Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


 Openers:   A.D. 10,000.  An old man, more than six hundred years of age, was walking with a boy through a great museum.  The people who were moving arouond them had beautiful forms, and faces tht were indescribably refined and spiritual.

"Father," said the boy, "you promisd to tell me to-day about the Dark Ages.  I like to hear how men livef anf thought long ago."

"It is no easy task to make you understand the past," was the reply.  "It is hard to realize that man could have been so ignorant as he was eight thousand years ago, but come with me; I will show you something."

He led the boy to a cabinet containing a few time-worn books bound in solid gold.

"You have never seen a book," he said, taking out a large volume and carefully placing it on a silk cushion on a table.  "There are only a few in the leadibng museums in the world.  time was when there were as many books on earth as inhabitants."

"I cannot understand," said the boy with a look of perplexity on his intellectual face.  "I cannot see what people would have wanted with them; they are not attractive; they seem to be useless."

-- "In the Year Ten Thousand" by William Harben (from The Arena, November 1898; reprinted in H. Bruce Franklin's anthology Future Perfect:  Science Fiction in the Nineteenth Century, 1966, revised edition, 1978)

Thus begins a short trip through an utopian future where life has been extended and people are really happy and fulfilled, a world where speech is passe and people communicate via telepathy (or "thought-intercouse," a term that would get any present-day junior high school student a-giggling).  The book which the two are examining is a history of the world through the year two thousand, so it naturally has pictures of George Washington, a Roman Catholic church, and Gladstone ("a great political leader in England").  Back then art had "paintings," which had acrual paints on canvas, or whatever, rather than throwing "light and darkness into space in the necessary variations" to create realistic images.  Music is also created from light and darkness.  Way back in history men used to kill each other in wars and were declared heroes; men even -- gasp! -- killed each other ourside of war.  People were also delusional enough to believe in God (or Gods, or a bunch of different Gods).  There was, of course, a man called Jesus Christ, who was the most spiritually developed man in history, but many people mistakenly believed him to be the son of God.  And, way back innhistory, people actually ate meat!  Raw, at first, but then cooked.  (Ugh! to both)  Luckily the people of the year ten thousand are wisely vegetarians.  People also used wood and stone to build building, rather than growing them from crystals.  And the people of eight thoudand years ago were ugly -- perhaps none more so than the last queen of England, Victoria.

What else?  The people of the future discovered a race of men in the valleys of the arctic region who believed the earth was a monster and they were condemned to live on its hide.  And thought-communication had advanced so much that people were now in communication with people (? beings?) on other planets.  

Questions still remain, though.  Humans are long-lived but not immortal.  Immortality must be...well. immortality must be love immortal.

William Nathaniel Harben (1858-1919. who often signed himself Will N. Harben) was known for his novels and short stories about the people of his native Northern Georgia mountains.  His father ws a noted abolitionist who was a spy for the Union and later a scout for General William Tucumseh Sherman.  The family had to leave Georgis for several years, returning during Reconstruction.  William Harben became a merchant in his home town, beginning his writing career at age 30.   His first big success was Slave (1899), a novel about a white girl raised as a slave in the American South.  Understandably, Harben moved his family to New York after the book's publication.  His 1901 collection Northern Georgis Sketches (1900), about Georgia hillbillies, was probably his best-selling book.  He published 30 books, including romances, three detective novels featuring the sleuth Minard Hendricks, one science fiction novel (The Land of the Changing Sun, 1894, a "lost world" adventure), and one fantasy (The Divine Event, published posthumously in 1920), as well as writing two screenplays.  His religious novel Almost Persuaded (1890) gained enough popularity that Queen Victoria requested a copy.

"In the Year Ten Thousand" is presented as an Utopian tale, although it is no Utopia in which I would like to live.  It's short, cute, wide-sweeping, and plotless.  The November 1899 issue of The Arena can be read on-line, as can many of Harben's novels.  I don't know if this short story was ever published in any of Harben's books.


  • "William Arden" (Dennis Lynds), The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle.  YA mystery, #22 in The Three Investigators series.  "When Diego Towne's will was read, his relatives got a nasty shock.  Old Diego had left his fortune to whoever could find it!  Six baffling riddle-clues hinted at the hiding place.  along with hundreds of others, The Three Investigators plunged eagerly into the wild treasure hunt -- only to discover deadly booby traps planted along the way!"  This 1984 edition is slightly revised from the original 1974 edition, eliminating the Alfred Hitchcock framing device and substituting fictional author Hector Sebastian in his place.
  • David Baldacci, editor, Face-Off.  Anthology from the International Thriller Writers organization -- 11 short stories featuring 22  popular characters from 23 best-selling authors, each story pairing two of Thrillerdom's favorite characters:  Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie and Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch,   Ian Rankin's John Rebus and Peter James's Roy Grace, R. L. Stine's Slappy the Ventriloquist's Dummy and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Aloysius Pendergast, M. J. Rose's Malachi Samuels and Lisa Gardner's D. D. Warren, Steve Martini's Paul Madriani and Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper, Jeffrey Deaver's Lincon Rhyme and John Sanford's Lucas Davenport, Heather Graham's Michael Quinn and F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack, Raymond Khoury's Sean Reilly and Linwood Barclay's Glen Garber, John Lescroart's Wyatt Hunt and T. Jefferson Parker's Joe Trona, Steve Berry's Cotton Malone and James Rollins's Gray Pierce, and Lee Child's Jack Reacher and Joseph Finder's Nick Heller.  This may be a gimmicky anthology but the stories look solid.
  • Ken Bruen & Jason Starr, Bust.  Crime novel, the first of four in a series published by Hard Case Crime.  "5 important lessons  you can leard by reading Bust:  1.  When you hire a hit man to kill your wife, don't pick a psychopath.  2.  Drano is not the best tool for getting rid of a dead body.  3.  Those locks on hotel room doors?  Not very secure.  5.  A curly blond wig isn't much of a disguise.  5.  SECRETS CAN KILL."  Two of the very best writers on the scene today.
  • Max Ehrlich, Spin the Glass Web.  Crime novel.  "Don Newell was a top TV writer.  Paula was an actress.  'Paula's no good,' warned Henry Hkinge, Don's research man.  'She'd ruin any man she got her hands on.'  But Don couldn't help himself.  There was something about her.  An almost angible aura of sex, as real as perfume.  There was also something else -- she was dead.  All Don could do was run.  And sweat,  And run."  Spin the Glass Web (1952) was Ehrlich's second novel, following the SF novel The Big Eye.  The most famous of his fourteen books is The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, the basis of the 1975 classic film, with a scfreenplay also by Ehrlich.
  • Brian Garfield, Arizona.  Western.  "They were misfits.  Cowboys with no cattle.  Ranchers with no l;and.  Rebels with no war.  And i 1890, america was closing in on them.  so there, on a piece of land fit only for misfits, they built a town.  And for that twon a thousand desperate men and women, there was only one man for sheriff -- Ferris Rand.  Tough enough to keep themm in line and smart enough to keep the rest of the world out.  But Ferris Rand has something to hide.  A  mistake he made years ago.  A  mistake that one day rode into town witha gun and a vengeance.  A mistake a man can pay for in only one way -- with his life."
  • Richard Laymon, Body Rides.  Horror novel.  "Nel has been carrying a gun in his car lately -- just to be safe.  And it looks like it's a good thing he has.  When he spots a woman tied naked to a tree and a man ready to kill her, he has no choice but to shoot the attacker.  As a reward, the woman gives Neal something unimaginable.  Neal's reward is a bracelet.  A very special bracelet.  It enables its wearer to step inside other people, to see through their eyes, to feel whatever they feel.  To take "body rides."  But Neal has a big problem.  The man he shot isn't dead.  And he wants revenge,  First he's going to finish what he started with the woman,  Then he's going after Neal..."  Laymon was a master at this stuff.
  • Daniel Stashower, The Ectoplasmic Man.  A "Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes."  this one was a nominee for the Best First Novel Edgar in 1986 under its original title, The Adventure of the Ectoplasmic Man.  "When Harry Houdnii is framed and jialed for espionage, Shelock holmes vows to clear his name, and with the two joining forces to take on blackmailers who have targeted the Prince of Wales.  It's a case that requires all of their skills -- both mental and physical.  Can the daring djuo solve what people are calling 'The Crime of the Century'?"  The floodgates were ajar when this was first published; now they are wide open and you can't swing a cat withut hitting a book-length Holmes pastiche.
  • Donald A. Wollheim, Mike Mars at Cape Kennedy (originally, Mike Mars at Cape Canaveral).  Juvenile (read Young Adult) novel, the third in a series of eight novels, taking the hero from test pilot to astronaut.  "Mike barely escapes with his life when the Starfighter jet he is piloting to Cape Kennedy is fired upon -- by another American plane!  But that's just the beginning of his danger-filled efforts to complete a successful test flight of his space capsule.  For someone -- or something -- was determined to destroy Project Quicksilver, and Mike's along with it!"  Sadly, the Mike mars novels dated pretty quickly.  The series ran from 1961 to 1964, and titles were briefly reprinted in the mid to late Sixties.  Time seems to have passed Mike Mars by during the last fifty years.

Winking at Sinus Pain:  From The Week, July 23,2021:

"A New Zealand woman who suffered chronic sinus pain waas shocked to discover that a tiddlywink had been lodged in her nose for 37 years.  Mary McCarthy spent decades feeling discomfort and finally sought out a doctor when a Covid swab test worsened the pain.  Under his questioning, she remembered putting a tiddlywink in her noose as a chjild.=, accidently inhaling it.  'I remember being terrifed, thinking, where has it gone,' she said.  Afraid to tell her mother, she put the accident out of her mind.  'I always had difficulty breathing through my nose,' M cCarthy said after the yellow disc was removed, 'but never gave it much thought.' "

Birthdays:   Yesterday (July 19) was the birthday of both Benedict Cumberbatch and Lizzie Borden.  Coincidence?  You decide.

Today (July 20) is the birthday of Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, infamous mob hitman (born Uinseann Mac Colla, 1908-1932) and on the day Coll was killed (February 8, 1932 -- gangland style...15 bullets) noted composer John Williams was born; to my mind, that was a good trade.  Today is also the birthday of Pope Innocent IX (1519-1591), who held the Pontificate for only two months (October 19-December 30) before his death from a cold caught during a pilgrimage.

But what about holidays (I hear you ask)?  Yesterday was Global Hug Your Kids Day, National Diaguiri Day, and Stick Out Your Tongue Day.   If you missed celebrating any of these, I'm sorry.

Today is Eid al-fitr, the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal and marks the end of Ramadan.  Eid al-fitr is marked by special prayers, family visiting, gift-giving, and charity.  Today is also National Lollipop Day and National Moon Day.

Batman:  This week, Kitty and I have been streaming Titans, a series featuring DC Comics heroes Robin, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy, with special appearances from Hawk and Dove, The Doom Patrol, Wonder Girl, Jason Todd, Batman, and others.

The link takes you to the first issue of Batman (Spring 1940), as well the rest of the first 50 issues of the comic book.  Where's Bill Finger? you may ask.  That's another story.

Kidney Soup:  Some Americans, me especially, are averse to eating kidneys.  Some may be braver than I.  For those, here's a recipe for kidney soup from Miss Manby Smith:

Ingredients:  One-half ox kidney,  2 small turnips,  2 carrots,  2 onions,  1 head celery,  2 quarts water or stock,  1 oz. dripping,  pepper and salt.

Method:  Cut up kidney and vegetables, and dredge with flour.  [Note:  Flour is not included in the ingredients.  JH]  Dissolve dripping in saucepan, and put all in covered saucepan, and allow to stand on stove for one hour to draw juices, then add water, and simmer for three hours, removing scum as it rises.

