Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, May 30, 2021


 Jim Nabors.


Where there's a ,lion, there's a cage.  And where there's a cage, there's Charlie Chaplin stuck inside.  With the lion...


Saturday, May 29, 2021


 "The Peruvian Songbird" Yma Sumac (1922-2008) had a four and a half octave range, "but is in no way outlandish or inhuman in sound."  She was also able to sing in a "double voice."

Needless to say, she was an acquired taste -- perhaps not mine.  How about you?


 Captain Hugh 'Bulldog" Drummong came out of World War I with a thirst for adventure.  Drummond was the hero of twelve best-selling thrillers (1920-1937) written by H. C. MacNeille under the pen name "Sapper;" after MacNeiile's death, his friend Gerard Fairlie (who dubiously claimed that Drummond was based in part on him) continued the series for another seven novels (1838-1957).  Drummond is a British gentleman, independently wealthy, an accomplished athlete, "physically and morally intrepid," and blessed with common sense. ( For the record, he is also a bigot who brings bogotry to astounding levels, even for 1920s England.)  Drummond is aided in his adventures by the "gang" -- Algy Longworth, Peter Darrell, Ted Jerningham, and Toby Sinclair...all willing to give their all min Drummond's quest for adventure.

Bulldog Drummond Again -- The Final Count is an adaptation of the fourth Drummond book, The Final Count (1926), which ends Drummond's battle with his nemesis, the master criminal Carl Peterson, who was the villain in the previous books.  I don't know who did the adapttion, but it set the fast-moving tone of the novel.  The artwork as by Reg Bunn.

The story is narrated by John Stockton, who happens to live in the flat below that of "that genial giant," Captain Hugh Drummonod, C.S.O., M.C., late of the Royal Loamshire Regiment.  Stockton knows little of Drummond and even less of his devil-my-care gang of fellow advenutrers

Stockton receives a disturbing call from his good friend, Robin Gaunt, that has left Stocken shaken and disturbed.  Noticing Stockton's condition, Drummond helps him into a cab and goes along with him to Gaunt's home.  Gaunt, it appears, is an inventor and he has invented a terrible weapon of mass destruction that, in the wrong hands, could kill every living being on the planet.  (This is where a rational reader would ask, Why?  But don't forget that these characters are British, so that's all right, then.)  Arriving at Gaunt's flat, they find it trashed and Gaunt missing.  The police soon arrive at the scene and, unde the rubble, discover the corpse of Gaunt's dog.  An officer goes to move the dog's carcass and, upon touching the body, screams and dies a horrible death.  Drummond realizes that this must be the work of Gaunt's weapon of death.

So begins a trail that eventually leads to Drummond's nemesis and the (finally!) death of Carl Peterson.  [But fear not, Peterson's equally villainous widow Irma hangs around for a few more books and Peterson himself is revived in the last Bulldog Drummond book by MacNeille.]

If you're in the mood for a thrill ride where the characters call each other "old bean" and "old horse," this comic book is screaming for your attention.


Friday, May 28, 2021

Thursday, May 27, 2021


 The Saint's Choice of Hollywood Crime, edited by Leslie Charteris (1946)

In 1945 and 1946, seven paperback digest anthologies were issued as "The Saint's Choice" series.  All were purported edited by Leslie Charteris, the creator of the popular Simon Templar, a.k.a. The Saint.  These were fairly thin volumes (128 pages) issued by Saint Enterprises, Inc. under the Bonded/Chartered imprints.  The penultimate in the series was The Saint's Choice of Hollywiod Crime and contained five short story reprints:

  • "Murder for Christmas" by "Anthony Boucher" (William Anthony Parker White)  (first appeared in Ellery Queen's Mysery Magazine, January 1943)  A "story within a story"concerning a jewel robbery, a Hollywood party, Mickey Mouse, and the German language.  A rather clever and unusual tale one would expect from Boucher.
  • "Funny Man" by Frank Gruber (first appeared in Black Mask, May 1939)  Featuring Gruber's character Oliver Quade, the "Human Encyclopedia" and his fuirst experience in Hollywood.  While quade is giving his spiel outside a Hollywood studio, An executive hears him and decides that qualye's was the perfect man to voice the cartoon character Desmond Dogg.  Almost immediately Quade stumles upon the murdered corpse of another studio executive.  Soon Quade finds hmself embroiled with a beautiful actress, an ex-con, a lawsuit, a blackmail plot, and "the world's greatest detective."
  • "The Phanton Bullet" by Robert Leslie Bellem (from Hollywood Detective, December 1945, as "The Book of the Phantom Bullet")  One of a zillion and one cases (actually, by my count , 357 [!] stories) for Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, who began life in the second issue of Spicy Detective Stories (June 1934) ("Where no story went by without some pretext for reducing the leading lady's costume to a set of uniformly wispy underthings.")  and continued in his own self-titled magazine through October 1950.  The Turner stories are filled with innocuous and implied sex and are ladened with tortured jargon -- a combination  that made them irresistable to many male readers of the time. In addition to the Dan Turner stories, the prolific Bellem also wrote under 49 (!) pseudonymns, as well as additional stories under his own name.  In "The Phantom Bullet," Turner happens to be on set when an actor is killed during a stunt.  It appears that the killer could only be one of two people, but appearances don't neccesarily mean a thing to Dan Turner.
  • "I Want to Be Like Gable" by Steve Fisher (from Detective Fiction Weekly, October 26, 1938)  Todd and Mabel are trying to make it in Hollywood.  Todd knows he's better than Clark Gable, and Mabel...well, Mabel's one in a million, like Sonja Henie. the Walter Linstrom took advantage of Mabel, just as he had done for a hundred other pretty girls...
  • "Saint in Hollywood" by Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin of Chinese-English parentage; he legally changed his name in 1926, selecting his surname from a telephone directory) (according to the copyright acknowlegement in this volume, the story comes from The Saint Goes West [1942], and Charteris states in his introduction to the story that it was written sometime in 1941.   The FictionMags Index, however, lists the story as appearing first in The American Magazine, October 1936.  Go figure.)  While in Hollywood, Simon Templar is contacted by Bryon Ufferlitz, a hot-shot producer and retired racketeer who wants to feature "the Robin Hood of Crime" in a motion picture.  The "epic," according to one of the screenwriters, will be "Art with a capitol F," and will be directed by the imperious Jack Groom.  Simon's leading lady will be the lovely April Quest.  But it not long before Ufferwitz is murdered and Simon wonders if April is involved.  But there are plenty of other suspects.  Simoon has to unravel the case, all the while amusing himself with the quirks and peculiarities of the Hollywood scene.
An interesting anthology.  Not ground-breaking by any means, but a relaxing way to spend an evening.  Sadly, copies of this particular anthology can run in the $40 to $85 range.

For those interested, here's the seven volumes of The Saint's Choice...
  •  #1  The Saint's Choice of British Crime (1945)
  •  #2  The Saint's Choice of American Detectives (1945)
  •  #3  The Saint's Choice of True Crime Stories (1945)
  •  #4  The Saint's Choice of Humorous Crime (1945)
  •  #5  The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime (1945)
  •  #6  The Saint's Choice of Holywood Crime (1946)
  •  #7  The Saint's Choice of Radio Thrillers (1946)
I mentioned above that these anthologies were purportedly edited by Leslie Charteris.  At least one, The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime, was ghost-edited by Oscar J. Friend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021


 Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins (1913-2011) was an influential blues pianist.  He started out as a guitar player and was playing at bars, juke jonts, and rooster fights shortly after he had left home at 18.  In the Forties, a knife-wielding chorus girl in Helena, Arkansas, severed several tendons in his left arm, ending that career.  Perkins switched to piano, an instrument he had learned when he was twelve or thirteen.  Perkins played for Robert Nighthawk on Nighthawk's radio program for KFFA, then moved to Sonny Boy Williamson's King Biscuit Time.  While there, he taught a young Ike Turner how to play piano.  Turner went on to record "Rockett 88," a song many consider to be the first rock and roll record, using a riff that Perkins had taught him.  "That means Pinetop would be at the birth of rock and roll," Turner has said.

In 1969 Perkins was tapped by Muddy Waters to replace the late Otis Spann in Waters' band. Perkins became a cornerstone of the band nd often recorded with Waters.  He and several other musicians left Waters in 1988 to play as the Legendary Blues Band.  

After years of serving as a sideman for both live shows and recordings, Perkins began a solo career in 1988.  He has been honored with 16 (!) W. C. Handy Awards (the "blies Grammy") for piano, was inducted into the Blue Hall of Fame, received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National endowment from the Arts, and recieved a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as well as two other Grammies.  The Pinetop Perkins Foundation offers annual workshops for young musicians interested in the blues and jazz.  The Pinetop Assistance League provides supprt for elderly, impoverished musicians.

The blues can be a way of surviving life's many hardships.  For Perkins that included a childhood of poverty and abuse. a lack of education (he never learned to read or write), being partially deaf from the 1950's. severe bouts with alcoholism and depression after his common-law wife died, losing his home when a stepson reneged on a mortgage (his stepsons "would steal sweetener out of ginger snaps and wouldn't break the crust"), being forced to move to worse and worse neighborhoods, and being struck by a train while driving a car at age 91, breaking his right arm and receiving 45 stitches but was back to performing two weeks later.

