Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


This is not a forgotten film, although many are less familiar with this version than with Cary Grant/Roslyn Russell version filmed as His Girl Friday

Produced by Howard Hughes and directed by Lewis Milestone, this early version of the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play features Adolphe Menjou, Pat O'Brien, and Mary Brian, with assists from such great character actors as Edward Everett Horton, George Catlett, Mae Clarke, Gorge E. Stone, and Slim Summerville.

All the wackiness and humor of this oft-remade flick are here in spades.


Monday, July 29, 2019


Lillian Roth, Mitzi Green, and a "mixed chorus" from 1930's Honey.


Openers:  Edmond Clive saw her almost as soon as he came into the tunnel from the San Francisco train.  She was standing beyond the gate, watching for him, and somehow in all that seething press of uniforms and eager women, she was quite alone.

-- No Good From a Corpse by Leigh Brackettt (1944)


  • John Shirley, Batman:  Dead White.  Comic book franchise tie-in novel.  "There's a host of new weapons in Batman's glittering, sinister city -- and they're in the hands of a psychotic mastermind called White Eyes.  With his murderous arsenal in place, the fiendish leader of Gotham's racist Bavarian Brotherhood can move beyond dealing drugs and hot guns to pursue his real passion:  the white supremacist takeover of America.  The homegrown terrorists' first strike -- at the heart of our nation's capital -- is only weeks away.  But first they'll test out their killer toys on Batman, who is hot on the trail of White Eyes and his brutal militia,  Ounce for ounce, muscle for muscle, Batman's no match for the cunning villain and his wicked new firepower.  At least, that;s how White Eyes sees it.  Batman has other ideas..."  The book was published in 2006, but the threat of white supremacists echoes today.
  • Jason Starr, Cold Caller.  "If Jim Thompson had gotten an MBA, he might have written Cold Caller, a ravingly readable story of a downwardly mobile yuppie who'll just kill to get ahead.  Once a rising VP at a topflight ad agency, Bill Moss now works as a 'cold caller' at a telemarketing firm in the Times Square area,  He's got a bad case of the urban blues,  and when a pink slip rather than a promotion comes through, Bill snaps...Now he's got a dead supervisor on his hands and problems no career counselor can help him with.  Jason Starr has retooled the James M. Cain novel of cynical suspense and murder for the fiber-optic age."  Starr's first novel seems to be have been predictive of his stellar (see what I did there?) career.

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting:  Last night, at least fifteen persons were wounded and four persons dead (including the suspected shooter) at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California.  The festival brings about 100,000 each year to Gilroy, the "Garlic Capital of the World."

Despite close security at the festival, where visitors had to pass through metal detectors to enter, the suspects (at least two persons are thought to be involved) used metal cutters to enter by the rear of the festival through a metal fence that surrounded the property.  As I type this, no identification has been made of the deceased gunman nor has a motive for the shootings been found.

Brace yourself for another round of the gun debate, where people say we need regulation and where others say you want to infringe on our rights and where the politicians don't do a damned thing. 

I'm one of those wide-eyed liberals who think the Supreme Court blew the pooch on their Second Amendment rulings.  I not looking to outlaw all guns.  Guns have a legitimate place in our society -- for both sport and for defense.  Hunting is necessary for herd conservation and for food.  I don't think it's as necessary for animal trophies as Donald Trump, Jr. does.  Guns may be necessary for defense, but they should not be the first line of defense and used simply because someone is afraid of someone else's color.  This "I feared for my life so I started shooting" defense can be an easy excuse, especially if you victim is wearing a hoodie or has raised his arms to show he has not got a weapon.  I am looking for reasonable, common-sense restrictions on something that can kill or injure another person who may well be innocent.

Someday the Supreme Court will take a closer, less-biased look and the Second Amendment and what it means both by itself and when balanced against the rest of the Constitution.  Some day politicians will grow some and actually tackle and solve the things that are destroying our society.  Someday members of the NRA and other organizations will quit being gulled by their so-called leaders and restore some common sense to their groups.  Some day the American people will realize that money does not outweigh a human life.  And some day gun owners and enthusiasts will be able to safely and reasonably enjoy their guns.  That day, I fear, is still a long way off.

Farewell to Minnie's Voice:  Russi Taylor, who had been the voice of Minnie Mouse since 1986, died Friday at age 75.  Though best known as Minnie Mouse, Taylor also voiced a number of characters on The Simpsons, as well as other pop culture characters.  While at Disney, she met and married Wayne Allwine, who was the voice of Mickey Mouse from 1977 to his death in 2009.  Mickey and Minnie, together again.

Hooray for Tigers!:  The wild tiger population now stands at nearly 3000, an increase of 30% over the past four years.  In 1900 there were more than 100,000 tigers worldwide; that number dropped to 3200 in 2010.  India's lowest recorded wild tiger population was in 2006 -- 1411.  Conservation efforts in India and elsewhere have significantly raised the chances of this magnificent species becoming extinct.  The fate of tigers may not seem important to some but all animals are part of an important ecological balance.  As more and more species die out, this balance tilts, endangering other species, including humans.  Plus, the more species there are, the prettier and more wonderful the world is.

Good Ear News:  A recent controlled study by the University of Kent indicates that gentle ear stimulation may significantly reduce the effects of Parkinson's disease.  Subjects had their ears stimulated twice a day for to months, resulting in strong reductions of both motor and non-motor symptoms.  "Participants reported greater movement and mobility, and showed improvements in decision-making, attention, memory, mood, and sleep."  The gains were greatest five weeks after the conclusion of the treatment, indicating possible long lasting effects. 

Can't Say Good-bye to July Without One More Florida Man Story:  This one comes from the beginning of the month:

Question:  What McDonald's tag line should go with this story?  You deserve a break today?  I'm loving it?  Or perhaps, a different tag line?

Today's Poem:
The New York Boat

Have you ever been down by the Cape Canal
When the New York boat went through?
Of all the sights I love so well
That one is ever new.

It's fun to ride along a while
Then to stop by the bank to wait.
It's fun to watch the folks arrive
Some early and some late.

Now if you've never been there
To see that boat go by,
You've missed sight beyond compare,
I'm going to tell you why.

At dusk the old Cape Cod Canal
Takes on a glamorous hue,
And 'tis a glorious spot at which to dwell
While the New York Boat goes through.

-- Marjorie Bassett
(Today is the 105th anniversary of the opening of the Cape Cod Canal)

Sunday, July 28, 2019


America's most trusted newscaster in conversation with SF legends Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein during the Apollo 11 moon mission -- a fascinating combination!  This is perhaps a naively optimistic conversation but at the time we were all perhaps naively optimistic.  Some of us still are.



Jim and Jesse McReynolds.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


Connie Francis.


In private life The Masked Raider was cow-town lawyer Lex Wilcox.  When justice needs to be done outside of the courtroom, the "cowardly booklovin' lawyer" dons a small mask and strikes out with his horse White Star and his golden eagle Talon.  Do not confuse this western hero with The Masked Rider (who is a Marvel Comics property) or with The Masked Rider, a pulp magazine western hero created by Oscar Schisgall for Ranger Publications in 1934, or with The Masked Rider, a television spinoff from (gack!) Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Charlton Comics' The Masked Raider ran for thirty issues in its main sequence, from June 1955 to June 1961 -- of course, Charlton's penchant for title and numbering changes may throw this number slightly askew.

Then there was The Masked Raider promotional series under the Charlton imprint Blue Bird Comics.  These were comics sent out to various stores (with the store name emblazoned on the cover) to be given away as promotional items.  There evidently ten of these items issued from 1959 to 1964.  (The comic linked below is a promotional item for Schiff's Shoes.)  I assume the stories in the promotional issues were reprints from the main sequence but I'll be happy to corrected.

One confusing thing about this promotional comic is the cover which, although featuring The Masked Raider (and Talon the Golden Eagle!), also has various Charlton characters along the lower part of the cover:  Six Gun Heroes, Li'l Genius, Timmy the Timid Ghost, Freddy, and Black Fury -- none of whom are featured in the issue!

This issue has four Masked Raider stories, along with a Texas Rangers tale and a two-page text story.

In the second story, lovely Polly Garrett, who has a crush on The Masked Raider, begins to suspect that the Raider might just be Lex Wilcox.   (The resemblance between Wilcox and The Masked Raider is about as obvious as the resemblance between Clark Kent and Superman so the secret identity should be safe, shouldn't it?)


Friday, July 26, 2019


On George Kelley's blog yesterday he reviewed a Beach Boys compilation album.  That's reason enough for me to post this classic.


Pstalemate by Lester del Rey (1971)

Lester del Rey (1919-1993) was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1990, an award that was as deserved as it was problematic.  Had it existed at the time, I suspect that del Rey would have named an Author Emeritus, an award established in 1995 to recognize authors whose best writing was behind them. (The Emeritus title was given to such authors as Judith Merril, William Tenn, and Robert Sheckley -- all of whom would have been deserving as Grand Master earlier in their careers.)  Del Rey's best writing, I submit was in his shorter works -- "The Faithful," "Helen O'Loy", "Nerves," and "For I Am a Jealous People" are excellent examples.  He also turned out some very impressive juvenile novels for the Winston "Adventures in Science Fiction" series and for later publishers.  It was with adult novels that he seems to have misstepped.  Preferred Risk (1955, written with Frederik Pohl under the joint pseudonym "Edson McCann") was slapped together when a novel contest sponsored by Galaxy magazine received not a single entry worthy of winning the contest.  Nerves (1956) did his famous story no favors by expanding it.  Police Your Planet (1956, as by "Erik van Lhin") was an interesting read but was really a disguised juvenile.  Day of the Giants (1959) reprinted a very pulpish fantasy first published in a 1950 issue of Fantastic AdventuresThe Eleventh Commandment (1962) was written as a controversial and somewhat strained mash-up about the population explosion and the Catholic Church.  Weeping May Tarry (1978, published as by del Rey and Raymond F. Jones) was actually written by Jones, expanding on the theme of del Rey's "For I Am A Jealous People;" was both minor and forgettable.  And then there's Pstalemate, del Rey's actual last novel, published eight years after his last juvenile and nine years after his last adult novel.

Much of del Rey's career was as an editor, beginning with three short-lived -- albeit impressive -- magazines in the early 1950s, then as the editor of Dutton's Best Science Fiction of the Year series (1972-1976) and as editor of "Best of" collections of well-known SF writers (C. L. Moore, Frederik Pohl, John W. Cambell, Robert Bloch, and Hal Clement) for Nelson Doubleday and Ballantine Books.  In the early 1970s del Rey married the very talented editor Judy-Lynn Benjamin, who had worked with Frederik Pohl on Galaxy and If magazines and became managing editor of Galaxy.  Judy-Lynn del Rey moved to Ballantine Books and revived its flagging science fiction line.  In 1975, she brought her husband aboard to edit the house's fantasy line.  The del Rey science fiction and fantasy lines were named to honor her, although many falsely assumed it was named for Lester; after her death, Lester del Rey continued the line.  As del Rey's fantasy editor, Lester del Rey inflicted Terry Brooks Shannara series upon the public.  Lester del Rey also selected the 45-volume Garland Library of Science Fiction reprints (all 1975).  He also had a busy career as a book reviewer.

As a person, del Rey was somewhat unusual.  He fabricated his life story, claiming that he was born Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourte-Brace Sierra y Alverez-del Rey y des los Verdes (phew!), but he sometimes shortened that to Ramon Feklipe Alverez-del Rey.  He also claimed his entire family was killed in a 1935 car accident.  After del Rey's death it was learned that he was born Leonard Knapp in Saratoga, Minnesota.  The 1935 car accident was real, but it killed his first wife, not his parents or siblings.  (He also boasted that, from the age of fifteen, he had never gone more than five days without having sex with a woman -- something I doubt anyone will bother trying to prove or disprove.)  There is no question however that del Rey was a very intelligent, widely-read, talented, opinionated,and feisty individual.  The character of Emmanuel Rubin in Isaac Asimov's puzzle series about the Black Widowers was based on del Rey.

In Pstalemate del Rey challeges himself to describe the indescribable...and comes up short.

Harry Bronson is a man without a past.  Literally.  All memories before he was ten have been wiped from his mind.  Told his parents were dead, Harry was raised by one of his father's  business partners.  He is now an engineer verging on great success.  Then, driving to D.C. in a snow storm, he began to hear voices calling his name.  Suddenly the flood gates began to slowly open and Harry found that he could read minds.  Not only was he a telepath, he was one of a number of telepaths who individually tried to keep their talents secret.  His powers soon expanded to precognition.  It is possible that Harry is one of the most powerful telepaths in the world.

This is something he seems to take in stride.  Then something loathsome invades his mind -- an Alien Intruder that shocks him to his core.  Harry manages to repel this thing from his mind, but it keeps returning, a fetid, foul creature whose only purpose appears to be to devour Harry psychically.  If that wasn't enough, Harry's precognitive ability tells him that in three months he will go completely insane.  It turns out that all those with extrasensory powers go mad.  No exception, it seems.

As Harry's power grows, he begins to regain memory of his lost years.  His psychic abilities had been with him from the start; Harry remembers connecting mentally with his father.  He also remembers the fire in which his mother -- mad as all telepaths will become -- tried to kill him.  There is Ellen, the daughter of another of his father's partners; her parents are also dead.  Ellen has also evinced powers since she was young.  Harry reconnects with Ellen.  They form a bond and marry, knowing that Harry has less than three months of sanity left to him and that Ellen will also sink into madness in the future.

Harry desperately wants to save Ellen but he's facing twin dooms -- the raging Alien entity that is determined to destroy him and his incipient madness.  Which will come first?

The main problem with this book is the author's approach.   At one point del Rey writes that he is trying to describe things and actions for which there are no nouns or verbs.  The book becomes plodding as del Rey tries to explain what is happening.  But, you see, nothing much happens in the book.  It is a book of ideas with a weak storyline trying to support it.  The protagonist's reactions do not appear rational.  The little bit of sex in the novel is not really needed.  There's also a bit of questionable psychology at play when del Rey tries to wrap things up.  And then there's the loose end of another interstellar benvolent race that may or may not exist

 But I have to give del Rey credit.  He tried to describe something that admittedly cannot be understood by mere homo sapiens.  And, despite my carping, a failed book may also be a worthy book and this one is worthy in its failures.  Just don't set your expectations too high.

Thursday, July 25, 2019


For me, Harry Belafonte is an underappreciated artist only in the sense that be cannot be over appreciated.  Belafonte, now 92, has had a significant impact as both a performer and as a civil rights and humanitarian activist.

Belafonte was born in Harlem from Scottish and Jamaican parents.  He was working as a janitor's assistant when he discovered the American Negro Theater.  He and a fellow impoverished friend named Sidney Poitier would "split" a ticket -- one would watch one act and then the other would watch an act, each describing to the other the act they had missed.  Soon he began acted for the American Negro Theater while taking acting classes  with fellow students Poitier, Tony Randall, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur, and Marlon Brando.  To pay for his acting classes, Belafonte began singing at nightclubs, performing pop standards and (eventually) folk songs.  He began recording in 1953 with "Matilda."  Belafonte soon became the "King of Calypso," although his repetoire was far more expansive than that.


"Banana Boat Song" ("Day O")

"Jamaica Farewell"

"Man Smart (Woman Smarter)," with Julie Andrews

"There's a Hole in the Bucket," with Odetta

"Try To Remember"

"Both Sides Now"

"Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma"

"John Henry"

"Island in the Sun"

"Jump in the Line," with Rita Hayworth

"Scarlet Ribbons"

"Oh Freedom"

"Hava Nageela"

"Mama Look a Boo-Boo"

"Erini," with Nana Mouskouri

"Give Us Our Land," with Miriam Makeba

"I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free," with The Smothers Borthers

"I Know where I'm Going"

"Done Laid Around"

"Mary's Boy Child"

"Turn the World Around"

...and so many more


Randy Stone, crime reporter and columnist for the Chicago Star, roams the city at night for human interest stories.  When Randy has a night off he still roams the city.  On this night Randy finds himself at a nightclub bar where Gus the bartender berates him for not having a date on his night off, pointing to a beautiful woman sitting alone at the end of the bar.  Randy shrug the suggestion off but catches the woman eyeing him in the barroom mirror.  They strike up a conversion -- she claims her name is Mary, eh, Smith and that she has been stood up on a date.  Mary insists on calling Randy "John."  As they talk, she suddenly gets nervous and suggests they leave.  While paying the tab, Gus tells Randy that a red-headed man started asking questions about Randy the moment he began to talk to Mary.  They go to several more bars but Mary seems nervous and insists they leave each almost as soon as they get there.  Then they take a carriage ride in the park, ending up at a shooting gallery.  Mary sees a doll she likes and Randy tries to win it.  When Randy picks up the gun and fires it, Mary panics and runs away.  Randy starts after her when the doll is pushed into his hands and a man tells Randy he just won it.  Randy catches up with Mary and gives her the doll.  But Randy realizes that he did not win the doll; in fact, every one of his shots missed.  And the man who shoved the doll into Randy's hands was not the carnie, but was the red-headed man who was asking questions about Randy earlier.  And then the night became even stranger...

Frank Lovejoy plays Randy Stone and Betty Moran plays "Mary."  Warren Lewis produced and directed this episode from a script by John and Gwen Bagni.  Donald Rickles (no, not the comedian) was the announcer.  Pabst Blue Ribbon beer was the sponsor and, despite some detractors, it's a pretty good beer.  Night Beat aired on NBC radio from February 6, 1950 to September 25, 1952 for a total of 112 episodes.  A television pilot, also starring Lovejoy, aired in 1953 but the series never materialized.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019


How do you celebrate Raymond Chandler's 131st birthday?

Perhaps with this song from Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians.


Bill Cody -- born William Joseph Cody, Jr.  -- parlayed his name into a significant B-movie western career, starring in Poverty Row films from 1924 to 1939, with time outs for touring western shows.  From the 1939 until his death in 1948 Cody occasionally had uncredited and bit parts, including an uncredited bit as "Tunnel Bomb Thug" in the 1943 serial The Masked Marvel -- something that would be tres cool to have on your resume (if you weren't an actor).  Cody was no relation to famous westerner "Buffalo" Bill Cody.

Also no relation to Buffalo Bill was Bill Cody, Jr., who strangely had the same birth name as his father -- William Joseph Cody, Jr.  The younger Cody (born 1925) appeared in several of his father's films, including this one.  IMDb lists his last film as 1948's Fighter Squadron in which he had an uncredited role as a "Private."  Junior committed suicide in 1989, one year after losing his beloved wife to cancer.  He was 64.

Cody plays Steve Harper who goes after a gang of cattle rustlers.  In the ensuing fight Haper loses his gun, which is later used in the murder of "Dad" Wilson (William McCall, a bit player with 248 -- mostly uncredited roles from 1917 to 1938).  Steve is jailed for murder because the 59-minute film would have been a lot shorter without this obvious plot point.  Spunky young Jimmy Wilson (Bill Cody, Jr.) manages to break Steve out of jail because no jail in the old west is a match for a ten-year-old kid.  Steve then goes in search for the real killer.  Twenty-four-year-old Marie Burton serves as cowboy candy as the lovely Betty Wilson.

Outlaws of the Range was directed by Albert Herman, probably best known for directing 42 shorts featuring a very young Mickey Rooney.  Herman closed off his career directing six episodes of The Cisco Kid, 1950-51.

Zarah Tazil is a name that may have many film fans scratch their heads.  She was an actress with minor roles in three films in 1935 (two of them featuring Bill Cody) and had writing credits for four  of Cody's films, 1935-36, including Outlaws of the Range.  As a virtual flash in the pan, she is also credited with Continuity for Outlaws of the Range.  Tazil was born in Morocco in 1908; because she faded into anonymity IMDb has no death date listed.

This is a B-movie, so please have no great expectations, but for those who enjoy mindless oaters from the Thirties, enjoy.

Monday, July 22, 2019


David Allan Coe.


Openers:  Once upon a time in Colorado lived a man named Abednigo Danner and his wife Matilda.  Abednego Danner was a professor of biology in a small college in the town of Indian Creek.  He was a spindling wisp of a man, with a nature well drawn into itself by the assaults of the world and particularly of the grim Mrs. Danner, who understood nothing and undertook all.  Nevertheless these two live modestly in a frame home on the hem of Indian Creek as they appeared to be a settled and peaceful couple.

-- Philip Wylie, Gladiator (1930)  This novel clearly influenced Jerry Siegel when he and Joe Schuster created the comic strip Superman, and as such, and in additional to its own merits, has earned itself a place in genre history.

Paul Krassner, R.I.P.:  Sixties and Seventies counter-culture icon Paul Krassner died yesterday.  He was 87.  A political satirist and psychedelic drug advocate (among many) other things.  He founded and published The Realist, a sharp-edged humor magazine, from 1958 to 2001.  In 1967 Krasser and others (including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders, and Phil Ochs) founded the Youth International Party (YIPPIE), an absurdist movement (they famously ran a pig for president) that played a strong role in the anti-war demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in 1968.  Hoffman and Rubin became two of the famous "Chicago Eight" arrested at that convention; how Krassner avoided arrest then was a matter of luck.  Krassner's impact on an entire generation cannot be overstated.

Deep State Conspiracies:  This past March, Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali was shot ten times and died.  Cali was a leader of the Gambino crime family and was thought to be their link to the Inzerillo Mafia family in Sicily.  He was also, according to an attorney for his assassin, Anthony Comello, thought by Camello to be a member of the Deep State.  Comello supposedly (again, according to his attorney) became the victim of internet conspiracy theories shortly after Donald Trump's election; more specifically Comello was drawn to QAnon, a whack-job internet phenomenon that claims that a "Deep State" (usually consisting of Democrats) exists and is pulling the strings behind our government (think Alex Jones).  Among their claims are that Dem politicians are pedophiles and that JFK Jr. isn't dead -- he's only hiding and will emerge to run for president some time in the future.  Anyway, Camello was convinced that Cali was a part of the deep and he went to Cali's house with the intention of placing him under citizen's arrest (a ploy he had tried to use earlier against New York City mayor Bill de Blasio; he had also asked U.S. marshals to arrest Representative Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff -- they refused)  but ended up shooting him in self-defense (again, per his attrney).  "Mr. Camello also believed he was a chosen vigilante of President Trump. 'Mr. Camello became certain he was enjoying the protection of President Trump himself, and that he had President Trump's full support,' [his attorney] wrote."

We have always had loonies and wackos and susceptible people who are easily influenced into strange beliefs.  Usually it's about 20% of the American populace who have this particular outside-the-box thinking, but the number has surely risen over the past few years.  Wonder why?

Who da thunk it?:  Evidently I'm not the only person who dislikes Donald Trump.  Here's Joan Baez:

Good News:  It's not all bad.  Here's some recent headlines:

Today's Poem:
Creole Debutante

She went to the school of
Miss Crocodile,
learned to walk backwards,
skin a black cat with her teeth.

Soon, she could dance with
dead pirates,
cook perfect gumbo,
telephone the moon collect.

But it took 23 doctors to
fix her
after she kissed that snake.

-- Tom Robbins (from Wild Ducks Flying Backward)
[He turned 87 today]

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Economist Alexander MacDonald reviews 300 years of science fiction, how it embedded itself into our modern psyche, and how it sparked the age of space flight.  What are we doing to inspire the future generation of 300 years from now.  A TED Talk.


Hank Williams.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


If you've ever watched the semi-historic television show Vikings, you know that Rollo is the brother of Viking King Ragnar Lothbruk.  Ragnar is a "historically dubious" character, although some of his sons on the television are true historic figures; Rollo is based on the historic Viking leader who besieged Paris in 885-886 and became the first king of Normandy.  According to some legends, Rollo was an ancestor of Charlemagne.

On this day in 911, Rollo laid siege to Chartres.  As part of the Norman invasion of France, Rollo laid siege to the city but was forced to flee when Charles the Simple managed to get the Franks to charge Rollo's forces.  With no real means of escape, Rollo's army soon had to stand their ground and managed to repel the Franks.  Thus there was no real winner here, but history records this as a French victory as negotiations led to the Treaty of Saint-Clare-sur-Epte which awarded Normandy to Rollo who had to pledge his vassalage and convert to Catholicism.

Anyway, today is a good time to give a nod to Rollo by posting this cover version of the theme to Vikings, performed by L'Ochestra Cinematique.


This issue leads off with Basil Wolverton's The Spacehawk in "The Perilous Planetoid Trap."  The Spacehawk first appeared in Target Comics #5 (June 1940) and ran through #34 (December 1942) and was lone of Wolverton's most popular characters.  The Spacehawk (he had no other name that I know of) was a superhero who patrolled the solar system in the far future.  He is fully clad in a green suit, complete with masked hood with boots, mittens, belt, and ray gun holster all in bright yellow.  In his two previous stories we never see The Spacehawk's face.  This time, because he wants to impress a pretty girl, he takes of his mask -- and, by golly!, he sure is one handsome hunk of manliness.

The story opens with to evil aliens (Jark and Zorg) have come up with a plan to loot ships traveling through the solar system.  They import a bunch of bloodthirsty snurls to a plantetoid and then move the planetoid into the solar system and lay in wait for their prey.  Along comes a passenger liner on its way to Pluto.  Using a bumper beam, Jark and Zorg cause the liner to  rash on their planetoid, where the snurls attack and kill the passengers and crew, all except one -- a beautiful unnamed earth girl.  Zorg fancies desires is smitten by her beauty and decides to claim her as his own.  (It should be noted that, although Zorg and Jark are bilaterally symmetrical, they are butt ugly, with each having two tentacles, two wobbly legs with sort of chicken feet, a bulbous and warty body that ends in a rim of shaggy hair that has the appearance of a hula skirt, a long, thick, snakelike neck, a wide domelike head with wattles, a wide mouth with apparently only an upper set of teeth, no nose, large shifty eyes, and a single ear on top of its head.  And  they're a kind of dijon-mustard color.  In other words, great Wolverton space monsters.)  Zorg has some sort of device that will make this lovely girl into something more pleasing to his aliens eyes.

Sensing something wrong (possibly because there is a plantetoid where none should be), The Spacehawk goes to investigate.  When two snurls attack him he just crushes them with his hands, then he takes Jark and hurls him a great distance, smashing the life out of him.  Still sensing something is amiss, he heads toward Zorg's lab, where the Earth chick is strapped to a table.  Zorg blasts a hole in  The Spacehawk's chest but the joke is on Zorg; he merely blasted one of The Spacehawk's lookalike robot.  Then, "with one swift, powerful motion" The Spacehawk "breaks Zorg's spinal column."  And it turns out the girl is one he rescued a few weeks before from Gorvak the Martian.  So The Spacehawk figures he deserves a kiss and for the first time unmasks to get that little bit of sugar.  The girl then fades out of the series, still unnamed.  All told with Wolverton's unique gusto and artwork.

Carl Burgos' White Streak (who wears red and blue, duh!) is up next.  "Like a flash of light, the White Streak, breaker of war mongers and profiteers, races across continents and oceans to smash the Black Rust Racket."  What's nifty about the White Streak is that he can shoot lightning-like rays from his eyes.  There are times when I wish I had that power.

Lucky Byrd, Flying Cadet will soon graduate from Randolph Field -- our West Point of the Air -- in Harry Campbell's "Fingerprints Don't Lie."  For some reason, fellow cadet Luis Luzon has suddenly become Lucky's enemy, but when a knife is thrown at Lucky its fingerprints are not those of Luis.  Then, during an air practice, Luis is shot in the leg by Lucky's airplane.  Was it an accident or did Lucky do it on purpose?  Either way, Lucky's career at the academy seems finished.  Can Lucky's daring plan solve matters?

The Spacehawk returns in Part 1 of a text story , "Ghost Star,"credited to "Stockbridge Winslow."  The illo for this tale was not drawn by Wolverton.

The Chameleon is Peter Stockbridge, a wealthy man and a master of disguise.  When the Kohinoor Diamond is stolen he must find the thief's gang before it is cut into smaller diamonds.  The story was scripted by Don Allen and drawn by the great Bill Everett.

"Fantastic Feature Films" by Tarpe Davis purports to be an adaptation of a film titled "House of Horror."  Since neither the film nor any of the supposed actors are listed in IMBb, it's safe to assume the film never existed.  Martin Daniels and his fiance Mary have been invited to spend a week at his uncle's old farmhouse but when they get there they find the old man dead.   Secret passages, a vanishing corpse, a gang of smugglers, and a phony Hindu ensue.

Next, we go to the Old West with Bullseye Bill.  The outlaw Slick
Carson, who had earlier threatened Bill's gal Dee, has broken out of jail and Bill joins the posse to hunt him down.  A little knowledge of geometry allows Bill to flush Carson from his lair but they are stopped by screams coming from a nearby cave.  It's Dee, who somehow has gotten trapped in the cave by a giant lizard-like monster.  Bullseye Bill draws his gun and shows us how he got his nickname.  No explanation for the monster is given.  There's also a Steppin Fetchit-type character in the posse for "comic" relief.  Ptah!  B. Holmes scripted and L. Kennerly drew this tale.

In Larry Antonette's "T-Men", agent T-Man Turner tackles a gang trying to sabotage a government construction project.

Lastly, Jack Warren's "Calling 2-R," the so-called "Range Riders of Today's Frontier" are actually kids from a futuristic place called Boy-State -- sort of training ground for good guys (I think)..  The rangers and their based is being attacked by a mysterious enemy.  All sorts of super gadgets are being used by both sides.  The baddie is General Z and he wants revenge (why?  don't know.).  It's all somewhat of a confusing mess.  Despite all sorts of futuristic flying and mobile vehicles, the rangers charge the bad guys en masse on horseback.  The whole story, titled "The Attack of General Z" (but we're never told that), ends suddenly without resolution.  Evidently this is Part 1 (but we're never told that -- not even a to be continued).

A few gems, some great artwork, and at least one clunker.  It adds up to a fairly decent issue that, in the main, is worth your time.


Friday, July 19, 2019


From 1958, The Four Preps with a classic.


Here's a quick look at two fast and fun books I read this week.

Zero Cool by "John Lange" (Michael Crichton) (1969)

While in medical school Michael Crichton published his first book, a thriller titled Odds On.  Afraid that it might in some way adversely impact his future medical career, it was issued under the pseudonym "John Lange."  It was the first of eight stand-alone paperback thrillers Crichton wrote as Lange.  Zero Cool was the fourth book under the Lange by-line.  As the author later explained,"My feeling about the Lange books is that my competition is in-flight movies.  One can read the books in an hour and a half, and be more satisfactorily amused than watching Doris Day.  I write them fast and the reader reads them fast and I get them off my back."

American radiologist Peter Ross is vacationing in Spain -- his first vacation in four years.  He is told by hotel staff that, while he was out the previous night, an unnamed person was asking for him, but not by name but as the "American doctor."  Peter goes to the beach, meets a beautiful woman, and begins to chat her up when another stranger goes up to he and tells him he "must not do it" and "It would be better if you left Spain immediately."  The stranger then told told Peter that is he did the autopsy, they would kill him immediately.  With that, the stranger left.  An auspicious start to what should have been a relaxing vacation.  Of course, as a radiologist Peter was not qualified to perform an autopsy.

That afternoon, four people show up at Peter's hotel room.  The leader of the four tells Peter there has been a terrible tragedy:  his brother, an American gangster, has been shot and killed in Barcelona.  The man wants to take his brother's body back to America but Spanish law dictates that an autopsy must be performed first and American law dictates that the autopsy must be performed by an American.  Peter thinks this is peculiar bit his bullshit detector does not go off.  Peter is offered twenty thousand dollars to perform the autopsy.  He refused and the four storm off.

The next day, Peter is kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to a private mental hospital in Barcelona and told he must do the autopsy.  The victim's brother will observe and a nurse from the hospital will assist Peter.  Peter stumbles and fakes his way through the autopsy when the gangster sends the nurse out of the room on an errand.  He gives Peter a small box and orders him to place it behind the dead man's heart, then sew the corpse up.  Twenty minutes later Peter is on a helicopter and is being flown back to Costa Brava and his hotel.

It turns out the box contained a precious relic -- the Stone of Cortez -- and three different gangs want it and everybody thinks Peter can lead them to it.  Then begins a merry chase with Peter, the hapless hero, having no idea what is going on or who the players are.  It doesn't help that in this game of musical chairs nobody is really who they say they are and that loyalties can change at the drop of a hat.  Even Peter may not be what he says he is as we discover that he has hidden depths.  Add a few more bodies and throw in characters like a murderous titled midget and his killer dogs and a laconic gangster named Tex and you have an "in-flight book" that will have you zipping through its pages.

Three To Conquer by Eric Frank Russell (1956; first published as a 3-part serial in Astounding Science Fiction, August-October 1955 as "Call Him Dead")

Russell was once considered a major writer in the SF field, with many of his works combining his interest in the writings of Charles Fort and the incipient libertarianism championed by John W. Campbell.  His easy style and occasional dips into humor convinced many fans that Britisher Russell was actually an American.

The time is the near future -- 1980.  America has secretly sent a manned rocket ship to Venus and is waiting for the three astronauts to return to Earth before announcing the mission.  For the moment, the project is strictly hush-hush.

Wade Harper is a telepath, the only one in existence as far as he knows.  Wade keeps his talent a secret but has, at times, used it to surreptitiously help officials catch murderers.  Driving down a country road Wade "hears" a dying man in pain.  He finds the man -- a state police deputy -- in a ditch with two bullets in him.  The deputy dies in Wade's arms while thinking about the three men who killed him.  Wade uses the radio in the deputy's abandoned car to report the crime.

Wade can't let the image of the man go.  He stops at gas stations along the route the deputy must have taken and at one he finds an old man who saw the deputy.  Three men, dressed in strange uniforms, and driving a "Thunderbug" had grabbed a young woman and took off; a few minutes later the deputy drove into the filling station and the old man told him what he saw and gave the deputy the Thunderbug's license number.  The deputy set off in chase and that was the last he was seen until Wade found him in the ditch.

The authorities soon found the girl, who said that she was not forced into the car and that the men were absolute gentlemen who dropped her off near her home.  Wade goes to talk to the girl.  She walks by him and heads to her house.  Wade calls out to her.  She turns. And Wade shoots her through the head.  WTF?

Knowing the police will soon be after him, Wade quickly drives to Washington before local police can catch up to him.  In Washington, he gives himself up to an FBI agent, confessing to killing the girl.  He refuses to speak further until he is met with a higher-up in the organization.  Wade then explains that he is a telepath -- the only telepath -- and proves it.  Why did he shoot the girl?  When he touched her mind, she reacted -- something no one else has done -- and thought, "You Terrestrial bastard!"

Unknown to the government, the three astronauts had returned from Venus.  At least their dead bodies did, now taken over and control by alien parasites bent on conquering Earth.  Somehow they able to infect others with the parasite, and those can infect others, and so on.  Thus began a long, confusing chase where no one can except Wade can tell who has been infected and who has not.

Another quick read with Wade being the "competent man" so often represented in fifties SF.  His calm use of logic and determination to stop a global threat makes him the perfect to face the "solvable paranoia" involved in stemming an invasion.

Good, old fashioned SF.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


Martha & The Vandellas, with a birthday nod to Martha Reeves.


Nick (or Nicholas) Carter began his long career in 1886 with The Detective's Pupil; or, The Mysterious Crime of Madison Square, a thirteen-part serial in New York Weekly.  The character was created by Ormond Smith the son of a founder of Street and Smith, and was brought to life by writer John R. Coryell.  The popularity of the character soon led Street and Smith to publish Nick Carter Weekly, chronicling the character's adventures via numerous writers and which continued until 1915 and introduced the character of young Chick Carter.  Nick Carter was revived as a (sort of) hard-boiled detective in 1933, with new adventures through the 1950's.  Both Nick and Chick Carter also appeared in comic books published by Street and Smith.

The first film about the character was in 1908, a six-part serial produced in France.  Other films followed in 1909 and 1912.  In the mid-sixties, two further Nick carter films came from France.  Columbia and Czechoslovia also put Nick Carter on the screen.  In Hollywood, Walter Pigeon played the detective in three movies in 1939-40.  Robert Conrad took on the role in a television movie-of-the-week in 1972.

Nick Carter, Master Detective was a popular radio show on Mutual for twelve years, beginning in 1943, with Lon Clark taking the title role.From 1943 to 1945 Mutual also produced the weekday program Chick Carter, Boy Detective about the adopted son of Nick Carter. 

All that remained of the character was his name in the men's action adventure series Nick Carter:  Killmaster, which stretched to more than 250 paperback novels, beginning in 1964.

"The Body on the Slab" aired on November 3, 1943.  It was written and direct by Jock MacGregor.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019


Today would have been my mother's 97th birthday.  When she entered this world she was given the unwieldy name Millard Harriet Ford.  (The "Millard" was a combination of her parents' names, Mildred and Bernard, and not a nod to president Fillmore.)  Luckily her parents decided to call her by her middle name.

She had an unsettled early life.  Her father was killed in a gas company explosion when she was seven.  Her mother (a rather flighty type) felt she could not handle two children by herself so she headed south with her baby (Betty), leaving my mother with the woman who raised her.  This was in the days when families were really flexible; for reasons unknown to me, the woman I knew as my great-grandmother took my mother's mother -- who was some sort of relative -- and raised her.  My great-grandmother also insisted that she take care of Harriet while Mildred headed off with the baby.  Confusing, isn't it?  The few times Mildred came back to Massachusetts, it was not see my mother but to borrow money.

My great-grandmother, Celia, was fairly strict but loving in her way.  She was a schoolteacher who placed a high value on education and was one of the first female members of a town board of education in Massachusetts.  My mother was raised in the Depression.  No one had money, but this was a farming community and nobody went hungry.  Celia, a widow, had remarried to a jolly man with a grasp of the English language that would make a sailor blush.  The two of them, along with her two sons and one daughter, provided a safe haven for my mother.  She grew up to be a pretty, popular, giggling teenager.

She was nineteen when she married my father, a farm worker, and moved into the farmhouse.  My father eventually became a partner to the bachelor farmer and, as the older man moved toward retirement, began slowly to enter the home construction business.  But when first married, she shared the house with the older man's two aunts, Kate and Emma (and, perhaps, his mother -- I'm not too sure whether she was still alive when my mother was married).  Anyway, it was an awkward time for her.

It was a small town.  My father eventually became a respected businessman in the community and my mother began to fit in.  I think her early experience with rejection colored her life.  She always seemed afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and other people's opinions mattered a bit too much.  She did her best, was a good mother, and had a fairly good life despite her rocky start.

When she was in her late sixties or early seventies she legally changed her name, ditching the dreaded "Millard" and changing the spelling of Harriet to "Harriette" -- "with two Ts and an E."  (She had been using that spelling of her name for years and I don't know when or why she changed from the more usual "Harriet.")

Anyway, when we were kids, we thought it was a hoot to sing this song to her.  In honor of her birthday, here's Red Foley.  I hope she's listening in heaven.


When Stephen Hawking was considering a career change to comedy, he was advised to stick only to one-liners.

He couldn't do stand-up, you see.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Stan Rogers.


Wax museums have been a standard trope in horror and fantasy movies for many years.  Let's go back nearly a century and see how the theme was handled in Germany.

William Dieterle plays a writer hired by the owner (John Gottowt) of the waxworks to come up with stories about three of the wax figures.  The owner has a beautiful daughter (Olga Belejeff, sometimes spelled Belajeff) who captures the heart of the writer, so in each of the three tales he casts himself as the hero and the girl as his love interest.  The three wax figures are of Haroun al-Raschid (Emil Jannings), Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt), and Jack the Ripper (Werner Krauss).

Thought to be director Paul Leni's greatest film during his German period, The Waxworks is an obvious homage to 1920's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari., even casting the earlier film's two stars in The Waxworks.  (And with the addition of Emil Jannings, Leni had the three most important German actors of the time in his movie.)  The stylized sets and use of dark and light helped make Leni (who also was an acclaimed art director) one whose German expressionist influence can be seen in Russia's Eisenstein and in the works from Universal and RKO in the 1930s and 1940s.  Leni worked at Universal for several years and made the classic Cat and the Canary and the Charlie Chan mystery The Chinese Parrot (both 1927).  Leni died in 1924 from an untreated tooth infection at the age of 44.

The three episodes in The Waxworks range from the amusing, to the suspenseful, and to the horrifying Well, not that horrifying, perhaps).  While The Waxworks does not rise to the level of
Caligari or Nosferatu, it is a remarkable, entertaining film.


Monday, July 15, 2019


The Dovells.


Openers:  Four pairs of hands were pressed downwards on the mess-room table at Paradise
Street Police Station, Rotherhithe.  A uniformed sergeant, pale and gaunt behind a magnificent moustache, was exhaling evenly and audibly, as if at a medical inspection.  But his eyes were closed, in the proper manner of a medium in a trance.

-- Peter Lovesey, A Case of Spirits (1975)

Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Big Bad Wind Barry:  Missed us.  Nyah,nyah!  Didn't miss others.  Oh, shit!

Although the storm did not hit us, it did a number on the Gulf.  Please take a moment to think about those affected.  And if there are legitimate ways to contribute, please give that your consideration.  Danke.

Racist, Racist, Who's Got the Racist?:  We do.  And he's living in the White House.  His recent tweet suggesting four congresswomen of color go back to "the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came" is just the latest icing on Trump's bigoted and xenophobic cake.  I realize he is appealing to his base.  I also realize that he using his tweets (and his policies) to divide America.  What I don't understand is why so many people go along with this hatred.  There are a good many bad, ignorant, and hateful people in his base, but there are also a lot of decent people who have been gulled into supporting him, some of them with what they think are legitimate fears of being disenfranchised.  In the meantime the Republican  Party, emboldened by the president, continue their ongoing efforts to disenfranchise others.  There is a mania sweeping parts of the electorate that is making America suspiciously look like pre-Nazi Germany.

We have an administration built on a tower of lies, hatred, greed, and fear -- and it's heading us in a direction we should all be afraid of.

As comedian Bill Maher said (and I'm paraphrasing), "To all those Trumps supporters who are upset that I'm calling them stupid, I'll stop calling them stupid when they stop being stupid."

Turing:  The Bank of England has announced that its new 50-pound banknote will feature mathematician, computer pioneer, and World War II code-breaker Alan Turing.  Turing, a man of immense talent and intellect, was demonized after the war for his homosexuality.  He was convicted of gross indecency, stripped of his job, and chemically castrated.  He committed suicide in 1954 at age 41.  Britain's laws against homosexuality were overturned in 1967 and Queen Elizabeth issued a posthumous pardon to Turing in 2013.

The current 50-pound banknote carried the images of James Watt and Matthew Boulton, the developer and marketers of the steam engine.

Not Quite a New Bond:  Actress Lashana Lynch appears set to become the new 007 in the James Bond film franchise.  She will not play Bond, but will his replacement with the 007 designation after Bond's retirement in the upcoming film, the 25th in the series.  Daniel Craig, the current Bond, is expected to make a brief appearance in the movie.

Lynch is best known for her role as Maria Rambeau, the best friend of Carol Danvers in this year's film Captain Marvel.  She will be both the first woman and the first Black to take on the 007 mantle.

Can't wait to see it!

Paging the Late Bill Crider:  Yes, there are gators in the news (many of them in Florida, natch!) and Bill would have been proud to report them if he were still around.  So...

  • Clearwater, Florida, police responded to a report of a "suspicious subject hanging out in front to rooms 144 and 155" at the local Super 8 motel.  It was an alligator, evidently acting suspiciously, and police removed to a nearby lake.
  • Two alligators were removed from Rodney's Barber Kings shop in Eastpointe, Michigan.  The owner, whom I presume is Rodney, told police that he did not know he needed a special license to keep alligators, or even to keep alligators in his barber shop.  The gators are now happily settled in at an alligator sanctuary.
  • An alligator is on the loose at Humboldt Park Lagoon in Chicago.  although officials have not yet been able to catch it, it has been caught on camera.  The alligator is estimated to be 4 to 5 feet long.  Wisely, people are cautioned not to swim in the Lagoon until the gator is caught.
  • In the Osprey Cove neighborhood of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, a pair of wildlife trappers were called in when an alligator -- described as a beloved local resident -- was found with a soccer ball wedged between his jaws at a local retention pond.  "It almost looked like he wasn't alive at the time.  but then  I did see him moving so I know he was alive," the lead trapper said.  The gator then managed to pull him into the water -- the first time that had happened to him while on the job.  So I guess the gator really was alive.  The gator was caught and the soccer ball removed to the cheers of local residents.
  • Two albino alligators at a Florida wildlife park have successfully mated, the first known such instance on record.  The sexual capers of Snowflake (the female) and Blizzard (the male) have resulted in another first -- a clutch of albino alligator eggs.  Because of her albinism snowflake is blind, so park wildlife experts have removed the eggs to an incubator for their protection.
  • A 463-pound alligator tried to cross Interstate 10 in Tallahassee when it was struck by a semi-truck.  The highway was closed while rescuers moved the alligator.  Unfortunately its injuries were so sever that the gator had to be euthanized a few days late.
  • In Sarasota, Florida, a not-too-bright alligator got into a residential garage and managed to get itself wedged under a car -- nothing that jacking up the back of the car couldn't handle.  Police then wrestled the gator out of the garage and into a nearby body of water.
  • A five-foot alligator was found wandering in a Pittsburgh neighborhood.  Two other alligators were found loos in the city that month.  Strangely, the incidents do not appear to be related
  • And in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, an 8-feet alligator took a bite out of a sheriff's deputy's patrol car. Perhaps he thought it was a soccer ball.

Today's Poem:
Nomad Exquisite

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth
The big-finned palm
And the green vine angering for life,

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides
And gold sides of green sides,

And blessed mornings,
Meet for the eye of the young alligator,
And lightning colors
So, in me, comes flinging
Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.

-- Kenneth Patchen

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Country music singer and game show host Wink Martindale.


Leading off the inaugural issue of Lucky Comics from the small press Consolidated Magazines is Lucky Starr, cameraman for the Silver Motion Picture Studio.  After receiving disappointing news that the studio did not get a contract for war information films from the government, Lucky heads out for a routine assignment -- shooting a school football game.  On the way, Lucky's one good tire blows out.  He's feeling definitely unlucky when he hears gunshots coming from a nearby bank.  Grabbing his camera, he films a gang of blasting their way out of the bank.  The police, who arrive on the scene almost immediately, are mowed down by machine guns and the robbers make their escape in  their getaway car.  Still filming, Lucky hails a cab and follows them.  The robbers shoot at the cab, causing it to crash, and get away.  During the crash, Lucky's camera is hurled into some bushes.  Both Lucky and the cab driver are injured.  Fearful that they could be identified from Lucky's film, the gang kidnaps Lucky from the hospital to find where his camera is.  Can Lucky escape and bring the bad guys to justice?  Of course he can.  And in the end Lucky and his boss decide to become partners in a news reel business, setting Lucky up for further adventures, which may or may not have as many plot holes as this one.

"The Ring of Darius" takes us back two thousand years to ancient Rome.  Darius, a prince of Gaul, has been captured and sold into slavery.  He is bought by a wealthy Roman to drive in a chariot race.  Somehow (presumably because he has kept his hand hidden in his toga all along) no one had previously notice the large diamond ring on his right hand.  His new owner tries but cannot get the ring of Darius' finger.  The Roman's beautiful but heartless daughter covets the ring and arranges to have Darius slain for the ring.  When she has the ring, the diamond has turned to a vivid blood red.  She herself is killed for the ring while dead Darius pronounces from beyond that the ring is now the Diamond of Blood and that to each man who wears it shall bring death, setting up an on-going story for future issues.

Nomie and Hoiman are a sad-looking pair of a boy and his dog.  Despite a warning from an owl, they decide to explore a haunted house.  They, too, will return in future issues.

The cover for this issue features Bobbie, a beautiful blonde girl, fighting Japanese agents.  "Who is Bobbie?  Well, she might be the girl next door -- or she could be your sister -- anyone's sister!  Bobbie is all american girls rolled into one!  As we meet her now, she's busy doing her share to win the war and to keep peace on the home front..."   Sorry, no Japanese agents this time and nothing war-related, just a group of thugs determined to close the teen hangout Bobbie created.  Maybe next time...

In "Junior Minds the Baby," the Red Ravens are scheduled to play the Goosenibble gang on their own turf, but Junior (the star pitcher) cannot go because he has to watch his baby sister while Mom cleans the house.  Has anyone ever had such bad luck?  Luckily Dad saves the day but the game -- as with any game with the Goosenibble gang -- ends in a melee.   The story itself ends on a positive note:  "Listen kids -- most dads are like that -- they're just 'regular fellers' if you give them a chance to be.."

Professor Grund is a bad 'un.  He's working for the Nazis and has developed "Liquid X," an extremely caustic substance capable of melting the city of London!  Luckily, British intelligence is on the case and we end up with a tale of the biter bit.  Just as well, nobody reading this comic book really wanted to see London melted "like butter."

Not a truly great comic book, but an interesting one with some good artwork by Harry Sahle, Harold De Lay, H. C. Kiefer, Jack Warren (as "Alonzo"), and Leonard Starr.


Thursday, July 11, 2019


A Requiem for Astounding by Alva Rogers (1964)

Just about everything you need to know about this book can be viewed in the brief article about the author in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:  "Alva Rogers (1923-1982)  US author and artist, nicknamed "Red" for the colour of his hair and politics.  Long involved in sf Fandom, he drew the covers for a number of 1940s Fanzines as well as for some of the (UK) American Fiction series.  His Requiem for Astounding (1964), though nostalgic and largely critical, provides a valuable history, rich in story synopses, of Astounding Science-Fiction before the name change to Analog, which it convincingly deplores."  (Malcolm J. Edwards/John Clute)

Well, I think I'll add just a bit more to that.

In 1929, William Clayton, publisher of a number of pulp magazines, decided for technical reasons that he could add a few magazines to his stable at a fairly low cost.  He had in mind a historical adventure pulp.  Harry Bates, one of his ablest editors, was called in to discuss the plan.  Bates left the meeting, mulled it over, and decided that it would be nest to go with a science fiction  magazine since, with the exception of Amazing Stories and two newly launched Gernsback magazines, Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories, there was no competition in the field.  And all three of those magazines had a stodgy, almost clinical, feel to them, emphasizing science and technology with a variety of footnotes and such.  Bates wanted a different magazine -- an adventure magazine -- filled with thrills instead of technical data.   Clayton bought into the idea and in December 1929,  Astounding Stories of Super-Science (dated January 1930) hit the stands.  The magazine's title changed a few times over the next three decades, but always included the word Astounding, and then -- thirty years to the month -- then editor John W. Campbell changed the title to Analog.

This book is a highly personal paean to those first thirty years.

