Saturday, September 25, 2021

Sotheby's house listing that's perfect for this time of year

As Mild Fear 2021 creeps closer, Ashar and I enjoyed seeing this unique house listing come up this week. The Sotheby's description for the 1836 dwelling provides the lowdown:
"Every so often an opportunity presents itself to possess an extraordinary piece of cultural history. The true story of ‘The Conjuring’ started in this very house, in Harrisville, RI. The critically acclaimed original movie was based on accounts taken from inhabitants of this fourteen-room farmhouse. Rumored to be haunted by the presence of Bathsheba Sherman, who in the 1800’s lived in the house, 1677 Round Top Road is one of the most well-known haunted houses in the United States. The chilling stories from this house have inspired dozens of books and movies. Many qualified paranormal researchers have been invited into the home — most famously Ed and Lorraine Warren, who founded the oldest ghost hunting team in New England, and in the 1970’s were hired to rid the home of its evil. The Warrens confirmed that the events depicted in The Conjuring movies (the third just recently released) actually transpired. The current caretakers have reported countless happenings in the house, and have turned overnight guest bookings and group events on the property into a steady successful business."

Says Ashar: "This is AWESOME. ... Can you imagine actually owning a haunted house?"

Of course, ghosts come with a price, and I'm not talking about being scared out of your socks.

This house costs $1.2 million.

And, horrors, you only get one full bath for all that money.

In looking at the photos and taking the 360-degree virtual tour in the house listing, one of Ashar's favorite things was this wall, signed by folks who have visited or stayed at the house:

And here are some pictures from the listing that I liked:
Finally, and to be clear, if you lived in this haunted house, you'd also be in the middle of nowhere...
RELATED POST: Update on my dream house

RCA, NBC, Star Trek and color

This 1967 magazine advertisement1 shows off some of the synergy that may have helped Star Trek survive for three seasons despite all that was seemingly working against it (including Gene Roddenberry's hardheadedness).

In a nutshell: RCA owned NBC. And NBC paid Desilu to produce Star Trek. The iconic science-fiction TV show was expensive to make, and often ran over on its production budget. Meanwhile, its Nielsen ratings were nothing to write home about. That's a recipe for getting your show canceled after one season. But, even with middling ratings and a bloated budget, Star Trek looked extraordinary on color televisions. And RCA was very much in the business of selling color televisions. So you can imagine that parent company RCA might have given NBC a nudge to renew its deal with Desilu after Star Trek's first season. There were other factors, of course. But it's nice to have also those bright gold, blue and red shirts popping off the TV screen when you're trying to convince someone to plop down $400 or $500 for a color TV in 1967. (That's between $3,000 and $4,000 today.)

Further reading:
Other Star Trek-related posts
1. I don't know what magazine, but there's an article about the politics of the Middle East on the other side. The page dimensions are 10½ inches by 13½ inches. So it could be Life.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Postcard: "Redcoat operating Radio Butlin"

I had no idea what I was going to discover when I started researching this vintage postcard. What is that contraption? The front of the postcard states BUTLIN'S and "Redcoat operating Radio Butlin." On the back of the unused card, it states:
  • GV. 11 Butlin's Holiday Camp.
  • Redcoat Operating Radio Butlin.
  • This is a real Butlin's Photograph

So, for starters, it's a British Thing. Which is partially why this didn't ring any bells (no pun intended).

According to Wikipedia, Butlin's is a chain of seaside resorts in the United Kingdom that dates to the 1930s. While the chain struggled in the face of competition in the 1980s and 1990s, it has adjusted to the times and is still going strong today, with resorts called Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness. "Butlin's runs a variety of 'family fun activities' and entertainments, many of which are included in the price of a holiday. Redcoats (Butlins frontline staff) provide entertainment, organise activities, and act as hosts," Wikipedia states.

The Redcoats are the Butlin's staffers who keep everything fun and cheerful for vacationing families, and they date to the beginning, too.

Radio Butlin, meanwhile, was kind of the space-age communications center for the holiday resorts. Here's an excerpt from
"The now joked about 'dreaded' Tannoy system which covered the Butlin's camps was started in 1946. The camp radio station was often described as the nerve centre of the camp and it couldn't have had a more apt description. ...

"The day would start at 7.30am with the 'wakey' announcement which would be a gentle tune, the longest running tune being 'singing piano' by Tolchard Evans. Halfway through, the record would be faded out and the announcer would inform the campers that it was 7.30am and that the first sitting for breakfast would be at 8.15am with the second sitting at 9.15am. The service was broadcast to the campers 7 days a week until 6pm.

"A typical daily broadcast would include music, advertisements, jingles, and requests from the campers, the days events and general news items. Radio Butlin lasted until the end of the 1974 season when its only use from then on was for emergency broadcasts. ... During its life Radio Butlin was regarded more as a service than a nuisance and although people now look back with humour, at the time it served its purpose, it blended in with what the holiday maker wanted."
You can also read a little more about Radio Butlin at As one might imagine, so many UK families have vacationed at Butlin's over the decades that there are a lot of fond memories floating around on the internet, even for something so relatively obscure as Radio Butlin. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sci-fi book cover: "The Best of Judith Merril"

  • Title: The Best of Judith Merril
  • Secondary cover text: Science fiction the famous author considers her finest
  • Author: Judith Josephine Grossman (1923-1997), whose pen name was Judith Merril
  • Cover illustrator: Gray Morrow (1934-2001)
  • Publisher: Warner Books
  • Year: 1976
  • Pages: 254
  • Format: Paperback
  • Cover price: $1.25 (though it's been blacked out by a marker)
  • Excerpt from back cover: "No one projects herself more penetratingly into the psyche of the women of future centuries than Judith Merril. ... No matter how mechanized our journeys into space become, inside the space suits we are human; and Judith Merril predicts we always will be."
  • Total stories and poems: 11
  • First story: "That Only a Mother"
  • Preface to first story: "A buried newspaper item on Army denial of post-Hiroshima rumors engendered Merril's first sf story ('Even in those days some of us automatically read certain kinds of official U.S. releases backwards.') John Campbell bought it for Astounding — October 1948."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: She stuck to her resolve, even after the message from Earth.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: Forty females started the journey, with a supply of sperm from one hundred genetically selected males carefully preserved on board.
  • Merrill biographical tidbit from Wikipedia #1: "In 1970 she began an endowment at the Toronto Public Library for the collection of all science fiction published in the English language. She donated all of the books and magazines in her possession to the library, which established the 'Spaced Out Library' (her term) with Merril in a non-administrative role as curator. The library has had its own physical space from the onset. During her last decade it was renamed the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy. She received a small annual stipend as curator and, when short of money, she lived in her office at the library, sleeping on a cot."
  • Merrill biographical tidbit from Wikipedia #2: "From 1978 to 1981 Merril introduced Canadian broadcasts of Doctor Who. As the 'Undoctor', Merril presented short (3-7 minute) philosophical commentaries on the show's themes." [That's her in the photo at right.]
  • Merrill biographical tidbit from Wikipedia #3: "From the mid-1970s until her death, Merril spent much time in the Canadian peace movement, including traveling to Ottawa dressed as a witch in order to hex Parliament for allowing American cruise missile testing over Canada."
  • Merril was bleeping awesome: Yes.
  • Book rating on Goodreads: 3.88 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2015, Virginia wrote: "These stories focus on the anxiety of the feminine, of the maternal, of the sexual, and of matriarchies. They're excellent and hold up well for their psychological studies."

Monday, September 20, 2021

Cookie recipe from 70 years ago

Mailable cookies: From the September 20, 1951, edition of the Dorchester Star, a newspaper in southeastern Nebraska.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Postcrossing roundup:
Early autumn 2021

Our household has gone into overdrive on the excellent hobby of sending postcards, as Joan has been sending awesome cards (many featuring penguins) across the United States and the globe. They've jumped into Postcrossing and are also involved in other online postcard groups, sending out motivational and encouragement cards almost every day. We're doing our part to keep the USPS funded!

That makes our daily walks to the mailbox twice as fun, too. We have a friendly competition to see who receives the most postcards each day. Joan has been winning most recent days. Over the course of a three-day stretch, they received about 30 postcards! 

One of the postcards I received through Postcrossing is shown above. It's an illustration by Rina Zeniuk that was sent to me by Olya in Ukraine, who was impressed with how many cats we have. 

Meanwhile, here's another batch of the nice thank-you emails I've gotten from Postcrossers around the world who have received postcards from me:

Marjon from the Netherlands wrote: "Hello Chris, thank you for the nice postcard. I've had a lovely birthday. I checked out your website, it's nice. We are not able to walk in the mountains this summer, but we're taking hikes by the river, a few minutes from our home. Always beautiful, in each season, with all types of weather. The book you mention, Convenience Store Woman, seems like the kind of book I love. Have a great day."

Philis from Singapore wrote:
"Hello Chris, and thank you for the really cool postcard! I've heard of Dante's Inferno but haven't read it yet — I really should, considering how many modern pieces of work have been inspired by it. One of my favourite movies of all times is Pan's Labyrinth — a great combination of fantasy horror and real, human horror. Yet it somehow still holds some sort of child-like mystical wonder. Tom and Jerry was a staple of my childhood! I really don't know if the cartoon violence would be approved for airing during modern times, but I definitely had great laughs over the funny shapes Tom would get compressed into when his plots failed. I think one thing about it that makes it more accessible is that they never really speak, so I could still understand what was going on despite not knowing English very well then. There were a few cultural references I believe, but not enough that I would lose the storyline for not knowing them. Hope that you and your family are safe and healthy during this time! Have a great day and happy postcrossing!"

Natali from Ukraine wrote: "Thank you, Chris! It is cool card and coin. Unlimited delight."

Annette from Germany wrote: "Hello Chris! Thank you very much for the cute postcard and your nice words. I think you are very right. Those anti-vaccination fools are in my country as well. Right now we are at 50% of full vaccinated Germans, but it could be a lot more. My family and I are all vaccinated, because we want to save those around us. I will have a look at your homepage. History is something that has got me through pandemics. There is so much interesting to read or listen. Thank you. Let's hope the best. Be safe!"

Elfriede from Germany wrote: "Hello Chris, thanks a lot for the nice card and the stamps as well! We've a cold summer. In the morning are between 10 - 15° C, and it's raining. The horrible flood is far from here. Our river, the Weser, is a big river and we're protected by dikes. Yes, we've to change our habits. Greetings from here and my best wishes. Elfriede. My English is not so good. It's allowed to laugh!!!"

Marina from Russia wrote: "Hello Chris! Thank you for your lovely card and nice stamps. I adore raccoons, they are so cute and funny. Have a wonderful day!"

Kira from Russia wrote:
"Hello! As I wrote in my profile — I love these two things: sunflowers and LGBT people. You managed to combine them in one postcard, thank you! She's so awesome! By the way, if I'm not mistaken, the brand with a robot is a brand from Star Wars, although I could be wrong ... In any case, it turned out to be cool too!"

Iris from the Netherlands wrote: "Hello Chris, Thank you so much for the cute cat card you sent me. The stamps are also really nice. I don't tolerate heat very well, so I can't live there I think. Have a nice day!"

Anitha from Australia wrote: "Hello Chris, made my day by sending me this Doctor Who postcard and also telling me about yourself. Vacinnation process in Australia has been pain-stakingly slow. I am still waiting for mine. Do continue to stay safe."

Jana from the Czech Republic wrote: "Hi Chris, thank you so much for the beautiful card you sent. I like your handwriting as well. I am a journalist as well, I write about music, interview musicians, write reviews of new releases or concerts, always something to write about. Thank you so much for the kind words about my music. You are right, the creativity has kept me sane during the past year. It has been challenging to say the least but things are looking up now. best wishes."

Matthew from the United Kingdom wrote: "Hi Chris and many warm greetings from East London. I studied as a journalist and worked briefly for the East London Advertiser and also the Ilford Recorder before the internet destroyed the local press! I now work as a labour union official. Thanks for your card and awesome stamps. Peace and solidarity."

Willie from Germany wrote: "Guten Tag Chris! Thank you for the nice postcard of your own creative making. Merveilleux! I really like the nostalgic Americana style of your photograph. It brings back memories of my travels along the Route 66 as far back as 1965. Wonderful! I love such styles and 'lost places.' It is a favorite photographic motive which I often seek. You might like to look into Matthew Christopher’s excellent work in Abandoned America under: and Thank you also for the old, 10-cent stamp depicting the Jefferson Memorial and issued between 1970 and 1974. It almost didn’t make it. It was hanging on to the card with only a 4 mm piece of paper and the rest was hanging free. I also place old stamps upon my Postcrossing postcards, which I send. My uncle Wolfgang passed away, last year. I take the stamps of his old stamp collection and paste them on the postcards. In this way, a little memory of him travels around the world and I cherish his memory every time I create a postcard. Of course, I am aware of the films of Agnes Varda. One of my favorites is Quelques Veuves de Noirmountier, 2006. I enjoyed looking into your website! Great work! I really liked the section 'Postcards'. Keep up the excellent work! Stay safe and healthy! Greetings from Germany!"

Ulrich from Germany wrote: "Hello Chris, thank you very much for your so interesting message and the beautiful postcard with nice stamps — I hadn't never heard about Lewis Chessmen, best wishes and stay healthy, Ulrich”

Yasi from Germany wrote:
"Hi Chris. Thanks so much for the amazing postcard. I love it. I can not believe how hot the weather is in Arizona in September. We don't even get those temperatures in summer. But I am more of a fall fan anyways. I love tea and books and long film nights with friends. I love the variety of filmmakers that you like and I am not sure if I have seen Sunrise. I will definitely check it out. Just like you, I love Elton John and I am so looking forward to concerts again. I hold a ticket for an Elton John show but it was rescheduled twice now. I wish you all the best. Stay healthy."