Friday, October 28, 2016

Be my little fruit dove

Before last night, did I know anything at all about the fruit dove?

Did I know there WAS such a thing as the fruit dove? 

This is the kind of thing I learn from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology .It's overwhelming, is what it is, because when you decide to study just one variety of one kind of bird, this is what you get. And this list is by no means a complete list. There are some fifty (or: there were some fifty, until mankind in his infinite wisdom wiped them out forever) kinds of fruit dove, and if you want to know more about any of them, just click on the links below.

I made this little gif slide-show to demonstrate just the tip of the iceberg. I'm not going to tell you which fruit dove is shown in each photo, because that would take me all day! But if you're interested - and I swear I did not give two hoots about the fruit dove until last night - this information will get you started. 


Dwarf fruit dove (Ptilinopus nainus), Lobo, New Guinea, 1828
Banded fruit dove, Ptilinopus cinctus
Black-banded fruit dove, Ptilinopus alligator
Red-naped fruit dove, Ptilinopus dohertyi
Pink-headed fruit dove, Ptilinopus porphyreus
Flame-breasted fruit dove, Ptilinopus marchei
Cream-breasted fruit dove, Ptilinopus merrilli
Yellow-breasted fruit dove, Ptilinopus occipitalis
Red-eared fruit dove, Ptilinopus fischeri
Jambu fruit dove, Ptilinopus jambu
Oberholser's fruit dove, Ptilinopus epia
Banggai fruit dove, Ptilinopus subgularis
Sula fruit dove, Ptilinopus mangoliensis
Black-chinned fruit dove, Ptilinopus leclancheri
Scarlet-breasted fruit dove, Ptilinopus bernsteinii
Wompoo fruit dove, Ptilinopus magnificus
Pink-spotted fruit dove, Ptilinopus perlatus
Ornate fruit dove, Ptilinopus ornatus
Tanna fruit dove, Ptilinopus tannensis
Orange-fronted fruit dove, Ptilinopus aurantiifrons
Wallace's fruit dove, Ptilinopus wallacii
Superb fruit dove, Ptilinopus superbus
Many-coloured fruit dove, Ptilinopus perousii
Crimson-crowned fruit dove, Ptilinopus porphyraceus
Ebon purple-capped fruit dove, Ptilinopus porphyraceus marshallianus - doubtfully distinct; extinct (late 19th century)?
Purple-capped fruit dove, Ptilinopus ponapensis
Kosrae fruit dove, Ptilinopus hernsheimi
Palau fruit dove, Ptilinopus pelewensis
Lilac-crowned fruit dove, Ptilinopus rarotongensis
Mauke fruit dove, Ptilinopus rarotongensis "byronensis" - extinct (mid-/late 19th century)
Tubuai fruit dove, Ptilinopus sp. - prehistoric
Mariana fruit dove, Ptilinopus roseicapilla
Rose-crowned fruit dove(Ptilinopus regina) from Australia and Indonesia
Rose-crowned fruit dove, Ptilinopus regina
Silver-capped fruit dove, Ptilinopus richardsii
Grey-green fruit dove, Ptilinopus purpuratus
Makatea fruit dove, Ptilinopus chalcurus
Atoll fruit dove, Ptilinopus coralensis
Red-bellied fruit dove, Ptilinopus greyi
Rapa fruit dove, Ptilinopus huttoni
White-capped fruit dove, Ptilinopus dupetithouarsii
Red-moustached fruit dove, Ptilinopus mercierii - extinct (mid-20th century)
Henderson fruit dove, Ptilinopus insularis
Coroneted fruit dove, Ptilinopus coronulatus
Beautiful fruit dove, Ptilinopus pulchellus
Blue-capped fruit dove, Ptilinopus monacha
White-bibbed fruit dove, Ptilinopus rivoli
Yellow-bibbed fruit dove, Ptilinopus solomonensis
Claret-breasted fruit dove, Ptilinopus viridis
White-headed fruit dove, Ptilinopus eugeniae
Male pink-headed fruit dove, Ptilinopus porphyreus
Orange-bellied fruit dove, Ptilinopus iozonus
Knob-billed fruit dove, Ptilinopus insolitus
Grey-headed fruit dove, Ptilinopus hyogaster
Carunculated fruit dove, Ptilinopus granulifrons
Black-naped fruit dove, Ptilinopus melanospilus
Dwarf fruit dove, Ptilinopus nainus
Negros fruit dove, Ptilinopus arcanus - possibly extinct (late 20th century?)
Orange fruit dove, Ptilinopus victor
Golden fruit dove, Ptilinopus luteovirens
Whistling fruit dove, Ptilinopus layardi

A cat in the cupboard!

Thursday, October 27, 2016


The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy (just the good parts)

For my million and one loyal followers: you're already aware that this blog is extremely gif-heavy. Ever since I learned how to make a decent 15-second gif a couple of years ago, I've decorated my blog with them, watching the action run in perfectly-executed little circles. I particularly like to boil down a movie to its bare essence, and never is this more effective than in the case of poorly-dubbed, low-budget Mexican horror films. 

Can you guess which one I have in mind? 

Since I'm bringing you just the good parts, and I hope these don't run slow and jerky for you as they do when the net is a little busy (they straighten out after one cycle), I'll need to explain that this movie is about a robot vs an Aztec mummy. It eventually comes down to a cage match between the two of them, and I won't tell you who wins - you'll figure it out, I think. In between all this feverish activity, there is an unbelievable number of reaction shots. People also spend a lot of time tromping through graveyards, but I left most of that out. As with most films in this genre, it's incredibly slow-moving: believe me when I tell you, this really IS the best part of it, and it comes in under less than two minutes.

