Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What's the Diff?

It's the age old question. Wise men throughout the years have debated this. Their long white beards, thick black spectacles, some even with pipes that they light with stick matches as the scent of cherry tobacco fills the air.

I even Googled it, searching among the mass knowledge available to modern researchers, hoping to stumble upon some collective knowledge of the matter. Answers came back from years ago. Posts that were dated as far back as 2005 and later (gasp).

The Answer: Nobody knows.

Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you the question, Cheesy Readers.

"What is the difference between Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine?"

I've read many issues of both and I certainly can't tell the difference, nor do I have any real preference. I like the tradition and history of Ellery Queen, while at the same time, I grew up listening to "Alfred Hitchcock Ghost Stories for Young People" available on 33 1/3 rpm records from my local library. So for me it's always been a debate of Tradition versus Nostalgia.

Further clouding the debate is that both magazines are owned by the same publisher (Penny Press, a division of Dell Publishing). From what I can tell, they are two separate entities, although their webpages link to each other. Ellery Queen has a plug from Stephen King at the top of its page; Alfred Hitchcock has no plug from anyone on its site. Both magazines follow the same basic format, and their webpage layouts are nearly identical. They have two separate editorial staffs, and writers concur that a submission to one is not a submission to the other. It's not usual for a budding writer to be rejected by one magazine only to be accepted by the other. Even to writers they've published the distinction isn't clear.

The Collective Wisdom on message boards and forums seem to have no consensus on the differences. One person says the EQMM has been quality writing, another says the quality has fallen off enough that in ten years it'll be out of business (that was posted in 2005, and so far, I haven't heard a peep about either publication folding). Another keeps his subscription to EQMM because he used to love receiving it in the mail when he was young. Some say one will take "blue" language while the other doesn't, but everyone seems confused about which is which. More than a handful of readers subscribe to both simply because they love reading and love reading mysteries.

All of which brings me around to my original dilemma. What's the Diff? Yet another universal enigma that shall always remain unanswered.

Until Next Time...
Perplexedly Yours,

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How Times Flies When You Read a Lot of Books

Unpacking and reshelving books after a move revives the love of those books and also serves as a reminder as to why you kept them. Granted, some make you wonder why you bothered to keep and move them, but many make you look back at them with a sense of nostalgia.
I'm sure I've mentioned before that I keep an Excel sheet of everything I've read since the late 1990s. It's helpful for many reasons, including the observation of trends in my reading habits, but it's especially helpful for two distinct reasons.

For instance, the Arthur C. Clarke short-story collection The Other Side of the Sky. At first I couldn't remember if I had read it or not. Reading the table of contents didn't help, and neither did reading the first few sentences of some randomly picked stories. So I pulled out the ol' Excel sheet, went back through the ages, and sure enough, I had read it. I scanned the notes I made and the stories came flooding back to my memory. I can even remember reading them on my lunch break at work, but when I saw the date when I read them, the shock nearly ruined my morning.


Holy Crap! Eight years ago! My memory of reading them is so vivid, it hardly seems like eight years ago. If I had had to guess, I wouldn't have guessed any more than five, and I would have considered that a stretch. When I scroll through all the stuff I've read since then, I can clearly see that the timeframe is accurate, just hard to swallow. Once I calmed down, I felt the urge to go back and reread those stories since I enjoyed them so much the first time. But Alas! The pile of books I haven't read yet awaits. And while I will reread these stories one day, they will just have to sit quietly on the shelf. Oh! The Lament of the Constant Reader: So Many Books, So Little Time.

Until Next Time...
Nostalgiacly Yours,

p.s. If you do get a hold of that Clarke book, or have access to some of his short works, I highly recommend "The Star", "The Nine Billion Names of God", "The Wall of Darkness", and "The Songs of Distance Earth" (which later evolved into a novel of the same name that I've read twice).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lovecraft Inspired by Melville? Maybe.

