Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, December 31, 2012


My brother continued his fascination with small farm (and other) animals by sending me this clip.

  (A random thought that has nothing to do with monkeys or goats:  The Lowell Spinners are a baseball farm team from my old stomping grounds.  In Southern Maryland, our minor league team is the Maryland Blue Crabs.  Farm team names fascinate me because they tend to be soft and fuzzy.  In the spirit of american competion and intimidation, I think that should be changed.  I'd pay good money (and even some bad money) to see a team named We're Gonna Kick your Butt Because We're Just That Good.  End of random thought.)


New Year's Eve has always seemed like a nothing holiday to me.  (Actually, it's new Year'ss Day that's the holiday but, for most people I know, the celebrating is done on New Year's Eve.)  I guess I'm just not a party person.

New Year's wishes, however, are very important to me.  They summarize the daily wishes I have for family and friends -- including those many friends I have not met yet.  For 2013, I sincerely wish all of you happiness, health, peace, love, clarity, purpose, fun, relaxation, laughter, companionship, and pie -- because so many things go better with pie.  May the 2013 you be the person you want to be and the person your loved ones know you to be.

And to usher in 2013, here's a classic from Jack Benny:


  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Mammoth Book of Sorcerers' Tales.  Fantasy anthology of 23 stories, old and new.
  • Orson Scott Card, Earthfall (Homecoming, Volume 4) and PastwatchThe Redemption of Christopher Columbus.  SF both.
  • Peter Dickinson, The Kin.  Omnibus of four YA books set in prehistoric Africa:  Suth's Story, Noli's Story, Ko's Story, and Mana's Story.
  • Richard Due, The Dragondain.  YA fantasy; this follows The Moon Coin and is Part Two of The Rinn of Barreth in the overall Moon Realm series.  Due is a local author; he and his wife own and operate Second Look Books in Prince Frederick, Maryland -- a frequent stop for me.  The third book in the series, The Murk,  will be out next Fall.  Check him out.
  • George R. R. Martin, editor, Marked Cards and Black Trump.  Two from the "mosaic novel" Wild Cards series.  Authors include Leanne Harper, Stephen Leigh, Martin, Victor Milan, John J. Miller, Laura Mixon, Walton Simons, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Sage Walker, and Walter Jon Williams.  Snodgrass served as assistant editor on these.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Shadows in the Sun by Chad Oliver (1954)

Chad Oliver was a science fiction fan who never gave up his love of the genre and managed to infuse his science fiction with his other love, anthropology.  In Shadows in the Sun, Paul Ellery, a young cultural anthropologist, takes up a challenge he had encountered in his reading:

     "A shocking handful of small American vilages have been scientifically studied by cultural anthropologists and rural sociologists.  The sample is so small as to be meaningless.  The data are hopelessly inadequate.  We know as much about the planet Mars as we do about ninety-nine per cent of our own country.

     "Look at the towns and villages and whistle-stops of America.  Go into them with your eyes open, take nothing for granted, and study them as objectively as you would a primitive tribe.  There is no man on this planet who can predict what you may find."

Ellery certainly could not have predicted what he would find as he studied the small Texas town of Jefferson Springs, population 6000.  For starters, the town was too perfect.  The town appeared typical in every sense; in fact, just about everywhere Ellery looked, there was nothing "untypical" about Jefferson Springs.

And then Ellery discovers something very disturbing about the town's population shift.  None of the town's original population remains there.  In fact, not a single resident of Jefferson Springs has been in the town for more than fifteen years.

Then came the dark night when Ellery happened to witness a large black shadow blocking the stars, and a globe floats down from that shadow to an isolated ranch and four people emerge from the globe.

Seldom has the "aliens among us" theme been done so well.  The aliens seem well-intentioned and non-threatening, but Ellery's study of anthropology tells him that the best of intentions can have severe consequences.

Shadows in the Sun was Oliver's second novel and his first adult book.  All of his books, both science-fiction and westerns, are highly recommended.

Below is a link to a 2002 bibliography of Oliver's works.  Since then, two retrospective collections of his science fiction stories have been published:  A Star Above and Other Stories and Far from This Earth and Other Stories, both NESFA Press, 2003.

If you are not familiar with Chad Oliver's works, you're missing out.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


It's all in the hands of Congress.  (Gulp!)  For some reason, this doggeral from E. Y. ("Yip") Harburg has been racing through my head lately:


Each congressman has two ends:

A sitting end and a thinking end;

And since his success depends upon his seat...

Why bother, friend?


Forgotten music time again.  Here's a dozen from Spider John Koerner.  Enjoy.


December 27th is meant to be a lazy day.  The stress of Christmas is behind us.  Boxing Day is behind us, as is the confusion of trying to figure out what the hell Boxing Day is.  (Come on, admit it:  how many of you went up to a stranger yesterday and cold-conked him, figuring that was what you were supposed to do?)  The stress of Christmas returns can be put off for a day.  And the massive infusion of tryptophan from the past few days is beginning to have an effect.  Yep, today is meant to be a lazy day.

In keeping with this spirit, today also happens to be Make a Cut-Out Snowflake Day.  (It's amazing the things you learn on the internet.)  Take a piece of paper.  Fold it in half.  Fold that half in half.  Repeat a few times.  (I once read that, no matter how large a piece of paper, it cannot be folded in half more than eleven times.  Is this true or an urban myth?  Who knows?  Who cares?  It's a lazy day -- certainly no time for such a complicated experiment.  Digression over; back to your cut-out snowflake.)  Take a pair of scissors (those little rounded-end ones they give kindergarteners will do nicely, thank you).  Do not run with the scissors.  Instead, start cutting little holes and wedges in your paper.  Unfold the paper and -- voila! -- a cut-out snowflake.  You can delay deciding what to do with this artistic masterpiece until some other day.  Also don't bother to pick up all  the little bits of paper detritus from the floor.  (If anyone asks, just say that the dog has this skin condition...)  This is your lazy day.  Celebrate by being lazy.

Since no two snowflakes are said to be alike (another urban myth, I fear, but good for our purposes), tout the fact that your artistic masterpiece is sui generis and reflects well on your intellect and creativity.  While doing that, you can send the kids into the kitchen to get you a beer or, perhaps, a piece of pie.

You've done enough for one day.  Relax.  Enjoy yourself.  It's a lazy day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


This one's from Ceili:

What did the lettuce say at the party?

"Turnip the beets!"

(Well, you had to have been there.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


From December 18, 1952, this Christmas episode of Dragnet.  Think anti-Ralphie and anti-Jean Shephard's A Christmas Story.

Just the facts, ma'ma?  Okay.

Jack Webb's classic Dragnet debuted on radio in 1949; the television show two years later.  The staccato scripting that worked so well in radio easily segued in Webb's vision for the small screen.  Many of the television show's scripts (including this one by Webb and James Moser) were adapted from old radio scripts.  Two of the featured actors in this episode were also a part of radio history:  William Johnstone (as "John Martin") was the actor who replaced Orson Welles on The Shadow, and June Whitley Taylor (as "Mrs. Johnstone") was the first person to voice Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best.

Among others in the episode were Sammy Ogg (as "Stanley Johnstone"), a familiar face in 50s television with roles in (among many others) Spin and Marty, Annie Oakley, The Gene Autry Show, Buffalo Bill, Jr., Lassie, Prince Valiant, Our Miss Brooks, and I Love Lucy, and Virginia Christine, the "Folger Coffee Woman".  (According to IMDB, Christine's home town reconfigured its water tower to resemble a coffee pot in honor of their most famous citizen.)

And, of course, Webb as Joe Friday and Herb Ellis as Frank Smith.  (On the radio show, Ellis had already been replaced in September by Ben Alexander).

Directed by Webb.

(BTW, the uncredited annoucer at the beginning was George Fenneman, Groucho's announcer.)

"The story you are about to see is true.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent."


I don't think that Mary Travers was ever more beautiful than when she sang this to her granddaughter.

The message for today:  Love your babies.  All babies.

Have a great Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012


So it's been one of those weeks.

Shoulda know, what with the whole Mayan Apocalypse thing.

On Monday (the 10th) Kitty got her new knee and we went home that Wednesday.  Things seemed to go pretty well except on Friday Kitty overreached and fell.  She fell again the next day.  So we called 911 and the ambulance came and off to the hospital we went.  That's when the bad news started coming.

