Sunday, December 31, 2006

Seven and Three are Oh My God!

Seems like a heartbeat ago I was reading Peter Straub's Shadowlands which has a section toward the end called: "The End of the Century is in Sight."

And when that book came out it seemed like the end of the 20th century was a loooong way off.

Weren't we just sweating out Y2K and all that?

And looking forward to new Star Wars Films?

And recounting votes in Florida?

Man, after we turn the calendar page tonight, we'll be three years from the end of the first decade of this century.

My head's swimming, and I haven't had a new year's drink yet.

Need some cowbell!

OK, clearly I need to provide some educational materials here. I'm telling you, fellas, you're gonna want that cowbell!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Memes to Me - "Please, stop the monkeys!"

Addendum 2016: Linda J. Alexander, biographer of Steve Ihnat, dropped by this post recently to note that even in 2006 my memory was fuzzy. It was frequent '60's TV guest star Ihnat who played the brainwashed race car driver in Hunter and shouted the "stop the monkeys" line. I stand corrected, as I did the time I mixed up the release years on It's A Wonderful Life.

I didn't realize one of my favorite obscure movie lines is pretty much a meme.

"Stop the monkeys!" is one of those cool phrases that seems to fit any situation where you want to cry out against the insanity.

Five projects get turned in at once, all with the same deadline?

"Stop the monkeys."

Bad things happen one after another?

"Please, stop the monkeys!"

Someone says "All your base belongs to us" again.

"Stop the monkeys."

They remake Superman The Movie and call it a new movie: Superman Returns!

"Stop the monkeys! Stop the monkeys."

Despite its multiplicity of uses, I didn't realize it was in as wide a use as "Needs more cowbell," but that would seem to be the case. It says so on Wikipedia, at least, in the entry on the TV movie from which it's taken. I discovered that fact the other day in my relentless quest to gain knowledge and reduce boredom.

The movie, which yeah, I saw as a kid and remember, would be Hunter starring the late character actor John Vernon as a brainwashed race car driver who's driven mad by the suggestion that he's being assailed by flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz.

So of course he says: "Please, stop the monkeys!"

I always found the flying monkeys roughly as terrifying as the Gargoyles from another CBS-TV Movie, so if I were being assailed by real or imaginary flying monkeys I'd want them to stop.

As we face the new year, it's always good to have a goal. Mine will be to help further perpetuate the use of phrase "Stop the monkeys" in 2007.

If you have a blog, please apply when appropriate, and by all means use it as a minced oath in polite company.

It's a little softer than some other John Vernon lines, such as the also frequently apopos but less socially acceptable: "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining," from The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Total Immersion

I've spent some long stretches working on a chapter to back up that first line I posted a few days ago another nice part of being off from my day job a few days and generaly off my feet.

It's a first line I've modified a bit based on suggestions here, by the way.

Referring to Dean Koontz on writing again, in one of his writing texts he's adamant about devoting uninterrupted hours to writing. Find time on a weekend if not during the week, he urges, to spend uninterrupted stretches with your fiction.

Other than having cats jump on my laptop I've done that the last few days, and it kind of reminded me how effective immersion in the world of your fiction can be.

The four walls of the setting become real, the characters literally start to breathe and truly you're in a different place within yourself or your thoughts.

As a reporter I covered someone discussing painting from the left side of the brain or the right, I forget which one's which in the creative vs. pragmatic scenario. She talked about getting to that place.

I know scientifically the left-right brain notion isn't proven, but I do find something does happen in the creative process where everything really kicks in.

I may have mentioned in this blog before how much I came to live in the small town that is the setting of my novel When Darkness Falls. I knew the streets, the shadows, the shops and what it was like to drive through town on a foggy evening.

When the book was finished I hated to leave.

It's to reach that point in a new piece of writing. It's not magic, but it feels that way.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Keeping off my feet with Pirates of the Caribbean

I'm still staying off my feet as much as possible, having twisted my ankle on Christmas Eve eve. (Actually it was more of a karate chop by the metal border on a flower bed, but it really becomes a long story.)

For me, it's not so bad being immobile. Yesterday I devoted a good deal of time to re-watching the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Some of my online friends have been discussing plotting lately. The admirable job done on those films becomes apparent when they're watched in proximity, negative reviews aside.

They're fun, fast-paced films, visually stunning, but there are many nuances I didn't really expect to find in summer blockbusters where lowest-common-denominator usually goes.

A lot of the subtle material was probably lost on kids in the multiplexes, but it sure makes the DVDs worth owning.

Of course I got "Dead Man's Chest" from Netflix and taped "Curse of the Black Pearl" off ABC for my mini-marathon but when the three-pack including the final film comes out I'm there, dude.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What I Got for Christmas

Didn't ask for big things this year. I decided to wait on that Sony e-book reader to see if it really catches on so I didn't get any major electronics.

It's for the best. If I got one I'd have to buy e-books for it.

I did get an iPod AV cable because I never could make the trick with a camcorder AV cable work--you're supposed to be able to cross the yellow, red and white connectors but I always got a scrambled mess.

Cheap but thrilling - now I can watch the Aquaman pilot on my living room TV.

Apparently I will be reading Hannibal Rising, too. It was on a list of potential gift books I gave Christine a while back.

I was a little more excited by The Shadow of Frankenstein, a paperback, part of a new series of Universal film tie-ins. It pits Henry Frankenstein-told you it was based on the movies--against Jack the Ripper.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

What Christine is Getting for Christmas - Wodehouse

Christine has become a fan of P.G. Wodehouse and so she'll be getting several nice editions of his works this Christmas. Those are mixed in with other gifts, marginally disguised to thwart her ability to guess each gift item.

That means she'll know they're books, that they're Wodehouse books, but not which titles. I don't even know that without checking the order form now that they're wrapped.

I bought enough to keep her in Wodehouse reading much of the year since they're hard to come by at bookstore or library, despite their popularity.

Getting around to Wodehouse
They're filled with clever language, humor and plots that are complex enough to satisfy mystery readers though they're concerned more with manners than mayhem. If you haven't heard, they feature, mostly, the misadventures of British playboy Bertie Wooster, the narrator, and his manservant Jeeves, prototype for the American popular conception of butlers and footmen, though no longer the servant on :-(

We'd always meant to get around to Wodehouse. Years ago, probably when they were new, we used to see listings for the British series video in the Signals catalog, long a source of sweatshirts and tees in our house.

Hugh Laurie played Bertie on British TV and since Christine is a House, M.D. fan that prompted us to locate the titles on Netflix.

And the books followed, prompting her to not only read some but to read them out loud to me. (A favorite line invovles Bertie musing that a grouchy Scottish pooch wandered off "muttering something in Gaelic under his breath.")

I never have to read anything Christine is interested in. She either reads it to me or summarizes so completely I can save the time of sitting down with the actual prose. She summed up a recent New York Times profile of Kristin Chenoweth so completely I didn't have to read it or watch any more episodes of Studio 60, thinly-veiled Kristin Chenoweth biography.

This time next year
This time next year I'll be able to act versed in the works of Wodehouse. I'll be able to rattle off oneliners.

I predict the Wodehouse investment is a good choice of stocking stuffer.

Why am I bothering to tell everyone all this? Well maybe it will help with last-minute giving for some who can find Wodehouse in stores.

