Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, January 31, 2019


Jo Stafford.


Lord Peter Wimsey infiltrates a masked gang of criminals -- 39 of them(!) -- and must use his wits to survive after being found this adaptation of the Dorothy L. Sayers story.

"The Cave of Ali Baba" aired on Suspense on August 19, 1942 and features Romney Brent and William Matten.



H. P. Lovecraft was a psychedelic rock band from Chicago in the late 1960s.  They moved to San Francisco after their first album.  They were probably best known for naming the group after the cult horror writer.  They split up in 1969, after which two members formed a new lineup to become Lovecraft (and later Love Craft).

Although H. P. Lovecraft released two albums and were popular in the acid-laced San Francisco area, they never reached the heights they deserved.

"At the Mountains of Madness" is from their second album.  The title comes from one of HPL's (the writer) best stories.


He was going to tell a joke about his abusive dad but he could only remember the punch line.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


A little bit of honky tonk from Hank.


Some days you just need a laugh.  Here's Charlie Chaplin in a silent from 1914.


The Mystics.


Openers:  In the animal creation, as in the human, there are spheres whose existence remain unsuspected until chance lifts a corner of the veil.  One of these, as far as I was concerned, was the world of the homosexual dog.  I only became aware of it when Shlobber came into my life.

-- "A Few Kindred Spirits" by "John Christopher" (Sam Christopher Youd), from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1965

Movies:  My daughter hooked up to a new Amazon streaming service yesterday afternoon and last night we watched a couple of horror films.  Movie theaters no longer interest me.  Too many talking kids.  Expensive.  Often, uncomfortable seats.  Even more often, a poor or garbled sound system.  Expensive and unhealthy snacks.  Gum on the floors and on the seats...ugh!  I think the last movie I saw in the theater was Forrest Gump.  I now catch first-run shows a few years later on one of the streaming services.

The Mummy was intended to be the beginning of the Dark Universal franchise.  The idea was to take classic Universal horror films and update them for a modern audience.  Following this movie they was to be reboots featuring Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and so on.  But the best-laid plans, etc., etc. did not account for Tom Cruise.

There were many reasons why the movie flopped and consequently put the kibosh on the whole Dark universal idea but the main reason was Cruise itself.  In a role intended to be one of a likable rogue, Cruise transformed it to a smirking (and unintentional, I'm sure) parody of himself.  Using a range of emotions from sad puppy dog to what/what? (the equivalent of not understanding what is going on -- not because it is truly unable to be understood but because Cruise and his character are both dim bulbs).  But wait.  Cruise smiles  A lot.  Isn't he just the cutest thing?  And Cruise shows off his ripped, middle-aged body.  Isn't he just the most toned thing?  In the end, Cruise and his ego have completely misread his character and the plot.  His mannerisms, his facial reactions (as much as he can muster with the top half of his face frozen by plastic surgery), his tone and cadence, all remind me of Chandler Bing from Friends.  (In fact, this would have been a much better flick if Matthew Perry had been cast as the lead.)  I read that filming was delayed because Cruise want his part beefed up.  Whoever went along with that needs to have their head examined.

Tom Cruise was not the only problem here.  The direction was poor.  The continuity was poor.  The gimmick-laden script was poor.  Most of the other actors were lifeless.  The internal logic was anything but.  The CGI was impressive at times but was often meaningless.  Whoever had the idea of the mummy having two pupils in each eye just did not understand the difference between eerie and irritating.

I really wanted to see this film because I was sure it could not have been as bad as the critics said.

Stephen King's It always had Pennywise the clown going for it, first in the form of Tim Curry in the old two-part television movie, lately in the form of Bill Skarsgard as an even creepier Pennywise.  I'm not sure on this but I think It is the longest book that King has written.  As with many of King's books, there is a detailed back story to the many characters as well as side jaunts from the main narrative.  It the book has a lot to pack into any It the film.  The two-part TV version did this by intermixing the past and the present in a somewhat effective manner.  The recent 2017 film does it by concentrating only on the past -- 1989 Derry, Maine -- and the group of thirteen-year-old Losers who have banded together to fight Pennywise.  It:  Chapter Two, which brings the Losers Club back to Derry 27 years later, is due to be released this coming September.

It loses its punch by trying to bring too much into the film and also by not bringing enough of the right stuff.  Pennywise is an inexplicable monster with a Shadow-like ability to selectively cloud the minds of men (and boys and girls).  His evil (and perhaps his powers) is erratic.  We see him spread his miasmic power over the town yet he does not capitalize on it in any way.  The adults of Derry all appear to be idiots; they could have stopped the whole affair in its tracks had they reacted normally.  In an effort to make the seven Losers appear like real characters the film adds a heavy dose of innuendo, swears, and sex to their talk.  Too much so.  By trying to make these kids real the movie reduces them to stereotypes.

Some of the scary moments are scary; others last way too long.  The CGI is effective and atmospheric most of the time.  The pcing is jerky   The kids are stereotypes.  There's the Jew, the fat one, the Black, the jokester, the neurotic, the stutterer who must find his courage, and the girl unfairly targeted by rumor.

Overall, It was a disappointment, albeit a fairly entertaining one.  It coulda been a contender.

Happy anniversary:  208 years ago today (well, yesterday actually, because I was late in posting this) Beethoven's Piano Concerto Number 5 in E Flat Major, Opus 73, premiered at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig. 

Enjoy this performance by The Orchestra of the Liszt University, conducted by Nicolas Pasquet, with Alina Bercu as soloist:

Today's poem:

Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.

Arithmetic tells you how many you lose or win if you now how many you had before you lost or won.

Arithmetic is six eleven all good children go to heaven -- or five six bundle of sticks.

Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your paper till you get the answer.

Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of the window and see the blue sky -- or the answer is wrong and you have to start all over again and try again and see how it comes out this time.

If you take a number and double it and double it again and then double it a few more times, the number gets bigger and bigger and goes higher and higher and only arithmetic can tell you what the number is when you decide to quit doubling.

Arithmetic is where you have to multiply -- and you carry the multiplication table in your head and hope you don't lose it.

If you have two animal crackers, one good and one bad, and you eat one and a striped zebra with streaks all over him eats the other, how many animal crackers will you have if somebody offers you five six seven and you say No no no and you say nay nay nay and you say nix nix  nix.

If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you to fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother?

-- Carl Sandburg

Sunday, January 27, 2019


We live in wonderful, but scary, times.

Then again, mankind has always lived in wonderful, but scary, times.

The following documentary discusses some of the great scientific discoveries of the 21st century -- things that offer great promise...things that offer great challenges.

It is also interesting to scroll down the comments to the documentary.  The relationship between faith and science does not have to be antagonistic, although you wouldn't know it in some of the comments.

Enjoy.  Marvel.  Dream.


Jim Reeves.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


From 1968, Billy Stewart, the first artist -- and possibly the best -- to record this song.


When policeman Matthew "Kip" Burman was framed for burglary by The Skull, he became the Black Hood to prove his innocence.  This all happened when Bob Montana and Al Camy (some say Harry Shorten There Oughta Be a Law! fame created the character as the book's editor) created his first adventure in Top-Notch Comics #9 (October 1940).  The Black Hood soon became the most popular character in MLJ Comics (later Archie Comics, as if Bob Montana's name wasn't a giveaway) masked crime fighter/superhero line-up.  By issue #28, the company purged all their other hard-fisted characters, keeping only Black Hood, added humorous stories, and re-titled the comic Top-Notch Laugh Comics.  Eleven issues later, even the Black Hood was gone and the title underwent another name change to Laugh Comics.

But the Black Hood endured.  In 1943 he got his own title and had his own radio program from 1943 to 1944.

