Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, January 31, 2021


 Openers:  I think it is time the American public had answers to some of the questions which have been posed continually, first over the radio by Bing Crosby and currently by Petula Clark in the movie version of Finian's Rainbow.  Such as how things are in Glocca Morra.

I can only assume the reason nobody has attempted to answer this question before is that it has not been addressed in the proper quarter.  Mr. Cosby and Miss Clark first ask a bird from Londonderry, which is 250 miles away from Glocca Morra as the crow flies; they then interrogate a River Shannon breeze, which is still nearly a hundred miles off course.  Glocca Morra is a remote spot in Kerry and one can only assume that if the writer of the song ever traveled there he fell into the hands of an unusually unsrupulous cab driver.  However, I have made the journey on your account, taking only my wife, family, car, baggage and the advance on this book, and here is a situational reort from your Man in Glocca Morra.

--Walter Bryan, The Improbable Irish (1969)

The author goes on to report that he did not see a willow tree weeping there, nor did he spy a lassie with a twinkling eye come passing by.  On the plus side, that little brook is still leaping there. On the whole "there are very things in Glash na Gloragh [Glocca Morra]. nbnut what are there seem in reasonably good condition considering nthey have been lying out in the rain so long."

And so begins a long and entertaining discourse on all things Ireland:  its history, culture, geography, lore, and its wonderfully fascinating people.  Through anecdotes, legends, personal accounts, historic documents, and some well-chosen, groan-worthy puns, the author brings all the sly wit, fierce independence, tragic backstory, and glorious ideosyncracies of a marvelous people who did as much or more than any other race to carry the world to its present state.  From spreading learning from the middle ages, and becoming a major business partner with the world to lending its statesmen, scientists, inventors, and literary genius across the globe and exporting an undying culture, we get all the whys, wherefores, and hows of this great but tiny land and its oft-times contridictory people.

Of course it no wonder that this is such a delightful book because behind the name "Walter Bryan" lie the inventive mind of the great Walt Willis (1919-1999).  Willis was an active Irish science fiction fan who produced two essential fanzines, Slant and Hyphen,  as well as contributing to many of the popular American fanzines.  He was the author of two essential works of fan fiction:  The Enchanted Duplicator (written with Bob Shaw) and The Harp Stateside.  Unlike many of his other Irish colleagues, such as Shaw, James White, and John Berry, Willis did not publish much professinal fiction; his one professionally published story, "Dissolute Diplomat," co-authored with Shaw, appeared in If''s January 1960 issue, and Willis' name was removed from the story when it appeared in one of Shaw's short story collections.

For his work in Fandom, Willis won a 1958 Hugo Award and shared a 2004 Retro-Hugo Award with White.  Willis was also nominated as Best Fan Writer Hugo once, best Fanzine Hugo twice, and best Retro-Fanzine twice.  Science fiction fans pooled their money and sponsored Willis's trip to the 1952 World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago as a special guest -- this began the annual TransAltlatic Fan Fund.  Willis was also fan Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon in Orlando. 

The Improbable Irish was Walt Willis' only professionaly published book.  It was published in hardcover by Taplinger and in paperback by Ace, both in 1969.  It appears not to have been reprinted and it never was published on Willis' side of the pond.

The book is well worth seeking out for its marvelous prose, its witty subject material, and as an example of how well Willis could write.

Ancestry:  As far as I can tell, I am one quarter English, one quarter French, one quarter Irish, and one quarter Yankee.  The Irish comes from my other's father, a flaming redhead named Bernard Francis Ford, who died when my mother was seven.  I know little about him and nothing about his family history, so my childhood was a bit bereft on all things Irish.  Kitty is part Irish and part Scottish, the Irish coming from her grandfather who born in County Cork in someplace called "Ballypardoo-part-of-Ballypardee" (spelling approximate).  We tried to find it on a map of Ireland and were unsuccessful -- perhaps the little village was actually on the legendary island of Hy Brasil or further apart as a neighbor of Shangra-la.  The story has it that Kit's grandfather and two brothers had to leave Ireland quickly for some unspecified (perhaps illegal) reason.  One fled to Canada, one to Australia, and Kitty's grandfather to America where he commenced to making shoes.  Kitty's family name was Keane (pronounced "Kane" -- the final "e" negated the first "e," you see); in Australia, because they don't know how to speak English there, it's pronounced "Kine.").  It is from Kitty's side of the family that I learned that Irish Alzheimer's is when you forget everything but the grudge.

Kitty's mother was of very imaginative Scottish ancestry.  (Kitty learned to recognize most tartans before she was ten.)  Her mother claimed to be a direct relation to Robert the Bruce and a relation in some twisted form to Jesse James.  She also claimed to have part American Indian blood.  Much of what she said could be taken with a grain of salt.  What can be verified is that she was of the clan MacDonald of the Isles.  Kitty had an Aunt Sadie who never saw a piece of underwear she wouldn't tat a lace fringe to.  The Irish may never forget a grudge, but they couldn't hold a candle to the Scots.  Sadie, being a MacDonald, refused to have Campbell's soup in the house.  (Those scrurrilous Campbells slew the MacDonalds under a flag of truce, you see.  Sadie probably forgot that the MacDonalds mave have well have done the same first.)  Sadie also refused to talk to Kitty's father directly even though he was right in front of her.  ("Eileen, would you ask your husband if he would like more coffee?")  Kitty's father, in addition to being Irish, had the more important disgrace of being Catholic, you see.

Bless the Irish and bless the Scots and bless all those who make life so interesting.

Irish Sayings:

  • The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well; they want everyone to wish their enemies ill.
  • When Irish eyes are smiling, watch your step.
  • A life making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life doing nothing at all.
  • Irish diplomacy is the art of telling a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip.
  • You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.
  • Drink is the curse of the land.  It makes you fights your neighbor.  It makes you shoot at your landlord and miss him.
  • The problem with some people is when they aren't drunk, they're sober.
  • Every man is socialble until a cow invades his garden.
  • You never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
  • A man's got to do what a man's got to do.  Women must do what he can't.
  • Forgetting a debt doesn't mean it's paid.
  • A face without freckles is like a sky without stars.
  • Wisdom is the comb given to a man after he has lost his hair.
  • God is good but never dance in a small boat.
  • I love summer in Ireland.  It's my favorite day of the year.
  • Forgive your enemies but don't forget their names.'s quote about Gaelic signs in Ireland that was mentioned in The Improbable Irish: "If Oifig an Phuist doesn't mean Gentlemen, I did a very silly thing in the post office this morning." -- Chalres Harris

O Happy Day!:  Today is National Dark Chocolate Day.  Want to celebrate?  Asking for a friend.

An Even Happier Day:  Today is the 156th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Thirteenth Amendment.  That's the one that eliminated slavery and involuntary servitude, except as pubishment for a crime.  

Lncoln had previously issued the Emancipation Proclaimation on January 1, 1863, which freed slaves in Confederate controlled areas.  On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment and Lincln signed it the following day.  The amendment was ratifed by 27 of the then 39 states by December 6, 1865 and went into law on December 18.  Lincoln's Emancipation Proclaimation had previousy ended slavery in all states except Kentucky and Delaware and now it was abolished there, also.

Ah, if it were only that easy...The vestiges of slavery are still with us today with racial and economic inequality and with the white supremacy movement.  It's been a long century and a half, but I can but hope that sooner or later we can become the country it promises to be.

Groundhogs:  Tomorrow is their day.  The groundhog (Marmonta monax), also known as the woodchuck, is one of fourteen members of the marmot family and is a member of the squirrel family (Sciuridia) within the order Rodentia.  The groundhog is basically considered to be a ground squirrel and can be destructive to gardens and farmlands.  Gowing up on a small New England farm our half Newfoundland/half St. Bernard dog Polly was hell on wheels to groundhogs; often we'd wake jup to find groundhog bits scattered all over the lawn.  This talent held Polly in awe by other farmers in the area ("She's worth her weight in groundhogs.").  Otherwise, Polly was the sweetest, gentlest animal you would ever meet.  Of course, if you were a groundhog, all bets were off.

A groundhog can weigh up to 13 pounds and typically is about 20 ibches long with a short, seven-inch tail.  They are common in Eastern and Central United States and through Canada, reaching Alaska.  They usually live along the forest edge near meadows, fields, and streams.they dig deep burrows and are wizards at hibernating, perhaps giving rise to the legend that they wake up February 2.  Since February 2 is smack-dab in the winter, it's natural to assume they will return to hibernating.  That bit about seeing its shadow is just some Pennsyval Dutch superstition that has been propagated by the good folks in Punxsutawney and elsewhere.

The groundhogs natural predators include, wolves, foxes, dogs (shoutout to Polly!), coyotes, lynx, and bobcats, as well as some birds of prey and snakes.  These critters lnow what they are doing because the goundhog is considered by those in the know to be mighty good eating, not that I am going to join those gourmets any time soon or later.

Fashion:  Are you female?  Do you have a two-inch waistline?  Are you talented with needle and thread and scissors?  Do you want to be in the height of retro fashion?  I'm here to answer your needs.  Well, not me, actually, but W. H. Goldsberry is.

Here is his Voice of Fashion, Volume XII, Number 46, Winter 1987 issue, containing instruction to make your own au courant clothing -- street costumes, afternoon dresses for women and misses, also girl's "accordeon" plaited dresses and boy's Eaton jacket and blouse waistsets.  You can also make school dresses and women's and misses' toilets (they don't mean what I thought they meant).  So many options, so many fashion ideas -- cloaks, evening dresses, trilby drawers, chemises, lounging boggles the mind.

Be the first in your neiborhood to reach back to the glory days of 1897!

