Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Wynonie Harris.


If you were a kid in the Fifties you watched The Lone Ranger.  (I think it was a federal law or something.)  You didn't question it; you just watched and enjoyed the masked man and his Indian companion bring justice to the Old West.  Every Fifties kid knew about The Lone Ranger and his origins.  Kids nowadays?  I'm not so sure.

Here's the first episode of the television series (which followed the highly popular radio series) -- the origin of The Lone Ranger, his friendship with Tonto, the origin of the silver bullets, and the evil, really no-dd Butch Cavendish and his gang.

Clayton Moore was The Lone Ranger (actor John Hart took over the role for one season when Moore was in a salary dispute with the producers; few remember Hart in the role), Jay Silverheels, a full-blooded Mohawk, was Tonto, and 6-foot, 4-inch Glenn Strange played Butch Cavendish.  Movie heavy and occasional good guy Tristram Coffin played The Lone Ranger's fated brother.  Actor and one-time staff broadcaster for CBS radio Gerald Mohr narrated the episode.

So with a hearty "Hi-yo silver!", let's journey back to the beginning.

Monday, June 29, 2020


From 1956, Gogi Grant.


Openers:  I saw her hand first.  It settled close to my shoulder on the window frame of the car.  It was slender, rather beautiful, unexpectedly white in this country of dark skin and tropical sun.  It was a determined hand too.  It clung tenaciously as if the car and I fulfilled some need and were jot to be allowed to slip away.

She said, "Excuse me."

I ducked so that I could see her.  she was standing in the full glare of the sidewalk.  Behind her, the open entrance of the Hotel Yucatan showed blue and white tiles stretching to the patio and a few loitering waiters.  She was the sort of blonde that rolls off the assembly lines in Hollywood or Broadway but could start a riot here in Mexico.  At least, that was my first impression.  She was dressed in the depersonalized perfection of a model in a silver-gray suit.  She ehld a large red pocketbook."

--"Patrick Quentin," Run to Death (1948)

The pen name "Patrick Quentin" was used, for the most part, by Hugh Callingham Wheeler (1912-1987) and Richard Webb (1901-1966) and later by Wheeler alone. 

The pair also wrote as "Q. Patrick" and as "Jonathan Stagge."  Two other authors also contributed to the Patrick and Quentin names. The first was Martha "Patsy" Mott Kelley, who was the first to collaborate with Webb, starting with 1931's Cottage Sinister.  Their second book, Murder at the
Women's City Club
 (1932) was also their last -- the partnership ended when Kelley got married.  Both the Webb-Kelley books were published under the name "Q. Patrick," Patrick being a combination of their names. Patsy and Rick; the "Q." was added "because it sounded unusual."

Webb then wrote a third mystery by himself, followed by two mysteries written with Mary Louise Aswell (1902-1984), an editor at Harper's Bazaar.  It was until 1936 that Webb found his permanent partner, Hugh Wheeler, a fellow Englishman transplanted to America.  That year, the pair published Death Goes to School as "Q. Patrick," as well as the first Peter Duluth mystery (A Puzzle for Fools) as "Patrick Quentin," and the first Dr. Hugh Westlake mystery (Murder Gone to Earth) as "Jonathan Stagge."  The following year came Death for Dear Clara, featuring Inspector Timothy Trant, under the Q. Patrick pseudonym.  These three -- Duluth, Westlake, and Trant -- would become the pair's regular series detectives, each under the umbrella of their respective pen names.

Peter Duluth is a Broadway producer and a recovering alcoholic.  A Puzzle for Fools has him drying out at an exclusive sanitarium when murder strikes one of the guests.  It is here also where Duluth meets his future wife, Iris.  Over the series, the two meet, marry, break up, and reconcile.  Run to Death, whose first paragraphs were quoted above, was the seventh book in the series and takes place during the time Peter Duluth and Iris had broken up.  Duluth is vacationing in Mexico, sight-seeing the ancient cities of the Mayans, when he meets up with young, blonde Deborah Bland.  Bland is running for her life from some unknown terror.  From Chichen-Itza in the Yucatan to Mexico City, the danger follows them.  "peter duluth found that it is hard to fight when you don't know who your enemies are.  He found it easier to run.  But danger was never left behind; it was always ahead of him.  It raced him to New Orleans and trapped him in the Old French Quarter.  And it was here that peter had to run to death in order to escape it."

Dr. Hugh Westlake is a small town doctor in rural Pennsylvania, where he and his daughter Dawn often become involved with skullduggery.  Timothy Trant is Princeton educated, superbly dressed, and combines an impulsivity with remarkable shrewdness.  Inventive plotting, cleverly planted clues, and surprise endings tend to be hallmarks of all three series.  The early Q. Patrick stories were of the classic "Golden Age of Detection" mode; later stories employed a darker psychological approach and explored other themes in the mystery genre, such as thrillers and espionage.

In the late 1940s Webb's health began to take its toll and his contributions stopped in the early 1950s, after which Wheeler continued on his own, mainly under the Patrick Quentin name.  The Jonathan Stage pseudonym was retired in 1949 and the Q. Patrick name, with the exception of one true crime study (The Girl on the Gallows, 1954) and a handful of short stories, in 1952.  Wheeler also published a solo novel under his own name in 1951.  Wheeler wrote seven Patrick Quentin novels on his own, ending in 1965.  Peter Duluth was retired in 1954, but Timothy Trant appeared several times, ending with the final Paticik Quentin novel, Family Skeletons.

Wheeler was not done writing, however.  Since 1961 he had been writing plays..Among other plays, he adapted Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle in 1967 and the books for A Little Night Music (1973) and Sweeney Todd (1979).  His screenplays included Cabaret, Travels with My Aunt, and A Little Night Music.  For television, he created The Snoop Sisters with Leonard B. Stern.  He won the Tony Award twice, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award three times, as well as the Vernon Rice award and the Hull-Warriner Award.

Two collections of short stories were published under the Patrick Quentin name, the Edgar-winning The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow in 1961 and The Puzzles of Peter Duluth in 2016.  The Timothy Trant stories are still crying out to be collected.

Three Patrick Quentin stories are acknowledged classic in the field, "Love Comes to Miss Lucy," "A Boy's Will," and "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?"  Another story, "The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow," was successfully adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964.  Five Patrick Quentin novels have been filmed, two in the United States and one each in Japan, France, and Germany.

Sadly, Patrick Quentin and other alter egos have all but faded into obscurity nowadays.  The author whom Francis Iles once called "number one among American crime writers" deserves to be rediscovered.

Celebrate:  There are a number of "holidays" to celebrate today.  I myself am torn between celebrating today's Hug Holiday and National Almond Buttercrunch Day; I'll probably do homage to both.  Today is also Camera Day, but I don't have one.  Ir's also Waffle Iron Day; again, I don''t have one.  And it's Please Take My Children to Work Day, which is of no use to someone who is retired.

Today also falls into National Prevention of Eye Injuries Awareness Week, something I don't think was around some seventy years ago when I injured my right eye.  I really could have used that Week back then.  **sigh**

The month of June has a number of monthly observances, some -- such as Celibacy Awareness Month and National Accordion Awareness Month -- are of no use to me, and some -- I'm looking st you Potty Training Awareness Month -- we haven't needed in decades.  Others -- such as Zoo and Aquarium month, Rebuild Your Life Month, National Bathroom Reading Month, National Oceans Month, and National Rivers Month -- I can get firmly behind.  June also appears to be a month to appreciate food, and I do -- we can observe Corn, Country Cooking, Cucumber, Dairy, Georgia Blueberry, Turkey Lovers, Mango, National Candy, National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable, National Iced Tea, National Papaya, National Seafood, National Soul Food, National Steakhouse, and (unless you are Kitty, who hates the slimy stuff) National Okra Months.

In a time of pandemics, murder hornets, African dust storms coming at us, protests against racial inequality, high unemployment, economic uncertainty, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, droughts, voter disenfranchisement, and the Trump Administration, it feels good to celebrate some of the above months.

Riverkeepers:  Since it's National Rivers Month, let's give a shoutout to riverkeepers, part of a coalition of concerned citizen conservationists who have stepped in when the government has failed to protect our rivers and waterways.  If you don't know about them, it's time you should.

