Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Insensitive Hiawatha and the Upper Peninsula bucket list

Postcards of large plywood paintings could be their own special genre of bad postcards – especially if the painting is an image offensive to anyone not rooting for Washington football teams.

The back reads: “Hiawatha, located on Hwy. M-28, Munising, Michigan. The spirit of Hiawatha can be found at Hiawatha’s Gift Shop on the shores of “Gitche Gumee,” home of the World’s largest replica of Hiawatha, which stands 36 feet high, and 18 feet wide, towering in the primeval forest, he is a sight to all who are young at heart.”

Having just returned from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and having passed through  Munising on Highway 28, I can say that the giant Hiawatha sign is no more.

I did see a giant plywood Santa Claus and the folks from the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” story.

But more importantly, I explored much of the beautiful U.P. with my bucket list in mind. 
Let’s see how we did:

Upper Peninsula bucket list:

1) Cross the Mackinac Bridge.

Didn’t have much of a choice here. The bridge is beautiful and we’re returning Labor Day to walk across the 5-mile span with many, many others. It’s a tradition.

2) Eat a pasty.

I started seeing pasty places as soon as I crossed the bridge into St. Ignance. 

Many of the stores also has signs advertising smoked fish and jerky.

I decided to wait until it was closer to meal time -- and learned that there are plenty of miles between restaurants of any kind once you get out of town. 

And it's a long way between town.

For a pretty big stretch it seemed like the only places I saw were closed motels that once tried to lure motorists with signs reading "electric heat."

I was getting worried that I missed my opportunity and would leave the U.P. pastiless.

Luckily, on day three of the adventure, I spotted a pasty booth at the U.P. State Fair and the long wait was over.

I ordered a chicken pasty and my roomie for the trip dined on a ham and cheese version.They were filled with out meats of choice plus carrots, potatoes, carrots and peas.

Pretty darn good!

A U.P. native I met told me that her grandfather used to take pasties to work and kept his metal lunchbox hanging over a candle all morning to keep them warm until the noon meal.

I did find a store on the way home that sold frozen pasties so I could bring some home for the whole family.

3) Touch Lake Superior.

Done! My route from Munising to Marquette was along Lake Superior, and I was able to slip into a roadside park and touch the lake, as did the Gnome of Victory and Celebration.

It didn't seem as cold as advertised, but I didn’t exactly go wading, either.

But check this out! Driving along this route, the radio station played “Wreck of the Edmund Fiztgerald,” which is about the freighter that sank in Lake Superior, not far from where I was driving.

This might be a very cool coincidence, or the station has the song in a heavy rotation considering the location.

I’m suspecting the former, because the only song I heard repeated was Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Not only should that song not be played twice on the same day, it shouldn’t be played at all.   

4) Find something with “Say ya to da U.P.” on it.

This was more difficult than I thought. There are many UP stickers for sale, but I had trouble finding the iconic green “Say Ya” sticker. I saw one in a window of a closed store, but there were none to be found when I returned the next day.

Finally, I found one in a gas station outside Escanaba. Uff da!

5) Cross into Wisconsin!

Got it! We had some events in beautiful Menominee, which I knew was near the border. One of my co-workers accidentally traveled into Wisconsin earlier in the day, and pointed out how to get there. Naturally, there was a store with a giant Cheese Mouse.

6) See a moose.

OK, this one is open to interpretation. There are moose in the UP. The Marquette DNR office provided me with a Michigan Moose viewing brochure. There are many references to moose in the UP on signs, shirts and souvenirs.

I did find not one, but two moose statues outside businesses in St. Ignace and more in Manistique. Of course we took Moose selfies.

Nowhere did we say that we needed to have live moose. I’m calling this one good!

7) Get my National Parks passport stamped at the Pictured Rocks Visitors Center.

This was an easy one. There is a shared visitors center for the Hiawatha National Forest and Pictured Rocks National Park. In fact, there were five stamps available. Passports are awesome!

My friend Tammy Webber suggested several more items.

8) Wade in Lake Michigan.

We've done this before, as Lake Michigan is only a half-hour from Grand Rapids. On this trip we saw the very top of the lake – including Green Bay! I did pull over to a public boat launch area and walked out on a rickety dock that was perilously close to the water. That was our bold act for the day.

9) Wade into Lake Superior without crying.

I can report that the Gnome of Victory and Celebration shed no tears!

10) Drive through the Hiawatha National Forest.

Done! This was my route to Marquette. You know, there would be nothing wrong with adding the occasional Panera Bread in a national forest. It was very big.

11) Climb the stairs to the top of the ski jump at Pine Mountain.

We didn't get that far over. But I did get a call out of the blue two weeks ago from a magazine based in Minnesota that writes about Lake Superior. The writer found one of my MLive bad postcard columns about the Copper Peak ski jump and wanted to use some of the photos.

12) Buy Sayklly’s chocolate.

I thought this might be a stumper. But we were in the Delta County Historical Museum in Escanaba and right there on the counter next to the postcards were packages of Sayklly’s chocolates. My friend Lois behind the counter said the store was actually just a couple blocks away.

We scurried over and snagged several yummy Yooper Bars to bring home to the family.

So I enjoyed my first UP adventure, exploring many interesting places and meeting friendly people. I waited 24 years as a Michigander before making my first trip, but I know we’ll head back again. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Moose, pasties and other adventures in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Not exactly what you think of when you think fine arts.
Fine arts folks are, by nature, a creative bunch.

They don’t just color outside the lines. They create the lines. They like things bold and different

So I can’t imagine the fine arts faculty and students at Northern Michigan University in Marquette were excited to see this week’s bad postcard.

The Russell Thomas Fine Arts Building is depicted in our ghost town genre of bad postcards, where we find somewhat undistinguished government buildings with nary a soul around. This particular postcard gains bonus points for showing us the main building in the unflattering shade.

Well, there’s a chance I might get to see how this building looks today, as I’m headed for my first-ever adventure in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

OK, technically I’ve been to the U.P. Like many people here in The Mitten, I’ve driven over the iconic Mackinac Bridge, touching down in St. Ignace. We've stopped at Castle Rock, a touristy place not far from the bridge, bought postcards, checked out the fiber glass Paul Bunyon and Babe, climbed to the top of the rock then scurried back over the bridge.

This is like people who cross from Jersey into Staten Island then declare that they've seen New York.
So this week I’m heading all over the U.P. to see some neat things and meet some nice people. There are a number of things I want to check off the personal U.P. bucket list before heading back.

Upper Peninsula bucket list

1) Cross the Mackinac Bridge

OK, this is an easy one. Unless slipping in from Canada or Wisconsin or arriving by boat, the Mighty Mac is the only way to get there. But it’s a good starting point. And the toll booths are the stars of many bad postcards.

2) Eat a pasty.

A U.P. treat! I hear a pasty is meat and veggies wrapped in dough. So, it sounds like a calzone but without the cheese. Legend has it that pasties were brought over from England when the copper and iron mines were first opened in the 1850s. Miners could take them to work for lunch. 

Pasties seem like they'd be good with gravy, but a co-workers says they're better with ketchup. I think she might be setting me up to be outed as a troll -- someone from below the bridge -- and be laughed out of town. I'll carefully peek at what other diners are doing before making any bold condiment requests.

The top one is a pasty, the bottom is a calzone.

3) Touch Lake Superior.

This will complete my collection of Great Lakes. Note that we’re planning to touch Lake Superior and not swim in Lake Superior. Lake Superior is cold. Really, really cold. There might still be ice on the lake.

4) Find something with “Say ya to da U.P.” on it.

This is the Yooper play on the famous “Say Yes To Michigan” tourism campaign. That campaign has long since been replaced. We’re now “Pure Michigan” and proud of it. But the “Say ya” thing remains in the U.P. as a point of pride.

5) Cross into Wisconsin!

Michigan directly borders on three states, and I’ve already crossed into Ohio and Indiana. Now the goal is to see if Yoopers really do affiliate more closely with the Brewers and Packers.

6) See a moose.

OK, New Yorkers are not acquainted with the ways of the moose.

