Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, August 31, 2022


 Here's a compilation of three full-length adventures of Scotland Yard's Inpector Roger "Handsome" West --  Battle for Inspector West (BBC Light Programme, May 4 - June 15, 1967), Inspector West at Bay, (BBC Radio 2, May 27 - June 19, 1969), and Inpector West at Home (BBC Radio 2, March 25 - April 15, 1968).  Patrick Allen stars as West, with Sarah Lawson (Allen's real-time wife) as his wife, Janet.  

Six of West's adventures were aired from 1967 to 1971; only these three appear to have survived.   Maurice Travers adapted the shows from John Creasey's novels.  John Fawcett Williams produced Battle for Inspector West and Inspector West at Home; John Browell produced Inspector West at Bay.

In Battle for Inspector West, "Idle curiousity takes the Chief Inspector to a high society wedding -- and leads him to a case involving a notorious blackmailer and a missing bride.  Drawn into a web of terror, West comes face-to-face with an old adversary -- a dangerous criminla mastermind named Carosian."  (Seven episodes; total running time 3:13)

Inspector West at Bay:  "First West is targeted by a vicious attacker, then his wife, Janet, receives an anonymous, threatening message.  Caught up in a deadly game of blind man's buff, can he save himself and his family from an enemy who seems determined to destroy them?"  (Eight episodes; total running time 3:37)

In Inspector West at Home -- "When Roger West finds the  body of a small-time crook, he faces opposition from the formidible Superintendent Abbott, his superior at the Yard.  Suspended from duty, he sets out on a trail of conspircy, corruption and murder."  (Seven episodes; total running time 3:13)

Roger West was one of the prolific John Creasey's most popular creations and was featured in 43 books published from 1942 to 1978.  Inspector West at Bay was also published under the titles The Blind Spot and The Case of the Acid Throwers.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022


 "Highland Snowstorm" by John Wilson (an excerpt from " 'Winter Rhapsody' -- Fytte IV," first published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, February 1831, as by "Christopher North"; reprinted in the anonymously-edited Weird Tales: Scottish (also published as Weird Tit-Bits: Scottish), Volume 6 in the "Nuggets for Travellers" series, 1888)

No real plot in this one, just a simply told -- yet highly descriptive --romantic tale of two young lovers caught in a fierce snowstorm.  The story's strength is in the telling in loving and often (it pains me to say) maudlin detail of the fierce and beautiful landcape of the Highland and of the innocent relationship between the two lovers.

"One family lived in Glencreran, and another in Glencoe -- seldom visiting each other on working days, seldom meeting even on Sabbaths, for theirs was not the same parish kirk -- seldom coming together on rural festivals or holidays, for in the Highlands now these are not so frequent as of yore; yet all thee weet seldoms, taken together, to loving hearts made a happy many, and thus, so each family passed a happy life in it own home, there were many invisible threads stretched out through the intermediate air, connecting the two dwellings together, -- as the gossamer keeps floating from one tree to another, each with its own secret nest.  That in Glencoe, built beneath a treeless but high-heathered rock -- lone in all storms, -- with greensward and garden all on a slope down to a rivulet, the clearet of the clear (oh! once woefully reddened!), and growing, so it seems, in the mosses of its own roof, and the huge stones that overshadow it, out of the earth.  That in Glencreran more conspicuous, on a knoll among the pastoral meadows, midway between mountain and mountain, so that the grove which shelters it, except when the sun is shining high, is darkened by their meeting shadows, -- for 'tis a low but wide-armed grove of old oak-like pines.  A little farther down, and Glencreran is very sylvan; but this dwelling is the highest up of all, the first you descend upon, near the foot of that wild hanging staircase between you and Glen-Etive.  And, except this old oak-like grove of pines, there is not a tree, and hardly a bush, on bank or brae, pasture or hay-field, those these are kept by many a rill, there mingling themselves into one stream, in a perpetual lustre that seems to be as native to the grass as its light is to the glow-worm.  Such are the two huts, for they are huts and no more -- and you may see them still, if you know how to discover the beautiful sights of nature from descriptions treasured in your heart, and if the spirit of change, now nowhere at rest on the earth, not even in its most solitary places, have not swept from the scenes of the beautified, the humble but hereditary dwellings that ought to be allowed, in the fullness of the quiet time, to relapse back into the bosom of nature, through insensible and unperceived decay."

Phew!  And that's just the first paragraph.  It's enough to keep most modern readers from going any further.

But picture if you will, the story being told verbally, in from of a warm peat fire, by an expert stroy-tell of the old school -- one with a soft Scottish accent.  That, to my mind, is how the story should be approached, with full appreciation for the oral tradition.  Once you get that set in your mind's eye, you can go on.

The young lovers are cousins -- Flora Macdonald ("a name hallowed of yore, the fairest") and Ronald Cameron ("the boldest of all the living flowers in Glencoe and Glenceran").  Born on the same day, it has been arranged that Flora spend their seventeenth birthday with Ronald and his family; Flora to walk toward Glecreran, and Ronald to meet her along the way and escort her down from the mountains.  The cousins are close, but innocent -- unaware, at least on the surface, of their great romantic love for each other.  They meet.  They dawdle.  It is an unusually mild February day.They share in awe the beautiful clear day before them and all the glories of nature that surround them -- the hum of insects, the small flowers beginning to emerge from the ground, the distant trill of birds, the tinkle of rills beneth the snow and untouched by frost, a clear blue sky, the warm, gentle sun -- everything seems special in "this mild white if winter."  Then in the distance, Ronald spots movement in the far distance -- a lone deer.  Ronald, ever-ready, and from a long line of hunters, aims his rifle, fires, and wounds the animal gravely, rather than killing him.  The deer bounds away, trailing blood.  Ronald and Flora chase after it, throwing their tartans to the ground.  The chase is long and arduous and the pair travel a number of miles in pursuit.  Finally, the deer is spotted lying in the distance, still alive.  Ronald, eager for his prize, tells Flora to remain there while he approaches the deer,  He fires the killing shot, then turns around to look for his cousin.  He cannot see her.  After a brief moment of panic he spots Flora in the far distance and yells for her to approach.  Whe Flora reaches Ronald, she is exhausted; the long pursuit over the rugged terrain has drained her.

Suddenly, as can happen in the Highlands, the weather changed.  A dark and violent snowstorm rises and both young lovers are chilled to their core.  Foolishly they had dropped their tartans -- so warm and so effective in blunting winter's freezing effects -- when they began chasing the deer.  They begin to go back to retreive them, but Flora is too exhausted to move.  Ronald must go on his own as fast as possible to bring back the life-saving warmth of the tartans.  As he is gone, Flora begins weaker and weaker, until darkness encloses her.  Ronald returns and finds Flora dead.  Or is she?

Hoping that there is still a spark of life in her, he wraps her kin her tartans and begins to carry her through the rugged mountain terrain, hoping to find shelter, or help.  Eventually he comes to a roofless enclosure where some sheep have come to seek shelter.  One corner of of the enclosure is cover in pine boughs, which have kept the snow out.  He lays down with Flora and tries to revive her.  She is alive but in her fevered delerium, she makes no sense.  Her weakened voice soon fails and she dies.  Or does she?  The bitter cold strips Roland of his strength and he soon passes out dead.  But is he?

A group of shepherds are searching the area during the storm looking for stray sheep.  The come upon the enclosure and find the two dead bodies and recognizes them as the cousins Flora and Ronald.  But are they dead?  The shepherds wrap ech body tightly and expertly -- they have much practice of this in the past, having fought in many battles -- and carry the bodies through the storm to the Glencoe hut of Flora's family.  There, in the warmth of oth the fire and of their fearful, watching parents, both revive.

As  said, there's not much plot here.  Two youngsters get caught in a storm and freeze, only to be found and rescued by shepherds.  But the tale is in the telling and -- in my mind's eye -- an old, expert story-teller in front of a warm peat fire transcends the words in a way that only oral story-tellers can do.  Some stories just need to be experienced.

The author, John Wilson (1785-1854), was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the eldest son of a wealthy gauze manufacturer.  He came into his estate at an early age but lost most of his wealth in 1815 due to the dishonest speculation of auncle in whom he had entrusted his money.  Previous to that, Wilson had enjoyed a life of leisure and had amused himself writing poetry.  His first book, The Isle of Palms, a poetry collection, was published in 1812.  A second book of poems, The City of the Plague, came out in 1816.  As an emerging literary figure Wilson counted among his friends William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, and Thomas de Quincy.  In 1817, Wilson began contributing to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, which had been newly founded by his friend William Blackwood.  Writng as "Christopher North," Wilson soon became the principal writer for the journal and was deemed to be one of the major reasons for its success.  Wilson published three books of fiction based on stories first published in Blackwood'sLights and Shadows of Scotland (1822), The Trials of Margaret Lindsay (1823), and The Foresters (1825).   In addition, he published many essays on popular life and on literary subjects.  In 1822, Blackwood's began a popular feature called "Noctes Ambrosianae," which eventually ran to 71 colloquies; these were entertaining "table-talks" written mainly by four authors, including Wilson and James Hogg; the majority of these pieces written between 1825 and 1835 when the series ended were by Wilson.  Wilsn's critical chops were front and center in his The Genius and Character of Burns (1844).

For those interested, one of Wilson's stories from Blackwood's -- "Extracts from Gussman's Diary" has been reprinted in three antholgies of Gothic stories:  Romantic Gothic Tales, 1790-1840, edited by G, Richard Thompson, 1979; Tales of Terror from Blackwood's Magaxine, edited by Chris Baldick and Robert Morrison, 1995; and Gothic Short Stories, edited by David Blair, 2002.

In 1820, Wilson was elected Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh (a position he held until 1851), despite winning the appointment over the man best suited for it:  Sir William Hamilton.  The position, you see, was a political one, and Wilson -- as a Tory -- had many friends (most significantly Sir Walter Scott) who pushed for his appointment with the Tory-laden burgh council.  Unike most political hacks, Wilson was a good fit for the position and served with distinction.

Wilson was the great great great uncle of Sir Ludovic Kennedy, the noted broadcaster, journalist, and author whose non-fiction book Ten Rillington Place questioned the murder conviction and execution of John Christie, eventually leading to the abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom.

"Highland Snowstorm" is available to read on-line.

Monday, August 29, 2022


 Patti Abbott recently re-posted Ed Gorman's review of the Charlotte Armstrong short story collection The Last Call.  I thought it would be fun to go back in time and take a look at one of the films that were based on her stories.  The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943) was Armstrong's second published novel.  and featured her early detective,  history professor MacDougall Duff.

