Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, November 30, 2019


The 29th First Annual (you read that right) Ig Nobel Prize ceremony was held on November 12 at the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, celebrating little known and even less appreciated scientific studies.  The Ig Nobel Awards are presented by The Journal of Improbable Research.  The winners travel to the Awards at their own expense and the Awards are handed out by honest to God real (albeit somewhat bemused) Nobel Prize winners.

From the paper airplane bombardment to the annual opera to the traditional goodbye-goodbye, it's all great fun.

Remember, "Wombats are scientific proof you can squeeze a square peg into a round hole."



The Beatles.


The hell with the enemy!  Can the army survive Charlie Chaplin?

This collection of the  Charlie Chaplin's Comic Capers newspaper strips was published in 1917 by M. A. Donahue & Co. (Chicago and New York).


Friday, November 29, 2019


Celebrate Black Friday with The Coasters.


Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California by "Dod Grile" (Ambrose Bierce) (1873)

Journalist, humorist, and sardonic gadfly Ambrose Bierce was a Civil War hero whose disillusionment of war brought him literary fame with such stories as "An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge."  His mordant, caustic humor caused him to be known as "Bitter Bierce" and (among his enemies) as "The Wickedest Man in San Francisco."  Little can deny, though, that he was one of the most influential and important journalists of his time.  Bierce famously disappeared in Mexico while attempting to cover Pancho Villa and speculation about his death has been varied and rampant.

His first three collections were published under the pseudonym of "Dod Grile."  Nuggets and Dust was the second of these and was published in England with no immediate American publication, thus it remains one of his more little-known books.  In a wide variety of sketches Bierce gleefully skewers his fellow man and his shibboleths.

The contents, with some selected quotes:

Crazy Tales:

  • "A Midsummer's Day Dream"     " thoughts strayed to the Day of Resurrection, and the lively time which might be expected in that vicinity when Gabriel should give the signal for a general getting up for breakfast."
  • "A Mournful Property"     "I will go with you to the end of the world, or even to Sacramento, if you insist."
  • "The Disgusted Convert"     ""But out through the door of the tabernacle, down the crowded street, past the stately churches with their skyward spires -- with a look of heaven in his eyes and a prayer in his heart -- passed a muscular Christian with that time-piece nestling cozily in his pocket, alongside a young Bible and a volume of Watts' divinest melodies."
  • "The Classical Cadet"     "One fine summer's eve, I was ambling innocently among the sands of Oakland, noting curiously the habits of the lower animals -- the lithe gopher, the cheerful chipmunk, the nimble squirrel, and the meditative Methodist -- when my eye was arrested by a ponderous knapsack that attempted to pass between my feet."
  • "D. T."     ""I am quite certain I had not been drinking too much, for I make it a rule never to do so, though there is an irreconcilable difference between my wife and myself as to the exact amount one may take without having too much."
  • "A Working Girl's Story"     "I shed tears of gratitude, and, kneeling, proceed to examine my treasures, when my door was pushed ajar, and a voice cried out of the passage:   'Hi, missy!  you luff dem fings be, will ye:  dey b'longs to number seben on de furst flo'!'"
  • "Ex Parte Omne"     "'Madam," he replied, with slow sorrow, 'I know the name of everything triangulsr, and everything that any Christian eats.'"
  • "A Delicate Hint"     "A man persuaded his wife to go to the market for a steak, and took a mean advantage of her absence by shooting the top of his head off."
  • "Making a Clean Breast of It"     "In the year 1850 two men were playing poker upon the exact spot where Dr. Stone's church now stands."
  • "Paternal Responsibility"     "I need hardly say that, after a burst of boisterous laughter, the six-year-old was sent to bed, and his excellent father remained, to be carried home some hours later in a state of absolute worthlessness as regards powers of locomotion."
  • "Hanner's Wit"     "After he had lain down and gone deeply into dreams, she tied a cord to his ankle, and the other end of the same she looped about a standing shotgun heavily charged with leaden pellets, intended for the buoyant duck or the fleeting rabbit."
  • "Somebody's Arms"  A sufferer by a railway accident has both arms taken off at the shoulder, and another pair -- rights and lefts -- being picked up a mile or two away, the physician attending him naturally supposed they belonged to his dismembered patient, and after paring off the rough edges fastened them on."
  • "A Deceptive Heading"     "Is it not the policy of this paper to ridicule the stupidity of the President by every device known to journalism?"
  • "The Suicide"     "'I do not like to trouble you, but the truth is I have been a little despondent of late, and, just before coming in, I shot myself in the breast, and really I have no confidence in the fidelity of my legs, they are a trifle weak and frail -- like one whom it is needless to name, but who, as you will readily surmise, is connected with this unfortunate affair.'"
  • "Maternal Precaution"     "One day Professor Fowler received a call from a lady, who requested him to examine the head of her infant, and tell her for what pursuit in life he was best fitted."
  • "Unclaimed Luggage"     "On the morning after the ball at Sucker Flat, the level sunbeams stole warmly into the dressing-room, and gilded the nose of an unknown babe with a ricj crimson glory."
  • "The Pridies"     "MORAL:  If people will have children -- Bah! of course they will."

Notes.  Written in Invisible Ink by a Phantom American:
  • [A collection of notes and observations of an American tourist in England.  The author assures us that he has "studiously excluded a mass of matter in which the prevailing idiocy was debased by the chance introduction of common sense."  Articles in this section include "St. Pauls," "Seeing a Journalist," "Straford-on-Avon." "Warwick Castle," "Kenilworth," "Coventry," "The Story of Lady Godiva," and "The Size of London."]     "I believe there is not a carpet in the castle, and i know there is not a stove.  I think there is not a stove in England."

The Model Philosopher by Ursus:
  • [Thoughts and comments on a variety of subjects, from grizzly bears and vanilla ice cream to much greater philosophical subjects.]     "It is, of course, very delightful to be alone with Nature; but it is, at best, but a selfish pleasure to sit upon a rock and smash the pinching ants, clammy worms, and stinging beetles that come to dispute your empire." and "The error of putting Madeira in turtle soup -- and I  know not a more mischievous one -- was once as wide-spread as the belief in witchcraft."

Editorial Fine Frenzies:
  • [Further thoughts and comments (some rather vehement) on the hypocrisy and muddleheadedness of mankind, both collectively and individually.  The pieces in this section include:  Man in Quantity," "The Beast Without a Name," Perseverance," "MacSnuffle," "Ad Stultes," "February Twenty-Second," "Equine," "A Small Mistake," "July Fourth," "The Social Outlook," "Saint Decoration," "Un Ballo," and "We Are Seven."]     "Christianity, the religion of peace and love, is also somewhat more widely professed than at any former period; and by a singular and most exasperating coincidence, nearly all the slaughtering is done amongst and by the most Christian nations."

Sacred Themes:
  • [Wherein the author repeatedly punctures the balloon of religious hypocrisy.]     "We admire the wisdom of Solomon, and wish he had chosen to display it; and are amazed at the miracles of the Prophets, so inferior to our own prestidigitateurs, and some respects superior to the corresponding ones of their heathen predecessors and contemporaries."

The Model Reporter:
  • [Satires on "typical" newspaper stories, especially those of the community news type, along with some pointed pieces on the folly of newspaper editors.]     "Senator Casserley has been at it again.  He made a speech to the Tammany Society of New York on the 4th of July, compared with which all his previous efforts were as but the growl of a sick spaniel to the concerted roar of all the bulls of Bashan."

Nuggets and Dust is prime Bierce, his acerbic voice ringing through in every paragraph.  Perhaps a bit old-fashioned for everyone's taste, but I can't help but wish the old curmudgeon were alive to comment on what is going on in the world today.

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) was the youngest of fourteen, ten of whom were girls who all slept in one room in the family's Cumberland Mountains, Kentucky, farmhouse.  The Ritchies were a musical family, steeped in the traditional songs of the area.  Two of her older sisters, Una and Mae, provided many songs for folk music collector Cecil Sharp, and her father had printed a book of old songs.  Music was a vital part of the Ritchie family and young Jean first learned folksongs and hymns through the oral tradition by way of her family members and neighbors. 

After graduating college with a degree in social work, she got a job in a social services agency in New York's Lower East Side.  She met and became friends with Alan Lomax, who recorded her for the Library of Congress.  Ritchie soon became an important part of the New York folksinging scene.  She preferred to sing without musical accompaniment but would occasionally play the guitar, autoharp, and Appalachian dulcimer.  The dulcimer became an intergral part of her music and by 1949, she decided to produce them with the help of her uncle-in-law and another relative, beginning the dulcimer revolution in American folk music. 

She received the 2002 National Heritage Fellowship (the country's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts) and was inducted into the Long Island music Hall of Fame.

Her pure, clear voice and love for traditional music will live on.

"Barbry Allen"


"L and N Don't Stop Here Any More"

"Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender"

"One I Love"

"Shady Grove"

"Nottanum Town"

"Black Is the Color"

"Hunt the Cows"

"See That Rainbow Shine"

"The Cherry Tree Carol"

"Blue Diamond Mines"

"The House Carpenter" (with Doc Watson)


"Wild Mountain Thyme" (with Tommy Makem)

"Christ Church Bells"


An absolute Thanksgiving classic!


From November 19, 1950.

May you all have a blessed and meaningful day.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Another one I had to post this week.

The Original Schnicklefritz Band with Freddie Fisher.


  • If my grandmother saw me making mashed potatoes from a boxed mix...she would turn over in her gravy! 
  • Knock knock

          Who's there?


          Tamra who?

           Tamara I'll be having leftover turkey sandwiches

  • What would you get if you crossed a turkey with a ghost?  A poultrygeist
  • Why did the turkey cross the road twice?  To prove he wasn't chicken.
  • The police just came in and arrested my Thanksgiving turkey.  They suspected fowl play.
  • My family told me to stop telling Thanksgiving jokes.  I told them I couldn't stop cold turkey.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


So I had to post this one this week.


Nothing like a cheesy Fifties drive-in fare horror film, I say.  So today I present The Monster of Piedras Blanco, with its recycled monster -- inspired by The Creature of the Black Lagoon, the monster's feet and lower torso were from the mutant in This Island Earth and its claws were recycled from The Mole People; the recycling continued past his film when the entire get-up was used in Flipper:  Flipper's Monster (1965).

The movie's credits do not name the characters, just their generic descriptions; i.e., The Doctor, The Constable, The Lighthouse Keeper, The Storekeeper, The Girl, The Boy.

The Lighthouse Keeper (his name is Sturges, played by John Harmon) is a grumpy widower who has been secretly feeding the monster meat scraps bought from The Storekeeper (his name is Kochek, played by Frank Arvidson).  No one else knows about the monster, of course.  Soon the monster gets hungrier and starts feeding on the locals of this quiet seaside town.  Headless, bloodless corpses begin to pile up.  The Constable (his name is George Matson, played by Forest Lewis) doesn't know what to make of it.  The Lighthouse Keeper's daughter is The Girl (her name is Lucille, played by Jeanne Carmen) and she works at the local cafe; The Lighthouse Keeper is concerned that she will walk home in the dark, what with a monster around and all.  Not to worry, he's told; The Boy (his name is Fred and is a biology student, played by Don Sullivan) will be by to walk her home.  The Doctor (his name is Dr. Sam Jorgeson, played by Les Tremayne, who gets top billing in the credits) is around to examined the bodies and to say, yep, the heads were bit clean off and to note that the blood had been sucked out through a severed artery.  Those are the main characters.  Well, there's also Eddie (played by Peter Dunn) who doesn't count, except that Dunn also plays the monster.

Naturally, the girl goes skinny dipping while the unseen monster paws at her clothes.

 Just to show how dastardly the monster is, The Lighthouse Keeper's dog (his name is Ring, I don't know who played him) is killed.  **gasp**

And you wonder why this flick never won an Oscar.

The Monster of Piedras Blancas was produced by make-up artist Jack Kevan.  According to IMDb, this was the only flick he produced, but some of the comments hint that he may have moved on to porn flicks.

The director was dialog coach Irvin Berwin, in his first directing gig.  He went to direct another seven forgettable movies.

The screenplay was the work of H. Haille Chance, who was also a dialog coach.  Chance has a total of five writing credits on IMDb, including V. D. (also known as Damaged Goods), a moralistic exploitation film about a high school who gets the clap.

The tagline for this flick was "The Fiend That Walked Lovers' Beach!"

So take a walk down that beach.  and enjoy.

Monday, November 25, 2019


Bartholemew William Barclay ("Bat") Masterson was born 166 years ago today in Quebec.  Buffalo hunter, Army scout, Indian fighter, gunfighter, sheriff, gambler, sports reporter, newspaper columnist, and close friend to Wyatt Earp, Damon Runyon, and Theodore Roosevelt, his image is best remembered today by Gene Barry, who portrayed Bat Masterson in the self-titled television series on NBC from 1958 to 1961.

The show's theme was sung by Lenny "Bat" Mizz, with music by Cowboy Philly.

Happy birthday, Bat!


The Silica Gel Pseudomorph

South Jersey is a very sandy country.  There are miles and miles of sand there.  Some of it is very pure white sand used for making glass and for molding sand.  Some of this sand has sharp edges but most of it is rounded as if the grains had rolled around until the edges had worn away.  Mr. Kummel has written a paper about the sand in the Report of the New Jersey State Geological Survey for 1906.  His paper is entitled "The Glass Sand Industry of New Jersey."  It is a very interesting paper though you might not think so from the title.

There are also very large beds of green and red sand.  The green sand is especially interesting because it contains such immense amounts of alumina, iron and potash.  If our chemists can only find cheap methods for extracting these substances we shall have enough to last us forever.

The most curious thing about this green sand is that it is still forming in the water along our coasts.  Here the limestone shells of dead foraminifera are slowly filling up with the green substance as their bodies decay.  The shells are slowly dissolved by the sea water at the same time, so that the green sand grains give a perfect cast of the inside of the shells.

I became interested in this sand while I was in college.  The professor sent me down to Mullica Hill to get a load of it to experiment with.  He wanted to find a way to work it.  At Mullica Hill I heard that a farmer by name of Peter Norman had a pit on his farm.  One of the loafers there offered to go along and show me the way.  I told him he might go if he could get the farmer to let me have a load of sand for nothing and help me load.  This he promised to do.  On the way he informed me that Norman's daughter, Euphemia, had taken a notion to him and probably they would jine up.  I said I was looking for a wife myself and if I liked her looks I would take her along, but I must be sure first that she was a good cook.  He looked me over as if I were some kind of insect and asked me how much I weighed.  I told him all of fifty tons.

When we got to the house Euphemia came to the door herself.  I must say that she was a very fine looking girl with mischievous eyes.  She said her father was down at the other end of the farm and my friend had better go get him.  Then she giggled.  When he had gone she looked at me and giggled some more.  Said I might go ahead and take all the sand I wanted.  I asked her if she was sure her father would be willing and she said:  Sure!  She said she would show me the p[it and got on the seat beside me,  As we drove along she told me that one of her girl friends had told Sim she was gone on him.

I said, "yes, so he told me."

"Did he?" says she, "the poor simp!"

"If you go about breaking hearts like that," said I, "you'll get in jail next.  I understand the sheriff has been instructed to jug all the flappers."  This made her giggle some more.

