Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, October 30, 2021


 For your Halloween weekend reading pleasure...this one has been credited as the first all-horror comic book.

Come meet a blood-thirty tiger, a ghost who once had a magic bottle, an island of man-eating lizards, a supposed haunted house, and a hen-pecked husband plotting the murder of his wife.

Enjoy your Halloween Hallowscream!

Friday, October 29, 2021


 Tower by Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman (2009)

Take two of today's best writers of crime fiction, blend well, and the result is a jackhammer of a book that pounds at you relentlessly as the pages spin by.

Nick and Todd were best friends since childhood, growing up on the toughest streets in Brooklyn.  Nick's father was a Mick,  an ex-cop turned security guard.  Violence was second nature to him and he took out his frustrations on Nick and his mother.  Todd's father was a distant, emotionless figure cowed by his bullying wife.  From a practical point of view, both were practically orphans, growing up hating their parents.  so they found each other.

Nick was hard-wired for rage and violence.  He would attack any one instantly for the slightest reason.  Todd was a bit better, less apt to do violence, more clear-headed and with his anger and rage lying below the surface.  Todd's Uncle Ira was a minor cog in an up and coming crime organization run by a man named Boyle.  Ira introduced Todd to Boyle's outfit an Todd in turn brought Nick into Boyle's world and the world of Boyle's psychotic assistant, the stone cold Griffin.

Boyle sends the two friends out on dangerous assignments, drawing them deeper and deeper into the criminal web.  Nick falls in love with Shannon, a nightclub singer and single mother of a child with Down syndrome.  Todd also falls in love and moves to Philadelphia, returning after a few months, saying that she had left him.  But when Todd came back he had a harder edge to him.  Boyle then lends Todd out to a Boston mobster who needed someone with Todd's hard edge.  When Todd returns, he is even harder than when he went.  It was as if someone had ripped put his soul.

Nick and Todd are sent to rob a rich man's apartment while the man was away, but the owner suddenly appeared in the middle of the robbery.  Without thinking, Todd shot the owner twice in the face.  They dragged the body to a closet and finished the robbery.  Boyle then sent the two to pay a visit to a shop owner who had refused to pay protection.  The owner gives them some lip and Todd leaps over the counter and cuts his throat.  Todd later told Nick that he had merely cut an artery and not the jugular; the shopkeeper would survive and would think twice about not paying in the future.

Nick begins to get worried about his friend.  Todd's cold-blooded rage has surpassed Nick's own rage.  Then Boyle tells Nick that he has to kill Todd because Todd is a cop.


It turns out that Todd is a cop, admitting freely to Nick recruited in Philadelphia to bring down Boyle.  Todd tells Nick that he has to choose a side -- him or Boyle, and that he will protect Nick.  Eventually Boyle sends Griffin to kill Nick but Nick manages to stab Griffin in the stomach.  He drops the barely living Griffin into the harbor,  Todd sends Nick to a safe house in Tennessee.

The story of Todd going to Philadelphia was a ruse.  He had no girlfriend but was assigned to a pretty U.S. marshal who pretended to be one for his cover.  The marshal plays coy and keeps Todd at a distance but, after finding out that her husband had been killed on duty, she and Todd make love.  The next morning she is gone and Todd is told to go back to New York and wait for orders to report to Boston.  Todd is deeply in love with Leeza, the marshal, but knows he will never see her again.

The Boston mobster Todd has been loaned out to is Rudi, a man even more dangerous than Griffin.  Todd plays his part as a badass to the hilt.  He hooks up with a Red Sox fan (gack!) named Kathleen, whom he likes but does not love.  The love is reserved for his long lost Leeza.  Word comes back to Rudi that Todd is an undercover cop.  He has Kathleen kidnapped and tortured to lure Todd out to a lonely house.  One of Rudi's flunkies, Finney, ot the drop on Todd, taking his two guns.  On the basement floor was the body of one of Rudi's men who had been a snitch for the police.  Tied to a chair, naked, her body covered in cigarette burn, held by wire restraints that cut into her flesh, and with a vise clamped to her head was Kathleen.  Finney had missed the gun that Todd had stuck into the back of his pants.  Just as Finney was about to blow Todd away with a shotgun, Todd fired, killing Finney, but the shotgun went off anyway as Finney fell.  The blast hit Kathleen, killing her.

Todd later kills Rudi.  He dismembers him and feeds his body pats to animals at the zoo.

When things get to hot for Todd with Boyle, he is sent to a safe house in Milwaukee until he nad Nick (still in Tennessee) can testify against Boyle.

Although I should have been, I was unprepared for the shattering climax that Bruen and Coleman lay out, bringing the story to a fitting and tragic end.

This punch to the guts novel is presented in two parts -- first, from Nick's point of vie;, then, from Todd's.  Each has the ring of truth, the touch of despair, and the incinderiary pacing that both authors are noted for.

Ken Bruen, with his Irishman's gift with words, is best-known for his award-winning Jack Taylor novels, his Brant series, and for the Max and Angela series with Jason Starr.  Reed Farrel Coleman is the prize-winning author of the popular Moe Prager series, as well as the Dylan Klein, Gus Murphy, and Gulliver Dowd novels; he also wrote six books continuing the late Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series.  Pure literary talent gallops through their books.

Tower won the 2010 Macavity Award for Best Novel and was a finalist for the 2010 Anthony Award for Best Paperback.

One minor detail that struck my fancy.  While in Boston, Todd finds a mystery bookstore in Cambridge.  "It was on the ground floor of a red clapboard house and the only stuff they stocked were mystery and detective novels."  There, behind the counter "was a big earth momma with a friendly face.  She wore glasses, let her hair straggle, but had a presence that was hard to explain."  No names were given but those who knew the late Kate Mattes and her Kate's Mystery Books may recognize the description.  On a personal note, I still miss Kate and her kindness and generosity.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021


 "A Use for Genius" by James F. Sullivan  (first published in The Strand Magazine #30, June 1893; included in his collection Queer Side Stories, 1900)

James Frank Sullivan (1852-1936) was a British artist and author famous for his satires on British life and mores in the late nineteenth century.  His best known work was The British Working Man, by One Who Doesn't Believe in Him (1878), a collection of satirical cartoons.  Beginning with its ninth issue, George Newnes' The Stand Magazine (September 1891), began a regular feature titled "The Queer Side of Things" -- which included short stories of a satirical, sometimes fantastic, bent by Sullivan; many of these were collected in his Queer Side Stories.

Stepping heavily into farce, "A Use for Genius" concerns Young Bansted Downs, so referred to by his pater Old Bansted Downs (the sobriquet used by Young Bansted).  Young Bansted had just returned from school when Old Bansted draws him aside and asks him, "What sphere in life do you propose to fill?"  Young Bansted had been considering this very question over the last forty-five minutes since he had left school, and replies, "I should prefer to be something prosperous."  A wise choice, his father agreed.  A little more mulling reveals the young man's choice of a profession:

"I have been thinking that I should like to be apprenticed to a Genius, with a view to adopting his calling."

That being settled, the two begin searching for a suitable position.  They come upon a newspaper advertisement for an apprentice to a Genius:  please apply to Brayne Power and Sons, Hanover, who have one such position available.  In short time, Young Bansted Downs is taken on and only has to pay the Senior Mr. Power fifty pounds (twenty-five pounds down, then one pound in monthly installments until Bansted his H.A.W.

[A little explanation is due.  H.A.W. stands for Head Above Water, the final degree in the study to be a Genius.   It is preceded by the F.I. and the E.P.. -- your Foot In and your Ear of the Public.  Of course before all this approached, one must earn a Make your Mark. The process can be hurried along if one already has his P.P. (Pertinacious Pusher) or his C.I. (Chum of the Influential).  There can be no doubt about this course of studies because the Senior Mr. Power has a high brow forehead, a far-away gaze, long hair, and a distinct abstraction -- all of which identifies him as a Genius.]

