Saturday, March 17, 2007

No Comment Department

Sherlock set to buff up | News | Guardian Unlimited Film: "The tumbleweeds that skid across the barren desert of Hollywood creativity showed no sign of letting up yesterday as Warner Bros announced it is reinventing Sherlock Holmes as an action hero.

Neil Marshall, the highly regarded British director of The Descent, has been hired to orchestrate proceedings and transform the erudite sleuth of 221B Baker Street into something a little more rough-hewn.

The story will be adapted from Lionel Wigram's upcoming graphic novel Sherlock Holmes, with the British Wigram set to produce.

Studio executives are keeping mum about the storyline, although it is understood that Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary creation will rely less on tugging pensively on his pipe and employ instead his little known pugilistic skills and swordsmanship to vanquish Victorian villainy.

Holmes' newfound fighting prowess alone will not be enough to overcome his foes, however. In keeping with the vague truism that behind every superhero lurks an older, often mustachioed aide, the producers are pairing up the crime-fighter with a new-look Dr Watson. Elementary, really."

The Paper of Record's Obit for Richard S. Prather

The New York Times: Richard S. Prather, a hugely popular mystery writer of the 1950s and ’60s whose novels were known for their swift violence, loopy humor and astonishing number of characters with no clothes on, died on Feb. 14 at his home in Sedona, Ariz. He was 85.

Richard S. Prather in 1985.

The cause was complications of respiratory disease, his friend Linda Pendleton said.

Mr. Prather (his surname rhymed with “bather”) was best known for his three dozen novels featuring the private eye Shell Scott, a 6-foot-2 ex-marine with a broken nose, a bristling white buzz cut and an ear ravaged by a bullet he took in the Pacific theater. Among the titles in the series, most published by Fawcett, are “Find This Woman” (1951); “Always Leave ’Em Dying” (1954); “Joker in the Deck” (1964); “The Kubla Khan Caper” (Trident, 1966); and “Gat Heat” (Trident, 1967).

The Shell Scott novels have sold more than 40 million copies, according to the reference work Contemporary Authors. Most are now out of print.

More at the link.

How the Other Half Lives

A slideshow of billionaires' homes.

Link via Neatorama.

Black Snake Moan

Those of you familiar with my sordid past know that I was practically required by law to see this movie. It was twenty-five years ago, in fact, that I published an article about backwoods books in The Journal of Popular Culture, illustrated with b&w photos of some wonderful titles. Although the writer and director of Black Snake Moan probably never saw any of those novels, his movie would fit right in. Allow me to quote a few blurbs from the books, all by Harry Whittington under a couple of names.

Cracker Girl (Harry Whittington): "Yet in the end this proved her salvation, her only escape from the angry passions and degrading emotions which enslaved her."

Backwoods Shack (Hallam Whitney): "There was Lora, beautiful, vibrant and desirable, but trash."

From Shack Road (Hallam Whitney): "Callie May . . . just couldn't help being friendly to strangers . . . a warm friendliness that was forever attracting strangers to her. . . ."

Backwoods Hussy (Hallam Whitney): "Her woman's instinct had made her suspect what she could do to a man -- now she knew what men could do to her. . . And she was lost -- lost in the grip of desire . . . ."

Those books were published around 55 years ago, so we all know promised a lot more than they ever delivered.
Black Snake Moan delivers, and of course it's completely ridiculous. A black man, former blues singer, chains up a young white woman in his backwoods shack to save her from "the angry passions and degrading emotions which enslaved her," as the blurb writer put it back in 1952. Throw in a boyfriend who has serious problems of his own, have the blues singer in a real snit because his wife's run off with his younger brother, and you pretty much have the plot.

Could anybody but Samuel L. Jackson have pulled off the role of the blues singer? I can't think of anybody, but he makes it believable. It's a towering performance. Christina Ricci plays the young woman, and she's Jackson's equal. John Cothan, Jr., is fine as a preacher who's Jackson's friend, and S. Epatha Merkerson is also very good. Justin Timberlake plays the boyfriend. I'm less enthusiastic about his performance, but he's adequate.

