Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, November 27, 2021


Here we have a Star Publications reprint of comic book stories originally pubished by Novelty/Premium/Curtis in Blue Bolt and Target Comics in 1940.  Although the cover declares this to be issue #4, it was actually the first issue of this comic book -- in the comic book world the numbering of titles can be sort of haphazard.  Additionally, the copyright indicia indicates that it is #11,  Go figure.

Anyway, this issue reprints the first two stories in the short-lived career of The White Rider and Super Horse, from Blue Bolt #1 and #2 (June and July 1940).

So, who is The White Rider (also known as White rider, without the "The")?  From the Publlic Domain Super Heroes Wiki:

"While still a young boy, Peter is orphaned when his parents' stage is held up.  Peter's parents are killed but young Peter escapes.  He is knocked into a stream which carries him into a lost valley deep in a canyon.  Peter is pulled from the stream and then protected by a white horse.  Later, an old man residing in the valley finds and raises Peter.  The boy gains super strength because of the depth of the canyon since it has a much greater pull of gravity.  He becomes a master in cowboy skills and bonds with the white horse which he names Cloud (Cloud is laso stronger and faster than normal horses).  However, once the two reach adulthood, they leave the valley to fight crime as the White Rider and Super Horse."

With me so far?

The origin story starts with the words, "Introducing Superhorse -- that amazing animal of might and intelligence -- and his master the White Rider, silent, grim avenger of wrongs.  Swifter than the wind, they emerge from that strange 'lost canyon' to strike terror into the stoutest of evil hearts."

Peter and his parents areon the weekly stage to La Pecos when bandits swoop down.  Peter's father bravely draws a gun but is shot down by one of outlaws.  The guard fires on the bandits, who fire back and kill him and the stagecoach driver.  The horses, frightened by the gunfire, bolt, taking the stage to crash into a bridge above a roaring river.  The impact throws Peter out of the stage and into the torrent.
Swept away by the raging currents to the lost canyon, Peter is nearly dead when a white horse notices him and drags him from the waters.  A nearby black horse spots Peter and tries to kill him but is stopped by the fierceness of the white horse.  The only resident of the canyon, Jeb, finds Peter and takes him to his shack.  Jeb tells Peter that he has been there for thirty years and has never been able to find a way out of the mysterious canyon.  Peter, determined to avenge himself against the murderer of his parents, spends years trying to find a way out to the world he had left behind.  (We never see Peter's mother die, though.) Meanwhile, Jeb trains Peter in all the cowboy "arts," including shooting and roping.  One day Peter sees a puma about to attack Jeb from behind.  Peter jumps on Storm and, fast as lightning, rushes to save Jeb.  Peter leps from Storm and puplls the big cat from Jeb's back, but he is too late -- Jeb had been mortaally wounded.  As he is dying, the old man tells Peter that there is a way out of the valley; he had never told Peter before because he enjoyed the boy's companionship.  With Jeb dead, Peter and Storm head to one of the many waterfalls in the valley, behind which is a secret passage beyond the valley.  Peter spies a Wanted poster on a tree with a picture of the man who shot his father.  At the nearest town, the sheriff tells Peter that he might find Arch Manton (his father's killer) at the Rio Forks Hotel.  But first, the sheriff adds, Peter might want to find himself some clothes.  (While living in the valley, Peter only wore an old pair of shorts.)  Although we are never told where Peter got the money, he outfits himself all in white exccept for a red bandana, and buys a gun and a saddle and gear for Storm, and rides off to Rio Forks.  Manton is called out, draws, and is killed by Peter.  Then  Black Jack -- the leader of the gang who killed Peter's parents -- enters the hotel and takes aim at Peter, but Storm stops him as he fires and the bullet goes astray, merely wounding Peter.  Storm then tramples Black  Jack (or Blackjack -- continuity is not the story's greatest stength) to death.  Storm lifts Peter's semi-conscious body outside where Peter revives.  They ride off into the sunset (figuratively) while the surviving members of the gang watch.  Cloud leaps over a river (he's got super speed and strength, remember?) and into the mountains as Peter vows to become The White Rider of the Mountains:  "Storm, we'll use this super power of yours, but for good!  We'll help the weak, and fight the strong!"   **Phew!**

This issue also contains "Another story of the White Rider, grim avenger of wriongs, and his amazing horse, Storm, the animal of super power and intelligence.  Born in a strange 'lost canyon'where the pull of gravity is great, Super-Horse becomes a wonder animal out of the canyon under normal gravity.  These powers the White Rider has dedicated to the weak and oppressed."

White Rider and Super Horse rescue a girl on a runwaay horse being chased by an owlhoot with a gun.  The girl is Dorothy Lane.  She had escaped from a pair of outlaws who had tied up her Daddy, wantinng to know the location of his mine.  By the time White Rider reached the Lane cabin, the outlaws had gone and Dorothy's father is missing.  White Rider and Dorothy head to the mine but are trapped by a violent explosion.   Luckily Super Horse is there to save the day -- something he does, like, four times in this story!  Result:  bad guys captured, Dorothy and Daddy happily together again, and White Rider and Storm headed off to avenge more wrongs!

We also get two stories about Bull's-Eye Bill.  In the first (from Target Comics #81, May 1947), Bill and Rawhide Ike enter a ghost town that is rumored to have real ghosts.  We get to see how good a shot Bill is when he shoots the lit fuse from some dynamite that is being thrown at him.  In the second tale 
(from Target Comics #80, April 1947), Bill battles to save the home of an old Indian, using a trick from Homer's The Odyssey to corner the bad guys.  No Rawhide Ike in this one; Bill is accompanied by an unnamed Rannie from his ranch.

We also have Part I of a serial adaptation of The Last of the Mohigans, taking us to the point where Hawkeye is taking Cora and Alice Munro downriver inn a canoe to escape the Huron.  This one's a reprint from Target Comics #24, February 1942.

And to meet postal regulations, there is a two-page text story, "A Pinch of Salt," in which U.S. Border Patrolman Tom is waylaid by three men who are up to no good.  (From Target Comics #37, March 1943.)

With the exception of the Mohigans serial, written and drawn by Harold DeLay, the contributors to this issue are unknown, but the artwork is better than average for its time.  Of course you could drive Peter's parents stage coach through some of many plot hole therein.  And the cover illustrates a story that is not in this issue; it also changes the White Rider's red hair.  **sigh**

Nonetheless, you should enjoy this issue.

Friday, November 26, 2021


 Doom Trail by "Bradford Scott" (A. Leslie Scott)  (1962)

Leslie Scott (1893-1974) was a prolific writer of westerns, first in the pulps and then as paperback originals.  One of his most popular characters was Texas Ranger Jim Hatfield, who Scott created in the first issue of Texas Rangers (October 1936) under the house pseudonym "Jackson Cole."  Texas Rangers continued on a monthly or bimonthly basis until April 1958, with 55 of those issues containing a Hatfield novel/novella by Scott -- who ties with writer Tom Curry for the most Hatfield stories in the magazine.  For another pulp from the same publisher. Thrilling Western, Scott created Walt Slade, another Texas Ranger, who could have been a clone of Jim Hatfield except for a few minor differences.  Scott wrote a Walt Slade western for over 70 issues, ending in 1951.  In the early Fifties, Scott moved from the pulps to paperbacks, taking the Jim Hatfield character with him.  Ned Pines, the publisher of Texas Rangers, soon objected to Scott using Jim Hatfield as the hero of the paperback series because he was still publishing Hatfield stories and the "Jackson Cole" house name in his magazine.  Scott responded by dropping Jim Hatfield and using instead Walt Slade, the Hatfield clone written under the "Bradford Scott" pseudonym.  Scott went on to publish well over 100 Walt Slade westerns for the paperback market, most of them original novels, although a few of them were rewritten from the Thrilling Western stories.

Scott's western stories are entertaining, action-packed shoot-em-ups, perfect for afternoon or evening reading.  Scott was never a great stylist, but his tales of the mythic west that was Texas are un-put-downable.

Walt Slade was an ideal western hero -- tall, strong, handsome, a deadly shot, and a man with a strict moral code.  Slade had no compunctions about killing as long as the dead 'un deserved it.  Doom Trail opens with a courtroom scene being "convicted of two delibarate killings, by a jury of your peers."  For this crime he was sentenced to imprisonment for one hour at the Hogwaller saloon, buying the court and the jury a drink.  (The coroner, who acted as judge in the trial, had a weird sense of humor.)  The victims (whoops, can't call them that), the deceased were two of outlaw Tarp Henry's hired killers.  Henry was the name used by the leader of a murderous outlaw gang; nobody knew who he really was; nobody had even seen him.  Tarp Henry was the man Walt Slade had been sent to the West Texas town of Signal to stop.

Slade was an educated man, trained as an engineer and given to reading books.  He had somehow drifted into law enforcement and found that he was good at it.  Working under the Commander of the Border Battalion, Captain McNulty, Slade had garnered two distinct reputations.  For those who knew he was a lawman, Slade "was the smartest and most fearless Ranger of them all."  But along the Rio Grand border, he was El Halcon, the Hawk, a supposed outlaw with a fast draw.  For an outlaw, El Halcon was pretty considerate and kind to the poor people and working classes  he met.  Slade had never been in Signal before and was surprised to see two men he knew fairly well:  Tom Bowles, the coroner, and Doc McChesney.  Both had wandered into Signal months earlier and had become respeted members of the community.  These two were the only ones who knew Walt Slade's true purpose.

Tarp Henry, whoever he was, did not take kindly to Slade killing two of his men, so he sent a couple of gunhands to avenge their deaths.  Big mistake.  Soon there were two bodies decorating the floor of the Hogwaller.  The next day, while riding outside of town Slade came across a bumch of toughs attacking a grizzled old man on a mule.  They began firing at Slade and Slade fired back, killing one of the five men, wounding another in the leg, while another had his face ruined when Slade's bullet tore his lips and nose to shreds.  The four surviving members of the shoot-out skedaddled.  The man the gang had originally attacked was an old prospector named Ben Grady but everyone knew him as Uncle Ben.  Ben lived in a solid old cabin presumably build by Spaniards centuries ago.  The cabin was large and had been well fortified by its original owners.  It backed to a swift-moving stream where Uncle Ben would pan for gold, taking out large nuggets after every rain.  On the other side of the stream was a large unscalable mountian with sheer cliffs.  Slade's engineering background told him the somewhere on the mountain was the source of the gold Ben had been panning.  Slade decided to help Uncle Ben and devised a way to traverse the wild stream.  On the other side and around a bend, they found a place to land and an old mine entrance partway up the mountain.  It was a large mine and its age had made it liable to collapse at any time.  Most of the gold had been played out but enough remained to keep uncle Ben comfortable for the rest of his life.

