Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, February 28, 2019


The Lovin' Spoonful.


Leslie Charteris' The Saint has had a long career on the radio, beginning with a short-lived (six episodes) series in 1940 starring Terrance de Marney as everybody's favorite Robin Hood of Modern Crime.  He returned in January 1945 with Edgar Barrier in the title role for 13 episodes on NBC Radio before being picked up as a summer replacement for CBS's The Jack Carson Show, this time with Brian Aherne as Simon Templar. with another thirteen episodes ending on September 12, 1945.  The Saint was next played by the great Vincent Price on CBS Radio beginning July 9, 1947. for 13 episodes (now lost to time but one can assume they were "Um-um good" because they were sponsored by Campbell's soup).  Price returned (sans Campbell's soup) almost two years later for a series of 52 episodes, ending on June 28, 1948.  He returned again -- This time on the Mutual network -- on July 10, 1949 for another 47 episodes before jumping back to NBC for 46 episodes, after which Vincent Price hanged up his halo.  Tom Conway stepped into The Saint's Shoes the following week, continuing for 22 weeks, ending on October 21, 1951, while also ending The Saint's American radio career.   However The Saint did return -- this time on the BBC -- for three episodes in 1995, this time starring Paul Rhys.  That's a total of 201 episodes.  One episode was a repeat, bringing the number of original episodes to an even 200.

In this episode (known under the various titles of "No Hidding Place," "Tommy's Breakout," and "The Nancy Pachek Case") The Saint tries to prevent his friend Tommy Pachek from being murdered in jail.  The cast includes Peter Leeds, Peggy Weber, Sheldon Leonard, Richard Crenna, Victor Rodman, Fred Shields, and Larry Dobkin.  The script was written by Dick Powell.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Meade "Lux" Lewis with some classic boogie-woogie.


What happens when a dance teacher from Boston is shanghaied by pirates?  To find out you have to watch this Poverty Row musical that offers more than you would expect.

Based on the 1930 Collier's story "Glorious Buccaneer" by Emma-Lindsey Squier ( a little-known short story and travel writer; her 1927 collection The Bride of the Sacred Well is lurking somewhere in Mount TBR), which was adapted by Jack Wagner (McFadden's Flats, Little Men, The Pearl) and Boris Ingster (Happy Landing, I'd Give a Million, Southside 1-1000), with a screenplay by Ray Harris (Bride of the Regiment, Man on the Flying Trapeze, Hillbilly Blitzkrieg) and Francis Edwards Faragoh (Frankenstein, My Friend Flicka, Easy Come, Easy Go), this flick was "FILMED 100% IN THE NEW TECHNICOLOR" -- something that is hard to believe because this print is black and white.

The star of this film was the very talented, very under-used Charles Collins.  Collins was a dancer and actor in vaudeville, theater, and films, but his few leading roles were in films that gained too little attention.  According to one source, he was too tall and too thin to click with the audiences of the day.  In later years he became a talent agent (Edward Everett Horton was one of his clients).

Co-starring with Collins was the great Frank Morgan, born Francis Wupperman to the wealthy co-founder of  Angostura Aromatic Bitters which was used in drinks and cocktails, best known for his role as the title character in The Wizard of Oz.  Morgan appeared in 100 films, often elevating the movies more than they deserved.  Four of his films were nominated for and Oscar, winning once with 1936's The Great Zeigfield.

Hungarian actress Steffi Duna played the lead female role, Serafina Perena.  With her exoptic looks, she was often cast in supporting roles of various nationalities, most often Hispanic although she was also cast once as an Eskimo.  She was married to B movie star Dennis O'Keefe from 1940 until his death in 1968.

Lower on the list of credits you will find movie tough guy Jack La Rue.  Names you won't see one the credits are those whose fame lay in the future:  Rita Hayworth as an uncredited Specialty Dancer, Marjorie Reynolds (Peg Riley in television's Life of Riley) as an uncredited Dancer, and Pat Ryan as an uncredited Dance-Class Student.  (What?  Pat who? you say.  You may know her better under her future  married name, Pat Nixon.)

A few other interesting tidbits:  Merian Cooper, of King KongMighty Joe Young, and The Searchers fame, was the executive producer.  The versatile actor/writer/director Lloyd Corrigan helmed Dancing Pirate.  Visual effects were by Willis O'Brien -- supposedly his first in a color film (there really must be some colored prints somewhere out there).  The film features two songs by Rogers & Hart.

All in all, a lot of talent for a low budget film.


Monday, February 25, 2019


The Kinks.


Openers:  Three of us were walking through deserted streets of downtown New York at the dark hour of eleven.  In the middle was Police Commissioner Thatcher Colt, top-hatted, muffled, silent.  I marched with him on the building side of the pavement while near the curb was District Attorney Merle K. Dougherty, always over weight and puffing slightly as he kept pace with Colt's long-legged strides.  We were on our way to police headquarters; Lafayette Street was a lighted but lonely ravine.  Half in jest and I think wholly in earnest, Dougherty was wishing for some excitement.

-- Murder of a Startled Lady by "Anthony Abbot" (Fulton Oursler), 1936


  • Lawrence Block, Sinner Man (originally published as Savage Lover by "Sheldon Lord").  A Hardcase Crime reprint of a "lost" crime novel by block.
  • Lee Child, editor, First Thrills.  An anthology of twenty-five original short stories from the International Thriller Writers. Inc.
  • James Ellroy & Otto Penzler, editors, The Best American Noir of the Century.  The Twentieth Century, that is.  A hefty sampling of thirty-six "sublimely suspenseful stories."
  • Bill Pronzini & Jack Adrian, editors, Hard-Boiled:  An Anthology of American Crime Stories.  Thirty-six stories from the 1920s to the end of the Twentieth Century make this book packed with great tales from great crime and suspense writers.

