Saturday, July 07, 2007

7 Wonders Update

New 7 wonders of the world named -
(CNN) -- The new seven wonders of the world were named Saturday following an online vote that generated server-crushing traffic in its final hours.
The Great Wall of China was among the top vote-getters of the "New 7 Wonders of the World" project.

The final tally produced this list of the world's top human-built wonders:

• The Great Wall of China

• Petra in Jordan

• Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer

• Peru's Machu Picchu

• Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid

• The Colosseum in Rome

• India's Taj Mahal

Before the vote ended Friday, organizers said more than 90 million votes had been cast for 21 sites.

Voting at the Web site,, ended at 6 p.m. ET Friday. Traffic was so heavy Friday that the site was crashing at times.

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It Should Happen Everywhere

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for this update.

iWon News - Are Oldies the New Jack on NYC Radio?
NEW YORK (AP) - Everything oldies is new again. WCBS-FM, the nation's No. 1 oldies station for more than three decades until a 2005 switch, is ready to shift from its current "Jack" format and re-embrace the classic sounds of its past, according to online reports.

"If this happens, it will be a fantastic move," said "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, one of the veteran DJs jettisoned when the station swapped formats. "There isn't a day that goes by that people don't come up to me and say, 'We miss the station so much.'"

CBS Radio, owner of the station, declined to comment on the much rumored change.

Oldies fans were outraged when WCBS - which began as an oldies station in 1972 - abandoned that music without warning for the jukebox-style "Jack" format June 3, 2005. Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind" faded out and the Beastie Boys'"Fight for Your Right" announced the drastic changeover.

At the time of the switch, WCBS was eighth in the New York Arbitron ratings. The most recent numbers released, for the January-March period, showed the Jacked-up version of the station sitting in 16th place. The station's revenues had also dropped.

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Happy Birthday, Robert A. Heinlein!

Heinlein was born 100 years ago today. I discovered his books when I was in the 6th grade. There was a copy of Rocketship Galileo in my school library. I read it, and I was hooked. Later on, I read every Heinlein novel I could find. He was unquestionably one of the greats in my book.

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media
It's the 100th birthday of one of the writers who helped invent modern science fiction: Robert Heinlein (books by this author), born in Butler, Missouri (1907). He wrote more than 50 novels and collections of short stories over a span of four decades.

He said of his childhood, "Once I found out about reading I was all in favor of it." He especially loved dime novels and the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne. But he didn't plan to become a writer. What he wanted was to be an officer in the Navy. But after serving for five years, he got discharged because he'd caught tuberculosis. The disease left him weak enough that he had a hard time working a job.

He wasn't sure what to do to make ends meet, and then he saw an ad in a pulp fiction magazine offering $50 for the best story by an unpublished author. So he sat down and in four days he had written a story called "Life-Line," about a machine that can predict a person's death. He decided it was too good for an amateur contest, so he sent it to Astounding Science Fiction magazine, and they accepted it. It came out in 1939, and Heinlein would publish 28 more stories in then next three years.

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Happy Birthday, Ringo Starr!

Ringo Starr is 67 today. He's even older than I am! (But not much.)

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the reminder.

Texans are Ingenious

Texans flee floods | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "POTTSBORO, Texas – As the water at Lake Texoma rose this week, Rick Park went out and bought $5,000 worth of Styrofoam and fastened it to the undercarriage of his mobile home, which sits just a few feet from the lake.

Now, after water laid waste to nearby neighbors' homes, Mr. Park's 50,000-pound double-wide is the only one left floating. Amid a sea of mobile homes under 6 feet of water at the Lighthouse Resort and Marina, Mr. Park's home is reachable only by boat."

Croc Update: Urinal Edition

The Calgary Sun - Urine heaven, tourists
BEIJING -- They're flush with pride in Chongqing, where a recently opened porcelain palace features an Egyptian facade, soothing music and more than 1,000 toilets.