She stood by the side of the pit while I threw the sand into the truck.  After I had been digging a bit my shovel struck something that felt like rubber.  It was round like a rubber ball as I uncovered it
and larger than a canteloupe.  I tried to throw it out, but it seemed to fastened to something at one side.  I went on digging and was getting interested when I heard someone shouting, and there was the farmer coming as fast as he could, waving his arms and shouting with all the breath he had left.  When he reached the pit he was huffing and blowing so he could hardly speak, but he made it plain that he was cross because I had dug without permission, said I had no business to do it, it was trespass, and he had a great mind to have me arrested.

I said that his daughter had allowed me to dig but that did not seem to satisfy him.  Euphemia told him that I wasn't hurting anything and that he was making a goose of himself, so he quieted down.  Asked what the round ball was?  I told him I didn't know and he got a shovel and dug too.  After a while the girl said:

"Why it looks like a man!"

It did, too.  We went on digging and uncovered his legs and the his feet.  They were feet all right, but he was the queerest looking thing you ever saw.  After he was uncovered we turned him over and I declare he had a nose mouth and ears; it was a man!  But the oddest looking man you ever saw.  His body was nearly transparent, like cloudy glass.  You could see all his bones through this.  He looked like stiff jelly with pieces of cotton in it.  We looked at him then at one another.

"Well, I vum," said Papa.

"Did you ever," said Phemy.

"Geewhitakers," said Sim.

The farmer brought our a wide board and we rolled him on it.  Then I nailed narrow boards on the side, so that he was in a kind of trough.  There he lay, glistening in the sunlight.  When looked up I saw that Euphemia was giggling again.

"Why the laugh?" said I.

"Don't you think he looks funny?  I never expected to see a man's bones like that."

It hadn't struck me that way before but it was funny, and I had to laugh too.  Just then the man sneezed.  Euphemia gather up her skirts, for she had on a long dress, not one of the bathing suits the flappers wear on the streets nowadays, and made a bee line for the house.  I felt kind of scary myself.  It isn't every day, I can tell you, that you dig up a jelly corpse and have him sneeze just as life-like!  Pop Norman was by this time as white as a sheet.  But what the corpse did next certainly made me stare.  He opened on eye, and after looking around a bit, confused-like, he looked at me, and winked,  I certainly was flabbergasted.  The he opened the other eye and sat up.  Then the farmer scooted.  The corpse began to talk to himself in some kind of outlandish jabber,  I thought it sounded like Spanish but it came out like lightning and I couldn't get it.  I had studied Spanish at college but I was not very well acquainted with it.  After saying the same thing over three or four times he turned to me and said it again -- slowly, and quite imperiously.  I went to the house and found Euphemia very badly scared and the old man drinking blackberry brandy.  He called it a cordial.  I insisted that he get some clothes for the stranger and we picked out an old suit I thought might fit.  I took these out to the Spaniard but he was much displeased with them and said he was not accustomed to such garb.  I told him it was that or nothing and the girl was coming so he finally put them on.  He seemed to be about as spry as ordinary people, and his manner was very polite.

Euphemia got over her fright after awhile and came downstairs but she seemed quite shook up.  After awhile the Spaniard tried to talk to her but of course she couldn't understand until I translated for her.  After awhile she seemed to like to hear what he said.  His talk was quite high-flown, and after every few words he would put his hands on his chest and make a low bow.  This seemed to suit Euphemia.

It was getting on towards evening and I was obliged to leave but I asked Euphemia to take care of him and I promised to bring a Spanish book so she could make out what he said, and I told him to stay here until I got back.  He promised to do so and I went away.

When I told the professor about my glass man he smiled and smiled.  He said the Spaniard must be a silica gel pseudomorph, and he was surprised and delighted that he or it could talk Spanish, and when he this he grinned like a Cheshire cat.  I got a Spanish dictionary and phrasebook from the college bookstore and went back next day.  I found he trying to explain the difference between ser and estar.  It struck me that was a funny thing to do, but he seemed rather touch, so I gave her the books and went back to college.  I was very busy the rest of the term and couldn't get away, but as soon as possible I went back.  They were out riding the old man said, and he seemed rather put out.

When they came back I tried to tell her about the green sand, but she didn't seem to be interested and he yawned; so, after talking to the old man for a while I came away.  She didn't ask me to come again.  He was polite but quite formal.

I saw no more of the Normans nor of my Spanish friend for a month.  I was in Trenton one afternoon and was walking on the street when who should I run into but the Normans,  they were staying with an aunt of hers and I went with them.  We sat up pretty late that  night while Euphemia told me about the Spaniard.  She said she wondered if I hadn't heard about it; part of it, it seemed, had gotten into the newspapers.

She told she had soon got so she could speak Spanish pretty well.  It was not difficult except for that miserable ser and estar.  They both meant the same thing and you were pretty sure to use the wrong one.  I told her it was like the old lady who knew difference between soldier and shoulder but never could tell which was which.  She said the Spaniard talked all the time.  He was so polite that at first she liked him pretty well, but he never seemed to like her father and didn't treat him very well.  He claimed to be a hidalgo, which appeared to be some kind of a nobleman.  He was terribly stuck on himself.  He was a ferocious eater and kept her cooking most of the time.  He was always asking for dos hueva fritas or carne de vaca.  "He kept me frying eggs or Dad runnin to town for meat all the time.  I believe he could eat a gallon of soup, and it took so much butter to fry the papa fritas that we had none left for anything else.  He was fond of fish, too, and was always askin for them.  Things got so bad that Dad and I  concluded that we had better take him down to the shore where fish don't cost so much.  By this time something got the matter with him.  It had been rather cool and moist by this time but by the time we were ready to start there was a dry hot spell.  Before this you could see everything inside his head except where the bones were in the way.  But now white patches by snow began to grow on his face, and pretty soon he began to look like a snow man.  His face was perfectly white without a trace of color.  It was frightful.  I kinda liked his looks before that.  You needn't laugh; you like the good lookin women best, and I don't see reason why we shouldn't like the good lookin men." [sic]

"If he didn't get what he wanted at once he flew into an awful rage and it was pretty fierce, I can tell you, to have Snow White rampagin around.  So we took him to the shore, or at least we started for the shore.  He had a sword that the blacksmith had made for him out of an old scythe of Dad's and a belt around him to hold it.  I said we might be arrested for carrying such things around, but Dad said you cannot carry concealed weapons, but nothing was said about other kinds, and there was nothing concealed about that sword.  So we started off in the wagon, and he sat in the front seat with Dad.  Pretty soon I noticed that little white scales was driftin down from him on the floor.  It was hot that day but he didn't seem to feel it in any other way, but all the time those little white scales kept siftin down 'till the floor was white.  I didn't like to say anything for fear of hurtin his feelings but I got mighty nervous.

"We had been on the way about an hour when he spied some oranges in a store we was passin, and he  got out, went in and took them.  Didn't stop to pay, just took them and went out.  The store keeper came out and said, politely, that he forgotten to pay,  but Snow White flew into a rage and began to swear frightful.  He pulled out his sword and chased the store keeper into the store.  Then we drove on, but by this time Dad and I were scared stiff.  About an hour later we passed through Swedesboro when a little fellow with a star on his coat came up and told us we were his prisoners.  The Spaniard jumped out and ran at him with the sword.  The constable was plucky; he pulled out a pistol and fired at the Spaniard, but he didn't hit him, and the Spaniard chased him down down the road.  We drove on then but more scared than before.  I asked the Spaniard if he wasn't afraid of being put in jail but he said no, they wouldn't dare touch a hidalgo.

"Pretty soon we came to cross road and somebody yelled at us from a clump of bushes 'Surrender in the name of the law.'  But that didn't frighten him.  He just jumped out and charged that clump and drove the two men in it down the road.  By this time we almost to to Pennsgrove.  I was so scared that I got off and ran down a side street and Dad after me.  We didn't see any more of him but we was told he drove in as large s life and met the sheriff , with two deputies.  He chased them and cut one of them pretty bad.  Then he ran to the wharf, jumped on a fishing boat, cut the cable and started down the river.  The revenue cutter got after and they fired a shot at the  boat.  This made her fill and she went down but they managed to pull him out.  Of course he got very wet.  They took him to the jail, gave him some dry clothes and put him in a cell.  They captured Dad and me too, but after they asked us a lot of questions they concluded we wasn't to blame and let us go.  I went to see the Spaniard next day and, say, he was a sight!  All the white scales was gone but they had been thicker in some places than in others, and where they had been thickest there was a kind of pit in his face like a man who had small pox.  He looked fierce, but the water had made him look like glass again.  There was no snow white stuff on him at all.

"They took him before a J. P. that day and he told them that he was a Spanish nobleman who was willing to die for Spain.  H said he had sunk m any English ships and killed many English and that he was willing to do it some more.

"Now, I don't know what you think," Euphemia said to me, "but I think that fellow had been thrown overboard from some ship and was petrified on the bottom of the sea and covered with sand.  When you dug him up he just came to life again.  He must have been a bird when he was alive, so he mjust went on being a bird when he came back to life."

'Well, the Justice of the Peace must have thought he was crazy so he sent him to the asylum.  But he didn't stay there long.  He broke loose one night, made for the shore, killed two men who was sleepin in a small vessel, pulled up the anchor and put to sea and hasn't been heard of since."

-- Edward Hart (1854-1931), The Silica Gel Pseudomorph and Other Stories (1924)

(My Monday posts usually start with the opening paragraph or two of a story that interested me.  Breaking with that today, I decide to go with this complete and enjoyable tall tale.   As a tall tale, a lapse of logic and/or continuity is acceptable: just my way of saying don't worry about what ever happened to Sim, among other things.

(Hart was a chemist and the editor of The American Journal of Analyutical and Applied Chemistry from 1882 to 1901.  He was also the author of several chemistry texts.  His collection of twenty stories (mainly fantasy) relating to chemistry.   The Silica Gel Pseudomorph, as well as some of his textbooks, was published by Chemical Publishing Company of Easton, Pennsyvania)

He's Just a GURL Who 'll QUID PRO QUO:  Randy Rainbow strikes again:

The Mousetrap:  Today marks the 62nd anniversary of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, the longest continuously running play in history.  First staged in 1952 at the New Ambassadors Theatre in \London's West End, The Mousetrap has gone through 28,000 performances as of  October 12, according to the show's official Facebook page.  It is now running at London's St Martin's Theatre.

Truth to tell, it's not the greatest play ever.  Nor was it very well received at the start:  The Manchester Guardian called it "a middling piece...[where] coincidence is stretched unreasonably."  The Daily Express thought that some of the characters were "too obvious by half."  Others were more kind. 

The play has now become a tradition among London tourists.  Although The Mousetrap's plot and ending are now well-known, audiences are asked not to reveal the play's twist ending.

 I won't reveal the ending if you won't.

Florida Man:  Nature doesn't like Florida Man.  Joseph Zak, 37, told Fort Pierce police that the wind had blown the cocaine into his car that they had found.  Presumably, the wind also blew in the crack pipe they also found there.

What does the fashion maven wear when being arrested for armed robbery.  If you are Florida Man Trentin Richardson, the answer is an exfoliating mask.

Road rage takes on a new twist in Largo.  Florida Man David Paul Wipperman, 61, was not satisfied with the apology he received from a female driver.  He had gotten out of his truck as the woman rolled down her window to apologize, Wipperman pulled the car door opened, spit a mouthful of chewed food on the woman, and loudly began to curse her.  A true Southern gentleman.

Florida Man Martin Skelly, who carries 380 pounds on his 5' 9" frame. thought he could fool Pinellas County police by hiding his crystal meth in his bellybutton.  He was wrong.

A commuting Port Orange Florida Man took a taxi to and from a bank robbery.  Police made no mention if he paid the cabbie with some of the stolen loot.

Boynton Beach police are searching for a man who robbed a mall Taco Bell twice while also making himself a snack.  I am too cultured and readers of this blog are too delilcate for me to suggest how police can find this neer-do-well.

Miramar mayor and Florida Man nobody has ever heard of Wayne Messam has decided to drop his campaign for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination.   Messam threw his hat into the ring last March but has failed to garner any traction for his campaign.  Ya think?

And On the Positive Side:  Humpback whale population has bounced back from the brink of extinction, from just 450 to over 25,000

Camaroon man uses waste plastic bottle to build canoes for fishermen in need

Austrian government plans to turn Hitler's childhood home into a police station to deter neo-Nazi pilgrimms

Researchers discover a brain circuit that controls compulsive drinking, offering hope for an alcoholism cure

Thousands of dog lovers go on Facebook to describe their pups for a blind man

Actress Kristen Bell is using her Instagram account to help send thousands of gifts to teachers in need

First sickle cell disease patient to be treat with gene edited cells shows significant improvement

And, in this post from the 2015, this man moved an entire middle school to tears

"Remember there is no small act of kindness.  Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." -- Scott Adams

Today's Poem:
Grace for a Child

Here, a little child I stand,
Heaving up my either hand:
Cold as paddocks though they be,
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat, and on us all.     Amen

-- Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I wish you all a joyful and meaningful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


From 2012, Doug Stanton in discussion with mystery author Lee Child at the City Opera House (Traverse City, Michigan) as part of the National Writers Series.  This event was recorded by UpNorth  Media Center (now Traverse Area Community Media).  Child discusses his life and work, including the then upcoming Jack Reacher novel A Wanted Man, and talks about the film casting of Tom Cruise as Reacher.

Please note:  adult language.



"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" goes Dixieland.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


Jimmy Boyd.


Here's another romance comic book for your edification.  Please be aware that teens in the sixties evidently had little to confess, despite what I remember about being a teenager then. 

High school senior Ted gets a new car and, like a cursed satanic object, it changes him.  Girlfriend Judie is upset.  Ted starts hanging out with the "wrong" crowd.  Worse, Ted even ignores his studies!  (Gasp!)  Soon Judy has had enough.  Can Judie pull Ted back from the brink of having fun?

Paula returns from the junior prom with her boyfriend Tommy.  Her world is just perfect.  She loves Tommy and is thinking of marrying him eventually.  Her father is doing well and they have moved into an expensive new home and belong to the local country club.  The IRS investigates the company where Paula's father is treasurer and suspicion falls on him.  Tommy -- that dastard! -- believes the rumors and begins to shun Paula.  Of course Paula's father is innocent and Frank, the boy who works part-time at the company, proves it.  Frank is a much better catch than tommy.

Lois and Danny had been going together for two years and Lois believed she loved him.  That's why she let him kiss her!  (And, no, "kiss" is not a euphemism for something else; teenage comic book high school girls did not think that way in 1960!)  enter the new high school drama teacher Ralph Tucker -- a dream boat of the first order.  Lois goes instantly ga-ga over him.  Sigh.  Now there's a strain on her relationship with Danny.  Lois throws herself at Mr. Tucker only to be rebuffed and to find that he has a fiance.  Tough luck, Lois!  It's back to Danny.

Buzz and Anne had been dating a short time when he up and joined the Army.  He made her promise to wait for him until he returned, presumably with a ring.  Anne promised but, in her heart, was not quite sure how she felt about him.  Still, Anne held to her promise, even going to the senior prom solo.  After basic training Buzz was immediately shipped to Germany.  That summer, Anne meets Carl and their friendship began to blossom, yet Anne  feels guilty about Buzz.  Turns out that Buzz is a dirty dog who has been dating every girl he met since joining the Army and doesn't give a rat's patoot about Anne.  So Anne kisses Carl and her mother bakes a cake and we know that all will be well.

