Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, January 30, 2022


Openers:   There was a tap-tapping sound.  That was all.  Was it a clock?  No:  it was too loud, too irregular.  Was it the creaking of an old house?  The ticking of a radiator

The man listened to the sound.  Gradually he became aware of certain things -- or rather, the absence of things.  The absence of light.  Of Sensation.  Of a name.

That was unusual, was it not?  He was a  man with no name.  He had no memory.  He was a tabula rasa, an empty vessel.  And you sensed that he knew many things.  This was a paradox.

The ticking sound grew louder.  The man struggled to understand.  Sensation began to return.  He was blind -- hooded.  His hands and feet were immobilized.  Not bound, but strapped.  He was lying on a bed.  He tried to move.  The restraints were soft, comfortable, and effective.

He was not hungry,  He was not tired,  He was neither hot nor cold.  He was not frightened; he felt calm.

-- "Gaslighted" by R. L. Stine, Douglas Preston, & Lincoln Child  (from the International Thriller Writers anthology Faceoff, edited by David Baldacci, 2014)

The conceit of this anthology is twelve stories pitting some of the most famous characters created by members of the International Thriller Writers group against each other:

  • Denis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie vs, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch
  • Ian Rankin's John Rebus vs. Peter James's Roy Grace
  • M. J. Rose's Malachai Samuels vs. Lisa Gardner's D. D. Warren
  • Steve Martini's Paul Madriani vs. Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper
  • Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme vs. John Sanford's Lucas Davenport
  • Heather Graham's Michael Quinn vs. F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack
  • Raymond Khoury's Sean Reilly vs. Lincoln Barlclay's Glen Garber
  • John Lescroat's Wyatt Hunt vs. T. Jefferson Parker's Joe Trona
  • Steve Berry's Cotton Malone vs. James Rollin's Gray Pierce
  • Lee Child's Jack Reacher vs. Joseph Finder's Nick Heller
and, what must be the most unusual pair-off...(drum roll, please):

  • R. L. Stine's Slappy the Ventriloquist's Dummy vs. Douslas Preston & Lincold child's Aloysius Pendergast
Pendergast is an FBI agent ("elegant and urbane") who has appeared in nineteen bestselling novels.  He stands out from most other heroes because he is an albino special agent from New Orleans.  "Over the course of many books Agent Pendergast has faced some unusual adversaries, including cannibalistic serial killers, arsonists, a murderous surgeon, a mutant assassin, and even his own mad genius brother.  But never has he confronted an adversary like Slappy the Ventriloquist's Dummy."

Slappy is an evil dummy carved from coffin wood who comes to life with a certain spoken phrase.  He first appeared in Stine's best-selling Goosebump series of scary children's novels in 1993's Night of the Living Dummy, returning to be featured (directly or indirectly) in at least thirty books, a graphic novel, several short stories, television episodes, and at least one movie.  Stine has written a gazillion books and, as of 2008, has sold over 400,000 books; for three consecutive years in the 1990s, Stine was listed by USA Today as America's number one best-selling author.

The man at the opening of "Gaslighted" is Pendergast.  Slowly his memories come back, or do they?  He is told he is in an asylum undergoing treatment for his hallucinations and that his entire FBI career had been an elaborate fantasy he had concocted to avoid the reality of his PTSD from his time in the Special Forces.  Was everything, including the deaths of his murderous brother and of Pendergast's wife, an illusion?  For here in front of him was his brother Diogenes and his wife Helen, both very much alive and both wishing for his full recovery.  Yet, in that same sanitarium room where Pendergast woke up, there is a chair.  And on that chair is a silent ventriloquist's dummy dressed in a doctor's white coat and with a stethoscope hanging from his neck...

The story is framed from Pendergast's viewpoint.  What is interesting is that the opening of the tale consists of short, abrupt, simple sentences and phrases, such as those that might be found in many of R. L. Stine's books.  This adds an otherworldliness in an already bizarre and unusual story.

  • Terry Carr, editor, This Side of Infinity.  SF anthology of eight stories, all reprints.  All but one of the stories are from 1967 to 1970 so they may not have been that familiar to readers when the book was published (1972) -- not necessarily the case today.  Authors are Brian W. Aldiss, R. A. Lafferty, Tom Purdom, David Redd, James H. Schmitz, Robert Silverberg, George H. Smith, and Roger Zelazny.  A great place to start for anyone not familiar with the field.
  • Max Ehrlich, Shaitan.  Science fiction/horror/thriller novel.  "The entire world watches a remote corner of northern India as the legendary Shaitan -- the man-eating leopard in whom the Hindus believe dwells the soul of a human demon -- is stalked by British white hunter Dennis Rupert Brooke, drawn back to the Indian sub-continent against his will, seduced once again into an illicit love affair that he had determined to end, finds himself on the most harrowing mission of his life...and for his life...his only defense against the diabolical man-animal an icy courage and a growing belief in the supernatural powers of the Shaitan."   Erhlich was the author of best-selling novels Reincarnation in Venice and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.
  • Graham Masterton, The 5th Witch.  Horror novel.  "A new and powerful crime alliance holds Los Angeles in a grip of terror.  Anyone who opposes it suffers a horrible fate...but not by human hands.  bizarre accidents, sudden illnesses, inexplicable and gruesome deaths, all eliminate the alliance's enemies and render the crime bosses unstoppable.  Every deadly step of the way, their constant companions are four mysterious women, four shadowy figures who wield more power than the crime bosses could ever dream of.  But at the heart of the nightmare lies the final puzzle, the secret of...The 5th Witch."
  • Meredith Ann Pierce, Waters Luminous & Deep.  Collection of eight fantasy stories, including the text from her only picture book.  "A true story teller's voice resonates throughout these tales, half of which are published for the first time here...a rich and rewarding collection..."  Although Pierce is best known for her juvenile and young adult fantasies, this book was marketed for adults.
  • Paul Tremblay, Survivor Song,  Horror no vel.  "In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva.  Nut unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less.  Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb.  Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold.  To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew.  But society is breaking down and the government's emergency protocols are faltering."  Tremblay always provides a good read.
  • H. G. Wells; edited by Patrick Parminder & Robert Philmus, H. G. Wells's Literary Criticism.  Collection of Wells's criticism from early in his career, divided into five parts:  1) drama criticism for the Pall Mall Gazette, 2) literary criticism for the Saturday Review, 3) essays on George Gissing, Stephen Crane, and James Joyce, 4) essays on Henry James, and 5) essays on science fiction, utopian fiction, and fantasy.  Some of the pieces are reprinted for the first time.  An interesting smorgasborg.  I read his review of Rider Haggard's Joan Haste -- a brilliant and biting essay of snark.  I'm going to enjoy this one.

Incoming/Outgoing?:  I picked up four graphic novels this morning at the thrift store.  When I got home, I found out they belonged to our local library and were (probably) mistakenly donated.  After I read them, back they go to the library.
  • Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, writer; David Marquez, artist, Fantastic Four, Season One.  A reimaging of the origin of the Fantastic Four.  Here they go against the Mole Man, Sub-Mariner, and more.
  • Scott Cawthon & Kira Breed-Wrisley, Five Nights at Freddy's:  The Silver Eyes.  Ya horror tie-in to the video game; the first in a series.  "Ten years after the horrific murders at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza that ripped their town apart, Charlie, whose father owned the restaurant, and the childhood friends reunite on the anniversary of the tragedy and find themselves at the old pizza place,  which had been locked up and abandoned for years.  After they discover a way inside, they realize that things are not as they used to be.  the four adult-sized animatronic mascots have changed.  They now have a dark secret...and a  murderous agenda."
  • Gaylord DuBois, writer; Jesse Marsh, artist, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan:  The Jesse Marsh Years, Volume Nine.  From 1953, Tarzan's Jungle Annual No. 2, and the May, June, and July 1953 issues of the Dell comic book (No. 44, 45, and 46).  Part of an ongoing chronological series of Marsh's tenure as the artist for the strip.  He drew 153 issues, stopping in 1965 when he retired (Russ Manning took over the art chores after Marsh).  The Annual has four Tarzan stories, one about Boy, and one about Tantor the elephant; the separate issues contain two Tarzan stories apiece.  Lost kingdoms, the prehistoric land of Pal-Ul-Don, evil game hunters, traders, and fortune hunters -- they're all here, with glorious artwork.
  • Chris Grabenstein, Hell for the Holidays.  A Christopher Miller Holiday Thriller.  "Christopher Miller is up against a group of domestic terrorists who are copying Al Qaeda's tactics:  operating in cells, following a twisted fundamentalist doctrine, Targeting public amusements.  A White Supremacist hate group has smuggled in a stinger missile and recruited an army marksman -- a nightmare vision of a new and more talented Timothy McVeigh.  When Miller starts sounding alarm bells about this group and its plans, no one listen's because the FBI's focus has shifted to foreign terrorists, and his home, Jersey City, has the second largest population of Arabs/Muslims in America.  "Saint Chris" comes up against the same sort of bureaucratic resistance encountered by the FBI agent who, pre-9/11, wrote unheeded memos about Arab terrorists flying airplanes into buildings.  The Brotherhood has chosen Thanksgiving as the time to strike, since they feel the holiday commemorates God's giving America to his chosen people:  the white man.  Meanwhile, on the home front, Miller has to cope with his daughter's post-traumatic stress as the anniversary of her Christmas nightmare draws near, and he torn between taking care of her and saving thousands of innocent lives!"  I'm hoping the story is a lot better than the back cover blurb.
  • Tim Lebbon, The Folded Land.  Horror thriller, the second in The Relics Trilogy.  "In the dark underbelly of our world, there's a black market in arcane thongs -- living and dead.  Angela Gough has been pulled into this world, making her a criminal on the run.  In London she encountered the Kin -- satyrs and centaurs, Nephilim and wraiths, they are hunted and sold for their body parts.  Fleeing back to the United States, Angela discovers that the Kin are everywhere, and they are tired of being prey.  When her niece Sammi is struck by lightning, she is drawn toward the mysterious Folded Land, and its powerful and deadly ruler.  Helped by her lover Vince, caught in the middle of a Kin uprising, Angela must locate Sammi before the girl is lost forever."
  • Jeff Loveness, writer; Brian Kesinger, artist, Groot.  Issues #1-6 of the comic featuring everybody's favorite plant.  Rocket gets raccoon-napped, and we meet the Silver Surfer, the Skrull, and the X-Man, along with a number of other characters from the Marvel Universe.
  • Josh O'Neill, Andrew Carl, and Chris Stevens, editors, Little Nemo's Big New Dreams.  An updating of Winsor McCay's classic comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, with new 26 new adventures by some of the best comic artists in the business.  Also included are single page inspirations, a foreword by Francoise Mouly, a foreword by Art Spiegalman's Maus, and some nifty samples of McCay's original art.   Some deconstruction here:  in Mark Hempel's piece, Nemo wakes up in 2015, having been sleeping for over a hundred years; now it's time for him to be an adult, where "Every horrifically burdensome moment of dulthood is rife with the potential for crushing failure...Time for you to grow up and become a happy adult -- which is impossible -- so just have a horrible life and binge drink like I do."  

Jonco:  I'm a bit late in posting this but Jon Heacock , aka Jonco, the host of the Bits & Pieces blog, died unexpectedly on December 28 at the age of 73.  B&P was a must-go-to blog since Jonco created it many years ago, imbuing it with a distinct humor and an overwhelmingly sense of decency.  It, and he, will be missed

(It should be noted that the title of this blog's Monday posting was not an attempt to rip off Jonco's blog -- I had first used the Bits & Pieces title for a local newspaper column nearly fifty years ago.)

A Science Fiction Library of Yore:  [Note:  This was meant to be a Forgotten Books post until the Word program on my computer went wonky last week.  Needless to say, I hate computers.]

Writer/editor August Derleth polled a dozen knowledgeable persons about what would constitute a "basic science fiction library."  The results were published in the Winter 1949 issue of The Arkham Sampler, a small press magazine geared to the customers of Derleth's Arkham House publishing company.  The results -- summarized below -- were interesting.

Keep in mind several things:
  •  The publishing world had not yet woken to a market for books of this type.  Specialist small presses, where stories of this type first were often published in book form, were rare.  It was not until the Fifties that the small presses, major publishers, and the paperback market began to inundate the field.
  •  If you ask a dozen persons a question you will get a dozen interpretations of what that question was.  Many of the respondents deliberately chose to include fantasy works while several deliberately avoided fantasy altogether.  Some included "proto-books of fantasy," such as the Utopian work of Thomas More. Francis Bacon, and others.  Some felt that a science fiction library would include non-science fiction books that would interest the serious science-fiction reader.  Others listed "the works of...[name of author here]" without specifically mentioning individual books.   Others pointed out that a selection of recent science fiction magazines were essential.  One even listed a book-length  blank verse poem.  Many titles were repeated.  In other words, everything must be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Those polled were writers David H. Keller, P. Schuyler Miller, "Lewis Padgett" [this may have meant Henry Kuttner or C. L. Moore, or both], Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt, and Donald Wandrei, professional editors Sam Merwin, Jr. (Thrilling Wonder Stories) and Paul L. Payne (Planet Stories), "rather special editors" Everett Bleiler (Checklist of Fantastic Literature) and A. Langley Searles (Fantasy Commentator), and well-known fans Forrest J. Ackerman and Sam Moskowitz.  Two other were asked to participate but did not:  John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, and Raymond a. Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories.  A fairly diverse group.
Anyway, here are the results.  May the arguments begin. 

  • Charles Andrews, editor, Ideal Commonwealths, a collection of Utopian literature that incudes The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon. The City of the Sun by Thomas Campanelli, Oceana by James Harrington, and Utopia by Thomas More.

  • Edwin Balmer & Philip Wylie. After Worlds Collide
  • ----------, When Worlds Collide
  • Richard A. Barham, The Ingoldsby Legends, published as by "Thomas Ingoldsby."
  • Edward Bellemy, Looking Backward
  • J. D. Beresford, The Wonder. originally published as The Hampdenshire Wonder.
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, "The Haunter and the Haunters," also known as "The House and the Brain."
  • Samuel Butler, Erewhon
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forget
  • ----------, The Mastermind of Mars

  • James Branch Cabell, The figures of Earth
  • John W. Campbell, Jr., Who Goes There? and Other Stories
  • Karel Capek, R.U.R.
  • ----------, The War with the Newts
  • Josephine Young Case, At Midnight on the 31st of March, this is the one written in blank verse.
  • G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday
  • ----------, The Napoleon of Notting Hill
  • Stanton A. Coblentz, When Birds Fly South
  • John  Collier, Tom's A-Cold, also published as Full Circle.
  • Groff Conklin, editor, The Best of Science Fiction
  • Erle Cox, Out of the Silence [Note:  Those who recommended this book eschewed its overt racism. among other things]
  • Ray Cummings, The Girl in the Golden Atom
  • ----------, The Man who Mastered Time
  • ----------, Tarrano the Conqueror

  • L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall
  • Lester del Rey, "And Some Were Human", includes the short novel "Nerves."
  • August Derleth, editor. Strange Ports of Call, includes Philip Wylie's "Blunder"
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World
  • ----------, The Maracot Deep, includes "When the Earth Screamed"

  • E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros, also published as The Dragon Ouroboros.
  • Guy Endore, The Werewolf of Paris
  • George Allan England, Darkness and Dawn, Also released in three volumes [Darkness and Dawn, a.k.a. The Vacant World, Beyond the Great Oblivion, a.k.a. The People of the Abyss, and The Afterglow, a.k.a. Out of the Abyss] and in five volumes [Darkness and Dawn, Beyond the Great Oblivion, The People of the Abyss, Out of the Abyss, and The Afterglow].

  • C. S. Forester, The Peacemaker
  • E. M. Forster, "The Machine Stops"

  • George Gamow, Mr. Tompkins
  • David Garnett, Lady Into Fox
  • Hugo Gernsback, Ralph 124C41+
  • Hinko Gottlieb, The Key to the Great Gate

  • H. Rider Haggard, She
  • Edmond Hamilton, The Horror on the Asteroid
  • Raymond J. Healy & J. Francis McComas, editors, Adventures in Time and Space
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Space Cadet
  • Granville Hicks, The First to Awaken
  • William Hope Hodgson, The House on the Borderland
  • ----------, The Night Land
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Final Blackout
  • W. H. Hudson, A Crystal Age
  • Gardner Hunting, The Vicarion
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

  • David H. Keller, Life Everlasting and Other Tales of Science, Fantasy and Horror

  • Alexander Laing, The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck
  • E. C. Large, Sugar in the Air
  • C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
  • ----------, Perelandra. also published as Voyage to Venus 
  • ----------, The Screwtape Letters
  • H. P. Lovecraft, The Dunwich Horror
  • ----------, The Outside and Others, includes "At the Mountains of Madness" and 'The Shadow Out of Time"
  • Christian Lys, Fortress to Yadasara

  • Arthur Machen, Strange Roads
  • Peter Martin, Summer in 3000
  • A. Merritt, Dwellers in the Mirage
  • ----------, The Face in the Abyss
  • ----------, The Metal Monster, as yet unpublished
  • ----------, The Moon Pool 
  • J. A. Mitchell, The Last American
  • Talbot Mundy, Jimgrim

  • Robert Paltock, The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins
  • Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan
  • Eden Phillpotts, Saurus

  • Herbert Read, The Green Child

  • Garrett P. Serviss, Edison's Conquest of Mars
  • ----------. The Second Deluge
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  • M. P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud
  • William M. Sloane, To Walk the Night
  • Clark Ashton Smith, Out of Space and Time
  • E. E. Smith, Galactic Patrol
  • ----------. The Skylark of Space
  • ----------, Skylark Three
  • ----------, Spacehounds of IPC
  • ----------, Triplanetary
  • George O. Smith, Venus Equilateral
  • Thorne Smith, The Night Life of the Gods
  • Olaf Stapledon, Darkness and the Light
  • ----------, The Flames
  • ----------. Last and First Men
  • ----------, Odd John
  • ----------, Sirius
  • ----------, Star Maker
  • Philip Van Doren Stern, editor, Travellers in Time
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula
  • Eugene Sue, The Wandering Jew
  • Jonathan Swift. Gulliver's Travels

  • John Taine, Before the Dawn
  • ----------, The Iron Star
  • ----------, The Time Stream
  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
  • Hal P. Trevathon, World D

  • A. E. Van Vogt, Slan
  • ----------, The World of Null-A
  • Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • ----------, From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon
  • ----------, A Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • ----------, The Mysterious Island

  • Evangeline Walton, The Virgin and the Swine, also published as The Island of the Mighty
  • Donald A. Wandrei, The Eye and the Finger
  • Stanley G. Weinbaum, The Black Flame, includes "Dawn of Flame"
  • ----------, The New Adam
  • H. G. Wells, Seven Famous Novels, also published as Seven Science Fiction Novels of H. G. Wells and as The Scientific Romances of H. G. Wells; includes The First Men in the Moon, The Food of the Gods, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau, In the Days of the Comet, The Time Machine, and The War of the Worlds; the Gollancz edition adds Men Like Gods.
  • ----------, The Short Stories of H. G. Wells
  • ----------, The Star-Begotten
  • ----------, Thirty Strange Stories, most are available in The Short Stories of H. G. Wells.
  • ----------, When the Sleeper Wakes
  • ----------, The World Set Free
  • G. McLeod Winsor, Station X
  • Donald A, Wollheim, editor, Portable Novels of Science, includes Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time, Olaf Stapledon's Odd John. John Taine's Before the Dawn, and H. G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon -- all of which have been included under the authors' name in this list.
  • S. Fowler Wright, The Adventure of Wyndham Smith
  • ----------, The Deluge
  • ----------, The World Below
  • T. Austin Wright, Islandia
  • Philip Wylie, Gladiator
Some pretty creaky books there, but there are some some darned good reading listed, and a few unfamiliar ones, to me at least.  But let's not stop there.  We also have some generic listings for the works of:
  • William Hope Hodgson
  • M. R. James
  • Jack London
  • H. P. Lovecraft
  • Arthur Machen
  • A. Merritt
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Morgan Robertson
  • Thorne Smith
  • Jules Verne
  •  Edward Lucas White
  • T. H. White
As well as the omnibuses of Dorothy L. Sayers, sections of the Old Testament, the Frank Reade Library, various "political suggestions on atom control," works about Soviet Darwinism, and various science fiction magazines (Theodore Sturgeon suggests a random sampling of about 20 copies of the half dozen leading magazines of the time, going back four or five years).

