Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly

Dear God, why?

Just weird

I don't know what this is, but it's hilarious. (Link found at The Daily Column.)

You always knew this was the case

Exploring the Hostility of Things:

"During some research into the relation between periods of the day and human bad temper, Clark-Trimble, a leading Cambridge psychologist, came to the conclusion that low human dynamics in the early morning could not sufficiently explain the apparent hostility of Things at the breakfast table - the way honey gets between the fingers, the unfoldability of news-papers, etc. In the experiments which finally confirmed him in this view, and which he demonstrated before the Royal Society in London, Clark-Trimble arranged four hundred pieces of carpet in ascending degrees of quality, from coarse matting to priceless Chinese silk. Pieces of toast and marmalade, graded, weighed, and measured, were then dropped on each piece of carpet, and the marmalade-downwards incidence was statistically analysed. The toast fell right-side-up every time on the cheap carpet, except when the cheap carpet was screened from the rest (in which case the toast didn't know that Clark-Trimble had other and better carpets), and it fell marmalade-downwards every time on the Chinese silk. Most remarkable of all, the marmalade-downwards incidence for the intermediate grades was found to vary exactly with the quality of carpet."

Your toast knows what kind of carpet you have.
(Link found at Cylindrical Primate Storage Unit.)

No explanations for 'fairy circles'

Scientists in South Africa are baffled by Namibia's 'fairy circles.'

The circles comprise innumerable discs of completely bare sandy soil, ranging from two to 10 metres across, found in grass on Namibia's coastal fringe.

Scientists looked at three explanations: the milkbush, termites and radioactive soil. All of them have been discarded.

Lead scientist Gretel van Rooyen, a botanist at the University of Pretoria, is now exploring the theory that, somehow, toxic elements are deposited in the shape of the circle, making it impossible for plant life to get established there.
"But even if we find them, how they came there is the next problem," New Scientist quotes her as saying in next Saturday's issue.
For the moment, she admits wryly, "we're left with the fairies".

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

More Godzilla plushies

Toy Vault will be releasing a plush Baby Godzilla, 50th anniversary Godzilla, Gigan and Megalon.


Here's a clickable map of Rome in 100 AD. (Link found at Rogue Classicism.)

Computer zombies

Look! Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain and free on the Internet now! Go and get it.

Manuscript of bizarre creatures

Here are illustrations and descriptions from Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing, an illuminated Persian manuscript. There are centaurs and dragons and flying fish here, but also men with heads on their chests, fish with a man's head, a yellow monkey and lots more. (Link found at Maud Newton.)

Because even mermaids should have a body complex

A Polish town wants to give its mermaid symbol a boob job and a diet.

"There was a discussion about the coat of arms and one female councilor said jokingly that the mermaid's breasts were too small and that she was a bit fat," city hall spokesman told Reuters.
The joke became a serious idea when local and national media got wind of the debate, giving sleepy Ustka plenty of coverage.
"We are now considering altering the mermaid slightly by making her breasts bigger and making her leaner," the spokesman said. "She will become more attractive and Ustka will gain publicity."

Allegedly, you can see a picture of the mermaid at this site:, but I can't get it to work.

Enemies of the state

According to a new book, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early 1960s wanted to blow up civilians or soldiers to justify going to war with Cuba. The plan was drafted and accepted by the Joint Chiefs and then presented to President Kennedy's defense secretary Robert McNamara. The plans didn't go any farther and the head of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, was removed shortly afterwards.

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.
The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba's then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.
America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

A real big foot found

A giant foam foot was found in Buckmaster Pond in Westwood, Mass., Monday morning.
The unusual item is about 5 feet long, 3 feet high, black in color, and very detailed, including well-defined toes and toenails. Sicard said there were reports that the foot might have been sitting on a park bench in the area during the weekend.
Police are seeking the owners of the foot.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Overlooked gems

Here's a list of "100 movies that deserve more love." (Link found at Metafilter.) I'm amazed at how much I agree with what I've read so far. If I didn't love the film, it's something I haven't seen yet. Check it out.

Sonic weapon

Marines will use a bizarre new "Secret Scream" gun to disable people.

The actual sound used is a recording of a baby's scream played backwards.
"For most people, even if they plug their ears, it will produce the equivalent of an instant migraine," said Woody Norris, chairman of American Technology Corporation, the Californian company that has produced the weapon.
"It will knock some people to their knees."

The gun was created through secret Pentagon research:

A secret division in the Pentagon has been financing research on futuristic weapons for more than 15 years.

He probably only painted the tip

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - An artist with 780 gallons of red paint, three fire hoses and a 20-member crew at his disposal went to Greenland in search of a blank canvas large enough to accommodate his creative impulse.
The result is a blood-red iceberg now sitting off the country's western coast.

A photo can be seen here at the artist's Web site.

A little about the artist:
Evaristti, who was born in Chile, drew widespread attention - and disdain - when he displayed 10 working blenders filled with goldfish in a Danish gallery in 2000.
He invited guests to turn the devices on and someone did, grinding up a pair of goldfish.
The gallery director was tried on charges of animal cruelty, but acquitted.

Hell's Angels, Atlantis chapter

My god, Underwater Times is filled with good stories today. For instance, there's the Scubadoo, an underwater motorcycle. Includes pictures!

Keeping your giant octopus busy

Aquarium workers have created an "octobox," a puzzle box to keep a playful giant squid busy. Apparently, the giant squid, "Titan", already can open jars and is generally very curious. No picture at the link, sorry.

Glow in the dark shark

Fishermen save 1 in a million albino shark. Although, albino may make you think this shark is pale. No sir, he's bright yellow and has been named Mango. There's a picture at the link.

SCUBA terrorists

Hamas troops used SCUBA gear to attack a Jewish settlement. Israeli troops killed them before they made it. Count on the New York Post for a sedate and learned headline: "Scuba scum slain."

Psychics beat the odds?

Researchers at the Scottish Society for Psychical Research say psychic mediums beat the odds in their survey. It's interesting, but sounds a little suspect to me. Here's how the survey was handled:

A total of 13 mediums took part in the SSPR study, carried out in Scotland and London. In each test the medium would sit in a different room from the participants and choose seat numbers they wanted to read from the audience. The audience, usually around 30 people, would enter a room out of sight of the medium and on their way in be given a random seat number. After the reading, adjudicators would distribute lists of what the mediums had seen and the audience had to tick which of the mediums’ statements applied to them.

That last bit sounds the most questionable. If I choose which one sounds like it applies to me, isn't that going to skew the results? I'm just thinking out loud here.
Also, they don't talk like scientists:

“I am aware that critics will say the tests were somehow rigged. But, rest assured, we could not have been more scientific in the way this was carried out. If anyone claims it is fixed or rigged, we would sue.”

The SSPR is an amateur group that is peer reviewed.

Also speaking at the Muncaster conference is Dr Hugh Pincott, who believes that one day society will look at the work of amateur investigators with the same respect given to the amateur astronomers of the 15th and 16th centuries who broke ground on discovering new planets and comets.
He said: “There is a large expansion of regional groups who are using their own time and money to carry out research and are making headway. Most academic seats are privately funded and so it really is gifted amateurs who are doing all the work.”

