Friday, February 29, 2008

Curse you, VanderMeer!

Over at Ecstatic Days, Jeff Vandermeer taunts me with the new Ray Davies album--an album I do not yet possess. But I will. Soon. Yes, very soon...

Now Playing: Ray Davies The Storyteller

Friday Night Videos

One of the best Elvis covers of all time, Cheap Trick's version of "Don't Be Cruel" is a whole heck of a lot of fun. The video is a great synthesis of 80s cool and the band's inherent dorkiness, with the added bonus that they weren't afraid to have some fun with the whole concept. This version's a bit dark, but it's still good enough to see why it was one of my faves back in the day when MTV still actually played music videos...

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Simple Minds.

Now Playing:

Push poll

It's crazy in Texas. For the first time in my lifetime (that I can remember) politicians on the national stage are criss-crossing our vast state, begging for votes. Texas has never mattered before. There was a huge Obama rally on campus Wednesday night, with between 12-20,000 bodies crammed into Sewell Park to see the hopeful presidential candidate. There were snipers stationed atop the building were I work, and apparently one of them stepped in a big patch of vulture poop (we have a significant vulture issue here on campus), slipped and fell into the stuff. Afterwards those involved opined that it was "the worst assignment ever." Is that not a great story, or what?

While I was hearing about the conflict between the Secret Service and avian fecal matter, The Wife received an honest-to-gosh push poll. A push poll! They have these things in Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina is pretty much synonymous with them. But Texas? Wow. It went something like this:
ROBOVOICE: We would like to ask you a few questions for a political survey. It will only take a few minutes. Will you participate?

The Wife: Yes.

ROBOVOICE: Do you plan to vote in the primary elections?

The Wife: Yes.

ROBOVOICE: Does the knowledge that John McCain opposed President Bush's well-deserved tax cuts for America's stuggling upper class make you more or less likely to vote for him?

The Wife: Uh... more?

ROBOVOICE: Really? Well, did you know that John McCain wants to dismantle all our border crossing security so evil communist Muslim Mexicans can sneak across the border, steal our jobs, blow up our schools, eat our babies, marry our daughters and rape our livestock? Did you know that?

The Wife: I don't think--

ROBOVOICE: John McCain hates Jesus. Rush Limbaugh said so.

The Wife: This is a waste of my--

ROBOVOICE: The Hand of God reached down from heaven and anointed Mike Huckabee as our savior. If you vote for John McCain, you will go to hell.

ROBOVOICE: Who do you plan to vote for, Mike Huckabee or John McCain?

The Wife: Neither.

ROBOVOICE: I'm sorry, I didn't understand that answer. Would you repeat--

The Wife: click

I'm actually kinda disappointed Huckabee's people didn't accuse McCain of opposing feeding Mexicans to alligators. If you're going to go into race-baiting and fearmongering, at least do your research.

Now Playing: The Police Message in a Box

Thursday, February 28, 2008

LOCUS poll

It's been pointed out to me that my story, "The Final Voyage of La Riaza," is nominated in the current Locus poll under the "Best Novelette" category. I do believe that this is the first time anything I've written has been nominated for any of these beauty pageant things. Since the story was originally published in Interzone, it strikes me that most SF fans Stateside won't have encountered it, so anyone interested in giving it a look-see can just email me (if they're so inclined) and I'll send them out an RTF file of the story.

And just to cover all the bases, the Locus poll URL is below. You don't gotta be a current subscriber to vote.

Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show Sept. 20-21, 1997

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lone Star Sleuths! Live! In-Person!

I meant to post this Saturday night, but it got late and I got tired. Then Sunday I took ill, and stayed bedridden most of Monday. But obviously I'm better now.

The Wittliff Collections at Texas State Univesity hosted a big "Lone Star Sleuths" event at Alkek Library on Saturday. Since I knew one or three of the authors attending via science fiction circles, I made a point to swing by for a spell. Not to mention that I still haven't sent my poor, broken camera in for repair/exchange, so here was an opportunity to get a little more use out of it. I'm dangerous that way. First up is the obligatory signing table shot. I had others that did a much better job of showing how many people were in attendance (roughly 200 or so) but I'm still struggling with the whole depth-of-field concept. This was the best of the lot.


And here are the mad geniuses/editors behind the Lone Star Sleuths anthology itself: Rollo K. Newsom, Bill Cunningham and Steven L. Davis.


At this point, I decide to try and get somewhat artsy. Well, artsy for me. I'm a very pedestrian photographer at this point, remember. So using the 75-300mm telephoto zoom lens so generously loaned to my by The Wife, I set about taking close-up portrait shots of various authors in attendance. It's a slow lens, unfortunately, and the camera had trouble focusing in the low-light conditions of the library, but the beauty of 2 gig memory cards is that you take a hundred shots of a single subject to get one keeper. Needless to say, I filled that card up. First up is Bill Cunningham.


