Monday, December 24, 2007

Climates

I am getting a little tired of all this snow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And one other thing...

We will be experiencing exciting holiday-times, northern climates, family fun, and friend blasts for the next couple of weeks, so Spacebeerian updates will be few and far between.

Pellucidar (1915)

Thanks to the book- hunting and lending skills of the lovely choo, I helped myself to a big helping of Pellucidar (1915) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. As you might know, Burroughs also wrote the Tarzan novels (which I love -- and I also super love the movies, of which there are about 500), and the John Carter/Mars/Barsoom novels, of which I've only read one, but I liked it quite a bit.

Pellucidar is actually the second in Burrough's hollow earth series that started with At the Earth's Core. I haven't read the first book in the series, but like many adventure novels, the action is pretty self-contained and references to happenings in the first book are explained.

Our hero, David Innes, invented a mining drill back in the first book, but when he drove it into the earth with his partner Perry, they quickly lost control of the drill and feared for their lives as they headed to the center of the earth. Boy were they surprised when, instead of encountering molten lava, they found an undiscovered world. There is a pretty complete description of Pellucidar's geography and inhabitants on Wikipedia, but the highlights are: There is no horizon since the land curves up to follow the interior curve of the earth; the sun hangs in the center of the sky and never moves, so there is no sense of time and there is never night; there is a moon that hangs in the sky, just one mile over the "Land of the Awful Shadow" which can never escape from the darkness of the stationary moon; the people are at a stone age level of development, and most live in caves; and freaky intelligent giant flying lizards terrorize the small and unorganized groups of humans and make them their slaves using the brute strength of a third race of semi-intelligent apes.

In the first book it seems that David and Perry began to organize the humans and fight the lizards, and David also marries one of the super lovely caveladies (Dian the Beautiful). But when David takes the mining machine back to the surface to get some 20th century materials to help in their revolution, a bad human kidnaps Dian and the alliance falls apart.

Pellucidar begins with David's return to the earth's core and follows him as he rescues his woman, fights the evil lizards, reunites the cave people, and teaches everyone about building boats, firing cannons, reading, and not enslaving captured prisoners.

The book is a fun read, as all Burroughs is, and the geography and people of Pellucidar allow for some pretty creative adventures. There are occasional slips into early 20th century racism, but only slightly cringeworthy and nothing too blatant. I would gladly return to the world of Pellucidar -- and I am particularly excited to see what happens when Tarzan goes there...

[Check out the back cover here. And if you are so inclined, just read the whole darn thing here.]

Friday, December 14, 2007

Frozen in time

It wouldn't be the holiday season without another creepy ad from Cuisinart (click on the picture to see it in all its freaky glory). This time everyone is staring at grandma! Except for the couple sitting across the table from each other, who are gazing lovingly into each others eyes with strange grins. Maybe they hate grandma?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update

My hair looked really awesome for about an hour today, but since I work alone in a basement and didn't have any meetings, no one saw it but me. Now it looks a little bit weird again. Thought you'd like to know.

Love,

Spacebeer

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wrip Wrap Wrippidy Doo

I am admittedly not all that crafty, but I had a lovely time at a holiday-type craft night this weekend, where I made the watercolor masterpiece you see above. I think I'm going to wrap something in it. Just wait and see if you get to be the lucky recipient!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Certain Things Last

Sherwood Anderson (pictured here) is best known for his 1919 publication, Winesburg, Ohio -- I haven't read that yet, but I did just finish my first excursion into the world of Anderson with Certain Things Last: The Selected Stories of Sherwood Anderson (1992, ed. Charles E. Modlin). Wow.

The stories in this collection were all written after Winesburg, Ohio, from 1920 until the year of Anderson's death in 1941 (he died of peritonitis in Panama at the age of 64 after swallowing a piece of a toothpick embedded in a martini olive, which is actually a pretty unique way to go). But Anderson's writing style is so compelling and modern, that you forget that the stories are taking place in the early part of the twentieth century until someone rides up in a horse and buggy or gets called off to fight in the war.

These stories explore complicated conflicts of modern life -- rural life vs. urban life (both resulting in isolation broken up by moments of connection), single life vs. married life (both filled with desire for what you do not have -- a desire Anderson apparently felt personally since he married four times), and art vs. labor (never feeling like you are doing what you want, or able to do what you want as well as you want to). Even though the stories are generally dark, there is a humor to Anderson's observations that keep the characters from getting bogged down in their emotions and desires.

I loved this book.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Three P's

Painting. Partying. Pebbernodder.

I'd love to chat, but they are keeping me busy.

[Okay, I'm not actually partying, but I needed another P.]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Birthbot


Hey, guess what? I accidentally turned 31 last week! To celebrate I ate fried chicken, talked about As I Lay Dying, drank bourbon, took two days off of work, got the oil changed in both of our cars, bought a pair of shoes, had people over, and made the cranberry upside-down muffins pictured above. Not necessarily in that order. Revel in photos from the gathering, all taken in a five minute period after I told a drunken Dr. M to take some pictures. Pretend you are there!

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Whole Shootin' Match

If you live in Austin, you should make your way down to the Alamo Ritz this week to see The Whole Shootin' Match (d. Eagle Pennell, 1979). It is really just a great movie all around -- funny, touching without being sentimental, nicely acted, entertaining -- and on top of all of that, you get some nice footage of Austin in the late 1970s. Pennell also directed Last Night at the Alamo, which is also excellent and available on VHS, so if you can't get to the Ritz this week, at least put that one on your list of things to rent.

Do it!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Fantods

Word of the Day: Fantod

As in "the potential mouse under (in?) our fridge is giving us the fantods."

This word comes up numerous times in the book of Sherwood Anderson stories I'm reading right now, and is also the name of Edward Gorey's personal publishing company, The Fantod Press.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Everybody's Doin' It Now


"Everybody's Doin' it" by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, has hit the top of the charts in the Spacebeer/Dr. Mystery household. It is featured prominently in Joe Dante's first film, Hollywood Boulevard (made for Roger Corman), which he co-directed in 1976 with Allan Arkush, the guy that made Rock and Roll High School. I will argue that it is possibly the best non-sequitur musical interlude / love scene committed to film. Just listen to a few times and see if you can stop singing it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

But not as brightly lit...

This week Josh and I finished a year-long project of watching every single last episode of Tales from the Darkside. A project well worth the effort I might add. I love comeuppance as a plot device, and 91% of Tales from the Darkside episodes feature comeuppance prominently.

It is impossible for me to pick a favorite, so enjoy the intro (which makes me happy and excited the same way that the intro to Twin Peaks does), and then watch a bunch of YouTube clips here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Children of the Lens

The last official book of the Lensman series (again, nicely lent by the lovely choo) is Children of the Lens (serialized in 1947/48, published in hardcover in 1954). In this book, the long work of the Arisian master race is finally realized with the off-spring of Kim and Clarissa Kinnison. Their son, Kit, and two sets of twin daughters (who of course all have red hair), are the world's only third-stage lensman, and with their combined powers have minds even stronger than those of their mentors.

