Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, November 30, 2020


 Peter, Paul & Mary.


 Openers:    You will not know where Quartermouth is, and I shall not tell you.  It is as well, for the comfort of those of us who do not like large crowds, that not too many people should know where to find, on the South Coast of England, a place that is more like a Continental casino than a seaside resort -- a place where there is a real little town of some antiquity with a real harbour and a quay where fishing-boats land, a Fore Street of old grey cottages and smelly fishing-nets, and a High and other streets of clean modern shops where visitors can purchase all necessary and unnecessary objects.  A place, moreover -- and this is the point -- where the Mrs. Grundy of the seaside has not found a home, where the bathing restrictions are nil, where the licensing hours are long and loosely enforced. and where the public-houses, one and all, possess as well as their stuffy little bars for the fishermen, small or large courtyards or gardens, hung with fairy lights, where one can sit for hours, German or French fashion, sipping at a ong drink in the evening, in the soft southwestern air.

-- G. D. H. and Margaret Cole, "The Toys of Death" (from their collection Mrs. Warrender's Profession, 1938)

George Douglas Howard Cole (1889-1959) and his wife, Margaret Isabel Cole (1893-1980; who was often by-lined M. I. Cole), published 34 detective books together from 1925 to 1946  (G. D. H. Cole had published on mystery novel previously).  Much of their early stories were in the vein of Freeman Wills Crofts (who never met a railroad timetable he did not like) with their emphasis on the scientific approach to evidence and to false alibis.  The early books tended to emphasize crooked businessmen, and provide sharp characterization; they are intelligently framed and often provide ingenious ideas.  The later books became more plodding and provided weak solutions.  The Cole's chief detective was Superintendent Henry Wilson, a smart and principled detective who, in at least one case, stood back and let someone else solve the murder.  Not everyone has been enamored of the Coles' mystery novels or of Superintendent Wilson; critic Jeanne F. Bedell said that Wilson "in fact, is surely on of the most colorless detectives ever created."

Mystery writing was a pleasant sideline for the couple.  George Cole is best remembered outside of the mystery field as a major political theorist, economist, and historian.  A libertarian socialist (which is neither a Marxist nor a social democrat), he published over 150 nonfiction books.  One student of his, future Prime Minster Harold Wilson, was greatly influences by Cole and was convinced by him to join the Labour Party.  Margaret Cole, who shared her husband's beliefs, published more than 30 books on her own.  She held a number of prominent political positions following World War II and was given an OBE by her husband's former student Harold Wilson and was later awarded a DBE for her service to Local Government and Education.  Many of the mystery novels published by the pair are thought to have been the work of one or the other of the authors.

"The Toys of Death" features another of the Cole's detectives, the lesser-know Mrs. Elizabeth Warrender, the mother of a private detective James Warrender (readers encountered him in other novels by the Coles) whom she helps on occasion, and sometimes does the detecting on her own.  Like Jane Marple (although no way as sharp), Mrs. Warrender has a sharp sense of human nature, which provides her in good stead.  Mrs. Warrender's Profession contains four novellas about the elderly sleuth:  "Death in the Sun," "In Peril of His Life," "Fatal Beauty," and "The Toys of Death."  The very perceptive J.F. Norris on his blog Pretty Sinister Books had this to say about "The Toys of Death" when he reviewed Mrs. Warrender's Profession back in 2012:

"-- Easily the best of the lot.  A true detective story and the second tale in which Mrs. Warrender is present at the scene of the crime.  She also does the only real detective work here (discovering pieces of blue glass for instance) rather than doing her kind of deductive guesswork based on her 'observations of real people.'

"Crampton Playdell is found dead in his locked study.  His death appears to be a suicide from cyanide poisoning.  As the story progresses we learn that Playdell has a strange hobby -- replicating Renaissance Italian glass.  His specialty was designing duplicates of Vetturi's poison toys -- glass ornaments and glass jewelry filled with poisons that were used by the Medici's to commit assassination.  this is something that seems to be more up John Dickson Carr's alley than the Coles.  that aspect of the story held my interest and make it the most original and intriguing of the bunch.  The motive for the crimes (there are other deaths) makes the most sense out of all the stories and the characters are the most interesting.  No shop girls, beauty parlor employees, gorgeous dancers or office gossips on hand in this one which was a relief."

Academy Mystery Novellas:   I should also mention that I found the above story in the four-volume set of Academy Mystery Novellas edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Bill Pronzini in 1985.  Each volume here contains four novellas and should be required reading for any mystery fan.  The details on each volume follow;

Volume 1:  Women Sleuths

  • G. D. H. and Margaret Cole, "The Toys of Death" (from Mrs. Warrender's Profession, 1938; featuring Mrs. Elizabeth Warrender)
  • Mignon Eberhart, "The Calico Dog" (from The Delineator, September 1934; featuring Susan Dare)
  • Cornell Woolrich, "The Book That Squealed" (from Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine. August 1939; featuring Prudence Roberts)
  • Marcia Muller, "The Broken Men" (original to this volume; featuring Sharon McCone)
Volume 2:  Police Procedurals
  • "Ed McBain" (Evan Hunter). "The Empty Hours" (from Ed McBain's Mystery Book #1, 1960; featuring the 87th Precinct}
  • Donald E. Westlake, "The Sound of Murder" (from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, December 1962; featuring Abe Levine)
  • Georges Simenon, "Storm in the Channel" (originally published in French as "Tempete sur la Manche" in the collection Les Nouvelles Enquites de Maigret, 1944; first English publication in Maigret's Pipe; this version taken from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, December 1978, translated by Jean Stewart.; featuring Inspector Jules Maigret)
  • "Hugh Pentecost" (Judson Philips), "Murder in the Dark" (from The American Magazine, February 1949 [which originally credited Blake Cabot as co-author]; featuring Lt. David Pascal)
Volume 3:  Locked Room Puzzles
  • John Dickson Carr, "The Third Bullet" (from The Third Bullet, 1937, as by "Carter Dickson"; published as by Carr in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 1948; featuring Dr. Gideon Fell)
  • Bill Pronzini, "Booktaker" (from the collection Casefile, 1983; this may have originally appeared as an audiobook narrated by Nick Sullivan, 1982; featuring The Nameless Detective)
  • Clayton Rawson, "From Another World" (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June 1948; featuring The Great Merlini)
  • Edward D. Hoch, "Day of the Wizard" (from The Saint Mystery Magazine [UK], August 1963; featuring Simon Ark)
Volume 4:  Great British Detectives
  • Leslie Charteris, "The Beauty Specialist" (from the Thriller Library, March 27, 1937, as "The 'Z' Man"; featuring Simon Templar/The Saint)
  • G. K. Chesterton, "The Oracle of the Dog" (from Nash's and Pall Mall Magazine, December 1923; featuring Father Brown)
  • Michael Gilbert, "The /Cleaners" (from the collection Petrella at Q, 1977; featuring Inspector Patrick Petrella)
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey" (from the collection Hangman's Holiday, 1934; also known as "The Power of Darkness"; featuring Lord Peter Wimsey)
Some pretty good stuff here.

I Say:  One of the best things about watching (and re-watching and re-re-watching old Poirot episodes is the character of Captain Arthur Hastings, as played by Hugh Fraser.

The Death of Mike Fink:  Mike Fink, the legendary keelboatman, is seldom remembered today, save for those who followed the adventures of Davy Crockett as viewed by Walt Disney.  Jeff York played "the King of the River":

The details below are from an account written by noted folklorist Vance Randolph.

Unlike other folk heroes, Mike Fink was an actual person, born at Fort Pitt in 1770.  Even as a youth, Mike Fink was known as aa expert rifle shot and was said to have been regarded as an Indian-killer.  He became a keelboatman on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  The work was grueling and dangerous; many battles broke out between rival boatman and with the "less civilized inhabitants of the Lower Ohio and Mississippi."  Fink was equal to the task, being over six feet tall and with symmetrical proportions and "Herculean powers."

Many believed that Fink's skill with a flintlock surpassed that of Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, or Kit Carson.  He was said to have shot the tail off a pig at 100 yards.  He shot the ears off a tomcat at 150 yards, the scalplock from the head of a Cherokee at 50 yards, and "trimmed" the heel of a Negro without touching bone -- this last escapade rightly got him arrested.  He was a heavy drinker and womanizer; his sexual escapades with women -- red, white, and black -- have been greatly weakened by bowderization.  As hi health failed he became (even more) aggressive and irritable, and retired to live in a cave along with a young man named Carpenter.

Both Fink and Carpenter were great shots and one of their favorite things was to shoot cans off the other's head.  It did not matter to them whether they were drunk or sober.  One time, they performed the trick at the urging of spectators and Carpenter's bullet cut Fink's hair and marked his scalp, perhaps because Fink had jumped a bit.  Fink told the young man, "That ain't the way I taught you to shoot."  Then it was Mike Fink's turn and he shot Carpenter directly in the forehead.  Some thought this had been done deliberately and accused him of cold-blooded murder.  Fink seemed dazed and did not say a word, but quietly went back to his cave.

One of the most vocal accusers was a gunsmith named Talbott.  When Mike Fink heard this he said he would kill Talbott at the first chance.  The one day, Fink met Talbott.  Fink was carrying his rifle and Talbott had two cocked pistols.  Witnesses said that Fink appeared to be sick and absent-minded.  Talbott, shaking like a leaf, warned Fink to stay away, but Fink kept heading to him.  After a final warning which Fink Ignored, Talbott fired both pistols into Fink's chest.  As he lay dying, Fink was heard to say, "I didn't kill my boy!"  As the story goes, Talbott drowned a month later trying to cross the Missouri in a skiff.

Delusion:  President Dazed and Confused held his first interview since the election.  ome of the highlights:

January cannot come soon enough.

In the meantime, Biden is quietly putting together an effective team for his Presidency.  Sadly, I have the feeling the Mitch and the Boys  (worst rock band ever) will be trying to block many of these appointments; happily, a number do not need Senate approval.

Florida Man:  
  • Florida Man Richard DeLisi, now 71, is being released early from prison after spending 31 years for a nonviolent marijuana crime.  He had received a 90 yer prison sentence.  File under Florida Justice. 
  • The mother of a eighteen-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy was herself wounded at the boy's burial service.  Quasheda Pierce suffered a wound in her leg.  The shot was evidently accidently fired by a sixteen-year-old who had carried the gun to the service.  The bullet first passed through the leg of a sixteen-year-old mourner before hitting Pierce. 
  • Part-time Florida Man and full-time Connecticut physical therapist Anthony Todt has been arrested for the murder of his wife three children at their home near Walt disney World.  Also dead was the family's dog, Breezy. Todt confessed to the murders when he was arrested, which makes his current claim of "I wasn't there" brought into question.  According to Todt, he believes his wife had drugged the children, then stabbed and suffocated them, after which she ingested a bottle of Benadryl and stabbed herself herself in the abdomen.  Despite it's location near to Mickey Mouse and others, Todt's home was definitely not the Happiest Place on Earth 
  • Florid Man Marc O'Donnell, of Clearwater, may not be a top chef but he stands by his tradition of eighteen years of thawing his Thanksgiving turkey by immersing it in his swimming pool for a day before cooking it.  The turkey is sealed and O'Donnell says he carefully inspects it so there are no leaks that might let chlorine in.  Yum!
  • In my own county, Florida Man Jaden Skye Morris, 23, of Pace, has been arrested for the rape of a 17-year-old girl.  The girl told police that Morris came into the living room, threw $500 at her, raped her, the passed out on the couch.  The girl called the police, who then found Morris asleep on the couch.  Alcohol was involved.  Romance was not.

Good News:  
  • Moving company helps victims of domestic abuse leave homes at no coat
  • CRISPR-based technology editing system destroys cancer cells permanently in lab
  • Mom pays for multiple strangers groceries on a whim; "I just wanted to bring smiles to people's faces"
  • Queen Elizabeth lunches her own gin featuring botanicals grown on her country estate (okay, this may not technically be "good news," but I thought it was interesting)
  • "Frankie, the Adventure Goat" goes travelling
  • Long-gone plant reappears after 100 years when restoration work on a pond released a seed
  • Customer buys beers and toasts the staff with a $3000 tip as restaurant is forced to close because of Covid
  • Prison camp survivor is casually building and donating a $50 million children's hospital in New Zealand

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is is happiness doubled by wonder."  -- G. K. Chesterton

Today's Poem:
The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate,
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to me
The Century's corpse outleant,
Its crypt the crowded canopy,
The wind its death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead,
In a heart-filled evening song
Of joy illimited.
An aged thrush, pale, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembed through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed hope, whereof he knew,
And I was unaware.

-- Thomas Hardy

Sunday, November 29, 2020


 The World Premiere of this homage to The Peter Principle from the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Award Ceremony.



Mississippi John Hurt.

Saturday, November 28, 2020


 A popular song from L. Frank Baum's 1905 musical The Woggle-Bug, based on the character from Baum's Oz books.  The musical, alas, "ceased to woggle" less than a month before it opened.  Baum later adapted the musical into a short  book, The Woggle-Bug Book.

Originally sung on-stage by Fred Mace, this version has Michael Booth doing the vocal.

THE SPIRIT #1 (1944)

 Will Eisner's The Spirit began as the main character in a 16-page comic insert in the Sunday edition of Register and Syndicate newspapers on June 2, 1940.  The Spirit was Denny Cole, a young police detective presumed killed. although in reality he had been placed in suspended animation by the evil Dr. Cobra.  When Denny woke up in a cemetery, he decided to stay "dead" and began fighting crime as the masked vigilante known as The Spirit.  The comic was noted for its wide variety of of genre styles, from straight police work to mystery, horror, comedy, and love, stories.  It was also noted for Eisner's creative artwork.  The Spirit moved to his own comic book title in 1944.  Both The Spirit and Eisner have maintained a large following to this day.  In 2011, The Spirit was ranked as 21st of the Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of all time.

Enjoy The Spirit's first foray into the comic book world.

Thursday, November 26, 2020


 The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror:  Seventh Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (1994)

I picked up a copy of this book at a thrift store this Tuesday and am really enjoying the stories (from 1993) here.  1993 was a tough year for fantasy/horror readers.  We lost Avram Davidson, William Golding, Lester del Rey, Anthony Burgess, Vincent Price, Robert Westall, Chad Oliver, Kobo Abe, Keith Laumer, Harvey Kurtzman, and many others who played a huge part in my appreciation for the field.  It was also the year that we got great books from Peter S. Beagle (The Innkeeper's Song), Michael Swanwick (The Iron Dragon's Daughter), Kim Newman (Anno Dracula), Avram Davidson (Adventures in Unhistory:  Conjections on the Factual Foundations of Several Ancient Legends), Harlan Ellison (Mephisto in Onyx), Lucius Shepard (The Golden), Bradley Denton (Blackburn), Peter Hoeg (Smilla's Sense of Snow), Peter Straub (The Throat), Terry Bisson (Bears Discover Fire), John Crowley (Antiquities), as well as welcome reprints by Orson Scott Card (Hart's Hope -- the first hardcover edition) and Evangeline Walton (The Island of the Mighty), as well as a posthumous collection by Poland's Stefan Grabinski (The Dark Domain) and a retrospective by the unfairly ignored David R. Bunch (Bunch!).  And that just scratches the surface.  1993 also gave us Jurassic Park, Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, Addams Family Values, Groundhog Day, Last Action Hero, and Leprechaun.  (I refuse to mention Super Mario Brothers.)  And there was a lot of good fantasy on television; I'm thinking of you especially, The Adventures of Brisco County.  Graphic novels also had a very good year, including Watchmen, From Hell, Bone, several Sandman (and related titles) from Neil Gaiman, and Joe R. Lansdale gave us Jonah Hew:  Two-Gun Mojo.

And then there were the short stories...

Datlow and Windling have packed this volume with 53 of the best stories (including two poems).  Datlow picked the horror tales and Windling chose the fantasies.  Their taste, as ever, seems impeccable and covers a wide range of themes, always opting for the literate and the creative. 

The contents:

  • Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Poacher" (from Xanadu, edited by Jane Yolen}
  • Terry Bisson, "England Underway" (from Omni, July 1993)
  • Lisa Goldstein, "The Woman in the Painting" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1993)
  • Terry Dowling, "The Daemon Street Ghost Trap" (from Terra Australia, edited by Leigh Blackmore)
  • Daina Chaviano, "Memo for Freud" (from Pleasure in the Word:  Erotic Writing by Latin American Women, edited by Margarite Fernadez Olmos and Lizabeth Patavisini-Gebert; a poem translated by Heather Rosario-Sievert)
  • Nancy A. Collins, "The Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Jaw' (from Confederacy of the Dead, edited by Richard Gilliam, Martin H. Greenberg, and Edward E. Kramer)
  • Adam Corbin Fusco, "Breath" (from Touch Wood:  Narrow Houses Volume 2, edited by Peter Crowther)
  • Jane Yolen, "Knives" (from Snow White, Blood Red. edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling; a poem)
  • Carol Emshwiller, "Mrs. Jones" (from Omni, August 1993)
  • John Coyne, "Snow Man" (from Monster in My Midst. edited by Robert Bloch and (uncredited) Martin H. Greenberg)
  • Thomas M. Disch, "One Night, or Scheherazade's Bare Minimum" (from OMNI Best Science Fiction Three, edited by Ellen Datlow)
  • Charles de Lint, "Dead Man's Shoes" (from Touch Wood:  Narrow Houses Volume 2. edited by Peter Crowther; part of de Lint's Newford series)
  • Fred Chappell, "The Lodger" (first published as a chapbook from Necronomicon Press; 1994 World Fantasy winner for Best Short Fiction)
  • Elizabeth Hand, "The Erl-King" (from Full Spectrum 4, edited by Lou Aronica, Amy Stout, and Betsy Mitchell)
  • Osamu Dazai, "The Chrysanthemum Spirit" (from his collection Blue Bamboo:  Tales of Fantasy and Romance; translated by Ralph F. McCarthy)
  • Mary Ellis, "Angel" (from Glimmer Train Stories, Winter 1993)
  • Graham Masterton, "The Taking of Mr. Bill" (from The Mammoth Book of Zombies, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "The Saint" (from his collection Strange Pilgrims; translated by Edith Grossman)
  • Bruce McAllister, "Cottage" (from Christmas Forever, edited by David G. Hartwell)
  • Steve Rasnic Tem, "Doodles" (from Sinistre:  An Anthology of Rituals, edited by George Hatch)
  • Dan Simmons, "Dying in Bangkok" (from Playboy, June 1993; also published as "Death in Bangkok"; an expanded version of this story appeared in Simmons collection Lovedeath, published later in 1993)
  • Bruce Boston, "Prisoners of the Royal Weather" (from Weird Tales, Spring 1993; a poem)
  • Patricia A. McKillop, "The Snow Queen" (from Snow White, Blood Red, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
  • Neil Gaiman, "Troll-Bridge" (from Snow White, Blood Red, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
  • Rafik Schami, "The Storyteller" (an excerpt from his multi-layered novel Damascus Nights; translated by Philip Boehm)
  • Rosario Ferre, "Rice and Milk" (from Pleasure in the Word:  Erotic Writing by Latin American Women, edited by Margarite Fernandez Olmas and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert; translated by the author)
  • Robert Devereaux, "Ridi Bobo" (from Weird Tales, Spring 1993)
  • Ellen Kushner, "Playing with Fire" (from The Women's Press Book of New Myth and Magic, edited by Helen Windrath)
  • Michael Marshall Smith, "Later" (from The Mammoth Book of Zombies, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • Sherman Alexie, "Distances" (from his collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven)
  • Nancy Holder, "Crash Cart" (from Cemetery Dance, Fall 1993) 
  • Ian McDonald, "Some Strange Desire" (from OMNI Best Science Fiction Three. edited by Ellen Datlow)
  • Dennis Etchison, "The Dog Park" (from Dark Voices 5, edited by David Sutton and Stephen Jones; winner of the British Fantasy Association's Award for Best Short Story. 1994) 
  • E. R. Stewart, "Wooden Druthers" (from The Ultimate Witch, edited by Byron Preiss and John Betancourt)
  • Jane Yolen, "Inscription" (from The Ultimate Witch, edited by Byron Preiss and John Betancourt)
  • Robert Westall, "In Camera" (from his 1993 collection In Camera and Other Stories; NOTE:  the story actually appeared previously in Westall's 1992 collection The Fearful Lovers -- somehow this appearence slipped past the editors)
  • Daniel Hood, "The Wealth of Kingdoms (An Inflationary Tale)" (from Science Fiction Age, November 1993)
  • Nicholas Royle, "The Crucian Pit" (from The Mammoth Book of Zombies, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • John Coyne, 'The Ecology of Reptiles" (from Predators, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg)
  • Thomas Tessier, 'The Last Crossing" (from Hottest Blood, edited by Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett)
  • Caila Ross, "Small Adjustments" (from TriQuarterly #7, Spring/Summer 1993)
  • Roberta Lannes, "Precious" (from Dark Voices 5, edited by David Sutton and Stephen Jones)
  • Harlan Ellison, "Susan" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1993)
  • Sara Paretsky, "Freud at Thirty Paces" (from 1st Culprit:  A Crime Writer's Association Annual, edited by Liza Cody and Michael Z. Lewin)
  • Geoffrey H. Landis, "If Angels Ate Apples" (from Asimov's Science Fiction, June 1993; a poem)
  • John Crowley. "Exogamy" (from OMNI Best Science Fiction Three. edited by Ellen Datlow)
  • Will Shetterly, "The Princess Who Kicked Butt" (from A Wizard's Dozen:  Stories of the Fantastic, edited by Michael Stearns)
  • Miriam Grace Mondolfo, "The Apprentice" (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1993)
  • O. v. de L. Milosz, "Alvyta (A Lithuanian Fairy Tale)" (from Conjunctions 18, Bard Callege Literary Magazine; translated by Edouard Rodin)
  • Augustine Bruins Funnell, 'tattoo" (from Sinistre:  An Anthology of Rituals, edited by George Hatch)
  • Patricia A. McKillip, "Lady of the Skulls" (from Strange Dreams, edited by Stephen R. Donaldson)
  • Nancy Kress, "To Scale" (from Xanadu, edited by Jane Yolen)
  • Danith McPherson, "Roar at the Hart of the World" (from Full Spectrum 4, edited by Lou Aronica, Amy Stout, and Betsy Mitchell)
Quite a line-up.  

Datlow and Windling co-edited sixteen of these annual collections (ending in 2003); Datlow then co-edited another five volumes in the series with Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link, ending in 2008.  The following year Datlow began editing The Best Horror of the Year, a series that continues to this day.

All of these anthologies are highly recommended.  


Time to spend Thanksgiving with one of my favorite couples with two classic episodes.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020


 Hoyt Axton (1938-1999) was a singer-songwriter and a television and film actor.  His mother, Mae Boran Axton, co-wrote Elvis Presley's hit song "Heartbreak Hotel."  Many of the songs Axton himself wrote were hits for others artists:  "Joy to the World" and ""Never Been to Span" for Three Dog Night, "Greenback Dollar" for The Kingston Trio, "The Pusher" and "Snowblind Friend" for Steppenwolf, "No No Song" for Ringo Starr, among them.   

Axton spent his pre-teen years in Oklahoma.  His family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1949 and Axton graduated from high school there.  He left town on the night of his graduation when a local hardware store burned down, the result of a graduation prank.  Axton married four times.  He struggles much of his life with cocaine addiction and he and his wife were arrested for marijuana possession in 1997.  (The marijuana, his wife claimed, was to relieve pain from a 1995 stroke which left him in a wheelchair much of the time.)  He died at age 61 shortly after suffering two heart attacks.

On television, he appeared on such shows as Bonanza, I Dream of Jeanie, McCloud, Dukes of Hazzard, and Growing Pains.  He appeared in at least 23 films, including The Black stallion, Heart Like a Wheel, and We're No Angels, but I best remember him as Randall Peltzer in 1984's Gremlins.  Axton's strong voice and pulsating guitar worked well with folk, country, and standards.  Axton also appeared in commercials. including those for McDonald's, Busch beer, Pizza Hut, and FTD Florists.  In 2007 Axton and his mother were both posthumously entered into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.  


"Greenback Dollar"

"Yellow Rose of Texas" (with John Hartford and others)

"Joy to the World"

"When the Morning Comes"

"Dead and Gone" (with Pernell Roberts, from Bonanza)

"A Rusty Old Halo"

"I Dream of Highways"

"You're the Hangnail in My Life"

"Poncho and Lefty"

"Della and the Dealer"

"Bony Fingers"

"Five Hundred Miles"

"Geronimo's Cadillac"

"Mountain Right"

"The Midnight Special"

"Lion in Winter" (with Linda Ronstadt)


 Oh, so not PC.  Here's Bull Moose Jackson.


 My neighbor is a pretty vindictive guy.  After his girlfriend broke up with him he stole her wheelchair.  Now he's waiting for her to come crawling back.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


 "Calico" by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (first appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, November 1867, without author credit; reprinted in Phelps' collection Men, Women, and Ghosts, 1869)

An early work -- published when she has just turned 22 -- from a rather unconventional person.  It tells of Charlotte (Sharly) Guest, a young and very impressionable girl who is infatuated with an older friend of the family, Halcombe Dike -- a newly minted architect.  Dike had left for the city to pursue his career and has returned for a weekend, having had little luck in gaining commissions.  Dike's expected return home has Sharly all aflutter.  He had been very to her in the past and she considers him a good friend; in it only later in the story that we learn she dreams of marrying him, although her feelings have been fairly obvious from the start. 

Sharly is the oldest of five children:  the baby, Nate, Methuselah, and the very unmanageable Moppet.  Her father works long hours at his grain store and her mother suffers from headaches and has Sharley do most of the work caring for the four youngest children, along with a myriad of boring and prosaic household choirs.  To Sharley, it seems the only real respite she has is going to church on Sundays, and even then she must keep an eye on Moppet, who has been known to throw things at a lady's hat during the services.  But this Sunday, ah! this Sunday, she has a chance to go to the services alone...a chance to see and to talk with Halcombe Dike.

I see I'm getting ahead of myself.  First we must understand how young Sharly is.  Not in age, mind you (we learn late in the story that she is eighteen), but in just about everything that counts.  She puts on her next-to-very-best dress and rushes to the railroad station to view Halcombe Dike get off the Saturday train.  Certainly he will see her and stop to talk with her.  But he doesn't, Sharly's cherished Halcolme rushes past her unknowing, his mind on something else.  But he always stops by the Guest house on Saturday at twilight for a visit.  She waits patiently, but he does not appear.  Somewhat devastated, Sharly goes to bed, knowing that she will see him in church the next morning.  Fate intervenes.  Her mother's headaches are better and she decides to go to church herself, leaving Sharly at home with the baby and Moppet.  Sharly is devastated.

The worse things happen for Sharly.  Dike, returning from church, passes the Guest's barn and notices Sharly.  But Sharly is a mess.  Moppet had covered her with yellow leaves, her hair is a mess, and she's wearing a "horrid old" morning dress. Her eyes are wet from crying.  And as Dike approached and talks to her, Moppet pours a bucket of water on her.

Perhaps things will better in the evening.  While trying to get Moppet to sleep, she hears the voice of a visitor coming from downstairs.  It must be Halcombe Dyke!  But Moppet insists that Sharley stay with him until he falls asleep and he will not fall asleep.  If Sharly tries to leave, Moppet will holler and and holler, louder and louder.  Finally, Moppet falls asleep and Sharley rushes downstairs only to find the visitor has left.  It was not Halcombe Dike, but was Deacon Snow come to talk about the revival.  Ear;ly the next morning, the train leaves, taking Halcolme Dike with him.

Sharley comes to a sharp realization that her dreams of Halcombe Dike were only dreams.  She "had believed, purely and gravely, that she was dear to him. Gravely and purely too she had dreamed that this October Sunday would bring some sign to her of their future."  

And what would be ahead for her?  "The Moppet and the baby, her mother's headaches; milking the cow, and kneading the bread, , and darning the stockings; going to church in old hats -- for what difference would it make for anybody now, whether she trimmed them with Scotch plaid or sarcent cambric? -- coming home to talk over revivals with Deacon Snow, or sit down in a proper way, like decent old people, in the house with a lamp, and read Somebody's Life and Letters.  Never more any moonlight, and watching, and strolling!  Never any more hoping, or wishing, or expecting, for Sharley."

Sharley then goes into a deep funk, going through her chores robot-like and snappish.  Months drag on and she begins to consciously realize the depths of her unhappiness.  She wanders by the railroad track and when she hears the train approaching, she lies down and puts her head on the track, just waiting to end it all.  Then she changes her minds gets up, falls down the banking and buries her head in the snow.  Consumption would be a much better way to go.  But Sharley is found by Halcobme Dike's Cousin Sue, who takes her to the Dike household to warm up.  There, she receives an epiphany when Halcombe's  mother tells her that God did not give us troubles to worry about; some people are not meant to have exciting or bonny lives; they should accept that and get on.

With that revelation, Sharley gets on, accepting that she will never be Mrs Holcombe Dike and (probably) never Mrs. anyone else.  This gives her a sense of calm and happiness.  She moves on with her life with a new improved attitude in the little niche that was her home.  She will wear her life bravely.  That could be the end of the story, there's a coda.

It's April and Sharley is lost in her thoughts while walking through a stand of hickories.  An unexpected violent storm took her unawares.  Frightened, she ran through some bushes as lightning struck a tree next to where she was.  Sharley falls to the ground, unconscious.  She wakes up in the lap of Mr. Holcombe Dike.  He had found her and carried her to shelter under a small woodpile.  As the storm rages on, he professes his love for her.  He had deliberately avoided her before because he had felt himself a failure at his profession and would not place her in a life of poverty.   But now he had a successful and profitable commission and felt worthy enough to come for her.

A sappy ending, but what the heck?  The readers of Harper's in 1867 would be pleased.  There's more behind this story than there appears to be.  A young girl transitions to an adult after having her childish dreams smashed?  What kind of adulthood is there for her?  What role does society expect of her?  This was a time when "she could light a lamp and finish her hat.  That was one comfort.  It always is a comfort to finish one's hat.  Girls have forgotten far graver troubles than Sharley's in the excitement of Saturday-night millenary."  And earlier we are told, "to see her overturning her ribbon-box!  Nobody but a girl knows how girls dream over their ribbons."  Elizabeth Stuart  Phelps, you see (and as I mentioned above), was an unconventional person for her time.  An early feminist author, she challenged the traditional role of women in marriage and in the family, and through most of her career, opposed the view that a woman's happiness and fulfillment lay within marriage and the family.  The little examples of the importance of ribbons and hats and dresses in this story are, I feel, a warning shot of her advocacy for women's clothing reform.  (Later in life she advocated that women burn their corsets -- a harbinger of the women's movement a century later, perhaps.)

She was born Mary Gray Phelps in 1844, the daughter of a Congregational minister.  Her mother, Elizabeth, was an author of a series of books for girls and of religious articles.  Mary's mother died when she was eight and Mary asked to be renamed for her mother.  From that time, she became Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.  she loved making up and telling stories and had her first story published when she was thirteen.  In 1864, Harper's published her first adult fiction, after which she began writing books, first, for children, along with   other magazine stories.  Her seventh book firmly cemented her reputation.  The Gates Ajar, was the first of three "spiritual" novels that challenged to prevalent Christian view of the afterlife; it had taken her two years and many revisions to write.  The following year her first collection, Men, Women, and Ghosts appeared, containing nine stories, including one of the most famous Gothic ghost stories of the nineteenth century, "Kentucky's Ghost" (first published in The Atlantic Monthly, November 1868), as well as "The Tenth of January," (The Atlantic Monthly, March 1868) a story of the 1860 collapse and fire at the Pemberton Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, which killed an estimate 145 workers, many of them women.  Surely, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps was a writer to be reckoned with.

Phelps was also a popular lecturer (she was the first woman to give a series of lectures at Boston University, for example).  Both her lectures and her book espoused such causes as social reform, temperance, women's emancipation, anti-vivisectionism, and the plight of poverty on children.  She shocked society when she married author Herbert Dickinson Ward in 1888, a man seventeen years younger than her, who would eventually co-author three books with her.

"Calico" is available online in the collection Men, Women, and Ghosts.  The entire collection may be worth your time.


 The Essex.


 To help you celebrate your Thanksgiving week, here's Rowan Atkinson.  Well, it's more Christmas-y, but there is a turkey!

Monday, November 23, 2020


 Arlo Guthrie.


 Openers:   Petrified with astonishment, Richard Seaton stared after the copper steam-bath upon which he had been electrolyzing his solution of "X," the unknown metal.  For as soon as he had removed the beaker the heavy bath had jumped endwise from under his hand as though it were alive.  It had flown with terrific speed over the table, smashing apparatus and bottles of chemicals on its way, and was even now disappearing through the open window.  He seized his prism binoculars and focused them upon the flying vessel, a speck in the distance.  Through the glass he saw that it did not fall to the ground, but continued on a straight line, only its rapidly diminishing size showing the enormous velocity with which it was moving.  It grew smaller and smaller. and in a few seconds disappeared utterly.

The chemist turned as though in a trance.  How as this?  The copper bath he had used for months was gone -- gone like a shot, except for an electric shock and a few drops of the unknown solution.  He looked at the empty space where it had stood, at the broken glass covering his laboratory table, and again stared out the window.

He was aroused from his stunned inaction by the entrance of his colored laboratory helper, and silently motioned him to clean up the wreckage.

"What's happened, Doctah?" asked the dusky assistant.

"Search me, Dan.  I wish I knew, myself," responded Seaton, absently, lost in wonder at the incredible phenomena of which he had just been a witness.

-- Edward Elmer Smith, in collaboration with Lee Hawkins Garby, The Skylark of Space(from Amazing Stories, August 1928)

Thus the world was introduced to Richard Seaton, who used the above discovery to propel the first inter-stellar spaceship.  The Skylark of Space first appeared as a three-part serial 1928 in Amazing Stories and led to three sequels, Skylark Three (Amazing Stories, August through September 1930), Skylark of Valeron (Astounding Stories, August 1934 through February 1945, and Skylark DuQuesne, (If, June through October 1965).  The first three volumes were published in book form in the late Forties by two early science fiction small presses; from 1958 through 1965, the four books were issued as mass-market paperbacks from Pyramid Books.  Bringing the sage to a much wider reading audience.

Smith soon became E. E. Smith, preferring the initials of his first and middle names.  Smith was a food chemist working mainly on doughnuts -- a somewhat unglamorous calling for a man who would become known as the "Father of Space Opera" -- and when magazine editor Hugo Gernsbach added "PhD." to his byline, Smith became known affectionately as "Doc" Smith to his fans.

Smith's co-author was the wife of a school-friend of Smith's and who helped smith with the manuscript (mainly with dialogue and "other people things."  Over the years, Garby's name vanished from the book.

The Skylark books were wonders of imagination for their time.  Super-inventions, space battles with the fate of worlds hanging in the balance, a villain everyone could hate, a clean-cut hero with a small group of friends fighting for goodness and decency against impossible odds, planets conquered or destroyed...throw in a bit of racism common in that time and a rather demeaning view of women (again common at that time) and you have a hit with the (mostly) young, (mostly) male readers of science fiction at the time.

Smith went on to pen the Lensmen series, which, in the first four to appear, at least, showed his powers to out-do, out-imagine, out-thrill, and out-destroy worlds in a galaxies-expanding battle of good over evil as alien races use entire galaxies in their war with each other.  The series, planned by Smith as The History of Civilization included Triplanetary (magazine version, 1934; book publication, 1948), First Lensman (no magazine version; book publication, 1950), Galactic Patrol (magazine version, 1937-1938; book publication, 1950), Gray Lensman (magazine version, 1939-1940; book publication, 1951), Second-Stage Lensman (magazine version, 1941-1942; book publication, 1953), and Children of the Lens (magazine version, 1947-1948; book publication, 1954).

As the science fiction field matured, Smith's writing did not.  His star (and his writing powers) began to decline.  His reputation as a pioneer in the space opera field remained and his personality helped keep his name alive.  Following Smith's retirement from his day job in 1957, he returned to space opera, but his work during this period lacked the verve of his earlier work.  Yet, because of the paperback reprints of earlier novels, Smith was popular once again.  

Smith died in 1965.  Beginning in 1976, a number of books using Smith's characters began to appear.  William B. Ellern wrote a sequel to the Skylark series, followed by three more sequels by David Kyle. and a fifth sequel (published only in Japan) by Hideyuki Furuhashi,  Arthur Lloyd Eshbach wrote a sequel to Smith's singleton Subspace Explorers. which appeared under Smith's mane only in 1978. Stephen Goldin published 10 books in the Famkly D'Alembert saga from 1976 to 1985, basing the books on unpublished notes by Smith.  Gordon Eklund likewise contributed four books from 1978 to 1980 in the Lord Tedric series, based on a 1953 Smith short story.  E. Everett Evans (uncredited) helped to flesh out Smith's 1961-1962 Masters of Space stories for a 1976 book publication.  Although these books appeared to sell well, they did little to maintain or expand his reputation.

Smith's Lensman series had an acknowledge influence on the Navy's Combat Information Centers.  In addition, "literary precursors of ideas which arguably entered the military-scientific complex include SDI (Triplanetary), stealth (Gray Lensman), the OODA Loop, C3-based warfare, and the AWACS (Gray Lensman).   

Many science fiction writers have cited Smith as a major influence, most notably Robert A. Heinlein.  One of the first computer games, Spacewar!, was influenced by the Lensman series.  Smith served as Guest of Honor at the 2nd World Science Fiction Convention in 1940.  The 21st World Science Fiction Convention in 1963 presented Smith with the inaugural First Fandom Hall of Fame award.  He was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2004.

Today, Smith's books are important reading only to give one an understanding of how the science fiction field developed,


  • Piers Anthony, How Precious Was That While.  The second volume of the best-selling fantasy author's autobiography, following 1988's Bio of an Ogre.  The book begins with some early incidences in Anthony's life, but the majority of the book covers the fifteen years after Bio of an Ogre was written.  I've thumbed through the book and the sections about his fellow writers seems very interesting.  Anthony's full name is Piers Anthony Jacobs, by the way. 
  • Mike W. Barr & Jerry Bingham, Batman:  Son of the Demon.  Original graphic novel from 1987, an early release from DC Comics.  Batman has just stopped a coordinated robbery of a Gotham chemical plant, but has been wounded by a bullet and was dropped in the very polluted Gotham River and has collapsed on his way back to Wayne Manor.  He was rescued by Talia, the daughter of Ra's al Ghul.  There's a murder of a top scientist, a threat to control the weather, and a monstrous killer call Qayin.  Batman, Talia, and Ra's al Ghul call a truce and join forces to stop Qayin and the mad dictator who is supporting him.  Along the way, Batman marries (Holy Matrimonial Bliss, Batman!) and, by golly!, gets her pregnant.  There's battles and action galore.  Batman becomes a worried father-to-be and...
  • Lyle Blackburn, editor, Rue Morgue Magazine's Monstro Bizarro:  An Essential Manual of Mysterious Monsters.  Just what the title says: a teenaged cryptid lover's assortment of articles, photos, myth, and nonsense about such monsters as Ogopogo, the Mongolian Death Worm, and the Bishopville Lizard Man.  Sometimes it's just good to sit back with a collection of mindless fluff and wonder, Wouldn't it be cool if...
  • Ellen Datlow, editor, Blood is Not Enough.  Vampire anthology with, 17 stories -- 10 original to this volume.  Authors include Dan Simmons, Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, Tanith Lee, Joe Haldeman, and Edward Bryant.   Datlow's anthologies are always worthwhile.
  • William Campbell Gault, Come Die with Me.  The fourth (out of fourteen) Brock Callahan mystery.  "Brock 'the Rock' Callahan, the former L.A. Rams guard turned private eye, is hired by a statuesque beauty.  She wants to find out if her jockey husband is playing the field.  But Callahan doesn't get far.  The jockey's career is cut short when he ends up on the business end of a twelve-inch carving knife.  Was it the wife?  The wife's millionaire daddy?  Or the jockey's mob-connected girlfriend?  The only thing for certain is that whoever snuffed the little guy left a pint-sized stiff and a sordid collection of suspects -- all odds-on favorites."