Perkins died in his sleep on March 21, 2011, at age 97.  At the time of his death he had more than 20 performances booked for later that year.  His death left David "Honeyboy" Edwards as the last of the original Delta blues musicians; Edwards died later that year on Ausust 29.  And so an era ended.

Here's "Pinetop's BoogieWoogie" -- the full album with 12 tracks:

And "Born in the Delta" -- with 8 tracks

And "Solitaire" -- 14 tracks


 "Flaxman Low" is the first psychic detective in fiction, appearing at first in a series of stories published in Pearson's Magazine from January 1898 to June 1899.  The stories were written by the mother-son team of Kate Prichard and Hesketh Herketh-Heron writing under the pseudonym "E. and H. Heron."  The stories were collected as Ghosts:  Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low in 1899. 

"The Shining Man" is an adaptation by Ian Martin of the story "The Story of Konnor Old House" (Pearson's Magazine, April 1899).  It first aired on March 15, 1977.

A young couple purchase a hauntd house in Scotland where he is to take a new job.  The man's uncle happened to be Flxman Low, one of the leading scientists of the Victorian Era and an expert in the occult.  Low tries to help the couple solve the mystery of a glowing figure in the windows at night.

Featuring  Ralph Bell, Morgan Fairchild, Robert Kaliban, and Ian Martin.  As usual, E, G. Marshall serves as your host.



 From 1927, The Memphis Jug Band.


 I was startled when the janitor jumped out of the closet and yelled, "Suppllies!"

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


 "The Drums of Kairwan" by The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (exerpted from Tales of Travel, 1923; reprinted in Twenty and Three Stories by Twenty and Three Authors, edited by Ernest Rhys and Catherine Amy Dawson-Scott, 1924)

Not really a short story but a purported description of a religious rite viewed by the author in a mosque in what is now Northest Tunisia.  It is not stated in this exerpt, but I believe the mosque is The Great Mosque -- a major destination for Islamic pilgrims (seven trips here equals on hadj to Mecca); the author dates the mosque back to Roman Empire times, but The Grand Mosque was erected several centuries later.  Whether the author was faithful in his recounting of his experience, or whether it was viewed through a biased Westerner's eyes, I can't say.

George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 -1925) was the 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and had a string of official honors (KG, GCSI, GCIE, PC, FBA) attached to his name.  He was a ;prominent Conservative statesman in England, serving as Viceroy of India (1899-1905), Leader of the House of Lords during World War I, and Foreign Secretary from 1919-1924.  Curzon was once expected to become Prime Minister but was thwarted by a few Conservatives and the post went to Stanley Baldwin.

Anyway, he enters the mosque, where there are ten or twelve muscians seated cross-legged in a circle in the center of the floor, with the chief or sheik (Curzon uses both words) on a stool at the head of the circle.  The only instruments used are an earthen drum and several tambours. There is a group of singers (or chorus) taking up the rest of the orchestra.  There are about a hundred men (no wlmen allowed) seated motionless on the main floor.  Throughout the tale, Curzon calls the rite a "play" and the participants "actors."  This indicates his (and, in general, the British) condescending approach to Islam, as well as to the native population.

The drums begin "droning" and the singers begin "a plaintive and quavering wail...always pitiful, peircing and inexpressively sad."  The singers began rocking to and fro.  More people entered the mosque and the building was full.  Four or five Arabs by the front of the building "began a lurching, swaying motion," which soon progressed to "keeping time with the music in convulsive jerks and  leaps and undulations."  One by one the spectators joined in until at least forty human figures were rocking back and forth in "grim and ungraceful unison;" those who remained seated were also rocking back and forth, with one child who "swung his little head this way and that with a fury that threatened to separate it from his body."

The frenzy increased.  These writhing and contorted objects were no longer human beings, but savage animals, caged beasts howling madlyin the delirium of hunger or of pain.  they growled like bears, they barked like jackals, roared like lions, they laughed like hyeanas, and ever and anon from the seething rank there rose a diabollic shriek, like the scream of a dying horse, or the yell of a tortured fiend."

One man, stripped to the waist, was given a sword by the shiek and commenced to slash himself savagely across his stomach.  Welts appeared, but no blood.  Soon others began "some novel and  horrible rite of self-mutilation.  One man began to shove a sharply pointed stick into his body; another cam up to him with a mallet and drove the stick until it protruded from his rear shoulder.  Another was given a plate of huge broken pieces of glass, wich others shoved down his throat.  A boyu swallowed a snake.  Several chomped down hard on prickly pear leaves, whose thorns pierced their tongues and cheeks as they swallowed them.  For more than an hour this horror continued without relief.  At this ;point, Curzon was told that the mokaddam (or head man) wished him to leave.

"Perhaps yet further and more revolting orgies were celebrated after I left," including the sawllowing of of live coals and the entire group of worshippers descending an a live sheep and rending it pieces and devoured raw by "these unatural banqueters."


Methinks Curzon misinterpreted/imagined/fabricated much of which he saw, much of which seemed to be statements of faith -- just a different faith than good old Church of England.  I wonder what he would have thought of the snake handling religions of the Appalachians or other seemingly extreme faiths?

"The Drums of Kairwan" is a short but telling piece, only a few pages long.  It's an intersting read if only for its biased view common at the turn of the last century.  

Twenty and Three Stories by Twenty and Three Authors is available to read online.  Also included in the anthology are stories by Edith Wharton, Thomas Burke, Robert Hichens, W. B. Yeats, Lemuel De Bra, Elinor Mordaunt, A. W. Mason, Cutliffe Hyne, Edwin Pugh, R. Ellis Roberts, John Masefield, Louis Golding, Arthur Lynch, A. Conan Doyle,  Algernon Blackwoord, Ward Muir, Morley Roberts, H De Vere Stackpoole, T. F. Powys, W. W. Jacobs, Walter de la Mare, and W. Somerset Maugham -- a volume worth reading in full.  Curzon's Tales of Travel is also available to read online and includes the full chapter "The Drums of Kiwan," rather than just the exerpt.

Monday, May 24, 2021


 A quiz.  Actually, a pretty easy one.  You should be able to score an A-, or at least a B+.


Here's a little-seen film by written, produced, and directed by schlock master Ed Wood, Jr.

Following the final performance of a vampire play, The Actor (Duke Moore, Plan Nine from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls, The Sinister Urge) wanders through the dark theater.  At the same time a mannikin that had been used as the vampire in the play comes to life as Thr Vampire (Jeannie Stevens, her only other credit was Night of the Ghouls), who then walks through the theater and beckons to The Actor.  Dudley Manlove (Plan Nine for Outer Space, The Creation of the Humanoids, the voice of Lux Soap on the radio) narrates this short film.

No angora sweaters were harmed in the filming of this short.

Enjoy.  I guess.


 The Mamas & The Papas.


 Openers:  Zip Connors, waiting in the suicide corner, slipped the hip into his defense man so casually that even the ref didn't notice it; then turned and streaked toward the basket as Lefty Craig's pass looped high and hard over the opposing guard's head.  He wheeled swiftly to loop the leather over the rim for the final two-pointer of a lop-sided score as the whistle signaled the end of the game.

A host of vices roared hollowed approval as the red-and-blue-jerseyed players jogged off the court.  Behnd him a voice snarled into Zip's ear.

"You got away with it tonight, Connors.  But wait till the next time we meet!"

Zip grinned lazily.

"Yeah -- wait." he drawled.  "You'll have grown gray whiskers, sorehead."

The angry guard muttered something and disappeared as the two teams headed for their separate dressing rooms.  In the steamy warmth of their own showers, the Buffs were jubilant.

"This makes us tops in the league," crowed smiling Jim Brady, "and it puts you individual top-scorer, kid.  But you deserve it.  You played a bang-up game."

-- "Hoop Hokum" by Nelson S. Bond (from Ace Sports Monthly, January 1938)

Yeah, Zip doesn't play fair.  During his two years in the City League with the Middleburgh Buffs, coach Red Harper has taught him that winning is everything and that there is nothing wrong with injuring an opponent, espcially if you can get away with it.  But now Zip is headed off to play college ball for State U., which has different rules and some sort of crazy idea about "sportsmanship."  Harper tells Zip not to fall for that "hokum."  Just pretend to agree with it but make your own rules if it allows you to win.  Zip really believes that his future is in basketball and that winning is everything.  He is surprised to learn that none of his teammates feel the same way.  Zip takes out a couple of players during a scrimmage in a way that his coach cannot be sure if it was deliberate.

Then he meets Lee Janssen, the beautiful daughter of Swede Janssen, the sports editor of the Middleburgh Enterprise.  During Zip's two years with the Buffs, Swede had criticized Zip's tough, win however you can, vicious style of playing.  Zip is afraid that Lee's father will turn her against him, but both Zip and Lee feel a strong attaction to each other.  Zip menwhile is beginning to understand the benefits of teamwork and is bonding with his teammates.  He tries to hold off on his dirty tricks until he might really need them and soon discovers the joy of playing fair.  He is enjoying being a true sportsman, realizing that he can do just as well on the court without resorting to foul play.  Then, during a crucial game, an opponent gets to close as Zip is spinning around and Zip accidently injures him and the opponent is taken out of the game.  Zip's reputation goes against him and he is cut from the team.  He sulks, refuses to see Lee, and finally packs up his basketball gear and heads back to the Middleburgh Buffs, which is now about to go pro.  If Zip plays in the pro game, he loses any chance of ever playng college ball again.

