Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


 "An Oak Coffin" by L. T. Meade & Clifford Halifax, M.D. (from The Strand Magazine, March 1894; reprinted in Stories from the Diary of a Doctor, 1894)

Louisa Thomasina Meade Toulmin Smith (1844-1914) wrote over 250 books in her life, including also 150 volumes written for young readers, mostly girls.  She was also a popular mystery writer who authored the classic The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings (1899) and, in collaberation, The Sorceress of the Stand (with "Robert Eustace," 1903) and two volumes of Stories from the Diary of a Doctor (with "Clifford Halifax").  "Halifax" was a pseudonym for an author who true identity was for a long time unknown.  It turned out the man behind the name was Dr. Edgar Beaumont (1860-1921), who used the pen name only for collaborations with Meade.  Beaumont and '\"Eustace" (real name Dr. Eustice Robert Barton, 1854-1943) both provided medical, scientific, and technical details for Meade in the stories, many of which were published in The Strand, which had declared Meade to be one of their most popular authors.

Stories from the Diary of a Doctor was number 17 in the Queen's Quorum, a chronological listing to the 125 most significant volumes of detective fiction 1854 to 1957.  The "Doctor" whose diaries are referred to happened to have the name Clifford Halifax, which gave added verisilimilitude to the tales.  "An Oak Coffin" was the ninth in the first series; the complete series (two books) ran to 24 stories.

The story starts off when a widow and her 14-year-old daughter visited Dr. Halifax.  The widow, Mtrs. Heathcote, is seeking help for her daughter, Gabrielle, who "is not well."  Gabrielle was weaak and depressed, would not eat, slept badly, and took no interest in anything.  Gabrielle had a "very sad" expression on her face for such a young girl.  Her symptoms appeared to begin with the death of her father, six months before.  An examination showed no disease although her condition was below par.  Halifax recommended a tonic.  Mrs. Heathcote said they had tried tonics to no effect.  She also mentioned that neither she nor her daughter had seen their family physician since her husband died.  Puzzled, Halifax wrote a prescription and send the pair on their way.

The next day Gabrielle showed uip at Halifax's office alone.  The doctor sensed that she was harboring a secret that could explain her case.  He was right.  The girl told him the her father was not dead.  She had seen him on several occasions at night when looking out her bedroom window, butu when she rushed outside the figure was no where to be seen.  Halifax suggested that these appearances might be dreams, or perhaps imagination -- something that could be possible from losing her beloved father.  Her mother also dismissed the girl's claims.  Mrs. Heathcote, according to the young girl, also has been suffering greatly after her husband's death.  She is sleeping poorly, cries out at night, and sometimes looks at Gabrielle in fear; she also moved her bedroom to the other side of the house -- away from Gabrielle's room.  Gabrielle insists that Halifax prove that her father still lived.  The girl then leaves, saying she knows Halifax is wise and very clever, and thus will aid her.

Gabrielle's visit had unsettled the doctor.  He still believed the girl was suffering from delusions, but...  He decided to call on Dr. Mackenzie, the Heathcote family physician.  

Heathcote was a moderately successful solicitor, of comfortable means, and, at just past forty, was a severe consumptive.  Mackenzie had examined the man just three months before his death:  "Phthisis was present but not to an advanced degree."  Mackenzie did not think the patient would die as soon as he did.  On the day of his death, the doctor was summoned to the Heathcote residence and was told that the solicitor was dying.  Heathcote "was a ghastly sight.  His face wore the sick hue of death itself; the sheet, his hair. and even his face was all covered with blood...Hemoptysis had set in, and I felt that his hours were numbered."  His pulse was week.  Mackenzie packed the man in ice and gave him some ergotine.  This seemed to ease the man's suffering a bit and Mackenzie left, promising to return in a couple of hours.

About an hour later the doctor recieved a note from Mrs. Heathcotte that her husband had just had a fresh and very violent hemorrhage and had died.  Mackenzie felt no need to view Heathcote's body after death -- the man had been very close to death when Mackenzie had left him and had died a very short time later.  Mackennzie did attend the funeral.  There was no doubt in his mind that the man was dead.  Gabrielle, he said, was an excitable girl of highly strung nerves.  She is evidently a victim of delusion caused by the grief of her father's passing.  Halifax thanked Dr. Mackenzie and was about to leve when there was an urgent ring at Mackenzie's door.  It was Gabrielle, saying her mother was very sick and probably out of her mind.  She had come at her daughter with a carving knife.  Two servants had restrained the woman.  Mackenzie and Halifax and the girl rushed back to Ivy Hall, the Heathcote home, to find the woman in a state of violent delirium, talking to an imaginary Gabrielle and insisting that Heathcote was dead, "No one was ever more dead.  I tell you I saw him die."  The woman also said such things as, "I tell you it isn't safe.  Gabrielle suspects,"  and, "The coffin is made of oak,  That is right.  Oak lasts.  I can't bear coffins that crumble away very quickly."  In her ravings, she told the undertaker's men to place the body in the coffin very carefully.  Then she said something about the dishonour and told the undertaker's men to screw the coffin lid on and then to leave her alone with her dead.  Soon the poor woman began to sleep.

Mackenzie left to arrange for a nurse to watch over the woman, leaving Halifax there until then.  While alone with the sleeping woman, Halifax looked out the window and saw a man in the garden who matched Gabrielle's description of her father.  Gabrielle also showed Halifax a picture of her faather.  It was the same face...

The solution to "An Oak Casket" was fairly evident, especially after Heathcote's coffin was exhumed and discovered to contain nothing but sacks of flour.  But it was, I feel, unique enough for its time to suit The Strand's readers.  The magazine devoted a full year's of monthly stories to Stories from the Diary of a Doctor, and later, another full year to the second series of stories.

I made a quick search of the internet and have found no copies of either book available to be read online, although the books are available for purchase.  The twenty-four stories, however, are available to read online in individual issues of The Strand.  Here is a list of the stories and the dates each appeared in that magazine:

Stories from the Diary of a Doctor

  • 1) "My First Patient" (July 1893)
  • 2) "My Hypnotic Patient" (August 1893)
  • 3) "Very Far West" (September 1893)
  • 4) "The Heir of Chartelpool" (October 1893)
  • 5) "A Death Ceritifcate" (November 1893)
  • 6) "The Wrong Prescription" (December 1893)
  • 7) "The Horror of Studley Grange" (January 1894)
  • 8) " 'Ten Year's Oblivion' " (February 1894)
  • 9) "An Oak Coffin" (March 1894)
  • 10) "Without Witness" (April 1894)
  • 11) "Trapped" (May 1894)
  • 12) "The Ponsonby Diamond" (June 1894)
Stories from the Diary of a Doctor; Second Series
  • 13) "Creating a Mind" (January 1895)
  • 14) "The Seventh Step" (February 1895)
  • 15) "The Silent Tongue" (March 1895)
  • 16) "The Hooded Deaath" (April 1895)
  • 17) "The Red Bracelet" (May 1895)
  • 18) "Little Sir Noel" (June 1895)
  • 19) "A Doctor's Dilemma" (July 1895)
  • 20) "On a Charge of Forgery" (August 1895)
  • 21) "The Strange Cse of Captain Gascoigne" (September 1895)
  • 22) "With the Eternal Fires" (October 1895)
  • 23) "The Small House on Steven's Heath" (November 1895)
  • 24) " 'To Every One His Own Fear' " (December 1895)
The stories, admittedly some better than others, are entertaining and well written.  Some include perplexing mysteries; a few contain a bit of fantasy, and some contain a bit of sang froid, while others may be a bit nerve-wracking.  Check them out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021


 From 1971, Alan Price and Georgie Fame.


Poor Kay Downey (Ellen Drew).  She did not realize that the man she married (Steve Downey, played by Regis Toomy) was a gangster.  When is implicated in a murder he committed, Kay turns to park ranger and former boyfriend Don Bradley (Robert Lowery) for help.  Also featuring Eddie Quillan and Elisha Cook, Jr.

A standard B-movie programmer.  Steve Lewis at said, "The film still needs some comedy mixed in with the suspense, which is minor to begin with" and that "the movie isn't as bad as I've probably made it sound."

Directed by William Berke, with a script by Maxwell Shane and story by Paul Franklin and Charles F. Royal.

Enjoy.  (I hope.)


 From the musical.


 Openers:  In one of the vallies of the great mountain Dalanger reigned a king who was a widower, very poor, and very old; he had three sons, whom he one day addressed in these words:  My ancestors call upon me to join them in the land of spirits; but before I die I must reveal to you a secret of importance.  A short time before my marriage, being fatigued in pursuit of a bear, I passed the night inn a cavern of the Yellow Mountain.  A very handsome young man unexpectedly appeared to me in the morning, and said, Aboucaf, train up thy children in the paths of virtue, and send them here when thou shall be on the point of quitting the world.  I could not return my thanks to this young man, because he suddenly disappeared, but I have never forgotten his words.  Go to the Yellow Mountain, my children, perhaps you will find there an inheritance more worthy of you than that which I shall be able to leave you.  -- The three princes immediately set out, and having arrived at the Yellow Mountain, and advanced pretty far into the cavern described, they perceived the foot of a ladder, which till that time had been concealed.  They ascended more than a thousand steps, and at last arrived at a square apartment, cut into the rock, where they nothing but a small basket made of rushes.  This basket contained a purse of raw leather, a horn similar to those which the shepherds use to collect their scattered flocks, and a gidle of very coarse goats' hair.  Truly, said Hairkan, the eldest of the brothers, our father had no reason to be in haste to discover to us this treasure.  Let us not, however, fail to divide it among us; I shall take the girdle -- And I the horn, said Xamor, who was next to him in age -- The purse then will belong to me, said the youngest brother, who was called Tangut.  -- Hairkan, in unrolling the girdle, saw a paper fall from it, on which he read these words:  "In what place do you wish to be?"  The two others, curious to know if they should similar billets. looked, the one into the wide end of his horn, the other into his purse.  Xamor found in his horn a paper, on which was written, "How many troops do you desire?"  The youngest also drew from his purse a billet, which bore these words:  "What sum of money do you wish for?"  -- If we only have to wish in oder to be obeyed, cried they all three together, we are happy indeed.  -- It is easy to make the trial of these prodigies, said Tangut, and I shall begin.  -- He closed his purse and said, I wish for a thousand pieces of gold.  -- At that instance the purse was stretched out, and became so heavy that it fell from his hands.  He opened it upon the ground, turned it up, and a thousand pieces of gold dropt from it and were scattered about the place.  Judge of the raptures of the brothers at this sight.  They made no further experiment, but set out on their return; but their father, Aboucaf, could take no part n their joy; he expired just as they got home.  After giving this good prince a magnificant funeral, they agreed to prserve their secrets, and to leave their barren country, to go in quest of happier climates.  Hiarkan and Xamor departed first; but I shall not relate to you their adventures; though I am acquainted with them.  It is sufficient at present to inform you, that they founded in the same year two cities and two kingdoms, which bear their names even until today.  I confine myself to what relates to Tangut.

