Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, March 30, 2019


A great song from The Platters.


Black comic books were a rarity in the Forties and Fifties.  1947 saw the single issue of All-Negro Comics, the first comic book written and drawn by Black writers and artists.  This 48-page small-press comic book touted itself as "another milestone in the splendid history of Negro journalism."  It featured a story about Negro private detective, Ace Harlem, and a story about "Lion Man," a college-educated African-American sent to Africa by the United Nations; there, he adopts Bubba, an impish African orphan.  Ace Harlem represented the "thousands of fearless, intelligent Negro police officers engaged in a constant fight against crime in the United States."  Lion Man was designed to promote pride in the African heritage of Afro-Americans although this college-educated dude wore either a leotard costume or a loin cloth (depending on whether it was the comic book's cover or the actual story).  The was also a children's feature concerning cherubs that could only be seen by babies, as well as a two-page text story, "Ezekiel's Manhunt."  An attempt to produce a second issue failed.

Then in 1950 Fawcett brought out Negro Romance, a title that lasted for just three issues, and one that avoided the Negro stereotypes of the time.  The comic book was conceived and written by Fawcett editor Roy Ald, who had hoped to expand into the burgeoning romance market.  Sadly, the bi-monthly comic lasted only three issue, ending with the October 1950 issue.  It seems likely to me that Fawcett's distributors were not equipped to handle such a title.

Negro Romance was reborn (in a way) when Charlton Comics Group picked up the title with issue #4 in 1955.  This was merely a reprint of Fawcett's issue #2 with a new cover thrown on.  For issue #5 Charlton renamed the book Romantic Secrets and any comic book featuring a major black character then had to wait for more politically correct times.

Negro Romance #4 (or, if you will, #2) starts off with "Possessed," the story of Gloria Conan, an insecure woman who was just fired from her job.  She meets and eventually falls in love with Lloyd Jaimson, an optimistic man who arranges for Gloria to get a job in his mother's beauty parlor.  Gloria's insecurities soon inadvertently caused her to become over-possessive, almost destroying her happiness and alienating her from Lloyd and his family.  She realizes her mistake in time.  Happy ending.

From there we move to "Forever Yours."  Edith and Don are blissfully in love and plan to get married, when Edith receives bad news from her doctor:  she has a disease that could prove fatal in just two years.  In my opinion, Edith is a dunderhead.  She accepts her fate and does not go for treatment that could cure her and she does not tell Don the bad news, letting the knowledge of her two-year death sentence fester.  With only death to look forward to, she decides that she must not marry Don, no matter how much she loves him.  She pushes Don away and opts for the wild life even though she's ashamed of herself.  She is a good girl after all.  It takes a medical crisis for Edith to come to her senses and for Don to crush her in his loving embrace.  Happy ending, since they will face the uncertain future together.

In "Love's Decoy," Sara Morgan is a lowly chorus girl although she hopes to become a big-time dancer.  Sleazy nightclub owner Bailey promises Sara a spot as a featured dancer if she would only play up to customer Bruce Ebberly.  Ebberly turns out to be a regular customer of the club who is always seated alone.  Sara "accidentally" meets Ebberly and they soon start up a sincere and loving relationship.  Bailey then demands that Sara somehow get Ebberly's signature.  Smelling a rat, Sara refuses but Bailey holds the featured spot in his revue over her head and she finally agrees.  I'm afraid Sara's a bit of a dim bulb because she has no idea why Bailey wants Ebberly's signature so desperately.  It turns out Ebberly is a cop who is investigating Bailey's shady racket and Bailey has used his signature to forge a letter demanding $15,000 blackmail.  Ebberly is arrested and Sara is wracked with guilt for betraying the man she loves.  Will Sara now do the right thing?  Of course she will.  Will Bruce Ebberly forgive her so they can live happily ever after?  Of course he will, but between doing the right thing and living happily ever after, one of Bailey's goons tries to kill her but only wounds her in the shoulder.  I mean, there's got to be some cosmic payback for betrayal, right?  Aching shoulder happy ending.

Negro Romances is an interesting bit of cultural history.  Check it out.

By the way, the cover illustration has absolutely nothing to do with any of the stories.  Oh, well.

Friday, March 29, 2019


Country Joe and the Fish.


Certainly The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction isn't forgotten; it is still rolling along and approaching its 70th birthday, still publishing challenging and literate stories, still holding an important place in the literature of the genre.  Yet how many people have gone back to sample its earliest issues?

The magazine debuted  with its Fall 1949 issue under its less comprehensive title The Magazine of Fantasy.  Founding co-editors Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas had struggled to bring the magazine to fruition, hoping to provide to the fantasy field what stablemate Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine had brought to the fields of mystery and detection.  With the success of the first issue, the editors got the go-ahead to continue as (at first) a quarterly publication, adding the category of science fiction to the title, making it more inclusive.  Over the next seven decades F&SF, under the editorships of (in chronological order) Boucher and McComas, the Boucher alone, Robert P. Mills, Avram Davidson, Joseph Ferman, Edward L. Ferman, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Gordon van Gelder, and (currently) C.C. Finlay, has moved with the times, publishing many award-winning stories and discovering major new authors.

The second issue of the magazine, with its new title of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, was dated Winter-Spring 1980 and provided a comfortable mix of new (by Margret St. Clair, Damon Knight, and R. Bretnor, among others) and reprinted stories (by Robert M. Coates, Anthony Hope, Miriam Allen deFord, and others), as well as a dab of poetry from Samuel Taylor Coleridge and brief but insightful books reviews from the editors.  As with the premier issue, the cover art was by George Salter and clearly set the magazine apart from any other in the field.

The contents:
  • "The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out" by R. (Reginald) Bretnor.  The first recorded adventure of Papa Schimmlehorn.  Schimmelhorn is an octogenarian undersung geniuis, a foreman in a cuckoo clock factory, and a dirty old man.  The gnurrs are mouse-sized, wild boar-like creatures with oversized yellow eyes with three sets of very sharp teeth;they come from the voodvork out, in the millions, and hungry.  Schimmelhorn found them in what might be the fourth dimension.  You see, when today becomes tomorrow it's yesterday and for the gnurrs yesterday is their today.  Simple.  This rollicking, witty tale is one of Bretnor's best and began a series of seven (maybe eight, if you squint) short stories and one novel about the character.  (I know Todd Mason doesn't care for these stories at all but I find them enchanting.)  Bretnor went on to create the pun-filled adventures of Ferdinand Feghoot later that decade -- another Bretnor creation I couldn't get enough of.
  • "The Return of the Gods" by Robert M. Coates.  Reprinted from The New Yorker, December 11, 1948, this is a light (or, perhaps, not so light) tale of elder gods showing up in Danbury, Connecticut, and other places.  Coates was a noted art critic and author of Wisteria Cottage  and The Eater of Darkness.
  • "Every Work Into Judgment" by Kris Neville.  This was Neville's sixth published science fiction story.  Scientists create a computerized super-being that gains continuing power and awareness.  Until...  Neville, a technical writer in the plastics industry, had by this time already published two highly respected stories -- "Cold War" and (as "Henderson Stark") "Dumb Supper" -- would go on to pen the classic story "Bettyann."  Over a seven-year spurt, he published over 40 stories in the fields.  His output then tapered off.  From 1961 on, he published one or two stories most years until the late seventies.  A talented and literate writer, his sparse output denied him a higher place in the science fiction pantheon.  He coulda been a contender.
  • "Time, Real and Imaginary" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  A brief poem, also known as "Hope and Time," it was first published in 1803.
  • "A Rope for Lucifer" by Walt Sheldon is an odd combination of  Western tall tale and Eastern magic.  Lucifer here does not refer to the devil but to a cowboy of that name.  This is ono of those wry tales that helped define the magazine's early years.
  • "The Last Generation?" by Miriam Allen deFord.  Reprinted from Harper's, November 1946, this one details the consequences of a plague of world-wide sterility.  The inconclusive ending fits the story, but leaves the build-up wanting.  Probably the least successful tale in this issue.
  • "Postpaid to Paradise" by Robert Arthur.  The first of at least six stories about Morchison Murks, this is a charming Club fantasy (along the lines of Lord Dunsany's Jorkens, Arthur C. Clarke's White Hart, or L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's Gavagan's Bar [see below] stories) and concerns a rare and improbable stamp.  Arthur was a successful radio writer and producer and went on to ghost-edit some of the very best of the "Alfred Hitchcock" anthologies.
  • "The Exiles" by Ray Bradbury.  This one was first published as The Mad Wizards of Mars" in the September 15, 1949, issue of Maclean's.  In a time centuries after Halloween and Christmas have been banned, authors of the past -- Poe, Bierce, Dickens, Shakespeare, and others -- appear in one of Bradbury's patented paeans to imagination.  This one was later incorporated into  the author's The Illustrated Man.
  • "My Astral Body" by Anthony Hope.  This light fantasy from the author of The Prisoner of Zenda was first published in his Sport Royal and other stories (1893).  It's an ironic story of a rajah who is able to project his astral body.
  • "Gavagan's Bar" by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt.  This first entry in the popular series of "Club" stories is actually two tales -- "Elephas Frumenti" and "The Gift of God" -- under the umbrella title.  Strange things happen to the habitues of Gavagan's.  a great start to a fantastic series.
  • "Recommended Reading" by The Editors.  Brief yet pithy reviews of  recent novels, new and reprinted (Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe, S. Fowler Wright's The World Below, Louis Golding's Honey for the Ghost, James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner), collections (Theodore Sturgeon's Without Sorcery, Henry James' The Ghostly Tales of Henry James), and anthology (Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty's The Best Science Fiction Stories:  1949), and two non-fiction books (Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley's The Conquest of Space, James Reynolds Gallery of Ghosts).  Any reader in 2019 would still find all of these books worthwhile.
  • "World of Alesia" by Margaret St. Clair.  F&SF has always been noted for nuturing and promoting female writers.  By the time she appeared in this issue, St.Clair had already published about thirty science fictions stories, mostly pulpish adventure in such magazine as Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories.  Her long relationship with F&SF began with this story of an underwater world and continued with finely crafted, often empathetic, stories, many under her pseudonym Idris Seabright.  St. Clair was another talented and self-assured writer who should have climbed the heights of the science fiction pantheon.
  • "The Volcanic Valve" by W. L. Alden.  Sometimes titled "A Volcanic Valve," this early comic SF tale of the care and feeding of volcanoes was first published in Pall Mall Magazine (July 1897).  This is one of a series of stories featuring the mad scientist Professor Van Wagoner.
  • The issue ends on a high note with another classic tale, "Not With a Bang" by Damon Knight.  It's a twist on the last man on Earth theme and features a particularly nasty example of the Y chromosome club.

A great issue and highly recommended.  It is available online at Internet Archive.  If you have never read an early issue of F&SF you should check this one out.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


Gene who?

Gene Austin (1900-1972) is considered by many to be the first crooner, influencing a generation of singers, including Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, among others.  Another person greatly influenced by Austin was Jimmie Rodgers, making Austin an unsung early hero of country music.  Former sideshow talker Colonel Tom Parker began in the music business in 1938 by promoting Austin; Parker went on to manage or promote such artists as Eddie Arnold, Hank Snow, and Minnie Pearl before grabbing the brass ring in 1955 when he began to manage Elvis Presley. 

Gene Austin began in vaudeville on a dare when he was fifteen, shortly before the boy joined the army and won the Mexican Service Medal while serving in General John Pershing's Pancho Villa expedition.  Out of the army in 1919, Austin began performing in local bars in Baltimore, moving once again to vaudeville and beginning a songwriting career.  Austin wrote over 100 songs despite never having leaned to read or notate music.  By 1925 he was recording with Victor records, selling more than 80 million records over the next decade.

Two of his recordings were entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Here's just a few of his songs, some of which he also wrote.

"My Blue Heaven"

"My Melancholy Baby"

"Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue"

"Ain't She Sweet"

"Bye Bye Blackbird"

"Jeannine I Dream of Lilac Time"


"When My Sugar Walks Down the Street" (with Aileen Stanley)

"The Lonesome Road"

"How Come You Do Me Like You Do"/"One Sweet Letter from You"/I Can't Give You Anything But Love"

"Under a Texas Moon"

"Did You Ever See a Dream Walking"

"Someday Sweetheart"

...and so many more...


Cats were worshiped in ancient Egypt.  Should that be a warning siign for any man who married an Egyptian woman who happened to love cats?

From July 2, 1944, here's another chilling episode of The Mysterious Traveler, from producers/writers Robert Arthur and David Kogan.  this epidoe was directed by Jack McGregor and featured Sarah Burton, Staats Cotsworth, and Sandra Gould.

Ailurophobes may want to avoid this one.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Over the past few days, Internet Archive has added some compilations by noted pulp artists.  Fantastic stuff.

Here are some that are available now.

Virgil Finley:

Hugh Joseph Ward:

Rafael de Soto:

Earl Kulp Bergey:

Allen Anderson:

H. L. Parkhurst:

Norman Saunders (misspelled on the cover, tsk! tsk!)

Alex Schomburg:

Robert McGinnis, Part 1:

Robert McGinnis, Part 2:

Check 'em out.


Socrates Drank the Conium was a progressive rock band from Greece.


The world's leading expert on European wasps walks into a record store.

He asks the assistant, "Do you have European Vespidae Acostics Volume 2?  I believe it was released this week."

"Certainly," replies the assistant.  "Would you like to listen before you buy it?"

"That would be wonderful," says the expert, and puts on a pair of headphones.

He listens for a few moments and says to the assistant, "I'm terribly sorry, but I am the world's leading expert on European wasps and this is not accurate at all.  Are you sure this is the correct recording?"

The assistant checks the turntable, and replies that is indeed European Vespidae Acostics Volume 2.  The assistant apologizes and lifts the needle onto the next track.

Again the experts listens for a few moment and and then says to the assistant, "No, this just can't be right!  I've been an expert in this field for 43 years and I still don't recognize any of these sounds."

The assistant apologizes again and lifts the needle to the next track.

The expert throws off the headphones as soon as it strarts playing and is fuming with rage.

"This is outrageous false advertising!   I am the world's leading expert on European wasps and no European wasp has ever made a sound like the ones on this record!"

The manager of the shop overhears the commotion and walks over.

"What seems to be the problem, sir/"

"This is an outrage!  I am the world's leading expert on European wasps.  Nobody knows more about them than I do.  There is no way in hell that the sounds on that record were made by European wasps!"

The manager glances down and notices the problem instantly.

"I'm terribly sorry, sir.  It appears we've been playing you the bee side."

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Today is our forty-ninth wedding anniversary.  I think this marriage may work out.

According to Google, "a 49th wedding anniversary does not technically mark a milestone anniversary."  Maybe not, but every day, not to mention every year, with Kitty is a milestone to be celebrated.

I had just graduated from college and Kitty was still in school at Lowell State College (now UMass Lowell) 49 years ago.  She was living in a girls dormitory called Concordia Hall.  The lounge at the dormitory had been consecrated and Catholic services were held there.  Kitty, bless her Irish heart, had been raised a Catholic.  For my part, mother was a Unitarian and my father was a congregationalist so I was raised Baptist; the Baptist church was the nearest to my house, you see.  Anyway, Kitty decided she wanted to get married at her dormitory.

It was a beautiful ceremony.  The center of the lounge was surrounded on three sides by comfortable chairs.  At the head of the lounge was a small fountain in the form of a statue of Orpheus -- Lowell State having a very solid music department.  The priest stood in front of Orpheus and we stood in front of the priest and family and friends comfortably seated along the side.  The president of the college had sent flowers.  Some friends provide the music, including "Pleasures of the Harbor" and -- at the end -- "Pack Up your Sorrows."  Just about every girl in the dormitory packed into the lobby by the lounge to watch our nuptials.  And somebody forgot to turn off the damned fountain during the service.

The priest who married us was the head of the college's Newman Center.  He liked us well enough but was hesitant to marry us.  He just didn't think we would last.  We ran into him about ten years later and he said that we were the only couple he married who were still married.  I don't think he married many couples and he certainly did not understand the bond Kitty and I shared.

After the ceremony we held a champagne reception at a local restaurant.  A limited number of invitations had gone out and an unlimited number of people showed up.  The restaurant soon ran out of champagne and had to hit up the local liquor stores.  It was a good time.  Afterwards the crowd moved to Kitty's parents' house.  My Uncle Arthur got slightly snozzled and was flirting with one of the bridesmaids while my Aunt Thelma glared at him.

And so we were married.  And the years past with the usual ups and downs.  We had two great kids and then they got married and we had five great grandchildren.  And supposedly we got old.  I don't feel it.  Yes, I move a bit slower now and the aches are a tad more noticeable, but every day I thrill to be with Kitty and wonder how I got to be so lucky.

Not only does the 49th wedding anniversary not "mark a milestone anniversary," but there is evidently no traditional gift for year #49, although Hallmark (bless their little mercenary hearts) decided that the 49th anniversary is the copper anniversary.  As much as Hallmark loves to create traditions at the drop of a hat, I do not consider a "copper anniversary" legit.  Thus, based on my personal experience and the fact that there is a perceived need that must be filled, I offer my own modest proposal:

A happiness anniversary.

Happiness is surely the most valuable gift one can get or receive.  Plus it has the advantage of being cost-free.

So for this 49th anniversary, my wife has given me happiness.  I, in turn, hope I have given her the same.

In fact, the happiness anniversary should not be limited to year 49.  Happiness should be given each and every year and well into the future, so that's what I think we'll do.

And after 49 years, I'm still chuffed.

Callooh!  Callay!


From 1965, The Dixie Cups.


Written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin and directed by George Cukor, A Double Life is the story of an actor who really lives his roles.  Unfortunately his current role is that of a jealous, murderous Othello.

Ronald Coleman, Edmond O'Brien, Signe Hasse, and Shelley Winters star.  Also in the cast are Ray Collins (Perry Mason's Lieutenant Tragg) and Whit Bissell, as well as uncredited appearances from Paddy Chayefsky, John Derek, and Elmo Lincoln (Tarzan of the silents).

A great flick.

(On a personal note, the film was novelized by one of my favorite writers, Manly Wade Wellman.  Issued only as a digest-size paperback from Century Books in 1947.  It is a rare (read expensive on the used books market) book and is the only novel by Wellman I have not read.  Some day, maybe.)


Monday, March 25, 2019


Happy birthday, Hoyt Axton (1938-1999).  Hoyt wrote and recorded this song the same year Three Dog Night moved to #1 on the charts.


Openers:  In 1961 they erected the building.  Befitting the ivied traditions of Universities, both old and new, the structure was an architectural abomination.  The sentimentalists and the liberal arts majors, with smug, mid-Victorian complacency, called it "a bit of old Gothic".  The science majors, with hard-headed realism, called it simply "The Monster", and shuddered theatrically.

-- "Every Work Into Judgment" by Kris Neville, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Winter-Spring 1950.

Spin City:  The Mueller Report is finished and has been handed in to the attorney general and Trumpinistas are altering reality and crowing victory.  "No collusion!"  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  What limited information we can glean from the report thus far indicates there was nothing provable about the president's actions but there was much cause for concern.  We do know that Russia interfered with our elections, and we do know that members of Trump's election campaign and certain Trump advisers were in contact with Russian operatives and those close to Vladimir Putin, but of Trump's direct involvement we know nothing.  If the full report is ever released, along with its supporting documents, we will have a much better idea of what actually happened.  In no way, however, has the report absolved Trump.  Potentially far more devastating for the president (and his family) are the other, on-going investigations centering on Trump's businesses and finances.  I doubt if Trump is sleeping comfortably at present.

There's an App for That:  For the many, many fans of Florida Man, here's a nifty trick.  Google 'Florida Man" and add your birthday (just the day and month, thank you) and can view your birthday Florida Man headlines.  An explanation of this new internet craze, along with several example,is here:

Strangely, this will not work id you substitute another state for Florida.

Nor should it.

R.I.P., Henry:  Henry Pseng died on February 27.  He was 111 (and 231 days) and was thought to be the oldest person in the United States.  He exercised at a local YMCA in Los Angeles where he had been a member for over forty years.  In his eighties he was still doing yoga handstands.  In his nineties he was an active participant in dance aerobics, a class that was held at the ungodly hour of 6:00 am.  At the end he was wheelchair-bound but still lifted himself from his chair for a half hour on an exercise bike every day, and did so until the day before he died.  Exercise, moderation, smiling, and  a lack of worrying were his secrets to a long life.

Just goes to show that in no way will I live to be 111.

Tragic Anniversary:  The time, 108 years ago today.  The place, the Asch Building at 23-29 Washington Place in Greenwich Village.  The top three floors of the building were occupied by the Triangle Waist Company, which made women's blouses, or shirtwaists.  The company employed about 500 workers who put in a 52-hour week for $7 to $12 a week. 

Shortly before closing, a fire started on the eighth floor in a scrap bin which held several month's worth of discarded cuttings.  The culprit was most likely a discarded match or cigarette butt, although heat from engines running the sewing machines could also have been the cause..  Next to the scrap bin were some highly-flammable curtains. 

There were few ways of escape for the workers.  Two freight elevators were crammed with workers, allowing some to escape; the two elevator operators were able to make three trips to rescue workers before the heat made it impossible.  Others made their way to the roof of the building and crossed over to a nearby roof.  A flimsy and most likely poorly installed fire escape  where some twenty people tried to escape collapsed and sent the working falling 100 feet to the pavement.  There were two stairways:  one was inaccessible because of the flames, the other was locked in an effort by management to prevent theft.  The supervisor who had the key to the locked stairwell had escaped by another means.

146 workers died, some by fire, some by smoke inhalation, and others by throwing themselves out of windows.  Of the 146 dead, 123 were woman, mostly immigrants age between 14 and 23.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in American history. 

Triangle's owners were eventually arrested on first-and second-degree manslaughter but received not guilty verdicts.  Sued in civil court, they were found culpable and had to pay $75 for each victim.  their insurance company ended up paying the owners some $60,000 more than their losses, which worked out to be about $400 per victim.

The fire led to public outrage.  New York City created a Committee on Public Safety.  In Albany Tammany Hall politicians also saw the benefits of action and created a Factory Investigating Committee which led to 38 new labor laws.  In New York City, it was estimated that over 200 factories had conditions that could lead to similar fires.  Between 1911 and 1913, New York established laws requiring better building access, availability of fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems, improved toilet and eating facilities for workers, and the number of hours women and children could be made to work.  New York became to poster boy for progressive labor conditions.

The outrage also led to a greater union activity and a much strengthened International Ladies' Garment Workers union.

The last-known survivor of the tragedy, Rose Rosenfeld Freeman, died in 2001 at 107.  She had been 17 at the time of the fire and was one of the ones to have escaped via the building's roof.

Why does it always have to take a tragedy before politicians and public demand common sense change?  And, sadly, even after a tragedy change does not always come.

Today's Poem:
Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it, 
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
and tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

-- Wallace Stevens

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Amazing!  Maxim was only fifteen.


The popular hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" has an interesting pedigree.  It was written by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), an Anglican priest, scholar and man of many interests.  In his lifetime he authored more than 1200 works.  Perhaps best known today as a writer of hymns, Baring-Gould also wrote many novels, over 22 short stories, books of folklore and collections of folk songs, archaeological studies, travel, local history, and biography, as well as religious studies and collections of his sermons.  He also produced (in his spare time, perhaps) fifteen children with his wife Grace.

He was the author of some fine ghost stories, some collected in The Book of Ghosts (1904) and Margery of Quether and Other Weird Tales (1999), and a noted study on lycanthropy. The Book of Were-wolves (1865).

Of interest to mystery fans is his grandson William S. Baring-Gould, the author of the massive 2-volume The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (1967, since supplanted by Leslie Klinger's 3-volume The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, 2004-5).  The younger Baring-Gould, since he did not have much information about Holmes' early life, based his account on his grandfather's childhood.  Also, in Laurie King's Mary Russell series of detective novels, she has Sabine Baring-Gould as Holmes' godfather.

All of this has little to do with the hymn below, but I'm just fascinated by the man who wrote it.

Anyway, here's the glorious Mahalia Jackson.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


A very young Willie Nelson from Grand Ole Opry, 1965.


Britain's Arnold Book company reprinted the American comic book Frankenstein #29 (February-March 19540) from Prize Comics; Arnold then padded its larger page comic with reprints from Hillman's  Airboy Comics #104, Marvel's Mystic #22, and Marvel's Young Men #22.  This copy of  Frankenstein is a 52-page truncated version that omits the stories from Mystic and Young Men.  (The issue this was taken from had 68 pages; missing are the stories "The Maiden in the Iron Mask" and a Rex Lane story, "The Walking Dead," as well as the text story ""Cave-In.")

Prize's American Frankenstein lasted for 33 issues while it's British counterpart had only five issues.

This Frankenstein, as drawn by Dick Briefer, is a quasi-Karloff-like monster with bulging eyes, a stub nose, narrow jaw, and immense hands.  There's a cartoonish quality about his features here, that the reader soon forgets because of the intensity of the story.

  • "Entranced!" The lead story is also the only one to featured the title character.  The monster, hidden from sight, falls in love with a young mother, kidnaps her, takes her to his lair, and tries unsuccessfully to woo her.  She escapes.  Enraged, her pushes the car she is in over a cliff and then has second thoughts..
  • "Modern Achilles"  While doing a stint in state prison, petty criminal Jim Lees learns the secret of an invulnerability potion from his dying bunkmate, a scientist.  Released from prison, lees mixes up the potion and coats his body with it. Thus invulnerable, Lees goes on a string robberies.  Bullets can't stop him.  Or can they?
  • "Clinging Corpse"  While serving a twenty-years prison sentence for murder, Kenneth Bradley had only one thought:  to get revenge on David Harper, the cop who arrested him,  `Shortly after he was released Bradley faked his own death.  Then he waited.  A year later an anonymous telephone call lured Harper to the deserted mud flats during a storm.  He shoots Harper, then carries the corpse out on the flats where the body will never be found after it is buried in mud.  Bradley soon learns, to his horror, that dead men can kill.
  • "Death in Reflection"  An ancient graveyard, an abandoned chapel, an empty coffin, a full-sized mirror, and a vengeful woman who had been murdered a hundred years ago.  All this does not bode well for novelist Floyd Ellis in this coincidence-laden story.
  • "[The Time Fog]"  This is actually an untitled adventure of Airboy as we move from Frankenstein to Airboy Comics.  The new plutonium bomb (perhaps ten times as powerful as a hydrogen bomb) is tested in the desert, releasing a strange green cloud.  Airboy is sent in his birdplane to observe the mysterious cloud from above.  Caught in a fierce down draft, all of Airboy's instruments die and he flies for what seems hours.  He finds himself in a strange desert land.  On the ground he meets Jean Marlow, who was also caught up in the strange green cloud.  Coming across a an old building block -- a cornerstone dated 500 years in the future -- Airboy guesses (from the age of the stone) that they are some 2500 years ahead of their time.  Suddenly they are confronted by a group of beast-men.  Just as suddenly they are rescued by a group of armored men led by Gidron, who escorts the two to a future city.  Time passes and Jean falls in love with Gidron while Airdboy becomes determined to return to his own time.  Jean and Gidron accompany Airboy to his birdplane where they are attacked by a flying reptile.  The best kills Gidron, the green fog dissipates, and Airboy and a love-stricken Jean find themselves back in the present.  In a plot twist, Jean finds happiness and Airboy goes on to further adventures.  This is the only Airboy story in this issue, but the following two stories were also reprints from Airboy #104 (October 1952).
  • "The Spanish Rope-Maker"  The rope-make Miguel Perez was a bully and a brute but he loved the fair Monica who preferred the more refined Cecilio, a dealer in lace and fabrics. Perez's dim mind thinks Monica would appreciate a gift of fine silken lace, and in turn would appreciate himself.  One night he kills Cecilio and steals a fine silk scarf for Monica.  But the silk was woven by spiders and spider silk can be as strong as the finest rope...
  • "The Heap"  Shades of Swamp Thing and Ted Sturgeon's "It," the Heap is a vegetative monster that rose from the swamp near Wassau, Poland.  Buried within the Heap is the body of a dead flier.  Now alive, the Heap senses evil in the swamp, evil that seems to stem from some old large tree trunks.  Two hundred years ago the trees that belonged to the trunks were used to build a ship that carried hopeful colonists to the New World.  the owner/captain of the ship, however, sold the colonists into slavery.  He continued to do so until piracy became more profitable for him.  Over two hundred years the ship, now old and rotting, still carried out journeys of misery and death.  Instinctively, the Heap goes from the swamp in search of the ship and the evil that has permeated it.
  • Also included are three uncredited text stories, "Uranium," "Ghost Pilot," and "The Enemy Parrot."
A pretty decent issue with art that varies from good to very good and a decent mix of horror, fantasy, adventure, and irony that marked many of the comic books of the time.

Friday, March 22, 2019


The Brothers Four appearing on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969.  Not the best sound quality, alas.

And the recorded version with much better accoustics:


Snapdragon, a Collection of Queer Stories edited by Mervyn Savill (1955)

I can't tell you much about the editor except that he seemed to be a very busy translator of novels and poetry -- both literary and popular -- in the 1940s and 1950s.

From Savill's introduction:

"Eheu fugaces!  The time for enjoying fiction and the old-fashoined English Christmas with its Yule log and snapdragons is past; and yet they will probably both be revived, for story-telling is as old as humanity itself...

"The aim of the publishers with this first series is to inaugurate a yearly selection of tales, both classic and modern, which are not too well-known and yet are suited to a variety of moods."

Savill calls the stories he has chosen (and presumably would chose for future volumes) "odd tales."  Alas, the best laid plans of editors and publishers aft gang a-gley for there was never to be a second volume.

Most of the ten stories in this book, written by "literary" authors from half a dozen countries, were not commonly available to the average reader in 1955 but that situation has changed and many of the stories are readily available.  I'm sure you have already read at least a few.

  • "The Pit" by Gwyn Jones (from Penguin Parade #9, 1942; also included in Don Congdon's Stories for the Dead of Night and in Mary Danby's The 8th Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories)
  • "The Spectre Bridegroom" by Washington Irving (from The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Carayon, Gent., No. IV, 1819; it has been reprinted many times in anthologies and in various collections of Irving's works)
  • "The Island" by Josef and Karel Capek (originally published in Czech as "Ostrov" in 1916; first English translation in 1925; sometimes reprinted as by Karel Capek alone; this translation by Marie Busch and Otto Pick)
  • "An Episode of the Terror" by Honore de Balzac (originally published in French as "Une episode sous la Terreur" in 1830; reprinted many times; this translation by Mervyn Savill)
  • 'Blind Love" by Laurence Housman (from Ironical Tales, 1936)
  • "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" by Nathaniel Hawthorne (first published as "The Fountain of Youth" in the Knickerbocker Magazine, January 1837, and included in Twice-Told Tales later that year; reprinted numerous times)
  • "The Scarlet Flower" by Vsevolod Garshin (written in 1880, the story was published in Russian in 1883; often reprinted under the title "The Red Flower"; this translation by E. L. Voynich from Stories by Garshin, 1893)
  • "The Wax Madonna" by Luigi Pirandello (first published in 1934 under the possible title "la madonnina"; This translation taken from Novelle per un anno (Short Stories for a Year), published in fifteen volumes from 1922 - 1937; this translation is by Arthur and Henrie Mayne)
  • "Clarimonde" by Theophile Gautier (first published as "La morte amoreuse"  in La Chronique de Paris, June 23 and 26, 1836, then collected in Une larme de diable, 1839; reprinted many times under such titles as "The Deathly Lover," "The Amorous Corpse," "The Dead Leman," "The Vampire," "The Beautiful Vampire," "The Dead Lover," "The Dreamland Bride," "The Beautiful Dead," and "The Dead in Love"; this version translated by George Saintsbury)
  • "The Sea Monster" by Gerhard Hauptmann (first published as the self-titled chapbook Der Meerwunder Eine unwahrshceinliche Geschichte; reprinted in Herbert van Tahl's The Bedside Book of Horror, in numerous several collections of Hauptmann's work, and in several anthologies of German literature; this version was translated by Mervyn Savill)

Ten stories of ghosts, madness, obsession, legends, and irony...of jealousy, escapism, temptation, passion, horror,  and gentleness...Some of the stories and/or their translations were a tad bit wordy for me, but all are worth the time spent.  Of the ones I had not previously read "The Scarlet Flower" and "The Sea Monster" stand out for me.  Your mileage may vary.

As far as I can tell, this edition (Arthur Barker Limited:  Lopndon, 1955) is the only appearance of Snapdragon. Worldcat lists only 29 copies in American libraries.  AbeBooks lists 20 copies available from $5.57 to $45, including shipping.   Those interested may be better served by finding the stories from other sources.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Today is the 67th anniversary of the first major rock and roll concert, The Moondog Coronation Ball.  (Well, the first major almost rock and roll concert, in reality.)  It was organized by WJW disc jockey Alan Freed and was held at the Cleveland Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, and featured artists whose songs were played on freed's radio program, including Paul Williams, Tiny Grimes,  The Rocking Highlanders, The Dominos, Varetta Dillard, and Danny Cobb.

Due to counterfeiting and a printing error more tickets were issued than the arena could hold.  The audience that showed up was estimated to be twice the arena's capacity.  Fire Department officials closed the concert soon after it had begun.  In fact, only one song was played by the opening act Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers before the music was stopped.

Paul Williams, a jazz and blues saxophonist and bandleader had been gaining popularity with his 'race' records by 1948.  While playing "D'Natural Blues," a song written for artist Andy Gibson, Williams noticed his audience dancing a new dance, The Hucklebuck, to the song.  Willimas changed the words to the song and began singing 'The Huckle-Buck."  Recorded in Decemebr 1948, the song reached #1 on the R&B charts and stayed there for an incredible 14 weeks.  That song, along with Williams' driving saxophone beat and vigorous showmanship, became a "hallmark of rhythm and blues and rock and roll during the Fifties and early Sixties.

I don't now what song Paul Williams actually played at the very truncated 1952 show, but in honor of him and anniversary of rock and roll concerts, here's "The Huckle-Buck."


Frank Sinatra played Rocco "Rocky" Fortune in this short-lived NBC radio series from October 6, 1953 to March 30, 1954.  Rocky was a hep cat constantly seeking various odd jobs through the Gridley Employment Agency.  During the show's 25-episode run Rocky had a number of jobs, including cab driver, bodyguard, carny, test pilot (!), and process server, as well as various musical gigs.  The character was described each week by announcer Edward King as "footloose and fancy free" or "footloose and frequently unemployed."  Rocky had a laid-back that reflected sinatra's own public persona.

Rocky's various jobs inevitably found him facing danger, tracking criminals, or rescuing beautiful ladies.  Each adventure would somehow end with Rocky again unemployed.

Rocky Fortune was created by George Lefferts, who also scripted many of the episodes.  Among Lefferts' many awards are six Emmys and a Golden Globe.

Rocky Fortune began airing shortly after the film From Here To Eternity was released and ended the week less than a week after Sinatra won an Academy Award for his role in that movie.  Many of the 25 episodes of Rocky Fortune including the "from here to eternity" -- I wonder why?

"Boarding House Double Cross" was the last episode of the series.  Rocky may not have found permanent employment but its star never had to worry about it again.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Happy vernal equinox to all!


A weasel walks into a bar.  The bartender is astonished.  "Wow!" he said, "I've never had a weasel walk in here before.  What can I get you?"

'Pop," goes the weasel.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Rest in peace, Dick Dale.


The Ritz Brothers.  They weren't Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, Gummo, and sometimes Margaret Dumont.  But who is?


Monday, March 18, 2019


You won't be disappointed.


Boz Scaggs, from 1976.


Openers:   He was going to be caught.  Not long from now, he knew, he was going to be trapped and thrown into the brig.  The only question was what to do before then.

-- "William Morrison" (Joseph Samachson), Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars (Gnome Press, 1954)

Incoming:  Just one book this week.

  • Charles Ardai, The Nice Guys.  Movie tie-in from Hard Case Crime.  "Holland March is a private eye with a defective nose and a broken arm.  Jackson Healy is the tough guy who put him in a cast.  Not the two most likely men to team up to hunt for a missing girl, or look into the suspicious death of a beautiful porn star, or go up against a conspiracy of the rich and powerful that stretches from Detroit to Washington, D.C.  Hell, they're not the most likely pair to team up to do anything.  but there you go."  Based on a screenplay by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) and Anthony Bagarozzi; the two are reportedly writing a script for Doc Savage to feature Dwayne Johnson but production has not yet started because Black wants the film to be set in the 1930s and Sony wants it to be set in modern times.  Anyway, I have not yet seen The Nice Guys, a 2016 flick which features Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling).  Have you?

College Bribery Scandal:  My question is why?  Why go to all the bother of hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe athletic directors or to have ringers take SATs?  These parents could easily afford to get their kids into an elite college the old-fashioned way -- by donating money directly to the school.  It may not be ethical, but it is legal. ( There are rumors that Fred Trump donated money to Wharton before his son Donald was admitted, but there is no hard evidence of that.  It should be noted that Donald attended the Wharton Undergraduate School at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a B.S. in Economics; he did not attend the Wharton Graduate School, which would have earned him a M.B.A.  Trump is careful to claim "Wharton" and allow others to assume he went to the Graduate school.  BTW, Trump transferred to Wharton from Fordham in his junior year and (although his records have not been released), he was not the stellar student he claimed to be; there's no record of his being named to the Dean's List, for example.  Trump has donated millions to the University of Pennsylvania and Don, Jr., Ivanka, and Tiffany all graduated from the school.  See, he did it the old-fashioned way and did not have to resort to open bribery.)

Anyway, the parents who got caught up in this scandal have revealed themselves not only to identify as the privileged elite, they've revealed themselves to be just plain dumb.

Christchurch:   50 dead, 35 injured including 13 in critical condition.  A terrible, terrible story.  And at least in the ancient Greek tradition, a true tragedy.  Classically, a tragedy is an event brought on by one's own character flaw, whether it be pride, or lust, or ignorance, or whatever.  The character flaw here is an inability to use common sense in instituting gun laws.  New Zealand's Prime Minister is now vowing (unspecific) changes to the country's gun laws, opening a public debate that will most likely lead to a ban on assault rifles at the very least.

In America there have been 1,983 mass shootings  since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.  2,367 persons killed.  8,154 wounded.  Those figures were good as of two days ago -- who knows what today might bring.  Mass shootings are just the tip of the iceberg; according to the CDC, there were 39,000 gun-related deaths in 2016 alone.  Mass shooting represented just 2% of the 2016 figure.  Some 14,000 of those deaths were homicides and 23,000 were suicides.  This year with less than three months in, there have been 58 mass shootings leaving 185 dead and 89 wounded.  Remember that wounded can mean different things; wounded can mean wounded and recovered or it could mean wounded and your quality of life is significantly changed permanently.

One-third of Americans own guns and less than 3% of American adults own half of the guns in private hands. 

Weak-willed and short-sighted politicians, gobs of corporate money, and intensive lobbying have prevented us from having sensible gun laws.  Instead we have the weakest gun regulations in the industrialized world and by magnitudes the greatest incidence of gun violence.  On the bright (?) side of things...


Nobody wants to ban all guns, but common sense gun regulations can save lives.  

Collusion Confusion:  Our Blowhard-in-Chief has pronounced NBC and Saturday Night Live of collusion with Russia and suggested the FCC should investigate.  Mr. Thin Skin evidently cannot grasp the meaning, intent, or actual words in the First Amendment.  His first, and only, reaction to anything is to threaten, bluster, and badmouth anything that bruises his ego.  I suggest that if he really wants SNL and the late-night comedians to cease making fun of him, he should stop making it so damned easy.

Today in History:  The great art theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum took place in 1990.  Purely by coincidence I toured the museum just a few weeks earlier and publicly expressed my admiration for Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," one of the masterpieces stolen in the heist.  I spent the next two weeks working out an alibi.

Twenty-five years earlier on this date Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person to walk in space.  Kudos to him and to all the brave men and women, no matter what nationality, who have helped mankind move beyond this small blue orb.  Every achievement in space, from creating a satellite communications system to walking on the moon to sending a space craft beyond our solar system, helps define us as humans -- we are the race that aspires.  Lately America has been lackadaisical about space exploration but that seems to be turning around.  Forget about a "Space Force" -- we already have one embedded in our military.  Let's concentrate on the scientific, medical, economical importance of space.  The stars await!

Florida Man:  It may not be finger lickin' good but it's something.  In Lake Worth, Florida Man was recently recorded on security footage repeatedly licking a doorbell.  This particular Florida Man remains unidentified but wouldn't it be a hoot if his name was Avon, as in "Avon calling"?  No word on what was on the doorbell to make it so tasty.

61-year-old Terrance Dolan was in a motorcycle accident and was suffering from head trauma when EMTs got to him.  But Terrance isn't Florida Man.  Paramedic and EMT Kendal Billings of Ocala is when in the ambulance with Dolan he punched him in the head, turning a wound whose bleeding was controlled into a profusely bleeding one.  Billings said he was aiming for the victim's chest but might have gotten his face instead.

An unnamed Florida Man's taste for spicy saved his life in a Winter Garden Taco Bell.  He got up from his table to get some packets of hot sauce just before a car driven by a 77-year-old man jumped a curb, smashed through a wall, and crashed into the man's table.  

A Homosassa Florida Woman was arrested fro crystal meth this week.  Of course her name was Crystal.

There's a serial Florida Man bra thief in Vero Beach.  An unidentified black male Florida Man has been going into the Victoria's Secret at the Indian River Mall and stuffing multiple bras into a black trash bag -- emptying display cases -- and then exiting the mall.  And why would this Florida Man steal from Victoria?  It's a secret.

Today's Poem:
Planting Trees

Our last connection with the mythic.
My mother remembers the day as a girl
she jumped across a little spruce
that now overtops the sandstone house
where she still lives, her face delights
at the thought of her years translated
into wood so tall, into so mighty
a peer of the birds and the wind.

Too, the old farmer still stout of step
treads through the orchard he has outlasted
but for some hollow-trunked much-lopped
apples and Bartlett pears.  The dogwood
planted to mark my birth flowers each April,
a soundless explosion.  We tell its story
time after time:  the drizzling day
the fragile sapling that had to be stalked.

