Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, February 3, 2023

COSTUME OF THE LOWER ORDER OF THE METROPOLIS (1820)

Here's a curiosity that was recently uploaded to Comic Book Plus, first published as part of Leigh's New Picture of London in 1816.

I cannot vouch for how accurate the costumes are (though I suspect, very) but I can w say with certainty that today's school students having to schlep around heavy backpacks had nothing on the poor scissors grinder or the charcoal merchant pictured here.

Enjoy this fascinating glimpse of two centuries ago.


.https://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=84994&comicpage=&b=i


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ERIN!

Where does the time go/  Today is Erin's 21st birthday.  It seems just half a breath ago she was a cute, giggly little girl, full of curiosity and determination, enamoured by the Wonder Pets.  Now she is a beautiful young woman soon to graduate from college -- the giggles partially replaced by a strong wit (one can never fully rid oneself of the giggles), the determination and the curiosity making room to add a deep sense of compassion, kindness, and empathy.  It is a well-known fact that I love each of my grandchildren more than any of the others and that's the case with Erin.  I am so proud of her and am saddened only by the fact Kitty is not around to see her reach her majority.

Kitty had thoughtit would be cool for Erin to have been born a day earlier, on 2-2-02.  Erin, being her own person, decided to wait until 2-3-02.  From the first moment Kitty saw that beautiful baby, she forgave Erin for not being born on February 2.  Also from that moment, Kitty loved her with all of her heart and soul, as we all have .

I firmly wish that everyone could have the absolute joy and privilege of havng an Erin in their lives.  The world would be a much better place.

Happy birthday, Sweetheart.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

FORGOTTEN BOOK: HOW LIKE A GOD

How Like a God by Rex Stout (1929)


Rex Stout began his writing career in 1910, publishing three poems in The Smart Set magazine. From 1912 through 1918 he published some 40 stories in the pulp magazines, including five serialized novels which would not begin to appear in book form until nearly seven decades later -- all of which are light but readable fare.  Then Stout got tired of writing just for money.  To solve that problem, he retired from writing and invented the school banking system (I remember participating when I was in elementary school) and lived well on the royalties.  He returned to writing with How Like a God, which was published by Vanguard Press, a publishing house he helped to start.  Ironically, it was published the same year the Depression began, in which Stout lost most of his money.

How Like a God was the first of five psychological novels, which was then followed by the anonymously published The President Vanishes, a pioneering political thriller -- all before the first Nero Wolfe mystery novel in 1934.

The book was published to great acclaim.  Clifton Fadiman wrote, "Real and exciting.  It is an unusual book."  And the New York Herald Tribune called it, "a fascinating piece of work...he is a fluent master of his art."  My copy, the 1961 Pyramid paperback edition which had been sitting on my shelf for more than half a decade, has these words taking up two-thirds of the book's cover:  AN EXTRAORDINARY BRILLIANT NOVEL ABOUT A SEXUAL PSYCHOTIC -- HIS STRANGE MARRIAGE, ABNORMAL OBSESSIONS AND DARK DESIRES.  Oh, and there's a picture of a naked woman in the lower right corner.

How Like a God is a fascinating psychological portrait about a weak man subsumed by sex, told in a straight-forward manner without titillation, eroticism, or graphic detail.  It is about the effect a warped view of sex can have on an immature psyche.  The novel is told in the second person, almost as though the main character is introspectively trying to explain himself to himself.  This is not really the case though:  the narration is far more knowing of the protagonist's nature than the protagonist himself is.

Each chapter opens with a few paragraphs showing Bill Sidney, 41, climbing the stairs of an old apartment building, gun in his pocket.  He is slowly going up to kill a woman.  We then dissolve to a series of flashbacks, taken in seemingly random order, focusing on the life of this torured man.

Stanley is rich and successful, more because of coincidence than talent.  He is the second child and first son of a Cleveland pharmacist, raised in a solidly middle-class family.  Throughout his life, there have been five women who have formed him.

The first was his sister Jane, older by two years.  Jane was the competent one and the one who acted as a surrogate mother to Bill.  Bill has always been in love with Jane, seldom realizing that his love verged on the sexual.  When he was ten, he saw his his sister naked; her twelve-year-old nonchalnace affected him throughout his life.  As he got older, Bill could not imagine his sister having a sex life and grew extremely jealous of her husband.

When Bill was about fifteen, he was seduced by his married Sunday School teacher who was twice his age, entering into a relationship that lasted for two years, until her husband found out.  This was not a great love, or even a great sexual adventure.  It happened and it continued merely because Bill was compliant.  Bill always thought of her and referred to her as Mrs. Davis, never by her first name.  After the affair was discovered by her husband, the couple moved away and Bill did not see her again for more than twenty years, which was when he discovered that she had had a son by him.