This is a movie that absolutely shouldn't have worked. That it does is a credit to the performers, not to mention the soundtrack, which is the best of the year. Best of several years, if you ask me. The movie might not be for everyone (lots of sex, violence, and cussing), but the soundtrack is. Check 'em both out.

Anna Nicole Smith -- the Movie

I wonder who's going to play my brother.

Anna Nicole Smith movie in the works - "Filming will begin in Los Angeles early next month on a motion picture about the life of Anna Nicole Smith, CNN has learned.

Producer Jack Nasser of All-Media Productions told CNN on Friday that his company is in the process of casting the lead role in the film, which could be released as early as June.

'We're moving as quickly as possible' on the production, Nasser told CNN. 'We're on what we call 'the fast track.' '

Nasser said the film will cover Smith's life from from age 17 until her death last month at 39, including her marriage to billionaire J. Howard Marshall and the death of her son Daniel.

Nasser said his film will focus on 'the positive' about Smith, whose February 8 death caused a media sensation. 'It's not focused on the trash,' he said."

Saint Patrick's Day

Top o' the mornin' to all.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bob Randisi Comments on Raines

Bob Randisi is the author of Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime (A Rat Pack Mystery) and (with Vince Van Patten) The Picasso Flop.

I don't usually respond to blogs, . . but I had to respond to your comments about Raines.
SPOILER ALERT! I love that he talks to his dead partner. In fact, if I hadn't seen Goldblum of Regis and Kelly that same morning--where HE gave it away--I might have been surprised. Well, maybe not. END SPOILER ALERT! But I lke the feel of the entire show, talking dead and all. I didn't think it would work for me but, like you, I wanted to give the show and chance. Mainly because of Goldblum. I like him in almost anything. I disagree that this is nothing special. The fact that it's not part of the L&O or CSI franchise makes it special. Goldblum is his usual understated self, which works here. And the retro feel works, as you pointed out. But the taking to the dead aspect--I really liked when he asked the girl a question and she responded "I only know what you know." Characters have talked to themselves before, but this is much better. And it's not played for laughs, i.e. giving us a shot of him talking to air and people staring at him. The only episodic tv I watch is pretty much Shark, Medium, Numbers, and now Raines. Raines is what I wish Monk was, quirky without being slapstick.

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband sues Bill O'Reilly -

Prince Frederic von Anhalt has sued Fox and Bill O'Reilly after the talk show host called him a fraud for claiming he could be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby.

Von Anhalt, who is married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, filed the defamation suit seeking at least $10 million in damages Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The claim stems from comments the talk show host made during a February 22 segment of "The O'Reilly Factor."

"Look, this guy's a fraud," O'Reilly said, according to a transcript of the show posted on the network's Web site. "We know he's a fraud. But let's -- what I want to talk about is -- he's done. His credibility is -- is finished."

Since the show aired, von Anhalt said people give him dirty looks when he goes to the grocery store.

"They say, 'Look, here comes the fraud,"' he said. "I get lots of e-mails from people bad-mouthing me. It's very embarrassing."

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I have fond memories of Jeff Goldblum in Tenspeed and Brownshoe, and I hoped that Raines might capture some of the same feeling. It did, just a little. I was caught by the opening voice-over (mention Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald, and you have me), so I stuck with the program.

Raines is a homicide detective. The gimmick is that he sees dead people. SPOILER ALERT!! Nobody who's seen The Sixth Sense is going to be surprised by the big reveal at the end. I sure wasn't. END SPOILER ALERT!! The thing is that the gimmick isn't necessary. Goldblum is quirky enough without it. I suppose the idea of talking to the victims after they're dead would be even cooler if they'd actually tell him who killed him, but they don't know. Or at least the one in this first show didn't. So instead, they'll give hints, lie, and in other words behave just like an ordinary suspect or client of some P.I.

Speaking of P.I.s, there's on in this show too. He's no Andy Barker, but I liked him because he had a statue of the Maltese Falcon on his desk. Or maybe it was the real Falcon. Anyway, he's a victim, so we won't be seeing him again. His ghost didn't talk to Raines, because he saw who killed him, and that would have spoiled everything.

This show is nothing special. I'll probably watch it now and then, though, because it has a kind of retro feel to it and because I like Goldblum.

Andy Barker, P. I.

