrigerator and inside kitchen cabinets. The cliched decorator's trick of stacking large, glossy art books on their sides can give new life to occasional tables. Indeed, several uniform, knee-high piles of books on the floor can become a table when topped by a piece of glass."

Sure, just one post down I said no more blogging until Sunday or Monday. So I lied. I couldn't pass up a mention of this article from the Washington Post. You probably have to register to read it. It's all too true, and it reminded me of my recent post on compulsive hoarding.


Judy and I off for the AggieCon in beautiful College Station, Texas. Maybe some of you will be there as well. I won't have a computer with me, so there won't be any blogging here until Sunday evening or Monday morning. I know you'll miss me, but I'm sure you can find something else to read for a couple of days.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Phantom Nights -- John Farris

A couple of years ago I mentioned my admiration of John Farris. It's hard to believe I've been reading his work for over 45 years now. Besides Harrison High, I really like Sharp Practice and The Fury, as well as a number of others. Farris's most recent book to make it to paperback is Phantom Nights. It's set in 1952, and it's the story of the rape and murder of a black woman in a small southern town called Evening Shade. I can't help thinking of the TV series starring Burt Reynolds and Ossie Davis; I wonder if Farris ever saw it or for that matter if his editor did. I think I'd have changed the name of the town. But I digress.


There's a witness to the murder, a 14-year-old mute named Alex, whose brother, Bobby, happens to be the county's acting sheriff, but there's no real evidence that would lead to a conviction, that is, there's not until the murdered woman's father turns up. He's a doctor who lived much of his young life in Paris, and he's up on all the latest techniques of forensic science. So the book is about his relationship with Alex and Bobby as it is about the murder. And here's a warning for you crime fiction fans: The book has a lot of supernatural elements. If you don't go for that sort of thing in your crime novels, better skip this one. If you don't mind, though, this is a well-written and entertaining story. Check it out.

I, for One, Can Hardly Wait

Paris and Nicky Hilton preliminary cartoon sketches - The Superficial - "Paris and Nicky Hilton are making a cartoon TV show about their lives in the style of The Simpsons, and have spoken to Interscope boss Ted Fields who will make the series and hopes to air it on US television."

The Dan Brown Code

The Dan Brown Code - In a court filing, the best-selling author of The Da Vinci Code reveals all the secrets of a pulp novelist:
By Bryan Curtis
Updated Wednesday, March 22, 2006, at 6:10 PM ET

"Dan Brown, author of the mega-selling The Da Vinci Code, has brought forth his most thrilling piece of writing to date: a court document."

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the tip. I think this pretty much explains why I didn't enjoy The Da Vinci Code and why I won't be reading any more books by Dan Brown

New Drive-In Theater

When we went to Dallas a few weeks ago, we drove past the Galaxy Drive-In on Interstate 45 near Ennis. It's nice to know that the drive-in is making a comeback. Update: I've added a photo that shows one screen. The speakers are in the foreground.

Galaxy Drive-In Theatre: "Please arrive as early as possible to help avoid long lines of cars and traffic problems, which in turn leads to later start times! For safety reasons and the consideration of other patrons we cannot start the first features while several cars are still trying to park!
PLEASE do not wait until the last minute to show up!!!"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shaolin Soccer

I often go about things all wrong. For example, I watched Kung Fu Hustle before watching Shaolin Soccer. Both movies were made by (and star) Stephen Chow, and both are hilarious fun.

Shaolin Soccer is sort of a Bad News Bears movie. Chow is concerned with making the martial arts relevant to modern society, and he's always got a scheme (including one that gives us the worst singing duo since Hoffman and Beatty teamed up in Ishtar. In his latest plan, Chow wants his band of brothers to form a kung fu soccer team. This suits Golden Leg fine. He wants revenge against the owner of Team Evil (yes, that's its name) because the owner had his leg broken years before.

You pretty much know what's going to happen, and sure enough it does. The kung fu team tears through the opposition, right up until the Big Game, when they meet Team Evil, a bunch of guys who have even more kung fu powers (the cheaters!) than our heroes. I won't tell you the outcome of the game, since you know it already, but maybe the way it happens will surprise you.

Like Kung Fu Hustle, this movie throws in some singing and dancing in places you'd least expect. It also has a love story, and lots of laughs. There's no sequel, so far, but I read somewhere that Kung Fu Hustle 2 is being filmed. I'm ready.

Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome

What's really scary isn't that I have several of these sympoms. What's really scary is the sentence that says, "The condition worsens with age."

Lansing State Journal: Amassing a mess too ugly to live in: "Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome
• What is it: The disorder, which is classified under obsessive-compulsive disorder, has three key components: overacquisition of things; disorganization; failure to discard items that appear to have little value.

• Characteristics: Sufferers often feel a hyper-responsibility to care for items. For example, a person may collect recyclables, fearing no one else will see them to their proper place. The condition worsens with age.

• Hallmark symptom: Stuff takes over places designed for other purposes. For example, items may be stacked on a stove so the stove can no longer be used, or stacked on a bed so the bed can no longer be used or even stacked in a shower.

• Treatment: Compulsive hoarding tends to be more resistant to treatment than other forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. That is because all three components - overacquisition, disorganization and failure to discard - need to be treated.

