Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, December 31, 2020


Let's start the new year off right!  Here's Canned Heat from 1967.


    The Convertible Hearse by William Campbell Gault (1957)

To the 21st century eye, Brock "The Rock" Callahan, former L.A. Rams guard turned private eye after a knee injury ruined his gridiron career, is a bit of a chauvinist (and, it seems, a bit of a homophobe).  It is 1957, remember, and people back then were not as woke.  He was watching television with his girlfriend Jan one night, when a commercial for used car king Loony Leo ("nobody, but nobody, will give you the deal old Loony Leo will") came on and Jan remarked that she needs a new car and why don't they go down to Loony Leo's lot the next day.  Loony Leo has a 1956 Cadillac Eldorado for sale for thirty-four hundred dollars; both the car and the price interest Jan.  Callahan tries to talk her out of it, telling her that that car never existed and that, when she ot down to the lot, she will be told it had already been sold.  Callahan then tried to explain that these used car lots were traps for naive and unwitting customers.  Callahan's condescending tone irritated Jan, so the next morning she went to Loony Leo's, with Callahan along to try to prevent her from making a mistake.  Of course, the El Dorado had "already been sold."

Loony Leo talks Jan into a 1956 Cadillac convertible for a trade-in on her Chevy and $125 a month for 36 months.  Callahan tried to explain to her that this would work out to an additional $2000 cost for her.  Jan gets her back up and decides to get the car anyway and doesn't Callahan think she is capable of buying a car on her own?  Callahan at least gets both Jan and Loony Leo to give her the car overnight so she can have an independent mechanic look at it.  The argument between Callahan and Jan continues into the night and she kicks him out of her apartment. 

The next day, Jan is still mad and Brock reaches out to a friend in the car business.  Brock gives him the engine number to check out.  The engine number belonged to car that had been completely demolished in a crash and then sold for parts.  Brock reports this to the police but before they could bring Loony Leo in for questioning he had vanished.  Dunbar's first wife, wealthy in her own right, asks Callahan to convince her ex-husband to give himself in to the police.  She told Callahan that he was probably hiding out in a place in the Malibu hills.  Callahan finds Leo there buy Leo has a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead.

Things begin to get complicated.  There's an organized stolen car ring, a prominent former mayoral candidate, the sexy young second wife and her actor toyboy, the crooked mechanic with a missing finger, a sexy neighbor who attended some wild parties, a washed-up unlicensed P.I., and a pair of freelance hitmen named Reno and Vanyo.  And there are more bodies.  And Callahan sleeps with one of the witnesses and feels guilty for cheating on Jan, who is still not speaking to him.  It' a complicated mess but Callahan eventually figures it out.  ho knew used cars could be so deadly?

William Campbell Gault (1910-1985) wrote eleven novels about Brock Callahan, of which this was the third.  His other series private eye was Joe Puma, who debuted two years before Callahan in Shakedown under Gault's "Roney Scott" pseudonym (all following Puma books -- there were seven in all, maybe eight --were issued under Gault's name.  Following the 1963  Callahan novel Dead Hero, Gault successfully switched to writing juvenile sports novels exclusively; he had previously mixed his juvenile sports novels with his crime novels since 1952's juvenile best-seller Thunder Road.  (He wrote a total of thirty-four sports novels, as well as one story collection; sports also show up as a theme in a number of his mysteries.)  Gault came back to Callahan and the mystery field with 1982's The Bad Samaritan.  Callahan is older now, married, well off, and retired, but is called back to action to investigate the suspicious suicide of a friend.  In Gault's next novel, The Cana Diversion, Callahan investigates the murder of Joe Puma (the maybe eighth Puma novel I mentioned above).  Gault went on to write two more Callahan novels and two standalone mysteries.  Gault's later mysteries were more controlled than his earlier  work, but still maintained a good sense of place, detail, and character.  Gault completed eleven standalone mysteries in his career.  His very first, Don't Cry for Me, won an Edgar.  Anthony Boucher said the Gault was "a writer who sounds like nobody else, who has ideas of his own and his own way of writing them."

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


 Sabine Ehrensperger.


 The Jell-o Program starring Jack Benny aired their 1942 New Year's on January 4 (my brother's birthday six years later).  In celebration of my bro's B-day, and while anxiously waiting to kick 2020 to the curb, let's join Jack, Mary Livingston, Dennis Day, Rochester, and Don Wilson as they get together to celebrate 1942.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020


 Three great artists who will never pass this way again:  John Hartford (1937-2001; he would have been 83 today), Tony Rice (1951-2020; an acoustic guitar giant who died this Christmas while making his coffee), and Vassar Clements (1928-2005; The Father of Hillbilly Jazz).  



 Why was 6 afraid of 9 on New Year's Eve?

Because 9...8...7...


 "How We Took the Redoubt" by Prosper Merimee (first published in French as L'enlevement de la redoute in Revue de Paris, 1829;  translated and reprinted in English in The Dead Leman and Other Tales From the French, edited by Andrew Lang & Paul Sylvester, 1889)

This is a twice-told story, introduced at the beginning by a narrator who tells us that an old officer, now deceased, had once told about his first experience in combat, then he repeats the story as best he can using the officer's first person narration.

The officer, a second lieutenant who had just graduated from military school at Fontainebleau, presents his credentials to the colonel of the unit, who then hands him off to a captain.  The captain is not thrilled at the raw recruit, but his lieutenant had just been killed in battle, so needs must.  The French army is battling a Russian contingent who have sheltered in the redoubt of Cheverino and are putting up a fierce defense.

There is a large red moon rising and the redoubt can bee seen outlined against its brilliance.  The men in the French army are very superstitious and a red moon means that it will cost the French many lives to take the redoubt.

The young lieutenant is brave but concerned.  As the most recent member of his force, he has absolutely no friends to fight beside him, and should he be wounded, he would be at the mercy of incompetent and uncaring doctors.  But these thoughts are put aside as the attack begins.  The Russians begin shelling the French artillery, which is located behind the French troops, so for the moment they are safe.  Eventually the Russians tire of this and begin to aim at the troops themselves.  A shell explodes near the lieutenant and a fragment takes of his hat and kills the man next to him.  The captain tells him he is lucky because having a hat shot off means that he will not be wounded for the rest of the day.  Superstition again.  The captain also says that, unlike the lieutenant, his own goose is cooked because every time the man next to him is grazed by a passing ball, he is wounded.

The French are then divided into three groups, one of which -- the one the lieutenant belongs to is to directly attack the redoubt.  As they get closer, the smoke of the battle clears and they see a solid line of Russian musketeers atop the redoubt's wall, aiming directly at them.  The French have little chance.  Almost all the French are killed, including the superstitious captain.  There is only the lieutenant and six others surviving.  The colonel draws his sword and charges over the wall, and the rest follow.  Somehow this mad attack works.  The lieutenant only remembers slashing and slashing.  about two hundred Russians are dead and fifteen have been captured, but at a great cost.  The colonel himself is mortally wounded and asks for the next in command.  With so many deaths, the lieutenant is the highest ranking officer left and takes command of the victorious troops.

This slight and very short story reminds me of a trick often used by oral storytellers.  Whenever there is a fight, the storyteller goes to great lengths to set it up but the actual fight is told quickly with very little detail.  Here, the lieutenant does not remember the actual fight but the reader is assured that it is a fierce one.  Another point to the story is how the superstitions have prevailed.  Three superstitions are repeated in the tale and all three were borne out.  

Prosper Merimee (1803-1870) was a well-known French Romanticist and was one of the pioneers of the novella, in addition to being a noted archeologist and historian.  He is probably best known for Carmen, on which the Bizet opera was based.  Among his other famous works were La Venus de L'ille and Columba.  For thirty years he was the inspector of French historical monuments and was responsible for the restoration of the facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  With the English writer George Sand, Merimee discovered the tapestry series known as The Lady and the Unicorn and arranged for its preservation.  Later ibn life he became associated with Napoleon III and served as an advisor to the Empress and became a Senator of the Empire, a post he virtually ignored, speaking in the chamber only three times in seventeen years.  Merimee's health had been in decline for some years when, early in September 1870, the Empire fell and a Republilc was declared.  Merimee died later that month and, in May of the following year, a mob burned Merimee's home, along with his papers and notes, because of his ties to Napolean III.


 From 1953, a slightly risque song from Champion Jack Dupree,

Monday, December 28, 2020


 Adapted from S. Fowler Wright's 1928 novel, Deluge tells the story of earthquakes and floods that destroyed America, wiping out cities and most of civilization.  While Wright's book takes place in England, the film moves the story to America where first the West Coast is destroyed, then New Orleans and Chicago, and finally an earthquake and flood take down the New York skyscrapers.

Attorney Martin Webster (Sidney Blackmer) lives outside of New York with his wife Helen (Lois Wilson) and two young children (Ronne Cosby and Marianne Edwards -- both child actors uncredited).  when the earthquakes destroy their home, Webster takes his family to a local quarry where he hoped they would be safe.  As Webster returns to his home in hopes of salvaging food and clothing, the entire area is devastated.  Webster survives but fear his family is dead.

Claire Arlington (Peggy Shannon) is a long distance swimmer who is also caught up in the deluge.  She is swept to an island where the only survivors are two men, the brutish Jepson (Fred Kohler) and the weak Norwood (Ralf Harolde).  Jepson claims ownership of Claire and murders Norwood, only to find that Claire has escaped and is swimming to freedom.  Clare ends up washed onto a beach near where Webster has  made a comfortable camp and has stored salvaged supplies in a nearby tunnel.  Webster finds Claire and brings her to shelter.  In the meantime Jepson has arrived on the beach in search of Claire.  Jepson joins a group of thugs led by Bellamy (Philo McCullough); the Bellamy gang had been kicked out of a nearby town where other survivors are trying to rebuild civilization.  

Throwing a spanner in the works, we learn that Helen and her two children have survived and are living in the town.  She has been befriended by a town leader, Tom (Matt Moore), who has fallen in love with her.  Helen is still holding on to the scant hope that Webster had somehow survived and is resisting Tom's ever-so-polite advances.

