Friday, November 18, 2016

History's turning points:
When we chose TV over goats

Big news: I have discovered a heretofore undocumented moment of extreme importance within our reality1 in the space-time continuum. A crucial pivot in human history. Bigger even than the invention of plastics.

The turning point is this: The moment humankind decided that television is more important goats and reinforced this notion through a popular school textbook.

At the center of this conspiracy is the 1953 textbook Just Imagine!, which was published by Scott, Foresman and Company, and an author named Frances C. Hines.

Just Imagine! was part of The New Basic Reading Program and was described as "a transition reader designed to meet the needs of children as they take the big step from primary to intermediate grades." Apparently, another one of its jobs was to brainwash children and turn them into consumer-culture couch potatoes.

Here's the summary of what happens in "TV and the Goat," by Hines, which is the first story in the textbook:

  • Jack has a pet goat named Hooker.
  • Jack and Hooker play outside in the fresh air every day.
  • Jack learns that his family is getting a TV.
  • Jack ties Hooker to a tree.
  • "So long, Hooker," Jack says.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Jack doesn't have time to play with Hooker any more.
  • Jack wants to watch cowboy shows on TV.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Hooker chews through his rope.
  • Hooker watches through the window as his former playmate stares at the television.
  • The next day, Jack comes home from school.
  • Hooker meets Jack at the gate.
  • Jack runs right past Hooker and heads inside for the TV.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Hooker butts against things to get attention.
  • "You're a bad goat," Jack cries.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Hooker returns to the porch and makes a commotion.
  • Hooker is ultimately allowed to stare through the window while Jack stares at the TV.
  • That's Hooker's new existence.
  • "Hooker likes to watch the cowboys," Jack says. "Hooker is a TV goat."
  • The End.
  • Bleat.

Wrong, Jack. WRONG. Hooker is not a "TV goat." Hooker misses his playmate. Hooker wants YOU. Hooker wants you to come out in the yard, in the fresh air and sunshine, and play with him.

This is a very damaging and misleading story.

What if, six decades ago, we had rejected television? What if we had chosen goats over TV? What if we could send time-travelers back to the 1950s to influence Frances C. Hines and have her turn this into a pro-goat/anti-TV tale? How might things have turned out differently?2


Then go outside.

1. Reality 47.451e.
2. For one thing, we would have avoided Charles in Charge.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fairly odd thing found inside a Little Free Library

Recently, while placing some books in the Little Free Library in downtown York, I discovered this torn-off magazine cover inside. It's kind of an odd thing to discover in a Little Free Library, especially given its age.

This is Volume VIII, No. 2 of Bernat Afghans, which, I believe, had an original publication date of March 1937 — making the above cover 79 years old. I can't find much information online about the history of this magazine, editor Paul Bernat or The Handicrafter — another magazine of that era that Bernat was involved with. I did find this undated advertising text for Bernat Yarns:
"BERNAT YARNS offer many possibilities for craft work in your recreational program. There are coarse warps and fillers for rug weaving, yarns and designs for hooking, also fine wools, silks, and cottons for hand-weaving, embroidery, knitting, and allied crafts. Our magazine, the Handicrafter published six times a year, subscription price $2.00 offers many timely articles on the crafts. There are projects suitable for children and for adults.
Write for samples and prices
EMILE BERNAT & SONS CO. Jamaica Plain, Mass."

The other side of this cover features a short essay titled "Afghans should be Heirlooms." Here's an excerpt:
"The pleasure and satisfaction of making an afghan is multiplied a hundredfold if while you work you know that it will be beautiful enough to someday pass on to someone dear to you ... and that person will cherish it during her lifetime and in turn hand it down with pride. A well made afghan is worthy of becoming an heirloom and we believe in presenting this, our first afghan book, we will actually help women create such afghans. We have searched far and wide for the designs in this book and they are diversified enough to appeal to all afghan lovers. When made of Bernat's Afghan Yarns they become valued possessions."
I wonder if Bernat Afghans was just a special edition of The Handicrafter, since the above excerpt mentions "our first afghan book."

Bernat, by the way, still produces very-popular yarns. One place you can find it is a site called Yarnspirations, which states: "Bernat is the go-to for the whole family, with great yarns for fashion, home d├ęcor projects, and baby! From tried and true basics, to cutting-edge textures, there’s a yarn for everyone, and every project."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sci-fi book cover: "Beyond the Stars"

I cannot resist vintage sci-fi and fantasy book covers, especially those from the 1950s through the early 1970s. I just love the artwork, and couldn't care less about the quality of the story, although most of them are, at the very least, fascinating as relics of their era.

  • Title: Beyond the Stars
  • Author: Ray Cummings (1887-1957)
  • Cover artist: Jack Gaughan (1930-1985)
  • Publisher: Ace (F-248)
  • Cover price: 40 cents
  • Year: 1963
  • Pages: 160
  • Format: Paperback
  • First sentence: There is a saying in the Service that when Liner 40 N runs late the whole world waits.
  • Last sentence: From that little earth I stormed forth in body, beyond the stars!
  • Random sentence from middle: "When they discovered that, Leonard, the Einstein theories held good no longer."
  • Back-cover blurb: "Is the entire universe just one of the atoms of some even greater cosmos? Such was the conception of one scientist — and his effort to prove this theory was to take a party of Americans on an expedition to a place that literally BEYOND THE STARS."
  • Notes: The publication date of this novel is misleading. This story by Cummings was first published as a serial in three February 1928 issues of "Argosy All-Story Weekly." So this tale was coming directly on the heels of Robert Goddard's first liquid-fueled rocket and the introduction of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. ... Prolific author Cummings had a fascinating life that included serving as a personal assistant to Thomas Edison and writing Timely Comics stories about Captain America, the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. He also might have originated the phrase "time is what keeps everything from happening at once." ... An extensive bibliography of Cummings' works, including those published under pen names, can be found at The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. ... The book is dedicated to Donald A. Wollheim, a key editor/publisher in mid-century science fiction. ... One of the things I love about Gaughan's illustration is the background; some of swirling clouds of cosmic gas seem to be snarling, wolf-like creatures.

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 6)

This latest collection of illustrations from 1929's The New Human Interest Library comes from the section titled "Thrift." I present these images without any political commentary.


I'm not sure whose initials those are in the bottom-right corner of the final illustration.

If you're growing weary of this style of illustration, you'll be happy to know this is the last post with them. Next time, we'll be moving into a section of the book titled "The Do-It-Yourself Book (Elementary Projects)."

Confusion over date of William Penn's 1682 arrival in Pennsylvania

This event cover was produced for "Pennsylvania Day" in 1933 and features a crude purple stamp of commonwealth founder William Penn. The envelope, with its October 24, 1933, postmark from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, marks the 251st anniversary of ... well, that's where it gets confusing.

I cannot find any modern references to a "Pennsylvania Day" on October 24. We do know that, generally, late October 1682 is when William Penn actually arrived in the Province of Pennsylvania, aka the Pennsylvania Colony. Here are some key dates:

  • March 4, 1681: Pennsylvania Colony founded by William Penn, as dictated in a royal charter granted by King Charles II.
  • July 15, 1682: One of William Penn's agents, William Markham, meets with members of the Lenape Indian tribe under a white oak tree in Graystones Forest (now Morrisville) to negotiate the first land-purchase survey in Pennsylvania.
  • August 30, 1682: William Penn sets sail for America aboard the ship Welcome.
  • October 27, 1682: William Penn lands in America at New Castle, Delaware.
  • October 27, 1682: City of Philadelphia is founded by William Penn.
  • October 28 or 29, 1682: William Penn "first lands" in Pennsylvania, at Upland.

Obviously, there remains some uncertainty about the exact dates when Penn landed in America and first set foot in certain areas. It all happened in the final week of October 1682, for sure. The creation of this envelope indicates that there was once a time when some believed that October 24 — their Pennsylvania Day — was a highly relevant date associated with Penn and Pennsylvania. The following appears in the Bulletin of Friends' Historical Association (Volume 21, Number 2, Autumn 1932):
ON OCTOBER 24, 1682
Proclamations calling for the commemoration of this event were issued by the Mayor of Philadelphia and the Governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey."
I do not know, however, if or when historians and officials gave up on the notion of October 24 being the proper anniversary date. Even the stone monument erected at his landing site in 1882 states that the landing occurred on October 28/29. So I'm not sure what happened when they chose the earlier date in 1932. It's a History Mystery!

Other tidbits about this cover

Monday, November 14, 2016

Recent things to read for insights, enjoyment and relaxation

A 1924 poster advertising Rikola books, shared on the Facebook page of Dominique Poggi.

I've sorted this morning's set of links into thematic categories, so that you can pick and choose whatever strikes your fancy. Trigger warning: After the BOOKS illustration, you'll find the links to political stories. Maybe you come here to read anything but politics, which is fine. But they're there if you want them, hopefully to provide some insights.

Modern Life & Culture

Books, Reading & Writing

Games We Play


Halloween 2016 Wrapup


Illustrator: Willard Frederic Elmes, ca. 1930-1939, shared by Dominique Poggi.

Politics and the election

Instagram image by me.