Monday, May 25, 2015
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Based on characters created by Stuart Palmer
Funny how simple the answers are when you know them.
Movies starring Stuart Palmer's amateur detective Hildegarde Withers were all the rage during the Thirties and this is the one that kicked things off. Edna May Oliver stars here and in the next two episodes and Helen Broderick and Zasu Pitts took over the role for the last three movies of the series. Though she is a schoolteacher and a civilian, Withers works in tandem with the gruff inspector Oscar Piper to solve crimes and trade mildly disparaging wisecracks. Gleason starred as Piper in all six of the Withers movies.
These movies were not meant to be taken too seriously and The Penguin Pool Murder is no exception. Miss Withers just happens to be visiting the aquarium with her students when a gentleman of the lifeless persuasion is found in the penguin pool. We viewers have already seen some of the background leading up to this murder, but there are various twists and turns that keep things hopping until the no-nonsense schoolmarm finally figures it all out. Piper, as usual, is a few steps behind, but give him an a for effort anyway.
These are not movies that I really watch for the plotting and this one, which gets off to quite a slow start, was more of the same. When Withers and Piper get into crime-solving mode and start pecking at each other things perk up considerably. Recommended, as are the other three in the series that I've seen thus far, as long as you're not someone who takes your mystery movies too seriously.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Who exist to serve our dark and mighty lord Yssrygyth,
Master of all that is seen and unseen.
Arbiter of life and death.
Hearken unto my words.
We gather among the sacred stones under the waning moon on the forty-first day
In the seventeenth year of the reign of our mighty king, Syanshek.
O noble ones,
Ye shall be responsible for keeping thine own abode clean
For it has been brought to our attention that some work areas
Have become the abode of all manner of unclean spirits.
O noble ones,
Foul and unclean spirits will clean up after themselves, particularly in the break rooms.
Ye shall be responsible for the transgressions
Of any foul and unclean spirits you have invoked.
O noble ones,
Obsidian knives are currently on backorder.
Our supplier estimates that they will arrive on the fifty-eighth day
In the seventeenth year of the reign of our mighty king, Syanshek.
We are casting about for a new supplier.
In the meantime, do not place any new orders.
O noble ones,
As noted in a memo, circulated on the three hundredth day
In the sixteenth year of the reign of our mighty king, Syanshek.
Torture chambers must be reserved at least nine days in advance.
There shall be no exceptions.
O noble ones,
When tearing the hearts from live victims
You must follow the procedures outlined on tablet fourteen
Of standard rites and sacrificial procedures, basic - intermediate.
Claims for repetitive stress injuries have risen sixty four percent since last year.
O noble ones,
We are organizing a potluck dinner for our next gathering.
We need someone to supply the following items,
Roasted heart of shammun cat, gryyth crystalworm casserole, potato salad.
If you can help out see Mordhi in accounting.
By William I. Lengeman III © 2015
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Edited by Robert Silverberg
There's nothing fancy or cryptic about the title of this anthology. The stories, as the title suggests, are concerned with the theme of other dimensions. For my money, some of them worked and some did not. Rather than offer my comments on all ten stories I'll focus on the ones I liked.
And He Built a Crooked House, by Robert A. Heinlein
What happens if you build a house in more than the accepted number of dimensions? Heinlein offers up a rather whimsical account of how it might go. I probably won’t be spoiling it to say this much – not well.
Narrow Valley, by R.A. Lafferty
A quarter of a century after Heinlein’s story appeared, Lafferty took a similar look at the problems of extra dimensions. He too takes a lighthearted approach. His yarn is about a plot of land rather than a house that exists in more dimensions besides the ones we all know and love so much.
Stanley Toothbrush, Terry Carr
I wasn’t aware that the well-known anthologist Terry Carr was also a writer but here he contributes what I thought was the best story of the bunch. In which the protagonist finds that by using the powers of his mind he can cause things to appear or disappear. It’s not an exact science, mind you. This, and the fact that Carr also tends toward the whimsical, makes for a very entertaining story.
