Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mississippi Miracle

Move over, Cal/Stanford--this play just might knock "The Play" from its lofty perch atop college football lore. The fact that little Trinity--just 20 miles down the road from me in San Antonio--pulled it off makes it all the more fun. Fifteen laterals. Watch it and believe it if you dare.

Now Playing: nothing

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Back in college, The Escape Club had one of the coolest videos playing on heavy rotation on MTV. It was a lot of fun, and I never really got tired of it or the song itself. Now the band is active on YouTube, making its old videos officially available to fans (such as me) for embedding on websites and blogs (such as this). If you ask me, this is an excellent and savvy use of the medium to re-connect with the old fanbase and generate new interest in their work. Contrast that with Greg Kihn, who refuses to allow his classic stuff to be presented on YouTube. That's absolutely Kihn's right as an artist, but sadly that's also why visitors here to Gibberish won't see the ultra-cool "The Breakup Song" or "Jeopardy" featured on Friday Night Videos.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The B-52s.

Now Playing: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Music for Glass Harmonica

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quest for passion

Since I haven't obsessed over passion flowers lately, I'll rectify that situation now.

Dr. Larry Gilbert is a butterfly researcher up in Austin at that "other" university. He's got a huge passiflora collection in his greenhouses there--passiflora being the food of choice for many species of butterfly. Back in the 70s he had more than 200 species, plus hybrids, and many of those species weren't in cultivation anywhere else in the world. He discovered some species, and other have since gone extinct in the wild. He has fewer than 100 species now, but seeing as how I only have a dozen or so, and many of those are small cuttings, I've been keen to get up there and tour his greenhouses.

After many false starts and schedule conflicts dating back to the spring, I finally got to head up to Austin yesterday after work and meet the man.

Ye gods, but that was a hellish drive.

We're supposed to meet at the Brackenridge Field Lab, which is right off MoPac on Town Lake. In ideal driving conditions, this would take just over 30 minutes to get to. So I allow for a full hour. Do I take MoPac or maybe risk cutting across Lamar? I figure that even if MoPac is crammed with commuters, it'll still be better than the start-and-stop of traffic lights on the alternate routes. Besides, this is the southern side of Austin, and the heaviest MoPac traffic would be on the north end, right? Things are going swimmingly until I actually get onto MoPac, at which point traffic stops. I don't mean "it slows down some." It ground to a halt. My exit was a mere two miles away, and it took an hour to reach it. An hour. My engine started to overheat because the stupid cooling fan is bumfuzzled, so I had to turn on the heater and shut the engine down as I waited. I didn't actually get to my destination until 6:15 or so, 45 minutes late. After all that hassle, I was terrified Dr. Gilbert had already left.

Fortunately, no.

He greeted me kindly and took me out to see his "small" greenhouse. Most of the passiflora species he has today are in facilities at the main downtown campus, but there's still an interesting array of plants in the greenhouse adjacent to Town Lake. He kept apologizing for the plants not being in bloom, but as their primary role is to serve as butterfly food, they get munched on pretty heavily.

One of the vigorously growing vines that wasn't in flower is p. holoscerecia, pictured above. The leaves were larger than I expected, maybe the size of my hand. It's native to some of the more arid regions of Mexico. I've wanted that one for a while, but it's not cultivated widely. I've found one online nursery that sells it, but they do so only rarely because it is very reluctant to root from cuttings (they say). All the lit I've read says holoscerecia demands dry, almost arid conditions. The greenhouse was extremely humid (the swarming mosquitoes attested to that) but Dr. Gilbert told me that it's always grown great for him in humid conditions in well-drained soil with limestone mixed in with it. Good to know if I ever get one.

Then I saw this one. It had winged stems, and the leaves, too, looked very much like p. alata as you can see in the photo above. Except that the leaves were double to triple the size of those on my alata. I asked Dr. Gilbert what it was, and he said it was p. trilata. I pointed out the size and he agreed, saying the plant "gets huge."

In the back of the greenhouse I spotted some vines growing up the back wall, and there were flowers high up. I wanted to get some pics, so Dr. Gilbert reached up and cut off a length of vine so I could get this close-up image. The plant is p. gibertii, which he originally collected in the wild from Brazil years ago. Because of new biodiversity rules, he can't get any more species from Brazil--the export is restricted. Over the years he's had some rare and obscure plants in his collection, but as they've been lost it's become increasingly difficult to replace them. Since many are tropical species that demand a very narrow set of climatic conditions, they've never made it into commercial trade. The difficulty in replenishing his stock is ironic considering the fact that 20 years ago he had probably the largest collection of passiflora in the world, and supplied many of the commercial hybridizers with plants. Such is the way of the world, I suppose.