Andy Barker (Andy Richter) is a CPA with no clients. He's rented the office of a retired P.I. (Harve Presnell), and when a hot blonde dressed in red comes in and asks Andy to find her husband, he goes along with the gag. Barker is no Steve Bentley, but, using his CPA skills, he gets the job done. The old P.I. is so impressed that it appears he's coming out of retirement and that Andy will be working for him. I got some laughs from this show. I especially liked the movie snobbery of the guy who runs the video rental store on the floor below Andy's office. "We don't carry Meet the Fokkers," he tells a caller, and he's appalled when Andy says, "I didn't think they could top Miss Congeniality, but boy, Miss Congeniality 2 comes close." I also liked the Sandra Bullock doll. So I might even watch this one again. Judy, I must say, was not impressed at all.

He's the One that We Want!

Okay, fans of You're the One that I Want. Now's the time to step up for Alvin, Texas. I confess that I've never seen the show, but one of the contestants, Austin, is from Alvin. His grandmother lives two houses down the street from me. This is a photo of the sign in her yard. (That's my garage door about 3/4 of the way up on the far left edge.) Don't let Alvin down. Vote for Austin!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Congress loads up $20 billion in pork - "WASHINGTON - Congress has loaded up President Bush's request for 'emergency' spending on the Iraq war with more than $20 billion in 'pork' for members' districts.

Money for peanut storage in Georgia, spinach growers in California, menhaden in the Atlantic Ocean and even more office space for the lawmakers themselves is included in what has ballooned into a $124 billion war bill.

'This emergency supplemental bill has more ornaments hanging over our many branches of government than the White House Christmas tree,' Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said.

Originally, Bush asked for $105 billion in emergency funding. Democratic leaders say they want to grant the request to continue funding the war despite their desire to end it.

'We have provided all of the money the president requested- and more,' boasted House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

That includes $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers and $100 million for citrus growers.

It also includes $16 million to convert the old Food and Drug Administration building in southwest D.C. into more office space for the Capitol. That 'emergency' expenditure comes at a time when taxpayers already shell out $600 million 'more than double the original estimate' for a mammoth expansion of the Capitol, which includes 160,000 feet of new office space."

Everybody's Gettin' inta the Act

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A 76-year-old Kenosha County man in whose cornfield the skeleton of a mammoth believed to be about 12,500 years old was dug up in 1994 is interested in selling it, and officials of the Milwaukee Public Museum are interested in it.

"I'm just looking for some funds for my grandkids' college," John Hebior said the possible sale of the skeleton now in 15 large wooden crates and four plastic tubs in the basement of his farmhouse five miles west of Somers.

Milwaukee Public Museum president Dan Finley said the Hebior mammoth would look great standing in the atrium of the natural history museum.

Today's Baseball Card

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bob Randisi Update

Bob Randisi writes to say that Vince Van Patten (Bob's Picasso Flop co-author) is featured this month in three magazines: Poker Pro, All In, and Cardplayer. Bob and Vince are the coverboys on the new issue of Crimespree. With all that publicity, the book's bound to be a smash.

Harry Potter Update

ABC News: Massive Print Run for New Potter Book: "NEW YORK Mar 14, 2007 (AP)— The final Harry Potter book will have a record-breaking, backbreaking first printing of 12 million copies, publisher Scholastic Inc. announced Wednesday.

And, for those who somehow don't know about Potter 7, Scholastic also plans a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign in support of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' which comes out July 21.

'This is so much more than the publication of a single book,' Lisa Holton, president of Scholastic Trade and Book Fairs, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. 'It's a true celebration of the Harry Potter movement and of the joy of reading.'

The Scholastic campaign is called 'There Will Soon Be 7.' It will feature a Knight Bus National Tour, stopping at 40 libraries in 10 major metropolitan areas and millions of Potter bookmarks, easel backs and tattoos."

O. J. Update

Simpson book could land in stores after all - Celebrity News - "LOS ANGELES - A judge Tuesday ordered that rights to O.J. Simpson’s aborted book, “If I Did It,” be sold at auction to help satisfy a civil judgment against the former football star — meaning the book could find its way into stores.

The ruling comes four months after Simpson’s book about how he could have committed the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, was scrubbed by News Corp. media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg’s decision comes at the request of Ron Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, who expressed outrage at the original publication of ”If I Did It” and now finds himself putting the manuscript back into circulation.

“The Goldmans were horrified as to the content, but the real horror was that Simpson was profiting,” Goldman’s lawyer, David Cook, said. “O.J. is now on the block. On the right hand we get to sell the book, and on the left we get the money.”"

Happy Birthday, Phil Phillips!

As I said last year on his birthday, Phil Phillips is one of the greats. A one-hit wonder, maybe, but what a hit it was. His recording (with the Twilights) of "Sea of Love" never gets old. You can hear about 45 seconds of it here, and there are some other interesting records to look at while you're scrolling down.

It's also the birthday of Max Shulman, one of my favorite writers, author of the Dobie Gillis books, the source of the TV series. If you haven't read the books, you're missing a real treat.

Score One for the Old Guys!

German brothel offers pensioners 50 percent off | Oddly Enough | Reuters: "BERLIN (Reuters) - A brothel in Germany hopes to capitalise on the growing number of pensioners by offering them a 50 percent discount for sex in the afternoon.

The 'Pascha' in the western city of Cologne has introduced reduced rates for sex sessions for clients aged 66 and above -- provided they can prove they are old enough.

'All clients need to do is show us some proof of age,' said a spokesman for the brothel's managing director Armin Lobscheid. 'A 'normal session' costs 50 euros (34.20 pounds) with us -- and we're now paying 50 percent of that for these older guests.'

'We don't earn as much money, but we're establishing ourselves across a broader range of age groups,' he added."

What Do Supermodels Do When Their Superpowers Fade?


What Is It with Japanese Guys and Women's Knickers?

Serial lingerie thief arrested in Japan - Breaking News - World - Breaking News: "Police found more than 4,000 pieces of lingerie in the home of a Japanese construction worker who used climbing skills developed on his job to steal women's underwear.

Police believe that Shigeo Kodama, 54, amassed the 3,977 knickers, 355 bras and 10 pairs of stockings over a six-year period."

This Is Not a Paris Hilton Item . . .

Instead, it's an item about Paris Hilton's nipples.

Thanks to Jeff (he's not staring) Meyerson for this link.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Movie Update

At the link there's a link to a film clip. Do they award posthumous Oscars for direct-to-DVD movies?

Space Alien Anna Defends Uranus - "TMZ has obtained more clips from Anna Nicole Smith's final movie, 'Illegal Aliens.'

The movie, scheduled for a straight-to-DVD release in May, shows Anna Nicole (baby doll voice and all) as a space alien trying to stop an intergalactic terrorist -- played by the equally outrageous Chyna Doll. Smith gets to show off her acting chops by dropping TrimSpa references ('You like my body?') and feigning fear of Chyna's character."

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Anna death: Proof points to foul play-Rest of World-World-NEWS-The Times of India: "
LONDON:The coroner investigating Anna Nicole Smith's tragic death has found some new evidence indicating the possibility that she might have been murdered. The police called the new evidence significant, but put off announcing the results until the probe was complete.

Anna Nicole's bodyguard, Maurice Brighthaupt, who was with her on the fateful day, claimed that her boyfriend Howard K Stern had been acting 'highly strange' hours before she collapsed in a Florida hotel room last month. 'This was unexpected.

But this case has more turns than anything I could have imagined,' the Mirror quoted medical examiner Joshua Perper as saying. Perper said he met with police chief Charlie Tiger after being intimated about the new evidence.

Brighthaupt also told the police that she was on 'heavy doses' of prescription drugs when she died. He is also believed to have said Stern administered her 'some types of drugs' in the months leading to her collapse. "

Cruel Poetry -- Vicki Hendricks

Get out the kevlar gloves: this is hot stuff. Rennie is a prostitute. Jules is an aspiring writer who lives next door. She listens and watches when Rennie plies her trade or gets it on with her special friend, Francisco. Richard ("Professor Dick") is the college prof who loves Rennie and whose compulsions are going to cost him everything: wife, family, career, and more.