And so Young Bansted sits behind a desk and stares off into space for several months thinking of a way to get his M.M.  With a flash of inspiration he finally comes to a conclusion.  As Young Bransted told Young Mr. Power (I'm sure there are other Young Mr. Powers around, but the reader does not meet them), he "felt the irresistible impulse to do something great and wonderful."  He wasn't sure what, but that was enough to move him on to more advanced studies.  He began to study the "higher attributed of genius -- eccentricity and obscureness."

Alas, Young Bransted could not meet the mustard.  He became despondent.  He took lodging in a "back cistern-cupboard under the roof in a poor street" and subsisted on one sausage a week.  Then -- luck of all luck! -- he happened meet a graduate of Brayne Power and Sons, who cued him into the Booming Department, an institute that will promote your name in whatever field you choose.  Soon Young Bransted is renting out a hall and giving performances in which he "painted on the platform; sang and played his own compositions to them,; and recited his own poems, and acted in his own plays; and told them about his own scientific researches, and his military, exploratory, judicial, political, and athletic achievements."

But the public (and the Boomer Department) is fickle.  The Boomer Department began Booming another client and the public soon flocked to him, leaving Young (now Middle-Aged) Bransted in the lurch.

All is not lost, however.  A last-minute bait-and-switch plan saves all the Geniuses.  How?  You'll have to read the story.

Both the September 1983 issue of The Strand Magazine (which also includes a Sherlock Holmes adventure, an episode from Charles J. Mansfield, and an article on the future dictates of fashion) and Queer Side Stories can be read on the internet,  While at it, check out The British Working Man, by One Who Doesn't Believe in Him.

Monday, October 25, 2021


 Openers:  I was all alone at the end of the bar when he came in and I heard it distinctly:  "Hello-o!"

I froze dead.  Go away.  But he wasn't talking to me.  In fact he wasn't talking to anybody unless he was two midgets.  Which was possible, I noted apathetically as he receded down the bar.He was about nine feet tall and dressed by Goodwill Industries.

I went back to trying to decide whether I was suffering more here than if I were someplace else.  Here was a tacky grill in a part of town I'd never seen before and didn't etcetera.   It had the advantage that none of my, aaugh, friends was apt to come in.  On the other hand several hours had yielded no hope at all.  None.

There was a problem of taking a leak first.  When I stood up I found my legs had been been bent there too long.  They kind of floated me at a tall apparition halfway down the bar, but I managed to veer toward the can.

The can door pushed open behind me and I heard it again, gutsier:  "Hiya."  Mr. Tall came through.  Oh, no.  I concentrated on my image as the most dangerous guy five feet six in the world and finished my business fast.  When I left I noticed the door creaked a little.  It definitely did not speak English.

-- "The Man Doors Said Hello To" by James Tiptree, Jr. (from Worlds of Fantasy, Winter 1970; reprinted in Tiptree's collection Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home, 1973)

Thus begins a strange day for our unnamed narrator.  The Tall Man to whom doors spoke (it was, he said, a friendly city) sat next to him.  The Tall Man had tiny girls living in his jacket; he currently had six girls on the lease, he said, and they all worked as models, being just the right size for magazine advertisements.  The next thing our narrator knew, he left the bar with this strange being, stopping by a wall to place a fifty-cent piece on it.  Tall People's Bank, he explained; he had borrowed the fifty cents last week.  Any street with two "R"s in its name had one.  He seemed surprised there was no Short People's Bank.  They approached Harrison Street.  Two "R"s.  Our narrator wanted his new friend to show him.  The Tall Man reached up to a ledge and produced a dime, unfortunately covered in pigeon poop.  He cleaned his hands and put the dime back and found a note.  It said, "Help."  Sensing this was an emergency, the Tall Man rushed into the building and our narrator followed.  The apartment was occupied by a mousy-looking young woman.  His attention was soon centered on an old, large bureau.  He pulled it from the wall and scurried behind it, emerging with an old electrical cord whose insulation was rubbed off against the plug.  With its paper backing it was about to set fire at any time.  The Tall Man kicked the bureau hard to teach it a lesson.  It had a death wish, you see, and didn't care if anyone else was harmed in the blaze.  He led the girl and the narrator our of the building, telling them it was time to eat.  At a restaurant, when the lasagna came, he told the girl that the narrator would help her find a new apartment in the morning, one that did not have such a nasty piece of work as that old bureau.  Apologizing, he said he had to leave -- there was someone he had to chew out and the submarine was about a hundred years late, at least that was what he said sounded like.  On his way out, a tiny girl poked her head out of one of his pockets and waved goodbye.  They never did find out the Tall Man's name.

This little Alice-in-Wonderland excursion is one of my favorite James Tiptree stories.  No small feat, considering she wote such classics as "The Screwfly Solution," "The Women That Men Don't See," "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?," "Love Is the Plan the PIan I.s Death," and "The Psychiatrist Who Wouldn't Do Awful Things to Rats."  But there's something in the quirky style of "The Man Doors Said Hello To" that tickles me.

"James Tiptree, Jr." was the pen name of Alice Bradley Shelton (1915-1987), a former artist, Air Force officer, and CIA intelligence officer.  She also used the pen name "Raccoona Shelton."  For years, her readers (and many fellow writers) assumed her to be a male, albeit one who was philosophically feminist.  It was only late in her career that her true identify was sussed out.  Her writing is literate, subversive, philosophical, and entertaining.  Her stories hold up well thirty-four years after her death.

Shelton was a complicated and perhaps sexually ambiguous person.  Blazingly intelligent, she resented the male-oriented world around her as much as she resented society's tendency to reward second-rate efforts.  She was depressive and had heart problems.  In 1976 she admitted to wanting to kill herself but could not because that would leave her husband (twelve years older than she) alone.  The following year she suggested to her husband that they make a suicide pact for when their health began to fail.  In her last few years, she battled the IRS, which insisted on taxing her unpublished and unfinished work at exorbitant rates.  He husband began to go blind and lost this eyesight almost completely by 1986.  On May 18, 1987, Shelton shot her husband and then committed suicide.  Their bodies were found holding hands.  According to at least one source, her suicide note had been written as early as 1979.  A sad end to a brilliant career.

During her science fiction career, she garnered two Hugo Awards, three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, two Locus Awards, a Science Fiction Chronicle Award, a Jupiter Award, two Hayakawa (Japan) Awards, and three Seiun (Japan) Awards.  She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2012.  Several of her works have been adapted for television, radio, the stage, and comic books.  The James Tiptree Jr Award for science fiction and fantasy works that explore issues of gender was established in 1991; the name was changed in 2019 to the Otherwise Reward due to the controversy about her and her husband's death.

Under any of her names, she is worth reading.


