Thursday, June 30, 2011

Your Thursday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

Overpass on the Garden State Parkway at Sunset

Provenance: Purchased at a postcard dork trade show, April 2011.

Song of the American Road, pt. 17

A waiting boat - a peaceful lake combine for a vacation of fun in the Land of Sky Blue Waters.

Tues. Morn.  Hi - Raining to-day but not too cold.  Bumper to bumper traffic all the way down.  No trouble other than that.  Had lots of company over the 4th.  Sunfish are biting, so have had plenty of fish.  No walleyes.  Punky is having the time of his live.  Loves the water.

Just Dennis here -- am enjoying myself.  Caught a few fish.  Have been swimming every day, but water is awfully cold.  See you!

Love, Dennis + all of us.

Lexington Ave. at 37th St.
New York 16, New York
Tel: MUrray Hill 9-5200

Dear Mrs. Burnett.  Tuesday 7-21-64.  We flew out here to the big Shriner convention.  We left Mp'ls 10:10 arrived here 12:25 fast going.  Tomorrow we will go out to see the big Worlds Fair.  Clarence and I are just fine.

Clarence & Myrtle

Nowhere in America will there be found scenic beauty to surpass the marine grandeur of Highway 101.

Sunday -- Arrived last night at the height of a sou'wester.  Found cottage waiting complete with daffadils and bells -- see you soon -- Claire and Joh[illegible]

Santa Fe, New Mexico  87501
[comically extensive test follows]

Happy New Year  1980

Having a wonderful time.  Family Reunion.  Roads & weather wonderful.  This is the land of enchantment.  Love Lila Shea

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Wednesday quiz has sailed the seas and come to the holy city of Byzantium


The Wednesday Quiz, in its second incarnation, has been a weekly game of knowledge, intuition, inductive reasoning, and willingness to risk public embarrassment in a friendly and moderately supportive environment!!  I hope you've enjoyed it.  A new incarnation is in the works, and will be coming your way soon.

Answers come out Fridayish.

1. Name the poet:
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
2. Where's this?

3. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, as the rules of American football were evolving into something resembling their current form, one team dominated all others. Who ran up a 67-2 record from 1888-1892?

4. Russia has rubles, China has ________.

5. Nestled in the shadow of Mount Ararat, the capital of Armenia is the home to a third of that country's population. Twenty-eight centuries of continuous habitation put it on the short list of the world's oldest cities. What's its name, again?

6. This poor little airplane is experiencing _________.

7. A long 1500 kilometer drive north from Edmonton, this city of 20,000 on the north shore of the Great Slave Lake is capital of a huge chunk of Canada.

8. This pretty plant can pose problems for a calvaryman in a couple different ways. One is, it's poisonous to horses. What's it called?

9. It's the setting of Wuthering Heights, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and Behind the Scenes at the Museum.

10. Bos grunniens or Bos mutus is a Central Asian critter. Although it is basically a domesticated species, there is a small wild population as well. What's the common name?


There is no tie-breaker this week.  However, I would like you to identify yourself if you (a) realized that this would be the 26th and necessarily final edition of the alphabet-based quizzes, (b) considered that it would be possible to go back and figure out in advance what this week's letter would be, or even (c) actually did so.


Put your answers in the comments, in an attempt to show a total mastery analogous to that of the dominant football team of the early days of the sport.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Postcards Exchange


If you've been following this here scrapbook for long, you might have noticed occasional references to something called "PostCrossing."  It has been nearly four years since I actually explained what PostCrossing is, though, so it's probably high time for a little refresher course.

It all started, as I mentioned back then, with a comment from renowned L&TM5K community member fingerstothebone:
I can't believe I didn't remember to tell you this, but I just received a pretty boring postcard from Finland which reminded me -- you should sign up for to spread boring postcards all over the world, and to receive boring postcards from all over the world.
This was, if not exactly a burning bush, certainly a suggestion with powerful resonance for a guy with my level of spastic affection for paper ephemera.  Plus, fingerstothebone has clout.  So sign up for PostCrossing I did!

