Tuesday, October 31, 2006

School names

Well, the Comal ISD board of trustees lived down to my expectations last night, and named the new elementary school "Morningside Elementary" with a unanimous vote showing equal parts arrogance, timidity and a stunning lack of imagination. No surprises here, as they all but said they'd never vote for Steve Irwin Elementary. As I've mentioned before, I was on the naming committee for this school, along with three elementary teachers, the president of the PTO and a member of the local historical society. The proposal for "Steve Irwin Elementary" was forwarded with unanimous enthusiasm by our committee to the trustees. The only reason we sent Morningside along as well was because we were required to submit at least two names for consideration. The committee wasn't allowed to rank the suggested names, or explain our reasoning or preference. Morningside, we all agreed, was uninspiring but inoffensive. And there wasn't a huge community demand for this name: Two people suggested it initially, my wife and a neighbor, and both enthusiastically supported Steve Irwin over the alternative.

But hey, school boards have a long and storied history of doing what they want to do regardless, and this one is no different. Two submitted names for the former Canyon Leadership Institute were dismissed out of hand, and instead the trustees apparently made up the awe-inspiring moniker of "Memorial High School" on the spot. Betcha all those committee members who volunteered hours of their time these past few months really appreciated that one.

But Calista had her say before the board, and I'm still proud of her for speaking up. Even though she didn't sway any of the trustees, she did make an impression on the reporters in attendance, and is quoted in both the San Antonio Express-News and the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung:
Calista Blaschke, 7, said she and her classmates at Comal Elementary hoped to honor the Crocodile Hunter with the Morningside area school.

“I would like to call it Steve Irwin Elementary because that’s my favorite and my class’s favorite too,” said the second-grader. “He’s taught me a lot of stuff I didn’t know.”

When was the last time you heard of children expressing any enthusiasm for naming a school? Yeah, I thought so. Calista's happy about being quoted in the news, but she says she'd rather have the school named after Irwin. The trustees, obviously, just don't get it.

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake & Palmer Return of the Manticore

Monday, October 30, 2006

Getting involved

I'm proud of my daughter, Calista. There's a new elementary school going up next door to us, and over the past six weeks there's been an ongoing "name the school" process. The two final names under consideration are "Morningside Elementary," which is dull but inoffensive--the street it's located on is Morningside Drive, and our subdivision is "Meadows of Morningside." Nobody likes that option much, but nobody really dislikes it.

The other name under consideration is "Steve Irwin Elementary." I was on one of the preliminary naming committees, and I have to say the Steve Irwin idea was readily embraced by almost everyone. It's fun. It's good. And the kids that'll go to school there love it. But we were under no illusions that the school board would most likely turn its collective nose up at such a flamboyant name. I explained this to Calista, who'd been telling her friends the school would be named after the Crocodile Hunter. This annoyed her, and she asked what she could do to change the school board's mind. I told her she could speak at the school board meeting before they took a vote, and that's exactly what she did:
I'm Calista Blaschke. I'm in second grade at Comal Elementary.

I want Steve Irwin Elementary because he is my favorite and my class' favorite, too. His TV series were great! He even taught me a lot of things I didn't know and that is why I like it.

Thank you.

Other than some corrected spelling, that's her speech exactly as she wrote and delivered it. My only contributions were suggesting she give her name to start things off and say "Thank you" at the end. While other folks were droning on and on, using every second of their alotted time, Calista got in and out, making her point effectively.

The school board will still most likely vote to name the school Morningside, but even so, I suspect my girl has a bright future in public speaking.

Now Playing: Ray Davies Other People's Lives

Can't go home again

The family made the drive up to Temple yesterday to visit some old friends. When we got into town, we drove past the old house for old times' sake. We make a point of this every time we're in Temple, and the last time we did--back in the spring, I suppose--we were delighted to see the current owners had remodeled the converted garage (formerly my office) and put in some nice French doors along with other improvements. So we were curious to see what changes awaited us this time.

Oh my Lord. They'd painted it lime green. Not just any lime green, mind you, but one with an unhealthy shade of aqua mixed in. You've got to understand, the house has a front of square-cut limestone, and when we lived there the wood-sided eaves were painted a mild cream color and the trim--window frames, door, etc.--were a dark burgundy. It really presented well. This, however, oh my goodness, had the house looked like this when we were first looking way back when, we'd have driven right past it. That green is actually painful on the eyes. When cartoonists want to depict something as radioactive, that's the color they use. No kidding.

We were in such shock at the garish color that it took us several minutes to notice the other changes the current owners had made. They'd chopped down the pecan trees! We had one gorgeous, mature pecan tree in the front yard, about 10 feet from the front porch. Two smaller pecan trees bracketed the entrance of the driveway. All of them, gone without a trace. They'd also chopped down a cedar elm at the corner of the house, but I'd never liked that one anyway. Still.

We sold that house a little over three years ago, and are fully settled in to our "new" one here in New Braunfels, but I can't help feeling violated. That was the first house Lisa and I owned, and we loved it despite assorted plumbing problems and other quirks that come with older houses. It was the house we brought Calista and Keela home from the hospital to. The previous owners had covered up gorgeous, hardwood floors with hideous puke-yellow carpeting, which we'd promptly pulled up when we moved in. None of us could work up the nerve to peek into the window, for fear that they'd done to those gorgeous floors what they'd done to the exterior. Compared to that radioactive green, puke-yellow carpeting doesn't look so bad...