Duff is not featured in the film and the setting has been moved from Michigan to Wales.  In fact there is not much left of Armstrong's book in the film...well, there are three sisters.  And they are at odds with thir well-to-do brother  There is also the suspense and Gothic sensibility that marked Armstrong's novel.  All in all this is a good movie, full of atmosphere and forboding.  It helps that the screenplay was co-written by Dylan Thomas.

The sisters are played by Nancy Price (The Speckled Band, The Stars Look Down, Down Our Street), Mary Clare (The Lady Vanishes, Next of Kin, Mrs. Pym of Scotland Yard), and Mary Merall (Dead of Night, Love on the Dole, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby).  Their brother is played by Raymond Lovell (The Young Mr. Pitt, Time, Gentlemen, Please!, The Mudlark).  Nova Pilbeam (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Young and Innocent, Nine Days and a Queen) is the brother's young secretary.  Also featured are Anthony Hulme, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Edward Rigby, Hugh Griffith, Marie Ault, David Davies (the actor's name also happens to be the name of one of the characters -- strange, huh?), Hugh Pryse, Lloyd Pearson, Doreen Richards, Bartlett Mullins, Elizabeth Allen, Ethel Beal, and Wilfred Boyle.  The movie was helmed by Dan Birt in his first full-length feature.

Worth your time.

Sunday, August 28, 2022


 Openers:    The whole of London swam in a great, green fog, a proper pea souper, the sort of fog the old town had not known for years and years and thought itself done with forever.

Children wondered at it, astounded, and tested the bitter, oily taste of it with their tongues; sentimental older folk's eyes watered, not just from chemical irritation, but from wistful nostalgia brought on by memories of bygone fogs of their youth which had been this thick and this vile, and by recollections of the wonderful and awful things which happened in those romantic, long gone, murky swirlings.

Older British books dealing with mysterious themes often lovingly describe such fogs and thereby innocently mislead contemporary readers of romantic inclination, especially Americans and Japanese, until their hopes are dashed by hotel porters or taxi drivers regretfully assuring them that nowadays, sir or madam, such fogs never happen.

But now it was happening, and moment by moment growing more spectacularly thick and opaque, and though it might be delighting tourisrs and children and old folk, it was causing considerable confusion and dismay in official cicorcles.

Government vehicles were everywhere, detecting and recording various aspects of the phenomenon:  Droplets were being blotted up to see which colors they would turn to when treated with reagents, other droplets were being teased into test tubes for later evaluation, and many pins were being stuck into many maps.

It would only be far later, after a wide variety of computers stuffed with data on the fog had been brought on-line and shared their contents, that baffled officials would have their chance to puzzle long and fruitlessly over the numerous, simultaneous fires, private and industrial, which produced the smoke which had then conspired with the very odd, not to say strange, atmospheric conditions only just that moment prevailing, to create the fog.

Nor did it do much more than confuse officaldom further when another computer told it a little later that the fire were mostly of suspicious origin; nor was it of any aid to learn there had been a mysterious, silent aircraft of an entirely unknown design flying over London minutes before the fog developed, since no computer or bureaucrat ever learned that the aircraft had been there for the sole purpose of seeding the upper atmosphere with sparkling ice crystals containing strange chemicals in order that the glorious fog might begin.

And of course no one in officaldom ever so much as dreamed that the whole thing had been done just for old time's sake.

-- Everybody's Favorite Duck by Gahan Wilson (1988l)

And since the fog was crreted "for old times sake," it had to be the handiwork of three old-time supervillains:  The Mandarin (think Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu), The Professor (think James Moriaty, Conan Doyle's "Napoleon of Crime"), and Spectrobert (think Fantomas, the French super-villain created by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre in 1911).  Pitted against these three evil-doers are Enoch Bone and John Weston (think Holmes and Watson as they were portrayd by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.)   The evil plot has to do with kidnapping the president and turning him into a zombie.  The action takes us to Art Waldo and his Waldo World (think Walt Disney and Disney World) and "everybody's favorite duck" (think Donald, only terrifying).  It's a great farcical romp with plenty of Easter eggs for fans of early twentieth century sensational thrillers.

Gahan Wilson (1930-2019) was one of the most celebrated cartoonists of our time.  His macabre humor puts him in a the same catagory as Charles Addams and Edward Gorey, and he was a major influence on such later cartoonists as Gary Larson.  Wilson was a prolific contributor to Playboy, The New Yorker, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and National Lampoon.  He designed the bust of H. P. Lovecraft that was awarded to winners of The World Fantasy Award for some 40 years; the ust was retired after 2015 following complaints about Lovecraft's racism.  Although best known for his cartoons, Wilson also wrote some significant fantasy stories, children's books, a computer game, articles, and many respected book reviews.  He also illustrated a number of books by other authors.

He sometimes credited his macabre sense of humor to the fact that he had literally been born dead. 

Incoming:  Another box from the Sage of Tonawonda arrived.  Thanks, George!

  • Kameron Hurley, The Stars Are Legion,  Science fiction novel.  "Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars.  Here in the darkness, a war for control of the Legion has been waged for generations, with no clear resolution.  As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.  Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family.  She is told she is their salvation, the only person capable of boarding the MOKSHI, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion.  But Zan's new family is not the only one desperate enough to gain control of the prized ship.  Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion's gravity well to the very belly of the world.  Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion's destruction -- and its possible salvation.  But can she and the band of cast-off followers she has gathered survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?"  Hurley's dedication for the book ("FOR ALL THE BRUTAL WOMEN") makes me want to read it even more.
  • Elmore Leonard, Charlie Martz and Other Stories:  The Unpublished Stories.  A collection of fifteen stories from when Leonard was learning his craft.  From the introdution by his son, Peter Leonard:  "'ll see Elmore experimenting with style, trying to find his voice, his sound.  You'll see him starting a story with weather.  You'll see him using adverbs to modify the word "said."  You'll see him describing characters in detail, breaking several of the famous 10 Rules of Writing he developed almost fifty years later."
  • Bryon Thomas Schmidt, editor, Infinite Stars:  Dark Frontiers:  The Definitive Anthology of Space Opera.  Doorstop (629 pages) anthology, a follow-up to Schmidt's earlier Infinite Stars.  This one has 26 stories, most of the original to this volume, from some of the most exciting science fiction writers today.  The few reprints include stories by Robert A. Heinlein, George R. R. Martin Edward E. "Doc" Smith, C. L. Moore, and Arthur C. Clarke.
  • John Varley, Irontown Blues and Steel Beach.  Science fiction novels.  Irontown is set in Varley's "Eight Worlds" universe.  "Christopher bach was a policeman in one of the largest Lunar cities when the AI Lunar Control Computer had a breakdown.  Known as the Big Glitch, the problem turned out to be a larger war thatn anyone expected.  When order was restored, Chris's life could never be the same.  Now he is a private detective, assisted by his genetically aktered dog, Sherlock, and emulates the tough guys in the noir books and movies that he loves.  When c/hris takes the case of a woman involuntarily infected with an engineered virus, he is on the hunt to track down the biohackers in the infamous district of Irontown.  But if he wants to save humanity, he'll have to confront his own demons."  (I believe I've mentioned before that some publishers need to take lessons in writing backcover blurbs.)  Steel Beach "is the story of Luna, the colony set up by Earth on the Moon, which became the primryhoje of the human race when an alien attack destroyed the mother planet.  At its center is Hildy Johnson, top reporter for one of Luna's tabloid newspapers, who has always had mixed feeling about the virtues of Luna.  In many ways this artificial world is a paradise:  science has cured physical ailments from cancer to bad breath, people live practically forever, and the Central Computer system keeps the climate comfortable and the air clean.  If  man gets tired of his gender he can easily becone a woman.  And vice versa.  Beneath all this perfection, however, trouble is brewing.  Hildy can't understand why the ease and pleasure of life make him  feel suicidal.  and from the Central Computer he learns that others share his feelings.  In fact, the Computer confesses, it's been feeling depressed lately itself..."

Ishi:  On Auustm 29, 1911, Ishi, then about fifty years old, emerged from the wilderness and entered the modern world.  He is supposed to have been the last surviving member of the Native American Yahi people of Northern California and had spent most of his life away from away from what we call civilization.

The sory of Ishi's people is a small part of a dark stain on American history.  In 1865, when Ishi was about three years old, the Yahi -- always a small tribe -- were attacked in what became known as the Three Knolls Massacre, part of a concentrated campaign (The Northeast California Indian Wars, 1859-1871) against the Yahi and their parent tribe the Yani by militia groups and settler posses; some forty Yahi were killed during this massacre, including Ishi's father, and about thirty-three survivors escaped and began a forty-four year period of self-isolation and hiding from whites.  In five separate attacks from 1861 to 1871, settler posses killed some 185 Yahi -- the first of these attacks was called the "Mill Creek Fight;" the remaining four have gone down in history as "massacres:" the Silva Massacre, the Three Knolls Massacre, the Camp Seco Massacre, and the Kingsley Cave Massacre.  The settlers were not fooling around; the massacres usually happened while the Yahi were sleeping.  There was a 50-cent bounty on Indian scalps and a - dollar bounty on their heads.  After 1871, it was assumed that the Yahi tribe had been completely exterminated.

In 1908, a group of surveyors happened upon a camp of four indians.  These were Ishi, his uncle, his sister, and his mother.  Ishi, his uncle, and his sister fled; his mother, who was ill, hid under blankets while the surveyors ransacked the camp.  Shortly after Ishi returned to the camp his mother died.  His uncle and sister never returned.

Three years later, Ishi, starving after forest fires had devastated the area, and searching for food, came to a slaughterhouse near Oroville, California, where he was discovered by workers.  The sheriff was called and Ishi was arrested, smiling complacently as he was handcuffed.  The capture of this "wild man" fueled public imagination.  On hearing of Ishi's arrest, anthropologists at the University of California, Berkeley brought Ishi to be studied.  One of the professors was Alfred Kroeber, who spent many hours befriending Ishi and talking to him in an effort to reconstruct Yahi culture:  family units, naming patterns, ceremonies, hunting and other tools, and the like.  Ishi was given a janitorial job with token pay and room to sleep in at Kroebler's Affliated Colleges Museum.  

Ishi never had what he would consider a true name.  Ishi is a word meaning "man."  In Yahi culture, a person could not speak his own name until introduced by another Yahi.  Whenasked his name, Ishi would reply,"I have no name because there were no people to name me."