Our vivid imaginations come up with wild stories of moose packs charging unsuspecting cars, smashing glass with their mighty antlers, sucking people out through the windows and dragging them back to their moose dens, littered with the bones of tourists and tattered North Face fleece.

Co-workers claim that none of this is true, and that moose are actually vegetarians.

We’ll see. The Department of Natural Resources publishes a Moose Country guide for moose viewing and I want to see one. I've dubbed this MooseQuest 14.

And take note: The DNR warns that “Caution must be taken when watching moose. Moose should not be approached. They can be unpredictable and aggressive.”

So, moose have something in common with New Yorkers.

7) Get my National Parks passport stamped at the Pictured Rocks Visitors Center.

The National Parks system years ago published passports that encourage travelers to pull into a park visitors’ center and stamp a page with something that looks like a post office cancellation.

This idea has spread to presidential libraries and, more recently, baseball stadiums.

To no one’s surprise, we've driven miles out of our way on several occasions to get our parks passport stamped. We don’t even have to walk around the part, just the visitor’s center. It’s not like there are rules.
In fact, in Washington D.C., there are some places where you can get whole bunches of stamps in one stop.
Michigan does not have many national parks. But there’s one in the U.P. and I won’t be all that far. Must get the stamp!

OK, Yoopers. What am I missing? Let me know and I’ll try to get there or experience it this week!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mets, Yankees and the perils of Pop-Tarts

Pop-Tarts used to be carefree. But now I’m wrestling with big decisions.

The pastries taste good whether you toast them or eat them right out of the package. They’re made by Kellogg, based in Michigan, and made right here in Grand Rapids. How can you not love that?

So I was pretty excited when Kellogg rolled out a special, limited edition Printed Fun Pop-Tart featuring Major League teams.

“Favorite or foe, every team has its own Pop-Tart Toaster Pastry in this MLB Limited Series,” the box reads. “Find all 30, and prove you’re a Crazy Good baseball fan.”

The box even comes with a checklist. I’m in – especially since they were on sale at Meijer. 

There are about a million different Pop-Tart flavors these days, and I’m assuming Kellogg picked strawberry for the MLB edition in reference to Darryl Strawberry, the former Mets slugger.

My first box was uneventful, with the Nationals, Marlins, Dodgers, Blue Jays. Yum. We can reflect on nice times with those teams, visiting ballparks and meeting players.

A few days later I opened the second box. The first package – each sealed bag has two Pop-Tarts – produced a Padres Pop-Tart. The brought swift memories of the disastrous first game at Citi Field and Mike Pelfrey serving up a homer to the first batter he faced.

I put it right in the toaster. No need to dwell on unpleasantness.

The second one in the bag –I saw blue and orange, a familiar skyline—It was the Mets! Yes!

The search was over and the MDP – Most Desired Pastry – was obtained!

But this produced the first dilemma. What can we do with a collectible Pop-Tart? The basement baseball room is the family shrine to all things Mets, and surely there could be a place for the Mets Pop-Tart among the bobble heads, posters and yearbooks.

But how long would it last? None of the other collectibles in the room are edible. It’s not like someone makes a screw-down Pop-Tart plastic protection slab like the ones used for baseball cards.

We considered shadow boxes and those little easels you can use for little picture frames. No decision has been made and we’re open to suggestions.

So the Mets Pop-Tart remains in the bag in the box, safe from danger.

Today I was ready for another Pop-Tart and happily opened a bag, hoping that there could be a second Mets Pop-Tart in one box.

Then it happened. A Pop-Tart with a big NY, but not the one we all love. It was a Yankees Pop-Tart.
I quickly dropped it on the counter.

I suppose that deep down, I knew this could happen. But with 30 teams and only eight Pop-Tarts to a box, I was hoping to be spared.

Shouldn't there be a warning on the box? It does say in big red letters "Due to possible risk of fire, never leave your toasting appliance or microwave unattended."

So why not add: "Warning. This box could contain a Yankee-decorated Pop-Tart. Apologies." 

Even worse, it’s a Yankees Pop-Tart during St. Derek F. Jeter’s final season. 

While this Pop-Tart would have better range at short than Derek, it lacks his intangibles.

If Yankee myths were true, he’d make all the other Pop-Tarts in the box better. I can tell you that is not the case, because I ate the Rockies version that also was in the bag, and it tasted like a regular strawberry Pop-Tart.

So here’s the second dilemma: What am I going to do with this thing?

I’m can’t eat it. I can only imagine what it tastes like – old, broken, over-hyped. Yuck.

It’s not like I can give it to my family. The last thing I want is crying kids. “Daddy, we thought you loved us!”

I could take it to work. At my old job, people would leave things on the kitchen counter and it would be gone in seconds. At one point we realized it was pretty sad that we were pouncing in Panera Bread leftovers from a honcho meeting. It didn't stop us, because we like Panera Bread. But it was still sad.
Not even the squirrels wanted this thing.
I thought maybe I could stick it in the bird feeder and keep the squirrels away.  Maybe the Blue Jays and Cardinals could peck away at it.

No luck. It scared them away, too.

Tomorrow I’m going back to poppy seed bagels. It’s much safer.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Baseball Hall of Fame thinks fans are easily confused by two-syllable names

Big problems with the Baseball Hall of Fame plaques unveiled today.

The obvious issue is that neither of the two guys representing the Mets are wearing the Mets logo on their plaque caps.

Tom Glavine as an Atlanta Brave? Seriously? As if any one remembers Glavine’s time down South. Remember, earned No. 300 as a Met.

Then you have Joe Torre, who, for some odd reason, is shown wearing a Yankees cap. Right city, wrong cap.

You’d think the Hall would want to salute the next-to-last player-manager in baseball, a highlight of Torre’s tenure in Flushing, rather than guiding a number of steroid-soaked Yankee teams to ill-gained championships.

Torre would  be wise to simply slip those trophies over to the more deserving teams, especially the one from 2000.

But I’m not even talking about those slights.

The Hall, apparently, thinks baseball fans are easily confused by common two-syllable names.

In the past, Hall of Fame plaques would list a player’s full name. If necessary, it the plaque also included a nickname.

Let’s use plaques from some other former Mets misidentified with lesser teams as examples.

Sometimes this was essential, as with Lawrence Peter Berra, “Yogi.”

Sometimes it was more playful, as with Willie Howard Mays, Jr., “The Say Hey Kid” and Gary Edmund Carter, “Kid.”

But in recent years, for some odd reason, the Hall decided that fans needed to see in quotes shortened versions of very common names.

Glavine’s plaque reads Thomas Michael Glavine, “Tom.” Torre’s reads Joseph Paul Torre, “Joe.” Tony LaRussa’s plaque reads Anthony LaRussa, “Tony” and Bobby Cox’s reads “Robert Joe Cox, “Bobby.”

Greg Maddux’ plaque is a total mess, with Gregory Alan Maddux, “Greg” “Mad Dog.” Yes, two nicknames. Imagine -- a guy named Gregory getting called "Greg." Didn't see that one coming.

Frank Thomas benefits from having a one-syllable first name, with his plaque reading Frank Edwin Thomas, “The Big Hurt.” You just know there was a heated conference call discussion where someone debated that “Frank” should be added along with “The Big Hurt.”

Enlighten me, Hall of Fame. After 75 years of hanging plaques on the wall, why was this suddenly necessary?
It seems that 2001 was the last year when basic, common shortenings were not included, as Dave Winfield’s plaque simply calls him David Mark Winfield without being followed by “Dave.”

There were a bunch of years with one-syllable names like Ryne and Barry, Dennis and Paul and Bruce.
Then we started getting Tony Gwynn’s plaque including “Tony” and “Mr. Padre,” Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. with “Cal.”

Was there confusion in the past? Do people walk by the Michael Jack Schmidt plaque and wonder if it’s that’s the same Mike Schmidt who played all those years for the Phillies? Could Roland Glen Fingers be the guy with the mustache known as Rollie?

And in an example near and dear to our heart, George Thomas Seaver is identified as such without “Tom” and we all still can figure out who he is.

