Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, February 28, 2023


 "The Bronze Tiger" by James Francis Dwyer (from The American Magazine, June 1913; reprinted in Dwyer's collection "Breath of the Jungle," 1915)

James Francis Dwyer (1874-1952) was an Australian-born author who published over 1000 short stories in his lifetime.  He was the first Australian-born person to make over $1 million from his writing, but the path was not an easy one for him.

As a young man in Austalia, married and with a young child, Dwyer found himself heavily in debt.  In an effort to save his family, the young postal clerk concocted a scheme of forging postal orders.  He was caught and sentenced to seven years in prison -- an unheard-of sentence for a first-time offender (at a time when persons convicted of manslaughter would usually get a sentence of 3 years -- but the presiding judge stated he wanted to make an example of Dwyer).  Because his conviction called for more than three years, Dwyer was automatically catagorized as a "dangerous" person and spent the first nine months of his sentence in solitary confinement.  Dwyer had developed an interest in writing,  prisoners were not allowed paper or pencils, so Dwyer could only write on a slateboard.  A fellow prisoner about to be released memorized one of the poems Dwyer wrote and, on his release, submitted it for publication.  It was accepted and published.  Dwyer made a friend with one of his guards, who was able to sneak paper and pen to the prisoner.  The guard then smuggled a poem and several of Dwyer's stories out of prison and submitted them in his name.  The poem was published.  The publisher held off on printing the stories for fear that Dwyer would get in trouble with prison officials.  After three years in prison, Dwyer was released on probation; the day of his release, two of his stories were published.  

It was difficult for anyone on probation to find work in Australia, but Dwyer eventually found employment at several newspapers.  When Dwyer's probation was up, he moved his family to England, hoping that opportunities for a writer would be better there.  They weren't, and after a year, he moved to New York where he began to have success with his stories, first with The Black Cat Magazine, then with many of the popular magazines of the day -- Short Stories, The Blue Book Magazine, The Popular Magazine, Colliers, and The Argosy among them.  For the most part his stories were in the mystery, adventure, thriller, and romance genres; some were fantasies, usually "lost race" tales.  Dwyer eventually published at lest ten novels, but only one collection of short stories.  In the 1920s Dwyer and his second wife moved to France, where he went on to publish several anti-German articles, which brought the ire of the Nazis; he was threatened and, just as France fell to Germany, Dwyer and his wife escaped to Spain, returning only after the war was over.  A few years before his death, he published his autobiography.  Previous to this he had kept his criminal past a secret, but Leg-Irons on Wings went into extensive detail about his crime and his imprisonment.  Although Dwyer had enjoyed a solid reputation as an author in America and England, he was virtually unknown in his native Australia until his autobiography was published 

"The Bronze Tiger," like all the stories in "The Breath of the Jungle", was a Far East adventure.  The story takes place in Malay's Valley of Golan Ra:  "There are thousands of places in the tropics that look unhealthy and feel unhealthy, but the Valley of Golan Ra was vicious...[the atmosphere] it's poisonous.  The country has been left too much to itself and it doesn't want a white man near."   (So, yes, there is some racism that was prevalent at the time in this tale.  Deal with it.)

Our narrator was in need of a job and was hired on by Masterson as an assistant, collecting specimens for an American museum.  Masterson was himself an American, but we are told that he had a grandmother who was "a Sahn-Talok woman from the head of the Meinam."  The search for specimens took them to the forsaken area of Golan Ra, where they collected sankes, lizards, bugs and "other things."  One day, after Masterton had collected a venomous krait, a Buddhist monk wandered in down from the hills.  Naked except for a fithy loin cloth, the monk spoke English, telling them that he lived in a cave in the hills above.  When asked why he lived in such a terrible place, the monk replied that this was a holy place because the Buddha had rested here on his way to the Temple of Paklan, and because here was the Man-Eater of Golan Ra.

With the mention of this "Maneater," Masterson's perked up.  According to an old legend, as the Buddha was resting and contemplating what he would do when he got to Paklan, a hungry tiger was lurking in the bushes.  The tiger was very hungry and the Buddha was very fat -- a perfect meal.  The Buddha was unconcerned about the tiger and, as the tiger approached, the Buddha told him to go waay.  The tiger didn't listen and made to spring, but was frozen in mid-air.   The slowly the tiger turned to bronze.  

The monk offered to show the bronze tiger to the Americans.  It was the most life-like statue imaginable, far beyond the capabilties of any artist the Americans knew -- one could almost beieve it had been an actual tiger.  The monk told them that the statue would call out at night and hundreds of tigers would come in from the hills to join it.  Anyone caught there need only put his hands on the statue and pray to Buddha and the tigers would leave him alone.  Indeed, there appeared to be a number of tiger tracks about the staue.  The two Americans decided to see for themselves.

With the aid of the monk, they built a hasty observation platform between two stunted trees.  That night they waited for hours on the platfom.  Then, they hear a weird cry coming from where the statue was.  It's the Man-Eater calling out for his fellow tigers, the monk told them.  The cry continued, then, in the darkness, they could see the reflection of eyes approaching.  Our narrator shoots at them with his rifle and a large tiger goes to attack them.  The platfom is too high for the tiger, but the trees themselves are weak.  They break at the base and all three are plunged downward into the darkness.  Our narrator loses consciousness...

He wakes and it is morning.  The tigers are gone.  So are the monk and Masterson.  Tied to the staue are the remains of a gibbon, evidently there as a sacrifice to the tigers.  It was the cries of the gibbon that they had heard in the night.  But where were the monk and Masterson?  And why had the tigers not attacked our unconscious narrator?

Masteson has gone native.  When our narrator finally locates the monks cave two weeks later, it is empty, but there is a note from Masterson telling our narrator to submit his resignation to the American museum.  Later, he learns from a  "leprous Negito" that Masterson and the monk had gone to Buddhist temple far up the hill.  They were not seen again.  Curtis, the American consul in the Malay, later tells our narator that he "had been out there long enough to know what effect the atmosphere of a place like Golan Ra would have on a man with a trace of color in his blood."  Emphasis mine.

Racism aside, a very effective tale that leaves the reader with questions that have no logical answers.

Monday, February 27, 2023


 I don't know why anyone would think 1946's The Spider Woman Strikes Back featuring Gale Sondegaard would be a sequel to 1943's The Spider Woman featuring Gale Sondergaard.  I mean, the earlier film was a popular picture in the Sherlock Holmes franchise with Rathbone and Bruce; the later picture has a woman and spiders and such not-quite-A-listerts as Brenda Joyce, Kirby Grant, Milburn Stone, and Rondo Hatton.  Who could confuse the two?  Certainly they would not have titled this film in hopes of cashing in on the earlier one.  Ridiculous!  Must have been a co-inky-dink.

Anyway, young Brenda Joyce (one of the Janes in the Tarzan films) plays Jean Kingsley, who is hired as a caretaker to Zenobia Dollard (Sondergaard, Anthony Adverse, The Cat and the Canary, and -- yes -- The Spider Woman), a blind woman with a rather evil secret.   Spoiler:  Zenobia is not really blind.  Not a Spoiler:  She lives in a really creepy old house.  Jean may be a bit of a dim bulb because she does ot realize that Zenobia has been draining her blood every night, using the blood to feed to her plants in order to develop a poison which she uses to kill off neighboring cows, because if the cows are dead, then the neighboring farmers would be hurting financially and sell their farms to Zenobia at bargain prices.  Got that?  This clear-cut and logical plot seems oh so obvious.

Kirby Grant (musician/singer/occasional western star and future Sky King on television) plays the handsome, drab he-man to the rescue, Hal Wentley.  Gunsmoke's Milburn Stone is Mr. Moore, some sort of an agricultural expert.  The great Rondo Hatton (who had suffered acromegaly as a result of poison gas in France during World War I), is the lurking, mute servant Mario in what was likely his last film.

Written by Eric Taylor (who had previous penned five Ellery Queen programmers, three Crime Doctor flicks, 1943's The Phantom of the Opera, Dick Tracy, and a handful of Universal horror flicks), The Spider Woman Strikes Back was directed by Arthur Lubin (director of many early Abbott and Costello flicks, who would go to direct the Francis, the Talking Mule movies).

Not an outstanding flick, but an enjoyable one if you are in the right mood.  If for no other reason, watch this for the severely underused Rondo Hatton.


 Openers:   A middle-aged man taking stock of his life is to be expected.  But for this to be my midpoint, I would have to make it to 94, and anyway, it was the ghost of my past haunting me, not my conscience, which after all was the nine millimeter Browning automatic I still carried all these years after my father killed himself with it -- when I disappointed him taking the Outfit's money to get ahead on the Chicago PD.

As I write this I'm closer to 94 than 47, which was my age in October 1953 when I caught an Ace Company cab outside the Kansas City Municipal Airport.  The cabbie was colored, which in a city where the population was 10% of that persuasion might not have been a surprise.  Still, Negro hackies didn't generally work white areas, though airport runs could make for a decent fare and those who didn't like the driver's shade could take the next ride down, and those who didn't give a damn got a smile and a nod and no funny business like unrequested tours of K.C.

And I didn't need one of thiose -- I'd done jobs here hefore.  The airport was five minutes from a downtown whose "Petticoat Lane" on Eleventh Street had smart shops and patrons who could afford to frequent them; around Twelfth and Main were the usual stores and palatial movie houses, a few blokcs east was a civic center whose plaza included two of the taller buildings, the Courthouse and City Hall, with the massive bunker of Municipal Auditorium to the southeast.

Everything was still up to date in Kansas City.  They were giving my toddling town a run on the meat-packing and agricultural fronts.  They had an impressive art gallery, fine arts museum and kiddie-pleasing zoo, and the industries included steel, petroleum, and automotive manufacturing.  And one once-booming local enterprise that had faded since the '30s had made a big comeback recently.

"You in town about that kidnapping, boss?  the cabbie asked.

-- The Big Bundle by Max Allan Collins, 2003.