Starting the book off are three pieces by the past and then-current editors of the magazine:  Harry Bates (1930 to 1933), F. Orlin Tremaine (1933 to 1937), and John W. Campbell, Jr. (1937 to his death in 1971).  The pieces by Bates and Campbell were written specifically for this book; Tremaine died in 1956 and is represented by a previously published piece.  The Bates tenure ended when Clayton's publications went bankrupt and Astounding appeared dead until it was revived six months later by its new owner, Street and Smith with Tremaine in charge.  In 1937, Tremaine was promoted to editorial director of a number of Street and Smith magazines and appointed Campbell as the new editor of Astounding -- a risky move as Campbell was a young and highly popular writer with no editorial experience.

The book itself is a sometimes leisurely, sometimes hurried, almost issue-by-issue trek through the magazine from inception to change of title away from Astounding.

A Requiem for Astounding was never meant to be a critical look.  It began as a fan project, continued as a fan project, and was published as a fan project by the fannish publishing house
Advent, run by Ed Wood (not the cashmere, Hollywood Ed wood!) and Jack Chalker.  (I bought my copy from Ed Wood himself at a SF convention in the early 70s.)  It is a personal look at thirty years of publishing wonder, of the stories and artwork that worked for Alva Rogers and the stories that didn't.  The author's own personal sense-of-wonder were in the mid-Thirties, during the Tremaine reign, although due credit is given to Campbell a mature new life to the field.  The names covered will give each reader their own sense of frisson depending on their own personal experience with both the field and the magazine itself:  Victor Rousseau, Ray Cummings, Murrary Leinster, Anthony Gilmore, E. E. Smith, Nat Schachner, Charles W. Diffin, S. P. Meek, Jack Williamson, C. L. Moore, Raymond Z. Gallun, Donald Wandrei, Stanley G. Weinbaum, H. P. Lovecraft, John W. Campbell/Don A. Stuart, L. Sprague de Camp, Lester del Rey, Clifford D. Simak, L. Ron Hubbard, Robert A, Heinlein, A. E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, Henry Kuttner, George O. Smith, Raymond F. Jones, Hal Clement, Randall Garrett, Robert Silverberg, Poulanderson, James Blish, Gordon R. Dickson, and so many more.  Today's reader may scratch his or her respective head over some of these names, but in their time each provided fully entertaining, mind-stretching fiction (some, admittedly clunkier than others).

The changing physical appearance of Astounding -- its size, its edging, its covers and their use of color, its letterhead, its interior illustrations, its various departments -- is also covered and is designed to bring back a sense of nostalgia.

Fan boy that he was, Rogers does not hesitate to give us his opinion on which story knocked him out of his seat, which story worked for him and which didn't.  This may be seen as the book's greatest weakness -- he glosses over some stories which maybe he shouldn't have and gives higher praise to tales that might not actually deserve it.  But this is a book of personal opinion and this perceived weakness is also a strength.

One thing that I did find grating, however, was the author's frequent use of the word excellent.  A story is either excellent or it is not.  To call a story excellent and then to point out its faults tells me that the author, with his fannish enthusiasm, just does not know what excellent really means.

When discussing the year 1950, Rogers had to cover L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, the philosophy (?) that eventually morphed in Scientology.  Campbell had given Dianetics a big editorial push and printed a lo-o-ong (16,000 words) article about it which caused an uproar (both fer and agin) among Astounding readers.  Rogers tries to tread a fine line here, using words like quack in quotation marks, but he does let us know his opinion when  he calls Scientology "mumbo jumbo."

The last decade of Astounding is covered in one rushed chapter, as Rogers is more interested in the Golden Age of the magazine and what led up to it.  Nonetheless, he does cover the major stories, authors, and artists of the 50s.

The book is heavily illustrated with photos -- all black and white -- of covers and interior illustrations.  Sadly, there are no photos of authors or people involved.

I found the entire book fascinating but, then, I'm a fanboy myself.


Willow, the Amazing Cat Who Stayed Over, is fourteen years old today.  She is celebrating her big day by lying like a lump and sleeping -- two things she does very well.

In her much younger days ar Christina's house, she spent much of her time hiding behind the ceiling tiles in the basement, although she would deign to come out and to sleep in Erin's bed with her.  When Walt was working late at night, she would often appear to keep him company.  Shy she may have been, but she was always a sweet cat.

A few years ago, she started to becoming stressed.  Christina's house ha always been active, what with dogs, cats, and various reptiles, not to mention a very active Jack (far more active than Mark and Erin ever were).  She was nervous and unhappy and perhaps just a little bit cranky with age.  She seemed to forget what a litter box was used for.  Christina thought a quieter environment might help her.  So Willow came to visit us.  And stayed.

She's very happy here.  Not stressed at all -- not even when we have to dog-sit Jessie's pugs for the occasional weekend.  She is not a lap cat, but loves to snuggle up against either Kitty or me and often rests on the top of the sofa just behind Kitty's head.  Willow is not a fierce cat but is semi-protective.  When the occasional frog enters the house, she follows it (at a reasonable distance) to be sure the little amphibian does not make away with the family silver or whatever.  She guards the house from the front window whenever a neighboring cat happens to pass by.  Exercise and activity are anathema to her.  She is somewhat fat.

Her favorite (and only hobby) is eating.  Well, that and throwing up what she's just eaten.  We now feed her very little at a time, probably fifteen to twenty times a day.  She lets us know she wants more by sitting by her bowl and glaring at us.  In cases of dire emergency, She comes up and yowls in our faces.

Although she boards at our house, she is still Christina's cat.  Christina and Erin give her her due attention whenever they are over.  Christina is happy that Willow is happy here.  We are happy that Willow is happy here.  She has become a major (and good) part of our lives.

 Because Willow is a cat I often call be "Cat."  She doesn't mind; she just ignores me because she is  cat.

So, happy birthday to a lump of fur who has become so much more to us!


Today is the 161st anniversary of the opening of Waterloo railway station in London, which gives me an excuse to present this Stonewall (yes, that was his real name) Jackson classic.


If you're looking for spine-tingling, gooseflesh-rising, pure-dee horror, you're in the wrong place.  This haunted house is a pretty tame place, coming from a pretty tame radio show.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet began on October 8, 1944 on CBS radio, moving to NBC radio oin October 1948, then back to CBS in April 1949, before making its final move to ABC radio (formerly the NBC Blue Network later that year where it remained until 1954.  ABC had an option to transfer the show to television, which it did in 1952; the television show ran concurrently with the radio show for the next year and a half.  (Ozzie Nelson managed to attain a ten-year television contract which would continue to pay him even if the show was cancelled before the ten year lifetime of the contract.  At the ten-year mark, the show became the longest scripted television series; it finally closes in 1966.  Nelson also had a strong hand in the show's production and his insistence on perfection had much to do with the show's longevity.)

Real-life sons David and Ricky were not added to the show until 1949; Nelson felt they were too young before that.  In this episode David was played by Tommy Bernard, who had replaced Joel Davis three years earlier.  Ricky was played by Henry Blair.

Let's journey back more than 70 years to see how things are doing in the make-believe cozy town of Warfield:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Since I missed posting a Music from the Past yesterday, here's tow today to make up for it.

First, a gyrating Elvis with one of his first big hits:

Then, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton with the original:


What makes a great television show?

There are a lot of things that don't make for great television, as exciting and entertaining those things may be:

  • violence
  • sexism
  • xenophobia
  • Fox news
  • talking/shouting heads
  • CGI
  • inane plots
  • inane people
  • contests designed to put people down
  • nekkid ladies and nekkid men
  • exploitation
  • most sports -- at least most sports commentators
  • reality television
  • religious and political blathering -- at least blathering designed to "show" they're right and you're wrong
  • offensive language
  • commercials
  • almost every scripted show
  • almost every unscripted show
  • ratings-oriented television
  • parental guidance ratings
  • Fox news
  • Judge Jeanine and Sean Hannity
  • and Fox news
And the list goes on.

If you want great television, you really can't go wrong with Sunrise Earth (2004-2011, although the 64 episodes were filmed between 2004-2008).  

What's it about, you ask?  Exactly what the title says.  Each show is a one-hour film of the sunrise in different parts of the world, shot from multiple perspectives in real-time.  Locations include Machu Picchu, Scandinavia, Turkey, The Everglades, Amgkor Wat, Ireland, the Great Barrier Reef, Stonehenge, and Yellowstone, among others.  The shows often concentrate on areas where animals thrive -- moose, alligators, penguins, polar bears, seal pups, et cetera.

There is no voice-over.  There is no background music.  Just ambient sound.  Occasional captions give the time, location, and events being photographed.

Sunrise Earth is your chance to relax, to center yourself, to appreciate the wonder and beauty all around us.

