Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, May 31, 2020


The Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich?  Vaccines cause autism?  Hillary Cinton operating a child sex ring from the basement of a pizza parlor that doesn't even have a basement?  The 1% are the job creators?  Joe Scarborough somehow murdered a woman in Okaloosa, Florida, while he was in Washington, DC?  The coronavirus is a hoax?  UFOs kidnap people for anal probes? 

We are awash with weird, impossible, and stupid things, yet some people belive them  Why?

Michael Shermer explains in this TED Talk.


Roy, Dale, & kids.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Paul Barton playing for an old elephant.

And here's some information on Paul Barton and why he plays for elephants:


Once again it's time to check in on Kerry Drake, the former investigator for the D.A.'s office who joined the police force after his fiance was murdered.  Created by Alfred Andriola, Kerry Drake ran as a newspaper strip from 1943 to 1983.  Kerry Drake's early cases were first reprinted by A-1 Comics (one issue), then by Magazine enterprizes (four issues), and finally by Harvey Comics which expanded the title to Kerry Drake Detective Cases for twenty-eight further issues, the last two of which were titled Kerry Drake Racket Buster.

In this issue Kerry takes on "The Case of the Seeing Eye Dog," which takes place before Sandy Burns, his fiance and secretary, was murdered.  Kerry is one the trail of Vixen Vargo, a petty ex-con who has just murdered Mother Whistler's son, Punky.  In making her escape from her hotel Vixen has lost her coat in which she had sewn most of her loot, leaving Vixen with just a thousand dollar bill she had hidden in her shoe.  Desperate, hungry, and on the run, Vixen is unable to cash the G-note to buy food.  She tries to con a blind man with a seeing eye dog into giving her money but he thinks she's a hungry runaway teenage and takes her to his office to give her some food.  Vixen ousts the seeing eye dog from the office and tries to rob the blind man.  She is interrupted and flees in to the rain, then taking shelter in a crowded "Lacy's" department store.  In the meanwhile, Mother Whistler has prepared bottles of "scented water" which she sells on the street corner.  She tells Kerry that she is just doing this hoping to spot the woman who killed her son.  What she doesn't tell Kerry is what is really in those bottles.  When the rain starts, Mother Whistler also takes shelter in the store and spots Vixen.  She sprays acid into Vixen's eyes, temporarily blinding her.  Mother Whistler then takes Vixen on a terrifying walk where Vixen is expecting death at any moment.  With Kerry Drake hot on their tails, can Mother Whistler pull off her murderous plan for Vixen?

To fill out the rest of the issue, there's "Search for Gold," an adventure for "Kitty Carson, The Ruff Ridin' Gal Sheriff."  A couple of owlhoots have robbed Old Ned and sealed him off in a mine shaft.  Well, that's just something one doesn't do on Kitty's watch.


Friday, May 29, 2020


Walter Hurdt & His Singing Cowboys


Doc Savage Omnibus #5 by "Kenneth Robeson"  (1988)

Most everyone knows of Doc Savage, the bronze-toned, perfectly-honed hero of the pulp era who -- with the aid of five assistants -- rights wrongs and punishes evildoers.  Doc, nee Clark Savage, Jr., is not a superhero,  but is an extraordinary man who was trained to be a perfect physical and mental specimen.  With aid of a large fortune in gold, Doc and his pals roam the world fighting threats both apocalyptical and criminal.  Created by Street & Smith publisher Henry Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic and fleshed out by writer Lester Dent, Doc was designed to capitalize on the success of Street & Smith's The Shadow.  The bronze-skinned, yellowed-eyed, bronze haired hero premiered in the March 1933 inaugural issue of Doc Savage Magazine with the "novel-length adventure" The Man of Bronze.  One hundred eighty original adventures followed, each published as by "Kenneth Robeson" with the vast majority written by lester Dent, up to the final issue in the Summer 1949 issue.  Since then, one unpublished adventure by Dent (written in 1948), an "origin" story written by Philip Jose Farmer, and a number of new adventures written by Will Murray have been published.

Changes were in store for Doc Savage during World War II , editor Charles Moran changed the tone of Doc Savage's adventures to one of more suspense and realism.  Because of wartime paper shortages, although still described as "novel-length" stories, the size of each adventure was shortened.  For the most part, Doc carried on with just two assistants, Monk Mayfair and Ham Brooks.  Sales of pulp hero adventurers began to fall and the magazine went to bimonthly issues in 1947, then to quarterly issues before ending in 1949.

In 1964, Bantam Books began publishing the original magazine stories in paperback (not necessarily in magazine order), with each book containing a single story.  Ninety-six books were published in this format, including the recently-found, previously unpublished 1948 story.  The next fifteen paperbacks were published containing two adventures each, followed by a series of thirteen "omnibus" volumes containing four to five adventures each.  Eventually the entire original series of 181 adventures (plus the previously unpublished 1948 story) was published by Bantam, most with striking covers by artist James Bama.

Doc Savage Omnibus #5 contains five consecutive adventures from 1947-8.  These tales -- all written by Lester Dent -- are unique because each is told by a first-person narrator; all other Doc Savage stories were told in the third-person.  The stories provide five different viewpoints of Doc Savage as the narrators try to differentiate between Savage the Man and Savage the Myth.  This first-person experiment did not help the sales of the magazine, however, and the stories went back to the third person narration for the seven remaining adventures.  Which is a shame because these five stories, while not as action-packed as other tales in the Doc Savage saga, are bright and entertaining, character-driven narratives.

The stories:

  • No Light to Die By (Doc Savage, May-June 1947, original episode #170)  Narrated by Sammy Wales, who was mistaken for another Samuel Wales who was an expert on lunar theory.  Sammy gets entangled with a deadly gang who can create both an unnatural light in the sky as well as a dealy dark cloud that murders people.  Doc Savage and Monk Mayfair are on the scene and Sammy is swept up in their investigation which includes the beautiful Paula Fenisong who has captured the eyes of both Sammy and Monk.
  • The Monkey Suit (Doc Savage, July-August 1947, original episode #171)  The narrator this time is the thoroughly dislikable Henry Jones, a chemist whose high opinion of himself is not shared by anyone else.  Dido Alstrong, an old school acquaintance, convinces Henry to pick up a package for him.  Others want the package, too, and will go to any length to get it.  Doc Savage enters the case somewhat circuitously and finds the package contains a gorilla costume once used in an avant-garde "political" drama.  There is also a beautiful girl who ends up having no truck with Henry, as well as a "scientific" breakthrough that could revolutionize modern living.
  • Let's Kill Ames (Doc Savage. September-October 1947, original episode #172)   Travice Ames, our narrator, is an accomplished con artist down on her luck.  Her temporary mark is a loutish scientist who drunkenly tells her that he has been commissioned to poison three prominent people with a new slow-acting radioactive poison which will kill in about four months.  There is an antidote, known only to the chemist, and the victims will be blackmailed to pay for it or lose their lives.  Smelling the promise of money, Travice inserts herself into the situation and cons (she believes) Doc Savage into investigating and coming up with the antidote.  Things do not go so well for her because Doc is ahead of her every step of the way.
  • Once Over Lightly (Doc Savage, November-December 1947, original episode #173)  Our narrator is Mary Olga Thunnels (better known as "Mote"), an employee of a detective agency who suddenly gets a job offer from an old friend, Glacia Loring.  Mote travels to California and to a remote luxury, American Indian-themed resort to meet Glacia, not knowing exactly what the job entails.  Glacia hires Mote as her assistant, still with no undefined duties but with a hint that Mote was hired to protect Glacia.  Mote is introduced to Glacia's Uncle Hugo, who is soon found dead with his head bashed in by an Indian Club.  Hugo's will leaves everything to Glacia, including "Trapper."  What Trapper is is not known.  Also vacationing at the resort is Doc Savage and Monk.  But since when does Doc Savage ever take a vacation?
  • I Died Yesterday (Doc Savage, January-February 1948, original episode #174)  Our narrator this time is Doc's lovely (and somewhat troublesome) cousin, Pat Savage.   The story opens with Pat (for her own reasons) running a high-end beauty salon catering to rich women.  A tall, thin man enters, sits, and refuses to leave so Pat is called to kick him out.  The man calmly asks Pat to look outside and see if anyone has come to finish killing him.  Turns out he has the broken shaft of an ice picks in his back.  Pat Savage has inherited the family trait of being drawn to "danger, suspense or anticipation of violence."  Pat rushes into the street to find the attacker, a "bobbing little fuss-duddy of a man."  She nearly captures him, But he is fast-moving and somehow escapes, along with a slow-moving accomplice, leaving behind a camera.  Doc Savage is called upon to use his surgical skills to save the victim.  Doc does not want his cousin embroiled in this adventure and resorts to tricks to sideline her. In the end, though, It's up to Pat to try to rescue the Man of Bronze.
Good, fast reading -- not as fantastic as many of Doc's early adventures but still solid proof that Lester Dent could thrill readers as much near the end of doc Savage's career than he did at the beginning.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


From Smithsonian Folkways Records, here's the first volume of American Favorite Ballads as sung by Pete Seeger.  The songs are all familiar, a part of our combined cultural past.  Many of these 28 tunes were so familiar when we were children that we forget we knew them.


