Archive for April, 2010

Spot the Pigeon

Friday, April 30th, 2010

For a few days this week I had a wee little pigeon (probably knocked out of its nest early by the winds) putteringa round the base of the pine tree in my front yard. Fortunately for the critter, its coloration was perfect to blend in. See if you can spot the pigeon:

(Bonus points for recognizing the obscure Genesis reference…)

Random Fark Image of the Day

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Thoughts on Insane Japanese Films and Some DVD Sets of Note

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

I have friends who collect Criterion DVDs. However, even they, I think, will be hard-pressed to pick up Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films. With a whopping 50 films (and an even-more whopping price tag of $772 through Amazon), you get a lot of classic films (The Seven Samurai, Kind Hearts and Coronets, M), so I suppose it would be a good deal if you planned on picking up all of them anyway. Until I stumbled across this, I never realized Janus FIlms distributed so much of what we regard as the essential “art house” films of the 20th Century. If they had never existed, would only hardcore film buffs know of these films, or would a we revere a completely different set of art house films that are currently obscure?

I was also fiddling with Amazon’s Carousel widget, so here it is with a bunch of other DVD sets:

Although this box set is nearly four years old, I stumbled across it when looking for information on Hausu, which looks to be a completely insane Japanese haunted house movie that’s also distributed by Janus Films. Just take a gander at this off-the-charts, blood-and-weirdness packed trailer.

I’m given to understand that, later on, one of them gets eaten by a piano.

What’s more, it’s playing here in Austin at the Alamo Ritz May 22-27th.

I hope it’s better on the Weird Japanese Cinema front than Wild Zero, which was a real disappointment.

Gene Wolfe Recovering from Heart Surgery

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

A double-bypass and valve repair, according to Locus Online.. He’s evidently up and walking, and “his mind is as sharp as a tack,” which is a relief. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Gene.

Ultra-Endurance Athletes are Insane. Literally.

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

I don’t usually link to New York Times articles or pieces linked from Fark (this one on the Sports tab), but this piece on ultra-endurance champion Jure Robic is so of full crazy I had to link to it.

‘‘During race, I am going crazy, definitely,’’ he says, smiling in bemused despair. ‘‘I cannot explain why is that, but it is true.’’

The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback.

‘‘Mujahedeen, shooting at me,’’ he explains. ‘‘So I ride faster.’’

It also goes into details on the unsettled science behind human endurance.

Here’s a Radiolab piece on the Robic and ultra-endurance races. (I haven’t listened to the entire thing, but flipping around it was pretty interesting, and more than a little insane.)

Not a Serious Analysis of the Texans’ 2010 Draft Choices

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Through three rounds, the Texans have selected:

  1. Cornerback Kareem Jackson of Alabama
  2. Running back Ben Tate of Auburn
  3. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell of Arizona

I’m sure they’ll all turn out to be fine players, but a less reasonable man than myself might wonder why the Texans’ brain trust started looking at colleges for potential draftees in alphabetical order and never got past the first chapter…

Get Double Down

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

To celebrate Earth Day, probably the second-fakest of all fake holidays (behind Kwanzaa), I reached out for the infamous KFC Double Down, the only food brave enough to ask the question “How can I possibly make a fried chicken sandwich less healthy?” and boldly answer “By replacing the buns with fried chicken!”

Behold the KFC Double-Down, ye healthy, and despair!

The verdict? It’s OK, but laudable political incorrectness aside, it didn’t knock me out. The chicken-breasts-as-bun concept works pretty well, but I thought the chicken itself was a little dry (which is why I tend to prefer dark meat over white), and I prefer my cheese fully (rather than partially) melted. And if I’m going to eat something bad for me, I’m probably going to get a big juicy burger or pick up some Popeye’s extra spicy.

Also, I would like to make one tiny correction to Jay Lake’s otherwise fine review (“The Double Down lurking in its lair, like a rabid weasel after a night huffing duct sealant with disbarred sorority sisters”): Because the chicken breasts are breaded, they aren’t technically carb-free.

(By the way, the “I reached out” bit in the opening sentence is a homage to the Houston Chronicle‘s “Drive-Thru Gourmet” Ken Hoffman. Not only does Hoffman do a swell job in the gig, the very idea of having a Drive-thru Gourmet is inspired, and a great public service. After all, for every Chronicle reader that has a chance to eat at, say Artista, there are probably 2,000 who eat at KFC.

Oh, and Hoffman has reviewed the Double Down as well. )

George Scithers, RIP

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

George Scithers, founding editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, has died. Those whose science fiction reading habit started after his tenure there may know little about him (especially since his reputation has been eclipsed by subsequent Asimov’s editors like Shawna McCarthy and Gardner Dozois), but many writers working in the field today remember two particular things about him:

  • His love of short, 1-2 page pun stories (sometimes called “Feghoots,” after Reginald Bretnor’s “Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot” series of stories, of which Scithers published many).
  • His use of an army of editorial assistants to personally comment on every rejection and sign his name. So an aspiring writer submitting to Asimov’s wouldn’t just get back a form rejection letter, they’d get back a slightly personalized form rejection letter with a tiny scribbled comment like “Needs work” or “Getting better,” with Scither’s name scrawled at the end.

Strangely, this combination may have done more to encourage new science fiction writers than anyone else of that era. You’d read one of those pun stories and go “That’s terrible! I could write a better story than that!” (And, eventually, you could.) Plus, once you got back your rejection, you’d notice the personalization and go “Ah-ha! A personal rejection slip! I’m getting close! Any day now I’ll sell a story!” Of such small, innocuous frauds were many a notable career launched.

The puns aside, Scither’s wasn’t a bad editor, and he won two Hugos at Asimov’s (to go along with two for editing his fanzine Amra). I never sold anything to him (being all of 17, with a single non-fiction sale to The Space Gamer under my belt, when he left the magazine probably had something to do with that), but he did well enough that the magazine survived, and I made my first fiction sale to Gardner Dozois in 1990.


Top 100 Films of the 1990s? Probably Not

Monday, April 19th, 2010

And here’s a list of the top 100 films of the 1990s compiled by something called “the International Cinephile Society.” Heavy on art house, light on crowd-pleasers (with some odd exceptions, like Starship Troopers). But it’s hard to take any list seriously that includes Julie Taymor’s overwrought Titus (as a director, Julie Taymor is an out-of-control set designer) and omits The Shawshank Redemption. (You can certainly make a good argument that it’s not the greatest film ever made, but it strains credibility to say it’s not even one of the 100 best films of the 1990s.) Also, much as I like Ed Wood, it’s hard to argue that it’s a better film than Schindler’s List.

Other puzzling omissions:

But, like any “best of” list, there are several films on there I’m looking forward to tracking down…

They’re Here…

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Huge fireball filmed over the Midwest:

Not a streetlight…