Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Who am I to buck with tradition?  Here's Dougie MacLean.


From March 29, 1951, Lee Bowman plays the title character in this episode of The Adventures of Ellery Queen.  During a high profile murder trial, Ellery proved the defendant could not have committed the crime, leaving prosecutor Charles Boone (John Newland, director/host of television's One Step Beyond) humiliated.  Shortly after the trial Boone resigned.  Determined to get even with Ellery, Boone plots "the perfect crime."  Florenz Ames (Mr. Dithers on television's Blondie) co-stars as Ellery's father, Inspector Richard Queen.


Monday, December 30, 2019


Jeff Lynne, with Richard Tandy on piano.


Openers:   There was nothing to indicate impending trouble that beautiful spring afternoon.  The streets of Chicago resounded with the accustomed roar of traffic, and hurrying pedestrians dodged truck and cable cars heedless of aught but the immediate cares of life.  The afternoon papers contained no hint of threatened danger, and the afternoon of May 23, 1899, drew to a close as uneventful as thousands which had preceded it.

It was the afternoon before the anarchist riot -- the last demonstration of force anarchy in America.  A prolonged period of industrial and commercial depression with its train of poverty and suffering had revived the anarchists' groups, scattered and dismembered since the Haymarket tragedy of years before.  Of the extent of this movement the press and public knew little, but it was an open book to the police department.

Frederick Upham Adams, President John Smith:  The Story of a Peaceful Revolution (1897)

Adams (1859-1921) was an American inventor (he invented the electric light post), writer, and editor.  From the book above, it will come as no surprise that he was also a political organizer.  President John Smith was evidently his first book.  After writing that book, he became the co-editor of a reform magazine, The New Time, for a couple of years.  He was one of the organizers of The Majority Rule League of the United States, which advocated the removal of business interests and, most importantly, monopolies in national politics, and that the nation should be governed by majority rule of the people.  these views are clearly evident in President John Smith.

As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction states, "Most of the works which we can characterize with hindsight as Proto SF are political fantasies.  The earnest and constructive aspect of this endeavor is generally displayed in Utopias..."  The end of the nineteenth century provided plenty of fodder for political novels -- unrest seemed to consume the world, corporate and political greed was becoming unbearable, the country had lost two presidents to assassination -- one as recently as 1881, and the industrial revolution had brought change, hope, and opportunity, but at a terrible human cost.

Another political look at the presidency came from Herbert Dickinson Ward (1861-1932), who published the 1891 story of "A Republic Without a President," the beginning of which capitalizes on the uneasy fears of a nation:

"On the morning of the eighth of June, 1893, at about ten o'clock, crowds were seen clustered in front of the daily newspaper bulletins in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Boston.  The excitement rivaled that occasioned by the assassination of Garfield, and by night the country was as bewildered and aghast as when the news came that Lincoln was murdered.  This was the announcement as it appeared in blood-red, gigantic capitals by the door of the New York Tribune building:







"Extras found enormous sales, but they contained no more news than this.  Business was brought to a standstill and stocks fell in half an hour from five to twenty per cent.  The land was convulsed.  It was true that there were those who thought the whole thing a colossal hoax perpetrated by the losing party.  But as time went on the startling and incredible news was confirmed.  The evening edition of the New York Sun has these ominous headers.






Wow, those headlines really piled it on.

The early twentieth century brought with it more political novels, the Yellow Peril, Bolsheviks, and the War to End All Wars.  Political novels -- whether Utopian or satire -- gave way to political thrillers, a much more escapist type of read.  I wonder if some literary critics of a century from now will look back at our current times and posit that we should have had more political novels and less political thrillers?

IT'S WORSE THAN THAT, JIM.  SHE HAS NO AIM AT ALL:  Willow the cat is now fourteen and a half years old.  For the past two years Christina has housed Willow with us; she had been behaving very stressed at Christina's, suddenly peeing and pooping anywhere, with blood in her stool, and just acting nervous and unhappy -- a combination of old(-er) age and living in a house with three other cats, three dogs, and a very active and noisy five-year-old.  So off she went to us and a more stable environment.  It worked.  She immediately stopped all her bad behavior, although for the first few most she remained aloof as all cats must do.

Slowly she became more affectionate and prefers to sleep on the sofa snuggled up next to Kitty or me.  The about three weeks ago, she started changing.  She would go in where her litter box is and deliberately miss.  She began peeing anywhere except her litter box.  We were not happy and tried a few suggested remedies to no avail.  We have now been spending a lot time cleaning floors and furniture.  Other than her bodily function problems she has remained just as sweet as even, although perhaps a bit more affectionate.  We were worried that her incontinence just might be a symptom of her age.

So yesterday we bundled her up and took her to the vet.  Nothing appears to be physically wrong with her.  The vet did find some fleas on her and suggested that they be causing the stress that is causing our problems.  Now, Willow has always been an indoor cat and shows no inclination for venturing outside.  And out house is clean, but the vet told us that this time of year fleas abound outside and can often be brought into the house unknowingly.  So we have the flea treatment and the flea medicine and a sincere hope that the cat will get over this problem.  Trouble is, the vet said this process could take up to three months.  O joy.  We're stocking up on additional cleaners and pet odor products and keeping our fingers crossed because she really is a super good cat.

Speaking of...:  I like theater.  I really do.  And I like musicals.  Even the sappy ones.  Kitty and I spent a number of years working at an Actors Equity theater and loved almost every minute of it.  We saw Cats when the road show first came to Boston and enjoyed it...the costuming, the music, the enthusiasm.  The barely there plot had me scratching my head, though (to borrow a phrase) it was barely an inconvenience.  Now they've turned the darned thing into a movie which is not living up to expectations.  Creepy CGI and pure word of mouth are having a negative effect on the film.   **sigh**  I think I'll for some streaming service to air it instead of going to a theater.

It could well be that this pitch meeting for Cats is more entertaining than the movie:

So this got me to thinking.  Remember the fun times we all had in the Sixties, with the Kennedy assassination, civil unrest, and the Vietnam War?  And when Barbara Gerson wrote MacBird, updating MacBeth into a screed against the Johnson administration?  We have much the same situation today with mass shooting, civil unrest, and an unwinnable was in Afghanistan.  Some enterprising soul should take Cats and update it as a screed against the current administration.  You could call it Rats.  Somebody could easily make a gazillion dollars with a property like that.  I'd do it myself but I have a large pile of laundry to fold.  So, please, you do it.  You will have my blessing.

Hot Time:  206 years ago today, British soldiers burned Buffalo, New York.  Some think it was an action in the War of 1812; I'm fairly certain they were just trying to keep warn du.ring a Buffalo winter.

And Now for Something Completely Different:  Because we are still in the holiday season, I thought I would point out Florida Woman Colleen Hutton of The Villages, who has hand made over 300 Christmas ornaments to honor law enforcement officers across the country who have died in the line of duty.  Each ornament has the officer's name. the date they died, their agency, and their rank.  Hutton has been doing this since just after 9/11. 

More Kind People and Astonishing Breakthroughs:  Good news does not take a break over the holidays.

"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the figure of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."  -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Today's Poem:
The Year

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go, 
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheathe our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.

--Ella Wheeler Wilcox

May 2020 bring you joy, wonder, hope, peace, and the strength to overcome any obstacles that may come your way. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019


Bad taste abounds.  

Bimbo, Scrappy, Felix the Cat, a stop-motion peanut man, an incomplete Russian folk tale, a stop motion feature starring real dead bugs having bug sex, and Duffy the stop-motion toy dog will leave viewers scratching their heads, wondering, What the heck is going on? and Did I just see what I thought I saw?


The Petersons go wading in the water.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


The Coasters.


Captain Marvel's new and important venture is The Safety Round Table.  He has called three people to be his Lieutenants of Safety:  Captain Caution, Speedy Ade, and Sir Safety.  (It should be noted the Sir Safety is a pint-sized imp with pointed chin and pointed ears.  He wears a medieval style hat and he can fly.)  All three are dedicated to the mission of fighting CARELESSNESS and promoting SAFETY.  Their  mortal enemy is Demon Danger and he is ready to strike anywhere and at anytime!

In the last issue the lieutenants prevented disaster through careless kite flying near electrical wires.  Parents and concerned adults are sending accolades to the trio but Marvel warns them of rumors that Demon Danger is plotting something new.  And indeed he is.  First Danger convinces a kid to climb a telephone pole, then he gets a couple of kids to climb and electrical tower, then -- to cap things off -- he lets two kids to limb out on a limb over electrical wires.  Is there no limit as to what that dastard will do?  Evidently not, because he next has kids climbing the fence into an electrical substation by having them pretend it is a fort.

Now, granted, these kids are gullible (a three-syllable word for stupid, which is a to syllable word for dumb), but fear not -- the Lieutenants of Safety are on the job, teaching the kids about common sense and caution.