Neal Barrett, Jr., is a great writer and a nifty person. He's also got a great face for photography. I took a bunch of Neal for that reason. A bunch of them turned out really, really sharp. However, I loved the expression in his eyes here, and went with this one even though it's softer than I'd like.


There's something to be said for taking a series of photos from a distance. Mary Willis Walker gave me a fantastic sequence while chatting with a fan. Very animated, very relaxed. And she never knew I was shooting. Almost all of her pics were keepers, and this is my favorite of the lot.


Some might wonder why I keep taking pictures of Bill Crider. This photographer might wonder the same thing as well. He's got a nifty new mystery out, Of All Sad Words, though, which has some of the coolest cover art I've seen in a long while.


Here's Rollo K. Newsom...


And Susan Witting Albert...


And Paula Boyd (again, a little soft. Heck, who am I kidding--a lot soft. Almost all of her's were blurred, taken farther away from the big picture windows than the other authors. Live and learn).


The main event--apart from the massive book signing, that is--was an "acoustic noir" concert. Groovy. First up was Kasey Lansdale and the Dale-Tones. Not all of the Dale-Tones could make it, but the two that matter are pictured below.


Kasey, in case you missed it, is the daughter of Joe R. Lansdale his Ownself. She says her singing sounds like herself, but other folks who grasp for descriptive comparisons often resort to "Patsy Cline meets Janis Joplin." And those folks wouldn't be too far off the mark.


The second half of the musical double-header featured Jesse Sublett. Not only did he play a crackin' guitar (check out that smooth motion blur on his strumming hand. I must admit I blundered into it, even though I sorta vaguely wanted to try for that effect)...


...but he also had that "Too Cool for School" acoustic bass player attitude down pat.


I hope you've enjoyed this little recap. No need to thank me--I'm sure I'll be terrorizing your neighborhood with my camera sooner or later.

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

Monday, February 25, 2008


Sunday night I went toe-to-toe with some virus or other and crumpled like a soda can taking on a steam roller. I first noticed something amiss when I climbed the stairs to read to my daughters at bedtime. I was winded. Short of breath. Now, I make no claims to being in shape, but that's extreme, even for me. Then there was the fuzzy-headedness. And some not-insignificant joint aches. By the time I finished reading with both girls, I was in full-blown "feel like crap warmed over" mode. I crashed into bed just as chills started up. It was a restless night. This morning I got up somewhat better, but nothing near normal. I took the girls to school then returned home, called in sick to work, and crashed again until about noon. I'm almost back to my old self, although I've got some cottonmouth and fatigue easily.

In other unrelated news, I've discovered quite a few of my seasonal passiflora planted out in the yard are sprouting. In February. This is early, even for Texas. The head count thus far includes two of my incarnatas--my "Texas Giant" and Georgia varieties--my affinis and the foetida var. gossypiifolia. This is in addition to the Incense, caerulea, Constance Eliott, Lady Margaret, Alata, Amethyst and Clear Skies that weathered winter without dying back. No sign yet of the Inspiration, but it's still early.

Now Playing: Various artists Reality Bites Soundtrack

Friday, February 22, 2008

My camera... she is still broken

Wednesday night the skies were overcast, so I wasn't able to attempt any photos of the lunar eclipse. Drat. Tuesday night offered intermittent cloud cover, and I took some really cool shots of the moon surrounded and partially obscured by clouds in a manner that created a nifty nebula effect. Or, at least it would have, if the moon hadn't turned out to be way over exposed. So I go back to experiment and practice with aperture and exposure settings, and last night I managed this:


The moon had risen less than an hour before, and boasted a gorgeous honey-golden color. Which I utterly failed to capture by accidentally leaving the camera's white balance set for tungsten light (I'll admit to a slight tweak in Photoshop to enhance some yellow in the shot above, but it's pretty negligible). I used a Canon EF 75-300mm lens (the older version, without image stabilization) with a shutter speed of 1/400, 5.6 aperture and ISO speed of 400. Full moon's not a great time for lunar photography because the lack of strong shadows robs the image of detail, depth and contrast, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. I did a bunch of things wrong here, and the 75-300 isn't the best lens for astrophotography by any means. A lower ISO would've resulted in less noise, and the moon's bright enough to get away with it. Still, another set of data points along my slef-taught journey.

Now Playing: ZZ Top Antenna

Friday Night Videos

Simple Minds never achieved the popularity here in the U.S. that they had overseas. It's interesting that their biggest hit, "Don't You Forget About Me," was a hired gun affair, in which they were brought in to perform it for The Breakfast Club soundtrack with no writing input. Their follow up album, Alive and Kicking didn't have much that interested me, except for one of the last singles, "All the Things She Said." I thought it pretty nifty then, and still do.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Cure.