In college, he became fascinated with Millicent, a ten-year-old girl in the neighborhood.  He would buy her candy and she would sit on his lap.  His unacknowleged sexual feelings for this child confused him.  He would have fantasies about her, not realizing what they actually were.  He also never realized that Millicent was just a bit younger than his sister Jane was when he saw her naked.  For her part, Millicent soon began (perhaps innocently) hinting that the relationship was sexual, which caused a scene between Millicent's mother and Bill's father.  When it turned out that nothing physical had happened, Millicent's mother, perhaps embarrassed, moved them away.

In his mid-twenties he met Lucy, a nineteen-year-old aspiring musician.  Lucy was beautiful, charming, and sexually repressed.  Bill fell in love with her and wanted to marry her but could not get the courage to ask her.  Their entire physical relationship consisted of one brief kiss on the lips and one short moment of skinny-dipping (sans touiching).  She admitted to Bill that he was the only man she ever liked and trusted.  He finally proposed to her the day before she was to leave for Europe to study music.  She turned him down, saying that she probably would have married him the year before if he had asked her then.  Then she was gone.

Then there was Erma, the sister of his best friend and employer.  She was beautiful and sexually amoral, calculating and cruel, and fabulously rich in her own right.  She was also the same age as Jane.  Erma toyed with Bill and at one time, it was tacitly assumed they would get married, but she went off to Europe on a lark, got married, and was away for several years.  When she returned, divorced, she began to take up with Bill again.  Eventually they did get married and lived an unconventional life in which he tolerated her nymphomania and infidelities, as well as her often dismissive attitude toward him.  Somehow, in his imagination, he would conflate Jane, Lucy, and Erma with the ten-year-old Millicent.

Now approaching forty, Bill accidently meets a grown-up Millicent at the theater.  She is rather plain and cheaply dressed, a dull and unimaginative woman.  Realizing all this, Bill takes her on as a lover, never exactly understanding why he did.  Millicent is as compliant to Bill as Bill is to everyone else.  She also has an amoral streak and takes on lovers without Bill's knowledge.  When he finds out, Bill is enraged.  Millicent was the one thing he could claim for his own.  And the apartment he had set up for was something he also considered his own; it contained furniture that he could claim to be his own -- never before had he had a bed or even a chair he could call his own.  Catching one of Millicent's lovers in his bed, sitting in his chair, using his mistress was all just too much.

And so, Bill is walking slowly up the stairs to Millicent's apartment, gun in his pocket...


A great introspecive novel, perhaps a bit old-fashioned for modern tastes, but a fascinating portrait of a tortured man -- a psychotic formed by his relationships with women.  Bill Stanley is not a person the reader can easily identify with, but he is one that is not easily forgotten.

Rex Stout's many fans should be aware that this is a long way from Nero Wolfe.


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

PHILCO RADIO TIME - WITH BING CROSBY (JUNE 2, 1948)

Bing's guest this week were comedian Fred Allen, fiddler Joe Venuti, and Joe Palooka comic strip creator Ham Fisher.  Ken Carpenter was the announcer, with music by John  Scott Trotter and His Orchestra, The Skylarks.

Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn0dc77VflU 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: MOOZEBY

 "Moozeby" by James F. Sullivan (from The Strand Magazine, February  1892;reprinted in Queer Side Stories, 1900, as by Jas. F. Sullivan)


A gentle satire on Theosophy and other such occult and mystic philosophies that were prevalent around the turn of the century.

A group of friends set out in a boat aloong the Thames for a picnic:

"We had selected a beautiful landing-place on the bank of the Thames, and had the added advantage of the shadow of a large notice-board -- a board declaring the land, river, air, sky, clouds, and other articles around and above to be the private property of someone or other, and warning strangers not to land, fish, breathe, exist, or otherwise trespass near the spot.  The shadow of this board served nicely to keep the rays of the sun from the butter and champagne.  We only regretted that Moozeby had not been able to join us."

They selected a nice dry spot to lay their blanket and spread out their viands, but suddenly a wisp of a fog appeared there.  It began to grow and thicken, nds as the picnickers attempted to put their hands through the mist, they met with some resistance.

The fog soon solidified and it was Moozeby, seated (unfortunately) on their little repast.  Moozeby greeted them with apologies. It ws nothing supernatural, just precipitation -- something he had been practicing for a while.  In hs efforts, he did not properly get his bearings -- he had meant to precipitate on a nearby stump, not on the food.

Well, the picnic was ruined.  Then one of them suggested:  if Moozeby had learned to precipitate, why didn't he precipitate some grub.  Moozeby was certainly willing to try.  His first effort brought a ham sandwich that unfortunately appeared on Wortleworth's head -- right on the bald spot.  The sandwich, however, proved edible.  Soon Moozeby had precipitated an entire platter of sandwiches.  Only Mrs. Wimbledon refused to eat, declaring the food "nasty, unwholesome, supernatural."  The picnickers hoped that Mrs. Besant did not psychically pick up on that comment.  (Annie Besant was a well-known Theosophist and social reformer of the time.  Later, our narrator notes, "It is very strange to reflect that this useful power, exercised by H. P. B. and our friend Moozeby , should have been so long neglected by civilized men!"  "H. P. B." refers to Helen Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society.)