Here's how it works: When you feel like sending a postcard, you are given an address and some profile information for someone who lives in a different country from your own.  (In 2007, that country was often Finland, the country where PostCrossing (despite being Portugal-based) first became popular, but these days it is getting more truly global every month.)  So you pick a postcard that you think will be appealing to your recipient, stick a stamp on it, and off it goes.  Eventually, that person gets the card and registers it online; that puts your own name in the queue of people to receive postcards.

So, to recap: you send a postcard to someone, somewhere, and two to twelve weeks later you are rewarded by a postcard from someone else, somewhere else!  Freakin' brilliant.

Now as if this wasn't eerily close enough already to proof that the world is being designed for my personal enjoyment, the PostCrossing platform is set up to all but DEMAND that you geek out on the statistical aspects of the experience.  In addition to charts that list how many cards you've sent and received from various countries and how long it took them to arrive, there are also bulletin boards of the cards you've sent, received, and favorited, maps of where your cards have come from and gone to, and charts documenting your activity.

Having sent 130 postcards and received 125 at this point, I've got a fairly dense map:

Clearly there is some bias here towards places where people can write in English (official language of the PostCrossing experiment!) and have the scratch for international postage (generally 98 cents a throw, for you UnitedStatsians in the crowd, a not insignificant expense).

Like a lot of these online communal activities, you can kind of dip your toe in and out over time.

After an initial burst of enthusiasm, I moved on to, well, something else before rediscovering it last summer and really enjoying it over the last year.  At the moment, though, PostCrossing is getting crowded out by work pressures and other interests, and I don't think I'll send any cards for a while.  Will this turn out to be like the brief February pause, or like the two year desert of '08-'10?  We'll just have to come back and check the graph!

I've been keeping my PostCrossing cards in old photo albums that I buy for pennies at estate sales, so feel free to ask for a look if you happen to drop by the castle.  In the meantime, here's a selection of a very few favorites I've received.

My profile says I like "old" cards, so I get a lot of reproduction antique cards, which is cool.

I also try to explain that I like "boring postcards," and it's interesting to watch people struggle with that concept:

And then, sometimes people just ignore my preferences and send me postcards they know are cool.  That's good too.

Do I owe YOU a postcard?  Working on it.  I've been swamped!  Really!

The Postage

I like it when the U.S. Postal Service makes a friendly shout-out to other countries when they are celebrating their independence.  It's cordial.

The "hobbizine" online stamp catalog lists this 1967 issue as being worth 20 cents in good used condition.  This is a stamp collector's way of saying "it's worthless, but it would be a nice gesture to give it to a kid who was just starting a stamp collection."  It is listed as being worth 35 cents in mint unused condition, which is how stamp collectors say "it's still worth 5 cents, if you put it on a letter."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Michael5000 Catches a Foul Scent on the Breeze

Stop the Presses!!!

...for I had one of those Shakespeare dealies all set up and ready to run today, but then SOMETHING TOTALLY EXCITING HAPPENED and I want to tell you about it right now.  The Bard can wait.  I mean, I know the "Michael5000 vs. Shakespeare" bits are supposed to run on Monday, but you won't be disconcerted if I, like, put it on Friday or something?  ...oh, you hadn't?  Well, no worries then!

So, I Was Mowing the Lawn

And something smelled terrible.  At first thought "man, what kind of horrible chemical are the neighbors using, and what for?"  But it wasn't quite a chemical smell.  It was a biological smell.  I realized with sinking heart that I was going to have to find and dispose of something dead, something probably mammalian and of pretty good size to be putting out that much scent.

Now it must be admitted that in this year of big commitments for both me and Mrs.5000, and also of the second wettest spring on record here in the City of Roses, there has been very little tending of the "garden."  It is certainly rocking that "English Country Cottage Garden" look, shall we say, and leave it at that.  Point is, you can't really see down to the ground level very well, and going a-huntin' after decomposing animals looked like it would be even less fun than it ought to be.