  • Brian Michael Bendis, Secret War.  Graphic novel.  "The darkest chapter in Marvel Universe history.  When Nick Fury discovers a disturbing connection between many of Marvel's deadliest villains, he assembles a ragtag team of the MU's most misunderstood heroes for a secret mission to do what the U.S. government could never allow -- eventually leading to a super-powered blowout between a who's who of NYC heroes and mutants!"  I read this one this morning and my judgment is...meh!  There's a good but wasted cast of Marvel heroes here:  Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Daredevil, Nick Fury, Captain America, Black Widow, Spiderman, Wolverine, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Quake, and SHIELD Agents Maria Hill, James Woo, and Jasper Sitwell.  And there are villains galore:  Lady Octopus, Eel, Crossfire, Trapster, Boomerang,  Wizard, Hobgoblin, Goldbug, Scorcher, Spider Slayer, Grim Reaper, Mentallo King Cobra, Crimson Dynamo, Scorpion, Constrictor, Mister Fear, and Shocker -- all lower tier villains.  But the players get lost in the scope of the story.  The plot is diffuse and does not hold together well.  The artwork by Gabriele Dell'Otto is consistently murky and hard to suss out.  There are a lot of pages of explanatory text (presumably from official SHIELD reports) that supposedly helps sort out the many characters and explain the plot BUT the teeny-tiny text is in red on a black background, making it impossible to read (especially on glossy paper).  Bah!  
  • Cory Doctorow, For the Win.  YA science fiction dystopian novel, signed by the author  "It's the twenty-first century, and all over thee world, MMOORPGs are big business.  Hidden away in China and elsewhere, young players are pressed into working as "gold Farmers," amassing game wealth that's sold to Western players at a profitable markup.  Some of these pieceworkers rebel, trying to go into business for themselves -- but there's little to stop their bosses from dragging them back into servitude.  Some, like young Mala in the slums on Mumbai -- nicknamed "General Robotwallah" for her self-taught military skill -- become enforcers for the bosses, but that only buys them so much.  In L.A., young Wei-Dong, obsessed with Asian youth culture and MMORPGs, knows the system is rigged and that young people everywhere are being exploited.  Pushed too far at last, he and his Asian counterparts begin to work together to claim their rights.  Under the noses of the ruling elites, they fight the bosses, the game owners, and the rich speculators, outsmarting them with street-gaming skills.  But soon the battle spills from the virtual world into the real one, leaving the young rebels fighting not just for their rights, but for their lives..."  This one was nominated for a Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel, losing out to Sarah Hoyt's DarkShip Thieves
  • ----------, Little Brother,  YA science fiction dystopian novel, the first of three books in the series, with bookplate: "Donated to:/the students of Washington High School/by Cory Doctorow, 2014."  "Marcus. aka 'w1n5t0n,' is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works -- and how to work the system.  Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.  His whole world changes when, having skipped school, he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on San Francisco, in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they're mercilessly interrogated for days.  When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist,  He knows that no one will believe his story, which leads him with only one option:  to take down the DHS himself.  Can one teenage hacker fight back against a government out of control?   Maybe, bu only if he's really careful,,,and very, very smart."  This one was nominated for the Nebula and Hugo Awards, won the Prometheus and John W. Campbell Awards, as well as appearing on many "Best of" lists for young adults.
  • Grady Hendrix, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires.   Critically acclaimed horror novel.  "Patricia Campbell's life has never felt smaller.  Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, and she's always a step behind on her endless to-do list.  The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime.  Then James Harris walks into her life during the summer of 1993.  He makes her feel things she hasn't felt in years, but when the children on the other side of town go missing, Patricia wonders if he's connected.  Is he a Brad Pitt, a Bundy, or something much worse?"
  • Michael Moorcock, The English Assassin.  Science Fiction?  Fantasy?  A Jerry Cornelius novel.  "One dark December day, a corpse washes up on a beach in Cornwall.  The corpse is that of Jerry Cornelius.  But you can't keep a dead man down.  There's an apocalypse brewing, and Cornelius is here to herald in pandemonium across multiple alternative worlds.  Joined by the usual ramshackle array of familiars -- doomed Catherine, monstrous Bishop Beasley, and, of course, the intermittently evil Miss Brunner -- world domination, lavish parties, shootings and warfare are all in a day's work.  Goodbye civilization:  this is your requiem.  Described as A Romance of Entropy, the third book in the Cornelius Quarter, The English Assassin, is the darkest installment of Cornelius's adventures.  Each wildly inventive catastrophe is bound up with real newspaper clippings from the time of writing, reminding us that the world of chaos doesn't sound so different from our own."  Cornelius of course is an atavar of Moorcock's Eternal Champion -- one of the more unusual fictional creations in the genre.
  • Ogden Nash, A Penny Saved Is Impossible.  A retrospective collection of sixty humorous poems.  Every once in a while, we all need to take a break, sit back, and red some Ogden Nash.  The world would be a much better place.
  •  Jerry Pournelle, creator (with John F. Carr, associate editor),  There Will Be War, Volume V:  Warrior.  Science fiction anthology with 21 stories, poems, and essays about future (and past) war.  "Warrior spans the length and depths of interstellar space, breaching the farthest reaches of infinity.  From the deepest heart of the starkest black hole to the dazzling chaos of starry inception man endlessly replays the tireless scenarios of war.  From an intergalactic warlord's schemes of universal dominion to the lowliest star soldiers slogging across the trackless void -- as it is and as it shall be -- in all its hair-raising horror and terrifying splendor."  I've never cared for Pournelle's politics, but he could sure write and he could sure edit.

Mea Culpa:  As has been the case over the past few weeks, life has interrupted this blog.  More of this post to come later.  Maybe.

Saturday, October 23, 2021


The Outbursts of Everett True was a syndicated two-column distributed by the Newspaper Enterprise Association from July 22, 1905 to January 13. 1927 when co-creator A. D. Condo left the strip due to health reasons.  Condo later went back to comic strips, drwing comic strip until1946; he died in 1956 at age 63.  At one time Everett True was the syndicate's most popular featured.

Just who was Everett True?  He was a fat middle-aged man in a business suit and a bowler hat.  He usually carried an umbrella and smoked a short cigar.  Today he would be the poster child for road rage.  He was violent and quick to rage, usually at some small inconvenience or annoyance that many of encounter daily -- someone ahead of you in line who takes up too much time, someone who blows smoke in your direction, someone who tried to cut ahead of you in line, someone whose manners are less than perfect, perhaps those self-absorbed "Karens" we read so much about nowadays...all are fodder for Everett True's rage.  Everett is someone who bows to our worst instinct and the reader gets a vicarious pleasure knowing some irritating person will get their comeuppance.

Here, in his first collection, are 95 examples of the man you would love to cheer on but are afraid to meet.

Sunday, October 17, 2021


 Halloween is quickly approaching so it's time to think scary stories.  Who better than to bring you a scary story than the versatile Jay O'Callahan, one of America's premiere storytellers?



 Cathy Maguire.

Saturday, October 16, 2021


 Tex Ritter.


Here's a blast from the past from the Federal Civil Defense Adminstration:  Advice to kids on what to do when the atomic bomb hits.  When, not If.

Not only does this booklet show a complete misunderstanding of nuclear explosions, but it traumatized a generation of American youth.  My wife completely remembers the "duck and cover" practises when she was in grade school. Her school sent out a request to parents on what they would like done if the bomb drops:  Keep them at school or try to send them home.  At the time Kitty's family was living in a Baltimore suburb fairly close to ground zero so the reaction these kind of made sense.  I lived in a small Massachusetts farming community that did not get caught up in the "duck and cover" mania (although there were occasional "duck and cover" ads on Boston television), which leads me to conclude 1) that we not important enought to save, or 2) wiser heads prevailed.

You must remember, though, the danger from an atomic attack was a real possibility, even if the suggested response was pure moonshine.

Somehow we managed to grow up somewhat unscathed, but aware of the consequences of grownup stupidity.

Anyway, here is Bert the Turtle, the "star of the official U.S. Civil Defense film 'Duck and Cover'."

As a bonus, here's Bert in his starring role in the animated short Duck and Cover:

Friday, October 15, 2021


 Hank Williams.


 Rain in the Doorway by Thorne Smith   (1933)

Thorne Smith (1892-1934) is best remembered for his humorous fantasy novels.  Topper and Topper Takes a Trip involves fun-loving ghosts haunting a conservative banker.  In The Stray Lamb, another banker finds himself transforming into various animals.  The Night Life of the Gods has Roman statues of various gods transformed into living versions of themselves.  Turnabout sees a married couple exchange bodies.  A photographer and his dog suddenly become living X-rays in Skin and BonesThe Glorious Pool imagines a Fountian of Youth and its effeccts on an elderly couple.  And The Passinate Witch (completed by Norman Metcalfe after Smith's death) is about a man who unknowingly marries a witch.

