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According to the Google, at least three George Smiths were writing fiction in America in the 1960s. One of them was George Henry Smith (1922-1996) of Vicksburg, Mississippi, who began as a writer of soft-core erotica and later transitioned to science fiction.

A few years ago, I wrote about Mr. Smith and posted one of his short stories (sci-fi, not erotica) here.

The story below (also sci-fi, not erotica) appeared in a 1980 anthology published by Isaac Asimov. Asimov was known as a fan of ironic twists and surprise endings, so be warned.

———

Take Me to Your Leader

By George Henry Smith
Published in Microcosmic Tales, 1980

I was just sitting in this here bar, see, having a beer, when this funny-looking joker in the odd clothes turns to me and says, “Take me to your leader.”

I look at him real disgusted and don’t even smile. “Hell, Mac, that’s the oldest joke I know. Can’t you come up with something newer than that?”

“But I’ve got to see him! What do you call him? … your President?”

“Look, Buster, I’m just an ordinary guy havin’ a beer after work. Even if you wasn’t some kind of nut, how could I take you to the President?”

“But you’ve got to… you’ve got to… I am…” He wipes a hand across his bald dome. “Have you ever heard. the theory about parallel worlds… about how thousands of time tracks exist side by side in the same place, their worlds very much alike?”

“Nope,” I says, taking a big gulp of my beer, “I ain’t never heard nothing like that. It sure sounds crazy.”

“The theory holds that significant events in history have caused the different time tracks to go in different directions.”

“You puttin’ me on, mister?”

“Listen,” he says, putting a hand on my arm, “you’ve got to believe me! I’m a scientist from one of those parallel worlds. I come from another dimension.

“My country occupies this same continent. Do you call it North America? Is it still North America in this world?”

I close my eyes and pucker up my face in exasperation.

“Of course we call it North America. What the hell else would we call it? It is North America, ain’t it?”

“Yes, yes, of course. Our worlds are very much alike. They would have to be because they are the closest to each other. Their histories must be very similar, too. Not like the North America that is still dominated by the Spanish or the one where the Vikings settled or…”

I turned back to my beer. This guy was really nuts.

He pulls at my sleeve again. “You see, I’m a scientist. My colleagues and I were working on the problem of parallel universes, of closely related time tracks. We discovered that various patterns of vibrating rates could move a man from one track to another. We were just about to complete our experiment when the Russians attacked. It was an overwhelming attack…”

He pauses to wipe at his head again. “In my world, America was destroyed! Wiped out! Are you having trouble with the Russians, too?”

“Yeah, we’re havin’ trouble with the Russians, as if you didn’t know. Say, maybe you’re a Russian yourself!”

“No, no!” the little man says and goes white. “I assure you I am an American scientist and that I’ve come to warn your world. Everything in my country was wiped out by their new ion-powered rockets.

“I managed to get into a reverberation machine and reach here, our nearest time alternate. I’ve got to warn your leaders! Any event as catastrophic as this world tend to extend across several tracks. Your country is in deadly danger.”

“The Russkies wipe out the States? Don’t make me laugh,” I says.

“But they have… they can! Don’t you understand? That’s why I came to Washington… you do call it Washington, don’t you? I have to see your President! I have to warn him!”

Now this is about enough. I’ve about had it with this guy. I see a policeman I know come into the bar just then, and without another look at this crackpot, I go over and whisper in the cop’s ear.

He takes a look at the guy and nods. “Sure, I’ll pick him up and take him down and let the docs have a look at him.”

I walk out of the bar into the hot, humid Washington night, still thinking what that nut had said. For a minute I wonder, but then I shrug it off. Them Russkies ain’t gonna give us no trouble.

That Czar of theirs ain’t got the nerve to fight over no icebox like Alaska. And anyway, their dirigibles couldn’t get this far over to bomb us. Leastwise, I don’t think so.

But then I grin to myself as I see the Capitol dome in the distance with the flag flying. No Russkies are gonna bother us… not while the good old Stars and Bars is flyin’. Not while Jefferson Davis VI is Hereditary President of the Confederate States of America!