John Henry


Blue Tailed Fly (Jimmie Crack Corn)

Black Girl

Skip to My Lou

The Big Rock Candy Mountain


Yankee Doodle

Home on the Range

John Brown's Body

Goodnight, Irene

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Oh, Susanna

Wayfaring Stranger

Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep

Down in the Valley

The Wabash Cannonball

On Top of Old Smoky

Frankie and Johnny

I Ride an Old Paint

The Wreck of the Old 97

Wagoner's Lad

Old Dan Tucker

I've Been Working on the Railroad

Cielito Lindo

So Long, It's Been Good to Know You (Dusty, Old Dust)

America the Beautiful

This Land Is Your Land


Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention.


Frontier Town was a 30-minute radio western series that lasted for 47 episodes in syndication.  Supposedly conceived as a vehicle for Wild Bill Elliott, the show premiered with Jeff Chandler (billed as 'Tex" Chandler) as attorney Chad Remington in the small western town of Dos Rios.  About halfway through the show's run, the role was taken over by Reed Hadley, who stars in this episode from July 1953.

"Frontier Town , the saga of the roaring West.  Frontier is the adventure story of the early West, the tamed and the untamed, from Cheyenne to Calgary, from Dodge City to Poker Flats.  These are the towns they fought to live in and lived to fight in, teeming crucibles of pioneer freedom.  Frontier Town!"

Saddle up, partner.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Big Joe Turner.


Trying to find something to do while isolating during a pandemic can be challenging.  Out of boredom the other day I read six pages of a dictionary.  I learned next to nothing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


A classic dixieland tune from Jack Teagarden.


Silent film start Olive Thomas had a life that could fill a supermarket tabloid.  Born outside of Pittsburgh in 1894, she had a rough childhood and married Bernard Krug Thomas when she was sixteen, only to divorce a few years later.  Following her divorce she moved to New York and worked in a department store.  In 1914, Olive entered a contest for "The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City" and won, which eventually led to her being on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.  This attracted the attention of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., who signed her up for his Midnight Follies at New York's New Amsterdam Theater -- a more adult, male audience version of his famous review.  Olive would appear nude wearing only balloons, which the mennin the audience would pop with their cigar.  Olive also became Ziegfeld's mistress.  Olive somehow (details are sketchy) made it Hollywood where she signed a film contract with the International Film Company as a leading lady.  She appeared only in two films and only in minor roles for the company before she moved to Triangle Pictures and, in 1917, began a string of popular light comedies in teenage roles which soon caused her to be marketed as a "baby vamp.".  Earlier, in 1916, she met Jack Pickford, brother of Mary, and began a passionate and stormy affair.  Mary and Jack said they were married in 1916 but did not announce the marriage until 1917; court records show they were actually married in 1918.  In 1918, Olive signed with Selznick Pictures, which began transitioning her image to a flapper.  Olive was the first person to play a flapper in The Flapper, the first of three successful films in 1920.  By this time Olive's marriage was in trouble.  At the same time she and Jack had petitioned to adopt Olive's nephew.  Olive desperately wanted children so she and Jack went to Paris on a "second honeymoon" to try to repair the marriage.  In Paris, after an epic night of drinking and partying, the couple returned to their hotel at 3:00 in the morning.  Olive headed to bed while Jack stayed up to write a letter.  Olive mixed what she thought was a sleeping powder and accidentally used powdered mercury bichloride (a common bathroom cleaner at that time).  She was rushed to the hospital, blinded, with burned vocal chords, and in agony, where she died the next day.  Olive Thomas was 25.

Olive's death spawned many rumors.  It was the first scandal involving the death of a major female star.  Did she kill herself?  Was she poisoned by a crazed American captain?  Did Jack Pickford kill her?  The French police investigated and concluded that live's death was accidental.  Jack was distraught and threatened suicide.  He later married twice (both times to Ziegfeld girls) and each reported that, while in a drunken stupor, he would call out, "Olive,"  His life and his acting career wen downhill, marked by bouts of syphilis and drinking.  He died of "progressive multiple neuritis" (alcoholism) in 1933 at age 36.

In The Flapper, Olive plays Genevieve "Ginger" King, a small-town Florida girl who yearns for something more.  Ginger is sent to a New York all-girls boarding school situated nicely net to a military academy where her somewhat boring Florida then attends.  At boarding school, Ginger meets a number of girls (including an uncredited Norma Shearer) and they romantically fantasize about men.  One man they fantasize about is William Carleton (William Forbes) who often rides a horse by their school.  The girls picture him as a gambler, or an actor, or perhaps (gasp!) a wife-beater.  Soon Ginger feels she is falling in love with this mysterious man.  She dons an outfit to resemble a "flapper"and is mistaken for a "bad girl."  Carleton is not a gambler, actor, or wife-beater -- he is, however, a jewel thief and he entrusts a package of gems to Ginger's care.  On a visit home, Ginger puts on the jewels and appears as a vamp.  And then the bad guys show up and fantasizing turns out to be not much fun at all.

The film was written by Frances Marion, the most successful female screenwriter of her day.  At that time Marion was writing scripts for Mary Pickford.  It is not known why the picture starred Pickford's sister-in-law instead of her.

Alan Crosland (The Jazz Singer, The Case of the Howling Dog, The Great Impersonation) directed.


Monday, May 25, 2020


The Chad Mitchell Trio.


Openers:  8:45 PM.  Clancy was watching the poker game in the squad room from a vantage point back of the players.  In the one week since he had been transferred to the 52nd Precinct, he had not been able to win close friendship with the oldtimers there.  He was watching silently, not joining in the friendly banter that went around the table, feeling left out, when the sergeant called to him.  He unhooked his heel from the chair rung he had been using for a support, and walked out to the desk.
     "Yes, Sergeant?"
     "A subway jumper over at the 86 IRT, Lieutenant."

--  "Robert L. Pike" (Robert L. Fish)  "Clancy and the Subway Jumper" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, December 1961)

Robert L. Fish (1912-1981) published forty books in his lifetime, all but five were in the mystery genre.  Seven of his books were published in the "Robert L. Pike" pseudonym.  He also used the pseudonym "A. C. Lamprey" for several humor pieces.  His Lieutenant Clancy series of police procedurals began with "Clancy and the Subway Jumper," followed by three additional stories in EQMM before he began a series of three novels about the character.  The first Clancy novel, Mute Witness, was made into the Steve McQueen movie Bullett.  All of the Clancy stories and books appeared under the Pike name.

When John Ball reprinted "Clancy and the Subway Jumper" as the first tale in his 1978 anthology Cop Cade, he did it under the author's real name.  In his introduction to the story Ball wrote:

"As an author Mr. Fish does swimmingly well.  The Mysterious Press has just collected his stories about smuggler Kek Huuygens in hard covers.  His Sherlock Holmes parodies (Schlock Homes of
221B Bagel Street) make up an additional two volumes.  He complete The Assassination Bureau, which was left unfinished by Jack London.  Fluent in Portuguese, he used his extensive knowledge of Brazil in creating Captain Jose de Silva, perhaps the most popular of South American detectives in the literature.

"Lt. Clancy, by the way, stars in the book Mute Witness which won the prestigious Edgar Award.  By the time that the Hollywood screen writers had finished with it, it emerged as the movie Bullett."  (O, burn!)

Any book by Fish or Pike is worth your time.


MWA Anthologies:  The John Ball-edited Cop Cade was the 18th in an annual (well, almost annual) series of anthologies by the Mystery Writers of America.

