Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Night Videos

Last week I blogged about how great the Kinks' Father Christmas is. So for this week's Friday Night Videos I've a special treat: TWO videos of the song. First up is a promo video done by the band back in '77. Love that Ray kicking at the camera.

And here's a live performance from their famous London "Kristmas Koncert" back in '77 as well. I hope you folks appreciate this--I cut the bajeezus outta my index finger earlier today, and it's well-nigh impossible to type with about three inches of gauze wrapped around it...

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Billy Joel.

Now Playing: nothing

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New reviews

Looks like I've had a couple new reviews sneak up on me. The first one you might want to check out (being seasonally relevant and all) is Donal Hinely's Donal Hinely, Midwinter Carols: Fourteen Selections on Glass Harmonica over at Green Man Review. Hinely was formerly one-half of Glasnots, a glass-harmonica themed duo that I grew to love at area ren fests, so the fact that he's continuing to do solo work is pleasing to me.

The other review, up at SF Site, is Lisa Tuttle's The Silver Bough. I've admired Tuttle's writing quite a bit, and the writing itself is quite good. It's the story that stumbles in this book, which was disappointing to me.

Now Playing: various Celtic Harp Christmas vol. 1

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Passion blooms

Texas. Here it is the middle of December, and it's a comfortable, if damp, 69 degrees. For the past week, the weather's been sunny with temps in the upper 70s. Not exactly conducive to Jolly Old St. Nick, but it's done wonders for my passion flowers. As we approach the winter solstice, I have not one, but two of the tropical vines happily setting flower buds.


The Lady Margaret hybrid above is one of my favorites because of the gorgeous maroon flowers. It's been blooming steadily since September. I've got several cuttings that are putting on new growth as well, so I'll have some to plant in my yard come spring.


This little one surprised me. I got a cutting of it, coreacea (the "bat-wing" passion flower) in early October and didn't expect much until maybe the spring. Intolerant of cold, I put in my office window, where it took off. It started flowering yesterday, with quite a few new buds appearing along the vine. The tiny yellow flowers are only 3/4 of an inch across--very cool. I can't wait until my p. Mexicana or p. citrina starts blooming, so I can attempt to cross pollinate them. Yeah, I'm a geek about passion flowers as well as SF and comic books...

Now Playing: various random holiday music

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mr. Canoehead: Karate Clifford

Because you can never get enough of Mr. Canoehead's white-knuckled crime-fighting:

Previous Mr. Canoehead adventures... Saga of the Arctic Toucan.

Now Playing: nothing

Sunday, December 17, 2006

...and all that jazz

Took Lisa to the incredible Majestic Theatre in San Antonio yesterday to see Chicago for her birthday. Yes, I know her birthday was two months back. But Chicago wasn't playing here two months ago, now was it?

The show was top-notch all the way around. A real blast. And folks, if you've only seen the movie, you don't know what you're missing. Granted, the film did some things aces, such as the killer (ha ha) "Cell Block Tango." But the intensity of the live choreography and dance blows the film away. There's no quick cuts and closeups to disguise the fact that Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones aren't professional dancers. Bianca Marroquin, who plays Roxie, was a revelation. She grew up in Brownsville/Matamoros, so she's practically a local girl, but man, did she have me sold on Roxie. "We Both Reached for the Gun" and "Roxie" were incredible bits of character and choreography. Wow. Brenda Braxton, who played Velma, had a great voice and strong stage presence. Billy Flynn... hoo boy. Billy Flynn was played by a name you'll be familiar with--Tom Wopat. Yeppers, ol' Luke Duke hisself was up there onstage beltin' it out with the best of 'em. He was at the souvenir kiosk right up until showtime selling and autographing his CDs (remember, he was going to be a singing star when he departed "Dukes of Hazzard" during that contract dispute). And you know what? He can sing. I've never been a Richard Gere fan, but I thought he was brilliant in the film. Wopat made me forget all about him. Only here's the thing that bothers me in hindsight: Wopat didn't dance. I didn't really notice it at the time, because he was playing the role so well, and interacting with the other dancers, but during big musical numbers, he walked through his part as others danced around him. And he didn't strip down to his skivvies either, which is sort of a signature event with that role, dating back to Jerry Orbach in the original Broadway run. But Wopat was still quite good, caveats aside. And the dancers themselves were phenomenal. Kelly Crandall as "Go-to-Hell Kitty" was a particular treat. The only real disappointment was Melba Moore as Matron "Mama" Morton. I know she's something of a legend. Yes, she can sing with the best of 'em. But she was utterly static every time she got on stage. She hobbled out with her cane, ripped off her song, and hobbled off. With Wopat, at least they disguised the fact he wasn't dancing by surrounding him with undulating, half-naked women. They should've done the same with Morton--I suspect it would've helped considerably. As it was, she simply looked out of her element, which is too bad for someone with her reputation.

The biggest revelation, by far, was that Chicago is funny! I'm serious folk--it's hilarious! The film is full of dark humor, yes, but it's bitter and black, and because of certain creative decisions, many lines are delivered with an intense seriousness in the film, whereas in the play they're rapid-fire punch lines, satire and absurdity. The laughs came fast and furious, and I really didn't expect that. The surreal, vignette approach to the stage version allowed the actors to break the fourth wall somewhat and therefore many of their lines became knowing asides to the audience. It was great. Again, very funny, great dancing and magnificent music. If you get a chance to see this one when it travels to your part of the country, jump on it.

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

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dear Santa...

You can blame Bill Crider for this one. You already know about my obsession with airships--my Amazon Wish List is chok full of zeppelin books, and three of my most recently published and/or written stories feature dirigibles prominently--and I've posted about my close encounter with a Goodyear Blimp from 30 years or so back. So can you blame me for suffering shortness of breath and heart palpitations when I behold something as glorious as Skyacht?


Yes, I know it's a hot air balloon, which officially makes it not a dirigible. But helium's expensive, and there's no practical way to fill and deflate a personal airship without venting all of that costly gas. Hot air buoyancy is much more practical, but steering balloons has always been problematic. Except these guys apparently have the issue licked. Check out that second picture--that's a movable engine mount, capable of giving directional thrust not entirely unlike the semi-rigid Zeppelin NT (one of which I also want).

Since we moved to New Braunfels, ultralights and powered parachutes have proven to be a common sight (and sound) in the skies over our house. I suspect I could make quite an impression with a personal blimp.

Now Playing: The Beach Boys Christmas with the Beach Boys

Friday Night Videos

Apart from my well-documented obsession with the Kinks, Billy Joel's probably the solo artist right at the top of my listening stack. My very first concert (that wasn't attached to a rodeo, that is) was his Easter Sunday show at the Summit in Houston way back in '86 on his The Bridge tour. I was all set to post his video of "Pressure" today, since it's a classic of early-80s abstract imagery and surrealism (in a music video context, at least) but then I ran across She's Right on Time. I'd only seen this one once before, and it's not included on Joel's "The Video Album" volume 1 or 2. I'm not even certain the song was even released as a single. But it is, without a doubt, the silliest thing he's ever done, and the Christmas theme is apropos for the season. Enjoy!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Kinks.

Now Playing: Various The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Father Christmas

Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
Well beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread so don't make us annoyed

I've been listening to a lot of Christmas music lately, and even picked up the classic Twisted Christmas by the Bob Rivers Comedy Corps for Lisa, who's had a thing for "The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen" for ages. But for my money, the most gloriously subversive Christmas song ever has got to be "Father Christmas" by the Kinks.
But the last time I played Father Christmas
I stood outside a department store
A gang of kids came over and mugged me
And knocked my reindeer to the floor

Ray Davies is, simply put, genius. He opens with a punk-infused anti-establishment riff that pretty much flies in the face of all that's holy in our whitebread, consumerist society. I mean, what's worse than children attacking Santa Claus? What's more unforgivable, more jarring during the holiday season than that? In the hands of a lesser songwriter, perhaps nothing. But Davies, that wicked master of the sleight-of-hand that gave us the gender-bending magnificence of "Lola" isn't content with mere shock value. He is, after all, the same man who gave us The Village Green Preservation Society. He's a nostalgic. He's a traditionalist at heart, even as he refuses to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. So amidst all the abuse and outrage swirling around the assault on Father Christmas, Davies slips in this simple line:
But give my daddy a job cause he needs one
Hes got lots of mouths to feed

Suddenly, the entire song is turned on its ear. These aren't merely roving hooligans attacking Santa out of boredom--they're robbing him because they literally have nothing else. The entirety of their holiday cheer will consist of whatever small change they recover in their theft. This takes on added gravity considered in the light of Great Britain's economic struggles at the time the song was penned--far more severe, I believe, than anything simultaneously suffered in the U.S. Davies doesn't condone the mugging, but he does put it in context, fleshing out those faceless ruffians to redefine them as somewhat less than the pure malice they originally appear as.

