Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, September 7, 2020


 Openers:  Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel's high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.

The city that rose beyond them shimmered, almost drained of color, in the glare of Egyptian noon.  Doorways were blue-black in white buildings, alleys were plunged in shadow; the gay colors of the sais and hulls that crowded the harbor seemed faded and indistinct, and even the green of the Nile was overlaid by a binding surface glitter.  Only the sky was vivid, curving in a high blue arch over ancient Menfe.

The wharf itself seethed with activity.  Sweating porters hurried in and out among groups of merchants haggling over stocks of cargo yet to be loaded; sailors, both foreign and Egyptian, swarmed everywhere, talking in a babble of tongues.  A donkey drover pushed through a cluster of pale-faced traders in the fringed garments of Babel laid wagers on a dogfight at one end of the wharf, while a ring of yelling urchins surrounded a cage of monkeys at the other.  Over all rose the rank smell of the river -- an odor compounded of fish, mud, water-soaked rope, pitch and crocodiles.

-- Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Mara, Daughter of the Nile  (1953)

From the blurb in the Puffin edition:  "Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom.  But her escape from her cruel master only places her at the mercy of  not one, but two rival masters who each support contenders to the throne of Egypt -- and who would kill Mara instantly if they suspected her role as double spy.  although distrustful of both at first, Mara begins to believe in one of them, Sheftu, and his plan to restore Thutmose III to the throne.  And as her belief grows stronger, Mara finds herself, against her will, falling in love with him.  But before she can reveal that love and pledge her aid to Sheftu, her duplicity is discovered, and a battle ensues in which both Mara' life and the fate of Egypt are at stake."

Wow!  Danger, romance, political intrigue, a mysterious far-off locale, and adventure, all with a plucky young heroine!   No wonder this was one of my wife's favorite books when she was young.  She was probably in junior high school when she first read Mara, Daughter of the Nile about the same time that she was discovering Mickey Spillane, Michael Shayne, and Agatha Christie -- this was when she almost gave up on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd about a third of the way in; she had figured out who the murderer was, how the crime was done, and the motive.  (My wife is very smart, you see.)  Anyway, she loved this book so, early in our marriage I found a hardcover copy for her and she loved me for it.  Over the years, that copy probably went walkabout, or was buried in one of a zillion storage boxes, so last week I picked up a paperback copy for her and she still loves me.  (What a gal!)

McGraw (1915-2000) was a popular children's and young adult author.  She won the Newbery Honor three times over three decades:  Moccasin Trail (1952), The Golden Goblet (1962), and "The Moorchild" (1997).  Her 1977 book, A Really Weird Summer, won the edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.  McGraw also wrote two Oz books (Merry Go Round in Oz,1963, and 
The Forbidden Fountain of Oz ,1980, both credited to herself an her daughter, Laura Lynn McGraw, although all writing was done by Eloise; a third Oz book, The Rundlestone of Oz, 2000, was credited to Eloise alone), as well as assisting in the editing of Gina Wickwar's The Hidden Prince of Oz (2000).  McGraw wote at least fourteen other books including historical novels, including Greensleeves (1968), The Seventeenth Swap (1986), and The Striped Ships (1991).  For her final novel, McGraw returned to ancient Egypt for Pharoah (1998), her only adult novel.

There are a lot of young adult authors who provide satisfying reading for adults.  Eloise Jarvis McGraw is one of those.

Check her out.


  • Zomnibus, a 2009 Graphic novel omnibus of three zombie novels:  Zombies!:  Feast by Shane McCarthy, with art by Chris Bolton & Enrique Lopez Lorenzana; Zombies!:  Eclkipse of the Dead by El Torres, with art by Yair Herrera; and Complete Zombies vs. Robots by Chris Ryall, with art by Ashley Wood.  Some great artwork here.  I hope the stories live up to the quality of the art.

Happy Labor Day!:  The history of workers' rights in America go back as far as 1636 with a fisherman's strike in Maine.  In 1677, New York City carmen attempted to strike and were fined.  With the coming of the industrial age in America, labor rights became increasingly important.  In Lowell, Massachusetts, where the industrial revolution became, textile companies lured farm girls to work their mills with the promise of money that could not be had at home.  The girls (a lot of them were girls; many were young women) were not only provided jobs, but housing and cultural activities.  The fact that some of these jobs were dangerous was not emphasized.  As the nineteenth century entered its second half, workers across the country were being taken advantage of by employers and a movement toward collective bargaining began to take shape.  In 1885 and 1886, several municipalities passed legislation to establish a Labor Day.  In 1887, five states recognized a Labor Day holiday.  By 1894 thirty-two states recognized Labor Day, and later that year Congress passed a law making the first Monday in September a national holiday -- Labor Day.

