Archive for September, 2010

Obituary Watch: Endurance Athlete Jure Robic, RIP

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

From Dwight comes news that endurance athlete Jure Robic has died.

He was the completely insane insanely dedicated guy I mentioned earlier this year. Sad, but I can’t really say I’m surprised…

A Short, Incomplete, and Somewhat Random List of People Who Have Had Their Heads Impaled on a Spike on London Bridge

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Sometimes you go looking for a handy internet reference for something and, not finding it, create it yourself. In this case, I came across a book review that mentioned Wat Tyler’s head had been impaled on the same spike on London Bridge that would later be home to the head of Sir Thomas More. That got me thinking of who all’s heads have been displayed on a spike on London Bridge. Not finding any list online, I decided to compile one myself.

Unless otherwise noted, all of the people listed here were executed for treason, which was generally defined as “anything that pissed off the King,” from actual armed insurrection, to picking the wrong side in a fight over succession, to believing in the wrong religion, to banging the Queen. I believe most (if not all) of the people on this list had their heads hung at the southern gatehouse bridge (or “Traitor’s Gate”). German visitor Paul Hetzner counted more than 30 heads upon his visit there in 1598.

This list only includes those for which it is stated somewhere that their head was displayed on London Bridge, and doesn’t count those who had their heads strung up elsewhere, or body parts other than heads being strung up.

If you wonder why American death sentences used to state “to be hanged until dead,” it’s because that wasn’t the way things were generally done in Merry Olde England. If you were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, you were “ritually hanged, emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces).” In such circumstance, merely being beheaded was considered the height of mercy.

  1. William Wallace, 1305 (I trust you are aware that Braveheart is not, shall we say, historically accurate, but the torture and execution scenes accord fairly closely to historical accounts)

  2. John Fraser and Simon Fraser, brothers who fought alongside Wallace, 1306
  3. Hugh Despenser the Younger, 1326
  4. Wat Tyler, John Ball (and possibly Jack Straw), 1381
  5. Simon Sudbury, 1381
  6. William le Scrope (and possibly John Bussey and Henry Green), 1399
  7. Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Worcester, 1403
  8. Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, 1408
  9. Roger Bolingbroke (accused of witchcraft), 1440
  10. Jack Cade, 1450
  11. Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank, 1497
  12. Thomas Fauconberg, 1485
  13. “This yeare there were three persons, viz. Charles, sometyme master of the Kinges henchmen, and one Pickeringe, sometyme of the Kings bakehowse, and one Thomas, a servinge man, latelie come from the Rhodes,a which were drawne to Tiburne, and there hanged, their bowells brent afore them, and after quartered, their heades sett on London bridge.” (from Charles Wriothhesly’s A Chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, apparently not published until 1875), 1524
  14. Two of six nuns and priests executed (the other four heads exhibited “at diverse gates of the cittie”). Ibid. (Richard Risby may have been included among these six.) 1534
  15. Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, 1535
  16. “Sir John Bolner, Sir Stephen Hamerton, knightes, were hanged and heddyd, Nicholas Tempeste, esquier, Docter Cokerell, preiste, Abbott condam x of Fountens, and Docter Pykeringe, fryer, ware a Sir Thomas Audeley, b Sir Thomas Percy, second son of the fifth Earl of Northumberland, and brother to Henry Algernon, sixth Earl, c Sir John Bulmer, d Margaret Cheyney, otherwise Lady Bulmer, e Sir Stephen Hamelton. , f Adam Sodbury, Abbot of Jervaulx, in Yorkshire. Stow, s William Thurst, quondam Abbot of Fountains. Stow, h William Wood, Prior of Bridlington. Stow, William Thurst, quondam Abbot of Fountains. drawen from the Towre of London to Tyburne, and ther hanged, boweld, and quartered, and their hedes sett one London Bridge and diverse gates in London.” Ibid, 1537.
  17. Sir Thomas Percey, Sir Frances Bigott, Georg Lomeley, the Abbott of Gervase, the Prior of Bridlington, and Lord Darcye. Ibid, 1537.
  18. Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy, 1537 (Corrected; I had originally typoed this ten years later, as per the comments below. – LP 6/2/11)
  19. “One Connisbie, a gentleman, and one of the Groomes of the Kinges Chamber…Doctor Croft, Chauncellor of Chichester, my Lord Montagues chaplaine, and Holland.” Ibid, 1538.
  20. Thomas Cromwell (also one Clifforde, a counterfeiter), 1540
  21. Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham, adulterous lovers of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, 1542. (Some historical sources state 1541, due to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, the latter of which was not adopted in Great Britain until 1752.)
  22. Edward Arden, 1583
  23. Guy Fawkes (and co-conspirators), 1606
  24. Thomas Bullaker, 1642
  25. Henry Heath (AKA Paul of St. Magdalene), 1643
  26. Henry Morse, 1645
  27. William Stayley (last head to be displayed on the bridge), 1678

This chronology of London Bridge got me started. This Wikipedia list of people who have been beheaded was also useful (both the Yorks and the Lancasters were big on beheading). This London Bridge history was also quite handy.