Getting back to Tarp Henry.  His gang had been rustling cattle from young rancher named Allen Curtis.  Curtis, like his two neighbors who owned large ranches, was originally British and was suspected of being  remittance man; that is, one whose activities had stained the family escutcheon and were then paid to stay out of England.  His neighbor, Val Parker, had been losing cattle in small numbers to the rustlers -- twenty head here, fifty head there, perhaps a hundred head elsewhere -- but those numbers added up.  If the rustling kept up, soon Parker would lose the ranch.  The neighbor to the south was "a dossolute young Englishman named Ragnal,"   Ragnal spent his time drinking and let his freman run the ranch.  Ragnal had a secret:  when drunk he evidently stabbed and killed a man.  Curtis had been blackmailing Ragnal over this, and soon demanded Ragnal's ranch.

That's the set-up and those are the players.  Along the way there are more gunfights, some fast-moving fists, and some harrowing escapes as the plot chugs along like a reliable, fast-moving locomotive.  

Can Walt Slade come our on top?  Well, duh.

Pure popcorn for the mind when you wish to purge yourself of the serious problems of the day. 

I have to mention one drawback, though.  Although Walt Slade and many of those around him are bright, they can all be dim bulbs whnever it necessary for the plot.  No matter how many times you yell at a movie screen for the innocent young woman not to seek shelter in that creepy old abandoned house, you just know she's going to do it.  I got the same kind of feeling with parts of this book.  But, then, not enough to ruin my enjoyment.

For more on Leslie Scott, Walt Slade, "Bradford Scott," Ranger Jim Hatfield, and "Jackson Cole," check out this FFB review by James Reasoner from December 26, 2014:


Tuesday, November 23, 2021


 "The Red Dwarf of Rabenstein" by William Waldorf Astor  (first published in The Pall Mall Magazine #26, June 1895; reprinted in Astor's collection Pharaoh's Daughter and Other Stories, 1900)

William Waldorf Astor, the 1st Viscount Astor. (1848-1919), was the only child of John Jacob Astor II; upon his father's death, Willie (as he was known) became the richest man in America.  After prcticing law for a short time, Willie decided his true calling was politics and was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1878 and the New York State Senate in 1880 and 1881; he was aided in his career by chester Conklin, the powerful boss of the state's Republican machine.  In 1881 he ran for the United States Congress but was defeated.  A second run also ended in defeat.  Disillusioned and upset at the political attacks on his character, Willie quit politics, but in 1882, President Chester A. Arthur appointed him Ambassador to Italy, a post he held for three years.  

After his father's death, he began work on the Waldolf Hotel on the site of his previous home in New York City.  His aunt, who lived in the mansion next to it, complained about the commercial building next door.  Her son Jack convinced her to move, then used her site to build the Astoria Hotel.  There was some family friction with his aunt declaring that she -- and not Willie's wife Mary -- was the Mrs. Astor in New York Society.  Willie and his family moved to England, where he put down roots.  Somewhat shy, he decided to avoid the public by fking his own death in 1893, having his servents report that he had died of pneumonia.  The ruse was uncovered and he was mercilessly roasted in the British press.  Among his business acquisitions were The Pall Mall Gazette (Estanlishing The Pall Mall Magazine a year later) and The Observer.  He purchased the Hever Castle Estate in 1903, where Anne Bolyn had lived as a child, and gave his previous estate, Cliveden, to his eldest son Waldolf and his new bride.  (Waldorf's wife, Nancy, went on to become the first seated female Member of Parliament).

Willie had become an British citizen in 1899 and was a heavy charitable donor.  For his charitable work, he became the Baron  Astoer of Hever Castle in 1916.  A year later he was elevated to Viscount, a move that caused some controversy with many saying that the rich American had bought his way into the english aristocracy.

He died at age 71 of a heart attack while in his lavatory.

In addition to his philanthrpoic and busness interests, Willie wrote and published two historical romance novels and one collection of twelve short stories.  In all, Willie published at least twenty-six stories and six articles in his career -- all but one appearing in his own magazine,  The Pall Mall Magazine.

(William Astor should not be confused with his relative John Jacob Astor IV, who wrote the science fiction novel A Journey on Other Worlds:  A Romance of the Future, 1894; this Astor died on the Titanic in 1912.)

"The Red Dwarf of Rabenstein" opens with the title character arriving at the partially restored ruins of Rabenstein Castle.  He had just been named the warder of the castle by the owner, the hochwohlgeboren Herr von Flulen, a remote descendent of the Rabensteins.  In addition to his dwarfism, the young man's body was misshapened and his face bore the marks of a life that made him a pariah.  To add to his unfortunate circumstaances, his name was Wolfgang Judassohn, a sinister name that drew many taunts in childhood.  He had an isolated and bitter childhood, born into poverty, mistreated by his father, and scorned by the young girls he admired.  Wolfgang's only solace came from books, especially older romances and poetry;  Guenivere, Elaine, and Morgan Le Fay stoked his heart, while Launcelot, Gawain, and Merlin formed his view of heroes.