Kitty's newly operated leg was broken.  Fractured, really -- the femur right smack-dab where it met the new knee.  Ouch.  Another ambulance was called and we headed off to Annapolis where she had had the initial knee replacement (and where the state's premiere joint replacement facility is).  this ride took over an hour with Kitty in the back of vehicle in pain and my riding shotgun in a seat designed for someone at least three feet shorter than I.  I was so concerned about Kitty that I almost failed to notice the circulation in my legs being cut off.  Almost.  Not quite.  So there was ouch from both the back and the front of the ambulance.

At Annapolis, the surgeon took a look at the x-ray and was suddenly very, very quiet.  We were told that he would not operate the next day (Sunday) because he wanted to consult with a number of his colleagues to come up with a plan.  The break (excuse me, fracture) was a very tricky one.  We understood that when the word "tricky" was used, the phrase "oh, sweet Jesus, what the hell are we going to do?" could be an appropriate substitute.

Kitty's blood count was low (because the blood was going to the fracture) and her coumadin (a blood thinner) level was high.  So while the surgeons were figuring out what to do, Kitty was getting transfusions and trying to bring the two levels into balance.

So Monday afternoon came and they wheeled her down to a prep room, then to pre-op, then to the OR.  Her surgical team included the two most prominent joint replacement surgeons in the state.  I was told that because of the complexity of the operation, it would probably take longer than the hour to an hour and a half that a "normal" knee replacement would take.  The lights in the hospital flickered four times during the operation and I became a great believer in redundant systems.

The operation actually took over four hours and six units of blood.  The fracture had actually splitered the bone and about four inches of Kitty's femur had to be removed and replaced with a prothesis.  Her new knee (I understand) was custom built with a rod going inside the femur almost to the hip and (on the other end) about half way down her calf.  Turns out there was some fear of vascular damage due to the length of time a tourniquet had to be used.  A difficult operation, indeed.  If she breaks another bone, the leg may not be able to be repaired,

Physical therapy this time around was more difficult and more painful.  We were supposed to go home on Thursday, but her blood count was low again.  Another transfusion.  Then last night (Thursday) just hours before the Mayan Apocalypse, the hospital went dark -- along with much of the city and a good portion of the country.  A line to one of the main power transformers failed/blew up/ imploded/exploded/or something.  The black night lit up like day for a few seconds and 50,000 people in the city lost power.

So today it was time to leave the hospital, hopefully never to  return.  Before we could, however, lights started flashing and "Code Red" warnings were being blared over the intercom and we were in a hospital wide lockdown.  Don't know what happened but wasn't the apocalypse.  After the lockdown was lifted, I ran into five firefighter in full gear and axes.  About an hour later, Kitty's ambulance came and we headed off to a rehab facility in our neighborhood that had been approved by our insurance.

Understand that Kitty, although in pain, was pretty much under the influences of various drugs.  Her hospital stay was not a pleasant experience.  Sadly, they give no drugs to husbands of patients.  What they do give us are the world's most diabolical couches to sleep.  By couch I mean love seat and by love seat I mean a piece of hard, uncomfortable furniture designed by a sadist and only appreciated by a masochist.  One end of the loveseat expanded to reveal a kind of drawer; none of the two hard plastic cushions fit into this dark pit.  Along the center of the loveseat was a hard wooden brace intended to dig into the spine.  On each end of the love seat are long, hard "arms" sure to cut off the circulation of anyone foolish enough to try to sleep on the sofa.  That Torquemada loveseat was my companion every night (which was every night) I slept in Kitty's room.

But I digress.  We were on the ambulance headed toward the rehab facility which is actually a nursing home.  This ambulance had maybe an inch more leg room than the one that brought us to Annapolis; this was offset by a lack of leg width that was responsible for my severe leg cramps.  If only Kitty had it as easy as I.  She told me later that the two people working the ambulance (one in back with her, the other in front driving) were evidently very mad at each other.  Turns out they did not fully secure her stretcher so every fast or hard turn sent her sliding.  They also did not secure everything else in the back of the ambulance.  Small boxes of whotheheckknows went flying -- luckily none landed on her knee, although some of them hit her.

We showed up at the nursing home about a half hour after whoever does physical therapy went off duty.  The nursing home turned out be a nice one.  For a nursing home.  For a rehab facility, not  so much.  First of all, the bed was totally inappropriate for Kitty's type of injury.  Nothing on one side to hold onto; on the other side a plastic (!!!) rail that could not used for support.  And they had no equipment.  The RN on duty had to borrow a walker from one of the other patients and expected Kitty to pull herself up on it.  (A complete no-no for a number of safety reasons.)  The RN was about the size of my ten-year-old grandchild and physically could not help Kitty get up.  I explained  the difficulty to her and said that, at this stage in the game, at least two persons were needed to safely get Kitty she called another person and the two of them stood there and expected Kitty to  get up without their help.  I told the RN the bed was completely unacceptable and she said, "But it's a hospital bed."  There are hospital beds and there are hospital beds.  Kitty did not need one like this that actually broke along the bottom within a half hour of her arrival.  No one working at the nursing home tonight seemed to have any sort of knowledge or experience with dealing with a knee relplacement.  I mentioned this and was told that a physcial therapist would be available tomorrow morning to evaluate Kitty.  Why (I asked), when they were told by the hospital what Kitty's problem was and what she needed, had they not been ready for her with proper staff and equipment;  a physical therapist (she answered) would be available tomorrow morning to evaluate Kitty.  I swear we had to be talking different languages.

So we called a halt to this.  Neither I nor Kitty are going to risk her recovery with these bozos.  So we told them thanks but no thanks and called Christina.  She and Walt came to the nursing home with a walker and a transport wheelchair and we took Kitty home.  We moved a bed out into the living room and slowly (and safely) got Kitty settled.  Have I mentioned that both my daughter and son-in-law are exxperienced EMTs?  (And that they have a great deal of patience and were more than happy to get Kitty ensconsced in out living room.)

By the way, Jessie and her girls are on their way here from Massachusetts for Christmas.  (This planned well before Kitty's latest surgery.)  They should be here within the hour and were full expecting Kitty to be in rehab.

Declan is being good (thus far) and can't understand why he cannot sleep on the new bed (brought, in doggy logic, expressly for his use and comfort) in the living room.

Before Kitty's fall last Friday, I had a few items in the queue for the blog.  This week I had planned to read and review Harry Harrison's Montezuma's Revenge for my Forgotten Book today.  Well, maybe next apocalypse.

Blogging may be sporadic over the next few days as we figure out where we go from here.  But, on this night, Kitty is home and is safe.  What more can I ask for this holiday season?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Can you handle this?  Have you got the "right stuff"?  And is your unsurance policy paid up?  'Cuz we're talking bunnies here.  That's right, bunnies!  You have been warned.

Monday, December 17, 2012


  • Erskine Caldwell, Erskine Caldwell's Gulf Coast Stories.  Twenty-one stories by a well-known writer of his time.
  • David Denby, Great Books.  The author examines thirty-one classic authors and or books.
  • Katherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  Fantasy.

Friday, December 14, 2012


The Blank Wall by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding (1947)

Lucia Holley is living day by day, each day hoping not to get word that her husband Tom is dead.  Tom has been gone for two years, assigned on a navy destroyer.  The uncertainty of whether she is a widow or a wife combines with the frustration of trying to be a perfect homemaker and mother during a time of uncertainty, deep rationing, and erratic services from the tradesmen and shops she is used to dealing with.  She is living in a rented lake house with her widowed father, her seventeen-year-old daughter, her fifteen-year-old son, and Sybil, her housekeeper.

The persona Lucia shows her family -- that of a capable, unflustered woman running the household --is at odds with the real Lucia -- a frightened, insecure, and dependent person who lives only for her family and who would be lost without the capable guidance of her housekeeper.  Nonetheless, life is pretty good.  Her daughter Bee is happy attending an art school; her son David is smart and makes friends easily (although he does see himself as the man of the house while his father is away), her father is comfortable and enjoying his life; Sybil, the housekeeper, is her faithful ally, quietly solving as many of Lucia's domestic problems as possible.  Since this is a mystery, something soon happens that threatens Lucia's family and their sheltered life.,

That "something" was a con man and former pornographer named Ted Darby, whose latest mark is Lucia's daughter Bee.  To Bee, Darby was a romantic iconoclast who represented freedom and an escape from her boring life.  Darby was a secret Bee tried to keep from her mother, sure that Lucia "just wouldn't understand."  Lucia does find out and goes to confront Darby, a man eighteen years older than her daughter.  Darby refuses to stop seeing Bee and -- since Bee would soon be eighteen -- tells Lucia that there is nothing she can do to stop the relationship.