I haven't read Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melville since an American Literature class I took at SIU-Carbondale about X-years ago. Many moons later, I set a goal to read every story written by H. P. Lovecraft. I know that Melville walked the edges of atheism, the man v. nature theme, and the definition of good and evil in this example of Romanticism from the American Renaissance. Then decades later Lovecraft (1890-1937) dealt with many of the same themes, focusing on man's relation and place in the vast, cold, uncaring universe through the avenues of horror and science fiction, but I never thought to include them in the same breath.

Until today...

I was sitting in hell the dentist's office reading Chapter 42 "The Whiteness of the Whale" from Moby Dick when the second paragraph so reminded me of Lovecraft that I actually stopped reading for a moment, reminded myself that I was in fact reading a book published nearly 40 years before Lovecraft was born. I reread that paragraph, and then continued to read the rest of the chapter as if I was reading Lovecraft. This gave me an entirely new perspective on the chapter, lending it a depth I had never appreciated before - serving yet as more proof that each of us should reread the classics and other books we love, because each time, we bring more life experience and wisdom to the pages, creating a new experience to cherish.

And while I usually don't like transcribing long passages in this blog, I'll make a exception this time because I think if you've ever read Lovecraft, you'll see what I saw:

"Aside from those more obvious considerations touching Moby Dick, which could not but occasionally awaken in any man's soul some alarm, there was another thought, or rather vague, nameless horror concerning him, which at times by its intensity completely overpowered all the rest; and yet so mystical and well nigh ineffable was it, that I almost despair of putting it in comprehensible form. It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me. But how can I hope to explain myself here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these chapters might be for naught."

Throw in a few more adverbs, and I bet your average reader couldn't tell who wrote that paragraph. All the elements of Lovecraft are there: the nameless horror, despair at relating those feelings into words, but compelled his experiences to mankind. So while Melville may never have been sited as an influence of Lovecraft, we can probably assume that at some point Lovecraft read Melville along with the other writers of the American Renaissance (including Melville's contemporary and friend Nathaniel Hawthorne), we could possibly argue that in some way, the tone and theme's of Moby Dick subconsciously infused their way into Lovecraft's writing.

I may be totally wrong here, or just a guy who reads too much, but I can now read Melville and Lovecraft in a whole new light, and learn to appreciate their work from a much deeper point of view.

Until Next Time...
Hermanly Yours,

(While my Lovecraft epitome was a coincidence this year, last year it wasn't. If you want to read more about my Lovecraft habit, you can read last year's blog 'Tis the Season.)  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

UPDATES: I'm Back! and some other random stuff

In the spirit and vernacular of classic science fiction B-movies, I haven't kept the captain's log up to date lately because The Boss and I relocated Headquarters to a larger homebase that puts us in a better vantage point to carry out our future missions. (Translation: We moved into a  new house.) Our new Command Center is more spacious and allows for expansion into the realms of possibilities than the previous locale.

The immediate, short-term disadvantage though was that the first week or so we couldn't locate seasonally appropriate DVDs to watch; the box with all our fun Halloween movies was buried among a mountain of boxes. So the first night here, I found a copy of the cheesy 80s movie Elvira: Mistress of the Dark on a YouTube channel and, as appropriate, fell asleep late into the night.

We've found the movies now, and I plan to carry out my yearly traditional rewatching of both the Carpenter and Rob Zombie versions of Halloween, as well as a few other movies I reserve for this time of the year.

But all this really means though is that now that we are getting settled in our new Satellite of Love, I can once again devote time to bringing you my latest opinions, thoughts, and rants. So stay logged in.


Since The Boss and I aren't as active outdoors now as we were this past spring and summer, my Twitter activity has declined as well. My followers know that I would occasionally post science stories if they seemed to lend themselves to something related to science fiction topics, or even something that had previously appeared in science fictions stories. I will continue to do this, but more frequently now and over a wider range of topics. At this time I don't envision myself having "Science Moments" blog postings like The Boss does, but I'm not ruling that out either. 

That should do it for now.

