Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 31, 2018


The Tokens, with a song title appropriate for August 31st.


Election Day 2084 edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg (1984)

Thanks to George Orwell, the year 1984 was synonymous with authoritarianism.  Then 1984 came about and it was not as bad as had been predicted (though in some cases it was pretty bad).  So what's a science fiction writer and/or editor going to do?  Push the date up a full century an compile an anthology about the politics of the future, of course.

Martin H. Greenberg was the king of anthologists, having edited (by Wikipedia's count) 1298 anthologies and commissioned more than 8200 original stories, and founded Tekno Books, which has packaged more than 2000 books.  Asimov, of course, was...well Asimov.  He co-edited 127 anthologies with Greenberg.

Political science fiction was no stranger to Greenberg; his first anthology was Political Science Fiction:  An Introductory Reader (1974) -- five of the twenty-seven stories in that first volume also appear in Election Day 2084.  Greenberg was also a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay.

Politics has now become a national obsession with the country fractured between the blue and red.  After voting this past Tuesday in the Florida Primary (I voted for the good guys,IMHO), and in anticipation of the November mid-term elections, I thought it was a proper time to take this book off the shelves and read it.  Turns out, as with most Asimov/Greenberg anthologies, any time is a good time to dip into this book.  The seventeen stories are all winners, from the unexpected sentimentality of Arthur C. Clarke, through the sly sarcasm of Ward Moore and the outright dizziness of R. A. Lafferty, to Barry N. Malzberg's sardonic talents.

The stories, with the themes listed taken from the introductory notes to each story:

  • "Franchise" by Isaac Asimov (from If, August 1955; suggesting "an alternative way of electing the president of the United States")
  • "Death and the Senator" by Arthur C. Clarke (from Analog Science Fiction>Science Fact, May 1961; examining "the ever-important issue of public versus private interests"; the story received an Honorable Mention in the Best Short Fiction category for the 1962 Hugo Awards)
  • "Committee of the Whole" by Frank Herbert (from Galaxy Magazine, April 1965: carrying the concept of balance of power to its logical conclusion)
  • "Political Machine" by John W. Jakes (from Amazing Stories, March 1961; concerning "one of the nastier side-effects of politics -- the manipulation of people and ideas")
  • "The Children of Night" by Frederik Pohl (from Galaxy Magazine, October 1964; about "an 'advance man' in a political campaign of the future")
  • "2066:  Election Day" by Michael Shaara (from Astounding Science Fiction, December 1956; extrapolates the Platonic idea of "a system in which leadership goes to the best qualified")
  • "On the Campaign Trail" by Barry N. Malzberg (from Future Corruption, edited by Roger Elwood [1975]; "one of his best, most bitter, and least known stories")
  • "Hail to the Chief" by Randall Garrett (from Analog Science Fact>Science Fiction, February 1962; "What constitutes 'good' government? and Is this the result of having the right structure or the right people?")
  • "A Rose by Any Other Name..." by "Christopher Anvil" (Harry C. Crosby) (from Astounding Science Fiction, January 1960; taking "a wry look at the importance of language in international politics")
  • "Beyond Doubt" by Robert A. Heinlein (and Elma Wentz); (from Astonishing Stories, April 1941, as by "Lyle Monroe" and Elma Wentz; giving "us a satirical look at one of the great weapons of modern political campaigns -- the political cartoon")
  • "Frank Merriwell in the White House" by Ward Moore (from Galaxy, July-August 1973; a perhaps exaggerated [or not] look at "American political culture and the role of  'progress' in our electoral tradition") *
  • "Hail to the Chief"** by Sam Sackett (from Future Science Fiction, June 1954; plays "with the idea of a 'captured' president, one who is secretly controlled by forces unknown to the public")
  • "Polity and Custom of the Camiroi" by R. A. Lafferty (from Galaxy Magazine, June 1967; speculates on "what kind of society would exist if any three people could form a government?")
  • "May the Best Man Win" by Stanley Schmidt (from Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, March 1971; shows how technology and space travel can affect "the age requirement for public office")
  • "The Delegate from Guapanga" by Wyman Guin (from Galaxy Magazine, August 1964; "about a political convention of a most unusual sort")
  • "The Chameleon" by Larry Eisenberg (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1970; focusing "on the role of the media in political life, a subject growing in importance by the day"***)
  • "Evidence" by Isaac Asimov (from Astounding Science Fiction, September 1946; a Robot/Susan Calvin story "about an electoral contest and the charges, countercharges, and mudslinging that often accompany this type of competition")

Good stories all, most of which remain relevant in 2018.


* I feel a strong connection with story, having first read it while reporting on a group of Nixon supporters descending on Washington, DC, and just two days before my first (and only) visit to the White House.

** Same title as the Randall Garrett story, but it's not the Garrett story.  According to ISFDb, this title has also been used on stories by Lucy Cores, Robert Silverberg, Allen Steele, Ray Bradbury, and Stan Swanson, as well as an essay by Fred Lerner.

*** This introductory note was published 34 years ago, remember.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Big River was a 1985 musical by Roger Miller and William Hauptmann.  Based on Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the show was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning in seven categories including best musical, best book, best score, and best featured actor in a musical.  It also received thirteen nomination for that year's Dram Desk Awards, winning in eight categories.  Actress Patti Cohenour also won for her role as Mary Jane.  The original Broadway run lasted for 1005 performances.  It has been revived several times, has been on tour, and has been staged in Australia.

Since I am a big fan of Mark Twain -- and especially of Hucklebery Finn -- and also a big fan of Roger Miller, this musical has a warm place in my heart.

So here's the original cast recording of Big River, featuring Dan H. Jenkins, Ron Richardson, John Goodman, Bob Gunton, Rene Auberjonois, John Short, Patti Cohenour, William Youmans, Peggy Harmon, and Andi Henig.



Based on the short story by Theodore Sturgeon, "The Stars Are the Styx"first aired on radio's X Minus One on July 24, 1956.  It was directed by Bob Mauer from a script by Ernest Kinoy.  X Minus One was a science fiction program that used stories that appeared in Galaxy magazine for many of its episodes.  "The Stars Are the Styx" first appeared in the first issue of the magazine (October 1950); the same issue featured the first of Clifford D. Simak's "Time Quarry" [published in book form as Time and Again], Richard Matheson's "Born of Man and Woman," Fritz Leiber's "Later Than You Think," Katherine MacLean's "Contagion," Fredrik Brown's "The Last Martian," and Isaac Asimov's "The Darwinian Pool Room" -- what a line-up!

An albino girl named Tween is waiting for a ship to take her on a ship, one of a fleet that will make a six thousand year voyage, at the end of which a web will be established to enable faster than light travel.  Charon, a old, fat misfit who has lived on a satellite for twenty years, is tasked to pair up suitable couples for the trip.  It's estimated that half the fleet will be destroyed in the journey.  Carrin finds Tween very attractive and falls in love with her, but not everyone finds an albino attractive.  Sturgeon mines his usual themes of love, humanity, and bigotry in his masterful tale.

The Stars Are the Styx" features the voice talents of Patsy O, Bob Hastings, and Craig McDonnell.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018


I had intended to post this yesterday when she turned 22 but, as often happens, things got out of control.

Let me tell you about our oldest grandchild.

The night she was born, Michael was too nervous to drive her to Georgetown University Hospital, so we followed them in our car.  Although the rattled dad-to-be tried to make a few wrong turns, we made it the hospital in plenty of time.  Well, that's depends on your definition of plenty.  I went to the registration office to sign Jessie in while everyone else headed to the delivery floor; by the time I was finished, Catherine Delaney Dowd was born -- a perfect baby.

She was quiet, calm, happy to be held, and looking around as if to say, hello, world, I'm so glad to be here.  As the weeks and months past, we (and by "we" I mean just about anybody who saw her) realized The she was happy to be.

Michael and Jessie had already decided to call her Caylee, blending her two first names.  But how to spell it?  I mean, this is a name that can have about a jillion different spellings, right?  So the spelling of her name changed as she grew up, trying one spelling, then another.  Finally, a number of years ago she settled on Ceili -- pronounced the same but is an old Gaelic word for an Irish folk dance.  But she also adopted nicknames various friends had given her over the years, lately settling on Della, taken from her middle name.  She uses Della in her business and on her facebook, but I'm a traditionalist s I still call her Ceili and also spell it Ceili.

Whatever name she uses, she's given us 22 years (and counting) of absolute joy.

She is smart, funny, sweet, compassionate, and quick to fight any injustice.  She is very protective of her mother and her sister and, now the Jessie is fighting cancer, she is even more protective about her family.  (Did I mention loyalty in the first sentence of this paragraph?)  She tolerates my sense of humor but if she needs advice she gets it from either her mother or from Kitty.

She has formed a very special bond with the Kangaroo, her six-year-old cousin.  He loves her hugs and really appreciates her patience.

I know everyone thinks (or should think) their grandkids are special, but ours are special-er, none more so than the wonderful, gorgeous, one-of-a-kind Ceili.  We are so proud to have her in our lives.

So here's to another year of awesomeness.  And many more to follow.

We love you.


From 1956, Carl Perkins' follow-up to Blue Suede Shoes.


Two guys are drinking in a fourth floor bar.  The first guy finishes his drink, says, "I'm done," and jumps out an open window and then blows right back in.  "Gosh, the wind is strong tonight," he says.

The second guy takes all that in, finishes his drink, goes to the window, and jumps out.  He falls to his death.

The bartender turns to the first guy and says, "Superman, you're a real jerk when your're drunk."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Heavy on music and light on plot, this black dude ranch musical serves as a showcase for singer Louis Jordan.

Jordan plays himself as a singer and the overworked leader of Louis Jordan and His Timpany-Six Band.  Facing exhaustion, he checks himself into a sanitarium, where he dreams of being at a dude ranch with his band.  In this dream they are Two-Gun Jordan and His Jivin' Cowhands.  Of course there's a pretty ranch owner and good old Two-Gun must save her from the evil mortgage holder.

This low-budget Poverty Row flick was helmed by Bud Pollard (It Happened in Harlem, The Black King, The Horror) from what passed as a script by John E. Gordon (six credits on IMDb and absolutely no information), with additional dialog written by Will Morrissey (his only writing credit on IMDb, which informs us that he was married seven times; since he died at age 70, that's one wife per decade).

Watch it for the music and enjoy.

Monday, August 27, 2018


Nana Mouskouri.


Openers:  The cell door crashed open, waking me, and I sat up, sniffling.  Fat round tears rolled down my cheeks as I began to sob again.  I had cried myself to sleep, and for a man as tough as I am that's a little disgusting.

A pair of snarling froggies dragged me from the bunk and hustled me down an onion-smelling corridor.  Froggies are mean to deal with, since their reaction time is incredible.  They know how to use those long tongues of theirs -- and I don't need another demonstration.  I'll stack my speed in unholstering a .38 nitrocharge against any gink in the System, but they'd been faster -- a lot faster.

-- William F. Nolan, Look Out for Space, 1985.  (Nolan's Sam Space character is, as you may have guessed, a science fiction send-up of the though guy private eye.)

John McCain:  I admired John McCain greatly, even though his politics often differed from mine.  He was a man of honor, courage, and conviction.  He felt the country could be best served in a bipartisan manner.  He had a notoriously quick temper but consciously tried to control it.  He made friends of all stripes.  He earned the enmity of President Cheeto.  He had a good sense of humor.  He was a family man.  He cared.

Minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer is proposing the the Senate's Russell Office Building be renamed for McCain.  The building is currently named after Democratic Georgia senator Richard Brevard Russell, Jr., who served in the Senate from 1933 to 1971.  Russell was a staunch segregationist and an outspoken opponent of civil rights.  Renaming the building would serve him right, removing a stain.

On a personal note, when Jessie's husband died, he arranged for a flag that had flown over the White House be given her in honor of Michael.  The flag now holds a cherished spot in her home.

John McCain embodied was is best of America.  He will be missed.

Another American Icon Will Be Missed:  Playwright Neil Simon was one of many American geniuses who made us laugh; unlike many of those he did it through his writing -- first for Sid Caesar, then through dozens stage and films plays -- Come Blow Your Horn, Plaza Suite, The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Sweet Charity, and The Goodbye Girl among them.  He won four Tony Awards, four Writers Guild of America Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize.  He also received Kennedy Center honor in 1995 and a American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement.  In 2006, he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.  In return he gave us the gift of laughter.

"Just the Facts, Ma'am":  A 10-year-old fifth grader in North Carolina has been punished for calling his teacher "Ma'am."  The teacher told the boy that if she had had something, she would have thrown it at him.  The big mistake can be laid to the boys parents who taught him to always address elders as "sir" and "ma'am," not realizing that politeness can be punished in North Carolina.  The boy's punishment was to have him write the word ma'am four times on each line of bother sides of a yellow lined paper -- he did and the parents sent it back to the teacher while having their son write the definition of "ma'am" on a separate piece of paper for the teacher.  The school district at first offered no comment and later said that the matter was handle "appropriately" by the K-7 principal.  Perhaps he made the teacher write "politeness four times per line on both sides of a yellow lined paper.

Despite the Above:  I had a great week.  I lay it to the fact that Trump had a very bad, no-good, rotten week.  I'm petty.

And What Will This Mean for Science Fiction?:  Researchers have just announced the discovery of time reversal rays in gamma-rays coming from a forming black hole.  The bright light wave gamma rays are spit out from the black hole one way, then sent out again in the opposite manner.  Not exactly time travel, perhaps, but pretty close.  I am constantly awed by the wonders of the universe which are slowly unfolding before us.

"Negative" Gravity?:  Sound has also been thought of as massless but researchers have determined it has negative mass and it slowly drifts upward.  "A photon -- a particle-like unit of vibration that can describe sound at very small scales" has a very slight negative mask that defies gravity, moving away from gravity's pull.  More wonders.  Yay!

Florida Man:  He don't need no stinkin' election to express his political opinion...just a chainsaw, which he used in Tavares to cut down a sign promoting candidate Jason Paynter for Lake County Clerk of Courts.  Florida Man remains unknown and uncaught, presumably because the Lake County Sheriff's Department has not checked either mental hospitals or trailer parks.  We'll soon know whether Florida Man's political statement has had an effect -- Primary Day in Florida is tomorrow.

Today:  It's the birthday of Ed Gein.  Please do not celebrate accordingly!

Today's Poem: 

History is everything
Everything the rock and word
Record and every god
Who is forever-was as king
Confusion, order, sword
And blood-or-water-letting rod.

And everything and reason read
To the ready feeling of man lost
Where nothing's understood,
To "Tell me, tell me, all the dead
And the living host
The whole, and tell me star and wood."

Then everything's the meaning, more
Than reason, feeling brings to light
And history the most
When heart, which mind can't matter for
Without the dream by night,
Draws in its puzzling greater ghost.

Everything is history
The whole the bushel in the grain
Which seen creates the sense
Of what eyes bodied never see'
Hands membered never gain
But now in tearing ignorance.

-- David Rowbotham (1924-2010)

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Westerns were one of the most popular genres in the early to mid twentieth century and the number of pulp magazines devoted to the western gives us an indication of exactly how popular.  Even the venerable Black Mask in it's early years specialized in "western, detective, and stories of action."

YouTuber "bestjonbon" has compiled western covers from various pulps -- from Ace-High Magazine ("Western, Action and Sports Stories") to Zane Grey's Western, with stops in between at Big-Book Western, Cowboy Stories, Masked Rider Western, The Rio Kid Western, Thrilling Western Stories, West, and many others.

Guns blazing, horses bucking, ladies in danger, owlhoots being nasty, fists flailing, Indians attacking, cattle's all here.  Great artwork and covers touting some of the best (and not-so-best) writers of the day.

A great gallery of covers.



The Jubalaires.

Saturday, August 25, 2018


This is a bit of a cheat.  Fantastic Adventures was a publication from I.W. Publications; the I.W.  came from the owner, Israel Waldman, who purchased a large group of comic book "printing plates from Eastman color, primary from defunct publishers who owed Eastern money."  Waldman also purchased some comic artwork from Quality Comics. He eventually acquired plates and artwork from some 37 companies, including a few he had no right to.  His attitude was summed up by this quote, "So what do I need with copyrights?"

Thus Waldman entered the comic book business.

I.W. Publications (soon to become Super Comics) churned out a host of comics -- all featuring old reprints with new covers and titles.  Individual issues of the comic books did not appear in stores or on spinner racks.  Instead, issues were wrapped in plastic several titles at a time and were sold thus.  None of the comic books were dated -- allowing them to be on sale indefinitely.  The quality of the issues varied with the quality of the prints used.

Fantastic Adventures #15 appears to a reprint of Star Comics' Spook #23 (from March 1953) and includes a story written by Mickey Spillane!  Not just a Spillane story, but a Spillane story featuring a gorilla!  And not just a Spillane story featuring a gorilla, but a Spillane story featuring a gorilla with a young hero named Jerry!  (I do like stories where the good guy hero is named Jerry.  To my mind, they're realistic.)

This tale, titled "Gorillas, Ghosts and Gangsters," has Jerry (who's handsome as well as brave, natch) strolling through the zoo one morning when he spies some kids throwing stones at the caged giant  gorilla.   But kids are not the only ones tormenting the great beast -- there's also a guy shooting a BB gun at the ape.  As Jerry accosts the torturing kids, the gorilla, enraged, breaks through the bars of his cage.  The kids run off and Jerry is left to face the maddened gorilla alone.  But -- aha! -- he's not alone; Sergeant Spook is also on the scene.  Spook is the ghost of a police officer still determined to do right.  Spook has Jerry swing his arms as the invisible spectre keeps pounding the ape on the noggin.  The gorilla thinks Jerry is hitting him, so when Jerry stops swinging his arms and Spook stops punching, the ape is happy, especially when Jerry tells the ape that he does not want to hurt him and would rather be friends.  The gorilla's escape was just a cover-up for a raid on the government building next to the zoo -- gangsters have stolen some important government documents.   Spook, Jerry, and "Monk" leap into action.  But first they have to take care of the giant python the gangsters have also released.

Neither Sergeant Spook nor Jerry (nor Monk) is Mike Hammer (or even Tiger Mann), but it's great to read one of these Spillane comic book stories.

And there's a great original gorilla cover for this issue by Ross Andru.

Give Sergeant Spook, and the other tales in this issue, a try.


Friday, August 24, 2018


Merle Travis & His Westerners with vocalist Judy Hayden.


Lands of the Earthquake by Henry Kuttner (1947)

A funny thing happened on the way to the Crusade.  Not knee-slapping, rib-tickling funny mind you, but...

Wait.  I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's move back.  Or forward.  Whatever.

William Boyce was walking one morning by the library on Fifth Avenue and woke up in Bellevue Hospital one year later with all memory of that one year erased.  The doctors said he had been found unconscious in Central Park.  They said his memory may come back in bits and pieces, all at once, or never.  Another year goes by.  Occasionally a fleeting image comes -- a mustached man, dark shadows, a strange language he later learns is Old French, and a very faint image of a disturbingly attractive woman.  And then there's this strange crystal he had found in his pocket when he was released; what was it?  Where did it come from?

Boyce has taken to wandering the city.  On day he spies a man whose image he has seen in those fleeting glimpses of memory.  He follows the man, who enters a building that is strangely familiar to Boyce.  He charges into the house, knowing where each room is, and enters a room empty save for an oddly translucent candle, which he lights.  Without knowing why, Boyce takes out the crystal he had been found with and holds it to the flame.


Boyce wakes up in a fog.  Literally.  He is outside in a strange place.  The city is gone.  He hears laughter.  The fog lifts enough to show a man furred like a tiger.  This tigerman is the Huntsman.  Hesets a pack of beasts after Boyce.  The beasts are not dogs really, but something Boyce has not seen before.  Something very dangerous.  He runs.  The beasts herd him to the edge of a cliff and appear about to attack when a knight (armor and all) appears on horseback and chases them off.  Boyce's rescuer is Godfrey Morel, or Godfrey Longshanks, and he speaks a bastardized version of Old French.  He wonders who Boyce is and where he came from.  On the chance that Boyce is a spy, Godfrey takes him to the city of Kerak to be questioned.  As they ride to the city, The ground begins to open and a chasm appears, heading toward the city.  Rings of light appear from the city's castle, touching the ground and stopping the earthquake.

The city is run by Guilluame du Bois, who, except for appearing older, is the exact likeness of William Boyce.  Boyce is aided by the magician Tancrid and by The Oracle -- a marble-like statue of a beautiful woman behind a cage of fire.

Now we learn the back story about the funny thing that happened on the way to the crusade some six centuries earlier.  A group of Crusaders found themselves in an eerie valley.  In the distance was a strange looking city and -- not being one to pass up a chance for plunder --  were determined to take it.  The city, however was empty and the Crusaders settled in and built their castle..  They soon found out that this was a land where time did not exist and space floated past the castle.  Their new world was one of a constant sun, one where they did not age.  Other cities would appear in the distance and the crusaders would trade with their inhabitants -- some of which spoke strange languages and some of which ere just strange -- until that city would float away.

Then came the day the City of Sorcerers (or, just the City) came nearby and became somehow linked to Kerak with neither city able to float away.  The City is determined to wipe out Kerak and is only stopped by the magic of Tancred.

Two things:  The City is holding Godrey Longshanks hostage and Boyce nust try to rescue him.  And Boyce thinks the mysterious woman who flashes across his lost memories lives in the City...

That's the set-up.  The story goes on from there, adding marvel upon marvel and adventure upon adventure.  Typical pulp fare enhanced by Kuttner's strong sense of plot and pacing.  If you miss the days of science fiction pulps or are a Kuttner fan (and who is not?), this one's for you.


Lands of the Earthquake first appeared in the February 1947 issue of  Startling Stories and was one of the few of Kuttner's pulp SF novels not to be reprinted by Ace Books.  It was reprinted in the May 1992 issue of Pulp Vault.  Last year it was released in paperback (bound with Howie K. Bentley's Under a Blue Sun) by DMR Books and as an e-Book from Faded Page.  The easiest way to read it is online at Internet Archive which has the February 1947 issue of Startling Stories.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


Silent screen siren Pola Negri (remember her?) sings this tune from her first talking film, 1932's  A Woman Commands.


On May 2, 1932, The Canada Dry Program premiered on the NBC Blue Network from radio station WJZ in New York City.  The Master of Ceremonies was none other than Jack Benny.  This was Benny's first regular radio appearance.  (Benny first appeared on radio eight months earlier with a guest appearance on RKO Theater of the Air; Benny's second -- and final, prior to The Canada Dry Program -- radio appearance was a guest appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on March 29, 1932.)  

Unlike Benny's later radio and television programs, The Canada Dry Program was basically a musical program with some comic comedy rather than a sitcom or a variety show.  The half-hour show ran for 78 episodes, ending on January 26, 1933.  Featured for (roughly) the first six months were George Olson and His Orchestra and vocalist Ethel Shutta.  (Shutta was Olson's wife, so when he left the show, she went with him.)  Olson was replaced by bandleader Ted Weems.  Shutta was replaced by various vocalists.  The initial announcer for the show was Ed Thorgeson.

Mary Livingston joined the show at the end of July, portraying a "fan."  Reportedly, both Mary and Don Wilson were there from the first broadcast but this, perhaps, should be taken with a grain of salt.  One of Benny's duties as Master of Ceremonies was to read the commercials -- a task that Don Wilson would take over in later shows.

The show linked below -- the premier show -- is the only complete episode in circulation;  Also in circulation are excerpts from two other episodes.  All else has been lost to time.

Don't expect too much from Benny.  This was his first real radio gig and the format was not really suited for his comedy. It's safe to say that The Canada Cry Program was not a runway hit.  Nonetheless, as a die-hard Benny fan, it is thrilling for me to listen to this early part of his radio career.

Give a listen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Don Reno and Red Smiley.


A frog wearing a tiny backpack went into a bank and approached a loan officer.  Her name tag said that her name was Patricia Whack so he politely said, "Miss Whack, I'd like a $50,000 loan immediately so I can buy the Brooklyn Bridge.  The guy's offer expires at midnight so time is of the essence."

Miss Whack was taken aback by what she was hearing (or seeing, for that matter), but she tried to remain professional.  "And what is your name,sir?"

The frog puffed himself up proudly.  "My name is Kermit Jagger.  Mick Jagger is my father.  And by the way, I'm good friends with the bank manager so it's okay to give me the money."

Miss Whack swallowed loudly.  "And what, sir," she asked, "do you offer for collateral?"

The frog reached into his backpack and pulled a tiny figurine of an elephant.  It was green and missing one tusk.  "This," the frog said, handing the trinket to Miss Whack.

"One moment, sir" she said.  Then she hurried to the bank manager's office.  "Sir, you won't believe this.  There's a frog out there who wants a $50,000 loan.  He says his name is Kermit Jagger and that he's a friend of yours."  She put the figurine on the manager's desk, "He's offering this as collateral.  And he claims that Mick Jagger is his father!"

The bank manager looks at the figurine and told his employee, "It's a knickknack, Patti Whack.  Give the frog a loan.  His old man's a Rolling Stone."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Cream -- Jack Bruce.  Ginger Baker.  Eric Clapton.  Wow!


He was born Maxwell Henry Aronson, a Jew whose grandparents came from Eastern Europe.  Raised in Arkansas and Missouri, he went to new York when he was eighteen and worked in vaudeville and the theater.  In 1903 he was hired by Edward S. Porter as an actor and script consultant.  Porter cast him for three separate roles in The Great Train Robbery.  When Aronson saw the audience reaction to that film he decided the film industry was where he wanted to be.  Changing his name to Gilbert M. Anderson, he began a career that would lead him to co-found Essanay Studios.  Churning out  stream of more than 300 films, 148 of them westerns, Anderson soon became the first cowboy film star as "Broncho Billy."  He retired from acting in 1916, concentrating instead on directing and producing, but his place in the history of the western was secured.  He was now known as "Broncho Billy" Anderson.  In 1958 he received and Honorary Academy Award for his "contribution to the development of motion pictures as entertainment."  He died in 1971, aged 90.

The year he filmed Broncho Billy and the Greaser, Anderson starred in 46 films -- at least 34 of which featured Broncho Billy.  As with most of his films, Anderson also wrote and directed the movie.

In this film, Broncho Billy is  mail carrier.  A small crowd of people are waiting for their mail at the general store which also served as a post office, including a lovely girl (played by 23-year-old Marguerite Clayton, who was featured in various roles in at least 60 Broncho Billy films).  A Mexican "half-breed" with an evil squint (Lee Willard, who appeared in at least 49 Broncho Billy oaters and ended his career as the Frozen Body of Jasper Adams in 1940's The Man with Nine Lives) rudely pushes The Girl aside to get to the head of the line.  This does not sit well with Broncho Billy, who pulls a gun on The Half-Breed and kicks him out of the building.  The Half-Breed vows vengeance.  On his way home, Broncho Billy rescues a lost old man and takes him home to recover from his ordeal.  This proves that Brocho Billy is truly noble.  Meanwhile, The Half-Breed is lurking outside the house with a very sharp, very deadly knife...

Welcome to Stereotypical Theater, where the good guy is good, the woman is sweet and virginal, and the bad guy (The Half-Breed, or "The Greaser" in the title) is a racial slur.  (More than a century later we are still hearing, "And some, I assume, are good people.")

So welcome to the Old West, where men were men, ladies were ladies, horses were horses, and villains were dastardly.


Monday, August 20, 2018


The Trogs (dressed like only Trogs should).


Openers:  I'd been in Los Angeles waiting for this Healey to show for nearly a week.  According to my steer, he'd taken a railroad company to Quebec for somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred and fifty grand on a swarm of juggled options or something.  That's a nice neighborhood.
-- "Paul Cain"  (Peter Ruric), "One, Two, Three," Black Mask, May 1933

Things That Make Me Happy:

  • Late night comedians.  I don't think I'd survive this Trump era without them.  John Oliver's take on trade provided a blessed moment of sanity last night for example.
  • Salsa.  It makes everything edible when you are trying to lose weight.  My youngest daughter felt the same was about A-1 Sauce on cafeteria food when she was in college.
  • Birthdays.  We celebrated Jessamyn's birthday with a buttermilk cake, strawberries and whipped cream.  Yum!  Actually, any type of family celebration or event makes me happy.  Mark moved into his freshman dorm room yesterday afternoon, making me once again feel old.  Jack just finished his first week in first grade and came home with four green cards and one yellow one (green means good; yellow means he was distracted -- red, I assume, means he burned down the school); Friday afternoon his teacher e-mailed Christina and told her not to worry about the yellow card because Jack is such a pleasure to have in her class.  We also got some lovely pictures of my beautiful niece Sarah's Caribbean wedding.
  • Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime.  A consistently entertaining line of crime and noir novels, both original books and reprints of hard-to-find novels.  I've read over half of their 140 offerings since the imprint began in 2004 and have well over a dozen near the top of Mount TBR.  There are a lot of other great publishers out there but since I recently finished Easy Death by "Daniel Boyd"  and am halfway through Joseph Koenig's False Negative, it's time to give then a shout-out.  If you are in the mood for some well-written crime novels, you can't go wrong with Hard Case Crime.
  • Sunrises and sunsets.  They are beautiful and awe-inspiring.  When we lived in Manassas, the assistant pastor of our local church would begin every service with a smile and say, "This is the day that God made."  It didn't matter if the day was dark and stormy or bright and warm.  Each day is filled with promise.  Sunrises.  Sunsets.  Beginnings.  Endings.  And with each sunset comes the promise of the next day's sunrise.  I can get behind that.

Florida Man:  He hasn't gone away.  Neither has Florida Woman, although some suspect Florida Woman to be Florida Man in drag.  Let's be clear about this -- Florida Man is one person.  He has the supernatural ability to appear in different places, with different names and different disguises so people are led to believe that Florida Man is merely a generic term for Florida-bred stupidity.  Nothuing could be further from the truth.  At least I hope so.  The thought of so much  outrageous stupidity centered in one state is off-putting.

Anyway, 88-year-old Florida Man in Palm City trapped a raccoon, poured gasoline on the caged animal, and put a match to it.  So why did he immolate a raccoon.  Because it ate his mangoes.  And then there was the guy who was arrested for intentionally destroying six burrowing owl nest while knowing that they were a protected species.

Here's an interesting headline from the Associated Press:  Is the ever-weird Florida man becoming Florida politician?  Melissa Howard, running for the State house in District 73, falsely claimed that she was a college graduate and posted a phony diploma to prove it.  Some lies can be easily checked.  Howard dropped out of the race after the college notified the press that the diploma was false.  And there was the to to-do in Hallandale Beach.  After the mayor was arrested for accepting illegal campaign donations from Russia, a new mayor was appointed.  One city commissioner wondered if the new mayor made any sort of living.  The mayor responded by accusing the commissioner of making a living by "Sphincter bleaching."  (Ew!)   Elsewhere in the state, a city commission candidate claimed that his facebook account was hacked with an ad that accused him of providing tainted breast milk.

Florida man attacked a partially blind man wearing a minion costume.  Florida man and his 19-year-old daughter arrested for incest after having sex in the back yard.  Florida man arrested for teaching kids where babies come the top of his voice.  72-year-old Florida man arrested after chasing a neighbor with a tractor, an incident that was taped.  Two Florida women, Wal-Mart associates both) kicked a boy with a muscular disorder from a motorized cart in a Central Florida store; after the first incident the mother complained to a manager and received an apology and then it happened again with another, more strident, associate.  Florida man kills his girlfriend with a bible because she was the devil.   Florida Woman (a Black Republican candidate for nomination to run against Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz) labeled her primary opponent an "old white man" (he was), drawing a response from Florida Man and white president of the Palm Beach Trump Club, calling her a "racist."  Florida Man with a "long, long rap sheet" arrested in an attempt to kidnap Lana Del Rey.

And so it goes...

Welcome to the Hotel California:  The Eagles' greatest hit album has just overtaken Michael Jackson's Thriller as the best-selling album of all time.

In Other Music News:  Ariana Grande is planing to change her name once she marries Saturday Night Live cast member Peter Davidson.  Davidson Grande?

98 Years Ago Today:  Two important firsts in popular culture happened on August 20, 1920.  The first commercial radio station, 8MK in Detroit, began operations; the station now operates as WWK.
And what would become the National Football League was organized in Canton, Ohio.  Back then it was called the American Professional Football conference.

Today's Poem:


The road to laughter beckons me,
     The road to all that's best;
The home road where I nightly see
     The castle of my rest;
The path were all is fine and fair,
     And little children run,
For love and joy are waiting there
     As soon as day is done.

There is no rich reward of fame
     That can compare with this:
At home I wear an honest name.
     My lips are fit to kiss.
At home I'm always brave and strong.
     And with the setting sun
They find no trace of shame or wrong
     In anything I've done.

There shine the eyes that only see
     The good I've tried to do;
They think me what I'd like to be;
     They know that I am true.
And whether I have lost my fight
     Or whether I have won,
I find a faith that I've been right
     As soon as day is done.

-- Edgar Guest

Sunday, August 19, 2018


In this recording, Ed Hulse (Blood and Thunder) moderates an interesting discussion with granddaughters of well-known pulp writers.  

Karen Cunningham is the granddaughter of the prolific Frederick C. Davis, who created such pulp characters as The Moon Man, Bill Brent, Keyhole Kerry, Mark Hazzard, Ravenwood, and Secrets, Inc.  Davis also wrote as Stephen Ransome, Murdo Coombs, and house name Curtis Steele.

Soldier, pulpster, and comic book legend Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson  wrote military and historical adventure stories for Adventure and Argosy, as well as a number of tales for the air adventure pulps.  Wheeler-Nicholson moved to comic books, producing the first all-original comic book (New Fun #1, February 1935); his comic book company eventually morphed into DC Comics.  Nikki Wheeler-Nicholson talks about her grandfather.

Laurie Powers never knew her grandfather Paul S. Powers, a popular western pulp writer.  In 1999 she came across two boxes of his papers, including some unpublished manuscripts, store in an attic.  Her grandfather was an expert on Western Americana,  Beginning in 1928 he wrote some 440 stories for Wild West Weekly.  When that magazine folded in 1948, he wrote for more than half a dozen other pulps westerns.  Some of his most popular characters were Sonny Tabor, Kid Wolf, Johnny Forty-five, Freckles Malone, and Kid Kolt.  Powers also wrote horror, detective, noir, and romance stories.  He used at least eight pen names, including Ward M. Stevens.  Laurie Powers has also become an expert on romance pulp editor Daisy Bacon.

Enjoy this fascinating program.


Aretha was just fourteen when she sang this.

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Jimmy Clanton.


British publisher Gerald Swan made his bones producing thin, cheap novels, fiction magazines, and comic books in the early mid-Twentieth Century.  A number of Swan publications have become collector's items, not necessarily because of the quality of the stories, but because of their scarcity due their flimsy construction.

In the compilation below, Swan cheerfully ripped off a well-known American comic book superhero, calling him Mr. Apollo.

The two stories below, evidently from the mid-Fifties, take Mr. Apollo and his alter ego, school teacher Jerry Gunn, to a fancy dress ball targeted by thieves, then to a giant boy who accidentally destroys his school.  The stories are "Mr. Apollo and the 'Acrobat'" and "Mr. Apollo and the Atomic Pills."


Friday, August 17, 2018


The Ian Campbell Folk Group..


Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales by Jack Snow (1947)

Save for enthusiasts of L. Frank Baum's Oz series, Jack Snow (1907-1956) is a mostly forgotten author.  As the fourth Royal Historian of Oz (Following Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson, and John Neill), Snow wrote the 37th and 38th books in the official series, The Magical Mimics in Oz (1946) and The Shaggy Man of Oz (1949).  (It's rumored that Snow wrote a third book but no trace of a manuscript was ever found.)  Snow also published one short story about Oz, "A Murder in Oz," included in the 1966 Snow collection Spectral Snow.  (Three other Oz storie "The Crystal People," "The Magic Sled," and "Princess Crystal and Prince Eolus") were published long after Snow's death, but whether they were new stories or extracts from his Oz novels I can't say.)  Snow's address book of Oz fans became, after his death, the basis for mailings that eventually morphed into The International Wizard of Oz Club.  Perhaps Snow's most important contribution to Oz-ania was his thoroughly researched and detailed reference book Who's Who in Oz (1954).

Snow was a career radio writer.  As a sophomore in high school, he produced (for The Cincinnati Enquirer) the first radio review column in America.  Following a stint in the Army, Snow began working and writing for radio stations.  He originated the call letters for Ohio station WING.  While at NBS radio he tried to get executives interested in a series based on Ray Bradbury's stories, but they passed on the idea.

For his own enjoyment, Snow wrote short stories, five of which were published in Weird Tales.  He had originally planned for Dark Music to contain a dozen stories but his publisher insisted on including six pieces of juvenalia to pad out the slim book.  (When Bradbury, who had agreed to write the introduction to the book, pulled out after reading these pieces, citing them "patently unpublishable.")

Despite this, Dark Music remains an entertaining piece of fantasy fiction.  The stories are slight, sometimes predictable, but nonetheless effective.  Dark Music has never been reprinted, but six of the eighteen stories were included, along with two other stories in Spectral Snow:  The Dark Fantasies of Jack Snow (1996).

The stories:

  • Dark Music - original to this volume; it was reprinted by Marvin Kaye in Witches & Warlocks, 1990
  • Coronation - original to this volume; never reprinted
  • The Anchor - original to this volume; reprinted by Marvin and Saralee Kaye in Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, 1985
  • "The Penhale Broadcast" - original to this volume; reprinted by Marvin & Saralee Kaye in Ghosts, a Treasury of Chilling Tales, Old and New, 1981, and in Spectral Snow
  • The Monarch - original to this volume
  • Seed - from Weird Tales, January 1946; reprinted by Marvin and Saralee Kaye in Weird Tales:  The Magazine That Never Dies, 1988, and in Spectral Snow
  • "The Rope" - original to this volume; reprinted in Spectral Snow
  • Faulty Vision - original to this volume
  • Night Wings - from Weird Tales, September 1927
  • The Dimension of Terror - original to this volume; reprinted in Spectral Snow
  • Poison - from Weird Tales, December 1928
  • Let's Play House - original to this volume
  • The China Tea Cup - original to this volume
  • Business Hours - original to this volume
  • The Dictator - original to this volume
  • The Mountain - original to this volume
  • The Super Alkaloid - original to this volume; reprinted by Marvin Kaye in Don't Open This Book!, 1998, and in Spectral Snow
  • Midnight - from Weird Tales, May 1946; reprinted by Marvin Kaye in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, 1993, by Peter Straub in American Fantastic Tales:  Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940s to Now, 2009, and in Spectral Snow
A mixed lot, but I'm glad I read and enjoyed the stories.

Both Dark Music and Spectral Snow had just one printing each.  Both are available online (Dark Music ranges from about $16 to just over $50 on Abebooks; Spectral Snow goes from $50 to just over $150).  Being an impoverished cheapskate, I read both through Interlibrary Loan.

For those who wish to sample some of Snow's stories, six of the above stories are online here:

In addition, The Magical Mimics in Oz is available online at

Thursday, August 16, 2018


R.I.P., the Queen of Soul.


Michael Innes (real name J. I. M. Stewart, 1906-1994, an Oxford academic) began his long-running Inspector (later Commissioner) Sir John Appleby mysteries in 1936 with Death at the President's Lodging.  By the time he ended the series just over 50 later, Appleby had appeared in 31 novels and three short story collections; a fourth collection appeared in 2010.  (Stewart also published 13 more novels as by Michael Innes, as well as 20 novels, six short story collections, nine nonfiction books, and a memoir under his own name.)

The Appleby stories are classic British puzzlers, with literary references and a wry outlook.  Although not read much today, classic mystery buffs keep coming back to Innes and Appleby for a satisfying "fix."

Appleby's End was the tenth book in the series.  

BBC Radio's Inspector Appleby Mysteries aired adaptations of at least two of the books -- this one and Lament for a Maker.  Appleby's End was originally in four parts; all four are combined in the link below, making the program run just shy of two hours -- much longer than other radio programs I have blogged about on Thursday, but certainly worth the time put into listening.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Judy Garland and Vic Damone singing "Night of Nights," "He's in Love," and 'and This Is My Beloved."


Two doctors and a hospital manager died and were waiting in front of the Pearly Gates.  Finally St. Peter called them forward and asked what they did on Earth and why they should enter Heaven.

The first doctor said, "I was a pediatric spinal surgeon and I help kids overcome their disabilities."

St. Peter nodded, mumbled something that sounded like "Good, Good," and then told the first doctor to pass through the Pearly Gates and enter Heave.

The second doctor said, "I was an Alzhiemers researcher and I strive to help cure this terrible disease."

St. Peter nodded his approval and told the second doctor to enter.

The hospital manager said, "I managed a hospital and I helped people get cost-effective health care."  And St. Peter said, "Enter."

The hospital manager began to enter but by the time he was half way through the Pearly Gates, St. peter added, "But you only get to stay three days and then you can go to Hell."


Let me brag about my eldest daughter.  Jessamyn is beautiful, sweet, giving, smart, talented, etc., etc. -- She's Kitty's daughter so she could not be any less.

She's also a survivor.

She was one of the first  ( or, perhaps the first) children in our area born with the Lamaze system of childbirth.  She was also the first child in that hospital to be placed under their just purchased bilirubin light -- some thing she was not pleased about and she made her displeasure known.  She was an affectionate, lovely child and, until she was three years old and until a playmate (that little @#$% Cheryl from upstairs) decided she would looked better with her hair cut, she had beautiful long golden curls.  They came back, but Cheryl remained a little @#$% until her family moved; one hopes that Cheryl did not grow into a big @#$% but the odds on that are slim.  

Jessamyn was born with a birthmark on the top of her scalp.  When she was five, Kitty noticed that it seemed to be changing slightly.  After months of pushing and prodding by us, she was diagnosed with a rare cancer.  The biopsy they took did not heal and she had to have the wound cauterized weekly for well over a month.  (Try cauterizing a five-year-old -- just try.  It hurt but Jessamyn and her five-year-old bravery stood up well against it each time.)  We were told by a specialist brought in from Boston this particular cancer never is diagnosed until puberty and by the time it is diagnosed it was invariably fatal.  The surgeon told us he had to go back to the books the night before to find out what he could about this particular cancer.  The nurses in the children's ward had never hard of this type of cancer and expected a very sickly child, not an active little girl whose grandfather has just taught her to do wheelies down the hall in her wheelchair.  

The surgery went fine.  The cancer was completely encapsulated and was totally excised.  Since then, every mole of growth had to be biopsied just in case.  Her pediatrician told her that her middle name was 'Take-it-out."  When she was twelve, the scar appeared to be changing, so it was back to the operating table.  This time it was just the scar healing over itself; after the operation she was left with a much smaller scar.  Then, early in high school, she hurt herself in gym (I think, my memory's hazy), an x-ray was taken, showing a dark area on he thigh, just where it joined the hip.  So then we began to go trough another round of doctors.  One expert wasn't sure whether it was osteosarcoma while his partner said, of course it was.  finally we went to Boston Children's Hospital where the head of pediatric surgery told us it was not cancer, merely a bone cyst that had "pearlized."  (Whatever that meant.)

There were a passel of other childhood injuries and emergencies, but through it all Jessamyn remained happy, spending her youth smiling and playing.

Her next big test came when her husband dropped dead from a heart attack in the living room one Sunday morning.  He was 31 and it happened in front of their girls, age 7 and 9.  He died just a few months before their tenth anniversary, meaning that Jessamyn did not receive his benefits.  A month earlier, Jessamyn had filled forms for his life insurance through his work, but it turns out he had forgotten about it and never turned the forms in.  She and the girls moved in with us that night.  they stayed with us for several years until Jessamyn decided she and the girls should strike out on their own.  As a single mother working low-paying or under-paying jobs one had to admire her grit and determination in making a good home for her girls.

When she moved down to Florida to be with us, she eventually got a good job that she enjoys and that has great benefits.  The benefits are important because shortly after she began work she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The health benefits have allowed her to concentrate on fighting the disease, rather than worrying if she could afford the care.  And it's working.  Despite the nausea and tiredness, she appears to be winning this battle.  She has one more round of chemo to go through and then she and her doctors will decide on the next course of action.  Meanwhile, both girls are going to college and the future appears bright.

I cannot begin to say how much I am proud of her and how much she inspires me.  Through all of the ups and downs, no matter what life has thrown at her, she remains upbeat, happy, determined, and caring.

Our little girl has grown to be a remarkable woman.

We love her.

Tonight is a night for cake and family.  Whatever tomorrow brings is in the future -- a future I think we can all look forward to.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


From 1955, from the film Under Water, here's a big hit for Perez ("Prez") Prado ("The King of the Mambo") and His Orchestra.


I posted a brief clip of Clayton Rawson, the Great Merlini, performing the floating lady trick on Sunday and I thought I'd follow up today with a movie based on one of his books, Death from a Top Hat (1938), which had been voted the seventh best locked room mystery of all time in a poll of seventeen detective story writers and reviewers.

The detective in the novel was The Great Merlini (yep, the same name as Rawson's real-life stage magician name) but was changed in the film to The Great Morgan.  Not sure why, but anything can happen in Hollywood.

Mike Morgan (played by Robert Young) is The Great Morgan, a stage magician determined to expose fake mediums who prey on the innocent.  (An early cinematic Amazing Randi, if you will.)

Someone is killing off New York City's stage magicians and Morgan -- who presumably is on the killer's list -- wants to find out why.  He joins Police Inspector Marty Gavigan (Cliff Clark, who seemed to make a career of playing cops, including at least five turns as Inspector Timothy Donovan in the George Sanders/Tom Conway Falcon films) and comic foil Detective Quinn (William Demarest).  The requisite beautiful blonde is played by Florence Rice, whose career was torpedoed by critics who said she only got acting jobs because of the influence of her powerful father, noted sportswriter Grantland Rice.

Bodies appear.  Bodies disappear.  Bodies come back to life.  There's apparitions and mediums and seances.  There's magic and miracles galore.  There's even a self-typing typewriter...hmm, whose ghostly hands are working this one?

This one has genuinely eerie moments and the comedic side of many 1930s mystery films is considerably toned down, making for an unusually effective B movie.

Rounding out a very good cast are Frank Craven, Henry Hull, Gloria Holden,  and Lee Bowman.  Among the uncredited actors are Eddie Acuff, Truman Bradley, and Charles Lane -- all recognizable faces.  Also uncredited was Barbara Stanwyck's brother Bert Stevens, who has 447 IMDb credits, all uncredited.

Miracles for Sale was the last movie directed by the great Tod Browning.  Rawson's book was adapted by Harry Ruskin (The Postman Always Rings Twice, as well as a dozen films in the Andy Hardy franchise), Marion Parsonnet (Gilda), and James Edward Grant (The Angel and the Badman, The Comancheros, McLintock!).


Monday, August 13, 2018


You know who.


Openers:  Martin Murray simply had to have that poster -- had to!  Never before in his eighteen years had he ever laid eyes on a woman more stunningly attractive and beautiful, more...sensuous looking, and yes...more wildly erotic and stimulating.

-- from "Body Perfect" by William C. Rasmussen (Cemetery Dance, December 1988).  This is the first paragraph of the first story in the first issue of that legendary magazine.

Things That Are Making Me Happy:

  • Memories.  My father's 102nd birthday yesterday has brought back many great memories.  Also, for some reason I've been humming this song --
  • Celebration.  My beautiful niece Sarah was married this week in a beach ceremony in St. Lucia.  The bride looked stunning and both bride and groom looked over-the-top happy.  Congrats to them both.  (Sarah, BTW, is super smart on top of being beautiful and talented, and, if she were not a Republican, would be far smarter than I am.  She's certainly more beautiful and talented than me.)
  • Cooler weather.  These past few days, the temperature dropped down to 95 -- a blessed relief from the 100+ earlier.  I was able to go out and get some yard work done.
  • Interlibrary Loan.  The Florida Panhandle is not noted for great library systems.  My local fledgling library system tries hard but the selection is poor and they do not offer Interlibrary Loans.  One county over, the Pensacola Library has a much better (but still weak selection) and does offer Interlibrary Loans, although their system could do with some improvement.  This week I received Jack Snow's Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales, a collection from an occasional Weird Tales writer and author of several Oz books.  I'm happy.
  • Watched the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence.  The three-parter was one of the better versions, with Bill Nighy giving a typically wonderful performance.  (Production had been slightly delayed after actor Ed Westwick was cut following allegations of sexual assault; Westwick was replaced by Christian Cooke.)

Don't Dis the Moo-Cow Babies:  Of course this happened in Florida.  Jennifer Anne Kaufman, 46, was one of a trio of women suspected of stealing a car.  Officers tried to stop the vehicle but it crashed near a pasture.  One suspect remained in the car, but another suspect and Kaufman took off on foot.  The second woman was apprehended by a K-9 unit.  A completely different type of animal effected Kaufman's arrest.  Cows.  A herd of cows chased Kaufman through the field, making it easy for police to locate and apprehend her.  You can view the bovine takedown here:

The Week in Trump:  Trump railed against Lebron James, who wants to put kids in school rather than cages.

Once again we hear about Trump's Space Force.  He probably does not realize that it already exists in effect in the various branches of the military -- each of which has highly sophisticated branches, working in coordination, essentially doing what he has asked (except, of course, for having a flashy futuristic uniform).  It would take well over a decade and billions of dollars to separate the present functions to create an individual space force and to create the bureaucracy for it.  And, by the way, isn't Space Force a stupid name?

And then there's the wall.  Turns out a lot of Mexicans are flying to Toronto ($300 one-way and no visa required) and entering America through the Canadian border.  Most experts (the sensible ones) know that the Mexican border wall will never be built because of a slew of legal, financial, and practical reasons.  Yet the smoke and mirrors continue from the administration.

Omarosa wrote a book and Trump doesn't like it.  Now I don't consider Omarosa to be a credible source and much of what she says is specious, but...she calls Trump a racist and mentally "declined."  Although the book has not been released, Trump (kettle) has called Omarosa (who happens to be black) a "lowlife."

The California wild fires were caused by California's environmental laws.  Betcha didn't know that.

And Trump wants to limit citizen rights for legal immigrants.  And while he continues to damn "chain migration," Melania's parents became American citizens this week through -- you guessed it -- chain migration.

And Melania has been speaking out against some of her husband's policies.

And everybody appears to be picking on Trump's "wonderful" son, Donald Jr.  Yet Daddy's tweets appear to be throwing him under the bus.

And Jeff Sessions is "scared stiff and missing in action," while Wilbur Ross is accused of bilking over $100,000,000, and Scott Pruitt's replacement continues to dismantle protections and to destroy our environment.

And there's now a trade war with Turkey.

On the anniversary of the Charlottesville march, Trump tweeted against hate.  Only took him a year.

The editorial boards of at least 70 newspapers have pledged to fight Trump's "fake news" canards.

I haven't covered everything but be assured that we are living in interesting times.

Grief:  After more than two weeks of holding the body of her dead calf, the orca known as Tahlequah has finally released the body of her new-born.  Love and grief are not the exclusive property of humans.

Wow.  Just Wow:  Yesterday, after a delay on Saturday, NASA launched a spacecraft designed to touch the sun.  the Parker Probe will orbit the sun, getting deeper and deeper into its corona and travelling faster than anything ever made on earth.  The probe is designed to get answers to questions that have been plaguing scientists for years.

I'm just glad that Trump's Space Force isn't in charge.

V. S. Naipaul:  I have never read anything by V. S. Naipaul, the Nbel lauriate who died this week at age 85, nor am I likely to.  Nonetheless, I am saddened by his passing.

Today's Poem: 

My Spittoon

My oldest possession is a spittoon
My spittoon goes back a ways into history
Where it originated is a bit of a mystery
It has a bullet hole right about here
I'm told that Buffalo Bill Cody put it there
From over across the street to impress his girl
The lass who went by the name of Annie Oakley
She could ride and shoot with the very best of all men
She would beat them all at their very own game
Riding and roping, trick shots gathering fame
She out shot Frank Butler who fell for her
and he was forever happy as her lover.
In Cody's wild west show she pleased a lot
of people who loved her as "Little Sure Shot"

-- Charles Henderson

Today is the 158th birthday of Annie Oakley.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Clayton Rawson -- a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America (he apparently created their slogan "Crime Does Not Pay -- Enough), a long-time managing editor of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and an amateur magician -- used the stage name The Great Merlini for his magic act and as the detective in a number of his fascinating locked room mystery stories.

Here he performs the "floating lady" trick.  As a bonus, his son ("The Great Merlini, Jr.) gives us "the high sign."

Enjoy this brief trip to a land of wonder and amazement.


Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Can you relate?

Ramblin' Jack Elliott.


