Tag Archives: Balladeer’s Blog

ARE THE PLANETS INHABITED? (1913): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

are the planets inhabitedARE THE PLANETS INHABITED? (1913) – Written by Edward Walter Maunder, this book began with ridicule of the outdated belief that the sun and moon might be inhabited, but it doesn’t exactly embody scientific accuracy itself. Therefore I’m classifying it as science fiction even though in 1913 it was considered to be a series of observations adhering to rigid scientific principles.

MARS – Maunder hilariously refers over and over again to “independent confirmations” that Mars had canals. It was believed that these canals provided water from the planet’s polar ice caps to the rest of the desert planet. The author proceeds to cite observations from no less an authority than Percival Lowell, who in 1894 added “oases” at the “junctions” of Schiaparelli’s Martian canals.

              The supposed regularity and precision of those oases (reservoirs might have been a better term, even though it, too, would be in error) “proved” to scientists of the time that they could NOT be mere natural formations. This book explains that the Martians are apparently mounting a monumental engineering project in a losing battle to keep their population alive. Continue reading

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APRIL COLLEGE FOOTBALL RESULTS

More college football results from games rescheduled from last fall due to Covid.

NAIA

Marian Knights helmet newTUSSLE IN THE TOP ELEVEN – The number 10 team in the nation – the MARIAN UNIVERSITY KNIGHTS – traveled to take on the 11th ranked UNIVERSITY OF SAINT FRANCIS (IN) COUGARS. Though the Cougars led 3-0 to end the 1st Quarter, by Halftime the Knights were on top 20-3. That became a 27-11 advantage going into the 4th Quarter, in which Marian U had to survive a furious Saint Francis rally, holding on for a 41-34 victory.

College of Idaho Coyotes NEW HELMETWHEN RANKED TEAMS CLASH – The 6th ranked COLLEGE OF IDAHO COYOTES found themselves on the road against the number 20 EASTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY MOUNTAINEERS. By the midpoint of this game between these two familiar Frontier Conference opponents the Mountaineers were leading the Coyotes 28-21. The 3rd Quarter ended with EOU clinging to a 31-28 edge before the College of Idaho came from behind to win it 49-38 in the 4th. 

Southwestern College Moundbuilders NEWDOUBLING UP ON THE COMPETITION – The (24) SOUTHWESTERN COLLEGE MOUNDBUILDERS took it on the road against the OTTAWA UNIVERSITY (KS) BRAVES yesterday. A 7-7 1st Quarter tie remained unchanged by the Half. After the break, the Moundbuilders had an explosive 3rd Quarter, going on top by a score of 28-14. The defenses shut out both teams in the 4th Quarter, so 28-14 was the final tally as well.  Continue reading

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QUALITY COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

mascot sword and gun pic

BALLADEER’S BLOG

Okay, regular readers definitely let me hear it over the way I skipped doing a light-hearted superhero post last weekend. I’m taking a look at the Quality Comics characters as they were in the Golden Age before they got absorbed by the black hole of DC Comics, into which the IPs of other publishers have been mangled to fit their latest “Crisis” nonsense. The days when they had the heroes of each newly acquired company set on an alternate Earth sound much more fun, but I’m not a comic book expert.

the rayTHE RAY

Secret Identity: Happy Terrill

First Appearance: Smash Comics #14 (September 1940) His final Golden Age appearance came in 1943.

Origin: While covering a scientist named Dr Styne as he tested his experimental lighter than air craft, New York Star reporter Happy Terrill rode along but got exposed to solar radiation and struck by lightning. (I hate when that happens!) This freak accident gave him superpowers with which he fought crime as the Ray.

Powers: The Ray could fly, shoot solar energy and electricity from his hands and turn his entire body into energy if needed. He drew power from light so extended periods shut off from all light sources would leave him powerless.

Comment: Like so many other Golden Age superheroes, the Ray was co-created by Will Eisner.   

lady luckLADY LUCK

Secret Identity: Brenda Banks

First Appearance: The Spirit Section (June 1940). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1950.