As the novel opens, the fight between good and evil has really heated up the universe, and only the combined strength of the first, second, and third stage lensmen can save it, mostly through a series of interconnecting adventures. In one such quest, Kim Kinnison takes on the persona of Sybly Whyte, a hacky (but popular) author of space-opera novels and schlocky journalism. The section Smith gives us of one of Whyte's books is some of the best science-fiction satire ever:

Qadgop the Mercotan slithered flatly around the after-bulge of the tranship. One claw dug into the meters-thick armor of pure neutronium, then another. Its terrible xmex-like snout locked on. Its zymolosely polydactile tongue crunched out, crashed down, rasped across. Slurp! Slurp! At each abrasive stroke the groove in the tranship's plating deepened and Qadgop leered more fiercely. Fools! Did they think that the airlessness of absolute space, the heatlessness of absolute zero, the yieldlessness of absolute neutronium, could stop QADGOP THE MERCOTAN? And the stowaway, that human wench Cynthia, cowering in helpless terror just beyond this thin and fragile wall...

Children of the Lens is a little more disjointed than its predecessors, mostly because we are following the adventures and quests of five children, two parents, and three other second-stage lensmen, instead of focusing most of our attention on Kim Kinnison and his work. Spreading the adventure out among a larger cast of characters does nothing to lessen the excitement, however. Children of the Lens provides a satisfying and fun to read conclusion to the Lensman saga.

And there is still Masters of the Vortex, a seventh novel by Smith that takes place in the Lensman universe, but isn't part of the story arc explored in these first six books. And of course I'm going to read it.

Go Lensmen!

[Oooh, and you have to check out this fold-out ad for a science fiction bookclub that was tipped in to the middle of the book. My favorite part is the fold-together envelope that you use to send in your dime for your trial membership.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Glinda of Oz

I'm done! Last week I finished reading every word of this book, finishing it all off with the last of the Oz books written by L. Frank Baum (and the second published posthumously), Glinda of Oz; In Which Are Related the Exciting Experiences of Princess Ozma of Oz, and Dorothy, in Their Hazardous Journey to the Home of the Flatheads, and to the Magic Isle of the Skeezers, and How They Were Rescued from Dire Peril by the sorcery of Glinda the Good (1920). Or just Glinda of Oz for short.

This is one of the strongest of the late-period Oz books, and makes for a rather nice adventure story and a satisfying (if unplanned) end to the series.

In this book, Ozma and Dorothy learn of two groups far off in the unexplored regions of Oz, the Flatheads and the Skeezers, who are preparing to go to war against one another. The Flatheads live on a mountain and have, well, flat heads. Because their heads are flat, they have no room for a brain, and were instead each given one brain in a jar that they carry around with them. This set-up makes it possible for the king (named Su-Dic, which is short for supreme dictator) and queen to confiscate other Flathead's brains and make themselves the smartest of their race so they can never lose power. The Skeezers live in the middle of a lake in a beautiful glass dome. They are ruled by a vain queen named Coo-ee-oh. Both groups have 101 citizens and are mad at each other for a wide variety of reasons, mostly involving the vanities of their leaders and the misuse of magic.

The Flatheads and the Skeezers are so isolated that they don't even know they are part of Oz, and have never heard of Ozma or her rules against using magic in the kingdom. Because it is Ozma's job to keep peace in Oz, she and Dorothy decide to travel to this corner of Oz and negotiate peace between the two groups and introduce them to the wonderfulness of Ozma's leadership.

Glinda is initially unsure about this, since it would be terrible for all the people in Oz if Ozma or Dorothy were hurt. Since Ozma is a fairy, she is relatively safe, but Dorothy is a different story:

The very fact that Dorothy lived in Oz, and had been made a Princess by her friend Ozma, prevented her from being killed or suffering any great bodily pain as long as she lived in that fairyland. She could not grow big, either, and would always remain the same little girl who had come to Oz, unless in some way she left that fairyland or was spirited away from it. But Dorothy was a mortal, nevertheless, and might possibly be destroyed, or hidden where none of her friends could ever find her. She could, for instance be cut into pieces, and the pieces, while still alive and free from pain, could be widely scattered; or she might be buried deep underground or "destroyed" in other ways by evil magicians, were she not properly protected. These facts Glinda was considering while she paced with stately tread her marble hall.

As you might expect, the two girls get in a bit over their heads when trying to work things out between the Flatheads and the Skeezers, but after quite a few adventures, and with a little help from their friends and the magic of Glinda and the Wizard of Oz, peace is eventually restored to the kingdom.

[Oooh, and you can view some images of the original manuscript here, thanks to the Library of Congress. Yay archives!]

[Read the whole thing here! It is good!]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What is gross:

Waking up in the morning and going into the bathroom to pee, but when you lift up the lid of the toilet a roach runs out from under the seat and darts into the little crevice under the tank. You can't see the roach or get it to run out so you can kill it, but you have to pee really bad. I just had to pray that the roach was as scared of my butt as I was scared of it. Not very relaxing.

Then there was a silverfish in the shower.

I swear my house is very clean (I actually just cleaned the bathroom on Monday, and last night I vacuumed my couch for heaven's sake), but we appear to be having an infestation of one of each kind of gross critter. What's next, a snake? Giant spiders? I can hardly wait...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mouse House

Dr. M and I had to share our house with a freaky mouse for a few days -- apparently under our stove is a great place to live if you are very small and like to eat crumbs. Unfortunately, if you live in and/or under a stove, all your freaky little scratchy sounds are instantly amplified and transmitted to human ears. And humans hate those freaky little scratchy sounds. Mouse was caught in a rather sad way on Sunday morning (glue trap - I know, it isn't very nice, and I'm trying not to think about it too much, but our landlords put them down and who am I to sneer at free traps. Plus I can understand that in an apartment building, you want to stop any mouse problems permanently). Today our lovely maintenance guy filled in all visible mouse entrances, and I tried putting out some cotton balls with peppermint oil on them for good measure.

A side benefit is that I had to compulsively clean the kitchen yesterday to get rid of real and imagined mouse germs, so our house is quite clean and also smells minty.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Uncommitted Man


The Uncommitted Man (1966) by R. E. Pickering, is apparently not a very popular book. Not that people who read it don't like it, but more that no one who read it has put anything about it on the wonderful world of the internet -- just a handful of used book dealers hawking copies. In fact, if you search for it, the number one hit is the scan of the cover that I put on Flickr a few days ago. And no one on LibraryThing has catalogued it except me. This is too bad, as The Uncommitted Man is really quite a nice little novel, and it has a very lovely cover (which is why I bought it).

The cover advertises it as "a different kind of suspense novel set deep in the cold spy country." The reason this story is different from most other spy stories is that our hero isn't a detective, a journalist, or a cop. He is a salesman who is going through some kind of existential crisis. Phillips is a perfectly ordinary Englishman. He came to Vienna as a soldier at the very end of World War II and unthinkingly went about his orders, just as he had unthinkingly done most everything else in his life.

The only interesting thing about him is his wife, a mysterious woman named Alec who lived through the war in Vienna and won't discuss her past. But she is smoking hot. (It's impossible not to picture Alec as Marlene Dietrich.) So they get married. They live in Vienna for a bit, then England, then finally Germany (even though Phillips hates Germans). Phillips has a series of jobs, but ends up being a middleman-salesman for various factories, something he doesn't care about but is quite successful at. He travels a lot and knows his wife sometimes leaves town while he is gone. They still get along because, even after ten years of marriage, "they never became sufficiently intimate to quarrel."

Then one day, Phillips comes home and Alec is gone. All her stuff is cleared out, and he has no idea where she went. He drops out of his life in Germany for a few weeks, doesn't leave the house, and feels the ennui of an unsatisfied salesman. Then he gets a telegram from a friend in Vienna who has seen Alec -- so Phillips sells the house, drops everything, and returns to Austria.

