Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, September 30, 2019


"I've got this song I'm trying to write buy I can't come up with a good rhyme for 'small town'."
"Um, how about using 'small town'?"
"Great idea!  I wonder how many times I can away with it in the song?"
"There are no limits, my friend."

Here's John Mellencamp, a.k.a. John Cougar, a.k.a. John Cougar Mellencamp, a.k.a. John Melencamp again:


Openers:  I had no way of knowing how long they'd kept me in that small, square basement room.  The walls, like the floor, were constructed of solid cement blocks, with no window.  The metal door didn't have an opening in it either.  And whenever it was opened briefly all I could see was the artificial light of the corridor outside.  The only light in the room was from the gooseneck lamp on the bare table, the neck twisted so the stong, naked bulb in the socket spotlighted me.

-- Murder in Room 13 by "Albert Conway" (Martin H. Albert) (1958)

Albert was a versatile and highly readable paperback writer of the 50s and 60s who graduated to hardcover thrillers in the mid-70s.  Most of his work was in the mystery and western genres and in film novelizations almost all of it good.  In addition to his "Albert [or 'Al'] Conroy" pseudonumn, Albert also wrote as Nick Quarry, Ian MacAlister, Anthony Rome, J. D. Christilian, and Mike Barone.  His series characters include expatriate Pete Sawyer, the Mafia fighter Soldato, Miami P.I. Tony Rome, P.I. Jake Barrow, and western hero Clayburn.  Albert's first hardcover thriller, The Gargoyle Conspiracy, was nominated for an Edgar for Best Mystery Novel in 1976.  A number of his books were filmed:  The Law and Jake Wade, Renegade Posse (as Bullet for a Badman), Apache Rising (as Duel at Diablo), The Bounty Killer (as The Ugly Ones), The Man in Black (as Rouogh Night in Jericho), Miami Mayhem (as Tony Rome), Lady in Cement, The Don Is Dead, Nice Guys Finish Dead (as A corps et a cri), and Murder in Room 13 (as Adieu Marin).  If there is any justice in this world, Martin H. Albert should be due to be rediscovered by a major reprint publ;isher soon.  All of his novels are highly recommended.  As for his film novelizations, that's another story.  Albert wrote 23 paperback novelizations from 1958 to to 1987, many of them based on romantic comedies of the Rock Hudson/Doris Day type; although all were written for a quick buck, some are very readable and some are very not -- you pay your money and you take your choice.


  • The Detection Club, Crime on the Coast & No Flowers by Request.  Two round-robin novellas written by member's of England's The Detection Club in 1953 and 1954 and published in book form in 1984.  "Crime on the Coast" joins the talents of John Dickson Carr, Valerie White, Laurence Meynell, John Fleming, Michael Cronin, and Elizabeth Ferrars in a seaside resort mystery.  "No Flowers by Request" is a country house murder among a family of eccentrics as imagined by Dorothy L. Sayers, E. C. R. Lorac, Gladys Mitchell, Anthony Gilbert and Christianna Brand.  This is one of least five such books written by members of the Detection Club in the first 25 years of the club's existence.  A number of collections and one other round-robin novel have been published since.
  • David M. Earle, All Man!  Hemingway, 1950s Men's Magazines and the Masculine Persona.  "[Earle] explore the popular image of of Ernest Hemingway in order to consider the dynamics of both literary celebrity and miscentury masculinity.  Profusely illustrated with magazine covers, article blurbs, and advertisements in full color, All Man! considers the role that visually played in the construction of Hemingway's reputation, as well as conveys a lurid and largely overlooked genre of popular publishing."  This book, published by Kent State University Press, expands on Earle's dissertation.  Turns out that the author was teaching at a local Pensacola university at the time the book was published; I don't know if he's still there.

The Good:   

The Bad:  

And the Ugly:  White House advisor and man voted most likely to lead a death cult Stephen Miller tries unsuccessfully to defend the president and to label the Ukraine whistleblower as a deep state operative.  It did not go well for Miller.  Trump defenders are having a hard time defending the president as poll numbers begin to show the majority of Americans are in favor of impeachment procedings.  Watch the sideshow here:

People Who Are Not Like Us Dept.:  In January 2016 Beyonce filed an application to trademark the name of her daughter Blue Ivy.  Blue Ivy, she reportedly argued, is a cultural icon.  The application is being opposed by Blue Ivy, a Boston wedding planning service; Beyonce has called that Blue Ivy's opposition as "frivolous."  Pot, kettle, anyone?

Hemingway's Sex Novel:  That's what his classic novel A Farewell to Arms was called when it first came out.  The book was rigidly banned by schools and libraries.  A list of banned books from the past is laughable, just as list of today's banned and/or challenged books will be laughable to future readers.  I like Harlan Ellison's advice to students who have been told they could not read a certain book because it has been banned:  Run, don't walk, and find the book and read it.

What's your favorite banned book?  Catcher in the RyeHuckleberry FinnThe Satanic VersesThe BibleThe Call of the Wild?  One of the Harry Potter books?  Or some other so-called subversive book that happens to sing to you?

Today's Poem:
A Hero

He was so foolish, the poor lad,
He made superior people smile
Who knew not of the wings he had
Budding and growing all the while;
Nor that the laurel wreath was made
Already for his curly head.

Silly and childish in his ways;
They said, "His future comes to naught."
His future!  In the dreadful days
When in a toil his feet were caught
He hacked his way to glory bright
Before his day went down in night.

He fretted wiser folk -- small blame!
Such futile, feeble brains were his.
Now we doff hats to hear his name,
Ask pardon where his spirit is,
Because we never guessed him for
A hero in the disguise he wore.

It matters little how we live
So long as we may greatly die.
Fashioned for great things, O forgive!
Our dullness in the days done by!
Now glory wraps you like a cloak
From us, and all such common folk.

-- Katherine Tynan

Sunday, September 29, 2019


An intersting compilation of predictions from the 1920s from British Pathe.  The War to End All Wars was over and the remaining years of the 20th century looked bright with peace and posterity.  (If they only knew...)

Enjoy this   short trip to Hopeful Land.


The Fisk Jubilee Singers, an acapella group from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, began performing in 1871 singing "slave songs" -- all but two of the original members were former slaves.  The group continues to this day.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


A little rockabilly from Roy Hall.

EH! #5 (JULY 1954)

 Once upon a time there was a comic book called MAD and upon that particular time it was pretty funny and popular and made money.  So then upon that time a lot of publishers wanted to get in on the action and, Lo! there was a plethora of humor comic books and magazines and God looked down upon them and said, "Eh!"  (This was in the days when the word "meh" had not been invented.)

Some of MAD's imitators were not too bad, a very few were good, and a lot of them were just scraping the bottom of the barrel.  Down there close to the barrel's bottom was Eh!, Charleton Comics attempt to join the party.  To be fair, Eh!'s idea of satire and humor was at a fourth-grade level, which could have been their target audience.  It's main news stand competitor, however, had a more sophisticated (that's not really the right word, but you know what I mean) approach to satire -- which is why MAD lasted until this year and Eh! lies forgotten in the dust of yesteryear.

So let's tke a look at Eh! #5, shall we?

In a riff on This Is Your Life, the show's host is desperate to find a subject for that week's show.  With no else to choose from, he eventually settles on Crazy Mike Schultz, a mass murderer who had escaped from Death Row.  The show ends with Crazy Mike in the electric chair.  Funny, huh?

An advertising company's researcher has come up with a new product by mixing dirt with earth -- DIRTH!  The demand for Dirth goes sky high and unscrupulous business men try to corner the market on the ingredients.

The Rhineghoul Pretzel Company decides to do something different for their Miss Rhineghoul 1954 beauty contest -- the winner will be the ugliest girl in the country!  The concept was unfunny back then and even more so in today's Me Too era.

An ad for a book titled How to Avoid the Draft comes up with such hints as a) enlist and b) close the window.