(Over the years, there have been many Black Hoods.  In 1979, Thomas "Kip" Burman was ahnded down the role from his Uncle Matthew, who also reviewed that there have been many Black Hoods in the Burland family over the ages.  Sadly, Thomas was gunned down by police officer Gregory Hettinger in 2015.  Hettinger would later become the Black Hood himself.  Before that, in 2010, Matteo Burland became Black Hood.  Matteo was a criminal whose sister was killed by drug dealers.  After Matteo got his vengeance, it became a question whether he became a hero or a villain.  And, beginning in 1991, DC Comics put forth a number of various Black Hoods and added a mystical element to the saga.  It seems the Black Hood was originally an executioner's mask.  Each wearer of the Black Hood was fated to die and when that happened the hood would mysteriously find its way to the next Black Hood.  Lately the Black Hood appears as a serial killer in the television show Riverdale, killing (among others) Miss Grundy and Midge Klump and wounding Archie's dad and Moose Mason.  SPOILER ALERT!   The TV Black Hood was Betty's father.)

In Black Hood Comics #15, we follow Matthew Burman through three adventures taken from "The Confiodential Files of Black Hood."

  • "The Case of the Blood-Red Rubies"
  • "The Case of the Beautiful Corpse"
  • "The Case of the Friendly Murders"

In addition Black Hood appears in a two-page text story, "A Nickel's Worth of Murder."

And in a change of mood there's a tale of Gloomy Gus the Homeless Ghost, "A Millionaire's Life."


Friday, January 25, 2019


The High Kings.


Two-Gun Showdown by Murray Leinster (1948)

First, let's clear up a bit of confusion about this book.  It is a digest paperback copyrighted 1948 but a note on the copyright page states, "This book was originally published under the title 'The Gamblin' Kid,' and has been slightly revised."  The Gamblin' Kid was Leinster's first western novel to be published in book form -- in 1933 and under the author's real name, Will F. Jenkins.  Four years later it appeared in the March 1937 issue of Western Action Novels, again as by Jenkins.  The amount of revision to make Two-Gun Showdown is not known.

The book features a character known as (surprise! surprise!) The Gamblin' Kid, his real name a mystery.  The Kid is just over his twentieth birthday -- whether that means he's 20 or 21 isn't stated -- but is already a fast and accurate draw.  He's also an expert poker player.  When the Kid was in his late teens, his father lost everything -- his money, his ranch, his dignity -- in a card game to a man named White.  The senior Kid then died of heart-break.  The Kid set out on a quest to find White and to break him over a game of poker.  He found out White now owned a gambling house and saloon in the town of Pecos.  So that's where the Kid was headed when the book opens.

In the town where the Kid had just come from there was "a killin'" and the Kid expected to be followed by some men so he camped on a high shelf overlooking a valley stream only to find out he was "at the receivin' end of a kind whispering galley" when he was wakened by the sound of men below.  The Kid could clearly hear the men going over a plan to kidnap a girl and take her to Mexico to let the Mexicans do with her what they will.  Since the girl was a crack shot and always carried her pistol with her, a man named Tompkins who would be riding with her had exchanged the bullets for blanks.  The gang would leave enough of a trail left for the people coming to rescue her to follow, leaving a local mine virtually unguarded and empty -- easy pickings for the baddies to make off with a large load of high-grade ore.  Well, it was a dastardly plot and the kid edged unseen from the canyon wall and headed to intercept the girl.

So the Kid finds the girl, kills Tompkins, saves the girl, shows her that her gun was full of blanks, and rides off to let the girl ride home by herself.  The girl is the beautiful Marion Turner, the daughter of the owner of the Bar-T-Bar ranch, as well as the owner of the supposedly played-out Blue Streak Mine.

When the Kid shows up in Pecos with a large wad to finance the eventual poker game with White, he is greeted by the sheriff who tells the Kid that he is his new deputy.  The Kid protests but the sheriff had heard from Marion's father that the Kid had been fleeing a killing, so the Kid either becomes a deputy or the sheriff will let the authorities know where he is.  It seems that Marion also told her father that the Kid could be deadly with a gun.  There had been a number of unexplained killings in the town, as well as accidents and misfortunes usually directed at Turner and his Blue Streak mine so the sheriff figured that, with the Kid on his side, he might be able to get to the bottom of everything.  The Kid reluctantly agrees to being deputized.

The Kid is honest and proud.  He is also quick-tempered and apt to take offense without thinking and then acting violently.  Not the best combination.  Could the love of a good woman help to soften his anger?  We shall see.

Marion is a good woman but she is also apt to draw rash conclusions.  She is clearly attracted to the Kid but does not know if he is a saint or a sinner.  She fears he may be a murderer on the run or, perhaps, a member of the gang who tried to kidnap her.  She spends much of the book all aflutter.

And then there's Laura, a childhood friend from his past and his first school-boy love-affair.  She had left hometown and somehow ended up in Pecos, working in White's Gila monster Saloon and Dance-Hall as a whore bargirl soiled dove.  The Kid still sees some purity in Laura and urges her to go back home to her Ma and Pa.  Laura is still in love with the Kid and would do almost anything for him except return home.

There is shooting and fighting and rip-roaring gunplay as the entire town of Pecos turns against the Kid.  Can he stop the baddies, clear his name, save Laura's father from financial ruin, and get his revenge on White?  It's safe to say the answer will be yes.

The story presumably takes place sometime in the 1890s (or thereabouts).  There are telephones but no automobiles, and there is dirt and dust and horses and guns and hanging rope -- just about everything you need for a rip-snorting western.

Author/editor Damon Knight once describes a type of book as having an "idiot plot," where the plot is furthered because the hero/heroine is an idiot.  That's what we have here.  Obvious conclusions are too remote for most of the characters, complications and misunderstandings should have been cleared up easily but are not, and too many people -- including the Kid -- are idiots. 

And then there's the dialogue.  To give it a true western flavor words like "here" and "there" are spoken as "heah" and "thear."  The final "g" is dropped from all gerunds; in the first four lines of page 57, for example, we have "implyin'," "implyin' nothin'," "sayin'," "goin'," and another "goin'."  "ain't is used instead of "isn't" by everyone and you find "I'" for "I'd" and "y'headed" for "you headed."  Words are crushed together, like "neveryoumind."  With tricks like these the reader knows he is in the "true" west.

But carping (or carpin') aside, I said that you have just about all you need for a rip-snorting western and that's what you have here.  Pure pulp and excitement.  So suspend your disbelief, sit back, and entire a time when men were men and women were women and cigarettes, whiskey and bullets flowed like the clear water from the River Boyne which runs through Leinster, Ireland

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Dr. Feelgood & the Interns with the first known recording of this song, 1962.  (The Beatles had had it in their repertoire for several years before recording it in 1964.)

Dr. Feelgood was really Piano Red who was really Willie Lee Perryman, reportedly the first American blues musician to hit the pop music charts with the 1950 hits "Rockin' with Red" and 'Red's Boogie."


The premiere episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater -- the first of 1,399 original episodes -- aired on January 6, 1974 and starred Agnes Moorehead as the elderly Mrs. Candy.

Mrs. Candy has taken a boarder, Mr. Paulson.  Paulson soon became sick and died confessing to Mrs. Candy that he had been hired to kill a man ten years before.  Uncertain whether Paulson had really confessed to murder or whether this was a dying man's fevered imagination, Mrs. Candy decided to investigate.  Paulson's supposed victim was someone named Jackson and that a man named Lindell had been innocently convicted of the murder.  Jackson and Lindell had been partners in an investment  and Lindell has suspected Jackson had been stealing money from the firm.  According to decade old newspapers, the case against Lindell was ironclad.  Innocent or not, it turned out Lindell had died in prison three years before.  All three of the main characters in this tragedy were dead so there was no real reason for Mrs. Candy to follow the matter further.

Then Mrs. Candy got a new boarder -- Stuart Mansfield, a young, personable man who soon worked his way into Mrs. Candy's wife.  Slowly, Stuart Mansfield began to pump Mrs. Candy for information about Paulson...

Famed radio producer {more than 30,000 radio programs over seven decades) Himan Brown directed this episode from an original script by Henry Slesar.  Slesar was an Edgar-winning novelist, prolific short story writer, and even more prolific script writer for radio and television -- he was a major contributor to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and served as head writer for such soap operas and programs as Edge of Night (16 years!), Somerset, Search for Tomorrow, and Executive Suite.  (Slesar was also reportedly the person to coin the phrase "coffee break.")

Appearing with Agnes Moorehead on "The Old Ones are Hard To kill" were Leon Janney and Roger de Koven.  E. G. Marshall was the program's host.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Happy birthday, Sam Cooke.


A recent survey has shown that five out of six scientists say Russian roulette is safe.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Here's a solid country and pop hit from 1959 by The Browns -- Jim Ed, Maxine, and Bonnie.

RIP, Maxine, who died yesterday at age 87.


This episode of Robert Culp's late 1950s western television show has received its share of notoriety in recent months after it was noticed that it featured a conman named Trump who wanted gullible townspeople to pay for a wall which would stave off the end of the world:  "I am the only one.  Trust me!  I can build a wall around your homes that nothing can penetrate."  When Culp's character called Trump a phony, Trump threatened (no kidding) to sue. Snippets of this episode have been aired on various news programs but this is your opportunity to watch the full episode.

Trackdown aired on CBS for two seasons, 1957-1959.  Culp played Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman, who hunted down various robbers and murderers in the Old West shortly after the Civil War.  The pilot episode, "Badge of Honor," aired on Dick Powell's Zane Gray Theater on May 3, 1957.  In that episode Gilman, a former Confederate cavalry officer and a former Texas Ranger, has to once again take up the Ranger badge to clean up his hometown.  The first episode of the new series, "The Marple Brothers," aired on October 4, 1957.  Halfway through the first season, Culp's character became the de facto sheriff of the small Texas town of Porter, allowing Ellen Corby to become a regular while still allowing Gilman to occasionally travel outside of Porter to track down neer-do-wells.  Others added to the cast during the second season were Peter Leeds, Norman Leavitt, James Griffith, Gail kobe, and Addison Richards.  It should be noted that the March 7, 1958, episode, "The Bounty Hunter," served as a pilot for Steve McQueen's western series Wanted:  Dead or Alive.  (McQueen returned in an episode several months later but this time did not play bounty hunter Josh Randall.)

"The End of the World" aired on May 8, 1958.  It was written by John Robinson, who wrote 18 episodes of the series.  Robinson went on to produce 68 episodes of Wanted: Dead or Alive and had a number of other writing and producing credits.  Donald McDougall directed this episode as well as 38 others in the series.  McDougall had a prolific career in television from the Fifties through the Seventies, directing episodes of many of television's standby western and crime dramas of the time.  The character of Trump was portrayed by Lawrence Dobkin, whose many credits include three seasons as the narrator of Naked City; he was also the original narrator of Walt Disney World's Hall of presidents when it opened in 1971.  Also in this episode was Dabbs Greer as Sheriff Farrow.

Enjoy this blast from the past...or was it an eerie premonition of things to come?

Monday, January 21, 2019


From 1926, The Hillbillies, with Fred Roe on fiddle and Henry Roe on guitar.


Openers:  Arnold Habershon, chartered accountant, was the kind of man you would never notice -- a fussy little man, the slave of his own routine.  When he dressed in the morning, he unconsciously timed his movements to those of the servant maid, who was as regular as himself in her habits.  He adjusted his tie as the maid left the flat.  He knew that his breakfast would be waiting, and that on the table would be The Times and The Daily Record.

-- "The Death Position Enigma" by "Roy Vickers" (William Edward Vickers), from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1948

Martin Luther King:  Today, the third Monday in January, is Martin Luther King Day.  Here are a few reasons to celebrate his legacy:

  • "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
  • "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.  Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.'
  • "A lie cannot live."
  • "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
  • 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."
  • "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.""Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
  • "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Unclear on the Concept:  This weekend Vice-President Mike Pence once again demonstrated why he is the third person most dangerous to American democracy, following Speaker of the House Mitch McConnell and Liar in Chief Donald J. Trump.  Pence distorted the words of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream" speech to support Trump's  proposal to stop the partial government shutdown and support his border wall.  I would say shame on Pence but, like his boos, he knows no shame.

Patriots:  I'm not a big sports fan, but Go Patriots!  Tom Brady has once again proven that age cannot whither.

Reports of Her Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated:  Wishful thinking on the part of Fox News, perhaps, but they did apologize for displaying a graphic on the Fox & Friends show that falsely claimed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was dead.  For my part, the apology was just taking coals to Newcastle; I don't believe anything I hear on Fox & Friends.

On the Wrong Side of History:  The anti-LGBT group One Million Moms, which was created by (according to the southern Poverty Law Center) "extremist group"  American Family Center, has started a petition against Parents magazine for featuring a gay married couple and their one-year-old twins on the cover of its February issue.  One Million Moms is a website, along with One Million Dads, formed to promote American Family Centers views, organize boycotts, and to urge letter writing campaigns against companies whom they fell promote the homosexual lifestyle.  Among their failed campaigns were efforts to get JC Penney to drop sponsorship of Ellen DeGeneres, a campaign against Marvel and DC comics, one against GEICO because an ad showing Maxwell the pig and a girl in a car made them think of bestiality, and a blast at Campbell's Soup which featured two dads and their child.

Sorry, One Million Moms.  my understanding is that same-sex parents can provide a healthier and more loving environment than some 'traditional" couples.

Weighing Things:  There seems to be a decidedly liberal basis to my post today.  It was not intended, believe me, but this week -- like so many others recently -- has overwhelmed me.  All I can say about today's post is that it is what it is.

Today's Poem:

That justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

-- Langston Hughes

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Hosted by Marcia Clark, these four best-selling mystery writers speak at BookExpoAmerica, May 31, 2013.



From 1968, The Staples Singers.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Jethro Tull.


Boys' and Girls' March of Comics was a give-away publication from Dell Comics/Western Publishing distributed freely to various stores around the country with the store's name printed on the back page.  The link below shows that this particular comic book was distributed by the I. Sabel Agency of the Maxwell Shoe Company, with offices in Pittsburg, Youngstown, and St. Louis.

Indian Chief was a comic book which lasted for 30 issues, from July 1951 (issue #3) to March 1959 (issue #33).  What are now considered non-PC comics featuring American Indians were very popular in the 1950s.

Boys' and Girls' March of Comics featured Indian Chief in at least four of their issues.  Issue 187 contains just a single story featuring the Indian Chief White Eagle in "The Night Raider."  I'm not sure if this is a reprint or if it is a story leftover from the earlier cancellation of Indian Chief as a separate title.

In either case, enjoy.  (And while you're at it, stock up on Maxwell shoes.)

Friday, January 18, 2019


Get your groove on with The Buckinghams, circa 1967.


Fluke by Jame Herbert  (1977)

James Herbert burst onto the horror scene with his first novel The Rats (1974), about intelligent rats attacking the denizens of London.  It sold 100,000 copies in its first three weeks and spawned three sequels.  Herbert's second novel, The Fog (1975), was about a chemical weapon that is accidentally releaced among the populace.  His third book, The Survivor (1976) brought him squarely into the supernatural territory where he was best known. 