Now Playing: ZZ Top Antenna

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My camera... she is broken

How's this for a case of "life sucks": that new Canon Rebel XTi digital camera I got the other week? It's broken. Oh, it still takes pictures just fine. Nothing serious or catastrophic. But the eject button for the CompactFlash memory card is defunct. It just sits flush in its casing (it ought to protrude slightly) and does nothing when I press it in hopes of ejecting the CF card. This ticks me off to no end. Now I have to bundle the camera up and ship it off to either Amazon for replacement or Canon for repair. It won't cost me anything, since it's under warranty either way. But I'll be without for two weeks, minimum. Curses!

But I've been playing with it nonetheless. I'll be a terror once I figure out what I'm doing--my photographic technical expertise is just this side of nil. I'm reading, practicing and bit by bit teaching myself how to take photos in something other than the automatic default settings. I'm also training my eye to spot potentially nifty shots. I'm not terribly good at it yet, I admit, but the other day I wandered around campus and took a heck of a lot of pictures. Nothing even approaching good, but there were a couple of interesting photos in the final analysis. Below is a cypress knee in one of the ornamental fish ponds outside of my building. The form was quite arresting. Nothing dramatic, but it's got an unusual shape and lots of texture.


This next photo is of cypress roots. Several of the ponds on campus (which used to be part of a federal fish hatchery) have been drawn down for the winter to kill off an over-abundance of algae. This has exposed a fascinating tangle of cypress roots along the shoreline that's not usually visible. I suspect early morning would give me better colors and contrast with this perspective. I didn't quite get the depth of field I wanted, either. And on top of everything, there that nasty little lens flare in the pic as well. Still, not bad for a novice who is sadly lacking his lusted-for wide-angle zoom (Canon 10-22, I'm lookin' at you).


This weekend I plan on taking bunches of crappy pics in the hopes one or two might be worth something. Then Monday I'll ship my baby off to be fixed or replaced. Did I mention how crappy it is to have a new camera with a broken piece?

Now Playing: Various The Commitments

Civic duty

Well, I went and voted today in the Texas primary. Texas allows early voting, so I've made it a habit to do so in order to 1) avoid long lines on election day and B) avoid hunting for remote, obscure and/or moved polling places for my precinct (which has happened to me before. Believe me, it's no fun). So I drove down to the Comal County Courthouse and was surprised to find a line of folks waiting to vote stretching out the door of the voting room and into the hall. They were all voting in the Democratic primary. This is significant, because in the whole red state/blue state dichotomy, New Braunfels--and Comal County in general--is redder than Vladimir Lenin's boxer shorts. There was a steady trickle of Republican primary voters to be sure, but they came in ones and twos, signed in and voted right away, whereas the Democratic had a wait that never got shorter than 4-5 people at a time.

The woman in front of me was a little confused when the volunteers asked her if she wanted to vote in the Democratic primary, just to confirm she was in the correct line. The woman stammered a little, then admitted she normally votes Republican but was there to "Vote against Hillary." I nearly broke down laughing--Obama's coalition is broadening its base all the time, it seems.

I, ultimately, cast my lot in with Obama. Al Gore, unfortunately, wasn't an option. John Edwards, who I voted for in '04, was an option, but as much as I liked him four years ago, he really underwhelmed this time around. The same goes for Bill Richardson, who I sorta liked--a less inspiring campaign I've seldom seem. I've grown increasingly disconnected from Hillary over the years, and the longer her campaign soldiers on, the more she continues to disappoint. It seems she's willingly playing into all the negative perceptions of her, and I can't understand how someone that intelligent can allow herself such petty behavior. The fact that Hillary may be the only thing that can get the Religious Right and neocons to unite and back McCain in the general election (see above paragraph) doesn't help her case with me, either.

Not that I think Obama's a sure thing if he does end up being the nominee. Primary victories aside, silent racism is going to cost him votes in a national election. He's too callow on national and international issues--my biggest problem with Edwards last go-around as well--and I'm not convinced he can survive a swift boat-style attack from the Republicans. And he's a good bit left of my normal political leanings. In any other year, I might actually be leaning toward McCain, but after 8 years of wing nut rule, and McCain showing no signs of repudiating that wing of the GOP (the same ones who killed him in '00 against Dubya with nasty rumors of his fathering an illegitimate black child) I'm kinda thinking that maybe four or more years of left-leaning government wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Obama, if nothing else, is the most dynamic, eloquent and charismatic candidate my generation has ever seen (and we're a pretty cynical, jaded bunch). I was similarly inspired by Clinton back in '92, but his centrist government (yay!) was undercut by his personal shenanigans (boo!) and I, along with many others I suspect, became disillusioned with politics in general. Obama has rock star appeal, and for all the world reminds me of Kennedy with his soaring rhetoric and optimistic enthusiasm. He may not deliver on all those promised--heck, there's no way anyone can live up to these expectations--but at least he's willing to try. That's worth a chance in my book.

