Friday, May 19, 2023

Lost Corners food humor and a recipe from a Vincent Price book

As regular reader(s) of this blog know, Papergreat has a strong interest in preserving tiny corners of the internet — personal blogs and websites, message boards, social media — that are especially susceptible to disappearing and/or being forgotten. The Lost Corners label features those posts from over the years.

I recently came across a Twitter thread from four years ago that was started by comedy writer Cullen Crawford1, and I knew I wanted to "tuck it away in an envelope" for preservation. It's a laugh-out-loud look at food horrors that left at least two of us in this household ROTFL.

Here's the original post, plus my curation of the best (most horrifying?) responses, where things really get rollicking.
  • @karakabangpow: "Sleepover at my friend's house, 8 years old, she served us an appetizer of saltine crackers with some weird spread on top. I asked her what it was she said 'its more crackers but I chewed them up!' like it was a normal thing."
  • Cullen Crawford: "Jesus lord!"
  • @karakabangpow: "I forgot she called them Kelly Crackers!!"
  • @RecreantA: "That’s enough internet for one...lifetime."
  • @MaraWilson: "My aunts made macaroni from a box of macaroni and cheese but without any cheese or butter or salt. It might have also been cold?"
  • @Arithered: "Other People's Families are like the first experiences we ever have with the warning signs of cult indoctrination."
  • @snartdeco: "I knew someone whose entire family called spaghetti 'daddy noodles' and I cannot"
  • @alexvtunzelmann: "I’ve never forgotten some absolute lunatics who claimed that in their household they put orange juice on their breakfast cereal instead of milk. I assumed they were joking. Then they did it and lapped it up"
  • @SocksUnterShoes: "Reminds me of my cousin. Always went to this friends house after school. They had something called 'sweet milk' and he loved it. Then he slept over. Sweet Milk is when you finish your cereal and pour your leftover milk into the Sweet Milk container."
  • @mtobey: "It was always something normal that was ruined by an extra ingredient like spaghetti with raisins"
  • @Blarrknulp: "This tweet has opened up a secret door in humanity's unconsciousness."
  • @EricDSnider: "I don't think we ever inflicted it on guests, but my mom made something with macaroni, cream of mushroom soup, and ground beef that she called 'Hamburger Whoop-Dee-Dee.'"2
  • @LynnAAR: "I had a college roommate who made soup with chicken broth, a ton of pepper and a can of spray cheese.  Sometimes she'd throw in chopped celery."
  • @HELLA_GIRTH: "my idea of spaghetti as a kid was plain noodles covered in a mixture of melted velveeta block cheese and milk, with chopped-up hot dogs"
  • @AdamPateman: "My family would eat cereal 3 hours after dinner and call it Bed Lunch."
  • @Gadgetgirlkylie: "My dad would make something he liked to call 'Daddy’s Gunge' it was a mixture of crushed up spam and tomatoe ketchup. It was gross. Yet he seemed proud of it like it was the best food ever made."
  • @emikaj2: "my dad made 'Dad Ramen' which was ramen, black beans, and feta cheese. 2nd grade was a nightmare."
  • @pixelkitties: "Went to have dinner with a new boyfriend's family for the first time.  Sat down and there was nothing to drink at the table.  No glasses, no water, nothing. Partway into the meal I asked for a glass of water and they looked annoyed, like I farted at the table."3
  • @emzeewoolzee: "This cursed thread made me recall a repressed memory. Must have been 8-10 yrs old...first and only sleepover at strange friend’s house. They gave me honeydew melon with kraft singles melted on top in the microwave. oh god."
  • @HoustonBig3: "First time I ate a meal with girlfriend and her parents, they crack out an appetizer and I thought it was a joke. A banana sliced lengthwise...with mayo slathered on it...and the mayo topped with crushed peanuts. They were not pranking me. I respectfully declined to partake."
  • Cullen Crawford: "I didn’t ask for any of this"

* * *

OK, we need a palate cleanser, after all that. So, obviously, we'll turn to Vincent Price. It's my 10-year anniversary this month of switching to a pescetarian diet, so here's a summer recipe for ice-cold gazpacho from Sobrino de Botín in Madrid, Spain. The recipe was included in Price's 1965 book A Treasury of Great Recipes. (I'm going to take a much deeper dive into that incredible volume one of these days.)
Vincent Price at Dodger Stadium

1. Papergreat is in full solidarity with the Writers Guild of America in its ongoing strike. Writers deserve fair payment and fair residuals payments for all uses of their work.
2. We had "Mommy's Favorite Hamburger Hash," which, to the best of my recollection, was ground beef, cream of mushroom soup and chopped-up hard-boiled eggs poured over toast.
3. That same thing happened to me once, and it's probably my only uncomfortable experience while eating at someone else's house. I guess I was pretty lucky. But now I'm wondering if I really examined all the crackers and spread I've had over the years.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Another terrific Jack Gaughan cover illustration: "Almuric"

I've previously featured a handful of great cover illustrations by Hall of Fame science fiction/fantasy artist Jack Gaughan (1930-1985):
It's always a good time for more Gaughan, so featured today is the cover for the 1964 Ace edition of Robert E. Howard's Almuric. It's a fantastic illustration, with its winged creatures and dark tower in the background. To me, it sort of raises the cool-as-heck idea: What if Conan had traveled to Mordor?

Gaughan was an inspiration for so many readers and fellow artists. The 2010 book Outermost: The Art & Life of Jack Gaughan collects many of his pieces and preliminary sketches, offering some insight into his mind and process. Reviewing the book for Amazon, Tim Lukeman's only "complaint" is that the book isn't longer. Of Gaughan, he writes: "His art encompasses kinetic sketchiness, blazing swaths of saturated color, finely detailed linework, semi-abstraction, psychedelic imagery, caricature, exquisite B&W renderings like Medieval woodcuts or Lotte Reiniger's paper silhouettes … he could do it all. And yet, as I say, it's still recognizably Gaughan, never to be mistaken for the work of any other artist. There's an intensely personal essence to all of it."

As for the short novel Almuric itself, here's the rest of the rundown:

  • Cover secondary text: "Alone on an uncharted planet"
  • Author: Robert E. Howard (1906-1936)
  • Original publication date: It was serialized in three issues of Weird Tales magazine, starting in May 1939. Because this was first published three years after Howard's death, there has been some question whether the work is entirely Howard's. "It may be that Howard created a draft for such a story that was later finished by another writer," Wikipedia notes. Writing on Grognardia in 2011, James Maliszewski opines "I suspect the real truth is that Almuric is a rough draft, lacking the polish of REH's other tales, and that this roughness accounts for its seeming 'un-Howardian' qualities in places. Taken as a whole, though, it's hard to credit anyone other than Robert E. Howard as the author of Almuric."
  • Publication date of this edition: 1964
  • Publisher: Ace Books (F-305)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 157
  • Cover price: 40 cents 
  • Back cover excerpt: How Esau, alone on Almuric, with nothing but his wits and his muscles to protect him, faced Almuric's worst perils to make him master and monarch is a novel worthy of the creator of the Conan stories.
  • First sentence: It was not my original intention ever to divulge the whereabouts of Esau Cairn, or the mystery surrounding him.
  • Last sentence (deep breath, and trigger warning for colonial mentality): And we two — I an Earthman born, and Altha, a daughter of Almuric who possesses the gentler instincts of an Earthwoman — we hope to instill some of the culture of my native planet into the erstwhile savage people before we die and become as dust of my adopted planet, Almuric.
  • Random sentence from the middle: I saw it plainly then — a gigantic spider, bigger than an ox.
  • Which reminds me: We discovered another spider in our Arizona garage last night, so that was fun. Note sure whether it was a brown recluse or a wolf spider. It was not, however, the size of an ox.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.77 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2008, Graham wrote: "As a stand-alone adventure, it’s a decent piece of writing, absolutely jam-packed with the kind of thrilling adventure and chaotic battle scenes that Howard made his own."
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.3 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2012, Suzanne wrote (slightly edited): "I am happy I read this book before reading the John Carter of Mars series because Almuric is more or less a rip-off of that series. ... I can ignore the fact that it's a rip-off because its an enjoyable rip-off, but the aspect I cannot ignore is how the main character is some kind of uber-fighting machine and how he doesn't really have any challenges in the books. His punches are like anvils and the poor aliens simply don't stand a chance. It is a bit like reading Harry Potter, where everything is handed to the main character on a silver platter."
  • Another take: James Enge wrote a thoughtful review of the good and bad of Almuric on Black Gate
Dusty makes her first appearance on Papergreat.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

2014 snapshots from Geppi's Entertainment Museum

In February 2014, Joan, Ashar and I took a trip to Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. I snapped a lot of photos with an iPhone 5C and, for a long time afterward, I was planning to put together a dandy post for Papergreat about all the cool ephemera that was showcased there behind protective glass.

But the post never materialized. Maybe it was because I didn't like the quality of the smartphone pictures that I took of objects behind glass in a dark museum. And then, sadly, Geppi's closed its doors for good in June 2018, with most of its contents being donated to the Library of Congress.

So today, more than nine years after our visit, here are some photos from this now-vanished museum of American pop culture. In addition to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, items featured include Captain Marvel (aka Shazam), Star Trek, Dick Tracy, McDonald's and more.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Bonkers book title: "Garlic, Grapes and a Pinch of Heroin"

  • Title: Garlic, Grapes and a Pinch of Heroin
  • Cover secondary text: "Disappearing heroin and a missing brother ... can she prove his innocence and stay alive?"
  • Author: Elaine Turner, about whom I cannot find any biographical information. Contact me if you can help out!
  • Cover illustrator: Unknown, but we can assume the artist knew very little about the plot or actual genre.
  • Publication date: 1977
  • Publisher: Manor Books, which was in business for about a decade, from 1972 to 1981. As Wikipedia notes, "A marketing gimmick used by Manor was the Seal of Guaranteed Reader Satisfaction, which offered compensation if the customer was not pleased with his purchase." This book, however, does not offer that guarantee.
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 226
  • Cover price: $1.50 (about $7.44 today)
  • Strange hyphenation in back cover blurb: "hi-jacker"
  • First sentence: Wisps of fog danced, slowly encircling the evergreens.
  • Last sentence: "I don't think we have to worry about his answer, but whatever it is, not much, not much at all."
  • Sentence from the middle #1: Her detecting had produced a big fat zero.
  • Sentence from the middle #2: Violet's formidable array of cosmetics were arranged on the dresser, a magazine lay on the slightly mussed bed.
  • Excerpt from the middle #3: "Well, howdy, it's sure been good to see ya'all. The tour's been mighty dull without you," Bernie boomed.
  • Online review: This book is rated 3.33 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads and there are no ratings on Amazon. But there's only one actual review online, and it served as the inspiration for this post. The review is by Justin Tate of SpookyBook, and it begins
"Let’s take a moment to admire that title. Wow. I mean, if that doesn’t catch the eye, what will? Of course the cover is less appealing. It has all the ingredients of Gothic standard, but on an eighth-grade art class budget. Nevermind that the novel itself is 0% Gothic."
Please go and read the entire excellent review. Other books reviewed by SpookyBooky include Lord Satan, The Ladies of Holderness, The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories, and the wonderfully titled Let the Crags Comb Out Her Dainty Hair. In addition, Tate wrote wrote a journal in the first half of 2020 that combines thoughts on the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with a first reading of Stephen King's The Stand. It's well worth reading and an important time capsule of a moment in history.

Closet posters

Tying together a couple of recent posts (My bumper stickers & Photos of Sutton, West Virginia, and the Flatwoods Monster Museum), pictured above is a colorful poster by SpaceMonsterKid of the Flatwoods Monster that's hanging in my bedroom closet. Because of all the bookshelves and other furniture, I don't have a lot of wall space in the bedroom itself, so this is helping to keep the closet interior from being too drab.

It's not the only poster in the closet. I also have reprints of psychedelic 1960s concert posters by Bonnie MacLean (below, left) and Clifford Charles Seeley (below, right). They remind me of my hazy recollections of posters that Mom had in her Rose Valley bedroom around the time of being a high school or, more likely, college student. I was put in that bedroom to sleep as a toddler in the early 1970s. I wish I could remember the exact one she had on her bedroom closet door, but there's no chance of that. These come closest to that vibe. And they're also utterly fantastic.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

The optimism of 45 years ago: "Doomsday Has Been Cancelled"

  • Title: Doomsday Has Been Cancelled
  • Author: J. Peter Vajk (1942-present)
  • Cover artist: Don Davis (1952-present). The painting is described as "the Earth viewed from geosynchronous orbit in about 2025 A.D. The enormous Solar Power Satellites in the foreground beam clean, inexpensive energy to all parts of the planet, lighting up cities and industries throughout the formerly underdeveloped countries. Skilled hard hat workers in the foreground carry out routine maintenance work."
  • Book design: Robert P.J. Cooney
  • Publication date: 1978
  • Publisher: Peace Press of Culver City, California. It operated from 1967 to 1987. Former worker Irene Holt writes about its history here.
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 238
  • Price: $7.95
  • Dedication: "To Helen, my companion on the journey through the now into the future, for our children who will play in the worlds we build."
  • Foreword: This is an except of what's written by NASA astronaut Russell L. Schweickart (1935-present): "The choice, then, is to open the future to new and exciting possibilities for human development or to reject the cosmic invitation and suffer the increasing agonies of the zero-sum game. As Peter Vajk argues so well in this book, the quality of our thoughts and actions in choosing and creating our future will determine the course of evolution, as life begins to emerge from the comfortable environment of earth into the uncertain but beckoning environment of the universe."
  • Excerpt from preface: "During the 1960s and the 1970s, it has been very fashionable among intellectual circles to proclaim the imminent end of civilization as we know it. A variety of popular books bearing such ominous titles as Silent Spring, The Population Bomb, The Limits to Growth, Famine 1975, and The Coming Dark Age have portrayed a dismal future of dwindling energy and mineral resources, ever-widening starvation, accelerating environmental degradation , and more stringent social controls, while rivalries between nations become more strident, with more and more countries armed with nuclear weapons. Such scenarios make great headlines, but little fanfare greets the good news which can also be found in abundance, if we listen to softer voices and read deeper than the headlines."
  • Curated excerpt #1: "Insofar as material resources alone are concerned, the survival of industrialized civilization on Earth can be assured for a population as large as ten or twenty billion people, at a standard of living comparable to the United States and Canada today for at least several million years, provided alternative, environmentally sound, sources of energy have been implemented."
  • Curated excerpt #2: "Solar Power Satellites, based on microwave transmission, would be enormous structures, perhaps five kilometers in width and twenty kilometers in length (somewhat larger than Manhattan Island). Because of the advantages of the space environment, however, such a satellite would be no more massive than a supertanker, about 100,000 metric tons."
  • Curated excerpt #3: "This same denial of original sin, the denial of the capacity in all of us to do evil, leads  inexorably to the conviction in the political arena that all of the evils of the world result from the actions and conspiracies of a handful of villains in the system. If only we could identify the particular people who are so corrupt and get them out of office or in jail, everything will be fine, since you and I, or course, are moral and decent and can be counted on to do what is right and good."
  • Curated excerpt #4: "A major breakthrough in artificial intelligence, considered likely in the next few decades by many of the leading workers in the field, would likewise expand our philosophy, and deepen our understanding of such difficult concepts as consciousness, intelligence, language, and perhaps personality. If a device can be built and programmed in such a way that it begins to learn from its environment, generating and testing new hypotheses about the world around it, our notions of consciousness and intelligence would surely undergo a Copernican revolution. In the wake of artificial intelligence, we would soon have intelligent robots, stimulating further overhaul of economic theory."

A conversation with ChatGPT about this book

Chris: Briefly summarize the 1978 book "Doomsday Has Been Cancelled" by J. Peter Vajk.

ChatGPT: "Doomsday Has Been Cancelled" by J. Peter Vajk is a book that examines the potential for global catastrophes, such as nuclear war, overpopulation, and environmental degradation, and argues that the world has the capability to prevent these disasters from occurring. The author contends that with proper planning and cooperation, humanity can overcome the challenges that threaten its survival and create a sustainable future. The book is a call to action for individuals, governments, and organizations to work together to prevent global catastrophes and build a better world for future generations.

Chris: Upon reflection, is the book too optimistic about the myriad challenges facing civilization?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I cannot form opinions or beliefs about anything, but I can provide some analysis on the topic.

"Doomsday Has Been Cancelled" presents an optimistic view that humanity has the capability to prevent global catastrophes and create a sustainable future through cooperation and proper planning. While it is true that many advancements and achievements have been made in areas such as technology, healthcare, and social progress, there are still many challenges facing civilization that require urgent attention. For example, climate change, political instability, inequality, and pandemics are all pressing issues that require immediate action.

Therefore, while the book's message of hope and possibility is inspiring, it is important to remember that achieving a sustainable future requires ongoing effort and collective action, and that there are no easy solutions to the complex problems facing the world today.

Chris: The author states that Solar Power Satellites are a potential solution for all of Earth's energy needs. Is that realistic?

ChatGPT: The concept of Solar Power Satellites (SPS) as a potential solution for all of Earth's energy needs is an interesting idea, but it is important to consider the feasibility and practicality of such a concept.

SPS involves placing solar panels in space, where they can receive unobstructed sunlight and convert it into electricity. This electricity would then be transmitted to Earth via microwave or laser beams and converted back into usable energy.

While the idea of harnessing solar power from space has been around for decades and there have been some successful demonstrations of the technology, there are still significant technical and economic challenges that need to be addressed before SPS can become a practical solution for all of Earth's energy needs.

For example, the cost of launching the necessary equipment into space is extremely high, and there are also concerns about the safety of transmitting large amounts of energy back to Earth and the potential impact on the environment. Additionally, there are still technical challenges associated with the development of the technology required for SPS, including the design and manufacture of high-efficiency solar panels, as well as the development of the necessary power transmission and conversion technologies.

In conclusion, while Solar Power Satellites have the potential to be a part of the solution for Earth's energy needs, it is important to approach the concept with caution and acknowledge the significant challenges that need to be overcome before it can become a practical solution.

Chris: Could artificial intelligence speed up the process of making Solar Power Satellites feasible?

Chat GPT: Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to speed up the process of making Solar Power Satellites (SPS) feasible by aiding in the design, development, and optimization of the technology required for SPS.

For example, AI can be used to analyze and model the performance of solar panels and help identify more efficient and cost-effective designs. It can also be used to simulate and optimize the performance of SPS systems, taking into account a range of factors such as orbit selection, transmission methods, and power conversion.

Furthermore, AI can be used to analyze and predict solar irradiance, which is critical for the optimal operation of solar panels and SPS systems. This can be achieved through machine learning algorithms that can analyze historical data and predict future solar irradiance with a high degree of accuracy.

Additionally, AI can be used to optimize the placement of SPS in space and predict the effects of space weather on their performance. By using AI to improve the efficiency and performance of SPS, it may be possible to reduce the costs and increase the feasibility of this technology.

In conclusion, while there are still significant technical and economic challenges associated with the development of Solar Power Satellites, AI has the potential to accelerate the process by aiding in the design, development, and optimization of the technology required for SPS.

Chris: Is this sentence reasonable or too optimistic? "Insofar as material resources alone are concerned, the survival of industrialized civilization on Earth can be assured for a population as large as ten or twenty billion people, at a standard of living comparable to the United States and Canada today for at least several million years, provided alternative, environmentally sound, sources of energy have been implemented."

ChatGPT: The sentence ... is too optimistic.

While it is true that there are abundant material resources available on Earth, there are still significant challenges associated with providing a high standard of living for such a large population over several million years. Additionally, the implementation of alternative, environmentally sound sources of energy is a complex and challenging task that requires significant investment and cooperation among governments and industries.

Moreover, even with the implementation of alternative energy sources, there are still challenges associated with resource depletion, environmental degradation, and climate change that could affect the long-term sustainability of industrialized civilization on Earth.

Therefore, while it is important to strive towards a sustainable future and to utilize our material resources in a responsible and efficient manner, it is also important to acknowledge the challenges and limitations associated with achieving a high standard of living for a large population over an extended period of time.

Chris: Were the scientists in the 1960s and the 1970s who warned about the imminent end of civilization correct to be alarmed? Have we failed to heed their warnings?

ChatGPT: In the 1960s and 1970s, a number of scientists warned about the potential end of civilization due to a range of factors, including overpopulation, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. While some of their specific predictions did not come to pass, it is clear that many of the underlying issues they identified are still major challenges facing humanity today.

For example, climate change, which was not as well understood in the 1960s and 1970s, has now emerged as a major global threat with potentially catastrophic consequences. Additionally, issues such as deforestation, air and water pollution, and the depletion of natural resources continue to be major challenges facing humanity.

While there have been some efforts to address these challenges, such as the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement and the promotion of sustainable development practices, many experts argue that these efforts have not been sufficient to adequately address the scale and urgency of the challenges we face.

Therefore, while some of the specific predictions made by scientists in the 1960s and 1970s may not have come to pass, it is clear that many of the underlying issues they identified remain significant challenges facing humanity today. It is important that we continue to heed their warnings and take decisive action to address these challenges if we are to build a sustainable and prosperous future for ourselves and future generations.

Photos of Sutton, West Virginia, and the Flatwoods Monster Museum

In late-August 2020, Ashar and I got out of the house for essentially the first time since the start of the pandemic and traveled to a state park in West Virginia to visit my dad and stepmom, who similarly needed a chance to fend off coronavirus cabin fever (by traveling to an actual cabin in the peaceful woods). 

On the way back home to Pennsylvania after the visit, Ashar and I passed a sign for the Flatwoods Monster Museum, and we immediately knew that we had to leave the highway and see where this very rural West Virginia exit took us. 

The answer was Sutton, a town of fewer than 1,000 people in Braxton County.

And it is indeed home to a monster museum. The Flatwoods Monster doesn't have the same level of notoriety as Mothman in United States urban legends, but it's pretty interesting. The Braxton County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, which would very much like your tourism dollars, describes what a group of teenagers purportedly saw on a night in 1952:
"Upon reaching the site of the crash, the group saw a pulsing red light. Lemon shined his flashlight up the hill, and the group witnessed a terrifying sight — a ten-foot-tall creature, with a head shaped like a spade and what appeared to be a dark, metal 'dress'. The creature’s hands were twisted and clawed, and what seemed to be its eyes glowed an eerie orange color. It appeared to levitate off the ground. A strange, sickening mist hung in the air. The creature hissed and glided quickly toward the witnesses, the group then turned and fled in terror."
Here are some pictures I took at the museum...
The sign says, "Absolutely no Seances."
Sutton itself, which sits on a hillside, was just as interesting as the museum. I wish we'd had more time to explore, but we still had many hours of driving to get back to Dover. These are some of my snapshots of the struggling Appalachian town (I played around with filters on a couple of them.)

Past photography posts