Saturday, July 31, 2010

art

Looks good to me right about now. Anything chilly and cool to escape this sudden Texas heat wave sounds good right now. I just got back from the landfill. I had loaded up my pickup with some accumulated junk as the city of Tyler had their free landfill day. They allowed free of charge a pickup load full of junk. So this past week, among other chores, I've rounded up a few things to take over there. It does make you feel better to get rid of a few things. Speaking of which. I've also been checking out these new sites that are basically like a used, recycle store, similar in vein to Recycle Books (if you've ever been to those stores). At any rate they have three different sites: www.swapadvd.com, www.swapacd.com, & www.swapabook.com

They are interconnected too, but you don't have to join all three. I'm presently using their DVD and CD sites and will probably join the book club at some point. The initial startup is a bit of a hurdle, as you have to learn a bit about the sites, but once you get the learning curve of that, it's pretty easy. On all three you have to post ten (and this is a bit of a challenge too, but you don't have to post ten right away, it can be done over time) books, cds, or dvds. Once you do that you get one free credit to use, and then you wait. If anyone wants anything you've posted, the site will notify you and you have to send your used media to them, and then you get one free credit to choose what you want from someone else. There's a video you can watch over on the book site, which pretty much explains it in easy terms. Plus say, if you join any of the trade sites, you can exchange credits from either one, so if I need a credit in the DVD site, for example, I can exchange credit from my CD or book site over to the DVD site. So that's a good & helpful idea too.

I've already posted many CDs & DVDs, and gotten a few things I've wanted as well like the Flyboys and The Mist DVDs. So anyway, if you think you might have some stuff you'd like to trade, I'd recommend looking at those sites. And if you do indeed join, use me as a reference--I'll get a freebie credit. I thank you in advance :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

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I'm listening to Debussy's Nocturnes currently as I write this. He's one among many of my favorite classical composers. I need to get up and see about getting an eye exam and probably a new pair of glasses. Not one of my favorite things to do due to the fact that I've had some bad experiences with doing so--everything from getting glasses that were just poorly made, to incompetent sales people that work at the places, and just the adjustment of getting used to the new glasses themselves. Now I try and do a Google search to try and narrow down the odds of a bad experience by some good reviews or such. Even so that can be tricky.

At any rate, I've noticed on Saturday nights on KERA (PBS) very late at night around midnight they've started showing Dr Who (the newer David Tennant era) and after that around 1am, they have something called One Star Cinema where they show B-movies. The one they showed last weekend was called The Hideous Sun Demon. Basically it's abut a scientist that was exposed to radiation and turns into a lizard-like monster. Believe me, it really lived up to the name when they picked this one for One Star Cinema. It looked to be shot on the cheap around LA somewhere, and the cost of the effects were just the rubber mask and pieces to go over the hands. It's corny, and well, a B-movie. The story seemed to be a cross of The Wolfman and the 50's SF crazed era. I recorded it on my VHS, it's too late to stay up and watch. I can get past the Dr Who episode, and after that I'm ready for bed. Although I'm glad someone is still showing these cheesy old movies.

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I finished Joe R. Lansdale's The Bottoms. Another one of those books that I'd started before the move, and finished after the move. He's one of my favorite authors. He's from around the East Texas area living in Nacogdoches. Here's his web site, and worth checking out: http://www.joerlansdale.com/

He's a bit hard to describe in style but I'd say he writes in a good-old-boy style, most of his books fit in the horror genre, although he's written mystery, westerns, and some nonfiction too. The Bottoms has been compared to Harper Lee and William Faulkner, which is pretty high praise. The story takes place in a small East Texas town (similar to Nacogdoches) around the Great Depression. It's about a rural family, the father being a sheriff, who is also a barber, his wife, and their two kids (a boy and a girl). The kids are out squirrel hunting one day and come across a black woman's mutilated body. Among the myths and wives' tales in this area there are stories about a Goat Man that lurks beneath the bridges and shadows of the night. Harry Collins and his sister returns from their hunt, after the discovery of the body, and having been seemingly chased by this Goat Man. The mystery unfolds from there and Harry's father, the sheriff, tries to track down the killer, as more bodies are found as the story unfolds. It's an engrossing read, darkly wrought, has moments of humor, horror, suspense, and mystery, and definitely has the feel of East Texas.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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Seals and Crofts: Summer Breeze is a light and breezy acoustic album. It has a light folk rock vibe and even though I like their Diamond Girl album better, both albums remind me of summer. I believe both Seals and Crofts were from small Texas towns.