Knowing that Lee still loves Zip, her father investigates and discovers that the foul was strictly an accident.  Zip's college coach realizes that he made a mistake in kicking Zip off the team, and Swede Janssen and Zip's roomate rush to try to stop Zip from playing the Buffs game.

In an age where there was a pulp fiction magazine for just about any type of interset, sports pulps were extremely popular.  Many of the stories published were simple morallity tales such a "Hoops Hokum."  In the 30s and 40s Nelson S. Bond (1908-2006), much better known later for his science fiction and fantasy stories, was a regular contributor to these magazines, having stories in at least two dozen of these magazines :  Ace Sports, Ace Sports Monthly, All-American Football Magazine, Baseball Stories, Best Sports, Blue Ribbon Sports, Bulls-Eye Sports, Champion Sports Magazine, Complete Sports, Dime Sport, Fight Stories, Five Sports Classics Magazine, Football Action, Football Stories, Popular Sports, Real Sports, Sports Action, Sports Fiction, Sports Winners, Ten Story Sports, Thrilling Football, Thrilling Football Stories, Thrilling Sports, and 12 Sports Aces.  The general fiction pulps also included sports stories in their mix, but I haven't bothered to check how many carried sports stories by Bond.

With the advent of television, pulps in general lost favor and the sports pulps were no exception.  Mystery, science fiction, and fantasy pulps morphed into today's fiction magazines while pulps specializing in sports, romance, sea stories, air adventures, G-men, pirates, war stories, historical romances, oriental tales, northern adventures, jungle tales, zeppelins, and Lord know what else have fallen into the dust heap of tattered and faded pages.  The tales from the sports magazines are rarely reprinted and one has to go back to the original magazines (now pretty rare) or to online scans of those magazines to get a feel for their contents.  (I read this story from a scan at Luminist Achives, for example.)

"Hoop Hokum" is the only sports story by Nelson S. Bond I have read.  I think it may be typical of the genre, but I can't truly say so.  I am a big fan of Bond's science fiction work, though.  He has written several acknowledged classic stories and his tales about the Lobblies, Lancelot Biggs, Horse-Sense Hank, Squaredeal Sam McGhee, Pat Pending, and Meg the Priestess are all worth checking out.  Bond started in public relations, soon  becoming public relations field director for the province of Nova Scotia. His first fiction sales were for sports stories, but he soon expanded to science fiction.  He also wrote for radio and television.  In 1998 he was named a Nebula Author Emiratus for his lifetime work.

I hope to find and read more of Nelson Bond, sports pulpster, in the future.


  • Hilda Lawrence, The House.  Suspense novel.  "When lovely young Isabel Ford returned to the parental mansion she had never known, her father made an odd request.  He made her promise to live in the house for at least a year if anything happened to him.  She agreed.  But when, a few days later, he drove his car over a cliff, she found herself alone in a house haunted by mysterious terrors and stalked by her father's brooding mastiff.  And suddenly she realized that the house was never going to let her go -- for she had committed herself to a promise of death..."  [Okay.  How does one "return" to a place one has "never known"?  This is either a prety neat trick or lazy blurb writing.  Guess which one I'm betting on.]   This first appeared as part of the two-story collection Duet of Death (1949) as "The Bleeding House."  (The other story in the book was Death Has Four Hands, which may have been a retitling, or expansion, of Lawrence's "Composition for Four Hands," a novella from Good Housekeeping, May 1947.  Death Has Four Hands and Th,e Bleeding House were both released as a separate titles in 1950, and The Bleeding House was retitled as The House in 1971 as part of the Avon Classic Crime Collection)  
  • "Edwina Noone" (Michael Avallone), Dark Cypress.  Gothic paperback.  "It was a prominent teaching position that brought pretty young Stella Owens to magnificent Hawk House.  But her charge, Todd Hwk, was a strange and frightened child, obsessed with guilt for his brother Oliver's death.  Todd's handsome, tormented father, Arthur Hawk had banished all trace of Oliver from his home -- but someone in the household was dedicated to keeping the boy's memory alive.  Swept up by emotions she could not control, Stella fought desperately to solve the mystery behind Oliver's death -- only to find herself an unwanted intruder, prey to the evil that haunted Hawk House..."  Avallone was a prolific writer, best known for his Ed Noon private detective series (hence this pseudonym).  His writing was fast...and unusual.  He committed many crimes aginst literature and his wacky prose may have only been equalled by Harry Stephen Keeler.  Avo had many fans and his books can be both entertaining and painful (in the most complimentary way.)
  • Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, The Abominable Man.  Mystery novel, translated from the Swedish Ven verdervardige mannen fran sapple by Thomas Teal, the seventh in the Martin Beck series.  "A city in terror!  A lone madmannis on the loose...A demented and deadly rifleman driven to revenge against an entire police force...and rogue cop Martin Beck takes the first drastic step to shocking disaster!"  A classic.

Passages:  It's been a rough few weeks here, death-wise.

When Jessie's husband Michael died of a sudden heart attack fifteen years ago, the girls were just seven and eight.  That evening all three moved in with us as Jessie began to sort out what was next for her and the girls.  To help ease the pain,  two ten-week-old pug pupppies were added to the household a couple of months later.  The boys were named Mace and Anvil, although Mace's name soon was changed to Mr. Beefy.  They were active, sweet, and loving -- just what we all needed at the time.  They were great companions but they were also dumb as a box of rocks.  We all loved them.  Heck, everybody did.  When Jessie and the girls moved out to be on their own a few years later, the pugs went with them.  Fast forward to last year.  The boys were getting old.  Mr. Beefy was blind and getting senile.  One weekend we were taking care of the pugs while Jessie and the girls were off and Beefy took a turn for the worse.  A few days later they realized it was time to put him to sleep.  It ws a painful, but kind and necessary step.  We were all concerned how Anvil would act once his brother was gone because they had been together their entire lives.  But Anvil himself was getting old and somewhat senile.  Over the past year, Anvil remained a happy, affectionate dog even though his health went downhill.  He, too, was blind, and became deaf and incontinent, and there were a few seizures that he recovered from.  As long as he remained happy and out of pain, the girls decided to keep him as long as possible.  Recently, though, he began to lose weight drastically (and shockingly).  This past week he had some sort of stroke that affected his rear legs.  He recovered but with his right rear leg apt to give out on him at any time.  This weekend, we were set to take care of him while the girls were away for the weekend.  By now, Anvil was skeletal and they knew something had to be done.  They were going to make a final decision over the weekend.  They texted us Friday evening that they had decided to put him down after they came back.  By then Anvil was also dehydrated and refused to drink, although he still had a healthy appetite.   Knowing how painful that would be for them, we volunteered to take him to the vet.  Jessie told us that the county animal shelter was open on Saturday and that they would be able to euthanize Anvil.  We said okay.  So Saturday we went down to the animal shelter and were told they they only euthnize animals by appointment and that they were booked up for that day.  (I'm not too sure if that was the case because there was no one on site to do euthanizing.)   They might be able to fit us in on Monday.   They suggested we go to a vet if we could find one open on a Saturday.  Of course a vet would have to give the dog an exam before they put him down.  So anyway, we ended up with a printed list of about two dozen vets in the area and we began to call them.  We went through half a dozen names before we found one that was open and willing to euthanize the dog.  So off we went.  Vets in this area (and possibly everywhere) specializ in taking care of the pet owners more than they do the animal in such cases.  Only one person was allowed in with the dog during the initial exam, so Kitty went in with Anvil.  That took over an hour.  Everyone at the clinic was nice and sympathetic and trained to help the pet owners cope with the thought of losing their animal.  Anyway, soon I was called in.  They told us that they were going to sedate Anvil and we could spend some time with him and once he was unconscious they would take him out to be euthanized.  Kitty cuddled Anvil close to her while we both stroked him.  Finally he was asleep and they came and got him.  Amy had asked to have the vet take a paw print for her, which is something every vet does.  Well, every vet except this one.  We were told that if we wanted a paw priunt, we would have to return on Monday and claim the body, then take it to a crematorium where they would take the paw print before cremation.  We passed on that.

So the weekend was spent shadowed by the passing of a sweet and loving animal who had been a large part of all our lives for so long.  For our granddaughters, Amy and Ceili, he had been with them since they were in elementary school.  It is amazing how an animal can wriggle its way into your heart and make your life all the more wonderful.  Rest in peace, Anvil.  You were a good puppy.