A Remarkable Woman:  From the wonderfully twisted mind of Sam Gross:

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Keith Morris Smith, Jr., 29, of Clay County, is wanted for violating the terms of his release.  Smith had been arrested in December 2019 for, among other things, having sex with a person aged 12 to 16.  Smith cut his ankle monitor and is now missing.  What puts him into the special Florida Man category is that he has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $2000 to flee the country.
  • Dade City Florida Man Keith William Nicolleta, 48, faces up to 20 years in federal rpison for laundering more the $1.9 million in Covid relief funds.  He bought a 2020 Mercedes and a 2020 Ford F-250 pickup, as well as jewelry and had a swimming pool installed in his home.  He also bought a lot of trouble.
  • Tampa Florida Man Darius Jondi Edwards, 42, can't let a good thing go.  Already on federal supervised release for counterfeiting, Edwards was caught passing phoney money, possessing partial completed counterfiet money, and being in the possesion of computer media used to make countefeit federal reserve notes.  He faces up to another 20 years in prison.  One commenter on the news story said that he probably put Harriet Tubman's image on the fifty dollar bill.
  • Florida Man Joshua Colon, 31, of Polk County, who was recently named "Paramedic of the Year" has been arrsted for stealing Covid-19 vaccine meant for first responders.  Florida, you see.
  • 63-year-old Bobby Scott of Volusia County had been missing for over a week and is presumed dead.  Scott's husband reporteed the man missing when he did not come home.  Florida Man Michael Harris, 20, has been arrested for the murder.  Scott met Harris on an on-line dating app and agreed to meet him.  Since then  Scott has no left any financial record.  Harris was arrested in the possession of Scott's vehicle, which he said Scott had lent to him.  Scott's body remains to be found.
  • Florida Woman Gina Bashea, of Lee County, was caught on a recording during a highly racist and expletive-filled rant.  Bashear was upset about a truck being parked in the road, where two men were unloading sheets of metal onto a pallet.  Bashear later told NBC2 newsman Gage Goulding that she was a racist.  "It doesn't matter if I said it 100 times in thirty seconds.  There's nothing illegal about saying it...Do I have reaons to be racist?  Absolutely I do...I don't care who's upset.  I don't cre that I'm called a racist."  The vistims said they had never experienced such extreme racism before.  So, for one Florida woman, she did not come a long way, baby.

Here Comes Some Good Stuff:
  • Wood grown from plant cells in a lab could cut down on deforestation
  • Community pulls together so 94-year-old World War II vet can go home
  • Former white supremicist store and KKK meeting place is being turned onto a community center to promote healing
  • Startup builds 3 huge indoor farms in Appalachia coal, helping to turn coal country into an agricultural zone
  • Man regains sight and sees his family for the first time after becoming the first person to receive an artifiial cornea
  • Bernie Sanders memes and mittens have now raised over $1.8 million for charity

Today's Poem:
Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their  buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

-- William Carlos Williams

Saturday, January 30, 2021


 From the Skidompha Public Library's "Chats with Champions" seriesin March 2015, three of Maine's resident mystery writers come together do discuss their books and their craft:  Kate Flora, Dorothy Cannell, and Barbara Ross.


The Charioteers.

Friday, January 29, 2021


 From 1964, The Honeycombs.


Zago is blond Tarzan wanna-be with a zoftig brunette mate named Wanna who bears a startling resembalnce to Sheena.  Zago began in Zago #1 from Fox Feature Publication and continued for only another three bimonthly issues.  He also appeared once in Rulah, Jungle Goddess #22.  Zago seems to be popular with the ladies -- Wanna was replaced with Mabu, then with Lola.  Three mates in five issues may be a record!  (It should be noted that by "mate" is meant "female companion" and that Zagu, in his basic chopped English, refers each lady as "her" or "woman."  It should also be noted that, in this issue, a native chief -- quite black -- refers to Wana -- strikingly white -- as his "daughter;" we also see another of the "native" women racing through the village and she's white and as voluptuoous as Wana, both wearing two-piece outfits, one tiger patterned and one leopard patterned.  Jungle ladies were certainly knockouts in the Golden Age of Comics.)

Anyway, there's this mad scientist and his madder wife who create a race of killer robots with which to take over the world.  Is there any better place to do this than deep in the African jungle?  After having one of the robots kill a native, the wife shoots her husband because she no longer needs him.  She then sends her robot army through the jungle to destroy Zago and the native village.  To show how tough the robots are, they slaughter along the way one lion, one python, one jaguar, one gorilla, and one silhoetted large cat that may have been another lion.  They also kidnap Wana, who is tied to a stake for no discernable reason.  Spears and knifes have no effect on these strange "square men" -- no one in Africa knows what a robot is, I guess.  It's up to Zago to find a way to defeat the robots.  Well, all but one robot.  It turns out the murderous wife is inside this one, controlling it.  The robot of course rends her into little pieces because "Evil will always be the loser when fortune's wheel is spun."


 In this, Zago's initial outing, we are given no backstory or origin or any sort of rationale.  A white jungle prince as a guardian of a native tribe is all that you need to know.

(The cover art on this issue features the goofiest looking leopards that ever graced a comic book.  You have been warned.)

Also in this issue is

  •  An adventure of Toni Luck, a pluky young reporter who goes where government agents dare not.
  • A story about Dan Garret (the Blue Beetle) as he goes against the lethal Cobra Woman
  • A one-pager about Hall, the "Plaid Clad Killer," who meets his just end in the gas chamber.

Thursday, January 28, 2021


 Evidently there is something called dap music, but don't ask me.  I'm old.

Here's Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.


 Queen Cleopatra by Talbot Mundy (1929)

Let's talk about Talbot Mundy for a bit.  Mundy (1879-1940) was born William Lancaster Gribbin in London. to a middle-class family.  He was a fairly rebllious child and dropped out of school when his father died in 1895.  He worked briefly in London, then moved to Germany, although he spoke no German.  From there he moved to India, working in administration and jouranlism, then to East Africa where he became an ivory poacher.  He had a tendency to inflate his experiences during this time and many of his stated adventures could be viewed with a discernment; many others were definitely true.

Mundy was of a mystical bent, intersted in Eastern religion and philosophy.  He was briefly a Christian Scientist, then embraced Theosophy for many years.  These mystical beliefs found their way into many of Mundy's books.  In his early life, biographer Peter Beresford Ellis wrote, Mundy was "a wastrel, confidence trickster, barefaced liar and a womanizer;" later he had changed "his philodophical approach to life...and became better for it."   Nonetheless, Mundy married five times and was heavilynin debt for most of his life.

He sold his first story in 1911, some two years after he had immigrated to America.  This began a long and successful career as an adventure writer, setting most of stories in exotic locations, and a number of them in the past.  His most successful novel was King -- of the Khyber Rifles, which was made into a popular film in 1953, starring Tyrone Power; the book was also the basis of John Ford's 1929 film The Black Watch.  King of the Kyber Rifles was part of Mundy's Jimgrim/Ramsden series of 22 novels, some of which featured the alluring chracter Yasmini.  Other books in that series include Om:  The Secret of Ahbor Valley, The Nine Unknown, The Devil's Guard, Jimgrim, and C.I.D.

Mundy's other major series was about Tros, a warrior from Samothrace who waged war against Julius Ceasar in ancent Britain.  The adventures of Tros were published as six short novel and one three-part serial in Adventure magazine in 1925-26.  They were eventually collected in a massive, 949 page novel in 1934.  (Because of its large size, the paperback reprint of the novel from Avon appeared as four separate volumes in 1967:  Tros, Helma, Liafail, and Helene; Zebra Books published the novel in three separate volume in 1976:  Lud of Lunden, Avenging Liafail, and The Praetor's Dungeon; in 2007, Leonaur Books published the novel in four separate volumes:  Wolves of the Tibur, Dragons of the North, Serpent of the Waves, and City of Eagles.)  Tros reappeared as a major character in Mundy's 1929 novel Queen Cleopatra. but the main thrust of the novel was the relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar.  This novel (never published in magazine form) provided a bridge to the last four stories of Tros, which appeared in Adventure in 1935 and was published in book form as Purple Pirate that same year.

Back to Queen Cleopatra.  

Egypt is in turmoil.  King Ptolemy had died and various political factions are vying for power.  Cleopatra, not yet quite twenty, has survived serveral plots to assassinate her.  Her younger brother. the Prince Ptolemy, is a rash, headstrong, and entitle being, controlled by his minister, the eunich Potheinos, anf by his tutor, Theodorus.  While living, King Ptolemy had borrowed large amounts of funds from Rome, giving Caesar a claim to Egypt as the executor of Ptolemy's will.  Before Caesar arrives in Alexandria, however, Tros sails into port with his magnificent ship and his fleet of followers.

Tros has no love for Caesar.  Caesar had murdered Tros' father and his child, and Tros had fought him with the Druids of pre-roman Britain.  Tros had several opportunites to kill Caesar but did not; Caesar remained a bitter enemy for the Samothracian.  For his part, Caesar respected Tros as a brilliant warrior and enemy but would gladly see him dead.  Tros, now the master of a large fleet, is trying to find safe haven since Caesar had defeated Pompey and is now the singlemost power in Rome; anywhere that Caesar touches holds no safety for Tros.  For her part, Cleopatra must resist Caesar's potential conquest of Egypt; thus Tros and Cleopatra becomes allies.

In addition to being beautiful, Cleopatra is very savvy and knows how to manipulate people.  Her wit, charm, and quick thinking, along with her almost preternatural instincts, serve her well as she tries to preserve power.  Caesar arrives in Alexandria to administer King Ptolemy's will and falls for Cleopatra's charms, seeing in her a person who is almost his equal in intellect.  Caesar is courageous, sly, intelligent, politically aware, and able to motivte his armies, as well as being vain and loathe to share power.  As the novel progresses, Caesar begins to consider himself as a demigod and one who can unite the known world under his power.  Tros, pledged to Cleopatra, will not make a move against Caesar and an uneasy truce is declared between the two warriors.

Cleopatra uses her most potent weapon against Caesar -- her sexuality, and soon they become lovers.  Caesar considers himself apart from Rome, whereas Cleopatra considers herself the embodiment of Egypt.  Cleopatra uses her wiles to seduce Caesar, considering him separate from Rome itself.  she would gladly have Caesar rule with her in Egypt if that meant Rome would not have a hold on her country.  Using mainly exposition, Mundy takes the reader through the many political machinations of and plots and counterplots involving both Rome and Egypt.  As Caesar moves more toward Egypt than Rome, his enemies plot against him.  But Caesar remains popular with the Roman people if not some of its senators.

Caesar would be a king or emperor, something some Romans endorse.  Under Cleopatra's subtle urgings, he soon sees himself conquering Parthia to the west and then descending on Rome itself to conquer it, moving the empire's capitol to Alexandria.  Cleopatra has given birth to Caesar's son, Caesarion, and Rome will not accept Cleopatra as his queen, nor will it accept his son as his heir.  Caesar, ever savvy, bides his time.

Eventually Caesar returns to Rome to quell some discontent there and Cleopatra follows him.  The Romans distrust Cleopatra and soon forces merge againt both her and Caesar.  Two days before he is to embark on his conquest of Pathia, Caesar is scheduled to give a speech to the city -- on the Ides of March.  We all know what happens then.  Tros himself is witness to the assassination but is unable to stop it.  He wants to take Cleopatra back to Egypt for her safety but she stubbornly refuses to leave immediately, instead spreading discontent about Caesar's assassins and trying to save the reputation of her dead lover.  

Queen Cleopatra is a dense novel, some 52 chapters and 426 pages of small type, and covers much of the histroy of the known world at that time.  The cast of characters is large and the brutality of the era is evident.  Although mainly exposition, there are some exciting actions scenes throughout the novel and the interplay between the two main characters -- Caesar and Cleopatra is fascinating.  

This one takes some effort to get through but the reader is amply rewarded.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


 R&B singer James Purify died this past week.  With his cousin Robert Lee Dickey (as "Bobby Purify"), James & Bobby Purify were a popular act from 1965-1971, with their biggest hit "I'm Your Puppet" coming in 1966. Dickey retired in 1971 due to health reason; from then to 1975, James Purify pursued a single career, the united with Ben Moore (as the second "Bobby Purify") through the 1980s.  Moore later retired from the music industry in 1998 after developing severe glaucoma. which blinded him.  Ray Charles convinced Moore to come out of retirement and he released an album as "Bobby Purify" in 2005.  He later joined The Blind Boys of Alabama.

The death of James Purify from complications of Covid-19 hit home here on the Florida Panhandle because he ws a Pensacola native.

Some of their songs:

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

Shake a Tail Feather

I'm Your Puppet

Blame Me (Don't Blame My Heart)

Hitch Hike

Morning Glory

So Many Reasons

Hello There

Let Love Come Between Us

I've Got Everything I Need (I've Got You)

Get Closer

I Don't Want to Have to Wait

She Ain't Gonna Do Right


 Radio was good to Edgar Bergen because you couldn't see his mouth move.  Mouth-moving or not, Charlie could be one wise-cracking fresh dummy.  Film star Ronald Colman joins in on the fun.



 A 1955 cover by Georgia Gibbs.  The original song inclluded the phrase "Roll with me, Henry," which was considered a bit too risque for the tender ears of the time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


 "Proof that we don't understand death is that we give dead people a pillow." -- Jerry Seinfeld


 "The Red Face of Feerish Ali" by James Francis Dwyer (from Collier's, March 9, 1912; reprinted in Dwyer's collection Breath of the Jungle, 1915)

A tale of legendary treasure and an unlucky adventurer, whose ship went down in the deep waters off the coast of Somaliland.  After three hours lone at sea, our exhausted narrator finds himself on a small hump of a sandbar some distance from the coastline, knowing that soon he would have to get the strength to swim the final distance before an incoming tide washes his shelter away.  Before he able to get his breath back, though, he spies several ships coming from the mainland to where he is sheltered.  Afraid of who or what they may carry, he buries himself under some seaweed and watches what happens.  A huge bearded man on the deck of the biggest dahabeah shouted orders to some naked Arabs and they lowered a large, yellow box to the water and then pushed it to the sandbar.  They left it there, returned to the boat, and the boats sailed back to shore.

Although fearful that the box might contain the  body of a plague victim who had been cast there so the tides might wash it out to see, our survivor opens the box.  There, staring up at him "were a pair of topaz eyes that were deeper than the Guinea Basin, and those eyes belonged to a brown woman who was prettier than the houris that wait to open the pearl gates of the seventh heaven."  Quickly, he unbinds the girl realizing that she was probably the wife of the large bearded man who had decided to cast her aside in favor of a younger and prettier bride.

As he cuts her cords, she asks him what are the greatest things in the world.  He can only reply with lines from an old song:

"Four things greater than all things are,/Women and horses and power and war."

She tells him he is wrong.  The greatest things in the world are love and hate.

They make it shore, where she then asks him if he had ever heard of The Red Face of Feerish Ali.

Anyone who had traveled in that part of the world had heard of the legend.  Thirteen centuries before, the Muslim conqueror terrorized all his armies encountered with the blazing Red Face of Ferrish Ali.  Often believed to be a myth, this did not prevent fortune hunters over the ages from seeking the legendary object.  The rescued woman, who remains unnamed thoughout the tale, then sings an ancient song about the artifact.  Somehow this convinced the narrator that she truly knew where the Red Face was hidden, possibly because her traitorous husband had been given charge of the object.  She promised to bring him to the priceless Red Face.

They set off, the woman leading.  After a long journey, they come to a monstrous chasm at least five thousand feet deep (surely an exaggeration, but who can tell?).  The thought of traversing this pit fill him with fear.  They travel song the edge until the come to a spot where the chasm's width is only about thirty feet.  There, across the pit is a thin hemp rope bridge.  After much coaxing she explains that it is only a half hour from there to the "Rocking Stone."  This convinces our hero because legend has it that the Red Face of Ferrish Ali can be found near a legendary Rocking Stone.

The rocking stone is about fifteen feet high and ten feet across.  It is set in a larger stone basin where it is situated so that it cannot fall over, but can be rocked back and forth at a greater and greater arc.  The stone covers a cave entrance and by rocking the stone back and forth, one may be able to enter the cave before the stone rocks back into place.  Timing is critical because the stone can just as easily crush anyone who misjudges its motion.  The girl makes it into the cave and a few minutes later tells out hero to begin rocking the stone again.  She makes it out safely with the Red Face tied to he body with a scarf.

The Red Face of Feerish Ali is a huge golden mask with perhaps the largest ruby in existence imbedded on the forehead, which would have made the enemies of the old conqueror believe he had one fearsome red eye as he attacked.  

The two make ready to leave, but the girl notices a movement in the nearby bushes.  They have been followed.  They run to escape with the bearded giant -- the girl's once-husband -- on their tail.  They make it across the rope bridge and the girl begins to saw some of the cords away.  As their pursuer gains on them, a bit of the center of the rope bridge collapses and he falls thorough, catching himself before a final plummit.  As he struggles to free himself, the girl is torn.  Remember the most powerful things in the world are love and hate.  Her hatred for the man who would have left her to the mercy of the tide suddenly turned into love for the man who is clinging to his life from the bridge.  She rushes to save him.  Our hero grabs the Red Face and runs.  And runs.  And runs.

Tired, he collapses by a cliffside and the Red Face of Feerish Ali slips over the edge, falling out of sight.  He manages to hide in some bushes when the vengeful husband and girl approach.  She notices him but refuses to say anything.  They leave and our hapless hero is free to wander back to what passes for civilization with a tale that no one believes.

James Francis Dwyer (1874-1952) was an Australian writer who had been a postal assistant before being convicted in a fraudulent postal order scheme.  After serving three years of his seven-year prison sentence, he was released and relocated to England and hen America, where he began churning out novels and short stories.  He wrote over a thousand short stories during his career and was the first Australian writer to become a millionaire from his writing.  Although his work reached a wide international audience, he was virtually unknown in his native Australia.  Today he is best remembered for his pulp adventure and quasi-science fictional stories which still have a devoted following.

"The Red Face of Feerish Ali" is available to read online in Breath of the Jungle, the only collection of Dwyer's stories that was published during his lifetime.


 Today is National Peanut Brittle Day!  (Who knew?)  In honor of this auspicious day, here's Duke Ellington.


 I Married Joan was NBC's answer to I Love Lucy, which had premiered a year earlier on CBS.  It starred Joan Davis as the madcap, manic Joan Stevens and Jim Backus as her husband, the mild Judge Bradley Stevens.  Davis was known for her physical comedy and the program provided a lot of that each episode.  The show ran for three season, from October 15, 1952 to March 23, 1955, for 98 episodes.  Although never a ratings star, I Married Joan gained a strong audience in syndication.

The show was scheduled against the first half of the popular Arthur Godfrey and His Friends.  It gained its greatest audience in the second season when Godfrey took a ratings dip after he fired Julius LaRosa on air.  In its third season, I Married Joan also went up against ABC's top-rated Disneyland; the competition was just too much and the show was cancelled.  Also, Joan Davis was beginning to suffer heart problems, which was also a factor in the cancellation.  Davis died of a heart attack eight years later at age 53.  A year and a half later, Davis' mother, daughter (actress Beverley Wills, who played Davis' sister on the show), and her two grandchildren were killed in a house fire.

In I Married Joan's pilot, Judge Stevens is counseling a couple who want to divorce and he relates how he he first met Joan, who was a new airline hostess -- the setup provided a lot of room for Davis' physical comedy; during the second half of the pilot, Davis tries hide the fact that she bought a Persian lamb coat from the Judge and stashes the coat in a deep freezer.  Also featured was Hope Emerson as the neighbor Minerva Parker.  Hal March and Shirley Mitchell played the bickering couple.  The episode was directed by Philip Rapp and written by Phil sharp and Arthur Stander.


Monday, January 25, 2021

Sunday, January 24, 2021


 Openers:  There were times during the investigation of the case of the Dead Magicians when the New York Police Department's official attitude toward the infernal arts of witchcraft and sorcery was damnably inconvenient.  It had the annoying disadvantage of leaving us with no explanation at all.

Some of the evidence in the case would have seemed vastly more appropriate had it been reported from the forbidden interior of Tibet or from that other famous home of magic, mystery, and tall stories -- India.  A murderer who apparently leaves the scene of his crimes by walking straight through solid walls of brisk and plaster and b yfloating in midair out of second story windows would, however, be uncanny enough even in Lhassa or Hyderabad.  In modern Manhattan he becomes doubly incredible and rather more frightening.

As recently as two hundred and fifty years ago the authorities would have ended the matter by simply applying those bloody and infamous instruments for crime detection, the pincers and the rack, and obtained a confession of sorcerous activity from the nearest innocent bystander.  But this easy technique was denied us, and we were left, armed with logic alone, to do battle with irrational dragon shapes....

Inspector Gavagan's ordinarily jovial and assured  blue eyes held an angry worried look that stayed there until Merlini finally exorcised the demons and produced a solution that satisfied the inspector except as to one thing:  he couldn't understand why he hadn't seen it all along.  I knew exactly how he felt.  I was in the same boat.  All we need have done, as Merlini pointed out, was to realize exactly what it was that all the suspects had in common and just what the two things were that one of them was able to do that no one else could possibly have done.

-- Clayton Rawson, Death from a Top Hat (1938)

That's pretty neat, if you ask me:  in the fourth paragraph of this mystery novel, the Constant Reader is told exactly how to solve the mystery.  In the hands of such a a talented writer and magician as Clayton Rawson, though, even with such hints, the reader remains flummoxed.

