Saturday, October 14, 2006

Happy Birthday, Roger Moore!

Roger Moore (born this day in 1927) was never my idea of James Bond, and the 007 movies he made were never my idea of how the books should have been filmed, but I could overlook those things and enjoy the movies anyway. I also liked Moore as The Saint on TV.

Freddy Fender, R. I. P.

I remember when "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" was a regional hit, many years before it was re-released and hit the national charts.

Singer Freddy Fender dies at 69 in Corpus: "CORPUS CHRISTI — Freddy Fender, the 'Bebop Kid' of the Texas-Mexico border who later turned his twangy tenor into the smash country ballad 'Before the Next Teardrop Falls,' died today. He was 69.

Fender, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2006, died at noon at his Corpus Christi home with his family at his bedside, said Ron Rogers, a family spokesman.

Over the years, he grappled with drug and alcohol abuse, was treated for diabetes and underwent a kidney transplant.

Fender hit it big in 1975 after some regional success, years of struggling — and a stint in prison — when 'Before the Next Teardrop Falls' climbed to No. 1 on the pop and country charts.

'Wasted Days and Wasted Nights' rose to No. 1 on the country chart and top 10 on the pop chart that same year, while 'Secret Love' and 'You'll Lose a Good Thing' also hit No. 1 in the country charts."

Out of the Gutter

Saw this on Tribe's blog. Along with Murdaland, another market for short fiction of the noir and hardboiled kind. Always good news.

OUT OF THE GUTTER: "Out of the Gutter is going to be an anthology of grim, fierce, uncomfortably realistic crime fiction and more. The idea is to create a modern pulp magazine (presented in book form) but more than that I want to test boundaries, to collect material that is at once as troubling and fascinating as a bloody freeway accident. The essays and stories already amassed cover subjects ranging from organized dog fighting to homosexual prostitution in Mexico, to prison violence (a piece from celebrated prison author Seth “Soul Man” Ferranti) to classic detective noir--with a twist."

Listening to On-Line Music

Some people don't like to listen to music while at the computer. I do, so whenever I run across a new music site, I give it a try. I found The Oldies Superhighway through Lloyd Thaxton's blog. What? You don't have a clue as to who Lloyd Thaxton is? Then you're obviously much younger than I am. (These days it seems as if everybody's much younger than I am.) I'm listening to the "Doo-Wop Jukebox" on The Oldies Superhighway right now. Any site that starts off with Dion and the Belmonts singing "I Wonder Why" is a winner in my book. Check it out.

The Pleasures and Perils of Pop Culture

Here's an interesting article on how the Harvard College Library (yes, that Harvard) is preserving a collection of science fiction pulps. A few nice pics, too. Check it out.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sisters in Crime 20th Anniversary Party

This party was at Houston's Murder by the Book, October 13, 2006. Seen here are Julie Wray Herman, Leann Sweeny, Laura Elvebak, and Dean James, among others.

Sisters in Crime 20th Anniversary Party

Bill and Susan Albert, Betty Gordon, Kay Finch, Laura Elvebak, Leann Sweeny, Shirley Wetzel, among others.

Sisters in Crime 20th Anniversary Party

Murder by the Book, Houston, October 13, 2006. Sheri Rowe kicks things off. Pauline Jones is wearing the red jacket. Cash Arnold is seated.

Educational Gator Update

More about Handwriting

Thanks, once again, to Karin Montin.

Changing child's handwriting improves behaviour: analyst: "OTTAWA -- Parents of difficult children can take some solace in the latest theory circulating in education circles that the key to changing kids' negative behaviour could be as simple as changing their handwriting.

Handwriting analyst Simon Zelcovitch has begun working with families to help transform selfish kids into more giving ones, domineering kids into collegial ones, and closed-minded or secretive children into more open, personable people -- all by identifying revealing aspects of their handwriting and changing their writing patterns accordingly.

'By altering their handwriting, the person will change their behaviour. There's absolutely a connection,' said Zelcovitch, who is based in Toronto."