Hey, Hall of Fame – baseball fans are smart people. Give us some credit!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Warm pigs, social goats, champion sheep and other adventures at the fair

Somewhere, off in the distance, is a fair.
Pigs are warm to the touch. I learned this over the weekend.

First, somebody needs to tell our postcard photographer about this concept called “framing.”

The idea, generally, is for the subject of our postcard to take up most of the space in the photo. Perhaps this one should be called, “Greetings from the sky above the Kent & Sussex Fair.’ 

It’s a little tough to figure out what‘s happening at the Kent and Sussex Fair even in the sky above it since our photo seems to be taken from a completely different county. The back doesn't help: “Amusement Area, Kent & Sussex Fair, Harrington, Del.”

Luckily, I know what happens at fairs since I just spent two days at one of the largest in the state.
Such events were fascinating to this New York native. The closest thing we had were catholic church bazaars, which included some of the rides, some of the games and some of the food.

Oh, sure. Those are fun. And I’m always up for a good debate about whether funnel cakes are better than elephant ears – as if either is bad.

No, the real action lies beyond the neon and the Journey cover bands.

I’m talking about the animal barns. Some of them might be visible off in the distance on this bad postcard. 

Then again, Maryland is visible in the photo of the bad postcard.

When we learned we were headed to the fair this week, I told all coworkers that my goal was to touch a goat and eat a corn dog, and I wasn't particular about the order as long as there was hand-washing involved.
I did touch and consume, and so much more.

We saw a glassed-in hive with real bees.  It’s good to be the queen. We also saw bees wax crafts, including an entire nativity scene.

I settled for the bees wax policeman and fireman holding a flag with “God Bless America” on the base. My daughter thinks the figures might actually be Teletubbies with a re-purposed mold. I say it’s awesome either way.

We saw real cows hooked up to a machine getting milked. This was very cool, and they let us inside to get a close-up view. I got a pretty sweet cow sticker, too, which I wore with pride.

There were newborn baby goats in the Miracle of Life barn, with young cows, ducks, chickens and rabbits. 

Across the way were chickens and roosters, who are far more interesting than would seem when breaded and slapped between a bun. (Though that’s pretty good, too.)

Then we ventured to where the big animals were hanging out.

Here’s the thing with sheep. If you are a champion sheep, you get a special coat-like thing that you get to wear to the fair. It’s like a baseball player’s championship ring. We saw a sheep who was named champion in 2010 who was still showing off his coat.
Champion sheep are allowed to boast.

Most didn't seem to mind being petted.

“It’s OK, she won’t hurt you,” one goat owner said. “About the worst she’ll do is suck on your finger.”

I took her word for it, because there is a fine line between adventurous and reckless. We patted the head, far from any area were finger-sucking or worse could occur.

Then we saw goats, which seemed to be having a good time. Most of the larger animals were lounging around, napping or eating, seemingly oblivious to what was going on around them. Not the goats. They are social animals. Many were standing on their hind legs, peering above the fence, looking to see what was going on.  One kept sticking his face into a fan to chill out.
Goats were eager to make friends.

Finally, we saw the pigs, which were easy to pet because none of them were moving. Seriously, it looked like a daycare center at nap time. While other animals felt soft, pigs felt warm, like little ovens. I thought that was neat.

Having accomplished our goal of goat-touching, we snacked on corn dogs and funnel cake and slowly walked back through the neon, content that we had supported Michigan’s thriving and important agricultural industry and learned many things. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chatty Cardinals fans, Pokeman and other adventures at Busch Stadium

Caroline takes awesome photos.
One aspect of attending a baseball game is that you develop short-term acquaintances with the people sitting around you.

You are elbow-to-elbow with a stranger, as well as getting to know the back of the head of the person in front.  This can be a pleasant experience. Or it can be an adventure, like the one Caroline and I shared when we attended the Cardinals-Marlins game at Busch Stadium this month.

Busch is a nice ballpark, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But first let me tell you about the guy sitting behind us. He would not stop talking. Ever.

You’re pretty much trapped in these situations. It’s not like there is a no-talking rule at the ballpark. Nor can you turn around and say, “Dude, you are driving most of section 452 crazy, especially the middle of rows seven, eight and nine.”

There was no avoiding this guy, who was in is early-to-mid 20s and wearing a hunter camo cap with his free Cardinals jersey. 

He had a loud voice, and since he was in the seat right behind me, talking at the back of my head the whole game. It was impossible to tune him out.

Sometimes people get settled and chill out a bit. Not this guy. He had stamina. 

It started out annoying, before turning into one of those can’t-help-but-listen things, wondering where this guy was going to go next.

Before the first pitch he was talking about a strange fantasy baseball league he was in where he somehow was allowed to include non-baseball players on the roster. 

He had a president on there – a good one, too – and former Jets quarterback Tim Tebow and finally a Pokémon in the outfield. Don’t ask how this could work. He didn't explain and I sure as heck was not going to ask.

But there was a long discussion about the particular Pokémon he selected and his powers. I’d tell you which one, but I've tried to purge all knowledge of Pokémon from my memory since being the parent who volunteered to take all the kids to the first, soul-sucking Pokémon movie years ago.

Then we learned, in no particular order, that:

He’s still afraid of his high school football coach. 

He quit scouts because he didn’t like a lot of other kids in the pack. His parents made him drive to the scoutmaster’s house and tell him in person. The scoutmaster was not happy with this decision

He was on the wrestling team. So were other scouts, so this did not sway the scoutmaster.

He occasionally smokes dope, but will not allow anyone to bring it in his car.

This went on and on. Not a lot of baseball talk, save for his fantasy team. He's a football fan.

At one point, he saw that Caroline was taking photos, and looking over her shoulder, noticed that she was able to zoom in on the observation deck windows of the Arch from our seats in the Busch upper deck.
Caroline was able to zoom in on the Arch windows.

“That must be a nice camera,” he said.

Caroline, being polite, said that it was.

“You guys must not be from around here.”

Danger! I know better to engage with one of these guys. You just don’t want to do it, because you don’t want to get sucked into the conversation and hear about the football coach, Tim Tebow and the Pokémon again.

But I also don’t want to be rude to anyone, especially a Cardinal fan. I like Cardinal fans.

I explained that we are from Michigan, but attended University of Missouri, so we did, in fact, have some St. Louis cred.

He asked about my major, and I told him that I studied journalism, which I offered tentatively because I've learned the subject either interests or horrifies people and I didn't want to prolong the conversation.

“That’s one of the top five journalism programs in the country, isn't it?”

OK, he got points for that. Flattery and accuracy bought him, a “Well, yeah, there are a number of good schools,” before I was able to disengage thanks to new antics from Fred Bird on the Cardinals’ dugout.
Thank you, Fred Bird.
Oddly chatty fans aside, Busch is a nice ballpark. No stadium is at its best when it’s near capacity. The concourses were packed, the lines were long and it was difficult to get a good look at everything.

But it's certainly better than the multi-purpose Busch Stadium that this new version replaced. True story. Former Cardinals outfielder -- and later Met -- Bernard Gilkey once told me that the artificial turf at the old stadium was so hot in the summer that players would run off the field and stick their feet into buckets of ice water in the dugout to cool off.

One interesting thing about Busch is that some of the neat features are outside the gates.  The big statue of Stan Musial and the smaller statues of Stan and other Cardinal greats as well as broadcaster Jack Buck are all on the sidewalk, which is nice because you can check them out before or after the game and not worry about missing anything.

New this year is a “Ballpark Village” across the street, with rooftop seats like Wrigley – but I suspect owned by the Cardinals. The team’s Hall of Fame and Museum is part of the complex, but the $12 admission was a little steep. It seemed like that should be part of the game experience. The rest of the village appeared to be a bunch of bars.
These fans are across the street.

Give the Cards credit for a great scorecard, too. It came with four pages of stats. If you’re like me, and one of the handful of people still keeping score, this is a cool thing.

The game was exciting, with the Cards building a lead and giving part of it back. The team had a one-run victory in its grasp, with the apparent final Marlin down to his last strike. 

