Saturday, June 5, 2021

Mars miscellanea & great podcasts

1. Hello there, Mr. Angelino, aka Banjo.

2. Hello, Mars! is a 1989 book for children about space exploration that was written by Geoffrey T. Williams and illustrated by Yvonne Cherbak. I bring it up tonight, because Cherbak is the subject of a heartbreaking but also life-affirming episode of the podcast Ephemeral. (It will hardly surprise you learn that something titled Ephemeral is one of my favorite podcasts.) The short May 14 episode "Five Paintings" deals with Cherbak and her narrow escape from the devastating Woolsey Fire in California in late 2018. It's an episode that will also leave wondering what you would do if you had to leave behind 99.9% of your life's possessions on short notice.

Ephemeral, hosted by Alex Williams, is current in the middle of its second season, so it wouldn't take you long to listen through all of the previous episodes. But if you only want a sampling, these two are my absolute favorites so far:
  • "Diaspora" (May 20, 2019), which looks at some of the rare musical recordings made by immigrants who came to the United States in the early 1900s.
  • "Reputation" (June 17, 2019), which comes with this teaser: "When a song just hits you, it’s a powerful thing. ... But what if this song – that you just discovered and can’t get enough of – was a mystery? You don’t know who wrote it, you don’t know who performed it, and you have no evidence to go on. You just have the music… looping endlessly… asking questions but answering none."
Meanwhile, because I love interconnected tangents, another favorite podcast of mine is Eric Molinsky's Imaginary Worlds. And it recently had a great episode about music, too: "Embracing the Spooky Spooky" is about the fascinating life of Russia's Leon Theremin (1896-1993) and the haunting instrument that bears his name.

3. But wait, there's more! These Mars buttons are pretty cool relics. And sooooo 1970s.

The bottom button has small type that reads "American Revolution Bicentennial 1776-1976." Indeed, these buttons are related to NASA's Viking 1 and Viking 2 orbiter-lander missions to Mars, which launched in 1975 and arrived at the Red Planet in the summer of 1976 

There was originally a hope that Viking 1's lander could touch down on Mars on exactly the Fourth of July, 1976. But that attempt proved prohibitive, and the successful landing had to wait until July 20.

Bicentennial pins were a big thing in 1976. (Well, bicentennial everything was a big thing.) I'm not 100% sure what the story is behind these specific pins and their "Smile" theme. Anyone have more info? The smiley face had been around since the 1960s (or perhaps even earlier). But it was in the 1970s when the smiley face became ubiquitous in American culture, alongside its exact opposite: the green Mr. Yuk sticker created by UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Strange recipes, including sheep sorrel pie

Here's a fun clipping from Wayne Guthrie's "Ringside in Hoosierland" column in the October 18, 1948, edition of The Indianpolis News.
As you can see, it contains references to sheep sorrel pie, pumpkin-blossom pie, sugar pie, eggplant and salted carp slung over the fence. 

I was very pleased to discover that sheep sorrel pie does not contain any sheep. Sheep sorrel is one of the names for Rumex acetosella. Apparently the taste of the leaves is not too far removed from lemon. Dusty Old Thing, which has a recipe for the pie, notes: "Citrus fruit was hard to get in the U.S. and lemon pie was an extremely popular dessert. The pioneers used the herb, sheep sorrel, to flavor their pies and the taste is supposedly very close to lemon pie. But, we’ve heard it does take a fair bit of sheep sorrel to get the flavor."

Another recipe for sheep sorrel pie can be found at The Oklahoman

Columnist Wayne Guthrie (1896-1977) is a member of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. His career included covering multiple atomic test explosions, including two at Bikini Atoll in 1946. In the years afterward, he gave more than 800 speeches to groups interested in hearing about what he witnessed. (Learn more at the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame website.)

As for "Ringside in Hoosierland," the Indiana Historical Society notes that the longtime column "dealt with Indiana and its folklore and history: how places got their names, how long people had been doing their jobs, how to make things like vinegar pie. There was a good deal of reader response; sometimes this produced material for future columns; sometimes it turned into a campaign. Two successful campaigns resulted in naming a state park after Col. Richard Lieber and changing the name of the Indianapolis baseball park from Victory Field to Bush Stadium. An unsuccessful campaign in the 1950s tried to rename 38th Street in Indianapolis after General Douglas MacArthur."

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Sculpted door frames ... ornamentation of a bygone era

This is the 900th post that falls under the "Postcards" label.
This postcard, which was published in 1908, features the Kreuzbrunnen Colonnade in Mariánské Lázně (perhaps better known by the German name Marienbad). Mariánské Lázně is now in the Czech Republic. At the time of this postcard — well, it's complicated. I'd need an expert on European history to explain it all. Is it best to just say this was Bohemia at the time?

The structures to the center and right are part of Kreuzbrunnen, which was built in 1888-1889 in the Baroque style. Circa 1951, it was renamed Maxim Gorky's Colonnade.

I can't tell what year the postcard was mailed, but it was sent to Miss Blanche Applegate in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The cursive note reads:
Dear Blanche — Have outlined the roof of the hotel in which I am staying and which is just visible over the Brunnen. My address during August will be — Adelheitstr 73, Wiesbaden, Germany. Am at present down here in Austria getting up strength for next winter. Best wishes for western trip. Lovingly, [indecipherable]

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Book cover: "Investigating UFO's"

This is the 500th post that falls under the "Book covers" label. Also, it's nice and timely, given how much UFOs are in the news this year. (For example: This May 30 USA Today article.)
  • Title: Investigating UFO's
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how unhappy does "UFO's" with an apostrophe make Otto? In 2019, I rated it an "11," but that was just for the error appearing in the text. Its presence in the title of this book is an off-the-scale punctuation abomination.
  • Author: Larry Kettelkamp
  • About the author: According to the bio included in the book, Kettelkamp was born in Harvey, Illinois; graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.F.A. in painting in 1953; served two years in the Army; eventually moved to Cranberry, New Jersey; and had his lifelong hobby turn into his first published book: Magic Made Easy. Other books by Kettelkamp include Dreams; Drums, Rattles, and Bells; Haunted Houses; Kites; The Magic of Sound; Puzzle Patterns; Shadows; Sixth Sense; and Spooky Magic.
  • Cover designer: Unknown
  • Publisher: William Morrow and Company, New York
  • Year: 1971
  • Pages: 96
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Price: Unknown. Dust jacket is price-clipped
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "Are Unidentified Flying Objects real or imaginary? Much investigation has been done on this question, but there still is no clear answer. Feeling that the objective data gathered should be made as widely available as possible, Larry Kettelkamp has written this survey on what government and civilian groups have learned to date." 
  • Provenance: It was clearly a library book, but the only clue I can find is a lone stamp on the inside back cover for "BINFORD I.M.C." IMC likely stands for Instructional Materials Center.
  • Thanks from the author: "The author wishes to thank the following researchers for contributing materials and offering helpful suggestions:"
  • First sentences: In 1966 a nationwide Gallup poll questioned Americans about UFO's, or Unidentified Flying Objects. According to the poll, more than five million Americans have seen something they believe was a flying saucer. [For context, the population of the U.S. in 1966 was about 196 million.]
  • Last sentences: Many UFO reports indicate that such visitors may have been here already. This exciting possibility is what makes the study of UFO's so important and so fascinating.
  • Random excerpt from middle: Unfortunately, photographs of flying saucers can be faked.
  • Online review excerpt #1: Kirkus had this to say in 1971: "Overall, it's a concise if somewhat weighted summary of saucer lore, well organized and attractively laid out, by a master of far-out subjects; but the need for still another rehash is debatable."
  • Online review excerpt #2: Writing on Pamphlets of Destiny in 2019, Lawrence Burton states: "Investigating UFOs is a children's book, so the language is clear, with the subject simplified to some degree, and thankfully free of the crankier tone which informs most of the writing on this topic — because this was the era of children's books being written with some sense of educational responsibility. It took me about an hour to read it cover to cover, and at no point did I feel ridiculous, and it was very enjoyable; so there you go."
  • Full disclosure: I have a couple other UFO-related ephemera items in the ever-full hopper of upcoming posts, so prepare for more saucer shenanigans in 2021.
  • Other full disclosure: I have never, to my knowledge, seen a UFO. 
But wait, there's more!

We used to have a saying that "all news leads back to York, Pennsylvania." To that end, I found a news clipping about an appearance by Larry Kettelkamp at Central York Middle School in the April 13, 1987, edition of The York Dispatch:

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Pride Month 2021 begins

Today marks the first day of Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City. As the Library of Congress explains, "The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally." I am incredibly proud of and grateful for Ashar, Joan, Kaitlyn and all of the other LGBTQIA+ people who are part of my life and enrich it immeasurably.

I picked up this box of Kellogg's Together with Pride cereal (2021 edition) recently at the Florence Safeway and have been mulling whether to put it (or perhaps a nicer one with no crease) into one of my envelopes or folders, to save for posterity. The packrat historian in me is leaning toward "yes."

What will citizens of the future think about this colorful cereal in 50, 100 or 500 years? Will they wonder why it was necessary? Will they see it as exploitation of Pride Month to make a buck? (I'm not oblivious to that reality.) Will they be proud (no pun intended) of their ancestors' efforts to promote positive change? Will they wonder why people actually had to advocate and argue for a world marked by peace, compassion, equality, diversity, justice and acceptance? Will they have mostly erased hate, injustice, bullying, poverty and discrimination?

I don't have any answers, of course. Which is part of why we document and witness the events of our lives, and let the future historians decide what they meant.

Kellogg Company began its Pride Month association with GLAAD in 2019. That year, "All Together Cereal" was a limited edition box with six mini cereal boxes packaged inside. This year, it's an actual newfangled, heart-shaped cereal. (Or maybe not so newfangled, as we're about to read.)

So, I'll conclude with the least important question: Is this cereal any good?

The breakfast cereal blog Cerealously doesn't really think so. In its review, it stated that: "we get a note-for-note technicolor remaster of 2019’s Caticorn Cereal. Together with Pride tastes exactly the same, and Caticorn wasn’t exactly memorable. ... Like Caticorn, Together with Pride is very generically fruity. It’s difficult and unproductive trying to detect any traces of raspberry or strawberry specifically, because it all gets gummed together by a sticky sugar sheen and the additional cloying sweetness of each piece’s 'edible glitter.' Imagine the fakest berry taste you can, then make it hollower and glossier."

I'm not a big consumer of breakfast cereals, but I did eat a couple of bowls of Together with Pride with oat milk, and I'll be more generous: I like it. It serves its purpose just fine as your typical sugary cereal. To me, it tastes like a combination of Froot Loops and Cap'n Crunch, which I know is not a Kellogg's product, but that's the best description I can summon. Meanwhile, Ashar, who eats all of his cereal dry (no milk), termed it "delicious." So there.

Monday, May 31, 2021

1906 commencement postcard

This postcard — printed in Germany and published by The Hugh C. Leighton Co. of Portland, Maine — was mailed in April 1906 to Miss Essie Sharon of York Haven, Pennsylvania.1 Divided-back postcards with a message on the back weren't permitted in the United States until March 1907, so the note is written on the front of this card, across the blue sky. It states:
Dear Essie: — I have just returned home from the Commencement Exercises at Harrisburg High School. Am very tired. Tell Joe G. I am still waiting for that postal card. Had company last night. Will tell you who sometime. Come up soon.
From, Edith
Narrator's voice: We will never know who Edith's company was.

Harrisburg County Club, pictured on the front of the postcard, is, according to its website, "the oldest established private club in the Central Pennsylvania area. It was founded in 1896 by a distinguished list of Harrisburg business leaders seeking the social and sports amenities of country club life for themselves and their families. The Country Club of Harrisburg is built on the foothills of the Blue Mountains, high above the Susquehanna River in scenic Fishing Creek Valley, just ten minutes from Harrisburg and convenient to both East Shore and West Shore locations."

1. For some historical context, this postcard was mailed just days before that year's shattering San Francisco earthquake.