Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, April 30, 2020


Elvis Presley was loyal to his manager, Colonel Parker.  Elvis could have had a major Hollywood career, but Parker insisted that he churn out low-grade musicals, sometimes four a year.  While entertaining, many of the 31  Elvis Presley films were forgettable, as was the music.  A few songs, though, became popular.  Here's some of the good and some of the forgotten, one from each flick.

The title song from Love Me Tender (1956):

From Loving You (1957) "Hot Dog":

From Jailhouse Rock  (1957)  "I Want to Be Free":

The title song from King Creole (1958):

From G.I. Blues (1960)  "Wooden Heart":

From Flaming Star (1960) "A Cane and a High Starched Collar":

From Wild in the Country (1961) "I Slipped. I Stumbled, I Fell":

The title song from Blue Hawaii (1961):

From Follow That Dream (1962) "Angel":

From Kid Galahad (1962) "King of the Whole Wide World":

From Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) "Return to Sender":

From It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) "One Broken Heart for Sale":

From Fun in Acapulco (1963) "No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car":

From Kissin' Cousins (1964) "One Boy, Two Little Girls":

The title song from Viva Las Vegas (1964):

From Roustabout (1964) "Little Egypt":

From Girl Happy (1964) "Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce":

From Tickle Me (1965) "I Feel That I've Known You Forever":

From Harum Scarum (1965) "Kismet":

From Frankie and Jphnny (1966)  "Down By the Riverside/When the Saints Go Marching In":

From Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) "Queenie Wahine's Papaya":

From Spinout (1966) "Adam and Evil":

From Easy Come, Easy Go (1967) "The Love Machine":

From Double Trouble (1967) "Long Legged Gitl":

From Clambake (1967) "Hey, Hey, Hey":

From Stay Away, Joe (1968) "All I Needed Was the Rain":

From Speedway (1968) "Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby"

From Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) "Almost in Love":

The title song from Charro! (1969):

From The Trouble With Girls (1969) "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard":

From Change of Habit (1969) "Rubberneckin'":


Let's close out April with a horror story far more entertaining than the horror we have been living with for the past few months:  "Spirits of the Lake," from The Witch's Tale, radio's first regular horror program.

The Witch's Tale ran for seven years, from May 21, 1931 to June 13, 1938 on WOR, the Mutual Radio Netwok, and in syndication.  It was created, written, and directed by Alonzo Dean Cole.  Each episode was introduced by "Old Nancy" the witch, played by Adelaide Fitz-Allen.  When she died in 1935 at age 79 she was replaced by 13-year-old Miriam Wolfe; occasionally Old Nancy was played by Martha Wentworth.  Also featured in the introductions was the witch's cat, Satan (vpiced by Cole himself).

The show was basically a family affair.  Male leads were done by Cole and female characters were done by his wife, Marie O'Flynn.  Supporting roles went to Mark Smith and Alan Devitt.

"Spirits of the Lake" aired on January 2, 1933.  There's a certain island in the middle of a certain lake in Michigan.  Indians once owned the land there and worship the spirits of its waters and its skies...

"The fascination of the eerie!  Weird, blood-chilling tales, told by Old Nancy, the witch of Salem, and Satan, her wise black cat.  They are waiting -- waiting for you -- NOW!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


The Yardbirds.


Two men were on an African safari and wandered off from the rest of the group and soon they came across a very nasty, very hungry lion who hadn't eaten for a week.  The lion charged toward them and they started to run as fast as they could.  Sadly, one of the two was really out of shaped and tired fast.  Knowing he could go no further, he knelt down and began to pray, "Dear Lord, please turn this lion into a Christian."  There was a roll of thunder in the sky and a flash of light.  The man turned and saw that the lion had stopped in a praying position, his two front paws clasped together.  A miracle!  The man slowly inched toward the lion until he was close enough to hear what the lion was praying.  "Thank you, Lord, for this food I am about to receive."

Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Bobby Van with a number from The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953).


Sex kitten Mamie Van Doren takes top billing in this chaotic film based on Murray Leinster's The Monster from Earth's End.  Just two years before Ms. Van Doren played Bubbles La Tassle in an episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and two years later she played Moana (no, not Disney's Moana) in Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women so her role in this film fit very nicely into the Van Doren oeuvre.

Joining her in this flick are Anthony Eisley (Hawaiian Eye), Billie Gray (Father knows Best), song-and-dance man Bobby Van (Kiss Me, Kate), and Pamela Mason, who had appeared with Van Doren in College Confidential and Sex Kittens Go to College.  Further down on the cast list was Biff Elliot, who had played Mike Hammer more than a decade before in I, the Jury.

An expidition to Antarctica finds some strange tree specimins, which they take back to a Navy base in the South Seas.  How could they have known that these were killer, acid-secreting trees that lived by night?  B-movie terror ensues.

This little charmer was scripted and directed by Michael Hoey, although he had uncredited directorial assistance from Ramah of the Jungle actor Jon Hall and B-movie SF writer and director Arthur C. Pierce.  Pierce also did some iuncredited work on the script for Hoey.

For the curious, the book was far more entertaining than the  movie.

See what you think.

Monday, April 27, 2020


Helen Kane, 1928.


Openers:  For a few seconds after the shot rang out there was utter silence.

In the clearing of the humid forest the fawn-coloured, white-tailed deer sank slowly forward, its thin front legs struggling to keep it upright; then it lurched sideways, kicked a few times and lay still.  The noise flooded back.  The wild screech of birds, the frantic splashing of aquatic creatures in the nearby pools and riverlets blended with the puzzled cries and scuttling sounds of frightened animals racing away through the course undergrowth.  It was a frantic bedlam of noise, arising as a discordant requiem to the life that had abruptly gone.

-- "Peter Tremayne,"  Swamp (1985)

"Peter Tremayne" is the most recognizable pen name of Peter Berresford Ellis (b. 1943), a historian, biographer, and novelist whose degrees are in Celtic studies.  Recognized as a leading authority on the Celts, his many nonfiction books under his own name include Celtic Inheritance, The Celtic Empire:  The First  Millennium of Celtic History 100 BC to AD 51, A Guide to Early Celtic Remains in Britain, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, and Celtic Women:  Women in Celtic Society and Literature.  Related nonfiction books include The Scottish Insurrection of 1820, The Problem of Language Revival:  Examples of Language Survivals, The Cornish Language and Its Literature, Macbeth:  High King of Scotland 1040-57, and The Druids.

As per Wikipedia, he "is a Fellow of the Royal History Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries; an Honorary Life Member of the London Association for Celtic Education, in which he served both as chairman and vice-president; Honorary Life President of the 1820 Society (Scotland).  He was chairman of the Scrif-Celt (Celtic Languages Book Fair) in 1985 and again in 1986; International chairman of The Celtic League (1988-1990) and has served on the committee of such groups as The Irish Brigades Assocoaition (New York), The Irish Literary Society, etc.  In 1989 he received an Irish Post Award for his contributions to Irish Historical Studies.  In 1987 he was named a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd" (an organization dedicated to retaining the Celtic spirit of Cornwall).

Ellis' interest in fantasy is evidence in the four literary biographies he has produced -- one on H. Rider Haggard, one on Biggles creator W. E. Johns, one on fantasist/mystery author E. Charles Vivian, and one on Talbot Mundy.  Ellis was the first to discover that Mundy's real name was William Lancaster Gribbon and detailed his adventurous life from ivory poacher to world-famous author in The Last Adventurer:  The Life of Talbot Mundy 1879-1940.

Ellis' interest in fantasy led to the first of many books under the "Tremayne" pseudonym, The House of Frankenstein in 1977, followed by Dracula Unborn later that year and The Vengeance of She the following year.  He continued to mine other writers works with two additional Dracula books and with The Return of Raffles.  He also penned a number of horror books -- many based on Celtic legends.  Peter Berresford Ellis has also written hisrotical novels and, as "Peter MacAlan," he has published eight thrillers.

Swamp (published in England with an exclamation point: Swamp!) takes place in the Florida Everglades where "horrible mutilation and haunting death stalk the picture-postcard beauty of America' favorite wilderness" revealing a "horror as primeval as the murk from which it slithers.  A horror born of ancient evil, now unstoppable before an unsuspecting world..."  As with his other horror novels, Swamp is a fast-paced read with little pretensions.

Today Ellis is best-known for his long series of mysteries about Sister Fidelma, who is both a dalaigh (a court advocate) and a Celtic nun in the mid Seventh century.  She first appeared in the short story "Hemlock at Vespers" (1993); her first novel appearance was in Absolution by Murder (1994).  Since that time, "Peter Tremayne" has published only books in this popularseries.  To date there are at least 38 Sister Fidelma short stories (including two collections) and 29 novels in the series.  In addition to providing a good mystery, the Sister Fidelma stories explore many social, religious, and historical themes of the time, both within the Celtic society and elsewhere.

Peter Beresford Ellis has published over a hundred books and over a hundfred short stories, as well as numerous academic articles.  Whether under his own name or as "Peter Tremayne" or "Peter MacAlan," he has provided fascinating reading that is sure to please almost any taste.

Sarcasm:  /sar casm/  noun  the use of irony to mock or convey contempt

Why is it when President Trump says something controversial (or "cavernously stupid" as one commentator put it) that has absolutely no basis in fact he either a) doubles down or b) he later claims he was kidding or being sarcastic ("I was joking.  Joking.  Everyone there knew it except you, the Fake Media!)?

His remarks about a malaria drug as an unproven means to combat Covid-19 led to a number of people dying ("What have you got to lose?") or putting themselves at risk for heart and other problems ("Seriously, what have you got to lose?"), while also creating a shortage of the drug for people with conditions approved for the drug.

Now he has suggested that people inject themselves with disinfectants (or somehow UV light up their insides) to kill the virus.  Trump is not a doctor, nor does he play one on TV, but he's pretty ffee-wheeling with nonsensical medical advice, based either on right-wing lunacy or on his personal hunch.  How can you go wrong with that?  Let's ask Randy Rainbow:

Paradise Lost:   "Knowledge forbidd'n?
Suspicious, reasonless.  Why should thir Lord
Envie them that?  can it be sin to know,
Can it be death?"

One of the greatest epic poems ever written was Milton's Paradise Lost, taking as its subject both the war among the angels, the creation of the world, and man's fall from grace.  Milton's poetic sweep and vision was ambiguous enough to allow a God capable of evil, or is He?  Lucifer, for all his arrogance and hatred, can be considered a sympathetic character, or can he?  There is a beauty and a depth in this work that has seldom been equalled -- something I was never really aware of until I read the full text some fifteen years ago.

Milton -- poor, old, blind, gouty, and beset by the tragedy of his second wife's death and that of their infant daughter -- sold the publication rights to the poem 450 years ago today for 5 pounds (under 800 pounds in today's money) to pupblisher Samuel Simmons, with another 5 pounds due if and when each print run sold out; it took eighteen months for the first print run to sell out.   Although now considered one of the premiere poets in history, Milton's reputation wavered over the centuries because of his political and theological beliefs.  Those beliefs were contradictory, battling between his Puritan faith and his beliefs in republicanism and free speech.

Have you read Paradise Lost?  Were you as impressed as I was?

Boop:  Created by Max Fleischer ninety years ago, Betty Boop is an outlier among popular cartoon icons -- a female character who is blatantly sexy.  It was not always so.  She first appeared in the animated cartoon Dizzy Dishes as the girlfriend of then cartoon star Bimbo.  She did not have the Betty Boop name, was intended as a one-off character, and was portrayed as an anthropomorphic French poodle.  She appeared in ten cartoons before she was transformed from a human-like dog character into a fully human character, with her very short skirts, babyish face, pouty lips, and close cropped hair festtoned with ringlets on her forehead.  Betty Boop was the epitome of a young, sexualized flapper while retaining her innocence and virginity -- something which did not stop the cartoons to be full of innuendo.

Betty was modeled on singer and actress Helen Kane, although Fleischer Studios denied the connection.  Others thought she resembled acteress Clara Bow (she did).  Two years before Betty's debut Helen Kane had a hit song with "I Wanna Be Loved by You."  Both the song and Kane's girlish voice were incorporated into the Betty Boop saga, as was Kane's signature saying "Boop-Boop-a-Doop."  Kane sued Fleischer in 1932 for infringement and exploitation of her personality and image.  Carttonist Grim Natwick admitted that he based Betty Boop's image on a picture of Kane and five of the women who voiced Betty Boop in the cartoons were (coincidently?) all one-time contestants in a Paramount Pictures sponsored contest to find a Helen Kane impersonator.  Yet, Helen Kane lost the lawsuit, in part because it was revealed that she had based her stage persona on Baby Esther (Esther Lee Jones), an Afro-American entertainerand Cotton Club regular in the late 1920s.  Kane retained Baby Esther girlish voice but changed her signature "boo-boo-boo" and "doo-doo-doo" to "Boop-Boop-a-Doop."  Esther was about nine years old when Helen Kane saw and began to appropriate the younger singer's voice and skat style.  At the time of the trial Baby Esther was on a long and very successful tour of Europe.  A voice recording of hers was entered into evidence and swayed the outcome in Fleischer's favor.   Baby Esther has been called the "Black grandmother" of Betty Boop.

Although portrayed as a sexual woman, Betty Boop was supposedly a sixteen-year-old girl. according to Fleischer.  Her sexuality was strictly through innuendo.  Twice, however, Betty came close to losing her virginity but was rescued from her would-be deflowerOur er in the nick of time.  After the second attempt, Betty sang "He couldn't take my boop-oop-a-doop away," leaving no doubt as to what that phrase referred to.  She became a symbol of feminist freedom.  With the introduction of the Production Code of 1934 and The National League of Decency, Betty Boop changed.  She became more mainsteam, her clothing was more conservative, her curls slowly disappeared, her winks and shaking of her hips were now verboten; in short, Betty Boop became wholesome and more appropriate for juvenile fare.

Nonetheless Betty Boop has survived over the years, twice in short-lived comic strips, twice in television specials in the Eighties, in commercials, and in merchandising.  She will remain with us for a long time yet as a well-beloved and pioneering cartoon character.

Here's her first appearance -- Dizzy Dishes, from 1930:

Birthday Quote:  Today is the birthday of Ulysses S. Grant who famously said, "I know only two songs.  One is Yankee Doodle and the other isn't."The Volunteer

Our Superhero:

  • Florida Man has been absent in some quarters during the pandemic.  Miami reports no homicides in 7 weeks -- the biggest streak since 1957!
  • A Miramar, Florida Man, Richard V. Hamilton, 36, decided he did not want to work and was "having a bad day" this past Thursday so he called in a bomb threat at the water treatment plant where he worked.  His bad day got worse when he was arrested.
  • If you are going to be a Florida Man, think big.  That's was Tampa man Steven Lawrence Brickner, 48, did when his investment syndicate raised five and a half million dollars to invest in a Colorado legal marijuana business.  There is a hitch in the plan when the business exists only as a UPS mail box.  But the  money was there in Brickner's hot little hands and he did what any good Florida Man would do -- he started spending it.  $465,000 went to buying crypto-currency such as Bitcoin.  $580,00 went to paying off personal mortages.  $1,200,00 was spent on cars, including eleven old sports cars.  $286,000 went who knows where after it was taken from ATM machines.  And $335,000 was spend at a Tampa "adult entertainment club," not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Sherry L. Grant, 43, of Marion County. was arrested again due to dubious choices.  Last June, the Florida Woman was arrested for breaking a window with an angel decoration, broke a glass table, and assaulted a woman and broke her glasses.  Her angel-throwing skills brought her some notoriety at the time.  Last Monday, Grant was found passed out behind the wheel of her car and was charged with DUI.  She told police she had only drunk four shots of vodka, of course this was on top of the Percocet, morphine, and Propofol she had ingested.  Grant said that she realized that she was too impaiered to drive and asked her passenger to drive the car, whereupon he exited the car and fled through the woods.
  • You can't be too young to start a career as a Florida Woman.  A ten-year-old Naples girl was sent to her room to finish her math assignment.  She struggled with the homework, then placed a sign in her window saying "Help! Get me out of here!"  A maintenance worker saw the sign and notified authorities, County Sheriff's deputies rushed to the home and were glad to find everyone safe.  A statement from the Sheriff's office stated. "[W]e totally relate to the frustration that comes with math homework."  A deputy gave the family his personal cell phone number and said the girl can call him at any time with homework questions, just don't scare us like that again.