Then Dr. Gilbert told me I could have the gibertii cutting if I wanted to try and root it. Did I want it?

Well, duh.

Gibertii isn't terribly common, and probably not one I'd have gone out and bought on my own given my limited space and budget, but it's a fascinating flower. The blossom is comparable in size to caerulea, but comes across as more delicate. The banding is visually interesting as well. So now I've got several cuttings (hopefully) taking root at home. Fingers are crossed. That was really very nice of him. Taking time to show me his collection was more than generous of him. To actually give me a cutting was more than I expected.

I've also got some other interesting pics I'll share, but I want to get the identifying info for them first. And I hope to go back in the spring, when Dr. Gilbert's on-campus greenhouses are in bloom and I can come back with amazing pictures and any other cuttings he'd be so kind as to bestow on me.

Now Playing: Pandora radio Alan Parsons Project station

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Wow. If you like movies, you simply have to see this documentary that exposes the hypocrisy and double-standards rampant within the MPAA film ratings board in Hollywood. The documentary is alternately list as either "Not Rated" or "NC-17," a confusion which stems from the filmmakers' submission of an early version of the movie to the film ratings board in order to document the process. The final product--including the damning reveal of the secret "appeals board" at the end--is unrated and no doubt has earned the eternal enmity of MPAA petty tyrant Jack Valenti (now deceased).

The filmmakers expose Valenti's outright lies and equivocation with theatrical style. The fact that studio films are treated far more favorably than independent projects is absurd. The fact that, during an actual ratings appeal, filmmakers are strictly prohibited from referencing existing films with similar scenes. In effect, filmmakers are stripped of the only possible evidence they can use in their defense. Unbelievable.

Extensive interviews with such directors as Kevin Smith, John Waters and Kimberly Peirce focusing on their sometimes bizarre run-ins with the MPAA, but none is funnier than that of Matt Stone, one of the co-creators of South Park. He talks about the infamous puppet sex scene in the movie Team America: World Police, and how they knew the MPAA would demand massive cuts to it. In order to protect the extended joke, they filmed a significant number of additional acts between the puppets--some of which are hilarious in their spectacular depravity. When the MPAA "slapped it with an NC-17," Stone and Trey Parker simply cut the extraneous shots and this "concession" mollified the MPAA and earned the film an R rating. The MPAA also objected to the original South Park movie title: All Hell Breaks Loose which is pretty descriptive of the movie. The MPAA objected to the word "hell" in the title, nevermind that many, many films throughout history have used that word to no ill effect. The alternate title, "Bigger, Longer, Uncut" passed without trouble--until a week later when someone at the MPAA finally got the double entendre, but by then it was too late.

Quite possibly the most disturbing trend in the broken ratings system is the fact that violence--often extremely graphic, gory and brutal violence--rarely meets with objection from the board. But any hint of nudity, often regardless of the context, will instantly push the film up into the next highest category. Maria Bello is interviewed, and quite rightly irate about the fact that a brief shot of her pubic hair in a scene with William H. Macy initially earned the acclaimed film The Cooler an NC-17 rating. Considering that incidental nudity was not all that uncommon in PG movies from the 70s, and that hyper-realistic violence practically saturates cinema screens these days, and it's not hard to see where our priorities have gone askew.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a keeper. It loses its way a bit in the middle, but recovers nicely at the end. And be sure to check out the deleted scenes, which exposes the MPAA for actually pirating this very movie, in violation of the MPAA's own stated rules. Highly recommended.

Now Playing: Eric Clapton Unplugged

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

HEROES: Fight or Flight

Amazing. Two good episodes in a row with forward narrative direction. Two annoyances--a Hiro appearance that amounted to little more than a glorified cameo, and Veronica Mars' departure from Ireland without a throwdown vs. Peter Petrelli. Turns out that Veronica's secret identity is that of Lightning Lass, so now we know where Peter got those wacky electricity powers. At the end we see her speak to her "Daddy" on the phone, so I'm wondering if King Midas with the agency is her father figure? It'd make sense, since most everyone in the photo of the older generation has kids involved in the show.

