Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year, Everyone!


Milestone, Millstone, You Decide.

Sometime this week (most likely Tuesday) visitor number 10,000 will click on to this humble blog. Whether by intent or confusion, whether a visit from our regular reader(sic) or simply some poor soul lost in the mighty blogosphere, we welcome you. Pull up a chair, spit on the rug and call the cat a bastard if you wish.

When I started this little island of egotism, I really expected nothing. And, with apologies to Dr. FrankNFurter, I have received it in abundance. With a new blog being born every second or so, many, many of them don't even get the minimal traffic we do here. It's just that at times it is hard to maintain regular activity in the face of such overwhelming indifference.

Carping aside, I'd like to thank some of the folks who make blogging worthwhile to me. Without my minimalist effort here I would never have become blog-interested enough to find:

  • ae still striving to save the world from her post on arsepoetica
  • fellow geographer/historian Eric illuminating the world on alterdestiny
  • the magnificent Corndog himself of Corndogmatic fame,  lover of things odd and musical
  • my journalistic hero  Diane and her always thoughtful Dee's Diversion
  • magnificent grumbler doghouse riley at Bats Left Throws Right
  • Chris Clarke and Zeke  following that Creek Running North forever
  • Fred First sharing his wonderful life in Floyd, Va. on Fragments from Floyd
  • Patrick and Teresa Making Light with the best commenting  team on the web
  • Herr Professor Berube taking my head for a postmodern spin yet again
  • My ArchPoet Dave leading the way on the Via Negativa
  • John Scalzi saying Whatever he wants
A special shout out goes to my blogging compatriot, Kolchak, without whom precious little real writing would occur hereabouts. Many thanks for your support, Bill., and keep writing those columns

Afterall, I still know where the manuscript with a stake through its heart is buried.

Thank you all. It's been a great honor to be allowed  out of this dark musty corner of Blogistan to comment on your superb blogs,  fools that you folks may be to associate with this cursed anarchist, this sordid malcontent, this Wob.

Most of all, Thanks for All the Fish!

I beg to remain,


Thursday, December 21, 2006

I'm Dreaming of a Weird Christmas

from Kolchak

Every year, the holiday season brings with it its peculiar set of challenges. Finding that special present for your significant other. Paying for that special present for your significant other. Getting through the company Christmas party without drinking. And, --perhaps the most challenging of all-- avoiding holiday-themed shows on television.

In addition to the usual suspects, like variety shows and sitcoms, holiday themes can pop up in unusual places, like science fiction shows and other genre entries. Here are some of the weirdest Christmases I've found while channel surfacing:

The most notorious program in this category is probably The Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978. This was such a bizarre mixture of space opera and variety show that it only appeared on television once (How many Christmas specials can you say that about?) and Lucasfilm has never released it on home video. There are bootlegs in circulation-- Weird Al Yankovic "buys" one in the video for his song "White and Nerdy"--but I'm working primarily from my memory of that single broadcast.

The holiday in question here was Life Day, a celebration on Chewbacca's homeworld, Kashyyyk. Han Sola and Chewie are trying to make their way back to Kashyyyk, so the wookiee could celebrate Life Day with his family. Most of the stars of the original Star Wars movie appeared in the holiday special but the emphasis was on Chewie's family and characters played by performers like Bea Arthur and Art Carney. The Internet Movie Database says that Jefferson Starship also makes an appearance but I seem to have blocked that out of my memory.

If you're wondering how all this comes together, the answer is: badly, very badly. According to Mythmaking by John Baxter, the length of the show kept growing as the producers made room for the commercials that were being sold. Unfortunately, the story didn't grow. .Or the production values. As someone who still considers himself a Star Wars fan, I have to admit that the prospect of seeing more of Chewie's home planet was a big deal in 1978. But I wanted to wash my hands after seeing The Star Wars Holiday Special.

On the other hand, I usually find the time every year to dig out my copy of "Too Many Christmas Trees," an episode of The Avengers from 1965. In this story, a team of psychics tries to drive John Steed insane while he and Mrs. Peel are attending a multi-day Christmas party in the country. Although "Too Many Christmas Trees" features a classic "Avengers"-style British eccentric--a man fanatically dedicated to the works of Charles Dickens--this is a moderately serious episode with Mrs. Peel showing genuine concern over the possibility of Steed having a breakdown.

However, there are some lighter touches. Early in the story, Steed opens a Christmas card from his previous partner, Mrs. Cathy Gale. As he examines the envelope, Steed says, "Whatever could she be doing in Fort Knox?" At roughly that time, Honor Blackman, the actress who played Mrs. Gale, was starring in the James Bond movie Goldfinger.

