Saturday, November 24, 2007

I laughed and was ashamed

I'm a year late, but I just discovered's list of the Top 10 Dirtiest Names in Sports:

10. De'Cody Fagg
9. Homer Bush
8. Albert Pujols
7. Irina Slutskaya
6. Ron Tugnutt
5. Assol Slivets
4. Dick Butkus
3. Johnny Dickshot
2. Dick Trickle
1. Chubby Cox

Flumesday followed this list, inevitably, with Top 10 Dirtiest Names in Sports: The Sequel.

10. Gregor Fucka
9. B.J. Johnson
8. Pete LaCock
7. Danny Shittu
6. Harry Colon
5. Lucious Pusey
4. Dick Pole
3. Dean Windass
2. Misty Hyman
1. Rusty Kuntz

Edelman and the Legion of Monsters

I marvel, pardon the pun, that I'm now friends with one of the writers of the comic books I avidly read as a kid, in the mid-'70s. I refer to Scott Edelman, whose new blog I recommend, for example this post about wincing when he sees his decades-old work reprinted today. I sympathize, but mainly I'm impressed that his work is still in demand, still being read -- and still generating checks -- after so many years.

The Legion of Monsters cover that accompanies Scott's post reminds me of Satana, Daimon Hellstrom's villainous sister, whom I hadn't thought of in decades. I much admired her removing-the-soul-in-the-form-of-a-butterfly trick.

Their teams should meet in an annual Toilet Bowl

I'm always pleased when I encounter a real-life rivalry that reminds me of the one in Monty Python's Life of Brian between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea. This AP story introduces me to a doozy. Just imagine the years of ill will that must exist between the World Toilet Association and the World Toilet Organization.

Schmucks for Schmuck

Speaking of Mel Brooks, Gregory Frost passes along this lovely news item from The Onion. My favorite parts are the upcoming 5K Schlep for Schmuck Awareness and this quote:
"Today it's schmuck, tomorrow it might be toochis," said SFS volunteer Harry Steinbergmann, 82. "What's next, schlemiel? Putz? Schlimazel?"

Steinbergmann went on to classify this scenario as farcockteh.
This reminds me that years ago, during a conference in New Orleans, Myron Tuman gazed at my handiwork over dinner one night and said, "You eat like you got two toochises." I believe he meant it as a compliment.

My people, my people

F. Brett Cox reports that on this week's episode of Numb3rs, an artist at a comics convention surveyed the scene and said, "These are my people."

This was good for a laugh because Brett often has heard me sigh at science fiction conventions and say, "My people, my people" -- a phrase I lifted, no doubt tastelessly, from Zora Neale Hurston, who writes in Dust Tracks on a Road that the phrase "is forced outward by pity, scorn and hopeless resignation ... called forth by the observations of one class of Negro on the doings of another branch ..."

Two shout-outs to "Senator Bilbo"

At Crooked Timber, John Holbo hails my story "Senator Bilbo." Thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden for pointing this out to me and, more importantly, for publishing the story in the first place (in Starlight 3).

Also, Mike Ashley reports plans to reprint "Senator Bilbo" in his anthology The Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy (Robinson, 2008) -- as the first story, no less.

How 'bout more beans, Mr. Taggart?

In response to my suggestion that the Lee Van Cleef scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly may be the only sinister bean-eating scene in movie history, Arthur Hlavaty suggests Blazing Saddles. I knew someone would mention that (and I'm pleased it was you, Arthur), but I find Mel Brooks' bean-eating scene, however memorable, not sinister at all -- even though, come to think of it, the bean-eating is simultaneous with Taggart's plans to have Mongo "mutilate that new sheriff." Still, any potential for the sinister in the scene is, uh, undercut by Brooks, who provides an entirely different, uh, atmosphere.

Oz Whiston, meanwhile, says my bean-eating photo is more Mel Brooks than Sergio Leone, and that's a fair cop.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sinister bean-eating

Without a doubt, the most sinister bean-eating scene in movie history (indeed, perhaps the only sinister bean-eating scene in movie history) is in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as Lee Van Cleef holds off killing a man long enough to polish off a bowl o' beans, all the while pinning his intended victim with a cobra's gaze.

Not long ago, Sydney and I were polishing off a couple of bowls of Laurie beans (so named because we got the recipe from Sydney's cousin Laurie Steele), and we decided to see how sinister we each could be in the process. Sydney won -- she had the Van Cleef squint down pat -- but she won't let me post the photo that captures her in the act. Here are two of the photos she took of me. As you can see, I opted for the Eli Wallach approach: While Angel Eyes (Van Cleef's character) always knew exactly whom he was going to kill next, Tuco (Wallach's character) was never quite sure, so he'd be watching the exits and his fellow bean-eaters all the while, alert for any sign of treachery.I challenge others to share their own sinister bean-eating experiences, with photos.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Irony hereafter, and after

This upstream comment from Richard Parks is worth highlighting:
Tom Lehrer once said that he knew that "Satire was dead when they gave Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize."

I'm not sure if irony is dead yet, but this President is sure making multiple attempts on its life.
Have I lately plugged Richard's fine novella Hereafter, and After, from PS Publishing? Consider it plugged anew.

More World Fantasy photos

Isabel "Oz" Whiston writes:
Good photos. ... Proves to Sydney you were there and not off gallivanting about the countryside, not that you would, would you?
Indeed not! And here's the evidence that Oz and James Patrick Kelly weren't off gallivanting, either.Meanwhile, my Clarion West 2005 student E.C. Myers writes:
Hey, where's that picture of "Neil Gaiman"?
I believe this is the photo E.C. means.All I remember of the circumstances is that someone threw a leather jacket over my shoulders and said, "Hey, look, it's Neil Gaiman!" I then gamely tried to look suave (and you can see how that came out), and speak in a British accent (and you can imagine how that came out). All else, mercifully, is a blur -- but just in case, allow me here to apologize to Neil, to all Brits, to all owners of leather jackets, and to all truly suave people (you know who you are).

Names floating in air

Regarding the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, my Clarion 2004 student Phil "Dr. Phil" Kaldon writes:
The first time I met the wall, it was at night and that shimmering glossy black lost in the tiny footlamps of the path into the ground had a power I'd not expected. The surface is so clean that in the dark the etched names stand out as if floating in air and you can't quite tell where the wall is. Went by the next day in daylight and it was a moving experience in quite a different way.

It is an amazing memorial.
It is indeed.

Quin's Shanghai Circus and Things Will Never Be the Same

I second Jason Erik Lundberg's recommendation of Quin's Shanghai Circus, the astounding 1974 first novel by the late Edward Whittemore. Jason writes:
One of the most uniquely original novels I've read in some time. Espionage around World War II, decadent circuses, exile and expatriation, conspiracies, and the barbarities of war. Whittemore's prose style is gorgeous in its simplicity and rhythms, and I could kick myself for not reading his writing earlier. Accomplished, daring, brutal, so good that it's difficult to believe that this was his first novel. Hard to find, but highly recommended.
Speaking of kicking oneself, I wish I had gone ahead and bought the Old Earth Books paperbacks of all Whittemore's novels when they came out in 2002, rather than just demurely buying Quin's as a sampler, and figuring I'd buy the others Oneday. Now they mostly seem to be Temporarily Out of Stock, alas. To partially atone, I highly recommend a brand-new Old Earth Books paperback: Things Will Never Be the Same, a retrospective Howard Waldrop collection that includes "Mr. Goober's Show," "Night of the Cooters," "The Sawing Boys," "The Ugly Chickens," "US" and other wonders.

More Lincoln hunters

Regarding the photo that may or may not depict Lincoln at Gettysburg, Mark Wingenfeld writes:
Of course we know that Lincoln was at Gettysburg ... what we really should be looking for is a photo of Lincoln at Frogmore.
Ha! I'd like to see that one myself, Mark. The only image I know of, painted long after the fact, is the late Sam Doyle's remarkable painting of the scene, which inspired my World Fantasy Award-nominated story "Lincoln in Frogmore." I can't find the painting online anywhere, alas. I first saw it in summer 1995 at the North Carolina Museum of Art, in the touring exhibition "Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-Taught Artists from 1940 to the Present," my all-but-overwhelming introduction to the subject, and it's reprinted in the excellent catalog of that exhibit, edited by Alice Rae Yelen, from the University Press of Mississippi. It'll do until that elusive photograph comes along.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Religious scholars on the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Among its other charms, this fine article on Flying Spaghetti Monster scholarship tells me about a book I'd very much like to read: Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture by David Chidester (University of California Press, 2005).

The article also includes a great quote from graduate student Gavin Van Horn: "You have to keep a sense of humor when you're studying religion, especially in graduate school. Otherwise you'll sink into depression pretty quickly." Like, I would argue, the otherwise brilliant Bart Ehrman, whose advanced study of the Bible led him to swap one fundamentalist belief for another.

The Lincoln hunters

Looking for Lincoln in this crowd shot taken at the Gettysburg cemetery dedication on Nov. 19, 1863 -- the venue, of course, of the president's famous speech -- reminds me of all those hours we've spent looking at even worse photos, trying to squint hard enough to make out a UFO, or Bigfoot, or Nessie, or someone's revenant grandma.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Flying the flags

This photo from the Veterans Day edition of the Cumberland Times-News shows three new flagpoles in front of a Lutheran church. The tallest is flying the U.S. flag, the other two the Maryland flag and what many Protestants call the "Christian flag."

As I ponder this photo -- and I've pondered it too much, this past week -- I wonder whether any possible arrangement of the three flags isn't problematic. If the U.S. flag is higher than the Christian flag, what are we implying? Or if the Christian flag is on the same level as the Maryland flag? Or ... ?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tasteless political remark of the week

"Now I know why they gave up on the march from Bataan. It's very difficult."

That's Michael Busch, speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, saying the current legislative special session is just as hellish as the Bataan Death March.

I suppose if Busch has to wait in a long line at the Denny's in Annapolis, he'll know exactly what Auschwitz was like, too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

One at a time, please

"I spoke to President Musharraf right before I came over here to visit with President Sarkozy. And my message was that we believe strongly in elections and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform. You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time."
-- President Bush at a Nov. 7 news conference in Virginia
(Here's the transcript.)

In It Not Of It

I never saw an "In It Not Of It" T-shirt before I saw this photo in the Nov. 11 Cumberland Times-News.

Now I learn, thanks to Google, that the slogan is popular on merchandise aimed at the young Christian market, partially because of the 1999 song "In Not Of" by the Christian group Avalon -- since covered by Clay Aiken, of all people:
We are not like the world but we can love it
Come bring the hope to hopeless men
Until the lost are found in Him
He came to save the world
So let us be in it, not of it
I wonder whether anyone today wears this shirt in the spirit with which William Hazlitt would have worn it. His 1821 essay "On Living to One's-Self" reads, in part (emphasis mine):
What I mean by living to one's-self is living in the world, as in it, not of it: it is as if no one knew there was such a person, and you wished no one to know it: it is to be a silent spectator of the mighty scene of things, not an object of attention or curiosity in it; to take a thoughtful, anxious interest in what is passing in the world, but not to feel the slightest inclination to make or meddle with it. It is such a life as a pure spirit might be supposed to lead, and such an interest as it might take in the affairs of men: calm, contemplative, passive, distant, touched with pity for their sorrows, smiling at their follies without bitterness, sharing their affections, but not troubled by their passions, not seeking their notice, nor once dreamt of by them.
For more on this radical son of a Unitarian minister, visit the Hazlitt Society website.

Born in Roswell

Reading about Demi Moore's birthday (Nov. 11), I was startled to learn that she was born in Roswell, N.M.

It's so easy to forget, given our ever-burgeoning popular mythology about the place, that Roswell is, after all, a city like most any other, home to countless mundane events. For a taste of those, visit the website of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce, its slogan "Prominence in the Land of Enchantment."

I love the Wikipedia article on the Roswell UFO incident for beginning: "The neutrality and factual accuracy of this article are disputed." That disclaimer, friends, will never go away.

John Denver was born in Roswell, too. Don't laugh! I loved John Denver.

The Texas Rumble

Here's a lovely story by Baltimore Sun reporter Rob Hiaasen (brother of novelist and muckraker Carl Hiaasen) on the earthquake-like quarry blasts that all the residents of Cockeysville, Md., have taken for granted since the Civil War. Locals call it "the Texas Rumble," after the bygone name of the community. I was reminded of the mining town in one of the beloved farces of my childhood, Support Your Local Gunfighter, which was rocked with similar predictability.

Reflections and the Wall

I just learned today, via a Veterans Day article by Michael Sawyers in the Cumberland Times-News, that the famous painting Reflections, depicting a meeting of the living and the dead at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was painted in 1988 in Cumberland, Md. Self-taught artist Lee Teter used locals as models.

Teter gave the print rights to the painting to the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, which later bought all rights from him. Many of the chapter's good works have been made possible by sales of hundreds of thousands of those prints. Wind River Gallery in Riverton, Wyo., which sells Teter's Western paintings, calls Reflections "perhaps the most collected art print in the 20th century."

The chapter's website tells Teter's story and the story of the painting. Here's Teter's official site; he now lives in Wyoming.

What became of the original painting, I wonder, as opposed to the prints? Does the Cumberland VVA chapter have it?

Also in today's Times-News, a Scripps-Howard wire story usefully reminds us that Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (which the Yale undergrad created as a student project) was considered so unconventional, so controversial, that it almost didn't get built. Only the addition of traditional, predictable elements -- a statue and a flagpole -- made the project palatable to its many detractors, including many Vietnam veterans who now venerate it. Today, the statue and the flagpole are fine, but they aren't what draw millions of people to the Wall.

Jan Scruggs, who led the monument's fund-raising campaign, puts the Wall in its proper context: "This has changed the way America mourns, changed the way the public deals with trauma."

There's a lesson here about public art. The people who objected to the Wall's design are the same people, in spirit, who as residents of Paris wanted to scrap the Eiffel Tower once the world's fair was over.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

World Fantasy Convention photos: Solos

F. Brett Cox sees justice done.David Hartwell as Medusa.Convention chair Joseph Berlant, whose fault it all was.Nicholas DiChario.Gardner Dozois.Scott Edelman looks for himself (successfully) at Spa City Comics.Bernie Goodman.Cousin Hal Duncan.John Langan.Glennis LeBlanc.Mark Wingenfeld.Gordon Van Gelder makes an editorial comment.Ted Chiang.Byron Tetrick.
William Shunn.Darrell Schweitzer, rightly wary of being photographed by an interviewee.Allison Baker.Rani Graff.

World Fantasy Convention photos: Duos

David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer.Carol Emswhiller and Judith Berman.Peter Halasz and Carol Emshwiller.F. Brett Cox and Judith Berman.Patrick O'Leary and Laurel Winter.Paul Cornell and Lou Anders.Eileen Bell and Bev Geddes.John Douglas and Rodger Turner record the delivery, without incident, of one more World Fantasy Award nominee pin. Onward!

World Fantasy Convention photos: Trios

Kathryn Cramer, David Hartwell and Carol Pinchefsky.Carol Emswhiller, Judith Berman and F. Brett Cox.Walter Jon Williams, Ellen Klages and Allison Baker.David Rivera, Alaya Dawn Johnson and Eugene Myers.