Nathan Heller, "private eye to the stars," whose career Collins has chronicled for eighteen novels now (with at least one more to come), from 1983's True Detective to this, his most recent, has been involved with some of the most famous mysteries and crimes of the mid-Twentieth century -- the Chicago mob wars, John Dillinger, Ma Barker and her boys, Frank Nitti, Bugsy Seigel and the founding of modern Las Vegas, the Lindbergh kidnapping, the Harry Oakes murder case, the assassination of Huey Long, the rape and murder of Thalia Massie in Hawaii, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the Roswell UFO sightings, the Black Dahlia murder, the Kefauver Organized Crime Investigation, the death of Marilyn Monroe, the first plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy, as well as the post-JFK assassination outbreak of mysterious deaths involving Warren Commission witnesses, the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg spy case, the Sam Sheperd murder case, and now the child kidnapping and murder of Bobby Greenlease, which leads Heller to Robert Kennedy's investigation of Jimmy Hoffa.  Along the way Heller has rubbed shoulders with Eliot Ness, Clarence Darrow, Orson Welles, Chang Apata, Sally Rand, Jack Ruby, Dorothy Kilgallen, and many others.  The hallmark of all of these stories is meticulous research and a seamless blend of fact and fiction.  The Heller novels are not only well-written, but they are fun.

Collins has won the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America twice for Nate Heller novels.  He's been nominated for the Shamus at least eighteen times (I've lost count), and has been awarded that organization's Lifetime Achievement Award, The Eye.  He has been named a Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America.  He co-founded the Tie-In Writers of America.  He authored the graphic novel The Road to Perdition and its many sequels.  He took over the Dick Tracy comic strip from Chester Gould and was its writer from 1977 to 1992.  He created the hitman Quarry, whose adventures have been translated to television and movie screens.  Working from a vast amount of unfinished manuscripts and notes left by his friend Mickey Spillane, Collins has seamlessly continued Spillane's Mike Hammer saga and other works.  As a champion of Spillane's writing, he has written several books about the author, the most recent being Spillane:  King of Pulps, written with James Traylor -- see below -- (and absolutely recommended by me without reservation).  His detailed research is also evident in two nonfiction books about the career of Eliot Ness.  With his wife, Barbara Collins, he has written the long-running Trash 'n' Treasure series of mysteries.  He has written tie-in novels, computer games, puzzles, trading cards, and art books.  Collins has written and produced independent films and plays.  Oh. and he's a musician who has been inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

No mater where his creative juices have taken him, Collins remains a consummate craftsman and his works are highly recommended.  If you have not read him before, The Big Bundle is a good place to start -- knowledge of the previous books in the series is not required.


  • Lawrence Block, Small Town.  Block's paean to New York City, written shortly after 9-11.  "That was the thing about New York -- if you loved it, it worked for you, it ruined you for anyplace else in the world.  In this dazzlingly constructed novel, Lawrence Block reveals the secret at the heart of the Big Apple.  His glorious metropolis is really a small town, filled with men and women from all walks of life whose aspirations. fears, disappointments, and triumphs are interconnected by bonds as unbreakable as they are unseen.  Pulsating with the lives of its denizens -- bartenders and hookers, power brokers and politicos, cops and secretaries, editors and readers -- the city inspires a passion that is universal yet unique in each of its eight million inhabitants."
  • Walter Brooks, Freddy and the Bean Home News.  The tenth (of twenty-six) books about Freddy the Pig.  "Mean Mrs. Underdunk has gone too far.  First she fires Freddy's friend as editor of her paper, the Centerboro Guardian.  Then she declares that no more news from the Bean farm will be published -- including Freddy's poetry.  So Freddy the Pig and his animal pals decide to take action and print the first animal newspaper, the Bean Home News.  But when Freddy's paper starts to become more popular than the Guardian, strange things start going wrong for the animals, and Freddy discovers that being a newspaperman isn't as easy as it looks!"  I'm lucky that I've never outgrown the Freddy books.  How about you?
  • "K. C. Constantine" (Carl Kosak), Blood Mud.  A Mario Balzic novel.  "Balzic has had a heart attack.  Constantine has a little fun with the private eye novel, and the crime -- a gun-shop break-in -- gives the author a chance to assess the insurance and newspaper businesses, the Mob as antihero, the wars against drugs, and, again, the value of each human life."  Whenever I pick up a Constantine novel, the author's use of language astounds me.
  • Max Allan Collins & James L. Traylor, Spillane:  King of Pulp Fiction.  The first full-length biography of "the most popular author of all time."  "Beginning in 1947 with I, the Jury. Mickey Spillane's crime writing career charted one of the most meteoric rises in modern letters.  The author quickly amassed a readership in the tens of millions, which made him the bestselling novelist in the history of American publishing.  His Mike Hammer private eye novels were rough, violent, and sexually suggestive, which made them a lightning rod for controversy in post-war America.  Scorned by critics and the literary establishment, Spillane's work was nevertheless beloved by readers, and his characters soon spawned film and television adaptations that were as popular and influential as the books on which they were based.  His enormous success changed the course of popular fiction in the decades that followed and inspired scores of imitations.  There is, however, more to the life of Frank Morrison Spillane than his books.  Born in Brooklyn, raised in New Jersey, the young son of a bartender worked as a circus performer and fighter pilot before his writing career took off, and, through writing, he went on to a career as an actor, a crimestopper, and a Miller Lite spokesman in commercials so popular they ran for a quarter of a century.  These stories and more are included in Spillane:  King of Pulp Fiction, the definitive biography of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, written by the author's friend and collaborator, Max Allan Collins, and pulp fiction scholar James L. Traylor."  If there is one nonfiction crime-related book you must read this year, this is it.  Update:  I finished the book late Sunday evening and it is good.  Very good.
  • John Creasey, The Withered Man.  The fourth of six adventures featurng Bruce Murdoch, originally published in England in 1940 as by "Norman Deane."  "Wherever he appears the Nazis strike next.  Sighted in Rotterdam, Oslo, Brussels, Amiens, he is rumored now to be at work in England, contacting potential sympathizers, plotting the seeds of confusion, demoralization, and fear.  Is he an advance agent of the invasion?  Could it be only weeks, perhaps days, away?  Once again Bruce Murdoch and Mary Dell are sent after the Withered Man.  It should have been their wedding day.  But Britain has no time for rejoicing.  John Creasey writes that the mood of this book...recalls that period in England when 'rumors of invasion were commonplace and every morning might prove to be the day when it really happened.' "  As readrs of this blog are well aware, I am a Creasey addict.
  • Warren Ellis, Gun Machine.  The second novel by the comic book legend (Transmetroplitan, Global Frequency, Red, X-Men, Batman, Hellblazer, Moon Knight...the list could go on).  "After a shoot-out claims the life of his partner in a condemned tenement building on Pearl Street, Detective John Tallow unwittingly stumbles across an apartment stacked high with guns.  When examined, each weapon leads to  a different, previously unsolved murder.  Someone has been killing people for twenty years or more and storing the weapons together for an inexplicable purpose.  Confronted with the sudden emergence of hundreds of unsolved homicides, Tallow soon discovers that he's walked in on a  veritable deal with the devil.  An unholy bargain that has made possible the rise of some of Manhattan's most prominent captains of industry.  Now Tallow is searching for a hunter who performs his deadly acts as a sacrifice to the old gods of Manhattan and who may, quite simply, be the most prolific murderer in New York City's history."  In 2020 Ellis was accused of sexual coersion and manipulation by a grouip of women, whose numbers now reach about 100.  Ellis has apologized and said that it was a relationship problem and "not predatory behavior."  He has reached out and, as of last year, was in a mediated dialogue with his accusers and they are "making progress in a guided transformative justice process."  Since the accusations, Ellis has lost some contract work.
  • "Mira Grant" (Seanan McGuire), Blackout.  Science fiction/fantasy novel, the conclusion of the Newsflesh trilogy.  "The World din't end when the zombies came.  We just wished it did.  The conspiracy that rules post-zombie America is alive and well.  The same can't be said of the bloggers who dared to tell the truth as they found it.  Now, with too much left to do and not much time to do it in, Shaun Mason and his team must face mad scientists, zombie bears, and rogue government agencies -- and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this:  Things can only get worse."  The first book in the trilogy, Feed, won a Goodreads award, and was nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and Shirley Jackson Awards;  the second book, Deadline, was nominated for the Goodreads, Hugo, Locus, and Philip K. Dick Awards, while this book has been nominated for a Goodreads and a Hugo Award.  Not to be outdone, Grant later wrote a fourth book in the "trilogy," Feedback.
  • Bentley Little, The Return.  Horror novel.  "Famous for its legend of the Mogolion monster, a legend that no one really believes, Sprngerville suddenly is transformed into a dark and dangerous place after an excavatiopn team unearths three shocking artifacts -- the figurine of a screaming woman, the jawbone of a deformed animal, and a child's toy.'
  • Walter Mosley, Gone Fishin'.  An Easy Rawlins mystery.  "The setting:  Houston 1939.  Easy and Mouse are young men just setting out in life.  Easy has yet to develop his skill for unraveling the secrets of others, and Mouse has yet to kill his first man.  All will soon change.  Although he's frightened that Mouse will know of his earlier liason with EttaMae, nineteen-year-old Easy agrees to  drive his friend to Pariah, Texas.  Traveling in a 1936 Ford Mouse has "borrowed,"  the two begin a journey to retrieve money from Mouse's stepfather, daddyReese -- money the volatile Mouse wants to use to begin his marriage to EttaMae.  They are soon engulfed in a shrouded bayou world of voodoo, sex, revenge, and death that changes their lives and entwines their destinies."  
  • Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish.  Fantasy novel, the first featuring Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher.  "Geralt is a Witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long traininig and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin.  Yet he is no ordinary murderer:  his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.  But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good...and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth."  Translated from the Polish by Danusia Stok.  I have not seen the television series yet.  Should I?

