Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 31, 2020


 Openers:  Ellie was changed when she came out of the coma.

Not that I expected the same flaky, sixteen-year old we'd all known and loved, not after she had been dead to the world between Christmas and May, all the while constantly shuttled in and out of a hyperbaric chamber to help heal her buirns.  The doctors warned me that some cognitive changes were inevitable.

But this was something else.  This was someone else.

She awoke looking just like her sixteen-year old self -- the same straight black hair, the same round face and pale skin.  But she wasn't really Ellie.  Not anymore.

Someone else looked out through her owlish blue eyes.

-- F. Paul Wilson, Signalz (2020)

Signalz is the latest addition to Wilson's "Adversary Cycle," a series that began with The Keep and ended with Nightworld, and all part of "The Secret History of the World, " a far-ranging saga that includes the adventures of Wilson's most popular hero, Repairman Jack.  The basic premise of all of this is that there is a cosmic battle (more of a game, perhaps) spanning the universe and various dimensions between two entities -- one completely malevolent, the other uncaring about the individual worlds that are pawns in this contest.  One of those pawns (a fairly insignificant one) is Earth.  Aiding the Enemy have a number of humans throughout millennia who are currently organized as the powerful Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order; those in the Order believe they will be put in charge when the "Change" comes -- not realizing that they too will be sacrificed by the viciously hostile Enemy.  Signalz takes place in the final month of, and just before, the end of civilization.

Signalz is the story of the strangely changed Ellie, the spunky forensic accountant Hari, and the strangely omniscient writer P. Frank Winslow (wonder where that name came from), who has written a series of novels that patterns the hidden doings of the Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order and feature a recurring character named Jack Fixx (wonder where that name came from).

The Secret History of the World currently encompasses thirty four books and a number of short stories.  They make exciting reading -- part mystery, part crime, part thriller, part adventure, part fantasy, and part horror.  Like most of Wilson's work, there is a strong Libertarian bent to the series.  This adds to the excitement:  Strong individuals fighting against even stronger forces and using any method available to come out on top.  Whether it's James Bond, The Shadow, or any other well-meaning vigilante, we're rooting for him.  In real-life, though, Libertarianism is not as wonderful as it is in our fantasies.

Several of Wilson's early science fiction novels have received Prometheus Awards from the Libertarian Futurist Society.  Among his other awards and recognitions are a Stoker Award, the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America, the Thriller Lifetime Achievement Award from the editors of Romantic Times, and the San Diego ComiCon Inkpot Award.  He has frequently been on The New York Times best-seller list. Wilson's work has been translated into twenty-four languages and has sold of nine million copies in the US alone.

I, myself, am a Repairman Jack addict.  The lone vigilante who always prefers taking the fight to the enemy -- no matter how heavy the odds against him are -- is a fully-formed hero who speaks to my thirteen-year-old self.  You can't go wrong with Repairman Jack.

And you can't go wrong with F. Paul Wilson.

William Livingston:  Two hundred forty-four years ago today William Livingston became the first governor of New Jersey, a post he held until his death, nearly fourteen years later.  Previous to Livingston, New Jersey had been governed by a royal governor.  Livingston was fairly new to the state, having moved there in 1772 at age 48 and began building a house for his large family -- he had thirteen children, at least six of whom survived him.  While his home was being built, he rented a house in what id now Elizabeth; a young Alexander Hamilton lived with him for at least one winter while attending school He quickly gained influential friends and was elected in 1774 as one of New Jersey's delegates to the Continental Congress.

Livingston did not favor independence and, in June of 1776, was not re-elected to the Continental Congress.  Livingston then decline an offer to head the state's militia, but did return as a Brigadier General of the militia, a title he had been given the previous year.  That August, he was elected governor, the first not appointed by the Crown.  Although he had not been in favor of independence at first, Livingston was active in the revolution and the British had offered a reward for his capture.  Livingston was part of the New Jersey delegation to the 1787 constitutional convention and was one of the signers of the Constitution.

He had been born to an influential Albany family.  His father was the second Lord of Livingston Manor and his maternal grandfather was the mayor of Albany.  One of his older brothers became the New York State Treasurer and another served in the New York Senate.  William Livingston enrolled at Yale when he was thirteen (or possibly fourteen) and graduated in 1741.  He then went to New York City to study law, apprenticing as a law clerk for prominent attorney James Alexander, a Scot who had to flee his home country after supporting James Stuart, later becoming Attorney General of New York and active in state politics.  Livingston left there due to some disagreement before finishing his apprenticeship and went to the law offices of William Smith, Sr., who had turned down the presidency of Yale at age 27 to begin his New York City law practice; he went on to become Attorney General of New York and a judge of the New York Supreme Court.  

Livingstone became friends with William Smith, Jr.,  and John Moran Scott, who later became  one of the original Sons of Liberty and served as a Brigadier General under George Washington during the Revolution.  The three -- Livingston, Smith, and Scott -- founded the weekly journal the Independent Reflector, which ran for 52 issues before political pressure placed on the printer forced its closure.  The Reflector was New York's only non-newspaper publication and the only one being published in British North America at the time.  It supported the upstate New York Presbyterian gentry and firmly opposed the downstate Anglican and Dutch Reform political bloc.  In particular, it vigorously opposed the founding of King's College (now part of Columbia University) for fear that it was an excuse for the Anglican church to install a bishop in the colony. 

Despite failing to close the college (and the non-appearance of an Anglican bishop), Livingston remained active in politics and served one term in the New York Assembly until his political allies lost power in 1761.

A  number of Livingston's children also gained prominence, most notably his daughter Sarah, who at seventeen married John Jay in 1774.  Jay would go on to be one of the country's Founding Fathers, a delegate to the First Continental Congress. a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, sixth president of the Continental Congress, United States Minister to Spain, Acting United States Secretary of State, second Governor of New York, and the first chief Justice of the United States.  Sarah Livingston Jay's role in society greatly aided her husband in these posts.  She was evidently quite a looker; once while attending a theatre in Paris, she was mistaken for Marie Antoinette and the entire audience rose in homage.

Another of Livingston's daughters, Susannah became the stepmother-in-law of William Henry Harrison, and a son, Henry, was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Also on This Day:  In 1897 Thomas Edison patented the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.  Edison had experimented with films previously.  Here are the first ten films (two and a half minutes' worth) made in America by Edison that have survived:

Come On-a My House:  It's also the birthday of William Saroyan, a writer born to immigrants who fled the Armenian genocide and author of The Human comedy, My Name Is Aram, and The Time of Your Life, among others.  What is not that well-known is the he and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian (who would later create Alvin, Theodore and Simon -- The Chipmunks) wrote a song that became a hit for Rosemary Clooney:

Yes, It Is Fun:  In 1948 the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association came out with this promotoinal comic book with the well-duh! title of It's Fun to Stay Alive, full of tips for kids (and adults) about automobile, pedestrian and bicycle safety.  Utilizing prominent cartoon characters, including Carl Anderson's Henry, Bugs Bunny, Raeburn Van Buren's Abbie an' Slats, and J. P. McEvoy's Dixie Dugan, among others, this sixteen-pager balances the fine line between promoting safety and scaring the bejeezuz out of kids.  Check it out.

VIP:  Virgil Partch (who signed his work "VIP") was a popular magazine gag cartoonist in the 40s and 50s.  Although he was a staff gagwriter for The New Yorker, his cartoons seldom appeared in that magazine because Harold Ross disliked his drawing style; instead he published in True, Collier's, Playboy and other top magazines.  Many of his cartoons were about drinking and about the relationship of men and women and some were just plain weird.  In addition to his single-panel cartoons, VIP created and drew the popular syndicated comic strip Big George.

VIP was born in 1916, retired from cartooning in 1984 because of cataracts, and died some eight months later in a car accident.  

Here's a Pinterest page with some of his work for your enjoyment:

Chadwick Boseman:  The world lost a bright talent this past week with the death of Chadwick Boseman at age  from Stage 4 colon cancer.  His character of Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe has been a positive inspiration for many children worldwide.  In addition to playing the Black Panther, Boseman also had significant roles as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown.  

After the news of his passing, many people went to this spot-on performance on Saturday Night Live as a tribute to him:

Only in Florida:  Here's the fourth and final (so far) "Only in Florida" clip.  Florida Man will return in all his ignoble glory next week.

Because We Really Need the Good News:  

Today's Poem:
For the Chipmunk in My Yard

I think he knows I'm alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over.  All afternoon
He's been moving back and forth,
Gathering old bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher.  He's lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He's lucky he's not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he'll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.

-- Robert Gibb

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