Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


 Openers:  I always thought my father took a long chance, but somebody had to take it and certainly I was the one least likely to be suspected.  It was a wild country.  There were no banks.  We had to pay for the cattle, and somebody had to carry the money.  My father and my uncle were always being watched.  My father was right, I think.

"Abner," he said, "I'm going to send Martin.  No one would ever suspect that we would trust this money to a child."

My uncle drummed on the table and rapped his heels on the floor.  He was a bachelor, stern and silent.  But he could talk...and when he did, he began at the beginning and you heard him through; and what he said -- well, he stood behind it.

"To stop Martin," my father went on, "would be only to lose the  money; but to stop you would be to get somebody killed.

I knew what my father meant.  H meant  that no one would undertake to rob Abner until after he had shot him to death.

-- Melville Davisson Post, "The Angel of the Lord"

Uncle Abner is a core character in the history of the mystery short story.  The twenty-two short stories written about the character brought to life Western  Virginia before the Civil War and gave readers a unique detective:  a tall, strong, deeply religious man who saw himself as the tool of God's justice.  "Abner belonged to the church militant and his God was a war lord...the god of the Tishbite, who numbered his followers by the companies who drew the sword.  The land had need of men like Abner."

Although strong in his austere belief, Abner is portrayed as a sympathetic and somewhat likeable character.  His affection for his nephew Martin is evident.   Behind his rough exterior lies an intelligence that can sort out the most difficult of puzzles.  Post's stories about him are delightfully readable.  Abner is a character who can stand toe to toe with such literary detectives as Sherlock Holmes, Chesterton's Father Brown, Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey, And Christie's Poirot and Jane Marple; he's that good.

The author, Melville Davisson Post (1869-1930), trained as a lawyer but had to give up that profession because of ill health.  He had begun writing stories while in law school and eventually turning to writing as a full-time occupation.  Some of his earlier stories were about a lawyer named Mason who would explore legal loopholes to ensure that justice was done.  Sound familiar?  More than one person has suggested that Randolph Mason was a prototype for Erle Stanley Garner's Perry Mason.  Post also used real-life crimes and incidents in many of his stories; "indeed, they brought about some changes in the law," according to editor Marie Smith.

Post married in 1903 and was devoted to his wife.  After their only child, a son, died of typhoid at eighteen months, they they traveled extensively in Europe.  Later they bought and managed a stable of polo ponies.  His wife died of pneumonia in 1919, leaving him devastated and he spent the rest of his life in loneliness.  Post had built a home in Western Virginia, where he became devoted to horses.  He died from a fall from a horse in 1930.  He was 61.  His boyhood home "Templemoor," near Clarksburg in Harrison County, West Virginia, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Following Post's death, his estate asked writer John Suter to continue the Uncle Abner Series.  Suter wrote fifteen tales about the implacable Methodist.

"The Angel of the Lord" was the first Uncle Abner story, published in The Saturday Evening Post, June 3, 1911, under the title :The Broken Stirrup-Leather."  It, and many other Uncle Abner stories can be read online.


