Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Rest in peace, Joe Diffie.  May you be hanging out at that jukebox.


Sometimes you just need Charles Starrett as The Durango Kid to break the monotony of the day.

Starrett starred as The Durango Kid in more than 60 B movies churned out by Columbia from 1940 to 1952.  (It took five years for the sequel to the first film to appear -- and then the floodgates opened.)  The mysterious horseman in black was the nemesis of the bad guys and brought justice to the Old West one movie at a time.

In Pecos River Starret is ex-outlaw, now postal inspector, Steve Baldwin, going after the gang that murdered driver Henry Mahoney (Edgar Dearing).  Henry's son is Jack Mahoney (Jock Mahoney, billed as Jack Mahoney).  Comic relief Smiley Burnette plays comic sidekick Smiley Burnette.  We get two songs from some guy billed as Harmonica Bill, who plays Harmonica Player Bill.  Eye candy was provided by Anne James who played Betty Coulter (as Delores Sidener), one of only three roles listed in IMDb.  (Turns out the Anne James died three weeks shy of her 83rd birthday in Tewksbury, Massachusetts in 2015; Tewksbury is across the river from the town where I grew up.  who knew?).   For those who are interested, Bullet played Starrett's horse when he was Steve and Raider played the Durango Kid's horse; that way no one would know that Steve and Durango were the same dude.

Enjoy this little piece of fluff.  And stay inside, stay safe, and stay healthy.

Monday, March 30, 2020


From 1960, Bobby Rydell.


Openers:  It began for Penway with a sudden and unexplainable thirst for knowledge -- that and the dream, although he did not connect the two at the time.  The dream was a stark. surprisingly realistic bit of nonsense, something entirely new to him, and unique because it was so far beyond the range of his norm.

-- Paul W. Fairman, I, the Machine (1968)

Fairman (1909*-1977) was a journeyman writer and editor probably best known for his work in the science fiction and mystery fields.  His first story was evidently "The Roaming Cadaver" in Ten Detective Aces (January 1938).  No further listing for him in the Fictionmags Index occurred until 1947 he published a number of detective and western stories.  His first science fiction story was "No Teeth for the Tiger" in Amazing Stories (February 1950). 

Over a long and active career, Fairman published mysteries, science fiction, horror, erotica, sports, and movie and television tie-in novels. Probably his best known work was in Ellery Queen's A Study in Terror, in which Fairman anonymously wrote the crux of the novel centering on Sherlock Holmes and Jack Ripper, while "Ellery Queen" wrote the framing device.  Fairman also ghost-wrote seven science fiction novels (mostly juveniles) for Lester del Rey unsing del Rey's outlines.  For the soft-core market, he produced many, if not all, of the Man from S.T.U.D. series of ten paperback originals by "F. W. Paul."

He also wrote as Robert Eggert Lee, Mallory Storm, Jerome Buxton, Paul Daniels, John Denver, and under the house pseudonyms Ivar Jorgensen (sometimes presented as "Jorgenson"), E. K. Jarvis, Clee Garson, and Paul Lohrman.  One novel he wrote with Stephen Marlowe was published under Marlowe's pen name "Adam Chase" (for some reason the Librivox version of this novels credits Randall Garrett as the author).  Beginning in July 1949 and continuing through October 1950, Fairman wrote a monthly "as-told-to" series for Mammoth Western, "The Memoirs of John Shevlin -- the West's Greatest Detective," by "John W. Shevlin, as told to Paul W. Fairman.

Fairman had a varied editorial career in genre magazines, beginning in 1952 and ending in 1963.  He was associate editor, managing editor, and editor at various times for Amazing and Fantastic, associate editor for Fantastic Adventures, managing editor of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and funding editor of If, Dream World, and Amazing Stories Science Fiction Novel.  Fairman was most likely also the editor of Ziff-Davis' ill-conceived magazine Pen Pals.

Several of his stories made it to films for the drive-in movie crowd:  "Deadly City" (If, March 1953, as by "Ivar Jorgensen") became Target Earth!, and "The Cosmic Frame (Amazing, May 1955) became Invasion of the Saucer Men (a.k.a. Invasion of the Hell Creatures); "The Cosmic Frame" was also adapted as a TV movie, Attack of the Eye Creatures.  Other stories by Fairman were adapted for The Unexpected, General Electric Theater, and The Twilight Zone.

Fast, facile, and readable were the hallmarks of Fairman's work, much of which is easily -- and perhaps deservingly -- forgettable.  Underneath, there was a raw talent and a quick imagination.  He coulda been a contender.

Oh, Dad, Oh, Dad, Covid's Got You in the Quarantine and I'm Feeling So Sad:  As we and much of the rest of the world self-isolate, things are not getting better.  Estimated deaths for the United States range from 100,000-200,000 before it's over.  Russia, who had been fairly mum, has closed all borders.  An analysis of cremations in Wuhan Province indicate that the Chinese greatly underreported the death toll, and although the Chinese say the worst is over for them, a second wave of infections have started.  India, Italy, England, in fact any country that is not very small and rural...bad.  President Trump continues to blather nonsense and untruths while parading around like the most look-at-me peacock in the world as experts rush to "clarify and modify" his words.  From Trump we learn that hospitals are hoarding ventilators, that we don't need that many ventilators, and that GM and other companies will be turning out all sorts of ventilators at a rapid pace (despite the fact that these are highly complicated pieces of machinery that need not only special tools to produce but also specific parts from about seventeen different suppliers world-wide.  Inadequate supplies and preparation have hindered our response.  Hoarders are over-reacting and disrupting the supply chain.  Many very stupid people are not taking this seriously and will infect others. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas has suggested that the elderly be willing to die to save the economy, and that jamook was serious.  About 25% of the nation's workforce has been let go or furloughed.   The Republicans wanted their $2 trillion financial aid package to include some $500 billion for unspecified purposes, rather than to ease the burden on the working class.  The economy will be roaring again by Easter, by cracky, and people will be going back to work.  Homeland Security has decreed that gun stores are an essential industry and panicked Second Amenders are busily buying up weapons -- about a third of Americans own guns and some 43% live in a gun home, while about 3% of the population own between 8 and 140 guns, which works out to half of the civilian guns in the country,  The Interior Department is waiving ecological regulations for the foreseeable future.  Anti-abortion states see an opening for their cause during this crisis.  It turns out that red states and blue states have different perspectives of this pandemic.  Politics and not science or common sense rule and I'm afraid it's going to get worse before it gets better.

One thing I am sure of:  the United States will be a much different country by the time we are over this thing.

Perhaps it is time for us to relax, take a deep breath (socially distant six feet from others, plese), and enjoy what we can.

Uptown Funk:  Some fantastic editing of old movie dance routines make this YouTube clip very special.  Who are your favorite film hoofers?  For my money, no one can tough The Nicholas Brothers.

Si:  Here's Jack Benny and Mel Blanc in a classic bit from The Jack Benny Show:

The Great Dane:  Victor Borge:

Buttoned Down:   Bob Newhart takes on air traffic controllers:

One Week:  In this 1920 short, Buster Keaton attempts to put together a prefabricated house for his bride (the lovely Sybil Seely), unaware that a rival had altered the building plans:

Ten Good Songs:

Feast Your Eyes:  

Cloudforest Waterfall:  An episode from Sunrise Earth.  Vera Blanca, Costa Rica.

Today's Poem:
[The Flu]

I'm wheezing, sneezing and sniffling too.
Oh, not again, it must be the flu.

Bundle me up and to the doctor I go
A good look at me and he will surely know.

My temperature is, up, my face is all red.
Well. yes it seems to be the flu, he said.

Drink lots of fluids and dine on this brew.
The medicine will help you get rid of that flu.

Under the covers heaped high on the bed,
I feel so sick, oh how I dread

The aches and the pains of my body and head.
Tes, it's the flu others even have said.

Each day goes by with a little less ache
Until I'm all better and for the nurse's sake

Up and around again I'm happy to be
About with the flu is now a memory.

-- Jean Gornay

May you all remain healthy, happy, and safe.

Saturday, March 28, 2020


The Rifleman was a classic western television series that ran for 168 episodes from September 30, 1958 to April 8, 1963.  It starred Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, a rancher in New Mexico in the 1880s, and Johnny Crawford as his young son Mark.  It was one of the first westerns that featured a single parent trying to raise a child.  Lucas McCain used a customized Winchester Model 1892 rifle that allowed rapid fire, which brings up two questions.  First, an 1896 rifle being used in the 1880s?  Second, was this a progenitor of the bumpstock?  Anyway, Lucas was a straight-shooter in every sense of the word.

As with many other western shows of the time, The Rifleman spawned its own comic book.

Issue #2 begins with "Gunman from Laredo."  Zander, a hired killer, has come to North Fork but no one knows who he was sent to kill.  Another episode featuring the Rifleman is "The Key," which has two saddlebums offer to cut wood in exchange for water and food.  When they try to welch on the deal and pull a gun on Lucas, he teaches them a hard lesson and sends them on their way; later the two implicate young Mark in a robbery of the local grocery store.  Bad move.  You won't like it when Lucas McCain gets mad.

Aslo in this issue, a 4-pager titled "The Desert Trap."  Two owlhoots stop off at a desert trading post, rob the place, and force the owner to fill up their canteens.  They thought they got away with it but there was something in the water...

Do you have fond memories of watching The Rifleman?  If so, you may enjoy this.

Friday, March 27, 2020


Happy birthday, Reba McIntire!


Grnr Pitney.


Thunder Jim Wade -- The Complete Series by Henry Kuttner (2008)

There was a time when pulpwood magazines were filled with heroes of all stripes:  Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, Ka-Zar, The Black Bat, Captain Future, The Avenger, Secret Agent X, The Rio Kid, Dusty Ayres, The Lone Ranger, and so many more...hundreds of them...of all stripes.  Many of these heroes jumped from the printed page to the radio airwave (and, occasionally, vice versa), while others shared their pulp existence with comic books.  The advent of television essentially killed the pulps as well as many other magazines.  But for a brief while in the first half of the twentieth century, pulp magazines provided monthly (and in some cases, weekly) enjoyment for hard-working Americans -- purple prose, pulse-pounding action, fantastic villains, exotic locations, good triumphing over evil...glorious fantasies and escapist reading...

Publishers vied for the reading dollar (or, dime, in this case).  A constant stream of pulp heroes were created to both satisfy demand and also hoping to find a hero that would strike a chord in the reader.  Most of the heroes appeared in "novel-length" adventures (pulp speak for novellas) written by penny-a-word (or far less) authors, most of whom spread their talents across numerous genres.  Many of the pulp hero tales were written under a house name, a pseudonym that would disguise the fact that different authors were contributing the stories.

And so we come to Thunder Jim Wade, a Doc Savage clone who appeared in five consecutive issues of Thrilling Adventures in 1941.  The author was given as "Charles Stoddard," a house pseudonym that would be used in 49 stories in magazines from Ned Pines' Thrilling magazine group (also known as Standard Magazines).  Most of the authors behind this pseudonym remain unknown, although Ray Cummings used the pen name at least once, as did Donald Bayne Hobart.  The Thunder Jim Wade stories have all been attributed to Henry Kuttner, one of the most talented of the pulp writers best known for his science fiction and weird mystery stories.  (The fictionmags index website credits only four of the five Thunder Jim Wade stories to Kuttner, while a fifth ["The Devil's Glacier"] is uncredited; there's little doubt that Kuttner also wrote this one.)

Thunder Jim Wade, portrayed on magazine covers as a blond wearing a Buck Rogers-type of costume and cape, actually had dark hair and eschewed any such costume.  He was raised in a lost African city founded by the Minoans of ancient Crete.  A strange culture, founded in both science and a worship of the Minotaur, it was ruled by a king-priest who adopted Thunder Jim when a plane crashed and the child was the only survivor.  As a youth, Thunder Jim's training allowed him great muscular control, mastery of hypnotism and sleight-o f-hand, a true marksman's eye, and a thirst for justice.  A scientific genius, Thunder Jim Wade burst on the world scene as a relentless, avenging Nemesis determined to bring justice for the oppressed.  How he got the funds for his mission and for his secret South seas island lair is unknown.  What is known is that Thunder Jim Wade had a world-wide organization of secret helpers who would inform him of situations that might need his talents. 

Thunder Jim is assisted by his two best friends and companions.  Red Argyle is a hulking giant of a man, surprisingly dexterous and extremely skilled in combat.  Dirk Marat is a small man who is also good in a fight and is an expert at throwing the blade he keeps sheathed on his back between his shoulder blades.  The two travel the world with Jim in his fight against crime and injustice.

There is a fourth member of the team, the Thunderbug, a vehicle designed by Thunder Jim that has perplexed scientists the world over.  Made of a light weight, secret alloy that Thunder Jim had developed developed, the Thunderbug  is an impenetrable and versatile flying machine that, with a stroke of  switch can transform to a submarine or to a fast-moving tank.

Altus Press collected the five Thunder Jim Wade novels in this collection.  Four years later, the pulp hero reappeared in an original anthology edited by Russ Anderson and Tommy Hancock, The New Adventures of Thunder Jim Wade.  This was followed by two novellas by Frank Schildener, The Horror of Hyprborea (2014) and Tomb of Ancient Evil (2018).  Thunder Jim Wade lives on beyond 1941!

The stories:

  • "Thunder Jim Wade" (Thrilling Adventures, May 1941)  A brutal death in Singapore leads Thunder Jim on the trail of corrupt treasure hunters determined to find the lost City of Mnos in Africa where Thunder Jim was raised.
  • "The Hills of Gold" (Thrilling Adventures, June 1941)  A false mu'min is preaching violent jihad against whites in Afghanistan.  Two gold-thirsty villains are using the situation to enrich themselves.
  • "The Poison People" (Thrilling Adventures, July 1941)  A renowned air explorer who is secretly an intelligence agent for the U.S. Army, is held captive in a hidden Nazi war factory in the South American jungle.  If Nazis weren't enough, the jungle is infested with a vicious tribe of head hunters.
  • "The Devil's Glacier" (Thrilling Adventures, August 1941)  A poison gas-filled cave in Alaska leads to a lost city of Viking warriors and to another lost city people by escapees from Catherine the Great's Russia.
  • "Waters of Death" (Thrilling Adventures, September 1941)  Another lost city, this time isolated by a great swamp in Borneo.  The natives have a method for transmuting metal into gold and the bad guys want it, but if the secret is released, much of the free world's economy will be destroyed.
The stakes always seem high for Thunder Jim Wade and his friends.

Dco Savage, Tarzan, and a number of other pulp heroes combined to make Thunder Jim Wade and his fantastic adventures make good, fast-paced reading.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Fifty years in a blink of an eye.

It's hard to remember life before fifty years ago.

I met Kitty when she was sixteen and I was nineteen.  Before we met, she was just a cute girl taking a walk in the neighborhood, sipping a cup of coffee.  Later, that summer, she got a job as a lifeguard at the local beach and I met her in person.  I don't know what hit me hardest then, her eyes or her smile.  Both have stayed with her, becoming more enchanting every year.

She was smart, funny, lovely, curious, friendly, talented, independent, and empathetic, with a sharp wit and a liking for Marvel comic books and folk music.  I was awkward, gangly, and stumble-tongued.  She was way beyond my class.  Still is.

Five years later we were married.  The marriage took place in a girl's dormitory at what was then Lowell State College, where she had been studying to become a teacher.  The lobby of the dormitory was expansive and had been consecrated by the Catholic church for worship services, which was okay because her family was Catholic (some far more Catholic than others).  Kitty's college experiences were a very important part of her and she wanted to get married there among her many friends.  The priest who married us, Father Joseph Flynn, did not think we would last.  (We met him some ten years later and, of the all the college students he had married, we were the only ones still together, but I'm not going to say "Ha!" to him because he was a very nice man.)  In the middle of the lobby was a large statue of Orpheus, which loudly sprayed water; somebody forgot to turn it off for our wedding but we didn't care.  Some of Kitty's college friends played the wedding music for us.  Family and invited friends sat in comfortable seats surrounding the wedding party (and Orpheus); a bevy of college girls came down in their pajamas and watched from the sidelines.

There was a champagne reception afterwards and the number who attended far outweighed those invited.  Early in the evening the venue ran out of champagne.  Kitty's father told them to get more champagne, dammit, and they did.  One of my uncles got slightly snozzled and uncharacteristically flirted with one of the bridesmaids.  A good time was had by all.