Disappearing Act, by Alfred Bester
The military is trying to determine why shell-shocked patients in a secret ward are disappearing. The answer is a fairly simple one having to do with other dimensions. But it's made more interesting by the General in charge, who's rather over the top and constantly demanding another expert to sort out anything he needs to know. Comparisons to a certain Kubrick movie wouldn't be too far off the mark.
Also features stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Alexei Panshin, Carol Carr, John Breuer, Robert Silverberg and Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
He raises his eyes to the heavens and curses God. He is surprised and a bit miffed when God curses back.
He flings a pen cap at God. God causes frogs to rain upon him.
He pulls God's hair. God causes his house to be filled with the blood of swine.
He pokes God in the eye. God causes the sky to rain fire and brimstone, totally trashing his lawn.
He hauls off at God and misses. God takes a mighty swing and does the same. Soon they are embroiled in a particularly nasty slap fight in which no real damage is inflicted.
He stomps on God's foot. God casts a pox upon his kith and kin.
He bites God right on the ear.
Well, that does it.
Khloe Kardashian is the wind which breathes upon the sea,
Khloe Kardashian is the wave of the ocean,
Khloe Kardashian is the murmur of the billows,
Khloe Kardashian is the ox of the seven combats,
Khloe Kardashian is the vulture upon the rocks,
Khloe Kardashian is a beam of the sun,
Khloe Kardashian is the fairest of plants,
Khloe Kardashian is a wild boar in valour,
Khloe Kardashian is a salmon in the water,
Khloe Kardashian is a lake in the plain,
Khloe Kardashian is a word of science,
Khloe Kardashian is the point of the lance in battle,
Khloe Kardashian is the god who creates in the head the fire.
Khloe Kardashian throws light into the meeting on the mountain.
Khloe Kardashian announces the ages of the moon.
Khloe Kardashian teaches the place where couches the sun.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love David Hasselhoff? Let me count the ways.
I love David Hasselhoff to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love David Hasselhoff to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love David Hasselhoff freely, as men strive for right;
I love David Hasselhoff purely, as they turn from praise.
I love David Hasselhoff with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love David Hasselhoff with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love David Hasselhoff with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if god choose,
I shall but love David Hasselhoff better after death.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Origin of Supernatural Probabilities
I mentioned in my last entry that "Nebulous Dawn," the second track on Zeit, was a “monumental” work of space music. I stand by that. The next track, "Origin of Supernatural Probabilities," is also a monumental work of space music, but in a decidedly different way. "Nebulous Dawn" could be described as a free floating assemblage of spacey sounds, with not very much of a rhythmic pulse to it. "Origin of Supernatural Probabilities," on the other hand, has a strong rhythm. It’s one that may or may not actually be made with a sequencer but which strongly resembles the sequencer-heavy works of Tangerine Dream’s so-called Virgin years, which at this time were still a few years in their future.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Polidori’s work has been overshadowed by another work that had its genesis at about the same time, a book by Mary Shelley known to most of us simply as Frankenstein. The genesis for both works dates from a cold, rainy summer when Shelley, Byron, Polidori, Shelley’s husband Percy and her half-sister gathered in a Swiss villa, whiling away their time with fantastical stories and challenging each other to write one of their own.
Only Frankenstein and "The Vampyre" made an impact. The latter was supposedly based on a fragment penned by Byron but not much was taken from that original snippet. It first saw publication a few years later, in 1819, when it appeared under Byron’s name, a mistake that was later corrected. Not that it would matter much to Polidori. Like all of the men at the 1816 gathering of literary luminaries, he died young. Byron lived the longest of the three, dying at 36, while Mary Shelley and Claire Claremont both lived to a ripe old age.