Happy, Happy:

Today's Poem:
The Volunteer

Tell them in England, if they ask,
What brought us to these wars.
To this plateau beneath the night's
Grave manifold of stars --
It was not fraud or foolishness,
Glory, revenge, or pay:
We came because our open eyes
Could see no other way.

-- C. Day Lewis
an ode to the International Brigade

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Saturday, April 25, 2020




He worked out foolproof plans on how to save us from the zombie apocalypse.

Before that he was the world's leading expert on dinosaurs and could show us exactly how a tyrannosaur could walk.

He planned the world's first zooquarium on wheels.

He earnestly decided to become a Power Ranger when he was older, although becoming Bob the Builder would have been a second choice.

He made friends easily and had a level of coolness that put the Fonz to shame.

And he accomplished all this well before his first decade.

Now he has completed his second decade and I don't think he (or any of us) now worry about the zombie apocalypse.  He is more concerned on surviving college than zombies.  Rather than dinosaurs, his interests now lie in running and in soccer, both of which he is very good at.  He doesn't have to become a Power Ranger because he has become something far greater -- a genuinely warm and caring human being.   Although he can be very shy, he still makes friends easily and has perfected an unconscious level of coolness; eat your heart out, Fonzie!

In the beginning, though, it was scary.  He had one of those births of which nightmares are made.  We came disasterously close to losing both he and Christina.  It was a forceps birth and that instrument damaged some muscles on his face and left behind a mark that is barely visible today if you know where to look.  The damage interfered with his learning to speak.  He had a number of holes in his heart that required monitoring; luckily they closed during infancy without any lasting damage.  When he was two, he had early intervention therapy to help him speak.  (His first word was "bubbles" and came after several sessions of the therapist blowing bubbles -- go figure.)  From there, still just barely two, he went off to a special needs class five days a week.  A school bus picked him up and confidently boarded it each morning with his backpack of diapers and a bottle.  The special needs class had kids with all types of problems.  His best friends were Joey, a bright, friendly kid with muscular problems that had left him in clunky braces and a history of multiple surgeries, and Melissa, a sweet girl with mental retardation -- the teacher called them the three Musketeers, and Mark was extremely protective of both his friends.  I often think that this is where Mark developed his ready acceptance of every type of person.  He grew up without prejudice or hate or fear of others, a shining quality that is the essence of Mark.

After a few years of early intervention and special needs training, Mark entered the regular classroom.  Although still very shy, he made friends easily and impressed his classmates, all of whom thought well of him.  He developed a quiet albeit sharp sense of humor, something he has perfected to an art form today.  His wit can be both subtle and awe-inspiring.

As a kid, he tried a number of sports.  He was five or six when he tried wrestling.  THis first match had him literally wrestling a boy who had no arms or legs; Mark lost.  He didn't care for football so that lasted only one season.  Lacrosse was better; his coach said he wished every player on his team would put ehir heart into the game as Mark did.  He found soccer and that was it.  He found his groove after his first few seasons and excelled as both a striker and as defense.  (He did not really care for being a referee, though, although he was certified as one and reffed a number of first-year games.)   He was a sophomore when we moved to Florida and was too late to join the school soccer team.  By that time he had discovered running, something he excelled in.  He has run a gazillion races now, including several marathons, and has always done well, usually coming in among the top in his age group.  We were a little concerned about his first marathon and Christina, Jessie, and we marked out spots along the route to be sure he was  doing okay, then moving to other spots further along the route; we needn't worry -- he did great and came in well ahead of most others in his age group, stiff and sore but happy.

He's still running while in college, but often races without having time to have practiced.  Thanks to Covid-19, his school is closed to on-site classes and activities so he now has time to practice his running.

Christina and Walt had a difficult time coming up with a name for him.  One would suggest a name and the other would hate it and vice versa.  Anyone who had to name a child can relate, I'm sure.  Finally, the choice was between Mark and Thomas and they were torn between the two.  Then the light dawned (thanks to a not so subtle hint from Kitty) -- why not give him both names?  And so we had Mark Thomas.  Purely by coincidence, that had also been the name of one of Kitty's cousins, Mark Thomas Burns, who had been tragically killed by a drunk driver several years before.  Mark Burns was one of the finest men I ever knew.  A radio program manager work was also a talented  musician, he seemed to know everyone and was loved by everyone.  Mark could go anywhere in the country and there would be a friend to give him shelter.  Our Mark embodies much of the earlier Mark's personality that it is spooky.  The earlier Mark was kind, generous, friendly, empathetic, smart, funny, loved...everything you would want in a person.  Our Mark is just the same, although our Mark is no way near as musical.  (Come to think of it, Mark Burns was a singer and drummer; our Mark doesn't sing but was a pretty talented percussionist in school before sports won out.)  Neither had an ounce of hate in their bones -- well, Mark Burns did actively dislike one person, Richard Nixon.  The fact that both Marks are so similar is a tribute to each.

What else can I say about Mark?

Well, he is extremely good-looking.  I'd like to think he gets that from me, but he actually gets it from both his parents.

And we love him.  Always have and always will.  He makes us proud.  He makes us laugh.  And just by being near him, he makes us better people.  Osmosis, I guess.


The story you are about to read is true.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It was Thursday, October 13.

It was warm in the city.

We were working the day watch out of Narcotics Division.

My partner's Frank Smith.

The boss is Captain Kearney.

My name is Joe Friday.

For some reason I am drawn to look like Jack Webb.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Enjoy this blast from the past.

Details on the strip are sketchy.  One source has it beginning on June 23, 1952, although a one-week preview evidently ran before that date.  The artist was initially Joe Sheiber, followed by an uncrdited artist, then Bill Zeigler, and finally Mel Keefer.  The writer is uncredited and may well have been Jack Webb himself, perhaps edited television scripts by James Moser.  Webb was notoriously possessive about his creation, wanting to control every aspect; comic historian Ron Goulart wrote that the frequent change of artists was Webb's search for "one who could draw him as good looking as he thought he thought to be."

A personal note:  Dragnet was the favorite television program of Minnie Brown, our eight-days-older-than-Jesus babysitter when we were young.

Friday, April 24, 2020


The Chords.


Jack of Eagles by James Blish (1952) [also published as ESPer]

Blish (1921-1975) was an early science fiction fan and member of the Futurians who began his writing career with less than stellar short stories in the low budget science fiction magazines of the time.  His major work began in the Fifties and included such classics as A Case of Conscience, the Cities in Flight sequences of four novels (They Shall Have the Stars [Year 2018!], Earthman, Come Home, The Triumph of Time [A Clash of Cymbals], and the later juvenile A Life for the Stars], and the fix-up collection The Seedling Stars.  A perceptive critic, Blish was one of two critics (Damon Knight was the other) who helped bring science fiction to a more mature stage, emphasising literary quality and decrying shoddy writing and editing.  Ironically, his most popular work (and that which gave him a comfortable living) was the adaptations of the original Star Trek episodes which he published in twelve volumes; these were adaptations of the original scripts and not the revised episodes eventually shown on television.  (Blish's poor health led to his second wife, Judith Ann Lawrence, to collaborate -- sometimes anonymously -- one the later stories.)