BBC America is currently running The Avengers, but the network seems to be sticking to the color episodes while "Too Many Christmas Trees" was filmed in black-and-white.

And, of course, no holiday season would be complete without lizard-like extraterrestrials eating live rats and otherwise camping it up. In 1984, this obvious gap was being filled by V, a weekly version of a popular mini-series. Ultimately, the weekly V didn't last much longer than the mini-series but it lasted enough for the producers to take a crack at a Christmas episode.

As you may recall, V dealt with the fight between human race and the lizard-like Visitors for control of the Earth. In the weekly series, though, this fight consisted mostly of running and shooting, while, in the original dealt more with political maneuvering.

In the Christmas episode, the Visitor leader, who went by human name of Diana , celebrates the holidays by creating an evil clone of a human-Visitor hybrid (Don’t ask.).

Meanwhile, Ham Tyler (Michael Ironside) , the toughest and coldest of our human characters, undergoes the Grinch heart-expansion treatment as he and the other resistance fighters smuggled some human children into the relative safety of Los Angeles.

Earlier in the season, Los Angeles had been established as an open city, where both humans and Visitors could live without restrictions. I’m mentioning that because I think that was the main reason why humans were celebrating Christmas. In a surprising bit of actual world-building, it’s mentioned that some of the traditional stores are running out of supplies and many of the holiday gifts are hand-made items being sold by street vendors.

The complete weekly run of V is currently available on DVD. The show had a long list of problems when it first appeared and those problem haven't gone away, But there are elements to the series that I still like.

A relatively recent SF Christmas program is "The Christmas Invasion," a special episode of the recently-revived Doctor Who. It's first run, in England, was in Dec., 2005. In this story, aliens called the Sycorax come to Earth during the holidays, in order to stop the Doctor from regenerating. This episode is more about David Tennant taking over the role of the Doctor than it is about Christmas, but there are exceptions. At one point, a group of Sycorax, all dressed as Father Christmas, pursue our heroes. Also, a very secret branch of the British government called Torchwood destroys the Sycorax ship on Dec. 25, and "the explosion at Christmas" is mentioned in a later episode.

The Scii-Fi Channel is has scheduled a rerun of "The Christmas Invasion" for 3 p.m. on Dec. 25.

This is not a complete list of weird Christmas episodes by any means. During the first season of Bomes , a mystery/crime show on Fox, the main characters spent the holidays in quarantine together. In Beauty and the Beast, the people who live in the streets beneath New York City have a ceremony that celebrates Winter Solstice.

When handdrummer and I first talked about this post, he remembered a holiday episode of Hill Street Blues, and said that Kwanzaa played a role in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. So, if you have any nominees for this list, let us know.


Happy Solstice!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Working Out the Bugs

from Kolchak:

I don’t know how long it’ll take. It could take years, but it could happen a lot faster. All I can say is that sooner or later--my bet’s on sooner-- I won’t be able to watch first- run television, whether it’s on broadcast or cable.

And I’m not complaining about the shows themselves--not yet, anyway. I’m complaining about how difficult it is to watch a show when the picture has been all but crowded off the screen by an infestation of network identification logos, animated ads for other shows and lines of text marching across the bottom of the screen.

At this point, you may be thinking: What a wuss. You can just tune that stuff out. Well, ,maybe you can. Me, I still hear the Muzak that they play at shopping malls.

I realize that network logos--sometimes called “bugs”-- serve an actual purpose. They’re the easiest way to identify specific networks, when you’re running the dial.

I particularly like how the operators of Logo, which specializes in gay interest programming, actually use their bug to make a visual pun. While most networks put their bugs in lower right hand corner of the screen, Logo’s on the upper right, which is consistent with a network with…um, how shall we say it?… different orientation.

Most of the time, though, we have to deal with more than just bugs. There are ads for other shows which usually include some sort of animation or miniaturized clip (a video bite, rather than a sound bite?) for the show. These ads can vary in size. The largest ones I’ve seen so far--on TNT, I think--can fill a quarter of the screen. When you’re watching a sitcom or a police procedural, that’s not a problem. When you’re trying to watch, say, The Fellowship Of the Ring, it becomes a different matter entirely. Can people actually follow what’s going on in these shrunken clips? Does the motion in these scenes do anything but distract the viewer from the show he or she is trying to watch? Granted, that may be a good thing in some cases, but, it’s still annoying.

Things get worse when you turn to CNN. On this channel, there’s a bug; the time and a ticker-style headline display at the bottom of the screen. Immediately above that, there’s a space used for captions relating to, or a quick summary, of the story currently being told. Sometimes, when CNN is using a broadcast from an affiliate station, its graphics partially obscure the ones that the station is using.

That’s not all, folks. CNN’s morning show recently added a video wall to its set.

