Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, February 8, 2021



We are moving upward into a region where the blue is lighter and clearer.


It becomes visible high up and far away.  It grows large, more liquid, a golden drop.  Soon it assumes a form like that of a comet, its head uppermost, its lengthening tail streaming downward.

Two rays of light diverge horizontally from the comet's head.

We hear sounds so deep we scarcely recognize them as sounds.  It could be the regular thudding, more felt than heard, of the heartbeat of some enormous animal.

Waves of light pulse through the blue around us.  The whole endless void is quaking.  It might be a tank of highly eplosive liquid becoming mysteriously agitated as it approaches flash-point.

The golden star is still increasing in size.  Now we see the most minute, yet diamond-bright, points of light winking here and there on the surface of the til tht streams dowm from it.  These bright flashes appear at the same intervals as those between the sounds, and between the pulsations of light in the blue.

We are accelerating our approach to the star.  The horizontal rays spread wider and wider on each side.  We sweep upward at a tremendous speed, and then more slowly as we approach a point on the ray which extends to our right.  This point is far from, and soon out of sight of, the streaming tail of the comet.


What seemed like a ray of light is an endless line of precipices rising from an unseen base in the deeps of space and extending as far as the eye can see.  The face of the precipice is of the whitish-gold colour of some auriferous rock.  Along the top of the cliff, huge blocks of this rock, roughly hewn, are built into battlements.

-- John Collier, Milton's Paradise Lost:  Screenplay for Cinema of the Mind  (197

And so the scene is set for the expulsion of Lucifer and his followers, wjho come pouring from the heavens, distorted and wracked with pain, to land in a torturous ocean of fire.  Slowly Satan makes it to a small island, followed by his minions, to regenerate and regroup.  There they built their headquarters, Pandemonium and plot their revenge.  To strike against God once again is foolhardy (although many of the demons are in favor).  But Satan has heard of God's other creation -- two beings whom he loves and has placed in a special place somewhere in the void, a place called Earth.  Now, if Satan could get these two to rebel against God, His sorrow would be great.  Satan then searches for Earth to tempt Adam and Eve.

Eve appears to be a lesser creation.  God and the angels talk to Adam but not to Eve; the angel Raphael mis especially dismissive of Eve.  Adam loves Eve and has to admonish her time and again that they are forbidden the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  For her part, Eve loves Adam but is torn by her thoughts and dreams -- the essence of female differs greatly from the male; Eve is a creature who questions.  Eve is eternal feminine:  she nurtures.  When told of the two horrid monsters, Sin and Death, who guard the gates of Hell, Eve renames them Love and Life,  Eve sees deeper into things that Adam cannot.

We know what will happen.  Satan enters Eden and tempts Eve into disobeying God.  Torn between his love of God and his love for Eve, Adam joins her in eating the forbidden Fruit.  The two become aware, then carnal, then ashamed.  They are led from Eden by the Angel Michael using his flaming sword as if it were a cattle prod.

Milton's epic poem is ine of the great masterpieces of English literature, a saga that draws the reader in with a fierceness of wonder and power.  Certainly it is one of the greatest  poems ever written.  In writing this "screenplay," John Collier is not trying to improve or amplify Milton.  Here he celebrates the blind poet, bringing his epic to the modern age by way of a cinema that could never be filmed.   The scope of the story and its cosmic background can only be described in vague terms of the imagination,  The characters -- heavenly and otherwise -- share human foibles.  Satan himself is often sympathetic.  God can be cold and unbending.  (After all, He knew everything was going to happen, from the revolt of the angels to the fall of man.  He is God.)  Eve is a creature meant to create life within her.  Adam is a kind-hearted man determined to obey God's will, while also wary of Eve's weakness.  (But is it really weakness?)

Collier's bit of "pilferage" (as he puts it) from Milton allows to see Milton's epic in a contemporary light.  It's a powerful work of a master fantasist and thoroughly enjoyable.  Collier's concept is daring but he makes it work, and work well.

