Friday, May 28, 2004

Amazing the inspiration derived from duck hunting

Oh lordy! I know Monty Python has never been one (collectively or individually) to shy away from controversy, but good old Eric Idle has put both feet forward with the hilariously venomous The FCC Song. Here's a sampling of his verse devoted to Vice President Dick Cheney:
Your pacemaker must be fake
you haven't got a heart
as far as I'm concerned
you're just a pasty-faced old fart

I believe it would be glorious (and inject a faint glimmer of life and energy) in the Kerry Campaign were the song adopted as the offical anthem. Of course, the fact that Idle lays out about 167 F-bombs in the chorus alone might give the good senator from Massachussetts pause, but I'm certain he'll appreciate the spirit behind it...

Now Playing: Eric Idle The FCC Song

Arrgh! My leg!

Yesterday afternoon my right leg began to ache. That kind of nagging soreness you sometimes get if you've worked it a little too hard. But I hadn't worked out since Monday, so it was puzzling. As the afternoon wore on, the ache turned into actual pain. Now it felt like a sprain (outer side of the leg, right above the ankle). But it couldn't be a sprain, since I hadn't twisted, jerked, strained or prodded my leg in any unusual or uncomfortable way. By the time I got home, I was seriously limping. What's the deal? I was growing more and more irritated. The pain was coming from the general area where I broke my leg close to a decade ago, but as it's never given me trouble before, why would it suddenly start now, without provocation? The thought crossed my mind that my weight might be putting strain on my joints, but I've actually shed 40 pounds since last summer, and the knees are what give out first in joint problems, so that wasn't it.

So I resolved to stay off my feet for the evening and do some writing. After about an hour I gave up. The damn thing actually felt like it really was broken by this point (and I've broken enough bones to know the feeling) and wouldn't support any weight. No swelling, no discoloration, nothing to indicate anything was wrong. I started entertaining thoughts of going to the hospital. I dragged myself up to bed to attempt that tried-and-true method of self-medication: Sleeping it off until tomorrow.

Today, the leg is still sore, but only a fraction of what it was. In fact, the reduced discomfort has faced significantly since waking up this morning. And the strength has returned. One of the weirdest things I've ever experienced...

Now Playing: Don Henley California Desperados

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Remembering Richard Biggs

I didn't know him that well. Out of his 43 years, he spent a grand total of four days in my company at Aggiecon 27 in 1996. But even so, I think I owe Richard Biggs something of a memorial. He was a nice guy, and treated me well when we were together.

Jayme Blaschke and Richard Biggs, Aggiecon 27, 1996

I remember while at the convention, a group of fans got to discussing Dr. Stephen Franklin's looming drug addiction to stimulants with him. He said that the stims storyline was his suggestion to JMS. He felt Dr. Franklin was too noble and too flawless on the show. In effect, he was a boring--if likeable--character. Boy, did that change. Only part of that season (the third, I believe) had aired, and at that point it seemed that Dr. Franklin had overcome his troubling addiction. Don't be too sure, warned Biggs. The character's got to hit rock bottom and lose everything before he can recover. Those words were borne out as the season progressed. And the character became much richer, to the betterment of the entire Babylon 5 story arc.

On Thursday night, as I mentioned in my earlier post, everyone went out to eat dinner at Tom's Barbecue. Tom's was an institution in Aggieland, serving your food on butcher paper with a large knife (forks were provided only if you asked). Biggs was dumbfounded by this arrangement--I want to say he was a vegetarian, but my memory is hazy, so don't quote me on that. The sheer volume of meat, in any event, he found overwhelming. He developed it into something of a standup routine as the con progressed: "They bring out a cow! A whole cow for each person! Huge slabs of meat thrown down in front of you!" Then he'd go into a fit of gnawing/growning noises like a pack of ravenous wolves. It was a huge hit with everyone.

Richard Biggs and Project: A-Kon folks, Aggiecon 27, 1996

As the con progressed, Saturday stretching into Sunday, I happened by the con suite and overheard the good people from Project: A-Kon (who've run the AggieCon con suite for more than a decade) lament that they hadn't had a chance to see Richard Biggs yet. When I saw him about an hour later, I mentioned this injustice to him. His immediate response was "Where is this con suite?" We hightailed it over there, and he put on an apron and began serving the con suit staff and anyone else who happened to be in the area. He made a point to pose for pictures with everyone, signed every autograph imaginable and went out of his way to hang out with them and make them feel appreciated. Now that's class. In an era where all too often actors and other celebrities won't sign anything unless they're paid to do it, Biggs had his priorities in order. He was one of the good guys, and has been said before, he will be missed.

Now Playing: Glasnots Mayfly Matinee

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Warning: Theraputic venting in progress.

In all my years of writing, I've developed quite an impressive immunity to rejections. You have to, otherwise the discouragement would drive you to swear off writing forever--something that is an unthinkable impossibility for me. So most of the time, rejections don't even make me blink. Except... I've got one story, quite probably the best story I've ever written. It's titled "Awaken, Well Rested." It's pure science fiction. Not quite "hard" but close enough to pass for such at a glance. I grew increasingly nervous while writing it, because I had a growing suspicion that it was far beyond anything I'd ever written before. A scant handful of well-established pros have read it and confirmed those suspicions. One even used the dreaded "A" word.

Said story has yet to sell, despite making the rounds over the last couple of years. One major proposed anthology folded beneath it. A couple more said it was the 13th best story they received, but they could only accept 12. The genre magazines all looked at it while making indecipherable grunts of approval before declining to offer me any money for it. The unifying theme of every rejection has been "Well, yes, it is quite good. Er, no, I don't think it's quite right for us."