The books are a funny, ribald mix of drinking, sexual freedom, and jovial minor law-breaking and the tweaking of authority.  The main character is usually an uptight, conservative man in an unhappy marriage, who discovers an exciting change of view (and experience) through the supernatural events.  A sexy, much-younger, free-spirited girl shows an interest in the poor protagonist.  By the end, lives are changed, presumably for the better.  There is wordplay, misunderstandings, innuendoes, double entendres, and magnificent satirical prose.  Much is hinted and left unsaid -- something that fits the Twenties and early Thirties when they were published -- and all were popular best-sellers, many of which were adapted for films and television.

And then, there is Rain in the Doorway, a novel published the year before the author's death of cancer.  First, you must understand that this is a funny book.  Readerss, including myself, liked it.  But there is something odd about it.  It reads like a parody of a Thorne Smith novel.

We open with third-generaation trust lawyer Hector Owen waiting patiently in the drab doorway of a department store for his wife.  There is a tremendous rain storm going on and there is not much to look at in the shabby doorway except the rather odd, jumbled window display which featured a disarray of goods, as if no thought had been given to the display.  For the first two chapters Owen waits.  We learn that he is not a happy man, that he often escapes through fantasy for a more exciting life, and that his wife is cuckolding him.  We also learn that Owen's business mainly consists of managing a large estate for a family that wishes to sell it to maintain their individual lifestyles, which consist of drinking, drinking in bed, nd drinking whike incarcerated; unfortunely one member of the family, a woman, has gone missing and her signature is needed on the documents, and Owen is charged with finding her.  His patience is interrupted twice, once by a homeless beggar and once by a soggy woman of the streets.  Then the door behind him opens and he is grabbed and pulled into the building.  Ten minutes later his wife finally appears and he is nowhere to be found.

Owen finds himself in a large TARDIS-like department store staffed by many beautiful young women.  The man who had jerked him into this fantasy world was Mr. Horace Larkin, the owner-manager of the store.  Larkin and his two partners, Britt-Britt and Dinner, had won the business in a card game and have no idea how to run the store.  That does not bother the trio, though, they have an irresposible attitude toward the business and appear more interested in drinking, causing trouble, alienating customers, and participating in sex while the nubile sales staff.  

One of thee first things Owen saw was "a young and beautiful salesgirl [who] had  reached across the counter serarating her from her customer and had angrily seized the customer's noe in a grip of eternal animosity.  The customer, one of those large, officious, disagreeably arrogant ladies who infest department stores, was emitting a volley of objectionable and highly unladylike noises.  Above her voice came the clear, crisp, furious words of the salesgirl, 'You mean-spirited, overstuffed, blue-faced old babboon you wicked-hearted old cow walrus,' said the salesgirl, 'take that and that and that'...The that and that and that designted three seaparate and distinct tweaks to the nose of the customer."  To Owen's amazement, Mr. Larkin watched the scene with great delight, remarking that th salesgirl was doing splendidly.  He tells Owen that the customer is 'a most pestiferous bitch' and that 'describes her nicely -- a regiular she-dragon.  And a bully.  Attend a moment and you will see something amusing.  Watch how she gets hers.'  Suddenly all the sales staff in sight descend upon the woman and throw her bodily out of the store.

Within minutes, Owen and Larkin spot a shifty-looking man rushing past them and out of the store.  Larkin says the man has probably stolen diamonds, and it turns out he did -- a large handful of big diamonds.  Larkin makes no attempt to stop the thief and his  matter-of-fact, laissezz faire approach puzzles Owen.  But Larkin is more interested in lunch.  "No wonder we're going bankrupt," he tells Owen.

The next distraction was "four beautifully formed girls clad in the sheerest underwear were speeding down the aisle.  Behind them sped four decidedly determined gentlemen almost, but not quite, draped in towels."  Each of the fur women leaped upon Owen, Larkin, and his two partners for protection, climbing quickly up to their shoulders; the girl who had leapt upon Owen got her foot caught in his pants and underwear and, as she climbed up, those articles of clothing climbed down.  The men who had been chasing the girls had been skinny dipping in the pool (yes, this magnificent store had a swimming pool) and would not believe the girls were underwear models...

You now have an idea of what type of department store this was -- one completely unlike any other store in the world.  Certainly one run like no other department store had been run.

Larkin then tells Owen that he (Owen) has been named the newest partner in the store.  To start him off, Owen is to work in the Books Department.   It's unclear if the store has a general Books Department, but Owen finds himself behind the counter of the Pornographic Books with a free-spirited young nymph named Miss Honor Knightly, better known as "Satin."  Satin enjoys her job and enjoys working with Owen, deciding that he is hers to keep.

Owen and his new partners (and Satin) go to a meeting of the Kirians, a group of distinquished business from throughout the city.  By this time much alcohol has been imbibed and Owen has joined in the devil-may-care spirit of his partners.  Gone are all thooughts of his legal business; Owen is just having too much fun.  The meeting is held in a large hotel some distance from the store.  The four partners disrupt the meeting by various means (including duck calls) and cap the meeting off by setting the hotel on fire (that's after they set the officious program speaker's beard on fire.)

Did I mention the stuffed whale?

Much of the book is taken up with Laurel and Hardy-type routines of double-talk.  Unrelenting routines, incident after incident after incident, leaving victims and bystanders (including earnest mothers, would-be customers, city leaders, and bank officials) addled and confused.   This type of interplay is a hallmark of Smith's comic writing, but in this case, it seems much of the narrative is nothing but. This over-dulgence gets to be a bit wearing. I suspect Smith decided to go this easy route rather than work to flesh out a plot.

The novel ends as expected and is designed to appeal to the Walter Mitty in all of us.

It must be mentined that this is Thorne Smith's most ribad book,  but the sex is merely impled and never graphic.  Just as well.  Fantasies deserve to be private.

A good, entertaining, but flawed, read.  Or, perhaps, I've just gone beyond the Walter Mitty portion of my life.

Thursday, October 14, 2021




 CBS Radio Mystery Theater presents a tale about a haunted house in Scotland.  Martin Bell, Morgan Fairchild, Robert Kaliban, and Ian Martin star.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021


 "The Wizard's Jar" by Charles Stokes Wayne  (from his collection Mrs. Lord's Mooonstone and other Stories, 1888; no earlier appearance known)

Sometimes it's not nice to mess around with things you don't understand.

Mr. Harrison Blodgett was a young man who had inherited $10,000 from a grand uncle.  What to do with this vast sum?  There happened to be newspaper advertisement that offered great returns on one's investment.  Curiously eager, Blodgett sent a small amount in response and found, a few weeks later, that his money had doubled.  The letter bearing this news also suggested that he travel to New York to personally supervise his ventures.  And so Blodgett came to the city to indulge in stock speculation.

Some months later, he found himself in desperate straights.  His money was mostly gone and what remained were invested in shares that would bankrupt him if he sold.  Blodgett was lonely and down-trodden; his missed his home and especially missed his nieces and nephews who gave him so much joy.  It was a hot July Fourth when he exited his rude dwellings and made his way to a nearby park where he watcched little children joyously at play.  This brought to mind his nieces and nephews and he decided to spend what little money he had on gifts for them.  It waas a holiday and every store he approached was boarded up until he stumbled upon an old curiousity shop that happened to be open.

The shop was a grimy place, "crowded with all manner of quaint and beautiful articles."  The owner waas a little man with "dark curly hair and a hook nose that told his visitor quite as plainly as words could have done that he was a son of Abraham."  This off-handed racist description -- the only mention in the story, by the way -- sadly sets the underpinning of the tale.

Blodgett is fascinated by one object inn the shop:  "an oddly-shaped tobacco jar.  It was a light blue in color , and was decorated with rays gold diverging from a from a circle in the middle of one side."  The shopkeeper said the rays were made of actual gold embedded in the clay of the jar.  Blodgett buys the jar, spending all his money.  Gifts for his nieces and nephews would have to wait.  The shopkeeper told Blodgett that the jar once had an outline of a bull in the center the medallion, but that it had faded out of existence.  The jar was called the Wizard's Jar because its cap looked like the cap of a wizard.  It had once held tobacco or, perhaps, gold coins.