And here’s a lovely period image from the Museum of London:

Somewhat related items:

Books Read: Alex Irvine’s Mystery Hill

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Mystery Hill
by Alex Irvine
PS Publishing, 2009

This is a slight, amusing novella by the author of A Scattering of jades. It involves the owner of a “mystery spot” roadside attraction, little lizard men, drugs, pogoing teenagers and parallel worlds. It’s a decent work, but didn’t seem to be quite as amusing as it should have been, or could have been in the hands of, say, Rudy Rucker or Paul Di Filippo.

I have one copy available through Lame Excuse Books is you’re interested.

A Most Improbable Texans Win

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

The Texans 30-27 overtime win over the Washington Redskins has to count as one of the most improbable of recent memory. If you had showed up at a Las Vegas betting window right after Donovan McNabb’s touchdown pass to Chris Cooley made it 27-10, you probably could have gotten some pretty steep odds on a Texans victory.

A few random observations:

  • Those Fantasy Football gurus who suggested sitting Matt Schaub after Arian Foster’s 231 yard day last week have enough egg on their face to feed a family of four omelets for a week. 497 yards passing for Schaub. The Texans are now officially The Team Most likely to Put up Madden Numbers During Any Given Week.

  • Unlike previous years, the Redskins are actually a very solid team (despite Dan Snyder’s best efforts). Given that Philadelphia is also 1-1, and the Cowboys lost again (to the Bears, thanks to two picks by Tony “Perpetually Overrated” Romo), expect them to be in the hunt for the NFC East title for the entire season.
  • The Redskins run defense was much tougher than the Colts, with Arian Foster going from a godlike 231 yards last week to a workman-like 69 yards on 19 carries this week.
  • After two weeks, Houston looks like an honest-to-God playoff team.
  • Three sacks for Mario Williams, for a total of four on the year. I don’t think that anyone can dispute that the Texans got it right in picking him number 1. The Texans defensive line forced McNabb to make amazing throws to dig himself out of third-and-long holes all day.
  • Which, sadly, he made for most of the game. The Texans won’t be a SuperBowl team as long as a weak secondary gives up career passing days for every quarterback they face.
  • The Titans lost. Three turnovers, Vince? (Insert UT fan sigh here) And Chris Johnson gained all of 34 yards. Going to be pretty hard to rack up a 2,500 yard rushing season like that…
  • The Jaguars also lost, which means the Texans now sit alone atop the AFC South for the first time since, well, ever.
  • The Texans aren’t just good, they’re really good, as this was a game they had all but lost before Schaub pulled their chestnuts out of the fire. Come-from-17-points-behind road victories are few and far between in the NFL.
  • The Texans should be favored to beat the Cowboys at home next week. It would be nice if they didn’t dig themselves a 17-point hole at the beginning…

Cthulhu for Old Spice

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

This one is amusing enough to share. Especially the “unspeakable horror” bit.

Books Read: Steven R. Boyett’s Elegy Beach

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Steven R. Boyett
Elegy Beach
Ace, 2009

Way back in The Before Time, the Long-Long Ago (i.e., the mid-1980s), there was a writer named Steven R. Boyett who wrote two popular, well-respected paperback originals, The Architect of Sleep and Ariel. Ariel was a stand-alone about a boy and his unicorn wandering across an America transformed overnight from a world ruled by technology to one ruled by magic. The Architect of Sleep imagined a world where raccoons evolved as the planet’s sentient species and ended right in the middle of the story, and pissed-off readers have been waiting almost a quarter-century for the projected sequel, The Geography of Dreams, to appear.

Then Boyett became disgusted by publishing and went off to do other things (like become a DJ). Now, some three decades later, he’s returned to writing and has finally written a sequel.

To Ariel.

Fred, the son of the protagonist of Ariel, is an aspiring magician living with his father in a small community on the Southern Californian coast. His mother died long ago, he’s working as an apprentice to local brujo while spending his leisure time working on developing a programmatic approach to magic with his friend Yan, and has no idea that he’s named after his father’s sword. As time goes on, it becomes apparent that Yan not only wishes to understand everything possible about casting, but actually wants to reverse “the change,” no matter how many people (or magical creatures) that might kill. To do that he needs a unicorn horn, which he just happens to have taken off Ariel’s mate…

All in all, this is a more somber book than the original (which certainly had its own somber moments), but still a very good one. Boyett offers an afterword, but doesn’t mention there he’s retconned the universe since the original publication of Ariel, as in Elegy Beach, “the change” happened right about now rather than in 1983, as this book mentions iPods, the Internet, etc. (I suspect these were revised for the republication of Ariel, but I’ve only read the original.) The narrative voice is very similar to the Zelazny-esque “first person smartass” of the original, and the story is interesting and well-told (albeit a bit more traditional of a quest fantasy, complete with the gathering of plot coupon quest companions, than the original).

Also, Boyett coins the phrase “Generation Eloi,” which is too good not to steal.

