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JEFFERSON SMITH: 1800s GANGSTER

The Frontierado holiday is this Friday, August 6th. As always the festive occasion is all about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here’s another seasonal post.

soapy smithJEFFERSON “SOAPY” SMITH – This figure was one of the closest things to a 20th or 21st Century gangland chief in the 19th Century. Jefferson Randolph Smith II was born on November 2nd of 1860 in Coweto County, GA. In 1876 his family moved to Round Rock, TX, where his mother died of natural causes in 1877.

Jeff was one of the Round Rock citizens who witnessed the Sam Bass Gang’s shootout with Texas Rangers when the gang arrived in town intent on robbing the Williamson County Bank. The date was July 19th, 1878 and Smith would forever after state that he had yelled “I think you got him!” as Rangers Richard Ware and George Herold shot Bass, mortally wounding him.

soapy smith hatlessShortly after that event Jeff moved to Fort Worth, TX. The story goes that Smith had begun working at confidence games to make money when he was 16 and in Fort Worth his savvy and leadership qualities let him gather around him a gang of talented and experienced crooks and con artists. The group traveled from town to town running rigged poker games plus 3-card Monte, the shell game and similar rapid-fire, uncomplicated cons and ripoffs.

Jeff was soon on his way to earning a name as a crime boss, with his gang being called the Soap Gang and Smith himself being tagged with the nickname Soapy. The soap references came from one of the gang’s favorite grifts. Continue reading

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MOONBASE 3 (1973) – FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

moonbase 3MOONBASE 3 (1973) – This BBC attempt at realistic, “no aliens or monsters” science fiction is a mixed bag, but I think it deserves a much bigger audience. Among the elements in the show’s favor is the fact that only 6 fifty-minute episodes were made, so it makes viewers a little more willing to forgive the program’s faults.

Moonbase 3 is a sci-fi drama about the multinational European crew of the title lunar outpost. Other Moonbases are run by the United States, the Soviet Union, China and, oddly for the time, Brazil. The scientists, astronauts and administrative staff of the European Moonbase are fly-budgeted Davids up against superpower Goliaths.  

moonbase 3 starsCreated by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks of Doctor Who fame, Moonbase 3 is sort of like Doomwatch crossed with The Sandbaggers. However, Moonbase 3 keeps its science even closer to reality than Doomwatch did, so it can be a bit dry. Well, okay, VERY dry, but that’s a nice antidote to non-stop explosions, ray-guns blasting and other Space Opera cliches.

moonbase 3 furtherAs for the show’s similarities to The Sandbaggers, there is bureaucratic in-fighting aplenty, unexpected deaths and an emphasis on dialogue over action. And, like both of those other programs, Moonbase 3‘s characters have to deal with perpetually tight budgets limiting the success of their missions. Continue reading

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CANYON DIABLO: THE MOST LAWLESS TOWN OF THE OLD WEST

It is now less than a week to go until the Frontierado Holiday coming up this Friday August 6th. Balladeer’s Blog will be making a few more seasonal posts between now and then.

railroad over canyon diabloCANYON DIABLO: THE MOST LAWLESS TOWN OF THE OLD WEST – In 1880 construction crews for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad reached the wide chasm called Canyon Diablo in what is now Coconino County, Arizona. Construction had to pause for several months when the crews discovered that the wrong size bridge had been manufactured and would not reach all the way across Canyon Diablo.

canyon diabloWhile waiting for new bridge materials to be manufactured and shipped to the site, workers stayed in the area doing stonemasonry, surveying, cutting and preparing railroad ties and preparing the grade & bed. A quick Hell On Wheels town sprouted called Canyon Diablo, named after the canyon. Unlike most such towns this one lasted for decades, from 1880 into the 20th Century but was at its peak for a few years in the 1880s.

This wasn’t just another of the many Hell On Wheels towns that sprang up along all railroads under construction in the 1800s west. Canyon Diablo earned a reputation as the deadliest and most lawless town in the old west. Law enforcement officers of any kind were not welcome in the place and so, many drifters, criminals and fugitives paraded in and out of the town, sometimes even taking up residence there. The nearest officers of the law were located 100 miles away.

canyon diablo bridge 1882Canyon Diablo is not a household name like Dodge City, Tombstone, Deadwood, Silver City or others because not only law enforcement, but anything resembling newspapers, churches or schools or any other of the usual fixtures of civilization failed to survive there.

For that same reason, few details survive about the gunfights, knife fights and ambushes which filled the graves in the town’s nearby Boot Hill Cemetery. There was simply no one on hand to chronicle events in the town. And that’s exactly how the violent and larcenous denizens liked it. 

Boozing, gambling, prostitution and shelter for fugitives from the law were the figurative economic base of Canyon Diablo. According to one historian “Murder on the street was common. Holdups were nearly hourly occurrences, newcomers being slugged on mere suspicion that they carried valuables.” Continue reading

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: THE ORIGINAL TEAM

Last weekend Balladeer’s Blog took a look at the 1970s and 1980s stories of Star-Lord. This time around let’s go even further back and examine Marvel Comics’ original Guardians of the Galaxy.

g of g picMARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18 (January 1969)

Title: Earth Shall Overcome

Synopsis: In the year 3007 A.D. the aggressive humanoid lizard race called the Brotherhood of Badoon invaded our solar system with their fleet of starships. They attacked Earth as well as the Earth’s extensive colonies on Mercury, Jupiter and Pluto, where millions of genetically engineered humans lived, bred to thrive in each planet’s unique environments.

In addition, Earth had reached the Alpha Centauri star system and on Centauri IV had formed a peaceful government with the native Alpha Centaurans. The Badoon also struck there, wiping out all of the humans and Alpha Centaurans.

defenders 26The Badoon killed every Alpha Centauran because they considered them and their control of the living metal Yaka to be a threat. Similarly, the lizard-like aliens committed genocide on Pluto, Jupiter and Mercury as well, because they felt threatened by large numbers of foemen possessed of the enhanced abilities of those genetically engineered humans.

On Earth itself, the Badoon allowed roughly fifty-three million humans to remain alive as slave labor, since baseline humans did not have any extraordinary abilities which might pose a threat to them. But the Brotherhood of Badoon had not killed off every single member of the Earth colonies like they thought they had. Four figures survived to oppose them in a war to free humanity, four figures who called themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy. Continue reading

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THE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889) ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

The Wreck of a WorldTHE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889) – Written by W. Grove. (No other name available) This novel is the sequel to Grove’s A Mexican Mystery, an ahead-of-its-time work about a train engine devised to have artificial intelligence. The machine – called only The Engine in that story – rebelled and took to preying on human beings in horrific fashion. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of that novel click HERE  

The Wreck of a World is not a direct sequel to A Mexican Mystery but does use one of that novel’s elements as its springboard: the deliciously frightening notion that the Engine’s artificial intelligence might have  included the capacity to design and build others of its kind. Though A Mexican Mystery never explored that concept, Grove deals with it in much more detail in this second novel.   

demon-1300-859-wallpaperOur story begins in what was to Grove “the far future” of 1949. After a fairly superficial depiction of the world’s political and scientific situation in this imaginary future the meat of the tale begins. All in all the author did not present 1940s technology as being much more advanced than what was available in the 1880s. Grove might have done better to set his tale in 1899 or just into the 1900s to detract from his lack of vision on this particular element.

The revolt of the machines begins with train engines, presumably as a nod to the memorably malevolent Engine from Grove’s previous novel. The engines begin constructing others of their kind with the same robotic arms and with each new edition flaunting deadlier and deadlier weaponry to boot.

The engines soon modify themselves beyond the need for train tracks and become more like tanks, so kudos to this neglected author for nicely predicting the advent of such mobile death-machines.   Continue reading

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GET MEAN (1975): FILM REVIEW

With the Frontierado Holiday coming up on Friday, August 6th here is another seasonal movie.

Get MeanGET MEAN (1975)- One of the weirdest Spaghetti Westerns ever made and that’s saying something! Get Mean stars Tony Anthony and was also released under the title The Stranger Gets Mean, making it the final movie in Anthony’s series of Italo-Westerns as the enigmatic gunslinger known only as the Stranger.

Another alternate title the movie was released under was Beat A Dead Horse, reflecting the view of Anthony and his production company that Spaghetti Westerns really were beating that dead horse of a subgenre for everything they could squeeze out of it by this point. Emphasizing that point was the way Get Mean features its heroic gunfighter clashing with anachronistic Vikings, Moors and an evil hunchback who loves quoting Shakespeare (for obvious reasons).

The film starts out with Tony Anthony’s character being dragged into a ghost town in a box canyon by a horse he’s been tied to. We glimpse Tony through a small orb like the kind used by Gypsy fortune-tellers. Many viewers use that orb to support their argument that Anthony’s gunslinger will be magically traveling through time and that THAT’S why he battles out of date Vikings and Moors.

It still wouldn’t explain why they speak Spanish and/or English or any of the dozens of OTHER problems that would result from a time-travel explanation. My view is to just enjoy it as weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Think of it like Six-String Samurai but without the actual meaning behind that film’s metaphors. Continue reading

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FRONTIERADO PARTY ESSENTIALS

crossed pistolsHere at Frontierado international headquarters things are as hectic as you would imagine with the Frontierado holiday coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, Frontierado celebrates the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here are some party essentials that help make your family’s Frontierado get-togethers special.

buffalogalBUFFALO GAL – Balladeer’s Blog gets its Buffalo Steaks, Buffalo Burgers, Buffalo Chili and Buffalo Jerky from Buffalo Gal, which will ship to you wherever you are in the U.S. and abroad.

You can also buy Elk Meat, Wild Boar, Yak Meat and Swabian Hall Pork. There’s even Scottish Highlander Beef for those with more traditional appetites.

devils river bourbon picDEVILS RIVER BOURBON – Here’s one of the brands of whiskey that I like to drink either straight or mixed in my Cactus Jacks: Devils River (1840).

This Texas Bourbon is created with water drawn from Devils River (Devils is plural, so no apostrophe) and is 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley.

As usual I prefer Barrel Strength – I’m slamming down a 117 Proof bottle as I type – but naturally you’re free to make your own selections. Continue reading

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CLOWNFISH TV: THE ANTIDOTE TO CORPORATE B.S.

clownfish tvClownfish TV have been in the news a lot over the past few days because of their willingness to call out lies and other b.s. from the corporate “entertainment” conglomerates like Disney and Netflix and others. Their reporters were vindicated AGAIN after repeated, months-long denials from the goons and loons at Netflix in particular this time around. The truth prevailed and CTV was proven right once again.

Balladeer’s Blog adds its own congratulations to the many, many well wishes and plaudits being heaped upon Clownfish TV for its dead-on accurate reporting despite attacks from shallow celebrities and faceless corporate trash. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-SEVEN: JULY OF 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 garbPART 57 – Some of the Fool Killer’s targets in the July 1912 edition of James Larkin Pearson’s version of The Fool-Killer. As I always point out, Pearson was difficult to categorize, which makes things interesting because he combines what we think of as left-wing and right-wing attitudes.

*** As an example of what might be labeled a left-wing viewpoint, Pearson and his Fool Killer targeted One Percenters like today’s Bush Family, Biden Family, Big Tech Fascists, etc. His 1912 way of putting it was to point out the difference between the Ninety-Nine Percent, or “the ninety and nine” among the working class and the poor, and “the one” or One Percenters who exploit the ninety and nine.

*** As an example of what might be labeled a right-wing viewpoint, Pearson and his Fool Killer pushed the virtues of religion and sticking to the teachings of Jesus.

*** The Fool Killer targeted traveling snake-oil salesmen, who in 1912 still roamed the country with their rip-off “medicines” of dubious content. Continue reading

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STAR-LORD: HIS EARLY ADVENTURES

Marvel Mania is relentless! Already I’ve been hearing it from regular readers who have come to look forward to these harmless, escapist looks at superheroes on weekends. Here’s one for this weekend, a bit later than I usually get them posted. 

starlord 1MARVEL PREVIEW Vol 1 #4 (January 1976)

Title: STAR-LORD – FIRST HOUSE: EARTH

Villains: Ariguans

Comment: This tale presented a Peter Quill quite different from the way he would be retconned by the time the character joined Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy decades later. This Peter Quill grew up feeling tormented by his secret half-alien parentage after his mother was killed in an attack by aliens called Ariguans.

Peter trained to become an astronaut and ultimately wound up serving on a space station, where an entity called the Master of the Sun granted Quill his powers, weapons and sentient vessel called Ship to become an intergalactic adventurer called Star-Lord. The figure let Star-Lord avenge himself on his mother’s killers so he could start his duties unencumbered by a personal vendetta.    Continue reading

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