UFOs over Canada

Canada Prime Minister Paul Martin's plane had a close encounter with a UFO. But it looks like it was nothing more than a shooting star.
Martin and his entourage were cruising above Alberta when their Challenger jet came within an otherworldly whisker of a luminous object streaking through the night sky.
In a report to Edmonton air traffic controllers, the pilot of Martin's plane noted seeing a "very bright light falling" through the air, with smoke trailing, while the aircraft passed over Suffield, Alta., on Sun., March 21.
People aboard at least two other planes also saw the plummeting object, which was travelling "at a very fast rate of speed" from a high altitude, says the report.


There's a new blog out there called ProfessorHex. He says I set a "fine example" for him. Well, if you say so, professor. Here's hoping you surpass my humble works. It shouldn't be that hard. Professor Hex claims to be a "scholar of the strange and mysterious." I look forward to seeing where he goes with it.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Next film by Donnie Darko director

Richard Kelly, the writer and director of Donnie Darko, has written and is planning to direct a comedy-musical-science fiction-thriller. I have no idea what that means. Anyway, I love Darko, so I'm more than willing to give Kelly the benefit of the doubt. Although here's what is being said about a cast:
Seann William Scott is in negotiations to star in the project, set to begin shooting in July. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Lee, Janeane Garofalo, Tim Blake Nelson, Amy Poehler, Kevin Smith and Ali Larter are also in talks to join the cast, the trade paper reported.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

More Neokaiju!

With just a short look on Google, I find there's a Web site for the Neokaiju project. I'm really into the design for "Steampunk," which looks like a combination of King Ghidorah and a pot bellied stove.
Super7 Magazine and STRANGEco present the Neo Kaiju Project, a new mini figure series combining Japanese monster toys with contemporary US artists and designers. Each artist has created one figure referencing a classic Japanese monster (ÒkaijuÓ) and one of their own choosing.
Super7, by the way, is the magazine of Japanese toy culture.


STRANGEco is apparently creating a toy line called the Neo-Kaiju Project. They describe it thus: reinterpretations of Japanese monsters by Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Seonna Hong, Kathy Schorr and Todd Schorr.
There are a couple of pictures at the site. Most seem to have the general shape of classic monsters with cute, cartoony additions to them. Hard to describe, just go look at them.
(Link found at BoingBoing.)

Seeking the site of the Trojan War

The search for the city of Troy, made legendary in the tales of Homer, is detailed in this Telegraph article.

The reason the legend retains such a powerful grip on our imagination is clear to Dr Eric Cline of George Washington University, who has worked at Troy.
"The whole story of the Trojan War is a compelling one for the ages - it's love and war, it's greed, it's desire. You name it, it has elements that compel the human psyche, and have for millennia."
Dr Cline is interested in how archaeology can help us discover whether the legend is based on real historical events. "Is there a nugget, a kernel of truth at the base of this story around which everything else is wrapped?
"Is there some historical war which took place that Homer wrapped in layer after layer, so it became much more than just a single battle, a single conflict, much more than just a war? It became a story, an epic, a saga."

(Link found at Rogue Classicism.)

The Tragical History of Cerebus

There is a great long post at Long story; short pier about Dave Sim's comic "Cerebus" and its tragic nose dive. The writer absolutely captures what was right about Sim's work and where he went off his rocker. If you've ever read Cerebus, check this post out. (Link found thanks to David Fiore.)

Frankly, I think it's terrible

According to the Plain English Campaign, 'at the end of the day' is the most irritating cliche. It's pretty bad, but I can think of worse ones. I hate when people say "frankly," or "honestly" or "to be honest" before giving out information. Oh, so you haven't been honest before this?

Ugly weird fish

This site has pictures of weird fish from the Tasman Sea, including the vampire sex fish I mentioned a few days ago.

Mystery grave

One day at a cemetery, a new grave, dedicated to Lou and Blackie, suddenly appeared on what should have been an empty lot. Then a wooden cross turned up on it. It was supposed to be a vacant lot, so police decided to dig it up. They found nothing, just dirt. A mystery remains.

New dragonfish found

New deep sea species of dragonfish found.

As with all dragonfish, which live at depths ranging from about 600 to 3,000 feet, the new species has menacing teeth, and a mouth that can jut out to engulf prey as wide as it is. They also have small organs along their bellies that produce light, or bioluminescence, and that may serve as camouflage to make the fish blend in with faint sunlight from above, thus appearing invisible to potential predators below.

And here's a Google search for dragonfish images.

All about the Devil's Tower

Every wonder how the Devil's Tower (that squared off mountain everybody was obsessed with in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind") came to be? Read all about it at The Museum of Unnatural History. Apparently there is also a legend about lost gold hidden under the tower.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Star-shaped towers mystery

Martine "Frederique" Darragon is trying to find the solution to the mystery of towers in plain sight along the Himalayas. Apparently, none of the natives have any history for the star-shaped objects.

The mice of "Jugs"

Mad scientists grow human breasts on mice. They're doing this for cancer research, but I just can't get the thought of big-hootered mice out of my head now.
Unlike human breasts, however, the mice's growths sit flush to the chest. Humans are unusual in this respect, says Daniel Medina who studies breast cancer at Baylor College of Medicine at Houston, Texas: "In few other species are breasts pendulous."

Affordable funeral arrangements

A German artist wants his body fed to piranhas.
Karl Friedrich Lentze, 56, said he came up with the idea after reading about a Dutch man who wanted to be fed to snails.
Lentze, from Berlin, said he liked the idea but wanted something that would gobble him up a lot quicker.

Unfortunately for Karl, scientists say piranhas like living meat, they're not so big on cadavers.
The artist is however still hoping to hear from other zoos that may be more open to his proposal.
He said: "They could always poke my body with sticks to get me moving and get the fish interested."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Cronenberg's new movie

David Cronenberg will be making a movie of Martin Amis' "London Fields."
Script by Roberta Hanley ("Woundings") and Amis follows a promiscuous psychic troubled by disturbing premonitions that are all the more unnerving for never being wrong. Tale is set in and around a seedy London pub, where the psychic has come to meet the end her dreams have foretold: to be murdered by one of two men she meets there -- but which one?
(Link found at Cup of Chicha.)

Grad student or cult leader?

Former students make claim that Wheaton College did not protect them for a grad student who is also a cult leader. Apparently, he believes in corporal punishment:
Andreson, who tried four times to flee before finally breaking free in 2002, says she was forced to stay awake for days, had to stand in frigid weather in just a T-shirt for hours and was made to flog other members. Golwalla also made her abuse herself, once forcing her to screw a jagged coat hanger into her face.
She described the Maryland basement as a ``torture chamber,'' and said the hot-tempered cultist once kicked her to the ground and threw a book at her head. He wouldn't let her call her family, monitored her phone calls and e-mails and forced her to slap herself in the face, pull out tufts of her own hair and bang her head on the floor until it bled. Her punishment for questioning Golwalla on one occasion: She had to lick a filthy bathroom floor.
"It was definitely evil,'' she recalled. ``It was so isolated. That basement was my whole life and Feroze was my God.''

Vampire sex rituals of deep sea fish

The murky depths off New Zealand reveal some really weird fish. For instance, the sex life of the deep sea angler fish:
'The female is the size of a tennis ball. It has big savage teeth, little nasty pin eyes ... and a rod lure off the top of its head with a glowing tip to coax in stupid prey.'
The male 'looks like a black jellybean with fins'.
When a male finds a female, he bites into her side, never letting go.
'He drinks her blood, in return for giving her sperm,' Dr Norman said.

Squid attacking Chile

Scientists use satellites to explain Chilean giant squid invasion. Includes a couple of nice pictures, one of a squid in the water.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Godzilla review

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla gets a good review. Here's the summation:
This was a fun movie, reminding me of the classic Godzilla movies in a lot of ways. While I did have some minor complaints about the way Godzilla was portrayed, the fights and design for Kiryu made up for them. This movie contains a better plot than most Japanese monster movies. While I didn’t like the English audio track, the Japanese soundtrack was very good. Overall, this was a great entry to the Godzilla mythos. Highly Recommended.
I think the movie is coming out this week. I'll be hunting the video stores for this one.

Weird movie

Here's a really fun, dark fantasy short film called The Cat with Hands. I saw it on about a million blogs before I downloaded it. Trust me, it's worth watching. The latest blog I saw it at was s1ngularity::criticism.

Looking at Lansdale

James Sallis offers an overview of Joe R. Lansdale's career and then goes on to review his new book, "Sunset and Sawdust."

Mystery of the lost English explorer

The Guardian has the low down on an explorer who disappeared mysteriously after searching for the lost city of Z in the Brazilian struggle. The story is equal parts "Heart of Darkness" and "The Lost World" with bits of "She" thrown in.

'This is one of the great adventure stories of the past century,' said Williams, 'and at last we are finding out what really happened. Fawcett was a kind of Indiana Jones figure and his children have fought hard to keep his good name, in spite of interest from Hollywood and countless books.
'His secret plans for a new and unconventional way of life have only just emerged from the letters he wrote to friends.'

Studying near death experiences

Scientists plan study of near death experiences. The article doesn't explain how they control the conditions of this study. How do you get people who are about to die, temporarily? The article goes over interesting ideas on near death experiences:

But Blackmore has examined all the arguments and believes she knows what causes these NDE visions. Firstly, the light at the end of the tunnel is simply "noise" in the visual cortex. It is often experienced by epileptics, migraine sufferers and those who meditate. It is not unique to NDE.
The out-of-body experience? Well, if you think about the last time you walked along a beach, for example, where do you see yourself? Probably not through your eyes, but from a vantage point above or to the side of you. Most people have a bird's-eye view of themselves when remembering past events. What Blackmore found in her own studies is that people who dream from a bird's-eye perspective are more likely to have out-of-body experiences.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Three-headed frog=Three frogs getting it on

Remember the three-headed frog story from a while ago? Well, according to this site, it's not a three headed frog, it's a frog menage a trois! It's common for frogs and toads to form "mating balls" apparently, and the three-headed frog was one of these. Apparently frog mating habits are very kinky.

Friday, March 19, 2004

UFO on Mars

Mars rover sees a UFO in the Martian sky. NASA officials say it could be a shooting star or an old orbiting spacecraft falling into the atmosphere. No word on rover abductions yet.

Citizen Kane vs. Maltese Falcon

There's an interesting discussion going on between certain bloggers about which is the better movie: "Citizen Kane" or "The Maltese Falcon." Among the participants are The Forager, David Fiore, and Sean Collins. Each one of those links goes to one part of the conversation, but it goes on in other blog entries, comments and elsewhere.
Personally, I just enjoy reading it and, as I haven't seen The Maltese Falcon in years, I don't have much to add. I've often thought Citizen Kane is the best movie of all time. Lately though, I've been rethinking it. It certainly created many new ideas in cinema, but being groundbreaking doesn't make a great film. I do love the story and I think Joseph Cotten is tremendous in it. I also think Orson Welles is perfect as Kane. Both of them are bigger than life.
At the moment, if I had to say what the greatest film of all time was right now, I might say "Seven Samurai." Tomorrow I'd probably say different. Maybe "Night of the Hunter."
Anyway, it's an interesting conversation, check it out.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Burroughs interviewed

Thanks to BoingBoing I found this interview with William S. Burroughs from Creem Magazine. The interview is funny because he doesn't seem to enjoy the rock 'n' rollers he's talking about all that much. For instance, here he talks about Bowie:
MORGAN: What did you think of him when you met him? Did he seem to be the kind of guy who was bullshitting his way through life or did he seem to be walking the straight and narrow?
BURROUGHS: (laughs) Well, neither one. He’s not bullshitting, he’s very, very clever and I think very calculating. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and where he’s going and how to get there.

And here is Burroughs' advice to young writers:
MORGAN: Is there any advice you’d like to give to young writers?
BURROUGHS: I have an exercise I learned from a Mafia Don in Ohio: see everybody on the street before they see you. It’s quite interesting actually because, if you see everyone before they see you, they won’t see you.
And then you’ll find that somebody beat you.

Lawrence Block blog

Crime writer Lawrence Block has started a blog for his book tour.
(Found via Sarah Weinman.)

Killer cow

In Idaho Falls, a cow escaped a farm and had to be chased down by police. The cow cut the tendon of an animal control officer and it made its displeasure with police known:
Police Sgt. David Frei tried to herd the cow by driving beside it. The cow rammed into his Ford Explorer, denting a front panel, and then disappeared somewhere south, witnesses said.

But Mikey did wake up in a bathtub full of ice after his organs were removed!

Under the headline Pop rocks did not kill 'Mikey,' the Marshfield Mail corrects a story about stolen UPS uniforms thought to have been bought by terrorists. Apparently, the story was an urban rumor that the sherriff's department picked up and passed along to the local news media. So Mikey is OK and don't be too frightened of your UPS drives. Got that?

Clandestine invasionn of Virginia

Apparently, a group of UFO enthusiasts is suing Virginia's governor because he has failed to stop a "clandestine invasion" of the state. The Smoking Gun has an affidavit a person offered in support of their case. Be sure to check out the alien drawing on page 3.

Raise the bubble wall!

Mississippi is considering using a fence made of bubbles to keep out various types of carp.
Also here's a factoid:
Silver carp, which are nearly as big [100 pounds], have become a safety hazard along parts of the Mississippi because they jump out of the water and sometimes hit boaters, Oetker said.

War of the Worlds

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are teaming up to make a new War of the Worlds. I'm hoping they stick closer to the book and include the tripods and red weed and blood sucking aliens.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Amazing Stories to rise from the grave

Famed science fiction magazine Amazing Stories is being relaunched, again. The last time around, they tried to use media fiction (Star Trek stories, etc) to get people interested. This one sounds like they are going to use the nonfiction content to attract readers.
Now re-imagined for a new generation of fans, Amazing Stories launches into the 21st century with both cutting-edge fiction from today’s top authors and the mission to provide the definitive editorial voice across the entire spectrum of sci-fi, fantasy, super heroes and supernatural horror. Amazing Stories will feature reviews and previews of the latest movies, TV, DVDs, books, comics and story-driven electronic games, as well as interviews with the creators of these fantasy stories. Each issue will also contain original fiction works from the world’s top authors, as readers of Amazing Stories have come to expect from the magazine.
Well, I'm hoping for the best anyway.