The Globe Theater:  Four hundred thirteen years ago today London's original Globe Theater was destroyed when a cannon used in a performance of Shakespeare's Henry V misfired and set some timbers and thatching ablaze.  According to local records no one was harmed in the fire except for one man whose "breeches" were ignited; the flaming pants were put out by pouring ale on them, which makes me wonder if his wife believed him when he got home that day.

The Globe Theater -- probably not it's original name; the name is a reference to the saying "all the world's a stage," -- was built in 1599 by the "Lord Chamberlain's Men" (Shakespeare's acting company) to replace a theater called (appropriately "The Theater") and used timbers from that theater in its construction.  It was owned by a group of six people:  Richard and Cuthbert Burbage each owned 25% of the shares, while Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, and Thomas Pope owned 12.5% each.  As new shareholders were added, these original proportions changed; Shakespeare's shares eventually added up to about 7% of the total.

The first performance on record at the new theater was Ben Jonson's Every Man Out of his Humour, although it is likely that Shakespeare's Henry V and Julius Caesar were staged earlier.

As for the theater itself, its original dimensions are unknown but research over the past two decades suggest that it was a three-story open amphitheater some hundred feet in dimension, with an apron stage situated in the southeast corner to provide some shade during hot afternoons.  The cheap "seats" were on the dirt floor where spectators paid a penny apiece and stood eating nuts while watching the performances.  (Excavations of the site revealed a layer of packed nut shells ground into the dirt floor.)  For those who wished to spend more than a penny, the three levels of the amphitheater provided stadium seating.  There was a roof over the rear portion of the stage, its ceiling painted with clouds and the sky; the ceiling was known as "the heavens" and a trap door was used there to lower actors onto the stage when needs be.

After being destroyed by fire in 1613, the theater was rebuilt the following year.  This Globe remained open until 1642 when it (and all theaters in London) was closed by the Puritans via an order from Parliament.  The second Globe was pulled down two years later to make room  for tenements.  A modern reconstruction of the Globe (called "shakespeare's Globe") was opened in 1997.  Other replicas of the Globe (the second Globe, mostly) have been built in Argentina, Germany (three of them in one form or another), Italy, Japan (two), New Zealand (a temporary pop-up theater and a more permanent one), and in eight U.S. cities in six states.

You just can't keep a good theater down.

Dead Heads and Pits:  The Grateful Dead have just released a new line of vegan deodorants.  Yes, you read that right.  The product comes in five scents:  Skull & Roses (lavender and rose), Sunshine (blood orange and bergamot), Workingmen's (cedar and juniper), Timber (Douglas Fir and sage), and Unscented.

Musical Connoisseur Toppled:  "I know only two tunes:  one of them is 'Yankee Doodle,' and the other isn't."  -- Ulysses S Grant

Poor Ulysses had a statue of him torn down by over-zealous protesters, evidently because he was a slave owner.  Except that he wasn't.  Grant was a principles abolitionist who firmly believed in emancipation.  He never owned a slave, although his wife's family were slave owners.  She also never owned a slave.  In the excitement of the moment, protesters forgot to get their facts straight.  **sigh**

Florida Man:  Florid Man does not like face masks.  Last Thursday, Florida Man Paul-Elie Daniel Duval, 37, of Miami was asked to wear a face mask at an Islamorada gift shop and did what every true-blooded Florida Man would do -- he exposed himself.  If you fail to see the correlation between the cause and the effect, the you're just not meant to be a Florida Man.  Also this week, an unnamed Florida Man appeared before the St. Lucie County commissioners meeting as they were discussing mandating face masks during this Covid-19 upsurge.  His loud rant included the statement, "I will not be muzzled like a mad dog!"  He went on, "It's time for us to stand up for our freedoms because if we stand back and let these pieces of crap handle our freedoms we'll have nothing left -- in fact, we'll end up being dead."  A bit confused there -- the purpose of wearing masks is so we don't end up being dead.  And an untold number of Florida Men and Women have been ignoring masks and social distancing, forcing the state to close down bars once again.  **sigh**  Florida may also be again closing down its beaches because of these yahoos.  (Full disclosure:  I beach for an hour or so most mornings, but we socially distance and act responsibly.  We so up between eight and nine o'clock before most people arrive, enjoy the beauty of the Gulf Coast, the glorious sounds of the waves, the white sand, and the sun, then leave.  I will miss that moment of zen if the state is forced to close the beaches,)

  • Florida Man also likes to pour things.  37-year-old Peter Wegman was arrested in Pinellas County for pouring ketchup on his sleeping girlfriend.  He denied the charges but his ketchup-stained pants said otherwise.  Florida Woman Syntheria Denise Perry, 20, of Reddick, was nabbed for pouring beer on a man and yelling at him to hit her.  She also broke the beer bottle and evidently threatened him with it.  Not a Florida Woman, but a North Carolina Woman in Florida, Roseanna Marie Kiser, 23, was arrested after pouring vodka in the eye of a boy who had splashed water on her at a pool at the Sheraton Sand Key hotel.  Decision making was not her forte -- she also kneed the arresting officer in the groin
  • And in not your typical Florida Man or Florida Woman story -- but definitely a Florida Story -- comes this news about the latest in home video.  A doorbell camera caught a woman giving birth in a parking lot.  Susan Anderson and her husband Joseph were headed to the Margate Birthing Center when her baby decided to come early.  Present at the birth were Susan and her husband, Susan's midwife, two police officers who happened to be nearby, and the doorbell camera.  No word on the homeowner's reaction when he first viewed the video.

Happy, Happy:
Kindness costs nothing, yet it is priceless.  Rudeness, hypocrisy, bigotry, and hate also cost nothing, yet it is worthless.

Today's Poem:
The Soul's Defiance

I said to Sorrow's awful storm
That beat against my breast,
"Rage on -- thou mayst destroy this form,
And lay it low at rest;
But still the spirit that now brooks
Thy tempest, raging high,
Undaunted on its fury looks
With steadfast eye."

I said to Penury's meager chain,
"Come on -- your threats I brave:
My last poor life-drop you may drain,
And crush me to the grave;
Yet still the spirit that endures
Shall mock your force the while,
And meet each cold, cold grasp of yours
With bitter smile."

I said to cold Neglect and Scorn,
"Pass on -- I need you not:
You may pursue me till my form
And being are forgot;
Yet still the spirit, which you see
Undaunted  by your wiles,
Draws from its own nobility
Its high-born smiles."

I said to Friendship's menaced blow,
"Strike deep -- my heart shall bear:
Thou canst but add one bitter woe
To those already there;
Yet still the spirit that sustains
This last severe distress
Shall smile upon its keenest pains
And scorn redress."

I said to Death's uplifted dart,
"Aim sure, -- oh, why delay?
Thou wilt not find a fearful. heart,
A weak, reluctant prey,
For still the spirit, firm and free,
Unruffled by dismay,
Wrapt in its own eternity, 
Shall pass away."

-- Lavinia Stoddard (1787-1820)

Sunday, June 28, 2020


It was 140 years ago today that one of the last (and most famous) of the Australian bushrangers, Ned Kelly, was captured in Glenrowan, ending the career of the notorious outlaw at the tender age of 25.

Ned Kelly lives on in legend and in popular culture.

Australia's annual mystery awards have been named for him.

Here's a little bit about him:


Willie Nelson.

Saturday, June 27, 2020


The Guess Who.

CLAIRE VOYANT #2 (undated, 1946)

Claire Voyant was a newspaper comic strip that ran from May 10, 1943 to November 23, 1948.  Created by Jack Sparling for the New York newspaper PM and distributed by the Chicago Sun-Times Syndicate, the strip featured the self-titled heroine who was not a psychic.

From Don Markstein's Toonopedia:

"[She] just happened to hear someone use that word [clairvoyant] in she woke up after being rescued at sea, drifting unconscious in a lifeboat, and gave that as her name because she could't remember the one she had before.

"...[Cartoonist Jack Sparling] gave her amnesia because World War II was going and he wanted to keep his options on her background open, pending how things would sort themselves out when it ended.

"The war did end. and Claire learned a lot about her earlier life.  She was Lyn Hall, a chorus girl who had been touring with the USO, when the ship she was coming home on was torpedoed by the Nazis.  She was given up for dead but, two years later, mysteriously turned up in that lifeboat.  hkints about those missing years tantalized her, but she never did fill them in.  She became a popular singer in her new life, and kept "Claire Voyant" as a stage name.

"During the war years, she busied her offstage hours with adventuring, especially at sea.  Afterward, with her usual villains now engaged in peacetime pursuits, she got more interested in soap opera plotlines...

"[T]he strip last until 1948.  Claire Voyant hasn't been seen since."

Standard Comics reissued some of the strips in a comic book, which lasted just four issues.

Issue #2 begins with Claire just missing a contact who might have shone light on her missing years.  Disappointed, she goes to talk to her friend Rodger Timberly.  She finds Roger shot dead.  Unwittingly she picks up the gun as she calls to report the crime to the police.  But the police come just then with claire standing over the body with the murder weapon in her hands.  Claire is arrested for the murder.  While Claire lingers in a cell, her friends (including mobster Hairy Harry) are compiling a lo-o-ong list of persons who may have wanted Rodger dead, including Laura Dane, Rodger's ex-girlfriend.  Showing up is Tex Huston, one of the three men who were with Claire during her missing years but Claire doesn't remember him.  Finally, Claire's alibi is proven and she is released, only to be kidnapped by the real murderer.  And so it goes.

As eye candy, Claire is a raven-haired beajuty with a Veronica Lake hairdo and a rather sexy fashion sense.


Friday, June 26, 2020


Happy birthday, Chris Isaak!


Hades by Lester Dent (1936)

Alexander Titus wa a standout at the 1932 Olympics but he refused to cash in on his glory.  Now, four years later and living in a cheap rooming house with his best friend Haw Gooch, Titus is nearly broke and needs money to finish his final year of medical school.  Following a visit to the unemployment office, Titus is approach by film producer Roger P. Quinlan, who wants to hire him as a bodyguard.  When you hire Titus, you also hire Haw.  Quinlan agrees and, although refusing to say exactly what he was afraid of, is soon settled safely in Titus' rooming house.

Safely?  That night when someone sneaks into Titus' room, Titus tackles the intruder and discovers that he is a she -- a very gorgeous, very angry she.  Just then screams are heard from Quinlan's room.  Rushing there, Titus finds Quinlan in flames.  Titus extinguishes Quinlan although the fire continues and eventually burns the building.  Quinlan has a few minor burns and Titus' intruder has vanished.

Quinlan comes up with a fantastic story.  He has literally gone down to hell and has accidently released a demon.  Hell, it seems is located through a cave at the foot of the Superstitions Mountains of Death Valley.  Quinlan claims to have made a film of his journey and has also retrieved some unusual rocks that he had filmes as proof of his claim.  A copy of the film lies with movie distributor Carl Brockman.  When Titus shows up at Brockman's house, the distributor is dead, burned.  Titus calls the police and soon finds himself arrested because the cops have a recording of Brockman saying that Titus was on his way to kill him.

Titus' beautiful intruder then shows up to give him an alibi.  She is Lea Vale, an actress who is one of four of  Quinlan's crew of stock actors.  The others are aged cowboy Tiny Quigg, a cigar-smoking amazon named Herculena Johnson, and large-footed voice actor Thomas Town.  Soon Lea is arrested with Titus as an accessory and the two are taken away in a patrol car.  Titus gets angry and knocks out the five policemen in the car (he is very large and very strong), and escapes with Lea.  Titus and Haw reunited with Quinlan and his four actors.  Quinlan, however, seems to have gone insane, saying that he demon needs a human sacrifice.  He pulls a gun and escapes with Lea and Town, intending to make them the sacrifice.

The demon itself is a green, glowing, large amorphous blob whose blood is a greenish acid.  Titus has seen the demon several times and once impaled it with a lance to no effect.  In addition to the demon, there is a gang of human neer-dowells -- someone had taken rifle shots at Titus and Haw and someone was responsible for the anonymous phone calls to the police linking Titus and Lea to Brockman's  murder.

Skince Titus, in his home-spun Missouri way, has decided that Lea is the woman he is going to marry, he heads to Death Valley and the cave entrance to hell with haw, Herculena, and Town.  Titus is determined to save Lea.  Near the mouth of the cave, Herculena and Town are arrested by a phoney sheriff and his "deputies."  The deputies are searching the area for our two heroes, determined to kill them.

Since this is a pulp novel, all ends well in this moderately humorous thriller.  Hades first appeared as a three-part serial in Argosy magazine on December 5, 12, and 19, 1936, and was Dent's first appearance in that magazine.  Street and Smith had hired Lawrence Donovan as a backup to Dent for the Doc Savage novels when they planned to take Doc Savage to a twice a month basis; the scheme fell through but not before Donovan had turned in nine Doc Savage novels, giving Dent the time needed to write for other markets.  Argosy was a higher-class pulp and demanded more careful writing; Dent would publish three novels in the magazine before moving on to other markets while still devoting the majority of his time to Doc Savage.

Hades had a lot of the Doc Savage flavor, though Titus, as a hero, was an "ordinary" guy and did not rely on super-gadgets, unlimited funds, and an encyclopedic knowledge of everything as did Doc Savage.  Titus was the same height and weight as his creator, Dent, and had red hair.  Instead of having five assistant, Titus had Haw -- a former boxer, short but as wide as he was tall, and able to come up with old jokes that he thought he had made up at a moment's notice.  Both titus and Doc Sa age have "cabled" muscles.  As I mentioned above, this is a moderately humorous thriller.  Not ha-ha-laugh-out-loud humorous, but more of a lighter humor that that does not interfere (much) with the fast-paced action.

Never one to let ideas go away, Dent later incorporated elements of Hades into two Doc Savage novels, The Mystic Mullah and Up from Earth's CenterHades was later reprinted in an omnibus volume with another Argosy serial, 1937's HocusPocus, in 1979 by Pulp Press, a small publishing house founded by Roy Walsh and Robert Weinburg.

An enjoyable and mystifying read occasionally marked by typos and strange sentences, Hades will leave you wondering if the demons are real.  This one is top-notch Dent.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


Here's some early recording by rock stars, some deservedly underappreciated and some not so.

Neil Young,, "It's My Time."  It was 1966 and Young had just joined the Toronto band Mynah Birds.  Also members of the group were Rick James, Goldie McJohn (Steppenwolf), and Bruce Palmer (Buffalo Springfield).  This tune was recorded by VIP Records (a Motown subsidiary) but was not released until 40 years later.

Sly Stone, "'You've Forgotten Me."  Sly was still a teenager when he fronted the Bay area band The Viscaynes as "Danny [Sly] Stewart and recorded this bit of doo-wop, circa 1961.

Stephen Sills, "High Flying Bird/"  The Au Go Go Singers were a nine-member folk ensemble in 1964.  Also in the group was Richie furay (Buffalo Springfield).

Simon and Garfunkel, "Hey, School Girl."  In 1957, the duo were known as Tom & Jerry when they recorded this.  Back in those days, they also did a lot of demos and issued singles under a number of aliases.

Art Garfunkel, "Beat Love."  This one is from 1959 under the name "Artie Garr,"

Paul Simon, The Lone Teen Ranger."  In 1962, Paul Simon used the name Jerry Landis on this song with Tico and the Triumphs.

Lou Reed, "Merry-Go-Round."  He was still Lewis, rather than Lou, in 1962 when he recorded this unreleased song in 1962.

Procol Harum, "Poison Ivy."  The Paramounts released this cover of The Coasters' hit in 1963.  Members of the Paramounts included future Procol Harum members Gary Booker, Robin Trower, Chris Coppin, and B. J. Wilson.

Roger McGuinn, "Beach Ball."  McGuinn co-wrote and played guitar on this single from the City Surfers in 1963.

Cass Elliot & Denny Doherty, John Sebastian & Zal Yanovsky, "I Don't Wanna Know."  The future members of The Mamas and The Papas and The Lovin' Spoonful, along with Jim Hendricks (who later formed the Lamp of Childhood and wrote "Summer Rain" for Johnny Rivers) were The Mugwumps.  After their later groups made it big, Warner Brothers released their only album, sans John Sebastian in 1967.  Sebastian did sing in this 1964 single, though.