The Mystery Writers of America was formed in 1945.  In order to help fund the nascent organization. it began a series of anthologies in 1946.  Each entry was edited by a best-selling author and showcased work by MWA members.  Although mainly a reprint series, the books could also feature original stories of merit.  Most books in the series were themed-oriented.  From the beginning:

  • Murder Cavalcade, edited anonymously by Kendell Foster Crossen, 1946
  • Murder by Experts, edited by "Ellery Queen" (Frederick Dannay & Manfred B. Lee -- mainly by Dannay, I suspect), 1947 [the series then skipped two years]
  • Four and Twenty Bloodhounds, edited by "Anthony Boucher" (William Anthony Parker White), 1950
  • 20 Great Tales of Murder (a.k.a. Murder, Murder, Murder), edited by Helen McCloy and "Brett Halliday" (Davis Dresser), 1951
  • Maiden Murders, editor not certain; John Dickson Carr wrote the introduction and has been listed by some as the editor of this volume, 1952
  • Crooks Tour, edited by Bruno Fischer, 1953
  • Butcher, Baker, Murder-maker, edited by George Harmon Coxe, 1954 
  • Crime for Two, edited by Frances and Richard Lockridge, 1955
  • Eat, Drink, and Be Buried, edited by Rex Stout, 1956
  • For Love or Money, edited by Dorothy Gardiner, 1957
  • Dolls Are Murder, edited by Harold Q. Masur, 1957
  • A Choice of Murders, edited by Dorothy Salisbury Davis, 1958 *
  • Big-Time Mysteries, edited by Brett Halliday" (David Dresser). 1958
  • The Lethal Sex, edited by John D. MacDonald, 1959 *
  • The Comfortable Coffin, edited by Richard S. Prather, 1960
  • Tales for a Rainy Night, edited by David Alexander, 1961
  • Cream of the Crime, edited by "Hugh Pentecost" (Judson Philips), 1962
  • Quality of Murder:  100 Years of True Crime, edited by "Anthony Boucher" (William Anthony Parker White). 1962
  • A Pride of Felons, edited by The Gordons (Gordon and Mildred Gordon). 1963
  • Crimes Across the Sea, edited by John Creasey, 1964
  • Masters of Mayhem, edited by Edward D. Radin, 1965
  • Sleuth and Consequences, edited by Thomas B. Dewey, 1966
  • Murder in Mind, edited by Lawrence Treat, 1967
  • With Malice Toward All, edited by Robert L. Fish. 1968
  • Merchants of Menace, edited by Hillary Waugh, 1969 *
  • Crime Without Murder, edited by Dorothy Salisbury Davis, 1970
  • Murder Most Foul, edited by Harold Q. Masur, 1971 *
  • Dear, Dead Days, edited by Edward D. Hoch, 1972
  • Mirror, Mirror, Fatal Mirror, edited by Hans Stefan Santesson, 1973
  • Killers of the Mind, edited by Lucy Freeman, 1974
  • Every Crime in the Book, edited by Robert L. Fish, 1975
  • Tricks & Treats, edited by Joe Gores & Bill Pronzini, 1976 *
  • When Last Seen, edited by Arthur Maling, 1977
  • I, Witness, edited by Brian Garfield, 1978
  • Cop Cade, edited by John Ball, 1978
  • Women's Wiles, edited by Michelle Slung & Gene Stone, 1979 *
  • The Edgar Winners, edited  by Bill Pronzini, 1980
  • All But Impossible!  Impossible Crimes, edited by Edward D. Hoch, 1981
  • A Special Kind of Crime, edited by Lawrence Treat, 1982
  • EQ Presents Best Short Stories, edited by "Ellery Queen" (Frederick Dannay solely; Manfred B. Lee died in 1971), 1983
  • Mystery Hall of Fame, edited by Bill Pronzini, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh, 1984
  • The Crime of My Life, edited by Brian Garfield, 1984 * [the series then skipped a year]
  • Last Laughs, edited by Gregory McDonald, 1986
  • Murder on the Aisle, edited by Mary Higgins Clark, 1987
  • Murder California Style SoCal Chapter, edited by Jon L. Breen, 1987
  • Distant Danger, edited by Janwillem Van Der Wetering, 1988
  • Beastly Tales, edited by Sara Paretsky, 1989
  • Plots and Pans:  Recipes and Antidotes, edited by Nancy Jean Webb, 1989
  • The New Edgar Winners, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, 1990 [the series then skipped a year]
  • Mystery Writers America, edited by Sara Paretsky, 1992
  • The Fine Art of Murder, edited by Ed Gorman, Martin H. Greenberg, & Jon L. Breen, 1993
  • Guilty as Charged, edited by Scott Turow, 1994 [the series then skipped five years]
  • Diagnosis Dead, edited by Jonathan Kellerman, 1999
  • The Night Awakens, edited by Mary Higgins Clark, 2000
  • Masters' Choice, edited by Lawrence Block, 2001
  • Blood on Their Hands, edited by Lawrence Block, 2002
  • A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime, edited by Jeffrey Deaver, 2003 *
  • Show Business Is Murder, edited by Stuart Kaminsky, 2004 [the series then skipped a year]
  • Death Do Us Part, edited by Harlan Coben, 2006
  • The Blue Religion, edited by Michael Connelly, 2008
  • The Prosecution Rests, edited by Linda Fairstein, 2009
  • In the Shadow of the Master, edited by Michael Connelly. 2009
  • On a Raven's Wing, edited by Stuart Kaminsky, 2009
  • Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine Harris, 2010
  • The Rich and the Dead, edited by Nelson Demille, 2011
  • Vengeance, edited by Lee Child, 2012
  • The Mystery Box, edited by Brad Meltzer, 2013
  • Ice Cold, edited by Jeffrey Deaver & Raymond Benson, 2013 [the series then skipped a year]
  • Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark, 2015 [the series then skipped three years]
  • Scream and Scream Again, edited by R.L. Stine, 2018
  • Odd Partners, edited by Ann Perry, 2019
  • Life Is Short & Then You Die, edited by Kelley Armstrong, 2019
  • Deadly Anniversaries, edited by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini, 2020
* reprinted  beginning in 2017 by MWA as part of the organization's MWA Presents: Classics series of on-going reprints

To date, MWA has released 73 anthologies over a period of 74 years, with enough reading enjoyment to suit every taste.

Speaking of taste, MWA also released The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, edited by Kate White in 2015.

Memorial Day:  Today is a federal holiday designated for honoring and mourning military personnel who died while served in the country's armed forces.  We were lucky in my family.  We did not lose anyone, although my namesake and friend of my parents, Harold  "Jerry" Speed was killed at Guadalcanal.  Kitty's family also never lost anyone to war.  We both had friends who died in Vietnam.

As a child of the Sixties, I believe that war can be a necessary evil. And I believe in a strong defense.  I do not believe in war as political posturing; too many good people are lost that way.  I follow Eisenhower's dictum of the dangers of the military-industrial complex.  I support the men and women who are protecting our country and believe more should be done for them.  Serving in the armed forces is an honorable profession and should be treated as such.  I believe honoring our military personnel can often be best served by questioning our political leaders.

Memorial Day is also a day to celebrate our freedom.  It's a day for family and friends to come together in appreciation.  It's a day for backyard barbeques and parades.  It's also a day to remember and celebrate family and friends whom we have lost.  When I was a kid, my parents would fill up the trunk of our car with potted geraniums and we would go to various cemeteries in our town and the next to place the flowers on graves of those who had died.  My family was large so this exercise would take up most of the morning.  A lot of those we honored we people I did not know; some dated back to before the Civil War.  (My great-grandmother was still alive at the time and she was born just a few years after the Civil War.)  Yet each of these people were remembered and honored for their part in making our family.  I miss those days.  The tradition slowly faded with my parents and I doubt I could find many of those graves again.

Today I think of all those people -- those who died protecting our country, those who died in meaningless wars, and those who did not serve but whose lives became part of the fabric of our country without whom we would not exist.

I think of them and I am humbled.

Other Observances:  Today is also National Brown-Bag-it Day, National Hamburger Day, National Wine Day, and National Towel Day.  On a more sober note, today is also Missing Children's Day, African Liberation Day, and Prayer for Peace Day.  Today is also part of these week-long and weekend observances:  Mudbug Madness Days, National African Violet Week, National Backyard Games Week, Old Time Player Piano Weekend, Older Americans Mental Health Week, and the Week of Solidarity with People of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  This weekend was also supposed to have the Scripps National Spelling Bee but Covid-19 came along (Damn!).

Whatever interests you, may you celebrate responsibly.

A Humble Proposal for a New Franchise:  499 years ago, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V issued the Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.  So here's the pitch.  Luther's now an outlaw, right?  Well so was Robin Hood.  Why not do a mash-up with Luther as a Robin Hood type character?  So Luther runs off to hide in Wittenburg Forest (Does Wittenberg have a forest?  We should check, but it doesn't really matter.  If we say there was a forest then, who's to argue?) where he slowly gathers a band of Merry Men (or, perhaps, Morose Men).  Anyway, there's all these German guys, drinking and hiding and goose-stepping through Wittenburg Forest when Luther decides to put them to better use.  He teaches them archery so they can shoot arrows with one of the Ninety-Five Theses into the doors of various churches, cathedrals, taverns, and houses of ill repute.  It's these last two locations that begun to drum up support for Luther and his gang.  The Church, of course, is pissed, so they send Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, to capture Luther.  (Okay, so he was actually a Protestant who lived in England nearly a century after Luther did, but I don't think anyone will notice, do you?)  Anyway, let's give Hopkins a personal reason to also go after Luther.  Let's say that Luther stole Hopkins' only love from him, the lovely singing/dancing tavern maid Griselda.  (I picture Griselda in a very low-cut peasant blouse that displays some of her greatest assets.)  Griselda uses her job at the tavern to spy on Hopkins and his men, then running to Wittenburg Forest to inform Luther; she invariably stays there for a late night party and carousing.  I picture Luther being a laughing, agile, devil may care guy who is an expert lute player (Lute.  Luther.  get it?)  Anyway, he serenades Griselda who gets all goo-goo eyed but nothing really happens on-screen, because we're really aiming at the kiddie market.  All of this is a natural set-up for a weekly series, or perhaps a limited series (if so, we can sex it up a bit).  There's a lot of marketing potential here also.  Maybe you can divide things into Camp Luther and Camp Hopkins, selling theses to one and indulgences to the other.  And there's the action toys, coloring books, board games, lunch boxes, and the Little Luther archery sets -- we could clean up!

What do you think?  Let me know soon as, because there are a lot of other studios expressing heavy interest.

Randy Rainbow Strikes Again:

Florida Man/Florida Woman:

  • A 79-year-old unnamed Florida woman crashed her Dodge minivan into a Publix liquor store in Dade City, injuring two people.  To accomplish this she "left her parking area and traveled about 37 feet from a stop sign, then jumped a curb and continued another 24 feet before striking the building.  The Dodge came to rest about 28 feet inside the liquor store."  Nothing gets between Florida Woman and her alcohol.
  • 19-year-old Florida woman Lillian Patterson, of Marion County, has been charged with manslaughter after claiming her 19-year-old victim "fell" onto a knife.  Pattison said that both she and a small child were holding knives and that Petterson fell on the knife the child held.  It didn't help Patterson when  she kept changing her story.  Actually, I don't think anything could have helped her.
  • Florida Man Ron DeSantis, claiming to be the state's governor, opened up the state even though Covid cases are up 54% in the past week.  One Panhandle resident (not me) wrote, "As a Panhandle Floridian who has had cases drop even with the state opening, I would appreciate if you South Floridians would stop sharing coke straws, and you Central Floridians would stop sharing your heroin syringes.  We are doing our best up here in the panhandle by using single use meth pipes thank you very much!"
  • Florida Man calls 911 because an alligator wouldn't play with him.  Video here:
  • Four Florida Men engaged in a paint fight in a Tampa Home Depot parking lot; one was swinging a shovel.  It is not known what the spark was that set off the paint fight.  Apparantly all four were co-workers.  Following a strict Florida Man Code of Honor, none of the men pressed charges against the others.
  • Florida Man Kiaron Thomas, 21, of Lakeland, was recently arrested.  His dastardly crime?  Eating pancakes in the middle of a road.  No, No, Kiaron, IHOP is over there!

Some Good News:

Today's Poem:
In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be it yours to hold up high.
If you break faith with us who die
we  shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

-- John McCrae

Sunday, May 24, 2020


It was World War II when Sgt. George Baker created The Sad Sack, an unnamed inept Army private who invariably experienced the follies of military life.  The Sad Sack first appeared in Yank, The Army Weekly #1 in June 1942.  Two collections of the popular comic strip were published by Simon and Schuster (1944 and 1946); the first collection also appeared as an Armed Services paperback.  After the war, Baker took the hapless soldier into newspaper syndication from 1946 to 1958, when he sold the rights to Harvey Comics, which in turn published 268 issues of the comic, plus a one-shot issue in which The Sad Sack goes home, as well as eleven spin-off series which brought the number of Sad Sack comics to about 600 issues through 1982.

Private Sad Sack also hit the radio, voiced by Mel Blanc, in various episodes of G.I. Journal, beginning in 1944.  The Sad Sack also ran as a summer replacement program for The Frank Sinatra Show in 1946; this time the character was voiced by Herb Vigran.  Jerry Lewis took the character to the wide screen in 1957. this time giving him the name of Meredith C. Bixby.  The film also starred Phyllis Kirk, David Wayne, Peter Lorre, and and Joe Mantell.

Here's Mel Blanc as The Sad Sack from the April 29, 1944 episode of G.I. Journal.


The Statler Brothers.

Saturday, May 23, 2020


Phoebe Snow.


Moon Mullins graced the comics pages of American newspapers for 67 year, from 1923-1991.  Created by Frank Willard, Moon (short for "Moonshine") Mullins was a wannabe prize fighter who took a room at the Schmaltz (later Plushbottom) boarding house, a place filled with quirky working (or more often, non-working) class people.  One of the most popular characters in the strip was Moon's kid brother Kayo, a pint-sized wisecracker who sleeps in an open dresser drawer.  Moon's disreputable Uncle Willie and tough-minded Aunt Millie also joined the cast in the late 1920s; Willie's favorite pastime was avoiding work, while Millie was a hard-working drudge who had a soft spot for her husband.  The boarding house was run by Emmy Schmaltz (later Lady Plushbottom), who liked to put on airs.  Moon's sometime girlfriend was a flapper called Egypt.  Kayo also got a girlfriend, Kitty Higgins, a little girl who first appeared in a "topper" strip and eventually moved to the main feature.

Moon Mullins at its height ran in 350 newspapers.  Reprints of the strip appeared in books by cupples & Leon, Big Little Books, Dell Comics, and American Comics Group.  Later collections appeared from Dover Books. SPEC Productions, and several books covering the history of the comic strip.  The issue linked below is the first published by American Comics Group.  Also included in the issue brief pieces featuring Gil Turner's Trudy ( a gorgeous high school cutie), Al Hartley's Chickie (another high school sweetie, but a brunette this time), and Al Hartley's Dannie Dumm (his name says it all).


Friday, May 22, 2020


Roy Clark.


Double for Death by Rex Stout (1939)

Ridley Thorpe, an aloof and overbearing financier, values his privacy.  Each weekend he retreats to a remote cottage where no one, not even his children are allowed to go.  The only exception is his long-serving valet.  Andrew Grant is a failed writer who recently turned to advertising.  Grant proposed an ad campaign for his firm's biggest client, Thorpe's company, which was soundly rejected by Thorpe's board of directors.  As a result, Grant was fired.  Feeling the campaign was the best work he had ever done, Grant was determined to present it to Thorpe himself.  With his niece Nancy, Grant goes to Thorpe's cottage one night to confront him.  As they approach, someone fires from the woods through the window and kills Thorpe.  Thorpe's valet soon drives off, vanishing and leaving Grant and Nancy with the corpse.

This is a high-profile murder and the District Attorney and a colonel of the state police are both anxious to put it behind him.  The DA is prone to jumping to conclusions and the state police colonel blusters his way through the most convenient suspect.  That suspect is Andrew Grant and he and his niece are soon held.  Nancy manages to get away through a window while her uncle is being interrogated.  She steals a car and heads to the Westchester county home of Tecumseh Fox, the wealthy and somewhat eccentric private detective.

Fox is both smart and quick thinking.  His main eccentricity is taking in people who are at the end of their rope, allowing them to stay at his estate for months at a time (or longer) in exchange for doing small jobs around the place.  One of those people is Fox's assistant, Dan Pavey, to whom Fox has given the title vice president.  Pavey is competent of sorts and compliant to Fox's orders.  He also is totally stricken by Nancy Grant's beauty and fiery personality.  Pavey is not the only one -- Thorpe's playboy son Jeffrey has also gone gaga over Nancy, so much so that he is willing to change his ways for her.

Fox manages to get Andrew Grant released and Grant and Nancy are invited to stay at the Thorpe's forty room estate.  Also staying there in addition to Jeffrey Thorpe is Thorpe's divorced daughter, Miranda Pemberton, a cool customer who swims naked in the estate's pool.  Among the other people who usually stay at the house are Luke Wheer, the  missing valet, and Vaughn Kester, Ridley Thorp's private secretary, who also happens to be missing.

Fox soon manages to find both Wheer and Kester, as well as a very much alive Ridley Thorpe.  But if Ridley Thorpe is alive, who was killed at the cabin?  It turns out it was a look-alike that Thorpe had been hiring to spend weekends at the cabin with the valet Wheer, giving Thorpe the freedom to meet his mistress, actress Dorothy Duke, elsewhere privately.  The question is, who was the intended target?  Thorpe or his murdered double?

Fox arranges an alibi for Thorpe with Dorothy Duke's father, Henry Jordan, a retired sailor.  Jordan agrees to this to save his daughter unwanted publicity.  Jordan is also invited to the Thorpe estate.  Everyone is at the estate, including the DA and the state and local police, when a shot is heard and Ridley Thorpe is found dead, a pistol, thrown by his side.  Also at his side ws a blue scarf, owned by Nancy Grant.  The pistol turns out to be Fox's, a weapon that he had left at his own house.  Tests prove this pistol was the one that killed Thorpe.  Locked inside Thorpe's safe is another pistol, the one that killed Thorpe's double.

Was Thorpe the intended victim all along?  Lord knows that most of the people staying at the Thorpe estate had motive.  Because of the remoteness of the estate and the presence of so many police officers, it appears that someone present was the murderer.