Speaking of which, could Parkman be any more of a wuss? He badgers the poor little girl into locating his missing father, who she insists is worse than Sylar, and gets all namby-pamby when pops puts little Molly in a brain-lock. Fortunately, Mohinder gives him some much-needed backbone and as a result Parkman and Nathan Petrelli go confront the old fart. And get their heads handed to them. In classic Brainiac form, the father ego-boogies them into thinking the other is an enemy and they beat the crap out of each other as Brainiac slips away. This happened to Superman and Wonder Woman in the first season of the Justice League cartoon, so Parkman and Petrelli shouldn't feel too badly. The good news is that Parkman went into Petrelli's mind to break the illusion, which shows him finally showing some initiative and developing his abilities into something more than a passive plot device.

The New Orleans subplot was a bit thin, and Mohinder showing up right at the end to pick up the Taskmaster provoked a "What the... huh?" reaction from me. But overall, I'm enjoying this season's writing more than last year's. One quibble: Nichelle Nichols has such a commanding presence in all of her scenes, you'd think they'd expand her role. Right now she's being wasted.

Now Playing: Dave Davies Rock Bottom: Live at the Bottom Line

Monday, October 22, 2007


Oh, and before I forget. I'm not normally a big fan of Anheuser-Busch products, but this Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale that I'm drinking right now kicks all kinds of arse. It's the first thing of theirs I think I've ever had that didn't taste like hopped-up seltzer water. Highly recommended.

Now Playing: Astrud Gilberto The Millennium Collection

True Calling

Mother is the necessity of invention and all that, as they say, and I had a blog post due for No Fear of the Future today. So, rather than come up with some brilliant essay on alternate reality Chinese SF ala Jess Nevins, I took the easy way out and wrote a story, aka my piss-poor attempt to trod Chris Nakashima-Brown territory.

So check out True Calling and see if you ever look at the Special Editions in the same way again.

Now Playing: Astrud Gilberto The Millennium Collection

Autumn arrives (finally)

Autumn blew into Central Texas around 5 a.m. this morning, full of sound a fury. Lots of wind, and a good bit of rain. It's 54 degrees outside right now, windy and gray. Gloomy. Trees have been shedding their leaves for a month now, but the high temperatures have not contributed to the feeling of fall-ness.

Now let's see how long the chill lasts.

Now Playing: The Commitments The Commitments

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Night Videos

No psychic wars this week. Instead, we have something a little lighter in "Deadbeat Club" from the B-52s. This is probably my favorite B-52s song, and the faux-home movie video, while simple, works pretty well with the band's whole retro motif. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Blue Öyster Cult.

Now Playing: London Philharmonic Orchestra Us and Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd

The Shoals of Cibola: Thursday's progress

Not as much time to write tonight, but I still managed to put a decent amount of words down on paper. I'm definitely going to have to do a major polish to get the tone and dialog in sync with "La Riaza" and "The Whale Below," but I pretty much planned for that anyway. Right now, the whole "action/adventure" aspect of it is really taking off.
The Hijo Afortunado drew steadily away. After half an hour, it appeared less than the length of a little finger held at arms length. An hour after that, the Nueces ship caught up to her.

"How do you think the conversation's going, Diego?" Cisneros asked with a gallows grin.

"Not well, for Escarzaga, at any rate," Diego said. "Even if Nueces didn't seem him dump us, he's going to have a time explaining away his Brazos contract."

They stared after the ships, the two hulls seemingly merged into one.

"It's taking a long time," said Del Hoyo. "That's bad, right?"

"Probably taking Hijo Afortunado as a capture," said Diego. "Serves that bastard Escarzaga-- hold on, they're moving off."

The two ships separated, the space between them rapidly widening.

"That's odd," Diego said. "Why are they--"

A volley of sparks lanced out from the Nueces ship into the Hijo Afortunado. Hot, sharp flashes erupted along the Hijo Afortunado's hull. Smoke boiled forth. Then another barrage hit the stricken airship.

"Dios mio! They're pounding her with rockets," Diego said, mouth agape. The implications sank in. Nueces merchantmen were now armed for ship-to-ship combat. "Nueces has gone completely insane."

