28 December 2006

The Rhino's Horn: A Johnny Bodkin Mystery - Chapter 1

She was tall. Like a tall drink of water, but taller. A drink of water was maybe eight, ten inches tops, and this dame was much taller than that. Maybe twelve inches, with a special commemorative glass you might get at a casual dining restaurant, but even that isn't as tall as this dame. She was tall, is all I'm saying. As she stood there, silhouetted in the light of the open doorway and surveyed the room, I looked her over.

Her gams started at her hips and went all the way to the floor. She had more curves than the Mississippi - either the river, or the word, with all those esses. Her dark hair flowed like water poured from a twelve-inch commemorative glass.

She closed the door and walked toward me.

"Mr. Bodkin, I need your help" she cooed.

"Sit down, and tell me your troubles" I croaked.

As she lowered herself into the seat, the light from the desklamp illuminated her face. Her deep brown eyes were like the ocean at night, at least what I imagined the ocean would look like if the moon weren't shining and the lights from the city weren't glowing and the smog ever lifted. Then again, the ocean's always got a bluish cast to it, and her eyes weren't blue at all, but brown. Perhaps they were more like...

"...and I don't think that...Mr. Bodkin, are you listening to me?"

"Sorry. You were saying, Miss?"

"Pomeroy. Ramona Pomeroy. And it's Mrs., Mr. Bodkin."

"Call me Johnny, please. Now you were saying?"

"Do you know who my husband is, Johnny? Jack Pomeroy?" Her lips pursed and seemed to blow a kiss as she said his name. I don't know if it was intended for my benefit or not, but it certainly had an effect. I reached for the bottle of bourbon in my bottom drawer, but it wasn't there. It was already on my desk with the glass I'd poured before Ramona came to my door. Funny, I didn't remember pouring that drink, but I must have if the glass and bottle were there. Regardless, I needed a stiff belt, so I downed the glass and poured another. She looked like she could use a drink, too.

"I'm afraid I don't, Ramona. Can I pour you a glass while you tell me?"

"I could sure use one, Johnny. You mind if I smoke?" She already had her cigarette case out of her purse and was opening it. It was a slim, silver thing and shone in her hands like a stiletto. She opened it and quickly retrieved a cigarette from the neatly arrayed row inside. I pulled my lighter from my jacket pocket and stood up, stepping around the desk and next to her. The spark ignited the lighter and she clasped my hand with both of hers, guiding the flame to the tip of the slender brown tube held tightly in her lips. She inhaled deeply, dragging the sweet, sticky smoke down to her toes.

I poured us each three fingers of the bourbon and sat down, then she told me about her husband.

Jack Pomeroy was a state senator who was rising fast in the party. He was planning on running for governor, and a lot of people were set to back him. Even without any backers, he'd do just fine with his daddy's money, though. I didn't know who Jack Pomeroy was, but I sure knew about Desmond Pomeroy.

Desmond Pomeroy made an honest living through Pomeroy Packing, down on the waterfront. Sardines and tuna, mostly. But an honest living wasn't good enough for the old man. Through his warehouse on the waterfront, old man Pomeroy controlled the illicit aphrodisiac trade for the whole west coast. Rhino horn, panda gallbladder, tiger bones, and harp seal penises were smuggled in on-board fishing boats and then sold from Seattle to San Diego. He owned half the cops in town, so they weren't likely to shut him down. The DA had tried, but he couldn't get a case to stick. From what Ramona said, the son believed his father was just an honest businessman, so that dirty business was going to die with the old man.

By her third bourbon and fourth cigarette, Ramona was ready to tell me what brought her to my door. "Johnny, I'm being blackmailed" she said, then drained her glass.

27 December 2006

Classic Question

Whatever happened to quipping when beating up henchmen? Damn, that Question was serious. This is like getting beaten up by Al Gore:

fisticuffs + political lesson = crazy painful

Of course, the spandex vigilantes generally repress a lot, so they're a tad to the right of Tipper's beau.

