Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Sometimes you just need a Tom Paxton fix:

The Last Thing on My Mind

I Give You the Morning

The Last Thing on My Mind (with Liam Clancy)

Leaving London

Lyndon Johnson told the Nation/George W. Told the Nation

Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound (with Shay Tochner)

Ramblin' Boy

Whose Garden Was This?

The Marvelous Toy (with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey)

Train for Auschwitz

I Don't Want a Bunny Wunny

Jennifer's Rabbit  (when my oldest daughter was little, we changed the words to "Jessamyn's Rabbit")

On the Road from Srebenica

Peace Will come

Home to Me (Is Anywhare You Are)

Sarah Palin

Thank You, Republic Airlines

John Bobbitt (with Shay Tochner) (We feel close to this song.  We heard an early version at a New Year's concert that Paxton did that year.  And when she lived in Manassas, Christina worked an ambulance crew with the guy who retrieved the missing member.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


What did the agnostic dylexic do when he had insomnia?

Stayed up all night wondering if there is a dog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


After viewing this fourteen-minute disguised commercial, I could see why it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It is truly one of the greatest What-the-Heck-Are-They-Doing films of all time.

     Songwriter Jeff (Ward Ellis, creator of The Doodletown Pipers) and Mary (Virginia Gibson, Tony nominee for Happy Hunting) have been married for a year and are finally about to go on their honeymoon when he gets a telephone call from Gordon (Alan Mowbray, Topper, My Darling Clementine, My Man Godfrey), the producer for the show he's been working on.  The show's star does not like one of the songs and wants a new one asap.  Jeff and Mary's plans seem doomed are time goes by, a gazillion cigarettes are smoked, and no musical inspipration comes to Jeff.

     Help comes in the form of Wilbur (Chick Chandler, Lost Continent, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the Soldier of Fortune television series), Jeff and Mary's guardian angel.  Sent down by the head angel to fix things, Wilbur, invisible and wearing very stupid-looking sunglasses stays on the roof, tangled in the television antenna and tossing pixie dust (actually, it's angel dust, but if I used that phrase it may be mistaken for the angel dust of today's parlance) downwards.

     Mary goes into the kitchen to make some coffee for Jeff and she faces a leaky faucet, a refrigerator door that won't close, and a pilot light that won't stay lit.  With the help of the pixie dust, she dreams of a modern (well, 1956 modern) kitchen where she can sing and dance joyfully.  Still under the influence of the pixie dust, her mind transforms the drab living room (and puts Jeff in a tuxedo) and then the bedroom (serarate beds, natch; sex was invented until well after 1956) where her mind transforms it through several decors -- still singing and dancing all the time, mind you.  (So maybe I should have called it angel dust.)

     Then, poof!  Back to reality.  Back to the drab, yet horribly decorated house, back to poor uninspired Jeff who most likely will have black lung before the films fourteen minutes are up.

     Ah, but Wilbur has some more pixie dust up his sleeve (literally).  Jeff tells Mary to call Gordon and say that he can't come up with an idea.  Mary rotary dials the pixie dust-laden phone.  (Remember rotary phones?  Half the time when you dial a number 7 or beyond, your finger slips and you have to start all over again.  Those were the days, my friend, those were the days...)  INSPIRATION!  Jeff tells Mary to dial the phone some more.  The clickclickclick noise of the rotary dial sounds out a beat and Jeff starts playing the piano to the beat and then Jeff and Mary start singing a song and Gordon and the diva hear the song over the telephone and Jeff and Mary keep singing and dancing while Jeff picks Mary up in his arms
an grabs their bags and dances/sings their way out their door and into their honeymoon.  And we are left with invisible Wilbur playing the piano.

     As I indicated above, what the heck?

     Please note that this film was directed by Gower Champion (Forty-Second Street), a pretty big name in the entertainment/song and dance world at the time.

     Again, what the heck?

     Well, the film is actually a commercial, designed by Bell Labs to promote their latest innovation, colored telephones.  In the dream sequence, there's a red phone in the kitchen, a blue phone in the living room, and phones to match the various decors in the bedroom.  The head angel uses a white phone, of course, and Wilbur also uses a white phone, except his looks like a hand hair dryer my wife had in the Seventies.  Basically, the entire thrust of this film was to say, "Ptah! to your plain old black phone!"

     Sadly, few people made the connection.  (Haha, I made a pun.  Aren't I clever?)  (By the way, there's no indication on the credits of Bell Labs involvement.)

     Anyway, here's the non-informercial.  This is not the MST3K version (sorry), but see if you can outsnark Crow and Tom Servo anyway while you watch this.


For today's links for Overlooked Films and/or A/V, drop in on Sweet Freedom, where Todd does his thing.

Monday, May 28, 2012



Some pretty good stuff this week, including the Adams' anthologies, the Jackson collection, the Dell Ten-Cent, and the coffe-table reference books.   You cannot hear me, but inside I'm going, 'Squee!"