Rawson (1906-1971) saw an advertisement in The American Boy when he was twelve:  100 Magic Tricks for 10 Cents.  He spent the dime and he was hooked on magic.  One of tricks was to take a lit cigarette and put it into his left fist and it would disappear.  His college roommate said he had just hidden the cigarette in his sleeve, so Rawson bet that he could do the trick in the nude, and he won.  In college, he became the art editor of the Ohio State College humor magazine, The Sun Dial, and was editor during his senior year.  After college, he married, moved to Chicago, and attended the The Institute of Art for a year.  Then it was off to New York to become a commercial artist, illustrator, and art director.  One of his assignments was to illustrate the book jacket for the first American edition of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Calais Coach (Murder on the Orient Express).  while in New York, Rawson gained a reputation as an up-and-coming magician, performing at the Society of American Magicians and writing columns for The Jinx and Hugard's Magic Monthly.  He performed both under his own name and as "The Great Merlini." 

Rawson entered the mysrery field in 1938 with the publication of  Death from a Top Hat, a locked room mystery featuring The Great Merlini, magician and proprietor of THE MAGIC SHOP, Miracles for Sale.  In short order, Merlini appeared in three other novels:  Footprints on the Ceiling (1939), The Headless Lady (1940), and No Coffin for the Corpse (1942), as well as in a dozen short stories published between 1946 and 1971.  

The Merlini novels led to another career as editor.  He was associate editor of True Detective Magazine (1942-46), mystery book editor for Ziff-Davis Publishing (1946-47), director of the Unicorn Mystery Book Club (1948-1952), art director for Unicorn Books (1952-1959), editor of Inner Sanctum Mysteries at Simon & Schuster (1959-1965), and managing editor of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (1963-1970).  He was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of American and coined their motto, "Crime does not pay -- enough."  He also founded MWA's first newsletter, The Third Degree, and received both the Edgar and the Raven Awards from that organization.  

Rawson also worte books on magic and co-authored a book on dice with gambling expert John Scarne.  Magic remained a major interest for Rawson, hosting two large picnics each summer -- one for mystery writers and one for magicians.  He had a full outdoor stage built in his back yard, complete with curains, a trapdoor, and spotlights, where he would perform his magic acts using his children (each in turn) as assistants, piercing them with swrods and floating them in midair.  Rawson also formed an elite group of magicians, The Witchdoctors Club.

Rawson's shorter mysery work can be found in four collections:  The Great Merlini (1979), and three collections published as by "Stuart Towne" -- Death Out of Thin Air (1941), Death from Nowhere (1943), and The Magical Mysteries of Don Diavolo (2005, which collects the stories of Rawson's other magician detective, who had first appeared as a minor character in one of the Merlini novels).

Rawson loved mysteries and magic.  We are fortunate that he found a way to combine the two.

A Bad Idea:  I live in Santa Rosa County on the Florida Panhandle, smack-dab in the middle of Trump territory.  Although he is no longer president, Trump is greatly revered by some here.  Case in point, newly-elected County Commissioner James Calkins, a Trump fanboy extraordinaire.  Calkins recently pointed out (falsely) that this month's Capitol Hill riot was caused by Antifa.  To back up his claim, he pointed to a recent (false) statement by our showboating U.S. representative Matt Gaetz, another Trump fanboy.   Evidently there was an insurrectionist who claimed to be Antifa; he turned out to be a California weirdo whose views were so extreme (and the opposite of what Antifa believes) that Antifa has been actively disowning the little Fascist.

At the same County Commisioners meeting, Calkins tried to get the board to vote to support a number of Republican-sponsored bills introduced in the statehouse, including one that would eliminate all restrictions on concealed carry for guns.  The Commissions rejected that idea, saying that most of the bills did not affect the county and publicly supporting them would not be in their pervue.

Calkins then propopsed that the County rename the Navarre Beach Bridge to the Donald J. Trump Bridge.  The bridge spans the Santa Rosa Sound to connect the town of Navarre with Navarre Beach on the Gulf of Mexico.  Calkins stated that since the County voted for Trump, this would be a fitting way for it to honor "our great president."  Yes, the majority of the County voted for Mr. YMCA, but there is this little thing about inciting an insurrection against the United States that may preclude honoring the guy in such a way.  (There is a bill sponsored in congress that would ban naming any building, school, or project for Trump, but that wouldmprobably not affect a local bridge, even if the bill passed.)  And there is the probabilty that Trump will be facing prosecution on criminal charges in the near future, not to mention the second impeachment that is looming.  So, let's not honor this "great president."

Santa Rosa County runs north to south from the Alabama border to the Gulf of Mexico and covers quite a bit of territory.  It is divided into five districts (the northernmost being Calkins' district).  The two smallest districts in size are the southernmost districts touching on the Gulf and Santa Rosa Sound.  In a special meeting in December, the representtives of the three northern districts voted to rescind a critical drinking water protection clause that would endanger the drinking water for some 86,000 residents.  The vote would eliminate restriction on the epansion of borrow pits and allow the extraction of natural resources in a protected area.  Basically what has happened is this:  a private individual purchased the mining rights to the area, knowing that further mining was prohibited; further mining of the area would endanger the aquifer that supplies water to the southern part of the county, potentially leaving its citizens without any potable water.  The vote has been opposed by the three water companies that supply water to the southern part of the county, environmentalists, real estate agents, biologists, local governments and citizens.  At the December meeting when the vote was taken it was indicated that the vote was taken to appease a single special interest.  Ah, corruption can be classic in Florida.

How Soon They Forget:   Meanwhile, in Washington, the second impeachment of Donald Trump goes apace.   The article of impeachment is to be delivered to the Senate taody and the trial is scheduled to begin on February 9.  Already Republican senators appear to be drifting toward exonorating Trump, including some Republicans who had spoken out against him immediately following the riot.  The charge, of course, is incitment.  Many of the rioters who now say they had been deceived have said they acted because the president urged them to.  Trump's words and actions clearly display his intent.  Recent revelations that he had conspired to remove the Acting Attorney General in order to replace him with a man who would try to force the state of Georgia to reverse its electoral college vote do Trump's case no good.  Republican senators are now trying to present as united a front as possible to protect Trump.  They will claim that Trump's words were taken out of context and that Trump did not intentionally incite the mob.  They will claim that the impeachment trial is not legal because Trump is no longer president.  They will parse words and split phrases to show that they themselves have no culpability.  They will point to the constitution and proudly say how they support it.  They will hope that America's short-term attention span will allow the events of little more than a month before be lessened in the public eye.  They will try to salvage their careers through Newspeak and Doublethink. In short, they will be weasels.

The fact remains that eight of these senators objected to the electoral college count and voted to overturn the election.  I'm looking at you Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Tommy Tuberville, Roger Marshall, John Kennedy, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Cynthia Lummis, and Rick Scott.  Others, including Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell, did what they could to overturn the election without specifically voting against the results.  These are some of the people who tried to destroy our country for their own political purposes and they should be held to account, along with Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Rudy Giuliani.

I cannot forget, nor can I forgive.  I hope you feel the same.

Celebrate!:  Today is National Bubble Wrap Day, something we can all celebrate.  It's also Robert Burns Day and tonight is Burns Night, so break out the haggis.  If that is not enough celebrating for you, it is also National Irish Coffee Day, A Room of One's Own Day, Observe the Weather Day, Flouride Day, National IV Nurse Day, Opposite Day, Thank Your Mentor Day, and Macintosh Computer Day.  If you are not into organized celebrations, just enjoy the day and the fact that you're here in this magical and marvelous world floating about in a magical and marvelous universe.

He's 'Enery the Eighth, 'e Is:  If Henry the Eighth of England did nothing more than marry six women (and dispose of five of them) he would still have a place in history.  But Henry intiated the English Reformation, splitting the Church England from Catholicism.  He also managed to make changes to the  English Constitution, iniating the concept of "divine right of kings."  Henry invested greatly in the Royal Navy, and is considered the "father of the Royal Navy."  He united England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542, and he was the first English monarch to rule as King of Ireland.  He was a charismatic and active leader when younger, and only when he became older was he the obese, lustful, egotisitic, paranoid, and tyrannical monarch who comes to mind when his name is mentioned.   The turning point seems to be jousting accident when he was 44.  That accident left him with a wound in his leg that never healed properly.  It has been speculated that the accident may have given him a brain injury the affected his body morphology and his future actions; certainly he began to display mood swings following the accident.  

But it is the wives that most people remember Henry for.  He married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, just days before his coronation in 1509.  Catherine was the widow of Henry's brother Arthur, who had died when he was 15.  (They married them off young in those days.)  Henry became disillusioned when Catherine could not produce a viable male heir.  (Two sons died shortly after birth and one died at two months; the only child to survive the marriage was Queen Mary, who married Philip II of Spain and died with no issue.)  Henry became convinced that the marriage was "blighted by God" because he has married his brother's widow.  Henry had an affair with Mary Boleyn, Catherine's lady-in-waiting, and it has been speculated that Mary's two daughter may have been sired by Henry, but this has never been established or acknowledged.  In 1519, Henry did have a son, Henry FitzRoy, with another mistress, Elizabeth Blount; Henry FitzRoy was acknowledge by Henry as his illegitimate son.  Henry FitzRoy died at age 17.

Henry then set his eye on Anne Boleyn, Mary's younger sister.  Ann, however, refused to become Henry's mistress.  Desperate for an heir, Henry had three choices:  declare Henry FitzRoy his legitimate heir (which would involve the intervention of the Pope), marry his daughter off and hope she would have a male son (unlikely considering their ages), or annul his marriage to Catherine and marry someone else.  The fact that someone else was available and had refused to become his mistress led Henry to the third choice.  The Pope was not in favor of the proposed annulment and this led to Henry's English Reformation.  Henry's marriage to Catherine was officially annulled on May 23, 1533.  Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn took place a few months prior, on January 25, 488 years ago to this day.

Henry's first child with Anne was a girl, who would become Queen Elizabeth I.  the three sons Anne would later carry were all stillborn.  Anne marriage, while it lasted, was a fiery one.  Anne was opinionated and refused to be subservient to Henry.  She also had a quick temper.  Henry thought Anne's failure to give him a son was a betrayal.  While Henry considering ways to get rid of Anne, he had a six-month affair with one of the Shelton sisters -- either Madge of Mary -- who were Anne's cousins.  In January of 1536, Catherine of Aragon died.  Later that month, Henry was gravely wounded in the jousting accident that would follow him for the rest of his life.  Anne, pregnant and knowing that if she did not produce an heir this time her marriage was over, miscarried from the shock of Henry's accident.  That was it for the marriage.  There were allegations of treason, adultery, and witchcraft.  Five men, including Anne's own brother, were arrested for treasonable adultery and having sexual relations with the queen.  Anne was then arrested for treasonable adultery and incest.  Although there was little or no evidence, she was found guilty.  Henry's marriage to Anne was annulled on May 17, 1936.  Two days later she was beheaded.