On top of that wall is another news ticker, displaying headlines. So there are points when there are headlines at the bottom of the screen and at the top. And they’re not the same ones.

A relatively new cable service called Current has brought its own twist to the clutter problem. As you may know, Current broadcasts short non-fiction videos.(which they insist on calling pods.), many of which are contributed by viewers. I’m not sure whether it’s accurate to call these pieces documentaries, which is one of the problems I have with Current. But it’s also off-topic at the moment.

No video runs more than eight minutes, but, apparently, the Powers That Be at Current are afraid that may be too much for their target demographic.

This network has a two-part bug, and both parts are moving. The word “current” is built in the lower right-hand corner, while a loading bar, like the ones you find on some websites. You can’t tell exactly how much time is left in the video you’re watching, but you can tell whether you’ve passed the halfway mark

While all this is going on, a photo of the video’s creator flashes on and off, along with shots from coming distractions, er, attractions.

I don’t have any theory as to why this is happening, except to say that even I’ve noticed the similarity between these screens and the screens on most computer games. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that my proficiency with computer games is almost too small to measure. If I spend a lot of time with a game, I can usually work my way up from Hopeless to Mediocre, but that’s it.

Still, there’s a upside to all this. It’s a good rationalization for buying DVDs. Just don’t talk to me about Blu-Ray, okay?


Goodbye, You Old Zipper Neck!

Actor Peter Boyle Dead at 71

NEW YORK (AP) - Peter Boyle, the sardonic father on TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond," has died at New York Presbyterian Hospital, his publicist says.

The 71-year-old actor died last night after a long battle with multiple myeloma and heart disease.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Poem of the Day

FOR the 300 mourners, it was just too much to bear. As the poignant words of a ten-year-old girl remembering her dead father echoed around the church, tears flowed like rain. Athena, the daughter of Flight Lieutenant Gareth Nicholas, who died in Afghanistan, said goodbye in a beautiful poem, called simply My Dad. (more)


He was a great father
for every good reason
I wish he was still alive
He would still be with me
if it hadn’t gone wrong
I wish he had survived
I feel like it was all a dream

But it’s not what it seems
That he’s still with me in my heart
And in my sad sad dreams
I’m crying at this moment
But I can’t stop now
I wish he was still with me

And he’s whispering
in the clouds:
‘I will visit you in your dreams
And we shall roam free
Playing in the grassy fields
Definitely You and Me’

Athena Nicholas

The Most Significant SF Books of the Last 50 Years

I am not all that surprised by how many of these I've read, just as I'm not surprised by the ones I have not. Sword of Shanana is one of the worst books ever typed. Thomas Covenant is a leper of the soul as well as the body and as such was totally unreadible for me.

(ones in red not read)

The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002

from SFBC

  1. Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
  2. Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
  3. Dune, Frank Herbert
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A,. Heinlein
  5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  10. Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
  23. 1st Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Stephen Donaldson
  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
  26. Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
  27. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  31. Little, Big, John Crowley
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  39. Ringword, Larry Niven
  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Jack Williamson

The second book I have any real memory of reading was Mr. Williamson's The Humanoids. I had just read the first, Isaac Asimov's David Starr, Space Ranger, and the one/two punch of these books made me, at age 9, a lifelong passionate reader of science fiction . I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Williamson several times. At the 1989 World Science Fiction Convention in Boston I had a long conversation with him and was able to express my enormous gratitude for what his writing had meant to me.

He was a man of great high plains charm, soft spoken, gentle and above all surpassingly intelligent. Go find his books. They are too.

Update: Betty Williamson said her uncle would often say "I have lived a wonderful life, and I will die with no regrets."

Update: Obits:
The LA Times

Clovis News Journal
from Locus:
SF Grand Master Jack Williamson, born 1908, died this afternoon at his home in Portales, New Mexico, at the age of 98. His first published story was "The Metal Man" in Amazing Stories in 1928, the beginning of a writing career that spanned nine decades. His work ranged from early space opera series The Legion of Space (beginning 1934), werewolf SF/fantasy Darker Than You Think (1940), thoughtful SF classic The Humanoids (1948), Golden Age antimatter tale Seetee Ship (1951 as by Will Stewart), and time travel series Legion of Time (1952). Later works included Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella "The Ultimate Earth" (2000) and its novel expansion Terraforming Earth (2001), winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He won a Hugo Award in 1985 for autobiography Wonder's Child, and his career honors include a Pilgrim Award for his nonfiction work including H.G. Wells: Critic of Progress (1973), SFWA's 2nd Grand Master Award in 1976, Life Achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards, induction in the SF Hall of Fame in 1996, and Grandmaster of the World Horror Convention in 2004. The Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library was established in 1982 at Eastern New Mexico University, which for 30 years has hosted an annual Lectureship in honor of the writer. Williamson's last novel was The Stonehenge Gate (2005).