As a character, Tecumseh Fox reminds me of Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason, especially when he is using his legal knowledge to bamboozle the DA.  He reacts quickly to every situation, turning things to his own advantage.  He is also a little bit too quirky and decisive to be a true Perry Mason type, or even a Nero Wolfe.  Much of the byplay between the characters seems a bit forced, most especially with the romantic triangle between Nancy Grant, Jeffrey Thorpe, and Dan Pavey.  But in the end this is a satisfying and puzzling mystery, although not top-shelf Stout.

Tecumseh Fox appeared in two later novels, but was abandoned due to the popularity of the author's Nero Wolfe books.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Talking Heads.


It's just not proper to have a murderess in the family, so when Mr. Princey's daughter killed the curate he had to do something.

A dash of mystery, a dash of humor, a dash of horror...John Collier's famous short story first came to radio airwaves as the second episode of the classic long-running program Suspense!

This episode was directed by Charles Vanda; Hal Medford adapted Collier's story; and Clarence Derwent starred as the resourceful and oh-so-proper Mr. Princey.  Derwent was a well-known stage actor, director and manager; he initiated the Clarence Derwent Awards to recognize promising actors from Broadway and the West End performances beginning in 1945; the awards continue to this day.

Suspense! aired "Wet Saturday" three more times over the years with different casts, although using the original script.  It was also adapted as one the the most popular episodes on television's Alfred Hitchcock Presents (directed by Hitchcock himself) and was later adapted (with a script by Collier) for Tales of the Unexpected.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Petula Clark.


Thoroughbred jockey Billy Pearson is Donald Lam and Benay Venuta (Annie Get Your Gun, Bullets Over Broadway, The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown) is Bertha Cool in this 1958 pilot based on the series by Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as "A. A. Fair").  The script is by Edmund Hartman (Paleface, The Lemon Drop Kid, Ghost Catchers; creator of television's Family Affair).  Noted director Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie) helmed the pilot.  Erle Stanley Gardner appears as himself to introduce the episode.

Also featuring Maggy Mahoney, who was Sally Field's mother.

File this one under Pilots I Wish Had Made It.


Sunday, May 17, 2020


It seems like almost yesterday when she was born...a perfect little beautiful girl, happy to greet the world. 

After she was born, they wheeled Kitty up to her room where she hopped out of the chair and we began to dance around the room in joy.  We had another perfect little baby.  Well, not quite.  Christina turned into the infant from Heck!  Colic.  Severe colic.  For six flipping months!  Once, in order for us to get some rest, Kitty's mother took the baby for an afternoon -- her reasoning being that we knew nothing as parents and that she could easily calm her down.  Eileen's reasoning was wide of the mark, "I was going to rock the baby to sleep but I couldn't find a big enough rock!"  After six months, the pediatrician gave us some cranky baby drops for Christina; we were so sleep deprived that we spilled half the bottle trying to give her her first dose.  The cranky baby drops worked almost instantly.  Our baby from Heck turned into the sweetest, most affectionate infant ever.  "She's trying to make up for lost time," Eileen said.

Christina (at the time we called her Christy) morphed into pure joy.  Laughing, solemn, curious, smart, loving, empathetic, active, contemplative, helpful, smiling, hugging, wondrous, giving...everything a child should be.  Sometimes she felt guilty because she was so happy.  Sometimes she felt scared when she realized actually how big the universe was.  Most of the time she just laughed and played.

She was a creature of habit.  There was the year (or was it twelve?  It seemed like it) that she would wearing red socks and a print cotton tee-shirt.  She was determined.  In the first grade she came home and announced her name was Christina, not Christy -- we never called her Christy again.  When she was three, she was constantly beating my father at Concentration.  "It doesn't matter what she's doing," he said, "I'll always put my money on her."

And then she grew up.  Our marvelous little girl became a marvelous woman, a kind, generous, intelligent woman with a strong moral compass.  A person whose determination led her to be the best she could school, at work, as a marriage partner, as a mother, as a human being.  Despite any and all challenges, she prevails.

And she listens to her mother.  Sometimes long afterward.

Always loving.  Always giving.  Always determined.  She brooks no nonsense from deliberately stupid people, yet treats them with kindness.

She and Walt would be more than enough for us, but they also brought us Mark, Erin, and Jack -- three completely different kids, each of whom have stolen our hearts.

We have been blessed with our children and our grandchildren.  Christina has been a huge part of our happiness.

Remembering the colic, I can only say, You've come a long way, Baby.

We love you.


(Cap'n Bob Napier take note)

Writer and comedian James Veitch has developed a system for replying to spam email, which he explains in this TED Talk:

Veitch then followed this up with another TED Talk continuing his adventures in spam email.

Enjoy both.


From June 30, 1899, an early recording of "Hold the Fort," written by P. P. Bliss (1838-1876) and featuring baritone Len Spencer (1867-1914) with piano accompaniment. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020


Openers:  A man with brown cheeks smoothly shaven and wearing a clean denim shirt because it was Monday morning, chaperoning his herd of Jersey across the paved road from the barn side to the pasture side, saw a car coming and cussed.  With any driver whatever the car would make his cows nervous; and if bad luck made it a certain kind of week-end driver from New York, which was only 50 miles to the south,there was no telling what might happen.  He stood in the middle of the road and glared at the approaching demon, then felt easier as he saw it was slowing down and still easier when it crept circling a six-foot clearance post past Jennifer's indifferent rump.  When it stopped completely, so close alongside that he could have reached out and touched the door handle, the last shred of his irritation was dissolved, for he was by no means so hopelessly committed to cows that he didn't know a pretty girl when he saw one.  He even saw, before she spoke, the flecks of ocher that warmed her troubled gray eyes, though she spoke at once.
     "Please, am I going right for the Fox place?"
     He grunted and crinkles of criticism radiated from the corners of her eyes.  "Oh," he said, "you're bound for The Zoo."

-- Rex Stout, Double for Death  (1939)

Thus we are greeted to the first (of three) detective novels about Tecumseh Fox, created by Stout as a break from his more famous (and sedate) detective, Nero Wolfe.  Fox inhabits the same universe as Wolfe; references are made to the same people and locations that appear in the Nero Wolfe saga.  Fox's full name is William Tecumseh Sherman Fox, a name presumably given by Stout so he could refer to the private detective as "Tec."  It is probably not a coincidence that a fox and a wolf are both predatory animals -- the wolf much stronger and the fox presumably much slyer.  Sherman is best known for setting Atlanta on fire during the Civil War, while legend has Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

I love the opening of this book, from the farmer's clean shirt because it was Monday to the cow Jennifer's indifferent rump.  It sets the stage for Fox -- we instantly realize that we are about to meet a different type of detective even before we learn that he lives at "The Zoo."

Stout's Nero Wolfe is one of the most popular fictional detectives in history, despite the fact that most of his deductions are flimsy and virtually nothing he deduced would stand up in court.  Wolfe's quirks and his pairing with his ur-opposite Archie Goodwin brought about a perfect blend of detection and hard-boiled mystery.

Stout's mainstream novels did not fare as well, although his first published book How Like a God (1929) received critical attention.  (It was published by Vanguard Press, a firm Stout had co-founded.)  He began publishing short stories in 1912, followed by serialized novels in The All-Story beginning the following year.  By 1916 Stout was tired of writing stories whenever he needed money.  He decided to stop writing until he had accrued enough money by other means so that writing would not be main support.  He created the school banking system which served his purposes nicely.  By 1929, he had accrued a large enough nest egg to start writing again.  Does that date sound familiar?  Stout lost most of the money during the Depression that started that year.  The best laid plans...

Stout turned to detective stories in the 1930s.  The first Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, was published in 1934.  By 1940 he concentrated on writing detective stories, mostly in the Nero Wolfe series.  By this time he was a nationally recognized figure and was able to promote his causes.  Stout described himself as a "pro-labor, pro-New Deal, pro-Roosevelt, left liberal."   As early as 1925, Stout joined the board of the American Civil Liberties Union National Council on Censorship.  During World War II. he joined Fight for Freedom, hosted three weekly radios shows, and helped organize American writers in the war effort.  He chaired the Writer's War Board and conducted the first broadcast of CBS Radio's Our Secret Weapon.  He led the Society for the prevention of World War II and became active in the United World Federalists.

Stout actively lobbied for a fourth term for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Coincidently, while in the Navy in 1908 and 1909, he served as yeoman on President Theodore Roosevelt's yacht

He was branded a Communist by the chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee and earned the enmity of J. Edgar Hoover, in part because of his leadership of The Author's League of America during the McCarthy era..  Stout eventually got back at Hoover in the Wolfe novel The Doorbell Rang.

Always outspoken, always fearless, sometime contradictory, Stout published The Illustrious Dunderheads in 1942, detailing the isolationist, anti-World War II, pro-Nazi voting records and statements by sitting members of  Congress, naming names.