I've sold stories clearly inferior to this one to some of these same markets. It doesn't, to coin a phrase, make any sense whatsoever. It's more akin to Chinese water torture. "Awaken, Well Rested" will sell to a major market, somewhere, someday, sooner or later. I've no doubt about that. But geeze Louise, even my nearly-inexhaustable patience is fraying about the edges.

Okay, self-pity session is now officially over. I'm putting away the crying towel...

Now Playing: The Go-Gos Return to the Valley of the Go-Gos

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

You just might want to re-think that policy, friend...

New fiction is up at RevSF, and I'm quite pleased with it. Not that I'm not usually pleased with our fiction, but this week I have an original selection of short fiction from the talented K.D. Wentworth that just knocked my socks off the first time I saw it. The story's called Blessed Assurance. It's a darkly humorous take on the secret society we all know is operating out there--but are just too afraid to admit it. I definitely want it to get the attention it deserves.

Plus, Robert Mansperger whipped up a downright killer illustration to set the perfect tone for the piece:

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out there's a hilarious new chapter of The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks as well as Part 81 of Don Webb's seriously surreal Uncle Ovid's Exercise Book. Not to brag or anything, but damn we publish some great stuff. And that's not counting the Joe Lansdale and Geoffrey Landis stories lurking over the horizon...

Now Playing: Grateful Dead In The Dark

Now we really know what those Amazon women on the moon were after!

Day job intrudes on blogging life: Day job can be fun. Where else would I get to write about nifty-keen science fictiony things such as Amazon mollies, and have them be real?
Texas State biologists land grant to study Amazon mollies

SAN MARCOS – A unique species of fish comprised only of females has earned researchers at Texas State University-San Marcos a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Caitlin Gabor, Ph.D., and Andrea Aspbury, Ph.D., won the grant to study Amazon mollies, a species native to the brackish waters along the coast of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico. What makes the Amazon molly so intriguing is that they are a unisexual, clonal species in which all members are genetically-identical females. Amazon mollies possess eggs complete with a complete set of chromosomes inherited from the mother. Reproduction is triggered by mating with male sailfin mollies, an act which stimulates the egg to develop, even though the male sailfin molly contributes no genetic material to the offspring.

“A male that mates with an Amazon molly gets no genetic representation in the offspring, because the offspring are simply clones of their female parent. Therefore, we expect that these males would not choose to mate with the Amazon mollies,” Gabor said. “However, Amazon mollies have persisted in the wild for more than 100,000 years, implying that throughout their evolutionary history male sailfin mollies make mating mistakes at a frequency high enough to maintain the populations of Amazon mollies. The males are essentially sexually parasitized by Amazon mollies.”

The grant will support Gabor and Aspbury’s research into this “sexual parasitism,” focusing on a range of mating preferences of male sailfin mollies in regards to Amazon and sailfin molly females.

“Our work will specifically address differences in female morphology as well as how males may avoid costs of mating with Amazons by conserving sperm production,” Gabor said. “Our results will hopefully shed light on the mechanisms by which species such as Amazon mollies can persist as sexual parasites as well as how males may minimize the costs associated with such parasitism.”

What's really fun is that Dr. Gabor suspects (I'm not clear on how much hard... ahem... evidence she has) that while the male sailfins will happily mate with Amazons, they actually release significantly less sperm while doing so. In essence, they save their reproductive fluids for those females in which it might take root. There are all sorts of wild applications this could be put to in a speculative setting...

Now Playing: John Cougar American Fool

Monday, May 24, 2004

It means "Bad Blood" in Latin

One thing to do, among too many others on my plate at the moment, is proof the galley of "Simultas" which is sitting on my desk beside me. The story's coming out in the CyberPulp e-anthology Kings of the Night III. It's a bit of an experiment for me--the venue, not the story itself--since I've never ventured into e-publishing before, other than the Cyclops reprint on RevSF.

Kings of the Night III is an anthology of sword and sorcery adventure stories. "Simultas" qualifies as this, I suppose. But it also skirts alternate history, horror and Arthurian. It's also the very first piece of short fiction I ever wrote, and rereading it all these years later, I'm actually surprised at how well it holds up. No wonder I've written four other tales featuring the protagonist. Since I first wrote it, I've had this vague notion that ultimately I'd write a couple dozen or so episodes, and when collected they'd cover his entire life in one volume. I still fancy that idea--but I've got quite a few words to write before I reach that point!

Now Playing: The Gypsy Guerrilla Band Ernie's Pot O' Gold II

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Richard Biggs dies

I've just gotten online after being disconnected (voluntarily) all weekend. And I'm stunned to see that Richard Biggs--Dr. Stephen Franklin from Babylon 5 has died. This was posted yesterday at the Babylon 5 newsgroup:
-------- Original Message --------
From: (Jms at B5)
Subject: Today We Lost Richard Biggs
Date: Sat, 22 May 2004 23:43:05 +0000 (UTC)

I was awakened today with several phone calls from cast members and Doug
to pass along the terrible news that this morning, Richard Biggs passed

We're still gathering information, so take none of this as firm word,
but what seems to have happened, happened quickly. He woke up, got up
out of bed...and went down. The paramedics who showed up suggested it
was either an aneurysm or a massive stroke.

His family members have been informed, and all of the the cast have, as
far as we can determine, also been informed.

This is a terrible loss for all of us. Richard was a consummate
professional but more than that he was an honorable, stand-up guy. If
he gave you his word on something, you never had to wonder about it
afterward. He was always helpful and supportive of all the cast, even
those who only came in for one episode, always with a ready smile and
determined to do whatever it took to make the scene work. He was, quite
simply, a terrific guy, and everyone here is just devastated at the news.

More word as this develops. We may try to have some kind of fund raiser
to help give whatever assistance may be helpful for his kids.

We all miss him terribly.


