Saturday, December 29, 2007

Croc Update (Snopes Edition)

With extremely gory photos. Beware.

Long, Long Ago . . .

. . . in a land not so far away, on December 29th, Judy Stutts and I had a blind date arranged by our friends Fred Williams and Loibeth Black. And here Judy and I are all those years later, still together. In fact, I don't believe that either of us dated anyone else after that night, when the two couples went to Mart, Texas, and saw a movie called All the Fine Young Cannibals. I'm still in touch with Fred. We e-mail almost every day. Judy and Loibeth are still best friends, and they talked for an hour or so on the phone just yesterday. Judy and I have had some interesting years, certainly none more interesting than 2007, and 2008 looks to prove just as interesting. Wish us luck.

Netscape, R. I. P.

A Sad Milestone: AOL To Discontinue Netscape Browser Development: "Please observe a moment of silence for the Netscape browser. Netscape Navigator, the browser that launched the commercial Internet in October 1994, will die on February 1, 2008. AOL, which acquired Netscape in November 1998 for $4.2 billion, will announce today that they will discontinue development of the browser, currently on version 9."

Cinematic Titanic's First Release

Some MST3K alums are behind this venture. You can read about the release (The Oozing Brain) and see a trailer if you're so inclined.

Cinematic Titanic: "We’re really proud to announce that the first Cinematic Titanic DVD is available for sale! It’s been a fun and busy three months and We really hope you like it. Buy it now!"

CNN's Best and Worst Movies of 2007

Here's the article and list. I've seen one of the best and one of the worst. Given the way things are going, I doubt I'll see any of the rest of them anytime soon. I don't think I'll suffer from the loss.

New Issue of Thrilling Detective Now On-Line

Always a thrill. Click here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I Am Legend -- Richard Matheson

A guy I met at a World Fantasy Convention years ago told me that he bought every copy of this book that he ran across. I'm pretty much the same way, which explains why I have this SF Book Club edition.

I first read the book when it was published by Gold Medal, long, long ago. Hard to believe I was so young. Hard to believe, too, how much this novel impressed me. I've read it several times since then, and I continue to enjoy it.

You probably know the basic story, even if you haven't read it. As the result of a plague, Robert Neville is the last human on Earth, and he's surrounded by vampires. Every day he goes out to kill them. Every night they surround his house and taunt him.

I have no idea if the science in the book makes any sense. I didn't care 50 years ago, and I don't care now. What matters is that I still find the story powerful. I still get weepy during the episode with the dog.

I haven't seen the new movie version, and it'll be a while before I do, if, in fact, I ever do. But for me it was a pleasure to read the book again and to be caught up in the story.

Archaeological Update

Ancient pyramid found in central Mexico City - International Herald Tribune: "MEXICO CITY: Archeologists have discovered the ruins of an 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought.

Mexican archeologists found the ruins, which are about 36 feet (11 metres) high, in the central Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political centre for the Aztec elite."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

America's Most Literate Cities

Biggest surprise: Alvin, Texas, not listed!

Not a surprise: Minneapolis #1. After all, Stilwell lives there.

Will the Persecution Never End?

Paris losing out on Hilton fortune - Celebrities- "NEW YORK - Hotel heiress Paris Hilton’s potential inheritance dramatically diminished after her grandfather Barron Hilton announced plans on Wednesday to donate 97 percent of his $2.3 billion fortune to charity."

So What about Writers?

Drugs to build up that mental muscle - Los Angeles Times: "Despite the potential side effects, academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students and even professional poker players have embraced the drugs to clarify their minds, improve their concentration or control their emotions."

Croc Update (Starring John Schneider and Cloris Leachman)

DVD Talk Review: Lake Placid 2: "Back in 1999, a fun little creature feature comedy called Lake Placid was released on the big screen. It's ever since been one of my favorite guilty pleasures. The movie had it all: giant crocodiles, funny cartoonish secondary characters, a nice little romance, and Betty White spewing out obscenities right and left. I don't think the movie made many waves upon its initial release, but it's subsequently become a minor cult classic.

Apparently, it has enough of a cult following that someone decided it would be a good idea to resurrect Lake Placid as a franchise, and lo and behold we now have the ingeniously titled Lake Placid 2 courtesy of Sony Pictures and the Sci-Fi Channel."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

At 60% of Total, Texas is Bucking Execution Trend - New York Times: "This year’s death penalty bombshells — a de facto national moratorium, a state abolition and the smallest number of executions in more than a decade — have masked what may be the most significant and lasting development. For the first time in the modern history of the death penalty, more than 60 percent of all American executions took place in Texas."

No Good Way to Say This

Judy's mother has a urinary tract infection, all right, but that's the good news. She also has a brain tumor, which overwhelmingly like to be malignant. She's 95, so I doubt that the doctors will recommend aggressive treatment. We got very little sleep last night, and I'm not sure how much more of this kind of news we can handle. Sorry to burden you with it, but your good thoughts and prayers will be much appreciated, as usual. Don't know how much blogging I'll get done. I'm not much in the mood, and we'll be at the hospital a lot for a while, I'm sure. Not to mention Judy's own appointments. Thanks for sticking by us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Or, Christmas in the ER. Judy's 95-year-old mother is spending Christmas with us. She's very stoic and won't tell people when she's not well, but today it became evident that she wasn't. She was disoriented and tired, and we finally took her temperature around 6:00 p.m. It was over 100, so after some argument we bundled her off the the Alvin urgent care center. I'm just back from there to pick up a few things, and then I'll head for Clear Lake, where she's being admitted to the hospital. She has "a raging bladder infection," which might (and we certainly hope so) account for the disorientation. We have no idea how long she'll be in the hospital. Judy has an appointment at MD Anderson on Thursday.

Have I mentioned that I'm spending way too much time in medical facilities? At any rate, if I disappear for a while, you'll know why.

The Big Book of Pulps

I got The Big Book of Pulps for Christmas. Glancing through the ToC, I failed to see the name of Robert Leslie Bellem. Maybe I just missed it. Anyway, here's the kind of thing that's missing. This is from "Dump the Jackpot," which appeared in Speed Detective in the September 1943 issue. It was reprinted in Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, edited by John Wooley:

A thunderous bellow flashed from Dave Donaldson's service .38, full the the prop man's elly-bay. Welch gasped like a leaky flue, hugged his punctured tripes, and slowly doubled over, fell flat on his smeller. A bullet can give a man a terrific case of indigestion.

The Holiday Spirit is Rampant in Brooklyn

NAKED KNIFE FIGHT: "December 24, 2007 -- A naked Brooklyn man waving a knife chased a terrifed young teenager and two women into an elevator yesterday, slashing at them as the doors closed on his arm, police and witnesses said.

'I'm going to kill you,' the man screamed after the three interrupted a fight he was having with an also-naked woman at 3 p.m. in a hallway at the Bushwick Houses, said resident Shawanda Sanders."

Christmas Morning

It's Christmas morning, and all through the house, not a creature is stirring except for me an a couple of the cats. So, feeling nostalgic about Christmases past, I started to look through an album of old family photos and ran across this one. It's probably not from but it was certainly wintertime. That's me on the right, but I didn't make the snowman. My parents did. I helped, though. I remember that snowman well, and I thought the pipe was an excellent touch. The snowman's pretty small, but I was highly impressed by it. I still am. I don't think I've ever seen a better one in all the years since.

As you can see, there aren't any other houses around. For the first five years or so of my life, we lived a mile or so outside of town. We had chickens, and I loved to look for their eggs. We had a milk cow, and although it's been a long time, I think I could still walk right outside and milk a cow if I had to. I doubt that I'll ever help build another snowman, though.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Joy to the World . . .

My traditional holiday greeting to all the readers of the blog. (Except I believe I skipped last year.) May your days be merry and bright, and may 2008 be filled with only good things.

There's a new slide show to the right. Take a look.

Caiman Update

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the update. Photo at link.

Trinidad News, Trinidad Newspaper, Trinidad Sports, Trinidad politics, Trinidad and Tobago, Tobago News, Trinidad classifieds, Trinidad TV, Sports, Business: "JOY MOORE received a shock yesterday morning when she opened her toilet bowl only to see a black lizard-like creature, struggling to climb out.

She immediately slammed back down the lid of the bowl and was hysterical for the rest of the day, she said.

Much to her chagrin, she found out later that it was 'most likely' a baby caiman, a South American relative of the alligator, that might have made its way into the sewer system during yesterday's heavy rains and floods and ended up in her toilet bowl."

World's Oldest Living Thing

It's not me.

Archaeological Update

Ancient villas, baths restored in Rome - Yahoo! News: "ROME - The restored ruins of two opulent Roman villas and private thermal baths will open to the public Saturday, along with a 3-D reconstruction that offers a virtual tour of the luxurious residences discovered in downtown Rome.

The 19,375-square-foot complex, dating from the second to fourth centuries, features well-preserved mosaic and marble floors, bathtubs and collapsed walls that archaeologists believe belonged to a domus — the richly decorated residences of Rome's wealthy and noble families."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Eureka -- William Diehl

So tell me this: Why is it that whenever someone writes a southern California crime novel the reviews says things like "Comparisons will be made to Dashiell Hammett and James Ellroy's noir thrillers" and "Eureka will make you believe Raymond Chandler still lives"? Especially when the book has nothing at all in common with Hammett or Chandler. And, as we all know, there are some (me, for one) who would argue that Hammett didn't write "noir thrillers."

But who cares? What we actually have here is a sprawling novel that spans five decades, starting back in 1900 and ending in 1946. Maybe it has a little in common with Ross Macdonald because one of its themes is the effect of the past on the present. An L. A. cop, Zeke Bannon, and his partner discover that a woman found dead in her bathtub, victim of an apparent accident, has been receiving payments of $500 a month for twenty years or so. Then they find out that the "accident" was murder. This leads them to the town of San Pietro, once known as Eureka, and to Brodie Culhane, the chief of police, who has ambitions to become governor. Culhane's past has already been sketched out earlier in the book, and though he seems quite the hero to the reader, Bannon thinks he might be dirty. Bannon's investigation leads to mayhem, chicanery, and a couple of good twists. Even when the case is wrapped up, it's not wrapped up. The answers to everything finally come in an epilogue that takes place after Bannon returns from service in WWII.

I don't usually read this kind of novel. I picked it up in a hospital waiting room, and thought I'd give it a whirl. I'm not sorry I did. The historical details are interesting and, as far as I can tell, accurate. The good guys are really good, and the bad guys are really bad. The book is too long, but it moves so fast that I didn't mind. I did kind of mind the romance subplot with Bannon and a beautiful, wealthy woman. It's so unlikely that even I couldn't quite swallow it. There were some problems with the narration that really bothered me. I don't like it when a first person narrative is interrupted by italicized third-person comments. And I wondered what happened to the dog. Still, if you like epic-sized crime novels, this one shouldn't disappoint you.

I'm Not the Only One Who Needs a Proofreader

Or maybe it's not a mistake.

Paul defends asking for special projects - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul on Sunday defended his efforts in Congress to bring home money to his Texas district, despite his long-held aversion to big government and congressional votes to reign in federal spending."

It's Calder Willingham's Birthday

Calder Willingham (1922-1995) is one of those writers most people have forgotten, but I remember him well. That's because in 1963 I read a book of his called Eternal Fire. I was highly impressed, and I still have that old paperback on my shelves. At the time I didn't know about his movie work, including the screenplay for Paths of Glory (which had some punching up by Jim Thompson, as I recall) and One-Eyed Jacks (which I suspect had some additions by Marlon Brando). He also collaborated with Buck Henry on the screenplay for The Graduate.

You Don't Really Want to Click This Link

‘Wild Lindsay demanded sex’ | The Sun |HomePage|Showbiz|Bizarre: "LINDSAY LOHAN’S ex-boyfriend has revealed how the actress was an insatiable nymphomaniac addicted to marathon sex sessions."

Reader's Almanac Has Returned

If you missed Bill Peschel's Reader's Almanac, you'll be glad to know that it's been back in business at the old location for a few days now. Check it out.


It's hard not to like a movie as full of good will as this one, which presents 1962 as it never was but as it should have been: clean, colorful, and pretty much harmless, with lots of singing and dancing. It had me right from the first scene when Tracey (Nikki Blonsky) jumps out of bed with a smile on her face and a song in her heart.

Luckily for the audience, Tracey shares the song with us, and the whole opening sequence is bouncy with infectious happiness. In fact, the whole movie is bouncy and happy, and it carried me right along with it. I loved the colors, the songs, the dancing, and the actors, even John Travolta in his fat suit.

I liked the earlier version of the movie, too, the one with Ricki Lake, who turns up in a cameo. So does John Waters in another brief bit I liked. The plot in this one is pretty much the same, about the dance party TV program, the racism, and the beauty contest, but the energy and enthusiasm of the cast are what carry the show. If you need cheering up, this is one you can watch and get results.