In the mystery field, Stout served as president of the Mystery Writers of America.  He received MWA's prestigious Grand Master Award in 1959.  The Bouchercon XXXI mystery convention nominated the Nero Wolfe books as the Best Mystery Series of the Century and Stout as the Best Mystery Writer of the Century.  He was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame in 2014.  Wolf has appeared in films (some early ones were pretty bad), radio (four different series on five networks, plus a gender-switched adaptation of a Wolfe story in 2018). television (at least three different series, plus individual programs, as well as German, Russian (twice), and Italian (also twice) television series. three stage plays (including one in Italian), and a daily and Sunday comic strip (1956-1972) currently being reprinted on Evan Lewis' ever-interesting blog, Davy Crockett's Almanack.  Films were also made of Stout's political thriller The President Vanishes and his Dol Bonner mystery Hand in Glove.  Nero Wolfe was also immortalized on a Nicaraguan stamp in 1972.

Rex Stout's older sister Ruth was a well-known gardening writer know as the "Queen of Mulch" and for her "no-work" gardening method.  She reportedly accompanied axe-wielding Prohibitionist Carry Nation on a saloon raid; Nation was arrested but Ruth, only 16 at the time, was not, even though Ruth caused the most damage.  Another literary relative of Rex Stout's was his cousin W. T. (Willis Todhunter) Ballard, a well-known pulp writer and the author of many western and detective novels.  Ballard married Phoebe Dwiggins, the daughter of popular cartoonist Clare Victor Dwiggins ("Dwig").

Favorite Records:  I have a couple of Facebook friends who keep posting memes about quizes and challenges, such as "Which Lord of the Rings character are you?" or a "What was your favorite childhood toy?" or "I bet only one in ten will repost this message."  Since these are dangerous and often used to mine personal data it is my policy to never respond to such memes.  Recently, one friend posted a  challenge to name the ten record albums that most influenced you.  Although I didn't respond,, I did think about this one.  My answers tell a lot about me -- and not just my age.

  • Don McLean, American Pie.  I believe he has several different albums with this name; the one that really got me has the title song, "Everybody Loves Me, Baby (What's the Matter with You?)" and "Winterwood," among the outstanding selections.
  • Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir, & Ed Trickett, Minneapolis Concert.  "Waltzing with Bears," "Green Fields of France," "The Gin and Raspberry." and others.  Not a bad song in the bunch.
  • Phil Ochs, Pleasures of the Harbor.  Probably his most accomplished album.  We were married to a duo singing the title song, plus the album has the greatest goodbye song ever, "Changes."
  • Ian and Sylvia, Play One More.  Sylvia Fricker leading in a rollicking version of 'When I Was a Cowboy."  Ian Tyson singing "These Friends of Mine."  Every track in this album is a gem.
  • Side by Side, Side by Side by Song.  Side by Side (Doris Justis and Sean McGee) were D.C. staples for more than 25 years and were the "house band" for Dick Cerri's Music Americana.  Among the sixteen tracks on this album are favorites "Potter's Wheel," "Death in Venice," and "That's the Way It's Going to Be.'
  • The Limelighters, .Children's Concert.  The Limelighters were the first folk group to get my attention, which gives you an idea of how old I am.  I would play everyone of their albums over and over, but if I had to choose one, it would be Children's Concert.  Pure joy captured on a disk.
  • Dave Mallett, Inches and Miles.  A retrospective album produced by Noel Stookey.  Mallett has a voice like pure honey.  This one has his most famous song, "Inch by Inch," "I Knew This Place," "Fire," "Arthur," and many others.  As with all these albums, this one I would play over and over and over again.
  • Peter, Paul and Mary, The Holiday Concert.  This one has my favorite Christmas song, "I Wonder As I Wander," Mary Travers singing "For Baby" to her granddaughter, "Light One Candle," and many more.  another album that is pure joy.
  • The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  There are better songs on other albums but this is the one that blew my socks off.
  • The Rolling Stones, Out of Our Heads.  "Satisfaction."  Need I say more?
Limiting a list such as this to ten items is a thankless task, knowing full well that this list could change at a moment's notice (or whim).  Where are The Kinks, Cream, The Spencer Davis Group, Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Tom Lehrer, Ma Rainey, Tom Paxton, Bessie Smith, Leonard Cohen, and so many others?

What are the record albums that define your life?  Kitty would most surely name Jefferson Airplane's first album.  Just as surely she would not allow me to name THE BEST OF CHICKENMAN.

Feeding the Hungry:  According to Wikipedia, on this date in 332, the Emperor Constantine the Great announced the distribution of free food for the citizens of Constantinople.  As with many items about Constantine, this fact should be taken with a grain of salt.  As Bill barr recently (and disgustingly) said, history is determined by the winners.  Contemporary reports reports about Constantine were highly laudatory (and therefore, highly suspicious).  What is undisputed is the constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to the Christian faith and called the first Council of Nicaea, which produced the Nicene Creed.  He spent most of his life as a pagan, and although a convert to Christianity, reportedly refused to be baptized until on his deathbed; his thinking being that he could then be forgiven of any sinful things he did while in office -- he did kill his wife and his eldest son, after all.  Nonetheless, between the time of his conversion and his death, he did accomplish much for the faith and his people.

I am taken by the idea of the government distributing free food.  Today, with so many people in economic stress, President Trump's 2021 budget would slash food assistance for millions and reduce the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program by 30%.  It would cut off benefits for nearly 700,000 low-income adults living in areas of high unemployment.  It would end SNAP for more than 3 million individuals by rolling back "broad-based categorical eligibility."  It would cut SANP by $1 billion a year by eliminating state flexibility in setting "Standard Utility Allowances."

Geez, Louise.

The war on the poor and the middle class continues unabated.  Perhaps Constantine the Great had the right idea some 1688 years ago,

760 Years?:  Enjoy it while you can.

Florida Bee:  The heck with Florida Man!  Our state can now claim the reappearance of the blue calamintha bee (Osmia Calaminthae).  Blue bees have not been seen in the state since 2016.  This may cause some confusion:  I told someone that Florida has blue bees and he replied, "I know.  Especially on the beaches during spring break."  I think we were on different wavelengths.

Good News:

"Not only to say the right thing, at the right place, but far more difficult to leave unsaid the wrong thing, at the tempting moment."  -- George Sala

Today's Poem:
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet;
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-- William Butler Yeats


Lynyrd Skynyrd.


Stop the presses!  Knobby Walsh, Joe Palooka's manager, is getting married!

The bride is the beautiful, somewhat uneducated, more than somewhat gold-digging, Gilda, who snared Knobby on the rebound from her relationship with Con Berfke, who is still carrying a torch for Gilda.

Fear not, Plooka fans; Con Befrke slipped Knobby some sleeping pills and he fell asleep in the middle of the ceremony before the Justice of the Peace could finish.  Mad, Gilda ran off into Berfke's arms while Knobby kept sleeping.  A taxi driver takes Knobby to the honeymoon suite he had reserved and put him to bed.  Knobby wakes up, thinking he is married, but there is no Gilda!  Frantic, he searches all over for his "wife."

Poor Knobby!  Will he ever recover?

In a bonus story, Joe's young friend Little Max is suckered by a "sport preemoter"to invest his 67 cents in a new enterprise.  They build a clunky wooden airplane from scraps and offer rides for five cents apiece.  Joe shows up just in time to save Little Max from flying off a cliff.  Joe not only saves the day but he also saves the burgeoning "business."

Also, a one-page cartoon bio of Joe Louis, another of Yankee outfielder Tommy Heinrich, and two pages of text snippets of sports lore.  The inside front cover has Humphrey Pennyworth going to Washington to be a "Modern 49er" by selling savings bonds, part of a program that joined the Treasury Department with Ham Fischer's characters.  Other ads in this issue show that the new 1949 Monark Super Deluxe bicycle whose purchase price includes a one-year fire and theft "insurance" policy, a young boy lost in the woods finds his way out with a handy compass available with just 75 Popsicle, Fudgsicle, or Creamsicle bags (or ten bags plus 15 cents), how Gillette bike tires can turn a tired "dud" into an athletic "dynamo" so he can play sports with the pretty girls, and how milk may taste like Fleer's Double Bubble is a cow chews that gum instead of her cud.

Times were simpler back then.


Friday, May 15, 2020


Neil Diamond.


Path into the Unknown:  The Best of Soviet Science Fiction, edited anonymously (1966)

In her introduction to the 1968 Dell paperback edition of this book, Judith Merril writes, "[This] is the first soviet science-fiction anthology we have had which suits current American tastes."  That is probably true.  Previously anthologies such as Destination:  Amaltheia (1960), Soviet Science Fiction, and More Soviet Science Fiction (both 1961 -- the paperback reprints from Colliers added introductions from Isaac Asimov) are marked with clunky writing and/or translations.  (Although it should be noted that More Soviet Science Fiction contains Ivan Yefremov's classic (?) science fiction story "Heart of the Servant," noted mainly for being a Soviet response to Murray Leinster's "First Contact.")  Mirra Ginsberg's pivotal anthology Last Door to Aiya did not appear until 1968.