Sunrise Earth may well be the best television program ever.

Many episodes are available on Youtube.  Here's just one example, "Cloudforest Waterfall" (La Paz River, Vara Bianca, Costa Rica).  


Monday, July 8, 2019


Openers:  You wonder why I limp, effendi?  You are too considerate to ask, of course, but I, whom Allah, in his infinite goodness and mercy, has already permitted two years beyond man's allotted three score and ten, have learned to read the thoughts of people by their expressions.  Serving as a dragoman sharpens the wits.

-- "The Man Who Limped" by Otis Adelbert Kline (Oriental Stories, October-November 1930)

The Header to the Above Story:  "The strange and disagreeable adventure of Hamed the Attar and how he overcame his perverse hatred of women"

Who can resist that story now?

  • Edward S. Aarons, Assignment Budapest.  A Sam Durrell spy-guy adventure.  His mission this time:  "Find Ilona before the secret police torture and violate her beautiful body."  Nice work if you can find it.
  • Peter Brandvold, Blood at Sundown.  A Lou Prophet, Bounty Hunter western.  "Lou Prophet and the deadly Louisa Bonaventure have torn a bloody swath across Dakota territory in search of the Griff Hatchley gang.  When they finally catch up to them, an epic blizzard threatens to turn the Dakota prairie into a frozen hell.  To bag their prey before the storm hits, Prophet and Louisa split up -- and take separate paths towards damnation.  Prophet's course takes him into a town packed to the gills with the deadliest outlaws that roamed the frontier, while Louisa gets caught in Sundown, a one-horse town where an hatchet-wielding maniac threatens to paint Main Street red.  When spring's thaw comes, they'll find a city of corpses beneath the snow."  Mean Pete always packs his tales with plenty of action and thrills.
  • John Creasey, The Smog.  A Dr. Palfrey adventure.  "No one knew what happened.  It was a soft, warm day like any other in an English village.  The children were at school, the men at work, the sun high and clear in the sky.  No one noticed the first wisp of yellowish fog spewing out of the ground...just as none of the busy citizens of a thriving American city speeding along in their cars noticed it...until it was too late."  Palfrey has saved the world a zillion times from a zillion different disasters; it's always fun to be along with him when he does it.
  • Lester del Rey, Pstalemate.  Del Rey's last major science fiction novel.  "A young man finds he has extraordinary talents.  then he discovers others have them, too -- though few as powerful as his.  And then comes an appalling discovery:  he finds that if he cannot master these psi powers he will certainly go mad.  And no one has ever mastered them."  
  • Crawford Kilian, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy.  A non-fiction how-to.   Kilian broke into science fiction with a short story published as a chapbook in 1968.  He wrote eleven novels and five non-fiction works from 1978 to 1995 and published this book in 1998.  since the he published two additional how-to books on writing.  A retired college professor, he had published hundreds of articles on different subjects.  My copy is the second edition and was supposed to have come with a CR-ROM but since I picked it up at a thrift shop, the CD-ROM was missing.  Oh, well.
  • Richard Laymon, No Sanctuary.  Horror novel.  "Rick would do anything for his girlfriend, Bert.  He'd even spend his vacation in the wilderness with her, hiking the trails around Fern Lake, even though it's the last place on Earth he wants to be.  But Rick would follow Beth to hell and back -- which is just what he's about to do."  The late, lamented Richard Laymon could always provide chills.
  • Chad Oliver, The Shores of a Distant Sea.  SF novel.  'The sun dropped low in the East African sky as the rust-colored dust formed an ageless patina, covering the landscape of the dead.  As he had  many times before, Royce Crawford watched the lions stalk onto the valley floor.  Suddenly, Royce heard something unusual -- a faint, bizarre whistling, otherworldly, out of time and place.  On the horizon, an arc of white appeared and curved downward toward the earth.  The predators scattered.  Then there was nothing.  The fading sun lost its warmth.  Whatever it was, Royce knew, had come down near the settlement.  As he ran toward his jeep one thought raced through his mind:  AN UNKNOWN EVIL FORCE HELD THE LIVING IN A DEATH GRIP."  A book by Oliver is always a treat.
  • Howard Rigsby, The Tulip Tree.  Suspense novel, published in paperback in the Sixties as a "Gothic" -- the kind with a lovely woman running from a dark mansion on the cover.  "...a big house mellowed by age with a superstitious woman, an inquisitive husband, a grotesque native have a very interesting story of suspense, evil demons, haunted spirits...masterfully written." -- Pittsburgh Press  (I'm always leery of cover blurbs with a lot of ellipses.)
  • Raina Telgermeier, Smile.  YA graphic novel, based on Telermeier's childhood experiences after one front tooth was knocked out and the other driven into her gum from an accident when she was eleven.  Told with warmth, wit, and awareness, the story covers four years, taking the author through some of the most awkward ages a child can experience.  Sounds like a minor work, but Telgermeier's magic shines through, making this a remarkable and eventually uplifting story.  I am quickly becoming a big fan of Raina Telgermeier.
  • J. N. Williamson, Bloodlines.  Horror novel.  "Marshall Madison disappeared the night his wife committed suicide.  She had seen the horrible things Madison had done to their con, Thad, and couldn't deal with the knowledge that their daughter, Caroline, would be next.  Caroline was taken in by a kind, hardworking family, and Thad ran off to live by his wits on the streets of New York.  But Madison means to make good on his promise to come for his children.  As he gets closer and closer, the trail of bodies in his wake gets longer and longer.  No one will keep him from his flesh and blood."

Soapy Smith:  Today marks the 121st anniversary of the death of Soapy Smith, whose reputation as a "Robin Hood" of crime conceals the true nature of this criminal.  Born to a well-to-do Georgia family in 1860, the end of the Civil War meant the end of the Smith family's fortune.  The family moved to Texas where 1876, where young Jefferson Randolph Smith witnessed the shooting of outlaw Sam Bass and where he started his career as a con man.  Smith's specialty was the fast con -- three-card monte and similar rigged games of chance.  Smith eventually ran three different criminal empires, first in Denver, then in the booming town of Creede, Colorado, and finally in the gold rush town of Sagway (or Saguay), Alaska.  Saloons, gambling dens, high end cons, and political corruption and bribery helped pave the way for his hold on each of the three communities.  He operated openly and -- thanks to well circulated graft -- without much hindrance.  Smith also cemented his reputation among the populace with his sparing use of charity -- paying for church buildings, helping the poor, and paying for the burial of "unfortunate" prostitutes, for example.

He got the name Soapy through one of his most famous early cons.  He would set up a stand to sell soap.  In full view of his audience he wold take money (mainly dollars bills but sometimes a hundred dollar bill), wrap it around the soap, then place the soap wrapper over the whole shebang.  The audience then thought they saw him mix the moneyed soap with ordinary bars.  This slight of hand trick was augmented by shills in the crowd who would "discover" a dollar bill in a bar they had just "bought."  The name Soapy followed him the rest of his life.

Following his death in a shootout with a vigilante committee determined to recover gold that smith had fleeced from a new visitor to Sagway, Smith's legend grew as a Robin Hood-type figure, the antihero who is an outlaw because of circumstances and is really a friend of the down-trodden.  There are annual celebrations of Smith in both Alaska and Hollywood and there is a Soapy Smith preservation Trust.  Smith has been portrayed many times on television and in films, almost always as a likable, well-meaning con man -- his reputation as a man quick to anger and quick to violence forgotten.

Unko:  Poop is a big thing in Japan.  The country that gave us Hello Kitty now has a popular museum dedicated to poop.  The museum opened in March and attracted 100,000 visitors in its first month.  The link gives you the poop lowdown on what's happening at the museum.

Mama D's Diner:  A restaurant in North Little Rock has added a special item for couples to its menu.  The "My girlfriend's not hungry" option adds extra french fries and a choice of two extra chicken wings or three fried cheese sticks to your entree -- all for just $4.95.  Somewhere in Arkansas there is a marketing genius.

Today's Poem:
Summer Morn in New Hampshire

Yesterday it poured, and all night long
I could not sleep; the rain unceasing beat
Upon the shingled roof like a weird song,
Upon the grass like running children's feet.
And down the mountains by the dark cloud kissed,
Like a strange shape in a filmy veiling dressed,
Slid slowly, silently, the wraith-like mist,
And nestled soft against the earth's wet breast.

But lo, there was a miracle at dawn!
The still air stirred at touch of faint breeze,
The sun a sheet of gold bequeathed the lawn,
The songsters twittered in the rustling trees,
And all things were transfigured in the day,
But me whom radiant beauty could not move;
For you, more wonderful, were far away,
And I was blind with hunger for your love.

-- Claude McKay