Friday, August 15, 2014

More #FridayReads goodness than you can shake a stick at


It's been exactly two months since my last links-a-palooza of great articles to check out online. This should help you get through the rest of the summer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Colorful illustrations from 1938's "Jack and the Bean-Stalk"

I came across a copy of Jack and the Bean-Stalk with a missing cover, missing pages and torn pages. But it still contained a handful of vibrant color illustrations and those are what I want to share in this post.

This edition was published by McLoughlin Bros. of Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1938 and illustrated by H.G. Nicholas.

The book is written for beginning readers. The typeface is huge, the words are simple, and the sentences are short. The book begins:
"Once there was boy, named Jack, who lived with his mother in a tiny house at the end of a lane. I am sorry to say they were very poor. All they had in the world was a cow called Milky White."
(According to SurLaLune Fairy Tales: "In some variants of the tale, the cow is named Milky-white. The cow is simply an animal to be sold in this version of the story. In some newer versions of the tale, Jack considers the cow to be his dear friend and pet. He is reluctant to sell the cow for this reason.")

Here are some of Nicholas' illustrations from the book...



(If that's supposed to be Jack's house in the background, it's hard to believe the were "very poor.")


Related posts

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I want to mail this postcard to an international Papergreat reader!


Every once in a while, I like to know who's actually reading this blog. If anyone.

So ... this is an absolutely gorgeous vintage postcard titled "Scenerie of a Russian Wheat Field."

And if you live in a country other than the United States, it can be all yours!

I will mail this old postcard to the first international reader who sends an email to chrisottopa@gmail.com.

You must tell me:

1. Your name and mailing address
2. The titles of three of your favorite books
3. One short fact about the folklore of your country


The postcard will be mailed to the first reader to email me with the above information. If I am deluged with email, I will be extremely happy and I will almost certainly find some additional postcards to send through the mail, which will make the debt-ridden U.S. Postal Service happier.

Here's a little more about this postcard:
  • It's more than 100 years old.
  • It's #509 in the German American Novelty Art Series
  • It was produced by the German American Novelty Art Publishing Company of New York
  • It was printed in Germany

Don't fret, American readers. I heart you, too. And I will come up with a giveaway for you in the late summer or early fall. So keep reading!

Related posts (sort of)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP: Robin McLaurin Williams


Sigh.

This short review of Good Morning, Vietnam was the second piece of journalism of mine ever published. It appeared in the March 4, 1988, issue of The Panther Press, our student newspaper at Strath Haven High School.

It's not very deep or insightful. More of a capsule than a piece of criticism.1

But of course I thought of it today. My only ephemeral connection to Robin Williams that came to mind.

This might be a little simplistic, like my review 26½ years ago, but in the remembrances and tributes that are spilling out tonight,2 it seems there are two primary types of Robin Williams movie fans. There are those who grew up with his family-friendly comedies, have them memorized and hold them dear. And there are those who are ardent admirers of his dramatic turns.

I'm in the second group. Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire will deservedly live forever. But I hope future generations come across Awakenings, The Fisher King, One Hour Photo and, of course, Good Morning, Vietnam, and realize the man was a hell of an actor.3

Since the February death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I've found myself browsing through YouTube to revisit his finest moments. One I kept coming back to, improbably, was this one from Patch Adams.



It's a breathtaking example of an actor who is supposed to be a secondary heel stealing a scene from the star.

Robin Williams absolutely holds his own, though. He had the dramatic chops to go toe-to-toe with anyone, including the likes of Hoffman and De Niro and Hackman and Pacino. (Even when the script didn't give him as much ammo to work with as the other actor in the scene, as is the case in the above clip.)

Now that clip becomes even more poignant. Two Oscar-winning masters of their craft. Both gone way too soon.

Footnotes
1. I learned much about movie criticism from Roger Ebert, and I always loved his four-star review of Good Morning, Vietnam. Here's an excerpt of the insight he brought:
"What is inspired about 'Good Morning, Vietnam,' which contains far and away the best work Williams has ever done in a movie, is that his own tactics are turned against him. The director, Barry Levinson, has created a character who is a stand-up comic — he’s a fast-talking disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War, directing a nonstop monologue at the microphone. ... But while he’s assaulting the microphone, Levinson is doing something fairly subtle in the movie around him. He has populated 'Good Morning, Vietnam' with a lot of character actors who are fairly complicated types, recognizably human, and with the aid of the script they set a trap for Williams. His character is edged into a corner where he must have human emotions, or die."
2. If you can have a "favorite" tweet when someone dies, a macabre concept if ever there was one, mine was this one. Hold on to that smile.

3. Williams also shines in What Dreams May Come, but the movie doesn't quite work for me. As beautiful as it looks on the screen, it's just too relentlessly dark and depressing to be enjoyable. Not Williams' fault, though.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fanzine flashback #2: 1964's "Hobgoblin" by Terry Carr


Previously on "Fanzine flashback"

This series debuted earlier this year1 with a look at a 1964 issue of "Con" authored by Christopher Priest. That post also included, toward the bottom, a list of all the vintage fanzines I plan to feature in future posts. Check it out to see what's ahead.

And now for the second installment, the cover of which is shown above...

Fanzine flashback #2: At a glance

Title: Hobgoblin
Issue: No. 12
Date: January 1964
Primary theme: Book reviews
Pages: 10
Size: 8½ inches by 11 inches
Binding: Two staples
Editor: Terry Carr (1937-1987)
Editor's location: 41 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11201
Artwork: William Rotsler (1926-1997)
Duplicating services: Ted White and QWERTYUIOPress

As it went with researching "Con," I was surprised to discover that the talented people associated with "Hobgoblin" were pretty famous within the greater sci-fi world. In general, I was expecting these fanzines to be the work of people who were fairly obscure in the sands of time. But that hasn't been the case. Maybe that will change moving forward.

Background: About editor Terry Carr

Terry Gene Carr had an impressive and far-too-short life as an author and editor in the world of sci-fi publishing. He was on the verge of his 27th birthday when this issue of Hobgoblin, which he wrote entirely by himself, was published in 1964.

According to Wikipedia, he began working on fanzines as early as 1949. He went on to work at Ace Books as an editor of novels and anthologies. He also wrote a handful of books, including 1963's Warlord of Kor, which has a pretty rockin' cover.

Notably, Carr is also credited with commissioning the first novel by William Gibson.

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database has an excellent summary of the works with which Carr was associated.

Two other items of interest regarding Carr:
  • The Eaton Fanzine Collection at the University of California Riverside, which is absolutely amazing and contains more than 100,000 zines, "grew out of the collections of four prominent fans: Terry Carr, Fred Patten, Bruce Pelz, and Rick Sneary."
  • You can read an editorial on the development of fanzines that Carr wrote for Entropy #1 in 1964 here.

Background: About artist William Rotsler

William "Bill" Rotsler was an artist, author, sci-fi convention stalwart, sculptor and filmmaker whose career enthusiastically touched on everything from Star Trek to sexploitation films.

During his lifetime, he won five Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist.

Rotsler was reponsible for the title of Harlan Ellison's short story "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream." The title was taken, with permission, from the caption of a Rotsler cartoon featuring a mouthless rag doll.

Here is The Internet Speculative Fiction Database's voluminous page on Rotsler.

There is an annual Rotsler Award in his honor and memory.

Looking inside Hobgoblin

This zine is packed to the gills with short books reviews by Carr and just one additional small illustration by Rotsler. There are 8½ pages, featuring 23 reviews of a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction. Here are excerpts from some of them:

  • The Land That Time Forgot and The People That Time Forgot, by Edgar Rice Burroughs: "Burroughs was a pretty bad writer, and he couldn't plot worth a hill of beans either — he'd throw his characters into impossible situations and have them solve everything halfway through a book, then go off on a new tangest [sic] thereafter. This didn't exactly make for classic unity of plot. His characterization was often ludicrous."
  • Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen:2 "I approached these about half-convinced that no matter how good they might be I'd find them enjoyable primarily only as period-pieces, and I can't recall the last time I was so delighted to be wrong. They're immensely enjoyable novels, charming, witty, droll, and completely absorbing."
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey: "A very well-reviewed first novel, but a bit overrated, I think. ... Kesey's prose is often too perceptive and well-stated for his hung-up and largely uneducated narrator. ... There's also a shallowness of characterization throughout the book which considerably limits its effectiveness. Kesey's characters are almost all good ones, but they have all the depth of a good class-A Hollywood movie, which isn't nearly as much as the book deserves. Still, the story is fascinating and suspenseful, and the individual scenes come to life with feeling and often high good humor."
  • The Violent Bear It Away, by Flannery O'Connor: "This is one of those Southern novels about God and sin and guilt and like that. It's interesting, and strikingly well written at times ... worthwhile reading, I think. But Flannery O'Connor has an irritating fascination with symbolism, and she overdoes it at almost every turn."
  • Trent's Last Case, by E.C. Bentley: "One of the classics of the detective novel, and quite deservedly so. The book is an ingeniously set up double-triple-switch mystery, told in the leisurely style of the early part of this century. (It was first published in 1913.)"
  • The Lost Pharaohs, by Leonard Cottrell: "The book is just a hodgepodge of interesting things about ancient Egypt, and while that's fine as far as it goes I'd hoped for something better."
  • The Blue Nile, by Alan Moorehead: "A fascinating book, a companion to Moorehead's earlier THE WHITE NILE. ... The material is interesting in itself, but Moorehead's writing is the factor which makes the book a must. He has an unerring eye for what's interesting, and the ability to bring people and places to life on the page."

Finally, here is the (wacky) credits section from the bottom of Page 10 in its entirety:

"This has been HOBGOBLIN #12, January 1964, published for SAPS and Redd Boggs by Terry Carr, 41 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11201. Illustrations by William Rostler, fandom's answer to Albert Schweitzer (who never asked). Superb mimeography by Ted White and QWERTYUIOPress. This Is Not A Rameses II Project. Arthur Thomson for TAFF! A bas les Coventranians. Remember the Alamo, the Maine, and the Rooster That Wore Red Pants."3


Footnotes
1. My apologies for taking so long between posts in this series. That is not my intent, moving forward. I want to be deliberate about setting up a schedule for writing about these cool zines.
2. I TOLD you his book reviews were diverse. I wonder what Carr would have thought of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
3. According to Fancyclopedia 3, which quotes 1944's Fancyclopedia 1, "The Rooster That Wore Red Pants" is "a sorta gag line plugged, frequently in parafrazed form, by Walt Liebscher [1918-1985]. According to [Bob] Tucker, the symbol originated in a dirty story, but it was 'distinctly minor fare.'"

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Judy, a black cat and a ghost book


BOO! Here's the best vintage photograph you'll see this week.

It's Judy Garland hugging a black cat and reading a book titled Ghost's Night Out (which I believe is fictitious).

The photograph was taken in 1938 by Eric Carpenter, according to Books and Art, the Tumblr from which I'm reblogging this. I might attempt to recreate this shot with Mr. Bill, one of our black cats. Maybe for Halloween.

The Garland photo kind of reminds me of one of my favorite illustrations of all-time, from this October 2011 post.