Blish's interests were many -- philosophical, scientific, literary, historical, musical, among others -- and all found a way into his writing.  That he was often ascerbic led some to falsely believe he had little humor or warmth, something far from the truth.  Blish was a man obsessed with ideas, something that proved to be of great benefit as well as great detriment to his work.  He had a talent for literary invention and would often pepper his stories with scientific rationale to prop up his main ideas.  As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction put it:  "[H]e was not a naturally easy or harmonious writer; his style was often awkward, and in its sometimes anomalous displays of erudition could appear cold.  On the other hand, there was a visionary, romantic side to Blish which, though carefully controlled, is often visible below the surface."  Blish, with his many plusses and despite his few minuses, help bring science fiction out of the pulp ghetto and into the wider light.

Jack of Eagles was Blish's first published book and was exapnded from his story "Let the Finder Beware" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1949).  It concerns a young reporter for a food-industry trade magazine, Danny Caiden, who one day inserted a line about a major food company about to be hit with a price-fixing charge -- an assertion that appeared to come out of thin air and/or Danny's fertile imagination.  Danny could not  explain why he write that line but he somehow felt that it was true -- by the coming Friday International wheat would be charged with price-fixing.  since International Wheat was a major advertiser of the food magazine, Danny was fired.

Earlier that day while walking to work, Danny heard a squeal of brakes and a loud crash coming from around the corner.  The week before he had heard the same sounds and, ruching, around the corner, found nothing there, with no indication anyone else had heard the noise.  This time however, there was a bloody crash as passersby stood in horror.

When he was young, Danny had a neat trick.  He could find lost objects.  Every time.  He didn't have to be near the objects; someone could call him on a phone and say they had misolaced sometime and Danny would immediately tell them where the item was.

Danny is a bright guy but for the purpose of this tale he's a little slow on the uptake.  He's beginning to wonder if he has some sort of extra-sensory ability.  He decides to investigate.  First he visits a professional medium/psychic whose neice later latches onto Danny in hopes of finding out how he manages his "tricks."  Then he visits a psychic investigation society and has little luck there.  Finally he visits a college parapsychology researcher who seems to be interested in his case.  Along the way, Danny has been noticed by two opposing factions:  a secret group determined to use psi powers for their own ends and an opposing groups hoping to thwart the first.  Needless to say, Danny finds himself in danger.

Blish spends some time providing a scientific rationale for psychic powers and how they can be awakened.  Then he takes the plot one step further and introduces alternate realities.  Reality is not quite fixed and the "true" reality is actually an amalgamation of a number of overlapping realities.  Try wrapping your head around that one.  The bad buys want to maneuver things so that this reality is the true one and that they can have complete control over it.

And in the middle of all this is poor Danny who has to somehow save the world.

Jack of Eagles is a great example of Blish-itis Blish-ism.  Powerful ideas, a strong scientific background, free-wheeling imagination, pulp sensibilities, generally solid writing, and a fast-moving tale occasionally seasoned with drearily didactic interruptions.  Certainly not his best book but far from being his worst.

This one is worth checking out.   To quote someone in the news, "What have you got to lose?"  At least it's not an unproven drug with dangerous side effects.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Rod Stewart.


Once again, let's take a trip down Memory Lane with out favorite high school English teacher, Connie Brooks.  Eve Arden and the rest of the gang are here at Madison High as Philip Boynton (Robert Rockwell) acts very uncharacteristically.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020


The Mugwumps, featuring a pre-Papa Denny Doherty, a pre-Mama Cass Elliot, and a pre-Lovin' Spoonful John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky.


Honolulu detective Charlie Chan investigates the death of a Hollywood actress.  With many suspects, including the professional psychic Tarneverro (Bela Lugosi), Charlie has his work cut out for him.  Warner Oland stars as Chan in Oland's second outing as the detective.  Included in the cast is a young Robert Young in his first credited role.  An uncredited and pre-Renfrew Dwight Frye as Jessop appears for the first time in a film with Lugosi, prefiguring their collaboration later that year in Dracula.


Monday, April 20, 2020


Leroy Van Dyke, still here at age 90.


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

-- Theodora Du Bois, The Case of the Perfumed Mouse (1946)

Theodora Du Bois (1890-1986) was born Theodora Brenton Eliot McCormick in Brooklyn.  Her father, a writer and editor, died the following year and she was raised by her mother and her stepfather.  Her relationship with her stepfather was strained and this prickly relationship would show up in many of her novels.  From the time she was thirteen she began writing compositions and saving them.  When she had just entered her twenties, Theodora came down with tuberculosis and spent several months in a sanitarium.  While there, she began writing poetry but soon transitioned to prose, writing a number of children's plays.

She married Delafield Du Bose, an engineer who would later work on the Manhattan Project, in 1918.  She published her first story in 1920 and her first book, fantasy novel The Devil's Spoon, in 1930.  Although she continued to write fantasy and science fiction, her main body of work was in the mystery field.  She wrote nineteen beeks featuring forensic scientist Jeffey McNeill and his wife Anne (who would narrate the stories).  Here's the back cover blurb from my copy of The Case of the Perfumed Mouse (T. V. Boardman and Company, a paperback with itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny type to conform with the Book Production War Economy Standard):

"Beautiful, vague Jacqueline Granville, philanthropic chatelaine of the Ivory Tower, had an odd assortment of guests, all misfits, whm she was trying to rehabilitate.  When one after the other of her guests were bitten by rats Jacqueline called in Anne and Jeffrey McNeill, the high-grade detectives, to catch the fanciful murderer who used rats as a secret weapon.

"Thirteen-year-old Katrinka Poole, with her adolescent problems and mental vagarities, did not make the quest any easier.  When the perfumed mouse was found dead, a queer assortment of things in a deserted house seemed a possible clue.  Careful investigation and a woman's accurate emory for the sound of church bells contrived to catch the murderer and give happiness back to several people.

"This is an usually well-written and intriguing mystery novel."

As blurbs go, this one lacks a certain oomph, but there were enough interesting bits to make me buy the book.  Even the quasi- had-I-but-known opening paragraph intrigued me.  Full disclosure:  I haven't read the book yet but it's near the top of Mount TBR.

Delafield and Theodora Du Bois travelled a lot.  Travels to Germany, Italy, England, and Ireland help inform her novels.  After World War II the pair worked to assist displaced academics from Cambridge nd Oxford Universities.  Following Delafield's retirement in 1946, the family bought a boat and for nine months of each of the following years, they sailed.  They eventually settled on Staten Island but spent much of their time in Ireland, the setting of her historical novel Rogue's Coat (1949). 

In 1946 Du Bois published a quasi-science fictional mystery Murder Strike an Atomic Unit.  This was followed up in 1954 with Seeing Red, in which the McNeill's had to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which Du Bois treated very negatively.  (In her research, she attended some Committee meetings and was horrified by what she saw.)   The reaction to the book from HUAC supporters was immediate and a campaign was waged against Du Bois' publisher, Doubleday.  Doubleday stopped publishing her books; at least nine following books went to other publishers.  Du Bois herself was unaware of the campaign against her -- Doubleday did not inform her because she was having health problems; she evidently never knew why her publisher dropped 
her.  (Yes, Doubleday has a place in the Hall of Shame.)

The early Fifties marked the beginning of Theodora's decline in popularity, in part due to a switch from the agent who had represented her throughout her career to an agency owned in part by a cousin.  Du Bois was pushed to write a major historical novel which was eventually rejected by publishers.  Between that and losing the support of Doubleday, her sales began to lag although she continued writing through at least the mid-Sixties.

Theodora Du Bois is a neglected writer, perhaps unfairly.  Her output appears to have been uneven but some of her books -- including The Case of the Perfumed Mouse -- received critical acclaim.  Yet a cursory look through the internet did not come up with a complete bibliography of her works.  Her papers are housed at the College of Staten Island Library, CUNY, which includes "33 plays for adults" and "75 plays for children."