Fans were on their feet, going crazy as the Casey McGehee fouled off what seemed like 10 pitches. Then he got a hit, driving home Donovan Solano to tie the game. 

Then pinch-hitter Jeff Baker got a hit, and the Marlins went ahead.

The crowd was stunned into silence, even our compulsively chatty friend.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Mysteries of art and hockey in Southern California

Oh, if these folding chairs could speak, what wild stories could they tell.

This week’s bad postcard takes us to Southern California and the Idyllwild Arts School.Let’s get right to it, because there is so much here to love.

The back reads: U.S.C. Idyllwild Arts Foundation (ISOMATA), Idyllwild, California. Interior, Conference Hall (seats 300) – serves as lecture, concert and dance hall, and intimate theater during the Foundations summer school in the arts. The Foundation conducts a summer school of the arts from June 15th to September 1st, and a conference center from Labor Day to June 15th.

First, I know you are wondering. ISOMATA stands for Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts.The always-accurate Wikipedia tells us that Idyllwild Arts was founded by Dr. Max Krone and his wife, Beatrice, who envisioned a remote place where people of all backgrounds could come together to experience the arts. In 1950, approximately one hundred adult students began attending summer classes in the arts.

So, we’re talking summer camp for adult artists. The school was turned over to University of Southern California in 1964, and taken back from USC in 1983. It still exists, albeit with much nicer facilities.

The blue folding chairs just scream party, and it looks like we’re set up for a big night of a film and discussion.

Kids, that thing you see in the back is called a projector, and it’s what we had before DVDs and even VHS. Back in the day, school had these things attached to a wheeled cart, and students on the AV squad would bring them to the room.
It was a good day when this arrived in school.

No one knows how kids got to be on the AV squad, and how they got out of class to bring these things around the building. We also didn’t care, because when the AV squad arrived it meant that we were going to watch a movie. This was before every classroom had televisions and cable.

Someday I’ll tell you about another amazing bit of classroom technology that was called the overhead projector. It wasn’t nearly as cool. Think of it as a PowerPoint presentation with no color and bad handwriting.

Now let’s discuss the décor. Note that thing attached to the stone wall. Is that a hockey stick? A hockey stick is an arts camp is odd.
 A hockey stick in an arts camp in Southern California is off the charts crazy, especially in the 1960s. The L.A. Kings didn’t come around until 1967.

Perhaps this is some souvenir of a camper’s exotic trip to Winnipeg. Perhaps it’s a prop from some artsy thing.
I notice that the stick hangs what appears to be a fireplace, which also seems out of place. It’s almost like someone tried to recreate a corner of a ski lodge in an L.A. artsy place without the benefit of the ski bunnies and hot cocoa.

We just don’t know.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Sweden needs a tutorial on glorious bad postcards

Qwert needs to know more about boring postcards.
As we've mentioned before, I’m a member of a worldwide community called Postcrossing that sends postcards back and forth. This is fun.

We all have a profile page where we tell a little about ourselves and tell other Postcrossers what kind of postcards we like to receive.

Naturally, my profile mentions a fondness for really boring postcards. Some people like to accommodate and have sent some wonderfully boring cards. Others are a little confused.

Yesterday I received a fantastically boring card from a Postcrosser named Qwert. His note on the back gets right to the point.

Qwert writes: “I do not know what cards are boring to you. There are no cards boring to everyone. Regards. Qwert.”

Qwert, my new friend, I would love to explain what makes a boring postcard.

But first, a little about Qwert, who also goes by Kjell and lives in Southern Sweden. Dude is a veteran Postcrosser, sending 3,520 postcards in four years. By comparison, I’ve sent about 200 in two years, clearly a rank amateur.