Rather than a song skewering Christmas, Davies instead reaffirms the spirit of the holiday--specifically, the compassion and charity that are supposedly the core Christian values, but all too often forgotten or ignored in the tinsel-infused overload of garish celebrations. It's the gloss and glitz of Christmas Davies is attacking in the song, while holding up an uncomfortable mirror to the listener. Are we living up to the true meaning of Christmas? Or are we settling for the cheap convenience of store window Santa decorations?
Have yourself a very merry Christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothing
While you're drinking down your wine

Now Playing: The Kinks Misfits

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Before I forget again

Over at No Fear of the Future I have a post about researchers at Texas State creating ball lightning in the lab. Cool stuff, or at least I think it's cool stuff. Check out them crazy videos!

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Staying Home to Watch the Rain

Title block

Okay, so with the revisions to "The Whale Below" finally out of the way, I turned my attention to the other story that needed tweaking, that one I mentioned had sold to William Sanders at Helix SF. I'd already made several passes through it, addressing Sanders' concerns (which was great, since he grasped what I was trying to do immediately, and was able to point out a couple of missteps along the way) so there was only a little bit of tweaking left for me to do. Little instances of word choice, dialog tightening, that sort of thing. My biggest problem, actually, was coming up with a title for the thing. The working title's been "Y.V. 7650.1" for ages, but I'm sure you can see how that one lacks a certain enticing oomph. Trouble is, the story's a complex one, juggling several different themes, and a perfect, all-encompassing title refuses to attach itself to the story. So I sent Sanders the following selection. All of them might work, but none are perfect. Which one is the title of a story you'd want to read?

In His Image
The Man Who Walked Away from Rapture
A Future, Pure and Chaste
Love, Sane and Otherwise

I suppose I should mention that the story in question is a nasty piece of work, a near-future SF cautionary tale with a very black heart. This is very likely the closest I'll ever get to writing "The Screwfly Solution" or "The Women Men Don't See," so obviously Tiptree has weighed heavily on me as I wrote (and rewrote, and rewrote...)

Now Playing: Syd Barrett The Madcap Laughs

Democrat wave hits high water mark

Most of you political junkies have already read about how former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez upset Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla in a runoff Tuesday, effectively giving the Democrats control of 234 seats in Congress. This is noteworthy on on many levels--Tom Delay and redistricting and Hispanic desertion of the Republican party have all been mentioned in national accounts. But they're all missing the most striking component of this election, the one that's only visible to those folks at Ground Zero in the San Antonio media market.

Ciro Rodriguez can't campaign himself out of a wet paper bag.

Rodriguez is a former four-term congressman, sure, but he won in a heavily Democratic, heavily Hispanic district without Democratic opposition in the primaries. When Henry Cuellar challenged him two cycles ago, Rodriguez stumbled and flailed his way to an embarrassing defeat. And the rematch this year was even worse. Simply pathetic. The Rodriguez campaign was disorganized, disjointed and clueless--the result being that Cuellar is now a two-term congressman.

By all accounts, Rodriguez is a decent fellow and a competent legislator. But he's got little charisma, isn't a natural public speaker and comes across as perpetually confused on the campaign trail. He dithers, and so does his campaign. Case in point: When the U.S. Superme Court ruling re-opened the race for a redrawn District 23, Rodriguez at first declined to run, then got in the race, then dropped out for 24 hours before changing his mind again. Not what I'd call a recipe for success.

Yet Rodriguez won in a landslide. The redrawn District 23 is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and about 61 percent Hispanic. Bonilla had far more cash on hand, and spent heavily on attack ads these past few weeks accusing Rodriguez of sponsoring legislation that supports terrorists. Bonilla, of course, blames the loss on the court's unfair redistricting, but Bonilla even lost in the conservative, libertarian west Texas counties of Dimmit, Culberson, Presidio and Brewster which have long been Republican bastions--even when Democrats held a lock on every statewide office. Unbelievable. That a well-known, well-funded and well-organized Hispanic Republican could be so thoroughly beaten at every level by an Inspector Clouseau of a candidate indicates to me that not only has the anti-Republican mood of the country not sated itself and abated, but it's growing and gaining strength.

Two days ago I'd have bet the farm Bonilla wins the runoff by the same margin he lost by. Good thing I'm not a gambler, eh?

Now Playing: Various Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Channelling Carroll

Apologies to Jonathan Carroll. I blame Jess Nevins.
At lunch there's a table of former roughnecks behind me--old-school Texas oil men who've moved up the ladder to "consultation work" over the years. One's holding forth about his experiences in Siberia, working those frozen oil fields with multinational crews--Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, Russians. The only locals on the team are the cooks.

"Try as they might, they just can't get it right when they try to fix our kind of food. They might get the name right, but that's about it. They just don't get it.

"Lemme give you an example: Liver lasagna. Yeah. You know how bad that sounds? It's worse in person."

Somehow, I manage not to spew iced tea across the restaurant.

Now Playing: Billy Joel & Elton John Face to Face: Live in Tokyo

Mr. Canoehead: Saga of the Arctic Toucan

Mr. Canoehead strikes a blow for ecology! I'll betcha this adventure is what inspired Al Gore to write Earth in the Balance, you betcha.

Previous Mr. Canoehead adventures... Rogue Nun.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Songs in the Attic

Monday, December 11, 2006

Owie revisited

I still have that wretched, nasty ulcer on the side of my tongue. Thanks for asking. The weekend was miserable, with any foodstuff even remotely resembling semi-solid matter sending me into convulsions of pain. The good news is that it isn't getting worse, and may actually be in the initial stages of healing. Alternating doses of aspirin and ibuprofen helped me through the weekend. Chloraseptic does seem to have some mild sedative effects on the pain now, although the impact is fleeting and I'm running through the stuff at an alarming rate. Oragel (and what vile, nasty stuff that is) has proven capable of dulling the pain, but also tends to numb my teeth and lips as well. And did I mention it brings to mind gargling with kerosene? I've never gargled with kerosene before, and believe you me, I have even less desire after this sad experience.

I'm also fairly certain I know what the cause of this wicked affliction is: otherwise known as hand, foot and mouth disease. No, smartass, not hoof and mouth disease. It's supposedly quite rare in adults, which means I'm one of a select few to experience it post-puberty. Joy. Still have no idea where I picked up the virus, since none of my kids have it. I wouldn't have even figured that out had it not been for a deep blister forming on my left index finger--other than that (and the obvious ulcer on my tongue) I've been asymptomatic. Even so, I can say with relatively little fear of contradiction that this is not something you want to pick up.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Streetlife Serenade

Dragonriders of Pern

Any big fans of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern out there? How about gamers? How about gamers who are also big fans of Dragonriders of Pern?

I've had this game for more than 20 years, yet have never played it despite grand plans. Ah well--it's seeking a new, loving home via eBay if any of you good folk are interested.

Now Playing: The Kinks The Great Lost Kinks Album

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Of whalers and pirates

Just finished the rewrite of "The Whale Below" and sent the story in to the Fast Ships, Black Sails anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer to be published by Night Shade Books. Yes, this is the same story that got me dubbed a shameless panderer by Mr. VenderMeer. Did I mention I had people coming up to me at World Fantasy saying, "Oh! You're the shameless panderer"? Well, I did. So it is something of a relief to finally get this thing tweaked into shape and shipped off.

Funny thing though. While I was backfilling and filing down the rough edges, I got to thinking about how Magda and Capitan Valdez would go about getting a new ship to replace Avispa Feroz. And certain elements of a plot began to congeal in the nether regions of my brain, elements including contraband cannon, an amorous whore and a certain fellow by the name of Diego Brazos. Valdez and Magda may well have inadvertently bitten of considerably more than they can chew. Of course, I have to figure out when I might be able to write this thing...

Now Playing: Glasnots Brave Spirits

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Night Videos

When people ask me why I love the Kinks so much, Celluloid Heroes is one of the songs I point to. Simply beautiful. Sad and elegant, more than a little nostalgic. I remember watching this performance on Jay Leno back in '93, when the Kinks were on the show promoting their "Phobia" album. Their rendition of "Hatred (A Duet)" was somewhat disappointing, but this song here converted my City Editor at the paper I was working for at the time into a Kinks fan on the spot.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Peter Gabriel.

Now Playing: Ray Davies Other People's Lives

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I've got an ulcer on my tongue. Man, does it hurt like hell. It's on the side of my tongue, so that any time I speak, chew, yawn, swallow etc. it rubs against my teeth and sends sharp waves of pain out in all directions. You may think Chloraseptic would help. I've gone through half a bottle seems like, and although the entirety of my mouth--from lips to tonsils--is as numb as Bill Cosby's in the famous "dentist visit" routine, the ulcer itself remains unaffected.

