Friday, January 29, 2010

Space Shuttle Atlantis highlights 2010 Nebula Awards Weekend

CHESTERTOWN, Md. -- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America will descend on Coco Beach, Fla., on Cape Canaveral for the 2009 Nebula Awards® Weekend May 13-16.

The date was chosen to coincide with the scheduled launching of the Shuttle Atlantis on Friday, May 14. The Nebula Awards will be presented at a banquet on Saturday evening, May 15.

The Nebulas will be held at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, just 20 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center. The Friday launch of the shuttle Atlantis will be visible from the beach outside the hotel. There will also be special tours of the Kennedy Space Center available to Nebula attendees as well as various panels and workshops of interest to the science fiction and fantasy community.

During the Saturday night banquet, Nebula Awards will be given for best short story, novelette, novella and novel. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for excellence in science fiction of fantasy for young adults, the Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.

Renowned author Joe Haldeman will also be honored as the Damon Knight Memorial Grandmaster. The author of 20 novels and five collections, Haldeman remains one of the most popular science fiction writers working today. His landmark novel, The Forever War, won the Nebula, Hugo and Ditmar Awards for best science fiction novel in 1975, and spawned two follow-up novels, Forever Peace and Forever Free. In total, his writings have garnered him five Nebulas, five Hugos and a host of other awards as well as numerous nominations.

The 2010 Nebula Weekend is open to all. Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America receive a discount. Early registration is recommended as space is limited and prices will go up on Monday April 5.

For more information, visit and

About SFWA

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

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

Now Playing: Sheena Easton You Could Have Been With Me

Friday Night Videos

I suppose Sheena Easton counts as a guilty pleasure. Unlike my other great musical loves, The Kinks and Billy Joel, I'll not make the argument Easton is an artistic genius. Her most successful singles are lightweight things, and her albums are notorious for being overloaded with crap filler. Her two stabs at upping her game with more substantive material--1982's Madness, Money & Music and 1993's No Strings both flopped miserably, despite being, from my viewpoint, the artistic high points of her career. Still, despite the drek, when Easton gets the right material, her voice simply soars. Case in point: "For Your Eyes Only," the last truly great James Bond theme, and (with the obvious exception of McCartney's "Live and Let Die" outlier) turns in the best title sequence performance outside of Shirley Bassey.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Robert Plant.

Now Playing: Sheena Easton No Strings

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another photo shoot

The Wife has gotten so good with her photography skills--she attends conferences and learning seminars with nationally-prominent photographers on a regular basis--that I can often feel like dead weight on her career. I am supposed to be her second shooter/backup for Lisa on Location, but it's no great desire of mine to be a great talent drop-off when called upon to shoot. So every so often I manage to squeeze in a shooting session, to keep those photography muscles lubricated and the mind sharp. It also has the added benefit of giving me a break from all the Chicken Ranch work I'm doing, which (believe it or not) can get pretty onerous.

In any event, I met up with Taylor Bentley Monday evening for a night shoot in San Marcos. She'd been known for her long, flowing blonde hair, but had gotten it cut some months back. We wanted to do a shoot to capture that different look, and the idea of a 1920s flapper came to mind. Well, life intervenes, and we didn't get to shoot as soon as we'd have liked, and her hair isn't quite so short anymore. But we managed to get some fun shots anyway.

We did a night shoot for a couple of reasons. First, evenings were the only times either of us could ever find any free time, but secondly, I've been playing with off-camera lighting and shooting at night gave me the opportunity to take more control over the visual look of the piece. Plus, a night shoot lent itself to establishing more of a glamorous, roaring 20s speakeasy type of mood. A 1928 Hudson or Desoto sedan would've served as the perfect set piece, but alas, on a shoestring budget you can't always swing luxuries like that. I was doing good to get the martini glass.

I didn't have as many keeper shots as I'd have hoped. Focusing in low-light conditions is problematic, and I'm not quite comfortable enough in these kinds of shoots to effectively direct the model and manage consistently good composition. That comes with practice. But overall, I'm happy with some of the shots that I did get, and hopefully, Taylor is as well.

Now Playing: Sheena Easton The World of Sheena Easton

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Night Videos

After a long week of playing "guerrilla parking space capture" because of all the students returning to campus, I could do with a "Tall Cool One" tonight. And look! Robert Plant is here to oblige with his greatest post-Zeppelin song, period. Granted, he does invoke his glory days with that guitar riff at the end, "Hey Hey Mama!" and a Jimmy Page cameo, but still, Plant rocks the house like nobody's business, and the song would still rule even without those flourishes. Come to think of it, his entire "Now and Zen" album is exceptionally strong start to finish, but this song stands head and shoulders above the rest. I just wish he hadn't sold out and let Coke use it for a cheesy commercial. Oh well.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Nena.