The labor movement in America was never meant to be political, although by the 1930s the labor movement became strongly associated with the Democratic Party.

Growing up in the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts, I was very much aware of the history of labor in the city of Lowell and its neighboring city Lawrence.  It was in Lawrence that a textile workers strike took place in January-March, 1912, known as the "Bread and Roses strike."  The strike, led largely by women, with the support of the Industrial Workers of the World, was a success, resulting in pay increases, overtime pay, and a promise not to discriminate against strikers.  It was this strike that created the  moving picket line -- a way for the strikers to avid being arrested for loitering.  The City of Lawrence still commemorates the strike with an annual Bread and Roses Festival.

Although the phrase "Bread and Roses" did not originate with the strike, it was embraced by the strikers and became a slogan that stood for justice and dignity for women workers worldwide.  Some signs carried by the strikers read, "We want bread, but we want roses, too!"

The power of labor unions has significantly decreased.  Corruption, organized crime, poor management -- all has led to the decline of unions.  But the legacy of the labor movement can not be denied.  Five-day, forty-hour work weeks, safer working conditions, the elimination of child labor -- can all be traced to the labor movement.  I believe in a strong labor movement and I believe it can exist in a win-win environment with management.  Sadly, like much else these days, our polarized society will most likely not allow that day to come.

Here's Judy Collins singing "bread and Roses":

And the Dropkick Murphy's singing "Which Side Are You On?":

Vote Early and Often?:  This week Grump did what he does best:  sowing chaos and disruption.  By endorsing the patently illegal idea of voting twice, once by mail and once at the polls, he is hoping to increase his chances for re-election.  And, yes, he's couching it in terms that may seem logical to his base, but he is blatantly and knowingly encouraging voter fraud.  Add this to the disruption of the Postal Service and attempts to disqualify a large number of voters and his false claims that mail-in voting would delegitimize the election, and we have one very scared president.

Problem is, it  might work.  At the very least, he may be able to declare the election illegitimate.  Worse yet, he might even win.

What to do?  Call the bastard out on all of this.  Show him up for the liar and cheat he is.  While he's urging his people to vote early and often, America should fight back early and often.

Dat Ol' Debbil:   Earlier this week I was at a thrift store rummaging though a bin of used books.  I came across a pamphlet titled Hypnotism:  Divine or Demonic?.  Then I came across a few more similar pamphlets on related subjects, all dealing with the negative effects of demons in this world.  They were all written by a dude named Lester Sumrall.  I thought I'd check this guy out.

Sumrall (1913-1996) was a well-known (I didn't know of him, so what does that say about me?) pastor and evangelist who penned over 130 books (Although judging by the thrift store bin, they were pamphlets more than books).  He turned to God when, at age 17, he was dying of tuberculosis and had a vision (sent by God) where a casket was suspended to the right of his bed and an open bible suspended to the left.  A voice then asked him,"Which of these will you chose tonight?"  Well. we know what he chose.  He began preaching the Gospel, bringing his message to 110 countries.  In 1957, he founded LeSEA (Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association), which eventually reached "90% of the world's population."  It has since morphed into the Family Broadcasting Corporation.

His view of religion was pretty rigid.  He declared all Muslims (and their religion) demonic because they did not follow Christ.  His books include 101 Questions and Answers on Demonic Powers, Alien Entities ("More people are seeking spiritual experience apart from God, but often they discover that they are being controlled by the powers of darkness and that their guidance is demonic."), Bitten by Devils ("...about Clarita Villanueva, who was beaten and choked by unseen adversaries."), Exorcism:  The Reality of Evil, Jihad:  The Holy War ("Discover the destinies of Iran and the entire Muslim world as we march toward the end of time."), Overcoming Compulsive Desires ("Topics include food, shopping, television, gambling, lust, pornogrphy and a host of others"), Supernatural Principalities and Powers ("If you think witchcraft, demons, and magic are bizarre but harmless nonsense, think again!"), and Unprovoked Murder:  Insanity or Demonic Possession?. And about hypnotism?  It "is a poisonous art...It is an explosive, destructive and contagious menace."  (I just thought you would want to know that.)

Those who know me know that I am not anti-religion.  I have my own core set of beliefs that have done me well.  One of those beliefs is to respect the beliefs of others.  Within limits.  The teachings of the Westborough Baptist Church, for example, are just plain evil.  Those who kill, rape, and torture in the name of God are evil.  Lester Sumrall, by all accounts, was a well-meaning person and had done a lot of good (a major feed the hungry program, for example).  But it's safe to say that I would not be entering his church.  And from Sumrall's rigid, take-no-prisoners viewpoint, I doubt that Jesus would either.

Mmm, Chocolate!:

He's Tanned, He's Ready, He' Back -- Florida Man!:

  • Florida Man Christian Mosco, 47, was charged with extortion, burglary, and petty theft for allegedly trying to extort $50,000 from a Daytona car dealership.  Reasoning that the best defence was a poor prosecution, he he posed online as two assistant state attorney, stealing their Florida Bar ID numbers, and filed a motion to have his case dropped, citing "announcement of no information."  Unfortunately for him, Mosco used a previous filing from another person's case in doing this, not realizing he had filed the wrong motion.
  • Florida Man Jerry Zeigler, 26, and Florida Woman Carrie Tyrell, 42, were arrested in Daytona Beach for punching, kicking, stomping on, and robbing a man for helping a Black man pick up trash in a roadway.  The suspects allegedly made comments that the victim should help his own race.
  • A sixteen-year-old Florida Teen managed to shut down remote learning at the Miami-Dade school district by launching at least eight (out of at least two dozen) cyberattacks on the school.  Lest you think Florida Teen was a computer genius, he wasn't.  He used an easily available program to overwhelm the district's servers.  A police raid on the teen's home during the pre-dawn hours this past Thursday was not related to the cyberattacks, according to officials, making me wonder what else was going on?
  • Teachers have it hard enough coping with the pandemic; they should not have to be concerned about school cleanliness.  Well, unless you are in Volusia County, that is.  The teacher's union has filed a complaint that an unnamed Florida Man custodian was seen using toilet water to clean school floors.  The district hires out its school custodial services.  The Chief Operating Officer for the district says the complaints are overblown since fewer than 1% of the teachers have documented the action.  In any case, he continued, the company has retrained the custodian in proper cleaning methods.
  • Fort Walton Beach Florida Man Christopher Allen Freeman, a cell phone store manager, was arrested for stealing a sexually explicit video  of a "nationally known" female television personality from a mobile device her boyfriend had brought in for service.  The Okaloosa county Sheriff's Department said that explicit images of multiple female adults were found on Freeman's phone, some of which may have also been obtained illegally by Freeman.  I have to question the intelligence of the boyfriend who brought the phone in for service knowing the video was on the device and that of the television personality who allowed the video to be taken in the first place.

Good News:
  • Woman donates kidney to the cop who locked her up
  • Hormel Foods to provide free college education to children of all its 16,000 employees
  • Bride and groom donate their wedding dinner to a local shelter -- and help serve it
  • Hospital staff stays behind in hurricane to protect 19 babies in intensive care
  • The first time a ten-year-old boy uses his birthday metal detector he unearths a centuries-old sword
  • Teen creates dolls for kids with rare medical conditions to help them feel included
  • Man has a special relationship with a red robin that helped him through trauma

Today's Poem:
Starting the Subaru at Five Below

After 6 Maine winters and 100,000 miles,
when I take it to be inspected

I search for gas stations where they
just say beep the horn and don't ask me to

put it om the lift, exposing its soft
rusted underbelly.  Inside is the record

of commuting:  apple cores, a bag from
McDonald's, crushed Dunkin' Donuts cups,

a flashlight that doesn't work and one
that does, gas receipts blurred beyond

recognition.  Finger tips numb, nose
hair frozen, I pump the accelerator

and turn the key.  The battery cranks,
the engine gives 2 or 3 low groans and

starts.  My God it starts.  And unlike
my family in the house, the job I'm

heading towards, the poems in my briefcase,
the dreams I had last night, there is

no question about what makes sense.
White exhaust billowing from the tailpipe,

heater blowing, this car is going to
move me, it's going to take me places.

-- Stuart Kestenbaum


  1. One reason you'd never encountered Les Sumrall before is the you hadn't worked in tv listings...LeSea television stations were pretty widely sown across the country. As you've learned.

    For my part, I've completely missed Eloise McGraw till now.

  2. Wow... Mara Daughter of the Nile! I loved that and think I still have a copy somewhere. I had forgotten it. Thanks for the reminder!