Friday, April 25, 2008

Del Toro will direct "The Hobbit"

The word up at the Wired blog is that Guillermo del Toro who directed Hellboy, The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth and other cool flicks is going to be a the helm of The Hobbit, produced by Peter Jackson's production company.

That sounds like a good combination to me, and it's nice to hear the film is back on track after legal wrangling between New Line Cinema and Jackson.

In celebration Wired posts an old Leonard Nimoy performance of the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. Though I know many J.R.R. Tolkien fans disavow it, I've always been fond of the Rankin and Bass animated version of The Hobbit and in particular the main title theme sung by folk great Glen Yarbrough.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Very superstitious

You ever have one of those headlines on a news aggregator that just cries out to be clicked? I can ignore the latest Jamie-Lynn Sigler née DiScala breakup report, but a headline like Penis theft panic hits city calls out, nay, demands to be clicked.

At the very least I felt I needed to know which city. Guy up the road from me ate his girlfriend after all. OK allegedly. Case hasn't gone to trial.

Turns out the penis theft reports are from Kinshasa, which apparently stands alone in datelines at least in the Reuters stylebook. Fortunately I have Wikipedia.

It's in the Congo, where superstition is still strong. Word in that neck of the world has it that witchdoctors are using ¢0¢|<-shortening spells.

The rumor was touched off in the 8-million member city-- :-) OK the population is 8 million. I guess thear are give or take four million members.

So, the the rumor got started and people believed it, and it was DISCUSSED ON RADIO CALL-IN SHOWS. !?

Aliens in the outfield
To me, at first, that seemed kind of a weird juxtaposition. Belief in a strange superstition discussed via the miracle of 20th century technology. I guess even if it were being discussed via podcast that would still be 20th century, right? Because that's when we got the Internet. And radio. Or when did Guglielmo Marconi unveil his work?

Anyway, seemed a little strange, but then again in this country we have Art Bell and we believe that aliens with big heads and large eyes abducted Whitley Strieber.

Superstition persists though it may take on a slightly more scientific form, I suppose. Used to be it was faeiries that would abduct your loved ones and replace them with an exact duplicate. Now it's grey aliens.

I guess we haven't really gone through an age of enlightenment in all circles. I have a friends anecdote to prove it.

Dialing 666
My friend reported a conversation overheard in a restaurant the other day:

Two guys at separate tables started talking about Obama. I'm not sure what sparked the discussion, but one guy revealed to the other guy that he harbored a secret supposition that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. The big one, upper case in the Associated Press Stylebook, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, moon turns to blood.

"I've been thinking that too," said the other guy. "But I thought I was the only one. I want to shake your hand."

How many copies did 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 sell back in the day?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's on the iPod? - The Darkest Evening of the Year

A friend with whom I share book suggestions asked the other day if I had read The Darkest Evening of the Year. She had started reading Dean Koontz following my recommendation of Life Expectancy.

Much to my chagrin I've owned the audiobook since, well probably the darkest evening of last year, but I hadn't listened to it yet as of the other day. So, I've set out to rectify that by bumping it to the top of my listening queue. (Now that a new Odd Thomas book is almost due.)

The whole idea of getting an iPod and an audiobook subscription was to get me to the gym so that I can listen while exercising, and Koontz is always a good choice since his tales are ever suspenseful.

An Illustrative Tail (I Meant Tail - That's Not a Mistake Just a Bad Pun)
I've been particularly interested in The Darkest Evening of the Year because he's managed in a non-didactic way to tell a story that spotlights golden retriever rescue.

Koontz, as you probably know, loves golden retrievers and sadly lost his pet and companion, Trixie, before beginning the novel. In his podcast he reported that for a five-week period after her death he could not write, and that delayed his start on Darkest Evening though he ultimately wrote it in a fast burst of inspiration.

What I admire about the novel is that it blends a typically excellent Koontz story with information on a cause about which he is passionate--animal welfare. Koontz further uses the tale to explore the human-animal bond. (Speaking of which, my cat, Miss Daisy, is on my lap--OK make that standing on my keyboard, OK make that trying to contribute--as I write this.)

A lesson for writers
The novel is an admirable use of the fictional form and worthy of examination for all fiction writers who want to add relevance to their words without, say, delving into the roles of rank and position in 19th century Victorian England.

Specifically Darkest Evening tells the tale of Amy Redwing, founder of a retriever rescue who picks up a dog named Nickie in a page-turning opening confrontation that pits her against an abusive head-of-household and prompts her to take his wife and kids under her wing.

Amy eventually runs afoul of a crazed arsonist named Moonglow and her boyfriend and other finely-crafted Koontz villains as well.

All in all it's a fine audiobook and no doubt a great read.

The Quibble
The book on tape is performed by an able reader named Kristen Kairos, but she occasionally offers some of the most creative pronunciations I've heard since Lindsay Crouse's vocalization of Ponchatrain (Pon-CHA-train) in the audio version of Anne Rice's The Witching Hour.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is this great packaging or what? - The Mad Men DVD

Wow, is the package for the Mad Men DVD inspired, or what? The box for season one of the '60s, Madison Avenue-set drama is shaped like a big cigarette lighter.

Since almost every character smoked constantly in keeping with the era, it's a brilliant effort.

Mad Men, like The Shield and Damages, owes a debt to The Sopranos, which opened the door to programs with complex, amoral protagonists.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is an ad executive with a troubled present and a mysterious past, and the firm he works for goes through some interesting campaigns in the series subplots, representing such diverse clients as Nixon and Lucky Strike.

Give it a look if it sounds interesting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's On The Reading List - Martin Caidin

This could be subtitled books I should have read in the '70s.

As I've probably mentioned here, I'm a biblioholic. When I'm not pouring over Proust, I am constantly working to read volumes from my vast collection of paperbacks.

The Sword of Damocles
It's a little frightening now that I think about it, looking up at the stacks that ascend from the top of the bookshelf beside my desk. If they tumble I'm a goner.

But I'm gaining on the stacks, and at the moment I'm enjoying some titles acquired many moons ago, works by author Martin Caidin, an aviator turned author best known for creating Steve Austin, Cyborg, who would become the Six Million Dollar Man on TV.

The Bionic Woman remake--which I thought was a bit of all right--didn't really prompt it. I'm not sure what compelled me to pick up the title from my shelf.

My buddy and his book
My buddy had a paperback of Cyborg when The Six Million Dollar Man TV movie debuted on ABC in the '70s. We couldn't get ABC at my house. Did I mention before the local station aired mostly Homer Formby in off hours?

Anyway my buddy had a copy of Cyborg which he read back then. I didn't. Don't know why I didn't borrow it, but we had distinct protocols of ownership as I recall. We both bought the Battle for the Planet of the Apes novelization from T.A.B. the Teen Age Book Club and then raced to see who could read it first.

You couldn't find any book in the universe in those days like you can now. You were limited to what was at the drugstore or the mall or the grocery with the paperback rack where your dad was the butcher, as in my friend's case. So in 1973 I didn't get to read it or see The Six Million Dollar Man except with a lot of snow, and the world marched on.

The Writing Life
Down the road, I read an interview with Martin Caidin in Writer's Digest--the interview mentioned here, in fact--and that put Caidin on my radar. I picked up a copy of Cyborg when I ran across it used and also Wingborn, and I'm reading those books now. Cyborg first.

Wingborn's next and then I probably need to get around to the later books in the Cyborg series, slightly more intense adventures for Steve Austin than he experienced on TV, encountering Bigfoot and aliens and thwarting robberies while dressed as Robin Hood on roller skates. That was the point where I always thought the series jumped the shark. I did eventually get to see reruns.

But anyway I'm reading Martin Caidin's rather fascinating novel that introduced bionics, with an s--it's Latin or something not plural, into contemporary fiction.

A lot of the Cyborg is devoted to the treatment of Austin following his injuries while piloting a test craft, the introduction of artificial limbs and the psychological toll it all takes. Oscar Goldman is on hand to pay the six million dollars to fix Steve up. I can't think of Oscar Goldman without thinking of the scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin where Seth Rogen looks at Steve Carrel's action figure collection and asks: "Isn't that The Six Million Dollar Man's boss? Why do you have that?"

Oscar is about like he was in the series, I guess. Steve Austin is a little different, though maybe some of the luxury features for the bionics limbs--such as self-contained breathing apparatus--were used in television episodes I missed.

All in all, I like Caidin's writing style, and Cyborg is cool sort of '70s mainstream science fiction.

Tough guy tackles sexism
, which I haven't started, is Caidin's '79 novel focusing on Kate Brandon, a skilled pilot who struggles against sexism and other challenges. Looks like it's also a promising page-turner.

After that I may need to look to Book Mooch for more titles for Caidin, who died in 1997. I guess that defeats the purpose of working through my collection, but he was a prolific author and I really want to get around to some other works including his "Messiah Stone" series and a title called Aquarius Mission.

Check out his bibliography here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What's on The IPod - The Ten Cent Plague

Speaking of horror comics, as I was in the last post, there's a new and really good book about the history of the four-color pages called the Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu. Everyone from Slate to the New York Times has talked about it so I know this is a news flash to all.

It's practically required reading for comics aficionados. I've certainly learned a lot listening to the audio version, authoritatively narrated by Stefan Rudnicki. (Listen to a sample at Audible.)

I first read of Fredrick Wertham and his book Seduction of the Innocent in the introduction to Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes, purchased for its plethora of Golden Age reprints when I was a kid.

My parents--who lived through the '50s but missed out on the comics hoopla, probably focused more on concerns of Communism and atomic war--were appalled by the discussions and the suggestion Batman and Robin and Wonder Woman might have subtext on homosexuality and bondage respectively.

Historic Detail
The Ten Cent Plague offers great details on the history of illustrated narratives with quotes and insights from some of the early creators before it gets around to its examination of Wertham and the gasps about EC style horror comics.

I'm a casual student of comics history, but as I mentioned the book offers up great details and tidbits I'd never encountered, everything from tales early newspaper syndication to facts about Will Eisner, Bob Kane and William Gaines of Mad Magazine fame.

A few things I probably should have picked up before now:

  • Eisner's The Spirit--one of my favorites--had a lookalike rival named Midnight. That he had a different name was unique. Rights not being what they are today in the early days of pen and ink storytelling, you might have rival newspapers each running their own version of The Yellow Kid or the later tales of errant immigrant youth The Katzenjammer Kids.
  • Wonder Woman's creator William Moulton Marston really did have a thing for bondage and he had a wife and another woman living with him.
  • M.C. Gaines and his son William didn't get along all that well.
There's much more to learn as Hajdu follows the post war evolution of true crime stories, self-regulating boards and early cries for restraint in a day when everyone, not just kids with broken XBoxes, read funny books.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Free Comics Get the Bump

Updated - see below

Roland turned me on to WOWIO, a site for advertising-sponsored ebooks. It includes quite an array of comics as well as novels and non-fiction.

Basically after you sign up and prove you're you for the advertisers by one verification method or another, they generate .pdf files with a full-page ad up front. I used a permanent e-mail address to qualify myself and that took about a day.

The eproducts are customized with your name, so they know if you passed the book on, kind of like those screener DVDs from the Academy, I suppose. You can download three items a day, by the way.

I was pleasantly surprised by the comics selection. Moonstone even has a few titles in the mix including a couple of its graphic novels featuring The Phantom--the ghost who walks in purple--and an adaptation of the original Kolchak novel/movie.

My discovery in the mix is a comic book adaptation of a film called Bump. It's apparently in the works with Tobin Bell slated to star. Apparently he's the only one cast so far, but they're working on that according to the official website.

The comic, from The Scream Factory, is a beautifully drawn horrorfest. At first I was thinking, "Well this is another The Hills Have Eyes," but things twist and turn pretty quickly with a scary prologue focusing on a killer reminiscent of the real life Ed Gein who also inspired Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Then we jump ahead 30 years to a group of people who wind up trapped in the killer's farmhouse where he's not dead and neither are his victims.

I suspect reading the book on-screen as a .pdf is a plus especially when you get to the action portions where I got a sense of movement, scrolling upward as large, flashing panels revealed chases and scares.

I was a little dissatisfied with the ending, but all in all a nice--though be warned: gory-- four issues.

I've also snagged a few other titles so far including a Moonstone adaptation of The Mysterious Traveler, a new spin on the old radio series giving the traveler a role more significant than host, and a series called Carnival of Souls that seems to be more than an adaptation of the classic early indy horror flick with waltzing zombies. I should mention there are also some '50s classics in the mix. EC-flavored if not actual EC titles, and some of the artists represented include Jack Kirby and Joe Kubert. You'll also find, I think, the complete run of Clive Barker's Tapping The Vein, comic adaptations.

And I haven't even gotten around to checking out the mystery novels yet.

(Posted 4/10/08)
Troy Brownfield from The Scream Factory dropped by to comment earlier in the week that more Bump casting news would be coming soon. He wasn't kidding.

Young Indiana Jones
himself Sean Patrick Flanery will be playing Bret and Hellraiser's Ashley Laurence will be Elaine. They are now attached to the film according to The Scream Factory's My Space Blog. They're a troubled couple who get stranded in the horribly haunted house where much of the story takes place.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Chuck is Gone

It seemed like for a while, when I was a kid, just about every movie or every other movie that I wanted to see starred Charlton Heston. Hard to believe he's gone.

He made a lot of science fiction/horror films in the late sixties and early seventies, so there was a steady run of his pictures on television, representing a great artistic contribution to the cinema of the fantastique.

If it wasn't Heston as Taylor in Planet of the Apes, or as The Omega Man, he was a future cop discovering mass deception in Soylent Green--it's people, you know. Or it was Heston dealing with an Earthquake, a sniper, a sunken sub or a killer mummy.

Later he would move to TV work but still turn up in the occasional genre outing including the Lovecraftesque In the Mouth of Madness and as a Nick Fury-like boss for Ah-nahld in True Lies.

Though it's not genre, it has a high cool factor and I also absolutely love Touch of Evil, in which Heston was a stand-up guy, backing Orson Wells as the director when the studio was iffy. His acting turn in that is a bit odd, but it's a great movie with two great scenes -- the uncut opening tracing the path of a bomb and the suspenseful denouement as Heston tracks Wells as the chief baddie with a listening device, struggling to stay in range.

I'd have met him if I met him
I missed out on the opportunity as a reporter to cover him when he came to Louisiana to appear for a religious group in the early '90s, but I did manage a six-degrees-of-separation moment once upon a time.

I interviewed Mariette Hartley upon the release of her autobiography. She had worked with Heston in a film called Skyjacked in which he played the pilot on a flight plagued by a mad bomber.

Somehow he came up in our conversation, and she talked about how warm and friendly he was in spite of his on-screen persona and his role as Hollywood's top conservative.

It's always nice to hear stars are also nice guys, and it is of course, sad to see Chuck go. At least we'll always have those great scenes to remember:

Pushing reporters out of the way in the oft parodied Airport 75.

Stretching a hand up from the crowd in SG: "Soylent Green is people!"

Handing over the vital bottle of his blood to save mankind in Omega.

And of course:

Kneeling in the sand at the base of the statue of liberty in POA shouting: "You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Damn you all to hell"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Snakes on a Tile

Ironically, I was watching a Samuel L. Jackson movie. It was Freedomland, but you know, six degrees of Kevin Bacon and all that. The movie ended and I got up and looked over at our back doors, a pair of French doors or anyway two doors with windows in them and apparently a microscopic space at floor level.

Protruding from said small space at the base of the doors was a giant anaconda, I mean it was the size of the one that menaced Jennifer Lopez in Anaconda and more recently those actors you'd never heard of in Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.

OK, maybe I exaggerated a little. I thought at first it was an earthworm. We'd had a long day of rain and the ground was saturated and that tends to drive earthworms to concrete or--in the rare case--ceramic tile.

The only thing that made me wonder about species was that it seemed to have the tiniest hint of a head. Earthworms are pretty much the same on both ends. Not that I could see both ends . The end without the head was still between my doors.

Since it was possibly a snake I decided not to pick it up with my hands and worried my cats might be about to discover it and pounce.

I turned to find those fierce predators were watching me from over the back of the sofa with timid eyes seeming to say: "It's a snake, you deal with it. We've got your back. From over here."

So, I started weighing options, flight not being actually viable.

  • Kill it? It didn't seem to have the head of a pit viper meaning it was probably harmless and also beneficial for something. I'm not up on all of the things for which snakes are beneficial, but generally on Animal Planet they indicate you should override those Genesis instincts that man "shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Thy being snakes. Also killing it would probably make a mess and it was 10 minutes until the first new Daily Show in a week.
  • Get a broom handle and try to loop the snake over that, get the door open and hurl broom and all into the night? Too complicated.
  • Capture? What do you capture a snake in? Drinking glass? Yeah, right! Jar? Mop bucket!
With the cats rooting for me, still from the safety of the sofa, I acquired a broom and mop bucket. I saw them do a similar thing with king cobras once. On TV. Apparently instead of zapping you with neurotoxin cobras would really rather go into a hole.

So I put the mop bucket on the floor in front of the snake, and this tiny little forked tongue flicked out. OK, definitely not an earthworm.

I edged the bucket a little closer while readying the broom handle for a mild poke. The snake seemed to take notice of the bucket. For the first time since apparently slithering through the crack in my door it moved.


Apparently not wanting a ride in my bucket, it rather quickly turned around and went back through the crack in the door.

I guess they really are as scared of you as you are of them.

Having had enough of a mother#!%$^&*+$ snake in my mother#!%$^&*+$ den, I applied weather stripping in the form of duct tape, fixer of all ills. "Elegant," Christine would say later. She managed to sleep through the entire thing even though the bedroom door was open and I may have exclaimed aloud a few times: "There's a mother#!%$^&*+$ snake in my mother#!%$^&*+$ den."

"I didn't want a hideous pit viper getting in while we were asleep," I countered.

"It was probably a common garden snake."

"It wasn't in the garden."

Although hopefully that's where it is now, and I need to make a trip to Ace Hardware. I probably was ordered to address the weather stripping issue at some point, once upon a time, but I uh may have forgotten. What am I, Ty Pennington?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...