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Smith parts company with her Bahamas lawyer - "ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- Anna Nicole Smith's lead attorney in the Bahamas said Wednesday he has withdrawn as counsel for the reality TV star, citing disagreements on matters of strategy and concerns about her conduct.

Michael Scott said he was unsettled by Smith's decision to exchange vows with her boyfriend even before she made funeral arrangements for Daniel Smith, her 20-year-old son who died September 10.

People magazine bought photos of the ceremony, which was not a legal wedding and was held aboard a catamaran on September 28 in waters off Nassau, Bahamas.

'A disagreement on a commercial transaction made it difficult for us to remain as counsel,' Scott told The Associated Press over the phone.

A Nassau funeral home has been holding Daniel Smith's embalmed body while awaiting further instructions from the family. He died while visiting Smith in a Bahamas hospital where she had given birth to a daughter three days earlier.

Bahamian police investigating Smith's death expect to submit their report as early as this week to authorities who will determine whether a jury inquest is necessary."

Lights Out -- Jason Starr

In Jason Starr's novels, bad things happen to bad people. There are no admirable characters in Lights Out. Some are just worse than others. It's the story of two guys from Brooklyn, Jake and Ryan, who were high school baseball stars on the fast track to the majors. Jake makes it big, but Ryan, a pitcher, blows out his arm, has unsuccessful Tommy John surgery, and winds up painting houses for ten bucks an hour. He also falls in love with Jake's fiance, and when Jake comes home for a visit, things start to go downhill quickly.

There's another story, too, about an ex-con and former drug dealer who'd really like to go straight but who's finding it hard to do so. I'll leave it up to you to find out how the two stories get entangled and to discover who does what to whom, because that's part of the fun after all.

And speaking of fun, besides being a walk on the dark side, this book is often hilariously funny. You might not be expecting to get a bundle of laughs from a
noir novel, but they're sure there. This is my new favorite among Jason Starr's novels. Check it out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


This handwritten post was inspired by this one.

Speaking of Learning to Read . . . .

SPRUCEDALE, ONT. — When 100-year-old Clarence Brazier decided, at 93, that he'd have to learn to read his junk mail if he ever hoped to shop for himself, it was a matter of necessity — just as taking over the family farm had been when he was barely old enough to tie his shoes let alone shoe a horse.

Thanks to Karin Montin for the link.

Reading -- Going the Way of Cursive Writing?

Click the link to see the article leading to this conclusion. Thanks to Scott Cupp for the tip.

What is the worth of words? - The Practical Futurist - "We have made at least two generations of American children miserable trying to teach them a skill that only a small percentage of them really need. And we have wasted billions of dollars that might well have gone for more practical education and training.

In 2025 it’s time to put reading into perspective for the remainder of the 21st century: it is a luxury, not a necessity!"

Wolfking of L.A. -- John Phillips

Sometime back in 1969 or so I walked into a record store and saw this LP. I'd heard "Mississippi" on the radio, and I thought it was probably one of the best "Top 40"-type songs I'd heard in years, so I bought the album. I played it a lot because I liked every song on it. I never got tired of hearing "Mississippi," which was a bit different from the single version, or any of the others, particularly "Holland Tunnel," "April Anne," "Captain (The Mermaid)," or all the rest for that matter. When the album was released on CD the first time, I didn't buy it or even hear about it. Later, I looked for it used, but the prices were sky high. When it was released again recently, I couldn't wait to hear it. When I did, it was as if 35 years hadn't been more than 35 minutes. All the songs were instantly familiar and just as listenable as ever. If you get the chance, check it out. Great stuff. (Warning: Probably not of interest to headbangers.)

Sean Doolittle's Latest

I have it on good authority -- well, okay, I have it from Victor Gischler, and you can judge for yourself how good the authority is -- the Sean Doolittle composed the music that plays on the cool site for his new book, The Cleanup. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gator Update

Photo at the link. - Local News - 9-Foot Alligator Found Under Hotel Cars: "A 9-foot alligator was found under some parked cars at a Central Florida hotel Wednesday, according to Local 6 News.