Until Next Time...
Orbittally Yours,

Friday, September 11, 2015

Shannara comes to MTV

A few moons ago I heard rumblings of the world of Shannara being brought to television. Unfortunately, I became so distracted by this recent rash of remakes, that not only did I lose track, I completely forgot this was in the works.

In July MTV released a three minute trailer with clips and interviews about the January 2016 premiere of the ten episodes that recently wrapped up shooting.

I had meant to reread the first few books of the series before its premiere, starting with The First King of Shannara, which chronologically in the first book of the entire series, but because of the high number of books still sitting on my "To Be Read" pile, I haven't quite gotten there yet. I've bumped it near the top though, so soon I'll be deep into the Four Lands again.

I didn't know where MTV was going to begin the story, but they those to start with the second book of the original series, The Elfstones of Shannara, the story of Wil Ohmsford who accompanies Amberle Elessedil on her quest to create a new Ellcrys, a magical tree that serves to banish all demons from the Four Lands. Oddly enough Elfstones was the first book I read of the series nearly twenty years ago. Unknowingly at the time, I read the first two books out of chronological order, but that is the great thing about the first few books of the Shannara series - they can be read independently and out of order, and the reader won't be lost or feel as if some backstory is missing.

Now as I watch the trailer, I'm excited to see this incarnation of a yet another fantasy series I grew up loving, so I thought I'd share the clip here for all my Cheesy Readers. Enjoy.

Until Next Time...
Magically Yours,

Monday, August 17, 2015

Classics and Cheese Slices I

A lot of ideas I have for posts are too short to devote a solo entry to, which gave me the idea to start compiling these tidbits, and every once in a while string 'em together for a full-length post. So without further ado, here's a few slices of absolutely useless handy knowledge.

I'm sure many of my Cheesy Readers have seen the television show Charmed and know its iconic theme song "How Soon Is Now?" by Love Spit Love. The chronicles of the Halliwell sisters, a.k.a The Charmed Ones, went for eight seasons and became one of the most successful and highest-rated shows up to that point on the WB Network. The remake of the Smiths's original hit from the mid-80s was also used in the sleeper teen hit The Craft (1996) and was featured on its soundtrack along with a whole host of other inferior and less successful remakes.

When Charmed became available on Netflix streaming service, though, the theme song had changed. I did a little digging and the story shakes out that when Netflix negotiated for the rights to offer Charmed, the rights to the theme song weren't included and a substitute theme song had to be found. So if you own the DVDs, you get to continue to enjoy watching it with the original theme, but if you're relying on Netflix to relive the adventures of Prue, Phoebe, Piper, and Paige, you'll just have to adjust to subpar opening music.   

I happened to catch an airing of Jacob's Ladder (1990, Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena) for the first time in over ten years, which inspired these two unrelated trivia questions:

What book is Tim Robbins reading in the subway scene at the beginning of the movie?

What does his live-in girlfriend (Elizabeth Peña) throw into the apartment building incenirator because it makes him cry? 

And now for a Classics & Cheese favored quote.

Nero Wolfe's assistant Archie Goodwin:
"...Wolfe held it against Jane Austen for forcing him to concede that a woman could write a good novel."
 - Mother Hunt, Chapter 12, Rex Stout

That's probably enough slices to hold you Cheesy Readers over until the next post.

Until Next Time...
Charmingly Yours,

Monday, August 10, 2015

Here Comes Another One

Cheesy Reader,

I've ranted about them enough for a hundred blogs, so let me keep it simple.

Westworld, reboot, HBO, series, 2016, may have a chance, we'll see.

Until Next Time...
Out of Controlly Yours,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is Citizen Kane Next?

Citizen Kane ( 1941) is considered among many film aficionados as one of the greatest movies of all time because of Orson Wells's ground breaking and visionary directing and writing for that period of time. The executives in Hollywood would be fools to attempt to remake it.

The same could be said of the silent film horror classic Nosferatu (1922). What it accomplished in mood and raw emotion as a silent film can never be matched. It would stand to reason that, like Citizen Kane, it was immune from remake.