A lifetime aay from civilization meant that Ishi was lacking in acquired immunity from many diseases and for much of his life since 1911 he suffered a number of illnesses.  He died in 1916 from tuberculosis.  Yahi tradition called for a body to remain intact, and his friends, espcially Professor T.T. Waterman, tried to honor that tradition but they were too late -- doctors at the University of California medical school performed an autopsy, removed and preserved his brain, and later cremated the body.  Before cremation, Ishi's friends were at least able to place some items with the body -- a bow, five arrows, a basket of acron meat,  a box of shell bead money, a purse of tobacco, three rings, and some obsidian flakes.  His brain was housed at the Smithsonsian Institute until 2000 when it was repatriated to local Indian tribes; Ishi's ashes were also returned.  It was planned that Ishi's remains would be buried in a secret place, which I'm sure they were.

It is possible that Ishi was not the last remaining true Yahi.  There is speculation that he may have been multi-ethnic with some Wintu, Maidu, or Nomalki blood.  This theory has had some supporters and some detractors but none have been able to confirm or deny it.

Kroeber himself felt aggrieved and perhaps embarrased at the way Ishi was treated by many of his colleagues.  He refused to write or talk about Ishi publicly.  After Kroeber's death, his widow Theodora Kroeber began a meticulaous study of Ishi's life, culture, and influence, eventually publishing the now-classic book:  Ishi:  Last of his Tribe (1964).  Kroeber also published, with her son Karl Kroeber, Ishi in Two Worlds:  a biography of the last wild indian in North America (2002), and co-edited Ishi the Last Yahi:  A Documentary History (1981).  Karl Kroeber and his step-brother Clifton Kroeber edited Ishi in Three Centuries (2011).  

Alfred and Theodora Kroeber were also the parents of famed writer Ursula K. Le Guin.

In 2010, the Library of Congress added 148 wax cylinder recodrings of Ishi (totalling 5hours and 41 minutes) to its National Recording Registry.  These cylinders were made by Alfred Kroeber and Thomas Talbot Waterman and recorded both songs and stories.  The cylinders are now held at the Hearst Museum in Berkely, California.  Here's a brief (22 second) recording of Ishi singing a Yahi chant:

Flying Is for the Birds:  Here's a patent application, filed on June 28, 1930, for a rooster-shaped airplane.  It doesn't get ny better than this.

Dwig:  Clare Victor Dwiggins (1874-1958) was a cartoonist who signed his work "Dwig."  For close to fifty years, he created cartoons for newspapers and newspaper syndicates, including his most famous strip School Days, from 1909 to the erly 1930s, which appeared under a variety of names.  "For about the first third of his active career...[he] employed an effevescent, , dense and decorative style...But around 1913, something happened...his work changed to a simpler, less dense, and more abstract style.    He became obsessed with dwelling in  the idyllic past of his small town childhood growing up in the mid-west in the late 1800s."  This is the Dwig I am most familiar with, one who depicted a childhood that might never have really existed, with warmth, humor, and insight, one whose ideal childhood reflected Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but without the social commentary.  His work may not appeal to much of today's audience but it has a sincerity and charm all of its own.

I was first introduced to the artist's work through August Derleth's Stanton & Lee publishing imprint.  The first book issued by Stanton & Lee was Bill's Diary (1945), an extensive collection of cartoons which (I believe) also evoked publisher's youth for him.  Derleth went on to use Dwig to illustrate four of Derleth's own books for the Stanton & Lee imprint, including Oliver, the Wayward Owl (1945), Wilbur, the Trusting Whippoorwill (1959), and the poetry collections A Boy's Way (1947) and It's a Boy's World (1948).

Here's a link to his collection School Days (1919):

Whiskey Sour:  Today is National Whiskey Sour Day.  Because there are a lot of whiskey sour fans out there, last Thursday, the 25th was also Whiskey Sour Day.  Go figure.

Because I do not drink liquor, I cannot vouch for this recipe but if the article says it's the best, who am I to argue?

Your general guide to whiskey/whisky:  If the drink is spelled whiskey (with an e) it is generally from the United States and Ireland.  If it is spelled whisky (no e) it is generally from Canada, Scotland, or some other countries.  If it is Scotch, it is entirely produced and bottled in Scotland and is primarily made with barley which has been malted and then heated over a peat fire.  If it is bourbon, it must be made in the United States and must use at least 51% corn mash in its production.  Rye is a whiskey that uses a rye mash or a rye and malt mash.  In the United States, it must use at 51% rye mash to be called rye.  Canadians are not as fussy.

Here are a few whiskey songs:

Florida Man:

  • 85-year-old Florida Man Helmut Kolb was arrested after allegedly offering to buy an 8-year-old girl from her mother for $100,000.  This happened in the parking lot of a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Port Orange, perhaps not the best place to attempt to negotiate such a financial deal -- since Kolb, a registered sex offender, was on parole after being jailed for attempting to purchase a child at a Walmart store in Port Orange in 2018 for $200,000.  The creepy part of me wonders, why the drop in price?
  • Florida Man Dusty Mobley, 40, tried to escape arrest on an outstanding warrant in Okaloosa County by hopping on a John Deere ride-on lawnmower and speeding away as fast as the small horsepowered vehicle could take him.  The police chased him -- it's unnclear whether on foot or in their patrol car -- and used a stungun to capture him.  Picture Steve McQueen in Bullitt, Florida-style.
  • We all know that Australia is the land that is out to kill you but maybe Florida is now picking up on that vibe.  Consider the case of Florida Man Sean Nagel, 35, who was recording video of a sunrise on the Atlantic Coast on Hutchinson Island in Martin County, when a sand dune he was lening against collapsed of him and asphyxiated him.  A few hours after the incident a beachgoer spotted a portion of Nagel's body protruding from the sand.  Most become Florida Men because they are stupid.  Sadly, Nagel became one because he was unlucky.
  • Off topic, because he is not a Florida Man, but he might as well have been one,  An Italian man has tested positive for Covid, monkeypox, and HIV all at the same time.  The only way he could be more unlucky is if he came across a Florida sand dune.
  • Florida Man John "Redbeard" Peters, 40, od Summerland Key, was arrested for stealing his roommate's parrot, the leaving the injured bird at a bus stop.  The bird, named Piper, is valued at $1,800.  It suffered multiple broken bones, a dislocated hips, and blunt force trauma to one side of its body, along with other possible injuries.  Witnesses who saw Peters with the bird shortly before it was abandoned reported the bird appeared "agitated."  No wonder.

And Some Good Stuff:
  • Rescue dog saves owner by sniffing out cancer
  • 8-year-old girl talks with orbiting astronaut using Dad's ham radio
  • 6 high school footbal players use their combined stregth to save woman trapped in car
  • Alzheimers memory loss in mice is reversed after scientists discover method to form new brain cells
  • Mom installs twenty defibrillators around town after losing teen-age son to cardiac arrest

Today's Poem:


That very time  I saw, (but thou couldst not),

Walking between the garden and the barn,

Reuben, all armed; a certain aim he took

At a young chicken, standing by a post,

And loosed his bullet smartly from his gun, 

As he would kill a hundred thousand hens.

But I might see Reuben's fiery shot

Lodged in the chaste board of the garden fence,

And the domesticated fowl passed on

In henly meditation, bullet free.

-- Phoebe Cary

Saturday, August 27, 2022


 From 1915, Homer Roadheaver.

Friday, August 26, 2022

TOR #4 (JULY 1954)

 Created by Joe Kubert, Tor was a prehistoric cave man in a world of a million years ago still inhabited by dinosaurs.  With his pet monkey, Chee-Chee, Tor faces danger on a daily basis in a world of violent monsters.  Created in 1953 for the September issue of 1,000,000 Years Ago from St. John Comics, Tor's second issue -- retitled 3-D Comics (#2) -- Tor became on of the first comic book characters to appear in 3-D form; the issue appeared i two versions, dated October and November 1953.  The third issue of the cmic book dropped the 3-D formt and changed the title to Tor.  Two more issues appeared before the title was cancelled.

In 1959, Kubert and Carmine Infantino attempted to sell Tor as a syndicated daily comic strip but were unsuccessful.  DC Comics pubished six issues of Tor from 1974 to 1975, and Marvel Comics Epic imprint published an original four-issue miniseries by Kubert (who had maintained the rights to the character) in 1986.

Some great Kubert art and story-telling here.  Kubert also breaks the fourth wall at times in this issue, discussing the back ground of the stories, introducing another story, and shilling for his his comic art school, Scholart Institute.


Thursday, August 25, 2022


To Quebec and the Stars by H. P. Lovecraft, edited by L. Sprague de Camp  (1976)

Nowadays it's hard to imagine there is not a jot, tittle, or laundry list by H. P. Lovecraft that has not been published.  'Twas not always the case, McGee.

Between 1952 and 1955, SSR Publications issued the five-volume mimeographed chapbook series The Lovecraft Collector's Library, with two (very) slim volumes of essays, two of poetry, and one with a few samples from HPL's amateur magazine days; these chapbooks ranged in length from 25 to 33 pages/. In 1976, Arkham House had just published the last two volumes of Lovecraft's five-volume Selected Letters, begun in 1965, but many of his essays, poetry, and writings in amateur journals had notyet  been reprinted.  The year before, Willis Conover had published Lovecraft at Last, a collection of letters to him from Lovecraft, and collector and bookseller Gerry de la Ree published a slim chapbook. The Occult Lovecraft, which contained "The Cosmos & Religion," a brief essay by Lovecraft, along with a few essays by others.  The floodgates began tomopen in 1976 published volumes of Lovecraft's writing in The Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, The Consevative, and The United Amateur.

DeCamp, in researching his book Lovecraft:  A Biography (1975), uncovered a number of articles by Lovecaft that had not been reprinted.  These he gathered in To Quebec and the Stars, which was published in an attractive volume by Donald M. Grant.  The core pat of the book was an unpublished history of the city of Quebec, a place Lovecraft had visited three times and one that had captured his imagination.   "A Description of the Town of Quebeck" is most likely the longest thing that Lovecraft ever wrote.  The piece -- 75,000 words -- was written in longhand from October 1930 to January 1931 shortly after Lovecraft's first visit to that city.  It was never intended for publication and, indeed, is actually only a draft that Lovecraft never revised.  

Lovecraft's first visit to Quebec was a pivotal one in his life in that it helped him to erase much of the "benighted ethnocentrism" he had held against foreigners.  