But that's not all!  We also have a two-page feature, "The U.S.A. Way," which helps show us what a great country America is.

And in the Icing-on-the-Cake Dept., we are treated to an episode of The Taylor Family.  The Taylors are headed off for a picnic and Sir Safety comes along to help Mr. Taylor drive carefully.  First Mr. Taylor forgets to signal a turn and crashes, denting a fender.  The he foolishly tries to bet a yellow light and has to slam on the brakes, causing the picnic basket to hit him on the back of the neck and to blow out a tire.    Now he feels he has to speed to make up for lost time; he hits a wet patch and crashes into a hen house.  Once back on the road he gets tired and stops on a busy highway; when he gets out of the car, he is clipped by a passing car, landing in a patch of poison ivy.   Pop Taylor may be a dim  bulb, but he's finally learned his lesson about the importance of safety.  And about time, I'd say.

Enjoy this comic, but enjoy it cautiously and safely, always being on the alert for the hidden gotchas.

Friday, December 27, 2019


An old music hall song from Ernie May.


Some Things Dark and Dangerous, edited by Joan Kahn (1970)

Legendary editor Joan Kahn (1914-1994) was known as "publishing's grand dame of detective stories," thanks largely to her 34-year stint as an editor at Harper & Brothers/Harper & Row, where she oversaw the "Harper Novel of Suspense" line and eventually had her own imprint.  Among the authors she edited were John Creasey, Patricia Highsmith, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Julian Symons, John Dickson Carr, Helen Eustis, "Nicholas Blake," Andrew Garve, Michael Gilbert, John Ball, Nicholas Freeling...the list goes on.  For her contributions to the mystery genre Kahn received both the Ellery Queen Award and a special Edgar Award.  From 1967 to 1987, she edited eleven highly respected mystery anthologies, of which Some Things Dark and Dangerous was the third.

In reviewing this book, Gahan Wilson had only one genuine gripe:  "The only angle that puts me off it, and puts me off by God it does,  is that the thing is supposed to be aimed at children.  Now why this particular group of shockers should have 'Age 12 and up' on its flyleaf and a forward by Miss Kahn which makes you feel as if you were being patted on the top of your head by the town librarian, I cannot say."  (The copy I have is the 1982 Avon Flare edition -- also marketed for youth.)  Wilson's complaint is somewhat valid in that the marketing strategy may have limited the book's reception on the adult market; this complaint, he admits, does nothing to limit the quality of the content.

Here we have 16 entries, some fiction and some nonfiction, covering a wide range of suspense, mystery, horror, and ever-so-gentle grue:

  • "Mr. Loveday's Little Outing," by Evelyn Waugh (from Harper's Bazaar, March 1935, under the title "Mr Crutwell's Little Outing")
  • The White Cat of Drumgunniol," by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (from All the Year Round, April 1870; reprinted in Le Fanu's Madame Crowl's Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery [1923], and others)
  • "The Murder of Dr. Burdell" by Edmund Pearson (from The New Yorker, December 21, 1935; a true crime article)
  • "The Destruction of Smith" by Algernon Blackwell (from Blackwood's Pan's Garden:  A volume of Nature Stories, 1912, and others)
  • "Wet Saturday" by John Collier (from The New Yorker, July 16, 1938; reprinted in A Touch of Nutmeg and More Unlikely Stories, 1943, and others)
  • "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in The Bag" by Dorothy L. Sayers (a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery from The 20-Story Magazine, May 1926, as "The Adventure of the Cat in the Bag;" reprinted in Sayers' Lord Peter Views the Body, 1928, and others)
  • "Fatal Visit of the Inca to Pizarro and His Followers in the City of Caxamalca" by William H. Prescott (An except from Prescott's History of the Conquest of Peru, 1847)
  • "Man Overboard" by F. Marion Crawford (from Man Overboard!, 1903, an independently published story)
  • "Portrait of a Murderer" by "Q. Patrick" (Richard Wilson Webb & Hugh Callingham Wheeler) (from Harper's Magazine, April 1942; reprinted in The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow and Others Stories as by "Patrick Quentin," 1961; the story has also been published as "Kisses of Judas")
  • "The Dead Finger" by Howard Pyle (from Harper's Monthly Magazine, September 1911 )
  • "Boy Hunt" by John Barlow Martin (from Harper's Magazine, December 1944; nonfiction)
  • "Calling All Stars (Intercepted Radio Message Broadcast from the Planet Cybernetica)" by Leo Szilard (from Szilard's The Voice of the Dolphins, and Other Stories, 1961; evidently written in 1949)
  • " 'These Terrible Men, The Harpes!' " by Robert M. Coates (from Coates' The Outlaw Years:  The History of the Land Pirates of the Natchez, 1930; nonfiction)
  • "When the Bough Breaks" by "Lewis Padgett" (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore) (from Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944; reprinted in Line to Tomorrow by "Lewis Padgett," 1954)
  • "A Musical Enigma" by Rev. C. P. Cranch (from Putnam's Monthly Magazine of Literature. Science, Art , and National Interests, May, 1870, as "A Musical Mystery")
  • "The Sinking Ship" by Robert Louis Stevenson (from Longman's Magazine, August 1895; reprinted in Stevenson's Fables, 1896)

A good collection of varied reading, perhaps both familiar and not so familiar.  there's sure to be something here to please every taste.

Thursday, December 26, 2019


The Four Tops.


Chris Turner, an insane radio writer, plots to murder his boss in this episode of radio's Suspense.  Turner is played by the great Richard Widmark, who was born on this day in 1914.  Joining Widmark in the cast are Kathy Lewis, Joseph Kearns, Charlotte Lawrence, and Jerry Hausner.  The show was produced by Elliott Lawrence.  The script was written by David Ellis, from a story by S. Lee Pogostin.  (Ellis was a radio actor who also dabbled in scripting; interestingly, he appeared in the Raymond Burr remake of this program. "Murder on the Mike."  Pogostin was a radio, television and film writer who was nominated for an Edgar for the 1969 movie Hard Contract.)

Suspense had recorded a different program called "A Murderous Revision" in January of 1951.  This episode, however, happened to star Howard Duff, who was blacklisted briefly.  CBS (brave little corporation that it was) shelved the entire recorded program and used the title toward the end of the year for this episode, which, in turn, was later revised as "Murder on the Mike."  The Duff recording is not considered to be part of the Suspense canon and was thought lost until it turned up on an Armed Forces recording.


And, Happy Birthday, Richard Widmark!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


[Certainly not the one you would expect this time of year!]

"At Cracovia there was born of noble parents a that was child terrible to behold, with flaming and shining eyes, the mouth and nostril were like to those of an ox; it had long horns, and a back hairy like a dog's; it had the faces of apes in the breast, where the teats should stand; it had cat's eyes under the navel, fastened to the hypogastrium, and they looked hideously and frightfully; it had the heads of dogs on both elbows, and at the whirlbones of each knee, looking forward; it was splay-footed, splay-handed, the feet were like swan's feet, and it had a tail turned upwards that was crooked, about half an ell long.  It lived four hours from the birth of it, and near it death it spake thus:  'Watch, for the Lord your God comes.'  'This was,' sayeth Lycosthenes, 'A.D. 1543.' "

-- Nathaniel Wanley, The Wonders of the Little World, 1678 (reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1952)


Yeah, kids, you'd better be in bed with visions of sugarplums all in your respective heads.  'Cuz this guys keeping a list of who's naughty or nice.  (He may be a NSA narc.)

 Anyway, this is the song for tonight, brought to you by Sesame Street.  (Which may be why the word "Coming" is used instead of "Comin'.")


Since the time of Dickens, Christmas Eve has been a traditional time to tell ghost stories.    Here's Walter de la Mare's "The Almond Tree."  The story has been adapted for time by Doreen Estall and is read by Julian Wyndham.



Little Richard.

Monday, December 23, 2019


Openers:  I swear I'm licked before I start, trying to tell you all what Mr. Onselm looked like.  Words give out -- for instance, you're frozen to death for fit words to tell the favor of the girl you love.  And Mr. Onselm and I pure poison hated each other.  That's how love and hate are alike.

-- Manly Wade Wellman, "O Ugly Bird!" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1951)

Wellman (1903-1986) was born in Portugese West Africa (now Angola), where his father was stationed as a medical officer, and his family moved to the United States when he was young.  He was educated in schools in Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, and Wichita, Kansas before getting  law degree from Columbia University.  He settled in North Carolina in 1951, where he remained for the rest of his life, declaring himself to be a Southerner by inclination and by intent, if not by birth.  His fascination with his adopted home led him to write a number of well-respected books on Southern and regional history.  His nonfiction book on North Carolina Murders, Dead and Gone, won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1966.  Almost all of the 29 young adult novels he wrote in the 1950s and 1960s dealt with some aspect of Southern history and Southern life.  Wellman's fascination with the South extended to the Appalachian and the Ozark Mountains; he traveled the Ozarks with noted folklorist Vance Randolph and grew a great fascination with mountain lore and music.  Wellman was a professional Southerner and considered himself a Southern gentleman; he had a deep appreciation for blockade whiskey, as well as an unfortunate appreciation for the origins of the Ku Klux Klan -- although he publicly disdained what the Klan had evolved to.

Wellman began selling to the science fiction, fantasy, and horror pulps during the 1930s and '40s, and, like many pulp writers, began contributing to comic books.  He wrote the first issue of Captain Marvel Adventures, and was called to testify when DC comics sued Fawcett for plagarism.  Hismother comic work included writing The Spirit while creator Will Eisner served during World War II and a number of adventures for Blackhawk.  Wellman earned the ire of William Faulkner when his story "A Star for Warrior" took top honors in the 1946 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Awards over one of Faulkner's stories; Faulkner told the editors that he was the most important American writer in Europe.  Despite a prolific writing career in many genres -- including a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize -- Wellman found himself working a variety of jobs, including farmhand, cowboy, and dance hall bouncer, in addition to teaching.

Wellman's most beloved fantasy character, John the Balladeer, a.k.a. Silver John because of the silver strings on his guitar, made his debut in "O Ugly Bird!"  An Appalachian wanderer and minstrel, John invariably found both evil and magic as he roamed the hills, eventually becoming a sort of folk hero to the mountain folk.  The John the balladeer stories were first collected by Arkham House in 1963 in their notable collection Who Fear the Devil?, followed by three variant collections published in 1988, 2003, and 2010, respectively.  John also had three novel-length adventures published from 1979 to 1984.  There has been one movie about the character -- Who Fear the Devil? (1972; reedited and released in 1973 as The Legend of Hillbilly John).  The character was also the inspiration for a 1994 recording by Joe Bethancourt which featured some of Wellman's original lyrics from the stories.  Also, a bluegrass band named The Dixie Bee-Liners recorded a song in 2008 inspired by Silver John.

Among Wellman's many achievements and awards are the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award, a British Fantasy special Award, and induction into the North Carolina Writers' Network Literary Hall of Fame.  In 2113 his name was given to an award to honor North Carolina writers of science fiction and fantasy.  Any one interested in Wellman's work would do well in sampling his various fantasy and horror stories.  Also of interest are his Sherlock Holmes mashup, Sherlock Holmes' War of the Worlds, his fictional take on the notorious 'Bloody Benders," Candle of the Wicked, his biography of Civil War General Wade Hampton, Giant in Gray, his moving history of the Civil War from a personalized Southern perspective, Rebel Boast:  First at Bethel, Last at Appomattox, his historical novel about an African warrior princess, Cahena, or virtually any of his young adult novels for the 50s and 60s.


  • Isaac Asimov, The Moon.  A thin nonfiction book aimed at elementary school children, detailing in broad strokes what was known about the moon as of the book's publication in 1966.  Part of Follett Publishing's Beginning Science series.
  • Peter Brandvold, The Devil Gets His Due,  A Lou Prophet western novel from Mean Pete himself.  "Lou Prophet's life as a bounty hunter has taught him one rule:  You don't stop riding until the job is finished.  Louisa Bonaventure, 'The Vengeance Queen', gives that rule a whole new meaning.  After seeing her family slaughtered by Handsome Dave Duvall and his Red River Gang, she and Prophet have tirelessly have tracked down and wiped out every last murderer -- except for the Devil himself, Duvall.  At last, revenge is at hand.  Prophet has never killed in cold blood, and always saw that justice had the last word for everyone.  But now he's caught in a bloody cross fire of hatred between the outlaw, who would shoot a man dead for the fun of it, and Louisa who has sworn to kill Duvall -- even if she dies trying..."  f you like your western action fast and exciting, Brandvold's your man.
  • Raina Telgemeier, Guts.  A YA autobiographical graphic novel from one of the best in the business,  "Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach.  Her mom has one, too, so it's probably just a bug.  Raina eventually returns to school, where she's dealing with the usual highs and lows:  friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session.  It soon becomes clear that Raina's tummy trouble isn't going away...and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships.  What's going on?"  A thoughtful and funny book about middle school, peer pressure, anxiety and panic attacks, eating disorders, hormones, and facing your fears.  Few people do this better in graphic format than Telgemeier.  I hold her in awe.

The Romantic Miss Woodhouse:  Today is the 204th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Emma, about a young, headstrong woman who clearly over-estimates her skills as a match-maker.  Emma Woodhouse misreads relationships and tries to match the wrong people with one another in this comedy of manners.  Her wrong-headed efforts backfire as she destroys the relationship between her friend Harriet Smith and Robert Martin when she decides that Harriet is better suited for the vicar, Mr. Elton.  Emma then focuses her attentions on Jane Fairfax, whom she believes loves the son of Colonel Campbell, who is an old friend of Jane's deceased father.   She also believes that Harriet has fallen in love with the personable Frank Churchill.  Emma is twenty-one and slightly spoiled, but her real folly is her inexperience, which leads her to wrong conclusions.  Her sister's brother-in-law, Mr. Knightly, is sixteen years Emma's senior and far more experienced in the ways of the world.  Knightly kindly tries to offer Emma advice but Emma is headstrong.  Everything works out in the end and people end up with whom they should.  A wiser and happier Emma marries Mr. Knightly.

Austen's book was fairly well-received despite what many noted as a lack of story.  Austen's characterization, clever wit, and portrayal of gender and society carried the day.  Over the years the popularity and reception  of the novel grew.  Some people consider it her greatest work although that accolade is more often reserved for Pride and Prejudice.

Emma has been adapted many times for film, television, radio, stage, and the internet.  It's currency has created a large fan base for the novel.  Among the adaptations were the film comedy Clueless, the modern Indian adaptation Aisha, a lesbian-themed web series, and two theatrical musicals.  Novels include Joan Aiken's Jane Fairchild, Sarah Price's The Matchmaker: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austin's Emma, Adm Rann's mash-up novel Emma and the Werewolves, and Wayne Josephson's Emma and the Vampires.

Emma Woodhouse, both in the original novel and in her many modern incarnations, is a character who will forever remain in the public consciousness.

Windmills and Toilets and Trump, O My!:  "I never understood wind, I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody...I know it is very expensive.  They are made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none, but they are manufactured, tremendous --  if you are into this -- tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere.  You know we have a world, right?"  Wind turbines are a threat to bald eagles:  "You want to see a bird graveyard?  You just go take a look.  A bird graveyard?  Go under a windmill someday."  And, of course the noise from  windmills causes cancer.  Almost every part of the above is false.  Wind power in 2018 avoided some 20 million tonnes of carbon pollution.  Some bald eagles have been killed by windmills and about 150,000 birds of all types are hit by windmills each year; about 21,333 times that number are killed yearly by domestic cats.  The claim about windmills causing cancer could cause just about every scientist in the world to do a spit-take.  The expense of windmills pale in comparison to the associated costs of more traditional forms of energy.  Trump does not know windmills very well and he has studied nothing at all -- anybody is better than Trump as it comes to studying.  But there is some truth here.  China and Germany do produce a lot of windmills and Trumps has never understood wind.

And how about them toilets, huh?  I mean you have to flush them ten, fifteen times.  Well, according to The Donald, he doesn't, but you have to.  Jesus, where does he get this stuff?   We know now that Putin planted the Ukrainian ideas in Trump's head, but did he also give him the misleading dirt on Toilets?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Langniappes:  So what did we learn this week?

We learned that Ukrainian military aid was frozen just ninety minutes after the Trump-Zelensky telephone call.

We learned that Trump aide Stephen Miller wanted to embed ICE agents in the US refugee agency that cares for unaccompanied migrant children, an attempt to go around federal laws restricting the use of the refugee problem to deport potential sponsor of children in custody.

While ranting on Twitter about Christianity Today, the magazine that had been founded by Billy Graham and had recently called for Trump's removal, our president conflated  the magazine (commonly called CT) with the television show Entertainment Tonight (also known as ET):  "I won't be reading ET again!"  (Begging the question whether Trump reads anything.)

Sarah Sanders, former white House Press Secretary, mocked Joe Biden for stuttering.  (Biden has has a lifelong struggle with the speech impediment.)  Sanders later apologized.  Trump, of course, famously mocked New York Times disabled reporter Serge F. Koveleski; Trump never apologized but has made efforts to revise what had happened.

In a recent tweet storm, Trump, in addition to misspelling the word "night" and misreading the constitution, claimed that 17% of the people at a recent rally were Democrats, that he has not really been impeached, and riffed on the O. J. Simpson trial, writing "If the impeachment is sh*t, the Senate must acquit."