Flames fully engulfed the Hijo Afortunado, a cloud of gray-black smoke wrapping around the conflagration. The Nueces ship unloaded one final volley into its prey, then turned away to resume its hunt.

Tomorrow: The shoals!

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Shoals of Cibola

I've had a story in mind for quite some time now that I've wanted to write for Interzone. It's a direct continuation of the story that was begun in "The Final Voyage of La Riaza." It picks up with several of those characters in the immediate aftermath of the rather spectacular events of the earlier story, but is quite a different tale all together.

The trouble is, despite having the plot pretty well worked out in my head, and several of the set pieces clearly defined, the story wouldn't coalesce. It wouldn't reach critical mass. Everything, it seemed, was in place for me to write this darn thing, except it didn't want to be written. I'm sure the writers out there know of which I speak.

So today I'm browsing through Half Price Books, and I come across Sian Rees' book The Ship Thieves: The True Tale of James Porter, Colonial Pirate. This is the same author who wrote The Floating Brothel a few years back, so of course I pick it up and flip through it. There, quite at random, I see a sentence that makes everything in "The Shoals of Cibola" click into place. The result is a good night's worth of production (for me) and the growing certainty that what I initially thought might be a fun little 5,000-word adventure is going to balloon into an epic at least twice that length. Ah well, I should know by now, shouldn't I? Here's an unpolished sample of tonight's labors:
"Señor Brazos, what's happening?" Del Hoyo asked in a voice as coarse as grinding rocks. The crooked scar across his throat flushed red with panic.

Diego swore to himself, ignoring Del Hoyo. Almost the entire ship's complement had turned out.

"Señor Brazos, what in the name of Cibola am I going to do with you and your companions?"

Diego's eyes darted to the rear of the safety cage where a fat, yellow-bearded man clung, peering intently through a spyglass.

"Transport us to Ansuly, like you've been paid to do, Capitan Escarzaga," Diego said evenly, the faintest hint of anger seeping into his voice. "A very... generous fare it was, too, for simple passage."

Capitan Escarzaga heaved himself over the clustered airmen and clambered along the ceiling with surprising agility. He hung there weightless, glowering at Diego. "If it's just a simple passage, then why's there a Nueces ship running me down just three days out from Cydone?"

Oh, those pesky Nueces folks. Who'd have thought they'd get so worked up over a little thing like Diego burning half their fleet?

Now Playing: The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos Chant

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Un Lun Dun

For those of you keeping score at home, my review of China Miéville's Un Lun Dun is now up over at SFSite.

Now Playing: Clandestine The Haunting

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HEROES: Kindness of Strangers

Okay then, so what are the odds that evil Sylar with his chest cut open escapes from the mysterious Lost island whereas all the other castaways can't, swims the Pacific Ocean to Mexico where he comes ashore to stumble his way through mountains and desert only to collapse in the middle of the road right as los Gemelos De la Maravilla come driving up in Cheerleader Claire's stolen SUV? Synchronicity and fate are one thing, but when you can see the writers blatantly pulling the strings, bullshit is the only call to be made.

Other than that bit of bone-headed writing, I liked this episode a lot. Turns out that Micah's ability to manipulate machinery isn't limited to inorganic matter. It's a nifty expansion of his abilities, but I sense power "creep" already slipping into the Heroes universe. By "creep" I mean the inclination of writers to amp up a character's special abilities at every turn to make them "more interesting," which is why Superman literally went from leaping tall buildings in a single bound (circa 1938) to playing billiards with the planets (circa 1975). Not a big fan of that, but we'll take a wait-and-see attitude. Interesting that his cousin has the same powers as Marvel's Taskmaster, though. Nice to see the writers ripping off more obscure abilities for a change. The New Orleans setting was awfully ham-fisted, though, but I suppose I have to give the writers credit for going after a non-LA or NY setting. Awfully nice house for a family supposedly so strapped for cash, though.

Nathan Petrelli finally got rid of the worst fake beard in the history of television. Yay! Had it stuck around any longer, I suspected his power would've shifted to befriending grizzly bears and having old codgers call him "Greenhorn" constantly.

Claire's bit of nookie with the creepy stalking flyboy is going well enough, and creating conflict at home which is good for dramatic tension. I like that the writers are humanizing him and showing him as an average(ish) teen, deemphasizing the creepy stalker aspect of his personality. That'll make it all the more powerful when he goes all psycho on Bennett. I can't wait.