Origin: Brenda Banks was the daughter of wealthy mine owner Bickford Banks. Growing bored with her luxurious life as a socialite, she secretly studied all manner of unarmed combat and donned a costume to fight the forces of evil as Lady Luck, in honor of her Irish heritage. Continue reading

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PROTO-MUPPETS IN COMMERCIALS: JIM HENSON’S WILKINS AND WONTKINS ADS (1957-1961)

wilkins and wontkins

Wilkins (rear) and Wontkins

Balladeer’s Blog’s recurring feature Forgotten Television takes a look at some vintage commercials from a future big name. Long before his Muppets would become internationally known Jim Henson presented and voiced a pair of puppets named Wilkins and Wontkins. From 1957 to 1961 the duo appeared in a series of 8-second commercials for a variety of products, just like Jim Varney’s “Hey, Vern!” character Ernest P Worrell decades later. In the 1970s they still popped up from time to time.

Wilkins and Wontkins had a sort of Itchy & Scratchy feel with occasional undertones of Bert & Ernie. Wilkins, voiced by Henson in his future Kermit the Frog style, inflicted bizarrely sadistic punishments on Wontkins for not liking the products they were advertising.

Wilkins with Wontkins getting shotWontkins sounded like Oscar the Grouch crossed with either Statler or Waldorf and came complete with a Bert-style nose and perpetual frown (and no wonder). Wilkins, on the other hand, looked like a phallic object with arms and a face.

Wilkins had so many Kermit the Frog mannerisms that it adds to the humor of these vintage advertisements. It’s especially dark-humored to see the puppet go through Kermit’s “silent laughter” motions after so many of the casual acts of violence that he inflicts on Wontkins.

Wilkins and Wontkins in colorWhat started as a team of spokes-puppets for Wilkins Coffee morphed into greater things as surely as Barry Manilow’s old commercial jingles paved the way for his singing career!

These Wilkins & Wontkins ads even contain topical references to the Cold War, the Space Race and the Quiz Show scandals! Just watch:       Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-FOUR: MARCH 1912

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE  

Fool Killer wardrobePART FIFTY-FOUR – There was no February issue of James Larkin Pearson’s version of The Fool-Killer in 1912, so we resume with the March issue, put together with Pearson’s new printing machinery. The Fool Killer’s targets this time around included:

*** Lawyers and politicians who felt constrained by legal precedents. Pearson and his Fool Killer called for dismantling the current system and starting fresh. Yet, once again, we will see below that he also had astonishingly regressive attitudes. The contradictions are part of the fascination. 

*** North Carolina politicians and law enforcement personnel who, despite the state having Prohibition, secretly indulged in drinking alcohol and/or turned a blind eye to speakeasies and bootlegging. NOTE: Prohibition was not a nationwide policy yet. “Dry” states forbade the sell of booze while “Wet” states still had legal drinking.

*** People who chewed tobacco. Pearson had a big thing against chewers and smokers.

*** Lawyers and the legal system, which he wanted overhauled. 

*** Meat packers and meat retailers, who were blaming each other for the inflated prices of meat products. Continue reading

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RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: LINKS

rivals of sherlockThank you to those Balladeer’s Blog readers who reminded me that I hadn’t provided a post with the links to ALL my reviews of the episodes of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. That was a 1971-1973 British television series which adapted Victorian Age and Edwardian Age stories about detectives other than Sherlock Holmes.

1971 SEASON

masc graveyard smallerA MESSAGE FROM THE DEEP SEA – R Austin Freeman’s police surgeon detective Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke (created in 1907) uses his unique talents to investigate the murder of a London prostitute. Click HERE.

THE WOMAN IN THE BIG HAT – Molly Robertson-Kirk aka Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, was created by THE Baroness Orczy in 1910. In this mystery she solves the murder of a man left poisoned in a public eatery by the title suspect. Click HERE

THE AFFAIR OF THE AVALANCHE BICYCLE & TYRE CO. LTD – Arthur Morrison’s 1897 creation Horace Dorrington, a roguish and frequently dishonest private investigator, gets to the bottom of the public stock offering from a mysterious new corporation which may be running a scam. Click HERE.

THE RIPENING RUBIES – Bernard Sutton, a jeweler who solves mysteries, was created by Max Pemberton in 1894. In this case he solves a series of spectacular jewel thefts in London high society. Click HERE.

MADAME SARA – In 1902 L.T. Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) and Robert Eustace published this first of six mysteries pitting their detective Dixon Druce against Madame Sara, a female combination of Professor Moriarty and Dr Fu Manchu. Click HERE. Continue reading

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THE STEAM MAN OF THE PRAIRIES (1868): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Steam Man of the PrairiesTHE STEAM MAN OF THE PRAIRIES (1868) – Written by Edward Sylvester Ellis. Before the Frank Reade stories came this work that is often hailed as the first Dime Novel with a science fiction theme.

Ellis seems to have been inspired by the REAL and well-known Newark Steam Man built by Zadoc P Dederick in January of 1868. That Steam Man was built strictly to pull carts and wagonloads up and down the street. Its human appearance was just a novelty.

Back to Ellis’ novel: In Saint Louis lives Johnny Brainerd, a 15 year old dwarf with a hunchback, who has a brilliant mind in his misshapen body. After a long line of somewhat modest inventions Johnny constructs a human-shaped Steam Man that stands 9 feet tall. It has long legs with spiked feet, has the boilers in its chest, the firepot in its stomach and lets excess steam vent from its hat. (Dederick’s Newark Steam Man also wore a top hat.) The creation’s nose serves as its whistle, like on a tea kettle.      Continue reading

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THE LAST DAYS OF PATTON (1986): MOVIE REVIEW

Last days of pattonTHE LAST DAYS OF PATTON (1986) – George C Scott SINGS! Yes, an ENTIRE SONG while camping it up like he’s in a vaudeville revue! Blood and Guts Song and dance man George S Patton belches belts out Lilly From Picadilly in a WTF moment from this otherwise reasonable made-for-tv movie which SHOULD have been titled AfterP*A*T*T*O*N.

Nearly two decades after George C Scott played Patton on the big screen he returned to the role to depict the final days of the controversial military icon. The above-referenced strange interlude in which the General sang on-stage was a mere aberration but you just knew that as weird as I am I would start out my review with it.  

The Scottsploitation angle is the best thing The Last Days of Patton has going for it, because without the novelty appeal of the charismatic actor in the lead role this telefilm would be hopelessly soap-operatic. We’re told the General had an affair with a younger woman but his stoic wife (Eva Marie Saint) tolerated it even though she did not approve. We also get lots of medical drama after Patton is paralyzed following a car accident in Germany the day before he was to leave for America.  

Last Days of Patton 2Roughly half of the movie is spent with the great George C Scott in a hospital bed, like we’re watching Whose Life Is It Anyway, Ya Pusillanimous Sons of Bitches? Scott is always watchable, and really shines here, but the other actors have no room. With such a gigantic figure – real-life Elmer Fudd voice aside – it may have been like that in reality, too. Sharing any stage with the likes of George S Patton must have been suffocating for one’s own ego.  Continue reading

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THE QUEST OF SETH FOR THE OIL OF LIFE (1962): HAPPY EASTER!

Quest of SethTHE QUEST OF SETH FOR THE OIL OF LIFE (1962) – Written by Esther Casier Quinn, this is one of the best and most concise works of comparative mythology that I have ever read. I meant to review this book way back when I started Balladeer’s Blog in 2010 but for various reasons it kept falling by the wayside. The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Life is also known as The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Mercy, The Legend of the Rood and many other titles.

Quinn draws from a multitude of sources to provide several variations of this tale and explores the ways in which the course of history shaped the revisions and embellishments involved in this legend. The Seth of the title is the son of Adam and Eve, the Oil of Life/ Oil of Mercy is often said to represent Jesus Christ, the Rood refers to the cross on which Jesus was crucified and its “legend” details the history and many forms of the tree/ wood that eventually became that cross. 

For those not familiar with this particular popular offshoot of the canonical story of Jesus Christ here’s a brief overview:
Continue reading

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2021 NAIA COLLEGE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONS

shawnee stateNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – The 5 seeds – the SHAWNEE STATE BEARS – squared off against the 3rd seeded LEWIS-CLARK STATE WARRIORS (should be the Explorers) for the 2021 title in NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) basketball.

This was the 83rd national tournament in the history of the NAIA. Continue reading

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