Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

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

1 comment:

  1. Glad you approve of the contents of that box of goodies I sent you. You mentioned in a comment on my blog that you'd like to read some "later" John Varley. And, I just happened to have a couple later Varleys looking for a new home.