Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

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.

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