Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, May 27, 2024


Openers:  Texas, 2016.  Geneva Sweet ran an orange extension cord past Mayva Greenwood, Beloved Wife and Mother, May She Rest with Her Heavenly Father.  Late morning sunlight pinpricked through the trees, dotting a constellation of light on the blanket of pine needles at Geneva's feet as she snaked the cord between Mayva's sister and her husband, Leland, Father and Brother in Christ.  She gave the cord a good tug, making her way up the modest hill, careful not to step on the graves themselves, only the well-worn grooves between the headstones, which were spaced at haphazard and odd angles, like the teeth of a pauper. 

She was lugging a paper shopping bag from the Brookshire Brothers in Timpson along with a small radio from which a Muddy Waters record, one of Joe's favorites, whistled through the speakers -- Have you ever been walking, walking down that ol' lonesome road.  When she arrived at the final resting place of Joe "Petey Pie" Sweet, Husband and Father and, Lord, a Devil on the Guitar, she set the radio carefully on top of the polished chunk of granite, snapping the power cord into its hiding place behind the headstone.  The one next to it was identical in shape and size.  It belonged to another Joe Sweet, younger by forty years and just as dead.  Geneva opened the shopping bag and pulled out a paper plate covered in tinfoil, an offering for her only son.  Two fried pies, perfect half-moons of hand-rolled dough filled with brown sugar and fruit and baptized in grease -- Geneva's specialty and Lil' Joe's favorite.  She could feel their warmth through the bottom of the plate, their buttery scent softening the sharp sting of pine in the air.  She balanced the plate on the headstone, then bent down to brush fallen needles from the graves, keeping a hand on a slab of granite at all times, ever mindful of her arthritic knees.  Below her, and eighteen-wheeler tore down Highway 59, sending up a gust of hot, gassy air through the trees.  It was a warm one for October, but nowadays they all were.  Near eighty today, she'd heard, and here she was thinking it was about time to pull the holiday decorations from the trailer out back of her place.  Climate change, they call it.  this keep up and I'll live long enough to see hell on earth, I guess.  She told all this to two men in her life.  Told them about the new fabric store in Timpson.  The fact that Faith was bugging her for a car.  The ugly shade of yellow Wally painted the icehouse.  Looked like someone coughed up a big mess of phlegm and threw it on the walls.

She didn't mention the killings, though, or the trouble bubbling in town.

-- Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (2017)

Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger who had left the state as soon as he could for Chicago, has been pulled back to Texas.  Two seemingly unrelated murders, one of a black Chicago lawyer, the other of a local white woman, have stirred up racial tensions in the small east Texas community, placing both his job and his marriage in jeopardy.  Bluebird, Bluebird won the Edgar Award and the Anthony Award for Best Mystery of the Year, as well as the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best novel.

Attica Locke (born 1974) is also the winner for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, and the Staunch Book Prize, as well as being a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and being nominated for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.  She is a writer who has earned every accolade she has received.  IMDb lists eighteen television episodes written by her, including for Empire (where she also served as series  producer, co-producer, and supervising producer), From Scratch (which she created and served as showrunner), and Little Fires Everywhere (where she was also co-executive producer).


  • John Joseph Adams, editor, Wastelands:  Stories of the Apocalypse.  Science fiction anthology with 22 stories of the last days.  How many ways can we destroy the Earth?  At least 22, it seems.
  • "Max Brand" (Frederick Faust), Singing Guns.  Western.  "Sheriff Caradac had found his man.  As he sighted his rifle muzzle over the broad muscular body of his unsuspecting victim, he realized that in all the West there was no other pair of shoulders like these, there was no other such head, and for a moment he hesitated. Then, almost automatically, he lifted his gun and shifted his left foot a bit forward.  As he fired, he felt a stone turn beneath him, and even before his fingers fell away from the trigger he knew that he had missed.  From that miss there grew one of the post extraordinary relationship s those green, snow-capped mountains had ever seen.  Sheriff and bad man, a strange friendship, yet one which took them both on a trail of high adventure, a trail which led at last through a hidden hole in the mountain to an amazing discovery and a certain rancher's daughter."
  • Erskine Caldwell, Kneel to the Rising Sun and Other Stories and The Sure Hand of God.  Two more old Signet paperbacks that found their way to a local thrift store.  Kneel contains seventeen short stories which present "writing of such concentrated brilliance that it is har to see how Caldwell can surpass himself in this particular type of literature."  In Sure Hand, we read "about a life-loving widow and her calculating campaign to snare a rich man and respectable husband for her very beautiful daughter."  Times change and tastes change; people seldom read Caldwell -- once a mega-best-selling author -- any more.
  • Thomas M. Disch, Camp Concentration.  Science fiction, the book that helped establish Disch as a major science fiction writer.  A near-future novel "set during a war, projected from the Vietnam War, in which the United States is criminally involved."  Military and political prisoners are sent to a camp where they are injected with a form of syphilis intended to make them geniuses, but eventually causing their deaths within a few months.  The president of the United States in the novel is Robert McNamara.  An angry, brilliant book, but I wonder how well it would play for today's audience.  Copyrighted by The American Civil Liberties Union, Inc.
  • Peter Enfantino, The Wild World of Off-Best Detective, Crime and Sleaze Digests and The Wild World of Two-Fisted Detective, Mystery and Terror Digests.  Non-fiction.  "Once upon a time, magazine racks overflowed with crime fiction.  For thirty-five cents you could lose yourself in another world for a couple of hours while riding the train back home from your office, or sitting on the beach, or enjoying a bit of quiet time while the brats napped.  The '50s and '60s were decades ripe for violent escapism in the digests, and Manhunt, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine each sold thousands of copies every month.  But what if you were the kind of reader who wante something a little naughtier; a little more taboo; a little more dangerous?  You'd have to kneel down and look at the bottom row, way in back behind the Farmer's Almanac and Fate, to find such jewels as Justice, Keyhole Mystery, Keyhole Detective, Sure Fire Detective, and Off Beat Detective.  Crammed cover to cover with feuding JDs, greedy wives, adulterous husbands, and serial killers, the 'sleaze' crime digests were an acquired taste, and a bitter pill for the traditional mystery fan to swallow.  Combining elements of Black Mask and Dime Mystery, the sleaze digests spit in the face of the old fuddy-duddies and dared readers to try something different.  Within these digests, you'll make acquaintance with:  a morally bankrupt high school teacher who impregnates one of his teenage students; the beautiful Renfreda. who's being chased through the swamp by an evil marijuana harvester; the gorgeous Peggy Ann, who my be the notorious Ice Pick Murderer; the brave small-town reporter who investigates a local cult and risks her life (and her clothes) for a good story; the printer who unknowingly becomes a publisher of smut; and a young couple who discover their neighbors are Stan worshippers."  Each book contains an issue-by-issue dissection of the following magazines:  Justice, Keyhole Mystery Magazine, Keyhole Detective Stories, Sure Fire Detective Stories, Off Beat Detective Stories, (Saturn) Web Detective StoriesWeb Terror Stories, Shock Mystery Tales, Two-Fisted Detective, and Terror Detective.  A total of 87 issues with 933 stories! Also included with Enfantino's personal opinions about each story are occasional notes about the story authors, who include Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, Henry Slesar, Donald E. Westlake, Marion Zimmer Bradley, William F. Nolan, Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown, Anthony Boucher, Roald Dahl, Avram Davidson, Stanley Ellin, Edward D. Hoch, John Jakes, M. R. James, William F. Nolan, Richard Matheson, Richard S. Prather, Theodore Sturgeon, Harry Whittington, and Cornell Woolrich, along with a gazillion far lesser-known and less capable authors.   Enfantino knows his digest beans, and for a reader like me, this books are a godsend.
  • "Charlotte Jay" (Geraldine Halls), The Voice of the Crab.  Suspense.  "A man named To'ula returned home to Kipi Island (where only seven people had wrist watches) in the southeastern division of Papua-New Guinea after having served three years in prison in Port Moresby for the murder of his wife.  He'd just come back when the Voice of the Crab burned in his body.  He fell, foaming at the lips, onto the sand -- and when he regained consciousness he hurried to tell the village elders that he had a message.  There were very few whites who lived in Kipi.  Among them was tall, handsome Bruce Harding, the district officer, and his restless though calm-eyed wife, Alice.  There was Sam Creeby, who was bitter and suspicious, who kept tinned food locked in a closet, who'd been a partner of a man named Dutch Willy (an undesirable, who had been told to keep away from Kipi).  There was Arthur Knox, who'd once been a Queen's consul, and his proper wife, Elsie, who wore stockings attached top a tight corset.  And there was Father Paul.  There was also Ivan West, an anthropologist, who had been the first to write about the Kipis and their ancient Kula rituals.  And whom when he returned to the island, recognized that something was very wrong, and not entirely because the Kipi chief was mysteriously ill, perhaps dying."  Originally published as by Geraldine Halls.  Jay won an Edgar in 1954 for Beat Not the Bones, a novel also set in New Guinea.
  • Tony Medawar, editor, Ghosts from the Library:  Lost Tales of Terror and the Supernatural and Wicked Spirits:  Mysteries, Spine-Chillers, and Lost Tales of the Supernatural.  Anthologies of previously unpublished and uncollected supernatural mysteries by such authors as Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Josephine Tey, John Dickson Carr, Arthur Conan Doyle, Margery Allingham, and Dorothy L. Sayers.
  • James A. Moore, Avengers:  Infinity.  Comic book tie-in, adapted from the graphic novel by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Spencer.  "The Avengers discover the vanguard of an invasion.  The enemy are the Builders, members of an alien race determined to purge all life on Earth.  The first assault comes from Mars, launched by the forerunners of a vast  new fleet that has already destroyed countless worlds.  Earth's Mightiest Heroes respond, then journey into deep space to unite the Shi'ar, the Kree, the Skrulls, and other intergalactic races -- many of them sworn enemies -- against the coming invasion.  together they must stand, or separately they will be doomed.  With the majority of Earth's defenders away, the Mad Titan known as Thanos sets his sights on Earth.  With his Black Order he launches an assault across the globe, devastating city after city.  It falls to the planet's remaining heroes -- including Iron Man, Doctor Strange, the Inhumans, and Black Panther -- to fend off an inexorable invasion."
  • "Andre Norton" (born Alice Mary Norton, or Andre Mary Norton -- sources differ), Key Out of Time .  Science fiction.  "Time Agents Ross Murdoch and Gordon Ashe, aided by a Polynesian girl and her team pf telepathic dolphins, probe the mystery of the sea-planet men have named Hawaika.  Its cities and civilizations have vanished, but our agents are snatched back through a Time Gate and marooned in the midst of the struggle for power that must have destroyed the planet."  Dated 1963, this was the fourth and final solo Time Traders novel written by Norton; three others, one with P. M. Griffin, and two with Sherwood Smith, beginning three decades later in 1994.