And I have to stay off my left foot. Monty--aka the king, the senior household tomcat, butler of our cats you might say-- got into the back yard yesterday and regular readers of this blog will know that usually means I get hurt. (He sniffed in a flowerbed then headed for the woods which connect to a busy roadway. I hopped off a retaining wall to head him off and, well I have to stay off my left foot.)

I could use a Jeeves.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Reading

I guess this is another of my personal holiday traditions. I like to read, and listen to, Christmas-themed fiction at holiday time, but you can only enjoy A Christmas Carol so many times.

I enjoy various versions from Patrick Stewart's one-man show to Jack Palance's Western interpretation in Ebenezer, but variety is nice as well.

I have some new-to-me items handy for downtime this weekend, when we're not cooking or shopping. I hope we don't have to do much of the latter.

The Twelve Frights of Christmas is an old anthology edited by Isaac Asimov with titles from H.G. Wells and Robert Bloch among others. I'm looking forward to a few holiday chills from that. I've had it a while, guess you could say I've been saving it.

Doctor Who
I also have a holiday-themed Doctor Who audio title from Big Finish, at least I think it is set at Christmas time. Should be a nice listen anyway. It's called The Chimes of Midnight and drops the eighth doctor, the one from the U.S. TV movie, into a British mansion in 1906 where he's faced with a mystery or two to solve. (And of course Doctor Who The Christmas Invasion re-airs Christmas Day on Sci Fi. If you're in the UK of course you get an all new Who special.)

Hopefully I'll enjoy the book and CD I've chosen as much as some of my previous holiday reads such as A Carol in the Dark, a really nice mystery from longtime editor Cathleen Jordan and The Christmas Crimes at Puzzle Manor from Simon Brett.

The Brett novel is an excellent holiday read about murders and puzzles at a snow-bound mansion. There are real puzzles you can solve built in.

Here's hoping everyone has some great holiday fun.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

First Lines

I'm honing a new opening line. It's turning out a little long, but I'm not sure that's bad.

I'm toying with a story based on an actual experience I had in Dublin . As I walked through a blustery afternoon storm, and old man came toward me, chuckling strangely and looking at me knowingly as if he held some secret. That's about the extent of the real experience so I have quite a bit to make up.

Not sure if the story is going anywhere but I'm toying with an outline and an opening page at least and here's how it starts:

"The old man in the snap-brim cap walked out of the wind, his arms dangling, useless and limp as he angled across the sidewalk on a collision course with Desiree."

Desiree won't be the main character's name. That's a place holder for the moment. Guess we'll see where this goes

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Download worthy

Charles Gramlich is talking Hannibal Rising over at Razored Zen. He had to read it for an article he's writing on Thomas Harris. People have been discussing it a while over on the Shocklines Forums, having purchased it right away. I was so excited to read Hannibal that I bought it in hardcover as soon as it was available. Not so Hannibal Rising. Just can't get excited about a new Lecter story even though I could at least spring a credit for it at Audible today as my subscription kicks in on the 20th. Sometimes it seems a sequel diminishes the original, stellar work. On the other hand, though I didn't like Forever Odd quite as well as Odd Thomas, I had no hesitation in springing for the audio of Brother Odd for the iPod to see what happens next to Odd Thomas and the ghost of Elvis. (Anyone remember the Weird Al song where he cites a tabloid headline: "The ghost of Elvis is living in my den!"?) Deciding on how to spend one credit is easier than how to spend the second though. With one there's always the second, no problem. With the second, well, that's it. All you're gonna get for a month. Should I go for Michael Crichton's new one? Or the non-fiction account of Irael's response to the 1972 Olympic massacre, Striking Back, last week's No. 1 history download at Audible. Or should I go for the holiday-themed thriller Slay Ride by Chris Grabenstein? Yep, deciding what's download worthy can be a challenge.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Meanwhile under the tree

We brought Christmas presents home from Christine's mom's and put them under the tree.

Daisy, aka the good cat, immediately began to poke around them as if to say: "I'm looking to see if there's one with my name on it." At least that's the quote Christine attributed to her and she's usually pretty good at interpreting her thoughts.

Failing to find "Miss Daisy" on any "To" cards, our queen took up residence atop a present we believe to be a new tea kettle from Christine's mom.

If Christine were on Heroes, her super power would be the ability to ascertain a gift package's contents long before Christmas Day. And to interpret the thoughts of a slightly bossy female cat.

I'm not sure why Daisy is so interested in a tea kettle, but it seems to be where we'll find her from now until Christmas Day. It had a really nice bow, too.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Another tune on my Christmas playlist

Yesterday, Christine and I were in our grocer's dairy section when Gene Autry's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" came on the in-store radio.

That took me back. The tune was already firmly a part of pop culture when I was kid, and the LP was one my dad always put on the stack. We had a Packard Bell stereo--the kind where the speakers were built into the cabinet that housed the turntable.

Shuffle play was achieved by placing a stack of vinyl albums on the turntable. When one finished another dropped down.

I snagged the cover art from the web, but the pic is of the album we had. It wore out long ago, probably from being stacked under other albums as they spun.

I don't know how old it was when I came along but I was dazzled by the pic of Rudolph when I was very small, and the images the song evoked were always a part of early sixties Christmases.

I always sat in our den in Louisiana and imagined a foggy North Pole Christmas Eve and the days leading up to Christmas were always the best days.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Veronica Mars on iTunes

I've long wondered considering its key demographic, why Veronica Mars wasn't on iTunes. At last it is and it's download worthy for sure.

For some reason my dish provider doesn't include The CW, nee the WB and UPN, in the local channels. I watched the final half of season one on DVD then Season 2 completely on DVD.

Looks like I won't have to wait that long for Veronica’s freshman year at Neptune U.

No, I ain't in Veronica's target market per se, but I am a private eye fan and Veronica Mars is one of the best private eye shows since Rockford. Seasons 1 and 2 have fabulous year-long mystery arcs solved along with her PI dad, Enrico Colantoni. That's reason 1 to watch.

How Veronica Mars is like Bullwinkle
Bullwinkle used to include asides and jokes for the folks that kids wouldn't get. Veronica and her pals are some of the most pop-culturally literate kids ever. Moreso than a lot of twentysomethings I know. No way would they know some of the song and movie references Veronica and her pals drop periodically. But they make for great dialog.

How Veronica Mars is like Agatha Christie
OK, every episode is not as clever as Dame Agatha's, but there are occasions when VM solves some capsule mysteries for her friends that are clue-laden and clever.

I haven't made it through the first mini-arc of season 3 on my iPod, but so far it's still intriguing if unfortunate that the long mysteries had to be abandoned in an attempt to build ratings.

Sadly as one of the best of the best on TV these days, Veronica may be one of the shows that asks too much of a commitment. I predict it will someday prosper in reruns and perhaps online though it may not be an Aquaman.

Download one episode and see if you can stop there!

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Christmas Playlist

Psychologists will tell you that as your life marches along, family members pass away and the Christmas Seasons in memory start becoming your own personal ancient history, it's important to establish new Christmas traditions.

One of my personal traditions is my Christmas playlist, which I wrote about here last year. I'm getting old. I repeat myself.