Now Playing: The Smithereens 11

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tenuiloba flower

My passiflora tenuiloba started blooming like crazy over the weekend. The twinned flowers don't open simultaneously, it seems. Rather, they're stagged a day apart. Not terribly dramatic as flowers, but interesting nonetheless. They're Texas natives, and I like 'em.


Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show March 28-29, 1998

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Staffing the Whorehouse

Believe it or not, the Wife and I watched "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" for the very first time the other night. This is a stunning revelation for two native-born Texans, I know. Particularly in light of the fact that I grew up in Columbus, a mere 20 miles or so from La Grange, and even had a former employee of the Chicken Ranch as my Cub Scout den mother (although in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't learn this particularly interesting factoid until many years later). I remember when the movie was being filmed around Hallettsville when I was 11, and that's the distinctive courthouse in Hallettsville you see in the film (which is particularly dazzling when lit up for Christmas). There were location shots being done all around our part of the state, along with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds sightings. When I expressed excitement about going to see the film in theaters, my folks flat-out said no. I was baffled as to why. "Because of the name," was all the answer I got from them. I had no clue. Seriously.

The movie itself is an interesting misfire. It's very uneven, which is to be expected, I suppose, since it's reported to have gone through several directors before it was finished. I have to say that casting Dolly in the role of Miss Mona was inspired. Burt Reynolds as Ed Earl... not so much. Old Burt doesn't act so much as mug his way through the film. And he can't sing, dragging Dolly down with him in the silly "Sneakin' Around" number. Charles Durning was distracting, but not horrible. Dom DeLuise was horrible as Melvin P. Thorpe, a caricature of Marvin Zindler, himself a caricature of a journalist. The less said about Gomer Pyle, the better (I wonder if they went with Jim Neighbors because Don Knotts wasn't available?).

As a musical, Whorehouse is mind-bogglingly static. There are a couple of fun song-and-dance numbers here, the best of the lot being "A Lil' Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place." But geeze Louise, when Dolly sings "I Will Always Love You," everything grinds to a halt. She stands there, stiff as a board, singing in soft focus. Burt stands across the room, stiff as a board, arms at his side. I could not believe how turgid that scene was--all I can fathom is that they were on the last day of shooting and wanted to get it over with. Any type of choreography or blocking would eat up most of the day, and their flights left Austin at 5 p.m. Even the emotionally arresting "Hard Candy Christmas" succeeds because of the song and not because of any inspiration on the director's part.

With the imperfections of the original movie, I think this is a movie ripe for a remake. Normally, I hate remakes, because Hollywood gravitates to movies that were done right the first time around, and were therefore successful. Whorehouse was fairly successful for 1982, bringing in almost $70 million at the box office, but I don't think it comes anywhere near realizing its potential. Look at the excitement Baz Luhrmann has brought to the musical genre, or the cool synthesis of Broadway and cinema Rob Marshall accomplished with "Chicago." In fact, were I heading up a studio, Marshall'd be my choice to helm a Whorehouse remake (there's plenty of material available to differentiate it from the first film. A bunch of songs were dropped from the stage version, as was a subplot involving two new girls starting work at the Chicken Ranch).

So, with the director in place, who would round out my cast?

Ed Earl Dodd: Lyle Lovett. You can tell here that I'm not going the Burt Reynolds route here. Lovett can actually sing, and his craggy, character-filled face more closely evokes that of the real Sheriff T.J. Flournoy than Reynolds.

Miss Mona: Crystal Bernard. Yeah, her. Can you believe she's 47? She looks forever frozen at 21 in all those "Wings" reruns. But she has several things going for her: 1) she's cute, which counts a great deal in a production like this; 2) she can sing, which counts even more in a production like this; 3) the delicious irony of casting the Bible-toting Baylor alumna in this particular production is far too tempting to pass up.

Governor: Tom Wopat. Didn't see that one coming, eh? I didn't either, until I saw the touring production of Chicago in San Antonio. Wopat did a great job as Billy Flynn (although is dancing wasn't much to write home about) which, as a character, isn't all that far removed from the Governor.

Jewel: Queen Latifah. Maybe it's typecasting. So what. Queen Latifah kicks ass in this type of role, which obviously would be beefed up in the remake. I think Jewel has a solo number in the stage play cut from the film, but I've never seen the stage version, so I'm not sure.

