Newspapers in the late 1800s wrote about the Night Doctors. Mysterious men who desecrated graves and killed people for their bodies. Might there be a rational explanation:
"Folklorists believe that these stories of Night Doctors were spread and encouraged by whites to keep the ex-slaves under an informal curfew."
(Found through Cylindrical Primate Storage Unit.)
Sunday, February 29, 2004
Newspapers in the late 1800s wrote about the Night Doctors. Mysterious men who desecrated graves and killed people for their bodies. Might there be a rational explanation:
Many people believed in vampires in New England in the 1700s. Rhode Island and Connecticut were particularly prone to the problem. People would go dig up graves because they believed the dead person was sucking away the life of a living relative. More than likely, the problem was tuberculosis rather than vampirism.
Posted by Brian at 12:01 PM
I've been going to Books by the Falls in Derby since I was in high school. It's a used book store inside an old factory. There are about four rooms and each of them has books stacked high above, ready to topple at any moment. There's that great smell of musty old books. All the aisles are barely passable for one person. When there are two people in one aisle, it's a real project to pass by. In a back corner by the windows, there's a little desk where the owner sits. He has an old record player behind him. Through the years I've heard him play classical, opera, blues, jazz and light jazz.
I always head over to the science fiction section first. One huge wall covered in every old rocket-and-bug-eyed-monster book you can imagine. All the classic names are there -- Asimov, Heinlen, Sturgeon, Pohl, Anderson -- and every once in a while there are the classic novels that have gone out of print. Twice I've seen "Stand on Zanzibar" by John Brunner there.
I've seen a couple of references to Books by the Falls as disorganized. "They probably have some good things, but who knows where to find them?" says one reference site on the Web. But for me that has always been part of the joy. You start scrounging through big piles of books and see what attracts you. There's nothing like digging through a pile of books and catching a glimpse of an R.A. Lafferty book or an obscure sword and sorcery novel. It's not the kind of store you run into for something particular and then run out. It's a store meant for leisurely exploration.
I just went to Books by the Falls Saturday. The owner, who has gotten used to seeing me, said "hey you're into science fiction right?" Sure am. He directed me to two new book shelves full of science fiction books. He had dug up some amazing collection. It seemed like every classic science fiction book was there. I ended up picking up these books:
The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
The Third Level by Jack Finney
Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll
All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By by John Farris
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze by Kenneth Robeson
Doc Savage: The Fortress of Solitude by Kenneth Robeson
I found all of those almost immediately. All those books cost a total of $12. But I ran out of money. There was a ton of other books I wanted. I'm going back soon to pick up more.
There's just something about being in a used book store that can't be beat.
So what about you? Do any of you have used book stores you love? Or book stores in general? Does anyone else find the pleasure in this that I do?
Friday, February 27, 2004
Robert Rodriguez is bringing the comic book "Sin City" to the movies. Frank Miller's comic book is an effective set of noir tales told with beautiful black and white drawings. Rodriguez says he will work directly with Miller to capture the look and feel of the stories.
Rodriguez has always been good with action films, I think he's a good choice. However, I don't think he has done any work quite as dark as "Sin City." The closest is "From Dusk till Dawn," but even that movie relied on a lot of humor. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.
Posted by Brian at 12:09 PM
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Testimony in a big murder case:
"Jose Sandoval, making his first sworn statement since he was convicted of the Sept. 26, 2002, Norfolk bank shootings, is asked why he jumped the counter.
'Because somebody was talking s--,' Sandoval replies.
Madison County Attorney Joe Smith asks who.
'A Smurf,' Sandoval repeats, as in the blue TV cartoon character.
'I take it from your answer you don't want to answer that question,' Smith says. 'Or is it really your testimony that a blue Smurf was in the bank?'
'That's what I said.'
The prosecutor tries once more: 'Did you jump the counter because you wanted to make sure everybody was dead?'
'No, I jumped the counter because the Smurf was talking s--,' Sandoval says."
Posted by Brian at 11:01 AM
Police hunt "bunny girl." The bunny girl is a man "who is about six foot four tall and has been nicknamed 'bunny girl' by residents, wears high-heeled shoes, fishnet tights, a thong, a basque and a Lily Savage-style wig." He waits for unsuspecting women, then pretends to be tied to a tree. He asks the women to help. And that's all. He's a very strange criminal. (Although, I'm not sure he's broken any laws.)