Precipitation, at least how Boozby practiced it, does not fully work.  When it began to rain, Boozeby precipated umbrellas and rain gear for the picnickers, but some of the umbrellas did not materialize completely and water leaked down on Pinniger and his fiance, Maud Wimble.

The rain delayed the picnickers and by the time they reached the rail station, they found they had missed their train and would have to wait an hour and twenty minutes before the next rain, and that one would take them home by way of Clapham Junction, Willesden, and Loughborough Park, meaning that they would not reach home until morning.

What to do?  They were in a quandry until Pinniger suggested that Moozeby precipitate a train for them.  This was a larger task than Moozeby had ever before attempted, made all the more difficult because Moozeby had no real conception of what the train should be.  He imagined an engine bt forgot to put a train around it.  Eventually, a strangely-formed train began to appear on the tracks -- to the dismay of the stationmaster because an express was due through in twelve minutes.  By this time Moozeby was tired and he was not able to make the train any more complete, nor was he able to make it disappear.  The picnickers tried to push Moozeby's train off the tracks, but they ended up only pushing holes into the flimsy thing.  When the express came roaring through, it smashed the phantom train into light flimsy pieces, and rushed on through without any damage to itself.

The picnickers were forced to walk.  After half a mile or so, Moozeby began to get his strength back and once again attempted to make a train -- this time on a side track.  The train (somewhat insubstantial and incomplete) soon formed.  Then they realized that none of them knew how to drive a train, so Moozeby had to precipitate a driver.  His first attempt got him the wrong type of driver:  a pig-driver.  His next attempt was better -- a train driver, but with one insubstantial leg, so he had to keep hopping around the cab.  Soon they were on their way home, going ever so slowly because Moozeby did not know how to create a more powerful train; and with the floor of the carriage occasionally disappearing so Thripling fell through and Maud Wimble sank through the floor with only her head and shoulders in the carriage.

The moral of the story -- if there is one -- is laid out in the final paragraph:

"It is foolish to attempt such a thing as a train, when one is tired; it brings discredit on Theosophy and makes the uninitiated incredulous about it."


Sullivan (1852-1936) was a British satirist and cartoonist (not to be confused with his brother, the illustrator Edmund J. Sullivan).  The special object of his satire was nineteenth century British mores.  His most popular book was the graphic collection The British Working-Man, By One Who Doesn't Believe in Him, 1878.  The target of his Belial's Burdens: Down with the McWhings, 1896, was the self-important British writer Marie Corelli.  The Flame-Flower and Other Stories, 1896, contained the novella "The Island of Dr. Menu," a satire on H. G. Wells.  Other collections include So the World Goes, 1898, Here They Are!, 1899, and Here They Are Again!, 1900.

From the first issue of The Strand Magazine, Sullivan occupied the back pages of the magazine with a series of tales, many fantastical, under the heading of "The Queer Side of Things."  Nineteen of these stories are collected in Queer Side Stories, including one further tale about Moozeby.  Queer Side Stories is available online at Internet Archive.

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

Pappy noticed his son leaving the house one night carrying a lantern.  "Where are you a-goin' with that lantern, son?"

The boy replied, "I'm goin' a-courtin' Peggy Sue."

Pappy said, "Well, when I was a-courtin' your mother, I didn't need no danged lantern."

The boy smiled and said, Sure.  And look what it got you."

OVERLOOKED TELEVISION: SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE: HOUR OF NIGHTMARE (JUNE 25, 1955)

Two free-lance photographers are sent to the Mexican border to photograph mysterious lights in the sky that have been reported by airplane pilots.  They come across a dead alien.  (Flying saucers were big in the Fifties.)

William Bishop and Lynn Bari star as the husband and wife team.  Also featured are Charles Evans, Tony Barrett, and Christopher Dark.  As always, Truman Bradley is the host and narrator.   This episode was directed by Henry S. Kesler from a script by Lou Huston.

Produced by Ivan Tors and Maurice Zim, Science Fiction Theatre was a television anthology series that ran in syndication from April 9, 1955 to April 6, 1957 for a total of 78 episodes.  The show tried to take itself seriously with a semi-documentary approach and emphasized science over drama while it explored various topics such as robots,, telepathy, flying saucers, extraterrestials, and time travel.  Many of the show's concepts were based on recent articles in Scientific American.  Truth to tell, at times this approach made for pretty boring television.

Over its two season, Science Fiction Theatre featured such well-known actors as Basil Rathbone, Victor Jory, Vincent Price, Gene Barry, Edward Glenn, Ruth Hussey, and Howard Duff.  Among the actors who played multiple roles in various episodes were Dabs Greer, Whit Bissell, Bruce Bennett,and Dick Foran.

Most of the episodes were original; many were created by Tors.  Three of them were adapted from stories by Jack 'Finney, Anna Hunger and R. DeWitt Miller, and Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Among the directors used throughout the series were Jack Arnold, Herbert L, Strock, Leslie Goodwins, Paul Guilfoyle,  and William Castle.

Give this one a try.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ8hzN8RZAs