Weird animal news

Afghan soldier couldn't afford to get married. He ends up being arrested for having sex with a donkey. Desperate times ... desperate measures.
A kangaroo viciously attacked a woman in her garden. A bobcat viciously attacked a woman in her basement.
Chinese veterinarians are showing a panda American sex ed videos so it will be ready to mate.
Jim Rindhage is a professional dog poop scooper.
Bird poop destroying Norwegian bridge.
Man dies of heart attack and pneumonia, but police launching a murder investigation because his genitals have been removed and may have been eaten by the dog.
And finally, dogs trained during World War II to run under tanks with explosives. Unfortunately, they were indiscriminate about which tanks they'd run under.

Beeswax and pirate treasures

This article on the Treasure on Neahkahnie Mountain is a wild mix of Indian legend, scientific fact and reports of treasure hunters and explorers. There's history, legend and weirdness all mixed together. Good stuff.
Actually, the Web site, Unexplained Earth, looks to have a lot of other interesting stories like that one. Check it out.

Godzilla takes New York!

Columbia University is having an exhibition called Godzilla Conquers the Globe: Japanese Movie Monsters in International Film Art. It celebrates the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and looks at the process of change Godzilla (and other Japanese movie monsters) went through as they travelled from country to country. It also includes a history of Japanese monsters in folklore and books and how those were translated to the silver screen.
The Web site includes thumbnails of many Godzilla posters from around the world. Some of my favorites are in there, like the Polish poster which can be seen here (scroll down). It features a blue Godzilla that's almost smiling as it crouches over a tiny city.
Good stuff. Check it out. And go to it if you're near Columbia. They say this could become a travelling exhibit if it's successful.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

May the fold be with you

BoingBoing has been linking to a lot of paper folding lately. Here's a neat one featuring Star Wars vehicles.

Wizardry & Wild Romance

Coming next month, Monkeybrain Books are publishing a revised edition of Michael Moorcock's Wizardry & Wild Romance. "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy" calls the original book (published in 1987) "an impatient and rather patchy examination of fantasy ... and which constitutes as a whole an apologia for his own ironized point of view." I have no idea if that is a good description of the book or not. According to Monkeybrain, the new book will be "newly revised and expanded."
Moorcock is the absolute master of modern fantasy. Things he tossed off in a week are far better than some of the dreck on fantasy bookshelves today. So I'll be buying it in short order. If you're interested in fantasy literature, it's probably an essential volume.

Beware dihydrogen monoxide!

City officials in Aliso Viejo, Calif., nearly banned water. During an investigation of a foam container maker, they found out the company used dihydrogen monoxide (the scientific name for water). A few official looking Web sites did them in, describing dihydrogen monoxide as an odorless, tasteless chemical that can be deadly if accidentally inhaled.

Makes a great birthday present

Hurry, hurry, get your own two-headed calf, bids start at $9 for a limited time.

Rich religious cult leader and her illegal, manmade island

This article starts out talking about an island illegaly built in a protected South Dade, Fla., nature preserve. Apparently, the island was built by the "Supreme Master" of a religious cult. But this isn't your typical cult:

Whether Ching Hai should be considered a ''cult leader'' is the subject of debate among people who track such groups. The group offers no dark doomsday messages but instead practices a form of meditation called quan yin, which taps into some sort of inner music, and stresses vegetarianism along with simple rules against lying, stealing or ''sexual misconduct.''

But apparently, living next door to her wasn't a bad thing.

''She was a very kind person, just very, very strange,'' said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. ''There was just a lot of weird stuff.''
Stuff like this: scurrying minions who always referred to her as ''the master.'' Odd construction projects, often done after midnight, like aviaries or landscaping, fences or screens to shield the property.
De Lamour, said another neighbor, described herself as a designer but talked little about herself. At one home, neighbors rarely saw anyone, only cars. At another, the petite woman was pleasant when encountered -- sometimes to a fault, offering extravagant gifts like expensive designer clothes on a whim.
''You had to be careful what you said. Just mention you were cold and the next thing you know she was coming with bags full of Ralph Lauren sweaters,'' the neighbor said. 'When I made a comment about why she was bringing over all this stuff all the time, she said, 'I have so such money I don't know what to do with it.' ''

Good stuff, take the time to read it.

Christ complex

Well, I hope politicians are aware of the negative influence The Passion of the Christ is having on people. First we hear of an old woman who dies in the theater. Now this: A 23-year-old tried to nail himself to a cross. Obviously, these religious movies are a bad influence. Hollywood should know better. Ban them! Restrict them! MPAA on their asses!

Deep sea robot pictures

A new deep sea robot will be taking pictures of the ocean depths and sending the photos back to be displayed on the Internet. The photos will be available here:

Monday, March 15, 2004

Moral art

Forager writes a post on the necessity of moral instruction in art. Don't miss the comments, the conversation continues there.

Dirty secrets of Legoland

There's a topless woman looking for beads at Mardi Gras. There's a guy mooning the president. There's a drunken man at a table in Washington D.C. There's another man puking in a toilet. These are just a few of the residents hidden away in Legoland by the builders.

Jesus was gay!

Well, not really, but this article on what the Bible says about homosexuality does mention it. Toward the end, the article becomes a screed against Bush, but the discussion of Biblical rules and their interpretation is interesting.

Mars fight

Scientist attacks bizarre claims made by Richard Hoagland. Hoagland is that "Face on Mars" guy. Philip Plait has finally gotten fed up with Hoagland, who he has avoided commenting on in the past because he didn't want to give Hoagland more attention.

" 'Hoagland's claims irritate me because he is promoting uncritical thinking,' Plait told . 'He doesn't want you to think about what you're seeing. He's trying to bamboozle you into believing what he's saying.'
"Critical thinking is the foundation of science, but Plait thinks it's also an important skill for anyone trying to navigate modern society. 'Hoagland is eroding away at that ability.' "

Worst ... job ... ever

Greg West says he enjoys being a sewer diver.
"It's fun. it's adventurous. it's a rush," he said.
Using a specialized diving suit, West swims through dark sewer lines trying to find leaks and other problems.
"What's it like diving in sewage pipe? Dark, even with a light, West said. "You have no visibility. It's just all by feel," he said."
And the job is risky too:
"West figures some risks come with the job. "I've had a few mishaps. People accidentally shut off my air before ... a few broken legs.""

Giant Squid related

Thanks to a posting at the Night Shade message boards, I found these interesting giant squid related links. First is paintings by Skot Olsen that use the giant squid as a symbol. They look like some twisted take on Popeye.
The second link is TONMO, the Octopus News Magazine Online. It's set up as a message board and there seems to be a ton of stuff to look at.

Giant monster from Thailand

A new giant monster movie is being made in Asia: Garuda. There's a trailer for the film at the site. The Thai film looks like it's going to use a lot of CGI for its big winged monster.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Ellison on Schwartz

Harlan Ellison's Julius Schwartz obituary appears on his Web site.