The "Mooch" is back in the news.  Anthony Scaramucci told MSNBC's Joy Reid that if four people -- Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Rudy Giuliani -- were to testify under oath, President Trump wold be forced to resign.  What are the chances of Mitch McConnell allowing that?

Bad Florida Man:  Anthony Knuth, 30, shot a seven-year-old boy who was playing with a nerf gun at a friend's house.  Knuth does not remember shooting the boy in the knee with a ,22-caliber firearm.  Copious amount of Southern comfort was involved.

Good Florida Man:  Mike Esmond, 73, is the owner of a pool installation company in Gulf Breeze.  When he noticed that his utility bill was due on December 26, he remembered the time in the 1980s when his own power had been cut off during one of the coldest winters in Florida history.   Emond contacted the City of Gulf Breeze to ask if any residents were in arrears in their gas and water payments.  Esmond then shelled out $4600 to help 63 families with their bills.  Esmond said that community had been good to him so he should try to give back to the community.

Some Florida Men are quiet heroes.

More Good News:

"Life can be wonderful if I don't fixate on loss and the President.  Neither of those things can be fixed." -- the ever-wise Patti Abbott

Today's Poem:
Silent Night

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
[Silent night, holy night]
Alles schlaft; einsam wacht
[All is calm, all is bright]
Nur das truate hochheilege Paar:
['Round yon virgin Mother and Child]
Holder Knabe im lockigen haar,
[Holy infant so tender and mild]
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
[Sleep in heavenly peace]
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
[Sleep in heavenly peace]

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
[Silent night, holy night]
Herten erst kundgemacht
[Shepherds quake at the sight]
Durch der Engel Halleluja
Tont es laut von fern und nah:
[Glory streams from Heaven afar,
Heav'nly Host sing Alleluia;]
Christ, der ritter ist da!
[Christ the Savior is born]
Christ, der ritter ist da!
[Christ the Savior is born]

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
[Silent night, holy night]
Gottes sohn, o wie lacht
[Son of God, love's pure light]
Lieb' aus deinem gottlichen Mund,
[Radiant beams from Thy holy face,]
Da uns schlagt die rettende Stund'.
[With the dawn of redeeming grace,]
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
[Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth]
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
[Jesus, Lord, at thy birth]

May you have a joyous and meaningful holiday.

Sunday, December 22, 2019


It may or may not be the most wonderful time of the year but it is certainly one of the busiest.  Since today is Sunday, perhaps you have time to relax, put your feet up, and center yourself before the rush of the next few days.  Let me give a chance to do that with any one (or all) of these holiday offerings:

Peter, Paul and Mary -- The Holiday Concert from 1988.  This one has my favorite Christmas song ("I Wonder as I Wander") as well as Kitty's ("O Come, O Come Emmanuel") and much more wonderful music.  (1:28:34)

Johnny Cash & Family Christmas Show from 1977.   For those who want a bit of country flavor; with special guests Roy Clark, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis.  (44:48)

Christmas in Vienna 2018.  An annual advent concert from the Vienna Konzerthaus, presenting claasical and traditional music by ORF Radiosymphonieorcester Wein under the direction of Christien Arming.  Included in the program are sopranos Valentina Norfornita and and Angela Denoke, tenor Carlos Osuna, baritone Adrian Erod, the Vienna Singing Academy, and the Vienna Boys Choir.  (1:33:32)

A Pentatonix Christmas Tour Concert 2017.  For those who like their Christmas music acapella with a marvelous blend of voices.  (1:14:05)

Handel's Messiah from the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra under the direction of Brett Weymark.  Featured are soprano Celeste Lazarenko, countertenor Nicholas Tolputt, tenor Andrew Goodwin, bass-baritone Christopher Richardson, and the 600-strong Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Christmas Choirs.  (2:32:51)

So, relax.  Enjoy.  And have a great holiday season!


Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Rosette Gospel Singers with a holiday classic.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


To counter Thursday's post of Joan Baez singing "Nasty Man," here she is with a song about an entirely different president.


My Little Margie was a television show featuring Gale Storm and Charles Farrell that aired for four seasons in the 1950s.  Storm played 21-year-old Margie Albright.  Farrell played her widowed father.  Beginning as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy, it followed that Margie would find herself, like Lucy, in madcap situations.  Margie's comrade in zany situations was her neighbor, the oft-married Mrs. Odetts.  Margie's boyfriend is Freddie Wilson.

The My Little Margie comic book lasted for 54 issues, from July 1954 to November 1964.  The long life of the comic book, extending well beyond the life of the television show, was probably due to the show's popularity in syndication (it was often sold in a package with fellow Fifty's sit-com I Married Joan).

The comic book was geared for girls.  Margie's various outfits were based on designs sent in by readers (who were given credit for the designs).  There's a coloring page, two pages of cut-out dolls, a cartoon pin-up (for your scrapbook), and she even models wedding dresses.  And there are also cartoon stories about Margie.  She causes confusion with a tame bear.  She brings the nervous nephew of her father's boss out of his shell.   She also spends three pages trying on dresses.  Ten of the book's thirty-six pages are plastered with ads.  There's also a story about a Margie clone, Simple Saima, who bops a burglar with a real chair and a pair of cops with a breakaway movie stunt table.  (No. I'm not going to explain how that happened.)

Why not give this issue a whirl?


Happy winter solstice!  Simon & Garfunkle.

Friday, December 20, 2019


The Case of the Fenced-In Woman by Erle Stanley Gardner (1972)

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) was a prolific writer for the pulps when he hit it big with his lawyer character Perry Mason, who premiered in 1933's The Case of the Velvet Claws.  In total, Gardner wrote 88 novels and three short stories about his legendary character.  With sales of 300,000,000, the Mason books rank third in the best selling series books, right behind R. L. Stine's Goosebumps in second place, and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books leading the pack.  There have been six Perry Mason films, four starring Warren William and one each starring Ricardo Cortez and and Donald Wood.  From 1943-1945 there was a 15-minute daily crime broadcast of Perry Mason on CBS Radio but Gardner withdrew his support when the series had little in common with his character.  (An attempt for a 1956 television program by CBS failed and that show soon morphed into The Edge of Night.)  Perry Mason did make it successfully into television the next year with Raymond Burr in the title role; the show lasted until 1966 in that incarnation.  In 1973, The New Perry Mason, starring Monte Markham, appeared and quickly sank halfway through the season after only 15 episodes.  Burr was lured back to the small screen with a series of made-for-television movies featuring the character from 1985-1995; Burr, however, died in 1993 so the show's focus switched to to lawyer friends of Perry Mason, played by Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook.  A projected feature film about Mason from Warner Brothers has been in the works for about nine years and may never see the light of day.  So, too, is an HBO limited series and reboot, although this one has been kicked around for only three years.  And then there's the Perry Mason comic book and the Perry Mason comic strip -- both from the early Fifties.  Let's not forget the audio theater dramatizations of Gardner's Perry Mason books.  Mystery author Thomas Chastain was authorized by the Gardner estate to produce two books in 1989 and 1990 about the character; although Chastain was a talented author, the books did little to reflect Gardner's character.

The Case of the Fenced-In Woman was one of two novels found in Gardner's files after his death and was the first of the two to be published.  It was issued with this caveat:  "Although the work was written a few years earlier and set aside, the publishers believe it was ready for publication.  But it should be noted that the author had not done his usual final-draft polishing and checking."  It's true that the novel is a little bit rough -- especially with Perry Mason repeating umpty-ump times the duty of a defense lawyer (something I'm sure Gardner would have smoothed out in a final draft) -- bit the book reads well for a later series entry.  (Many feel, and I agree, that the early Mason books are the better ones; they have a more powerful, raw pulp feel to them.)

Morley Eden designed his dream house and went to Loring Carson to build it.  Carson had two adjoining lots of land that were just right for the project and built the house for Eden straddling the two lots.  Carson, however, was a fast talker and just a bit shady, not telling Eden that he was going through a divorce and that a judge ordered that one of the two lots belonged to Carson's estranged wife.  So Eden was surprised when he found that Carson's wife had claimed her property by putting up a taut, five-wire barbed fence through the middle of the property, extending on one direction through the driveway, and in the other through the swimming pool through to the rear property line.  On Eden's side of the fence were the bedrooms; on Vivian Carson's side, the kitchen and servant's quarters.  Vivian Carson had also gotten a restraining order against Morley Eden, which basically accorded a lawsuit against her husband as Eden's only resort.  Loring Carson claims to have no money, but his wife is certain that he is hiding significant assets and she feels that those assets might be revealed if Eden sues her husband.