Rabenstein Castle had a bloody and sad history.  It had been stormed by the French in the late seventeenth century, its people killed or captured, the Countess Rabenstein hurling herself from a tower to be crushed on the rocks below, the estate looted, and the place set afire.  There were rumors of a vast treasure at the castle and when the French discovered a large locked door they believed they had come across the castle's riches, but when the door was forced open it revealed only a large stone wall.  Angered, the French then slit the throats of those few they had captured.  Only the walls and the outline of the original rooms remained.  Herr von Flulen, himself far from rich, rebuilt a few room in the castle and employed a housekeeper and a cook to stay there.  Von Flunen and his daughter would visit the castle twice a year for a single week only.  And now Wolfgang was added to supervise the estate.

When they came for their first visit during Wolfgang's tenure, the gnadiges Fraulein Gisela proved to be a beautiful yet imperious young woman.  For some reason, she enjoyed taling with Wolgang, who, for his part, would sometimes unconsciously reoly in a manner above his station.  Slowly he learned that the girl was engaged and would be married as soon as her betrothed has enough money to comfortably suppoert them.  Von Flulen, meanwhile, was wistful in his hopes that the rumored treasure of the castle was actually existed.  Such a treasure trove would solve many of his problems.  Wolfgang determined to find the treasure.

For months he searched every possible hiding place, ripping up and replacing floors and measuring the walls, cupboards, and nooks of the castle hoping to find a disparity that might indicate the treasure.  The housekeeper and the maid became distraught at his actions, thinking he had gone mad.  Then one evening, it struck him where the treasure might be.  Rushing downstairs, he pushed the two servants aside.  They became fearful and immediately sent word to von Flulin that his warder had gone mad.

The next day, von Flulin and Gisela arrived to take control of the situation.  They found a big hole where the French had once hoped to find the treasure.  Then a bedraggled, dirty Wolfgang popped his hear out, crying that he had found the treasure.  Indeed he did -- "great heaps of money amid shreds of leather purses, a chest of silver coins, jewelled crucifixes, women's bracelets, gems plucked from their settings, gold chains and fillets, a score of diamonds..."

Von Flulin restored the castle, gave a large dowry to Gisela, distributed money among the poor, and gave Wolfgang a large purse of gold and promoted him to seneschal of Rabenstein for life and doubled his salary.  The rest of his largess he invested (quite successfully) in American railroads.  Gisela had even allowed Wolfgang to kiss her hand.

Now married, Gisela and her husband, Count Aura, travelled to Rabenstein for their honeymoon.  But Wolfgang was not there.  He had packed his things, said sad goodbyes to the housekeeper and the cook, and sailed down the Rhine to no one knew where.  Gisela looked ut the window of her room and saw a large group of tiny flowers blooming. vergissmeinicht -- forget-me-nots.

Sometimes what the heart wants is impossible to attain.

Pharaoh's Daughter and Other Stories is available for reading on the internet.

Monday, November 22, 2021


 Openers:  Years upon years ago, when all the world was young, when Atlantis was among the chief islands of it, and the Ayrans had not yet descended from their cradle on the Roof of the World, there wandered up past the sources of the sleepy Nile the patriarch Kintu, and his wife.  For many months he travelled, he and his old wife, their one she-goat, and one cow, and carrying with them one banana and one sweet potato.  And they were alone in thir journey.

From out of the leagues of papyrus fen the ibis and the flamingo screamed, and through the matete-canes the startled crocodile plunged under the lily-covered waves.  Overhead circled and piped vast flocks of strange water-fowl, puzzled by the sight of human beings, and from the path before them the sulky lion hardly turned away.  The hyenas in the rattan brakes snarled to see them pass, and, wailing through the forests that covered the face of the land, came the cry of the lonely lemur.  A dreary, desolate country, rich in flowers and fruit, and surpassingly beautiful, but desolate of man.

The elephant was the noblest in the land, and on the water there was none to stand before the river-horse.

And so they plodded on, old Kintu and his wife, until coming to where the Victoria Nyanza spreads its summer sea through four degrees of latitude, flecked with floating groves, "purple isles of Eden," the partriarch halted, and, for the first time in many years, laid down his staff upon the ground.  And the mark of the staff may still be seen, lying like a deep scar across the basalt borders piled up on the western shore of the great lake.  And then his wife laid down her burden, the one banana and the one potato, and the goat and the cow lay down, for they were all weary with the journey of half a century, during which they had never rested night nor day.  And the name they gave the land they stayed at was Uganda, but the name of the land they from no one knows.

-- "The Legend of the Blameless Preist" by Phil Robinson (from his collection Under the Punkah, 1881)

Kintu magically cut the banana and the potato into many pieces and planted each piece twenty miles apart, where the grew rapidly and flourished.  And his wife gave birth to many sones and daughter, all of who were born as adults, and they intermarried and soon populated the country. and the goat and the cow also gave birth to many offspring, also all born as adults, and, by the second generatin, every man in the land had a thousand cattle.  And the land was at peace for no blood was shed since Kintu had declared that no meat should be eaten.  The people called Kintu "The Blameless Priest," because he never did wrong to anyone.  But, after many years, the people forgot their pure ways.  They made banana wine, and drink from from plam fruit, and firewater from mtama grain.  They got drunk and slaughtered cattle for meat.  And soon Kintu was the only person in the country to wear a pure-white robe -- the only person who had not shed blood.

