Friday, May 4, 2018

A 1971 attempt by witches and mystics to end the Vietnam War

Here's another tidbit from the June 1971 issue of "Fate" magazine that was featured here in mid-April.

Toward the back of the magazine, alongside the advertisements for ESP laboratories, handwriting analysis, meditation, personal horoscopes and crystal balls, there is a section titled "Report from the Readers."

One of those reports is from Ken Nahigian — not the same Ken Nahigian who served as executive director of the Trump-Pence presidential transition — of Sacramento, California.

Here is Nahigian's report/request:

We are interested in knowing whether there are witches or psychics among the FATE readers who are willing to lend their minds and craft to an experimental attempt to end the Vietnam War.

On August 1, 1971, a number of covens in central California will attempt to terminate the war by applying a collective melding of their powers. After some deliberation we decided that if we could launch this campaign on a national level, eliciting the aid of other psychics and mystics, we would be much more certain of at least partial success. Is anyone willing to help?

If you are, it is not necessary to write us or even to move from your home. At the proper time — 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. Pacific Daylight Saving Time on August 1, 1971 — merely seat yourself in a quiet dimly-lighted room, relax your mind and allow your thoughts to flow uninterruptedly toward this end: to produce a halt or slowdown in the Southeast Asian military activity. This may be done individually or in groups. Also, if anyone is more familiar with techniques of psychic control other than passive meditation, then by all means employ them instead. We only ask your aid in one form or another.

Our feeling is this: If a large enough number of witches and mystics join us we will be able to harness enormous fields of collective psychic power for peace, elemental power which properly manipulated will certainly serve to aid the peace effort and perhaps stop the war completely.

We feel the cause is a good one and we need all the help we can get. Only an hour's effort is required from 7:00 to 8:00 P.M., PDST, on August 1 of this year. Please try to help.

Although not mentioned in the request, August 1 is Lammas Day, and was almost certainly chosen intentionally for that reason. Lammas Day marks an important milestone, as I understand it, for the Wiccan calendar and neopaganism.

Of course, the Vietnam War did not end until three years and nine months later, with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. But who's to say the witches and mystics, in their striving for peace, didn't stop it from lasting even longer?

According to the AOF (Atheists and Other Freethinkers) website, Nahigian, born in 1952, was a voracious reader and thinker at a young age, exploring "atheism, positivism, academic skepticism, mysticism, even the occult." His profile quote on AOF is now "I don't have an answer, but I admire the question."

* * *
Note: The mostly unrelated illustration is by Robin Jacques and is from 1966's A Book of Witches, written by Ruth Manning-Sanders and published in the United States by E.P. Dutton & Co.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Mystery photo: Two women sitting on some rocks

Today's undated mystery photo measures 2¾ inches across and features two women — a mother and daughter? — posing at some large rocks alongside a small lake or pond. Who they are and where they are will likely never be rediscovered. There are no clues at all on the back of the snapshot.

Other mystery images from the archives

Sorry "Infinity War," the greatest Avengers crossover was 34 years ago

Yep, this a real thing that happened.

The Avengers #239, which came out in January 1984, has a cover title of "The Avengers on Late Night with David Letterman!" and features NBC's offbeat, 36-year-old talk-show host front and center, flanked by the likes of Hawkeye, Black Widow and T'Challa. Letterman was less than two years into his iconic 12:30 a.m. show at that point, but was already connecting with the same young demographic that Marvel was wooing for its late Bronze Age comics.

Roger Stern, in the midst of a long stint as The Avengers' writer, penned this issue, and there is a tongue-in-cheek credit for Larry "Bud" Melman as "inspiration."

Fortunately (I think), the issue isn't all about Letterman. Here's what happens:

  • Hawkeye arrives at Avengers Mansion and announces that he and Mockingbird were recently married.
  • The giant floating head of Vision congratulations them on their wedding.
  • Reserve Avenger (because that's a thing) Wonder Man calls Vision to report that his agent booked him on Letterman ... and promised that the whole gang of Avengers would show up, too.
  • Vision says, basically, "No problem, Dude. We'll show up."
  • T'Challa is interrupted at a meeting of official Wakandan business and asked to show up for the Letterman taping.
  • T'Challa says, basically, "No problem, Dude."
  • A bunch of other superheroes say, basically, "No problem, Dude." Because there's apparently no superheroing to be done. Or maybe they dig Letterman.
  • Villain Fabian Stankiewicz sees an opportunity for mischief.
  • Black Widow meets the new Mrs. Hawkeye, and there is some awkwardness.
  • We get the line: "From New York, New York ... the city so nice they named it twice ... it's Late Night with David Letterman! Tonight ... comedian George Ferrari and The Mighty Avengers."
  • Comic-book Letterman quips: "What can I say? Tonight is something really special! In fact, it's probably our most special show we've had since our 'Camping with Barry White' program!"
  • Bandleader Paul Shaffer, wearing a Captain America T-shirt, says, "What can I say? The Avengers are simply marvelous."
  • Letterman throws in a "by golly."
  • The Avengers show up to chat.
  • Fabian Stankiewicz, sitting in the audience, causes a ruckus on the Letterman set.
  • The Avengers, with an assist from Letterman and his Giant Doorknob, save the day. (Yep, the Giant Doorknob was a real thing on his show back in the early years.)
  • The floating head of Vision returns and provides some exposition.

Maybe Letterman can show up with that Giant Doorknob and save the day in next year's sequel to Infinity War. Looks like they could use the help.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wonder Bread bakery destroyed by 1933 Long Beach earthquake

I came across this item in a miscellaneous collection of found photographs. The snapshot is 4⅞ inches wide, including the borders. This was all that was written on the back, providing my starter clue: "front of Wonder Bread Bakery." The presence of that model of automobile told me I needed to be looking to the first half of the 20th century. And I figured there were only three things that could cause that level of damage:

  • 1. Meteorite
  • 2. Earthquake
  • 3. Thanos

Earthquake seemed like the most obvious place to start. After minimal sleuthing, I confirmed that this is indeed a photo of the Wonder Bread bakery that was destroyed in the 1933 Long Beach, California, earthquake. The 6.4-magnitude temblor led to about 120 deaths and caused numerous buildings to collapse.

Many of the buildings that collapsed were schools, and it was only due to the fortune of the time of the earthquake — just before 6 p.m. — that the schools were mostly empty. If the earthquake had struck in the middle of the school day, there would have been horrific multitudes of casualties. That realization led to the swift passage of the Field Act, which introduced mandatory guidelines for building materials and construction, especially schools, to make them more resistant to earthquakes.

A website focusing on the history of the 1933 earthquake features two other photos, taken by John J. Callahan Jr., of the Wonder Bread building. They seem to be from another angle:

And here's a closeup from my found snapshot...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

In which I was 24 and really, really awful at journaling

A nice thing about digital diaries, as opposed to scrawling your deepest (or shallowest) thoughts into a journal that your granddaughter might find some day, is that most of them will be lost to the sands of times. Yes, you read that right. Some Lost Corners are better off lost.

I made valiant efforts to preserve my digital ephemera from the 1990s and early 2000s. Across time and many different computers, I saved personal word-processing documents and emails from old accounts (hello, AOL) as text files. And then I saved those text files to floppy disks. And then, when I realized there wouldn't be anything to insert those disks into, I printed out hard copies of all the files. Years of saved emails and documents and, yes, some truly terrible journal entries by yours truly.

Last weekend, I was doing some cleaning and Paper Weeding™, so I started going through that thick pile of printouts.

So, so much of it was unnecessary. The pruning cut deep, and it was a boon for the recycling bin.

Among the printouts that I bid farewell to were personal journal entries from 1995, typed into my PC while I was living in West York. The purge was definitely a big favor to myself and potential future readers. Awful, awful stuff. I must have been channeling Ethan Hawke's character from Reality Bites, right down to the F-bombs, with my whiny, twentysomething angst.

Don't worry, though. I saved a few bits for you to laugh at. Alas, these curated excerpts have one more shot at being preserved.

Be gentle in your mocking. (Though I was not gentle in mocking myself.)

  • "10:08 p.m. on a Sunday night, September 24, 1995: What to write? What to say? I suppose this is better than all the Internet roaming I've been doing for the past two weeks, Fiddling around with my mouse as I search the world's computer databases for trivial information that's way to [sic] unimportant to actually put in a book. Thank goodness I now have a resource for all the Genesis lyrics..."
  • "10:56 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 27, 1995: Nine months have flown by and I've written a hell of a lot of boring headline [sic] and layed [sic] out a lot of meaningless pages. Haven't written a damn meaningful thing for publication other than text blocks and briefs. Not that they're meaningful either. Guess I could ask to do some writing on the side, and they'd [The York Dispatch/Sunday News] probably let me. But do I have the energy and desire to do a good job with stories when I'm putting in 50 hours a week as a copy editor? Maybe, maybe not. I should probably give it a try; but wouldn't that just cloud the issue that I need to move on. ... Where does one start to write a novel or short story? I suppose a plot would be a necessary element. Some well-drawn characters, perhaps. Which first? Or both at once? Can I create interesting characters and THEN try to think of things to happen to them? Or maybe just come up with one great scene as a starter and let things flow from there?"
  • "Wednesday, October 4, 1995, 12:38 a.m. (like, in the wee hours of the morning). Current state: Not sober, but not completely schlonkered, either. Other current state: well, Pennsylvania, sort of. Well good morning. Not sure this is going to be of much use, but I can't seem to connect to AOL right now, so I might as well do the journal thang. One thought that popped into my head tonight, I've taken a lot for granted in my life, and I've assumed a lot of things. (Wow, I've just used the dreaded 'a lot' phrase twice in once sentence; this obviously is not destined to be a night of high literary happenings.) Anyway, I think I shouldn't taken [sic] my WRITING for granted anymore. I have a certain amount of talent in this area, and I guess I've always assumed it would be there. This, however, is an ability that needs to be nutured [sic] and feed [sic] and expanded upon, or, ultimately, it will be wasted. This, perhaps, should be taken into account in any future career decisions that are made. Just a thought. Not exactly a deep thought, but an observation nonetheless." [I then go on to ramble a whole bunch and note that the waitress let her hair down that night.]
  • "November 12, 1995: 11:38 p.m. on a Sunday night. This is gonna be short. I can't think of anything that I desperately want to write about at this point, but perhaps that's because I've once again gotten out of the practice; it's been about five weeks since my last journal entry and the end of that little spurt of entries I had going. Oh well. Life rumbles onward ... never any time to figure out what the heck is going on .... never trying to MAKE any time for such reflection to occur. ... And so as I approach the quarter-century pole, I essentially have nothing else to say. How pathetic is that?"

Fire up the DeLorean! I need to go back in time and smack Young Me upside the head. And also beg him to stop using "schlonkered" and "thang."

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Oilette postcard of Carisbrooke Castle mailed in 1920

This lovely postcard features an original painting by Henry Bowser Wimbush titled "Carisbrooke Castle from Mill Pond." The Isle of Wight castle has a history — or, at least, the site has a history — that dates back well before the Romans were in what is now England.

Carisbrooke was the location of Charles I's imprisonment for more than a year before his execution on the grounds of high treason in 1649.

This is a Raphael Tuck & Sons' "Oilette" postcard. I wrote about those particular cards in December 2016 and February 2017.

The postcard was mailed in 1920 to — if I'm reading the understandably shaky cursive handwriting correctly — Leeland Thompson of Michigan. The note, I believe, states:
Dear Boy
I have got a badly sprained right wrist and can't answer your or grandma's letter now but will later. With love, Aunt Hattie.

Burrill's beautiful "fluff", or
"Hey, that Papergreat guy is creepy"

It's entirely normal that, in the distant past, someone clipped off a lock of their beloved child's hair and tucked it into an envelope labeled "Burrill's beautiful 'fluff.'"

It's entirely normal that the envelope then, mostly likely, ended up in drawer for many decades.

It's entirely possible that, after all the immediate family members were gone, the envelope found its way to an estate sale.

It's somewhat understandable that someone then decided to sell the envelope in their antique-mall booth.

And it's creepy that I bought it.

Yep, that's me.

Proud owner of Burrill's beautiful "fluff." For the low, low price of $1.75.

Here it is...

Indeed, it is very nice fluff.

Isn't ephemera weird, sometimes?

That's OK, though. Humans are certainly "weird," especially when it comes to the things we choose to save and collect and sometimes hoard.

Throughout history, humans have saved locks of hair from their loved ones and revered ones. It was more common, at first, for snips of hair to be cut from the heads of the recently deceased. [Full disclosure: I saved a small lock of Coby's hair last year.] In a 2010 article in The State Journal-Register, Tamara Browning writes about the historical practices of using hair for remembrance and mourning. Hair was even incorporated into mourning jewelry, especially during the early to mid 1800s.

Mourning jewelry, of course, isn't nearly as sad or strange as the sentimental and still-popular practice of saving a lock from a child's first haircut. While I can't be sure, of course, I suspect that's the case with Burrill's beautiful "fluff."

And, in addition to baby keepsakes and mourning mementos, there are many other uses for human hair. In a bit of kooky kismet, here's a screenshot of a tweet that popped up in my feed this morning...