Stranger than a $3 bill

Woman says she thought her $1m bill was real.

Dinosaur hunt

People on a Papua New Guinea island say they saw a 'dinosaur.' Armed police went out in search of the creature, but no trace was found. From the article:
"Eyewitness Christine Samei told reporters she ran for her life after seeing a three-metre tall, grey creature with a head like a dog and a tail like a crocodile which was as fat as a 900-litre water tank.
'It's a very huge and ugly looking animal,' Samei told local media. "

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Cool music site

Last Plane to Jakarta is an interesting music review site (at least, what I've checked out so far are music reviews.) His take on death metal has won me over, now I must read further.
(Link found at another new site on my list, Rake's Progress.)

Godzilla toy news

There's a new toy company launching in Japan with a whole selection of new Godzilla figures. At that site is a large picture of some of the test figures, one of which is the Smog Monster! And he looks awesome! I rarely buy imported toys, but wow, these are tempting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Help Charles L. Grant

A page has been set up for the Fresh Air Fund for Charles L. Grant. That page is part of a Grant's Web site.
Also, here is Grant's story Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street at SciFiction, if you want to get a taste of his writing.

Ninja lessons

Step by step lessons on how to be a ninja.

Step 7

Find yourself an interesting yet threatening ninja pose. As a ninja you obtain certain responsibilities such as kicking asses and looking cool and tough.

Ramsey Campbell's horror story list

Ramsey Campbell lists his 10 "crucial" horror stories. I reprint them here (but you really should check out his Web site anyway):

"Ten that I think are crucial:
"The Fall of the House of Usher" (Edgar Allan Poe)
"Carmilla" (J. Sheridan Le Fanu)
"The White People" (Arthur Machen)
"The Monkey's Paw" (W. W. Jacobs)
"The Willows" (Algernon Blackwood)
"The Colour out of Space" (H. P. Lovecraft)
"A Warning to the Curious" (M. R. James)
"Smoke Ghost" (Fritz Leiber)
"Running Down" (M. John Harrison)
"The Hospice" (Robert Aickman)
Whether these are the most terrifying is a moot point. Some certainly deserve the adjective, but I don't think it covers all the qualities of any of them. "

It's an excellent list. I've added hyperlinks to the stories that can be easily found on the Internet. (Harrison, Lieber and Lovecraft are all still under copyright.) I haven't read the Aickman story. I've been trying to find more of his works lately, but I don't think much is in print. "Smoke Ghost" is one of my favorite ghost stories ever.
Apparently there was a discussion of this list at The Third Alternative message boards, but I couldn't find it.
(Link found at The Write Hemisphere.)

Harvey Pekar news

Harvey Pekar has made a deal with Ballantine to publish three new graphic novels. The first will be about his experiences making the movie "American Splendor." The next two will be biographies of other people he met during the making of the film. (Maybe Pekar will start updating that blog now.)
(News found at Return of the Reluctant.)

Nazi raccoons

Nazi raccoons conquer Europe. What more needs to be said?
(This and other links from Fortean Times.)

Close call

One Norway family got real lucky. Two giant stones came down on either side of their house, one flattening the garage. Story includes pictures.

Masonic death

Man killed during a Masonic initiation. The event must have been unusual:

Carl Fitje, grand master of the New York State Freemasons, said in a statement Tuesday that guns do not play a role in any officially sanctioned lodge ceremonies.

Winged Cats

I haven't read this long, long article, but just its existence is fun. It's a report on winged cats. (For added fun, there's some bizarre pics at the bottom of the page of "abnormal elasticity of the skin.")
(Found at Undiscovered.)

'St. Death' calls to the living

Many people in Mexico City's El Tepito slum are looking for help and mercy from Santa Muerte, or St. Death:

Swathed in a cloak and equipped with a long scythe, Mexico's Santa Muerte, or St. Death, is a dead ringer for the Grim Reaper.
But devotees like those in Mexico City's notorious El Tepito slum insist she is a motherly angel of mercy, and they make sure to attend to her like a queen.
Her larger-than-life statue, kept in a glass box at a street-side sanctuary, is draped in lace-trimmed satin. Her hooded, grinning skull is crowned with a rhinestone tiara, and every bony finger protruding from beneath her cloak boasts a glittering ring.
"She's not frightening. She's beautiful," insisted welder Isiel Alvarado, 27, flipping up his T-shirt to expose a tattoo of St. Death on his tummy. Genuflecting and crossing himself repeatedly before the shrine, Alvarado said he believes in St. Death because she delivered his brother safely from prison.

Jellyfish invasion

Comb jellyfish, the world's most dangerous alien species, is invading the Caspian Sea after having run wild on the Black Sea. It's killed anchovies, decimitated the kilka population and is threatening caviar:

A self-fertilising hermaphrodite, Mnemiopsis breeds as fast as it eats. It reaches maturity within two weeks and then produces 8,000 eggs daily. Its appetite is so great that it can double its size in a day. By 1990, its total biomass in the Black Sea had reached an estimate 900 million tonnes, 10 times the annual fish catch from all the world's oceans.
One snorkelling marine biologist from the Ukraine, Yu Zaitsev, calculated that there were 500 of the beasts in a single cubic metre of water in Odessa Bay. There was almost more jellyfish than water. Meanwhile, fish catches across the Black Sea had declined by 90 per cent. The valuable anchovy virtually disappeared.

Looking back at Godzilla

Daily Yomiuri On-Line gives a look back on the original Godzilla film. The reporter manages to talk with a few of the people that actually worked on the movie.
""Both Honda and Tsuburaya strongly wanted Godzilla to land in Shinagawa," after they visited coastal locations in the Tokyo and Kawasaki areas, he said. "They both wanted Godzilla to knock trains over because they thought destroying something moving would make a good spectacle. Shinagawa was the perfect location because the Tokaido Line trains run along the coastline there." "

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Notes on "Eternal Sunshine"

Scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman talks a little about "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Recently, la gringa talked about getting an early view of the film. She says it's brilliant:
"It's an extraordinary film. It's genuinely funny, and -- in places -- heartbreakingly sad. But the overall feeling you walk away with is that this is a very human film. I can't describe it better than that."
I can't wait for this movie to come out. It's being released March 19.

Ramsey Campbell interviewed

In better horror writer news, there are interviews with Ramsey Campbell at SuicideGirls and Science Fiction Weekly.

Horror writer needs help

I'm going to quote Nick Mamatas' Journal because this is for a good cause and he's explained it well:

"Charles L. Grant, the acclaimed horror author, has been diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). As a result, and probably for the rest of his life, he will rely on bottled oxygen to live. Alas, Charles and his wife, Kathryn Ptacek, are without health insurance and their need is great.
"A 'Fresh Air' fund has been set up to accept donations which will be used to pay the staggering expenses of oxygen and other durable medical equipment required for his care and sustenance. If you can spare ANY amount, the donation would be appreciated.
"There are two ways to contribute. Mail a check in any amount, made out to Kathryn Ptacek, to:
"Fresh Air Fund
c/o Kathryn Ptacek
P. O. Box 97
Newton, NJ 07860-0097
"or Paypal:
"Grant has published over 100 books in various genres, with a number of his novels appearing on the bestseller lists of USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and London Times. His nearly two hundred short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines worldwide. He also edited the award-winning anthology series, Shadows.
"In 1987 he received the British Fantasy Society's Special Award, for life achievement. In addition, he has received two Nebula Awards and three World Fantasy Awards for his writing and editing. In 2000 he was given the Horror Writers Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002 he was honored with the Grandmaster Award of the World Horror Convention." "

So send some money!