What follows is a nicely drawn combination of a straightforward spy story (gun runners! blackmail! international espionage! communists!); a philosophical and rather interior story of Phillips trying to figure out what he has done with his life and what he is going to do now; and a mystery about Alec and the story of her background.

It all moves very quickly, and climaxes when Phillips gets in over his head with all the spies and criminals and ends up stuck behind the Iron Curtain in Budapest without a passport and with the police on his trail.

I'd like to know more about Robert Easton Pickering -- from what I can tell online, he is British, and he wrote this in 1966, and then a book called Word Game in 1982 (which they have at PCL -- I might have to get Dr. M to check it out for me...). Further search into the depths of OCLC notes that he also published a book called In Transit in 1968, although that might have been a reissue of The Uncommitted Man with a new title (it was also called Himself Again in its British version). My guess is that Pickering might be a pseudonym from another author, but I don't have much to base that guess on...

[Back cover available here.]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On the back

Please amuse yourselves with these out-of-context comic panels I found on the back of a newspaper clipping at work (ca. 1950s, I believe). And revel in the horror of the freaky faces on the one pictured above. I don't know if the man's bizarre browline or the woman's death eyes are worse...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Art vs. Life

Am I the only one who has noticed that the much discussed story of the guy who made a website to track down a girl he spotted on the subway bears an uncanny resemblance to the plot of 'N Sync's 2001 floppola movie On the Line (just replace websites with billboards since we apparently didn't have the internet in 2001)? Let me note for the record that I only know this because the CW played On the Line as their Sunday afternoon movie a couple of months ago, and I was briefly intrigued.

The casting of On the Line is particularly hilarious as Lance Bass (who later came out as a gay man) plays the romantic lead, but Justin Timberlake (who later Brought Sexy Back) has a very minor role as a gay hairdresser.

[And just to tie it all together, here is a fanfiction video made of stills from Harry Potter movies that brings the plot of the 'N Sync movie to Hogwarts (with help from Ashley Tisdale, who I never heard of, but who is apparently in High School Musical).]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Colonial Travelers in Latin America

I bought my copy of Colonial Travelers in Latin America, edited by Irving A. Leonard (1972) when I was in college. And thanks to the wonders of my random book reading system, I have finally gotten around to reading it. I have to admit, it does look a little boring on the outside, which is probably why I hadn't read it up until now.

At the time that I bought it, I was fascinated with the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish, particularly the stupendous memoir by Cabeza de Vaca about his doomed expedition to Florida in 1528 and his journey through the present-day Southeastern US and Mexico before making his way back to Europe nearly ten years later (the book was also made into a movie, which isn't bad). It really is a great narrative, and I read it multiple times in college and wrote several papers on mister cow head.

So, at the time I was all excited about more contemporary writings about colonial Latin America. And this book, although I didn't read it until nearly ten years after I bought it, does the trick. Leonard compiles readings from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century, written by men of different nationalities traveling through the Spanish and Portuguese colonies for different reasons (including religion, commerce, and science). The translations are very readable and intriguing, and the selections add color and context to the writings of more well-known colonial writers like Bartolome de las Casas or Cabeza de Vaca. Rather than being overly political or religious in their observations, the writers in this collection give detailed descriptions of everyday life in the colonies over three centuries. We get notes on clothing, food (one writer is very impressed with potatoes, after having them for the first time), the social relationships, the women, the natives, the slaves, the modes of travel, and the personalities of the different peoples.

If you have any interest in this period of history in the Americas, then you won't go wrong by checking out Leonard's anthology.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Drink it

The new pomegranate/blueberry juice from Minute Maid is really great. You should drink some! Now enjoy a press release about the juice from a site that features "Global Fresh Produce and Banana News."

That is all.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Virtuous

I went to the dentist and voted today, and yesterday I got the oil changed in Dr. M's car, so right now I am feeling exceedingly righteous. Feel free to bask in my glory.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Second Stage Lensmen

I love the lensman books. Love love love them. And I extra- special loved Second Stage Lensmen (1953), the fifth book in the series.

This book starts one second after the last book leaves off, with our hero Kim Kinnison and his lovely lady-friend, the brave and smart and beautiful Clarissa MacDougal basking in the glow of finally deciding to get married. Since Kim just saved the universe, it shouldn't be a problem, right?

Wrong.

Kim gets a mind-beam from his Mentor on Arisia telling him to think a little harder about his plan to get all the bad guys. It turns out they go much higher up than Kim had originally thought, and if he were to abandon his post and get married now, they would most certainly attack and destroy the earth.

So: Kim gets back to business. Clues first lead him to an Earth-like planet in an unexplored section of the universe. He gets ready to make a landing when he realizes that the entire planet is filled with women -- tall, beautiful, strong women, who don't wear any clothes, measure everything by its efficiency, have bred their men into a short animalistic subspecies that they use only for breeding, and have really bad haircuts:

But she wore no jewelry, no bracelets, no ribbons; no decoration of any sort of kind. No paint, no powder, no touch of perfume. Her heavy, bushy eyebrows had never been plucked or clipped. Some of her teeth had been expertly filled, and she had a two-tooth bridge that would have done credit to any Tellurian dentist -- but her hair! It, too, was painfully clean, as was the white scalp beneath it, but aesthetically it was a mess. Some of it reached almost to her shoulders, but it was very evident that whenever a lock grew long enough to be a bother, she was wont to grab it and hew it off, as close to the skull as possible with whatever knife, shears, or other implement came readiest to hand.

[This reminds me that I need a haircut.]

In order to obtain information about how this key planet fit into the schemes of the bad guys, Clarissa is made into the very first female Lensman. So at least the two of them can lens each other and have telepathic conversations across the depths of space, even if they can't get married....

All kinds of exciting things happen, and eventually Kim decides to go undercover and infiltrate the upper levels of the Boskonian bad-guy leadership. To do this he takes on the identity of a soldier that matches his body type. After some painstaking work to change the archival record (which is later tested for forgery by the head of the bad guys), plus some magic mind work on anyone who ever knew the ex-soldier, Kim takes his place, rises through the ranks, and does just about as well as you might expect the hero of a space opera to do.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Los Angeles

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003, directed by Thom Andersen) is an amazing documentary on the history of Los Angeles, film making, architecture, popular culture, the director's life, what Los Angeles looks like in the movies, what it looks like when it is pretending to be someplace else, what it really looks like, and about a million other things. It is also really really really great. If you are in Austin on November 14th, you should go see it at the Ritz.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Boo-ter

This turkey-shaped butter sculpture truly was the scariest thing I observed during the Halloween festivities this week (most of which went undocumented, but some of which are pictured here). In addition, I love my sister's costume this year, and I think I'm going to copy it one of these days. Now I need to hit that giant Halloween store in the hancock center to scoop up awesome deals for next year's festivities. Halloween -- it is the best holiday we have.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scared yet?

Happy Halloween from me and my favorite decapitated zombie vampire.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MWYEGTDAT

In case you missed it, the sixth edition of Roast Beef's wonderful zine, Man Why You Even Got to do a Thing has been released, thanks to the wonders of the Achewood universe. If you want to know what grodles or kadonklin means, the result of Nice Pete reviewing a Chinese/Mexican restaurant called Mr. Wing's Taco, or what an imaginary date with Roast Beef might turn out like, then this is the zine for you. Buy it!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Magic of Oz

The Magic of Oz: A Faithful Record of the Remarkable Adventures of Dorothy and Trot and the Wizard of Oz, Together with the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, and Cap'n Bill, in Their Successful Search for a Magical and Beautiful Birthday Present for Princess Ozma of Oz (1919) (or just The Magic of Oz, for short), is the first of the two Oz books written by Baum that were published after his death.