Yo-Yo Ma:  Because I bring you the good stuff, here's a seven-year-old Yo-Yo Ma playng for presidents John  F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower at "an American Pageant for the Arts" on November 29, 1962.  He is accompanied by his older sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma, performing Jean-Baptiste Bravel's "Concertino Numer 3 in A Major.."  The pair are introduced by Leonard Bernstein.

Continuing With the Good Stuff:  Here's six and a minutes of baby pandas!

Cooper Union:  Abraham Lincoln was not considered a serious candidate for president at the beginning of 1860.  That all changed 163 years ago today because of a speech he made on a snowy night in front of some 1500 people at the new Cooper Union building in lower Manhattan.

The Republican Party was scheduled to name its presidential nominee in mid-May.  The leading -- almost presumptive -- contender for the nomination was New York Senator William Henry Seward, a former state senator and governor who held extreme abolitionist views.  In addition to his outspoken anti-slavery attitude, Seward had several other political negatives at the time --he had stated that there was a higher law than that of the Constitution, and he favored immigration and was not anti-Catholic.  A former member of the Anti-Mason and the whigh Parties, Seward had the strong support of the powerful political boss Thurlow Weed.  Weed also had his negatives, however, was opposed by a block of prominent Republicans such as William Cullen Bryant, Horace Greeley, and Hamilton Fish.  Seward's main opponents for the nomination were the anti-slavery leader Frank Blair and noted abolitionist Cassius Clay.

And then there was Abraham Lincoln, a political neophyte who had made a remarkable impression in the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.  And lost.  Lincoln continued to make political speeches, which were always well-received.  But Lincoln remained a lightweight; the general concensus was that he was "not prepared for presidential purposes."  The major Republican candidates fascing Seward -- Blair, and Clay --were scheduled to address the Young Men's Central Republican Union of New York on February 27, 1860; the organizers were hoping that something would happen there to help deter Seward's nomination.  The event was to have been held at Henry Ward Beecher's Brooklyn /Church, but the venue was changed at the last minute to the newly-built Cooper's Union building.  Lincoln was added to the program because the organizers felt they had to have someone as a contrast to Blair and Clay.

Lincoln, whoi had assiduously avoided declaring his presidential ambitions, took the invitation seriously and spent months researching and writing his speech.  "His primary source had been the six-volume* Debates on the Federal Constitution by [Jonathan] Elliott.  He also consulted the official record of the proceeding of Congress, The Congressional Globe, American history books, and other sources."  (* This was actually a five-volume work; the quote may be in error, or Lincoln may have consulted a lesser-known edition.)

Lincoln's address was in three main sections:  the first showed that the majority of the signers of the Constitution felt that slavery could be prohibited in national territories (as opposed to states); the second allayed the fears of Southern Republicans -- the party was not going to threaten s;lavery where it already existed; and the third was a plea to Northern Republicans to exclude slavery in the country's territories.  (Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which "freed" all slaves held in the Confederate states, in effect, emancipated those slaves who had escaped from the South; the Confederate States of America, deeming it self a legitimate entity, felt this edict had no standing within its borders.)

Lincoln ended his address with these words:  "Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor firghtened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves.  Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

It was a powerful speech and the response was overwhelming.  Four New York papers printed the speech in its entirity, as did newspapers in Chicago, Detroit, and Albany.  For his part, Seward realized that, as a practical and political matter, he had to moderate his tone.  Two days later, he gave a major speech that said the Republican's only goal was to limit slavery from entering the territories, adding that Southern sentiment had misconstrued Republican intent.  Seward went to to condemn the actions of John Brown.  He carefully avoided the words "free" and "slave," speaking instead of "capital States" and "labor States."  Seward's speech, also widely reprinted, helped to shore up his support with the Republican establishment.  Lincoln's speech, however, was more candid, more intellectual, better researched, more positive, and did not gloss over the moral issues of slavery.  Lincoln soon found himself invited to speak at a number of New England venues. which enhanced his reputation and made him a viable candidate for the Republican nomination.

When  the convention was held in Chicago, beginning May15, the first round of voting had Seward with 173 votes, Lincoln with 102, with the raminaing votes scattered among lesser candiadtes and favorite sons.  The second ballot had large numbers switch to Lincoln, including many Seward had thought would be his.  The second ballot ended with Seward having 184 and one-half vores, Lincoln with 181 -- both far too short of the number needed for nomination.  The third ballot showed Sewall with 180 votes and Lincoln with 231 and one-half -- just one and one-half votes shy of the magic number.  Before the results of the third ballot were announced, however, the Ohio delegation rose to shift four additional votes to Lincoln; this was followed by additional vote shifts to Lincoln, culminating in a motion from the New York delegation that the nomination be made unanimous.  And it was so.

Although Seward was devastated by the loss and resented Lincoln beitterly, he campaigned strongly for Lincoln and his influence helped propel Linolcn's election.  The two differed on a number of issues,  but Seward accepted the offer of beconing Lincoln's Secretary of State. and worked hard in that position to prevent foreign powers from influencing the outcome of the Civil War.  The two rivals eventually grew to respect each other and became close personal and political friends.  

Seward was servely injured in the assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln when conspirator Lewis Powell stabbed him in the face and neck five times.  At first thought dead, Seward recovered from his wounds.  Seward continued to serve as Secretary of State through Andrew Johnson's presidency.  Much of his time during Johnson's administration was spent dealing with political turmoil in Mexico and with arranging the purchase of the Alaskan territories from Russia -- Seward's Folly.  He retireed to travel and write.  He died on October 10, 1872, after complaining of having trouble breathing.  When asked if he had any final words, he reportedly said, "Love one another."  A line of mourners passed his open casket for four hours.  Harriet Tubman sent flowers.

Speaking of Which:  Here's the Harriet Tubman mural at St. Alban's Episcople Church:

The Tower of Pisa:  Also on this date, in 1964, the government of Italy asked for aid in preventing its famed tower of Pisa from falling over.  Construction on the tower had begun in 1173, but by 1178 the tower began to sink during construction on its second floor.  Construction was halted for almost a century due to various political affairs and continuous wars with neighboring republics.  This "breathing space"  allowed the soil to settle and construction began once again at the end of 1233.  Construction coninuted on and off and, by 1272, engineers built one side of the upper floors taller than the other, giving the town a curved appearance.  The seventh floor was completed in 1339.  A bell chamber was added in 1372.  The largest of the seven bells in the tower was installed in 1655.

Over the centuries efforts have been made to restore the tower to its verticle, or at least to prevent it from leaning any further.  Italy's 1964 plea went unheeded because of the importance of the "leaning" tower on tourism.  The tower was strengthened somewhat in 1993 when 870 tonnes of lead counterweight were added.  By then the tower had been closed for three years, following two decades of structural studies.  The tower's tilt was reduced by 17 and one-half inches, bringing it back to its 1838 position.  By 2011, the tower was reopened and declared stable for at least another 300 years -- that numbered was revised downward to 200 years in 2008 when engineers announce that the tower had stopped moving for the first time in its history.

In an area that can be prone to earthquakes, it is notable that the conditions of the soil around the tower allow the structure not to resonate with earthquake ground motion.  The very soil that caused the tower to lean is the same soil that now protects it froim earthquakes.

Quality of Mercy:  It's the birthday of Ellen Terry (1847-1928), one of the greatest actresses of the British stage.  In 1878 she joined Henry Irving's stage company as its led actress, becoming Endgland's preeminent Shakespearan and comic actress for the next two decades.  Here is a rare recording of her performing Shakespeare's "Quality of Mercy" speech given by Portia in The Merchant of Venice:

No Brainer Day:  It's official.  This is the day to stop overthnking your problems, to keep things simple and not to fret.  Let Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band show you how to do it:

International Polar Bear Day:  Here's a short produced by Ridley Scott for Coca Cola and their campaign for polar bear protection.  Enjoy.

Ouch:  I once had a bad haircut on Stockholm, making parting such Swede sorrow.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man David Sherman Powelson, 64, of Lee County, faces up to 30 years in jail and possibly thousands of dollars in fines on one count of first-degree aggravated felony battery after dumping two cups of water on his brother's head after an argument over a slice of key lime pie.  Powelson told told police that he had poured the water on his older brother to "cool him down."
  • Some Florida Men are tough, like Paul Broadhurst of East Orlando, who punched a bobcat in the face to save his 11-year-old daughter's dog, Koda.  The dog was uninjured, Braodchurch was left with scratches, and the defeated bobcat headed quickly for the bushes.  The Broadhurst home is next to a conservation area, and residents have been advised to walk with a large stick to fend off any possible animal attacks.  But who needs sticks when you have your fists?
  • Florida Man David Gay is suing the sheriff of Brevard County for repeatedly accusng him of being a fugitive in social media videos created to resemble television's Wheel of Fortune show -- Sheriff Wayne Ivey's so-called "Wheel of Fugitives." The Wheel contains photos and names of those Ivey considers to be the county's "ten most wanted fugitives."   Gay manintains that, at the time of each of the three showings, he was not a fugitive -- he was either in jail on misdemeanor charges, or had been released on probation.  Gay said that because of the videos, he had lost his job, had been defamed, and had suffered depression and anxiety.    According to Gay's lawsuit, he had received a three-year sentence of probation "without adjudication" for an undisclosed charge in 2020.  The "without adjudication" clause means that he was never officially convicted of any crime.  Gay was then chageed with domestic battery in 2021 when he thought his father was beating his mother; those charges were dismissed -- but because they had been filed against him, Gay was technically in violation of his probation and was jailed, where he was the final time he appeared on the Wheel of Fugitives.
  • 60-year-old Florida Man Jonathan Ghertler of Orlando has been charged with wire fraud, aggravated identify theft, and making false statements in an investigation involving deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein.  According to a criminal complaint that was unsealed last week, Ghertler posed as a general counsel and as another senior-level excutive at two Manhattan financial firms, directing personnel to pay for false investigations as to whether those firms had ties with Epstein.  Ghertler also posed as the partner of an international law firm while being interviewed by federal authorities about the case.  (Gherlter had been charged in 2001 for posing as a partner in six of the largest U.S. law firms and defrauding them of over $1 million, while also trying to convince federal authorities to drop their investigations into his involvement; for those crimes he had been sentenced to 71 months in jail.)  But Jeffrey Epstein -- Harvey Weinstein, he's just the gift that keeps on giving...
  • Four Floride Men were arrested earlier this month on charges relating to the July 7, 2021 assasination of Haitian President Jovenal Moise.  Arrested were Arcangel Petrol Ortiz, 50, a Columbian national and permanent US resident of Miami, Antonio Intriago, 59, a Venezuelan American, Walter Veintemilla, 54, an Ecuadorian American of Weston, and Frederick Bergmann, 64, of Tampa.  Immediately after the arrest, a grand jury returned a superceding document, includin the four with seven others who had previously been charged in the U.S. for their alleged roles in the plot.  Haiti, as you may know, is now largely controlled by gangs and has gone to Hell in a handbasket.  Is anyone surprised that Florida Men have been accused of contributing to the situation?