 Henry was then free to marry his latest mistress, Jane Seymour, who had been one of anne's ladies-in-waiting.  Henry and Jane were married eleven days after Anne was executed.  Jane gave birth to a male son for Henry, the future King Edward VI.  Jane died twelve days laters from complications from the childbirth.  Henry's thrid marriage lasted a little under a year and a half.  Edward VI eventually inherited the crown from Henry but died, without issue, at age 15.

Henry's fourth marriage was to Anne of Cleves, the 25-year-old sister of the Duke of Cleves, who would be an important ally if there were a Roman Catholic attack on England.  Henry agreed to the marriage after seeing a flattering portrait of Anne painted by Hans Holbein the Younger.  Very shortly after their marriage in 1540, Henry wanted out -- he had become enamoured with another woman, 17-year-old Catherine Howard, the niece of the Duke of Norfolk.  Anne was agreeable to dissolving the marriage and it was annulled (Anne claimed the marriage was never consummated) some six months after the ceremony.  Anne made off with two houses, a generous allowance, and the title of "The King's sister."

On July 28, 1540, Henry married Catherine Howard, just 17 days after the marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled.  Henry's young wife then went on to have an affair with Thmas Culpeper, a courtier, and she also placed her former fiance and lover, Francis Dereham, as her secretary.  Discretion was evidently not part of Catherine's vocabulary.  Accused of having an affair with Dereham, Catherine said that her had forced her into an adulterous relationship.  For his part, vexed at Catherine, Dereham revealed her affair with Culpeper.  Culpeper and dereham were both executed and Catherine was beheaded on February 15, 1542.

Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, was a wealthy widow.  They were married July 12, 1543.   She managed to reconcile Henry with his daughters, Mary and Eizabeth, and they were included in the royal succession after Edward.  The marriage lasted until Henry's death on January 28, 1547, at age 55.  Folowing Henry's death Edward VI, then only nine, became king.  Sixteen executors were appointed to a council of regency until Edward should turn 18, with Edward Seymour, Jane Seymour's older brother, named Lord Protector of the Realm.  When Edward died at age 15, the crown went to Queen Mary I (Henry's daughter with Catherine of Aragon), but she died without an heir a year later, and the crown was them passed to Elizabeth I, who ruled until 1603.

Modern Homes:  Once upon a time you could buy a do-it-yourself home from the Sears catalog.  We can harken back to those days with the Fall 1914-Spring 1915 Beautiful Homes Catalog from Sears. Roebuck and Co., Chicago.  For as little as $393 you can get the materials to build your own home.  Sears also sold barns, corn cribs, hog houses, chicken houses, silos, and more.  What a bargain!  (Assuming you had some skill and knowledge to assemble all the pieces.)

Check them out.

Little Audrey:  Little Audrey began as a folklore character in the early 20th century.  She often had other names (Little Emma, Little Gertrude) and was typically the instigator or the butt of cruel jokes.  She was known for having "just laughed and laughed."

She became an animated cartoon character from Paramlount Picture's Famous Studios in 1947.  The Little Audrey cartoons would run until 1958.  She appeared in comics books from 1948 to 1952 from St. John Publications, after which she was licensed by Harvey comicsand appered in  their titles uintil 1976.  she is now the property of DreamWorks Animation and has been modernized in the Networks animated show Harvey Street Kids (retitled in its second season as Harvey Girls Forever!).

Here she is in 1950's Goofy Goofy Gander:

Florida Man:

  • Nine Florida Men have been accused so far of participating in the Capitol Hill riots earlier this month.  Sme, like Bradley Weeks, a former Baker County Sheriff's Office employee, was stupid enough to video himself taking part in the seige and later admitted to a newspaper that he had entered the Capitol Building.  Joseph Biggs, of Orlando, is a Proud Boy organizer who was arrested by federal agents in Florida this week; Biggs stated that he had no knowledge of the planning of the attack and did not know who organized it. Police went to arrest Samuel Camargo of Broward County on Tuesday on four counts stemming from the riot, only to discover that he was in Washington.  He later told authorities he knew there was a warrant out for him but decided to attend the inauguration rather than turn himself in.  Other Florida Men arrested (and I have no problem naming them) were Adam Johnson, Andrew Williams, Mike Curizo, Gabriel Garcia, Daniel Baker, and Jesus Rivera.
  • Florida Woman Ashly Kesler, 27, of Boca Raton, was arrested after behind found passed out from alcolhol in her car while her seven-month old daughter was found outside the car with her head under the driver's side front tire; the infant was bleeding from the head and her clothing was covered in blood.  Found in the car were a loaded gun and a half-empty bottle of Hennesey brandy, both of which would have been within reach of the baby had she been in the car.  Kesler did not realize that her child was no longer in the car.
  • A bill has beennintroduced by Leon county lawmakers to strip the name of Florida Dead Man and late Florida Supreme Court justice B. K. (Bonnie Kaslow) Roberts from the College Law building at Florida State University.  Roberts authored a 1957 opinion that barred a black man from enrolling in the school.  A lwayer, land speculator, and car dealership owner, Roberts represented both moonshiners and the politically connected.  He managed a losing gubernatorial campaign for a former KKK member.  Colleagues who worked with Roberts described him as an unrepentant racist until his death.  So maybe it's a good idea to strip his name off the Law Center.

Some Happy News:
  • A rock has been found that, when opened, revealed the image of the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.  (Nothing earth-shaking here, but I thought it was cute.)
  • Salmon are spawning for the first time in eighty years in the Unpper Columbia River
  • In 15 months he went from 441 pounds to 216 pounds and now he's running marathons
  • Volunteers remove over 4 and 1/2 tons of trash from one of america's dirtiest rivers
  • Here are some plants to cultivate in your yard to help bees and butterflies thrive and pollinate
  • When a student could not pay tuition fees, these prisoners raised $32,000 to help
  • Capitol Hill Police Officer Eugene Goodman escorted Kamala Harris at the inauguration.  (Goodman was the officer who diverted a large group of rioters from where legislators were sheltering.  His bravery and deication should be an inspiration to us all.)
  • By the way, Amanda Gorman, the amazing young poet who inspired so many at the inauguration, had to overcome a speech impediment to find her voice

Today's Poem:

I love all films that start with rain:

rain, braiding a window pane

or darkening a hung-out dress

or streaming down her upturned face;

one big thundering downpour

right through the empty script and score

before the act, before the blame,

before the lens pulls through the frame

to where a woman sits alone

beside a silent telephone

or the dress lies ruined on the grass

or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source

alpng their fatal watercourse.

However bad or overlong

such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twanf shows through

or when the boom dips into view

or when her speech starts to betray

its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold

on a starlit gutter, running gold

with the neon drugstore sign

and I'd read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood --

all was washed clean with the flood

we rose up from the falling waters

the fallen rain's own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.

-- Don Paterson


 Here's an interview with early science fiction author and the noted editor of Astounding Stories (later Analog).



 Porter Wagoner.

Saturday, January 23, 2021


 Billie Holiday & Louis Armstong, with Zutty Singleton, Barney Bigard, Kid Ory, Bud Scott, Red Callender, and Charlie Beal.


 A short-lived comic from Fawcett. Nickel Comics was not only half the price of other titles but it was issued every other week, rather than monthly.  It made up for this by being only 36 pages -- a bit more than half the length of other comics at the time.  It was best known for the introduction of superhero BulletmanIssue 7 was the penultimate issue for the title'

We start with Bulletman as he tackles the railroad saboteurs.  Bulletman is police police research bureau scientist Jim Barr, a physical weakling who could not qualify for the actual police force.  When Barr discovers a serum that destroys the toxins in the body that weaken ordinary men he becomes the most powerful man on Earth -- Bulletman!  When the city's transportation system begins to have accidents, killing a number of people, Jim discovers that acid had been used to weaken the train tracks.  When the bad guys blow up both entrances to a tunnel under the river, trapping a trainload of passengers, it's time for Bulletman to act!  With his blue knee-length boots, bright yellow tight pants, red v-neck shirt the out "v"s every other v-neck in the world, tiny yellow cape, and bullet-shaped gravity helmet that enables him to fly, Jim leaps into action!  Not to rest on his laurels, Bulletman -- having saved the passengers trapped under the river -- must stop an el train from being wrecked and prevent the destruction of a train carrying the governor and Jim's sweetie, the lovely Susan Kent.  With people saved, the bad guys caught, and an evil plot revealed, Bulletman flies off to more adventures.

"Warlock the Wizard, the last of the white magicians, spends his life fighting evil, aided by his magic golden hand, the mystic lamps of the gods, and his talking raven Hugin."  In this issue he faces off with Dr. Andro, who uses a machine to transfer the minds of criminals into the bodies of escape zoo animals.  Why?  To commit crimes, of course.

In an on-going story arc, Bill Dale, who has found his long-lost brother Steve in the jungls of Africa, is captured, along with Steve by the ruthless leader of an island kingdom. "The Jungle Twins" manage to escape the island with the Seal of Sulieman, a large ruby that had been given to Steve by a strange African tribe.  The ruby, alas, is stolen by an evil Arab trader and Steve is held captive by a tribe until Bill and his pigmy companion Daggo must retrieve the ruby or Steve will be killed.  It is not as easy as you might think -- the ruby has been stolen from the thief by crime lord Li Yeng, who traps the pair in a pit and is about to toss deadly cobras into the pit after them.  But Bill and Daggo are resourceful and escape, only to learn that the ruby has been sent ot the Gold Coast for sale.  Hot on the trail, Bill and Daggo find the torn body of Li Yeng's messenger, but no ruby.  they are attacked by a giant man-eating lion and we must wait for the next episode to find out where the ruby is and whether or not Steve will be rescued.

Captain Venture and Princess Zyra of Saturn are forced to land their spaceship for repairs on a small unknown planet.  The only inhabitant of the planet is Zalko, who had once came close to conquering Earth and was placed on the planet with no possible escape as his punishment.  Zalko uses his horde of giant robets to capture Captain Venture and the Planet Princess.  Needless to say, for Zalko, this was a bad idea.

Born in South America by American parents, the Red Gaucho becomes known throughout the land for "his dashing, smashing methods of battling crime and oppression."  In this episode, he is captured by the thugs of Punchez, who plots to seize control of Santa Palos -- something that would be "super easy, barely an inconvenience" once the Red Gaucho is removed.  But holding the Red Gaucho captive was not the wisest move Punchez could make.