  • John Joseph Adams, editor, The Living Dead and The Living Dead 2.  Horror anthologies.  Almost a 1000 pages of zombie badness spread over 78 stories.
  • Lawrence Alexander, Speak Softly.  A Theodore Roosevelt mystery.
  • Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now.  Brief pieces of advise, wisdom, and observation from an admired author.
  • "Piers Anthony" (Piers Anthony Jacobs), Firefly.  Billed as "a novel of ecstatic terror."
  • Philip Athans, editor, Realms of the Dragons.  Gaming (Forgotten Worlds) tie-in anthology with fourteen stories taking place in the Year of the Rogue Dragon universe.
  • Marian Babson, Whiskers and Smoke (aka, A Trail of Ashes).  Mystery.  I've been hooked on Babson  for some time now.  Her books are consistently readable.
  • Keith Baker, The City of Towers.  Gaming (Eberron) tie-in fantasy; Book I in The Dreaming dark series.
  • Faith Baldwin, Bride for Broadway.  A Dell Ten-Cent Book (#5) -- perhaps it should have been a Dell Fifty-Cent Book, because that's what I paid for it.  Baldwin was a very popular author in her time, but I've never read her before (although a book she co-authored with Achmed Abdullah is currently on Mount TBR).
  • "L. A. Banks" (Leslie Esdaile Banks), Minion.  Horror, a Vampire Huntress novel, the first of a series.
  • Stephen Baxter, Titan.  Hard SF.
  • Edward Bolme, The Alabaster Staff.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel, part of The Rogues series.
  • Gwendoline Butler, Coffin Underground.  A Chief Inspector John Coffin mystery.
  • David Chacko, White Gamma.  Spy-guy thriller, part of the Stephen Warfield series.
  • David Cian, Transformers, Book 2:  Annihilation.  Part of a toy tie-in trilogy.
  • Susan Collins, Gregor the Overlander.  YA fantasy novel by the author of The Hunger Games.  This one is Book One in The Underland Chronicles.
  • Donn Cortez, CSI: Miami:  Cut and Run, CSI:  Miami:  Harm for the Holidays, Part One:  Misgivings, and CSI: Miami:  Riptide.  Television tie-in novels.  I've read all of MAC's CSI novels and graphic novels so it's time to try some others.
  • Greg Cox, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine:  Devil in the Sky.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Richie Tankersley Cusick, The Mall.  YA horror novel.
  • Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, editors, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror:  Ninth Annual Collection.  Annual with thirty-five stories and ten poems, along with seventy-five pages of introductory material.
  • Troy Denning, Giants Among Us.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel, Book II of The Twilight Giants series.
  • Terrance Dicks, The Bermuda Triangle Incident.  YA SF short novel, part of The Unexplained series. 
  • Dannielle Doggett, project manager, Mythology:  Myths, Legends, & Fantasies.  Coffe table book -- if you have a very sturdy coffee table.  This sucker is HEAVY!
  • "Tabor Evans" (house name begun by Lou Cameron, who wrote one -- and probably all three- of the books listed), Longarm, Longarm on the Border, and Longarm in the Indian Nation.  Books #1, 2, and 5 in the long-running adult western series.
  • Matt Forbeck, Marked for Death.  Gaming (Eberron) tie-in novel; Book 1 of The Lost Mark series.
  • Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll.  2001 edition, "revised and updated for the 21st Century."  Jon Pareles, consulting editor.
  • Gavin Gibbins, They Rode in Space Ships.  Nonfiction?  Accounts of two persons who claimed to have flown in flying saucers.  This is a British book published in 1957, which was when the saucer craze was in its heyday; it was published by a respectable publisher and not by some fly-by-night outfit or vanity press.
  • Barb & J. C. Hendee, Dhampir.  Vampire novel.
  • Charlie Higson, Silverfin.  YA novel, the first in a series featuring a young James Bond.
  • Declan Hughes, City of Lost Girls.  An Ed Loy novel by one of Ireland's best crime writers.
  • "Iceberg Slim (Robert Beck), Mama Black Widow.  Gangsta crime novel about a ghetto homosexual queen.
  • Shirley Jackson, Just an Ordinary Day.  Collection of fifty-two uncollected or unpublished stories, some fantastic, some psychological, some romantic, but all magical.  Edited by two of the demons she raised, Laurence Jackson Hyman and Sarah Hyman Stewart.
  • Cameron Judd, The Shadow Warriors and The Phantom Legion.  The first two books in the Mountain War Trilogy of Civil War era novels.
  • Stuart M. Kaminsky, CSI:  New York:  Blood on the Sun.  Television tie-in.  See my remarks on Donn Cortz, above.
  • William H. Keith, Jr., Battletech:  Operation Excalibur.  Gaming tie-in novel.
  • T. H. Lain, Oath of Nerull and The Savage Caves.  Gaming (Dungeons and Dragons) tie-in novels.
  • Jane Langton, Dark Nantucket Noon.  A Homer Kelly mystery.
  • Richard Laymon, The Cellar.  Horror.
  • Tanith Lee, Wolf Tower.  YA fantasy. Book I in the Claidi series.
  • Madeline L'Engle, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and A Wind in the Door.  YA fantasies.
  • Edward Levy, TheBeast Within.  Horror.
  • [Mike Linaker, ghost writer], Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan: The Judas Project.  Part of the long-running men's adventure series.
  • James Lowder, editor, Realms of Valor.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in anthology with a dozen stories.
  • George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, editors, Warriors 2.  Fantasy anthology with seven stories.
  • Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults.  Written from an evangelical point of view and first published in 1965, this seems to be a heavily documented, bleak picture of western religions that don't necessarily agree with the author's viewpoint.  Among the cults are Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormanism, Spiritism, Theosophy, Zen Buddhism, Swedenborgianism, Bahai, Seventh Day Adventists, and Unitarians.  No mention of Scientology, which moved beyond Dianetics a dozen years before this book was first published and two dozen years before the revised edition that's before me.
  • Anne McCaffrey, A Gift of Dragons.  Fantasy collection with four stories.
  • Danica McKellar, Math Doesn't Suck.  Math tricks and instuction from Winnie Cooper.  Everybody loves winnie Cooper, right?
  • "Jack McKinney,"  Robotech: The Macross Saga:  #4 Battlehymn, #5 Force of Arms, #6 Doomsday.  Toy/anime tie-in omnibus of three books from the series.  "McKinney" is a pen name used alternatingly by Brian Daley and James Luceno.  Evidently Daley wrote the odd-numbered books in the series and Luceno the even ones; each writer then revised/edited the other's manuscript.
  • [Nathan Meyer, ghost writer], Don Pendleton's The Executioner:  Volatile Agent.  Number 350 in the men's adventure series.
  • Larry Niven, creator, Man-Kzin Wars V.  Two novellas in the SFshared universe series.
  • Mary Packard and the Editors of Ripley Entertainment, Ripley's Believe It or Not!  Special Edition.  A 2001 compilation.  Grandson Mark loves this stuff.
  • Lauren Paine, The Running Iron.  Western.
  • John Pelan, editor, A Walk on the Darkside:  Visions of Horror.  Anthology with twenty-one stories.
  • Steve Perry, Aliens, Book 2:  Nightmare Asylum.  Movie/graphic novel tie-in.
  • Steve Perry and Stephani Perry, Aliens, Book 3:  The Female War.  Movie/graphic novel tie-in.
  • "Ellis Peters" (Edith Partiger), A Nice Arrangement of Epitaphs.  An Inspector George Felse mystery.
  • "Christopher Pike" (Kevin McFadden), The Tachyon Web.  YA SF.
  • [Nick Pollotta, ghost writer], Don Pendleton's Stony Man:  Act of War.  Number 94 in this men's adventure series.
  • Thomas M. Reid, The Ruby Guardian. Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel, Book II in The Scions of Arrabar trilogy.
  • Anne Rice, The Mummy; or, Rameses the Damned. Horror.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting.  SF, the the second and final books in the trilogy begun with Forty Signs of Rain.
  • [Charles Rogers, ghost writer], Don Pendleton's The Executioner:  Ambush Force.  Numer 354 in the men's adventure series.
  • Norman Schmidt, Best Ever Paper Airplanes.  Kitty says her father made the greatest paper airplanes.  He was an aeronautics engineering.  I'm not.  I need help.  So there.
  • Mickey Spillane, The Body Lovers and The Snake.  Mike Hammer mysteries.  Also Day of the Guns, a Tiger Mann thriller.
  • Leonid Tarassuk & Claude Blair, editors, The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms & Weapons.  Reference.
  • Brian Thomsen and J. Robert King, editors, Realms of Magic.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie- in  anthology.  Seventeen stories.
  • Vernor Vinge, Across Realtime.  SF omnibus with novels The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime, plus a related novella.
  • David Weber, editor (?), The Service of the Sword:  Worlds of Honor #4.  SF anthology of six stories in the Honor Harrington universe, four of which are novel/short novel sized, on a novella, and a short story.
  • Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Weird Vampires Tales.  Instant remainder edition with thirty tales from the weird fiction pulps.
  • Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, editors, The Dragons at War.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in anthology with fourteen stories.
  • [Douglas P.Wojtowicz, ghost writer],  Don Pendleton's Stony Man:  Splintered Sky.  Number 97 in this men's adventure series.


Today would have been my son-in-law's 38th birthday.

     Michael was one of five children adopted from different families by John and Carole Dowd, may they always be blessed for that mitzvah.  He was three when he was adopted and he told a (perhaps apocryphal) story of how he got his middle name.  John and Carole were driving him home for the first time and they asked what middle name he would like to have.  They happened to be passing a pizza parlor at the time, so Michael said, "Pizza!"  The restaurant was Tim's Pizza so Michael became Michael Timothy.

     He was a sweet child, always smiling -- something that carried through his entire life.  Michael could irritate the hell out of you at times (something that always happens between fathers-in-law and sons-in law), but you could never stay mad at him.  He had a giving heart and never met a person he did not like; he had a special place in his heart for children and old people.  And he loved to laugh.

     He loved sports of all kinds, reading (especially history), and cooking, but his one major, abiding love was for Jessie and the girls.  He spent his last afternoon making home-made soap with Ceili and Amy.

     Because he was adopted, we had no idea about his medical history.  He played lacrosse in college and appeared hale and healthy, but shortly before he passed he went through a nasty episode of Crohn's disease, then he had what we thought were minor heart problems.  One Sunday morning, he walked across the living room, telling Jessie he had to buy some golf balls later, and dropped to the floor.  He was 31.

     Too soon gone.  I don't think a day has gone by since that we haven't thought about him.

     As I type this, his legacy is here visting us for the holiday:  two beautiful, loving, smart, and talented girls whom I know will stand the world on its end once they get older.  Thank you, Michael, for that.  And thanks for the warm memories.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


As I get ready to post this early Saturday evening, 89-year-old Doc Watson is in critical condition in the hospital.  My prayers are with him, one of the greatest nusicians of our time.

     Here's Doc and Bill Monroe:

Saturday, May 26, 2012


We fall into habits without realizing it.  I was not really conscious of one habit that I have had for a number of years:  addressing my 12-year-old grandson as "my friend," as in, "How are you today, my friend?" and, "Mark, my friend, it's good to see you."

      I know that I have other ways of greeting Mark, but I now realize that I use the "my friend" address more often than not.  I also realize that I seldom use that greeting with anyone else I know.  I wonder why that is?  I consider myself just as good a friend to my other three grandchildren (all girls), but I don't think my address to Mark is a sign of hidden sexism.  From the moment he learned to print, Mark always signed his thank-you notes with "Your Friend, Mark" -- although early on, the spelling was much more inventive.  I think that I subconsciously picked up that phrase and associated it with him.


     Looking back, I find that I haved used the phrase "my friend" often when I am driving, and always when I come across a particularly stupid or reckless driver.  I always use a steady, calm tone.  "Go ahead, my friend, you're obviously in more of a rush than I am," "Oh, my friend, you really cut that one close," "I don't think I'm going to get close to you, my friend; you're all over the road," and so on.  It just seems to me far more civilized than road rage or indiscriminately flipping the bird.

    I wonder if it would be a better world if we just addressed everyone as "my friend."

Friday, May 25, 2012


The Woman Suffrage Cookbook (second edition), edited by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr (1890)

This neat book is available online as part of the Historic American Cookbook Project.  Published in Boston, with contributions from 164 persons (mainly women, with a few men) from all walks of life, including doctors, ministers, writers, teachers, and lecturers -- all supporting the suffrage movement.

     Some of the contributions are brief, almost terse:

     Oatmeal or Rice Bread  Two cups cooked oatmeal, or rice, salt to taste, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one cup sweet milk, one-third cup yeast, flour to make it stiff.  S. LOUISE SIMONDS.