John Collier (1901-1980) began as a poet, but not a very successful one.  His first novel,  the fantasy His Monkey Wife, was well-recieved critically but, published in 1930 during the beginnings of the Depression, sold only moderately.  It did enhance his reputation enough to allow most of his short stories to be published.  Collier's only book of poetry was published the following year.  his spocalyptic novel Tom's A-Cold:  A Tale was published in 1933 and a third novel, Defy the Foul Fiend; Or, The Misadventures of a Heart followed in 1934.   Collier then went to Hollywood and began a screen and (later) television writing career.  Among his films were Sylvia Scarlet Elephant BoyThe African Queen (uncredited), The Story of Three Loves (writing two of the three segments), and I Am a Camera.  For television he wrote (among other things) three scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  Collier is best known, however for his short stories, notably those collected in Fancies and Goodnights (1951), which won the International Fantasy Award for fiction.  His stories have been adapted 26 times for radio and television, including a 1966 television musical by Stephen Sondheim.  Among his most reprinted short strories are "Evening Primrose," "Wet Saturday," "The Devil, George, and Rosie," "Back for Christmas," "Thus I Refute Beelzy," "Green Thoughts," "The Lady on the Grey," "Pictures in the Fire," and "The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It."  Collier has influenced several generations of writers, including Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Chabon.


  • "George Bagby" (Aaron Marc Stein), Honest Reliable Corpse.  An Inspector Schmidt mystery, the 37th in a series that totalled 51 novels.  'She was beautiful.  She was Geneva.  That was all the smitten Bagby knew for sure -- besides the fact that she was immune to his blandishments.  Now why, he wondered, would a girl like Geneva shoose seclusion as a dedicated paid companion to wealthy, ancient Mrs. Carpenter?  Why would she fail to return from a quick shopping errand around the corner?  Why had a handsome gigalo been seen with the arthritic old lady?  Why did the body of a woman found in Central Park have no face?  Bagby and his friend Inspector Schmidt had to find the answers -- and a murderer -- before he struck down his next victim.  a top puzzler by this popular Crime Club author."  Stein (1906-1985)  piublished 114  fourteen mysteries as "Bagby," "Hampton Stone," and under his own name.  He was named a MWA Grand Master in 1979.
  • Fletcher Flora, Whisper of Love (originally published as Desperate Asylum).  A noirish, sexed-up crime novel from a paperback master.  "Lisa Sheidan...a beutiful woman, alone and unfulfilled, driven by unconventional desires...Avery lawes...only half a man because he never loved a woman...They met, and each saw in the other a chance for escape.  And so, in a frantic search for normalcy, they were married.  But they could know the terrible depths into which their union would plunge them.  They could not know that theris was a marriage made in hell!"  In addition to many short stories, Flora published 16 crime novels under his own name and two as "Ellery Queen."
  • Donald Hamilton, The Frighteners.  Matt Helm's 25th outing.  "BLOOD WEDDING...One thing Matt Helm never worries about is the mission ahead.  Even this one doesn't faze him.  Pose as an oil-rich Texas groom to a bride half his age.  The object:  Pick up the trail of an illicit arms shipment deep in the heart of Mexico.  If Matt fails, the whole country could blow hot and high in the inferno of revolution, right ar America's doorstep.  But he doesn't know yet that he's not only the point man, he's the number one target..."  Forget the insulting Dean Martin movies, Matt Helm is the real thing!

Mad Marge:  The Republicans in the House of Representatives have proved themselves once again to be spineless wimps, more interested in petty politiccs than in principles.  Having decided not to punish freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (although House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy did give her a good talkin' to -- excuse me while I shake in my boots) they ended up giving her a standing ovation.  A woman who believes in Jewish space lasers is named to the House Education Committee and they think it's all right?  A woman who confronts and yells at a teenager whose friends and classmates have recently been killed in a murderous rampage, calling him a coward...this woman deserved your applause?  A woman who denies the 9-11 attack on the Pentagon making decisions making decisions in the People's rational do you think she can be?  A woman who has espoused killing Democrat leaders, who believes the whacked-out idea that Democrats are actual pedophiles, and that the Democrats are part of a deep state conspiracy to achieve global domination?  This is the woman that Republicans are protecting?