Not only was the blood of animals spilled; one drunk person got into an argument and killed another with a spear.  Soon, everyone was killing one another.  At the same time, the people were shocked at their actions, for they had never seen a dead person.

And Kintu and his wife left quietly, with a she-goat, a cow, a banana, and a potato -- they're leaving was witnessed only two young children.  Thirty-eight kings then ruled over Uganda, each searching in vain for Kintu, but each expanding the country's boundaries and conquering their neighbors.  The thirty-ninth king was Ma'anda, who was different from all the rest.  He embodied much of what Kintu had taught the people and shed no blood.  One night Ma'anda had a strange dream about meeting a peasant who told him wonderful news.  The next day a peasant came with news only for the king and his mother.  Ma'anda and his mother were told to go into the forest to meet an old man -- but they must come alone, and not even bring their dog.  One person did see the king and his mother leave and followed them.  When the king met the old man, the old man asked him why he came with another man when told not to.  The follower then emerged from the trees and Ma'anda realized that he had been followed.  Angered, he pierced the other man with his spear and, for the first time, Ma'anda had spilled blood.  Ma'anda was shocked at what he had done.  He truned around and the old man had disappeared.

"Nor from that day to this has any one in Uganda seen the "Blameless Priest."

A well worked out folktale/legend based on "notes taken in Uganda by Mr. H. N. Stanley...[that] will be found already partially worked out in that traveller's 'Across the Dark Continent,' which fell to [Robinson] [the] pleasant lot to edit it."  I found the combination of magic, mysticism, and miracles irresistable.

Phil Robinson (Philip Stewart Robinson, 1847-1902) was an India-born British naturalist and popular author humorous Anglo-Indian literature.  In 1869 he returned to India to help his father edited a newspaper there.  He became a professor in English at  Muir Central College in Allahabad and was appointed Supreme Governor of Censor for the vernacular press in India.  Shortly after marrying, he retired and returned to England.  His marriage was acrimonious, his wife suing for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery, and desertion.  British society was scandalized when she took the witness stand in her own behalf.  In Englan, Robinson returned to newspaper work, covering the Second Afghan Campaign and the Zulu War.  He worked for the Daily Chronicle, The Daily Telegraph, The Pall Mall Gazette, had been an editor at The Sunday Times.  He was fired from the Times after he had published an article on the finances of the Prince of Wales.  From 1882-1885 he was a war correspondent in Egypt and the Sudan.  In 1898 he was a correspondent in Cuba.  The following year he declared bankruptcy.  He later worked for the Associated Press in Cuba where he was imprisoned (I'm not sure for what).  After imprisonmnet he was in poor health until he died.

He was the older brother of E Kay Robinson (1855-1928), who was a well-known journalist and popular writer of natural history.  Kay Robinson went on to found the British Empire Natualist's Association in 1905.   He was also noted for being an early supporter of Rudyard Kipling, who was his assistant when Kay edited the  Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore.  While working at the The Globe, he initiated the popular "By the Way" column for which  P. G. Wodehouse was editor from 1904 to 1909.  He gave many popular talks on Natural History to schools and was one of the first to give natural history talks on British radio.  With his brothers, Phil Robinson and H. Perry Robinson (1859-1930) , he published Tales by Three Brothers (1902, the year that Phil Robinson died), a collection of eleven short stories with no indication of whihch brother wrote which story, although several stories from Phil's Under the Punkah were included.  (Perry Robinson had emigrated to America in 1883 to hunt for gold.  Failing, he turned, as his brothers did, to journalism.  In 1896 he managed William MKinley's successful presidential campaign.  He returned to England in 1900, became a war correspondent covering World War I from beginning to end, which earned him the the French Chevalier Legion of Honor, as well as a knighthood from King George V.)  A talented family, indeed.

Under the Punkah can be read online.


  • "James Vogh"  (John Sladek), Arachne Rising.  A hoax book detailing the so-called thirteenth sign of the zodiac.  A marvelous bit of pseud-research and my FFB last Friday (which see).

Hokey Pokey:  Alas, is no more.  The sweetest hedgehog in the Florida Pandale ever had to be euthanized a few days ago.  Erin is devastated and we are all saddened.

Thanksgiving (Times Three):  Hokey Pokey and Marjorie Taylor Green notwithstanding, there is a lot to be thankful for this Thursday.  I hope your day will be one of food, family, friends, and a greatful awareness of all the wonder and joy that surrounds us.

And while you are giving thanks, remember to smile.

The historical record:

The greatest turkey event in Ohio:

Travelling back 74 years with Jack, Mary, Phil, Dennis, Rochester, and Don:

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish:  Today is National Cranberry Relish Day, and with Thnksgiving coming up it's a perfect time to make Mama Stamberg's famous cranberry relish.  Every year since 1972, N PR's Susan Stamberg has shared her mother-in-law's unusual recipe for this relish.  It has become a holiday staple in many homes across the country.  We've tried it and it is delicious!

(BTW, today is alos Love Your Freckles Day.)