He’s also, might I say, a little standoffish. He certainly has a lot of rules, according to his profile. He’s studying postal automation and Swedish postal history.
Aside from thinking the Russian post office runs a little too slow compared to the mail system in Finland, he notes:
“PLEACE, I beg you, NO MORE city views or buildings, churches etc. DO NOT send cards or envelopes and not bigger than C6. (10x15 cm)(4 X 6 inches)

“Just send a Beer mats, just put stamp and address on it, or a WHITE BLANK card/paper max. 15x10 cm. 
Pleace, NOT in envelope, (Beer mats, Bierdeckel, bocks, maty piwo, posavasos, підставки під пивні кухлі, подставки под пивные кружки). If this is too difficult to find, just cut out a postcard-sized piece of cardboard food packaging and use/send that as a postcard to me. I also like "cards" sent via Internet by Touchnote or similar services. 
“I like all the stamps located ON the card not broken stamps half sitting on the card. I have got too many of those. I also like franking with "Meter stamps" automatically made by any kind of machines. I DO like cards with 3D stamps. (f.ex. Finland - Canada) The postal side of the card is the one I like the best.”
Since Qwert is studying postal history, I welcome the opportunity to tell him – and anyone else – the glories of bad postcards.
The 1960s and 1970s are considered the golden era of bad postcards. So if you’ve got something from that era, you’re a step ahead.
There are naturally several categories. Let’s break them down.
Ghost town: This would be a building; usually a bland government building made blander by a complete lack of people, cars, pets, squirrels or anything else that might imply life. 
Long-distance dedication: This would be a photo taken from very, very far away so that any detail of the subject is difficult to ascertain. As we are fond of saying, Casey Kasem has offered long-distance dedications on behalf of people who were closer than the photographer and the subject of this card. RIP, Casey. We’ll miss you. 
Bad photos: Sometimes we have no indication that a skilled photographer took the photo depicted on the card. A card can be made gloriously bad by the subject matter, or the action being wildly off-center, or with people posing in unusual ways. You look at a bad photo postcard and say, “What the heck is going on here?” And, in the best cards, something is going astray and the photographer either didn't catch it or just didn't care.
Little Harry is ready to give them hell!

My favorite bad photo postcard – and possibly the best bad postcard of all time – includes Little Harry and his family reverently gazing upon the plaque honoring the Trumanfamily in a Missouri shopping center. Actually, Mom and Dad are reverent, Lil Harry is about to hurl.
Roads: These are awesome, especially when the roads are empty. I have an entire flip book ofOhio Turnpike cards, complete with overpasses and rest stops. Many of the poorly cropped cards include the same car, which I can only assume belongs to the photographer. I get that interstates were once wild and crazy and new. But even then, an overpass couldn't have been worth writing home about.
Pet caskets: These are typically advertising products and are very dull. But the best one of all was found in the old Booth Newspapers Lansing Bureau and depicts pet casketsfrom the Upper Peninsula. This is so awesome, that the entire genre bears the name. As an aside, I spoke to the folks who work at the pet casket place and they are very nice. I learned a lot. Now you can, too.

Speaking of pets: Postcards showing us animals doing things they are not supposed to be doing is always considered a great bad postcard, be they brainy poodles or water-skiing dogs or musical monkeys.
Perfy: Perfy is the patron saint of bad postcards and a bad ass. He’s the mascot for New Jersey’s tourism bureau – talk about a tough assignment – and no one has any idea about what Perfy is supposed to be. I love Perfy, and have found several cards showing him in various places around New Jersey. So anything with a bad mascot doing unusual things – or being unusual – falls into the Perfy genre. Corky gives Perfy a run for his money.

Mis-named photos: This is easy. The postcard tells us one thing, and the photo is, well, open to interpretation. My favorites are a collection called “Michigan ThumbScenery,” and show us things like the guard rail on the Blue Water Bridge. We've also uncovered several cards announced to be the Mackinac Bridge, and showing instead the tollbooths to the Mackinac Bridge, with no bridge in sight.
There are probably several more, but you get the idea.
So let’s review Qwert’s offering:
We get a ghost town view of a hotel – or something – that’s poorly cropped, cutting off one part of the building. It’s pretty far away, and we can’t tell if this is the back or front of the building. We do see what appears to be a putt-putt golf course – with no one playing, of course – and some mystery vegetation.

And Qwert, my friend, you might not know what a boring postcard is, but you nailed it.
Here's a link to bad postcard columns from the MLive days.