Summer is here and the seasonal change reminds me of certain music. I don't know if it triggers past memories in me from my younger years in life and events, or what exactly it stirs in me, but all I know is that it does. I think it does have something to do with my youth, as I don't think the music I've bought in the last ten years will evoke the same response.

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The lyrics to the song, White Bird, might begin with:

White Bird
In A Golden Cage
On A Winter's Day
In the Rain

But still the album reminds me of summer, and leaves me with an impression similar to the album cover of a blue summer's day.

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Quicksilver were a San Francisco band that had a sort of psychedelic/spaghetti western feel to their music. They were known for their long jams, and I think parts of Just For Love was recorded in Hawaii, which gives it a breezy island feel to it. I like the added flute parts in songs like Fresh Air. Shady Grove is another album they made, which also reminds me of summer, and both have environmental themes to them. Yes, I guess I'm a tree hugger :) In fact most of their albums remind me of summer come to think of it.

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I'd read about Janis Joplin, the gal who was from Port Arthur, Texas, who went out to San Francisco, and joined up with this psychedelic rock blues band called Big Brother. I was unprepared for the album, which had R. Crumb art work on the cover. The sound was big, bluesy, underground, and recorded live. It was fresh and bold, and at the same time had a throwback feel to it like Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith, and some of the older black female blues singer that had come before.

Monday, July 19, 2010

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I got up today, and started sorting some of my VHS tapes (yes, I'm still one of the holdouts of the old technology), and DVDs. While I was doing so, I saw where TCM Channel was showing a bunch of SF movies. So I watched a few of them while I was sorting and arranging things. One of the films they showed was an old B-movie, The Green Slime, that I saw back in high school. I've always been a fan of monsters, and space monster too. That's why I like The Blob, The Thing, Them, Alien, and so forth. Now The Green Slime is not 2001: A Space Odyssey and to be upfront about it, it's a pretty cheesy film. But if you set aside some of your critical analysis for a bit, I think you'll find it pretty fun. I think it has also been parodied by MST3K.

It starts out with a crew going off to blow up an asteroid heading towards earth. One of them drops a vial of some sort before departing the asteroid, and some green slime gets on his space suit, which he inadvertently brings back to their space station. Later the big blob grows tentacles and starts duplicating itself, and mayhem ensues. What's weird about it is that it's a Japanese production with mostly American actors (I think the lead female actor is Italian, who was a James Bond gal at one time), so the actors have their voices dubbed, making for a bit of an oft-kilter feel to it. But like I said if you enjoy space monsters, and don't take it too seriously, it's a fun romp.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

smoothie

It's hot, it's summer, I love smoothies.

That's about as succinct as I can be. They're easy to make, taste yummy, cool you down, and healthy. What's not to like? I have a Oysterizer blender, and I went to Walmart and bought an extra attachment for mine. It's just a 20 oz. plastic drinking cup that comes with an extra blade attachment. I make mine with that. I put in about 4 to 6 oz. of orange juice (and sometimes add other juices like Minute Maid's Pomegranate Blueberry juice), a banana, some protein powder (which you don't have to add), about 2 or so oz. of vanilla or plain fat-free yogurt, four frozen strawberries, four ice cubes, and mix it up. It's that easy. Enjoy.

If you like you can add any juice you want or any fruit you want to vary it up. Yesterday I added a kiwi fruit to it instead of a banana, and it was great.

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I started reading Richard Preston's The Hot Zone before I left Odessa, and due to my move from west to east Texas, had to stop reading it to pack and all the other things involved with a move. I had a friend, Roche (pronounced Rocky), that recommended it to me while talking about it over pizza. I found a copy of it at one of the infamous Midland library sales that they used to have every year around the fall if memory serves. They were neat events that I looked forward to each year as you could buy a box of books for around five bucks or so, which was a real bargain. They also had vinyl records and other miscellaneous things too.

