Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Today is the birthday of Tom Paxton.

Here's the first song Tom wrote, sung by Tom, Noel Paul Stookey, and Peter Yarrow:

It's also the birthday of Gordon Bok.

Here's his classic Peter Kagan and the Wind:

Happy birthday to two of the most talented men on the planet!


Happy Halloween!


(This one from an old Red Skelton Show)

Two seagulls are talking.

First seagull:  Have you seen any of those new fancy cars that came out this fall?

Second seagull:  Sure. I spotted one yesterday.

(Insert rim shot here.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Today happens to be the birthday of three of the nicest people I know:  my niece Sarah, our friend Ellen,!

To help me celebrate my 66th birthday, I got a letter from the Social Security Adminstration informing me that they will no longer be covering me under a disability and will start covering me under retirement.

I am no longer disabled!  Wow!  With the stroke of a form letter, I'm cured!  Cured, I tell you!

So why do my bones still ache, I wonder.


'Tis the season.  Here are two of  the creepiest films ever made.  No explanations necessary.

First, from 1922, Nosferatu:

And, from 1920, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari:

Monday, October 29, 2012


  • "Marie Brennan" (Bryn Neuenschwanger), Doppleganger and Warrior and Witch.  Fantasy,  the Doppleganger duology.  The first has been reprinted as Warrior, the second as Witch.
  • Alafair Burke, Dead Connection.  The first Ellie Hatcher mystery.
  • Orson Scott Card, Sarah.  Historical novel, the first in Card's Women of Genesis series.
  • Philip R. Craig, Death in Vineyard Waters (originally The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea).  A J. W. Jackson mystery, retitled by Avon Books to better fit into their title for Craig's Jackson series  -- which Avon called "Martha's Vineyard" mysteries.
  • Elizabeth B. Custer, "Boots and Saddles" or, Life in Dakota With General Custer.  Memoir, and an attempt by his widow to portray Custer as a gentle, loving man.  I doubt if she can convince me, but this should give a good account of army life in the old West.  This is Volume 17 in The Western Frontier Library from the University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Norma Lorre Goodrich, King Arthur and Merlin.  Historical biographies of the legendary characters, drawing from the "fields of history, linguistics, anthropology, archeology, and literature."  Should be interesting.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor, Crash Dive.  Anthology of submarine warfare fiction; nine stories.
  • Virginia Hamilton, The People Could Fly:  American Black Folktales.  A classic collection of twenty-four folk tales.  The illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon are a joy.
  • Charlaine Harris, six mystery novels, including three in the Lily Bard series (Shakespeare's Landlord, Shakespeare's Champion, and Shakespeare's Trollop), two in the Aurora Teagarden series (A Boneto Pick and Three Bedrooms, One Corpse), and Harris' first book, a standalong (Sweet and Deadly).
  • Geraldine McCaughrean, Peter Pan in Scarlet.  The first-ever authorized sequel.
  • William T. Quick, Planet of the Apes.  Movie (yeah, of  the abysmal Mark Wahlberg version)tie-in.
  • Carsten Stroud, Sniper's Moon.  Thriller.
  • S. M. Stirling, Islandin the Sea of Time, Against the Tide of Years, and On the Oceans of Eternity.  Three novels of the Change, in which Nantucket Island is swept back in time to 1250 B.C.
  • Harry Turtledove, The Guns of the South.  Alt history SF.  AK-47s in the Civil War.
  • Harry Turtledove, S. M. Stirling, Mary Gentle, and Walter Jon Williams, Worlds That Weren't.  Collection of four alt history SF novellas.
  • J. E. A. Tyler, The Tolkien Companion.  A 1975 concordance of Tolkien's The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and The Road Goes Ever On.
  • Joseph A. West, Gunsmoke:  The Last Dog Soldier.  Television tie-in.  I'll save my Marshal Dillon for some far-off Bad Joke Wednesday post.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012


The news about tropical storm/hurricane/take-your-pick Sandy is not encouraging. Dubbed both Stormzilla and Frankenstorm, this weather pattern is expected to make life hell for many of us on the East Coast for the next week or so. Oue local gas station was crowded last night as people both their cars and gasoline containers. Hurricane Irene did a number on us last year and Sandy may do worse.

Of course, nobody knows how bad this storm will be or where it will hit, but the combination of a cold front coming in from the West and Sandy coming in from the East -- as well as Monday's full moon -- does not bode well. Because the East Coast is such a great place to be, Sandy is expected to stay for days, bringing perhaps twenty-four inches of rain. I'm located high enough so any flood won't reach us, although a number of places in our development are at risk. More at risk are several homes sited on cliffs directly adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay; the steady erosion of the cliffs have placed these homes in danger and Sandy may provide the coup de grace.  (What people were thinking when they built homes on such places escapes me.)

We lost a lot of trees and limbs last year during Irene.  Entrance to our development was cut off and an old path had to be opened up for traffic, although many people couldn't reach even that due to felled trees.  My neighbor across the street had his car pancaked by a large oak.  Power was out for five days and we stayed at a local hotel which had us moving from room to room daily, depending on their advanced reservations.  Christina and her family stayed with us in the room for the first two days (they needed our room's small refrigerator to hold medicine for one of the kids).

This time around we also have Declan (the dog who found and ate all the Halloween candy we had bough -- bad puppy!) to think about.  Christina has added Jack Patrick Kangaroo (now three months old and very happy about it) to the mix, as well as the Kangaroo's six-year-old sister whom Christina and Walt have just begun fostering, and Gormagon the bearded dragon (who joined the three dog/one cat/four goat/one ball python menangerie earlier this month).

I've removed everything lying loose on the front and back yards.  Hatches are battened.  We have food, water, candles, etc.  Over at Christina's, they have a generator in working order.  So we're good to go.

Here's hoping nothing happens.

And here's hoping that everyone else onthe East Coast remains safe.

Friday, October 26, 2012


In His Shadow by Dave Zeltserman (2002)

Johnny Lane is a Denver's most famous private eye, in part because of his monthly column in the Denver Examiner, "Fast Lane," which pulls its subject matter from Lanes' case files.  Two decades earlier, Lane had risen to fame because of newspaper headines proclaiming MAN GONE BESERK SHOT TO DEATH BY HERO DETECTIVE.  Suddenly, Johnny Lane's services were in demand and the demand kept growing and growing.

Two of Lane's latest cases are keeping him busy.  In the first, he is hired to find Debra Singer, a sixteen-year-old runaway who Lane finds working in an adult sex club.  He discovers that Debra's father had been sexually abusing her for years, and Lane is torn about returning her to that home.

The other case involves Mary Williams, a young college student determined to find her birth parents.  The Williams's, her adoptive parents don't approve of Mary's search but are willing to support it.  For reasons he can't fully understand, Lane offers his services to Mary at a large discount with no expenses.  The trail leads to a lawyer in Oklahoma City who has been dead for fifteen years.  Lane keeps digging and uncovers family secrets and bodies begin to pile up.

I won't go any further into the plot except to note that Zeltserman dedicated this -- his first book -- to the memory of Jim Thompson, one of America's greatest noir writers.  And no wonder.  You can almost hear Thompson whispering in Zeltserman's ear when he wrote this.

In His Shadow is a brutal novel, fast-paced and twisting like a rattlesnake.  But it is also a first novel, written by a hand that would become far more sure and secure as displayed by his later books.  There are flaws here, but there is also powerful writing. 

Dave Zeltersman is now justly recognized as one of the best crime writers in the business. Zeltserman revisited and revised the book in 2004 under the title Fast Lane.  I haven't read the revised version, but after seeing the leaps and bounds Zeltserman has made in his career, I can't wait to.


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

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I'm probably the zillionth person to post this, but it's time for Monster Mash.  I won'tt tell you how many times I have heard this song, but the mother of a good friend used to babysit for Bobby "Boris" Pickett, so I heard it an awful lot.  (And did you know that Edgar Winter was one oof the Cryptkicker Five?)

