Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: THE ELUSIVE MELODY

 "The Elusive Melody" by "George Egerton" (Mary Charvelita Dunne Bright) {from her collection Fantasias, 1897)


Part ghost story, part fable, part parable, part modernist fin de siecle romance, "The Elusive Melody" is heavily influenced by both Nietzschean darkness and sexual expression.  It's a strange little meandering story -- not the writer's best, but certainly one that displays her powers as an influential turn of the century author.

At the end of a long avenue there is a deserted house, quite unlike any of the others on the street.  As if to point out its uniqueness, in the yard stands a cypress tree, the only one in the area.  Both the house and the tree exude a feeling of strangeness.  One day, a woman and her three daughters move into the house.  Soon "many strange noises, the thud of falling bodies, ringing bells, doors that opened noiselessly cause maid after maid to leave."  The middle daughter, ghe grey-eyed one, is drawn to an old clock and its pendulum, constantly sitting in front of it, listening to the pendulum and the sound of tiny footsteps behind it, which turn into louder steps, then a faltering stride; the little girl says she is just "watching the feet."

One day, the older girl,  just ten years old, the one with the gypsy eyes, sits at the piano and begins to play.  This child had never played before and was noted for not having a musical ear or any talent whatsoever, yet she flawlessly plays pieces that she has heard before to the delight of guests.  Until, one day. she can't.  The youngest child, the one with the steady eyes, raged against the visions the middle child had.

Soon the family moved to smaller quarters, because the mother was expecting a fourth child.  No man, no father, is mentioned in the story.  The mother is not well and is bordering on poverty.

Suddenly we shift to some years ahead.  The youngest girl never made it to her teens, having met a grim, unnamed death.  The middle girl sailed to America and became sadder than ever.  No mention is made of the mother, nor of the child she was carrying.  The oldest girl grew into a solitary person, content in her aloofness and that she had no need form men.  One day, the muse that allowed her to play the piano came back, Euterpe the muse of music but as Euterpe the muse of lyric poetry.  She was given words, "words like arrows winged with silver, that never failed to hit the mark; golden-tipped words that tickled to laughter, or others that moved to tears -- hosts that wore her livery and stepped into their duties in her time of need."  These words swept over her so much the she forgot she was a woman.  She wandered into a meadow and met a huntsman who was chasing butterflies.  When he saw her the huntsman blew on a lure and he, who knew almost every species of butterfly, realized that he had come upon a rare one.  He drew the girl onto his horse and they raced away, as if by magic.  The girl, who had never dreamed that she would attract a man, began to see the world differently.  

Finally, one day they rode through the gate of a city:  "It was a curious gate fashioned out of fossilized human hearts set in the most original manner between a quaint tracery of vows, alas, much chipped."  In a temple they plucked the only genuine flower...and found it to be an ordinary bloom.  Soon their ardor faded and the huntsman went out in search of butterflies and the girl stayed home and wilted.  One day the to were out and came to the entrance of a graveyard in which the paths divided.  A caretaker explains that this is the burial ground of lost illusions.  "Many people never do any good until they are bourne through it; for then they turn their undivided attention to some practical pursuit."  As they entered the gates the huntsman spied a beautiful butterfly.  As he chased after it he realized that the girl was too delicate and not robust enough to stick a pin through.  The girl, for her part, went to the right side of the graveyard where dwelt the poets and dreamers.  Suddenly the words came back to her, blazing in poetry, but just as suddenly the lute strings of her heart broke and "The magic words could no longer fall into place; the ashes of love lay thick in the path of the rhythm."  

There the story ends, in bleakness and despair.