Dulcie Mae: Sheryl Crow. Because why the hell not?

Melvin P. Thorpe: Johnny Depp. Man, this is the toughest one for me. Dom DeLuise absolutely did not work in the first film. And really, how can you do a loon like Zindler without going so far over the top that you shatter all believability? If any actor can pull off the social crusader/televangelist/ego maniac persona of Zindler, it's Depp. Bonus points for being able to sing, although I haven't seen his "Sweeny Todd" yet, so consider this one a leap of faith.


Now Playing: The Kinks Give the People What They Want


I'll bet you thought I forgot about this, didn't you? Never fear, Memory part 6 is now live over at No Fear of the Future. Parric has a conversation with a visitor, and stuff is revealed. For true.

Now Playing: The Kinks Face to Face

Monday, February 18, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are

There's an odd clip from the live-action "Where the Wild Things Are" floating around the net these days. Apparently it pops up somewhere and then disappears just as soon as Warner Bros. lawyers find out about it. I caught a glimpse of it through a link at Ain't It Cool. The clip is... weird. It's a mixture of costumes and CGI, and had an off-kilter vibe about it. It feels like some kind of test footage, and that's where my money is--an early test piece, despite the fact that Moriarty claims it's too "finished" to be a simple test. Maybe, but the animated face on the monster looks too rubbery to me for it to be the finished product. If this is anywhere close to what the finished film will look like, though, it'll be like mainlining the distilled essence of Sid & Marty Kroft.

By the by, the great John Lasseter did an animation test on "Where the Wild Things Are" for Disney back in '83. I remember reading something about this somewhere at the time, in a post-TRON world where computer animation was all the rage. Maybe it was in Starlog. In any event, there was a still printed from the scene in Max's room, and over the years I wondered occasionally what had become of this project. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, the test is now online for everyone to enjoy:

Is it just me, or does Max look for all the world like one of Peter Pan's Lost Boys?

Now Playing: Michael Kamen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Friday, February 15, 2008


I generally like nuts. Cashews and pecans are my favorite, but I do like me some walnuts (good, strong flavor!) and will hit the hazlenuts, brazils and filberts on occasion, although I don't seek them out. Salted-in-shell peanuts are perfect for watching sporting events of any stripe. Pretty much the only nut I've never liked much is the almond. I don't know if its the texture or flavor or what, but they're not a nut I willingly eat.

That may well change now that I've tried Blue Diamond's Smokehouse almonds. Holy geeze, these things are most excellent. As much as I disliked almonds before, I think I love these an equal and opposite amount. Wow.

Now Playing: The Smithereens 11

Friday Night Videos

If I asked 100 people on the street to name a song by The Cure, I'd be surprised if anyone mentioned this one. Which is a shame, because it's their best one. Kinda flies in the face of their self-important, angst-ridden Goth image, doesn't it?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... John Cougar Mellencamp.

Now Playing: Ali Farka Touré with Ry Cooder Talking Timbuktu

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Occasionally I obsess a bit here about passion flowers. I've got some big, flashy ones growing, and am always ready to show them off. I've also developed an obsession for odd, rare or obscure passis from the decaloba subtype. These generally have interesting leaves, small flowers and are smaller plants in general. P. tenuiloba is a Texas native, growing in dry areas of the Hill Country and South Texas. It doesn't have impressive flowers, isn't cultivated and isn't all that common even in the wild. The one thing they're known for is their elongated leaves, which gives them the common names of "bird-wing passion flower" and "slender-lobe passion flower." Naturally, I had to add it to my collection. Which isn't easy when nobody else grows this thing, believe me. But I've gotten some over the years. Sadly, I've killed almost as many while trying to figure out how they like to be treated. So imagine my delight when I looked in on the one growing in my office and discovered this:


I had no idea they produced flowers in pairs. But then again, things I have no idea about could fill volumes. Still, twinned flowers is not a common trait among passis. Will post pics of the modest flowers once the buds open. But yeah, I'm excited.

Now Playing: The Who Who's Greatest Hits

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One of the seven signs of apocalypse

Uno! Uno! Uno! That spunky hound from up the road in Austin shattered 100 years of oppression and discrimination against beaglekind, winning Best in Show for his breed for the first time ever. Heck, a beagle hadn't even won the hound group since 1939. How did this little guy even stand a chance?