Earlier in the week, we had learned that Kitty's Aunt Charlotte Keane had passed away.  She was the wife of Kitty's youngest uncle, Donald, who had died this past October at age 94.  I can't remember charlotte's age but she was in her early nineties.  She and Don were married in 1947 and spent their entire married life in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho raising six kids.  We would see Charlotte and Don whenever they made a trip back east.  Charlotte was nothing less than a delight -- always friendly, always caring, always concerned, and always bright and happy.  When our granddaughter Erin was in the second grade, her class read some of the "Flat Stanley" books and each had to make a "flat" version of themselves.  "Flat Erin" made the trip to Idaho and Charlotte and Don took the cardboard cutout to all the popular places in Coeur d'Alene and photgraphed Flat Erin show she could show her classmates; they then sent Flat Erin to one of their daughters to do the same where she lived.  Flat Erin traveled further than any of Erin's "Flat" classmates.  This was just one of the many things they did out of love and kindness.  Don was a great knitter and all of grand-nephews and nieces received beautiful handmade blankets; we adults also received bigger versions, all lovingly made.  Up until a few year ago they lived in their family home, where Don would plow out the neighborhood and Charlotte would bake something delicious.  When it came time to move into assisted living, their kids would take turns coming home to ehlp them with their shopping and errands.  Charlotte was active in her local church and in  the community.  She had the best laugh.  She would write lengthy letters to Kitty and to Kitty's cousn Ellen and to her niece Dawn.  We always enjoyed hearing about her and her family.  She lived a long and fruitful life and, with her passing, an entire generation of Keanes and Tanners (her maiden name) are now gone.  It's sad to think that their generation is gone, but time and generations pass.  We count ourselves lucky that we were able to spend some time on Earth with such a remarkable lady.

Another family death hit us hard this month.  Colman Burns-Takki, the youngest son of Kitty's cousin Lyn died unexpectedly on April 29 at the age of thirty-two, but we did not hear about it until several days later.  Evidently he was fine and healthy one day, then contracted some sort of viscious infection and passed away several days later in the hospital.  We had only met him several times due to the constraints of distance and time, but he seemed like a happy and quiet person.  CJ, as he was known, was a talented musician and was well-known and respected in the local Massachusetts punk rock community.  He was an excellent drummer, guitarist, singer, and songwriter.  From his obituary:  "He was the kindest, gentlest, most genuine person you could ever meet.  He always had a kind or encouraging word for friends and strangers alike.  His smile was contagious and his sense of humor was razor sharp but always kind.   Qjuick with a joke or a shoulder to cry on, Colman was always there for his friends and family.  Colman loved life, music, animals, the beach, and his friends above all else."  From his obituary, he sounds remarkedly like his Uncle, Mark Burns, another talented musician who was taken away at way too early an age.  Our heart goes out to Lyn, to Andy, his father, to Brendan, his older brother, and to all the people he had touched in  his all too short life.  Sometimes things just aren't fair.

Brother's Day:  Today is Brother's Day, so a shoutout to my bro Ken, who donated blood Saturday.  He's up to units -- the equivalent of over seven gallons!  (Luckily, they did not take it all at the same time.)  Since Kitty and I can no longer donate blood, my brother is now at the top of our Heroes List.  Today is also National Escargot Day but I don't expect Ken to partake, although that garlic butter sauce can make almost anything palatable.

On This Day in History:   In 1607, one hundred English settlers disembarked in Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America.  Surprisingly, one settler could never be found -- Croatoan Jones.

In 1487, Lambert Simnel, ten-years-old, was named Edward VI in a Yorkish attempt to discredit Henry VII.  The Yorkish rebellion was crushed the same year and the young pretender to the throne was pardoned because of his young age.  Henry had his vengeance though -- young Lambert was made a scullion in the Royal household.

In 1626, Peter Minuit bought Manhattan for goods estimated to be worth sixty gulders.  Well, kind of.  It seems that Minuit bought the island from the chief of the Canarsees, who were more than happy to take the goods for an island mainly controlled by the Weckquaesgeeks.  This set a pattern for New York real estate developers that continues to this day.

In 1844, Samuel Morse sent the message "What hath God wrought" to inaugurate a commercial telegraph line btween Baltimore and Washington, D.C.  It turns out that God hath not only wrought the telegraph, but also the telephone, the internet, the iphone, and Trump's now deleted Twitter account.  For at least one of these things, God has some 'splainin' to do.

In 1883, the Brookly Bridge was opened to traffic after 14 years of construction.  The next day, it had been sold 43 times to unsuspecting buyers.

Today is also the birthday of Bob Dyan (b. 1941), which is pretty cool.  It's also the birthday of Michael Jackson, which would have been very, very cool, but this Michael Jackson is not "The Gloved One," but is an Irish archbishop (b. 1956).

And, alas, on this date in 1965, we lost blues harmonica genius Sonny Boy Williamson (b. 1908).  Here's his 1951 recording of "I Cross My Heart":

Mangold Wurtzels:  So, you say you have not had any luck growing your mangold wurtzels?  You say you have no idea what a mangold wurtzel even is?  Well, fear not, my friend!  Jerry's House of Everything is here to help!  Specifically with four -- count 'em, four! -- pamphlets from 1867 on successful vegetable gardening.  (But if it were so successful, how come we're not up to our butts in mangold wurtzels?)

Anhyway, you can learn how to grow 1) carrots, mangold wurtzels, and sugar beets; 2) cabbages; 3) onions; and 4) squashes.

You're welcome.

Florida Man:
  •  Florida Man Keith Adams, 37, of Largo, was nailed for smuggling drugs into the Pinellas County jail.  It really wasn't his fault.  Adams was arrested in a traffic stop when the pipe he was sitting on tested positive for cocaine residue.  Adams happened to have a prosthetic leg and, when asked by police whether he was hiding contraband in the leg, he denied it.  But, gee, fellas, he forget he had drugs hidden in his leg, so the two extra charges he is now facing really wasn't fair.
  • What is it with Florida Man and samarai swords?  In the latest development, Florida Man Gary Dwain St. Aubyn Campbell, 59, of Sanford ws arrested on two counts of attempted first-degree homicide for stabbing his parents with the sword and one count of aggravated battery with a dealy weapon for stabbing his sister.  Campbell told officers that "physical abuse as a child and constant questioning and nagging as an adult" had led to the attack.   Family time in Florida can be pretty intense.
  • Florida Man Gilbert Fernandez,  36, of Cooper City, had to travel all the way to Grand Island, Nebraska to get nailed for carrying over 400 pounds of marijuana in his van.  Also found in the van was $9000 in cash and 14 ATM machines.  Most people pack clothes and a toothbrush for a trip, but most people aren't from Florida.
  • Florida Man Ignacio Luis Lamadrid Gomez was arrested after a high speed chase when he was spotted going 100 mph in a 45 mph zone.  Gomez had a good excuse, though.  He told police he was trying to drive back to Cuba.
  • Florida Man Jared Paul Stanga picked the wrong victim whe he tried to abduct 11-year-old Florida Girl Alyssa Bonal by knifepoint in Pensacola last week.  Alyssa knew the importance of evidence because her favorite television show is Law & Order:  Special Victims Unit.  Alyssa managed to get as much of the blue slime she had been playing with on Stanga before she managed to escape.  Stanga still had blue stains on his arms when police arrested him.  SVU star Mariska Hargitay surprised Alyssa after the girl appeared on the Today show, texting Alyssa and  praising the girl for her bravery and ability to think clearly; Hargitay told Alyssa that she was now the girl's number one fan.
  • Florida Puritanical St. John's County School District is offering refunds for this year's Bartam Trail High School yearbook after altering photos of 80 female students, supposedly for reasons of modesty.  The refund is due to the negative reaction of parents of the altered photos.  The photos were evidently altered to cover a minimal amount of cleavage shown on the original photos.  The school district said it will repay the $100 cost for the yearbook for those who return the yearbook.  The district said the original photos violated their dress code policy.  One parent said, "I think it sends the message that our girls should be ashamed of their growing bodies, and I think that's a horrible message to send out to these young girls that are going through these changes."  My take after viewing before and after images is that the school board is seriously repressed.
  • Florida Free Spirit Rachael Lynn Stefancich, 24, was  "nearly fully unclothed" when she was arrested in Pasco County in a stolen car after leading police on a chase that reached speeds of 110 mph.  Meth was involved.  Stefancich was charged with grand theft auto, reckless driving, fleeing and eluding, possession of methamphetamine, and driving with a suspended license.  Why is it when you think "nearly naked" felon, you automatically think Florida?

The Good Stuff:
  •  94-year-old gets Medal of honor seventy years later, making him one of the most decorated soldiers in US military history
  • Scientists develop a personalized anti-cancer vaccine that works in mice
  • Sheldon the dog flunked out of service animal training but becomes an ace in sniffing out arson
  • Hero cop single handedly lifts overturned car to save woman
  • Did you know that flowers can "hear" buzzing bees -- and it makes their nectar sweeter?
  • University cancels $700,000 in debt for graduates hit by the pandemic
  • Veternarian saves the eye of a tiger in a never before done operation on a big cat

Today's Poem:
The Ballad of M. T. Nutt and His Dog

The Honourable M. T. Nutt
About the bush did jog.
Till, passing by a settler's hut,
He stopped and bought a dog.
Then started homeward full of hope,
Alas, that hopes should fail!
The dog pulled back and pulled the rope
Beneath the horse's tail.

The Horse remarked. "I would be soft
Such liberties to stand!"
"Oh dog," he said, "Go up aloft,
Young Man, go on the land!"

-- Banjo Patterson

Sunday, May 23, 2021


 In 1932, Richard Shaver was working in a factory when he began to hear the thoughts of his fellow workmen by way of a welding gun "by some freak of its coil's field attunements."  As an added langniappe, he also tuned into a torture session from some malign entities fronm the Earth's core.  At least that's what one version of the story went; Shaver would offer other explanations of the origin of the "Shaver Mystery." Shaver quit his job, became a hobo, and in 1934, was briefly hospitalized for psychiatric problems.