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Trails, Curly

From the LA Times comes the news that Jack Palance, the craggy-faced menace in "Shane," "Sudden Fear" and other films who turned to comedy at 70 with his Oscar-winning self-parody in "City Slickers," died Friday.

Told you so....

from TPM:

"Republicans may want nothing more than to go home and nurse their election wounds, but the lame-duck Congress has lots of work ahead.

"Items at the top of the list are reviving several popular but expired tax cuts, confirming a new defense secretary and keeping most federal agencies in operating funds....

"President Bush met on Thursday with GOP congressional leaders and came up with a similar to-do list. He added a Vietnam trade bill and legislation giving legal status to his warrantless domestic eavesdropping program....

"The eavesdropping measure has stalled in the Senate because of a Democratic filibuster threat." (AP, NYTimes)

Yep, we can "work" with these assholes. Sure we can.....

Right Back To You Rummie!

from Crooks & Liars via Good Nonsense:

Rumsfeld responds to a pointed question during an appearance at the University of Kansas.

Of course it's not the first time, as this photo clearly shows.

Thank You, Dr. Dean.

Many thanks Dr. Dean. You were right about the 50 states strategy and you held to your guns to implement it. We are lucky to have you chairing the party. Now, lean on those we elected and help them do their jobs investigating these Neocon pukes.

(Tho, to be honest, I'd rather be thanking you for your actions as President. The country really lost out in that decision.)

UPDATE: Reports are coming in that James Carville and some others of the ball-less wonders at the DLC are calling for Dr. Dean's replacement. They do so at their peril. I suspect that if they try, Dr. Dean will grind them beneath his heel like the bugs they are, but should they succeed, the Democratic Party would be toast. I know I'd leave my 40 year membership behind in a heartbeat if they did this. So would a good many others.

The Right Was Right

Well, having nefariously gained power in Congress through the deceptive lawful tactic of using the Constitutionally protected liberal power to vote, we on the left can at last reveal our secret hidden agenda to enslave the rich, indoctrinate the young in our progressive reeducation camps and feminize all macho men in America by stealing their guns and forcing them to wear pink tutus in the workplace.

Read on, you great Neocon unwashed , and tremble before the wrath of the Unitarian Jehad.

Now that the election is behind us, and the Democrats control both houses of Congress, there's no reason not to admit it: the Right was right about us all along. Here is our 25-point manifesto for the new Congress:

Add your own post:

1. Mandatory homosexuality

2. Drug-filled condoms in schools

3. Introduce the new Destruction of Marriage Act

4. Border fence replaced with free shuttle buses

5. Osama Bin Laden to be Secretary of State

6. Withdraw from Iraq, apologize, reinstate Hussein

7. English language banned from all Federal buildings

8. Math classes replaced by encounter groups

9. All taxes to be tripled

10. All fortunes over $250,000 to be confiscated

11. On-demand welfare

12. Tofurkey to be named official Thanksgiving dish

13. Freeways to be removed, replaced with light rail systems

14. Pledge of Allegiance in schools replaced with morning flag-burning

15. Stem cells allowed to be harvested from any child under the age of 8

16. Comatose people to be ground up and fed to poor

17. Quarterly mandatory abortion lottery

18. God to be mocked roundly

19. Dissolve Executive Branch: reassign responsibilities to UN

20. Jane Fonda to be appointed Secretary of Appeasement

21. Outlaw all firearms: previous owners assigned to anger management therapy

22. Texas returned to Mexico

23. Ban Christmas: replace with Celebrate our Monkey Ancestors Day

24. Carter added to Mount Rushmore

25. Modify USA's motto to "Land of the French and the home of the brave"

Sam & Max Are Back!

Woo Hoo! from Pacian over at Space Cat Rocket Ship comes the news that Sam & Max have returned from the dead. New panels of Steve Purcell's beloved '80's indie comic have started appearing on the Tattle Tale Comics site. Check it out!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election 2006, the Aftermath

Most of the rhetoric since the election has been about being nice and insuring co-operation. Already, the posts, press and pundits have begun about how ungracious we are in victory. UNGRACIOUS! Fuck them and the spavined horse they rode in on. Friends, these people called us traitors. They claimed we were terror enablers. They lied us into a quagmire. They mocked us at every turn for questioning their Dear Leader.

These pukes don't play nice and we'd be fools if we did so ourselves.

I'm glad that we managed to build at least a partial roadblock to the worst Bush excesses. But even that depends on the remarkably inept in opposition Dems remembering how to be in the majority once again. Frankly, we've seen little evidence of that happening in the couple of days since the election.