Now Playing: Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle vol. 2

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Night Videos

Submitted for your viewing pleasure is Jill Sobule's I Kissed a Girl. Pretty self-explanatory. Really, what's not to like?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Time.

Now Playing: Jill Sobule Jill Sobule

Thursday, October 26, 2006

R.I.P. Ocho

My Figure-8 puffer fish, Ocho, died today. Apparently of dropsy, a bacterial infection of the gut. I'm feeling some degree of guilt over this, because last night I noticed his stomach looked a bit distended and immediately thought dropsy, but it was only a little bit and I couldn't be sure that he hadn't just eaten a bunch of freeze dried krill (which I'd fed him a little bit before). Ultimately I decided to wait and see how he looked today. Bad call. If I'd gone out and picked up some fishy antibiotics then, Ocho'd still be with us.

Now Playing: Ray Davies Other People's Lives


In Texas we have early voting. No excuse necessary--just show up at the county court house and do your civic duty. Not only do you avoid the crush of election day, but I've learned from hard experience that it's easier to find the court house than actual precinct locations, which tend to move around from year to year or--I kid you not--are assigned to addresses that do not physically exist.

So this morning I head in to vote. Yay me! Only I couldn't find my voter registration card anywhere. Boo me! But hey, no big deal. I've voted in every election and primary since I moved to New Braunfels, and after checking my I.D. the nice ladies running things found me in the computer and signed me in.

We have new digital touch-screen voting machines in Comal County. Um... I'm not impressed. The old color-in-the-arrow paper voting sheets in use up until the most recent primaries were boring and low-tech, sure, but simple and self-explanatory. With the voting machines, the workers had to explain to me how to operate it (push this button to turn the virtual page, this button to change a vote, this button to review your votes, this button to actually vote...). Now, I'm a fairly tech-saavy guy, and I'm not saying that the new machines were all that complicated, but they weren't intuitive. Seems to me that going from a piece of paper and a blue felt-tip marker to a Nintendo system adds a layer of unnecessary complexity. Personally, I never could adjust to Nintendo. Give me my old Atari or Colecovision any day.

But yeah, I did vote. Chris Bell for governor. This may surprise some of you under the impression I'm a huge Kinky booster. I was, until the Kinkster decided to start employing the Clayton Williams strategy of voter alienation, and plunged to fourth place in the polls. Bell's now running a strong second, and my criteria all along has been to vote for the candidate more capable of getting that walking disaster known as Perry out of office. I also voted for seven--count 'em, seven--Libertarians in various races. Okay, so there weren't any Democrats running in those races, but now nobody can accuse me of being a lock-step, party-line voter...

Now Playing: Martin Hummel and Karl-Ernst Schroder 17th Century German Lute Songs

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

By Crom! We have cover art!

Okay, so it's been up at Chris Roberson's blog since late last week. I've been busy, so sue me. The important thing is we have cover art for Cross Plains Universe:


I keep telling myself, "Just one more week..."

Now Playing: Various Dr. Demento's 20th Anniversary Collection

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Heroes: Hiro's

Heroes slowed down again a great deal in last night's episode, "Hiro's." There wasn't a whole heck of a lot of forward narrative momentum, but as usual with this show, some good character moments. A high point came early on when Congressman Machiavelli was cornered by Cancer Man-Wannabe and his telepathic sidekick. Machiavelli flew off, and it was a pretty darn cool effect--especially the implication that he broke the sound barrier in doing so. Stripper Chick is still the weakest of the "heroes," but I'm seriously thinking her alter ego is the one who committed the crimes her husband was convicted of. If so, then I do think she really is the supervillain (or one of several) in this story. Hiro is still the most interesting character of the bunch, and his soul-patched, sword-carrying future self only serves to highlight that fact. The big development is that several of the heroes have finally gotten in contact with each other, and recognized their powers for what they are. They also know about the future destruction of New York and the threat to Wolverine-as-a-Cheerleader, but whether or not this leads to some sort of action next week remains to be seen.

Now Playing: Eric Clapton Final Concert--24 Nights

Monday, October 23, 2006

Say buddy, can you spare an InterWeb?

For anyone trying to email me at my non-Hotmail account, it's not your imagination. Emails is bouncing off that in-box, much to my chagrin. And even more to my chagrin, I've gotten word that EV1.net, the ultra-cheap ISP that has allowed me to peruse the wonders of cyberspace for the better part of four years--not to mention has played host to my website during that time--is ditching the ISP aspect of its business to concentrate on corporate web hosting. Which means I'm hosed.

People PC, EV1's contracted replacement service which takes over Nov. 1, isn't acceptable for my needs. So, I have little more than a week to come up with a new ISP/web host thingy. Preferrably one that won't lose interest after a few years. And cheap. Cheap is big with me. This may be the kick in the proverbial pants that gets me to commit to DSL or somesuch, not to mention take the plunge and buy an actual domain. Thus far, after looking only briefly, AT&T surprisingly seems to offer the most attractive package for my wants and needs. Anyone else have a suggestion?

Now Playing: Billy Joel 2000 Years-Millenium Concert

Exodus part 2

Battlestar Galactica is one of just two shows I regularly watch (the other being Heroes) and while Galactica is fantastic overall, some of the sloppy corners cut on the program drive me nuts at least once every episode. Since there was a lot of hype leading into last Friday's episode "Exodus pt. 2" I was all set for disappointment. I had a gut feeling about some things that were probably going to happen, but...