A Holiday Tradition Via Mama Stamberg:  One thing NPR listeners look forward to every year is Susan Stamberg's "Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish," a recipe Stamberg has been sharing with NPR since 1971.  It turns out this very popular dish was not created by Stamberg's late mother-in-law, but originated in a 1959 recipe by Craig Clairborne.  (When Stamberg discovered this fact, she contacted Clairborne, who said he was delighted that the recipe had gotten "more mileage" than almost anything he had printed.) 

The relish is tangy and delicious.  If you haven't made it a part of your Thanksgiving tradtion, perhaps it's time you did.

The recipe and a bit of its history follows:

Addams Family Values:  In the 1993 movie, Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) is sent to camp with her brother.  Bad mistake.  During a play presented for the campers' parents, Wednesday deconstructs the origin and meaning of Thanksgiving  Enjoy:


Stan's View:  The events leading up to and including the first Thanksgiving, as seen by the great Stan Freberg:

Why I Don't Like Thanksgiving Week During a Pandemic:  There's no school.

The house should be quiet with just Kitty, myself, and the damncat.  But there's a pandemic and Christina is quarantined until the 30th with Mark.  Which means that Jack is staying with us.  Eight-year-old Jack.  Over-active eight-year-old Jack.  **sigh**

I have to keep interrupting writing this post to play Avengers with him.  (If I don't play, the consequences are dire.)  How do you play Avengers?  Well you take about a gazillion old Avengers toys from McDonald's Happy Meals and divide them into teams.  I get two and Jack gets all the others.  Then we fight and Jack knocks my men over and wins.  If I happen to knock over one of Jack's men, that means I'm cheating and it doesn't count.   I think Jack got these rules from Donald Trump.  Anyway, we play over and over and over again and I always lose.  Doesn't matter.  I'm not as invested in this game as Jack is.  We play the game for a half hour or son until Jack is distracted  by the television and I can writ a few more sentences.  Then Jack decides to play Avengers all over again.  I willingly submit (?) because this allows Kitty to relax while my men get another trouncing.

I have a whole week to look forward to unending this torture because THERE'S NO SCHOOL DURING THANKSGIVING WEEK!  Grrr.

(Do I need mention that Jack is a sweet, adorable child and no one could possibly love him any more than we do.  But he is EIGHT-YEARS-OLD.  And we are NOT.)

A  Class Act:  According to Wikipedia, it was on this day in 534 BC that Thespis of Icaria became the first recorded actor to appear on a stage.  I have no idea how they were able to pinpoint the date so accurately, given the many changes to the calendar, among other factors.  Of course, November 23 is better known as the birthday of Miley Cyrus -- but I'm sure that is just a coincidence.

I don't know if Thespis actually existed, but several sources, including Aristotle, say that he did.  He was either the first person to play a character (instead of speaking as himself) in a written play, or , perhaps, was the first person to be a principle actor outside of a chorus.  Anyway, tragedies were all the thing back in the day and Thespis was said to have been the most accomplished tragedian.  In competitions for tragedies held in 534 BC, Thespis was declared the winner.  There were probably other actors before Thespis but their names were never recorded and are lost to history, so if he was not the first, he was definitely the first to realize the importance of promotion.

He had a major role in changing the way how stories were told to audiences and has been credited with creating modern theater as we now know it.  Legend also has it that he invented theatrical touring.  He would tour various cities while dragging along his masks, costumes, and props with him.  

Several plays have been attributed to Thespis, but most scholars agree that these were forgeries written by Heraclides Ponticus (c. 390 BC - c. 310 BC) or were the works of later Christian writers.  Copyright laws were evidently much less strict back then.

The Worst?:  Previous to Donald Trump, the worst president in American history was...James Buchanan?  Mo Rocca investigated this claim shortly before 45 took the Oath of Office.

The World Is Weird:  Rather than concentrating on Florida Man, let's take a look and see what has happened in the world this month:
  • In France, Parents of students attending the Trillade primary school in Avignon have been warned not to throw their children over the school's fence.  This evidently was a thing for parents who brought their children to school after the gates had been closed and locked.
  • Our presidential election was not rigged, but voting for New Zealand's "Bird of the Year" was beginning to look that way.  The spotted kiwi was ahead in the race before it was found to have garnered 1500 illegal votes, all coming from the same email address.  After eliminating the false votes, the Kakapo rushed into the lead but was then overtaken by the Antipodean albatross.  Not to be outdone, the Kakapo surged forward to win the title as the contest closed on November 15.
  • On November 2, a Dutch metro train in Spijkinesse (just outside of Rotterdam) burst through a concrete barrier at the end of its tracks to hurtle through the air, only to be saved by a whale.  A massive, 30-foot-tall,  public sculpture of a whale's tail, erected in 2002, caught the runaway train as it soared through the air.  The front of the lead car rested squarely on the tail, while the rear of the car balanced on the precipice at the end of the track.  No injuries were reported.  If it wasn't for the fact that whales are mammals, I might have called this a fishy story.
  • A library in Ontario received a copy of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewitt in its return box some fifty years after it had been loaned out.  Come on, now.  Dickens isn't that slow of a read.  With an overdue fine of 2 cents a day, the patron would have owed about $585.  The library waived the fine.
  • Three people were cited this months for attempting to cook chicken in a hot spring at Yellowstone's Shoshone Geyser Basin.  When asked by a park ranger what the group was planning to do with the burlap bag of chickens, he got the answer, "Make dinner."  Marijuana was evidently involved.  All three are now banned from the park for two years, which us just about enough time for them to work up an appetite.
  • A man who stole a pair of penguins from a London zoo and sold them on Facebook now faces 32 months in prison gaol.  The penguins, yclept Pablo and Penny, were sold to an animal collect who was upset when he discovered they were in poor health.  The buyer then took the birds to a veterinarian, who notified police.  The original thief's offer to refund the buyer's money cut him no slack, for he was arrested when he went to the buyer's house with the refund.  The thief had also stolen other birds, including spoonbills, egrets, and macaws.
  • No matter how hard I try, I still can't get away from reporting Florida news.  A 10-foot Burmese python was removed from a car engine of a Ford Mustang in Dania Beach.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission removed the snake.  No word on what they did with it.  Pythons have become an environmental nuisance in Florida, especially in areas near the Everglades, because they eat almost everything and have no true natural predators.  Responsible owners (such as my nephew Mark and my niece Amy) care for their reptiles and would never let them loose or escape.
  • Also in Florida, at Okechobee's aptly named Everglades Elementary School (and whose mascot is an orange-clad alligator), the real thing appeared at their playground this month.  Sheriff's deputies removed the gator.  No word on whether the students wanted to see it go.

Good News:
  • Covid patient who could not talk thanks hospital staff with a violin serenade
  • Zoom is lifting its 40-minute time limit for Thanksgiving so families can "get together" for the holiday
  • 100 years after first breakthrough, Canadian scientists believe they have found a cure
  • Arkansas schools install solar panels to save millions on energy and to increase teacher pay
  • Homebuyers find $15,000 in coins that had been hidden and forgotten; they return the  money to its proper owners
  • Healthy sleep habits can lower heart failure risk by 42%
  • Barack Obama agrees to "prank" a fan and shows up on her Zoom call  
  • We probably have all seen the story about the baby owl found in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, but I can't get enough of it
  • Dolly Parton has done more to help bring a Covid vaccine near than a certain US President has     Just another reason to like Dolly
  • Biker finds a sickly swan in New York City and carries it 23 miles via foot, auto, and subway to get it help

"If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it." -- Lucy Larcom

Today's Poem:
Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table.  No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.  So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it.  Babies teethe at the corners.  They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.  We make men at it.  We make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.  They laugh at us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

The table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table.  It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror.  It is a place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared out parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.  We pray of suffering and remorse.  We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

-- Joy Harjo

So, for this Thanksgiving week I wish you joy and happiness, gratitude and courage, peace and friendship, endurance and love, and a startling awareness of all the good and wonderful things this world has to offer.

Coda:  I have posted this song before, but it always seems so much more meaningful over the Thanksgiving holiday,

Sunday, November 22, 2020


 A classic.  I pity the whippersnappers who have never heard this.


 Not a hymn, per se, but it is a song of praise about some of the things that are most important in life.  I thought it was an appropriate song for Thanksgiving week.

Saturday, November 21, 2020


 Since this YouTube link was posted in 2011, it ends there with 2010.  How many do you remember?

JET POWERS #3 (1951)

 Comic book publisher Magazine Enterprises did not make things easy.  Their title Jet Powers was actually titled merely Jet on the covers, and Jet Powers #3 was actually A-1 Comics #35.  A-1 Comics #1 was published circa November 1945 and featured comic strip character Kerry Drake; other issues titles A-1 Comics featured on their cover Texas Slim (#4, #9), Corsair (#5), Rodeo Ryan (#8), Guns of Fact and Fiction (#13), Joan of Arc (#21). Dick Powell (#22), Fibber McGee (#25), Red Hawk  (at least 11 issues, including #90), Red Wind (at least 15 issues, including #108), Straight Arrow's Fury (#119), Scotland Yard (#121), Black Phantom (#122), and Africa (#137) -- each of these titles had the featured story emblazoned in large type on the cover; to see the actual title A-1 Comics, you have to squint.  Other issues of A-1 Comics eliminated that title altogether so that it only appeared in the indicia:  The Avenger (#129. #130, #133, #138), Badmen of the West (#100, #120), Cave Girl (#82, #96, #112, #125), Dogface Dooley (#40, #49. #50), Great Western (#93, #105, #113, #127), Hot Dog (#107, #115, #124, #136), "I'm a Cop" (#111, #126), Manhunt (#63, #77, and possibly others), Muggsy Mouse (#33, #36, #38, #95, #99), Strong Man (#130, #132, #139), Teena (##11, #12. #15), Thun'da (#47, #56, 73, #78, #83, #86), Trail Colt (#24, #26), White Indian (#11. #94. #101, #104, #117, #135), and (of course) Jet Powers (#30, #32, #35), #39).  A number of these characters had their own comic books, mixing those numberings with that of the A-1 Comics numbers.