And that was the start, fifty years ago today.

Over the year there have been ups and downs, good times and bad.  We had two daughters who very definitely added to the good in the universe.  We each worked a lot of jobs.  Kitty graduated at a time when there were no teaching jobs, so she began working for Massachusetts Department of Youth Services in a pilot program designed to close down the state's juvenile detention centers.  We became youth advocates, taking kids into our home.  Most of the kids were great, many had a lot of problems and it wasn't that unusual for me to break up a knife fight on our porch.  We both slid into newspaper work -- editing, reporting, doing layout.  We both had a lot of retail sales jobs.  I spent some time in high tech.  Somehow, we often had extra kids in the house, whether friends of the girls who needed some space away and some breathing room from their families, or foreign exchange students, or visiting musical students from other schools.  Eventually we moved into therapeutic foster care, fostering kids who had special needs (medical, emotional, educational, etc.) -- something we both truly enjoyed.

In the meantime both girls had married boys from the Washington, D.C. area, and we moved down there when Jessie was pregnant with her first baby.  Jessie and Michael had two girls and Christina and Walt had a boy and a girl.  Not surprisingly they are the very best grandchildren in the world.  When Michael died of a sudden heart attack, we stopped fostering and Jessie and her girls moved in with us.  Everybody moved to Maryland's Chesapeake Bay for a fresh start -- Jessie with us and Christina and Walt into an octagonal house up on an impossible hill.  After a few years, Jessie felt she should go out on her own and she and the girls moved back to Massachusetts.  Christina and Walt began fostering and ended up with a six-week-old drug-addicted baby who turned out to be the Amazing Jack and was adopted after a lot of folderol.

Somehow we all ended up on the Florida Panhandle, with Jessie and the girls in Pensacola and Christina and Walt and their gang in neighboring Gulf Breeze, where we also settled.

Over the past fifty years we have been very fortunate.  There were a few major health scares that were resolved somewhat painlessly.  There were a few disappointments that -- as most things do -- ended well.  There has never been much money, but our family is far more important.  We survived.  We thrived.  The person most responsible for that is Kitty.  That woman is a miracle of her own making.

So how do we celebrate our fiftieth?  In isolation and self-quarantine.   It would have been nice to share the day with our family but that was not to be.  We have each other.  The sofa's comfortable and we can snuggle on that.  There's some good stuff streaming on television (and a lot of dreck).  Kitty tried out a recipe for fifteen-bean soup and it was delicious.  We're happy and we're doing fine.

We have many more years ahead of us and I am privileged to spend with the woman I love.

Happy anniversary, Kitty.  You mean the world to me.


In these times of uncertainty it's important t experience moments of joy...and what can be more joyful than jug band music?

If you were a folkie in the Boston area during the mid-Sixties, the place to be was Cambridge's Club 47.  (Yes, Boston also had the Unicorn coffeehouse but Club 47 was really the place.)  One of the popular acts to appear there was Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band.

First, there was Jim Kweskin (guitar, vocals, comb). who for the five years the band was in existence, put a modern, blues-tinged edge to pre-WWII music with his semi-gravelled voice and his astonishing guitar stylings.  Fritz Richmond (jug, washtub bass) was the best washtub bassist in the country and a master of the jug.  Richmond was known to be able to play the bass on anything, including (while in the service) a quonset hut.  Geoff Muldaur (guitar, vocals, mandolin, washboard, kazoo) was a blues vocalist, musician, and songwriter who later worked with Paul Butterfield and others.  Maria D'Amato (vocals, percussion, fiddle) came to the group from The Even Dozen Jug Band; she married Geoff Muldaur and has since performed under that name even though the marriage ended in 1972.  She has performed with Jerry Garcia, Paul Butterfield, and Linda Rondstadt, among others, and has continued to have a solid career in Christian, secular, children's, jazz, and popular music.  Bill Keith (banjo, pedal steel guitar), a former member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, developed a banjo style that permanently altered banjo playing.  He also designed a banjo tuning peg that remains state of the art to this day.  Richard Greene (fiddle) was recognized as one of the most innovative and influential fiddle players of all time.  While playing with Monroe's The Blue Grass boys, he introduced the 'chop chord" to fiddle playing.  The charismatic Mel Lyman (harmonica, banjo) was called the "Grand Old Man of the 'blues' harmonica in his mid-twenties."  In 1966 Lyman founded the Lyman Family, a semi-hippie commune that slowly devolved to a cult status as Lyman's mental condition deteriorated.  Lyman supposedly died in 1978, although his "Family" could provide no body or death certificate; strangely, there was no investigation.  (Another source has Lyman dying of a drug overdose in Los Angeles that same year.)  Original members included Bruno Wolfe (vocals) and Bob Siggins (vocals and banjo).

With a slightly changing line-up over the years, Kweskin's Jug Band provided a welcome twist on old-time rural music with a dose of ragtime, blues, jazz, bluegrass, and country.  They helped make the mid-Sixties -- an era of protest, awareness, and rebellion -- a little more palatable.  And they helped make Club 47 a great place to be.

"Ukulele Lady"


"Papa's on the Housetop"

"Somebody Stole My Gal"

"Mobile Line"

"When I Was a Cowboy"

"Jug Band Music"

"That's When I'll Come Back To You"

"Storybook Ball"

"Christopher Columbus"

"If You're a Viper"

"Never Swat a Fly"


"Mood Indigo"

"Boodle Am"

"I Ain't Gonna Marry"

"Guabi Guabi" [also the name of our Siamese cat way back then]

"The Circus Song" [with greatest giraffe sounds ever!]

Great music.  Great memories.


Fifty years ago, after we said our "I do"s, this was the song that played.


Today is my fiftieth anniversary.  Troths were pledged between Kitty and myself on March 26, 1970 and every day thereafter I have been the better for it.

Here's someone else who once had a fiftieth anniversary, albeit many years after he died.  Western star Tom Mix agreed to have a radio show based on him with another actor (Artell Dickson, to begin with) playing his part.  The show aired in 1933.  Mix himself died in 1940.  In mid-1943 with the advent of Daylight Savings Time,  sponsor Ralston cereal pulled the plug on the show.  Mistake.  In June of 1944, the show returned and stayed on the airwaves until 1950.

In 1983, it was the fiftieth anniversary of the show, so this happened:

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Here's a song that was played at the beginning of our wedding fifty years less one day ago.


Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and a kid from the Make-a-Wish Foundation were on a plane when the pilot comes running through, saying, "Uh-oh!"  The pilot grabs what appears to be a parachute and jumps out, calling back, "Sorry!  There's only two parachutes left!"

Immediately Donald Trump elbows himself forward, grabs one, and says, "I'm the most important person in the world so I deserve a parachute,"  And he jumps out of the plane.

Bernie Sanders, realizing he is old and the kid from the Make-a-Wish Foundation is young and that there is a very slight change that some medical breakthrough may end up saving the kid, takes a parachute and starts strapping it on the kid. giving him careful instructions on how to use it.

The kid starts to laugh.  "Don't worry.  We're both okay," he says.  "The very stable genius just took my backpack."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Kitty and I are fast approaching our 50th anniversary later this week.  Feeling both nostalgic and self-quarantined I've been listening to music from way back then.  Here's the number one song from the week we were married.


The Dow Hour of Great Mysteries was a series of seven NBC specials hosted by Joseph N. Welch in 1960.  As the name implies, the sponsor was Dow Chemical.  The series ended with Welch's death on October 6, 1960, at age 69.

The premise was simple:  present classic mystery stories in a one-hour format.  The episodes were:

  • The Bat from Mary Robert Rinehart's novel, adapted by Avery Hopwood and Walter Kerr; directed by Paul Nickell  (aired March 31, 1960)  [The story was first presented as a play by Rinehart and Avery Hopwood and was based on Rinehart's 1908 mystery novel The Circular Staircase.  The play was novelized in 1926 and presented as written by Rinehart and Hopwood -- sometimes published as by Rinehart alone -- but was ghostwritten by Stephen Vincent Benet.]
  • The Burning Court from John Dickson Carr's 1937 novel, adapted by William and Audrey Roos; directed by Paul Nickell (aired April 24, 1960)
  • The Woman in White from Wilkie Collins' 1859 novel, adapted by Frank Ford; directed by Paul Nickell (aired May 23, 1960)
  • The  Datchet Diamonds from the 1898 novel by Richard Marsh, adapted by Walter Kerr; directed by Gower Champion (aired September 20, 1960)
  • The Cat and the Canary from the 1922 play by John Willard; directed by William A. Graham  (aired September 27, 1960)  [According to IMDb, this was based on an unspecified novel by J. Sheridan le Fanu; I have not been able to corroborate this.]
  • The Inn of the Flying Dragon from the 1872 short novel by J. Sheridan le Fanu (aired October 16, 1960) [no further information available]  [my 2011 review of the book is here:]
  • The Great Impersonation from the 1920 novel by E. Phillips Oppenheim, adapted by William and Audrey Roos; directed by David Greene {aired November 15, 1960)
A number of these episodes appear to be lost to time, but The Bat is available on YouTube.

"A sinister criminal known only as 'The Bat' attempts to locate a fortune in stolen securities supposedly hidden in the ramb;ind mansion owned by Spinster Cordelia Van Gorder."

Starring Helen Hayes, Jason Robards, and Margaret Hamilton.


Monday, March 23, 2020


From 1956, Little Willie John.


Openers:   I used to think there wasn't much to this army life -- just marching around and toting a firearm and wearing khaki.  First off I was glad to get out'n the Kaintuck hills, figuring that I'd see the world and maybe some excitement.

     Things had been awful dull in Piney since the last of the Fletcher boys was killed off, and Uncle Aylmer was allus talking about how he shouldn't of plugged Jared Fletcher, 'cause that ended the clan and there wasn't anybody left to fight with.  Uncle took to drinking corn likker serious like after that, and we had to keep the still running overtime to keep nhim supplied.

     Anyhow, the teacher up at Piney allus told me to start a yard at the beginning, so I guess I will.  Only I don't know when the beginning happened.  Might have been the day I got a letter said Huet Hogben on the front, or as Paw said, and he's got a mite of book-learning.

     "Yep," he said, "that's an aitch, alrighty.  Guess it's for you, Saunk."

     They call me Saunk because I'm kinda short and runty, as the Hogbens go.  Maw says I ain't got my full growth yet, but I'm nigh twenty-two, and hardly over six feet at all.  I been kinda touchy about my runtiness all along, so I used to sneak off chop kindling to give me strength.  anyhow, Paw to the letter over to the teacher to get it read, and he came back ranting nd raving.

     "Fightin'," he yelled.  "There's a war goin' on\!  C'mon, Aylmer.  Git yore shooting iron."

-- Henry Kuttner, "The Old Army Game" (Thrilling Adventures, November 1941)

And thus were the Hogbens born.  Sort of.  The Hogbens were a wild, weird, mutant hillbilly family featured in four humorous fantasy stories published in Thrilling Wonder Stories from 1947 to 1949.  (Think Ray Bradbury's tales about the Elliott family -- only funny.)  "The Old Army Game" has little to do with the main Hogben sequence except for a hillbilly family named Hogben.  The story is not a fantasy although it certainly was the genesis of the more celebrated stories.  The 2013 collection The Hogben Chronicles from Borderlands Press did include this story along with the four fantasies.  The stories themselves have been to variously attributed to Kuttner alone and to Kuttner and his wife, C. L. Moore.

That's the problem with Kuttner and Moore and their various pseudonyms -- it is almost impossible to suss out who wrote what.  Both authors had separate careers before they met.  They met, married, and began a collaboration that only ended with Kuttner's death in 1958 at the early age of 42.  Each also wrote separately.  Their styles could mesh so flawlessly that, in many cases, it is difficult to tell where one ended and the other started, or if indeed a particular story was a collaboration or not.  A remarkable partnership considering the wide  number of styles and genres the two wrote in.

(Following Kuttner's death, Moore retired from genre fiction and began a short-lived career (1958-1962) as a script writer for Warner Brothers television.  She curtailed all writing after she married her second husband in 1963 although she continued to be semi-active in science fiction circles until she began the onset of Alzheimer's later in life.  After a long bout with the disease, she died in 1987.  She had been nominated as the first female Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America but the nomination was withdrawn at the request of her husband who felt that the award ceremony would be confusing and upsetting to her, given the state of her Alzheimer's.)

In addition to The Hogben Chronicles, "The Old Army Game" appeared in Virgil Utter's 1988 small-press collection Kuttner Times Three (which also includes "Bamboo Death," Kuttner's second published story, from Thrilling Mystery, June 1936, and "The Wolf of Aragon," from Thrilling Adventures, July 1941; both of these stories are available in the massive Terror in the House:  The Early Kuttner, Volume One published in 2010 by Haffner Press.)

For the curious, here is a link to Kuttner Times Three, courtesy of Internet Archive:

The Gift That Keeps Giving:   Randy Rainbow has a new parody (and some good advice) out.  Here's "Social Distance":

Coronavirus:  I am just about done with this pandemic.  Are you listening, Covid19?  You can go away now.

(Pause,  As I do not hear the virus get up and leave the room.  Dang!)

We all know the downside of this global disease:  death and probable economic and social collapse.

Perhaps it's time to look at the good side of this.  There has to be a good side, right?

For one, more and more people are realizing what an incompetent, blustering fool our president is.  Alas, while heartwarming that may be a case of too little, too late.

For every stupid spring breaker we see on the news, there are thousands of ordinary people going the extra mile with acts of kindness.  Too often we forget that we are essentially a decent and caring race.

Dolphins are swimming in the canals of Venice!  As we reduce our footprint, nature is coming in to fill the void.  Many people are showing an appreciation for the simpler things and for the wonder of the world around us.  When we get out on the other side of this affair, we may well be a changed people.  One can hope.

If we don't kill them first, self-isolating our families will teach us the value of togetherness.

And we spit in the face of danger.  Or, at least, have come up with some great memes about the coronavirus, self-isolating, social distancing, and the like.  We are very, very funny and that is something rare and beautiful.  Embrace it.

Many, if not most of us, will eventually get the virus.  Most of us will survive with only minor inconveniences.  By flattening the curve, we improve the survival chances of others.  That awareness, and our ability to follow through on it, speaks volumes about us as a people.

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man Angel Esteban Hernandezcito, 31, was arrested for trying to steal 66 rolls of toilet paper from an Orange County Marriott hotel.  A different Florida man was arrested in Clearwater for trying to steal a $1 pack of toilet paper from a neighbor.  Toilet paper theft is on the rise and officials are determined to wipe it out.
  • Florida Boy whose name has not been released has sent at least forty of his seventh grade classmates to the hospital after he mistook a can of pepper spray for a body fragrance spray.  The Gainesville lad had taken the spray from the belongings of another student.  Once he got to the school gym, he decided to give himself a healthy spritz of the stuff, causing an evacuation and making may of his classmates sick.  Gainesville junior high school students are evidently not taught to always read the label first.  (Three months earlier, a Manatee County school bus had to be evacuated because of an overwhelming odor of Axe Body Spray.  That stuff is powerful!)
  • This goes back to August, but I don't think I've mentioned it before.  Florida Man Larry Darnell Adams, 61, ws upset at the loud music at an 18th birthday party outside his apartment in Daytona Beach.  What does a Florida Man do when he's upset?  Well if you are Larry, you run out and spray them with roach spray of course.  And you keep it up until you hit yourself in the head with nunchaku.  Threats with a handgun were also made.  Police found 60 9mm projectiles inside a sock in Larry's bedroom.
  • Florida Man Todd Edward Watson, 56, is back in jail after threatening county judges.  He had been jailed this week twice before for...wait for it...threatening county judges.   This time he's being held without bail.
  • From Reddit yesterday:  Florida Man, Who Is Also a County Commissioner, Uses Public Meeting To Recommend Blowing a Hairdryer Up Your Nose To "Kill" Coronavirus
  • Also from Reddit one day ago:  Florida man who weighs 450 pounds -- hides marijuana in stomach fat
  • Florida Man Colin Gelb, 23, repaid a man's kindness by letting him stay in his spare room by peeing all over the room and attacking the man when he tried to stop him.  What is the saying, no good deed goes unpunished?  Yes, alcohol was involved.