And there are the non-fiction recommendations:

  • James O. Bailey, Pilgrims Through Time and Space
  • Everett Bleiler, Checklist of Fantastic Literature
  • John W. Campbell, The Atomic Story
  • Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World
  • Albert Einstein, The Theory of Relativity
  • Arthur Lloyd Eschbach, editor, Of Worlds Beyond
  • Charles Fort, The Books of Charles Fort, includes The Book of the Damned, Lo!, New Lands, and Wild Talents.
  • C. C. Furnas, The Next Hundred Years
  • James Jeans, Our Mysterious Universe
  • H. Spencer-Jones, Life on Other Worlds
  • Alfred C. Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male
  • Alfred Korzybski, Science and Society
  • Willy Ley, Rockets
  • Lewis Mumford, The Story of Utopia
  • H. D. Smyth, Atomic Energy for Military Purposes
To this, one respondent added two current scientific journals of the time:   Journal of the American Philosophical Society and Science Newsletter.

So what do you think?  Does this list seem valid for 1949?  Is there anything you would add or subtract?  If you were a science fiction fan in 1949, would be pleased to have such a library?  Are there any book listed here that you might have read, or want to read today?  Should fantasy be included in your definition of a science fiction library?  Should non-fiction?  And who the hell is Hinko Gottlieb?

Scat:  Have you ever wondered how to recognize animal scat in the wild?  Well, wonder no longer.  Here's some helpful tips:

Perversion for Profit:  Here's an "educational" film from 1965 produced by Citizens for Decent Literature Inc.   Narrator "outstanding news reporter" George Putnam tears into the deleterious effects that newsstand magazines have on the nation's youth, promoting homosexuality, lesbianism, sadism, masochism, child molestation, sex outside of marriage, sexual diseases, child birth out of wedlock, the destruction of our democracy, the rejection of Judeo-Christian values, and the diminishing of parental control.  Luckily our constitution stands clearly against such smut.  (Does it, really?)  And despite the Post Office allowing such filth to travel through our mails, the solid citizen had the power to stand up to this deluge and exercise its community standards.

The entire film is over the top and hilarious to most viewers of today.  It promotes a Judeo-Christian (well, actually a conservative Christian) viewpoint but still allows some mild titillation by displaying many of the covers of the men's magazines found on the newsstands.  They kindly placed dark rectangles over the eyes of the models to protect them, and also blotted out some of the naughty bits (not that well in some cases).  There seems to be more bland nudity in this film than in some of the old stag films played in smokers.  It's interesting to note that there are more than 800 (!) newsstand distributors who deliver this filth...and, it's a 2 billion dollar business!  

And body building magazines promote homosexuality.  And the nudist colony magazines have led to the rape of a five-year-old girl.  The Soviets are laughing at our moral decay.  Between 75 to 90% of these newsstand magazines end up in the hands of kids.  Gee willikers!

No mention is made of the truly hardcore material that was available at the time, nor of the many adult films that were circulating in the mid-Sixties.  Also, no mention of the crimes of poverty, racial injustice, sexual inequality, burgeoning wars, the growing cause of environmentalism, or any of the other problems that really had a negative effect on the country.  But, hey, let's wave the red flag of some minor (or made-up) social issue, blow it out of proportion, and let the people start screaming while they ignore the truly dangerous things around us.  It's a proven winner, and its still going on.  And on.  And on.

Just a couple of cranky notes before we get to the film. The Citizens for Decent Literature Inc. is an organization created by Charles Keating, who serves as the uncredited producer.  This is the same Charles Keating who ended up in prison for fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy, and costing the government over $3 billion when his empire collapsed, and costing many "decent" Americans their life savings.  Keating had close ties to Richard Nixon (which is a red flag all in itself).  George Putnam was a radio and television reporter and talk show host, also with tie to Nixon.  His work in television garnered him three Emmys and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Although he claimed to a "lifelong" Democrat, he heavily promoted conservative ideas on his programs.  Putnam is also noted for giving blog reporter Matt Drudge his start.  A well-known horseman, Putnam rode in the Rose Bowl parade for 50 straight years, from 1951 to 2000.

So here it is -- a case study in lies, oversimplification, obfuscation, poor research, dramatic presentation, and shoddy conclusions.  Enjoy.

Heinrich Kley:  I was reminded this week of my great admiration for the German illustrator Heinrich Kley, so it was time to back back to some of his work.  Not familiar with Kley?  Here's a video that displays some of his greet work.

Do you have a favorite artist or artists?  For me, Kley is up there with Marc Chagall (another of my favorites).

Willow:  There's a new White House pet:  Willow, a two-year-old gray cat.  Our sixteen-year-old gray cat named Willow has given her nod of approval for the name.

Florida Man:
  • Forget about snow cyclones or whatever.  The real danger in Florida is a lizard blizzard.  State-wide warnings have warned residents of iguanas falling from the sky.  With this super cold snap we've been having, iguanas have been taking to the limbs of trees.  The very cold weather then may freeze the cold-blooded cuties, and the frozen lizards will fall off the branches and onto unsuspecting passers-by.  To be honest, however, Floridians have become inured to stranger things than falling lizards so I doubt if we could be called "unsuspecting."  Much stranger things have happened here.  Should one bounce off your head or land by your feet, do not try to pick it up -- the iguana is frozen, not dead.  Once it warms up, the little rascal will revive and scurry away to fall out of a tree another day.
  • 18-year-old Florida Man Logan William Smith decided to strangle a jogger.  Why?  Who knows?  It's Chinatown Florida.  Armed with a rubber mallet, an aerosol can of Axe body spray, a belt, and good old-fashioned Florida gumption, Smith hid behind a light post (because no one could possible see you there) and bided his time.  A unsuspecting jogger came by, paying more attention to the music in his ear buds than to light posts, and BLOWIE!, the next thing he knew he was being choked.  The jogger, who had never heard of, seen, or met Smith, just happened to be a marshal arts specialist and things did not go well for Smith.  Smith, who had planned to roll the body in a sheet and put the body in his closet, where he "could have the victim's body all to himself," is wondering what went wrong with this finely-honed plan as he sits in the Brevard County Jail awaiting his February 10 court date.  Smith said he got the idea after watching a violent video; his lawyer said Smith may have a neurological disorder.
  • An unnamed, unmasked, shirtless Florida Man entered the Marshall's department store in Homestead and "began smashing everything," while confronting customers.  Using a lot of expletives and some homophobic slurs he ordered customers who do not believe in the Constitution to leave the store.  Supposedly after he reached into a bag for something, some of the customers did.  He also yelled that he would beat the [expletive] out of customers.  Beside yelling about the Constitution, he also yelled about the [expletive] system being corrupt.  Pick a side, sir.  Yes, he was arrested, cursing all the while.
  • Hate crimes have risen to the highest they have been since 2008. with 8263 single hate crimes reported in 2020, up from 2019's 7103 crimes.  A hate crime is described as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity.  According to FBI statistics, 61.8 percent of the victims were targeted because of their race/ethnicity/ancestry.  It saddens me to say that Florida is helping to uphold this not so pleasant tradition.  Case in point, Florida Man Richard Burnham, 58, of Deland, who was arrested for an unprovoked attack on three Black high school students.  The charges against Burnham -- criminal mischief involving $1000 or more, and three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill -- were enhanced as a hate crime due to Burnham's use of racial slurs.  Burnham had approached the teens as they were putting gar in their car at a Circle K gas station and then spouted racial slurs while becoming increasingly hostile.  He then grabbed a pipe from his truck and began smashing the passenger side of the youths' vehicle.  The kids drove away but Burnham followed them for some two miles before turning away.  The students gave police a detailed description of Burnham and his truck, he was easy to identify because video had him buying a case of beer at the gas station.  For his part, Burnham claimed the youths had shot him with an airsoft gun and had threatened to kill him.  Burnham's story fell apart because of inconsistencies and a lack of evidence.
  • Some Florida Men are just plain unlucky in their choice of name and/or sex.  Take Leonardo Silva Oliviera, a 26-year-old cook with absolutely no criminal record.  The Coconut Creek police (yes, there is such a thing) mistakenly arrest Oliviera believing him to be the 26-year-old Leonardo Silva Oliviera who was wanted for violating probation charges on grand theft and burglary charges in Boca Raton.   Cook Oliviera was placed on 24-hour lockdown and allowed time ut of his cell for just one hour a day.  It took five days before the police realized they had made a mistake.
  • Florida Man Eric Bennett, 30, was detained after police noted he was "visibly intoxicated on an unknown substance."  Bennett was found to have a plastic bag filled with syringes on him.  The syringes, he said, were used for fishing. [??!!??]  He also pulled our a baggie of fenanyl while telling officers he did not want to go to jail.  His plea unheeded, Bennett went to jail.  He had previous convictions of grand theft, DUI, driving without a license, possession of drug paraphemalia, and parole violation.