Posted by Brian at 10:54 AM
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
You're The Sound and the Fury!
by William Faulkner
Strong-willed but deeply confused, you are trying to come to grips
with a major crisis in your life. You can see many different perspectives on the issue,
but you're mostly overwhelmed with despair at what you've lost. People often have a hard
time understanding you, but they have some vague sense that you must be brilliant
anyway. Ultimately, you signify nothing.
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
I'd feel so much better about this if I'd actually read "The Sound and the Fury." Still, that paragraph accurately describes how I've been feeling lately.
At Undiscovered, a Fortean blog I recently discovered, the writer looks at the question of Shakespeare authorship:
"This is why, the topic of Shakespeare authorship studies (for want of a better phrase, is one peopled with assorted oddballs, lunatic theories and outlandish unsupported speculation. It doesn't however, automatically follow that there is no substance behind the speculation.
"The reality is that there is a problem, one that academia is addressing by denying it exists. But the facts speak for themselves."
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Monday, February 23, 2004
Neil Gaiman linked to a decent article on Will Eisner's new graphic novel. The novel takes a look at the famous racist propaganda piece "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and shows how they were created. The last Eisner book I picked up was Dropsie Avenue, which traces a New York street from the first American settlers to the current residents.
Eisner's is always looking to push the boundaries of comics. I'm sure his new book will be worth your time.
Posted by Brian at 4:52 PM
Just finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Somehow I managed to get through high school and college without reading Huxley's dystopian novel. I'm glad I finally did.
I think I find the novel scarier than George Orwell's 1984. In the novel, people brought this nightmare world on themselves. They accepted the premise of a happy society being the highest goal. People traded off freedom and thought for security and happiness, even if that happiness had to come in a pill.
I think people these days are all too ready to accept those kinds of solutions.
Along those lines, here's a bizarre argument for social engineering and soma creation: Aldous Huxley : Brave New World. Your Brave New World is right around the corner.
Here's a Web site that focuses on Huxley and his works. And here's an
online searchable version of the book.
In this review from the Guardian, an important question is asked: Huxley points out the problems of this scientific future and, through the Savage, points out the problems of romantic ways of thinking. But does he offer us any alternative? Any solution? Any better way of life?
In the version of the book I have, there is a special foreword by Huxley. He has this to say about the book:
"In the meantime, however, it seems worth while to mention the most serious defect in the story, which is this. The Savage is offered only two alternatives, an insane life in Utopia, or the life of a primitive in an Indian village, a life more human in some respects, but in others hardly less queer and abnormal. ... If I were now to rewrite the book, I would offer the Savage a third alternative. Between the utopian and the primitive horns of his dilemma would lie the possibility of sanity -- a possibility alreaady actualized, to some extent, in a community of exiles and refugees from the Brave New World, living within the borders of the Reservation. In this community economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian, politics Kropotkinesque and co-operative. Science, and technology would be used as though, like the Sabbath, they had been made for man, not (as at present and still more so in the Brave New World) as though man were to be adapted and enslaved to them. Religion would be the conscious and intelligent pursuit of man's Final End, the unitive knowledge of the immanent Tao or Logos, the transcendent Godhead or Brahman. And the prevailing philosophy of life would be a kind of Higher Utilitarianism, in which the Greatest Happiness principle would be secondary to the Final End principle -- the first question to be asked and answered in every contingency of life being: 'How will this thought or action contribute to, or interfere with, the achievement, by me and the greatest possible number of other individuals, of man's Final End?' ... Thus altered, Brave New World would possess an artistic and (if it is permissible to use so large a word in connection with a work of fiction) a philosophical completeness, which in its present form it evidently lacks."
Posted by Brian at 2:22 PM
The serial murders of Fred and Rose West are being linked to the occult by Irish author Jim Cairns.
The article refers to Cairns as "renowned," but I can only find two books under his name at Amazon.co.uk and neither seems to be in print or have any reviews.
Also, the article seems link these murders to ritual satanic abuse, which I'm very skeptical about. However, I don't think it would be that hard to show the occult ties of people who keep bodies under their house and cut off fingers as souvenirs.
