December 27th, 2006

krazy koati

Every day I try so hard to know your mind

Maybe the best gift received, as in the one most likely to amuse the broadest audience, was given to my father. It's an amusing collection titled, ``Boring Postcards USA''. I don't -- despite my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fandom -- go in for the humor of sneering, at least in the main, but I am fascinated by things meant well but coming out ineptly. Nearly all the postcards are from the 1950s or 1960s, so there's that swell Girder and Panel air to it.

For the most part the postcards really are of peculiarly boring things: the Big Yank Motel and Restaurant in Kalkaska, Michigan; the woman from every Mystery Science Theater 3000 informational short of the 1950s sitting in a hotel room in Ellinor Village, Ormond Beach, Florida; the Rosendale Food Center on Route 32 in New York; or quite a few shots of toll booths on the Ohio Turnpike. They're not singling out the Ohio Turnpike, mind you; they've got a lot of the Pennsylvania Turnpike as well. And one of the southern end of the New Jersey Turnpike, since in the 1960s the only thing south of the Raritan in New Jersey were the Campbell's Soup factory in Camden and the collapsing hotels in Atlantic City, while these days there's now ... well, probably they've opened up something new in Wildwood. I've never gone there myself.

Making this a particularly great present are the disquieting number of places in it that my father's been -- some of them moderately naturally, like the Kellogg's plant in Battle Creek, Michigan. I could certainly see going to whatever tour they had there, even if the visitor's gate isn't that interesting a shot. There are a few I don't think honestly qualify as boring postcards, like a wide-angle view of the Astrodome. I know there's a clique that insists, against all evidence, that baseball is boring, but the picture's nicely set up and there's quite some interesting detail to watch. It's just not boring. There's also a postcard of the arrival building at John F Kennedy International Airport that again I think doesn't qualify as boring since the angle of one of the jets suggests it's about to crash into the building. Similarly the ``pool critical assembly'' at Oak Ridge National Laboratories may not be attractive, but if you have any interest in nuclear power it is naturally intriguing.

We were able to create a fine game of it based on the challenge of trying to identify the purpose of these modern, functional, and beauty-free structures without looking at the captions. Best was the building universally agreed to be a bank; it was the Stockton (California) Municipal Airport. Runners-up include the ``college dorm'' (Fort Hood, Texas, army barracks), and the power brick billed as the ``beautiful library'' at Texas Tech.

Trivia: Marvel declared bankruptcy on 27 December 1996 after losing $437 million in autumn 1996. Source: Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution, Ronin Ro.

Currently Reading: Napoleon's Buttons: How Seventeen Molecules Changed History, Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur.