Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, December 31, 2012


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

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


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

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

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


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

Friday, December 28, 2012


Shadows in the Sun by Chad Oliver (1954)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012


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


Each congressman has two ends:

A sitting end and a thinking end;

And since his success depends upon his seat...

Why bother, friend?


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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


This one's from Ceili:

What did the lettuce say at the party?

"Turnip the beets!"

(Well, you had to have been there.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


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

Just the facts, ma'ma?  Okay.

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

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

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

Directed by Webb.

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

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


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

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

Have a great Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012


So it's been one of those weeks.

Shoulda know, what with the whole Mayan Apocalypse thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


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

Monday, December 17, 2012


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

Friday, December 14, 2012


The Blank Wall by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding (1947)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


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

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

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

No Bad Joke Wednesday today for 12.12.12.

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

Monday, December 10, 2012


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

Sunday, December 9, 2012


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

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

Back around the end of the week.


The great Jim Reeves...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012


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


Jerry --

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

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

No goats this time.

-- Kenny

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another breath of fresh air were The Smothers Brothers:

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

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


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

Monday, December 3, 2012


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


Insert Tab A into Slot B...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insert Tab A into Slot B...

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

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

"Police!  Stop!"

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

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

"Stop!  I'll shoot!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the cop was never very good at following directions.

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


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