Monday various

  • Sad to learn that author Kage Baker passed away from cancer over the weekend.
  • Not terribly surprised to learn that Sarah Palin’s political action committee spent more money buying her book than on, well, political action.
  • Very surprised to learn that packs of wild beagles are terrorizing the east end of Long Island.
  • Impressed by James Cameron’s letter to H.R. Giger’s agent about why Cameron didn’t involve Giger in the design and filming of Aliens. Where’s this kind of honest humility gone in the James Cameron of today?
  • And finally, very impressed by Chameleon Circuit, who put out some of the best Doctor Who-themed music I’ve ever heard. That might sound like I’m damning them with faint praise, to some of you, but I think these are really neat songs. One of them easily wound up on my January music mix. [via]

Thursday cornucopia

  • Mark Evanier on the origin of the phrase “top banana.” I’m not entirely sure if this is true, but it’s a lot more convincing than some of the other origin stories I’ve seen.
  • The most environmentally friendly city in the United States? Surprisingly, it might be New York City. [via]
  • I wonder if that means we’ll be able to avoid post-apocalyptic scenes like these [via]
  • Maybe we can at least stop getting letters like these. Although I do particularly like the 1911 letter to Mayor Jay Gaynor about “the disgraceful acts that take place daily in Bryant Park.” Imagine if the letter writer had ever seen it during Fashion Week!
  • Speaking of letters, and more particularly, Letters of Note, I particularly liked Kurt Vonnegut’s letter home after surviving being a POW and the bombing of Dresden. Makes me want to re-read Slaughterhouse-Five.
  • Continuing a theme: Navy was ordered to listen for Martians in 1924.
  • Sure, an “iTunes for magazines” sounds like an intriguing idea — maybe — but what does it even mean? [via]
  • Often find yourself bemoaning the lack of originality in Hollywood and endless parade of remakes, sequels and prequels? It’s much worse than you think. [via]
  • Speaking, sort of, of such, should Stephen King write a sequel to The Shining? Well, if it’s a good sequel, why not? [via]
  • Meanwhile, King is delaying the e-book release of his new novel, Under the Dome. (I’ve heard some good things, but I am waiting for the e-book.) Allegedly, it’s “in hopes of helping independent bookstores and the national bookstore chains sell the hardcover edition.” Which actually, on King’s part I don’t really doubt, although I’m sure his publisher is eyeing its own bottom line more closely. The exercise will probably have no effect at all, given the price war being waged between Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Target (among others), except to annoy those of us who want a copy but don’t want to cart around a 1,000+-page hardcover.

    It makes me wonder, though, what things would be like if one could purchase e-books from independent bookstores. Maybe it’s time to start looking into IndieBound more closely…

  • For now, I guess I’ll just have to settle for reading King’s new poem in the November issue of Playboy. (That link, to The Guardian, is SFW. The link to the poem itself? Not so much. Then again, it doesn’t seem to be working anymore, so if you want to read “The Bone Church,” you may have purchase the issue or wait until it’s reprinted elsewhere. [via]
  • Also potentially a little NSFW: this Graffiti Control on the Death Star cartoon. I found it amusing, though. [via]
  • Of course, if I wanted to avoid the price war altogether, I could go with free books only. Like Gregory Maguire’s new novel. He and his publisher are giving away 2,500 copies of the book, provided you agree to make a small donation “to a local charity, someone who needs it, or a stranger on the street.” I don’t have any particular interest in the book itself — I liked but didn’t love Wicked, the only Maguire book I’ve ever read — but it’s an interesting idea. Although that seems like a big print run for a small publisher to just be giving away. [via]
  • I’ve heard reasonably good things about the book that started this Jane Austen mashup craze, and my sister and her husband even recently bought me a copy. But now there’s a third? Mansfield Park and Mummies? I don’t think I’ve ever been more glad that Jane Austen only wrote six novels.

    Though, there’s already a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sequel planned. [via]

  • And finally, speaking of Jane Austen… Mitchell & Webb’s “Posh Dancing” [via]

Tuesday various

  • John Seavey on the “Vote With Your Wallet” Fallacy as it applies to comic books:

    And of course, the worst part is that DC and Marvel are the bread and butter of the modern comics store. For all that people encourage buying indie comics as a way to vote with their wallets, if DC and Marvel (possibly even just Marvel) got out of the publishing business and decided to focus on their movies and videogames, it would be an utter apocalypse for the comics industry. All the other companies combined do not sell enough copies to keep a comics store in business. And without comics stores, indie publishers have very few places to sell their stuff. So voting with your wallets…might actually mean buying DC and Marvel books you hate just to keep the store you like in business.

    The business model of the comics industry would drive Warren Buffett mad.

  • Is Detroit on its way to becoming a food desert?

    About 80 percent of the residents of Detroit buy their food at the one thousand convenience stores, party stores, liquor stores, and gas stations in the city. There is such a dire shortage of protein in the city that Glemie Dean Beasley, a seventy-year-old retired truck driver, is able to augment his Social Security by selling raccoon carcasses (twelve dollars a piece, serves a family of four) from animals he has treed and shot at undisclosed hunting grounds around the city. Pelts are ten dollars each. Pheasants are also abundant in the city and are occasionally harvested for dinner.

    Not a single produce-carrying grocery chain in the city. From the little I saw of it a couple of years ago, I’m sorry to say I can believe it. [via]

  • Is Accelerated Reader’s only criteria for assigning points the number of pages in a book? It sure seems that way, if Hamlet can be “worth fewer points than the fifth installment of the Gossip Girl series.” Shouldn’t some other factors be taking into account? [via]
  • “When Henry Hudson first looked on Manhattan in 1609, what did he see?” This, apparently. I got to see a little of the Mannahatta Project a couple of weeks ago when I accompanied my mother to an after-hours members event at the Museum of the City of New York. Interesting stuff. [via]
  • And finally, when the police shoot the Fire Chief in the courtroom over speeding tickets, you know that, just maybe, something’s wrong. [via]