But in 1979, Werner Herzog wrote and directed a remake that was highly hailed by critics and successfully captured the ambiance, spirit, and overall creepiness of the original. Herzog, though, was wise enough to cast some of the best German actors of the time, especially Klaus Kinski. I was fortunately enough to watch it in my college German class a number of years ago and haven't forgotten a single eerie shot. Simply a remake worthy of the original.

Unfortunately now, Hollywood has decided to take a crack at this. What I've read so far, the details are still being hammered out, including the director, cast, etc., but the executives in the studios are serious about funding a revamp - no doubt in Hollywood style, which may involve over-the-top special effects, probably a lot of "pretty people" in an effort to attract the young teen movie goers, and no doubt stray far clear of much of the previous two versions.

Couldn't help bringing this to your attention, Cheesy Reader, since I've thrown at you a bunch of other remake atrocities. Would it be a bad pun if I made a "blood suckers" comment at this point? Yeah, you're right, I'll resist.

Until Next Time...
Vampircally Yours,

Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP to a Cheesy Legend I will fondly remember

As I logged on this evening, full prepared to write a post, I spotted a headline of the passing of a cheesy legend. Okay, maybe not quite a cheesy staple, but a man who starred in one of the best cheesy movies of the 1980s and made famous the classic line, "I have come here to chew bubble gum, and kick ass.... and I'm all out of bubble gum."

Yes, Cheesy Readers, the great Rowdy Roddy Piper has passed away of a heart attack at the age of 61.

The lovable hero of They Live (1988) who discovers that secret aliens have invaded and infiltrated our society from the lowliest guy to the highest offices of the government and private corporations and sets out with another kick-ass hero, played by the wonderfully versatile Keith David (Men at Work, Armageddon, the voice of Goliath in the television series Gargoyles).

Piper acted and stared in numerous films that went straight to video or cable, and while his film output never matched his wrestling output, he still managed to make his mark as a reliable character actor who specialized in science fiction films as someone not to be messed with. We cheesy 80s science fiction movie fans know ol' Roddy well. He acted right up until his death, and there are number of films he's contributed to that have yet to be released. So while he may be gone, we still have a handful of works to look forward to.

Mankind's hope of fighting off an alien invasion is now one soldier weaker. May he rest in peace.

Until Next Time,
Rowdily Yours,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Groovy (a.k.a. "This is my BOOMSTICK!")

First we had The Evil Dead, then we had Evil Dead 2, followed by Army of Darkness, all became cult classics, all were made without CGI. Those films served as launching points for the careers of writer/director/producer Sam Raimi and B-movie hero Bruce Campbell.

In 2013, The Evil Dead was remade with blessings from Raimi and Campbell. And beginning Oct. 31, 2015, via Starz, we will be given Ash vs. Evil Dead (The Series). Raimi directed and co-wrote the pilot along with Evil Dead veterans Ivan Raimi and Tom Spezialy. Original film series producer Rob Tapert is returning to co-produce along with Raimi and Campbell. Plus, Raimi and crew have brought in long-time friend and actress Lucy Lawless, who you may remember worked with Raimi and Tapert back in the Xena: Warrior Princess days. A regular family reunion --- it promises some great ghoulish fun and probably more than its fair share of gore and bizarreness.

The official series detail says: "Campbell reprises his role as Ash, the aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity, and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons – personal and literal." According to additional reports, actress Jill Marie Jones will play the role of Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher, while Lawless will star as Ruby, a mysterious woman who's on a quest to stop the evil outbreak of Deadites within our realm and believes that Ash is the cause of it. Mimi Rogers stars as Suzy Maxwell and Dana DeLorenzo plays Kelly Maxwell. Apparently this first season of ten 30-minute episodes have been shot and will air weekly. Makes me wish I had Starz, or at least hope they make it available for next day streaming on Hulu or something.

Until Next Time...
Groovily Yours,