Path into the Unknown does contain some better writing, some better translating, and more universal themes than its predecessors, although a lot of this is a judgment call.  It should be noted that the translator (or, more likely, translators) is not identified.  The assistance of  the Novosti Publishing House (APN) made this collection possible, so perhaps they provided the stories and the translations.  All eight stories were originally published from 1960-1965, according to ISFDb.

The stories:

  • Ilya Varshavsky, "The Conflict" (1964)  A very short piece,  A robotic nanny, much smarter than the humans she works for, would contemplate suicide if not for her maternal affection for their child.  Ed Ferman reprinted this one in the August 1967 issue of F&SF.
  • Ilya Varshavsky, "Robby" (1962)  Another short about a robot.  A man is given a very annoying robot for his 50th birthday.  Only his sharp-tongued mother-in-law appreciates the robot.
  • Vladislav Krapivin, "Meeting My Brother" (1963)  A novelette about a man who had been in space for 300 years and his eleven-year-old brother from Earth.  Merril called this maudlin tale  a "sensitively written romance."  I found the writing to be reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's, albeit jerkier, clumsier, and less thought out.  Each to their own.
  • Sever Gansovsky, "A Day of Wrath" 1965)  Merril did not care for this one:  "I will be frank to say it infuriated me...[because of] an attitude I violently dislike."  I thought it was one of the best stories in the book.  Merril was a perceptive critic and I am a somewhat cloddish reader, so who's to say who's right?  Where Merril found a distasteful xenophobia, I found an exciting tale of survival against a mutant race far smarter than humans but without empathy.  Gansovsky's Otarks blithely eat both humans and one another without compunction.  A government agent is sent to report on them to determine what their fate should be.
  • Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, "An Emergency Case" (1960)  A fly suddenly appears on an inter-planetary ship passing through the Asteroid Zone.  Where did it come from?  And it has...eight legs?  Wait.  It's not one fly.  There's another.  And another.  And more.  And many, many more...
  • Arkady Strugatsky, "Wanderers and Travellers" (1963)  Arkady Strugatsky went solo on this tale, "an evocative, mood-making piece which leaves all ideological anthropocentricity (Eastern or Western) far behind,"  (Merril again.)  For centuries the underwater race of septopods lived deep underwater; now they are rising to the surface and are being tracked and studied by humans.  At the same time mankind is leaving the earth and entering space...will they too be tracked and studied by more advanced creatures?
  • G[ennady] Gor, "The Boy" (1965)  A teen-age boy submits an unfinished story as a homework assignment.  It's about the only child on an interstellar journey, born ten years after the flight began.  The story is both prosaic and haunting -- far from the rollicky adventure one might expect from a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old boy -- and it has captured the attention of his classmates.  The author's father is a noted archeologist who had gained fame by discovering evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth during the Jurassic period.  Could the boy who wrote the story be an "informative double" of the aeons-old subject of the story?   A dash of mysticism, a dash of ESP, and a dash of science combine with an interesting depiction of teen-age boys.  Not one's stereotypical view of Soviet Russia at the time.
  • Anatoly Dneprov, "The Purple Mummy" (1961)  The narrator investigates when he discovers his wife is the exact double (minus coloration) of a purple mummy listed in a  museum catalogue.  The mummy is actually a detailed (inside and out) plastic replica sent by cosmic rays from a distant star system.  Because its organs are completely reversed, scientists theorize that it came from an anti-matter planet.-- just because..  Written (or translated) in a half comic style that doesn't quite come off.  This is the one story in the collection that Merril did not discuss in her introduction.
With the exception of the first story, none appear to have been reprinted for the general 
American public.  It's an interesting collection for who are interested in stories that have begun to diverge from the Soviet polemic.  Several of the stories could easily have found a home in the English language SF magazines of the day.  For the most part, though, I feel the general reader would be better served with many of the later stories from Russia that have proliferated the science fiction field since the 1960s. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020


David Lee Roth.


Evan Lewis has been posting about The Cisco Kid on his always interesting blog Davy Crockett's Almanack recently, most notably the movies starring Gilbert Roland.  Evan has whet my appetite, so here's a sample from the radio show from 1953.  The Cisco Kid first came to the airwaves from October 2, 1942, to February 14, 1945, starring Jackson Beck as Cisco and Louis Soren as Pancho.  The Cisco Kid returned as a thrice-weekly series in 1946, seguing to a syndicated half-hour series that ran from 1947 to 1956; Jack Mather and Harry lang appeared in the starring roles.

In this episode gunfighter Chain Lightnin' is released from prison and goes gunning  for Cisco.  Cisco, however, has sprained his wrist and may not be up to the challenge.

"Oh, Pancho!"  "Oh, Ceesko!"


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Ed Trickett with a Si Kahn song about job loss; the song hits even harder during these times.


Legendary screenwriter Richard Matheson adapted Jules Verne's novels Master of the World and Robur the Conqueror for AIP's low budget drive-in fare.  Verne copied himself and 20,000 Leagues Below the Sea when he wrote these books that could well have been called 20,000 Leagues Above the Sea.  Vincent Price stars as pacifist, would-be conqueror Robur.  Charles Bronson is John Strock, the captive who must try and stop Price.  Veteran actor Henry Hull evidently came out of retirement to take third billing, and television actress Mary Webster plays the eye candy.  Look closely and you'll see silent film comedian Snub Pollard in an uncredited role as Man at Balloon Society Meeting, one of Pollard's last appearances before his death of cancer the following January.

Roger Corman had nothing to do with this film, despite a presumption that he did.  The executive producer this time around was Samuel Z. Arkoff, a man who knew who to squeeze the last penny to cater to his target audience -- teenagers.  William Witney, a master of low-budget serials (The Crimson Ghost, The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Mysterious Doctor Satan), helmed this picture for Arkoff.

Matheson, Price, and a capable cast elevated this film above standard AIP fare.


Monday, May 11, 2020


Roaring Lion, a calypso legends with this song from the 30s.


Openers:  In the midst of a parched summer worse than any in memory, the streets of Amarillo were deserted and silent, not a sinister shadow cast by the buildings that lined them.  Not a dog barked, nor a child played, not a face was to be seen in any of the shop windows.  Houses squatted like beaten men under burning whips, troughs were empty, fences peeled, and grass turned brittle.  The infernal heat, ten days and ten nights without rsepite or promise, without a cloud in the white-hot sky, had finally driven everyone indoors, had sapped life and color from signs and gardens, had baked wood and brick and crumbling adobe until they were fierce to the touch.

Only a dust devil danced danced in the alley by the stable.

Oddly enough, there was no wind.

-- "Lionel Fenn" (Charles L. Grant), By the Time I Get to Nashville (1994)

Chalres L. Grant (1942-2006) is probably best known for his horror writing and for his editing the eleven-volume Shadows series of anthologies.  As Lionel Fenn, he allowed himself to let loose his sense of humor in twelve science fiction/fantasy books, comprising three series and one stand-alone.  By the Time I Get to Nashville was the second in a trilogy about Diego, a time-traveling gunslinger. preceded by Once Upon a Time in the East and followed by Time: The Semi-Final Frontier.  Also as Fenn he wrote a series of five books about Kent Montana, a failed actor whose adventures involve paradies of Hollywood icons, men's action heroes, and more.  (The fifth and final book in the series had what I consider one of the best titles ever:  668: The Neighbor of the Beast.)  "Lionel Fenn" also wrote the "Quest for the White Duck" trilogy and the stand-alone The Seven Spears of the W'dch'ck (which is sometimes listed as part of the "Quest for the White Duck" saga, but if my faded memory serves -- I read it 32 years ago -- it is a stand-alone; feel free to correct me if I misremembered.)

Among Grant's other pseudonyms were Geoffrey Marsh, Timothy Boggs, Simon Lake, and Mark Rivers -- notice a pattern here?  As Marsh, Grant wrote a four-book series about Lincoln Blackthorne, an Indiana Jones-type adventurer, as well as a pitiful novelization of the Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk; Grant described this last as the painful project of his career.  Timothy Boggs penned three tie-in novels to the Hercules television show.  Simon Lake wrote the four-volume horror series Midnight Place, while Mark Rivers produced the produced the four-volume Taggard Point series.

Chalres L. Grant had a few other pseudonymns.  "Stephen Charles" was responsible for the six-volume YA horror series Private Academy; "Deborah Lewis" wrote five gothic horror novels; and "Felicia Andrews" did seven paperback original romance novels.  (The Felicia Andrews books far outsold anything else Grant had written for quite some time, while the hard-to-find Deborah Lewis books continue to command high prices on the used market.)

Perhaps the biggest sellers the Grant wrote were two tie-in novels to The X-Files television series -- Goblins and Whirlwind.  One additional tie-in novel was Watcher, part of the World of Darkness gaming universe.