One evening Jules rushes in to rescue Rennie from a man whom Jules thinks is choking her. In the ensuing fracas, Jules kills the man with a pair of scissors. From that point on, things go downhill. Lots of people die in unpleasant ways. Hendricks doesn't flinch from describing any of them or from describing sex in any number of different combinations. There's no way to predict how things will turn out. You'll want to know because you care about the characters and their fates.

Can it really have been more than ten years since I read Miami Purity? I remember the pleasure of discovering a new writer with a noir sensibility that was brand new and old at the same time. She's just gotten better, and Cruel Poetry is the proof. Check it out.

You Don't Need a Getaway Driver in Minneapolis

This gives new meaning to the old slogan "Take the bus and leave the driving to us."

Bank robber stops at liquor store, food store, before getaway on bus: "A man who robbed a south Minneapolis bank Monday afternoon made the liquor store his next stop, then went into a sandwich shop and finally made his getaway on a bus.

The robber who held up the Wells Fargo branch at 2600 E. Franklin Av. just after 3 p.m. was seen a few minutes later buying a bottle of liquor at a store next to the bank, said FBI special agent Paul McCabe.

The man, who was alone, smelled of liquor and waved a silver handgun wrapped in a baseball cap when he handed a teller a note demanding money. He left the bank on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash and headed to the liquor store, the FBI said.

An employee at Milio’s Sandwiches a couple doors down from the bank said the robber came in and got a sandwich before boarding a Metro Transit bus."


Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for this link.

The Enlightened Bracketologist reveals the best ad slogan of all time, the greatest film death, and more. - By Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir - Slate Magazine: "This essay is adapted from the introduction to The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything, the book that uses ingenious NCAA Tournament-style brackets to answer life's most nagging questions. What was more memorable, 9/11 or the JFK assassination? Which movie had the better death scene, Psycho or Bonnie and Clyde? With our interactive brackets, you can check out what The Enlightened Bracketologist's experts think or choose your own champion.

Go to the Where Were You When Moments bracket. Go to the Film Deaths bracket. Go to the Marital Arguments bracket. Go to the Ad Slogans bracket."

A Perceptive Reader

Benjie Potter, a frequent commenter here, was a student of mine back when I was teaching at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. Benjie learned well in my classes and became a perceptive reader. There's plenty of evidence on his blog, Book 'em Benj-O, particularly here and here. All his reviews are worth reading, though, so you might want to bookmark his blog.

In the First Place, I Don't Belive It

And in the second place, I'm definitely not going to blog about it.

Gator Update - Alligator Escapes Mount Ivy Trailer After Break-In: "Police said they weren't just looking for three men who ransacked a trailer park home in the middle of the night while a terrified woman hid in a closet. They also were looking for a 3 1/2-foot alligator that disappeared from the home after they started investigating.

The woman told Haverstraw police the break-in occurred at 1:50 a.m. Monday at the Mazza-Leone trailer park home she shared with two men, who were out at the time. She said she didn't know why the trailer was targeted by the intruders, who were carrying what appeared to be assault rifles. "

Betty Hutton, R. I. P.

I have distinct memories of going to see Annie Get Your Gun at the Palace Theater in Mexia, Texas. The theater has been gone for 50 years now, but my memories of Hutton's performance remain. | Betty Hutton, 86, star of 'Annie Get Your Gun': "Betty Hutton, who exploded onto the silver screen in such films as 'Annie Get Your Gun,' 'Incendiary Blonde' and 'The Greatest Show on Earth,' has died.

The Palm Springs actress turned 86 a couple weeks ago.

Details, including memorial arrangements and when she died, were unavailable Monday evening, though they are expected to be announced today.

In recent years, the reclusive former actress gave few interviews from her Smoketree home.

Her last 'public' appearance in the media was a 2000 'Private Screenings' interview on Turner Classic Movies in advance of the release of 'Annie Get Your Gun,' Turner's No. 1 requested classic movie before its release.

'Annie Get Your Gun,' released in 1950, wasn't released on DVD or video until after 2000 because the rights were held by the Irving Berlin estate."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Just Say No to Scavenger Hunts in Texas

AP Wire | 03/12/2007 | Police crack down on scavenger hunt: "LAREDO, Texas - A scavenger hunt turned sour for 40 high school students when Laredo police learned of it and arrested them on felony charges of theft and engaging in organized criminal activity.