Posted by Brian at 11:22 AM
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Giant squid news is so sparse these days, I have to rely on little items like this: guy wins science grant, decides he will use it on giant squid: "Dr Ritchie plans to use the grant to carry out a feasibility study on the mysterious giant squid (Architeuthis dux) to determine how many there are and where they come from."
Thank you Dr. Ritchie, thank you.
I picked up the latest issue of The Believer. They have a really interesting article called "Yukio Mishima and the Dream of the Holy Explosion." Mishima was a Japanese author who created a personal mini-army called the Shield Society. He used this group to take over a military academy, make a speech stating that Japan needed to become the military power it once was, and then committed ritual suicide. The article looks at Mishima's actions in relation to suicide bombers and how the two motivations are related.
And if this part of Mishima's life interests you, check out "Mishima -- A Life in Four Chapters." It's a film by Paul Schrader, the guy who wrote "Taxi Driver." It's not a perfect film, but it's very good.
Posted by Brian at 12:18 PM
Saturday, February 21, 2004
The Alarm, a UK band that had a hit in 1983, tried a novel approach to hitting the charts again. They hired a group of teens to play the band and renamed themselves The Poppyfields. Sure enough, the single "45RPM" hit the charts at No. 28. But now that the jig is up, will the single continue to climb the charts?
Posted by Brian at 1:04 PM
Friday, February 20, 2004
Thursday, February 19, 2004
This pdf document is about the first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard. Here's the opening:
"On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass façade of the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam and died. An other drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard."
There's pictures too! Isn't science great?
Posted by Brian at 11:56 AM
The photo in this article is considered by some to be one of the best UFO photos ever taken. I don't know, it doesn't look like all that much to me. And there's no perspective, nothing in the foreground to put it in context. And it looks blurry.
Besides, it was taken with a digital camera. With all the things that can be manipulated in digital photography, I'm surprised anyone trusts them at all.
I don't know why the Washington Post did this story: Ike and the Alien Ambassadors, but it is fun. Here's an excerpt:
"Fifty years ago tomorrow -- on Feb. 20, 1954 -- President Dwight Eisenhower interrupted his vacation in Palm Springs, Calif., to make a secret nocturnal trip to a nearby Air Force base to meet two extraterrestrial aliens.
"Or maybe not. Maybe Ike just went to the dentist. There's some dispute about this.
"The Ike-met-with-ETs theory is advanced by Michael Salla, a former American University professor who now runs the Peace Ambassador Program at AU's Center for Global Peace."
Salla says he peiced his theory together with research on the Internet. Because we all know information on the Internet is infallible.
One of the most interesting things in this article is that the Eisenhower Library has a UFO specialist because they got so many calls about this issue. I want that job.
Posted by Brian at 11:46 AM
Greg Costikyan, of game blog Games * Design * Art * Culture, is bringing back the Paranoia role playing game as "Paranoia XP." I never played the original, but it has a cult following and looked hilarious. Back in the days when I played Dungeons & Dragons, I would read "Dragon" magazine and they'd occasionally have supplements for "Paranoia." They were some of the funniest things I'd ever read.
In Paranoia, an insane computer controlled the world. Each character had to please the computer to stay alive while trying to get ahead by killing other characters. It was really twisted.
It's games like this that make me want to role-play again.
Posted by Brian at 11:24 AM
According to Monster Zero News, Toy Vault is going to release two new Godzilla-related plush toys: Smog Monster and Angilas.
The smog monster looks way too furry. Whatever, it's still cool. And I still haven't picked up the Godzilla and Mothra plush dolls. I gotta get on that!
Posted by Brian at 1:14 AM
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
McSweeney's is running The August Van Zorn Prize for the Weird Short Story. Here's a sample:
"McSweeney's is pleased to announce that a prize of $3,000 will be awarded to the short story that most faithfully and disturbingly embodies the tradition of the weird short story as practiced by Edgar Allan Poe and his literary descendants, among them August Van Zorn. "
Now, I had never heard of August Van Zorn. Luckily, Michael Chabon fills us in at his Web site. But now, with a search on the Internet, I find that Van Zorn is a pseudonym that Chabon uses for some short stories. Apparently, Van Zorn was also a character in "Wonder Boys."
I hope this doesn't mean the contest is some kind of joke. The McSweeney's link also mentions a follow up to the Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales.