Lucia does what she could, grounding her daughter.  Bee then secretly calls Darby and asks him to meet her that night at the lake house's boathouse.  Lucia notices a light moving in the boathouse and discovers Darby, who refuses to leave.  Lucia's father then goes to confront the unwelcome intruder and ends pushing him into the water and walking away.

The next morning Lucia rises early and goes to the boathouse to get ready for a swim.  She finds Darby's body floating in the water.  When Lucia's father had pushed him, Darby had hit his head against an anchor.  If her father discovers what had happened, he would take full responsibility and perhaps be charged with a crime.  If her daughter discovers what had happened, she would never get over it.  Lucia, the only one who knows what happened, is also the only one who can avoid disaster for her family.  She finds the courage to disengage Darby's impaled body from the anchor and manages to load it into a motor boat.  She dumps the body in a marshy and desolate inlet and hopes she will be able to forget the horror of what happened.

A rude and unseemly man arrives at the house demanding to see Bee.  Afraid he might be a policeman, Lucia refuses to let him see her daughter.  The body is discovered and the police begin looking for a murderer.  The body is soon identified and Darby's past is revealed.  Bee becomes disgusted with the way she acted with Darby and prays no one discovers her infatuation with him.  Another man -- handsome, quiet, polite -- arrives to tell Lucia he and his partner (the rude person who had arrived earlier) has a bundle of letters that Bee had written to Darby and that they were for sale for $10,000.  The letters were innocent enough on the surface, but Bee's romanticism made them seem far less innocent.  Speaking of innocent, an innocent man is soon charged with Darby's murder.

Lucia's house of cards is threatened.  One thing can be traced to another and Lucia's entire family could be ruined.  Lucia has to find a way to deal with the blackmailers or to come up with an amount she just does not have.  She also must find a way to clear a complete stranger from the murder charge.  Then there's another death.  And a very perceptive police detective...

In The Blank Wall, Holding gives us a dead-on psychological portrait of middle-class and middle-aged crises.  This is quiet suspense at it's best, told in a gripping and homely tone.  If you like Margaret Millar or Charlotte Armstrong, give this one a try.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Back home at 8:00 Wednesday night.  They replaced Kit's knee Monday morning, finishing up just a bit past noon.  For the past few days it's been pain-killers and extensive physical therapy.  She's doing far better than she thinks she is.

Last time, three years ago on the other knee, it was just a bad experience all around.  Although she could move better with that new knee than with the one she was born with, there hasn't been a day in the past three years when she wasn't in pain.  (The operation was a success, blah, blah, blah...)  Her experience at the hospital was not stellar, to say the least.  The physical therapy she received was under par.  It looks as if she ended up with three neuromas around the scar tissue -- something we can finally take care of sometime next year.

So we learned.  Different doctor.  Different hospital.  Different result altogether.  Already she's in far less pain than with the last knee replacement.  Doctors, nurses, assistants, therapists...on down to cleaning staff and volunteers -- all were professional, courteous, friendly, and concerned.  A detailed plan was in place and followed to the letter.  So we're happy.  The next month or so will be strenuous, but it's so much better than having Kitty in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, which was the very real and only alternative.

No Bad Joke Wednesday today for 12.12.12.

Instead, how about a pretty yucky story one of the nurses told us?  About a patient who, after they replaced his knee, wanted his old knee back.  Not put back into him, just back.  Like in a bag or something.  Turns out he wanted to bring it home with him...and feed it to his dog!  (They didn't give it to him, but sheesh!  Another person I truly do not want to meet.)

Monday, December 10, 2012


  • Kevin J. Anderson, editor, Tales from Jabba's Palace.  SF movie tie-in anthology with nineteen stories.
  • Jay Bonansinga, Twisted.  Thriller.
  • Robert Buettner, Overkill.  SF.
  • Martin Caiden, Fork-Tailed Devil: The P-38.  Non-fiction.
  • Victor Canning, The Finger of Saturn.  Thriller.
  • Matthew J. Costello, Sleep Tight.  Horror.
  • John Creasey, The Toff on Fire.  Mystery.
  • Justin Cronin, The Passage.  SF.
  • Frank De Felitta, Golgotha Falls.  Horror.
  • Charles de Lint, The Blue Girl.  Fantasy.
  • Keith R. A. DeCandido. Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Zander Years, Vol. 1.  Television tie-in.
  • Ron Dee, Descent  Horror.
  • "William Dobson" (Michael Butterworth), Ripper.  Horror.
  • David Drake, In the Stormy Red Sky.  Military SF, the seventh in the Daniel Leary/RCN series.
  • Doranna Durgin, Storm of Reckoning.  Romantic fantasy, sequel to The Reckoners.
  • John Farris The Captors and Sharp Practice.  Thrillers.
  • Dan Fesperman, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows.  Thriller.
  • Eric Flint, 1812:  The Rivers of War.  Alternate history SF.
  • Eric Flint & David Drake, Destiny's Shield.  Military SF novel in the Belisarius series.
  • Joanne Fluke, Winter Chill.  Thriller.
  • Harold Lee Friedman, Crib.  Horror.
  • Christopher Cook Gilmore, Road Kills.  Thriller.
  • Kenneth Girard, Altered Egos.  Horror.
  • Christopher Golden & Ford Lytle Gilmore, Horseman.  YA horror, Book One in The Hollow series.
  • Stephen Gresham, Blood Wings, Demon's Eye, and Runaway. Horror all.
  • David Hagberg, Last Come the Children.  Horror.
  • Laurell K. Hamilton, Nightseer.  Fantasy.  The author's first novel.
  • Paul Harding, The Nightingale Gallery. Historical mystery, "Being the First of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan."
  • Cory J. Herndon, Ravnica.  Gaming (Magic:  The Gathering) tie-in; Ravnica Cycle, Book 1.
  • Phil Hirsch, editor, Great True Stories of the Wild West.  Thirteen articles (some apparentl;y fictionized) of men who would become legends.
  • Leslie Alan Horvitz & H. Harris Gerhard, M.D., Double-Blinded.  Horror.
  • Trevor Hoyle, Kids.  Horror.
  • Tanya Huff, Smoke and Mirrors.  Horror.
  • Jessie Prichard Hunter, Blood Music.  Horror
  • Ruby Jean Jenson, Annabelle, Best Friends, Celia, Lost and Found, and House of Illusions.  Horror.
  • William W. Johnstone, Carnival and Sandman.  Horror.
  • Darielle Keith,  Dark Union.  Horror.
  • Laird Koenig, Rockabye.  Thriller.
  • Christopher Keane & William D. Black, M.D., Christmas Babies.  Horror.
  • Ed Kelleher & Harriette Vidal, The School.  Horror.
  • Bentley Little, The Return.  Horror.
  • Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Moon, Generation Warriors.   SF, third in the Planet Pirates series.
  • Bill McCay, Stargate:  Rebellion.  Movie (not television) tie-in.
  • Scott McGough, Outlaw Champions of Kamigawa.  Gaming (Magic:  The Gathering tie-in); Kamigawa Cycle, Book 1.
  • Michael Moorcock, Tales From the End of Time.  SF omnibus of two books, the three-novella Legends From the End of Time and the novel A Messiah at the End of Time (aka, The Transformation of Miss Mavis Ming).
  • Frank Peretti, Monster.  Horror.  The inside blurbs praise Paretti as a Christian, faith-based writer.
  • Robert Sheckley, Aliens:  Alien Harvest.  Part of a movie tie-in franchise.
  • John Shirley, Demons.  Horror.
  • Barbara Smith, Ghost Stories of Washington.  Folklore from the Evergreen State.
  • Bruce Sterling, Globalhead and Holyfire.  An SF collection with thirteen stories and an SF novel.
  • S. M. Sterling & David Drake, The General:  Book IV: The Steel.  SF.
  • J. N. Williamson, Babel's Children.  Horror.
  • Timothy Zahn, Terminator Salvation: From the Ashes.  Movie tie-in.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I'm off for most of the week while Kitty has her knee replaced.  I'll be spending the next few days hand holding, cooing words of encouragement, and agreeing that all doctors, nurses, and therapists are spawns of Hell.  (Hopefully just the first two; we've done as much as we can to ensure that the bad experiences she had when her other knee was replaced don't reoccur.  Kitty's a trooper and she should come through with flying colors.  Me?  I'll be the wimp sitting next to the hospital bed.)

