Friday, October 30, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I picked up this great postcard at my local grocery. It is a welcome addition to the other three blanket toss postcards I posted previously. This one, like the others, shows natives and tourists having a great time throwing people into the air. I like that all the folks in this shot have big smiles on their faces.
These blanket toss postcards are popular with my blog readers. It seems people are interested because of the obvious, it looks like fun, and it gives a glimpse into the traditional way of life most people never see. These photo postcards show a relatively new use for a traditional activity -- the sharing of a traditional hunting skill with tourists from outside the community. For eons, the blanket toss is used to spot game, usually during the spring whaling festival (see below).
These postcards show how gracious native communities can be in sharing their heritage. The cards also preserve a snapshot of that heritage for the world. It is obvious that not everyone can travel to Alaska nor live the subsistence way of life, yet everyone can be enriched by learning about these practices. I am grateful that when I lived in Western Alaska, native people openly shared their life and traditions with me. I gained survival skills during that time that served me well on several occasions. It also gave me a whole new perspective on native cultures based on the sometimes harsh realities of life on the coast.Reader Rob Schmidt was kind enough to send some details about the blanket toss, which is part of the hunting festival called Nalukataq by the Inupiaq Eskimos. According to Ron, "Nalukataq is the spring whaling festival of the Inupiaq Eskimos of Northern Alaska, and is characterized most famously by the Eskimo blanket toss... It (the blanket) is made from several bearded seal skins sewn together in a circle or square. A rope extends from each corner, and is pulled tightly between four wooden beams using block and tackle. This raises the blanket to about waist height. Men and women circle the blanket and hold the edges, and pull out on the blanket to throw the blanket dancer in the air. Anyone may be thrown on the blanket, but traditionally the captains and their wives go first. Originally they threw out goods, such as clothing, tools, or food as a means of demonstrating their ability to provide, but today that tradition has evolved, and wives of the captains throw candy to surrounding children once airborne. This event is the highlight and namesake of the festival, and may last several hours. Following the blanket toss, everyone gathers for a traditional dance."
For more details on the Nalukataq, see this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalukataq
Rob Schmidt is the author of several blogs and a web site. His Pictographs and Newspaper Rock blogs are Rob's take on current affairs from a multicultural perspective. His web site, Blue Corn Comics, showcases his comic book publication Peace Party in which native comic characters are cast as superheros. It is also filled with links and commentary on Native Americans as they are misportrayed in pop culture. Rob's mission is to dispel stereotypes of Native Americans in mainstream society, especially in popular media.
Friday, October 16, 2009
In an era of steam locomotives, these trains pointed to the future of rail power. They were diesel-powered and made of lightweight stainless steel. Their streamlined modernistic lines inspired a nation still hamstrung by the grip of the Great Depression. They pointed to a prosperous future. Yet, history intervened. World War II began six years later. Following the war, America invested heavily in automobile infrastructure and trains were placed on the backburner of public policy.
Reading a postcard price guide book the other day, I made a discovery that within my collection are several valuable postcards. The Denver Zephyrs two-color postcard above was valued at $8, according to Diane Allmen's book, The Official Identification and Price Guide to Postcards, published in 1990. Seeing that the book was published almost 20 years ago, I assume that valuation may have increased. If I wanted to sell it, which I do not, it might fetch $12 or maybe more. A quick search on line shows this train is very popular with collectors. Many views of the Zephyrs are going now for $35 and one for $395 here. The same search did not turn up my postcard, so maybe it is a rare find. Though I don't collect cards as an investment, it is always a delightful surprise to find out that my pack rat tendencies have some monetary value.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
When I was a very small boy, my father used to remind me each time I walked out the door not to take any wooden nickels. At the time, I took that to mean don’t accept anything fake, including raw deals from shysters, overpriced goods from unscrupulous merchants or BS from friends or acquaintances. I still heed his advice and thought about it when I saw wooden postcards for sale this summer.
I have postcards made of tin, copper and cedar but did not have a birch wood postcard. Midway through summer, I saw some on a rack in one of the many tourist traps along what it known by locals as “Glitter gulch,” located just outside the entrance to
This birch wood postcard is very well done and sports an image on canvas which is glued on the wood. The style and name of Mt. McKinley National Park show that it is a reproduction of an historic painted postcard. (The park's name was changed to Denali National Park in 1980.) The color contrast of the composition gives the white mountain, which is intended to represent Mt. McKinley, an almost three dimensional effect. Yet the image combined with the words take some poetic license. I do not mean to sound like the artistic police here but there are no tourist cabins in such close quarters to Mt. McKinley. In other words, if you see the card and think you can stay in a cabin so close to the "great one" you will have accepted a wooden nickel.
Perhaps the source of inspiration for this image are the cozy cabins at the Camp Denali & Northface Lodge located in the Denali National Park Wilderness Preserve in Kantishna, still some 30 miles from the mountain. The rustic yet elegant cabins (for which you will pay more than 4 c-notes a night) enjoys a spectacular view of the Alaska Range and