One of Britain's best-selling authors, Herbert was presented with the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention in 2010 and was awarded an OBE that same year.  In all, he published 23 novels, two nonfiction works, a graphic novel, and a scattering of short stories, in addition to various scripts and essays,  before his death in 2013 at age 69.

It's Herbert's fourth novel that concerns us today, a true outlier in his body of work.  Fluke is a man-into-dog novel.  It is also a comic novel, an animal fantasy, a bildungsroman, a quest novel, and perhaps a murder mystery.  The narrator is a dog, whom we follow from birth to adulthood in a series of adventures, including living with various families (something that never turned out well) to his partnership with an older dog -- Rumbo -- as they plot to steal food on the streets of London.  As the narrator grows, he is dimly haunted by strange memories of being a two-legger.  These memories strengthen until he realizes that he was once a man, slowly remembering his wife, daughter,and his mysterious death.

It's not until the middle of the book that the narrator gets a name -- Fluke -- given to him by a gang of crooks operating out of a junkyard where Fluke and Rumbo are occasional guard dogs.  And it's not until the very last part of the book that Fluke finds his human family and the truth about his death.  Indeed, most of the book is about Fluke's life as a dog and his slow learning of how to be a dog.  Fluke and Rumbo are smarter than most dogs, something which strengthens Fluke's conviction that he was once human.  And did I mention that dogs and other animals can talk to each other telepathically?  Well, it certainly makes it easier for Fluke to learn about his environment, not to mention to narrate this novel.

Fluke ends on what some may consider upbeat.  Others, perhaps not so much.

Basically, what we have hear is an afterlife, talking animal book, one that takes a huge suspension of disbelief to get through.  It is entertaining enough to keep you reading, though, and Herbert's observations of animal behavior -- however skewed -- keeps you turning pages.

Fluke is either a very good book or a very bad book.  I haven't decided.

(The book was filmed in 1995 with Matthew Modine, Nancy Travis, Samuel L. Jackson, Eric Stoltz, Ron Perlman, and Jon Polito.  The movie altered some of the background in the novel and flubbed at the box office, yet it remains very popular and highly rated by most who have seen it.  [The dog who played Fluke went on to become Air Bud.]  An earlier movie, Oh Heavenly Dog, which came out three years after the novel and starred Chevy Chase, to my mind is an uncredited rip-off of Herbert's book.  The man-becomes-dog-who-must-solve-the mystery-of-his-own-death plot has been around for a long time so I may be wrong about this.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019


The Association in 1966, showing us how vocal harmony is really done.


"Logic Named Joe" first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in its March 1946 issue under the author's real name, Will F. Jenkins.  Since then it has appeared numerous times under the author's preferred science fiction pseudonym "Murray Leinster," in English, French, Italian, German, Russian, and Croatian.  A cornerstone science fiction story, it predicted the use of linked computers in an era when computing was in its infancy.

The story hit the radio airwaves on the 13th episode of Dimension X on July 1, 1950, and featured the talents of Nelson Julian and Roger De Koven.  Norman Rose was the announcer.  Edward King directed the program from an adaptation by Claris A. Ross.  "A Logic Named Joe was evidently the last program on Dimension X to be broadcast live; episodes following this were prerecorded.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019




The other night I was a restaurant and the waitress yelled, "Does anybody know CPR?"

"Heck," I said, "I know the entire alphabet."

Everybody laughed.

Well, except one guy.


From 1977, here's Jessie Colin Young.


Every once in a while you just need a Tor Johnson fix.  I'm sure you all know that feeling, right?

Johnson, a literate and tenderhearted 387-pound former wrestler who shaved his blond hair to look more intimidating, began transitioning into movies as early as 1934 in uncredited roles as a thug, a strongman, a wrestler, and so on.  His first important credited role was in 1950's Abbot and Costello in the Foreign Legion.  From there he transitioned into television until he was chosen by Ed Wood to play Lobo in Bride of the Monster.  Wood later cast Johnson in Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Beast of Yucca Flats.  (The last movie helped end his acting career.)  Through his association with Wood, Johnson became good friends with Bela Lugosi and once talked Lugosi out of suicide by threatening to throw him out a window -- or so the legend goes.  Johnson also achieved posthumous fame in the comic book Tor Loves Betty, Betty being cult phenomenon Betty Page.  (For the record, I once owned and treasured that comic book.)

Bride of the Monster stars Lugosi as Dr. Eric Vornoff, a mad (naturally) scientist trying to turn people into super-beings through atomic radiation.  Tor Johnson got second billing as the mute Lobo, a character he reprised in Wood's Night of the Ghouls.  Eye candy Loretta King played inquisitive reporter Janet Lawton.

As a special bonus, the post below includes the MST3K comments.  Enjoy:

As an extra bonus, here's Tor in a 1959 episode of You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx:

Monday, January 14, 2019




Openers:  The hunchback learned forward a little in his chair.  His sharp gray eyes seemed to change to a steely blue as he waited.  His shoulders sagged a little, for the trial had been long and he was tired.  But there was a vivid interest in every line of his brutal face as he listened.  The case had been as brilliant as it was long.  And now the jury had filed back into the room, led by the gaunt Jason Andrews, mayor of the city of Caledonia, in one of the Western states.  Harshly the hunchback jerked his deformed body to keep out any sight of nervousness which might possess him as he waited for the clerk to propound the question to the jury.

-- "Stealer of Souls" by Charles Hilan Craig (Weird Tales, January 1926)

Incoming:  For the first time in months I actually bought a few books.  Silly me, thinking I could restrain myself.  I bought only three books, but I couldn't pass these up:

  • Gordon R. Dickson, On the Run.  A re-titling of  his 1956 novel Mankind on the Run.  Kit and Ellen Bruner were privileged Class-A citizens in the well-ordered world created after the Lucky War.  Then Ellen disappears and Kit discovers the ugly reality behind the facade of his world's peace and security.
  • James Herbert, Fluke.  A man is reborn as a dog.  Why?  I'm reading this one now.
  • "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins), Two-Gun Showdown.  A slightly revised version of the author's The Gamblin' Kid.  "Quick wit and quick aim were predominant qualities of the mysterious stranger known as the Gamblin' Kid."

Looking Forward:  I've decided that, in addition to my usual scattershot reading, I should spend part of 2019 with authors who have previously given me pleasure.  With a few exceptions, I had already read much of each author's works but I would really like to read at least one more book by the following:
  • Megan Abbott
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Charles Beaumont
  • E. F. Benson
  • Algernon Blackwood
  • Robert Bloch
  • Lawrence Block
  • Nelson S. Bond
  • Fredric Brown
  • Ken Bruen
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • John Dickson Carr
  • Raymond Chandler
  • Lee Child
  • Agatha Christie/Mary Westmacott
  • Max Allan Collins
  • John Connolly
  • Basil Copper
  • Bill Crider
  • Roald Dahl
  • Lester del Rey
  • August Derleth
  • Lord Dunsany
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Erle Stanley Gardner/A. A. Fair
  • Ed Gorman
  • Dashiell Hammett
  • James Herbert
  • Joe Hill
  • Evan Hunter/Ed McBain/Dean Hudson
  • Shirley Jackson
  • Craig Johnson
  • Stephen King
  • Dean Koontz
  • C. M. Kornbluth
  • Henry Kuttner
  • Joe R. Lansdale
  • J Sheridan Le Fanu
  • Fritz Leiber
  • Murray Leinster/Will F. Jenkins
  • Frank Belknap Long/Lydia Belknap Long
  • John D. MacDonald
  • Ross MacDonald
  • Richard Matheson
  • Richard Christian Matheson
  • A. Merritt
  • William F. Nolan
  • Hugh Pentecost/Judson Phillips
  • Bill Pronzini
  • Ellery Queen
  • Seabury Quinn
  • Eric Frank Russell
  • Sax Rohmer
  • Robert Silverberg
  • John Sladek
  • E. E. Smith
  • Thorne Smith
  • Mickey Spillane
  • Rex Stout
  • Theodore Sturgeon
  • H.R. Wakefield
  • Manly Wade Wellman
  • Donald E. Westlake
  • F. Paul Wilson
  • John Wyndham
Many of these names are old standbys in the mystery and SF fields, with a few newer names added.  As I get older I find that I am attracted more and more by authors I enjoyed long ago.  I don't have that many fingers and toes to count, but this list has well over sixty names.  It will be interesting to see how many of them I can cram into my other reading in 2019.

