Saturday, February 28, 2015

That old raspberry sherbet

My mother's sister's only son was a year or so older than I was. When we were in the area, we frequently would spend the night at their house. My father, being a Depression-era child, would eat anything put before him as as a matter of almost-moral principle. We were raised in that tradition. So, on one occasion at my cousin's house, he went back to the freezer and pulled out and old carton of raspberry sherbet. It had been in there for who knows how long, to the point of being almost freezer-burned. He gave it to us and we eagerly woofed it down. We seldom got store-bought ice cream, so it was a real treat to us. For years my cousin would shake his head and marvel that we would eat that old raspberry sherbet.


Our changing perspective of winter

I realize that snow is truly one of the great beauties of nature. What can compare to a snow-covered field in its pristine loveliness? As with so much, however, our modern world has turned its beauty into a thing of ugliness. Now snow is our enemy, for we have to drive on it, and that is NEVER fun. The crystalline ice takes down power lines. We dread winter and cannot wait for it to be over. Sad.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)

1938 was a great year for movies, by the way. Just check how many of the classics were made that year. This was the first of the Mr. Wong series, which my wife and I dearly love. Boris Karloff is great as the Chinese-American detective, and any misconceptions you may have had of his being a one-dimensional horror actor are quickly dispelled here.

Industrialist John Hamilton comes to Wong, fearing for his life. As he leaves Wong's house, an attempt is made to kidnap him. Hamilton and his two partners have been selling a poison gas invented by John St. Polis, who is angry because he does not feel he is getting his share of the profits.

Grant Withers is the police Captain involved in the case, and he and Karloff have a great rapport on the screen. (That rapport is greatly enhanced in later Wong movies when Marjorie Reynolds joins the cast as Withers' fiesty reporter girlfriend.)

These are not great movies as the movie-making art goes, but for fans of the old black-and-white detective series of movies, they are priceless.



One downside of old "B" movies

In some old movies (some of them pretty good ones), they did not budget for music, or at least very much music. We have become so accustomed to background music in movies that when there is none for extended periods of time, it begins to be a little strange.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Parley Baer

One of the truly great radio characterizations is Parley Baer as Chester on Gunsmoke. His hesitant personality matched up so well with the deep-voiced and forceful Matt Dillon of William Conrad. Truly a memorable role.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rat's Breath, Idaho

We learn of this interesting community on a Fred Allen radio show episode on which Roy Rogers was guest star.

Monday, February 23, 2015


I do not mind ladies who are 80 years old calling me Sweetie, but it just sort of goes against my grain when an 18-year-old at a fast food place calls me that.

Permanently disabled car washes

I wonder about these car washes that put ribbons across the entry way - and leave them there. If you are going to have one, why don't you keep it working? Just wondering.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Trouble With Father television program

This was a nice little family program that ran from 1950 to 1955. It starred Stu Erwin as a school principle. He and his wife had a teenage daughter and one in grade school. There were all the usual complicated and hilarious situations that develop. This is a program that you could let your grandchildren watch without any problems. I recommend it.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Meet Millie radio show

This was a very cute comedy show that starred Audrey Totter. She and her mother sport great New York accents. There is also a young man named Alfred whose absent love life is the subject of lots of laughs. "We just have to face facts, and Alfred's face is a hard fact to face."



Friday, February 20, 2015

Epic Casebook of Inspector Carr radio program

This uses the same opening theme music as the Barry Craig program, and the music throughout the program is very good. This is not a bareknuckles type program, but instead follows the mental processes of  Inspector Carr as he breaks the case. Being set in Britain, it is naturally more understated than U. S. programs. Still, it is well done and interesting. Well worth listening to.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rogue's Gallery radio show

This was a very good detective program that starred Dick Powell as Detective Richard Rogue. He moved on seamlessly to the richard Diamond series. This one was in some respects better even than Diamond, although not as entertaining. Diamond got into the more humorous end of things with his millionairess girlfriend and her butler, and his singing at the end of each program. But if you enjoy Diamond you almost certainly will enjoy Rogue, also. And, Rogue got knocked out virtually every program, as a good private eye should.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

McGee's salesmanship

Kramer is out for the day, so Fibber McGee is (voluntarily) helping Ed Tatum run the drug store. He comes up with a package deal to run as a special: a pair of spectacles a jar of salve, a deck of cards and a box of soap flakes. When Molly comments that that is a strange combination of merchandise, McGee replies that it is the perfect thing for a nearsighted man with a split lip who wants to play solitaire while he takes a bubble bath.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Burning Stump, AR

Jack  Benny and Fred Allen supposedly once played a vaudeville stand in Burning Stump. It was a tough audience. At one point they began throwing pennies onto the stage, so Fred complained to the management. When they quit throwing them, Jack complained.