I started it back in 2000 when I was immersed in a big project at work. Having holiday tunes playing in my office kept things from getting gloomy.

Always a part of my Christmas playlist is John Altenburgh's Christmas at Buzz's Restaurant, which is now available on iTunes. I don't think it was last Christmas. The iTunes summary is accurate. It features Jazzy versions of many traditional songs as well as some fun originals.

The title track is a warm, sentimental perennial for me at Christmas. I don't know if there ever was a Buzz's in Keelerville, WI, but the lyrics evoke a feeling of nostalgia for Christmas pasts that seems real and connects me with my own long ago memories.

Here's my complete playlist for this year, assembled from my album collection, free downloads and digital purchases:

1. Silent Night - John Altenburgh - Christmas at Buzz's Restaurant
2. Nollaig Na Mban - Cormac Breatnach - Celtic Christmas
3. 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night - Simon and Garfunkle - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
4. Christmas Time Is Here - Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas
5. Christmas at Buzz's Restaurant - John Altenburgh - Christmas at Buzz's Restaurant
6. In the Bleak Midwinter - Allison Crowe - Tidings
7. Better Days - The Goo Goo Dolls
8. King Holly, King Oak - Johnny Cunningham - Celtic Christmas
9. Jingle Bells - Diana Krall & The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra - Christmas Songs
10. Jingle Bells - James Taylor - James Taylor at Christmas (It was free last week and this version and the Diana Crall version offer wildly different interpretations of the tune.)
11. Christmas Story - John Altenburgh - Christmas at Buzz's Restaurant
12. All I Want for Christmas is You (So So Def Remix) Mariah Carey featuring JD & Lil' Bow Wow - All I Want for Christmas (You gotta mix things up)
13. Little Drummer Boy - Johnny Cash - The Christmas Album
14. Snow On High Ground - Nightnoise - Celtic Christmas
15. Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy- Bing Crosby & David Bowie - Bing Crosby - Christmas Classics (I know, I know, !?. It's from, I believe Crosby's last Christmas TV special, sentimental for me because I remember watching with my family back in the day. The 4 minute version includes the lead-in.)

If you have Christmas favorites, please share.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cool Quote For Bloggers and Writers

Here's a cool Star Trek quote Christine found. (And there's a sentence that, if you know Christine, sounds like science fiction.)

"It takes courage to look inside yourself, and even more courage to write it for others to see." - Capt. Benjamin Sisko

It's found in a Star Trek/Myers Briggs assessment.

The Value of the Blog

Is there value to blogging for writers?

Charles Gramlich and Stewart Sternberg have been discussing that with degrees of levity mingled with serious contemplation.

Let me weigh in with a yes. I don't know if anyone's bought a copy of my War of the Worlds, or listened to a free sample due to the link at the right, hint hint. Or if it's driven anyone to dig up some of my older stuff, but blogging's kind of an Emily Dickinson thing.

I think I'd write here even if there weren't eight or nine people reading it every day.

It's a little less disciplined, but this is pretty much what I used to do when I was a newspaper reporter.

I mean generally I talked to people all day and wrote what they told me. I had to, you know, be concerned more with facts than opinion, I guess. Though I did write a column for a while that was sort of like a blog. It was just once a week or so and a few more people scratched their heads as I mulled over things like Procol Harum lyrics. (Wayne Sallee's posting about six degrees of separation. I think Karl Edward Wagner once wrote a story called "At First Just Ghostly" taking a line from "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Maybe that's serendipity and not six-degrees, though it's one degree removed from yesterday's post, keep scrolling.)

Getting the junk out
An account rep for an ad agency we work with on my day job once said some of their creatives had to "get the junk out" of their heads before the really good stuff came. Stream of consciousness blogging certainly allows that. It's as free form as it gets, and I think serves a purpose similar to "morning pages" advocated in The Artist's Way. Before blogs, journals for writers were a must.

A sense of community
Beyond the rambling, blogging also allows a coast-to-coast sense of community and communication.

If I had to connect dots on a map to the friends old and new I'm now in regular Web 2.0- communication with, it would zig from the South to the West Coast to the Midwest with a long though occasional zag over to the British Isles. Maybe I better not draw all those lines, it might summon Cthulhu. (Speaking of elder gods and in keeping with stream of consciousness, wouldn't this make a great gift?)

"Wow, I thought he'd never shut up."

In conclusion, I think there's value in blogging, just in doing it. 'Cause someone said writing equals ass in chair. It doesn't have to be a means to an end other than that, no, uh pun intended, though I'm thinking Stewart's new "Weird Addiction" writing challenge could get me started on a pretty good short story.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Times it will always be

A meditation by the narrator of A Separate Peace by John Knowles notes there are moments that essentially get frozen in the memory. For him it's the era of his school days. Roosevelt will always be president, he'll always be in high school, he says, and so on.

I keep thinking about that passage as I contemplate a favorite story I need to re-read, Sticks, by Karl Edward Wagner. Wayne Sallee, who was close to Karl, has written eloquently about him in a couple of posts, including this one.

Wayne's notes and going through my books, still for Library Thing, thumbing my paperbacks of In A Lonely Place and Why Not You and I, have me thinking about the days I went to a lot of conventions. Karl Edward Wagner always seemed to be there, everywhere, and doing something crazy.

I remember him coming into a panel room once and grabbing a table cloth to throw it around his shoulders or opening a panel discussion on monsters by affecting an instructor's monotone and saying: "We are here today to discuss the care an maintenance of the CXL small engine..."

I remember him acting like a professional wrestler and trading insults, boasts and challenges with Charles L. Grant

In my mind, that's a time it will always be. A floating universe somewhere, where time hasn't moved along so rapidly.

I read "Sticks" first in that big collection of horror stories edited by David G. Hartwell. It's collected in In a Lonely Place, which I bought along with a couple of the Kull books right after KEW died, selfishly worrying they would quickly become hard to find.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Favorite Short Stories: Charles Beaumont - The Howling Man

Since we've been having fun discussing classic horror short stories and Richard Matheson and all that and since it's on my mind because I've been working on my Library Thing catalog, I thought I'd mention another of my favorites - "The Howling Man" by Charles Beaumont.

It's included in Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories from Dark Harvest, and was adapted into one of the most kick-ass episodes of The Twilight Zone ever.

If you've never seen it, wait up for it on Sci-Fi Channel the next time it airs! Seriously.

Originally published in 1959 in Rogue, which can be found on ebay listed as a "vintage men's magazine," it's a study of evil.

On a walking tour of Europe, the tale's protagonist encounters a group of monks who have the devil imprisoned, of course he's in his "angel of light" guise to the hero.

From outward appearances it seems they monks are a little off and the poor guy they have trapped is the victim of mistaken identity who won't shut the hell up! Hence the howling man nickname.

I finally got to see the TZ episode on WGN in the '80s and I've watched a few more times on Sci Fi re-airings. It's a wonderful black and white rendering with plays of light and lightning, skewed camera angles and SPFX as well.

The story is rich and symbolic, faithfully interpreted for TV but it should be read as well. If you've loved Beaumont, leave me comments.

If not get to a bookstore, mail order house or library. Now, do it. Don't just sit there.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What's On the iPod? - Lady Frankenstein

When I was a kid, my hometown had a drive-in multiplex. TWO BIG SCREENS! They were designated Showtown East and Showtown West.

I think showtimes were earlier on the west screen because it had the sun at its back.

Maybe it was the other way around and there was some advantage at the East screen. That part's fuzzy.

In the bleak early '70s
In the early '70s, the twin Showtowns presented second run flicks like True Grit often paired with new releases such as A Gunfight with Johnny Cash, but it was also the venue for the usual Southern drive-in fodder that was still floating around.

Newspaper ads trumpted footage of real births or vampire double-features so horrifying some guy who saw them had to be institutionalized.

We also got TV ads for all that stuff while we watched I Dream of Jeannie re-runs in the afternoons. Did they think 10 year olds were going to the drive-in? And people worry about toy ads.

Portrait of a Lady
I can remember among those spots was Lady Frankenstein's ad campaign - really, I can -- slightly sinister, slightly sexy and slightly scary with her big, folically-challenged creation lumbering across the screen. Can't remember exactly what the announcer said but it was something to the effect of "She had the stones to create a monster!" I guess that's kinda in keeping with the films intended feminist take on the Frank story.

Never got to go see any of those darker flicks in those days. My dad liked Westerns, don't you know? But the promos were always good for my Famous Monsters of Filmland-driven imagination, perhaps more exciting than some of the films themselves.

Better 35 years late than never
Nonethless, I was excited to discover via Mondo Schlocko that Lady Frankenstein with Rosalba Neri, aka Sara Bey, is in the public domain and available at

If we can believe Wikipedia ;-), it's often compared to the Hammer Films Frankenstein cycle though lensed in Italy.

Back in the day I thought it was one of those becausee it had that costume-drama style. Also it stars Joseph Cotten who has a vaguely Hammer Films air about him. I didn't know who he was then but he looked vaguely like Peter Cushing.

I got the download MP4 of LF on my iPod now. I'll probably squeeze it in this weekend if I have to stand in many lines while Christmas shopping.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Books I need to get around to - Spindrift

Plugging books into my new Library Thing catalog has reminded me of some books I own that I really need to get around to reading.

One I've had on a "read-soon" stack for a while is Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea. I picked it up at one used book store or another a while back, though I'm not sure when.

It looked like an Exorcist-era horror novel but it's actually labled non-fiction, the story of Broadway actress Jan Bartell and her experiences with a Greenwich Village townhouse where strange sounds and shadows turned into a belief of a "diabolical Possession."

If Wikipedia is to be believed ;-) Ms. Bartell was possibly clinically depressed, but I'm intrigued by delving into her account. It sounds a little like a real-life version of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

OK We're doing a poll

On the "Which Tarot Card Would You Be?" post below, Stewart Sternberg of the way cool House of Sternberg blog postulated that more creative "What Would You Be?" tests might be possible.

I've set his suggestions up as a poll at left. It's informal and non-scientific, but which would you most like to take?

If you vote, maybe Stewart will send you a picture of a radish. (He has a post about strange pictures he used to send in e-mails.)

Maybe a future poll could be a fill-in-the-blank variety.

What is the strangest thing you actually received in the mail in a letter from Chicago writer and moving-target blogger Wayne Allen Sallee? (Pictured at left is Wayne as his fictional character:The American Dream.)

If you received snail mail from Wayne at any time in the '80s or '90s, you know what I'm talkin' about.

If not, well let's just say Wayne used to pack interesting things into his envelopes.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Doin' the Library Thing

My buddy sent me a link to Library Thing and it's been keeping me busy. It also confirms what I have known for a while. If it's possible to own too many books, I do.*

Library Thing is like MySpace for book lovers with a little extra. It allows you to create a catalog of your books online.

I have seen the Library Thing User and He is Us - Sorry, Pogo
With cross links in your profile area, it also lets you see there are other people out there just like you.

Frighteningly just like you if you read the profiles. I think there's a guy that is me. He's the same age, grew up reading Famous Monsters of Filmland and has a lot of the same books as me. We probably have more books in common than is currently apparent because I'm not finished adding mine yet.

I've added a lot though, it's addictive. You can search by title, author, ISBN number or a few other ways. It relies mostly only Amazon but it has other sources to draw on as well. It can usually pinpoint the exact edition of the book you own, though sometimes there are a few flaws.

It usually finds cover art, though in my obsession I get a little frustrated if the picture doesn't match my edition. I find myself envious of people who have managed to display cover art of the same editions I have when mine displays only the simulated wood grain that is the default image if no cover art is available. Ahhhhh!

An aside
Note to Library Thing Creators: Fabulous job but if there's a feature to add your own cover art scans, I don't see it. And I would use it. I know there's probably medication.

Another cool thing is that the creators really seem to have their act together. While I was looking around on the site yesterday they apparently got Slashdotted, which may be better than being digged, I'm not sure. I think that is the right past tense of "digging" a site but I'm not sure. Maybe I should check the urban dictionary on that.

Real time communication
Anyway, they were overwhelmed and real time messages were appearing - "We've been Slashdotted, bear with us." Ah, the new words the web coins for us.

Guess there's a little sense of Big Brother going on there. The, uh one from Orwell or the Mac commercial, not the CBS TV Show, I guess.

Here's what's happening with that, though. The people who built this thing are obsessive book lovers too, and they're just watching to see if you added a book they want to read. Talk to you later, I'm going to IM the me from the parallel universe to see if he wants to do a "need it, need it, got it" book trade. View my online catalog here.


Duh! There is a way to fix covers. Just had to read the FAQ. I think they officially thought of everything.

(*I'm not sure it is possible to own too many books - please reference the Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough At Last." If Burgess Meredith did not break his glasses he would then have just enough books. If something happens like in Stephen King's The Stand and I am one of few survivors, then I will need these books. Dish Network will probably stop working.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Shock Waves

One of my favorite collections of horror short stories or horror and suspense stories is Richard Matheson's Shock Waves.
I don't know that it contains his best tales for there are many including a number of stories that became Twilight Zones.

But it's a book that got me through a whole lot o' boredom once, so I hold it in high regard.

It was near Christmas one day in the '90s and I was called for jury duty. I'd bought the Matheson book used fairly recently so I tucked in my jacket when I left home that morning.

And while I sat through the preliminary selection process and voir dire, I read Matheson stories - "A Visit to Santa Claus," "Finger Prints" and a host of others.

One that I remember vividly still is "A Drink of Water." It's not a horror story exactly, but it at least is a tale of desperation.
It's about a guy who's been to a movie one hot August night, had some popcorn and upon arriving home decides he needs a drink of water since the popcorn was salty.

Sounds simple, but when he reaches his apartment he finds the water's been shut off due to one problem or another.

He's got no water in the fridge, and every avenue he pursues fails him for the next six or seven pages. I was right along with him in that tale, desperate in my own way, trapped in one of those processes from which there's no escape.

You just have to endure and hope you come out the other side.

A good book full of cool stories can make the trip more bearable.

Did the story's hero ever get a drink? Well, I suggest you look up Shock Lines. It's well worth a read.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Burning Bridges

There's always a joke that kids will celebrate when school burns. That's not the reality. The school where my mother taught most of her career has been destroyed by arson. Age has wiped away most of her memory, but I can't help feeling a little sad that hallways where her footsteps echoed for many years are gone.