Today is my father's birthday.  He would have been 102.  It's stange to realize that I am eight years older now than he was when he died.

I have written about him before on this blog so won't repeat myself except to mention soke of the things he taught me.  Through his example, I learned the value of honesty and of fairness.  I learned the importance of a man's word.  I learned about friendship and dignity.  I learned both giving and forgiving.  I learned responsibility and respect.  I learned love and compassion.  I learned the value of work and the value of relaxation.  I learned to maintain a sense of humor.

I learned, I hope, to be a good man.

We were never the same person.  He was a staunch Yankee Republican and I was (and am) a wild-eyed liberal who espouses conservatism in its original sense (keep -- conserve -- what works and change what doesn't work).  I was more intellectual that he, but never smarter than he was -- and he probably had me outnumbered in the common sense department.  I express my feelings more openly; my father, the old line Yankee, not as much.

We both loved children and we both loved the amazing diversity of people around us.  I occasionally feel sorry for my brother's two girls -- Lizzie and Julia -- because they were born long after he died and never got to meet him, nor he them.  He would have been tickled pink by them.

He loved chicken and he loved popcorn.

I think about him often.  He is never far from my side. He is one of the main reasons I am who I am today.   If I am half the man he was my life will be a success.

He was a good man and lives on still in all the people he touched.


From Fawcett Publications, the folks who brought you Exciting Romances, Romantic Western, and Sweetheart Diary, comes Big Book Romances -- "148 PAGES OF RAPTUROUS ROMANCE!  INTIMATE SECRETS TOLD IN CAPTIVATING PICTURE STORIES!" 


Two things:  First, he photographic cover and the term "picture stories" implies that this is a photo-story, a format that has been used on occasion in the industry.  Nope.  This is a comic book.  Period.  With hand-drawn art, inking, and lettering.  Second, Big Book Romances turned out to be a one-shot.  But was it?  According to the publisher's notice at the bottom of page three, this is Volume 12, Number 71 of Sweethearts.  Huh.  Actually this book appears to be a compilation of three comic books:  Sweethearts (January 1949), Life Story (December 1949), and Romantic Secrets (September 1949), with the publisher's notice for all three reprinted.  (It also announced a picture biography of Tyrone Power, as well as your horoscope in pictures.  Neither are in Big Book Romances.)

Now on to this issue.  To my mind one of the neatest (and by neatest, I mean how glad I am I am no longer living in less aware times) things is an interview with actor Guy Madison.  When asked to describe his ideal woman, Madison answered, "She has to have inner as well as outer beauty -- intelligent, but not too intelligent."  Gak!  Also, "There's something in my personality that makes people resent me, especially men.  They think I'm conceited."  Go figure.

And then there are the stories.  A girl who thinks her humble origins are not worthy of happiness, a girl whose superstitious nature impedes her chances at love, a good girl about to be dragged down by bad influences, and so on and so on.  Typical fare, emphasizing female insecurities that can be resolved by a handsome, understanding man.  Did I say Gak!?

Here's the line-up:

  • More Than Beauty
  • The Captive Heart
  • The Happiness and Heartbreak of Vicki Carter, Chapter II:  The Crisis, a text story by John Messman
  • Lost Embrace
  • Love Was a Game
  • Strange Delusion
  • My Perfect Love
  • I Dreamed Life Away...who knew Walter Mitty was a love-starved girl?
  • Exclusive Interview with Guy Madison...I think I covered that above
  • The Entombed Heart...a pro-coal romance, sans black lung -- Trump would love it!
  • A Short Wait for Paradise
  • The Unforgiving Heart
  • A Tearful Illusion
  • Rendezvous of the Heart, a one-page text story
  • Glamour Girl, another one-page text story
  • Superstitious!
Because this is a "big book," the cover price was a quarter.

As I was reading this issue I kept thinking about my sister.  When she was very young, she had two great loves, romance comics and horses.  Has she been old enough when this issue came out, she would have loved it.  And one of the stories even had horses!


Friday, August 10, 2018


From 1953, the Clovers.


Rockets to Nowhere by "Philip St. John" (Lester del Rey) (1954)

Beginning in 1952, the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia issued a series of juvenile books in their "Adventures in Science Fiction" series.  A total of 37 books were issued in the series, first by Winston (1952-1960), then by its successor Holt, Rinehart and Winston (1960-1961).  All but two of the entrees were novels, one was an anthology (The Year After Tomorrow edited by Lester del Rey, Cecile Matchak, and Carl Carmer) and one was nonfiction (Rockets Through Space by Lester del Rey).  The series promised exciting reading, with stories backed by technical accuracy, and written by recognized authors in the field.  Unlike much of the juvenile SF of the time, the stories emphasized character and the growth and the development of its young protagonists.  Most of the books were original publications.

The name of Lester del Rey is securely linked to the series -- ten of the 37 books were by him.  (This far outnumbered the number of books in the series by one author; the runners-up, with four books was Milton Lesser (now better known as Stephen Marlowe); vying for third place with three books apiece, were Raymond F. Jones, Donald A. Wollheim, and Evan Hunter.)  No surprise there -- it's my understanding that many of the plots in the series were developed by del Rey and by Lesser.)

There were a few absolute turkeys in the line-up, but most of the titles were good old-fashioned, exciting science fiction.  Besides the authors listed above, the series featured books by Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, Chad Oliver, Alan E. Nourse, and Ben Bova.  Quite a line-up and one of the many reasons this series is remembered so fondly by those whose childhood was brightened by them.

Lester del Rey is recognized as one science fiction's great authors and editors.  He was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1990.  Many of his short stories -- both science fiction and fantasy -- are acknowledged classics.  Rockets to Nowhere, however, does little to burnish del Rey's reputation.

The time is the near future.  Not that far that some of the characters met and worked with Werner von Braun and Willy Ley.  One of the characters is the son of science fiction writer (and 1940s Astounding Science Fiction regular) George O. Smith (!).  We learn that Smith is still alive and churning out SF when the novel takes place.

The world-wide political situation is dire and has affected man's attempt to conquer space.  No nation dares to build a space station in Earth's orbit.  Any country that does will have a military advantage that the others would not tolerate.  An attempt by the United Nations to build a space station died aborning when each nation realized that one or two men could take over the station and use it for their country's advantage.  The idea of a space station being used as a jumping off place to reach the moon has become unthinkable.

This distrust among the nation's has sparked a world-wide wave of paranoia.  For the past thirty years each country has instituted strict security precautions against spying and sabotage.  Actually, strict is not the right word.  Let's substitute the word "draconian."  When the taint of suspicion is one any one person, security services also applies the taint to his or her family, and acts accordingly.

Danny Scott is the son of two fairly high-level scientists, each with a security rating above his.  Also with a high security rating is his cousin Rip, a rocket test pilot.  (Although a space station is not feasible, rocket research continues.)

When Rip is killed in a rocket accident, Danny has suspicions.  Brave though Rip might be, he was also very cautious.  He would not go up in a rocket if there was an obvious fault or potential danger.  Around the same, leading scientists are vanishing, or dying in other rocket accidents.  In fact, everyone above Danny's father in his project is gone and Danny begins to fear for his father.  He suspects these people were not killed as the government has said.  Danny thinks they may have been kidnapped or murdered.  Then Danny discovers that not only scientists have been vanishing, a lot of other people have also -- people whose skills could be lent to build a space station.  Near the end of the book we learn that some 12,000 people have vanished.

But there is no space station.  It is impossible.  Regular rocket flights around Earth's orbit as well as various ground systems prove that a space station cannot exist.  But...

Danny steals a rocket in an attempt to prove or disprove his suspicions, only to discover no space station.  But he does discover rockets being launched from where no rockets should have been launched.

So what is going on?  Is it a plot from some enemy nation?  Or from some unknown subversive group?  Or is it from the government?  Or a cabal of traitors withing the government?  Danny is going to have a hard time finding out because now he is a criminal and is branded a traitor.

Rockets Through Space has a number of faults, from illogical plotting to weak characterization to an ending that had been telegraphed almost in CAPITAL LETTERS and bold, italicized type.  But its greatest fault is that it is not exciting.  It moves slooowly.  It took me over three day to plod through the book -- something that most fans of the series would think impossible.

Surprisingly the telegraphed ending lent some credence to the book, moving the story up to what I would consider a solid C grade.  Rockets Through Space is at the lower end of the 37 book in the series but certainly not at the bottom.

Of del Rey's eight novels in the Winston series, this is the only one that has not has an English language paperback reprint.  I think I know why.

You may find more virtue in this story.  I certainly hope you do.

Thursday, August 9, 2018


Well, Rod, I think I'm sexy.


Everyone's favorite giant simian hit the airwaves, but I don't know when.

In fact I don't know a darned thing about this particular show -- where it aired, when it aired, or even who was involved.

Enjoy this little to Skull Island and back.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Nat King Cole.