And the question that many people were asking all those years ago:  "Was the people eater purple, or did he only eat purple people?"

Another popular novelty song::

This owes more to George Romano than to The Walking Dead:

Here's Fran, sans Kukla and Ollie:

Here's a gent who dislikes the aftermath of Halloween:

Is there any place scarier than Disneyland?

Speaking of Disney...

Schoolchildren everywhere took this poem by M. G. Lewis...

and sang this:

Have a very frightful Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I asked Mark (age 12) is he knew any bad jokes and he said he had one about pizza, but wouldn't tell me because it was too cheesy.


Also from the younger set were these:

Q:  Why did Susie fall off the swing set?
A:  Because she had no arms!


Knock, knock
    Who's there?
Not Susie

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Some of my favorite heroes are mounties:  Sgt. Preston, Dudley Doright, Benton Fraser...and Renfrew of the mounties.

Douglas Renfrew blazed his way through ten books and seventeen stories by boys story writer Laurie York Erskine, a Scottish-born US writer who served in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I.  The popular Renfrew also spawned a radio show with House Jameson (I love his first name) in the title role.  Fifteen years after his creation, Refrew moved to films with James Newill as Renfrew of the Royal Mounted, the first of eight films which were later cannibalized to form a syndicated television show.

From the comments on the film from IMDB:

"...I'm not too sure who greenlighted the adventures of a singing Mountie, but here it is, and while it's entertaining, it sure makes some amusing factual errors.  James Newell stars as Renfrew, the dashing figure in  red, while not singing songs about Barbeque sauce (!!) he helps out a woman who gets inadvertently caught as bait while going to see her father, who unbeknownst to her, is beingforced to work as a counterfeiter for them bad Amerikans [sic]."  [Spuzzlightyear]

"...[W]hat would possess a film company like Grand National to come out with a picture about a singing Mountie..[A] counterfeiting ring goes to the trouble of smuggling forged bills inside the body cavaties of rainbow trout that are frozen in blocks of ice!...It seems that he's [Renfrew] a top contender for the best barbeque sauce in Canada contest, and wouldn't you know it, his number one competitor is the mastermind if the counterfeiting ring... Also on hand as a henchman for the bad guys is Chief Thundercloud, whose earliest claim to fame might have been as the original screen Tonto in the 1938 serial 'The Lone Ranger'."  [classicsoncall]

"The story is not profound, and has a tad of the science-fictional invention in it.  A gang of crooks has a member in it who's invented a kind of ray gun, carefully explained as a gun that sends out a tight beam of microwaves to short out the magnetos of an airplane...You could do far worse, but it's not a film to take seriously."  [skallisjr]

Who cannot love a movie with reviews like that.

In addition to the eight Renfrew movies, James Newell also starred in fourteen movies as Texas Ranger Jim Steel.  Carol Hughes was the leading lady on this one; over her eighteen-year movie career she appeared in such films as Earthworm Tractors, Scattergood Baines, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, Joe Palooka, Champ, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, and Mighty Joe Young.  In an uncredited and very minor role of a desk clerk is the versatile Dwight Frye -- certainly one of my favorite character actors.  Frye, of course, is best known as the insect-eating Renfield from Dracula.  (Say "Renfield, Renfrew" five time fast; a great party game.)

In an amazing coincidence, the film was directed by Albert Herman and was produced by someone named Al Herman. 

Feel free to sing a song about your favorite barbeque sauce as you watch this:

For more over today's Overlooked Films, visit Todd Mason's blog sweetfreedom.  Don't expect a barbeque sauce recipe, though -- just some great links.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Marina Chapman, a British housewife claims she was raied by monkeys in Colombia.  Chapman said that she had been kidnapped when she was five years old and left for dead in the jungle by her kidnappers.  There, according to her account, she was raised by capuchin monkeys.  After five years with the capuchins, she was found by hunters and sold to a brothel.

When her story was questioned by reporters, she flung her own excement at them.

Okay, I made up that last sentence.  I wonder what else was made up in this story.


A fairly hefty week, mostly SF.
  • John Joseph Adams, editor, By Blood We Live, The Living Dead 2, and Wastelands.  Juicy anthologies about (respectively) vampires, zombies, and the apocalypse.One hundred four stories total.
  • Lloyd Alexander, The Four Donkeys.  Juvenile from the author of the Prydain Chronicles.
  • Kurt Brand, Atlan in Danger and Shadow of the Mutant Master.  Two Perry Rhodans, numbers 82 and 49.  For those unfamiliar with the series, Perry was the hero of a long stream of pretty juvenile SF magazine novels published in Germany.  Forrest J. Ackerman edited a number of the novels and a bunch of typical 4SJ filler material for a (slightly less) long stream of paperbacks from Ace in the 1970s.
  • Steve Carper, editor, The Defective Detective:  Mystery Parodies by the Great Humorists.  Twenty-one swipes at the mystery genre.  Not to be confused with the "Defective Detective" anthologies from Bowling Green University Popular Press, which reprinted pulp tales of handicapped (some bizarrely so) detectives.
  • Jeanne Cavalos, editor, The Many Faces of Van Helsing.  Vampire anthology with twenty-one stories.
  • C. J. Cherryh, The Collected Short Fiction of C. J. Cherryh.  A total of twenty-nine SF and fantasy stories, including the contents of two earlier collections, Sunfall and Visible Light.
  • Joanna Cole, selector, Best-Loved Folktales of the World.  Selection of two hundred folktales, fairy tales, and legends.  Cole, who wrote the introduction, "selected" the contents, rather than editing the book.
  • Clark Dalton, Prisoner of Time.  Perry Rhodan #56.
  • Elen Datlow and Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant, editors, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror:  Twenty-First Annual Collection.  Thirty-three stories, six poems, and close to a hundred pages of summarization of 2007 in the genre.
  • Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, editors, Salon Fantastic:  Fifteen Original Tales of Fantasy.  Literary salons are the subject of this themed anthology.
  • Gardner Dozois, editor, The Year's Best Science Fiction:  Seventh Annual Collection, twenty-five of the best stories from 1989, and The Year's Best Science Fiction:  Twelfth Annual Collection, twenty-three of the best from 1994.
  • David Drake, Vettius and His Friends.  A Roman sword and sorcery collection with a dozen stories.
  • "Leslie Egan" (Elizabeth Linington", Paper Chase. A Jesse Falkenstein mystery.  A very popular writer, Linington published eighty mystery books over a twenty-eight year period (1960-1987) under her own name and as "Leslie Egan," "Dell Shannon," and "Anne Blaisdell."
  • Gordon Eklund, Lord Tedric #2:  Space Pirates.  Part of an original series based on a character created by E. E. 'Doc" Smith in 1953.  Space opera.
  • "Wesley Ellis," Lone Star and the Texas Killers.  Number 86 in the long-running adult western series.
  • Margaret Erskine, Harriet Farewell.  An Inspctor Finch mystery.
  • Philip Jose Farmer, Red Orc's Rage.  SF, a World of Tiers novel.
  • Leland Fetzer, editor and translator, Pre-Revoluntionary Russian Science Fiction:  An Anthology (Seven Utopias and a Dream).  From the 19th and early 20th centuries, eight stories.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor, The Further Adventures of Batman (fourteen stories of the Caped Crusader) and The Way It Was't:  Great Science Fiction Stories of Alternate History (thirteen stories).
  • Daniel Grotta, The Biography of J. R. R. Tolkein, Architect of Middle Earth.  Non-fiction.  Glancing at some of the reference notes at the back of the book, this one may be a little snaky and opinionated; time will tell.  This is the second edition (1978) and includes an epilogue on the then-recently published The Silmarillion, although this is not covered in the book's index.
  • Harry Harrison, editor,  SF: Authors' Choice.  A dozen authors each selected one of their own favorite stories.
  • Harry Harrison and Robert Sheckley, Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Bottled Brains.  The second in the continued adventures of Harrison's hapless, not-so-bright space hero.
  • David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, editors, Year's Best SF 9.  Twenty stories from 2003.
  • Morris Hershman, The Crash of 2086.  SF novel from a writer better known in the mystery and gothic fields.  Originally published as Shareworld.
  • Philip E. High, The Prodigal Sun.  SF.
  • Frank J. Hutton, editor, Butcher Shop Quartet.  Four horror stories.
  • Maxim Jakubowski, editor, The  Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries.  Thirty-seven stories from 2006, although one (a promotional BMW audio drama) is copyrighted 2005.
  • Yvonne Jocks, Witches' Brew.  Horror compilation of thirty-eight items, including some poetry and non-fiction.
  • Stephen Jones, editor, Visitants:  Stories of Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts.  fantasy anthology with twenty-seven stories.
  • Stephen Knight, editor, Crimes for a Southern Christmas.Sixteen crime stories from Down Under.
  • Tanith Lee, Black Unicorn(the first book in the Unicorn trilogy), Vazkor, Son of Vazkor and Quest for the White Witch (the cecond and third books of the Birthgrave trilogy), and Lycanthia; or, The Children of Wolves (a werewolf novel).
  • Brian Lumley, seven books in the Necroscope horror series, including Blood Brothers and Bloodwars (both featuring Harry Keogh's twin sons), Necroscope:  The Lost Years and Necroscope:   Resurgence:  The Lost Years, Volume 2, and three books featuring the new Necroscope, Jake Cutter:  Necroscope:  Invaders, Necroscope:  Defilers, and Necroscope:  Avengers.
  • George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind.  The classic children's fantasy.  MacDonald was a Scottish minister and this edition is published under the general heading of "Christian Fiction Classics" by a company whose "mission is to publish and distribute inspirational prodects offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses."  There is no indication of what edition this printing is of, although I suspect that it's the 1870 edition, rather than the simplified 1914 version.
  • Kurt Mahr, more Perry Rhodan:  The Blue Dwarfs (#54), The Atom Hell of Grautier (#71), and Enemy in the Dark (#85).
  • George R. R. Martin, editor, Wild Cards V -- Down and Dirty and Wild Cards VI -- Ace in the Hole.  "Mosaic" novels cotaining eight and twelve stories, respectively. 
  • Anne McCaffrey, The Renegades of Pern and The Masterharper of Pern, the seventh and twelfth books in the Pern-acious (ha-ha, get it?) Dragonriders series.  Also, The Wings of Pegasus, and omnibus of the first two books in the Talents series:  the collection To Ride Pegasus and the novel Pegusus in Flight.  And, finally, the third book in the Petaybee (Powers) series written with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Power Play.
  • Mary Ann Mitchell, The Witch.  Horror.
  • Andre Norton, Merlin's Mirror and Yurth Burden.  Sf novels.  And, Perilous Dreams, a collection of four stories.
  • Andre Norton & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Catfantastic.  Fifteen fantasy stories with cats.  Well, duh.
  • Mel Odom, F.R.E.E. Lancers (gaming tie-in), Lethal Interface (SF), Might and Magic:  The Sea of Mist (gaming tie-in), and Stalker Analog (SF). 
  • Kim Paffenroth, editor, The World Is Dead.  Eighteen zombie stories.
  • Otto Penzler, editor, Dead Man's Hand:  Crime Fiction at the Poker Table.  Fifteeen stories.
  • S. J. Perelman, Eastward Ha!  Travel done humorously by one of the greats.
  • Gary Philips and Christopher Chambers, editors, The Darker mask:  Heroes from the Shadows.  Eighteen stories of marginalized superheroes.
  • Douglas Preston, Impact.  SF thriller.
  • "John Rackham" John Phillifent, Beanstalk.  SF.
  • Robert J. Randisi, editor, First Cases, Volume 3.  Mystery anthology of twelve stories.
  • "Marilyn Ross" (W. E. D.Ross), Memory of Evil.  Gothic.
  • Robert Sheckley, Hunter/Victim and Victim Prime.  SF books in the Victim series.
  • E.E. "Doc" Smith with Stephen Goldin, The Purity Plot.   Number 6 in the Family D'Alembert SF series based on a story by Smith.
  • Thomas Burnett Swann, Lady of the Bees, Moondust, and The Tournament of Thorns.  Fantasies.
  • Don Thompson & Dick Lupoff, editors, The Comic-Book Book, Second Edition.  Nostalgia.  Thirteen articles on a fascinating subject.
  • Brian M. Thomsen, editor, A Yuletide Universe:  Sixteen Fantastical Tales.  Fantasy and Christmas -- a classic combination.   
  • Arthur Tofte, Crash Landing on Iduna.  SF.  One of the early books in the Laser Books line.  I don't know if the book is any good, but the Freas cover is great.
  • E. C. Tubb, four books in the Dumarest of Terra series:  Technos (#7), Zenya (#11),  Web of Sand  (#20), and Earth Is Heaven (#27).  Technos, an Ace Double, is back by the eight-story collection A Scatter of Stardust.  SF.
  • A. E. van Vogt, Supermind.  A fix-up SF novel based on the stories "Asylum," 'Research Alpha," and "The Proxy Intelligence."
  • Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, A Rumor of Dragons.  Gaming tie-in, Part 1 of Dragonlance Chronicles.  This is a YA edition and was originally part of 1984's Dragons of Autumn Twilight.
  • Colin Wilson, The Desert and The Tower.  The first two books in the Spider World SF sequence.
  • Bari Wood, Amy Girl.  Horror novel.  Sooooo glad my amy Girl (now 14) is not evil.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


When she was young, my sister loved horses.  She would draw pictures of them in her school notebooks.  I don't know if she could ever draw anything else, but she drew a darned good horse.  For a while she owned one and named him Gypsy, after a drive-in movie we saw titled (I believe) Gypsy Colt, and weekends were spend at 4-H riding competitions.  She devoured books about horses:  Black Beauty, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and every The Black Stallion book she could get hold of.  She made me read Walter Farley's The Black Stallion, which I did grudgingly until I realized that the horse was an alien from ouer space; later I returned the favor by getting her to read some Arthur C. Clarke.  She carried her love of reading with her throughout her life. 

As a teenager, she was hooked on Connie Francis, the Everly Brothers, and Pat Boone.  Remember those old rectangular cases that held a collection of 45s?  My sister's was pink with a large black half note imprinted on the front;  it was always stuffed and every corner was worn.  She also discovered country music through Jim Reeves and others.  She saved up her money and bought an Ernest Tubb album because she had read that he was one of the great country and western singers; and she was unpleasantly surprised.  "He can't sing!" she told me.  Linda had expected all great country singers to sound like Jim Reeves and all country groups to sound like The Sons of the Pioneers.  Later on, she began to appreciate the type of country music that was not played on the top 40.

Linda loved to talk.  I think she was born talking.  The day before I married Kitty, my parents held a get-together at their house.  One of Kitty's bridesmaids, a friend from New Jersey, was there and I jokingly told her to be kind to my sister because she was not all there mentally and loved to talk.  Much, much later we discovered that she and Linda had talked for a long while and she actually believed that Linda was a couple of cards shy of a full deck.  Linda laughed and laughed when we told her but I don't know if she ever forgave me.  And once, while visiting Linda and her second husband, he and I went to the local store.  Buck, her husband, asked me to just play along when we went into the store.  He introduced me to the store owner, saying that I was Linda's brother but that I couldn't talk  because Linda talked so much while I was a kid I never had a chance to learn to talk.  The storeowner believed us.  Again, I don't know if Linda ever fully forgave me, but she sure did laugh.

She married three times, all to pretty great guys.  He first two husbands, though, had hidden demons that helped to break up the marriages.  She was with her third husband for over twenty-five years until her death earlier this month.  From her first marriage came her children, Becky and Joe, who always remained a major part of her life and her love.