Well, Uno certainly worked the crowd. When he came out for the final judging, the volume definitely went up in the arena. I didn't need the commentators to tell me that. And Uno seemed completely unfazed by it all, bouncing around in his own little world, as beagle are wont to do. I have to say I have never, ever seen a beagle with markings as symmetrical as Uno's. He had a little less black than I'm used to, but the color patterns on either pattern were perfectly balanced. His tail had a nice bit of feathering up near the top, but the tip, oddly, was rounded and blunt. I've never seen a beagle with anything other than a white tip coming to a point, so maybe the owner trimmed it for some arcane show thing? Uno wasn't all that big for a 15-inch beagle, either. My late, great Sigfreid Sebastian Bach was significantly larger than Uno (with very asymmetrical markings), although Monkeyshine and My Precioussss both look to be comparable to Uno's stature. Can you tell I'm a beagle person yet?

When the final round of judging began, I was pretty much convinced Uno wouldn't win. Beagles are a breed that go back to Elizabethan times, but aren't the type of long-haired frou frou dog that usually does well in these kinds of things. Needless to say, I was horrified by the two poodle entrants. A more nightmarish distortion of the canine species I've never seen. The little Sealyham terrier was kinda creepy too, but not to that degree. The red merle Australian shepherd was a nice dog, but for some reason it didn't stand out amongst the other competition, so I doubted it would win. The Akita had very nice markings, and had a strong presence, so I was a little concerned about it, but my big worry was the Weimeraner. Stylish and sleek, it stood out amongst the competition and if the judge was going to go with a trendy pick, that Weimeraner would be a good compromise between the extremes of the poofy poodles and working dogs such as the beagle and Aussie shepherd. The fact that a Weimeraner had never won had me concerned, as did the USA announcers picking it as their personal choice to win.

Before the judge Donald Jones came out, the commentators discussed what he'd be looking for in the winner--and quoted Jones as saying there would come "some moment" when he just knew. As it was Uno's time to parade before the judge for evaluation, he looked frisky enough for a beagle, but not necessarily one to beat out the other competition. Once he stopped before the judge, however, I immediately though "He's going to start baying." And he did. Beagle bark (between midnight and 5 a.m. seems to be their preferred time to do so) but they also bay. It's not the deep, extended bay of blood hounds or coon hounds. It's in a higher register, and is more truncated than those larger dogs'. It has more energy. More joy and excitement. They bay when on the scent of a rabbit, but also when they're playing. Uno was clearly enjoying himself, baying so hard that his front paws were coming off the carpet. I thought to myself, "That's the moment." That is a signature trait of beagles as much as not barking is synonymous with the basenji breed. Honestly, if he hadn't broken out into song it should've been points against him. The crowd, already won over, loved it. And the judge, apparently, was won over. Best in show.

The icing on the cake came when the trophies were presented. Uno immediately began looking into the various bowls, then up at his owner as if to say, "Where's the food?" Typical beagle to the last. Congratulations, Uno.

Now Playing: Wynton Marsalis & Ellis Marsalis Joe Cool's Blues

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An interview with Flavius MacDuff

I've published a new installment of MEMORY over at No Fear of the Future. I've now topped roughly 5,000 words, and amazingly enough, have yet to miss a posting deadline. For those of you following along since the beginning (and newcomers to the ongoing saga) I thought it might be fun to interview the initial protagonist of the piece, Flavius MacDuff, and get his thoughts on how the story is progressing.

Jayme: Well, Flavius, we've reached chapter five in this little literary experiment. It's a minor milestone as these things go, but a milestone nonetheless. What do you think of the story thus far?

Flavius: Piss off.

Jayme: Excuse me?

Flavius: I said 'piss off' ya bastard. What, are ya deaf and stupid?

Jayme: There's no need for such hostility?

Flavius: Nae need? Nae need? That's easy for ya to say. Yer nae the one killed off in chapter two!

Jayme: Well, you have to admit it was a dramatic death.

Flavius: Bugger drama! Ya had that beastie chew me up and spit me out! D'ya know how much something like that hurts?

Jayme: Well, I'm sorry for that. But you have to understand, I'm a writer. I take what I do seriously. I have to stay true to the narrative.

Flavius: Narrative. Ha! Yer a hack.

Jayme: Now you're just being nasty.

Flavius: Hack. How else d'ye explain this butchered brogue ya make me speak in? I sound like Mike Meyers in So I Married an Ax Murderer. I'm surprised ya didnae have me pinin' for a haggis while ya were at it. H-A-C-K.

Jayme: I'm writing this serial on the fly. Usually around 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. It's a rough first draft, in all honesty. If I was ever to republish it someday, I'd do a major dialog polish. And Mike Meyers wasn't so bad in So I Married an Ax Murderer. That's actually an underrated film.

Flavius: Meyers sucks. So did that film.

Jayme: This isn't Ebert & Roeper. I wanted to talk to you about this serial I'm writing.

Flavius: About this serial yer ripping off, ya mean.

