Saturday, January 28, 2006

Elsewhere in the Animal Kingdom... octopus attacks a submarine. Apparently because he was horny.


I believe he has been found.

See the picture here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Awe of Dan Simmons, Part II

At the recommendation of knowledgeable commenter DMC, I am giving Summer of Night a try. Apparently, it forms a sort of trilogy with Children of the Night, which I did not care for, and A Winter Haunting. I've actually owned the book for a while but haven't ever gotten around to reading it. Children turned me off a little, I'll admit, but I'm going to give Summer a try. We'll see how it compares.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Detroit Rock City

In case you live in a hole, you should know that Super Bowl XL is coming to Detroit this year. Why we had to get Super Bowl "XL" when we already have a reputation for rotundness beats me, but at least there will be plenty of riot jokes to dilute the fat ones. Anyway, for all you non-Detroiters out there, here's a good piece by Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press explaining why you suck if you don't like Detroit. Or something like that. Read it and see.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Frankenstein Unbound

What if Victor Frankenstein and his monster were alive and in New Orleans? That's the basic premise of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, which I finished this week. Even though the book has Mr. Koontz's name on it, I think a lot of the writing was done by his co-author, Kevin Anderson, based on the style and sometimes stilted nature of the writing. The characters were for the most part poorly drawn. The two police officers were annoying, and Victor Frankenstein was more caricature than character.

All this was too bad, because the story was excellent. This book had a chance to be something more than the entertaining but flawed read that it was. New Orleans was a good, if somewhat melancholy after Hurricane Katrina, selection as the setting, and the character of Deucalion, what the monster came to be called, was top-notch. Another plus was that the chapters were short, so that when the book digressed it was easy to charge ahead through the muck. So, in spite of the negatives, this book is definitely worth the read. I'm also really looking forward to getting the second one, when Mr. Koontz's co-author is Ed Gorman.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Chrysler Imperial


Don Cheadle

Why is he still doing the NFL Playoffs intense-talking commercials? Seeing him again is like an annual visit from an obnoxious relative. Only I'm actually paying attention to the NFL playoffs.

Predatorishly Alien...

...were the monsters in The Cave, which was a surprisingly decent movie. It had its slow parts and a certain level of cheesiness, but overall the movie was very entertaining. The acting was uneven, ranging from bad (if Piper Perabo gets any work after this one, it's a miracle) to very good (Cole Hauser), but the last half of the movie really paid off with some excellent suspense. In the end, the movie succeeded in establishing a identity for itself separate from the movies that clearly influenced it. I recommend it as a quick, fun watch.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Hibbs on Hostel and Wolf Creek

National Review has a pretty interesting review by Thomas Hibbs that touches on both Hostel and Wolf Creek. Here's one part:

"Concerning the film’s early success, writer and director Eli Roth explained to Box Office Mojo, 'My whole theory was that if it's scary, the public will really respond to it. People want their horror to be horrific. They don't want it to be safe.' Respond? Well, yes, the film does call for a response, and at least Roth did not try to dignify the film by describing it as in the tradition of the suspense practiced by Hitchcock. 'Horrific comes closer, but Hostel is not so much scary as it is revoltingly grisly."

I definitely come down on Mr. Hibbs' side on this issue. I generally dislike horror movies that are gory for the sake of being gory.

There are some comments later in Mr. Hibbs' review about people being too jaded for old-fashioned movies like The Exorcist to have the same effect that they used to. That is just wrong. Two quick counter-examples are Blair Witch and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Both were very powerful and popular without resorting to much gore.

Gore is the easy way out, and I'm disappointed that Mr. Roth claims otherwise above. Stephen King once said (I'm paraphrasing because I can't remember the exact quote): "First I try to terrify, then I try to horrify. If that doesn't work, I go for the gross out." That is the right way to go about horror.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Donner Party

Potentially sad news for fans of the Donner Party, or of cannibalism (you know you're out there). New research appears to have shown the the Donners did not actualize cannibalize each other. Apparently, there were two camps of people stranded in the mountains that winter, and one of the groups did engage in at least some cannibalism. The Donners, though, were stranded six miles away from that group.

There are some quotes in the story from Donner descendants, who are eager to clear their family name. I don't blame them, but at the same time, they really shouldn't be that ashamed anyway. The extreme circumstances were an extenuating factor for any cannibalism, assuming of course that the human dinner died of natural causes first. This kind of case used to be common in shipwrecks back in the sailing days, and some English courts even excused the survivors who had drawn lots and killed the unlucky one to stay alive.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Happy Friday the 13th!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cthulu Madness

Here's an interesting post by Will Collier on Vodkapundit regarding a recent movie based on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulu." It was done as a silent movie in the 1920's fashion. Sounds intriguing.

Also, here is a link to Hello Cthulu. Very funny.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Books Bound in Human Skin

It sounds like an urban legend, but I guess it's not. Many libraries have books in their collections that were bound in human skin. Of course, these books are locked in the back somewhere and not on public display, but they're there. Sounds like a good idea for a story: someone finds a mysterious book with evil writings inside, only to learn it was bound with the skin of its author. Or something like that.

Read the whole thing here. It's a fascinating article.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Narnia -- Moderate Spoilers

We saw The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Friday night. Excellent movie overall. Tilda Swinton was great as the White Witch. She was like a more evil version of Galadriel from Lord of the Rings (not that it was a huge leap: Galadriel was pretty freaky in the movies, much more so than the books). I do have a couple of criticisms, and I will bring them up because it is more fun to nitpick than to be all rosy. First, I pictured Mr. Tumnus as older and more fatherly than the guy they picked for the movie. The dynamic between him and Lucy with him being closer to her in age was screwy. Another criticism, and this one applies to the book too, is with the end. It's just weird how they grow all the way up and are in Narnia for most of their lives before popping back out of the wardrobe, especially after how concerned they were for most of the movie to get home. I guess the power must have corrupted them.

On the other hand, the child actors were really good, especially Edmund and Lucy. One script-writing touch of genius came near the end. Edmund's horse stopped and told Edmund he needed to rest because he was getting old. However, when the others come back to see what's taking Edmund so long, he says it is he, not the horse, who needs to catch his breath. That was an excellent way to show how Edmund's character had changed from the selfish boy he began the movie as without bludgeoning the viewer with it. The movie as a whole had the same touch.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein

Fresh from under the Christmas tree comes this happy tale: Mr. Koontz's (and co-writer's) reimagination of the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley yarn. I'm pretty excited about this one. Frankenstein (or to be ticky tacky about it, Frankenstein's monster) is pretty cool, and you can't beat stories about grave-robbing mad scientists. Nevertheless, the original book was only okay. Older horror is often a little slow for my taste. I won't repeat the criticism of one Amazon reviewer, thought, who actually seemed upset that the original monster wasn't a grunting beast like in the first movie version. A review will follow.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Here's an interesting looking debut novel from Justine Musk. I found it via one of those links on gmail that said it was a fantasy novel for Stephen King readers. Might be worth checking out: nothing like a good story about centuries-old sorcerors and demons.

"Dwarfs Honored in Ancient Egypt"

Look, it's an early front-runner for best headline of the year!

One note about the article. This quote bugs me: "Ancient Egyptian society had a strong code of ethics and commandments to be respectful towards dwarfs, the crippled and blind." Maybe it's just me, but I sense some finger-wagging by the reporter because our society is not like that of Ancient Egypt. Stories of this type often have a little drop in like that: after all, there was no reason to include the crippled and blind in that sentence. I mean, so what if the Egyptians were better than us in this one small way. They also kept slaves, worshipped their leaders as gods, and married their sisters.

It's called perspective.


The early reviews are positive, but these people definitely don't mind a body count. The movie premieres tomorrow, so we'll see what the "real" critics saw in the papers.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cool Mountaineering Story

I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks because of the holidays and family events, but I'm back now with a link to a cool mountaineering story. It has spectacular feats, possible acts of cowardice/selfishness/infamy (including possibly a man who deserted his brother on top of a mountain or a climbing team that refused to help its own distressed members), adultery, revenge, and a thirty-year-long feud. How's that for a bunch of guys who like to climb around on rocks?

By the way, the guy in the story, Reinhold Messner, is a legendary climber, but if he did what his former climbing partners allege it still wouldn't surprise me that much. Climbers, as you might guess, are an odd breed and seem to be prone to making horrible decisions when a goal is in sight. That's why my favorite is Ed Viesturs, the first American to scale all of the 8,000 meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. His attitude is that there's no point in reaching the summit if you can't make it back down. I've always thought it sad that this attitude is unusual enough among climbers to be worthy of comment.