#Floridamorons:  Move over #Floridaman!  There's a new hashtag in town that's giving you a run for your money.  This one came about when some Florida beaches were reopened to the public and news reports showed people flocking to enjoy the sand, surf, and close proximity to each other.  Yeah, we spit on social distancing!

While not necessarily a sign of the coming apocalypse it is at the very least a sign of the power of the right wing to distract people from the truth.  The president, aided by Fox News and other irresponsible outlets, skeezy logic, wishful thinking, and pure greed, has been pushing to reopen the country economically.  Most experts say this is a very premature move and could both lengthen and exacerbate the pandemic while greatly increasing its human cost.  I should add that those experts who disagree are not really experts.  While reopening the country is not a good idea, it is a great talking point and Trump is making the most of it.  Fueled by ignorance and the ultra Right, protests have begun across the country -- often in Democratic states -- demanding the country be reopened to "save" the economy.  Many of the protesters are genuinely worried about their jobs and their ability to provide for their families; others are juyt parroting nonsense fed to them by the president and others.

A good recap of the misinformation concerning Covid-19 came from last night's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  It's worth taking a look at the entire show:

We are in for some very hard economic times that may equal or surpass the Great Depression.  I would argue that the time to deal with that is after, and only after, we deal with this pandemic.  Then we'll be able to devote the country's full resources (which can be considerable if we are united for the greater good, rather than political one-upmanship) to the problem.

Let's keep our fingers crossed, our hopes high, and out resolve steady.

In Other News:  Here are some news items that may have slipped under your radar because of the coronavirus.  Some are actually Covid-19 related.

  • Tornadoes and severe weather has killed at least 30 people in the Southeastern United States
  • Millions of pounds of fresh food are being destroyed by farmers as businesses close during the coronavirus outbreak; 3.7 million gallons of milk are being dumped daily because schools, restaurants, and other institutions are closed; tens of thousands eggs are being trashed
  • Saudi Arabia announced a cease-fire in the war in Yemen, perhaps ushering in a peace deal to the five-year-long conflict
  • One hundred million children worldwide are now at risk for measles due to a halt in vaccinations because of Covid-19
  • Devastating droughts last year in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar were the result of China's limiting the flow of the Mekong River
  • Libya's civil war has escalated despite pleas to stop fighting during the pandemic
  • The United states has labeled the Russian Imperial Movement, a white supremacist group as a terrorist organization -- the first time we have named foreign white supremacists as terrorist
  • 5G cell phone towers in Britain are burned as people react to the false rumor that 5G causes coronavirus
  • A decline in wildlife conservation funding has led to an increase in poaching, threatening endangered species
  • Shake Shack is returning $10 million it received as part of the coronavirus stimulus package after criticism for taking money meant for struggling small businesses
  • As a sign of the times, The Boston Globe printed sixteen pages of obituaries
  • The Trump administration awarded a $55 million contract to  bankrupt company with no employees to produce N95 masks, which it never did
  • Showboating GOP Representative Matt Gaetz (who represents my little piece of Florida heaven) may have violated House rules by giving $184,000 taxpayer dollars to rent office space from a long-time friend and donor
  • USNS Comfort Navy hospital is 2% full and is not taking Covid-19 patients
  • This past month was the second warmest March on record; all ten of the warmest Marches on record have occurred since 1990
  • A small helicopter has passed its final tests and will be attached to the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover scheduled to launch in July, making it the first aircraft to attempt power-controlled flight on another planet; the helicopter is schedule to be deployed about two and one half months after the Rover's landing in February 2021
  • The sinonophore, a 150-foot long creature found in waters off Western Australia, is thought to be the longest creature ever recorded; the sinonophore is actually a colony of individual animals, much like a jellyfish, and looks like a long string looped in consecutively larger circles
  • In our I Wish Bill Crider Were Alive To See This Department, feral pigs have expanded their territory into Canada; the animals, described as "an ecological train wreck," can reach up to nearly 300 kilograms in weight, are highly adaptable, impervious to cold, and extremely fecund; their territory is now increasing by almost 80,000 square kilometers a year
  • A "terrorist" knife attack in southeastern France has left two dead and five others wounded
  • Two migrants were shot and killed trying to enter Greece from Turkey as
    Ankara encouraged thousands of migrants to enter Europe from their border; additionally, one woman is missing and presumed dead after being shot by Greek forces while attempting to cross a river into Greece; the confirmed dead are presumed to have also been shot by Greek forces, although the country denies this
  • Ying Ying and Le Le, two middle-aged pandas at a Hong Kong theme park, finally got it on for the first time in more than ten years of trying to get the two to mate; evidently all it took was the privacy of a pandemic; ah, those wild and crazy kids...

Not Celebrating This Birthday:  On April 20, 1889, Adolphus Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, near the border of the German Empire.  His father was the illegitimate son of (supposedly) Johann George Heidler ("George Hitler") and Maria Anna Schicklgruber and since the baptismal record did not list the father, the child bore the mother's surname.  When Adolph's father was 39, the baptismal record was changed to list Heidler/"Hitler" as his father.  Heidler/Hitler had married Maria Anna some five years after the child was born.  It has been suggested that Hitler's true father was a Jewish youth named Leopold Frankenberger but this claim that Hitler had Jewish ancestry has been dismissed by historians.

Adolph Hitler was 14 when his father (with whom he had a combative relationship) died and 19 when his mother passed.  Less than two years later he ran out of money and was forced to live a homeless life and in various shelters in Vienna.  Hitler moved to Germany when he was three with his family and there developed strong German nationalist ideas at a young age.  According to several sources, either shortly before or shortly after his mother's death, Hitler began to have strong racist, anti-Semitic feelings; other sources place the responsibility with Germany's treatment after World War I.  Whichever the case, Jews made a great scapegoat for a young man who felt the German Army had been "stabbed in the back" on the home front.

Hitler remained in the army and, in 1919, was assigned as an intelligence agent to infiltrate the German Worker's Party.  There he became indoctrinated in the party's political stance and, when released from the army in 1920, Hitler began to openly embrace the party's nationalism.  When the part changed its name to the National Socialist German Worker's Party, Hitler designed the new party's banner -- a swastika in a white circle with a red background.

I am not going to go into the rest of Hitler's life because why should I?

Let me just finish by noting that Adolph Hitler suffered from meteorism, or uncontrollable farting.  Let that be his legacy.

The Good Stuff:
And as hospitals are releasing Covid-19 patients, many are doing it to music, from the theme from Rocky to the Beatles' Here Comes the Sun to this:

Keep smiling.  Keep positive.  Keep informed.

Today's Poem:
New World Coming

There's a new world comin', and it's just around the bend.
There's a new world comin', this one's comin' to an end.
There's a new world callin', you can hear it if you try.
And it's growin' stronger with each day that passes by
There's a brand new mornin', rising clear and sweet and free.
There's a new day dawnin', that belongs to you and me.
Yes, a new world's comin', the one we've had visions of,
Comin' in peace, comin' in joy, comin' in love.

-- Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann

Sunday, April 19, 2020


One of the most interesting things on YouTube right now are the Pitch Meetings that cover various movies and television shows.  There are now well over 150 ot them -- the perfect things to keep you amused while self-isolation.

How do you access one?  It's super easy, barely an inconvenience.  Just click below.


Etta James.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


It's Amy's birthday today.  A time to reflect on how happy and proud we are of this beautiful, blonde powerhouse.  I've sung her praises many times over on this blog and elsewhere, but today I'd like to concentrate on one thing -- her smile and how it lights up the room and lights up my heart.  I can never be sad when Amy is around.  In her smile is beauty and hope and promise and kindness.  There are days when her smile is my salvation.

Your Smile is a Beautiful Smile

Your smile is a beautiful smile,
It comes straight from your heart
Your smile shines like a beacon,
The love in it tears me apart,
Your smile shows in your eyes,
It's pure and joyous to see,

Smile at the sky,
It's so pretty,
It sets me free,
When I'm sad,
It will never cost a dime,
Then why do I have to tell you every time,
Smile is a magic,
Brings hearts together,
With package of love that stays forever,
That smile,
That finds me in a crowd,
The one that lights up a room,
And makes the world seem not so loud,
I go outside
I go outside when I'm happy,
I go outside to see her smile
It is like an angel's wings.
Flapping while the angel sings,

Her smile will always show
Watching your love continue to grow,
Her smile is worth a lifetime to see,
Smile girl, smile!
Always smile!
Smile all life and smile in style;
Smiling makes one worriless;
And makes you happy and less tense.
A mile like yours brings up my spirit,
A smile like yours is bright and pretty.
A smile like yours can change my  mood,

I can go from sad to happy in a second or two
Brings joy to all of us
Brights up our day
A smile id like a sunshine shining in the universe
In your smile
I see happiness,
In your smile
I see love,
Your smile makes me happy,
Your smile makes me laugh,
I love your smile,
For a smile is something special that it could brighten up a day,
When you smile,
The whole world smiles with you,
When you smile,
You make me want to smile too
When you smile
When you smile the whole room smiles with you,
When you smile
Butter melts and I do too
Even if it's not cause of me

Her smile has given a lot of care
Just because it was there
Her smile fills you with ambition
To make her joy your mission

-- Richard Neil Thompson

Have a day filled with smiles and joy and laughter, Amy.  We love you more than you can ever imagine.


Leonard Cohen.


The Phantom Ranger was an Australian comic book that ran for 208 or 209 issues [accounts vary] from 1949 until 1973.  The issues from 1969 to 1973 were published by Page Publications of New South Wales and may have been reprints; previous issues were published by Frew Publications of Sydney.  The comic was created by Jeff Wilkinson, who wrote and illustrated the first 19 issues; subsequent issues up to the early Sixties were written and drawn by Peter Chapman.

Issue #2 linked below is a British reprint from World Distributors of Manchester, England.  and reprints issue #126 from the Australian run; the story was also reprinted in issue #180.

So who is The Phantom Ranger?  From what I can glean from reading this one issue, he's kinda a Lone Ranger rip-off.  He wears a mask.  No one seems to know his identity.  His horse is name Silver Ghost. He has learned a lot of tricks from the Navajo.  Taking the role of the Lone Ranger's young nephew Dan Reid is young Rex Barton, the Phantom Ranger's "junior deputy."  I don't know if he has a "Tonto," but the cover of this issue shows the Phantom Ranger palling around with someone obviously Mexican -- perhaps a Pancho character from The Cisco Kid?  No matter, he doesn't show up in this issue at all.

Like the Lone Ranger, the Phantom Ranger is steeped in mystery, although his legend is somewhat more fantastic:

"Throughout the American West, the exploits of the Phantom Ranger have become legend, handed down from father to son.  For over 200 years the Phantom Ranger has fought for peace and justice, both on the side of the Indian and the whiteman.....Many men deny his existence...They ask how can any man live for over 200 years?  But the is the Phantom Ranger's secret which he reveals only to a chosen few....."

Hmm.  At a guess, this could also be a rip-off of Lee Falk's The Phantom, a generational hero passing down his secret identity from father to son.  Since this is the only issue I read, this is purely guesswork.  There.  I've repeated myself twice in one paragraph!

This issue's story, "The Ghost of Willow Creek," features someone wrapped in a sheet like a Halloween ghost who apparently frightens people to death.  First, the owner of the general store, then the town undertaker, and finally the town soak.  Behind it all is a tale of murder, greed, and revenge that only the Phantom Ranger can unravel.


Friday, April 17, 2020


Grandpa Jones.


Dark Entry by Basil Copper (1981)

This is the eighth Mike Faraday mystery by Basil Copper that I have read this year so, yes, I am a fan.  Copper wrote over 50 novels about the L.A. private investigator.  I've read not quite half of them.  There's plenty for me to look forward to.

The blurbs on just about every book in the series that I have read call Faraday "the laconic L.A. private investigator."  I don't know who came up with that adjective and I surely don't know why.  Laconic describes a person who uses very few words and, since the books are told in the first person and are heavy on description, that doesn't really apply, although Faraday sometimes does speak in terse sentences.  No matter.

Faraday is in his early 30s and employs only one other person -- his beautiful, ultra-efficient secretary Stella.  Stella's main role is to make coffee, lots of it, and bring out a tin of biscuits.  The author was British and his fictional L.A. native character talks, writes, and speaks in the British idiom; thus cookies are biscuits.  Faraday's favorite cookies biscuits are butter crunch chocolate.)  Faraday will go through six to eight cups before noon (and never have to pee); the coffee supposedly helps him think but I don't think it quite does the job.  Faraday, you see, is a bit of a dim bulb, conveniently missing connections and clues to further the action.  Most of the bright ideas and leads seem to come from Stella.

Faraday also has a few quirks in his narration.  Several times through each book he interrupts the narrative thread to talk to himself (usually mid-paragraph) with such gems like, "You're too poetic, Mike, I told myself" or "You're getting soft, Faraday, I told myself."  Also, Faraday is presented as a low-culture, often crude character but will occasionally make references to classic poetry, art, literature, politics, or history -- all of which can be jarring for the reader. 

Faraday's cases can be solved by coincidence or by deduction (usually aided by Stella).  the deductions often come after the clues keep smacking Faraday on the head multiple times before our hero has a glimmer.

Speaking of smacking Faraday on the head, he's apt to get beat up a lot.  For a pretty mean fighter he clocks in a significant amount of losses.

So why do I like these darned books?  Well, each takes itself very seriously but the reader doesn't have to.  They are just plain fun.  Quick, easy, often forgettable entertainment where each book tends to blend into the other.  Comfort food, like your mother's mac and cheese or tuna sandwiches.

Also Copper is a pretty good writer.  The Faraday series was fairly popular in England.  In America, Copper is better known as a writer of horror and suspense stories, often with a Gothic twist.  His non-Faraday work has deservedly garnered quite a number of fans.

On to the book:

Faraday is hired by the head of a large electronics firm to investigate the accidental drowning death of his nephew.  The nephew was sort of a neer-do-well, heavily into gambling and sex.  Shortly before his death, he called his uncle and indicated that he was in some sort of trouble.  Faraday's client has a large beach house, named Wetona (why?  who cares?) in an exclusive area and the nephew often stayed there.  A few miles down the shore, there was a small, fly speck of a town where the body washed up.  The death certificate indicated no foul play.

Farday heads out to the fly speck town of Simpson's landing.  The body was discovered by Dad Harper, the owner of the appropriately named Dad Harper's restaurant.  The local sheriff was unavailable so a couple of state troopers investigated.  A fancy L.A. doctor happened to be driving by and stopped to see if he could be of assistance.  Sure, the cops said.  Why don't you do the autopsy right here, right now so we can get that pesky piece of official  business out of the way?  Sure, said the doctor, and he did the autopsy and determined death was from accidental drowning.  Does that scenario raise a few red flags for our hero?  Well, not yet.

Then it turns out that the doctor who signed the death certificate and did the autopsy was actually in europe at the time -- which seems a mite suspicious.  Then Faraday catches a mysterious figure digging holes in the sand around Wetona during the night.  The mystery person kicks sand in Faraday's eyes and escapes, leaving about a half dozen holes around the property.   Faraday spots an arrow painted on one of the concrete pilings holding up the house, digs there, and finds a metal tool box that contains an expensive women's purse.  Hmm.  Embroidered on the purse are the initials S.D.  (Faraday of course held off opening the toll box for a day just because.)  The Stella tells him that the famous actress Susan Darrow has been reported missing.  So?  The Stella tells him that Susan Darrow's initials are S.D. and slowly the light begins to come on.

And there's a beautiful six foot beauty and a cute little waitress and they're both impressed with Faraday.

Things wrap up  nicely with a deus ex machina rescue and Faraday and Stella celebrate a large fee over coffee and cookies biscuits.

It may sound all pretty silly, but I am addicted.  You might be also.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocal.


Eve Arden's Connie Brooks was a major hit in both radio (1948-1957) and television (1952-1956).  Surprisingly Eve Arden was the third choice for the role and got it only after Shirley Booth and Lucille Ball passed.  But Arden made the role of English teacher Connie Brooks her own and it's hard to picture anyone else in the role.

Jeff Chandler played her would-be boyfriend Philip Boynton for the first five years of the radio show (Robert Rockwell took over the role for both radio and television; the rest of the original cast continued their roles on television).  Gale Gordon was blustery high school principal Osgood Conklin; Gloria McMillan played his daughter Harriet Conklin; Richard Crenna played the cracking voiced high school student Walter Denton; and Jane Morgan played Connie's absent-minded landlady Mrs. Davis.  It's hard to think of a better, more well-rounded cast for a sitcom.

In "Letter from the Education Board," Walter stumbles upon an old criticizing letter from the Board of Education and Mr, Conklin believes the letter was about him.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Danny & The Juniors.


"How are you today?" inquired a doctor of his patient.  "A little better, thank you,"  "Have you taken any dinner today?"  "Yes, a little goose."  "With appetite?"  "No, sir, with sauce."

-- from Riddles and Jokes, Third Series collected by the Editor of "Every Boy's Magazine" (1863)

[Sadly, this was one of the few jokes in the book that were not racist, sexist, offensive, or just plain unfunny in the book.  IMHO, every boy would have been better off with a copy of Playboy under his mattress.  **sigh**)

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


From the 1986 revival of Me and My Girl, featuring Robert Lindsay and Maryann Plunkett.


Lupino Lane was a silent film comedy star of the 1920s.  Hailing from England, he began his stage career at age four and became an established West End start by his teens.  Extremely athletic and double jointed, slapstick comedy seemed to be made for him.  He made over forty silent films in Hollywood but returned to England after making a few talkies.  There, he continued his stage and music hall career while continuing to make films.  Although he never created a continuing character in the silents, his most famous character post-silents was Bill Snibson, a racetrack bookie in the 1935 play Twenty to One, which ran for over a thousand shows (one year in London, followed by a successful road tour).  Lane returned to the popular character in 1937 with a follow-up play Me and My Girl, which had 1,646 performances in its original West End production.  It was in this musical that Lane created the dance craze "The Lambeth Walk," and the film of the play in 1939 took that title.  The musical was revived in the West end in 1941, 1945, and 1949, with Lupino Lane starring in and directing each of the revivals.  (The play was revised by Stephen Fry in 1984 and ran for eight years.  Since then the play was successfully restaged numerous times around the world.)

Lupino Lane was a member of the famous Lupino acting family.  His younger brother, Wallace Lupino, often appeared in Lane's silent films as a villain, foil, or friend of the actor.  His second cousin was the actress Ida Lupino.  Lupino Lane took his surname at the insistence of his great aunt, actress Sara Lane, who wanted her surname to survive.

In Be My King, Lane plays a cabin boy on what remained of a house that was destroyed in a hurricane and floated out to sea.  Brother Wallace plays the bosun.  They become shipwrecked (housewrecked?) on a cannibal island.  Yes, there are the stereotypical tropes involved and the natives are whites in blackface (**sigh**), but Lane;s athleticism, timing, and talents shine.

Give this one a try.

Monday, April 13, 2020


Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.


Openers:  The man's tie was as orange as a sunset.  He was a large man, tall and meaty, without softness.  The dark hair parted in the middle, flattened to his scalp, his firm, full cheeks, the clothes that fit him with noticeable snugness, even the small, pink ears flt against the sides of his head -- each of these seemed but a differently colored part of one same, smooth surface.  His age could have been thirty-five or forty-five.

He sat besides Samuel Spade's desk, leaning forward a little over his Malacca stick, and said, "No.  I want you find out what happened to him.  I hope you never find him."  His protuberant green eyes stared solemnly at Spade.

-- Dashiell Hammett, "Too Many Have Lived"  (from The American Magazine, October 1932; reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Volume 1, Fall 1941)

Dashiell Hammett's best-known detective Sam Spade first appeared in The Maltese Falcon in a five-part serial beginning September 1929 in the pulp detective magazine Black Mask.  The story and the character soon became famous upon book publication.  Hammett went on to use his satanic looking detective in only three other stories -- one novelette and two short stories.  "Too Many Have Lived" was the second of those three and was chosen by the editor to be the very first story in the first issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Ellery Queen was the name of the character aa well as the pseudonymous author of a string of best-selling mysteries.  Behind the pen-name were two cousins:  Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971) and Frederic Dannay (1905-1982), but behind the editorial pen-name for this magazine and a host of  mystery anthologies was Dannay alone.

Both Dannay and Lee jointly tried to establish a quality mystery magazine, Mystery League, in 1933.  Rather than cutting up longer works into monthly serials and filling up the remainder of the magazine with short stories as had been the practice in the field. Mystery League specialized in complete short novels.  This practice led to a higher selling price -- twenty-five cents -- which proved fatal to the magazine during the depression years.  Mystery League folded after four glorious issues.

By 1941, Dannay was willing to try again.  His writing partner, Lee, had very little involvement in the new magazine and soon Dannay was in full control as editor-in-chief, a position he held until his death in 1982.  Fred Dannay was a major promoter of the short fiction of Dashiell Hammett, eventually editing at least eight original collections of Hammett's stories.  It's no wonder that he chose to his new magazine with a Hammett story.  In his introduction to this first issue, Dannay called the story an "exciting, fast, two-fisted, modern and superb" example of the realistic, hard-boiled school of "purely American writing."

The first issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine included one more hard-boiled tale, Cornell Woolrich's "Dime a Dance," reprinted from Black Mask (February 1938).  Also in this issue (to quote Dannay's introduction once more) was a "an excellent story of the modern English school...suave, expert, and completely charming," Margery Allingham's Albert Campion adventure "The Question Mark" from The Strand Magazine, January 1938.  The remaining stories included "The Cablegram," a Henry Pogglioli story Pulitzer prize-winner T. S. Stribling (from Adventure, November 1, 1932), a Thatcher Colt story by "Anthony Abbot" (sometimes given as "Anthony Abbott," but in reality bestselling author Fulton Oursler), "About the Perfect Crime of Mr. Digberry" (from Cosmopolitan, October 1940), Ellery Queen's "The Adventure of the Treasure Hunt" (from The Strand Magazine, September 1935, as "Treasure Hunt"), and "for sheerest contrast, Fredrick Hazlett Brennan's hillbilly yarn, 'Wild Onions,' which fuses elements rarely amalgamated in a mystery story -- humor, native dialect, and murder; the whole making a hilarious tale and a unique item in any enthusiast's collection."

This first issue contained 128 pages and seven stories, all reprints.  Considering the times and the varied sources, most of the tales would not have been available to any one reader.  All in all, a pretty good bargain for the mystery fan.  As for the future, Dannay had this to say:

"We propose to give you stories by big-name writers, by lesser-known writers, and by unknown writers.  But no matter what their source, they will be superior stories...Some will be bought from manuscript.  Others will be reprinted from published books, old and new, selected from the Ellery Queen library of short detective fiction, which is the largest in America.  Still others will be reprinted from magazine, old, recent, and new, 'slicks' and 'pulps,' making our volume in effect a readers' digest in anthological form of detective-crime stories...We are publishing a book rather than a magazine, but since it is to be distributed through a magazine outlet at a magazine price, and since the name rolls easily off the tongue, we have for the present decided to call it Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine."

