Friday, May 10, 2019

#FridayReads: May the great reads be with you, Padawans

Ashar with a goat on May 4 at Lancaster Farm Sanctuary in Elizabethtown.

Instead of putting them into some semblance of order, I'll just present this batch in the order in which they were put into the file. Make your own connections. Draw your own conclusions about the endlessly odd pathways of my mind.

From Lancaster Farm Sanctuary's Facebook page: "Shout out to Annie hen, who we think is the first of all the birds here to climb aboard and hang out on the chicken swing! A few years ago our founder Sarah Salluzzo made the swing for the Cornish Cross birds, for fun and exercise. We wanted to help them stay healthy, despite their genetic programming to be 'meat' birds with abnormal breast and body weight. But we’ve only ever seen them go around or under it like a limbo stick so far! Until last week!!! LFS volunteer Pauline Brown just caught this awesome shot of Annie not only swinging on it, but also snacking on leaves! Go, Annie!!!! Sooo interesting because Annie is usually the last to come in at night, and more likely off doing her own thing away from the flock. As usual, farm animal intelligence and sensitivity is just blowing our minds over here."

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Dell mapback front & back:
"The Man in Lower 10"

  • Title: The Man in Lower 10 (though the pedantic side of me must note that most references and the title page of this book list it as The Man in Lower Ten)
  • Author: Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958). She was a Pennsylvania native who had a successful and pioneering career as a mystery writer. She had sold more than 10 million books at the time of her death. I call her pioneering because, as Wikipedia notes, she "is considered the source of the phrase 'The butler did it' from her novel The Door (1930) ... (and) is also considered to have invented the 'Had-I-But-Known' school of mystery writing."
  • Cover artist: I'm not sure. It might be out there, but I couldn't find it on, J. Kingston Pierce's great piece on CrimeReads, or Mystery Scene. Answers or hot leads welcome!
  • Mapback artist: Again, I'm not sure. But it could be Ruth Belew, who did at least 25% of the mapbacks. On CrimeReads, Pierce writes:
    "Certainly the best-remembered of Dell's mapmakers is Ruth Belew, a rare women laboring within the male fraternity of mid-20th-century paperback designers. Biographical information about Belew is sparse, but she was evidently a Chicago illustrator, who — working from clues and descriptions in each book’s narrative — rendered her crime scenes on cardboard, at twice the finished paperback dimensions. She often added nifty identification banners and numbered 'keys' to help readers locate rooms or landmarks integral to the plot. Dell editors double-checked the accuracy of her drafts, requested any necessary changes, and then sent them to lithographic colorists who’d fill her compositions with arresting hues."
  • Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
  • Publication year: This is 1937 edition of a novel first published in 1909. Per the cover, this is No. 124 in the Dell series. The novel was later reprinted by Dell, with a different cover, as No. 403.
  • Original price: None listed.
  • Pages: 240
  • Format: Paperback
  • First sentence: McKnight is gradually taking over the criminal end of the business.
  • Last sentence: "Say," he called, in a hoarse whisper, "shall I throw the key down the elevator shaft?"
  • Random sentence from middle: Richey's flippancy is often a cloak for deeper feeling.
  • Best character name in novel: Budd Wilson Hotchkiss
  • Goodreads rating: 3.57 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2012, Janiece wrote: "The style of writing is interesting and the setting of the 1920s takes me back to a time when train travel was the norm. Being a fan of Mary Roberts Rinehart since childhood, I am re-reading her books now and see much more in them that I didn't get before. Solving mysteries is more about inductive reasoning and observation than high tech diagnostics."
  • Amazon rating: 4.1 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review: In 2014, Bratty_me27 wrote: "Is being the main suspect in a murder the right time to fall in love? Read this book and find out."
  • Previous mapback post: In 2013, I wrote about Date with Death.

Nifty photo postcards of Luray Caverns from 1906

Entrance Avenue

These five postcards feature J.D. Strickler's photographs from 113 years ago of the natural wonder that is Luray Caverns in Virginia. Never mailed, they are part of a 10-card series titled The Beautiful Caverns of Luray. It was, according to the text on the back, possible for the Luray Caverns Corporation to mail the set to any address for 17 cents. (Mailing individual cards at that time was just a penny.)

An article by by C.H. Claudy titled "Some Subterrestrial Photography" in the June 1907 issue of The Photographic Times discusses Strickler's work. Here's an excerpt:
"The making of photographs beneath the surface of the earth is not usually a popular occupation. Not that it is not of itself enjoyable, but because it is so hard to get below the top of terra firma! And when somehow, somewhere, we do get below the surface and take flash lights, what flat and uninteresting pictures we do produce, to be sure!

"In presenting the accompanying pictures of underworld marvels, it is of course evident that the photographer had wonderful material with which to work — nowhere in the three miles of rooms and galliers in the Caverns of Luray could a camera be set up and anything taken which would not be both wonderful and beautiful. On the other hand this particular photographer has displayed a great deal of taste in the selection of his pictures, and shown an excellent appreciation of the force of light and shade, and particularly of contrast in the making of these plates. It is with the more pleasure that I am glad to name him. Mr. J.D. Strickler of Luray, Va., and to praise his excellent work and the keen 'know how' he has displayed in getting his results..."
Despite that heap of praise, Claudy does criticize Strickler's choices and work a fair bit throughout the article. At one point, Claudy writes: "Mr. Strickler has used a long focus lens of twelve inches focal length on an eight by ten plate in most of the pictures. This is a decided mistake from all possible points of view — a wide angle — at least a seven inch lens, being clearly indicated." Ouch.

Here are the other four postcards...

Approach to Ball Room

Saracens Tent

Ball Room Looking Toward Millers Hall

Collins Grotto

Monday, May 6, 2019

Boris' Soviet-era QSL card

This QSL card between UA3-9 in Moscow, USSR, and W3AIT in Frackville, Pennsylvania, was filled out in 1962, at the height of the Cold War. I know that W3AIT was in Frackville, because I have other QSL cards sent to that operator, who was named Melvin C. Reed. He's also listed, with that call sign, in the Fall 1952 Radio Amateur Callbook. If I found the correct Melvin C. Reed on Find A Grave, he lived from 1906 to 1987.

Melvin made a lot of international connections with his ham radio hobby. And that includes this one with Boris in 1962. I wonder if they had a short conversation. Did Boris understand English? Did Melvin understand Russian? Or did they only know enough mutual ham radio lingo in order to log the connection over the airwaves? QSL cards are wonderful ephemeral evidence of past exchanges. But they leave so much that can never be known. I find it fascinating that, in the same year as the Cuban Missile Crisis, someone from a small town in Pennsylvania was connecting directly with a fellow ham enthusiast in Moscow. (Also, since there's no stamp or address on this QSL, I have to assume that Boris sent it to Melvin in an envelope.)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

"Old farmhouse in the Black Forest"

Need a vacation? Or maybe just to get away from it all?1 This 1960s postcard, never mailed, features an Altes Bauernhaus im Schwarzwald (as printed on the back), which translates to "Old farmhouse in the Black Forest."

Living on a quiet, pastoral farm sounds like an ideal life these days. (I suspect, though, that the seasonal maintenance of that huge roof requires a lot of sweat equity, especially after hard winters.) Ashar and I took a farm tour in Lancaster County yesterday, and the tranquility was interrupted only by the occasional insistent bleating of the goats.

There's a red stamp on the back of this card for Hotel Bellevue in Baden-Baden, Germany. Originally, I thought the image on the front of the card was Hotel Bellevue, but I was wrong about that.

If my research and translations are correct, Hotel Bellevue dated to the late 1700s and was once called Grüner Winkel. It was fully rebuilt into a luxury hotel in the late 1800s and held that status through the first half of the 20th century. It served as a military hospital during World War II and never truly bounced back after that. It was converted into a retirement home in 1982.

It's still faring well and appears to be in very good shape. These days, most of it is used for high-end senior living, but there are, once again, some hotel rooms. If you stay there, it's not much of a jaunt to visit the Black Forest...

Related posts

1. Please note: You cannot run away from climate change.