On This Day:

  • John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  (1963)  I was in George Simonian's high school biology class when he was told to turn on the television.  It was the last class of the day and we were stunned -- the thought of someone killing an American president was beyond comprehension.  Later that afternoon, I was at our local library and I told librarian Goldie Cramer that Kennedy was dead and she just looked at me strangely.  A few days later she came up to me and apologized -- she had thought I was joking even though she knew I was not one to joke like that,
  • Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still dead.  Juan Carlos declared president of Spain (1975).
  • The vessels of Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) were board by the British Navy of the coast of North Carolina.  Among the casualties was Teach.  (1718)
  • Cutty Sark (the ship, not the whiskey) was launched in Dumbarton, Scotland.  (1869)   It wasn't until March 23, 1923, that the whiskey was launched.  "Cutty sark" was a Scottish term for short shirt (skirt); it had been prominently mentioned in Robert Burns's poem "Tam o' Shanter" (1791).
  • In the Cairngorm Plateau Disaster, five children and one adult were found dead from overexposure while mountaining in the Scottish Mountains.  (1971)
  • Amgela Merkel becomes the first female Chancellor of Germany.  (2005)
  • Abigail Adams (nee Smith), wife of John /Adams and the second First Lady of the United States was born.  She was also the mother of John Quincy Adams.  (1744)
  • Aldous Huxley, and C. S. Lewis, aa well as John F. Kennedy died (1963)

The Flintstones:  Scenes that went over the heads of most young viewers:

An Addams Family Values Thanksgiving:

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Clifford Anthony Bliss, Jr., 58, of  Umatilla, got upset when a neighbor's cat walked onto his property.  For a Florida Man, that's almost as bad as having "those danged kids" on his lawn.  So Bliss got his .22 calibre rifle and went to his neighbor, James Arland Taylor, Jr., and threatened to shoot the cat.  Taylor pleaded with Bliss not to shoot his cat, so Bliss fired one round into Taylor's chest, killing him.  Bliss was described as being "sort of the neighborhood hothead."  No cats were harmed in the reporting of this story.
  • When asked by his ten-year-old son to take him on a "paint-ball drive-by," Michael Williams proved himself to be a true Florida Man.  Following his son's instructions, Williams drove to a certain house and, while hanging out the window, the boy fired several paint-ball pellets at the house.  The owner of the home, Gregory Barns, thought he was being fired upon by real bullets.  Since Florida is a Stand-Your-Ground state, Barns grabbed hus rifle and fired back, hitting the boy once, whereupon the boy fell out of the car and was run over by his father.  At the time this story was reported, the boy was in the hospital with injuries and Williams was charged with child neglect with great  bodily harm.  Stupid is as stupid does.
  • Florida Man and Rapper Billy Bennett Adams, III, 23, also goes by the stage name Ace NH.  Young Mr. NH had just finished recording a music video when he celebrated by alledgedly shooting two men to death.  Bennett and at least one of the victims were members of the Crips, according to police.  Rap...Can it be the Devil's music?
  • Florida Woman Maria Jurgilewicz, 45. was stopped in St. Petersberg for erratic driving.  According to police she had a strong scent of alcohol on her.  Jurgilewicz tried to convince officers that he erratic driving was due to an egg roll she was eating. even though the old egg roll excuse has never been held up in court.  I'm giving her points for originality, though.
  • Florida Man Daniel Patrick Patrignani, 33, ran over a young woman and then began punching and choking her in a brutal daylight attack.  Police say the victim and Patrignani were travelling in the same vehicle when the woman jumped out of the car moments before the incident.  Several off-duty officers had to restrain Patregnani before he could be arrest and charged with attempted first-degree murder.  The victim was listed at a local hospital as in critical but stable condition after emergency surgery.  By the way, Patrignani was naked at the time of the incident on the Pineda Causeway at about 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.  

Good News:
  • 500 humpback whales and a recod number of calves return to Seattle coast. while there were none 25 years ago
  • Argintinean woman becomes as "natural supressor" of HIV as her immune system naturally rids her body of the disease, perhaps leading to major breakthroughs
  • World's most premature baby survives 1% odds of survival to enter Guiness Book of Records
  • Bride surprises blind groom by wearing a "tactile" wedding Tam o' Shanter
  • 13-year-old boy granted a "Make a Wish" and uses it to feed the homelss every month for a year....

Quote:   "All human beings shout try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why." -- James Thurber

Today's Poem:
Tam o' Shanter

(Here's the Robert Burns poem as recorded by Karen Dunbar, from BBC Scotland.)

Friday, November 19, 2021


The Press Guardian was a costumed* crime fighter who appeared in the first eleven issues of Pep Comics, January 1940 to January 1941 (they skipped the March and October 1940 dates).  He was first known as The Falcon, the Guardian of the Press -- a man whose identity was unknown.  In Pep Comics #2 it was revealed that he was actual Perry Chase. the playboy son of the publisher of  The Daily Express.  When the paper attacks the "cowardly, un-American followers of the dictator of Moronia**," the Moronian Bund threatens to destroy the paper unless the news organization praises the "cruel and inhuman policies" of the dictator.  Perry wants to placed on the story but everyone on the paper, including his father, consider him to be light-weight so Perry is stuck with the society pages.  But, aha!  Perry is made of sterner stuff.  Under an assumed name he joins the Moronian Bund and, as The Press Guardian, stops the bombing of the newspaper's offices and busts the Bund, sending its leaders "down a one-way track to prison where they belong."  In the last panel we are introduced to Baldwin, Perry's valet and the only person who knows his secret identity.