Linda was easy to love because she radiated love.  She had a kind and open heart.  I doubt she hated anyone in her entire life.  Linda was the person who befriended elderly neighbors and would drop in often just to chat.  I'm sure you've known the type.  Young girls would often stop by with their traumas of growing up and Linda would soothe them, sympathize with them, make them smile. 

And Linda would laugh with them.  Linda loved to laugh.  A friend on Facebook noted that every posting about her mentioned laughter, which is a great tribute.  The last time I talked with Linda over the phone was a couple of weeks before she died.  (She lived in Florida; I live in Southern Maryland.)  My brother and his daughter Julie were visiting Linda.  Julie had just broken up with her boyfriend and the three of them were trying to think of the worst curse words possible to describe the ex.  For some reason, I know not why, they decided that the most creative curser in the world had to be me, so, all of them laughing like crazy, they got me on the phone.  I told them that Julie's ex was lower than the pus in a pimple on the penis of a protozoa in a Patagonian pit.  And so the last thing I heard from Linda was her laughter.  Fitting.

Linda's life was not easy.  A stroke affected her memory and she would have to use written directions to drive to the local grocery story and back.  She told me the x-rays of her brain showed a black spot the size of a pack of cigarettes, a good analogy for someone who smoked like a trooper.  Years ago, she suffered from cardiomyopathy and had been placed on a heart transplant list.  This just pissed Linda off and she scoured the internet looking for information on cardiomyopathy, which led to changes in diet and lifestyle.  Her heart improved, she was taken off the list, and I still don't know if this was solely because of the changes she made or because the docter who made the original diagnosis was a dud.  Either way, Linda lived for a long time afterwards and she grew to love the internet.

The internet allowed her to follow her two great passions, cooking and geneology.  She ended up moderating two blogs, one on each subject.  A few years ago, a number of her blogging friends who had never met each other in person trekked to the Tampa area to meet Linda.  She was thrilled and I sincerely doubt they were disappointed.

A number of months ago Becky called me to say that her mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and did not have long to live.  Yet whenever I talked with Linda on the phone she exuded happiness and laughter, and was more interested in what my kids and grandkids were doing than anything else.  Still, that mindless, evil cancer spread through her body and finally took her.  A pyrrhic victory, perhaps, because the laughter remains.

And the hugs.  My daughter said that Linda gave the greatest hugs.  Whenever I laugh, whenever I hug, a part of my sister remains.  Which is as it should be because I cannot imagine a world that does not have at least a part of Linda.


Sometimes you need an isle in the storm, a quiet and peaceful moment...

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I'm getting tired of politics and attempts at political one-upsmanship.  But the debates?  sometimes they are a gas!

Friday, October 19, 2012


No Blade of Grass by John Christopher (1957)

One thing (among many) that British science fiction excels at is the disaster novel.  From H. G. Wells through John Wyndham to J. G. Ballard, British writers have put paid to the world in just about every way imaginable.  Whether it is due to something they put in their tea or in their Wheatabix, I don't know, but they usually come up with something enjoyably grim.

Grim is the world best suited for No Blade of Grass, written by Samuel Youd under his SF pseudonym "John Christopher."   Christopher had been part of the blossoming of British SF that took place in the early 1950s, writing popular tales about Max Larkin, set in a future that is controlled by business bureacracy, but it was this book that brought him his first great recognition.

Published in England as The Death of Grass in 1956, the book chronicles the rapid destruction of society when a fungus originating in China begins killing all grasses (including wheat and other basic staples of the food chain) and spreads rapidly throughout the world.  Without grain, livestock die.  Oceans are soon farmed out and root crops (potatoes, turnips, carrots) are enough to feed the large population.  Anarchy begins and people start to kill one another to gain just a small edge in survival.  The British government is soon run by a man who plans to drop atomic bombs on all major cities, his sole purpose to thin the country's population by at least half in order to make what food there is go around.

John Custace is an architechural engineer living in London, with his wife and two children.  His brother, David owns a farm -- land that is nestle by high hills and steep cliffs with only a narrow (and easily defendable) entrance to the valley.  It is there where John and his family hope to find refuge and survive the coming apopcalypse.  All that is necessary is for John and his family to get there.

No Blade of Grass first hit America as a seven-part serial in The Saturday Evening Post and was widely popular; its publication later that year by Simon and Schuster made it a best-seller and one of the most popular SF books of the year.  Cornell Wilde directed a film based on the book in 1960, and in 2009 it was presented as a five-part radio play on BBC.  So perhaps the book is not truly forgotten (it was reissued by Penguin a few years ago), buyt it is certainly not as widely read as it should be.

Grim and shocking, No Blade of Grass still holds up very well after over half a century.

Patti Abbott, as usual, will have more of today's Forgotten Books and the links at her blog, pattinase.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I just found out that my sister has passed away from what basically was cancer of the everything.  I've known this moment was coming for months now but that does not minimize the shock.  Linda was a good person with a heart of gold, loved by everyone.  In my heart I know the universe is not fair, but Linda's death at age 69 is just not fair.  It's going to take me a bit to process the thought of a world without her.  I happen to have items in the queue through to Monday, but I just don't know what I am  going to be doing (or feeling) over the next few days.

Rest in peace, Linda.


Delibes and Joan can you go wrong?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Jeffrey Dahmer claimed he would never eat a clown because they taste funny.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Actor Arnold Ridley had an inspiration after he had been stranded at a railroad station in Bristol one night in 1923 and he turned that inspiration into a play, The Ghost Train.  The play was a huge hit and ran for almost a year and half (from 1925 to 1927) in its original London run.

It was turned into a silent motion picture in 1931.  Directed by Walter Forde, it starred comic stage actor Jack Hulbert.  Only five reels of the film are known to survive; the only known complete copy of the film had been seized and destroyed by British Customs for copyright infringement.

But the play was popular and a 1937 film was based on it, along with another 1937 film (Oh, Mr. Porter!) based on that version of the film.  (Confused yet?)  Late that same year, the BBC broadcast a well-received 40 minute version of the play.  And in 1939 Der Spooktrein, a German version, was filmed.

The version we are discussing today was made in 1941 and film critic Leslie Hallowell has said that it is almost a scene by scene remake of the 1931 film -- even using some of the surviving footage from the earlier film.   The major differences between the two films were that the 1941 film was updated to World War II and that one character's role had been split into two roles.

The 1941 version was directed once again by Walter Forde (The Gaunt Stranger, Alias Bulldog Drummond, an a string of others over a 30-year career).  This version was written by J. O. C. Orton, who had written the Oh, Mr. Porter! four years earlier.  Added dialogue was written by now legendary writer/director Val Guest and Marriot Edgar, both of whom co-wrote the Oh, Mr. Porter! screenplay with Orton.

The film starred Arthur Askey (a well-known British comedian), Richard Murdoch (best-known now for his role as Uncle Tom in the Rumpole series of mysteries), and Kathleen Harrison (an accomplished character actress perhaps best known for her Cockney accent and her role as Mrs. Dilber in the Alistair Sim version of Scrooge). 

Among the rest of the cast were Raymond Huntley (who was the first actor to play Dracula on stage), Betty Jardine (who happened to have a small role in Oh, Mr. Porter!), and Linden Travers (The Lady Vanishes and the title role in No Orchids for Miss Blandish).

The hackneyed plot involves a group of passengers who are stranded at a railway station.  The station manager tries to warn them away with the story of a phantom train that goes throught the station and all who see the train are doomed.  Normal right-thinking Britishers, of course, would see through such a ploy, but this is a film of course, so they don't.  The atmosphere, the special effects (such as they are), and the all-star cast of (mainly) stage actors make this one worth a lokk.

Most recently, the BBC did another radio version of the play, which has aired at least four times since 2008.  The Ghost Train still lives!


Todd will have the links to more of today's Overlooked Films at his blog, sweetfreedom.

Monday, October 15, 2012


  • Piers Anthony, Bearing an Hourglass.  Fantasy, Book Two of Incarnations of Immortality.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife.  Fantasy omnibus of the two books in the series:  Beguilement and Legacy.
  • Alan Dean Foster, The Chronicles of Riddick. Movie tie-in novel.
  • Arthur Goldwag, -Isms and -Ologies:  All the Movements, Ideologies, and Doctrines That Have shaped Our World.  Non-fiction.
  • Faith Hunter, Skinwalker.  Fantasy.  A Jane Yellowrock novel.
  • "Robert Jordan" (James O. Rigny, Jr.), Conan the Triumphant.  Sword and sorcery with Robert E. Howard's famous barbarian hero.
  • Donna Leon, Death and Judgment and Drawing Conclusions.  Both Commissario Brunetti mysteries.
  • Paul & Bil Lepp, The Monster Stick & Other Appalachian Tall Tales.  Twenty-three stories told by one or the other of these brothers at the West Virginia State Liars Contestin the 1980s and 1990s.  Paul won the "Biggest Liar" title six times and Bil won the title four times.  At least, that's what they said.
  • Jonathan Letham, Gun, with Occasional Music.  The classic private eye/kangaroo SFnovel.
  • David Liss, A Spectacle of Corruption. Historical mystery.  A sequel to the author's Edgar-winning A Conspiracy of Paper.
  • Jonathan Lowe, Geezer.  I thought this would be a biography of Bill Crider, but,'s a thriller with SF elements.
  • "Jack McKinney" ( Brian Daley and James Lucerno), Robotech:  The Sentinels #4:  World Killers.  Television  tie-in novel, 16th in the overall series.
  • Jonathan Maberry, Dead Man's Song.  Horror.
  • L. E. Mosdesit, Jr., ten of the first eleven books in the Saga of Recluce:  #1:  The Magic of Recluce, #2:  The Towers of the Sunset, #3:  Magic Engineer, #4:  The Order War, #5:  The Death of Chaos, #7:  The Chaos Balance, #8:  The White Order, #9:  Colors of Chaos, #10:  Magi'i of Cyador, #11:  Scion of Cyador; and the last four books (#2-5) in the Spellsong Cycle:  The Spellsong War, Darksong Rising, The Shadow Soceress, and Shadowsinger.  Fantasies all.
  • "John Norman" (John F. Lange, Jr.), The Telnarian Histories:  The Captain.  The author took a break from his Gor novels after number twenty-five.  This one is the second in a trilogy.  Since the book is "dedicated to all who disapprove of censorship," I suspect this one has all the sex, sadism, and misogeny as the Gor books.
  • Rudy Rucker, Infinity and the Mind:  Science and the Philosophy of the Infinite.  Non-fiction from a guy who likes to mess with your head.
  • Nancy Springer, Wings of Flame.  Fantasy.
  • Jack Vance, the three volumes in the Cadwal Chronicles:  Araminta Station, Ecce and Old World, and Throy.  SF.
  • David Weber, The Short VictoriousWar.  Military SF.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012


1961 was a big year for my hometown; that was the year that the town's first and only drive-in opened.  (I'm talking drive-in theaters [remember them?], not drive-in restaurants.)  The first evening the drive-in was opened, teenagers flooded to the place, drawn by the lure of something new.  Being teenagers, they turned the volume control on each speaker up to deafening.  The first feature shown back then happened to be a Japanese monster flick called Reptilicus.  The monster Reptilicus had a loud, cawing cry.  That evening, the cry could be heard clearly at my house, some two miles from the drive-in.  I can remember hearing those cries and wishing I had been able to be there at the drive-in.

Enough nostalgia.  Here's the flick, presented in eight parts:

Friday, October 12, 2012


AKHNATON:  A PLAY IN THREE ACTS by Agatha Christie (1973)

Today is Agatha Christie Day on Friday's Forgotten Books.  Many of us will be focusing on one book or another by the Mistress of Mystery.  Although best known for her mysteries, Christie also wote mainsteam romantic novels, poetry, fantasy, and plays.  Although most of her published plays are in the mystery genre, one -- AKHNATON -- stands out, perhaps because it does not seem to have had any professional performances and perhaps because it is based on a historical person.

Akhnaton, as a man, is shrouded in mystery, which makes him a fitting subject for Christie.  His birthdate is unknown, but he was a son of Amenhotep III, and ruled from 1353-1336 BC (give or take a few years).  He may have acted as co-regent with his father before that, but that is speculation.  Anyway, for the first few years of his reign, he ruled as Amenhotep IV, then changed his name as Akhnaton (or Akhenaten) and proclaimed himself the son of Ra (or Aton), the sun god.  He declared that worship of Aton would be the religion in Egypt and he had a great city built on the Upper Nile to become the capitol of the country.  All other religions were apparently banned.

What few images of the man show (perhaps deliberately so) a distorted person.  We do know that he had a long skull and a protruding jaw (think H. P. Lovecraft).  He was married to Nefertiti, supposedly one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He had a number of daughters and was probably the father (by another woman) of his successor Tutankhaton (later Tutankhamun).  At his end of his life, Anhknaton's body was greatly distoted, giving rise to numerous theories about his death.  After Anhknaton's death, Egypt went back to its old gods, and the memory of Anhknaton was erased until the 19th century.  Slowly a contradictory picture of the man has begun to emerge.

Many people credit Anhknaton as the protogentitor of monotheism, although this may be an extreme view.  He certainly was a promoter of one god above all others.  Several have linked him as the origin of the Moses myth in Judeaic tradition.

Christie was greatly interested in archeology and the Middle East through her marriage to Max Mallowan. She originally wrote this play in 1937 with the help of Egyptologist friend Stephen Glanville.  The play was evidently written for her pleasure only and was then set aside.  She came across the manuscript in the early Seventies, and since there had been some recent interest in Tutankhamun, she made a few revisions and sent it to her publisher.

Christie's Akhnaton is a mythic and tragic figure, part dreamer and part mystic.  Raise surrepitiously by his mother to worship Ra, he comes to believe that the sun is the giver of life and of warmth.  Akhnaton, however, does not worship the physical object; rather, he feels that godhood lies in the sun's energy, its heat.

He considers the worship of idols and effigies to be meaningless -- a god cannot be constrained by man's image of him.  As an aesthete, Anhknaton also believes in nonviolence and in the essential goodness of man.  Innocents may be slaughtered in the name of nonviolence, but eventually mankind will learn the benefits of peace.  Thus, while Egypt's kingdom is being invaded and its allies slaughtered,  Akhnaton does nothing because he does not want blood on his hands.

The play covers the entire reign of Akhnaton, from the death of his father to the beginning of Tutankhaum's reign.  While Amenhoten II is dying, the prince (soon to be known as Amenhotep IV) becomes friends with a young soldier, Horemheb.  Horemheb swears allegience to the prince which begins a life-long friendship which eventually casts Horemheb as the leader of Egypt's army.

Christie's Akhnaton has room for only one love, his bride Nefertiti.  Nefertiti is beautiful and faithful but not the brightest woman in Egypt -- that claim could go to her sister Nezzemut who bemoans that her sister got the beauty in the family while she received the brains.  Akhnaton refuses to take any other brides (including Nezzemut), even though Nefertiti has presented him with daughters only.  He names one of his sons-in-law, Tutankhaton, to be his heir.  While Egypt lies broke and near ruin, priests of the deposed god Amon convince Horemhab that his true loyalty lies to Egypt and not to the king.  With the aid of Nezzemut, they plot to poison the king, raising the boy Tutankhaton to the throne.  After a few years, the boy could be disposed of and Horemheb could rule and rebuild the kingdom.  In a cruel twist, the plot relies on Nefertiti being the unknowing engine of Akhnaton's doom.

Our understanding of that era has changed a bit since 1973.  Akhnaton did have more than one wife and several consorts, including (most probably) some of his daughters.  Tutankhamun was almost certainly Anhknaton's son by one of his mistresses.  Anhknaton was also probably far more concerned with governing than the effetist dreamer that Christie portrayed.

But the story that Christie has given us has power.  Like Icarus, Christie's hero flew far to close to the sun and paid the price.  Sadly, with eleven separate scene changes within the three acts and with twenty speaking roles, most of us will never get to see this play performed.  We can read it, though, and imagine.

Recommended -- especially for those who want to see another side of the Mistress of Mystery.


For more on Christie (and other Forgotten Books), see Patti Abbott's ever-fascinating blog, pattinase.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


As anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis (yes, both of you!) know, I love obituaries.  I especially love the local obituaries from Southern Maryland because they have a flair I have not found in those I have read in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Virginia.  Obituaries here appear to be written by the deceased's family members who come to praise their loved ones, not just bury them.  Fulsome praise is, at times, combined with grammatical errors, misplaced words, an inexplicable spelling.  Nonetheless, this type of obituary can give one a clear idea of the deceased's life -- often one of a life well-lived.

Anyway, Doris Williams passed away at age 69 on September 16.  She "truly be missed for her gentle spirit and her enormous heart that embraced each and everyone who crossed her path."  A woman of faith, she worked as a phyical therapist aid until she retired because of illness.  And here is where a wrongly-used homophone adds another dimension to the meaning of her life:

"Doris was a hard worker and in her own rite became a Spiritual Counselor to every patient she served."

True, I believe, in both the intended and the unintended meanings of the sentence.

Another person -- one of many -- I wish I had known.

May she rest in peace.


From 1954, featuring the Durango Kid, Straight Arrow, Red Hawk, the Calico you can play a guitar in seven days (or your money back), get your own glow in the dark Ghost Rider mask, or get a live toy circus with a real live chameleon!  Yep, here's thrills, action, and gunfire, where the good guys always win and stereotypes abound.

Time to be a kid again!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My brother e-mailed me a sheep joke which I am not going to post here.  But in honor of him, here are some sheep:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Before I was a lad, back when I was just a tad, my favorite television show was The Rootie Kazootie Club.  Of course, I never knew that was the name of the show; to me, it was just Rootie Kazootie, the brave little boy puppet who defeat the bad Poison Zoomack in his attempts to steal Polka Dottie's polka dots.  In my memory, there's no image of Zoomack also trying to steal Rootie Kazootie's magic kazootie (something he evidently did on a regular basis); is it Freudian that I obsessed on polka dots rather than kazoos?

According to Wikipedia, Rootie Kazootie began as Rootie Tootie on WNBT, New York, on October 14, 1950.  The live studio audience of kids began to call the lead puppet "Rootie Kazootie" because of his magical kazoo, leaving  the studio to change the show's name from The Rootie Tootie Club to The Rootie Kazootie Club.  By July, NBC was airing the show nationally.  NBC kept the show until November of 1952; the next month, ABC picked up the show and aired it until May 1954.  The show ran for 15 minutes weekdays and 30 minutes on Saturdays, but I have no idea whetheror not this was a regular schedule.

Anyway, Rootie was an all-American boy puppet, wearing his trademark baseball cap with the oversized brim turned up.  He had a dog named Gala Poochie Pup and a (purely platonic) girlfriend named Polka Dottie, as well as his friend El Squeako Mouse.  Rootie's human friends included host "Big Todd" Russell (played by himself) and mute policeman Mr. Deetle Dootle (played by John Schoeopperle, then later by John Vee).  Puppeteer Paul Ashley was the man behind the curtain and the puppet voices were supplied by Naomi Lewis and Frank Milano.

I was not the only kid caught up in the Kazootie fever:  I was joined by two to three million other kids.  The show spawned children's books, comic books, toys, and games.

For a while my young attention was also focused on a very cheesy show called (I believe) Johnny Jupiter, which evidently had two incarnations during 1953-4;  it was the second version of the show that I watched.  This one had sets that out-Ed Wooded Ed Wood.  But despite the lure of Jupiter, my young heart remained more with my original obsession.

Yes, I was easily amused back then.

Luckily, I grew older and soon moved on to another obsession:  Hopalong Cassidy!

Anyway, from 1953, here's an episode entitled Poison Zoomack and His Magnet:

And here's a recording featuring "Mitchell" Miller and His Orchestra:

And a comic book episode from 1954:


For more Obsolete Films, etc., saunter over to Todd Mason's blog, sweetfreedom, where Todd will have all the links (unless he is preoccupied bythinking about Renee Russo as Natasha Fatale).

Monday, October 8, 2012


  • [anonymously edited], Great Detective Stories.  Small paperback for the YA market with five out-of-copyright stories.
  • Piers Anthony and Frances Hall, Pretender.  Stand-alone SF.
  • Margaret Ball, Mathemagics.  A Chicks in Chainmail fantasy novel.
  • Iain M. Banks, Inversions.  SF.
  • Neal Barrett, Jr., Dungeons & Dragons:  The Movie.  Movie tie-in.
  • Terry Brooks, The Scions of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara.  Fantasies.
  • Laura J, Burns and Melinda Metz, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Apocalypse Memories. Television tie-in novel.
  • Charles de Lint, Philip Jose Farmer's The Dungeon, Book 3:  The Valley of Thunder.  SF.  Does anyone else remember when Farmer spelled "Jose" without an accent on the "e"?
  • William C. Dietz, Halo:  The Flood.  Gaming tie-in novel.
  • David Drake, Grimmer Than Hell.  SF collection of fourteen stories.
  • M. Coleman Easton, The Fisherman's Curse.  Fantasy.
  • Alan Dean Foster, For Love of Mother-Not. A Pip & Flinx SF novel.
  • Rick Hautala, Moon Walker.  Horror.
  • Mercedes Lackey, Bardic Voices, Book I:  The Lark and the Wren.  Fantasy.
  • Edward M. Lerner, Small Miracles.  SF.
  • Ardath Mayhar, Golden Dream:  A Fuzzy Odyssey. SF novel in H. Beam Piper's "Fuzzy" universe.
  • Anne McCaffrey, Crystal Singer and The Tower and the Hive.  Sf both; the first based on four stories in Roger Elwood's Continuum series, the second is part of the Rowan series.
  • William P. McGivern, Summitt.  Thriller.
  • China Mieville, The Scar.  Fantasy.
  • Andrew Neiderman, The Devil's Advocate.  Horror novel, basis of the Al Pacino-Keanu Reeves film.
  • Jody Lynn Nye, School of Light.  Fantasy, sequel to Waking in Dreamland.
  • Eric Nyland, Halo:  The Fall of Reach.  Gaming tie-in novel.
  • Nick Pollotta, Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan:  Stealth Sweep.  Another in the long-running men's adventure series.  Evidently Gold Eagle has stopped numbering these; this one was released in July 2011.
  • R.A. Salvatore, Forgotten Realms:  The Chaos Curse. Gaming tie-in.  Book Five of The Cleric Quintet.
  • Sharon Shinn, Archangel.  SF.
  • Philip Straker, Night Lust.  Serial killer thriller.
  • Trisha Telep, editor, Kiss Me Deadly.  Anthology of thirteen "paranormal love" stories.  this one's an ARC from August 2010.
  • Immanuel Velikovsky, Oedipus and Akhnaton:  Myth and History.  The author's pairing of Greek  myth and Egyptian history.  Anything by Velikovsky should be taken with a grain of salt but Anmhknaton has always fascinated me, so...
  • David Weber, Bolo!  Three novellas and a short story in the SF universe created by Keith Laumer.
  • Bari Wood, Doll's Eyes.  Horror.
  • Chris Woodyard, Haunted Ohio.  Folklore.  This one is a signed copy.
  • Jane Yolen, The One-Armed Queen and Sister Light, Sister Dark.  YA fantasies in the Great Alta Saga.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


For a dumb dog, Declan is pretty smart although is most times wrong.  When I have shoes on, his little brain thinks I'm going to take him outside where there are all sorts of things to smell and pee on and where there are so many evil things going on -- such as birds that dare to sing and squirrels who dare to exist.  He has not gotten the memo that the relationship to my wearing shoes and his going outside is not always balanced in his favor.  He also believes that my going outside equates with his going outside, no matter how I might feel about that.  He moves much faster than I do (heck, a doorknob moves much faster than I do) and can often get out the door before I do, whereupon he frolics and sniffs and pees all over the neighborhood.  I can't catch him but I can stop him.  This is accomplished merely by opening the car door.  When I do this, Declan immediately stops mid-sniff or mid-pee or mid-whatever and thinks,  "Hoo boy!  I'm going for a car ride!  I get to ride in the car!  The car!  I must be a really good dog!  A car ride!  For me!  Whoot!"  And Declan jumps into the car and I immediately put a leash on him and drag him back to the house.  This happens every time.  Declan does not give up hope, however, because he knows that one day...