     In my mind's eye, I picture Ms. Simonds ruling over a no-nonsense kitchen.  A culinary klutz (me) may wish for a bit more detail, but Ms. Simonds does not brook such nonsense.

     Elizabeth W. Stanton, on the other hand, waxes poetic over breakfast:

     Breakfast Dish.

      Cut smoothly from a wheaten loaf
          Ten slices, good and true,
      And brown them nicely o'er the coals,
          As you for toast would do.

      Prepare a pint of thickened milk,
          Some cod-fish shredded small;
      And have on hand six hard-boiled eggs,
          Just right to slice withal.

      Moisten two pieces of the bread,
          And lay them in a dish,
      Upon them slice some hard-boiled egg,
          Then scatter o'er with fish.

     And for a seasoning you will need
          Of pepper just one shake,
     Then spread above the milky juice,
          And this one layer make.

      And thus, five time, bread, fish and egg,
          Or bread and egg and fish,
      Then place one egg upon the top,
          To crown this breakfast dish.


     Cooking in the late Nineteenth Century could also be an adventure, as can be seen from the beginning of Anna Ella Carroll's pipece on how To Cook Terrapin:

     "Decidedly the terrapin has to be killed before cooking, and the killing is often no easy matter.  The head must be cut off, and, as the sight is particularly acute, the cook must exercise great ingenuity in concealing the deadly weapon.  I have known half an hour to be consumed in this effort..."

     The recipes make delightful (and often mouth-watering) reading.  There are recipes for piccalilli and for Indian pudding  and for cocoanut [sic] cake -- all great favorites of mine.  But there is so much more in The Woman Sufferage Cookbook,  In the section about the care for invalids, Dr. Vesta D. Miller gives us ten Important Rules, starting off thusly:

     "IST.  Avoid the use of coffee, opium, or tobacco.  Also avoid the use of hot bread, pancakes, dumpling salt meat, pork, ham, sausage, fried eggs, pickles gravy, and rich pastry."

     No pancakes?  I'd never survive.

     No matter, here is a book "Containing Thoroughly Tested and Reliable Recipes for Cooking, Directions for the Care of the Sick, and Practical Suggestions,"  in order that this, "our messenger will go forth a blessing to housekeepers, and an advocate for the elevation and enfranchisement of women."  Can't argue with that.

    Let's have the last  word from a contributor who (perhaps thankfully, perhaps not) did not include a recipe.  Under the miscellaneous entries, there is this:

     "Whatever uncertainties we may recognize in values and in markets, it will always pay for women who have money enough to have leisure, to interest themselves in bettering the condition of their sex.  It has become honorable to-day for women, gentle or simple, to earn money.  This is as it should be, but for us to deduce therefrom the supposition that women should engage in work only as they are paid for it, it would be a laudable mistake.  We must have money to live, and ought to have enough to live well and comfortably; but while life has some supreme interests, money is not one of them.  We must do our devoir, whether it brings us in wages or not."  JULIA WARD HOWE

     It makes me want to hum her anthem.

     Here's the link.  Check it out for yourself.


      Patti Abbott has recuperated enough from her recent oral surgery to collect today's Friday's Forgotten Books links at pattinase.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I have never cared for Thomas Kinkade, the "painter of light," but this certainly makes his style of painting palatable.  "Painter of fright," anyone?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Don Herbert (1917-2007) was best known to several generations of children as "Mr. Wizard," a kindly neighbor who explained all aspects of science through experiments that could easily be done at home.  He started out in radio after World War II; while working on children's shows he developed the idea that would bring him instant recognition from any kid with a television set in the Fifties.  Watch Mr. Wizard was first aired on Chicago's WNBQ in 1951.  The simple live format produced almost 550 episodes from 1951 to 1965.

     Mr. Wizard chemistry sets were a staple in many homes during those much simpler times.  Today, most of the ingredients for the set are illegal to sell, but they provided hours of fun in those pre-seat belt, pre-bicycle helmet, pre-organized playdate days.

     Herbert recieved a Peabody award in 1953; other awards for his contributions to science education followed.  During the height of his popularity in the mid-Fifties, he worked with Ronald Reagan on General Electric Theater.

     From the 1971-72 television season, Canada beckoned and Herbert hosted Mr. Wizard, which was aired on both Canadaian and American television.

     He returned to reguolar television in 1983 with the thrice-weekly Mr. Wizard's World, which ran on Nickelodeon until 1990 (with repeat episodes continually airing for years afterward).
     Teacher to Teacher with Mr. Wizard was a fifteen-minute show in 1994, also on Nickelodeon.

     Herbert also taught us that fruit, cereal, milk, bread, and butter were the five ingredients of a healthy breakfast.  It seemed to have worked for him -- he lived to just four weeks short of his nintieth birthday.

     If you weren't a kid in the fifties, here's what you missed:

Global warming a myth?  According to Mr. Wizard, it looks like melting icebergs won't flood our cities.  Hmm.

Of course, clips from his shows could be used for evil:

Comedian Pat Paulsen used to do a sketch about a Mr. Wizard-type neighborhood scientist but, sadly, I can't find a clip.  So I want those of you who have seen it to think back to it.  And smile.


For more of Today's Overlooked stuff, go to Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom, where he will have all the links.  And think kindly of Todd as he endures all sorts of pain this Friday.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Interesting week...
  • Poul Anderson, The King of Ys:  Volume Two (fantasy omnibus containing the third and fourth novels in the series:  Dahut and The Dog and the Wolf) and  Past Times (SF collection with seven stories and an essay).
  • Piers Anthony, Letters to Jenny and Split Infinity.  The first is a year's worth of letters Anthony wrote to a young fan recovering from an accident; the second  is Book One of the fantasy series The Apprentice Adept.
  • "Alex Archer" (Joe Nassise), Rogue Angel:  Cradle of Solitude.  The 33rd (by my count) in the adventure series featuring archeologist Annja Creed, a female Indiana Jones.
  • Robert Lynn Asprin, Myth Alliances.  Fantasy omnibus containing Myth-ing Persons, Little Myth Marker, and M.Y.T.H. Inc. Link.  (I also picked up the Starblaze edition of Little Myth Marker with the great Phil Foglio cover.)  Speaking of Starblaze, the Foglio edition of Myth-Nomers and Im-Pervections also made it into my cart.
  • Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons.  SF.  A Culture novel.
  • L. Frank Baum, The Land of Oz and The Road to Oz.  Juveniles.  Numbers 2 and 5 in the Oz series. from when del Rey Books tried to spark interest in Oz by publishing the books as "fantasy classics."
  • John Bendel, compiler, National Lampoon Presents True Facts:  The Book.  Humor, some of it strained.
  • David Bischoff, Time Machine 2.  A Choose Your Own Adventure book.
  • W. R. Burneyy, Captain Lightfoot.  Historical novel.
  • Orson Scott Card, Seventh Son.  Fantasy.  Book One in The Tales of Alvin Maker.
  • Leonard Carpenter, Conan the Warlord.  Heroic fantasy.  (The titles in this Tor series always reminds me of the Mike Peters "Conan the Librarian" cartoon.)
  • Lin Carter, editor, Flashing Swords! #4.  Heroic fantasy collection with five stories.
  • C. J. Cherryh, Angel with a Sword.  The first book in the shared world fantasy series Merovingen Nights.
  • "Richard Cowper" (Colin Murry), Clone.  SF.
  • Richis Tankersley Cusick, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Harvest.  YA television tie-in novel.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Masters of Everon.  SF.
  • David Drake, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin Harry Greenberg, editors, Space Infantry.  SF anthology with twelve stories.
  • James Ellroy, My Dark Places.  Nonfiction.  Ellroy's examination of his mother's 1958 unsolved murder.
  • Linda Fairstein, Entombed.  Mystery.
  • Alan Dean Foster, Alien Nation.  Movie tie-in.
  • Anne George, Murder Carries a Torch.  A Southern Sisters Mystery; this one is an uncorrected ARC.
  • Laura Anne Gilman and Josepha Sherman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Deep Water.  YA television tie-in.
  • Martin Harry Greenberg, Richard Matheson, and Charles G. Waugh, editors, The Twilight Zone:  The Original Stories.  Anthology of thirty stories that were adapted for the television show.
  • Michael Kube-McDowell, Alternities.  SF.
  • Mercedes Lackey, Children of the Night.  Fantasy; the second Diana Tregarde Investigation.
  • Michael Laimo, Dead Souls.  Horror.
  • Louis L'Amour, The Lonesome Gods and Where the Long Grass Blows.  Westerns, with the first being marketed as a historical novel.
  • Barry B. Longyear, The Enemy Papers.  SF collection of stories, articles, and miscellania about Longyear's Enemy Mine universe.
  • Bill Maher, New Rules.  Biting humor that is sometimes uncomfortably dead-on.
  • Michael Malone, The Last Noel.  Novel.  Signed.
  • Elizabeth Massie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Power of Persuation.  YA television tie-in.
  • Anthony Masters, Cries  of Terror.  British pb horror anthology with fourteen mainly familiar stories.
  • Vonda N. McIntyre, Stars Wars: The Crystal Star.  Tie-in to the movie franchise.
  • T. Jefferson Parker, The Border Lords.  Crime, a Charlie Hood novel.
  • Spider Robinson, Callahan's Lady and Callihan's Secret.  SF/fantasy stories from one of my favorite bars (Secrets) and bawdy houses (Lady).
  • James Rollins, The Devil Colony.  Thriller.
  • Fred Saberhagen, The Complete Book of Swords.  SF/fantasy omnibus containing The First Book of Swords, The Second Book of Swords, and The Third Book of Swords.
  • John Saul, Guardian and In the Dark of the Night.  Horror novels.
  • David J. Schow, Seeing Red.  Horror collection withIn the Dark of the Night and fourteen stories.
  • "Michael Slade," Evil Eye. Thriller.
  • Nancy Springer, The White Hart.  Fantasy.
  • Whitley Strieber, The Forbidden Zone.  Horror.
  • "SS Troubadour" (Bob Taylor, aka "The South Shore Troubadour"), Goblin:  A Death in Plymouth.  Self-described as "Gothic Historical Fiction."
  • Karl Edward Wagner, Conan:  The Road of Kings.  Heroic fantasy.
  • Sydney Van Scyoc, Daughters of the Sunstone.  Fantasy omnibus containing Darkchild, Bluesong, and Starsilk.
  • Joan D. Vinge, Fireship and Heaven Chronicles.  SF novel and a colection of two novellas.
And, yes, there were e-books, but I haven't had time to add them to the list  :-(

