Monday, December 29, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & other items of interest

It has been awhile since I've updated the Basement Blog, so I thought this might be an opportune time. Long time listeners to the Basement may have noticed that I have not been following my usual schedule of posting a new Episode every single day. Essentially, there are a lot of technical issues at the moment preventing this, as the Podcast Server I use,, is being updated and tweaked to handle the huge amounts of traffic the client podcasts generate (in actuality, Mister Ron's Basement has been grabbing incredible amounts of bandwidth, with an average of twenty-thousand downloads a day).

Anyway, I did manage to get in a couple of wonderful Episodes before the uploading door shut for a while, and you are highly encouraged to download these and give a listen.

The first was posted on Christmas Eve. It was a truly rare Spoopendyke Christmas story that was apparently written for the Washington Post. I have not been able to find it in the Brooklyn Eagle archives at all. It's called 'Mrs. Spoopendyke's Christmas Gift.' You'll find it at:

or you can directly download the audio file at:

What really makes this exceptional is that I absolutely was positive that there were no more Spoopendyke stories to be found anywhere. So far, I have read over ninety different Spoopendyke tales by Stanley Huntley on the Basement podcast, and this may be most comprehensive collection of these works anyone has ever put together. Huntley's career as a humorist was cut short by debilitating illness and an early death, and he apparently sent these stories out to a number of publications besides the Brooklyn Eagle.

Once we get new Basement episodes going again, I have another Spoopendyke story ready, that appeared in The Washington Post late in 1884, long after Huntley was replaced at the Eagle by Robert J. Burdette.

Meanwhile here's a short, intriguing item the Post reprinted in 1882 from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

American Humor

It is a sad fact that American humorists, as a class, resemble precocious children, Let them do one thing at which the world laughs, and they will repeat the performance over again with a persistence and a mad hankering to please which makes justifiable homicide a relaxation as well as a duty. Stanley Huntley's "Spoopendyke Papers" were good at first, but anybody could write them now. The humor is strictly machine work, but "Mr. Spoopendyke" grinds at his comparison mill with a fresh and breezy conviction that his fund does not pall upon repetition. Mark Twain's jokes are the result of a plain, chemical formula; given a man's chair, a dark night and a tumble, and a grammar school boy could construct a witticism which Mr. Clements (sic) would swear was his own. Bill Nye has little receipt for humor just as George W. Peck has his, and Peck could write Nye's stuff just as Nye could write Eugene Field's, or Aleck Swart write Josh Billings's. What we complain of is that there is no spontaneity about recent humorous writers. These amusing gentlemen would as soon think of tampering with the Lord's prayer as altering the form made or expression of their wit. They seem to think that that when they have a good thing they should stick to it. A patented style of humor may, as the country grows older, pass as an heirloom in certain families, and it would be no surprise to us were we to revisit the pale glimpses of the moon five centuries hence, discover a descendant of Stanley Huntley writing that all "Mrs. Spoopendyke" needed to be Eve was to add a few years to her age.

While there is certainly much that can be taken issue with in this article, at the least with its comments on Mark Twain's work, I kind of like the idea of the inheritors of Huntley's mantle on the moon, well, four centuries from now, attempting to crank out tales of the Spoopendykes.

Anyway, the second Christmas Episode I managed to post was number 1246, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." This is complete, original, lengthy short story as published in Collier's Magazine in 1921. Christmas Day also saw the public opening of the movie somewhat based on this story featuring Brad Pitt as the title character, and Cate Blanchett in a terrific role that was not in the original tale.

The movie is terrific, and I recommend seeing it, at the least, for the wonderful set and costume designs. But as fine as the movie is, the story is a work of genius, a rare indulgence in pure fantasy for F. Scott Fitzgerald. I had a lot of fun reading it, and attempted to make it lively and interesting to hear. It is almost an hour long and can be found at:

If you want to download the sound file directly, point your browser to:

Your comments are more than welcome.

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