If you liked Ariel (and most people, myself included, did), then you’ll probably like Elegy Beach. If you haven’t read Ariel, well, you should probably read that anyway.

Also, Boyett has put up a fairly extensive site on the novel that may be of interest.

And as for The Geography of Dreams, well, here’s Boyett’s explanation from 1998. I wouldn’t hold your breath…

(Note: I have copies of both Ariel and Elegy beach available over on the Lame Excuse Books page.)

Why deny the obvious child?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Arian Foster named NFL Offensive Player of the Week.

This was probably the biggest football no-brainer since Vince Young’s Rose Bowl MVP Award.

More on Arian Foster

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Just how good was Arian Foster’s 231 yard game?

Taking a look at the official statistics for the modern era:

  • His game would rank as the 22nd best ever, just behind Jim Brown’s 232 yards (his second-best game)

  • It’s more yards than was ever gained in a single game than Earl Campbell (206), Ricky Williams (228), Priest Holmes (227), Jerome Bettis (212), Marshall Faulk (220), Gale Sayers (205), Marcus Allen (191), or Tony Dorsett (206).
  • Of those ahead of him on the list, there are Hall-of-Famers (Walter Peyton, Jim Brown, O. J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith), borderline great players (Cookie Gilchrist), some of today’s best running backs (Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson), etc. Of that group, only Willie Ellison and Mike Anderson had merely average careers, and even they had at least one 1,000 yard rushing season.
  • It’s the most yards ever in their history against the Colts.
  • It’s three yards better than the best game of division rival (and aspiring 2,500 yard rusher) Chris Johnson of the Titans.

What all this suggests is that Arian Foster is extremely likely to have a very, very good season.

Texans 34, Colts 24

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

The Texans didn’t just beat the Colts today, they beat the Super Bowl runner-up decisively. A few random observations from watching the game.

  1. Peyton Manning is still a better quarterback than Matt Schaub, but today the Houston Texans were a better team than the Indianapolis Colts.

  2. After watching last season’s aerial pyrotechnics, who would have believed that the Texans could reinvent themselves as a power-running team?
  3. As I mentioned at the end of last season, Arian Foster is the real deal. 231 yards, three touchdowns, seven yards a carry average? Those are just sick, video game numbers. Under the ridiculous assumption that he would continue to average that for the entire season, that works out to a total of 3,696 yards rushing. I would be quite shocked if he doesn’t end up being the Player of the Week.
  4. The reason he racked up such big numbers is that Houston dominated the line of scrimmage, opening huge holes for Foster to plunge through. For many years the offensive line was one the Texans’ most glaring weaknesses; if this game is any indication, this year it should be a strength.
  5. The defense seemed almost as dominant, consistently getting pressure on Manning throughout. You have to hand it to Manning: he managed to put up a gaudy 433 yards passing despite Mario Williams and Antonio Smith giving him a close, personal look at the Reliant Stadium turf throughout the game. Then again, he had to put up such numbers, because the Colts running game was getting stuffed and they constantly had to play from behind. And the Texans did all this without suspended NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing. If the Texans can get this level of effort in the trench game, they are a no-questions asked playoff team this year.
  6. Manning still has much better timing and chemistry with his receiving corps than Schaub has with his (at least beyond Andre Johnson).
  7. This is just one game, and it’s a long, long season. But barring major breakdowns or injuries, the Texans have the potential to be one of the elite teams in the NFL this year.

Alan Moore Speaks

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Here’s an interesting and hefty interview with Alan Moore.

An Executive Summary for the tl;dr crowd:

  1. DC offered Alan Moore a huge sum of money to sign over the rights to Watchmen

  2. Moore thinks DC are basically thieves, crooks and hacks, and told them to go fuck themselves. (I’m paraphrasing a bit here…)

I’m not a true comics geek, but I had gotten the impression the DC almost always worked on a “work for hire” basis, which is why they were able to get the Watchmen movie done without Moore’s approval. However, this interview indicates that’s not necessarily so.

I would imagine that given our understanding of the industry standards during that time, and given the fact that, as I say, DC’s contractual stuff sometimes seems to be a bit shaky. So there may be… I mean, it’s occurred to me that I could possibly get a lawyer to look into this. There may be some problem with the contract, or some potential problem that may require my actual signature saying it’s okay to go ahead with these prequels and sequels. It might be that they can’t just do this. It may be that… it would seem that if they had gone out of their way to try and tempt me with worn-out rights to a property that was mine anyway, or sums of money… they’re offering me a million or two million, then I would imagine that what was potentially on offer to them would be higher by a couple of factors, maybe two or three factors, who knows? It could be a huge amount. So this would seem to explain their apparent desperate need to get me to put my signature upon something, which I’m not inclined to do.

And this:

If DC were to stop publishing WATCHMEN so it went out of print and then the rights automatically reverted to me and to Dave Gibbons, then you know, fair enough.

So: The rights to Watchmen are encumbered, and Moore isn’t going to be tricked or steamrolled into selling or giving them back.

Good for him.

(For more Watchmen-related goodness, take a look at Awesomely Wrong Watchmen.)