Holy crap! I didn't expect them to pull the trigger on half of what they did. I didn't think they'd have the nerve. To have Col. Tigh essentially execute his wife for treason in the opening minutes was fantastic. It's what his character would've done, no doubt, so that wasn't a surprise. What was amazing is that the writers were allowed to follow through with it--Ellen Tigh was such a great, over-the-top, scheming and divisive character that I still find it hard to imagine the show's runners letting go of her.

Then came the Galactica's warp into New Caprica's atmosphere, launching a squadron of Vipers as it plummets landward as an atomic fireball, jumping back into space again only scant kilometers above the ground. Sure, Star Trek had some clever twists in their various conflicts, and Babylon 5 made reversals a core part of the series. Farscape revelled in the unconventional actions of its characters. But having Adama order his battlestar to do something that is simply beyond the warship's physical ability to survive (atmospheric flight) and actually getting away with it... wow. And to think that it came at the midpoint of the episode.

As for the death of the Battlestar Pegasus, I remain oddly neutral on the subject. I've felt from the moment the Pegasus reappeared in this incarnation that the show was going to dispose of it eventually. As seen in the episode "Resurrection Ship," having two battlestars makes things somewhat easier on the fleet. As fresh and clever as jumping the Galactica into New Caprica's atmosphere was, "Pegasus to the rescue" was essentially a color by numbers exercise. When Galactica lost manuvering thrusters and the jump drive went offline, I told my brother "And here comes the Pegasus." Sure enough, Pegasus blazed into the battle, hell bent for leather. I knew then that one of the battlestars wasn't going to survive, and it sure wasn't going to be Galactica that bit the dust. Even having Pegasus ram the Cylon base star at the end seemed to me an exercise of cliche. All that was missing was Apollo ordering, "Ramming speed!" Part of the problem comes from the fact I never got the sense the Pegasus was as shot to hell as the Galactica. When the Galactica was done for earlier in the episode, you saw it in Adama's face. He'd run out of tricks. Contrast that with Apollo, who'd left all the Pegasus' Vipers behind to guard the civilian fleet: "He knew this was a one-way trip," says Adama. The defeatist approach of Apollos is one where he expects to lose his ship, if only to save Galactica. Adama's attitude was to pull out every trick in the book to save those conquered on New Caprica, and even though he knew he'd probably die, he wasn't accepting of his death and loss of Galactica as inevitable. The vibe I got at the end from Apollo was, "Okay, Galactica's gone, so we can abandon Pegasus to her fiery doom and simplify things for the writers again." Up until the end, I'd held out some hope they'd pull a Farscape and scatter two fleets, one headed by Pegasus and one by Galactica, alternating episodes for most of the rest of the season before rejoining the two and then doing away with the Pegasus.

Ultimately, my gripe isn't so much with the destruction of the Pegasus itself--which came as no surprise--but with how they did it. Again, as fantastic as the writing is on this show by and large, once again they take the easy route and it irritates me to no end.

Now Playing: Billy Joel The Nylon Curtain

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Night Videos

The Time's 1982 album "What Time Is It?" was insanely popular at my junior high back in the day, and when Purple Rain hit it big, everyone I knew went simply nuts for the Time. And what wasn't to like? Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson, Jerome Benton... They were funkified, fun and so far over the top that Day's frontman narcissism became integral to the act. "Jerk Out" became their biggest hit--topping even the ultra-popular "Jungle Love," and the video for the single it the best they've done, pretty much documenting all their trademark outrageous excess.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Fleetwood Mac.

Now Playing: The Time Pandemonium

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Just in case you folks were getting worried about my ego ballooning beyond all reasonable proportions due to the modest writing success I've had of late (re: sales) you can rest assured the universe has seen fit to give me some timely smackdown in the form of two rejections hitting my mailbox this crisp autumn day. Both are for stories that were held longer than normal for "consideration," and both garnered juuuuust enough praise to make the sting that much worse. Ah well. Whatchagonnnado?

In other happier news, I finally sent in the final spit-and-polished version of the Peter S. Beagle interview off to Brutarian, along with a bunch of photos of Beagle. The entire prep process took far too long to wrap up, which tells me that I'm still suffering a degree of burnout when it comes to interviews.

Now Playing: Astrud Gilberto The Best of Astrud Gilberto

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A more ruthless enemy than the Cylons

Doesn't this just make you want to run out and buy NBC a fruit basket? The Peacock Network, which owns the SciFi Channel, has decided the popular "webisodes" airing on SciFi.com aren't narrative storytelling at all, and are instead just glorified commercials. Which means there's the requisite pitched legal battle brewing:
NBC Universal, the studio behind "Battlestar," refused to pay residuals or credit the writers of these "Webisodes," claiming they're promotional materials. So "Battlestar" executive producer Ron Moore said he wouldn't deliver any more of them, including the 10 that were already in the can. In response, NBC Universal seized the Webisodes and filed charges of unfair labor practices against the Writers Guild of America, which advised Moore and producers of three other NBC Universal shows not to deliver any new Web content until they had a deal over residuals.

This is, of course, a bald-faced rights grab by NBC, which sees a huge profit potential in future web-based entertainment--profit which gets even huger if you don't actually have to pay the people who produce it for you. Sheesh.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel Plays Live

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

HEROES on trial!

Folks, I can't make this stuff up! NBC is being sued by a garbage disposal company because of a scene where the regenerative cheerleader intentionally mangles her hand in a--you guessed it--garbage disposal:
So I can see why Emerson would be mad at NBC. The network is merely perpetuating this myth that garbage disposals are a menace to society! Garbage disposals don't chop off people's fingers. People chop off people's fingers.

Still, I'm not sure why Emerson has to be worried about its product being cast in an "unsavory light." Anyone who willingly shoves their hand in a garbage disposal because they saw someone do it on TV is a moron. That's not Emerson's problem.

Personally, I think Emerson has it all wrong. With Heroes becoming NBC's breakout hit, they should be sending the Peacock Network a thank-you note for the prominent product placement.

Now Playing: Stu Phillips Battlestar Galactica Original Soundtruck / 25th Anniversary Edition


The first two episodes of NBC's new series, Heroes, left me with mixed feelings. It's one of those new, ultra-hip dramas that tries soooooo hard to ape Lost with the slow, drawn-out mystery that I wanted to reach through my television and slap the showrunner around a little. Okay, a lot. Two full episodes, and all we'd had were character intros. Sheesh.

The end of episode 2, "Don't Look Back," gave me a bit of hope with a cool tease of a nuclear explosion going off in future New York. Okay, now we know at least part of the plot. And episode 3, "One Giant Leap," ended with the killer (literally) cliffhanger of cheeleader Claire waking up on an autopsy table with her chest cut open. Ouch! Last night's episode, "Collision," featured a number of the proto-heroes crossing paths (what is it about Las Vegas, anyway?) and the series finally starting to generate some forward momentum. I have one suggestion for the show runners--quit trying to follow the Lost playbook. "Collision" is thus far the episode that stands out the most simply because it deviates more from that draw-things-out mentality (or, in comics terms, the much-derided Marvel strategy of "decompressed storytelling). With more episodes like "Collision," I'll definitely stick around to see what happens next.

Part of the fun of watching Heroes is figuring which pre-existing comics hero serves as the template for the television character. It's a little annoying the show apparently thinks each character/power is clever and original when Marvel and DC (not to mention all the indys that've come and gone) have already plowed these fields, in some cases many times over. But hey, watching how the show attempts to make them fresh, or disguise their origins, is part of the fun:

Hiro Nakamura-- time-travelling, teleporting über-geek. A Trekkie and comic book fan, Hiro has very, very quickly become my favorite character. With his non-powered buddy from the high-powered Tokyo business climate, Hiro's the first to recognize his powers for what they are and simultaneously get in trouble by using them. There have been many heroes with time and teleportation powers in comics, but I really don't see any of those serving as a direct template for Hiro. Of all the characters in this series, he comes off as the most original (and potentially the most powerful). Fans of Keith Giffen's Justice League International will absolutely love Hiro's sequences.

Claire Bennet-- regenerating cheerleader. She's cute, with the requisite teen angst, but apart from some of the graphic mangling she puts her attractive body through, she's essentially Wolverine without the adamantium skeleton and claws. What do you want to bet something similar lies in her future?

Niki Sanders-- the single-mother stripper with a heart of gold. Oh, and a Mr. Hyde-style alter ego that happily kills anyone who crosses her and seduces congressmen. By far the weakest of the characters, simply because a split personality isn't all that super. It'd be interesting if she turned out to be a super-villain, tho.

Isaac Mendez-- junkie artist who paints the future when high on heroin. He's a plot device, plain and simple. His heroin addiction is evocative of Roy Harper's (aka Speedy) addiction in the old Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics by Denny O'Neal and Neil Adams. The painting, tho... there are some instances in fantasy novels, but I'm drawing a blank for a comics connection.

Matt Parkman-- a good cop with a crumbling marriage who's hoping fans of his role on Alias will watch him here. Oh yeah, he can read minds. How many telepaths have danced through the pages of comic books over the years? Oh yeah--he's also the first "hero" the bad guys capture.

Mohinder Suresh-- son of the scientist researching reports of super-human abilities who suddenly turned up dead. Son has no obvious powers, other than requisite Oedipal issues. He's the "normal" character who's smarter than everyone else, who puts the clues together and explains everything for the viewers at home.

Nathan Petrelli-- a machiavellian congressional candidate who can fly. And isn't above throwing friends or relatives under the metaphorical bus to further his ambitions. Isn't above sleeping with single-mother strippers with evil alter egos, either. Especially when such liasions are being recorded for blackmail purposes.

Peter Petrelli-- not a big fan of his brother (see bus reference). Has powers of DC villain Parasite, along with a number of others--he takes on the abilities of those around him, although the hero he's siphoning powers from doesn't seem to be adversely affected. Thus far appears to be the viewpoint character, which is annoying, because he's a dolt.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Greatest Hits

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hey kids! Look! Eloise!

One of the perks of reviewing as much stuff as I have is that publishers and studios send me free stuff. The expectation, of course, is for me to review it. Normally I'll send my reviews in to RevolutionSF or Green Man Review, but sometimes, the review material has nothing whatsoever to do with genre. This is one of those times, so I'm posting the review here for all to enjoy. Don't you feel special?
Me, Eloise
Reviewed by Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Format: Movie
Genre: Animation
Released: October 10, 2006 (DVD release)

I'm aware of the Eloise books written by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight, but that's about as far as it goes. I've never read any of the series, and if pressed, I'd probably characterize them as something kind of like the Madeline books, only set in New York instead of France. And yes, I know that was the sound of a thousand Eloise fans' heads exploding. I'm fine with that, because this review isn't for them--it's for everyone else out there who's less familiar with Eloise than I am.

