Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, November 16, 2020


 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




  1. I complain a lot about being alone through this, but your situation is much harder. So much responsibility including caring for animals. And there is just no bright spot for most of us given Trump's behavior. And it is making Biden look impotent, not a good way to begin his presidency. Sigh.

  2. Hang in, man and family. Including fur family. Maher bugs me via being so aggressively half-smart, but the same set of late-night comedian commentators, along with THE DAILY SHOW, help me out most nights as well...when I don't simply fall asleep.