To muddle matters further, Loring Carson claimed that his wife was unfaithful.  He had hired a private detective to follow her, but he had mistakenly (he claims) pointed out the wrong woman for the detective to follow.  The woman that the detective followed happened to be separated and was having an affair with a single man.  In the confusion that followed, that woman's reputation was smeared in the press, and Vivian Carson's own reputation was placed into question.  And there Carson's assets.

Hired by Morley Eden, Perry Mason tries to untangled this mess which became even messier when Loring Carson is found murdered on Eden's side of the wire fence with a knife that may have come from the kitchen on Vivian's side of the fence.  Strangely, Carson's both shirt sleeves are damp, while his suit jacket sleeves were dry.  And then there was the matter of the wet cigarettes in Carson's mistress's purse in Las Vegas.

Morley Eden and Vivian Carson are both arrested for the murder.  The police and the prosecution are tight-lipped about what evidence they have against the two.  (Yes, yes.  There is such a thing as a discover phase before a trial -- another thing that needed to be corrected in the final draft.)  But as Gardner's manuscript stood, Perry Mason was going to trial without knowing what he was up against.  There's a lot of razzle-dazzle, legal and otherwise, and Mason pulls a Hail Mary pass by having Paul Drake take Della Street's fingerprints to be entered into evidence.  Luckily, the trial judge gives Perry some lee-way and all ends well.  (Except, of course, for Loring Carson and for the real murderer.)

The Case of the Fenced-In Woman is a fast and entertaining read for anyone willing to overlook the book's early draft flaws.  It just could have been much better.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


To celebrate the impeachment vote, here's Joan Baez:


Let's join Britt Reid, debonaire young newspaper publisher by day, costumed crime-fighting masked vigilante by night, and probable grand-nephew of the Lone Ranger, as he and his faithful (sometimes Japanese-sometimes Filipino-sometimes Korean) valet/chauffeur/bodyguard/extra muscle Kato solve a case of the corpse that wasn't there.

The corpse was there when our two heroes discovered it in his apartment, but after the Green Hornet called the police and Kato was knocked out. it wasn't there.  Instead there was man who insisted he was living there. 

It's almost enough to make Rimsky lose his Korsakov.  Or to turn a Green Hornet Blue.

But worry not.  I'm sure our heroes will get to the bottom of this case,

Let's see, shall we?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


Dick Dale and the Del Tones.


An old man lay on his deathbed, knowing his time was short.  Suddenly there wafted into his room a most delicious smell coming from the kitchen.  Could it be?  Yes!  It was his wife's homemade rhubarb pie!  The old man thought, "If I could have just one taste of that wonderful pipe, why, I'd die happy."  So he got out of bed and slowly, painfully, inched his way to the kitchen.  He grabbed a fork and headed for the pie.  Suddenly, his wife whacked him with a broom, saying, "Don't touch that, you old fool!  That pipe's for the funeral!"

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


From HALF A SIXPENCE, here's Tommy Steele.


Singing cowboy Rex Allen and his good ol' buddy Koko (The Miracle Horse of the Movies) and his good ol' human buddy Slim Pickens disputed timber holdings, flash floods, greed, and murder while still having time to sing "Down by the Riverside" in a flash flood.  Rex Allen plays Rex Allen, Koko plays Koko, and Slim Pickens plays dual roles of Slim Pickens and his mother, Ma Pickens.  Stuntman Fred Graham plays the bad guy.  Also featured are Louise Beavers, June Vincent, John Daheim, and  Chester Clute.  Since this is a Republic Pictures B western, vocal accompaniment is provided by the Republic Rhythm Riders (three of whom were borrowed from the Roy Rogers Riders band). 

Screenplay by Eric Taylor and William Lively from a story by Taylor.  William Witney helmed this oater, 

Saddle up, buckaroos!

Monday, December 16, 2019


The Zombies.


Openers:  Well and truly an inspired mind has written, 'One man in his time plays many parts,' but surely no other man ever played so many parts in the course of a single existence as I have.

     My own narrative seems incredible to me, yet I am myself a witness of its truth.  When I say that I have lived in this England more than one thousand years, and have seen her bud from the callowest barbarity to the height of a prosperity and honour with which the world is full, I shall at once be branded as a liar.  Let it pass!  The accusation is familiar to my ears.  I am tired of resenting it before your father's fathers were born, and the scorn of your offended sense of veracity is less to me than the lisping of a child.

-- Edwin Lester Arnold, The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician (1890)

Arnold (1857-1935) was a British journalist and author who had studied agriculture and ornithology.  His first four books were nonfiction, including Coffee:  Its Cultivation and Profit (1886) and Bird Life in England (1887).  His first novel, The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician, was first published in 24 parts in Illustrated London News, and told of "a warrior who goes in and out of an unexplained state of suspended animation in order to be a witness to invasions or attempted invasions of England."  His next novels, including Rutherford the Twice-Born (1892) and Lepidus the Centurian:  A Roman of Today (1901), both fantasy-tinged romances, were commercial failures, as was his 1905 novel Lieut. Gullivar Jones:  His Vacation (a.k.a. Gulliver of Mars*).  Following the poor reception of Gullivar, Arnold gave up writing altogether, not realizing that that book would go on to become a classic in the science fiction/fantasy genre and may have been an inspiration for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels about John Carter of Mars.

Phra is a Phoenician who, in his first life, returns a beautiful English slave to her homeland.  In each episode of the novel (the Roman invasion, the Saxon invasion, the Norman invasion, the invasion of France, and the Elizabethan age) find our hero falling in love.  To the reader of today, Arnold's writing may be tortured, taking three or four paragraphs when one might suit, but it is an importnt work in the history of science fiction.

*  Note the spelling change.

An Anniversary:  It was seven years ago this Saturday that the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred -- one of the most horrific acts of gun violence America has ever seen:  Among the 26 victims were 20 first graders.  Almost before the smoke had cleared, conspiracy theorists were at work claiming the entire thing was a hoax using child actors to stage the "massacre."  Among these theorists -- the worst people in the world -- are Alex Jones of Info Wars, who has been praised by Donald Trump and has a long history of pandering to the nutwings of the world.  Among the other despicables (who are infinitely baser than the soc-called deplorables) are dentist Orly Taitz (who was also a big promoter of the birther conspiracy), talk show host Clive Lewis, news anchor Ben Swann (who decided that shooter Adam Lanza had another shooter with him; other theorists claim there were as many as four shooters), college professor James Tracy (who claimed the shootings did not happen, or if they did, they did not occur as reported), James Fetzer and Mike Palacek (authors of Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, which claimed that the entire thing was a Federal Emergency Response drill and that the actual shootings never happened), Tom Ready (a Colorado Republican candidate for a county commission office who questioned whether the shootings ever happened), British conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson (who pointed a link between the shootings and the book The Hunger Games, which was written by Newtown resident Suzanne Collins; other have posited that a map seen in the Batman flick The Dark Knight Rises helped set the stage for the massacre), Andrew David Trulove (who stole a memorial sign to two of the victims because he felt the crime never happened), Matthew Mills (who harassed the sister of murdered teacher -- and heroine -- Victoria Soto, claiming the Soto was a fabrication who never existed), Lucy Richards (who sent death threats to one of the parents of a Sandy Hook Victim), and the state media of Iran (who claimed the massacre was done by Israeli death squads).

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Perhaps the most despicable of all are the NRA and American politicians, who each turned a deaf ears to calls for meaningful gun reform in the wake of this tragedy.  Both Wayne LaPierre and Mitch McConnell and their ilk deserve condemnation for their refusal to act in the public interest, choosing instead their own political gains.

Speaking of Moscow Mitch:  The majority leader of the body that will try Donald Trump on two counts of impeachment (presuming the House passes the articles of impeachment) has gleefully announced that he is working closely with the Administration on the upcoming trial.  Yes, it's a given that the Senate will likely not vote to impeach,  but McConnell's actions are a clear violation of the constitution's intent.  When future historians try to pin the blame on the death of American democracy, most will point to McConnell rather than Trump, for this and many other reasons.

We're Not the Only Ones in Trouble:  Consider the poor royal family.   The antics of Prince Andrew have put a sizable dent in the royal's reputation at a time when many Brits consider the royal family superfluous.  When Queen Elizabeth dies (or retires at age 95, as some believe), the monarchy will face a crisis.  Heir Prince Charles is very popular at present, as is his eldest son Prince William, but the populace can be fickle and Charles has had his share of bad press in the past.  What do you think the odds re of the monarchy surviving?

On My Homefront:  Pensacola has seen much better days.  First, there was the horrific shooting at Pensacola NAS (which is still being sorted out).  This Wednesday, a sheriff's deputy was shot while responding to a medical emergency call.   Also this past week, a cyber-attack knocked out most of the city's computers in a ransomware attack.  The city has managed to get some of their computers back online but the government business has been severely affected.  Several other cities have been the victims of similar attacks and were forced to pay six-figure ransoms.  Thus far Pensacola has not bowed to the ransomers' demands.

