Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Your Creepy Halloween Spider Post

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I’m running out of Halloween season, so it’s time for a post on that perennial source of creepiness: Spiders.

There are few things that triggers our primal fear reflex more than spiders, so here’s a Whitman’s Spider Sampler of Creepiness.

  • Here’s a family whose house was infested with deadly brown recluses.
  • If you’re afraid of spiders, you almost certainly don’t want to work at a tarantula farm.
  • An encounter with the South American Goliath birdeater spider whose feet can stretch a foot in diameter.
  • I’ve tried to avoid the common gifs everyone’s already seen, but I am intrigued by this completely unconvincing, yet oddly unnerving film snippet, and I’d like to know what (presumably silent) film it’s from:

    Here’s the exceptionally creepy spider attack from The Mist:

    And here’s Cyriak’s deeply disturbing “Cobwebs”:

    Let’s end on a lighter note. There’s a Simon’s Cat with a spider:

    And this:

    It’s Short, And I Laughed

    Thursday, October 30th, 2014

    Sometimes that’s enough…

    Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer Drops

    Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

    Behold:

    Is that mecha-Stark, or Ultron in Stark armor fighting Hulk?

    I’m there.

    Shoegazer Sunday: La Hell Gang’s “So High”

    Sunday, October 19th, 2014

    You don’t have to be a fan of drug-references to enjoy Chilian band La Hell Gang’s echoey, spaced-out “So High”.

    They’re evidently on tour in the U.S. right now…

    Shoegazer Sunday: Black Hearted Brother’s “(I Don’t Mean to) Wonder”

    Sunday, September 14th, 2014

    Black Hearted Brother is a project featuring Slowdive’s Neal Halstead. Here they are with “(I Don’t Mean to) Wonder”.

    Also, evidently the Judge Dredd remake has some impressive slow-motion set-pieces…

    Library Additions: Three Interesting Chapbooks

    Thursday, September 11th, 2014

    I recently got in three interesting trim-sized chapbooks, two hardback and two signed:

  • Gaiman, Neil. The Sleeper and the Spindle. Morrow/Harper Collins, 2014. First separate edition hardback (it appeared in an anthology in 2013), a Fine copy in decorated boards, sans dust jacket, as issued. Chapbook on the Sleeping beauty theme, only available through California bookstores on California Book Day (May 3, 2014).

    Gaiman Sleeper Spindle

  • Powers, Tim. Appointment on Sunset. Charnel House, 2014. First edition hardback, #115 of 250 signed, numbered copies, a Fine copy, sans dust jacket, as issued, with signed and numbered toe-tag affixed to the front cover.

    Powers Sunset

  • Swanwick, Michael. Solstice Fire. Dragonstairs Press, 2013. First edition side-sewn chapbook original, #42 of 100 signed numbered copies, a Fine copy.

    Solstice Fire

  • One other thing these have in common: I’ll have copies for all three available through Lame Excuse Books (inquire if you want one).

    Pictures from the Bovington Tank Museum: German Tanks

    Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

    (Cross-posted from BattleSwarm to here for non-political tank buffs.)

    I hope you like tanks.

    Here’s the first batch of pictures taken at the Bovington Tank Museum in Dorset, which I visited on Saturday as a gift to my inner 12-year old. (There are few prospects more pleasing to the preadolescent male mind than being encased in a 30 ton metal killing machine.) The first batch is all German tanks and tank destroyers from World War II. Let’s face it, the Germans had far and away the best tanks, and shortly after the allies managed to catch up, Germany would be about ready to introduce something better. Germany’s problem (as compared to America or the Soviet Union) was an inability to manufacture enough of them. (Good thing for us.) They had an enormous array of German tanks, and probably the best collection outside Germany’s own tank museum in Munster.

    The first picture of the first of two King Tigers (AKA Tiger II, AKA Königstiger, Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B) they had on display. The mosty powerful tank Germany produced during the war, its 88mm main gun could destroy any tank on the battlefield. It didn’t get on the battlefield until 1944, and Germany produced less than 500 of them.

    The other Tiger II they had there.

    Here you can see the Zimmerite anti-magnetic mine coating the Germans used.

    Selfie, with tank.

    The first of several tank destroyers.

    This is a German tank destroyer that ended up in Finland. Stalin thought he could walk all over Finand, but the Finns tore the Soviets nine different new assholes in the Winter War, though this tank destroyer obviously post-dates 1940.

    Alternate barrel used for the Sturmtiger close assault variant.

    Here’s an early Panzer Mark I command tank. It’s amazing to realize that the initial German blitzkrieg was carried out with relatively slow, under-armed, and underpowered Mark I and Mark IIs, that, with Heinz Guderian’s new tactics of mechanized warfare, were simply Good Enough.