I say we need to investigate like demons from Hell. Find every scrap of dirt and swill that passes for policy in this administration. Subpoena everything they have. E-mails, official records, meeting notes, phone conversation tapes, car rental records, travel docs, hooker receipts, cocktail napkins, even their children's report cards. Make their eyes, ears and fingers bleed from effort of responding. Investigate them to the point of stagnation. It's the only way we can stop the ongoing dismantling of the regulatory apparatus that protects us.

It's all nice and warm and fuzzy to win the election. But if we play the game the way the Neo-pukes and their media lackeys are trying to dictate we do, WE WILL LOSE!

We have to stand tall, haul back and kick these fools in the balls. And kick them again. And again until they never dare to trample on our Constitution again. Punish them so the next time some lying sack of shit tries to send young brave Americans into battle on fabricated data, the whole country rises as one and spanks their asses raw.

So it is written. So should it be.

What He Said.....

Mark over at Spittle and Ink nails my feelings about the election results pretty well.

As we see, the Democratic seats gained in the Senate do little for people needing a truly progressive, Liberal approach to government. The majority of Dem pickups are hard-right leaning DINO's. Not an unbleak picture.

The House shows better results, but still not great. Of the 28 seats picked up, nine of those have gone to conservative Democrats who would look right at home in a Reagan or Bush 41 GOP. But there are enough "true" Liberals in the pack to make me a bit happier about the House results over those in the Senate.

In short, however, a review by positions instead of Party affiliation reveals to us what won't be happening any time soon, under this "Nude Erection" brought in by voters:

  • There will be no living wage. You might get a symbolic minimum raise hike, but nothing to break the poverty level.
  • Immigrants will still be shit on and labeled a "threat."
  • There will be no movement whatsoever to crack down on corporate fraud, or corporate control of government.
  • There will be no change in the country's hardline position supporting Israel at all costs.
  • There will be no change in the country's treatment of Islamic nations as threats by default.
  • Abortion rights will still be very much at risk.
  • Race relations will not improve at all.
  • Education will not improve significantly, if at all.
  • Poverty -- which was addressed by virtually no candidate listed above! -- will not be reversed.
  • Veterans services will not improve significantly, if at all.
  • Labor union rights will continue to be trampled.
  • Third parties will continue to be effectively illegal.
  • Rhetorical patriotism will continue to trump logic and discussion.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


A commenter below is shocked, shocked to find that I have given over The Blatt to an unseemly display of schadenfruede. Well, not only have we wholeheartedly experienced schadenfreude here at The Blatt, we've liked it. To celebrate we baked one of John Scalzi's famous mouth watering Schadenfreud Pies and ATE THE WHOLE THING.

So there.

And to all you Neocon fools:
Neener, Neener, Neener.

Bye, Bye Little Rickie!

Rick Santorum (R, Sanctimonious Little Prick)


Bye Bye Dickie!

Richard Pombo, (R, Exxon) goes down to defeat.

Endangered species and persons sensitive to air pollution across the country can breathe a little easier tonight. Pombo's all out assault on environmental protection regulation, federal land stewardship, and global warming mitigation will continue to damage this country for decades to come.


Bye Bye Donnie...

Please be sure to let the door hit you in that fat desk chair inhabiting ass as you leave. You mendacious little sack of putrid protoplasm. You incompetent fatuous neocon chickenhawk. Leave before I taunt you once again. PHHFFFPT!

How did I do?

Election Eve Predictions:

PA Governor: Rendell(D) over Swann(R) by 15%
Actual: 20%)

PA US Senate: Casey(D) over Santorum(R) by 8%
Actual: 18%)

Democratic US House pickup in PA: 4 seats
Actual: 3 with 1 additional probable after recount)
Update: Fitzpatrick just made his concession.
That makes 4 pick ups in PA.

Democratic pick up in US House nationally: 37 seats
(Actual: 29 with 7 additional races too close to call)
Update: NBC projects a pickup of 33 seats with 4 other seats still too close to call

Democratic pickup US Senate: 6
(Missouri, Montana, Ohio, PA, RI, Virginia)

Republican pickup US Senate: 1
( Maryland)


50/50 tie US Senate
(Actual: D 51, R 49)

Local Races:

PA House: Conklin(D) over Spencer(R) by 8%
(Actual: 18%)

PA Senate: Corman(R) over Eich(D) by 3%
Actual: 12%)

PA US House: Peterson(R) over Hilliard(D) by 14%
(Actual: 20%)

Democratic pick-up PA House: 5
(Actual: 5 with 2 additional possibles after recounts)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Well, remember you heard it here first -- back in October 2002

from the WaPo:

GREELEY, Colo., Nov. 4 -- During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and his aides sternly dismissed suggestions that the war was all about oil. "Nonsense," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared. "This is not about that," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Now, more than 3 1/2 years later, someone else is asserting that the war is about oil -- President Bush.