I have an INCOMING set for tomorrow but, beyond that, nada.

Back around the end of the week.


The great Jim Reeves...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012


I just received an e-mail from my brother Ken who usually reserves e-mail to send me some item or another about goats (although his previous e-mail was about different type of animal).  Yes, my brother seems to have a fixation about small farm animals; don't ask.  Anyway, here's his comment on Ray Bradbury:


Jerry --

In, oh, 1971 or so USC was putting on a play based on one of Ray Bradbury's stories and I wasn't able to get a ticket.  Hearing that the master himself was going to be there, I wandered over and got to shake his hand.  Somehow I ended up in a group of about a dozen students and Bradbury, sitting in a lounge and just talking.  That's when I heard him tell this story, almost word for word what was recorded at the National Book Awards ceremony in 2000.

And here I thought I was special.  Sigh.  Quoting Dashiell Robert Parr, (Everyone's special)  "Which is another way of saying no one is."

No goats this time.

-- Kenny

My folks wandered out to Los Angeles because my Dad was looking for work in the Great Depression and I was enamored of movie stars and I wanted so see famous persons so I puit on my roller-skates, I was 13 years old, and I roller-skated out to Hollywood and there standing on the steps of Paramount Studios was everybody's hero, Mr. W. C. Fields himself.

I roller-skated over to him; I said, Mr Fields, May I have your autograph?  And he signed it and gave it back to me; he said, "There you are, you little son-of-a-bitch."


Today is Ray Bradbury Day for many of your Forgotten Books crew.  Bradbury, who passed away earlier this year, was the author of such noted works as Farenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Dandelion Wine, among others -- and that's not mentioning his essays, poetry, plays, screenplays, teleplays, anthologies, or his hundreds of short stories.  He wrote everyday.  Some of his work was great and (I must admit) some of his work missed the mark.  But he wrote what he believed, and with an enthusiastic child-like wonder, which may be why he connected with so many people.  Bradbury never grew up -- at least he stayed young where it counted.  He could remember the joys and fears and wonders and terrors and enthusiasms of childhood and he allowed us to remember them also.

In honor of Bradbury, I present a rather scatter-shot assembly of items many of you may not be famililar  with, items of (and about) his writing, starting with his fannish days, moving then to a recording of one of his stories, and on to an interview Bradbury did on his 83rd birthday, and then, finally, to a science fiction pulp story by Bradbury.

Bradbury started out as a science fiction fan.  Comics, movies, radio, were his meat.  He began writing stories by the time he was eleven.  When he was fourteen he moved to Los Angeles, haunting movie studios and selling newspapers, where he met some of his favorite actors.  His first paying writing job was that year, writing for George Burns.   Bradbury met and fell in with the large science fiction fan base there.  He met life-long friends (not difficult; he became friends -- or at least wanted to -- with everyone he met) and some of those friends became mentors:  Forrest J. Ackerman, Henry Kuttner, Henry Hasse, Norman Corwin, and -- most importantly to his nascent career and his development as a writer -- Leigh Brackett.  As a fan, Bradbury also published a fanzine of his own (four issues titled Futuria Fantasia; for the Wiki article on this, click here; all four issues were published in a hardback collection in 2007) and contributed to a number of other fanzines.

From Bill Rotsler's  Masque #7 (1950), Bradbury tells us what stories he wished he had written:

And from the same issue, he responds to criticism* of one of his stories:

And here's a picture of a young Bradbury (just try to pick him out -- just try!) at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society in 1940:

(pictured are William F. Crawford, Charles D. Hornig, Alvin W. Munson, Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton, Russ Hodgkins, Walter J. Daugherty, Vic Clark, Hal Clark, Leslie Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Forrest J. Ackerman, Morijo, Ray Harryhausen, Arthur K. Barnes, Eleanor O'Brien, Hal Curtis, Pogo (not the possum), Perry Lewis. Roy Squires, T. Bruce Yerke, E. E. "Doc" Smith, Robert A. Heinlein,  Franklyn Brady, Sophis van Doorne, George Hahn, and Russ Koontz -- I'll let you try to figure out who is who)

Also from 1940, we see a much better picture of Bradbury (upper right photo), bookended by Forrest J. Ackerman and Charles D. Hornig:

As Bradbury's career grew, it was followed with great interest in fandom.  William F. Nolan, a long-time Bradbury friend and chronicler, published this index of his works in the Fall-Winter 1953 issue of Shangra LA (the index covers a dozen or so pages; just follow the page numbers at the bottom):

(Nolan later published The Ray Bradbury Review and edited an anthology of tribute stories to Bradbury.)

SF Fandom communicated in various ways, including postcards.  This 1950 card draws attention to a recent Bradbury story in Saturday Evening Post:

This one, an article on Bradbury's work, is from an Oregon-based fanzine, Wastebasket, probably from 1951:

Moving from fanzines, here is a recording of Bradbury's short story All Summer in a Day:

And here is an interview done on Bradbury's 83rd birthday.  Even here, his youthful fanboy inner self comes through.

And, from the pages of Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1949, you can almost smell the pulp paper as you read The Concrete Mixer (later included in The Illustrated Man):

*I am assuming Mr. Boggs was Red Boggs, a well-known science fiction fan.

(For modesty's sake, I am not linking to the recent song about Ray Bradbury which recieved many hits.)

Thank you, Ray Bradbury, for a lifetime of imagination.


For more of today's takes on Bradbury and his works,as well as other Forgotten Books, please stop by pattinase, Patti Abbott's indespensable blog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


It's bad joke video time!  Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion and bad jokes,  What could be better?
Warning!  Double entendres ahead!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I'm not sure how many people know about Red Skelton today.  His show was one of the most popular on television.  He could be corny and trite but he also had those flashes of genius that could work so well on live television.  I found his laught to be infectious.  One of his more well-known characters was Clem Kadiddlehopper, as seen here:

There was a reason they called Jackie gleason "The Great One":

One of the most famous scenes from I Love Lucy shows why we really loved Lucille Ball:

Jack Benny was always one of my favorites.  He always made me laugh:

Another great favorite was the irresistable combination of George Burns and Gracie Allen.  Here's the very first episode of their telesion show:

Something special always happened on The Abbott and Costello Show whenever Lou crossed paths with Stinky:

One comedian who was far ahead of his time was Ernie Kovacs:

Another breath of fresh air were The Smothers Brothers:

Carole Burnett's sketches were exercises in uncontrolled mayhem.  I never cared for "Mama's Family" very much, but almost all of her other sketches work well for me.  Here she is with Tim Conway:

Who made you laugh?  Who's still making you laugh?


For more Overlooked Film and Television and Whatever, stop by sweetfreedom and say hello to Todd.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Patti Abbott's latest Flash Fiction Challenge was to take the directions for completing a task, any task, and build a story around them in 1,000 words or less.  Here's mine.


Insert Tab A into Slot B...

When he was a kid he had a hard time following some directions.  Tab A was either too flimsy a piece of cardboard and kept bending and not wanting to go into Slot B, or the perforation on Slot B wasn't big enough or would stick and wouldn't open.  Even at a young age, this made him feel as if the universe was against him, and it probably was.  When he let his frustration take him, when the anger rose -- and it always did, his clumsy fingers would tear the cardboard as he tried to do what the directions wanted him to do.  Then he'd try to fix the whole thing with tape but the tape wouldn't go down evenly, or would stick in the wrong spot, or would adhere some foreign particles (hair, dust, sometimes an ant or other smell bug that came from who knows where), or his fingerprints would be visibly stuck to the cardboard.  No matter what he did, it wouldn't look right.  It was never what he wanted.  Young as he was, he was never as he wanted.

He was an awkward child.  He knew his father never liked him, would never spend more time with him than he had to.  His mother was gone -- he had a few hazy memories of a heavyset woman, always pacing, always smoking.  A part of him felt he was the reason for the pacing, the smoking, the loud words, why she was no longer there.

One year for Christmas his father gave him a toy garage, flat sheets of colored metal that had to be assembled, with two plastic men, a small automobile and a small tow truck, also plastic.  The men were out of proportion to the vehicles, making everything look weird,  and the tow truck's hook wouldn't fit on the car.  When he tried to assemble the garage, the tabs and the slots wouldn't line up.  He tried to force them and gashed his hand and bent the metal.  Blood poured.  In his mind he thought it was gushing.  The gash was in an awkward place and it hurt; it would take days to heal.  He heard his father, "Chrissakes, kid can't even put together a simple toy!"  The anger, the frustration, the hurt, the embarassment was rising...rising as he just stood there, blood dripping down on his ruined toy...

Use a number 2 pencil to mark your answer.  Be sure to color in the box completely without going outside of the box...

This was a load of crap.  How did they expect him to know all this?  They talk and talk and it's boring.  They say read this and it doesn't make sense.  They call on you in class just because they want to show you up, to pick on you because you're an easy target, a dumb kid who doesn't understand what they are saying.  Well, maybe he wasn't so dumb.  He was smart enough to know that all of this was a big pile of bull.  Let them keep trying to teach him crap he would never use.  He just won't listen.  Why bother? 

His attention kept turning to the girl in the next row, one seat up from him.  What's her name?  Cheryl, maybe?  Geez, her skirt was short.  She's shift in her seat every now and then as she bent over to mark a box with her goddamned number two pencil and her skirt would hike up just a bit more.  Nice. 

They were looking at him now, probably to see if he was trying to copy someone's answers.  Bastards.  He didn't need to cheat.  This damned test was a joke anyway.  They handed out the papers and the special pencils and told you when to break the seal and get started.  It was all bull.  Pushing the pencil point hard against the desk, he broke the lead.  He snapped the pencil in half.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a ballpoint pen.  Click. Click.  When in doubt, choose C -- isn't that what someone said?  He went down the answer sheet, marking an x in every C.  He didn't bother to color in the box.  They watched him do it.  They were too startled or afraid to say a damned word.

"In point one mile, turn right...turn point three miles, turn point one mile, turn left...turn left...recalculating..."

He had no idea where the guy was headed.  Wherever it was, the guy had programed it into his GPS, for all the good it did him.  The jamoke was stupid enough to keep the car running while he ran into the donut shop.  It was a neat car though, probably cost a bundle.  Bet they soaked him on the crappy GPS too.  He hated the damned things.  They didn't know jack shit about the city.  Always giving you directions like turn into this one-way street the wrong way or turn here where there isn't even a goddamned street or turn on this street when it shoul have been the next street.  Yeah, a GPS is right up there with tits on a bull. Useless "Turn left... recalculating...In two miles, turn right..."  And the voice.  So condescending.  It's tone seemed to say: Don't bother to think, turdbrain, I can handle this because I know you can't.   He rolled down the automatic window and tossed the GPS.  He pushed down on the gas, weaving around traffic, while he fiddled with the dials.  The radio had been set on old man music.  He twisted the dial, searching.  This car deserves something rocking!

Insert Tab A into Slot B...

He was getting better at these directions all right.  Except Tab A was now his fist.  And Slot B was now Slob B.  He put a lot of muscle into his Tab A, driving his fist into the slob's belly.  The guy didn't really look like a slob.  He was pretty well-dressed, in fact.  But he was prey and that made him a slob.  The guy crumpled up from the gut punch.  A couple of quick jabs to the temple and the guy was down for the count, his head making a thonk sound as it hit the pavement.  His wallet.  Gezz, there must he a couple hundred bucks here.  Fistful of credit cards, too.  He checked the guy's wrists.  No watch.  Doesn't anyone wear watches any more?  Phone.  What's this?  A small plastic packet of magic white powder.  Well, isn't this a lucky day.  Beneath him, the guy groaned, shifted a little.  He gave him a hard kick in the head and strolled away, whistling a tune.  Oh, yeah, whistling a happy tune.

Later that day, Tab A met Slut B.  Young.  College  girl probably.  Maybe even high school.  She shouldn't have been walking where it was dark and where there were no people around.  It only took one punch to knock her out.  A couple of bucks in her purse, nothing worth while.  She wasn't cute like you would want to think all young girls were.  Plain, really, with a bit too much flesh.  He dragged her further into the dark.  She was still unconscious.  Lucky for her.

"Police!  Stop!"

Right.  Like that was going to happen.  He kept running.  He was getting further and further from the body.  Not stopping for anything or anyone, especially no damned cop.

He glanced back, looked at the cop.  A uni.  All alone and he looked pretty much out of shape.  Sucker would never catch him.

"Stop!  I'll shoot!"

Really?  You know what happens to a cop who shoots his gun in the city?  Even at night, there are people around, all snug in their homes, watching tv, sleeping, make a jaunt to the bathroom, trying to make a howling brat keep quiet for the night...all those civilians never knowing when a stray bullet from a gun -- a cop's gun -- will find them.  Cops never fire their guns like in a movie or a television show.  This was for real.

He kept running and could hear the cop begining to pant.  Geez, he sounds like a goddamn dog.

He had enough of a lead.  He could turn at the corner up ahead and lose the cop.  He knew the city and he knew where to hide.  Just a few more ste

He didn't hear the shot.  He didn't even feel the punch that drove him forward and down to the cement, because that  punch drove half of his brains out of his head before he could even feel it..

The cop slowed down, stopped running.  He holstered his weapon, walked slowly to the body.  Young kid, maybe not even twenty-one, but he looked old in death, just lying there in a pool of stcky red.  The cop radioed it in and leaned against a wall, waiting.

Still breathing hard, the cop lit a cigarette.  He knew he was going to have to go through all the hoops.  There would be an investigation and he's be suspended with pay during it.  He'd be cleared because no civilians were hurt and because that punk was not going to hurt anyone again.  And then be back on the streets.  No biggie.  Yeah, he knew he shouldn't have fired his gun.  They drilled that into you, told you the chances of someone innocent getting hurt were too great, don't fire the gun where there are other people around, where other people might be.

But the cop was never very good at following directions.

For more of today's Flash Fiction Challenge, go to Patti's blog -- pattinase.


  • Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Sword of Mercy.  Number 4 (I think) in this series about Pewter Pan. 
  • Michael Barson, Lost, Lonely, & Vicious.  Postcard book; Barson selected 31 postcards from posters of "the great trash films:"  Hot Rod Rumble, Teenage Doll, Problem Girls, Female Fiends, and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, and 26 other non-Oscar worthy flicks
  • Pater Brandvold,  Dakota Kill.  A western from Mean Pete.
  • Mary Brown, Pigs Don't Fly.  FantasyChris Claremont, X-Men 2.  Movie tie-in.
  • Edward de Bono, Eureka!  An Illustrated History of Inventions from the Wheel to the Computer.  "A London Sunday Times Encyclopedia."
  • Larry Gonick, The Cartoon History of the United States.
  • Ruby Jean Jenson, Night Thunder.  Horror.
  • Tamar Siler Jones, Ghosts in the Snow.  Debut fantasy.
  • The Mabinogion.  The root of Welsh mythology, translated by Jeffrey Gantz.
  • Anne McCaffrey, Crystal Line.  SF novel in the Killashandra series.
  • Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir, The Destroyer #29:  The Final Death.  Men's action-adventure.
  • John Passarella, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Ghoul Trouble.  Television tie-in.
  • Ian Rankin, The Falls and A Question of Blood.  Two cases for John Rebus.
  • "J. R. Roberts" (Robert J. Randisi), The Gunsmith #310:  Way with a Gun.   Randisi keeps writing them, so let's keep reading them.  Adult western.
  • Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Star Trek:  Voyager:  Section 31:  Shadow.  Television tie-in.

Friday, November 30, 2012


The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem (2008)

The Man on the Ceiling is an expansion of a 2000 novella of the same title which won the World Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the International Horror Guild award.  From that alone, one might expect the book to be horribly creepy, perhaps filled with blood and gore.  What we have instead is a powerful, open, and courageous biography of the Tems' imagination, to paraphrase Steve's words.

The man on the ceiling is their code word for every irrational and rational fear one can have.  The man on the ceiling can also be uncertainty.  The man on the ceiling is someone who takes and sometimes gives.  The man on the ceiling is a sometimes quiet, sometimes roaring creation who follows us through life.

In a rambling, discursive memoir laced with fantasy, dreams, and nightmares, Steve and Melanie Tem explore their lives and those of their children, grandchildren, and parents.  Hopes, fears and secrets are laid bare, exposing the fragile nature of love and humanity.  Don't expect a plot -- the man on the ceiling does not allow a logical sequence of events.  Expect instead (as the back cover states) a "surreal tone and redemptive heart."

One character prominent in the book is story.  Story is something elusive, but it's solid enough to form our lives.  There is the story we tell ourselves and the story we tell others; there is the story others tell about us and the story we tell about others; and there is the story that shapes and the story that becomes us, and the story thaat shapes others and becomes them.  This biography of the imagination becomes, of necessity, a biography of story which, itself, becomes a biography of life.

If all that sounds confusing, I apologize.  I find it difficult to explain what Harlan Ellison has called "exquisively compelling."  Love, loss, family, hope, fear...all the emotions that comprise our lives are here.  And as the Tems explore these items, they guide us in exploring ours.  This is a fantasy unlike the fantaasy we are used to.  Because, as we are told over and over again, every contradictory and imagined word is true.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Zig Ziglar, perhaps the best-known motivational speaker of the modern day, has died at the age of 86.   Ziglar wrote over 30 books, many of them best-sellers, and usually had several of them for sale whereever he spoke.  Ziglar had over a dozen other speakers on his payroll -- all advocating the Zig Ziglar way.

And just what was the Zig Ziglar way?  How does one achieve personal and professional success?

Well, as near as I can figure out, all those books and all those speakers and all those inspirational speeches boiled down to two words: 

Make lists.

There you have it.  The secret to success.

No, you don't have to thank me. ** Shucks, 'tweren't nothin'. (He said, boyishly)**  And all that money I just saved you?  Use it wisely.

And enjoy your success.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012


A guy walks into a bar and sees that the only other person at the bar seemed gloomy.  He says."Hey, pal, let me buy a drink.  It might cheer you up."

The other thanks him and, as they are downing their drinks, explains that he was getting blue because he was homesick.

'Where are you from?" the first guy asks.


"No kidding?  I'm from Ireland too!  That deserves another drink!  Whereabouts in Ireland?"


"Well, what do you know?  I was originally from Dublin.  Where were you raised?"

"Off Halloran Lane."

"That's amazing.  I was raised there too!  We should have another drink."

The next round of drinks came and the pair discovered that they went to the same school in 1997.

About that time a regular customer comes in and asks the bartender if anything was going on.

The bartender nodded his head toward the pair and said, "Nothing much.  The O'Hara twins are drunk again."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I admit it:  I'm a Dean Stockwell fan.  I mean, the guy played Nick Charles, Jr., right?  That should be enough of a street cred for any mystery fan.  And he was one of the Carstairs kids in Home, Sweet Homicide.  And he was the Leopold (or was it Loeb?) character in Compulsion.  Not to mention his role as The Boy With Green Hair or his much-much-later stint as Al Calavicci in Quantum Leap.  Stockwell has been in films for longer than I've been alive.  Among the many movies he appeared in as a juvenile were Anchors Aweigh, Gentleman's Agreement, The Secret Garden, and (in the title role) Kim.  (Stockwell got his acting chops naturally -- both parents were in the business and his father was the voice of Prince Charming in Disney's Snow White.)  In the 1950s and stetcching into the 1960s, he was one of those "teen" matinee idols who sent my sister swooning.  Among his many television roles were appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The A-Team, Battlestar Galactica (the good one, not the crumby one), Bonanza, Burke's Law, Cannon, Captain Planet, Checkmate, Chicago HopeClimax!, Columbo, The CommishThe Danny Thomas Show; Dick Powell Theatre, The Drew Carey Show, The Eleventh Hour, Ellery Queen, The F.B.I., The Greatest Show on Earth, Hart to Hart, Hunter, JAG, Johnny Staccato, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Lois & Clark, Mannix, McCloud, Miami Vice, Mission:  Impossible, Miami Vice, Murder, She Wrote, Night Gallery, Picket Fences, Playhouse 90, Police Story, The Restless Gun, Ripcord, Simon & Simon, Stargate:  SG1, Star Trek:  Enterprise, The Streets of San Francisco, Tales of the Unexpected, The Tony Danza Show, The Twilight Zone (old and new series), and Wagon Train.*  (Phew!  Thank you, IMDB.)  No stranger to Lovecraft, Stockwell appeared in both the 1970 (as Wilbur Whateley) and the 2009 (as Dr. Henry Armstrong) versions of The Dunwich Horror.

All of which is a long-winded way to inroduce Stockwell as The Werewolf of Washington.Stockwell plays Jack Whittier, a reporter who has been bitten by a werewolf in Hungary (and we all know what that means).  He travels back to the United States to become a press assistant to the President, so we can easliy predict that this is a political horror movie with bite.  Character actor Biff McGuire plays the president.  Look closely and you might see well-known character actor James Tolkan.  Look even closer and you might see Dean Stockwell's father, Harry, among the military.  And, as Marion, there's Jane House, an actress I had never heard of, but I do like her name.

This movie is pretty bad.  How bad?  Well, to quote one on-line reviewer, The Werewolf of Washington is "[P]roof that Ed Wood was by no means the worst director."  So, to whom goes that honor?  None other than Milton Moses Ginsberg, who has directed only five movies (two of them shorts) in his career.  And who penned this turkey?  Why, none other than Milton Moses Ginsberg, whose only five writing credits are for the five movies he directed.

Put a clothespin to your nose, click on the link below, and watch Dean Stockwell try to give some class to a very bad flick.

*How he missed appearing on The Love Boat is anyone's guess.


For a much better selection of today's Overlooked Films and Such, saunter on over to Sweet Freedom, where linkmaster Todd Mason will do his stuff.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Some pretty good stuff among the eight books for this week.
  • John Dickson Carr, Papa La-Bas.  Historical mystery set in 1858 New Orleans.  Supposedly Carr's work flagged late in his career, but I'm very interested in reading this, his fourth from final novel.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Space Winners.  YA SF from one of the greats.
  • Arthur Henry Gooden, Smoke Tree Range.  A 1936 western from Gooden, who was best known for screenwriting for the silents.
  • Jason Goodwin, The Janissary Tree.   Historical mystery (1836 Ottoman Empire) that won an Edgar.
  • Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Once Upon a Crime.  Two dozen tales of crime based on fairy tales.
  • Brain Lumley, Hero of Dreams.  Horror novel, the first in Lumley's Dreamland series.
  • Alaexandra Sokoloff, The Shifters.  Supernatural romance, the first of the keepers series.
  • Marth Wells, Stargate Atlantis:  Reliquary.  Television tie-in novel.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This song embraces my personal philosophy.

Julian of Norwich was a 14th century mystic.  She famously had a vision of the Virgin Mary and she asked the Virgin Mary why God would permit so much suffering in this world.  The Virgin Mary responded simply that all shall be well again. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Milt Gross (1895-1953) was an American cartoonist best known perhaps his Yiddish/American dialogue and for his 1930 graphic novel He Done Her Wrong:  The Great American Novel and Not a Word in It -- or Music Either.  Other works included Nize Baby (1926), Hiawatta Witt No Odder Poems (1926), De Night in de Front from Chreesmas (1927), Dunt Esk (1927), Famous Fimmales witt Odder Ewents from Heestory (1928), What's This? (1936), That's My Pop Goes Nuts for Fair:  A Cartoon Tour of New York (1939), Dear Dollink (1945), and I Shoulda Ate the Eclair (1946).  Working at his trade since he was a teenager, Gross produced a number of illustrations, animated features, and at least eleven comic strips, including That's My Pop!, which also became a summer replacement for Kate Smith's radio show in 1945.

Here's the first issue of Milt Gross Funnies, featuring That's My Pop!

And as a special bonus, here's someone (and I have no idea who) singing "Banana Oil," a song written (in part) by Milt Gross, celebrating one of his catch phrases:

Friday, November 23, 2012


The Green Queen by Margaret St. Clair (1956)

[Here's last week's intended Forgotten Book.]

The Green Queen, St. Clair's second published book, is an expanded version of her novella "Mistress of Viridis," which was published in the final issue of Ray Palmer's Universe Science Fiction magazine in March 1955 -- something that may help explain the book's weaknesses.  Palmer was as much a huckster as he was an editor, publisher, or author.  Reaching about four feet tall and a hunchback, Palmer was an enthusiatic science fiction fan and author who talked his way (with the help of a recommendation by SF author Ralph Milne Farley) into the editorship of Amazing Science Fiction magazine.  Palmer immediately turned that staid magazine into a wild and garish vehicle for juvenile space opera.  To the disgust of many science fiction fans, Palmer's Amazing was an immediate hit and the magazine's sales figures went through the roof.  Writing skills took a distant second place to action for Palmer's lurid pulp sensabilities.  I'm pretty sure Palmer never met a pseudo science he didn't like; I'm not that sure he believed in all the stuff he promoted.  He cofounded Fate, a magazine that deified pseudo science.  He started the whole flying saucer craze when he cowrote and published Kenneth Arnold's The Coming of the Saucers.  Through his interest in spritualism, he published an unabridged edition of the Oahspe Bible (the first full repint since 1888) written by dentist John Newbrough via "automatic writing."  He fervently supported and publicized the "Shaver Mystery," which proposed the existence of an underground race that controlled the world, and parts of which may have been absorbed into L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology.  In later life, he promoted a man who claimed to be a not-killed-by-Robert-Ford Jesse James.  By 1955, though, Palmer's science fiction career was drawing to an end and the science fiction magazines he edited were uninfluential and struggling.

Case in point, this final issue of Universe Science Fiction.  (The magazine would continue under the name Other Worlds Science Stories, bringing back a title of one of the science fiction magazines Palmer edited prior to Universe Science Fiction;  This incarantion ran for another twelve issues, when Palmer changed the title [once again] and the focus as Flying Saucers From Other Worlds.)  A look at the contents of the final Universe is revealing.  Besides  the St. Clair novella, the issue had six very short stories, including one by Palmer ("The Atomic Age...Sex Murders" -- Palmer did like sensationalism), one by T. P. Caravan (who published a total of seventeen stories, thirteen of which were published by Palmer and one of those thirteen was published without the author's knowledge or payment), and four stories that could well have been written by Palmer under pen names -- three of the four were credited to authors whose only stories appeared in that issue; the fourth author is credited with two stories, one in this issue and one in the previous issue.  All minor stories marked by haste and little editorial interaction.

"The Mistress of Viridis" (disclaimer:  I have not read the original story) was expanded the following year and published as one half of an Ace Double as The Green Queen.  (It was backed by a reprint of Thomas Calvert McClary's 1938 3 Thousand Years.)  The Ace Doubles are very collectable and the publishing line came out with many good and important books, but also produced a number of slap-dash clunkers.  The Green Queen comes across as slap-dash while avoiding a complete clunker status.  The book (and I presume the original magazine version) needed a sure editorial hand and, had it not had fit into Ace's length restrictions, could have benefited by a further expansion by about fifty per cent.  As it stands, The Green Queen is jumpy and skitterish, making uncomfortable plot leaps in inconvenient places.  It book is not helped by a number of jarring and confusing typos.

And the writing?  In the third paragraph, we have this:

     "He ought, by now, be showing some sign of the cargo he had taken on, even of such a superior intoxicant as ethel-eugenool."

That's the only intoxicant mentioned in the book and it is imbibed a number of times.  I assume the drink was intended as a tribute to Ethel Merman and Eugene O'Neill.  Or maybe not.  In either case, the writing throughout the book displays St. Clair's pulp origins and evinces little of the controlled and flowing style of many of her short stories.

Viridis is a radioactive planet controlled by a small minority called the Uppers.  The Uppers live in the capital city of Shalom, behind a dome that protects them from the radiation.  There's a menial class -- the Body-servants -- of servants and breeders.  And then there's the Lowers, the short-lived slave caste that lives in the radioactive areas below the stairs to the dome.  An important function for the Uppers are the masks.  Derived from a type of hypnotic instrument called a Verbal and now created by something called a Veridal which uses from three to five senses in the creation of living images, these masks can draw the Uppers from their living circumstances.  One of the greatest mask creators is Bonnar, an Upper who -- with one  popular mask -- created the myth of the Green Queen, a psi goddess (for want of a better word) who would free Viridis from the deadly radiation.  Bonnar's lover is the Earth-born Upper Leaf Amadeus until Bonnar is ordered to break off the relationship and to convince Leaf to join the (approved) cult religion of the Apple Pickers.  Leaf has some small ESP powers and the Apple Pickers use that to slowly convince her that she is the true Green Queen.  The government then orders Bonnar to renew his affair with Leaf even though Leaf is now involved with the historian Horvendile.

In jumps and starts we learn about a power battle using an Anti-Leaf who tries to usurp the title of Green Queen, and about the tree, an object that would allow the Green Queen to feed the Lowers and to usher in a new age with her consort -- whoever that might be.  In the end there are plots and counterplots an the discovery of a twenty million-year-old insect which turned Viridis into a sprawling mess of psychosis.  If this recap sounds jumbled, that's because it is.

And yet...and yet there is great power to this book.  Underlying themes strike hit the reader hard.   Leaf is a strong and powerful character whose stength becomes her downfall.  Bonnar may or may not have been redeemed.  The social structure of Viridis displays a struggle that has plagued mankind throughout its existence and resonates to today's one percent and forty-seven per cent. 

The Green Queen is a pot-boiler and I wish that St. Clair had the time to refine the bones of this book into something great..  Throwaway ideas and passages need expanding.  Viridis -- with its flying frogs, writhing trees, and two-brained raptors -- is a planet that could, and should, have been better explored.  In the end The Green Queen is a pot-boiler, and I wish that St. Clair had made the time to refine it into something great.  It coulda been a contender.


World's Great Mystery Stories edited by Will Cuppy (1943)

Will Cuppy (1884-1949) was an American humorist, essayist, and critic, best known for his book The Decline and Fall of Practically Everyone.  Beginning in 1943 he edited three anthologies of mystery stories, of which this was the first.  (The others were World's Great Detective Stories [1943] and Murder Without Tears [1946].)

As couple of things should be made clear.  "World's" in the title does not refer to a truly global selection; indeed, all the stories came from England and America only.  The book was published as a Tower Book Edition from The World Publishing Company in Cleveland, hence the "World's" in the title.  Also, the word "mystery" does not necessarily refer to detection.  For Cuppy's purposes, a mystery is just that -- it may include detection, but it may also cover suspense, crime, or the outre.

I have no idea how long I have had this book and I have no recollection of buying it.  (Does that qualify as a mystery?  I guess it does.)   Tower Books specialized in cheap editions (this one originally sold for 49 cents) and the flimsy paper has browned and faded and chipped, and the book gives off that sweet/sour acidy scent that comes from almost seventy years of existence. 

There were not that many mystery anthologies back then.  Ellery Queen had published only three anthologies, the Mystery Writers of America would not begin publishing their anthologies for another three years, Carolyn Wells had published her American Mystery Stories a few years earlier, there were (I believe) a couple of attempts to produce a best mystery stories of the year anthology, both Pocket and Avon had put out a few original anthologies, and there were the large and anonymously-edited doorstopper anthologies from (most often) England.   Basically, though, mystery stories were available either in their original magazine appearances or in single-author story collections.  For an anthologist in 1942 or 1943, the pickings were pretty good.

What was good pickings back then has often become fairly familiar today.  Most of the stories in this anthology are readily available -- many for free on the internet.  There are still some, however, that remain fresh in original execution, if not in theme.  Francis Brett Young's psychic tale of love, "A Message to Laura," is touching even though it's ending is telegraphed for the modern reader.  And Irvin S. Cobb gives us a murder trial where the chief witness for the prosecution is a parrot.

Here's the run-down of the twenty stories in the book.  How many are you already read, and how many can you find on the web within a minute?

  • William Faulkner, A Rose for Emily
  • Agatha Christie, The Adventure of the Clapham Cook
  • Francis Brettt Young, A Message to Laura
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, Suspicion
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Fiend of the Cooperage
  • Edith Wharton, Miss Mary Pask
  • Charles Dickens, The Signal-Man
  • Arthur Machen, The Cosy Room
  • Irvin S. Cobb, A Bird in the Hand
  • Algernon Blackwood, The Listener
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Short Trip Home
  • Edgar Wallace, The Magic of Fear
  • H. G. Wells, The Door in the Wall
  • W. W. Jacobs, The Interruption
  • Wilkie Collins, The Dream Woman
  • Ambrose Bierce, The Boarded Window
  • Katherine Fullerton Gerould, Vain Oblations
  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death
  • William Mudford, The Iron Shroud
  • Stephen Leacock, Who do You Think Did It? or, The Mixed-Up Murder Mystery

A great line-up of authors.  A good cross-section of the mystery genre back then.  Recommended to those who are not already familiar with most of the contents.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Today and everyday, I am thankful for those things I believe in.

I live by the Chesapeake Bay and I believe in sunsets.  Many places in the world have beautiful sunsets but those on the Chesapeake sing to me.  Even on gray days the clouds become tinged with purple and fade into a soft pink.  On bright days orange plays with yellow and red for an awe-inspiring splash of color. At their best, the sunsets seem to morph into a Maxfield Parrish painting.  These sunsets give me a chance to pause, to admire, to reflect, to appreciate.  I become acutely aware of the precious beauty that surrounds me.  It's a sort of zen thing, I guess.

And I believe in my front yard, that untamed monstosity that rejects grass while accepting the underground tunnels that bulge up to its surface each spring and fall when shy rodents expand their empires.  From my front window I can look across the street to a wooded area where trees fifty, sixty feet and higher flaunt their unique shapes and branches.  By the front of those trees, next to the road, is a smaller tree which, every autumn, startles me with its brilliant red leaves.  The leaves in Southern Maryland are muted in the fall; they are not as vibrant as the fall foliage in my native New England.  Except for the flaming red leaves on this little tree:  as if the tree was putting on its annual display just for my pleasure.

I believe in Kitty's smile.  It centers me.  It forces me to acknowledge my worth.  It melts my heart and burrows into my soul.  And I am lucky enough to have her smile with every single day.

And I believe my utter pride in my children is well-placed.  Despite the pain of being a widow, Jessamyn is building a life for herself and her girls.  She and the girls are whip-smart, loving, caring people and the world needs many more like that.  Christina has so many balls in the air that it's hard to count them all.  How she balances home, work, family, animals, and school boggles my mind.  She does it all and she does it well.  Each of my girls have displayed a kind heart throughout their lives.  Pride is too soft a word about my feelings for them.

I believe in my grandchildren's laughter.  It's spontaneous and infectious.  The laughter of children is very special and always welcome,

I believe in the Kangaroo and his older sister.  Despite the turmoil that has placed them in the foster care system, they are both happy, loving kids.  They are lucky to have landed at Christina's house and to have become a part of her family.  While they are with us they are both loved and safe.  What the future holds for them depends on the court and the social services systems.  If and when they leave my prayers are that they take this cacoon of love and safety with them.

I believe in our dumb dog.  He gives his love unquestionably.  He dances when I feed him.  He barks at invisible air monsters.  He snores and passes gas.  He is a good companion.

I believe in the internet.  It has made our lives easier.  It has given us access to knowledge and to idiots.  It allows us to exchange ideas.  It lets us make unseen friends throughout the world.

Despite the hatred and devisiveness in the world, I believe in the goodness of people.  I have seen people who have swallowed the Kool-Aid and spout the talking points of hatred, I have seen these people open their hearts and homes without question to people in need.  The  overwhelmingly vast number of people in this world care for each other and only want a safe and secure future for their loved ones.  No different than you or me.

These are just a few of the things I'm thankful for.  There are many more: Drake's Devil Dogs, kittens, cold pizza, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Marc Chagall's paintings, banjos, clean underwear, my morning coffee, modern medicine, memories of people now gone who have impacted my life, llamas and alpacas and vicunas, can openers, the higgs boson particle, sunshine, rain, Tom Paxton, dimples...I could go on.

As you reflect on the things you are thankful for, know that I am also thankful for you.


Does anything say Thanksgiving more than jug bands?   Okay, you can have your traditions and I'll keep mine.

From 1929, Here's Cannons Jug Stompers with a familiar tune:

The Memphis Jug Band recorded this one in 1934:

Not be confused with the above, here's Jack Kelly  and his South Memphis Jug Band:

And "Pig Meat Blues" from the Old Southern Jug Blowers:

Like Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition, you never know when jug bands will strike.  Case in point -- The Perch Creek Family Jug Band:

And the great Ma Rainey, back by the Tub Jug Washboard Band, singing "Deep Moaning Blues:"

Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band was preaching the gospel of "Good Gordon Gin" in 1928:

Not that many jug bands add a piano, but let's "Get the 'L' Down the Road" with Bill Johnson's Louisiana Jug Band:

5 Cent Coffee came up with it's own blend of jug band, skiffle, and blues:

The Even Dozen Jug Band included David Grisman, Maria D'Amato (later Muldaur), Stefan Grossman, Joshua Rifkin, Steve Katz, and the occasional John Sebastian:

Maria D'Amato moved on the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, marrying member Geoff Muldaur.  Others in the band were Bill Keith, Fritz Richmond (who had figured out a way to play quonset hut while in the army), Richard Greene, and the certifiable Mel Lyman.  Kitty and I used to catch them at the late, lamented Club 47 in Cambridge; we often got seats right next to the stage, about two or three feet from Maria Muldaur and the shortest skirts in existence.  Wowza.

I can't do a jug band post without closing with this:

I hope everyone has a toe-tapping wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Some Thanksgiving outfits for the discerning diner.  They are very baggy so there's no need to loosen your belt after your Thanksgiving feast.  The green one has reportedly been sighted in Alvin.  I'm wondering if the brown one comes in an XXXXXXXXX-Small.


Mutant Rats WBAGNFARB.


A three-legged dog hobbles into a saloon in the old West.  He slides up to the bar, orders a shot of red-eye, and tells the barkeep, "I'm a-lookin' for the man who shot my paw."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Here's thirteen other uses for WD-40.  Go wild.


A lot of people I know have seen Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final episode of the Twilight Saga, and loved it.  I thought I'd present a differing opinion.  This review by Diana Beechener comes from the November 15 - November 21 issue of Bay Weekly, a paper based in Annapolis.  (Copyrighted 2012 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc., and reprinted with permission.)  Full disclosure:  I have not seen the movie but, based on the earlier ones I endured, Diana's opinion is spot-on.

                                              Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn Part 2

     Our long national nightmare is ending.  Breaking Dawn Part 2 is the final nail in this overwrought vampire-love story's coffin.  The movie picks up where Part 1 left off, with a newly dead Bella (Kristen Stewart:  Snow White and the Huntress) awakening as a vampire.
     Now she's free to zoom around the forest and have super-strength sex with her husband Edward (Rob Pattinson:  Cosmopolis).  The only thing standing in her way is the evil Volturi clan, who believe that  Edward and Bella have broken vampire law by turning out a child.  Apparenly they didn't get the message that Edward and Bella are super-special snowflakes whose love is unparalled in any universe, meaning that they were the only vampire-human couple ever able to naturally conceive and birth a human-vampire child.
     Now the couple must prepare for a vampire civil war and deal with the news that their dear friend, werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), is in love with their baby daughter.
     As the last in the simpering Twilight Saga, you can expect horrendous acting, ridiculous scripting, squealing teenage girls and their even creepier squealing mother.  If you're going to buy a ticket to see this mess, there's nothing I can do to discourage you.  But I implore movie goers who have managed to avoid the series so far to keep their streak going.
Prospects:  Bloodless - PG-13 - 115 mins.

by Diana Beechener for Bay Weekly, the independent weekly newspaper of the Annapolis capitol region in print and online at

For today's actual Overlooked Films and/or A/V, stop by Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom for all the links.  (And, yes, sight unseen, I plan to overlook Breaking Dawn Part 2 well into my dotage.)