Jayme: I'm not ripping anything off.

Flavius: Nae? How about Moorcock? Zelazny? Wolfman?

Jayme: Moorcock and Zelazny are obvious inspirations. I won't deny that. Lots of Moorcock. You left out Broderick, by the way. But Wolfman's probably less so than the others. You're thinking Crisis on Infinite Earths, and there's just not much of a comic book influence here.

Flavius: 'Nexus of All Realities."

Jayme: What do you mean?

Flavius: Yer a bright boy. Ya know how to Google.

Jayme: Okay, hang on a moment... oh shit.

Flavius: Graverobber is what ya are. And a hack.

Jayme: I didn't know--

Flavius: Sure ya didnae.

Jayme: I mean, I love Steve Gerber's work. I love Howard the Duck--Dr. Bong, the Iron Duck Suit, the Max mini series--but I never read those Adventure into Fear or Giant-Size Man-Thing issues. Seriously. I swear I don't have any Man-Thing issues with Howard.

Flavius: Right, lad. And that big dissolving boulder from chapter 4 wasn't a "Stone of Oblivion" at all, was it?


Flavius: It's nae nice to steal from dead people.

Jayme: Whoops, looks like our time is up. Thanks for sitting down with me today, Flavius. It's been... interesting. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some rewriting to do.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not as big as you thought it was

Owners of new Canon Rebel XTis may well think that a 2 gig Compactflash card is a huge amount of memory that could never, ever come close to running out of room. They'd be wrong. I'm just saying, is all.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Glass Houses

Saturday, February 09, 2008

In which a new obsession is born

Remember back last month when I bemoaned the fact that I was selling off my Dr. Demento Show collection? And I hinted that it wasn't just a random, sell-to-get-extra-pocket-change kind of Ebay thing? That it was goal-oriented liquidation? Well, a major component of that goal is now in my in my greedy grasp.


Introducing my new Canon Rebel XTi, a 10.1 megapixel SLR. It's Canon's entry-level camera, a step above their high-end point-and-shoots, but what a huge step it is (yes, I'm aware of the newly-unveiled XSi. It's awesome. But not awesome enough for me to shell out an additional $400 for it). I've been quite impressed with the quality of digital point-and-shoots and how forgiving they are for someone with even mediocre photography skills, but this XTi is downright awesome. I can only imagine what Canon's upscale prosumer or professional cameras are like. The ability to change lenses and other, nifty built-in features on this camera makes a huge difference, and I don't even fully know how to use it yet.


The most noticeable thing about this camera is that it's small. Very small for a SLR. That makes it a little awkward to handle at times, but I'm planning on getting a vertical grip battery pack for it, which should minimize those issues. I've only played around with it a little, testing out a variety of lenses, but I'm very, very happy with it.

Why, you might ask, did I buy a Canon as opposed to, say, a Nikon? Nikon folks are pretty rabid in their allegiance after all, and swear by that brand. The fact of the matter is that the Wife owns a 35mm Canon, and has almost a thousand dollars worth of lenses to go along with it. Lenses that just so happen to be fully compatible with Canon's digital cameras. You make the call.

Now Playing: Stan Getz/João Gilberto Getz/Gilberto

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Night Videos

John Mellencamp took up political activism around the same time he dropped the goofy "Cougar" moniker. I remember when the first singles from his Scarecrow album hit, and was hooked. So I bought it. And really, really was captivated by the semi-title track, "Rain on the Scarecrow." I suppose it was because I grew up in rural Texas on and around farms, not to mention that my dad was an ag teacher in high school. Then Mellencamp teamed up with Willie Nelson for the first Farm Aid, which impressed me as well. The family farm was a dying breed back then, and is even moreso today, driven out of business by market forces--namely the big corporate operations that crush the little guy with economy of scale. Growing up, I always saw open-range cattle wherever I went, and even today I see dozens (if not hundreds) of cattle grazing on my commute to work. But in supermarkets, all a person can buy is grain-fed, feedlot-raised animals. The dissonance is tough for me to grasp.

I can't help but recall that the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire came when the citizen farmers left their lands and moved to the cities because they couldn't make a decent living otherwise. Is the same thing happening in the U.S.? I have to wonder.

Now Playing: John Mellencamp Human Wheels

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Dying Earth

It may come as a shock to some of you, but there are gaps in my reading list. There are some landmark works and authors that I have not read. Heck, in all honesty, what I haven't read may as well be an ocean with those books I'm familiar with represented as tiny desert islands scattered far and wide. And I'm even less well-read when it comes to recent publications and authors. But that's neither here nor there, it just illustrates how large a disappointment I am to the reading geekdom.