Police accused the students - most of them seniors at Laredo high schools - of swiping up to five truckloads of loot from across town. The scavenger list included items such as city traffic signs and pinatas, police said.

'We will cooperate fully, review the case and collaborate with officials to determine all the facts,' said Marco Alvarado, spokesman for the Laredo school district. 'If needed, we will take appropriate action as specified in the student Code of Conduct.'

Police arrested the 32 adults and eight juveniles March 2. The students' names were not released.

Officers first uncovered the escapade when a group of five students was pulled over for speeding. Their car contained stolen stop signs, a garden hose and other items, police said."

Another Voting Opportunity

Thanks to Scott Cupp for the tip.

Public to choose oddest book title - Los Angeles Times - "'How Green Were the Nazis?' could be the title to beat this year for the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for oddest book title.

The book by Thomas Zeller, Franz-Josef Bruggemeier and Mark Cioc is billed as the first to examine the environmental policies of the Third Reich.

Other nominees:

'The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: a Guide to Field Identification,' by Julian Montague.

'Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan,' by Robert Chenciner, Gabib Ismailov, Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov and Alex Binnie.

'D. Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: Di Mascio of Coventry, an Ice Cream Company of Repute, With an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans,' by Roger De Boer, Harvey Francis Pitcher and Alan Wilkinson.

'Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium.'

'Better Never to Have Been: the Harm of Coming Into Existence,' by David Benatar.

The winner will be chosen by the public though voting online at The prize will be announced April 13."

Robin Hood -- Sheriff Got Your Tongue?

Judy and I were busy Saturday evening, so I missed the second episode of the new BBC Robin Hood series. I recorded it, however, and watched it today. This was a good thing, since I was able to zip through all the irritating commercials and watch the show in about 45 minutes instead of an hour.

I'm glad I decided to stick with this show. There are some things that are a little irritating, but here are some of the things I like: the music, the colors, the action, and (mostly) the characters. The Sheriff of Nottingham is way, way over the top. I don't care. I enjoy watching him as he delights in his villainy, whether he's having a tongue cut out or whether he's taunting the peasants. He's also a pretty shrewd judge of character. Robin might be a little too noble, but I like that, too. His ability with a bow is possible only with modern film techniques rather than in real life, but that doesn't bother me at all. I'm ready for another episode.

Charles Einstein, R. I. P.

Charles Einstein, who wrote for both Dell and Gold Medal, has passed away. Wallace Stroby has a fine tribute to the man and his work right here.

30 Strangest Deaths in History

An interesting annotated list from Neatorama.

Greatest Sitcom Characters of All Time?

You can vote at the link if you're so inclined. (I voted. I had to vote for Barney Fife.) I learned about this from Brent McKee's blog, and you can read his comments there. He includes his list of missing characters and includes the phrase a "host of others."

Entertainment: Lifestyles: Story: Sitcom Star Wars: 64 characters. 1 winner. You decide. 03/11/07: "
Great sitcom characters come in all sizes and shapes. Some are hilarious. Some are despicable. Some make us laugh. Some make us cry. The best ones become our friends, dropping by to visit once a week for 30 minutes.

Two years ago, we asked Times-Union readers to choose the greatest American rock band (the Eagles beat out Creedence Clearwater Revival in the finals). Last year, we sought out the greatest American movie (Star Wars defeated Gone with the Wind in the finals). This time around, in a tournament sure to start heated arguments across breakfast tables all over the area, we're asking you to pick the greatest sitcom character of all time."

Ken Bruen Appreciation Day

Sandra Ruttan: On Life And Other Inconveniences: Ken Bruen: "It might have been more appropriate if this was March 17th, but today is International Ken Bruen Appreciation Day."

I discovered Ken Bruen's work earlier than a lot of others, with the publication of The White Trilogy. Jeff Meyerson recommended it in the pages of his apazine, and I had a copy already, so I read it. I was blown away by the writing style and the characters. I could tell at once that Ken Bruen was unique. I met him in Toronto at the Bouchercon and went up after his panel to tell him how much I'd enjoyed his work. I was surprised when he said he knew who I was (I'm always surprised when some says that), and it was a pleasure to get to talk to him a bit more at the (as always) crowded St. Martin's party. I've managed read pretty much every crime novel he's written now, but the good news is that I'm certain there'll be many more to come.

