Friday, August 28, 2015

Happy birthday, Nancy Kulp!

Nancy Kulp, the ever-lovable Miss Jane Hathaway on the Beverly Hillbillies, would've been 94 today, but she passed away back in 1991 of cancer.  She seemed to be one of those people who just happen to be in the right place at the right time.  I couldn't find a clip of her appearance in a "Twilight Zone" episode, but the one below certainly displays her extraordinary comedic talent!




The Pointer Sisters - He's So Shy (1980)


This was the first single released from their "Special Things" album, their 7th, released in August.  The album went gold thanks to the strength of "He's So Shy" and ushered in the most successful period. 

They performed this song on an episode of "The Love Boat" in 1981.



Project Runway - WTF?

Only four episodes into the 14th season of Project Runway and already I'm asking WTF?  Last night's "iconic" dress episode challenged designers to take one of the many iconic looks and make it their own.  Tim mentioned the pencil skirt and the wrap dress as examples. 





So what the hell is this?  Designer Blake Patterson got the different meanings of 'drag' confused, and designed the iconic National Hot Rod Association's drag chute dress.  I'm sure many women love dresses that look like they're pulling a parachute behind them. 

Usually Nina Garcia rips a designer to shreds for poor construction, but this time, she acknowledged the construction was subpar and said it didn't matter. 

A pity, since most of the other designs were well-constructed and more beautiful.  Perhaps under those bright runway lights, some fabrics emit hallucinogens? 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

TBT - Alan Parsons Project's "Eve"

Alan Parsons Project released their 4th album, "Eve" August 27, 1979



From Alan Parsons Project's website:

Eric [Woolfson] had intended that it be about great women in history. But his ideas changed and it evolved into an album about present day relationships, in particular the strengths of women and the shortcomings of men, although it’s perhaps hard to deduce this bearing in mind the album cover which appears unflattering to women. This was certainly not Eric’s intention.
It has often been thought in the past that EVE was the only APP album to feature a female lead vocalist. This actually isn’t the case as on I Robot, Jaki Whitren lends her female vocal to part of ‘Some Other Time’ and also on the same album Hilary Western sings the operatic soprano part at the beginning of I Robot.

Eric recalls that the song ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ was originally inspired by Joan of Arc and would have had a very different lyric.

On the theme of strong women, Eric’s mother-in-law was named Eve!

Tracks:
  1. Lucifer (Instrumental)
  2. You Lie Down With Dogs
  3. I’d Rather Be A Man
  4. You Won’t Be There
  5. Winding Me Up
  6. Damned If I Do
  7. Don’t Hold Back
  8. Secret Garden (Instrumental)
  9. If I Could Change Your Mind

Mariner 2, the first probe to Venus




At the dawn of the space age, Mariner 2, the first spacecraft to visit another planet, Venus, was launched this day in 1962.  Although it encountered some glitches along the way, it was far more successful than Mariner 1, which had to be destroyed less than five minutes after launch.

Mariner 2 made the journey to Venus relatively unscathed, passing by in December 1962.  It measured solar wind, confirmed the temperature of Venus to be a sultry 864 °F, and atmospheric pressure high enough to crush Soviet probes.  It also discovered that Venus rotates in the opposite direction than the other planets.

However, Mariner 2 did not carry a camera, since cameras were not considered ‘scientific’ equipment, something NASA rectified on the next space probe.


Unfortunately, Mariner 2’s signals were tracked only until January 3, 1963 and is still in orbit around the sun.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Beautiful features are found on Ceres




Dawn, the space probe launched by NASA in September 2007, has achieved orbit over the once-asteroid, now-dwarf planet Ceres.  Employing a unique ion propulsion drive, Dawn was able to stop by Vesta for a year-long study before resuming her journey to Ceres, instead of mere fly-by’s like New Horizons had to do with Pluto.  Since Dawn’s arrival in March 2015, she has been sending back beautiful images, revealing mysterious features.

 


Among the most captivating photos show bright spots on the surface of Ceres.  Located at the bottom of the Occator crater, the spots seem to be sublimating material, a substance that transforms from a solid state to gas without passing through the liquid phase.  This process appears to be creating some sort of localized atmosphere inside the crater.

 


Another feature creating a stir is the ‘Lonely Mountain’, a solitary mound over 21,000 feet high.  What makes it so stunning is the strange but beautiful bright streaks on its sides.

Ceres is the final stop for Dawn and the probe will remain in orbit at about 230 miles above the surface.  Here she will begin to send even higher-resolution images of the dwarf planet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"The Wizard of Oz" turns 76 today!


 
Today marks the 76th anniversary of the release of The Wizard of Oz, one of the best movies ever in the history of the universe.  Some of its dialogue and action may seem kind of hokey nowadays, but it is still a refreshing piece of art to watch, among all the CGI-packed, profanity-packed and sex-packed crap currently on the screen.  The Wizard of Oz has just about everything for good ol’ movie making:  lavish sets, great costumes, catchy tunes and lines, an antagonist who seems to have all the cards in her favor.

Years ago, I read The Making of the Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz, written after most of the actors from the movie had passed on.  Margaret Hamilton was the only surviving cast member and Harmetz based much of her story on the testimony of Hamilton.  It didn’t seem like Hamilton had any argument with fellow cast-mates or grievances to air, but one does wonder what, if anything, would be different had Harmetz been able to interview Judy Garland, Bert Lahr or Ray Bolger.  From all the problems and changes that were made during its production, it’s a miracle the movie was ever completed.
 
My favorite part is the tornado scene.

4 Star review for "Legacy of Hephaestus"!




Diane, a reviewer at Gay.Guy.Reading and Friends (GGR-Review - M/M Reviews) posted a great review of "Legacy of Hephaestus"! 

http://ggr-review.com/book-review-legacy-of-hephaestsus-a-corey-shaw-mystery-4-by-alex-morgan/

I know Corey would be flattered to be called 'incorrigible'.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review of The Maiden's Tale by Margaret Frazer






It seems the more Dame Frevisse tries to shun action and trouble, the more they find her.  Throughout Margaret Frazer’s excellent series featuring nun-sleuth Dame Frevisse, the good sisters wants nothing more than to live out her days in the comfort of her daily office and prayers and the structure of St. Frideswide’s routine.  However, this comfort and security has been disrupted ever since Domina Edith passed away and, through a series of unusual events, Dame Alys was elected prioress.

The readers knew, even if Frevisse didn’t want to know, is that being Prioress would go straight to Alys’ head.  And it does.  The events of the Prioress’ Tale, the previous novel in the series, bleed over into the Maiden’s Tale.  Dame Aly has led St. Frideswide into financial ruin with half-finished unusable structures on site.  The convent has been assigned a new prioress and Frevisse is one of the two nuns chose to travel to London to meet her and help her with the transition. 

She finds out that her cousin Alice, Lady of Suffolk, has engineered her involvement in the process with Bishop Beaufort.  Frevisse is puzzled then furious when she finds out the reason for it, her cousin is mixed up in bringing the Duke of Orleans to London for a clandestine meeting with King Henry VI, unbeknownst to the king’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester.  A young man in Alice’s household, was part of Lady Alice’s scheme to pass messages back and forth, died under mysterious circumstances.  Alice needs someone discreet and above suspicion to replace him.

Frevisse is reluctant to undertake the role of spy but her cousin convinces her it’s the best possibility for peace.

The Maiden’s Tale and its predecessor, The Prioress’ Tale are both cozy mysteries with more historical details then murder and mayhem.  But as I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews of this genre, you can always learn something new.  Reading Frazer and her peers is more fun that reading history or non-fiction sometimes.  Here we can see the excitement of London as Parliament is gathering but also the fears of the populace if the Lord of Gloucester can convince the young king to declare war on France.

The rich backdrop of a tense event in England’s hardly-ever-boring royal family lifts this novel, making it an enjoyable read.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Godzilla vs Gigan




This month celebrates the thirty-eighth anniversary of the U.S. release of Godzilla vs. Gigan, the last film featuring Haruo Nakajima as the G-man.  (It seems a lot of stuff happened in August 1977!) Its original title, “Earth Attack Command: Godzilla vs. Gigan”, could just as well been named “Invasion of the Giant Cockroaches” since those are the aliens hell-bent on destroying Earth. Their plan:  summon and control King Ghidorah and Gigan.  However, the big bugs don’t count on Godzilla who becomes aware of the aliens and their plans. 

In a unique turn of events, Anguirus fights side by side with Godzilla to defeat the monsters.  The movie also contains dialogue between Godzilla and Anguirus.  The original Japanese version had speech bubbles during their conversation but were removed for the American release. 

Among the several titles this movie was released, “Godzilla on Monster Island” was used for the U.S. distribution although only about one minute of the film takes place on Monster Island. 

As with most G-man movies, "Godzilla vs Gigan" has a hokey plot, cheesy effects and bad acting. However, it is head and shoulders above its predecessor "Godzilla vs. Hedorah, the Smog Monster". OMG, what a train wreck that was.

Despite the recycled plot, which is getting a bit rank, "Godzilla vs Gigan" is fun and true to the spirit of the movies.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review - The Sticklepath Strangler by Michael Jecks





One reason I love reading historical mysteries is sometimes you learn something, if you’re not careful.  Understandably, authors of this genre might take creative liberties with facts for the sake of entertainment, but more often, they are not afraid to include gut-churning details that history textbooks might omit.  The reader, now having his curiosity piqued, seeks out more information on some gruesome event ‘intended for mature audiences only.’


Such is the basis for Michael Jecks’ The Sticklepath Strangler, the twelfth in his excellent series featuring Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, Knight’s Templar and Keeper of the King’s Peace in Crediton.  (Yes, I’m super-duper behind.)


The novel is set several years ago after the great famine in the British Isles from 1315-1317, where the disaster was so widespread and so devastating, rumors of cannibalism flourished.  Such allegations being so horrendous, it isn’t shocking that some of the populace cold only explain the happenings on a supernatural being. In this case, vampires.


The novel opens with the villagers of Sticklepath killing one of their own, fearing he was a vampire, after a ten year-old girl vanishes.
 

Seven years later her body is discovered and indications she might have provided someone with a meal.  The villagers who have survived the famine are sure to defend their belief a sanguisuga or vampire is responsible.  Baldwin is not so sure, even though an incident during his investigation almost makes him reconsider his beliefs.  With his wife, Lady Jeanne and his friend Simon Puttock, official of the tin miners of Dartmoor, he sets out to find the real reason the young girl was murdered.
 

But no matter how devious, twisted and evil the murderer is, Baldwin is able to bring the whole queasy affair to an end.
 

Jecks’ novel is richly detail and does not skimp on descriptions of life in a 14th century village devastated by floods.  It also brought out the morbid curiosity in me to learn more about the events, such as the floods and famine in this time frame, and King Edward II.
 

It’s easy for us to read and be appalled by some of the actions in the novel but the question posed by one of the main characters could be asked of all of us:


If there was absolutely no food anywhere to ear, how far would you go to be sure your baby didn’t starve.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Voyager 2 launched 38 years ago!


The Energizer Bunny has noting on the Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched 38 years ago today.  Thanks to a serendipitous alignment of planets, Voyager 2 set out to visit the four giant outer planets of our solar system, something no probe has ever done.  With is mission complete in 1989, Voyager 2 is now far beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Now it will continue to collect data and beam it back to Earth for another five years when it will not be able to generate enough power to run its on-board instruments.

Its closest approach to Jupiter was July 9, 1979; Saturn on August 25, 1981; Uranus, January 24, 1986; and Neptune, August 25, 1989.

Besides an array of scientific equipment, Voyager 2 carries a 12-inch gold plated copper disc encased in a protective aluminum jacket.  It is to be played as a phonograph so there is a needle and a cartridge plus instructions because by the time Voyager 2 is discovered by aliens, like us, they will have forgotten how to play vinyl.  It is doubtful they will be able to locate a turn-table.

But, if they are successful, they can hear nature sounds like wind and thunder, whales, and music such as Bach, Beethoven and Berry (as in Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode).

 
 
Io
 
 
Voyager 2 observed volcanic eruptions on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons.  Its high-resolution images of Europa left scientists baffled at the lack of topological features.

 
Saturn with moons Tethys, Dion and Rhea
 
Both Voyager 1 and 2 discovered interesting aspects of Saturn’s rings that resembled spokes of a wheel.  However, Voyager 1 headed out of the solar system while Voyager 2 set course for Uranus and Neptune.



Uranus

Being the first and only to visit, Voyager 2 found 10 new moons around Uranus and revealed many unique features that should keep scientists busy for years to come.

           
 
 
High altitude clouds on Neptune
 
 
Neptune has a Great Dark Spot, similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, about the size of Earth.

Now Voyager 2 is sending back data on the heliopause, the outermost boundary of the solar wind.  May it continue to collect data long after it loses the ability to transmit it.

And then not get caught in a black hole and transported to the far side of the galaxy where it becomes the monstrous V-Ger and heads back to Earth to find its creator and eliminate all the carbon units only to be foiled by the USS Enterprise.