So I have started reading Jack Vance's The Dying Earth series. I got the omnibus volume SFBC put out some years back, but had never managed to get around to reading it. That changed the other night, when I removed the shrink wrap (yup--it stayed in the wrapper all these years) and sat down to read.

It's not what I expected. I'm not entirely getting into it, but that's not necessarily the book's fault. Where I though I'd be reading some sort of odd, far future epic (ala The Einstein Intersection), instead I'm finding a story that's very episodic. My expectations have been confused by reality, and changing my expectations has proven more difficult than one would expect. In many ways Dying Earth reminds me of Simak's City, although the styles are very different. And at the risk of bringing a chorus of "Germans bomb Pearl Harbor" upon my head, I'm mostly struck by how much this work by Vance resonates with Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Were I a betting man, I wouldn't look too much further to pick a work that heavily influenced Mr. Wolfe.

Now Playing: The Kinks Did Ya?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I've posted a new installment of my online serial Memory over at No Fear of the Future.

Last week, we saw the strange bird-serpent-insect hybrid Parric battered and broken by the even stranger, eight-legged otherwhereian creature responsible for killing Flavius MacDuff. Will Parric suffer the same ignominious fate as Flavius? Tune in and see!

Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show February 27-28, 1999


A call from the Wife:

Do you know what your son is doing now?

Well, now that you mention it, no I don't.

He's sitting on the kitchen floor.


He's got the pepper grinder. He's grinding it.

I see.

And he's saying, "Cheese, Gromit!"

I laughed uncontrollably for about 10 minutes after that one.

Now Playing: Budapest Strings - Karoly BotvayRendezvous of Angels, Vol. 1: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons

Monday, February 04, 2008

Locus! Locus! Locus!

Locus magazine has posted its Recommended Reading List for 2007, and "The Final Voyage of La Riaza" made the list among novelettes. Trés cool. This is the first time--I think--that my work has risen to to Locus' notice.

Now, if I can just get "The Shoals of Cibola" finished...

Now Playing: Shakira Laundry Service

I've found my thrill...

Remember that batch of mead I started last month? Well, a month has passed and the initial fermentation has run its course. It's been almost a week since the last bubble popped up through the water lock, which means it's time for racking. Racking, for the uninitiated, involves draining/siphoning the mead from the primary fermentation vessel into other containers. This leaves behind old yeast, impurities and other solid matter which can cloud the mead and give it an off flavor if allowed to remain.

Racking time also presents the perfect opportunity to add things to the basic mead in order to give it flavor. I decided to add (a decision made well before I set this batch to fermenting, I must admit) nearly two quarts of blueberries and, separately, a pint of maypop/passion fruit pulp.


Yum! Don't those blueberries look delicious? They are. All picked fresh, although they've been chilling in my deep freeze since Christmas. I drained the six gallons of mead from my primary fermentation vessel into several smaller ones for temporary holding. I cleaned out the big one, then added the blueberries along with enough of the mead to bring the total fermenting there up to five gallons. I also added a dash of honey to help start the fermentation process back up.


You can't really see it in the photo, but the mead has a most wonderful blue/purple hue to it, and the smell is most excellent. The remaining mead I added to my smaller 1.5 gallon fermenter, along with a dash of honey and the pint of maypop pulp. The scent is strong on this one, but as the pulp of the fruit is pale yellow (dotted with the black of a few seeds I missed) the color isn't nearly as dramatic. I'm curious as to how these two batches will turn out--I deliberately started out with less honey this time out, so the finished product would be less sweet, with less honey flavor to overwhelm the fruit flavors (not to mention a bit less alcohol). I expect I'll let them do their things, unmolested, for another month before racking again and starting the whole clarifying/aging process. But I like to think I'm getting a little more sophisticated with my brewing techniques and may be close to producing drinks I won't be ashamed to give out as gifts, as opposed to drinking myself.

In other good news, I've potentially found a supplier of locally produced bee vomit. Will find out the ultimate quality of said product this coming Thursday. Will keep everyone posted.

Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show June 5-6, 1999

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Shakira isn't a singer I'd normally expect to like. When I first noticed her, I wrote her off as a Latin American pop tart import. But my opinion has gradually changed. Her songwriting on Oral Fixation is significantly stronger than on her English language debut, Laundry Service. Yeah, there are some clunker lyrics here and there, and a few songs are insubstantial and frothy. But still, she strikes me as a shrewd strategic and tactical thinker as far as her career goes. "Don't Bother" is an angry, jilted lover song in the vein of Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," but it's a bit more sly with a touch of regret that Morissette's piece didn't have. The video's a good one too, combining Shakira's sexpot image with surprising vulnerability and an over-the-top revenge fantasy. Good stuff.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Love & Rockets.

Now Playing: Cheap Trick Greatest Hits