Friday, May 18, 2012


The Little Tales of Smethers and Other Stories by Lord Dunsany (1952)

Dunsany's seminal mystery collection, The Little Tales of Smethers and Other Stories, is firmly ensconced in the Queen's Quorum, a listing of the 125 most significant mystery/detective collections published from 1854 through to 1967.  Strangely, it seems to have been published only twice -- both times in England:  its original appearance by Jerrold's an a 1978 reprint by Remploy, a company I had never heard of.  The book was printed three times in Germany (in 1958, 1972, and 1979) and once in Japan (in 2009).  It was never published in America.  (Information courtesy of Worldcat.)

     Smethers, for those who don't know, is a salesman for Numnumo, a relish for meats and savories during the years before World War II.  He is also the narrator of eight short mysteries featuring Mr. Linley, to whom both Scotland Yard and the British govenment turn when they have an extremely difficult mystery on hand.  (A further Smethers/Linley story is narrated in the third person.)  The first story in the series was the deservedly famous "The Two Bottles of Relish" -- Dunsany's best-known and most reprinted story.

     In addition to the nine Smethers/Linley tales, this volume contains seventeen other quirky stories of mystery and crime.  Most of these are puzzle stories in one way or another.  Events an motives leading upto each story is usually glossed over without explanation other than an acknowledgement that these details are not pertinent to the point of the story; this allows Dunsany to make the story brief (often just five pages or so) and to add some impact to the story's solution.  Deduction is often what is important here, not details.  This, in no small way, reminds me of Isaac Asimov's Black Widow and Union Club stories.  This comparison seems particularly apt since most of these stories read like "club stories" -- and, indeed, several of them are actual club stories, much in the mode of Dunsany's stories about Joseph Jorkens.  What is important about club stories is that you never know if the narrator is telling the truth, all that is important is that it seems he may be telling the truth.

     These stories may be quirky and some may be slight, but each is a highly polished gem leading to a satisfying (and sometimes highly improbable) conclusion.  There's a reason why Queen selected this volume for the Quorum.  I just can't find a good reason why it has not been reprinted in the United States.


     Patti Abbott is off this week and Todd Mason will be collecting today's Forgotten Books links at Sweet Freedom.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The calendar turns today for the woman who has made me a goat-grandfather.  That's just one of many reasons I love her.

     I have been blessed with two extraordinary children (he said without bias), each so different yet each having the same basic core of goodness and intelligence.  Christina was our quiet one, never seeking nor wanting the limelight, but with strong opinions.  And a great sense of humor.  No one can tell a story like Christina.  Her personality bubbles and people are drawn to her.  She can be assertive (yet tactful) and she brooks no nonsense.

     She has a talent for overlooking the obvious (or, to her, the unimportant).  Her college roommate, Heather, once said that her high school counselor was upset that she didn't check a minority status block on her college applications.  Christina asked Heather why he would want her to do that?  "Because I'm Black," Heather told her.  Christina's response was, "You are?"  "Christina, we've been roommates forever.  You've met my mother.  You've played with my baby brothers. Of course I'm Black!"  Heather's race or coloring never registered with Christina; it just was not important to her so she paid no attention to it.  (Reminds me of Stephen Colbert's oft-repeated line that he didn't see color, except with Christina it was for real.)  When we had heard that story we once again realized that we had done something right.

     Nothing comes easy for Christina.  She works hard for everything she has got.  (We still have nightmares about the "summer of physics.")  After college, she worked for an ambulance service and volunteered for the local Rescue Squad, eventually becoming a licensed paramedic.  She and her partner were met at one scene by an elderly man whose wife had collapsed.  The man was cryng, "I'm afraid she's dead."  Christina's partner said, "Dead we can handle," as they pushed past the man.  They managed to revive the woman -- not a miracle, as the man thought, just two highly-trained people working through a crisis.   During those years, Christina handled many crises -- always with compassion and skill.

     Later, she worked as an emergency technician at a major hospital.  The emergency room doctors were always grateful when she was on duty; they knew that everything would run smoothly and that nothing would fall through the cracks.  She would make time to sit with patients who were dying and had no family present, holding their hands and comforting them.  Nobody dies alone.  Not on her watch.  Her saddest day there was on 9-11.  After hearing of the attack on the Pentagon, the emergency room readied itself for a large influx of patients -- and nobody came.  Her happiest day may have been when they admitted a patient from Thailand who spoke no English and had an unknown type of hemorrhagic fever; the emergency room was immediately locked down and quarantined; frantic calls were made to the CDC, Thailand, and (I believe) the State Department (trying to find a Thai interpreter); after several hours, it was learned that the patient had Denge Fever, something that was not communicated through the air; the entire ER staff cheered -- they had dodged a bullet.

     She began studying to be a cardiac sonographer, ending up teaching that subject as an adjunct teacher at George Washington University.  Her skill has made her one of the go-to people at the hospital where she works.   When she catches something very serious that had been overlooked, she will stay with a patient, not releasing him until after a cardiac surgeon has a chance to read and respond to her work.

     Now she is studying to be a sign language interpreter, something that is far more difficult than most people realize.  She volunteers at deaf events.  She has just finished tutoring a deaf Iranian student (English is his fourth or fifth language) through some highly technical classes.  She's been taking classes for two and a half years and has another couple of years of study before she can become certified.  Unfortunately, the classes are offered only at one school in Maryland -- an hour and a half drive each way.  This is on top of her work, her husband and family, her home, and her animals (three dogs, a cat, a Burmese python, and now four goats, plus whatever animals her kids and husband might bring home at any time; and -- soon -- chickens).

     Somehow she manages to be closely involved with her children:  helping them study for tests; guiding them in school projects (never doing the projects for them; she hates it parents do work for their children); keeping in touch with teachers and schools; transporting the kids to and from their sports activities, and watching and cheering them on (even coaching Erin's soccer team one season when no one else was able to); taking them hiking, kayaking, and to the beach, and to the library; taking them on "spur of the moment" trips to Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Newport to see zoos, aquariums, science centers, and historic mansions; making sure that the kids have defined chores and responsibilities; and taking in foster children on a moment's notice and intergrating them into her family for even a short while.

     She's beautiful, smart, funny, talented, compassionate...Is there any wonder we are proud of her?

     And how is she spending her birthday?  Well, tonight is Mark's sixth-grade band concert.  Mark tells us he's playing some pretty good songs.

     God, we love that girl!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


There have been a lot of humorists and comics, but few can match the sheer genius of Stan Freberg.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I'm enjoying the new season of Sherlock Holmes on PBS.  If you've watched this week's episode, The Hounds of Baskerville, you might be interested in this early Holmes film, Murder at the Baskervilles, based (somewhat deceptively, methinks) not on the hound story but on Silver Blaze.  Watson, interestingly, is played by Ian Fleming -- ah, if only it were THE Ian Fleming...

From 1937, here's Arthur Wontner as the Great Detective:


As usual, Todd Mason will have the links to all of today's Overlooked Film and Other A/V at Sweet Freedom.