Good News:
  • He didn't learn to read or write until his late teens; now he's Cambridge University's youngest Black professor
  • World's largest dance marathon breks a record and raises $15 million for childhood cancer program
  • He survived a month ar sea eating only ketchup, now Heintz wants to buy him a boat
  • Doctors continued CPR on toddler with no pulse for three hours and managed to revive him
  • Couple stunned to find a childhood letter written in 1955 by King Charles to his "Granny," the Queen Mother
  • On World Cancer Day, this French football star scored his first goal since beating cancer

Today's Poem:
Time for change

Today the sun will rise,
and we shall be shadows,
short and fat, lean and tall,
it will not matter.
There will be work and play,
eating and sleeping, and love and hate,
and happiness and grief,
because there always is.
But it could be the day
the sun turns round,
the day the world begins
to spin another way,
the day a voice is heard,
and shadows merge,
and make the
nonsense stop.
It's in our hands.

-- Sharon Webster

This past Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine

Sunday, February 26, 2023


 From 1937, The Moore Spiritual Singers.

Friday, February 24, 2023


 In the beginning it was New Comics, beginning in December 1935, and the second comic book series (after New Fun, later More Fun Comics;the company's third title, Detective Comics, appeared with a cover date of March 1937)) pubished by National Allied Publications, which would soon morph into DC Comics.  With issue #12 (January 1937) the title would change to New Adventure Comics, and would finally become Adventure Comics in November 1938 with issue # 32.  (National Allied Publications was founded by pulp writer and entrepeneur Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, whose comics books were the first ot contain all original material, rather than items recycled from newspaper strips.

New Comics began as a humor magazine, but as it changed into New Adventure Comics it added a number of adventure strips, mainly short stories that were contuned from issue to issue, thus insuring (hopefully) a consistent readership.  Wheelwe-Nicholson was able to pack a lot into the magazines 68 pages.

From issue #15:

  • "Captain Jim of the Texas Rangers" by F L Fleming.  A 3-page continued western adventure.
  • "Chikko Chakko" by Ellis Edwards.  A 2-page humor story.
  • "Just for Fun" by Alger.  A 1-page humor story.
  • An untitled half-page humor story.
  • "Jungle Fever" by Win.  a 4-pge continued adventure story; this chapter dealing with a mutiny at sea.
  • "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Merna Gamble.  Just 2 pages -- ou know this story will be continued forever.
  • "The Adventures of Steve Conrad" by Fless.  A mysterious man rises from the sea to murder the ship's mate and bos'n; at the end of this chapter, Steve is overboard as the ship sails away, but Myra jumps in to (hopefully) save him.  4 pages.
  • "Worth-While Pictures to Watch for" by I. W. Magovern.  A 1-page text article about western movies.
  • "Straight from Hollywood" by Laidlaw.  1-page filler about Hollywood actors.
  • "Captain Quick" by Sven Elven.  4-page continued adventure story about Sir Kendell Quick, newly knoighted by Queen Elizabeth.
  • "Andy Handy, A Man of Action But Few Words" by Leo E. O'Mealia.  2-page humor story.
  • "Abou Ben Adhem" by Leigh Hunt.  An illustrated poem.
  • "The Monastery of the Blue God" by Malcolom Wheeler-Nicholson.  A 4-page continued mystery/adventure story.
  • "Laffing at Life"  2-page humor filler.
  • "Hardluck Harry" by William Carney.  Continued humor story.  2 pages.
  • "She" by H. Rider Haggard, illustrated by Sven Elven.  4 pages of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.  a continued story, naturally.
  • "Ol' Oz Bopp" by Alger.  2-page humore story.
  • "The Vikings" by Anthony.  Viking vs. Druids, oh my.  A 2-page continued adventure.
  • "International Good Neighbor Club"  2-page text article about the comic book's Good Neightbor Club; includes an application you can send in.
  • "The Golden Dragon" by Tom Hickey.  4-page continued oriental adventure.
  • "Don Coyote"  2-page continued humor story.
  • "Sandor and the Lost Civilization" by Homer Somebody (I can't make out the name).  4-page continued Middle East?-Jungle?-Desert? adventure story.
  • "Goofo the Great" by Alger.  Another 1-page humor story.
  • "Dizzies" Humor filler. (Sharing a page with an ad for a harmoic instruction book.)
  • "Detective Sergeant Carey of the Chinatown Squad"  2-page continued crime adventure.
  • "Slim and Tex" by Alex Lory.  3-page continiued modern western adventure.
  • "It's a Dern Lie"  In which readers are asked to send in their own tall tales; in this issue it's by Marion W. Clayton of Moncton, New Brunswick -- she tells of making a cake so light that it floated away.
Phew!  That's a lot for one little magazine!  You must remember that original content comic books were in their infancy back then.  The writing and the artwork could be splotchy -- although some were quite good.  I'd get irritated at all the continued stories, which may say something about my attention span (or lack thereof).  And as for the humor stories...well, I think funny bones were made differently back the.

A lot of comioc book history would be made with this title.  An earlier issue (#12) introduced Jor-el, who would be used by Siegal and Shuster just over a year later as Supermna's father.  Later issues would introduce such characters as Sandman, Hourman, Starman, and Manhunter, while other comic books heroes such as Superboy, Green Lantern, and Aquaman would move over from other comic books to become regulars in Adventure Comics.

Enjoy this early look.

Thursday, February 23, 2023


 The Invitation  (The Books of Magic #1) by Carla Jablonski (2003)

If you are a DC Comics freak, this is a book for you.  The Books of Magic began as a four-issue comic book written by Neil Gaiman to bring together a number of DC's magical/mystical characters, including the Phantom Stranger, John Constantine, Doctor Occult, and Mister E.  Along the way, Gaiman also brought in Merlin, Zantanna, Doctor Thirteen, Madame Xanadu, Death, and Destiny, and a host of other characters -- and made the entire Books of Magic mini-series a subset of Gaiman's The Dreaming, the world of Gaiman's Sandman.

The Books of Magic proved popular enough that DC turned it into an on-going series in its Vertigo line of comics, adding a number of cross-overs and other titles to the main sequence.  Although Gaiman was placed as a "creative consultant" to the series, when he made comments on the scripts he was told that it was too late to change anything.  After issue #50 Gaiman quite the series for which he was being paid $200 an issue to be its creative non-consultant.

In 2003, DC hired Carla Jablonski to write a six-book young adult series based on the comics.  The first of these, The Invitation, adapted Gainman's original four-issue series.  The following five books were based on various story arcs from later in the series.

The Invitation introduces the main character, a thirteen-year-old boy named Tim Hunter, who (we learn) has the potential to become the greatest magician of them all.  Tim is a geeky kid with geeky kid glasses and a habit of being picked upon by school bullies.  He is an only child, living in East London with his father, who had lost an arm and the will to do anything except sit in front of the television, watching old black-and-white movies and drinking beer after Tim's mother was killed in a car crash three years earlier.  Tim's best friend is Molly, whom he previously thought of as a pest but is now becoming attracted to as adolesccnce rears its head.

Four of the most powerful mystical characters in the DC Universe have decided to join together to aid Tim in deciding whether he will embrace or reject his destiny in becoming the world's most powerful. magician.  They are the Trenchcoat Brigade:  The Phantom Stranger -- an occult superhero of unknown origin who battles occult forces (but usually serves as a back-up character to many in the DC Universe), Jophn Constantine -- a cynical, working-class warlock, Doctor Occult -- an occult detective and private eye who (in this book, at least) can change his sex when he enters other realms, and Mister E -- a psychotic fanatic who seeks out and fights what he perceives to be evil.  (Mister E had his eyes torn out in childhood with a spoon by his father.  In The Books of Magic, Gaiman played fast and loose with the character of Mister E, and it has been Gaiman's version of the character that has been part of the DC Universe ever since.)

To convince Tim that magic is real, The Phantom Stranger transforms Tim's plastic yo-yo into a live owl, named (naturally) Yo-yo, who then joins Tim on his adventures.  Each member of the Trenchcoat Brigade takes Tim on a journey, echoing perhaps Scrooge's journeys with the ghosts in the Dcikens' tale.  The Phantom Stranger takes Tim into the far past to Atlantis, then to the not-as-far past to meet a young Merlin, and finally to the Dark Ages where witches are tortured and burned at the stake.  Magic, it seems, exists only for those who want it to exist and as more poeple believe in science, magic dies off.

John Constantine takes Tim to meet others who practice magic, including Madame Xanadu (who gives a cryptic tarot reading for Tim) and Zatanna (the magical showgirl who casts spells by talking in reverse), as well as Doctor Thirteen (who debunks all magic).  Tim learns that he is targeted for death (or worse) by the Cult of the Cold Flame, who fear his potential power.

Doctor Occult takes Tim into the land of Faerie.  (On entering this land, Occult takes a female form, whom Tim labels "Rose.")  There Tim must follow the rules strictly or he will suffer dire consequences, not the least of which is being trapped forever in that land.  They enter a fairy market and meet all sorts of creatures who want to enslave him.  Lured to stray from the path, Tim falls prey to Baba Yaga (the old witch with the walking house), who wants Tim for her supper.  Escaping from there, Tim meets the Queen Titiana, who tries to trick Tim into becoming her page for eternity.  After returning to London, Tim has only vague memories of his time in Faerie, but realizes that true magic has consequences.