-- from Great Grandmother's Recipe Book:  Containing Over Two Hundred Practical and Useful Recipes  (London:  Jerrold, 1900)

Bon appeit!  (Although any recipe that includes constantly removing the scum may be looked upon with askance, IMHO.)

Billy Mink:  :The Green Forest and the Smiling Pool are full of adventure for Billy Mkink and his animal friends -- Bobby Coon, Jerry Muskrat, Jumper Hare, and the others.  But danger works with a plot from the Robber Rats.  How will Billy Mink win the day?"

Thornton W. Burgess (1874-1965) was the author of more than 150 charmiing books for children, inclulding Old Mother West Wind, The Adventures of Peter Cottontail, and Peter Rabbit Puts on Airs (Peter Rabbit was the creation of Beatrix Potter; Burgess once said, "I think that Miss Potter gav e Peter a name known the world over, while I with Mr. Cady's help (Cady was Burgess's illustrator) perhaps made him a character."

Here's an audio recording of Billy Mink, broken up in forty short chapters -- about two and half to three hours.  Enjoy.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man "Bubba" -- also know as William Hodge, 32 -- stole an alligator from a mini-golf course, was upset when the gator protested being taken, engaged in a brief wrestlking match and slamming it to the ground by its tail, and ended up throwing the poor crocidilian onto the roof of a bar "to teach it a lesson."  Bubba has been charged with five felonies.  The alligator has been returned to the mini-golf course and is presumably avoiding anyone who looks like he may be named Bubba.
  • Sometimes I am slow in reporting Florida Man news.  In November, 2019, 25-year-old florida Man Christian Dominic Shay, a big fan of cake frosting and feces, broke into the Bear Lake Elementary School in Seminole County and 1) covered chairs, desks, and drawers in one classroom with cake frosting, 2) left a trail of frosting-covered footprints, 3) left an open can of frosting and a child's sweatchirt covered with frosting and feces in a trash can, 4) left feces-covered hand and footprints on w indow ledge where Shay reportedly broke into the school, 5) placed a stapler inside a toilet, 6) left a feces/frosting covered remote in the bathroom 6) put a laptop in the trash outside the building, and 7) hung soiled underwear outside the building.  Did I mention that he was "nearly naked" and that indecent exposure was one of the charges leveled against him?
  • Florida Man Paul Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, has the distinct honor (?) of being the first person sent to prison because of the January 6 insurrection.  Florida leads the way!
  • Florida Man Michael Taylor regularly strolls Florida with an AR pistol -- a shorter version of the AR-15-style rifle -- fully loaded, with a round in the chamber, to prove a point.  Tylor, who hosts a YouTube channel called The Armed Fisherman, has found a loophole in the Florida law against openly carrying firearms.  Taylor regularly provokes police reaction and films it for his YouTube channel.  At Clearwater Beach he fist-bumped a man with a tattoo of the Three Percenters, an anti-government group, and complimented him on the tat.  I am not anti-gun, although at times I feel I should be, but I am anti-stupid.

Good News:
  • The "Wizard of Paws" makes prothestics to fit any animal
  • Unsuspecting pedestrians trigger a "dance party"
  • Man gives his terminally-ill dog one last walk up their favorite mountain -- in a wheelbarrow
  • After facing down a thief wholstole his dog, man pays for her rehab rather than calling police
  • Teenager invents clever fire extinguisher and vows all profits to be sent to fire risk areas

Today's Poem:
A Smile

When someone's having a bad day,
A smile could go a long way,
So make sure to put one on
And keep it until the day is gone.
You don't know what this deed
Could do for a friend in need.
It might save them from the pain
Of a sadness they can't contain.
Don't ask what a smile can do
Because I'm sure it once helped you.

-- Malak Meleka


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  2. As I recall, DC wasn't ready to credit Bill Finger for the invention of Batman till the '70s...

    Never did understand that.

    My father was a Federal Aviation Admin sector manager when they were filming a bit of THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD adaptation at Logan Airport...he was asked if he would be interested in being a background extra in those sequences; he declined, but OK'd the technicians and other staff who wanted to participate to do so on their breaks.