Saturday, May 15, 2021

Steve Stiles 1966 zine illustration

I really want to get back to reviewing and writing about old sci-fi and fantasy fanzines. It's one of those things I've never had much momentum with on Papergreat over the years. But it's loads of fun to dive into those typed and mimeographed issues.

Now sitting atop the pile, I have the August 19661 issue of The Twilight Zine (No. 19) that I'd like to write about before the end of this month. Edited by Cory Seidman and Leslie Turek, it's the clubzine of the MIT Science Fiction Society (@mitsfs on Twitter).

As a little preview of a full post about The Twilight Zine, here's an illustration by Steve Stiles (1943-2020) from Page 3 of issue No. 19. Stiles also did the cover, so stay tuned for the upcoming post!

1. Historical context note: On August 26, 1996, NASA released the first photograph of the Earth as seen from the noon, snapped by Lunar Orbiter 1. Coincidentally, I began rewatching the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon last night.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

I have a question about Real Fruit Black Raspberry Soda

This 4⅛-inch-wide label is for National's Real Fruit Black Raspberry Soda. My question is regarding the "Real Fruit" aspect of this beverage. When I look at the ingredients on the label, I see: carbonated filtered water, pure cane sugar, imitation flavor and certified color.

None of those ingredients indicates "Real Fruit." Hmm. Oh well, I'm pretty sure I'd still have enjoyed a cold bottle of this flavor. It was one of many National offered.

National Soda and Beer of Bayonne, New Jersey, didn't quite make it to 100 years of existence. It began in 1922 and closed up shop for good with an estate sale in 2019. (It had halted distribution in 2017.)

In November 2019, Teri West of The Jersey Journal wrote about its farewell. Here are some excerpts:
  • Conrad Targonski founded National Soda. "Like many American entrepreneurs, Targonski was an immigrant, born in Poland in 1888. He opened the factory in 1922, a competitive time for soda manufacturing. In the early decades, there were eight other soda factories in Bayonne"
  • Targonski’s son-in-law, Henry Wisolmerski, took over the company and it eventually transitioned from manufacturing to just distribution in the 1980s.
  • "Rich Wisolmerski says he started working at the family company at age three, counting bottles. It was only years later that he realized his first 'job' was just a ruse his father invented to keep him occupied." He grew up to become the third generation of the family to run the company, and was the one who brought it to a close. “I shed tears when I had to close,” Rich Wisolmerski told The Jersey Journal. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

The National Soda and Beer Facebook page is still up. Its most recent (and likely final) posts are from that estate sale in November 2019. Here are a few comments from the November 23, 2017, post announcing the warehouse closure:
  • "My grandparents would buy their soda in the early 70’s, all different flavors so there were a pretty cool variety of colors."
  • "My in laws always had a wooden case on the floor in the foyer with a variety of your soda in it." 
  • "Wow...such a cherished part of my childhood. My Grandmother had 34 grandchildren- she would buy cases of your soda with all different flavors."
  • "My Dad would stop there while we sat in the car. He would bring a case to my Grandparents because we didn’t drink soda at home... loved the cream soda"
Does anyone out there, especially from the New Jersey region, have memories of National Soda and Beer? Please share in the comments section. I suspect they're good ones, and that you don't mind one bit that there was no real fruit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

November 8, 1914, to
May 11, 2021. Amazing.

Norman Lloyd finally exited stage left yesterday, in his sleep, after 106 years and six months on this planet. An amazing lifetime. I wrote just a little bit about him on his 100th birthday in 2014. I mentioned his Hollywood working relationships with Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese. 

Lloyd's obituary in Variety nicely summarizes the many highlights of his career as an actor, director and producer. It notes tidbits such as "Lloyd was hand-picked by Alfred Hitchcock to play the title character and villain in 1942’s 'Saboteur.'" (To take that part, though, Lloyd had to pass on a role in his friend Welles' little project, Citizen Kane.)

As you might imagine, this first act of his career and those famous associations gave Lloyd a tremendous well of stories from which to draw in later years, while working with new generations of Hollywood talent.

And so Lloyd went on to work with Robin Williams, Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Amy Schumer and so many others. If you include his TV work, he is literally the entirety of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" database.

Of course, I was one of many who came to know him through his six years as Dr. Daniel Auschlander on the TV series St. Elsewhere in the 1980s. On that show, he worked alongside Ed Flanders, William Daniels, Bonnie Bartlett, Ed Begley Jr. and up-and-coming actors like Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, Bruce Greenwood and David Morse.

Lloyd's character wasn't supposed to stick around for all six seasons of the show. Another Variety article states that, "Originally, the character was to have died in episode six of Season 1, but Lloyd proved so good in the role and became such an integral part of the MTM Productions show that producers could not let him go."

Auschlander did eventually die — in the very last episode.

In a scene late in that final episode of St. Elsewhere, minutes before the famous snow globe moment, the character of Dr. Donald Westphall (played by Flanders) talks to the assembled hospital staff about Auschlander's passing. He says,
"There was a time when Daniel didn't exist, and that time has come again. And I think that we should be glad that we lived in the time he did."
That sentiment now applies to Norman Lloyd. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Your father's HBO lineup was nothing to write home about

Next up in these few scattered posts from the November 13, 1975, edition of The Scranton Tribune is this advertisement for HBO. I'll be honest: Even though I've been reminded a few times over the years that HBO launched in 1972, in my headspace it only dates to about 1980. Because a thing clearly does not exist until such time as it appears in my memories.

Of course, HBO in the early and mid 1970s was not exactly the powerhouse subscription channel it would become in later decades. In fact, as we can see from this advertisement, it was fairly sad-sack.

The lineup of movies includes a lot of stuff that's not generally remembered as cinema's finest moments:

  • Executive Action (1973) stars Burt Lancaster in a JFK assassination conspiracy docu-drama that travels down some paths that Oliver Stone would (brilliantly) explore three decades later. But it has just a 6.7 rating on IMDb. In his two-star review, Roger Ebert wrote: "The characters are deliberately played in extremely low key, and they talk as if they were reciting peculiarly stiff PR releases."
  • I.F. Stone's Weekly (1973) is a 62-minute documentary that would probably not inspire someone to say, "Hey, I need to subscribe to that HBO thing."
  • The Last Snow of Spring (1973) is actually an Italian film titled L'ultima neve di primavera. It's generally well-regarded.
  • Lucky Luciano (1973) is a mafia biopic. Which you probably guessed.
  • Lepke (1975) also includes Lucky Luciano (portrayed by Vic Tayback) in its blood-and-guns tale that's headlined by Tony Curtis. It has a 5.6 rating on IMDb.
  • One Russian Summer (1973) is actually Fury, and it's a costume drama featuring Oliver Reed and a bunch of toxic masculinity that I really don't want to research further. It has a 5.1 rating on IMDb.
  • Paperback Hero (1973) has the log line: "A hockey player in a small town begins to lose his grip on reality, and starts to believe that he is a gunslinger in the Old West." I'll pass. So did viewers, as it has a 6.1 rating on IMDb.
  • Salty (1973) is a family film with sea lions and Clint Howard. The 1970s were a rough time for children.
  • 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1971) has an X rating but wasn't that kind of X-rated film. It had real actors and artistic ambitions. But Ebert wasn't impressed in his two-star review: "It's a good film to look at filmed in warm earth colors and airy pastels. But it's not especially successful. Perhaps the acting is at fault. Nobody in the cast seems to have quite solved the problem of how to perform in a melodrama as violent as it is implausible, and still look believable on the screen."
  • W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) has Burt Reynolds as a "robber with a heart of gold" and Jerry Reed and Ned Beatty and James Hampton and Art Carney and, and, and ... I'm sorry but I have to erase this film from my knowledge banks immediately.

As the advertisement states, you got all of this "for only $7.00 a month." Accounting for inflation, that's the equivalent of $34 a month today, which would get you Disney+ ($8), Netflix ($9) and HBO ($15) combined, with $2 left over for a bottle of Frostie Root Beer. Maybe it's time to stop being nostalgic about the past.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Postcrossing roundup: Spring 2021

I spent last night catching up on some of my Postcrossing correspondence. So it seems like a good time for a roundup of interesting and encouraging thank-you emails I've gotten from Postcrossers around the world who have received postcards from me since January. These are from oldest to newest. 

Marjo, a grandmother who lives in the Netherlands, wrote: "Hi Chris, thank you very much forthe lovely card. I like it very much. We heard a lot of the situation in your country. It is really sad. Hopefully it will be better when Joe Biden starts his term. I love your country very much. I have been there several times. We traveled in Florida, California, Utah, Hawaii and we have been to New York. Hopefully we can visit the US again in 2023."

Saori from Japan wrote: "Hello, Chris! Thank you very much for your lovely postcard. Your handwriting is very beautiful! It's amazing that squirrels and various animals are in the backyard. I love animals so I enjoy reading your message. I wish you and your loved ones are in good health and happy."

Ines from Germany wrote: "Hey Chris! Thank you so much for the postcard. Those stamps are amazing! Moving is always exciting. I hope you can get used to it fast and enjoy the new things (like the warm sun ... in Germany it is getting back after a long and dark winter but I feel like I haven't seen it in a few weeks ... and it's not warm yet). I'm always so lazy unpacking! Good luck with your work and your new home!"

Pinja-Emilia from Finland wrote: "Hello Chris! I would love to see raccoons. They seem quite the funny little creatures. Your friendly neighborhood raccoon back in Pennsylvania sounds just lovely. Happy postcrossing."

Claudia from Germany wrote: "Hello Chris, thank you sooo much for the beautiful cactus postcard! Love it! And the stamps too! It must be exciting to live in a desert! So many new things to see and to learn! Wish you and your family all the best and many new adventures! Stay healthy and happy too."

Alina from France wrote: "Dear Chris, Thank you, I enjoyed reading your card, so interesting! I would love to move to USA one day. For now, I am working and after work I'm taking intensive English lessons to improve my English. I didn't study that for years. It was difficult at the begin, but now I'm proud I understand more and I think I can have a conversation easily. I love 'Mr. Bill,' it's a funny name for a cat! Mine are called Linoha and Nana. I didn't chose it, they were 6 months when I adopted them. The birthday of my first cat is nearly. ... She is going to celebrate her 6 years. I feel my cats are my first children. I love reading English poetry (like Atticus, Zack Grey, Wilder Poetry). The book wild is she, from Wilder Poetry, changed my life. Nature, feelings, true, open-mind ... I hope you'll discover it one day! Take care, and thanks again! Greetings from France!"

Soorya from India wrote: "Thank you very much for your Route 66 card. It looks quite amazing!! And thank you very much for all the stamps ... though I am doubtful of removing them from the card. US has such lovely stamps but they are all self-adhesive types. Have a wonderful day and happy postcrossing!"

Martina from Germany wrote: "Hello Chris, Thank you for the vintage postcard from Arizona. A few years ago we traveled part of the USA and were also in Arizona. It was wonderful. I hope we can vacation in the USA again next year. We are healthy and living with the lockdown. My old mother has been vaccinated. I am on a waiting list. I think it will take some time, because here in Germany, unfortunately, it is a bit of a hassle. But let's be glad that there is vaccine and practice patience. Greetings and good health."

Paul from the United Kingdom wrote: "Thanks for your card which just arrived. I'm so glad your new president is an ally, your last president (how on Earth did that happen??) was less so. Best wishes to you and your family."

Anna from Austria wrote: "Thank you so much for the amazing viewcard and stamps!!!! Thank you for the temperature, and for converting to °C! WOW, so hot, and it is only April! We still have a mixture of rain, snow, windy cold weather and sometimes mild and sunny conditions. It is typical April, so it is good! (I hate Global Warming, so I'm happy about every day that seems to be "too cold for the season".) Best wishes to you, with warm greetings from Austria! Peace and good health to you!"

André from the Netherlands wrote: "Hello Chris, Thank you very much for the beautiful postcard of Casa Grande Ruins, Arizona, and your explanation at the backside of the card. It's really impressing and I can imagine you miss the changing seasons if you were used to that. I also would like to thank you for the great stamps you enclosed. I really love them and they will fit perfectly in my collection. I wish you and your family all the best, take care, stay safe and don't forget to enjoy life!!!"

Bea from the Netherlands wrote: "Hello Chris, many thanks for the beautiful card and stamps. I like black cats, I have had one too. It's now still to cold for the time, but it's getting better. We have now 10 degrees C. I don't like hot weather, I prefer cold. I have had my vaccination too and get the second also next month. Stay healthy."

Alex from Russia wrote: “Hi Chris! Thank you for the great mood that you gave me with your postcard, amazing postage stamps (Soyuz-Apollo is super!). But the most important thing is your text on the card. You have done a wonderful job with the Russian language. I will never learn to write in English like that. And the letter Ж is very easy to write. First you need to write the letter X, and then draw a strip in the middle of this letter. It will look like a snowflake, but understandable. Once again, thank you very much for your attention. For the second day I have been walking in a good mood after your greetings. I wish you happiness, peace and love! Greetings from distant Russia."

Doris from Germany wrote: "Hi Chris, thanks for the great postcard from the Sonoran Desert. It looks very enticing and sooo beautiful. As for me, I prefer heat over cold so I think I would love Arizona. Never been there but it is definitely on my bucket list. I don't collect stamps but yours were very nice."

Minttu from Finland wrote: “Thank you so much for this cat in colourful shirt, with big glasses and coffee mug! I love it! I've never counted our books, maybe I should! Nowadays I don't buy books very often, I prefer to use library. I've just read many Finnish books but also Adam Rutherford's Humanimal, and I'm starting to read his latest, How to Argue with a Racist. My parents have had their first corona vaccination because they are over 70 years old. I may have it somewhere around late summer/autumn? I'm under 40 and don't have any diseases so I'm probably among the last ones. All the best to Arizona!! I thought about your weather today as we had freezing wind from north and some snow although it supposed to be spring already!"

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Semi-mystery RPPC: Charles Lamb & Eleanor Walrod

This unsent real photo postcard has a pair of full names written on the back, in neat cursive. But, the names — Charles Lamb and Eleanor Walrod — don't seem to be unique enough to get us near any kind of answer as to who these two were. A middle name or region of the country could have further helped.

We also know that it's an AZO postcard that dates to between 1910 and 1930. Which means, very roughly, that these two were likely born between 1890 and 1914. And, factoring in a wide range of reasonable life spans (but no "early" death by war, disease or accident) they died anywhere between 1955 and 2010 — a huge range, which shows how complicated the research can get.

Beyond that, we're essentially out of clues. Can we assume they were headed to a prom or a dance? That's a nice straw hat Charles is wearing, by the way.

Perhaps that fact that this photo, attached to these two names, now appears on the internet will help the mystery to be solved.

Other mystery RPPCs