Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, July 30, 2022


 Things are not looking good for the home team.

Since we started this supposed road trip to Birmingham in April, we have been detoured through ERs, hospitals, rehab facilities and back again.  For the record, Kitty is now in the ICU after being bounced from her second rehab stint because of pneumonia.  Although this is her first ICU stay, it is her third hospital stay since April 26 -- the last day she was at home.

Currently her blood pressure is low and they are trying to stabilize it.  Her latest blood count for anemia is low and they have to reinstitute steroids -- which may have a negative effect on her fluid retention and on her blood pressure.  She's having  hard time breathing and there is concern about her lungs.  Several more doctors have brought up possible problems with her liver, spleen, and kidneys.   Her cognition is slipping and she is having a hard time communicating, or even speaking in general.  Some of her dreams are vivid and she thinks they are real when she wakens.  Her legs still cannot support her.

She gets super-pissed when I tell her she cannot get out of her hospital bed, and even more upset when I tell her (several times a day) she cannot go home just because she is tired of the hospital.  There has been talk of dementia and possible Alzheimer's; she has been displaying some "sundown effects" the past few nights.  She's scared and confused and has been taking out on me these past few days; I don't mind that, it comes with the marriage contract we made fifty-two years ago.  I do wish I could ease her mind and her pain, though.

The hospital is setting us up with a palliative care team and we will be having an informational meeting with Hospice tomorrow morning.  

Although I realize the final outcome may not be the one I was wishing for, I am not ready or able to give up hope.  Even now, she has made gains in some areas while slipping in others.  She is a tough cookie and is chock-full of stubborn Irish genes.  If anyone can come out on top of this it is my bride.  I'm just here along for the ride, supporting her with my faith, hope, and love.

Sunday, July 24, 2022


 "Big Camp Meeting Over Yonder" sung by Hulda Roberts.  From the Alan Lomax Kentucky recordings, October 11, 1931.

Perhaps, like me, you'll find a certain power and authenticity in folk recordings such as this one.

Saturday, July 23, 2022


Yesterday I posted the French comic book adaptation of Murray Leinster's The Brain Stealers,  pulp science fiction adventure that wowed me as a youth.  Today, we have an adaptation of Fredric Brown's The Dead Ringer (1949), the second book in his Ed and Am /hunter mystery series.

For those unfamiliar with Fredric Brown, go now and stand in the corner with your head hung down for half an hour.  We'll wait...

..Back now?  Good.  Now read this comic book book adaptation.  Then -- and this is important -- get three hence and read as many of Brown's books and stories as possible.  Your life will be better for it.

Ed Hunter and his one-time private detective Uncle Ambrose are now running a Coconut Shy at the travelling Hobart Circus.  A murdered (and unknown) midget wearing only bathing trunks, a lovely young girl new to the circus and the dancing girls show, a child kidnapped from a wealthy Kentucky family, a sick ape caged in the business manager's caravan trailer and later found drowned in the high dive water tank, the "ghost" of the ape seen during a pelting rain storm one night,  the death of the offensively-named Jigaboo the coloured [sic...this is a British comic book, after all] tap-dancer,  the disappearance of the circus's only official midget all add up to a deadly puzzle that will take all of Am Hunter's wits.


Fredric Brown wrote seven books in his Ed and Am Hunter the series.  The first, The Fabulous Clipjoint (1948), won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  Brown also wrote an additional sixteen non-series mystery novels, five science fiction novels, and one underrated mainstream novel, as well as several hundred short stories.


This recent Associated Press article wonders if the notorious "Florida Man" has met his match in "Florida Sheriff," citing (among other things) the rantings, ravings, and actions of various sheriffs, including the one from my little corner of the Sunshine State.  The "tough on crime" machismo may play well to the cheap seats but nevertheless displays an irresponsibility that is staggering.  Alas, "Florida Sheriff" just turns out to be "Florida Man" with a badge.

Here's the article.  What do you think?

Thursday, July 21, 2022


 Les Voleurs de Cerveaux by "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins) (1954; Anticipation 013/14 [1979], a graphic novel adaptation of The Brain Stealers, 1956, from [I guess] a translation by Amelie Audiberti for the  Fleuve Noir - Anticipation #66 printing; English novel an expansion of  "The Man in the Iron Cap," Startling Stories, November 1947)

A confession.  I took French in both high school and college.  If memory serves, I passed those curses with flying colors [coleurs].  Today my knowledge of the French language can be summed up in just one word -- merde.  Not that this deterred me (Murray Leinster fan that I am) from digging in to this graphic novel when I came across it on Internet Archive.

I read Leinster's novel more years ago than I would like to admit and remember little than I had enjoyed it.  There will always be a place in my heart for rock-'em, sock-'em pulp science fiction.

Here's the blurb from the 1947 novella, "The Man in the Iron Cap:"  "An indescribable and horrible group of invaders from space had held the world in thrall -- and one man, a discredited scientist, stood alone in a last-ditch defense of humanity!" 

...And the blurb from the original Ace edition:  "HE ALONE DEFIED THE COSMIC VAMPIRES!

"When outlawed scientist Jim Hunt leaped from the prison plane, he had no suspicion that he was not the only one falling silently through the midnight sky.  But other, stranger exiles were landing at that very moment in the same backwoods region...exiles from unknown depths of outer space, exiles seeking human food.

"When Jim started to make his way back home, he discovered the full horror of that night's events.  For the people he met had become mere flesh-and-blood puppets, mindless creatures doing the bidding of the unseen invaders.  And though every man's hand was against him, Jim knew that he alone was humanity's only hope for survival."

How closely does the French graphic novel follow Leinster's original(s)?  Merde if I know.  I do know that the aliens are drawn as if they were lollipop monsters, but I can forgive that.

Here's the link to the French graphic novel (both parts).  If you know French, you may enjoy it more than those who don't.  If you don't know French, there's nothing to stop you from making up your own description and dialogue to the story balloons.  Note also that the two volumes of Anticipation have a few extra stories to pad out each issue's page count.   Issue 013 adds "Des Fous Sont Parmi Nous" and "Monstruositie;" and Issue 014 adds "Les Deux Faces de l'Assassin " and "C'est a en Mourir de Rire."  What are those tales about?  Again, merde if I know.

And here's the link to the September 1947 issue of Startling Stories, which also carries stories by "Polton Cross" (John Russell Fearn) and Clive Beck, as well as a "Hall of Fame Reprint," Jack Williamson's "Through the Purple Cloud" (Wonder Stories, May 1931)

And the link to the Ace edition of The Brain Stealers:

No matter what language you speak, enjoy Murray Leinster at his pulp-writing best.



Today is the 97th anniversary of the guilty verdict in the infamous Scopes Trial, in which John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution to his high school biology class  in Dayton Tennessee.  I'm so glad that today's legislators and political leaders actually believe in and support science.

**cough! cough!**

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


 "Indian Sign" by Robert Bloch  (first published in West, January 1943; reprinted in Pulse Pounding Adventure Stories #2, December 1987)

I know I am not alone in having Robert Bloch serve as a gateway drug to a lifetime of reading fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  My junior high and high school years were made much more tolerable because of Bloch's collections Terror in the Night, Pleasant Dreams, Blood Runs Cold, Atoms and Evil, Bogey Men, Horror-7, Tales in a Jugular Vein, and The Skull of Marquis de Sade.  And then there were the novels -- Psycho (of course), The Dead Beat, The Kidnapper, Firebug, The Scarf (aka The Scarf of Passion), and The Will to Kill -- pristine jewels of writing that explored the (much) darker side of the human psyche.  There was Bloch donning his Damon Runyon hat for the Lefty Feep fantasies long before I knew who Damon Runyon was.  And Bloch channeling his inner Thorne Smith.  And Bloch the scriptwriter; Bloch (along with Richard Matheson) was the reason I began to pay attention  to television and film credits.  Back in those halcyon days I had no idea of Robert Bloch the fan, nor had I any idea of how much loved he was by his colleagues.  The Bloch of my youth hit all the buttons -- he was funny, he was scary, he understood the weird psyche of the human being.  Bloch was the first writer to truly knock my socks off.

Not everything Bloch wrote was a gem.  Far from it.  But enough of his work had a special brilliance that, even today, keeps me going back to the well over and over.

Bloch was uncomfortable with the western story.  He published only two in the western pulps.  One of these was "Indian Sign," a short tale whose singular virtue was his name as the author.

Kiowa half-breed Johnny Marsh was riding his pinto through a canyon when he heard the shots and then came across the two men.  One was dead and the other was leaning over the corpse with a smoking gun in his hand.  Johnny, handy with a lariat, was able to capture the survivor and, binding him, took him and the corpse to town.  

It looks like Johnny had made a grave mistake.  The man he had captured carried the identity of Rex Blinn, the Indian agent just assigned to the area.  The corpse, Blinn said, was Jack Parsons, a gambler and confidence man who had attempted to waylay Blinn.  Blinn drew faster.  That settled, the sheriff releases Blinn, who claims he holds no hard feelings against Johnny.  Blinn is in town to sign a new treaty with Kiowa Chief Lone Bull.  The treaty would guarantee land for the Kiowa; in return, they would cede some land to the government.  Blinn asks Johnny to serve as a go-between between himself and Lone Bull.  Johnny suspects some shady dealings and soon discovers that the man known as Blinn was really the gambler Parsons, who had managed to swap identities with the Indian agent just before Johnny came on the scene.  Because Lone Bull could not read English, Parsons felt it would be a simple task to have the Kiowa chief actually sign a document that gave him -- Parsons -- the land.  Parsons manages to capture Johnny and has his men surreptitiously hold a gun on him while Lone Bull signs the treaty.  With a gun poking in his ribs, Johnny cannot warn Lone Bull.  How can he stop the "treaty" from being signed without being shot by Parson's men?

A minor tale whose resolution would make no sense in the real world.  Luckily, we're talking 1943 western pulp rather than the real world.

Bloch's other western short story, "Chinaman's Chance," appeared in Mammoth Western, August 1950.  I have not been able to locate a copy of that story.  I suspect, given "Indian Sign," that other western tale could be a good indication why Bloch never returned to the western short story.

The December 1987 issue of Pulse Pounding Adventure Stories is available on-line at Luminist Archives.  That issue also contains interesting stories from Richard L. Tierney, Carl Jacobi, and C. J. Henderson.  Check it out.


 Our road trip that started on June 26th continues, taking us on a strange and unexpected journey.  As you may remember, we started out with the intention of reaching Birmingham for Kitty's 30-day follow-up from her heart valve replacement.  Instead we ended up in the emergency room in out local hospital when Kitty pulled a Mrs. Fletcher and fell and could not get up.  Her breathing was terrible and her cognitive behavior was almost as bad.  She had a lot of fluid build-up -- something that can happen after a valve replacement -- and they concentrated on getting rid of the build-up.  Then she was transferred to a rehab facility to build up her strength.  After two weeks of this, she was still breathing with great difficulty and was basically too weak to engage in the physical therapy.  

(The rehab facility had no facilities for me to stay with her so I ended up sleeping on the hard floor for first night.  They took pity on me then and found the world's thinnest and most uncomfortable mattress for me to sleep on -- they never though of having a spare cot on hand.  Try getting up from the floor when you have 75-year-old bones and an historically bad back.  Luckily, she only needed me to get up and help her with something about every 90 minutes from 11 pm to 5 am.  With all that practice, I can now get up from the floor under 3 minutes -- agility thy name is Jerry!)

Previously all we had to worry about were her heart (seems okay now), her lungs (despite the breathing problem, her lungs seemed much better), and her anemia (which had stabilized).  The head doctor at the rehab place decided to become very concerned about her kidneys -- her blood count indicated a possible problem but this could be explained by her fluid build-up -- each doctor, it seems, has his or her bete noir, some specialty they had specifically trained for and they will find hints of it wherever they look.  This is not to say there is no problems with her kidneys, just that when you smell smoke, it may be a barbeque and not a forest fire.  Also, they found a "little bit" of pneumonia; that quantifying phrase confused me -- sort of like saying someone was "partially pregnant."  And...naturally, her breathing was getting worse.

Long story short, it was back to the hospital, this time a much bigger one in Pensacola.  It took only eight hours to get her admitted to a room and only six before I was allowed to see her.  Joy of all joys, this hospital was actually able to find a cot for me to sleep on -- although it was a fold-up cot that sagged in the middle just where my back did not want or need to sag.  **sigh**

Kitty's breathing problems were basically due the fluid build-up.  They removed over four liters of fluid from her belly the first day.  All this fluid had been pressing against he diaphragm, making it difficult to breath.  Over the next five days, they removed a lot more fluid.  (Yay!)  Remember what I said about each doctor and their personal bete noirs?   Well the doctor there had a thing about livers.  Imaging showed some ort of build-up on her liver that may be cirrhosis, or -- hold on to your hat -- something that may be explained by the excess fluid build-up.  (Please note that my bride does not drink -- or smoke, for that matter; her only bad habit is me.)  Did I mention that her spleen "seems" to be enlarged, and that she does have pneumonia?  As for her liver, they suggested a follow-up ultrasound in a couple of months, followed by a biopsy if needed.

Anyway, the fluid build-up has been significantly reduced and her breathing is better, so the hospital decided to kick up out.  We are back at the rehab center.  The same one.  The same room. They even kept the mattress in the room so I can sleep on the floor.  (Joy.)

And we will see what happens.

There may or may not be many terrible things happening with Kitty.  Or it may all be caused by the fluid build-up that can follow a heart valve replacement.  Time will tell.  For now I'm going to concentrate on having her eat properly (her appetite had dropped to zero over the past few weeks) and having her follow the physical therapy religiously.  The sooner we are able to get her out of here (and me off the floor) and back home, the better.

The one major concern I have is her cognition.  According to whatever test they gave her here at the rehab when they admitted her she tests borderline for dementia.  Considering all that she has gone through over the past few months and all the various medications they have put her on, I think some confusion is in order, especially if her lungs have been not supplying the proper amount of oxygen to her brain.   I find it hard to believe that dementia can pop up overnight like this.  Time will tell, I guess.  In the meantime, our strongest weapons are faith and hope and the absolute knowledge of her strength.

I'll probably be posting more later as our odyssey continues.

Thursday, July 14, 2022


 Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint by Jay William and Raymond Abrashkin  (1956)

Danny Dunn begins as a fifth grader in the small town of Midston -- location unknown, but internal evidence indicates that it may exist somewhere in Maine.  Danny, whose father died Danny was an infant, lives with his mother, who serves as cook and housekeeper to renowned scientist Professor Euclid Bullfinch.  Danny and his mother live at Bullfinch's home and the Professor has become a surrogate father, close friend, and scientific mentor to the young boy.  Bullfinch admires Danny's nimble mind, scientific curiosity, and his precocious and sometimes headstrong personality.  Needless to say, Bullfinch is patient, kind, and oft-times eccentric.  

Danny's best friend is fellow fifth-grader Joe Pearson, a perfect sidekick, both amusing and often overwhelmed by the "science-ness" of their adventures.  In the third book of the series, they are joined by Irene Miller, Danny's new next-door neighbor and a strongly intellectual character in her own right.  With the addition of Irene to make a triumvirate, the series improved by leaps and bounds for this reader.

Most of Danny's adventures involve something invented by Professor Bullfinch -- these inventions can be either deliberate or accidental.  At times, as in this, the first book in the series, the invention comes about accidently through Danny's a) eagerness, or b) clumsiness.

The world is agog at the first artificial satellite now orbiting the planet.  [Note: the book was published in 1956 and Russia's Sputnik satellite was not launched until October of the following year.  No mention is made here of who launched the satellite, but its description is pretty close to that of the early low-orbiting satellites.  So much for the myth that Sputnik's launching took the world completely by surprise.]

I should add here that, while the basic premise of most of Danny's adventures is fantastic, much of what follows tends to have a solid scientific basis.

Anyway, back to Danny and Professor Bullfinch.  Bullfinch, who firmly believes that space travel could be accomplished within ten years, was working on a type of insulating paint for rockets.  H thought he may have achieved his goal and invited Willoughby,  a scientist from the National Research Council, over to discuss it later that day, but the the liquid suddenly began to unexpectedly and strangely glow and quiver.  Danny, doing what Danny often does, knocked the flask containing the material over, smashing it on the floor.  Immediately after Danny and the Professor clean up the mess, salvaging what they can, the NRC representative arrives, bringing with him Doctor A. J. Grimes, the president of the International Rocket Society.  (Grimes would go on to have a recurring role in the series as Bullfinch's argumentative friend.)  As Bullfinch goes to shake hands with Willoughby, a small spark of static electricity between the two and Bullfinch rises into the air until he hits the ceiling.

Grimes believes this to be some sort of trick, worked out through ropes or hypnosis or something.  Every time the two other scientist try to pull Bullfinch down from the ceiling, Danny's friend and mentor rises up again.

It's left to Danny to figure out what had happened.  He noticed some of the glowing formula on the soles of Bullfinch's shoes; when the static electricity hit the formula, an  anti-gravity effect had occurred.   To test this hypothesis, Bullfeather takes off a show and has the others push him (carefully!) to an open window where he releases the shoe, which immediately flies into the air and is soon lost out of sight.  Aha!  Not only do they an anti-gravity formula, they may just have a means of space travel in the very near future/

Because government works so well and efficiently in books aimed at the 8- to 12-year-old market in the 1950s, by the next morning both approval and funding were achieved to go ahead to build a spaceship...but the entire project was designated highly classified.  (Translation:  Danny could not tell anyone, not even his best friend Joe. **sigh**)

But secrets cannot be kept for long.  a few months later, Joe -- concerned about Danny's secretive behavior -- follows him through nearby woods to a large red barn that, for some reason, does not have a roof.  Joe discovers the nearly completed space ship.  

The ship is meant to crewed by trained military men, first through a series of test flights of about 2000 miles up, then through a drive-by of the moon and back.  Through a series of coincidences, accidents, and bad luck, Danny. Joe. Professor Bullfinch, and Dr. Grimes find themselves being hurtled into space alone.  A things continue to go wrong, the foursome find themselves heading to Mars and beyond with no hope of ever returning to Earth.  

Whoops.  Did I say no hope?  Actually hope comes in the form of Danny's intuition, which appears to be (eventually) spot on.

I also have to admit that I look askance at the celestial mechanics Williams and Abrashkin provide here, but then again, I am no longer the 8-year-old target audience for this book.  (At least, mentally and chronologically, if not emotionally.)

I really, really enjoy this series but I am a sucker for juveniles of this kind.  (I am also a great fan of Ellen McGregor's Miss Pickerell and her pet cow, so there!)  Give it a try and see if you can discover your inner child.

The Danny Dunn Series, in order:

  • Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint (1956)
  • Danny Dunn  on a Desert Island  (1957)
  • Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine  (1958)  [introduces Irene Miller]
  • Danny Dunn and the Weather Machine   (1959)
  • Danny Dunn on the Ocean Floor (1960)
Shortly after the fifth book, Abrashkin died from Lou Gehrig's disease.  The final ten books in the series were written by Williams alone, although he insisted that Abrashkin continue to receive co-author credit)
  • Danny Dunn and the Fossil Cave (1961)
  • Danny Dunn and the Heat Ray (1962)
  • Danny Dunn, Time Traveler (1963)
  • Danny Dunn and the Automatic House (1965)
  • Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space  (1967)
  • Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine (1969)
  • Danny Dunn and the Swamp Monster (1971)
  • Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy  (1974)
  • Danny Dunn Scientific Detective (1976)
  • Danny Dunn and the Universal Glue (1977)

Jay Williams (1914-1978) was the author of "at least 79 books, including 11 picture books, 39 children's novels, 7 adult mysteries (as "Michael Delving"), 4 nonfiction books, 8 historical novels, and a play.  Arguably, his best  known science fiction story was "The Asa Rule" (F&SF, June 1956).  One of his more popular children's books was The People of the AX (1964).  Among his successful historical novels were The Witches (1957) and Solomon and Sheba (1958).  He would personally respond to some 1000 letters a year from Danny Dunn fans.

Raymond Abrashkin (1911-1960) was a film director and the screenwriter for the Academy Award nominated Little Fugitive (1953).

Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint is available tread at Luminist Archives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022


 The Canadian singer/songwriter Ian Tyson has given us many wonderful songs, but few as powerful as "Song for Canada."  The lyrics may have been aimed at Tyson's home country back in the Sixties when the song was written, but today -- in a world of sharply divided political and cultural differences -- they resonate much further, well beyond borders.  I play this song a lot and more and more I , too, have been wondering, "How come we can't talk to each other any more?"

The version is from The Chad Mitchell Trio with the lead vocal by Mike Kolbluk.  Listen and you also  may wonder ,"How come we can't talk to each other any more?"

Sunday, July 10, 2022


 When we first left our noble crew we were out to embark on a road trip to Birmingham, Alabama, for Kitty's thirty-day follow-up to her aortic valve transplant.  Ah, he best-laid plans...

Our finely-honed method of getting her into the car (wheelchair to car, get her vertical to her walker, idle the lovely bride and walker to open car door, get her seated, and voila!) went astray when her leg gave out and the lovely bride sank down to the driveway. wedged between the car and its open front door in a position where we could get he extricated.  A call to the local fire department brought three of their best to the house where they able to get her up and seated in the car.  A decision the  had to be made:  drive the five and a half hours of the UAB hospital, or make a trip to the local ER to see why her legs gave out.  The ER won.

It didn't take long for the ER to admit her to the hospital here.  So we spent the next five days there.  Luckily they had a reclining chair for me to sleep in and a comfy (?) bed for her.  There was a major fluid build-up in her legs so the plan was to bring that down with a drug that would make her pee like a racehorse.  Not to denigrate my bride, but as racehorses go, she's a champion.  Anyway, her heart, lungs, and blood work passed all tests so the concentration was on her fluid build-up.  Because she had lost the strength in her legs, it was decided to transfer her to a rehab facility for physical therapy.  So off we went.

It's a nifty rehab.  They have free coffee.

They also have a decent gym/rehab area, a great staff, a movie theater (this week's show was Legally Blonde), once a week they go around with free ice cream sundaes, they also (I've heard) have Bingo parties.  The rooms are all singles, spacious, with a nifty shower each.  What they do not have are reclining chairs or spare cots for a weary husband to rest his weary head.  **sigh**  So the first night I slept on the wooden floor.  The sight of a 75-year-old with a bad back and creaky joints sleeping on a floor aroused the staff's pity and the managed to find a mattress for me.  So for the past week or so my bad back and creaky joints now have a four-inch foam mattress between them and the hard floor.  I am glad, however, that no one has recorded me trying to stand up for America' Most Pathetic Home Videos or other such show.  Between ten p.m. and six a.m. each day, Kitty needs me about every hour and half to adjust her bed, call the nurse on duty, find the television remote she has dropped, try to local her glasses, et cetera, et cetera, et yadda-yadda-yadda-cetera.

Her PT is going slowly.  She's lost a lot of strength and mobility, but they are working her with both physical therapy and occupational therapy daily.  It's emotionally draining, especially considering that most of this came on suddenly, about a week and a half after her valve replacement.  Her doctor here is beginning to suspect she might have some sort of kidney problem; they will be checking on that possibility over the next few days.  There may be a problem with the interactions of all the meds thay have had to give her -- something else to be checked out.

So here we sit (or lay).   Depending on what the doctors may find, there's a chance she will be re-admitted to the hospital.  Or not.  Who knows?

It's more than frustrating, but I can't help but be optimistic.  She has had a lot of medical problems pop up lately but slowly, one by one, they are being overcome.  The human body is a complicated gizmo and the interrelationship of all its parts makes it tricky to find the needed a balance, but find it we will.  In the meantime, blogging will be very light because I have much more important things to do, but I will be keeping in touch as much as possible.

Christina dropped of my computer yesterday and it took a while to find someone who actually knew the rehab's wi-fi password but I am back online -- no matter how sporadically.   

Love you all.