So we have now developed a routine.  Kitty holds the dog while I go out the front door.  I then tap on the front window to get Declan's attention while Kitty sneaks out the back door.  Declan is smart enough to figure out what we are doing but he's dumb enough to come to the front window every time I tap.  Because he knows the one day...

Yesterday we did it again.  Jack Patrick Kangaroo and I went out the front door, Declan the followed Kitty to the back door, knowing she (and more importantly, he) would be going out the back. I tapped on the front window and Declan came running, allowing Kitty (and, moe importantly, not he) to go out the back.  Then we took the hour-long drive to Annapolis,  where Kitty had an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon.  He looked at x-rays, then took x-rays, then looked at those x-rays, and jiggled and moved Kitty's legs every whichway, and then told us that he never tells anyone that they need a knee replacement, but...

If Kitty wanted to have any sort of quality of life (evidently the doctor felt she didn't get that just by living with me -- hrumph!) and if Kitty didn't want to end up in a wheelchair forever, she might just want to consider having the replacement done.  The cartilage is gone and bone is rubbing on bone and it will only get worse and eventually cause the deterioration of her leg bone. 

She had had her other knee replaced a few years ago and it was not a good experience.  The anethesiologist was a bumbler and it took four painful  tries to get it working and even then Kitty woke up early.  The hospital staff was poor, Kitty turned out allergic to the pain medication, and a number of not-good things happened.  Although the knee replacement was mechanically perfect, she had remained in a lot of pain ever since -- she has great mobility in the knee but a lot of pain.  Sooner or later, she will have to have another operation to remove the neuroma from the first operation.  Oh, and her new knee thunks -- a loud clicking thunk whenever she moves it a certain way.

And now she has to have the other knee replaced.  Kitty is not a happy camper.  Sometime soon -- probably in January -- they will operate.  Because of insurance requirements, she need to undergo twelve weeks of physical therapy before the operation.  Why the insurance company thinks the physical therapy will help anyone with knee in the condition of hers is something the doctor cannot explain, but it is what it is.

After the first of the year, it's going top be even harder to sneak past Declan.

After that, and after many nurses oohed an aahed over the Kangaroo, we headed back home, getting there just in time to take Erin to her soccer practice, where many nine- and ten-year-old girls oohed and aahed over the Kangaroo.

This morning, we headed over to Christina's house to pick up Mark while Christina took Erin to her soccer game tweny-five miles away, and we drove to our local small (very small) airport which was having their annual open house with free plane rides for kids nine- to seventeen-years-old.  Neither Mark nor Erin have been up in a single-engine prop plane before so there was a small smidgen of nervousness.  Mark went up in a Cessna with a very friendly pilot named Chris.  It was a twenty-minute ride over the area, including Mark's school.  Mark had a blast.

After Erin's soccer game (her team lost), we switched kids and Mark went to his soccer game and we took Erin to the airport.  Erin's pilot was named Mr. Harvey and he had a small Piper cub built the same year I was born.  The pilot allowed Erin to take over the controls and she flew over Broome's Island, turned, and flew down the Patuxent River.  Very cool for a ten-year-old.  Everyone at the open house was fantastic, every kid got their own log book, tee-shirt, and certificate (signed by, among others Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger), and hotdogs, soda and chips were served.  A fantastic morning with fantastic weather.  Pictures were taken of each child and are to be posted on the airport's website

We caught up with Christina at Mark's game (they won, 3-0) and switched cars, Christina heading off to school in Baltimore and Erin, Mark, and the Kangaroo came with us.  We dropped Erin and Mark at their house (Walt had just come home after being called into work earlier for an emergency) and I am now entertaining the Kangaroo while Kitty naps.  We were just too tired to take in the Patuxent River Appreciation Days celebration that we normally would go to this afternoon.  (A shame, because the food, crafts, exhibits, and entertainment there is always superb.)

Tomorrow, Christina is taking the kids to St. Clement's Island for the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies, another always-fun, always worth-while time.  We decided not to go this year.  I'm going to stretch out, watch television, and do the Washington Post Sunday crosswords.

Friday, October 5, 2012


I'm skipping Friday's Forgotten Book today, sorry.  Todd Mason will have the links to today's contributors at his blog sweetfreedom.  Next Friday, Patti Abbott will be back for Agatha Christie Week and I plan to be there.

For today, just enjoy the irony that October is both National Eat Country Ham Month and National Vegetarian Month.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I deliberately did not watch the Presidential Debate last night because 1) I tape it for later enjoyment so I could fast forward through the verbsmaking it all the more fun, 2) nothing new will be said, 3) I had long ago decided who not to vote for, 4) it was up against the season opener of Supernatural and I always choose the good stuff, and 5) there was going to be a lot of spin.

The spin evidently came not only from the candidates and their advisors, staff, allies, and/or syncophants, but also from many of those watching or listening to the debate at home.  And. boy, were they spinning!  Well, their heads, at least.  Some very cool debate drinking games were in force last night, folks.

For instance:



and, this:

So why worry about all these proposed voter restriction laws?  If this keeps up a good number of Americans may not be able to find a voting booth at all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


He was confused when a girl told him they had met at a vegetarian restaurant because he had never met herbivore.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


This episode of Studio One from November 14, 1949, comes from a Dashiell Hammett story:

Apropos of nothing, the sponsorship by Westinghouse reminded me of a joke that I loved when I was in the fifth grade:

A man goes to get some milk.  He opens the refrigerator door and sees a squirrel sleeping on one of the shelves.  Waking up the squirrel, he says, "What are you doing in my refrigerator?"  The squirrel looks at him and questions back, "This is a Westinghouse, isn't it?"  "Why, yes, it is."  "Well," says the squirrel, "I'm westing!"

Just goes to show what a dork I was in the fifth grade. 

