Category: goo brain

Bids of Fury

Bruce Lee

An American couple submitted the winning auction bid for a flamboyant fur-lined blue jacket worn by Bruce Lee in his final film appearance, entertainment website reported Saturday.

The martial arts movie icon wore the long blue jacket in the unfinished film “Game of Death” as well as at the premiere of his best-known film, “Enter the Dragon.”

The auction winners bid $77,000 for the jacket, BBC reported.


Does this not seem like the first act of a goofy ’80s action film?

Perhaps the purchaser dreams of the respect afforded the martial artist – respect he can only truly earn from his big-haired girlfriend by viciously pummeling an army of goons sent to kill her last-good-man-on-the-police-force father.

Thank goodness he’s just obtained a jacket which allows him to be temporarily possessed by the furiously-fisted spirit of Bruce Lee.

Anatomy of Integrity

Jimmy Stewart on the set of Anatomy of a MurderIn scrawling Flash Pulp, I try to walk the line between titillation and good taste. I’ve said before that I’d like the stories to be something my children could read when they grow old enough to be interested, but there’s another barrier that I sometimes bump up against while deciding how to approach a story.

There’s an old adage in the fiction churning business,

“Write as if your parents were dead.”

I’ve always found that one a bit tough, although I’m not sure that, even if they were, I’d suddenly start throwing out human genitalia like candy. Bless my mom, and her French Canadian, Roman Catholic, heart – if she hadn’t unintentionally taught me to be creatively salacious, I’d likely only possess half of my current vocabulary.

Now, these things certainly weren’t on my mind while watching Anatomy of a Murder last night – no, I was simply engrossed in a court room drama being handily presented by the always genial Jimmy Stewart.

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It’s an intense film, which deals relatively openly with rape, a topic not often touched on in its time –

Upon its original release, the film was banned in Chicago, Illinois.


– but it’s an important piece, in utilizing entertainment to bring a spotlight to dark social corners, and who could resist the charms of Stewart, feasibly the most inherently likable actor of the last century?

James Stewart’s father was so offended by the film, which he deemed “a dirty picture”, that he took out an ad in his local newspaper telling people not to see it.


Getting Around

Northrop Flying Wing DiagramFor the majority of the day I’ve had my mind stuck on two wildly different methodologies of travel.

Have you heard of the Northrop Flying Wing? We’ve certainly discussed the concept before, but I’d never encountered footage of this beast till now, and I can’t help but to, again, imagine a future we never had:

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Thirty years later, in April 1980, Jack Northrop, now quite elderly and wheel chair bound, was taken back to the company he founded. There, he was ushered into a classified area and shown a scale model of the Air Force’s forthcoming but still classified Advanced Technology Bomber, which would become known as the B-2A; a sleek Flying Wing. Looking over its all-wing design, Northrop was reported to have said: “I know why God has kept me alive for the past 25 years.”


What could possibly be competing with this beautiful monster for my brain-space?

Ancient, giant, wombats – aka diprotodons.

This particular wombat is generally thought to be the largest marsupial to ever walk the Earth. They weighed nearly 7,000 pounds and were as much as 14 feet long. The new skeleton dates back to about two million years ago, but these creatures went extinct only recently, roughly 50,000 years ago.


Give me a team, saddles, a bit of DNA, and the most advanced bio-engineering lab humanity has ever known, and I will bring back polo as something people actually care about.
Re-creation of massive wombat (from the io9 article)Traffic jams certainly wouldn’t be a concern this all-terrain colossus – and they even come with a mouthful of built-in anti-theft devices.

Function: The Roar of the Greasepaint

Russian Jager (Private and Officer of the Grenadier Company of the Life Guard Jager Regiment)It’s easy, given our modern understanding of camouflage, to mock the sort of grandiose headgear these gentlemen are wearing – especially given their role as sharpshooters – but, consider:

It’s 1812, and you’re standing alongside your sweating and anxious French brethren, on the dewy grass of a Russian morning, while staring down an enemy battle line.

The tiny emperor’s claims of easy victory have brought you hundreds of miles from your home, and you’re feeling pretty good about having encountered these fellows with their convenient “shoot here” plumes.

Mid-mock, your best friend, Jean Francoise, is suddenly cut down by one of the silly-hatted peacocks.

Who’s laughing then?

Armed Clown found at

Listen, all I’m saying is that there may be something behind the idea of equipping NATO troops with heavily armoured clown outfits.

Homicidal Inequality

Jack the Ripper - found at stumbled across something that I found odd – stick close behind me as we take a quick stroll through a rogues gallery.

The Original Night Stalker is the moniker for an unidentified serial killer and rapist who murdered at least ten people in Southern California from 1979 through 1986 and sexually assaulted at least fifty in Northern California from June 1976 to July 1979.


The “Original Night Stalker”: a dark, dangerous, sort of moniker.

“Freeway Phantom” was the name given to an unidentified serial killer known to have abducted, raped and strangled six female youths in Washington, D.C. from April 1971 through September 1972.


The “Freeway Phantom”: ethereal and mysterious – a name that conjures up the image of a ghost wandering dimly lit pavement.

The Honolulu Strangler […] was Hawaii’s first known serial killer and responsible for the death of five women in Honolulu.


The “Honolulu Strangler”: a practical label, perhaps, but still evoking a sort of classic villainy.

“The Doodler” (aka “The Black Doodler”) refers to an unidentified serial killer believed responsible for 14 slayings and three assaults of men in San Francisco’s gay community between January 1974 and September 1975. The nickname was given due to the perpetrator’s habit of sketching his victims prior to having sex with them and then stabbing them to death.


The Doodler? Seriously? I don’t mean to cast aspersions on whoever the SF journalists and police had coming up with nicknames, but it seems to me that this fellow wouldn’t have been known as something quite so lame if he hadn’t been targeting the gay community.

I don’t know what I would have gone with for an alternate – the San Francisco Slasher? The Artist? – but even “The Black Doodler” sounds like a poorly paid caricaturist who intentionally draws over-sized noses on all of his clients.

Police had developed a prime suspect in the case, identified by two of his survivors, but authorities could not proceed with an arrest as the surviving victims refused to “out” themselves by way of testifying (one was an entertainer, the other a diplomat). Meanwhile, the suspect spoke freely with police, although he did not admit the slayings.


To date, the suspect has never been publicly named or apprehended, and the slayings have faded into obscurity; very little information is currently available about these crimes.


Puss in Boots

Kitten in a shoe, found at http://www.smosh.comI was doing a bit of research, and I came across this interesting/horrifying bit of information:

In 1893, an anonymous “A Veterinary Surgeon” wrote “The Diseases of Dogs and Cats” described the neutering of male cats. The cat was immobilised by rolling it in a blanket and the operation carried out without anaesthetic. This vet did not recommend the “Wellington boot” whereby a cat was thrust face down in a boot and the operation carried out quickly with a small knife (giving rise to the modern day joke of “welly boot and penknife” when booking a tomcat in for neutering).

Cats and Cat Care

On the other hand, at least the kitties could have their Tony Montana moment first.

An owner could insist on anaesthetics of chloroform or cocaine at additional cost. These were relatively dangerous and it was easy to overdose the cat.

Cats and Cat Care

Feodor Vassilyev

Cletus and Kin
Have you ever heard of Feodor Vassilyev? I have a bone to pick with the fellow.

(Unless otherwise cited, all quotes in this post are from the Wikipedia article on Feodor.)

The basics are thus:

Feodor Vassilyev (Russian: Фёдор Васильев) (b. approx. 1707) was a peasant from Shuya, Russia.

The story, still maintained by such sources as the Guinness Book of World Records, begins at:

The first published account about Feodor Vassilyev’s children appeared in a 1783 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine (Vol. 53 p. 753, London, 1783) and states that the information “however astonishing, may be depended upon, as it came directly from an English merchant in St Petersburg to his relatives in England, who added that the peasant was to be introduced to the Empress”

Children? What was so incredible about the youths?