The author, Mary Bright (1850-1945), had a singular life.  Born in Australia and spending her childhood there and in New Zealand and Chile, her family moved to Ireland when she was eleven.  She spent her formative yerss there and considered herself "Totally Irish."  She wanted to be an artist and spent two years in school in Germany, but when he mother died she returned to Ireland to take care of her siblings.  She eventually trained as a nurse.  She had several romantic encounters and in 1888, she caused a scandal by eloping with a married man.  The man's wife claimed he was a bigamist, having been married before her.  The claims were false, the man divorced his wife and married Mary later that year.  During the elopement, Mary's father tracked the couple down and shot the man.  He recovered and they moved to Norway, and he died a year after he and Mary were married,  

While in Norway, Mary had  brief affair with future Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun.  Mary translated Hamsun's first novel for English audiences.  She married a second time, to a penniless adventurer and author.  It was then  that she began to write fiction, both as a means of escaping poverty and of escaping boredom,  she chose to write under the name "George Egerton."  Her first book of short stories (illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley) was wildly successful and she became a literary sensation.  She was friends with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Barrie, among others.  Her work influenced such writers as Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Jean Rhys, and D. H. Lawrence.  Mary and her second husband divorced in 1901, the year that he died.  In June of that year she married for a third time, to Reginald Golding Bright, a drama critic some fifteen years her younger.  Their marriage evidently lasted until his death in 1941

She was an advocate for feminism, sexual freedom, women's education, and financial freedom.  She was critical of religion and (despite being married three times) of marriage as an institution.  Along with sexual freedom, she advocated for same sex partnership and single parenting.  Mary became a critical link in the sexual transgressiveness of later writers.  Little read today, she has become increasingly popular with academic scholars.

Her collection Fantasias is available to read online.

Monday, April 19, 2021

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: SHE MOVES THROUGH THE FAIR

 From 1969, Fairport Convention.


\https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTb0_TfUnEk

BITS & PIECES

 Openers:  Lightning washed the girl on the cliff.  It showed her blue eyes wide, staring, terror-glazed.  Her slender body was set stiffly against the tearing, maniac fury of the storm.

Again she heard it.

The sound set the horny feet of terror creeping along Robin Dell's spine.  The thin scream cut through the roar of the ocean.  It was like the cry of a child in anguish.  And its animal strangeness ripped her soul with talons of eldritch dread.

Again, lightning shattered against the cliff beyond her.  The storm-torn sea was a mad grey turmoil.  Upon great black rocks, far below, green water was exploding into white clouds of spray.

And then fear closed on her white throat, like thick, cold serpent coils.

For she saw now a thing that moved.  Some huge bulk loomed grey and slimy in the brief light.  It swayed toward her, its movement boneless, flowing.  It was monstrous -- yet somehow, unmistakably, it suggested the human.

Obscenity leered from that hint of humanity, and horror beyond words.

-- Jack Williamson, "Grey Arms of Death" (from Thrilling Mystery, December 1935)


Hoo doggies!  Does that set up the scares!  That's pulp with a capital P!  The blurb to this story adds to the excitement:  "A Giant from the Depths -- Half Man Half Octopus -- Vents Its Sadistic Fury!"

Thrilling Mystery started out as a "terror" pulp, featuring stories that combined sadism, sex, horror, and often racism.  They sold like hotcakes in the Thirties.  The target audience was men looking to escape their boring work and their boring lives with a little bit of self-indulgent fantasy.  Each story had a brave, handsome hero and a beautiful and pure girl.  She would often be captured by sick psychopaths (often Orientals) and tortured while being shorn of her clothes.  The hero saves her, protecting her purity while getting an eyeful of her nakedness, and all is well as she falls into his arms.  Not the most mature plotline, granted, but it appealed to the horny thirteen-year-old mind that many readers escaped to.

There were variations on the plot.  A number of the pulp hero magazines, close cousins to the terror pulps, focused on the terror and sadism part and downplayed the sex part, although often using deranged Orientals as villains.

None of this is politically correct nowadays, but it remains fun, escapist reading.

There was a stable of writers who specialized in the terror pulps, although many were also active in other aspects of the pulp magazine market.  But a fast-paced story with lots of action and little logic could be churned out easily and these stories helped pay the bills.  The covers displayed all the features of the story, with mad, deformed baddies threatening barely-dressed zaftig girls with all sorts of torture instruments and deadly animals, while the hero barges into the scene with guns blazing.

And the titles were a work of art.  Here's the contents of the December 1935 issue (which was the mag's second issue):

  • "The Flame Demon" by Wyatt Blassingame (one of the most prolific writers of weird menace stories for the terror pulps)
  • "Voice from Hell" by Jack D'Arcy (a pseudonym for D. L. Champion, who wrote a number of Phantom Detective novels as "Robert Wallace" and "G. Wayman Jones," as well as many crime stories for the pulps)
  • "Ghouls of the Green Web" by G. T. Fleming-Roberts (author of Secret Agent X stories under the house name of Brant House, as well as stories about the Green Ghost, the Black Hood, and Captain Zero)
  • "Blood in the Night" by James Duncan (pseudonym of Arthur Pincus, who wrote over sixty stories for the crime and terror pulps during the Thirties)
  • "Forest of Fear" by Saul W. Paul (possibly a pseudonym; he had about a dozen stories in the spicy pulps from 1934-1936)
  • 'Devils in the Dust" by Arthur J. Burks (one-time  military aide to General Smedley Butler, Burks wrote over 800 stories for every type of pulp except love and western; he was a staple for the terror pulps)
  • "Hooks of Death" by H. M. Appel (who wrote nearly fifty stories for the detective and terror pulps during the 1930s}
  • "Grey Arms of Death" by Jack Williamson (a Grand Master of Science Fiction, Williamson was active in the field from 1928 until his death in 2006; this was the first of three stories that Williamson would publish in the magazine)
Thrilling Mystery ran for 88 issues under a variety of title changes.  The first issue was in October 1935.  During the early 1940s it gradually changed its format from weird menace to more traditional mysteries.  In September 1942, it became a hero pulp with the adventures of the Green Ghost began appearing after the character's own title was discontinued.  The title changed to Thrilling Mystery Novel Magazine with the Winter 1945 issue and featured a full-length reprint mystery novel along with filler short stories; among the authors featured were Dorothy B. Hughes, "John Spain" (Cleve F. Adams), Baynard Kendrick, Hake Talbot, and Margaret Millar.  The Summer 1947 saw another title change, to Detective Novel Mystery Magazine; this incarnation lasted for ten issues, ending with the Fall 1949 issue.  Novels reprinted here included those by John Dickson Carr. Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Will Oursler, and Leslie Charteris.  One final title change for the Winter 1950 issue to 2 Detective Mystery Novels Magazine, did  not help save the dying magazine -- it limped on and died with its fifth issue, Winter 1951.  among the Authors reprinted here were Fredric Brown, W. T. Ballard, John Dickson Carr (under his own name and that of "Carter Dickson"), Leslie Ford. and Rufus King.

If you're a weird menace fan, go for the issues in the Thirties.  If you're a pulp detective fan, the early Forties are your best bet.  And if you like traditional mysteries. the novels reprinted in the late Fortis/early Fifties should be your cup of tea.





Incoming:
  • Stephen Baxter, The Massacre of Mankind.  SF novel, the "sequel" to The War of the Worlds.  "It has been fourteen years sine the Martian invasion.  Humanity has moved on, always watching the skies but confident that they know how to defeat the alien menace.  The Martians are vulnerable to Earth germs.  the army is prepared.  Our technology has taken great leaps forward, thanks to machinery looted from abandoned war-machines and capsules.  So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seem little reason to worry.  Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells' book.  He is sure that the first incursion was merely a scouting mission, a precursor to the true attack -- and that the Martians have learned from their defeat, adapted their methods, and now pose a greater threat than ever before.  He is right."  Stephen Baxter is one of the most acclaimed British science fiction writers today and the winner of many awards.  An earlier book if his, The Time Ships, was written as a sequel to wells' The Time Machine.
  • Adam Roberts, Superfast Primetime Ultimate Nation:  the Relentless Invention of Modern India.  Nonfiction.  A look at the problems and promises of modern India and how it might reach its full potential to become a truly powerful nation.  The author spent five years in India as the Economist's South Asia correspondent.