The plot of Me, Eloise is relatively straightforward. Eloise (voice by Mary Matilyn Mouser) lives on the top floor of the swanky Plaza hotel with Nanny (Vanessa Redgrave) in lieu of her absentee mother. Her sixth birthday is looming, and Eloise is excited about her upcoming party. All is well until a Japanese violin prodigy, Yuko, moves into the Plaza with her parents, and Eloise's initial attempts to make friends end in failure. It's not long, however, before the two girls bond and Eloise learns that Yuko's constant violin practice precludes any fun. Eloise sets out to correct this travesty, and hijinks, predictably, ensue.

The last animation based on a beloved children's book series I saw was the travesty called Curious George, and going into Me, Eloise, I was deeply concerned that I'd be sitting through 45 minutes of watered down milquetoast pablum. Curious George, you see, left a bad taste in my mouth. So imagine my surprise when--mere seconds into the show--I realize that the animation bears more than a passing resemblance to King of the Hill! A little online sleuthing confirms my suspicions: Creative director Wes Archer not only served as director of numerous episodes of King of the Hill, he also served as executive animation consultant and supervising director on that series, not to mention the work he's done on Futurama and The Simpsons. To put it bluntly, this guy's built up some impressive credits on three of the best television series broadcast over the past decade.

Which is all fine and dandy, but what has he done for me lately? How about making an Eloise cartoon that's almost as watchable for adults as it is for children? That's not to say Archer completely avoids the Curious George trap--I have a gut feeling that some teeth have been pulled from the source material and some of the rough edges sanded down to make the end product more palatable for the studio's preconceptions about what constitutes good children's programming. But having not read the books, this feeling's only a twinge. Beyond that, it's an amusing romp of little girl mayhem that never, thankfully, gets too saccharine. The realistic approach to characters that made King of the Hill so appealing is on full display here, and serves the story well. If Eloise abandons her grudge against Yuko too quickly, well, that can be forgiven in light of her being allowed to have that grudge in the first place. And like King of the Hill, the climax of the story is personal in nature as opposed to forced, slapstick action or an overly-preachy message. It's a fun diversion my daughters enjoy enough so that I'm looking into picking up some of the Eloise books for bedtime reading. If nothing else, that should make Kay Thompson happy.


The extras are somewhat impressive for what I initially assumed was a direct-to-DVD release--as was the animation--but I've since learned that Eloise is an ongoing series broadcast on the Starz Kids & Family channel. Even so, the bonus features are a notch above what is normally found on children's DVDs. The 45-minute show is presented both in widescreen and full-frame versions, which is convenient for those folks who've already made the switch over to wide screen televisions and ought to be a standard feature on DVDs by now. Ditto the Spanish language track. The Sing-Along-Song is merely a clip from the show, and nothing to write home about, and the Weenie to the Rescue DVD game is one of those point-and-click exercises that entertain children exactly once before it becomes boring. The Birthday Party Invitation Maker is interesting for those with a DVD-capable computer, but the drawback is that children making Eloise invitations are going to want to print out every single variation they create, which could put a serious crimp in the ink budget. Plaza Pals is a point-and-click tour narrated by Eloise of the various characters in the show, which is another of the features that will be accessed once and never again. Perhaps the most interesting and involving feature is From Paper to Movie, which uses a split screen format to compare the show's storyboards to the finished product through an extended sequence. One of the problems of the Disney releases of the Studio Ghibli films is the awkward presentation of the storyboards--devoting an entire second disc to the storyboards seems like a tremendous waste of resources. Me, Eloise avoids this problem by showing the movie and storyboards in parallel, allowing the differences to show through and shining light on the creative process. It's not a perfect solution, but it is engaging. The only thing missing, really, is a commentary track, but I seriously doubt that's going to be coming soon for anything considered a children's release.

The Movie Itself: 7 out of 10
The DVD Features: 6 out of 10

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I've got another Eloise disc I'll be reviewing later this week, along with an actual boxed set of a show near and dear to my heart I'll probably write up for RevSF.

Now Playing: London Philharmonic Orchestra The Music of Pink Floyd

All that's missing is the Big Baloney

Funny, but I remeber the opening credits of The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. as being much more action-packed than this.

C.A.P.E.R., of course, is an acronym for Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless. Brilliant. Any show featuring the word "bananas" as a trigger mechanism for berserker rage and a shark muppet named Mr. Featherstone gets mad props in my book. I never had their record album, but I did have the Big Baloney (delivery van with a huge hot dog on top) which was released under Ideal's "Tiny Mighty Mo" line.

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Saturday, October 14, 2006

And... exhale

I'm not ashamed to admit I didn't give my Aggies a whole heck of a lot of hope for beating no. 19 Mizzou today. A&M teams under Coach Fran have proven reliable at losing games they're supposed to lose (as well as losing more than a few they were supposed to win). So after the undefeated Tigers thumped Texas Tech last week (a team that handed A&M a loss two weeks back) I figured the best the Aggies hope for was a good showing against the class of the Big 12 North.


I do believe that was the best game A&M has played in Franchione's three-plus years in College Station. The defense was solid throughout, the offense productive, and the special teams were respectable. There were stupid penalties here and there, and that botched deep snap that led to a safety stunk up Kyle Field, but the team didn't let any of that get them rattled. Chad Schroeder is awesome in every aspect of his game. Stephen McGee is like the second coming of Bucky Richardson--only he can actually throw the ball. And Jovorski Lane, well, he's like Ja'Mar Toombs without the self-destructive tendencies and the extra baggage around the midsection. And to give props to the oft-maligned coaching staff, I thought the play-calling--both on offense and defense--spot on for the majority of the game.