(Link found thanks to Maud Newton.)
Posted by Brian at 4:15 PM
la gringa's L E F T . C O A S T . D E M E N T I A posted about Star Wars vs. Star Trek fans. It also has some interesting things to say about the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers (that links to the New England chapter, but la gringa was talking about the 501st in general.) I know certain people who would be interested in hearing what's been said.
Posted by Brian at 2:55 PM
This post about the end of Cerebus makes me happy that I stopped reading it when I did, just after the screed against women in "Reads." Dave Sim is brilliant sometimes, (and it will certainly be an accomplishment to have written 300 issues of Cerebus) but no matter who he is, I'm not interested in reading long boring screeds against women, feminism and whatever else is pissing him off. I'm looking for good stories. For a long time, Sim wrote those. Maybe he'll get back to that when Cerebus is over.
Posted by Brian at 1:22 PM
At 16bit.com, a Web site about toy news, they included this interesting tidbit: "While touring Toy Biz' room on Monday, we heard and read an interesting detail. In 2005, there will be new DVDs of all the Lord of the Rings flicks with additional footage and what have you. I asked if these were just repackaged extended editions, and was told that these are like 'extended extended editions.' You might be saying 'wait a minute, Adam, I didn't hear this anywhere else!' Well, neither did we."
If this is true, it's going to piss me off. How much money do they want to soak off Lord of the Rings fans? I enjoyed the movies and waited to buy the extended editions (and I'll buy the extended edition of "Return of the King") but if they think I'll be buying yet another edition of the movies, they've got another thing coming. Why can't movie companies just make one definitive edition of a movie and leave it at that? Why hold back on footage? Must it all be about the money? Silly question, I know.
Posted by Brian at 1:02 PM
Caitlin Kiernan is trying to start a cultural revolution: Wear more T-shirts celebrating your favorite authors and books. Everybody wears their favorite band's T-shirt, why not your favorite author? Makes sense to me. How cool would it be to have a "Great Gatsby" T-shirt or an Edgar Allan Poe T-shirt? Or go more obscure and have the R.A. Lafferty T-shirt. If I wore T-shirts more often, I'd be jumping on this bandwagon.
(The fact that Kiernan is selling T-shirts at Species of One shop has nothing to do with this.)
Posted by Brian at 12:40 PM
The latest murder in Kentucky: "On Friday, Hutchinson, 45, said he killed his wife because she, like billions of other Earthlings, had been taken over by alien clones. He also rambled about cobras, 'panther-lions,' 'the tribe of the stick,' Armageddon and UFOs." (He has quite an awful looking mugshot too.)
Posted by Brian at 11:46 AM
Here are two articles on a family that lived away from humanity in South Africa for 20 years. The mother is apparently retarded. The children speak their own language. The father says it probably happened because they didn't have a "family snake" to look after them. The son has lived outside most of his life.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
According to a rumor posted at Monster Zero news, Toho is spending twice as much money and using US special effects studios for the next Godzilla film, which will be the 50th anniversary film. They are also "strongly aiming this one for the international market."
I would love to see Toho put more money into the film and get it released over here. I just wish they would also give these films more time. Do you realize they put out a Godzilla film a year? Directors are really pressured to get these things done for the winter movie season. The '90s Gamera films were given as much time as they needed, and they really are the best giant monster movies in ages. Why can't Toho do the same for its star?
Posted by Brian at 12:47 PM
Neil Gaiman writes about how the government is protecting the deaf from witches and cartoons by not close captioning shows like "Sabrina," "Justice League" and "Malcolm in the Middle." He's right that it's outrageous. Why should the government decide what deaf people watch?
Posted by Brian at 12:14 PM
Well, I hate to breaking this news to some of my friends, but Angel is being cancelled. There are only 9 episodes left. Here's part of theWB.com press release: "Like some of the great series that are leaving the air this year, including Frasier and Friends, the cast, crew, writers and producers of Angel deserve to be able to wrap up the series in a way befitting a classic television series and that is why we went to Joss to let him know that this would be the last year of the series on The WB. "
Posted by Brian at 12:08 PM
Nostalgia alert! Check out this cool Jim's Jason of Star Command page. I remember loving that show on Saturday mornings. I couldn't wait for it. I remember very little about the actual content of the show besides the little square robots, the Wikis, they had. Also, listening to the sound clips, I noticed something odd. In this sound clip of Dragos vowing revenge, listen to the music playing in the background. They're ripping off Akira Ifukube's Godzilla theme! What a weird place for a Godzilla reference. The theme does sound suitably evil.