The following morning Blodgett awoke to find that a perfectly distinct picture of a bear had appeared on the jar and that the rays had distorted into the shape of an "R."  Taking this as an omen (for the letter "R" clearly referred to his Reading stocks), he rushed to his broker to switch to the bear side of the market.  Suddenly blodgett was worth a lot of money.  A few week's later, the picture changed to one of a bull and the rays shifted to form the letters "L" and "S," he followed the jar's advise and invested in Lake Shore to great success.

By the time the next Fourth of July came, Blodgett was not only wealthy but was engaged to the beautiful Henrietta Smithers, the genial daughter of a former U.S. congressman.  Blodgett was spending the holiday at the Smithers' country seat, but just before he was to return to New York he was sticken with a fever that laid him down for two weeks.  The doctor insisted that he have complete quiet to rest -- no news, no newspapers, no contact with the city.  Henrietta dutifully enforced these injunctions.  When Blodgett finally returned to the city, he found his wealth in ruins; his people had not been able to contact him and thus made disastrous choices.  Worse, because no one could contact him, it was felt that he had absconded.  

Blodgett tried to explain what had happened only to find that banks and investors would not give him the funds to rebuild his wealth.  He was no worried, though -- he had been in that state before and he could use the Wizard's Jar to recoup his fortune.  He returned to his apartment to find that a large picture had fallen off the wall and had knocked over a pedestal.  The Wizard's Jar lay shattered on the floor in "ten thousand fragments."

The underlying assumption of the story is that the shopkeeper, a "son of Abraham," was responsible for Blodgett's downfall.   Jews were often thought to dabble in black magic and a magic jar that can give and then take away wealth certainly applies here.  We also know that his was the only shop opened on July Fourth -- whether this was because he was anti-patriotic or because of his venal greed is unclear.  Because the shopkeeper soaked Blodgett on the price of the jar only reinfoces another racial stereotype.  Without the addition of the casual racism of the sentence that identified him as a Jew, this story would have been far more enjoyable and less off-putting.

I can find little about the author, Charles Stokes Wayne (1858-1920).  He was born in Philadelphia and wrote a number of novels, including A Prince to Order, The Snapdragon, The King Pin, and The Marriage of Mrs. Merlin -- some of which were published under his pseudonym "Horace Hazeltine."  The fictionmags index lists well over a hundred (mainly mainstream) stories published between 1899 and 1929, both under his own name and others as "Hazeltine" -- none of the five stories in Mrs. Lord's Moonstone were listed on the fictionmags index.  Mrs. Lord's Moonstone and Other Stories was publlished by the Philadelphia firm of Wynne & Wayne.  Could the Wayne refer to the author?  The book is available to read on the internet.


 Phil Ochs.


 Gaston Leroux may be best known for his novel The Phantom of the Opera, but he was also the creator of newpaperman/detective Joseph Rouletabille, the sleuth in seven novels beginning with Le Mystere de la Chambre Jaune in 1907.  As with Phantom, the Yellow Room has been filmed a number of times.  This 1919 silent was produced and directed by Emile Chautard, who also wrote the adaptation of Leroux's novel.  Chautard (1864 [or 1881, sources vary]-1934) began his film career in France in 1907, and moved to America in 1915; IMDb lists 109 directing credits for him from 1910 to 1924.

This print of The Mystery of the Yellow Room was the only full print of the film I could find on the internet, admittedly after a rather hasty search.  This is a Spanish release with the title cards writteen in Spanish.  Nonetheless you should be able to follow the plot easily.  To help you, here is the plot summary from The Silent Film channel:

"Mathilde Stangerson delays marrying Robert Darzac, as she wants to continue to aid her father, a scientist, in his experiments.  Later, on the evening of her engagement announcement, Mathilde leaves her father in his laboratory at midnight, and goes to her adjoining yellow room.  The professor, hearing gunshots and screaming, breaks Mathilde's lock door to find her bloodied, and the room in disarray, with papers of their studies stolen.  How the assailant escaped the room, with a locked door and windows secured with iron shutters, is a mystery which baffles the reknowned police detective Frederic Larsan, and the cub reporter Rouletbille, assigned to the case.  While Larsan investigates at the house, throfessor's gamekeeper is murdered.  Although clues lead to Robert, who, when arrested, refuses to explain his actions, Rouletabille returns from America to interrupt the trial with the solution to the mystery and prove [******] is the killer."

Featuring William Walcott as Professor Stangerson, Edmund Elton as Darzac, George Cowl as Inspector Larsan, Ethel Grey Terry as Mathilde, and Lorin Raker as Rouletabille.

Enjoy this classic mystery.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Sunday, October 10, 2021


 Openers:  "The Lord in heaven forbid!" exclaimed the old man, while every limb was convulsed in horror -- the blood forsook his cheeks, and he clasped his hands in agony:  "but the thing is impossible!" he resumed, after a few moments passed in reflection, "absolutely impossible! -- What?  Everard?  a boy, whose childhood was past under my own roof, under my very eye?....whose manners are so  mild....who was ever so gentle, so grateful, so kind....whose heart I know as well as I do my own....Bless my soul, Sister Milman, what a fright you have given me!  But it's no great matter now, for when I reflect upon this history of yours, I see clearly that the thing is quite impossible, and so there's an end of it."  --

-- "Now was there ever anything so provoking!  Brother, Brother, let me tell you, that at your time of life it is quite a shame to suffer yoursself to be so blinded by prejudice. -- His childhood wad past under your roof, forsooth!  But where did he pass his youth, I should be glad to know?  why, among tigers and alligators that swallow up poor dear little children at a mouthful, and and great ugly black-a-moor monsters, who eat nothing but human flesh, heaven bless us! and where's the great wonder, that living in such graceless company, Everard should have picked up some of their bloody tricks?  Nay, Brother, to tell you a bit of my mind, for my own part I always suspected, that there was something awkward in the manner, by which he came such a sight of money, though to be sure I never imagined, that the business was half so bad as it proves to be." --

"The Anaconda:  An East Indian Tale" by M. G. Lewis (from the author's collection Romantic Tales, 1808; published separetly in 1813)

Everard Brooke has returned to England from Ceylon a rich man but under a cloud of suspicion.  He is supposed to have murdered a man there and for having n affair with a married woman.  As we delve further into Everard's story we discover that he and Zadi, a Ceylonese attendant, attempted to distract a giant anaconda away from Zadi's master, who is trapped by the serpent.  The anaconda itself (variously and ambiguously referred to as "he," "she," and "it") is pure evil in its attempts to kill.  Scholars have pointed out themes of gender, sexuality, and empire in this piece, but the story may be best read as a tale of terror.

Matthew Gregory "Monk" Lewis (1775-1818) was an English dramatist, novelist, diplomat, politician, and owner of two estates in Jamaica.  He is best-known for his gothic horror novel The Monk (hence the nickname), which placed him alongside writers such as Charles Maturin and Mary Shelley.  The graphic details of the novel (which Lewis attempted to excise in the second edition) drew both condemnation and popularity to the book.  The Monk was clearly influenced by Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho and William Godwin's Caleb Williams, although far more visceral than Radcliffe and retaining Godwin's narrative drive.  Lewis made his mark in popular culture with a poem that has lived on (in altered form) in every ten-year-old boy:  "The worms crawl in.  The worms crawl out."

In 1808, Lewis published the four-volume Romantic Tales, which included a number of poems and stories, including several novellas, among them "The Anaconda" and "The Four Facardins" (a very loose embellishment and translation from the French of a story by Count Anthony Hamilton [1646-1720].