So now the character is basically known as The Press Guardian, the defender f the free press and the foe of those who wish to destroy it.

In the remaining adventures, PG goes up against the leader of the Moronian Bund (who was thought to have been killed), a gang that has been stealing millions of dollars from the state, Senator Palmgreas*** (the biggest and most dangerous crook in Washington), a phoney ambassabor with assassination on his mind, an attempt to blow up a munitions plant, a plot to destroy freight ship cargoes in North Harbor, The Claw and his gang of Beast-Men, a seemingly indestructable monster with a penchant for blondes, and a blackmailer targeting "illegal" immigrants.  A pretty hefty agenda for a sissified playboy.

The final adventure promised more to come but no more came.  **sigh**  He was replaced by the superhero Fireball.

The Press Guardian was fighting for space with more popular characters, including The Shield (who was featured on every cover), The Comet, Sergeant Boyle, Fu Chang, Bentley of Scotland Yard, The Midshipman, and Dusty, the Boy Detective (paired with The Shield on the cover of issue #11).  Even the introduction of Perry's eye candy secretary, the toothsome Cynthia Blake, in issue #3 could not save the eventual cancellation.  To be fair though, Cynthia was a plucky character whom I found much more interesting than The Press Guardian.

The Press Guardian was created by Jack Binder, the artist brother of science fiction writers Earl and Otto Binder (aka "Eando Binder").  The saga was taken over by Abner Sundall and Mort Meskin in the second issue.

The adventures of The Press Guardian seems to be a case of "Well, we've got a hero...what are we going to do with him?"  Nonetheless, it's worth checking out.

* That's if a costume can be considered to be a green hat and a red mask.

**Can there be a better name for such a country?

*** Another nifty name!

Thursday, November 18, 2021


 Arachne Rising:  the search for the thirteenth sign of the zodiac by "James Vogh" (John Sladek)  (1977)

It takes a special kind of person to go searching for the thirteenth sign of the zodiac.  It takes an even more special kind of person to find it.  John Sladek was not like the other children.

Sladek (1933-2000) was an American (Iowa-born; you can't get much more American than that) who spent the first twenty years of his writing career in England and was associated with science fiction's "New Wave."  He was one of the field's greatest satirists in the last half of the twentieth century.  Nothing, it seemed, was too sacred for his pen.  His first science fiction novel, The Reproductive System, (he had published two paperback gothics previously, one with Thomas M. Disch) was a brilliant allegory of technology gone wrong and featured a self-replicating robot.  His next, The Muller-Fokker Effect, had his hapless protagonist'spersonality tranfered to a computer, then replicated a number of times with each "clone" encountering fantastic (and sometimes terrifying) experiences with Big Business, Big Religion, patriotism, and the decline of America.  Roderick and Roderick at Random (whose full, unexpergated taxt was later relased as The Complete Roderick) is a bildungsroman about a young robot child who is trying to understand his place in human society, and Tik-Tok gives us a sociopathic robot with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.

And there were the short stories -- "Masterton and the Clerks," "The Poets of Millgrave, Iowa," as well as a number of satires that skewered well-known writers such as Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and Ray Bradbury -- each a spot-on parody.  And his two Thackeray Phin detective novels, Black Aura and Invisible Green, each brilliant locked room mysteries that deserve to be more widely known.  And Black Alice, written with Disch, a fantastic thriller in which a missing white child is hidden from sight by turning her into a black child.

You may have noticed that I haven't started to talk about Arachne Rising yet.  What can I say?  The title tells you what the book is about.  For 203 pages, the author details his theme, then he dives further in with even more appendices of Celebrities and Statistics (four pages), The Psychic Horoscope (eleven pages, including four pages of "Conversion Tables"). and an exhaustive twelves pages of Biliographic Notes (exactly 300 of 'em). as well as a ten-page index.  References there a-plenty -- of alien visitors, prehistoric myths, Atlantis, ancient civilizations, moon cycles, Stonehenge. folklore, King Arthur, christianity, the Kabbalah, the Tarot, Nostrodamus, Psi, the occult, reincarnation, psychic surgery, Edgar Cayce, Bishop Pike, Charles Fort, telepathy, out-of-body experiences, Uri Geller, mediums, dreams, and prophecy.  (I'd list more, but my fingers got tired just typing these.)

Sladek, you see, was a rationalist.  He also had a strong antipathy for gullible people.  In writing Arachne Rising, his intent was to demonstrate that people will believe anything.  It worked:  "many readers apparently believed that it recorded an authentic discovery," according to critic John Clute.  Never underestimate the power of a detailed, dead-pan hoax.

Sladek's previous non-fiction book, The New Apocrypha: A Guide to Strange Sciences and Occult Beliefs, was a straight-forward examination of fringe thinking and pseudosciences, many of which were revisited in Arachne Rising and two further hoax examinations, The Cosmic Factor:  Bioastrology and You (as "Voht") and Judgment on Jupiter (as "Richard A. Tilms").  Sadly, any copy of The New Apocrypha after 1973 has been cut/censored after a threat of legal action from the Church Scientology.  (Pooh on you, L. Ron Hubbard and David Miscavige!)

Sorry I didn't go into more detail about Arachne Rising, but the book has to actually be read to be believed experienced.