Air Force None:  Seventy-three years ago, Franklin Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to fly in an airplane while in office.  Long before the concept of Air Force One was conceived, FDR flew from Miami to Morocco with stops in Trinidad, Brazil, and Gambia (where FDR switched planes -- from a Boeing 3-14, Pan Am's Dixie Clipper to a TWA C-54) and finally to Morocco.  The secret journey ended in a meeting with Winston Churchill.  On the flight back, the president celebrated his 61st birthday with caviar, turkey, and champagne.  His wife Eleanor, on the other hand, was an experienced flier during her time as a First Lady; she even flew with one of the Tuskegee airman (yay for Eleanor!).  A previous First Lady, Florence Harding, flew to Panama in 1920, but she was only a First Lady-elect at the time.  Does that count? 

Florida Man:  Gosh, he's been busy during the first two weeks of 2019:

  • Citra resident Nicholas Anthony Sardo, 21, was due in court this week facing misdemeanor charges of having sex with a miniature horse (four times!).  Sardo told sheriff's deputies that he was a "sick man."  Go figure.  Sexual contact with an animal in Florida is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine per charge.
  • Melvin Stubbs, 37, was charged by Key West authorities after they found 40 grams of cocaine on him.  While in custody, Stubbs ate the back seat of a patrol car.  Deputies said he "chewed up or ate" some pretty big chunks of the seat.  The seat may have been tastier than some of the jailhouse food that will be coming Stubbs' way.
  • Gregory Lazearchick, 57, of Brick Township was arrested afte he told greeters at a Disney World resort that al-Quida had sent him to "blow the place up," insisting that he was not joking.  He told police that he remembered saying something about al-Quida but couldn't remember what it was.  A search of his room revealed no bomb-making materials.  Neighbors said that Lazarchick had been having problems since the recent passing of his wife.  But for a brief time the happiest place on earth became the scariest place on earth.
  • John Matthew Pinkham, 39, of Deltona was arrested after making threats against the family of Perdue University "superfan" Tyler Trent.  Trent had become famous for his support of Perdue while battling a rare form of bone cancer.  He used his notoriety to raise money for cancer research in the months before he died on January 1.  Whether Pinkham disliked Trent, or Perdue, or raising money for a good cause is unknown.
  • Bryan Dwayne Stewart, 30, of Pace (which is near where I live) threatened to "kill 'em with kindness" before attacking his neighbors.  Unfortunately, "Kindness" was the name of his machete.  No one was killed, but one of the neighbors was cut.  There was a strong smell of alcohol on Stewart when he was arrested.
  • Also, never serve a Philly cheese steak on a sesame seed bun to Joseph Lagana.  The Port Richie man doesn't like it...and don't bring your Chihuahua puppy anywhere near Johansen Conception De La Ros.  Although he claimed he accidentally killed an eight-year-old girl's puppy when it strayed in front of him while he was shooting his pellet gun, a friend told police that Conception De La Ros had planned to kill the dog...Nelson Lopez-Benitez of Orlando had a hidden tank buuilt into his van which he used to try to steal hundreds of gallons of gasoline from a convenience store...Daniel Taylor attacked a St. Petersberg McDonald's worker because there were no plastic straws available in the eating area --they had been banned by the City Council earlier.  Taylor also kicked another worker in the stomach as he left the fast food Pasco County, Robert Houston is facing jail time for domestic battery.  He shoved a pizza in his father's face when he learned that his father helped deliver him....and so it goes...
  • And finally, in a tragic workplace accident, a maintenance man at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Aitport was decapitated by helicopter rotors.  Men were trying to jump start the helicopter with a power cart when the coptor "suddenly jerked up then came down," decapitating Salvatore Disi, 62.  The incident is been investigated.

Today's Poem:
A Bit of Doggerel

The vicious
Was quite capricious.
He spied a young girl whom he thought delicious.
She said that she loved him and would yield to his wishes.
He dies of exhaustion and was fed to the fishes.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


Writer Walter Mosley was interviewed by Democracy Now for Black History Month in 2012.  He talks about writing mystery novels, political revelation, racism, and Barack Obama.  He always has something interesting to say and this three-part interview is no exception.



The Delta Rhythm Boys with a tune taken from Ezekiel 37:11.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Here's a very young Don McLean with what may be the first recording of "Vincent" before a live audience.


Published by United Features, Tip Top Comics reprinted various newspaper comic strips syndicated by United.  It was a quick and easy way to make a bit more money from their properties.  In this issue we get to read:

  • George Lichtenstein's Grin and Bear It
  • Gus Mager's Hawkshaw the Detective
  • Bernard Dibble's The Captain and the Kids
  • Freddie and Fritz, an unsigned comic featuring a Bear (Freddie) and a squirrel (Fritz)
  • Dudley T. Fisher, Jr.'s For Junior Readers (A miscellany section featuring a paper cut-out doll)
  • Bill Conselman's Chris Crusty and his much better-known Ella Cinders 
  • Paul Berdanier's How It Began and Of All Things
  • Vic Forsythe's Joe Jinks (later renamed Curly Kayoe in the Dailies and Davy Jones in the Sunday strips) and his Divot Diggers
  • Ed Dodd's Back Home Again and his Home Towners
  • R. M. Brinkerhoff's All in the Family and Little Mary Mixup
  • Bernard Dibble's Danny Dingle and his Dub Dabs
  • Ernie Bushmiller's Phil Fumble, along with Fritzi Ritz (sans Nancy)
  • Alan Maver's Grid Oddities
  • Becky Sharp and La Verne Harding's Cynical Susie
  • J. Carver Pusey's Opportunity Knox and Benny
  • Harry O'Neill's Bronco Bill and Bumps
  • Robert L. Dickey's Bucky and His Pals, along with Mr. and Mrs. Beans
  • Milt Gross' Looy Dot Dope (drawn this time by Bernard Dibble)
  • Colonel Wowser (possibly drawn by Bernard Dibble)
  • H. E. Homan's Billy Make Believe and Homan's How To Make It
  • Olive Ray Scott's Alice in Wonderland and Knurl the Gnome
  • Mo Leff's Peter Pat and his Percy Penguin
  • Chapter Six of Dan Chadwick's text story The Boys of Wynnecastle
  • Dick Richards'  The Boomers 
  • A text article, Stamp Tips
  • Ben Batford's Freddie Doodle
  • Tippity Top, The Puzzle Page (Tippity Top is evidently Tip Top Comics code word for origami)
  • A crossword puzzle and a color-it-yourself cartoon panel
  • Bob Brinkerhoff tells kids how to make their own movies and also how to draw comics, followed by an invitation to submit your own comics.
  • Five comics strips submitted by readers, aged 7 to 15
  • Opdyke's The Young Idear
  • We close the issue with ads, including a full-page back cover ad for Daisy Air Rifles, from $1.00 to $3.95

Not included in this post because of copyright issues are Hal Foster's Tarzan and Al Capp's L'il Abner.  Nonetheless, there's a lot of reading here from some familiar and some unfamiliar names.


Friday, January 11, 2019


Dion and the Del-Satins.


The Fifth Harmonic by F. Paul Wilson (2003)

I read so you don't have to.

Will Burleigh was an old-fashioned type of doctor:  dedicated to his patients and available at all hours of the day,   He had a single-doctor practice because no other doctor he had worked with could meet his expectations.  His marriage became a casualty of his obsession, his daughter almost a stranger.  Then he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of throat cancer.  The treatment would include heavy radiation and radical surgery that would leave him disfigured and nothing could guarantee that the cancer, which he called Captain Carcinoma, would not kill him.

Will refused treatment, sold his practice, retired, and waited for a certain death that would take his life in months, if not sooner.

Savanna Walters was one of Will's early patients.  He had treated her over the years until an abnormality in her blood count and a bone marrow biopsy showed her to have a virulent form of leukemia.  He referred her to an oncologist, expecting never to see her again -- he chances were that bleak.  Then Savanna, radiantly healthy, came to see him after hearing about his illness.  She claimed to have been cured.  She told him that a healer had helped cure her and urged him to see that healer.  Will checked with Savanna's oncologist who told him that Savanna had stopped treatment after one round of chemotherapy and never returned.  That she is healthy now must be due to an extremely rare spontaneous remission.

Will is a pragmatic realist and holds no truck with healer mumbo-jumbo.  Still, after a few days, he goes to see the healer, bringing with his all of his doubts.

The healer is a woman called Maya, self-possessed, calm, and attractive.  He meets her in a fairly stark room filled with lit candles and crystals.  Maya offers no guarantee that he can be healed.  If he is cured it will be with five "harmonics" -- four of which are represented by metal tines created long ago and personifying earth, fire, water, and air.  The fifth harmonic?  Will is told that that will be evident once he has the first four.  There is a hitch:  Will must divest himself of his money.  After liquidating his assets, Will must give half to charity and leave the other half in trust for his daughter should he die within a few months; if Will is alive after two years, the money in the trust will go to Maya.  Also, getting each tine will involve a physical test which must happen in Central America where the ancient Mayans ruled.

Will figures this whole thing is a scam and leaves.  He begins to go about his last few days of life, determined to experience everything he had sacrificed for his career.  As the days and weeks pass and as the tumor in his throat tightens, Will finds he is not enjoying anything.  Although he does not believe in any of the "new age" guff that Maya spouted, he decides that he might as well go on an adventure before he dies.  Heck, he could die at any point in this "adventure."

Somewhere in Central America, Will must retrieve the first four harmonics by himself.  One is in a cave surrounded by shifting sand.  Another is by a recent lava flow.  A third is thirty feet underwater and guarded by a shark.  The fourth is on top of a large cliff that Will must scale.  Getting each tine will drain Will's physical resources and already Will has a hard time swallowing food and even liquids.  It is getting difficult to speak.  Captain Carcinoma is getting much bolder and more powerful.

And what about Maya?  Will had hired a private detective to investigate her.  He finds that she is half-French, half-Mayan.  Photographs of someone with her name and likeness from the 1940s are found.  Maya's mother, perhaps?  Well, the reader knows it's not.

And that's the trouble with his book.  It is very predicable.  And there's a lot of philosophical discussion between Will and Maya, intending (I'm sure) to deepen the mysteries of the plot.  The ending is telegraphed and has all the subtlety of a Trump press conference.

Wilson has produced a remarkable body of work, including his The Secret History of  Mankind, which includes his Adversary Cycle, his chronicles of Repairman Jack, and his recent ICE trilogy.  The Fifth Harmonic, however, fizzles in a way that makes it somewhat uncomfortable to read.  It has its exciting passages, to be sure, but as a whole the book lacks...something.  I suspect that something is the author's belief in the story.  It's as if he decided one day to write a new age thriller and, well, it's written; time to move on.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Happy birthday, Big Mama!


What happens when you combine Jack Benny with The Marx Brothers?  Pure comedy gold, that's what.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019


From 1958, here's Connie Francis.


What do you call a deer with no eyes?
No idea.

What do you call a dead deer with no eyes?
Still no idea.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


A little bit of mountain music from The Coon Creek Girls.


Boris Karloff's Thiller was a suspense/horror/mystery anthology series that ran from 1960 to 1962 and borrowed from works by such authors as Robert Bloch, August Derleth, and Margaret Miller.

"Knock Three-One-Two" was the show's twelfth episode, airing on December 13, 1960.   It asks the question:  What do you do when gamblers demand the money you owe them and your wife will not give you the needed cash?  Of course the answer is to seek out a man you believe to be a serial killer to do said wife in.  Sadly, in Ray Kenton's case, the man is not what Ray thinks he is, but there is a real killer out there...waiting.

Based on a Fredric Brown novel, "Knock Three-One-Two" was directed by veteran television director Herman Hoffman (The Asphalt Jungle, Laramie, Room 222) from an adaptation by John Kneubuhl (Wagon Train, The Fugitive, The Wild Wild West).

Ray Kenton was played by Joe Maross, who had a solid thirty-five year career in television, most notably as a regular on the fifth season of Peyton Place.  Beverly Garland (Decoy, My Three Sons, Mry Hartman, Mary Hartman) appeared as Ruth Kenton.  Also in the cast are Charles Aidman and Warren Oates.

Brown's novel was later adapted by Jen-Pierre Mocky for the film L'Ibis Rouge (The Red Ibis) (1975).


Monday, January 7, 2019


The Blues Brothers...on a mission for God.


Openers:  The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings.  From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors.  The distribution of the galleries is invariable.  Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase.  One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest.  To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets.  In the first one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one's fecal necessities.  Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances.  In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances.  Men usually infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite (if it were, why this illusory duplication?); I prefer to dream that its polished surfaces represent and promise the infinite...Light is provided by some spherical fruit which bear the name of lamps.  There are two, transversally placed, in each hexagon.  The light they emit is insufficient, incessant.

--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Library of Babel" (translated by J. E. I.)

Golden Globe:  Some publicist/marketing pro has earned his or her pay with this.

The Golden Globe awards have to be one of the most inane and meaningless awards one record.  First presented in 1944, the awards were the brain child of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a small group of journalists and photographers in the entertainment industry.  The 1944 awards consisted of a scroll.  This was changed the following year to a globe with a strip of film encircling it.  Originally honoring movies, the television industry was added in 1955.  The requirements for being a member are to have primary residence in Southern California, to attend at least four of the monthly meetings a year, and two have a minimum of four published articles or photographs published in foreign journals each year.  The foreign journals do not have to be mainstream ones and no official list of acceptable journals has ever been released,  The current membership consists of 93 persons, some (many?) of whom just meet the minimum requirements and there does not appear to be any criteria for the quality or size of readership of the required four articles or photographs.  The Association is deliberately kept small, allowing a maximum of five new members each year.

In other words, the HFPA can be made up of rinky-dink part-time people who have little qualifications to vote on a major award.  And the awards have only been "major" recently.  I'm sure there a number of qualified and capable persons in the HFPA but, anecdotally at least, many of the members have been fairly insignificant wanna-bes.

The Golden Globes have become a major award (hence, somebody has earned his or her pay) and are viewed as a possible pathway to an Oscar or an Emmy.