All in all, these are pretty mild and pretty sappy teen confessions.  If you expected confessions like "My Acne Ruined My Life!," "I Refused To Duck and Cover!," "I Think My Bio Teacher Showed Up Drunk!," or "I Told Them That Zip Gun They Found in My Locker Was Not Mine -- But They Wouldn't Believe Me!" you are in for a big disappointment.

Disappointment or not, check it out:

P.S.:  Why put ads on a comic book cover.  I mean, who does that?

Friday, November 22, 2019


Fifty-six years.  **sigh**


The Mystery of Cloomber by Arthur Conan Doyle  (1889)

 Mention Conan Doyle and one automatically thinks of Sherlock Holmes.  On further reflection, one may consider the scientific fantasies about Professor Challenger, or the historical novels the author held in high esteem, or the improbable adventures of Brigadier Gerard, or his writings on the Boer War and other nonfiction works.  Others may recall his penchant for spiritualism and his gullibility in accepting the Cottingley fairies.

Not that many recall what might be his first novel, The Mystery of Cloomber.  I'm not sure when Doyle wrote this book but Cloomber was first published in the Pall Mall Gazetter in 1888, and as a book in 1889;  his first published novel -- A Study in Scarlet -- originally appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887.  The second Holmes novel -- The Sign of the Four -- appeared in 1890 and appears to have borrowed some of its structure from Cloomer.

Cloomber is not a great book.  It may not even be a good one.  But it is a fast, enjoyable read.  With a little bit more emphasis on either of the two female characters, the novel could have appeared as a paperback gothic in the 1960s -- the ones with the cover featuring a young girl running in the night from a dark house/castle/estate with just one lighted window.  Except the estate in this book has every window lit.

Cloomber Hall, located on the wild moors in the west of Scotland, has stood unoccupied for years, shunned by superstitious natives.  Then workmen appeared to refurbish the old building.  It has been bought by Major General John Heatherstone, late of the Indian Army.  Heatherstone is a secretive man, avoiding all contact with the locals.  To this end he constructs a wall around his entire estate.  With Heatherstone is his fragile wife and his son Mordaunt and daughter Gabriel. 

The main narrator of the story is John Fothergill West, the son of a poor Sanskit scholar who has been placed in charge of the landed estate belonging to his half-brother, Laird of Bransome.  Branksome is located about one mile from Cloomber.  Living with West and his son is his daughter Esther.  As befitting his role as the Laird's representative, the elder West goes to pay a visit to Cloomber but is rebuffed at the gates of the hall.  Fothergill West often finds himself near the gates of Cloomber Hall during his walks.  One day he is greeted by an attractive girl, Gabriel Heatherstone, and begins a conversation between the gate.  She appears desperate for company but says that her father keeps her and her brother restricted to the property for some reason beyond her.  Gabriel introduces Fothergill West to her brother; Fothergill West assures the two that, should they ever be able to leave the hall, they would be most welcome to visit Branksome.

The young Heatherstones are occasionally able to sneak out without their father's knowledge and soon a tight bond grows between the two Heatherstones and the two Wests.  Fothergill West becomes secretly engaged to Gabriel and Esther is receptive to Mordaunt's attentions. 

During a storm, a ship goes down in the bay and, among the survivors are three Buddhist priests traveling from India.  News of this frightens General Heatherstone and he asks Fothergill West to be alert and come to his aid if need be.  It's obvious that whatever the General fears, it's origins lay in his past in India.  Added to the General's fears are the ringings of some kind of bell, a sound that appears to come out of nowhere and can be heard several times a day.  Gabriel tells Fothergill West that her father grows more fearful and erratic every year as October 5 approaches.

This particular year, October 5 culminates in horror as a fate determined 40 years before overtakes the General.  A wild chase through the moors ends at the Hole of Cree, a seemingly bottomless pit feared by natives.  More questions arise than answers.  Some of the answers are then provided by the General's Indian dairy from 1841.

Suspense, mystery, and oriental mysticism combine to provide a read that may seem obvious to the modern reader.  This novel may pale in comparison to other works by Doyle, but it is still a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Thursday, November 21, 2019




Crime Classics, a docudrama from CBS Radio, ran from June 15, 1953 to June 30, 1954.  The show examined real crimes from ancient Greece to 19th century America.  Crime Classics was created, produced, and directed by Elliott Lewis, a man known as "Mr. Radio" because of his  virtuosity and author of seven detective  novels about ex-cop turned P.I. Fred Bennett.  Morton fine and David Friedkin wrote all the episodes.   The host was "Thomas Hyland," played by Lou Merrill.

The story of Robby-Boy Balfour aired on March 31, 1954, and told of an episode from Scotland in 1707.  It features Bob Lamont, Virginia Gregg, Norman Field, Betty Harford, Steve Roberts, and Ben Wright.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019


James Brown.


Edmond Lowe played newspaper columnist David Chase for all thirty-eight episodes of Front Page Detective, a half-hour crime drama from the Dumont Television Network from 1951 to 1953.  Chase often helps police (most notably Lieutenant Andrews, played by George Pembroke in thirteen episodes) in difficult cases.  Eye candy was provided by Paula Drew, who played Sharon Richards in eighteen of the episodes.  Drew had a brief seven-year film and television career consisting mainly of uncredited roles and culminating with her turns as Sharon Richards.  The television show took its name from the pulp magazine Front Page Detective and the episodes were supposedly based on stories from that magazine.

"Murder Rides the Night Train" was the show's fourteenth episode.  It was directed by Arnold Wester from a script by Herbert Moulton and Robert Leslie Bellam (Moulton was best known as a television producer and assistant producer; Bellam was a prolific pulp writer and the creator of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective).

In this episode, a crime boss (Lyle Talbot) is traveling to testify before a Congressional Committee.  David chase rides on the same train to get an interview and soon realizes that there are some people who don't want the gangster to testify.


Monday, November 18, 2019


The Moody Blues.


Openers:  The little poodle's name was Gigi.

It huddled close to the body of the dead woman.  Occasionally it shivered uncomfortably, although the temperature inside the house was a comfortable seventy-one.  Now and again, the poodle would whine for a few minutes; sometimes it turned its head to lick the woman's still arm.  It would not lick her face because there was too much blood on it.

-- Clark Howard, Love's Blood (1993)

"The Shocking True Story of a Teenager Who Would Do Anything for the Older Man She Loved -- Even Kill Her Whole Family"  The teenager was Patricia Ann Columbo, who slaughtered her Elk Grove Village, Illinois, family in May 1976.  Writer Clark Howard first met her in a maximum security in January 1991 as he was researching a book on the crime.  Slowly over the next two years, the details of the crime emerged.

Howard (1932-2016) was the author of sixteen novels, six non-fiction books of true crime, three short story collections, and over two hundred uncollected short stories.  He won the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, five Ellery Queen Reader awards, the Derringer award, and has been nominated for Anthony, Shamus, and Spur Awards.  His stories have been adapted for film and television.  Howard's original screenplay Last of the Good Guys was a featured CBS Movie of the Week and his non-fiction book Six Against the Rock was also a television movie.  His writing is marked by a deep insight into human nature.

Born in Ripley, Tennessee, Clark Howard spent his less-than-idyllic youth on the streets of Chicago.
He detailed part of that time on the opening pages of Love's Blood:

Chicago periodically drew me back to its concrete bosom.  I hadn't lived there for nearly twenty years, but every once in a while I had to go back and prowl its lower West Side streets like a specter in a graveyard.  Maybe it was because it was between the ages of eight and fourteen I had spent a hundred years on those streets searching for an ex-convict father who was already dead; or because my mother had overdosed on heroin there; or because my earliest real friends had been street kids like myself and had all been sucked into the sump of killings, crime, prison, drugs, alcohol -- and I had not.  My only "time" had been done in a euphemistically named "state training school"  for boys -- read reformatory -- and my only killing had been sanctioned by the Marine Corps.  I had long ago made my own break from my own prison. and it had been successful,  the other kids hadn't escaped.  Maybe that was what drew me back now and then.  Wondering:  why me?