Another Day, Another Puppy:  As if my daughter and her husband did not have enough to keep them busy with three kids, two dogs, two cats (one of which just has a fairly expensive operation), a tegu, and Lord knows what else, Christina fell in love with a border collie puppy online.  So they made a ten-hour long trip to get her.  Ten weeks old, her name is Happy and she has made everybody happy.  Sweet-tempered and super friendly, Happy quickly became a member of the family.  Christina took her to a farmer's/maker's marker this Saturday while she was selling their homemade soap (Cove Lake Soapworks, check out their page on Etsy.  Good stuff.) where Happy was a hit, getting much love and pats from customers -- one of whom came back with a bag of doggie treats for her.  Selling soap is hard work for a little puppy and she needed several well-deserved naps during the day.

The Oscars:  I didn't watch.  Did you?

I also did not see any of the pictures nominated with the exception of Black Panther, which was an interesting but over-rated film.  Evidently the Best Picture award went to Green Book which, as I understand it, was a kind of reverse Driving Miss Daisy.  The Best Director award did not go to the director of Green Book, but to Alfonso Curan, director of Roma.  And the Best Actor -- RamiMalek -- did not appear in either of those films but in Bohemian Rhapsody.  Olivia Colman won Best Actress for The Favourite, making the four top awards split among four films.

This year's award show was plagued with controversy, from the firinh of Kevin Hart as host, to the Academy's inability to find another host willing to fill in, and the regrettable decision to give out "minor" awards during commercial breaks.  Soon the award show will be less popular than the Miss America show or the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.

Egermancy, Everyone To Get From Street:  Trump's "National Emergency" has gone over like a lead balloon.  Fifty-eight former senior national security officials from both parties have issued a statement that "there is no factual basis" for this so-called emergency.  The statement will entered into the Congressional record and will available as a further weapon in the many law suits filed against the administration over this matter.

#NotesFromNationalEmergency has brought forth many tweets.  Among them:
  • Running low on hamberders and cofefe.  Things have not been this dire since the Massacre at Bowling Green.
  • For some reason I can't tune in to all the reports about caravans, MS-13, and illegal drugs being smuggled into the country because networks insist on covering mass shootings instead.
  • Notes From National Emergency, Day 2:  Things were cold, and dark.  Until about 8am.  Then the sun came up.  And I walked to the bagel store for breakfast.  On my way I encountered "others."  Walking their dogs, pushing their strollers, going for a brisk run.  More to come.
  • So I called 9-1-1 to report an emergency at the southern border and am now in jail for making a false report.
  • Fellow patriots, I have been forced to flee to the mountains with my kith and kin.  When the temperatures drop we will huddle in a hot tub and try to warm our bodies with wine.  We will return when it is safe.
  • Dear Mother, Despite the national emergency, I ventured out to Trader Joe's today.  I knew the nation was in trouble as they sold only one type of mustard and kale chips could not be found.  I was forced to buy non-organic avocados for my toast.
  • (sad violin music)  My Dearest Martha, It is with trembling hand that I write you during this national emergency.  Tell Pappy I am safe here in Minnesota.  Supplies are running a bit low.  there are only 4 flavors of Doritos available at the store.
And so it goes.

For Sale -- CHEAP:  There is a petition circulating now to sell Montana to Canada for one Trillion dollars to erase the national debt.  Montana is a decidedly under-populated state so that works out to, what?, maybe fourteen billion and change per person?  I assume our president is in a favor of this because it's a real estate deal and he knows both real estate and deals, and it takes a particular talent like his to bankrupt a casino.

Florida Man:  Who said romance was dead?  Not Officer Florida Man (a.k.a. Fort Myers Police Officer Doug McNeal.  According to an internal investigation report, Myers arrested Zachery Moellendick, 23, and Krista Leigh, 24, for shoplifting and placed the two in the back of his police car.  McNeal then played Barry White's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" while the couple made out in the back seat and smoked cigarettes.  Sadly, Officer McNeal couldn't get enough of his superior's love as he was suspended for twenty days.

Other recent Florida Man sightings include Justin Hughes, 31, who molested a three-year-old girl (yuck!) in a Jacksonville church utility closet, blaming Japanese anime for his act.  Also, Florida Man Gerald Anderson, 52, of North Palm Beach, was arrested for using 911 to report his mother for refusing to give him money for a meal at IHOP.  This was the second time Anderson used 911 that day for "frivolous reasons;"  he had been warned over a dozen times about his recent use of 911.  

And sometimes Florida Man actually does something brave and heroic -- or just plain stupid and it works.  Ben Pool and his dog were on a walk in Fruitland Park when they were accosted by a wild coyote.  When the coyote lunged at Florida Man Ben, he beat it with a coffee cup.  I wonder if the cup was inscribed 'World's Best Florida Man"?

Today's Poem:
The Rose Family

The rose is a rose, 
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
.That the apple's a rose.
And the pear is, and so's
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose --
But were always a rose.

-- Robert Frost

Sunday, February 24, 2019


Here's a DVD extra from the director's cut of Payback, the 1999 film based on Westlake's Parker novel (as by 'Richard Stark") The Hunter.  Westlake, of course, was one of the most entertaining writers in the mystery field.  All of his books are recommended.


Let's take a little walk with Mahalia.

Saturday, February 23, 2019


A little bit of country from Faron Young.


Re:  Camilla, Queen of the Jungle (from Don Markstein's Toonopedia):

"Camilla was from the same publisher as Sheena, and was a long-lasting knock-off of that character, running around Africa and righting wrongs just like Tygra of the Flame People, Judy of the Jungle, Lorna the Jungle Girl and any number of white jungle goddesses whose adventures were recounted in comic books of the 1940s and '50s.  But she didn't start that way.  When she first appeared, in Fiction House's Jungle Comics #1 (June, 1940), "Camilla, Queen of the Jungle" was more of a knock-off of novelist H. Rider Haggard's 19th century Ayesha,.aka "She Who Must Be Obeyed", who ruled a lost kingdom hidden from European explorers in a previously little-visited part of the world.

"She was, like so many of her contemporaries, created by a writer whose identity has not been recorded.  The artwork of the first story was signed by "CAW", which seems to have stood for Charles A. Winter.  He apparently was responsible for a few stories of the same publisher's Mysta of the Moon, and about DC's Shining Knight.  She was strictly a back-pages character, alongside Wambi the Jungle Boy and Tabu, Jungle Wizard.  The cover-featured star of Jungle Comics was Kaanga.

"For several issues, she was the immortal monarch of all she surveyed, which consisted of a kingdom of formwer Vikings, who had supposedly gotten lost on their way to the Crusades.  (In the second issue, the Norsemen were temporarily forgotten, and she was said to be descended from Genghis Khan.)    Issue after issue, she'd undergo crises befitting her station, such as being deposed and exiled by her subjects (only to be reaccepted before the story was over), entertaining outside visitors (explorers whom she usually invites to stay and reign with her),  getting gold and dying when the spring she gets her eternal youth from is destroyed (restored even more easily than the average comic book hero recovers from death), and stuff like that.

"But after a little while, she started having adventures outside her domain, and then the domain itself stopped being mentioned in the stories.  Pretty soon, she was just a chick traipsing around the jungle, subtitled "Jungle Queen" apparently for the same reason one was called Princess Pantha and another, Ruhla the Jungle Goddess.  Instead of regal robes, she wore a zebra-striped bikini.

"About 1942, she picked up with a local white man called  Trader Davis, who seemed to be a bit elderly to offer serious competition to any guy she might happen to meet.  In '43, her early years forgotten, evidence was introduced that she was actually the previously-unknown daughter of the long-lost heiress Camilla Jordan and her equally long-lost husband, Steve Dane.

"As a typical jungle girl in the back pages of a comic book, who may or may not "really" be Camilla Dane, she hung on for years.  She was handled by many different creators, among the most prominent of whom were Nick Cardy {Aquaman), George Tuska (Buck Rogers) and Matt Baker (Phantom Lady).  Her last new story appeared in #151 (July, 1952).  After that, she was replaced with Tiger Girl reprints."

The compendium reprinted below covers Camilla's adventures through her first 26 adventures.  As indicated above, consistency was not a principal that fiction House adhered to with this character.  Most interesting to me are Camilla's breast plates that appear in some of the later stories; some have wings and some appeared to magically attached without straps, snaps, or ties.  (Glue may have been used, or simply good old-fashioned jungle magic.)  It should also be noted that these episodes are all pre-zebra-striped bikini.

Enjoy this little journey through the back pages of Junglr Comics


I haven't posted for almost two weeks because my computer went dingo, not responding to even the simplest command of "Work, dammit!"  I think I have a work-around for most of the problems now.  We'll see.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Is this the worst film of D. W. Griffith's career?  If not, it certainly is a close runner-up. 

A South Seas tale filmed in Florida, The Idol Dancer is an overblown, moralistic, racist piece of dribble.

Dan McGuire (Richard Barthelmess) is a washed-up, drunken beachcomber attracted to Mary (Clarine Seymour), the mixed race "Idol Dancer" of the title.  Mary is known by the natives as "white Almond Flower."  Along comes Walter Kincaid (Creighton Hale), the uptight nephew of the local missionary.  Mary's wild dancing excites Walter and he and Dan vie for this uninhibited woman.

Also appearing is Pansy (Florence Short), a native who takes to Christian dress and ideas, then quickly sheds them.  Pansy's brief dance number is one of the high points of the film.

The main story seems to be about missionaries trying to put pants on natives.  Interspersed with all the above is a racist soap opera involving various people of various races.  Unlike Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION, this flick had nothing worthwhile to balance out the blatant racism.

The scenery is nice, though.

The film is at the link below for the curious.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Riders in the Sky.


Openers:  The year was 1958; the planet Mars was approaching its closest position to Earth, and the two friends completed their plans for the most daring adventure ever known to humanity.  All the world had said they were lunatics to attempt it, but that had not in the least deterred them.  Confident of success, they were determined to make the effort.  The one was rich enough to make this venture possible, and the other was the outstanding genius of his time.

-- "Bat-Men of Mars" by Wood Jackson, from Air Wonder Stories, May 1930 (Part One); Wonder Stories, June 1930 (Part Two), and July 1930 (Part Three)

Incoming:   Two books this time:

  • James Lee Burke, Jesus Out to Sea (2007), collection of eleven stories
  • "G. G. Fickling" (Forrest and Gloria Fickling), Kiss for a Killer (1960), the sixth novel in the Honey West P.I. series.  She only lasted for one season (thirty episodes) on television, but Anne Francis will always be my Honey West.

Good Gravy, I'm Getting Old:  Here are some of the Grammy winners and nominees whose names I recognize:
  • Cardi B.
  • Brandi Carlile
  • Drake
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Beck
  • Ariana Grande
  • Lady Gaga
  • Kelley Clarkson
  • Pink
  • Taylor Swift
  • Alice in Chains
  • Weezer
  • John Prine
  • Lee Ann Womack
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Demi Lovato
  • Tony Bennett
  • Diana Krall
  • Maroon 5
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Willie Nelson
  • Seal
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Bjork
  • David Byrne
  • Toni Braxton
  • Loretta Lynn
  • Keith Urban
  • Buddy Guy
  • Maria Muldaur
Of these, there are less than ten performers whose songs I have heard -- none of which are songs for which they were nominated.  You can guess who they are.   The rest I know from tabloid stories and headlines or from occasional references from television.  Ask me to name a song they have done and I'd be stuck.

Here are some of the winners and noms I had no idea existed:
  • H.E.R.
  • Post Malone
  • Janelle Monae
  • Kasey Musgraves
  • Bad Bunny & J Balvin
  • SZA
  • 21 Savage
  • Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey
  • Ella Mai
  • Shawn Mendes
  • Cloe x Halle
  • Luke Coombs
  • Greta Van Fleet
  • Dua Lipa
  • Margo Price
  • Bebe Rexha
  • Jorja Smith
  • Camila Cabello
  • Above & Beyond (featuring Richard Bedford)
  • Disclosure (featuring Fatoumata Diawawa)
  • Fisher
  • Virtual Self
  • Twenty One Pilots
  • St. Vioncent
  • Ghost
  • Sofi Tukker
  • Bring Me the Horizon
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • THE FEVER 333
  • Halestorm
  • ...and the list goes on and on...
It's official.  I'm old.  Time has past me by and that happening guy I was in the past is no longer relevant.

I can live with that.

Chickens:  I like them.  I like them fried and broiled.  I like the concept of having chickens as (outdoor, not indoor) pets.  I like chickens, especially when they come home to roost.  And they appear to be roosting in the White house, Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, and various other places including the late, unlamented imaginary campus of Trump University.

Yup.  I like chickens.

History:  Today is the anniversary of Henry VII being recognized as the supreme head of the Church of England.   Several of his wives were also recognized as heads.  Wait.  There are bodies too, about fifteen feet away...

Many years earlier on this date, Tiberius, heir to the Roman empire, died [cue foreboding music] mysteriously, paving the way for Nero to become Emperor.  It took over eighteen more centuries for Archie to appear by his side.

And even much earlier, at least according to tradition, Japan was founded by Emperor Jimmu.  History has not recorded who losted it in the first place.

And on February 11, 1938, the first science fiction television program was aired on the BBC -- an adaption of Karel Capek's R.U.R., the 1920 play that gave us the word "robot."

Florida Man Turns Ugly:  2019 may be known as the year that Florida Man transitioned from just plain stupid to disgustingly evil.  Garrick Bloom, 37, is actually Pennsylvania Man, but he hidiug out in Florida when he was caught so we reluctantly have to claim him.  This piece of pond scum was with 865 charges relating to child rape (the victim was five-years-old when the assaults began).

Christopher Hartley, 33, of Boynton Beach, was arrested after an 11-month-old baby overdosed on Hartley's stash.

Shelby John Nealy, 25, killed his wife in January 2018 and them spent a year pretending to be her on text messages to her parents.  On December 15, he killed his in-laws and his wife's brother, along with the family's three dogs, with a hammer at their home in Tarpon Springs.  Six days after the murders, Nealy ordered pizza to be delivered to his in-laws home.  The three bodies were not discovered until New Year's Day.  Later captured in Ohio, Nealy helped Florida authorities find the body of his wife buried in Pasco County.

And let us not forget Florida Woman,  Penny Pospisil, 47, killed her husband back in August in an RV park in in Sumter County.  After cutting up the body, she moved to another RV park, this time in Brevard County, taking her dismembered husband with her.  She lived in the trailer with her now-dislocated husband for several months.  Evidently Penny did not count on her neighbors being bothered by the overwhelming stench of a decomposing body.  They called the police who discover the body parts on December 30.  The sordid story was reported in January.

Move over, Virginia.  Florida secretary of state Michael Ertel had his job for only three weeks before he resigned after photos of him were released showing him in blackface, mocking survivors of Hurricane Katrina.  Florida state representative Anthony Sabatini, however, refused to resign after photos of him in blackface appeared.

I weep for the Florida Man that was and hope that Evil Florida Man's reign is short.

Today's Poem:

A little man walked up and down,
He found an eating place in town,
He read the menu through and through,
To see what fifteen cents could do.

One meatball, one meatball,
He could afford but one meatball.

He told the waiter near at hand,
The simple dinner he had planned.
The guests were startled, one and all,
To hear that waiter loudly call,

"One meatball, one meatball?
Hey, this here gent wants one meatball."

The little man felt ill at ease,
Said, "Some bread, sir, if you please."
The waiter hollered down the hall,
"You gets no bread with one meatball.

"One meatball, one meat ball,
You gets no bread with one meatball."

The little man felt very bad,
One meatball was all he had,
And in his dreams he hears that call,
"You gets no bread with one meatball.

"One meatball,
Well, you gets no bread with one meatball."

-- Hy Zaret & Louis C. Singer

(posted in honor of Josh White's 105th birthday)

Sunday, February 10, 2019


Lists like this can elicit many disagreements.  Often they skewed by the list-maker's age or personal philosophy. 

Here's a list that may keep you arguing for hours.


Hnk Williams.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


The incomparable Shirley Bassey.


Fawcett Publications thought it would be a good idea to have a spin-off from their Hopalong Cassidy comic books so the gave the man behind the Cassidy persona his own title.  Bill Boyd Western lasted for nearly two years (23 monthly issues) compared to the sixteen year run that Hopalong Cassidy had.  The relatively short run may be due to the comic calling calling Boyd "Bill" instead of "William," or it may be due to the fact that kids were more interested in Hoppy than in Boyd..

The comic book took Boyd out of his usual black Hopalong Cassidy outfit and -- to be sure there ws no confusion with Hoppy -- gave him a black horse named Midnight instead of Hoppy's white Topper.  The comic book also placed Bill Boyd in the Old West, giving him all the fine moral traits that the film and television Hoppy had.  Boyd as a comic book character speaks perfect unaccented English, unlike every other character -- good or bad -- in this first issue.

Bill Boyd Western #1 contains one long story, "The Bullion Bandits."  The rest of the issue is filled with gag comics featuring such characters as Brainy Buster, Hammerhead Hank, and Windy Whopper.

"Out of the West he came -- his skin tanned, his body sinewy and his shooting arm steady!  Bill Boyd, western hero, the very symbol of law and order!  But pitted against him, on the other side of the law are four of the deadliest killers in the whole West!

"When these two forces clash, the air is filled with an ominous cloud of death, kicked up by blazing six-shooters!"

Thus starts this action-filled adventure where Hoppy Bill takes on the bad guys.  And just so you don't forget they are the bad guys, their names are Sneaky, Greasy, Bullets, and Cactus.  The story ends with SPOILER ALERT! Bill victorious and riding off in to the sunset, saying, "I don't aim to settle down i one town yet.  I'll just ride along...I don't go looking for trouble, but if it ever comes my way, you'll always find me fighting on the side of law and order."

Enjoy this blast from the past that never was but really should have been.

Friday, February 8, 2019


Happy birthday, Tom Rush!


A quick post covering two quick reads.

The City by James Herbert; illustrated by Ian Miller (1994)

James Herbert (1943-2013) was one of the most popular British horror writers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.  His books have sold over 54 million copies, earning him an OBE as well as a Grand Master designation from the Horror World Convention.  Herbert blazed into print with The Rats (1974), a darkly compelling, visceral book about intelligent, organized, mutant rats preying on humans.  Five novels later he returned to the rats with a sequel, Lair.  This time the rats were more of a threat and had expanded well beyond London with their thirst for human flesh.  The Rats Trilogy concluded in 1984 with the publication of Domain, in which the rats have survived a nuclear holocaust, preying on humans in a ruined city.

Herbert's saga of the rats was not great literature but it had the capability of grabbing the reader by the throat and not letting go.  After Domain was released Herbert went on to produce more intricate and (in many ways) nuanced novels.  And, it turned out, he was not done with the rats. giving them a fourth outing in his only graphic novel The City, subtitled The Rats saga continues...

Many years have past since mankind's final war.  The rats have won.  The few remaining dregs of humanity have been reduced to a slave race for the rats.  A ruined yet phantasmagorical city is now home for the slave race, mutant humans, cannibals, the hopeless, and the helpless -- all kept in line by a literal army of rats headed by a giant one-eyed rat with a blazing red eye.  The leader of the rats -- the mother rat -- is an even larger, obese rodent whose lair is in the bowels of the city.

Into the city comes The Traveller, covered in armor and armed to the teeth.  With him are two death-dealing guard dogs, part mutants and part robots.  The Traveller is on a mission to find his wife and daughter, hidden somewhere in the devastated city.  The Traveller battles his way through both two-legged and four-legged rats only to find that even more horrors await him deep in the city.  It's a tale where there are no winners, where there never could be a winner.

There's very little text in The City.  This is a future where words would do no good.  Ian Miller provides an exquisitely drawn city interspersed with violent battle scenes and horrifying creatures.  Herbert's city is bleak and remorseless.  It is also a heck of an effective graphic novel.

Pride of Baghad by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Niko Henrichon (2006)

From rats to cats.

Brian Vaughan is one of the most talented writers in the comic book/graphic novel realm, author of such classics as Y:  The Last Man and Ex Machina.  Here, he takes a true incident from the bombing of Iraq in 2003 when bombs hit the Baghdad Zoo, releasing four lions.  The story is told from the viewpoint of the lions who have the ability to speak to other animals.  No matter how human-like these animals seem with their fears, hopes, and feelings, humans are a race that is unknowable and unknowing, especially when it comes to war and senseless destruction.

The male of the pride is Zili, a lion secure with his place in the zoo and trusting of the keepers.  Safa is an old lioness, blind in one eye, dreaming back to her days in the jungle. Another lioness, Noor, who was born in captivity, dreams of being free, of hunting her own food as nature intended.  Noor wants to unite the zoo animals in an elaborate plot to escape.  The fourth lion is Noor's cub Ali. a curious youngster with all the questions in the world and with a child's understanding.

When American planes bomb the zoo, releasing the animals, the four lions go on a dangerous trek through Baghdad.  While exploring Sadaam Hussein's empty palace, they come across a dying lion unknown to them as well as a huge, murderous bear -- two of the animals Sadaam had kept in his personal zoo.  Threats are everywhere, with the biggest threat being the possibility of starvation.  With the exception of old Sala, the lions had never hunted; on the few occasions they did find prey -- a live antelope and a dead keeper -- a sense of honor that places them above the humans prevents them from feasting.

The artwork by Niko Henrichon is amazingly detailed and beautifully colored.  It took Henrichson a full year to complete this book and his efforts in this uncompromising work shine.

Pride of Baghdad is a story of war and the horrors of survival.  It is a powerful and tragic story.  As with The City there are no winners.  There never could be a winner.

Two very different yet very similar graphic novels.  Your mileage may vary but I found both to be among the best books of any sort that I have read recently.

Thursday, February 7, 2019


Joe Cocker.


Casey, Crime Photographer began on CBS Radio as Flashgun Casey on July 7, 1943.  Besed on the popular character created by George Harmon Coxe, it chronicled the adventures of Jack "Flashgun" Casey, crime photographer for The Morning Express, usually as related by Casey to friends at the tavern/jazz club The Blue Note.  Caset is assisted in crime solving by reporter Ann Williams.  From 1943 to 1951 (when the show moved to television) the series had a number of name changes -- from Flashgun Casey to Casey, Press Photographer to Crime Photographer to Casey, Crime Photographer.  When the show made it back to radio from 1954 to 1955 the title reverted back to Crime Photographer.  (While on television from April 1951 to June 1952 it went by Casey, Crime Photographer.)

Casey appeared in 21 stories in Black Mask and in five novels written by Coxe.  In addition he appeared in two movies in the 1930s and in a short-lived comic book based on the radio show.  Coxe was named a MWA Grand Master in 1964 and had published 63 novels and 

"Hide-Out" aired on August 28, 1947 and featured Staats Cotsworth as Casey and Jan Miner as Ann Williams.  In addition to being a popular radio and television actor, Cotworth was also a stage director and actor and an artist.  Beside her role as AnnWilliams, Jan Miner was a long-time regular on the Boston Blackie radio show, but her radio, film, and stage careers were eclipsed by her 27 year run as Madge the Manicurist in Palmolive television ads.  Alnzo Deen Cole wrote the script; in addition to the 384 scripts he wrote for this program, Cole also created wrote 332 shows of The Witch's Tale, in addition to scripts for such shows as The Shadow and Gang Busters.

The link below indicated that "Hide-Out" was the program's 200th show.  A close look at the show's radio logs indicate it was really the 205th show.

Enjoy this episode of one of George Harmon Coxe's most popular detective.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


Josh Groban.


A chicken went into a public library, walked up to the main desk, and said, "Book, book, book, book, book, book."

The librarian looked at the chicken strangely and chicken kept repeating, "Book, book, book, book..."

The librarian finally reached under her desk , pulled out a small book, and handed it to the chicken.  The chicken took the book in its beak and strutted out of the library.  She then walked a few blocks until she can to a small pond that had a frog by the side of it.

The chicken flicked her head and the book flew and landed in front of the frog who at first looked very happy but then a disappointed look came over him as he said, "Read it, read it, read it..."

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


The Thompson Twins.


Eerie, Indiana, is a small town where anything can happen and where urban legends go to become reality.  Eerie is a town which has an annual Tornado Day picnic to appease "Old Bob," the tornado that threatens the town each year.  Eerie is a town where movie monsters emerge from the television screen, except these are not monsters -- they are actors cursed to repeat their roles forever.  Eerie is a town with "a pompous business man known as The Donald who brainwashes the town into buying on credit."  Eerie is a town where your next door neighbor (the one mowing his lawn) is an aging Elvis Presley..  Eerie is a town that ignores Daylight Savings Time and when you set your clock back an hour anyway you wake up in an abandoned town with garbage men who are trying to kill you.  Eerie, Indiana, is a town where a group of intelligent dogs plot to take over the world.

Eerie, Indiana, is not your typical American town. 

Marshall Teller (Omri Katz, Dallas, The John Larroquette Show, Hocus Pocus) is a teenager who moves to Eerie with his family to escape the crime and pollution of New Jersey.  Marshall's best friend in Eerie is Simon Holmes (Jason Shenkarow, Picket Fences, Hey, Arnold [voice work], Spidr-Man:  Into the Spider-Verse [voice work], one of the few normal people in Eerie.  Together they encounter the bizarre, the more bizarre, and the even more bizarre.

Eerie, Indiana was created by Jose Rivera (playwright and the first Puerto Rican screenwriter to be nominated for an Oscar) and Karl Schaeffer (playwright and current producer and showrunner for Z Nation).  Director Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling, Small Soldiers) served as creative consultant and directed five episodes. 

Eerie, Indiana aired for eighteen episodes on NBC from September 15, 1991 to April 12, 1992.  A (nineteenth and final) episode appeared on The Disney Channel when the show was syndicated in 1993.  Disney ran the show until 1996, after which Fox Kids took over rerunning the episodes.  Fox introduced a spinoff, Eerie, Indiana:  The Other Dimension, for one season in 1998.  In 2012 the original series moved to Hulu and Fearnet.

Critically acclaimed and with a growing fan base, the series spawned seventeen original paperback novels by various writers in 1997 and 1998.

Eerie, Indiana was a fun series that did not mind making fun of itself, even occasionally breaking the fourth wall.

Here's the first episode of the series, in which Marshall's mother hosts a Forever Ware party; Forever Ware being a product that can keep things forever -- including people.


Monday, February 4, 2019


Old Crow Medicine Show.


Openers:    As Princess Margaret reached middle age, the skin of both her cheeks and neck tended to sag from failure of the supporting structures.  Her naso-labial folds deepened, and the soft tissues along her jaw fell forward.  Her jowls tended to increase.  In profile the creases of her neck lengthened and the chin-neck contour lost its youthful outline and became convex.

-- Princess Margaret's Facelift" by J. G. Ballard (New Worlds #199, March 1970)

Ballard:  James Graham Ballard (1930-2009) was a major voice in science fiction from the publication of his first two stories.  His often surrealistic approach often better mirrored reality in the late twentieth century than most of his contemporaries.  Along with Michael Moorcock and Brian Aldiss, Ballard was one of the most prominent practitioners of the British "New Wave" in 1960s science fiction.  Experimental and avante-garde writing were the hallmarks of the New Wave, along with a willingness to push the boundaries of science fiction (and, occasionally, of good taste),  Ballard's series of "condensed novels" explored the cult of celebrity in which every mundane and intimate detail is considered worthy of public consumption.  These stories required a different narrative structure; in the case of "Princess Margaret's Facelift," a rather dry and detailed description of a medical procedure takes on a deeper meaning with the addition of a celebrity.  Ballard's condensed novels were controversial, antagonizing and alienating many readers.  Fifteen of them were collected in The Atrocity Exhibition (1970; US title Love and Napalm:  Export USA); a revised and expanded edition was published in 1990 with an introduction by William Burroughs, who was a major influence on Moorcock.  The hostility of some readers toward these stories prompted an executive at Doubleday publishers in 1970 to order the first American edition pulped before publication.

Many of Ballard's works are difficult but certainly worthwhile.  His work often reflects landscapes -- both the outer landscape of the world and the inner landscape of the human mind.  In The Atrocity Exhibition takes the mundane and the unusual and imbues them with a mater of fact violence that borders on non-sexual pornography.  The mirror he holds up is not distorted; it is a reflection of us.

Super Bowl LIII:  I have mentioned before that I am not big sports fan.  However I remain in my heart a New Englander.  Congratulations to the Patriots!




And a thumb to my nose to the haters.

It's Over?:  The partial government shut-down is over for the moment.  Trump lost, as did millions of Americans, some of whom will take a long time to recover  Tomorrow night, the president will finally get to deliver his Mis-state of the Union.  Fact-checkers are at the ready.

Trump says it doesn't matter if you call it a wall, a fence, or a barrier, whatever...just as long as you call it a wall.  The Democrats have offered billions for border security (but not including funds for a useless and ineffective wall) only to be rejected by Trump and his Congressional toadies.

My own feeling?  Let's not call it a wall, a fence, a barrier, or whatever.  Let's just erected a beaded curtain across the Mexican border.  Maybe that will satisfy The Donald.

Speaking of Things Presidential:  Two hundred thirty years ago today George Washing was elected the first President of the United States of America by the Electoral College.  The vote was unanimous.  My, have times changed.

And in 1861 on this date the Confederate States of America was formed.  The conflict and the divisions that followed still echo today.

Florida Man:  He's been looking for love in all the wrong places.  Grant Amato, 29, of Chuluota, Seminole County,  Allegedly shot and killed his parents and brother after stealing $200,000 to pay a Bulgarian prostitute he met on an online porn site.  Greater love hath no man...

And Another Florida Man:  This one is an unnamed West Palm Beach police officer.  Somehow he managed to run over a 24-year-old couple who were lying on an isolated road watching the Super Blood Wolf Moon eclipse.  At first it was exciting to watch the eclipse, then it became crushingly disappointing, I guess.

Florida Man's Priorities:  Another unnamed Florida man, this time in Ocala, pulled up an unexploded World War II hand grenade while "magnet fishing."

What to do?  Well, call 911 of course.

But first he took it to Taco Bell,, because...Double Cheesy Gordita Crunch, that's because!

Sadly for lover of Mexican haute cuisine the Taco bell had to close while the bomb squad did their stuff.