    A Mark II.

    I think this is the Mark III, would would be the mainstay of the Wehrmacht armored divisions through the end of the war.

    A muzzle-eye view.

    Armoured car.

    An 88mm field canon.

    Where Would I Park It?

    Saturday, July 12th, 2014

    If I were made of money, this would be very tempting indeed:

    Centurion Mk 5 Main Battle Tank (MBT)

    Crew: 4
    Armor:
    Up to 6′ (152-mm)
    Weapons:
    -Primary
    1x QF 20-pdr (83.4mm) cannon
    -Secondary
    1x 7.62-mm L8A1 machine gun co-axial with main armament
    1x 7.62-mm L37A1 machine gun in AA mount
    -Ammunition
    65x 20-pdr
    4,250x 7.62-mm
    Engine: Rolls-Royce Meteor gasoline, 650-hp
    Power/weight: 11.8-hp/ton
    Fuel Capacity: 120-USG (455-l)
    Range: 65-miles (105-km)
    Speed: 21-mph (35-km/h)

    The tank being offered, Centurion Mk 5, VRN 12BA97 K, #370/450, was built in April 1953. It is an older restoration that needs an exterior cosmetic restoration. The wheels and tracks are serviceable. The canvas mantlet cover is in good condition. All bazooka skirting is present. Spare track shoes and a tow cable are fitted to the tank’s exterior. This tank is equipped with a 20-pdr “A” barrel. Cutting the breech has demilled the gun. All gunner’s controls are present. This Centurion is powered by a Rolls-Royce Meteor engine – the non-supercharged version of the famous Merlin engine used in Mustang and Spitfire fighters of the day.

    The Centurion was designed during World War II to provide a tank that could do the work of both the Infantry and Cruiser tank classes. It was designed to have firepower and protection that would allow it to survive with the latest German types of tanks and self-propelled guns seen during the war. The first Centurions entered service too late to see action in World War II. Initially, they were equipped the 17-pdr (76.2-mm) cannon which was one of the best tank guns used by the Western Allies during the war. By the time Centurions saw combat in 1950 during the Korean War, they had been upgunned to the more powerful 20-pdr (83.4-mm) cannon. This remained the standard gun on Centurions until the early 1960s when they were upgunned with the 105-mm L7 cannon.

    The four-man crew of the Centurion was well-protected with armor up to 6-inches (152-mm) thick. Stowage bins mounted on the turret sides provided standoff protection from HEAT rounds while skirts along the suspension helped protect against anti-tank rockets. Various upgrades throughout the years allowed the Centurion to stay in service with many countries well into the 1980s. The Centurion has been exported to numerous countries including the Canada, Denmark, Israel and South Africa. They saw action in numerous wars including the Indo-Pakistani Wars, Arab-Israeli Wars, the 1956 Suez War, and various conflicts in southern Africa between South Africa and Cuban forces.

    Transport Cost to Storage: $5,808

    Alas, a few tiny problems present themselves:

  • It is a wee bit out of my price range.
  • The auction is in California, so transportation would be a pain (and expensive).
  • Where would I park it?
  • Likewise, parking spaces are crowded enough at my current job, and I’m pretty sure this would take up at least two spaces.
  • What’s the point of having a tank with a demilled gun? Except, of course, that no one will ever cut you off in traffic ever again.
  • Even if it weren’t demilled, finding 83.4mm ammunition would likely prove challenging, and I don’t think anyone makes a reloading press for HEAT rounds…
  • And what sort of BATFE permit do you need for a tank anyway?
  • Really, I’d need a ranch to buy something like this. Or, as the news reports would inevitably refer to it, a “heavily fortified compound.”

    There are many other interesting items in this auction, which is happening today. Including a Jagdpanzer Kanone, which, alas, looks pretty crapped out, and, I kid you not, an actual SCUD launcher. (I’m not sure any BATFE permit would cover a working SCUD launcher…)

    Science Fiction Necrology: 2013–2014

    Thursday, July 10th, 2014

    Joe Pumelia asked me to put together a quick necrology of notable science fiction figures who have died over the last 18 months for his forthcoming fanzine, a roll-call which is depressingly extensive and filled with world-class talent. Here’s a quick and dirty list that just hits the highlights of writers (and one artist) who have died in that time, along with select top works for those unfamiliar with their output to pursue.