Howard enlisted in the Marines at age seventeen.  He admitted the discipline and sense of purpose there turned his life around.  Serving as a rocket launcher gunner, he was one of eight who survived the battle of the high ground north of Punchbowl in Korea.  Discharged at age twenty, he attended journalism school at Northwestern University but left after one semester when a professor declared his writing "undisciplined and of no commercial value."  By that time, he had already sold two stories to New York magazines.

A major rediscovery of Clark Howard is long overdue.


  • Kevin J. Anderson, Hair Raising.  A Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel, fourth in the series.  "The fur really flies when a serial scalper stalks the supernatural citizens of the Unnatural Quarter, targeting werewolves -- and what's sadder than a chrome-domed lycanthrope?  Zombie P.I. Dam Shamble is on the case, trying to stop an all-out gang war between full-time and full-moon werewolves.  As he combs through the tangled clues to hunt down the bald facts, things get hairy fast.  Shamble lurches through a loony landscape of voodoo tattoo artists, illicit cockatrice fights, body builders assembling make-your-own-human kits, and perhaps scariest of all, crazed fans in town for the Worldwide Horror Convention.  Yet the reign of hair-raising terror grows longer.  If Shamble can't snip this off at the roots, the whole world could end up howling mad."  
  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunnits.  Mystery anthology with 22 original stories by Robert Barnard, Charles Todd, Peter Tremayne, Martin Edwards, Edward Marston, and others.  "Charles Dickens's works and his unforgettable characters are still read around the world.  But just what became of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield or young Pip in Great Expectations?  And what really happened to Edwin Drood?  Was the case ever solved?  Here are more than 20 specially commissioned new murder mysteries based on characters and incidents in Dickens's fiction, as well as his own life.  All major works are represented including Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, Hard Times, Great Expectations, and, of course, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Even Dickens himself turns a hand to investigating, plus we meet up with contemporaries Mrs Gaskell. S Baring Gould, and Edgar Allan Poe."
  • Peter Brandvold, Once Late with a .38.  A Sheriff Ben Stillman western from Mean Pete hinmself.  "Sheriff Ben Stillman has enough of a hard time keeping the peace in the town of Clantick without having to worry about the likes of Matt Parrish.  Since his father died, Matt has been responsible for the Circle P Ranch -- and his hotheaded streak has been responsible for a lot of trouble with other ranchers...including his future father-in-law, Tom Suthern.  Despite failing health and loss of profits, Tom refuses to sell his spread to Matt, even if he is marrying his daughter.  So when Matt is discovered in the presence of Tom's bullet-riddled corpse, people naturally assume he murdered the old man.  Now it's up to Ben Stillman to protect Matt from a trigger-happy posse and find the real killer -- before it's too late..."  For fast-paced western action, you can't go wrong with Bandvold.
  • D. M. Devine, My Brother's Killer.  Mystery novel.  "Oliver Barnett is found murdered in his office.  The investigation into the crime reveals a man that his younger brother, Simon, does not recognize -- a callous blackmailer.  But was this the reason for his violent death?  Simon sets out to clear his brother's name, and to demonstrate the innocence of the woman he once loved."  This is the first of thirteen mystery novels written by Devine (1920-1980), the last seven appearing as by "Dominic Devine."  His books were well-written and superbly plotted.  Agatha Christie was a fan of Devine's throughout his writing career; she had nominated this book as winner of the Don's Detective Novel Competition held by Collins Crime club in 1961.  Unfortunately, Devine was a university administrator and not a don, so the book was disqualified, yet the contest kick-started his career and it was published by Collins Crime Club.
  • Clark Howard, Love's Blood.  True crime.  See above.
  • [Eleanor Sullivan, editor] Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1973, October 1984, and January 1985 issues.  Thrift store finds.  Includes stories by Isaac Asimov, William Bankier, Lawrence G. Blockman, Christianna Brand, Mary Higgins Clark, Miriam Allen deFord, Robert L. Fish, Celia Fremlin, Michael Harrison, Edward D. Hoch, James Holding, H. R. F. Keating, Patricia McGerr, Robert P. Mills, Francis M. Nevins, Jr, Shannon O'Cork, Josh Pachter, and Janwillem van de Wetering, among others.  Plus the usual features and the second part of an EQMM Author Photo Quiz.  This magazine has always been a bargain since its inception in 1941.

Getting Your Thanksgiving Freak On:  With the holiday less than two weeks away, it's time to start thinking about what to serve for your Thanksgiving Day meal.  Should you stick with the traditional but tasty meal that your family has always had?  Or perhaps it's time to think out of the box?  Here's a couple of ideas.

If Thanksgiving means turkey to you and yours, this Bourbon Glazed Turkey is a unique twist on a holiday favorite.

If your family and friends like things hot, how about trying Oyster Kimchi Stuffing?  This recipe takes a bit of preparation but the results are amazing.

How about something a little different for your spuds this year?  Mashed Potato Mushroom Caps might just fill the bill.

Sweet potatoes are a staple on many the Thanksgiving table.  For reasons I can't understand, people tend to serve them candies or topped with marshmallow or something equally repulsive.  Instead of trying to drown the wonderful flavor or sweet potatoes, why not just enhance it with these Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potatoes?

For another interesting variation for your table, try Cornbread with Dried Tomato and Basil.

Add the flavors of the season with this after-dinner treat:  Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding.  And don't forget the sweet bourbon sauce.

If you listen to NPR, then you are already familiar with Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish.  "It sounds terrible but it tastes terrific," Susan Stamberg says of her mother-in-law's now famous recipe (which she lifted from a 1959 New York Times clipping of Craig Clairborne's Cranberry Relish).  It is a must-try.

Thanksgiving is about gratitude, family, and friends.  Some of the above ideas may add to your enjoyment and appreciation of the day.

Impeachment:  I'm not going to go into it this week.  You know what's going on, who's saying what, who's denying what, who's accusing who, how both sides are trying to spin, and you've probably made up your mind on which side you are.

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man called Dade City 911 to report his roommate has stolen his weed.  Florida Man was insistent and kept calling.  Again and again.  Over and over.  A Dade City deputy finally had to post a message on Twitter:  Stop calling.
  • Newly official Mar-a-Largo Florida Man retweets son Eric's promo of their DC hotel, infuriating his former ethics chief.
  • Florida Man and registered sex offender Brian Sherman of Orlando has been arrested for fondling a "Disney Princess" at Walt Disney World.  The Magic Kingdom has suddenly lost its magic.
  • Fourteen-year-old Florida Girl has been charged with slapping a man dressed as Donald Trump at a Haunted house in Collier County.  Also, Florida Man Matthias Ajple of Indian River County was arrested after spitting on a  man and slapping off his MAGA hat.  The resistance is beginning to take things a little too far, my friends.
  • Florida Man Sandy Lamar Graham, Jr, turned himself in to police after hitting three banks in three hours.  He robbed the first two and attempted to rob the third.  He did not make the Guinness Book of Records because there was not an official to view his hat trick.
  • Naked Florida Man is all over the place.  In Fort Lauderdale he beat and killed a peeping tom who was spying on him and his girlfriend.  In Delray Beach he jumped aboard a yacht to steal a flag.  And in Cape Coral he was caught smashing the windows and doors of plumbing businesses.  None of these incidents provide an image I want seared into my brain.
  • In Polk County, Florida Man Andy Sigears was arrested for drunk Segway driving.  Sigear and the nearly two bottles of wine inside him rode into incoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.  It might have been bad luck or just bad judgement that he did it in front of a county sheriff substation. 

There Is Also...Wait for It...Good News!:
There is wonder and kindness and good all around us.  All we need to to do is to take the time to appreciate it.