I never attended there, but we lived within walking distance when I was a kid. We used to stroll there in the late afternoons. I once found a discarded Hardy Boys novel on the campus and I think I still have it.

I went to a lot of functions with her also. She took me to a play called The Guy From Venus that was put on by the drama department in the '60s. Later I would see the guy who played the alien drive past our house on his way to classes every morning, and it was like seeing a celebrity.

Most of her time was spent in a free-standing home economics building, but faculty meetings and other matters took her to the main building frequently.

One more marker that time marches on.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I didn't hear any strange beeps but...

I got up this morning right after my cats woke me. This usually happens 10 to 15 minutes before the alarm clock goes off. It's like, well, clockwork.

Monty bothers Daisy who hisses to warn him to leave her alone. She continues to hiss until Christine awakens just enough to tell me to do something about it.

So I get up, switch off the alarm clock, feed them and start the coffee pot since it's still minutes before the automatic timer fires. Yet I stubbornely refuse to re-set it.

I did all that like always, the coffee maker wasn't already on or anything because I remember it making whining sounds when it started.

I let Oliver, the indoor-outdoor cat, out then sat down at my computer. (Christine's friend said recenlty: "You know four cats is getting dangerously close to `strange cat people' behavior.)

I got coffee when it finished brewing, read a few e-mails, blinked and it was an hour later than I thought it was.

I looked down at the time in the lower corner of the screen and thought something was screwed up with my computer. Then I discovered every other clock in the house had the same time.

Cue The Twilight Zone theme.

I don't know if I was abducted by aliens when I let the cat out or what happened but Holy Moses!

1. The alarm didn't go off.

2. The coffee maker didn't start automatically so I think I got up when I thought got up, yet boom suddenly it's an hour later than it's supposed to be.

If I mysteriously disappear, remember this post.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Books I'm Really Enjoying - Touch the Dark

I'm glad I picked up Touch the Dark by Karen Chance. I was prompted to buy it because it was featured in a sampler at World Fantasy, and it's really an enjoyable read.

I've been reading a lot of thrillers lately, and sometimes I forget what a blast a fantasy can be, especially one that has a vampire Mafia, werewolves, clairvoyants and even a golem.

The story is told by Cassandra Palmer, the girl pictured on the cover, though the pentacle on her back is stretched out a little more.

She's fleeing Tony, a vampire mobster, but she also has killer magicians and much more on her plate. Happily, a sequel's due in the spring.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

War of the Worlds

My adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds for Mind's Eye Theater from Thayne Multimedia is now on sale in its first location, Teach Out Loud.

Eventually it will be available in more places, but it's ready for the iPod now! It's also available free to the blind at

It's believed to be the first radio-style adaptation in the original period setting. Usually it's presented in contemporary settings like New Jersey.

It's done with British actors and features music from a Greek artist so it's an international production.

Friday, November 24, 2006

In Dreams

Charles Gramlich has a post about dreams over at Razored Zen. That made me think about my dreams from last night, which were a little more esoteric than the one he describes.

I'm not sure if there's meaning to be gleaned, and only a fragment remains but it is one of those fragments that carries over the eeriness of the dream world.

I saw a girl I used to know who was struck by a serious illness. She was looking at me, down through a glass or maybe backward through a glass. It was like an over the shoulder glance from the her before the illness.

Maybe I should look up one of those dream interpretation sites - there's probably a meaning for glass, a meaning for a glance from a distant friend.

But maybe there's more mystery in wondering.

Dreams can be our mind's way of forcing us to analyze things.

Maybe it's more important for me to work on it a while than for checking a guide of symbols.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's on the iPod? - Professional improvement

I wimped out with my Audible downloads and opted for a professional improvement option.

All Marketers are Liars was a featured item on my start screen. Damn you clever web marketers!

I was intrigued by the premise, nothing exactly new, but it made the use of storytelling in marketing sound like the Power of Myth. The lie part is sort of for shock value.

I feel I draw on a lot of the same reservoirs for ad and marketing writing that I do for fiction, and if nothing else theory books can be inspirational and stimulating, so Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was postponed for next month.

The arc
The Liars book brought to mind a backburner radio script that I'm quite proud of that was absolutely storytelling. It offered a one-minute snapshot of a man's life.

It's one of the more satisfying things I've done recently and I guess I'll turn it into a short story or something since it got a pass from my boss.

Based on a true story
It involved a grandfather and his granddaughter and a party, but I based it on an uncle of mine and a moment of cleverness I never expected. When he was about 90 he participated in a husband and wife nursing home pagent.

I don't remember all the areas of competition but one area involved Q&A. You know the same kind they do with Miss America where they all want world peace. My uncle stood on the stage, leaning against a cane, his mind a bit fuzzy from his years. I sat in the audience wondering if he'd be able to respond.

"What's your favorite birthday?" the pageant host asked.

"I don't know which one to pick unless it's the next one," my uncle responded.

I think he took home a trophy for that quip.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bond Trivia

I have to come up with James Bond trivia for a Bond-themed party my company is hosting. We'll be giving away some things like martini shakers and copies of the trade edition of Casino Royale then probably some DVD sets.

It's not as easy as you'd think because the questions can't be too hard or too easy. Here's what I have so far. Feel free to play at home, although I can't send any prizes.

1. In the films, how does James Bond prefer his martinis?

2. What handgun is Bond most known to use?

3. What Australian actor appeared in only one Bond film?

4. In what film did television's Kojak play the bad guy?

5. Bond villain Goldfinger was backed up by a hat-throwing henchman. What was his name?

6. How much did the Man With the Golden Gun charge?

7. Who sang the title song for The Spy Who Loved Me?

8. What star from Jaws appeared as a bond villain?


1. Vodka martini shaken not stirred. (OK if you didn't get that one you should really leave the room. Give yourself extra credit if you know the mixture described in the novel Casino Royale.)

2. Walther PPK is the answer we were looking for. (Extra credit if you know he was issued the Walther because his Beretta jammed.) What's he carrying now?

3. Oh come on, honestly, George Lazenby. You had to look? What? Have you been sleeping?

4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service. You'll note a certain tie between questions 3 and 4.

5. Odd Job - some of the people in the office didn't get this one, making me wonder how these are going to fly. He was parodied in Austin Powers. It should be another gimmie.

6. $1 Million a shot, according to the Lulu song, or $1 million per assassination. What other famous movie theme song did Lulu also perform?

7. Carly Simon. I once saw John Davidson perform it on the Tonight Show as "This Girl Who Loved Me. Ackkk!

8. Kind of a sneaky one since there was a henchman named Jaws. The answer we're looking for is Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love, who played the beloved boat-owner Quint in Jaws.

Thanks for playing - have a good day! Enjoy Casino Royale if you go this weekend.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ray Bradbury Interview - Part 5 (intro)

(At last, here is the final part of my 1995 Interview with Ray Bradbury)

Science is not going in a direction makes hopeful the Bradbury who once longed to live in futuristic cities and loved the 1933 World's Fair for its exhibits that matched SF magazine covers.

"Not as far as space travel is concerned," he says when interviewed. "That's our own fault. We've given up our space flights to the moon, which is a terrible mistake."

The space shuttle, he says, has been relegated to a role that's like delivering mail.