Monday, May 14, 2012


A quiet week, offset by some great titles.  Three of the e-books are actually short stories.
  • Piers Anthony, Fractal Mode.  Fantasy.  Book Two of the Mode series.
  • Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye, The Death of Sleep.  SF.
  • William P. McGivern, Police Special.  Omnibus of three crime novels:  Rogue Cop, The Seven File, and The Darkest Hour.  Good stuff.
  • David Morrell, The Shimmer.  Thriller.
  • Anne Rice, The Mummy.  "Sensual" horror, or is that TMI?
  • Robert Sheckley, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine:  The Laertian Gamble.  Television tie-in.
  • Kate Wilhelm, The Good Children.  Suspense.

  • Brett Battles, Every Precious Thing.
  • Robert Colby, The Captain Must Die.
  • O. J. Connell, "The Pale Watcher."
  • Charles Culver - "The Eleventh Floor."
  • Gary Dobbs, The Rhondda Ripper (a.k.a., A Policeman's Lot)
  • Janus Gangi - "Elizabeth Rose."
  • Timothy Hallinan, Skin Deep.
  • Paul Levine, Kill All the Lawyers.
  • "Jack Martin" (Gary Dobbs), Arkansas Smith II:  The Tumbleweed Trail.
  • "Vincent Stark" (Gary Dobbs), The Dead Walked, Book I:  The Outbreak.
  • Richard Wormser - Horse Money.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The Hypnotic Experiment of Dr. Reeves and Other Stories by Charlotte Rosalys Jones (1894)

My apologies for posting this week's contribution to Friday's Forgotten Books a day late, but things got away from me.  The links this week -- and next -- are at Sweet Freedom, with Todd Mason filling for Patti Abbott.

     My book this week is a curious little (a mere 95 pages) collection of five stories by an author I had never read before.  I know nothing about Ms. Jones and a cursory search of the internet shed no light one her.  The title page of her book gives her name as Charlotte Rosalys Jones; Tuck gives it as Charlotte (Rosalie) Jones, but Tuck was prone to minor errors and poor proofreading; the UPenn website hints that the author may have divided herself :  Charlotte and Rosalys Jones.  I could find no reference to the author(s?) in any edition of Clute's various Encyclopedias.  Yet, what brought me to the book in the first place was its inclusion in two lists of Utopian writing by women.

     Now that I'veread the book, I'm scratching my head in confusion.

     The first (and title) story, The Hypnotic Experiment of Dr. Reeves, has the learned doctor and rheumatism expert worrying over a young patient afflicted with rheumatism of the heart.  Called to his bedside, the doctor finds the man dying and asking for his fiancee.  Realizing that without relieving the stress on the heart the man has no chance and also that the fiancee is hours away, Reeves hypnotizes the man, innoculates the patient's heart with rheumatism (or a rheumatism vaccine -- the story is a little vague with its make-believe 19th century medicine), and dresses a nurse in a coat and wig to pretend to be the fiancee.  If Reeves could keep the man calm for three or four hours, the crisis will pass and the man will live.  [Aside:  Huh?  Just WTH huh?  Now back to the plot.]  The man stays calm, the fiancee arrive to take the place of the disguised nurse, the patient survives, and Dr. Reeves will write a historic paper for the medical journals "of a patient actually getting the full benefit of a remedy while in an undisturbed, hypnotized state, despite all theories to the contrary."  I checked the story several times; no feminist Utopia here.

     An International Courtship tell of an independent American woman who meets a wealthy and handsome Englishman (who is call "The Arab" by his many friends).  The woman is disdainful of British men, just as The Arab is of American women.  Verbal sparring ensues the few times they are together.  Finally, during a fox hunt he rescues her from hitting a tree branch (or something) and they fall in love and marry.  The symbol of their marriage is an American flag knotted with a Union Jack, placed on display as "FLAGS OF TRUCE."  No feminist Utopia here that I can see.

     One Woman's History Out of Many relates the tale of "Sister Faithful," a fifty-year-old attractive woman who cared for her invalid brother and did good works throughout the town.  A distant cousin asks to stay during a recuperation from some unnamed illness.  Being of kind heart she agrees, although she knows nothing of the man.  He is charming and intelligent and they enjoy each other's company.  At the end of two month's he is back to health an announces he is going to get married; he had dared not ask the girl while his health had been so precarious.  "Sister Faithful" then realizes she is in love with her cousin, yet she wishes him the best and sends him off to his fiancee while she spends the rest of her life continuing to do good works in the town.  Utopian? Nah.

     Miss Cameron's Art Sale features a wealthy young American woman who winters in Paris.  She is well-liked and becomes a wonderful addition to Parisian society.  She meets and becomes a close friend to Miss Petterson, an artist who had only been able to live in Paris for the past two years because of a group of benefactors from her home town.  Miss Patterson has been gaining a good reputation for art, and often used likenesses of her friends incorporated into the paintings.  Alas, Miss Patterson is in love with a young workman, someone whom her benefactors back home feel is beneath her; they forbid her from marrying the young man, noting all the money they had spent on her and her career.  For a plucky young American like Miss Cameron, this is an outrage.  She arranges for Miss Patterson to hold a salon exhibiting her paintings;  Miss Cameron will invite her society friends to atttend.  Miss C. approaches one man, who happens to  be in love with her, and asks him to buy two of the paintings the day before the salon; Miss C. will naturally give him the money to do so.  She reasons that when people go to the salon and see two of the paintings already sold, it will spur rhem to buy more of Miss Patterson's paintings.  On the day of the salon, Miss Cameron is surprised to find more than two of the paintings have SOLD signs on them, including the largest -- and probably best -- painting on display, one with Miss Cameron's likeness holding the center spot.  With the money from the sales, Miss Patterson repays her backers, tells them to stuff it, and marries her beau.  Miss Cameron's friend who had bought two paintings with her money had also bought the painting with Miss Cameron in the center; this he hung up in a prominent spot in his home to stare at forever and ever.  Miss Cameron (we presume) continues on her blitheful way.  Again, no sign of Utopia here.

     Utopia's last chance in this book comes with A Complex Question, a tale of handsome sportsman Bob Travers who is spending the winter racing in Tangiers.  While there, he is betrothed to Mabel Burke, the nicest girl in the English quarter and the sister of his very good friend.  One day he arrives late to a dinner party and finds himself seated between his fiancee and an attractive (although nowhere as pretty as Mabel Burke) young woman named Miss Schuyler.  Soon he finds himself escorting the young visitor over the next few weeks, while ignoring his fiancee.  Miss Schuyler, for her part, did not realize that Bob was engaged.  When she finds out, she tells him to go back to his fiancee.  He relunctantly agrees to leave but tells her she shall soon know of his deep love for her.  He never makes it back to Mabel, but jumps (falls? slips?) into the ocean and drowns.  Just try to find an Utopia in that one!

     The stories in this book are brief, somewhat interesting, somewhat maudlin.  They display, at times, a type of feminine independence, albeit a vague and somewhat lackluster one.  If you are one who expects a strong statement, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


In the news:

     - A bodyguard for the late Michael Jackson is now claiming that the Gloved One once ordered his brother Randy shot.  Of course, he explained, Michael was pretty drugged up at the time. So I guess it really doesn't count.  The bodyguard had previously stated that he was Blanket's biological father.  (Michael wanted an "athletic" baby, you see.)  Oh, and MJ was deeply in love with Whitney Houston.  Randy Jackson has catagorically denied  that Michael had ever tried to have him shot; Blanket has not admitted to having a bodyguard father; and Whitney can no longer confirm or deny anything.  The bodyguard said that it doesn't matter whether people believe him, because his 18-year-old girlfriend does and is sticking by him.  So there!

     - Speaking of denying things, presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not denying stories that have arisen about his private school days -- he just can't remember them.  He has said that he is sorry for some childhood pranks and hijinks he had pulled some forty-eight years ago as a student.  Dumb stuff, he said.  The apology neither detailed nor explained what those pranks might have been.  According to reports, Mitt didn't like one student's haircut so he (and others) pinned the kid on the floor while Mitt cut the boy's hair (poorly, according to reports).  The boy, by the way, was reported to have been struggling and screaming for Mitt and the gang to stop.  Mitt also reportedly teased one boy continuedly by loudly calling out "Atta-girl! " at him.  As I said, Mitt doesn't remember any such incidents and, besides, Mitt claimed he never realized that the atta-girl boy was gay.  And he certainly didn't realize that the terrorized boy whose hair he had shorn was gay.  Ah...boyhood pranks!  Of course, the incident with the hair smacks more of "assault" than "prank," and the harrassment seems to encrouch on "bully" territory rather than the "hijinks" neighborhood.  But whatever he did and whatever he might or might not remember, Mitt says he is a different person today.  I know that people change, and almost fifty years is a goodly time span to effect such change.  People can outgrow stupid and people can move beyond pranks.  But can people outgrow an innate sense of cruelty?  Did I mention that Romney chuckled when asked about the incidents?