Now Playing: Prince The Hits/The B Sides

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Nena. 99 Luftballoons. Need I say more? Oh, and she's not dead, despite reports to the contrary on MTV back in the '90s. She's still rocking out in Germany. The same can't be said for Austria's Falco, however. But he never covered "99 Luftballoons," so therein lies his error.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Peter Wolf.

Now Playing: Dire Straits Greatest Hits

Monday, January 11, 2010

So... the homebrew

So yesterday I finally got around to bottling the mead that's been sitting in the fermenter since, well, forever. I originally started the honey fermenting Dec. 30, 2008, and racked the mead on Feb. 2, 2009, at which point I siphoned off a couple of gallons of which to make a muscadine-infused mead (didn't turn out so well). To the remainder, I added a gallon of organic apple cider, five chopped Granny Smith apples and 10 cinnamon sticks. It's been sitting there, unmolested ever since (with the exception of the removal of the chopped Granny Smiths about six months back), making this mead, essentially, one year old.

So I bottled it yesterday, filling 19 wine bottles with the four-plus gallons of mead from the fermenter. The first bottle was quite cloudy, as sediments had apparently filled the bung hole spout, but the remaining 18 bottles were among the clearest meads I've ever bottled. That's the good news. The bad news is that I siphoned off a glass of the apple mead/cyser and... well, it's bland. Crap, crap, crap. The year-long aging has been good for the mead, overall, in that almost all of the harsh, Listerine-style medicinal harshness has faded away. But still, it's bland. I'd added grape tannins, but I can't taste them. All that apple? A fain aftertaste. The cinnamon? Nary a hint. sigh.

After the success I had with the prickly pear mead and the holiday spice metheglin from a few years back, I really thought I had it down with this meadmaking stuff. Apparently not. Note to future self: If you think you have too much fruit/spice/flavoring agents already in the mead, you don't. Add more. Then double that. In an act borne out of frustration at this, I stuck a cinammon stick along with a couple of allspice berries in each of the final four bottles I corked. I have no idea if they'll impart any flavor, but I needed to try something. This is a good batch of dry mead, spoiled only by the fact that it's relative tasteless. I think that from now on, until I'm fully confident in my meadmaking skills, I'll restrict myself to making smaller batches of flavored meads. That way I won't have a whole lot of bland drink on my hands that nobody will want.

On the bright side, with the 6-gallon fermenter freshly vacated (and cleaned) there was nothing stopping me from starting an immediate batch of beer. Beer is so much less problematic than mead--one can of Coopers "Dark Ale" extract, plus two pounds of dark malt and hungry little yeasties and away we go. When I opened up my office this morning, the fresh, bubbly scent of fermenting yeast greeted me. I love that smell! And yes, I'm already giving consideration to what my next meadmaking efforts will consist of.

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Well, since the J. Geils Band video I wanted to feature today has "embedding disabled by request," we'll go with the next best thing to start this 2010 out on a fun and lively note: Peter Wolf's "Lights Out."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Kinks.

Now Playing: Original Broadway Recording The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Monday, January 04, 2010

Star Blazers!

Oh my goodness! I know Chris Roberson may scoff, but I just saw this teaser trailer for a Japanese-produced live-action "Space Battleship Yamato" movie and got completely giddy. I watched the Star Blazers series religiously as a kid in the late 70s, and loved both the war against the Gamilons as well as the second-season Comet Empire saga (I've never seen the Bolar Wars episodes, sadly). Admittedly, as science fiction it make George Lucas' Star Wars movies look like Carl Sagan's Cosmos, but this was the first animated series I ever saw that actually tried to incorporate real human emotion with action and adventure. There were real stakes involved. It might not hold up well today, but I've watched some of the subsequent stand-alone movies on DVD and enjoyed the heck out of them, flaws and all. Is it too much to hope the limited run time of the live-action movie will force the elimination of much goofy excess that undermined the original show? Who knows--but from what I can see in this teaser, it will look good at the very least!

I have to confess that my fanboy self has toyed with the idea of a Star Blazers scriptment for a live-action movie from time to time. I never developed the idea much beyond establishing a reason why a sunken World War II era battleship would be flying around in space (beyond the fact that it looks cool, mind you). It doesn't look like I'll ever have reason to pursue that idea any further, now. But you know what? I don't think I mind.

Now Playing: Dave Davies Unfinished Business