His major contribution to the horror field was his series of books that took place in the quiet (?) suburb of Oxrun Station -- 34 novels and short stories that helped promote Grant's vision of "quiet horror; this included three books each based upon a Universal Studios movie monster.  Grnt also published at least twelve stand-lone horror novels horror, two story collections, the four-volume Mellennium Quartet and five volumes of a planned ten-book series Black Oak in his lifetime.  He also published five science fiction novels early in his career.

As an editor Grant's Shadows series provided a highly respectable market for original "quiet horror" stories; there was also an anthology of the best of the first ten volumes.  Grant also created the shared universe of Graystone Bay for a series of four anthologies.  For Dark Harvest publishing he edited original spotlight collection Night Visions 2 and was rumored (probably falsely) of anonymously editing Night Visions 4.  With Wendy Webb, he edited original anthology Gothic Ghosts.  He also edited seven reprint anthologies, including The Dodd, Mead Gallery of Horror.

While serving as secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America (he served eight years, Grant edited the indispensable-at-the-time Writing and Selling Science Fiction, which stills remains an important guide.  He later served a term as the president of the Horror Writers Association.  He also served ten years on the Board of Directors of the World Fantasy Awards and five years as president of the Board of Trustees for the HWA, and was on the board of advisor to the Burry Man's Writers Center.

Grant won two Nebula Awards and three HWA awards for his editing and writing.  In 1987 he received the British Fantasy Society's Award for Life Achievement and in 2000 he received the HWA Life Achievement Award.

I have read most of Grant's work and -- with the exception of Hudson Hawk -- I wholeheartedly recommend it.  Also recommended, if you can find copies, is his newsletter Haggis, which allowed his humor free rein and had he and his various pseudonymns living in the same house.  Someday, perhaps, someone will published the serial novel Lancelot and Blanche which appeared in those pages.

A Cat-5 Fecal Flurry:  So a lot of places are opening now after weeks of closure, some sparingly, some stupidly.  I don't think any state has opened according to federal guidelines.  But people are getting itchy and are afraid for their own personal economy and El Presidente has relinquished any leadership role he might have had in an alternate universe.  In Florida, the WWE has been designated an "essential" business in part because Trump owes Vince McMahon and our governor is a toady for Trump.  Georgia, whose governor only recently closed the state because he did not know earlier that the virus could be spread by asymptomatic persons (!), is opening up beauty salons and tattoo parlors.  Egged on by the right-wing media, our president, white nationalists, and Second Amendment fascists, protesters are demanding their states reopen, some marching fully armed on to their state capitols.  The latest inane talking point is that people are going to die anyway, so why not open everything up.   That's the approach that Sweden has been taking in an effort to achieve herd immunity at the cost of thousands of lives.  I hope I don't have to explain how stupid that is.  The administration is dismissing scientific advice because it may hurt Trump's chances for re-election.  The Covid-19 Task Force is now shifting its focus, per presidential order, to reopening the country rather than combating the virus.  The grown-ups in the room are being fired or transferred and replaced by Trump flunkies.  Meanwhile, the Republican-led Senate is continuing to destroy the country by blocking funding and by installing federal judges rated incompetent at a rapid pace.

Millions of Americans are confused by all of this.  Others have swallowed the Kool-Aid and are spouting far-right talking points.  "Asking me to stay home is government over-reach."  "The government cannot order me to wear a face mask; I have rights!"  I won't go so far as to label them with Hillary Clinton's 'Deplorables" (although some are), but many of them are easily led and easily brainwashed by Fox News and others.  (Check out how a steady diet of Fox News can alter one's thinking in a negative way.)  And now we're being told that we must sacrifice some people for the good of the economy.   Sweet Jesus, what has America become?

A number of Americans think now that country is opening the danger from Covid-19 is over.   Look at what is happening at many of the country's beaches or at many of our stores.  Despite urging precautions, there are those who no longer bother to follow them and the infection rate grows.  And as this rate grows and grows, the economy will suffer further.  Many believe that a second wave, possibly far worse than the first, will not happen.  Some are pushing to reopen the public schools.  There are reports of violence by those refusing to wear masks and by those insisting that masks be worn.  We are in sincere crazy times.

Several things should be acknowledged.  The economy will tank and we will probably enter a time worse than the Great Depression.  People are going to find themselves suddenly forced from the middle class to poverty.  Companies will fail.  The income gap between the rich and the poor will widen greatly.  More and more people will find themselves unemployed.  Science is being discarded and fear, stoked by many in power, is increasing.  China, Russia, North Korea, and others will exploit this, interfering with our elections and our national standing as leader of the Free World; although the current administration is doing much of the same.  More and more Americans will die needlessly.  This is due, in a great part, by Trump's narcissism and refusal to act as a leader.

Is all lost?  No.  Not if we can regain our country in the next election.  Not if our leadership, our legislature, and our judicial system have the courage to make strong decisions based on principle rather than politics.  Not if we recognize that this country and our daily lives will be significantly different on the other side of this.  Some of our current concepts may have to be changed.  The original definition of conservative boils down to if it work --, fine; if not -- fix it.  It may not be comfortable for some folks, but we can survive and come out better, stronger, and more united.

That's a lot of ifs, but I don't see another choice.

Going Postal:  The Postal Service is in financial trouble.  Democrats and Republicans are sparring over what to do.  Is it a coincidence that this is happening right before an election and may affect the Postal Service's ability to handle write-in ballots that are predicted to favor the Democrats over the Republicans?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Roy Horn:  Mauled by a tiger and now dead from Coronavirus.  Rest in peace, Roy.

Mr. Penniman:  Another fond part of my life is gone with the death this past Saturday of Little Richard at age 87.  Rest in peace.  A-wop-bop-aloo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom

Also This Past Saturday:  The 60th anniversary of the birth control pill, one of the most significant events of the twentieth century.  It helped shape the world we have today.  (But had nothing to do with the coronavirus, I hasten to add.)

Some Bits of Awesome:  Hummingbirds.

Animal Rescue.

Grateful elephant.

Hugs and more:

Neither Rain Nor Snow Nor Pandemic Will Halt Florida Man Doing His Unpredictable Rounds:

  • Coral Springs sheriff Gregory Tony was caught half-naked and his wife was caught topless in a foursome at a couples swapping party.  Photos were taken and released (I saw them -- gak!).  Tony had no commented and referred questions to his attorney, who said, "I have no !@#$%f@#$%ing comment."  Tony was appointed tot he post in January after the governor suspended elected sheriff Scott Israel, who evidently released the wife swapping photos.  Tony's campaign said, "This is another attempt by Scott Israel to smear Tony's name and reputation."  In 1993 when he was 14, Tony killed 18-year-old Hector Rodriguez in Philadelphia -- an incident for which Tony claimed self-defense.
  • James Ellison, 30, was arrested for stealing alligator, meat, amberjack, tuna steaks, and alaska king crab from a seafood market in Port Orange.  He was arrested because of his unique tattoos, his "Gators" license plate, and his wife's cooperation -- she identified him and also told police he had also stolen lawn equipment and guns.   Police also found stolen knives and fishing reels in Ellison's garage.  Unlucky in love (and in theft) was poor Mr. Ellison.
  • The chuckleheads at Florida company Silvercorp USA recently tried to organize a coup against the Venezuelan government.  Florida Men were involved.  Things did not go well for them.  File under "Inept Attempt."
  • When a 96-year-old woman jumped from the 16th floor of her apartment building to her dead, Florida Man and apartment concierge Ronald Benjamin, 61, mistook the boy for a mannikin and later asked a 16-year-old boy to help him move it to a dumpster.  Even after transporting the body, Benjamin thought it was a mannikin and that the real blood was fake blood.  The owners of the St. Petersburg apartment complex fired him.
  • Florida Man and FCCI Insurance CEO Craig Johnson (absolutely no relation of good guy and Longmire creator Craig Johnson) was arrested for battery on a police officer as he was asked to leave the Wicked Cantina restaurant in Sarasota.  Johnson told the arresting officers that they would "pay" because of his close relationship with the Sarasota sheriff.  He also accused the officers of "responding like they were going to a black neighborhood."  Yes, he went there.  Alcohol was involved.  Also stupidity.
  • Panama City Florida Man Brandon Bingham, 34, was upset with his wife.  And what do you do when you are upset with your wife?  Try to run over a store clerk.  (Remember, this is Florida, where marriage counseling apparently goes off on a completely different track.)  

Some of the Good Stuff:

Today's Poem:  
God Bless Americans

God bless Americans, all of us here
May He keep us and steep us
In the love of the land he reveres

May we prosper, may we flourish
May we all freely strive
God bless Americans
And help us to thrive

From Venezuela
South Korea
or Iraq

God bless Americans
-- with freedom to strive

God bless Americans
-- and help us to thrive

-- Gershon Wolf

written in 2018 in celebration of the centennial anniversary
of the composition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America"

Today would have been Irving Berlin's 132nd birthday