Saturday, December 8, 2018

Want old photographs of people you don't know?


In late October I mentioned that my collection of found and vernacular photographs was, to put it bluntly, a mess. Because of my own poor habits, there is no indication of which photos have been the topics of blog posts and which ones have not. Many are too mundane to be individual posts. It's a bit of a hoarding situation, to be sure. I don't want or need all these snapshots of people I don't know.

But maybe you do?

Free to a good home: A honkin' huge pile of vintage snapshots. Some are mysteries. Some have identifications written on the back. The lot contains many photos that I've featured and written about, but have no interest in keeping.

No charge for the photos or shipping. I just want them to go somewhere they'll be appreciated for awhile. It's time for someone else to take care of their next chapter.

Reach me at chrisottopa (at) if you're interested.

Christmas RPPC of man with cat reading Harold Bell Wright novel

This is a mystery real photo postcard featuring a man who is bundled up with a large tabby cat while reading a book. I was confused at first and thought the things with MERRY and XMAS printed on them were cushions. But, upon further review, they are the soles of his shoes, facing the camera in a slightly skewed perspective.

There is no writing or information on the unmailed postcard, so that's a dead end. The AZO stamp box indicates it was printed sometime during that prolific RPPC period between 1904 and 1918.

What's not a mystery is the book that this young man is reading. It's The Shepherd of the Hills, which was written by Harold Bell Wright1 and published 111 years ago, in 1907. The immensely popular book, which still has passionate devotees today, is described on Wikipedia as a "mostly fictional story of mountain folklore and forgiveness."2 It has been adapted into multiple movie versions, the most popular of which is probably the 1941 film with John Wayne.

Here's a closer look at man, book and cat...

There's a second mystery about this postcard. What's the deal with the pillow on the left? It appears to have a large glowing eyeball and several strange symbols. Was this man also a necromancer?3 (By the way, I recommend against a Google search for "old pillow with large glowing eyeball.")

Want more Christmas posts? Check out the full directory!

1. Two previous posts mention Harold Bell Wright: Christmas-gift dust jacket on 1919 Harold Bell Wright novel and Mystery photos inside "Helen of the Old House."
2. Reviewer Dorcas, writing on Goodreads in 2016, adds this in her 4.5-star review: "This book had a little of everything: the mad boy who runs wild in the hills, strange sounds in the forests, a forgotten gold mine, larger than life 'Lorna Doone-type' menfolk, drought, poverty, redemption, romance etc."
3. That was gratuitous. I just like using the word "necromancer" in a post.

Friday, December 7, 2018

#FridayReads to pass chilly days and nights in the final month of 2018

Komsomolskaya metro station in Moscow, 1980. From @SovietPostcards tweet.

I have been collecting a lot of great links for y'all! As I did earlier this year, I'll divvy them up into Serious and Not So Serious. (Some of these may require modest subscriptions. Support the journalism that's important to you!)


Not So Serious

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Book cover: "Legends of the Earth"

  • Title: Legends of the Earth
  • Subtitle: Their Geologic Origins
  • Author: Dorothy B. Vitaliano (1916-2008)
  • Cover designer: Guy Fleming
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Original price: None listed on dust jacket, which is odd.
  • Publication date: 1974
  • Pages: 305
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Provenance: (1) James W. Ellis Jr., Feb. 25 - 1995, (2) an online sale of books donated by patrons to benefit the Saline County Library in Arkansas.
  • Author's dedication: "To Charles, for his infinite patience"
  • Dust jacket blurb: "'Geomythology' the name of a fascinating new science, is a term invented by Dorothy Vitaliano and now increasingly current among both geologists and students of myth. It denotes the study of the actual geologic origins or natural phenomena which were long explained in terms of myth or folklore."
  • How well known is geomythology? There are only 67,200 hits in a Google search, but it does have a Wikipedia page.
  • About the author: At the time of the book's publication, she worked for the Translation Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, doing technical translations in several languages. She also worked as a geologist at Indiana University. And according to Atlantipedia, the "A-Z Guide To The Search for Plato's Atlantis," her husband, Charles, was also a professor of geology and together they studied major geological events and their effect on ancient cultures.
  • First sentence: Since childhood I have been fascinated by mythology and folklore of all kinds, and for many years now I have been professionally involved with geology.
  • Last sentence: But is it not a delightful sport?
  • Random sentence from middle: Pele is a very temperamental deity, easily enraged to the point where she sends floods of lava to destroy the object of her displeasure, often destroying scores of innocent bystanders besides.
  • Sampling of words in the index: Argonauts, dwarfs, Flatey Book, Ixtaccihuatl, Knossos, Love waves, polar wobble, Quiché flood traditions, Shakespeare, Zeus.
  • Amazon rating: 3.4 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2002, Jerald R. Lovell wrote: "A most refreshing aspect of this book is its scholarship. The author totally avoids the drivel associated with such fiction writers as Whitney Streiber and Erik von Daniken."
  • Goodreads rating: 3.30 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review excerpt #1: In 2013, author Beth Cato wrote: "I found some new insights here, but the book was uneven, frustrating, and incredibly dry. It makes me all the more thankful for how creative nonfiction has evolved in recent years."
  • Goodreads review excerpt #2: In 2013, Dan wrote: "I was also disappointed that fully one third of the book was devoted to the Santorini eruption and Atlantis. That was way too much."