-- "The History of the Prince Tangut, and of the Princess with a Nose of a Foot Long" (from The History of Abdalla, The Son of Hanif by Jean Paul Bignon under the pseudonym "de Sandisson" from 1712-1714 and translated into English by William Hatchett in 1729; reprinted in the third volume of Tales of the East, edited by Henry William Weber, 1812)

Just from the title of the story you know that things are about to get nteresting for Tangut.  Tanbut settles in the city of Kemmerouf, where the constant riches from his purse place him in good stead with the citizens and nobles of that city.  Women, of all sorts, throw themselves at him to no avail because Tangut has eyes only for the beautiful daughter of the sultan, Dogandar.  Dogandar, however, suspects tht Tangut is harboring a secret and spurns his advances.  Eventually she discovers that his purse is the secret of Tangut's wealth and, using her feminine wiles, takes it from him and scurries off.  (Yes, Tangut is a noob.)  With no source of income, Tangut leaves the city and travels to Xamor, the city his brother founded, and asks that he be given his brother's magic horn.  Arriving back at Kemmerouf, Tangut blows on the horn six times and 300,000 invincible soldiers magically appear, complete with battle supplies.  Tangut lays seige to the city, forcing the sultan and his family to come out to surrender.  Once Tangut sees Dogander, he again becomes a noob and loses his heart to her.   The sultan and sultana agree to have Tangut marry Dogandar.  Once again, Dogandar plies her wiles and, taking the magic horn from Tangut, blows on it.  Instantly, 100,000 soldiers appear for her.  Just as instantly, Tangut's 300,000 soldier disappear.  Tangut flees the city, going to his elder brother to request Hairken's woven girdle. which will transport him anywhere he wants.  Tangut, ever the noob, is instantly transported to Dogandar's bed chamber where she lays in a rather flimsy nightgown (ahem).  Once again, Dogander gets the magical item from Tangut and he must flee the city to avoid the sultan's guards.

Depressed and exhausted, Tangut wanders about until,he decides to end it all by jumping off a cliff.  Before he can do so, his clothing gets stuck on the branches of a fig tree -- the only vegetation to be seen in the area.  Tangut falls asleep and awakens quite hungry.  But there on the tree were the most beautiful figs he had ever seen.  Deciding he might as well commit suidcide on a full stomach, he manages to free his clothing from the branches and pulled down a fig.  He eats it and his nose grows a full foot.  As he eats more and more figs, his nose keeps growing.  He just can't stop eating the figs.  Finally, he wraps his nose around his arm and leaves.  After wandering some more, the depressed Tangut comes across another fig tree.  Hungry again, he decides that eating thee figs cannot do more harm than had already been dome to him.  As he eats each fig, his nose shrinks until it is his normal size.  He gathers up the figs from the second tree, then goes to the first and gathers figs from it.  Then he travels once more to Kemmerouf.

Disguise, Tangut sells the nose-growing figs to the royal procurer, who brings them to the sultana and Dogandar.  They eat the figs and their noses grow to extraordinary length.  Physicians far and wide were called to treat the royal pair without success.  Finally, Tangut, again disguised, approached the palace and states the fells he could cure the unfortunates.  After eight days of feeding them phony elixars, he gives the sultana the curative figs and her nose grows to normal size.  He tells Dogandar that, because she is of a different temperment than her mother, the cure may not work for her.  Hopefully she gives Tangut all three magical artifacts.  He gives her the figs -- all but one.  Her nose then shrinks to only a foot in length.  He then gives her a regular fig and her nose stays the same size.  Tangut reviews himself to Dagandar and, using the magic girdle, transports imself away.  Dogandar lived to an extreme old age, while Tangut -- no longer a noob -- founded a prosperous kingdom far away.

The full title of the book is The Adventures of Abdulla, Son of Hanif; Sent by the Sultan of the Indies, To Make a Discovery of the Ifland of BORICO.  Intermix'd with Feveral Curious and Inftructive Histories.  Translated in FRENCH from an Arabick Manuscript found at Batavia, with NOTES explaing fuch paffages as relate to the Religion, Cuftoms, &tc. of the Indians and the  Mahomatans, By Mr. De SANDISSON, Done in English by William Hatchett, Gent.  Abdulla is sent by the Sultan to discover the secret of immortal youth.  Along the way he meets a number of people including a Persain woman, Roushen, and her young daughter, Lou-lou.   The three entertain themselves by telling stories; the tale of Tangut is related by Abdulla himself.

It should noted that there was no "Arabick Manuscript"; the book was written in whole by Bignon.  Abbe Bignon (1662- 1743) was a French cleric, statesman, writer, and librarian who was a patron of Antoine Galland, the first translator of  A Thousand and One Nights.  Bignon's book, while not as well-known as Galland's monumental work,  had a profound effect on fantasy literture, ,most especially with William Beckford's Vathek.

Regarding Tales of the East, William Henry Weber (1783-1818) was an editor of plys and romances and the literary assistant to Sir Walter Scott, who aided Weber in many of his anthologies.  Supposedly, Weber edited Tales of the East  in honor of Scott.  He allegedly wend suddenly mad in late December 1813, produced a pair of pistols and challenged Scott to a duel.  Weber was then soothed without  having any shots fired.  The next day he was restrained.  Comitted to an asylum as hopelessly insane, Scott and others supported Weber until he died in the asylum in 1818.

Woot!:  Today (er.. yesterday now, since this has been posted a day late) is National Pepperoni Pizza Day!  (I knew there was a reason I got out of bed this morning.)  To add to the joyous celebrations it is also National String Cheese Day and National Rum Punch Day!  Since this yesterday was the third Monday in September, it is also National Respect for the Aged Day.  You can best respect me by bringing pepperoni pizza, string cheese, and some rum punch.  You can also bring along some fried rice since it's also (again, yesterday) National Fried Rice Day -- I prefer pork fried rice.

This is was also a day when we honor our most recent former president:  National Gibberish .  Hobbit Day falls on Wednesday, this is also Tolkien Week.  Don't celebrate with an orc.

This is was also the date when Joe Louis won the heavyweight boxing championship in 1939 against Bob Pastor in 11 rounds.  And when, in 1969, John Lennon left the Beatles but did not make an official announcement of the split.

Arsenical Wallpapers:  Here's a handy little book for those who wish toplot their next mystery novel or story:  Shadows from the Walls of Death:  Facts and Inferences Prefacing a Book of Specimens of Arsenical Wallpapers  by R. C. (Robert Clark) Kenzie, 1874.  There's only about eight pages of text and the type is so small that it is virtually impossible to read.  No matter.  There then follows color pictures of over seventy examples of arsenical wallpaper -- the arsenic had been added as a coloring agent.  If you ever see anyone boiling some 19th century wallpaper, be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Dangerous Toys:  Christmas is coming on us fast.  I can tell because Christmas items are pushing Halloween and Thanksgiving items off the store shelves.  If you are considering buying a toy for some little one you know, beware of these Top 10 Most Dangerous toys of 2021, as determined by World against Toys Causing Harm, Inc (WATCH):  

  • 10 -  Star Wars Mandalorian Darksaber -- potential for blunt force and eye injuries
  • 9 -  My Sweet Love Lots of Love Babies Minis -- potential choking hazard
  • 8 -  Boom City Racers -- potential for eye and facial injuries
  • 7 -  Boomerang Interactive Stunt UFO -- potential for propellor-related injury
  • 6 -  Sci-Fi Slime -- potential for chemical-related injuries
  • 5 -  WWE Jumbo Superstar Fists -- potential for blunt force and impact injuries
  • 4 -  Gloria Owl -- potential for ingestion
  • 3 - Marvel Avengers Vibranium Power FX Claw -- potential for eye and facial kinjuries
  • 2 - Missile Launcher -- potential for eye and facial injuries
And the Number 1 Most Dangerous Toy is (drum roll, please)...
  • 1 - Calico Critters Nursery Friends -- potentiaal choking hazard
We've come a long way from lawn darts and Saturday Night Live's "Johnny Flame-On" costume, but still exercis caution when purchasing toys for children.

The First Antipope:  Robert of Geneva (1342-1394) was elected to the papacy as Pope Clement VII by cardinals opposed to Pope Urban VI in in 1378.  Robert had been named a cardinal in 1371.   As Clement VII, he established his papacy in Avignon, France.  Meanwhile Urban VI had assumed leadership of the Roman Church and was elected outside the College of Cardinals.  The dueling popes, as it were, led to the Western Schism of the Catholic Church.  Urban (c. 1318-1389), born Bartolomeo Prognano, who was never a cardinal, was elected to the papacy as a sop to angry Romans who demanded a Roman pope and not a French one as the previous pope, Gregory XI, was.  (Gregory was the seventh and last Avignon pope.)  The innocuous Urban was at the least moderately appealing to French cardinals, who later left Rome and supported Robert of Genva for the papacy.  What was not realized at the time was that the little-known Prognano was not a Roman, but a Neopolitan.

Pope Clement VII had the support of most of Europe, incuding the king of France, Charles V, but Urban's coronation was carried "with scrupulous detail, leaving no doubt as the the legitimacy of the new pontiff."  Urban insisted that the Curia do its work withour gratuity or gifts, that the cardinals were not accept annuties from governments or private persons, that they eschew their luxuries and retinues, and he insisted he would  not move the papacy to Avignon.  This madden Charles V, who granted Louis I, Duke of Anjou, a phantom kingdom is he could unseat Urban VI.  The French cardinals voted to declare Urban's papacy illegitimate and elected Robert of Geneva as pope.  The previous year, Robert had distingushed hemself by ordering the massacre of 2000-8000 civilians at Cesena.

There followed years of battle and struggle.  Clement, died in 1394, perhaps realizing that his dreams of a united Catholic church under him would never be realized.  Urban died in 1389, following a fall from a horse; rumors, perhaps unfounded, circulated that he had been poisoned.