This is quite strange for me. I knew Richard Biggs. I served as his guest-host at AggieCon a few years back. He was an incredibly likeable guy. Friendly, approachable and all too willing to do anything to help out the convention. He actually won the Miss Aggiecon contest, to the howls of delight of the gathered mob. I've got an autographed photo of him from that weekend. I drove him all over College Station. It never felt like I was driving around a "Hollywood Star." He was just a regular Joe, hanging out, looking to enjoy himself. Thursday night, the first night of the convention, we all went out to eat at the now-defunct Tom's Barbecue. While we were chowing down on ribs and brisket served on butcher paper, a number of pretty co-ed waitresses kept coming by and looking at out group. Finally, one worked up the nerve to come up and ask him if he was really the actor who played on Days of Our Lives. The man had legions of fans in two different genres!

He was only 43. Man, this is depressing. He will be missed...

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5

Friday, May 21, 2004

Must be an election year...

This is troubling on sooo many levels. It's one of those extremely broad-reaching laws that sounds really good in election-year campaign soundbites. It's so broadly written that it can be invoked in practically any situation that arises. Which, of course, means it can easily be abused. New censorship bill turns parents into prosecutors
On April 28, California Congressman Duncan Hunter (R) introduced legislation that could “turn parents into prosecuting attorneys fighting a wave of obscenity,” the representative told

H.B. 4239, also called the “Parents’ Empowerment Act,” would allow the parent or guardian of a minor to sue in federal court anyone who knowingly disseminates any media containing “material that is harmful to minors” if the material is distributed in a way that “a reasonable person can expect a substantial number of minors to be exposed to the material and the minor, as a result to exposure to the material, is likely to suffer personal or emotional injury or injury to mental or moral welfare.” The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Comic books are an extremely easy target for over-zealous D.A.s looking to grab some quick headlines. Up in Dallas last year, in another Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Case, a D.A. successfully prosecuted a comic dealer for selling an adult comic to an adult by arguing to the jury "Comics are for kids--everyone knows that. Therefore, these 'adult' comics are for kids, because everyone knows adults don't read comics." Since comic shops don't have deep pockets to wage heavy-hitting legal warfare, and jury pools are too quick to buy into this faulty reasoning, this law just begs to be abused in mind-boggling bad ways. When we were living in Temple, Lisa had a friend who was such a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, I could see her using this law to sue Scholastic and J.K. Rowling because she believes Harry Potter promotes Satanism and is "obscene."

Heck, even good laws are perverted in awful ways. A couple of years back I got called in for jury duty in an obscenity case. Some video clerks were on trial for selling some porno DVDs. The assistant D.A. made some unbelievable assertations, such as U.S. Supreme Court rulings on community standards weren't applicable, because the Supreme Court didn't live in this community... that sort of thing. But when jury selection commenced, that's when things got surreal. During questioning, there were maybe a dozen people that were vehemently, violently opposed to pornography, erotica, nudity or any variation thereof. One elderly lady about 80 announced it was easy to determine what was obscene and purient because "that's what it is." To her, everything was obscene, be it a newsstand copy of Cosmo or a rated-R flick like Monster's Ball or Swimming Pool. Some of us murmured under our breaths that it was easy to tell which members of the jury pool would be going home early. Then the judge read off the names. We were stunned. Every single one of the anti-porn people were seated! The lawyer for the defense was utterly confused and dumbfounded. It actually took him a minute to get over his shock and protest. Most of those people were on his submitted list of rejected jurors. There were some intense minutes of conversation at the bench, I can tell you. As much as I could hear and piece together, the judge said, "No, that list was for people you wanted on the jury." They recessed and reconvened about three times that day, filing motions and objections, keeping all of us there well into the evening. At the end, they let the remaining pool go and kept the skewed jury. The defense lawyer looked shattered, and the assistant D.A. looked like the smuggest cat that ate the canary ever. I never heard what ultimately happened in that case. There's no way a conviction would survive an appeal, but was obvious the assistant D.A. didn't care about that--it was an election year, and the D.A.'s office wanted some "family values" convictions it could crow about in the media. Any spin off chilling effect would be a welcome bonus.

It doesn't matter what your opinions on erotica are. This was a prosecution purely motivated by politics (I have no idea if the D.A. or the assistant D.A. were Republicans or Democrats. The trial was in Bell County, so either is equally likely). The whole thing was an embarrassment and a tremendous waste of tax dollars.

I'm a parent. I find myself more and more annoyed with network broadcaster scheduling shows with heavy sexual content in the 7 p.m. "family hour." The Friends finale (a show Lisa and I used to watch regularly) had Chandler comparing the pain of childbirth to being "kicked in the nuts." Calista happened to hear that, and immediately begins pestering us what "nuts" are. Now I've been a devotee of NYPD Blue and other programs that feature strong language and even occasional nudity in the past. I happen to enjoy strong language and occasional nudity. I strongly resent the chilling effect that's resulted from the FCC overreaction to Janet Jackson's boob-baring incident. There should be room for nudity and other creative adult elements in programming, but there is no excuse for such programs to run sooner than 8 p.m. CST. And as a parent who expends a great deal of effort to control what my daughters see and ensure it's age-appropriate, let me be the first to say that it ain't easy when even the most innocent of programs pauses to bombard kids with hyper-sexual commericals for "Bratz" dolls and the like every 10 minutes.

So ultimately, it's a mixed bag. Society commoditizes and commercializes sex and violence, targetting inappropriate audiences. The Powers That Be respond with knee-jerk legislation that will result in a few high-profile, token prosecutions, but no real impact on the reality situation, and no clear set of rules or standards. And the only victims will be those associated with art forms and creativity that are not part of the problem in the first place. I have no doubt that this proposed federal law will be put to problematic use at the very first opportunity.

Personally, I could easily forsee myself or any number of SF writers being dragged into court for our writing, on the grounds that "Sci-Fi stuff is for kids. Everyone knows that." You can contact your representative here to voice your displeasure with this bill.