Throughout his writing career, Lewis as plagued with accusations of lacking originality, having "borrowed" many ideas from previous works.  This was something he admitted freely but overlooks his unique (for the time) approach away from sentimentality and his ability to make various components into a cohesive whole.  Lewis's two sister often made suggestioned edits to make his work more palatable for the general audience, but Lewis rejected all such attempts.

Although a member of Parliament and (briefly) a diplomat (he found The Hague "boring"), Lewis;s main loves were writing for the theater and frequenting bars both on the British Isles and the Continent; throughout his life he enjyed mingling with society.  He owned one estate in Jamaica outright and hald of another estate there; in 1817, be bought out his partners and records at the time showed him to own over 500 slaves.  He died the following year of yellow fever as he returned home froma trip to Jamaica and was buried at sea.


  • Paul S, Newman, Dick Tracy Encounters Facey, 1967.  Juvenile, a Big Little Book from Whitman Publishing.  Tracy creator Chester A. Gould appears to have no direct connection to this book, which was authorized by The Chicago Tribune - New York News Syndicate.  (At the time, Gould was busy with the "Tracy in Space" era, a misguided attempt to bring the character into the "modern" age, complete with moon people, a moon kingdom, and Junior Tracy marrying the Moon Maid.  Ptah!  Luckily, this book has none of those trappings.)   We meet Facey Fredericks, a con man and forger who has a talent for making himself look like anyone he wants.  Facey is hired to use his skills to rob a pricey jewelry store and a bank in the same day, leaving those he impersonated to take the blame.  Tracy suspects something more than the obvious is taking place and as he begins to close in on Facey, the criminal commits murder.  A very uncomplicated story that fits well into the Big Little Book motif.  This one has 249 pages with text on one side of the fold and drawings on the other.  Efforts are made to make the drawings like the work of Gould,and it may well be his work (or the work of his assistant at the time Rick Fletcher).  Either may have done the artwork, but it just doesn't ring true to me.

Tentacles:  A Republican state legislature has resigned from his committee positions after disseminating a report that claimed live, tentacled creatures exist in the Covid vaccine and that they infiltrate the body through the vaccine in order to control people's thoughts.   Representative Ken Weyler was the chairman of the House Finance and the joint Legislative Fiscal committees when he forwarded a 52-page report to members of the Finance Committee.  For his part, Weyler said he had only meant to send the first dozen or so pages of the report, which contained comments about the methodology of Covid-19 reporting that concerned him.  Weyler claimed that he had not read the full report.

After the fact that Wyler had released the report came to light, Republican governor Chris Sununu said that Weyler should be removed from his committee chairmanships.  House Speaker Shermaan Packard then met with Weyler and a "mutual decision" was made that Weyler resign his posts.  Tentacles were just a bit too much for the Granite State Republican establishment.

[On the other hand, why go with Bill Gates' nanobots in a vaccine when you could have tentacles?  Tentacles are way cooler!]

Previously Weyler had publicly doubted the state's figures that 90% of people hospitalized with Covid were unvaccinated.  He had also spoken against a proposed $27 million aid package from the the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to boost the state's vaccination efforts -- a vote on that package has been delayed indefinitely.

There has been absolutely no confirmation of a rumor I am starting that the Sci-Fi Channel is rushing into production a made-for-TV movie titled VACCINOPUS!, or of the follow-up VACCINOPUS VS. SHARKNADO!

A Fact of Great Gravity:  "There was once a 50-mile railroad in Lackawanna County that operated its trains entirely by gravity.  It had no locomotives."  This is just one of the facts covered in Great and Interesting Cartoons About Pennsylvania, a 1950 pamphlet issued by the state's Department of Commerce designed to lead to "a better appreciation of Pennsylvania."  I, for one, certainly appreciate Pennsylvania more since I learned that "Egg production has more than doubled in the state in the past 25 years, and, in 1945, Pennsylvania ranked third among all states in the value of its eggs."  Consider my imagination boggled.

To find out more, click on the link:

One-Hit Wonders:  What is the worst one-hit wonder of all time?  A bit less than two years ago, Insider listed 56 possibles, all from 1974 to 2014 (which kind of negates that "of all time" caveat).   Here are a few of the contenders:
  • "Kung Fu Fighting,"  Carl Douglas
  • "Puttin' on the Ritz,"  Taco
  • "Ice Ice Baby,"  Vanilla Ice
  • "I'm Too Sexy."  Right Said Fred
  • "Pepper,"  Buthole Surfers
  • "Barbie Girl,"  Aqua
  • "The Bad Touch,"  Bloodhound Gang
  • "Summer Girls,"  LFO
  • "My Neck, My Back (Lick It),"  Khia
  • "The Ketchup Song (Aserege),"  Las Ketchup
Other contenders are:  "CoCo" (O.T. Genasis); "Rude" (Magic!); "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)" (Ylvis); "Cheerleader" (Omi); "Somebody That i Used To Know" (Gotya, featuring Kimbra); "Don't Drop That Thun Thun" (The Finnaticz);  "Harlem Shake" (Baauer); "Gangnam Style" (Psy); "Tongue Tied" (Grouplove); "Friday" (Rebecca Black); "Billionaire" (Travis McCoy, featuring Bruno Mars); "Teach Me How To Dougie" (Cali Swag District); "Pumped Up Kicks" (Foster the People); "I Love College" (Asher Roth); "This Is Why I'm Hot" (MIMS); "Lips of an Angel" (Hinder); "Laffy Taffy" (D4L); "Axel F" (Crazy Frog); "Tipsy" (J-Kwon); "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) (Big & Rich); "Never Leave You (Um Oooh, Um Oooh)" (Lumidee); "Move Your Feet" (Junior Senior); "Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)" (JC Chasez); "I Wanna Be Bad" (Willa Ford); "Butterfly" (Crazy Town); "around the World (La La La La La) (ATC); "Who Let the Dogs Out" (Baha Men); "Blue (Ba Da Dee)" (Eiffel 65); "Superman" (Goldfinger); "One of Us" (Joan Osborne); "How Bizarre" (OMC); ""Cotton Eye Joe" (Rednex); "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" (Crash Test Dummies); "Whoomp! (There It Is)" (Tag Team); "Informer" (Snow); "Achy Breaky Heart" (Billy Ray Cyrus); "Unbelievable" (EMF); "Groove Is in the Heart" (Dee-Lite); ""Rico Suave" (Geraldo); "\Almost Paradise" (Mike Reno and Ann Wilson); "You Spin Round (Like a Record) (Dead or Alive); "The Safety Dance" (Men Without Hats); "Mickey" (Toni Basil); "Funkytown" (Lipps Inc.); and "Turning Japanese" (The Vapors).

What do you think?  Are there any possibles this list missed?  In your humble opinion, what is the all-time worst one-hit wonder?  Enquiring people want to know.

(My choice is 1963's "Papa Oom Maw Maw" by the Rivingtons, followed by Tiny Tim's 1968 version of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips.")

Plane Crazy:  Inspired by Lucky Lindy, Walt Disney's favorite mouse decided to take up flying with the help of his barnyard friendsHis first attempt goes awry, but Mickey manages to juryrig a second plane, inviting Minnie along for the ride.  The 1929 Mickey is a bit of a Lothario and demands a kiss from Minnie, who refuses.  Minnie jumps out of the plane to avoid him, using her underwear as a parachute.  Of interest is the barnyard cow who has full, milk-squirting udders; didn't Disney ban udders on cows in later years?

This animated goodie is from the brilliant mind of Ub Iwerks.

A Quotation for the Ages:  "I know only two tunes;  one of them is 'Yankee Doodle,' and the other isn't." -- Ulysses S. Grant, although versions of the quote were attributed to Abraham Lincoln and W. S. Gilbert.

In Just 20 Days!:   Halloween!  Everybody's favorite holiday, right?

Here's Bessie Smith to get you in the mood:

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Fred Salter, 61, will longer go kite-surfing.  A strong gust of wind on Fort Lauderdale Beach lifted the hapless Salter and pushed him 400 feet before crashing him into the second story of a nearby home.  Salter was unable to release himself from the kite and died at a local hospital several hours late.  Salter was said to be a veteran kite surfer and a cancer survivor.  It is not known if his kite had a safety release.
  • As Leo Getz (played by Joe Pesci) said in one of the Lethal Weapon movies, "The **** you at the drive thru!"  One unnamed Florida Man took that to heart when he discovered his bagel from Starbucks had no cream cheese.  He let that simmer.  Several days later he returned to the Miami Gardens Starbucks and complained to the 23-year-old woman at the drive-thru.  When she asked him is he had ordered cream cheese specifically, he pulled a gun.  Although the drive-thru worker said the man did not point the gun directly at her, she was afraid that it would go off if he did not get his cream cheese.  She gave him the cream cheese and he drove off.  His big mistake?  Pulling a gun on the dughter of the police chief.  He was arrested and held on $10,000 bail.
  • Florida Woman Amy Williams, of Holly Hill, said that her name and an address where she had lived eight yearss ago has shown up on a federal database indicating that she had recieved $3.4 million in Covid Restaurant Revitalizations Funds for a catering business.  Williams, a gas station employee, never applied for and never recieved any of the  money.  Her husband does work as a restaurant cook but is as baffled as she is.  
  • Florida Man William Watson, 30, has been arrested for throwing a brick through a condominium window into a room where two children were sleeping.  Although the b roken glass came close to the sleeping four-year-old and infant, neither one was injured.  A police officer recognized Watson from the description because he had had a previous encounter with the man.  Watson was arrested Saturday when an officer on patrol recognized him from a wanted poster.  It is not known why Watson threw the brick.
  • Florida Man Michael Van Nostrand, 54, of Davie, has been arrested for attempting to export illegally harvested turtles to Japan and China.  Van Nostrand, who dubs himself the "Lizard King" of Florida, owns Strictly Reptiles a company that has estabished a network of "collectors" who search the Florida wilds for fresh-water turtles.  Van Nostrand falsely tagged the turtles as having been bred in captivity.  He had been sentences to eight months in prison in 1998 for illegally buying smuggled snakes and lizards.  One commentator believe that he is also the 'Reptile King" who once smuggled drugs in snakes, although this was not verified.

Good News:
  • Packers NFL trainer searches football field until 2 am to find player's necklace contaaining his father's ashes
  • During the aptly named James Bond film "No Time To Die," a man is saved by CPR after a heart attack
  • A mathematician just made a musical album compose entirely of wavelengths from black holes
  • Dolphins "alert' rescue crew to swimmer who had been stranded at sea for 12 hours
  • Dog stuck in 30-foot cavern for two weeks is rescued
  • A Mozard sonata is found to calm the brain a reduce seizures in people with epilepsy
  • Alabama begins to remove racist language from its constitution
  • Winners in the 2021 Drone Photo awards

Today's Poem:
Fake News

They fed me with nonsense
To contaminate my soul
To confuse my mind
To plant a seed of doubt
To break my thought process
And wage a war of lies among my children

They uprooted my spirit of truthfullness
And transplanted my descerning mind
So that I can listen to their lies

So that I can partake in their evil schemes
So that I can poison my children
So that I can drink from their dirty hands

They exposed my eyes to their lies
And wrapped my heart in doubt
Starting a war of doubt in my thoughts
I was vulnerable to their evil ideas
I was disabled by their lies

They brought me a plate full of fake news
And forced me to dine and wine with their lies
To celebrate the birth of a deadly serpent
To give my heart waay yo the devil
To throw my Soul into the abyss

I am thirsty for the truth
I don't want any more lies
I am fed up with their evil propaganda
I am now ready to fight a Holy war
A war born out of goodness
A Love war

-- Kenneth Maswabi

Saturday, October 9, 2021


 From 2014, here's Sandra Brown, Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Karin Slaughter, and David Ignatius.


 Rhonda Vincent and The Rage.


 The Bellamy Brothers.

Friday, October 8, 2021


First off, this is not your Stan Lee/Marvel Thor...or, maybe it is.

Thor, God of Thunder appeared in the first five issues of Fox Feature syndicate's Weird Comics (April - August 1940), appearing alongside other heroes such as The Birdman, Voodoo Man, Typhon, and Blast Bennett, and Sorceress of Zoom.  Thor was the creation of Wright Lincoln and Pierce Rice; the stories were signed by Lincoln.  Neither creator knew much aboute Norse mythology, placing Thor in Valhalla rather than in Asgard.

Thor, looking down from his Valhalla castle, sees that Earth is in need of a mighty hero.  He decides to invest an ordinary mortal with his god-like powers.  The ordinary man is Grant Farrel, a shlub who is unlucky at love.  When a turnip-brained fathead named Glenda dumps him for a more manly man, Grant considers suicide.  That's when Thor appears and gives him superpowers.  Transformed into Thor's being (complete with cape and shorts, as well as me sort of weird helmet) Grant sees that Glenda unknowingly is hanging about with spies (!).  The spies kidnap her to help them find the Andurian mines in South America so they can blow up the mine (yep; we've gone from mines plural to mines singular and now they are evidently easy tp locate) in order to cripple the Andurian military.  But here comes Grant as Thor and puts a halt to their plans and rescues Glenda, who is impressed with Grant/Thor's manliness.  Grant poo-poos Glenda bcause he "has more important things to think of than the whim of a girl."

In Thor's second outing, Glenda decides to sail to Europe despite the dangers of ocean travel during a war.  Grant decides to go along, just in case...  Then the boat hits a mine and is destroyed and Grant and Glenda find themselves the soul occupants of a lifeboat.  They ar picked up by a cruiser whose captain is afraid to navigate the waters, so Thor uses his lightning to chart a safe path for the boat.  Glenda poo-poos Grant's help but is eager to accept help from Thor.   (There's a lot of poo-pooing going on in these early issues.)  She has overheard enemy plans to attack Paris and she and Thor fly there to warn the city.  But they are almost too late because the enemy planes are flying overhead.  Thor attaches a long chain to his hammer and uses it to bind all the enemy planes together,  He then hurls them to the enemy capitol where they crash and explode.  Glenda begins to suspect a link between Grant and Thor.

In the June issue, the evil country of Gratnia invades the United States through the Mexican border.  (This is long before Trump's Wall and I'd say he may have gotten the idea of an invasion from our Southern border from this comic, but we all know he can't read.)   The war catches America unaware but its loyal citizens rush to fill the ranks of the military, incuding Grant, who enlists as an Army private.  Not to be outdone, Glenda volunteers as a Red Cross nurse.  By this time Glenda is gaga over Grant and they are boyfriend and girlfriend.  Grant decides to serve as himself and not to utlize the powers of Thor.  This pledge holds until Grant's unit is nearly destroyed by the enemy and Thor jouins the action, raising havoc with the bad guys -- and also rescuing Glenda from an enemy rocket.  The bad guys are not deterred, though; they amass their troops and head northward to attack Chicago.  Thor arrives too late.  Chicago is in ruins.  Thor destroys the invaders.  Back as Grant, he hears a child cry from the ruins.  As he  goes to rescue the child, he gets in the way of an enemy soldier trying to escape.  The enemy (a dirty dog if there ever was one) shoots Grant in  the back and escapes.  Glenda finds her wounded boyfriend and carries him to the hospital.  The army knows that Grant somehow defeated the enemy so they give him a medal and a promotion.  Glenda now knows that Grant is Thor, but she likes Grant for himself.