Dancing on the Moon:  Here's a 1935 animated cartoon from the Fleischer Studios.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Richard Wolfe, 57, of Crystal River, was stopped for using the grass median to pass other cars.   Wolfe got out of the car and began twerking at the Orange County Sheriff's officer who stopped him.  He then pulled a knife out of his belt, tossed on the ground, and said, "What are you afraid of?  I've got a knife and you've got a gun."  Wolfe then twerked his way into the traffic lanes of State Road 44.  He was arrested for resisting an officer without violence, fleeing, and dangerous driving.
  • In a related story from November 2017, a number of Florida Men (and Women, presumably) began twerking on Interstate 95 during a 35-minute traffic jam caused by Donald Trump making his way to Mar-a-Lago during the Thanksgiving holidays.  Traffic-goers were not amused by the delay although the twerking (allegedly) was outstanding.
  • In disgusting Florida Man news, Florida Man Brian Riley stopped a man who was mowing his lawn to tell him that God had told him to talk to Amber because she was about to commit suicide.  The man, Justice Gleason, told Riley tht there was no Amber at that address and told  him to leave or he would call the police.  "No need to call the cops, I'm the cops for God," Riley allegedly told Gleason.  Riley left nd leter got a second "message" from God, telling him to kill everyone and rescue Amber, who  was a victim of sex trafficking.  Riley returned to the Gleason house shortly before 4:30 in the morning and shot Gleason's 62-year-old mother-in-law, emptying an entire magazine into her.  He then entered the main house and shot the family dog.  The family was hiding in the bathroom and Riley shot the locked door, then killed Gleason, his wife, and their 3-month-old son.  Elsewhere in the house, he found Gleason's 11-year-old daughter and tortured her in an effort to find out where the imaginary Amber was.  Riley told the girl that he had killed her parents because they were sex traffickers.  Prior to these incidents Riley had had no contact with, or knowledge of, the victims.
  • Florida Man Stephen Dariff of Daytona Beach used his riding lawn mower to scare off a six-foot alligator.  When the alligator eventually came back to the water's bank, Dariff headed toward the animal with his lawn mower, lowering the moving blades directly on the alligator, injuring the gator's head and severing several limbs, as well as destroying  the eggs in the alligator's nest.  If Dariff did not know what he did was a crime under Florida law, he does now.
  • Florida Woman Ashley Ruffin, 31, of Palm Coast, was arrested for allegedly helping her son and his friend beat another boy.   Ruffin was charged with felony child abuse for holding the victim while the two other boys assaulted him,  Evidently parenting in florida has a lower standard than elsewhere.

Good News:
  • 12-yer-old Polish girl with Down Syndrome sends painting to Queen elizabeth and is "over the moon" when she replies
  • Man gives bone marrow to help with his depression -- not only does recipient go into remission for leukemia, but also for the MS she had been battling for 20 years
  • Premature baby born so small she was kept alive in a sandwich bag has defied odds and now is starting school
  • New study indicates that oxygen therapy may slow the progress of Alzheimer's
  • Astronaut bringss ashes and photo of 9/11 victim to space to fulfill his lifelong dream of orbiting for NASA
  • 100-year-old grandma set Guiness record for power

Today's Poem:
Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec'd

And did young Stephen sicken,
And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad heart thicken, 
And did the mourners cry?

No; such was not the fate of
Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
'Twas not from sickness' shots.

No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
Nor measles drear, with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
Of Stephen Dowling Bots.

Despised love struck not with woe
That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
Young Stephen Dowling Bots.

O no.  Then list with tearful eye,
While I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
By falling down a well.

They got him out nd emptied him;
Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
In the ralms of the good and great.

-- Mark Twain

Sunday, September 19, 2021


 It's that time of year again, folks, the time when we are inundated by pumkin spice everything.  Why? you ask.  Yours is not to question why; just accept this as the natural order of things.

So, to celebrate pumpkin spice in all its various formulations, join me as I make my justly famous Pumpkin Spice SpaghettiO soup.

First the ingredients:

  • One can of SpaghettiOs, preferably not with meatballs
  • One small pumpkin (seeds, peel, and stem removed), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Various spices to your taste
  • One fifth of Jack Daniels

First, pour yourself a shot of Jack Danuels.

Then pour contents of SpaghettiO can into a blender.

What the heck?  Have another shot of Jack Daniels.

Add a handful of the cubed pumpkin to the blender, saving the rest for when a salesman, or a religious prosellytizer, or your mother-in-law comes to the door

Have another drunk of the whishkey

It's time ta add the shpises.  Whadeva you wan -- parshlee. saje. closemaree, and tim...whaever.  Hek, yu can even addd a fue clobes o' garsnip iv ya wan.

Wher's da Jock Danyels?  Oh, heretis.

Turn in da blenner, makin a pastie glop tha mit be kalld zoup.

Hab lother  shut ob da gud stuf

Poor da zoup doun da zink, wher he belonks

Trye nother drunk o Zack Flannels.  Phapps mor dan won.

Sho mush fun koocin. rite?


 "Miserere Mei, Deus" by Gregario Allegri, performed by the Tenebrae Choir under the direction of Nigel Short.

Saturday, September 18, 2021


From Pete Seeger's Folkways Recording American Ballads, a little bit of a cheat because it was originally a traditional English ballad. from the Seventeenth century.


 Here's a blast from the past that may take a bit of effort on your part because of the overabundance of type in the panels, but try not to let that deter you.

The newspaper comic strip ran from 1915-1916 in Randolph Hearst's Evening Sun and was created by Myer Marcus under the name "Billy Liverpool."  If the artwork looks familiar it's because Marcus was a ghost artist on Bud Fisher's Mutt and Jeff strip for more than fifteen years ( source says that Marcus drew Mutt and Jeff up to 1934; another source says that Marcus died in 1923 at age 36.  Marcus probably actually worked on Mutt and Jeff 1914 and part of 1915 and possib;y part of 1916).

No matter.  Enjoy the 102 daily strips of Asthma Simpson and the inhabitants of the village of Cheezburg.

Thursday, September 16, 2021


 A haunting song of growing up from Tom Rush.


 Gosh!  Wow!  (Sense of Wonder) Science Fiction, ddited by Forrest J Ackerman (1982)

Forrest J (no period after the initial, thank you; an affectation he developed in the 1930s) Ackerman (or 4SJ, as he often referred to himself) (1916-2008) was an editor, writer, anthologist, literary agent, promoter of Esperanto, and -- above all -- a science fiction fan.  For over seven decades the main focus of his life was the promotion of science fiction, a field he fell in love with in beginning in 1922 when he saw his first science fiction movie.  His appreciation of the field solidified when he purchased the first science fiction magazine Amazing Stories in 1926.  At that time the field was known as scientifiction, a term coined by Amazing editor Hugo Gernsback.  Scientifiction was abbreviated as stf (pronounced "stef") and Ackerman was the first person to use the abbreviation in print, although he was quick to point out that the term did not originate with him, but with a friend.  A few years later, Gernsback  changed the term to the less wieldy "science fiction."  Ackerman who loved puns, invented the word sci-fi (to rhyme with 'hi-fi") in the 1950s.  In the third issue of the fanzinne Science Fiction, Ackerman's name was used for a reporter of a character in the very first Superman story written by Joseph Shuster and Jerry Siegel.

Known as "Mr. Science Fiction," Ackerman was active in the field professionally and otherwise for most of his entire life.  His collection of books, magazines, and memorabilia was reputed to be the largest inn the world.  He hosted some 50,000 fans and professionals at his home, the "Ackermansion," from 1951 to 2002.  Over the years, he was the literary agent for some 200 writers, as well as representing a nukber of literary estates.He founded the magazine Famous Monster of Filmland in 1958, which joyfully (and punningly) celebrated science fiction, fantasy, and horror films for generations of younger readers.  His many connections in Hollywood led to Ackerman appearing in bit parts or cameo roles in over 210 science fiction films.  He created the comic strip character Vampirella.  In the 1960s he arranged for the English publication of the weekly German juvenile science fiction series Perry Rhodan, which ran for 118 issues from Ace Books, and then for another 19 issues under his own inprint.  The Rhodan series was translated by his wife "Wendayne."  (As of 2019 the original German series reached 3000 books -- booklets really; they were kind of short  -- as well as 850 volumes in a spin-off series.)  For the American publication, Ackerman added original and reprint science fiction, film reviews, and a letter column; the additional stories tended to either creaky or gimmicky with a few exceptions.

In 1969 the Brazilian government hosted a ten-day international science fiction symposium which Ackerman, along with many of the biggest names in the field, attended.  There he was approached by a Brazilian publisher to edit a series of five science fiction anthologies, each covering a decade.  The proposal, however, fell through.  Then, in the early 80s, science fiction writer and editor Fredrik Pohl was placed in charge of the science fiction line at Bantam Books.  Remembering the original Brazilian propposal, Pohl approached Ackerman to come up with an anthology of stories he remembered fondly from SF's first decade, from 1926 to 1935.  Ackerman would introduce the stories with rambling autobiographical pieces about his life in science fiction.  Ackerman had previously edited The Best Science Fiction for 1973, taking over Ace Books' Year's-Best slot from Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, both of who left Ace to embark on their own careers, as well as a Year's-Best series from each.  (Ace's 1974 Best Science Fiction was edited by Pohl, followed by five annuals edited by Lester del Rey.)  Ackerman's next science fiction anthology was The Gernsback Awards 1926:  Volume 1 (1982), which gave Ackerman's choices for the best science fiction stories of 1926; there was no Volume 2.  These books, along with Ackerman's reputation was enough for Pohl to propose that Ackerman edit a book of tales from 1926 to 1935.

We met Ackerman once -- some fifty years ago -- when we shared a banquet table at a World Science Fiction Convention in Boston.  He was charminng, affable, and funny.  Although he stated firmly that his life's major interest was in science fiction of every stripe. he did join my wife in a rendition of the song "42nd Street."  Ackerman's interest in promoting science fiction to younger readers was evident, as was his interest in the stories that fascinated him when he was young -- a time when much of the field was unpolished and crude, but a time when the "sense of wonder" reigned.  

Reading this book was infectious and brought back my own sense of wonder.  Of the nineteen stories in the book, I had previously read about nine.  Most of those stories I had already read brought back fond memories.  Pohl imposed one rule on Ackerman:  He was to pick the stories he best remembered but he was not to re-read them!  Pohl wanted the sense of wonder that struck the young boy and teenager that Ackerman was at the time; re-reading the stories before publication could impact a selection by a more mature mind.

Here are the stories:

  • Robert H. Wilson, "Out from Rigel" (from Astounding Stories, December 1931)  The story of a fated voyage to another star system.The author had only one other story published and committed suicide at a young age.
  • Jack Williamson, "Born of the Sun"  (from Astounding Stories, March 1934)  Aliens are destroying the moon.  Can Earth take its place among the stars or will humanity be destroyed?  Williamson lasted from 1928 until,his death in 2006, going from clunky "world-ending" stories to producing a number of classic science fiction stories and helping to bring science fiction into the mainstream.
  • Edmond Hamilton, "The Eternal Cycle" (from Wonder Stories, March 1935)  A story about an alternate universe.  Hamilton's career began in 1926 and continued until his death in 1977.  He was best known for writing space opera, which belies his range of writing for he was capable of truly mature work.  Hamilton created the pulp hero Captain Future and wrote almost all of that hero's adventures.  He was married to the talented writer Leigh Brackett.
  • "Irvin Lester" and Fletcher Pratt, "The Roger Bacon Formula" (from Amazing Stories, January 1929)  After drinking a strange formula concocted by Roger Bacon, a man's essence travels to Venus.  The story was selected by Groff Conklin for inclusion in one of the early, seminal science fiction anthologies.  "Lester" was a pseudonym used by Pratt; why he credited this tale to both himself and an alter ego still eludes me.
  • Miles J. Breuer, M.D. & Clare Winger Harris, "A Baby on Neptune" (from Amazing Stories, December 1929)  On a voyage to Neptune, two humans save a Neptunian baby from an inhuman monster.  Breuer was a popular writer in the field through the 1930s, penning such classics as "Gostak and the Doshes" and "The Appendix and the Spectacles;"  Harris was one of the first popular female science fiction authors; her career last until the early thirties.
  • "Clyde Crane Campbell"  (H. L. Gold), "Inflexure"  Time is turned at a "right angle" when all thngs that ever lived appear at the same time.  Disaster follows,  This was Gold's first published story, written when he was only 20.  After a solid career as a short story author, Gold found fame from editing the seminal science fiction magazine Galaxy.
  • Captain S. P. Meek, ""Futility"  (from Amazing Stories, July 1929)  Two scientists devise a machine that can mathematically determine one's exact moment of death, as well as the exact cause and the place of death.  Meek was a career Army chemist who attained the rank of Colonel by the time he retired in 1947.  He wrote most of his science fiction during the 1930s and was considered one of the most popular at the time.  In the science fiction field he is probably best know for his series about Doctor Bird and Operative Carnes -- 14 stories tht appeared in Astounding Stories from 1930 to 1932.  During the 30s he also wrote nine juvenile novels about dogs and horses, continuing these books through 1956 -- 21 in all, plus a handbook on raising a puppy.
  • Lousie Taylor Hanson. "The Prince of Liars" (from Amazing Stories, October 1930)  An interesting tale of near "immortality" frmed within a rather boring discussion of Newtonian theory versus relativism.  Another popular early female science fiction writer, maybe.  Little was known about her, but she did say on at least one occasion that the stories were actually written by her brother and she "just mailed them."  This could be true, but the name of the brother has never been revealed.
  • Louis Tucker, "The Cubic City"  (from Science Wonder Stories, September 1929)  Griswald Lee, a man born in 1895, is mysteriously propelled to a time in the far future where the world is run by the League of Cities.  This was Tucker's only acknowledged story.  He was evidently a Doctor of Divinity.
  • "G. Peyton Wertenbaker" (Green Peyton), "The Shp that Turned Aside" (from Amazing Stories, March 1930)  Caught in a violent storm, a ship finds itself on a strange sea in a world whose sky showed no known constellations.  Wertenbaker had a few stories published in the 1920s, beginning with "The Man from the Atom," written when he was 15.  His "The Coming of the Ice" (Amazing Stories, June 1926) was included in Ackerman's The Gernsback Awards.  He moved to regional noels in the 1930s published under his given name of Green Peyton, then  to editorial positions for Fortune and Time magazines.  After service in World War II, he joined the aerospace industry, writing a book on the possibilty of life on mar, as well as a series of video scripts about the human problems of space flight.  He joined NASA in 1958, eventually rising to becoming the chief historian of the Aerospace Medical Division.
  • W. Varick Nevins, III, "The Emotion Meter"  (from Wonder Stories, January 1935)  A college professor devises a machine that indicates a person's romantic preference -- a story with a twist at the end.  I know nothing about the author, who published four stories in 1934-5.  He defended this story against Donald a. Wollheim in the Letters column of Wonder Stories.
  • A. Merritt, "The Face in the Abyss"  (from Argosy All-Story Weekly, September 8, 1923; reprinted in Amazing Stories Annual, Vol. 1, 1927)  The classic lost race fantasy, complete with strange monsters and high adventure.  This story, combined with the author's novella "The Snake Mother" was published as The Face in the Abyss (1931).   Merritt (1884-1943) was the editor of The American Weekly whose sideline was as a pulp fantasy writer.  He wrote eight complete novels -- all classics of their kind -- including The Moon Pool and The Ship of Ishtar.  He was inducted into The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1999. 
  • Stanley G. Weinbaum, "The Red Peri"  (from Astounding Stories, November 1935)  Written just five years after the discovery of Pluto, Weinbaum set this story on that planet/planetoid, investing it with crystaline creatures.  The Red Peri turns out to be a 19-year-old red-headed female space pirate who has a secret lair on Pluto.  Weinbaum was one of the brightest lights in science fiction in the mid-1930s, beginning with his first story, "A Martian Odyssey" in 1934.  He died a year and half later of lung cancer at age 33.  Had he lives, he may well have become on of the greatest science fiction writers of the Twentieth century.
  • D. D. Sharp. "The Eternal Man"  (from Science Wonder Stories, August 1929)   A scientist discovers an immortaity elixir but discovers it leaves whoever takes it immobile while remaining conscious.  Sharp was a farmer turned writer whose science fiction showed some imagination but little writing skill.  "The Eternal Man" was his one-hit wonder and a poor sequel published the following year is best forgotten.  H published 24 science fiction stories before transitioning to the western field.
  • Raymond Z. Gallun, "Old Faithful"  (from Astounding Stories, December 1934)  Probably Gallun's most successful short story, it features a totally sympathetic Martian, and opposed to the monstrous aliens usually depicted in stories of that time.  It inspired two sequels.  Gallun was a talented writer who was popular in the 30s and published some 120 stories and six novels during his career.  His popularity waned during the 1950s and, although he was recognized as a talented author, he never achieved the reputation of some of his peers.
  • Catherine L. Moore & Forrest J Ackerman, "Nymph of Darkness" (from Fantasy Magazine [a fanzine], April 1935)  Moore's popular character Northwest Smith encounters a totally nude, totally invisible girl who is fleeing from danger.  Ackerman helped plot this minor tale, which ws revised for publication in Weird Tales in 1939.  For years Moore refused to have this story reprinted and was not included in her collection of Northwest Smith stories.  Read it and you'll see why.
  • "Don A. Stuart" (John W. Campbell, Jr.), "Twilight"  (from Astounding Stories, November 1934)  A far future tale, written in a more literary style that Campbell's earlier far-ranging superscience tales.  This marked a turning point in Campbell's career as he began writing more "serious" tles under the Stuart pen-name (which came from the name of his then-wife, Dona Stewart).  Campbell effectively stopped writing science fiction when he became editor of Astounding Stories.  As editor, he is credited with advancing science fiction into the modern age.
  • Amelia Reynold Long,"Omega"  (from Amazing Stories, July 1932)  A story about the end of the world.  Long was another early female science fiction writer best known for her story "The Thought-Monster" (1930), which was filmed as 1958's Fiend without a Face.  She was a prolific writer of rather poor detective novels for the lending library market and is little remembered today.
  • Harry Bates & D. W. Hall, "A Scientist Rises"  (from Astounding Stories, November 1932, published under Hall's name alone)  A scientist (and his clothing) begins to grow larger and larger, until...  Bates was the editor of Astounding and Hsll was the magazine's assistant editor.  As "Anthony Gilmore," the pair wrote the popular Hawk Carse sequence of five stories.  Btes also wrote the classic stories "Alas, All Thinking!" and "Farewell to the Master" (the basis of the film The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Hall's sjort story output, with the exception of for stories, was all published in with Bates as the co-author.

There you have it.  Some stories rated from good to very good and some pure schlock.  All, however, have that undefinable "sense of wonder" that has captivated yung readers for almost a century.

Plus, as a bonus, you have Ackerman's comments and reflections, along with sometimes defensive words about various disagreements he has had with others in the field.  Ackerman also included a number of letters to the editor from various magazines (written by himself and others), a few poems (by Mort Weisinger and Ralph Milne Farley), and some pieces about unsung heroes of the science fiction movement.  All in all, a very scattered and extremely interesting editorializations.

If you are like me and like Ackerman -- kids who never really grew up -- this one is for you.


 Jeannie Redpath, circa 1962, with a traditional Scottish song.


 Jack, Doc, and Reggie are back in this Mutual Broadcasting System version of I Love a Mystery, airing from October 3, 1949 to December 26, 1952, and utilizing scripts from the original series that aired from January 16, 1939 to December 29, 1944.  The stories were aired in serial form.  "Temple of Vampires" ran for 20 episodes.  The original version of this serial ran for 20 episodes from January 22-February 16, 1940.  All 20 episodes from the 1950 version are linked below -- four-and-a-half hours of danger, adventure, and mystery!

Concerned parents wrote to the netowrk complaining about the posible negative effects this serial may have on children.  Let me know if you experience any negative effects when you listen to this tale.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021


 Jackie Lomax.  (With a backup band consisting of Geroge Harrison, Eric Clapton, Nicky Hopkins, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr!)


 I saw an advertisement for a 56" color television for just $1.99.  The ad said the very low price was because the volume was stuck on full.  I thought, "I can't turn that down."


 "Legend of the Dropping Well" by Hugh Miller (1802-1856) (from Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland; or The Traditional History of Cromarty, Chapter XXIII,  revised second edition, circa 1851.  [Note: the first edition of the book was published in 1834; the second edition was expanded by about one-third; according to the author's note, the extra material was written at the same time as the original material -- about 20 years previously, between 1829 and 1834.  This would put the second edition being published in the mid-Nineteenth Century.  The earliest second edition I could find on the internet was the 1851 edition from the Boston publisher Gould and Lincoln, which was taken from the London second edition.  I could not find an exact date for the second London edition.]