Phew!  Confusion City.

Jet Powers lasted for only the four issues listed above.  He shared each anthology issue of the comic book with Space Ace (actually, the third character named Space Ace in the Magazine Enterprises Universe!).

Jet is a science hero who uses advanced tech to battle supervillains.

Attention should be paid to the comments of "crashryan" at the link for issue #3:  "The lead Jet Powers tale is an astonishingly bleak story.  The world as we know it really DOES end.  By the time Jet and Su Shan stop the disaster from getting worse, countless millions of people are dead and the 20th century social and economic systems are destroyed.  Whew!  But not to worry.  All of this is forgotten by the time the next story begins.  Everything is back the way it was.  EDIT:  After posting this comment I checked out issue #4 and discovered there was a follow-up story in which Jet and Co. battle would-be tyrants trying to reorganize society.  Issue #4 also has a follow-up to the Jet Powers-in-space story from #3.  The writers really boxed themselves in here.  JP lives in two separate incompatible realities in the same issue.  They probably breathed a sigh of relief when the book was cancelled."

"The Dust Doom" is a cloud of radioactive dust from outer space that descends on Earth, eventually killing everyone except those few that were deep in caves (or cellars, or whatever).  Jet and his lovely oriental assistant Su Shan return from space after trying unsuccessfully to defeat (?) the dust, so he does the next best thing:  he issues a warning to the people of earth.  Get indoors!  Drink water only from deep wells!  Eat only canned food!  Protect your spleens!  As mentioned above, most of the world's population do not heed Jet's words.  The fools!

The second Jet Powers (why am I so tempting to type jet Jackson, instead?) story is "The Devil's Machine," in which the evil Professor Nukla uses his latest device to turn zoo animals into mindless killers, ravaging the Pennsylvania countryside.  The machine actually duplicated a single elephant and a single lion into herds/priodes of the animals.  Ah, but this was only Nukla's first step.  Having tried the machine out on the lower animals he is ready to experiment on a human being.  Nukla's mistake was capturing Jet to perform his experiment on.  (He has also captured a young engaged couple.)   As expected, this story ends with a case of the biter bit.

Also in this issue:  two adventures of Space Ace:  "The Nothing Weapon" and "The Interplanetary War."

Great art by both Bob Powell (on Jet Powers) and Al Williamson (on Space Ace).


Friday, November 20, 2020


 From 1926, Johnny Dodd's Dixieland Jug Blowers.


 The Frightened Fish (Doc Savage #186) by "Kenneth Robeson" (Will Murray), 1992

Pulp hero Doc Savage blazed his way through 181 fantastic adventures in the pages of Doc Savage Magazine from March 1933 to Summer 1949, "righting wrongs, helping the oppressed, smashing the guilty."  The stories were all by-lined "Kenneth Robeson," a house name used most often by Lester Dent who wrote or co-wrote all but 22 of the novels.  A final Doc Savage novel, The Red Spider, was scheduled to appear in the magazine but the magazine folded before it could appear.  This novel was eventually discovered among Dent's papers years later and was published in 1979 as the 95th book in that series (the Bantam series was not published in the order that they had appeared in the magazine).  In 1973, legendary Philip Jose Farmer published a fictional biography of the Man in Bronze, Doc Savage:  His Apocalyptic Life (Farmer had previously written several pastiches about the character).  In 1991, Farmer wrote his own authorized Doc Savage novel, Escape from Loki, which explored a seventeen-year-old Clark Savage in World War I and his first meeting with the five men who would become his aides.  In 1991, Will Murray, who had been literary executor for the Dent estate, published Python Isle, the first of at least fifteen Doc Savage Adventures based on outlines written by Dent.  The Frightened Fish was the third of these novels.

A man sits in a restaurant.  When the neighboring table orders fish he goes berserk and tries to kill himself.  Two other customers restrain him...A man passes a market.  In the window there is a large fish laying on a tray of ice.  He panics and yells something about he can't escape the "frightened fish."  He tries to throw himself in front of a taxi but is restrained by passersby...A man is at a newsstand and notices a rack of postcards which picture a swordfish.  He screams and knock over the rack, yelling that the fish are hunting him.  He is restrained by other customers...Outside the skyscraper where Doc Savage has his headquarters on the 86th floor, three men are surreptitiously drawing a large fish on the sidewalk.  Doc is informed that something strange is going on outside his building and decides to investigate.  From a distance, he follows the men's conversation by lip reading:  They are all members of Max Woods' gang and everything that had been done that day was to learn if frightened fish meant anything to Doc.  If Doc knows anything, he should be getting ready go to Quincy. Massachusetts.  When George, the man who was the one who continually and loudly made a scene about frightened fish, approached, he would once again go into his act.  With luck, Doc would capture him and interrogate him.  If it turns out that Doc does know something about about the fish or about Max Woods' plans, the men are to eliminate Doc.  The other member of the gang, George, approaches and begins to go into his act.  Doc interrupts them and tells them to drop the act.  They shoot Doc and flee.

Doc is wearing his specially designed bulletproof vest and is unharmed.  Back in his headquarters, Monk tells Doc that there is an irate woman who is demanding that Doc tell her what he had done with her fiance,  Doc agrees to see the woman.  Celia Adams is young, beautiful, privileged, and will brook no nonsense -- Doc know where her fiance is and had better tell he at once.  She is the daughter of state congressman Manet Adams and a descendant of John Adams and of John Quincy Adams and wants to know what Doc has done with her ichthyologist fiance.  Doc has never heard of the young man but things are beginning to tie together.  Fish, a missing ichthyologist, and Quincy, the girl's home town...Doc, Monk, Ham, and Johnny head off to Quincy with the ever-annoying Miss Adams.

Something strange is going on in Quincy.  All the fish have left Quincy Bay.  Every.  Single,  One.  For some reason, the fish have been frightened away.  Two weeks earlier, the waters of the bay had turned black during the night and had soon returned to its normal state.  Celia Adams is kidnapped while they were in Quincy.  The trail soon leads them to Plum Island, just off Newbiryport, Massachusetts.  There, the marine life seems to have committed suicide -- seven whales had beached themselves.  

There they  also find Celia's fiance, Baker Eastland.  During the war, the young ichthyologist has developed a chemical that could frighten fish.  The chemical could be used off the waters of Japan to pressure that country, whose main food source was fish, to surrender or face starvation.  But the war ended soon after Eastland had developed the chemical and the War Department was no longer interested in the discovery.  Somehow a man named Max Woods learn of the chemical and bought the formula from Eastland.  Eastland (naive as an ichthyologist can be) finally wonders why Woods would want with the formula.  He tells his fiance he is going to consult Doc Savage (of course, he doesn't tell her way), and on his way he feels he is being followed.  Rather than see Doc Savage, he goes to an old cabin on Plum Island to hide out.  Shortly after finding the ichthyologist, Doc and the gang are shot at.  They manage to capture the gunman, a polite and closed-mouthed Japanese.  So it's off to Japan.

The action begins to pick up and Doc finds himself facing a evil mastermind whom Doc has faced before and thought was dead.  Both Doc and the villain villain were trained by the same man years ago.  Now Doc must use all his wits and talents to avoid a new global war.  To add a wrinkle to the affair, Savage actually falls in love (!) -- an affair that cannot end happily.

Murray captures much of Dent's fast action style and humor, realizing that Doc Savage must appeal to action-loving readers of all ages.  Murray knows his pulp, he knows Doc Savage, and he's able to add a fresh perspective to the saga.

If you like Doc, you'll love Will Murray's version of the Man of Bronze.

Thursday, November 19, 2020


 The Searchers.


Richard Widmark stars as Alex Gregory in this episode as a man who learns of a potion that can give immortality and he's willing to kill to get it.  There are some hidden dangers to immortality, as he is about to learn...

This episode was written by pulp master Emile C. Tupperman, who authored ten pulp hero novels about Richard Wentworth, The Spider, and the remarkable thirteen-novel sequence about The Purple Invasion for Operator #5,

As usual, this episode was directed by Himan Brown.  Paul McGrath served as "Mr. Host."


Wednesday, November 18, 2020


You're probably not old enough to have entered a Blind Pig but, if you were. you have heard something like this piece from Satchmo.


 An Irishman calls his son on the day before Christmas and tells him that he and his mother are getting a divorce.

The son is shocked.  In all of his thirty-seven years he had never known his parents to argue and always thought they had a "perfect" marriage.

"You see, son," the old man explains, "in the past year since you and your sister moved to London, we've been fighting constantly and it's gotten so that we just can't stand the sight of each other.  I know it's difficult for you to accept but that's the way it is.  I do, however, want you to tell your sister.  I'm really afraid of giving her the news myself."

So the man calls his sister, and -- as expected -- she treated him to a barrage of traditional Irish curses and an even larger barrage of non-Irish curses.  "Like heck they are getting a divorce!" she screamed.  "Let me handle this!"

The sister calls Ireland and put her foot down to her Da.  "You are not getting a divorce!  And you will not do a single thing until I get there, do you understand!  I'm calling my brother right now and we are both getting on a plane!  Do not do a single until we get there tomorrow!"

The father hangs up the phone and turns to his wife.  "It's settled then.  They'll both be home for Christmas -- and they are paying their own way!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


"The Education of the King" by Edgar Wallace (first published in The Weekly Tale-Teller, February 26, 1910; included in Wallace's story collection Sanders of the River, 1911).  It has also been reprinted under the title "The Education of King Peter."

Ah, the "White Man's Burden" has a lot to answer for but in the early part of the twentieth century, Imperial England did not see it that way.  It was an age of political and social xenophobia with a politically incorrect attitude that washed over the Empire like a flood.  (Not that history has shown us to do much better in this day and age, but we have made some progress, albeit greater lip service.)  The duty of God-fearing Christians (practicing or not) was plain when it came to Africa.  It's poor, benighted peoples needed a strong hand to raise them up out of poverty and ignorance and if the Empire can make a pound or two while doing so, so much the better.