Continuity was never a consideration in this comic.  When we next see Grant he is no longer in the Army and Glenda is no longer a Red Cross nurse.  For some reason Glenda is in tibet and has been captured by the bandit chief Wong, who tortures her to find ut the location of The Gold Horde of Buddha.  Grant, disguised as a Mongollian traveler, rescues Glenda (again).  They fly off but Wong's has his men shoot anti-aricraaft guns at them.  Glenda is hit and falls toward the ground, telling Grant to keep fighting.  Glenda evidently lands safely and is again captured by Wong.  Grant flies to the fornidden city to warn the "Grand Llama" (two L's, if you please) of the bandit's impending attack.  (Grant as Thor has lost his cape and helmet, BTW.)  Thor routs the bandits but the bombardment has severely damaged the giant dynamos that run the forbidden city -- that's a plot point that suddenly vanishes without explanation.  Also without explanation, Wong is no longer a bandit chief but an evil general with an army.  Thor takes care of the army.  Wong is imprisoned for life.  Glenda declares her love for Grant, who, in turn, promises to take good care of her in the future.  Did I mention that oneof Thor's powers was invisibilty?  No?  Well. in this issue it is.

In the final episode, Grant is now a young scientist and the head of a Chinese relief mission, with Glenda is his secretary.  The luxury liner they are traveling on explodes while moored at a Shanghai pier.  (Not too sure why.)  The evil doctor Hsin and his man-creation Mako take advantage of the disaster and rush to the scene to get a body for Hsin's experiments.  The body they get is the unconscious Glenda.  Hsin uses a cosmic pulsator to allow Glenda to absorb the essence of the hundreds of graat men and women whose blood had been harvested by him.  Mako, a distorted creature, believes he has been made as the "perfect man."  Grant, meanwhile, is unconscious in the hospital, recovering from the explosion.  In Valhalla, the god Thor sends Graant a psychic message that Glenda is in danger from Dr. Hsin.  Grant as Thor traacksdown Dr. Hsin's secret laboratory but is knocked unconscious by a borealic beam.  Hsin ties Thor down and begins to harvest his blood.  Thor has super recuperative powers and bursts free as Mako decides that, as a perfect man, he deserves to be the boss of Hsin and that he will take Glenda for his own.  Bad decision.  Mako is defeated,  Hsin is captured, Glenda is freed.  It turns out that Hsin's had been executed six months before but used a secret formula to fake his death; can you say, "Better living through chemistry"?  Hsin's plan was to murder the entire human race and, using their blood, create his own super-race.  He was truly an ambitious villain.

The last panel promises that Grant Farrel and Thor will return next issue.  It lied.

Now, about Stan Lee.  Lee never meant a superhero he wouldn't borrow from.  From this Thor, he got the cape, the hammer that returned to him, as well as various super-powers.  At least that's the theory.



 Johnny Rivers on The Ed Sullivan Show, March 19, 1967.

Thursday, October 7, 2021


 Despite the sluggishness of the past few weeks I managed to read two very interesting books.  (Well. it is a stretch to call the second one a book.)

The Ship That Sailed to Mars by William M. Timlin (1924)

An interesting mash-up of fairy tale and science fiction noted for being that rarest of things...a beautiful book and a masterpiece of wit and imagination.

From Donald H. Tuck's Encyclopedia of Sciencc Fiction and Fantasy:

"A sort of fairy tale set on Mars.  This is generally recognized as the most beautiful and valuable fantasy books ever published.  It is 12 in.high and 2 in thick, bound in half vellum; the text is adorned with beautiful hand lettering; there are 49 [actually 48 -- JH] full-colour illustrations each separately mounted on matte paper."

Harrap of London printed only 2000 copies of the book, 200 of which were sold in the U.S. by Stokes (New York) at $12.00.  (That's $12.00 in 1924 prices.)

Timlin (1892-1943) was an English architect and illustrator who moved to South Africa in 1912.  The Ship That Sailed to Mars tookTimlin two years to produce.  The 96 pages included 48 pages of calligraphied text and 48 pages of detailed water color paintings.  The publisher decided to go with Timlin's hand lettering rather than transposing it into print.

The book begins:

"Although it was difficult to believe, the Old Man had not always been old, and in his dim, forgotten youth, he said "I will go to Mars; sailing by way of the moon, and the more friendly planets."  But those around him, Scientists, and Astronomers some cried out in scorn, "Have we not ever taught you that Mars is thirty thousand miles away, and nothing could ever live on a journey there?"  And they left him, muttering in their beards as they went, for they had no faith, nor any belief, in Fairies."

Yep.  Fairies.  The Old Man recruits them to build his sailing ship.  Not just any Fairies, but those with cunning skill and craftsmanship.  It took a long while and the ships they first built not would not fly, but eventually they succeeded with the help of a friendly gnome, ss well as the Elf King's favorite metal worker, two or three old crones, and Pan,  So many helped in the building of the ship that a lottery was drawn to see who could accompany the Old Man on the trip.  Because everyone chosen was very fond of milk, a cow was stolen and placed on a large field of grass (also purloined) to be tied to the rear of the ship and towed.  The farmer whose cow and field it was eventually was forced to the extreme measure of Writing to the Newspaper.

The journey was frought with peril and danger and -- it must be admitted -- a basic misunderstanding of space, of astronomy. and of distance.  Shudder if you will as the Old Man and his crew meet The Monsters. The Gift, The Sorrowful Planet, The Seven Sisters, The Meteor, The Eden Serpent, The Air Sprite, The Pirates Planet, and The Star fo the Classic Myths (including Calypso, The Arno, Phoecus, and Orpheus).

Eventually their goal was reached and the peoples of Mars welcomed them.  But all was not wonderful on the planet.  In the Iron Hills, there was continual Thunder which caused the people who heard it Misery.  Sadly, the betrothed of the Princess [fairy tales have to have a beautiful princess, you see] had journied to Iron Hills and was now trapped there, worshipping at the "blasthemous Temple" of Thunder.  The Old Man, at the behest of the Princess, goes to the Iron Hills and by erecting a giant lightning rod manages to defet the Thunder.  Misery is gone.  The Princess marries her love.  And the Old Man goes on to many other adventures, none of which were recorded.

As Yoda might say, "Great the whimsey in this one is."

The book is available on the Internet Archives Wayback machine.  Give it a try.

Henry Kuttner:  A Memorial Symposium edited by Karen Anderson (1958)

Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) was a prolific writer of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mysteries.  His first story, "The Graveyard Rats" (1936),  showed a Lovecraftian influence that could be seen in some of his early work.  He went on to use at least seventeen pseudonyms, often producing stories tailored for the markets of the day, yet his range and talent were undeniable.  After his marriage, he and wife, noted author C. L. Moore, often collaborated and L. Sprague de Camp said that their writing was so seemless that even the couple could not say who wrote what.  As Kuttner matured, so did his writing.  He (and Moore) penned many classic works in various fields.  

By all accounts, Kuttner was a modest, giving man who helped many well-known writers in their career.  He Leigh Brackett shape her first professional sale and aided Ray Bradbury in his first sale.  Richard Matheson dedicated his novel I Am Legend to Kuttner, who help Matheson overcome many of the diffcuilties he had in writing the book.  His advice also helped Fritz Leiber start his career.

Six months after Kuttner's untimely death, Karen Anderson (writer, fan, and wife of Poul) pubished this brief, mimeographed "symposium" in honor of "one of the most outstanding and endearing personalitied of our time."  --  thirty-six pages with tributes from Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, Ray Bradbury, Anthony Boucher, and Robert Bloch,   Also included are a tribute poem from Karen Anderson, a piece of fan fiction by Kuttner from the Fall 1948 issue of The Fanscient, several illustrations by Edd Cartier, and a bibliography of Kuttner's science fiction compiled by Donald H. Tuck. and two pages of notes from Kuttner to Donald B. Day, dated December 20, 1951, about Kuttner's various pseudonyms.

Of interest to Kuttner fans, of which (IMHO) everyone should be. 

Here's the link to the copy reproduced at