Trappers were called to the Hampton Inn located at 4760 Helen Hauser Blvd. in Titusville, Fla., after the alligator was spotted moving between vehicles.

'(The alligator) did not come in contact with any guests but you can imagine it did give them quite a scare,' Local 6's Jessica Sanchez said."

MWA Honors Stephen King

Stephen King Named 2007 Grand Master

ImageIt is our great pleasure to announce to our membership that the recipient of the 2007 Grand Master Award will be Stephen King.

The annual Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field and was established to recognize not only important contributions to the mystery field over time, but a significant output of consistently high quality as well.

"As Grand Master, Stephen King is the natural successor to Edgar Allan Poe," says Reed Farrel Coleman, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. "King is that rare jack all trades who masters all he attempts. He is a fearless writer."

King is an award-winning author of more than thirty books including MISERY, THE COLORADO KID, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, GERALD'S GAME and SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN. His latest novel, LISEY'S STORY is set to be released in October, 2006.

"I'm delighted to be getting the Grand Master Award and to be joining the company of some of my greatest idols and teachers -- people like John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, and Donald E. Westlake," says King. "The award means a great deal to me personally, because it's an award from people who understand two things: the importance of good writing and the importance of telling stories."

King will receive the award at the 61st Annual Edgar® Banquet to be held on Thursday, April 26, 2007 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The "Edgars" as they are commonly known are named after Mystery Writers of America's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are awarded to authors of distinguished work in various categories.

We look forward to seeing all of you at the Awards banquet next April.

The Times, They Are A-Changing

WP: Cursive writing becomes pass?- Highlights - "WASHINGTON - The computer keyboard helped kill shorthand, and now it's threatening to finish off longhand.

When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters.

And those college hopefuls are just the first edge of a wave of U.S. students who no longer get much handwriting instruction in the primary grades, frequently 10 minutes a day or less. As a result, more and more students struggle to read and write cursive."

Allan Caillou, R. I. P.

THE GUMSHOE SITE: "Alan Caillou died on October 01 in Sedona, Arizona. Born Alan Lyle-Smythe, he used the Alan Caillou alias while he was serving with the British Intelligence Corps during World War II. After the war he worked as a police chief in Africa, and moved to Hollywood via Canada. He wrote TV scripts for several shows including 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,' 'Mannix' and 'McMillan & Wife,' and sometimes appeared in some of them. He wrote a number of adventure/mystery novels with four series featuring Mike Benasque, Cabot Cain, Ian Quayle and Colonel Matthew Tobin. Some source erroneously mentions that he won an Edgar in 1970, but actually he was just nominated for ASSAULT ON MING (Avon, 1969) in the paperback original category. He was 91."

I'm a little late with this news, and I was sorry to hear it. I really enjoyed the books in the Cabot Cain series, and also those featuring Colonel Tobin. It should not go unmentioned that he starred as "The Head" in the TV series Quark. How many writers have a credit like that on their resumes?

Happy Birthday, Elmore Leonard!

The first Elmore Leonard novel I read was Fifty-Two Pick-Up, way back in the mid-70s. After that I went out and picked up some of the earlier stuff, including several of the westerns, which is a good thing. I might not want to pay the prices some of them are bringing these days. Leonard's books have brought me a lot of reading pleasure over the years, and you're missing a treat if you haven't tried them. Leonard was born on this day in 1925, so here's wishing him a great day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Calibre -- Ken Bruen

Brant's back. That might be all you need to hear if you're a fan, like me. Naturally, however, I have a little more to say.

I like to think of Ken Bruen's books about the Southeast London police squad as his homage to the 87th Precinct books of Ed McBain, books much admired by Inspector Brant. Sort of the 87th Precinct on acid. Brant wants to write a book. The fact that he can't write doesn't bother him at all, and before long he's on the way to becoming a literary sensation. A serial killer, obsessed with Jim Thompson's novels, particuarly The Killer inside Me, is on the loose, offing people with bad manners. Falls' love life is in shambles (so what's new?). And the various other cops are screwing up in various other ways. In this series no crime ever gets solved by solid policework. It's luck, brutality, and snitches. That is, it's those things when the crimes are solved at all. It's impossible to describe a Bruen book. This one's violent, funny, poetic, and just plain fun to read. When it ends, you'll be eager to know what's next for Brant and the whole gang. Check it out.