At any rate, I finally got around to reading The Hot Zone. The main draw for me were the blurbs on the back cover by Stephen King, who called it one of the most horrifying things he'd ever read, as did Arthur C. Clark. What's also interesting is that it's not fiction, but based on a true story and events. The book details the events that led up to an outbreak of Ebola virus in Washington D.C. in the 80's. He starts out by talking about the Aids virus which is a Biosafety Level 2 agent, that's not very infective--meaning it doesn't travel very well from person to person. Also Aids is not airborne, and you don't need a biological suit to handle the blood. One of the things I wondered about when Aids started to gain public awareness from the media was how or why did this virus surface now? Why haven't we heard of this virus occurring in the past? Some people automatically jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon and thought it was manufactured by the government. But after reading Preston's book, I can understand that the virus can remain dormant for years or eons in other animals: bugs, bats, etc. We're not even sure what the host is.

From there Preston goes on to detail how an average factory worker in Africa caught the Marburg virus on an outing one day in Africa, how it effected his health and eventual demise, how contagious it is, how it is spread, and the kill ratio of such a virus, which is one in four people who catch it, die from it. He also goes from there to discuss how Marburg is a virus known as the filoviruses, which is closely related to two types of more deadly viruses, Ebola Zaire and Ebola Sudan. The kill ratio with Ebola Zaire is nine out of ten--a slate wiper in humans, as Preston puts it.

Preston talks about an outbreak of the Ebola virus and how it spread thru one of the small townships in Africa, and how the Center for Disease Control went down there to help contain it. He gives a glimpse inside the CDC and government agencies, like USAMRIID, how they do research on these diseases, precautions they have to take to work in such an environment, how they develop a vaccine, etc. I found this fly on the wall aspect of his book really interesting. At any rate, I thought the book was a real pot boiler and made for perfect summer reading, albeit scary summer reading. Preston has another book, The Demon in the Freezer, on smallpox that I'd like to read.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

fandom

I thought I'd share a freebie that John Morrow, publisher of TwoMorrow Publications sent me in an email. You can download digital copies of several of the magazines that they publish to read on your computer (with Adobe) or your iPad (if you are lucky to own one of those). At any rate there are eleven different magazines that you can download: Alter Ego is Roy Thomas's fanzine publication, which I've read before and they are very informative, The Jack Kirby Collector, has art and inside info on the King of the Silver Age. Then there's Draw magazine about the art that goes into comics, and several other. You might like to try them, and if you like them want to order some magazines from them.

Downloading them is pretty easy. It's about a three/four step process. You just add what you want to download to your basket, go to checkout, you don't enter any credit cards or anything, just keep going to payment info, and confirm your order. Once you do that, scroll down, and you'll see a link to click to download the mag you want.

You can go to the site here:
http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=108
On the left side of the site under Categories, you'll see: Free stuff!
Click on that, and just see what you might like to read. Pretty easy.

Rather busy today, with little odds and ends chores. I came home and watched a few things on PBS, one of which was called Breakfast Special. It talked about special places to eat breakfast. All of the places mentioned looked like a gastronomical delight. They also mentioned a gal's site out of the San Francisco area called Foodhoe's Foraging. I thought the title was kinda funny, so went to the site, and looks pretty informative, check it out: http://www.foodhoe.com/

I've also been watching Ken Burns's Baseball series, that they've been repeating on PBS here. I'm not a huge sports nut, but this series is really interesting, and I could see watching it again sometime.

Finally, I saw on the news tonight, that someone (or a group) has invented a flying car, and it gets 30 mpg. How cool is that? I guess Bladerunner won't be that far away after all :) Here's a link to check that out if interested:
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/flying-car-0319.html

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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Monday July 12, 2010 Harvey Pekar the comic book writer died. I'd been a fan of his comics since around 1985 or so when I ran into a guy I knew going to Odessa College. I'd met Bill thru the OC Jazz Band thru another friend, Mark, that played bass. Bill played guitar rather well, and Mark, the other mutual friend, got me in the jazz band as well (as I played a little rhythm guitar, but I'm hardly a great player by any means). At any rate, I found out that Bill was into comics, not the superhero type that is the typical fare, but he liked the undergrounds and what grew out of that movement, which became known as the alternative comic, which also grew into the autobiographical or sometimes nonfiction comic. Bill was more interested in R. Crumb, and mentioned Pekar's comic, American Splendor, describing it as about normal life and doesn't really go any where. That lack of description or his inability to aptly describe the comic intrigued me. So the next time my brother and I went down to Austin, Tx., we'd usually drop by Austin Books, which is a huge comic shop there.