Parkman's dad is the big bad guy that makes Sylar and Linderman look like pussycats. Sweet. I think this is a nifty plot development, if sort of contrived, because really, Parkman's the lamest character on the show outside of Niki/Jessica. Only he doesn't have her looks to skirt by on. He needs serious character development since they wrote off his crumbling marriage. And, once you get down to it, he's really gotten short shrift when it comes to powers. Yeah, mind-reading is useful and all that, but he can't control it. His abilities are comparatively weak compared to the other supers' powers. He can't use them for attack, he can't pry out secret knowledge buried deep, he can't do much more than randomly pick up snatches of surface thought. In short, his abilities are an inconsistent plot device. One that gives him nosebleeds and headaches and gets little girls possessed by evil old men.

Now Playing: Clannad Rogha: The Best of Clannad

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Betcha didn't see this one coming. Michael Moorcock + Blue Öyster Cult = Psychic War goodness. I mean, really. You can't get more science fictional than this.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Peter Gabriel.

Now Playing: Eric Clapton with the National Orchestra Live a the Royal Albert Hall


Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against global warming. Now if he would only run for president. That's not likely gonna happen, tho. But Secretary of the Interior Al Gore has a nice ring to it as well, doesn't it?

Now Playing: Don Henley California Desperados

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Watch the skies

Via the miracle of the interwebs (and a Freecycle mailing list the Wife turned me on to) I am now the proud (well, maybe not proud. Moderately smug is more like it) owner of a 19" satellite dish (Dual LNB) and one digital reciever for DirecTV. What I'll do with the DirecTV receiver, I have no idea. But the satellite dish on the other hand, someday (not all that soon mind you) I will turn it into a backyard radio telescope. I discovered plans for one of these in an issue of Astronomy magazine a couple of decades back, using an old UHF antenna. I actually ran across that issue while cleaning out the garage this spring, and a quick Google search later showed me that backyard radio astronomy has progress by leaps and bounds over the intervening decades. The easy availability of those ubiquitous rooftop satellite dishes, coupled with dramatic advances in home computers has been a boon for the niche.

Besides, I figure if Charlie Sheen can do it, how hard can it be?

Now Playing: The B-52s Time Capsule

HEROES: Niki/Jessica

I think I've finally hit upon why I hate the Niki/Jessica character in Heroes so much. It's not the actress--I actually like Ali Larter a good bit, and think she does a decent job when given decent material.

Initially, my dislike of her stemmed from my utter bafflement as to why the character was even featured on a show boasting super-powered humans. She didn't have a super-power, but rather suffered from multiple personality disorder. Psychiatric treatment and serious medication. So what if the Niki personality was a whiney victim and the Jessica personality was a ultra-violent nut job. That's just Hollywood shorthand for "We're aping Jekyll and Hyde." Apart from her willingness to kill, screw or blackmail (any other morally deplorable thing the script would have her do) there wasn't anything all that super about her. Until the season one finale, that is, where she suddenly manifested super-strength to wallop Sylar but then, uncharacteristically, chose not to finish the job. There were also a few hints dropped that Jessica is actually Niki's dead sister. Those were never followed up on, probably because the concept was too lame and cliche even for Niki/Jessica. Supposedly series creator Tim "I Never Read Comics" Kring claims Niki/Jessica was originally supposed to have the power to be in two places at once. Which would've been an improvement over Sybil-lite.

Now, in season two, we've seen her a couple of times, and she's just as whiney as ever. She drops her son off with Lt. Uhura (Ret.) from Star Trek and is off on some vague quest to be "cured." Whatever that means. And then it struck me--the character is utterly passive. Both of them. It doesn't matter if Niki is being a victim (which she's soon to be once again, since the folks with the "cure" are also the bad guys who Mr. Bennett, aka Horn Rimmed Glasses, worked for last season) or Jessica is slaughtering mafia thugs. They merely react to the actions and directives of others. Neither have goals beyond Niki's mind-numbingly abstract "I just want to be normal and happy with my son" or Jessica's "I want to screw and kill, and not necessarily in that order." Their forward thinking only extends as far as the end of the current episode. They're boring and exercise no active influence over their lives, plotlines or the season story arc overall. That's pathetic.

