by Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

I’m guessing that, like most casual readers, my knowledge of author Edgar Rice Burroughs can be summed up like this: Oh yeah, the guy who wrote Tarzan books.

Turns out Burroughs was a bit more ambitious than that. Turns out he was quite political. But I digress.

The Moon Maid is part one of a trilogy that Burroughs published in the 1920s. On the surface (pun intended), the story depicts a spaceship crew of five landing on Earth’s satellite and discovering a hidden world of warring creatures living in the moon’s interior. There are good guys and bad guys, and our hero finds love with the titular moon maid, a beautiful princess. Pretty standard stuff, what they used to call “boys’ adventure tales.” At least, that was my impression.

But because I was — and still am, really — ignorant about Burroughs’s political leanings, I’m going to conclude this brief review with a Moon Maid summation lifted from a Web site dedicated to Burroughs’s work:

 

The Moon Maid trilogy, which even the fans of Burroughs must admit is rather crude, blunt, or unpolished compared to his other works, has a larger soul and message: Be Prepared! Beware the Politicians! Do Not Disarm! Avoid Communists! Avoid authoritarian rule! Honor and Love Thy Wife! Struggle Against Dictators! Honor Family and Friends! Love Thy Country! Be Free and Independent! Be willing to Fight for One’s Beliefs!

Burroughs made no bones about his political leanings or his fear for the future — not only for America but the world at large. Or, as others might say, perhaps I’m reading too much into The Moon Maid — after all it might be as simple as ERB [Burroughs] the working man artfully figuring out a way to sell a story which had been rejected.

 

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I realize that Midler got roasted for posing a similar question, but is baby formula the only way to keep an infant alive? How did people manage to feed their babies for thousands of years before the invention of this magic formula?

To answer your question, no, I don’t have kids. I am ignorant. “Obviously,” you are no doubt thinking.

Silly me. I thought plain old milk might suffice in a pinch.

 

In related news, how can Joe Biden possibly justify sending the stuff to illegal-alien parents when there isn’t enough for our own citizens?

This issue is making my head spin.

 

**

 

 

Of course we are aware that Peterson is a celebrated author. But it amuses us to puncture oversize egos — even when they reside in men we otherwise admire.

 

**

 

 

Every time Friday the 13th comes up on the calendar, we are reminded of our (sort of) friend Deborah Voorhees. So, it’s nice to see that she, or at least her anatomy, is also remembered by Mr. Skin (above).

Read The Grouch’s post about meeting Deborah here.

 

 

**

 

 

Judging from his crackpot posts on Twitter, it seems likely that the bookcase toppled over and clonked Stephen King on the head.

 

 

**

 

I’m a few years late, but I finally watched HBO’s acclaimed Chernobyl.

Maybe my expectations were too high after reading so many glowing reviews (pun intended). Or perhaps, with a plethora of disasters and near-disasters in the news these days, a miniseries documenting a nuclear disaster from 1986 was just … too much.

Or maybe I prefer the 1979 version of nuclear folly, called The China Syndrome.

But I was a bit disappointed by Chernobyl — except for the fifth and final episode, which was superb.

 

**

 

 

Take that, fucking snowflakes.

 

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The Night House

 

As I watch most modern horror movies, I activate my mental timer. How long before this film falls apart? Right off the bat? In the middle? Not until the end? I’m counting because almost all of them go bad, eventually.

There is good news about The Night House, starring Rebecca Hall as a widowed woman who experiences ghostly phenomena at her lake house. The story doesn’t collapse until the final act. Most of the film is creepy and — miracle of miracles — does not insult the intelligence. Also, Hall is quite good as the prickly, plucky widow enduring grief and strange visions.

The bad news is that the film’s denouement, praised or soft-pedaled by many critics, is annoying claptrap. It’s kitchen-sink nonsense in which the viewer is forced to reach his or her own conclusion. Was it ghosts? An alternate universe? A serial killer? Occult forces? All of the above?

I call the ending a cop-out. Or “nothing” much. Release: 2021 Grade: B-

 

**

 

Death on the Nile

 

This follow-up to Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express has a bigger budget and a longer run-time than its predecessor. Not a good thing, on either count.

Apparently, most of the budget went to special effects, rather than actual location filming in Egypt. Again, not a good thing. The movie often drags. Need I mention that’s not a good thing?

Branagh again plays Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, this time charged with solving murders on a steamer in the Nile near Egypt’s famed, ancient landmarks. But Branagh sacrifices something that exists in earlier screen versions of the Christie novel — a sense of fun — in service of a more somber tone and a modern obligation to address racism, sexism, classism, and any other “isms” I might be forgetting. Release: 2022 Grade: B-

 

Armie Hammer, left, with Gal Gadot and her ribs (sorry)

 

**

 

A Quiet Place Part II

 

You sit down to watch a horror movie. The director wants to scare you. You know he wants to scare you. The director knows that you know that he wants to scare you. All this knowledge … and yet he still manages to scare you. That’s the sign of a filmmaker who knows what he’s doing.

A Quiet Place Part II is that rarest of sequels, a follow-up that’s just as good as the original. Dad is dead in this one, so it’s up to Emily Blunt and her brood to battle the aliens. It’s just a continuation of the first movie, but who cares when it’s done this well? Release: 2021  Grade: B+

 

**

 

Scream

 

The good news: The “meta” aspect of the Scream franchise hasn’t grown stale in this fifth installment of the series. Also, it’s still amusing when the filmmakers wink at us by anticipating, and then subverting, our expectations. (There’s someone behind the refrigerator door! No, there isn’t! Yes, there is!)

The bad news: The actual killings and plots have gone stale. They simply aren’t very original or scary. Release: 2022 Grade: C+

 

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It might be time for Fox News to revamp its booking process. Do conservative viewers really want to hear more from Karl Rove, who approves of Joe Biden’s “disinformation” agency (“This is an important board,” says Rove)? Or from Lindsey Graham, whose feigned outrage over liberal excess has grown tiresome?

Rove and Graham are too entrenched in the cushy (for them) status quo. Give them both the boot, says I.

 

**

 

Abortion Hullaballoo

 

Here’s what I said on January 1:

 

 

Of course, I could be wrong. Then again, I could be right.

That wishy-washy enough for you?

 

**

 

As if the real world isn’t lousy enough these days, now I’m losing all my favorite TV shows.

Better Call Saul is ending, Ozark is over, and Peaky Blinders begins its final season next month. I might be forgetting a show or two, but that seems to leave only The Crown on my “must-see TV” list.

 

**

 

The Grouch is an equal-opportunity jerk, trolling both the right-leaning Tim Pool and some left-leaning “comedian” he’s never heard of. Oh, yes, and also the usual suspects — clueless celebrities:

 

 

 

 

Yes, very cowardly. Kind of like some bozo on Twitter who blocks replies from people who might disagree with him.

 

 

 

**

 

Last, and certainly least, here is a picture of Alison Brie’s ass from the movie Sleeping with Other People.

 

 

We post this screen capture for two reasons: 1) It’s been a while since we posted an ass picture, and 2) we’ve learned that if we insert the tag “Alison Brie’s ass,” this post is likely to get many more hits. You’re welcome.

 

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Believe it or not, we do strive to choose our words carefully here at The Grouchy Editor.

And so it was after much internal debate that we arrived at the following captions for the sub-humans pictured below.

 

 

“Treasonous Prick”

 

*

 

 

“Lunatic Liberal”

 

*

 

It’s pretty simple. The assholes pictured above are waging war against the middle class and Middle America.

If you are expecting help in this war from clowns like Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, dream on.

Many, if not most, of the Republicans in congress are not interested in your welfare; they care only about their own power and cushy lifestyles. If that means going along to get along with the lunatic left currently in power, so be it.

 

It’s that simple.

 

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The Grouch is inflicting another short story on the world. Check out “The Climate Changer,” if you dare. 