Posted by Brian at 1:31 AM
Monday, February 16, 2004
Here's a picture of a cow fish. It doesn't look like a cow, but then it doesn't look like anything else either. According to the caption:
"When scared it can release a toxic chemical which can kill many surrounding fish, including itself."
So apparently it's not real bright either. Fark is doing a photoshop contest about the fish here.
Posted by Brian at 2:34 PM
According to my giant monsters mailing list, a professor Bill Tsutsui is writing a book about Godzilla:
"I am a professor of Japanese history (and lifelong Godzilla fan) who
is currently completing a book entitled "Godzilla on My Mind" which
examines the Godzilla films and the monster's enduring popularity in
the United States. The book will be published by Palgrave Macmillan
in October 2004."
He's looking for photos of Godzilla fans with their collections. You can reach him at this address if you're interested: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don't have a large enough collection for that, but the book sounds fun. I can't wait for it to come out now. It's probably one of many that will be coming out for Godzilla's 50th anniversary this year. (That's the 50th anniversary of the film in Japan. Godzilla came out in 1955 in America.) I hope so, I'm always on the look out for new books about giant monsters.
Posted by Brian at 1:05 PM
Evidence about the Ray family (of Griswold, Conn.) shows that 19th century Americans believed the dead were preying on the living:
"According to the book "Legendary Connecticut, Traditional Tales from the Nutmeg State," by the late David E. Philips, after learning of Henry's sickness, the remaining family members lost their patience.
"They headed to the burial ground with shovels.
"Philips said the group was acting on the conviction that Henry Nelson Ray's seemingly fatal illness was caused by his brothers' emerging from the ground and draining the blood from his veins.
"The bodies of Lemuel and Elisha were said to have been dug up and burned. They chose not to dig up and burn the father."
Posted by Brian at 11:47 AM
I just finished the book "Candyfreak" by Steve Almond. Technically, this book isn't coming out until May, but I was able to get my hands on an advanced proof of the book.
Almond is a huge candy bar lover. The first chapter of the book goes into his love affair with chocolate and the family situation that caused it. From there, Almond decides to get himself some free candy. He heads out to a few of the smaller candy bar companies in the country, makers of candy like the Twin Bing, Abba-Zabba and Valomilk. Between trances watching the chocolate enrober, Almond considers the plight of the regional candy bar maker. Most of these companies would disappear if the big three (Hersheys, Nestle and Mars) went into a price war.
The book is at its best when Almond indulges his fantasies and talks about biting into his latest candy bar. On those pages, his love for candy bars shines through. (And makes me hungry. I've had more candy bars in this last week than I have in years.) He's at his worst when he tries to relate it to national politics. He goes off on tangents that seem to have nothing to do with candy.
But that's a minor quibble. The book is a lot of fun, a travelogue through an obsession. It's a fun read.
Sunday, February 15, 2004
I just saw a fantastic film called Musa the Warrior today. (That review is a good one. I'm surprised Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a listing for it.) If you like epic, tragic action films, this is as good as it gets. The characters are so well drawn. Everyone has their moment of doubt, everyone shows what they are made of. There are no simple villains. There are also no easy answers. At the end, there is still no assurance that there was any point to this tragedy beyond an honorable death. It's a beautiful movie that should get more attention.
Posted by Brian at 2:41 PM
Friday, February 13, 2004
I just saw Comic Book the Movie. It was fun and weird. It's no cinematic treasure, but if you're into comic books, it's a good time. Anyway, there was this one guy in the film, and even more so in the deleted scenes, hawking his comic book. He was great, a P.T. Barnum of the comic book. So I started looking through the Comic Book The Movie Forums and found this entry from the man himself:
"I, Devin T. Quin, being of reasonably Unsound Mind and the body of an individual who engages in moderate regular exercises invite You All to buy My Fine Comic Book:
Robots R' Cool, Zombies R' Jerks.
It will enrich your life and the lives of all around you as you read it, stranger or friend.
We are working on our Website: www.deadfishcomics.com
In the Meantime, please e-mail me directly at unkiedev@aol.