Spray Yourself with -- the Hoff!

DAVID HASSELHOFF - EAU DE HOFF: "Singer/actor DAVID HASSELHOFF is set to launch a range of male and female fragrances - insisting 'spraying yourself with me' is the only way for fans to start the day. The Knight Rider star's new idea is the latest venture in a series of 'Hoff products', which includes 'Don't Hassle The Hoff' T shirts and 'Malibu Dave' surf wear. Hasselhoff says, 'It's never been a better time to be - these products will be an extension of who I am and what better way to start your day than by spraying yourself with me and then heading out to face the world.'"

The Crimedog Reinvents His Blog

Anthony Neil Smith has restyled his blog, and in today's entry he talks about the Post-Modern Pulp issue of the Mississippi Review. Check it out.

It Happens to the Best of Them

HUGH HEFNER - HEFNER PREFERS DOMINOES TO SEX: "Ageing lothario HUGH HEFNER knows he getting old because he now prefers playing dominoes with his partners to having sex. The 80-year-old, who opened his Playboy Club in Las Vegas on Saturday (07OCT06), lives with three blonde babes but has grown tired of sex after decades spent bedding numerous beauties. He says, 'I'm bored of the hanky panky. I'm still active but it's different - I like to play dominoes with my girlfriends.'"

I, For One, Couldn't Be More Pleased - Paris and Nicole make up for 'Simple Life' fans - Oct 10, 2006: "LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie are reunited. And the producer of 'The Simple Life' says it feels so good.

After a yearlong public feud that nearly killed the reality show that made them famous, Hilton and Richie have agreed to film a fifth chapter of 'The Simple Life' together, executive producer Jon Murray told The Associated Press.

'The thing the viewers love is the two girls together,' he said. 'America, Paris and Nicole are going to camp.'

The 25-year-old celebutantes will be camp counselors in the newest 'Simple Life' adventure, which is set to begin production next month, Murray said. The show will air on E! next spring, he said.

The show will delve into 'what led to the breakdown in the friendship and maybe some of the misunderstandings and things that got in the way,' he said."

Bob Dylan is Sexier than I Am. And He's More Popular, Too.

Sure, you're saying. I knew that. Well, now we have proof. Ed Gorman sends me news of The Celebrity Ranker, which tells you how popular and how sexy people are. I checked out Bob Dylan. He's the web's 1658th most popular celeb and the 6529th sexiest. So I naturally had to compare myself with him, and it was a bitter disappointment. I'm the 7543rd most popular celeb, and (this really hurts) the 11,632nd sexiest. But you know what really hurts? Ed Gorman is more popular and sexier than I am. I think I'll just go lie down somewhere and sulk for the rest of the day.

Stephen King to Visit London

From Ali Karim - Shots Ezine
Pardon me for getting excitable!
We've just heard some HUGE News and would appreciate you putting this online, and/or letting your readers know, that THE KING is coming to London.
For me, this is the literary event of the year! and I have always supported Stephen King as he always supports writers and readers worldwide and have been an avid fan since my youth -
SO :-
Stephen King will soon make his first UK appearance for 10 years to coincide with publication of LISEY' STORY.

This exclusive event, presented by The Times, Hodder & Stoughton and Waterstone's, will take place at Battersea park Events Arena on November 7th at 7.00pm. Tickets cost £15.00 each. Book yours now on: 08708 303 488

Monday, October 09, 2006

From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: an Excerpt

John Duke, intrigued by the offensive toponyms mentioned in a previous post, sends this enlightening link.

From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame by Mark Monmonier, an excerpt: "Offensive toponyms fall into two categories. One type, examined earlier, denigrates racial and ethnic groups. The other variety, dealt with here, offends folks bothered by rude or otherwise impolite references to body parts, sex, excrement, and other no-no’s. A form of geographic cussing, rowdy feature names are markedly less controversial than their ethnically derogatory counterparts, partly because the irreverent miners and ranchers responsible for most of them avoided the F-word and similar shockers, and partly because questionable toponyms occur mostly in remote, sparsely inhabited areas with few eyebrows to raise. Indeed, an outsider who objects to a locally acceptable “naughty name” is quickly branded a stuffed shirt or prude."

You Learn Something Every Day | AP News: "Idaho tribes want places named 'Squaw' removed from maps

SQUAW BAY, Idaho (AP) -- Members of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe refer to it as the 'S Word,' but 93 creeks, canyons, peaks and springs in Idaho that include the name 'squaw' are not so censored on maps.

Linguists debate the meaning of the word, but the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and most other American Indians in the Northwest say it's a derogatory reference for a woman's genitals dating back to the area's frontier past.

Now, members of the tribe are pushing to strike 13 squaw references from maps of Idaho."

Will the Persecution Never End? (A Continuing Series)

Paris Hilton caught carrying cannabis claim - Showbiz News - Life Style Extra: "LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - Paris Hilton has been caught alledgedly carrying cannabis in her handbag.

The 25-year-old socialite attended a fashion party in Milan and was pictured with a transparent plastic bag of what appeared to be skunk, a powerful form of marijuana, as she opened her handbag.

A witness said: 'Paris had her bag open for quite a while as she applied lip gloss. There were a few shocked faces around her but she carried on chatting away.'"

Good News from Genre Bookstores!

News from The Associated Press: "In general, times remain tough for most locally owned bookstores; the American Booksellers Association in Tarrytown, N.Y., said fewer than 40 percent of books are now sold by independent stores.

Even in intellectual hubs like Berkeley, flagging sales recently led to the closure of a vaunted institution, the flagship store of Cody's Books near the University of California campus. And in Cambridge, Mass., the eclectic WordsWorth Books closed its doors in 2004 after nearly 30 years in Harvard Square.

Genre stores, specializing in literature ranging from fantasy to religion, have bucked this trend by catering to inveterate and demanding readers. Booksellers in southern California, New York, Minneapolis and elsewhere are finding ways to be profitable by targeting specific markets."

If George Lucas Had Directed Lord of the Rings . . . .

Thanks to Scott Cupp for the link.

Take the Lead

This is really a combination of two different kinds of movies that I've seen a zillion times before, starting with The Blackboard Jungle and Rock, Rock, Rock and moving forward through the years with things like To Sir, with Love and many others.

In this one suave, polite dancing instructor Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) goes to an inner-city school to teach dancing to the kids in detention. At the end the students to to the big dance contest. You can figure out what happens in between.

There are a lot of things to criticize in the movie. The kids in detention, for one, seem like a bunch of real sweethearts. The principal mentions some of the reasons they might be there, but they demonstrate none of those behaviors in the movie. They're just great kids. We're shown the tough home lives of a couple of them, but both the kids are hard workers who want to graduate and make something of themselves. In the competition at the end, the beginning dancers are up against the best of the best, which would never happen in a real contest. And so on. None of that matters, really, at least not to me. The movie's still very entertaining, and Banderas gives one of the best performances I've seen from him. There's some good dancing of all kinds.

If you're an old guy like me, you remember that in movies like Don't Knock the Rock the parents hate the dances the kids do, and they hate the music. Here, the kids hate the music that Banderas brings to them, and the upper-crust dancers hate the music of the inner city. But in the old rock 'n' roll movies, the parents always ended up dancing to the music of the kids. Stay through the closing credits of Take the Lead and see how the old trope plays out.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rod Stewart Speaks for the Defense

Fametastic ? Paris Hilton is polite and well-mannered, says Rod Stewart: "It’s rare that another celebrity speaks out in favour of Paris Hilton but Rod Stewart has told the Ellen DeGeneres Show that he thinks she’s polite and will grow out of her need for attention.