As for Sladek, that's one writer due for a major rediscovery.  He was funny, talented, incisive, a tad melancholy, and more than a tad spot-on.

Hey, Kids:  My copy of this book is up for grabs!  If you are interested, just e-mail me at with your snail mail address.  Be sure to reference your e-mail as Arachne; otherwise it may be deleted without being opened due to the fact that I hate Spam. The first to reply gets the book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


"The Reprisal" by H(arry) W(hitney) McVickar  (first published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine #582, November 1898; reprinted in Shapes That Haunt the Dark, edited by William Dean Howells & Henry M. Allen, 1907)

We open on St. Patrick's Day in London.  Jack Mordaunt, an American lawyer, is sitting on the steps leading from the terrace to the road, opposite a well-known hotel.  He had been sitting there for hours, not moving.  For the past fifteen minutes or so, a horse-drawn trap had been moving back and forth in front of the hotel.  Jack still staring ahead, wondered for whom the trap was sent; most likely it was a woman, for the groom had been kept waiting.  Then a well-dressed young woman came from the hotel, stopped to give the horse some sugar, then was assisted onto the trap, where she took the reins and drove away.  From where he sat he couldn't be sure, but he thought the woman might be very attractive. Just then a friend approached him and Jack asked if he knew who the woman was,  She was "Miss Violet Easton, of Washington; very fond of horses; keeps a lot of hunters; rich as mud."  Jack's friend promised him an introduction.  The Jack continued to sit and stare, unmoving, for another hour.

Three weeks later, Jack and Miss Easton were good friends and Jack had ridden her horse to the hunt three times a week.  Local gossips began to couple their names.  Shortly before one hunt, Jack received a letter.  He read it for the third time as Miss Eaton entered.  The letter he told her, contined distressing news:  he must return to New York the next day and would not be returning to Englnd.  The woman was visibly shaken and her feeling for Jack -- previously somewhat hidden -- were now obvious, as were Jack's feeling for her.  They still had that one day's hunt before Jack had to depart.

Coming back from the hunt, the two lagged behind until the other members of the party were out of sight.  For the first time, Jack called Miss Eaton Violet as he drew her to him and kissed her.  Startled, pleased, and upset, she drew away from him.  She told him he hwas the first man ever to kiss her, and declared, "You belong to me, still knowing they must part."

He left the next morning.

A month went by.  Then she received a letter from Jack.  She had previously told him when she expected to next in New York.  He wrote on behalf of himself and his wife, to invite her dine at their home when she reached New York.  Yep.  The cad was married!  Even though Jack had real feelings for Violet, he convinced hinself that his time with her was just a passing flirtation, meaning nothing.  The cad!  (Oh.  I think I called him that already.)  Violet wrote back saying that her plans had changed and she would be visiting New York after all.

More time passed.  Neither one heard from the other.  Then, on St. Patrick's Day, exactly one year after Jack had first seen Violet.  She called at his office.  It was late and the office staff had gone home.  Jack himself was remembering this anniversary and was loathe to go home to his wife yet.  Violet was paler than when he had last seen her and made no comments of their feelings for each other.  She said tht she needed to make her will and would like to do it immediately.  She would dictate it to him and he could put it in proper legal form and she would sign it that night.  And it as done.  Jack gathered the building janitor and his wife to witness the document.  Violet asked that Jack keep the will in his office for the time being and left.  He never saw her again.

The next morning Jack felt a little ill, then wife wife pointed out a brief notice in thhat mornin's newspaper.  Miss Violet Easton of Washington, had died the day before, on March 17, at her father's home.  The cause of death was diphtheria.  She was twenty-three.

Jack knew this was impossible, for he had been with her that night.  He rushed to his office and pulled out her will.  There, in bold strokes, was her signature.  But the building porter insisted that he had let no one in the building, and certainly not a young lady.  He questioned the janitor and his wife and they confirmed the witness signatures were theirs, but there was no young lady present.  They signed simply because Jack asked them to.  Feeling ill, Jack asked for a cab to sent him home.

Four days later, he was dead.  Of malignant diphtheria, the doctor said.

A neat little story.   I don't think there is any moral to it except it may not be wise to toy with a woman's affections if you are already sworn to another.  But we all knew that already, right?

Harry W. McVickar (1860-1905) was a prominent American illustrator and (later) real estate investor.  He was a member of New York society -- one of The Four Hundred -- during the Gilded Age.  His paternal grandfather was twice acting president of Columbia University, a close friend of Washington Irving and John Jay, and was the founder of Bard College.  Much of Harry McVickars artwork appeared in Life and Harper's Bazarr, and he considered one of the founder's of Vogue.  He also did the interior illustrations for book, such as James's Daisy Miller and Kendrick Bangs's Mr. Bonaparte of Corsica.  He made enough money from his artwork to set himself up in the real estate business; through a series of mergers, be became the First Vice President of the Empire Trust Company, taking full charge of the firm's real estate business.  He died at the early age of 44 from pleurisy (which he had caught six weeks earlier while "automobiling in Europe") at his father-in-law's estate, Asher House in Southhampton, New York.  As far as I can tell, McVickar published only one story -- "The Reprisal," for which he did the original illustrations.

Shapes That Haunt the Dark, a collection of stories from Harper's, is available to read on-line.