My solution? Give both a strong dose of initiative. Jessica, the blunt force instrument, becomes focused like a laser. Make her into a super-villain mastermind, but not just any super-villain mastermind, mind you. In Kring's HEROES universe, there are layers upon layers of conspiracy. We've seen this well-established, and thus far only Sylar's been outside of that web (although there've been efforts to draw him in by different factions). Sylar's powerful, but dumb. A loose cannon. Jessica could be dangerous but smart, and there's not a big leap required to assume that throughout her work for Linderman she picked up a lot of useful background knowledge on the various factions in play. In short, Niki/Jessica would become the Mule of the HEROES universe. An unexpected third player that does serious damage to the well-laid plans of everyone else. The wimpy Jessica character could either be phased out and repressed, or actually (gasp!) grow a backbone and become Evil Mastermind Jessica's relentless nemesis. Of course, that won't ever happen, but it's what I'd do if I ruled the world.

Now Playing: The B-52s Good Stuff

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Unsolicited endorsement

Patricia Anthony has read my story, "The Makeover Men." This is what she thought of it:
Oooooooooo. NICE and sick! Good writing, sneaky story. Only one problem I can see: Protect yourself from fundamentalists with flaming torches and pyres in mind, hahahaha.

Is that a heck of a blurb or what? If you haven't read the story yet, what're you waiting for?

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

HEROES: Kindred Spirits

First of all, I believe the evil bad guy stalking the older generation of meta-humans is Kensei from ancient Japan, setting up a nice bit of moral and physical conflict when Hiro returns from the past to discover the avaricious monster he created must now be stopped. I could be way off base here, but the whole regeneration power would lend itself to a kind of Vandal Savage immortality, don'tcha think? If nothing else, he'd be pissed as all get-out at Hiro for dumping him in the midst of 90 angry ronin.

Those Kensei legends added some colorful background in season one, but now they're reduced to little more than macguffins. What's the point? Kensei has to get the Fire Scroll because that's what Hiro remembers the legend as saying he does. That recursive, self-fulfilling prophecy. Utterly pointless. Sloppy, lazy writing. I'm very disappointed.

The Peter Petrelli storyline has degenerated into a concocted mess every bit that rings ever bit as hollow as the worst writing from season one. He's willing to take on armed bank guards and toss armored cars around with his telekinesis to get back a cigar box that may or may not hold the secret of his true identity, but not willing to use those same powers to simply take that box from the punter who tortured him earlier and is forcing him to participate in the afore-mentioned heist? And once he does get the box, decides to kiss the Irish lass instead of opening it because he might not like who he once was!? Because, yeah, being a super-powered thug in a Dublin gang is so much more respectable than anything else you might be. Hollywood writing at it's absolute worst.

So Cheerleader Clair finally tells creepy stalking flyboy her secret, and he shows her his. They kiss. She learns her dad abducted him as a kid and did nasty experiments on him. Who else thinks this will end well?

The less said about our south-of-the-border Wonder Twins the better. It's not just that the scenario this week was contrived--it actually fit in with the rest of the episode nicely in that regard--but that it was contrived so badly. "Hey, my sister has blisters on her feet, even though she's walking normally. So I'll try and steal this expensive Cadillac in broad daylight in front of the fat police officer and let him run me down like the plot device that I am. Then my sister can break me out of jail by bleeding black oil and killing everyone shortly after she tells them she's a murderer. Sounds like a plan." Ugh.

Sylar's alive. Big surprise, that. He kills the hot illusion-making chick to steal her powers. Big surprise, that. How stupid are these people that keep giving Sylar all these chances to kill them and take over the world? Idiot plot, coming right up. The only redeeming elements of this segment are the facts that 1) Sylar can't access his stolen powers (although he can apparently still harvest his bloody crop) and B) he's been marooned on the Lost island to wander around, bleeding out the chest, until a passing alien space ship beams him up and turns him into Mr. Spock.

There's been some grousing online about the first two episodes of season two, but I've liked them a good deal. They both unfolded at a deliberate pace, but there was definite narrative progress being made each week. This week, not so much. My biggest complaint about season one were the filler episodes in which everything went around in circles for an hour and nothing of consequence happened. I'd hoped that was a relic of the past, but it looks like I was wrong.

Now Playing: Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill

Monday, October 08, 2007

Interesting realization

I've just discovered that (counting a couple of in-press stories) I've got enough published short fiction to fill a collection. Not that any publisher in their right mind would want to finance such an endeavor considering the drawing power of my name, but still. I consider it a happy landmark of sorts, especially in light of the ratio of unpublished material I have accumulated over the years.