Too much information, I know. But if I have to suffer so, then by golly, I'm taking as many of you down with me as I can.

Now Playing: SixMileBridge Across the Water

A special circle of hell... reserved for assholes who think it's clever to destroy natural works of beauty that took thousands--if not millions--of years to form via geological processes. Case in point: The famed rock butterfly formation in the Caverns of Sonora, which was vandalized just before Thanksgiving.

"It's really a sad event," said Geary Schindel, chief technical officer for the Edwards Aquifer Authority and an avid caver. "It's probably the best-known cave formation in the United States, if not the world. In my opinion, it's equivalent to destroying a priceless work of art like the Mona Lisa or a Picasso."

Someone in a group of 11 people on a tour Nov. 21 apparently hung back momentarily and snapped off the upper right wing of the butterfly and made off with it, cave co-owner Gerry Ingham said.

The damage was discovered about a half-hour later during the next tour, but the previous tour members already had left the property.

They apparently had some identifying information that narrowed down the possible suspects, but for some reason the police are dithering. Of course they're dithering, it's only a chunk of rock, right? Why all the fuss? The owners of the caverns are appealing for the piece's return, but I suspect anyone so crass and vile to intentionally destroy an icon like this would be more likely to throw away the evidence in order to feign innocence than, oh, do something crazy like give it back.
Ingham, whose family has owned the property for five generations and opened the cave commercially in 1960, said the damage was not an accident.

"My nephew is 6-foot-3 and he couldn't stand on his tiptoes and reach over the railing and touch this formation with his fingertips," Ingham said.

I'd like to snap this jerk's leg off at the kneecaps, I tell you. Assholes like this make the world a lesser place for the rest of us.

Now Playing: The Kinks Everybody's In Showbiz

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Water on Mars--now!

Okay, now this is just magnificent if it does indeed prove to be true. New Scientist is reporting that the now-defunct Mars Global Surveyor has taken photos that indicate flowing water on Mars within just the past several years:

Liquid water has flowed on the surface of Mars within the past five years, suggest images by the now lost Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). The results appear to boost the chances that Mars could harbour life.

In 1999, MGS spotted gullies carved on the sides of Martian slopes. Thousands of gullies have been imaged since then, most recently by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Many scientists believe the gullies were carved by liquid water, although others have argued they are due to avalanches of carbon dioxide gas or rivers of dust.

The gullies appear to have formed sometime in the past several hundred thousand years, since impact craters have not accumulated on top of them. But exactly how long ago material flowed through them has not been clear.

Now, new flows have appeared in two of the gullies monitored by MGS, showing that they have been active within the past several years. The research was led by Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California, US. That company operates the Mars Orbiter Camera on MGS, which acquired the images.

There's been excitement about water on Mars before. Research has shown that despite Mars' low atmospheric pressure, liquid water can exist on the planet's surface for modest lengths of time under certain circumstances, although this of course hasn't been directly observed. And over the years there have been rampant online rumors among planetary sciences email lists that seeps or standing water had been discovered (nothing quite so dramatic I'm afraid--the ensuing press conferences discussed "fresh" runoff channels and the sapping of crater walls, indirect evidence of water's presence, but not inconclusive).

The trouble with announcements of this sort is that so many people, like Fox Mulder want to believe that it's easy to jump to conclusions. There may indeed be alternate explanations for this, even if we desperately want it to be water-caused. Either way, this is a fascinating discovery.

Now Playing: Donal Hinely Midwinter Carols: Fourteen Selections on Glass Harmonica

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Heroes: Fallout

Spoiler warning...

Man, all I can say is the writers better not be writing checks the production budget can't cash. When precognitive-painter Isaac finally discovers he can illustrate the future without being high, the result is a dramatic painting of Hiro facing off against a Tyrannosaur armed only with his infamous future sword. "I gotta find that sword," (and "What if I step on a bug?" yeah, I missed one on first pass) is Hiro's only response. Priceless!

The episode overall was several notches above last week's lethargic "Six Months Earlier." My only complaint was that the scenes struck me a very choppy and abbreviated--as if there was a whole lot of plot to cram in before the winter hiatus and not enough minutes to fit it all. It was jarring at times, all the quick-cutting to different plot lines, but not enough to derail the episode.

Who else knew it would all end badly for Eden once she suggested to Jack Bennet they go ahead and off Sylar--aka Amazo--in defiance of orders from higher up? 'Tis a pity, though, because Eden was just starting to get interesting as a character. But Sylar's escape does raise a troubling question: If his prison cell was designed to dampen all of his powers, why was he able to use his telekinesis to smash Eden through the window? Were his powers unaffected by the cell, and he was just playing possum to get a crack at Eden and her abilities? Or was this a "chink in the armor" escape, as played out with Magneto in the X-Men 2 movie? I suspect the writers were trying for the latter, because the visual allusions were too obvious to miss, but if there was any logical basis for the escape, that I did miss.

The whole Niki/Jessica thing? Still waiting for real evidence this is actually a power and not some extreme personality disorder. Yeah, her reinterpretation of the Gollum/Smeagol scene from Peter Jackson's The Two Towers was neat, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Been there, done that. At least in the otherwise mediocre Superman III, Clark Kent and Superman smacked each other around.

So the Haitian actually can talk, and isn't going to ego-boogie the regenerating cheerleader. Obviously, there's another conspiracy going on below the surface--one wonders if he's part of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, looking to recruit Claire as well as Sylar. I don't understand why he hasn't paid a visit to Peter Petrelli yet, however, to wipe his mind. It's implied (at least, that's my take on it) that he already wiped Nathan Petrelli's mind, seeing how Nathan's demeanor toward his brother changed so radically between their first scene together and the last. But I may just be reading more into it than there actually is.

And Peter... wow. The telepathy feedback between him and what's-his-name from Alias was very well played. Very well, indeed. Those are the deft touches that I love about Heroes, that I felt was in short supply last week. And these bizarre dreamtime, prophetic visions Peter's having, what's up with that? They're not the same as Hiro's ability, not the same as Isaac's. It's as if the various powers that Peter's briefly taken on leave behind a remnant that comes into conflict with other remnants. And since Peter's come into conflict with Sylar, who permanently acquires others' powers, one has to wonder if Peter's abilities have developed a bit more permanence. If nothing else, he's got a Harry/Voldemort connection established with Sylar. The biggest bombshell of the episode, however, was his future vision of himself going boom in a nuclear blast. The surreal presentation of the scene makes it clear (at least to me) that it isn't literal, like Hiro's jumps through time, or Isaac's illustrations of certain scenes, but it contains at least a metaphorical or symbolic truth. Peter comes into contact with the unstable Fallout-boy at some point--or perhaps Sylar does and Peter crosses him again--and the ultimate results are very bad for Peter. Or perhaps Peter never gains Fallout-boy's powers, instead suffering a critical overload from all the others' abilities he's absorbed. The only thing I'm sure of is that it's going to suck big-time waiting two months for the next episode to air.

Now Playing: The Kinks Kinks

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rogue nun

Because Mikal Trimm was so impressed by the origins of Mr. Canoehead, I felt compelled to bring you good people Chapter 2 in the ongoing saga of Canada's Greatest Aluminum Crime Fighter:

Now Playing: Various A Classic Cartoon Christmas

Justice is served

Just got this in my inbox:
On Thursday, November 29, 2006, in Syracuse, New York, Martha Ivery, aka Kelly O'Donnell, dba Press-Tige Publishing and New Millennium Publishing, was sentenced to 65 months in Federal prison, plus 3 years' probation. In December 2005, she had pleaded guilty to all counts of a 17-count indictment: 15 counts of mail fraud and acts against the United States as a principal in a conspiracy, one count of improper use of an electronic access device (legalese for "credit-card fraud not involving the mails"), and one count of false sworn testimony in a bankruptcy proceeding. Sentencing was initially set for April 28, 2006, then postponed to August 14, then postponed again to September 24th--and then postponed yet again, to November 29. The final postponement has been coupled with a change of venue, from Albany to Syracuse.

... Between 1998 and 2003, Writer Beware received scores of complaints about Martha Ivery, a.k.a. Kelly O'Donnell. Ivery ran several fee-charging literary agencies (Kelly O'Donnell Literary Agency, Inc., O'Donnell Literary Services, Inc., Writers Information USAgency), as well as two vanity publishing operations (Press-Tige Publishing and New Millennium Publishing). ...

Posted 30 Nov 2006 13:34; see full article at

Unfortunately, for every scammer sent to the slammer, it seems like there are a dozen more ready to take her place. And hundreds of suckers ready to fork over their hard-earned money.