Webster, in the meantime, has fallen in love with Claire only because of his sureness that Helen and his children have died.  Claire falls in love with Webster and they "marry."  Alas and alack, Jepson discovers Webster and Claire and kidnaps Claire.  Webster, in turn, kidnaps her back.  Jepson and the Bellamy gang go after the two of them, who have hidden in the tunnel.  At the same time, the townspeople come across a ravaged body of a young girl who had been raped and killed by the Bellamy gang.  The townspeople decide they must eliminate the gang once and for all.  They track the gang to the tunnel where there is a shootout between Webster and Claire and Jepson and the gang.  The gang is killed and Tom, with the townspeople, take Webster and Claire to the town.  There Webster sees his children and learns that his wife is alive.  (Tough luck, Tom.)  Tom, being a wuss, is in love with both Helen and Claire, and is trying to find a way to have his cake and eat it too.  What will he decide?  What will Helen decide?  What will Claire decide?  And can civilization be rebuilt?

Directed by Felix Feist and scripted by John Goodrich and Warren Duff, this pre-Code apocalyptic film has some nifty special effects for the time and has a brute sexuality buried within it.  Thought lost for years, the film has reemerged and is worth 70 minutes of your time.



 The Edgar Winter Group.


 Openers:  Peter and Mary lived in the little old house.  It was a square house and not at all interesting.  To Peter and Mary it had never been interesting.  And what's more, it never would be interesting.

It was just like having too  much of something you didn't want or wanting too much of something you didn't have -- and never could get.

It was a house that nobody wanted.

And Peter and Mary could not find it n their hearts to blame anyone for not wanting the house.  They did not want it themselves.

Certainly not.  Why should they?

Even the field mice, who were not al all particular about the houses they visited, turned up their noses at the house in which Peter and Mary lived.  Of course the field mice might have done this because there were never any refreshments in the house to make a visit worth the time and trouble, but for all that it does not make you feel any better to have a field mouse turn up his nose at your house.  And you don't have to be so very fond of field mice to feel this way about it, wither.  It's just a feeling you get.

-- Thorne Smith, Lazy Bear Lane (1931)

Peter and Mary are an elderly unhappy couple living an unhappy life.  But then there a knock on the door and the Lazy Bear enters their lives.  He may be lazy but he's also magical:  he transforms the couple back into children and takes them on a magical journey down an old country lane where the meet up with all the lovely things they thought they lost.  Their adventures bring them to a pair of cowardly (and lazy) lion twins, a ship with an all-penguin crew, a sad circus clown, a pretty bareback rider in a pink tutu, and Mr. Budge and his magic basket.

Smith wrote this -- his only children's book -- for his two daughters.  It's a marvelous fantasy that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, full of magic, poetry, and wordplay.  For year's after its 1931 publication  Lazy Bear Lane was a difficult book to find.  After searching for years, I manage to find the book through Interlibrary Loan, but the only copy they could get was from the Library of Congress and I could not take it home, but could read it in the library itself -- something I had no time to do.  **sigh**  Finally it was reprinted in 2018 and this year bought a copy, something I absolutely do not regret.  It's a great tale.

Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was born in Annapolis, the son of a Navy commodore; when he was six his father was fighting in the Spanish-American War.  His mother was the granddaughter of Don Jose Maxwell, who name is enshrined in Maxwell House Coffee.  His brother Skyring was eight years older than he and, as a result, Thorne Smith basically grew up as an only child.  Thorne did not take well to school, liking his English classes and nothing else.  Still, he managed to graduate from high school and entered Dartmouth in 1910, only to drop out in two years later.  While in school he qualified for the cross country team; it is believed that this may have compounded some health problems rising from early bouts of pneumonia, which eventually led to heart problems he suffered later on in life.  When possible, Thorne's father would take him to sea with him, which strengthened the bond between the two, and where he would party most heartily with some of the Commodore's Navy pals.  After leaving Dartmouth, Thorne worked at a New York City advertising agency, writing copy for Dr. Lyon's Tooth Powder.

Thorne Smith left the agency and joined the Navy in 1917.  He was assigned to work on The Broadside, a Navy Reservist journal and soon rose to become its editor.  There he began writing stories about Biltmore Oswald, a hapless Navy recruit.  The stories were popular and The Broadside's circulation grew from 4 pages to 50 pages during the time he worked on it.  Eventually, the stories were reprinted as Biltmore Oswald:  The Diary of a Hapless Recruit (1918) and Out O' Luck:  Biltmore Oswald Very Much at Sea (1919).  The Oswald books sold more than 70,000 copies.  The Broadside also gave Thorne a chance to write poetry, which was his main interest at the time.  His only book of poetry, Haunts and Bypaths, was published in 1919.

On leaving the Navy, Thorne went back to advertising, a career in which he could do well had he not hated the corporate life.  He met and married Celia Sullivan.  And alternating his life between writing unsuccessful poetry and working in advertising.  The Commodore died in 1920 and left his estate to Thorne, who gave the family home and some of the money to his brother Skyring.  Neither Thorne nor his wife were any good with money and the soon had spent the entire inheritance on a summer house in New Jersey, extravagant trips, and exotic vacations.  Soon it was back to the drudge world of advertising.  Thorne had been working on a mainstream novel, Dream's End, a serious work with a slight (almost invisible) touch of fantasy, he could not find a publisher for it until 1926 (I have read the book and found it drearily pretentious.)  He also had an idea for short story about a dog with just a tail, or a tail without a dog -- not sure which.

The short story evolved into his most famous work, Topper, about a meek, hen-pecked banker who is haunted by two fun-loving ghosts.  With that pattern set, Thorne Smith would embark on writing fantastic, slightly ribald, stories that incorporated humor and hard drinking:  The Night Life of the Gods, The Stray Lamb, Turnabout, The Bishop's Jaegers, Topper Takes a Trip, Rain in the Doorway, Skin and Bones, and The Glorious Pool.  The formula was also used for his sole mystery novel Did She Fall?   All of these novels became best-sellers.  Most would spawn a number of films.  Topper, of course became a popular television show with Leo G. Carroll in the title role and Robert Sterling and Ann Jeffreys as the fun-loving, irresponsible ghosts, George and Marion Kirby.  (Fun Fact:  The pilot for the television show was written by Stephen Sondheim.)

Not only did many of smith's characters drink, but so did their author.  His poor health and his drinking caught up with while he was on vacation in Florida.  He died of a heart attack.  He was only 42.

In his short life, Thorne Smith became one of America's best-known humorists.  His work is still highly readable today.


  • Thorne Smith, Lazy Bear Lane.  See above.

Playing Games:  President Trump has finally signed the new COVID relief package after a week of self-inflicted chaos and the threat of a government shutdown.  Trump, who had urged Congress to pass a bill, blindsided everyone involved last Monday by refusing to sign the bill, demanding that Congress raise the amount of direct aid to most Americans from $600 to $2000 and railing against parts of the government funding portion of the bill that his administration had previously asked for.  Two prominent unemployment protection programs that the bill had extended expired Saturday, affecting millions of Americans.  Without the  bill, the government would have shut down today.  It is difficult to understand why Trump would play games with the American people during this crisis except to cause chaos.

The spanner Trump threw into the works this past week once again drew the attention to him.  And Trump lives for attention.  He likes to feel relevant and important and he likes to have people fawn over him.  His overinflated ego and his distorted sense of reality are, most likely, the reasons for this latest round of gameplaying.

In announcing he has signed the bill, Trump also said that he would send a copy of the bill back to Congress with certain items redlined and a request that Congress remove those items for the bill.  Those items included foreign aid to certain countries (those that Trump deems unimportant or hostile to him, but countries that his administration had previously wanted included in the bill) and funding for such cultural icons as the Kennedy Center and the National Endowment for the Arts (and we all know where Trump stands on culture).  Trump also used the signing of the bill as a platform to blame Democrat-run states for shutdowns, to continue to make false claims about voter fraud in the election, and to continue to call COVID-19 the "China virus."

We have 24 more days of this jamook.  The question remains:  How much chaos can he sow during that time?

The Case of the Poisoned Pu-erh Tea:  Lin Qi, founder and chairman of the Chinese company Yoozoo Group, was hospitalized on December 16 after drinking what turned out to be a poisoned cup of pu-erh tea.  The 39-year-old billionaire died on Christmas Day.  The poisoning appears to have been the result of an "executive split" within the company.  Chinese police have arrested a co-worker identified as Xu Yao, a senior executive in the company's film and television division,  and continue to question him.

Yoozoo, a games developer, is best-known for its Game of Thrones:  Winter Is Coming game.  The company held the adaptation rights to Liu Cixon's best-selling Three Body Problem trilogy of science fiction books, which it sold to Netflix and is being developed by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who had developed Game of Thrones for the network.  The Three Body Problem was the first Asian science fiction novel to win a Hugo Award.

Netflix has not commented on the poisoning.  Yoozoo's co-president has denied that there had been any fighting among the company's executives and that the company was "operating normally."  The company's stock had dropped 3% after reports of executive in-fighting.

Pu-erh tea is a type of fermented tea typically produced in China's Yunnan province.  Over time, raw pu-erh develops an earthy flavor and the flavors can change dramatically over time.  The brewed tea can have a taste "reminiscent of of the smell of rich garden soil or an autumn leaf pile, sometimes with roasted or sweet undertones."  There is a popular and unsubstantiated claim the pu-erh tea promotes weight loss.

Haggis:  Set your calendar for January 25.  The Annual Robbie Burns Night continues even under a pandemic.  Mcsween, maker of Scotland's most popular brand of haggis, will air a virtual Burns Supper across the globe.  The Edinburgh company will broadcast the event live on their Facebook page at 7:00 pm (their time).  Featured will be popular Scottish comic actor Karen Dunbar (known for her rendition of Tam o' Shanter) and the "first lady of Scotch whisky," Dr. Rachel Berry, the master blender at Benriach distillery.  The first 100 people to direct message McSween on their facebook page will be sent Mcsween Burns Supper kits with their 400g veggie haggis, their classic haggis, and some Benriach whisky.

For those not in the know, haggis is a concoction of sheep or calf's offal. mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally made of the animal's stomach.  Offal is a fancy name of the entrails and internal organs of an animal used for food; in haggis it is usually the heart, liver, and lungs.  Haggis is usually served with a strong belt of whisky -- which makes a lot of sense, once you think about it.