UPDATE:  Great minds think alike.  Elizabth Foxwell also posted this show today, but her blog is about a zillion times better tha mine:

Monday, October 1, 2012


A fairly large, mostly SF haul this week because the gods were smiling upon me.  Thirty-nine of these books and all fifty of the magazines listed cost me a total of $5.50, including tax.  I have mentioned before that I don't pay much for the books I get, but this deal left me gobsmacked.
  • Pater Ackroyd, First Light.  Literary novel with touches of horror and mystery.
  • "Alan Burt Akers" (Kenneth Bulmer), The Suns of Scorpio.  The second in the long-running Dray Prescott SF series.  This is the British paperback (Orbit, 1974), with five illos by Tim  Kirk.
  •  Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  3 issues:  June 1987, Jan.-Feb. 2011, and Mar. 2011.  Cathleen Jordan edited the first; Linda Landrigan, the other two.
  • Dick Allen and Lori Allen, editors, Looking Ahead:  The Vision of Science Fiction.  SF textbook with 29 articles, stories, extracts, poems.
  • Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact.  Feb. 1978 issue; Ben Bova was the editor then.
  • Ariel:  The Book of Fantasy.  Volume 3 (1978) of this short-lived, high-end, fantasy bookazine copublished by Ballantine Books.  Heavy emphasis on art and graphics.  Edited by Thomas Durwood.
  • B(rian) N. Ball, Sundog.  SF novel, Ball's first.
  • Allen Barra, Inventing Wyatt Earp:  His Life and Many Legends.  Biography of the man and his legend.
  • John Buchan, The Gap in the Curtain. Six fantasy stories; Volume 17 in the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult.
  • Terry Carr, editor, The Best Science Fiction of the Year #7  And Universe 6.  Nine stories from 1977 in the Best volume and seven stories in the Universe volume, both long-running series.
  • Bob Curran, The Truth About the Leprechaun.  Folklore.
  • Datlow, Ellen, editor, The First Omni Book of Science Fiction.  SF anthology of fourteen stories from the science fact and fiction magazine.
  • Avram Davidson, The Island Under the Earth.  Fantasy novel, the proposed first book in an aborted trilogy.  Another memorable book from Terry Carr's legendary Ace Science Fiction Special line.
  • Judy-Lynn del Rey, editor, Stellar #2.  SF anthology with eight stories, including the first publication of Asimov's "The Bicentennial Man."
  • Lester del Rey, Outpost of Jupiter.  YA SF, a reprint from the old Winston "Adventures in Science Fiction" line.
  • Lester del Rey, editor, Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year:  Fourth Annual Collection.  Fifteen SF stories from 1974.
  • Lord Dunsany, The Charwoman's Shadow.  Fantasy novel.
  • Max H.Flindt and Otto O. Binder, Mankind -- Child of the Stars.  Let's be charitable and call this attempt to cash in the von Daniken/Chariots of the Stars nonsense an exercise in "speculative non-fiction."  Flindt was the sun of SF pioneer Homer Eon Flint (author of The Blind Spot, and noted for his mysterious death); Binder was a noted early SF writer and one-half of "Eando Binder."
  • Eric Flint, editor, The Best of James Baen's Universe I.  Sixteen SF stories, nine fantasy stories, and four rememberances of Jim Baen.
  • M. A. Foster, The Morphodite.  SF. 
  • Daniel F. Galouye, The Infinit Man.  SF.
  • James Gunn, editor, Nebula Award Stories 10.  Seven stories from 1974, along  with two articles.
  • Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  Four issues:  Oct. 1987, June 2009, May 2010, and January 2011.  Eleanor Sullivan edited the first; Janet Hutchins, the remaining three.
  • Galaxy Science Fiction.  The Jan. 1974 issue and the May 1978 issue.  Jim Baen is listed as managing editor, with Ejler Jakobsson as editor, for the 1974 issue; the 1978 issue was edited by John J. Pierce.
  • Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah.  SF.
  • Philip E. High, These Savage Futurians, with "John Rackham" (John T. Phillifent), The Double Invaders.  SF.  An Ace Double.
  • Bernhardt J. Hurwood, The Mind Master.  Fantasy, part of the Invisibles series.
  • Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, 31 of the first 36 issues, from the Jan.-Feb. 1978 issue to the Feb. 16, 1981, issue inclusive (missing just the Sept. 1979 issue); also the Apr. 1982 and the five issues from Aug.-Dec. 1982.  George H. Scithers was the founding editor; Kathleen Maloney served as an interim editor when Scithers left in 1982.  Some pretty great stuff in these early issues.
  • Diana Wynne Jones, The Chrestomanci Quartet.  Omnibus of four YA fantasy novels:  Charmed Life, Witch Week, The Magicians of Caprona, and The Lives of Christopher Chant.
  • Loyal Jones and Billy Edd Wheeler, Laughter in Appalachia:  A Festival of Southern Mountain Humor.  Folklore/humor.
  • Ursula LeGuin, Changing Planes.  Collection with sixteen stories.
  • Donald MacKenzie, Cool Sleeps Balaban.  Crime novel involving a jewel heist; not surprising, since the author was a convicted thief before he turned to writing,
  • The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Jan. 1968 issue; Edward L. Ferman, editor.
  • Judith Merril, editor, Galaxy  of Ghouls.  Fantasy anthology with sixteen stories.  The Lion Library first edition and it looked so pretty I had to take it home.  Later published as Off the Beaten Orbit.
  • Elizabeth Mitchell, "creator," Free Lancers.  SF collection of three short novels by Card, Drake, and Bujold.
  • "K. M. O'Donnell" (Barry Malzberg), Final War and Other Fantasies, with "John Rackham" (John T. Phillifent), Treasure of Tau Ceti.  An Ace SF Double.  The O'Donnell has eleven stories.
  • Emil Petaja, Seed of the Dreamers, with Brian M. Stableford, The Blind Worm.  An Ace SF Double.
  • Carol and Federik Pohl, editors, Science Fiction Discoveries.  SF anthology with eight original stories.
  • "Joyce Readon, Ph.D., editor,"  The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer:  My Life at Rose Red.  Television tie-in to the Stephen King mini-series.  This book was ghosted by Ridley Pearson.
  • Helen Reilly, Murder in Shinbone Alley.  An Inspector Christopher McKee mystery.  Reilly produced thirty-eight mystery novels and two mystery writers over her long career.
  • Christopher Rice, The Moonlit Earth.  Thriller.
  • R. A. Salvatore, The Crimson Shadow:  Luthien's Gamble (the second book in this fantasy series), Transitions I:  The Orc King (the first book in this fantasy series), and Seeds of Darkness (a gaming [Forgotten Realms] tie-in stand-alone fantasy novel.  Can't swing a stick without hitting a fantasy series nowadays.
  • Al Sarrantonio, editor, Redshift:  Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction.  Thirty original stories and over 650 pages in this "cutting edge" anthology.
  • Sheila Schwartz, editor, Earth in Transit:  Science Fiction and Contemporary Problems.  Targeted for the YA audience, this anthology has fifteen stories by some of the best wirters in the field.
  • Bob Shaw, Shadow of Heaven.  SF from the much-loved Irish SF writer and fan who left us way too early.
  • Josepha Sherman, King's Son, Magic's Son.  Fantasy from another author too soon taken from us.
  • John Skipp and Craig Spector, editors, Book of the Dead.  Original horror anthology inspired by George Romero's zombie trilogy that began with Dawn of the Dead.  Eighteen stories, with a Foreword by Romero, who happened to sign this copy.
  • Steven G. Spruill, The Psychopath Plague.  SF.
  • Paul V. Thompson & Tonya R. Carter, Prelude II, Volume One:  Riverwind the Plainsman.  Gaming tie-in novel.  Signed by the authors.
  • E. C. Tubb, Kalin.  SF.  Part of the long-running Dumarest series.
  • Don Von Elsner, Countdown for a Spy.  Sleuth David Danningonce again mixes murder with spies.
  • John Vornholt, Babylon 5, Book #1:  Voices. Television tie-in novel.
  • "Weegee" (Arthur Fellig), Naked City.  Photos and commentary from the gritty photojournalist of the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Robin Scott Wilson, editor, Those Who Can:  A Science Fiction Reader.  From the founder of the Clarion Writing Workshop, an anthology of thirteen stories with accompanying essays by the writers on how each story was written.  The authors, all of whom taught at Clarion, are Samuel R. Delany, Harlan Ellison, James Gunn, Daniel Keyes, Damon Knight, Ursula K. Le Guin, Frederik Pohl, Joanna Russ, Robert Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm, Jack Williamson, and Robin Scott Wilson.  One of the all-time best SF anthologies.
  • Worlds of If Science Fiction.  April, 1970 issue; Ejler Jakobsson, editor; Judy-Lynn Benjamin (later del Rey), managing editor.  Fiction by Asimov, Herbert, Goulart, Lafferty, Gene Wolfe, Robert F. Young, and Lee!
  • Lawrence Yep, Star Trek:  Shadow Lord.  Television tie-in novel.