Some urinals are uniquely shaped, including ones inside open crocodile mouths and several topped by the bust of a woman resembling the Virgin Mary.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Songs of Innocence -- Richard Aleas

Richard Aleas' first novel, Little Girl Lost, was published by Five Star in hardcover and then became one of the first books released by Hard Case Crime. I was one of the earliest readers of the book and knew it was a good one before it was even published. Little did I realize that Aleas, who's really Charles Ardai, would go on to beat me out for the Edgar for best short story only a few short years later. But I digress. I'm here to talk about Songs of Innocence, the second book to feature John Blake, the p.i. whose experiences in Little Girl Lost were so shattering that he gave up investigating and went back to school. Maybe he thought he'd be safe there. Boy, was he wrong.

A student named Dorrie Burke commits suicide. She was Blake's close friend, and she was working her way though school giving full body massages. Neither Blake nor Burke's mother believes she killed herself, but when the mother tries to hire Blake to investigate the death, he sends her to an agency, not telling her that he's already looking into things on his own.

That's enough about the plot. This book is very well written, as you'd expect from an Edgar winner, and the prose will carry you right along. I'd suggest you not read it when you're in a dark mood, though, because however dark you think your mood is, this book is darker. How dark is it? If you want to know the answer to that one, you'll have to read read the book. After you read the last sentence you might want to go back and read the first one again, that is, if you've forgotten what the first one was.

Do I recommend that you read Songs of Innocence? Absolutely. Great stuff. Check it out.

If Only Cap'n Bob Were Australian

CBS News (AP): A major condom brand said Friday it expected thousands of applicants for a new unpaid job on offer _ condom tester.

Durex said 200 adult Australians _ men and women _ are wanted to test a range of its condoms.

While the successful applicants will not be paid, each will receive a pack of Durex sex products, a chance to win 1,000 Australian dollars ($857 U.S.), plus professional prestige, the company said in a statement.

'Who wouldn't want to have a chance with an actual authorized professional?' Durex marketing manager Sam White asked.

'Durex is expecting thousands of applicants,' the statement said.

Hopefuls must explain in their applications why they would make 'expert' condom testers."

Set theTiVo

How many times have you had to pick who was going to pay for gas and/or the late night stop at McDonald’s after the party with ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS? No doubt way too many times to count. Let it be known, no matter how many times you watched your friend stumble to the counter making sure the fries are super sized because your paper beat their rock, you would never have been able to beat Jamie Langridge, the newly crowned 2007 Bud Light Rock, Paper, Scissors Champion!!

The second annual tournament, to be aired on ESPN2 on July 7, 2007 at 9 p.m. EST, was held in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13. This years Bud Light sponsored Rock, Paper, Scissors Competition went down and it was one for the record books!! There was Bud Light flowing, girls everywhere…hot, Rock, Paper, Scissor Girls to be exact and yes there was the Rock, the Paper and the Scissors.

The Ants Are Out of Control in Gurdon, AR

Thanks to John "Arkie" Duke for this link.

July 4, 2007: "Fire ants have apparently become a problem at Gurdon Lake – so much so that one resident has asked the Gurdon City Council to reimburse her for a cheeseburger that was devoured by ants during a recent fishing trip.

Sharon Lasker addressed the council during its meeting on Monday, June 25. She said the ant problem has become so bad recently that there are no places to fish without being bitten by the insects.

'There’s no place to fish anymore,' she said. 'These ants are getting to be ridiculous.'

Lasker asked if there were any funds for the purchase of ant poison to put out at the lake. She said the ants have taken over the picnic and park areas as well.

Lasker said that during a recent fishing trip, she put her cheeseburger in a chair long enough to bait a hook, and when she picked up back up, it was covered with ants.

'All I want to know is if the city is going to reimburse me for my number two cheeseburger,' she said."

The Back Alley Webzine Goes Live in One Week

From Richard Helms:

After almost two months of preparation, The Back Alley webzine is ready to go live! The Back Alley is a new quarterly online publication dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the hardboiled and noir literary genres.