As you may tell, there's little in this issue I found worthwhile, from the strained "humor" to the second-rate artwork.  Even the little lagniappes placed throughout the comic book (such as the word "Milk" written on a cow's udder) fall flat.  On the plus (?) side, some of the girls are drawn with healthy mammaries.

Am I being too harsh?  Judge for yourself:

Friday, September 27, 2019


Grandson Jack is a big Legends of Tomorrow fan and now this is his favorite song since it has been featured on the show more than once.  The song has brought one character back from an untimely death and has lulled a rampaging minotaur.  That's one powerful song!  Forgive me for not lining to James Taylor.


First, the resurrection:

Then, the minotaur:


The Diploids by Katherine MacLean (1963)

Science fiction author Katherine MacLean died September 1 at age 94.  She began writing in the late 1940s and her first published story appeared in the October 1949 issue of John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction.  It was an earlier story submitted to Campbell, however, that raised editorial eyebrows.  When "Incommunicado" was submitted (and sold) in 1947, Campbell's assistant Cheyney Stanton was convinced that Katherine MacLean was a pseudonym for a trained engineer.  Campbell was soon convinced that Katherine's father, an engineer and inventor, was the true author of the story and tried to get him to admit it.  When that failed, he returned the story, suggesting a few edits, not knowing if he would ever see the story again .  Eventually the story was published in the June 1950 issue of Astounding, receiving the cover illustration.

Although Campbell probably had no bias against female authors of science fiction and was merely looking for the best possible story (best, according to his viewpoint) for the magazine, Katherine MacLean became a prime example of a woman trying to make it in a male-dominated environment.  Her work never came off as "woman's fiction," "feminine," or "girly."  She told a story and she told it well.  Although her interests lay in the "soft" sciences, her work successfully merged the social sciences with the hard science that was so popular in the field then (and now).  MacLean was a major influence on the field as it moved onto newer territory in the 1960s.  And she did not try to hide her sex through a pseudonym or through initials.

MacLean worked as a lab techician at a food science company in the late Forties while working on her bachelor's degree in psychology (she would eventually go on for her masters in psychology).  A promotion to lab manager and, later, her work as a hospital technician severely cut into her writing and her output seriously declined beginning in the mid-Fifties.  Always interested in various aspects of psychology, she was one of several SF authors to be swept up in the L. Ron Hubbard Dianetics craze in the 1950s -- which could easily have been another factor in the diminishing of her output (quantity-wise, not quality-wise). When her first collection, The Diploids, appeared, she was compared to Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, Rod Serling, and Isaac Asimov.  MacLean's writing has been lauded by such authors and editors as Damon Knight, Brian Aldiss, and Theodore Sturgeon.

Samuel R. Delany started a campaign to have her named a SF Grand Master.  Katherine MacLean did become a Grand Master Emeritus via the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2003.  She has received the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award by the Cordwainer Smith Foundation in 2001.    Her story "The Missing Man" won a Nebula Award in 1971.  Although her output was small -- four novels (including an expansion of "The Missing Man" and one fix-up) and less than fifty stories.  Her work has been nominated for many awards and has been reprinted in major anthologies.  The majority of her stories appeared in either Astounding or Galaxy.

MacLean was married three times:  to Charles Dye, with whom she collaborated in a number of stories, to SF/fantasy writer David  Mason, and to Carl West, with whom she wrote her last novel.

The Diploids contains eight stories from early in MacLean's career and is a great exemplar of the power and versatility of MacLean's talent.

  • "The Diploids" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1953; a 1973 reprint of the collection titles the story "The Diploids -- Die, Freak" and mysteriously added the title "Six Fingers" to its copyright page)  In the not too distant future, patent attorney Paul Breden has a dissatified client trying to kill him, calling him a "diploid" his term for something not human.  Paul's physical make-up is certainly unusual:  he has six fingers on each hand and a number of other physical anomolies, including a third eye at the back of his head (!).  Paul begins to wonder if he is an alien from Mars or somewhere else; his close friend thinks he might be a survivor of a race of near-humans from the long ago past.  The truth is stranger -- and more startling -- than either of those options.
  • "Defense Mechanism" (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1949; reprinted in Groff Conklin's Big Book of Science Fiction, in Judith Merril's Beyond the Bariers of Time and Space, in Damon Knight, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph Olander's First Voyages, in Isaac Asimov and Martin h. Greenberg's The Great Science Fiction Stories, Volume 11 (1949), and in Martin H. Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh, and Jenny-Lynn Waugh's 100 Science Fiction Stories)  MacLean's first published story.  A clever tale of hidden telepathic talents.
  • "The Pyramid in the Desert" (originally "And Be Merry..." from Astounding Science Fiction, February 1950; reprinted in Groff Conklin's Omnibus of Science Fiction, in Damon Knight's Towards Infinity, and in Carol Pohl and Frederik Pohl's Science Fiction:  The Great Years, Volume II.)  A lab scientist uses a dangerous rejuvenation method to experiment on herself and succeeds in becoming immortal.  But now she is almost crippled  by the thought of accidental death and must now reconcile her fear.  In the story, MacLean posits a theory on the effects of radiation on the body that has later proven to be correct.
  • "The Snowball Effect"  (Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1952: reprinted in H. L. Gold's Second Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction, Brian W. Aldiss' Penguin Science Fiction, Damon Knight's Science Fiction Inventions, George Hay's The Edward De Bono Science Fiction Collection, Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison's Decade: The 1950s, Isaac Asimov and J. O. Jeppson's Laughing Space, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh's Science Fiction A to Z, Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg's The Great SF Stories #14 (1952), Kathryn Cramer and David G. Hartwell's The Ascent of Wonder, Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer's The Big Book of Science Fiction, and Hank Davis' If This Goes On...)  A sociology professer experiment on a small town sewing circle to prove his theories on the dynamic growth of organizations.  He succeeds far more than he had expected.  This story was adapted for the X Minus One radio program.
  • "Incommunicado" (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1950; reprinted Groff Conklin's Six Great Short Novels of Science Fiction and in 1985's Analog:  The Best of Science Fiction)  Space station workers begin to develop a rapport with the station's computer.  Mixing a musical theme with cybertechnology, MacLean created an emotional story that predicted much of the development of personal computers -- an astounding (forgive the pun) exercise in scientific reasoning.
  • "Feedback" (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1951; reprinted in Groff Conklin's Crossroads in Time and in Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph Olander's Science Fiction of the Fifties)  In an ever-narrowing world of conformity, talking of individuality is considered subversive.
  • "Games" (Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1953; reprinted in Groff Conklin's Operation Future, in Roger Elwwod and Vic Ghidalia's Young Demons, and in Vonda N. McIntyre's Nebula Awards Showcase 2004)  Make-believe becomes real as a boy becomes characters in his fantasy world.
  • "Pictures Don't Lie" (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1951; reprinted in Groff Conklin's Invaders of Earth, in Edmund Crispin's Best SF, in G. H. Doherty's Aspects of Science Fiction, in Robert Silverberg's Invaders from Space, in Richard Lunn's Space Ships & Gumshoes, in Thomas E. Sanders' Speculations, in Tom Boardman, Jr.'s Science Fiction, in Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg's The Great Science Fiction Stories #13 (1951), in Peter Crowther's Tales in Space, in Garyn G. Roberts' The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and in Hank Davis' Worst Contact)  An alien ship makes radio contact before landing on Earth.  the story has been adapted for radio, television, and an EC comic book.
This collection should have cemented Katherine MacLean forever as one of the very greats in the field.  Although not completely forgotten, her work has been unfairly relegated to minor status, perhaps in part due to her sporadic output and perhaps in part that her shyness did  not allow her a presence among the active science fiction fans of her day.  Just as her Nebula award-winning story was titled "The Missing Man," MacLean's standing in the science fiction pantheon should be titled "The Missing Woman."