  • P . Curran, Stay Out of New Orleans:  Strange Stories.   A self-published collection of thirteen stories,  "A crass tour of feral streetlife in the 1990s.   A lucid walk through the shadows of North America's best and weirdest city, a place that bewitches some visitors and infects others.  A Bohemia stretching back to the dawn f absinthe.  A town of hidden doors and open secrets.  Each day a fresh crime waiting to happen, transcendent, fertile.  Death lurking in every bar.  No one knew it was a Golden Age.  See what the flood washed away."  This was a pig in a poke purchase since I know nothing of the author or the book.  Evidently the author's records were destroyed in 2005; he (she?) notes that some of the stories appeared in print magazines and cites examples from memory.  One appeared in Tribe in January 1996, but the author was never paid.  One story was sold to Grue, "but I think they suspended publication."  And "Either "Time from Texas" or "Cadiz & Cadizn't" first appeared in Skin 'N Bones around 1999."  Note that the book was published by Cadiz & Cadizn't.  I'm not too sure what to expect from this book.  Maybe disappointment
  • Lyndsay Faye, Dust and Shadow.  Sherlockian novel, "an account of the Ripper killings by Dr. John H. Watson."  "As England's greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying ,London's East End.  H jhires an 'unfortunate' known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper's earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. Watson.  When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt  to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective's role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent.  Stripped of his credibility, Holmes if left with no choice but to break every rule in his desperate race to find the madman known as 'the Knife' before it is too late."  How many stories/books pit Sherlock against Jack the Ripper?  Certainly not hundreds, but it sure feels like it.
  • Joyce Carol Oates, Haunted:  Tales of the Grotesque.  A collection of sixteen stories from the ever prolific Oates.  "Citation to Joyce Carol Oates upon receiving the Rea Award for the short story, given annually 'to honor a writer who has made a significant contribution to the short story as an art form':  'One of the magical, things about Joyce Carol Oates is her ability constantly to reinvent not only the psychological space she inhabits but herself as well, as part of her fiction.  She can operate, as a writer, out of a combination of bewilderment and immediate, intuitive understanding -- turning to fiction whatever impinges on her life, wherever she chooses to live  it.' "
  • Joshua Viola, editor, Nightmares Unhinged:  Twenty Tales of Terror.  "Nightmares come in many forms.  Some rend the veil of sleep with heart-stopping madness.  Others defy sanity to leave a helpless corner of your mind twitching for release.  Sometimes, hours after waking, a nightmare across your memory, tainting you day with wisps of discomfort.  Nightmares Unhinged reveals horror in all its mutable forms -- object to absurd -- through twenty tales of terror."  Authors include Steve Rasnic Tem, Stephen Graham Jones, Mario Acevedo, and Edward Bryant.  Signed and inscribed by one of the story authors, Dean Wyant.

I Watch So You Don't Have To:   Atlantic Rim (2013), featuring Graham Greene, Anthony "Treach" Criss, David Chokachi, & Jackie Moore; written by Richard Lima, Thunder Levin, & Hank Woon, Jr. ; directed by Jared Cohn.  Also known as From the Sea.

First off, this was a direct to video made to capitalize on the moderately successful kaiju  action thriller Pacific Rim, and was released just a few days after that film.  As are many direct to video films, this one is bad, bad, bad.  The acting is abysmal; the only actor of any real weight is Graham Greene and he just phoned it in.  The efforts of rapper Treach and former Baywatch pretty boy Chokachi are ludicrous.  Jackie Moore proves she is much better eye candy than actress.  (BTW, a romantic triangle between those three goes nowhere because the filmmakers forgot about it the moment it was introduced; Treach and Chokachi were well into their 40s when this was made and Moore was in her mid-20s.)  The plot is riddled with holes, the cinematography looks like a junior high school project, the CGI is cheap, the kaiju are laughable, there's certainly nothing special about the special effects, the editing is willy-nilly, the same edited clips of planes and boats are reused over and over, several recognizable extras are seen in various background roles (one is shown twice as an army guy, then as a policeman), and the director should have returned his paycheck.  If this were a comedy, some of this might be forgiven.  It's not a comedy -- just a cheap rip-off.

So why did I watch this turkey?  Well, it was filmed in Pensacola and there were many familiar landmarks, some of which were "destroyed" by bad special effects.  The film was originally to be shot at the Pensacola Naval Air Force base  but after a member of the top brass read the script he denied permission because of its junior high school treatment of the military.  So the scenes meant to be shot at the base were moved down the road to a helicopter facility in Perdito Bay.  This necessitated a lot of last minute changes that did not help the film -- as if anything could.

The lesson to be learned is that you may be better off not viewing a flick that was shot near your home.  It was fun seeing some familiar sights on my television screen, but the pain of it all just wasn't worth it.

Before this, I thought the worse thing tat happens to Pensacola in recent years was the destruction of the Pensacola Bay Bridge during Hurricane Sally.  I was wrong.

Speaking of Bad Things to Happen in Pensacola:  There was a doozy of a storm here Saturday morning.  Trees were knocked down,  Cars crashed.  A flying piece of metal impaled a house.  The roof of a downtown beer emporium collapsed.  Winds were at 90 miles an hour and we got at least six inches of rain in a couple of hours.  Tornadoes were reported in the area.  Luckily, injuries were very few and no deaths were reported, unlike areas to the west of us.  So this was a bad thing but not a bad thing.  My early morning sleep was rudely interrupted by a feeling that World War III had begun, though, which was also a bad thing.