67 of the 69 children born are said to have survived infancy.

Oh my.

16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 births.

So, Feodor had a closet full of handcrafted macaroni art on Father’s Day, but what’s my issue with the long-dead man?

Well – let’s just review the Guiness entry regarding the Vassilyev family.

Most prolific mother ever

The greatest recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev (Russia). In 27 pregnancies between 1725 and 1765 she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets. Only two of the children failed to survive their infancy. The mother also holds the records for giving birth to the most sets of twins and the most sets of quadruplets.

As I see it, Feodor’s name should only be tangentially related to this bit of knowledge, (which I rather suspect was entirely a fabrication of the apparent father.)
A Large Family (source unknown)
Who was this supposed woman who housed 69 lives? We don’t even get her first name. We have no idea when she was born or died, we essentially know only that she was married to a lusty husband, and likely spent a lot of time lying down – that’s it.

No offense, Feodor, but, this glory-grab is as if history only remembered “Denham‘s ape”, instead of “King Kong”.

Birds of a Feather

Lorre as Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon

They say “write what you know”, and there’s no doubt that what Dashiell Hammett knew made for a great story.

In real life, Dashiell Hammett had been a one-time operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Brigid O’Shaughnessy was partly based on his secretary, Peggy O’Toole, and partly on a woman who once employed him to fire her housekeeper. Joel Cairo was based on a man Hammett picked up on a forgery charge in 1920, while Wilmer, the gunman, was drawn from a petty criminal who went by the nickname of “The Midget Bandit”.


The problem is, there’s a thin line, in creative work, between gold and garbage. As an example, Huston’s take on The Maltese Falcon was actually the third film iteration.

The tenor of the 1931 film is lighter, and the pacing is looser. There is also a rather extensive use of sexually suggestive situations in this pre-Code film, notably a scene featuring Bebe Daniels nude in a bathtub and another in which she is strip-searched. From the opening scene, in which a young woman is seen straightening her stockings as she leaves Spade’s office, there are numerous suggestions of Spade’s sexual involvement with other female characters. Furthermore, the film does not shy away from the theme of homosexuality: a young and handsome Wilmer is openly called Gutman’s “boyfriend”, implying a gay relationship, and Effie facetiously describes Cairo to Spade as “gorgeous”. Spade also plays with a cop he doesn’t like by constantly referring to him as “sweetheart”, “darling” and “precious.” There is also one instance of profanity, a character mutters “son of a bitch”.


How did the studio handle the heavy-handed censors? By remaking the film, in 1936, with Bette Davis.

How could they go wrong having one of the leading actresses of her era in a role almost built for her femme fatale styling? By turning it into a comedy and renaming it Satan Met a Lady, (which, frankly, sounds like a Jerry Lewis film.)

Poster for Satan Met a Lady

Of course, Mary Astor, the female lead of the ’41 version, and no stranger to a little writing herself…

A legal battle drew press attention on Astor in 1936. Dr. Franklyn Thorpe divorced Astor in 1935 and a custody battle resulted over their four year old daughter, Marylyn. Thorpe threatened to use Astor’s diary in the proceedings, which told of her affairs with many celebrities, including George S. Kaufman. The diary was never formally offered as evidence during the trial, but Thorpe and his lawyers constantly referred to it, and its notoriety grew.


…did an amazing job – though, arguably, the whiff of scandal only helped reinforce her role.

In all the scenes involving Mary Astor, there’s a suggestion of prison. In one scene, she wears striped pyjamas, the furniture in the room is striped and the slivers of light coming through the Venetian blinds suggest jailcell bars. When she steps into the elevator at the end of the film, the lighting also suggests bars.


Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon

The Bird

The Maltese Falcon
Jessica May ought to have the edited version of FlashCast 25 in my grubby little hands shortly, but, in the meantime, have you fully enjoyed our weekend releases?