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Sure enough they had quite a few American Splendors on hand. So I bought quite a few, and read them and enjoyed them as well. What I really could relate to was that Harvey was just a regular guy (like me), enjoyed collecting vinyl records (most jazz), and had all the trials and tribulations of everyday life: marriages that didn't work out for him, boring jobs that go nowhere, worrying about where he's headed in life, going to the markets to buy food, reading literature, and enjoying whatever small things he can get into in his free time away from his daily grind. It wasn't long after that that I started taking drawing classes out at OC as well, and met a couple that were into comics. They gravitated towards pulps, super heroes, and that only got me more interested in comics. I later found out thru another friend that there were conventions held in Dallas. One of the first or second Cons we went to had Harvey Pekar and several other guest. My brother and I went in the Con, looked around a bit, and sure enough there was Harvey (single at the time) sitting there with his head propped up on the table looking kind of bored, as there weren't many people around. He perked up though when he saw that we were fans of his comics and writing. He was funny and friendly, and my brother asked him if we could get a picture, which I did. But I had a new camera, and I didn't know how to work very well, so it took me a bit to frame everything and get the shot ready. He grew impatient during that ordeal, and kept say, you about ready to shot that picture? Cracked me up as that's how he paints himself in his books...impatient! At any rate, he was cordial and friendly, and told us to go eat at Denny's. He said that they had that new Grand Slam breakfast on the menu, and it was really worth it.

Later on, the movie, American Splendor, the movie came out and me and my brother went to the Angelika movie theater in Dallas to see it. It was well received, and I was happy for Harvey and his new wife, Joyce, as his comic was starting to pay off for him a little bit, he was getting more recognition, and I know the extra income made his life a little better. Harvey worried a lot as he'd come down with cancer, which he'd written about in his book, Our Cancer Year, and had also bought a new house, and had taken in a friend's daughter to raise as well. It's a good independent film, and I recommend giving it a watch if you haven't done so.

Rest in peace, Harvey. You made my life better, I'm sure you touched others as well.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

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It was a dark and storm night. I guess the immortal words of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1830) best sum up the mood and the night on which I watched the new movie, The Wolfman. The mood of the film, really matched the weather. The Wolfman is a remake or re-imagining (as the newer storyline is a bit different from the original) of the Lon Chaney Jr. role. It differs a little bit with the romantic angle in the story as well, which made me think of Beauty and the Beast. It was more somber in tone than I was expecting, but had enough action to keep me engaged. I enjoyed the sets and the feel for old Victorian England, which also reminded me of the movie, Sleepy Hollow. I'm glad they kept the part where the wolfman howls once Lawrence Talbot had transformed into the creature, which reminded me of the original film. There's another nice touch in the opening scene with the old Universal films logo, along with the opening dialog: Even a man that is pure of heart, etc. If you enjoyed the old Universal monster films, you'll probably enjoy this new update too.

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I've always been a Sci-Fi buff. My dad used to watch the early Twilight Zones on TV, and it may have been that series that engaged my mind, or the early King Kong movie that scared the life out of me, or going to see my first SF/monster movie The Blob (which was a double bill at the time with the movie: I Married A Monster From Outer Space, another classic), which also scared the life out of me. But no matter what the influence, it has stuck with me throughout my life, and I accept it, rejoice that I have that interest, and indulge in the hobby and genre. It branches out from there also and laps over into horror at times, mysteries, and other genres.

I once had on-going discussion with a guy on a web site over the matter of the abbreviation of the two words, Sci-Fi. He said that it should be SF, so I'll sometimes default to that brevity instead so not to offend anyone's frail sensibilities... I think his whole premise that sci-fi is offensive is a wee minutia detail that boarders on the anal retentive, but let's move on...

So I've ran across a pretty neat web site, that discusses books, and you can find that over at: www.SFFaudio.com I was over there last week listening to their discussion of the book The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. I plan on returning to the site to see what else they discuss, but just haven't had the time yet. I read The Stars My Destination some time back, so it was fun to hear their take on the book. Three guys (one a Brit) and one woman were discussing it. It starts off on a slight false step as the woman (really pretty astute in her comments) makes a remark to the British dude (I believe in jest), but I'm guessing these people didn't know each other formally, probably meeting over the computer, phone etc., the Brit didn't know how to take her remark. Things though quickly right themselves, and they get on with the book discussion, which made for an interesting listen.