Rod, who knows the socialite through his daughter Kimberly Stewart, told the show: “I’ve always found Paris to be extremely polite, well-mannered. She is when she’s around me and did not do a bad version “If you think I’m sexy” as it happens.”

“She enjoys the publicity [but] I think she’ll grow out of it I think too when she finds the right guy in her life.”

“I think she’ll get everything in perspective and leave the press alone and the press will leave her alone hopefully.”"

Top 10 Chokes by the New York Yankees Page 2 : The List: Bliss for Yankee haters: "It has become an annual tradition since 2000.

The New York Yankees' season ends without another World Series title, and Yankee haters everywhere rejoice. Doesn't matter whether it's the Angels, Red Sox, Marlins, Diamondbacks or now the Tigers eliminating New York, all that matters to Yankee haters is the premature demise of the team with MLB's biggest payroll.

In the past few Octobers, we've had to make several updates to Page 2's list of the 10 best moments ever for Yankee haters. After this year's collapse in Detroit, we submit our new top 10.

And, if you're a Yankee fan, you might want to avoid this list ... and go back to dreaming of the day when the Bronx Bombers will finally add that elusive 27th world championship."

Another "Best of" List

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

The Observer | Review | What's the best novel in the past 25 years?: "A recent poll in the New York Times named Toni Morrison's Beloved as the greatest work of American fiction in the past 25 years. But what about over here? On the eve of this year's Booker Prize, we asked 150 literary luminaries to vote for the best British, Irish or Commonwealth novel from 1980 to 2005. "

Tony Bennett

Judy and I went to see Tony Bennett in concert last night in Galveston. As it happened, I was listening to XM radio's show about '50s pop earlier in the day, the show where they eventually play the top 5 hits of the current week from some year in the past. The year chosen yesterday was 1952, and in this October week in that year, Bennett had a couple of songs in the top 5: "Because of You" and "Cold, Cold Heart." Fifty-four years later, he's still singing. That's what I call sustaining a career.

Bennett might be 80 years old, and his voice might not quite be what it once was, but it's still damned good, and he can still belt it out. He can still hold a note about five times longer than I could, and at one point he even had the mic turned off to sing without amplification, accompanied only by a soft guitar. I wasn't in the top balcony, but I'll bet they could hear him there without any problem.

Bennett sang what you'd expect to hear: "Cold, Cold Heart," "Shadow of Your Smile," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Lots of standards from the American Songbook. Great stuff. He can still swing with the best of them, as he proved in "I've Got Rhythm" and "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got that Swing."

The show ran a little over an hour and a half, with no break. Not much talking, just singing. At 80, Bennett has a lot more energy than I do. It was a fine evening.

Wilson "Bob" Tucker, R. I. P.

Wilson "Bob" Tucker was the toastmaster at the first AggieCon I ever attended (around 1980). He was also the toastmaster at the very first Cluefest. I didn't know him well, but he seemed like a great guy, one of those people that everyone liked. He was a big-time fan, and a wonderful writer of both SF (The Year of the Quiet Sun) and mysteries (To Keep or Kill). His name is the source of the word tuckerization, and for that alone he'll be immortal.

Wilson "Bob" Tucker (1914-2006) - SFWA News:
"Wilson Tucker passed away today: Friday, October 6, 2006. He had been in a hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida since Tuesday. He would have turned 92 in a few weeks.

Tucker contributed to many aspects of genre Science Fiction. As 'Bob' Tucker, he was well loved as a convention guest and fanzine writer. He served on the committee of the 2nd World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon, in 1940. He was the author of 60 short stories and novels, including the Campbell Award winning The Year of the Quiet Sun.'

His many other honors included three Hugo Awards (two retro), the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, E.E. Smith Memorial Award, Archon Hall of Fame Award - Grand Master, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Author Emeritus and was a 2003 inductee in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

A more detailed memorial will follow, probably on Monday."