From book to song

Interesting list of songs inspired by literature. (Link found at Maud Newton.)

The enduring mystery of Funnyuns

Humorous article on Funyuns at Flak magazine.
"It is crucial, however, to momentarily reserve judgment when evaluating Funyuns; there is more to them than first meets the tongue. Soon, their special brand of sinister black magic manifests itself in the form of a profoundly unpleasant, multi-tonal crescendo of bad aftertaste. After swallowing, the oppressive post-Funyun funk rapidly grows in strength, overwhelming the senses of taste and smell and leaving blistering, breath-mint-resistant halitosis in its wake. Disgusted, you find yourself blindly reaching for the nearest thing to pop in your mouth, just to make it stop. "
(Link found at Cylindrical Primate Storage Unit.)

Signals from space

"No one knows for sure what caused this signal. There is a slight possibility that it just might originate from an extraterrestrial intelligence. The bright colors on the blue background indicate that an anomalous signal was received here on Earth by a radio telescope involved in a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). A search for these signals is ongoing by several groups including volunteer members of the SETI League. "

Monday, March 08, 2004

Monster Zero News - THE Source for Kaiju News on the Web

More news on Godzilla: Final Wars at Monster Zero News.

Wal-Mart fires man for religious expression

Wal-Mart employee fired for his "non-discriminatory" view toward any religions and more specifically his attire:
"He says he was fired last week upon reporting for duty in his priest's shirt with Roman collar, an Arab headdress and six crosses."
"But Lorenz, 20, ignored requests to shed the shirt and collar — the main bones of contention — claiming they reflect his unique spiritual beliefs.
" "I told them that would be like turning my back on God, and I couldn't do that," said the Pipe Creek man whose religious fervor was fueled by a 2001 trip to Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
"There, Lorenz first donned a kaffiyeh, an Arab headdress of folded cloth that's held on by a cord. Rounding out his unorthodox look are patches on his hip pack bearing the anarchy symbol and the words "vampire" and "ninja." "
Lorenz apparently taped all the conversations with his bosses and he's now preparing to sue them over discrimination.
I like the idea of unified religion, but this guy sounds a bit whacky:
" "I don't believe in any one religion," Lorenz said in his EEOC complaint. "I do believe in God, but I don't attend any one church. There is no title to my religion other than a universal belief system."
"Lorenz's ponytail and fuzzy chin reflect his belief that hair should not be cut because he is only "borrowing" his body. He won't date or marry, because all humans are family, he said, and that would make it incest."

Shiny new link

Stephen VanDyke analyzes how news travels on the Internet. He uses a nifty graphic that resembles a kabbalah diagram. (In the process of doing this, VanDyke's post becomes a textbook example of how news travel. He posted it (source), Fark posted a link (metanews), and then I, and probably many others, link to it (lesser blogosphere). He gets to test his theory instantly!)

Finding the funny

Forager dissects The Funny Problem. He uses Broken Lizard's two movies for comparison: Super Troopers (funny) vs. Club Dread (not funny).

A resource

Since I've been stealing so many links from them today, I want to remind readers to check out The Anomalist. They've got great weird links updated everyday.

Find your coven

Feeling magickal and social? Maybe you need to join an esoteric group. Luckily, Llewellyn Journal is there for you.

"An esoteric group is any gathering of people working toward a goal of mastering techniques that will raise the consciousness of individual group members. Groups provide collective security for people walking the esoteric path. People in the esoteric world are mostly what writer Colin Wilson dubbed “outsiders,” meaning that they are not in the mainstream of society. They are unusual people with extraordinary belief patterns. By coming together, they are reassured by the fact there are others like them. They feel this proves that they are not as weird as they thought. "

Jellyfish of the sky.

Consider the possibility: UFOs aren't alien machines, they're animals living in our atmosphere.

The giant squid menace

A skull found in Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Alaska, is bringing back stories of a man who may or may not have been killed by a giant squid.

You're not getting any smarter

Scientists reveals the myth of people only using 10 percent of their brains.
"The look of disappointment that usually follows when I say it isn't so strongly suggests that the 10-percent myth is one of those hopeful shibboleths that refuses to die simply because it would be so darn nice if it were true."

Unidentified objects on Mars

Scientists are examining a photo of the Beagle 2 Mars Lander, which crashed to Mars back in December. The image seems to show four bright spots, dubbed the "string of pearls." Scientists are wondering if these objects might hold the answers to what happened.

Three book weekend

I just finished three very different books this weekend: Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor" collection, Roger Zelazny's "Damnation Alley," and Nicholson Baker's "Vox."
Pekar's graphic novel was released as part of the publicity for the "American Splendor" movie. For $16, it's a great bargain. And it's a great book. Pekar captures the details of everyday life, yet is never boring. It helps that he knows interesting people. The only problem I have with the book is that Pekar sometimes lets words run away with him. He will have pages where images of his face are buried under huge word balloons. It makes me wonder why he doesn't write prose. In his best stuff, he lets the pictures tell the story and he concentrates on the dialogue.
The Zelazny book was a lot of fun. It was recently rereleased by iBooks in mass market paperback. It's about a post-holocaust future in which the plague has stricken the nation of Boston. The nation of California offers Hell Tanner, a former Hell's Angel, a pardon for his crimes if he can cross Damnation Alley (the bombed out center of the country) to bring a vaccine to Boston. As an adventure novel, it works great. There's giant monsters, cataclysmic weather, biker gangs and all kinds of other problems Tanner must face. Plus, he has the coolest "car" ever. It's a mini-tank covered in weapons, a flame thrower and grenade launcher among them. It's strange because the novel wasn't what I was expecting. Zelazny is known as one of the New Wave science fiction writers of the '60s. So I was expecting a deep thinking, incredibly inventive experimental novel. Nope. It was a fun, pulpy adventure novel (outside of a couple of wild chapters near the end). And there's nothing wrong with that.
By the way, "Damnation Alley" was made into a TV movie. I've never seen it, but the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls it a "travesty" and says they've changed all the characters and didn't come through with many of the scenes from the book. So beware of that.
"American Splendor," the movie, however, was terrific. Rent at soon as you can.
The third book, "Vox," is about a conversation between two people on a phone sex line. The whole book is told in dialogue. It's sexy and it's smart.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Good new reading on the way

It looks like China Mieville's next novel, "Iron Council" is coming out in July. It's set in New Crobuzon, the city of "Perdido Street Station" and "The Scar."
(Link found at Goblindegook.)

Live forever!

Scientist says its possible to reverse aging, allowing people to live for centuries. Kind of weird. I'm reading a science fiction story right now, "Dio" by Damon Knight, in which people are immortal, but they remain in a perpetual state of adolescence. In the real world, we're already in a perpetual state of adolescence, so bring on the eternal life! It's kind of strange the way this guy talks about "resetting" cells. Makes us all sound like machines.


