Saturday, November 13, 2021

Book cover: "COMPUTE!'s Guide to Adventure Games"

  • Title: COMPUTE!'s Guide to Adventure Games
  • Additional cover text: "A comprehensive guide to designing, writing, and playing computer adventure games. Includes 'Tower of Mystery' a ready-to-type-in adventure  game for virtually any home computer, as well as reviews of many popular commercial games."
  • Author: Gary McGath
  • Cover designer: Unknown
  • Publisher: COMPUTE! Publications, Inc., one of the ABC Publishing Companies, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Year: 1984
  • Pages: 203
  • Format: Spiral-bound paperback
  • Cover price: $12.95 (That was very pricey for 1984! The equivalent of more than $32 today. I reckon they figured that everyone who dabbled in home computers in the 1980s had money.)
  • My experience with this book: I've had this book since it was purchased during a visit that Dad and I made to a small computer store in Pinellas County, Florida, in either 1984 or 1985, when we were living in Largo. I think Mom and I must have tag-teamed typing the six-page BASIC program listing, "Tower of Mystery," into our Commodore Plus/4, because I wrote some marginalia on those pages stating "NOTE: WHEN A LINE BEGINS WITH REM YOU DON'T HAVE TO COPY IT." Mom and I were playing some Infocom games and a few Scott Adams games during this time, and we were happy to have another short text adventure to play.
  • About Gary McGath: He still has many footprints online in autumn 2021. Based in New Hampshire, he's on Twitter (@GaryM03062); he as an author profile page on Goodreads, which indicates that his other books include The Magic Battery, Yesterday's Songs Transformed: A Historical Tour of Song Rewriting; and Files That Last: Digital Preservation for Everygeek; and he has at least two webpages: and I like this statement from McGath atop one of those websites: "Words are the most powerful things on Earth. Words change everything. They keep our knowledge alive. They let us stay in touch with each other. They can convey beauty. They give us four of the best things in life: talking, listening, reading, and writing."
  • Chapter titles: Stories in Software, What Makes a Good Adventure?, Infocom Adventures, Scott Adams Adventures, Sierra On-Line Adventures, More Adventures, Action Adventures, A Field Guide for Frustrated Adventures, How They Work, Doing Your Own, Tower of Mystery: A Simple Adventure Program, The Edge of the Future.
  • Acknowledgments: "Thanks are due to many people for providing information and ideas for this book. Special thanks go to John Baker, Kevin Bernier, Denise Bouley, Stu Galley, Scorpia (for more than just that material that appears under her name here), and especially to master adventurer Steve Wright. In addition, I would like to thank the many members of the CompuServe Game SIG who have widened my knowledge of adventuring."
  • Dedication: "This book is dedicated to all the creators of new worlds."
  • First sentence from introduction: "One of the major fringe benefits of working in MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science in 1976 was being close to ARPAnet."
  • And what was cool about ARPAnet? As McGath continues: "One of the most popular programs that we received over ARPAnet was a new game, by Will Crowther and Don Woods, called Adventure. I was hooked from that start and spent many weekends at the lab trying to find my way through the Hall of Mists, past the Troll Bridge, and out of the maze of twisty little passages."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: "Remember, no matter what the program does, don't let them have that number!" [McGath is describing the 1982 game Prisoner 2.]
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: "If prefiltering reveals no problems, the next step is to call the action routine for the particular verb token."
  • Goodreads rating: 4.6 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2011, Kevin Rubin wrote: "I bought this book in 1984, and I've been carrying it around the world with me since then, I took it to college, I took it to the big city when I got my first job, I took it to India when my job took me there and I still have it on my nearby bookshelf in New York City. It's not particularly useful now, but as it was the first computer book I ever bought, I'm quite attached to it."
  • Amazon rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2014, Marek wrote: "Book is very good (if you put it in its proper time era context) in introducing the reader to the genre as well as teaching about the basics and more advanced elements of the text adventure game design and even introduces the reader to the programming."
  • Another online assessment: In 2017, We Are the Mutants' Brother Bill summarized the book, chapter by chapter, with a few of his thoughts added in.
  • Final note on text adventures: If you want to take a deep, fascinating dive into the history of text adventure games right up to present day, I recommend Aaron A. Reed's "50 Years of Text Games" Substack, a yearlong series that is heading into the home stretch. It has covered The Oregon Trail, Hunt the Wumpus, Super Star Trek, Zork, Pirate Adventure, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Photopia and much more. Reed's main website is

Saturday's postcard: Le Trocadéro in Paris

Here's an E. Le Deley postcard with a front view of a long-gone structure in Paris, France, that I first mentioned in a post way back in July 2012

The Palais du Trocadéro existed in full from 1878 to 1936. (The postcard I referenced in 2012 called its demolition "a perfect vandalism!!!") According to Wikipedia, "The palace's form was that of a large concert hall with two wings and two towers; its style was a mixture of exotic and historical references, generally called 'Moorish' but with some Byzantine elements. The architect was Gabriel Davioud."

This building was expensive and not well-received. You can read much more about it in this excellent 2019 post titled "The ugliest building in Paris" on the Parisian Fields website.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Football obsession, 60 years ago

This editorial cartoon by Frank Miller, poking fun at the obsession over football, appeared on the front page, above the fold, of the Sunday, November 12, 1961 edition of the Des Moines Sunday Register. Exactly 60 years ago today.

At three columns wide, the cartoon is the main art on the front page, with a two-column-wide head shot of Jean Seberg serving as the only other prominent artistic element. ("Otto got rid of me like a used Kleenex," Seberg states in the article, speaking of director Otto Preminger. Seberg died at age 40 in 1979; her short life with was beset by tragedy and she was the target of viciously unfair treatment.)

This was amid the long heyday of American newspapers. The Register billed itself as "The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon." Its Sunday edition featured 202 pages spread over 11 sections, for a cost of 20 cents. (The advertising revenue was surely tremendous.)

Miller was a staff cartoonist for the Register from 1953 to 1983 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1963, for his cartoon about the futility of nuclear warfare.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi postcard from Japan

This Postcrossing postcard from Yoshiko, a castle and Moomins fan in Japan, brought some good cheer amid a busy and stressful workweek. 

It features the work of Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861). Yoshiko writes, "This card is an ukiyo-e print. ... It's unusual to draw a cat. She is brushing her's [sic] cat's hair. I hope you like it."

Ukiyo-e, which dates to the 17th century, is a style of woodblock prints and paintings. The term itself translates to "pictures of the floating world," which is quite beautiful. You can see many examples of this colorful style of art on Wikipedia.

Kuniyoshi's ukiyo-e subjects included cats, women, actors, landscapes and mythical creatures. He made this amazeballs triptych titled "Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre." Imagine having a large print of this on your wall!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Dandy movie posters: "Nashville" and "Licorice Pizza"

First up, I love Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville, and I also love the design of this particular German-language poster for the movie.
I first introduced to Nashville by a few of my Spartanburg Herald-Journal co-workers in the late 1990s, with it serving as a background movie for our card-playing. Honestly, it didn't make much of an impact on me at the time. But other viewings over the years, minus any focus on a crappy hand of cards, have paid rich dividends. It's an amazing film; a little bit of a miracle, even. 

It seems that Paul Thomas Anderson's newest film, Licorice Pizza, may have a bit of Nashville in its veins. I've been torn between wanting to know more about it and wanting to avoid too many spoilers. (And I've already read a few.) Today was the day that reviews, impressions and spoilers could first be posted on social media, so I think I might have to stay off @Papergreat on Twitter and the movie websites until after the national release on Christmas Day. It's not immediately clear how I'm going to manage that feat, though.

I did like this spoiler-free collection of thoughts on the Licorice Pizza from Rodrigo Perez (@YrOnlyHope). He wrote:
"If you consider PTA Altman PTA and Kubrick PTA (1st & 2nd halves of his career), then #LicoricePizza is like an early PTA Altman movie made by a later PTA Kubrick. Warm, nostalgic, romantic and affectionate, but cinematically ok with just hanging out and just vibin’

Maybe you could call it a Master-like pace.

In that sense it reminds me of Hal Ashby the most and true Altman (Boogie Nights is actually more coked up and Scorsese and Altman was never that keyed up as his early movies)

In a sense it’s much more Inherent Vice than it is Boogie Nights, minus the density of that film and the Zuckerberg jokes. It’s a PTA film that could potentially divide as much as IV did and there’s something exciting about it.

I’m still processing, but it’s largely great, if languid and baggy in spots (like a Long Goodbye), but Alana Haim is just luminous and outstanding.

Anyhow, it’s a film that don’t fit into one tweet, feels like 3 hrs, is sprawling, but still largely terrific."
That made all the sense in the world to me, and makes it sounds like Licorice Pizza might be Paul Thomas Anderson channeling Nashville through his own unique vision, sense of humor and style. Which sounds perfect. As is this poster.

Superstition connection from nearly 40 years ago

We have old Adams/Ingham/Otto postcards tucked into different corners of the house here in Florence, Arizona, but it was still a surprise when Joan came across this coincidental family postcard the other day while writing and mailing out her own delightfully decorated cards and postcards to various parts of the globe.

In March 1982, my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham (1919-2003), received this postcard at her house in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. It shows the Superstition Mountains, which I can see to our north if I walk a few blocks to the edge of the development. And it was postmarked in scenic Sedona, Arizona, which we visited back in early July (see a couple of pics below).

I'm not sure who the WTL's are, but they seemed to enjoy this part of Arizona back in the day. In March 1982, I was living in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, and surely had no notion I'd find myself living in The Copper State some day.

My July 2021 Sedona pictures...