Sunday, April 26, 2009

Goodbye to the other-other Star Wars Bartender

Sad news from showbiz this weekend: CBC is reporting actress Bea Arthur has died.

While most people will probably remember her for her mainstream roles in Maude and The Golden Girls, geeks will remember her for deliciously snarky, yet vulnerable performance as the Femputer in Futurama, and, as aweful as it sounds for her to have sullied herself this way: the Star Wars Christmas Special.

While I'm among the legions that enjoy slagging the Christmas Special, I have to admit Arthur did a pretty good job as the bartender in the Cantina. Not as good as Richard Pryor in his comic variety series (his freak out when he sees "the devil" in his bar is a scream), but good none-the-less. Grumbling away bar-side, I could buy that she was a bartender in a two-fisted saloon enduring life under the Empire. Too bad she couldn't have been given the role in a decent installment of the franchise, rather than the one Lucas has done his best to wall-up and forget for the past 30 years. Along with the animated Boba Fett segment, Arthur's turn as the bar tender was quite watchable... until the singing started. Truly, the power of the Dark Side is everywhere.

And lastly, I'll give her a nod for her contribution to fantasy in mainstream culture... I think above all other parts, I'll remember Arthur for her role as the flamboyant Mrs. Claus in the Christmas TV ads for Shoppers Drugmart (a Canadian drug store chain) back in the 80's. I can still remember her flipping a boa over her shoulder and calling Santa her "sweet patootie".

Bea Arthur was 86.

bloginhood now on Twitter

That's right, my inane ramblings on SF are now available in a convenient snack size. After much humming and ha-ing, I've finally joined Twitter. Makes me think of that line from the clergyman in the Temple of the Druids (Reformed) at the end of Spaceballs: "Okay, now for the short short version!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not A Planet Anymore Gets A Facelift

My other blog, Not A Planet Anymore, has been given a facelift today, thanks to some tinkering by my faithful sidekick harrysaxon. And a nice job he's done with it too. Be sure and let us know what you think!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The 500 Pound Gorilla on My Back

I'm falling way behind on the 365 Short Story Challenge.

For a variety of reasons I haven't had a chance to plow through as many short stories as I'd like to. One of the main targets of blame is too many good novels. Since I made the 365 resolution, I've been trying to balance things out: read a short story every day or two to start, then allocate the rest of the day's reading time to a novel. Problem is, when you get into a huge monster of a book like Dan Simmons' "Drood" (more than half-way through now!) that's utterly absorbing, it's hard to ignore it and go for the short story anthology first.

As much as I may enjoy the short stories, they almost become a chore if they distract me from the novel. Sure, I recently enjoyed the hell out of rereading Charles Sheffield's "The Treasure of Odirex" for the first time in something like 20 years (Erasmus Darwin made for an interesting protagonist, never mind that he was a real person) in Isaac Asimov's Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction 6: Neanderthals - edited by Robert Silverberg, Martin H Greenberg & Charles G Waugh. But it was hard to make time for it when part of my mind kept wanting to get back to the misadventures of Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins in Simmons' tome. I feel like a little kid who has to eat his veggies first. And I don't want to feel that way about reading the short stuff, because I love it.

The solution, of course, once I'm done with Drood, is to get in a couple of solid doses of anthologies instead of novels, like I did earlier with Jack Dann's Dreaming Again (a collection of Australian SF that's definitely worth adding to any collection), to bring the tally back up. And yet, there's still the siren's call of the in-box full of novel's that I can't wait to get to.

Another way to add a few more to the total is to download a couple of anthologies to my Iphone so I can read at lunch at work or when I've got some downtime when I'm on the go. Recently, those of us registered with this year's Worldcon, Anticipation, have been given access to many of the Hugo nominees' material, so I might be able to dump that onto the phone and kill two birds with one stone - adding another notch to the challenge belt and digesting this year's Hugo nominations so I can make an informed vote. As well, I'll have to find a couple of websites where I can download some SF anthologies in a format that Stanza can read for my Iphone (still trying to figure out all the ins-and-outs and functions of that device). Anyone got any suggestions?

In the meantime, I'll have to make a greater effort to getting back to reading at least one short story a day. I'm not giving up, but this is certainly shaping up to be a tougher slog than I first thought!

Missed Storytime This Evening

First of all, sorry to all of you for not posting anything for the past few weeks. My non-SF life has been hectic and kind of weird lately. There have been lots of things I've wanted to post, but I just haven't had the time or I've been completely exhausted. Anyhow, over the next few days I hope to catch up.

And speaking of missing things, I'm a little frustrated that I had to miss out on a geeky happening this evening. Robert J. Sawyer was doing a reading and signing for his new novel "Wake" over at White Dwarf Books. Sawyer's a nice guy, has some interesting thoughts, and gets into his read enough to be pretty entertaining.

And what could have pulled me away from an evening with fellow fans listening to one of Canada's top authors and finishing the night getting an autographed copy of the book? An hour at the personal trainer. Yes. The anti-geek experience. I've been going once a week for the past couple of months as a means of holding the line against the threatened expansion of the waistline and as a long-term investment in my health. Not looking to pump up to Schwarzennegarian dimensions or anything, just mainain things in a capable state. So far, I think it's working. Now, normally, faced with a dilemma between indulging my SF pursuits and going to the trainer, the nerdlife would win hands-down. Tonight was a different story though - my wife also sees the trainer (has been much longer than I have) and with us being a one-car family, it's difficult for her to get there if I'm galvanting around on the other side of town. Score one for the trainer. If only I could get a clone for days like this.

Luckily, I was in the neighbourhood on the weekend and my friends at the store were kind enough to set aside a copy to be signed for me. Yet another reason why I make my SF purchases there instead of Chapters - friendly, personal, above-and-beyond-the-call service, and more importantly, a real feeling of community. Thanks, White Dwarf!