Saturday, April 10, 2021

Wonderful bit of medical ephemera

Shot #1
San Tan Valley, AZ

Postcrossings: Church and countryside

Here are two Postcrossing postcards that I've received in my mailbox (actually a community wall of mailboxes a half-block from our house) since moving to Arizona.

First up is this postcard from Alina in Ukraine.1  It shows the ornate interior of the 18th century St Andrew's Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, which was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli of Italy. According to Wikipedia, "The church has no bells as, according to legend, their noise would cause flooding of the left part of the city."

Alina writes: "Hi, Otto! Hope you love the postcard. I've never been inside this church as the entrance is fee based — what a strange idea for a church. Take care and come visit Ukraine."
Next up, is this multi-view postcard from Tiverton, Mid Devon, Devon, South West, England, United Kingdom. As with any proper town in England, there are local ruins of a castle and associated folklore and ghost stories.
Peter, who likes to talk long walks and play guitar in a Tiverton band, writes: "Hi. In the middle of our third lockdown because of COVID. Lucky to live in the countryside. Most of the fields are full of sheep with their new lambs. Missing live music and travel. Hope you are well and safe."

1. Keep the citizens of Ukraine in your thoughts. Washington Post headlines from this past week:

Thursday, April 8, 2021

"The War is over and boys are back in College."

Today's postcard is a Genuine Curteich-Chicago postcard featuring "Quadrangle showing Old Main, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pa." It was postmarked in Lewisburg on November 8, 1945, and mailed to Mrs. Amos Herold on West 52nd Street in Los Angeles, California.

The message states:
Nov. 8 - 1945
Bucknell had the most wonderful "home coming" Oct 20th. 1400 new and former students are here. The War is over and boys are back in College. Mrs. Marsh lives alone in that big house. Sorry Mr. H. is not well. 
Grace Snyder

Bucknell's Homecoming football game on that October 20, 1945, was against Penn State, with the Nittany Lions winning, 45-7. Bucknell's lone touchdown came on a 61-yard pass from Bill McKay to George Buchanan in the third quarter. Bucknell's only two football wins that autumn were against Scranton and Lafayette.

As to the Bucknell campus, one of Bucknell's history webpages provides these tidbits:

  • "In 1945, in expectation of the effect of the GI Bill on college admissions, President [Arnaud Cartwright] Marts developed a plan to recruit veterans and young men, which was described in the minutes of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustee’s meeting in Philadelphia:
Chairman Bostwick then read President Marts’ letter regarding a new plan for campaigning for young men and returning veterans. This plan involved sending a representative of the college to separation centers and actively recruiting men who are discharged from the army and also make an intensive effort to recruit 16 and 17-year old boys to begin their college work. Mr. Henderson moved and Dr. Harris seconded the motion that President Marts be empowered to move as he deemed proper. The motion carried unanimously.”
  • "Tuition for men for both the 1945-1946 and 1946-1947 Academic Years was $400.00 for the college year from September to June. The cost of a furnished room for men ranged from $120.00 for a furnished room in East or West College to $300.00 for a furnished suite with bath in Main College."
  • "In 1945, the university conferred the Master of Arts on twelve individuals, nine of whom were women, and the Master of Science in Education on seven individuals, three of whom were women."

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

When life imitates blogging

I wrote the Papergreat post about Frostie Root Beer nine years ago, and it's been a pretty popular post over the years, generating a lot of interesting comments. But, until this past weekend at the Safeway in Florence, Arizona, I had never seen a bottle of Frostie Root Beer in the wild!

Now I can drink some of the ephemera I've written about, which is weird sentence to type. But don't hold your breath waiting for me to start tracking down and eating some of the gelatin mold dishes that have been mentioned in the past.

Meanwhile, around the Twitters...

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Just your average Yasujirō Ozu / Norma McClain Stoop post

I have become an increasing fan of the films of Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu since watching Tokyo Story for the first time in November 2019. I followed that up over the past year and half with Good Morning, Late Spring, Floating Weeds and Early Summer — all brilliant and calming. Everything slows down when you watch an Ozu film, which is a blessing in this stressed-out world. (The movies of Kenji Mizoguchi, Agnès Varda and Víctor Erice work this magic, too.)

In seeking to learn more about Ozu's career, I picked up a used copy of The Major Works of Yasujiro Ozu, a slender, staplebound booklet (cover pictured above) that was published in 1974 by New Yorker Films and features excerpts from Donald Richie's biography Ozu, which was also published that year. There are also reprints of reviews of Ozu films by Roger Greenspun, Nora Sayre and Vincent Canby.

The booklet is nearly square: 8⅜ inches wide by 8⅞ inches tall. 

In addition to being a valuable cinematic resource, my copy also has some interesting provenance. A sticker on the inside back cover indicates that it was once part of the the Harvard Theatre Collection at The Houghton Library. 
Houghton describes itself as "home to Harvard’s rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more." It has papers by Samuel Johnson, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Louisa May Alcott, Theodore Roosevelt, T.S. Eliot and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, a unit of African American soldiers, during the Civil War.

I have no idea when or why Houghton's overseers decided to deaccession this Ozu booklet from the performing arts collection. Or maybe it simply went missing, was never deaccessioned and they'll be getting in touch after reading this post. If Harvard wants it back, I won't say no.

The other provenance mark on this book, however, is even more interesting. It's a stamp that appears on Page 2:
And who is Norma McLain Stoop? She was a lover of movies, too. She loved them very, very much. So much so that her raves appeared in newspaper advertisements for movies throughout the 1970s and 1980s: 
  • "James Stewart ... it may be well be his best performance!" — Fools' Parade (1971)
  • "A wow of a film." — W.C. Fields and Me (1976) 
  • "Highly original, hard-hitting film and uniquely frightening. The climax is brutally astounding and demoniacally haunting." — The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1976)
  • "Happiest, funniest movie event of the year. Peerlessly witty dialogue. ... Wonderful performances throughout. Bisset is comically endearing. This elegant film will be gobbled with glee by every imaginable kind of audience. A hilarious comedy thriller." — Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978)
  • "It's so good that I'm sure it won't be forgotten when Academy Award time rolls around in 1988." — Beyond Therapy (1987)
I'm guessing you haven't heard of some of these films. (Don't worry, you didn't somehow miss Jimmy Stewart's best performance. It's still Vertigo.) Or, if you have, you do not known them as rave-worthy masterpieces. That's the point. Norma McLain Stoop was a film critic who boosted her own profile, and that of her publications, by providing euphoric quotations that were perfect fodder for newspaper advertisements. (Beyond Therapy, by the otherwise wonderful Robert Altman, was indeed forgotten at Academy Award time.)

Joe Meyers, who writes the "Joe's View" movie blog for Hearst Communications, wrote an insightful 2008 post titled "When Norma McLain Stoop walked the earth." Here's an excerpt:
"My mind flashed back to the wildly enthusiastic reviews a woman named Norma McLain Stoop used to write for 'After Dark.' Norma never saw a movie she didn’t like and she helped spread the name of her magazine by being a pioneer in the quote-whoring that now fills ads for new movies. Few people read Norma’s reviews ... but her quotes were everywhere in the early and mid-1970s. She would give distributors enthusiastic comments so far in advance that her name would appear in the trailers for art films that were distributed around the country. Norma was so hyperbolic — and so unknown outside New York — that audiences in arthouses around the country would crack up when her name (and her gush) appeared on the screen."

For a little more on her, Meyers also quotes what is now an utterly vanished corner of the internet, where a "nameless movie industry blogger on a site called 'Zoom in Online'" once wrote about Norma. Here's a secondhand excerpt, keeping this nameless individual's thoughts around for posterity:

"Her quotes were deposited at your door as reliably as the Sunday Times, and were ready for immediate placement in your ad! Somebody once said, ‘If Norma McLain Stoop didn’t exist, someone would have to invent her.’ Well you didn’t need to invent Norma because Norma invented herself and she did a damned good job. Norma was a kind of graying version of a Factory Girl. Rail-thin, she was proud and stately like the other legendary Norma, Norma Desmond (if Norma Desmond hung out at Studio 54). She was immersed in the gay-tinged world of the performing arts. She had New York attitude. She loved NY culture with all her heart and soul, and if people wanted to laugh at her because she was a bit too promiscuous with her affections, then so be it ... She was aware of how people perceived her and she didn’t care."

In retrospect, Norma McLain Stoop had to be a true movie fan to do what she did all those years. She raved about the lesser films and outright duds of her time in order to help promote her magazine and pay the bills. Perhaps, behind the scenes, all she really wanted to do was settle in with a quiet Ozu film.

Monday, April 5, 2021

1963: "The Incredible Thinking Machines"

This informational article aimed at kids appears between tales in Gold Key's July 1963 issue of the comic book Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery. (The stories inside are "Something from the Past," "The Menace of the Missing Mummy," "Lo! The Mighty Hunter," and "Burn, Witch, Burn."1

The article is accompanied by an spooky illustration that would be at home on the cover of any of that decade's sci-fi paperbacks. Is that pro-Skynet personified? A humanoid-shaped artificial intelligence eyeing Earth menacingly? (Or maybe he wants to eat the Earth, though this is three years before Galactus made his debut.)

For context, this 1963 article was published about 10 years after Grace Hopper devised the first computer programming language; one year before Douglas Engelbart unveiled a prototype of the all-important graphic user interface; and 10 years before Xerox PARC came up with the Ethernet, which allowed for wide-ranging computer networks and communications.

Here are some excerpts from the article:
  • "For years scientists have been telling us that the machine is the servant of man! But in this increasingly complicated world the tables may soon be turned. Before long mechanical monsters may be telling us what to do!"2
  • "Electronic computers perform a thousand daily scientific tasks!"
  • "There are thinking machines which have been taught to play chess and can foresee the game's progress twenty moves ahead."
  • "Tomorrow there may be thinking machines which build other thinking machines! Who knows when these mechanical Frankensteins may decide to take over the Earth and do away with Man himself?"
1. Karloff concludes that tale by noting, "This is the 20th century, and we certainly don't believe in witches any more — or do we? — ask Duke and Joe."
2. Okay, the more I think about, I have some discomfort about the fact that the illustration features an ominous, mostly-black entity and the article discusses servants turning the tables on man. Words and images matter. And this was 1963.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Shelfie 2021: Arizona style

Last year it took me 65 posts to document my bookshelves, which were tucked into many different nooks and crannies of my bedroom in Dover, Pennsylvania. With our move to Arizona, things have become a bit more organized. Thanks partly to the magic of IKEA's Billy system, I can show about 90% of my collection in just two shelfies...

Easter rock and memories

This doesn't quite count as ephemera, because it doesn't fit well into an envelope. It's a 3½-inch-wide painted rock that was given to me as an Easter gift 45 years ago, in 1976. I'm not 100% sure anymore who it was from. But somehow it's stuck with me over the years, probably because it just sat in a drawer and then followed me around the country to different houses. It's hard to throw away a rock that has your name on it.

Painted rocks are a bigger thing now, probably bigger than in the 1970s. Folks put them in the own yards. Or they secretly gift them to other people's yards, mailboxes and front porches. Or they leave them along trails or at Little Free Libraries, as treasures to be discovered. In Montoursville, painted rocks made for a groovy school project. They're something that can be forever. Rocks stand the test of time; the opposite of ephemera. 

I'm not much of a Easter person. Today is for Christians. My memories of this holiday probably aren't much different than those of some others in Generation X. We used PAAS, crayons and vinegar to turn our hard-boiled eggs into masterpieces. Then we got up early on Sunday to check out our "Easter Bunny" baskets, the centerpiece of which was usually a hollow chocolate bunny. (There was also a lot of environmentally unfriendly plastic grass in those baskets in our day; that's one thing that's gotten better.) We searched the house for both the real eggs that we colored and plastic eggs filled with more candy. If we happened to miss a real egg, the smell would tell us our mistake a few days later. And if we happened to miss a plastic egg, it might be weeks or months before we happily stumbled upon it.

Later, Easter meant family brunches and suppers — at home, at a grandparent's house or at a restaurant. It's a nice rite of spring, bringing family together at a moment when the grip of winter has usually given way to warmth and the first blossoms. It's something to get cleaned up real nice for.

Now, Easter is a time of year when I post about holiday-themed vintage postcards and we can get nice seasonal candy, like Whoppers Robin Eggs and Zitner's Peanut Butter Eggs.