Pando Aspen Clone:  The world's largest organism, the Pando Aspen Clone, is dying.  The 107 acre forest with what appears to be some fifty thousand trees is actually one giant tree whose roots have sprouted identical identical "clones," all attached to one tree.  The main culprit in this collapse appears to be climate change.

Today's Poem:

If I cannot forgive myself
For all the blunders
That I have made
Over the years,
Then how can I proceed?
How can I ever
Dream perfection-dream?
Move, I must, forward.
Fly, I must, upward.
Dive, I must, inward.
To be once more
What I truly am
And shall forever remain.

-- Sri Chinmoy

Sunday, February 3, 2019


She's our youngest granddaughter.  I find it difficult to believe but she is 17 today, born on 2/3/02.

We thought it would be cool if she were born on 2/2/02 but she defied us.  Not that she's a contrarian in any way.  She marches to the tune of her own drummer.  It was a difficult birth.  Erin probably wanted to keep everyone on their toes.  As a new-born she was healthy and beautiful.

She's still beautiful and has a smile that can melt your heart.  Not that I'm prejudiced.

When she was young (four or five) she had mad skills with a hula hoop, doing all sorts of tricks.  A lot things just came naturally to her.

She's super smart and was highly miffed the first time she got a B in school. 

Erin was tiny and petite.  The doctors recommended growth hormones via injection six time a week.  This went on for years, with this tiny little girl injecting herself.  Although small, Erin is no longer tiny and does not have to worry about size being a handicap.  To me she is just perfect.

She loves animals, especially dogs.  Animals can sense things and they love her back.  When she is at our house, Willow the cat gets all the love she wants.

She's fast.  If one of our dogs got loose and ran away, we'd send Erin after him and she would catch the dog in record time.  When she was on a soccer team, the coach's mantra was, 'Use your speed, Erin!"

When she was young she seemed to have a psychic link to her stuffed animals -- of which there were many.  The moment she got one she would instantly come up with a name for it, remembering each one perfectly.  That may not seem like much but considering how many she had I found it amazing.

She loves nature. As a little girl she would go for long walks in the woods.

She loves to read, something that is always a plus in my thinking.

For years she has been a fingernail artist, drawing creative and lovely designs on her nails.  She has several hundred bottle of nail polish to support her creativity.

She's funny and has a great sense of humor.

For the past three years she's been a member of her high school color guard, something she was hesitant to try at first.  Her two older cousins (who were in their high school color guard in Massachusetts) talk her into trying it.  The bruises and bumps she got while practicing in her front yard are legendary.  We watch her now as she spins rifles and sabers high into the air, catching them so easily and gracefully, and are amazed.  The color guard has won many competitions and Erin has been a big part of that.

She's loyal.  And sensitive.  And quiet.  And raucous.  And open.  And withdrawn.  And hopeful.  and fearful.  And confident.  And insecure.  She is everything a teenage girl should be.

And she's seventeen now.  And I'm feeling old.  When she is with us or when I am thinking about her I no longer feel old.  The joy she brings is infectious and rejuvenating.  I love each of my kids and grandkids more than the others, which is as it should be.  But Erin...

Today is Erin's day.  May she have a great day and may her life be as blessed as ours is with her in it.


My daughter has two very old pugs -- Mr. Beefy and Anvil ("Annie").  Roughly thirteen years old, they are brothers who have never been separated.  Both are loving, dumb, and gaseous.  Beefy is blind and (we believe) senile.  He loves to look out of windows so he spends a lot of time doing that and we don't have the heart to tell him it's not a window, it's a wall.  Annie is deaf and has had a few spasms.  Both dogs are happy and free of pain so Jessie is going to keep them as long as possible.  As with many dogs, their main purpose is to give unconditional joy.

Enjoy this compilation of sweet and funny puigs.


The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


Doc Watson.


Something I have never wondered before today:  Why are there so few circus comic books?  I have no answer to that but at least we have The Barker.

The Barker is a guy named Carnie Callahan, the barker for Colonel Lane's Mammoth Circus.  Created by writer Joe Millard and drawn by the great Jack Cole, The Barker first appeared in National Comics #42 (May 1944).  Millard and Cole soon left the series and Klaus Nordling took on the artistic duties; Nordling is also credited in some circles as the script writer but this has not been satisfactory verified.  Quality Comics soon gave The Barker his own title which ran for 15 issues, dying only when the publisher folded.

Humor was the byword for both script and artwork in The Barker.  A standard cast of circus performers including strong man Tiny Tim, midget Major Midge, fat lady Lena, bearded lady Peaches, human cannonball Bombo, and four-armed "human spider" Spudo help provide the humor in the series.

In this issue's first story Max, a chimpanzee with human intelligence and human habits (he likes to light up a cigar, drink champagne, and eat caviar).  Alas, Max is persuaded to live a life of crime by two petty crooks.  The crooks are caught but Max likes being a criminal.  What can the barker do to set him straight?

Next, a cheating card shark tries to fleece the crew but Spudo gets wise and the shark is ejected.  Wanting to get his revenge on the circus, he convinces a not-too-bright hillbilly that Colonel Lane is the hillbilly's father and town officials decide that they don't want such a dastard and his circus in their town.  Luckily, this becomes a case of the biter bit.

While the circus is in Spruceville for the first time in years, Spudo decides to look up his old friend Grifter Grogan.  Instead he finds Grogan's beautiful daughter in tears.  Grogan had died drinking his own cough medicine and now a villain is about to foreclose the mortgage on Grogan's store.  Spudo's attempts to help the girl bring unexpected results and Spudo learns a valuable lesson about women in the pre-Me Too era.

In the final story, the circus is plagued by a pickpocket stork.

Cute stories and great artwork make this one a winner.


Friday, February 1, 2019


If your first name is Lemon and you were born blind, Black, and the son of Texas sharecroppers toward the end of the nineteenth century, then you have every right to sing the blues...and sing them Lemon Henry Jefferson did, becoming one of the most successful blues singers of the 1920s.

