Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Happy birthday Johnny Cash! I know "One Piece At A Time" isn't his greatest song, but it sure is my favorite--possibly because it's one of the first songs I remember hearing on the radio when it first came out way back in '76. I was six at the time, and the idea of building a car from bits and pieces gathered over the decades was fascinating to me. As is the "Psychobilly Cadillac" they had specially built for the promo film. The car is now on display at the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Illinois. I'd like to see it someday!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bonnie Tyler.

Now Playing: Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The photographer is now official

Wow. It seems like only yesterday, but it was two years ago that I sold off my Dr. Demento Show CD collection and bought my Canon Rebel XTi DSLR and vowed to learn how to be a halfways decent photographer. Skip forward a year, and The Wife--motivated by my modest growth as a photographer and the quality of my XTi--got her Canon 50D. Shortly thereafter, the idea of pursuing photography as a full-time career crystalized, and she began the long process of building up a network, attending seminars and shooting courses to hone her skill, and developing a business plan. Oh yeah, taking paying photography gigs as well. Late in 2009 she joined the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, and it all came to a head yesterday.

Picture perfect grand opening for Lisa On Location photography

NEW BRAUNFELS – Lisa On Location photography celebrated its grand opening Feb. 24 with a ribbon-cutting and reception the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce building.

Lisa On Location, a full-service photography business serving the New Braunfels, San Antonio and Austin areas, is owned and operated by Lisa Blaschke. A selection of her portfolio was on display during the event, and her work can be viewed locally at Schobel’s Restaurant and the Family Birth Center.

"I'm so thrilled to be doing what I love," Blaschke said. "Photography has always been a passion -- first photojournalism and now portrait photography. And this area offers the perfect backdrops for portraits. I couldn't ask for a better setting or nicer people to work with."

A former photojournalist, Blaschke earned her B.S. from Texas A&M University and further honed her craft with the New York Institute of Photography. She currently teaches a popular course in digital photography course with New Braunfels ISD Community Education.

Lisa On Location specializes in weddings, events and portraiture in the photojournalistic style. Blaschke has a particular interest in maternity and nursing photography, as seen in her “Beauty of Motherhood” series, and was recently featured in the international magazine New Beginnings.

Lisa On Location is a state-certified Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) vendor, and is a member of Professional Photographers of America and a contributing photographer to the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation. For more information, visit or call (830) 481-3944.

For those of you unfamiliar with her, that's The Wife there in the center of the photograph, about to cut the ribbon with that humongous pair of scissors. And that's Monkey Girl to the left, eying those same scissors and thinking "I've got to get me some scissors like that!" Lisa On Location is now an official, for true, ongoing business concern. Need professional photography? Now you know where to turn.

Now Playing: Johnny Cash The Essential Johnny Cash

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Here's another legacy from AggieCon the other weekend. A year or so back I featured Bonnie Tyler's over-the-top, surreal, bombastic and just plain bizarre video for "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Well, the other week I was introduced to the literal video version, in which the lyrics are altered to narrate the events actually depicted in the video. The end result is hilarious. Seriously. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Neil Young.

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads

SFWA announces final 2010 Nebula ballot

CHESTERTOWN, Md. -- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., has announced the final Nebula Awards® ballot for 2010.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. The awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet the evening of May 15 at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, just 20 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center in Fla. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.

Short story
"Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela," Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix 2, Norilana Press, July 2009)
"I Remember the Future," Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future, Apex Press, Nov. 2008)
"Non-Zero Probabilities," N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, Nov. 2009)
"Spar," Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct. 2009)
"Going Deep," James Patrick Kelly (Asimov's Science Fiction, June 2009)
"Bridesicle," Will McIntosh (Asimov's Science Fiction, Jan. 2009)

"The Gambler," Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2, Pyr Books, Oct. 2008)
"Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage," Michael Bishop (Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2008)
"I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said," Richard Bowes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Dec. 2009)
"Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast," Eugie Foster (Interzone, Jan./Feb. 2009)
"Divining Light," Ted Kosmatka (Asimov's Science Fiction, Aug. 2008)
"A Memory of Wind," Rachel Swirsky (, Nov. 2009)

The Women of Nell Gwynne's, Kage Baker (The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Subterranean Press, June 2009)
"Arkfall," Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sept. 2009)
"Act One," Nancy Kress (Asimov's Science Fiction, March 2009)
Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Shambling Towards Hiroshima, Tachyon, Feb. 2009)
"Sublimation Angels," Jason Sanford (Interzone, Sept./Oct. 2009)
The God Engines, John Scalzi (The God Engines, Subterranean Press, Dec. 2009)

