Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Night Videos

A little change of pace for this week's installment of Friday Night Videos. Growing up, I remember going to AstroWorld in Houston from an early age. It was a popular destination for band trips, Boy Scouts and even Spanish club, and every year the family would make an outing of it as well during the summer (with the exception of one year we ended up going to Six Flags in Arlington, which for a variety of reasons, turned into a huge disappointment). Despite this, we kids were still fixated on the rumored gold standard of amusement parks--Disney. We had friend who'd gone, and come back with wondrous stories of Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion and all manner of mind-blowing excitement. The Wonderful World of Disney was a staple of Sunday evening television viewing throughout the 70s, so I was keenly aware when the strange new EPCOT opened in Florida adjacent to DisneyWorld. We desperately wanted to go--Florida, California, it didn't matter, just as long as the destination had "Disney" associated with it. And every year, my father promised we'd go "next year."

Never happened.

I finally made it to DisneyLand in California back in 1992, when Texas A&M played Stanford in the Pigskin Classic. I met the legendary Charlie McClendon and drank some beers with him at a party the night before the game, and got to witness the surreal sight of Mickey Mouse leading a Yell Practice. And, jaded 21-year-old that I was, the lavish detail and overall sensory overload of DisneyLand blew my mind. I vowed that when I had kids, "next year" wouldn't be an empty promise made year after year. The point of this over-long reminisce is that The Wife and I are packing up Monkey Girl, Fairy Girl and the Bug, loading them onto a big ol' jet airliner (which they are just as excited about, if not moreso) for a trip to Florida and a week of concentrated Disney over-indulgence. I hope I survive. At any rate, here are some videos to help set the mood, starting off with the classic Mickey Mouse Club opening, which I watched many, many afternoons while growing up when it was in syndication.

On our to-do list of DisneyWorld attractions is the enchanted Tiki Room, which I didn't have a chance to see during my brief 6 hours or so at DisneyLand.

I did manage to get into the Haunted Mansion, though, the final ride I went on before the park closed that night. It was as brilliant an experience as reputation had it. I only hope the current ride isn't wall-to-wall Eddie Murphy schtick.

Tomorrowland was always the area of the park that appealed to me most as a kid. It's been totally revamped since this promo film was made, which makes me a little sad, since the naive gee-whiz of the late 50s and early 60s is fun in its own right. Still, I imagine this area will still be my favorite. I wonder if the lines for Star Tours are as long as I remember?

Here's a documentary on the planned opening of DisneyWorld and, eventually, EPCOT in Florida. It's amazing to think that at the time this was made, these were daring, risky projects that seemed just as likely to fail miserably as succeed. Now Orlando is probably the single biggest tourist destination in the country, and Disney's opened several additional theme parks in the area as well.

Finally, here's an interview with the late Thurl Ravenscroft for some Disney program or other. It's not entirely relevant to the trip at hand, but goodness, how can I pass on the awesomeness that is Thurl Ravenscroft?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Starland Vocal Band.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why I hate Ebay, or, idiots are ruining my life

Okay, so I sell passion flowers on Ebay on occasion, and have earned a good rep doing so. The bulk of my sales are of the native incarnata, or "maypops." These are notorious for not rooting from cuttings, so the best ways to propagate is via seed or root cuttings--essentially digging up sucker plants that spring up from the aggressive root network. The plants I ship are normally attached to 6"-8" long root sections roughly the thickness of a pencil. I place these in a 3.5" starter pot with the roots wrapped around the perimeter, fill with soil, water, then wrap and ship. As long as the plants aren't overheated (which can cause wilting) they start growing very quickly after transplant. I've successfully shipped and traded dozens and dozens of plants this way, with no complaints and much praise.

So why then, does this one particular moron open the box--breaking off the vine at the root in the process--and instead of realizing he's done something wrong, automatically assume I ripped him off by sending him a rootless stem? And instead of contacting me with the issue ("Hey dude! What's up with the unrooted stem?"), or--heaven forbid--look in the pot for the roots like a normal human being, he goes and leaves me negative feedback. Dumbass.

This is the second negative I've gotten in as many weeks, and the FIRST TWO negs I've suffered in 10 years on the auction site. The first negative came from a buyer who's plant was crushed by the post office, refused to believe it would regrow from the roots, but at the same time refused to return those roots to me in exchange for a replacement.

It's enough to make me throw in the towel and walk away. I mean, I've got people on Ebay who are fans--one woman bought a half-dozen plants from me this year because she loved the single plant I'd sold her last year so much. I've gotten fan mail for crying out loud. I should be able to brush it off, but damn it, I have a low tolerance for stupidity, especially when it accuses me of dishonesty.

What really sucks is that this guy's passion flower will regrow from the supposedly absent roots, but the stain to my rep will persist...

Now Playing: Smithfield Fair Jacobites By Name

Monday, May 24, 2010


Being married to a talented photographer (aka The Wife) has kept me busy trying to improve my photography skills, so that I can A) be a reliable assistant for her when needed, but mostly B) don't embarrass her. While I have fun with infrared, macro and astro photography, I occasionally do trade shoots with aspiring models from Model Mayhem, since photographing people is more relevant to what The Wife does. I received a request through a mutual friend from a guy who wanted a trade shoot. A college student, he has modeling aspirations and needed some basic, competent images for his portfolio. I've never shot a man before, and although I had no clear idea of what techniques to use or poses to try, I figured I'd shotgun it and see if anything stood out. Making it up as I go along is one of my specialties, it seems.