I'm well aware that this is no big woop for most folks out there. Heck, some guys like Chris Roberson and Jay Lake produce that much copy on a slow afternoon. But for a slow, lazy writer like me, it ain't too shabby.

Now Playing: Sheryl Crow Sheryl Crow

Friday, October 05, 2007

Weirdest. Car. Ever.

Behold the Pivo 2, a new concept vehicle from Nissan. I am agog.

Yes, it's too strange to be believed, but if that disembodied robot monkey head comes standard, I know half a dozen simian-obsessed Texas writers who'd... uh, go ape for it.

Now Playing:

Friday Night Videos

I wanted to post Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" today, but the only version I can find has embedding disabled. Oh well. Instead, we'll got with a more recent gem, "Digging in the Dirt" from his spectacularly good Us album. Peter Gabriel is simply magnificent, and I regret that I've never managed to see him in concert.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Del Amitri.

Now Playing:

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Back around 2003 or so, my torpid, bloated self topped 265 on the scales, and I made up my mind to do something about it. Physically, I was uncomfortable. My clothes didn't fit right and my shoes--shoes--started wearing out with disturbing rapidity. Diet alone wasn't cutting it, so I bit the bullet and started working out with the goal of getting down to 220. One year later I (briefly) hit 215. I felt great. Physically, shedding those 50 excess pounds made a tremendous difference.

Only then, of course, complacency set in. I stopped working out regularly. I stopped swearing off second servings and junk food snacks. Basically, I fell back into old habits because, once you get right down to it, I hate working out. I dislike the sweat, the elevated heart rate, the muscle burn. I have never, ever experienced a workout high. I like the results, sure, but everything else about it sucks to high heaven.

So this past month I tipped the scales at 246. Discounting the brief dip to 215, that meant I'd gained 26 pounds from my goal weight of 220 over a period of 3-4 years. Not a drastic ballooning, but a steady, disturbing creep.

So I've recommitted myself to sweaty physical workouts. And I hate them just as much now--if not moreso--than I did four years ago. After two weeks' worth of sweating through some (very) mild cardio stuff (no weight training as of yet) I've shed three pounds. Not much, but the weight's stable and trending downward. The bad thing is that I hurt. Muscles, joints... every cell in my body seems to be cursing me, arguing stridently for me to stop this madness. Today the burn is particularly bad (even though I didn't work out today) because the Bug decided to play around from 3-5 a.m., and it was my turn to try and convince him that sleep is much more desirable an activity in the wee hours. Now I've got the exhaustion jitters and brain fog working me over but good in addition to the normal physical agony.

Did I mention I hated working out?

I'm just sayin'.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Woe is me

Remember that project I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that had run into a brick wall? Well, since then, it's been roughed up, cast in irons and walled up behind stout masonry in a scene disturbingly reminiscent of that from "The Cask of Amontillado." Plus, I also got a harsh tongue scolding for something completely unrelated, not to mention thoroughly unexpected. And Lamar Smith called my home so crazy people could rant about feeding Mexicans to alligators. Yesterday was not a good day to be me.

Here's hoping that today brings some improvement.

Now Playing: Clandestine The Ale is Dear

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

If you oppose alligators, the terrorists win

I just got off the phone with Rep. Lamar Smith. Sort of.

So there I am doing the dishes, and the phone rings. A recorded voice informs me that I've been invited to participate in a live town hall teleconference with Smith, who (unfortunately) happens to be my representative in congress. You have the option of keying in to ask a question, and in general it strikes me as an interesting concept apart from the bizarre unexpected nature of it.

I'm toying with the idea of asking a question--when the audio kicks in and I hear what's being said. Hoo boy. What sounds like a middle-aged woman is ranting about the border, and although she never actually says "wetbacks" you just know it's a struggle for her not to. She's angry at congress, see. Angry that they haven't already built a wall along the border to keep "them" out. Not only does she want an gargantuan Great Wall of Texas built along the border with Mexico, she want the government to stock the Rio Grande with alligators so that "we won't be responsible for what happens to them."

The scary thing is, she was dead serious. And good old Lamar, he didn't say anything to dissuade her of such notions. Always on the lookout to lock up a vote, he is.