Some folks, myself included, have wondered openly if Coach Fran is our version of John Mackovic (aka Mac II), the former coach over at Taco Meat U. who scattered a few really solid seasons amidst a bunch of profoundly mediocre campaigns. Adding Gary Darnell, Mac II's former defensive coordinator, to the A&M staff this year didn't do much to dispell those comparisons. But after watching this game, I think the team has reached the tipping point. Lose against Mizzou, and Fran likely still wins enough games to keep his job another year, but win, and suddenly a 9- or 10-win season becomes realistic. Coach Fran may have just pulled himself out of Mac II comparisons and into Jackie Sherrill comparisons. Hopefully, NCAA probation isn't part of the package, but Sherrill was another high-dollar coaching import that didn't live up to expectations early on. After three seasons, he'd yet to produce a winning campaign, and did such things as introduce the 12th Man Kickoff Team and work on Bonfire to try and stave off a disgruntled alumni buyout of his contract. Coach Fran's first three seasons (Cotton Bowl year included) were underwhelming, to say the least, and this year he has re-introduced the 12th Man Kickoff Team to occasional action. Coincidence? I think not.

Now, if Coach Fran can just get past that personal demon known as the Baylor game...

Now Playing: nothing

Friday, October 13, 2006

World Fantasy Schedule

It would appear That the preliminary World Fantasy Con schedule is now online. For the life of me, I cannot remember if I was on the schedule in Corpus Christi. Hmm. In any event, this year I'm scheduled for a reading on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Readings are 30 minutes each, since there's like 500 other authors trying to get onto programming as well. I figure I'll read the first half of "Prince Koindrindra Escapes," which means I'll have to practice up on pronouncing those monstrous Malagasy names I peppered the story with. Sheesh. Reap what you sow and all that.

There's also a Saturday reading block from 3:30-4:30 p.m. featuring the Cross Plains Universe contributors. I won't be reading anything there, I'm sure, but I wouldn't miss it for anything--not with all the other cool folks and stories that'll be on display.

Now Playing: Manheim Steamroller Halloween Monster Mix

Friday Night Videos

I actually discovered Fleetwood Mac via Christine McVie's solo work, surprisingly enough. When I came across "Hold Me," I was sold. This was the first Fleetwood Mac video I ever saw, and apparently it was the first one they ever made. Wow. It's incredibly stylish and surreal, with the archaeology elements giving it a bizarre flavor as well. My favorite part, though, is where Lindsey Buckingham shatters the mirage--a nifty effect, and a clever play on the album's title. See for yourself.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Kinks.

Now Playing: Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Banned in India, Pakistan, Iran and China

This is odd. For the past several days, someone(s) has been accessing Gibberish via pkblogs.com, a site set up to circumvent censorship controls in certain socially authoritarian countries. Now, it doesn't surprise me that my ramblings are verboten--I'm not particularly scandalous here, but I'm not rated G either. What amazes me is that someone, somewhere is actually willing to jump through those hoops to read my musings on how great the Kinks are or how I managed to avoid writing the night before (which, unfortunately, is true. No writey-write for me last night).

Now Playing: Greg Kihn Band Kihnsolidation

Tideland: Will direct for food

Just one of the many millions of reasons Terry Gilliam is my ultimatest favoritest directorist:

I've been hearing that Tideland is dark and disturbing, possibly the most disturbing movie Gilliam has ever made. Wow. I cannot wait to see it...

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Delicate Sound of Thunder

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Book meme

Egads! It appears that I've been tagged with this book meme by Tom Konrad some time back, and am only now learning of it via Technorati. I confess, I didn't even know Tom had a blog, as I haven't seen him in several years. Looking at his site, it appears he's in Colorado now, which would explain the not seeing part. Anyway, on to the meme:

I’m currently reading:

The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle. I try and read Tuttle every chance I get, as she's one of the Texas writers that made names for themselves in genre back in the 70s and 80s. I like to learn from my betters. Her writing is as skillful as ever, but the first half of the book is pretty slow going. I should be finishing up soon and have my review in to SFSite before long.

A book I’ve been meaning to read

Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock. I was spellbound by Mythago Wood and rushed out and grabbed Lavondyss immediately. But didn't read it. I have no idea why. It's been sitting on my shelf for several years now, and the mood to pick it up just hasn't struck me. But I'm very aware it's there, oh yes. I suppose it goes without saying that there are several hundred other books queued up behind it as well, right?

Book that changed my life:

Easy one. Battle on Mercury by Eric Van Lihn (aka Lester Del Rey). I've posted about it before. I stumbled across it in my local public library while I was going through a phase where I was voraciously reading everything I could get my hands on about space and the solar system. That book was the first "chapter book" I ever read, and also showed me I could be transported to far-off, alien worlds and have rollicking adventures at the same time. I re-read it a year or so back, and it holds up surprisingly well as a juvenile adventure. And I still think it'd make a killer movie.

A book that I wish had been written:

Ken Grimwood's sequel to Replay. He'd already started it before his untimely death. I don't know where he could've taken the premise after the conclusion of Replay and kept things fresh, but I'd like to see if he could've pulled it off.

Now, who shall I tag in turn? How about Lou Antonelli, Scott Nicholson and Mikal Trimm.