Today's Poem:
[You are coming to me in the rain]

You are coming to me in the rain
a self confessed illusionist
with the weather in attendance like a well-trained pet
your long hair webs about your neck
skin shows warm through flimsy cotton

in your eyes I see what I've been longing for
our fingers hardly touch; it's time enough however
for a life's experience to slip away
for you to lose a paralysing charge
so this theatre-piece of vein and muscle falls apart
the juggler's mid-thrown fan of bones comes
clattering down

I'm left with nothing but my skin to hold me up

-- Rodney Hall

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Happy Birthday, Diana Krall!


Magazine Enterprises, a small comic book publisher, managed to snag a couple of popular western characters for their magazines.  In addition to their regular titles, the characters appeared in the quarterly anthology comic book Best of the West.  The first issue featured radio's Indian hero Straight Arrow, Charles Starrett's popular movie character The Durango Kid, radio's Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders, and the original Ghost Rider.  Bobby Benson was bumped in issue #2 to give way for Tim Holt as a regular in Best of the West.  This line-up continued until the last issue (#12) in which Straight Arrow and Tim Holt were replaced by Red Hawk and Red Mask.

Issue #1 starts off with "Giant Killer!"  In a David and Goliath story, Comanche Straight Arrow is pitted against the Crow giant Pow-Tah-Kan in battle.  (Pow-Tah-Kan is so large he cannot ride a horse and has to use a war chariot.)  When I said a David and Goliath story, I meant that literally.

"Death on the Buffalo Trail" features The Durango Kid.  Remember when slaughtering buffalo for their hides was thought to be a good idea?  Well, a gang of owlhoots has been killing buffalo hunters for their hides and money -- which ticks off Steve Brand (The Durango Kid*) when his buddy Brancy is murdered.  To catch the baddies, Steve and his sidekick Muley join the "Buffalo Trail."  Soon enough, The Durango Kid identifies the bad guys and finds himself caught between their blazing guns and a stampeding herd of buffalo -- certain death from two fronts!  Well, not so certain.  We know The Durango Kid will prevail somehow.

Young Bobby Benson and his B-Bar-B Riders are in the north country where, for a change, they come across "The Timber Rustlers" instead of cattle rustlers.  Bobby suspect Jud Jenson, the foreman of the Collins Timber Ranch, to be behind the timber rustling but Collins finds that hard to believe.   Bobby and Collins' young Daughter Cathy manage to catch Jenson in the act but Cathy is captured and Bobby goes logrolling in an attempt to escape.  The bad guys shoot at the logs, causing Bobby to fall off.  Our boy hero does not get crushed by the logs however and must try to rescue Cathy and capture Jenson and his gang.  Can he do it?  Be still my beating heart!

Rex Fury, the original, non-supernatural Ghost Rider, faces off against a cunning band of Kiowa raiders.  The Indians have forced the telegraph operator at the Jophar Wireless Station to send a false message to the nearby Army fort that the Indians are raiding far-off Sable Falls.  Leaving the fort guarded by just two men, the army rides off in full strength -- giving the Kiowa an opportunity to raid the fort for guns and much-needed supplies.  The Indians did not count on a third person being at the fort -- the Ghost Rider!  By the time the Ghost Rider arrives at the fort , the raid has commenced and the two soldiers guarding the fort have been swiftly killed.  Rex, clad all in white, with a flowing cape and bone-white hood (and his pure white steed Spectre), fill the superstitious Indians with terror.  The Kiowa retreat for the moment, allowing another person to enter the fort -- Sing-Song, Rex's Chinese cook.  Together, they prepare several spooky surprises for the Indians as the Kiowa chief Tecmahseh urges his men to attack once more.  Pity the poor Indians.

Good art by Fred Meagher, Joe Certa, Bob Powell, Dick Ayers, and (I believe) Frank Frazetta back up these solid stories, which may have been written by Gardner Fox.


Friday, November 15, 2019


Marianne Faithful.


Secret of the Black Planet by Milton Lesser (1965)

Milton Lesser would soon be better known as Stephen Marlowe, a pseudonym he used and then legally adopted.  As Marlowe, mystery readers may best know him as the author of the best-selling paperback series about P.I. Chester Drum, others may best know him as the author of such best-selling novels as The Shining, Colossus, The Lighthouse at the End of the World, and The Valkyrie Encounter.  In the early Fifties Lesser was a hack writer who most often published stories in the Amazing Stories stable, with occasional jaunts to Ray Palmer's Imagination and other lesser magazines under his own name and as "Adam Chase," "Darius John Granger," "C. H. Thames," and "Stephen Wilder," reserving the Marlowe name for the mystery magazines and for his early paperback mystery novels.  As "C. H. Thames," he wrote a popular SF series of ten stories about Johnny Mayhem; one addition Mayhem story was published under the "Darius John Granger" name.

After his name became Stephen Marlowe, he seemed to abandon the SF field, first for the mystery field as Marlowe, "Andrew Frazer," Jason Ridgeway," "C. H. Thames," and "Ellery Queen" (he ghost-wrote the first EQ paperback novel that did not feature Ellery Queen as a detective), then for the hardcover best-seller field.  Lesser/Marlowe was always a readable author who in his later career became an accomplished one.

Lesser's early SF work fit his name aptly.  It was lesser.  His audience was basically uncritical teenagers eager for fast action, facile characterization, improbable ideas, and a hero who would conquer against all odds -- in other words, old-fashioned space opera.  Not that there's anything the matter with that.

Which brings us to Secret of the Black Planet, a paperback "original" novel that's neither original nor a novel.  It's really two novellas that were published in back-to-back issues of Amazing Stories:  "Secret of the Black Planet" (June 1952) and "Son of the Black Chalice" (July 1952).  In the first sectin, we meet a circus strongman called Bok-kura, the strongman of Jupiter; Bok-kura has no memory of his past -- just of his past few years as Bok-kura.  It turns out that he is really John Hastings, a well-known space explorer who vanished and was thought dead after discovering a mysterious asteroid.  (SPOILER:  The black planet of the title is really this black asteroid, which isn't even an asteroid but an alien-made construct.)  And John Hastings may be immortal.  Whatever happened on the asteroid gave him super-regenerative powers -- he cannot be killed and may not even age.  He finds himself caught between warring factions from Venus and Mars but somehow manages to rediscover the lost asteroid, hook up with a beautiful girl, and bring the secret of immortality back for a select few.

Twenty-five years later, Hastings' son Johnny finds himself in the middle of another battle.  Because the nature of gaining immortality -- via an alien machine -- it is impossible for all but a few to reap the benefits.  The numbers do not allow the majority of humanity to become immortal; there are only so many people who can use the machine at any one time -- to many people to use just one machine.  Now this is where Lesser ignores basic mathematics (just as he later ignores basic physics and the laws of relativity) -- there are a million immortals now in the three-world system.  Everyone else feels left out and resent those who are immortal.  War is brewing.  Anyway, Johnny has figured out how to survive an interstellar trip in a starship and heads into space to try and find the race that not only designed the immortality machine, but also "seeded" the planets with lifeforms that eventually evolved to be human.  It's a small starship, but a girl smuggles herself aboard, they fall in love, and marry in the hokiest ceremony in the galaxy.  Eventually they find another black "asteroid," occupied by a five-million-year old robot who guides them to another galaxy.  Can they find the answers they seek and return to Earth in time to stop the bloodshed?

The writing is simple, fast-paced, facile...Great stuff for the hidden teenager inside of you.

I should note that the second section falls victim to Belmont Books' cheap production standards.  Stick with it.  the rewards are slight but they are there.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


James & Bobby Purify were not brothers, but were cousins:  James Purify from Pensacola and Robert Dickey (who took Purify as a stage name) from Tallahassee.  Dickey left the duo for health reasons in 1971 and the new "bobby Purify" was Atlanta's Ben Moore.


Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche star in this version of Magnificent Obsession, a 1929 Lloyd C. Douglas best-selling novel that was filmed in 1935 with Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor (in a role that brought him to stardom).  Lux Radio Theatre had previously aired a version of this story on April 26, 1937 that featured Dunne and Taylor in their original roles.  I chose the Colbert/Ameche version  to link to here simply because it aired almost 75 years ago on November 13, 1944.

Spoiled rich guy Ameche is saved through the use of specialized hospital equipment which meant that the equipemnt could not be used for kind, philanthropic surgeon Dr. Hudson at the same time.  Hudson died and his widow (Colbert) blames Ameche.  Ameche realizes that he had been a cad all his life and that Dr. Hudson should have lived instead of him.  When Colbert is blinded in an accident, Ameche watches over her without revealing who he is, eventually paying for the failed operation that attempted to restore her sight.  Ameche reveals himself and proposes to the still blind Colbert.  Colbert refuses, not wanting to be a burden to him.  Ameche then goes on to be a brain surgeon.  When Colbert needs brain surgery, guess who's there?

A lifetime supply of Kleenex and all the violins in the world are needed for this tear-jerker.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Glen Campbell and Jerry Reed.


A burglar broke into a house one night and as he was looking for valuables he heard a voice behind him saying, "Jesus is watching you!"  The room was dark and he only had a small flashlight, which he swung around and saw there was a caged parrot in a dark corner.  The parrot repeated, "Jesus is watching you!"

He let out a sigh of relief.  "You startled me, bird!"

The parrot cocked his head and said (with great resentment, mind you), "My name is not 'Bird.'  My name is 'Throckmorton.'  Please call me by that name."

The burglar laughed.  "What idiot named you Throckmorton?"

"The same idiot that named the rottweiler 'Jesus.'"

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Mr. Penniman.


Today is Jack Oakie's birthday.  To celebrate, here's a 1934 mystery with Oakie playing Jack Ellery, the stage manager for the musical review Earl Carrol's Vanities.  When someone tries to injure the show's leading lady Ann Ware (Kitty Carlisle in her film debut), Ellery calls on his friend, policeman Bill Murdock (Victor McLaughlin), to investigate.  Eventually there's a murder (an unknown woman found on a catwalk) and Murdock suspects the leading man Eric Lnder (Carl Brisson), who happens to be Ann Ware's fiance.  You know that the murder will play second fiddle to the musical numbers in this pre-Code film.

Did I say pre-Code?  One musical  number, "Sweet Marijuana" from Gertrude Michael, features nudity, blood, drug references, and swearing.  (Bette Midler covered that one in the 1970s.)  Also featured was the hit song "Cocktails for Two."  Duke Ellington and His Orchestra add to the musical talent.

And the cast is incredible:  Toby Wing, Charles Middleton, Donald Meek, and Gail Patrick. Look closely and you'll find Lucille Ball, Alan Ladd, Dennis O'Keefe, and Ann Sheridan in uncredited roles.

Directed by Mitchell Leisen (Death Takes a Holiday, Frenchmen's Creek, The Big Broadcast of 1938) and adapted by Carey Wilson (Mutiny on the Bounty, Green Dolphin Street, Scaramouche) from the play by Earl Carroll and mystery writer Rufus King.


Monday, November 11, 2019


(2005-2019)  You were a good dog.  You were loved.  You will be missed.


Priscilla Herdman, with Guy van Duser on guitar.  Eric Bogle's powerful words are at the link.


Openers:  We drove up the hill from the entrance gates and saw before us vaguely, through the night and the rain and the activities of the windshield wiper, a low, extensive building and three wind-blown elms.  This was the Ivory Tower, a name which I should never have given a house of mine, for it implies that those who live in it have run away to shelter from the realities of a life too hard for them to face.

I had never met the Mrs. Granville who owned this place, but i happened to see her one day in the summer, a hot, blazing morning in early July, I think.  Near the medical school where my husband Jeffrey is head of a department, I had seen the station wagon with the curious inscription in block letters on its door, "Ivory Tower, Jefferson, Connecticut."  It was a title easily remembered.  The car was jammed with people, plus a barking red setter, and was driven by a woman in her early thirties.  I thought her, even in that glimpse as we passed each other, one of the most interesting and beautiful women I had ever seen.

-- Theodora Du Bois, The Case of the Perfumed Mouse (1944)

Du Bois (1890-1986) was a playwright and novelist who published at least 38 books in a number of genres:  mystery, science fiction, fantasy, historical romance, and juvenile, as well as at least one nonfiction book.  She used her married name for most of her work and her maiden name Theodora McCormick for historical romances.  Many of her mysteries are tinged with science fiction or the fantastic and often involved medical themes.  About half her books (including this one) feature the detective duo of Anne and forensic chemist Jeffrey McNeill.  Her writing career took a major downturn when her publisher, Doubleday, stopped publishing her books after Seeing Red (1954), which savaged the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism.  Her husband of 47 years, Delafield Du Bois, was an engineer who later worked on the Manhattan Project.  The couple were active in World War II helping displaced scientists and academics from Cambridge and Oxford, and their families.

Dubois is not well-known today.  Her most recognizable book is probably the science fictional Solution T-35 (1951), in which the American resistance comes up with a weapon to fight the communists after the USSR wins World War II.  The Case of the Perfumed Mouse has the McNeills investigate a murder at a party at Ivory Tower -- a murder by rats.  A houseful of misfits, a dead perfumed mouse, a thirteen-year-old girl with "mental vagarities," and the sound church bells all figure into the mystery.

Theodora Du Bois is a forgotten writer who should be rediscovered.

Veteran's Day:  The holiday began as Armistice Day, first celebrated on November 11, 1919, the one year anniversary of the end of World War I.  In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance and it became a national holiday in 1938.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954.  Except for four years when the holiday was observed on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day has always been held on November 11, to celebrate the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" -- the day that World War I ended in 1918.

Unlike Memorial Day, which honors our war dead, Veterans Day honors all veterans -- living and dead -- who served honorably in any of the branches of the US military. 


  • 18.2 million living veterans served during at least one war as of 2018.
  • 9 percent of veterans are women.
  • 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
  • 3 million veterans have served in support of the War on Terrorism.
  • Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 496. 777 were still alive in 2018.
  • Connecticut was home to the highest percentage of World War II veterans as of 2018 at 7.1 percent.
  • 2 million veterans served during the Korean War.
  • As of 2017, the top three states with the highest percentage of veterans were Alaska, Maine and Montana, respectively.
Despite having a low draft number during the Vietnam War, I did not pass the physical and thus did not serve.  (My right eyeball was damaged when I was three and my right hand was still wonky after I lost a battle with a moving cement mixer a couple of years before.  None of this "bone spur" nonsense for me.)  

I have had good friends and relatives who have served.  I have had friends who died.  My namesake, Jerry Speed, lost his life at Guadalcanal.  I have always had the greatest respect for those who served, and much, much less respect for politicians who got us into wars for specious reasons.  I believe in a strong military and a strong defense.  I do not believe in wasteful spending that short-changes our troops of needed equipment and does not honor the needs our men and women in uniform, and their families.  I get angry when our veterans do not get the full medical support they have earned.  I am grateful for the men and women who have served because I am grateful for America; we cannot have one without the other.

Sing Along:  
A Look at World War I:   Percy Crosby, who would go on to create the Skippy comic strip, enlisted in the Army during World War I.  He was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Victory Medal.  The sketched below, featuring a naive rookie named Private Dubb. were drawn in No Man's Land, lying on the ground and waiting to move as the war exploded around him.  That he was able to find humor in such a situation speaks well of the American soldier.

  • Between Shots (1917-1919)

  • That Rookie from the 13th Squad:

A Look at World War II:  Nobody personified the American soldier better than Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe:
Today's Poem:
The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War

marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel. 
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through ea skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century, 
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

-- James Doyle