The book is 1.75, plus 80 cents shipping. We do offer discounts for bulk orders, and are ALWAYS excited to talk to retailers, for they are the Mighty Cogs that keep this industry turning. Let me know in your e-mail if you run a store.
-Thanks so much for all the attention and support. May the Bat of Success Fly down all of our throats.
-Devin T. Quin, Citizen."
I don't know if the comic is any good or not, but it looked great in the movie and I'm willing to give it a try. Check out the Web site and see what you think. They say they will have a Pay Pal button up soon to order the comic at $1.75. Cheap!
Posted by Brian at 1:36 PM
Seals are being killed and mutilated in New England states, possibly to sell their skins and sex organs. The latest case, however, doesn't seem to be connected to the others. Someone decapitated a seal and left the letters "M A L" carved into its hide.
UPDATE: Turns out the "M A L" covered seal was not a mutilation. It was written in grease pencil and stands for "Marine Animal Lifeline."
Posted by Brian at 11:00 AM
Thursday, February 12, 2004
The 2003 Nebula Awards ballot is up. There's links to online short stories, excerpts from novels, and to the Amazon listing for the novels. I'm surprised, and sad, to say that I've read very few of the works that are listed. However, "The Empire of Ice Cream" by Jeffrey Ford is nominated under novelettes and that was a fantastic story. So that's where I'll be rooting.
(Link found at Return of the Reluctant.)
Posted by Brian at 5:06 PM
Following some blog rolls around, I found Ptarmigan, written by Alan Deniro. I immediately fell in love with it for this entry:
"National Dungeons and Dragons Meetup Day falls on the 14th of every month. Valentine's Day. Never has there been a more succinct, yet apt, description of myself at 17."
I wish I had written that line.
Posted by Brian at 4:35 PM
Here's a new Web site for the 2004 remake of Dark Shadows. Why are they making this again? They tried it in the early '90s and it didn't fly. (although I thought the show was pretty good at the time. Haven't seen it since.) While I'm at it, "Battlestar Galactica" was picked up by the SciFi Channel. Production is about to start on 13 one-hour episodes.
Posted by Brian at 11:38 AM
World's oldest insect found, in a drawer. Here's the first couple paragraphs of the New York Times story: "Scientists say they have discovered the world's oldest known insect fossil a 400 million-year-old set of minuscule jaws that lay unrecognized for nearly a century in a lonely drawer at the Natural History Museum in London.
The findings, being published on Thursday in the journal Nature, pushes the date for the appearance of insects, one of the most successful life forms on earth, some 10 million to 20 million years back in the fossil record. And they suggest that insects were among the first animals to live on land."
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Richard Linklater is going to be filming a version of Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly." Dick's work has been filmed again and again lately and few people have done anything worthwhile with it. (The one's who did either ignored the source material ("Blade Runner") or created a movie that was Dick-like ("The Matrix") but not a direct adaptation.) The good thing about this news, Linklater has expressed an interest in Dick before. He has a small part in his movie "Waking Life" where he talks about Dick and his understanding of reality. The only problem I see is that Linklater has a tendency to be wordy. His characters like to go off on long speeches at the drop of a hat.
(Link found at Website @ the End of the Universe.)
Posted by Brian at 2:46 PM
Julius Schwartz has died. Anybody who has been into comic books or science fiction has been touched by this guy's work, whether you know it or not. Here's an appreciation of him by Mark Evanier. Here's what Neil Gaiman, Nick Mamatas, DC Comics, and Marv Wolfman have to say about him. Harlan Ellison is writing an obituary for the New York Times. When I see that, I'll update this entry with a link.
Posted by Brian at 1:58 PM
Return of the Reluctant has an excellent post on what's wrong with a proposed remake of "Assault on Precinct 13." (I didn't even know someone was remaking it, and it sounds like it shouldn't be.) I haven't seen that movie in years, but I loved the trapped feeling you have in that film. There's no way out, what can you do? I have to see it again.
I seem to be on something of a John Carpenter kick lately. I just bought the Collector's Edition DVD of "The Thing" the other day. That movie holds up extremely well (despite a few holes I can now see in the plot.) Next I want to buy the "Escape from New York" special edition. Between 1975 and 1985, Carpenter was at the top of his game.
