Saturday, July 26, 2014

Moonlight Serenade - Glen Miller

One of Glen Miller's one most popular tunes, Moonlight Serenade, was a slow evolution of previous Miller collaborations. It started out in 1935 as a tune entitled Now I Lay Me Down to Weep, then with lyricist Eddie Heyman it became Gone with the Dawn, and later with lyrics by Mitchell Parish it turned into The Wind in the Trees. In the end the Now I Lay Me Down to Weep version won out and the tune with its familiar clarinet melody line went into the Miller books. How did it get its title? Well, Miller was in the midst of doing a cover of the Frankie Carle song Sunrise Serenade and Robbins Music which had bought Now I Lay Me Down to Weep felt that a tune entitled Moonlight Serenade would make a nice complement to the Carle tune.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Great White Fleet and the United Fruit Company Steamship Service

Today as part of our Summer Vacation series we embark on the Great White Fleet of the United Fruit Company Steamship Line. "What's this?" you ask. "A Fruit Company running a fleet of ocean liners?" Your confusion is forgivable, but United Fruit Company isn't just known for introducing Americans to the saucy Ms. Chiquita Banana. They traded in tropical fruit, political dissonance that still plagues Central America today, and first-class holidays for Anglo wasps who wanted to see the Caribbean.

United Fruit was formed in 1899 when Minor C. Keith merged his banana trading company with Andrew W. Preston's Boston Fruit Company. The company controlled vast plantations and transportation networks in Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, and the West Indies (regions that would become known as Banana Republics due to the importance of their one commodity, the Cavendish). United Fruit would continue its exploitation and neocolonialistic interference in the countries where it operated until 1970 when it merged with Eli M. Black's AMK, becoming United Brands Company (though I doubt this made the company any fairer to those it historically exploited). But I digress from the point of this post, the enjoyment of warm, tropical breezes and fresh sea air!

United Fruit Lines' Great White Fleet was a fleet of cargo ships which transported bananas and other tropical fruits from the company's South and Central American plantations and ports to the United States. The name harkens back to 1907 and President Teddy Roosevelt's  fleet of touring warships. Teddy's ships bore a fresh, white paint job instead of the customary gray, becoming known as the Great White Fleet. United Fruit Company borrowed the idea, supposedly painting their ships white to reflect the tropical sunlight and allow banana temperatures to be more easily maintained, but just as likely reminding would-be rebels of Teddy's "big stick".

At some point, United Fruit added a luxury passenger service to their ship line. Probably to help defray the cost of sending empty ships south. The ad comes from a July 1914 issue of Life Magazine. It's a little unimaginative, the typical jazz age couple at the railing staring out on the bounding main. It took me three viewings before I caught the second steamship on the horizon. Personally, I like to think that the guy with his hands folded behind his back is a spy, heading for a meeting with his handler on the fore deck. At dinner someone will ask, "Say, what happened to that fellow with the pencil mustache? Wasn't he seated at our table?" To which the gentleman with the baritone voice and German accent will answer, "I believe the gentleman you speak of disembarked in Santa Marta, Frau Smith. Disreputable fellow, I'm sure the remainder of the journey will be much pleasanter without him. Care for more champagne?"

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gary Madden Author Video Released!

After the talk about creating author videos the date has finally come! Here's the official release of my author video.

Many thanks to Earl Harris at Motivational Media for producing, shooting, and editing the footage as well as answering my questions so that I could write a guide for authors interested in creating their own videos.

The Funnies - Lost Keys (1900)

Life Magazine, July 1900

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Welcome to the Super Moon

The roll of the cosmic dice will give us three "super moons" this summer, the first of which comes tonight! A super moon occurs when the elliptical orbit of our celestial partner brings it closer to the earth than normal during a full moon. This, combined with the optical illusions created by the atmosphere, gives us the extraordinarily large looking moon we'll see tonight.

In honor of our July super moon, I give you the cover for a little moon ditty by Jimmie Crane, Underneath the Indiana Moon.

Jimmie Crane was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1910 to the name Loreto Domenico Fraieli.  He wrote mistral music and produced minstrel shows as well as publishing tunes of his own tunes. He first break came in the Summer of 1941 with patriotic tune entitled It's Great to be an American. I wish I could play the Hoosier ditty for you, but I wasn't able to lay mouse on it at such short notice. Maybe I'll be able to find one in the future.

Steampunk Saturday - Goggles, Goggles, Goggles!

July's Steampunk Saturday is all about the eye protection. Never board your airship without a good pair of goggles, my friends. These fine examples are from the 1905 Saks Automotive Supply catalog.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Writing Update - First Drafts of Author Bio and More!

A quick update on this rainy Monday evening. I got a chance to screen the first draft of my author's bio video and though we're still negotiating to get Brad Pitt to take the lead role, it's looking great! Something should be available on the Motivational Media YouTube Channel soon, I'll keep you updated.

Also, Kelly's author bio has been released and is available for your viewing pleasure. I embedded it below for your viewing pleasure!

Finally, I've received some first draft edits on a new, twisted fairy tale, that will be appearing in an as-of-yet untitled anthology from Twit Publishing. As soon as more details are available I'll let you know. Until then I guess you'll have to wait with baited breath!

The Ouija and Me - Strange Times with Parker Brothers

The latest. The Spirit Six - Spirit control: no running expense
Life Magazine,
January 1920
It probably isn't surprising that when I started writing I chose the supernatural to be one of my recurring topics. Growing up I had a fascination with all things occult. If you had asked me I would have said that there were UFOs hovering over my neighborhood, Bigfoot infesting the local campgrounds, and every graveyard and old house came with at least one ghost. So, I spent my summers in the public library, scouring Richard Cavendish's Man, Myth, and Magic and reading anything I could on the subjects of UFOs, psychic phenomena, and hauntings. By the time I got to junior high, I'd learned to read the Tarot and regularly used a Ouija board that was handed down by my aunt. Today that same Ouija board sits in a closet in the hallway and I haven't taken it out of its box for years. It's a connection between me, the spiritualists of the 19th century, and beyond - maybe even the great beyond.

That little press-board oracle with its alphabet, numbers, "Yes", "No", and "Goodbye" has an interesting history. According to, the first ads for the Ouija appeared in February 1891 in the window of a Pittsburgh novelty shop. The ads promised that the Ouija would tell its users "about the past, present, and future with marvelous accuracy" and that it was "never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes" and "a link between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial."

Unlike most products that have managed to stay around for over a hundred years, the Ouija you might find in your local toy store is virtually identical to the one that a Victorian shopper might have purchased. Though the materials have changed, the fortune-telling board set still consists of a board (now made of cardboard) and a pointer or planchette (now made of plastic). The seekers sit in a dimly-lit room around the board with their fingertips lightly resting on the planchette as one of them asks a question. The planchette slowly moves about the board, using the letters and numbers to spell out an answer to the question posed. Dubious, yes, but what can be said is that the US Patent Office required the board be demonstrated before granting a patent, the demonstration was performed and the patent granted, so to paraphrase Miracle on 34th Street, if the US government admits the presence of supernatural powers manipulating the Ouija...

The Ouija board emerged from American 19th century spiritualism, a belief that accepts that if given an opportunity and means, the dead can communicate with the living. Spiritualism arrived on America's shores in 1848 with a pair of mediums known as the Fox sisters. The Foxes claimed they received messages from beyond the grave in the form of rapping on the walls of their parlor and with the aid of these celebrities, spiritualism spread across the nation. By the second half of the century, spiritualism had peaked and provided a method of holding a séance which was compatible with Christian dogma. In a century where the average life expectancy was 50, spiritualism was the best of both worlds. It kept you in line with what you heard from the pulpit while providing evidence of the life everlasting.

The problem with the typical séance was ambiguity and, to be honest, the clunkiness of the whole affair. Imagine getting together on a Saturday night with a group of five or ten friends, locking yourselves in the parlor, diming the lights, and calling "on the spirit of dear departed aunt Hester" to provide you a message from the afterlife. She can knock once for yes and twice for no, which eliminates just about any really interesting information from the conversation. The answer to this issue was the Ouija with its alphabet and numbers. Now dear old Hessie could spell out, "don't marry that leach of a New Jersey insurance salesman you've been catting around with" instead of yes-ing and no-ing all night long. The Ouija was a telegraph to the netherworld, a direct line to all your loved ones and the sum and whole knowledge of the ages. In 1886 AP reported on something new sweeping through spiritualist camps in Ohio, the talking board. This article circulated in many papers, but it took Charles Kennard of Baltimore, MD to create the first mass-marketed talking board, but it wasn't the Ouija quite yet, in fact the board didn't even have a name.

Now, there's an urban legend that states the Ouija got its name from a combination of the French Oui (meaning yes) and German ja (also meaning yes). Truth is that the name is a bit more mysterious, because the board named itself. According to research by Ouija authority Robert Murch, Kennard investor Elijah Bond's sister-in-law Helen Peters, who was purported to be a "very strong medium". asked the board what it should be called and it spelled out Ouija. When Peters asked what the word meant, the board replied "good luck". Of course it should be said that the night of the board's naming Peters happened to be wearing a locket with a picture of author and women's rights activist, Ouida, which had the word "Ouija" printed above the picture.

By 1892 Kennard Novelty Company was raking in cash from sales of the Ouija and, but 1893, Kennard himself was out of the talking board business. William Fuld, who the New York Times erroneously credited as the inventor of the Ouija in his obituary, took over the company. By 1927 Fuld was dead, having perished in a freak fall from the top of his new factory for building talking boards.

The Ouija has remained popular for more than 120 years, a direct line to the spirit world with no medium intermediary required. Its popularity grew in tough times when people needed answers and something to believe in (World War I, prohibition, and so forth). Norman Rockwell illustrated a scene including a man and woman with an Ouija on their knees for the Saturday Evening Post and Life Magazine joked on the idea of spirit-powered cars (see the Spirit Six comic at the beginning of this post). During the Great Depression, while industry was stagnating, Fuld and Company had to open additional plants to manufacture enough boards to meet demands. During five months in 1944 one New York department store sold over 50000 Ouijas. In 1967 (the year I was born and the same year additional American troops were being sent to Viet Nam), Parker Brothers bought the rights to the Ouija board and sold 2 million copies, more than their Monopoly game. And, considering the state of the world economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Russia setting its site on whichever former satellite country it finds an irritant this week, that Ouija sales are climbing again.

Ouija boards have been credited with the inspiration for novels and poetry, but the reputation of the talking board has darkened significantly since the days of the early spiritualists. In 1973 a movie that scared me to death hit the big screen. The Exorcist plot featured a little girl who'd become possessed after playing with the Ouija and it managed to alter the fabric of pop culture. Suddenly the Ouija was seen as a tool of the devil, a cliché in bad horror movies, and a target of hatred for fundamentalist Christians, but sales stayed strong.

How does the Ouija work? Well, there's a lot of theory about that, the most widely accepted hearkening back to something called the ideometer effect described in 1852 by physician and physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter and published a report for the Royal Institution of Great Britain. But I'm not here to bury the Ouija, I'm here to revel in its mystery. For example, a group of researchers performed an experiment involving a robot, a test subject, and an Ouija board. The subject was told that they were p playing with a subject in another room and that the robot simply mimicked that isolated participant's movements, but this was a trick. The robot did nothing but amplify the participant's movements as a way to make them think they weren't in control. They then were asked a series of yes or no, fact-based questions and expected to use the Ouija to answer. This is where the weirdness starts.

When a group of participants were asked to guess the answers, they scored approximately 50%, but the participants using the Ouija scored approximately 65%. Further research is underway, but I'm going to use this shred of statistically insignificant data to support my dear old talking board. Maybe I'll break it out the next time I have to take a test. As for writing inspiration, the Ouija is one of those tropes that's been pretty much done to death (pun intended). It still appears on TV and in the movies as the conduit for demonic entities, spirit possession, and all sorts of paranormal mischief, which says something for its cultural significance, but if you're looking for an entry point to a story, I'd choose something else.

The Funnies - A Switch (1900)

Life Magazine, August 1900

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Templar Motor Corporation

In tune with the early 20th century, Art Nouveau fad for everything Arthurian, The Templar Motor Corporation chose the Knights Templar as their namesake and the Maltese Cross as their emblem. They set out to build small cars, but the US entry into World War I hampered the production of automobiles and the company went into the wartime business of manufacturing artillery shells. In 1918, when Templar returned to limited production of automobiles, they included as standard equipment a compass (understandable in the pre-interstate highway and pre-GPS era) and a Kodak camera (more fad than understandable as an automotive feature).

During the post-war boom, Templar had no problem selling cars and the prices for its automobiles rose while the company lagged behind in innovation. By 1921 Templar was still selling its 1919 model for the cost of a third more to the consumer. Eventually, with competition from companies like Oakland, Cole, Oldsmobile, and FAL, Templar priced itself out of the market.

The reign of the Knights Templar, at least as an automotive company, ended when Templar went into receivership in 1922 with a debt of $1.4 million. In 1924 its loan was called by a group of local bankers and the plant's doors closed forever. 

I appologize for the quality of the Templar ad I'm running. To be honest, I couldn't find one that looked any better. Its style is pretty typical for 1920, but it is interesting that the company chose two women to illustrate their product. It probably speaks to the fact that the Sportette, shown in the ad, was a small model and therefore "womanly". I did a brief search for the illustrator, but found nothing on the all-inclusive internet on L. G. Kemeteger. He'll have to remain a mystery to be solved another day.

World War I Begins: The Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum

Kaiser Wilhelm I
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was a long time friend and supporter of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, so it's probably not surprising he'd be shocked and angered at the assassination which took place in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Nearly immediately he offered support to Austria-Hungary in the effort to destroy the Black Hand and those who aided in the plot against the Archduke, by which he meant Serbia. But, in this moment of angst, Wilhelm allowed himself to be persuaded to go on his annual cruse of the North Sea and he departed Berlin on July 6th. Once shipboard the Kaiser attempted to manage affairs by telegram, hurriedly returning to Berlin on the 28th of July when the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum was delivered.

The ultimatum that Austria-Hungary delivered to Serbia was intended to be untenable, a list of demands that the Serbian leadership never could stomach. The list of conditions went as follows:

  1. Serbia would formally and publicly denounce the "dangerous propaganda" against Austria-Hungary and Belgrade should "suppress by every means this criminal and terrorist propaganda."
  2. Suppress all publications which "incite hatred and contempt of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy" and are "directed against its territorial integrity", which essentially meant self-rule.
  3. Dissolve the Serbian nationalist organization Narodna Odbrana (The People's Defense) and all other such societies in Serbia.
  4. Immediately eliminate anything deemed  "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" from all school books and public documents.
  5. Remove a list of officers and functionaries from the Serbian military and civil administration, the list to be provided by the Austro-Hungarian Government.
  6. Install Austro-Hungarian agents within Serbia whose responsibility was the "suppression of subversive movements".
  7. Try all accessories to the Archduke's assassination and allow "Austro-Hungarian delegates" to take part in the investigations.
  8. Arrest Major Vojislav Tankosić and civil servant Milan Ciganović who had been named by the captured assassins as participants in the plot against the Archduke.
  9. End the cooperation of Serbian authorities in the "traffic in arms and explosives across the frontier" and dismiss and punish officials in the Šabac and Loznica frontier service who Austria-Hungary deemed "guilty of having assisted the perpetrators of the Sarajevo crime".
  10. Provide "explanations" to the Austro-Hungarian Government regarding "Serbian officials" who have expressed themselves in interviews "in terms of hostility to the Austro-Hungarian Government".
  11. Notify the Austro-Hungarian Government "without delay" of the execution of the measures comprised in the ultimatum.

Wilhelm's reaction was enthusiastic:
"A brilliant solution—and in barely 48 hours! This is more than could have been expected. A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every pretext for war falls to the ground, and Giesl had better have stayed quietly at Belgrade. On this document, I should never have given orders for mobilization."
What the Kaiser didn't know was that by the time he penned his endorsement of the ultimatum, the 84 year old Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary had already signed a declaration of war against Serbia and Russia had began mobilizing her troops to attack Austria in defense of the Serbians.

The Cole Aero-Eight Towncar

The Cole Aero-Eight Tourster as advertised in the January 1, 1920 issue of Life Magazine

Between 1909 and 1925 the Cole Motor Car Company produced 40000 automobiles at its Indianapolis plant located in the 700 block of East Washington street. J.J. Cole intended his cars to compete with GM's Cadillac in terms of luxury and quality. His cars were assembled with parts that had been manufactured by other companies, but he still managed to be innovative, producing the first four-door bodies, de-mountable rims, motor-driven tire pumps, and being the first manufacturer to utilize electric headlights and self-starters.

The Cole plant located in the 700 block of East Washington St.
If you were to buy a Cole, you may have been came into the showroom after being exposed to their innovative promotions. A gas-filled balloon or Cole cigar may have enticed you to come in to see what the brand was all about. Or you might have seen a Cole pace car at the Indy 500 and fancied yourself a speedster. Then there was the sports angle, with a baseball team promoting Cole on the diamond. If you did come in to see a Cole, you likely would have been scared off by the price; in 1918 prices ranged from $1995 for a touring car to $3795 for the Aero-Eight Towncar

Imagination couldn't keep Cole afloat. Through the 20's sales declined and eventually the abundance of budget friendly models targeted at the growing middle-class automobile owner drove the company out of business. Cole's doors closed in 1925 and soon after the founder, Joseph Cole, died at the age of 56.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

 Happy Fourth of July everyone, may you and yours have a wonderful holiday and come home with all of your fingers intact!

The Funnies Bonus - Grandpa's Fourth (1883)

Left: "It seems to me they don't make so much noise on the Fourth as they did when I was young."
Right: But he changed his mind a moment later.
Puck, July 4, 1883 issue

Gold Medal Flower!

Looking at this ad you can tell it's staged. I'm not talking about the obviously drawn in firecrackers, I'm talking about the model they chose. Something about this woman says she's never lit a firecracker in her life. Maybe it's the hobble-skirt. Being an old hand at pyrotechnics of the unofficial variety, I know rule number one is be ready to run for your life. Dressed like she is, this woman would burn to the ground before she took three steps.

It's striking to see a flour manufacturer touting using their product to make sandwiches, fresh fruit pies, short cakes, and biscuits for the Fourth. It's not a holiday that, to modern sensibility, goes with baking. But in 1910 when Scribner's Magazine ran this ad, most people baked their own bread. Makes you appreciate some of the conveniences we have today, and (hopefully) question others.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

H. P. Lovecraft - More Than Weird Fiction

Being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, I'm always looking around for his work. Well, this time I stumbled across something he penned that doesn't fall into the weird fiction genre that he helped invent. This poem appeared in the April - September 1917 issue of The National Magazine. Have a read!

Swift's Ham and Seiler's 1775 House

What does the Fourth of July really need? Not fireworks or parades, it needs salad molds or what we would call aspic! I'm not exactly sure what aspic has to do with Swift's Ham or the independence of our country, but there it is spelling out July 4 in glistening, slimy, colors that don't appear in nature.

"The 1775 House" mentioned in the ad is Sieler's 1775 House, a restaurant that was located on old Route 2 in Massachusetts, however I had little luck identifying where it actually was located. According to the tiny, detail-less map on the back of the 1930's era postcard shown below it should have been on a farm just east of the intersection of Route 2 and Route 123. The problem is these two roads don't intersect. In fact they both run east-west and diverge from the Boston area. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Poem for July

Mosquito is out,
it's the end of the day;
she's humming and hunting
 her evening away.
Who knows why such hunger
arrives on such wings
at sundown? I guess
it's the nature of things.

- N. M. Boedecker
Midsummer Night Itch

Quote for July

"Tis now the summer of your youth: time has not cropped the roses from your cheek, though sorrow long has washed them."

- Edward Moore

Tommy Dorsey - Sleigh Ride in July

As we welcome that just-past-mid-year month of July, the month of premature Yuletide bliss and sales dedicated to the same, here's a little Tommy Dorsey to celebrate the occasion.