Jefferson (1893-1929) was the youngest child of seven (perhaps eight).  He began playing guitar in his early teens, performing at picnics and parties.  From there he became a street musician, often playing and singing for eight hours straight.  In late 1925 or early 1926, Jefferson was taken to Chicago to record his music.  His first record release was of two gospel songs under the name Deacon D. J. Bates.  His first release under his own name was a hit, leading to several more releases from that first session did even better, reaching sales in six figures.  Between 1926 and 1929 Jefferson had 43 records issued.

Jefferson died at age 36 of (according to the death certificate) "probable acute myocarditis."  Rumors and legends swirled about his death -- a lover had poisoned his coffee, the heart attack came while lost in a snowstorm, he had been attacked by a dog in the middle of the night, he was killed while being robbed of a royalty check...Whatever the cause, his grave at Wortham Negro Cemetery in Texas was unmarked until 1967 and then a headstone was placed in the general area of where he is thought to be buried.   In 2007 the cemetery's name was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery and a committee was established to see that his grave was kept clean.

Jefferson's style was too complex for many of his younger contemporaries to imitate, but over the years he became a huge influence on blues singers, earning him the title of King of the Texas Blues.  His songs have been covered by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, John Hammond, B. B. King, Peter, Paul and Mary, Counting Crows, and Phish, among many others.

Note: many of these links show a picture of Blind Lemon Jefferson; it is the only known photograph of the artist.

"Matchbox Blues"

"Black Snake Moan"

"Bad Luck Blues"

"Jack 'O Diamond Blues"

"Rabbit Foot Blues"

"One Dime Blues"

"That Growling Baby Blues"

"Easy Rider Blues"

"Lonesome House Blues"

"Corinna Blues"

"See That My Grave Is Kept Clean"

And finally, Geoff Muldaur sings of his efforts to keep blind Lemon's grave clean in "Got To Find Blind Lemon, Parts One and Two"


The Book of Iod by Henry Kuttner, edited by Robert M. Price (1995)

Henry Kuttner 1914-1956) was a consummate pulp writer, using at least 17 pseudonyms during a career that lasted a bit over two decades, ending with his untimely death at age 42.  During the 1940s and 1950s much of his work was done in collaboration with his wife C(atherine) L. Moore; their collaboration was so seamless that it is impossible to determine what he wrote from what she wrote.

Kuttner's first story*, "The Graveyard Rats" (Weird Tales, March 1936), has become a recognized classic in horror literature.  During 1936 and early 1937, Kuttner began a correspondent friendship with H. P. Lovecraft, sending him a number of stories in progress for Lovecraft's comments (Lovecraft died in March 1937).  Many of Kuttner's early stories were inspired by Lovecraft and were part of the Cthulu Mythos -- a shared universe created by Lovecraft and written by him and by a number of Lovecraft's writer friends who expanded on the concept.  These stories by Kuttner are basically juvenilia, early and often over-written and imitative attempts by the author before finding his true voice.  Robert M. Price, a Lovecraft afficiando and editor of The Crypt of Cthulhu, gathered eight of these stories for issue 41 of that small-press magazine (Volume 5 Number 7, Lammas 1986).  These eight stories -- with two others by Kuttner and three by other writers -- were then included nine tears later in The Book of Iod**, edited by Price and published by Chaosium (creators of the "Call of Cthulthu" role-playing game) as part of their Call of Cthulhu Fiction series.  In some cases, the stories' connection to Lovecraft is tenuous, at best.

The Book of Iod is not great literature, folks, but it is an amusing time-waster, especially for Lovecraft fans and for Kuttner completists.  The most accurate judgement of this book is:  Them what likes this sort of thing will like this sort of thing.

The stories:

  • "The Secret of Kralitz," from Weird Tales, October 1936
  • "The Eater of Souls," from Weird Tales, January 1937, a Dunsanian tale of Bel Yarnak, a city (country?) somewhere not here
  • "The Salem Horror," from Weird Tales, May 1937, one of two stories featuring Michael Leigh (Kuttner worked part-time at Lawrence D'Orsey's literary agency where he picked some early submissions by Leigh Brackett from the slush pile and helped her with the first story she sold.  Coincidence?  Who knows?)
  • "The Black Kiss," from Weird Tales, June 1937, as by Robert Bloch (Published here as by Robert Bloch and Henry Kuttner; Kuttner evidently wrote the first draft of the story and Bloch completely rewrote it.  The story was reprinted under the title "Sea Kissed" as the title story in a British pamphlet of four of Bloch's stories in 1945, along with a vignette by Benson Herbert.  'The Black Kiss" was the second Michael Leigh story, added here as one of the three "extra" stories.)
  • "The Jest of Droom-Avvista," from Weird Tales, August 1937, another tale of Bel Yarnak
  • "Spawn of Dagon," from Weird Tales, July 1938, one of four stories about Elak of Atlantis, the only one that could be squeezed into the Cthulhu Mythos
  • "The Invaders," from Strange Stories, February 1939, as by "Keith Hammond" because the issue already had a story under the Kuttner name (below)
  • "The Frog," from Strange Stories, February 1939, taking place in Kuttner's fictional town of monk's Hollow
  • "Hydra," from Weird Tales, April 1939, featuring the "blind, idiot god" Azathoth, created by Kuttner and continued by other writers
  • "Bells of Horror," from Strange Stories, April 1939 as "The Bells of Horror"
  • "The Hunt," from Strange Stories, June 1939, another story set in Monk's Hollow
  • "Beneath the Tombstone" by Robert M. Price, from Footsteps IV, 1984; an earlier version appeared in Crypt of Cthulu, Number 6, St. John's Eve 1982
  • "Dead of Night" by Lin Carter, from Crypt of Cthulhu, Number 54, Eastertide 1988, featuring Carter's occultist character Anton Zarnak

*ISFDb lists "The Monkey Wrench" (Jungle Stories, August 1931, as by "Bertram W. Williams") as Kuttner's first story -- almost four and a half years before "The Graveyard Rats."  If so, Kuttner would have been 17 when the story was published.

**Iod was an interdimensional being  added to the Cthulu Mythos by Kuttner in his story "The Secret of Kralitz:''  ("Iod, the Source, is worshiped beyond the outer galaxies.')