Saturday, February 25, 2023

Book from the Renaissance Festival: "Hill Walking in Snowdonia"

Ashar and I spent the day at the Arizona Renaissance Festival in Gold Canyon (about 35 minutes from our house) on February 19. The festival is held for two months each winter and it's huge. We did a lot of walking that afternoon to check out the demonstrations, food, shops, animals, jewelry, artists and more. There was live jousting, a museum of medieval torture (egad!), a show featuring birds of prey and a vendor selling scrumptious European chimney cakes (Kürtőskalács). I would guess we only saw about 20% of everything on the grounds. And we definitely got lost at one point and had no choice but to retrace our steps to the entrance.

One of the things that was most interesting to me is that there was a full-blown bookstore on the premises! It had four rooms and wide variety of new and used books focusing on medieval history, English history, magic & mysticism, various religions, Shakespeare, royalty, costume-making, craft-making and much more. Several frightful books piqued Ashar's interest, possibly because we had just come out of the museum of torture.

I was "good," mostly because I didn't want to haul heavy books around the rest of the afternoon (the car was parked a mile away). So the only thing I bought was a lightweight booklet for $2. And so that will be today's book to examine here.

  • Title: Hill Walking in Snowdonia
  • Subtitle: "Routes up fifty 2000 foot peaks in the Snowdonia National Park"
  • Where's Snowdonia? It's a mountain region containing a national park in northern Wales.
  • Author: E.G. Rowland (Edward George Rowland, 1879-1958, though I found just one source on the year of birth)
  • Photographer: W.A. Poucher (William Arthur Poucher, 1891–1988)
  • Publication history: The book was first published in 1951. It was then fully revised in 1958. This is the 1972 reprint edition by Vector Publications.
  • Cover price: 25 pence
  • Dimensions: 4¾ inches by 7⅛ inches
  • Binding: Staplebound 
  • Pages: 80
  • Dedication: "Dedicated to the youth of Britain"
  • Title page note: "Indication of a route in this book does not imply a right of way"
  • Provenance: Written in cursive on the title page is "Barbara Be---- Wales 1973." I can't decipher Barbara's last name after the "Be."
  • Excerpt from back cover: "While the main object of this book is to encourage beginners to come to the hills for a sport that will give them lifelong pleasure, more practised walkers will find new routes to interest them. It is not a rock climbing manual — the average holidaymaker with a clear head and reasonably strong leg muscles should have no trouble on any of the walks."
  • Some of the 53 mountains in Snowdonia with distinct peaks of 2,000 feet or higher (as spelled in the book): Snowdon, Crib y Ddysgl, Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd, Penyrolewen, Foel Grach, Elidir Fawr, Moel Siabod, Pen Llithrig-y-wrach, Drum, Yr Aran, Garnedd Goch, Cnicht, Tal y Fan.
  • Excerpt #1: "Snowdonia, a name with some warrant from antiquity, covers some three hundred square miles of mainly mountainous country, centred on Snowdon itself."
  • Excerpt #2: "The big moorland rising up from Pen-y-Gwyryd to Siabod is not very inviting, but it gives a pleasant stroll on a clear evening."
  • Excerpt #3: "All hill walkers who take more than a very casual interest in the sport should pay the modest membership fees necessary to join one or more of the following Associations. This will keep you in touch with those that share your enthusiasm and you will receive much useful guidance. Even if you prefer to ramble in solitude, you should support movements that do much to preserve the countryside from threatened spoilation and provide facilities for those of moderate means."
  • List of Associations: The Rambler's Association, The Camping Club, The Youth Hostels' Association, The Holiday Fellowship, The Central Council of Physical Recreation, The National Trust, The Council for the Preservation of Rural Wales. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Vincent Price and "The Devil's Triangle"

For kicks, Ashar and I watched the 1971 documentary The Devil's Triangle last night.

There weren't many kicks. But at least it was all over in 52 minutes.1

There were really only two highlights:
  • Vincent Price's narration
  • The original poster, which far outkicks the documentary's quality

It's not even really a documentary so much as an assemblage of stock footage interwoven with a few short interviews with subjects whose only common thread is that they didn't disappear into the Bermuda Triangle but knew some folks who might have. (Those poor folks weren't abducted by aliens or Atlanteans or seafaring members of the Deros civilization, of course. They were simply unlucky victims of crashes, explosions and sinkings on an unforgiving sea.)

The poster contains these outrageous blurbs: "HUNDREDS OF SHIPS AND PLANES ARE MISSING" and "The Greatest TRUE LIFE MYSTERY Of The Century!" (Fact check: False.)

Across the top, it announced a $10,000 award "to any viewer of this film who can solve the mystery of the Devil's Triangle! (Information Available at Each Showing)." I am quite sure that the $10,000 was never awarded.

In addition to somehow wrangling Vincent Price to serve as the narrator, the documentary improbably includes music by King Crimson, an English prog-rock band that got its start around the same time as Genesis. I don't know any of King Crimson's music, so I couldn't discern what noises on the muddled soundtrack belonged to them. I'm guessing the band didn't have this on its resume.

The documentary was released by UFO Distributing Inc. (natch). Based on my Googling, UFO Distributing only ever distributed one other film, a 1974 drama titled And Baby Makes Three. (Tagline: "A Drug Addicted COUPLE... A Drug Addicted BABY... THEN WHAT?")

Finally, The Devil's Triangle was directed by Richard Winer (1925-2016). This was his best film, as the only other one he helmed was 1972's 96-minute film Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. That children's film has a catastrophically low rating of 1.3 stars (out of 10) on IMDb, probably due to the notoriety that comes with being selected as a subject for RiffTrax. 

The good news for Winer is that he had some success as an author. He was a ghost hunter who wrote several books on that topic, and he also wrote three books about the Devil's Triangle, one of which I'm pretty sure my parents had at some point. Apparently the books are more even-handed and skeptical about the idea of shenanigans in the Bermuda Triangle; it's a shame, I guess, that the same couldn't be said for the hyperbolic documentary.

1. When it was over, we still had time to cleanse our palate with a fun episode of Night Gallery in which Larry Hagman appeared to be doing an impersonation of Orson Welles on the sly.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Snapshot & memories: Our little bookstore

Facebook served this up today as my photo memory from 12 long years ago. Have I posted this picture before on Papergreat? With 3,500-plus posts, who knows? Who hell even writes an ephemera blog with 3,500-plus posts?

This is the "guest room" in the basement of our house on Ashland Drive in West Manchester Township. That was two houses ago. Most of the time we lived there, the guest room was actually occupied by human beings who were staying with us for various reasons. But there was a period when we had no lodgers and, simultaneously, Joan and I were expanding our long-running side business of selling used books on Amazon and, later, at the Dover Antique Mall. It was not what you'd call a lucrative side hustle, but it was a tremendous amount of fun. We did eventually get overambitious, though. At one point our entire garage was filled with boxes of books. We eventually winnowed that down and moved the remaining boxes to this basement room. This photo from February 20, 2011, shows we had gotten to the point where Mr. Bill could fit into the room alongside the books, too. 

After books were assessed and listed for sale on Amazon, they went onto the shelves to await sale and shipping. Most of the books you see here never did sell. Books sales on Amazon were always a long, slow affair, until they completely cratered with the flood of mega-volume sellers and penny books. A lot of folks got out of online book-selling at that point and never returned. 

But I'm not going to digress about the crash of used book sales online. What interests me about this photo is that I sorted our "for sale" books by color. I'm not entirely sure what the point of that was. I suppose each book had a photo with its online listing, so I had a starting point for searching after a sale was made. But it's a truly odd way to sort books (not to mention that they're vertically stacked!). It probably helped that I had a much, much better photographic memory back then, so I had a Spidey sense for where everything was. But this wouldn't have worked with my cognitive function as it now stands. Alphabetical or bust, baby.

This was also the room where I kept items that could be turned in Papergreat posts. I had a couple drawers full of such stuff — a lot of early material came from those boxes of used books and the things that were tucked away inside of them. Twelve years ago today, the Papergreat post was "A photo of Ruth Manning-Sanders." That was only the 31st post ever on the blog!! This is the 3,546th!