Into this hodge-podge of primitives, superstition, and barbarism came Mister Commissioner Sanders, representing the British government in West Central Africa.  Sanders is a practical, wise, and firm man.  He is also a callous bigot with a vicious streak, although Wallace certainly did not expect to portray him that way.

"Now, there is a subtle difference between all these [African] races, a difference that only men like Sanders know.

"It is not necessarily a variety of colour, although some are brown and some yellow, and some -- a very few -- jet black.  The difference is in character.  By Sanders' code you trusted all natives up to the same point, as you trust children, with a few notable exceptions.  The Zulu were men, the Basuto were men, yet childlike in their grave faith.  The black men who wore a fez were were subtle, but trustworthy; but the browny men of the Gold Coast, who talked English, wore European clothing, and called one another "Mr." were Sanders' pet abomination.

"[...] You may say of Sanders that he was a statesman, which means that he had no exaggerated opinion of the value of human life.  We he saw a dead leaf on the plant of civilization, he plucked it off, or a weed growing with his 'flowers' he pulled it up, not stopping to consider the weed's equal right to life.  When a man, whether he was capita or slave, by is bad example endangered the peace of his country, Sanders fell upon him.  In their unregenerate days, the Isisi called him "Organi Isisi," which means "little butcher  bird," and certainly in that time Sanders was prompt to hang.  He governed people three hundred miles beyond the fringe of civilization.  Hesitation to act, delay in awarding punishment, either of these two things would be mistaken for weakness amongst a people who had neither power to reason, nor will to excuse, , nor any large charity."

Sanders "kept a watchful eye upon some quarter of a million cannibal folk, who ten years before regarded white men as we regard the unicorn..."

Edgar Wallace was one of the most popular writers of his time.  Among his most popular series were the Just Men, the J. G. Reeder. the Educated Evans, and (of course) the Sanders stories (including those about Sanders' compatriot, Lieutenant Bones, more formally known as Lt. Francis Augustus Tibbetts).
The African stories eventually filled twelve books by Wallace and at least two written by Francis Gerard after Wallace's death.  The adventures of Sanders was also made into a disquietingly dated film in 1935, Sanders of the River, staring Leslie Banks as Sanders and Paul Robeson as a native chief -- Robeson was the best part of the film.

Anyway, that's the background.  I'm not sure if "The Education of the King" was the first Sanders story that Wallace wrote or published, but it was the lead story in the first Sanders collection, Sanders of the River.

The previous Commissioner, whom Wallace politely disguises as "Commissioner Mister Niceman," was one of the meek type of official who felt that soft words can persuade the natives into behaving.  While jaw-boning the rather obnoxious native chief of the Akasava who had stolen women and goats from a weaker neighboring tribe, Niceman got the chief to agree to return both women and goats.  Niceman wrote up a glowing report about his efforts and promptly left the country, leaving the native chief free to ignore the agreement, as he had always intended to, and the weaker tribe in a state of disarray.  At the same time, Sanders was making his way to Isisi, whose king was harboring a witch doctor who had poisoned a man, when he was dispatched to resolve the kerfuffle that Mr. Niceman has caused.  Sanders easily and firmly resolved the problem, earning the enmity of the native chief.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Mister Niceman returned and soon found his head hanging on a pole outside the hut of the native king that had been harboring the murderer.  Sanders had to act on that and British troopers wreaked their vengeance on the tribe; buried in the rubble were the bodies of both the murderous chief and the poisoner witch doctor that he had harbored.

Now the problem is who is to lead the tribe?  The dead king's brother is more than willing to take leadership, but Sanders vetoed that idea.  The king had a nine-year-old son whom Sanders felt should be named king, Peter (he had been given a proper English name, you see), with the uncle to serve as regent.  Sanders also hinted at dire consequences if the dead king's brother should betray the King's Peace.

The fact that a nine-year-old should be named king made a splash in the British and European papers.  One woman felt compelled to travel to Africa to give the young King Peter a proper education, leaving after a few days because the boy was naked and dirty, living in a mud hut, and was apt to do the most shocking things.  A group of missionaries was next -- soon to be expelled by Sanders for fomenting insurrection.  

Now the chief of the Akasava (remember him?), who was bearing a heavy grudge against Sanders, travelled to the Isisi and began to flatter King Peter with all sorts of grandiose claims about his (King Peter's) powers.  Aided by the boy's regent, King Peter is convinced that he can attack and loot neighboring tribes and Sanders would not be able to do a thing about it.  Big mistake.  Sanders came down on them like a ton of bricks, banishing both the chief of the Akasava and the regent.  Sanders then took it upon himself to educate the young king.  The boy soon learned how to judge grievances and rule properly, African-style.  His admiration for Sanders begins to grow, but the banished bad guys have gathered a force against the boy king and Sanders.  What happens next leaves a mark on Sanders.

Wallace laced this story with a bit of humor, but is that enough to outweigh the dated and racist writing?  For myself, I read such stories with an awareness of the bigotry that was common for the time.  I make allowances that I would not make for a modern story.  Your mileage may differ.


Young whippersnappers won't remember this moment in music history, but a lot of us not-quite geezers do...

The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964.


 It's time to drop in on the Jot 'Em Down Store in Pine Ridge. Arkansas, to see what Lum and Abner are up to.  Turns out they're right sociable.

Monday, November 16, 2020


 Cat Mother and The All Night Newsboys.


 Openers:   The solemn tones of an old cathedral clock have announced midnight -- the air is thick and heavy -- a strange death like stillness pervades all nature.  Like the ominous calm which proceeds some more than usually terrific outbreak of the elements, they seem to have paused even in their ordinary fluctuations, to gather a terrific strength for the great effort.  A faint peal of thunder now comes from afar off.  Like a signal gun for the battle of the winds to begin, it appeared to awaken them from their lethargy, and one awful, warring hurricane swept over a whole city, producing more devastation in the four or five minutes it lasted, than would a half century of ordinary phenomena.

It was as if some giant had blown upon some toy town, and scattered many of the buildings before the hot blast of his terrific breath; for as suddenly as that blast had come did it cease, and all was as still and calm as before.

Sleepers awakened, and thought that they had heard must be the confused chimera of a dream.  They trembled and turned to sleep again.

All is still -- as still as the very grave.  Not a sound breaks the magic of repose.  What is that -- a strange pattering noise, as of a million fairy feet?  It is hail -- yes, a hail-storm has burst over the city.  Leaves are dashed from the trees, mingled with small boughs; windows that lie most opposed to the direct fury of the pelting particles of ice are broken, and the rapt repose that before was so remarkable in its intensity, is exchanged for a noise which, in its accumulation, drowns every cry of surprise or consternation which here and there arose from ;persons who found their houses invaded by the storm.

Now and then, too, there would come a sudden gust of wind that in its strength that blew laterally, would, for a moment, hold millions of hailstones suspended in mid air, but it was only to dash them with redoubled force in some new direction, where more mischief was to be done.

Oh, how the storm raged!  Hail...rain...wind.  It was, in very truth, an awful night.

-- Varney the Vampyre; or, A Feast of Blood, attributed to James Malcom Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest (1845-1847; published in book form in 1847)

Not only was that "an awful night." but it was also some pretty awful, melodramatic prose.  It was, however, extremely popular and helped lay the foundation of the vampire novel.  Varney introduced a number of tropes to vampire lore:  "Varney has fangs, leaves two puncture wounds on the necks of his victims, comes through a window to attack a sleeping maiden, has hypnotic powers, and has superhuman strength."  Varney is also a sympathetic vampire; driven not necessarily by a sense a sense of evil, but by an innate and powerful need.  Crosses and garlic and religious trappery do not affect him and he can easily stay out in the sunshine.  Varney can also eat and drink as a human when needed, but it repulses him.

Throughout the epic, Varney has several varying origin stories.  He was originally cursed for betraying a royalist to Oliver Cromwell, and later killed his own son in a fit of anger.  He has died several times but was always revived.  He hates his condition and can never save himself from his curse.

Originally published anonymously in a series of weekly pamphlets, or penny dreadfuls, Varney ran to 232 chapters, almost 667,000 words, and 876 double column pages.  It is pretty well established that Rymer and Prest wrote this monolith, but it is not certain who wrote what.  Authors were paid per type-set line and were thus motivated to fill out a page as fast as they could and using as much verbiage as they could.  They over-inflated language and the need for speed over a period of years led to many inconsistencies in the story -- although readers of the day certainly did not mind that; they were just thrilled to be able to continue reading the adventure.  (Remind anyone of television soap operas?)

Despite being a massive and wordy work, Varney the Vampyre is fairly easy reading for its original audience were, for the most part, unsophisticated.

This book -- along with Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1845-1847; another serialized penny dreadful, written on the heels of Varney and just slightly less of a doorstop book) -- is essential reading for any student of supernatural literature.


  • Frank Bonham, One Ride Too Many and Twelve Other Action Stories of the Wild West.  Collection edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Bill Pronzini.  Bonham was always a reliable producer of great western tales,  Twelve of the stories are from the 1940s, and one is from 1950, and are sourced from Dime Western, Star Western, Bluebook, Argosy, Liberty, and Short Stories.  The remaining story, which leads the book, is from a 1987 issue of Mystery Scene and tells of a young, productive pulpster who is conned into working for pulp writer Ed Oliver Ratt, who has the lad write about 1,440,000 words of stories that are published under the Ratt name and gives him pittance in return.  Any inference to Ed Earl Repp is coincidental, I'm sure.
  • Donald E. Westlake, What's So Funny?  A Dortmunder novel, the 13th (out of 14) in the series.  "All it takes is a few underhanded moves by a tough ex-cop named Eppick to pull master thief John/Dortmunder into a game he never wanted to play.  With no choice, the crook musters his always-game gang and they set out on a perilous treasure hunt for a long-lost gold and jewel-encrusted chess set.  Once intended as a birthday gift for the last Russian czar, it unfortunately arrived after that party was over.  But from the moment Dortmunder reaches for the first pawn, he faces insurmountable odds.  The purloined past of this precious set is destined to confound any strategy he finds on board.  Success is not inevitable with John Dortmunder leading the attack, but he's nothing if not persistent, and some gambit or other might just stumble into a winning move."  Westlake was a national treasure and his Dortmunder novels are pure comic crime gold.