Now Playing: ZZ Top Tres Hombres

Thursday, May 20, 2004

I knew I was forgetting something

New fiction's been up at RevSF for a while now. I've been remiss in not mentioning it here. Brad Sinor gives us a theatrical Dracula piece--literally--in "Places for Act Two!". In Chapter 23 of The Transformation of Lawrence Croft by Mark Finn, the ancient god of poop finally escapes the comic book convention restroom he'd been trapped in, and the 80th installment--that's right folks, we've hit 80 chapters--of Don Webb's Uncle Ovid's Exercise Book is a disturbing little ditty regarding the corruption of morals in those who should be above such failings, and the people who take advantage of such situations.

Now Playing: Traveling Wilburys Volume 1

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Oddz and endz

Themyscira was the capital of the ancient Amazon nation, situated near the river Thermodon along the Black Sea in what is now modern Turkey. And here all this time I'd assumed Themyscira was simply a Greek-sounding name DC had made up to call Paradise Island in more formal settings. Yeah, that's the result of more Wonder Woman research--something that probably won't make it into the entry. And of all the bad luck, the season one boxed set of the Wonder Woman TV series is coming out in late June. Season one, of course, had Debra Winger as Wonder Girl and all the Nazis. In other words, the good season.

In other news, I've received word from Beth Ina, subcommandant of something-or-other at the University of Nebraska Press, that I can expect the copyedited proof of Voices of Vision to arrive for my review sometime around June 11. I'll have two weeks to go over it and get it back to them, at which point the finished text will be beaten into book form. We had an entertaining exchange on the merits, or lack thereof (mostly lack) of The Chicago Manual of Style. Ultimately, everyone seems fairly confident that this book will indeed see publication some day in the future.

And I racked my first batch of honey mead last night. Whoo. It's pale, washed-out looking stuff, but I could just smell the alcohol in it as I was transferring it to the new container. I checked the specific gravity, and was surprised to find that it's around 12 percent alcohol. That's around two percent higher that anticipated. I took a taste, and "pungent" is the best description. Definitely rough around the edges--which aging is supposed to help. We'll see. I added a few ounces of honey to drive out the remaining oxygen in the new vessel, and also put in a bit of acid blend to balance the flavor of the final product. Bottling awaits sometime in June, which means I need to buy some mead bottles and a bottle corker between now and then. My beer bottles and capper just seem inappropriate for this project...

Now Playing: Various Artists The Glenn Miller Story

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I'm too tired to think of a witty header

Made a pilgrimmage to College Station today, to plunder the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection at Texas A&M. Two-plus hours to drive there, two-plus to drive back, with an additional six sitting cloistered at a table scribbling notes and ordering photocopies of particularly interesting articles. This was my last big research push for the encyclopedia entries, and I'm happy to say I've got more sources that my bibliography can hold. The Clifford Simak issue of the old, defunct Lan's Lantern fanzine was of particular interest. The editor and publisher, George Laskowski, died back in 1999 of pancreatic cancer. His nickname was "Lan" because he was a huge Green Lantern fan. Kinda explains the fanzine title, huh? He won the Hugo Award twice, which is an impressive feat. All the interesting things you run across while doing research can hopelessly sidetrack a person. For instance, I discovered a while back that the Alkek Library at Texas State has a mostly-complete run of Algol, a 'zine that I didn't even know existed before then. Now, of course, I have an uncontrollable urge to dig through them and read every single one...

Now Playing: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Monday, May 17, 2004

So... ball lightning is actually from other planets?

Remeber last week, when the Mexican air force was chasing UFOs? Well, a new story up at suggests that the UFOs may have been manifestations of the rare ball lightning phenomenon:
But nuclear science researcher Julio Herrera said the blobs of light may have been nothing more than ball lightning -- glowing spheres that are little understood but often sighted near the ground during thunderstorms.

"Just as you have lightning between clouds and ground, you can also have it within the clouds and sometimes ball lightning can develop. I feel this is one of these rare events," said Herrera, based at Mexico's National Autonomous University.

"It's a very rare atmospheric phenomenon and it would be very interesting to be able to analyze all the information these pilots obtained," he told Reuters.

Supposedly some of the glowing objects were tracked by the air force plane via radar, and I'm not clear if some sort of plasma construct like ball lightning would have a radar profile. But either way you look at it, this is quite interesting. If it's a genuine sighting of alien probes/spacecraft (doubtful) then, well, cool. If it's a rare signting of ball lightining in a here-to-fore unknown configuration sporting unexpected behavior, then that's pretty darn spiffy as well.

Now Playing: Sting Mercury Falling

Sunday, May 16, 2004

How 'bout them Astros?

I'm sportsed out. I have no idea why the Spurs reverted back to 2002 form after playing so well in the first two games, but hey, the Astros are tearing up the National League, so maybe the winningest team in Major League history to never play in the World Series can finally break the jinx.

Went to SeaWorld today. Am suitably exhausted. Lisa broke in a new bikini and did it proud. Calista got drenched by the killer whales and everyone rode a bunch of kiddie rides, saw the hilariously cornball "Haunted Lighthouse in 4-D" (water squirts viewers, the seats vibrate and suggestive wind blows at suggestive times). Converted tickets to season passes afterwards, and plan on returning eventually to enjoy the attractions we didn't make this time around, like the penguin house and water ski show. Yep, we're a right proper bunch of yokel tourists. At least no one brought along a fishing pole to try and catch Shamu like Granny did in that episode of The Beverley Hillbillies.

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

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Notice a trend developing here?

