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Archive for August, 2009


Quest of the Spider (Doc Savage #68)

This is the third story originally published byquestofthespider Street and Smith (and the 3rd, 4th or 5th in the PJF chronology-there are three dated June, 1931).

Lester Dent wrote the majority of the Doc Savage novels starting in 1930′s, long before the Internet, before telephones and TV reached everywhere. I am consistently impressed by the amount of technical and geographical research that Mr. Dent put into these pulp novels. From what I understand, he would work on a skill or trade, master it, then move on to another; and he traveled extensively, earning him entry into the Explorer’s Club.

In this novel, a voodoo master known only as “The Gray Spider” is taking over by force the large lumber companies of Louisiana. Big Eric, a friend of Ham’s from Harvard Law School, owns a lumber company that is next in line, and he and his (of course) lovely daughter Edna fly to New York City to enlist Doc’s aid. The plane is sabotaged on the way, but they survive and Doc and Ham head back to New Orleans with them, with the other four members of Doc’s band of merry men to follow. (more…)

The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson

The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson

Having read (recently) the Gap Series (back-to-back) and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (in school, about 100 years ago), I was looking forward to diving into this series, “The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant”. Mr. Donaldson’s world building is complex. And though he includes what I wish every author would include (a “What Has Come Before” section before each of his books) it was difficult to pick up the story, even though this is the first book in a new series. Thus, this post will be longer than usual, notes for when I read the next three books in this (planned) four book series.

In this book, Dr. Linden Avery is the main character. She is running a mental institute which was started via funding from locals who recognized the tragedy from the earlier books (people sticking their hands into fire to summon Lord Foul the Despiser) and the lack of a facility in the area to treat such folks. Joan, Thomas Covenant’s estranged wife, is a patient in the facility. Linden has also adopted Jeremiah, one of the children from the tragedy who cannot communicate, and has one hand maimed from the fire similar to Covenant’s ‘half-hand’. (more…)


District 9 – Four movies in one

Watching District 9 with my 18 year old this weekend 200px-district_nine_ver2and observing how is interest level changed made us realize that the movie is four movies in one. He was interested in some parts, bored in others and excited/laughing in others.

An alien ship stalls out of Johannesburg. The aliens are rescued from the ship, and, 20 years later, they are in a slum called District 9. Tension with the locals incites a movement to relocate them out of the city (to the cleverly named District 10)

The movie is:

  • a political commentary; setting a ‘let’s discriminate against aliens’ movie in South Africa, still remembered for Apartheid/racial segregation is ironic and well done. The aliens are segregated, forced into a slum called District 9, and generally regarded as outsiders and inferiors (feeding them cat food?) by the residents (both black and white with interesting documentary like commentary). Obvious parallels are drawn to District Six in South Africa as the aliens are told they are to be forcibly relocated outside the city limits (and asked to sign documents in English to make sure their rights are protected!). As with most of these types of movies, the military/corporate complex (MNU) is portrayed as doing dissections and weapons research in secret. My son was casually interested in this part, but I could tell he was wondering why he came with me. (more…)

For my son, off into the world

He is now several inches taller than me, but says he still looks up to me. This certainly won’t be my last bit of advice (I remain hard to shut up), but I will keep this one short and simple: nourish and grow mind, body and spirit (balance, Weedhopper): study hard, work hard, play hard…and c’mon Baggy, get with the beat!

Our theme song, that mama hates to hear us sing.

Chocolate (the martial arts movie, not the candy)

Chocolate (the martial arts movie, not the candy)

The same director and martial arts choreographer who did Tony Jaa’s Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong worked on this 2008 Thai film, which, like Ong-Bak has a sometimes difficult to follow plot, great fighting stunts and an unusual martial arts character. Zen (played by Nicharee “Jeeja” Vimistananda who was apparently discovered during auditions for one of the Tony Jaa movies) is autistic, her mother Zin is Thai, her father is a Japanese Yakuza gangster. Zin was formerly the girlfriend and money collector of a Thai gangster. Zin and Zen (yes, as confusing to watch with English subtitles as it is to type) hide in an apartment near a muay thai boxing school, where Zen begins to absorb and mimic their fighting style.

In excellent tongue-in-cheek, she also learns by watching both of the previous Tony Jaa films! (more…)

Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin

Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin

As a child living in Indian Harbor Beach, Florida, I was able to watch many of the Apollo launches from the roof of my parents house. Apollo 11 and the first moon landing, the pinnacle of the space race with the Soviets, is obviously a milestone for mankind. And Buzz Aldrin was there, recording it and his life after in this memoir (which we got signed, at his appearance at the Houston Museum of Natural Science). The book is logically four parts: Apollo 11, Aldrin’s downward spiral afterward, his recovery with his new wife Lois, and what he has been doing since.

The first three chapters record Aldrin’s thoughts and actions through the journey to, walk on, and return from the moon as a part of the historic Apollo 11 mission with Armstrong and Collins. Those first 58 pages are excellent, a terrific description of an event millions watched, but from the perspective of the second (but most visible)  man to step on the moon. (more…)

Slate’s Armageddon Matrix

In a classic case of “I wished I’d thought of that”, the eZine “Slate” has created “Choose Your Own Apocalypse”, a cross between Jeopardy and Armageddon. With a matrix of 144 (that’s 12 x 12 for you non-geeks), Josh Levin has put together a list of “How America will End” to parallel Alexander Demandt’s similar search which ended up with 210 reason why Rome fell.

The vertical axis is Man’s Fault vs. Nature’s Fault, while the horizontal is Everybody Lives, Everybody Dies. Pick your five, and come back Friday to see what others have chosen. Though it only concerns the fall of one country (ours!), it is a fitting addition to the Thinking Man’s Guide to the End of the World.

The Matrix (pin intended) is here. The desciption of all 144 is here.

When I put my selected five in the window, it gives me the following result:

You are a humanitarian internationalist. You’re convinced mankind will terminate America—but at least we won’t off ourselves in the process. You’ll know you’re right when: Everyone on Earth pledges allegiance to a world government; the feds default on the national debt.

For my five (and the description from Slate): (more…)


The Land of Terror (Doc Savage #8)

This is the second story originally published by Street and Smith landofterrords8(and the 2nd in the PJF chronology) and it is a bit rough around the edges. A professor of chemistry, Jerome Coffern, one of Doc Savage’s early teachers and a friend, is brutally murdered, his body dissolved with a strange gas called “the Smoke of Eternity”. Only a forearm wearing a watch that was a gift from Savage remains. Doc follows the assailants, and determines that they work for a man named “Kar”, who is the one who knows had to build the dissolving potion. Doc finds a clue in Coffern’s apartment that he believed someone was trying to kill him, and that a year ago he went on an expidition with Oliver Wording Bittman, a taxidermist, and Gabe Yuder, to a place near New Zealand called Thunder Island. Doc looks up Bittman, and sees a picture of him with Doc’s father, and a letter from Clark Savage Sr. thanking Bittman for saving his life. Doc instantly promises to do whatever he can for Bittman, and Bittman eventually joins in the hunt for Kar (who Doc now believes is Bittman). (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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