Friday, July 9, 2021

"Whispers of Transylvania" photo postcards

A few years ago I acquired some postcards from a set titled "Whispers of Transylvania" (Romanian: Șoapte din Transilvania). Many of the cards were not in great shape; they had worn corners, moderate scuffing and, in the worst cases, water damage. 

But they're still fascinating postcards and unlike much else that I've come across. On the fronts are sepia photos affixed to black card stock. Also on the fronts are Romanian verses in shiny, hard-to-read lettering and a logo (Suflet Romănesc). There was an attempt to create high-end postcards; these must have been expensive to produce. 

The beautiful photographs show farm and folk life in Transylvania. There are old buildings, misty fields, laborers, haystacks, a cemetery and children in traditional costumes. The idea that we're glimpsing a centuries-old culture that hasn't been touched much by the modern world is well-conveyed.

All of the photographs are credited to Andrei Posmoșanu, whose work I've also found online at and on the Bradshaw Foundation website.

On the reverse side of the postcards, there are short, English-language poems. These are translations of the Romanian verses that appears on the front of the postcard. For example, the poem for the card at the top of this post reads:

When I lose myself in sunny dreams
When I slide into oblivion's streams
The world is large, the world is near
I linger and hide and never fear
And silently lurk at the forest's deer.

And the poem for the haystack postcard below reads:

But there comes a day to reach the sky
Through sun, and rain, and cold so dry
To see horizons and days long gone
To see what's done and still undone.

I didn't say they were good poems. One wonders which came first: The rhyming English versions, or the Romanian versions, which were perhaps translated liberally, with an eye toward simple, appealing language? One also worries for the deer in the forest.

The reverse side of the postcards also features a circular logo for Traditie Vie (Living Tradition) and a "Born in Transylvania" logo. And then there are two URLs: and As of this post's publication date, the first URL is a dead link and the second URL takes you to a page that states only: :) Coming Soon  

This further supports my suspicion that this was a fledgling project in which the costs got out of hand, production was halted and the business went under. That's a shame, because there are some really nice intentions here, and wonderful photography.

Here are some of the other cards from the series. (And, again, they're not in mint condition.)

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Imaginative, but not what I mean by "walkable city"

This magazine illustration by Ohio-born artist and political cartoonist Grant E. Hamilton (1862-1926) is titled "What we are coming to." It was published in the February 16, 1895, issue of Judge magazine.

If you are more enamored than I am with the idea of vertical cities, check out, this article on WRNS Studio, this 2017 blog post on misfits' architecture, and a 2018 UnHerd article by Peter Franklin titled "The false promise of the vertical city." 

(And, to be clear, I'm all for future cities that are sustainable and eco-friendly, in addition to be walkable. And I understand that some aspects of such cities might necessarily involve some level of verticality. I'm just a big fan of having my feet on the ground.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Monsieur Cinéma card for "Godspell"

We recently watched a gorgeous Blu-ray version of 1973's Godspell, so now seems like a good time to post this Monsieur Cinéma collector's card for the film.1

The card measures about 5 inches by 8 inches. The French text on the back lists the main credits, actors, summary and a short history of the film. The Des Fiches de Monsieur Cinéma cards have been published since 1976 and new ones are still being produced, at a rate of three dozen a month. According to a translated version of its website, more than 17,000 cards have been produced since 1976. Not all cards are for films; some are for actors and directors. (The only other card I have is the one for Punch-Drunk Love.) The translation also notes that the series was created by Pierre Tchernia ("Monsieur Cinéma") and is written by 28 specialists.

My history with Godspell dates to the late 1970s, when I remember watching it on TV in Clayton, New Jersey, and not fully understanding it. I have a recollection of singing "Day by Day" in middle school chorus, but now I'm wondering if that's a false memory, or if I've conflated it with something else (Barry Manilow's "Daybreak," which we definitely sang?) I mean, "Day by Day" is pretty short for a musical selection and, furthermore, it doesn't seem to adhere to the desired separation of church and state we'd prefer to see in public schools (though in my case we're talking rural Pennsylvania in the early 1980s).

Other than being a quality musical, Godspell also now serves as an amazing time capsule of what New York City looked like in the early 1970s (and without people other than the cast members in most shots!). That includes scenes showing — and shots taken atop — the World Trade Center.

In a 2006 article for The Washington Post, Jonathan Padget writes: "[In] the especially breathtaking moment ... the performers give up the streets for rooftops, ultimately singing and dancing their hearts out atop the unfinished World Trade Center. It's a scene punctuated with dramatic aerial camerawork that pulls away from the cast until the twin towers stand in full view, proudly staking their brash, fresh claim on the Manhattan skyline."

My favorite bit of Godspell movie trivia is that Victor Garber, who plays Jesus, started his association with Godspell in the 1972 Toronto production alongside a group of unknown young actors who were just starting their own careers: Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin and (joining the cast later) Dave Thomas. And the show's musical director was Paul Shaffer!
1. Last three films watched: Godspell, Phantom Thread, Kagemusha.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021


Author Sim Kern is far more notable than I or this blog will ever be, and doesn't need my amplification, but I still wish to save a recent brilliant Twitter thread (rated PG-13) they wrote for posterity.1 The author of 2020's Depart, Depart! wrote about the billionaires jostling to get themselves into space, and why that aspect of the "space race," particularly in this precarious moment for Earth, is so very wrong:
"If any of you are under the impression that our billionaires might succeed in 'escaping' to space, while the world burns, let me put those fears to rest with what I know from being the spouse of a NASA flight controller. For a half-dozen people to exist up on the ISS, it takes a ground team of thousands of people, constantly problem-solving how to keep them alive. Their quality of life is bouncing around in a narrow tube with the same 5 people who can't really bathe for months. Every minute of their day is micromanaged so they can survive. They follow strict exercise regimens to keep their bones from turning to goo. They spend a ton of time studying systems and conducting repairs on equipment that's continually breaking because SPACE WANTS TO KILL YOU

"Their sleeping situation is akin to a floating coffin. Their pooping situation is a 20-something-step process in a port-o-potty where everything FLOATS and the door is a plastic curtain. The wifi cuts out at regular intervals. The food is NOT michelin starred, to say the least. The only reason they're alive up there at all is because multiple countries have thousands of brilliant, highly-trained engineers and doctors and astrophysicists and computer experts whose full-time job is keeping the astronauts alive and the ISS functioning. When something breaks, as it continually does, these teams SCRAMBLE to devise fixes and solutions. And these fixes, lemme tell ya, they are tedious. This year, working from home, I have seen the schematics and overheard bits of meetings, and oh my GOD is it tedious. And the spacewalks where they go out to repair these broken things? It takes dozens of hours of study to do each one. And then it's maybe four, six hours in a suit, with stiff, bulky gloves, all 'Drive bolt 7A into dock 31X' until their fingers are shaking with exhaustion. 

"So there's no future where Bezos and Branson are sipping champagne next to their space-pool on Low-Earth Maralago, ok? There's no way life in space could be remotely comfortable or preferable to life on earth in their lifetimes, or for many generations to come, or probably ever. The longest anyone's lived in space was Scott Kelly, who spent a year in space, got home, and immediately retired.2 He'd spent all his life preparing and training to be in space, and found it extremely physically and psychologically grueling to up there for just one year. So this billionaire 'space race' is nothing more than a dick-measuring contest between Musk, Bezos, and Branson. They are not investing billions to forward science or the bounds of human possibility. They are doing it to be the first rich guy to bounce around uselessly up there.

"And it's utterly despicable when you understand that they're funding it with the hoarded wealth of workers who are struggling just to exist. With ill-gotten money made from supply chains that enslave people and are destroying the future possibility of life on earth. But if it troubles you that they might SUCCEED, that those three assholes might ever spend more than a week in space and ENJOY it, let me put your mind at ease. Not in this lifetime. With all their billions, they have no power to make space a better place to be than earth. I don't know if they realize the futility, if they're AWARE that this whole space race is just a pissing contest to see who can get to zero-G fastest? Or if being a billionaire makes you so delusional that they really think they can buy a Mars colony in their lifetimes. IDK

"Join me in enjoying the fact that they won't find anything up there but a lot of time to sit with the gaping void inside them, which space certainly won't fill, while forcibly holding their asscheeks to a suctioning toilet seat, bc they're constipated as hell from astronaut food. The world is burning3, and our billionaires are the people MOST responsible, but at least there's no escape for them. They will live and die (alone, like all of us) on this beautiful, precious, one-in-a-gazillion planet. We should take our wealth back from them and use it better."


1. Kern's Twitter profile (on 7/6/2021): "Climate fiction writer, enviro journalist w/ @onebreathHOU lefty, Jewish, #FreePalestine, trans, they/them. Rep’d @litagentmariah Links:"
2. For clarity, it should be noted that Scott Kelly has only lived in space the longest of any American on a single spaceflight (340.4 days). That ties him with Russia's Mikhail Kornienko for fourth on the list of the longest human spaceflights, as of this year. Three Russian or Soviet Union astronauts are ahead of Kelly and Kornienko on the list. Furthermore, Kelly is only 22nd on the list of the most cumulative time spent in space; Americans Peggy Whitson and Jeffrey Williams are ahead of him on that list.
3. I can confirm this. I live within sight of the smoke from the Telegraph Fire. And yesterday we drove past the harrowing Tiger Fire.

Postcrossing arrivals featuring cats and books

A pair of cheery Postcrossing arrivals in recent days have featured the always-winning combination of cats and books. First up (above) is this wonderful Rudi Hurzlmeier illustration of two cats reading. It was sent by Birgit in the Netherlands, who writes: "When I have a book & a cat I'm quite good at staying in a room for quite a while — but I must confess that eventually I do feel the need to go out a bit, & I'm happy out lockdown is over now." I agree, though the temperature is 107° F here in Arizona today, so I don't have a tremendous longing to spend much time outside.
The second postcard is from Alexandra, who live in Chartres, France. The postcard showcases a bookstore in Toronto, Canada, called Acadia Art and Rare Books. The black cat on the postcard is Frodo, Acadia's bookstore cat. I think Frodo looks a lot like our Mr. Bill (below), who is doing better this evening after a harrowing trip to the veterinarian this morning.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Hoping to see UFOs for 1976 bicentennial Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July! I promised more "saucer shenanigans" on June 2, so here we go with one tied to Independence Day. During the 1976 bicentennial (I was only 5, so I don't remember much), everything was tied into America's 200th anniversary. And I do mean everything; check out "17 vintage ads that prove everything was patriotic in the summer of '76."

With everything in 1976 reflecting the Spirit of 1776, why not UFOs, too? It was only natural, given that the 1970s were a decade in which the burgeoning UFO interest of the 1950s and 1960s was built upon by the likes of Project Blue Book, the Holloman Air Force Base conspiracy, Travis Walton's alleged abduction, and the bonkers books of Erich von Däniken.

Plenty of folks worked to commercialize the UFO fervor, so why not go one step further and meld aliens and the Founding Fathers (not literally, of course)?

Which brings us to this vintage tri-fold brochure. I've unfolded and scanned it for the two images at the top of this post. As you can see, it's advertising the "unique bicentennial experience" of the "1st official U.F.O. landing port" in Lake City, Pennsylvania. Lake City is a tiny borough in Erie County, northwestern Pennsylvania. You can imagine how it would have been an economic boon to draw UFO-fanatic tourism to the area that summer. It's a bit harder, however, to imagine aliens deciding to choose little Lake City as their landing spot.

[Possible Klingon conversation:
— naDev!
— qatlh?
— bIlughbej.]

But Lake City apparently had its paperwork in order. According to the fine print on the handy map (presumably for tourists, not aliens), the landing port at Lake Erie Community Park was "approved by the American Revolution Bi-centennial Commission under project #019429."

Because the last thing you wanted to do in the summer of '76 was get caught running an unauthorized landing area for extraterrestrials. 

So what's the story behind this?

For starters, Lake City does not shy away from this history. On the borough's official website, it states: "In 1976 Bicentennial celebrations were held throughout the year including a square dance, a quilt raffle, Miss UFO pageant and Sunday in the Park. The UFO landing site was created at the entrance of Community Park and captured worldwide attention." 

(I might need a separate post just to deal with the Miss UFO pageant. I haven't even fully wrapped my mind around the idea of the UFO landing port yet.)

In 2017, the website Weird Universe provided some more details about the history of the Lake City landing port. An excerpt:
"The landing port consisted of  'a grass-covered mound five feet high and 100 feet in diameter, bordered by red and blue lights.' A representative from the Tucson, Arizona Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization checked it out and said approvingly that he was relieved it wasn't 'a schlock thing.'"
Dayton Daily News. September 10, 1978. Screenshot from 

Two years after the bicentennial, in September 1978, Dayton (Ohio) Daily News reporter Bob Batz wrote a story about the landing port and how it had its origins in an idea by Lake City Chamber of Commerce president Jim Meeder. He had decided in 1976 that what "Lake City needed was a landing site for UFOs, just in case a craft from outer space ever took a notice to touch down," Batz wrote. Mayor Floyd Cornell was on board with the idea.

The commercialization further extended to bumper stickers, license plate holders, keychains and "other assorted doo-dads," Batz reported. Hundreds of people attended an event at the landing site on July 4, 1976, and "thousands" of tourists visited Lake City that summer, so the "little green men" gambit was a success.

But by 1978, the landing port had already become neglected.

"The grass on the site was permitted to grow high, and vandals caused considerable damage in the area," Batz reported. "It's in a sad state of disrepair. Lights that once made the landing site visible have been removed, as has the American flag that once flew atop a pole."

Batz wrote that neither Meeder nor Cornell wanted to talk much about the Spirit of '76 UFO endeavor.

"It got a lot of publicity in the newspapers and on the television and people (who) flocked here to see it really did put us on the map," Meeder told Batz. "But now well ... I don't know what's going to happen."

It's 45 years later and, while the tourism dollars are no longer rolling in, it's safe to say that one of Lake City's claims to fame remains secure.