Told you so. Told you so. Neocon scum.

Nelson Bond

I met Mr Bond many years ago at a convention in Roanoke.  Somehow, I ended up with the great good fortune of talking to him for 5 or 6 hours that day. He gave me an veritable seminar on the old pulp days. A true gentleman, he was a fascinating tale teller. He was also for many years one of the foremost booksellers in fandom.

from Locus:

Nelson Slade Bond was born November 23, 1908, in Scranton PA, and grew up in Philadelphia. He attended Marshall University, Huntington WV, from 1932 to 1934, and that was also where he met his wife, Betty Gough Folsom; they married in 1934, and had two sons. He worked as a public relations field director for the Province of Nova Scotia in 1934-'35, then began freelance writing, at first with non-fiction pieces.

The first of his many story sales came in 1935, but he came to science fiction and fantasy in 1937 with SF ''Down the Dimensions'' (Amazing) and the memorable humorous fantasy ''Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies'' (Scribner's). The latter, which spawned several related stories, was turned into a radio series, and eventually a TV play. He wrote extensively for Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, Weird Tales, and non-genre magazines Scribner's and Blue Book. His ''Magic City'' in Astounding (1941), part of the ''Meg the Priestess'' series, was very popular. His works were collected in Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies and Other Fantastic Tales (1946), The Thirty-first of February (1949), The Remarkable Exploits of Lancelot Biggs, Spaceman (1950), No Time Like the Future (1954), and Nightmares and Daydreams (1968)

from the Roanoke Times

Nelson Bond's career included fantastical fiction, radio and TV, and local theater.

He wrote about bumbling space travelers, invisible companions, a great bird that would hatch from the Earth as from an egg, a secret race of superhumans who could walk through walls.

He wrote radio scripts and television plays when the mediums were still young, and was once named in a lawsuit filed by Orson Welles -- though he quickly got himself dropped from the suit.

Though he retired from fiction writing in the 1950s, books collecting his stories continued to appear, the most recent, "Other Worlds Than Ours," published just last year.

Longtime Roanoke resident Nelson Bond died Saturday of complications from heart problems, less than a month shy of his 98th birthday. Bond, once called the dean of Roanoke writers, leaves behind more than 250 short stories and a career that earned him the admiration of authors as diverse as Isaac Asimov and Sharyn McCrumb.

"Nelson Bond was large on the horizon for anyone who enjoyed fantastic literature as far back as the '30s," said Harlan Ellison, the 2006 Grand Master Award recipient from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

"For originality and inventiveness he was rara avis," an extraordinary person, Ellison said. "He wrote a clean line of prose, because he understood in that best part of a writer's craft where the soul resides that when you have a fantastic idea in the story line, you must have internal logic."

Ellison, who built his own writing career on short stories, looked to Bond for inspiration, as did Ray Bradbury, who in a 2001 interview with The Roanoke Times praised Bond's sense of humor and quirky imagination.

Born in 1908, Bond grew up in Philadelphia, where his father ran a public relations firm. He attended West Virginia's Marshall College, now Marshall University, where he met Betty Folsom, marrying her in 1934. By 1939, when the couple moved to Roanoke, Bond had already established himself as a prolific and popular writer. Often, he dictated his stories and his wife typed them.

Throughout the 1930s, '40s and '50s he wrote sports, detective and fantasy stories that appeared in magazines ranging from Esquire to Weird Tales. As radio and then television caught on, he was there, scripting hundreds of shows for the national networks.

When he entertained guests in the basement of his Roanoke County home, Bond often shared war stories of his time in television.

He scripted the 1957 CBS teleplay "The Night America Trembled," dramatizing the national reaction to the Orson Welles radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds." It was that show that resulted in Welles' lawsuit.

Bond's signature story was the tongue-twistingly titled "Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies," the story of a man with two invisible companions who can foretell the future. He wrote several sequels and adapted them to radio. When "Mergenthwirker's" aired on NBC in 1946, it was the first full-length play broadcast by a television network.

The teleplay's director, Fred Coe, who went on to be a powerful television producer, invited Bond to join him in the new medium of television, but Bond declined. He later spoke of Coe's offer as a great opportunity that he had missed.

By the 1950s, frustrated with the oppressive working conditions for writers in Hollywood and the death of the pulp magazines, Bond retired from writing. He first opened a public relations firm in Roanoke, then became a bookseller. He was also instrumental in founding the Showtimers community theater, where his nationally renowned stage adaptation of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" was first performed.