I was saved by the flies.  They were all buzzing in one place, right against the back wall of the house, right where.... right where.....

Say, are there any of you still around that would have read the third post that ever appeared in this blog?  June 2007?  It was called "The PDX Garden Experience," and talked about some of the plants we had just bought, including one "Draconculus Vulgaris." Here's what I had to say about D. Vulgaris: "Of the Dracunculus it is written: 'On a mature inflorescence, the smell is reminiscent of rotting meat, designed to attract flies for pollination. The smell only usually lasts for a day but it is still not advisable to plant it right by your house.' Oh hell yeah! (and yes, I am TOTALLY planting it right by my house.)"


Our little Dracunculus has come into his own!  Here's what he's looking like this year [parental discretion advised]:

Whoa Nelly!  And whereas there has only been one or maybe two blooms in the last few years, this year there are at least a half dozen coming.

Come visit and see for yourself!

For Those of You With an Underdeveloped Taste for the Grotesque

Here are some nice English Country Cottage Garden shots:

Next week I will rescue you from the weeds, my pretties.  Promise!

City of WHAT, y'all?!?

And best of all: We're about two days out from that most joyous time of the year...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Your Thursday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

Located in Utah a short drive from Dinosaur, Colorado.  Here you may see park service personnel actually excavating dinosaur remains.

Provenance: Sent by L&TM5K regular Aviatrix, November 2010.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Wednesday Quiz struggles to improve the community


The weekly game of knowledge, intuition, inductive reasoning, and willingness to risk public embarrassment in a friendly and moderately supportive environment!!

Answers come out Fridayish.

1. He composed the operas Jenůfa, Káťa Kabanová, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Affair, and From the House of the Dead.

2. In 1975 this man, prominent in California Democratic politics, was appointed Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. The future Speaker of the California State Assembly described him in 1976 as "a combination of Martin King, Angela Davis, Albert Einstein ...and Chairman Mao." But in 1978, he died in bizarre circumstances in South America. His name?

3. What's this place called?

4. It's what we usually call members of the Societas Iesu.

5. A complex and much-debated concept, it refers to struggle -- the struggle to maintain religious faith, the struggle to improve the community, or the struggle of warfare.

6. Who is said to have given back the 30 silver coins before he died?

7. What hard-to-get-to place is shown here?

8. It was called Batavia from 1619 until 1942.

9. This piece, Numbers in Color, is a well-known work by this living American artist.

10. What author ended a collection of short stories with this passage?
It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.


The tie-breaker: Several books of the Christian Bible begin with this week's letter. List as many as you can.


Put your answers in the comments.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Michael5000 vs. Shakespeare: Love's Labours Lost (BBC, 1981)

The Play: Love's Labours Lost

Directed by: Elijah Moshinsky (1981), for the BBC Series.

Genre & Setting: When we last saw Love's Labours Lost, it was in a decidedly idiosyncratic mashup with WWII-era imagery and song-and-dance numbers from the great American songbook.   No, really, it was!  Follow the link if you don't believe me!

This time around it is a decidedly more, hmm, sedate interpretation.  A romantic comedy, more or less, set at the court of Navarre, this version is filmed in and around somebody's expensive old house.

The Gist: The King of Navarre and three pals decide to spend three years pursuing the joys of scholarship, but subjecting themselves to disturbingly masochistic restrictions on food, sleep, and really anything except scholarship.  In particular, there is to be no sex.  Nasty punishments are prescribed for any women who even approach the palace.  But then, uh-oh, the Princess of France and her three hottest female courtiers arrive on a diplomatic mission, and our boys fall all over themselves pitching woo.  Interestingly -- and perhaps I should mention that I'm going to give away the ending later on in this sentence -- the play ends not as you would expect, with four couples hooking up, but with the French women telling the Navarrean (?) men that they have to spend a year in various forms of penance before there will be any smooching, or marriage, or whatever.

The Adaptation: This is yet another production from the BBC television series of the late 70s and early 80s.  As I put it last time, these adaptations have "very competent stage actors and utterly uninspired filming."  But let me put it another way this time.  These BBC productions suck.  I mean, they really suck.  They suck Suck SUCK SUCK SUCK!!!  I really can not believe how bad they are.  They are like watching a high school production of Shakespeare, except not at a big sophisticated high school, like you went to, that could actually pull off a school play.  No, I'm talking about a tiny little isolated rural high school like I went to, except maybe with a drama class.  Mind you, the actors are bona fide Shakespearean actors, but they are stage actors who are not used to playing for the camera -- and this is not something that someone like me would notice if it were not glaringly obvious.  Filming them as if they were screen actors just hangs them out to dry.

In the edition of these productions that I have been watching, there is a quote from the critical journal TV Guide on the back covers: "Shakespeare would be amused by the care, money, time and talent that are being lavished on the mammoth task of producing all 37 of his plays."  To which I say (beyond "learn how to use commas in a list, TV Guide") the word is not "amused."  The word is "appalled."  The time investment, I can't speak for.  Money?  The series clearly either had a laughably austere budget or somebody was doing some pretty lavish embezzling indeed.  I have been flattering this series in previous reviews by describing its "soap opera production values," but honestly I've never seen a soap opera with such a tatty, cheap, amateur look.  However much money was "lavished" on these productions, it was apparently not enough to create adaptations of the plays that were suitable for television broadcast.

Talent?  I don't know.  Perhaps Elijah Moshinsky is an incredibly talented guy.  But I would bet that anyone reading this little diatribe could have staged a filming of Love's Labours Lost better than he pulled off here.  For instance, in a play with three fairly equivalent major male characters and three fairly equivalent major female characters, it might have occurred to you, Gentle Reader, not to (a) cast actors who look broadly similar to each other, nor to (b) dress them in unremarkable clothing of an identical neutral shade, nor furthermore to (c) make that clothing the exact same shade as the walls which they are to be filmed against.  No, it is really that bad.  I do not recommend that you check it out to see for yourself, for this adaptation sucks.

Clocks In At: Two hours.

Pros: Honestly, these BBC productions completely drain the life and joy and energy out of the plays of Shakespeare.  It is particularly painful with the comedies, which are after all intended to be amusing.  I've tried to play along with them, but they are awful.  They make me a little sick and a little angry.  If all I'd ever seen was these adaptations, I would think that Shakespeare appreciation was some kind of elaborate cultural hoax on the part of, well, whoever.

Watching this series is the opposite of everything that watching Shakespeare should be.  Its adaptations fail to entertain, amuse, provoke, educate, or stimulate.  Having it be the standard go-to complete set of filmed Shakespeare is just a damn shame.  For real.  As in, as inheritors of the English-speaking tradition, we should all feel just a little bit ashamed that this is the best our civilization could do with our marquee dramatist.

But, I've heard that a few of them are slightly less bad.  Not that anyone has offered any specific examples.

Cons: It's very bad.

Prognosis: Clearly, this situation calls for a change of plans.  The idea of this project wasn't to develop an aversion to Shakespeare, after all, but to enjoy filmed adaptations of the plays while getting to know them a little better.  It's been the attempt at being comprehensive that drove me to so many of these BBC abominations, which are often the only filmed versions that the Multnomah County Public Library, an otherwise excellent institution, has on hand for the less well-known plays.

So here's a saner project.  Instead of proceeding masochistically from individual play to individual play, I'll actually start sampling from the selection of [non-BBC series] adaptations that are actually available to me.  This will focus more of my attention on the big-name plays, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Maybe I'll check out some opera or ballet adaptations!  Maybe I'll check out some of the various documentaries about Shakespeare!  Maybe I'll even READ a play or two.  But, in the absence of a specific recommendation from a trusted source, it will be a long while before I go back to any productions from the BBC series.  Because, gentle reader, they suck.  They really do.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Your Sunday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

To Feel Your Best - Stop and Rest at 20th Century Touritst Cottages, Highways 61-63-64-70-79, West Memphis, Ark.  22 Cabins - Air Conditioned -Circulating Hot Air Heat.  "Pop" Phillips, Partner and Mgr.  Phone 167.