Jimi Hendrix, "Testify."  This 1964 outing with The Isley Brothers may have been Hendrix's first recording. (the other contender for Hendrix's first recording is "My Dairy," a song recorded with Rosa Lee Brooks.")


From March 25, 1981, come this tale of an American couple who "swap" homes with an Austrian couple for a year.  They did not realize that the remote home in Austria harbors both a terrible secret and an unfriendly creature.

Don Scardino, Jennifer Harmon, Robert Dryden, and Joan Shay star in this tale written by Ian Martin and directed by Himan Brown.  E. G. Marshall is your host.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020


So they tried to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson.  I'm not really in favor that of that but I think a national discussion on that and many other issues is long overdue.  In case you are wondering what people have against our seventh president, this song explains some of it.

Here's Billy Prine & Michael Dinallo.


H. Rider Haggard's fantastic novel was first filmed in 1899 as a short, Haggard's She:  The Pillar of Fire.  Four years later the book was filmed once more as a short, The Mystical Flame.  Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, returned in two more shorts, both titled She, in 1908 and 1911.  Over the years, seven more movies with the same title appeared, in 1916, 1917, 1925, 1935, 1965, 1984, and 2001, as well as being the title character in 1968's The Vengeance of She.  As a character and as a story, She has been very popular.  Lads from my age still remember fondly Ursula Andress' turn as the ageless sorceress in the 1965 version.

Perhaps the most faithful adaptation of the novel was the 1925 film, with titles written by Haggard himself.  The British-German flick was directed by Leander de Cedorva (with an uncredited assist from G. B. Samuelson) and was shot in a Zeppelin hanger in Berlin.

Leo Vincy (Carlyle Blackwell, Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo [1915], Bulldog Drummond [1922], der Hund von Baskerville [1929] learns from a dying uncle that an ancestor of his discovered a lost kingdom some 500 years before -- a kingdom that held the secret of immortality.  Vincy decides to find the lost city of Kor with his best friend Horace Holly (Heinrich George, a German actor with 79 credits on IMDb; he died in a Soviet Special Camp in Brandenburg Germany, in 1946).  They discover that Kor is ruled by Ayesha (Betty Blythe, The Queen of Sheba [1921], The Scarlet Letter [1934], The Spanish Cape Mystery [1935], an immortal queen who discovers that Vincy is the reincarnation of a former lover.

Sadly several reels from the original film are missing, making the resulting copy kind of herky-jerky.  Fear not, red-blooded American males, for this lack is made up for by another lack, this time of modesty.  Betty Blythe was one of the first matinee idols to appear nude on film.  In several films as a matter of fact.  She isn't nude in this one but she does wear a transparent cellophane bra that leaves nothing to the imagination.  So let's hear one for pre-Code movies.

Enjoy this early lost race fantasy.

Monday, June 22, 2020


Paul McCartney and Wings.


Openers:  I take no credit for my share in the strange affair o
f the Crowfield murder.  Chance, and a somewhat churlish invitation from my friend, Kenneth Darent, took me to the village, and a series of accidents, rather than any shrewdness on my part, led me ultimately to the solution of the problem, where other and better brains had been baffled.

-- Walter S. Masterman, The Perjured Alibi (1935)

The narrator is Dennis Tracy, a somewhat bored, lonely man of "lazy habits and modest tastes."  It's august and the heat of the city is unbearable so Tracey decides to take up an offer from a friend he hadn't seen in the five years since they both de-mobbed from the same regiment.  The Kenneth Darent of now turns out to be much different from the man Tracey remembers.  He is bitter and an alcoholic, living on a neglected estate.  Tracey happens to arrive on the eve of the wedding between Margorie Browne, with whom Darent is in love, and John Barton, a wealthy local.  Barton is hosting a pre-wedding party and Darent storms out of his house in anger to confront Barton at the party.  alcohol was heavily involved.  Darent returns covered in blood, having discovered Barton's beaten body.

Tracy believes his friend when he proclaims his innocence, but the evidence is strongly against Darent.  Although Tracey has fabricated an alibi for Darent, the man is arrested.  By this time Tracey has become enamored with Margorie.  Should Tracey perjure himself with the false alibi, or should he come clean and perhaps let his friend be found guilty?  Which path would increase his chances with the lovely Margorie?

A flawed book which, according to JJ in his review on his The Invisible Event blog, tends to fall apart in the last forty or so pages as the book morphs into "a sort of late-Victorian melodrama, complete with a Macguffin that Masterman puts in purely because what he had planned was too obvious and so he wanted to mix it up."  The novel, according to JJ, "rattles along, is full of distinct thumbnail-sketch characters -- including a man who is accused of murder who is, frankly, an arse of the highest order and all the more wonderful a creation for it -- has sufficient conflict and interest to motivate its actions, and it even manages a non-mawkish love story.  The shame of it is getting to the end and going, 'Oh, so the plot of the book is...hang on is that it?!'."

Masterman (1876-1946) seems to have blundered through life before he became an author.  He ;published 26 books in the mystery, fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres between 1926 and 1942 -- 25 of those books are now available from Ramble House (not available is a 1932 collaboration with L. Patrick Greene, Murder Beacon).

Colin Salter, whose great-great-grandmother's brother was Masterman's grandfather, offers up this short biography from a distant branch of his family tree, including Masterman's three-year prison stint for embezzlement.  When Masterman was released in 1925, employment was out of his reach so he turned to writing.

Father's Day:   Not my father.  Not Kitty's.  Probably not yours.  For the day after Father's Day here's a story about a man, a son, a generational divide, and neckties.

"My Father's Ties" by Recaredo Veredas, translated from the Spanish by Kit Maude:

Here Comes Summer:

Tulsa Rally:  So Trump held a rally in Tulsa, accerbated racial tensions, lied about peaceful protesters, poo-pooed the corona virus pandemic, tried to explain away his two-handed drinking of a glass of water, lied about Joe Biden, lied about the crowd size of the much less-than-filled 19,000 seat auditorium, lied about the economy, lied about the future, lied about everything else, and strutted his stuff about like an old-fashioned, racially tone-deaf snake-oil salesman.

His base loved it, albeit his base is shrinking ever so slightly.

Despite his standard claim of not knowing anything about it, it was Trump who gave the order to fire Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman because of his "bullshit investigations" (Rudy Giuliani's term) into Trump's organization, his friends, his family, and Giuliani.

I'm sure his base loved that, too.


Happy Birthday!:  To Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose focus while in office has been consumer protection, economic opportunity, and the social safety net.  The one-time Republican who has become a bane to the far-right, is on the short list to become the vice-presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket.

A Few More Birthdays:

