Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, May 22, 2022


 Openers:   I returned from the city about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.  I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it.  If anyone had told me a year ago if I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact.  The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick.  I couldn't get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as that of soda-water that has been standing in the sun.  "Richard Hannay," I kept telling myself, "you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you jad better climb out."

It made me bite my lip to think of the places I had been building up those last years in Buluwayn.  I had got my pile -- not one of the big ones, but good enough for me; and I had figured out all kinds of ways of enjoying myself.  My father had brought me out from Scotland at the age of six, and I had never been home since; so England was a sort of Arabian Nights for me, and I counted on stopping there for the rest of my days.

But from the first I was disappointed with it.  In about a week I was tired of seeing sights, and in less than a month I had had enough of restaurants and theatre and race-meetings.  I had no real pal to about with, which probably explains things.  Plenty of people invited me to their houses, but they didn't seem much interested in me.  they would fling me a question or two about South Africa, and then get on to their own affairs.  A lot of Imperialist ladies asked me to tea to meet someone from New Zealand and editors from Vancouver, and that was the dismalest business of all.  Here was I, thirty-seven years old, sound in wind and limb, with enough money to have a good time, yawning my head off all day.  I had just about settled to clear out nd get back to the veld, for I was the best bored man in the United Kingdom.

The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan  (1915; first published as a serial in Blackwood's Magazine in their July, August, and September issues as by "H de V.")

Be careful what you wish for, Richard Hannay.  Within a few paragraphs you be pushed into an adventure that will have you running for your life over the hill and moor of Scotland, chased by both police and anarchists plotting to destabilize Europe.  As a character, I found Hannay to be a mixed blessing, at times shrewd and daring, and at other times of be a dim bulb.  The book I found also to be a bit off-putting because of at least one character's racist and anti-Semitic.  But the book has a lot going for it.  It is a classic adventure-espionage novel, a "shocker," as the author described it.  In 2003, the book was listed as one of the UK's best-loved novels by the BBC.

Most of us are familiar with the story from Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film starring Robert Donat.  In 1938, Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air adapted the book for their fourth episode, not getting the notoriety as their adaptation of that H. G. Wells novel later in the year. Other radio adaptations include episodes of the Lux Radio Theater (1937, with Robert Montgomery), Philip Morris Playhouse (1943, with Herbert Marshall), The Hour of Mystery (1946, with David Niven), the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Stage Series (1947). Studio One (1948, with Glenn Ford), Suspense (1952, with Herbert Marshall [again]), eight BBC adaptations, and  three BBC solo readings.   There have also been at least three audiobook versions of the novel.  Another version of the book, starring Kenneth More as Hannay, was released in 1959, followed by a 1978 version starring Robert Powell, and a television film staring Rupert Penry-Jones in 2008. Currently filming is a Netflix television mini-series with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead.  A theatrical adaptation of the novel was staged in 1995, and rewritten in 2005; it became the fifth longest running play Piccadilly's Criterion Theatre; it moved to Broadway in 2008 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two.   (The London show won an Oliver, and the Broadway show also received a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.  A 2014 BBC radio documentary focused on the novel's impact at home and abroad.

I have not seen every version of The Thirty-nine Steps, but a good number of them do not follow the book and have different ides of what the "thirty-nine steps" are.  Much of this can be laid to Mr. Hitchcock. who threw out most of the novel when he made his film.

Richard Hannay was too a character to waste on just one book.  Buchan used him as a major character in Greenmantle (1916), Mr. Standfast (1919), The Three Hostages (1924), and The Island of Sheep (1936), and as a minor character in The Courts of the Morning (1929) and Sick Heart River (1940).  Hannay also appears as a member of The Runagates Club (1926), a collection of twelve stories; another member of that club is Sir Edward Leithen, a major character in five of Buchan's novels, including Sick Heart River.  

Hannay was also the title character in the 1998-1999 television series featuring Robert Powell in the title role.  He was also featured in a 1952 six-episode series, The Three Hostages, with Patrick Barr as Hannay, and in a 1997 television movie of The Three Hostages, with Barry Foster as Hannay.

John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir (1875-1940) carried on dual careers as an author and as a politician and diplomate.  As an author, he wrote 28 popular novels, 43 non-fiction books (many of which were histories, including one book of 24 volumes), eleven biographies, four poetry collections, and five short story collections, along with editing 14 anthologies.  On the political side (following periods as a barrister and a publisher), Buchan was the private secretary to the  High Commissioner of Southern Africa, a lieutenant colonel in the intelligence corps and director of intelligence during World War I, reporting to prime minister David Lloyd George, s Unionist member of Parliament, King George V's Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, and the 15th Governor-General of Canada.  

On February 6, 1940, Buchan suffered a stroke and injured his head as he fell.  Two surgeries failed to save him and he died on February 11,  His time spent in Canada and his clear devotion to the Canadian people endeared him to much of the populace. He was given a state funeral in Ottawa and his ashes were then shipped to England for burial.


  • Richard Brister, The Shoot-out at Sentinel Peak, with Tangled Trail by Roy Manning.  An Ace Double western.  The Brister:  "The storm broke in Sentinel the day Cleve McNary's neighbor Will Ruscher, spilled out his life's blood on the town street.  Will's H-on-a-Rail ranch was just a two-bit building between two giant neighbors, but it had one thing of real value in that arid valley -- a darned good waterhole.  Cleve could have used that water himself but he wasn't the kind of coyote that would buy something with lead that he couldn't get with silver.  On the other hand, he couldn't stand with holstered pistols while another man got away with murder."  And the Manning:  (from the Mobile Press Register) "Tex Tevis, the hero of this story, had built a small homestead with his brother, and they found themselves in a peck of trouble with the big cattle ranchers.  Six-guns blazed on the range and when the smoke of the fighting was cleared, Tex's brother was dead, their home burned.  Tex swore revenge and in his hatred he became a renegade and a social outcast..."
  • "Barry Cord" (Peter B. Germano), Concho Valley (abridged), with My Brother the Gunman by William Heuman.  An Ace Double western.  About Concho Valley:  "Lon Winters hightailed it into Concho Valley to find out what was holding up his pard, Frank Santree.  Lon was shocked to discover that Frank had  just been strung up as a rustler of Diamond T beef.  Lon knew that Frank was no rustler.  And when he tried to get to the truth of the whole mess, he stepped plumb into the middle of a strange kind of range war.  He knew that there was double-dealing going on, but by the time he figured out the rules of the deadly game, he'd already been slipped the ace of spades.  And then Lon knew that his guns had better be the fastest in Concho Valley or he'd be joining his partner darned quick."  And the Heuman:  "Carmody, when Cass Malone left it to join the Union Army, was a sleepy Kansas cattle-town.  When he came back six years later, he found it had become a booming railhead, run ruthlessly by one Frank Wymore, a hardbitten hombre who knew what he wanted and how to get it.  It didn't take Cass long to figure out how Wymore managed to stay alive in a town where he'd turned every decent man against him.  Chief on his payroll was a pack of hired gunslingers, ready to answer any complaints with a bullet in the back.  But Cass's worst discovery was that his own kid brother was number one gunman in the crowd.  Then there was no choice left for Cass Malone.  He had to pit himself against his own flesh and blood, or settle for a coward's grave in Boot Hill."
  • "Barry Cord" (Peter B. Germano), Mesquite Johnny (abridged), with A Time for Guns by Rod Patterson.  An Ace Double western.  The Cord:  "Johnny Delaney was a kid they called 'the orphan,' but from the hell he raised he could have been the devil's own offspring.  Fast, furious, and fearless, he was also still beardless.  And there was nothing he wanted more than to be thought of as a full-grown man.  That's why he saddled up to look for his pal who had disappeared over in Ladrone.  He needed to prove himself a man once and for all.  But once in the thick of the bushwacking and double-dealing of that cattle-rustlers' paradise, Johnny found out there was something even harder than growing a man's beard.  That would be to get out of Ladrone alive!"  About the Patterson:  "Clay Harper knew that his life wasn't worth the skin of a new-born calf after the way he had bucked his old rival, Lee Carmody.  Therefore he had nothing to lose by opposing Lee's big Sultana outfit and stopping it from taking over the range.  But Lee didn't know how dirty the fight would get and how many other people's lives it would involve.  He hadn't anticipated wholesale murder, nor that his wife would run out on him, nor, finally, that his son might ecome a key pawn in the deadly struggle."
  • John Creasey, Murder, London-Australia.  A Superintendent Roger West mystery.  "Superintendent Roger West's newest case begins with the strangling of an Australian girl in a London boarding house.  Then a man dies suddenly at London Airport -- and like the girl he was a passenger on S.S. Kookaburra.  West and his Scotland Yard colleagues discover enough to suspect that every passenger on that recent voyage of the Kookaburra is in danger of death.  As they dig deeper, the danger becomes even greater, threatening the Australian Blue Flag fleet of ships.  The complex -- and perilous -- job of solving this elaborate crime takes Roger West from London to Australia."  Creasey's books are like crack to me and Roger West is one of his greatest characters.
  • "Evan Evans" (Frederick Faust, also known as "Max Brand"), Outlaw's Code.  Yep, another western.  "His name was Lawrence Grey -- Texas called him Rinky Dink -- South of the Border he was Don Diablo.  But by any other name he was equally deadly.  He was fair-haired, with a pink and white complexion and a charming smile.  Women loved him, and on both sides of the law, men got out of the way for Rinky Dink.  He never broke a promise.  He never forgot an enemy or a friend.  What he wanted, he took...a girl, a horse, a million in gold."
  • Frank Gruber, Outlaw.  Another western, making them more than 83 % of this week's incoming.  " 'Twenty-five thousand, dead or alive!'  That's how bad the banks and the railroads wanted Jim Chapman, terror of the border states, the first man who ever robbed a bank in broad daylight, or held up a U. S. mail train and gutted it of its gold.  Frank Gruber, the great western author, has written this powerful, full-bodied novel of Jim Chapman, Confederate veteran, world-famed outlaw, in the bloodiest, most violent days in the whole raw history of America's frontier."

Squeeze Box:   What is the most underappreciated, least cool musical instrument.  Many would vote for the accordion.  And who could blame them?

Unless, of course, you are Clifton Chenier, the great accordionist and zydeco innovator.  Chenier himself was inspired by the recording of Amadie (or Amede) Ardoin.

(For those who are interested, here's an early recording of Ardoin, "Les Blues de Voyage"

(And a 1955 recording by Clifton Chenier, "Ay Tete Fee"

In essence, an accordion is a musical instrument that uses hand-pumped bellows and and two keyboard to sound free reeds (small metal tongues that vibrate when air is pushed past them.  The earliest precursor to the accordion may be the cheng, or sheng, which appeared in China around 3000 BC.  The story goes that the emperor Huang Ti sent a scholar to the western mountain regions of his kingdom to find a way to reproduce the song of the phoenix bird.  The scholar returned with the cheng, the first known instrument to use the free vibrating reed principle.  Later instruments to use this principle arose in Egypt and Greece and played a part in many beliefs.

During the 12th and 13th centuries an instrument called the portative as popular in England.  This had a small keyboard bellows and reed pipes and was strapped onto the player.  Around 1770, the cheng made its way to Russia, and the across Europe.  Another precursor to the accordion was the regal, also known as the Bible regal because of its common use in  churches.  Its popularity faded because of its tendency to go out of tune rather quickly, although it was often used in madrigal groups from the 15th to 18th centuries.

The first true accordion was made in 1822 by the German instrument maker  Christian Friedrich Buschmann (who is questionably credited with also inventing the harmonica), who called his instrument the Handaoline, and had it patented.  In 1828, Cyrill Demian made modification to Buschmann's Handaoline, named the new instrument the accordion, and had it patented.  Demian is widely credited for not only naming, but also creating, the first modern accordion.  Since the there have been many changes and variations of the accordion.

Among the more well-known accordion players are Lawrence Welk, Myron Floren, Loreena McKennit, and Bruce Hornsby.  Bring the generous kind of guy I am, I won't hold their choice of instrument against these folks...well, maybe Lawrence Welk.

On This Day:  April 23 was a busy day in history.  Joan of Arc was captured (1439); Savonarola was burned at the stake (1498); Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon was nullified (1533); South Carolina becomes the eighth state (1788); the declaration of the Bab announced that he was a prophet, eventually becoming the forerunner of the Baha'i faith -- today is a holy day for Baha'is (2844); Mexican president Mariano Paredes unofficially declares was on the United States (1846); the North-West Mounted Police was founded (1873); the New York Public Library was dedicated (1911); Italy joined the Allies in World War I (1915); Bonnie and Clyde were killed by police (1934); Heinrich Himmler committed suicide (1945); Tibetans signed The Seventeen Point Agreement with China (1951); Eunice Kennedy married Sargent Shriver (1953); "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys was a number one hit (1964); the Java programming language was introduced (1995); the Good Friday Agreement is reached with Northern Ireland (1997); and there have been way too many bombings, shootings, killings, and natural disasters.

Birthday wishes go out to Mayan king K'inich Kan Bahlam II (b. 635), Philip I of France (b. 1962), Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (b. 1707), Franz Mesmer (b. 1734), Eads Bridge designer James Buchanan Eads (b. 1820), General Ambrose Burnside (b. 1824), actor Douglas Fairbanks (b. 1883), actor Herbert Marshall, who played Richard Hannay -- see above (b. 1890), author Par Lagerkvist (b. 1891), author Scott O'Dell (b. 1898), Goodnight Moon lady Margaret Wise Brown (b. 1910). Scatman Crothers (also 1910). bandleader Artie Shaw (also 1910 -- it was a good year for talent), singers Helen O'Connell (b. 1920) and Rosemary Clooney (b. 1928), sexy actress Joan Collins (b. 1933), chess genius Anatoly Karpov (b. 1951), Marvelous Marvin Hagler (b. 1954), actor and game show host Drew Carey (b. 1958), and singer-songwriter and occasional SYFY movie actress Jewel (b. 1974).

On on this day in history, we bid a fond (or not-so fond) farewell to Pope Urban I (d. 230), antipope Benedict XIII (d. 1423), Italian friar Gerolamo Savonarola (d. 1498), pirate William Kidd (d. 1701), legendary frontiersman Kit Carson (d. 1868), the above-mentioned Bonnie and Clyde (d. 1934), rich guy John D. Rockefeller (d. 1937), the above-mentioned baddie Heinrich Himmler (d. 1945), actor and singer George Jessel, who once tried to molest Shirley Temple until she kicked him in the groin (d. 1981), Australian activist and last speaker of the Gaagudju language Big Bill Neidjle (d. 2002), golfer Sam Snead (d. 2002), folk singer, activist, and the man who gave us the story of "Moose Turd Pie" Utah Phillips (d. 2008), comedian Anne Meara (d. 2015), James Bond and Simon Templar and Beau Maverick actor Roger Moore (d. 2017), The Very Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle (d. 2021), and (again) too many people from bombings, shootings, killings, and natural disasters.

And if you want to go wild and celebrate, today is International Turtle Day (and which for those who are picky, excludes Christina's Sebastian, who is a tortoise -- but who would be so callous to omit sweet, sweet Sebastian?).  It is also Lucky Penny Day, National Taffy Day, and World Crohn's and Colitis Day.  As mentioned above, Baha'is are celebrating Declaration of the Bab Day.  And don't forget International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and Victoria Day.  We also in the  National Backyard Games Week, Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, National Safe Boating Week. National Tire Safety Week, and World Schizophrenia Awareness Week.  For those who are interested we are smack day in the middle of the 2022 Cannes International Film Festival.

If you were born on this date you are a Gemini and your birth flower can be either the lily of the valley or the hawthorn.  Your birthstone is the emerald, which supposedly gives the owner foresight, good fortune and youth.

The Wackadoodle Wave:   And then there's this:  Abroted fetuses are being burned in Washington, DC to provide electricity.  Don't believe it?  But it must be true because that was the testimony of anti-abortion activist Catherine Glenn Foster, the president of Americans Right to Life before a House judiciary committee meeting on the access to abortion, and we all know that testimony before a House Committee has to truthful, right?  Do I need mention that Ms. Foster was requested to appear before the committee by Republican members?

Which brings me to this interesting article from The Atlantic by David A. Graham.  It's worth a look.

And do we even have to mention Jewish Space lasers?

Nijinsky:  Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) was one of the world's greatest ballet dancers.  His grace, athleticism, and artistry, along with his sensitive interpretations and his ability to seemingly defy gravity in Grande Jete made him one of the most famous figures in the Ballets Russes and around the world.  Very little film exists of his work, but here's a short clip from a reconstruction of a 1909 performance of Le Pavillon D'Armide, when the Nijinsky was only twenty and had recently been named premier dancer of the Ballets Russes.  The clip was apparently mainly reconstructed from still photographs.

Florida Man:   Florida Man has not been in hibernation over the past few weeks.  Here's some examples.
  • Florida Man Jean Barreto, 26, is lucky to be alive after a Florida Man Osceola County deputy fired at him with a taser.  Unfortunately Barreto was fueling his motorcycle at the time nd was covered with gasoline -- he received third degree burns over 75% of his body..  Barreto is being charged with fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement, reckless driving. and resisting an officer without violence; the unnamed sheriff's deputy is being charged with culpable negligence and (I assume) gross stupidity.
  • Florida Man Adam Smith, 35, has been arrested over a series of lewd video calls he made to unsuspecting strangers in 2021.  (When I say "lewd," I mean he was masturbating.)  Smith had previously been arrested in 2019 for pulling his car up to a woman and gratifying himself in the same manner.  Although Smith is said to be a Tennessee native, two of the obscene calls he made came from a Sarasota, Florida, number -- which makes him a Florida Man in my book.
  • West Palm Beach Florida Man Jamie Avery, 28, has been accused of trying to set a child on fire in a New York City office building.  Police found Avery and another suspect trying to start fires in the building.  Police also found a one-year-old child covered in flammable liquid at the scene/
  • Florida Man Michael Justin Rowe, 32, was arrested for trying to steal $800 in small change from a machine in an Englewood laundromat using a sledge hammer.  Rowe was wearing a gorilla mask.  Also arrested in the simian-themed heist was Taylor Marie Farrell, 34; it is not known whether she is a Florida Woman.
  • Florida Man and Polk Country Deputy Austin Moates was arrested on charges of child abuse.  Moates had responded to an incidence of bullying at a local school.  Moates took the two children home, spoke to their mother, nd then proceeded to spank each child "with his hand for their behavior."  Moates the told the children to go to their rooms.  One did but the other refused.  That's when Moates grabbed the girl by the neck and forced her upstairs.  According to the girl, Moates "choked my neck and he squeezed my neck and carried me up the stairs and he wanted me to die."  When a person noted the red marks on the child's neck and asked if Moates was responsible, the deputy denied it, saying "what are you talking about," and that he did not see any red marks, and if the marks were there, the girl probably did it herself.  Sometimes Florida Men say the stupidest things.

Good News:
  •  Scuba divers recover 12 tons of trash from Lake Tahoe, including engagement rings and wallets
  • An otter spotted in the Detroit River may be the first sighting in 100 years
  • Students create edible tortilla tape to keep your wrap wrapped
  • The number of greater one-horned rhinos reaches a new high
  • Island is finally rid of 300,000 rats
  • anonymous donor pays of entire debt for an entire 3033 class in Texas
  • Plants have been grown in lunar soil for the first time ever

A One-Liner from Steven Wright:  I bought some powdered water but I don't know what to add,

Today's Poem:

I cannot tell you how it was,
But this I know: it came to pass
Upon a bright and sunny day,
When May was young; oh, pleasant May!
And yet the poppies were not born
Between the blades of tender corn;
The last egg had not hatched as yet, 
Nor any bird forgone its mate.

I cannot tell you what it was,
But this I know:  it did but pass.
It passed away with sunny May,
Like all sweet things it passed away,
And left me old, and cold, and gray.

-- Christina Rossetti


  1. You are back in form. Must take you a long time to put this together. Now I must read The Thirty-nine Steps.

  2. Good and busy work as usual, Jerry--though the big typo this time is, I think, at the beginning of the Chenier passages, where a sentence or short paragraph seems to be missing.

    1. Thanks for picking that up, Todd. An introductory paragraph decided to go walkabout. Fixed now.

  3. Also, among accordionists, have you come across Orlando DiGioralamo, sometimes professionally Lanny DiJay among the heathen, a jazz accordionist who worked with Teo Macero on the latter's half of the notable CBS album WHAT'S NEW? Here's my favorite track off the Macero side "Neally":