"The Vampyre" concerns the exploits of one Lord Ruthven, a cold and aloof sort of fellow. Imagine that. Who happens to cross paths with the young and naïve Aubrey. He, along with his sister, was made quite wealthy by the death of their parents. This mismatched pair take off on the grand tour of Europe that was so common in this day among the “better” classes.
Ruthven is not a very forthcoming sort and so Aubrey takes it upon himself to try to figure him out. Before long a letter arrives from his guardians at home, laying out some of the faults of his newfound companion, who is apparently something of a rake, and urging him to sever ties with Ruthven. Aubrey proceeds to do so, but not before foiling Ruthven's plans to sully the virtue of an innocent young lady.
Aubrey finds himself in Athens next, where he becomes an enamored of a certain young lady, Ianthe. Who, coincidentally enough, regales him with tales of vampires and whose family are horrified to find that he’s setting out on an excursion to a certain dicey locale. He ignores their concerns and goes anyway, only to find himself (planning is not one of his skills) overtaken by the dark of night and a fierce storm.
Before long he finds himself outside a hovel and hears screams coming from somewhere thereabouts. Only to be assaulted by someone with “superhuman” strength. He’s saved by the requisite mob with torches (which probably wasn’t a cliché yet) but the screaming woman is not so lucky. Apparently she’s been attacked and killed by a….you know. Here's one from the annals of sheer coincidence, it’s his beloved Ianthe.
Aubrey lapses into a raging delirium and soon Ruthven, of all people, turns up to serve as his attendant. He seems a changed man, at first, and apologizes for any previous misdeeds, but it doesn’t last. But the now rather melancholy Aubrey has been changed by his ordeal and before long he and Ruthven are back on the road again, exploring various corners of Greece. At one point they are set up on bandits and Ruthven is shot in the shoulder. Surprisingly, Ruthven doesn’t do so well and before long he is dead. The fact that his corpse disappears thereafter probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Nor should it be surprising that he turns up again, at a coming out party for Aubrey’s sister. Which pretty much sends Aubrey off the deep end.
I’ll leave it at that. If you’d like to know the rest try it out at Project Gutenberg. It's not very long - about 8,000 words - though the author's habit of using interminable sentences and paragraphs sometimes makes it seem that way. And, not to spoil it, but if you're looking for a happy ending you're going to come away disappointed.
By the time of Give Us A Wink, Sweet were probably a (blow-dried) hair past their peak. That came an album earlier with Desolation Boulevard, featuring the megahit, "Fox on the Run." Perhaps you know them from "The Ballroom Blitz," which came earlier. Perhaps you don’t give a rat turd. No matter, since they flamed out in fairly typical rock star fashion a few years after Give Us A Wink. Two versions of the group are apparently touring to this day, each fronted by one of the two surviving members of the original group. Sad. But I digress.
Korvettes was also about to flame out at the time. Korvettes, saith Wikipedia, was “an American chain of discount department stores, founded in 1948 in New York City.” They were well-known for their record departments. I thought maybe it was just me who thought so, but this segment of their business was significant enough by 1964 to merit a profile in a Billboard special issue on record retailing. According to Billboard’s numbers from that issue, record stores were already dwindling, from 12,500 in 1957 to 7,500 in 1963. Which might have raised more alarms if the volume of sales hadn’t tripled during the same period.
As for the nebulous connection between Sweet’s Give Us A Winkand Korvettes, there’s not one, unless you’re me. It was the first album I bought and that’s where I bought it. Korvettes had a deep inventory (at least as I recall it, 117 years later), the prices weren’t bad, and their doorbuster specials were even cheaper. Best of all, for us under-sixteens, you could roam the bins while Mom was off stocking up on doilies, toilet brushes and whatnot.
I bought as many records at Korvettes as my limited budget would allow. A few stand out. Rush’s first live album – All the World’s a Stage – a double album I bought for the criminally low price of $4.38. With the platform shoes, serious bell bottoms, silk shirts and hair that beat Sweet by a long shot, it was a fashion manual for the wasted youth of my era. It included a song called "By-Tor and the Snow Dog." You'll never be that cool, Kanye West.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
This is space music. Space music of monumental proportions. Though it should be noted that there’s not much here that sounds like music in the traditional sense that most of us know. Better to think of it as well conceived assemblage of assorted and sundry ambient shards of sound that starts slow, builds to a peak, and then wanes again. I’ve seen this album referred to as one of the pioneering works of dark ambient – whatever that is. I suppose that’s a fair enough description of what’s going on here, if you like labeling things.
Evil overlords are like kittens or skid steer loaders. They require periodic inspections and proper maintenance to continue working properly. An evil overlord should have a regular inspection to prevent problems and keep the owner from suffering consequences such as repair bills or total world domination. Your evil overlord should be inspected once a year by a qualified professional.
Evil overlords are native to parts of Cincinnati and the mountain ranges surrounding Mordor. There are two species of evil overlord, C. badicussmellicus and C. blackheartaie. At birth they range in size from two to five ounces (and are really quite cute). Baby evil overlords are born with demon eyes and will typically shed their fur within the first few weeks of life. Evil overlord pelts were once highly prized and so they were hunted almost to extinction. However, they have now been bred in captivity for nearly half a century.
Although small in size, baby evil overlords are very active. Their cages must have sufficient space to allow movement. They are mostly lovable and cuddly but can tear your throat out in a fraction of a second.
A baby evil overlord's toys should be kept in an orderly way on a shelf or in a closet.
Evil overlords' teeth grow continuously. Incisors may grow up to ten inches annually. This can actually make it difficult for them to rend flesh effectively. Your evil overlord should have their teeth trimmed several times a year.
Evil overlords are nocturnal. They are not social animals and prefer not to be in groups. Most groups would prefer not to have them so it's just as well.
Evil overlords should not be picked up by the ears.
Male evil overlords are prone to urinary tract blockages. They are also prone to attempting to destroy the universe.
An evil overlord's natural diet consists of shrubs, flesh of humans they have ground under their boot heels, lemon vanilla cupcakes and sludge.
Evil overlords may engage in dirt-eating. More rarely they will hoot or slap their knees. They cannot vomit.
By William I. Lengeman III © 2015
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Birth of Liquid Plejades
Prior to starting this project I hadn’t ever heard Tangerine Dream’s first album, Electronic Meditations. It did not impress and I doubt that I’ll listen to it again. Revisiting their second album, Alpha Centauri, after a long time, I thought it showed some promise but didn’t quite come together.
Their third album, Zeit, is another matter entirely and showed that they were finally starting to hit their stride. You could argue the point, I suppose, but this is the first time where Tangerine Dream actually begins to sound like Tangerine Dream.
To kick things off, there’s "Birth of Liquid Plejades." Which is a pretty keen title, if you don’t take the time to analyze it much. As far as the track itself goes, it doesn’t work for me as well as the other three on the album, but it has its moments. The group employed some “real” musicians for this one, namely a quartet of cellists. Who dominate the first half of the proceedings with long droning tones that come and go, weaving in and out of the piece, before finally giving way to the organ that dominates so much of early Tangerine Dream.
He is starving. He makes a blt and a can of soup before continuing. He eats quickly. When he finishes, he picks up the brain and pats it dry. He is about to place it back in the cavity when the cat jumps up on the table, spilling his glass of grape juice all over the manual.
It does not go well after that.
Alpha Centauri (1971)
I haven’t listened to Alpha Centauri for quite a long time but I had vaguely fond memories of it. Which were pretty much dashed when I listened to it again. The first two of the three tracks weren’t exactly bad but they weren’t anything to write home about.
Then there’s the 22-minute title track. The first time I revisited it for this project I had to grit my teeth and bear down just to get through it. The second time I revisited it – just one day later – I found it quite intriguing. Until about the half way mark, that is, and then it started to wear.
On a third listen I was again entranced by the opening, with tones that are so static that they seem like vast sheets of sound. But before long the trippy flute kicks in and kind of spoils things, before fading out and giving way to slightly more melodious droning tones interspersed with freaky sounds of indeterminate origin. Unfortunately, it’s not long before the flute reappears and noodles and doodles along with various other instruments and makes kind of a mess of things. It could have been a contender, as the saying goes, but it never quite coheres.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Zombies are surprisingly playful and will love being bounced on your knee, tossed in the air, or playing peek-a-boo.
Never burn any part of a zombie in a wood stove or fireplace.
When first introduced into your home a zombie should be kept in a playpen or crib. Be sure to make your home zombie-proof. One devilish little zombie can make a whole lot of mischief.
Drill a hole in the base of a zombie's skull to release demons.
Only use distilled water to wash your zombie. Use a mild non-allergenic soap. Soaps with perfumes or oils may leave a film on the zombie. To dry your zombie use a soft clean towel. Do not use a hair dryer, as zombies can sometimes be skittish.
Everyone poops - even zombies. Keep their litter box clean and stock up on air freshener.
When bathing your zombie, never leave it unattended. If you leave the bathroom, wrap the zombie in a towel and take it along.
Flesh and intestines are the cornerstones of a healthy diet, but zombies sure do love their treats. Many zombies enjoy toenails, but they are hard to digest and should be given sparingly. Other treats your zombie might enjoy are upholstery, loganberries, drywall paste, cupcakes, mincemeat crepes, and hair.
Zombies sometimes swallow air while feeding, which may make them fussy. Be sure to burp your zombie regularly.
Monitor your zombie for freshness. If it smells "off" or "putrid" or "just plain godawful," remove it from the house.
By William I. Lengeman III © 2015
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Count Dracula's Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of the Lord Charles D. Razar School for Hemophiliacs
He speaks eloquently of opportunity and the future and of the patchwork of life that is even now unrolling in front of them like an expensive Persian rug, crisscrossed with an intricate latticework representing an infinite number of possibilities.
They hang on his every word, rapt. There is a minor commotion in front, but most of them are so caught up by his words that they do not notice.
One of the students has lost a small brooch - a family heirloom. She and another student are bent over looking for it. She straightens up - triumphantly clutching the brooch. As she does, she whacks her fellow seeker in the lip with her elbow.
A trickle of blood flows from the split lip. The Count is distracted by the commotion. He spots the blood and falters slightly. He catches himself and continues.
The young man presses the lip with a handkerchief, but of course it keeps bleeding. The handkerchief is soon stained a deep shade of red and the boy's chin is smeared with blood. He excuses himself and slips from the hall, but it is too late.
The Count has become increasingly befuddled and distracted. He stammers and stumbles over his words, mumbling and tugging at his shirt collar. As the boy stands up to leave, he completely loses his train of thought. He stares blankly into the hall, a vacant look on his face. His tongue whisks across his lips. A murmur passes through the audience.
The Count is visibly relieved when the boy leaves. The magic spell he has woven with his words has been shattered, but he manages to gather his thoughts with great difficulty and carries on, just as a thin rivulet of blood trickles from the nose of a girl in the second row.
That does it. The Count slams his palm on the podium, mumbles a halfhearted excuse and stalks offstage, mopping his brow with his sleeve. The crowd murmurs. It is over.
Alpha Centauri (1971)
Fly and Collision of Comas Sola
A couple minutes of eerie echoing tones in the upper register to start and then, like the first song on the album, the kinda churchy sounding organ takes over. To be joined here and there by some trippy sounding flute interludes and then a bit of fairly frenetic percussion that closes things out. Not so bad, as this sort of thing goes, but I wouldn’t rank it too high on my list of favorite Tangerine Dream tracks.