Friday, August 3, 2018

The "Grand" Stand™ was there to support your joystick

This silly advertisement is found within the pages of the May-June 1983 issue of Computer Gaming World, which touts "Modem Gaming" on the cover and features an article about Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set.

In the history of video-gaming accessories, I suspect that few were quite as unnecessary and ridiculous as The "Grand" Stand, which furthermore could not have been more obvious about the phallic connotations involved with augmenting the handheld thrusting power between a male gamer's legs. I mean, come on.

Here is some of the ad copy:

  • Joystick stabilizer support & score enhancer
  • THE PERFECT GIFT for the avid video gamer and an attractive addition to your TV game machine.
  • Constructed of all solid wood with fine walnut finish.
  • Exotic hard woods available at extra cost.

I would love to know if anyone called the company up and requested "exotic hard woods" for their joystick stabilizer. Plus, who would want to pay even more than the redonkulous price of $34.95, which equates to $87 today. For that kind of money, you could have gotten a full copy of Infocom's Starcross or Deadline, Sir-Tech's Wizardry, SSI's Cosmic Balance II, Brøderbund's Choplifter, or Datasoft's Zaxxon — all as advertised in this same magazine issue.

Writing in June 2010, the author of the Gaming After 40 blog wrote this about The Grand Stand:
"Back in the pre-crash early 1980's ... it seemed every technology entrepreneur in the country was trying to find a way to hop on the videogame bandwagon and cash in on this newfangled craze, doing whatever it was they already knew how to do. ... Note that the promised stabilization and support is provided mostly by the player's own two feet, holding the stand down, and the source of the SCORE ENHANCER capability remains a mystery. It's not even clear how the joystick is affixed to the top of the stand, though the ad copy claims the product ADAPTS TO ALL POPULAR JOY STICKS (not JOYSTICKS, mind you.) ... Like many of the products offered in these old advertisements, I wonder how many of these were actually sold, and would be absolutely floored and strangely thrilled if I ran across one at a rummage sale or flea market."
Finally, here's an excerpt regarding The Grand Stand from Kevin Impellizeri's PrimarySourceCode blog in July 2013: "As to what made it so grand for players to rest their controller on a $35 miniature table players had to stabilize themselves with their feet compared to say putting it on one’s lap or simply holding it, I am not prepared to say. ... Needless to say, the Grand Stand was one of the weirder ways people attempted to capitalize on the video game craze."

1958 postcard from Greta to my mother and uncle

Sixty years ago, in 1958, my great-grandmother, Greta Miriam Chandler Adams, mailed this postcard of Hotel Pilatus-Kulm to my mother (Mary Margaret) and my uncle (Charles), who were then living in the house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania.

The historic Hotel Pilatus-Kulm was built in 1890 and rests nearly 7,000 feet about sea level, atop Mount Pilatus, overlooking Lucerne, Switzerland, and the smaller town/suburb of Kriens that sits at the foot of the mountain.1 While the 360-degree views during the daytime are understandably spectacular, guests also rave about the night sky and the astronomy excursions. Lisa Michelle Burns of The Wandering Lens writes: "During the evening however if you're lucky enough to be spending the night, it's just you, the mountain air, the odd mountain goat and the stars." Check out her full post and spectacular photos.

Here's what Greta, who was about 64 years old at the time, wrote to her two grandchildren in 1958 (with me deciphering her shaky cursive):
Just took a ride in aerial-car to this mt. & back by rail-way. More fun! Beautiful view! I love Luzern, hotel on Lake & a beautiful. You ought to buy that $8.00 folding camera, good buy! Sorry, I did not, mine broken the click does not open the shutter, so will bring films back. Using new one. Like our hotel on Lake Luzerne & beaut. view & the shops are pretty. I have lovely things. Greta C.A."