Finally, Mister E takes Tim into the future, or, at least, one future where magic is defeated by science and among its victims are John Constantine and Zatanna.  They then move further into the future, so far that none of the other members of the Trenchcoat Brigade can follow them.  In fact, they have travelled to the End of Time, where they meet Gaiman's Sandman characters Death and Destiny.  There, Mister E attempts to kill Tim, only to be stopped by Death.  Since there is no longer a future, Destiny dies.  Death sends Tim back to his own time in England, but curses Mister E to return by walking backwards through time on foot.

When the three remaining members of the Trenchcoat Brigade ask Tim whether he has decided to take up the mantle of a magician, Tim opts out, and heads back to his East London housing estate.   Because there are five more novels in the series, it's NOT A SPOILER to point out that Tim's decision has no effect on his fate.

The remaining novels in the series are Bindings (2005), The Children's Crusade (2003), Consequences (2004), Lost Places (2004), and Reckonings (2004).

I was never a big DC fan, or, more accurately,  a fan of DC's major characters --- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Green Arrow, and so on (well, I have actually warmed to Batman in my dotage, but the others...meh), but the minor characters that DC had popping in and out of various titles were a completely different story.  These characters could be squirrelly and I really liked that.  And I really like The Books of Magic (I've only read Gaiman's original four-issue series) and I really like Jablonski's take in The Invitation.  If there's a thirteen-year-old geeky kid lurking inside you, you could do much worse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


 "No job too tough, no adventure too baffling."  Jack, Doc, and Reggie find advenuture wherever they go.  This time it's in the jungles of Central America with a seven-year-old stowaway named Hermie, and the "Temple of Vampires."

This is evidently a remake of an early episode of Carleton E. Morse's I Love a Mystery that first ran on  January 1940.  Russell Thornsen plays Jack Packard, while Jim Boles is Doc Long, and Tony Randall is Reggie York.  Mercedes McCambridge is Sunny.

All twenty fifteen-minute episodes are at the link.


Tuesday, February 21, 2023


 "The Cat's Pajamas" by Ray Bradbury (from his collection The Cat's Pajamas, 2004)

I've mentioned before that I can only take Ray Bradbiry's stories in small doses.  They tand to be overblown, maudlin, and sometimes plotless, relying on emotion and (oftimes) on an allegiance to a past that may have never been.  Although some of his stories can be dark -- almost grand guiignol in nature -- Ray Bradbury remains the poet laureate of sunshine, rainbows, and -- if not lollipops -- at least of dandelion wine.   His stories are slight -- any depth to them can often be found only within the reader himself, or herself.


But they work,  And they work well in ways that I cannot explain.  I won'r even try.

The Cat's Pajamas is mainly a collection of trunk stories, written between 1946 and 2003.  The title tale is a piece of froth about two lonely people who find companionship in cats.  She (not so oddly) is named Catherine; he (also not so oddly) is named Tom.  They meet on a dark highway at night when each spot a small stray kitten in the middle of the road.  Each stop their cars and rush toward the animal, reaching it at the same time, and both grabbing it.  Catherine had just lost her cat last Friday; he had lost his on Monday.  Both are mourning their loses, each desperate for a replacement cat.  They argue over who deserves the cat more -- each putting forward a very good case.  To avoid being hit by traffic, they take the cat to a nearby diner.  When that closes, they take it to a hotel.  It's interesting that neither have bothered to check the sex of the animal, although in Catherine's mind she has given it an androgynous name.  The cat settles in the middle of the hotel bed and falls asleep.  Finally, Tom and Catheirne decide to spend the night -- fully clothed; each sleeping on one side of the kitten.  Whichever person the kitten is drawn to in the night will get the cat.

Any visitor who might be orbiting the Earth, squinting down in the dark at this story could tell you how it will end.  This is a story that deals with animal lovers, and a story of people who sublimate emotions of closeness on to their animals.  

Bradbury himself was a cat lover.  He was often photographed in his office with a cat on his lap.

A very slight tale, told completely unrealistically, but having at its core a solid foundation of human frailty.

Monday, February 20, 2023


     Having posted a Tex Ritter western (Sing, Cowboy, Sing) on the blog yesterday, I'd thought I'd continue with the singing cowboy today with what some consider to be his best film -- admitedly not a high bar.  Song of the Gringo has Tex investigating the death of some miners whose mines were then confiscated.  The bad guy is a hombre named Evans (Ted Adams) who wants to marry Lolita Valle(Joan Woodbury) so, with typical bad guy logic, he starts killing off the miners who had been financed by father (Martin Garralaga).  Tex is framed for murder and must stand trial, yet he managed to sing his way to a satifying conclusion.  This was Tex Ritter's first feature; he ws lured from the Grand ol' Opry when the studio decided they needed a singing cowboy.  It was a wise decision.

Also featured in Song of the Gringo are Fuzzy Knight, Monte Blue, Al Jennings, and Tex's horse White Flash.

The film was a remake of the 1930 oater Oklahoma Cyclone.  It was directed by veteran western director John P. McCarthy, who had also directed the original.  The screenplay was by McCarthy, Robert Emmett Tansey, and Al Jennings.  Jose Pacheco and His Continental Orchestra provided the fiesta music in what appears to be their only credited film role.


Sunday, February 19, 2023


Openers:   November 15, 1906

    "Where is it?"  Theodore Roosevelt asked John Stevens as the two men shook hands.  Amador, Shonts, and the rest of the welcoming party had already been greeted and dismissed by the President, left to wonder what had become of Roosevelt's trademark grandiosity.

Fatigue from his journey, they later assumed.

They were wrong.

The twenty-sixth President of the United States was far from tired.  Since Stevens's wire a month previous, Roosevelt had been electrified with worry.

The canal project had been a tricky one from the onset -- the whole Nicaraguan episode, the Panamanian revolution, the constant bickering in Congress -- but nothing in his personal or political past had prepared him for this developement.  After five days aboard the battleship Louisiana, his wife, Edith, sick and miserable, Roosevelt's nerves had become so tightly stretched they could be plucked and played like a mandolin.

"You want to see it now?" Stevens asked, wiping the rain from a walrus mustache that rivaled the President's.  "Surely you want to rest from your journey."

\"Rest is for the weak, John.  I have much to accomplish on this visit.  But first things first.  I must see the discovery."

-- J. A. Konrath, Origiin (2009)

The discovery, uncovered from eighty feet below the ground by Spanish laborers at Roosevelt's canal, was a large cylindrical "coffin," painstakingly symmetrical, and of both unknown origin and material.  Inside the coffin was a body lying in suspended aniomation.  The body was that of a devil -- huge, winged, with large hooves and long sharp talons.  The coffin and the body were to become America's greatest secret, to be revealed on pain of death.

Since 1906, the body had been kept in an underground bunker in the Nevada desert.  Over the years, the bunker had been expanded and electrified  to hold over 75,000 square feet of  comfotable living quarters, recreational facilities, and a highly sophisticated laboratory.  But since 1906 only 48 people have entered the bunker known as Samhain.  Those who enter, stay -- as much a prisoner as the creature the bunker was created for.  And for over a century, scientists have studied and experimented on the creature, unable to draw any conclusions about what it is or where it came from.  Now, within the past week, the thing awoke...

J. A. Konrath (b. 1970) is the best-selling author of many mystery, thriller, and horror novels and short stories.  He is an outspoken expert, as well as a pioneer, in the self-publishing field, stressing the need for self-promotion.  (He was the subject of come controversy a few years back when it was revealed that he "ghosted" a number of reviews on his books to help increase sales.)  His series of detective novels about police Lieutenant Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels are highly entertaining reads.  Origin is a readable, but ultimately flawed, thriller, showing both a sense of pacing as well as a lack of clear character development.  Still, it's worth a look, as are all of his novels that I have read. 

Incoming:  Dammit.  I'm supposed to reducing the number of books I have, but that ol' devil Temptation keeps popping up!

  • Todhunter Ballard, Gold in California!  Western novel, winner of the Spur Award for Best Historical Novel.  "GOLD FEVER.  Some called it madness, some a fantasy.  Yet the promise of untold wealth drew people west like bees to honey.  GOLD TRAIL.  Determined to strike the mother lode, young Austin Garner and his family set out to cross the untamed American continent.  The going was brutal -- nearly three thousand miles of desert, disease, and death -- and without extraordinary strength and courage the pioneers would surely have perished.  GOLD COAST.  But California was the greatest challenge of all:  a sprawling, unforgiving land full of scoundrels and scaliwags, claim jumpers and con men, failures and fortunes.  Yer Garner and his kin were ready to sacrifice life and love to realize their dream of GOLD IN CALIFORNIA!"
  • Iain M.Banks, The Algebraist.  Science fiction.  "The time is 4034 A.D.  Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he make it to the end of the year.  The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilization.  In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living in a state of highly developed barbarism, hoarding data without order, hunting their own young and fighting pointless formal wars.  Seconded to a military-religious order he's barely heard of -- part of the baroque hierarchy of the Mercatoria, the latest galactic hegenomy -- Fassin Taak has to travel again amongst the Dwellers.  He is in search of a secret hidden for half a billion years.  But with each day that passes a war draws closer -- a war that threatens to overwhelm everything and everyone he's ever known.  As complex, turbulent, flamboyant and spectacular as the gas giant on which it is set, the new science fiction novel from Iain M. Banks is space opera on a truly epic scale."  Selected as the #1 Science Fiction/Fantasy Book of 2006 by the ediotors of; short-listed for the  Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
  • Kyril Bonfiglioli, The Mordecai Trilogy.  Omnibus of three crime novels: Don't Point That Thing at Me, After You with the Pistol, and Something Nasty in the Woodshed.  "Meet the Hon. Charlie Mordecai:  degenerate aristocrat, amoral art dealer, seasoned epicurean, unwilling assassin, and knave about Piccadilly.  With his thuggish manservant Jack, he endures all manner of nastiness involving secret police, angry foreign governments, stolen paintings and dead clients, all just to make a dishonest living.  However, the real flies in his ointment -- the ones carrying the Lugers -- are the unsavory people who keep trying to kill him..."  The character was played by Johnny Depp in a self-titled film, but the flick was universally panned, so I deliberately missed it.  The books, however, have had pretty good reviews.
  • Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross , The Rapture of the Nerds.  "Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids.  For the most part, they are happy with their lot.  Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun.  The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar system has largely sworn off its pre-posthuman cousins dirtside, but the minds sometimes wander...and when that happens, it casually spams Earth's networks with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems.  A sane species would ignore these get-involve-quick schemes, but there's always someone who'll take a bite from the forbidden apple.  So until the overminds bore of stirring Earth's anthill, there's tech jury service:  random humans, selected arbitrarily, charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether to let them loose.  Young How, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors."
  • Ben Elliott, Brother Badman.  One half of an ACE western double.  "The kid had a lightning draw -- and his eye was on his own brother!"  Bound with Harry Whittington, Valley of Savage Men.  "Dushane was the name, Hayes Dushane, and men flinched when they heard it.  His brother Will, the U.S. marshal, was dead and buried, and every man, woman and child in Goodrich's town knew it was a case of cold-blooded murdr, right between the shoulder blades.  Hayes Dushane knew iut, too...but nobody in town woud talk to him about it; they were all too scared.  Dushane meant to get his proof, and he didn't care what he had to do to find it.  There was vengeance in his heart, deadly purpose in his trigger-finger, and anyone who crossed him wouldn't have breath in him long enough to say his final prayers."  I picked this one ujp for the Whittington.
  • John Farris, The Fury and the Terror.  Horror novel.  "The United States is beseiged by terrorists -- terrorists who work from within the White House itself.  Their weapon of choice is a type of mind control not even dreamed of years ago.  Eden Waring, star athlete and valedictorian, is about to address fellow graduates and family members in the school's stadium when she is overwhelmed by a terrible premonition:  a DC-10 is about to crash at the ceremony site.  From that moment on, her life is forever changed.  On the run, pursued by a powerful covert agency and married to a man she can no longer trust, Waring must use her full psychic potential to save the lives of millions of Americans while she tracks down a complex plot that leads to the Oval Office itself.:"  A sequel to Farris's best-selling novel, The Fury
  • "J. M. Flynn" (Jay Flynn),  The Screaming Cargo.  One half of an Ace mystery double.  "The man had two names, two lives, and too much danger.  On one hand, he was Sean Bard, gambler and owner of the Las Vegas casino Bard's Place, and of the luscious violet-eyed Kitty.  The flip side made him out to be Sam Bakkan, a flying bum who had been around most of the bad places, doing mostly bad things.  And then there was the side no one knew -- the top secret personality sent to track down and nab whoever was kidnapping Mexican infants for illegal adoption in the U.S.  So many sides and only one gun to protect themall."  Any book with a lucious woman named Kitty is okay with me.  Bound with James A. Howard, The Bullet-Proof MMartyr.  From the Chicsgo Tribune:  "James A. Howard deserves a prize for a fine murder story and a blood-chilling portrait of a demagogue. His Paul Kenneth Kane, flag-waving head of a clan of 'kinsmen,' is unspeakably evil; Kane's press agent, a newspaper man who literally has sold his soul to the devil Kane, is a horrifying.sometimes pitiable human complex of cynicism and self-loathing.  Howard writes powerfully; his book proceeds steadily to a shattering climax and is impossible to put down."
  •  "George G. Gilman"  (Terry Harknett) - Edge #1:  The Loner, #11:  Sioux Uprising, #14:  Tiger's Gold, and #31:  The Guilty Ones.  Cult men's western adventure series, courtesy of one of the most successful "Piccadilly Cowboys."  Harknett wrote almost 200 novels, mainly in the western and crime genres.  As "Gilman," he authored 61 volumes in the Edge (plus three cross-over novels with his other main series character, Adam Steele)The Edge books were characterized by his US publisher as "The Most Violent Westerns in Print," glossing over the fact that the books are prime examples of sardonic and sarcastic humor.  (Most of the novels end with an atrocious pun.)   The Loner tells how the meanest, most vicious man you will ever met transforms fro someone named Josiah Hedges to become Edge.  Sioux Uprising takes us to Dakota, where Edge's wife is brutally murdered and their farm destroyed by Sioux -- meaning it's revenge time!  Tiger's Gold has Edge meet up with a down-at-the-heels carny who has a million-dollar gold bar and two huge, trained tigers.  In The Guilty Ones Edge joins up with a Scottish couple traveling with four empty coffins, in search of four unmarked graves.  Despite the violence, this series is great fun.
  • Frank Gruber, The Big Land.  Western.  "Morgan wanted to be a lawyer; Jagger just wanted to get rich.  They bought a piece of bare Kansas ground for two bottles of raw whiskey and a twenty-dollar gold piece, stuck up a couple of shacks, and called it Pawnee City.  But Morgan and Jagger had different ideas on how to run their town -- and only one of them could live to have his way."  I enjoy Gruber's westerns as much as I do his mysteries.
  • J. A. Konrath, The List.  A "techno-conspiracy" thriller.  "They are ten strangers with one thing in common:  a mysterious tattoo on the bottom of their feet.  None of them knew how it got there or what it means.  One of them is a homicide cop determined to find out.  All of them are markd for deth -- because they're next on...THE LIST."  As I mentioned above, Konrath is worth reading.  I just wish he would spend a little more time fleshing out his final copy.
  • William Kotzwinkle, A Game of Thirty.  PI novel.  "Streetwise PI Jimmy McShane has seen planty, but he's never seen anything like the murder of Tommy Rnnseler.  A wealthy antiques dealer with a passion for Egyptian artifacts, Rennseler was killed like an ancient Egyptian:  injected with cobra venom and ritually disembowelled.  When he's hired by the dead man's daughter, McShane realizes quickly that he's never seen anything like Temple Rennseler, either.  She's beautiful, exotic and -- perhaps -- extremely dangerous,  She's also obsessed with the Game of Thirty, a centuries-old form of chess that -- perhaps -- foretells the future.  The more enmeshed he gets with Temple, the more McShane succumbs to the lure of the Game.  But just what game is Temple playing?  And who killed Tommy Rennseler?"  Kotzwinkle is suii generis -- he's the man who gave us Doctor Rat, the novelization of the film E.T., the adventures of Walter, the Farting Dog, and so much more.
  • W. W. Lee, Cannon's Revenge.  Western. "Harold Dane was one of the most respected men in Deadwood, Colorado, but as a newspaperman he had made a few enemies along the way.  There had even been the occasional threat, although usually they were forgotten when the irate citizen had a chance to calm down.  Stu Cannon had a grudge against Dane and had walked right into Dane's office and threatened him after being released from jail.  A few month's later Dane's two-year-old daughter suddenly went missing.  Cannon had not been seen since the child's disappearance.  There ws no doubt in Dane's mind that Cannon had abducted her, but knowing who took Hannah did no good unless they could find her before it was too late."  The author is Wendi Lee.
  • George Mann, Ghosts of Empire.  Steampunk pulp hero novel set in the 1920s, the fourth in the series.  ""In the aftermath of the events surrounding the Circle of Thoth, and with the political climate easing, Gabriel takes Ginny to London on holiday to recuperate.  But he isn't counting on sinister Russian forces gathering in the London Undground, an old ally who desperately needs his help, or coming face-to-face with the embodiment of Albion itself...The Ghost finds himself caught in a battle between dangerous occultists and ancient pagan powers, with the fate of the British Empire itself at stake."  How can you not like this?
  • George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, & Daniel Abraham, Hunter's Run.  Science fiction.  ""Running from poverty and hopelessness, Ramon Espejo boarded one of the great starships of the mysterious, repulsive Enye.  But the new life he found on the far-off planet of Sao Paolo was no better than the one he abandoned.  Then one night his rage and too much alcohol get the better of him.  Deadly violence ensues, forcing Ramon to flee into the wilderness.  Mercifully, almost happily alone -- far from the loud, busting hive of humanity that he detests with sociopathic fervor -- the luckless prospector is finally free to search for the one rich strike that could make him wealthy.  But what he stumbles upon instead is an advanced alien race in hiding:  desperate fugitives, like him, on a world not their own.  Suddenly in possession of a powerful, dangerous secret and caught up in an extraordinary manhunt on a hostile, unpredictable planet, Ramon must first escape...and then, somehow, suvive."  This edition has a brief afterward explaining the 30-year genesis of the novel, as well as an authors' Q and A.
  • Jerry Pournelle, Starswarm.  Science fiction.  "Kip has a secret.  A young boy who lives with his uncle at the remote Starswarm Station, Kip has heard a voice in his head for as long as he can remember.  The voice, an artificial chip implanted in his skull, guides him in all his decisions, helping out with useful information and insight.  When Kip finally discovers the truth behind who put the chip there and why, he is suddenly confronted with a powerful revelation that may put his own life and the whole outpost in grave danger."  Pournelle could write some pretty interesting SF when he didn't trip over his own political philosophies.
  • Jerry Pournelle & S. M. Stirling - Go Tell the Spartans.  Military science fiction, the third book in the Falkenberg's Legion series, a subset of Pournelle's CoDominium series.  ""Since the late 20th century, the Soviet-American CoDominium had kept the peace, both on Earth and among the stars.  But now the CoDominium is dying, and its death-throes will be terrible; already the nations arm for their final battle.  With Earth doomed, mankind's sole hope for a future worth having rest on a planet called Sparta, a planet where American idealists have raised once more the hammer of liberty that has been forgotten amid the corruptions and tyrannies of Earth.  The Spartans know that they must be strong to survive; that is why they hired John Christian Falkenberg and his Legion to train them.  What the Spartans do not know is that Falkenberg's enemies have become their own -- that Grand Senator Broson's techno-ninja will follow the Legion to Sparta. and there wreak a terrible vengeance aimed at ending the Spartan experiment before it has fairly begun..."  Pournelle is a good writer, but I can only take him in small doses.
  • Mike Resnick, Oracle.  Scienc Fiction.  "Since Penelope Bailey was a little girl, all humanity has been frightened by her awesome psychic talent.  Able to peceives the future, she is suspected of being able to bend events -- and men -- to her will.  Most men call her a monster.  She calls herself...ORACLE.  Now grown into womanhood and living on the planet Hades, Penelope is caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse -- the prey of a bounty hunter, a government agent, and an outlaw cyborg out for profit.  But none of them suspects the true depths of her power..."  Resnick always tells a good tale.
  • Karen Russell, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.  Collection of ten short stories from a dazzling and original talent.  This collection includes "Ava Wrestles the Alligator," whic was expanded into Russell's first novel, Swamplandia, a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for fiction (since none of the three novels nominated that year recieved enough votes, no prize was awarded).  
  • Dean Wesley Smith, Men in Black:  The Green Saliva Blues.  Science fiction media tie-in based on the film Men in Black.  "The Zahurians are telepathic, highly mobile, and love meat.  They also resemble Prunus americana, the beautiful flowing plum tree.  They came to Earth expecting a primitive Eden with plenty of fresh protein -- including humans.  What they didn't count on was the MJB.  Agnt Jay, a former NYPD detective, and his new partner, Agent Elle, never expected to play Earth's landscapers.  But now it's up to them to track down and destroy the roving band of carnivorous -- and very hungry -- trees.  It won't be easy.  The Zahurians can plant themselves just about anywhere:  forests, parks, backyards, flower shops...even shopping malls.  And everywhere they go someone ends up plant food.  If that's not bad enough, Agent Jay and Agent Elle learn that a host of alien races are orbiting above, just itching to torch the entire planet to rid the galazy of the hated Zahurians.  Time is running out.  If MIB doesn't succeed, the human race has two possible fates:  ashes or fertilizer."  Sure hope MIB can save us!
  • John Varley, The Golden Globe.  Science fiction.  "All the universe is a stage...and Sparky Valentine is its itinerant thespian.  He makes his way from planet to planet as part of a motley theater troupe, bringing Shakespeare -- a version of it anyway -- to the outer reaches of Earth's solar system.  Sparky can transform himself from young to old, fat to thin, even male to female, by altering magnetic implants beneath his skin.  Indispensible hardware for a career actor -- and an interstellar con man wanted for murder..."  It's been years since I read Varley and I now have enough of his books piled up so I can hold  a Varley marathon.  Any day now, promise.
  • Richard Wheeler, The Far Tribes and YellowstoneGoing Home and Downriver, and Bitterroot and Sundance.  Three western paperback omnibuses containing two novels apieces, all six part of Wheeler's Skye's West series.  The Far Tribes:  "Elkanah Morse came west from Lowell, Massachusetts, with one goal in mind:  to study the ways of the far tribes.  Entrance into their world is not easy, though, and only one man is capable of bringing him to the natives safely:  Barnaby Skye.  This time Skye's advice is not enough.  When he hears rumors that Morse is heing held captive by one of the most vicious tribes in the  mountains, Skye endeavors to rescue him...risking all in the process."  Yellowstone:  "Barnaby Skye and his two beautiful Indian wives knew the dangers of the land where the hot blood of the earth bubbles up to sear the air.  But Lord Gordon just wants to kill buffalo and entertain; the rule sof the land, he scoffs, can't possibly apply to him.  The British noble is smart enough to hire the best of the best -- Barnaby Skye -- to guide him through the treacherous lands of the Sioux...and stupid enough to fire him.  The clash of wills between these two stubborn men may prove to be asa deadly as the land around them."  Going Home:  "The year is 1832.  Six years after he deserted the Royal Navy, Barnaby Skye has a chance to return to England to clear his name from his employment with the Hudson Bay Company.  With his devoted Crow wife Victoria; an eccentric botonist named Alistair Nutmeg; and a strange pariah dog following along, Skye makes his way west to journey home.  The problem:  Skye is as much a magnet for trouble as he is a legend among mountain men.  The frontiersman fights Mexican bandits, murderous Pacific coastal Indians, thirst, starvation, and despair, as he learns the true meaning of home and honor."  Downriver:  "In the summer of 1838, the beaver-trapping business is dyng out.  When Barnaby Skye is offered a chance to become a post trader in his Crow wife's homeland, he journeys to St. Louis to work for the mighty managers of the Upper Missouri Outfit.  The two-thouand-mile voyage down the Missouri River steamboat Otter offers dangers at every turn -- but the real danger lies in another passenger on the paddle-wheel steamer, the Creole fur-brigade leader Alexandre Bonfils.  This nefarious man is a rival for the job Skye is seeking...and he's determined to be the only candidate by the time the Otter reaches the city."  Bitterroot:  "Mountainman Barnaby Skye agrees to take a Quaker missionary, Dr. William Penn Sitgreaves, along with his wife, Abigasil, and his party to Owen's Fort in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana.  There, the Quakers intend to begin a mission to the Native Americans.  Skye quickly discovers that Dr. Sitgreaves, far from being a soft man, has a backbone of steel -- and he'll need it to found a mission in the wilds."  Sundance:  "Along the Oregon Trail, a war party of Lakota Sioux rob Con Brann  of all that he holds dear -- most devastatingly, his daughter, Hester.  Skye endeavors to help Brann. even as the Sioux, ten thousand strong, gather to celebrate their ancient Sun Dance ritual, and pray for vengeance upon their enemies-- including Skye.  Honor bound to rescue the young girl, Skye must infiltrate their sacred ceremony, even though discovery means horrible death."  Also, Snowbound and Eclipse, another two-volume omnibus.  Snowbound:  "American explorer John Fremont embarks on a quest to find a railway route to the west along the 38th parallel.  His fourth expedition into the American West, in the dead of winter, proves more challeging than anticipated.  Trapped, snowbound, in the Colorado mountins, Fremont must battle the frigid elements in a harrowing journey over the backbone of the continent.  This novel of desperate danger and fierce courage is a survival saga par excellence -- a struggle of man against man, man against nature, and man against himself."  Eclipse:  "Lewis and Clark made history with their epochal first crossing of the North American continent.  Upon their return, plainspoken William Clark enjoys his fame, marries his childhood sweetheart, and settles in St. Louis as superintendent of the nation's Indian affairs.  His black manservant York forces him to confront the nature of slavery and question the society that condones it.  Meriwether Lewis, a man of fierce courage and brilliant intellect, returns from the Pacific a changed man.  Something terrible has happened to him, a disease with no name that erodes his health and threatens to destroy his mind -- and his honor.  Eclipse is an exploration of triumph and tragedy told in the authentically rendered voices of two of America's greatest explorers."  There were few writers who could top Wheeler in his depiction of the historical American West.  If you hve gone through life without reading at least one of his novels, you have missed out on a great experience.

Catherine House: From comes word tht the Horror Writers of America have released their 2013 Summer Scares Reading List, and one of the three adult novles on the list is /elizabeth Thomas's Catherine House.  The title refers not to the woman I married but to a "school of higher lerning like no other...{one} that has porduced some of the world's best minds:  artists and inventors, prize-winning scientists, Supreme Court justices, presidents."  I have not read the book yet (I plan to this summer), but I whole-heatedly recommend it based solely on the title.

Here's the full Summer Scares list:

 Sing, Cowboy, Sing:  Song Mondays you just need a singing cowboy to get you going.  Here's Tex Ritter and his horse White Flash, from 1937:

Shetland:  The home of Ann Cleeves' Jimmy Perez did not always belong to Scotland.  Until this date in 1472, the Shetland Islands (then known as Zetland) belonged to the Kingdom of Norway, which incl;uded Denmark.  Margaret of Denmark (1456-1486) was promised to James of Scotland by the time she was four years old.  There was a feud between the countries about monies owed by Scotland to Denmark over the taxation of the Hebrides and the Isle of Man.  In 1468. Margaret was officially betrothed to King James III in a deal brokered by King Charles II of France.  In lieu of a dowry, Denmark forgave the debt and Shetland and Orkney were eventually ceded to Scotland.  In July 1469. at age thirteen, Margaret was married to the Scottish king.  At that time William Sinclair was the Norse Earl of Orkney; he swapped his Orkney fiefdom for Ravenscraif Castle in 1472, and Scotland's throne took over the earl's rights to the islands.

As a queen, Margaret started out as a fashionista -- always dressed in the latest fashion and enthralled with jewelry and clothing, yet she was very popular in Scotland and was described as beautiful, gentle, and sensible.  She did not care for James at all, in part because James favored their second child over the eldest -- although her antipathy for her husband may have had deeper roots than that:  she slept with him only for reasons of procreation.  Their estrangement grew in 1482, when James was ousted from power by his brother for several months, and Margaret's concern was only for their children, and not for her spouse.  Nonetheless, Margaret worked to reinstate her husband, but once James regained power, the couple lived apart for the rest of her life.

Margaret died at age 30.  An unsubstantiated rumor had her poisoned by a leader of one of the political factions of the time.  James, four or five years older than Margaret -- his date of birth is uncertain, died two years later at the Battle of Sauchieburn.

And for the past 551 years, Shetland has remained with Scotland.

Emmett Ashford:  I'm not sure if Emmett Ashford's name will be recognized by many today, but February is Black History Month and Ashford was a part of it.  Emmett Ashford (1914-1980) was born in Los Angeles.  His father had abandoned the family, leaving his mother to raise Emmett and his brother.  Emmett helped out by selling Liberty magazine and working as a supermarket clerk.  He was his senior class president in high school, co-edited the school newspaper, and was on the baseball and track teams.  He became a postal clerk in 1936 -- a position he held for fifteen years, while also graduating from college in 1941.  In the late Thirties he began to play semi-pro baseball, but switched to umpiring when a regular umpire did not show up for a game.  While in the Navy, he heard a news announcement that Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in baseball.  That inspired him to want to become the first Black umpire in the major leagues.  The path to that goal took almost two decades.

As a minor league umpire, Ashfor was known for "his exuberance, showmanship and energy, even interacting with the crowd between innings."  During the off-season, he referreed PAC-8 basketball games and college football.  He umpired Caribbean winter leagues, held umpire training clinics, and was eventually named the umpire-in-chief for the Pacific Coast League.  A number of West Coast sportswriters began to lobby for him to be promoted to the major leagues.  

In 1965, the American Legue bought his contract, and Ashford umpired his first major league game on April 11, 1966.  He was an immediate hit.  He would sprint around the infield after foul balls or plays on bases.  His flashy manner of dress, from cuff lioks to polished shoes to freshly creased suits set him  apart.  As the Sporting News reported at the time, "For the first time in the history of the grand old American game, baseball fans may buy a ticket to watch an umpire perform."

Ashford was one of the few umpires that Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver was ever nice to.  He reached the League's mandatory retirement age in 1969, but managed to umpire the 1970 season, including five games of that year's World Series.

Following his retirement, Ashford worked as a public relations advisor for major league baseball, and appeared in commericals, films, and television.  Following his death at age 65. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said, "As the first black umpire in the major leagues, his magnanimous nature was sternly tested, but he was unshaken and uncomplaining, remaining the colorful, lively personality he was all his life."

Hmm:  A young journalist has been assigned to the Jeruselam desk.  Her office happens to overlook the Wailing Wall.  She notices one old man who shows up three times a day to pray, every day without fail.  One day she decides to interview him, and she asks him what he prays for.

"Well. he said, "each morning for the past twenty-five years, I pray for world peace and the brotherhood of man.  Then I go home and have a cup of tea.  I come back later in the day and I pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the face of the earth.  Then I go home and have a little nap.  Finally, I return late in the afternoon and I pray that poverty and want are erased from this earth."

"Amazing," said the journalist.  "How does it feel to come here for twenty-five years, day after day, and pray for these things?

The old man looked at her and said, "Lady, it's like talking to a wall."

It's National Cherry Pie Day:

If that's not enough, it's also National Muffin Day, Clean Out Your Bookcase Day, National Comfy Day, National Leadership Day, National Handcuff Day, Women in Blue Jeans Day, National Student Volunteer Day, National Whistleblower Reward Day, Nova Scotia Heritage Day, Shrove Monday, World Day of Social Justice,  Family Day, Islander Day, Hoodie Hoo Day, Daisy Gatson Bates Day, Lopuis Riel Day, Mizoram State Day, The Day of Illustrious Puerto Ricans, the National Day of Solidarity with Muslim Arab and South Asian Immigrants, and a whole bunch Carnival Days.

And, yes, it is President's Day, but it's also No Politics Day, so be sure to mix the two wisely.

There's a whole lot of celbrating to do today, so start cracking!

And on this President's Day, our thoughts are with 98-year-old Jimmy Carter as he enters home hospice care.

Birthdays, We Have Birthdays:  Felicitations and natal observances to Eleanor of Aragon (1358-1382), Czech humanistic writer and musical theorist Jan Blahoslav (1523-1571), British politician Thomas Osbornem, 1st Duke of Leeds and Treasurer of the Navy, who spent five years in prison on charges of  corruption until the rise of James II, whom he later worked to depose (1631-1712), French musette (that's a type of bagpipe) player Nicolas Chedeville (1705-1782), American Revolutionary War Colonel William Prescott, who commanded the patiot forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill and said, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" (interesting aside:  a man from my home town claimed to be the first to fire a shot at Bunker Hill -- alcohol may have been involved) (1726-1795), one-time British Poet Laureate Henry James Pye, derisively labelled a poetaster (1745-1813), American socialite Angelica Schuyler Church, the sister-in-law of Alexander Hamilton (1756-1814). German physician and psychiatrist -- he coined the term psychiatry -- Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813), Irish writer William Carleton, who published Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry in 1830 (1794-1869), Swiss politician and railways pioneer Alfred Escher (1819-1882), founder of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Benjamin Waugh (1839-1908), adventurer and first person to sail single-handedly around the world Joshua Slocum (1844-1909), English cricketer A. P. "Bunny" Lucas (1857-1923), Scottish-American soprano and diva Mary Garden (1874-1967), professional ice hockey player Hod Stuart, who helped the Montreal Wanderers win the 1907 Stanley Cup, only to die in a diving accident two months later (1879-1907), Polish-American sculptor Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), French novelist (The Star of Satan, The Diary of a Country Priest)Georges Bernanos (1888-1948) -- he was also the father of novelist Michel Bernanos, author of My Side of the Mountain, motor racing legend Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988), businessman and philanthropist Corneloius "Sonny" Vanderbilt Whitney (1899-1992), microbiologist and environmentalist Rene Dubos, who made famous the phrase "Think globally, act locally" (1901-1982), first president of Egypt (until he was forced out by Gamal Abdel Nassar) Mohamed Naguib (1901-1984), photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984), longtime television foil of Lucille Ball in The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, and Life with Lucy actor Gale Gordon (1906-1995) -- he was also Osgood Conklin in Our Miss Brooks and Mr. Wilson in Dennis the MenaceBridge Over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes author Pierre Boule (1912-1994), game show host (What's My Line) John /Charles Daly (1914-1991), American businesswoman and diplomat Leonore Annenberg (1918-2009), Aldi supermarket chain founder (and once the 24th richest person in the world) Karl Albrecht (1920-2014), Gloria Vanderbilt (1924-2019), director Robert Altman (1925-2006), English ballerina Gillian Lynne, who choreographed Cats and Phantom of the Opera (1926-2018), writer extradinaire Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man, Bid Time Return (a.k.a. Somewhere in Time), "Duel," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," The Night Stalker, and so many more) (1926-2013), legal sleezball, Joe McCarthy co-hort, and the man who helped form Donald Trump, attorney Roy Cohn 1927-1986). Sidney Poitier (1927-2022), Jean Kennedy Smith (1928-2020), "Miss Kitty" Amanda Blake (1929-1989), race car driver Bobby Unser (1934-2021), novelist and short story writer Ellen Gilchrist (b. 1935), Hogan's Heroes actor Larry Hovis (1936-2003), Nobel Prize laureate and German biochemist Robert Huber, who has contributed ground-breaking work on proteins and protein moecules (b. 1937), another racinf legend Roger Penske (b. 1937), Grammy-winning jazz singer Nancy Wilson (1937-2018), indigenous Canadian-American singer and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie (b. 1941), Canadian hockey player Phil Esposito (b. 1942), politician it's so easy to make fun of Mitch McConnell (b. 1942), Vera actress Brenda Blethyn (b. 1946), actress-singer-dancer Sandy Duncan (b. 1946), guy with a band J. Geils (b. 1946-2017), five-time Golden Globe nominee Peter Strauss (b. 1947), actress Jennifer O'Neill (b. 1948), mother of DFTJ, Eric, and Ivanka, Ivana Trump (1949-2022), actor son of Eddie Albert, Edward Albert (1951-2006), UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (b. 1951), musician and co-founder of the rock group The Cramps, Poison Ivy (b. Kristy Mariana Wallace, 1953), Anthony Stewart Head, he of the poplar Nescafe commercials and Giles of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (b. 1954), heiress and SLA member Patty Hearst (b. 1954), journalist David Corn (b. 1959), MST3K creator Joel Hodgson (b. 1960), basketball legend Charles Barkley (b. 1963), Sex in the City actor Willie Garson (1963-2021), actor French Stewart (b. 1964), model and bisnesswoman Cindy Crawford (b. 1966), rock legend Kurt Cobain (1967-1994), South African comedian and television host Trevor Noah (b. 1984), singer and pregnant half-time performer Rihanna (b. 1988), and actress and singer Olivia Rodrigo (b. 2003).

Phew!  That's a passel of Pisces.

Florida Man:  Some days your work is done for you, such as in yesterday's post by Leigh Lundin on   I believe I had previously covered only one item on this list.  Enjoy,

Good News:
  •  Do you want to make some kids smile?  Build a snowman that matches a drawing by patients at this children's hospital
  • Here are thirty ways people over 70 are stying young.  You whippersnappers keep this list hjandy -- someday you might need it
  • Michael Jordan donates &10 million to the Make-a-Wish Foundation for his 60th birthday
  • Wife of WWII soldier spent decades on her husband's wish to reunite Japanese family with this old photo album he found on Okinawa
  • Because you can never get enough of the mysteries of the uiniverse, here's a ringed planet in the outer reaches of our solar system that appears to defy known physics
  • Closer to home, nature cointinues to amaze us -- like with this newly-discovered ytiny frog who does not have anything to say
  • It took less than four years for 80 million rural households in India to be connected to a water supply
  • Slow and steady wins the race?  It took 50 years, but this 76-year-old has finally earned his doctorate
  • 9-year-old girl honored by Yale University for stomping out invasive species of bug in n he New Jersey neighborhood
  • An army of 10,000 women saved India's rarest stork species, while carving out an idetity for themselves

Something to Remember:   "Every optimist moves along wioth progress and hastens it, while every pessimist would keep the world at a standstill."  -- Helen Keller

Today's Poem:
Considering the Void

When I behold the charm
of evening skies, their luilling endurance;
the patterns of stars with names
of bears and dogs, a swan, a virgin;
other planets that the Voyager showed
were like and so unlike our own,
with all their diverse moons,
bright discs, weird rings, and cratered faces;
comets with their streaming tails
bent by pressure from our sun;
the skyscape of our Milky Way
holding in its shimmering disc
an infinity of suns
(or say a thousand billion);
knowing there are holes of darkness
gulping mass and even light,
knowing that this galaxy of ours
is one of multitudes
in what we call the heavens,
it troubles me.  It troubles me.

-- Jimmy Carter

And here's the author reciting the poem: