Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, April 1, 2019


Openers:  London.  Michaelmas tern lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall.  Implacable November weather.  As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and wold it not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.  Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes -- gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.  Dogs, undistinguishable in mire.  Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers.  Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas, in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crusts of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

-- Bleak House by Charles Dickens

'Tis the Day:   Today of course is April First, or April Fools'  (or Fool's) Day to the connoisseur of the practical joke.  It is celebrated in various forms in many parts of the world and its origins are hidden long in the past.  Some feel it was referenced in Chaucer, others maintain it could have based on a Biblical verse, while in some countries its origin could have come from some historical event.  what ever the case, April Fools' Day has been a time of jokes, japes, and hoaxes for a long, long time.  Often the tradition of April Fools' Day existed only in the morning; a joke played after noontime was considered gauche.  In modern times the media has joined in on the fun, putting forth one patently false and often ridiculous story.  This practice could sometimes backfire when the public believes a true story to be an April Fools's Day prank -- in 1946 warnings about a tsunami were ignored and 165 people in Hawaii and Alaska were killed.  Alternatively, sometimes people took a hoax to be real -- after the BBC aired a clip showing farmers in Switzerland harvesting their spaghetti trees, hundreds of people bombarded the Beeb with queries about where to buy such trees.

The Museum of Hoaxes has produced a list of what they feel are the one hundred greatest April Fools' Day hoaxes of all time.  Some of these are brilliant.

W. H. Pugmire:  Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, a beloved figure on the modern horror scene, died this past week after a brief stay in a cardiac intensive care institute.  Born William Harry Pugmire in 1951, he earned notoriety in the Seattle area for his character "Uncle Pugsly," which he created for a local amusement farm.   Raised a Mormon, he traveled to Ireland for his mission; when he returned he came out as gay and left the church.  He had been corresponding with Robert Bloch when he discovered discovered Lovecraft through a paperback collection of The Whisperer in the Dark.  Surprised that Lovecraft had dedicated the story to Bloch, Pugmire began to question his friend about Lovecraft.  His discovery of Arkham House's three main volumes of Lovecraft's stories as well as the volumes of HPL's letters cemented a life-long fascination with and appreciation of the supposed reclusive Providence author.  Pugmire's work is blatantly influenced by Lovecraftian sensibility, but Pugmire was no mere Lovecraft imitator.  His evocative writings have led him to be called "The prose-poet of the horro/fantasy field" by S. T. Joshi.  Scott Connors has said that Pugmire "owes as much as to Oscar Wilde and Henry James as to HPL and Poe, creating  truly unholy fusion that defies academic boundaries between 'mainstream'  and 'genre' fiction."

The self-described "Queen of Eldritch Horror" also fused his appreciation og punk rock into his work, stating that he was a "punk rock queen and street transvestite."  He could often be found on "his" bench outside the Hollywood theater in Portland, Oregon.

Pugmire marched to his own drum.  Often reclusive, he could dress and appear in public outrageously.  He lost he longtime lover to a heroin overdose in 1995.  In the early 2000s he felt a need to reconnect with the Mormon Church; it took a few years but he was readmitted to the church after he pledged to be a gay Mormon but a celibate one.  His faith had become very important to him, as he related in this clip:

Here's a brief interview with him from "his bench":

For those interested in sampling his work, here's his story "Unearthly Awakening"(inspired by Lovecraft's "The Shunned House") read by Morgan Scorpion:

March -- It Came in Like a Lion But Went Out Like a Weird-Ass Lamb:  In a brief round-up of  recent news, we learned that TGI Friday's potato skins chips may have no potato skins.  One customer is suing  the company, claiming that their chips sold in grocery stores are amde from reconstituted potato flakes with no potato skins.  She's asking for damages of $5 million.  I assume the amount asked for was what she had been charged at the grocery store...Chipotle Restaurnts have had a storied history of missteps usually resulting from health and food safety issues.  Now it appears that food-borne disease may not be its only bete noire.  Jimmy Smith, a MMA announcer for UFC and Bellator, said that when he bit into a steak burrito he spat out a block of fourteen staples that had been in his meal.  No damage was done but Smith notified the restaurant anyway in hopes that such an incident would not be repeated.  And where did this happen?  In Florida! -- the state that has now come up with a unique way of performing the medical procedure known as stomach stapling...The flamingo population in Mumbai has exploded from about 40,000 birds to some 120,000.  no one is exactly sure why this has happened but some suspected it is because of the city's sewerage.  Sewerage output into the city's Thane Creek has resulted in an uptick in the blue-green algae that flamingos find yummy.  A pretty crappy way to get some extra birds if you ask me...Few people read the teeny tiny small print in terms and agreement sections of contracts or documentation.  One British company from Birmingham deliberately tried to point out this problem by inserting into its T&Cs a requirement for the 22,000 people who signed up for their free public Wi-Fi to perform 1000 hours of public service, including cleaning toilets and relieving sewer blockages.  Another had Londoners agree to five up their first-born child for Wi-Fi access.  And yet another British company -- GameStation -- requires one to cede their immortal sole to the company unless they use a specific opt-out option.  (GameStation did this as an April Fools' prank, so let's forgive them).  And the Apple iTunes end-user agreement includes a clause that their product not be used to create weapons of mass destruction.  All of this was joyfully reported by NPR a few weeks ago...The confirmation hearing for Secretary of the Interior nominee David Bernhardt included a visitation from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, as reported last night by John Oliver:  (The clip in question appears at he beginning of the link, which includes the entire show, but feel free to watch the entire program -- John Oliver is always worth it.)

On This Day:  In 1789, Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected  as the first Speaker of the House in the House of Representatives.  The "Muhlenberg Legend" that he was responsible for German not being an official language of the United States is untrue.  The measure that would effectively allow this was defeated, 42-41, but Muhlenberg abstained from voting (although he later said, "The faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be").

Today's Poem:

Nothing Much

When mornings you attire yourself
For riding in the city,
You're such a lovely little elf,
Extravagantly pretty.

And when at noon you deign to wear
The habit of the town,
I cannot call to mind as fair
A symphony in brown.
And evenings -- You blithely don
A brevity of white,
To flash a very paragon
Of lightsomeness -- and light!

But when the rounds of pleasure cease,
And you retire at night,
The godling on your mantelpiece
Must know a fairer sight!

-- Stanley Grauman Weinbaum, 
from Lunaria and Other Poems (1988)

Weinbaum (1902-1935) burst onto the science fiction scene with his inaugural (and seminal) short story "A Martian Odyssey."  Less than a year and a half later he was dead from lung cancer, leaving a legacy of several brilliant stories.  "Nothing Much" first appeared in the March 1922 issue of Wisconsin Literary Magazine,a publication of the University of Wisconsin where he attended.  His student poems, from 1921-1923, were collected sixty-five years later in Luneria and Other Poems.  Grauman himself was expelled from the University after he had taken an exam for a friend.  He took the exam on a bet that he could pass a test in a subject he had never taken; he passed the test, but the consequences meant the end of his college career.  

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