The following day was bright and sunny and the whole tribe went out to celebrate Granddaughter Amy's birthday, first with lunch at a sushi restaurant (with fried cheesecake for dessert), and then a trip to the Gulf Breeze Zoo.  It's a small zoo, but well laid out and well organized.  The most popular exhibits for our group happened to be the most mundane -- a budgie cage that you entered to feed the budgies and they would come right over and sit on your hand or arm or shoulder or head was surprisingly peaceful, and areas where you handfeed goats and highland cattle -- We had a hard time getting my wife away from this exhibit because, well, goats, you know.  The more zoo-ish animals -- primates, tigers, lions, elephants, hippos, sloths, alligators, exotic birds, and so on were amazing to watch but, for some reason, the budgies, the goats and the highland cows stole our hearts.

Hound Dog:  The great Chicago blues guitarist and singer Hound Dog Taylor was born 106 years ago this past Monday in Natchez, moving to Chicago when he was twenty-seven.  A true polydactyl, Taylor was born with six fingers on each hand.  The extra fingers were small and unworkable, though; he reportedly severed the extra digit on his right hand with a straight razor -- and, yes, alcohol was involved.  Taylor was little-known outside the Chicago area, playing basically at small black clubs.  Bruce Iglauer was so impressed by Taylor's playing that he used his inheritance of $2500 to form Alligator Records to record Taylor's first album, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers.  Alligator Records went on to become a major blues label and Iglaur became Taylor's manager, booking him with such acts as Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.  His favorite instruments were cheap Japanese Teisco guitars.  His virtuosity and driving beats led one critic to call him "a spiritual and cultural miracle."

Taylor died at age 60 of cancer and was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984.

Here's a sample:

Something to Celebrate:  Yesterday (when this post was supposed to appear) was D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) Day, and also Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.  Both can be celebrated at the same time.

Today is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's -- get thee hence!  It's also National Peach Cobbler Day (Yum!).  Today is also Be Kind to Lawyers Day, although I'm not sure if I am on board with that. 

And, it's never too late.  Last Tuesday was National Sexual Assault Awareness Month's Day of Action.  Sponsored by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, this is a day to focus awareness on sexual violence prevention through social media campaigns, events, and more, as well as providing ways to support victims through the month and year.  More information at their website.  Apologies for not being aware of this sooner.

Money, Money, Money:  A copy of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world, has sold through an online auction for $3.25 million.  It was a private sale and the buyer's name was not released.  It is estimated that there exist about 100 copies of the rare comic book, in varying conditions.  The record-setting comic book that was auctioned is "one of the best-kept ones."

Although he's no Superman -- a point that might be argued by some fans -- Tom Brady's rookie football card just sold for $2.25 million, also through an online auction.  The record-breaking price towers over the previous record holder, also a Tom Brady rookie football card that went for $1.32 million last  month.

Also joining the big bucks club, in a less spectacular way, is Sophia, a robot created by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics.  Sophia's artwork, "Sophia's Installation," just sold for $688,888; the piece was sold as a NFT, or non-fungible token.  (Don't ask me to explain NFTs because I can't.  Like Lethal Weapon's Danny Glover, I'm too old to for this s**t.)  Sophia is now reportedly contemplating a music career.  It/she is also the world's first robot citizen, having been granted a Saudi Arabian citizenship in 2017.

Like Clockwork:  I just found this interesting:  A 2009 auction catalog for Renaissance Clocks.  The workmanship and the detail are amazing.  Truly pieces of art.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Branden Dion Pearson, 27, has been arrested after beating and stabbing a ,man begging for food outside a KFC restaurant in Broward County.  The man approached Pearson and an argument started which soon escalated into punching and rock throwing, at which point Pearson stabbed the man in the head.  Pearson then entered the restaurant, sat down, and waited for police.  Bail has been set at $50,000.
  • There's a reason why motorcycles do not have child safety seats, as Florida Man Dontrell Stanley found out when he ran a stop sign in Tampa, swerved to avoid an oncoming car, and crashed his motorcycle -- all while carrying a 17-month child on his lap.  The child, a girl, was thrown from the bike and landed under the car, suffering serious injuries.  Stanley, who was the child's stepfather, received minor injuries and an arrest for child neglect and operating a  motorcycle without a license.
  • Tough Florida Woman Tillie Tooter, of Pembroke Pines, was 83-years-old when she was run off the road on Interstate 595 back in April 2000.  Her car went over the retaining wall and fell over 50 feet into mangroves and muck.  and there she stayed for three days before being found, surviving only on rain water, a cough drop, and cussed determination.  22-year-old Scott Campbell was eventually arrested for rear-ending Tillie's car and pushing it over the retaining wall.  Campbell was placed on five years probation and ordered to pay Tillie's medical bills in exchange for pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident; charges of filing a false police report and culpable negligence were evidently dropped with the plea deal.  A witness seeing Tillie's car going over the wall reported the incident to the Florida Highway Patrol, which failed to send an officer to investigate.  Another witness reported the incident to Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue.  Campbell's lawyers claimed that the young man fell asleep at the wheel and thought he might have the concrete abutment; Campbell himself stated that he wanted to apologize directly to Tilly but that his lawyers prevented him from doing so.  Tilly eventually forgave Campbell and said she hoped he would make a good life for himself.  Being made of stern stuff, Tillie Tooter lived for another fifteen years, dying in 2015, aged 98.

Good News:
  • New brain cancer immunotherapy shows promise in clinical trails -- most patients show no tumor growth in three years
  • Nearly-retired couples adopts seven siblings who had just lost their parents
  • Cancer-surviving girl scout sells 32,000 boxes of cookies, with the proceeds going to sick kids
  • Dick Van Dyke hands out money to struggling people standing in line for jobs
  • Scientists find evidence that there may be "fifth force" in nature, something that would turn physics on its head.  This force, if it exists, will be one of the most important scientific discoveries of our time.
  • Boy hero saves sister from choking after watching John Cena
  • Air pollution and attributable deaths drop significantly in California

Today's Poem:
A Receipt for Writing a Novel

Would you a fav'rite novel make,
Try hard your reader's heart to break,
For who is pleas'd. if not tormented?
(Novels for that were first invented).
'Gainst nature, reason, sense, combine
To carry on your bold design,
All those ingredients I shall mention,
Compounded by your own invention,
I'm sure will answer my intention.
Of love take first a due proportion --
It serves to keep the heart in motion:
Of jealousy a powerful zest,
Of all fomenting passions best;
Of horror mix a copious share,
And duels you must never spare;
Hysteric fits at least a score.
Or, if you find occasion, more;
But fainting fits you need not measure,
The fair ones have them at their pleasure;
Of sighs and groans take no account,
But throw them in to vast amount;
A frantic fever you may add,
Most authors make their lovers mad;
Rack well your hero's nerves and heart,
And let your heroine take her part;
Her fine blue eyes were made to weep,
Nor should she ever taste of sleep;
Ply her with terrors day and night,
And keep her always in a fright,
But in a carriage when you get her,
Be sure you fairly overset her;
If she will break her bones -- why let her;
Again, if e'er she walks abroad.
Of course you bring some wicked lord,
Who with three ruffians snaps his prey.
And to a castle speed away;
There close confin'd in haunted tower,
You leave your captive in his power;
Till dead with horror and dismay,
She scales the walls and flies away.

  Now you contrive the lovers meeting,
To set you reader's heart a beating,
But ere they've had a moments leisure,
Be sure to interrupt their pleasure;
Provide yourself with fresh alarms
To tar 'em from each other's arms;
No matter by what fate they're parted,
So that you keep them broken-hearted.

  A cruel father some prepare
To drag her by her flaxen hair;
Some raise a storm, and some a ghost,
Take either, which may please you most.
But this you must with care observe,
That when you've wound up every nerve
With expectations, jhope and fear,
Hero and Heroine must disappear.
Some fill one book, some two without 'em,
And ne'er concern their heads about 'em,
This greatly rests the writer's brain,
For any story, tht gives pain,
You now throw in -- no matter what,
However foreign to the plot,
So it but serves to swell the book,
You foist it in with desperate hook --
A masquerade, a murder'd peer,
His throat just cut from ear to ear --
A rake turned hermit -- a fond maid
Run mad by some false loon betray'd --
These stores supply the female pen,
Which writes them o'er and o'er again, 
And readers likewise may be found
To circulate them round and round.

  Now at your fable's close devise
Some grand event to give surprise --
Suppose you hero knows no mother --
Suppose he proves the heroine's brother --
This at one stroke dissolves each tie,
Far as from est to west they fly;
At length when every woe's expended,
Clean the mistake, and introduce
Some tatt'ling nurse to cut the noose,
The spell is broke -- again they meet
Expiring at each other's feet;
Their friends lie breathless on the floor --
You drop your pen; you can do no more --
And eer your reader can recover,
They're married -- and your history's over.

--Mary Alcock (1799)

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