Tag Archives: Balladeer’s Blog

HAPPY BLOOM’S DAY 2021!

jamesjoyceYes, it’s the 16th of June, better known to James Joyce geeks like me as Bloom’s Day. The day is named in honor of Leopold Bloom, the Jewish advertising sales rep and Freemason who is one of the major characters in Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The novel also brings along Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of his earlier novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

For those unfamiliar with this work, Ulysses is Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novel in which he metaphorically features the events from the Odyssey in a single day – June 16th, 1904, in Dublin. (The day he met Nora Barnacle, the woman he would eventually marry after living together for decades)

Bloom represents Ulysses/Odysseus, Stephen represents Telemachus and Leopold’s wife, Molly Bloom, represents Penelope. Continue reading

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THE YEAR 2440 (1771) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

year 2440THE YEAR 2440 (1771) – Written by Louis-Sebastien Mercier, this French novel was at first published anonymously in Holland because of its criticism of the French aristocracy and of religion. Also for its bold rejection of societal norms of the time period. It was years before Mercier dared to take public credit for the work, and even then he did so largely because some were crediting The Year 2440 to Rousseau or Voltaire. 

The novel was wildly popular for such an underground work and had to be smuggled into a country and then sold by merchants who dealt in “illicit reading material.” The Spanish Inquisition put it on its list of prohibited books. Here in the U.S. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are known to have owned First Editions of The Year 2440. Continue reading

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REVOLUTIONARY WAR: PRIVATEER ACTIONS IN SEPTEMBER OF 1778

crossed sabresWith the Fourth of July holiday rapidly approaching here is another seasonal post. Previously, Balladeer’s Blog has looked at the swashbuckling actions of some American privateers from the Revolutionary War. This time here’s a look at one of the most successful months for our privateers – September of 1778.

crossed swords picSEPTEMBER 1st-5th – The American privateer ship the Active seized multiple prizes and took aboard several British Prisoners of War. Unfortunately, the Captain of the Active had stretched his crew too thin. The captive Brits gleaned the vulnerable position of their captors and rose up to seize control of the ship and were determined to link up with the first British vessel they could find to help take in the seized U.S. ship and consummate their freedom.

SEPTEMBER 6th – The 10-cannon brig the Gerard, an American privateer, under Pennsylvania’s J. Josiah, came upon the seized Active and, after a long chase, compelled the ship to surrender. Captain Josiah and his men learned they had just saved the American privateer crew and had recaptured the British POWs. The Gerard escorted the Active back to its Philadelphia port in case the POWs grew frisky again.

SEPTEMBER 17th – The 18-cannon privateer ship Vengeance, under one Captain Newman of Massachusetts, chased the British packet ship Harriet (16 cannon) for at least 6 hours before engaging it in battle. The Americans won and the Harriet surrendered.        Continue reading

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SHANG-CHI: HIS FIRST TWELVE ADVENTURES

With the first trailer for the next Marvel Comics movie, Shang-Chi, out already, here’s a look at the first twelve  Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu stories.

shang chi picFirst, a little background information. In the early 1970s Marvel was experimenting with hybrid titles that would combine the old and the new by fusing licensed properties with unique Marvel twists.

The most famous and longest-lasting example was Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. In 1973 Marvel licensed the use of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu plus other characters from the Fu Manchu tales. Rather than just churn out a Fu Manchu comic book series “the House of Ideas” instead combined it with the Kung Fu craze of the time and created Shang Chi, the son of Fu Manchu.

Shang Chi, as a surrogate Bruce Lee, and Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, as a surrogate Braithwaite from Enter: The Dragon, were the core of the new series. Shang Chi started out as an operative of his evil father Fu Manchu, but realized the error of his ways and threw in with Sir Denis and his team to battle his father’s malevolent schemes.

FOR STORIES TEAMING IRON FIST AND SHANG-CHI CLICK HERE.

shang chi 1SPECIAL MARVEL EDITION #15 (December 1973)

Title: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu

Villain: Fu Manchu

Synopsis: One night Shang-Chi, the son of the insidious Dr Fu Manchu, penetrates the Mayfair home of his father’s old enemy Dr Petrie and, though he hesitates when he sees how old the sleeping man is, kills him as ordered. A wheelchair-bound Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, Fu Manchu’s archenemy, arrives in the bedroom too late to save his longtime ally Dr Petrie but is holding a gun on Shang-Chi.