Sheldon Leonard on Duffy's Tavern

There has been a big brawl at the tavern the night before. Archie is giving his edited version of the fight (being careful to make sure each listener was not there and has not yet heard about it). The number of combatants he knocked out grows with each successive rehearsal of the tale. Just then Spike McGuirk (Sheldon Leonard) walks in and asks for a drink. Archie ignores him as he goes on telling his tall tale. Leonard gets more irritated each time he has to repeat his request. Finally, he says, "Hey, bud, I am becomin' oiked." With Leonard's one-of-a-kind New York accent, it is a great line.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Marc Lawrence - one of the great bad guy faces

You see his face over and over again in old movies, almost always as a criminal or thug. You would expect that his name would be Guido Bonanno or something like that, but it was actually Marc Lawrence.



Like at first sight

I did not fall in love with my wife at first sight: I did not even know her at that point. However, I remember distinctly that from my first sight of her I was impressed by how remarkably attractive she was. So, I could probably say that I fell in like at first sight.

Take first things first

Man who improve house before building foundation apt to run into very much trouble.

(Charlie Chan, from The Feathered Serpent)


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Curt Barrett and the Trailsmen

We were watching a detective movie called Mask of the Dragon and we saw a three-man western group called Curt Barrett and the Trailsmen. They were nothing special: just a guitarist/singer and two others for harmony. However, the full group did have a few more musicians.

Here is a LINK about the Trailsmen.
Here is another LINK.

With age, our time frames change

As we age, we still can accomplish a lot, but we have to pace ourselves. We just cannot afford to get in a hurry,  because our stamina is not what it once was. We have to factor in breaks. Older folks have to be distance runners. The trouble is that we do not have much distance left.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Little did he know

Mike's mind roamed into the future. Cambridge first, and then an open-air life of the sort he had always dreamed of. The Problem of Life seemed to him to be solved. He looked on down the years, and he could see no troubles there of any kind whatsoever. Reason suggested that there were probably one or two knocking about somewhere, but this was no time to think of them.

(From the last page of Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse. This is a very ironic passage, written as it was in 1910. Little did any of them know at that time that a mere four years later the world would be held in the grip of World War I.)


One of the pre-eminent Wodehousean characters, Psmith can tolerate nothing commonplace or boring; which is, we suppose the main reason that he added the "P" to his name and immediately propelled himself into literary fame. That reminds me of the current trend of changing the spelling of given names just a little to make them unusual - and also to guarantee that they will be forever misspelled.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Liking "The Line-up" more and more

This program is growing on me. It is one of the Dragnet-style programs of real-life police dramas, but it was well done. It always begins with a line-up in which a witness identifies a suspect, and then unfolds from there. Pretty good stuff, if you like that style program.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Fat Man radio show

This is a very good detective series with a different twist. The hero, Brad Runyon, is not a hero type. He is overweight (thus the name of the show), and hardly suave. He has a very deep voice. Old television fans will immediately think of William Conrad in his series Cannon. The plots are good, and it gives the listener something other than the run of the mill. Good listening.




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Not his usual smiling self

"All is not well," he said, "with Comrade Jackson, the Sunshine of the Home. I note a certain wanness of the cheek. The peach-bloom of your complexion is not longer up to sample. Your eye is wild; your merry laugh no longer rings through the bank, causing nervous customers to leap into the air with startled exclamations. You have the manner of one whose only friend on earth is a yellow dog, and who has lost the dog."

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)


"All these petty breezes," continued Psmith sympathetically, "must be very trying to a man in your position, a man who wishes to be left alone in order to devote his entire thought to the niceties of higher Finance. It is as if Napoleon, while planning out some intricate scheme of campaign, were to be called upon in the midst of his bully a private for not cleaning his buttons. Naturally, you were annoyed. Your giant brain, wrenched temporarily from its proper groove, expended its force in one tremendous reprimand of Comrade Jackson. It was as if one had diverted some terrific electric current which should have a been controlling a vast system of machinery, and turned it on to annihilate a black-beetle.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

The most famous pinball machine

It is arguable that it might be the one played by "that deaf, dumb and blind kid," as sun by The Who. However, as case could be made that it is the one in Luke Spears' restaurant that Cedric Wehunt never could beat on the Lum and Abner radio show.


Teaching discipline and teamwork

When my father was a boy, children learned discipline and teamwork through working together. One person pitched hay and the other one stacked it. Mother and daughters produced meals with the well-organized system of the kitchen. The result of their effort was something very useful and tangible: hay in the barn and food on the table. The things they produced were indeed important. 

Today we (largely) try to teach those same qualities through sports. Children are taught to play together, and the result is nothing tangible or useful. The product of our efforts is "winning" (on the scoreboard), and thus that is what we teach our children is important. We really are progressing, aren't we?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The painter's eye

It must be as frustrating as it is enjoyable to be a painter. My son-in-law is a very gifted graphic artist, and being around him has caused me to notice things that would look good on canvas. And they are everywhere. A sunrise. The silhouettes of trees against the sky. A remarkable face. Everywhere you look, there are things just screaming to be preserved - but a painter only has so much time, and a good bit of that time is taken up with contests, commissions, etc. Thus the majority of things that may catch the painter's eye sadly are destined to remain off the easel.


Monday, February 09, 2015

Not a dominoes master

"Dominoes," he said, "is one of the few manly sports which have never had great attractions for me. A cousin of mine, who secured his chess blue at Oxford, would, they tell me, have represented his University in the dominoes match, also, had he not unfortunately dislocated the radius bone of his bazooka while training for it. Except for him, there has been little dominoes talent in the Psmith family."

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)


Just call them criminals

Terrorists, guerillas, insurgents - whatever name you want to use. Just call them what they are: criminals, thugs, low-life. Anything political associated with them just tends to lend legitimacy to what they are doing, even if only to a marginal extent.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The sad life of a banker

Mr. Waller's silence and absentness continued unchanged. The habit of years had made his work mechanical. Probably few of the customers who came to cash cheques suspected that there was anything the matter with the man who paid them their money. After all, most people look on the cashier of a bank as a sort of human slot machine. You put in your cheque, and out comes money. It is no affair of yours whether life is treating the machine well or ill that day.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)


Tattoos and marriages

They have something in common. Once they are done, they are done permanently.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

How to ruin a good dinner

He passed the matter off genially. But life can never be quite the same after you have upset a water-jug into an open jam-tart at the table of a comparative stranger. Mike's nerve had gone. He was a broken man.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Where Miles Standish messed up

Miles Standish was toting a torch for Priscille, see? But he didn't have moxie to ask the $64 question, so he sends Johnny Alden to ask her instead. And that was like sending a Doberman Pinscher for a pound of hamburger.

(from the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show)

How are trap shooting and crap shooting similar?

You can get hurt with one if you don't know they are loaded.

Why the majority must rule

"It is true the majority may be wrong and the minority right; but, when free debate is granted and free balloting allowed, the majority will be convinced of their error and retrace their steps. In this case it is for the majority to decide whether the measure was right or wrong; for, if it is given to the minority, the number may be reduced to an individual and end in absolute despotism." (Elder John Leland in 1830. Emphasis mine.)

Friday, February 06, 2015


"Man who flirt with dynamite sometime fly with angels."

(from Charlie Chan at the Race Track)


Thursday, February 05, 2015

One of the easiest winters I can remember

I think back to the summer of 1980 as the worst in my memory. But this winter of 2014-15 may turn out to be the mildest winter, both in terms of temperature and a lack of frozen precipitation. I am not complaining. I like it!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

War gives "cover" to vile men

One of the worst things about war is that it lends an air of legitimacy to the very worst sort of men engaged in the most despicable of activities. "Cruel and bloodthirsty men" can give themselves sanctimonious airs that they are only engaged in patriotic activities, whether politicians or foot soldiers.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Casey at the Bat - the rest of the story

Below is a link to a wonderful adaptation of the Casey at the Bat poem, done by Elliott and Cathy Lewis on their radio program On Stage. It is based on the poem, but fills out the details in a somewhat surprising manner.


A government of thieves

The debt owed by the United States government is staggering, and each new year (regardless of the party in power) brings another massive deficit. The Republicans will not raise taxes nor cut military spending and the Democrats will not cut spending on anything else.

When a person borrows money with absolutely no intention of ever paying it back, any reasonable person would call that theft. We have a government of thieves.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Mike Hammer TV series

This was a good 30-minute TV series definitely of the hard-boiled variety. It starred Darren McGabin in the title role. He looked the tough-guy part, and could handle the comic as well as the intense aspects of the role. The series ran for two seasons, and it is available for purchase. If you are a fan of old TV detective shows, put this one on your list.


If Holmes had met Poirot

Both had considerable egos and liked the limelight. Both were secretive in their methods. Could they have worked together in a crisis? That is an interesting proposition.



Sunday, February 01, 2015

A slave to habit

The monotony of the prospect appalled him. He was not old enough to know what a narcotic is Habit, and that one can become attached to and interested in the most unpromising jobs.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

She cut an unimpressive figure

     In answer to Mike's knock, a female person opened the door. In appearance she resembled a pantomime "dame," inclining toward the restrained melancholy of Mr. Wilkie Bard rather than the joyous abandon of Mr. George Robey. Her voice she had modelled on the gramophone. Her most recent occupation seemed to have been something with a good deal of yellow soap in it. As a matter of fact - there are no secrets between our readers and ourselves - she had been washing a shirt. A useful occupation, and an honourable, but one that tends to produce a certain homeliness in the appearance.
     She wiped a pair of steaming hands on her apron, and regarded Mike with an eye which would have been markedly expressionless in a boiled fish.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Wilkie Bard was a popular British vaudeville and recording artist in the beginning of the 20th century. Sir George Robey was an English singer, comedian and actor in musical comedy.



Taking life in stride

Psmith had a way of treating unpleasant situations as if he were merely playing at them for his own amusement. Psmith's attitude toward the slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune was to regard them with a bland smile, as if they an entertainment got up for his express benefit.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)


Some people do not have all their marbles. Other people do not use the marbles they have. Either way you arrive at half.