Source: Hoarding expert Irene Tobis, a Chicago psychologist"

An Interview with Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen | The A.V. Club: "Just before embarking for America, where he'll be touring through early May, Harryhausen talked with The A.V. Club about his life and his new book The Art Of Ray Harryhausen, which looks back at his career from his high-school days building mammoths out of his mother's discarded fur coat to his latest work as a bronze sculptor."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Rock On

From the March 21st edition of The Writer's Almanac and Garrison Keillor:

It was on this day in 1952 that Allan Freed organized the first ever rock and roll concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1951 Alan Freed took to the airwaves for the first time under the name Moondog. He was convinced by a record storeowner named Leo Mintz to play rhythm and blues songs to an audience of mostly white teenagers. This was a new idea at the time, and it made Freed very popular with his audience.

Freed became a favorite in Cleveland, and so he decided to hold a concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, for his loyal listeners. He hired bands like the Dominoes, the Rockin' Highlanders, Tiny Grimes and Danny Cobb to play the Cleveland Arena which held 10,000 people. At first, Freed was afraid the concert would be a bust because nobody would show up. But thousands of teenagers lined the sidewalks of Euclid Avenue, holding tickets Freed had printed, eager to hear these black artists perform their music. The arena filled easily, and thousands of teenagers were barred from entering, even though they had tickets.

The first performer that night was Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams. During his first song, the barred teenagers tried to force their way inside. They broke doors and windows, people were knocked down and pushed aside, and fights broke out all over the arena. The police closed down the concert after Williams had played only one song.

Roast Alligator

Boing Boing: Ever wondered what roast alligator tastes like?:
"Esther Dyson's amazing food snapshot from the recent VIP 'Explorer's Club' dinner may not answer that question, but it does show you what oven-roasted alligator looks like. "

Nightstand Books

Click the link for an excellent article, not to mention a checklist with cover scans!

Lynn Munroe Books: "William L. Hamling started publishing Nightstand Books in Illinois in 1959. The little paperback originals with pink or yellow spines and titles like SEX GANG and SIN GIRLS were immediate best sellers, and Nightstand brought more out each month, a couple hundred of them over the next few years. And other lines were spawned by the same publishing house: first Midnight Readers, then Leisure Books and Ember Library and many more, a couple thousand of them over the next decade."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ernest Hemingway, Spy - Ernest Hemingway, secret agent: "Ernest Hemingway, secret agent
Mar. 19, 2006. 10:43 AM

In 1994, I began to look around Hong Kong for Hemingway the Literary Adventurer. What I discovered instead was Hemingway the Spy."

This article, like the one below, was called to my attention by contributors to the fictionmags list.

Noir Town

Noir Town: "The hard life of John McIntyre, the legendary Philly novelist nobody's heard of."

This long article by Kevin Plunkett is from Duane Swierczynski's paper. Well worth your time.

I'm Considering an Offer of the Same Deal to Readers of my New Book

Turkmen president offers a place in heaven to his readers - Yahoo! News: "ASHGABAT (AFP) - Turkmenistan's president-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov announced on state television that anyone reading his philosophical work three times would be assured a place in heaven.

'Anyone who reads the Rukhnama three times will find spiritual wealth, will become more intelligent, will recognise the divine being and will go straight to heaven,' Niyazov said Monday."

That's my book there on the left. You can get it at your friendly independent mystery bookstore or here. It's an April 15 release, so you might have to wait a couple of weeks.

Brokeback Bunnies

Brokeback Mountain in 30 seconds. With Bunnies.

Headline of the Day


Court ruling mostly in its favour

By Nick Farrell
: Monday 20 March 2006, 08:01

SEARCH outfit Google has managed to tell the US government to go forth and multiply over its demands that it hand over details of keywords that its punters choose to search.

US Justice Department wanted the data so it could back a Bush administration initiative to defend a federal law created to shield children from online pornography.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A History of Violence

If you haven't seen this movie, then you probably shouldn't read any more of this because the whole thing is one giant SPOILER.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me say that I liked A History of Violence quite a bit. I was reminded of a couple hundred westerns I saw as a kid, the ones where the gunfighter is trying to give up his life of violence and start over. This movie's not quite in the Shane mold, but that should give you an idea. Someone always comes along and screws things up.

Viggo Mortensen plays Tom Stalls, who's not really the guy he appears to be. When a couple of murderous drifters come into his diner with intent to kill, Tom's hidden depths are revealed to the town and to his family, none of whom had any idea about his past. Will Tom be able to hang onto his present, or will he get pulled back into the old ways? Will his family be able to forgive him? Has his son inherited Tom's violent nature (and his reaction times, along with his fighting skills), and if he has, can he control himself? Are there situations in which violence is the only answer? Most of these questions aren't resolved, but they're there for you to think about.

The movie has an almost leisurely pace at times, and the violence, when it occurs, is over quickly. Things happen fast, and then they're done. This morning I was talking to a woman who recently survived a terrible traffic accident. She saw Jeep Cherokee swerve off the road and into a ditch. She said, "I thought it would flip over and that someone would be hurt or killed, but I didn't think it would be me. The next thing I knew, the Jeep was back on the road and on the hood of my car and bam! that was all." The movie reminded me of that.

There's a great scene near the end with William Hurt, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his brief appearance. He deserved the nomination. It's the best performance I've seen from him in years. He's scary and hilarious at the same time.

Highly recommended.

Twelve Books that Changed the World

The world's best books - Sunday Times - Times Online:
"When Melvyn Bragg set out to pick the books that changed mankind he found himself making some startling choices"

You can read the whole article, or you can just scroll down and read the list. How many of the books on it have you read?