  • Aaron Allston (December 8, 1960 – February 27, 2014): Texas writer best known for his gaming and media tie-in work. See: Doc Sidhe (a Doc Savage homage)
  • Iain Banks (16 February 1954 – 9 June 2013): Notable Scottish writer who penned both celebrated mainstream novels and (as Iain M. Banks) swell science fiction. Died entirely too young from cancer. See: The Wasp Factory, The Bridge, Player of Games.
  • Neal Barrett, Jr (November 3, 1929 – January 12, 2014): The dean of weird Texas science fiction writers. See: The Hereafter Gang and the stories in Perpetuity Blues.
  • Tom Clancy (April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013): Bestselling technothriller writer, some of whose work qualified as near-future SF. See: The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising.
  • Basil Copper (February 5, 1924 – April 3, 2013): English horror writer who had four books published by Arkham House.
  • H.R. Giger (February 5, 1940 – May 12, 2014): Brilliant and darkly disturbing Swiss artist. Responsible for the Xenomorph creature design in the movie Alien.
  • Rick Hautala (February 3, 1949 – March 21, 2013): Prolific horror writer who had many books published by Zebra, and was a recipient of the Horror Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • James Herbert (8 April 1943 – 20 March 2013): British horror writer. His novel The Fog was made into the John Carpenter movie.
  • Daniel Keyes (August 9, 1927 – June 15, 2014): Writer famous for only one work, but it was a doozy: “Flowers for Algernon”.
  • Jay Lake (June 6, 1964 – June 1, 2014): A young writer who exploded in a supernova of productivity, only to be struck down in his prime by the recurring cancer whose fight he documented in his blog. See: Mainspring and the stories in The Sky That Wraps.
  • Doris Lessing (October 22, 1919 – November 17, 2013): Nobel Prize-winning writer, some of whose books used genre settings or tropes.
  • Richard Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013): A writer with a long and illustrious career in science fiction and horror, most famous for works adapted for TV or movies, including numerous scripts for the original Twilight Zone. See: I Am Legend (filmed three times, and they still haven’t gotten it right), The Shrinking Man, The Night Stalker, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “Little Girl Lost,” “Duel,” and “He Who Kills” (the Zuni fetish doll segment of Trilogy of Terror).
  • Andrew J. Offutt (or andrew j. offutt, as he preferred to spell it) (August 16, 1934 – April 30, 2013): Prolific SF/F writer, including work in the Thieves World shared-universe.
  • Frederik Pohl (November 26, 1919 – September 2, 2013): A giant from the golden age who had a career revival in the 1970s. Wrote collaborations with C.M. Kornbluth and Jack Williamson, and was a noted editor. See: Gateway, Man Plus, The Space Merchants (with Kornbluth), and “Tunnel Under the World.”
  • Nick Pollotta (August 26, 1954 – April 13, 2013): Writer who did humorous SF and fantasy under his own name, and series men’s adventure novels under house pseudonyms.
  • Frank M. Robinson (August 9, 1926 – June 30, 2014): Writer who compiled an illustrated history of science fiction, as well as collaborating on the novel that was made into the movie The Towering Inferno.
  • Alan Rodgers (August 11, 1959 – March 8, 2014): Horror writer and former editor of Night Cry magazine. See: “The Boy Who Came Back From the Dead.”
  • Michael Shea (July 3, 1946 – February 16, 2014): The finest dark fantasy prose stylist of his generation. See: Nifft the Lean, the stories in Polyphemus.
  • Lucius Shepard (August 21, 1943 – March 18, 2014): One of most important science fiction writers of the 1980s, winning Hugo and Nebula Awards for his short fiction. See: The stories in The Jaguar Hunter.
  • Steven Utley (November 10, 1948—January 12, 2013): Texas science fiction writer, known for his time travel tales and his stories in collaboration with Howard Waldrop. Died of an aggressive cancer less than a month after first diagnosis. See: “Custer’s Last Jump” and “Black as the Pit, From Pole to Pole” (both with Waldrop)
  • Jack Vance (August 28, 1916 – May 26, 2013): One of the all-time great science fiction writers, and arguably the finest prose stylist the field has ever produced. See “The Dragon Masters,” the stories in The Dying Earth, and the four Planet of Adventure books.
  • Colin Wilson (June 26, 1931 – December 5, 2013): British writer who wrote science fiction and horror. His novel The Space Vampires was turned into the movie Lifeforce.
  • Bill Watterson Draws Pearls Before Swine

    Saturday, June 7th, 2014

    This is pretty awesome.

    Basically, Stephan Pastis, the man behind the Pearls Before Swine comic strip, managed to strike up an email conversation with the Bill Waterston, the famously reclusive creator of Calvin & Hobbes.

    The end result was that Watterson secretly drew panels in Pearls Before Swine strips.

    Start here and keep scrolling forward through today.

    (Hat tip both Michael Swanwick and Ted Cruz, who each shared it on Facebook…)