Florida Man:  2019 has been a boon year for Florida Man.  Among his antics:

  • Florida Man accused of giving beer to alligator.  (October)  He also tried to get the alligator to bite his arm.
  • Florida Man (Junior Edition) steals two cars, beats alligator and gives it a cigarette.  (April)  Yes, he put it on video.
  • Florida Woman uses machete to save a venomous coral snake from a cat.  (April)  Priorities must be set.
  • Florida man feeds watermelon to a wild kinkajou and it attacks him the next day.  (August)  The kinkajou was described as "super-aggressive."  You think?
  • Florida Man kills sawfish by removing its extended nose with a power saw.  (November)  The sawfish is an endangered species; it's nose perhaps more so now.
  • Slice of pizza convinces Florida Man to end police standoff.  (February)  The standoff, lasting four hours, took place in Pensacola; the Florida Man was from Gulf Breeze, where I live.
  • Florida Man arrested for impersonating a federal corrections officer to get a McDonald's discount.  (August)  No matter what he ordered, he certainly didn't get a "happy meal."
And the year is not yet over!

And Some Good News:
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." -- Aesop

Today's Poem:
Hug O' War

I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

-- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, December 15, 2019


A holiday tradition in our family is the Tuba Christmas, a gathering of tuba (and related instruments) players to celebrate the season with Christmas songs.  Held in various cities throughout the country, amateur tuba players of all ages come together -- some from quite a distance -- for the event.  The instruments can be highly decorated, as can be the players, and, sometimes, the instruments are homemade.  A great time to celebrate the season and love of music.

Tuba CThis year, thoughhristmas was a go-to event for the entire family when we lived in Southern Maryland.  When we moved to Florida, I discovered the nearest Tuba Christmas was held in Alabama, some five or six hours away by car.  Bummer.  This year, though, a Tuba Christmas was held in Miramar -- about an hour and a half away.  About thirty tuba players met up for the first time, and after an hour's rehearsal, they were good to go. 

The link takes you to this year's Tuba Christmas at the Millennial Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington.   The performance from December 9 has about a gazillion more players than I am used to as well as a vocal soloist.

Enjoy the season.


Mississippi John Hurt.

Saturday, December 14, 2019


Del Shannon.


Like many comic books, Strange Suspense Stories had a convoluted history.  First published by Fawcett in June 1952, the title ran for five issues, ending with the February 1953 issue.  A year later Charlton purchased the title and, with the January-February 1954 issue, used unpublished inventory from the previous owner.  Rather than number the first Charlton issue #6 (or even #1), this version of Strange Suspense Stories began with #16, taking its numbering from Charlton's Lawbreakers Suspense Stories, which, in turn, had taken its numbering from the earlier Lawbreakers.  After seven issues (to #23), the title was changed to This Is Suspense! for four issues before reverting back to Strange Suspense Stories in October 1955.  Things went along swimmingly then and eventually the title began containing adventures of Captain Atom with issue #75 (June 1965).  Three issues later, the comic book changed its title to Captain Atom lasted until December 1967 with issue # 89, when it was cancelled, but officially Strange Suspense Stories died with the October 1965 issue.  And that was that.

Well, not quite.  As you well know, death in the comic book world has a loosey-goosey definition.  Charlton revived the title in October 1967 where it ran for 9 issues (Volume 3, Number 1-Volume 3, Number 9; October 1967-September 1969.  [Wikipedia lists these issues as being Volume 2, but what the h@#$ do they know?]

So what we have here is is issue #2 of the revived, spanking new title.  And three not so original stories.

"Dream World" tells of Winfield Forrest,a nebbish who escapes from his dreary job and nagging wife, through his fantasies in which he slays dragons and performs heroic feats.  Then one day he trips on the cellar stairs and awakes in his dream world.  His guide in the dream world -- a beautiful woman -- tells him that he died in the fall and she has brought him to where he belonged.  It turns out his wife had rigged a wire across the cellar stairs leading to his death.  (Winfield may have been a failure at most things, but he did have a healthy insurance policy.)  Winfield's dream world has suddenly become real and fantasizing will not help him survive...

After years of working for an abusive boss, Dick Dunlop burns his bridges and quits, telling his boos just what he thinks of him.  Why?  Because of "The Big Deal."  Dunlop has just received a letter from a girl he romanced while on vacation, telling him that she will marry him.  Actually, the girl is rather plain looking and boring and Dick does not love her but he does love her money -- she's swimming in it.  Dick travels to meet her, but there is no one there to meet him.  He rushes to his house but it is locked.  Patiently he waits for her.  When she arrives she tells him they cannot marry because she has died in a car accident.  That doesn't mean they can't be together...

Lastly, we go to the 22rd century and World War III.  This is a world where bombs and radiation are destined to make Earth a lifeless planet, except for "One Last Chance."  That chance comes from Dr. Conroy, who has invented a time machine to take three persons back to 1969 -- the one time when a change could be made to affect the coming war.  The trio must save a man named Norman Southbury -- the only man who could prevent World War II -- from being murdered.  But saving Southbury -- a beard, hippie freak -- may be the least of their problems.  Just as it is not nice to mess with Mother Nature, it can be equally dangerous to mess with Father Time...


Friday, December 13, 2019


A parody of Katy Perry's "Last Friday."  I don't know why I decided to post it on this particular day.


Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer:  The Day I Died by Max Allan Collins, with art by Marcelo Salaza & Marcio Freire and lettering by Tom Williams (2018)

I spent the week reading various short stories and graphic novels, not novels.  I thought I'd use this space to discuss a neat graphic novel from Titan's Hard Case Crime Comic Library, an offshoot of Charles Ardai's Hard Case Crime book line.

The Night I Died was originally an unproduced radio script by Spillane for the early fifties radio show That Hammer Guy.  Some three and a half decades later, Spillane and Collins collaborated to turn the script into a short story for their 1998 anthology Private Eyes.  As most of you know, shortly before Spillane died in 2006, he gave his permission for Collins to go through his papers and prepare/finish his drafts and notes for publication; the result being nineteen novels, two audio books, one collaborative short story collection, a collection of short vignettes written for comic books early in Spillane's career, a collection of Mike Hammer comic strips penned by Spillane, this book, and counting...

Both Spillane and Collins know comics.  Spillane started out writing stories for the comic books in the Forties.  Mike Hammer was originally designed as a comic book character named Mike Danger.  As noted above, Hammer had his own newspaper comic strip.  In 1995 Collins took Mike Danger and propelled him into the future for a science fictional tough guy mash-up; although Collins did the writing, I assume Spillane had some input since his name is splattered throughout the covers.  Collins' pedigree in comics is also pretty solid.  He took over writing the Dick Tracy comic strip from creator Chester Gould in late 1977 and continued into 1992.  With Terry Beatty, he created Ms. Tree, a female Mike Hammer-type P.I. whose adventures are currently being collected in five volumes.  The pair also created Wild Dog, a character that was later adapted for (and shoehorned into) the television show The Flash.  Collins' graphic novel The Road to Perdition made into a well-known film and spawned a series of novels and graphic novels.  He has written for Batman and has published one graphic novel and has written dialogue for another from the Japanese (there's also one collection from his Batman comic book days that D.C. published to his surprise).  He created tough-guy Johnny Dynamite, and has written four CSI tie-in graphic novels.  His series character Quarry found his way into Quarry's War, another graphic novel from Hard Case Crime.  Both Spillane an Collins have had long careers in comics.

Spillane's original radio script for The Day I Died made it a natural to be adapted for a comic book:  fast-paced, action-oriented.and with enough twists and turns to keep the reader hooked.  Collins set his adaptation early in Hammer's career:  late Forties, perhaps; maybe early Fifties.  Hammer is young, somewhat impetuous, sometimes naive, quick to anger and not afraid to dispense his type of justice.  For some reason beyond my comprehension, Hammer's hat is not his trade-make pork pie.  Velda is a patient, loyal secretary and nursemaid with her own P.I. license and a tough as nails attitude.  There's a lot of sex in this one -- more detailed than Spillane would have been able to get away with back in the day -- and the artist have a great time drawing a nekkid Helen Venn and a nearly nekked Velda.

A prospective client calls Hammer's office and says he needs a bodyguard the next day.  He asks that Mike meet him that night at the Zero Club, a mob-owned joint run by Carmen Rich, a gangster with a grudge against Hammer (Mike had shot him in the knee).  The client does not appear but Mike is approached by a beautiful blonde who recognized him and needs protection, saying two men are after her.  Two bouncers from the club try to stop Mike (bad idea) and Mike leaves them lying on the floor and takes a .38 from one.  As Mike escorts the woman from the club, two thugs try to run both down (again, bad idea) and Mike uses the .38 to take out the driver; the fire after the car crash does the rest.

