Friday, December 30, 2005

New Universal Monster novels

I loooove the Universal monsters, Dracula, the Frankenstein Monsters, the Wolf man et al. (The Creature from the Black Lagoon, not so much)

I get excited every time a stab is made at keeping the trademarks alive, good or bad.

The Bad

The Good

  • The Return of the Wolf Man - Go figure. It's a paperback that picks up right after Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and is like one of the old movies in print.

My buddy sent me news from Sci-Fi Wire of some new novels from Dark Horse that will feature the Universal favorites:

Dracula: Asylum and Wolf Man: Hunter's Moon. The latter interests me most. Features Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, pursued by a cult devoted to killing werewolves.

Both should be lots of fun.

Speaking of vampires and werewolves: reports that the Official Underworld: Evolution site is online. Features quite a few wallpapers, a game, trailer, vampire and werewolf family trees and a poster I believe would qualify as wicked cool.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ashley's Eyes

Ashley is the second cat to turn up on our doorstep, arriving a few months back. He won my wife's heart after just a few days and manged to work his way inside with the coming of cold weather.

He was hungry when he first arrived and had a terrible case of ear mites, so severe that he had scratched sores over his ears. We ran an ad to find his owner in our local paper but got no answers, so we took him in.

Eye problem
We realized immediately he had problems with one eye as well. Worried that there might be cancer present, our vet suggested that we might need to remove the eye.

He gave us the option of seeing a specialist, however, so we took Ash in today for his appointment with a kitty opthamologist.

She determined the problem was not melanoma. Some time in the past he suffered a severe injury to the eye, possibly even a shot of some kind, maybe a BB or pelet gun.

It mangled the retina badly although outside the eye is entact.

A case study
It was such an odd case she had the other doctors in the practice look at him. He took it all quite well.

Apparently this condition could turn into a sarcoma down the road, so his eye will have to be monitored as time goes on.

To have been through so much, he's one of the best pets we've ever had.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Will the Netflix Lead Last?

Netflix is reporting their challenge from Blockbuster has not eroded their lead in the online DVD rental industry.

As a customer since 2002, I was rooting for them most of the way, but I'm not sure their market share is going to continue if many renters are getting the treatment I'm getting. Am I seeing the ugly head of throttling, the industry's suspected practice of slowing down a heavy renter's turnaround? I ain't that heavy a renter!

Have you seen a movie lately?
Lately it seems I pretty much have to report a movie missing to get them to even check it in. I mean days and days pass before things get moving in my cue, and I live about two hours from the distribution center.

I was talking to my sister-in-law over Christmas who told me as Blockbuster by-mail customers she and my brother-in-law have had great turnaround times. He's rewatched much of the old Wiseguy season one with very short lag times between return, check in and the arrival of a new disk.

Granted they live a little closer to the distribution center than I do, but a couple of days to get through the mail is about all it should take. Even with holidays and heavy mail slowdowns I sent "Mr. and Mrs. Smith back more than a week ago and it's now showing to have been checked in today.

For the first time ever, I'm thinking I may leave Netflix and swap over to their competitors in yellow and blue.

Monday, December 26, 2005

What's on the iPod - Week of 12/25/2005

It's a video iPod after all this week. I couldn't decide on anything I wanted more for Christmas, so Christine managed to get it under the wire and under the tree by yesterday morning.

I like it - like seeing the album covers on the tunes and the video I've watched so far is crisp and clear, mainly in trailers - The Hills Have Eyes (featuring Lost's Emilie de Ravin) and Mission Impossible III.

My favorite so far, however, is the Washington Post's "Year in Pictures" vodcast.

It's an emotional spin through stunning news photographs happy and sad from the Post's metro, national and world sections and more.

Check it out on iTunes or visit

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

This year more than ever we're celebrating the holidays in segments. We've been east and west, stopping in one weekend with one set of relatives and the next with another.

The formal celebration began Thursday night with a stopover by my wife Christine's sister and her kids.

It continues today with our formal dinner together at home which has become the cornerstone of our personal tradition. I thought last Christmas would be my mom's last, but instead we'll be visiting her shortly and tomorrow it's one more trip to see family on my dad's side.

It's been a calm, quiet month of visits with shopping mixed in.

That's the way we roll, and I'm kind of happy with that.

May everyone who drops by this corner of the web have a wonderful personal celebration.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I'd been believing a lie about innocent flowers

During my stint as a research librarian, I frequently had to find the legend of that favorite bright red Christmas flower for patrons. It's a Little Drummer Boy-like story of a boy with no gift for the Christ child, so he delivers a humble bouquet of weeds that turn into bright red poinsettias.

It's one of those Christmas asides, sort of like the Yule season variation on Easter's Legend of the Dogwood, I guess. It's sort of the myth that justifies the real reason we send the potted flowers: 'Cause they're red. Another example of the value of story and myth, I suppose.

Another myth
Blind fool that I am, I've believed a different poinsettia myth for years now. God as my witness, I thought poinsettias were poison.

My favorite argument-settling site,, has opened my eyes. You may not want to add red flower petals to the holiday menu, but they're not as lethal as we're usually led to believe.

Snopes reveals that story stems from a misdiagnosis in 1919.

Another example that urban myth never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Podcast Christmas Carol is here

A Podcast Christmas Carol that I mentioned in an earlier post is now online.

The adaptation set's the story in the present day, giving Scrooge a new profession, and it's great fun.

He's in the radio industry, and his visits from the Christmas ghosts allow the podcasters who put this together to unfold a stinging commentary about radio conglomerates and homogenization.

It's a retelling true to the spirit of the original but with an interesting spin.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dude, you're burnin' a Marketing Opportunity

Dell issued a press release the other day announcing that it would recall 35,000 notebook batteries that miiiiiiiiight "pose a fire risk."

They made the annoucement in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Apparently a couple of coffee tables or desks have been damanged but no laps to date.

The spin
I think there could be a spin on the whole situation that could be turned into marketing opportunities:

1. Harness the technology - make the batteries flash on demand instead of their own whim.

2. Annouce that in the event of loss or theft the internal self-destruct mechanism can be activated to avoid the compromise of sensitive data on your hard drive i.e. grocery lists, bad poetry, digital photos of your thumb.

It could also make for a real nasty surprise for anyone who swipes your computer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Don't know if I can live up to this

My fortune cookie at lunch had one of my more esoteric fortunes in a while:

"You are the only flower of meditation in the wilderness."

I try to be contemplative, though occasionally I'm hot under the collar.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This sounds like quite a party

Not doing anything a couple of days after Christmas?

The Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, needs 70 volunteers to pull off what almost sounds like a practical joke. The kind you might have come up with as a teenager -- flushing the facility's roughly 200 toilets.

According to the Associated Press, Cajundome officials want to have toilets tested on Dec. 27 in preparation for a January concert. They're worried about post-Katrina plumbing damage and need volunteers to help identify problem areas.

So the volunteers will be flushing toilet paper down over a brief period of time.

I'm betting they draw a big crowd.

Read the full story and find out where to call to volunteer here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What's on the iPod - Week of 12-18-2005 - New Scientist Podcast

I always stop by the New Scientist website to check the headlines. You never know when a scientific breakthrough is going to spark a story idea.

I was happy to discover the magazine/website was also producing a podcast. It's one of the best I've run across, slickly produced and always interesting.

Segments are drawn from the pages of New Scientist magazine, and yeah, they'd like you to go ahead and subscribe after listening, but the 'casts stand alone as info bursts about everything from new Alzheimer's discoveries to the sonic weaponry that recently thwarted pirates off the coast of Somalia.

If you're at all interested in science news, this one's worth a listen.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


originally uploaded by willysid.
I believe my journey to great pictures has a few more steps. I touched up the colors on this one moderately in Photoshop 7 using blending layers.

My buddy, Robert the Professional Photographer, has offered suggestions about white balance. So far with my Sureshot S50 I've had better luck letting the auto white balance do the job, but I’ve tugged the manual out again to study a little more.

Robert's philosophy
I find I'm self conscious about walking around with a camera. Working at a keyboard is a much more solitary and less conspicuous way of creating.

I am working to follow Robert's philosophy that the subjects you need for great photographs are close at hand - you don't necessarily have to travel the world to find beauty. He did a showing recently that included a series of black and whites of a single tree.

In keeping with that this shot is behind my day-job office.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

King Kong menaces small Southern town

My aunt Maude didn't speak English. She spoke a language of her own made up of not-always-easy-to-understand euphemisms. I was an adult before I realized that when she spoke of a girl she knew having "boogers" in her head that she meant lice and not the nostril by-product we all try to avoid. The described phenomenon had always puzzled me up until my epiphany.

The King arrives
Any anecdote from Aunt Maude required a bit of interpretation. So I have this story from her lips but not with precise details. I never heard her actually say that it was King Kong she and her siblings went to see, but I believe 1933 would have been a reasonable time frame for the incidents she described.

On the night in question, several members of their large family went to see a scary movie. I can't remember what clues helped me ascertain it was Kong, but somewhere over the years I did.

Watermelon dreams
After the movie, everyone returned home for watermelon, and then they all went to sleep.

Dozing with a stomach full of watermelon, my aunt began to have vivid nightmares, so vivid she woke believing they were real. She went to my uncle's room and got him convinced something was wrong as well. I've never heard the words "giant gorilla" so I'm not sure what fueled their planned evacuation.

Even though he had not been dreaming, he tossed on a coat and they started waking other members of the household in preparation for a grand escape from the sketchily defined evil. Luggage may have even been involved, so apparently it was a persistent threat.

Folie à deux or more
Somewhere in the flurry, my Grandmother was awakened. Not having attended the film, she provided the voice of reason that finally quelled the shared psychosis.

The homestead was not abandoned. Heartbeats returned to normal, but for all of their adult lives, the family members there that night laughed about the time Maude woke everybody up.

I tell this now because I think it's a clear sign of the original film's power, and an indicator of why 70 some odd years later there's a remake.

After I see it, I think I'll be careful about what I eat.

J.N. Williamson dies

I was sad to open an e-mail from my buddy Wayne this morning and learn that Jerry Williamsom had passed away on Dec. 8 in a nursing home. He was known to most readers as J.N. Williamson and was one of those astonishingly prolific authors as well as editor of the Masques horror anthologies.

A friend who lived near his Indiana stomping grounds once told me his hometown newspaper had set a special interval for articles about his books because there were so many.

Brief meeting
I think it was at a World Horror Convention in Nashville--though conventions and hotel lobbies run together--that I sat with him and some other friends and chatted a while in the lobby about books we'd liked or tales we wanted to tell.

I've read many of his books over the years and have a few in my personal stacks that I have yet to get around to. Ironically he popped into my mind the other day and I wondered how he was doing.

Some of my favorites of his books are Noonspell and Brotherkind, an aliens among us thriller. I didn't know until the e-mail that Wayne's featured fictionally in Noonspell as a cop who's killed off.

More information

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Colin Farrell and Jamie Fox in the "Miami Vice" Trailer

In one of those new product placement deals, the Miami Vice trailer is now available on a Bacardi site. The film stars Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett and Jamie Fox as Ricardo Tubbs, and it's interesting to see the looks that have been developed for the two.

Appears it's a drooping mustache instead of five o'clock shadow for Crockett and stylish suits and a goatee for Tubbs - none of those South Beach pastels from the eighties.

A Podcast Christmas Carol

Noticed on iTunes a Podcast Christmas Carol is coming up, a collective effort by a group of Podcasters.

I'm a big fan of Old Time Radio and of everyone's favorite Christmas ghost story, so I'm interested to hear how this turns out. Oddly, I never get tired of A Christmas Carol, no matter how many times it's redone. I'm even reasonably fond of the Jack Palance Western version.

Have a Patrick Stewart Christmas
Years ago--wow, too many when I think about it--I bought a CD of Patrick Stewart's one-man rendition of A Christmas Carol for Christine from the Signal's catalog.

She's not a big fan of Star Trek, Next Gen or otherwise, but she's always like Capt. Picard.

The CD quickly became mine, and I've listened to it around Christmas many years. Last year it became one of the first non-songs on my iPod along.

It's another of my personal traditions, I guess.

As scholars note, ACC was written at a time when Christmas traditions were dying out. The work was an important part of revitalizing the season, and I think that's why it's always welcome.

It's romantic Victorian setting and its tale of redemption is perpetually new and universal. When Scrooge finally says: "I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year," he's really speaking for all of us, wearied by the day to day grind but refreshed by the spirit of the holidays.

Like the Goo Goo Dolls say in "Better Days," it's the night the "world begins again."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

What's on the iPod - 12-11-2005

I discovered John Altenburgh's Christmas at Buzz's Restaurant online as Christmas 2000 approached, more or less giving birth to one of my personal holiday traditions.

That year, we were immersed in a major web project at my job, and I worked through it while listening to the jazz and blues renditions from Wisconsin artist Altenburgh.

His versions of standards such as "Silent Night" and "O' Christmas Tree" with piano accompaniment help set a perfect holiday mood.

The original tunes compliment the mix and comprise my favorites on the disk. "Christmas Story" with its bouncy tune and wry lyrics such as "The sugar plum fairy got run out of town..." make it a wry addition to a Christmas playlist.

The title track is a soft, sentimental song harkening back to a bygone time made hazy and more romantic by memory. It has rich imagery of a place once real now lost. Buzz's is a place we all recall as we build up a list of Christmases past that likely outnumbers those Christmases yet to come.

Now the bad news - I think "Christmas at Buzz's" is out of print and it's on Altenburgh's own label which unfortunately isn't represented on iTunes.

You have to seek it out on the web. I bought mine after the Yahoo streaming version stopped being available, but I'm glad I did.

Holiday and Loss

Image from stock.xchnge

A psychologist on television the other morning was giving tips on coping with grief for those who've lost a loved one.

The first holiday season after the loss is the hardest, the counselor stated. I gave it some thought and I decided I disagree.

This holiday season is the hardest after a loss. And the next will be as well.

The pain grows less acute, but holidays are landmarks. They hold strong memories and always will.

My old man made a special sauce every year to flavor the turkey. His own concoction, possibly based on his brother's. In my mind's eye, I can see him still, hovering over a heavy old cook pot dropping in a bay leaf, stirring with an old wooden spoon. It was a sign of Christmas as much as trimming the tree or hanging a reef.

Remembering is bittersweet, but remembering is also coping.

Because he is gone does not mean he never lived.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Speaking of Scary Movies - Wolf Creek

Had to install Flash 8 to load the Wolf Creek website, but it offered up some interesting graphics once I got it working. They're providing the trailer for iPod and PSP as well.

I decided not to ask for a video iPod from Santa. I think I'm going to let it gestate a while longer and buy the inevitably improved version that will come probably sooner than later, but it's encouraging to know I'll have plenty of things to watch in waiting rooms (and boring meetings) when I do spring for one.

The lips say Texas Chainsaw but...
That Hills Have Eyes remake may not be necessary after all if Wolf Creek proves to be as chilling as the trailers and review epigrams suggest. It's being poised as an Outback Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though the site bears a Blair Witch influence with it's "based on a true story" overtones. There's definitely plenty to do there since the film is a don't open until Christmas--you get a blog, some true story browsing, clips and an ongoing slideshow backdrop.

It really strikes me as a gritty new take on The Most Dangerous Game (Warning: That link contains popups if you're not wisely using Firefox) from sophmore English class. I guess that tale is a little too far off the pop culture radar to have any marketing value, but it was one of the better stories I ever had to read for an English class.