Abandoned Books

What are your abandoned books? | News | Telegraph: "The average Briton spends more than �4,000 on books during his or her lifetime but nearly half of them remain unread, a new study claims.

DBC Pierre's Booker Prize-winning novel, 'Vernon God Little', topped the list of unfinished fictional works, followed by the fourth installment of Harry Potter and James Joyce’s notoriously difficult 'Ulysses'.

The research, commissioned by Teletext, also found that more than half of the 4,000 respondents, (55 per cent) admitted they often bought books for decoration and had no intention of actually reading them."

Croc Update

Thanks to Jeff "Croc" Meyerson for the link.

Ananova - Nike croc shoes slammed: "Nike has been slammed by animal rights groups after launching trainers made from crocodile and snake skin.

The special edition shoes come with 18-carat gold lace tags and cost �1,400, reports the Sun.

One version is made from saltwater crocodile skin while the other features the skin of the world's largest snake - the anaconda.

They have been made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Nike's Air Force 1 range, and have gone on sale at flagship stores around the world.

In London, one pair is spotlighted beneath a glass case.

However, the move seems to have backfired, with the National Animal Welfare Society saying: 'What a horrific and objectionable way of making money. They are croccy horrors.'"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Gunseller -- Hugh Laurie

I don't watch House very often, but I do know that Hugh Laurie's the star. He's also a darned good writer if The Gunseller is any evidence. It's fast-moving, funny, and thoroughly entertaining.

The narrator is Thomas Lang, and when he's asked to kill an American millionaire, he refuses the job and informs the man of the plot against him. No good deed goes unpunished, and before Lang is absorbing more punishment than you'd think possible. He even lands in the hospital a couple of times, though his ability to recover rivals that of the immortal cheerleader on
Heroes. He also finds himself at the center of a highly convoluted plot that I won't even try to summarize here. Let's just say that things blow up real good, that people are shot (or not), and that hardly anyone is what he (or she) appears to be.

This is great fun all the way through, and be sure to turn the next-to-last page for the final two-line kicker, which is fully in keeping with the cynicism of the rest of the novel.

Gator Update

Looser gator-hunt rules allow kills at nesting time | - Houston Chronicle: "RIO HONDO — Listed as endangered a few decades ago, alligators these days are keeping game wardens busy as they respond to calls about the scaly reptiles being spotted alongside highways, behind strip malls and in the man-made lakes of gated housing developments.

The state's solution: more alligator hunting.

April 1 marks the beginning of the first spring alligator-hunting season in Texas, allowing one alligator per hunter in areas beyond the traditional zone in the state's swampy east.

And the new season comes with loosened restrictions, which worry some longtime hunters.

Hunters will be allowed to shoot alligators during nesting season and can shoot alligators in open water, which can leave a wounded and even more dangerous animal sitting in the bottom of a pond.

Traditionally a state warden permits alligator hunting only after a property meets a set of criteria. This season, Texas Parks & Wildlife specialist Amos Cooper said, is 'for any Joe with water and an alligator.'"

13 Sidekicks Who Are Cooler than the Heroes

Since we've had the other list of sidekicks, we need this one, too.

I'll Bet She Smokes Salems

Witch rumors prompt teacher lawsuit - "Her fingernails, makeup and clothing apparently made her look like a witch in the eyes of the principal at the Hampton Bays school where she taught reading, Lauren Berrios said Tuesday as she prepared for her lawsuit against the district to go to trial.

Berrios, 37, who vehemently denies ever practicing witchcraft, said there was no reason her appearance at the school could have been mistaken for anything other than a prim and well-kept professional.

Jurors in federal court are scheduled to start hearing Wednesday about how Berrios endured harassment from former Hampton Bays Elementary School principal Andrew Albano, who she claims falsely accused her of being a witch."

In Reality, They Were Just Good Friends.

Americans get an 'F' in religion -

Sometimes dumb sounds cute: Sixty percent of Americans can't name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.

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