Celebrate!:   Today is National chocolate Candy Day!  Woot!

Petty (coat) Politics:  Today marks the 188th anniversary of Vice President John C. Calhoun's resignation from that office, making him the first U.S. vice president to do so.   Calhoun, a south Carolinian,   He has begun his career as a nationalist and a proponent of a strong federal government and of protective tariffs.  his views shifted dramatically as he fought to protect the interests of the white South:  supporting slavery, state's rights, limited government, and opposition to high tariffs.  Calhoun was this country's seventh vice president, serving first under John Quincy Adams, then continuing under Andrew Jackson, who had defeated Adams' attempt to be reelected.  Calhoun, who had been named to the post by the Electoral College, had a difficult time serving under Jackson and resigned in 1832, just a few months before his term ended.

Jackson was a strong unionist and opposed nullification, while Calhoun strongly believed in South Carolina's right to nullify federal tariff legislation which he believed discriminated against the South.  But that was not the only thing that divided the two men.

Calhoun's wife, Floride Calhoun, led a group of wives of Jackson's cabinet in  socially ostracizing Peggy Eaton, the wife of War Secretary John Eaton.  These outraged women, dubbing themselves "Petticoats," felt that Peggy Eaton did not meet the "moral standards of a Cabinet wife."  Peggy Eaton had been rumored to have an affair with Eaton while she was married to another man, John Timberlake.  (It's interesting, isn't it, that they condemned Peggy Eaton and not John Eaton along with her.)  Anyway, Timberlake was 22 years older than his 17-year-old bride and was rumored to be a drunkard and heavily in debt.  Timberlake met John Eaton two years afterward.  Eaton was a young widower, wealthy, newly-elected as a Senator from Tennessee, and a close friend of Andrew Jackson.  Eventually, Eaton paid off Timberlake's debts and got him a lucrative position in the U.S. Navy's Mediterranean Squadron -- a position which rumormongers held was given to get Timberlake away from D.C. where his wife remained.   Timberlake died in 1828 of pneumonia, although the rumors were that he had taken his own life because of Peggy's supposed affair with Eaton.  Andrew Jackson began his presidential term in 1829.  He was very fond of Peggy and urged Eaton to marry her, which Eaton did, nine month's after Timberlake's death.  Nine months was a scandalously short mourning time in those days.  (Jackson, you may remember, was the victim of rumor and innuendo about his late wife, Rachel, whom he supposedly married before her first marriage had been legally ended.)

The Petticoat Affair caused a great disruption to Jackson's presidency and eventually led to the election of Martin Van Buren as the 8th president of the United States.  Calhoun was strongly opposed to Jackson's policies and Jackson felt that Calhoun was using his Floride Calhoun's crusade as a  cover for political skullduggery.  Van Buren, the only bachelor in Jackson's cabinet sided with Eaton, which gained him favor with Jackson.  Calhoun's supporters meanwhile, were maneuvering to have him elected president in the next term and they accused Eaton in trying to have pro-Calhoun cabinet members removed.  

Politics is a confusing world of shifting loyalties.  In 1831, Martin \Van Buren resigned as Secretary of State, allowing Jackson to reorganize his cabinet and purge the pro-Eaton people from it.  Eaton also resigned in 1831  but a day before his official resignation, a newspaper story appeared which said that three prominent Washington families refused to have anything to do with Eaton.  Outraged, Eaton demanded apologies, none of which were forthcoming.  The following day Eaton challenged one of the men, Treasury Secretary Samuel Ingham to a duel.  Ingham refused, and later had to hire bodyguards against a supposed threat of attack from Eaton and his allies.  In 1832, Jackson nominated Van Buren as minister to Great Britain, but the nomination was killed by a tie-breaking vote from Calhoun.  After Calhoun resigned, Van Buren was nominated as Jackson's running mate and became his second vice president, paving the way for his own presidency in 1837

Looking back on the Petticoat Affair, Jackson said, "I rather have live vermin on my back than the tongue of one of these Washington women on my reputation."  Historian Daniel Walker Howe felts that the Petticoat Affair influenced the emergence of feminism.  And historian Robert V. Remini said, "the entire Eaton affair  might be termed infamous.  It ruined reputations and terminated friendships.  And it was all so needless."

Hey, Hep Cats:  Remember these Dos and Don'ts of Dating?  From 1949, here's Woody's First Date, a short educational film to help you along:

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Jonathan Edward Day, 41, of North Port, is accused of throwing golf clubs from his work van to other moving vehicles.  He also punched a cop.
  • Speaking of golf, an unnamed Florida Man retrieved his golf ball at a Cape Coral golf course after it had landed on an alligator's tail.  Having retrieved the b all, the man sped away, as did the startled gator in the opposite direction.
  • Starting a new holiday tradition is Florida Woman Shirley Rogers, 55, of Oxford, who attacked her sister with Christmas decorations after the sister tried to defuse an argument between Rogers and her boyfriend.  Hopefully, no Frostys were injured in the incident.
  • Florida Man Craig Fulton of Pinellas County decided to make the holidays a little more joyful, so he became a human "Elf on a Shelf."  He was not really on a shelf but he has been seen throughout Tampa Bay area in costume while skateboarding, and in restaurants, in stores, and just about anywhere else in the area.  Evidently, the elf's name is Dingleberry.  Fulton posts his adventures on Facebook and has been getting a lot of positive response.  The elf may transform into a leprechaun around St. Patrick's Day.
  • Ew!  Florida Woman and hunter Donna Kalil has been making Christmas cookies out of python eggs.  Kalil, a veteran python hunter, has just bagged snake number 470.  She has been experimenting with using the python meat in her cooking, making python jerky, "a great snack, but the meat is also good for past sauce and sliders."  Aware of possible mercury contamination, she checks out the level of contamination of the snakes she kills with a home measuring kit, using only the smaller snakes for her preparations.

Here Comes the Good Stuff:
  • A 93-year-old veteran whittles walking sticks and raises $16,000 for a local food pantry
  • An experimental drug can reduce age-related mental decline within days, suggesting that lost cognitive ability may not be permanent
  • 9-year-old boy asks Santa to give his hoverboard to a grieving child who wanted the same gift
  • A security guarded bicycled for an hour to return a woman's lost wallet and the community rewards him
  • Cancer ward sets up dream wedding for patient in three days
  • Every patient treated with CRISPR therapy for blood didease continues to thrive, even after a year

A Christmas Message:  I was very impressed watching Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message this year.  The production and editing were both spot on in discussing a terrible year.

Today's Poem:
New Year's Morning

Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year's heart all weary grew,
But said:  "The New Year rest has brought."
The Old Year's hopes his heart laid down,
As in a grave, but trusting said:
"The blossoms of the New Year's crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead."
The Old Year's heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried:  "I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year's generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
by all my failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet peace where I left strife."

Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!
Each morn is New Years morn come true;
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.

-- Helen Hunt Jackson


Sunday, December 27, 2020


 I have mentioned before that we have six nieces, each more lovely and wonderful than the others.  Today, Julia, my brother's youngest girl, is getting married.  A marriage ceremony during a pandemic is not an easy thing to organize.  Julia and Tom will getting married in a very small wedding and we will be watching (and cheering and crying) over the internet.  The marriage will take place in front of the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, Massachusetts.  Following the ceremony, they will scoot into the restaurant for a mini-reception  Pandemic restrictions will allow only a party of ten in the restaurant.

I'm not concerned about the weather there today because Julia's smile can warm up the world.  We've seen pictures of her dress and, as Kitty said, "All brides are beautiful but Julia is ethereal!"

We love Julia and wish her and Tom all the happiness in the world (as well as some of the Bull Run's amazing cooking).

Here's a few links for their wedding day:

Top 10 "I Love Scenes" in movies:

And a few love songs from Tommy P.

And Davie M.

And Donnie M.

And a song Noel wrote for Peter's wedding day:

And two songs from when Kitty and I were married:

And a few over-the-top weddings that cannot hold a candle to Julia and Tom's:

Have a wonderful life together, Julia and Tom!

Saturday, December 26, 2020


 Dr. C. J. Johnson.

Friday, December 25, 2020


 Continuing today's theme...


 Since today is Boxing Day, I thought it would be a good excuse to feature Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka.  From 1943, here's Joe Palooka back when he joined the Army.

Thursday, December 24, 2020


 My favorite Christmas song, this time done by Eleni Voudouraki.


 Analog Annual edited by Ben Bova (1976)

Ben Bova assumed the editorship of Analog magazine in 1972, following the death of John W. Campbell.  Campbell had published eight volumes of stories from the magazine (titled Analog 1. Analog 2, and so one, 1961-1971), as well as a large anthology of stories from Analog's precursor, The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology (1952) and an anthology marking the transition from Astounding to Analog, Prolog to Analog (1962)[There was also a facsimile edition of the July 1939 issue of the Campbell-edited Astounding that was released in 1981 by Southern Illinois University Press.)  Nova continued Campbell's series by editing Analog 9 in 1973.  And that was it until three years later.

Once upon a time fiction magazines were big business, drawing readers mainly from the middle and lower classes who were looking for a way to relax after the workday.  Along came television, which surplanted the pulp magazines appeal for many.  Magazines began to drop like flies.  Then the paperback boom came and the magazines were once again hit hard.  By the 1970s there were few fiction magazines left, and most new titles died a quick death.  For the science fiction and mystery magazines, readership plummeted.  What is a science fiction editor to do?

Most readers got their fiction from books.  Many may not have realized that fiction magazines existed.  Bova decided to publish what was in essence a 13th monthly issue of Astounding, but in paperback format.  Analog Annual presented the same type of reading you might find in a typical issue of the magazine (minus, of course, a number of regular features, such as a letter column, the AnLab, and In Times to Come...).  Analog Annual featured authors one had come to expect from the monthly magazine:  P. J. Plauger, Dean Ing, Spider Robinson, George R. R. Martin, and John Gribbin.  There was a full-length novel, three short stories, and a fact article.

The contents:

  • P. J. Plauger, Fighting Madness.  A full-length novel  by the winner of the 1995 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  A future where private enterprise, embodied by the ASPERA corporation, has taken over space exploration from the government.  ASPERA runs a not-quite completed space station and a research facility on the moon.  Hahnemann is a highly respected physicist who had a quite public breakdown a year and a half ago.  His fragile psyche had been rescued by psychiatrist Dr. Rheim and now he is looking for a second chance -- which is what ASPERA advertises.  He applies and gets a job on the space station.  It is mainly grunt work but Hahnemann flourishes, as do others.  Everyone on the station works harder than normal, and they all get a one-hour "social time" which most of personnel take advantage of.  The air on the station is filtered by Davisson horns and the one in the area of the social hour often needs changing; which means that every Davisson horn on the station should be replaced at the same time.  When it comes Hahnemann's turn to replace the horns, he notices something strange -- only one horn needs replacing; none of the others do.  Why?  His curiosity leads to his being kidnapped and coming across a plot to plunge the world into war.  He soon finds himself wanted for multiple murder with little chance to escape.  But, as both Astounding and Analog have taught us, never underestimate the competent man.  Plauger, a very capable writer, published only nine stories and one two-part serial from 1973 to 1981.  He published one further story in 2003 and has one unpublished story that has been slated to appear in Harlan Ellison's The Last Dangerous Visions since forever.
  • Dean Ing, "Malf."  a near-future story about large super-powerful machines designed to take down and strip giant trees.  Think giant tanks with legs and buzzsaws and crane-like lifting capabilities.  These machines will significantly cahnge the logging indistry.  Two of these "Magnum" prototypes have been completed.  Number 6 is operated by Keith Ames, who helped refine the design; the other, Number 7, is operated by George Infante, an instinctual operator who can do wonders with his machine.  Infante refuses to drive Number 6 because it is, he feels, a "malf," a malfunctioning machine, although in what way it is a malf he can't explain.  Infante steals his Magnum and uses it to steal a payroll at a nearby mill.  Infante escapes with the money and the prototype, leaving a guard dead.  If used in the wrong hands, the Magnum could wreak havoc.  And Infante's hands are certainly the wrong ones.  It turns out he is a hitman for a Mafia-related organization.  It's up to Keith and his "malf" to try to stop Infante and Number 7 before more people are slaughtered.  Ing, who recently died this June at 89, is the author of a number of popular "hard" science fiction tales and had completed five novels science fiction novels -- and edited two more -- by Mack Reynolds (himself a very popular Astounding/Analog author of stories with an action/poitical/economic bent).  "Malf" was included in two of Ing's story collections, High Tension (1982) and Firefight 2000 (1987).
  • Spider Robinson, "Half an Oaf."  A typical humorous story by Robinson about Spud, who was playing pool in the living while his mother was out, and the half a fat man (the upper half, of course) who suddenly appeared before him.  Robinson was co-winner (with Lisa Tuttle of the 1974 John W. Campbell Award.  He is one of those writers who could be either very funny (as with his "club tales" about Cllahan's Saloon) or very lyrical (as with his 1978 Hugo and Nebula-winning story (with Jeanne Robinson) "Stardance."  Robinson also won a 1977 Hugo for "By Any Other Name" and a 1983 Hugo for "Melancholy Elephants."  He won the Locus Poll in 1977 for Best Critic.  In 2006. he expanded an 8-page outline by Robert A. Heinlein into a "posthumous"  novel with Heinlein, Variable Star."Half an Oaf" has been reprinted in three of Robinson's collections:  Antinomy (1976), Melancholy Elephants (1984), and By Any Other Name (2001)
  • George R. R. Martin, "The Tower of Ashes."  Before his seemingly never-ending series A Song of Fire and Ice (filmed as Game of Thrones), Martin had already established himself as one of the best new talents in the science fiction/fantasy field.  Johnny Bowen had been living with his girlfriend for four years on a populated island on a distant planter.  The world itself had a single, large, unexplored continent in which any number of unknown intelligent races might, just might, live.  When his girlfriend leaves him for another man, he moves to the edge of the continent with his eight-legged cat Squirrel.  There he lives in a decayed tower that may or may not have been built by another race, and he hunts deadly dream-0spiders for their poison sacs which he sells to an island dealer.  Then his ex-girlfriend and her new beau show up, hoping to talk him back to civilization.  The beau is a clod who believes there is nothing worthwhile on the large continent.  Johnny offer to take them on a brief walk through the forest near his home to show both of them that continent has many amazing things about it.  They come across a dream-spider web with a large male spider at its center.  The cloddish beau -- whose name, by the way, is Gerry (it figures) -- falls into the web and is trapped.  As the large spider moves toward its new victim, Johnny is about to shoot it when its smaller, faster, and deadlier mate drops down from the trees to attack him.  SPOILER: They all survive, although Johnny is wounded.  The couple go off, leaving Johnny among the ruins of his tower.  Martin, another John W. Campbell Award winner, has garnered six Hugo Awards thus far, as well as two Nebula Awards, an Ignotius award, six Locus Awards, a Balrog Award, a Daikon Award, a Gilgamesh Award, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Daedalus Award, as well as a passel of nominations.  Among his other books are a series of Wild Card anthologies ("mosaic novels," to use his term), 25 so far.  The World Fantasy Associationj gave him their 2002 Award for Life Achievement,
  • John Gribbin, "The Climatic Threat."  An article about the next possible ice age and the effects mankind has on the changing climate.  Somewhat out of date, but still interesting to read.  Although Gribbin has published science fiction, he is better known as a science popularizer.  The Jupiter Effect (1974) examines the theories of Immanuel Velikovsky.  Among his other nonfiction books are White Holes:  Cosmic Gushers in the Universe (1977), In Search of Schrodinger's Cat:  Quantum Physics and Reality (1984), The Omega Point:  The search for the Missing Mass and the Ultimate Fate of the Universe (1987), and (with Mary Gribbin) Almost Everyone's Guide to Science:  The Universe, Life, and Everything (1998).
There you it --if your interested in the state of science fiction, particularly Analog science fiction -- and don't want to be bothered with the actual magazine, this was the paperback for you.  and it's darned good reading, too.

For those of you who are wondering if there was an Analog Annual #2, sorry.  but Bova did edit Analog Yearbook, as well as the retrospective The Best of Analog, both in 1978.  Bova left Analog in 1978 to take over the fiction reins of Omni until 1982.  After that, he concentrated on his writing career, adding a dozen nonfiction books and some eighty novels and short story collections to his already prodigious output.  Sadly, Bova passed away last month.


 Here's eight hours of vintage department store Christmas music.  It takes me back to the fifties and sixties.  How about you?

Have a great holiday, everyone!


 It's the day before Christmas and Carly is expecting her parents who are on a flight home from Paris.  They did not arrive early that morning as expected.  As the day grew on, they still have not appeared.  The telephone rings and it is someone from the newspapers, and they will not tell Carly what they want.  Then word comes in that her parents' flight went missing over the Atlantic.

Greer Garson stars in an episode written by Norton Fine and David Freidkin.

Can you stand the holiday Suspense?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


 As if 2020 wasn't bad enough, we lost David L. Lander.  Here's Lenny and the Squigtones from American Bandstand in 1979.


 What do you call an old snowman?  Water.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


 "The Wrath of the Zuyder Zee" by Thomas Alliborne Janvier (from his collection In Great Waters, 1901; first published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July 1899)

This is the story of a curse and of a love gone wrong.  

For those not familiar with the geography of The Netherlands, the Zuyder Zee is a is a shallow bay of the North Sea, located in the northwest of the country and extends inland for some 60 miles.  It has a depth of about 15 feet.  It has been the scene of a number of historic floods over the centuries.  The story takes place on the Zuyder Zee island of Marken sometime near the dawn of the nineteenth century.

Old Jaap Visser was viewed as a madman, ridiculed by the youngsters of the village and treated with some grudging and distant respect by the townsfolk, for it was felt that Old Jaap had the power of "laying a strange binding curse."  While out on his boat fishing one day, his wife stood near the shore and was swept away, then, a month later, his fishing net caught something -- it was the body of his wife.  By the time he came back to shore, he was mad.  At first the madness was mere melancholy and because he needs must make a living for his child, he kept his boat and returned to sea.  His daughter grew and eventually married, but her husband soon deserted her.  Angered, Jaap laid a curse on his son-in-law, "May you perish in the wrath of the Zuyder Zee!"  And he did.  In the ensuing years, Jaap had been angry at times to threaten to lay his curse on someone or another, but he never uttered the words.

Now living with Old Jaap was his granddaughter, Marretjie de Witt, a quiet, gentle young woman who was much-loved in the town, kin part because her personality seemed opposite to her grandfather.  One who had been a great tormentor of Old Jaap was Krelis Kess, a forceful, strong, and daring young man.  So it was strange to the townspeople that Krelis was changing his ways and becoming fast friends with Old Jaap.  Perhaps not so strange because Krelis had his eye on young Marretjie.  Krelis had been loosely attached to Geert Thyson, a strong earthy woman who was much more like Krelis that Marretjie.  But Geert had a sharp tongue and after a row with Krelis, he walked away and turned his attentions to Marretjie.  Geert believe that Krelis' attention to the other woman was just a smokescreen and that he would soon come back to her.  That was not to happen because the two became engaged.

They say opposites attract.  That was certainly true in the case of Marretjie.  She loved Krelis as much as any woman could and was determined to make his the best wife and to give him a good home.  Krelis, in his way, loved Marretjie, but Krelis' way cared little for his wife's feelings.  At the marriage banquet, Krelis shocked the town and humiliated his wife by having the first dance with Geert.  And wouold spend Sundays -- his only day away from fishing -- at gthe local bar with his friends.  Still Marretjie loved him and slaved to please him and she was happy for the first six months of the marriage, but by then Krelis began ignoring his wife and would often not even come home on Sundays.

All this changed when Marretjie bore him a son and Krelis became devoted to Little Krelis and (once again) to Marretjie.  But the baby took more after his mother than his strong father, and died when only a few months old.  And it was not long before Marretjie was placed in an adjoining grave.  