Loosely based on Poe's "The Premature Burial," Eric von Stoheim plays Dr. Andre Crispi, a jealous surgeon.  He has no love for Dr. Stephen Ross (John Bohn) who has married the girl Crespi loves, Estelle (Harriet Russell).  Ross apparently dies during surgery.  In reality he has been posioned by Crespi with a drug that induces a death-like catatonic state while leaving its victim fully aware of all his senses.  Bwahaha!  Thus Ross is buried.  Double Bwahaha!

Fear not, gentle viewer, for Crespi has aroused the suspicions of Dr. Thomas (Dwight Frye in one of his non-lunatic roles).  At Thomas' urging Ross is exhumed by Dr. John Arnold (Paul Guilfoyle -- no, not the CSI guy; this one was born in 1902).  The body is placed on the autopsy table (remember, Ross is fully aware), and then...

Well, you know.

The Crime of Dr. Crespi was directed by John H. Auer and written by Edgar Allan Poe Lewis Graham, Edward Olmstead, and Auer.  Our old friend, Republic Pictures, distributed the film.


Monday, August 6, 2018


Tom Paxton, still fighting the good fight.


Openers:   Closer and closer, the plane came roaring across the field and hurtled for the narrow dusty road at one end.  Some men swore feelingly, and one made a break for the shelter of a tree.  Death was pouring from that plane -- leaden death.  Arsenate of lead, to be specific.

-- "Mask of Glory" by William O'Sullivan (from Air War, Summer 1942)

(And check out the original blurb for this story:  "Skid Carr, Crop-Dusting Pilot from the U.S.A., Finds Himself in the Middle of a Nazi Spy Plot That It Takes a Slue of Bombers and Fighters to Break Up!"  The grammar may be bad but it sure made the reader want to dive into the story.)

Happy, Happy:  Patti Abbott, writer and blogger extraordinaire, has been publishing a weekly meme on "Things That Made Me Happy" and asked others what made them happy.  Patti's blog is on a (short, I hope) hiatus; until her blog returns, I thought I'd put my weekly responses here.

  • Tom Paxton.  The singer songwriter is 80 now and as powerful as ever.  His songs speak for justice and for humanity.  In a recent interview he explained his philosophy simply:  "I don't like bullies."  Last night, Kitty and I went on a YouTube binge of Tom Paxton songs.  Tom Paxton gives me hope.  Here's a sample:
  • Losing Weight.  Last week I (well, Kitty actually) decided it was time to lose weight.  Rather than go on a specific diet, we thought we'd try skipping fast food on the run and concentrate on eating watchfully and at specific times.  You have to understand that I am heavier than Nero Wolfe at his heaviest.  Also, I seldom weigh myself.  I had weighed myself the week before and then this week.  I had lost about eight pounds over those two weeks -- which actually means this week.  So, something's working and -- so far -- it hasn't been difficult.  I may even stay the course.
  • My family.  After 48 years of marriage, I am amazed daily at how lucky I am.  This week the kids and grands headed to an alligator farm in Alabama and sweated in the blazing heat, handling gators, spiders, and snakes.  Better them than me.
  • Streaming.  We're now addicted to binging television shows.  Watched season one of Marvel's Cloak and Dagger; it started slowly but soon  moved into entertaining action.  I hope there will be a season two.  We're currently watching Black Spot, a series from France about an isolated French village where the murder rate is six times that of the country as a whole.  eerie, suspenseful, and funny.  I hope Amazon Prime picks up the second season when it becomes available.
  • I really enjoyed John Connolly's recent book he, a biographical novel about Laurel and Hardy.  I'm slowly dipping into Connelly's collection Nocturnes.  Great stuff.
Spit Take:  "I was not late.  The Queen was late."

Cryptic:  Cryptocurrencies are the Beanie Babies of the moment.  Well, that's my opinion anyway.  (I'm not alone in this:  The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued warnings about cryptocurrencies.)  A monetary system works because of a shared faith in that system and its regulation.  There is no regulation here and any faith in the system (IMHO) seems based on a combination of wanting to get-rich-quick, a minority view of our regular monetary system, and a desire to launder money.  I find it troubling that many of those who are advocates for cryptocurrency label themselves as "entrepreneurs."  Cryptocurrencies are competing against each other.  We hear of Bitcoin and its wild swings in value but there are hundreds of other cryptocurrencies popping up and fading away.  Well now there are ATMs throughout the world for cryptocurrencies -- several thousand of them, manufactured and placed by at least three companies.  I find that cryptic.

Also cryptic is Starbucks.  The company is planning on opening a thousand "Italian-style" bakeries, first in Seattle, then in Shanghai, followed by ones in Milan, New York, Tokyo, and Chicago.  It's an attempt to cash in on the lunch and dinner crowds.  Starbucks is known for its overpriced, burnt-tasting coffee and its pretentious concoctions thereof.  The company has obtained Princi, a small upscale bakery with no presence in America, and will be building its bakeries on that company.  But Starbucks has done this before and its success has been less than overwhelming.  Companies must grow and expand beyond their original vision if they are to survive, but somehow I cannot see an upscale crowd going out to dinner for an Italian sandwich and burnt coffee.  Call me a curmudgeon.

On This Day:  Six years ago NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars.  The following day Martian newspapers carried the headline THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

Judge Crater:  Also on this date, but in 1930, New York Judge Joseph force Crater reportedly entered a taxi and was never seen again, earning his place in the triumvirate of famous disappearances along with Ambrose Bierce and Jimmy Hoffa.  His disappearance raised public concern about corruption and was a factor in the downfall of the Tammany Hall political machine.

Speculation had Crater making a lot of money through shady deals.  He also had a taste for nightlife and for showgirls.  Late that July, while vacationing in Maine with his wife, Crater received a phone call and then told his wife that he had to go to New York for a few days to "straighten those fellows out."  He arrived in the city, gathered up his mistress, and headed to Atlantic City.  He returned to Maine on August 1, but on August 3 he told his wife he had to make another trip to New York, promising to be back in time for her birthday on August 9.  On the morning of August 6 Crater reviewed his office files and reportedly destroyed several of them.  He then had his assistant cash checks totally $5,150 (over $75,000 in today's money).  He and his assistant then brought two locked briefcases to his apartment where Crater gave the assistant the rest of the day off.  That evening he had dinner with his mistress and with his lawyer.  They exited the restaurant about 9:30 and said that Crater got into a taxi -- a story both later changed.  After Crater had been gone from Maine for ten days (four days after his wife's birthday), his wife became concerned and began calling friends, trying to locate him.  On August 25, when he did not appear for the opening of Court, his fellow justices became alarmed and started their own search.  And on September 3, the police were finally informed.

Shortly after Crater's disappearance, his mistress left town to be found in late September at her parents' home in Ohio.  She said she left town suddenly because she had word that her father was ill.

Another showgirl, June Brice, who was suspected of blackmailing Crater (thus the briefcases of money), vanished the day before a grand jury was about to convene about Crater's disappearance.  she was discovered in 1948 in a mental hospital.

A third woman, Vivian Gordon, reportedly one of Polly Adler's high-end prostitutes, was also linked to Legs Diamond (a friend of Crater's, as was Diamond's former boss Arnold Rothstein).  Early in 1931, Gordon lost custody of her sixteen-year-old daughter.  Angry she went to a commission looking into city corruption and volunteered to testify about police graft.  She was murdered five days later and a search of her apartment turned up a coat that belonged to Crater.  Gordon's daughter committed suicide.  I remain suspicious about that.

Crater's widow (as we can reasonably call her) remarried in 1938 -- a year before Crater was officially declared dead.  (Her new husband's first wife had hung herself just eight days before the wedding.)   With Oscar Fraley, author of the book The Untouchables, she wrote The Empty Robe, the story of Crater and his disappearance from her perspective, stating that she believes Crater was murdered.

In 2005, one theory came out that Crater was killed by a bodyguard to one of Murder, Inc.'s most notorious hit men and that Crater was buried at the current site of the New York Aquarium, but no skeleton remains were found on the site during excavation in 1950.

Despite the mystery and the uncertainty tow things remain evident:  Crater was not a nice person and he did not have a nice ending.

Today's Poem:

"The Ugly Daughter"

Knows loss intimately,
carries whole cities in her belly.

As a child, relatives wouldn't hold her.
She was splintered wood and sea water,
she reminded them of the war.

On her fifteenth birthday you taught her
how to tie her hair like rope
and smoke it over burning frankincense.

You made her gargle rosewater
and while she coughed, said
Maccanto, girls shouldn't smell
of lonely or empty.

You're her mother.
Why didn't you warn her?
That she would not be loved
if she is covered in continents,
if her teeth are small colonies,
if her stomach is an island,
if her thighs are borders?

Who wants to lie down
and watch the world burn
in their bedroom?

Your daughter's face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear,
a body littered with ugly things

but God,
doesn't she wear
the world well.

-- Warsan Shire

(Warsan Shire is a British poet born of Somali parents in Kenya in 1988.  She was awarded the Brunei University African Poetry Prize and in 2013 was selected as the first Young Poet Laureate for London.)