One other thing, which I find a bit odd these days is in the case of the Brit, he didn't actually read the book, he read some of beginning, but listened to it thru an audio book. I've heard a lot of comments from people that listen to these audio books and they remark how they listened to the book and really enjoyed "reading" it. To me that's an odd remark. I don't mean to split hairs, but listening isn't reading--it's listening. I have no facts to back this up, but I think they are digested by the mind differently and, I think, comprehension is better when read. (End of soapbox sermon/commentary.)

At any rate, The Stars My Destination imo, is a classic in SF literature. If you haven't read it, you might enjoy it. It's about a mechanic named Gulliver Foyle, who has been aboard a drifting, wrecked space ship. He sends out a distress alert, and just when he think someone has come to his rescue, they pass him by, and ignore his S.O.S. flares. This one act of inhumanity galvanizes Foyle, and turns him into an angel of revenge. It gives him the drive to survive, escape, and hunt down the owners and crew of the Vorga (the ship that has ignored him). What I liked about the book is that Alfred Bester is a quick writer, shifting scenes quickly, full of creativity and the novel has many ideas roaming around in its pages. He doesn't bother too much in details before you're thrown into another scene, idea, or a look into the future.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

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So there used to be a guy at work, and his nickname was "Rainbow". When I asked one of my co-workers why, he said, "Because he's the eight hour loaf." Badum-boom, rim shot on snare drum. Now some may not remember that Rainbow was a bread manufacturer, I don't even know if it's still around, but at any rate, lately, I feel I've found my calling and that's to follow suit and become a loafer. I don't know if it's the constant rain that this area of the country is getting or some odd sort of malaise that has settled over me like the lichen that has settled on the trees around here due to all the moisture, but hopefully I can pull myself together and start putting up a few books that are in moving boxes still.

Friday I spent part of that afternoon running over to the water company to change my parents name on the water bill over to my name. I didn't know that it would take an act of Congress (they were out anyway, due to the July the 4th weekend), which left me to defend myself. I'd talked with the woman over the phone, who I get the feeling didn't exactly know how to do this in an easy manner. I tried to be calm, yet assertive. I just wanted to take the easy route possible. Well, it didn't turn out that way. So I grab a copy of my Dad's death certificate, and an online copy of the Smith County paperwork showing my name on this property, and head to downtown. I find an area close to the address in the phone book, but when I pop into the building I found out it's 219 south, not north. Well, I think, oh must be on the other side of the downtown square, which it was, but what was odd, once you get past the square, the numbers on the other side of the street turn to odd numbering.

Anyway, I find the place, and go inside, and talk to the same woman I'd spoken with on the phone. I'm not sure what the deal was, perhaps she thought I was a jerk, or didn't think she knew her job or whatever, but she had a weird attitude, and did everything possible to drag this process out--which by the way, I told her I had to park the truck and walk and was on a meter, ticking away. She proceeded to answer a phone and yak with the person on the other end, at which point I asked her, "Who is supposed to be helping me with this?" She said she was, got off the phone, phone rang, answered the phone again, while not even looking at my paperwork. Finally I told her, look I'm going to have to go move my truck, I don't want to get a ticket just to do this. She asked me if I can jog fast. I bit my tongue as I coped with the situation the best way that I could...but I have to say, a pretty trying experience.

At any rate I got that out of the way...seemingly. And wanted to blow off a bit of steam, so went down to Hastings, a small store similar to Barnes & Nobles and such. Sometimes they'll have used books, and ran across a Batman Showcase Vol. 1 for around $3.49 or so. Needless-to-say, being a comic fan grabbed it. It's odd though, as I reflected upon it, I felt elated, not so much in finding the book, but how the experience had lifted my spirits of the previous encounter with Nurse Ratched at the City of Tyler. I ruminated on how oddly that situation had gone and how odd finding a simple, disposable piece of pop culture had lifted my spirits. Maybe it's that I just like finding a bargain, but whatever the case it worked. Not only was the book far discounted so that was a bargain, but it was about 95% cheaper than seeing a therapist, so man, I made out like a goldmine :)

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Holy Sigmund Freud, Batman. Case closed.