Folklore footnote
1. Mount Pilatus is surrounded by legends of dragons, and the area fiercely markets that tradition today is all sorts of trinkets and baubles. In a three-part article titled "Here Be Dragons: Mt. Pilatus In Switzerland," Richard Bangs wrote the following for Huffington Post in 2011:
"One [story] goes that in the summer of 1421, an enormous dragon was flying to Mount Pilatus when it crashed close to a farmer named Stempflin, who fainted from the shock. When he recovered, he found a clot of blood containing a 'dragon stone' and took it to the city, where the stone’s healing powers were 'officially' confirmed, as any ills his family suffered were miraculously cured. It was said to be a nostrum for 'haemorrhage, dysentery, diarrohea, poisoning, plague, and nosebleeds.' ... [There is] another story of a young cooper who went wandering the mountain in the autumn searching for rods with which to make barrel hoops. He fell into a deep cave and landed between two fire-breathing dragons. The dragons nurtured the drop-in through the winter, feeding him moon milk, whatever that is. When spring came, one of the dragons helped the cooper by holding out its tail as a bridge for him to scale so he could exit the dark cave. Then it flew the inadvertent guest on its leathern wings to a lowland meadow and carefully alighted. When the cooper got back to the city, he had the tale of his adventure embroidered on a silken tunicle, which remains today under glass at the Church of St. Leodegar in Lucerne."

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"Ephemera may flourish for a season...."

This historical clipping appears on Page 3 of the May 6, 1801, edition of The Times of Greater London:
"When talents, industry, and liberality are united, what may not be expected from the perseverance of such a junction? From this fource springs the magnet which attracts the Public so powerfully to Sadler's Wells, not for a night or two, but regularly and invariably. Ephemera may flourish for a season, but it requires solidity to ensure a perpetual endurance — verbum sat!"
Verbum sat is a Latin phrase "used to bring something to a conclusion, implying that further comment is unadvisable or unneeded," according to Wiktionary.

Sadler's Wells is a theater in Clerkenwell, London, that dates to 1683 and has been housed in a half-dozen different buildings over its more than three centuries of existence. In the early 1800s, the Sadler's Wells saw its share of "talents" (such as Edmund Kean) and was indeed a "magnet" for the public. But it was also, according to Wikipedia, "characterised by much public drunkenness and loutish behaviour, and the rural location prompted the management to provide escorts for patrons after dark to conduct them into central London." The venue looked something like this in the early 1800s. The stage contained a huge water tank, so that naval-themed performances could take place. Pity the maintenance staff.

Speaking of theater, Sarah — on the heels of performances in Shakespeare's The Tempest and Antony and Cleopatra — is performing the Bard's The Merry Wives of Windsor at York County parks this summer. Here's the whole dandy cast; Sarah's in the middle, with the plaid shirt, red hair and many rubber wristbands.

Bill Kalina photo

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Book cover: Mildred Clingerman's
"A Cupful of Space"

  • Title: A Cupful of Space
  • Subtitle: A Heady Brew of Science-Fiction Stories
  • Author: Mildred Clingerman (1918-1997)
  • Cover artist: Richard M. Powers (1921-1996)
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (519K)
  • Cover price: 35 cents
  • Year: 1961
  • Pages: 142
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back cover: See full image at bottom of post
  • Number of stories: 16
  • Sampling of story titles: "Birds Can't Count", "Letters From Laura", "Mr. Sakrison's Halt", and "The Little Witch of Elm Street"
  • Random sentence #1: "I'd been looking, but there are so many books, and all so higgledy-piggledy..."
  • Random sentence #2: "She straightened suddenly as the dream ended, trying to shake off the languor that held her while a strange, ugly man stroked her arm."
  • Goodreads rating: 3.92 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review excerpt #1: In 2011, Stig wrote: "On the cover the stories are touted as 'science fiction', but actually they play out in the murky borderland between science fiction, fantasy and horror. Another reviewer has compared her to [Jack] Finney, and I totally agree, but I also think there are influences from Lovecraft and Bradbury here. Seek it out; it's worth it."
  • Goodreads review excerpt #2: In 2015, Alison DeLuca wrote: "Clingerman wrote deceptively simple prose and evoked horror in the most mundane places. Who creates sci fi in the middle of a Christmas tree shop?"
  • Amazon rating: 5.0 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review: In 2016, Stephen K. Clingerman wrote: "I had to give the 5 stars, because my mother was the author!"
  • About the author: As one of the relatively few women with published fantasy and science-fiction stories in the middle of the 20th century, Clingerman certainly deserves more of the historical spotlight. Her writing receives high praise. These accolades are from

    • "Mildred Clingerman stands just a few niches below Shirley Jackson in the fantasists' Pantheon, for her wit, invention, prose stylings and ability to capture the zeitgeist and transform it into indelible imagery and happenings. Her name should be broadcast just as widely." – Paul Di Filippo for LOCUS Magazine
    • "Mildred Clingerman is one of the lost women of 1950's science fiction. A subtle, strange, modern writer, her name and her evocative stories vanished from histories of the field." – Eileen Gunn

    Mildred McElroy Clingerman was born in Oklahoma and raised in Oklahoma and then Arizona, where she attended the University of Arizona and later founded a writers' club. During World War II, she worked at a flight-training school while her husband, Stuart, served in the Army. A Cupful of Space was the only book published during her lifetime. 2017's The Clingerman Files contains all of her published stories, thus casting a much wide net than A Cupful of Space. ... According to Fancyclopedia 3, "she was also a collector of books of all kinds — especially those by and about Kenneth Grahame — and of Victorian travel journals."

The back cover

Monday, July 30, 2018

Gorgeous postcard from Japan

On the heels of last week's colorful postcard of Bogatyrs, here's another beautiful piece of ephemera that found its way to my mailbox, via Postcrossing. This one is from Kumiko in Japan, who likes mountaineering, collecting stamps, studying German, and SpongeBob. She writes:
"This postcard is 'Hina-ningyo.' Families display special dolls known as Hina-ningyo on Hina-Matsuri.

Hina-Matsuri, the Festival of Dolls, is held on March 3. People celebrate the health and happiness of girls.

I hope you like this card. HAPPY POSTCROSSING."
This Japanese tradition dates back as far as 1625, as part of the even older Peach Festival. Here is some more background from Wikipedia:
"Families normally ensure that girls have a set of the two main dolls before their first Hinamatsuri. The dolls are usually fairly expensive ($1,500 to $2,500 for a five-tier set, depending on quality) and may be handed down from older generations as heirlooms. The hinazakari spends of most of the year in storage, and girls and their mothers begin setting up the display a few days before March 3. ... Traditionally, the dolls were supposed to be put away by the day after Hinamatsuri, the superstition being that leaving the dolls any longer will result in a late marriage for the daughter, but some families may leave them up for the entire month of March. Practically speaking, the encouragement to put everything away quickly is to avoid the rainy season and humidity that typically follow Hinamatsuri."

Mystery photo: Woman on sled

This mystery snapshot, which falls into both the categories of found photography and vernacular photography, measures 3⅛ inches across, though the image itself is just 2⅛ inches across. I discovered it at a store in Harrisburg.

It falls within the extremely limited genre of "Photos of Women on Sleds in the Middle of the Road."

It certainly appears that she's being a good sport about it.

There is nothing on the back of the photo to indicate when or where this photograph was taken. (I'd guess 1940s or 1950s, though.) And the woman is not identified.

I'm wondering if the building in the background might enough of a clue to identify the location of this snapshot.

Jumping off point for more mystery photos here.

Also, here are more photos with sleds.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Old postcard & 37th anniversary of The Royal Wedding

This creased and crinkled postcard was published in 1981 to commemorate the (ultimately doomed) wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

Today is the 37th anniversary of that spectacle, which was held on July 29, 1981. The carriage-filled, "fairy-tale" wedding was viewed by three-quarters of a billion people around Earth and launched a thousand covers of People magazine.

The fairy tale officially ended about 593 weeks later, when British Prime Minister John Major announced on December 9, 1992, that the Royal Couple was separating "amicably."

I was 10 at the time of the wedding and certainly remember having a peripheral awareness of it, but I didn't watch any more than a few TV news clips. I was probably annoyed that Major League Baseball was in the midst of a strike. I'm sure Mom followed it closely, though I don't know if she set her alarm to follow the early-morning hours of breathless TV coverage. Probably not, but I could be wrong with my recollection.

Here are some Twitter thoughts that were shared today...

* * *

This postcard wasn't the best-designed piece of memorabilia that came out of the Royal Wedding. The Prince of Wales looks a little creepy and possessive with the way his arms are set on Diana's shoulders, don't you think? As we know, of course, the marriage was pretty much anything but a fairy tale. (See your People magazines.)

This card was mailed from the UK to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, with two stamps totaling 22 pence. The message on the back states:
"June 23, 1981

Dear Grandma & Potato fry,
Thought you might like this card to keep.
We had sports day last week and I won 5 races. It was lots of fun.
School ends next Friday. I will be glad for the rest. I will be going into Primary 3.
We have been having nice and warm weather. Goodbye for now.
Love Janet"