Here’s a complete list of Grouch’s short stories with links (in green):

 

 

 . grouchyeditor.com Rusty   “Rusty” — Happy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com revelation   “Revelation” — Unhappy times in suburbia.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com homebodies   “Homebodies” — The people next door.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com ass   “The Porthole” — Be careful what you wish for.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com the ufo   “The UFO” — Stand by me … and a UFO.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Tales From Grouch   “Carol Comes Home” — The spirit of Norman Bates.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com thwup   “Thwup!” — The case for eating more (or less) beans.

 

.  grouchyeditor.com Wisdom   “Wisdom” — Cabin in the woods.

 

.        “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”  Thelma helps a guest.

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Americans    “The Americans”  — Kevin goes for the gold.

 

.        “Margaret” — The greatest love story of all time?

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Asmat     “The Hot Tub”  — Elites enjoy some “quality time.”

 

.   grouchyeditor.com Earl Smilius     “The Climate Changer” — Earl has a secret weapon.

 

 

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The Climate Changer

by J.D.H.

 

The newly sworn-in junior senator from Wisconsin surveyed the nearly empty senate chamber from his vantage point in the gallery, and he frowned.

It wasn’t the first time Senator William Wilkie, 34, had beheld the storied room. His orientation sessions, after all, were complete, and he had visited the chamber innumerable times, both as a private citizen and again once the good voters of Wisconsin saw fit to send him to Washington.

Senator Wilkie knew that he would spend countless hours in this room, and he swelled with pride. In time, he would join the Congressional Black Caucus, he would be assigned to various committees, and, with any luck, one day he would actually chair one of them.

But at the moment, he was struck by one peculiarity of the famed senate chamber: its vacancy. Other than a few scattered aides and two or three staffers, he could discern only one other person in the room below: the elderly senior senator from Utah, who appeared to be asleep in his chair. It was 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. 

 

***

 

Thurgood Nosgood, Wisconsin’s senior senator and Will’s mentor, stood beside the freshman congressman in the balcony, took note of his mentee’s puzzled expression, and chuckled. “Get used to it, son. Unless the C-SPAN cameras are on, this is how it usually looks.”

Will looked at Nosgood. “Where are they all?”

“Same place you’ll spend most of your time. On the phone, fundraising. Like I said, get used to it. Utah down there is retiring. He doesn’t need to fundraise anymore, so he’ll just sleep out the rest of his term. Either that, or Earl Smilius just left him.” Nosgood issued a hearty guffaw.

 

***

 

Three hours later, Will surveyed the office-turned-party-room and activated his mental file cabinet. The reception for incoming congresspeople was populated with faces both familiar to him, and unfamiliar. Many of the elder senators he recognized from television. A few of them he knew from brief introductions. The senior senator from Utah, Will noticed, was not in attendance. Probably still napping on the senate floor, he thought.

Nosgood materialized at his side, cradling a glass of champagne and sporting a smirk. “Get used to it, son. If you idolize any of these pillars of government, you won’t for much longer. They’re just human. Too human, most of them.”

Around the room, introductions were made. Congratulations were proffered. Liquor was consumed.

A side door opened, and a hush fell over the room.

 

***

 

The legendary senator from Mississippi had entered the party room.

Will, like everyone else at the crowded gathering, gazed at the man from Biloxi, Earl Smilius III. Will ransacked his mental file cabinet and came up with:

Powerful, low-key, perpetual Mona Lisa half-smile, rarely on television, enigmatic. But above all, powerful.

Will couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The man looked so unprepossessing, even humble, yet he seemed to command immense respect — or could it be fear? — from his colleagues.

But then, Smilius’s accomplishments were mythic. In the House, he had served on Ways and Means, Defense, and Budget. Later, as senator from Mississippi, he eschewed most committees. He didn’t seem to need them to exert influence.

 

***

 

Will couldn’t take his eyes off Smilius. Whenever the stocky senator approached a group at the reception, he was greeted with much deference. Everyone assembled would hush, waiting for Smilius to speak. Sometimes the portly politico would oblige them; sometimes he would simply smile and just stand there, sipping from a glass of whatever it was he chose to drink.

Smilius’s reputation was impressive. Especially for such an apparently low-key congressman. Reportedly, Smilius had once prevented a nuclear confrontation with Russia by dismissing a delegation of Russians and Americans and sitting down privately with Vladimir Putin. After just five minutes alone with the notorious strongman, Smilius had emerged from the session with that Mona Lisa smile and assurances, in his own words, that “all is well.”

No details from the meeting ever emerged, from either side. Smilius had simply sat down with Putin and moments later declared victory.

 

***

 

Will studied the group of people now surrounding Smilius in the reception room. There were a few forced smiles, a bit of head-nodding. But one woman, a newly elected senator from Minnesota (Will knew her, slightly, from orientation), was turning green in the face. She looked down at the floor, muttered an apology, and bolted from the circle of dignitaries.

 

***

 

Nosgood chuckled. “Earl Smilius is headed our way,” he said to Will. “You won’t want to offend him. He’s not an unreasonable fellow, but nevertheless, you ought not offend him. You might not guess it from looking at him, but Earl always gets his way. Always.”

“But what does he care about?” asked Will. “What motivates the man?”

Nosgood considered this for a moment. “I’d say … climate change.”

“And what makes him so powerful?”

“He presents his opponent with two alternatives. Choice A is to go along with his way. Choice B is … unbearable to most of them.”

 

***

 

Smilius shuffled over to the two men from Wisconsin and studied Will, a twinkle in his eye.

“And you might be the new senator from Oshkosh?”

“Yes, sir,” said Will. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

“Oh, I ain’t nothin’,” said Smilius. “They say I’m just another blowhard from Mississippi.” He winked at Nosgood.

 

***

 

Will noticed that the freshman female senator had come back to the reception and rejoined the cluster of people across the room. She kept glancing, worriedly, at Smilius. Will strained his ears, trying to catch what she said, but only caught snippets: “For the love of God … not possible to … make it stop!”

Will wondered if Smilius was sexually predatory.

“What exactly do you hope to accomplish in these hallowed halls, son?” Smilius asked him.

“Well sir, not much at the beginning. I understand that I’m here to absorb and to learn. With any luck, I’ll someday be able to put that knowledge to good use.”

Smilius grinned. “Not bad. Not bad. I used to think that way. But what I discovered is that the most important thing in this town can be summed up in one word. Can you guess what that word is?”

“Not off the top of my head. No sir.”

 

***

 

“Chemistry,” said Smilius. “The word is chemistry. If you develop the right chemistry for a person, you can see that he or she will almost always come around to seeing things the way you want them to. Am I right, Senator Nosgood?”

Nosgood, who had been eyeing Smilius warily, nodded affirmatively.

“You might have heard about my encounter with the hot head from Russia. You might also notice, in future, that folks here in D.C. tend to come around to my way of seeing things, and my way of doing things.

“No, I don’t blackmail them, or threaten them, or intimidate them by saying I will withhold this funding or go to the press about that rumor. What I do is always within the bounds of law, doesn’t violate a single congressional ethics guideline. But it always works, because the person sees no other way out of the situation but to comply with my wishes.”

Will still held his drink, but he didn’t drink. He was mesmerized by this stocky little man, who seemed to hold the magic key to power in the most powerful place on Earth.

 

***

 

“Let me demonstrate for you, son, just a bit of what I’m talking about. See Middleton over there?” Smilius gestured toward Howard Middleton, senate majority leader from the opposing party.

“The esteemed Senator Middleton is withholding a vote on my energy bill. He thinks I don’t want it badly enough. And he’s correct,” Smilius chuckled. “I don’t really care, one way or the other. But I’m going to get my way, regardless. Watch.”

Smilius left them and meandered over to Middleton’s group. The majority leader’s eyes widened as he watched the approaching menace. Smilius said a few words, left the group, and returned to Will and Nosgood. Middleton had turned noticeably green, as had two or three other senators, and all of them left the reception.

 

***

 

A nauseating smell permeated the room. People stopped talking, attempting to locate the source of the noxious odor. All eyes, fearful or accusing, landed on Senator Smilius.

“My aides, you might or might not have noticed, are all heavy cigarette smokers,” Smilius said to Will. People kept vacating the room. “That’s intentional. If you’re a heavy smoker, you tend to lose your sense of smell. That’s how they put up with it. That’s why I hire them.”

Will began to feel light-headed.

“Putin couldn’t handle it. I told him that I would refuse to leave the room. This was after I’d loaded up on Russkie beans. For lunch. I asked Putin what he thought of my chemical weapon.”

The stench became unbearable. Will began to teeter. He noticed Nosgood lean forward and commence vomiting on the carpet.

“Chemistry, son. People will do anything to avoid it, if you’re good at it,” said Earl Smilius, a twinkle in his eye. “It’s a special talent I have. Chemistry.”

Those were the last words Will heard, before he swooned and pitched face-first onto the floor.

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

Click here for the index of short stories.

Click here to see all of the stories.

 

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Kudos to whoever designed the above image for Fox, gloating about the demise of CNN’s streaming service.

But where is Don Lemon? You have got to have Don Lemon.

 

**

 

Overused phrases that need to just stop:

 

“Wait–what?” — not cute anymore.

“The situation is fluid.” — unless it’s raining, just stop.

“His or her journey.” — Unless you’re referring to the Iditarod, stop doing this. I am not interested in “Bill’s weight-loss journey.”

 

**

 

 

Wait — what? This is not the same guy?

 

**

 

 

I look at these board members and I just want to … well. The word “smug” comes to mind.

 

**

 

These are interesting times in cable news. Tune in to MSNBC or CNN, and there’s a good chance you’ll go a long while without seeing a straight, white male. On the other hand, tune in to Fox News and there’s a good chance you’ll see plenty of straight, white men.

Correction: straight, white, hairless men:

 

 

***

 

This week’s “Review” is short-and-(not)-sweet because The Grouch is busy polishing the next Tale From The Grouch. Look for “Earl Smilius III,” probably tomorrow.

 

 

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by Ethel Lina White

grouchyeditor.com spiral

 

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

That line sums up The Spiral Staircase, Ethel Lina White’s 1933 whodunit that inspired a classic movie starring Dorothy McGuire and Ethel Barrymore.

Staircase is a quintessential “cozy mystery” because it checks all the boxes: the obligatory dark, stormy night; a cast of colorful characters who disappear, one by one, from a creepy mansion; a plucky heroine; numerous shady suspects.

Who is killing young girls in the vicinity of an isolated house? Is it the masculine/feminine nurse? The not-so-bedridden, cantankerous old matron? The playful playboy? Is Helen the servant girl destined to be the next victim?

White might not be in Agatha Christie’s league as a writer, but in terms of giving the reader exactly what he or she wants, The Spiral Staircase is topflight.

 

Film vs. Book:

  • The 1946 Robert Siodmak movie made several improvements to White’s novel — the killer’s motivation, for one. In the film, the murderer seeks to rid the world of “imperfect” women. McGuire’s servant girl is mute; not so in the book. Improbably, the novel’s killer is motivated by some nonsense about overpopulation.
  • The titular spiral staircase is more prominent in the film. The book was originally, more aptly, titled Some Must Watch.
  • Siodmak’s film was clearly an inspiration for director Bob Clark’s 1974 movie Black Christmas (the infamous “eyeball” shot; the killer is in the house!).

 

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Above, that’s a screen capture of a SPECTRE meeting in 1965’s James Bond movie, Thunderball. SPECTRE was a consortium of powerful bad guys seeking to destabilize the world for their own benefit.

I used to think that conceit was entertaining, but far-fetched.

Not anymore.

 

**

 

I’m reserving judgment on the “Elon Musk Buys Twitter and Saves Free Speech!” bandwagon.

Seems like every time some public figure appears on the scene and seems heroic, things go sour.

I mean, once upon a time, I thought the guy pictured below was just what the doctor ordered:

 

 

**

 

 

Yes, the visuals coming out of Ukraine are horrific. Sadly, we’ve seen wartime atrocities before.

But how do we describe the creepy wailing video (above) from Shanghai? Not to mention all of the other nightmarish Chinese scenes cropping up on Twitter.

 

**

 

 

It’s always fun to see progressive Hollywood cancelling itself.

 

 

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