The blonde is Helen Venn, one-time mistress of a now-deceased crime boss who was one step up the ladder from Hammer's nemesis Carmen Rich.  Before he was murdered, the crime boss skimmed ten million from the mob and no one knows where the money is.  Carmen Rich thinks Helen has it and is determined to find it.  Hammer tells his new-found zaftig friend not to worry, he'll sort it out.  There's some drawn-our roly-poly in the hay, then Mike leaves Helen in Velda's capable hands and goes to convince Rich to leave Helen alone.  Outside the Zero Club he meets his buddy, homicide cop Pat Chambers.  Seems a legless bum whole had hung outside the club cadging money was beaten to death.  Inside the club, Hammer not so politely asks Rich to leave Helen alone; this chat was interrupted by Rich's second-in-command Buddy Whiteman who objects to this conversation (yet another bad idea); Whiteman ends up with a broken arm

Mike then goes to the motel where Velda has Helen stashed.  He sends Velda home and there's some more nudge-nudge-wink-wink calisthenics.  The next day Velda is missing (OMG, another bad idea; will the bad guys never learn?) and Mike finds Buddy Whiteman in his office.  Whiteman swears he doesn't have Velda but that Carmen Rich does.  He wants Mike to kill rich so he (Buddy) will become top dog.  Mike goes to Rich's house and, after leaving a bunch of bodies behind, he rescues Velma, who had been trussed up, spread legged, with only some dainty black underwear to cover up any naughty bits.

Then things get violent.  Mike learns that the dead beggar was a Medal of Honor winner he had met back in the war, making that death personal for Mike,  There are betrayals and counter-betrayals and a lot of gunfire and a few more bodies before things end up in typical Hammer fashion.

Collins has got the early Hammer spot-on, and manages to flawlessly incorporate modern day sensibilities into a mid-twentieth century timeframe.  Great fun.

As a bonus, the book also includes two of the text comic book stories that Spillane had written back in the Forties.  These tales were taken from the expanded edition of Primal Spillane (2018), edited by Collins and Lynn F. Myers, Jr.  (Another must-have for Spillane fans.)

Oh.  And today is Friday the thirteenth.  Not that I'm superstitious or anything, but perhaps you should really check out this book.  Otherwise, who knows what might happen?

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Do you remember this one, buckaroos?


It may be hard to believe, but at one time Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were considered the hottest, hippest, funniest act around.  NBC Radio banked on this and sign the duo to a five-year contract (the network had just lost both Jack Benny and Amos & Andy to CBS radio).  What NBC forgot to take into their calculations was that Martin and Lewis were mainly a visual act and that radio was not exactly a visual medium.  The show was greeted with a mixed reception.  Eventually new script writers -- including Norman Lear -- were added, improving the show somewhat.  The Martin & Lewis Show ran from April 1949 to July 1953.

Linked below is an episode featuring Hopa;;ong Cassidy himself, William Boyd.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Okay, this is kind of neat.  The Starbugs are five kids -- Jessie Hillel, Sarah Whitaker, Roisin Anderson, Ben Anderson, and Rebecca Jenkins -- and their take on this Dylan song is infectious.  This clip is from 2011.


At her husband's funeral, a man walked up to the widow and politely asked, "May I say a word?"

She sniffed into her handkerchief and nodded.

He went to the front, gazed out at the mourners, cleared his throat, and said, "Plethora."

As he went back to his seat the widow said to him, "Thanks,  That means a lot.'

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Patrick Sky.


Cosmo Jones is a correspondence-school detective from a small town -- shades of Philo Gubb! --who heads to the big city to offer his services to the police department.

Jones is played by Frank Graham who originated the role in the 15-minute CBS radio series Nightcap Yarns, also known as Armchair Adventures.  CBS aired the show in eleven western states and offered it to others thoughout the country merely for the cost of transcription until each station could find a sponsor.  Many of the stations found sponsors, but did not tell CBS, giving the stations a lot of "found" money while also hastening the demise of the show.

Gwen Kenyon plays Phyllis, an oil heiress rubbing shoulders with a local gangster.  When a member of a rival gang is murdered, an effort is made to kidnap Phyllis -- an act that Cosmo witnesses.  Cosmo is later with police sergeant Pat Flanagan (Richard Cromwell) when a shootout occurs and a bystander is wounded.  Chief Murphy (Edgar Kennedy) blames the wounding on Flanagan and demotes him.  It's up to Cosmo Jones and Flanagan's daughter (a blonde Gail Storm), along with porter Eustace Smith (Mantan Moreland) to set things straight.  Tristram Coffin, Herbert Rawlinson, Charles Jordan, Vince Barnett, and Mauritz Hugo are also featured.

Directed by James Tinling and written by Michael L. Simmons and Walter Gering, Cosmo Jones in the Crime Smasher came from Monogram Productions, one of the lowest of the low on Poverty Row.  Keep your expectations low while enjoying some pretty talented character actors.  There's a reason Cosmo Jones never became a Monogram franchise.

Sunday, December 8, 2019


Better known today as The White Devil (originally, The White Divel, or The Tragedy of Paolo Giordano Ursini, Duke of Brachiano, with The Life and Death of Vittoria Corombona the famous Venetian Curtesan), this Jacobean play by John Webster was a total failure with its first performance, held in the dead of winter before an unreceptive audience which did not appreciate the play's satire and sophistication.

Based on the real-life murder of Vittoria Accoramboni of Padua in 1585, Webster transformed a story of Italian corruption to reflect the then-current corruption in Britain and its royal court.

The Duke of Brachiano desires Vittoria Corombona, the daughter of a noble Venetian family.  Both, however are married. Brachiano and Vittoira's brother conspire and murder Brachiano's wife and Vittoria's husband.  The debauched Count Ludivoco, who had been banished from Rome for murder and other crimes, returns to Rome and confesses his love for Brachiano's wife and vows vengence for her murder.  Brachiano and Vittoria get married, but are excommunicated by the new Pope.  The couple move to Padua.  Plot and counterplot and murder ensue.  Almost every character in the play is corrupt but eventually get what they deserve.  The body count rivals the final act of Hamlet.

Combining great characterization, dramatic tension, and real horror, The White Devil is one of the best dramas of its age.



Jim Reeves  (who was one of my father's favorite singers).

Saturday, December 7, 2019


Gordon Bok.

First, the introduction...

Then, the song...


Alex Schomburg's cover for this issue shows Judy of the Jungle about to knife a shark.  It's a great cover but has nothing to do with Judy's adventures in this issue. In  "The Treasure of Lobengula!," the jungle is strangely quiet and Judy senses something is amiss.  When her friend, jungle ranger Pistol Roberts, introduces her to Homer Wendt, Judy distrusts him from the start.  Wendt is supposedly on safari helping his friend Bob Marken recover from an illness.  Marken has a map from his brother -- a famous explorer -- that pinpoints the treasure of the long-dead chief of the Matebele, Lobengula -- a treasure worth ten million dollars.  Marken goes off alone to find the treasure and is killed in a remote cave and the map is stolen.  When Judy hears the war drums of the normally peaceful Swamimi, she and Pistol must act quickly to bring peace to the jungle and a murderer to justice.

Mabel-Sugar, the girlfriend of teenager Roger Dodger's dreams is being courted by fancy-pants Ramon.  Mabel-Suger is impressed by Ramon's pedigree dog, so Roger decides he must have a dog to impress her also, so he goes to the pound and gets a mutt.  Mabel-Sugar's father is worried about burglars, so Roger gives her the mutt for a watchdog; Ramon also lends his dog to Mabel-Sugar for a few weeks.  With two dogs on guard, surely the house is protected.  You can guess the predictable ending.

The Black Terror, Nemesis of Crime, must unravel a case of "Double Trouble."   "Careful" Mike Horgan has forced quiet drug store clerk Bob Benton and his young friend Tim to disguise themselves as The Terror Twins in order to cover up his crimes.  What "Careful" Mike does not realize is that Benton and Tim are the real Terror Twins, who play along until they can round up the entire gang.

There's a new Faro table in town, run by Bull Pearson, and just about everybody's winning.  Ranch foreman Rick Howard knows something is off because he never heard of a Faro table that wasn't crooked.  Rick decides to investigate for himself and, just in case, he brings alone his Mystery Rider costume.  There's a reasonPearso is losing so much money and is happy about it...a reason The Masked Rider must uncover in "Bullets for Black-Jack."

Bunny Marchand has designed a gyro-stabilizer that could revolutionize airplane design.  As Strut Simmons tests the new design, thugs try to kidnap Bunny.  Strut comes to her rescue, but the baddies get get away.  The only other person who knew about Bunny's gyro-stabilizer was a shady financier, so Strut sets a trap with the aid of his unknowing friend Torchy.

All this, plus a few features to stretch the comic book to 52 pages.


Friday, December 6, 2019


Jimmy Dean, sans breakfast sausage.


Artifact by Kevin J. Anderson, Janet Berliner, Matthew J. Costello, and F. Paul Wilson  (2003)

This is the story of a book that did not know what it wanted to be when it grew up.

This is the embodiment of the old chestnut about too many cooks.

'Tis a pity.  Here we have four talented, successful authors combining their efforts to produce a sum far less than their equal parts.  Anderson is the author of over 140 books, a third of which have been on the bestseller lists.  His books include The Saga of the Seven Suns series, the Dan Shambles, Zombie P.I. series, the Terra Incognito series. the Dune prequels series (with Brian Herbert), and several forests-worth of tie-in and spin-off novels.  Janet Berliner (died 2012) was a Bram Stoker Award winning author and past president of The Horror Writers of America.  She was the author of the Madagascar Manifesto series and was the editor of six highly regarded anthologies -- including two each edited with Peter S. Beagle and magician David Copperfield.  Matt Costello is the author of over 25 book, including Wurm, Beneath Still Waters, the children's books series The Kids of Einstein Elementary, and a number of tie-in and spin-off novels  Costello has written a number of computer, role playing, and board games, including the best selling CD-ROMs The Seventh Guest and The Eleventh Guest.  With F. Paul Wilson, he created and wrote FTL Newsfeed which ran daily on the Sci-Fi Channel from 1992-1996.  Wilson is the best-selling author of The Secret History of the World, which includes The Repairman Jack series, the Adversary series, the ICE trilogy, and Black Wind, and the science fiction series The Lanague Chronicles.  His books have won four Prometheus Awards and one Bram Stoker Award and he has been cited for lifetime achievement from The Horror Writers of America and The Prometheus Society.  With Costello, he co-authored the novels Mirage and Masques.  A talented group, indeed.

Skipping the prologue for a moment, we open on an ocean platform just off Trinidad, where Frikkie Van Alman, the ruthless mega-jillionaire owner of Oilstar, is watching a drilling operation.  The drill is bringing up sludge and rock -- and something else -- from below.  The "something else" is four irregularly-shaped objects -- unrecognizable, from some strange material, and obviously artificial.  The drill had gone through the ocean floor and into an undersea cave, where the four objects had come from.  Frikkie does not know what these objects are but he instinctively realizes they are valuable; the four pieces fit together like parts of a jigsaw puzzle.  He gives the pieces to Paul Trujold, the Trinidadian who ran Oilstar's local laboratory, to investigate the objects.  At the same time, Frikkie's local divers refused to go down to check out the undersea cave but they refused due to some local superstitions.  Frikkie managed to bully two men to go but they died in the effort.  At the lab, Paul discovers that the pieces were made of some unknown material and that when placed together, they appeared to be a source of unlimited energy -- a potential clean power source that could eliminate the need for oil altogether.  With the pieces locked together, Paul also realized there was a missing fifth piece -- what could happen if the fifth piece were joined to the others was beyond comprehension.

Paul considers this important enough to release the news as soon as possible, but Frikkie wants to hold off, partly because of this means for his oil business and partly because he wants to find the fifth piece and see where that leads them -- with the final piece, Frikkie imagines he could become the most powerful man in  the world.  Paul sends the pieces to four people, including his daughter Selene, a radical environmental terrorist.  The others went to members of the Daredevil Club.  In a fit of anger, Frikkie accidentally kills Paul and burns himself.

Which brings us to the prologue, set on New Year's Eve seventeen years earlier, in Granada.  Dr. Arthur Merryshaw had been a political prisoner of the the Government and was scheduled to be executed the next day.  Sixteen-year-old Peta Whyte, who had been raised by Merryshaw after her parents died, concocted a plan to free her friend and enlisted his friends Frikkie and movie stuntman and former Green Beret Ray Arno to help her.  Although the plan worked, Peta was forced to kill two guards before Merryshaw was freed.  Merryshaw, Frikkie, and Ray, excited by the adventure, decided to form the Darcdevils Club, which would meet every New Year's Eve to brag about any risky adventures they had the previous year.  Peta was not allowed to join the club because of her age and because she was a girl.

Back now to New Year's Eve, 1999.  Membership of the Daredevils Club had changed over the years.  Members had died (including, to Peta's resentment, at least one woman) and had been added and the membership now included Merryshaw, Frikkie, Ray, diver Simon Brousseau, and security specialists Terris McKendry and Joshua Keene.  Peta and Merryshaw meet early in the evening for their annual dinner before Merryshaw is to go to the meeting which was to be held in his New York City penthouse.  A bomb in the men's room kills Merryshaw and Ray takes the shaken Pata to the meeting to break the news to the others.  Before leaving the body, Peta (who had received a piece of the artifact) requests that Merryshaw's piece of the artifact be released to her as Merryshaw's heir as soon as possible.  At the meeting, Peta takes Merryshaw's place as he had requested if he ever died.   Frikkie enlists the aid of the Club to find the missing pieces.  Peta keeps mum about her piece and the Merryshaw's piece.

Back to Trinidad.  Frikkie is still trying to get someone into the underwater cave to find the fifth piece.  He convinces Simon Brousseau to go after it.  Brousseau has developed a severe heart condition that makes the dive very risky.  Nevertheless, he enters the cave (which is located more than 120 feet below the surface, and finds a smooth passageway with strange alien carvings on the wall.  He has a severe bout of angina and has to surface.  Brousseau is determined to go again in a few days.  Peta finds out and races to stop him, arriving too late.  She dives after him and discovers his body in the cave; in his hands is the fifth piece of the artifact.  Frikkie sends a flunkie down to see what's happening.  The flunky, believing that this is what Frikkie wants, cuts Peta's air hose, leaving her to die, and retrieves the piece of the artifact.  Peta, being Peta, manages to escape but, when she surfaces, finds both Frikkie and the artifact gone.

Discovering that Selene Trujold and her gang of terrorists planned to attack Frikkie's oiil platform the Valhalla, McKendry and Keene travel to the Valhalla aboard the oil liner Yucatan, which is scheduled to be loaded with oil from the Valhalla.  It turns out that Selene's real plan was to hijack the liner and destroy it with its load of oil.  McKendry and Keene call Frikkie and have him send reinforcements while they try to delay the terrorists.  With the boat rigged to explode, McKendry takes two bullets to the chest.  Keene wrestles with a terrorist trying to set off the explosives and somehow manages to set off a minor explosion blowing him and the terrorist off the boat.  Badly wounded, McKendry inches his way to the man in charge and manages to cut the wires before he passes l\out.

McKendry manages to live but has been altered by the death of his friend.  Driven, he takes over the lax security on Frikkie's platform and brings it up to -- and beyond -- speed.  Ah, but Keene is not dead.  He has been pulled out of the sea by Selene and is recuperating in her jungle hideout.  Eventually he and Selene become lovers.  McKendry eventually learns where the jungle hideout is and brings a group of men to slaughter everyone there to avenge the friend he thinks is dead.  Keene and a mortally wounded Selene manage to escape.  Not knowing McKendry is alive, he vows to destroy the platform in revenge. 

So where does that leave us with the artifacts?  Peta has one piece, Arthur's piece is in the custody of the New York City police, Keene has Selene's pieces, Frikkie has the piece from the cave, but what about the other piece?  Well, Frickie has it, but I'll be damned if I remember how he got is or who he got it from.  No matter.  Peta gives Frikkie her piece and Frikkie bribes the police to get the piece in their possession, so Frikkie ends up with four of the five pieces.  Comes New Years Eve, 2000, and as the new millennium dawns, we have a few last-minute, golly-gee, pull 'em out of your butt surprises.  Finally the five pieces are joined and...

Well, let's just say that this supposed thriller has a terrible, anti-climatic, non -thriller ending.


What we have here is a not too coherent soap opera with stock characters and stock elements, with all the players acting merely as the authors want them too rather than acting to fit their characters.  The thrilling parts aren't really.  Questions are never answered.  Any surprises are not even worthy of a teenager's adventure fantasy.  And where the hell is the editor of this mess?

I have no idea how this book was written, but it does not appear to be written round-robin style.  The medical parts, I assume, were contributed by Wilson, a physician, but the rest of it, who knows.  The idea and the origin of the Daredevils Club is comic book-y ludicrous.  The book jumps back and forth and does not provide logical transitions or even plausible back stories.  Actually, I may be doing a disservice by saying the book was written; rather, let us say it was concocted.  This may well have been meant to be the start of a series about the Daredevil Club; if so, count us lucky there never was a follow-up from any of the authors.

Perhaps I'm just in a bad mood or perhaps I am just too jaded.  Your mileage may vary.

Nonetheless, I'm going to file this under I Read So You Don't Have To.