Betty Bond had her own career in local television, interviewing notable locals for "The Betty Bond Show" on WSLS (Channel 10).

But Nelson Bond's writing career wasn't quite over. Ellison recalled badgering Bond in the early 1970s to write his first new story in more than a decade, "Pipeline to Paradise," which was eventually published in 1995.

"I'm the one who shook Nelson out of retirement," Ellison said. The new story proved that even though Bond had not written fiction in years, "he still had the chops."

In the 1970s Bond's fans gathered locally to form the Nelson Bond Society, which became the seed for many of the Roanoke-based science fiction conventions and clubs.

In 1998, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America honored him with an Author Emeritus award. In 2003, Bond donated his papers to the Marshall University library, which created a replica of the office in Bond's home where he wrote most of his stories.

Fred Eichelman, who runs the Point North science fiction convention, called Bond a "Renaissance person." His organization's latest newsletter has a photo of Bond and "The Empire Strikes Back" screenwriter Leigh Brackett arm in arm on the cover.

Eichelman, a retired schoolteacher who used Bond's stories in the classroom, recalled an instance when a student wrote to Bond asking what motivated him to write.

"My motivation was to put three meals on the table for my family," Bond replied.

Even with his most creative years behind him, Bond said in 2001 that he had never grown bored. "You've just got to stay interested in life, that's all."

He is survived by his wife, Betty, sons Kit and Lynn, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Election Eve Predictions:

PA Governor: Rendell(D) over Swann(R) by 15%

PA US Senate: Casey(D) over Santorum(R) by 8%

Democratic US House pickup in PA: 4 seats

Democratic pick up in US House nationally: 37 seats

Democratic pickup US Senate: 6
(Missouri, Montana, Ohio, PA, RI, Virginia)

Republican pickup US Senate: 1
( Maryland)

50/50 tie US Senate

Local Races:

PA House: Conklin(D) over Spencer(R) by 8%

PA Senate: Corman(R) over Eich(D) by 3%

PA US House: Peterson(R) over Hilliard(D) by 14%

Democratic pick-up PA House: 5

Friday, November 03, 2006

“Godzilla’s Acre”

from Kolchak:

Nearly everyone who’s seen a Godzilla movie knows that the Big G originated in Japan. However, the movie that actually introduced Godzilla has not been available in America until relatively recently.

I’m not talking about . Godzilla, King Of the Monsters. I’m talking about the original Japanese production, Gojira. “King Of Monsters” includes an hour’s worth of footage from the original, rearranged and re-edited to incorporate new scenes with Raymond Burr. However, a full-length version of Gojira had a short theatrical run in America in 2004 and it’s now part of a classy--and inexpensive--DVD boxed set with Godzilla, King Of the Monsters..

Even if you’ve seen other movies in this series, I think Gojira is going to surprise you.

According to the background material that comes with the DVDs, Gojira was born out of pure necessity. In early 1954, a major project for Toho studios in Japan fell through. In order to fill the hole in their production schedule, the studio heads decided to make a movie about a giant monster awakened by an atomic blast.

By itself, this idea was nothing special; American movie-goers had already been introduced to The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. What makes,Gojira different is the way this basic idea is handled. In it’s own way, the movie is a sincere attempt to grapple with a world with the atomic bomb, just as films like United 93 attempt to come to terms with a world where America can be attacked by terrorists.

In the case of Gojira, though, the movie happens to include a man in a latex dinosaur suit.

Much of the credit for .Gojira’s tone can be given to director and co-scripter Ishiro Honda. The son of a Buddhist priest, Honda was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army in 1936, and fought as foot soldier for eight years in occupied China. After Japan’s surrender, he saw the ruins of Hiroshima on his way home.

As Honda , who died in 1993, told one interviewer, “Most of the visual images I got were from my war experience. After the war, all of Japan, as well as Tokyo, was left in ashes. The atomic bomb had emerged and completely destroyed Hiroshima.

“If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal,” he said., “he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn’t know what to do. So I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.”

Honda came to Gojira,after directing documentaries for Toho, so the movie has a grainy, newsreel look that helps to establish the story’s realism. That can still be seen in “King Of Monsters,” though. There are some things that don’t make into the American version, or, if they do, it’s in a very altered form.

The original includes a scene where the members of a government committee argue over telling the public that the appearance of Godzilla is connected to atomic testing ( They finally decide to do so.)

During Godzilla’s rampage through Tokyo, there’s a touching scene where a mother tries to comfort her children by telling them that they’ll be with their father soon. In “King Of Monsters”, this scene is reduced to just a few seconds, with no dialogue.

In the same movie, after the oxygen destroyer kills Godzilla (apparently), Raymond Burr intones, “ The whole world could wake up and live again.” In the original, though, Dr. Yemane warns, “If we continue testing H-Bombs, another Godzilla will one day appear.”