My publisher (that sounds good. Let's try it again: "My publisher") has sent me a catalog of upcoming releases for Fall & Winter 2004. My book's not listed, since it's a Spring 2005 release. But there's some interesting material here, nonetheless. The title that caught my eye, however, and will fine its way onto my bookshelf in short order, is X-15 Diary: The Story of America's First Space Ship.
Built of titanium and a chrome-nickel alloy known as Inconel X, the X-15 was the fastest plane ever built, streaking through the lower reaches of outer space even before the first space capsules reached orbit. First tested in 1959, the X-15 proved to be a crucial testing ground for the astronauts and hardware in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and even the Space Shuttle programs.

"Even the Space Shuttle programs" my Aunt Fanny. The X-15 was a better-designed, more dependable and more reliable craft than the shuttles could ever hope to be. The X-15 was a damn fine craft, and if SpaceShipOne can come up with a better name, it'll be a worth successor.

Now Playing: Spurs vs. Lakers, Game 6 WOAI-AM 1200

Friday, May 14, 2004

To infinity... and beyond!

I do not see how it is physically possible to inbound the ball, turn and get off a shot with only .4 seconds left on the clock. That's all I shall say on the subject.

Regarding the suborbital flight of SpaceShipOne, however, I'll say a lot more. This is cool. Yesterday, the rocket-powered craft designed and built by Scaled Composites flew to an altitude of 40 miles, which is really, really close to the edge of space. The sky turns from blue to black. There's negligible atmosphere. And then it glided safely back to Earth, piloted by Mike Melvill. You can find more extended stories (along with great pictures) here: SpaceDaily, and CNN.

I'm on the verge of falling in love with SpaceShipOne for a number of reasons, despite the painfully dorky and uninspired name. Firstly, it looks like it belongs in space. Second, it's looking like a shoe-in to win the $10 million X-Prize, awarded to the first reusuable space craft to carry three people safely up to an altitude of 62 miles and back twice within a three week period. Now, I know $10 million won't begin to cover the development costs of this ship, but it's a nice bit of underwriting any way you look at it. Third, actual development work on this thing began in 1999, and here we are, five years later, with an actual working ship skirting the edges of space. Scaled Composites are the same guys who designed the brilliant X-38 which was perfect in every way, yet got killed because the space station costs are devouring NASA from the inside out.

I've always been a huge fan of the X-15, which routinely reached altitudes of 50-plus miles, and was a genuinely reusable space plane. I'm still ticked that the X-20 program was cancelled all those years ago. SpaceShipOne looks to rectify four decades of neglect, and possibly open up the frontier of space to bums like me for suborbital flights. To say I'd be greatly interested would be an understatement. For more detailed information on the prospects of space tourism, other competitors for the X-Prize, and a comparison with the X-15, why not mosey on over to this site.

Now Playing: Wyndnwyre Out of Time

Thursday, May 13, 2004

You're a wonder, Wonder Woman

I have thrown myself full-bore into the writing of my Encyclopedia of Themes in Science Fiction and Fantasy entries for Gary Westfahl. I'm one of those folks who'll research to infinity and back rather than write unless a deadline is staring me square in the face. As my entries are due June 1, I figure that counts as a looming deadline. Last night was devoted to getting a good portion of my Wonder Woman TV series entry hammered into shape. As I feared, keeping the article under the word limit is going to be the biggest challenge. I finished the intro, relating Wonder Woman's comic book origins to that of her television counterpart, realizing that this alone could easily blow past the word limit and still leave out many pertinent facts. And I haven't actually started talking about the TV series yet, nor Lynda Carter, nor the awful Cathy Lee Crosby pilot, nor the campy series abandoned by the producers of the Batman show from the '60s.

The research has been fun, and has turned up some rather unexpected facts, such as the fact William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman's creator and the inventor of the polygraph, had a live-in lover rooming with him and his wife. In the 1940s. Marston had two children by each of the women, and the fact they all got along is underscored by the fact that the mothers named their daughters after each other.

If you're looking for good reference books on Wonder Woman, the two best ones to track down are Scott Beatty's Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess which focuses exclusively on the comics continuity aspect of Princess Diana of Themyscira, and Les Daniels' Wonder Woman: The Complete History, which covers everything--and I mean everything--else about the amazing Amazon.

Now Playing: SixMileBridge Across the Water

This will not sit well at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

I just saw that The Army Times has a new editorial out regarding the prisoner torture scandal unfolding in Iraq. To say that it's scathing is an understatement: A Failure of Leadership at the Highest Level
Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.

Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.

But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons.

I've worked for several newspapers that had close military ties. When I was at the Temple Daily Telegram we published the Fort Hood Sentinel. While at Prime Time Newspapers, we published the Lackland AFB Talespinner, Fort Sam Houston Newsleader and the Randolph AFB Wingspread. While the majority of the staff on these papers are civilian, many are veterans, many are married to active-duty soldiers and all are unequivocably pro-military. Calling for heads to roll at the highest reaches of command signals a deep discontent among the rank-and-file of our armed forces.

Now Playing: Clandestine The Ale is Dear

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I didn't even know Mexico had an air force

To distract me from the Spurs' second-half collapse last night (the game 3 collapse was expected, but game 4 not) I present this following bit of juicy journalism: Mexican Air Force pilots film unidentified objects.
"This is historic news," Maussan told reporters. "Hundreds of videos (of UFOs) exist, but none had the backing of the armed forces of any country. ... The armed forces don't perpetuate frauds."

No, the armed forces don't perpetuate frauds... unless they happened to be in Iraq, operating under the orders of Bush and Rumsfeld. Ah, well. Bitterness aside, I wonder if this means we'll get a Mexican-produced version of Project Blue Book. They could make it an X-Files-style TV series. I get about 20 different channels of Univision and Telemundo coming out of San Antonio, so reception wouldn't be a problem. It's got the Mexican Air Force chasing UFO's fer cryin' out loud! What's not to love? I've even got the intro ready for them:
Ezekiel saw the wheel.
This is the wheel he said he saw.
These are Unidentified Flying Objects that people say they are seeing now.
Are they proof that we are being visited by civilizations from other stars?
Or just what are they?
The Mexican Air Force began an investigation of this high strangeness in a search for the truth.
What you are about to see is part of that 20 year search.

Oooh! I've got goose bumps already. I mean, come on. Forget Scully and Mulder--where's Jack Webb when you need him?

Now Playing: Andean Fusion Spirit of the Incas--Andean Symphony II

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Veteran of the billboard wars...

I saw these billboards last week when I was driving through SA. And I have to admit, my first thought was "Hoo boy. That's not going to play well." That, of course, being billboards promoting the NBA playoffs on TNT, featuring huge pictures of New Jersey's Jason Kidd and LA's Shaquille O'Neal. Those two characters being the Spurs' main nemesae (oh geeze, it that even close to being correct?) during the playoffs last season. Plus, the fact that Shaq played high school basketball here, yet goes out of his way to insult the city every chance he gets... well, he's not all that popular a character.

I was right about the can of worms being opened. WOAI--both the TV and radio stations--took up the slight as a holy crusade. Today, they claimed victory as related in this story Don's Extra Point: TNT Fixes Billboards and as evidenced by the image:

Personally, I think this is just what this series needs. Nothing goes with an on-court donnybrook quite like an off-court brou-ha-ha.

Now Playing: Spurs pregame show WOAI-AM 1200

Multiplicity this ain't

Finally, after too many delays (an unfortunate habit left over from 2003 I fear) new fiction has been posted online at RevSF. Since I'm fiction editor there, I have a vested interest, you see. The short piece this week is David Chunn's The Perfect Clone. It's wonderfully depressing and disturbing, taking the standard standard SFnal clone cliché and twisting it in unexpected ways. Naturally enough, social commentary is the main thrust of the story, rather than a Gernsbackian obsession with techno-wizardry:
Why were all these people prying into one man's personal life? For the sake of saying they saw the freak? Most of the crowd members seemed normal, except for the steadily growing number of religious picketers, mostly followers of Tito Freeman, America's evangelist. Those folks carried signs, stomped, and chanted with far too much energy to be productive, well-meaning citizens. Tito himself was out among them somewhere. He was broadcasting his daily show live from the epicenter of America's greatest sin. She didn't even want to consider what might happen if he was standing nearby when she walked in.

I had David make some changes in the story before we ran it, and I think it's a much stronger piece for it. Fortunately, David saw something valid in my suggestions. What we have now is a story with much less a Hollywood ending and one that stays more true to itself.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there are new chapters online for Mark Finn's The Transformation of Lawrence Croft and Don Webb's Uncle Ovid's Exercise Book, both of which are as off-the-wall as you'd expect from those nutty guys. If nothing else, you'll learn why you should always be wary when hunting centaurs--license or no.

Now Playing: Billy Joel and Elton John Face to Face, Tokyo

Nothing good can come of this

Blogger has added a bunch of whistles and bells to their offerings, which I assume you've noticed if you surf around to other blogs enough. One of those whistles happens to be reader comments. Oh joy. There's no way I can resist activating something like that--especially since I don't have a message board of my own to lord over.

Of course, this practically begs people to come in and post to my face what a microcephalic cretin they think I am, as opposed to merely screaming it and getting their monitor covered with spittle in the process. Or, even worse, my heartfelt comments are met with utter indifference and nobody posts anything.

Which, naturally enough, got me to thinking. I see other blogs (big surprise there--I always see other blogs) where the author contemplates a momentous change in direction and focus, or a reassessment of what their goals are with the blog. Friends and neighbors, I'll tell you right now that the goal and focus of Gibberish is to give me a convenient and handly way of writing and posting whatever I happen to have on my mind when the urge strikes me. I suspect it's also my subconscious' way of avoiding real writing. But I'll have to live with that. This isn't a political blog, although I can't help but comment on politics from time to time, as my personal views are radically and in-your-face moderate. It's not a sports blog, although I confess to following the Spurs, Astros and Aggies with an interest bordering on keen. It's not a "report on what I wrote last night on the novel/short story" blog because frankly I'm not that kind of a masochist. And it's not a list-of-neat-links blog, because, in all honesty, isn't that what Google is for?

Hopefully, a small handful of you gentle readers will find my musings witty and entertaining. Enough so that you feel compelled to go out and buy my publications whenever they may come out. Come to think of it, Shooting Star has solicitation information up as we speak regarding issue 5, which happens to contain my story, Dracosaur. So why don't you rush over there and reserve yourself a copy? After all, with the comments section now open, you don't want to be left out...

Now Playing: Billy Joel The Nylon Curtain

Monday, May 10, 2004

See that doofus in the corner?

I have a talent for making myself look incompetent and instilling doubt in those who I need to inspire most. This morning's current victim happens to be Gary Westfahl. I'm working on several entries for The Encyclopedia of Themes in Science Fiction and Fantasy which is being edited by Westfahl and to be published by Greenwood Press. The deadline is June 1, so naturally I'm gearing up to move beyond my research-gathering phase and actually write those articles which will warp untold generations of speculative fiction scholars for ages to come.

Only come to find out, I've managed to lose the guidelines. The guidelines, sample articles, cross-reference entries, everything. In both hardcopy and the electronic files. I have no idea what happened to them--I turned my office upside down last night, and found quite a few things that made me exclaim, "So that's where that go to!" but, alas, no Encyclopedia materials. Repeated scans of the computer hard drive turned up empty as well.

So this morning I swallow my pride and do the inevitable: I email Westfahl and request a resend. Cleverly, I disguise it by including "updated" contact information, which obviously didn't fool him for a moment. Fortunately, he had good grace not to ask if I was a complete moron, but I'm certain he was thinking it. I'm quite certain he was also thinking, "I entrusted Cliff Simak's City to this yahoo? What was I thinking?"

Now Playing: The Kinks Schoolboys in Disgrace

Saturday, May 08, 2004

If you squint enough, one of 'em looks like a Venus butterfly...

I've meant to post this link for a while now, because, well, it's a fascinating site. I'm a nut for space exploration of all stripes, and have a particular interest in the old Soviet space program simply because so little is known about it. If the Russians weren't keeping things under wraps, western media was de-emphasizing it or outright ignoring their exploration results. Understandable considering the Cold War, but still.

The U.S. has comparatively ignored Venus over the years. Most of our efforts have been directed at Mars or the outer planets, with the exception of modest probes such as Magellan. Well, the Russians made Venus a priority way back when, and have even released weather balloons in the planet's atmosphere. Most of the hard data we have regarding the surface and lower atmosphere of that world comes from vintage Russian probes. You can lean a whole heck of a lot more about it here: Soviet Exploration of Venus

Naturally, I have ulterior motives in my interest. I have a Venus story fermenting. I've got some nifty set pieces and settings, plus some interesting applied science and nifty speculative elements, but no plot yet to hang everything on. Give me time--I'll come up with something eventually.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Streetlife Serenade

Thursday, May 06, 2004

These Friends of Mine

So, the final episode of Friends has come and gone. I remember back when it was in development as These Friends of Mine, the show earned scathing critical reviews before it ever aired. It was the one show singled out as a sure-fire flop. Only it didn't. There was another, similar 20-something ensemble show that debuted on FOX that year, if I recall correctly, that did bomb quickly. But Friends endured. Working at The Temple Daily Telegram some of the guys on the sports desk would get together after work--around midnight or 1 a.m. usually--and watch prime-time programming which we'd recorded earlier. We all discovered Friends about the same time. We'd argue about which of the three women was the cuter. We all realized about the second episode that Ross was played by the same actor who'd portrayed the ill-fated, Bernie Goetz-wannabe earlier that month on an episode of NYPD Blue. About the third episode we howled when Phoebe mentioned that her career-oriented twin sister was a waitress. Ursula, the worst waitress in known creation, was also played by Kudrow on Mad About You.

The brief time where "Must-See TV" consisted of Mad About You, Friends, Seinfeld and Frasier was perhaps the best night of prime-time comedy ever assembled. For a time, that was the highlight of the Telegram sports desk writers' otherwise pointless, bleak lives. Everyone went wild for the theme song performed by The Rembrandts. It was invariably described as "Beatles-esque." This description is blatantly wrong. The Beatles never had any songs that sounded remotely similar. The description people were grasping for, and missing, was "Monkees-esque." Listen to "I'll Be There For You" and then listen to "Pleasant Valley Sunday." You'll see.

I have to say Friends jumped the shark for me maybe five years back, when Ross married the British chick. When the Ross-Rachel mess had finally been laid to rest, the writers dredged it back up. Only problem was, the British chick was popular among fans. So in the aftermath they turned her into a bitter, hateful crone that acted utterly out of character. The core ensemble suddenly stopped acting like the everyman (and woman) young folks that I once identified with. They'd become parodies of themselves. They stopped being funny, and started being stupid--not unlike the final Seinfeld episode.

Fortunately, the final episode dispensed with the caricatures for the most part and went back to the core personalities. It didn't avoid that all-too-common final episode trap of being schmaltzy or overly dramatic, but it was somewhat funny and mostly amusing. They could've used a few references to the Ugly Naked Guy or Marcel the monkey, but they did get in a "we were on a break" comment, so that was good.

Actually, now that I think about it, this is what the final episode of Mad About You should've been--the scene going dark as Jamie and Paul Buchman leave the empty apartment, moving to a house in the suburbs to raise their daughter. The actual final Mad About You episode, with Jamie and Paul bitter and divorced in the future, with a seriously mis-cast Janeane Garofolo as the adult Mabel, was disturbing and depressing and utterly devoid of humor. Sitcoms should never lose sight of the fact that they are popular because they make people laugh. Poignancy can be achieved without melodrama, and to my utter surprise, Friends managed to pull it off.

Now Playing: Various Artists Friends Soundtrack

Smile for the camera. Make love to the camera...

The Cassini spacecraft has returned its first images of Saturn's cloud-shrouded moon, Titan. Even though they're still pretty fuzzy, the pics are as good if not better than anything we can get from Earth. And since Cassini is going to use Titan as a gravity-well slingshot to navigate the Saturnian system, returning to the giant moon time and time again, the wealth of information and fantastic images will only increase over time. Read the whole spiel at the official Ciclops site.

Personally, the Cassini mission has me far more excited than the Galileo mission to Jupiter. I dunno why. Europa and Io are easily the most interesting moons in the solar system, but I'm sure Saturn has held some trump cards close to the vest. Titan is so mysterious. It's as big as Mercury, and likely has lakes, if not oceans, of ethane and methane. It's a weird, strange world that is unique in that we know that we have little idea of how strange it actually is. This is going to be fun.

Now Playing: The Kinks Give the People What They Want

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

That boom you hear is LA imploding

All I can say is "Thank you Jason Kidd so very much for staying with the Nets." Tony Parker is unbelievable. When the Spurs were chasing Kidd last year, all I could think of was "Why?" Parker is only 21. He's still learning the game, yet he's playing like an All-Star. The upside is immense. His talent and ability won't peak for another five years or so.

Shaq played his game, and that's supposed to make the Lakers unbeatable. But Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan played their games as well. Coupled with Tony Parker's impersonation of Wally West, LA never had a chance. Well, LA did have a chance--they pulled within two in the fourth--but once again they were out of gas at the end of the game. It's pretty obvious that two of these four future Hall of Famers on the Lakers' roster are simply old.
Tony Parker was too much for the Lakers to handle — too accurate in the early going, too quick all night, and too deft on his best move of the game.

Parker scored eight of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, including a stunning crossover move that fooled Devean George and ended the Lakers' final push as San Antonio defeated Los Angeles 95-85 Wednesday night in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series.

Read the rest of the Los Angeles Times initial report on the Game 2 carnage here.

Now Playing: Spurs post-game show WOAI-AM 1200

Fun with fermentation

I've been dabbling in homebrew for years. Mostly pre-mix kits--I tried the whole nine yards with the boiling of the crystal malt and such, but found the additional hassle less than fulfilling. So I pay my $15 for the canned mix and pretend I'm a master brewer.

I like to experiment, and I've wanted to branch into brewing honey mead from almost day one. I only had one fermentation vessel, though, and mead needs to be "racked" into separate vessels to settle out particulates and aging. That complicated matters for me, so I never attempted it. Until now. My wife has a friend who's gone through an ugly divorce, but in the process she came into possession of two "Mr. Beer" homebrew kits. She very kindly gave them to me, since she has no interest in homebrewing. The fermentation vessels are small--3 and 1.5 gallons each, but they're just the right size for my modest mead-making ambitions (at least for now). So I invested in Ken Schramm's excellent book The Compleat Meadmaker and have started my first batch--a slightly sweet variation on a traditional mead recipe.

The current fermentation vessel is driving me nuts. It will not stay sealed. It's clear, so I've been able to keep track of the fermentation by the bubbles rising in the must. But once this started, the water trap/air lock at the top wasn't bubbling. So I seriously bust some arm muscles tightening the lid. Success. The water trap begins bubbling instantly. Problem solved. Today I get home from work, and the trap is inactive again. This time, brute force has no effect. So I take the lid off (hoping all the while that the fermentation process is far enough along that wild yeast won't infect the must to negative effect) and discover two plastic "runners" left over from the original mold that are protruding into the lid's seal, leaving the tiniest of gaps. That's enough to let the yeast-produced CO2 escape without going through the water trap. After the quick application of a utility knife, the water trap is happily bubbling again. Let's see if it sticks this time.

Speaking of brewing, I just read in the San Antonio Express-News that the Faust Hotel brewpub here in New Braunfels has reopened. That's one of the first things I noticed when we first decided to move to New Braunfels, and I've wanted to sample their microbrew for some time. Now that they're back in business, I'll have to make it a point to drop in.

Now Playing: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Game 2 WOAI-AM 1200

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

In which the tedium of transcription sets in

Despite chronic time mis-management on my part, I managed to get some work done on both the Paul Dini and Lois McMaster Bujold interviews. Not as much as I'd like, and the Bujold interview, for some reason, has a muffled quality on playback that I don't remember hearing when I proofed the recording back after our talk. No matter--both will get done presently. Pete Crowther has expressed some interest in the Bujold for a future issue of Postscripts, and the Dini interview is going to RevSF, unless someone else offers me money for it (hint hint).

It's times like this where it's made painfully obvious to me just how bad my typing skills actually are. When I'm mentally composing my fiction at the standard breakneck (re: glacial) pace, my fingers keep up no problem. In fact, they often wander and play with action figures, beer steins, old phone bills, random deer antlers... But during transcription, yeesh.

Now Playing: The Kinks Kinks

Do dun cows wander salt roads?

My reviews of Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads and The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr., are now live at SFSite and Green Man Review, respectively. For your reading pleasure, naturally.

Now Playing: The Kinks Everybody's in Showbiz

Monday, May 03, 2004

The next time someone says nudity doesn't cause problems...

It causes boats to capsize. Says so right here: Rental boat capsizes at Lake Travis. The description is right out of an old Warner Brothers cartoon, with a naked person sunning on the shore and gawking passengers rushing to one side of the barge to get an eyeful. Cue the Keystone Kops mayhem music.
Hundreds of people were in the Hippie Hollow area when the boat flipped over. The accident occurred during Splash Day, a semiannual event hosted at the clothing-optional area by the Austin Tavern Guild, a gay and lesbian bar association. Investigators said they did not know whether the party barge was participating in Splash Day.

I haven't been to Hippie Hollow in almost a decade. It was a nice park. Secluded, with terraced limestone that practically beg for sun worshipers. And naked people. Lots of naked people. The only drawback was there were always several perverts lurking along the tree-lined park road above the waterline, oogling everyone down below. I've heard that in recent years it's become more of a gay meat market, with, how do I put this... "immodest activity" taking place. Hope the boaters at least got treated to a good show.

Now Playing: Dolly Parton The Best of Dolly Parton

Spurs in six (again)

I missed it by two when the Spurs swept Memphis in the first round of the NBA playoffs, so I figure if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Spurs eliminate the Lakers in the semis in six, just like last year. If San Antonio keeps playing like it did in its 81-71 Game 1 thumping of Los Angeles, well, the Lakers may be in the market for some new Hall of Famers in the off-season.

Is it time to panic yet? Is Jack Nicholson threatening to jump off the Tower Records building? Does Shaq need to open up a can of Kazaam! on the Spurs? According to Gary Payton, he played defense against San Antonio's Tony Parker just fine--which leads to my favorite quote regarding Game 1, courtesy of Bill Plaschke at the L.A. Times:
The only way anybody would have believed he had done a good job on Parker was if this had been Souvenir Blindfold Day.

I just have to wrap this up by sending a big "Thak You" to the Houston Rockets. The Lakers looked dead on their feet in the fourth quarter, and L.A. coach Phil Jackson blamed it on fatigue catching up with them. Must've been the toughest five-games series in history, eh?

Now Playing: Ray Charles The Ultimate Hits Collection