Then came the stunning news that Krelis would marry Geert, not two months after burying his wife.  the townspeople felt this was the match that should have made in the first place,  but were scandalized that it should happen so soon.  Also upset was Old Jaap, who finally uttered his curse on Krelis.  On the December day that the marriage was to take place, there was a violent storm, causing many to not go to the wedding.  The marshes were flooded and soon the entire town was under water except for a few high places such as the cemetery and several of the little "villages" scattered throughout Marken.  The hearty revelers who showed up for the wedding were not deterred.  The celebration went on and so did the storm.  Krelis was anxious to take his bride home and when there was a lull in the storm around eight o'clock in the evening, he and his bride set out in a rowboat over the flooded areas to his house, which was still standing.

As soon as they set off, the storm intensified, raging in a way that would do justice to King Lear.  The waters began to eat away at the high ground, the now weak earth of the cemetery crumbling the ground around the caskets.  The small rowboat was rocked by the huge waves and crashed into a coffin that floated by in the swirling tempest.  In the distance, Krelis' fishing boat broke its moors and was swept out to the deep.  The ground eroded around his house, causing it to fall into the Zuyder Zee.  As Geert hugged her new groom tightly, another coffin rose in the waves, opened, and crashed into the rowboat, releasing the body of Marretjie, who crashed into the newlyweds and drove them into the water.

Janvier infused his story with a great sense of place and time but reserved the most powerful writing to describe nature's fury.  "The Wrath of the Zuyder Zee" is an interesting tale, immensely readable despite its foregone conclusion.  There are a few niggling questions that were overlooked in the narrative, such as, what happened to Marretjie's mother.  We are not not told and she just vanishes from the narrative without any explanation.  But the power of the story remains.  In my mind, it would have made a great EC horror comic of the 1950s.

Thomas Alliborne Janvier (1849-1913) was a Philadelphia-born writer and historian.  He was married to noted artist and educator Catherine Ann Drinker. In 1881, they moved to new York and became part of the literary and art scene there. Later they travelled to the American West, Mexico, and France, each of which provided fodder for their individual works; while in France Drinker translated many of her husband's works.  Janvier published some 18 books from 1884 and 1914; the FictionMags Index lists nearly 100 stories and articles by Janvier, including a seven-story series about Mr. Beverley, which, from their titles, appear to be an early form of humorous science fiction. 

"The Wrath of the Zuyder Zee" is available to read online in Janvier's In Great Waters.


 John Denver & The Muppets.


 Marc McDermott stars as Edenezer Scrooge in this short film from the Edison Manufacturing Company, 1910.  (As you can tell from his accent, McDermott is Australian...Wait...You can't tell.)  Charles Ogle plays Bob Cratchett.  Also featuring William Bechtel, Viola Dana,  Carey Lee, and Shirley Mason.  The film is directed by J. Searle Dawley, Charles Kent, and Ashley Miller.

You can look as close as you want to, but you won't see Tiny Tim.


Monday, December 21, 2020


 The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.



Openers:  The shadow of a large bird fell athwart the path one morning as the earliest mists cleared away.  Two men were approaching upon one horse, and Thrag of the watchtower by the South-East Way made present haste to scurry down and confront them.  He who held onto the reins was a young man of sturdy build, his brown beard attrimmed onto two points, with a cunning cast to his broad mouth.  Riding abaft was an older and thinner one with a bony brow and gray eyes of a sort which at first seem almost blind but soon enough disclose themselves as seeing more than common well.  

"Greetings, blessings, salutations and welcome, Venturers," Thrang sang out, his splay feet slapping the familiar stones as he came hoppitting down and leapt in front of them.  He held his arms wide, as though he would gladly embrace them, his gesture somever sufficing to halt the old horse.  "Fortune favor you --"

"Sun shine upon you, Snagglebeard," the first rider said, commencing to guide the horse sideways roundabout him.

"-- and grant you all your just desires," said the downcomer, skipping to the side.  As the rider with a sigh and a grunt reined in his mount and raised his thick brows, he upon the ground said, "Much do we welcome those of a jeting and humorsome disposition, such as you, my young, to this Tawallis Land.  As a mere point of referential accuracy, a hem hum hum, my style it is Thrag, the father of Throg, and I farm the watchtower (such as you may see above yonder there, affollowing my finger) by this South-East Way from the True Lord of Tawallis.  Again, welcome, and again."

-- Avram Davidson, "Basilisk" (first published in New Worlds of Fantasy, edited by Terry Carr, 1967)

"Basilisk" is a quest story. told only as Avram Davidson could.  It features Mallian sonHazelip, sent by his father to find a medicine for the ills of his native land, currently struck low by the Great Gene Shift.  In this opening scene, Mallian and his squire, Zembac Pix, are threatened by Thrag to pay tribute.  It's a scam and Thrag keeps the loot for himself.  "Basilisk" is the second story Davidson published about Mallian, following "Bumberboom" (F&SF, December 1966); I have a feeling the two were designed to be incorporated into a novel that never materialized.  "Basilisk" has never been reprinted to my knowledge.

Davidson was "perhaps the modern fantastic's most explicitly literary author," according to John Clute, who also notes the Davidson "very quickly established a reputation for sometimes obtrusive literacy, considerable wit, and the estranged sidling worldliness that has evoked comparisons of his work with writers like Jorge Luis Borges."  Davidson's writings veered into the ornate, embellishing his stories with fascinating side details.  His biggest flaw was his inability to complete planned sequences and sequels -- his mind was too rich and perhaps too cluttered to do so; perhaps because there were so many ideas within him.  As a person, Davidson could best be described as righteous -- quick to anger, exceedingly generous, with a moral and ethical standard, every curious, in love with the richness of words and the little side corners of history, with a literate bent to humor.  He was sui generis.

Although he had written for Jewish magazines before, Davidson burst fully formed into the science fiction field with his 1954 story "My Boyfriend's Name is Jello."  He won a Hugo Award in 1959 for his story "And All the Seas with Oysters."  Davidson also garnered three World Fantasy Awards, a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Short Story Award, and an Edgar Award.  He served as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1962 to 1964 (I had a friend who, on learning that Davidson was stepping down as editor, cancelled his subscription to the magazine because he felt it would never be as good without Davidson).  He authored two novels as "Ellery Queen," And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle.  A collection of true crime articles originally appearing in various men's adventure magazines, Crimes and Chaos, was notable because, as Algis Budrys once said, he didn't make anything up.

Davidson explored many science fiction and fantasy tropes in his well-respected novels, but for me he was at his best with his short stories, including many involving series characters such as Jack Limekiller (taking place in an imaginary Central American country in the 1960s) and Dr. Ezterhazy (set in the fiction Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, the fourth-largest empire in Europe during its declining days).  Also not to be missed is his Adventures in Unhistory, in which Davidson circuitously and entertainingly discusses various legendary and mythical subjects.

Anything -- everything -- written by Davidson is a reader's delight.  He cannot be recommend highly enough.


  • Charles Birkin, Devil's Spawn.  Horror collection. Birkin (1907-1985) was the anonymous editor of Philip A1llan's Creeps series of horror anthologies (14 volumes, 1932-1936), for many of which Birkin contributed stories under the pseudonym "Charles Lloyd."  In 1936, all fourteen stories he had written for the series, plus two original tales, were published in this volume.   Devil's Spawn has been a very difficult (and expensive) book to get until Valancourt Books reissued it in 2015.  The stories are more grand guignol than traditional.  After this, Birkin stopped writing.  He succeeded his uncle as the Fifth Baronet Birkin in 1942.  He went back to writing horror stories (most likely at the urging of Dennis Wheatley) in 1964, publishing an additional seven collections before his death.
  • Kim Mohan, editor, Amazing Stories:  The Anthology. Collection of thirteen stories and one essay Mohan was editor of Amazing Stories from May 1991 to Summer 2000, first under gaming publisher TSR, then (with a two-year hiatus) under gaming published Wizards of the Coast.  Twelve of the stories here are from his years of editing the magazine; a story and the essay (both by Robert Bloch) date back to 1953 and 1983, respectively. Among the other authors are Ursula Le Guin, Thomas M. Disch, Gregory Benford, R. A. Lafferty, Paul Di Fillippo, and Alan Dean Foster.
  • Mickey Spillane [edited by Max Allan Collins and Lynn F. Meyers, Jr.], Primal Spillane:  Early Stories 1941-1942. A collection of "text filler" stories that Spillane wrote before he entered the Army for comics books to meet Post Office requirements for cheaper mailing.  These were very short (two-pages usually) tales, hastily written and usually with a twist ending.  In 2003, Gary Lovisi's released the first edition of this book under his Gryphon imprint.  That edition now goes for over $100 on the used book.   market -- far too expensive for me.  A new edition came out from Bold Venture Press in 2018, which included many additional stories, including one that was previously unpublished.  The text fillers for the comics were often unsigned, as were the comic book tales themselves, but Spillane managed to put his name on thirty-nine of those he wrote (he probably wrote more than fifty text fillers in his brief comic book career) -- this book contains all that appeared under his name.  It is interesting to see how Spillane perfected his craft and how his comic book tales influenced his writing style.
  • Eleanor Sullivan, editor, Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Send Chills Down Your Spine, apa Alfred Hitchcock's Anthology #5.  Collection of 29 stories from AHMM.  "Do you like to be agitated?  Shock?  Jarred? Do you like your reading disquieting, turbulent, icy?  Do you like it to shake you up?  To pack a wallop?  To fill you with fear and trembling?  This fifth anthology of stories from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine provides the cause of chill-causing excitement you've come to expect from the Master of Suspense."  Hitchcock, of course, lent his name to the magazine and had nothing to do with it otherwise, but it continues to be one of the most prodigious mystery magazines today.  Authors include Robert Bloch, Henry Slesar, Donald E. Westlake, Jack Ritchie, Lawrence Block, Bill Pronzini, Patricia Highsmith, and Paul Tabori.

Stimulated:  Late last night  both houses of Congress agreed to a $9 billion stimulus bill and a vote on the bill is expected today.  The agreement came after months of negotiations, posturing, and -- in the eyes of some -- bad faith.  Each side had to give up much of what they wanted to make the deal.  The question remains:  is this too little, too late?

The agreement has not been released to the public but appears to call for a $600 direct stimulus payment for most Americans and a weekly unemployment payment of $300 for 11 weeks.  Also included are a $284 billion for the small business program (PPP), $25 billion in rental assistance, $13 billion in enhanced SNAP benefits, $82 billion for schools and colleges, $10  billion for child care assistance, and an end to the practice of surprise medical billing.  How these funds will be distributed and how much of it will go to those it is intended to is something that remains in the air.

Democrats are hoping that this will be a first step in providing relief from the economic devastation that the pandemic has brought.  A lot of what will happen next depends on the control of the Senate and the Georgia run-off election next month.  Although both the Republican incumbents are basically a waste of protoplasm, the result of that election is uncertain.

While congress has been dithering, many American families are in economic trouble and many are close to being homeless.  Unemployment is increasing rapidly and most of the new jobs being created are low-wage and fragile.  The income gap is growing ever wider and the average American is feeling the pinch.  The direct stimulus is far to little to be of much help for many families.  Our resident, with just under a month remaining in office, has lost any interest he may have had in leading (actually, his interests have always been in ruling rather than leading) and is obsessed with his efforts to remains in office and in protecting himself, his family, and his cronies from future legal ramifications.  His strategy for that appears to create as much chaos as possible.

Two COVID vaccines have been rushed to approval, bringing much-needed hope for the future, but it will probably August before most of the country has been vaccinated.  Many Americans still feel that the pandemic is a hoax and that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu due to this misinformation and conspiracy theories thrown at them by the ultra-Right.  It id going to be a long, hard road before we are anywhere back to  normal.

In the meantime, we muddle through...with 318,000 deaths thus far.

It didn't have to be like this, folks.

Humbug Day:  From The National Day Calendar:

"Humbug Day on December 21st recognizes the Ebenezers, the Scrooges, grinches, and curmudgeons who suck the joy out of the holiday season.  

"Sometimes even the most joyous of us all get bitten by the hum-bug.  Regardless, it is essential to do our best to remember all those of us who suffer from it the most.  Spread some joy their way and bring the holiday spirit into their lives.  However, the day was created to spread our frustration, to let the Scrooge in all of us out, and let him reveal himself.  Whether we declare it through a humbug or two or just avoid the people-y places, the day gives us a break from the hustle and bustle of activity that comes with the season.

"It is a stressful time of year for many reasons.  Some us us may be lonely, and others may feel pressure to do more than is humanly possible.  We may also set our own expectations quite high, too.  As a result the stresses of the holiday season pile up, leaving us feeling a little like Scrooge."

To which I add:  "Hey!  You damned kids get off of my lawn!"

Also:   Today is the Winter Solstice, marking the first day of winter.  Since this is 2020, it also means that there are only 83 days left in the year.  **sigh**

Today is also the day of the Great Conjunction, where Jupiter and Saturn meet for the first time in almost 400 years, and it has been nearly 800 years since this has happened at night.  You can view this with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.  Unless, like on the Florida Panhandle, the sky is overcast.  **HUMBUG!**

And it is Crossword Puzzle Day.  To hell with you, Suduko!  Crossword Puzzles rule!

And National French Fried Shrimp Day.  Yum-yum.

National Phileas Fogg Win a Wager Day marks the day the fictional Fogg returned to the Reform Club to win his wager of travelling around the world in eighty days.

The winter solstice (as well as the summer solstice) also mark Anne & Samantha Day, honoring Anne Frank and Samatha Smith.  Everyone knows about Anne Frank, but how many remember Samantha Smith, the 10-year-old girl who wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, asking him to support peace.  Andropov eventually answered Samantha's letter, addressing each of the girl's questions and inviting her to visit the Soviet Union.  Samantha Smith became known as America's Youngest Ambassador.   Tragically, she died in a plane crash in 1985.  She was only 13.  To celebrate Anne & Samantha Day, write a letter to the Postal Service asking that stamps be issued to recognize each of these extraordinary girls.  

Finally, this is National Maine Day, National Flashlight Day, and National Homeless Persons' Remembrance Day.


Today's Poem:   
Winter Solstice

When you startle wake in the dark morning
heart pounding, breathing fast
sitting bolt upright, staring into
dark whirlpool black hole
feeling its suction

Get out of bed
knock at the door of your nearest friend
ask to lie down ask to be held

Listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing

Let your soul laugh
let your heart sigh out
that long held breath so hollow in your stomach
so swollen in your throat

Already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of the day

You have nothing to do but live

-- Anonymous

A rather truncated Bits & Pieces this week.   I wish you all a very Merry Christmas -- or what ever holiday you may celebrate.  May your week be filled with peace, meaning, and gratitude.

Sunday, December 20, 2020


 From the 2016 Black Comix Arts Festival at the San Francisco Public Library, Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, and Jewelle Gomez are interviewed by John Jennings.  

Enjoy this discussion of Afrofuturism and more.


 The Dixie Hummingbirds.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Friday, December 18, 2020


 This was a comic book crime anthology series from British publisher Alan Class' Approved Comics line.  It lasted ten issues with no dates given.  Although from a British publisher the stories have an American feel to them.  Could they be reprints?

Whatever the origin, the premiere issue is packed with stories, viz:

"Fall Guy," featuring Richard Manning, Public Defender in Action.  "Jake Levchek was the victim...and he was the man accused! Who pushed the buttons that brought this man into court?"  It was Manning's job to defend Levchek, but he was determined to get the man who fingered him.

"The Eager Rookie"  "Joe Ford, probationary patrolman, was one of the zealous ones!  He was a cop. he was proud of it, and he didn't care who knew it!"

"Late Tour"  Johnnie Burke, a rookie fresh out of the academy and on his first night tour, catches old friend Frankie Harwood breaking into a store.  Harwood gives Johnnie a sob story, but when thinks Johnnie is reaching for his gun, he attacks him.

"Two Thieves -- One Crime!"  "When Byron Cramm accused George Lewis of stealing $22,000, the fun started!  Because Lewis admitted he took it, and his brother, Ward insisted he had the money!  It was up to Richard Manning, Public Defender in Action, to get to the truth.

"Signal 32"  Signal 32 means a general emergency.  Steve a young officer, scarred with doubt from his wartime experiences, wonders if he has the guts needed to do the job.

"Every word that Willie Bohm uttered got him deeper in trouble."  Public Defender in Action Richard Manning had no choice:  he had to throw his client to the mercy of the court in "No Defense!" 

Jim Barry, a college graduate, partners with an experienced detective, but this "Sheepskin Sleuth" must prove his worth on their first case together.

In "They Called Him Ruthless," "not everyone thought Big Joe Carrigan was a tough cop.  For every punk in prison who who says Carrigan would arrest his own brother, there's one outside who claims the first-grade detective is the nicest guy in the world!"

Why is Crime Smasher working on a case of missing rabbits when Killer King is at large?  We find out in the "The Trapping of Public Enemy No. 1!"

"Everyone has been wondering why the Iron Curtain countries have suddenly relaxed restrictions against democratic visitors"  Jim Bennett found out when he saw the foreign government's hired killers waiting for him in "Deadly Coincidence."

Assigned to the Bleeker Street Beat, Johnny Bronsky was warned to watch his step against "The Big Wheel of Bleeker Street."

An empty safe and a wounded watchman and "A Worthless Clue" -- a badly battered Army issue .45.



 Parnell Hall, mystery writer extraordinaire, one-time stage and screen actor, singer/songwriter, and private investigator, passed away at age 76 on Tuesday.  Janet Rudolph, editor of Mystery Reader's Journal and creator of both the Mystery Fanfare, Dying for Chocolate, and Team Building Talk blogs, noted that Hall was the "mystery community's funny, supportive, musical, generous, and all around good guy."  For those interested in great mysteries, his Stanley Hasting series, Puzzle Lady mysteries, and (as "J. P. Hailey") Steve Winslow mysteries are all highly recommended.  For those interested in classic cheesy horror films, please note that Hall wrote immortal movie C.H.U.D.

For years, Parnell Hall has been regaling the mystery community with his songs.  For instance:

That's Bobby Sweet on guitars, Abe Guthrie on keyboards, and Terry a la Berry on drums.  I'll leave it to you to identify the people in the video.  


 Universe 10, edited by Terry Carr (1980)

The original science fiction anthology series has been around since at least 1953 when Frederik Pohl started Star Science Fiction.  Among the most popular and significant such series were Damon Knight's Orbit, Robert Silverberg's New Dimensions, John Carnell's New Writings in SF, Judy del Rey's Stellar, and -- of course -- Terry Carr's Universe.

Carr was one of the most perceptive and creative anthology editor in the field.  His anthologies were always a high standard for the genre and his Universe series (totally 17 volumes) was no exception.  Universe 10 is a good example:  eight well-written and intriguing stories, plus two "Non-Fact" articles that stretch the imagination.  The most notable story in the volume is Howard Waldrop's award-winning "The Ugly Chickens." but this may not be the best story in the book because it is hard to pick the best.  Michael Bishop's "Saving Face" gives us an unusual story of a litigious future, while R. A. Lafferty's "And All the Skies Are Full of Fish" is an uproarious look at children with special gifts.  F. M. Busby's "First Person Plural" adds a new twist on both time and on possession.  Actually, I defy you to find a story in Universe 10 that dull or boring or uninteresting.  The anthology is that good. 

The stories:

  • Michael Bishop, "Saving Face."  In the near future celebrities "own" their likeness and anyone who resembles them can be subject to punishment or worse for infringement. Nominated for a 1981 Locus Award for Best Novelette; later included in Bishop's 1984 collection One Winter in Eden.
  • "James Tiptree, Jr." (Alice Sheldon), "A Source of Innocent Merriment."  A spaceman is haunted by something he had seen.  Later included in Tiptree's 1981 collection Out of Everywhere and Other Extraordinary visions.
  • R. A. Lafferty, "And All the Skies Are Full of Fish."  A group of prissy kids can control the rain and an opposing groups (including the world's largest dog) throw a spanner (well, fish, actually)in the works.  Part of Lafferty's Men Who Knew Everything  series; later included ion his 1983 collection Through Elegant Eyes.
  • Lee Killough, "Bete et Noir." In the near future, theatre verite is an unscripted form of theater, thanks to a drug that allows actors to become their characters.  Part of Killough's Aventine series; later included in his 1982 collection Aventine.
  • Howard Waldrop, "The Ugly Chickens."  It turns out that dodos are were still in existence and they taste like chicken.  Winner of the 1981 Nebula award for Best Novelette; winner of the 1981 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction; nominated for the 1981 Locus, Hugo, and Balrog Awards; included in Donald A. Wollheim & Arthur Saha's The 1981 Annual World's Best SF, in Gardner Dozois' Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year:  Tenth Annual Collection, in Terry Carry's The Best Science Fiction of the Year #10, in John F. Carr & Jerry Pournelle's Nebula Award Stories 16, and in Waldrop's collections Howard Who? (1986), Things in Close-Up:  The Nearly Complete Howard Waldrop (1989), and in Things Will Never Be the Same:  A Howard Waldrop Reader:  Selected Short Fiction 1980-2005 S
  • Charles E. Elliott, "SUPERL."  A "Non-Fact" Article.  An artificial language is created to replace all other languages.  
  • "Eric G. Iverson" (Harry Turtledove), "Report of the Special Committee on the Quality of Life."  Another "Non-Fact" Article.  Bureaucrats in the year 1491 put the kibosh on Columbus.  Later reprinted in Turtledove's 1993 collection Departures.
  • Mary C. Pangborn, "The Confession of Hamo."  A tale of alchemy and a curse.  Nominated for a 1991 Locus Award for Best Short Story; included in Terry Carr's Fantasy Annual IV (1981).
  • Carter Schotz, "The Johann Sebastian Bach Memorial Barbeque and Nervous Breakdown."  A time traveler is responsible for Bach's Brandenburg concertos. 
  • F. M. Busby, "First Person Plural."  A man wakes up in the body of a nineteen-year-old girl who has been in a vegetative state all her life, but he also remains in his on body -- only fifteen hours apart.  This dual not-quite simultaneous life has its problems.

Thursday, December 17, 2020


Every Christmas season when they were younger, my girls would sing this song to me...and then they'd giggle like crazy.

Here's John Denver.


 Here's a little Christmas present brought to you by Sergeant :Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police and Yukon King.  Paul Sutton is Sergeant Preston and Yukon King is voiced first by sound effects wizard Dewey Cole, then after Cole's death by Ted Johnstone.  I believe it is Ted Johnstone who is featured on this episode.

It is also interesting to note that the series was developed as a dog show, with Yukon King as the star.  In fact, the announcer's intro to this episode features Yukon King first.  The writers were unsure whether Yukon King was a malamute or a huskie (he was referred to as both at varying times).  King was raised by a she-wolf who was killed while King was a puppy and Preston found the young dog and rescued him.

Enjoy this Christmas episode from 72 years ago.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020


 The #1 song fifty years ago today.  The Jackson Five.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020


 How much did Santa's sleigh cost?

Nothing -- it was on the house.


 "Elisha" by Arthur Quiller-Couch (from his collection Old Fires and Profitable Ghosts, 1900)

A very brief story.  The prophet Elisha, now old, alone, and nearly totally blind, is painfully traveling the road from Samaria and reaches the Plain of Jezreel, where the path forks into two -- one leading to Nazareth, the other to Megiddo.  His way is slow as he carefully tests the ground ahead of him with his staff.   He hears a noise ahead of him -- Cling-cling-clink!  Cling-clink!  He makes the shape of a tall man ahead of him standing upright by a pile of stones on the edge of the path.

Elisha thanks the man for repairing the path before him, which what he assumes the noise was, and asks if the path is safe to travel.  He gets no reply.  He then wonders if Shumen or the house of Miriam of Shumen was near, for he travelled this way years before and remembered Miriam.  Again, he received no reply.

Elisha is getting vexed at the lack of response.  Then he hears a woman's voice greeting him by name as she appears from behind the large, silent figure.  It is Miriam of Shumen.  The silent man is her son.  She leads him to a moss-covered boulder to rest.  She recalls that it was here many years ago that Elisha had granted her a son.  Back in that time Elisha and his servant had travelled this way often and were always welcomed with food and shelter.  Elisha had said that she had been always careful for him, and asked what he could do for her.  Miriam had wanted nothing; she was content because there was no greener place on earth than Shumen.  Elisha's servant remarked that every place is greener when there is a child playing.  Thus Miriam was promised a child.

Some years later, the boy fell among the reapers and died.  Miriam then journeyed to Carmel, seeking Elisha in the hope that he could bring the boy back from the dead.  And the boy woke and lived.  Now, she thanks Elisha for was he has given her.  Elisha replies that it was not he, but it was God.  She answered that he was the who had given her the boy and had brought him back to life -- he was the one she asked, not God.

Miriam then leads Elisha to where her son is standing.  His head was caked with blood and he was tied erect to a post, bound by an iron ring around his neck and with stout rope about his waist.  He had been betrayed by his wife and set upon by Syrians, who had secured him to the post and stoned him.  Once again she turns to Elisha.  She picks up a rock and hammers feebly on the rivets that held her son's neck.  Elisha puts down his staff as he "stretched put two groping hands to help her."

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) was a British novelist, poet, essayist and critic who often wrote under the pseudonym Q.  He was perhaps best known for his massive anthology Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900 (1900; later expanded to include works published up to 1918); it remained the premier anthology of English poetry until it was superseded by Helen Gardner's New Oxford Book of English Verse in 1976.  He was appointed King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at University of Cambridge in 1912, and retained that title until his death; it was during his initial lecture series (later published as On The Art of Writing, 1916) that he offered the immortal writers' maxim, "Murder your darlings."  A collected edition of his fiction ran to 30 volumes, including a novel that been left unfinished by Robert Louis Stevenson.  His own unfinished novel, Castle Dor, was completed by Daphne du Maurier at the request of Quiller-Couch's daughter; Dame Daphne took on the task "in memory of happy evenings long ago when 'Q' was host at Sunday supper."  

Perhaps Quiller-Couch's most famous story is the chilling "The Roll Call of the Reef."  Other stories of note are "Pair of Hands," "The Seventh Man," and "My Grandfather -- Henry Watty."  Most, if not all, of his novels, collections of short stories, books of poetry, works of literary criticism, and other nonfiction, including anthologies, are available to be read online.  There are certainly far worst ways to spend your time than to dip into his remarkable ouvre.


 With Judy's kids, Lorna Luft, Joey Luft, and Liza Minelli.  Dropping in to help celebrate the holidays are Tracy Everitt (one of the regular dancers on Garland's show and "Liza's beau"), Mel Torme, Jack Jones, and a group of Dancing Santas.

A warm and entertaining show, and a favorite among Garland fans.


Monday, December 14, 2020


Today Bill Buckner would have been 71.  He will forever live on in the memory of Red Sox fans for his tenth inning error in Game 6 of the 1986 world Series against the New York Mets.  Despite the anger of fans, Buckner managed to display a great deal of graciousness.

Here he is remembered in song by The Baseball Project.



Openers:  Parson Pickax cleaned and oiled his venerable Colt, his long jaw set with stiff determination.  When he was done he examined his conscience, searched the Scriptures with scrupulous attentiveness and sallied forth to make medicine with Seco Snyder, gun-tough and killer.

--Charles W. Tyler, "The Parson of Owhoot Junction) (Star Western, November, 1943)

Parson Pickax (real name Philander Pickarts) was featured in a least four western stories by Charles Tyler.  The Parson is a gaunt, innocuous-looking, string bean of a man who is willing to sally forth against the sinners of the Old West, aided only by his Bible, his fists, and his Colt.  Having brought the word of God to Hungry Junction and to Jericho City, Parson Pickax answers a call from newspaper editor Peal Ivy of Saint David, Nebraska, to bring religion to that lawless town.  Saint David has aims to become the County Seat, an ambition far out of reach because it had no schoolhouse, no church, and no marshal.  What schooling the town had to offer was from young Prudence Palmlee, who had to teach in an old boxcar.  The town recently lost its marshal -- a good man whose only fault was the slowness of his gun hand.  The church...well the town never had a church, which was something Parson Pickax hoped to rectify.

The main villain in the story is Big George McWhorter, who controls just about everything sinful in the Saint David (and perhaps is main reason the town gained the nickname "Owlhoot Junction").  McWhorter doesn't mind killing those who oppose him but prefers to hire out bloodshed to the likes of Seco Snyder and his ilk.  When big, naive, honest town blacksmith Andy Pike, the sweetheart of Prudence Palmlee,  agrees to fill in for the recently deceased marshal, McWhorter decides that he must die.  And the newly arrived Parson Pickax, already sticking his nose into McWhorter's business must also die.  Parson Pickax doesn't believe in killing, although he admits that a bullet in the right eye will certainly spoil an opponent's aim...

Charles W. Tyler was a very prolific short story write who worked extensively in the railroad, detective, action, and western pulps.  Born in Massachusetts, he also worked as a fireman and a draftsman.  among his other series characters were Big Nose Charley (48 stories), Baldy Sours (40 stories), Johnny Bates (8 stories), Blue Jean Billy (11 stories), and Hiram Pertwee (11 stories).  Add to that another 235 stories listed in the FictionMags Index.  

Literary researcher extraordinaire Victor A. Berch delved into the author's background and provided a very detailed article for Steve Lewis' Mystery*File blog back in 2012:

BTW, "The Parson of Owlhoot Junction" was reprinted in Damon Knight's anthology Westerns from the 40s:  Classics from the Great Pulps (apa Western Classics from the Great Pulps), which is where I read it.



  • William Arden" (Dennis Lynds) - Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #12:  The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow; Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #18:  The Mystery of the Shrinking House; and Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #19:  The Secret of Phantom Lake.  The popular juvenile series was created by Robert Arthur, who also edited a number of "Alfred Hitchcock" anthologies,  Arthur wrote the first nine books in the series and the eleventh.  Dennis Lynds took over the series using his pseudonym "William Arden," contributing thirteen books to the series (# 10, 12-13, 18-19, 22, 25-26, 28, 30, 33, 38, and 42).  the other main author of the series as M. V. Carey (#15, 17, 20-21, 23-24, 27, 29, 31-32, 34, 36, 39, 41, 43, and an unpublished #45 -- The Mystery of the Ghost Train).  "Nick West" (Kin Platt) contributed two books to the series (#14 and 16)) and Marc Brandel  three books (#35, 37, and 40).  The original series spawned two other series:  Find Your Fate series (4 books) and Crimebusters (13 books, the first volume written by "William Arden," the fifth by Marc Brandel, and the last two published only in German).  The Three Investigators are Jupiter Jones, a former child star now given to pudginess, Pete Crenshaw, the athletic one of the group, and Bob Andrews, the studious one who does most of the research for the trio.  Their headquarters in an an abandoned trailer in the junk yard owned by Jupiter's Aunt and Uncle.  The cases are puzzling and often seemingly supernatural.  The early book in the series had in introduction by Alfred Hitchcock, who remains amazed at the success of the trio; Hitchcock is often a character in the books; later books -- as well as revised earlier books -- eliminated the Hitchcock reference, substituting fictional mystery author Hector Sebastian.  The entire series is well-written and has a significant fan base worldwide.
  • M. V. Carey (Mary Virginia Carey) - Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #21:  The Secret of the Haunted Mirror.  Jupe and the gang at at it again.
  • Harry Harrison, editor - Nova 2 and The Year 2000.  Both anthologies of new SF stories.  Nova 2 is the second of four volumes, and has 14 stories by major writers in the field, including Robert Sheckley, Philip Jose Farmer, Robert Silverberg, Damon Knight, James E. Gunn, Poul Anderson, James Tiptree, Jr., and Brian W. Aldiss.  The Year 2000, published three decades before the titular date, has 13 stories imaging various aspects of life in the year 2000.  Authors include Fritz Leiber, Chad Oliver, Mack Reynolds, Brian W. Aldiss, (A. Bertram Chandler, Robert Silverberg, Keith Laumer, and Harrison himself.  Good stuff.
  • William Campbell Gault, The Convertible Hearse.  A Brock Callahan mystery, the third (of fourteen) book in the series.  Callahan investigates the murder of Loony Leo Dunbar, used car salesman supreme and king of the dubious deal.

Shame!:  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's attempt to overturn the election has failed miserably.   It was a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the people and to subvert our democratic process.  It is disturbing enough that this was even attempted, but that could be put down to just one fool trying to curry favor with Donald Trump.  But the most horrifying thing about this was that 17 state Attorneys General (all Republicans) and 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives joined in the fiasco.  These are people who are deliberately, knowingly working to destroy one of the most important foundations of our democracy.  You may call them something else but I call them traitors.

These people are A) stupid, B) easily gulled, C) have no concept of how our government works, or D) pure evil.  Perhaps a combination of these. And, yes, I'll admit that these descriptions may described almost any politician, but this goes beyond the pale.

And now a bunch of Yahoos are calling for states to leave the Union.  This has been tried before and the results were not good.

If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, or west Virginia, know that your state Attorneys General have not only placed party over country, but autocracy over democracy.  Shame on them.

And shame to the inglorious bunch of Yahoos -- all 126 of them -- who signed an amicus brief in support of Ken Paxton's suit.  They are:
  • Gary Palmer, Alabama
  • Mo Brooks, Alabama
  • Bradley Byrne, Alabama
  • Robert Alderholt, Alabama
  • Andy Biggs, Arizona
  • Debbie Leske, Arizona
  • Rick Crawford, Arkansas
  • Bruce Westerman, Arkansas
  • Kevin McCarthy, California
  • Ken Calvert, California
  • Doug La Malfa, California
  • Tom McClintock, California
  • Ken Buck, Colorado
  • Doug Lamborn, Colorado
  • Matt Gaetz, Florida
  • Ted Yoho, Florida
  • Gus Bilirakis, Florida
  • Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida
  • John Rutherford, Florida
  • Daniel Webster, Florida
  • Michael Waltz, Florida
  • Ross Spano, Florida
  • Neal Dunn, Florida
  • Doug Collins, Georgia
  • Rick W. Allen, Georgia
  • Earl Carter, Georgia
  • Drew Ferguson, Georgia
  • Auston Scott, Georgia
  • Russ Fulcher, Idaho
  • Mike Simpson, Idaho
  • Mike Best, Illinois
  • Darin LaHood, Illinois
  • James Baird, Indiana
  • Jin Banks, Indiana
  • Trey Hollingsworth, Indiana
  • Greg Pence, Indiana
  • Jackie Walorski, Indiana
  • Steve King, Iowa 
  • Ron Estes, Kansas
  • Roger Marshall, Kansas
  • Steve Scalise, Louisiana
  • Mike Johnson, Louisiana
  • Ralph Abraham, Louisiana
  • Clay Higgins, Louisiana
  • Andy Harris, Maryland
  • Jack Bergman, Michigan
  • Bill Huizinga, Michigan
  • Tim Walberg, Michigan
  • John Moolenaar, Michigan
  • Tom Emmet, Minnesota
  • Jim Hagedorn, Michigan
  • Michael Guest, Mississippi
  • Trent Kelly, Mississippi
  • Sam Graves, Missouri
  • Vicky Hartzler, Missouri
  • Jason Smith, Missouri
  • Ann Wagner, Missouri
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer, Missouri
  • Greg Gianforte, Montana
  • Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska
  • Adrian Smith, Nebraska
  • Jeff Van Drew, New Jersey
  • Elise Stefanik, New York
  • Lee Zeldin, New York
  • Jim Jordan, Ohio
  • Bob Gibbs, Ohio
  • Bill Johnson, Ohio
  • Robert E. Latta, Ohio
  • Brad Wenstrup, Ohio
  • Kevin Hern, Oklahoma
  • Markwayne Mullin, Oklahoma
  • John Joyce, Pennsylvania
  • Fred Keller, Pennsylvania
  • Mike Kelly, Pennsylvania
  • Dan Meuser, Pennsylvania
  • Scott Perry, Pennsylvania
  • Guy Reschenthler, Pennsylvania
  • Glenn Thompson, Pennsylvania
  • Jeff Duncan, South Carolina
  • Ralph Norman, South Carolina
  • Tom Rice, South Carolina
  • William Timmons, South Carolina
  • Joe Wilson, South Carolina
  • Time Burchett, Tennessee
  • Chuck Fleischman, Tennessee
  • David Krustoff, Tennessee
  • John Rose, Tennessee
  • Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee
  • Dan Crenshaw, Texas
  • Kevin Brady, Texas
  • Michael Burgess, Texas
  • Michael Cloud, Texas
  • Mike Conaway, Texas
  • Bill Flores, Texas
  • Louis Gohmert, Texas
  • Lance Gooden, Texas
  • Kenny Merchant, Texas
  • Randy Weber, Texas
  • Roger Williams, Texas
  • Ron Wright, Texas
  • Jody Arrington, Texas
  • Brian Babin, Texas
  • Ben Cline, Virginia
  • Rob Wittman, Virginia
  • H. Morgan Griffith, Virginia
  • Don Newhouse, Washington
  • Cathy McMorris Rogers, Washington
  • Carol Miller, West Virginia
  • Alex Mooney, West Virginia
  • Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin
These 126 person represent about 64% of the House GOP.  All of them are now worthy of disdain.  All should have their feet held to the fire for the remainder of their terms.

Remember these names in 2022,

COVID Follies:  Speaking of incompetent politicians...

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is insisting on keeping the state totally open.  We don't need no stinking COVID regulations that might hurt our economy, or -- horrors -- our beloved Donald Trump.  So how's that working for us?  Well, we currently have 1.12 million recorded cases and 19,784 recorded deaths attributed to COVID-19.  Our death rate is 91 deaths per hundred thousand people, which puts us at 320 by that metric.  But this is old data -- the 72 deaths in Florida this past Saturday has put us above 20,000 dead.  That's a lot of dead people no matter how you look at it.

Santa Rosa County on the Florida Panhandle, where I live, has a 19% COVID rate -- the highest in the state and one of the highest in the country.  None of this makes me happy.

Much of the blame can be placed with the current administration and a president who does not care if people die as long as his ego is stroked.  Things should begin to improve on January 20th but it will take time.

In the meantime, we suffer...and die.

Pastrami:  Today is National Hot Pastrami Day and I urge you to celebrate it responsibly.

Here's a few pastrami sandwiches recipes for you to try.

From the James Beard Foundation, the Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant pastrami sandwich:

From myrecipes,com, this one is a bit of a cheat because it also adds corned beef:

From, this one makes good use of a homemade Russian dressing:

And brings you the pastrami rueben, aka "The Rachel":

Bon appitit!

A Christmas Song:  Jack wants you to share the Christmas spirit as shown by every eight-year-old on the planet.

Planning a Home?:  Check out these artistic city houses from the 1890s.

Women Power, 1942:  An informational film from the US Army Air Forces.  you've come a ong way, baby!

Florida Man Bird:  Today's Florida Man is actually Florida Bird, recently seen eating an alligator/  Granted, the bird was big and the alligator was small, but still that the kind of crazy and level of stupidity you'd expect from Florida.

Speaking of...:  It's been a bad time for Florida alligators.  Richard Wilbanks, 74, of Estero, jumped into a pond in his back yard and wrestled his 3-month-old King Charles Spaniel from the jaws of an alligator.  Ah, Florida...

Some Good Stuff:
  • Chain reaction of kindness involved over 900 vehicle driving through a Minnesota Dairy Queen
  • Family finds 15th century gold coins while weeding in their garden -- over 6000 have dug up treasures during lockdown
  • Son designs smartwatch app to stop his father's PTSD nightmares
  • Minnesota teacher donates kidney to school's custodian
  • "Secret Santa" pays off every layaway item at a Mississippi Walmart
  • A joke bake-off between dads leads to 15,000 cookies donated to essential workers
  • Physicist uses cotton candy machine to make filters for N95 Masks cheaper
  • Blind mice with glaucoma can see again through simple technique

Remember:  "Things do come out of the blue.  They come out of the blue to remind us that things do come out of the blue, and that life could get crazy good any second."  -- Tama Kieves

Today's Poem:
We Real Cool


We real cool.  We
Left school.  We

Lurk late,  We
Strike Straight.  We

Sing sin.  We
Thin gin.  We

Jazz June.  We
Die soon.

-- Gwendolyn Brooks