  • Henry Rider Haggard (1856- 1925) was a popular novelist whose adventure stories and historical romances are still read today.  Best known for King Solomon's Mines (1885), which introduced his long-running hero Allan Quatermain, who appeared in fourteen novels.  Also very popular was his next novel, She:  A History of Adventure, which introduced Ayesha ("She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed"), a beautiful sorceress who had discovered the secret of eternal life; Ayesha appeared in three follow-up novels, two of which also featured Quatermain.  In all, Haggard published 56 novels, including Cleopatra (1889), The World's Desire (with Andrew Lang, 1890), and When the World Shook (1919).  Three collections of short stories were also published.  Beginning in 1875 Haggard spent six years in South Africa which helped provide the background of many of his stories; his first published book was Cetywayo and His White Neighbors (1882), a critical look at British policies in South Africa.  Nine nonfiction books followed, including an autobiography; most of these books dealt with his interests in agricultural and social reform.  He was awarded knighthood in 1912 and, in 1919, become a Knight Commander in the Order of the British Empire.  Haggard is considered one of the early founders of modern imaginative fiction and King Solomon's Mines is considered by many to be the first modern "lost race" novel.  A product of his times, Haggard has been criticized for promoting negative stereotypes of non-Europeans.  His work endures however, influencing popular culture from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Indiana Jones.
  • Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) was a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards and the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.  At the urging of Harlan Ellison, she attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop where she met fellow African-American writer Samuel R. Delaney, who became a life-long friend.  She then immediately sold her first two stories -- one to the 1971 Clarion anthology and the other to Harlan Ellison for his legendary (and still unpublished) The Last Dangerous Visions.  There then followed a five-year drought.  In 1976 Butler published her first novel, Patternmaster, the first of five books in a series about the transformation of the human race into three genetic groups dominated by the powerful telepathic Patternists.  Kindred (1979) takes an African-American woman back in time to early 19th century slave-state Maryland.  In 1984 her story "Speech Sounds" won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.  The following year, her story "Bloodchild" won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and the Science Fiction Chronicle reader awards for best science fiction Novelette.  Her "Exogenesis Trilogy" (1987-1989) explores genetically altered hybrid humans and the theme of isolation.  Her novels The Parable of the Sower (1993) and The parable of the Talents (1998) are dystopian novels set in an America destroyed by corporate greed, the income gap, and the destruction of the environment.  A common theme throughout her work is "hierarchical behavior that can lead to racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, and all the other 'isms' that cause so much suffering in this world."  Butler died falling onto a cobbled walkway and striking her head; it is unclear whether she had a fatal stroke before falling, or had it as the result of her fall.  Her work remains powerful, highly readable, and influential.
  • Bruce Campbell's chin (b. 1958) was featured in the autobiography If Chins Could Kill:  Confessions of a B Movie Actor (2002).  Some remember Campbell as the star of television shows The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Burn Notice, as well as recurring roles in Jack of All Trades, Ellen, Hercules:  The Legendary Journeys, and Xena:  Warrior Princess.  Campbell may be best known for the character Ash Williams in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, a role reprised in the television series Ash vs Evil Dead, which ran for three seasons.  He also played an aging Elvis Presley in the film version of Joe R. Lansdale's Bubba Ho-Tep, directed by Don Coscarelli.  
  • Erin Brockovich (b. 1960) is a lawyer and environmental activist who was instrumental in building the case against Pacific Gas and Electric for contaminating the drinking water in Hinckley, California.  That case, and Brockovich became famous through the award-winning 2000 Steven Soderbergh film Erin Brockovich.  Brockovich has continued her work as a consumer advocate and environmental activist and good for her.

Florida Man:  This appeared yesterday on

Sometime I will tell you about granddaughter Amy who -- when she was very, very young -- was upset for several days because her invisible friend refused to talk to her.

Da Good Stuff:

Something to Remember:  "A day at the beach is never lost time.  When the warm grains of sand touch our hearts, we know we're in the right place."  --

Today's Poem:
Sumer Is Icumen In

Sumer is icumnen in
[Summer has arrived]
Lhude sing cuccu
[Loudly sing, Cuckoo!]
Groweb seb
[The seed is growing]
and bloweb med
[And the meadow is blooming,]
and springb be wde nu
[And the wood is coming into leaf  now,]
Sing cuccu
[Sing cuckoo!]

Awe bleptb after lomb
[The ewe is bleating after her lamb,]
lhboub after calue cu
[The cow is lowing after her calf,]
Bullic steretb
[The bullock is prancing.]
bucke urteb
[The billy-goat farting,*]
murie sing cuccu
[Sing merrily, cuckoo!]

Cuccu cuccu
[Cuckoo, cuckoo,]
Wel singes bu cuccu
[You sing well. cuckoo,]
ne swik bu nauer nu
[Never stop now.]

Sing cuccu nu - sing cuccu
[Sing, cuckoo, now; sing, cuckoo;]
Sing cuccu - sing cuccu nu
[Sing, cuckoo; sing, cuckoo now.]

-- mid-13th century round

*or, "the stag cavorting"

And here's the song, performed by the vocal group Foremost Four:

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Here's a vintage song of summer by Brian Hyland.  Hopefully the girl social-distanced once she came out of the locker.

VIC VERITY MAGAZINE #1 (undated, 1945)

How about something "AMAZINGLY NEW AND DIFFERENT!!"?  Well, at least a comic book that strains to be educational.  How educational?  Hey, the publisher claims that the Vic Verity stories were written by an actual high school teacher,,,so, that educational.  To be frank, I'm not sure that high school teachers in 1945 were that tuned into their students.  Vic Verity Magazine might be as science-based as a 1926 edition of Amazing Stories, with just a modicum of knowledge squeezed in to a hodge-podge of illogic to please parents.

From the inside front cover:



"VIC VERITY MAGAZINE is something new in comics.  The stories are fiction, but they are based in reality, and told in a dynamic entertaining way.  'Vic Verity," himself, is a typical high school boy whom you might find in your own homes and schools.  In order to keep these stories true to actual high school events and characters, the editors of VIC VERITY MAGAZINE have selected an actual high school teacher, Mr. Ellis D. Brown, to write them.

" 'HOT-SHOT GALAVAN,' the mighty electronic mite, is a live-wire character taken from the world of Science.  He is a cartoon characterization of the electron -- one of the fundamental parts of the Universe.  In charming little adventure stories, this amusing character interprets the basic laws of electricity simply, humorously and accurately.  These stories are supplied us by by a recognized author of technical books which have been used by the U. S. Army and Navy in their training programs, Mr. Colin H. McIntosh, Assistant Superintendent of Flying School Operations, American Airlines, Inc.

"Perhaps the most fantastic appearing characters in VIC VERITY MAGAZINE are 'Tom Travis and the Tiny People,' but they are not merely a wild flight of the writer's or artist's imagination,  The characters and stories all have their setting in that world of smallness in Nature that exists right in your own, or anyone's, back yard.  The huge plants, the giant insects, the strange-looking backgrounds that you will discover in these stories are all drawn from actual objects as seen under a microscope.  Much research, field trips to collect specimens, and several volumes of technical reference books are used in the preparation of each 'Tiny People' story.

"We hope all of you will enjoy reading the stories in VIC VERITY MAGAZINE as much as pur writers and artists have enjoyed creating them for you.

"The Editors"

The Vic Verity story in this premiere issue has Vic's pals trying to save his Uncle George's hotel when his chef suddenly left in the middle of the tourist season.  Educationally, we learn how not to cook things.  We also learn that American citizenship can only be issued by the government.  And it's good that high schools offer a course in commando tactics.

I suppose the Hot-Shot Galavan story has some fundamental of electricity in it, but the lesson is lost among a muddled story, overly-simplified and cartoonish particles, and the fact that the protons were all sexy babes.  Ptah!

As for Tom Travis, the story is about a race of half-inch tall people who live in our lawns.   Tom himself is a Tarzan-like character who does the right thing although it earns the wrath of his tribal chieftain.  Nothing portrayed is what is seen under a microscope, all is available via the naked eye.  We do learn, falsely, that the surface tension from a drop of water might drown a half-inch fellow.  Also, that the Tiny People reflect the sexism of the time.

Also included is a one-page humorous splash of "farm cartoons," a one-page text story where Vic and pals explain the importance of staying in school, and a two-page text story by Chicago-based pulp writer Carl G. Hodges.  (Off topic, I really enjoyed his 1951 paperback novel Naked Villainy, which combined murder with a lot of naked ladies and the "Tuckerizing" of a number of Chicago pulp writers.  I wouldn't mind re-reading that one again.)

Vic Verity Magazine managed to squeak by seven issues, ending in September 1946.  Wonder why?

Friday, June 19, 2020


Here are two Juneteenth songs from the Season 4 premiere episode of Black-ish.

"We Built This"



John Brown's Body by Stephen Vincent Benet (1927)

Today is Juneteenth, the day to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States.  On this date in 1865, the last American slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas, when General Gordon Granger read the federal orders that all enslaved persons in the state of Texas were now free.

America's Civil War was a bloody and tragic affair where social, economic, racial, moral forces inevitably clashed.  It was not a war about state's rights, it was not a war of "Northern aggression," it was a war about slavery, pure and simple.  Well, maybe not so simple.  It was also a war that, in theory, could propel our country closer to the ideals of a democracy.  It was a war that had heroes and villains on both sides -- heroes rightly or wrongly defending their homes and a way of life, villains espousing hatred and bigotry and lacking a moral compass.

Winning a war and winning a peace are two separate things.  Reconstruction, for many, became another word for revenge.  Over the post-war years, groups formed that committed horrific acts of terror.  "Strange fruit" hung from trees.  Yet the North had won and the South had lost and by the 1920s, veterans of both sides realized that this was their last chance to cement their differing legacies.  The Confederate battle flag, seldom used or flown during the five years of the Confederacy, became an important symbol of the South.  Southern women raised money to erect statues of Southern military heroes in an attempt to support Jim Crow laws  And in the late Twenties, an idealistic poet tried to make sense of it all.

Stephen Vincent Benet knew that America was made of a fabric of people, some good, some bad, and most just trying to get along.  For him, America was a melting pot and its plurality was its strength.  Its people, from all corners of the country, were what made America great.  And its people were what would help America continue on its democratic, progressive path.  Benet had won the first ever Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry in 1926.  He went to Paris (because the money would last longer there) and began to write his epic poem.  It took him two years, but he finished John Brown's Body, an epic poems of some 15,000 lines, a work that put him alongside other American poets such as Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman.  John Brown's Body won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1929.

With the Civil War as a background, Benet explores the tapestry of America, using various well-drawn characters from opposing sides and classes.  While abolitionist/martyr John Brown is a guiding light through the epic, the character is left behind about a third of the way through the book.  Abraham Lincoln becomes both hope and salvation.  Benet, like Lincoln, views the bloody war as a necessary evil, something that had to endured so that something better would emerge from the crucible.

The very first lines of the poem clarify Benet's thesis:

"American muse, whose strong an diverse heart
So many men have tried to understand
But only made it smaller with their art,
Because you are as various as the land,

"As mountainous-deep, as flowered with blue rivers,
Thirsty with deserts. buried under snows,
As native as the shape of Navajo quivers,
And native, too, as the sea-voyaged rose,

"Swift runner, never captured or subdued,
Seven-branched elk beside the mountain stream,
That half a hundred hunters have pursued,
But never matched their bullets with the dream,

"But where the great huntsmen have failed, I set my sorry
And mortal snare for your immortal quarry."

Benet treats his subject and characters with respect and honor because their hopes and aspirations are what will keep this country on the path forward.

John Brown's Body is a humanistic and optimistic expression of the American dream through its tragic past.  It is an enlightening, positive and hopeful work.  It is the type of book I needed right now.

The popularity of the book has lessened over the years.  And that's a shame.

Thursday, June 18, 2020


Son-in-law Walt is celebrating his birthday today.

Walt is a quiet, funny guy who brooks no nonsense.  he has been a cabinet maker, an ambulance driver, an EMT, an emergency room tech, a computer consultant, a Homeland Security consultant, and is presently working for the Air Force in some sort of high-tech position I can't tell you about even if I knew.  He's been known to make some great miniature trebuchets.  He's turned his hobby of making soap into a business and makes some of the best soaps around, IMHO.  He's a fantastic nature photographer, a kayaker, and an animal lover.  He really loves dog but was surprised to learn lately that cats can be pretty neat.  Also pretty neat is his large tegu South American lizard.  He likes camping and hiking and having home projects to work on.

He also likes Christina.  Very much.  And their three kids.

Walt is just an all-round good guy whom everybody likes and respects.

While Walt may be celebrating his birthday today, we're just celebrating Walt.


From 1931, Wayne King & His Orchestra, vocal by Ernie Birchill.


Nicholas Boilvin Harris (1882-1943) was a famous detective in the early twentieth century.  His career began as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times where he solved many of the most notorious crimes in California.  In 1904, at the suggestion of  L.A.P.D. Captain A. J. Bradish, he joined the police force.  Two years later, he left the force to form the Nick Harris Detective Agency, which became one of the premier detective agencies in the country and continues to this day.  Harris also started the Nick Harris Detective Academy.

Harris has been credited with creating the phrase "Crime doesn't pay." 

Harris' national reputation grew to the point where it was decided to begin a radio program based on "true" cases from his files.  The show ran from 1934 into the 1940s.  Most episodes have been lost to time.  Of the few that remain is this one, which was a follow-up to the previous week's episode, "The Avenging Angel."


Tuesday, June 16, 2020


It's World Giraffe Week!  So how about a circus song?


Jack Hoxie (1885-965), the silent film star of over a hundred westerns, plays Jack Meadows, who, with his comic sidekick Toby (Frank Rice) find a sheriff shot dead, the only clue being a broken horse shoe print.  Here, "in the high places near the Canadian border where mystery and romance are wont to dwell," the duo face a gang of whiskey smugglers and meet the sheriff's lovely daughter (Marin Sais, who was Howie's wife at the time).

Hoxie's fame faded with the advent of the talkies.  His rodeo and athletic skills served him well in the silents, but the fact that he was uneducated and had great difficulty reading scripts hampered his later career.  Marin Sais (1890-1971) was Hoxie's third wife, following bit actress Dixie Starr and trick rider Hazel Panky; Sais and Hoxie divorced after six years of marriage.  Notably, Sais played Calamity Jane in the 15-part Deadwood Dick movie serial mentioned on this blog yesterday.

Enjoy this silent western.

Monday, June 15, 2020


I was never car crazy, or surf crazy, or California crazy, but I did like this group.


Openers:  On the plains, midway between Cheyenne and the Black Hills, a train had halted for a noonday feed.  Not a railroad train, mind you, but a line of those white-covered vehicles drawn by strong-limbed mules, which are most properly styled "prairie schooners."

There were four wagons of this type. and they had been drawn in a circle about a camp-fire, over which was roasting a savory haunch of venison.  Around the campfire were grouped half a score of men. all rough, bearded, and grizzled, with one exception.  This being a youth whose age one could have safely put at twenty, so perfectly developed of physique and intelligence of facial appearance was he.  There was something about him that was not handsome, and yet you would have been puzzled to tell what it was, for his counternance was strikingly handsome, and surely no form in the crown was more notable for its grace, symmetry, and proportional development.  It would have taken a scholar to have studied out the secret.

He was of about medium stature, and as straight and square-shouldered as an athlete.  His complexion was nut-brown, from long exposure to the sun; hair of hue of the raven's wing, and hanging in l ong, straight strands adown his back; eyes black and piercing as an eagle's; features well molded, with a firm, resolute mouth and prominent chin.  He was an interesting specimen of young, healthy manhood, and, even though a youth in years, was one that could command respect, if not admiration, wheresoever he might choose to go.

--Edward L. Wheeler, Deadwood Dick:  The Prince of the Road; or, The Black Rider of the Black Hills (1877)

Wheeler created the famous western character for a theater troupe he managed in Philadelphia.   He later took the character as the hero of a series of dime novels, starting with this one in Beadle's Half-dime Library.  Of the roughly 100 novels wheeler wrote, 33 of them featured Deadwood Dick, and  almost half of those included Calamity Jane, a real-life Old West entertainer -- as a character.

Wheeler's character soon took on a life of its own.  As Deadwood Dick's popularity grew, a number of people who actually lived in Deadwood, South Dakota, adopted the name. among them Frank Palmer, a gambler who claimed he was the original "Deadwood Dick," Nat Love, an African-American cowboy and hero of Joe R. Lansdale's tales about Deadwood Dick and portrayed by Ernie Hudson in the 1996 film The Cherokee Kid, and Richard Bullock, a gunman and bullion guard on the Deadwood Stage .  Other who have taken the name include actors Dick Brown and Richard Clarke, stage coach driver Richard Cole, Richard Palmer, and Robert Dickey.

A 1940 15-part western serial had actor Donald Douglas take the title role as Deadwood Dick.  As chuffed as that makes me, I have to admit it is not a great serial*, although the appearance of Roy Barcroft and Yakima Canutt in minor roles pulls the work up a notch.  The serial pits Deadwood Dick (actually Dick Stanley, a pioneering newspaper editor and proponent for statehood, against a masked figure known only as The Skull, who wants Dakota to become his own little empire.  Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok both have roles in this oater.  It took fifteen chapters and "about forty choreographed fights" to bring the saga to a close.  Interestingly, there are stories that the producers wanted a Black actor to play the title role (a la Nat Love) but settled for the white version portrayed by Wheeler in the dime novels.  (I have no idea if this is true, but it also echoes today's climate.)

23 of Wheeler's Deadwood Dick novels, as well as 41 other western dime novels by Wheeler, are archived at Northern Illinois University.  Follow the link:

*  Others do not agree, call it fast pace, inventive, and and genuinely entertaining.

Juneteenth:  Juneteenth, or June 19, celebrates the day that the last enslaved American were freed when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on that day in 1865 with the news that the war had ended and the slaves were free.  It is one of the most significant days in American history and one that seemed to fade into the background for many years, resurging during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  Its popularity is rightly on the rise and is a time for celebration, exploration, and reflection.  Recreational activities, prayer services, and guest speakers are all part of the day's celebrations, as is food.  Lots of food.  Strawberry flavored soda is often associated with Juneteenth, as are barbecues.

Here's a little bit of background on Juneteenth:

In 1921, a white mob attacked the Black enclave of Tulsa in an act of cowardice and hate, killing some 300 people (probably more), destroying homes and businesses, and leaving thousands homeless.  It is one of the most shameful acts in American history, which has been laden with too many shameful acts.  With much of the country coming together to protest the killing of George Floyd and the systemic racism in this country, Juneteenth events should be part of a learning and healing process.  Instead President Trump decided to throw some raw meat to his lowest supporters and announced a speech and rally scheduled for Juneteenth in Tulsa.  Tacky does not begin to describe it.

Some of Trump's advisors have managed to talk him into re-scheduling the appearance to June 20 -- the day after Juneteenth.  I suppose that is less a slap in the face than the original planned date, but it still brings attention to the fact that our country's leader is continuing on a racist course of division.  It still is a slap in face of all of us, whatever color, who yearn for America to live up to its stated goal of justice for all.

Can November come too soon?

Anxious?:  Since the beginning of the pandemic a local church has had this sign out front:  "Anxious?  Afraid?  Need to talk?  Call me on my cell [local phone number given]."  This impresses me each time I drive by the sign.  I don't know if this pastor is offering comfort or his own style of bible thumping (I hope the former) but this points out a basic truth.  We are social animals.  We need to connect and never more so than in times of crisis.  As everybody's grandmother used to say, "A problem shared is a problem halved."

Magna Carta:  On this date in 1215 England's King John put his seal to the Magna Carta.  Back then it was known as the Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of Freedoms) and was essential a peace treaty between the king and rebellious barons.  As with most peace treaties, it was essentially ignored by all parties.  Despite being was annulled by Pope Innocent III, the document was a beginning of a constitutional style of government.

In 2016, following John's death, the regency of young King Henry III reissued the document, striking out some of its more onerous clauses in the hopes of gaining support for the crown.  The following year the document, now known as the Magna Carta, formed part of the peace treaty of the First Barons War.  The Charter was reissued in 1225 by Henry in exchange for a promise of new taxes.  Edward I renewed it in 1297 as part of England's statue law.  For the most part, it was then renewed by each monarch in turn, although after the fledgling Parliament began to pass new laws, its significance lessened.

At the end of the 16th century and into the 17th centuries, English jurists began to use the document as an argument against the divine right of kings.  Over the centuries, popular thought had it that the document protected ancient personal liberties of the English citizenry rather than being concerned with the rights of the king and his medieval barons.  It was this populist myth that helped form the American Constitution, as well as those of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the former Union of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.  Actually, by the nineteenth century most of the articles of the Magna Carta had been repealed or superseded by later law.

The Magna Carta, through its many fits and starts, is a foundation of personal liberty and democracy.  As such, its importance can not be diminished.  America would not be America without the influence of the evolving Magna Carta.

Oops!:  As if 2020 was not weird enough, Poland accidentally invaded the Czech Republic this month.  Polish soldiers unknowingly crossed the border where they began stopping Czech citizens.  Both countries acknowledge the mix-up and feathers remain unruffled.

And the French, bless them, determined last month that the gender of the word COVID-19 is feminine, putting an end to a heated debate of whether to use le or la before the word.  Viva la Covid-19!  Wait.  No. no.  Don't use that sentence!

As bad as 2020 has been, it might not be as bad as some 45 to 50 million years ago where the seas were host to giant, saber-toothed anchovies!  These anchovies were about three feet long and had sharp, jagged teeth on their lower jaw.  Not recommended to be put on Jurassic pizza.

And last month Tennessee proved to be a disaster magnet for food.  Forty-thousand pounds of mac and cheese spilled out over the roadway when a trailer truck over turned.  Just a day earlier, a truck carrying chicken and a truck carrying pumpkin pies each caught fire in the Volunteer State.

And a man in Thailand has been arrested for stealing 126 pairs of flip-flops so he could have sex with them.  I can imagine that 126 Thais have told police not to return their stolen shoes to them after that.

And in Russia, a twenty-something nurse in a male coronavirus ward has been reprimanded for wearing just a bikini under her transparent PPE wear.   Another nurse said the woman managed to raise her patients' moods with the revealing outfit.  That was most likely not all she raised.

Happy Birthday, Saul!:  Today is the birthday of New Yorker artist/cartoonist Saul Steinberg (1914-1999), whose pen and ink drawings subtly skewed American life.  The link takes you to a large sampling of his work.  You're welcome.

Florida Man:  

  • Florida Man and Pastor of Mount Tabor Ministries outside Opa-Locka Burnice Mikell, 64, punched the President of a local Rotary club which was distributing free food in the same area.  The Rotarian, Felipe Madrigal, had evidently arranged a donation from one of the church's deacons without the knowledge of the pastor.  When Madrigal showed u at the church to collect the food, the pastor thought he was there to donate to his food drive.  When he realized what had happened, the pastor started swinging, knocking Madrigal out sold.  There's no word on whether the Rotarian turned the other cheek so the pastor could take a swing at that one, too.
  • Florida Man and hospital worker Franz Beldonin, 23, swore that he is innocent of sucking on am elderly female patient's toes.  The incident took place at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers.  Beldonin told a local news outlet, "It makes me look crazy...or, like, creepy, and I'm not...I'm not that type of dude."
  • Florida Man Dorleans Philidor, 33, was in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, charged with burglary and grand theft when he decided to go into the Flordai Man Hall of Fame.  Philidor pooped in open court and threw his feces at the judge.  Then it got weird.  He yelled at the judge,"It's protein!  It's good for you!"  Then he proceeded to eat his own feces.  Ugh.  Curiously he was acquitted of the burglary charge.
  • Florida Man Shaun Michaelson, 41, wanted to be "a good father," so he let a 12-year-old girl drive his SUV through the streets of Jupiter after midnight.  A local policeman spotted the car making an illegal U-turn and the ensuing chase reached 85 mile and hour in a 45 mile an houor zone.  The girl told the officer that Michaelson told her to speed.  Michaelson, "the good father," is not related to the girl.  In addition to being charges with child neglect and letting an unauthorized person drive his vehicle, Michaelson was also charged sing a minor to become a delinquent by buying her a vape pen.  She had asked for the vape pen, Michaelson said.  She had also asked to drive the vehicle, according to Michaelson.  Alcohol was involved.
  • Palm Bay Florida Man Thomas Morgan, 57, was charged with attempted murder and felony animal cruelty merely because he fired several shots at his sister, held a gun to her head, and killed the pet bird sitting on her shoulder.  File this one under Florida Family Time.
  • Florida Man Howard Harlib went to Oregon to swindle the Mill Casino in North Bend out of $12,500 by claiming he could book The Village People at the casino.  Harlib, who has a history of scams and frauds dating back to 1992, pleaded guilty to the wire fraud case.  The Village People, by the way, were appearing in Florida on the date Harlib had booked them for North Bend.  The YMCA musical group denied having any knowledge of the Florida scammer.

On the Other Hand, Here's Some Good News:
In the midst of COVID-19, the fight for racial equality, murder hornets, and giant saber-toothed anchovies, ordinary people are working every day -- in ways  both large and small -- to make this world a better place for future generations.

Today's Poem:

Nothing changes if nothing changes
Nothing changes if things only change
Change is needed to take on any challenge

But change is not always progress
We strive for more, never less
While our resources are never less

One more step can help you advance
One more step can make you fall
A step in and on itself doesn't make much sense
Without the right direction to reach the goal

-- Gorba Ambroise

Sunday, June 14, 2020


Kitty's father would have been 101 today.  Kitty's family tends to be long-lived; you can't kill 'em with a stick.  Bot it wasn't a stick but pancreatic cancer that hit Himself.  That tough old man nearly beat it three times but too much was too much.  Harold was an engineer, working on the space program among other things.  His jobs often involved high clearance so Kitty and her brothers enjoyed making up stories about what he did.

They did not have to make up stories about his being in the Navy during World War II.  Harold's Bronze Star spoke volumes.  Harold Keane was easy-going, funny, courageous, patriotic, smart, and honest and principled.  Perhaps it's a good thing that he died two decades ago.  He would be aghast to learn that he shared a birthday with Donald Trump -- a man whose every fiber of his being went against anything Harold believed in.  Harold had no truck with liars, cheats, haters, users, crooks, and narcissists.  So in our house today we honor Harold and to hell with President Smallhands.

One of Harold's favorite meals was at Kimball's Ice Cream in Westford, Massachusetts, where the sundaes and splits were bigger than your head.  Every year on this day we celebrate with ice cream for dinner in his honor.  (Sadly, Kimball's doesn't offer bread pudding soaked in whiskey -- Harold's second favorite food -- so ice cream sundaes will do just fine for us.)

So, Happy Birthday to a wonderful man who, in addition to all the other great things he did in his life, gave us Kitty!



Married couple Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul tackled this taboo with a comic book, as well as this TED Talk from Bangalore.


Sons of New York with a gospel message for our times.

Saturday, June 13, 2020


Warren Zevon.


"They seek him here, they seek him there..."

Fast Fiction, a.k.a. Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated, was a short-lived comic book series from Seaboard Publishing -- six issues from October 1949 to March 1950 -- that mimicked the Classic Illustrated line.  As near as I can figure out, the six issues were reissued as Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated in March 1950, followed by other titles through at least issue #13 in March 1951.

Novels covered throughout the run were The Scarlet Pimpernel, Captain Blood, She, The 39 Steps, Beau Geste, Macbeth, The Window (a film tie-in of a story by Cornell Woolrich), Hamlet, Nicholas Nickleby, Romeo and Juliet, Ben Hur, La Svengali (George du Maurier's Trilby), and Scaramouche.

"...Those Frenchies seek him everywhere."

But you don't have to look everywhere, neither in Heaven or Hell, because he's right here at the link below.


Friday, June 12, 2020


The Beatles,


The End of Violence by Ben Benson (1959)

Ralph Lindsey is 24 and has been a Massachusetts State Trooper for two years.  He is still considered a rookie by many although he has had several successes in his brief career.  Currently stationed at the Stafford barracks, he had been partnered occasionally with Joe Sewell, a veteran trooper some eleven years older than Lindsey.  Sewell probably never should have become a trooper; he is unruly, crass, unfriendly, unwilling to learn, and prone to anger.  He has years of watching those who entered the force with him and many younger than him promoted, yet he has never been.  Disliked by virtually all his superiors, Sewell has been transferred to every barracks in the Commonwealth and none really wanted him there.  With a chip on his shoulder and refusing to blame his shortcomings on himself, Sewell stubbornly refuses to quit the force.

Lindsey and Sewell are called to a scene on the Stafford River where a body had been found among the weeds.  The body had probably been in the river for a month and was decomposed beyond recognition.  Sewell believes that if could solve this murder it would be his ticket to promotion.  The body is eventually identified as Walter Lade,who worked at a shoe factory in a nearby town.  Lade was last seen on February 27, although he had been reported missing by his father some five days later.  Although married, Lade's wife never reported him missing.

It turns out that Lade was a mean-spirited bully who was apt to go off on his own for days.  He had made a lot of enemies.  Lade was similar to Joe Sewell but was Sewell squared or cubed, and likely to use his fists.

Sewell did not come up with the clue that solved the case.  Lindsey did.  And Sewell began building up resentment against Lindsey.

The two were at the barracks when Frank Reeve came in and wanted two of the area's post prominent young men charged with assaulting his daughter.  Wilma Reeve had just turned sixteen and was filled with sixteen-year-old romantic fantasies, so when a good-looking, mature man of twenty-two offered a lift in her car she agreed.  Earl Guthrie was the son of one of the most powerful men in Stafford and Stuart McCann was the son of a wealthy farmer in the next town.  The two pulled over with Wilma in the car and tried to assault her.  Wilma managed to get away before she was actually raped.  She appeared home with her clothes disheveled and visibly upset.  Her father insists that charges be brought, although the crime was only a misdemeanor.

Sewell goes to pick up Guthrie and Lindsey drive to the town of Dryden to arrest McCann.  Both young men turn out to be belligerent, each resisting arrest.  McCann strikes out at Lindsey and Lindsey strikes back, subduing the suspect.  Much the same happens to Sewell with Guthrie.  Back at the barracks, McCann becomes cooperative and blames Guthrie.  Guthrie attacks McCann and the two are separated.  Sewell is ordered to take Guthrie to a room in the basement to be interviewed.  Guthrie continues to resist and Sewell handcuffs him to a water pipe.  Lindsey soon hears screams coming from the basement and calls down to Sewell who tells him that everything is all right and that he can handle it.  Both suspects refuse to be bailed and are then locked up for the night.

The following morning Lindsey and Sewell pick up the suspects and bring them to court where they meet Guthrie's father and lawyer, who confer with the boys before entering the courtroom.  While there, the lawyer lifts up Guthrie's shirt and shows the judge that the boy's back is covered with violent welts.  After the hearing, the boys are bailed and they go over to a local newspaper office with the lawyer and have Earl Guthrie's back photographed, while claiming the boy was beaten by Sewell.

Headlines are made, investigations are launched, and Lindsey and Guthrie are accused of conspiracy.  Witnesses, including the local police chief, swear that Guthrie did not have those marks on him when he was arrested.  (Guthrie had changed his shirt before being brought to the barracks and there were no welts on his back.)  From that point on Guthrie had been closely watched by reliable witnesses, except for the time Sewell was interrogating him.  Clearly Sewell had been the one who had beaten the boy, but Sewell proclaimed his innocence.  If Sewell was being truthful, the attack on Guthrie was an "impossible crime."

An eager, politically-aware district attorney soon becomes involved.  A grand jury is called.  And both Lindsey and Sewell find their careers on the line.  And Lindsey secretly believes that Sewell is guilty.  He also has an unproven suspicion that this case is somehow linked to the murder of Walter Lade.

Ben Benson (1915-1959), in his brief career wrote eighteen popular mystery novels about the Massachusetts State Police.  Ten of the books featured Detective Inspector Wade Paris, seven were about Ralph Lindsey, and one was a stand-alone that might have involved into a third series if Benson had lived.  Benson had been a machine-gunner in World War II and was severely injured during the Battle of the Bulge.  During his long recovery, he began to write as therapy.  His books were thoroughly researched police procedurals, having spent much time interviewing officers and riding along with the Massachusetts State Police, who later honored the author.  Benson's books were a fairly accurate depiction of how the State Police worked at that time.  Although times and methods have changed considerably, I have found all of Benson's novels that I have read to be fast-moving, character-driven, entertaining reads.

Benson's war wounds were with him all his life.  He was forced to use a can when he walked and his injuries may have contributed to his early death by heart attack when he was 44.

Benson is an unjustly forgotten author.  Several of his novels are available from Wildside Press but most have been out of print for years.  During the Fifties and Sixties, they had been reprinted by Bantam Books in paperback during that glorious age when Bantam offered such classic authors as Rex Stout and John Dickson Carr as well as lesser-known writers such as Benson, Fredric Brown, David Alexander, and Richard Ellington.  Those were the days.  **sigh**

Let men this post with a plea.  The St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers lists an early book of his, Hoboes of America:  Sensational Life Story and Epic of Life on the Road, by Hobo Benson (New York, Hobo News, 1942).  Was this a real book?  If so, it was probably written before Benson entered the military.  Or could this be a phantom book?  Any information would be appreciated.

In the meantime, give Ben Benson a try.  You won't regret it.