Granted that Republicans are between a rock and a hard place.  They are a fractured party, having been hijacked by Donald Trump and his not-so-merry band of liars and grifters.  Part of Trump's base has been the fringe right -- the militias, the white racists, the Nazis, and the deluded -- and the GOP cannot afford to lose even this small base.  So they kowtow and give knowing winks and they try to appease these people, damaging not only the country but their own party as they do so.  They know full well that over 60% of those who identify as Republican believe that Donald Trump won the election.  They also know that many are considering leaving the Republican party to form their own political party.  This, they fear, will be the death knell for "the party of Lincoln."  Well the party of Lincoln died long ago.  Maybe it's time for the GOP to bite the bullet and stand up for truth and reason, whatever the temporary outcome.  The only way to save the GOP is to once again stand for principles, to provide a conservative alternative to the other party, to be more interested in good government than in personal power, to become a party willing to work with the other side for the good of the people.

As for Marjorie Taylor Green, Q-Anon, and the race baiting, violent haters out there, let's just brand them for what they are -- a bunch of lunatic morons who can only get their way by accusing others of eating babies and by swallowing outlandish conspircy theories.

An Extraordinary Voyage:  French writer Jules Verne was born this day in 1828 on Ile Feydeau in Nantes.  One of the world's most popular writers (he has been the second most translated author in the world since 1979, placing between Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare), Verne has been called the "father of science fiction," a title sometimes also given to H. G. Wells and Hugo Gernsback.  Sometimes considered a children's writer in English speaking countries because of the many poorly translated and highly abridged versions of his novels that have seen print.  In Europe, however, he is considered a major influence on avant garde and surrealistic literature.  

Verne was fascinated with the sea as a child, although his father (as legend has it) urged him to consider the sea only in his imagination.  He graduated with a baccalaureat at eighteen, receiving a grade of "Good Enough."  He was sent to study law in Paris, partly to separate him from a girl who eventually married another man.  He returned after his first year only to fall for another girl, whose family disapproved and married her to someone else.  He returned to Paris for his second year of studies a few months after the French Revolution and just a few days after the forming of the French Republic.  While in Paris this time, he visited many literary salons, became enthiused with the writings of Victor Hugo, and developed an urge to write plays.  He wrote a lot but also managed to complete his studies, graduating with a licence en droit in 1851.  During this time he began to experience severe stomach pains (many scholars believe to have been from colitis) and the first of several attacks of facial paralysis (believed to have been caused by a middle ear inflammation).  He was also required to enlist in the military, but did not serve because of a lottery system.  Vern was strongly anti-war, much to his father's chagrin.

Verne turned to writing rather than the law.  With his friend, Alexandre Dumas fils, Verne rewrote a  musical comedy that was produced by the Opera Nationale.  The following year he met an editor of a French magazine who hopes to include more educational articles and stories in his publication.  For hij, Verne wrote a historical adventure story in the manner of Fenimore Cooper.  Later that year the magazine published another short story, "A Voyage in a Balloon."  This was a hint of future novels by the fledgling writer.  Verne also gained a job with the Theatre Lyrique and wrote and p[roduced several musical compedies for them.  Verne continued to publish short stories, including "Master Zacharius" (1854) and "A Winter Amid the Ice" (1854), as well as a number of scientic articles.  Soon Verne began to toy with the idea of a new type of literary work, a "novel of science," which would include the type of reseach he loved to do with a dramatic story.  He discussed this with Alexandre Dumas pere, who encouraged him.  Eventually, that concept resulted in Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863).