The Clown Circus:  (I had intended this post to show up on November 9th, but my computer would not cooperate.  For two weeks now it has been the most recalcitrant machine on God's green Earth, shutting down and rebooting a gazillion times a day.  Until five days ago, when it died completely.  It took a day and a half to get it back to life.  Of sorts.  It still reboots itself at odd times [and often], but I am able to work somewhat with it, although it refuses to direct me to a number of links I normally use.  Anyway. I had intended on porting a poignant, soul-searching bit on the previous week's election, one that would hurl me instantly into the pantheon of commentators.  Oh, well.  You'll have to settle for these jumbled thoughts.)

Donald Trump has taken his clown car and driven it through the front door of the White House where he has been frantically denying that he will not have a second term.  His many so-called legal attacks are fizzling out fast that a bottle of cola strapped in to the seat of the world's most terrifying roller coaster -- every appeal and lawsuit that has been heard so far has been denied as meritless.  Meritless or not, that does not stop President Meretricious from doing his utmost to stymy the upcoming transition.  Trump's cronies are denying Biden's transition team needed fund to ensure a smooth process, his State Department is refusing to forward telegrams of congratulations from foreign leaders, and Mitch McConnel and his merry band of democracy destroyers are backing the Donald in questioning the election.  (To be fair, Moscow Mitch and the abetting Republicans are doing so in order to keep Trump's base and to build up Republican strength in Georgia for the upcoming Senate run-off races in that state, races that will decide which party will lead the Senate.  After that, many of Trump's cheerleaders will drop him like one big, fat, hot, orange potato. methinks.)

In the meantime, the rhetoric continues to enflame a divided America.  Trump is purging parts of our government during his last months in office.  He has stripped the Defense Department of most rational adults and has replaced them with his yes-men, possibly leading the way to start a war before January 20th.  He has reportedly questioned whether he replace the Electoral College electors with his own electors to ensure another term.  Rumors are flying about possible pardons for his cronies, his family, and himself.  As the country heads into an even more deadly round of the pandemic, he is still downplaying the disease and its effects and promising to keep everything open.  Human lives do not matter to thism an; only money does.  Rallies in support of Trump in front of various statehouses, a major media pro-Trump blitz, disinformation and more disinformation...Will this yahoo ever give up?  I have read that Trump actually believes he is being cheated.  I have also read that Trump knows he lost and is just trying to do his best to thwart the incoming administration.  Jared Kushner and others have privately told Trump that he should concede; Ivanka is looking for a graceful way out for her father; and DJTJ and Eric are violently opposed to any concessions -- again, how much of this is true is open to question because we are not inside the White House, not are we privy to Trump's Swiss cheese, privy-filled brain.

Here on the Florida Panhandle, deep into Trump territory, we are privileged (is there a sarcastic font that I can use for that word?  Italics just doesn't do it justice.) to represent us in Congress, one Matt Gaetz, Trump sycophant supreme.  He appeared a Trump rally last week in our county, and the security for the rally was provided by the Proud Boys (Motto:  Proud is just another word for racist).  When questioned about the questionable "security," Gaetz to a page from his master's playbook and said that he did not know much about the group except that he had heard they were proud Americans.  He also added that he knew a member of the Proud Boys, and that man was gay.  Yes, my representative in 
Congress is an ignorant, condescending anal sphincter.

It's going to be an interesting lead-up to the Inauguration.  And an interesting four years ahead as we slog our way through the morass that the last four years has given us.

The Santa Fe Trail:  Today the Santa Fe Trail is 199 years old, as it marks the end of a journey from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe (then in the northern Mexican state of Neuvo Mexico) by William Becknell, who found a trail that could accommodate wagon trains and draft teams.  The following year, 1922, he altered the trail slightly to make is even more accessible for trade.  The route itself was pioneered by Pedro Vial, a French explorer in 1792, and had been used for a fur trading monopoly then,  Becknell gets credit for improving the trail and for publicizing it.  It soon grew into a major route for both economic development and settlement, especially after the United States gained ownership of New Mexico in 1848.  The Santa Fe Trail remained a major commercial highway until 1880, when railroads came to Santa Fe.  Santa Fe was also an important destination because it was at the northern end of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which reached Mexico City.

The trail also crossed Comanche territory and separated bison herds from seasonal grazing lands. Indian raids south of Santa Fe effectively cut off mush of the trade between Santa Fe and New Mexico.  When the Republic of Texas seceded from Mexico in 1836, both Texas and Mexico claimed Santa Fe.  the squabble led to a few disturbances and, eventually, to an unauthorized raid on a trading caravan on the Trail in Kansas and the murder of the caravan's leader, who happened to be the son of the former governor of New Mexico.  More raids from Texas followed, but the fledgling forces were no match for the Mexican army.  The Southern end of the Santa Fe Trail remained safe again until the united states entered a war with Mexico.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway began its expansion west, paralleling the Santa Fe Trail.  Delays in building the route left the railroad in need of cash so the AT&SF instituted a discounted "shopping excursion" fare to allow potential purchasers of land to explore what was available; the cost of the fare was deducted from the purchased price of the land -- which had been given to the railroad by a very generous Congress.  That greatly helped the westward expansion of the country, as did further extensions of the railroad along the western Trail.  The Santa Fe Trail also provided jumping off points for the newer California and Oregon Trails.  

Its glory days behind it, the Santa Fe Trail played a vital part in the building of America.  Portions of the Trail in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  A long segment of the Trail near Dodge City, Kansas is a National Historic Landmark, and in Colorado, the Santa Fe Trail Mountain Route -- Bent's New Fort is also on the National Register.

The Santa Fe Trail had its dangers -- treacherous plains, hot deserts, steep mountains, hot, dry summers, bitterly cold winters, a scarcity of fresh water, a lack of food, violent lightning storms, unfriendly Indians, military skirmishes and battles, danger of raids, and rattlesnakes and other potentially deadly animals.  Through all the hardships and perils, it was through this Trail that much of America was created.

The Haunted Castle:  A vampire witch, ghosts, skeletons, an impish demon, vanishing furniture, and the old pitchfork in the fanny routine...

A short (3:18 minutes) 1896 film by pioneer Georges Melies.


The Year That Just Keeps Giving:  Two weeks ago, somebody in Jack's third grade class tested positive, so Jack -- along with the rest of his class -- were quarantined at home, which meant that Christina had to take two weeks off of work to watch over and home school him.  (Kitty and I are in the high risk category so we could not take over to let Christina work.)  There are home school types and there are non-home school types.  Both Christina and Jack fall into the latter category.  They had two weeks of frustrated hell and despair.  

At the end of the weeks, Mark called from college to say that he has been exposed and is being quarantined in his dorm room.  The following day. Mark called and asked if it would okay for him to continue running if he took all the necessary precautions.  The next day, he said he did not feel well and spent the day in bed.   Then, yesterday he said he felt awful, had tested positive of Covid, and needed to go home; his roommates were planning to go home for Thanksgiving and he did not want to risk passing the disease on.

Some juggling had to be done.  So Jack is with us for the duration, which means that we have to drop him off and pick him up from school every day, manage his medications, prod him into doing his homework, shuttle him back and forth to soccer practices and games, get him to various appointments...the whole magilla.   Erin will be splitting her time between our house and her boyfriend's, spending most nights in their spare bedroom, thanks to the kindness of her boyfriend's mother.  Duncan, Erin's little black mop of an over-privileged dog Duncan will be staying with us (her boyfriend's dogs do not like other dogs), which means we will be feeding and walking the dog when Erin is working.  Also that Erin will be taking her on-line classes here while trying not to have Jack disturb her.  Walt is staying at a nearby hotel because he has to be able to go to work at the Air Force base.  Christina and Mark will stay home while she watches and frets over Mark and tries to handle the remaining dogs, cats, snake, and turtle.  Thanksgiving appears cancelled.

2020 -- the year we just muddled through.

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man Matthew Alexander King was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to hire a hitman to kill a Miami judge and prosecutor who had handled a previous (and different) murder-for-hire plot.  King is currently serving 97 months for trying to hire a hitman to kill various members of his estranged wife's family.
  • Florida Man and registered Democrat Richard Szala was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and various Trump supporters, including Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and Representative Matt Gaetz.  He also threatened to kill his pro-Trump neighbors.  Authorities took possession of his gun, phone, and computer; they also took possession of Szala.  See?  There are wackos on both sides.
  •  Anthony Stephen Guevara, Florida Man from Naples, has been charges with changing a voter's registration information without permission and unauthorized computer access.  The voter was Governor Rick DeSantis, who became aware of the crime when  he went to vote.  Authorities said that Guevara may have also accessed the voter information for Michael Jordan and LeBron James, although there was no indication that their information was tampered with.
  • Keeping up with the election/political theme, we have Florida Man Larry Wiggins, 62, of Manatee County, who tried to get a Vote by Mail ballot for his wife, who had died two years ago.   He told authorities that he was just seeing if the system worked.  It worked, and Wiggins was arrested.

Some Good News:
  • Man opens home to shelter over 300 dogs during hurricane
  • Non-invasive stimulation could help millions suffering from tninitus
  • Daughter gets job in dad's Alzheimer's care unit so they could be closer -- and finds her passion
  • Barber shop swoops in to help run restaurant when staff comes down with Covid -- "We couldn't ask for better neighbors"
  • Downs Syndrome athlete make history coming in finishing an Iron Man contest and gives the medal to his mother
  • 11-year-old artist spreads kindness by making flags of gratitude for veterans and health care workers
  • Instead of putting him in a nursing home, grandson takes 95-year-old man on epic bucket list RV road trip

Life Tip:  'If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is definitely not for you."  -- Steven Wright

Today's Poem:

Santa Claus in November



Already now begins Santa to receive many Christmas wishes

10286 letters arrived in his mailbox today.... many to read -- poor old man

Do you still believe in Santa Claus...I hope you do

If and when you stop believing in Santa Claus...

will your Christmas gifts only include wool socks or underwear

-- A-L Andresen