In 1943, Shaver wrote to Amazing Stories to tell the editor Ray Palmer that he had discovered an ancient unknown language called Mantong, the source for all human languages.  Palmer, always on the lookout for ways to shill his magazine, got in touch with Shaver.  Shaver submitted a manuscript to Palmer which Palmer rewrote and published the novella, titled "I Remember Lumaria," in the March 1945 issue.  The story introduced the evil "deros" to the science fiction reading public.  Over the next few years, a  number of stories in the "Shaver Mystery" were published, each purporting to be based on fact as revealed to Shaver, and the circulation of Amazing Stories climbed by about 50,000 copies a month.  A surprising amount of people became believers.  (Perhaps not so surprising.  Think Q-anon of today.)  Shaver spent his last few decades searching for ancient manuscripts written on rocks.  

Palmer claimed to believe Shaver and his tales of evil beings wreaking havoc on humans.  He went on to edit such magazines as Fate, Mustic, Search, and Flying Saucers from Other Worlds.  Palmer was at the forefront of the flying saucer craze and co-wrote The Coming of the Saucers with Kenneth Arnold.  He later promoted a man who claimed be actually be Jesse James, and who was not killed by Robert Ford.

Long John Nebel was a popular radio host who often used his show to dig into bazaar and unusual stories.  Here he interviews both Shaver and Palmer.

An interesting and strange conversation.  Make of it what you will.

Saturday, May 22, 2021


 Bob Dylan.


Peter, Paul & Mary with one of my favorite songs.


 Sergeant Bill Battle is the fightenest soldier the Korean War has ever seen...and he knows it!  Battle is tough, brave, and has a high opinion of himself, an oinion that is highly justified.

In this issue, Battle becomes a human bazooka to take down a tank, congratulates the brave Korean spy Rhee San on  delivering Communist plans to Battle's group, and rescues a captured major before the North Koreans can torure vital information from him.  In a standalone story, Signal Corps men trying to establish a vital communication line are being killed by a hidden sniper -- "The Ghost Gunner" -- and it's up to the infantry to figure out how he's doing this.

Battle is a prototype Nick Fury...just a little more bloodthirsty.

Some quotes:

"Die, you Commie Rats!  DIE!"

"The United Nations have got their greatest ally in Bill Battle, and if I'm lyin' I'm dyin' "

"It was nothing, Redmond.  Anyone with the spectacular combination of brains and brawn that I got coulda done it!"

"...It'll be Bill Battle against a whole mess of screaming, howling Reds!  That makes it an equal struggle!  And the day ain't yet come when Bill Battle wasn't superior to his equals!  An' that's the full truth!"


* One-Man is hyphenated on the cover but is not on the copyright notice.  I think Battle is too busy killing Commies to worry about the placement of a hyphen.

Friday, May 21, 2021


 Nashville's famed Grand Ol' Opry had its start as a radio program, WSM Barn Dance, on November 28, 1925 -- the date that's celebrated as the beginning of th Grand Ol' Opry.  The first performer to play on the program was Uncle Jimmy Thompson, an 82-yesr-old cantankerous and eccentric fiddler.  I don't know what he played on that show, but here's his version of an 1866 square dance tune.  Uncle Jimmy's wife, Aunt Liza, would roll up the rugs and take the furniture outside so they could have a square dance in their LaGuardo, Tennessee, home.


 The Creepers by John Creasey (originally published as Inspector West Cries Wolf, 1950; US publication as The Creepers, 1952)

A fairly early entry into Creasey's Inspector (later Superintendent) Roger "Handsome" West of Scotland Yard, this is the tenth in a series of forty-three novels, and has a different, darker tone than others in the series that I have read.  West is married to the lovely Janet and they have two young boys, Martin ("Scoopy") and Richard (called "Fish" in later books).  All is not well in the West household.  West's marriage is on the verge of breaking up.  He has a compulsion to work and to fight crime, and the marriage is suffering for it.  Throughout the series, Janet has been an understanding and supportive wife and this turn in her character is jarring, with West coming off as selfish.  Unlike the other West novels, this one delves heavily into his personal life and turns his established character on his head.  West has been a typical Creasey hero -- tall, strong, intelligent, loyal, willing to take risks, and a loving family man.  In The Creepers he comes off poorly.

West's family drama may be the reason this book is longer by a third than others in the series.  The story drags along and Creasey's usual fast-paced writing is bogged down, with what should be an interesting crime plot getting lost.

The crime?  A massive wave of home break-ins orchestrated by the mysterious "Lobo."  Lobo controls a large number of thieves throughout the area, assigning a few at a time to a specific area and arming all of them with knifes.  The homes assigned are not wealthy and the take from each break-in is not the greatest, but the cumulative effect adds up to a good bit of change.  The thieves are organized in cells and no one knows how many there are nor who Lobo is.  Although armed with knifes, the thiefs do not use them (most of their victims are asleep or away) except when an occasional one is caught.  A team is usually sent out every few days and not everynight.  This gang has proven to be such a nuisance that higher ups in the Yard and in government are insisting on action.

Each gang member has the image of a wolf on his palm.

The inevitable soon happens.  A couple is viciously murdered during a robbery and the heat is on for West, who has been put in charge of the case.

One suspected member of the gang has been traced to Morden Lodge, an estate in Hounslow, where he had been working for a wealthy jewel merchant named Paterson.  While near the Lodge, West sees a beatuiful woman drive past him.  Then a shot.  A crash.  A tall red-haired man runs from the ditch where he had been hiding.  The woman, dazed but unharmed, is Margaret Paterson, daughter of the jewel merchant.  Margaret claims to have no idea who the red-headed man is, but she is obviousy lying. Roger accompanies her to the Lodge, where he sees a large skin rug in one of the rooms; it's a wolfskin with a large fanged wolf's head.  By the fireplace there is a bar of iron and at one end is an outline of a wolf's head -- exactly the same design as found on the palms of Lobo's henchmen.  Margaret is somewhat confused because the house appears empty of servants and her father is not about.  Margaret and West go through the house and find that her father's office has been ransacked.  A check of the safe indicates that no jewels had been taken.

Paterson arrives home and, seeing that the gems were not taken, makes light of the whole affair.  He tells West that all of his male servants were ex-convicts, although none were employed at his place of business.  One of these ex-convicts has been found murdered.  West also meets Paterson's secretary, a woman with the ominous name of Helen Wolf.  Margaret, who had earlier gone to her room to rest, is missing.  Her father and Helen Wolf assume she had gone out on the town, something she often does, hitting a few specific nightclubs.  Their assuption is right.  West's colleague Bill Sloan saw Margaret sneak out of the house and followed her to a local garage where she made arrangements for another car.  Sloan tries to talk out of going out alone, fearing that she would come to harm -- well, someone had tried to kill her, didn't they?  Margaret poo-poos this and insists on going clubbing.  Sloan agrees to go along to protect her.  Sloan, by the way, is married with one child and another due in weeks.

At one of the nightclubs they go to, West's wife Janet is there with West's best friend, Mark Lessing.  Janet seems to be having a good time.   At another cliub, Margaret gets thoroughly snozzled and passes out.  Sloan is wondering what to do when West finally catches up with him.  They take Margaret to Sloan's place and flop her on the bed.  (Mrs. Sloan and child are visiting relatives.)  West stays at Sloan's apartment watching over Margaret while Sloan goes to canvas the clubs in search of clue to the redhead's identity, but as he gets into the car, he is attacked from behind, his skull fractured.  The attacker is the redheaded man, Alec Magee.  Magee takes Sloan's keys and finds Margaret passed out.  He rushes to her side, begging her to wake up and professing his deep love for her.

It's all a mish-mash of coincidences and red herrings and domestic turmoil.  (Janet's marital dissatisfaction is increased when she fears that West is getting it on with Margaret, and West himself finds Margaret more physically attractive than Janet.)  SPOILER ALERT:  Somehow everything gets resolved.

I just counted.  I've read twenty-five Inspector West novels and thorouoghly enjoyed twenty-four of them.  I'll let you guess which one of these is the odd one out.

Thursday, May 20, 2021


An "under the radar" song written by Paul and Linda McCartney in protest to Bloody Sunday -- January 30, 1972 -- when British troops killed 13 Republican protesters in Northern Ireland.  One of McCartney's few protest songs, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was the first single released by McCartney and Wings; it was banned by the BBC, pretty much ignored in America, and found great favor in Northern Ireland.

(Not to be confused with the Harvard Lampoon' recording of the same name.)


 Par Novak for Hire originally starred Jack Webb in the title, with scripts behind written by Webb's roommate Richard L. Breen.  Based in San Francisco, the show ran for two years --1946-47 -- on regional West Coast radio stations.  When Webb and Breen moved to Los Angeles to create Johnny Madero, Pier 23, a program similar to Pat Novak, for the Mutual Network, Webb was replaced by Ben Morris.  Webb returned to the role when the program was revived by ABC in 1949, where the show lasted for 21 episodes.

Novak is the owner of a boat shop on Pier 19 and also does odd jobs for money.  These jobs usually end up with a corpse and Novak has to solve the murder.  There's a heavy pulp magazine aura that runs through the show.  

"Death in Herald Square" is one of the few episodes starring Ben Morris.  Novk is hired by a man who discovers his door lock broken and wants him to watch his apartment.  Police Inspector Hellman shows up at the apartment looking for a stolen book which could be key evidence in a murder and informs Novak that the apartment the Novak's client does not own the apartment and that there is a $10,000 reward involved.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021


From the world premiere cast reco/rding of Heathers:  The Musical, here are Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alice Lee & Elle McLemore.


 Last night I dreamt I was swimming in orange soda...

...then I realized it was just a Fanta sea.


 "The Old, Old Story of How Five Men Went Fishing" by Stephen Leacock  (from his 1918 collection Frenzied Fiction)

This is more of a sketch than a short story because short stories usually have a plot.  But one, especially Leacock, does not need a plot to skewer those who are avid fishers.

The five men in the title are George Popley (a bank manager), Kernin (a lawyer -- does he deserve a first name?), Charlie Jones (a railroad man), Colonel Jack Morse (unspecified what he is a colonel of, but the rank is more than enough to give him certain gravitas), and the narrator.  All have vacation cottages on a lake.  All are members of a golf club that they frequent, not because they play golf (they don't), not because they dine there (no food is served), and not to drink (Prohibition, you know).  They go there to sit.  Sitting is something they do well and a golf club is a perfect place to do it.  While sitting there one day, it was suggested that they organize a fishing party.  And so it was done.

All five claimed to be avid fishermen even if they hadn't fished in eight or ten years.  Things just never worked out.  But they were still avid fishermen.  All of them remembered a particular fishing spot from there childhood where the fish -- large fish, mind you -- cooperated fully in being caught.  Each of these individual fishing spots were closely held secrets and no one wold ever be able to find them.

The fish that they have caught were huge.  Alas, there is a difference between caught and landed.  These large fish would rise to the surface, only to be lost.  "The number of huge fish that had been heaved up to the top of the water is our lakes is almost incredible.  Or at least it used to be when we still had bar rooms and little tables for serving that vile stuff Scotch whiskey and such foul things as gin Rickeys and John  Collinses.  It makes one sick to think of it, doesn't it?  But there was good fishing in the bars, all winter."

It is a scientific fact that fish do not bite between eight and twelve, nor from twelve to six in the afternoon, nor from six until midnght.  Logically, then, the only time to fish would be at dawn.  this means getting on the lake at five, which means rising at four -- a sacrifice fishermen are ready to make.  Our intrepid five decide against going out in a rowboat because it's uncomfortable and because the fish are apt to jump over the low sides into the boat on their own, and that's not sporting.  And so they desire to hire a launch.  No fish jumping willy nilly into the boat and thre's plenty of room to strech one's legs, back, shoulder, and neck and to lay back and (perhaps) close one's eye when the fish are not biting.  In addition to the launch, the five men decide to pay the launch captain extra to wake the up at five in the morning.   (Strangely, they specified five instead of four.)  The group then spent the night talking until two in the morning about the upcoming trip.  All claimed they did not need much sleep; they could function on three hours sleep -- provided it was the right kind of sleep.

"I heard Frank Rolls blowing his infernal whistle opposite my summer cottage at some ghastly hour in the morning.  Even without getting out of bed I could see from the windoe that it was no day to go fishing..."  There was no particular reason, "but a sort of feeling in the air that showed anybody who understands bass fishing that it was a perfectly rotten day for going out.  The fish, I seemed to know it, wouldn't bite.  When I was still fretting ove the annoyance of the disappointmentI hear Frank Rolls blowing his whistle in fron of the other cottages.  I counted thirty whistles all together."  It was clear to the narrator that the other men had decided not to get up and it was folly to go out lone, so he closed his eyes and didn't get up until ten.

Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) was a teacher, political scientist, political economist, writer, and humorist, born in England and emigrated with his family to Canada when he was six.  He was forced to drop out of University College at the Universtiy of Toronto after one year because of finances and turned to teaching.  Leacock detested teaching and began writing.  After four years, he was able to earn his degree through part-time studies in 1891, but it wasn't until 1899 that he stopped teaching and began graduate studies at the University of Chicago under Thorstein Veblen, who that year would publish his The Theory of the Leisure Class.  Gaining his doctorate in political science and political economy, Leacock returned to Canada, settling in Montreal, and eventually becoming he William Doe Professor of Political Economy and chair of the Department of Economics and Political Science at McGill University.  

Leacock's writing supplemented, and then surpassed, his regular income.  His humorous stories became very popular and by 1911 it was said that more people knew of Stephen Leacock than of Canada.  From 1915 to 1925, he was the most popular humorist in the world.  His approach was a unique blend of satire and absurdity.  Among those who greatly admired his work was Jack Benny and Groucho Marx.  Leacock wrote in other fields, including political science and economy, but these books were written with a light-hearted approach and, though highly readable, were not well received.  Leacock's work as a political scientist is mostly forgotten now.

In personal life, he was a conservative who strongly supported Britain and opposed women's sufferage.  Strangely, he was also a strong supporter of social welfare and economic distribution.  Sadly -- and perhaps typically of the times -- he was also a racist who deplored both blacks and indiginous people.  After fifteen years of marriage, he and his wife Beatrix has a son, Stephen Lushington Leacock, their only child.  Leacock doted on his son, who had a genetic defect that allow to grow only to four feet tall, but tended to treat him as a child, causing a rift between the two.  Beatrix Leacock died of breat cancer when the boy was ten.

Today Leacock remains one of the most popular and influential Candian writers.  

Frenzied Fiction, as well as many other of Leacock's works are available to read online.


 For all the mucky kids out there, here's Cilla Black.


 Hah!  Fooled you!  This is really a retitled The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu, the first American film featuring Sax Rohmer's insidious villain.  So why The Red Dragon?   This Internet Archive entry shows how obvious the addition of the title on the credits was.  The film was relased in many counties, all with a variant of Fu Manchu in the title, except for Italy, where it was released as Il drago rosso.  I can't think of any reason why the Italian title would suddenly be tacked onto the American version of the film.  Go figure.

Fu Manchu had previously appeared in two British silent movie series with each episode about twenty minutes long:  The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (1923, which consited of fifteen episodes) and The Further Mysteries of Fu Manchu (1924, with eight additional episodes), both starring Harry Agar Lyons as Fu Manchu.  Twenty-one of these episodes survive, with a twenty-second only in partial form.

Warner Oland, better known for his later portrayal of Charlie Chan in sixteen films  (a seventeeth movie, Charlie Chan at the Ringside was unfinished when Oland died of pneumonia in 1938; it was reshot with Peter Lorre and released as Mr. Moto's Gamble.), played Fu Manchu.  Unlike the character in the Rohmer novels, this Fu Manchu began as a humnitarian but turned into a killing revenge machine when his wife and child were killed during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.  Two decades later, Fu Manchu has killed everyone he holds responsible for the death of his family except for one man and his offspring, who are now living in England.  Fu Manchu's ward, Lia Eltham (played by the lovely Jean Arthur), is an unwilling pawn of Fu Manchu and things get complicate when seh falls in love with one of the intended victims, Dr. Jack Petrie (played by Neil Hamilton).  Inspector Nayland Smith, here a Scotland Yard detective (played by O. P. Heggie), discovers the plot and tries to intervene.  In the film, Fu Manchu is still a brilliant scientist but has no interest in taking over the world.

An early talkie with all the interesting flaws of that time.  And then there's the racism thing...It's easy to say that this was from the culture of the time, but this film will be off-putting for some viewers.

For those who grew up on Fu Manchu back in the days when they were innocent, this movie is a (somewhat creaky) treat.

Monday, May 17, 2021


 When she was about to turn four, my father told her that would not let her turn four because she was so good as three.  She pleaded that she would be just as good at four, perhaps even better.  With this ;promise, my father decided that she could turn four.  Strange thing was, it was true -- she was better at four, and she has grown better each of the forty-three following years.

My brother's girls dubbed her "Genius Cousin Christina," a name she has carried with her for quite some time now.  And she is smart.  And wise.  And witty.  And compassionate.  And determined. (My father had also said (again, when she was three) that he would put money on her every time.)  And she knows her own mind.  She came home early in her school years and declared that her name was Christina and not Christy, which is what we had been calling her until then.  Of course we had to obey.

Somewhere along the line she also got the nickname Bink.  Kitty sometimes called her "Christy Crinkles," which became "Christy Crink-a-Link," which eventually turned into Bink.  Now it's just family and close friends who call her that.  Her middle name is Eileen, after Kitty's mother.  I think I was hoping that the name would have an opposite effect, like calling a fat person Slim or a tall kid Shorty.  Eileen could often be a difficult person, but at her core she was loving and compassionate.  It was those qualities of Eileen that Christina inherited.

I mentioned that Christina was determined.  In college, she belonged to the school's taekwondo club, eventually rising to her black belt and becoming president of the club.  It wasn't easy.  The older members of the club, most of who had graduated and were medical doctors, said that Christina would do well, then reach a plateau, and eventually go beyond that plateau through hard work and determination.  She would not give up.

She worked a number of jobs through high school and college -- babysitting, scooping ice cream, being  nanny, working at a muffin shop (where she would take the unsold muffins that were about to be trashed to give to the homeless on her way back to the dormitory), typing books and articles for blind students.  He first real job (they were all real, but you know what I'm saying) was with an ambulance company, which was where she met Walt, her husband of many years.  She then worked as a med tech in an OB's office.  (The OB later deliveered Mark, her first-born.  More on that later.  She became an emergency room tech.  The ER doctors were visibly happy whenever they worked her shift because they knew things would run smoothly.  While at the ER, she would stay with dying patients because she felt that no one should die alone.  She also joined the local rescue squad, becoming a paramedic and an EMT.  Once, she and her partner answered a call about an elderly woman.  The husband met them at the door and said, I'm afraid she's dead."  They answered, "Not on our watch," and managed to revive her. 

Feeling a need for a career change, she became licensed as a cardio-stenographer, wheeling a large 500-pound unit through the hospital.  Although she was not allowed to read the results (that was the doctors' job), she was able to catch a number of problems the doctors did not and was able to tip them off.  Eventually her back began to bother her and it was time for another career change.  She decided to become a sign language interpreter, a grueling process with many ups and downs.  Currently she is assigned as an interpreter to a student at a local high school.  She has been working with this student since the 7th grade and the student is now a junior.  Once the student graduates, Christina will decide if she wants to continue in this field, or try something new.

Chrisitna's greatest accomplishment is her family.  The oldest two -- Mark and Erin -- had very difficult births and we were not sure if either would survive birth without significant damage.  We came dangerlously close to losing both Christina and Mark when he was born.  This did not deter Christina's mothering instincts, though.  As the kids got a bit older, Christina and Walt began fostering children.  One of those children was Jack (not his name then), who was born to a drug-addicted mother and had to spend the first six weeks of his life in rehab.  Immediate after rehab, Jack was placed with Christina and Walt, and eventually they were able to adopt him.  

All three of Christina's children are different.  Mark is quiet and reserved, but able to gain friends at the drop of a hat.  Mark is a man of passions especially for running and soccer, and is truly loyal to his friends.  At present he is thinking about becoming a marine biologist and (just yesterday) got his scuba-diving credentials.   Mark also happens to be drop-dead handsome.

Erin has inherited her mother's detemination.  She, too, can be quiet, but not as quiet as her brother.  She has a wicked sense of humor, is musically talented, and is smart as a whip.  She finished her first year of college while still in high school.  Because of the pandemic all her sophomore year classes were taught online, so she did not live on the Tallahassee USF campus.  Hopefully this year she will be able to and get a complete college experience.  She works part-time and has won schoalrships from her work.  Erin is amazingly beautiful.

Both Erin and Mark had some medical problems when they were younger and Christina spent a lot of time fighting insurance companies over their treatments.  Again, Christina's determination won out.  Both kids are fantastically healthy and happy today due no small part to Christina's championing them.

And then there's Jack.  Jack came with a lot of problems, not the least of which is an inability to eat.  He has been on a feeding tube for most of his eight years and we may -- just may -- be turning a corner on this problem.  Jack also has impulse problems that have improved greatly since he was a toddler.  On the other hand, Jack is a very intelligent and creative kid.  He loves soccer, basketball, swimming and animals.  He has a kind heart and is very loving.  Jack is a cool dude and dresses the part.  He has a lot of friends and can be a leader as much as he is a follower.  Jack is also very good-looking and has told us that he has a girlfriend (Olivia) and that he has asked her to marry him and she agreed.  Jack's bete noire is math, not because he can't do the work but because he doesn't want to.  Christina's patient and unvarying love has work miracles with the boy, although there is a lot of work ahead.

Christina's warmth, love and humanity shine through in her children.

I haven't mentioned how much she means to her sister and her nieces and to us.  Suffice it to say we would all be much poorer without her in our lifes.  She is and always has been beautiful, both inside and out.

Christina is not the world's most perfect person (that title belongs to my wife), but she comes darned close.  We are so prud of her and love her more than words can tell.


 The Beatles.


 Openers:  Click Kendall realized that there was something almost impersonal in the antagonism of the man before him.

"Do I understand you refuse to make any statement?"

That question had been effective with many other tough customer.  But this man answered it with a single explosive word.


Click Kendall played his trump card.  With a happy smile suffusing his features he whipped a notebook from his pocket.

"Then I shal quote you as saying that!" he exclaimed, and wrote meaningless words rapidly.  "I have your permission to quote you as having used those words!  Now your further plans are to --"

But the man at the gate did not weaken.  His black glittering eyes looked directly at Click Kendall, yet seemed focused upon some distant ;point

"You may quote me as having said that you had better withdraw that foot from that gate!"

The words were a monotone of calm irritation.

-- "The Sky's the Limit" by Erle Stanley Gardner (from Argosy, December 7 and December 14, 1929)

Bugle Reporter Click Kendall had been sent by his editor to interview Professor Wagner about whatever he had been working on.  Unable to fulfill his assignment, click heads back,  Rounding a curve, there are two vehicles heading side by side directly toward him,  roadster and a touring car.  Men from the touring car reached out to grab the woman driving the roadster and pull her into their car.  Click managed to avoid the now driverless roadster but crashed into the touring car, which received minor damage.  Then someone began firing a gun at Click.  That made him mad and he rushed the men in the touring car.  In the fight, the girl managed to get away while Click pounded the villains.  Then a below from a wrech knocked him out, but not before he received a minor gunshot wound.  He woke up with a beautiful girl kneeling over him, urging him to get up and hide in the bushes.  The would-be kidnappers were bound to come back in search for her.  Once the coast was clear, the girl noticed Click's wound and offered to take him to her house to dress the injury.  You guessed it:  the girl is the daughter of Professor Wagner.

All well and good for the start of a typical pulp mystery adventure.  But things then take a sharp turn into science fiction territory involving an anti-gravity device, a space ship, a trip to Venus, Venesians, and a small treacherous group of World War I Germans,   This is one of seven science ficyion stories that Gardner wrote for Argosy between 1928 and 1932.

Gardner is best known for his mysteries, especially those about lawyer Perry Mason.  Before Mason, however, he was a prolific contributor to the pulps, creating such characters as Lester Leith, Ed Jenkins, Speed Dash, Bob Zane, Paul Pry, Sidney Zoom, and more than a dozen others.  There was a far greater market for mysteries than for science fiction stories in those days.  Gardner was a bisnessman first and he soon determined the money that could be made from science fiction paled in comparison to mystery stories.  In 1933, Gardner had published the first of his popular Perry Mason books, stories that he could turn out rather rapidly as compared to the few science fiction stories he had written.  Perry Mason was a game changer for Gardner: "Of the 151 mystery novels which appeared on the best-seller lists from 1895 to 1965, Mr. Gardner was responsible for ninety-one."

The seven science fiction stories by Gardner were eventually collected in 1981 by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh as The Human Zero:  The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner.  The science fiction trappings in these stories vary, with "The Sky's the Limit" nbeing the only interplanetary tale.  "The Human Zero" is actually an impossible crime story featuring a weapon that reaches absolute zero, where atoms no longer move.  "Monkey Eyes" is a story of a grotesque experiment within the framework of an adventure tale set in India.  "A Year in a Day" is a riff on H. G. Wells' "The New Accelerator," providing a means of invisibility.  "The Man with Pin-Point Eyes" is a western about reincarnation.  "New Wolrds" depicts a world-wide flood caused by a shift in the Earth's poles.  "Rain Magic" is an African adventure story with fantastic beast; in the introduction to this story Gardner states that it is based on a supposedly true tale related to him by an old desert prospector.  When Gardner checked on the locale, he found that every item told him could be verified,  (Gardner also related the story of the prospector in one of his non-fiction travel books, so there may be some support to his claims.)

Gardner ws a serious pracitioner and student of writing.  He was disdainful that "literary" stories were more important that the fast-paced entertainment he and other pulp writers provided.  He wrote about 600 stories for the pulps, most of which have not been reprinted.    Luckily, some of these stories are preserve online in PDF copies of the original magazine they appeared in.  Sadly, many are not.  Gardner's pulp writing deserved to be preserved in book form.


  • Graham Masterton, Trauma.  Suspense novella.  "Something is happening to Bonnie Winter.  She's a working wife and mother.  Her job is to make domestic crime scenes pretty agin.  She uses only the best upholstery cleaners, disinfectants, deodorizers, and stain removers.  But wshing away a stranger's sins can be quite a chore.  Considering what she sees every day, the stories she's heard, and what she knows about the evil that men do, it must take a lot to disturb a woman like Bonnie Winter.  You can't imagine."  Masterton is one of England's best-selling authors of horror and suspense fiction with well over 80 books books in those genres.  He has also written historical fiction, movie tie-ins.  A one-time editor of the British edition of Penthouse, he is also the author of more than two dozen sex instuction books, including How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed and How to Drive Your Woman Wild in Bed.  (Read those at your own risk.)
  • Tim Waggoner, Night Terrors.  Horror novel, the first book in the Shadow Watch sequence.  "It's Supernatural meets Men in Black in a darkly humorous urban fantasy from the author of Nekropolis.  When you dream you visit the Marlstrom.  Dream long enough and hard enough, and your breaks can break through into the living world.  So, alas, can your nightmares.  And who's there to catch the dreams and nightmares as they fall into reality?  Meet the Shadow Hunters.  Pray you never meet them."  Waggoner is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of nearly five dozen books, with more to come.

'Tis Today:  In this modern world of ours, it seems like anything and everything has a day to be celebrated and/or observed.  Well, perhaps not everything; they don't have a day celebrating veneal warts.  Yet.  But there are many things to celebrate on today, May 17 -- not the least of which is my youngest daughter's birthday.

NATIONAL MUSHROOM HUNTING DAY: brings to mind Wisconsin writer August Derleth, who was a great goumand.   He especially liked overly sweet, sticky-gooey desserts slathered with whipped cream, but he loved morels (large, meaty mushrooms with a distinctly earthy, nutty flavor; their large honeycombed appearance makes them look like alien monsters from a 1950s sci-fi film).  Derleth would drop everything once a year and spend a couple of days in the woods just collecting morels in large wooden baskets.  He would then hang the morels from the rafters of his home to age, so he could feast on these treats for the next year.  I also remember a guy (I think his name was Stan) who would show up at my in-laws' summer cottage to collect mushrooms growing on a tree on their side lawn.  He swore they were good eating.  I love mushrooms but would never go hunting for them.  That's an activity that's too risky for my blood.

Today is also PINO GRIGIO DAY.  I'm not a wine drinker so I had to look up pinot grigio (or pino gris) on the internet.  It's a white wine grape of the species Vita vinefera, and is thought to be a mutant variety (whoops!  I'm having flashbacks to 1950s sci-fi moveis again!) of pinot noir.  Pinot noir is the wine that pretentious people began drinking after watching Paul Giamatti in 2004's Sideways.  Pinot grigio can come in different shades, from deep golden yellow to copper to a pale pink.  "The Alsation style...tend to have moderate to low acidity, higher alcolhol levels and aa almost 'oily' texture."  The flavors can be of ripe tropical fruit notes to some botrytis-influenced flavors.  (Botrytis is evidently a form of grey fungus, also known as "grey rot."  sounds yummy.)  Pinot gris has been known since the Middle Ages.  It started in Burgundy and moved to Switzerland around 1300.  Under the rule of emperor Charles IV (who was a fan), it was transplanted to Hungary by Cistercian monks, where it became known as "grey monk."  The wine became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the grape was difficult to harvest.  In the early 20th century varieties were developed that were easier to harvest.  Pinot gris is an "early to market" wine that can bottled and sold within 4-12 weeks after fermentation.  It is often mixed with pinot noir to enrich and enlighten that wine's flavor.

May 17 is also NATIONAL CHERRY COBBLER DAY.  Cherry cobbler is one of the top ten fruit cobblers out there.  Actually, I love any type of cobbler as long as it is a deep dish fruit dessert with a thick top crust and not a mender of shoes or a clumsy workman (archaic usage).  A cobbler can also be "a tall iced drink consisting of wine, rum, or whiskey and sugar garnished with mint or a slice of lime or orange,"and there's nothing wrong with that, biut we're talking about the dessert here.  Some cherry cobbler recipes call for canned cherry filling, but that's a lily-livered, chicken-hearted, and esy way of doing things.  Here's a recipe (scroll down) that uses fresh cherries:

On This Day:
  • In 1875, Aristides won the first Kentucky Derby with a time of 2:37.75.  Compare that to this year's "winner" Medina Spirit, whose time of 2:01.02 was possibly aided by betamethasone, a corticosteroid.  All this led to a statment from Donald Trump, calling the horse a junky.  This caused some confusion as many people did not know if he was talking Medina Spirit or one of his kids.
  • In 1900, L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, beginning a series of children's books that have entertained people for more than a century.  The second book in the series. The Marvelous Land of Oz, introduces Tip, who is perhaps the first transgender character in a popular children's series, not that Baum geve much thought to gender roles.
  • In 1902, the Antikythera mechanism was discovered from a shupwreck off the coast of Greece by archaeologist Valerios Stais.  This device is the oldest example of an analog computer and was used to predict atromonical positions and eclipses decades in advance.  The clockwork mechanism has been variously dated from 87 BC to 205 BC; the shipwreck is thought to have occurred about 70-60 BC.  The knowledge that constructed this machine was then lost in antiquity.  In 2010, hobbyist andy Carol  built a fully fynctioning replica of this mechanism from Legos.
  • In 1954, the U.S. supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, outlawing racial segreation in schools.  If only it were that easy.

Your Moment of Zen:  Sometimes you jutshave to sit back and appreciate the fact that we are here, in this  place, in  this time, on this amazing planet, in this wondrous universe -- even if you have to put iup with a few annoying commercials.

An Important Message:  (Again , with some annoying commercials.  **sigh**)

Florida Man:  Thus far, 2021 has been a boon to Florida Man if not to the citizens of the state.  With our governor and Republican-held state legislature launching attacks on everything from voting rights to transgender people and from Covid denial to seriously limiting free speech, your garden variety of Florida still manages to cop more than a few headlines.  While ignoring Florida Man Matt Gaetz and Florida WingMan Joel Greenberg, here are a few Florida Man stories that grabbed my attention.
  • Florida Man Malachi Love-Robinson, a.k.a. "Dr. Love," now 23, made headmlines when he was 18 when he was charged with practicing medicine without a license, grand theft, and fraud as he posed as a doctor, complete with office, lab, coat, and a stethoscope, scamming one patient out of $35,000.  For that he served 21 months in maximum security.  Now he's been arrested again, this time for diverting over $10,000 from the shipping company he was working for to his personal bank account.  He said he's sorry.
  • Florida Man Johnny Edwards Malisham, 60, of Milton (just a couple of towns from where I live), was arrested after sheriff's officers found a woman's body buried under a biurn pit behind his home.  The woman, 60-year-old Cynthis Hoover, had been missing since March 8 and her ransacked car was found on March 10 alongside Intersate 10,  The police were informed by a tip from a woman who had known Malisham for 15 years.  She said that he had asked her help with the body, acting as a watch while he buried the body, whom he said he had killed with a hatchet.  The woman ran to her house and hid.  Leter Malisham called her, told her he had left the dead woman's car on I-10. and asked her for a ride home.  When she refused, he called another woman to pick him up.  Police said this second woman was elderly and did not remember much.
  • Florida Man Mark Anthony Hunt, 55, of County, is accused of stealing horses and attempting to ride them to his house.  He said horses should not be 'caged" -- they were in stalls -- and he just wanted to set them free.  The Lake Cpunty Shrieff's Office Facebook page, in reporting the incident, ended the post with the hashtags #wannabecowboy, #busted, #dontdrinkandtrytorideahorse, and #especiallybareback.
  • A Florida Man and Not Your Best Neighbor, currently unnamed, was caught on video smearing dog poop on his neighbor's yard sings.  One sign was in support of all things un-American, stating, "We Believe Black Lives Matter, Love Is Love, Feminism Is For Everyone, No Human Being Is Illegal, Science Is Real, Be Kind To All."  With such a Commie Pinko Radical Deep State attitude, no wonder the signs were vandalized improved.
  • Florida Woman Lora Beth Seymour, 42, of Summerfield, was found trespassing after she had been warned earlier in the day.  When police checked her car, they found a hat with aluminum foil inside the hatband; inside the aluminum foil was methamphetamine.  Seymour had been arrested last year for entering a woman's property and taking items and throwing them onto the raodway.  When asked to leave the property, Seymour "went beserk," ranted that she owned Google, and threw a bottle of beans at her.  Police determined that drugs were involved.  She spent some jail time for that one.  Seymout had previously been convicted of battery twice.
  • Florida Woman Linda Wildes of of Melbourne has a morning routine that annoys her neighbors.  Every morning at 5:00, she rings a loud bell and shouts profanities relating to politicians.  Police have responding to more than 20 complaints from neighbors over the past two years.  If only she would have her morning coffee at 4:50...

Good News:
  • VAX LIVE concerts raises $304M to provide 26M doses of Covid vaccine doses for the wolrd's most vulnerable
  • Rubber made from dandelions is making tires more sustainable
  • The areas of forests regrown since 2000 cover areas almost the size of France
  • Canadians buy home for man who needs a kidney and had to quit his job (which was helping others)
  • Hero jumps into Maryland bay after car crash flings child's car seat
  • More than 800 baby turtles rescues from New Jersey storm drains

Something to Remember:  "In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit." --Anne Frank

Today's Poem:
God the Artist

God, when you thinkof a pine tree,
How did you think of a star?
How did you dream of the Milky Way
To gjuide us from afar.
How did you think of a clean brown pool
Where flecks of shadows are?

God, when you thought of a cobweb,
How did you think of dew?
How did you know a spider's house
Has shingles bright and new?
How did you know the human folk
Would love them like they do? *

God, when you patterned a bird song,
Flung on a silver string,
How did you know the ecstacy
That crystal call would bring?
How did you think of a bubbling throat
And a darling speckled wing?

God, when you chiseled a raindrop,
How did you think of a stem,
Bearing a lovely satin leaf
To hold the tiny gem?
How did you know a million drops
Would deck the morning's hem?

Why did you mate the moonlit night
With the honeysuckle vines?
How did you know the Madeira bloom
Distilled ecstatic wines?
How did you weave the velvet disk
Where tangled perfumes are?
God, when you thought of a pine tree,
How did you think of a star?

-- Angela Morgan

* Personal Note:  While I recognize the value of spiders in our ecology, I do not love them.  In fact, I hate 'em, hate 'em, hate'em and am fully in favor of having them on the business end of a lit blowtorch.