22 December 2006

Collapse: Light reading on starvation, cannibalism, and death (and a few success stories)

I first read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel about five years back at the suggestion of my friend O. While I didn't buy into all its arguments - particularly the way he seemed to gloss over the out-sized impact of bovine-based diseases on unexposed populations as compared to porcine- and avian-based diseases of Asia and Melanesia. I also continue to wonder how important it is that wheat provides more protein than other cereal grains when so many older societies (not to mention modern societies) meet most of their protein needs from animal sources. These minor complaints aside, GG&S was a great read that brought Diamond's keen mind and broad knowledge to an ongoing 9000-year-old story.

I picked up Collapse a couple of months back, and after I finished reading DFW's Everything and More(which I recommend to none but those as aspergerlicious as I) I moved it into my lunch-time slot. Whereas GG&S tells the story of growth, expansion, and success, this companion piece tells the story of failure; however, this book kicked its predecessor's ass from here to the New Guinea highlands. Most significantly, gone is much of the ecological determinism from which GG&S suffered. The subtitle says it all: "How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed".

From Easter Island to Greenland, the Yucatan peninsula to modern-day Australia, Diamond weaves a compelling tale of ecological disasters and the resulting societal collapses. What struck me most was how (at least in Diamond's interpretations of events) so many of the collapses happened almost overnight. Reaching a tipping point beyond which their environments could no longer support the weight of their societies, they truly did seem to collapse, rather than slowly decay.

Offering some tales of societies that succeeded, this is happily not a threnody for Mother Earth, but a warning. Diamond's own feelings on our future makes him "a cautious optimist", and after reading Collapse I think I'm in that camp as well.

21 December 2006

Bite My Shiny, Metal Ass!

And alcohol! Lots and lots of alcohol!

Robots could one day demand the same citizen's rights as humans, according to a study by the British government.

If granted, countries would be obliged to provide social benefits including housing and even "robo-healthcare", the report says.

Someone at the Institute for the Future's playing a joke on the Brits, methinks.

20 December 2006

Mal Goes Cannonball

This isn't news, exactly. Nathan Fillion got attached to Drive a little while back; however, this quote is priceless.

So, just when we thought we saw the last of Fillion, other than Bruce Campbell rejected direct to video trash along comes one time writer and executive producer of Firefly Tim Minear with a new TV series.

"Slayers are strong, vampires and demons are not so good and Willow’s hot"

In this Wizard article, Joss Whedon talks some of the upcoming Buffy, Season 8 comic series. He's attracted some very big guns.

Whedon says he’ll write several of the book’s arcs, including the first, “The Long Way Home” with art by Georges Jeanty. For the rest, Whedon has assembled a veritable who’s who of comic book writing talent that includes Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina), Brad Meltzer (Justice League of America) and Jeph Loeb (Onslaught Reborn), along with former “Buffy” TV writers Jane Espenson, Drew Goddard, Drew Greenberg and Steven DeKnight.

19 December 2006

Excuses, excuses, excuses

I'm pretty drained and drawn of late. The weather, weight gain, seasonal affective disorder, and sad puppy are all wearing me out. I'm sitting at work, at about 50% efficiency right now, and wishing I were home with Parker. Of course, if I were, I'd just be surfing, snacking, or snoring. I've got no energy and no motivation right now. That's obvious: I haven't even been writing lately. Not even a haiku. Pathetic.

And so, anyway, here's something old to while away your time.

15 December 2006

Good Grief, Bambi!!!

Moo ha ha!!!

14 December 2006

Crappy, crappy week

Four years, almost to the day, since my sweet pup blew out the ACL on her right wheel...she's gone and blown out the left. This sucks. Recovery for her last time was slow and painful and sad - no running, no jumping, no sleeping in the bed, endless hours in her crate - and she was a juvenile then. This time, she's going to heal slower, not be able to rely on her "good" back leg to take so much of the load, and just generally be more unhappy. Damn her luck.

For the first time since we've been in PHX, the crate was put up and she was put in. Like a trooper, she got in with no complaints and spent the night. I slept on the couch to be next to her while the wife tossed and turned in empathy in the next room. This morning, a hobble out back and a quickly scarfed breakfast were followed by a half-hour of lying on the floor and giving my face the slobbering Dino-treatment. I'm not the best Doggy Daddy, but today she thought I was.

In a few hours, she and her moms will meet the orthopedic surgeon. If all goes well - Parker and Lori both like the doc - the slice and dice will be scheduled as quickly as possible. We already know what recovery's going to be like for all three of us; best to get started on it as soon as possible.

08 December 2006

A Pious Vulture of the Law?

Anthony Stewart Head is going to be appearing in Sweeney Todd! No announcement yet on what role he'll play, but I'm going to put my money on Judge Turpin. He's too old to play Anthony (note of interest: Victor Garber originated the role of Anthony) and certainly too old for Toby. Borat's already been cast as Pirelli, and I can't see using that sweet, rich voice for the Beadle, so that seems to leave the Judge.

This is great news, though the fact that Tim Burton's directing continues to dampen my spirits. I can only take solace in the fact that Sondheim retains veto power over casting choices.

07 December 2006

Look at the pretty flowers!

I wish I had something pithy (no, I do not have a lisp!) to say about this...

05 December 2006

B5 updates from JMS

Behind-the-scenes photos and updates from JMS on the set of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales here. Geek heaven!

02 December 2006

Buy a Diteionary

I hate having to defend and explain my team. I'm not alone in this. I mean, righties have to live with the likes of Limbaugh and O'Reilly and Coulter. I've gotta deal with stupid f'in hippies.

Like the one with this sign on his car:


Woohoo. Illiterate idjit.

The Perils of Paste Eating

  • Were you Second Chair in your High School Band?
  • Do you chafe under the demands of conductors who insist on playing in a single key?
  • Do you fear competition?
Come play for the University of Arizona Pep Band!

We went to the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge today (in Phoenix? not Springfield?) to see the Zags. Seats on the aisle, sixth row, two gorgeous hours of flex motion and stifling D later, and we'd beaten down the Longhorns. But here's the weird thing - Suns Dancers, Adio Sol Patrol, the same lame timeout activities, no cheerleaders from the teams, and no visiting pep bands. It was odd and irritating that at a semi-neutral event there was no cheer/pep presence from anyone but the putative host school...right across the aisle. A bunch of slovenly, pimply paste-eaters tuning up just feet away.

I've seen a lot of pep bands - most are quite good - and some, like Montana State and Stanford, are exceptional. Good musicians, well-conducted, with a lot of - say it with me - pep! Arizona...not good. Oh my GOD, did they suck!

Swimming in a sea of Arizona fans, with band camp rejects on our left, game two kicked off.

A rematch of the '05 Chicago Regional final thriller, this one promised to be both dramatic and sloppy. Too many underclassmen, and too much Bruce Weber. Today's Dan Monson, Weber jumped from the Salukis to the Illini once the big paycheck was dangled. He's had a bit of success, but so far it's been with Bill Self's recruits. It remains to be seen whether Coach Weber will be able to succeed with a team all his own. I have my doubts. Particularly after watching his Illini piss away a big first-half lead.

We were both grumpy for most of the day, unfortunately. Food issues, goddamn cold weather, and paste-eaters to the left of us. It was great watching Derek and the Bulldogs beat up on Texas, but sucked watching Arizona win a game. I'm no Illini fan, but hate, hate, HATE the Wildcats. On the plus side, they should do pretty poorly in the Pac2 this year. That's at least small comfort.

Gods of the Yellow Sun

Took a longish lunch today, with side trips to try to find a second Wii controller for my friend. Walking through Best Buy, I spotted a movie I'd been looking forward to seeing - Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut - and figured I'd buy it. Popped it in back at the office and half watched while I worked through the afternoon.

A few bits of disclosure: when I was a wee lad I actually liked the boy scout better than the vigilante; I loved the original Superman, but even at 10-years-old I had massive problems with the stupid conclusion; I quite liked II (and more than liked Ursa) but likewise had problems with the flick. Still, it's a part of my low-culture heritage and I figured it would be good to see Donner's vision as it compared to Richard Lester's. And for about an hour forty, it was much improved.