Tonight we’re off to the bright lights and cold pavement of the city, so that we might take in The Maltese Falcon on the big screen. You’ll have to excuse me if I get a little wound up on the topic in today’s blogging: it probably ranks above Casablanca for my favourite Bogart film.

Warner hated to see actors smoking on the screen, fearing it would prompt smokers in the movie audience to step out into the lobby for a cigarette. During the filming of _Maltese Falcon, The (1941)_, Warner told director John Huston that smoking in the film should be kept to a minimum. Bogart and Lorre thought it would be fun to annoy Warner by smoking as often as possible, and got their co-stars, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet to go along with the joke. During the initial filming of the climactic confrontation, all four actors smoked heavily. After seeing the rushes, Warner furiously called Huston to his office and threatened to fire him from the picture if he didn’t tell Bogart and Lorre to knock it off. Realizing their prank had backfired, Bogart and Lorre agreed to stop smoking on camera. However, when the next series of rushes came back, it was obvious that the *lack* of smoking by the actors was taking away from the sinister mood of the scene. Huston went back to Jack Warner, and convinced him that the smoking added the right amount of atmospheric tension to the story, arguing that the characters *would* smoke cigarettes while waiting nervously for the Maltese Falcon to arrive.


Bogart & Lorre, still from The Maltese Falcon

The topic also reminds me of this fantastic Adam Savage talk from TED. It’s a bit of a geek-out-on-pixie-sticks, but the ride is definitely worth the price of admission.

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Sam Spade refers to Wilmer as a “gunsel”, a term the censors assumed was a slang reference to a gunman. […] It is more usually an “underground” term which refers to a person who is either a “fall guy” or a “stool pigeon”, in which case Spade is making both a direct and an indirect reference to Wilmer’s character.


Wilmer the Gunsel - still from The Maltese Falcon

True Pulp Tales

Amazing Stories CoverBefore we begin, let me warn you: this post is not for the weak of heart.

Yesterday, while exploring how pop fiction sometimes reinforces stereotypes, I was reminded of how often the world offers up scenarios too pulpy to seem true.

For example:

In 1969, [mob boss Vincent “Chin”] Gigante started feigning mental illness to escape criminal prosecution. He escaped conviction on bribery charges by producing a number of prominent psychiatrists who testified that he was legally insane. […] Almost every day he would return from his residence to his mother’s apartment at 225 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village and emerge dressed in a bathrobe and pajamas or a windbreaker and shabby trousers. Accompanied by one or two bodyguards, he crossed the street to the Triangle Civic Improvement Association — a dingy storefront club that served as his headquarters — where he played pinochle and held whispered conversations with his associates.


If I were to write a gangster character like that, people would be shouting out the concluding twist before the end of the first act – and yet Gigante got away with it for twenty years.

Black Book Detective cover

It may be the case, however, that I’m simply too jaded.

“Nazi gold?” I might say to myself, “one of the most hackneyed plot devices you’ll ever encounter – there’s certainly nothing more to be said on the topic, and no telling, however true, would amaze me.”

– but I’d be wrong.

George de Hevesy, Scientist & Nazi FighterWhen Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of the German physicists Max von Laue (1914) and James Franck (1925) in aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from confiscating them. […] De Hevesy placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. It was subsequently ignored by the Nazis who thought the jar—one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving—contained common chemicals. After the war, de Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The gold was returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation who recast the medals and again presented them to Laue and Franck.


As mind-blowing as both of those stories are, however, they don’t quite top the amazement I felt when I heard the true crime tale of Murderous Mary.

On September 11, 1916, a hotel worker named Red Eldridge […] was killed by Mary in Kingsport, Tennessee […] within minutes, a local blacksmith tried to kill Mary, firing more than two dozen rounds with little effect […] Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to kill the [circus] elephant in public.


Bullets having had little effect, and poison/electricity being in too short supply to complete the task, they turned to justice’s ancient friend, the hangman’s rope – frankly, I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen the proof:

Murderous Mary, the elephant