Verne's first novel was published by Pierre-Jules Hetzel, who would also use the young author as a frequent contributor to a magazine he planned.  Most of Verne's novels, beginning with The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1864-5), were published in Hetzel's magazines before book publication.  Hetzel soon announced that Verne's future work would be published under an unbrella heading of Voyages Etraordinaire.  Verne produced two volumes a year of these Voyages, including Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

Verne finally married in 1857, to a young widow with two children.  His only biological son, Michel, was born in 1861.  Verne relationship with his son was strained while Michel was a young man.  He married an actress against his father's wishes, had a couple of children with an underaged mistress, and found himself heavily in debt.  Verne's relationship with his nephew Gaston was also strained:  in 1886 Gaston shot Verne in the leg with a pistol, giving the older man limp for the rest of his life.  (I haven't the faintest idea why Gaston attacked his uncle.)  Verne's relationship with his son improved; his nephew, however, spent the rest of his life in a mental ayslum.  Death did not stop Verne from publishing his novels at the rate of two a year.  It was later learned that Michel had extensively revised the original manuscripts (and perhaps wrote a few himself?).

Verne has a serious literary reputation outside of science fiction.  In fact, some scholars deny nthat he wrote science fiction at all.  Verne himself admitted tht he was more interested in the science and geography in his novels than anything else.  Proud of his meticulous research, Verne reportedly once dismissed a comparison with the English H. G. Wells by saying, "He invents."  From Verne this was a major insult.  Like it or not, Verne became solidly entrenched in science fiction (or scientifiction) as a serialization of his novel Off on a Comet (Hector Servadac) led the first issue of Amazing Stories, the first science fiction magazine; other stories reprinted in that issue were by H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe; the remaining stories in that April 1926 issue were two reprints from Gernsback's Science and Invention from 1923 and a reprint from Munsey Publishing's All-Story from 1919.)

A Trip to the Moon:  Georges Melies' classic 1902 short film came from a number of sources, including Jules Verne's A Trip to the Moon (1865) and Around the Moon (1870).  Another possible influence, particularly in the latter part of the film was H. G. Wells' First Men in the Moon.

Most of us have seen a few clips from the movie, but how many have viewed the entire fifteen minute film?

Master of the World:  Keeping with the Jules Verne theme, here's the Classics Illustrated comioc book of Verne's Master of the World:

And just for the heck of it, here's the 1961 movie based on that book, starring Vincent Price and Charles Bronson, and with a screenplay by the legendary Richard Matheson:

Snowy Baker:  While looking up information about Jules Verne I came across a name I was unfamiliar with -- Snowy Baker, the Australian athlete, promoter, and actor.  Baker, born Reginald Leslie Baker in 1884, was a versatile athlete and a member of Australasia's 1908 Olympic team, winning a Silver Medal in boxing.  (Australasia was a combined team of Australian and Zew Zealand athletes.)  He was known for his range of abilities, including swimming, diving, boxing, rugby, horsemanship, rowing, water polo, running, surfing, fencing, hockey, and cricket.  Baker played, and excelled in 26 sports, during his lifetime.  At 13 he was the New South Wales swimming champion in 100 and 200 meter catagory.  At 16, he was in the Australian Rugby Union, playing against Great Britain; he helped win two international rugby caps for Australia.  At 17, he was the middle weight boxing champion of New South Wales and, at 18, he was both the middleweight and heavyweight boxing champion of Australia.  At the 1908 Olympics in London, Baker was part of the swimming, diving, and boxing teams.    

Baker retired from professional sports following a motor vehicle accident and turns his sights to sports promotion in partnership with a somewhat shady character, Hugh D. "Huge Deal" McIntosh.  There, he brought many of the world's best boxers to Australia.  Baker helped start the careers of many prominent boxers, including Les Darcy.  Baker and Darcy had a falling out and Darcy stowed away on a boat heading to America.  When McIntosh tried to sign Darcy as his US agent, Darcy refused and McIntosh threatened to have him blackballed in America.  McIntosh made good on his threat.  Baker had publicly denounced Darcy over his war service and when Darcy died from a dental operaation, the Australian public turned on Baker.