At the back of our acre here, my wife and I,
freshly moved in, freshly together,
transplanted two hemlocks that guarded our door
gloomily, green gnomes a meter high.
One died, gray as sagebrush next spring.
The other lives on and someday will dominate
this view no longer mine, its great
lazy feathery hemlock limbs down-drooping,
its tent-shaped caverns resinous and deep.
Then may I return, an old man, a trespasser,
and remember and marvel to see
our small, deed, that hurried day,
so amplified, like a story through layers of air
told over and over, spreading.

-- John Updike

Sunday, March 17, 2019


The Irish are known for loving, for drinking, and for fighting.  So for this St. Patrick's Day, here's some Irish love songs, some gay and jaunty, some sweet and lovely...

...and I can't post Irish love songs and neglect this on from Tommy Maken and Liam Clancy...

...and here's twenty of the best Irish drinking songs...

...and two-and-a-half-hours of Irish freedom songs from various artists.

The Irish, of course, have always had the gift of language.  Here's a few poems and folktales:

Very few Irish writers have been as honored (or been found to be frustrating) than James Joyce.  Here's his story "The Dead":

Besides drinking, st. Patrick's Day is known for food.  You may want to veer from Irish-American cooking to real Irish cooking for today:

And don't forget to add some green food coloring to your beer!



In English:

And in Gaelic, sung by Maire Brennan:

Saturday, March 16, 2019


The Seekers, featuring Judith Durham.


Gerald W. Swan was a successful wartime British publisher thanks to his generous supply of paper stock on hand when the war began.  Swan had operated a book stand and, in 1930, ventured into publishing.  His sales were slow but when the government restricted paper at the beginning of the war Swan had all this lovely cheap, thin paper on hand.  With paper restrictions, Swan had few competitors and began pushing out novels, magazines, and comic books.  Among this magazines were Boxing Shorts, Complete Cowboy, Hooded Detective, Occult Shorts, Racing Shorts, and Weird Shorts.

In 1940, Swan began publishing comic books.  American comics were no longer being imported and at least one large British comic publisher stopped their publications.  His wartime comic books followed an American format but, after the was, he began using the British format for his books.  Over nearly two decades, Swan issued nearly four dozen comic book titles, including annuals and books licensed from American publishers.

The compilation below presents some of the adventures of Swan superheroes.

  • The Red Avenger.  "No one would think that the quiet student in dark spectacles who frequented West End nightclubs and cabarets was The Red Avenger, a brilliant scientist, who used his inventions, including an antigravity device, to fight crime."
  • The Invisible Avenger.  Dick Beston's father has made a "wonderful discovery" but when Dick arrives at his father's home he finds the scientist murdered.  The killer was a man called Sardoni, who wanted the elder Beston's latest formulas.  The formulas were securely locked in a safe so Sardoni's quest failed.  Among the notes in the safe was a formula for invisibility.  Using the formula, Dick becomes invisible and goes after the Sardoni gang.  In the last panel Dick vows to "make war on all the rogues and pests that prey on the people of this country.'
  • The Bat.  I can't tell you much about this character.  He's a mysterious hooded man in a dark costume.  He's quick with his fists and uses his bat wings to glide in the darkness.  That certainly doesn't ring any bells with me.  In this adventure he goes after "unscrupulous industrialist" Conn and his even more unscrupulous valet Battersby after they have stolen the formula for a new plastic.  Oh, and there's a gorilla.  And if you have a guy who's a bat, you gotta have a...
  • Catgirl.  Julie Carroll is Catgirl and she has a Catmobile.  Catgirl is pitted against the Black Empress who is threatening to blow up a power plant.  The black Empress has a plane but it doesn't have a catchy name.  Catgirl is aided by Inspector Terry Lee who calls her a "crime crasher."  The entire story is told in a herky-jerky manner that may keep the reader confused.
  • The Phantom Raider.  I don't know the Phantom Raider's real name but this Robin Hood is a rich guy who has a butler named Jenkins.  When the theft of fifty large diamonds resulted in  the murder of the man carrying them while on a train, the Phantom Raider is falsely accused of the crime.  As the PR goes into action it's up to Jenkins to actually solve the mystery and nail the real baddie.
  • The Phantom Raider redux.  In another tale of the Phantom Raider, a phony minister is part of a drug-running gang.  He and his partner get their comeuppance after he literally runs into the Phantom Raider and Jenkins.
  • Zark.  Zark is a Martian boy who landed on Earth in his spaceship and now attends Marton, a public school, with his chums Bill Martin and tony Wallace.  Zark closes out this compilation with a ten-page prose story written by Ian Patrick, "Zark's Flying Rescue."  


Friday, March 15, 2019


From 1910, Ada Jones sings this song from The Jolly Bachelors.


The Select by F. Paul Wilson (first published in great Britain in 1993 under the title The Foundation)

The Ingraham is perhaps the best medical school in the country.  It is privately funded by the Kleederman Foundation which, in turn, is sponsored by Kleederman Pharmaceuticals, the most successsful and innovative drug companies in the world.  The Ingraham accepts only fifty students a year.  All costs are borne by the school -- tuition, room, board, equipment, labs, and so on -- it's a totally free ride for those lucky enough to be selected.  Every graduate from The Ingraham goes on to be a leader in their field.  It stands to reason that the school is very picky about whom it selects.

Among the current year's applicants are poor farm girl Quinn Cleary, Quinn's childhood friend the rich Matt Crawford, and Matt's good friend from Dartmouth, Tim Brown.  Tim has a reputation as a wild man.  Gifted with an eidectic memory, Tim breezed his way through Dartmouth and decided to apply to the Ingraham both on a lark and to spite his parents' desire to go into law or business.  The three are among a group that is visiting the school for a pre-admission interview and tour weekend.

There are some strange things about the school.  They insist that all applicants during the weekend stay in the school's dormitories.  Everybody is closely watched by a suspicious (and ultimately sadistic) campus security organization.  Top-secret research and experiments are taking place.  Dormitory rooms and telephones are bugged and constantly monitored.   And, unfortunately for Quinn, the Board is reluctant to admit all but a few female candidates.

Just before her interview, Quinn comes across a ward with eight patients totally wrapped up in bandages and completely unresponsive.  The curtain to the ward is quickly closed and Quinn is told the patients are severe burn victims being treated with an experiment procedure

Eventually both Matt and Tim are selected for admission and Quinn is notified that she is number 11 on the wait list.  Since historically no one has ever refused an acceptance, Quinn's chances of attending The Ingraham are nil.  This doesn't sit well with Matt, who can afford to go to any medical school in the country.  Matt knows full well that Quinn is smarter, more talented, and tests better than most of the applicants who were accepted.  Quinn is defeated and is considering jouining the Navy to receive her medical training, when Tim comes up with an idea so crazy it might just work.  It does and Quinn finds herself a student at The Ingraham while Matt moves on to study at Yale.

After a while, Quinn and Tim notice that the school's diverse group of students are being to veer toward the same philosophy doing more for some patients while letting others fall by the wayside.  It urns out that the school is using subliminal devices planted in the headboards of every dormitory bed to influence the students, driving them all to a oral shift in line with that of the school's.  Only Tim and Quinn seem unaffected.

The supposed burn victims in Ward C swarthed in bandages and unable to move are victims of kidnapping, torture, and illegal experimentation, supposedly for the greater good.  In reality it is for the greater profit of Kleederman Pharmiceuticals.

Soon, Quinn and Tim are both fearful for their lives.  then Tim goes missing...

The Select is a roller coaster of a medical thriller from one of the best thriller writers in the business.  Sometimes at odds with the author's well-known libertarian views, The Select is not as powerful as Wilson's Repairman Jack or Adversary sequences of novels, but it still grabs you by the throat and never lets go.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Roy Orbison.


Bob Bailey stars as insurance investigator Johnny dollar in this five-part episode.  Johnny meets Dan Valentine, an old-time bootlegger just released from prison, at a hotel in New Orleans.  Intrigued by the old man's stories, Johnny buys him dinner.  And that should have been that -- except the next day Valentine was found wounded with two bullets in him.  Valentine is quiet about what happened and Johnny 's curiosity is piqued.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar first aired on CBS radio on February 18, 1948 and had the protagonist (played variously by Charles Russell, Edmond O'Brien, and John Lund -- with Dick Powell taking the lead on the audition tape only) was described as a freelance investigator from Hartford, Connecticut, often involved in insurance investigation.  After the September 19, 1954 episode the show went on a year's hiatus, only to come roaring back on October 3, 1955 with Bailey as the star.

Bailey brought a gritty, albeit all-to-human, face to the character.  Bailey's Johnny Dollar could make mistakes but he righted himself to come to the true solution to each case.  Bailey's Johnny Dollar presented a story arc a week, with five fifteen-minute episodes from Mondays through Fridays -- a format that allowed for deeper plot and characterization.  These episodes are considered some of the best in the series as well as some of the best radio detective episodes of all time.  There were fifty-three such five-part episodes, as well as one seven-part and one nine part episode.  On November 6, 1956, the show resumed a half-hour weekly format with Bailey still in the lead.  Bailey's last episode in the series was on November 27, 1960, after which production moved from Hollywood to New York City.

In New York Robert Readick took over the title role for twenty-eight episodes, followed by Mandel Kramer who played Johnny Dollar from June 18, 1961 to the show's close on Spetember 2, 1962.  Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar was the last of the old-time continuing radio detective shows.  An era closed. 

An attempt to bring the show to television with feature player Bill Bryant in the title role never went further than an unsold pilot*, and in 2003 Moonstone Books released a single graphic novel about the character (It had been planned for a series, but that just didn't work out).  Nonetheless, Johnny Dollar remains popular, with old episodes being replayed on various radio stations here and abroad.

Jack Johnstone was the producer/director of the Bob Bailey episodes .  Johnstone also wrote most of the scripts during this time.  "John Dawson" (a pen name for Jack Johnstone) wrote the script for "The Valentine Matter."  Betty Lou Gerson, Forrest Lewis, Marvin Miller, Jay Novello, Barney Phillips, and Will Wright co-star.


* Written and directed by Blake Edwards, who was one of the writers of the radio show.  Another noted writer was mystery author Stuart Palmer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Mr. Zimmerman.


Why is six afraid of seven?
Because seven ate nine.

Yeah, but why did seven do that?
Because his doctor told him to have three squared meals a day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Fats Waller.


1908 was a classy year for Vitagraph Studioes.  In that one year the studio released one-reelers of some of Shakespeare's most famous plays, albeit in shortened versions.  Othello, Macbeth, romeo and Juliet, A Comedy of Errors, Richard III, the Merchant of Venice, and Anthony and Cleopatra -- as well as Julius Caesar -- were all churned out by the studio in truncated form and presaging The Reduced Shakespeare Company by a good many years.

Julius Caesar starred distinguished stage actor Charles Kent who made his film debut with that year's Macbeth.  He would go on to be featured in another 145 films before his death in 1923 at age 70.  

The role of Cassius went to William V. Ranous, who co-produced and co-directed the film.  Ranous appeared in 63 silent films and directed 32.  Today happens to be the 162nd anniversary of his birth so in his honor I am featuring this film today.

I don't know how much of Shakespeare's play you can truly appreciate in fifteen brief scenes from the stage play, featuring a bunch of guys in togas waving their arms and mouthing words.  Nonetheless, just keep saying to yourself, "It's culture"...

and enjoy.

Monday, March 11, 2019


The Limelighters.


Openers:  Gaetano Albini came bustling into his little "blanco" a trifle before ten, nodded a smiling
"Good morning" to his employees, and strode importantly to the rear.

Puffing at his cigar, he unlocked the door to his private office, passed within, and rang for his mail.

This was the routine of Albini's life, and there was nothing, this sun-shiny morning, to indicate that it was to be disturbed.

-- "An Ambushed Terror" by J. U. Giesy, All-Story Cavalier Weekly, June 27, 1914

Oldest Printed Book?:   Forget Gutenberg.  The Diamond Sutra [Vasracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra] is the oldest known surviving printed book, dating back to 868.  The book, probably written between the second and the fifth centuries, was an important work in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and ancient translations have been found throughout Asia.  In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha lectures the monk Subhuti about the nature of reality, which is hidden by preconceived notions.  These concepts make all reality illusory and the ultimate reality is itself "negative and empty."  Much of the Buddha's teachings appear to be negative and contradictory.  Not having read the texts, it seems to me to be a blend of Socratic argument and Heraclesian logic, but what do I know?

According to the Sutra,

     "All conditioned phenomena
     "Are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow.
     Like dew or a flash of lightening.
     Thus shall we perceive them."

The wood block printed book was on a scroll about five meters long and found in the Mogao Caves in northwest China in 1907.  This note at the end not only gives a dedication, but also the date of printing and an Creative Commons license:  "Reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents on the 15th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong." 

In other words, on May 11, 868.  Thus, in two months, we can celebrate the birthday of books!

More on Trump:  What can I say that Randy Rainbow hasn't said (or sung) better?

Origins of Florida Man:  Where (I hear you ask) does Florida Man come from?  Whence originated he?

Not surprisingly, Florida Man was once Florida Boy, like the five-year-old Pompano Beach lad who found himself locked in a 72 quart cooler.  The panicked boy was soon rescued.  Igloo, the cooler manufacturer, says they are now addressing safety concerns with their products, identifying three additional models that have the same automatic locking mechanism, so something good may come out of Florida Boy's folly.

Surprisingly, Not Florida Man:  But he could well pass for Florida Man.   Who?  Tucker Carlson.

A recently unearthed tape, dating from sometime between 2006 and 2011, from the radio show Bubba the Love Sponge has our favorite little Tucker called women "extremely primitive" and that they "just need to be be quiet and kind of do what [they're] told."  Oh, Tucker, Tucker, Tucker...#youtoo?

In the past, our boy TC has called then-Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan "unattractive...She's never going to be an attractive woman."  He's called Britney Spears and Paris Hilton "white whores" and has called Alexa Stewart (Martha's daughter) a "c***," adding that he wants to "give her the spanking she so desperately needs."

Tucker insists that he surely loves women but I'm beginning to have my doubts.

And why the hell isn't he from Florida?

Malaches of Pork (Pork Quiche):  Want to prepare a dish that was popular in 14th century Scotland?  It's simple.

From the HistoryExtra website:

"Hewe pork al to pecys and medle it with ayren & ches igrated.  Do therto powdour fort, safroun & pynes with salt.  Make a crust in a trap; bake it wel therinne, and seure it forth."

Easy peasy.  And yummy!

Today's Poem:  Today is the anniversary of the Great Blizzard of 1888 which paralyzed the East Coast of America and left more than 400 dead.  Here's an extract from a poem by Alice Sayers about the storm:

The storm ne'er ceased for three whole days
The clouds hid all the sun's bright rays
No trains could run, all wires down
No contacts made with any town

Sunday, March 10, 2019


I am sure that readers of this blog (all six of them) have no problem pronouncing these.

And doesn't everyone want to say Llanfairpwllhgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwlllantysliogogogoch?  Now you can amaze your friends!


From 1929, Charlie Patton.

Saturday, March 9, 2019


From 1972, Johnny Rivers.


Hoo doggies!  This is "The Official Publications of The Straight Shooters of America" (brought to you by Ralston-Purina).  Luckily, you don't need to be a member to view the scan of this issue.  And your parents can be assured that "NO blood-curdling horror, NO gangster heros, mar these comics.  NO glorification of war, crime or slaughter -- nor are its pages crammed with cheap, badly drawn illustrations, to debase young reader's conceptions of form and proportion."

'There were only twelve (maybe thirteen, who knows?) issues of this comic (1940-1943), and the final three were renamed Tom Mix Commandos Comics.  In addition to this title pushing Ralston-Purina products, the one-time "King of the Cowboys" was featured in 61 issues of Tom Mix Western (1948-1943); he also was a regular feature in eleven issues of The Comics from Dell (1937-8).  I doubt Mix ever saw any of the comics titles with his name; he died, age 60, on October 12, 1940 after the car he was driving was caught in a flash flood and plummeted into a gully.  A suitcase placed behind him and containing cash, traveler's checks, and jewels rocketed toward him  and broke his neck.

Up front in this issue is "Tom Mix...and the Train That Vanished from the Face of the Earth."  Tom is summoned to the War Department and tasked to guard the new Army mystery plane XP-80.  to foil a ruthless saboteur named Dr. Goliath by smuggling the plane in an ordinary baggage car, under the watchful eyes of Tom Mix.  tom and young Jane board the train, only to meet a disguised Dr. Goliath who manages to throw Tom off the train.  The train (and Jane) then vanished!  With the help of Pecos Williams and Washington Jefferson Lincoln Lee, Tom managed to track down the baddies and when Dr. Goliath escapes in the XP-80, Tom manages to lasso the plane in mid-flight and -- SPOILER ALERT! -- climbs up to save the day.

In "Tom Mix and the Cry for Help!" young Jane visits her friend Pops Johnson, an old prospector, only to have the two waylaid by a couple of gunmen seeking the gold that Pops was rumored to have hidden in his cabin.  The bad guys steal the gold, bind Jane and Pops to cabin timbers, and set the cabin on fire so there will be no witnesses.  Bwahahahaha!  But the neer-do-wells did not count on Jane being  member of the Straight Shooters Club.  Using her toes, Jane manages to type out a morse code message to Tom on her Straight Shooter Telegraph Set.  Tom (with his horse Tony), Pecos, and the Old Wrangler ride to the rescue.  Coincidentally, immediately after this story there is an ad for Straight Shooter's Electric Telegraph Set (just 10 cents in coin and one blue seal from a Ralston hot cereal box -- what a bargain!).

To help bulk out the 34 pages of this issue, there are a whole lot of fillers, many of which plug Ralston, clean living, and/or the Straight Shooters Club.


Friday, March 8, 2019


Today is too-soon-gone Richard Farina's birthday.


The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sixteenth Series, edited by Edward L. Ferman (1967)

There's always a problem with the use of the word "Best" in an anthology.  (Or an award, for that matter.)  Best is an subjective word:  one person's meat can be another's poison.  Too, the vicissitudes of publishing place demands on an anthologist.  Some stories are too long, some are unavailable for reprint, some are to similar to others, some authors produce a large amount of great stories and the editor is forced to choose, and some stories may be included because of popular acclaim -- deserved or not.  Some science magazine editors opt out of this quandry by coming up with alternative titles for their "Best of" series; John Campbell numbered his analog anthologies (Analog 1..2..3, etc.), H. L. Gold did the same with his Galaxy anthologies (The Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction, The Second Galaxy Reader, the Third...Fourth, etc.), James Quinn's short-lived series also avoided "Best of" with The First Worlds of IF..The Second), and the various editors of Isaac Asimov's Science fiction Magazine simply issued themed anthologies (Isaac Asimov's Aliens, isaac Asimov's Moons, Isaac Asimov's Cyberdreams...)

Te Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction issued 24 "Best of" anthologies, beginning in 1952, continuing annually until 1967 with the Sixteenth Series, and then irregularly until 1982.  This book sThe various editors responsible for these anthologies were Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas, Anthony Boucher (solo), Robert P. Mills, Avram Davidson, and Edward L. Ferman.  The stories included may not have been the best, but they were damned good reading and providing a good representation of the magazine over the years.  (I also should mention that F&SF has consistently been my favorite SF magazine over the years.)

Sixteenth Series contains thirteen stories, four poems, and six Gahan Wilson cartoons from 1965-6.  The book should viewed with the "Best of" caveats in the first paragraph, above, but this should not deter anyone.  The authors cover the well-known (Asimov, Dick, Zelazny) and the little-known (Joan Patricia Basch, Mose Mallette, John Shepley), as well as some popular authors who may be unfairly called second-tier authors (Biggle, Christopher, Goulart, Bulmer).  No award winners are included, but some nominees are.  Time travel, space flight, aliens, mushrooms, homosexual dogs, virtual reality, technology run amok, very strange takes on story-telling,  and's all here -- humorous, scary, silly, moving.  And it's fun.

The stories:

  • "Luana" by Gilbert Thomas (September 1966; also picked up by Judith Merril in her "best of'" anthology, SF12)"
  • "And Madly Teach" by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (May 1966)
  • "Matog" by Joan Patricia Basch (August 1966)
  • "The Key" by Isaac Asimov (October 1966; a Wendell Urth story; also included in Ferman's The Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction:  A Special 25th Anniversay Anthology, 1974)
  • "The Seven Wonders of the Universe" by Mose Mallette (August 1966)
  • "A Few Kindred Spirits" by "John Christopher" [Sam Christopher Youd] (November 1965; nominated for the 1966 Nebula Award for Best Short Story)
  • "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick (April 1966; noominated for the 1967 Nebula Award for Best Short Story; included in Terry Carr and Donald A Wollheim's World's Best Science Fiction:  1967, 1967; in Brian W. Aldiss and Harry Harrison's Nebula Award Stories Two, 1967; in Ferman and Mills' Twenty Years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1970; Ferman's The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction:  A Thirty Year Retrospective, 1980; Gordon van Gelder's Fourth Planet from the Sun:  Tales of Mars from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2005; it was also reprinted in the October 1979 issue of F&SF; the storeywas also the basis of both the 1990 and 2012 films Total Recall)
  • "Three for Carnival" by John Shepley (May 1966)
  • "Experiment in Autobiography" by Ron Goulart (July 1966; a Jose Silvera story)
  • "The Adjusted" by Kenneth Bulmer (June 1966)
  • "The Age of Invention" by Norman Spinrad (July 1966; nominated for the 1967 Nebula Award for Best Short Story)
  • "Apology to Inky" by Robert M. Green, Jr. (January 1966; nominated for the 1967 Nebula Award of Best Novelette; finalist for the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novelette)
  • "The Moment of the Storm" by Roger Zelazny (June 1966; nominated for the 1967 Nebula Award for Best Novelette; finalist for the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novelette; included in van Gelder's The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction:  60th Anniversary Anthology)
The poems:
  • "Mickey Finn" by Doris Pitkin Buck (March 1966)
  • "Imaginary Numbers in a Real Garden" by Gerald Jonas (April 1965; also included in Ferman's The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction:  A Thirty Year Retrospective)
  • "Letter to a Tyrant King" by Bill Butler (August 1966)
  • "Memo to Secretary" by Pat De Graw (June 1966)

Good stuff.

Thursday, March 7, 2019


One of Kitty's favorite songs.


I have loved her for 54 years and, before this month is over, will have been married to her for 49.  I am the luckiest man on earth.

Today she turns 70.  To her that is a magical age, a new chapter to be enjoyed and explored.  She has been looking forward to this day for reasons that are difficult to explain; whatever her reasons, she will go forward treating every day with excitement and wonder.

In some ways the years have taken their toll.  Her knee replacements have limited some of her activity.  A fall when entering an elevator that did not quite reach its floor left its mark.  A recent and surprise bout of anemia turned out to be very serious and she is till working on recovery.  But in every way that matters she is still the same person I fell in love with when I was 19.

She was beautiful then and she is beautiful now.  I still get lost in the brightness of her eyes and her smile reflects all that is good in this world.  Her laughter can dispel any type of gloom.  Her kindness, empathy, and intelligence far outshine mine.  I still scratch my head wondering how such a person could fall in love with such a galoomph like me.  But somehow she does love me and together we have traveled the decades through good times and bad.  We never made much money but her common sense ensured that we maintained a decent living style.  Her quick and sure instincts and determination helped save our oldest daughter when she was five as she battled doctors who told her she was being a nervous mother until the doctors finally determined that Jessie had a very rare pre-cancerous condition that few with it reached puberty.  No matter what, Kitty always knows what to do and how to react in an emergency, as she has shown time and time again.  Me?  Despite the best intentions, I'm useless.

Kitty has given us two remarkable children who, in turn, have given the world five remarkable kids.  She has given me years of happiness.  Now, as we enter her eighth decade, there lies ahead more joy, more adventure, and assuredly some sadness.  She's looking forward to this and I'm looking forward to holding her hand during the journey.

God, I love that woman.


The Adventures of Ellery Queen premiered on CBS radio in June 1939 and ran for 67 episodes (36 hour-long programs and 31 half-hour programs), ending in September of 1940.  In January 1942, it began a run on NBC radio, ending on December 30, 1944, having aired 143 half-hour episodes.  The next month (January 1945) CBS radio took the ball again, airing 110 thirty-minute episodes through April 16, 1947.  NBC radio then snuck in with ten half-hour Ellery Queen episodes from October 1946 through September 1947 -- overlapping several episodes during the last CBS run.  At the end of November 1947, the show premiered on ABC radio for a half year run with 27 half-hour episodes.

Over the years, Ellery was played by Hugh Marlowe, CarletonYoung, Sydney Smith, Lawrence Dobkin, and Howard Culver.  The role of Nikki Porter was taken (respectively) by Marian Shockley, Gertrude Warner, Joan Banks, and Virginia Gregg.  Santos Ortega and Herb Butterfield played Inspector Queen at different times and Ted De Corsia and Allen Reed played Sergeant Velie.

"The Case of the Green Gorillas" features Lawrence Dobkin as Ellery.  Tom Victor directed the episode from a script by Manfred B. Lee and Anthony Boucher.  Don Hancock was the announcer.

Ellery and his father are using a young informant to get information about the juvenile street gang called The Green Gorillas but things go askew when someone tells the gang about the informer.  what can Ellery do to rescue the situation?


Wednesday, March 6, 2019


The Smothers Brothers.


Some clean high school jokes my daughter heard while walking the hallway at work:

Why is Peter Pan always flying?
Because he Never-lands.

What do you call a nun in a wheelchair?
Virgin Mobile.

Then my other daughter chimed in with this one:

What do you call a fairy that never showers?