Dannay went on to note that EQMM would us book paper (rather than pulp or slick paper) for easier readability.  Its cover has a "modern book-jacket illustration" (by George Salter, who would provide a number of early EQMM covers).

Although it continued as a magazine and not a book, its contents over the year has filled many an anthology.  The magazine continues today -- one of the few popular fiction magazines left.  Over the years, it has had several corporate owners but the quality of the magazine remains high.  In 1983, the magazine dropped the possessive '''s" from its title, although the original title remains on the masthead.  With Frederic Dannay's death, executive editorship fell to, first Eleanor Sullivan (from 1982 to 1991), then to Janet Hutchins (from 1991 to the present).  EQMM has published stories by over forty noble and Pulitzer Prize winners.  Stories from the magazine have won over 110 major awards (have been nominated over 370 times), including the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Arthur Ellis, Derringer, Macavity, Shamus, Spur, International Thriller, and Robert L. Fish Awards.  A department of "First Stories" was implemented that "discovered" such writers as Stanley Ellin and David Morrell.  EQMM published the first English translation of Jorge Luis Borges.  In addition to a wide variety of excellent stories, the magazine also publishes perceptive reviews of the latest books; past reviewers have included Anthony Boucher, John Dickson Carr, and Jon Breen.

The mystery genre is alive and well in the short form, due in no small part to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Ptah!:  Anyone who has read this blog knows my disdain for Donald Trump and his sycophants and enablers.  I feel they are systematically tearing this country apart brick by brick.  For the sake of my sanity, I am going to try to refrain from inflicting you with my anti-Trump rhetoric as much as possible.  Let me just leave with this parting shot:  Those who call our president an anal sphincter are dead wrong.  Anal sphincters have a use.

Easter:  It seems strange to celebrate Easter while social distancing.  While my spiritual beliefs are mine alone and I try not proselytize, I will say that the Easter season is a time of hope and hope is just what we need right now.  My hope is that each of you has had a meaningful holiday season and that the hope will help carry you through the days ahead.

As for me, I plan to celebrate this Easter once we get through to the other side of this pandemic.

You Old Sew and Sew:  Masks are in and we are all advised to wear one when out in public.  True medical masks should be save for front-line medical personnel, but makeshift and do-it-yourself masks will help keep the other folks from spreading the virus.  These non-medical masks are not perfect and we should not expect them to be but they do have an important role in flattening the curve.  Many people who sew are busy making masks for those they know.  If you do sew and have not made any masks, this is a great time to get started and there are many instruction on the internet.  Here is one of them:

And here's a worthy idea for those who are interested:

Evidently the plea for burial blankets started with the Haiti earthquake several years ago.  With a world-wide pandemic, the need to show your care and concern has spiked.  This mitzah is not limited to Haiti or any other country.  I'm sure with a little bit of research, you can find a country or locality which would truly appreciate this small bit of kindness.  Good luck!

A Bit of History:  278 years ago today Handel's Messiah made its world debut in Dublin.  Originally intended for nine instruments (2 trumpets, 2 oboes, 2 violins, a timpani, a vila, and a basso continuo) and a small SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir and solo, the Messiah premiered to modest acclaim.  It premiered in London on March 23, nearly a year later.  Sine then it has grown in popularity and scope and is now one of the most frequently produced choral works in the world.  Not too shabby, considering that Handel completed the music for the piece in just 24 days.

Here's Part One, Scene One (Isaiah's Prophecy of Salvation):

What a Year!:  Also in 1742:

  • Despite the premiere of the Messiah, this was not a good year for composers.  Among the dead composers were Johann Georg Reinhardt, 56 (January 6), Giovanni Veneziano, 59 (April 13), Mihael Omerza, 62 (April 23), Johann Joseph Ignatz Brentner, 52 (June 28), Bohuslav Matej Czernohorsky, 58 (July 1), Evaristo EF dall' Abaco, 67 (July 12), Jose Antonio Carlos de Seixas, 38 (August 25), among others.  Also note that two of Antonio Stradivarius' sons, both violin makers themselves, died about a month apart.
  • Comet discover Edmond Halley died, age 80 (January 14)
  • The first indoor swimming pool opened (May 28 at Goodman's Fields, London)
  • Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin stove (June 11)
  • Edmund Hoyle published his "short treatise" on the card game whist (August 29)
  • Boston's Faneuil Hall opened to the public (September 24)
  • I have no idea what this means, but Willem KH Friso tested his mother's potatoes (December 13)  There's a possibility that this refers to William IV, Prince of Orange (1711-1751).  If so, his mother was Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel (1688-1765).  She served as regent for her son (his father died from drowning six weeks before he was born) until his majority; she later served as regent for her grandson, William V.  She was well-loved by her Dutch subjects and was greatly concerned with their well-being.  Apropo of  nothing, she evidently had a large nose.  What the heck she had to do with potatoes, I have no idea.  Maybe I'm barking up the wrong Willem.  If anyone can shed light on this, I would greatly appreciated it.

Florida Man:
  • Volusia County Florida Man Brent Smith, 46, threatened to kill his mother with a butter knife.  When arrested, he coughed on deputies, saying, "I hope you catch corona."  He is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery on a person 65 or older, tampering with a witness, robbery by sudden snatching, grand theft, assault on a law enforcement officer, corruption by threat against a public official, and violation of probation on an original charge of aggravated battery on a pregnant person.  Strangely, he is being held without bond.
  • Abril Cestano, 42, a Flagler County Florida Woman, violated the state's coronavirus travel restrictions by placing pornography-filled Easter eggs in random mailboxes throughout the county.  She had distributed over 400 of the holiday goodies over several days before she got caught.
  • Florida Man Sudeep Khetani, 34, is wanted in New Jersey for fake ordering large amounts of pizza, claiming that the pies were for first responders and hospitals.  More than a dozen restaurants in South Brunswick and nearby areas were bilked out of thousands of dollars.    Khetani also told some of the restaurants when he ordered the pizzas that he hates Italians and wishes they would catch the coronavirus.  This nice guy has been located and charged in Orlando where he is on probation for selling fake Disney World tickets.
  • An unnamed Florida Resident is selling a 2012 Bugatti Veyron Replica on Craigslist for $125.000 -- a bargain since the original is prices at some $2.5 million.  Only problem is that the car is actually a 2002 Mercury Cougar modified to look like the Bugatti.   Whoever is offering the Merc for sale has no qualms and clearly states in the ad that it's a replica.
  • Back in January (yeah, I'm a bit late in reporting this one), Florida Man Douglas John Francisco, 28, was arrested for trying to order a Taco Bell burrito from a Bank of america drive-through window in Hernando County.  Alcohol and/or drugs may have been involved.
  • An unnamed St. Lucie County woman was arrested for using a vacuum cleaner as a weapon when he boyfriend denied her vodka.  She then took the boyfriend's keys and drove off in his Pontiac.  She told authorities that she did not hit her boyfriend with a vacuum cleaner and that she did not take his car.  She did, however, admit to punching him in the eye.  
  • Florida Man John Roe (really?), 51, drank a bottle of wine that he was unable to pay for, ran out of the store and took off in a black Hyundai, ran a red light, t-boned a Spectrum truck, sideswiped a blue Hyundai, and went on his merry way.  Oh.  And he had an eleven-year-old girl in tow.  And the driver of the blue Hyundai suffered a seizure from the crash.  He had taken the young girl and an unnamed woman to the Winn-Dixie for a shoplifting spree, police were told.  When caught in a CVS parking lot, police found a syringe, two glass pipes with crack-cocaine residue inside, 0.01 grams of cocaine folded in a piece of paper, and a bag containing additional syringes in Roe's car.

On the Other Hand:  Some good news...

Today's Poem:
See It Through

When you're up against a trouble
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it's vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail,  but you may conquer,
See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don't let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you're beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting,
Don't give up, whate'er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!

-- Edgar Guest