Apparently, Richard Donner was way ahead of the curve. Long before Robert Zemeckis and Peter Jackson, Donner filmed both films at the same time.(1) His original intent, on display here, was for the first movie to segue to the second. Gone is the lame-o Parisian nuke that frees Zod, et al from the Phantom Zone; instead, the missile diverted from Hackensack blows apart the PZ. With a few establishing scenes from the first movie, we're off and running with very little setup.

This is the first of many improvements, large and small. The gee-whiz tone remains, as does the winking performance from Christopher Reeve as Clark. He was an underrated comic performer who rarely got to show his chops.(2) Great performances across the board, especially Gene Hackman's smirking monkey of a Luthor. Sure, I might prefer The Kurgan's turn in the various animated series, but Popeye Doyle gets a lot of laughs per mile.

The biggest improvement is Jor-El. I don't know if there were contract disputes, budget constraints, or idiots with their notes that pushed Donner and Brando out of the sequel, but he was sorely missed. I didn't realize how much until I saw this cut. The father-son bond is central to the story here, and even with no scenes shot together, Reeve and Brando make me believe a man can cry.(3) God bless Susannah York, but she ain't no Brando. In addition to the gravitas he brings to the proceedings, we finally get to see how Kal-El got his groove back.

Remember that hour-forty comment above? The movie (sans credits) runs about five or ten minutes longer than that. Shame. A much improved movie was right in Donner's hands...and then he screwed the pooch. Imagine the very worst ending to a movie ever. This movie has it. I won't explicitly spoil it, but it should be obvious how the movie ends from what I've said. Really pissed me off.

* * *

Of course, it's Friday, so tonight was BSG. Ahhh...now, maybe the title makes sense. Kal-El and Apollo: Gods of the Sun in their own special ways. And an excellent case in contrasts.

I'd been dreading this episode for the past two weeks. Goddamn it looked lame. Boxing? Unresolved conflicts, magically brushed aside? Bruised egos assuaged with broken bones? Surely, this was going to be yet another weak bottle episode. Unclear whether Ron Moore had lost his way (or blown his budget) after Exodus and the surprisingly excellent Collaborators, or there were just a few weaker episodes mid-season, I went into tonight expecting finally to be let way down. Foolish, foolish me.

Penned by Michael Taylor, this episode cleverly intercut flashbacks throughout. Mid-fight, we'd cut back to New Caprica and see things from a character's perspective - one of the fighters or spectators. There really was a lot still unresolved. The old man shocked me by grappling with Tyrol, clocking him but good a few times before being bloodied himself. Another great speech from Adama on duty, responsibility, and honor followed the fight. I didn't expect such drama from an undercard, but it was a tasty lead-in to the Apollo/Starbuck throw-down.

Kara kicked the crap out of Hotdog first (I suppose because it seemed less misogynistic than the more desirable Kara/Kat fight) and Helo beat on Lee. They were both primed and ready to go. Oh my, did they go. Like most movie fights, there was little clinching anywhere in this episode. In the real world, boxing tends to involve more hugging than punching, but that's pretty boring to watch. Instead, it's a lot of haymakers. This was no different...until...

Starbuck has really fucked up Apollo. We've always known that, but tonight we get to see just how badly she did it to him. He gets back his pound of flesh in the ring. They both do. Finally, wearied, worn down, and broken, they collapse in post-coital embrace. The repercussions from this fight will echo for quite some time, though the immediate effect on Anders' is clear and obvious.

What's truly sad is seeing how BSG succeeded where Donner failed. With a few weeks of thought, work, and effort, the BSG crew gave us a silk purse. From a bottle episode, we get drama, excitement, and character development. No cop-outs, no do-overs, and true lasting impact on characters we've grown to love. Donner could have saved his cut with one simple change - character growth - but he chickened out.

1 I don't actually know that he wasn't trying to create a four-hour Superman, but I'm going to assume that wasn't his intent.
2 Man, it's worse than I remembered. I just scanned his CV at imdb and he did mostly mediocre dramas. What a waste of a great ironic actor.
3 Sorry.