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sept. 2009)
The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov. 2008)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct. 2009)
The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May 2009)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sept. 2009)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct. 2009)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Star Trek, J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Paramount, May 2009)
District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug. 2009)
Avatar, James Cameron (Fox, Dec. 2009)
Moon, Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker (Sony, June 2009)
Up, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar, May 2009)
Coraline, Henry Selick (Laika/Focus, Feb. 2009)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (Tachyon, July 2009)
Ice, Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster, Oct. 2009)
Ash, by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown & Company, Sept. 2009)
Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends, July 2009)
Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi (Tor, Aug. 2008)
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, June 2009)
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon, Oct. 2009)

For more information, visit and

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, beaches, Bars & Ballads

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Night Videos

During the Saturday night Los Blues Guys Bland Lemon Denton & the Lemon-Aids concert at AggieCon last weekend, the band covered Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." While I've never been a huge Young fan, I did dig this song when it came out and loved the intensity of the video. The biting sarcasm and rebellion amused me, but there was some poignant social commentary that I think still hits home. It's a conflicted song, which is why it is more appealing than a mere polemic screed. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Sheena Easton.

Now Playing:

Monday, February 08, 2010

AggieCon 41 in the rear-view mirror

AggieCon has a proud, yet tumultuous history. Run by students at Texas A&M, it is the oldest science fiction convention in the state and the guest list of years past reads like a Who's Who of genre and comics publishing of the last 50 years. Almost all of the big names have attended at one time or another, and during the 1970s the con was akin to a giant astride the Earth. Being a student organization, however, left it with one major Achilles heel--the inevitability of graduation and younger generations reinventing the wheel over and over again. Still, there were more good AggieCons than bad.

Except that certain powers-that-be within the university disliked Cepheid Variable and the convention they orchestrated every year, and so back around 2005, these forces finally succeeded in getting Cepheid kicked out of the Student Programs Office, which meant the university no longer provided significant annual funding. But they persevered, landed some grants and other donations, and soldiered on. A focus on paid media guests at the expense of authors somewhat dimmed the lustre from the con, but it wasn't until 2008 that disaster really struck. Because of some person issues and a leadership vacuum, a mere handful of guests were invited and little advertising effort was made. The result was an all-time low in attendance and much ill-will generated amongst the Texas fan community. The following year vows were made to rectify the mistakes of the previous year, but despite good intentions, poor communication doomed 2009 to be a near-repeat of 2008. With limited funds, Cepheid didn't have much leeway in planning for the 2010 edition. Many guests and dealers were wary of committing their time, effort and money toward a convention most had written off as walking dead. To compound matters, the Memorial Student Center on campus would undergo a multi-year remodeling (remodeling in this case involving bulldozers and wrecking balls) forcing the convention off-campus for only the second time in its 41-year history. This relocation to the College Station Hilton meant more overhead than the cash-strapped organization had ever had to deal with before, and an unfortunate date change from late March to early February, a bare week before the popular ConDFW. The odds were grim. More than one attendee I spoke to over the weekend admitted they'd attended in part so they could say they were at "the last one." AggieCon 41 simply had to be a success. If it flopped, there would be no skiffy 42. Simple as that.

I'm happy to report the concom rose to the challenge. Down in the bottom of the ninth, they came through with at least a triple. AggieCon 41 was, without a doubt, the best AggieCon since Neil Gaiman ushered in hordes of swooning fans way back in 2002. The guest lineup was savvy and cost-efficient, with Guests of Honor including alums Steven Gould and Martha Wells, plus Marv Wolfman, Ellen Datlow, David Lee Anderson and Selina Rosen. AggieCon discovered the magic of editor guests, as regional authors who'd never attended before suddenly found time in their schedules for a trip to College Station. Bridges that had been burned badly years ago were mended. There were many enthusiastic reunions of friends who hadn't seen each other in decades, if not longer. Panels were very well attended, even on Sunday morning, which is practically unheard of.

That's not to say there weren't any screw-ups. Quite a few folks who'd requested no morning panels had multiple early slots; readings were initially left off the schedule, then held in the hallway outside the dealers room; Ellen Datlow, at one point before a hasty schedule revision, was down for six hours of back-to-back panels. For my part, I was placed on the ubiquitous "What You Should Have Read in 2009" panel, which I am utterly unqualified to speak on. Seriously--I didn't read a single thing published last year, as I go to these types of panels to take advantage of those who've already blazed the trails. Fortunately, Scott Cupp and Ellen Datlow were both well-read enough to make up for my slack-jawed ignorance, so the panel was a success despite my dead weight.

My other panels went swimmingly. The political commentary in SF, Whedonverse, urban fantasy and SF's predictions of the future panels were all entertaining and well-attended, and I like to think I made coherent contributions to the discussion. There were many gamers doing their thing, and costumers had a stronger presence than they had in years. Art show seemed smallish on Friday, but I didn't get a chance to go through on Saturday, so there may have just been a bunch of late arrivals. Dealers room, too, was small by past AggieCon standards, but the actual physical size was comparable to Armadillocon and Apollocon, and there were remarkably few empty tables considering most dealers opted to attend ConDFW the following week instead. The Saturday night blues/jazz concert by Bland Lemon Denton and the Lemon-Aids was a great deal of fun, and evoked memories of many of these same folks performing as Los Blues Guys at AggieCon 20 years prior. The Project: A-Kon people did a fine job in the hospitality suite as always. The biggest shocker of all was the fact that there were room parties both Friday and Saturday night. Apollocon and Texas 2013 had things going Friday, and then on Saturday Apollocon, Armadillocon and FenCon all had mighty festive shindigs. I took several bottles of my failed blueberry mead to the Apollocon party, and while everyone agreed that it was wholly without blueberry flavor, they admired the pretty color and were taken aback by its smooth, dry character. Nobody went blind, I gave a bottle to Kim Kofmel to take home to her husband, and I had none left by the end of the night, so somebody must've liked it.

I rode up to College Station and back with Scott Cupp, and I have to say there's not a finer person to share a ride with. His taste in music is gloriously eclectic, and after listening to CDs as diverse as Carlene Carter, a glam rock compilation and Ry Cooder, he treated me to a disc of British Invasion acts which included the awesome, yet utterly obscure, band called The Smoke. Good stuff, all of it.

So, the long and short of it is, the kids done good. They pulled it off. The Hilton proved to be a favorable venue for the con with better parking than can be found on campus, and several times over the course of the weekend I forgot that I was at AggieCon and referred to it as either Armadillocon or Apollocon. And I mean that in a good way. Nobody I spoke with had a bad thing to say about the con, and most of the problems that cropped up weren't anything that couldn't be fixed with a little better planning. If AggieCon 41 is the foundation of things to come, I can't wait until 2011.

A full gallery of photos from AggieCon 41 can be viewed at The Wife's website.

Now Playing: Ali Farka Touré & Ry Cooder Talking Timbuktu

Friday, February 05, 2010

Aggiecon or bust

Well, by this time tomorrow I should be in the booming cultural Mecca of College Station, participating in what should have been my 20th Aggiecon. It's not, though, because I wasn't invited two years ago, and although I was invited last year, the con com was so unresponsive and slow to deliver information that conflicts arose in the interim and I had to bow out. The guest list is more impressive this year, with Steven Gould, Martha Wells and Ellen Datlow headlining, so that's an encouraging sign. The bad news is that despite assurances from the con com, I have no reading on the schedule (drat) and I'm listed as being on three morning panels, which is contrary to the one programming request I made to them. Ah well, I'll manage.

Because of the consecutive disasters that were the previous two Aggiecons, the group's budget is less than shoestring this year. This is bad. Also, because of renovations to the Memorial Student Center and Rudder Complex on campus, Aggiecon's being held off-campus, at the Hilton, for the first time since 1973 or so. This is even worse, as it puts a greater strain on an already stressed budget. But I shall do my best to give them a good con. Hopefully, Aggiecon will live to see another day. If not, at least I can say I was at the last one.

And yes, before you ask, I am indeed driving over there early in order to do some research on the Chicken Ranch. Much fun, yes. Here's my programming schedule if you want to drop in and say "Howdy."
Friday 4 p.m.
"Harvey Dent for President" How do science fiction and fantasy media comment on current political situation? Panelists discuss how these genres can be used as a powerful medium to talk about cultural issues. [Rosen, Gould, Sarath*, Blaschke]

Saturday 10 a.m.
"Year End Review: Books" What our panelists liked best from this past year as well as a preview to what books you won't want to miss in 2010. Also a discussion about 2009's award winners. [Cupp, Blaschke*, Datlow, Knowles]

11 a.m.
"Sorcerers in the Sewers, Dragons in the Penthouse" We decided in our Urban Fantasy world dragons would not live in the New York sewers but be running the town from a Manhattan penthouse. All things concerning the popular sub©genres of fantasy that have a modern setting. [Clement-Moore, Leicht*, Gould, Martinez, Blaschke, L. Donahue]

6 p.m.
"Whedonverse: A Developing Empire" Is he picking up or losing steam? What happened to Firefly? What's he doing next? And what happened to Dollhouse? [Bowers*, Montz, Blaschke, Rose, Leicht, C. Spector]

Sunday 11 a.m.
"Back to the Future, Again" Orwell's 1984 may not have come true in the eighties, but his Oceania is looking very familiar today. We look back at what science fiction thought today would look like. [Cupp*, Oliver, Blaschke, Turner, Sullivan]

2 p.m.
"New Directions: Star Trek" With the new Abrams movie, the Star Trek legacy has been expanded to give future writers more freedom. Is this blasphemous to earlier canon or a creative solution? [Leicht, Bas, Oliver, Blaschke*, Rosen]

Now Playing: Melissa Etheridge Yes I Am