(If you’re wondering why I’m using the name Godzilla, no matter which movie I’m referring to, it’s mostly a matter of convenience. However, in this DVD set, the subtitles in Gojira, do use the name Godzilla, despite the title of the movie. Honda’s quote also used Godzilla.)

In general, Gojira has a darker, more somber tone than its American cousin, and it’s filled with images of ruined cities and orphaned children, inspired by reports from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In comparison, Burr tells the story of Godzilla, King of the Monsters as a flashback, which eliminates some of the tension immediately, since we can be fairly sure that Burr’s character survived the monster’s attack.

Still, I really don’t want to badmouth “King Of Monsters” here. It’s nobody’s classic, but it’s fun to watch. In addition, the scenes with Burr are integrated pretty well from a technical viewpoint, particularly when you consider that the filmmakers are doing it without the help of computers. It’s just a very different movie from Gojira.

It looks like it’s time for me to start earning my merit badge in self-promotion. I’ve got essays in two books of BenBella’s Smart Pop series which are now in stores. One is Star Wars On Trial , which also has contributions by David Brin and Mathew Woodring Stover. The other is Getting Lost , edited by Orson Scott Card.

The first book has a different format from most of the other Smart Pop entries. Pairs of writers debate different questions related to the Star Wars film. If you want to get a taste of what the book is like, check out the website at (surprise, surprise):

I also have a short story in Lance Star-Sky Ranger, a pulp-style anthology now available from Wild Cat Books. You can take a close look at the book at:

We return you now to your regularly scheduled blog.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Tragic Consequences of Cocaine Use Exposed

Maybe there's more to Bush Avoidence Syndrome than we thought. Watch in horror and shame as the Resident misidentifies the Congresscritter he is stumping for not once, but twice. (here)

And he's the Decider?

gHod, somebody please get him from behind the wheel before he kills again.

Seems we're not the only ones who are confused...

MEMPHIS - Would-be rescuers ended their search Friday for a manatee that strayed an unprecedented 700 miles up the Mississippi River, leaving the warm-water mammal to an uncertain fate far north of its natural range.

The manatee, which had been spotted several times since Sunday along the Memphis riverfront, eluded a rescue team that had hoped to haul it by truck to Florida.

Biologists were unsure if the animal could find its way back to warmer waters or how long it could survive so far north. (more)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Jersey court recognizes right to same-sex unions

via CNN

TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) -- New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples.

But the court left it to the Legislature to determine whether the state will honor gay marriage or some other form of civil union.

Advocates on both sides of the issue believed the state posed the best chance for gay marriage to win approval since Massachusetts became the only state to do so in 2003 because the New Jersey Supreme Court has a history of extending civil rights protections.

Instead, the high court stopped short of fully approving gay marriage and gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include gay couples or create new civil unions.

"The issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people," the court said in its 4-3 ruling.

New Jersey lawmakers voted to allow domestic partnerships in 2004, but they have been reluctant to delve into the sensitive issue of marriage.

Under domestic partnerships, gay couples have some benefits of marriage, such as the right to inherit possessions if there is no will and healthcare coverage for state workers. (more)

Finally, some sanity prevails in this country.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Jesus Christ on a Raft

War Room -

Rick Santorum and the 'Eye of Mordor'

In an interview with the editorial board of the Bucks County Courier Times, embattled Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has equated the war in Iraq with J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings.' According to the paper, Santorum said that the United States has avoided terrorist attacks at home over the past five years because the 'Eye of Mordor' has been focused on Iraq instead.

'As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else,' Santorum said. 'It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States.'

We're sure that we wouldn't either, if only we had the slightest idea of what Santorum was saying. The Courier Times translates for those of us who are not so conversant in spooky Tolkienese: The 'Eye of Mordor,' it seems, was 'the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.'
To be fair, Santorum's interview with the editorial board wasn't all about fantasy. Well, at least not the Dungeons and Dragons kind. Santorum said that he disagreed with the notion that the United States is 'bogged down' in Iraq. As for talk of a troop withdrawal? Santorum said: 'I don't think you ask that question. I know that's the question everybody wants to ask. But I don't think anyone would ask that question in 1944, 'Gee, how long are we going to be in Europe?' We're going to be in Europe until we win.'
-- Tim Grieve

Doesn't surprise me much. I have always thought of him as the Dark Helmut of the wingnut right. Taller than Rick Moranis, but far less funny (at least by intention).

He'll have plenty of time to read his stained and well paged Gor books after the forthcoming elections.

First the War in Iraq was a comma, now it's Sauron bait.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Daily Show: What Exactly Is President Bush's Job?

Jon does it again. Masterful.