Patriots Day:  Today is Patriots Day in Massachusetts and in four other states.  It's a day commemorate the first battles of the Revolutionary War (and the Revolutionary War is big in Massachusetts).  Parades, picnics, fireworks -- the whole shebang happens all over the state.  Lately it has been officially celebrated on the third Monday of April, but April 19th will always be Patriots Day to me.  Patriots Day is also when the Boston Marathon is held and when "Boston Strong" became a meme several years ago.  In some parts of the state (and because Yankees notoriously go their own way), today is known by other names -- in Charlestown, it's Bunker Hill Day, and in the small town of Acton, it's Crown Resistance Day.

My hometown of Chelmsford has a purported tie to Bunker Hill.  One resident claimed to have been the first man to fire a shot at that battle.  He made the claim at a local pub, so alcohol may have been involved -- both in claim and in actual fact.  Nonetheless I stand proud of our local footnote in history.  (A more reliable footnote for my hometown is that it was there that the first sulfur matches in America were made.)

Apropos of nothing, National Velociraptor Awareness Day was yesterday, April 18.  Contrary to popular opinion, the little beasties were small -- about the size of a large chicken.  They had feathers and did not hunt in packs.  But those talons, man...watch out!




GaetzGate:  Our local US Representative appears to be sinking fast although his support is still strong locally.  Most of his Republican allies are on the sidelines, hoping the whole thing will go away.  Evidently this because showboating Matt is universally disliked by his peers.  Gaetz, we have learned, paid $85,000 for his campaign funds for legal advice just as his buddy the Seminole County Tax Collector was indicted.  We also learned that Gaetz asked his friend, governor Ron DeSantis, to appoint his Bahama buddy Jason Pirozzolo -- a marijuana entrepreneur, hand surgeon, and Gaetz campaign donor -- as Florida's Surgeon General.  DeSantis did not do this but appointed Pirozzolo to a lucrative position on the governing board of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.  Gaetz meanwhile, has been taking a page from the Roy Cohn-Donald J. Trump playbook by not learning to keep his mouth shut.





Here's One for Women's Rights:  In 1713, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI was concerned that he had no male heirs.  Wanting to keep the title in the Hapsberg line, he created the Pragmatic Sanction, which would ensure that his title could go to a female.  His eventual heir and successor, Maria Theresa, was born several years later, in 1717.  Charles spent most of his life shoring up the Pragmatic Sanction, finally dying in 1740.

But politics played a role in delaying Maria Theresa the title of Empress.  She was, however, on Charles' death, the Queen of Bohemia (a title she held until the end of the following year) and The Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Croatia, titles she maintained until her death in 1780 at age 63.  It wasn't until 1745 that she became Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.  She ruled as Empress for just one month shy of twenty years.

She pushed for institutional, financial, medical, and education reforms and she promoted commerce and agriculture.  She also reorganized Austria's poor excuse for an army, improving the country's international standing.  Alas, on the negative side she was a religious bigot, despising both Jews and Protestants, and pushed for a state church and denied religious pluralism.  She also supported torture.

Maria Theresa married Francis Stephen, the Duke of Lorraine in 1739.  She evidently loved him deeply although he was a rogue who had many extramarital affairs.  That did not stop from having 16 children, 13 of which survived infancy, in a period of twenty years.  Many of her children were born in times of turmoil, with Austria at war with various factions; Maria Theresa has once said that. had she not been burdened by her frequent pregnancies, she would have been on the battlefield herself.  Three of her children died of smallpox; three others, as well as Maria Theresa, survived  bouts of the disease, although it theorized that Maria Theresa's 1769 smallpox eventually led to her death of edema in 1780.