There are a good variety of characters and a lot of evil plots in the issue and the art and story-telling are about average for a 1940 comic book.  Check it out.

Friday, January 22, 2021


 On this, the second anniversary of Ursula Le Guin's death, we present a piece from The Music and the Poetry of the Kesh by Le Guin and Todd Barton.


 Did She Fall? by Thorna Smith (1932)

Thorne Smith was a popular witer of the 1920s and 1930s, best known for his slightly ribald fantasies, most notably Topper (1926) and Topper Takes a Trip (1932).  The Topper books introduced the madcap ghosts, George and Marion Kirby; The Stray Lamb involves an alcoholic banker who transforms into various animals; Night Life of the Gods has statues of roman gods who come to life; Turnabout involves a husband and wife who exchange bodies; in Skin and Bones, the protagonist and his dog become skeleton versions of themselves; The Glorious Pool is a riff on the Fountain of Youth myth; and The Passionate Witch (complete by Norman Matson) was one of the inspirations for the television program Bewitched.  There is a lot of nakedness, double entrendre, and alcohol consumption in Thorne Smith's novels.

Of Smith's other works, two (Biltmore Oswald and Out o' Luck) are based on humorous stories he wrote while in the Navy, one (Haunts and Bypaths) is an early book of poems), his lone mainstream (and unsuccessful) novel, Dream's End, is an unimpressive book with a slight tinge of fantasy.  Smith also wrote two humourous, non-supernatural novels, The Bishop's Jaegers and Rain in the Doorway.

And then was Did She Fall?, his lone mystery novel -- one that was praised by Dashiell Hammett.

This one is a difficult book.  As with other of Smith's novels, there is sex, drinking, and humor, but there is also a basic amorality that runs through the novel and taints it.

Emily-Jane Seabrook is a grasping, vicious woman who is as beautiful as her soul is ugly.  Her past is littered with many sex partners whom she blackmails into getting her way.  One of these men is Daniel Crewe, a likable and wealthy young man who owns a seaside estate near New York.  His younger brother Barney is a dreamy quixotic artist who depends on his brother for just a out everything.  Barney is engaged to marry Emily-Jane, who snagged him two weeks after meeting him.  Emily-Jane is also blackmailing Daniel's best friend and college roommate Sam Stoughton, a former lover of hers who also happens to have committed murder while in college -- the circumstances behind the murder are unclear but Emily-Jane has proof of Sam's crime.  Daniel feels obligated to protect Sam from Em ily-Jane.

Add to this mix Daniel's plucky and loyal girlfriend June Lansing and Sam's loyal wife Sue.  Lane Holt, an acquaintance of Daniel's from college and former and current lover of Emily-Jane, has wrangled an invitation to stay at the estate, along with all those mentioned above.  Lane is a bounder and a cad.  Not a bounder, however is noted criminologist and good friend to the Crewe brothers, Scott Munson, who is also visiting the estate.  Daniel and Barney's eccentric Aunt Mattie also lives there.  Aunt Mattie has a habit of carelessly swinging a butcher's knife.

At a party where Daniel is to unwillingly announce his brother's engagement,/emily-Jane is standing in front of a curtain, flanked by the two brothers.  The lights go out and Sam, behind the curtain, tries to stab Emily-Jane but misses and stabs Daniel in the arm instead.  Everyone fluffs this off as an accident with Aunt Mattie walking by and swinging a knife.  Daniel knows that Sam is intent on murdering Emily-Jane and decides to save Sam by murdering Emily-Jane himself.  Emily-Jane goes off to a cliff-side spot for a redezvous with Lane.  Daniel follows and hides in the bushes.  So does Sam, although in a different set of bushes.  By a third set of bushes is a housemaid and a gardenr from the estate have a romantic rendezvous.  First Lane argues with the girl and they struggle by the cliff's edge, then Daniel rushes to them, intent on puching Emily-Jane off the cliff, followed by Sam, who has his own agenda.  Lane runs off, and in the confusion, all at once, no Emily-Jane.  He battered body lies on the rocks below the cliff.

Daniel knows he has killed his brother's fiance.  Sam is distrught that he could not save his best friend from murder.

Scott Munson managed to convince the authorities to put him charge of the investigation.  Munson knows that either Daniel of Sam are guilty of the murder, but nonetheless runs a rigorous investigation, hoping he can find something that would clear his friends.  As the investigation continues, Munson becomes convinced that Daniel is guilty.  Then Lane Holt is shot and all evidence points to Daniel as his murderer.  Daniel is arrested and Scott works hard to prove him innocent of this murder, just as he is working hard to prove Daniel is guilty of the earlier murder.

In typical Thorne Smith fashion, we are also introduced to two very incompetent policemen, both named Timothy Shay.   The pair provide most of the comic relief.

In the end, the guilty party escapes.  Barney finds love with a childhood sweetheart.  Emily-Jane's murder is declared an accident.  Everybody lives happily ever after.  The moral implications of the story, its characters, and its conclusion are disquieting to say the least.  Scott Munson, the one exemplar of moral authority in the novel, becomes unconvincingly complicit.


This is a problem when every character in a mystery novel, except for the dead, are presnted in glowing, favorable terms, despite their moral failings.

So what to say about Did She Fall?  It was an interesting read with a strong moral conflict at its core, but one that fell apart at the end -- the result, perhaps, of the author painting himself into a corner.  I enjoyed much of the book and chuckled at the antics of the two Timothy Shays, but I cannot in good conscience recommend it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


 The Falcon was a popular film and radio detective with a confusing heritage.  The not-quite-original Falcon was created by Michael Arlen in his 1940 short story "Gay Falcon" and his name was (somewhat embarassingly) Gay Falcon.  This was mae into the 1941 film The Gay Falcon, changing the character's name from Gay Stanhipe Falcon to Gay Lawrence, the 'Falcon."  The film was designed to replace RKO's The Saint film series and starred George Sanders (who had previously played The Saint).  When Sanders stepped down after three films, his brother Tom Conway stepped in in The Falcon's Brother (1942), playing Gay Lawrence's brother Tom.  Conway went on to make additional nine Falcon films from 1943

Before all this, there was an earlier Falcon, Michael Waring, a free-lance investigator and troubleshooter created by "Dexel Drake" (Tomm Huff) in the 1936 novel The Falcon's Prey.  Michael Waring appeared in two more novels by "Drake."  When the Falcon film franchise was revived in 1948, it was with the Michael Waring character.  It was also the Michael Waring character who was the Falcon in the radio and television series 

"The Case of the Strawberry Blonde" was the final program in the NBC radio series before it moved onto the Mutual network and the Falcon became involved in battling espionage.  Les Damon, better known for his role as radio's Nick Charles, plays Michael Waring.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021


 Ben Selvin and the Crooners.


 A Mexican magician told his audience that he would disappear by the count of three.  He said, "Uno...dos..."  And -- poof! -- he disappeared withour a tres!


 "The Dance on the Beefsteak" by E. F. Benson (from Temple Bar, September 1902; reprinted in Benson's collection The Countess of Lowndes Square and Other Stories*, 1920)

More of a sketch than a story, "The Dance on the Beefsteak" is a satirical look at the society at the foreign enclaves in Alatri, an Italian village near Naples, where even the most minor of incidents can, and will, be blown out of proportion.

"For in Alatri as a rule nothing happens -- certainly nothing unpleasant -- our lives are as smooth as the halcyon summer seas, and it will, I am afraid, be impossible to give to any but the most imaginative reader an adequate idea of the most devastating nature of the catastrophe..."

Mrs. Mackellar, a doyen of local society, was giving a fete to celebrate, first, the engagement of her cook Seraphina to her man-servant Antonio, and second, to celebrate that Seraphina had been in her employ a full year.  This second reason was perhaps the more telling, for Mrs. Mackellar had been unable to keep a cook for more than a few weeks.  There was no specific reason for this; "they just lose their nerve and go away."  So a fete was called for, which the members of the foreign enclaves partying on the roof with melting ice cream and the servants partying downstairs in the kitchen..   In the spirit of democracy, once the servants had finished feasting and once Mrs. Mackellar's guests had had their fill of the melting ice cream, the servants would be allowed onto the roof-top garden and both parties would merge.

This seems like a splendid plan to our unnamed narrator, and he and a dog in his temporary care -- a large shaggy animal named Bianca -- appeared on time, where upon hearing music and dance from the kitchen, Bianca immediately parted from her owner and headed to the servants' festivities.  Bianca, you see, lived for just three things:  being groomed, cheese, and dancing, and it was dancing that most delighted her spirit.  

The party went well and the next morning our narrator was shocked to hear from his cook Francisco that Mrs. Mackellar had danced on a beefsteak and that Seraphina had been dismissed.  Unusual news because Francisco was far more apt to go on about how John the Baptist never appeared on his saint's day (something to do with the high amount of illegitimate children on Alatri).  anyway, the story had it that a market boat had come from Naples that morning and on that boat was a beefsteak for Mrs. Mackellar.  Salvatore, the carrier, brought the beefsteak to the roof-top garden where Mrs. Mackellar and Seraphina were.  Mrs. Mackellar was already upset at the high cost of the ice cream the evening before.  Mrs. Mackellar sniffed the beefsteak and said it was not fit for dogs.  Salvatore tried to explain that dogs should not be fed the beefsteak because it was meant for humans.  Mrs. Mackellar handed the meat over to Seraphina and asked her opinion.  Honest Seraphina said that it smelled very good to her.  And that was when Mrs. Mackellar lost it.  She accused her cook of being in a plot to cheat her and fired Seraphina on the spot.  Then, she threw the beefsteak down, "and danced upon it with both feet together, so that the roof trembled.  Also she said many strange words in her own tongue."

A tragedy indeed.  Due to the time of year, Seraphina would certainly be unable to obtain another position.  Would Antonio be able to support the two of them on his salary?   And, knowing the wrath of Mrs. Mackellar, might she also sack poor Antonio, dooming the couple never to marry?  And, even more upsetting, would Mrs. Mackellar then hire the incomparable Francisco away from the narrator?  She could certainly afford to pay Francisco far  more than our humble narrator could.

Two days passed and Alatri had talked of nothing else.  Then, while seated in from of the local cafe, our narrator saw Mrs. Mackellar "snorting and stamping round the corner, leaving all those at the cafe in a fearful silence.  She stood, not taking a seat, and and sipped her vermouth "with load, angry sucking noises, as if it was the life-blood of Seraphina."  As she straightened to storm out of the cafe, Bianca mistook her pose as wanting to dance, which made the scene even  more awkward.