A retrospective of her work is sadly overdue.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


Legendary country and western singer Marty Robbins was born 94 years ago on this date.  In a career that spanned almost four decades, Robbins had a huge impact on both country-western and pop music.

"A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation"

"El Paso"

"Singing the Blues"

"She Was Only Seventeen"

"Eighteen Yellow Roses"

"Knee Deep in the Blues"

"Don't Worry"

"Blue Spanish Eyes"

"Am I That Easy to Forget"

"Old Red"

"Big Iron"

"Roly Poly"


"South of the Border"

...and many more


"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is not tarnished nor afraid."  That man, of course, is Philip Marlowe.  Here, as played by Gerald Mohr, he must unravel the mystery of the orange dog.

Marlowe began on radio on NBC with the title role going to van Heflin.  In 1948 it moved to CBS with Gerald Mohr taking over the character for all but one of its 114 episodes (for that one episode william Conrad filled in).



When I was in college I was fortunate to have as one of my teachers Robert Manley, a Nebraska historian, folk singer, and popularizer of "Beautiful Nebraska," the state song.  To this day, I find myself occasionally humming that song.  That's probably why I liked this western swing so much when I first heard it.  Here's Ole Rasmussen & His Nebraska Cornhuskers.


My brother was sitting in traffic the other day.  That's probably why he got run over.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


In 1941, Elton Britt was the first to record this song.


James M. Barrie's classic children's play about the boy who wouldn't grow up was made ibnto a silent film in 1924 and distributed by Paramount Pictures.  Since this was a time that frw thought movies were worth preserving, full-length copies of Peter Pan were thought lost until a well-preserved copy was found in a vault at Eastman School of Music.  Later, another copy -- this time in 16mm -- was dicovered in the Disney vaults; evidently Disney acquired it when they got the rights to the story in 1938.  A restored copy combining the two films was made in 1994.  New music was commissioned for the film and it made its premiere at the 1996 Pordenone Silent Film Festival.  In 2000, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for presevation in the National Film Registry.

Peter is played by 17-yer-old Betty Bronson, who was personally selected for the role by J. M. Barrie (beating out Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford for the part).  The role of Wendy went to Mary Brian, who was discovered when she was 16 and had entered a Long Beach Beauty Pageant; one of the judges was movie star Esther Ralston, who played Wendy's mother in the film.  (She did not win the beauty contest but instead was interviewed for her role in Peter Pan by director Herbert Brenon.)  Called "The Sweetest Gal in Pictures," Mary was one of the WAMPUS Baby Stras of 1926, along with Mary Astor, Joan Crawford, Delores del Rio, Janet Gaynor, and Faye Wray.

For the villainous side of the film, 6' 4" Scottish actor Ernest Torrence played Captain Hook.  He parlayed a successful career on the New York stage into a long run of Hollywood films, both silents and talkies, almost always playing a villain.  (Among his silent films were The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Ruggles of Red Gap;  his talkies included The New Adventures of Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, Sherlock Holmes [as Moriarty], and I Cover the Waterfront.)  Hook's hapless assistant in villainy, Smee, was played by Edward Kipling, who has only seven credits on IMDb, all in silents from 1922-6 -- beyond that I know nothing about him.

Mentioned should be made of George Ali, who played both Nana the dog and the crocodile.  Ali was a professional animal impersonator and his talents were most often used on the stage.  An expert puppeteer, Ali received acclaim for his abiity to maneuver Nana's mouth and eyes in his sole film credit.  His work in Peter Pan athletic ability -- something that he had in spades; he was 58 when he took the dual roles of canine and reptile. 

Virginia Brown Faire (stage name; I wonder if the surname was pronounced with two syllables) was the fairy Tinkerbelle.  At 15, she was one of four winners of Motion Picture Classics magazine's "Fame and Fortune" contest.  She was a WAMPUS Bby Star in 1923.  Faire appeared in about 75 films between 1920-35.

The Indian princess Tiger Lily was playd by the definitely not American Indian Anna May Wong, an absolute favorite of mine.

As noted above, Peter Pan was directed by Herbert Brendon.  The screen adaptation was written by Willia Goldbeck.


Monday, September 23, 2019


Muddy Waters (who once bummed a cigarette from Kitty back in the days when everyone smoked).


Openers:  Half an hour after Tim Jamieson's Delta flight was scheduled to leave Tampa for the bright lights and tall buildings of New York, it was still packed at the gate.  When a Delta agent and a blond woman with a security badge hanging from her neck entered the cabin, there were unhappy, premonitory murmurings from the packed residents of economy class.

--  Stephen King, The Institute (2019)

This opening paragraph sets off a spur of the moment decision that will alter Tim Jamieson's life forever.  After the first 40 pages of the novel, the focus shifts to 12-year-old Lucas Ellis and we don't meet Tim Jamieson again for another 300 pages.  Lucas has very minor -- almost unnoticable -- telekinetic ability: he can move things with his mind -- small things for very small distances, and he is unaware that he is causing this.  One night a team disables his house alarm, enters it military-fashion, murders Luke's parents, drugs Lucas and kidnaps him.  Luke wakes up in a near replica of his bedroom, not knowing what has happened.  He is in the Institute, a mysterious place deep in the Maine woods, far from his home in Minnesota.  The Institute has been operating in the shadows for seventy years.  There are other children there, all kidnapped, all with their families murdered, and all with very minor telekinetic or telepathic abilities.  Here the children are tested, brutalized, and tortured in an attempt to increase their powers.  Each child is kept for a few weeks, maybe a month, until their brains begin to deteriorate and they are shipped to another part of the Institute, never to be seen or heard from again.  The Institute wanted Luke for his TK potential,; they did not care about his genius-level intelligence.  That was their mistake.

King's latest novel is a sweeping tale of good versus evil and innocence versus corruption, and a story of misintended motives and ethical quagmires.  Told with readable details, convincing characterization, and the author's trademark anthing can happen to anyone plotting,  The Instituteis one of the best books Stephen King has ever writen, and that's saying a lot.

Speaking of Corruption:  The Ukraine.  And Trump.  According to credible newspaper reports from the "fake news" liberal media, President Trump tried a number of times to have the leader of the Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden's business dealings in that country.  Hunter Biden is the son of presidential hopeful Joe Biden.  Supposedly Trump dangled a military aid package for the Ukraine as an incentive.  Trump did not get his dirt and the Ukraine did not get the needed military aid (which they probably wouldn't have anyway because Vladimir Putin was opposed to it for obviou reasons.  If true -- and I have not reason to doubt it -- this could be the tipping point that destroys Trump's presidency.  But there have been so many such tipping points before and our venal, lying president is still in power, so who knows?  Trump and his cronies are a cancer on America.  How long, I wonder, before this cancer reaches Stage 4?

Cleansing My Palate: 

And so it goes.  People are doing extraordinary things all the time.  Kindnesses, both small and large, are around us all the time.  You have to appreciate what is happening all around you and, perhaps, become part of it yourself.


A Bit of History:  Today is the anniversary of Harvard's first commencement way back in 1642 when it was still Harvard College.

And this gives me an excuse to post this:

And on this date in 1980, Bob Markey played what would be his last concert.

Which gives me an excuse to post this: (recorded, coincidentally, at Harvard Stadium)

Today's Poem:
Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon these boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after summer fadest in the west,
Which by and by black night doth taake away,
Death's second self, that seals up all the rest.
In me thou seest such glowing of the fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd by that which it was nourished by.
This then perceiv'st which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leve ere long

-- William Shakespeare

Saturday, September 21, 2019


From 1947, Rpoy Brown with a song that helped bring about the birth of rock and roll.


Super Detective Library was a 68-page, digest-sized comic book with color covers and black and white artwork in the interiors.  The long-running British series featured a number of well-known fictional detectives in their 188 issues, including The Saint, Sexton Blake, Rip Kirby, Bulldog Drummond, The Toff, Blackshirt, Temple Fortune, and -- of course -- Sherlock Holmes.  Sherlock Holmes appeared in just three issues -- numbers 65, 74, and 77 -- with two adventures in each.  Five of the six adventures were based on Conan Doyle's stories.  One, "The Thames Afire," appears to be an original.

Holmes and Watson investigate the death of Sir Aubrey Poppin, appointed the Governor General of Jamaica only the day before and now found dead in a cask of Jamaican rum on the London docks.  Beevers, the manager of the Jamaican Rum company, clings to the idea that sir Aubrey's death was an accident, but his workers have their doubts.  Rather than call in Scotland Yard, Beevers decides to bring in you know who.

Holmes quickly determines the man was murdered and then dumped into the cask of rum.  A pin prick mark on his arm and the horrid rigor of the victim's face show that Holmes was correct.  A quick search of the docks turned up the murder weapon:  an "African thorn dipped in South American poison."

The dock workers refused to go back to work because of a curse put on Sir Aubrey by Big Juan, a thumbless voodoo master who had warned Sir Aubrey not to go to Jamaica.  "Scientifically minded as he was, Sherlock Holmes was too wise in the ways of coloured men to pooh-pooh such matters as curses, or to treat them as mere superstition."

And then there was the matter of the shipment slated for Jamaica -- empty rum casks.  Since it takes years to season a rum cask it makes sense to ship them back to Jamaica for re-use, but when Holmes tapped one of the supposed empty casks it did not ring hollow...

Then the Thames catches fire, trapping Holmes and Watson on a pier that was soon to be engulfed in flames.  And a body is discovered burning in the rum company's incinerator.  All in all, it's a sticky situation for Holmes but he and Watson follow the case through to its logical conclusion.

Issue #74 also contains an adaption of Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia," in which Holmes meets "the woman."

One final note.  the artist did not necessarily depict Holmes as Basil Rathbone, but Watson is a dead ringer for Nigel Bruce.


Friday, September 20, 2019


"I been told when a boy kiss a girl, take a trip around the world.  Hey, hey, (bop shuop, m'bop bop shuop)" 

Since today is the anniversary of the start of Ferniand Magellan's voyage to circumnavigate the world, I thought I'd celebrate that trip around the world with this Beatles song.  Bop shuop.


The Silent Death by "Maxwell Grant" (Walter B. Gibson), first published in The Shadow Magazine, Volume 5, #3, April 1, 1933

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

The Shadow knows, that's for sure.  Since 1930, the mysterious figure has been the subject of radio programs, a magazine series, books, comic books, comic strips, television, film series, video games, and at lest five feature films.  The Shadow has been one of the most enduring adventure heroes of the last 79 years.

He began in radio. as the narrator of Detective Story Hour, a program designed to boost the sales of Street and Smith's Detective Story Magazine.  When listeners demanded a magazine for the character, the publisher decided to create such a magazine and hired Water B. Gibson to write the twice-monthly novel-length stories.  The Shadow debuted in print on April 1, 1931.  In all, Gibson wrote 282 (out of 325; the others were written by Lester Dent, Theodore Tinsley, Bruce Elliott, and Richard Wormser) Shadow novels for the magazine by the time the magazine ceased publicstion with the Summer 1949 issue.  Decades later, The Shadow appeared in a series of paperback original novels, the first written by Gibson and the others by Dennis Lynds, all under the "Maxwell Grant" by-line.  A few years ago, The Shadow reappeared as a character in two Doc Savage novels written by Will Murray under the "Kenneth Robeson" pseudonym.

The Shadow's real name (in print, anyway) was Kent Allard, a World War I ace who waged war on criminals after the war.  Allard faked his death then adopted a number of identities to conceal his existence.  Perhaps his best-known identity is Lamont Cranston, a real-life man about town whose identity The Shadow assumes whenever the real cranston is abroad.  Other identities include Isaac Twambley, Henry Arnaud (like Cranston, a real-life person in the Shadow universe), and Fritz (a doddring old janitor at police headquarters).  The Shadow has a long list of recurring and revolving people who assist him in various ways.  A much longer list is that of the larger thn life super-villains The Shadow faces.

In The Silent Death, the super-villain is Professor Folcroft Urlich, a man who is obsessed with death.  Under the guise of "research," Ulrich watches his victims die slowly and horribly from the varied murderous ways he has developed, often for a hefty fee.  Aiding Ulrich is Larry Ricardo, a crime boss currently in hiding from the authorities, and Ricardo's gang of thugs and murderers.  One intended victim is businessman Alfred Sartain, whose death will mean millions for Ulrich's current client Thomas Jocelyn.  Ulrich has decided to kill Sartain by "the silent death," with he, Ricardo, and Joselyn watching through binoculars from outside Sartain's apartment.  Sartain's butler Brooks (really Duster Brooks, planted in that position by Ricardo) has arranged for Sartain's study to be a hermetically sealed room with a device that removed oxygen from the air hidden, so that Sartain will linger as his oxygen-starved lungs take his life.  The silent death!  Ricardo's thugs are stationed outside the apartment, just in case...

As the villains watch, Sartain struggles for breath, desperately trying to find a way out of the sealed room.  The man passes out at his desk.  But then, out of sight from Ulrich and the others, something causes a shadow to arise from the other end of the room.   It's The Shadow!  He had broken the skylight to the study, letting fresh air in.  Quickly, Ricardo orders his thugs to strom the apartment and kill whoever is in the study.  Guns blaze, but Ricardo's thugs are just a little too slow and The Shadow's aim is as accurate as the death he deals to the thugs.  One man, Ricardo's lieutenant Slips Harback, manages to escape; the others, including Brooks, are dead.  As the police swarm in, The Shadow vanishes.

How did The Shadow know about Ulrich's plot?  The only people in on the details were Ulrich, Ricardo, Jocelyn, and Slips Harback.  Ulrich realizes that Harback mus have inadvertently disclosed something to one of The Shadow's many informants, most likely at Red Mike's, a bar where Harback and other unsavory types hang out.  With this theory, Ulrich is able to identifiy the informant as Cliff Marsland, a man who had served time in Sing Sing for murder.  Ulrich then uses this information to set a deadly and fool-proof trap for The Shadow.   Ulrich knows The Shadow must be eliminated so that the costumed avenger will not intefere with his future plans.  It's a matter of Ulbrich's criminal genius versus The Shadow's uncanny crime-fighting senses.

The fool-proof trap fails, but Ulrich is not deterred.  He sets an other trap for The Shadow, unaware that police detective Joe Cardona has managed to intercept the proposed plot.  Cardona arrives and inadvertantly sets off the trap, only to be saved by The Shadow at the last second.  Ulrich, still convinced of his superiority, arranges one final deadly trap with Marsland and reporter Clyde Burke as bait.  With Marsland and Burke fated to meet the silent death, The Shadow will come to his own "shocking" death, as will Cardona's officers.

Can The Shadow escape his death and win against the genius madman?  Can he save his two friends from a cruel, torturous fate?  Of course he can.  He's The Shadow, isn't he?

Pure pulp with a vigilante on those yellowed pages whom we cheer for, and whom we'd be horrified by in real life.  It's the satisfaction you get imagining you can just push a button and obliterate that car that just cut you off, knowing that you would never do it if it were possible in real life.  It's a fantasy world where good triumphs over evil, even though evil things are done by the good guys in the name of "justice."

And the prose, purple and clunky:

     "Another night had come.  Denizens of the underworld had begun their assemblage in Red Mike's den.  The propietor of the speakeasy, noncommital as was his wont, cast no more than a casual glance toward those who thronged his dive."

I mean, you mjsut got to love it.

And I do.


I have internet -- something I had not had for the past four days!  Four days of no internet,  four days of no television, four days of just me, my wife, the damncat, and NPR on the radio.  We did a lot of reading, a lot of snuggling, and a lot of cursing our cable company.  Somehow we survived.  And like with any survival tale, we are the stronger for it.

We moved into our new apartment on the beginning of the month.  A few days before, we had opened a new account with our cable company and Mr. Cable Man came out and set us up.  All was well and good until Monday when the cable company sent another Mr. Cable Man out to disconnect us.  It seems the previous tenant had filed a cancel order and our sterling cable company decided to honor it well after the fact and mistakenly cut our service.  It took a couple of hours on the phone to figure out what had happened because evidently one cable company hand does not know what the other cable company hand is doing -- or has done.  Anyway, we eventually got a promise the they would send a third Mr. Cable Man out the next day to hook us up again.

The next day came, as did Mr. Cable Man #3, who told us that reconnecting us would onlny take a few minutes.  Except it didn't.  Mr. Cable Man #3 and Ms. Telephone Technical Support Lady could not do it and Ms. Telephone Technical Support Lady just didn't know why the cable company computer (whose name, I'm sure, is HAL 9000) wouldn't reinstall our service.  After a couple of hours, Ms. Telephone Technical Support Lady got ahold of her supervisor who also seemed to have no luck with their recalcitrant computer.  A couple more hours went by and Mr. Cable Man #3, phone glued to his ear, kept going out to our walkway and muttering things to the phone, then nodding his head, then muttering some more.  Finally he said he had to go to another appointment just down the street and he would be back and, if managed to resolve the problem in the meanwhile, he would call and let us know, and off he went.  He did not come back and he did not call and we were still without service.  I called the cable company again and, after a confusing hour or so on the phone, I was told that their computer was fixing the problem but that it would take overnight to do that (?) and that I have service the next day.

They lied.  The next day came and no service.  I called again, using my adult voice (stern, but not threatening and with no swear words).  After an hour, I was told, yes, for some reason the computer did need the night to resolve the problem (who knew computers, like people, needed a good night's sleep to function properly?) and now they could schedule Mr. Cable Guy #4 to come out the next afternoon to hook us up.  And why not today?  Well, they weren't allowed to schedule an appoinmene until the computer had fixed things, they said, and dispatch just said this was the earliest they could do it because others were already in the queue.  And why were we bumped to the end of the queue when we've been in the queue for the past three days because of your error? I asked.  Because that's what dispatch said, I was told, in a voice that indicated that dispatch's word was sacrosanct.  That's unacceptable I said (several times over the next few minutes) and was basically told (repeatedly) that you don't mess with dispatch.  Grrr.

So yesterday afternoon we got a call from Mr. Cable Man #4 who said he could hook us up from the outside box, easy peasy, and he did not need to come in the house.  An hour later, still no cable.  I looked outside and there was a confused Mr. Cable Man #4.  He couldn't find the outside box.  Mr. Cable Man #2 had found easliy enough when he cut our service without informing us, I said.  Anyway Mr. Cable Man #4 came in and looked at our modem which seemed to indicate it was wroking -- except that it wasn't -- and got on the phone with Ms. Telephone Technical Support Lady #2 and they had a jolly old time figuring out what was going on.  The HAL 9000 was playing some sort of trick on all of us.  More time went by and Mr. Cable Man #4 went out to our walkway, phone glied to his ear and muttering and nodding and muttering.  After a few minutes, the cable went on.  We had televesion and internet again, huzzah!  Mr. Cable Man #4 came back in and we thanked him for getting our service back, at which he looked direly perplexed.  It's on? he said, I didn't do anything.  And he hadn't.  But we had the service somehow and was not about to complain (again).  Evidently the Cable God looked down on us and smiled.  (I had previously offered to sacrifice a goat if that would help; Mr. Cable God must have heard that and, like with when Isaac was ready to sacrifice his son, my willingness was proof enough of my piety and an actual sacrifice was not necessary.)  Anyway, Mr. Cable Guy #4 and Ms Technical Support Lady #2 spent another ten minutes of so trying to figure out what happened and they couldn't so he left and she hung up.

After four long days, I'm back, baby!

Monday, September 16, 2019


The Cars.


Openers:  The place stank.  A queer, mingled stench that only the ice-buried cabins of an Antarctic camp know, compounded of reeking human sweat, and the heavy, fish-oil stench of melted seal blubber.  An overtone of liniment combated the musty small of sweat-and-snow-drenched fur.  The acrid odor of burnt cooking fat, and the animal, not-unpleasant smell of dogs. diluted by time, hung in the air.

-- John W. Campbell, Jr. (writing as "Don A. Stuart"), "Who Goes There?" (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1938)

This story, the basis for the 1951 Howard Hawkes film The Thing from Another World and John Carpenter's John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, was (according to Isaac Asimov) a rewrite of Campbell's "Brain Steaalers of Mars" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Decmeber 1936).  Last year a much longer version of the story was discovered; it is scheduled for publication in October by Wildside Press under the title Frozen Hell -- a gotta have.


  • Jim butcher & Mark Powers, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files:  Full Moon, Volume Two.  Graphic novel with pencils by Chase Conley; the second half of the eight-issue series based on Butcher's second Harry Dresden book.  "Harry Dresden is a private investigator whose clients require a detective with suernatural expertise -- in other wirds, he's a wizard for hire.  The Windy City has been hit with an outbreak of savage werewolf attacks -- a case made even more chaotic and challenging by the fact that Harry's uncovered no less than three lythantropic groups, each seemingly in conflict with one another.  On top of that, Harry's lost the faith of his one friend and ally among the Chicago Police Department, Karrin Murphy.  Now she, along with werewolves and hostile FBI agents, hunts Harry while he races against the rise of the next full moon to discover who -- or what -- is behind the string of murders!" 
  • L. Ron Hubbard and Kevin J. Anderson, Ai! Pedrito!.  Adventure novel, supposedly "inspired by a real incident in the life of L. Ron Hubbard."  Ah, but Hubbard was such a liar that any adventure he claimed to be real should be looked on in askance.  "Naval Lieutenant Tom smith discovers that his exact look-alike is the notorious South American revolutionary and spy, Perdito Miraflores.  Pedrito, while admired by many, leaves behind a throng of foes out for blood when he heads north to assume Smith's identity.  Smith, meanwhile, has been outfoxed, arriving in South America for a quiet vacation only to be attacked in a setup by a froeign intelligence agency."  According to the introduction, Hubbard wrote the story as a screenplay and (out of the kindness of his heart and his desire to promote new authors) granted the novelization to be written by a younger author.  Of course, Anderson had been writing professionally since 1982 and had published some two dozen books by the time Ai! Pedrito! was published.
  • George MacDonald, The Wise Woman and Other Stories.  MacDonald (1824-1905) was a popular novelist, lecturer, and preacher, best remembered to day for his epic fantasies and fairy tales, although a number of his other novels have been updated and abridged by a Chrisitan publishing house.  This book collects a novella and three short stories.
  • James Petterson & Nara Lee, Maximum Ride:  The Manga 2. YA manga.   "Having recovered Angel, Max and the flock head to New York to pursue a lead regarding their true identities, but where the flock goes, Erasers are sure to follow!  Even more troubling, though, is the voice that's begun whispering in Max's head.  Is it really her destiny to save the world?"  

A Stain on Florida:  Nope, not Florida Man, but something that may be far more evil and sinister.

Bee Love Slater, 23, a black transgender woman, was found on September 4, burnt beyond recognition in her car about 65 miles west of West Palm Beach.  Slater was identified through dental records.  She is the 18th transgender person known to have died by violent means in America in 2019.  In 2018, there were at least 26 such deaths, most of whom were black transgender women.  The case is being investigated as a homicide, although officils were quick to point out that there is no evidence as yet that Ms. Slater's death was a hate crime.  Nevertheless, a former longtime Hendry County commissioner said, "That's the feel of the community, that this is really a hate crime."

The American Medical Association has called violence against transgender persons an epidemic.  It noted that violent deaths of transgendered persons "could be even higher due to underreporting, and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence."

No matter what the actual circumstances or motivation, the death of Bee Love Slater diminishes us all.

Meanwhile, Also in Florida:  Florida Man has been busy during the first half of September:
And in storm-related news:

R. I. P., Ric Ocasek:  The Cars frontman ws found dead in his home yesterday.  He was 75.

Happy Birthday:  Music legend B. B. King would have been 94 today.  No mention on how old Lucille is.

Happy Birthday:  Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was introduced at a televised demonstration on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was intoduced at a televised demonstration on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was introduced at a televised demonstation on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was introduced at a television demonstration on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photoco--

OMG!  I'm caught in photocopier hell!  Argghhh!

Today's Poem:
The Photocopier

The photocopiper's stopped again; it's really not much use.
We'll have to get another one, since it won'r reproduce
And even when it does, it's slow and mucks up each copy.
If you want double-sided, you can sup ten cups of coffee
And fume and swear and rant and curse and utter wwords unkind
While it is merely warming up and making up its mind
As to when to jam and get stuff stuck, (which it really does a lot)
Usually a pesky paper scrap in an inaccessable spot!
It seems to have two settings:  much too black and far too pale.
It does the opposite of what you want -- Exactly, without fail!
I really shouldn't groan and gripe and come across as a moaner,
Though, always when you're in a rush, it's running low on toner
But I'm sure we'd miss it if it went; I'm sure you understand
Since it'd take us flipping ages to copy stuff out by hand!

-- C. Richard Miles

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Sometimes you just have to put the fun in funeral.  Monique Heller ralized that when she honored her father, Joe, who passed away last week at age 82.  Joe's irreverent life well lived was chronicled in his obituary:

It's my view that funerals should not be solemn.  They should be a joyous celebration of life as well as a chance to say things that should have been said before.   We should all be as lucky as Joe Heller in that ours lives should be appreciated and honored with joy, laughter, and good memories.


The Rambos.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Trini Lopez does a great job covering the immortal Marty Robbins song.


A thief steals the "All Seeing Eye" -- a fabulous diamond from the idol in the Temple of Ashmara in Northern India.  Gantz Ali, the high priest of the temple, chases the thief but loses him when he boards a ship bound for England; Ali pursues him in the next England-bound ship and manages to find him on the Falmouth docks.  Before Gantz Ali could avenge the All Seeing Eye the thief boards a coach.  Following the stage on foot (!), the high priest watches as a highwayman stops the coach.  The thief is killed and the highwayman -- Flash Ned -- is surprised to find the large diamond on the thief's body.  Flash Ned rides off and delivers the gem to his employer, the "hanging judge" Jeremy.

Enter Dick Turpin, that gallant knight of the road, who robs Judge Jeremy and gains possession of the All Seeing Eye.  But Dick is followed by Ganz Ali, who attempts to get the diamond back.  Dick hears Gantz Ali's tale and, believing him, returns the stone to the high priest.

But Judge Jeremy captures Dick's friend Tom King, holding him ransom for the diamond...

The real Dick Turpin (1705-1739) was a poacher, burglar, highwayman, and killer.  His life became highly romanticized after he was hung as a horse thief, most famously by William Harrison Ainsworth in his 1834 novel Rookwood.  The myth of Dick Turpin has been recounted in numerous books and on stage, film, and television. 

Thriller Comics Library published a number of Dick Turbin adventures in its 450 issues, as well as adventures of Turpin's mythic counterpart Robin Hood.


Friday, September 13, 2019


The "Golden Fog," Mel Torme, whould have been 94 today.


FP 1 Does Not Reply (originally FP 1 antwortet nicht, 1931) by Kurt Siodmak, translated by H. W. Farrell (1933)

Curt Siodmak (1902-2000), who sometimes used his Christain name spelled with a K, claimed that heowed all to Adolph Hitler because if it wasn't for that son of a bitch he would never had come to America.  Born in Dresden of Jewish parents, he began writing novels after earning a degree in mathematics.  He invested his royalties in a film, Menshen am Sonntag, which was co-directed by his older brother Robert Siodmak and Edger G. Ulmer, with a script by Billy Wilder.  It was actually a anti-Semetic tirade by Joseph Goebbles that convinced Siodmak to emigrate, not Adolph Hitler.  He first went to England, then America and Hollywood in 1937, where he wrote many classic B-movie horror films for Universal studios.

Much of what many today consider to be traditional werewolf lore was invented by Siomak when he wrote Universal's The Wolfman  -- including the notion that a werewolf can only be killed by silver.  (Siodmak recalled "After The Wolfman made its first million, [producer/director] George Waggner got a diamond ring for his wife and [executive producer] Jack Gross got a $10,000 bonus.  I wanted $25 more a week and they [Universal] wouldn't give it to me.")  Siodmak also wrote such films as The Invisible Man Returns, Balck Friday, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and I Walked with a Zombie.  IMDb gives Siomak 79 writing credits, nine directing credits, and one acting credit (as one of the workmen in Fritz Lang's Metropolis).  Siodmak's 1942 novel Donovan's Brain, a classic science fiction/horror tale in the brain-in-a-bottle genre, was perhaps his most famous novel and was filmed four times.  FP 1 antwortet nicht was itself filmed three times, with the original German film starring Hans Albers and Peter Lorre.

FP 1 Does Not Reply is a tale about attempts to place a floating airport in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  In the days when large airplanes did not carry enough full to make a cross-Atlantic trip, both passengers and cargo relied on ocean-going ships to make the journey.  Young engineer Bernard Droste realized that a mid-Atlantic airport where planes could refuel would dramatically reduce travel time, adding convenience to money saved.  Working feverously, Droste design FP 1 (Floating Platform 1), a large luxury-laden structure providing not only aircraft facilities but a posh hotel with five star service, amenities, and cuisine.  Droste, an orphan, who raised by shipbuider Lennartz borrowed heavily to build Droste's dream at his shipyard.

The German government promised additional funding, only if the platform was in place and operational on a certain date.  The bank also indicated that it would call in its loan if the governemt did not provide the promised funding, Lennartz's entire fortune and his business are on the line -- if the conditions are not met he would be bankrupt and his shipyard would be put up for sale.  Lurking in the wings is another shipbuilder, Hansley, who stands to lose much of his shipping business if the platform succeeds.  No one realizes that Hansley controls the bank.  Hansley also has lured Lennartz' general manager Pechtold to his side -- Pechtold has been doing his best to ensure the platform's failure through bribes, sabotage, and not supplying needed equipment.

Schmiedecke is the captain hired to sail the platform to its permanent place in the ocean and to secure it to the ocen bed.  Too many accidents and too much miscommunication have happened to delay the platform's arrival.  Schmiedecke suspects sabotage and wires Droste about his suspicions.  Droste flies to the platform and discovers that Schmiedecke was correct.  Needed supplies were missing, machinery has been sabotaged, as has been the platform's food supplies.  Things go worse.  The platform's radio is sabotaged, the crew is gassed, and the platform is taking on water at a rate that will sink it within days; parts needed to save the ship have been stolen  The crew is rebellious and almost mutinies.  The floating platform has become a "coffin ship."

Let's add a little romance to the mix.  Droste is in love with Lennartz' daughter Gisela but has been a dim bulb, ignoring her while creating the platform.  Gisela is in love with Drost, but does not know whether her loves her because he is a dim bulb at romance.  Airman and adventurer Ellissen has fallen in love with Gisela but does not realize she loves Droste because Ellissen is a dim bulb.  Dim bulb Gisela does not realize Ellissen's feelings because she is fixated on Droste but she's thinking about settling for Ellissen for no particular reason.  (Ellissen, BTW, is an unscrupulous cad who was the only survivor of an arctic expedition and is suspected of murdering the other expedition members.)   Lennartz is also a dim bulb who ignores the obvious in order to further the plot.

 FP 1 Does Not Reply is pure melodrama, adding constantly rising dangers to cardboard characterizations and a coincidence-laden conclusion.  But sometimes melodrama is what I need in a story and this is one of the times.  Despite its many faults I enjoyed the book.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


Strawberry Alarm Clock.


The introduction to the show was:

"From the heart of the jungle comes a savage cry of victory.  This is Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle!  From the black core of dark of enchantment, mystery and violence come one of the most colorful figures of all time.  Transcribed from the immortal pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs -- Tarzan, the bronzed, white son of the jungle!  Andnow in the very words of Mr. Burroughs:"

Well, not quite.

The stories aired had little to do with anything that came from Burroughs' pen.  Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle was a product of the very small and scappy Commodore Productions, which consisted of Walter White, Jr., and his wife Shirley Thomas.  (Apropos of nothing, White and Thomas were married three times in three years -- which must be a record of some sort.)  The show ran from 1951-1953 and began at LA radio station KHJ before being picked by the Don Lee Mutual Broadcasting System, which covered 45 stations in the Western States.  Eventually the program went to CBS radio with General Foods as a sponsor.

This Tarzan, who is highly articulate, is played by Lamont Johnson and does not live with Jane (in fact, I'm not sure if Jane is ever mentioned); instead he lives at the cabin that had built by his parents.  From there, Captain Sidney Lawrence of the Governmental Police contacts him about some jungle problem that Tarzan goes off the resolve.  Sometimes instead of Lawrence, Tarzan is contacted directly by natives.  Tarzan also spends a lot of time with the Punya tribe.  No matter what the challenge, Tarzan manages to pack a lot of action and plot into a half hour time frame.

Johnson is the only cast member credited with a specific role.  No roster of other players exists.  The names of some of the actors are known but there is no indication which parts they played.  White produced all the episodes and all but three were written by Budd Lesser.

And now, on to "Tarzan and the Stranger"...

"Perhaps only those who have visited a native African village during the long rainy season can picture the crawl of the Poona tribe.  It had rained on and on for months, great stagnant pools of water were everywhere, rubble was piled high behind each hut and the natives that were out doors wore hides that were mildewed and sodden.  Yet inside the hut where Tarzan towered above Torgo, the small native boy who was Almost like a son to him, it was comparatively comfortable..."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


From back in the days when people deliberately threw their backs out, here's Chubby Checker.


I'm pretty sure I have already posted about my spinal problems.  If I remember, it was about a weak back.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


You just can't be unhappy listening to banjo music.  Here's Barney McKenna of The Dubliners performing "The Old House," "Maid Behind the Bar," "Boyne Hunt," "Shaskeen Reel," and "High Reel."


A one-reeler starring Vincente Howard and Ruth Roland.  Added bonus:  Absolutely no loud gun fights!





Openers:  A mile ouside of Picture City, they has set up a tent for the meeting with the Apaches.  A troop of cavalry from Fort Apache had been dispatched to the conference, and now two lines of horsemen faced each other on the cloud-darkened meadow -- one line of the saber-bearing cavalrymen; the other the blanketed Apache braves, impassive-faced, sitting [on] their ponies like waiting statues.

Richard Matheson, Shadow on the Sun (1994)

Sharpiegate:  When will it end?  The lying, the stupidity, the dismantling of our government, the erasure of American values, the deliberate attack on our environment, civil rights, and personal freedoms, the hatred and xenophobia, the currying of favor toward dictators to the expense of our tradional allies, the growing income gap, the teetering on recession, the moral vacuum, public offices being used for private enrichment, the lack of empathy, the disdain toward the poor and minorities, the inconsistancy, the braggadocio, the waffling, the incompetence, the greed, the ignorance, the kowtowing to the NRA, the personal attacks on all who disagree, the defensiveness, the bullying, the smarmy, immoral, and corrupt administration...I can go on and on.

On the bright side, we still don't own Greenland.

Oh, And Did I Mention?:  ...the threatened firings at NOAA.  Geez Louise, how on earth did we get here?

Football:  I am not a big sports fan.  I have trouble remembering team names and often mix up those names with the sports they play; I can't tell you anything about statisics; and I would be hard pressed to come up with a name of a sports announcer or reporter.  The last time I followed any sport was with the 1967 Red Sox; after that, any information I possess about sports has been sucked into a large spinning black hole.

That being said, football season has begun.  As a courtesy to those who, like me, are among the sports illiterati I present a brief explanation of the game:

In addition, let me refer you to Hold 'Em, Girls!:  The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Men and Football by Judson P. Philips and Robert W. Wood, Jr., a 1936 tome that explains it all.  (Philips, who also wrote as "Hugh Pentecost," went on to become a well-respected mystery writer; this was his frist or second book -- I'm too lazy to look up which.)

100 Days In:  Today is the 100th day of 2019 and I am grateful we made it this far.  I'm not celebrating yet, though, because if history teaches us anything, it's that on this date in 1912 the RMS Titanic set sail on its maiden only voyage.  Suddenly I have a sinking feeling...

Also on This Date:  F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was published in 1926.  the novel, which Fitsgerald felt would cement his literary reputation, met with less than stellar reviews.  "So light, so delicate, so sharp -- a literary lemon meringue" -- New York Herald Tribune.  "No more than a glorifed anecdote, and not too probable at that" -- H. L. Mencken.  "Seems a little raw" -- The Times-Picayune.  "A minor performance" -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  "One finishes Great Gatsby with a feeling of regret, not for the fate of the people in the book, but for Mr. Fitzgerald" -- The Dallas Morning News.  There were positive reviews (in The New York Times and The New York Post, for example, and the book was privtely praised by T. S. Eliot, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather) but generally the book landed with a thud.  Fitzgerald, convinced of the book's quality, had refused a $10,000 offer for magazine serialization because he wanted to get the book into print as soon as possible; he ended up with an advance of nearly $4,000 in 1923 and another near $2,000 on publication.  He had expected sales of some 75,000 copies while the actual sales were in the 20,000 range.  As late as 1946, Scribner's still had the original edition on their list.  When Fitzgerald died in 1940 the book had become nearly forgotten.

But fate is tricky.  Slowly The Great Gatsby began picking up critical and popular steam.  Now considered one of the greatest American novels with its take on the American dream, gender issues, and cultural inequality, it has sold well over 25,000,000 copies.  The book has been filmed four times, the latest in 2013 by Baz Luhrmann (a terrible film from a terrible director, IMHO) and has been made for television at least once.  It has been adapted for radio three times and has also been adapted for the stage thrice.  The novel has also been turned into an opera and into three ballets.  It has even seen two computer games based upon it.

Almost as popular as the navel is the iconic cover art by Francis Cugate, who completed the painting while Fitzgerald was still writing the novel.  The cover, with its disembodied eyes and mouth and with a nude woman reflected in the irises, had so affected Fitsgerald that he wrote it into the book.  Fitzgerld's appreciation for the painting eventually waned, but the appreciation of the general public remains strong.

Good News:  Here's some of the good news headlines from this past week:

  • New Reactor Uses Renewable Energy to Turn Greenhouse Gases Into Fuel for Hydrogen Batteries
  • Deep Magnetic Stimulation Shown to Improve Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Father Uses Scuba Therapy to Restore His Paralyzed Son's Motor Function -- And Now It's Doing the Same for Others
  • New Research Links Five Separate Lifestyle Choices to a 60% Reduced Risk of Developoing Alzheimer's
  • Bob Ross's Legacy Is Helping Inmates Plant "Happy Little Trees" Throughout State Parks
  • Anonymous Man Spent Almost $50,000 on Generators and Food for Hurricane Victims in the Bahamas
  • Dad Develops New Treatment for Peanut Allergies With Almost No Side Effects After Son Suffers Severe Reaction
  • Flight Crew and Passengers in First Class All Welcome Boy with Autism During Mid-Flight Meltdown
  • And this:

Florida Man Thinks It Through:  Patrick Eldrige of Jacksonville made headlines when he parked his smart car in his kitchen so it would not blow away in Hurricane Dorian.  Not all Florida Men are stupid -- some come up with innovative ways to handle a problem.