Maybe another space race is what the world needs, and there's still one superpower left.

"I hope that some time in the very near future, we pick a semi-fight with Red China," he says. Then maybe they'll start heading to the moon, and the U.S. will get back on the launch pad. "We all need competition," he stresses. Read more...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Ray Bradbury Interview - Part 4 (intro)

A grand tale that is as he expounds on it to the audienc. "He sat in a chair and got electrocuted every night," Bradbury explains, painting this illustration so the crowd can envision the barker on a long ago carnival midway: "We are now going to put one million volts into Mr. Electrico's fragile body!"

Bradbury and friends went nightly, checking to see if one time the electric chair would work, but Mr. Electrico always survived to take up a sword and aim it at his amazed patrons.

As he pointed the sword, the guests hair would stand on end. When he aimed it at Bradbury one night, and the charge turned his... Read more

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ray Bradbury Interview - Part 3 (intro)

(Continuing my article originally published in 1995.)

It was when he was 12 and living in Tucson that myth and metaphor began to come together and his search moved on, he continues in his crisp Midwestern tone as our phone conversation rolls along.

He sat down that year to write his first novel.

From that illustration others would blossom and over time he would reach millions. Read More

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ray Bradbury Interview - Part 2 (intro)

(This continues my interview with Ray Bradbury from 1995.)

It goes back further than that season of 8, back to the time he was 3 and collecting metaphors -- myths and fair tales and sips of dandelion wine. He offers those illustrations Tuesday night to the crowd of 1,500 at Centenary College's Gold Dome. Young and old have gathered. To some he's the longtime master of miracles, to others, he's required reading in the flesh; the freshman class has been studying Fahrenheit 451.

In his black suit, blue shirt and tie, Bradbury looks like a breathing version of his cover photos, standing beneath the dome's ceiling, a sky of white cubes. They seem appropriate as a backdrop. They look like building blocks for one of the futuristic cities of his dreams.

He draws laughter as he tells of how he "walked funny" after seeing Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. "When I was 5, Lon Chaney made the Phantom of the Opera in 1925," he continues, then recalls the film's impact on his imagination -- he borrowed a relative's opera cape and fashioned it to his own needs, sported a set of fake fangs and dropped from trees to scare passers-by.

"There were plans afoot to drown me in Waukegan, IL.," he recalls with a chuckle. Read more...

Start with Part 1

Keeping things Kinky - Friedman that is

The spirt of independence lives on. Over at Get Kinky they are striving to keep the momentum born in Kinky's campaign going.

I love their subhead: Vote your heart, your dreams, and your conscience.

Linda Blair on horror and animals

Linda Blair is featured in the L.A. Times discussing animal protection efforts and her history with horror films.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ray Bradbury Interview - Part 1 (intro)

(A long time ago - 1995 to be exact, I wrote a feature story on Ray Bradbury, based on aninterview and remarks he made at Centenary College in Shreveport. Since a lot of people drop by here to read my post on The October Game, I thought this might be of interest. In several parts - here is my story on Cosmic Ray from The Alexandria Daily Town Talk, Feb. 25, 1995.)

Ray Bradbury created the Illustrated Man for a 1951 short story collection. The man was a fellow whose flesh had become the canvas for a carnival wtich who tattooed him with multi-colored scenes. Read more...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Elections and people and fear and V - Oh My!

Once upon a time I went with a rabbi and one of his congregation members to visit a family from Russia who had recently relocated to the U.S. I was doing a newspaper story on the effort.

The congregation was helping the family get established in the U.S., and I remember as we drove up to the house where they were staying that the young son was riding his bicycle out front.

This was all before the wall came down, so it was emotional just to see that little slice of American life had already been adopted.

While we visited, the phone rang. It was someone from the government, and that terrified the grandmother of the family. In the Soviet Union a call from the government was bad, always.

The businessman who'd come along with the rabbi consoled her. "It's OK. It's really OK," he said. "You're in America now. We don't fear the government."

Indeed we don't. As Lou Dobbs noted in his column this week:

"Voters chose to overturn our current one-party political structure and returned checks and balance to our government. November 7 also demonstrated that the American electorate is far more discerning and independent-minded than either political party or our elites would like to believe." (Read the complete column here.)

The election transcended party, dealt with many issues and indeed reflected the collective flex of the people's will.

Issues I follow
I follow animal cruelty issues and noted earlier Conrad Burns' election was no doubt affected in part by voters offended by his positions and actions on America's wild horses. So too was the election Congressman Richard Pombo of California. Both got a mention in The Wall Street Journal's article on The Humane Society of the United State's election efforts, in fact. It appeared on election day.

Many more issues reflected democracy in action, however. Dobbs notes:

"Voters in nine states issued a stunning rebuke to all levels of government on the issue of eminent domain. In those states, voters halted the rising national trend of allowing primarily local governments to seize personal property for private commercial development. Democrats as well as Republicans would do well to understand that the record long list of state initiatives represents frustration with elected officials at both the state and federal levels."

As the analysis of the week continues the comment from long ago echoes in my head. "We don't fear the government."

Noteworthy quotes
It harkens back much longer to the words of Thomas Jefferson:

"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -- Thomas Jefferson.

That's the comment that was paraphrased as the tagline for V for Vendetta: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

It's something leaders facing future elections would do well to remember, lest they have to pack their bags and go home like some of the colleagues.

The voters are watching.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Cool Things I Got at World Fantasy Part 2 - The Superhero's Closet

Superheroes are real in Andrew Lynch's novel, an integral part of the society and landscape that 16-year-old Lain Grey must traverse in The Superhero's Closet.

It's a literary, coming-of-age novel set in a comic book universe - what a combination. It's definitely something different!

If you're enjoying NBC's Heroes, check out this book.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The election - Kinky and the whole dang thing

Well, Kinky didn't take the mansion, but he certainly made the race interesting and he highlighted some good points:

Special interests are controlling way too much on the state and national level.

It's hard for an independent do get on the ballot .

People will vote for somebody with perfect hair quicker than they will a writer/singer/songwriter with quips.

If I wore a hat, I'd have it off to him now.

Cool Things I Got at World Fantasy Part 1 - The Black Tattoo

There's always plenty of bling at the World Fantasy Convention. I got a bag full of books and purchased a few more. I also picked up a ton of bookmarks and postcards and other promotional items.

I was excited to get an uncorrected proof of The Black Tattoo, a fantasy I'd actually considered at the store even though I think it's technically a young adult novel - think Harry Potter but a little darker. Just getting started on it, but looks good.

I also bought a chapbook called The Four Redheads of the Apocalypse which seems fun and I'm told by one of its authors, one of the four redheads, that it's under consideration for film option. The four are the wives of Death, War, Famine and Plague. What more can you ask from a chapbook?

Picked up several items from friends too - more on those soon.

Conrad Burns!

Interesting that the power structure in the senate hinges in part on the political fate of Conrad Burns, the man who initially removed protections for America's wild horses by a slick maneuver in an appropriations bill.

Monday, November 06, 2006

World Fantasy 2006

I think I discovered some sort of universal truth this weekend: If you drop back into an environment after many years, it feels the same -- everyone just has whiter hair.

I went down to World Fantasy in Austin with Wayne Sallee, and we connected with people we hadn't seen since the last Ice Age. I haven't been to World Fantasy since it was held last in New Orleans in the '90s.

It was a great time of catching up and browsing a lot of great books at one time, signing a few copies of older books and introducing Wayne's new book, Fiends by Torchlight, to the masses.

I was a little surprised at who'd lost touch with whom, glad to meet some new folks and most of all glad to get a reminder I have great friends scattered across the country.

Once in a while it's nice to get them all together in one place.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Halloween Reading - Contemporary - Ash Wednesday

Note: Ash Wednesday is now available in a new e-book edition from Crossroad Press

It's hard to imagine an eerier, more imaginative story for the Halloween season than Chet Williamson's Ash Wednesday.

I don't know why I didn't buy this book when it came out in the '80s, but somehow I passed. My bad.

I've actually wanted to read it for a while, and I've had trouble finding a copy.

A couple of years ago, while my buddy Wayne was visiting, we dropped in one of my favorite used bookstores and while we browsed horror titles -- we were in the Ws so I was probably, vainly, checking to see what they had of mine--he noticed some Chet Williamson books.

"They don't seem to have Ash Wednesday," he said. "That's a good book."

"What's it about?"

"In this small town, one day all of the people who've been killed suddenly reappear, glowing and blue, in the spot where they died."

Strange and certainly original.

I didn't go searching on ebay, but I probably should have. I've checked for it frequently in used bookstores. Hopefully it's hard to find because everyone plucks it up as soon as they see it.

I certainly did when I spotted it at last on a trip recently.

Not only is it a great ghost story, it's filled with richly drawn characters that trace the life in its fictional small town.

Look it up if you can and read it tonight between doorbell chimes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween Reading - Classical - John Silence and A Psychical Invasion

It seems anything goes in terms of Halloween scares these days. I saw one haunted house ad the other day promising an alien abduction experience.

I guess on one level that is a legitimate route to go for chills. Alien abuductions do seem to be a modern re-imagining of myths. More or less scientific underpinnings replace tales of magical faries swiping humans. Creatures with big eyes from other planets at least fit the popular conception of what's possible.

(I've long suspected vet visits for my cats seem to them like an alien abuduction. They're whisked in strange containers to a room with bright lights where strangers conduct rectal probes and administer mysterious injections.)

Give me spooky over transporter beams any day
I'm a purist, though. For Halloween I'd rather have spooky scares.

As far as haunted house reading, one of my favorites is A Psychical Invasion by Alernon Blackwood. It features his early version of Kolchak and Fox Mulder, Dr. John Silence.

Silence is a physician as well as investigator, and in "Invasion" he faces a very creepy house. Written in an age when interest in spiritualism was high, it's in fact a sort of bridge between out -and-out folklore and science, if you use the term science loosely.

In some ways it seems ahead of its time, since it was originally published in 1908. Dr. Silence is called on to assist a young humorist who's essentially dropped acid, long before Timothy Leary's influence.

A man under the influence
His young client explains he was hoping for a mind expanding experience that might improve his imagination. Under the influence he's been hearing colors and talking to bookcases and generally getting all psychedelic.

Unfortunately, a dark force also drifts in those realms of consciousness, so he's not able to write funny stuff any longer.

Instead he's constantly compelled to draw a hideous face.

After hearing him out, Silence decides to de-haunt his house and takes a couple of spiritually-sensitive animals in to assist.

He has no easy time of it, as the fabulously eerie experience unfolds with fog and strange sounds and much more.

To me it's a perfect Halloween tale to be read by candlelight.

Read all of the John Silence adventures in The Complete John Silence Stories

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Halloween Songs

Last year I did a post on Halloween songs. I would do it again, but I'll do just as well to point you to the playlist of my new online buddy, Stewart.

While you are visiting his corner of the web, you will also be well served for the season by reading some of his flash fiction. Really, read his tale George.

He has a wonderful gift for telling a story in a few words, something I admire since I am not particularly given to brevity, often creative sentences like William Faulkner's just to express simple thoughts.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Halloween Costume Part II

I've done a few plays, but I've never been much of a costume person. Never went that route at conventions, but wow it was kind of a blast doing it for charity.

Found I was freaking out a few folks, however.

My back story was that I was sort of a Cthulhu-conjuring sorcerer like Dean Stockwell in The Dunwich Horror. It's an old movie but you get the picture, a nice fantasy dark sorcerer, generally harmless.

I couldn't find a copy of the Necronomicon to carry, but maybe that was for the best.

Cthulhu lies sleeping
"The problem," said Christine who went in Renaissance dress, is that nobody but you knows who Cthulhu is."

"Apparently not the old guy who's staring at me disapprovingly," I said.

This was in a restaurant, and he was sitting, head propped on one hand, glaring. I wanted to say: "Hey, there's a pimp over there. You're not staring at him."

Purple suit and fur hat, cane. No, no problem with a pimp, but a sorcerer?

Got a gasp from one waitress. "That's not a pentagram is it?"

The packaging said amulet. Note to self for next time, spring five dollars for the jeweled ankh.

"I think it's a pentacle," I said.

"A what?"


Not that that would really be any better in her mind, I guess, but hey if you can't dazzel 'em with brilliance... (Actually my friend, Earl, noted it's a six-pointed star if you look, so it's not a penta anything.)

"Just quit talking to her," Christine said.

Why, I was thinking, is a sorcerer costume such a big deal? It is just a costume at a costume party. If I'd come as the Headless Horseman it would be reasonable to assume I still had a head sequestered somewhere on my person.

One waiter actually was pretty cool.

"Can I get you anything else?" he asked. "Salt? Pepper? Holy water?"

"There's a pimp over there," I said.

It's good to try new things, but costuming is an adventure.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rant: Spoiler Warnings

OK, do websites and magazine have to blurt out every plot twist and surprise outcome these days? What happened to spoiler warnings?

More and more media outlets are getting like that annoying kid in school who always read the class book project first and told everybody how And Then There Were None turns out.

For a while it seemed publications were being pretty good about saying "In the next paragraph we reveal the fate of Jack, Kate and Sawyer so read ahead at your own risk," but now, when there are more delayed ways to view programming than ever--DVR, VHS, iTunes, the web, My Space, DVDs just to name the legal ones-- I keep seeing publications trumpet details.

I mean "IN YOUR FACE" annoucements vs. just dropping something in a paragraph in the body of an article.

Ruining Runway
I logged on to Thursday to check e-mail, only to be hit with a giveaway of the Project Runway finale that was sitting on my DVR because Christine and I like to watch that together and couldn't on Wednesday night.

I'd avoided blogs since Fashion Week so I wouldn't find out who won in advance, only to have the Yahoo! home page emblazoned with a picture of and blurb about the winner.

The Project Runway winner is such important news it has to go at the top of frickin' Yahoo? Couldn't it just be a link reading "Find Out Who Won Project Runway?" so the revelation is kept a secret for those who want to see it for themselves?

I know there's a long tradition of throwing out things like World Series victories in headlines, but there's a little more immediacy to watching a sporting event than there is a reality show that's taped in advance and kept under wraps, sort of at least.

Even Bravo doesn't expect everyone to watch when its first broadcast, given that there are Runway marathons scheduled pretty much around the clock before and after the finale.

It's for fun, so why take the fun out of it?