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Yet Another Holly Jolly Papergreat Directory of Christmas Posts

Monkey would like to be placed on Santa's "Nice" list. Or else he might clobber you.

The list of Christmas-themed posts in Papergreat's long history continues to grow. There are more than 150 now! So it's time for a newly updated directory all of the Ho-Ho-Holiday Goodness that's been dished out here over the years. Postcards, recipes, fashion, advertisements, greeting cards — there's a little something for everyone on this list. So bookmark it and scroll through it at your leisure this month when you need a break from wrapping gifts, singing carols or shoveling the driveway.

Greeting cards


Books and magazines
Fashion and decorations

Miscellaneous merriment

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Lost Corners: Violet Beauregarde historical revisionism

An amusing but compellingly relevant piece written by a woman named Evayna is making its way around back corners of the Internet. It's titled "Violet Beauregarde should've won Wonka's chocolate factory" and it makes a damn fine case for Violet as the should-have-been hero of 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Evayna, who lives in Canada, describes herself as "a friendly pseudo-intellectual into nerd stuff and intersectional feminism." Her interests include Steven Universe, cute animals and veggie food.

She makes a tremendous case for gum-chomping and doomed-to-be-a-blueberry Violet Beauregarde. I am inclined to agree with her. Wonka eventually gave the factory to a rule-breaking white male, perpetuating societal gender norms. Violet was the best choice, and she was batted down and held back because of some perception that gum-chewing is a serious vice and, worse, because she was a woman who was willing to speak her mind. (Also, she didn't have the godawful song "Cheer Up, Charlie" associated with her.)

Here's Evayna's full argument, which I'm reposting here to help boost its chances of surviving the test of time.
Violet Beauregarde should've won
Wonka's chocolate factory

Have I watched the movie in the last decade or more? No.
Do I have iron clad evidence to support my argument? Yes.

1. She's the most knowledgeable about candy. She's committed to it, and knows her stuff. When Wonka holds up a little yellow piece across the room, she recognizes it immediately. She was able to switch to candy bars for the sake of the contest, so we know she has personal discipline and is goal oriented. Also, two major projects play directly into her strong suits: the 3-course-meal gum that Wonka failed to make safe (gum) and the neverending gobstopper (longevity).

2. She's the most fit to run a business. Violet is competitive, determined, hard working, and willing to take risks. Her father is a small town car salesman and politician, so she could easily pick up knowledge and support from him. (Veruca's dad is also a business man, and in a compatible market (nuts), but it's made very clear that Veruca has no respect or knowledge of business practices or hard work.)

3. She's the most sympathetic to the Oompa Loompas. She critiques Veruca when Veruca demands to buy one. More importantly, Wonka has been testing the 3-course-meal gum that 'always goes wrong' on Oompa Loompas while he presumably just watches. Violet is ready to put herself on the front line, instead of treating the Oompa Loompas as disposable, and would therefore be a better boss.

4. Her personality 'flaw' is the most fitting for the company. In the moralizing Oompa Loompa song, they just say 'gum is pretty cool, but it's not socially acceptable to chew it all day'. The thing is, we already know that she can stop if she wants, because she already did that to win the golden ticket. And yeah, she is defensive about the perceived impoliteness of her hobby (like when her mother tries to shame her about her habit during a televised interview) but the obsession with candy and neglect of social norms is EXACTLY what Wonka is all about. This is on brand.

5. Her misstep in the factory is reasonable. Wonka shows everyone a candy he’s very proud of. Violet is like “oh sick, that's gum, my special interest.” Wonka then pulls a “WRONG! It’s amazing gum!” In the very moments before she takes the gum Wonka has mislead her just to belittle her. So when he's like “I wouldn’t do that” why should she give a shit what he has to say? She's not like Charlie over here who's all “Sure Gramps, let's stay behind while the tour leaves and secretly drink this thing that has been explicitly stated to fill you with gas and is too powerful for safe consumption, oh and also I just saw what happened to Violet so I actually KNOW what this stuff can be capable of.” Also, Violet is not selfish about her experience, she tells everyone what she's tasting and feeling, and everyone is eager to hear it. Taking a personal risk to share knowledge with everyone. Violet is Prometheus: fact.

So Augustus contaminates the chocolate river. Charlie sneaks around and contaminates the vent walls. Veruca destroys and disrupts the workspace. Mike knows exactly what will happen to him and transports/shrinks himself deliberately. Violet had no idea what the gum could potentially do to her, and caused no harm to anyone or anything but herself.

Lastly: Can you imagine Charlie filling Wonka's shoes? That passive, naive boy? Violet is already basically Wonka. She's passionate, sarcastic, candy-obsessed, free thinking, and a total firecracker. She's even better than Wonka, because she doesn't endanger others.

Violet should've been picked to inherit the chocolate factory.

Comics cover: Freedom Agent is the superhero that I aspire to be

Following in the (tiny forest) footsteps of yesterday's post about The Gnome-Mobile, here's another 12-cent Gold Key comic book from the 1960s. It's Freedom Agent #1 from April 1963.

Freedom Agent, aka John Steele, was a very short-lived comic book hero. According to the wonderfully titled website Spy Guys And Gals, John Steele was only ever in two comic-book issues. Freedom Agent #1 was the only issue from that run. A year-and-a-half later, in December 1964, there was John Steele Secret Agent #1 from Gold Key. That was also a one-shot. Both issues were written by Paul S. Newman, and Steele's adventures included infiltrating a research lab, investigating a fireball in Tibet, stopping invisible saboteurs, and assuming the identity of a Latin American dictator (in a possible inspiration for Moon Over Parador, a 1988 comedy that I regrettably paid to see).

In my eyes, though, I look at the amazing Gold Key cover pictured above and have this vision for Freedom Agent: He's a hero who, while wearing a completely inconspicuous red blazer and purple pants, rescues chickens, capybaras and Flemish Giant rabbits from nefarious individuals. He is a liberator of all animals, fighting for their freedom. He's the kind of guy who makes a tractor trailer filled with turkeys pull over and then takes the turkeys to a safe place to spend the rest of their lives. And that's just his morning commute.

And I see no reason why my version of Freedom Agent needs to be named John Steele. I reckon you could call him ... Baron Von Papergreat. I had originally envisioned my fifth-tier-but-definitely-canon Marvel superhero as being a bit more roly-poly and bookish than Red Blazer Agent, but I think this line of animal-rescue adventuring could work for him. Liberating chickens and bunnies is a little less stressful than, say, battling Doctor Doom or Dormammu.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Walt Disney presents Upton Sinclair's "The Gnome-Mobile"

As a child of 1970, I'm relatively familiar with the Disney movies of the 1960s and 1970s. But I must admit that, until I ran across this silly-looking thing at the comic-book shop, I had never heard of The Gnome-Mobile, in any form. Clearly, it was no Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

Amazingly, it began as a novel by muck-raker Upton Sinclair. In 1936, he published The Gnomobile: A Gnice Gnew Gnarrative with Gnonsense, but Gnothing Gnaughty, which might just be the worst extended book title of all time. It is described as "an amusing tale of two gnomes, Glogo and Bobo, who travel to America in the company of two human friends in their custom gnomobile" and described by Goodreads reviewer Emily as "kind of lame." But another reviewer, Kookie, calls it "delightful and weird with a still important environmental message."

(I should point out that Sinclair also wrote Oil!, which served as an inspiration for Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood. So I think it's a missed opportunity that the Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood wasn't marketed as "From the creative mind behind The Gnome-Mobile...")

So, Sinclair wrote about gnomes and cars way back in 1936. Three decades later, in 1967, Walt Disney Pictures turned the book into The Gnome-Mobile. As you might be able to tell from the above cover of the comic-book adaptation by Gold Key, Disney plucked both of the children from 1964's Mary Poppins — actors Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber1 — and plopped them down in the gnome-filled forest with Walter Brennan, who apparently liked powder-blue jumpsuits. Brennan got to play both the jumpsuit-clad tycoon with a heart of gold and a 943-year-old gnome named Knobby. (It appears the names Glogo and Bobo didn't make the cut from Sinclair's novel.)

The movie plot involves a Rolls-Royce, precocious grandchildren, endangered gnomes, a quest for a gnome bride, a freak show, an asylum and an Important Message about preserving our forests as a haven for mythological creatures that don't actually exist. So, standard Disney fare. reviewer Jimina Sabadú opines: "I think this is much better than 'Lizzie McGuire' and all that 'princess Disney' stuff and things like that. At least, a movie like 'The Gnome-Mobile' does say something, not just 'Hey! Be cool and buy clothes' when you read between the lines."

It's hard to argue with Jimina on that point.

The comic book, also published in 1967, would seem to be a faithful adaptation of the movie, to the extent that it would ruin the whole thing if you read it before watching the movie. Maybe I'll track down and watch the movie some day, but, first, I'm itching for a double-feature rewatch of No Deposit, No Return and Candleshoe.

1. Sad side note: Garber died of pancreatitis in 1977 at age 21.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Russian folklore postcard from a boy in Moscow

One of my recent Postcrossing arrivals was this dandy postcard from a boy in Moscow, Russia, who is involved in the hobby with some help from his mother. The postcard features an illustration from the Russian fairy tale "Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What." It features, as you can see, a frog in a jug and a nicely dressed Baba Yaga. That's her hut on chicken leg(s) in the background. Baba Yaga is a helper rather than an antagonist is this tale.

It is one of many Russian folk tales featured in Russian Fairy Tales by Alexander Afanas'ev — a volume I highly recommend.

The note on the postcard states:
Hello Chris.
My name is Aleksander. I'm 6 y.o. I'm just learning to read and write. My mom Olga will help me. Usually I go to class. Most of all I love to draw and build models from LEGO. Warm greetings to you.
Aleksander also likes sports, trains, airplanes, dinosaurs, outer space and cartoons. He's a very cool kid with a great mom.