This mummy kicks ass. This mummy wants revenge. He has come back from the grave to get some goodies stolen from him by some greedy archaeologist (or something like that). Something about a breastplate and bracelet, though who knows why? Must be because he's Aztec and all.

This is an action scene. There aren't that many of them. People fall down a lot, and cover their faces and scream, and one guy gets real scarred up because the mummy touches him (or is it the robot?)

Sorry this one is so long, but this guy kills me! He looks like Orson Welles, or a crazed opera singer or something - and the human heart, which I guess ends up inside the robot, is straight out of Frankenstein. But the special effects are a tad simpler. That old heart just kind of sits there stewing.

This is a great example of endless, tedious reaction shots. I suspect a good many of them are repeated, a common trick in the low-budget horror industry where recycling footage saves cash. It takes forever for the robot to actually DO anything, and until then all we can do is watch a lot of flashing lights.

At last, the beast is on his feet! This is a magnificent construction which appears to be made from a large spray-painted cardboard box and some furnace ducts. I'm still puzzling out why there is a thing like a mail slot in his chest. My favorite part of the ensemble is the remote control, wielded with fiendish glee by The Bad Guy.

This is really unfortunate. It's just some Mexican guy with a serape on, hanging out in the graveyard, and look what happens to him! Orson Welles just pounds on that remote, and look what it makes the robot do. I'm not sure what it does, but like a lot of people in this movie, the Mexican guy runs away screaming.

CAGE MATCH! Here is where it gets good, and it happens in the last two minutes and thirty-eight seconds. The robot is smokin' by now, and is reducing our poor mummy to pulp. Things look pretty grim for the Aztec guy.

But just when you think - ! Once more, the mummy kicks butt! Could there be hidden symbolism here, i. e. ancient spiritual tradition beating out shallow man-made technology? Or is that robot, when you think about it, just a piece of shit anyway?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Loving Vincent: Van Gogh's dreamscape

Cat splat

Dylan's Nobel: what the fxxk is the MATTER with you guys?!

Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Car porn: vintage autos to die for

Face-meld: I cannot believe this worked!

With all this Dylan-ish stuff in the air, I've been dipping back into some of the biographies, most notably Down the Highway by Howard Sounes. It has a modified version of this picture on the cover, a very famous (one might even say iconic, if one could stand that word) image of Dylan from the mid-'60s:

At this point in his career, Dylan had become a piece of art, a very fashionable Warhol-esque figure with pouty lips and supermodels like the doomed Edie Sedgewick lopped onto his arm. Not long after that he had his celebrated Motorcycle Accident (which some claim didn't exist, but was an excuse for getting out of record contracts/concert obligations for a while). He came back a changed man.

But never mind all that.

When my novel The Glass Character came out, I was a bit gobsmacked to see the cover. In spite of what the reading public thinks, authors have little or nothing to do with cover art, and the several suggestions I gave my publisher (because they asked me) had been completely disregarded. So I was left with half a green Harold-face with his hair standing up. The hair-on-end picture is almost as iconic (forgive me) as the man-on-the-clock shot, but on my novel it simply doesn't work. I don't think it represents the story very well, if at all. But the novel still holds up, as far as I am concerned, just waiting for that elusive movie deal.

So today I got looking at that half-a-Dylan face, and wondered how it might look put together with MY book's half-a-Harold-face. After all, these are both world-famous images of world-famous men from wildly different times/places.

What did I have to lose? Oh, a couple of hours I'll never get back. But I had to try it!

First I had to split the Dylan face so that it looked like this:

Then I had to convert my book cover to black and white, an easy task. I didn't have to worry about cutting faces in half because my publisher had already done it for me.

Can you see it, is it starting to take shape? But it was not as easy as it sounds. Face-scanning equipment can tell you that even if two faces look similar, features can be totally different in relation to each other. I'd never get an exact match.

But the results surprised me.

Creepy-looking, I know! But take another look at it. The hairline is very close, though it's hard to see under Bob's curly thatch.  If Bob bugged out his sleepy eyes a little, they'd align almost perfectly. The nose - just look at how that nose matches up! It's incredible. And the upper lip is so exact that it scares me. I swear I did not retouch this thing in any way, just tried to match photo sizes. The biggest discrepancy is in the jaw and chin. Harold had a sort of leading-man jawline, and Bob does not. His facial features back then were almost childlike. But just look at the rest of it!

So what's the point of all this? I just had to find out what it would look like. 

And take a look at this. Since the chin is the feature that matches the least, I decided to crop it out. Now you see the close harmony between eyes, nose and mouth in two men who look not even remotely like each other. 

And for one more little Dylan treat, here's the back cover of Down the Highway:

This is a negative of the original cover photo. Here is the same effect with the black-and-white of my cover:

I once had an editor who liked to say, "It doesn't matter what they say about you, so long as they spell your name right on the cheque." And I guess it doesn't matter how bad a book cover is, so long as they can still read your name.

Friday, October 21, 2016

An AWFUL idea!

Cats that look like Donald Trump

And now, by popular demand. . . (which I'm still waiting for), my gallery of Cats That Look Like Donald Trump. This was created to fulfill a need: when I looked up Google images of cats resembling Trump, there were lots of them, but they were most unsatisfactory: just pictures of cats with messy red wigs sitting on their heads like bird's nests. That is NOT what it means to look like Donald Trump! It's more than orange hair - it's bombast. It's a certain repugnant attitude. I do apologize profusely to the cats. These are but fleeting facial expressions caught in a moment of peevishness. With Trump, the obnoxiousness is forever.