In my opinion -- and I am a notable curmudgeon -- the Golden Globes have the weight as an agreement among the majority of persons sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

The Week in Trump:

  • The government shutdown continues.  Trump vows to keep it going for months (or longer) if he doesn't get what he wants.  Alternatively, he said he may use an executive order to get the money he wants to build the wall.  I don't think it works that way, Mr. President.
  • Speaking of the shutdown, the American Federation of Government Employees have sued the Trump Administration for forcing "essential federal employees to work without pay.
  • Russia is holding an American citizen for "spying."  Paul Whelan, a former marine, was in Russia to attend a wedding, according to his brother.  Whelan also holds citizenship in Canada, Britain, and Ireland.  Coincidently, America has detained a Russian citizen.  Dmitri Makarenko is being held on charges of money laundering and of trying to export night-vision glasses and ingredients for making ammunition to Russia without a license.  Speculation is that the Russians may try to arrange an exchange for a Russian being held in American custody.  No, not Malarenko, but possibly Maria Butina, the sexy (?) red-headed agent who infiltrated the NRA and Republican circles.  Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister has advised Russians 'to wiegh the consequences of traveling abroad," saying, "American law enforcement continues to hunt for Russian citizens."
  • Robert Mueller's grand jury investigating Russian involvement in American elections has been extended for up to six months.
  • Former Republican presidential nominee and current Senator Mitt Romney lambasted Trump's character and fitness for office.
  • The stock market was down 6.2% for 2018, the worst performance sine 2008.
  • Trump reportedly asked house Speaker Nancy Pelosi about impeachment.
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren began her run for the 2020 presidential election.  Representative Matt Goetz (R-FL) began calling her Sacajawea, a move reminiscent of Trump's "Pocahontas," bringing charges of racism against Goetz.  Goetz, like Trump, denies being a racist.  Like Trump, Goetz probably is.  Matt Goetz represents the western Florida Panhandle -- my district -- which is a very red area.  Goetz, a member of a strong political family, is a large supporter of the military and the Panhandle is a large military area so his seat is secure.  I also support the military but Goetz is a jerk (my opinion) and I'm not (also my opinion).
  • Trump tweeted that Americans are earning 84 cents an hour more thanks to his policies.  so nobody has declared they will retire on this "boon.'
  • the mainstream "fake news" media continues to take Trump and Pence to task for their lies about the need for a border wall.
  • Trump congratulated Brizil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro, the right wing politician who many fear will endanger the Amazon through deforestation.  "The USA is with you!" he tweeted.
  • Trump praised his former adviser Sebastian Gorka as a "very good and talented guy" and urged people to buy Gorka's new book.  Gorka's main talent is irrational hyperbole.  He is about as "good and talents" as Stephen Miller is a chick magnet.
  • Last night, Trump tweeted,"Today's acronym...MATA -- Make America Trump Again."
  • Phew!

How Will You Celebrate?:   Today is Millard Fillmore's birthday.  He's 219 years old.  And very wrinkled.

Today's Poem:  It's January, so about a poem of warmer weather and young love.


There's a drap o' dew on the blackbird's wing
Where the willows wave the burnie over,
And the happy bird its sang doth sing
By the wimpling wave thathe green leaves cover!
Sing louder yet, thou bonnie, bonnie bird,
There's neither cloud nor storm to fear ye,
But thy sang, though glad as ear ever heard,
Is wae to mine when I meet my dearie!

Yon laverock lilts 'mang the snawy clouds
That float like a veil o'er the breast of heaven;
And its strain comes down to the summer woods
Like the voice of the bless'd and GOD-fogiven!
Sing laverock, sing thy maist holy sang,
For the light o' heaven is round and near ye,
Syne song by thy fluttering heart will gang,
As it runs though mine as I meet my dearie!

The daisy blinks by the bloom-brush side,
Pure as the eye' o' a gladsome maiden --
Fair as the face of a bonnie bride
When her heart wi' the thoughts o' love are laden.
Bloom fairer yet, thou sweet lowly flower,
There's ne'er a heart sae hard as steer ye
I will think of thee in that gloaming hour
When I meet 'mang the wild green woods my dearie;

-- Robert Nicoll (1814-1837)

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Everyone's favorite seven per cent solution detective is also very popular in Russia

Between 1979 and 1986 a series of Russian-produced Sherlock Holmes adventures became the most popular series in the history of Russian television.

The following is not from that series.  Instead it is a short Russian parody of Holmes with English subtitles.


And here's another:

And another -- animated this time:


Matt Redman.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Today we celebrate the anniversary of Jack's adoption day!  Christina and Walt began fostering Jack when he was only six weeks old.  Since that time he has been a joy, a delight, and a challenge to the whole family.  There were a number of legal hurdles to go through before Jack could be adopted but they were all met with patience and determination.  Jack Harold Roof has made everyone's life better and we are so glad he is part of the family.   Christina, Walt, Mark, and Erin have done (and continue to do) amazing things with this sweet and amazing six-year-old.

We are so proud to have Jack aboard on our life's adventure.

To mark the day, here's an adoption song from Phil Collins:


As far as Golden Age comic book heroes go, Dagar is definitely minor league.  He is evidently of European extraction and living in an exotic desert land as a wealthy "arab."  Dagar is a good guy, an adventurer who wears typical Bedouin garb and has no superpowers.   He has been referred to as the "Tarzan of the desert," a comparison that does not really work.  His love interest was the beautiful Ayesha.  Both Dagar and Ayesha had short-lived comic careers.

Dagar was drawn  by Edmond Good, an artist who has scattered credits in the field.  It not known who created Dagar or wrote the scripts, although some feel it was Good.

Dagar first appeared in Fox Features' All Great Comics #13 (dated December 1947).  In the following issue, #14, the comic book changed its title to Dagar, Desert Hawk.  (Confusedly, an issue #14 of All Great Comics was dated October 1947 -- two months before issue #13.)  In February 1948, the retitled Dagar, Desert Hawk appeared.  This incarnation lasted until April 1949 with issue #23 -- a total of eight bimonthly issues, after which Dagar was gone from both the title and the contents as the book was re-titled as Captain Kidd.  Dagar did have one more adventure in All Top Comics #18 (July 1949); this was the final issue of All Top comics and appeared to be a dumping ground for unused stories in previously cancelled comic books.

(Those who are mathematically oriented have already cleaned that Fox Features did not count numbering their titles as their long suit.)

In the issue linked below, Dagar almost loses Ayesha from "The Curse of the Lost Pharoah!" and then faces off with the evil siren Sheva in "Vortex of Death!"  Also included are two jungle adventures, one featuring Safari Cary and the other featuring the jungle queen Tangi.  All stories feature large bosomed women, daring cleavages, skimpy (and in one panel, no) outfits, along with two-fisted action and danger.  I have to assume that readers of this title were fairly hormonal.

Enjoy. whether you are hormonal or not.

Friday, January 4, 2019


It's my brother's birthday today.  He is not a Texan, but he can be considered long and tall.  And although he doesn't have a big white horse he does have a small, white, one-eyed mop he calls a dog.  So because I'm lazy and can't be bothered to look up a truly fitting song for him, I'm dedicating this one to my brother Kenny.  Long may he make banjo jokes.


The Thing in B-3 by Talmage Powell (1969)

Talmage Powell (1920-1980) was a reliable writer of genre stories, always readable, always entertaining.  He started in the pulps with about 200 stories covering almost every genre.  With the death of the pulps he continued with another 300 stories, many in the digest mystery magazines.  The five books in his Ed Rivers private eye series in the late Fifties-early Sixties were well regarded.  He also contributed several books as by Ellery Queen and a scattering of YA novels as tie-ins to the Mission:  Impossible television series.  In addition to other novels and at least one non-fiction book, Powell also wrote several teleplays for television.  Now he's pretty much forgotten.

Also pretty much forgotten is The Thing in B-3, a young adult supernatural novel published by Whitman in 1969.  The book went through only one edition (but three possible printings) in 1969; a Spanish translation appeared in 1971.  Worldcat lists only seven copies available in US libraries.  Abebooks lists ten copies available from US dealers for $4-11, along with one dealer aspires to sell a copy for $90.  There really doesn't seem to be much demand for this title, which is kind of a shame.

B-3 in the title refers to a refrigerated drawer in the city morgue.  It is supposed to be empty, but college student Bill Latham, who works five nights a week at the morgue, discovers that it isn't.  The body is of a young woman whose face has been destroyed beyond recognition.  There is no tag identifying the corpse, which bill assumes is due to a rare procedural cock-up.  The corpse is also wearing a yellow dress when there should only be a white sheet according to procedure.  Another cock-up?

Bill reports this to his supervisor and they to look at drawer B-3.  The body is still there, but Bill's supervisor cannot see it.  He finds it difficult to believe that the always so reliable Bill would pull such a cruel and senseless joke, but the body just isn't there.  Bill, however, still sees the body.

One of the psychology classes Bill is taking is taught by a psychic researcher.  And Bill is beginning to think there might be something to the paranormal.  A short time before, Bill's father -- a respected cardiologist -- had a feeling he was needed in the emergency room and when he got there her found a patient of his being wheeled in from an ambulance; Dr. Latham had arrived -- unexpectedly -- just in time to save his patient's life.

Bill has several people take a look at B-3.  None of them saw a body, although Bill still did each time.

As Bill investigates further he finds that the last occupant of that drawer was a young and lonely girl, Elizabeth Braxley, the daughter of a reclusive woman who now is letting her estate fall apart.  The girl's father was Dr. Jonathan Fitfield Braxley, a noted atomic scientist who had died from accidental radiation poisoning shortly before Elizabeth's birth.  Elizabeth had shown some psychic abilities as a child and some theorized that her genes had been altered in some way by dose of radiation that killed her father.  It turns out that this is something that Elizabeth's mother surely believed.  On learning of Bill's experiences she attempts to keep Bill at her estate permanently so that Bill could be a psychic conduit for her daughter.

Bill escapes and circumstances convince that the body he see is not Elizabeth.  But who is she?  The only clue Bill has is the yellow dress he saw on the body.  Could Bill have received a message that someone wearing that dress is about to die horribly?

A search of local dress shops finds that such a dress had been sold recently.  The purchaser was Bill's wealthy girlfriend.  Bill then manages to stop his girlfriend before she wears the dress and the dress is destroyed.

Relieved, Bill returns to the morgue expecting the thing in B-3 to be gone now that no one could wear the dress.  Unfortunately, the body...and the dress...are still there.  It turns out that the store had another copy of the yellow dress...

Although published in 1969, The Thing in B-3 has a heavy late Fifties-early Sixties vibe to it.  Nothing you could out your finger on, just a distinct flavor that the book came from nearly a decade earlier than 1969.   Despite being written for a juvenile audience, the book reads well, flows nicely, and can be enjoyed by any age.

Before I read The Thing in B-3, I thought I might be able to draw a comparison with Christopher Golden's ten-book Body of Evidence series (the last five written with Rick Hautala) featuring Jenna Blake, a college student who works in a morgue.  But there is no comparison.  Jenna Blake and Bill Lathom belong to different times with different atmospheres.  Those who have read the Body of Evidence books (and I recommend everyone does) should not approach Powell's book with the same mindset.  A quite different pleasurable reading experience awaits you.

One final note.  This book would have made a great episode on the old television show One Step Beyond.

Thursday, January 3, 2019


Sad news.

Word has come down that author Brian Garfield, 79, died Saturday at his home from Parkinson's Disease.  Garfield, a former president of the Western Writers of America as well as The Mystery Writers of America, published over 70 books, including Death Wish which was made into a noted film starring Charles Bronson.  Some of his books were published under the pen names Bennett Garland, Alex Hawk, John Ives, Drew Mallory, Frank O'Brian, Jonas Ward, Brian Wynne, and Frank Wynne.   His novel Hopscotch won an Edgar Award in 1970 for Best Mystery Novel. 


R.I.P., Daryl Dragon.


Challenge of the Yukon is now better known as Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, its later radio and (ultimately) television title.  It began as a fifteen-minute show on Detroit's WXYZ radio station (now WXYT) on February 3, 1938.

Following the success of the station's The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet programs, station owner George Trendle thought the time was ripe for an adventure show featuring a dog  -- not your wimpy Lassie-type dog, mind you, but a hard-working dog.  A couple of items then came into play.  First, Renfrew of the Royal Mounted, a radio show based on the character created by Laurie York Erskine for a series of popular novels aired beginning in 1936, paving the way for "Northwesterns" and, second, Zane Grey's 1915 novel The Lone Star Ranger eventually influenced the creation of The Lone Ranger by Trendle and Fran Striker.  Then in 1935, a man named Stephen Slesinger created the comic strip Zane Gray's King of the Royal Mounted about a Canadian Mountie named Dave King.  The time was right for another show about a Mountie who always gets his man.  It should be noted that Renfrew (in the movies, at least) had a canine companion.  So there was room in the new series Trendle proposed for a hard-working dog.  Writer Tom Dougall, influenced by the poems of Robert Service, decided to make the dog a husky and wanted to name him "Mogo" but Trendle changed the name to King in a sort of homage to Zane Gray.

So we had the location (Canada, specifically the Yukon Territory), and for plot purposes a time (the 1890's -- the gold rush would provide plenty of fodder for plots), and we had a dog (a husky named King, full name Yukon King), and we had a Mountie protagonist (who was eventually named Sergeant Frank Preston).  (Preston's horse, Rex, always played second fiddle to Yukon King.)

Frank Preston was originally played by Jay Michael (the original Butch Cavendish of Lone Ranger nemesis fame), followed by Paul Sutton, then Bruce Beemer, and then Paul Sutton again.  Yukon King was voiced by sound effects man Dewey Cole; actor Ted Johnson took over voicing after Cole's death.  The show itself ran through 1947 when it moved to television from 1947 to 1949.  The radio show was resurrected in 1949 and ran until 1955, when it again appeared on television.  The role of Preston on television was played by Richard Simmons and the character's first name was evidently changed from Frank to William.

"Murder on the Mountain" aired on February 19, 1953.


And I have to end this post by saying, "Well, King, this case is closed."

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


Viola Wills.


With the new year I've decided I need some exercise and have been looking for a new sport to try.  My brother suggested birling.  Evidently it's as easy as falling off a log.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


Bobby Rydell.


Pudgy Tod Slaughter made a career of playing the villain in a number of British melodramas, often in the most ham-handed way.  In The Ticket of Leave Man, Slaughter is "The Tiger," a thief who gleefully kills his victims.  Marjorie Taylor is the pretty May Edwards, who catches The Tiger's eye.  Her innocent bank clerk boyfriend Robert Brierly (played by John Warwick) is framed with counterfeit bank notes and suspected of murders actually committed by The Tiger.  Robert Adair is Hawkshaw the Detective.

Based on the 1863 play by Tom Taylor (which introduced the character of Hawkshaw the Detective -- played by Robert Adair in the film), The Ticket of Leave Man was adapted by H. F. Maltby with an assist from A. R. Rawlinson.  The film was directed by George King who helmed a number of "Quickie Quotas" in his early career.  (British law required a certain percentage of films shown in British movies theaters be made in England; these were often quickly made on low budgets, thus the "Quicky Quota.")

Some consider this film terrible, some consider it to be quite good, some consider it to be anti-Semitic, and some just get a joy out of watching Tod Slaughter ham it up.

BTW,   1)  a "ticket of leave" is a paper given to a prisoner after he serves his time; and 2)  the odds of actress Marjorie Tayllor being related to the 19th century playwright Tom Taylor are slim to none.