Today's Poem
The September Rose

To sighs of morning air, that froze, --
(With her lips opened for a say),
How curiously has smiled the rose
On a September fleeting day!

And how has she ever dared
To great, with air of springy greens,
The single blue-tit, in the bare
Shrubs fleshing in the orb of wings.

To bloom with steadfast dream that later,
Just leaving her cold bed in rest,
She'll cling, the last and dissipated,
To a young young hostess's charming breast!

-- Afanasy Afansa
yevich Fet

Saturday, September 7, 2019


And now for something completely different:  Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra.


Schoolgirls' Picture Library was a long-running (327 issues!) UK digest comic book starting in June 1957; after issue #327 in 1965 it was merged into June and School Friend Picture Library.  Each issue contained a full-length adventure about plucky schoolgirls full of true British spirit.  Their Keep Calm and Carry On Spirit is supplemented by their proper schoolgirl manners.

"Schoolgirl Riders to the Rescue" a scene-setting paragraph before moving on to the slow-moving action:

The year was 1943 -- when Britain was at war with Nazi Germany, and all at home were called about to help with the war effort.  The girls of Eastford College knitted for the troops, raised money for medical supplies, and dug hard every evening to produce extra food for Britain.  And now Wendy King, captain of the fourth form riding club, proposed that a gymkhana be held on Long Meadow -- the one field that remained free for school activities.  It would be a grand welcome for the lonely evacuee children , coming to the district soon -- and it would raise money for the war effort.

Huzzah for the British was spirit!

And young girls and horses...stereotype or not, it certainly worked for girl readers of the 50s.

Wendy and her best friend Kay spot two strangers taking measurements on Long Meadow and Wendy -- perhaps because her older brother Roger is in military intelligence -- wonders if they could be Nazi spies.  Then Roger shows up and cryptically tells Wendy that the gymkhata must be held.  Hmm.

The two strangers keep showing up, acting suspiciously.  Then they chase Wendy and Kay, and the girls trick them and lock them in a shed.  Informing the authorities that they had captured two Nazi spies, they are chagrined to learn that the men are from military intelligence -- the same unit as Roger!

Nonetheless, there are strange goings-on and opposition to their gymkhata.  Then the gumkhata is cancelled -- a terrible blow to the girls and probably a very minor blow to the war effort...

But in true British fashion, the girls prevail, a dastardly plot is exposed, and England can continue to fight the Nazis.

Three cheers.  hip-hip-hooray!  hip-hip-hooray!  hip-hip-hooray!

Enjoy this little tale of girls, horses, Nazi spies, and the British can-do spirit.

Friday, September 6, 2019


The Crystals.


Love Among the Ruins:  A Romance of the Near Future by Evelyn Waugh (1953)

This bitingly satirical novelette (illustrated by Mervyn Peake!) first appeared in the British magazine Lilliput in its May/June 1953 issue and was issued as a thin book later that year by Chapman Hall (London).  Its prolific author, Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), was a persnickity, thin-skinned, fundamently conservative whose life was periodically undone by his own folly.  Nonetheless he was a sharp, often dispassionate observer who could wickedly skewer modern times (which he despised) with his old-fashioned pen and inkwell (no typewriters for Evelyn, no, no, no; also no telephones and no driving, so poo to modernity).  Waugh's reputation as a horrible person may have arisen from a well-crafted persona, but he was certainly elitist, strongly believing in the rightness of a rigid class and economic structure, as well as being an anti-Semite and a racist and being presumed to be pro-Fascist.  But, ah could he write!  And write with such a devastatingly humorous edge that his works are still read and revered today...Brideshead Revisited, The Loved One, Vile Bodies, Decline and Fall, and so many more.

Lost within that shuffle is Love Among the Ruins, a dystopian novel about a future welfare-state England.  SPOILER ALERT!  What follows is a complete and total spoiler.  What the heck?

Our protagonist, Miles Plastic, grew up as an orphan and, as such, had no opportunities given him.  When of age, the government took him from the orphanage and placed him in the Air Force, where set fire to the barracks, killing many.  By this time England was a benevolent state and its official policy was that criminals were the victims of inadequate social services, so Miles was tried by the Court of Welfare as "Court Martial had been abolished some years before this."

     "It was plain from the start, when Arson, Wilful Damage, Manslaughter, Prejudicial Conduct and Treason were struck out of the Indictment and the whole reduced to a simple charge of Antisocial Activity, that the sympathies of the Court were with the prisoner."

A state psychologist testified that if Miles' pyromania were checked it might lead to psychosis and that Miles, in burning down the barracks, had performed "a perfectly normal act" and "had shown more than normal intelligence in its execution."  And so Mile is sent to Mountjoy, a large estate converted into a "hospital," for rehabilitation.  Mountjoy is run like a country club, with wide manacured gardens, concerts and activities, fine food, and freedom, along with mandatory singalongs -- rehabilitation sessions were few and far between because those in charge of the sessions were away giving speeches about rehabilitation.  (At Mountjoy, murderers lived on the first floor, sexual deviants on the second, and so on.)  Residents at Mountjoy game the system so they can never be rehbilitated.  Sadly for Miles, he was fated to be inadvertently rehabilitated.  In fact, he is the first and only person who was actually rehabilitated by the system -- proving to government officials that the system worked!

Freed from Mountjoy, Miles is given a job comeasurrate with his status as the only rehabilitated person in an important government department -- Euphanasia.  The welfare state had led to massive depression and the demand for euphanasia is high (because suicide is just so passe?).  The lines outside the Euphanasia are long and part of  Miles' job is to let in six people at a time.  One day, a priority case comes to the department on the recommendation of the Drama Department.  (The various Departments weild a lot of influence.)  The priority case is a beautiful young girl named Clara with a long silken beard.  (This takes a bit of explaining.  Clara was a ballet dancer and the Ballet Instructor insisted that his dancers not have children, so they must be medically sterilized.  The result of Clara's operation was a very rare side effect that gave her the beard.  Since she could perform in public with a beard, she was forbidden to continue her career.  The Drama Director, feeling that her life without ballet was not worth living, suggested that she go to Euphanasia.  Clara agrees to to visit the department to please the Director, while steadfastly refusing euphanasia.  Now back to the thrust of the story's action.)  When  he realized that Clara was not willing to die, Miles' boss ousts her uncerimoniously.

Miles has become smitten with Clara and they soon become an item.  Miles receives promotions and Clara gains weight.  Hmm.  Turns out the weight gain is a pregnancy; Clara's sterilization had been bungled.  The child is Miles' -- Clara had been a virgin before she met Miles.  Miles is excited but, coming home one day, he finds a note from Clara:  she has gone off to be by herself for a while.  Clara never returns to their home.

Later, Miles discovers that Clara is a hospital patient.  Anxious he goes to see her and finds her beardless.  (Also childless.  The feotus has been aborted.)  Clara had found a doctor that could remove her facial hair, along with her skin, replacing the skin with a type of plastic that can hold make-up wonderfully well.  With the make-up, Clara can again resume her ballet career without offending the audience.  Miles realizes that Clara has always been self-absorbed.  He wanders off and finding himself in front of Mountjoy.  Reverting to his pyromaniacal ways, he burns down the rehabilitation center, incinerating most of the residents.  Non-chalantly, he wanders off.

Mountjoy is gone, but Miles remains as its one proven success.  The government now enlists Miles to go on a speaking tour touting the benefits of the rehabilitation system.  Because the populace responds better to married people the government has Miles marry a hideously-looking woman who will accompany Miles on his tour.  Rushed to the Registrar for the marriage ceremony, Miles stands with his bride-to-be with his hand in his pocket where he fingers his cigarette lighter...

Love Among the Ruins is a quick, enjoyable, and magnificent farce, one worthy of Waugh's reputation.  Highly recommended.