Lovecraft was a man trapped by his his preconceived persona.  He pictured hmself as an eighteenth century gentleman of British stock, and adopted -- both publicly and in part privately -- the preconceived prejudices that went with that image.  In reality, much of this persona seems to be mere posturing.  Rail as he would against the "mongrel races," several of his closest firneds wre Jewish, as was his wife.  In person, Lovecraft was both kind and forgiving to a fault and his vast circle of correspondents grew to appreciate his friendship and his unwavering support.  Prudish in outlook, Lovecraft was most likely completely unaware that one of his close friends, the teen-age Robert Barlow, at whose house he stayed several times, was overtly homosexual.

Lovecraft's persona ruled his life, causing his to live in penury because a "gentleman" did not lower himself or his art to mercenary influences.  

Yet Lovecraft was a genius -- a polymath with a vast knowledge of science, history, classical literature, and philosophy.  Many of these traits are evident in the articles De Camp chose to displayin this volume.  In a number of these articles, Lovecraft interjects his opinions and prejudices to the detriment of the pieces.  In expressing his admiration for French navigator, explorer, and founder of Quebec and New France Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635), Lovecraft writes, "A gentleman of distnguish'd ablity & untarnish'd virtue, 'tis a pity Samuel de Champlain cou'd not have been an Engishman & a Protestant."  (!)  Lovecraft's affectation for eighteenth century England also extended to his use of archaic spelling and verbiage.  He also tended to incorporate his personal friendships in some of hi amateur writings, as when he refers to "Galpinian Wisconsin"  - the average reader would have no idea he was referring to his young friend Alfed Galvin.

This miscellany of Lovecraft's essays allows us a look at Lovecraft, warts and all.  It gives us a fadcinating portrait of the man through his many interests and prejudices.  This volume is now well out of date, having been supplanted by the plethora of Lovecraft books that have flooded the market in recent years, most particularly the five-volume collected essays issued by Hippocampus Press from 2004 to 2007, which I believe collects all the material in de Camp's book, plus much, much more.

The contents:


  1.  "Trans-Neptunian Planets" (letter published in Scientific American, August 25, 1906)
  2.  "November Skies" (from Providence Evening News, November 1, 1915)
  3.  "June Skies" (from Providence Evening News, June 1, 1916)
  4. "May Skies" (from Providence Evening News, May 1, 1917)
  5. "the Truth About Mars" (from The Phoenician, Autumn 1917)

     6. "Metrical Regularity" (from The Conservative, June 1915)
     7. "The Allowable Rhyme" (from The Conservative, October 1915)
     8. "A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson by 'Humphrey Littlewit, Esq.' " (from The United Amateur, November 1917)
     9. "The Literature of Rome" (from The United Amateur, November 1918)
     10. "What Belongs in Verse" (from The Perspective Review, Spring 1935)


     11. "The Crime of the Century" (from The Conservative, April 1915)
     12. "Neitzcheism and Realism" (from The Rainbow, October 1921)
     13. "A Confession of Unfaith" (from The Liberal, February 1922)


     14. "A Descent to Avenus" (from Bacon's Essays, Summer 1929)
     15. "Some Dutch Footprints in New England" (from De Halve Maen, Octber 1923)
     16. "The Unknown City in the Ocean" (from The Perspective Review, Winter 1934)
     17. "A Description of the Town of Quebeck, in New-France, Lately added to His Majesty's Dominions" (not published before)

The passing of time has made this a curiousity piece.  One might be better off reading the Collected Essays published by Hippocampus Press.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022


 Once again it's time to match wits with the one-seventh of a ton genius, Nero Wolfe.



 Few rock band were better at tapping into the anti-war sentiments of the 60 and 70s than Country Joe and the Fish.  Co-foundd and led by 'Country" Joe McDonald,, the band merged country, bluegrass, psychedelic, and rock music in a way that made them popular headliners at concerts, festivals, and rock venues throughout the country.  McDonald, now in his 80s, has recorded 83 albums over the years and has spent much of his life as a political activist.

"Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine"

"I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die"

"Tricky Dicky"  (Yeah, McDonald made it on Nixon's infamous Enemies List)

"Agent Orange Song"

"Save the Whales"

"Oh, Jamaica"



"Hold On It's Coming"

"Kiss My Ass"

"Breakfast For Two"

"Roll On Columbia"

"Blues for Michael" (this seems to be fronted by a political ad for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis -- please do not support this anal sphincter)

"The March of the Dead" (from the Robert Service poem)

"Ring of Fire"

"Holy Roller"

"Thi Land Is Your Land"

"Peace on Earth in Our Time"

Monday, August 22, 2022


 "The Vision of Cambell of Inverawe" by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Bart.  [note that the author's name ia oftern hyphenated]  (first published Legendary Tales of the Highlands:  A Sequel to Highland Register, 1841, as "The Legend of the Vision of Campbell of Inverawe," the final tale in Volume 3 of Dick Lauder's three-volume work; reprinted in the anonymously-edited Weird Tales Scottish (or Scottish Weird Tales), Volume 6 in publishers William Paterson's "Nuggets for Travellers" series, that volume also reprinted the same year by White and Allen as Weird Tit-Bits Scottish.)

At its heart this is a fairly simple story of the price of honor (or honour -- this was written by a Scot) in the face of certain doom.  Duncan Campbell, Laird of Inverawe, led a troop of the Black Watch, the famed military group originally formed to maintain peace in the Highlands.  The Watch, however, became usd for political reasons by their overlords in London, first sent to fight in Flanders. then, back home, they were ordered to act against those who had risen against King Charles.  This last was a grievous duty for Campbellwho,led one company of the Black Watch, and his men:  here they had to fight against friends and relatives, many of whom numbered among the insurgents.  Ner Lorn, they were ordered to burn and destroy the homes of a few of those who opposed what they consdiered to the government of an usurper.  But Campbell and men had sworn an oath and, distasteful as it was, obeyed orders.

It happened that Campbell, by some circumstance, had been detained behind his men and while attempting to rejoin them got lost.  Having determined the best route to rejoin his men was a diagonal track across some treacherous mountains, he set out, eventually finding his narrow path blocked by rock that would be difficult for a mountain goat to cross.  Tired, cold, and hungry, Campbell heard a voice call out to him by name.  The person who had recognizd him offered him food,a fire, and directions back to his company.  Campbell was grateful but at a loss; he did not tecognized the man who had recognized him.

It turned out that the man was one of the homeowners whose property was destroyed by Cambell's men earlier that day.  The man held no antipathy for Campbell because, he said he knew that Campbell was an honorable man who had acted against his personal wishes because of his oath to his king.  Thus, in an amazing act of friendship, the man fed Campbell and then set him on the correct path.  All of this shows that, in the Highlands, a man's oath is sacrosanct, even when that oath forces one to go against one's own desires and wishes.

Fast forward to later, after the mission had been accomplished and the Black Watch sent home.  Campbell is back at his estate by the shore of Loch Etive under the mighty cliffs of Ben-Cruachan.  There he reveled in his many friendships and threw gay and merry feasts, for Campbell was nothing is not generous, kind, and friendly.  He lived with his devoted wife and his precious son.  The boy, Donald, happened to be away from home durng one feast.  As that feast broke up The Laird of Inverawe's good friend, George Campbell, raised the parting cup.  As George made the toast, a "rattling peal of thunder rolled dirctly over their heads" -- an ill omen many thought.  Later, alone with his thoughts after his wife had retied for the night. Campbell was startled by the appearance of a man  "with a naked dirk in his hand, his clothes dripping wet, his long hair streaming over his shoulders and half-veiling his glaring eyes and pale and haggard countenance."  The stranger promised him no harm buut begged for his protection, sayng that, in a sudden quarrel, he had shed the blood of a fellow-man, and that the victim's friends were in hot pursuit of him.  The stranger claimed "that protection, and that hospitality, which no one has ever failed to find within the house in Inverawe."  Hearing this, Campbell cried, "By Cruachan, I swear that you shall have both!" and, in doing so, Campbell's sacred honot and chivalry bound him to that pledge. 

Later that evening Campbell his the man in a remote cave, leaving him with food and blankets and urging him not to light a fire that might alert his pursuers.  That night, in bed, he was awoken by a ghostly spectre with an open, bleeding gash in its chest.   The ghost was that of the man who had fed and aided Campbell the night he was separated from his men.  The ghost had a dire wardning:  "Inverawe! -- blood must flow for blood! -- Shield not the murderer!"  The next morning Campbell was unsure whether he had a real visitant or a dream.   

The ghost appeared the second night with a more direct warning:  "My first visit has been fruitless! -- Once more I come to warn you that blood must flow for blood.  No longer shield the murderer!  Force me not to appear again, when all warning will be vain!"

And on the third night:  "The blood of the murderer might have been offered up -- now your blood mut flow for his!  We meet once more at Ticonderoga!"

Hoping to convince the man to give mself up, Campbell then went to the cave where he had hid the assassin, but the man was not there.  Campbell never saw him again, nor did Campbell ever learn his name.  Campbell also never learned the name of his ghostly visitor.

And, Ticonderoga?  What a strange name.  Campbell had never heard of it and had no idea what it referred to.

Time passed and the spectre's dire warning faded to the back of Campbell's memory.  Some time later (years, perhaps), the Crown called the Black Watch back to duty.  This time to fight the enemy in America.  You can see where this is headed.  The Black Watch is sent to New York, to Lake George, to take the heavily fortified fort Campbell knew as "Fort Defiance"...

Despite being a heavily telegraphed tale, "The Vision of Campbell of Inverawe" has several things going for it.  First, the strict adherence to honor as a major part of the Scottish character is weel (and tragically) portrayed.  Second, the vivid description of Campbell's Highland makes the landscape a character of its own in the tale; the rugged and dour beauty of the country and its people add strength to the importance of a rigid code of honor.  Third, the detail of the campaign against Fort Ticonderoga is compelling.

Added late in the tale is a subplot concerning Campbell's son Donald, who unbeknownst to Campbell, travels to America to fight with his father.  There, both Donald and Campbell befriend a young Indian warrior -- something that further solidifies our feelings for both characters and makes the inevitable tragedy even more poignant.

All in all, a darned good story.

[And, I  must admit, a story I felt somewhat guilty enjoying.  I felt I was betraying Kitty's great-aunt Sadie, who, as a McDonald, refused to have Campbell's soup in the house because she would have nothing to do with that scurrilous clan.  Irish Alzheiners and Scottish Alzeimers are one and the same:  you forget everything but the grudge.  Sadie evidently held onto the grudge with a fierceness that was epic.  She also had a strong antipathy for the Irish and for Catholics, and Kitty's father was both so she refused to talk to him.  ("Eileen, would your husband like another cup of coffee?"  This, while Harold was sitting right nest to her.)  On the plus side, Sadie taught Kitty how to identify all the tartans -- even the despised Campbell tartan.  Sadie was very talented at tatting and all of Kitty's underwear before she was school-age was trimmed with homemade lace; I still have Sadie's ivory tatting shuttle around her somewhere.  Wherever Sadie is, I hope she forgives me for liking this story.]

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder of Fountainhall, 7th Baronet, (1784-1848) was a close friend of Sir Walter Scott.  He wrote several romances, along with volumes of Scottish legends and Scottish history, travelogues, natural history, and (at her request) a book detiling the official history of QueenMary's visit to Scotland in 1843.  Dick Lauder also served as Secretary to the Board of Manufactures, on the Herring Fisheries Board, and at the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of Fine Arts, a fellow of the Royal Socity of Edinburgh and as Deputy Lieutenant for conties Moray and Haddington.  in politics he was an active liberal and presided over what has been said to be the largest political rally in Scotland.

"The Vision of Cambell of Inverawe" can be read online.


 If JohnWayne can play Ghengis Khan then surely Edward G. Robinson can play Chinese hatcher man Wong Low Get and Loretta Young can play the lovely Chinese maiden Sun Tya San.

Welcome back to the good (?) ol' days when Caucasians regularly played orientals in the films.

In this one at lest, Robinson does a fantastic job with his character nd turns in one top-notch performnce.

Wong Low Get is a hatchet man (executioner) for a tong in Chinatown who is tasked with killing his best friend and blood brother Sun Yat Ming (J. Carroll Naish, who, despite his Irish ancestry,  later played Charlie Chan, as well as a host of Italian and Native American characters).   Sun, in a surprising show of friendship, not only forgives Wong, but bequeaths him all of his earthly possessions, including his six-year-old daughter San, whom he pledges to Wong as a wife.  Wong swears before Buddha that San will know only happiness.

Time passes.  Wong becomes more powerful in the tong and San grows up and marries him.  San, as noted above is played by a 19-year-old Loretta Young, who also does a great acting job.  Another tong was draws Wong out of retirement.  San falls in love with a neer-do-well bodyguard, Harry En Hai (played by Englishman Leslie Fenton).  Wong returns from the tong was to discover his wife's affair.  Rather than kill the two of them, he charges Harry with San's happiness.  Wong renounces his vilent ways and because of this is banished from the tong.  San and Harry det deportd to China whre Harry is charged with dealing in opium.  Harry sells San to a brothel owner.  Wong discovers this and, no completely broke, works his way to China as a stoker of a steamship, determined to make Harry pay for betraying the lovely San.

The ending of the film is a classic.

The film also features Charles Middleton of Ming the Merciless fame as "Lip Hop Fat."  Also note that Robinson's then-wife Gladys Lloyd has an uncredited part as "Fan Yi."

Directed by William A. Wellman from a script by J. Grubb Alexander and based on a play, The Honorable Mr. Wong, by Achmed Abdullah and David Belasco.  Abdullah ws a popular adventure and thriller writer who scripted The Thief of Bagdad and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer; Belacos was a noted playwright whose plays The Girl of the Golden West and Madame Butterfly were made into operas by Giacomo Puccini (Belasco was also the person who gave Mary Pickford her stage name); Alexander has 98 credits on IMDb, including Moby Dick (1930 version), Svengali, and The Sea Wolf.  Wellma directed many classic films over his career, including Wings (the firt film to win an Academy Award), The Public Enemy, A Star Is Born, The Ox-Bow Incident, Story of G.I. Joe, and The High and the Mighty.

It should also be noted that, throughout the film, music director used vriations of the popular 1916 song "Poor Butterfly," which was inspired by Puccini's opera based on Belasco's play.

Also, I have a strong feeling that 'The Honorable Mt. Wong" was based on a short story by Achmed Abdullah that I once read in one of Abdullah's short story collections, probably under a different title.  Since I can't pinpoint the story this may just be one of my senior moments.

In any event, this is a film well worth your time.  Enjoy.

Sunday, August 21, 2022


Openers:  If you are going to understand this story, you have got to visualize his eyes as I saw them there in that Mexicali dance hall.

I have gazed into the eyes of a swaying rattlesnake.  I have seen the eyes of a mountainn lion reflect a phosphorescent green from the darkness beyond my camp fire.  i have watched the eyes of a killer, crazed with blood lust, his hand clawing for the holstered weapon at his side.

But I have never seen eyes that affected me as did the eyes of the man who sought me out there in that place which is known as "Catina Gold Dollar Bar."

His eyes were gray, but not the gray of the desert.  It was as though his eyes had been washed with aluminum paint.  They glittered with a metallic luster, and they seemed to be all the same color -- if you could call it a color.

When he got closer, I saw that the pupils were little pin-points.  You had to look close  to see them.  And the whites of the eyes had the same metallic luster; the same appearance of having been coated with alluminum paint.

Those eyes gave me the creeps.

-- "The Man with the Pin-Ppint Eyes" by Erle Stanley Gardner (from Argosy, January 10, 1931; reprinted in The Human Zero:  The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Charles G. Waugh, 1981)

Our narrator is Sidney Rane, a young man who had moved to the Southwest for health reasons years before.  Hr is understood to know more about the desert than any man living.  The man with the pin-point eyes is Emilio Bender, a professional hypnotist with a shaky reputation.  Bender enlists Rane to help him on a search for Spanish gold that had been lost in the desert for 300 years.  It seems Bender had been experimenting with past life regression (although it's never clled that in the story) and hit pay dirt with one subject -- a half-breed Mexican with a "low forehead, black eyes, thick lips," and a surly look.  Under hypnosis the man became Pablo Viscente de Moreno, an arrogant, imperialist, amoral soldier who served under General Diego de Vargas in 1692, who had followed Vargas into the New Mexico desert to conquer the territory for Spain from the native Indians/  Of course, to "conquer" meant to loot and kill.  Vargas and company -- including Moreno -- met their bloody end at the hands of Indians in a hidden, secret cave somewhere in the desert, leaving behind a cache of looted gold.

The Mexican, when his personality was overtaken by the Spanish merccenary, had no concept of time passing and did not realize he had been killed in the battle.  Bender takes him and, guided by Rane, enter the desert to find the lost cave, with each agreeing to split the loot three ways.  (I can't find any real reason why Bender chose to take Rane along on this expedition.  The conquistador personality was easily able to locate the secret cache from landmarks so Rane was never really needed, but logic does not necessarily prevail in pulp adventure stories.)  Bender appears to be motivated strictly by greed, overpowering any common sense -- determined to reach his goal as quickly as possible he pushes his jeep to the limits, overheating and melting the engine, and once inside the cave, he uses his already weak flashlight indiscriminately so that he drains it of power.

Anyway, the find the cave and the Moreno personality finds his old bloody sword, stillin the hands of his centuries-old corpse.  The firt trasure chest they encounter are empty, filled with dust, the gold having been taken some time in the distant past by the native Indians.  Rane had heard of a group of Indians, disctncly separate for other natives of the area and far more primitive, who lived isolated in a "sacred cavern."  The Indians attack, captured the three men, binnd them, and ready them for sacrifice.  Bender uses his hypnotic powers to help the escape, but before they leave the cavern, the Moreno personality revolts, declaring that he will not share "his" treasure with the others.  He attacks Bender and slays him with the conquistador's centuries-old sword.  As Rane and the Mexican leave the cave, the old Spanish personality fades away -- with the death of Bender, the hypnotic spell that had brought the reincarnated personaily to the fore faded and "Pablo Viscente de Moreno" was no more.  The poor Mexican half-breed "woke" up confused and with no memory of his past personality or of what had happened.

Gardner (1889-1970) was one of the world's best-selling authors, best known as the creator of Perry Mason, as well as the author of the Bertha Cool-Donald Lam mysteries and the D.A. Doug Selby series.  Before concentrting on full-length novels, he had been a pulp fiction machine, witing hundreds of popular mystery and adventure stories and creating such characters as Lester Leith, Sydney Zoom, The Phantom Crook Ed Jenkins, The Human Fly Speed Dash, The Patent Leather Kid, Bob Zane, Ken Corning, among others.  In the late 1940s Gardner, working with Argosy magazine, established the "Court of Last Resort," with investigated wrongful criminal convictions.

His seven science fiction stories, included in The Human Zero, were fast-paced pulp adventures written for Argosy from 1928 through 1932 and eist mainly as curiosities.  Several of them are mystery stories with a thin veneer of sience fictional trappings.  One, "Rain Magic," is based on a story that an old prospector told Gardner during one of his desert trips.   Several are adventure stories using a fantastic background to propel the plot, and two are riffs on themes originated by H. G. Wells and others.  Derivative as these tales are, they still make good escapist reading -- the type that was the meat of many pulp magazines.

Incoming:   A fairly long list covering books that came in over the past few months...

  • Isaac Asimov, Of Matters Great and Small.  Npnfiction collection of  sixteen of Asimov's siene essays for F&SF, plus one essay from Science Digest.
  • Lawrence Block, editor (the book's copyright is shared with Martin H. Greenberg's Tekno Books) - Master's Choice.  This is kind of a "twofer" anthology.  Nine of the best writers in the mystery/crime/suspense genre -- Stephen King, Peter Lovesey, Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, Joan Hess, John Lutz, Bill Pronzini, Tony Hillerman, and Lawrence Block -- each present a "story I'm proud I wrote," followed immediately by the "story I wish I had written" by a different author; these other authors are Joyce Carol Oates, Donald E. Westlake, Jacques Futrelle. Stephen Crane, Judith Garner, W. H. Harvey, Benjamin Appel. Joe Gores, and John O'Hara.  Some familiar tales mixed in here but there's enough variety and lesser-known stories to keep one happily turning the pages.
  • "Jim Case" (Stephen Mertz), Cody's Army.  The first in the self-titled men's action adventure series that ran to seven books.  '"The sequence was familiar.  Another jet hijackd to Lebanon.  Once again America held hostage by fnatic rebels.  And just to prove they meant business the terrorists dragged two innocent passengers out on the tarma and shot them in cold blood.  That's when John Cody and his men got on the scene,  Their mission was to free the hostages.  But Cody wasn't going to stop there.  This time he had to make sure it didn't happen again.  And there was only one way to do that,  The hard way.  The bloody way."
  • Jack Dann, The Man Who Melted.  Science fiction novel, "the stunning odyssey of a man searching through the glittering, apocalyptic landscape of the next cntury for a woman lost to him in a worldwide outbeak of telepathic fear.  Filled with passionate humanity and writing of the highest order, it is an important and resonant work by an exceptinally talented writer."  A finalist for the 1985 Nebuka Award for Best Novel.
  • Lester del Rey, editor, Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year:  Fifth Annual Collection.  Ten short stories from 1975; authors include Poul Anderson, Clifford D. Simak, Joan D. & Vernor Vinge and Hayford Pierce (twice!).  Following Donald A. Wollhem and Terry Carr's departures from Ace Books, the mantle for the company's best science fiction of the year collection went first to Frederik Pohl (one year), then to Forrest J. Ackerman (one year), then to Lester del Rey (five years), and finally to Gardner Dozois (five years). Over the seventeen years (1965-1981) covered by the Ace Best anthologies, a lot of good tales were printed
  • Samuel R. Delaney, The Bridge of Lost Desire.  A collection of three novellas chronicling the epic of Gorgik the Liberator in Delaney's intricately imagined fantasy world of  Neveryon.
  • David Drake and Bill Fawcett, editors, The Fleet, Book 2:  Counter Attack and The Fleet, Book 4:  Sworn Allies,  Shared world military SF anthologies detailing the was between the Alliance and the ruthless Khalian invaders.Book 2 contains 12 stories from Jody Lynn Nye, Judith R. Conly, Janny Wurts, Robert Sheckley, Shariann Lewitt, Piers Anthony, Mike Resnick, Bill Fawcett, Janet Morris, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and David Drake, with "interludes" by Bill Fawcett/  Book 4 has 10 stories by Poul Anderson, Anne McCaffrey, Bill Fawcett, N. Lee Wood, Larry Niven & David Drake, Janet Morris, Diane Duane & Peter Morwood, Jody Lynn Nye, David Drake, and Christopher Stasheff, again with "interluded" provided by Fawcett.  Often I find this kind of project repetitive but, given the quality of many of the authors, I'm willing to give these a try.
  • Carol Emshwiller, Mister Boots,  YA fantasy.  "Bobby Lassiter has some important secrets -- but it's not as if anyone's payng attention.  It's the middle of the Depression, and while Bobby's mother and older sister knit all day to make money, Bobby explores the California desert around their home.  That's how Bobby finds Boots.  He's under their one half-dead tree, half-dead himself.  Right away he's a secret, too -- a secret to be fed and clothed and taken care of, and even more of a secret because of what he can do.  Sometime Boots is a man.  Sometimes he's (really, truly) a horse.  He and Bobby know something about magic -- and those who read this book will too."
  • Vardis Fisher, The Golden Rooms.  The second (of twelve) novels in Fisher's "Testiment of Man" series, chronicling the spiritual and social history of the human race.  "They walked naked and unashamed.  They sated their lust in sexual orgies.  They drank the blood of their enemies.  This is the brutal story of primitive men and women who lusted and loved, hunted and killed with wild animal abandon and with no sense of shame."  Written in the 40s and  successfuly reprinted in paperback in the 60s, few people remember this best-selling series.  In the late 60s I owned the entire series but the books went walkabout over the years and I never got around to reading them,  That may be just as well; I'll give this one a try soon and see.
  • "George Gilman"  (Terry Harkness), Edge #25:  Violence Trail.  An entry in the over-the-top violent adult western n the cult series that ran to 61 titles.  "Edge begins and incredible trip to the Mexican border in a wagon carrying a slowly dying man, his beautiful daughter, and angry son.  There are just a few obstacles:  their path through the wilderness is on a collision course with the Shoshone nation.  If warring Indians weren't enough there is one other problem:  they're riding in a wagon  containing a fortune in gold.  Though well camouflaged it soon lures the violent and greedy from both sides of the border.  With Edge riding shotgun, the wagon cuts a bloody trail through singing arrows and silent bullets.  A vehicle of violence, a beautiful woman, and death on the backtrail -- Edge is riding again!"
  • Frank Gruber, Peace Marshall.  Western.  "Wild, drunk, gun-toting men, great droves of Texas cattle bawling down the main street, greedy land grabbers from the East, fancy ladies from everywhere, saloons and crooked gambling halls -- that was the town of Broken Lance, astraddle the Chisholm trail, where killings were common as rotgut whiskey.  Broken Lance needed a peace marshall, needed him bad.  But only one man on the great Plains was gunfighter enough to pacify Broken Lance -- John Bonniwell.  And Bonniwell had hung up his guns, sworn never to shoot another man for pay."  Filmed twice, fisrt as The great Missouri Raid (1951) and later that same year as WarpathTown Tamer.  Another western.  "Tom Rosser was a lawman with his gun to hire.  H had worked in the great booms towns, Dodge, Ogllala, cheyene, in murderous days when a man was every hour, on the hour.  But Great Plains was all of them rolled together.  Every gambler, gunfighter, short-card man and thief inthe West was here.  They hired Rosser to keep the peace, but he had a score to even.  Rosser was going to kill a  man -- the man who owned Great Plains."  Filmed in 1965, with Gruber playing a minor role as a hotel clerk.  (And what a cast!  Dana Andrews, Terry Moore, Par O'Brien, Lon Chaney Jr., Bruce Cabot, Richard Arlen, Barton MacLane, Richard Jaeckel, Phil Carey, Sunny Tufts, Coleen Gray, DeForrest Kelley,Jeanne Cagney,  "Red" Barry, Richard Webb, James Brown, and Bob Steele -- watching it now is like every scene is a walk down memory lane.)   
  • Adam Nevill, Banquet for the Damned,  Horror novel.  "Few believed Professor Coldwell could commune with spirits.  But in Scotland's oldest university town somethig has emerged from the shadows and is stalking the streets.  Now the young are being haunted by night terrors and those inflicted are disappearing.  This is certainly not a place for outsiders, especially at night.  So what chance do a rootless musician and a burned-out explorer have at surviving an entanglement with a ruthless, supernatural evil and the secretive cult that serves it?  This chilling occult thriller is both an homage to the great age of British ghost stories and a pacy modern tale of diabolism and witchcreft."
  • Andre Norton, The White Jade Fox.  Fantasy/"gothic" romance; instead of a frightened girl running away from an old house with one lit window on a dark and stormy night, we have her and a white fox carefully treading their way down stone steps away from a pagoda.  "Saranna had heard rumors about Tiensin...the strange old mansion with its oriental treasures.  She had heard it was haunted.  Now with her own eyes she had seen it was true.  The macabre circle of small foxes ringing the dancer in the secret garden, the mysterious robed woman with a fox's face.  Has Saranna really seen them?  Or had she dreamed it?  Saranna had gone to Tiensin under protest.  Her spoiled neie, Honora, had forced her to become a governress for her stepdaughter, Damaris.  Never had Saraana encounted anyone as thoroughly evil as Honora.  She was beautiful, and she could pull the wool over any man's eyes.  But she could not deceive Sanarra.  Or Damaris, whom she was planning to cheat out of a huge inheritance.  Even the handsome and trustworthy Gerrad Fowkes seemed to be taken with the deceitful young stepmother.  Saranna knew now that the future held great danger for her and Damaris.  She needed desperately to talk to someone.  But there was no one.  Except Gerrad Fowkes.  Or was he too enamored of Honora to believe Saranna?"  I really think someone needs a lesson in writing back cover copy.
  • Jerry Pournelle, creator, with the "editorial assistance" of John F. Carr and Roland Green - War World, Volume II:  Death's Head Rebellion.  Another military SF shared world series, following the devastating effects of the War between the First Empire of Man and the Saurian Supermen, the few surviving Saurians head to the planet Haven hoping to eliminate the human inhabitants.  For their part, the humans are pretty stubborn.  Nine stories by Don Hawthorne, Roland Green & John F. Carr, G. C. Edmondson, Larry Niven, John LeValley, James Landau, Martin Tays, Harry Turtledove, and Susan Schwartz, with an uncredited brief coda at the end of the volume.
  • Bill Pronzini, Small Felonies 2.  Mystery collection of 50 short-short stories.  Pronzini is a national treasure for the mystery fan.  Three "Nameless Detective" stories are among this "slumgullion" of short-shorts.  More than 20 of the stories have appeared in previous Pronzini collection, but that should not stop anyone from enjoying this book. Pronzini writes:  "I can't claim to have achieved the level of accomplishment of such masters of the form as Fredric Brown, Gerald Kersh, and Jack Ritchie,,,"  I humbly disagree.  Pronzini is that good.
  • James Reasoner, Texas Wind.  Reasoner's debut novel, considered by many to be one of the best private eye novels ever written.  "When Cody, a Texas private investigator, is hired to look into what should be a straightforward missing person case, he soon realizes that he's taken on more than he bargained for,  The facts surrounding the disappearance of Fort Worth businessman's daughter Mandy Traft, are far from clear.  Did she run off with her boyfriend?  Or has she been kidnapped?  With each step Cody takes, the case beccomes inceasingly dangerous.  Before long, he's been warned off, and bodies are starting to tumble.  He knows he should get out while he still can.  But he can't.  Not until he fnds Mandy/"
  • John Russo, Day Care.  Horror novel.  'He's a good puppet.  He does what they say.  But he's programmed for terror and someone will pay...The Academy.  It's every parent's dream, truning their little darlings into geniuses, superachievers, perfect little children.  And if there's a problem, the Academy fie that too.  It's a simple solution.  Just a little device.  Then a teeny pink car on a tender little skull.  One boy knew the secret.  Now he wants his mind back.  But it is much, much too late.  Too late for anything but the ugly feelings.  The bad feelings.  The messy sexy feelings.  The knife-cold hated, the murderous rage, for total, screaming, blood-drenching revenge."  Russo is a screenwriter, director, and actor, probably best know for co=writing The Night of th Living Dead with George Romaro.  During the mid-Seventies through the Eighties, he published a number of popular paperback horror novels drawing on the modern horror film tradition.
  • Will Shetterly and Emma Bull, editors - Liavek and Liavek:  Wizard's Row.  The the first and the third (of five) in a series of shared-world fantasy anthologies, a la  Asprin and Abbey's Thieves' World  series.  The first book introduces us to Liavek, "City of Luck on the Cat River, cosmopolitan hub of subtle intrique and wild fortune, Liavek is the fantastic capital of art and adventure, caravans and culture, diplomacy...and dark magic!  Come to Liavek.  Gene Wolfe, Steven Brust, Jane Yolen, Patricia C. Wrede and the most exciting new writers in fantasy are here to guide you through humor, horror, and incredible adventures in the vanishing houses of Wizard's Row and the sailors' dives of Two-Copper Bazaar.  Sea trolls, green cats, blue chipmunks -- and demon camels.  Learn secrets of love and hidden fortune.  Meet painted ladies, bejewelled assassins, Scarlet Priests, necromantic critics, a whip-wielding boutique owner -- and wizards.  Come, Liavek awaits."  Ten stories.  In addition to the four mentioned above, the other authors are Emma Bull, Nancy Kress, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Megan Lindholm, Will Shetterly, and Barry B. Longyear.  As for the other volume:  "So you want to be a wizard?  Even in Liavek, not everyone can be a wizard.  The training is arduaous.  The risks are high.  But the rewarfds are tremendous for those who can master the wild magics that surge through the streets of Liavek, from the Levar's palace to lowly bakeries, from toyshops to pleasure houses, just remember, aspiring wizards, that magic, once loosened, cannot be recalled..."  Eight stories, and four "songs."  Authors are Megan Lindholm and Steven Brust, John M. Ford, Pamla Dean, Kara Dalkey, Bradley Denton, Caroline Stevermer, Alan Mooer, Nancy Kress, and Jane Yolan.
  • Robert Silverberg, four books from Stark House, all early erotic paperbacks first published from 1959-1965:  Connie/Meg.  First published under the pseudonym "Loren Beauchamp," the first book in this volume tells of teen-age Connie who "has her life all mapped out.  She and John will go steady until she joins him at college.  Then after graduation, they will be married.  John will begin law school, and there will be three children, a pretty little home on Long Island and a trip to europe...but all that changes the night she is kidnapped by a gang of young toughs, taken to an old warehouse, and repeatedly raped.  John is hesitant and unncomfortable with her.  Her parents only want to send her away to live with her grandparents for a while.  With nothing left to lose, Connie decides to start getting even with the world."  The second book was also under the 'Loren Beauchamp" by-line and later republished as All the Best Beds by "Don Elliott".  "The night Meg loses her virginity she sees her Idaho life mapped out for her:  marriage to a farmer, a bunch of kids, old before her time.  But Meg has bigger dreams than that.  She knows the power her body has over men.  So she hops a bus for New York City and discovers a talent agent named Max Bonaventura who is so impressed by her bounteous figure that he decides to throw all his efforts into making her a star.  Sure, she might have to strip in fron of total strangers...she might have to sleep with a few guys to get there...but it'll be worth it.  Meg knows what she's doing, and Meg knows that anything is better than going back to Idaho.  Or is it?"  Killer is from Stark House's Black Gat publishing line, orignally published as Passion Killer by "Don Elliott."  "Howard Gorman has to have Marie all to himself.  She's everything he wants in a woman, and more.  In order to have Marie, he must first get rid of his wife, Ethyl.  So Howard hires a hit man, Lee Floyd, a polished professional, to do the job -- and remove Ethyl.  But Marie has plans of her own, and they don't involve Howard.  He's too fat and old for her.  Marie is only in it for the money.  So when she finds out about the hit man, she decides to get in touch with Lee herself.  After all, if he's been paid to shoot Howard's wife, perhaps he can be persuaded to get rid of Howard as well.."  Gang Girl/Sex Bum contains two novels first published as by "Don Elliott."  The first introduces us to Lora Menotti, "five feet five of concentrated sex, one hundred twenty-five pounds of undiluted viciousness.  She is sixteen.  she is deadly.  Her parentsk now it, and they are afraid of her.  ser older brother knows it, and he tried never to turn his back on her.  The other kids in the gang, the Scarlet Sinners, they know it, too.  They fear her, and because of that they respect her.  In a teen gang, fear equals respect.  There is no other law.  This is Lora's story, a girl who thrills at the thought of death, embraces sex with each new leader of the gang, and who controls her world the only way she can -- by pitting each member against the other, with her body as bait."  In the second book "Johnny Price has big plans.  Only 19, he knows what he wants, and he isn't going to find it delivering groceries in a small town in upstate New York.  So when he gets a chance to help a couple of local gangsters take out the competition, he jumps at the opportunity.  Suddenly he's in, a member of the Syndicate.  Now he's got plenty of money, a new car -- and lots of women.  And that suits him fine, because Johnny knows how to please them all.  But Johnny wants more -- more power, classier ladies -- like the slnk, sophisticated Marie.  But Marie is Rizzo's woman.  To take Marie, he has to go all the way to New York City.  And to get there, he has to betray his own bosses.  Good thing for Johnny he has a plan."  Lust Queen/Lust Victim.  Two more first published under the "Don Elliott" by-line.  The first was also reprinted under the title The Decadent.  "Joey Baldwin's got it made.  He's got a beautiful fiance, Lisa, and now he's got the perfect writer's commission as well.  All he has to do is pack up in New York and head for Los Angeles, where he will spent time with movie star Mona Thorne, who wants him to write her life story.  It's a sweet deal alright.  Mona moves him right into her mansion, and after a few drinks and a dip in the pool, she puts the real moves on him.  Joey's got it made alright.  Mona knows just what she wants, and she sinks her hooks in deep, spitfire temper and all.  Before long Joey doesn't know if he's living the fantsy or studding for love.  His life only gets more interesting when, after weeks of neglect, Lisa decides to visit..."  The second book was originally published under the title No Lust Tonight.  "Dave Lamson had been married for ten years to Moira, ten years of sexual wedded bliss.  Lamson is a lucky man and he knows it.  Then one night a burglar breaks into their house, overpowers Lamson and drags him upstairs to their bedroom, where he ties him up and makes him watch him rape his wife.  Later, after the police have left, Moira is still very fearful and nervous around him.  As the week goes on, her fear quickly turns to sexual frigitiy, and Lamson finds that besides suffering a terrible guilt, that she may even know the rapist.  His desire for Moira soon turns to frustration, and Lamson begins to take notice of the women around the office in a way he never had befoe.  Will Moira be able to overcome her fear, or is Lamson now doomed to a lustless marriage -- and an adulterer's heart?"  Silverberg was just one of many writers who earned their chops writing for the sleaze market before making it big in other areas of writing, including Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, John Jakes, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Bill Pronzini, and maybe-Dean Koontz*..  Other, such as Evan Hunter, entered the field later in their careers because of the quick easy money the market paid.
  • Charles Stross, The Jennifer Morgue.  The second book in the long-running Laundry Files series featuring Bob Howard, "geekish demonology hacker extraordinaire."  This time Bob has to stop a ruthless billionaire from raising an eldritch horror from the sea.  Lovecraft meets James Bond in this justly popular series.
  • Tim Waggoner, Like Death.  Horror novel.  "Scott Raymond is a man haunted by his past and terrorized in the present.  As a young boy, he witnessed the brutl murder of his family, but there is so much of the gruesome tragedy that he simply cannot remember -- including the identity of the killer or why Scott alone was spared.  The memories won't come, but the trauma won't go away.  Scott is an adult now, still emotionally scarred but learning to deal with it.  He has come to Ash Creek to write about a different mystery, a six-year-old girl named Miranda who disappeared in broad daylight one year ago.  Here, Scott meets another girl named Miranda, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the one who's missing -- but this one's a teenager.  She will draw Scott into the bizarre hidden world known as Shadow.  A world where nightmares are very real---and very deadly."
  • Joss Whedon, et al.  - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 1.  Graphic novel compilation of stories that take place before Buffy the Vampire Slayer's first season.  Contains Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Spike & Dru #3, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Origin #1-3, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer #51-59.  The stories are scripted by Christohpher Golden, Dan Brereton, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicienza, and Paul Lee; pencils by Eric Powell, Joe Bennett, Cliff Richards, and Paul Lee.  Joss Whedon has been getting a bad rep lately (perhaps deservedly) because of his personal behavior, but that cannot diminish the love I have for Buffy and the Scooby Gang. 
  • Gahan Wilson, Everybody's Favorite Duck.  Pastiche.  "When the Professor (the fiendishly brilliant Napoleon of Crime), the Mandarin (the cruelly diabolical Chinese mastermind), and Spectrobert (the blackheartedly crafty French rogue) are spotted lunching at Manhattan's posh Le Rond-Point, the police department is baffled, the FBI is bewildered, the CIA is entirely up a tree.  What deviltry are they plotting?  Whose fate hangs in the balance?  How can the friends of justice stymie their plans?  Aid to the Forces of Good comes in the form of the formidably brilliant Enoch None (who bears more than a passing resemblance to one of fiction's greatest sleuths) and his irrepresssibly hard-boiled sidekick John Weston (ditto).  But the wily villains do not underestimate their opponents:  Bone and Weston are in short demoniacally booby-trapped kitchens, mutation-filled torture tunnels, and The Flying Purple Cloud of Destruction.  Will the combination of Bone's laser-sharp mind and Weston's quick trigger b8e enough to undo the evildoers?"  Great fun.
* Koonz is now denying that he wrote the several dozen soft-core books credited to him, saying they were written by an unnamed person without his knowledge or permission.  That same unnamed person also gave a number of published interviews as "Koonz."   Koontz claims to know who this person is and will reveal the name when (and if) he publishes his autobiography.  Yeah, right.

Air Raid:  Today marks the anniverary of the first known air raid in history, some 173 years ago.  when Austria launched pilotless balloons aginst the city of Venice in 1849.  Venice had lost its ndependence in 1797 when Napoleon conquered the city in the War of the First Coalition that raged through Europe between 1792 and 1797.  The Jewish population of venice saw Napoleaon as a hero since he removed the gates to the Ghetto and lifted travel restrictions for Jews.  Five months later, Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio, which ceded Venice to the Austrians.  Austria took control of the city the following January, holding it until 1805.  Venice was returned to Austria in 1814 when it became b]art of Austria's Kingdom of Lombardy-Venitia.  A short-lived revolt briefly re-established the Venetian Republic in 1848.

(It is here, in my mind's eye, that I picture Montgomery Burns saying, "Release the balloons, Smithers!")

In any event, the balloons may have worked because Venice was again under Austrian rule later inn 1849.  It remained so until the Third War of Italian Independence in 1866, when the city became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

A Conversation with My 10-Year-Old Grandson:  (In the mornig, just before I drove him to school)

Me:  Jack, what did you learn in school yesterday?

Jack:  Evidently not enough.  I have to go back today.

Ew...  Looking to purchase a "designer vagina"?  It's evidently a new trend but will cost you $4000 and up.  

A bit of clarification.  First, this is something I never expected to report on, but it's making news in some outlets.  Second, to purchase a designer vagina, you forst need to have a non-designer one, so we Y-chromosome dudes are not eligible.  Third, vaginal surgery -- including plastic surgery -- can be a necessary treatment for a number of serious conditions; we're not talking about those here.  Fourth, ew...

Okay.  With that out of the way, it turns out that labiaplasties (operations that shrink the labia minora) are on the rise.  Dr. John Skevofila, a chief surgeon at Signatures clinic in the UK, reported that last year he performed only 50 labiaplasties; this year he has eeeded that number and it's only August.  And plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Swift noted that there has been a significant uptick in the procedure sine 2015.  The culprit?  According to Dr. Swift is "ubiquitous activewear" -- a perhaps medical term meaning tight jeans or yoga pants.  As the fashion for these tight jeans grow, so does so does the number of women who feel discomfort or pain as the clthing rubs against or puts pressure on their private parts.  Add to this a desire to eliminate the appearance of what is termed "camel toe," more and more women are choosing the knife or the laser in the battle of fashion over comfort.

Now here's where it gets a bit personal.  You didn't really thin  we could approach this subject without referring to the Kardashians, did you?  Kim Kadashian's SKIMS brand of body suits were designed with no consideration given to those with "bigger vaginas," according to her sister Khloe, who has joyfully described her own private parts.  In response, "Kim" redesigned  (and if you think she did the design work herself, I've got a bridge -- or at least a MAGA hat -- I want to sell you) the clothing to make the body suit "more suitable for all labia sizes."  Sadly, not all brands are willing to make the same compromise, but to the profit of a number of vaginal plastic surgeons.

Even as I get older, I never cease to wonder at the things I learn from the internet.

NOTE:  2:31 Central Time.  Got a message that Blogger has blocked today's post because it violates their community standands.  Hmm.  Problem is that they do not say what community standards have been violated, only that the offensive part must be corrected before the post is unblocked.  Blogger also relies, in part, on people reporting whether a post is what they deem offensive, which raises a lot of serious questions about the political and social mileau we find ourselves in today.  (For a far more drastic -- and horrifying -- example, see the current issue [Augist 26, 2022] of The Week magazine, which has an article "When the neighbors drive you out," adapted from 'Code Snitching," which was originally punlished in Nashville Scene.  Brr.

Since this section of taday's post is the one most likely to get soneone's panties in  bunch, I'm going to assume this is the anti-ommuniyt standard part of today's post that is deemed offensive.  Inmy defense I can only say that everything covered above came straight from multiple major newsoutlets and I stand by the content and my right to report it.  Perhaps this explanation will be enough for Blogger tolife their ban.  We'll see.

ANOTHER NOTE:  4:30 am.  I just checked and I have been unblocked.  Hmm.  Tempest in a teapot, perhaps?

Pecan Torte     Today is National Pecan Torte Day!  

Pecans are a favorite.  They are great.  They are yummy.  But they ar so dearned expensive!  Which is why it may be wise to hold Pecan Torte Day to merely one day.

Anyway, here are some recipes should you have the desire (and the cooking chops) to celebrate:

Pecan torte with bourbon whiupped cream:

Toasted pecan torte with butterscotch topping:

Strawberry pecan torte:

Chocolate pecan torte:

And for the purists:

Happy Birthday, Shirley Feeney!  You may want to make an extra pecan tort and ent it long to Cindi Williams today for her birthday.  The Laverne and Shirley actress celebrtes her 75th birthday today.

Other virgos sharing today as a birthday include Denis Paipn (the French physicist who developed pressure cooking, born 1647), James Kirke Paulding (writer, poet, and one-time Secretary of the Navy -- see Today's Poem, below, born 1778), Melville Eiljah Stone (founder of the Chicago Daily News, born 1848), Claude Debussy (often viewed as the first impressionist composer, although he rejected that terms\, born 1862), German author and poet "Gorch Fock" (real name Johann Wilhelm Kinau, but the pseudomyn is a much cooler name, don't you think?, born 1880), Krazy Kat creator George Herriman (born 1880), Algonquin Round Table wit Dorothy Parker (born 1893), historian and New England coastal folklorist Edward Rowe Snow (born 1902), cartoonist Jerry Iger (who partnered with Will Eisner to form Eisner & Iger, a major comics packager, born 1903), French photographer and painter Henri Cartier-Bresson (born 1908), Bluesman John Lee Hooker (born 1917), writing legend and boy who never really grew up Ray Bradbury (born 1920), pioneering heart surgeon Denton Colley (born 1920), Pussy Galore and Cathy Gale of The Avengers portrayer Honor Blackman (born 1926), actress Valerie Harper (born 1939), Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski (born 1939) "Big Tuna" Bill Parcells (the only NFL coach to led four difference franchises to the playoffs and three to conference championships (born 1941), actor Colme Feore (born 1958), country singer Collin Rye (born 1960), singer-songwriter Tori Amos (born 1963), actress and comedian Kristin Wiig (born 1973), Carpool Karaoke guy James Cordon (born 1978), and singer-songwriter Dua Lipa (born 1995).

This Is a Joke, I Think:    I'm not good at math.  If I had fifty cents for every time I flunked a math test, I'd have $6.35 now.

And One in Bad Taste:  I called a suicide hotline in Iraq.  They got excited and asked if I could drive a truck.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man and Republican candidate for the House Luis Miguel has been permanently suspended from Twitter for advocating that all  Floridians be able to shoot FBI, IRS, ATFand other federal troops on sight.  Miguel has doubled down on his stance, saying that it is justified because the IRS has been "weaponized by dissident forces."  His call  to violence is evidently still posted on Instagram.  This is not considered a big news story here because Florida, land of Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis.  **sigh**
  • Speaking of DeSantis, his "anti-Woke" campaign is getting pushback in the Courts for the silly reason that it is blatently unconstitutional.
  • And speaking of Gsetz, who is under invetigtion for sex trafficking, was one of twenty Republicans to vote aginst a bill combatting sex trafficking.  Geta also made headlines when he recently targeted a 19-year-old abortions rights advocate online with bullying and body shaming comments.  The teenager than used his remarks against her to raise $50,000 for abortion rights groups.  Gaetz has incurred the wrath of a group labelling themselves "Women Against Matt Gaetz."  The group reently painted Pensacola's famed "Graffitti Bridge" bright pink in protest to Gaetz and have called on Congress to prohibit Gaetz's contact with minors.  Gaetz's main primary opponent, Mark Lombardo (who is no great shakes himself), has consistently challenged Gaetz on moral and ethical issues, and recently aired an ad that implied the Gaetz may have been the "inside mole" behind the FBI's search of Mar-a-Largo. 
  • Ocala Florida Man Corey Jphnson, 29, has been arrested after stealing car in an attempt to access the Patrick Space Force Base..  He said that the president told him, through his mnd, to wardn officials about a battle between aliens and dragons.
  • Not to be outdone, St. Petersburg Florida Man Darryl Eugene McKinney was arrested after he cut off his ankle monitor, which he had to wear following a drug arrest in 2021.  McKinney said that President Biden told him to cut it off.   He also said that his attorney and the judge told him he could remove it (they didn't) and that, as a Seminole Indian, he should not have to wear it anyway.
  • 51-year-old Florida Woman Carla Jefferson has been arrested for calling 911 at least 12,512 times this year (and it's only August).  Jefferson, it is alleged, did not call for police or emergency services but to "to harass, to cuss, and to just plain degrade the call takers."
  • Florida Couple Bret Berland and Jennifer Thompson were evicted from their home in Hialeah for nonpayment of rent.  What to do in that case?  Well, he was arrested for burning down the huse; she, according to officials, is still on the run. 
  • Florida Man Joseph Stekler, 77, is accused of terrorizing multiple neighbors with a gun, hurling racial epithets, and abusing his position as a homeowners association president.   Residentss told police that Steckler had abused his power for years; people who opposed Steckler wer charged with unreasonable fees by the homeowners association and receiving orders to comply with "draconian measures" such as taking down an American flag.
  • The Sarasota Police Department has issued a plea that people not interfer with mating manatees/  It seems a number of lookie-loos believe it is cool to get up close, and even to touch, the manatees in th act.  To which, I can only say, "Only in Florida."  Manatees are listed as "vulnerable" under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Florida Man and Pastor Enginio Dali Muniz-Colon of Kissimmee has been arrsted for msturbating on the patio at a local Starbucks.  Police said he has had arrests on similar charges in the same area.  Muni-Colon teaches an online ministry class.   

Good News:
  • Farmer thrives by growing gluten-free grain needing no water during drought
  • Genetic heart conditions could be cured for the first time by a single jab -- it's a "defining moment"
  • Family is reunited by message in a bottle written by their late son decades ago
  • Snacking on grapes may add four to five years to,lifespans of those eat a high-fat diet
  • 22-year-old man found a baby abandoned in a trash can and decides to become its father
  • 7-year-old Massiah is a hero after rescuing a drowning r-year-old -- all on his own
  • Ukrine photo of nesting storks returning home becomes a symol of hope for the country

Today's Poem:
from The Lay of the Scottish Fiddle

The way was long, though 'twas not cold
But the poor bard was weak and old,
And carried, scor'd upon his front,
Of many a year the long account.
His Fiddle sole remaining pride
Hung dangling down his ragged side,
In faded bag of flannel green,
Through which the well carv'd head was seen
Of gaping lion, yawning wide,
In regal pomp of beastly pride.
The last of all the race was he,
Who charm'd the ear with tweedle dee.
For lack-a-day!  full well I ween
The happy times he once had seen,
When in the merry capering days
Of olden time he tun'd his lays.
'Mong gallant lads, or jolly sailors,
And play'd "the de'el among the tailors,"
Had given place to other glee,
And different strains of harmony.
"The bigots of this iron time
"Had called his harmless art a crime;"
And now, instead of dance and song
Pricking the night's dull pace along,
And sprightly gambols deftly play'd
By rustic lad and gleeful maid,
And all that decks the cheek of toil,
With nature's warm and heartfelt smile,
No sound is heard borne on the gale,
In village lone or rural dale,
But canting, whining, nasal notes,
Twanging through hoarse and froggy throats,
Ascending to the startled sky,
Mocking the ear of deity
With nonsense blasphemous and wild;
While wretches, of their peace beguil'd,
Scare the dull ear of drowsy night,
With screams that boding screech owls fright,
And hollow moans, that seem to flow
From damned souls in shades below.
Love-feasts are held at midnight's hour,
When fancy wields her protest power,
And to the trembling wretch's eyes
Sepulchres ope, and spectres rise,
Gaunt forms, and grisly shapes appear,
And sweet religion turns to fear.
A fiddler now, no wight so poor,
May beg his bread from door to door,
Nor tune to please a peasant's ear,
Thesse notes that blithe King Cole might hear.

-- James Kirke Palding
(the poem in five cantos was published as "supposed to be written by W___ S___. Esq."