Friday, August 14, 2015

Ephemera for Lunch #6:
Grandmother and Phyllis

To cap off the theme of Vintage Photos of Animals, here's a shot of an old woman doting over her sad-faced dog on her porch. Written on the back, in red ink, is "Grandmother & Phyllis." Phyllis is the dog in this case, because the dog being "Grandmother" wouldn't make any sense at all.

What I like best about this photo is the Totally Ignored Cat sitting on the railing to the left. The Cat couldn't care less about the photograph ... or Grandmother ... or Phyllis. The Cat does whatever it wants. If The Cat wants its butt, and only its butt, in Grandmother's photo, that's the way it's going to be.

Phyllis probably has that sad look because it knows that The Cat is the true ruler of the household.

Check back at noon Monday for a new Ephemera for Lunch theme!
(If The Cat allows it.)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Psychogeography snapshot
from the City of York

Earlier this week, after dropping off some books at a Little Free Library and picking up an issue of National Geographic in return, I was driving through a York alley and was inspired to pause, get out of the car, and snap this photograph.

I didn't get quite the amount of sky I was looking for, but I still like the composition.

Psychogeography is a fascinating concept that is almost impossible to describe and for which there are numerous (and not necessarily agreed upon) intellectual definitions. I might explain it as: "To wander, without plan, in a locale, finding the things that make it unique and, optionally, recording your findings on whatever medium strikes your fancy (written word, photos, film, music)." But I am aware that my definition is too narrow and far too simplistic and perhaps also mostly incorrect.

In a 2010 Wired interview with writer Alan Moore there is an insightful bit about psychogeography that I've had bookmarked for a while: Speaking of psychogeography, what do you think of our current connections to our regional locations?

Moore: Well, I think that we need mythology. We need a bedrock of story and legend in order to live our lives coherently. I think that in the past a lot of our monotheistic religions have provided that, but that has become increasingly problematic throughout the 20th and 21st century so far. There’s a lot of luggage that comes with those beliefs, and there has been a lot to erode them. And that has left people completely disconnected from any sense of place and history. And I think our personhood: We define ourselves by our surroundings and our situations. If you are brought up in a neighborhood that resembles a rat trap, pretty soon you are going to come to the conclusion that you are probably a rat. If on the other hand you have got to the tool of psychogeography — or poetry, to give it a less trendy and more accessible name — then you can look at the ordinary world around you with the eye of a poet. Finding events which rhyme with other events, what little coincidences or connections can be drawn to these places and people. You can put them into an arrangement that says something new about them.

I like that description quite a bit, even if it doesn't necessarily get us any closer to a true definition of psychogeography. Maybe that's the point, though. It's psychogeography, so it's entirely what we choose to make of it. There are no wrong answers.

Related post

Ephemera for Lunch #5:
Marion and her dog

This is an older photograph than some of the others this week. I'm guessing it might be from the 1930s, based partly on the woman's outfit. Written on the back, in red pen, is "Marion." The dog is not named. (Unless, of course, the dog is Marion and the woman is not named. But that would be really odd. Also, Marion would be an odd name for a dog.)

The dog looks just a little on the spazzy side. If this was a modern photo, the dog might qualify for one of those Buzzfeed galleries, such as, for example "33 Dogs That Cannot Even Handle It Right Now."1

1. Sarah and I love these Buzzfeed galleries. I also love The Onion's mocking of them with "BuzzFeed Writer Resigns In Disgrace After Plagiarizing ‘10 Llamas Who Wish They Were Models’." Ahh, the Internet.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Children of America Stories:
5 awesome vintage covers

A small collection of vintage children's books recently caught my eye at a book sale because the cover illustrations are so vibrant and well done.

The series was called The Children of America Stories and, to the best of my knowledge, there were a total of six volumes published during the 1930s and early 1940s:

  • Carmen of the Golden Coast, by Madeline Brandeis
  • Little Farmer of the Middle West, by Madeline Brandeis
  • Little John of New England, by Madeline Brandeis
  • Little Rose of the Mesa, by Madeline Brandeis
  • The Little Woodsman of the North, by Bernadine Bailey
  • Two Boys of the Ohio Valley, by Margaret Sutton

Madeline Brandeis (1897-1937) wrote four of the volumes and established the template for the series. Each fictional story about a different region of America contained photographs, taken by the author, showing scenes from the tale and featuring child actors. Brandeis also used that format with her earlier international series, Children of All Lands. (In her amazing and too-short life, she was also a pioneer filmmaker. You can read about those efforts at the Women Film Pioneers Project.)

As for the other two Children of America Stories authors, you can read about Bernadine Freeman Bailey (1901-1995) and her world travels at the Illinois Woman’s Press Association website, and Margaret Sutton (1903-2001) was a native Pennsylvanian1 who was best known as the author of the Judy Bolton detective series.

Brandeis, Bailey and Sutton were three amazing women of literature and the arts in the 20th century, for sure.

As for the book covers, which were the impetus for this post, I am sad to say that I cannot find any information about who the artist/illustrator was. A couple of the illustrations feature an "S" in the corner, but that's it. There's no information inside these Grosset & Dunlap books indicating who gets credit for the artwork. Any help on this matter would be appreciated!

So here are five of the covers. In each case, the same full-color illustration that appears on the dust jacket was pasted down on the hardcover front of the book. The dust jackets, when still present, served to protect the illustration beneath.

I am, by the way, far from the only fan of these books. They are still inspiring children well into the 21st century. On the Emmy's Book of the Day blog, Amy Pertl-Clark wrote earlier this year about her daughter's discovery of the series, through Little John of New England:
"Emmy enjoyed hearing the story of John who lived in Boston, but was left to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Maine while his parents went on a 'motor trip.' The story includes letters from John's mother telling of her New England adventures with his father. Emmy and I were both thrilled whenever she talked about a place where we have been. We both enjoyed John's relationship with the teacher at the one room country school. ...

"Whenever Emmy and I are in a second hand bookstore, we will look for Brandeis' books. It will be like a scavenger hunt to us and when we find one, we will celebrate! We hope that you, too, will look for her beautiful books especially if you are searching for interesting chapter books to read with your child."

Children's books. Reading. History. Bookstores. That excerpt is just Full of Win.

1. According to Wikipedia, Margaret Sutton was born Rachel Beebe in Odin, Pennsylvania. This was the first I discovered that we have a place named Odin in Pennsylvania! It's in an extremely rural area, a little bit southwest of Coudersport. I will have to find it on a future Keystone State road trip. I wonder if we have a Thor and Loki, too.

Ephemera for Lunch #4:
Two boys and a deer

This found photograph, printed on Velox paper and containing no identifications, shows two boys visiting what appears to be a petting zoo and feeding a tame deer. The boy on the right doesn't exactly look thrilled. Maybe he prefers goats. Or maybe he wishes he was back home, reading his Superman comics or playing with his rocketry kit.

At least the deer is happy! What are your thoughts on this one?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ephemera for Lunch #3:
A cat and its pillow

Here's an adorable color snapshot from 30 years ago — February 1985 — that features a calico kitty leaning up against a napping dog.

I have always wished that our cats and our dog Coby would have a friendship like this. Instead, the cats just steal Coby's dog bed and either ignore him or hiss at him.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ephemera for Lunch #2:
A boy and his pig

This one is cool, because we don't get too many pigs here on Papergreat.1 There is no identifying information on the back of the photo, which is printed on Velox paper. I acquired this one in Shrewsbury.

I can't quite read the looks on the faces of the boy and (presumably) his mother. Are they fond of the pig? Or are they eyeing it up for the scrapple, bacon and sausage that it will one day provide to the farm table?

1. Previous pig-related posts:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Some Phillies Fever from the Bicentennial summer of 1976

The 2015 Philadelphia Phillies have gone from historically awful — a 29-60 start to the season — to inexplicably red-hot, winning 15 of their 20 games since Major League Baseball's All-Star break.1

So it's clearly a good time to recall some true "Phillies Fever" from 39 years ago, the era of "Can you dig it!" and "Right on!"

I picked up this 1976 vinyl single, still in its paper sleeve, on the cheap earlier this year in Columbia, Pennsylvania. The three-minute song features the vocal stylings of Phillies Dave Cash, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Garry Maddox. It was produced by Walt Kahn, arranged by Andy Kahn, written by Walt Kahn, Lorenzo Wright and Rich Wing, and published by Grand Prix Records.

Dan Epstein, writing on Fox Sports' Just a Bit Outside blog, doesn't mix any words in his modern review of "Phillies Fever":2
"[It] may well be the worst record to come out of Philadelphia during the 1970s; at the same time, its sheer awesomeness as a cultural artifact cannot be understated. Where else can you hear disco music (which was rapidly ascending in popularity at the time) collide with the CB Radio fad of 1976? Indeed, where else can you hear Garry Maddox and Dave Cash banter with each other in CB lingo? Throw in Greg 'The Bull' Luzinski’s joke about taking batting practice 'as soon as I finish these three cheeseburgers,' and a picture sleeve that features 1976 NL home run king Mike Schmidt using his bat as an air guitar, and you’ve pretty much hit the jukebox jackpot..."

If you're now dying to hear it, here's a YouTube clip of the disco-era ditty. The audio is a little off, or it might just be that's as good as the song sounds...

On the back of the record's paper jacket, Walt Kahn writes:
"My 'producer's hat' is off to Dave, Larry, Mike, Greg and Garry. They proved to be as professional behind the microphone as they are in front of the plate. Their hard work and commitment to excellence in the recording studio has paid off. Phillies Fever is a home run! An exciting, danceable, upbeat sound that captures the spirit of the greatest team in baseball. Thank you, guys. You are real champions, as the world will find out come Series time."
While the 1976 Phillies were much better on the baseball field than they were in the music studio, they did not, of course, prove themselves to be the best team in baseball that October. They won 101 games but were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series.

1977 was a repeat performance, with 101 Phillies wins and a National League Championship Series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1978 brought another NLCS loss to the Dodgers.

It wasn't until 1980 that the Phillies — who had transitioned from a "Fever" vibe to a McFadden & Whitehead "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"3 vibe — finally won the World Series. Cash was gone from the team at that point, but Schmidt, Bowa, Maddox and Luzinski remained from the "Phillies Fever" core.

At that point, everyone could dig it.

Other baseball-related posts

1. It won't last. But it's fun to think about what the Phillies future might hold, based around a core of Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Ken Giles, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Scott Kingery, Jhailyn Ortiz, Cornelius Randolph and Franklyn Kilome.1
2. In the blog post, Epstein also discusses a 1975 single by Bowa and Cash titled “Ting-A-Ling Double Play.” It was an actual thing.
3. "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" was the theme song for the 1980 Phillies and the 1980-81 Philadelphia Eagles. In modified versions, part of the chorus included "Ain't no stoppin' us now, the Phillies got the groove".

Secondary footnote
1. I fully expect that footnote to be quite comical in fairly short order.