Hugh Miller was a self-taught Scottish geologist and writer, folklorist, and evangelical Christian.  He became one of Scotland's most influential palaeontologists and was adept at popularizing science to a large audience,  In later life he became the victim of severe headaches, depression, and delusions -- most likely what we would call today psychotic depression, perhaps brought by the stress of overwork.  Fearful that one day he may harm his wife and children, he opted for suicide, shooting himself on December 24, 1856.  The day before his death he was checking the proofs on his book on geology and Christianity, The Testimony of the Rocks.  Miller's widow arranged the posthumous publication of many collections of his essays and religious works, keeping Miller in the public eye for another half century. 

As a youth, Miller was rather wild and rambuncious -- he left school after punching his teacher.  He was fascinated by the Scottish coast around Cromarty, and would often take hikes with his uncle, exploring the shoreline and caves.  His uncle was of a scientific bent and would describe the rocks and flora and fauna in a manner that fascinated Miller.  As a young man, Miller went to sea and one experience, where he viewed hundreds of dead bodies along the shore, stayed with him.  Despite his family's wishes for him to go into the ministry (and despite his own Christian zeal), Miller eventually became a stonemason, gaining a reputation for hard work and honesty.  In his spare time, Miller would write poetry and sketches about the life and lore of Cromarty.  He was also appointed accountant for a newly-opened bank in Cromarty, thus he was balancing three jobs at once.  From 1840 until his death, Miller served as editor of a Christian newspaper based in Edinburgh, The Witness.

Miller was a man of many interests and passions.  His Scenes and Legends in the North of Scotland remains an important book of Scottish life and folklore and a tribute to the imaginnation of the Highlands.

As to "The Dropping Well," it is "a small cavern termed the Dropping Cave, famous for its stalactites and its petrifying springs."  Located a few feet above the beach, there is "from a crag which overhangs the opening there falls a a perpetual drizzle, which, settling on the mos and llichens beneaths, converts them into stone."  Once a popular location, the accrued stone from the moss and lichen had made it a place of mystery and its dark recesses are not entered.  There is a story of a mermaid being spotted at the cave opening, and another of a strange old bearded man who sat before the cave unmoving for three days and who vanished following a storm which left many bodies on the beach.  There is also a tradition that a townsman once entered the cave and heard from above the ringing of a pair of tongs from the hearth of a farmhouse in  Navity, some three miles away.

A certain wastel and neer-do-well named Willie Millar, who was given to inventing tall tales, supposedly decided to check the aforesaid tradition.  Armed with sprigs of rowan and wych-elm sewn into the the hem of his waistcoat and with a bible in one pocket and a bottle of gin in the other, he bravely entered the cave.  It was dark and there were a number of natural cisterns filled with sparking water along the way.  Alas, Willie tripped by the ninth cistern and falling against the cave wall, broke his bottle of gin, the contents of which ran into a small hollow in the marble floor.  Such a valuable porperty being destroyed di not phase Willie.  He lay down and beginning lapping the gin from the cavern floor.  Then he stopped for a moment and began drinking again.  Feeling refreshed, Willie went on deeper and deeper into the recesses.  Eventually he came to an immense chamber light by burning firs trees.  The floors of the chamber were scattered with  half-eaten body parts and a bloody axe was hanging on the wall.  There was a bugle of gold hanging from a large man(?)-made column.  Willie took the bugel and blew into it.  The walls of the cavern shook and a corner of the large room was exposed, revealing a large. bloodied hand reaching for the weapon on the wall.  Willie ran, petrified beyond belief.  When he finally came to his senses, he was lying by the ninth cistern with the broken bottle of gin bedside him.  He had been in the cavern for nearly a full day.

Years later, a young boy of twelve (who had a character even worse that Willie Millar's) decided to test Willie's story and entered the cave himself.  Yes, there was a large cavern with an overturned marble table but nothing else of Willie's story seemed true.  Some time later, he heard a voice behind him which he recognixed as that of a dead friend, telling him to meet the voice at "the Stormy," which he took to mean a large rock by the sea.  There he waited but his dead friend did not appear.  Instead a large bee buzzed his head and could not be shooed away.  Nearing his ear the bee told him to dig and so the boy did, revealing a large spring of clear, pure water.  The spring, known known as Fiddler's Spring, has magical properties that can cure illness -- a belief that remained current as the author wrote this tale.

So, not a story really, but an interesting take on a local legend.  I first came across the tale in an anthology titled Weird Tales Scottish published by William Patterson of London in 1884.  At the time Patterson issued a number of anthologies titled Nuggets for Travellers, five volumes of which (#5-9) were in his Weird Tales series, one each representing stories from England, Scotland (#6 in the series), Ireland, Germany, and America.  When reprinted by another publisher later that year, the series was called Tit-Bits for Travellers.

For those interested, here are the contents of Weird Tales Scottish:

  • Sir James Dick Hardy*, "The Vision of Campbell of Invarawe"
  • Sir Walter Scott, "The Tapestried Chamber"
  • John Wilson, "Highland Snowstorm"
  • Hugh Miller, "Legend of the Dropping Well"
  • Sir Walter Scott, "Wandering Willie's Tale"
  • Allan Cunningham, "The Haunted ships"
  • John Mackay Wilson, "The Unknown"
  • uncredited (actually Robert Dale Owen), "The Rescue"
  • W. Grant Stewart, "The Witch of Laggan"
  • Mrs. Gordon (Margaret Maria Brewter Gordon), "Allan Mactavish's Fishing"

Both Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland (both editions)and Weird Tales Scottish are availble to read on the innternet.

*  Interestingly, Miller dedicated Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland to Hardy.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Saturday, August 28, 2021


I am a very lucky guy.  I have many, many wonderful days and very, very frw that were not wonderful.  Let me tell you about one of the most wonderful.

Twenty-five years ago we were at Georgeotwn University Hospital in D.C. where our eldest, Jessamyn, was about to give birth to our first grandchild.  Michael, Jessie's husband, was trying his very best to look calm and collected.  This is something all expectant fathers try to do, but that none has achieved.  Kitty was, as ever, cool and raational.  Christina was bubbling over with happiness.  Jessie, I suspect, just wanted the darned thkng over with.  And me?  I was several floors down, giving innsurance information to some accounting nerd.  I swear I was down there for only fifteen minuts -- tops.   But when I got back upstairs, it was all over.

I got back in time to see a nurse carry out a suspicously tightly-wrapped package and to see everybody was smiling.  The package, of course was Ceili who looked as if they were about to enter her in an Olympic swaddling contest.  She was quiet, serene, and beautiful.  Her eyes were wide-open with wonder and her mouth had a faint hint of a smile (and don't tell me it was gas).  She was regal.  She had just entered a strange new world that seemed to have been made just for her.  She was happy to be here and she was happy just to be.

If there was such a thing as instant bonding, we all felt it that night.  And our lives have changed significantly for the better.

That was a quarter of a century ago.  She is no longer quiet and serene, although she is still devastatingly beautiful.  Quiet does not suit Ceili.  There's too much unfairness in the world for her to remain quiet.  Ceili is going to yell and fuss and raise a ruckus at thingss that are wrong with this world.  Injustice, hatred, and bigotry do not belong in this -- her -- world.  Remember, we had gifted her this world twenty-five years ago and she gracefully accepted.

In many ways, Ceili reminds me of that great Malvina Reynolds song. "Quiet":

I don't know much about much,
And what I don't lnow I don't say,
And when I have nothing to say,
I'm quiet.
When there's occassion to holler I'll buy it.
I can make noise with the best,
But most of the rest of the time
I'm quiet.

But Ceili isn't that quiet often.  She was made to care and she was made to laugh.  I love her laughter.  It seldom is quiet.

She had many gifts but the most striking is the gift of empathy.  Ceili is a caring person and we are proud of her for that.

My advice to the world going forth:  You'd better listen to Ceili.  She has it right.

Is there any wonder that we love her?

Friday, August 27, 2021


Don't get me started on the title of this book.  I should be Scottish Jokes or perhaps Scot Jokes.  Scotch is serious business and someone should have been called to the carpet over this.

While I'm at it, the book makes two presumptions -- that the Scottish are cheap and that they wear kilts.  Take those away and this would be a very thin book indeed.

The book is redeemed at the bottom of page seven with a cartoon of a Scottish warrior (complete with drawn sword) at the office of Campbell and Campbell.  The receptionist is explaining to a man who has poked his head guardingly out of the door, "His name is MacDonald, Sir.  He says he's come to settle an old score."

For those not in the know, the scurrilous Campbell clan slaughtered the MacDonalds while under a flag of truce.  This happened several centuries ago or three weeks ago, depending on the viewpoint of a MacDonald.  Also, it is very likely that the MacDonalds played the same trick on the Campbells earlier.  How do I lnow so much about this?  Kitty had a great-aunt Agnes (a MacDonald) who refused to have a can of Campbell's soup in the house.  Scottish Alzheimer's is when you forget everything but the grudge.

Anyway, that was a funny cartoon.  Kitty laughed.

Intersperces among the cartoon are poems by Ogden Nash and Robert Burns, among others, short piece by Phyllis McGinley, Guy Gilpatrick (a Glencannon story), and J. J. Bell, and pages of very stale jokes, to wit:

"Donald, after a prolonged courtship, could not make up his mind between the charms of Janet and Maggie.  At last he decided to sumit the matter to each of the lasses by letter.  A duly cautious missive was dispatched to each, with a postscript requesting  notification by telegram.
"The following morning a wire accepting his kind, if provisional, offer was received from Maggie.  Not until midnight did Janet's message arrive.
" 'I suppose,' said a friend, 'you'll be takin' Maggie, seein' as Janet kept you waitin' so long.'
" 'Na, na,' said the Caladonian Lothario.  'The lass who waits for the night -ates is the lass for me!' "

Just click on the link to get to the book.  I won't tell you to enjoy, but at leaast check out the bottom of page 7.


No Traveller Returns by John Collier  (1931)

John Collier, the author of that seminal collection Fancies and Goodnights,  is a magical name for fans of fantasy.  Few are his equal for acerbic satire, wondrous imaginings, and purely original plots.  Roald Dahl and Avram Davidson, sure, and there must be few others but none come to mind as I write this at 6:30 in the morning.

One of Collier's most elusive books is No Traveller Returns, a 56-page volume that was released in a limited edition in 1931.  Limited to 210 copies, signed and numbered by the author, with numbers 1-25 being printed on indescent Japanese vellum and numbers 26-210 printed on hand-made paper.  To my knowleged the story has never been included in any of the author's collections, nor has it been reprinted elsewhere.  So when the book recntly became available at, I jumped at the chance.

We begin with an amusingly witty and prolix introduction --  or, An Apology, as the author has it:  "Two, among the many orders of men who merit the contempt and hatred of their fellows, are undoubtedly these:  the grovelling minds which have never aspired to fancy a Utopia, and those ardents who have had the generosity to conceive a plan of our future good, and cannot refrain from afflicting us with a presentation of it."

Aha! the savvy reader may say, this is to be a tale of a Utopia or, at the very least, a dystopia.  Far from it, mon frere, far from it.

Something popped up from the ground in front of Professor Wilkinson's lodgings.  It happened in the early of the morning in an area where road construction had been ongoing, so nobody paid much attention to it.  Indeed, the professor himself did not notice it for several months, being far too busy with his mathematical ruminations.  Wilkinson, we learn, is a dry old stick, but eventually he concentrated on the strange railings from the something (an edifice?  an erection?  a builinding?) that were visible and his mind went to fancy a scientific experiment.  He woiuld establish whether there is any truth that the number of people who exit from places is equal to the number who enter.  He would then publish the results and establish Wilkinson's Law of Equality or Variability, whichever the case may be,

He immediately began work on a marvelous instrument (with a grant from the Pockhealer Research Fund, which was readily given, of course) that composed of two complicated lenses that would transmit rays of light to a plate so sensitive that no physical body could pass over it without being recorded.  Thus science provides a simple solution to a problem that would work almost as well if he were to count them himself.

At the end of the firt day, the professor eagerly developed the plates and learned that, although many people entered the edifice, none were recorded leaving it.  That was a bit disappointing but soon his scientific rigor rose to the challenge.  Improvements were made on the lenses and Wilkinson decided to let the experiment run full week.  When the week was up, however, the results were the same.  Many people entered, none left.

The following day, he left his house, "crossed the road, and descended promptly into the grotto, whence he also never came up."

When the professor reached the bottom step, there was a twisting sensation, and he found himself in an unfamilar cavern.  He was immediately pounced up by a number of men, stripped of all his clothing, and tossed in a cell.  His cell was one in a long row of cells, each with its own prisoner.  There was a similar row of cells on the cavern wall opposite, as well as what appeared to be many large ovens.  The ones who had grabbed him appeared to be cowboys and there were other men in pointy hats with sticks that poked and hit the prisoners if they got too close to the bars.  By the ovens there was a chef.

For food he was served a bland paste which made him very thirsty.  On the mossy floor of the cell there ws a small pool of water and he drank mightily from it. but the water made him desire the paste once again.  He noticed many of his fellow prisoners attempting to vomit after eating the paste.

A man was led to view the cells and he fixed his attention on the person in the cell next to Wilkinson -- an obese person who could not hide his corpulence, no matter how hard he tried.  The fat man was chosen and he was dragged out of his cell to another room which blocked off his screams.  Shortly the door to that room opened and the fat man was wheeled in on a metal cart, fully dressed -- fully dressed as in ready for cooking, not fulling dressed as in clothed.  Into the oven he went.

Professor Wilkinson, whose body resember that of an egret sans feathers, spent the next couple of weeks watching his fellow prisoners be selected by the cavern's "customers," then prepared and cooked.  Because there was little meat on his bones, the professor was never selected, unlike some who were selected within two hours of their arrival -- M. Ch*st*rs*n and M. B*ll*c, for example.  Others, such a Lord B**v*rbr**k, spent days bemoaning their fate before heading to the ovens.  At last came the day when Wilkinson was chosen.

He had been etching some mathematical designs on the floor of his cell when a customer approached.  When Wikinson heard the customer speak, he responded.  (In the cavern everyone spoke a bastardized version of Esperanto which he precticed, although none of the prisoners or guards would speak to him.)  The customer was amazed and paid for the professor immediately, demanding that he be dressed.  Dressed that is in clothing, not dressed for the oven.  It happened that a new arrival M*x B**rb*hn was being stripped and it was his clothes that were given to the professor. who had been purchased to be put on exhibition.

And then things get really weird.

This may well have been John Collier's first story, published the same year as his noted "Green Thoughts;" I don't know which was written first.   Collier's talent is nonetheless blazingly brilliant here.  His sly approach and his judicial jousting at academia and at noted figures of the time is both refreshing and appealing.

Highly recommended, especially for John Collier fans.  And if you are not one of those, where have you been hiding?

Thursday, August 26, 2021


 Have your heroes always been cowboys?  If so, here is a link for you!  The 100 top Western songs as voted on by the Western Writers of America.  We statt with the #1 song, "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and continue all the way to #100, "His Master's Call."  Just click on the song title.  Information about each song is also available.



 Freddie Fender.


 Cabin B-13 was a short-lived radio show that began in July 1948 and lasted for 25 episodes.  Only hree episodes are known to survive.  Each week we boarded the ocean liner Mauevania as the ship's medical officer, Dr. John Fabian, relates stories about the ship's passengers.  The stories range from mystery to adventure.

"The Bride Vanishes" tells of an impossible disappearance from a villa balcony on the isle of Capri.  Arnold Moss plays Dr. Fabian.  Also in the cast are Joseph Curtin. Mary Patton, and Rod Hendrickson.  John dietz directed.  The scripts for the series were written by that master of mystery, John Dickson Carr.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021


I was up about four o'clock Tuesday morning so I was ablr to that day's and today's posts before my 7:30 appontment.

I survived, went home, and slept for 19 hours.

The oral surgeon first gave me some laughing gas...or at least he said he did.  This was supposedly to relax me before he gave me the sedation.  I was relaxed anyway and what he gave me did not make any difference.  I've had nitrous oxide before and this was not like anything I had ever been given before;  either they gave me a very light dose or they forgot to turn it on.          

Then came the sedation and I was knock out...for a while.  The sedation wore off about half-way through.  It must have worked while they were removing my upper teeth, but I was conscious when they were working on my lower teeth.  It hurt.  They had wisely strapped down my arms so It would not be flaying during the procedure.  This prevented me from doing the First Pensacola Dentist Toss,  Don't get me wrong.  I'm sure that some of the sedation was still working, but I was aware and feeling pain.  One tooth was stubborn and they had to work extra long to get it out -- [cue tugging and pulling and yanking and groaning and cutting and drilling and novacaine].

My knees were wobbly and I was unsteady as they brought me to recovery which meant sit and wait until  the oral surgean came to check on me.  Then out the door to a waiting car with Kitty driving.

And it was over.  I was bruised and battered and could not speak properly:

KITTY:  How are you feeling?
ME:  um,hdgbmrojcbweliufhm gkndndgkhjf  qqwnjgd.

Home and right to bed.  I have never felt so physically drained.  My beautiful ,bride went above and beyond the call of duty, waking me up every two hours for one pill or another (antibiotic, pain), give me a new ice pack, and to be sure that I rinsed with salt water.  She is a trooper and I'm afraid she got no sleep last night.

They said I should recover in 24 hours, but then people say a lot of things.  I now have chipmonk cheeks.  My mouth and lower jaw are darkly bruised.  My gums are raw, my mouth is full of blood, and for some reason I have developed post nasal drip which makes me feel like I'm suffocating.  My speech is still incoherent.

But I survived.  Also, I have decided that my wife was right -- I am a wimp.

It all just goes to show that whatever doesn't kill you is still pretty unpleasant.

I'm not sure if I'll be postng tomorrow b ecause now all I really want to do is go back to sleep.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021


 The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt.


 "The Swiss Peasant" by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (first pubished in late 1830 in The Keepsake for MDCCCXXXI as "by the author of 'Frankenstein';" included in the posthumous collection Tales and Stories, 1891)

In the mountainous region of Switzerland, the threat of an avalanche is very real to the humble cottagers who live there.  One such is Louis Chaumont, whose large family includes his very young daughter Fanny, "whose beauty is heartfelt but indescribable:  hers was the smooth candid brow, the large hazel eyes, hair soft, half wild; the rounded dimpled cheek, the full sensitive mouth, the pointed chin, and (as to framework the picture) the luxuriant curly chestnut hair, and voice which is sweetest music."   Fanny's beauty and sweet soul caught the attention of Madame de Marville, the wife of the governor who commamded the district.  Ten years old, she became a frequent visitor to the chalet that overlooked the  cottages below.  She soon became a favorite of the governor and the favorite playmate of their only son, Henry.

One day when Fanny had dined with the family, a sudden and fierce storm arose and it was decided that it would be safer is Fanny spent the night.  The was the night of the avalanche which swept away her tottage and her family, leaving her an orphan.  Thus the peasant girl was raised in the chateau and given a "bourgeois eductation, whihc would raise her from the hardship's of a peasant's life, and yet not elevate her above her natural position in society."  As the years past, Fanny grew more beautiful and more charming and Henry, whenever he returned home from school, found the young orphan more and more fscinating.  Henry's attraction to Fanny may not have recognized by the girl, who was innmocence personified, but it was noted by Madame de Marville, who began to fear that Henry may pursue her young ward.  Luckily, Fanny's heart turned to Louis Chaumont, a distant relative ten years older than Fanny.  Louis' family had been oppressed and reduced to po verty by some feudal tyrant.  His mother had died brokenn-hearted and his father raised Louis to hate the "proud oppressors of the land," tracing all social ills to a system that made a few "the tyrants of the many."

Fanny and Louis became engaged and thus Madame de Marville was glad that a misalliance between her son and Fanny was avoided.  Henry, however, did not take this news well.  His jealousy of Louis consumed him and the two often had to be separated by Fanny, who urged both her fiends to reconcile.  The feud had reached a point where it felt that Henry should be sent to Paris for a while -- something Henry resented and felt was banishment.  On the eve of Henry's departure, the two rivals got into a "scene of violence and bloodshed."  Monsieur de Marville, the governor, obtained an order for Lousi to quit the country within 24 hours and he commanded Fanny to give up her lover.  Madame de Marville then persuaded Fanny to stay with them until Henry had returned, which would be in about a year.

But what a year!  Fanny had no news of Louis, and despaired.  The French revolution had taken hold and had infected Switzerland, whose people began to rebel against the government, and Monsieu de Marville "was an aristocrat of the most bigoted species."  The chateau was attacked and the rioters repelled for the moment.  Soon came word that a great leader of the rebellers, known as the champion of liberty and the sworn enmy of Monsieur de Marville, was coming to lead the charge against the chateau, upon which the governor would be executed.  The rebel leader?  none other than Louis Chaumont.

Henry meanwhile had been denounced in Paris and his life was in risk.  He made his way home just as Louis was about to arrive.  The governor, deisguised, had already made his escape from the chateau; his wife and Fanny were to follow.  Henry, enraged by what had happened, wanted to go forth immediately and challenge Louis, but was disuaded by Fanny and his mother.  Instead the three would leave with Henry hidden in a cart to join the governor at a prearraged safe location.

On their way, they were met by Louis.  Fanny's pleas to him saved Madame de Marville from capture and deaath and they were allowed to go their way.  The cart however hit a ditch, turned over, and revealed Henry.  Louis was about to kill his enemy when Fanny begged him not to, saying that she and Henry were married.  Louis' love for Fanny overcame his hatred of Henry; as much as he dispised the man he could not stand to see Fanny suffer.  He gave them safe passage.  Louis left and was not seen again.

A few weeks later the government regained control.  Without Louis to lead them, the rebellers fell apart.  The years passed.  Fanny did not go back to the chateau, refusing to live under the same roof as
Henry.  Madame de Marville died.  Henry married another women, more fitting to his stature.  Fnny went to live with a relative in Soublaco.  War engulfed Europe, followed by peace.  Soldiers returned home and one soldier, who had no home to return to, stopped by a small cottge in Soublanco asking for shelter.  He had been wounded and was grievously sick, on his way to Italy to meet up with a friend.

The soldier, of course, was Louis, and the cottage was that where Fanny was staying.  Louis, disillusioned by the rebellion, had wandered and eventually joined the French army.  He had given up all of his hatred and anger.  Life without Fanny was meaningless to him.  Thus a changed Louis and a grateful Fanny were reunited.

The author (1797-1851) needs no introduction.  Her classic Gothic novel Frankenstein was a cultural phenomenon and is still widely read today.  Her affair and eventual marriage to the poet Shelley has been the source of many stories, as has that "contest" which produced Mary's most famous novel and significant works by Shelley and John Polidari.  After her husband had drowned in 1822, she returned to England and devoted herself to raising her son and writing novels, as well as editing and promoting the writings of her husband.  She died in 1853 of a brain tumor.

In recent yearss, scholars have more and more turned their attention of her six other novels and her travel writings and various articles.  As a liberal, as a woman, and as a poligtical radical, and as a major romantic figure, Mary shelley still has much to offer the modern reader, 170 years after her death.

"The Swiss Peasant" is available to read online, as are her other works.



 A country novelty song by Gary Gentry.


This is the first of two film adaptations of Fredric Brown's suspense novel The Screaming Mimi.  The other is Dario Argento's 1970 classic The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.  But this one has something the Argento film does not:  Anita Ekberg.

A man tries to stab exotic dancer Virginia (Ekburg) in the shower but is shot and killed by her stepbrother Charlie (Romney Brent).  Traumatized, Virginia goes to psychiatrist Dr. Greenwood (Harry Townes), who falls for her and begins to control her.  There's a series of murders and Virginia is a suspect -- each victim has purchased a sculpture of a woman called "The Screaming Mimi," created by Charlie.  Newshawk Bill Sweeney (Philip Carey) tries to suss it all out.  Also featuring Gypsy Rose Lee and the Red Norvo Trio.

Directed by Gerd Oswald (A Kiss Before Dying, Crime of Passion, Paris Holiday) from a script by Robert Blees (Magnificent Obsession, From the Earth to the Moon, High School Confidential).


Monday, August 23, 2021


A few weeks ago my dentist delivered last rites on my teeth.

Soft teeth run in my family and now, after some seventy years of fillings on top of fillings, root canals, crowns, and extractions, there is little left to do.  So Tuesday morning bright and early, I am scheduled to have what little remains to be extracted.  I am told there may be pain involved.  And there will be soft food for the next few days.

My wife, who inexplicitly and steadfastly believes that I am not the sturdy, brave little soldier she married, says that I will be the worst patient ever and will be out of commission for the foreseeable future.  This I dispute.  (Although she is invariably right.)  Nonetheless, blogging may be light over the next few days.

See you on the other side.


 This one is for Erin, who moved into her dorm room at FSU yeasterday/


 Openers:  Captain Sir Haddingway Ingraham Jameson Ingraham of his Majesty's Royal Frontier Houssa Police -- less formally known as Hiji from Lagos to Bathurst -- was engaged in the pleasing and harmless pastime od shooting crocks.

A grinning Krooboy, naked save for a breech-clout and a blue celluloid comb thrust in his kinky hair, squatted along the river bank with a long pole in his hand.  Attacjhed to the pole was a length of strong, stout string, and at the string's far end there dangled the remains of a deceased cooking dog which swished slowly through the muddy waters of the Luabala with a motion counterfeiting swimming.  Crocks are always hungry and ever guiltly of the sin of gluttony, and the appetizing scent of the defunct dog wasalure no crock, no matter how inhibited, could withstand.  So presently there showed a long, triangular ripple on the surface of the water, and at its apex was the long pointed armored snout and knob-set eyes of a voracious saurian.  The Krooboy was an old hand at the game and played the crocodile skillfully.  Without appearing to do so, the bait increased its rate of speed, and the crock paddled faster, caution lost in appetite.  The dog came closer to the shore, the crcodile in hot pursuit.  Then Hiji raised his 9.5-mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer, took quick aim, and fired.

Your African crocodile is a tough customer.  From ten to twenty feet in length, and armored like a tank, his skull is thick and hard as metal, his brain pan small, his vitality enormous.  You can shoot him full of holes as a fly-net, yet cause him little more than temporary inconvenience till you hit a vital spot, and vital spots are few and far between.  But Hiji was no duffer with a rifle.  He could put a bullet through the trefoil of the ace of clubs at thirty paces, and the lone pip on the ace of clubs is considerably smaller than a cdocodile's eye.  Also a Mannlicher-Schoenauer fires a bullet weighing 261.7 grams with a muzzle velocity of 2,600 feet per second and strikes with the power of 4,200 foot pounds.  The crock lashed once or twice with his long tail, then sank beneath the surface or turned belly-up, webbed feet and short legss pointing to the sky.  Post-mortems were invariably the same.  The newly deceased crcok's cousins, aunts, sisters, and brothers swam to devour him, and Hiji potted one or two of them before they dragged him under or swam out of range.

-- "The White Goddess of the Khiva" by Seabury Quinn (from Short Stories, October 25, 1947

In a story riddled with stereotypes and a rascism that woiuld not sit well with today's readers, Seabury Quinn did what he usually did -- concoct an interesting and exciting tale.  Quinn was never a stylist but, like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, he was able to propel a story, no matter how trite, into a rollercoaster of thrills and action.

Here we have Hiji, the brave, young, and practical leader of British troops sent to enforce English law in Centrl West Africa, an admistrator whose determination and swift action made him feared and respected by the tribes he oversaw.  Hiji's reputation has kept the various tribes or or less settled, leving him little to do save for indulging in his hobby of shooting crocdiles.  But his pastime is interupped by the appearance of a delegation of four Iliki wariors who had traveled 300 miles on the Luabala to presnt a grievance to Hiji.

Six months before the Khiva, a fierce tribe of cannibal warriors, began worshipping a powerful white goddess.  Blonde, beautiful, and silent, she communicates only with the witch doctor Hiksoka during the dead of night.  Since this goddess appeared, the crops were full, game was abundant, many male children had been born, and people were less inpacted by sickness.  Truly this was a powerful goddess.  The she instructed the Khiva to go to was against a small village and the Khiva wiped out the village and feasted on the dead bodies.  When the Khiva attacked the Iliki, they managed to repel the invaders at a heavy cost.  Since then the Khiva have been consorting to sorties, stealing the Iliki goats and grain, capturing their men, and tking their women for the slave trade.  Now the Iliki are appealing to the powerful Hiji for justice.  Hiji's reaction?  A stout curse:  "My Aunt Mehitabel's best Sunday-going-to-meetin' bustle!"

Hiji feels the tale of a white goddess was a bit of hokum.  A white goddess is on the par with the Loch Ness Monster or the Jersey Devil -- there can be no such thing.  He sets out to finds the truth with a troop of soldiers on his utility boat, the Wilhelmina.  The boat travels along the Luabala and when it reaches the confluence of the Mendi-Mendi, which would lead to the territory of the Khiva, the boat continues up the Luabala.   When Khiva spies reprted this to the fat King Hefela, the king prises the white goddess who obviously led Hiji away from the tribe.  They tribe celebrated and danced and ate a young man randomly selected for sacrifice by Hiksoka.

Ah!  But Hiji was cunning.  He and some twenty soldiers had left the vessel downstream before it had reached the Mendi-Mendi and were now traveling through the jungle to surprise the Khavi.  But King Hefela was also cunning, he had warriors posted as guards along all the trails leading to his village and one of the guards reported of Hiji's advance.  Since there was only one trail from that direction leading to the village, Hefela knew of the perfect spot to waylay Hiji and his men.  And so they do and Hiji and his soldiers are captured and about to be sacrificed.  Hefela asks Hiji if his liver is tough enough to be made into a drum.

Golly, things look dire!  But don't worry.  Hiji carries the White Man's Burden well and comes out on top.  And who -- or what -- was the white goddess?  Sorry, but that would be telling.

Seaabiry Quinn was a lawyer who practiced mortuary law and taught mortuary jurisprudence in mortury schools for many years.  He wrote a two textbooks on the subject.  For 15 years he was also the editor of a mortuary trade magazine, Casket and Sunnyside.  He also contributed to The American Funeral Director, Dodge Magazine (an enbalming magazine for the Dodge Chemical Company), and othe trade journals.  All of which is a fitting background for his over-the-top weird tales of horror and grotesque crime.  He is best known for his series about the occult detective Jules de Grandin, who battled supernatural forces in over ninety tales published in Weird Tales.  Quinn was the popular author in the magazine, more so than H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, or Robert E. Howard (the three big names most commonly assiciated with Weird Tales), and Quinn's name on the cover would resuilt in increased sales.

Quinn was prolific and wrote many other stories in the detective and oriental fantasy fields.  His  novella Roads, which used original Christian legends to come up with a new origin for Santa Claus, is considered a classic.  A three-volume set of stories he wrote for Dodge Magazine under the pseudonym "Jerome Burke," This I Remember:  Memoirs of a Funeral Director, has been published by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, a company which has also published all of Quinn's known work.


  • Dan Simmons, The Fifth Heart.  Mysery.  "It is 1893, and Sherlock Holmes and Hanry James have come to America to solve the mystery of the 1895 'suicide' of Clover Adams, a member of the same Adams family that has given the United States two presidents.  Holmes and James suspect foul play -- and that it may involve matters of national importance.  On his Great Hiatus after his 'death' at Reichenbach Falls, Holmes explains that his powers of deduction have led him to a shocking conclusion that he -- Sherlock Holmes -- is a fictional character.  This disturbs James with the question:  If his fellow investigator is a work of fiction, what does that make him?   Teeming with vividly drawn historical characters, The Fifth Heart is a fascinating and often amusing thriller with surprises at every turn."  Dan Simmons writes big fat books, all of them well plotted, detailed, and addictive.  There are few who can equal him.

Today:  It's Hug Your Sweetheart Day!  What are you waiting for?  One caveat:  Be sure the person you are hugging knows that she or he is your sweetheart.

Speaking Of...:  Today is Governor Andrew Cuomo's last day in office, prooving once again the some things shouold remain beyond your grasp.

Sacco and Vanzetti:  Nicola Sacco was an Italian-born shoemaker and night watchman who emigrated to America when he was seventeen.  Bartolomeo Vanzetti, three years older than Sacco, was a fishmonger who came to America in 1908, the same year Sacco did.  Both was said to be anarchists and followers of Luigi Galleani, who advocated violence -- including bombing and assassination -- to achieve his ends.  The two met during a labor strike in 1917.

On April 15, 1920, a factory of the Slater-Morell Shoe company in Braintree, Massahusetts, was robbed.  Two employees had been transporting the company payroll -- two large steel boxes -- to the company's main factory.  One, security guard Alessandro Beradelli, was shot four times when reaching for his gun.  The other, paymaster Frederick Parmenter, was shot in the chest and then in the back as he tried to flee.  The robbers escaped in a blue Buick that was seen carrying other men.

Police suspected that known anarchist Ferrucio Coacci was involved.  Coacci was scheduled for deportion on the day of the robbery but did not appear because he said his wife was sick, an alibi later believed to be falso.  Coacci and his family were deported to Italy on April 18.  Suspicion then fell to Mario Buda, who had lived with Coacci.  Buda told police that Coacci owned a .32 automatic.  A search failed to find the gun but did find the manufacturor's diagram of the gun -- the same type and caliber that killed Beradelli and Parmenter.  Buda admitted to owning a 1917 Overland automobile, which had been sent for repairs four days after the robbery.  Tire tracks had suggested that a second car had been used in the robbery and police thought it may have been Buda's.  Police went to question Buda further but he was not at home. 

On May 5, Buda was at the repair garage with three friends:  Sacco, Vanzetti, and Riccardo Orciani.  Buda was not seen again until 1928.  Unlike Sacco and Vanzetti, Orciani had an alibi for the day of the robbery.  Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested that day.  A search of Sacco's home found anarchist literature and guns that could have used in the robbery.  Vanzetti's house revealed shotgun shells similar to casoings found at the crime scene and a handgun of the same type the security guard had owned but was not found at the scene.  The pair were indicted four months later on September 14.  Following the indictments, there was a series of violent acts of retaliation by anarchists, including a Wall Street bombing that killed 38 and wounded 134.  Orchestrated bombing against American embassies continued for a number of year.

It was determine to first try Vanzetti on an earlier robbery in Bridgewater, Massachusetts -- one in which Sacco had an alibi.  It was felt that a gulty verdict for the Bridgewater crimes would make it esier for guity verdicts on a Braintree crimes trial.  Vanzetti's trial began on June 22, with Judge Webster Thayer presiding.  Also felt to be a fair judge, Thayer had previously spoken against Bolshevism and anarchism and was known to be prejudiced against foreigners.  The prosecution produced several witnesses who placed Vanzetti at the scene, but their testimonies contradicted each other on details.  The defence produced eighteen witnesses, all of Italian origin, who testified that they had bought eels from Vanzetti on that day for Estertide.  Biut the witness for the defense were a confused lot, some of whom did not speak English, and the translators provided did not speak the same dialect of Italian.  One witness, a boy, admitted to rehearsing his testimony.  A shabby defence was pitted against a cunning prosecution.  Vanzetti refused to testify on his own behalf.  On July 1, the jury deliberated for only five hours before giving a guilty verdict for armed robbery and first degree murder.  Judge Thayer had learned that the jurors had tampered with the shotgun shells found at Vanzetti's home, thus prejudicing the evidence.  Thayer declared a mistrial on the murder charge, but sentenced Vanzetti on the robbery charge.

On May 21, 1921, Sacco and Vanzetti went on triaal in Dedham, Massachusetts for the Braintree robbery and murders.  Sacco's attorney was Fred Moore, a former attorney for the the Industrial Workers of the World (the "Wobblies").  Moore was a radical firebrand who constantly clashed with Judge Thayer, and Moore's antics continually maddened the judge.  Thayer was heard to complain that "no long-haired anarchist from California can ruin this court!"  Legal scholars agrred that it was a grave mistake for Sacco to hire Moore as his lawyer.

On July 21, gulty verdicts against both defendants were handed down.  Supporteers felt that the pair were found guilty solely for their political viewpoints but jurors swore that these had never entered into discussions.

A series of appeals followed, based on recanted testimony, conflicting ballistics evidence, a prejudicial pre-trial statement by the jury's foreman, and a confession by an alleged participant in the crime.  All appeals were denied by Judge Thayer.

An internatinal outcry convinced Massahusetts governor Alvan Fuller to appoint a three-man panel to investigate the case.  After weeks of secret testimony, the panel supported the guilty verdict and, on August 23, 1927 -- exactly 94 years ago this day -- the pair were executed.

The controversy did not stop there.  Debate has continued as to whether or not the pair were guilty or were just political pawns.  The case has been muddied by additional ballistic tests and incriminating statements from people who knew the pair.  In 1977, on the 50th anniversary of the executions, then-
Massachuestts governor Michael Dukakis declared that the pair had been unfairlyn tried and convisted.  Later investigations added support to the ;pair's innocence.

No one truly knows if Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty or innocent, but the debate continues to this day.

Non DeSanity:  Our governor here in Florida, Ron DeSantis, is clearly aiming for the white House in 2024.  Elected on a pro-Trump platform -- his political ads consisted of pro-Trump pandering -- DeSantis has embraced the anti-vaxxer, anti-masker hardline of the radical Right.  When Covid first raised its ugly head, the GOP used it attack the Democrats, saying they were using it as a ploy to attack Donald Trump.  By the time  most of the GOP realized the threat was real it was too late; the so-called Covid hoax had been implanted in the minds of many of the party's (and Donald Trump's) base.  And it to this base that DeSantis is appealing to.

Usng the specious argument that parents know what is best for their children, DeSantis has banned any mask mandate in public schools, implying that masks only affect children and not those the children may pass the virus on to.  If he were remain consistant, perhaps he should ban the requirement for students to be vaccinated against, smallpox, diptheria, polio, measles, and other diseases.  Mandatory vaccinations have long be assumed to be needed for public health reasons -- until the Age of Trump and DeSantis.  The vast majority of Florida parents support mask mandates in schools and feel that unmasked children may put all at risk, but the majority of Florida parents are not part of the DeSantis base.

A  number of major school districts in the state are defying DeSantis's order, but at what cost?  The State's Board of Education have said that they will withhold salaries for those school employees who refuse to obey the governor's order -- at least those whose salaries are controlled by the state.  Blackmail and threats of the highest order.  

I often post about "Florida Man," but Florida Man is not in any way as stupid as Florida government.

Fish Tale:  Granmdson Jack went fishing with his Daddy yesterday.  Actually, Daddy did not fish because his fishing license had expired, so it was all up to Jack.  He caught seven fish (so he tells me) using raw bacon as bait.  Imagine if he had used a pine cone...

Florida Man (Excluding Ron DeSantis:
  •  Florida Man Steven Wayne Yoakum, 51, of Wildwood, has not learned his lesson.  Convicted of stalking his ex-girlfriend, he served more than six months for violating his parole by stalking the same woman.  After his release from jail, guess who he began stalking once again.  He is currently being held on $10,000 bail.
  • Florida Woman Darlene Ann Schoff-Brock, 62, of Dania Beach, evidently did not what to do with the body of her brother whom she allegedly murdered in 2014, so she buried him in her backyard.  Following a tip. the Broward County Sheriff's office set uip an interview with Schoff-Brock to talk about her brother, Donald Marks Schoff, whom Schoff=Brock had said had been out of the country for several years.  The following day, her lawyer called to cancel the interview.  Police dug in Schoff-Brock's backyard and found a body which had been shot in the back of the head and which DNA analysis had shown belonged to a male child of Scoff-Brock's mother.  Neighbors decribed Schoff s "nice" and "mostly quiet."  The  motive for the slaying is unclear, although the pair had been known to argue over money, with Schoff accusing his sister of stealing from him.
  • Pinellias County Florida Man Steven Jordan, 31, ws arrested for threatening Disney on Twitter.  Jordan had opened a Twitter account on August 8 and made 186 tweets within a three-hour period.  Two of those tweets were directed at Walt Disney World and its executives, threatening to "blow up all of your exec houses with C4" and to "toss a hand grenade through their loft window."  Jordan admitted to authorities that he was responsible for those tweets, as well as other directed against Activision Games and at current litigation issues.  As with Yokum (above), he is being held on $10,000 bond.  We have no idea what his beef was against the Mouse, but Twitter shut his account the following day.
  • This guy may not be Mike Tyson, but Florida Man James Lenn Williams, of Port St. Lucie, was arrested for biting off part of a friend's ear during a brawl at a Key West hotel.  Williams was partying with a male friend and two women when one of the women passed out.  Williams put the woman in a maintenance wheelbarrow and began wheeling her to a hotel room; he also poured beer on the unconscious woman and verbally insulted her.  The woman then awakened and the trio tried to calm Williams down.  Williams responding by pushing both women to the floor.  this did not sit well with his male friend and the brouhaha started.  Williams began by choking his friend and then advanced to biting off part of his ear.  I am tempted to write "ear today, gone tomorrow," but I have much better taste than that.

A Sprinkle of the Good:
  •  Locals digging a well accidently discover a $140 million star sapphire weightin half a ton
  • Solar-powered beach-combing robot filters even tiny particles of plastic 30 time faster that humans can
  • Teen rescues a bumblebee and now it won't leave her side -- even sleeping in a jar beside her bed
  • Man's dog went missing two years before, then he recognizes him on television
  • Police dog trained to find weapons aces special assignment to find lost wedding ring on a sandy beach

Today's Poem:
All I Needed Was a Tight Hug...!

The real one which I wrote:

From the onset of my life
where daily my sould cried
for a one who was mine
who would have asked if i was fine
is this enough?
for my life which is rough
from my infancy to now
I want only one thing from everyone but how?

-- Chitresh Jhawar