It's definitely iPod Notes worthy. And that's how I'm tying this whole rambling post together.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Some gifts just shouldn't exist

You know, some gifts should not exist. They're just out there as presents for those people for whom you don't know what to buy. They're destined to be re-gifted or bound someday for a landfill.

It's not an oasis, it's a mirage
Just about all chotzkies from the corporate world qualify, but department stores are filled with items as well. You know that table that looks like a gift oasis in the men's department amid all the sweaters and neck ties with the Three Wise Men on them?

Sum of the parts
Get a sweater or a nice tie. Trust me, no one has ever accomplished a successful repair with a tool found in a flashlight handle. I have a flashlight and I have a screwdriver that I bought for myself, and both are better than any combination of the two.

I also don't need a singing or talking (fill in the animal, fish or reptile here).

No monopurpose cooking either
And I have a kitchen. I have a means to prepare a hotdog. Ditto a hamburger, popcorn and anything else. Any grill or cooker sold to prepare only one food item is pretty much headed to Good Will.

If I don't take it myself, it'll be delivered, still in its original packaging, by whoever cleans out my stuff after my demise.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

10 Signs You're in Serious "Lost" Withdrawal

(Some of these might be considered spoilers if you aren't up to date on Season 2.)

10. You look at your friend's new baby and note: "She's wrapped up exactly the way Locke swaddled Claire's baby."

9. You check your family Bible for hidden clips of Dr. Marvin Candle.

8. On your lunch hour you drive around looking for the Mr. Cluck franchise in your area.

7. You keep checking iTunes for a Charlie Pace Celebrity Playlist.

6. You ask at the quick stop why they don't stock Apollo candy bars.

5. You think your goldfish may have a Dharma Initiative logo on its tail.

4. You call your friends in the carpool Han and Chewy. (This symptom may lead to a false positive. It may only indicate that you're a nerd and not actually suffering "Lost" withdrawal.)

3. At the office, every 108 minutes you open a DOS prompt and type in 4-8-15-16-23-42, even though it does nothing but annoy your boss.

2. Tops on your Christmas list: An Apple II.

1. "Dude, you've got some Arzt on you."

What's on the iPod? - Week of 12-4-2005 - Christmas playlist

Christmas music in years gone past came from an uncle on my mother's side. He'd show up every year with Firestone albums featuring classics from an impressive range of artists of the day, or the day before in many instances.

My Christmas collection is an eclectic mixture that includes a couple of holiday albums I've purchased over the years including Mannheim Steamroller and a disk of Celtic tunes from Windham Hill as well as my favorite Christmas album I'll discuss next week.

As part of creating one of my own holiday traditions, I also have mixture of songs from iTunes or Amazon's free downloads that make up my personal holiday playlist. My requirements for Christmas songs are simple.

1. They have to help put me in the spirit of the season in some way.

2. No Micahel Bolton.

This year's list

"Jingle Bells" - Wilson' Pickett's version

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey - I said no Michael Bolton, otherwise I'm flexible.

"The Christmas Song" - Roomful of Blues - that's the "chestnuts roasting" song and this is the only version you'll ever need.

"The Little Drummer Boy" - Johnny Cash - one year in junior high we all brought Christmas albums from home and someone played Cash's pure, earnest rendition and it's stuck with me forever.

"O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" - Allison Crowe, from her "Tidings" album, great interpretations in her powerful, distinctive voice.

"I Believe in Father Christmas" - an oldie from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, for my cynical side, an irreverent, unique song with an incredible sound.

"Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls, an easy choice since it's everywhere right now, but a perfect hopeful way to round out my playlist.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Cat Postcards - Stocking Stuffers

Friends have enjoyed this photo that Christine took of our cats so much I decided to make it a postcard at, just in time to serve as stocking stuffers for holiday giving. :-)

Kitties on paper
This card is just sort of an experiment. Since Patrick Freden and I did the poster for the movie poster competition, I've thought we ought to try some things in a web storefront.

Currently Monty and Daisy in the window are the only item available at:

Maybe we'll make more pictures.
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