The Questions…

1. What is the technical difference between poultry and fowl?

2. The medical condition sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, better known as brain freeze or an ice-cream headache, is caused by eating or drinking something cold too quickly. Physically, what happens to cause it?

3. In the 1960 film Psycho, what did director Alfred Hitchcock use to simulate blood in the famous shower scene?

4. What is the most profitable commodity sold in supermarkets?

5. What is a diastema?

The Answers…

1. The word poultry describes domesticated fowl.

2. Behind your nose are nerves that are highly sensitive to pain, probably designed to protect your brain. Scientists think brain freeze is a case of those nerves objecting to the cold.

3. Hershey’s chocolate syrup diluted with water.

4. Dog food.

5. A gap between the upper front teeth.

Crème de la Crème

I spent some time recently, probably too much time, reading up on the all-time best guitar work in rock music. Or, more accurately, various opinions on the subject.

A good guitar riff is a deeply satisfying thing. And, because tastes vary widely, the subject is gloriously, wonderfully subjective.

I’m partial to Hotel California, Bad Moon Rising, and Money for Nothing. I don’t care much for Iron Man and Smells Like Teen Spirit. But that’s just one dude’s opinion.

My research protocol consisted of reading countless online lists of favorites compiled by fans, music pros, etc. Sometimes, the lists ranked the songs in order, sometimes not. When ranked, Smoke on the Water appeared in first place most often.

My takeaway: regardless of personal taste and the subjectivity angle, most of the lists contained — would you believe it? — more or less the same songs.

Namely, these 25, which I list alphabetically; ranking them would be presumptuous and not cool.

———

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen
Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Back in Black, AC/DC
Black Dog, Led Zeppelin
Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Day Tripper, The Beatles
Enter Sandman, Metallica
Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin
Hotel California, The Eagles
Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Rolling Stones
Layla, Derek and the Dominoes
Money, Pink Floyd
Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
Satisfaction, Rolling Stones
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple
Sweet Child of Mine, Guns n’ Roses
Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix

———

That, my friends, is a righteous list of tunes.

Tune o’ the Day

Cowboy Junkies is a band from Toronto whose debut album came out in 1986. They are still touring today with the original members: Vocalist Margo Timmins, her two brothers, and a family friend.

The Junkies are categorized in various ways — country rock, alternative country, alternative rock, folk rock. Whatever they are, I’m a big fan. They’ve released 21 albums/CDs, and I have 13 of them.

For a love song, “A Common Disaster” is seriously bleak and gritty. But a love song it is. The singer is asking someone to forget about all that “happily-ever-after” stuff and embark on a relationship, even if, odds are, it will end badly. The Junkies excel at this kind of tune.

A Common Disaster

By Cowboy Junkies, 1996
Written by Michael Timmins

A candle burning for everything I’ve ever wanted.
A tattoo burned for everything I’ve ever wanted and lost.
I had a long list of names that I kept in my back pocket,
But I’ve cut it down to one, and your name’s at the top.

Won’t you share a common disaster?
Share with me a common disaster.
A common disaster.

I found myself a friend,
But he’s crooked as a stick in water.
So now I’m writing fairy tales
To catch the spirit of revenge.
He’s got a plan to steal my little sister,
But I’m not too concerned
‘Cause I will get him in the end.

Won’t you share a common disaster?
Share with me a common disaster.
A common disaster.

Going to find me someone to share a common disaster.
Run away with me from a life so cramped and dull.
Not worry too much about the happily-ever-after.
Just keep the Caddy moving ‘til we’re well beyond that hill.

Won’t you share a common disaster?
Share with me a common disaster.
A common disaster.

The Junkies today.

Thoughts du Jour

Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Spidy

Banks Crossing is a commercial area that grew up around one of the I-85 exits in the nearby town of Commerce. Walmart and Home Depot are there, as are half the town’s restaurants.

The last time I was there, it was lunch time, and up ahead was a Chick-fil-a. Drive-throughs being especially popular right now, a long double line of cars was queued up. I almost went elsewhere, but a chicken sandwich sounded good, so I got in line.

The wait wasn’t bad. Half a dozen employees were scurrying around outside, taking orders and money. Even the manager was there, directing traffic.

When my turn came, I ordered a chicken sandwich, and the girl asked, “What’s the name for the order?”

Smitty,” I said and proceeded to the window.

Later, I noticed the receipt stapled to the bag.

Spidy

My son Britt says “Spidy” can be my new call sign.

———

Spooked

Before I retired and began a life of comfort and indolence, I worked in the Advertising Department of Lithonia Lighting, a large manufacturer. I was just an ordinary copy chief, trying to get by.

The department consisted of a few admin types, the copywriters, and a stable of graphic designers who reported to the Art Director, Larry Flowers.

One of the designers, Dan Rabun, had the personal quirk of being unusually jumpy. He was easily spooked if someone came up behind him and caught him by surprise. Which happened regularly.

Probably, Dan simply zoned out when he worked and was oblivious to his surroundings. But the designers sat at a drawing board, or in front of computer screen, with their backs toward you. Not a good situation for poor Dan.

The person who spooked Dan most often was his boss Larry. Larry roamed the office constantly, checking on projects, assigning work, telling fart jokes. Regularly, he walked up behind Dan and, without intending to, scared the heck out of him.

Dan wasn’t always caught by surprise, but he jumped in alarm often enough. Cries of AUGGH!” and “AAAHH!!” were common.

Eventually, Larry came up with a solution. It was simple and effective.

When Larry went to see Dan, but before he got too close, he would announce in a calm and measured tone, “Approaching… Approaching…”

Dan

———

Trouble With YCbCr

Late last year, my Blu-ray player began screwing up. At unexpected moments, the screen would go black, and simultaneously, the sound would mute itself. A second later, picture and sound would resume as normal.

It didn’t happen on every disk, but it happened a lot. Losing the picture was annoying enough, but following the dialogue when random words are missing, that can be a challenge.

When the problem first surfaced, I checked all the cables and connections and otherwise tried to noodle out the cause. No luck.

Once, when the issue made watching a movie impossible, I went online and ordered another DVD of the movie. It was fairly old, so I got the replacement disc for just a few bucks. The problem was still there.

So, finally, I coughed up $50 for a new Blu-ray player. And, wonder of wonders, the problem went away.

For a few months.

One recent Saturday evening, I popped a DVD into the player it turned out to be a mediocre gangster movie and the problem was back. At unpredictable intervals, the sound winked out and the screen went black for a second or so. Crap.

I watched the movie for a few more minutes, but finally, I hit the pause button. Fuming with righteous indignation, I went to my computer and typed, “On a Blu-ray disc player, what causes the picture to go black and the sound to stop and then resume?”

According to the Google, that subject is a hot topic online. It’s a common problem and a source of widespread exasperation.

But I found a fix that seemed worth trying:

The issue might be your video output mode. In the bluray player settings, try switching from YCbCr 4.4.4 to YCbCr 4.2.2. That resolved my problem!”

YCbCr, I learned, is the method the player uses to interpret color. Blu-ray works best with YCbCr 4.2.0, but 4.2.2 is acceptable. Blu-ray does not like 4.4.4 and shows its displeasure.

So, I searched around in the settings of the Blu-ray player (settings I didn’t even know were there) and, sure enough, my player was set for 4.4.4. I changed it to 4.2.2.

And that, indeed, solved the problem. The disc played flawlessly, without winking out or muting itself a single time.

I watched the rest of the mediocre gangster movie with peace and contentment in my heart.

YCbCr

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

In 52 BC, a Roman army invaded present-day France and defeated the Parisii, a Celtic tribe living along the River Seine. There, the Romans established the city of Lutetia (Latin for “place near a swamp”). Lutetia remained under Roman rule until 476 AD, when the Franks invaded and kicked out the Romans. Lutetia was renamed Paris for the previous occupants.

During the first moon landing in 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface for 21 hours. During that time, they snacked on peaches, sugar cookies, bacon, coffee, and grapefruit-pineapple juice.

Xanthophobia is the fear of the color yellow or the word yellow. It’s a genuine phobia that can develop after a traumatic experience involving something yellow. (Being hit by a school bus maybe?) Symptoms can include fear, anxiety, panic, etc.

Worldwide, some 340 dog breeds are recognized (although the haughty AKC only recognizes 167). About 20 breeds have evolved webbed toes, primarily as an aid when swimming. Among them: the Newfoundland, Portuguese Water Dog, Weimaraner, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Dachsunds are not swimmers, but they also have webbed feet. Originally, they were bred for hunting small game, and the webbing allows them to shovel dirt more efficiently when pursuing, say, a badger in its den.

Webbed toes

The English language is known for giving curious and unexpected names to groups of animals: a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a prickle of porcupines. FYI, a group of rats (eewwww) is called a mischief.

An animal described as crepuscular is one that is most active around twilight. Bats, for example.

Technically, the holiday Cinco de Mayo, commemorates a battle on May 5, 1862, in which 2,000 Mexican irregulars defeated an invading army of 5,000 French troops. It is a minor holiday in Mexico, but the U.S. has made it a day to party, the excuse being to celebrate Mexican heritage.

The spider with the venom most toxic to humans is the male Sydney Funnel-Web Spider (Atrax robustus), found around Sydney in eastern Australia. The venom of the female is nasty, but less toxic. The spiders are aggressive and will attempt to bite you multiple times.

Atrax robustus

When a song or an advertising jingle is stuck in your head, you are said to have an “earworm.”

A luthier is a craftsman who builds stringed instruments, whether plucked or played with a bow. The word luthier comes from luth, which is French for lute.

Wind speeds around the globe are increasing, most likely due to climate change. The increase is so significant that experts say the output of the world’s wind turbines is expected to climb by as much as one-third.

The wombat is the only animal whose scat is cube-shaped instead of round. The anus of the Australian marsupial is round, but the animal has developed the ability to control its muscles and poop in the form of square pellets.

This ability seems to have evolved because wombats use piles of scat to mark territory, and, whereas round scat rolls away, cubes stay put.

Wombat pellets

 

Quotes o’ the Day

If youth knew; if age could.

Sigmund Freud

###

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

###

Originality is the art of concealing your source.

Franklin P. Jones

###

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

Dorothy Parker

Freud S-2

Freud

Parker D-4

Parker

 

Hi-Yo, Silver!

In the 1940s and 1950s, veteran announcer Fred Foy introduced the Lone Ranger on radio and TV thusly:

Hi-Yo, Silver!

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo, Silver!’ The Lone Ranger!

With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice!

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Americans were introduced to the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and their valiant steeds Silver and Scout in the early 1930s. Today, the Lone Ranger is considered ancient history — just some do-gooder cowboy from yesteryear. More often than not, he is now a source of humor mixed with ridicule, à la Colonel Sanders.

That’s a shame. The Lone Ranger is an appealing character and a man, albeit fictional, of admirable integrity.

The Lone Ranger was created for radio in 1933 by writer Fran Striker and producer George Trendle. The program first aired on radio station WXYZ in Detroit. Within a few years, it was being carried on over 400 radio stations across the country.

Striker and Trendle gave the Lone Ranger a compelling backstory. He is a Texan named Reid, first name originally not given. He is the only survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers, one of them Reid’s older brother Daniel, who were ambushed by outlaws.

Tonto finds the wounded Reid and helps him recover. Thereafter, wearing a black mask made from his late brother’s vest, Reid roams the west as the Lone Ranger, helping those in need and fighting evil and injustice.

The Lone Ranger is a man of impeccable character who follows a strict moral code. He never shoots to kill. He doesn’t drink, smoke, or womanize. His grammar and pronunciation are always precise. He is an intelligent version of Dudley Do-Right, minus the humor.

From 1949 until 1957, a popular TV version of the radio show was aired starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

Six Lone Ranger movies have been made, the first in 1956, the most recent in 2013. A comic strip, various comic books, and 18 novels also have been published.

The Lone Ranger has given us some wonderful cultural tropes — Fred Foy’s dramatic introduction. The cry of “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” Silver bullets left as calling cards. The theme music from the William Tell Overture. A bystander inevitably asking, “Who was that masked man?”

LR&T

And then there is “kemosabe,” as Tonto calls his masked companion. Usually, the term is described as meaning “faithful friend” or “trusty scout.”

The meaning has generated jokes, too. In one, kemosabe means the rear end of a horse. In another, it means “meathead.”

Maybe the meaning is cloudy, but there is evidence of the word’s origin. Jim Jewell, who directed the radio show from 1933 until 1939, said the name came from a boys’ camp in Michigan, Kamp Kee-Mo-Sah-Bee, founded by Jewell’s father-in-law.

The father-in-law is believed to have taken the name from a 1912 book on Indian lore by one of the founders of the Boy Scouts. In the book, the term kee-mo-sah-bee is said to mean “scout runner.”

The term may have come from the Minnesota Ojibwe word giimoozaabi, which means “he who peeks” or maybe “sneaks.”

One last anecdote before I allow the Lone Ranger to ride into the sunset…

After the TV series ended in 1957, actor Clayton Moore began a 40-year career of making public appearances as the Lone Ranger, masked and in costume.

In 1979, TV producer Jack Wrather, who had obtained the legal rights to the Lone Ranger, was preparing to release the film “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” in which Moore did not appear.

Convinced that Moore’s public appearances would hurt the film at the box office, Wrather obtained a court order that blocked Moore from appearing in public as the Lone Ranger.

Moore counter-sued, and he continued making public appearances wearing Foster Grant sunglasses instead of the black mask.

Moore C

The lawsuit was a disaster for Wrather. Public opinion overwhelmingly was with Moore. Wrather became “the man who sued the mask off the Lone Ranger.” When Wrather’s movie came out in 1981, it lost money and, for good measure, was panned by critics.

In late 1984, Wrather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Soon thereafter, he lifted the restraining order, freeing Moore to resume his appearances as the Lone Ranger. Two months later, Wrather died.

Wrather’s final gesture to Moore was noble and generous. It was worthy of the Lone Ranger himself.

 

This Just In

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA — The North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that flipping off a law enforcement officer is not sufficient grounds for the officer to make a traffic stop or file criminal charges.

The decision overturned a lower court ruling regarding the 2017 incident of a Stanly County man who drove past a state trooper helping a stranded motorist and gave the officer the finger. The trooper pursued and stopped the man and cited him for disorderly conduct.

Lawyers for the state claimed the trooper was justified, but the Supreme Court said the evidence was “insufficient to conclude defendant’s conduct was likely to cause a breach of the peace.”

The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief in the case which stated that raising the middle finger is “protected speech.” An ACLU attorney called the incident “a textbook example of how public officials criminalize dissent and criticism.”

Middle finger

PALM COAST, FLORIDA — When sheriff’s deputies arrived at a house believed to contain drugs and drug paraphernalia, they found a welcome mat that read “Come back with a warrant.”

So we did,” said Sheriff Rick Staly.

Deputies obtained a warrant from the court and returned to the house. Inside, they confiscated a large amount of the opioid fentanyl, a supply of syringes, and other drug-related items.

Staly said three adults and one child were inside the house. Charges are expected to be filed against the adults. The Florida Department of Children and Families was contacted regarding disposition of the child.

Warrant

LUND, SWEDEN — the City of Lund spread more than a ton of chicken manure in a local park to discourage people from gathering there to celebrate an upcoming festival.

The manure was spread in Lundagård Park just before the festival of Walpurgis Night, a European festival in which revelers celebrate the end of winter with bonfires and dancing. Officials said the city acted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gustav Lundblad, chairman of Lund’s environmental committee, said spreading the manure served two purposes: it fertilized the park, and it kept people from celebrating there.

Lundblad said he regretted that an unpleasant odor drifted to other parts of the city, but he was pleased that the manure served its purpose.

Chicken manure