Shang effortlessly disarms Sir Denis and turns to leave, only to be amazed at the way Nayland-Smith is weeping over the dead doctor. He engages Denis in a conversation about why the Britisher has opposed his father for so many decades. Shang-Chi is disturbed by the passionate conviction with which Nayland-Smith describes his father’s global activities, activities that Fu has kept hidden from his son.

mascot sword and gun pic

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What really piques our hero’s curiosity is when Sir Denis shows him how Fu Manchu had him abducted recently in Burma and tortured until he could no longer walk, thus confining him to a wheelchair. Conflicted, Shang-Chi goes to Honan, China to visit his mother and question her about his father’s true nature. She informs him that what Nayland-Smith said is true, but she had hoped her son would not learn the truth until he was much older. (Shang was around 18-19 years old as this series started.)

Determined to confront his father about his lies, Shang-Chi fights his way through his father’s international headquarters, decorated in priceless Chinese artwork and other fineries. After overcoming all of the guards barring his way, our hero faces a gorilla that has been biologically mutated by Fu Manchu. Even this creature is overcome. Continue reading

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PYTINE (423 B.C.) – ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

As anniversary month continues at Balladeer’s Blog here’s my 2012 review of Cratinus’ ancient comedy Pytine.

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PYTINE (423 B.C.) – Welcome to Balladeer’s Blog’s latest post on ancient Greek comedies. If Pytine was an episode of Friends it would be titled The One Where Cratinus Fires Back At Aristophanes. This play is also known under English language titles like Wine Flask, Flagon, The Bottle, and others along those lines.

Cratinus, galvanized by the tongue-in- cheek caricature that Aristophanes presented of a drunken, washed- up Cratinus in his previous year’s comedy The Knights, turned that caricature into the premise of his final comedy.

THE PLAY

From the fragments of Pytine that remain it seems Cratinus had an actor portraying himself (Cratinus) as the booze-soaked Grand Old Man of Attic comedy at the time. I always picture the character as a cross between Dudley Moore in Arthur and Tom Conti in Reuben, Reuben. Anyway, in the play Cratinus is married either to Thalia, the Muse of Comedy or to simply a female personification of Comedy.  

Comedy complains to Cratinus’ friends, who make up the chorus, that she wants to take her husband to court for abandonment. She states that he is neglecting their marital bed because he has been spending too much time sleeping around with Methe, in this comedy a personification of  Drunkenness. Continue reading

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LIGHT SPEED ESPER (1967-1968)

light speed esper coverLIGHT SPEED ESPER (1967-1968) – This overlooked Japanese television show was titled Kousoku Esupâ in its nation of origin. If you enjoy live action programs like Ultraman or other shows from the tokusatsu subgenre of entertainment then Light Speed Esper will certainly appeal to you.

Hikaru Azuma (Kiyotaka Mitsugi) is a boy out enjoying a trip in a balloon with his parents. Tragedy strikes when their balloon collides with a spaceship piloted by aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy. As happens. You know how it is.

light speed esperHikaru’s parents are killed in this intergalactic accident, filling the extraterrestrials – called Alien Espers or Esper Seijin – with immense feelings of guilt. They possess and animate the dead bodies of Hikaru’s mother and father to make amends. Very morbid amends, I grant you, but amends nonetheless.

The plot thickens as the Alien Espers (lower left) share their knowledge about an impending invasion of Earth by the Giron Seijin (Feuding Aliens). Continue reading

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SWALLOWED BY AN EARTHQUAKE (1894): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

swallowed by an earthquakeSWALLOWED BY AN EARTHQUAKE (1894) – Written by Edward Douglas Fawcett. The Rinaldi family in Naples invite a group of friends, consisting of young Charlie, his uncle, his friend Jack and Dr Ruggieri, to pay them a visit. An earthquake of record intensity rips open deep chasms in the countryside, with the four travelers sliding down into one.

The foursome are cut off from the surface world but find a subterranean river which they explore in a rough boat they construct out of the ruins of a villa which collapsed into the chasm with them. They take along guns and plenty of ammunition from the aforementioned villa. Typical of these hollow Earth/ underground civilization stories, phosphorescent rocks provide plenty of light in many areas. There is abundant vegetation.

Eventually our main characters survive encounters with an exhaustive number of dinosaur species and make a temporary home for themselves on an island in the middle of the underground waterway. While there they build a much larger boat, gather vegetables and catch plenty of fish to be smoked so that they have food for the seemingly long journey ahead. Continue reading

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HUTCHINSON COLLEGE BLUE DRAGONS ARE NJCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS

The Covid-prolonged college football season came to an end with TWO final games:

Hutchinson Blue DragonsNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – The number 1 team in the nation – the HUTCHINSON COLLEGE BLUE DRAGONS – clashed with the 2nd ranked SNOW COLLEGE BADGERS for the NJCAA football crown yesterday.

The Blue Dragons were chasing the Badgers 14-3 in the 1st Quarter and 14-10 come Halftime. Snow College held a 21-16 advantage to close out the 3rd Quarter but in the 4th Hutchinson College blazed from behind to win it all by a final score of 29-27. * THE BLUE DRAGONS ARE NJCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS Continue reading

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FIRST TWENTY SPIRIT OF SEVENTY-SIX STORIES FROM THE 1940s

With less than a month now until the 4th of July here’s a look at the first twenty stories of the Harvey Comics superhero called the Spirit of 76. For more than two dozen Harvey superheroes CLICK HERE 

Spirit of 76THE SPIRIT OF ’76

Secret Identity: Gary Blakely, West Point Cadet

First Appearance: Pocket Comics #1 (August 1941)

Origin: Gary Blakely, scion of an American family which had distinguished themselves on the battlefield in every conflict from the Revolutionary War onward, was a Cadet at West Point. By chance he uncovered a Fifth Column plot by Nazi agents to blow up the academy. He adopted the costumed identity of the Spirit of ’76, foiled the Axis plot and resolved to continue fighting evil afterward.

Powers: The Spirit of ’76 was in peak human condition, was exceptionally agile and was very skilled at both armed and unarmed combat. His costume was bulletproof and he wielded his saber expertly in battle. This hero lasted until 1948, so he faced Communist villains instead of Nazi villains after World War Two was over.

pocket 1POCKET COMICS #1 (August 1941)

Title: Cadet Blakeley, Spirit of 76

Villains: Nazi saboteurs led by Herr Hoch  

Synopsis: West Point Cadet Gary Blakely discovers a Nazi plot to blow up West Point. Donning a costume and armed with a sword, he calls himself the Spirit of 76 and takes down the spy ring. 

Comment: You have to admit, there’s something appealing about a superhero whose secret identity is that of a West Point Cadet.  Continue reading

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THE CLOUDS (C 423 B.C.): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

It’s Anniversary Month here at Balladeer’s Blog! Here’s my second review of an Ancient Greek Comedy from back in the year 2011. FOR BACKGROUND INFORMATION IF YOU MISSED MY FIRST POST ON ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2011/09/22/at-long-last-my-ancient-greek-comedy-posts-begin/

the cloudsThe Clouds was written by Aristophanes around 423 BCE and next to Lysistrata, which I examined last week, is the Big A’s most- discussed satire, mostly because of its lampooning of the philosopher Socrates, a contemporary of Aristophanes. Many modern readers, who have been programmed to sneeringly “deconstruct”  old works of art rather than understand them, love to regard this comedy with hostility. They accuse Aristophanes of being “anti – intellectual” for subjecting Socrates in particular and the Sophist philosophers in general to the same satirical criticism that every other aspect of Athenian society was subjected to in comic plays.

There are many arguments I can use to refute this claim, and  I’ll present them below following my synopsis of the play itself. To provide just a brief argument right now since you may be curious, let me remind everyone that Shakespeare is famous for the line about killing all the lawyers, but I’ve never met one rational person who thinks that line means Shakespeare was seriously proposing the execution of all lawyers or the elimination of the law and/or the  judiciary system. By the same token I hardly think Aristophanes was railing against every form of education or intellectual inquiry. More on this controversy, including the trial of Socrates, below. 

THE PREMISE

the clouds picIn the ancient Greek democracy Athenian citizens were expected to represent themselves in court in both criminal and civil proceedings.

Since juries are the same no matter what the time period a guilty person who was a good speaker could get acquitted while an innocent person who was an inept speaker could get found guilty.

Conversely, since there were no public prosecutors, citizens could charge their fellow Athenians with crimes and if they were skilled enough at speaking they could railroad an innocent person. Many Athenian citizens who faced a court date would pay some of the “streetcorner” Sophist philosophers to teach them rhetorical skills to make them better prepared for their appearance in court. Continue reading

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