For our initial issue, scheduled to go live on Friday, July 14, 2007, we have a sterling lineup of authors. Some are old favorites among short story aficionados, and others may be new to you.

In the first issue we will present a story by Edgar Award Winner G. Miki Hayden, entitled The Right Thing To Do.

We’ll also have a story by Derringer Award Winner Stephen D. Rogers (Services Rendered).

Shamus and Anthony Awards nominee Jack Bludis provided Available Light, a private eye tale about a divorce peeper with a real problem.

John Lau, a Los Angeles screenwriter who penned a television movie featuring Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, will provide a gritty street noir entitled Restless 2Nite.

Finally, we’ll present Paper Walls/Glass Houses, the very first story published under Eric Shane’s byline. Shane is the pseudonym for a three-time Shamus Award nominee.

Our classic hardboiled story will be The False Burton Combs, generally acknowledged as the very first hardboiled private eye tale, first published in 1921 in Black Mask. Written by Carroll John Daly, this story is chock full of period vernacular and knuckles-and-know-how action.

We plan, in future issues, to include critical/biographic/historical analysis as a regular feature, and we strongly encourage submissions.

Please drop by the site on Friday, July 14, 2007, when The Back Alley webzine debuts, at !

We’ll keep a candle in the window for you!

Richard Helms,Editor
Barbadoes Hall Communications
a thrilling little publisher
The Back Alley Webzine

Who Was General Tso . . .

. . . and why are we eating his chicken?

Washingto Post: "Each evening, thousands of Americans drift into Chinese restaurants or, if they are too lazy to go out, pick up the phone and order one of the most popular dishes on the menu: General Tso's Chicken, a sugary-spicy melange of dark-meat tidbits, deep-fried then fired up with ginger, garlic, sesame oil, scallions and hot chili peppers.

Not one in 10,000 knows who General Tso (most commonly pronounced 'sow') was, nor what terrible times he lived through, nor the dark massacres that distinguished his baleful, belligerent career. Setting their chopsticks aside, patting their stomachs, the satisfied diners spare scarcely a thought for General Tso, except to imagine that he must have been a great connoisseur of hot stir-fried chicken.
General Tso was a man ahead of his dish.

Who was he?"

Out of the Depths | News | /2007/07/05/: "It's a squid, it's an octopus, it's ... a mystery from the deep.

What appears to be a half-squid, half-octopus specimen found off Keahole Point on the Big Island remains unidentified today and could possibly be a new species, said local biologists.

The specimen was found caught in a filter in one of Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority's deep-sea water pipelines last week. The pipeline, which runs 3,000 feet deep, sucks up cold, deep-sea water for the tenants of the natural energy lab.

'When we first saw it, I was really delighted because it was new and alive,' said Jan War, operations manager at NELHA. 'I've never seen anything like that.'"

Ghost Rider

This is a pretty goofy movie, but then it's based on a comic book, so what would you expect? Nicolas Cage plays the Ghost Rider, whose job it is to collect souls for the Devil, played by Peter Fonda. (I thought it was a neat touch having the old Easy Rider playing Scratch in this motorcycle movie.) Cage gets his job by making a deal with the devil, and, as you fantasy fans know, there's always a loophole. You just have to find it.

In about half the movie, Cage is doing his not-too-bad Elvis Presley imitation, delivering the lines the way he must imagine The King would have done them. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Sam Elliott, as a graveyard guardian, plays it straight, and very effectively. Eva Mendes plays Cage's love interest, and has a few scenes that seem to have come from some other movie entirely.

James Reasoner, as I've mentioned, always gets to this stuff ahead of me. James says that Cage's scenes with Elliott near the end are pretty effective. I'm not sure which specific ones he's talking about, but the one when "Ghost Riders in the Sky" came on the soundtrack sure worked for me.

The ending reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Robert Bloch stores, "That Hellbound Train." Here, it's just setting up the sequel.

Mindless and kind of fun. Check it out.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I missed post #4000 a while back, and so there was no announcement of that momentous occasion. For what it's worth, this is post #4004.

Gator Bait

Another Jeff Meyerson contribution.

iWon News - Bologna Entices Gator From N.C. Pond: "MAIDEN, N.C. (AP) - When two eyes peeked out of the water, a trio of young fishing buddies knew they weren't looking at a fish. 'We threw a stick at it to see what it was,' 11-year-old Jim Vang said. 'It stuck its head out of the water a little more, and that's when we saw that it was an alligator.'

Using a piece of bologna tied to a string, rescue workers caught the 2 1/2-foot-long alligator Wednesday after Vang and his friends asked adults to call police."

Bill Pinkney, R. I. P.

Another one of the greats is gone. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

iWon News - Last of the Original Drifters Dies at 81: "DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Bill Pinkney, the last survivor of the original members of the musical group The Drifters, died Wednesday. He was 81.

Pinkney was found dead at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, Daytona Beach Police spokesman Jimmie Flynt said. The death was not considered suspicious, he said.

Pinkney was scheduled to perform for Fourth of July festivities there.

Pinkney's manager, Maxine Porter, declined to discuss his cause of death, but said Pinkney had had health problems.

The Drifters, whose hits include 'Under the Boardwalk,''Up on the Roof,' and 'Save the Last Dance For Me,' still performed Wednesday night. An announcement about Pinkney's death was made after the show, said the group's publicist, Donnie Lowery."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Merle Haggard Says a Few Words

And the Winner Is. . .

Sports - American Captures Hot-Dog-Eating Crown - AOL Sports: "NEW YORK (July 4) - In a gut-busting showdown that combined drama, daring and indigestion, Joey Chestnut emerged Wednesday as the world's hot-dog-eating champion, knocking off six-time winner Takeru Kobayashi in a rousing yet repulsive triumph."

Gross photos at the link, which was thoughtfully provided by Jeff Meyerson.

In Case You Were Thinking of Changing Jobs. . .

. . . here's one that Cap'n Bob might enjoy. Safe for work video and photos at link. - Living - MIST OPPORTUNITY: JUST A DAY AT THE BEACH: "Breast misting is a delicate art. You don't want to go straight for them. You need to pretend you're equally intrigued by other exposed areas of the body.

'I try and go everywhere,' said Travis Emmons during my training. 'No concentration.'

As the 'mood director' at Tao Beach, which opened on May 5 at The Venetian, it's Emmons' responsibility to stroll the deck in search of sun-worshippers who are insufficiently moistened. On a searing June afternoon, about 20 of them were attractive women who won't be sporting tan lines until August."

Boots Randolph, R. I. P.

One of the greats from the soundtrack of my life.

Sax Player Boots Randolph Dead at 80 -- "He recorded more than 40 albums and spent 15 years touring with the Festival of Music, teaming with fellow instrumentalists Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer.

As a session musician, he played on Elvis Presley's 'Return to Sender,' Roy Orbison's 'Oh, Pretty Woman,' Brenda Lee's 'Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree' and 'I'm Sorry,' REO Speedwagon's 'Little Queenie,' Al Hirt's 'Java' and other songs including ones by Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash.

He had his biggest solo hit with 'Yakety Sax,' which he wrote.

''Yakety Sax' will be my trademark,' Randolph said in a 1990 interview with The Associated Press. 'I'll hang my hat on it. It's kept me alive. Every sax player in the world has tried to play it. Some are good, some are awful.' "

New Spinetingler Now On-Line

It's the summer issue. Stories, profiles, interviews, and other good stuff. Click here.

Have a Grand & Glorious 4th, Everybody!


Paris Hilton, that is. You can see for yourself right here.

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Lady from Buenos Aires -- John Lantigua

It's interesting to me that John Lantigua, who was nominated for an Edgar for his first novel, is now being published by Arte Publico Press, out of the University of Houston. Another example of a small press doing a good job.

In this p.i. novel, Willie Cuesta gets involved with the Argentine community in Miami. He's hired to find the daughter of a woman who was "disappeared" twenty years ago in Argentina's "dirty war." In the course of his search, he runs into a diplomat, a realtor who isn't what he seems, a former CIA agent, a nightclub owner, a suspicious husband, and any number of ladies from Buenos Aires. It seems that nearly all of them have pasts they'd rather not have revealed. Murders ensue. Willie has a couple of very close calls himself.

Some readers will remember the events the book refers to, but you don't have to remember them to realize how terrible they were and how they affected those involved. Lantigua does a good job of showing all that. Willie Cuesta is appropriately persistent and resilient, and he comes up with the answers just before it's too late for all concerned. Check it out.

Lew Shiner's Fiction On-Line for Free

Lew Shiner is a fine SF writer, and some of you may know that he co-authored some p.i. fiction with Joe Lansdale. Lew has decided to put a lot of his work on-line under a Creative Commons license. Here's some of what he's doing:

I'll also be adding new short fiction, music reviews, and articles from time to time, though I won't guarantee that I won't also publish short pieces elsewhere. I'm launching the site with three previously unpublished stories ("Straws," "Fear Itself," and "Golfing Vietnam") plus a major story from 2004 ("Perfidia") that's had only limited circulation, and as a special bonus, my previously unpublished "vampire lawyer" screenplay, THE NEXT.

Check it out here.

If You're So Smart. . .

. . . why can't you answer all these questions?

Paris Hilton's Garbage

It sold on eBay.

But not to me.

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

July Issue of ThugLit Now On-Line

More hardboiled tales to read. Click here.

Volk's Game -- Brent Ghelfi

Volk is short for Volkovoy, and it means wolf. Alexei Volkovoy is a wolf, all right, wounded both physically and spiritually by his experiences as a sniper in Chechnya. Now he's working the black market in Moscow, selling drugs, supplying sex partners for parties, making porn films, and so on. At the same time he's working undercover for the Russian military and making side deals with the Russian mafia. Volk is a busy guy, and he's the "hero" of the novel. I think we're supposed to admire him because when he sends out sex partners, he orders that none of them be under fourteen, and he has the same rules for his porn operation. He knows, however, that nobody pays much attention to the rule.

His psycho sidekick is Valya, a beautiful woman, small but even more deadly than Volk, who watches his back and works with him in his various criminal enterprises, the latest of which is to steal a long-lost Da Vinci painting from the Hermitage museum. The caper doesn't go off without a hitch, to put it mildly, and before long there are so many double, triple, and quadruple crosses that it's hard to keep up. There's also violence. A lot of it. I can't remember a recent book in which so much blood, bones, and brains are splattered on walls. And lately I've run across the term torture porn here and there. Volk's Game will test your limits on torture, believe me, since about 50% of the violence is torture, much of it administered either by Volk or to him.

To me, the setting was the best thing about the book. Moscow and its environs are a lot like China Mieville's unLondon, a broken place but fascinating just the same.

If you can take the extreme violence, you'll find a fast-moving plot, some good writing (warning: it's present tense; I know some of you don't like that), and an interesting setting. You won't find any characters you like, or at least I didn't. There's probably going to be a lot of talk about this book. If you want to get in on the deal, check it out.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Gator Update: Arkansas Edition

Thanks to John Duke for the link. Only in Arkansas would you have an alligator farm and petting zoo. Great video at the link, too.

Alligator Farm Celebrates 105th Birthday - "It's an attraction that's been entertaining Hot Springs visitors for 105 years and Sunday the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo celebrated its birthday. But that's not all they're happy about. It's been a good season for tourism thanks in part to slightly lower gas prices.

'It's kind of a family atmosphere. We get people that came here when they were kids. Their granddads brought them here and now they're bringing their kids or grandkids,' explains alligator handler Stacy McBay.

And one of the big attractions? Two hundred alligators of all shapes, sizes and ages. Two are 60 years old. They usually seem pretty relaxed, but around feeding time things get a lot scarier."

Pssssst! Wanna Buy a Town in Texas? Metro | State: "ALBERT — This town, which claims a population of four, is for sale.