Good Stuff:
  • Scientists achieve milestone in self-sustaining fusion energy   (This could be really big, guys!)
  • And it's about time!  A flying car just got certified as airworthy to fly (Bill Crider would have been proud)
  • A new study shows that at least 65 different species of animals laugh
  • Young opera fan stands up during soprano's Verdi performance to sing tenor part (You have to see this)
  • Millions raised for animal shelters in honor of Betty White
  • 19-year-old sets record as youngest woman to fly solo around the world
  • High school students shovel snow for neighbors as a special weightlifting assignment for football team
  • Man who tells Queen that he engineers solar panels is stunned when she orders some installed on Balmoral Castle

Today's Poem:
The Snake

On her way to work one morning
Down the path along side the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
"Poor thing," she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you"
"Take me in, tender woman
"Take me in, for heaven's sake
"Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

She wrapped him all cozy in a comforter of silk
And laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk
She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she'd taken to had been revived
"Take me in, tender woman
"Take me in, for heaven's sake
"Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

She clutched him to her bosom, "You are beautiful," she cried
"But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died"
She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him  tight
Instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite
"Take me in, tender woman
"Take me in, for heaven's sake
"Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

"I saved you," cried the woman
"And you've bitten me, but why?
"You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die"
"Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin
"You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
"Take me in, tender woman
"Take me in, for heaven's sake
"Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

-- Oscar Brown

Brown (1926-2005) was a civil rights activist and a member of the Communist party.  This song, based on a fable by Aesop, was an R&B hit for Al Green.  Donald Trump would recite the lyrics at his rallies for his rallies while running for president; he repeated it again at his recent rally in Phoenix, using it as an argument against immigration.  Trump has misinterpreted the song, twisting it to suit his own biases.  He always had and always will.  **sigh**

For the record, I like Oscar Brown's music.

Friday, January 28, 2022


Back in the day, many a slow student was able to pass an English Lit class with the help of the Classic Illustrated comic books.  Classics Illustrated, created by Albert Kanter, was based on a very simple idea:  adapt literary classics in comic book fashion.  Surprisingly popular, the series ran for 169 issues from 1949 to 1969.

The first issue was Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers, adapted and drawn by Malcolm Kildale.  Kildale was the first art director for Classics Ilustrated; earlier he had drawn the Speed Centaur comics.  After World War II, Kildare worked mainly as a pulp magazine illustrator and as an art director for various publications.

Enjoy this blast from the past.

Friday, January 21, 2022


 Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow does!

The very first issue of Shadow Comics features a raft of characters (many from Street and Smith's pulp magazines):

  • The Shadow
  • Iron Munro, The Iron Man [written by Theodore Sturgeon]
  • Doc Savage
  • Frank Merriwell at College
  • Carrie Cashin
  • Nick Carter [the first four pages of this story is  missing from the online link]
  • Air Trails Boys
  • Diamond Dick
  • Horatio Alger, Jr.'s Bob Burton
  • Horatio Alger, Jr.'s Mark, the Match Boy [a preview]
  • Bill Barnes, America's Ace
Shadow Comics ran for 101 issues, ending with the August-September 1949.  Throughout its run, it always contained a Shadow story, along with other features that changed from time to time.  Of special interest is Sturgeon's hard to locate "Iron Munro" series, which ran in the first seven issues, then skipped four issues, and ended with issue #12.

Enjoy this issue.


Frank Reade, The Inventor, Chasing the James Gang With His Steam Team, anonymously written (1890?)

Frank Reade, inventor extraordinaire, was one of the original "steampunk" characters.  Published as a response to the popularity of Edward Ellis's popular dime novel The Steam Men of the Prairies (1860).  Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, or, The Terror of the West, written under the pseudonym "Noname" ("Harry Enton, " real name Harold Cohen). was first serialized in the boy's magazine Boys of New York from February 28 through April 24, 1876.  Reade went through many adventures, from building a stream man to building a steam horse to building a "steam team."  The exploitss of the Reade and, later, of his son, Frank Reade, Jr., (who continued the family tradition of invention and adventure), lead to the publication of The Frank Reade Library, a weekly publication of dime novel adventures (a misnomer -- it actually cost only a nickel) from September 24, 1892 to August 8, 1898 and its follow-up magazine Frank Reade Weekly Magazine, from October 31, 1902 to August 26, 1904.  Each issue of The Frank Reade Library contained a full "novel" of new and reprinted adventures -- most of which were written by Luis Senerans, who at sixteen, had already published a number of pieces for Frank Reade's publisher, Frank Tousey.  (Senerans was hesitant to meet with Tousey, fearful that the publisher would realize his real age and deny him the series.)

Frank Reade, Sr., appeared in only five adventures -- four of which were eventually reprinted in The Frank Reade Library.  The vast majority of the adventures -- 179 of 184 stories -- featured Frank Reade, Jr.  Frank, Sr., began as a 16-year-old genius who suddenly became a middle-aged retiree in Senerans' first story (it gets confusing because in the book we discuss below, Frank Reade is in his late twenties), Frank Reade Jr. and His Steam Wonder (1876); as you can tell the mantle was taken over by the next generation.  Later, in 1899, Frank, Jr., is overtaken by his son, Young Frank Reade, when Frank, Jr., is old and retired;  Young Frank, assisted by his spunky sister Kate, builds a wonder airship.

Taken as a whole, the Reade family adventures are important more for their proto-science fiction
 roots than for their literary qualities, which range from exciting to execrable.  The adventures are fantastic and unusually inventive (ha-ha, but there is no better word) and take place on land, sea, and air.  But they are rife with racism, sadism, exploitive capitalism, and white supremacy.  In the first issue of the Library, Frank kills 250 Native Americans and destroys a village.  In another episode, he finds a lost race of "original Hebrews," who are blond, peaceful, and perfect Christians, while later Hebrews are dark, course featured, and enemies of Christ.  In another adventure, Frank joyfully kills dozens of Mexicans ("greasers"), who are cowardly, vain, and stupid.  There are worse and more disgusting examples in the series.  As pulp historian Jesse Nevins wrote, "The Reade stories can be fun to read, but you'll need to take a shower afterwards."

Confused?  Yeah, sure.  Is the Reade Family Saga worth your time, assuming you can hold back your gag reflex?  Well, maybe.

The entire run of The Frank Reade Library was published in a ten-volume set by Garland Publishing (1979-1986).  There were at least two adventures of Frank Reade, Jr., and one of Frank Reade, Sr., that were not published in The Frank Reade Library, the latter being Frank Reade, The Inventor, Chasing the James Gang With His Steam Team.  Interestingly, this was the one adventure that was not signed "Noname."  It was printed?/reprinted? in The New York Detective Library, November 15, 1890 -- the actual publishing history and author remain mysteries to me.

Before I get to the story in question, a few words about Luis Seranans.  An early story of his led to a letter of praise from Jules Verne, something totally exhilarating for the 17-year-old.  Verne later lifted many of Senaren's ideas for such books as The Steam House, Robur the Conqueror, and Master of the Clouds.  For his part, Senerans lifted some ideas from Robur the Conqueror for one of his books.  Senerans went on to write some 1500 dime novels under 27 pseudonyms for Frank Tousey, including most of the Jack Wright stories.  (Wright, probably the second most important character published by Tousey, was a Frank Reade, Jr., clone, down to the amazing inventions and the blatant racism.)

The James gang, led by Jesse and Frank James, was a cash cow for New York Detective Library, having been the subjects of at twenty novels before their run-in with Frank Reade.  Most were written by ""D. W. Stevens" (John R. Musick) for Tousey's James Boys Weekly, 191 issues, from December 28, 1900 to August 21, 1903.  Three were written by "A New York Detective" (Francis Worcester Doughty) and had the James Boys up against famed dime novel detective Old King Brady.

In Frank Reade, The Inventor, Chasing the James Boys With His Steam Team, two hunters wandering through woods in western Missouri get lost.  They know they are near to Spectre Bend, where a small village had been destroyed ten years before and is now rumored to be haunted.  Spectre Bend is the one place the two do not want to visit, but one of the hunters stubbed his toe on something hidden under a pile of leaves.  It is a small, rusted box that evidently had lain there for years.  They scout the lid of the box to find the name Frank Reade written on it.  Knowing Reade to be a famous inventor and probably very rich, they imagine the box contains great wealth.  Overtaken by their greed, the two head to Spectre Bend to find the tools to open the box.  There were no riches in the box but there was a diary containing "a full account of chasing the James boys with his Steam Team."

The framing device over, we turn to the diary.

One evening Frank was relaxing in the library of his New York home when there was a knock on the door.  Often this meant some uninvited curious person wanting to view some of his inventions.  This time it was a gentleman who introduced himself as Nathan Bristoe of Chicago, a representative of three mid-west railroads.  All three railroad lines have been plagued by attacks from the James gang, "a more desperate gang of ruffians have never lived."  The railroads have sent many detectives and lawmen to curb the gang but all have failed, some losing their lives.  Frank and Jesse James often outrun their opponents by riding two of the fastest most powerful horses in the west,  Jim Malone and Siroc, respectively.  The only thing that might be able to catch those mighty steeds is Frank Reade's Steam Team.  Bristoe wants to hire Frank to use his Steam Team to break up the gang and, if possible, capture or eliminate the two brothers.

A bit of explanation here.  After inventing the steam man and the steam horse, Frank went on to invent the Steam Team, which consisted of two steam horses attached to a large bulletproof wagon.  The team is steered by a driver with reins.  The only person able to drive the Steam Team safely is your friendly neighborhood inventor.  Powered by steam, it can outrun any horse and maneuver over all sorts of terrain.  Frank Reade has no doubts his Steam Team can outrun any horse that the James gang has.

A deal is reached.  Frank will go after the James gang for one thousand dollars a month, plus Bristoe will pay an equal amount to hire two detective-assistants of Frank's choosing, as well as all expenses.  (Frank Reade may be a genius inventor, but he is also a businessman who can drive a hard bargain.)  The two assistant Frank chooses are policemen Brass and Buttons, both of whom Frank has worked with before.  Both are brave and fearless.  As with everyone in this tale, their characters are delineated with simple broad strokes:  Brass, addicted to action, is always eager for a fight; Buttons is a quieter man but just as useful in a fight; he likes to joke around, making "puns."  (Please note that the puns are atrocious, often make no sense, and their is nothing pun-ish about them -- the author's idea of a pun does not match mine, to say the least.)

Our trio and the Steam Team head out west, frightening many people with the Steam Team along the way, most fainting as they utter the words "Ol' Nick" as they do so.  Stereotypical persons of a certain skin tone are more apt to do this, although white folks are also affected.

In the distance, our heroes spot heavy smoke that could only come from a number of buildings being burnt.  It wasn't just a number of buildings -- it was an entire town.  Bodies were littered everywhere.  They came across one survivor who told them that the town had managed to capture Jesse James and lock him up.  Jesse, being Jesse, soon escaped.  Angry at the town for having the audacity to capture him, Jesse (being Jesse) returned with a gang of twenty cold-blooded killers and destroyed the town.  The survivor, a young man named Jack Cravens pointed to two bodies lying in the distance, his father and brother.  Finding out that Frank and his Steam Team are hunting Jesse, Cravens asked to come along so that he can avenge his family.  Sounds like a great idea.

Soon they come across the gang and Cravens feels a little better when he shoots and kills one of them using a special rifle that Frank has invented (it can shhot accurately a small target some two miles away).  The rest of the gang get away.  This little sortie angers Jesse and he goes after Frank and the boys.

Brass, Buttons, and cravens are hindered because Frank orders them not to shoot at Frank or Jesse James.  Frank Reade wants to capture their powerful horses for his own, which means they cannot use some of the powerful weapons on the Steam Train that Frank has invented.  Jesse attacks while Frank maneuvers his steam team to avoid many of the gunshots.  The wagon has impervious sides some two and a half feet tall, protecting Brass and Buttons.  (Frank has to be a bit more exposed because he is controlling the reins, but even that he can do through an ingenious hole in the front wall.)  Craven gets cocky and stands up while firing the special rifle.  He is riddled with bullets and falls off the Steam Train, taking the rifle with him.  A plan for the James gang to reach the top of a mesa and shoot down at Frank and his men fails.  The gang, except for Jesse, is outrun by the Steam Train, but Jesse, riding Siroc is able to come side by side with Frank and the Steam Train.  Their conversation goes a little like this -- Frank: :Give it up, Jesse!"  Jesse:  "Never!"  Repeat several times until even the mighty Siroc cannot keep up with Frank Reade.

Frank eventually swings back to Cravens's body.   They cannot find the special rifle.  The James gang must have taken it.  No matter; it was out of the special ammunition it needed.  They bury Craven and head off to find a place to shelter for the night.

(I probably should mention Professor Drydust.  He's a ragged old man on a mule who was being chased by some of the James Gang.  He is knocked off his mule and the animal runs away.  the bad guys approach and are about to shoot the old man when team Steam Team drive them off.  The Professor
is an odd duck with one overriding obsession his journal.  He insists on stopping everything in order to write something in his journal.  Since he couldn't abandon him alone in the wilds, Frank takes Drydust with him.)

They reach at a nearby farm.  Even though most there are frightened  ("It's Ol' Nick comin' fer us!"), the farmer himself is interested in the machine and invites Frank.  A neighboring farmer rides up and tells the farmer that the James gang are near and will probably attack the town.  This time the gang numbers about forty men.  (It's said that Jesse could raise a hundred men if he wanted to.)  All the farmers and men in the area are gathering guns to defend the town, knowing how Jesse had leveled the earlier town.  Frank volunteers his crew and the Steam Team for the upcoming battle.  This time, safety of the two horses, Jim Malone and Siroc, be damned!  It's time to use the cannons on the Stream Team!

And we're off!  Battles and fights, gunplay and strange weapons. dangerous encounters and narrow escapes, bodies's all standard juvenile pulp storytelling with carboard actors, each with one trait to define their character, and a gosh-wow, gee-whiz attitude to technology and marvelous inventions.

There's a long line that came be traced from Frank Reade to Tom Swift, from Tom Swift to the tales of super-science in the old science fiction pulps, to the popular technothrillers of today.  This all started with Ellis's "Edisonade" in 1860, with the torch then being carried by Frank Reade and Frank Reade, Jr., beginning in 1976.

Not for everyone, but if you can manage to hold your nose while reading of the Reade family, you might be entertined.

Thursday, January 13, 2022


 'Murder Will Out':  The Detective in Fiction by T. J. Binyon  (1989)

I'm a sucker for not only a good mystery novel but a good book about mystery novels, or, in this case about fictional detectives.  English author and scholar T. J. Binyon (1936-2004), in this book, has attempted to write a history of the fictional detective, a daunting task that resulted in an entertaining, often idiosyncratic, work.

Binyon divides fictional detectives into four loose categories:  the professional amateur, the amateur amateur, the police, and oddities (those who don't fit into the previous three categories).  The professional amateur is, like Sherlock Holmes, is a professional of some sort who is not a policeman; he (or she) may be a doctor, lawyer, journalist, banker, insurance investigator, private detective or private eye (there is a difference), or any other profession that might bring the protagonist close to crime.  Examples cited include C. August Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, Martin Hewitt, Max Carrados, Dr. Thorndyke, Craig Kennedy, Nurse Hilda Adams, Ephraim Tutt, Reggie Fortune, Perry Mason, Arthur Crook, Mrs. Lestrange Bradley, Basil Willing, Kent Murdock, Hercule Poirot, Maud Silver, J. G. Reeder, Nigel Strangeways, the Continental Op, Sam Spade,  Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, Mike Hammer, John Shaft, Kinsey Millhone, Travis McGee, Ed Noon, and so many others.  Binyon also gives what he feels are a dozen differences between the private detective and the private eye.

The amateur amateur is a non-professional detective.  Here, "credulity is strained beyond breaking point if he or she is constantly and conveniently found among those present when a murder has been committed.  In other words, this type of detective story is the most artificial and contrived of all, and consequently its plots tend to be equally artificial and constructed."  Prime examples given are Philo Vance, Ellery Queen, Gideon Fell, Sir Henry Merrivale, and Jane Marple.  The amateur amateur often has a relation ship with a police official, which not only helps by having the police do all the scut work (forensics, autopsies, checking criminal records, etc,), but also by giving the amateur entry to the crime scene and the suspects.  Others in that category include Lord Peter Wimsey, The Old Man in the Corner, The Thinking Machine, Dr. Priestley, Gervase Fen, Sergeant Beef, Kate Fansler, Philip Trent, Albert Campion, Father Brown, Rabbi David Small, Peter Duluth. Nick and Nora Charles, Pam and Jerry North, John Putnam Thatcher, Hildegarde Withers, Asey Mayo, Ed and Am Hunter, Henry Gamadge. and Pierre Chambrun.  (Binyon also included Henry Tibbett in this group, despite his being a policeman, because his investigations are with his wife Emmy.)

The police detective has been with us all along, beginning with Vidocq, Lecoq, Inspector Bucket, and Sergeant Cuff.  Poor Lestrade and other policemen who appear mainly as foils do not make the cut.  Those who do make the cut are Ebenezer Gryce, Inspector Hanaud,  Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, Superintendent Henry Wilson, Inspector French, Inspector Rason (later to be in The Department of Dean Ends), Bobby Owen, Roderick Alleyn, Inspector Cockrill, John Appleby, Roger West, Adam Dalgliesh, Thatcher Colt, Charlie Chan, Inspector Moto, Jules Maigret, Superintendent Charles Wycliffe, Inspector Van der Valk, Jose da Silva, Inspector Ganesh Ghote, November Joe, Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte ("Boney), Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, the men and women of the 87th Precinct, Luis Mendoza, Martin Beck, George Gideon, the cops of Yellowthread Street in Hong Kong, Christie Opara, Norah Mulcahaney, Lieutenant Valcour, Virgil Tibbs, Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones.Chief 
Inspector Morse (he had no first name when this book was published), Dalziel and Pascal, and C. D. Sloan.  Those are just the ones you may have heard of or read,

The catch up category, "A Few Oddities," Some of the more light-hearted detectives covered include, Inspector Schmidt, Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover, Homer Evans, the various investigtors of Flaxborough, and the obvious parodies of popular characters (Lord Simon Plimsoll, Monsieur Amer Picon, and Monsignor Smith; Trajan Bear, Spike Bludgeon, Mallory King, Sir Jon. Nappleby, Jerry Pason, Atlas Poireau, Lord Simin Quinsey, Miss Fan Silver, and Broderick Tourneur -- Schlock Homes and Dr. Watney had already been covered in Chapter One).  Binyon then moves on to historical detectives:  Uncle Abner, Dr Sam: Johnson, Judge Dee, Sergeant Cribb, and Cadfael, among others.  As for crooks and villains -- some truly evil and some, perhaps, misunderstood -- Binyon includes them even though they don't meet his requirements as detectives:  Dr, Nikola, Fu Manchu, Colonel Clay, Hamilton Cleek, Rodney Pringle, A. J. Raffles, Arsene Lupin, the Infallible Godahl, Jimmie Dale (The Grey \Seal), Blackshirt, Simon Templar, and Parker.  

Each detective is given a brief overview within the context of Binyon's thesis.  An awful lot is covered in just 134 pages.  Because the author is British many of the authors and characters may be unfamiliar to American readers.  There are some bone-headed mistakes but they are few.  Binyon's opinions can be as divisive as those of Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor's A Catalog of Crime, but the benefits of both outweigh the drawbacks. An appendix lists over eighty recommended authors and their books that feature series detectives. 

This is an entertaining and fascinating book, and, despite its age, is perfect for the dedicated mystery fan and for those who wish to find new authors to read.

And, if you're not too tired of the endless lists I included above, here are the authors whose works are discussed:  Anthony Abbott, Caryl Brahms, Cleve f. Adams, Herbert Adams, Catherine Aird, Michael Allegretto, Grant Allen, Margery Allingham, Delano Ames, Frederick Anderson, Peter Antony, Charlotte Armstrong, Frank Arthur, Clifford Ashdown, Clemence Dane, Philip Atkey (Barry Perowne), Pierre Audemars, John Austwick, Michael Avallone, George Bagby, H. C. Bailey, John Ball, Willis Todhunter Ballard, Bill Ballinger, Edwin Balmer, Julian Barnes, James Barnett, Vicki Baum, George Baxt, Francis Beeding, Josephine Bell, George Bellairs, Arnold Bennett, Ben Benson, E. C. Bentley, Andrew Bergman, Anthony Berkeley, Isiah Berlin, Earl Derr Biggers, Anne Blaisdell, Nicholas Blake, William Blake, Suzanne Blanc, Oliver Bleeck, Lawrence G. Blochman, John and Emory Bonnett, Francis Bonnamy, Guy Boothby, Anthony Boucher, Dorothy Bowers, Edgar Box, Ernest Bramah, Christianna Brand, H. C. Branson, Lillian Jackson Braun, Herbert Brean, Simon Brett, Lynne Brock, Fredric Brown, Douglas Browne, Elizabeth Browning, Leo Bruce, Eric Bruton, Bruce Buckingham, John Bude, J. F. burke, W. J. Burley, Rex Burns, Miles Burton, Roger Busby, Christopher Bush, Gwendolyn Butler.

R. T. Cmpbell, Edward Candy, Joanna Cannan, Leslie Cargill, Harry Carmichael, Carol Carnac, Glyn Carr, John Dickson Carr, Sarah Caudwell, M. E. Chamber, Raymond Chandler, Leslie Charteris, G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Douglas Clark, Tod Claymore, V. C. Clinton-Baddeley, Belton Cobb, Liza Cody, Octavus Roy Cohen, G.D. H. and M. I. Cole, Michael Collins, Wilkie Collins, J. J. Connington, K. C. Constantine, Fenimore Cooper, Basil Copper, S. H. Courtier, George Harmon Coxe, Francis Crane, John Creasey, Edmund Crispin, Freeman Wills Crofts, Amanda Cross, Marten Cumberland, E. V. Cunningham, Carroll John Daly, Elizabeth Daly, Clemence Dane, Glyn Daniel, Jocelyn Davey, S. F. X. Dean, Daniel Defoe, Lillian de la Torre, Michael Delving, Richard Deming, Jane Dentinger, August Derleth, Thomas B. Dewey, Colin Dexter, Charles Dickens, Peter Dickinson. Doris Disney, David Dodge, Hildegarde Dolson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, David Durham.

Umberto Eco, Lesley Egan, T, S. Eliot, James Ellroy, Howard Engle, Margaret Erskine, Loren Estleman, Katherine Farrar, Ruth Fenigson, A. Fielding, Robert Finnegan, Robert L. Fish, Mary Fitt, Nigel Fitzgerald, Joan Fleming, J. S. Fletcher, Pat Flower, E. M. Forster, Gilbert Frankau, Antonia Fraser. Nicholas Freeling, R. Austin Freeman, Timothy Fuller, Emile Gaboriau, G. V. Galway, Earle [sic] Stanley Gardner*, Jonathan Gash, William Campbell Gault, Anthony Gilbert, Michael Gilbert, James Gleason, William Godwin, George Goodchild, Joe Gores, Bruce Graeme, Roderic Graeme, Sue Grafton, Anna K. Green.

Brett Halliday, Michael Halliday, Dashiell Hammett, Joseph Hanson, Thomas W. Hanshew, Cyril Hare, Joseph Harrington, Ray Harrison, Macdonald Hastings, S. T. Haymon, Matthew Head, Tim Heald, Mark Hebden, M. V. Heberton, Georgette Heyer, Reginald Hill, Tony Hillerman, James Hilton, John  Buxton Hilton, Chester Himes, Anne Hocking, William Hope Hodgson, Timothy Holme, Leonard Holton, Geoffrey Homes, E. W. Hornung, Dorothy Hughes, Fergus Hume, Alan Hunter, Elspeth Huxley, Peter Inchbald, Michael Innes, P. D. James, William James, F. Tennyson Jesse, Hamilton Jobson, Matti Joensun, Frank Kane, Henry Kane, McKinley Kantor, Dan Kavanagh, H. R. F. Keating, Jonathan Kellerman, Mary Kelly, Harry Kemelman, Baynard H. Kendrick, Milward Kennedy, Michael Kenyon William Kienzle, C. Daly King, Rufus King, C. H. B. Kitchin, Monsignor Ronald Knox.

Emma Lathan, Jonathan Latimer, Hilda Lawrence, Maurice Leblanc, Gypsy Rose Lee, Elizabeth Lemarchand, William Le Queux, Gaston Leroux, Michael Z. Lewin, Lange Lewis, Roy Lewis,  Elizabeth Linington,  Richard and Frances Lockridge, Norman Longmate, E. C. R. Lorac, Peter Lovesey, Francis Lynde, Helen McCloy, James McClure, Victor McClure, John D. MacDonald, Philip MacDonald, Ross Macdonald, Paul McGuire, William MacHarg, Marion Mainwaring, John Malcolm, Arthur Maling, Stephen Marlowe, John P. Marquand, Ngaio March, William Marshall, A. E. W. Mason, J. C. Masterman, Harold Q. Masur, James Melville , Margaret Millar, Wade Miller, Gladys Mitchell, Gwen Moffatt. William Mole, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Will Moore, Anne Morice, Nigel Morland, Christopher Morley, Arthur Morrison, Patricia Moyes,Magdelen Nabb, Ogden Nash, Simon Nash, Beverley Nichols, Helen Nielsen, Torben Nielson, William F. Nolan, James Norman, Gil North.

Lillian O'Donnell, Baroness Orczy, Poul Orum, Frank L. Packard, Marco Page, Barry Pain, Stuart Palmer, Sara Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, Q. Patrick, Elliott Paul, Hugh Pentecost, Barry Perowne, Ellis Peters, Allan Pinkerton, Edgar Allan Poe, Joyce Porter. Melville Davisson Post, Richard S. Prather, H. Hesketh Prichard, Maurice Proctor, E. R. Punshon, Ellery Queen,  E. and M. A. Radford, Sheila Radley, Edogawa Rampo, Julian Rathbone, Clayton Rawson, Winwood Reade, Ishmael Reed, Dilwyn Rees, Arthur B. Reeve, Helen Reilly, Ruth Rendell, John Rhode, Craig Rice, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Sax Rohmer, Jonathan Ross, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jack S. Scott, Francis Selwyn, David Serafin, Dell Shannon, John  Shepherd, M. P. Shiel, Georges Simenon, Dorothy Simpson, George R. Sims, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Josef Skvorecky, Clark Smith, Nancy Spain, Bart Spicer, Mickey Spillane, Richard Stark, Rex Stout, T. S. Stribling, L. A. G, Strong, W. Stanley Sykes, Julian Symon.

Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Lee Thayer,  Angela Thirkell, Ross Thomas, June Thomson, Sir Basil Thomson, Arthur Train, Lawrence Treat, John Trench, Lord Trenchard, Glen Trevor, Peter Turnbull, Mark Twain, Dorothy Uhnak, Michael Underwood, Arthur W, Upfield, Jonathan Valin, Janwillem van de Wetering, S. S. Van Dine, Robert H. van Gulik, Richard Verrell, Voltaire, Henry Wade, Edgar Wallace, A. J. Walling, Joseph Wambaugh, Colin Watson,,  Hillary Waugh, Carolyn Wells, Patricia Wentworth, Victor L. Whitechurch, Collin Wilcox, David Williams, Pauline Glen Winslow, Clifford Witting, Sara Woods, Eric Wright, Anthony Wynne, Dornsford Yates, Andrew York, and Margaret York.


Who are your favorite authors listed here?  Favorite characters?  Are there any you might like to try?

* Not a typo, but a blunder repeated throughout the book

Tuesday, January 11, 2022


"The Yellow Globe" by Alexander W. Drake (first published in The Century Magazine, November 1893: included in the author's collection Three Midnight Stories, 1916)

Alexander W. Drake (1843-1916) apparently published only three stories in his lifetime:  this one and two others in The Century Magazine. "The Curious Vehicle" (December 1893) and "The Loosened Cord" (June 1894).  All three were collected in a 500-copy limited edition memorial book, along with several tributes, published some eight months after his death.

Few people associated Alexander W. Drake the writer with A. W. Drake the well-known artist.  Drake had said that he stopped writing stories because he felt no one liked the three that had been published -- a judgement that was patently false, but one in accord with his modest nature.   Drake began as an engraver.  In 1870 he became the art director of Scribner's Monthly when that magazine began.  Later, St. Nicholas magazine began and Scribner's Monthly changed its name to The Century Magazine, both with Wilson as art director.  "[T]hese two publications under Drake's art direction had set the standard of illustration for the publishing world," doing much (among other things) "to aid the development of the new school of wood engraving in America."   His influence on the art world of the time was tremendous.  Drake was also a noted art collector; his collection was one of the most extensive and remarkable in America and included "Antique samplers and needlework, fragments of old printed chintz, bandboxes, wallpaper, glass bottles, pottery, china, pewter, engraved pledge glasses, antique silver cups and ladles, an extraordinary collection of old finger rings, silver, enameled and pearl snuff boxes, patch boxes and vinaigrettes, old paintings and prints."  To give an idea of the size of his collection, there were nearly eight hundred finger rings, "betrothal rings, memorial rings, gimmel rings, puzzle rings, rings of Roman, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Irish Scandinavian, English and American workmanship, and many Oriental rings, Sassanian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Hebrew, Gypsy and Moorish...

"[N]o one had labored more enthusiastically and successfully in the course of art encouragement and art education."  Given all this is there any wonder that Drake's few stories were imbued with an artist's aesthetic?

"The Yellow Globe" is a strange story, one that raises far more questions than it answers.  The narrator notices a strange looking man staring at a large yellow globe of colored fluid in a druggist's window.  The man's attention is fixed, staring at and through the yellow globe.  The narrator moves on but returns about an hour alter to find the strange man back, staring at the globe.  He was craning his head to view it from different angles and holding his finger up to it as if to view it reflection.  A week later, the narrator sees the man once again by the druggist's window, again staring at the globe.  Curiosity has gotten the better of the narrator; as the man goes to leave the narrator catches up with him.

Walking beside the stranger, the narrator asks him why he was so fascinated with the yellow globe.  The man's answer come in fits and starts; he often stops and looks at reflections and shadows in the night.  We learn that his actions has something to do with an experiment the stranger is doing, one that he has expended much time and effort into.  Their meandering takes them through the city, along the river, and into one of the shabbier parts of the city.  They stop in front of a building -- the stranger's home -- and the narrator is asked if he would like to come up.  He agrees.

The building is dark.  The narrator and a caretaker are the only persons who live there.  The stranger akes the narrator by the hand and leads him through the dark lobby and slowly up the inky stairs to the top floor where his apartment is.  The apartment is a large loft that has been converted into a vast experimental area, the purpose of which is not readily known.  There is a realistic model of a mansion, with an ugly face etched onto the window.  There are large panes of glass set upright. smeared with some sort of paint.  There's a globe with yellow fluid, smaller than that in the druggist's window.  There were small models of fences, miniature bits of ironwork and gateways.  On the walls were large, lifelike drawings of giants plants and flowers.  Globes filled with different fluids an old ship's lanterns hung from the ceiling.  Porcelain dishes lay strewn over a table with the residue of different colored liquids staining them.  The place was an eccentric phantasmagoria of oddities.

The stranger explained that he was creating the essence of a haunted house.  Why, we are never told.  Nor do we learn what had started him on this pursuit.  We slowly learn that this "essence" will be a large painting. far more "real" than reality itself, for true art must surpass nature.  He had experimented with various colors and decided that a yellow hue was suitable to effuse his haunted house.  His experiments with different colors, materials, and media have allowed him to create a painting that goes beyond nature.  Years of work and study have brought his masterpiece near to completion.

The artist then shows his work -- the essence of a haunted house -- to his visitor:

"We both stood in absolute silence.  What strange, hidden something was there about it that affected me so curiously?  I looked at my companion; he seemed lost in reverie.  But it was not merely seeming, it was with real horror that he stood gazing at those little glass windows.  I do not know how long we stood thus; but at last he turned up the light, and I noticed how pale he had become and how absorbed was his manner."

The narrator was also affected.  He could almost hear a piercing cry from within the house.  The artist had, somehow, truly created the essence of a haunted house.  Again, we have no idea why or how, but the last line of the story, as spoken by the writer, is:  "Only a man with a haunted heart can paint a haunted house."

An odd story.  Or sketch, if you will.  We are led, somewhat frustratingly, through the story mystified.  At the end we remain mystified but are certain that art can transcend reality and that it also can lay a heavy cost on the artist.  Beyond that, what can I say?  The tale is told with skill and understanding and is a remarkable break from other tales from that era.  I am still not sure if I read the story or experienced it.

Drake's Three Midnight Stories is available to read on the internet.  The book should give a better view of the author through the various appreciations in it.  The other two stories are also very interesting.  In one, an artist searches for a perfect halo that would embody his feelings for his dead wife; in the other, a singing bird's cage is attached to a balloon and sails up into the sky.  All of Drake's stories are fantastical but not in any fantastic as most would describe the term.

Monday, January 10, 2022


 Openers:  The lights on Woodward Avenue glistened brightly as the evenig breeze blew away the last of the day's stifling heat.  People walked the streets alone and in pairs, savoring relief from the blazing heat that had been their lot earlier in the day when the temperature had reached one hundred and ten in the shade.

The driver of the inconspicuous black Ford drove slowly and carefully.  He didn't want any trouble before reaching his destination.  That was his first mistake:  driving too carefully.  As he pulled towards a green light, he hesitated, then decided to speed up so that he could make the light.  But as he did so, the yellow caution light came on, and again he hesitated, touching the brake, then the gas pedal, letting up to touch the brake again, then changing his mind and stomping on the gas pedal in an attempt to beat the light.  Too lte.  The light turned red before he had reached the center of the intersection.  He cursed, then stiffened when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the patrol car parked thirty feet or so down the cross street.

Before he was completely through the intersection, he saw the squad car's headlights come on and the flashing red light.  He glanced into the rearview mirror and it confirmed what he already knew.  The squad car had turned the corner and was dead on his case.  the thought flashed through his mind that he owed two overdue parking tickets.  If they ran a make on him, he realized that his next stop would be city jail.

-- White Man's Justice, Black Man's Grief by Donald Goines, 1973

From the front cover of the book, you know that Chester Hines' next stop would be jail:  "[A] classic prison novel revealing the bigotry built into our prison system."  The fact that he also had an illegal gun in his car did not help.  And, Chester Hines?  Really?  Giving that name to the protagonist was either a stroke of genius or a paean to lack of immagination.  I'm going for the former.

The book was published by Holloway House, "[T]he uncontested center of the black pulp fiction universe for more than four decades...From the late 1960s until it closed in 2018Holloway House specialized in cheap paperbacks with page turning narratives featuring black protagonists in crime stories, conspiracy thrillers, prison novels, and westerns.  From Iceberg Slim's Pimp to Donald Goines's Never Die Alone, the thread that ties all of this together -- and made them distinct from the majority of American pulp -- was an unfailing veneration of black masculinity."  The two authors most identified with Holloway House were Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines.  Slim was the pen name of Robert Beck (born Robert Lee Maupin or Robert Moppins Jr.), a former pimp who quit the trade when he was 42 and began to write a novel based on his career; his books were soon shelved next to those of Jean Genet and William S. Burroughs and he attracted a large following that still exists to this day.  Goines (1936-1974) was born in Detroit and lied to join the Air Force when he was 15.  He came out of the service addicted to heroin and turned to crime (pimping. larceny, robbery, manufacturing illegal alcohol, and theft) and spent several years in and out of prison.  While in prison, he fell under the spell of Iceberg Slim's Pimp and decided to write "urban fiction."  Among Goines's novels were such titles as Dopefiend, Whoreson, Black Gangster, and Daddy Cool.  Goines created the character of Kenyatta in four novels published under the name of Al C. Clark.  Kenyatta was the leader of a black gang similar to the Black Panthers, using violence to clear the inner city streets of crime.  Goines and his common-law wife were found murdered in his apartment.  He was 37.  The crimes were never solved, the  motive never revealed.

Goines and other Holloway House writers used their talents to highlight the gritty, often dirty, world of the inner city black man.  Goines and Iceberg Slim have entered the mainstream and their books offer a unique (and, to some, a literary) perspective of racism and crime in the twentieth century.  Both authors are revered in France (which also reveres Jerry Lewis -- but that should not turn you off from their writings).  Dark, violent, explicit, the books express black rage and probably should be part of any "critical race theory" course.  (That is, if we are allowed to recognize our shortcomings as a country and to move deliberately to that "more better nation" we all want.)


  • J. G. Ballard, Millenium People.  Novel with science fictional trappings.  "When a bomb goes off at Heathrow Airport it looks like another random act of violence to psychologist David Markham.  But then he discovers that his ex-wife Laura is among the victims.  Following a police lead that suggests the explosion was not the work of a foreign terrorist, but instead a shadowy and ruthless group based in the comfortable Thameside estate of Chelsea Marina, Markham begins to infiltrate Kondon's fringe-protest movement.  Led by Richard Gould, a charismatic pediatrician turned cult leader, the clandestine group aims to rouse London's squeezed middle class to anger and violence, to free them from both the self-imposed burdens of civic responsibility and the trappings of a consumer society:  private schools, foreign nannies, health insurance, and overpriced housing.  But when Markham becomes enamored with an exotic film studies professor who moonights as a terrorist cell leader, he too gets caught up in the idealistic campaign spiralling rapidly out of control.  At last succumbing to the irresistable charms of Gould, the group's leader, Markham abandons his original investigation to give his unyielding support to the uprising, becoming an active participant in the process."  This was Ballard's penultimate novel.  It took eight years for an American edition to arrive.  Ballard could be difficult to read at times, but he remains one of the most important writers to come out of Britain during the last half of the twentieth century.
  • Peter S. Beagle, Tamsin.  Fantasy novel.  "Arriving in the English countryside to live with her mother and new stepfather, Jenny has no interest in her surroundings -- until she find things on the ancient estate with ties to another world, one darker and older than anything she's experienced.  And then she meets Tamsin.  Tamsin died more that 300 years ago.  As ghosts, she and her cat have haunted the lonely estate without rest, trapped by a hidden trauma she can't remember and a powerful evil the spirits of night cannot name.  To help her, Jenny must delve deeper into the dark world than any human has in hundreds of years, and face danger that will change her life forever..."  Before Neil Gaiman, there was Peter S. Beagle.  Thankfully, both are still writing beautiful and fascinating books.  I'm looking forward to this one.
  • Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, It Devours!  A Welcome to Nightside novel, based on their popular podcast.  "Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale.  Working for Carlos, the town's top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding priciples.  But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town.  This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most commited members.  Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town.  Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different worldviews as they are faced with the Congregation's darkest and most terrible secret."   If you naver never listened to a Night Vale episode or read one of the books, you have a unique and ultra-strange trip ahead of you.
  • Carla Jablonski, The Books of Magic #3:  The Children's Crusade.  Young adult novel based on the graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton.  "Timothy hunter is jst like any other thirteen-year-old boy in London...except for the tiny fact that he might be the most powerful magician of his timme,  There is a secret world gor childrennin danger, and right now it nees Tim's power to survive.  But how can he help when he is still trying to figure out how to use his magic -- and when certain dark forces seem to have sinister plans of their own?"  This novel is an adaptation of several comic book issues written by John Ney Reiber, after Gaiman stepped down.
  • K. D. Wentworth, editor, L. R. Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume XXVI and Volume XXVIII.  The 2010 and 2012 editions of the on-going science fiction series honoring the winners of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest and the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest.  The contests are held quarterly each year and first, second and third place winner in each catagory is selected.  At the end of the year, all twelve winners in each contest will be re-judged to determine a Grand Prize winner.  Previus winners and nominees have included Sean Williams, Dave Wolverton, Patrick Rothfuss, K. D. Wentworth, Eric Flint, Scott Nicholson, James Alan Gardner, Nnedi Okorafor, Shaun Tan, Steven Saville, Ken Scholes, and Jay Lake.  Among the judges have been Vincent de Fate, Leo and Diane Dillon, Bob Eggleton, Stephen Hickman, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Todd McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Frederik Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Silverberg, Dean Wesley Smith, and H. R. Van Dongen.  Don't let the fact that this is a Scientology sponsored  contest deter you; the (ahem**cough,cough**) "religion" has little to do with this, apparently using the contest only as a means to keep Hubbard's name out their and to add some polish to his tarnished name.  (Hubbard, despite being a mythomaniac and self-promoter, could -- and did -- write some pretty decent fiction back in the day.)  Basically everything here is on the up and up, with the dozen winners in each category showcased in each of these volumes, plus there are a number of articles from well-known professionals in the field, including (natch) reprinted one from L. Ron himself.  The problems I have found with these volumes is that the stories are bascially amateurish; in the main, these are first stories after all.   But they can give one a glimpse at the author's future potential and direction.  And that can't be bad.  BTW, of the winners showcased in these volumes from a decade ago (or more), I have only heard of maybe two writers -- just barely -- and none of the artists.  This is more of a comment on how little I have kept up with the field than on the careers of these people.

Tik-Tok:  As many of you know, I am a technological Luddite.  Things with moving parts confuse me.  Computers are a mystery and the fact that I am able to post items is more a matter of luck than skill.  As for social media, I am on facebook, but only becuse my wife has an account and I piggyback on that.  For the Instagrams, Snapchats, Tik-Toks, and Lord knows what else, count me out -- it's all too darned confusing and too darn modern for me.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered as from of Tic-Tok that has been around for over 330 years!  Back then it was known as Tick-Tock and took the form of a grandfather clock.

Here's the tale of William Clements's grandfather clock:

Apropos of nothing, here's Johnny Cash singing "Grndfather's Clock"

And if you can't remember the lyrics, here they are in a video by Tom Roush:

 Asterix:  In a 1999 poll in France, the 1961 book Asterix the Gaul was named the 23rd greatest book of the twentieth century.  Other countries may disagree, but the comic (which originally appeared in serial form in the French-Belgian magazine Pilote) grew into a world-wide phenomenon and has appeared in 40 languages, not including English and the original French.  Written by Rene Goscinny, with art by Albert Uderzo, the comic presents a wacky, pun-laden look at Roman-era Brittany.  The title character was a diminutive warrior, a tad smarter than his fellow villagers and willing to get into a worthy fray.  His best friend and sidekick was Obelix, a fat, not too bright, he-man with incredible strength; Obelix is often seen carrying large menhirs (man-sized standing stones) which he would sculpt.  Other characters include Getafix (a Druid), Vitalstatistix (the village chief), Cacafonix (a musician), Fulliautomatix (a black smith), and Julius Caesar (the villain).

If you have not yet meet up with Asterix.  The link takes you to 33 of the 39 books, along with a complete guide and other information.  enjoy.

Be Nice To Your Fern:  Today is Houseplant Appreciation Day, to be celebrated for those who have never watered a houseplant with hot water from the teakettle (three decades later and I am still getting reminders of that episode).

Perhaps more to your liking is Bittersweet Chocolate Day or National Oysters Rockefeller Day.  

It is also Save the (not the football team) Eagles Day, certainly a worthwhile day to celebrate.  (If you're from Philadelphia we'll give you a pass and let you try to save the football team, especially after Saturday's drubbing ar the hands of the Cowboys.)

Perhaps in an acknowledgement of the Great Resignation, today is also National Clean Off Your Desk Day.

And let's us not forget a nod to my tribe:  National Peculiar People Day.

Today and through the week, we'll be celebrating National Pizza Week.  Yippee!

Fans of Little House on the Prairie can celebrate the birthdays of Charles Ingalls (b. 1836) and his daughter Mary (b. 1865).  

On this day, in 1938. baseball player Willie McCovey entered this world and, in 1917, Buffalo Bill Cody exited.

Rubicon:  Some 2070 years ago Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, setting into motion a civil war.  Outside of Roman history and the modern phrase 'crossing the Rubicon," I realized I knew nothing about the Rubicon and I have never heard it mentioned.  Just what is -- and where is -- the Rubicon?

It turns out the Rubicon is a shallow river to the northeast of Rome, just north of Rimini.  It was the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy.  (The much larger and more important river Arno marked the northwestern border.)  the river got its name from the reddish color of the water, which was caused by iron deposits.

Caesar, had led the Legio XIII Gemina (the 13th Twin Legion) in his conquest of Gaul, under his imperium.  (Imperium was a sort of loose authority given to a citizen to led an army or a government and was given by the Roman Senate.)  The conservative senate under the sway of Caesar's former ally and now political enemy, Pompey. the senate refused Caesar a second consulship (imperium) following the Gallic War and ordered him to give up his command and return to Rome to face prosecution.  (Petty politics has been around for a long, long time.)  Forced with a choice between his political future or civil war, Caesar led his legion across the Rubicon into Italy.  Reportedly Caesar said, "The die is cast," and order his loyal legion to cross the river.  Ans so history is made.

The Rubicon remained an important river to the Roman Empire for about another seven years when Octavian merged Cisalpine Gaul into Italia and the river ceased to be the northernmost border of Italy.  Shorn of its importance, the river still remained but its name gradually disappeared.  Up until 1933, the river was known as the Fiamucino, where it was discovered that this was the famous Rubicon and the name was changed back.

Today the 50-mile river is one of the most polluted in the area and underwater exploitation has reduced its flow and has lost most of its natural route.

Thus the mighty have fallen.

Episodes in the Life of a Gin Bottle:  Here's a quirky little 11-minute film from 1925.  Rex Lease portrays the "spirit" of a gin bottle, tempting various people to take a drink.  Things don't work out too well for those who succumb to the demon gin.  One of the first in a long line of films showing the negative effects of vice, a la Reefer Madness, this movie must have won the approval of the WTCU.  A modern audience must wonder where one gets a gin bottle that constantly refills itself.

Speedy Response:  A personal rant here:  Hurricane Sally came through here about fifteen months ago, tking out the Pensacola Bridge and doing some heavy damage to the area.  We lucked out:  the only damage here was to several pieces of vinyl siding that ripped off the upper part of our apartment building, leaving raw wood exposed.  And it stayed exposed.  And stayed exposed.  This past Saturday, though, the building management sent a ,man with a ladder to fix it.  I saw him working and thought, "At last!"  Yesterday morning I went out to find the siding had not been replaced; a plastic sheathing was placed over the raw wood instead.  Things work slowly in Florida.

Speaking of Florida, Have I Ever Mentioned Florida Man?:
  • Florida Man Andre Abrams of Gainesville had a long running dispute with his neighbor over parking, so being a Florida Man, he sprayed the neighbor's car with a flamethrower.  Problem was there were three teenagers in the car at the time.  No one was njured as the teens escaped through the car's side door.  The flamethrower in question was an XM42 Lite Flamethrower, made by X Products LLC of Vancouver.  It sells for about $900 and is legal to own in 48 states, including Florida.  The company also sells T-shirts marked "little terrorist."  They require purchasers of the flamethrower to sign a liability waiver and to affirm they had never been convicted of a felony, domestic abuse, or arson,   Abrams was twice convicted of domestic abuse in 2002 and 2004.
  • Florida Man Garrett James Smith, 22, was arrested near a Tampa protest against the arrest of a local Oath Keeper implicated in last year's January 6 insurrection.  Smith was carrying a homemade bomb; another was found during a search of his home.  Smith's intent and any political motivations were unclear.
  • Florida Man and Corrections Deputy Amony Robillard was arrested for allegedly holding a naked man at gunpoint, threatening him with death, dismembering, and a gratuitous feeding otosharks, filming him for hours, forcing him to sign a $30,000 contract, and threatened to send incriminating videos to the man's family.  The 34-year-old victim (?) had gone to a rented home in Orlando to have sex with a 19-year-old woman.  The unnamed victim (again, ?) took a shower and when he emerged, Robillard came out from behind a curtain with his gun pointing at the man.  Robillard and the victim (once again -- sheesh! -- ?)  were evidently friends who had fallen out after the man gave Robillard bad investment advice about a cryptocurrency company that later tanked, costing Robillard $2000.
  • An unnamed Florida teacher is accused of bullying a 7-year-old delayed girl at the Airbase Elementary School in Homestead.  The girl was then pulled from the class and the teacher decided to retaliate.  The teacher reportedly grabbed the girl roughly from behind as she was boarding a bus, jerking her around and accused her of stealing a cell phone.  There was no cell phone.  The girl suffered a sprained arm.  The Miami-Dade School District have said they investigated the case and found no probable cause.  The family plans to sue.
  • Also in Homestead, 42-year-old Florida Woman Adriana Alvarado Gutierrez has been charged with child abuse for repeatedly locking her son in a dog cage in retaliation for his aggressive behavior.  The child suffers from ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder and takes medicine to control the problem.  The boy was found to have multiple bruise marks on his arms and back.  The mother showed officers bruises she said she received from the boy kicking her.  The kid is now in the custody of his father.

Good News:
  • New York police officer runs out on thin ice to rescue dog
  • Premature baby gorilla is reunited with its parents (cute picture at the link)
  • A baby donkey was named "Betty White" to honor the late actress who had donated to the Peaceful Valley Donkey Sanctuary for years; the donkey was born on Christmas but remained unnamed until New Year's Day
  • Shaq brings 2000 Nintendo switches and PS5s to underprivileged kids for Christmas
  • Hockey sports fan spots cancerous mole on staffer, gets $10,000 medical school scholarship from grateful NHL team
  • The James Webb telescope is now fully deployed!
  • Families spend Christmas Eve rescuing six elk trpped in frozen river

Today's Poem Haiku:
Spring is Passing

Spring is passing
The birds cry, and the fishes eyes are
With tears.

-- Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)