Then Seraphina entered the cafe and, sunny and incapable of rudeness, gave her former employer and smile and wish he a good day.  And Mrs. Mackellar smiled back at her!  Why?  No one knew, or could even hazard a guess.  And, like that, the spat was over and Alatri went back to its sleepy, summer calm.

E. F. Benson (1867-1940) was one of six children  born to a future Archbishop of Canterbury.  Two siblings died in childhood, while the surviving four all achieved success in writing and other fields.  A. C. Benson became a Master of Magdalene College and wrote the words to the song "Land of Hope and Glory," as well as number of well-received books.   R. H. Benson, an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism  and became Chamberlain to Pope Pius X, was a novelist and religious apologist.  Margaret Benson, perhaps the least know of the siblings, was an author and Egyptologist, and was one of the first women to be admitted to Oxford University.  None of the siblings ever married, giving rise to the theory (more than a theory, in some cases) that, at least the men, were homosexuals.  Mental illness, probably  bipolar disorder, also plagued the family, and Margaret herself had a mental breakdown and was placed in asylums for five years.

E. F. "Fred" Benson is best known today for his chilling ghost stories and for his satirical society  novels and short stories, including the Mapp and Lucia series and the Dodo trilogy.  Mapp and Lucia's fictional home is based on Lamb House in Rye, where Benson had lived; the house itself was used as a location in the BBC's adaptation of Mapp and Lucia in 2014.  Because a previous tenant of the house was Henry James, and because both James and Benson wrote ghost stories, a fiction has developed that the house was haunted -- something explored by writer Joan Aiken in her book The Haunting of Lamb House, 1993.

Benson's work, both satire and supernatural, can still be enjoyed by the  modern reader.

"The Dance on the Beefsteak" is available to read online in The Countess of Lowndes Square and Other Stories.

* In the preface to The Countess of Lowndes Square, Benson writes that the stories in the book first appeared in Nash's Weekly, The Windsor Magazine, The Story-Teller, The Century, and The Woman at Home.  "The rest are now published for the first time."  No mention of Temple Bar.  Go figure.

Monday, January 18, 2021


 Hank Williams.


 Question:  What is better than an Ed Wood, Jr. movie?

Answer:  Just about anything.

So here's everyone's favorite cashmire schlockmeister with a not-so-good tale of a young man drawn into a life of crime and the young man's plastic surgeon father being blackmailed into providing a new face for a gangland boss.  Don't expect logic, or plot, or good acting, or any cinematic values with this one.

Staring Lyle Talbot, Delores Fuller, Herbert Rawlinson (his last film; he died of terminal lung cancer the morning his last scene was shot), and Steve (Hercules) Reeves, and Clancy Malone.

With a screenplay written committed by Wood and Alex Gordon and directed by Wood, this one also features Wood doing a voiceover as a radio newscaster.

Oh.  And there's blackface.

Well, the director's cut replace the blackface scene with a strip tease scene, so maybee Ed Wood, Jr. became woke.

Enjoy this unintentional laugh-along epic.

Sunday, January 17, 2021


The Everly Brothers.


 Openers:  The names of my individuals are fictitous, but the rest of my little narrative is true.  The poeple who figure in it are alive, and indeed friends of mine; and although I have altered the widow's name, I have retained its peculiarity, -- namely, that it is a male Christian name with an 's' attached to it; and the fact that it by no means a common name sharpens the little mystery -- such names as "Jacks," "Franks," and "Toms," being certainly less usual than others.

To begin then:  Mrs. de Courcy lived , at the time of my story, in a pretty little house in Bayswater.  She settled there at first with three lovely daughters, but two of them marrying, now, as in the case of the far-famed little niggers, there is only one.  Her name is "Ella," and she is a charming, as well as a beautiful girl; she has only just returned from a visit of over two years to her brother and his young wife, who are settled in America.

Ella had enjoyed her sejour in the far west enormously and having been much admired, Mrs. de Courcy feared at one time lest she should be tempted never to return; -- but she did return, and to her mother's great delight, and, as far as I know, there she is still.

One day Mrs. de Courcy said to her daughter:  "I have had such a nice letter from dear Mrs. Jacks, and she is anxious to come and see you, Ella, -- and hear all you can tell her of your wanderings.  She offers to come to luncheon the day after tomorrow.  There is a train from Croyden, (she says) which willjust bring her in time, so I have written and said, "yes!"

-- "A Double" by The Countess of Munster (Wilhelmina FitzClarence), from her collection Ghostly Tales. 1896.

First off, we should just ignore, if possible, the racism in the second paragraph.  The remainder of the book is not racist in any way, although it is definitely classist.  Common attitudes in Victorian England hopefully differ from those of today, if only by a matter of degree.

Wilhelmina Kennedy-Erskine was the illegitimate granddaughter of William IV, who became king the day before Wilhelmina's birth.  Wilhelmina's mother, Lady Augusta FitzClarence, was one of ten illegitimate children William had had with actress Dorothea Johnson, with whom he had had a twenty-year affair.  All of the surviving children of William IV were raised to the ranks of younger children of a marquess once William assumed the throne.  As a king without legitimate issue, William quarreled with his surviving sons over money and honors; his daughters, however, "proved an ornament to the court," being "pretty and lively...[making] society in a way that real princesses could not."  Wilhelmina's father died the year afternshe was born.  As a granddaughter of the king, Wilhelmina was a favorite of the king and the family often visited Windsor Castle.  Lady Augusta remarried in 1836 and became the State Housekeeper of Kensington Palace, appointed by her father.  Wilhelmina lived at Kensington until her marriage to her cousin, William FitzClarence, the second Earl of Munster, in 1855.  William FitzClarence was also a grand child of William IV; William's father (and Wilhelmina's uncle) committed suicide at age 48 and was suspected of having a mental condition and a "paranoic sense of persecution," perhaps attirbuted to hereditary polphyria.

Wilhelmina and William had nine children, three of whom died in childhood and two of whom succeeded to the title of Earl of Munster.  They lived a remarkably quiet life, Wilhelmina preferring a literary and artistic life.  She became a writer late in life, pubishing her first novel, Dorinda, in 1889, beofre she had turned 60.  Oscar Wilde praised the novel, citing the heroine as "exceedingly clever."  A second novel, A Scotch Earl, appeared in 1891 and was less successful.  Her collection of eleven stories, Ghostly Tales, contained stories that at least one review considered to be based on fact.  A number of the stories were presented in a manner to suggest that they were true, but not all the stories were supernatural or "ghostly."  "A Double," quoted above, is about a brief unexplained encounter with a doppleganger.  "The Ghost of My Dead Friend" describes just that, a visit from a friend who had died the year before.  "The Tyburn Ghost" recounts the story of a woman and her daughter who temporarily take up lodging and are visited by ghostly figure who vanishes when the two say prayers; they later learn that the apparition of of a woman who had died in the house and was buried in the cellar.  "The Bruges Ghost" is a simlar tale:  An apparition appears in a woman's bedroom, apparently of a young man who had died of consumption; he had been a Catholic and a priest was sought to lay him to rest.  "The Page Boy's Ghost" is the ghost of a young page boy (go figure) who had commmitted suicide some months before.  "Aunt Jeanne's Story" is a maudlin tale of a girl who defied her domineering parents and ran off to get married; her parents refused to acknowledge her in any way and she feels guilty for breaking one of the Commandments and defying them.  Her husband dies and she is left alone in the world, bereft.  She wonders if she would be better off commiting suicide and one night she is awakened by the face of Jesus and all becomes well.  "Only a Cat!" is a story of a woman who had a cat.  The cat goes missing.  A year later the cat comes back, half-starved and bleeding.  The cat dies.  The end.  The longest sory in the book -- fully a third of the contents -- is "The Leather Box," a convoluted story of sisterly jealousy, parental abuse, mysterious origins, lost fortunes, and a cad above all cads.  Pure Victorian melodrama, and not very well done, although a shining heroine emerges at the end.  "Saved!" (A Reminiscence) involved a young Russian prince being slowly poisoned by his stepmother, only to be rescued by a young girl staying at the same inn.  "A 'Mauvais de Quart Heure.' " tells of a woman nin rhe habit of taking pre-dawn walks and meeting up with a madman.  The final story in the book, "A Mysterious Visitor," subtitled "A Well-Authenticated Story," has the narrator meeting a courtly stranger who claims to be Satan and, in his own way, proves it.

A mixed bag indeed.  The Saturday Review felt the book to be "entertaining and dramatic" and noted editor of the supernatural Hugh Lamb felt that the book was a representative collection of Victorian ghost stories.  Douglas A. Anderson felt the stories were melodramatic and "perfectly forgettable."  I tend to agree with Anderson.  If some of these stories are, as purported, based on true events, they are presented weakly.  One would be much better off reading the books of Mrs. Catherine Crowe which had been published near a half century before -- The Night Side of Nature (1848), Light and Darkness (1856), and Ghosts and Family Legends (1858).  Ghostly Tales appeared in an age when spiritualism was taking hold and, although not claiming to be in that vein, it also did little to promote that fallacy.

The countess of Munster published only one other book, an autobiography, My Memories and Miscellanies, published in 1904, two yearss before her death.  Written only from memory -- she had stopped journal writing when a young girl -- it recounted several tales of the ghost "Green Jean," whom she and other had seen at Wemyss Castle.  "Green Jean" is just one of many such "green ladies" seen at Scottish castles, green being an unlucky color to wear at a wedding.  "Green Jean" wear a dress of green silk as she floats long the corridors of the castle.  In 2007, it was reported that she had not been seennin recent years.

The World Spinning Madly:  So that happened.  A violent takeover of the United States Capitol Building, a second impeachment of President Trump, and last-minute wrenches from the outgoing administration thrown to to make the incoming administration's work far more difficult.  Inauguration Day cannot come soon enough.

We have learned that the takeover of the Capitol Building was no fluke.  Egged on and incited by Trump, this thing had been planned well in advance.  Persons on the terrorist watch list were involved.  Arms and explosives had been stockpiled.  A knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Building was obtained through tours given by sympathizers in Congress.  A stated intention of the rioters was the assasination of public officials.  Members of Congress feared for their lives, in part because they were sheltering with other members who had supported the rioters.  One Congresswoman tweeted their location, providing updates who was where. Some members of law enforcement supported the rioters; a number of off-duty police officers joined the mob.  The president joyfully watched the whole affair live on television and refused to tke desperate calls from his congressional supporters.  People died.