In this book, as you might guess from the subtitle, all our favorite characters go off on a search for really cool things to get Ozma for her birthday. Ozma doesn't need anything, since she is an immortal magic fairy, but she does like to throw big parties, and everyone loves her so much that they like to find neat ways to help her celebrate.

The gang separates into two main groups: Dorothy, the Wizard, the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger go off to the forest to get a dozen monkeys that they plan to magically shrink and then train them to jump out of Ozma's birthday cake and do some neat tricks; Cap'n Bill, Trot, and the Glass Cat go to a weird island that the cat found once where a magic flower pot blooms, fades, and grows new flowers every few seconds.

Meanwhile, in another part of Oz, a Munchkin named Kiki Aru discovers the secret for transforming himself (and other living things) into anything at all (all you have to do is pronounce Pyrzqxgl correctly). He uses his newly found transformative powers to leave his boring village and go explore. He runs into the exiled Nome King, Ruggedo, who convinces him to transform them both so they can rally together all the beasts in Oz, conquer the Emerald City, and take revenge for the loss of his kingdom.

Cap'n Bill and Trot get near the weird island, but when Cap'n Bill starts making a raft, they run into a mean animal called the Kalidah (who has the head of a tiger and the body of a bear, and is rather gruesomely dealt with by the Cap'n):

Cap'n Bill was cutting from the trees some long stakes, making them sharp at one end and leaving a crotch at the other end. These were to bind the logs of his raft together. He had fashioned several and was just finishing another when the Glass Cat cried: "Look out! There's a Kalidah coming toward us."

Trot jumped up, greatly frightened, and looked at the terrible animal as if fascinated by its fierce eyes, for the Kalidah was looking at her, too, and its look wasn't at all friendly. But Cap'n Bill called to her: "Wade into the river, Trot, up to your knees--an' stay there!" and she obeyed him at once. The sailor-man hobbled forward, the stake in one hand and his axe in the other, and got between the girl and the beast, which sprang upon him with a growl of defiance.

Cap'n Bill moved pretty slowly, sometimes, but now he was quick as could be. As the Kalidah sprang toward him he stuck out his wooden leg and the point of it struck the beast between the eyes and sent it rolling upon the ground. Before it could get upon its feet again the sailor pushed the sharp stake right through its body and then with the flat side of the axe he hammered the stake as far into the ground as it would go. By this means he captured the great beast and made it harmless, for try as it would, it could not get away from the stake that held it.

Cap'n Bill knew he could not kill the Kalidah, for no living thing in Oz can be killed, so he stood back and watched the beast wriggle and growl and paw the earth with its sharp claws, and then, satisfied it could not escape, he told Trot to come out of the water again and dry her wet shoes and stockings in the sun.

"Are you sure he can't get away?" she asked.

"I'd bet a cookie on it," said Cap'n Bill, so Trot came ashore and took off her shoes and stockings and laid them on the log to dry, while the sailor-man resumed his work on the raft.


Sadly, when the two get to the island, they realize it is enchanted and their feet have grown roots and planted them in the ground. To make matters worse, they start shrinking, as their bodies are transformed into a root system. At least the flower is pretty, though...

In the meantime, the Kalidah, although pinned fast to the earth by Cap'n Bill's stake, was facing the island, and now the ugly expression which passed over its face when it defied and sneered at Cap'n Bill and Trot, had changed to one of amusement and curiosity. When it saw the adventurers had actually reached the island and were standing beside the Magic Flower, it heaved a breath of satisfaction--a long, deep breath that swelled its deep chest until the beast could feel the stake that held him move a little, as if withdrawing itself from the ground.

"Ah ha!" murmured the Kalidah, "a little more of this will set me free and allow me to escape!"

So he began breathing as hard as he could, puffing out his chest as much as possible with each indrawing breath, and by doing this he managed to raise the stake with each powerful breath, until at last the Kalidah--using the muscles of his four legs as well as his deep breaths--found itself free of the sandy soil. The stake was sticking right through him, however, so he found a rock deeply set in the bank and pressed the sharp point of the stake upon the surface of this rock until he had driven it clear through his body. Then, by getting the stake tangled among some thorny bushes, and wiggling his body, he managed to draw it out altogether.

"There!" he exclaimed, "except for those two holes in me, I'm as good as ever; but I must admit that that old wooden-legged fellow saved both himself and the girl by making me a prisoner."


The glass cat (who doesn't grow roots since she isn't made of meat), runs for help, and finds the Wizard and Dorothy, who have been transformed by the magic of Kiki Aru. Eventually that all gets straightened out, Kiki and the Nome King get their comeuppance, and Ozma has her birthday party. And since the subtitle helpfully notes that our heroes' search was successful, you can probably conclude that the flower pot and monkeys are taken to the Emerald City as planned. But does Ozma like her presents?

Read the whole thing here, and find out for yourself, fool.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

No Country for Old Men

I moved No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (2005) up to the top of my reading list, as I wanted to read it before the movie (directed by the Coen brothers) comes out, which I believe will be quite soon. Reading the book before seeing the movie almost never works out (the movie tends to disappoint), but I don't think that will be the case with the Coen brothers. They have disappointed me in the past, but I can't wait to see what they do with this story.

Oh, and this book is great and awesome and rough and violent and wonderful. I read the last 150 pages in one night. It has good guys, bad guys, and a few guys that are kind of caught up in circumstances. There is quite a bit of honor and pride and stubbornness as well. I can't say much more than that because I liked it too much. You should read it too.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Turn of the Screw

Thanks to the tid-bit sized e-mails of Dailylit, I just finished reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898). This novella is very time- appropriate for October, since it is a very strange psychological little ghost story.

The meat of the story has a governess being hired by a dashing man who is uncle to two orphaned children he has housed in the country. The governess is hired to teach the young girl, and is ordered not to contact the uncle about anything, no matter what. Once there, she is charmed by the girl and befriended by the housekeeper. Soon after, the young boy is set home from boarding school for some unnamed infraction. The governess is charmed by the boy as well and quite happy with herself and her job. Until she starts seeing the ghosts of her predecessor and the lover of the former-governess -- who both died under mysterious circumstances. Our governess must rescue the innocent children from these creepy ghosts! Or are the children really so innocent? And are there even really any ghosts?

My next Dailylit read is Dracula (I'm already a few sections in). I think ghost stories make excellent daily email reading...

[You can sign up for it on Dailylit here, or if you want to read it all at once, check it out here.]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Confused

For some reason I set my alarm for 6:45 am, which is odd since I always set it for 6:00 am. I occasionally forget to set it altogether, but I really never just set it for some random time that is not the time I want to get up. My brain woke me up at 6:05, so I wasn't late, just disoriented.

Then I spilled a really full glass of grapefruit juice on the carpet before I even got to have one sip, and spent my drinking-juice-and-watching-the-news time by sopping juice out of the carpet instead.

Hopefully the day gets better starting...... now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

When Choo nicely lent her copy of Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2005) by Jeff Chang to Dr. M, I started flipping through it, and then just couldn't help reading it before we gave it back.

Chang gives an excellent history of hip-hop (mostly music, but also dance and graffiti) from 1968-2000. He nicely balances historical discussions of the political, social and cultural context of the movement with portraits of individuals and groups that helped shape and change hip-hop through the years. Rather than provide laundry lists of influential artists and albums, Chang picks a handful of key people and gives the reader a longer discussion of their life and work.

In addition, there are some great photographs, and the book has a nice size and shape (is it weird that I sometimes love how a book feels in my hands even more than I love the book itself?)

I learned a thing or two from this book, and would totally recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in hip-hop culture.

[Check out Jeff Chang's page here for more information on this book, his other projects, and the author himself.]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What is Spacebeer Good For?

According to Google Analytics, about 60% of the people who look at Spacebeer are my handful of lovely friends. You guys are swell, of course. But the more hilarious other 40% of visitors are people who wander into the blogosphere via a set of finely executed and/or really dumb and misspelled Google searches. But what on earth are these people searching for? And can they find it here?

Well, as a handy reference for the large chunk of that 40% who are looking for the same things, here are the top five most requested Spacebeer posts:

1. Galaxy Nachos. If as many people who search for this recipe actually bought the Achewood cookbook, then Chris Onstad should send me a percentage of the profits. And if as many people make the nachos as look at the post, America will be 10% fatter in 2008.

2. Chigger bites. America wants to know what to do about chigger bites, and they are coming to me to find out.

3. La de Bringas (aka That Bringas Woman). This is obviously required reading for a bunch of classes out there, and yet woefully under-represented in the world of Cliffs Notes. Popular searches for this book include "plot summary" and "paper" as well as phrases that obviously come from the essay assignment these kids are supposed to write. Read the book, ya'll. It is actually pretty good.

4. Fricano's Deli. Maybe you guys should put up a website? Or at least reactivate that MySpace page that I linked to in my other post. Inquiring minds in Austin are feverishly google searching for you, and all they can find is my nice little review.

5. Pee party. There are actually two Spacebeer posts with pee party in the title (one and two). This might imply that something is a bit off about my sense of humor, but at least I'm not the one searching for actual pee parties on Google. Come now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reclusive

I saw one of these on the wall right by my head at work today. And then I squished it. I wouldn't want my head to end up looking like this would I? [Warning: that last link is actually pretty gross.]

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gray Lensman

Gray Lensman by E. E. "Doc" Smith (1951) starts us up right after the action of Galactic Patrol. Our hero, Kim Kinnison, is once again using all his resources, strength and smarts to try and infiltrate the drug- dealing, power- hoarding, Civilization- hating entity known as Boskone. In doing this, he will have to stretch his power with the Lens beyond that of any other lensman, and although he has a lot of help from his friends, most of the work can only be done by him alone.

Well, him and the brief help of the "trimly attractive blonde" librarian at the Library of Science. The library interaction happens around page 99 on my copy -- worth reading if you are a librarian, but not really worth quoting. The librarian helps Kinnison sort through the great thinkers of the world by running a set of data cards through their computer and selecting for the highest ratings of different criteria. Yay libraries!

There is a lot of great action in this one, and some very fun science (including the creation of a black hole [or a "negasphere"], the towing of a planet from one universe to the next, human regeneration of limbs, and an awesome climax where a key target is destroyed by slamming two uninhabited planets into it from opposite directions). Yay!

And of course, the sexy red-headed nurse, Clarissa MacDougal (the one with the perfect skeleton) isn't forgotten. The sexual tension continues to build through Gray Lensman and by the end it looks like those two crazy kids will finally get together. And breed more perfect skeletons!

[Finally -- isn't the spacesuit on this cover the greatest? If I could make one of these, I might wear it around all the time. I think it would bring me the respect I so greatly deserve.]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Undertaker

I love The Undertaker. Love love love him. So I was totally surprised when I looked at his Wikipedia page and discovered that he lives in Austin! Really? I am hoping that Wikipedia is right on this one, because I would love to run into the Undertaker somewhere. If you see a 6'10", 300 pound dude with long reddish hair around town, give me a call. [Incidentally, Wikipedia was made for wrestling fans. There is a huge amount of information on every single move in The Undertaker's wrestling career. I love him and I couldn't read the whole thing. Do yourself a favor, though, and scroll down to the bottom to read up on his finishing and signature moves, nicknames, signature taunts and gimmicks.]

The Undertaker's most famous signature move is, of course, the Tombstone Piledriver. So let's all sit down and watch this Tombstone Piledriver compilation (come on, its only a minute and a half long, you'll like it -- plus all the crotch in the face action is rather entertaining):



And if that isn't enough, check out The Undertaker doing a Tombstone Piledriver on the world's strongest man, Mark Henry (who also apparently also lives in Austin? Is Wikipedia fucking with me?).

[One more link: an Onion story on the Undertaker taking on funeral arrangements for Eddie Guerrero, a wrestler who died of heart failure in 2005.]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Red Zone Blues

I recently received a free copy of Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge by Pepe Escobar (2007) from the LibraryThing early reviewers program (which is awesome -- I love getting free books!)

Escobar is a Brazilian journalist who reports for the Hong Kong/Thailand-based Asia Times. Red Zone Blues is a compilation of his reports from Baghdad during the surge, together with an introduction and conclusion, and some new material in between. The book was published by Nimble Books, which specializes in fast publishing of material related to timely events. In this case, most of the material discussed in this book happens in the spring of 2007.

The author is obviously anti-Bush and anti-surge. And so am I, so I agree with many of his points. I didn't always like his writing style -- I felt like his sarcasm was occasionally over the top, and tended to obscure the validity of his arguments. He also has a tendency to over-metaphorize (a new word?) pretty much everything. Particularly in the introduction and conclusion, the florid writing and tenuous connections and arguments (the surge is like Carnival in in Rio? the Iraq war could be stopped if people would take to the street like they did against Vietnam?) distract from the meat of the book.

And there is some interesting meat there: the best parts are interviews with Iraqis in Baghdad and refugees in Syria. This is what I really wanted from the book -- what are ordinary people doing there in their everyday lives? How do they get groceries? Where do they work? Those interviews alone make the book worth reading.

Part of my problems with this book might have been solved with a better editorial presence -- but when the point is to publish something right now, I can understand why rigorous editing might be put aside in the name of timely publishing.

I can't say that I would recommend this to everyone, but at 100 pages, it is worth the time for someone interested in another perspective on the war in Iraq.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Halloweenies

I donated blood today, and they had the donation room all decorated with skeletons and cobwebs for Halloween. Don't you think vampires would have been more appropriate? I'd love to see some "we want to suck your blood" public service ads to encourage blood donations...

[And isn't this baby vampire costume both awesome and not awesome? I can't quite tell how I feel about it.]

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918) is my new favorite of the later-period Oz stories. So forgive the extensive quoting below, and believe me -- it is totally worth it.

It starts as a quest between the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and a little boy named Woot the Wanderer to journey back to the Tin Man's hometown and find the girl he was supposed to marry before he rusted in the forest. Back in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and the gang oiled his joints and rescued him from the rust, the Tin Man realized that he didn't have a heart and couldn't love this girl, Nimmie Amee, anymore -- which is why he asked the Wizard of Oz for a new heart. Alas, the Wizard only had kind hearts and not loving ones, so the Tin Man still couldn't love the girl who loved him. The group decided, though, that as a matter of duty, he should present himself to Nimmee Amee, marry her, and make her the Empress of the Winkies.

Nimmie Amee was in love with the Tin Man when he was Nick Chopper the woodcutter, but she was the servant of the Wicked Witch of the East (the one Dorothy's house falls on later), and the witch enchanted Chopper's axe so that he cut off his own limbs one by one. Luckily, Chopper knew this tinsmith that fashioned tin limbs for him as his meat limbs were cut off, eventually finishing him off with a tin head when the witch had that cut off as well. Did all this tin dissuade Nimmee Amee from loving Chopper? Of course not...

"'I am sure, my dear Nick,' said the brave and beautiful girl -- my name was then Nick Chopper, you should be told -- 'that you will make the best husband any girl could have. I shall not be obliged to cook for you, for now you do not eat; I shall not have to make your bed, for tin does not tire or require sleep; when we go to a dance, you will not get weary before the music stops and say you want to go home. All day long, while you are chopping wood in the forest, I shall be able to amuse myself in my own way -- a privilege few wives enjoy. There is no temper in your new head, so you will not get angry with me. Finally, I shall take pride in being the wife of the only live Tin Woodman in all the world!'

Makes a lot of sense... The three companions get in all kinds of hijinks and adventures on their way across Oz, including getting trapped in the castle of a giantess and fighting their way through an invisible kingdom. Eventually the get to the forest of the Tin Man's youth, when, to their surprise, they run into another tin man who has rusted in the forest. After oiling him up, the man tells them that he is Captain Fyter, and he fell in love with Nimee Amee after the Tin Man never showed up for their wedding (since he was rusted in the forest at the time). But could Nimee Amee love Fyter as much as Chopper?:

"She told me he [Chopper] was nicer than a soldier, because he was all made of tin and shone beautifully in the sun. She said a tin man appealed to her artistic instincts more than an ordinary meat man, as I was then. But I did not despair, because her tin sweetheart had disappeared, and could not be found. And finally Nimmie Amee permitted me to call upon her and we became friends. It was then that the Wicked Witch discovered me and became furiously angry when I said I wanted to marry the girl. She enchanted my sword, as I said, and then my troubles began. When I got my tin legs, Nimmie Amee began to take an interest in me; when I got my tin arms, she began to like me better than ever, and when I was all made of tin, she said I looked like her dear Nick Chopper and she would be willing to marry me."

When the group can't find Nimee Amee at her house, they go to Ku-Klip the tinsmith's where both of their new tin bodies were built. The two tin men reminisce about the times they had there:

"It seems almost like home to me," he told his friends, who had followed him in. "The first time I came here I had lost a leg, so I had to carry it in my hand while I hopped on the other leg all the way from the place in the forest where the enchanted axe cut me. I remember that old Ku-Klip carefully put my meat leg into a barrel -- I think that is the same barrel, still standing in the corner yonder -- and then at once he began to make a tin leg for me. He worked fast and with skill, and I was much interested in the job."

"My experience was much the same," said the Tin Soldier. "I used to bring all the parts of me, which the enchanted sword had cut away, here to the tinsmith, and Ku-Klip would put them into the barrel."

"I wonder," said Woot, "if those cast-off parts of you two unfortunates are still in that barrel in the corner?"


This is where it gets really good. All those cast-off parts were put to use, and the Tin Man even finds his head in a cupboard and has a little conversation with himself (note: the head is a real jerk). Since no one can die in Oz, the body parts all retained their liveliness even though they were no longer attached to their owner. This gave Ku-Klip an idea:

"Who is Chopfyt?"inquired Woot.

"Oh, haven't I told you about Chopfyt?" exclaimed Ku-Klip. "Of course not! And he's quite a curiosity, too. You'll be interested in hearing about Chopfyt. This is how he happened:

"One day, after the Witch had been destroyed and Nimmie Amee had gone to live with her friends on Mount Munch, I was looking around the shop for something and came upon the bottle of Magic Glue which I had brought from the old Witch's house. It occurred to me to piece together the odds and ends of you two people, which of course were just as good as ever, and see if I couldn't make a man out of them. If I succeeded, I would have an assistant to help me with my work, and I thought it would be a clever idea to put to some practical use the scraps of Nick Chopper and Captain Fyter. There were two perfectly good heads in my cupboard, and a lot of feet and legs and parts of bodies in the barrel, so I set to work to see what I could do.

"First, I pieced together a body, gluing it with the Witch's Magic Glue, which worked perfectly. That was the hardest part of my job, however, because the bodies didn't match up well and some parts were missing. But by using a piece of Captain Fyter here and a piece of Nick Chopper there, I finally got together a very decent body, with heart and all the trimmings complete."

"Whose heart did you use in making the body?" asked the Tin Woodman anxiously."

"I can't tell, for the parts had no tags on them and one heart looks much like another. After the body was completed, I glued two fine legs and feet onto it. One leg was Nick Chopper's and one was Captain Fyter's and, finding one leg longer than the other, I trimmed it down to make them match. I was much disappointed to find that I had but one arm. There was an extra leg in the barrel, but I could find only one arm. Having glued this onto the body, I was ready for the head, and I had some difficulty in making up my mind which head to use. Finally I shut my eyes and reached out my hand toward the cupboard shelf, and the first head I touched I glued upon my new man."

"It was mine!" declared the Tin Soldier, gloomily.

"No, it was mine," asserted Ku-Klip, "for I had given you another in exchange for it -- the beautiful tin head you now wear. When the glue had dried, my man was quite an interesting fellow. I named him Chopfyt, using a part of Nick Chopper's name and a part of Captain Fyter's name, because he was a mixture of both your cast-off parts. Chopfyt was interesting, as I said, but he did not prove a very agreeable companion. He complained bitterly because I had given him but one arm -- as if it were my fault! -- and he grumbled because the suit of blue Munchkin clothes, which I got for him from a neighbor, did not fit him perfectly."


Well, eventually the two tin men find their former sweetheart and present themselves as bridegrooms for her to choose between. As you might guess, Nimee Amee wasn't just pining away for the Tin Man all these years, and managed to find herself a new husband, who really reminded her of her former beaus, for some reason. Plus he had one tin arm.

[And, of course, you can always read the whole thing for yourself right here.]

Friday, October 05, 2007

Defibrillated

This weekend I lamely will have to be at work all day on a Saturday, but I will get some official first aid and CPR training out of it. I will also learn to use this automated external defibrillator, and I'm kind of excited about that.

Let the accidents begin!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Celebratory foodstuffs


If you ask me out, live with me for five years, and then ask me to marry you, three years later I will make you this delicious plate of fruit and cheese and buy you a bottle of wine. My new theory is that all occasions should be celebrated with cheeses.

Happy Anniversary, Dr. M.

[more foodstuffs here. And note that the scrabble pictures were from last year's anniversary.]

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Number of the Beast

Hilariously, this is my 667th spacebeer post. Which means that if I had posted just one less post back in the past, my review of Robert Heinlein's The Number of the Beast (1980) could have been my 666th post!

I had really been wanting to delve back into Heinlein (after reading a bunch in high school and college and ignoring him since then), and since the lovely chew had just finished this one, I took advantage and borrowed it. And although there were some very entertaining bits and pieces in this book (Oz!), for the most part I found it to be very self-indulgent and a nice demonstration of all the weaknesses of Heinlein's books.

In The Number of the Beast a brilliant mathematician and scientist, widower Dr. Jacob Burroughs, has invented a machine that plays with the dimensions of time and space and can send you into an thrilling number of other universes -- actually the number is 6 to the 6th to the 6th, or the number of the beast. He and his daughter, D. T. Burroughs (who everyone calls Deety) go to a faculty party thrown by family friend Hilda Corners to seduce Zeb Carter to consult on the machine (under the impression that he wrote some mathematical papers that his cousin actually wrote). After about five minutes of dancing, Zeb proposes to Deety, all four go out to their cars, and Dr. Burroughs car explodes. They hop into Zeb's Kit-like super-computer car, Gay Deceiver, and buzz away to get married. While on the way to the preacher, Hilda and Jacob decide to get married too.

It turns out that some kind of freaky alien from another dimension is trying to kill them all to stop the science behind the time machine from leaking out (although this danger pretty much drops out after they get into space). After an interminable "honeymoon" period at the family bunker (punctuated with long discussions of the pluses of nudity in the family circle, what Hilda and Deety's boobs look like, how their nipples react in social situations, and lots of rather creepy inter-familial sexual innuendo) the family group installs the time machine into Gay Deceiver and starts exploring the multi-universe.

Once they are in space, things get a little better. Everyone takes a turn as captain. We visit some alternate universes, spend a long time on a alternate Mars that serves as a penal colony for Britian and Russia, and eventually swoop into a string of fictional universes made real (Oz, Lilliput, Wonderland, the world of the Lensmen, etc.). Although this section kind of reads as fan-fiction, it was intriguing to watch these new characters interact with these other fictional universes. Plus it kept their clothes on. This brings in Heinlein's theory of pantheistic solipsism, or World-as-Myth where all fictional universes actually exist, and everything is sort of real and imaginary at the same time. Not a bad theory, although it seems to give Heinlein carte blanche to indulge in fan-boy overload.

So, back to the story: the two ladies both happened to get pregnant on the first night of their marriages, so the group comes up with a mission of finding a safe planet to homestead and have their babies on. They program the computer, survey the universes, and settle on a not-quite-Earth that fits the bill. This seems like a good place to end the book, but instead Heinlein has them get restless and go off on another adventure:

This time they very quickly hook up with Lazarus Long and a host of Heinlein's characters from other books. I read Time Enough for Love long long ago (I think), but I did not remember enough about it to be dumped into this universe with no lifejacket. I could sort of keep up, but found it to be rather tough going. This section perfectly demonstrates Heinlein's ideal family structure: Everyone is naked all the time, men and women all greet each other with passionate mouth kisses regardless of their relationship, and free love and procreation is the norm. You can even have sex (or genetic babies) with your father! Or your brother! Great! And you can live forever and there never really seem to be consequences for anything.

The epilogue where the characters throw a big convention bringing together people from all parts of space, time and fiction turns into nothing but a giant referral fest so filled with inside-jokes, winks and nods that I almost gave up (but not quite, I really will read anything). Somehow the evil alien sneaks back in at the very end and is destroyed (or is he? Do we care?)

To be fair, Heinlein was an old, beloved, established science fiction writer when he came out with The Number of the Beast and he certainly wouldn't be the first artist who succumbed to his own myth in his old age and indulged himself in self-referential works that pale in comparison with his earlier pieces. This book has some fun stuff in it, and possibly if I had read some Lazarus Long stuff a little more recently, I would have found the last 100 pages to be rather fun as well. This book would entertain a die-hard Heinlein or science-fiction fan who wants a fun little parody, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it for a reader new to Heinlein.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Incredibly Strange Films

My latest random book read was RE/Search #10: Incredibly Strange Films by V. Vale and Jim Morton (1986). This book explores the world of B-movie, exploitation, horror, and genre films through interviews with directors, actors, and producers; articles on film genres; and essays on individual films. The entire book is nicely illustrated with film stills and movie posters.

The interview section is by far the strongest part of the book, particularly the interviews with Larry Cohen, Frank Henenlotter, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Russ Meyer. My head is still reeling from the oddness of the interview with Ted V. Mikels. The interviewers for the most part ask interesting questions and let the director speak at length about his or her process, work, philosophies, and interests. The directors come from different generations and focus on different genres, and while some come to the business with their eyes on the profit margin, you can still tell that they all really enjoy telling these stories and working outside of the mainstream.

The essays on film genres (including biker films, J. D. films, beach party films, LSD films, sexploitation, and women in prison films) are often interesting and provide an overarching history of low-budget cinema. I particularly liked the section on Industrial Jeopardy films by none-other-than Rick Prelinger (of the totally awesome Prelinger Archives available on the even more totally awesome Internet Archive.)

The low-low-low point of the book are the film essays, particularly the ones on Young Playthings and Wizard of Gore [sample sentence: "The temporal regression toward the idyllic Golden Age parallels the psychological transformation of the group members as they uncover and adopt an instinctual awareness (much like a newborn's) untainted by modern accretions of sexually repressive attitudes and conformist obeisance to society's dictums." Ugh.] I'm not sure why the editors decided to include these essays that weigh down the films with unnecessary (and honestly, unreadable) academic interpretations.

One of the film essays, however got me excited about seeing Daughter of Horror (aka Dementia) a movie filmed in 1955 with no sound, but narrated (oddly enough) by Ed McMahon and with a theme song composed by George Antheil and sung by Marni Nixon (who did the singing for Natalie Wood in Westside Story and Deborah Kerr in The King and I). And speaking of the greatness of the Internet Archive, the entire film is available here!

After the essays, the book is finished up with some miscellaneous sections including a brief encyclopedia of strange films, quotes from movies, and a list of the editor's favorite genre films.

Even with its weaknesses, this book is definitely worth reading for anyone who enjoys low-budget films, or who is interested in the film making process. In a way the book serves as a time-capsule of low-budget genre film-making in the 1980s. Many of the interviewees mention the advent of VHS and how it is changing the playing ground for film distribution and funding. I'd love to see follow up interviews with some of these directors to see what they think of the internet, digital film making, and the other changes that have happened in the past twenty years.

[Oh, and excerpts from the book are available on the RE/Search page, here.]

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's Alive

The book I'm reading right now (more about it after I finish it, which will probably be this evening) has rekindled my ultra-love of Larry Cohen (which, honestly, did not need that much rekindling).



This clip is from It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987). So far I've only seen the first of the It's Alive trilogy. I think I'm going to have to remedy that soon...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Things I Irrationally Love

What I love: The Roomba.

Why I love it: It is a robot! That vacuums for you!

Also -- this.

Why that is irrational: I don't know anyone who has one, I have never seen one in action, and it would probably die in five minutes from all my ridiculous hair.

Why I don't care: It is a robot! That vacuums for you!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Galactic Patrol

Haven't you been wondering what's been going on in the world of the Lensmen? Thanks to the lovely choo, I've just finished the the third book in the series by E. E. "Doc" Smith, Galactic Patrol (1937). This was originally the first book in the series, so it makes sense that things really start getting interesting here. And yes, the cover can be believed, there are a lot of spaceships and not a few space pirates.

Here we follow the swift career rise of Kim Kinnison from his graduation at the top of his class for the Galactic Patrol and the receipt of his Lens, to his captaining of a cutting edge ship that leads to the the capture of pirate/bad guy plans, to his promotion to "Gray Lensman" -- a coveted classification giving him a blank check to do what he thinks needs to be done to fight the bad guys and promote the cause of Civilization.

Kinnison's main foe in Galactic Patrol is the unidentified "Boskone," head of the space pirates that are terrorizing inter-galactic space commerce and civilized planets everywhere. The novel takes our hero through a series of exciting quests and adventures that culminate in a battle with the big guy himself. And just guess which side wins.

As in the other books, Smith is at his best when describing strange new worlds and the beings that inhabit them. The guy can also write a very engaging space battle, and the action sequences are top-notch. We don't get any romantic interest until about halfway through the book when, laid up with a battle injury, Kinnison meets a firey, sexy, smart, red-headed and brave nurse named Clarissa MacDougall. Naturally they hate each other at first...

But just tell that to the doctor and Kinnison's commander, who, in a really odd scene, play matchmaker based on the quality of the couple's skeletons:

"First, just notice that skeleton. It is really remarkable. Slightly out of true here and there right now, of course, but I believe it's going to turn out to be the first absolutely perfect male skeleton I have ever seen. That young man will go far..."

"...I want the files on his nurses, particularly the red-headed one."

"I suspected you would, so I had them sent down... Here are her pictures, conventional and x-ray. Man, look at that skeleton! Beautiful! The only really perfect skeleton I ever saw in a woman..."


Do I hear wedding bells?

[Back cover on my copy is available here. Other nice covers are here.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things I Irrationally Hate, Part of a Neverending Series

What I hate: Those single-serve coffee makers and their dumb coffee pods.

Why I hate them: Wasteful! Expensive! Are you too rich and cool and trendy to just drink regular old coffee out of a regular coffee maker? I imagine that whole beans freshly ground in an inexpensive coffee grinder would taste more fresh than an individually packaged coffee pod any day. In addition, who only drinks one cup of coffee? I like my coffee by the 12-cup pot, please.

Why my hatred is (sort of) irrational: I've never actually seen one of these in person or tasted the coffee from it. Plus I have no idea how expensive the pods are and I'm too lazy to find that out.

Why I don't hate you if you like them: They do look kind of cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chambers vs. God

I love Ernie Chambers for so many reasons, but this is the latest one. Sadly after serving in the Nebraska Legislature (aka The Unicameral -- and we are the only state that has one, woo!) since 1970, he is not allowed to run for re-election in 2008 after the passing of a term limit law (which some say was created just to stop Chambers from being elected again).

Mr. Chambers, I formally invite you to move down here to Texas and help straighten our Legislature out. You can totally crash on our couch until you find your own place...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Lost Princess of Oz

My latest Oz adventure was The Lost Princess of Oz (1917). After books that hardly took place in Oz at all, and ones that recycled characters from other Baum books, The Lost Princess of Oz is a return to form for the Oz series, and ended up being one of my favorites.

In this book, Dorothy wakes up to discover that Ozma is missing. And not only Ozma, but also her magic picture that can show you what anyone in the world is doing at any time, the Wizard's magic equipment, and Glinda's potions as well as her magic record book that writes down anything important happening anywhere. Since one of these items is usually the deus ex machina that saves the day in the Oz books, I was immediately excited about an Oz story where these crutches were taken away.

The book reads like a mystery where groups of our favorite characters spread out to the four corners of Oz in search of their princess. We are latched onto the group containing Dorothy, Toto, the Wizard, the Patchwork Girl, the sawhorse, Betsy Bobbin, Trot, the Woozy, Hank the mule and the Cowardly Lion (whew). And to top it all off, this group is later joined by Button Bright, the little boy who is always getting lost and then found again.

Various adventures ensue as the group makes its way into the unexplored regions of the Winkie country (including an awesome spinning mountain range). At the same time that the group is heading out in search of Ozma, a woman from the isolated land of the Yips named Cayke the Cookie Cook realizes that her magic jewel-encrusted dishpan has been stolen! She needs it to make her awesome cookies so she and a giant frogman (who used to be a regular frog but grew to a large size in a magic pond and now wears fancy clothes and acts very wise) leave their sheltered country in search of it. The parties naturally join, after also picking up a Lavender Bear (the king of the teddy bear country) and his tiny wind up pink bear that can answer any question. This is a lot to keep track of.

Rest assured that mysteries are solved and things are returned to normal. It all boils down to an overly ambitious shoemaker (and really, doesn't everything?). This reads as a very nice adventure story, and even though a few too many characters are crammed in there, the book makes an excellent addition to the Oz universe.

[And, as always, you can read the whole thing here. Don't you love the public domain?]

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hippity Hyper

This is my new favorite game. Sorry I don't have time to post about anything. Shockwave games and a bottle of wine have taken over my life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Power Power

Steamy leading man Tyrone Power wins the prize for an actor having a name that one would swear has to be a pseudonym, but that turns out to be real. In fact, it was his father's name and his great-grandfather's name: Tyrone Power (1795-1841). And all of them were actors, which just goes to show how far a powerful (and real) name will take you.

[Sadly for Tyrone Power, Jr. his heart was not as strong as his name and he died at the early age of 44.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

To the Lighthouse

Have I mentioned before that I lovelovelove Virginia Woolf? Because I really do. There is something about her writing style and my sensibility that clicks perfectly. So it should be no surprise that I am completely gaga over To the Lighthouse (1927).

In this book, as in many Virginia Woolf books, not that much actually happens. The book is divided into three sections. The first, "The Window," is the longest of the three and describes a day at the vacation home of the Ramsay's. Mr. Ramsay, a professor of something (metaphysics perhaps?) and his wife have eight children and a crowd of weekend guests with them in their vacation home that overlooks a bay with a lighthouse in the distance. Much discussion is devoted to whether or not a group of them will be able to sail to the lighthouse the next day. In the second, very brief and much more abstract section, "Time Passes," time... passes. And in the third section, "The Lighthouse," we return to a single day at the vacation home, ten years after "The Window," and finally visit the lighthouse.

So why would I like this book?

Woolf uses a stream-of-consciousness style of writing in which dialogue and internal thoughts are interspersed and the point of view travels seamlessly from character to character. With this the reader gets a more intense and real-feeling picture of the lives of the characters and their relationships with one another. We see what Mrs. Ramsay thinks of herself, and what everyone else thinks of her, and back and forth between all the characters as they interact with one another in everyday sorts of ways. We feel along with the characters as their happy feelings are shattered by an tossed off comment or action, and later their sense of isolation and disconnection is evaporated by a glance or a phrase. Much like real life, important things aren't always happening, and the things that seem important to the characters go unnoticed by everyone else.

Reading this shortly after As I Lay Dying brought up all sorts of parallels between the writing styles of Faulkner and Woolf. They were contemporaries (To the Lighthouse came out a few years before As I Lay Dying) and I wonder if they ever read one another. These books in particular both use a changing point of view (between family members and neighbors/houseguests) and stream-of-consciousness style to explore the relationships of a family that is changed by a death. Although Woolf's novel (while sometimes very bleak) is ultimately much more hopeful than Faulkner's. I'll definitely have to think on that some more...

[I was going to put a scan of my copy of To the Lighthouse up to illustrate this post, since I love the design, but it looked so gross and dirty when I scanned it. It really doesn't look that disgusting in person, but let this be a lesson to those who design book covers: white probably isn't a good idea.]

[And if the idea of "books" with "covers" totally disgusts you anyway, then knock yourself out and read the entire text of To the Lighthouse here.]

[Update: Reading this post over I feel like I make the book sound kind of boring and unapproachable. But really, I found reading it to be energizing, exciting, and relaxing all at once. And I know I'm a fast reader, but this really did read quickly. Don't be frightened away!]