Posted by Brian at 1:48 PM
Well, I seem to have failed at the 50 Books Project. I couldn't think to say anything about Nova by Samuel Delany. It's a great book, filled with some good characters and a detailed space opera setting. But what can I add to it that other people haven't already said. Here is a review by someone who wasn't bowled over by it. (I feel differently. I've read it three times and could read it hundreds more.)
I just finished Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick. It was excellent. It retold the Faust tragedy with Mephistopheles played by an alien intelligence who wants nothing more than to wipe out humanity. To do that, they give Faust all the knowledge he seeks and he changes his world.
I've always been fascinated by the Faust tale. I read Christopher Marlowe's version when I was in college. It was shortly followed by a translation of Goethe's version. I've also enjoyed Randy Newman's Faust. (I disagree with that review by the way. I think the humor, especially in the conversations between God and the Devil, is great.)
Swanwick really takes on modern technology and its effect on society and what unlimited knowledge could really mean. It's good stuff. I'm surprised the book hasn't gotten more attention. I'm so glad I picked the book up for $2 from a "Buck a Book" store a couple of years ago. Best $2 ever spent.
So, while I may have more to say about the books I read, consider me a failure at the 50 Books Project.
Posted by Brian at 12:22 PM
Here's a weird story from Popular Mechanics claiming to describe how governments will deal with alien first contact. But the whole article credits no sources and most of the details sound like ideas straight from ET, Close Encounters and whole lots of B-grade extraterrestrial films. Take with a grain of salt.
Monday, February 09, 2004
Friday, February 06, 2004
Jimmy Carter (yes that Jimmy Carter) is blogging about his trip to Ghana. The blog also includes photos. It seems his idea of a blog entry is about the length of a New Yorker article. So, naturally, I haven't read any of it yet.
By the way, if both presidential candidates and ex-presidents are blogging now, does that mean blogging has officially jumped the shark? Or maybe that happened when I started blogging?
Posted by Brian at 12:37 PM
Parrot who speaks back and has a sense of humor stuns scientists! I would feel a lot more interested in this if they didn't offer this little tidbit:
N'kisi's remarkable abilities, which are said to include telepathy, feature in the latest BBC Wildlife Magazine.
It's not enough that you have a parrot who can converse with people, you have to say he's telepathic too? If it's true it's amazing. Otherwise, it's simply interesting.
Posted by Brian at 12:08 PM
This an interesting article on slave-making and parasitic ants. But more importantly, it has one line of dialogue I'd love to see somebody use in a short story:
"'I went over there and looked at it and said 'Oh my god, you've got minutissimus."'
I don't know, it struck me funny.
Posted by Brian at 11:20 AM
Thursday, February 05, 2004
At Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, Sarah Weinman gives a great entry about why blogs are different than journalism and what keeps us reading. Here's one portion:
"Second, the best blogs know how to construct their content to keep reading. Just when you think they've put up a fantastic post--oh wait! Here's another one. Just when you think that earlier post couldn't get more thoughtful, provoking, or controversial, they are back with another one. Blogs know how to move quickly, efficiently, and keep the reader strung along."
Posted by Brian at 4:54 PM
FARK has the right idea:
Dear CBS, FCC and NFL: We really don't care that much about Janet's booble. Please get on with your "Has the Media Gone too Far" retrospective. Love, the public.
Also, props to TMFTML for the "IT WAS A NIPPLE. GET OVER IT." headline.
Can we please stop talking about this story now. Jackson showed her breast on national TV, no one is quite sure whether it was planned or not. (Although if it was planned, it was pretty fuckin' stupid.) We've all seen Janet's breast now, and sure, we're all pleased, but it's over. Get on with life.
Posted by Brian at 3:15 PM
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
This guy argues for more use of the adverb. And yet, I saw very few adverbs in that column that improved sentences. I'm still cutting them out.
(By the way, every day I seem to steal more and more from Cylindrical Primate Storage Unit, so make sure you're checking that site out.)
Posted by Brian at 11:57 AM
A new species of jellyfish has been found. The researchers called it "Bumpy." I like this quote: "'It's heartwarming to know that there's still a lot of mystery in the deep ocean. There are still a lot of big things moving around out there that we don't know about.' "
You can see pictures of the jellyfish here.
Posted by Brian at 11:27 AM
Go to this page and click on the art work. From there you can download a preview trailer of "Dragon Wars" or D-War as it's called in the trailer. If the movie is 1/2 as good as the trailer, it will be awesome. However, I have a sinking feeling that all the best stuff (and all the money for the movie) went into the trailer.
The movie will be directed by the guy who made the remake of Yongarry, called Reptilian in America. Here's an appropriate quote on the Rotten Tomatoes site about that film: "Passes the so-bad-it's-good threshold and lands square in the realm of bad again." Actually, that might make the movie sound better than it was.
Still, here's hoping this Korean film turns out to be as good as the trailer would lead you to believe.
Posted by Brian at 1:43 AM
Joseph Clifford Faust posts about plotting and how there are only so many plots in the world and it's your take on them that makes them something. I found it inspiring. Check it out. And while I'm at it, this Making Light post on rejections is quite good.
UPDATE: And now Neil Gaiman has written something about writing. It's a good day for writing advice.
Posted by Brian at 1:31 AM
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
The American trailer for Beat Takeshi's Zatoichi is up. It's the story of a blind samurai. I just watched the original film recently. It was smart, fun entertainment.
I like Takeshi as an actor. As a director I'm a little leary. His movie "Fireworks" was much praised by the critics. But I don't know. It was certainly good, but it wasn't as powerful as I expected. On the other hand, I really enjoyed his film "Brother," which most critics didn't like.
Apparently, Miramax has picked up Zatoichi for distribution in the States. I'm looking forward to it.
Posted by Brian at 1:53 PM
Director of Versus rumored to be making 50th anniversary Godzilla movie. Versus was one sicko action/zombie flick, made with humor and really fast pacing. I loved it. I can't imagine what he would do with a Godzilla film.
Posted by Brian at 1:35 PM
Chupacabras are living in a mine in Chile. On the other hand, this nonsequitir at the end kind of throws me off:
"In a spectacular display of willful ignorance, big media recently announced that Bigfoot doesn't exist. In this fascinating, fun book, Loren Coleman shows that it just isn't true. There's plenty of evidence, and the media should be ashamed of itself. "
What that has to do with chupacabras, I don't know.
Posted by Brian at 1:08 PM
Monday, February 02, 2004
The New York Post ruminates on getting fired for running a blog. I enjoyed this part:
"And when bloggers fall victim to self-inflicted catastrophes, Ljdrama.com becomes their reality check. "This site exists to point out the hypocrisy of people taking out drama on the Internet and then whining when people notice," says Ljdrama's Hep, who has no sympathy for the dumped or fired blogger.
"'People think just because it has the word 'journal' in the title, that [a blog] should be treated like a paper journal that you keep under their bed,' she says. 'But it's on the Internet! I don't have any pity for these people.'"
Posted by Brian at 12:41 PM
A Georgia school system considers banning the word 'evolution' from its curriculum and replacing it with "biological changes over time." The superintendent justifies it this way:
"Cox repeatedly referred to evolution as a "buzzword" Thursday and said the ban was proposed, in part, to alleviate pressure on teachers in socially conservative areas where parents object to its teaching."
How weak kneed is that. I know teachers have to deal with a lot of silly pressure over this whole creationism movement, but there are some places where you have to stand up and do what's right. Changing the name clutters up the language for no reason. Teach evolution, call it evolution and explain what it is. Then kids will have their own chance to decide whether they believe in evolution or creationism.
Posted by Brian at 12:09 PM
Man sells nothing on eBay. Winning bid is $11.85 (in U.S. dollars). Here's part of the sales pitch:
"My wife tells me I offer her nothing at all times and has threatened to leave me because of it. So I am reluctantly forced to choose between nothing and her. If anybody would like to offer me nothing for my wife I would be happy to consider. No, just kidding. The wife stays and the nothing goes!"
Oh yeah, there's a picture of nothing as well.
(Link found via
Cylindrical Primate Storage Unit.)
The majority of candidates in this presidential election have graduated from Yale. Also, it looks like we'll have the first election fight between two Skull and Bones members, the exclusive secret society that also included members like Howard Taft, Henry Luce, William F. Buckley and the elder Bush. You can find more on Skull and Bones here, here, here and here.
Here's the classic Ron Rosenbaum Esquire article on the group.
Posted by Brian at 11:14 AM