Now Playing: Dvorak Symphony no. 2

Illustrating a new obsession

Andy Cox sent along two illustrations Doug Sirois has turned in for "Being an Account of the Final Voyage of La Riaza." They're both pretty cool. One captures the spirit--if not the particulars--of a particular battle that takes place, but the other... man, it's just so cool and atmospheric. It's a quiet scene in the capitan's cabin, where Capitan Ancira and First Mate Diego are charting La Riaza's course, but there's so much subtext in the painting that I'm absolutely in love with it. The best part is that Doug included an orrery of the Cibola system. I'd added that to the scene relatively late in revisions, because I kinda sorta wanted one in there, but never actually put it down. I've always thought orrerys were cool, but now that he's actually shown me what my fantasy Cibolan orrery might look like, I've suddenly got this overwhelming urge to build one of my very own. Am I a freak or what?

Now Playing: Pandora Tito Puente radio

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Night Videos

The Kinks are my all-time favorite band, and Ray Davies is my all-time favorite songwriter. You can keep your Lennon/McCartney and your Dylan and your Jagger and Townshend. The Kinks are utterly brilliant, if more than a little dysfunctional. Come Dancing is probably their best video ever, and I share its goofy fun with you now.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Murray Head.

Now Playing: U2 How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cool news!

Andy Cox of Interzone informs me that Douglas Sirois is working on the illustrations for "Being an Account of the Final Voyage of La Riaza: A Circumstance in Eight Parts." Doug's got an interesting eye for illustration and a diversity of style, so I'm pretty jazzed about seeing what he comes up with.

Now Playing: Various 25 Classical Masterpieces

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stein Parade!

Cow Parades have grown in popularity over the past 10 years to the point where they're practically a part of Americana. Locally, I've seen cow parades in San Antonio, Houston and Waco of all places. Science fiction writer Michael A. Burstein has blogged about the current Boston cow parade with his entertaining moo tour LiveJournal entries.

Conflicting demands on my time have prevented me from blogging the fact that New Braunfels has gotten into the public art act as well this year. Only, well, this is New Braunfels. This town can't do anything without tying into its German heritage. So a cow parade was right out. Instead, residents and tourists have been treated to--I kid you not--the world's first Stein Parade! There's supposed to be 41 of them around town--I haven't managed to see all of them yet, and doubt I will, but the ones I have are pretty nifty. The steins are roughly five feet tall, so they're not as large and dramatic as life-size cows would be, but hey--they're five-foot steins!


"Tooben-Stein," above, was the first of the steins I'd encountered. I was captivated, to say the least, when I saw it sitting on the sidewalk right outside the Shell station at the corner of Walnut Street and I-35 where I was gassing up. The old-style gas pump topper is a particularly nice touch, as is the German men in lederhosen tubing down the Comal (or Guadalupe) River. Yes, it's as much a billboard as it is art, but at least there was effort put into it, as opposed to some of the real estate companies that sponsored steins. They pretty much had their logos painted on the steins, and that was it. Ugh.


This is one of the most spectacular of the steins. I want it. Bad. "Stein Meister" is on display at Tan 2000 in the Marketplace Shopping Center. Which brings me to my biggest complaint regarding the stein parade: More than half of the steins are displayed inside businesses. The whole concept of the public art cow parades is that the works are outside, visible 24/7. I don't know if the owners are worried about vandals or thieves, but it kinda defeats the purpose if it's kept under lock and key, not readily visible to random passers-by, don'tcha think?


The dreadfully punny "Farmer N D'Ale" is another one of the steins kept under lock and key, this time a land title company. I was able to get a sort-of-decent shot of it through the window, but in most cases like this, reflections made my stein-under-glass shots unuseable. Kudos go to Granzin Bar-B-Q for keeping their "Steer Stein" out front on display at the entrance to their new restaurant.


"Stein2-D2" is on display at the local Children's Museum. What can I say? It is simply awesome--my second-favorite behind the dragon. And before anyone gets huffy about a stein promoting drinking amongst children, my daughters love to help me brew and bottle my beer and mead, and have learned a great deal about yeast and fermentation in the process (despite the fact they insist the stuff is yucky). Which is a roundabout way of saying I believe every child should have a Stein2-D2 of their own. "A Moment In Stein" on display in front of Josef Studios isn't the most dramatic of the bunch, but it depicts various landmarks and scenes around New Braunfels, including the large fountain in the city square (actually circle, but who's keeping score?). It's a pleasant stein and gets bonus points for being outside (albeit protected from the elements by a porch) 24/7.


"Wein Stein" is a colorful stein outside of the Friesenhaus restaurant, featuring designs and motiffs of the annual Wein & Saengerfest in town. The "Teepee Stein" is one of those dull real estate steins I mentioned earlier. The whole theme of this one is "Need A New Teepee?" with the realtor's logo printed large on the side. When I was taking this pic (another inside-the-building jobs) one of the realtors kept turning the stein around, insisting I photograph the logo. Sorry, bud, but I'm not your shill. Businesses need to understand that the sponsorship of the stein itself is what generates your public goodwill--using it as a billboard without going the extra mile to make it art (see "Tooben-Stein" above) is merely crass.


"Stein-Way" out in front of the Uptown Piano Bar is a personal fave. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the hands are 3D, coming out of the stein to play the piano keyboard. Cool and clever. "Prime Stein" in front of Myron's Steak House is weak, mostly because it just features the steak house logo and little else. They do get bonus points for displaying it outside, however.