Good Stuff:
There is so much going on this week about kindness and generosity.  What have you heard or seen this week that touched you?

Today's Poem:
The Virus

Here I sit
In complete isolation.
All of us separated by the invisible.
I would reach out to you,
But a simple elbow touch wouldn't do.
Lysol spray has become perfume,
Hand sanitizer has become hand lotion,
The news has become a bible.
A simple virus,
Whose name resembles royalty,
Has done the unthinkable.
Destroyed businesses,
and has ruined relationships.
The death toll rises,
And hope decreases.
What to do?
Everyone scrambles to find a solution.
Maybe it is found in the empty grocery shelves,
Or maybe in the fear of going outside.
Online assignments plague the uninfected.
But I believe,
We will all get through this together.
We will all get through this,
Just not with each other.

-- Katy Lyons
Hilton Head Island High School

This poem is from one of Ms Felix's students written during the school's first week of isolation.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


Ulugh Beg (1394-1449) ws a Persian sultan, known for his astronomical and mathematical studies.  The grandson of the conqueror Tamerlane, Ulugh Beg (a sobriquet roughly equivalent to "great ruler") was born Mirza Muhammad Taraghay bin Shahrukh during his grandfather's invasion of Persia; both Tamerlane and Shah Ruck (Ulugh Beg's father) were natives of what is now Uzbekistan.  As a child, Ulugh Beg roamed throughout the Middle East and India as Tamerlane continued his conquests.  He was eleven when Tamerlane died and Shah Ruck moved the capitol of the empire to Afghanistan.  When he was sixteen, Ulugh Beg's father gave him the city of Samarkand to govern.  Two years later he was named the sovereign ruler of Mavarannahr -- an area that encompassed Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and portions of  Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan; Ulugh Beg's territory eventually expanded to cover the Timurid empire, which included Iran, Mesopotamia, much of Central Asia, and parts of India, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey.

The teenager's interests lay much more in the sciences rather than governing.  He invited top scholars to his realm and, over the years, he constructed the largest observatory in Central Asia, and founded several institutes of learning.  He was responsible for the cultural renaissance in the area in the fifteenth century.

Having no telescopes, Ulugh Beg built a large sextant with a radius approximating 118 feet to measure the transit altitudes of stars.  Using the equipment at his observatory, he created a star catalog of 1018 stars  -- slightly less than that of Ptolemy.  Later realizing that he had made multiple mistakes in his catalogue, he issued a new one in 1447 containing 994 stars.  This is generally considered the greatest star catalog in the years between Ptolemy and Tycho Brahe.

In 1437, Ulugh Beg determined the length of the sidereal year.  Eighty-eight years later, Copernicus was able to improve Ulugh beg's calculations by a mere 28 seconds.  Ulugh Beg's calculation for the tropical year, however, was slightly more accurate (by 5 seconds) than that of Copernicus.

The Persian scientist-sultan also created trigonometric tables of sine and tangent values accurate to eight places.

(Understand that I have little or no idea what all the above means.  Suffice it to say, it was some pretty brainy stuff.)

I mentioned that Ulugh Beg was better at science than he was at ruling.  During his reign, others -- including family members -- took advantage of his lack of control over his realm.  When Shah Ruck died in 1447, Ulugh Beg discovered that his brother's son -- Ulugh Beg's nephew -- was claiming the throne.   Ulugh Beg went to war. defeated his nephew and slaughter the inhabitants of Herat, which his nephew had claimed for his throne.  But...there's always a but...there was another nephew who attacked Ulugh Beg's troops and defeated them, forcing Ulugh Beg to retreat to Balkh, a city governed by his eldest son.  His son revolted against Ulugh Beg, forcing him to retreat further into Samarkand, where he eventually had to surrender to his son, Abd-al-Latif.  His son seemingly spared Ulugh beg's life, allowing him to begin a pilgrimage to Mecca. but on the way his son had him assassinated.  The family that preys together...

For a brief, shining moment science had had its Camelot in Central Asia.


Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Nat King Cole with the Number 2 song of 1950 according to Billboard.


The Adventures of Smilin' Jack ran for forty years in the comics pages, from 1933 to 1973.  The popular aviation comic strip was actually the most popular comic strip for boys in 1940.  The extensively researched aviation background combined with thrilling stories, quirky and individual characters, and dastardly villains were a formula for comic strip success.  Created by aviation fan and cartoonist Zack Mosley, Smilin' Jack was originally named Mack Martin in the strip originally called On the Wing but the editor of the Chicago Tribune did not like the name Mack so the hero's name was changed to Jack Martin after the strip had been running  for only three months and the strip's title was changed to The Adventures of Smilin' Jack (a nod to creator Zack Mosley who had been nicknamed Smilin' Zack by his colleagues).  The strip eventually became known as Smilin' Jack.

Smilin' Jack's supporting characters may be more notable than the title character.  Jack's co-pilot and sidekick Downwind Jaxon is so good looking that women swoon with passion when they see his face.  Therefore, Downwind was also drawn in a 3/4 profile so readers never see his complete face.  Comic relief Fat Stuff was a corpulent Hawaiian whose overstretched shirt kept popping buttons; how he replenished those buttons remain a mystery.  In a number of strips the buttons were eaten on the fly by a chicken.  Other characters in this issue are Fat Suff's baby triplets, the Little Stuffs, Woo-Woo Bai, Snake-Bite, Senors Lopez y Caranza, Senoritas Paprika y Tamale, Cucuracha, Cindy, and the villains Toemain the Great and Catize.  I won't say any more because you just have to experience the characters for yourself.

Correction:  I will say one thing more because the comic book opens with a mysterious and unseen employer called  Hammer-Head who hires Downwind and Fat Stuff to help put a pipeline through a south American jungle.  As to the true identity of Hammer-Head, read the comic book.

Beginning in 1936, Dell Comics began issuing small comic books based on the character; these books were later combined to make the larger, 36-page comic -- issue # 1 linked below combines five of the 7-page 1941 comics under one cover.

Check it out.

Friday, March 20, 2020


Guns N' Roses.


City on the Moon by Murray Leinster (1957)

"Murray Leinster" was the best-known pen-name of Will F. Jenkins (1896-1975), which he used mainly for his science fiction novels and stories.  Jenkins was a prolific writer and published science fiction, mysteries, westerns, horror, historicals, romances, and general mainstream fiction -- over 1500 short stories and articles, 14 movie scripts, hundreds pf radio and television plays, 5 dozen novels, and 20 collections.  He published his science fiction story in 1919, one month ahead of the prolific Ray Cummings, earning him the sobriquet "The Dean of Science Fiction." 

City on the Moon was the third book in a trilogy (following Space Platform and Space Tug, both 1953) which featured Joe Kenmore, a young space pioneer as man began to reach for the moon and one of the early colonists on the moon.  Life on the moon is hazardous.  The one city is a dome buried under moon dust to help protect it from the harsh lunar conditions.  There are also several small tracking stations, secret  military missile bases, and a small orbiting laboratory.  Colonizing the moon is an international effort but each nation has its own hidden agenda and things are not as rosy as they might appear on the surface.  The major purpose of going to the moon is scientific, and the major scientific thrust is taking place on the orbiting lab, peopled by only eight scientists experimenting with atomic energy.  These experiments are so dangerous that they could destroy the moon or the earth if they were held on either of those bodies.  Yet, should the experiments succeed, mankind would have unlimited, safe energy and be able to expand through the solar system; if they fail, mankind will be doomed to an expectedly brief existence on an overpopulated with dwindling resources.  What is at stake is nothing less than the future of humanity.

Some forces do not want the lunar experiment to succeed, placing their short-term political goals ahead of reason.  Kenmore and his partner Moreau have been exploring in a moon jeep, a large adaptable vehicle whose gigantic wheels can move independently up or down when a rock slide engulfs them, damaging one of their wheels.  There is a good chance that the rock slide may have been deliberately triggered.  It's common knowledge that saboteurs have been active in Civilian City -- the city on the moon -- although their efforts have thus far been minor.  At the same time, Kenmore hears a radio call from an incoming ship:  there are no beacons to guide the ship to land at Civilian City.  Begging for help, the ship's radio also announces that they are bringing the first two females to the moon -- a noted newscaster and a girl named Arlene Gray.  Arlene Gray, the daughter of a high space official, happens to be Joe Kenmore's fiance.  Flying blind, the ship tries to land and crashes.  Desperate to find out what happened to the rocket ship, Kenmore manages to limp the moon jeep back to Civilian City, only to find the city completely dark and abandoned.  The sheathing that covers the dome has been slashed and air is leaking out.  The small population of Civilian City have taken all available moon jeeps in an effort to reach a military base.  Kenmore discovers that the moon jeeps have nor reached the base.

That's just the beginning of the troubles.  While Kenmore and Moreau are able to repair the dome's sheathing and have been able to rescue Arlene and others (including the rather imperious female newscaster) from the rocket ship's wreckage, the sabotage continues.  The abandoned colonists are also found safe, but for how long?  On a mission to deliver an important message to the orbiting laboratory, Joe's rocket has been sabotaged and he, Arlene, and supply rocket pilot Mike Scandia crash and are marooned 60 miles from Civilian City.  Things just keep going from bad to worse, especially when the scientists on the orbiting satellite discover that their work could not only destroy the earth and the moon, but the entire cosmos, spreading destruction across the galactic spaces.  Mankind's only hope has been dashed and the colonists are ordered to abandon the moon.

What a melodramatic mess!

Critic John Clute has described the entire Joe Kenmore trilogy as juvenile fare that is "told in melodramatic terms that have not worn well."  Perhaps so, but Leinster writes in a crisp, fast-moving style that never loses sight of the main conflict.  As a great fanboy of the genre, I maintain City on the Moon is 1950s space opera at its finest.  It is not as demanding as Leinster's more inventive, classic short stories (a form perhaps more suited to his talents), but it is a pretty good read, made even better by the author's description's of the moon's stark and desolate beauty.

Give it a try.  Your inner thirteen-year-old thirsting for the sense of wonder will thank you.

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Freddie "Boom-Boom" Cannon.


It's 1938 England and working class girl and free spirit Cluny Brown has a hard time following the social rules.  She meets a Czech refugee who finds her refreshing.  She is fascinated by plumbing and pipes.  Her uncle decides the best place for her is in domestic service.  All of these cause hi-jinks and chaos in this romcom based on the Margery sharp novel.

Ernst Lubitsch (Ninotchka, Heaven Can Wait, To Be or Not To Be) produced and directed this as a film in 1946 -- his last film.  Charles Boyer played the Czech refugee, Adam Belinski, and Jennifer Jones played the title character in the film.  For this radio version Boyer reprised his role while Olivia de Havilland played Cluny Brown.

Sadly, the sound on this recording is a little muddled.  For comparison, here's the original film:

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


Tom Leher.


Jackie Wilson.


You have Randolph Scott starring in this oater, with Victor Jory and Bill Williams (TV's Kit Carson) in supporting can you go wrong?  You even have Dale Robertson as Jesse James and (if you look closely) Kermit Maynard in an uncredited cowboy role.  Plus, the script was written by the great pulpster and Hollywood scribe Frank Gruber from his novel Fighting Man.  And Edwin L. Marin (A Study in Scarlet, Bombay Mail, A Christmas Carol -- the Reginald Owen one) directed.  Again, how can you go wrong?

Join Randolph Scott as a former Quantrell Raider turned lawman to hunt his brother's killer in this fast-moving, action-packed western.


Monday, March 16, 2020


I don't know if he ever met the devil at a crossroads, but Robert Johnson sure could play the guitar.


Openers:   The train that pulled into Ogaunee, Michigan, at 9:15 Friday morning was in no hurry.  It settled to a stop and let go with deep metallic sighs, as if it would undo its iron stays and rest a while.

A tall man in a gray overcoat swung aboard, went down the plushy day coach to a seat along about the middle, laid his coat in the rack, and sat down, settling back with such ease that he seemed to have been there for some time, with the lazy dust rising and falling around him in parallel bands if spring sunshine.

A sticky face rose over the seat top ahead.  Unblinking eyes looked at him with the insulting stare of a child.  The tall man met the infant's eyes rudely.  In a moment the child's hand fell to his mother's ear and the tongue came out coyly to wrap itself around the edge of a lollypop in an ecstasy of embarrassment.  MacDougal Duff relented and gave the baby the regulation adult smile.  Only the youngest and most unspoiled could keep that look for long when met in kind.  This one's clouds of glory were shredding thin already.  And mine, thought Duff ruefully, are strictly synthetic.

Charlotte Armstrong, The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943)

Thus begins the second novel about retired history professor MacDougal Duff turned amateur detective.  From the first few paragraphs we learn that it's a warm spring day in Michigan, the type of day that moves slowly in the sun, the type of day where nothing should go wrong in the world.  Our protagonist, MacDougall Duff, is a self-assured man, confident and kind, yet something is off within him.

In this book Duff finds himself a guest at the Whitlock house, overseen by three weird sisters -- one could speak no evil, one could see no evil, and one could act no evil.  There is a murder and neith Duff nor any of the other guests know who will be the next to die...

The three books about MacDougall Duff -- Lay On, Mac Duff (1942), The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943), and The Innocent Flower (1945, also published as Death Filled the Glass) -- were also the first three books that Charlotte Armstrong published.  While quite readable and enjoyable, the Duff books paled in comparison to Armstrong's fourth book, The Unsuspected (1946), the first of many brilliant novels of domestic suspense.  It was followed by 23 highly regarded novels, including Mischief  (filmed as Don't Bother to Knock, featuring Marilyn monroe and Richard Widmark), The Chocolate Cobweb, Catch -as-Catch-Can, Edgar Award winner A Dram of Poison, The Turret Room, The Gift Shop, Seven Seats to the Moon, The Balloon Man, Lemon in the Basket, and The Protege.  Many of her novels were on the New York Times bestsellers list.

Before Mary Higgins clark, there was Charlotte Armstrong, 'The American queen of suspense novelists," proclaimed the New York Telegraph.  Anthony Boucher long praised her skill, calling her "one of the few authentic spell-casting witches of modern times."

Armstrong has also published four short story collections.  Three of her short stories have been nominated for Edgar Awards.  One story that was not nominated for an award was "The Enemy," a powerful reflection on the McCarthy Era placed in a domestic setting.  The story has stayed with me for years and is one of the best I have ever read.

Before turning to mystery novels, Charlotte Armstrong was a poet and playwright.  Two plays made it to Broadway and both flopped.  I've read the script of the second, Ring Around Elizabeth, as by "Char Armstrong,"and found it amazing.  I suspect the play was ahead of its time and hope it will be revived in some form.

Many of Charlotte Armstrong's books are still available, at least in electronic form, and a recent collection of her stories, Night Call and Other Stories of Suspense, was released in 2015 by Crippen & Landrau.

If you have not read Charlotte Armstrong, what's keeping you?

BTW:  The Case of the Weird Sisters was filmed in 1948 as The Three Weird Sisters, starring Nancy Price, Mary Clare, and Mary Merral as the sisters.  The British film transformed the setting from Michigan to Wales and eliminated MacDougall Duff.  Oh, well.  The film was directed by Daniel Birt from a screenplay by Louise Birt (probably a relation), David Evans, Nancy Price (one of the weird sisters), and...Dylan Thomas!

For your edification, the film is linked below.


  • Barbara Cleverly, The Spider in the Cup.  Mystery novel.  "London, 1933.  An amateur dowsing team searching the Thames for precious metals unearths the body of a young woman with a priceless coin in her mouth.  The case falls on Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Joe Sandilands, but he has another, very high-profile assignment.  London is hosting a massive economic conference to address global Depression, and political tensions run high as world leaders stand either with or against a rapidly militarizing germany.  Sandilands is to protect visiting American senator Cornelius Kingstone throughout the conference,  But when a series of bizarre coincidences links the riverbank body to the senator, Joe realizes that Kingstone is caught up in a dangerous game that might cost not just one but thousands of lives."
  • Richard Wilson, 30 Day Wonder.  SF novel from an underappreciated writer.  "The Monolithians...they were such gentle, friendly, affable creatures -- they even looked okay -- handsome, human males, all of them.  They were law-abiding too.  If a local speed limit was 25 m.p.h., that's how fast they'd go, no matter if traffic was snarled up for miles in back of them.  If a Blue Law town said nobody should work on Sunday, they's do their duty as citizens and let the town burn before they'd permit a fireman to put out the blaze.  No one could do anything about it because the Monolithians were impregnable.  So when they got into the Unietd Nations and the politicians found themselves having tom live by what they said, the world was in real trouble.  Or was it?"  Wilson, a member of the legendary Futurians, published far less than some of the other Futurians, but what he published -- three novels and a bunch of short stories -- was very, very good.