Provenance: Gift of L&TM5K regular Elaine, who defaced the card front with the "No Good lie" inscription several years back.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Mountain Goat Chronicles

Tonight, Mrs.5000 and I are seeing the Mountain Goats in concert. To share the love with you, gentle reader, I am stone cold ripping off this embedded video from Andrea of The Art of Staying Up All Night.

The Mountain Goats cover Jawbreaker

It's a fine (although not particularly representative) introduction to the Mountain Goats experience, if you don't mind a mild saturation-bombing by the Starbucks marketing people.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Flag Friday XXX

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Liking Qatar's "Good Shape, Parsons gives it a "B+", 75/100.

Michael5000: There's no other flag quite like Qatar's -- except, um, Bahrain's, and since they live next door it can be hard to keep the two straight in your head.  Qatar's is maroon as opposed to Bahrain's red, and has more serrations in the serrated line between the color and the white.  Apparently, the symbolism of the two serrations is completely different, but I am not buying any theory of independent evolution.

Incidently, Qatar not only has a too-long bad shape, but with a prescribed ratio of 11:28 a faintly ridiculous one.

Grade: B-


Parsons: Without comment, it gets a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Identical to the flag of Chad.  How did this come to be?  I told the story back in May 2010 when we talked about Chad:
[Romania] had used a blank tricolor in the past, but during the communist era... there was an appropriate communist national symbol in the yellow stripe. 
During that time period, newly independent Chad decided that it would make its flag the tricolor of primaries, since nobody else was using it.  But then:
After the cretinous Ceauşescu dictatorship was toppled in the late '80s, [the communist] symbols began to be torn off or cut out of Romania's flags, sometimes leaving a defiant hole in the yellow stripe. 

In 1989, the blank tricolor was made official -- but this rendered Romania's flag identical to what was now an existing national flag, Chad's. Chad complained about this to the U.N. in 1994, but Romania understandably didn't feel like changing at that point. I can't imagine that anyone in the international diplomatic community felt too excited about taking the question on; in any event, the issue seems to have faded. If Romania and Chad ever go to war using 18th Century infantry tactics, though, there's going to be real trouble.
Parsons gave Romania a "B" and Chad a "B-."  I gave Chad an "A-," and will give Romania a:

Grade: A-

Russia(n Federation)

Parsons: Without comment, it gets a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: Among the benefits of the dissolution of the Soviet Empire has been a profusion of new flags, most of which are pretty cool.  I'm going to include the "new" Russian tricolor on this list.  I used quotes there, though, because this new flag actually dates back to the seventeenth century.  There are various stories about how it was one way or another reconstructed from the Dutch flag, which is one of those plausible ideas about which we will never know if it is true or not.

Anyway, I wouldn't have thought that anything "new" could have been done with red, white, and blue.  But the surprising placement of the white stripe kind of remakes the color scheme.  It's "fresh."

Grade: A-


Parsons: Disliking "Plagiarism," "Writing," and that it's a "Bad Tricolour," he gives it a "D", 40/100.  "Writing a big R on an overused tricolour spectacularly unoriginal."

Michael5000:   Parsons was, of course, hating on the fairly cringeworthy former flag of Rwanda.  You remember:

In abandoning this design, Rwanda earned the Most Improved Flag prize in the L&TM5K Awards for Flag Merit back in 2008, beating out Georgia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and Lesotho.  "A profound improvement," commented a slightly younger Michael5000.

Grade: A-

St. Kitts and Nevis

Parsons: Without comment, it gets a "B+", 76/100.

Michael5000: Given my famous enthusiasm for white stripelets, though, you might assume that this flag would work for me.  But to tell you the truth, yellow stripelets leave me a little cold, especially sitting next to white stars.  I think either all white or all gold would have been a better idea.  Interesting geometry, though, of the angle of the diagonal being parallel with one of the lines of a perfectly upside-down star.  See what I mean?

Grade: B-