"Lick-ten-Stein" was inside an antique mall downtown. I saw it on display outside once while driving by, but that's been the only time thus far. What's more, this clever stein is set back behind some displays so that it isn't visible from the street--you have to actually enter the antique mall before you can see it, which poses a problem when it's closed. And "Ruben-Stein" was yet another of the shamelessly punny approaches to stein art, but this one, in reproducing some classic Renaissance masterworks, came off as perhaps the most stylish.


Finally, Seekatz Opera House gets the prize for having the most fun with their stein while tying it in with the business motiff. The original facade of the 1901 building is depicted on the front with a crowd of patrons, but the back of the stein is what generates the most smiles. It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, and I can't help but hear the Viking-helmeted valkyrie belting out a rousing chorus of "Kill the wabbit!" every time I look at it.

I hope you've enjoyed this little stein tour I've taken you on today. I may post a follow-up, but as the event winds down in a couple of weeks, I doubt I'll have much opportunity to visit the steins I've missed thus far.

Now Playing: The Universal-International Orchestra The Glenn Miller Story

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

About that honey mead

In case you folks were wondering, my "Holiday Spice Metheglin" (the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice mix) took third place in homemade wine at the Comal County Fair over this past weekend.


I'm quite happy with the showing, since this was only the second batch of mead I ever attempted. I was a bit disappointed that my raspberry melomel didn't place, but I think I know why. The judges are wine experts to varying degrees, and most folks I've met who are really into wine tend to view sweetness with contempt. My melomel was about as sweet as a white zin, and coupled with the strong raspberry flavor, that was enough to turn them off. I'll know better next time.

I found it fascinating looking over the other entries. The vast majority, as expected, were mustang grape wines. Most were red, but a few were white (which is what I'd attempt if I ever tried mustang grapes). There were also a couple of bottles from European varietals, which made me wonder where the winemaker got his grapes, since Pierce's Disease wreaks havoc on those grapes in Texas. There was one bottle of pear wine, one of peach wine and a whole lot of agarita wines submitted. One of the agarita wines won best of show in the non-grape division, and other agaritas earned ribbons. That, of course, made me curious about them and want to taste. The biggest problem I had with the way things were set up was that all the bottles were anonymous, even after the judging was complete. I'd love to be able to talk shop with some of these other wine makers and maybe trade bottles of our craft back and forth, but no can do. If nothing else, I wish the winners would blog about their wines so I could reach them that way, but thus far Technorati and Google are turning up nil.

Now Playing: Manheim Steamroller Halloween Monster Mix

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm shocked–shocked!–to discover pandering going on here!

So another Turkey City was committed on Saturday, of which I participated. Jeff VanderMeer was the imported writer of note for this one, and he brought along the current Ambergris story he's been working on for the gathered throng's collective examination. The gathered throng being depicted below:


First row, left to right, we have Mikal Trimm, Jessica Reisman, Me, Leff VanderMeer and Lawrence Person. Second row, left to right we have Rory Harper, Fred Stanton, Steve Wilson, Howard Waldrop and Chris Nakashima-Brown. Not pictured is Stina Leicht, who left early to attend her sister's wedding, and Lou Antonelli, who actually took this picture (if you want to see the picture with him in it and not me, click here).

The omens did not portend smooth sailing for me this workshop. The night before I was up until 4 a.m.--I kid you not--desperately trying to get a rough edit of "The Whale Below" in place that would smooth rough discontinuities that arose while I was writing the thing. You know, minor stuff such as two characters merging into one halfway through the story, three other characters merging into one, physical deformities switching from one person to another, and blank lines that say "Something happens here." Then I had to print it out, and I tell you, nothing has convinced me that I need to replace my 15-year-old HP 550 DeskJet more than waiting for it to cough out 12 copies of a 35-page manuscript.

In my sleep-deprived state, I mis-set my alarm. I discovered this at 8 a.m. when Lisa woke me up asking if I hadn't ought to be on the road soon? Waking up 30 minutes after I should've left is not something I'd recommend. Fortunately, I managed to avoid any imperial entanglements and arrived a Lawrence Person's house in far North Austin at 9:15. The good seats were already taken, but I was able to pass out my story and get down to the nitty-gritty business of critiquing.


About 10 minutes in, Lou Antonelli says, "Boy. I shouldn't have started reading Jayme's right after breakfast." About 15 minutes later, VanderMeer opines, "I see what you mean about 'after breakfast.'" Some minutes after that, he puts down the story, turns to me and says, "Jayme, this wouldn't happen to be a pirate story by any chance, would it?" "Huh," says I, "Now that you mention it, I suppose it could be read as such..."

The actual critique was an experience I'll not likely forget any time soon. Despite the fact that every comment started with some variation of "Shameless panderer!" the verdict across the board was a unanimous thumbs up. I've never experienced such widespread approval of a story before--usually my work polarizes the group, with some loving it, other loathing it, and the rest somewhere in between. Chris Nakashima-Brown gave me my favorite pull quote by saying I was "Hitting pulp-adventure power chords" ala Pete Townshend in The Who's glory days. Damn, that was awesome. I'm now tempted to swear off Turkey City gatherings from here on out, because there's no way I'll ever experience such egoboo ever again.

Afterwards, I hung around a while to chat with VanderMeer and Trimm, but ultimately had to beg off befor the party got going because of lack of sleep and a significant drive home ahead of me. My loss. VanderMeer struck me as a fun fellow who'd be right at home among the Austin writerly crowd, and I'm looking forward to catching up with him again at World Fantasy next month.

Now Playing: The Kinks Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire