Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Quote of the Week

We fiction writers have to preserve the right to wear many hats – including sombreros.
--Lionel Shriver, Keynote Speech, "Fiction and Identity Politics", Brisbane Writers Festival, September 13, 2016

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Book of the Week

I always had a soft book for both horror novels and books about Spanish history and while the late Les Daniel's novel The Black Castle was not exactly the ideal combination of both, it was certainly a more memorable read than I expected.

The novel introduced a Spanish vampire named Don Sebastian de Villanueva, who, for reasons of his own, helped out his own clergyman brother Diego. Eventually Don Sebastian turned against his brother -- again for reasons of his own. The results weren't exactly heroic but then again Sebastian's brother was not the type of clergyman most modern-day Christians would wish to root for.

One of the various editions of the Don Sebastian de Villanueva books described him as the vampire who is horrified by man. And indeed, there was much emphasis on real-life historical horror in the Villanueva books. To be fair, there were many moments of supernatural horror as well. However, the main point of the Villanueva books was obviously that mankind already produced enough demons without the aid of the supernatural. And it's hard to watch the daily news and argue with that statement.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Quote of the Week

Much of what was unforgivable to the powers-that-be during the Velvet Revolution was the revolution’s sense of humor: the tone was one of mocking levity, not seething rage. And nobody likes to be laughed at. (Autocratic governments would prefer violent resistance, because these actions validate their power. But to be laughed at and mocked calls into question your ability to control the populace.)
--Sheila O'Malley, "Happy birthday, Václav Havel", The Sheila Variations, October 5, 2019

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Trailer of the Week: Hellboy (2004)

It seems kinda sad to watch this trailer in the wake of actress Selma Blair's real-life health problems. Here's hoping that she gets better.

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Fantasy Quote of the Week

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.
--Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

It all comes down to a question of sanity. What is sanity -- now, in the twentieth century, any time? Adherence to a norm. Conformity to certain basic conventions underlying all human conduct. In our age, departure from the norm has become the norm. Inability to conform has become the standard of conformity. That’s quite clear, isn’t it? And it enables you to understand, doesn’t it, your own case and that of your proteges? Over a long period of years you persisted in adhering to a norm, in conforming to certain basic conventions. You were completely unable to adapt yourself to the society around you. You could only pretend -- and your proteges wouldn’t have been able to do even that. Despite your many engaging personal characteristics, there was obviously only one course of action open to us.
--Phy in Fritz Leiber's “Sanity”

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Tape Noir: Baby Driver

The 2017 movie Baby Driver was like English director Edgar Wright's version of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Only good.Or at least not as pretentious as one might expect.

Yes, I know that not every critic was fond of this movie and posters on one film review site even hinted that it was undeserving of the few good reviews that it did receive. But it worked for me. And after seeing all too many movies that were literally painful to watch -- as well as movies that I often found less than thrilling after the first ten minutes -- Baby Driver was a nice surprise.

And no, I am not blind to its flaws. Like many modern action movies, it leaned very heavily on various cliches -- the black thug, the hot-tempered Latina, the inevitable crook with a heart of gold, etc. While it was not the first movie to have a character that wanted to get emotionally involved with a girl just like the one that married dear old Dad, this was the first one I've seen in a long while that emphasized that trope to the point where it seemed a wonder that the filmmakers did not name the protagonist's love interest Jocasta.

And yet for some odd reason, it worked. Maybe it was because it reminded of the days when I would play around with tape recorders and recorded various types of music off the radio. Or maybe it was because I liked actress Eiza González as the badass Latina character Monica Costello. (Wait a minute! A Latina named Costello? Surely you jest.) Kevin Spacey as a surprisingly kind-hearted mob boss was a nice surprise though I suspect many critics were surprised by the fact that his role wasn't exactly Keyser Söze II. I also liked Jon Hamm's performance as Buddy.

Personally I found it hard to believe that the title character managed to know so much about music -- yet never heard about singer Carla Thomas but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. And yes, the movie leaned very hard upon its music soundtrack and part of me knows that I probably should be upset about that. Then again the movie soundtrack featured a lot of songs that I don't usually hear in the movies so part of me doesn't really care.

As for the movie's critical reception, well, this was definitely a YMMV type of movie. Either you liked it or you didn't. Personally, I liked it. I didn't think it was perfect but most of the films I like most rarely are. And I can't help suspecting that the late film critic Pauline Kael could come back from the grave and give this film two thumbs up and some people would still hate it. But then you could say that about almost any movie.

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Monday, October 07, 2019

R.I.P. Charles G. Hill

Oklahoma blogger Charles G. Hill -- who blogged under the name Dustbury -- passed away on September 8, 2019.

He will be missed.

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Saturday, October 05, 2019

Pop and Halloween Song of the Week: "[The System Of] Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether"

It's that time of year again. And sometimes it's enough to drive you -- well, you know...

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Movie Song of the Week: "Eddie's Teddy"

It's yet another musical number from everyone's favorite call and response movie. Personally I find it a bit scary to contemplate how many audience responses I remember in regard to this movie. Perhaps because I heard the same responses repeated almost every time I saw this movie. (And you don't even want to know how many times that was.)

As usual, my favorite character in the movie -- Columbia -- has the best line but the rest of the number is pretty nifty too. And by the way, her name is Columbia, not Colombia.But most of you knew that already, right?

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Movie Quote of the Week

Doesn't cost anything extra to laugh.
--Lynn Lowry, Cat People (1982)

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TV Quote of the Week

Sometimes the only sane response to an insane world is insanity.
--David Duchovny, The X-Files, “The Walk”

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Friday, October 04, 2019

In and Out of the Hospital Again, Mr. Kruger?

Needless to say, this has not been a very good week for me. But at least I'm still alive. So that's one thing.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Cuento de Mi Id

“The Sacrifice”

Oh great! The Huntsville Express.

Shut up. The most they can get you for at this point in time is hitchhiking. Just play it cool and everything will be all right.

All right? Half-ounce of sinsemilla in my knapsack and you say everything will be all right?

Of course, it will. Just don’t act suspicious.

But if the cops search my bag?

They won’t if you give them no reason to--and by the way, don’t call them cops--call them policemen.

Well, all right.

It hadn’t been a good day for Martin. The Texas sun had decided to celebrate the Fourth of July early, and that had meant blast furnace temperatures coupled with a nonexistent breeze along a highway where the nearest shade trees were on the other side of the acre-long cotton fields. Not that there was a lot of green stuff to impede his way -- all the plants Martin had seen so far were brown and wilted--but there was no way he could hope to flag down a ride from the shade and he had no intention of walking all day in this heat. Now his first ride of the day had proved to be a cop car and Martin was already envisioning himself behind bars when the driver pulled up besides him and lowered the passenger window.

“Hey there!” said a good-ol’-boy-type in the shotgun seat. “What brings you out this way on such a fine sunny day?”

“Oh, nothing, Officer,” said Martin. “I’m just waiting for a friend.”

“Your friend live around here?”

“Well, no. Not really.”

The white policeman grinned and opened the passenger door. “Why don’t you come on in and tell us all about it?”

“Uh, no, thank you,” Martin replied. “My ride will probably be coming by any second.”

“Suit yourself,” said the policeman. “I wouldn’t linger here too long if I were you. You might get picked up for hitchhiking.”

Martin thought a minute. “On second thought, maybe I can use a break from the sun right now.” He climbed into the back seat almost eagerly, and tried not to jump when he heard the door slam behind him.

Take it easy. You’re just among cops; you haven’t been charged. They still have to read you your rights so don’t worry until that happens.

“You headed down Brewster way?” the first policeman asked as he reentered the vehicle.

“No,” Martin replied. “Dallas.”

“Close enough,” said the policeman, and he signaled to his partner, a short dark Latin man.

The car took off silently and Martin thought it rather nice to be out of the sun for a change. Not only that, but the car had air conditioning too.

Then he remembered where he was and looked up at the cop riding shotgun.

The policeman smiled. “Don’t worry, son. I was young once too. I bet you thought me and Frank here were going to arrest you, didn’t you?”

“Well, the thought did cross my mind.”

“Forget it. Anyone hitchhiking nowadays has enough to worry about with all the weirdos on the road without getting hassled by the cops. Don’t you agree?”

“Well, I’m not exactly in a position to disagree with you.”

The policeman laughed. “That’s great. “ He extended his hand. “My name’s Bob Smith. This here’s my partner, Frank Gonzalez. What’s your name?”

“Martin Lucas.”

“No relation to Henry Lee, are you? No? I didn’t think so. You probably wouldn’t admit it even if you were.”

“No, I guess not.”

“So what brought you to our part of the country in the first place, Martin?”

“Well, my girlfriend and I were driving up from Austin and we had a spat. She took off with the car and left me behind at a rest stop. I’ve been on the road ever since.”

“That’s quite a shame. Don’t you have any kin here abouts that you could have called for a ride or something?”

“No, not really. Most of my folks live in Dallas and the rest live out of state.”

“That’s a real shame. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of your girlfriend coming back for you?”

“Well, if she hasn’t come back by now, I really doubt she’s going to be.”

“That’s a shame. Well, I guess you can always catch a bus from Brewster. Me and Frank are headed that way and we’d be glad to drop you off at the bus station.”

“Much obliged.”

“Oh, think nothing of it. If we can’t help each other out, who’s going to do it for us?” Bob turned and contemplated the view ahead. “Rotten weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” Martin said, “not if you like sun.”

“The folks around here don’t. There’s been too much of it lately--and not enough rain. This here’s farm country. A few more weeks of weather like this and half the folks around here will be ruined.”

“That’s a shame,” said Martin, trying to sound sincere.

“Yes it is. Most of these folks have their whole lives invested in these farms--but you don’t want to hear about that--do you?”

Martin shrugged.

Bob continued “Anyway, at least they’re a lot better off than the Anderson kid.”

“The Anderson kid?”

“Yeah. Virginia Anderson. Prettiest little thing you ever did see. Would have turned sixteen last May.”

“Last May? What happened to her?”

“Went out on a date with the local quarterback. Her first one, oddly enough. Both of them missed curfew so their parents started calling around. Turned out the boy had been killed. Strangled to death.”

“Jesus. What happened to the girl?”

“Well, she was killed, too, but the killer took his time with her. Used her in every orifice, if you know what I mean, and left a few new ones to remember him by. Her parents had to request a closed casket.”

“Jesus,” Martin said again. “What could have made somebody do something like that?”

“There’s no telling, son. There’s a lot of strange people in this world. Like that guy ‘Zodiac’ out there in L.A. He killed all those people back in the ‘60’s to supposedly prevent an earthquake. The cops out there never did catch him Might even have been a her for all they know.”

“Well, how about this guy? The one who killed Virginia and her boyfriend. Did you catch up with him yet?”

“No, not really,” said Bob. He turned to look at Martin. “What makes you so sure it’s a him?”

“I dunno,” said Martin. “I just got that impression from your story. After all, you did hint that the girl was raped.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Girls can rape too; they’re just more creative about it.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose you’re the expert on this kind of thing. Who do you think did it?”

“Well, presently the most popular theory around the stationhouse is that some sort of wandering vagrant did it.”

Martin’s chest tightened. “What makes you say that?” he forced himself to say.

“Well, it obviously wasn’t anyone in town. That girl was so popular that only someone passing through would dare to commit a deed like that and not risk getting caught.”

“Oh, I see,” said Martin. “So you figure some sort of hobo did it?”

“Or a hitchhiker,” said Bob.

“Oh.” Martin started to think fast. It was bad enough to be flirting with a possible drug charge but if the cops suspected him of murder, they’d put him away for sure.

Take it easy. No one’s accusing you of anything yet. We’re living in the post-Miranda era, remember? He can’t force you to admit to something you didn’t do and anyway you were at Padre last May. Take it easy.

Martin tried to tell himself that his conscience was correct. He had nothing to worry about. He had a lot of things to feel guilty about but not murder. Not murder.

He began to relax.

Then Bob asked him, “Do you come up this way often?” and his chest tightened again.

“What makes you say that?” he asked in what he hoped was a casual tone.

“I don’t know,” said Bob. “It’s just the way you spoke of your girlfriend made me think you must be a frequent visitor to these parts.”

“Not me. I can’t afford it.”

“You came down this time, didn’t you?”

“Uh, that was just an one-time-only thing. Actually I’ve never been out this way before.”

Bob’s eyes hardened. “Seems to me you and your girl must have a weird relationship if this is the first time you ever visited her.”

“Well...” Nice going! “Actually she just transferred to UT this fall. Before that, she lived in Dallas.”

“Oh, I see.” The expression on Bob’s face told him he was not entirely convinced but he remained silent.

Martin turned to look at the scenery. They were coming into a different area now. There were more trees now and they came up to within a few feet of the highway. Bob suddenly pointed to something up ahead.

“There’s the spot where we found the Anderson girl,” he said. He turned toward Martin. “Would you like to see it?”

Now what? Martin wasn’t in a position to refuse.

“Okay,” he said without enthusiasm.

Frank pulled over and Bob and Martin got out. Bob let Martin go into the woods ahead of him.

Oh, great! Now Frank’s going to have the perfect opportunity to search my knapsack.

Shut up and act casual! You’ve got more important things to worry about, remember?

“It’s just a few feet ahead,” Bob said. “You can’t miss it.”

Up ahead Martin saw a clearing which looked like the spot Bob might have been talking about. He started to turn to ask Bob if that was it when he stumbled over something hidden in the leaves. A dead log, he thought--and he cursed. He started to get up, gazed at the object he had tripped over…

“What’s the matter, son?” asked Bob, coming up behind him. “Haven’t you ever seen a gen-u-wine murder site befo--Jesus!”

The object Martin had tripped over was a body--a woman’s body. The woman was blonde, apparently in her late teens or early twenties, and the stab wounds on her chest and belly were still oozing fresh blood. From her shorts and halter top, it appeared that she had been dressed for hitchhiking. If so, she apparently did not get too far.

“We better call the police,” said Martin.

Bob behind him nodded.

“Her wounds look recent. There’s probably a good chance we can catch whoever did this while he’s still in the area.”

“What makes you think we didn’t catch him already?” asked Bob.

Martin turned. “This is no time to joke. A girl has been kil--” His voice froze. Officer Bob had drawn his gun and was aiming it straight at him.

“What is this?” he said.

“Looks to me like we caught us a killer.” Bob grinned.

“You’re crazy. I’ve been with you guys all this time.”

Bob chuckled. “Oh, come now. The wounds aren’t that recent. How do I know you didn’t do this before we picked you up?”

“Are you kidding? You picked me up miles away from here.”

Bob shrugged. “You could have walked.”

“Through miles of open country? Why would I establish a stupid alibi like that? Anyone could have seen me. Even you guys--” Martin broke off. A horrifying thought just came to him.

Bob kept grinning, his gun still on Martin. “Come to think of it, you were nervous about something when we picked you up.”

Martin panicked. “That’s because I was carrying drugs in my bag. Would I admit something like that to you if I was really a murderer?”

“You might,” said Bob, and then Martin knew it was hopeless.

“All right,” he said, raising his hands. “I give up.”

Bob smiled. With his gun still on Martin, he took something from beneath his jacket and dropped it on the ground. “Pick it up!”

Martin’s blood turned cold. “You gotta be kidding!”

“Pick it up,” said Bob, and he fingered the trigger. “Don’t make me do this.”

Martin looked down at the object Officer Bob had thrown at his feet -- a butcher knife sealed in a plastic bag, its blade covered with blood. He looked at Officer Bob again and then ran.

If I make it to the woods, he thought, I can beat him. I don’t care if these woods go all the way to Texarkana, I can still outrun him. He can’t stop me. I haven’t touched the knife. There’s no way he can get away with this. No way in Hell--

Just a few feet behind him, Officer Bob cocked his gun and fired….


Frank was still waiting in the driver‘s seat when Bob returned from the woods. “How did it go?” he asked.

Bob smiled. “Better than I thought it would. Not only did he confess to the murders, but he admitted to being a dope fiend, too.”

He got in and Frank started the engine. “Any problems?” Frank asked.

“No, not really.” Bob turned to look at Frank. “You don’t sound too happy.”

Frank shrugged as he pulled onto the highway. “I just can’t help thinking about what’s going to happen if there’s an investigation.”

“Fuck the investigation. We had one last time and they never found out anything. Why should they find out anything this time?”

“Well, suppose they did?” asked Frank.

“Why should they? We’ll probably be public heroes. Who’s going to want to mess with a rep like that?”

Frank frowned. “I just can’t help thinking nothing good’s going to come of all this.”

Bob chuckled and looked up at the sky. “Well,” he said, pointing upwards, “something good’s already happening.”

As the patrol car disappeared down the highway, a parade of clouds began to appear in the sunny sky. Soon they began to darken. As the first raindrops fell, a clap of thunder could be heard echoing across the landscape like celestial applause. There was no lightning to accompany it.

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