At that point I abandoned any plans to ask rational questions and quickly hung up. Them dishes ain't going to wash themselves, you know.

Now Playing: Dire Straits On the Night

HEROES: Lizard

After watching "Lizard," the second season two episode of Heroes, I'm really starting to believe that the production crew has learned from the missteps of season one and are firing on all cylinders. Of course, that assertion goes out the window if next week's installment stinks to high heaven and returns to the treading water mode we saw all too often last year. But for now they're getting it right.

The difference is that the narrative is moving forward. Last year, there was an unfortunate tendency to fill episodes with padding if they weren't one of the key waypoints in the overarching "blow up New York" plot. So there was a lot of unfocused character interaction and inaction. This time, though, they're pacing themselves much better this time around. There are several mysteries at work here, several distinct plot lines, but instead of saying "This is the mystery--how do we solve it," the story structure is essentially one of picking up enough clues to define the mystery. Granted, the deaths of and attacks on the older generation of metahumans can be viewed as an outright murder mystery, but the fact that survivors thus far know exactly what's going on and (presumably) who is responsible adds to the complexity, and hints that there's a lot more going on under the surfact. So much so, in fact, that learning who killed Mr. Sulu, and why, will only open a much larger can of worms that will take the second half of the season to resolve. Nice.

Good things about this episode include Cheerleader Claire cutting off her little toe and then watching a new one grow back. I kept waiting for the severed digit to start growing a new body to attach itself to--if Claire was split in two, say, by being chained to a log being run through a saw mill, would we get two copies of her? I was bugged by the fact that she snipped the little toe off using the tip of the scissors, since to get enough leverage to do the deed she's need to force the toe deeper into the scissor joint, but I'm just a stickler. Her Flyboy school mate is no less creepy this episode than he was last. Nothing good will come from his discovery of Claire's secret.

Maya and her brother are just getting creepier and creepier. Apparently they were infected with the Black Oil from the X-Files and are trying to reach America where they can contact Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Weird.

The telepathic confrontation between Parkman and Mrs. Petrelli was nicely handled.

The Hiro and Kensei plotline is seven different kinds of awesome. I love period pieces, especially when multiple super powers are involved.

They finally, FINALLY put together a cool fight using super powers. Peter Petrelli, despite being in Ireland, having amnesia and not fulling understanding the abilities he has, escapes being tied up and puts a serious hurting on a number of goons. What's more, he used telekinesis to knock one gun away, which means that he has internalized all of Sylar's stolen powers. That's cool. If Peter weren't such an inherent weenie, he'd be the baddest mofo on the planet.

I can't wait until next week.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

The Makeover Men

I've just spent the last hour sending this release out to just about every media outlet I can think of. So now I share it with you:
"The Makeover Men," a dark and troubling near-future novelette by Jayme Lynn Blaschke, has been published by the online science fiction magazine HelixSF #6 in the Fall 2007 issue.

"The Makeover Men" can be read online at

"The Makeover Men" takes place in mid-21st century Houston, a city of the future that is both alien and familiar. Radical cosmetic surgery is accomplished in almost cavalier fashion via genetic engineering while religious fanaticism lurks beneath society's superficial facade like a bomb waiting to explode.

"This is the most difficult story I've ever written. It's the closest I'll ever likely get to doing something in the James Tiptree, Jr., vein," Blaschke says. "It's a cautionary tale, in the mode of a lot of classic SF. It's brutal and graphic. I had to travel down some dark roads while I was writing it--places I wasn't entirely comfortable visiting--but as a writer, you have to be true to the story. 'The Makeover Men' is a wicked little story with a cold, black heart, but it's one I'm proud of."

HelixSF was founded in 2006 by noted science fiction authors William Sanders and Lawrence Watt-Evans as a reader-supported venue specializing in stories too fierce, too eccentric, too politically incorrect or simply too weird for publication--the stories that just didn't fit in any of the standard niches.

Blaschke is a resident of New Braunfels and works at Texas State University-San Marcos. His short fiction has appeared in various anthologies as well as the long-running British science fiction magazine Interzone. He is also author of Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction & Fantasy Speak, a critically-praised collection of interviews with 17 editors, authors and comic creators, currently available from the University of Nebraska Press.

So what are you waiting for? Go read the story, and feel free to throw some coin my way if you're so inclined.

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