It comes with a modern icehouse stocked with beer, a rickety dance hall, ancient live oaks and a hefty price tag of $2.5 million.

'It is for a guy who has it all, but can't brag to his friends that he owns a town, so he needs to own a town,' said the owner, Bobby Cave.

'My ideal buyer would be someone who falls in love with it and not just wants to make money out of it.'

Cave's love affair with Albert began three years ago, when he sold his share in an Austin insurance firm to help pay more than $200,000 for the historic Gillespie County town 16 miles southeast of Fredericksburg.

Founded in 1877, Albert had about 50 residents during the town's heyday of the 1920s, with a post office, general store and a school that, legend has it, Lyndon B. Johnson attended briefly."

On the Road Again

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

iWon News - Kerouac Fans Stage Marathon Reading: "BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Admirers of author Jack Kerouac celebrated the 50th anniversary of 'On the Road' with a marathon reading of the novel. Fans and some close friends of the late author took turns reading his most famous novel aloud at Naropa University in Boulder on Saturday.

About 150 people listened to the cover-to-cover reading, which took 12 hours and kicked off the university's inaugural Kerouac Festival."

Thomas Buckley, R. I. P.

Thomas Buckley -- devoted to study of Bigfoot: "If there is one thing clear from the writings of Thomas Arthur Buckley, it is that the legendary beast known as Bigfoot was misnamed.

The hairy ape-man, also known as Sasquatch, did not really have inordinately large feet for his size, according to Mr. Buckley, an expert on ambulation. What he had, Mr. Buckley wrote, was an enormous posterior.

Mr. Buckley, of all people, would know. He not only studied Sasquatch footprints, but claimed he once looked the foul-smelling forest dweller right in the eye after luring it out of its hiding place with what he said was 'friendship and fish.'"

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Follower -- Jason Starr

Loyal readers will recall that I thought Jason Starr's Lights Out was terrific. His new one, The Follower, not due in the stores until August, is even better.

And it's different, even more ambitious. This time we have a psycho stalker getting close to a young woman named Katie, and Starr give us a rich portrait of life among some young singles in New York, grown-ups in age but certainly not mature. They're groping and trying to figure out what they're doing. The cops are different, but no better, and when people start dying, they're not much help at all.

This book is more of a novel of suspense than Lights Out, and while it's painted on a bigger canvas than Starr's earlier novels, Starr pulls it off perfectly. Could be his break-out book, that is, if he hasn't broken out already. The character of Katie is particularly well done, and the ending is a real bone-chiller. Pick it up as soon as you can, and you'll see what I mean.

Happy Birthday, James M. Cain!

James M. Cain: "American journalist, screenwriter, and novelist - identified with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and others as a central member of hard-boiled school of crime fiction. However, Cain's own opinion was 'I belong to no school, hard-boiled or otherwise'. Three of Cain's novels-THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1934), DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1936), and MILDRED PIERCE (1941)-were also made into classics of the American screen. His books continued to appear after World War II, but none gained the success of his earlier work.

'I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort.' (Cain in preface to Double Indemnity)"

Summer Issue of Helix Now On-Line

The summer issue of the excellent on-line magazine Helix is now available. Check it out. Fans of hardboiled fiction might find this essay of special interest.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way Metro | State: "AUSTIN — Marriage and family counselor Tim Louis believes a new law rewarding couples for taking prenuptial classes — and penalizing those who don't — has gotten an unfair rap from critics.

The law, House Bill 2685 by Rep. Warren Chisum, a conservative Republican from the Panhandle, prompted derisive comments from opponents who called it the worst sort of government intrusion.

It calls for couples who take an eight-hour 'successful marriage' course approved by the state to get a free marriage license, with those who don't paying a doubled fee of $60.

The bill might be the most obvious example of government 'nanny state' efforts to affect behavior, which traditionally have been associated with liberal Democrats. Other such laws, passed by the majority-Republican Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, take aim at such 'deadly sins' as gluttony and sloth."