Sing Along While Sheltering in Place:  Randy Rainbow is back with the latest on the coronavirus:

More on the Coronavirus:  As lives get further disrupted by the pandemic it is important to separate fact from bovine feces.  Last night's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver does that, albeit in a very austere setting:

MacDonalds:   Not the hamburger chain.  The Scottish clan.

One of the things that is keeping us going while we hunker down is YouTube, the home of so many strange and wonderful clips both useful and meaningless.  Yesterday my wife came across a clip (one of many) featuring Scottish bagpipers from many clans on parade.   I asked my wife if the Campbells had pulled knives on the MacDonalds yet; she said no.

My wife is from Irish and Scottish ancestry.  The Scot side is from clan MacDonald and some of the older members of her family took it very seriously.  You may remember -- or definitely remember if you are a MacDonald -- hearing about the massacre at Glencoe on February 13, 1692, when some thirty or so members of the MacDonald clan were slaughtered by members of clan Campbell...while under a flag of truce, no less.  (The fact that the MacDonalds had earlier slaughtered members of the Campbell does not mitigate the grudge held by my wife's family.)  Anyway, some members of the MacDonald clan, such as my wife's great-aunt, has never forgiven the Campbell's.  Kitty's great-aunt went so far as to refuse to have a can of Campbell's soup in her house.

(Kitty's great-aunt also had a bug up her posterior about the Irish, leading to such comments as "Eileen, would you ask your husband to pass the salt" and "Eileen, would your husband like some more potatoes?")

Kitty grew up with a few knowledge of the various Scottish tartans and, even as an adult, could recognize most of them.  Early in our marriage she made me a kilt from the MacDonald tartan.  I wore it when we attended a Robbie Burns night in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the coldest day of the year.  (If you have ever wondered what is worn under a kilt, don't.  Just don't.)  It was there that I met my first haggis.  (A harrowing tale that became the lead piece in an issue of Charles L. Grant's amateur magazine Haggis oh so many years ago.  I doubt many copies exist so you will probably have to go through the rest of your life without reading it.)

Today, when I go to MacDonald's (the restaurant) and have a bland, over-salted, fattening hamburger that is helping to decimate the Amazonian rain forest, I cannot help but think, How have the mighty fallen.  And when the chain has had soup on the menu, it was probably Campbell's.

Florida Man:  There may be 155 Florida-related case of coronavirus and Disney World my be closed, but Florida Man just keeps rolling along.

  • Florida Man Jose Herrera, 27, tried to add some fiber to his diet, when caught using a stolen credit card to buy jewelry and gift cards, tried to eat the bogus card.  Herrera had 13 other stolen and fraudulent credit and debit cards on him.  The one he tried to eat had been stolen from a deceased man from Ohio.  Herrera was also found with a baggie containing a white powdery substance.  "I'm not going to lie," Herrera said, "It's cocaine."  Of course it is.
  • In Brevard County, Florida Man Duy Khanh, 34, decided to pass his day by standing in his driveway naked and throwing rocks at passing cars.  In Florida, sometimes you have to make your own fun.
  • As I mentioned last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz has self-quarantined himself after potentially exposing Donald Trump with the coronavirus during a trip on Air Force One.  What I did not report was where Gaetz spent the first night.  "I couldn't stay in a motel.  I slept in a Walmart parking lot somewhere off (Interstate) 85."  (Insert your own People at Walmart meme here.)
  • It's four o'clock on a Saturday morning in Florida and what do you do?  If you're Florida/Moonshine Man Rick Lee Miller you turn the country music up high, very high.  Then you get belligerent when the cops come to investigate.  And if you're Rick Lee Miller you also get tasered.  Moonshine was involved.
  • Romance, Florida-style, was in the air when Florida Man Javarice Raydale Ware, 28, was arrested in Valdosa, Georgia, for human trafficking.  Let me correct that first sentence:  This is not typical (I hope) Florida romance.  Ware held Florida women against their will in a motel room and forced to to have sex and to sell drugs.  "He held every one of them at knifepoint and said 'I'll cut your head off is you don't do this'...And we recovered the knife off him," said the Lowndes County sheriff.  Two victims were provided counseling and treatment from a local agency and are now home with their families.
  • Florida Man Allan Ibanez was arrested for stealing donuts from a gas station.  Ibanez said he stole the donuts to give them to local law enforcement because "all cops love donuts."  Just hours before the great donut theft, Ibanez was released on bond after showing customers at a local Ihop condoms and offering to display his genitals.  And a few hours earlier, he had been involved with deputies on two separate occasions and had been arrested for disorderly conduct.  A busy, busy day for Florida Man.

It's Not All Doom and Gloom, Folks:

Today's Poem:
Wash your hands
Do not sneeze
Keep you distance 
If you please
Do not talk
Through your hat
Get the facts --
And that is that.

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Today is the Ides of March, the day when Julius Caesar was murdered.  Ides is not another name for the fifteenth of the month but it does fall on the fifteenth of March, May, July, and October in the Roman calendar.  In all other months Ides fall on the thirteenth.

In the Sixth century, Ides was one of the names given to and Irish nun and the patron saint of Killeedy.  Ite ingen Chinn Fhalad, also known as Ita, Ida, or (of course) Ides, is considered the "foster mother of the saints of Ireland." having fostered Saint Brendan, St. Pulcherius, and the Irish bishop Cummien.  The name Ita means "thirst for holiness."  One Irish legend has Ides' mother being the sister of St. Brigid's mother; the legend probably stems from Ides being called the "Brigid of Munster."

Ides was said to embody the six virtues of Irish womanhood -- wisdom, purity, beauty, musical ability, gentle speech, and skill at needlework.  At age sixteen she moved to what is now known as Killeedy ("the church of St. Ida") and founded a small community of nuns.  Legend has it that she was led to Killeedy by three heavenly lights.  At Killeedy she had a religious school for young boys, a number of them (like Brendan) she fostered.  She supposedly told Brendan the three things God most detested were a scowling face, obstinacy in wrongdoing, and too great a confidence in the power of money.  (I wonder what she would have thought about Donald Trump.)

She had the gift of prophecy and had a talent for bringing people to holiness.  A number of  miracles have been attributed to her. The Irish Church at that time was far ahead of the curve in recognizing the spiritual talents of women.  Ides was also rumored to be the abbess of a double monastery of men and women.

Her monastery was eventually destroyed by raiding Vikings in the Ninth century.  It's site is still a place of pilgrimage.

St. Ida's feast day is January 15, which -- as we all know -- is not the Ides of January.


Red Mountain Music with a hymn collected by William Gadsby in the 1880s.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Today is the day.


My wife is firmly convinced that women named Kitty are portrayed as either the upstairs maid or as the hooker with the heart of gold.  I myself feel that the name of Kitty is magical and denotes charm, grace, sophistication, intelligence, beauty, and all that's good in the world.

Kitty Cobb is a young innocent bound for the big city to make her way in the world.  Sadly, the big bad city may have other ideas.  Just as she runs out of money, she manages to get a job as a saleslady in a department store where the other salespeople make fun of her because she is kind and attentive to her customers.  She catches the eye of the store's floorwalker who asks her out to the theater.  Smitten with her, he asks her to marry him.  She refuses.  Suddenly she finds herself without a job.

Her next job is as a secretary but that does not last long.  a friend then hooks her up with a job as a girl usher at a Broadway theater, but there some "Johnny" makes an insulting remark at Kitty.  Mrs. Caldecott, a rich and somewhat intimidating woman, overhears this and slaps the young rogue across the face.  Mrs; Caldecott likes Kitty and hires her as her secretary.  There she meets and wins the heart of Robert, whose family feels he is too good for her.  They get married in Kitty's hometown, where her old beau tries to commit suicide by overeating at the reception.

Married life calls for some adjustment from both lovebirds.  Robert is protective.  Kitty is independent.  Since Kitty is also very beautiful, every rotter in town is trying to seduce her.  On vacation at the seaside, Robert gets jealous.  Embarrassed by her revealing bathing suit (which covers he from head to toe), Kitty does not want to exit the cabana; when she does, all the men go hubba-hubba and robert gets a little more jealous.  Then while Kitty is entertaining his aunt Isobel, Robert arouses Kitty's jealousy by paying attention to Miss Larabee -- and under Kitty's parasol, too.  Oh, woe!  Is this marriage doomed?

Spoiler alert:  Not really.

The Adventures of Kitty Cobb is a slim book of Sunday newspaper one-panel drawings by popular illustrator James Montgomery Flagg.(1887-1960), who would create his most famous work five years later -- a U.S. Army recruiting poster depicting Uncle Sam pointing and saying "I want YOU for the U.S. Army."  (Flagg used is own face -- aged and whiskered -- for the poster.)  Flagg became one of the highest paid magazine illustrators in America.  His perceptive illustrations for The Adventures of Kitty Cobb reflect the view many had of America at the time.

From the back cover:  "Mr. Flagg is not only a clever artist but a remarkable story-teller as well.  In this new book he tells, by means of thirty-one inimitable pictures and short descriptive legends, a delightfully humorous and tender-hearted love story.It is distinctly the cleverest and most artistic gift book of the season."

And from the legend on page two:  "Kitty is very good to look at."  Of course she is, I state without prejuduce,


Friday, March 13, 2020


Carole King.


The War Chief by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1927)
Apache Devil by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1933)

In addition to taking readers to a mythical Africa, Barsoom, Pellucidar, Amptor, Caspak, and other places of the author's imagination, Edgar Rice Burroughs also published four western novels.  Two of these told the story of Shoz-Dijiji, the last Apache War Chief.

In the spring of 1863, Andy MacDuff was born in a dilapidated wagon somewhere in Missouri where his parents had stopped briefly on their long, slow way to California.  While the child's father was of Scot ancestry, his dark-haired mother had a full-blooded Indian several generations back in her family tree.  Those genes were more pronounced in the baby than in his mother.  So it was that, several months later, following the Rio Grande in New Mexico, the child's birth parents exited the scene when their rickety wagon was attacked by Indians and both were killed.  On hearing the cries of a baby from the wagon, one of the Indians, Juh, was about to smash the baby's brains when he was stopped by the leader of the party, Go-yat-thlay, the war chief of the Be-don-ko-he.  Go-yat-thlay took the infant that so much resembled an Indian and adopted him. 

The child grew up an Apache, taught in the Indian ways by Go-yat-thlay (who would become better known by the name given him by the Mexicans -- Geronimo) and believing himself to be a pure Apache.  At the age of ten, while playing alone in the wilderness, the boy was attacked by a black bear which he was able to kill with the shot of an arrow.  From that day on he was known as Black Bear, or Shoz-dijiji.

As an Apache he was taught to hate the white man, who stole and lied and murdered Shoz-dijiji's people.  Yer Shoz-dijiji was unlike other Apaches -- he refused to torture his enemies and he would not kill women and children.  Shoz-dijiji, perhaps because he was loved by his powerful father Geronimo or perhaps because he was actually white, was hated by Juh, who also became a powerful chief.  When Shoz-dijiji won the love of his former playmate, the beautiful Ish-kay-nay, Juh wanted the woman for himself.  Ish-kay-nay's father wanted her to marry Juh, who had power and standing among the tribes, rather than Shoz-dijiji, who had not yet received warrior status and who had little possessions to his name.  The father demanded payment of fifty ponies for Shoz-dijij to marry his daughter.  Our hero, having only three ponies, knew this was an impossible price, yet love knows no bounds and Shoz-dijiji set out to get the fifty-pony bridal price, promising to have it within a month.

Adventures follow.  Shoz-dijiji steals the ponies from Mexicans.  The ponies get stolen from him.  He rescues the lovely Wichita Billings, the daughter of a rancher, who was about to be ravished by an evil ne'er-do-well.  The Apaches go on the war path.  The US Army and their Mexican counterparts are out for blood, Shoj-dijiji saves a cowboy who has been trapped under a tree, sets his broken leg, and leads him back to his ranch.  He saves a Mexican woodcutter who, in gratitude, saves him from being executed by Mexicans.  Despite all of his cunning and skills, Shoz-dijiji misses his thirty-day deadline.  The rival and bitter enemy, Juh, falsely tells Ish-kay-nay that Shoz-dijiji is dead.  Heart-broken and numb from this loss, she agrees to marry Juh.  Later they are attacked and Ish-kay-nay is wounded while Juh flees, leaving his wife to die.  Since every world Edgar Rice Burroughs has created is rules by coincidence, Shoz-dijiji finds Ishkay-nay's body and vows vengeance.

More battles ensue.  Shoz-dijiji is named the war chief of the Be-don-ko-he and Geronimo is the war chief of all Apaches.  Slowly, Shoz-dijiji discovers he has feelings for Wichita Billings, who also has feelings for him but her prejudice overwhelms he when he tries to kiss her and she repulses him.

Shoz-dijiji takes his revenge on Juh.

The Apaches know they are fighting a losing battle against the whites.  The Apache numbers are dwindling and the whites just keep coming.  The old ways are being lost.

By the time we get to Apache Devil, Geronimo is getting tired and knows the day of the Apache is ending.  Although he wants peace, the Army is trying to hunt him down and kill him.  Shoz-dijiji has been on the war path.  With his face painted he continues a war of terror on whites and Mexicans and becomes know as the Apache Devil.  Few realize that behind the face paint lay Shoz-dijiji.

His hatred for whites is tainted by his feelings for Wichita and from discovering that there exist a few honest and noble white men.  Mistaken that Wichita is in love with an Army lieutenant, Soz-dijiji rescues that officer.  Realizing that he loves Wichita and can never have her, he at least wants her to be happy.

Wichita's father is found shot in the back and scalped.  All evidence points to Shoz-dijiji.  Angered by the loss of her father and by her feelings of Shoz-dijiji's betrayal, she places a thousand dollar bounty on his head.  True love never runs easy in an ERB book.

Cattle are missing from the Billings ranch.  Again, Shoz-dijiji is suspected.  It turns out the real culprit -- and the murderer of Wichita's father -- is "Dirty" Cheetim (an obvious name for a villain), who was the man who tried to kidnap and rape Wichita back in the first book.  Dirty now runs a crooked gambling hall while still lusting after Wichita.  With the aid of the Billings ranch's foreman, he has been stealing cattle to sell to a crooked Indian agent.  He also plans to once again kidnap wichita, "marry" her, and turn her to prostitution once he has finished with her.  He is a bad, bad man.

Can Shoz-dijiji save Wichita from Dirty Cheetim?  Can he find peace with the white man, now that the rest of his tribe have surrendered and have been moved to Florida?  Can he ever be with the woman he loves?

Well, here's a hint:  Near the end of the book, Soz-dijiji discovers that he has been white all along.

Both books are fast, entertaining melodramas, not be taken seriously and reflecting all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' strengths and faults.  The body count is high but that doesn't matter because the hero is a noble man.  Primitive instincts are lauded yet must, in the end, be merged with a veneer of civilization. 

Tarzan took to the trees; Shoz-dijiji paints his face blue and white.

As with Tarzan, Burroughs has given us a larger-than-life hero to root for, and we do root for him -- up to the very last sentence.  After that, your tastes my vary.

Thursday, March 12, 2020


From 1965, the Beau Brummels.  Ron Elliott was sick when the group made this appearance on The Mike Douglas Show so they had someone else fill in...Guess who?


Fredric Brown's great short story "Honeymoon in Hell" was adapted for NBC Radio's X Minus One on December 26, 1956, by George Leferts.  Combining the cold war, an infallible super-computer, a mysterious lack of male babies being born to the world, some pretty strange aliens, and a rather dated and not politically correct love story, this episode pulls everything together for a satisfying ending.

Bill Redfield, Wilma Cure, Wendell Holmes, Charles Penman, Leon Janney,  Roger de Koven. and Jack Grimes are featured.