Now Playing: Various Rocky Horror International

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The mead, she is fermenting

Remember back in July, when I picked all those prickly pear fruit to make some mead? Well, for a dozen reasons or another, I never started that batch. Until now.


I heated up some water in a large pot (not very hot, but warm enough to make the honey dissolve fairly quickly) then I stirred the honey in. Eighteen pounds worth of honey--that's quite a bit no matter how you look at it. It was just your common clover honey blend you get at any grocery store, because I'm going to make this batch into flavored metheglins and melomels it doesn't make much sense to use the more exotic honeys, such as tupelo or orange blossom. Clover's a fairly "neutral" honey taste, so it lends itself well to experimentation. Then I skimmed off the foam that accumulated on the surface of the heated water/honey mix (removing impurities that could cloud the brew, and some mead enthusiasts would say flavor as well, but again, I'm adding different flavors so it works out).


Because I had so much honey, I had to heat it all up in three separate batches. Once the honey completely dissolved in the water and I finished skimming, I poured the must into the fermentation vessel. Long-time readers (all six of you) may remember my Mr. Beer fermentation vessel from a couple months ago, when it was hard at work fermenting beer for one Mark Finn. The mead making is very similar to homebrewing beer, except I don't add any additional sugar to the mix. The honey supplies all the sugar needed--if the mead is too weak, or too dry, simply add more honey. And yes, I did manage to spill while I was pouring into the fermenter. Must is sticky and obscenely difficult to clean up. I've managed to spill every time I've made mead thus far.


The yeast I'm using is Red Star Pasteur Champagne. I emptied the packet this afternoon in a glass filled with about a cup of warm water. An hour later or so--once the yeasties were happily rehydrated, I filled the glass the rest of the way with non-alcoholic organic apple cider to kick-start their growth and fermentation (honey is rich in sugars but poor in other nutrients yeast needs). I added about a teaspoon of yeast nutrient to the must then pitched the yeast. Starting the yeast with the apple cider did the trick, because the airlock in the fermentation vessel started bubbling almost immediately after I closed it up.

So now I've got six gallons fermenting away. In a month or so, once the fermentation peters out I'll rack the mead into four different secondary vessels--I should have enough for that, if I'm figuring right. The 2.5 gallon fermenter will hold the prickly pear mead, and Lisa wants a mint mead (goodness knows we have enough mint growing through all the flower beds). I'm not sure what else I'll try, but I've been thinking a long time about making a sweet jalapeno mead, so that's a possibility. I've also wanted to try a pecan mead--the oil from the nuts may be a problem, but historically nuts have been used in metheglins. I'm thinking about adding oak chips as well, and probably some tannins to add some punch to the final product. I dunno--I've still got a good while to ponder on this before I have to make a final decision.

Now Playing: Various Songs from the Vaults: A Collection of Rocky Horror Rarities

Friday, December 01, 2006

R.I.P. Shooting Star

SSCA5Shooting Star Comics is no more. I know the passing of a small, indy publisher isn't great news to the rest of the world, but it leaves me with a touch of melancholy. Shooting Star published my first comic story, the dragon vs. dinosaur short "Dracosaur" in Shooting Star Comics Anthology no. 5. I have mixed feelings about the finished piece--it's supposed to be funny, but because of space limitations, I ended up cutting most of the jokes so it reads as if it's taking itself more seriously than it does. And while the art is gorgeous, the artist was inexperienced and didn't understand some of what I wanted, so the storytelling (and pacing) suffer. I've toyed with the idea of rewriting and expanding the script to 12-14 pages and drawing it myself, but I don't have enough time to write these days, and artwork is far more time consuming for me.

In its too-brief run, Shooting Star published work by Chuck Dixon, Mike Grell, Todd Fox and my buddy and fellow Green Arrow enthusiast, Scott McCullar. The partners in the company sank a lot of their own money into the thing, not to mention blood, sweat and tears. And time. Let's not forget the time commitment. From my experience and perspective, they were a bunch of talented and enthusiastic creators with a grand vision. I was really pulling for them. Unfortunately, if they were a metaphorical team of horses hitched to a plow (or a wagon, if you like) then they were all pulling in different directions. That's not a good way to accomplish anything, unless, of course, you want to have someone drawn and quartered. A bunch of these guys will turn up elsewhere in the comics biz you can bet, but it's always disappointing to see talented folks come up short in their first effort.


Farewell, Shooting Star. You will be missed.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Staying Home to Watch the Rain

Friday Night Videos

Peter Gabriel is genius. Period. Not only for his music, which I love because it breaks boundaries left and right (wouldn't it be great if Gabriel and David Byrne collaborated on something?), but also for his videos, which are brilliant works of art in their own right. Shock the Monkey is the first of his songs/videos I ever encountered, so naturally I've been corrupted ever since. My freshman year at college I donned a white suit and white grease paint, making myself over with the tribal markings on my face you can see in this video. Yeah, I'm a geek with many different facets.

Previously on Friday Nigh Videos... Eddy Grant.

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveller

Thursday, November 30, 2006

No Fear of the Future

No Fear of the Future

I've got a new blog. "Great," you're thinking. "What else is new?" Ah, but this one is different. It's called No Fear of the Future and it's one of those ultra-hip group blogs all the cool kids have. "Really? Who's slumming with you?" you say, still skeptical. How about Zoran Živković, Chris Nakashima-Brown, Alexis Glynn Latner, Jess Nevins and Stephen Dedman--each one of them far more lovely and talented than I can ever hope to be. Chris already has one great post up, and I've heard what Jess has planned, so I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to have to bust my hump to keep up with these folks!

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Delicate Sound of Thunder

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sometimes the magic works

I do a lot of writing in my day job at Texas State. Actually, that's pretty much the gist of my job--that and editing and riding herd on a handful of graduate assistants and interns. A lot of what I do is routine, but every so often I get a challenging project.

Currently, we're doing a revamp/relaunch of the alumni/university magazine, Hillviews. The copy deadline was Nov. 1, and I got everything in on time--all my stories, plus the intern/grad assistant assignments I was in charge of editing. Except. There was one article I didn't get done. Using the recent production of The Rocky Horror Show as a kind of framing device, I was to put together a feature on the theatre department. I interviewed the department chair for about an hour, and the director of Rocky Horror and the actors as well. I did considerably more research on this one than I normally would for a Hillviews story, but during the revamp discussions, Texas Monthly came up repeatedly as a model for us to emulate (among others). So that's the kind of story I was envisioning.

But I had World Fantasy to attend in Austin, so that knocked out several days. Then immediately after I got back we had a major press conference to prepare for and staff. Then there were the interns and grad assistants to work with, not to mention the everyday press releases and media requests to deal with. Suddenly, it's the middle of the month. Ouch. Okay, well my plate's now cleared, and I can knock this sucker out. Except my G5's hard drive goes belly-up. Ouch. Then it's Thanksgiving and that knocks out the better part of last week (and as of this writing my hard drive remains dead). But today I was able to snag the computer of a co-worker out ill, and finally polished that monster off.

It's War and Peace, folks. I turned it into the Hillviews editor, who just about choked when she ran the word count. Topped out at 2,700 words. I know--that's short for me, if we're talking fiction. But consider that Hillviews rarely runs articles even approaching 500 word, historically speaking. So about an hour later she comes into my office: "I hate you," sez she. "Why? What's the problem?" asks I. "It's too long. But it's too good. I can't cut any of it," sez she. They're now reworking the page budget to accommodate my gargantuan eruption of prosaic genius.

Hey, it's not the Pulitzer, but occasional egoboo of this nature is a very welcome thing.

Now Playing: Various Sentimental Journey: Great Ladies of Song

How to fix HEROES: Canada's greatest aluminum crimefighter!

I've just realized that all of the metahumans on Heroes hail from the good ol' U.S. of A. Sure, there's a multiethnic mix, and a great Oedipal storyline imported from the Indian subcontinent, but really--all of the supers are American? So I've got a fix that will correct this improbable oversight, while keeping the character mix "plausible" and "real world" as well. I present to you, Mr. Canoehead!

Now Playing: Donal Hinely Midwinter Carols: Fourteen Selections on Glass Harmonica

Heroes: Six Months Earlier

I know a lot of folks are going ga-ga over this episode, especially Harry over at Ain't It Cool since Hiro referenced the Alamo Drafthouse showing Yojimbo, but for me it felt like the episode didn't add up to the sum of its parts. This was a flashback episode, and so felt very LOST-y, but it was a flashback only because Hiro accidentally teleported himself back that far, rather than the 24 hours he'd intended in order to save the cute waitress. And so the writers used the opportunity to give us a heck of a lot of "Secret Origins." The origin of psychotic hero-killer Stryker Sylar was interesting and apropos. It worked for me and filled in a bunch of gaps. However, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing--the writers crammed in the origins of half the cast's super powers this time out, and to me that's overkill. It's stretching the borders of credibility well past the breaking point that everyone discovers (or at least starts to manifest) at the exact same point in time. Dr. Suresh's list of names of potential meta-humans is just too convenient. Sure, we now know how Stryker Sylar is hunting them all down, but how did someone who's never manifested any ability previously (such as the Cheerleader) get on that list? It's cut from whole cloth. And the Petrellis... hoo boy. I know this is comic book logic, but for a series touting itself as a "real world" take on super heroes, doesn't it seem like a fast turnaround for Nathan Petrelli to go from an unknown assistant prosecutor working on bringing a organized crime kingpin to trial to a serious congressional candidate in just six months? And he just happens to discover his flight powers at the instant his wife is paralyzed in an accident.

I'm serious. That's as sloppy as Indiana Jones discovering his fear of snakes, scarring his chin, picking up a bull whip and wearing a fedora all in one two-minute sequence aboard a circus train. Would that all of life's formative experiences happen with such a flip-of-the-switch immediacy.

But what annoys me the most about this episode is the ultimate pointlessness of it. Hiro falls in love with his waitress but fails to kiss her and fails to save her. Fails to change the future. That's treading water in a narrative sense. Particularly since we've already seen that Hiro can change the future, and has already done so, in fact. I'm still holding out hope that his actions have somehow subtley altered the timestream in ways that aren't yet apparent, and that the waitress has indeed survived. But despite their overall cleverness thus far, I'm not convinced that the writers have that degree of wheels-within-wheels plot deviousness going on. We shall see.

Now Playing: nothing

James Gunn named Grand Master by SFWA

After consulting with the Board of Directors and participating past presidents, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) President Robin Wayne Bailey has announced that James Gunn will be honored as the next SFWA Grand Master at the Nebula Award Weekend® in New York City.

Gunn started writing science fiction in 1948, was a full-time freelance writer for four years, and has had nearly 100 stories published in magazines and books. He is the author of 26 books and the editor of 10; his master's thesis was serialized in a pulp magazine. Four of his stories were dramatized over NBC radio's "X Minus One"; "The Cave of Night" was dramatized on television's Desilu Playhouse in 1959 as "Man in Orbit"; and The Immortals was dramatized as an ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" in 1969 as "The Immortal" and became an hour-long series in 1970-71. Following a career at the University of Kansas he is presently professor emeritus of English and director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.

James Gunn is the 24th writer recognized by SFWA as a Grand Master. He joins Robert A. Heinlein (1974), Jack Williamson (1975), Clifford D. Simak (1976), L. Sprague de Camp (1978), Fritz Leiber (1981), Andre Norton (1983), Arthur C. Clarke (1985), Isaac Asimov (1986), Alfred Bester (1987), Ray Bradbury (1988), Lester del Rey (1990), Frederik Pohl (1992), Damon Knight (1994), A. E. van Vogt (1995), Jack Vance (1996), Poul Anderson (1997), Hal Clement (1998), Brian Aldiss (1999), Philip Jose Farmer (2000), Ursula K. Le Guin (2003), Robert Silverberg (2004), Anne McCaffrey (2005) and Harlan Ellison (2006).

Until 2002 the title was simply "Grand Master." In 2002 it was renamed in honor of SFWA's founder, Damon Knight, who died that year.

The 2007 Nebula Awards Weekend will be May 11-13, 2007, at the Mariott in the Financial Center, 85 West Street, New York, NY 10006. Room rates are set at $219 a night (single through quad), not including taxes, and hotel reservations may be made by phone at (800) 547-8705 or at (480) 894-1400 (online reservations are unavailable at this time).

More details about the Nebula Awards Weekend are available at

About SFWA

Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers' organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 1,500 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals. Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

Now Playing: Queen Greatest Hits

Friday, November 24, 2006


I feel my son, Orion, is particularly blessed to live in a world in which the Aggies have never lost to the tea-sips during his lifetime. That may change next year, but I sure hope not.

I'm still basking in the glow of today's 12-7 win in Austin, so I won't complain about Coach Fran's play calling too much. When the defense you're playing is as porous against the pass as the sips are, one would think that the offensive game plan would call for mixing it up a little by, I dunno, throwing downfield once in a while. Still, it's damn hard to argue with 244 rushing yards against the nation's top-ranked rushing defense. And the Aggie defense showed signs of the Wrecking Crew of old.

One ugly spot I'd be remiss if I didn't address. A&M defensive tackle Kellen Heard blindsided t.u. QB Colt McCoy late in the fourth quarter following an interception. The play was completely over, and McCoy--I kid you not--was taking off his helmet when Heard nailed him from behind. Even if the play was still live, that'd be an illegal hit. Heard was responsible for several other penalties during the day, and it's pretty obvious he was out of control out there. No only did that nonsense damn near cost A&M a shot at the win, but more importantly it could've really hurt someone. I'm glad the refs ejected Heard, but now Fran needs to show that crap won't be tolerated by suspending him, and leave him sitting at home while the team flies off to sunny San Diego for the Holiday Bowl.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Delicate Sound of Thunder

Friday Night Videos

We were driving home from dinner tonight, and Eddy Grant's Electric Avenue came on. This one was a staple of the old Friday Night Videos as well as WTBS' Night Tracks. It ran constantly, never going out of style. Calista started singing along, only she changed the words to "Election Anna Do." Whatever that means. Didn't matter to her when Lisa told her the real lyrics. So that's how this week's video was selected. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Dire Straits.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Delicate Sound of Thunder

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Eloise: Little Miss Christmas

Last month Anchor Bay sent me a number of discs to review. I got around to reviewing Me, Eloise right away, but was delayed a bit on my other reviews. Well, you may fret no more, as I'm presenting for your amusement my take on Eloise: Little Miss Christmas. Hopefully, my third and final review will get finished sometime over the looming Thanksgiving weekend.
Eloise: Little Miss Christmas
Reviewed by Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Format: Movie
Genre: Animation
Released: October 10, 2006 (DVD release)

Back in October, I reviewed Me, Eloise, the first installment of a new animated series based on the books by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight. In general, I thought it a fairly charming effort all around. Ken Lipman's script was amusing and age-appropriate without being cloying, and Wes Archer's direction gave it a look and feel not at all dissimilar to the great animated series King of the Hill. With such a strong introduction, I was looking forward to Eloise: Little Miss Christmas.

What is it they say about great expectations? Little Miss Christmas doesn't live up to them. The problem is pretty obvious from the get-go: Steven Goldman's script, instead of being the latter-day holiday classic it strives to be is in all actuality a parade of threadbare cliches. The plot, such as it is, will be familiar to anyone with the Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts from the 1920s and 30s. A snide, well-off kid brags to the other children about the sold-out holiday spectacular stage show he's going to, so Eloise in true plucky fashion decides that she and her gang are going to put on their own Christmas pageant in the Plaza Hotel. Cue the multiethnic parade of token characters who each explain in turn how they celebrate their culture's winter festivals--the Jewish twins who tell Eloise about Hannukah, the Central American Latina who speaks glowingly of fireworks, the Japanese girl... I was actually suprised when the African American boy didn't wax poetic about Kwanzaa. I've nothing against multicultural awareness, and in fact encourage it among my own children, but the clunky, ham-fisted approach of Goldman's script set my teeth on edge. And as if that weren't enough, Eloise then promises all the children that Santa Clause will be a surprise guest at the pageant, followed by the cranky hotel manager cancelling the event entirely because the ballroom has been rented out. Gosh, I didn't seen any of that coming--I wonder how things turn out?

The pedestrian approach of Little Miss Christmas is particularly frustrating because while Me, Eloise was relentlessly cute, it avoided schmaltz. When Eloise writes her Christmas list and asks for nothing for herself, instead begging for Santa to appear at the now-cancelled pageant "for the other children," the story overshoots schmaltz by a huge margin and lands knee-deep in saccharine. It certainly doesn't help that the narrative is downright dull. Whereas Me, Eloise clocked in at a reasonable 45 minutes, Little Miss Christmas is a head-scratching 66 minutes long. Why? The padding is obvious early on, with an extended and unfunny Mission Impossible-style attempt by Eloise and her friends to sneek peeks at Christmas presents in a storeroom. Sequences that go on far longer than strictly necessary from a dramatic perspective are peppered throughout the show, presumably to pad the narrative out and convince viewers they're getting their money's worth. Unfortunatley, less is more. Were this tightened down to a 45 minute run time, it might very well be snappy and engaging. As it is, the show's merely flabby.


The special features included here are run-of-the-mill for children's releases, but the filmmakers can be commended for resisting the urge to dump this on the market as a bare-bones release. The movie comes with full-frame and widescreen viewing options, which will be welcomed but more and more people as the switch over to large-screen televisions takes hold. The sing-along songs are merely indexed scenes from the show, but as children can obsessively watch certain scenes repeatedly (and I speak from experience, witness the "Whoop-De-Dooper, Loop-De-Looper, Alley-Opper Bounce" song from The Tigger Movie) this could actually prove to be a useful option in some households. The Gift Wrapped Kids DVD game is the exact same hide-and-seek-style play found on almost every other kid video, and Plaza Pals is a run through of the main characters in the show. Like Me, Eloise, the Little Miss Christmas DVD uses a split screen format in the From Paper to Movie option to compare the show's storyboards to the finished product through an extended sequence. This is entertaining and informative for curious children interested in how animation is created, but isn't likely to be watched more than once.

Overall, Little Miss Christmas is a swing and a miss. My daughters were captivated by Me, Eloise, but their attention wandered repeatedly during this one, at one point my youngest asking to watch Zathura instead. It's an inoffensive show that has occasional cute moments, but if you want a holiday favorite the whole family will be entertained by, you're better off looking to A Charlie Brown Christmas or A Christmas Story.

The Movie Itself: 4 out of 10
The DVD Features: 6 out of 10

Now Playing: Whitesnake Whitesnake's Greatest Hits

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Well, the game's in the bag then...

Bad news for Bill Crider and his tea-sippin' buddies: Student Bonfire burned last night and early reports have it that the centerpole was still standing as of 3 a.m.
The tradition that started in 1909 was banned from the College Station campus after 11 students and one former student were killed when the bonfire collapsed while under construction seven years ago Saturday. Several bonfires of various sizes - none sanctioned by the school - popped up across the region the first two years, but since then the effort has consolidated into one major event. It's now off campus, still not A&M-approved, and it doesn't necessarily get built at the same site each year.

For those of you unacquainted in arcane and Byzantine Aggie lore, tradition has it that if the stack falls before midnight, the Aggies will be outscored/run out of time, but if it stays up past midnight, A&M will prevail over t.u. So there.

Also, here are links to pics of stack before burn and during burn. In a few years, I'm packing up the family and we're going to Student Bonfire. The girls loved the Comal A&M Club event, but it's not the same as the real deal.

Now Playing: nothing

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's hard to believe that it's been seven years since the Aggie Bonfire collapsed in '99, killing 11 students and one former student. What's even more frustrating is that Bonfire has yet to burn again on campus. I won't express my ire at administrators too cowardly to actually make a permanent decision on Bonfire's status here, because that's a rant for another time. Suffice to say that Bonfire's a wonderful experience I've hoped to take my children to someday.

Thanks to the Comal County A&M Club, Lisa ('94) and I ('92) were able to do just that last night. After work we packed up the kids and headed over to the Newks Tennis Ranch for a fajita dinner and bonfire (note the lowercase "b"). The evening was fantastic. We ran into far more people than we expected to know, and were amazed at how many folks turned out. The club officers were overwhelmed by the turnout, and happily reported that more than 200 people attended. A cross-section of the Centerpole cut from last year's Student Bonfire was auctioned off to help raise money for that noble cause, and went for an eye-popping $300. I wish I'd had that kind of money, because those students are doing a great job of keeping the tradition alive in the face of the university administration's opposition. Someday, when the kids are a little older, we'll attend the Student Bonfire in College Station if it hasn't returned to campus by then (Student Bonfire burns tonight, by the way).

But last night we reveled in our own, miniature bonfire. It didn't compare to the monstrous Bonfire stacks of old to be sure, but as the work of a handful of dedicated former students, it was glorious. And it burned real pretty, too. Below, you can see Keela and myself as well as Lisa and Orion bundled up against the chill of the night, waiting for burn to start.


The stack itself was maybe 15 feet tall, and even had a miniature orange "t.u. frat house" perched on top. No "Austin City Limits" sign, though. Naturally, the whole Blaschke clan had to gather to document the children's first bonfire experience.


Remeber those 200 folks I said turned out participate in Yell Practice and watch the stack burn? Here's some of them. The crowd pretty much ringed the stack, and it was somewhat startling to realize that there were more Texans here than there were fighting at the battle of the Alamo. A pointless observation to be sure, but an odd one nonetheless.


Eventually, they lit the stack. That dry cedar burned like nobody's business, let me tell you! The ring of spectators pulled way back as the heat increased, and pretty much everyone shed their coats and started the rotisserie dance, as the side of the body facing the fire got over-heated while the side facing away got quite chilled. Calista and Keela chased falling ash, trying to catch it like snowflakes (although not on their tongues, thank goodness).


The concurrent Yell Practice even had a volunteer Yell Leader who did a solid job of running the crowd through its paces, although he couldn't tell a Grode Story to save his life (remember--it's not simply an Aggie joke. It's an Aggie joke that casts the opposing team in an embarassing light). Sure, there was no Aggie Band, but the CD playing over the sound system was an acceptable substitute. It was great to hump it for "Farmer's Fight," "Military" and "Locomotive" once again. We sang the War Hymn and the Spirit, and I sent a ripple of laughter through the crowd when I shouted out "Off the wood!" (It's a Kyle Field thing). "The Last Corps Trip" was read and quite affecting. This was one improvement over my college days, as the guy reading the poem wasn't drunk, and therefore the words were intelligible. My proudest moment, though, was watching Calista hump it along with everyone else, yelling at the top of her lungs. The girl is loud-- she's going to be a great addition to the 12th Man in another 10 years or so.


Beat the hell outta t.u.!


Now Playing: nothing

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bilbo, we hardly knew ye...

Okay, this does not bode well for a future feature film of The Hobbit.
Several years ago, Mark Ordesky told us that New Line have rights to make not just The Hobbit but a second "LOTR prequel", covering the events leading up to those depicted in LOTR. Since then, we've always assumed that we would be asked to make The Hobbit and possibly this second film, back to back, as we did the original movies. We assumed that our lawsuit with the studio would come to a natural conclusion and we would then be free to discuss our ideas with the studio, get excited and jump on board. We've assumed that we would possibly get started on development and design next year, whilst filming The Lovely Bones. We even had a meeting planned with MGM executives to talk through our schedule.

However last week, Mark Ordesky called Ken and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on the Hobbit and the LOTR 'prequel'. This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects.

Ordesky said that New Line has a limited time option on the film rights they have obtained from Saul Zaentz (this has never been conveyed to us before), and because we won't discuss making the movies until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director.

And what's this crap about a "second prequel"? I could see some killer flicks being made from the various epic stories contained within the pages of The Silmarillion, but this reference doesn't sound like that at all.

Now Playing: nothing

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Night Videos

Remember how last week I said I didn't like it when a follow-up video completely supplanted an original video for a song? Well, Dire Straits' Walk of Life is a great example of a good video being buried by a crappy one. Seriously, people-- sports bloopers? A bigger load of crap I've seldom seen. I much prefer the "busker in the tubes" video, and now I share it with you:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... George Harrison.

Now Playing: Christina Aguilera Stripped

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm cited in the LA Times

From the Los Angeles Times' obituary of Jack Williamson:
"I've never written bestsellers or made a great deal of money at it, but when I look back, I've been able to spend most of my life doing something I enjoyed," Williamson said in an interview in a 1999 issue of Interzone. "It's an exciting time to be alive. I wish I could live another century."

Jack spoke those elegant words, and I merely wrote them down. Nevertheless, it makes me think that perhaps my efforts are worthwhile endeavors, after all.

Now Playing: nothing

Boobies are EEEEEVIL revisited


You know, sometimes fighting the good fight only results in headaches. Remember the jerkwad theatre owner who kicked a mother out of "Flushed Away" because she was nursing her child? Well, KENS 5 did a story on the incident, and it didn't take two seconds for the jerkwad to start portraying himself as the victim:
"To me, you can breast feed any place, that's fine. They thought she should use more modesty doing that," said Rick Uhlhorn, manager of the theater.

Uhlhorn said Barthollemew was making a scene, and offending other customers and their children by not covering up.

"One of the concession girls asked her to cover up with a blanket because customers were complaining," he said.

Liar, liar, pants on fire, Mr. Uhlhorn. Uhlhorn, aka Jerkwad, has pretty much changed his story with each retelling, painting himself more and more as a breastfeeding champion. He doesn't mention that he originally identified himself as the owner of the theater, nor does he seem to remember that he called the police to have the mother arrested for "indecent exposure." Nor does he address the witnesses that contradict his version of events. Big surprise there.

The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise also did a story on the incident, as well, discussing the possiblity of a "nurse-in":
In response to the nurse-in planned for 7 p.m., Friday, in front of the theater, Watson said the mothers have a right to peaceably assemble and make their beliefs known.

“But they cannot impede the flow of business,” Watson said. “People have to be able to come and go freely. If the demonstration is on [Uhlhorn’s] property and he calls and asks them to be removed, they will have to move or be subject to criminal trespass charges.”

Of course, the suddenly pro-breastfeeding Jerkwad welcomes nursing mothers to his establishment-- as long as they buy a ticket. Needless to say, the nurse-in has been cancelled. It'd be more than a little anti-climactic at this point, and none of the breastfeeding mothers who'd planned to participate (of which my wife is one) have any desire to give this Jerkwad any money. Ultimately, I suppose this is a victory for the forces of light, since Jerkwad has backpedaled furiously and it's doubtful he'll harass any breastfeeding mothers again any time soon. It's just disheartening, though, that's he's been able to play the media so effectively. Looking at the message boards on the various news sites that carried this story, and maybe 40 percent of the comments are blaming the mother for being "indecent" and "confrontational." She wasn't being confrontational when she called Lisa close to tears last week, but I guess that kind of stuff is easily overlooked.

Now Playing: nothing

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Science fiction double feature

The Texas State theatre department is currently staging a production of The Rocky Horror Show, and so I took Lisa. She'd never seen the film, and I'd never seen an actual stage show (as opposed to those performing in tandem with the film) so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Holy moley! If you're only familiar with the infamous movie, you don't know what you're missing. Granted, all stage plays interpret things a bit differently, but this one was a great deal of fun. You know something's up when the stage play's production values far outstrip the feature film's! The costumes were amazing--it was as if Las Vegas exploded and all the tacky glitz landed in San Marcos. There was a limited degree of audience participation, ie "Asshole!" and "Slut!" but not nearly as much as you'd expect, since--gasp!--the audience was paying attention to the performances rather than counting the seconds to the catcall cues. The real revelation was the Narrator, who came off as a cross between the Jim Carrey character from A Series of Unfortunate Events and Cain from DC Comics' House of Mystery/House of Secrets. He was frellin' hilarious.

There were only two real shortcomings. Firstly, it was clear in some sequences where the choreography suffered in having students rather than professional dancers in the production. Several parts looked over-simplified where the narrative buildup called for more dazzle, and some numbers (such as "Sword of Damocles") seemed downright static. The other problem was technical. There was a live band playing, which was great, but all of the actors had headphone mics on to amplify their voices. The system cut out several times during the show, and there was one ugly feedback incident early on, which made it very hard to hear anything they were saying/singing.

Still, overall it was a fantastic experience. The show was clever and inventive, reinterpreting the well-worn Rocky Horror experience into something both familiar and new. The colors were dazzling and the entire show was far funnier than the movie ever managed to be. If you get a chance, check this one out before the end of its run.

Now Playing: Andrew Lloyd Webber The Phantom of the Opera: The Original Cast Recording

Friday, November 10, 2006


Jack Williamson died today. I'm not going to pretend I knew Jack as well as others, and I don't have the hubris to claim we were close friends, but I ran into him several times over the years--including the Writers of the Future workshop in '98--and he always bent over backwards for me. He was a great guy, humble as all get-out. I had the honor of interviewing him back at the '97 Worldcon, and I'll never forget him pulling out a stack of trading cards with the covers of all the publications he'd appeared in. He wasn't traveling as much in recent years and our paths weren't likely to cross soon, so when Voices of Visions came out with his interview he graciously autographed a copy and mailed it to me. There's a reason his interview closes out the book, fer cryin' out loud. He was inspirational to me and many others. We exchanged occasional emails over the years, and he had a wonderfully dry wit about him. I almost fell out of my chair laughing the time he told me he knew L. Ron Hubbard "before he was a guru." He headed west in a covered wagon and saw men walk on the moon. He was brilliant and magnificent. Not very profound words, I know. All I can say is that we are all diminished by his passing. The world is a less joyful place now. Goodbye Jack, you will be missed.


Jack Williamson 1908-2006

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Boot to the head

Because sometimes you just need a little bit of the Frantics to liven up a Friday afternoon:

Now Playing: Derek & the Dominoes Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

Beast feeding law in Texas

Here is the actual wording of Texas law governing breastfeeding:
Tex. Health & Safety Code § 165.001 et seq.

1995 Tex. ALS 600; 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 600; 1995 Tex. Ch 600; 1995 Tex. HB 359

Chapter 165. Breast-Feeding

Subchapter A. Breast-Feeding Rights and Policies

Sec. 165.001. Legislative Finding

The legislature finds that breast-feeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. In compliance with the breast-feeding promotion program established under the Federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. section 1771 et seq.), the Legislature recognizes breast-feeding as the best method of infant nutrition.

Sec. 165.002. Right to Breast-Feed

A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.

Sec. 165.003 Business Designation as "Mother-Friendly".

(a) A business may use the designation "mother-friendly" in its promotional materials if the business develops a policy supporting the practice of worksite breast-feeding that addresses the following:

(1) Work schedule flexibility, including scheduling breaks and work patterns to provide time for expression of milk;

(2) The provision of accessible locations allowing privacy;

(3) Access nearby to a clean, safe water source and a sink for washing hands and rinsing out any needed breast-pumping equipment; and

(4) Access to hygienic storage alternatives in the workplace for the mother's breast milk.

(b) The business shall submit its breast-feeding policy to the department. The department shall maintain a list of "mother-friendly" businesses covered under this section and shall make the list available for public inspection.

Section 165.004. Services Provided by State Agencies.

Any state agency that administers a program providing maternal or child health services shall provide information that encourages breast-feeding to program participants who are pregnant women or mothers with infants.

Subchapter B. Demonstration Project.

Section 165.031. Legislative Recognition.

The legislature recognizes a mother's responsibility to both her job and her child when she returns to work and acknowledges that a woman's choice to breast-feed benefits the family, the employer, and society.

Section 165.032. Demonstration Project.

(a) The Department shall establish a demonstration project in Travis County to provide access to worksite breast-feeding for department employees who are mothers with infants.

(b) The department shall administer the demonstration project and shall determine the benefits of, potential barriers to, and potential costs of implementing worksite breast-feeding support policies for state employees.

Section 165.033. Breast-Feeding Policy.

The Department shall develop recommendations supporting the practice of worksite breast-feeding that address the following:

(1) Work schedule flexibility, including scheduling breaks and work patterns to provide time for expression of milk;

(2) The provision of accessible locations allowing privacy;

(3) Access nearby to a clean, safe water source and a sink for washing hands and rinsing out any needed breast-pumping equipment; and

(4) Access to hygienic storage alternatives in the workplace for the mother's breast milk.

Now Playing: The Beatles Abbey Road

Because boobies are EEEEEVIL!

A nursing mother was thrown out of King Ranger Theatre in Seguin last night. Because she was nursing her child. Under Texas law, breastfeeding is protected and encouraged--it is a natural act. This mother actually had a card with the law printed on it, but the owner--an arrogant jerk if ever there was one--dismissed it saying "That doesn't mean anything to me. Anyone can print anything up." The police were called, but ultimately refused to get involved, ie enforce the law.

The theatre is located at 1373 E. Walnut Street in Seguin, Texas. Their phone number is (830) 379-8425 and their fax line is (830) 379-8421, if anyone's interested. This isn't over. Not by a long shot.

Now Playing: The Beatles Abbey Road

Friday Night Videos

During the Golden Age of MTV, back in the mid- to late-80s, videos were such a hot commodity that the curious phenomenon arose of artists producing multiple videos in support of a single. Often times the second video would utterly supplant the first. George Harrison's "I Got My Mind Set On You" is a perfect example. Yeah, the penny arcade is simplistic and repetitious, but so's the song. I feel there's an innocent goofiness to it that serves the song well. The follow-up video of George singing and dancing in a sort of haunted lodge filled with the singing heads of wall-mount animal trophies is amusing, too, in its own way, but the fact that the penny arcade utterly disappeared once the animal heads arrived on the scene has always annoyed me.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jill Sobule.

Now Playing: The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

World Fantasy postmortem 4

Saturday was a whirlwind. I realized late Friday that I'd been spending much of my time with many of the folks I see at Armadillocon and Turkey City, which somewhat defeated the entire purpose of World Fantasy. I vowed to do better, with mixed results.


Who was the first person I ran into in the morning? Elizabeth Moon, who I'd given two large maypop passion fruit to on Thursday (did I not mention that?) so she could plant the seed on her famous "80 Acres." This time she had chocolate--rich, dark chocolate--and was sharing with Peter Beagle and Esther Friesner. It's here that I have to point out that I suspect a number of photos have gone missing from my little digital camera. I can't find any I took of Wendy Wheeler, Robin Hobb, Lou Anders or several other folks I'm certain I shot over the four days. So there's a bit of puzzlement over that, but it could just be that I'm a crummy photographer.


Remember what I said about hanging out with new folks? Right. Strike that. Because Steve Wilson showed up with the latest issue of Space Squid which I just had to have, because, come on! It's Space Squid fer cryin' out loud! Copyeditor to the stars Deana Hoak was quite taken with the issue as well. Where exactly it was she was taken isn't known, but I'm certain it was somewhere interesting. I saw Deana throughout the convention, but only spoke with her briefly a few times, to my regret. Deana hooked me up with some upscale cloth diapers about a month back (I kid you not) and I wanted to treat her to dinner or something for her efforts, but it was not to be. Alas, as Gordon Van Gelder would say.


Next up is a shot of Stephen Dedman and Scott Edelman chatting. I got Scott to sign his interview in Voices of Visions, so now I've got most of the editors down. Stephen and I met online years ago via the Eidolon mailing list, and after passing several times during the previous two days, finally got a chance to talk for a few minutes. Robin Hobb joined us shortly therafter, and the conversation turned to Seattle, her fantastic book Wizard of the Pigeons, and how that book shares a very similar vibe with Mike Grell's The Longbow Hunters. Stephen agreed with my observation. I've always wondered if Mike had read Wizard of the Pigeons while writing Longbow Hunters, and now Hobb is intrigued as well. After that group broke up, I ran into Ted Chiang, who I've never met before. I expressed admiration for his short fiction (awesome stuff, that) and also regret that I missed his appearance at Turkey City the year before--particularly since I was I who suggested bringing him (this is a habit with me. I also campaigned for Andy Duncan two years back, but couldn't make it due to a scheduling conflict). Ted's a nice guy, and here he's talking with F. Brett Cox.


Steve Gould's been a friend for years--he was an instructor in the very first writers workshop I ever attended back in '88--and it's fantastic that his profoundly spiffy novel Jumper is being made into a movie with Samuel L. Jackson. He introduced me to David Smeds (above left), who I've exchanged comments with online, but never had the pleasure of meeting in person before. We talked a bit about the Jumper film, and also Steve's new group blog, Eat Our Brains, which he's doing with Rory Harper, Maureen McHugh, Brad Denton and some other folks I don't know that well. Maureen dropped by, and I have to sympathize with her as she sandwiches World Fantasy in between moving out of her old home in Ohio and into her new one in Austin.

By this time folks were gearing up for the World Fantasy Awards and banquet. I wasn't attending the banquet, because I have a hard time justifying spending $50 for hotel food (although I'm told that this time around the fare was pretty good). In the run up to this I got to meet and chat with Sheila Williams from Asimov's for a bit, then settled in at the bar with Chris Nakashima-Brown and a writer from Alabama who I can't recall for the life of me. Since Texas A&M was playing Oklahoma on ABC, I had this crazy idea that I'd watch some of the game then head in for the awards when the dinner was over. Silly me. The first sign of trouble came when Chris tried to buy me a Shiner Bock and the bartender gave us Ziegenbocks. Any true Texan knows that's just wrong, so we rejected them in favor of Bass Ale, despite the bartender's grumbles that they were all the same. Hey man, it's the principle of the matter. So we're talking football, and gametime draws upon us. There's two big screen televisions in the bar, and they're both showing the tea-sips (Longhorns to you non-Texans) beating the crap out of Oklahoma State. There's a few fans watching the game on the TV on the opposite end of the bar, but we're the only ones watching the one beside the bar. "Can you change it to ABC?" I ask the bartender, a greasy-haired kid who's barely 21, if that. "Naw," he mutters. I laugh at his joke. "Come on, change the channel. Nobody else is watching this screen." He turns and outright snarls at me, "This is TEXAS, baby! The only games on these TVs are the LONGHORNS!" That arrogant shit pissed me off so much I got up and walked out. Drove about a mile down the road and found a sports bar in a Holiday Inn showing the game. Now those folks ran a classy establishment. The buffalo wings were a little on the scrawny side, but they didn't try to pass of Ziegenbock as Shiner and a bunch of the Longhorn fans there were actually pulling for A&M against the Sooners. It was a close game, and I abandoned my plan to leave at the half and return for the World Fantasy Awards.

Instead, I watched Coach Franchione purge all remnants of testosterone from his system by opting to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 2 late in the fourth when he needed a touchdown to tie the game. Idiot. And then I get back to the convention to hear that Brad Denton gave what was probably the greatest toastmaster speech in history. Me and my stupid football obsession. Yes, there was much grumbling about the award winners, with most feeling the eventual winners constituted a slight to the Robert E. Howard Centennial theme (which was resisted early on by certain parties, who lobbied strongly to award the con to Australia). The fact that John Crowley--a respected writer who is nevertheless in the prime of his career--was given a Lifetime Achievement Award didn't go down particularly well, but the biggest rub was that most of the winners weren't in attendance. As I wasn't familiar with any but a handful of the nominees, I find it difficult to form an opinion one way or the other.


Fully intent to drown my sorrows, I made my way to the Three Toreadors party, orchestrated by Jeff VanderMeer, Jay Lake and Daniel Abraham. I was supposed to bring some bottles of my mead to the festivities at VanderMeer's request, but early Saturday I'd realized what it was that I'd forgotten in my rush to leave on Friday. Oops. Jay Lake quickly let bygones be bygones by drafting me to be a judge in some of their wacy, ongoing contests. The first was to identify which contestants could really sell the "Tastes great! Less filling!" chant. Then they held a Conan impersonation contest, which the above left individual won going away. His competition was Darrell Schweitzer, above right, who simply had on too many layers to do the famous barbarian justice.


I also had the good fortune to run into Ken Scholes, who's incredible story Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk I had the great fortune of accepting for publication at RevolutionSF. We talked for a long time, but the beer was kicking in, so I don't recall all that much about what was said. The other pic above is Jay Lake himself, preparing a particularly fiendish doom for Chris Nakashima-Brown.


Chris Nakashima-Brown, you see, was tabbed by Lake to play the role of "Bond, James Bond," circa Goldfinger (ie strapped to a table awaiting a laser to slice and dice him). The contestants' job was to play the role of the maniacal super-villain, and devise perilous ways in which to do Bond in. The winner threatened to feed him nothing but McDonald's Happy Meals, forcing his arteries to clog and provoking acid reflux. Let's just say out super-villains need work. Down the hall there was a publisher party going on, and I ran into Edelman again (left) and Ellen Datlow (center right). Back down in the lobby, I ran into Kasey Lansdale, a budding country & western music superstar, who'd opened for Ray Price at the Paramount earlier that night. She proudly announced that she'd earned a standing ovation from the crowd, and was on her way to crash in her room. Proud poppa Joe R. Lansdale (Hisownself) followed shortly thereafter, and he and I wound up talking politics in the lobby unti the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday was a rush, like it always is at the end of a con. The 19th Century Fiction Heroes panel was a great deal of fun, and thanks to Bill Crider, I know now that literature begins and ends with James Fenimore Cooper. The later Pirates panel was a bit of a dud--I hear there were more than a few duds this year--but Robin Hobb told a great story about a piratical relation of hers running contraband washing machines in the waters off Alaska. Great stuff.

Quite unexpectedly, Alexis Glynn Latner invited me along to lunch with her and her editor, Lou Anders. Lou and I have met in passing at previous cons, but never said more than a few words to each other. The short walk over to Thundercloud Subs afforded us a chance to get to know each other a bit. Then, once back at the hotel, I run smack dab into Sharyn November and stopped her to say "Hi." We'd met at the Corpus WFC, but I was taken aback when she said she read my blog on occasion. She was heading to the smoker's balcony and asked if there was something specific I wanted to discuss, ie pitch. Once again I kicked myself for not having Wetsilver finished as originally planned. So I declined, rather than make a fool of myself with some half-assed impromptu pitch, but she reminded me she's editor GoH at Armadillocon next fall and wants to talk then. Wetsilver will not only be finished and polished by then, but I expect I'll be well into the first draft of Sailing Venus, so I'll have plenty to talk about.

On my way out of the con to head home, I passed David Drake and stopped to touch base with him. Again, he was another person I'd seen a bunch but not had a chance to chat with. He bemoaned the fact that I was saddled with such a horrific cover for Voices of Vision and seemed pleased at my plans to include him in the follow-up volume, Voices of Wonder, should I ever get around to finishing the introductions to that one. A very nice guy, that Drake, and ferociously intelligent.

At that point, I was pretty much conventioned out. I headed home, stopping at Freebirds on the way out to pick up a bunch of Monster burritos for the family's dinner. This WFC wasn't as productive, businessly speaking, as I'd hoped--mainly since Tekno Books wasn't there as I'd erroneously thought they would be (antho pitches, don'tcha know) but I do believe I made some good contacts and laid some decent groundwork for professional relationships that could pay off down the line. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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