In an effort to craft a more masculine, testosterone-soaked image for him (as opposed to the more feminine styles I'm used to from working with female models) we headed to an alley in San Marcos. I forgot to splash him with water to create the illusion of a sweaty, grungy street fighter, but the final result didn't turn out half bad. This is one of the few shots I've done that matched up pretty closely with my original vision.


We were wrapping up a series of shots on a grassy lawn after a wardrobe change, and almost as an afterthought I told him "Hold up your hand toward the camera, like you're gripping something between your fingers and thumb." I didn't know if this would work out, but I'd seen Photoshopped images in this style before, and wanted to give it a shot. The project ended up consuming much more time than I expected and a greater number of different photos than planned, but damn, I have to admit the end result exceeded my expectations. The Wife's as well, as even she admitted she was impressed with the final product--so much so that she took my photo shoot and built a promo video for it. Too cool. Enjoy.

Blue Öyster CultNow Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Regarding the LOST finale

Ha ha ha ha ha! I haven't seen so much hand-waving since the 1st Cavalry deployed to Iraq. I feel wholly justified in my conviction that they'd simply been making it up as they went along from episode 1.

I have to give the show runners credit, though. Faced with a mountain of questions, contradictions and nonsensical enigmas to unravel in the finale, they punted. They focused on an emotional, feel-good resolution that pretty much resolved nothing, other than sending the loyal viewers away with plenty of warm fuzzies. They're all dead? At least, eventually? That's the grand send-off? The alternate timeline made no continuity sense because it wasn't an alternate timeline, but rather an alternate afterlife? Please. What Dreams May Come handled that same concept with much more creativity, and let me tell you, friends, that movie sucked. If I were a LOST loyalist, I'd be royally pissed off. Maybe not tonight. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually, after I'd thought it through a little and gotten past the superficial "feel good" of the finale, I'd realized I'd been had.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Night Videos

One of the most persistent memories I have from childhood--probably spanning several years--was the inescapable presence of Starland Vocal Band on the radio from 1976 on. "Afternoon Delight" was everywhere. You couldn't avoid it if you tried. Rock stations, pop stations, even country & western stations (which, of course, was the only kind of radio we had in Columbus, seeing as how we were progressive enough to boast "Both kinds of music" in grand Blues Brothers tradition). I still find it hard to believe tiny, conservative KULM played this song as much as it did. As a kid, I had no clue whatsoever what the song was about--I only thought the whole "Skyrockets in flight" thing was cool, being nuts for fireworks, never stopping to consider the impossibility of enjoying the visual spectacle during a sunlit afternoon. Now, 35 years older and wiser, I totally get it that the whole "skyrockets" thing is one o' them there metaphors. Deep thinkers, those Starland Vocal Banders.

Or, if you prefer more modern cheese with your 1970s cheese, there's always the Will Ferrel version from the film Anchorman:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Sheb Wooley.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Songs in the Attic

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SFWA announces 2010 Nebula Awards winners

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., has announced the Nebula Awards® winners for 2009.

The Nebula Awards® are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. The awards were announced at the Nebula Awards® Banquet held at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront the evening of May 15.

2008 Nebula Award Winners

The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books, Sept. 2009)

The Women of Nell Gwynne's - Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, June 2009)

"Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast," Eugie Foster (Interzone, Feb. 2009)

Short Story
"Spar," Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct. 2009)

Ray Bradbury Award
District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug. 2009)

Andre Norton Award
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, June 2009)

Additional Honors
During the ceremonies, Joe Haldeman was honored as the next Damon Knight Grand Master, while Neal Barrett, Jr., was honored as Author Emeritus. Vonda N. McIntyre and Keith Stokes were honored with SFWA Service Awards while the SFWA Solstice Award, bestowed upon individuals who have made a significant impact on the science fiction or fantasy landscape, was presented to Tom Doherty, Terri Windling and the late Donald A. Wollheim.

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: Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel II

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Night Videos

I'm a big fan of Sheb Wooley, the clever lyricist who was cousins with the brilliant Roger Miller. Wooley is best known for his massive hit "Purple People Eater," but he turned out a great deal of music in his time, both humorous and less so. He perfected the parody of popular songs for the country audience well before Weird Al Yankovic struck gold decades later, but most of Wooley's work is now as obscure as the classic songs he spoofed. His "Don't Go Near the Eskimos" is a spot-on riff of Rex Allen's iconic "Don't Go Near the Indians" and a personal favorite of mine. Another great spoof is his irreverent sendup of Johnny Preston's "Running Bear" (a song written by the Big Bopper, no less) as "Running Bare," a piece obviously influenced by a certain Ray Stevens song of similar theme. Wooley continued to record and act--he voiced the famed "Wilhelm scream" used so often in movies and television--up until his death from leukemia in 2003. Not a bad legacy for an Oklahoma farm boy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Barnes and Barnes.

Now Playing: Glasnots Beggar's Dance

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Great googly moogly! Up until a couple of days ago I had no idea that Barnes & Barnes had produced a video to their bizarre 1979 novelty song "Fish Heads." And you know what? The video is even more bizarre, if such a thing is possible. Enjoy!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jewel.

Now Playing: Stevie Ray Vaughan Live at Carnegie Hall