Following the death of her husband in 1765, her official title became "Maria Theresa, by the Grace of God, Dowager Empress of the Romans, Queen of Hungary, of Bohemia, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, of Slavonia, of Galicia, of Lodomaria, etc.;  Archduchess of Austria; Duchess of Burgundy, of Styria, of Carinthia and of Carniola; Grand Princess of Transylvania; Margravine of Morovia; Duchess of Brabant, of Limburg, of Luxemburg, of of Guelders, of Werttemburg, .of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Milan, of Mantua, of Parma, of Piacenza, of Guastalia, of Auschwitz and of Zator; Princess of Swabia; Princely Countess of Hapsburg, of Flanders, of Tyrol, of Hainault, of Kyberg, of Gorizia and of Gradisca; Margravine of Burgau, of Upper and Lower Lusatia; Countess of Namur; Lady of the Wendish Mark and of Mechlin; Dowager Duchess of Lorraine and Bar; Dowager Grand Duchess of Tuscany."

Phew!

For the  most part her reign was considered a success.  She brought Austria into the modern age of statehood and her rule was considered one of "absolute enlightenment," perhaps with the emphasis more on absolute.  Nonetheless she was loved and admired by her subjects.

She was the last of the Hapsberg rulers.





I Am So Happy:  A helicopter has flown on Mars!  Here's a short, ten-minute film on helicopters from 1953:

https://archive.org/details/Helicopt1953





Keep Calm and Remain Vigilant:  William Amos, a Liberal Party MP from the Quebec district of Pontiac, is apologizing for appearing starkers du\ring a virtual parliamentary meeting. Willie could be seen standing between a flag of Canada and a flag of Quebec.  Luckily, Willie's willie was blocked by a mobile phone.  Amos apologized, saying that it was an accident and that he did not realize that the video was on.  Speaker Anthony Reid has reminded MPs to "be vigilant" whenever near a microphone or a camera.





Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Elvis Harold Reyes came up with a fool-proof plan to provide himself and his girlfriends an easy $411,00-.  Well, it was fool-proof until he got caught.  Reyes posed as an immigration attorney and filed a number of fraudulent applications on behalf of his undocumented "clients."  Reyes operated out of a Christian nonprofit called EHR Ministries, charging $5000 to his clients, most of whom did not speak English, to represent them on immigration related matters.  The Tampa man filed more than 225 false applications. He was sentenced to 20 years, a little less then one year for every 12 phony applications.
  • Florida Man Walter Medina, 34, of Escambia County (near where I live), has been charged with assaulting his girlfriend, throwing her on a bed, and smelling her.  The smelling part was to see if she had cheated on him.
  • Florida Man and (ahem) pardoned Trump Ally Roger Stone is being sued by the Federal Government for nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes and interest.  Stone and his wife owe some $1.4 million from tax years 2007 to 2011, while Stone himself owes more than $400,000 from 2018.  Stone and his wife had been making scheduled payments of $20,000 a month to the IRS.  Shortly after his indictment in 2019, he formed a trust and used funds from a company they controlled to buy a home in Fort Lauderdale in the name of the trust.  They transferred funds and deposits into the company they controlled rather than into their personal accounts, thus evading IRS collection efforts.  The "use of Drake Ventures [the company they created] to hold their funds allowed them to shield their personal income from enforced collection and fund a lavish lifestyle despite owing nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes, interest, and penalties," according to the complaint. 
  • Florida Man and former circuit court judge Thomas Lynch is under investigation for violating election laws during his recent campaign to become Broward County's public defender.  The investigation was revealed in an executive order issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on April 6.  It has not been revealed what election law or laws were violated.  In fact, Lynch did not learn of the the investigation until last Thursday.  Lynch came in last in the three-way race.  "I truly welcome any investigation because I did nothing wrong.  I got beat fair and square," Lynch said.  The case has been assigned to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office because Lynch's son is a current judge in Broward County, where the case would normally be held,
  • Florida Yuckies the Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spiders, first spotted in 2012 have now been officially declared a new species.  A zookeeper at Zoo Miami was checking the reptile rearch traps at the zoo when the spider was first spotted.  He took a photo of the spider but the conservation and research arm of the zoo did not recognize the species.  Two years later another specimen was found and shipped off to a researcher at Georgia's Piedmont College.  The spider has now been confirmed as a previously unknown species -- Ummidia richmond.  The new species is very rare and no female spider has yet been found.  For myself, I hate spiders.  Hate 'em, hate 'em. hate 'em.  In response to this discovery I am starting a GoFundMe site to provide a flamethrower for Zoo Miami.




The Good Stuff:
  • Washington state man finds $10,000 and returns it to owner, was given a jar of homemade applesauce "made with love and care by his family" in gratitude, plus promises of more treats     https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/steve-harrison-mike-king-finds-10k-and-searches-for-owner/
  • First human trial of HIV vaccine brings a 97% rate of immune response     https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/human-vaccine-trial-to-prevent-hiv/
  • Endangered trout may soon return to Los Angeles      https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/restoration-of-the-la-river-aims-to-welcome-back-steelhead-trout/
  • Frat brothers pay off mortgage for house cook     https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/frat-brother-lsu-pay-cook-mortgage-jessie-hamilton/
  • Deaf sheepdog returns to herding her flock after learning 'sign language"      https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/deaf-sheepdog-returns-to-herding-her-flock-after-learning-sign-language/




Today's Poem:
You Fit Into Me

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

-- Margaret Atwood

Sunday, April 18, 2021

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMY!

 Our little Amy-Daisy, Blondie-Bear turned 23 today.  How

 did that happen?

Golden hair, bright eyes, and a winning smile, Amy was a styrofoam child, small and thin.  When she was two or three, we had to keep a close watch on her while she was outside because buzzards had been attacking small animals and could lift up to nineteen pounds, and Amy did not reach that limit.

She can march to the beat of a different drummer.  One year, the top spot on her Christmas list was for a 3-hole punch.  She was really into office equipment.

Amy is a water child.  She loves swimming.  She is also a great sleeper.  We have a photo of her with her head by the side of a boat during rough water, fast asleep, when she was in Sea Scouts.

She makes fantastic shirts and uses her artistic abilities to the utmost.

She loves animals, especially her gigantic "puppy."  And her snake.  And her cats.  And the senile pug.  For a number of years, she was an animal shelter volunteer.  When she was younger, she made friends with a tiny spider, "Spidey," that lived in a corner of her bedroom.  That last  bit makes me doubt she is related to me because the only thing a spider needs is a flamethrower.

This morning a pod of dolphins appeared at the beach to celebrate Amy.

Amy has a wicked, genuine sense of humor.  She is never cruel.  She is empathetic and caring.  Her turn-offs are injustice and meanness.  Amy is the epitome of a good person.

She gives blood.

Did I mention that she's amazingly beautiful?  (Of course, all three of my granddaughters are.)

And she's whip-smart.  Far smarter than I.

She is our most perfect granddaughter.  (Of course, all three of my granddaughters is the most perfect -- each one being more perfect than the others.)

She makes us happy.  She makes us proud.  She especially makes us glad to share this wonderful world with her, a world that would be far less wonderful without her.

We love you so much, Amy.  Have a fantastic birthday and a fantastic year!

A MICHAEL CONNELLY INTERVIEW -- OCTOBER 24, 2008

 Interviewed by Stacey Cochran for Raleigh Television Network, Michael Connelly is one of the most respected author of detective and crime fiction novels.  His books have sold more than 74 million copies worldwide and he has been translated in 40 languages.  He has won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Dilys, Shamus, Barry, Audie, Los Angeles Times Best Mystery Thriller, Ridley, Maltese Falcon, 38 Caliber, Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, and Premio Bancarella Awards, as well as the 250,000 Euro RBA Prize for Crime Writing.

He's that good.

Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NECw_d0Tpc

HYMN TIME

 The Carter Family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8QGY9M5EMA

Saturday, April 17, 2021