Breaking Prison Break secrets
You could say it's my own damn falt for being behind, but I opened the front cover of TV Guide the other day and had a major element of Prison Break shot at me.

William Fichtner kills (_____).

How do you not read that? You can't blink fast enough. That shouldn't be on the first page of a magazine about television, right?

It's a busy world. Everybody doesn't watch television when it airs anymore.

Cut it the f out!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Halloween Costume

Halloween costumes have certainly improved over time. I'm not usually inclined to costuming, other than the work wardrobe I don to look corporate.

Besides what my folks called "false faces," I've never had many Halloween costumes, except for a shirt I bought in the Little Five Points area of Atlanta once. Christine made me give it away after we got married.

I bought a Monk's robe costume for a party once upon a time. It was made out of some kind of vinyl so in photos it looked like a raincoat.

I was kind of pleasantly surprised when Christine and I dropped by a
Spirit Halloween Store to pick up something for a charity event.

They're made out of fabric nowadays, what a concept. Someone had suggested we might want to look at ketchup and mustard outfits.

Like that was going to happen. I went to the vampire, zombie and sorcerer section. Much as I love the Universal Horror films, I figured Dracula's been done.

I briefly entertained a couple of robes with hoods but settled on a Gothic Sorcerer, pictured from the packaging. They don't show it on their website for some reason.

"It's a little dark isn't it asked Christine?" who was shopping the Rennaissance Festival Wear.

"Sure," I said. "It'll keep me from having to work the door."

I probably need a sorcerer's staff to really dress it up. Christine drew the line at the costume. No toys.

But maybe I'll come up with something before the party.

Searching for a Friend

Monty, our oldest tomcat, rarely spends more than a few minutes in our closet when he conducts perimeter checks, but one day recently he decided to nap there.

Failing to realize he was pausing from his companion animal duties for a few Zs, Christine closed the door and promptly left the house.

It's a roomy, air conditioned walk-in closet, so Mon's temporary accomodations were not too bad.

He was able to do pretty much what he does when he's not in the closet - doze.

When Christine came home she discovered all of the cabinets in the house opened, however.

Ash, our half-blind cat pictured at right, and Monty have become best pals. They are not inseparable but they are definitely buddies.

Apparently Ash noticed Monty was not in his usual spot of repose and grew concerned
enough to launch a search effort.

Bathroom cabinets, lower kitchen cabinets and probably every corner Ash could think of were scrutinized.

Monty evidently remained unaware of his friend's concern, slept through most of the experience and was ready for a stretch when Christine returned.

Ash began cleaning his head for him. As usual that deteriorated into a bit of a tussel, but I guess Mon was glad to know Ash had his back.

(Mon is at left, seen where he usually naps.)


Doctor Who for Halloween

There's a fabulous Dr. Who image on the BBC website, a publicity collage for the Tooth and Claw episode, which pits The Doctor against a werewolf.

There's a scientific explanation of course, but it's still a horror installment, and with its full moon and sprinting werewolf it makes a great Halloween season desktop.

To me the episode is an exceptional installment in the second season, and hopefully we'll see a rebroadcast before the 31st.

Season 2, now airing on The Sci Fi Channel has many scary moments. Just on was "School Reunion" with a guest shot by Buffy's Anthony Stewart head and some fabulous winged gargoyle type creatures.

I love winged gargoyle type creatures.

We still have Cybermen to come on Sci Fi and more monsters, possibly even the devil.

I can't wait!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

At Black Beauty Ranch

"It will be interesting to see, but it will probably be sad," Christine said on Friday as we discussed going to an open house at Cleveland Amory's Black Beauty Ranch.

"No," I said, "These are the success stories, it'll be fine."

So of course it was me fighting tears the most as we stood in a rare East Texas rain looking at the animals cared for at Black Beauty, originally created as a spot for Grand Canyon-area burros that were to be shot by the National Parks Service in the '70s in order to free up grazing lands.

Now a host of animals are housed there -- camels, horses, chimps once kept in zoos or research labs, and burros including one named Friendly who was part of the original airlift from the Grand Canyon.

It's only on occasion that Black Beauty's gates are opened for visits because, as the keepers stress, it's not a zoo. The animals are there to live out their days following harsh and inhumane treatment in many settings, not to be viewed.

Babe, the lone elephant, was left an orphan in South Africa by culling procedures there and wound up in the U.S. as a circus elephant.

Her legs on her right side were injured and untreated during that stint and require ongoing care.

A huge pile of sand is kept in her living area so that she can lean against it to take weight off those legs. She's kept on a strict diet to hold her weight down and relieve stress on those legs.

She lives alone now, her companion, an elderly Asian elephant having died. Upon that death, volunteers say Babe issued a rare trumpet sound from her trunk.

A sign of sentience? Who is to say?

Black Beauty also houses blind ponies, their sight lost to disease. Two of the blind ones are frequently guided by a third resident pony who stays beside them.

The burros, calm and docile were the last animals we visited. They were quiet hosts, mingling with visitors as they frequently do with other animals at the ranch.

Friendly, now around 30 years old, and another named Eeyore stood close to us and to others, allowing their fur to be stroked by children and often bowing their heads.

When their heads tilt now, the markings across their fur become more obvious, dark brown on their coats.

Legend holds those markings were left by the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ as the donkey He rode into Jerusalem gazed up at His crucifixion.

Yes, it was sad, but it was also wonderful.

For more on the story of Black Beauty Ranch check out Making Burros Fly.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Desperation or How Long's It Been on The DVR?

So what's the longest you've kept something on your DVR?

I got interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter a while back who was working on a story about letting Netflix movies linger unwatched yet unreturned. I got the call because I'd answered a poll on Hacking Netflix. (Elektra, most of summer 2005, thanks for asking.) I don't know that the story saw the light of day, but he was interested in the real cost of "no late fees." Netflix after all benefits from you holding onto a title longer.

The last temptation
The DVR is a bigger temptation for procrastination than "no late fees." I usually watch episodic TV shows within a few days, but movies linger a little longer because it's harder to carve two hours out of a day. I only watch a couple of things "live." Lost being one of them. Who can wait for a new installment?

Stephen King's Desperation
Well anyway, I started watching Stephen King's Desperation the other night. It's three hours long so I finally had to watch it in pieces. Otherwise I wasn't going to see it at all.

I got curious about how long I'd had it and checked the time stamp.

May 23!

That's not saying anything about the quality of the show, just about the convenience of modern technology. As Peter Hyman notes in The Reluctant Metrosexual, we can now record everything on TV simultaneously.

Watching is a different matter.

I don't manage to read every Stephen King book as it arrives on the scene as I once did, though I listened to the brilliant Cell as an audiobook.

Desperation, like Cell and many King works, involves a broad cast of characters thrown together in a strange situation. It's a good telefilm, sort of reminding me of the days of cool movie-of-the-week thrillers like Scream of the Wolf, Gargoyles and Trilogy of Terror.

OK, it was technically better than those but it harkened.

As I watched, though, I kept thinking that I should have read the book to experience the full effect of King's characterization that even a three hour TV movie couldn't provide.

And that's the real problem with Netflix and DVRs and movies for iPod.

I have books that sit around waiting for me longer than any DVD or recorded program, and that's my real loss.
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