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Four and Twenty Blackbirds: great goth scary novel discovered on LJ

I was privileged to read an early galley of Cherie Priest's debut novel, "Four and Twenty Blackbirds." Cherie is a Livejournaller who syndicated her lush, gothic novel on her LJ, where it was discovered by an editor from Tor and published.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a genuinely scary southern ghost story that had me switching on extra lights in my hotel room as I devoured it. The story is a dysfunctional family revenge tale that rockets along at high speed as an incredibly likable, personable alterna-protagonist discovers her family's dark secrets. Link

West Side Story becomes trailer for zombie flick

Garfinkel says: "Saw your post on BoingBoing about the Shining trailer. Here is another from the same company. There is a third, Titanic, I am trying to track down. I spoke thru email with the guy who did the West Side one. here is what he had to say:
Picture 6-5 "Thanks for kind words. Actually the three trailers that are flying around the net were made by three different assistant editors here. The Shining was done by Robert (whom I forwarded your email), West Side Story, me, tom colella, and the Titanic by Dustin Stephens. We posted them for friends and within two days we had almost 300,000 hits. Crazy. They were made for the AICE Trailer Park contest. In fact here's the disclaimer from all the attention we've been getting:

The AICE only intended the trailers to be viewed for a private audience. They had no intentions for internet audience to view them and PS 260 did not intend for these trailers to be made for promotional or monetary reasons. There you have it. Glad you enjoyed them."


Update:Here's the Titanic link. (thanks, Steve!)

The Shining, if written and directed by Nora Ephron

I love this fake movie trailer for "Shining," consisting of footage from The Shining, which makes it look like a romantic dramady. Link

Update: Here's a NYT story about it.

African watering hole webcam

National Geographic has a live webcam pointed at an African watering hole. Right now (8:52 pm in Africa) the infrared camera isn't picking up any animals getting a late night drink, but you can hear crickets chirping and other animal sounds.
Picture 3-24PEAK VIEWING PERIOD: 7 a.m.-Noon Botswana Time

And in September as Mashatu moves into its summer season, Pete's Pond will see increasing traffic in the afternoon hours from about 4-6 p.m.

Link (via IP)

Morphing ghoul portraits

Picture 2-22 Haunted Memories sells creepy posters of vintage photos that morph into undead ghouls as you walk by them. The site has a bunch of GIF animations showing the effect.
Link (via PCL Linkdump)

A Unicorn's Tears

Did someone say unicorn chaser? Cory's last entry about the Peter S. Beagle novel really bummed me out. If you feel sad, too, after you support the author whose work was so shamelessly ripped off, check out this totally unrelated website:

I have always believed that unicorns existed, and that they are out there watching us, waiting for the day when we will be ready for them. Maybe when we stop hurting eachother, when we start treating each other with kindness. That's what the unicorn is all about, love, kindness, and peace. Maybe, just maybe someday, they will return to us, and bestow their gift of beauty upon us.

Link to "A Unicorn's Tears."

But first, all jokes aside, write a letter or donate some cash to support Mr. Beagle here. His prose is much better.

Previously: And now, we pause for a unicorn moment

Timeshifted unicorn chaser

Last Unicorn author ripped off by filmmaker, struggling and penniless

A couple days ago, I blogged about the unabridged author-reading of Peter S Beagle's classic novel "The Last Unicorn." Now, Connor Cochran, Beagle's business manager, writes in with this grim news about Beagle being ripped off by the British company that adapted his novel for animation, and Beagle's difficulty in fighting back due to his general pennilessness:
London-based Granada Media has sold more than 600,000 DVDs and videotapes of THE LAST UNICORN worldwide, made multiple cable and satellite deals for same, and sold the live action remake rights for a quarter of a million dollars. Yet despite this great success, they refuse to pay Peter what he is owed under his contract. After two years of trying to reach an amicable settlement, with no progress, it is clear that Peter will only get what he is due by going to court. Unfortunately, there is no way for Peter to do so without outside support. Just about everything he earns right now goes to take care of his 100 year-old mother.

Anyway, right now he has nothing with which to hire the attorneys and accountants he will need to either beat Granada in court or force them to negotiate. So we need to get the word out to as many professionals and fans as possible, to generate public support, contributions to the legal fund, letter-writing campaigns to Granada execs, etc. (We've just gotten started, but so far both Christopher Lee and Rene Auberjenois, two of the voiceover actors from THE LAST UNICORN, have agreed to help. That's exciting.)

Beagle's written a limited-edition sequel to The Last Unicorn that you can buy here. Link

Mister Jalopy converts trash into treasure

Jalopydesk A couple of weeks ago, I went to visit Mister Jalopy, and was greeted with one of my favorite smells as I approached his garage: the brain-eating tang of turpentine. Mister Jalopy was refinishing a small desk he'd found in a trash can.

It was in sorry shape, but I knew if anyone could turn it into a thing of beauty, it would be him. And I was right.

This desk would just be splinters in the landfill if he hadn't saved it. Now look at this little jewel! The clear green drawer pulls give it just the right touch of whimsy.

Concept car spins passenger-cabin around instead of 3-pt turns

Nissan's Pivo concept car elides the need for three-point turns -- instead, the entire cabin spins around so that you're suddenly facing in the other direction. Link (Thanks, Alex!)

Jonathan Gold on Okonomiyaki (aka Japanese pizza)

Counter Intelligence columnist Jonathan Gold has a great piece on okonomiyaki, sometimes called "Japanese pizza." The best place to have it in the LA area is at GaJa in Lomita.
Picture 1-40 Okonomiyaki may be the homeliest food in creation, a squat, unlovely, vaguely circular mess of batter, cabbage and egg, slicked with a tarry black substance made from catsup and Worcestershire sauce, inscribed with mayonnaise, and dusted with curls of shaved, dried bonito that shudder and writhe on top of the pancake like a thousand pencil shavings come to gruesome life. Okonomiyaki is simultaneously crisp and gooey, sweet and savory, bland and funky as hell. When you are presented with your first okonomiyaki, you don’t know whether to kill it or to eat it.

H5N1 Bird Flu getting scarier by the day

H5N1 Bird Flu kills nearly every person who contracts it, and it looks like it is learning how to jump from human-to-human. reports "H5N1 has clearly evolved and has become markedly more efficient at transmitting among humans, and has done so via recombination," and that, "H5 will clearly be resident in humans worldwide."

Today, an article in the Guardian reports that the UN official in charge of bird flu response efforts warned that "a global influenza pandemic is imminent and will kill up to 150 million people." A World Health Organization said the "best case scenario" would be 7.4 million deaths globally.

Yesterday, the US Senate approved spending $3 billion on anti-viral medications, "including one intended to fight avian flu."

Finland is planning to buy "5.2 million doses of a vaccine against the deadly bird flu, allowing it to protect its entire population."

Reader comment: Ken Seefried, CISSP says: Noted your BoingBoing post (among waaaay too many others). Thought I might make an observation.

The current set of statistics (76% fatality (per the Financial Times)...oh mah gawd!) seem to be based on reports that:

- 55 people caught it. That we know of.
- 48 people died. That we know of.
- All in essentially third world countries. With all that entails from a health care perspective.

Even the an original researcher takes the time to mention "Although this 76 per cent human fatality rate looked terrifyingly high, Dr Cox said it might be exaggerated by under-reporting of less serious cases of H5N1, which might not be recognized as avian flu." There could be one, one thousand or one million unreported non-fatal cases. With 1,000 unreported cases the fatality rate becomes, what, 4.5%? Bad, to be to sure, but not the second coming of the Black Death. Is it possible that in a third world country with 80 million people (say, Vietnam), much less the entire region from with the cases have been drawn, that there might be some unreported, non-fatal cases?


N.B. - There might also be unreported fatal cases, but let's be's a lot harder to miss a dead body than someone with the sniffles.

I'm not saying that H5N1 isn't going to be a show stopper, world- beater pandemic or whatever. I've actually written two white papers for very large US corporations on business continuity issues associated with pandemic breakouts, primarily because I'm sure there's going to be something like this, some day (like there will certainly be a catastrophic earthquake in San Francisco or a Cat5 hurricane that will clobber New Orleans, but I digress). I'm merely pointing out that what has been reported so far seems to me to be more hysteria than science.

And Recombinomics is an interesting source. They seem to be in the business of anti-viral technology. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just sayin'....

Van Morrison's contractual obligation songs

In 1967 or thereabouts Van Morrison wanted to get out of his contract with a record label, so he fulfilled his obligation by making up 31 songs and recording them in a single sitting. They're awful songs, but it's interesting to listen to a few. All 31 are available as MP3s on WFMU's blog.
[Morrison sings] on topics ranging from ringworm to wanting a danish, to hating his record label and a guy named George. Make sure you get past the first few tunes - it takes him a few to get cooking.

Copyright scholars and publishers on crazy auctorial theories about books and tech

Two fantastic editorials on the Authors' Guild lawsuit against Google and the threats against Amazon for selling used books.

The first is from William Patry, a renowned copyright scholar who is anything but a radical, talking about the angry rhetoric from publishers and authors over Amazon's used books:

An article in Thursday's (September 29) Wall Street Journal discusses complaints authors and publishers have about the fact that offers books for sale at different prices: list price, new books at lower prices, and used books. Authors, literary agents, and publishers are quoted as saying they think they are being deprived of royalties and they want their share! It is really no fun to write about copyright owners acting like Luddite pigs, and being in private practice it has a definite commercial downside; I would much rather praise Caesar. But, things are as they are, and I have always opted for honesty over craven brown-nosing and over self-imposed censorship. I hope my twins forgive me...

I buy the vast majority of my books through and pay alot of attention to the choices they offer for the book I am interested in. Choice is bad, apparently. I should have to pay list price and I shouldn't be able to resell it (at least through without sending a check to the publisher, who will of course pass 100% through to the author, at least that is what a literary agent is quoted in the article as advocating.

Sad, is the only polite word I can think of for authors and publishers' utter failure to embrace an extremely beneficial system. The first sale doctrine was judicially created by the Supreme Court pre-1909 Copyright Act in order to prevent publishers from misusing copyright to maintain list price. Some things truly never change.


Next, an editorial in the NYT from publisher Tim O'Reilly about the inanity of the Author's Guild's suit against Google for creating searchable indices of every book it can lay hands on, a move certain to do nothing but invigorate the book trade by putting references to books into the search results that are increasingly the only way that potential book-buyers get their information:

I'm with Google on this one. It would certainly be considered fair use, if, for example, I circulated a catalog of my favorite books, including a handful of quotations from each book that helps people to decide whether to buy a copy. In my mind, providing such snippets algorithmically on demand, as Google does, doesn't change that dynamic. Google allows click-through to the entire book only if the book is in the public domain or if publishers have opted in to the program. If it's unclear who owns the rights to a book, only the snippets are displayed.

A search engine for books will be revolutionary in its benefits. Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than copyright infringement, or even outright piracy. While publishers invest in each of their books, they depend on bestsellers to keep afloat. They typically throw their products into the market to see what sticks and cease supporting what doesn't, so an author has had just one chance to reach readers. Until now.

As my editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden notes, "Tim O'Reilly 1000, Authors Guild 0". Link

Steadman band releases all its music/videos for free downloads

Steadman, a band that used to be signed to the now-defunct Elektra label, has released 130+ downloads of music and video for fans to download and share. Simon Steadman adds, "Also could you mention that for information about upcoming shows and new songs please join our mailing list at the site?" Link (Thanks, Simon!)

Canadian recording industry: downloading leads to shoplifting

A push-poll of Canadian teenagers from the Canadian Recording Industry Assocation reports that teenagers who download will become shoplifting software pirates. No word if it will also make you grow hair on your palms. Link (Thanks, Ian!)