  • T. (Tonya) Pines, editor, Thirteen, also published as 13 Tales of Horror.  YA horror collection.  Includes stories by R. L. Stine, Caroline B. Cooney, Christopher Pike, Jay Bennett, Diane Hoh, and others.
  • "Kenneth Robeson" (house name, used here by Lester Dent, unless otherwise indicated, nine "Doc Savage" novels reprinted by Bantam Books, all originally appearing in Doc Savage MagazineThe Man Who Smiled No More (issue #38, April 1936, written by Lawrence Donovan, Bantam #45),"It started with senseless murder-- Then it spread -- all over New York men were becoming robot-like automatons without emotion"; The Seven Agate Devils (issue #39, May 1936, written by Dent with Martin E. Baker, Bantam #73), "Murder on an international scale was being committed by a sinister mastermind.  His method -- an unusual, unescapable form of death.  His trademark -- a small statuette left next to the corpse"; The South Pole Terror (issue #44, October 1936, Bantam #77) "What was the fabulous treasure Velma Crale had discovered in the South Pole?  And why was Cheaters Slagg willing to kill to keep her from talking?"; The Pirate's Ghost (issue #62, April 1938; Bantam #62) "At his supersensational best, THE MAN OF BRANZE finesses an international band of modern day pirates in possession of the master invention by the Mad Genius of Death Valley!"  The Motion Menace (issue #63, May 1938, written by Dent with W. Ryerson Johnson, Bantam #64) "The Man of Bronze and his cousin Pat face an inordinate challenge:  a machine that makes all modern weapons worthless.  a gang of international thieves in control of the invention are shooting high:  World Control"; The Submarine Mystery (issue #64, June 1938, Bantam #63) "It might be  a hoax, and it might not be!  People are dead!  The Man of Bronze ably confronts a dangerous crackpot scheme that has a baffled world wondering what will happen next"; Mad Mesa (issue #71, January 1939, Bantam #66) "THE MAN OF BRONZE is jailed!  But all the prison bars in the world could not hold Doc when he was on his way to dispelling the madness in the desert that changes people into other identities!"; The Yellow Cloud (issue #72, February 1939, written by Dent with Evelyn Coulson, Bantam #59) "The navy's new ultra-secret super weapon vanishes from the skies -- pilot and plane eaten up by a yellow cloud a quarter of a mile long .  The country's military safety hung in the balance until THE MAN OF BRONZE uncovered the deadliest spy apparatus ever"; and The Gold Ogre (issue #75, May 1939, Bantam #42) "A legion of tiny terrorists launches a startling series of raids against Crescent City.  Death, destruction, and a disease which drives men mad, are the results of the audacious attacks.  THE MAN OF BRONZE meets a new quartet of allies -- and confronts the oddest opponents he's ever challenged..."  Truth to tell, Doc Savage is best read in small doses.  These books will last me several months.
  • "James Rollins" (James Czajkowski) and Rebecca Cantrell, Innocent Blood.  Vampire thriller, the second in the Order of the Sanguines series.  "In The Blood Gospel, brilliant archaeologist Erin Granger embarked on a mission to recover a miraculous artifact tied to Christ.  Her journey put her in the path of a diabolical enemy and introduced her to an ancient and deadly secret Vatican order known simply as the Sanguines.  Now, an attack outside Stanford university thrusts Erin back into the fold of the Sanguines.  As the threat of Armageddon looms, she must unite with the eternal spiritual order and a terrifying power to halt the pans of a ruthless and cunning man determined to see the world end -- a man known only as Iscariot."  This edition also contains a related bonus novella, "Blood Brothers."
  • "Nevil Shute" (Nevil Shute Norway, Slide Rule.  Autobiography, detailing the author's "second life" as an aviation engineer and designer "in  the exciting pioneer days of light."  Shute is the acclaimed author of On the Beach, In the Wet, An Old Captivity, No Highway, Trustee from the Tool Room, and A Town Like Alice.
  • Lolja Sigurdardottir, Cold as Hell.  Mystery, the first in the An Aurora Investigation series.   "Icelandic sisters Arora and Isafold live in different countries and aren't on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Isafold, Arora re4lunctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister.  But she soon realizes that her sister isn't avoiding her...she has disappeared without trace.  As she confronts Isafold's abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Bjorn, and begins to probe her sister's reclusive neighbours -- who have their own reasons for staying out of sight -- Arora is drawn into an even darker web of intrigue and manipulation.  Baffled by conflicting details of her sister's life and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Arora enlists the help of police officer Daniel, as she tries to track her sister's movements and begins to tail Bjorn -- but she isn't the only one watching."  The author should not be confused with the other best-selling Icelandic crime writer, Yrsa Sigurdardottir.
  • "Martin Cruz Smith" (born Martin William Smith), Tatiana.  An Arkady Renko mystery, the eighth in the series.  Renko "has survived the cultural journey from the Soviet Union to the New ?Russia, only to find the nation as obsessed with secrecy and brutality as was the old Communist dictatorship.  When the reporter Tatiana Petrovna falls to he death from a sixth-floor window in Moscow, Renko is transfixed by tapes he discovers  of Tatiana's voice describing horrid crimes in words that are at odds with the Kremlin's official versions.  A mysterious notebook written in the personal code of a dead translator sends Renkp on a surreal chase to unravel a conspiracy as complex and dangerous as modern Russia itself -- and save himself in the process."
  • Thomas Burnett Swann, Moondust and The Not-World.  Fantasies.  Moondust "take as its time the city of Jericho, under the siege, yet it is not a Biblical story nor a tale of warfare, but rather a marvelous science fiction novel about a non-human intelligent species hidden from the world's eye, about their human and humanoid subjects, and filled with the wizardry of a science older than humanity."  In Not-World, "one would not have expected to find the last hideout of the ancient weird folk or legend and prehistory in an English forest of two centuries ago...and yet in that land which has always been haunted by the lore of little folk there had to be some truth behind such universal belief.  [...] Here is the story of Dylan and Dierdre, of Thomas Chatterton...and of the balloon flight that brought them into an older and more enchanted land to mingle their fates with those of Arachne and the Night Mares in whom a rising industrial materialism could no longer believe."  Always lyrical, Swann's fiction is a rare treat.
  • Donald E. Westlake, The Road to Ruin.  A Dortmunder novel.  "Westlake's infamous gang of wayward thieves, led by the unlucky and unflagging John Dortmunder, has hatched another perfect plan.  They're going to dress up as a personal secretary, a driver, and a butler (Dortmunder -- learning on the job).  And they're going to work for one of the most crooked men in the world -- for the sole purpose of robbing him blind...'Pariah!'  Monroe Hall wishes that people would stop using that word.  So what if he was born rich but scammed his own conglomerate for more than the boys from Enron and Worldcom combined?  And so what if he takes a little pleasure in reporting people to the IRS, or stealing quarters from visitors to his home?  Does that mean he has to be a 'pariah'?  The truth is, poor old Monroe can't find anyone to staff his sprawling, antique-laden Pennsylvania estate.  Until, by a stroke of utterly undeserved luck, a wonderful group of servants arrives at Monroe's door with spotless credentials and a remarkable willingness to please.  For Dortmunder's crew, going to work for Monroe is like being kids let loose in a candy store.  When it comes time to start emptying the place of its treasure -- especially those vintage automobiles -- Dortmunder makes a sobering discovery:  There are some people out there who just hate Monroe Hall.  Now the pariah has vanished and the police are at the door.  And, as everyone knows, whenever there's mischief in a mansion...the butler did it!"  Count me in as a big Dortmunder fan.
  • Cornell Woolrich, Night Has a Thousand Eyes. Crime thriller, first published as by "George Hopley."  "He was a strange and simple old man whose predictions always came true.  Jean Reid's father became obsessed with him -- until the final terrifying prophecy:  Reid's imminent death at the jaws of a a lion.  Now its a race against death and fear as a lion escapes from a local circus and Reid discovers the horror and madness of knowing the future..."  When Woolrich hits the mark, as he often did, no one could surpass him for tales of terror and desperation.

Memorial Day:  The last Monday in May.  A time to honor those who have died while in military service to the United States, including my namesake, Harold "Jerry" Speed, who was killed in the Pacific during World War II.  My parents never really talked much about their younger days, so I know little beyond Jerry Speed other than his name, yet because his name lives on in me, I cannot help but think that I owe him a great deal above and beyond his service.  There is no such thing as a good war, but there are some wars that are fought for good causes and the sacrifices made in those remain just as painful as when they were made.

Here's my go-to song for Memorial Day, for Veteran's Day, and for every time I reflect on sadness if wars anywhere throughout the world:

National Hamburger Day:  National Hamburger Day always falls on Memorial Day, but it also falls on May 28, July 28, and December 21.  My personal National Hamburger Day is any day that ends in a "y."  There are a lot of hamburger recipes on the internet and I have to ask why.  To cook a hamburger, you just throw some meat on a grill.  But there are always some people who want to fancy it up by adding this and adding that -- and that's fine, but in the end, it's meat thrown on the grill...

Here's a classic juicy hamburger recipe from tastesbetterfromscratch,com which tells you how to make seasoning for your hamburger (or, you can just throw some meat on a grill):

And here's some music for National Hamburger Day:

National Grape Popsicle Day:  Yep, it's also that day.  I'm not going to give you a recipe for grape popsicles, so how about some Moby Grape instead?

And, "Popsicles and Icicles" by the Murmaids:

Old Time Player Piano Day:  Another holiday worth celebrating today.

"Mr. Sandman":

"Yes We Have No Bananas":

"Ain't She Sweet":

"Pineapple Rag":

"Oh You Beautiful Doll":

National Cellophane Tape Day:  I'm not sure how to celebrate this one.  Today is National Cellophane Tape Day because it was first patented om My 27, 1930.  The invention of cellophane tape is credited to Richard Curley Drew (1899-1980), who had invented masking tape five years earlier while working for 3-M.  Supposedly, the first masking tape (which had adhesive only on the edges) would often fall off a car during painting, prompting one frustrated auto painter to tell Drew to "take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it."  [In this case, "Scotch" meant "cheap" -- stereotypes abounded in 1925.]  The improvement was made to the masking tape and the nickname stuck.  Cellophane tape was originally named Scotch Cellulose Tape, then Scotch Transparent Tape.  Scotch tape was used during the Depression to repair items, rather than throw them out.  The wide-spread use of Scotch tape led to 3M's diversification into other marketplaces and helped the company survive the Depression.

Here's Ben Vereen singing "Mr. Cellophane" on The Muppet Show:

BTW, as an inclusionist at heart, I feel a grave injustice has been done because Wednesday is National Paper Clip Day and I really feel that it and National Cellophane Tape Day should be celebrated together.  Why they are not is a mystery to me.  Feel free to investigate the cause of this travesty if you are so willing.   I'll expect your reports next week.  That is all.  fismissed..

Two More Holidays:  Today is also Nothing to Fear Day.  Well, except for spiders.  (Hate 'em!  Hate 'em!  Hate 'em!)

And, Prayer for Peace Day -- which really should be every day.

Sink the Bismark!:  They did that on this day in 1941.  

Here's the 1960 film, starring Kenneth More and Dana Wynter,   Directed by Lewis Gilbert.  Screenplay by Edmund H. North, from the book by C. S. Forester.

And the song by Johnny Horton:

Some Notable Birthdays:
  •  Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894).  Women's rights advocate and the first woman to own, operate, and edit a newspaper for women, The Lily, 1849-1853.  She helped popularize the garment for which her name is attached -- the bloomer.
  • Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910).  Author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and of the original 1870 pacifist Mother's Day Proclamation.  Abolitionist and social advocate, especially for women's suffrage.
  • Jay Gould (1836-1892).  Railroad magnate and robber baron.  Involved in the Tammany Hall scandal with Boss Tweed, and partial responsible for the Black Friday of September 24, 1869, which led to months of economic turmoil in which many farmers were ruined and some of Wall streets most venerable financial institutions going bankrupt.
  • "Wild Bill" Hickok (1837-1876).  Western folk hero, gunslinger, lawman, outlaw, gambler, and mythomaniac.  Originally nicknamed "Duck Bill" because of a cleft palate (or, perhaps, protruding lips; sources differ), later hidden by his mustache, he left his Illinois home ate age 18 (some sources say 15) as a fugitive from justice (evidently he murdered someone -- or it was an accident; sources differ).  Shot while holding a poker hand of aces and eights, later to be called the "dead man's hand."
  • Louis-Ferdinand Celine (1893-1961).  French author of Journey to the End of Night.  the author's pessimistic view of the human condition, along with his anti-semitic leanings and his ambiguous support of fascism have made him a controversial figure in French literature.
  • Dashiell Hammett ((1894-1962).  He gave us Sam Spade, the Continenetal Op, and Nick and Nora Charles, and took murder out of the drawing rooms and back on the streets where it belonged.  A talented and tragic figure.
  • Rachel Carson (1907-1964).  The Sea Around Us and Silent Spring.  Need I say more?
  • Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978). The "Happy Warrior."  U.S. Senator, Vice President, and presidential candidate who lost to Nixon.  Lead author of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  He introduced the first initiative to create the Peace Corps.  Supporter of liberal causes.  From Wikipedia:  "Humphrey spent his last weeks calling old political acquaintances..  One call was to Richard Nixon, inviting him to his funeral, which Nixon accepted.  Staying in the hospital, Humphrey went from room  to room, cheering up other patients by telling them jokes and listening to them."  Eulogizing his old friend, then-Vice President Walter Mondale said, "He taught us how to live, and finally he taught us how to die."
  • Vincent Price (1911-1993).  Actor, art collector, gourmet cook.  A man whose many talents were overshadowed by his contribution to the horror movie genre.
  • John Cheever (1912-1982).  Novelist and short story author.  "The Chekhov of the Suburbs." 
  • Herman Wouk (1915-2019).  Author of The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, and Youngblood Hawke.  His Winds of War really ticked off my wife because he wouldn't get Natalie out of Europe...  ("For God's sake, get Natalie out of Europe, already!" was a sentence I heard quite often back then.)
  • Christopher Lee (1922-2015).  Another great actor often categorized for his work in horror films.  Count Dooku in the Star Wars franchise, Bond villain Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, death in the Terry Patchett Discworld films,  He was also a singer and recorded opera and musical pieces (including heavy metal)
  • Henry Kissinger (1923-2023).  Controversial Secretary of State and political scientist.  Considered by some an effective secretary of state and by others a war criminal because of his support for authoritarian governments, Kissinger, rightly or wrongly, was an advocate of realpolitik, which concerned shifting pragmatisms and resulted in the death of civilians.
  • Sumner Redstone (1923-2020).  Billionaire and media magnate, head of Viacom.  I never knew him, but I did work briefly for his brother Ed.
  • Tony Hillerman (1925-2008).  American mystery author, whose depictions of Navajo and Zuni Indians were both sincere and respectful.
  • John Barth (1930-2024).  Author of The Sotweed Factor, Giles Goatboy, Chimera, and Lost in the Funhouse.  Literate, playful, and imbued with a sense of fantasy.
  • Harlan Ellison (1934-2018).  Literary enfant terrible throughout his entire life.  A cultural and counter-cultural hero who racked up more honors than any single person really needs.  His The Last Dangerous Visions is scheduled to be published this September.  Finally.
  • Ramsay Lewis (1935-2022).
  • Louis Gossett, Jr. (1936-2024).  He won an Oscar, a Black Reel Award, a Daytime Emmy, two Golden Globes, a Moscow Indie Film Festival Award, two NAACP Image Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Satellite Award, and was nominated for 20 other major awards.  
  • Todd Willis (born 1965).  actor.  "Whatcha talkin' 'bout, Willis?"
  • Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes (1971-2002).  Rapper, sadly killed in a car accident in Honduras while volunteering at a children's development center. 
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene (born 1975).  Self-serving politician, muddled thinker, whack job, and what's wrong with America.
  • Jamie Oliver (born 1975).  Celebrity chef.  In 2005, he initiated the "Feed Me Better" campaign to educate British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting out junk foods.  Oliver has not been without controversy:  in 2005, he angered animal rights advocates by slaughtering a lamb on his television show without first stunning it.
  • Lily-Rose Depp (born 1999).  Actress, the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis.  she's a Gemini.

Florida Man:  From the archives, mainly from 2023:
  • Florida Man Juan Pablo Ramps-Nieto, 41, was arrested for slashing 27 tires on 17 different vehicles.  His very Florida excuse was that he was being "sabotaged" and that he was "exposed to secret government information."  This was revealed after he had once again been advised of his Miranda rights.  He shouted in the courtroom that he was dealing with "secret government information" and that he was told to "act like a security guard at an airport...I'm being sabotaged too.  I'm being demonized.  I warned the CIA that.   That if I'm not that if I continue being demonized  more like a government building on fire that's unoccupied."  All of which makes sense to me, because Florida.
  • Key West Florida Man Kyle Mortimer, 20, celebrated Halloween dressed as a banana.  Then he decided to whip out his "little banana."  An officer caught him in the act but Mortimer ran way, slipping through the crowd.  The officer caught up with the offender, who continued to try to escape until the officer "utilized a leg sweep" and brought the banana down.  Mortimer continued to resist handcuffing by lacing his fingers together.  But in the game of Florida law and order, the police will win over a banana every time.
  • Who knew we actually needed a law for this?  Florida Man Robert Wilcox, 45, was arrested for defecating on a dead possum on a street in Clearwater during rush hour traffic.  Although police actually witnessed the act, Wilcox denied having done it, accusing the police officer of "not seeing straight."  An investigation proved the officer's vision was correct and Wilcox was arrested and fined $150.
  • 41-year-old homeless Florida Man Michael Ray Few did the totally unexpected"  he broke INTO jail by crawling through an X-ray machine.  He also knocked over a tale and damaged computer monitors before running into a nearby lobby; he was then subdued by officers, but not before being tased.  an explanation of Few's actions may be found in the meth pipe found in his pocket.
  • Florida Man James Gregory Cunningham of Niceville (just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I live) decided to drink two liters of vodka, then burned down his house while baking cookies on a George Forman grill.  Did I mention that he was naked?  Of course he was.
  • Before there was Kristi Noem, there was Escambia County (yeah, just one county over from where I live) Florida Man Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, decided to shoot his seven three-month-old shepherd-mix puppies because he could find them a home.  One cagey cur, however, got the drop on him, got his paw caught in the trigger, and shot Bradford in the wrist.  Deputies found three of the puppies in a shallow grave behind Bradford's home.  Bradford was taken to the hospital and the four remaining puppies -- including the "trigger dog" -- were taken to an animal shelter.

Good News:
  • Cheaper and safer, "green" batteries with iron may soon be used to power EVs and phones
  • UMass Dartmouth commencement speaker fives graduates $100 each, asking them to give away half of it
  • Pennsylvania school superintendent fulfills marine's dying wish by granting him a high school diploma
  • 90-year-old man finally makes it into space
  • Flabby feline loses weight by swimming
  • Grandson surprises grandpa by restoring 1954 pickup truck that sat idle and broken for 40 years
  • Viva la France!  They put a baguette on a scratch-and-sniff postage stamp

Today's Poem:
Ode for Memorial Day

Done are the toils and the wearisome marches,
Done is the summons of bugle and drum.
Softly and sweetly the sky overarches,
Shelt'ring a land where Rebellion is dumb.
Dark were the day's of the country's derangement,
Sad were the hours when the conflict was on,
But through the gloom of fraternal estrangement
God sent his light, and we welcome the dawn.
O'er the expanse of our mighty dominions,
Sweeping away to the outermost parts,
Peace, the wild-flying, on untiring pinions,
Bringeth her message of joy to our hearts.

Ah, but this joy which our minds cannot measure,
What did it cost for our fathers to gain?
Bought at the price of our heart's dearest treasure,
Born out of travail and sorrow and pain;
Born in the battle where fleet Death was flying,
Slaying with sabre-stroke bloody and fell;
Born where the heroes and martyrs were dying,
Torn by the fury of bullet and shell.
Ah, but the day is past; silent the rattle,
And the confusion that followed the fight.
Peace to the heroes who died in the battle,
Martyrs to truth and the crowning of Right!

Out of the blood of a conflict fraternal,
Out of the dust and the dimness of death,
Burst into blossoms of glory eternal
Flowers that sweeten the world with their breath.
Flowers of charity, peace, and devotion
Bloom in the hearts that are empty of strife;
Love that is boundless and broad as the ocean
Leaps into beauty and fullness of life.
So, with the singing of paeans and chorals,
And with the flag flashing high in the sun,
Place on the graves of our heroes the laurels
Which their unfaltering valor has won!

-- Paul Laurence Dunbar
from The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1913

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