     -  President Obama has officially come out in favor of gay marriage.  Some people consider this a bold move while others believe Obama was was boxed into a corner by earlier remarks by the vice-president.  Many fear that this was an endorsement that could cost the president politically and others are joyful at that prospect.  No matter.  What's done is done and what's said is said.  The betting money was already on Obama endorsing gay marriage at some point before the November elections.  As expected, some people have been vocally against the president's remarks.  One such person was Bristol Palin.  Bristol was upset that the president said that his daughters, Sasha and Malia, had difficulty comprehending what all the hoopla was  about; some of their classmates had gay parents and what's the big deal?  (To be frank, my own children and grandchildren are of the same mindset.  Most of the younger generation seem comfortable with the fact that homosexuality is innate and not a lifestyle "choice."  Loving, committed relationships should be honored, regardless of the gender of those in the relationship.)  Back to Bristol.  She's upset that the president is making decisions based on what his daughters told him.  Mr. Obama, she feels, is using his daughters as advisors (and, I presume, his sole advisors).  That's not presidential, she says.  Presidential is saying marriage is for one man and one woman, not that there's anything wrong with homosexuals (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  If the Obama girls had been younger, says Ms. Palin, Mr. Obama may have named Dora the Explorer as Attorney General.  (By the way, according to Bristol, Sasha and Malia's co-conspirator in pushing the gay agenda on the president is the television show Glee.)  Ms. Palin, now 20, is famously a single (read un-wed) mother who claims that Levi Johnson, the shallow end of the gene pool father of her child, is not a part of their son's life.  (She is trying to get him to agree to giving her sole custody and wants to legally change her son's last name to Palin.)  I'd rather not comment on her ability as a parent, because I really have no idea what kind of parent she is.  Let me just snidely remark that she and son Tripp are scheduled to have their own reality show on the Lifetime network.

     - Libraries in Wisconsin, Georgia, and Florida have banned the poorly-written Fifty Shades of Grey.  The book, which has been called "mommy porn," is evidently very popular with "middle-aged women" -- and don't ask me to define what is a middle-aged woman.  (I do know of one women's book club that has chosen the book as its next selection; some members are giddy with expectation.)  Book banning, really?  Cliched.  And stupid.

     - In the non-trainwreck arena, law enforcement officials today searched the Connecticut home and property of reputed mobster Robert Gentile, supposedly for information about the 1990 art theft at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Taken in the theft were thirteen pieces of art, including a Vermeer painting, five works by Degas, and Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee (his only known seascape).  I was at the Gardner a few weeks before the theft (no, I was not casing the joint) and was entranced by the Rembrandt painting; I could have easily stared at it the entire day.  I don't know if this lead will pan out, but I hope so.  People should be able to view these wonderful pieces of art again.

     And that's the news -- very little of which was really worthwhile to print.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I just figured out how to get back to the old Blogger interface so I'm back in business -- until those anonymous people who don't know @#$%^@ try to make more improvements.  As mentioned in a comment two days, I was afraid that all my posts would have to be made as haiku titles.  There was only one, thank goodness (and my apologies to the late Mr. Sendak).

    So onto my review of the biography of Long Tack Sam:

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam:  An Illustrated Memoir by Ann Marie Fleming (2007)

     This is a quasi-graphic novel (supplemented by photographs, posters, and articles) about the author's great-grandfather, the once world-famous Chinese magician Long Tack Sam.  The author, a Canadian citizen of Chinese-Austrian parentage, knew only two things about here great-grandfather (who had died the year before she was born):  he was a magician and he could make coins appear from behind your ear.  Her grandmother used to talk about her days in vaudeville, but not too much attention was given her.  After her grandmother's death, the author became curious about her life and began a journey that would take her across the world to discover her family's roots.

     Long Tack Sam was born in Northern China. perhaps in the village of Wuqiao, in 1885.  The stories of his early years conflict.  He ran away from home when he was seven, or perhaps he was apprenticed, and perhaps he was older.  He earned small change on the docks (or perhaps the streets) by juggling, or maybe something else.  He probably studied acrobatics; in China, almost every performer begins by studing acrobatics.   He joined a troupe of (perhaps American) entertainers and left China.  He may have gone to America, or perhaps England.  He certainly went to Austria because it was there he met the love of his life.

     Leopoldine Roesler was a shopgirl in Linz when Long Tack Sam met her.  They married in 1908 and Sam converted from Buddhism to Roman Catholicism.  A notice of their marriage appeared on the front page of a Vienna newspaper.  A mixed racial marriage was unusual at the time, but as a neighbor said, "Iy was a great love!"  Sam was the director of a Chinese troupe and had a performance booked for the night of his wedding; the troupe specialized in Chinese hair tricks, among others, hanging by their kews (long braided hair). 

     Sam was an acrobat, magician, juggler, musician, plate balancer, and many other things.  He could do a somersault and magically come up with a bowl of water in his hands.  He introduced an old Chinese trick of swallowing needles; that trick was then taken and patented by Houdini.  His wife Poldi was part of the act, then his two young daughters Mina and Neesa (actually Poldi, but "Nee Sa" sounded more oriental for the act).  As they grew older, the two girls became mainstays of the act, celebrated for their beauty and their talents. The author's uncle recounts meeting George Burns at an advetising function:  "He was very popular at that time...I sat on the dias with him and asked if he recalled Long Tack Sam, the father of my mother-in-law.  With that, he virtually rose out of his chair, grabbed  my arm and said: 'The greatest vaudevilel act I've ever seen!  His acrobatics were the piece de resistance!  He was a great magician!  He had two beautiful daughters!  They were smashing!'"

     Sam and his family hobnobbed with some of the greatest names in show business.  He created a dance for Syd Graumann, so that his daughter could perform it outside Graumann's Chinese Theatre for the opening of Joan Crawford's Rain.  He shared marquees with Jean Harlow and Loretta Young.  Mina is rumored to have dated Al Capone.

      Sam and his wife were struck by a motorcycle and traveled to their villa in Austria to recover.  There, Sam fell and broke his leg and developed gangrene while in the hospital.  He died on August 7, 1961, aged 76. 

     The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam is not just the story of an extraordinary man.  It's the story of a woman searching out her family roots, a story of how world events rise up to shape us, a story of connectiveness and disconnectiveness.  As Ann Marie Fleming writes:  "...What puzzles me is why he was forgotten by his own family. (Okay, we did celebrate his birthday, his death day and his anniversary in good Chinese style -- while Granny was still alive -- but we knew nothing about his accomplishments).  Is it a show business thing?  (Yes, children of show business parents are often resentful.)  Is it an immigrant thing?  (Yes, immigrants oftern don't take their oldstories into their new lives.)  Is it because we all keep moving, keep busy?  (Yes, that, too!)  Maybe we just weren't listening!  Distances and differences keep us apart, and we forget to remind each other of our own stories."

     Ann Marie Fleming searched and found her family's story.  Her search resulted in an award-winning film which, in turn, was adapted into this book.

     The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam is a rewarding and finely layered book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


So my daughter and my son-in-law took some idiot pills and decided to get another goat.  They already have two -- PC and Blackberry -- who are cute and lovable and figure that Kitty only exists to feed them.  So, late this afternoon Christina and Walt got another goat.  By "another goat," I mean two goats.  Two three-week old Nigerian Dwarf goats, each smaller than their cat.  Following the computer-theme for naming goats, these two are called Fire and Gateway.

     The thing about three-week-old goats is that they are not weaned.  They will have to be bottled-fed for the next few weeks. 

     Not much of a problem, except only one of the two has ever been bottle-fed before.  Enter Kitty and your humble correspondent.

     Now, goats are cute.  They are soft and friendly and don't smell too much.  They gambol and prance and jump on things to gain the higher ground.  They chase Mark and Erin and they love to play.   They also love to be held.  Except when it's time to be bottle-fed.  Then only one of them loves to be held.

     Erin got the easy job:  feeding Fire, who was hungry (and experienced) and polished off his bottle in record time.  Christina and Mark got the not easy job, with Christina holding Gateway and Mark trying to give him the bottle.  Didn't work.  Time to call in the big guns -- not that Kitty has big guns, but that mind.  Suffice to say that Kitty and Christina were soon bathed in formula, with none ending up inside the goat.   Walt and I are then added to the feeding brigade.  Somehow we got the nipple in Gateway's mouth while Kitty gently squeezed the bottle.  It took a while, but the goat got some formula -- maybe a quarter of the bottle.  While Gateway was being fed we had to keep pushing Fire out of the way; he knew what was in the bottle and wanted it for himself.

     The young goats have to be bottle-fed four times a day.  Next feeding time should be about 5:30 in the morning.  Make that 5:15.  Or 5:00.  The process is going to take some time.

     So we now have added two to our extended family.  We are very proud goat grandparents.

     But, God help us, Christina and Walt are now talking about chickens.

Wild Things weep out loud/Maurice is no longer here/Childhood is lessened.


Had he lived, singer, actor, and one-time teen heartthrob Ricky Nelson would have been 72 today.  Gee, Thorny, how should we mark the occasion?

Well, as for me, I'm going to set the Wayback Machine to November 21, 1952:

And just because I can, here's a few of his songs:

Travelin' Man

Hello Mary-Lou

Poor Little Fool

Lonesome Town

Fools Rush In

I'm Walking

My Bucket's Got a Hole In It

Garden Party

And from Rio Bravo, with Dean Martin (and Walter Brennan on harmonica), My Rifle, My Pony and Me

Another talent too soon gone.


For more of today's Overlooked Film/TV/Whatever, see Sweet Freedom, orchestrated by our mastermind, Todd Mason.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I was going to post a review of THE MAGICAL LIFE OF LONG TACK SAM by Ann Marie Fleming but the new Blogspot hates me. Grrr. Mother of God, is this the end of Jerry's House of Everything?


Two dolphins at a zoo in Connyland, Switzerland, have died from a heroin overdose. 

Someone at the zoo evidently had the bright idea to hold a rave there, near the dolphin training tanks. 

Some other genius (or geniuses) from the very shallow end of the gene pool thought combing dolphins and heroin would be fun.

Never underestimate the stupidity and/or cruelness of some members of the human race.

Clowns like these are a waste of protoplasm.


Our grandson Mark saw a video of Brandon McConnell's spray paint art and thought it was cool so we checked out his work on the internet.  It was super-cool!

We got in touch with Brandon at and asked him to dp an original piece for Mark's twelfth birthday.  Brandon solicited ideas from us and sent us a copy of the work for final approval.  The result:  something beyond our expectations!

Check out this video of Brandon doing one of his spray paint art pieces.

There's a lot to see here and at his site,  Brandon's work makes an excellent gift. 

Even if you are not interested in purchasing anything, I'm sure you will be amazed at what he and other spray paint artists can do.


Some interesting stuff this week, along with another pretentious UFO book.  The DeMeulemeester e-book is a collection of SF stories by eleven 2001 graduates of the Clarion Workshop.

  • Daniel Abraham, An Autumn War.  SF.  Book Three of the Long Price Quartet.
  • J. Lee Butts, Hell to Pay:  The Life and Violent Times of Eli Gault.  Western.
  • Charles de Lint, Tapping the Dream Tree.  Fantasy collection with 18 stories.
  • William W. Johnstone, The Last of the Dog Team.  Military thriller.
  • Margo Lanagan, White Time.  SF collection with ten stories "written in the lead-up to, during, or immediately after Clarion West Writers Workshop 1999."
  • Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Agent of Change.  SF novel of the Liaden universe.
  • Michael Linaker, Don Pendleton's The Executioner #203:  Hard Contact.  Men's Adventure.
  • Larry Niven, The Draco Tavern.  SF collection with 27 stories .about eponymous spaceport watering hole.
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters.  Novel.
  • John Scalzi, Old Man's War.  SF.
  • David J. Seibold & Charles J. Adams III, Cape May Ghost Stories.  Legends of the Jersey Shore sans Snooki.
  • Bob Shaw, The Ragged Astronauts.  SF.
  • Dana Stabenow, editor, The Mysterious North.  Anthology with twelve Alaskan mystery/suspense stories.  Also copyrighted by Martin Greenberg's Teckno Books.
  • Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger, The Rainbow Conspiracy. UFO bushwah.  The cover proclaims "THE GREATEST COVER-UP OF OUR TIME!" while the bibliography lists books by George Adamski, Gray Barker, Otto Binder, Raymond A. Palmer, and sixteen books by Brad Steiger; surprisingly, it also mentions books by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke; not surprisingly, it does not mention Philip Klass.  The bibliography also lists articles from such distinguished periodicals as Saga, Argosy, True, Male, Men, Real, UFO Universe, UFO Sightings, Flying Saucer Review, and Right to Know Forum.  Gotta love the cranks.
  • Maria Tatar, editor, The Classic Fairy Tales.  Collection with more than forty fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Joseph Jacobs, Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Anne Sexton, Roald Dahl, and others, as well as twwelve critcal essays by the editor, Bruno Bettelheim, Jack Zipes, and others.
  • Douglas P. Wojtowicz, Don Pendleton's The Executioner #291:  Blood Trade.  Men's adventure.
And the following e-books:

  • Linda DeMeulemeester, et al., Under the Needle's Eye.
  • William Campbell Gault, Don't Cry for Me.
  • Victor Gischler and Anthony Neil Smith, To the Devil My Regards.
  • Judith Ann McDowell, The Hay Fort.
  •  David B. Silva, The Presence.
  • "Jack Tunney" (Paul Bishop this time out), Felony Fists:  Fight Card.
  • Trent Zelazny, Found Money.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Woman in her fifties:  "Then he operated and I couldn't move my finger.  Now I can look!"  Waves hand, then continues, "Must have been the snake bite."

Companion nods knowingly.


Friday, May 4, 2012


MORE GREAT TALES OF HORROR edited by "Marjorie Bowen"

Marjorie Bowen was just one of at least five pseudonyms used by Gabrielle Margaret Vere Campbell Long (1886-1952) in a career that spanned over four and a half decades and included at least 160 books and plays.  Scattered among her many historical novels, biographies, histories, essays and plays were a number of supernatural and non-supernatural horror novels and stories, including the often reprinted story The Crown Derby Plate.

     She had a lifelong interest in the weird and the supernatural, one that waswell displayed in only two books that she edited:  Great Tales of Horror (1933) and More Great Tales of Horror (1935).  Critic and author Brian Stableford has called the anthologies "two of the best and most wide-ranging representatives of horror fiction."  I'm trying to obtain a copy of the first book and I'm fortunate to have the second book in front of me now.

     Subtitled "being a collection of strange stories of amazement, horror and wonder," More Great Tales of Horror contains 26 items, many from rare sources, and most written before 1840.  (One of the four Sheridan Le Fanu stories in the anthology was first printed in 1870 but was based on an earlier story he had published in 1838.)  Many of the stories had appeared in 18th and 19th century magazines and miscellania anonymously or as by "unknown" writers.  Some are folk tales; some are presented as fact.  Some involve the supernatural; some involve grue.  At least two of the stories were translated by Bowen from the original French.

     The contents are as follows:
  • Laird of Cassway by James Hogg.  The first of two stories in the book by Hogg, also known as The Ettrick Shepherd. Hogg was a good friend of Sir Walter Scott and the author of the classic novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.  Most of Hogg's works are now readily available online.
  • The Room with the Arras by W. W. Fenn.  The first of three stories taken from Fenn's collection Woven in Darkness.  The author was William Wilthieu Fenn (d. 1906), a blind writer and lecturer who is often confused with another W. W. Fenn -- William Wallace Fenn (1862-1932), a theologian who also penned a collection of fantasy stories, 'Twixt the Lights.  Even my friend Google confuses the two.
  • The Coffin Maker by Nikolai Poushkin, at least that's how they spell the name here.  Another story that is now available online.
  • Wicked Captain Walshawe of Wauling by Sheridan Le Fanu.  Le Fanu, of course, is considered the grandfather of the modern supernatural story.  He is represented with four stories in the anthology, all of which are now available online.
  • Wooden Woman by Allan Cunningham.  Cunningham was a 19th century poet who also wrote "oral treasures" from his native Scotland.  Wooden Woman is one of three such in the volume.
  • The Fatal Hour.  An anonymous story translated from the French by Bowen.
  • Elie Anderson's Revenge, an anonymous story from The Odd Volume (1830).
  • The Haunted Mill by Mrs. Catherine Crowe (circa 1799-1876).  One of three stories in the book from Mrs. Crowe's The Night Side of Nature, an exceedingly popular book of supernatural stories, culled from all the world, many of which were claimed to have been true.  (Mrs. Crowe evidently was sincere in her belief of the supernatural; when she was found naked one night in Edinburgh in the 1850s, she insisted that spirits must have taken her clothes.  Imagine her surprise when she was treated for mental illness.)  All of Mrs. Crowe's supernatural collections, as well as some of her gothic romances, are available online.
  • The Laird of Cool's Ghost is a reprint from an anonymous 18th century chapbook.
  • The Sexton's Adventure by Sheridan Le Fanu.
  • Ezra Penden by Allan Cunningham.
  • The Sutor of Selkirk is another anonymous story from The Odd Volume.
  • The Hand on the Latch by W. W. Fenn.
  • The Laird of Wineholm by James Hogg.
  • A Vision of Tom Chuff by Sheridan Le Fanu.
  • Fairy Bride is a traditional fairy tale.  By Anonymous, of course.  [Which reminds me that some day I should do a Forgotten Book post on Willard Espy's biography of that prolific author, Anonymous.]
  • Black Joe o' the Bow by James Smith is another old Scottish story.  One thing about these old stories:  their authors have never heard of political correctness.  This tale begins, "In the days no sae very lang syne, when the auld west Bow o' Edinburgh was in the deadthaw o' its glory, there lived an auld blackymore named Joe Johnson."
  • A Ghost in a Prison by Mrs. Catherine Crowe.
  • The Accursed Portrait is an anonymous story, originally written in German, but now translated by Bowen from from an early 19th century French version.
  • Infernal Major Weir is by Robert Chambers, LL.D.  Chambers,  along with his brother William, was a bookseller, publisher, and author; Bowen credits the brothers with collecting and preserving many of the stories and legends of Scotland.
  • Spectre Lovers by Sheridan Le Fanu.
  • The Murder Hole is another traditional story by our friend Anonymous.
  • Perling Joan by John Gibson Lockhart, Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law.
  • Ghost on the Chain Pier by W. W. Fenn.
  • Resurrection Men by D. M. Moir is another tale of grue from Scotland, laced with a special sense of humor.
  • Ghost with a Golden Casket by Allan Cunningham.
     This one is recommended for anyone interested in the development of ghost and horror stories, and who is not put off by flowery verbiage, some pseudo-reasoning, and/or written dialects.

     For those who are interested, here is the listing for Bowen's first anthology, as taken from Donald H. Tuck's The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (1974):

          Great Tales of Horror  (J. Lane, London, 1933, 415 pp., 7/6; 1935, 3/6)
               Weird, 29 stories (many are also in The Great Weird Stories [Neale], 1929): "The Gray
          Chamber," Anon.; "The Murder of Squire Langton," M. Bowen; "Sir Dominick Sarsfield," J. S.
          Le Fanu; "The Queen of Spades," A. Pushkin; "The Two Sisters of Cologne," Anon.; "The Witch
          (St. John's Eve)," Gogol; "The Ghost of a Head," Anon.; "The Great Keinpatz Experiment," A. C.
          Doyle; "The Woman's Ghost Story," A. Blackwood; "The Doppleganger," "The Dead Bride," Anon.;
          "The Tapestried Chamber," Sir W. Scott; "Almodoro's Cupid," W. W. Astor; "The Skull," Anon.;
          "The Magic Mirror," G. MacDonald; "The Red Room," H. G. Wells; "In Letters of Fire," G. Leroux;
          "The Legend of Dunblanc," Anon.; "The Shining Pyramid," A. Machen; "A Night in the Old Castle,"
          G. P. R. James.

     There appears to be more familiar stories in the first volume, but it stll looks worth checking out.


     For more of today's Forgotten Books, go to Patti Abbott's wonderful blog, pattinase.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Antiques Disposal by "Barbara Allan" (Barbara Collins & Max Allan Collins)

In their sixth Trash 'n' Treasure mystery, Barbara Allan has come up with another winner.  Brandy Borne and her mother Vivian go to a storage unit auction and (with a small ploy by Vivian involving phony mouse droppings) win their bid on the unit's contents.  The storage company's owner, Big Jim Bob, had been romantically linked to Vivian back in the day,and had tipped her that the unit likely held something valuable.  What was so valuable? Who knows?  The contents of the unit were boxed and the unit could not be inspected before the "blind" auction.

     Since Brandy and Vivian are involved, it's clear that another murder will rock the small Iowa town of Serenity.  Sure enough, after transporting half of the unit's boxes to their home, they return to find the storage unit now empty.  Empty, that is, with the exception of a rolled up rug containing Big Jim Bob's body.  Let the madcap adventure begin!

     Followers of this series know what is in store.  Vivian on her medication is only slightly less outrageous than when she is off her meds.  She feels it is her duty to assist the police in their investigation; that is, when she doesn't feel it is the police's duty to assist her in her investigation.  Brandy tries to her mother medicated, safe, and out of jail.  Brandy's sister, who has moved in with the pair after her husband's death, continues to try to live her status-oriented life while continuing bickering with Brandy.  Brandi and her mother continue their own bickering.  Sushi -- Brandy's old, blind, diabetic shih tzu -- continues to express her displeasure by peeing on things.  Borne family secrets, revealed to us in earlier books, threatened to be revealed to the world.

     Along the way, the reader is treated to a bright, funny, and fast-moving mystery involving classic jazz, a disinherited black sheep, feuding antique dealers, a Vietnam era romance, an original (?) Siegel and Shuster Superman drawing, a historic home, a gay administrative assistant whom Vivian wants to fix up with a nice girl, a senatorial reelection, and a Nero Wolfe style reveal.  We are also treated to interesting and quirky background stories for a number of Serenity natives. 

     All good fun and well-played, with numerous paranthetical and italicized asides from Vivian, Brandi, and their ever-suffering book editor. 

     Another charmer from Mr. and Mrs. Collins...and more to come!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

I have been following Stephen King's Dark Tower series, more or less, since the first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction some three decades ago.  I had stopped for a while after the third book, The Waste Lands; years later I tried Book Four, The Wizard and the Glass, buut the stars were not properly aligned (or something) and I just couldn't get into it.  Add a few more years and Robert Silverberg published the novelette The Little Sisters of Euleria in his Legends anthology and I gobbled it up.  Over the past year and a half I finally journeyed back to the Dark Tower and read the remaining four novels in the series.  (I also began devouring the Dark Tower graphic novels from Marvel.)  All this is a roundabout way of saying the characters, background, and mythology were still fresh in my mind when The Wind Through the Keyhole was published last week.

     A point has been made the The Wind Through the Keyhole can be read as a standalone; a few paragraphs of introduction is all that is needed for readers who are not familiar with the series.  Well...sorta.  If you have read the Dark Tower series, this book adds a layer of richness and understanding not only to Mid-World, but to other works by King that have been encrouched upon by the series.

     The Wind Through the Keyhole, at 309 pages, is not a doorstopper.  The framing story takes place between Books Four and Five.  Roland the gunslinger and his ka-tet (Eddie, Susannah, and Jake, along with Jake's  "pet," the billy-bumbler Oy -- who is not really ka-tet) have left the Emerald City and are traveling the Path of the Beam to Calla.  They take shelter from a violent storm known as a starkblast.  While waiting out the storm, Roland tells a story about his youth...

     The story takes place shortly after his return from Mejis, where young Roland had loved and lost Susan Delgado.  Roland's father has received reports of mass murders in the far-off town of Debaria at the edge of the alkalai flats; this reports hint that a skin-man (shape-shifter) may be responsible.  Roland and another young gunslinger, Jamie de Curry, are sent to settle things in Debaria, where they discover that the so-called shape-shifter might also be a shape-changer.  Shortly after Roland's arrival, the beast attacks a nearby ranch -- killing over twenty people, the only survivor an eleven-year-old boy, Billy Streeter.  To calm Billy, Roland tells a story that Roland's mother used to read to him...

     This story within a story within a story is The Wind Through the Keyhole, and it fills a good half of the book.  It tells of a young boy of Billy's age, Tim Ross, whose father was a woodcutter at the edge of a large and dangerous forest.  A few month's before tax time, word comes that Tim's father, Jack, has been incinerated by a dragon.  Without a husband to provide for them, Tim and his mother face losing their home.  Tim discovers the truth about his father's death and soon makes a dangerous journey to save his mother and to put him on the path of becoming Tim Stoutheart.

     The stories and characters in the book echo each other while each stand on their own.  The universe of Mid-World is slowly decaying and the Beams that hold its fragile reality are deing destroyed.  Time and space are being distorted in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in the series.  Fairies and mutants and long-lost computer and mechanical technology are apt to appear at any point in the telling.  It is significant that in the central story, taking place "long before your grandfather's grandfather was born," Tim's father Jack is dead.  Jack is the name for the hero of children's stories and legends:  Jack is the brave,  courageous, quick-witted one, the one who is nimble and quick, the one who chopped down the beanstalk.  Jack is our Odysseus:  if Oysseus had come from Ithaca, New York, rather than Ithaca, Greece, his name would have been Jack.  By killing Jack and leaving the resolution of the children's tale to Tim, King is telling us things are different in this world, that we should expect the unexpected.

     The framing story and the story within it and the story within that are all resolved, but not completely.  Questions remain, which is as it should be.  No story -- especially one of epic proportions -- can, or should, be wrapped up neatly.  But in this book, King takes us deeper into Roland's background and into his character, as the world he has been inventing for years shines through.

     Recommended, especially for those who have journeyed to the Dark Tower before.