This has been a stain on our country and on the presidency, one that will be hard to erase.  Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump, Jr. should face criminal charges.  Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Marjorie Taylor Green, Lauren Boebert, Kevin McCarthy, and others whouls be called to account for their actions.  So, too, should those who are trying to minimalize the damage to their reputations at the last minute:  Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chau, Betsy DeVos, Alex Azar, and others.  All of Trumps enablers -- Mike Pompeo, Stephen Mnuchkin, Wilbur Ross, Kayleigh McEnany, Kelly Ann Conway, Pam Bondi, Christopher Miller, Sonny Perdue, Mark Meadows, Andrew Wheeler, William Barr, Mick Mulvaney, Scott Pruitt, Peter Navarro, and so many others, past and present -- should not be allowed to go unscathed.  The president's own family and his shady business interests deserve additional scrutiny.  Rocks should be turned over to expose the far-right (and far-left) hate groups for what they are.  All of those complicit in spreading disinformation about Covid-19 should be shamed, including the anti-maskers and Covid conspirators who have helped contribute to more than 330 thousand American deaths thus far.  

And the millions of Trumps supporters who were gulled into believing his lies?  And those who genuinely feel that America has passed them by?  There will always be differences of opinion in this country, but it is incumbent on the incoming administration to listen and to address the real concerns of the people, to provide a stable economy that is not trigged against the little man, to ensure opportunities exist for all, to support basics rights such as health and shelter, to be sure that none go hungry in a land of plenty, to provide a safe environment for our citizens, to be sure that every voice has a chance to be heard, to give our sitizens and generations to come clean air and clean water, to make decisions based on science and reason and not on fear or superstition, to provide an accepting environment for all to live in and grow, and to once again become a beacon of hope for the world.

Nothing is easy.  But we have a chance.  We can and will put fear, greed, and hatred behind us so that the last four years will never be repeated as long as our country exists.

And So It Goes...:  It's been reported that an unnamed associate of Rudy Giuliani told a former CIA officer that a pardon from President Trump would cost $2 million.  There are denials all over the place, but the former CIA officer is sticking to the story.

Two more days, folks.  Two more days...

Advice to Children:  From a chapbook, Master Truelove's Playgame:  being a pleasing entertainment for little boys and girls by which they m ay learn their letters, as soon as they can speak as they are riddles and sayings of Old Mother Goose, published in 1805 by A. Swindells, Manchester:

When the fun doth rife, you muft ger [sic] up each day.

And fall on your knees and to God humbly pray,

Then kneel to your parents their bleffing to implore,

And when you money give fome to the poor,

You hands and your face, in the next place wafh fair,

And brufh out you apparel and comb out your hair;

And with a good morning to all in in [sic] your view,

And bow to your parents and bid them adieu,

Salute every perfon to fchool as you go,

When at fchool to your mafter due reverence fhew.

Anf if you can't read, pray endeavor to fpell,

For by frequently fpelling you'll learn to read well,

Shun all the idle boys, wicked and rude,

And pray only play with thofe boys who are good,

To church you muft every funday repair,

And behave yourfelf decently while you are there,

At the clofe of the day e'er you go to your reft,

Kneel again to yout parents, and be again bleft,

And to the Almighty again humbly pray,

The he may preferve you by night and by day.

A Sea Shanty:  Now trending on Tiktok:  sea chanties!  In thaty spirit, here's Johnny Collins with "Randy Dandy Oh."

Elephant Battle:  428 years ago, King Naresuan of Thailand defeated the Crown Prince Mingyi Swa in an "Elephant Duel."  Legend calls it a duel, but it more of a battle than a formal duel.  Here's what went down.

Naresuan (or Naret) was the 18th monarch of the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1590 to his death in 1605.  His father, King Mahathammarawachathirat had surrended his kingdom to King Bayanaung of Burma during the Burmese-Siamese War of 1563-64, and had sent his son to Burma as a royal hostage.  There, Naresuan received the best of Burmese military training, returning to Ayuttthaya, where is uncle had been seated as a vassal king, after six years.  Naresuan was named a Uparajah (crown prince) of Phitsanolok by his uncle when he was 15.  In 1583, viceroy Thada Minsaw rebelled against Nanda Bayin, who had become ing of Burma upon his father's death.  Ayutthaya was still under Burmese rule, and Nanda ordered Naresuan to aid in putting down the rebellion.  Although Naresuan received the order in February, he did not reach the Burmese border until early April, something that made Nanda suspicious of Naresuan's loyalties.  Nanda ordered his son Mingyi Swa to kill Naresuan.

When Naresuan learn of this, he gathered allies and symbolically severed the relationship of Siam and Burma and prepared for the attack of the Burmese army, marching into Burma to free about 10,000 Siamese families held captive there.  Battles and skirmishes continued over the next nine years with defeats and routs on both sides.  In 1590, Naresuan was crowned King of Ayutthaya following his father's death.  In november 1592, Nanda ordered Mingyi Swa to attack Ayutthaya again.  Naresuan prepared a battle plan that called for a strategic retreat, then a reversal against Mingyi Swa'a army.  In Jnuary, war elephants charged into the Burmese troops, scattering them.

According to legend, Naresuan spotted Mingyi Swa resting on an elephant while under a tee, and challenged hism to come forth and face him in single battle.  Mingyi Swa managed to strike Naresuan's helmet, but Naresuan felled his opponent with his lance.  Other (less romanticized) accounts had Mingyi Swa killed by a Siamese bullet.  One story had naresuan's elephant surrounded by burmesse elephants when a simamese elephant went wild and attacked Mingyi Swa' elephant, giving Naesuan (or one of his followers) the oppotunity to shoot Mingyi Swa.  Whatever happened, Naresuan escaped and his opponent was dead.

Naresuan bult a pagoda on the site to mark his victory.  Naresuan is still revered today.  during his reign, Siam was at its widest and most glorious.  January 18 is named Royal Thai Armed Forces Day to commorate the elephant battle of 1593.

Landings:  In 1911, Eugene Ely landed his plane on the USS Pennsylvania, marking the first time a plane landed on a ship.  this also marked the first use of a tailhook system.

Fast forward to 2021.  This most expensive aircraft carier ever built, the USS Gerald R. Ford (costing $13.28 billion), cannot launch fighter jets due to a flawed electronic catapault and catch system that keeps breaking.  The problem has been onging for three years and has not yet been resolved.  **sigh**

Speedster Bragging:  My grandson Mark ran his first ultramarathon yestereday and came in 7th place, running the 32 miles in 5 hours 40 minutes.  We could not be there because of the Covid quarantine but the rst of the family was cheering him on.  Neither of our daughters had cell service during the race, but we got a post-run update from our granddaughter Amy:  "We're doing great.  Mark finished and can barely hold a sp.oon in his hand.  Erin and I really have to pee.  Kaylee woke up in time for Mark's last lap.  Bink [Christina] fell asleep standing up.  AJ [Jessamyn] dropped my white yeard on the ground.  We all had trouble doing math.  I choked on wind."  It was cold.  That afternoon Mark ate a Marie Callender pot pie, a bag of chips, and two broccoli stuffed chicken breasts.

Yay for Mark!  And yay for the fam in supporting him, although they only made five large signs cheering him on and had to repeat some signs over the eight laps!

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man Sean Hynes is being sued in small claims court for not paying on a $100 bet on the presidential election.  Hynes refuses to acept the election results.  He lives in the state of Florida, which is also the state of denial, evidently.
  • Delusional thinking seems to be trend among the recent Florida Men.  Samuel Camargo, alleged (and self-admitted) Capitol Hill insurrectionist has bragged about acing his FBI interview.  "I believe I have been cleared," he wrote just before being charged with multiple federal crimes.  If convicted he faces up to 25 years in proson.
  • Both sides of the political spectrum have had their Florida Man days.  Daniel Baker has been arrested for plotting to attack pro-Trump protesters at the State Capitol in Tallahassee.  Baker has been described as anti-Trump, anti-government, anti-white supremicist, and anti-police.  
  • Florida Man Stan Smith says that he was fired by Florida Company Daniels Manufacturing Corporation after he released a letter to the media that company president sent all employees with their recent paystubs.  The letter stated that if Joe Biden won the election, the company could begin permanent layoffs beginning in late 2020 or early 2021.  Daniels denies that the letter was an attempt to inf;uence the votes of his employees.
  • Florida Woman and fired data scientist Rebekah Jones said that she will surrender to an arrest warrant issued for her.  Jones had claimed she was fired because she would not manipulate coronavirus data to support Governor Ron DeSantis' argument for lifting coronavirus restrictions.  Jones had been accused of sending a group e-mail in November telling people to speak up before another 17,000 Floridians were killed.  jones denied sending the e-mail, but police raided her home on December 7 to investigate the e-mail and seized her computer.  On January 16, a judge ordered the police to release Jones' computer because no crime was being invesitgated.  The following day an arrest warrant was issued on an unrelated charge.  Police evidently found items that had been downloaded on her computer that should not be there, although the specifics have not been communicated to Jones.  Jones also said that an agent had told her lawyer that additional charges may be filed is she spoke out against the police.
  • An unnamed and "apparently intoxicated" Florida Man has been arrested for stealing a Tiki Hut boat off the Florida keys.  The boat doubled as a bar, authorities said, adding "Don't drink and boat."
  • Keeping abreast of the latest Florida woman news, Miami police are looking for a topless woman who attacked a shirtless man in a downtown elevator.  The woman used her foot to keep the elevator car door open while she attacked the man.  The incident, which was not reported, was caught on film.  Plice are trying to figure out what the heck happened and why.

Quote:  My mother used to say, "The older you get, the better you get.  Unless you're a banana." --Betty White, who turned 99 yesterday

Good News:
  • Instead of charging a woman with shjoplifting, a police officer buys $250 worth of groceries for hungry family
  • Dwayne Johnson gives $30,000 truck to man who took him in when The Rock was a homeless teenager
  • Arkansas doctor forgives $650,000 in medical debt for cancer patients to kick off the new year
  • Lone capitol police officer lures rioters away from congressional offices, likely saving lives
  • Girl donates all her birthday money to homeless man who found and returned her grandmother's wallet
  • St. Vincent de Paul charity staff organize a funeral for an 82-year-old man who died on the street

Today's Poem:

I never did like "Now take care, dear!"
I never did.  I never did.
I never did want "Hold my hand";
I never did.  I never did.
I never did much of "Not up there, dear!"
It's no good saying it.
They don't understand.

-- A. A. Milne, born this day in 1882