Man thinks he has a mouse in his barn, until he sees its wings.

Three-headed frog

Three-headed frog found in England. It's got three perfectly formed frog heads and six legs. (There's a pic at that link.) It might be a sign of environmental problems. Or it's protecting a lesser gate of Hades

Family relations

New branch of human ancestors discovered. The ardipithecus ramidus kadabba was thought to be an ape species, but scientists now believe it is the earliest version of human beings.

Wanted: 1 monster fish

Classified ad for a snakehead fish scares Omaha anglers. They're worried the fish will be passed on to the local ponds and lakes. And they're right to worry. This is the fish that kills everything in a body of water, then walks on land to the next body of water where it kills everything there.

Submerged mountain

Undersea mountain in the ocean off Alaska. The mountain is 10,000 feet tall.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Judge takes a stand

Judge finds a typo-prone lawyer guilty of bad writing. I'm glad to see a judge do this. Legalese is bad enough, lawyers should be able to use correctly what little English they do use.

Why is Hollywood so screwed up?

Neil Gaiman sets the record straight as to what's going on with "Constantine" as it pertains to Alan Moore. It's interesting to find out that Moore was really upset over Larry Cohen's ridiculous suit, which basically said that Moore created the comic book "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" so Fox could rip Cohen off. But Moore's response to this is rather odd, but typical of him. Rather than coming back against Cohen, he just gives up all credit and money for movies based on his work.
As for "Constantine," a movie based on the comic book "Hellblazer," it's going to be royally screwed up. Well, there's a chance it might be good, but the weather still looks pretty hot in Hades to me. "Hellblazer" is a comic book about a Brit sorceror of sorts. Being British is not just a small detail, a little character background, it's essential to his character. He's also blond. So what does Hollywood do in its infinite wisdom? Cast Keanu Reeves. If that's the starting point of this movie, where can it go from there? Unless it gets screamingly good reviews, I'm going to stay far away from the movie.

Killer bagels

Health care aide charged with killing a woman with a bagel.

Attack of the giant fireballs!

Fireballs seen over Anchorage Alaska.

CNN reports on giant monster invasion!

Why is it Godzilla has to go away to get mainstream coverage? It's probably a silly question, but just wait and see what coverage another James Bond film would get (the only other film series that has a history as long as Godzilla's.) Still, I can't wait to see the new film. Any day now Godzilla X Mechagodzilla should be out on DVD, with the sequel following soon after. There's a wealth of Godzilla stuff coming out for the 50th anniversary of Godzilla. It's like 1998 all over again (except without a bad American movie to top it off.) I find this comment funny:
"'Unlike the early Godzilla films, most of the remakes only draw either fanatics or children,' said Risaku Kiridoshi, an essayist on Japanese pop culture."
More proof that I'm some kind of freak. Thanks to Charles for the link.

New things

Well, I've made a few template changes around here. Tell me what you think and if there's anything missing, different or just plain wrong.

Alan Moore interview

Alan David Doane interviews Alan Moore:
"So, I launched on a career as a writer and, from the very beginning, I had a couple of simple precepts, if you like...I decided that I was never going to write a story that I, personally, wasn't interested in. I figured that this would be a helpful dividing line to prevent me from sliding into hack-work, which is always a danger in an industry where the deadlines come fast and furious. So, I kind of developed a method by which I would take...even on promising material, and then make it into something that was fun for me, that was either amusing or intellectually stimulating or, you know, that my use of language or storytelling or something like that...there some element in the story that would provide me with sufficient motivation to do a good job on it. "

They talk about Moore's novel Voice of the Fire, which I didn't know was released. Something else to spend my money on.

Dominique Pinon

Thanks to pullquote I now know that today is Dominique Pinon's birthday. Pinon is the star of Caro-Jeunet films. My favorite: City of Lost Children. I think it's one of the best fantasy movies ever.

Why it pays to buy art

Man buys painting for $5 at a garage sale then sells it to a gallery for $1 million.

A broken plane for your safety

Patent approved for a breakable airplane.
"The proposal, which received a patent last month, calls for aircraft to be built in separate parts, then sealed together. In an emergency -- anything from mechanical failure to a missile attack -- the pilot could push a button to sever the parts with controlled explosions or by using a 'laser cutting' device.
"Each section would be equipped with parachutes, shock absorbers, inflatable rafts, and propulsion jets that would guide it to the ground, the patent said."
Of course, there's always a skeptic (or a few hundred):
"James DeLaurier, who teaches aircraft design at the University of Toronto, said his initial reaction to reading the patent was 'holy cow.'
"'This would be a maintenance nightmare,' he said. 'How could you make sure that all these systems are ready to go? The consequences of them not working, or working prematurely, would be dreadful.'"

Attack of the Giant Ice Balls!

Huge hailstones fell from the cloudless sky all over Spain in January 2000. Upon further study, scientists find occurences of what they call megacryometeors in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Colombia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States.
"There have been detractors. Some meteorologists and hail experts have denounced the theories posed by Martinez-Frias, stating that formation of hail without thick highly-visible clouds is an impossibility."
There's always some scientist looking to help.

Anastasia screams in vain

A team of scientists is criticizing a DNA report that claimed it had confirmed the deaths of Russian Czar Nicholas II and his family.
"In a newly released report, the scientists declare that the testing of remains found in the Ural Mountains was shoddy and flawed. They add that their own tests on the preserved finger of the sister of the czar's wife raise even more questions about the original findings."

Because there's nothing funny about a 6ft man tied to a tree wearing a thong and high heeled shoes

Police report further sightings of the "bunny girl." Police say the situation is 'not funny.'

Dead alive

Scientist claims proof of afterlife. He's testing spiritual medium's hits and misses about people she just meets. They claim her accuracy is 80 to 90 percent of the time, way too high for guessing.
"'When you look at the totality of the data from our laboratory, the simplest explanation is actually that survival of consciousness is real,' said Schwartz."

Jack Finney, "The Third Level"

In the 1950s, people were scared. The possibility of the atom bomb was fresh in everyone's mind. Kids had to do duck and cover drills at school. The Sputnik had been launched into the skies by the Russians. The Cold War was heating up. Demagogues were saying communists may be hiding in our own government.
In this atmosphere, Jack Finney wrote a book about escape. In "The Third Level," a collection of short stories, Finney writes about people who are upset with the world they live in, they seek some idyllic place in the country's recent past. In the story "The Third Level," it's a mysterious level of Grand Central Station that leads to a town in Ohio in 1894; in "Second Chance" a restored car brings a man back to the 1920s; and in "Of Missing Persons" offers an escape into 'romantic Verna' a planet of paradise.
In most of the stories, Finney indulges in the pleasures of escape. Everyone wants out and many people find it. In a couple of stories, he views escape in a different way. In "I'm Scared" the collective wish to escape has fractured Time and strange things begin to happen. In the final story of the book, "Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket," Finney turns the concept of escape around. A man loses a piece of paper on a ledge high above a New York City street. Dedicated to his work, he goes out there, only to succumb to fear after the window of his apartment closes. From then on, he's desperately trying to escape into his own life.
The stories do suffer a bit in that all the themes have been used time and again since then. The "The Twilight Zone" used some of these same ideas in a couple of episodes. Stephen King upped the tension a bit and rewrote "Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket" as "The Ledge." (By the way, in "Danse Macabre," King talks a lot about Finney, including a comparison with "Twilight Zone" in which Finney comes out on top.) And time travel has become a cliche in so many stories.
Nevertheless, it's a charming book and well worth your time. I don't think "The Third Level" is in print anymore, but the collection "About Time" includes most of his time travel stories. It's a shame "Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket" isn't in print, however.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

In this Washington Post article, (requires free registration) we get not only fun squid facts, but recipes too! Here's an interesting factoid: "Then there is the "vampire" squid whose tentacles are covered with sharp fangs, but it is rarely seen, since it can live at depths up to 3,000 feet."

Speaking of Mars, Robert Rodriguez has signed on to direct "Princess of Mars," the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This, I think, is a better match for Rodriguez than "Sin City" (though I'm looking forward to that too). The story is all action and filled with all kinds of cool stuff. Rampaging white gorillas, four armed insect like people and beautiful red-skinned Dejah Thoris. Something for everybody.

With evidence of water found on Mars, bookies have stopped taking bets on whether life will be found.

More proof that cigarette smoking is bad for you. 73-year-old takes more jail time so he can be in a prison that allows smoking.

Man killed and eaten by his pets.

Do not mess with this guy's car. After it was hit by tomatoes, he came back to the spot with his shotgun and killed one of the alleged tomator throwers. Anger management problems?

New dig hopes to find out more about the Lost Colony at Roanoke. This was the group of settlers in the late 1500s who were plagued by hostile Indians and a lack of supplies. When English ships returned to find them, the colony was gone and the only clue was the word "Croatoan," which may or may not have been a reference to a friendly group of Indians on the island. The colony members were never heard from again.

In Boston, the Photographic Resource Center is putting on an exhibition called Concerning the Spiritual in Photography. It's a collection of "spirit photographs," pictures of ghosts in other words.

In Bahrain, dolphins are being used to patrol boats and to find mines. It reminds me of the science fiction story "A Deeper Sea" by Alexander Jablokov, in which dolphins were inadvertently tortured into doing what the military wanted.

Remember "Chippy," the sea lion who was found wandering miles away from the sea? After removing a bullet from his head and weeks of rehab, Chippy is being put back into the wild today.

Ancient crustacean is smarter than scientists originally thought. Actually, the only reason I'm linking to this is because the creature's scientific name is Godzilliognomus frondosus. Godzilla reference?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Only about 7 percent of adult Internet users have a blog. (Note: adult users.) And of those, only about 10 percent update them daily. So apparently, I'm a rarity among rarities (others might say I'm a freak). Cool.
(Link found at Shaken and Stirred.)

Charlize Theron may play the lead in 'Aeon Flux,' the movie based on the animated character. Aeon Flux was a cool looking, but somewhat incoherent, story of a female assassin in a future world. I always liked her better during the days of "Liquid Television" than later when she got her own series. The early vignettes had no voice acting, so the bizarre twisty plots didn't seem to matter much.

The 50th anniversary Godzilla film has been announced. Godzilla will face off against 10 monsters including Mothra and something called Monster X (there was a Monster X in a Gamera film, but I don't think this will be the same monster.) The film is being directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, director of Versus. It looks like after this film, there will be a 5 to 10 year break before another Godzilla film appears.

Robert Silverberg is getting the 2004 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Silverberg deserves it. He's written about a gazillion books and more than half (what's half a gazillon?) are classics. A personal favorite: Dying Inside.

"Video games can make children fat and, in the case of violent games popular among teenage and younger boys, aggressive and even criminal, Swedish experts say."
You know, I don't see any proof of this in the article. This "expert" just seems to make the statement for a documentary (which I'm sure he has no financial involvement in.) Maybe there is something to the fat part, just as there would be if you studied kids who watched TV all day. But violence? You know, those kids who play sports are never violent, never hurt anybody. Sports has such a calming influence. Just ask Coach Bobby Knight.

Here's an interesting story asking the question: Are squid vicious? (Site may require registration.) Specifically, he's talking about the Humboldt squid, the "Arnold Schwarzenegger of the squids." Large numbers of these squid have taken over in the Sea of Cortes. Here's part of the story:

"At one point, as Kerstitch was underwater, a passenger stood on the deck fighting a 12-foot thresher shark with rod and reel. At about 30 feet, Kerstitch caught a glimpse of the shark -- and of a large squid flinging itself at the struggling predator.
"The squid quickly dashed away but not before removing 'an orange-sized chunk of flesh from the side of the shark's head with its powerful beak,' Kerstitch told me not long after the encounter. Other squid then turned on the diver. One latched onto his fin and pulled him down. Curious, Kerstitch let it pull, which may have provided this sense of opportunity.
"Kerstitch kicked and the first squid let go. But another attached itself just above his shoulders. 'It was like somebody was throwing a cactus on my neck,' he recalled.
"He struck the animal with his dive light and it let go, taking a gold chain he had been wearing. Another squid then wrapped its arms and tentacles around his face and chest. He buried his fingers into the body of the squid and began to pull. It slid to his waist and let go, taking his decompression meter.
"Kerstitch escaped and flopped back onto the boat, glad to be alive but burning with nasty lesions. 'These could eat one of us in a New York second, if that's what they wanted,' says Roger Hanlon, senior scientist at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. 'Two gnashes of that beak and your wrist could be gone.'"

The tensions on the India-Pakistan border are bad enough, do we really need UFOs flying back and forth?

Archaeologists are looking into the Tuscan sword in the stone. This sword is associated with a vain knight who is given a vision and becomes an hermit. Here's part of the story:
"There, another vision told him to renounce material things. Galgano objected that it would be as difficult as splitting a rock with a sword. To prove his point, he struck a stone with his sword. Instead of breaking, the sword slid like butter into the rock. Galgano once again became a recluse, isolating himself by the sword's side. There he remained until he died in 1181."
Some believe the story is old enough to have influenced the King Arthur legends of Excalibur.

Isn't Bigfoot a northwestern USA phenomenon? So what's up with this hunter claiming he sees Bigfoot in Levittown, Pa.? There is a picture of a pair of really unconvincing Bigfoot prints at that link.

Virginia company banking on underwater robots. Which gets me thinking. We have robot ships that float through the solar system, taking pictures of Jupiter and Saturn and so on. Why don't we have any automated ships to search the bottom of the ocean, to get pictures of the Marinas Trench and all the weird animals down there? Is it because there's no national agency, like NASA, to take control of that?

Monday, March 01, 2004

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Alien 4, will be writing X-Men comic books.
(Link found at Bookslut.)

An instant just became shorter.
"Researchers in Austria and Germany measured the smallest time interval recorded, and found it lasted a ten million billionth of a second.
"It's about ten times shorter than the previous shortest measured interval, which lasted about one femtosecond or a million billionth of a second."

Debate rages over whether the Vinland map, which predates Columbus and indicates a land to the west, is a fake or the real deal.