While engaging in sports promotion, Baker also began acting in Australian silent films, which gave him a chance to display his horsemanship.  His films were popular and Baker became Australia's most popular movie actor and was "Australia's first action movie star."  The criicsm over the Darcy affair eventually led Baker to move to California where he acted in American films.  On his first American movie, Sleeping Acres (1921), a fan magazine reported that "The Australian possesses a magnetic scren personality.  His novel stunts, thrilling athletic feats, and superb horsemanship feature his american debut."  Baker had made five films in Australia and another nine in America.  In addition to being an entrepeneur, Baker worked as a stunt coach for a number of actors, coaching Douglas Fairbanks in horse riding and teaching Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino how to ride, fence, and swim.

Baker died in Los angeles at 69 from cerrebrovascular disease.

Florida Man:
  • You know that Matthew Leatham, 22, of New Port Richey, is a Florida Man because he has the outline of the state tatooed on his forehead.  Therefore, it was of no surprise that he has been arrested for calling 911 twice to request a ride.  When asked why he did not get a taxi, Leatham said he had no money.  Marijuana may have been involved.
  • An unamed Florida Man is in critical condition after being shot by an Orange County deputy during an exchange of gunfire.  Details are hazy, but evidently the man choked a woman, left the area, returned and set fire to her house.  He had left the scene before deputies arrived, but in true Florida Man tradition he returned once more and opened fire on the deputies.  The third time is supposed to be charm but it wasn't for him.
  • I have no idea how I missed this blast from the past.  In 2015, a Florida Man piloting a private plane "drew" a 20-mile long giant penis on radar.  Look for yourself, but be warned:  It is a giant you-know-what:
  • Florida Man Demetris Lewis tried to add a little spice to his bond hearing for attempted burglary by flirting with Broward County Judge Tabitha Blackmon.  It didn't work and the silver-tongued Lewis is being held on a $5000 bond.
  • 47-year-old Florida Man Guillermo Negron Roque was arrested for shining a laser into the cockpit of an airplane attempting to land at Orlando Executive Airport.  Because he is a Florida Man, the plane just had to be a police deprtment airplane.  Negron Rooque insisted that he did not mean to shime the laser into the cockpit.  But then, why did he do it twice?
  • In Collier County, Florida Man Christian Lee Hunter is accused of decapitating a hamster and leaving the body in a box by the side of the road.  The woman who found the body said that she had found five other boxes containing similarly mutilated small animals of the past year.  Hunter, who provided a false name on the pet store sales records when he bought the hamster, was arrested.  Perhaps he'll be sharing a cell with Florida Man Bryan Werner, 39, of Fort Myers.  Werner was arrested for setting an opossum on fire.  The opossum was still alive when deputies found it but, despite efforts from a local veterinarian, it died.
  • What is with Florida Men and animals?  At a Miami convenience store Florida Man Fernado Caignet Aguilera tried to exchange a live alligator for a 12-pack of beer.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservtion Commission spokeman Jorge Pino said, "I think that anyone who would conceive this scheme is not thinking properly."  

Good News:
  • Kenyan woman's startup recycles plastic waste into bricks that are five times stronger than concrete
  • World's first all-civilian mission to space will raise awareness for St. Jude Children's Reserch Hospital
  • Listen to a giant xylophone in a Japanese forest uses gravity to play ethereal Bach music
  • Chicago man goes around buying all of vendors' tamales during frigid weather to give them to the homeless

Today's Poem:
I Am

I Know not whence I came,
I know not whither I go;
But the fact stands clear that I am here
In this world of pleasure and woe.
And out of the mist and murk
Another truth shines plain --
It is my power each day and hour
To add to its joy or its pain.

-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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