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.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: The secret lives of French poodles

Do you trust this poodle?

I’ve spent a great deal of time at institutions of higher education recently, which had me thinking about intelligence a great deal, and the process of gaining knowledge.

Little did we know we could determine smarts not by the diplomas I’ve seen handed out in the last couple months, but my checking out skull shape?

I learned this from this week’s bad postcard.

The front reads, “I’m ready, let’s go!” and shows a dog in a wicker basket.

On the back: “Although known for many years as the national dog of France, the Poodle is really of German origin, whose troops carried the first specimens of the breed into France. Scientists have found that the general foundation of the head and skull exhibit every indication of extraordinary intelligence.”

OK, that’s a lot of information for the back of a postcard, especially one firmly in the silly pet photos category.  Canine head and skull formation just doesn’t come up a lot. 

Which takes us to the photo on the front. 

If Fluffy the poodle is such a brainiac, why did she let someone tie that ridiculous bow in her hair? And why did she allow herself to get stuffed in a basket, like a bag of croissants?

Maybe these poodles are willing to withstand such humiliation because they are thinking about a greater good – for the Germans.

The back doesn’t say during which war this cross-border poodle smuggling took place.  We can’t even  be sure there was any fighting going on. Did German soldiers simply infiltrate and unleash poodles among the unsuspecting French populace? What is their true mission? Are the poodles passing French secrets back to the Germans through an elaborate canine spy network? 

No wonder Fluffy is so ready to go. She’s got to meet Hans at the clandestine meeting spot and relay what she knows: “Woof. They’re planning to surrender! Woof.”

Now we know. Never turn your back on your poodle.