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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mom! Dad! Can I buy the model russian jet all shot up with the smoke and fire coming out and dead pilot inside? Please! Please? Please!

Whatd'ya think honey?....maybe if it's all shot up already...he'll leave this one alone?

I once watched a festival gathering of the "Society of the Creative Anachronism". This is an organization of like-minded folks that enjoy dressing in the garb and acting the matching persona for people as the might have lived in Medieval and Renaissance times. This particular celebration was the slaying of the ice dragon or another reason to get together and party because spring is here. There were crafts people selling their wares, knights jousting and fighting to protect either the king's honor, or some damsel in distress. This all took place at my college campus, in the rather modern student union building - anachronism indeed!

What entertains me the most about my discoveries is the anachronism that is revealed in each. What seemed so poignant and so timely when manufactured, designed, and sold now looks comical in today's world. The fortunate fact is, that as a society we haven't found a way to permanently dispose of our creations. In the physical world matter can neither be created nor destroyed. In my universe good junk can neither be destroyed nor thrown out. I can always find a way to dig a little deeper, find it, fix it, frame it, and blog about it. There must be someone looking down on the things I dig up only to moan for the rest of eternity "Hey! That wasn't supposed to last through the ages! Crap!" But it has and that is what I enjoy.

One morning on my way to work, I stopped at an estate sale in Brookfield. I wasn't planning to be late for work, but this could have been a good reason. This was a dig, better yet a dig inside an old farm. After getting a sense of the 2 buildings and the different floors to explore I finally felt as though I could relax and begin the hunt. Part of the challenge is to quickly acclimate yourself to the new surroundings trying not to miss anything. I eventually ran out of time, but not before finding the empty box of the YAK-25. The box art alone spoke volumes to me and I knew I had to have it. I couldn’t get over the name. "Psst! Comrade! The YAK is a long-haired bovine from the Himalayan region in South Central Asia!". I am sure it is named for the glorious designer who likely built it and the other 24 YAK's before it (and the ones that came after). It could be me, but it just didn’t have the same ring to it as F-16, or maybe I am just buying into the propaganda on the cover.
In my research on this piece I had been looking for a picture of the “real” Yak-25. I found several pictures but I started to smell something rotten in Denmark (or Leningrad in this case) when I noticed the difference between the real one and the model.
This looks nothing like the plane on the box cover (smoke and fire aside)! What gives? Turns out that there are numerous critical remarks against Aurora Plastics for how they mishandled the accuracy of some of their designs.

The following comes from Moving Targets - Aviation and Motor sports Imagery owner/webmaster Don was kind enough to let me paraphrase his comments from a post on his forum which refers to the "Yak" model.

I've turned up some new info on the origins of the Aurora MiG-19 kit. I had a chance to talk (via email) with an officer that I worked with at NSA …He maintains that he knows how Aurora came up with the design for their Yak-25/Mig-19, but is still reluctant to give up all the details. According to him they did the design of their kit solely on the evidence of 1 Soviet propaganda poster that was done to encourage workers to meet or exceed their production "norms" (something that didn't happen often back then). They rushed into production so as to "scoop" their competitors. The plane was called the Yak-25 at first as a smokescreen to hide the fact that they had gotten hold of the poster, which was classified. When Lindberg stole the kit's design and produced their own version, Aurora chose to change the name back to MiG-19.

Don was nice enough to include that the US fighter successfully takin' on the Ruskies is a US Navy Grumman F9F Panther. USA! USA! USA!

Well, there you have it. Not a "YAK-25" at all, but the MIG-19! I never would have guessed.

The alternate title for this post was to be an homage to WKRP in Cincinnati:
"As God as my witness..I thought Yak's could fly."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Connecticut, like totally rocks!

I guess you could say I am motivated by symbolism. I look at everything in search of some other relevant alternative meaning. This doesn't make me a philosopher, it merely serves my own desire for a laugh.I hit the tag sale trail each weekend (or whenever they occur) as an opportunity to gather material and practice pulling incongruous symbolic references out of (almost) thin air. I want to look at everything I can because in each object or subject there could lie the perfect pun, metaphor, site gag, etc.

Beach combing is much like tag sale'ing, just about anything can float ashore, dead fish, medical waste, bits of mystery, and every now and then – treasure. I found this rock resting in the mud along the shore of a lake, I think it has an uncanny resemblance to the shape of Connecticut. Whether tag sale'ing or beach combing, in either situation you are not allowed to be to shocked at what you come across, because you are actively looking. I suppose if you were reading or sunbathing and the tide brought in a fish head and replaced it with your suntan lotion you would have every right to scowl, shriek, and write to your congressman about the appalling conditions of the environment. The message is that: you can find what ever you’re looking for, and often what ever you’re not. In fact, I get the biggest thrill out of finding what I haven’t been looking for. Think about it - If I knew it was there, I might not have found it. - Whoa! For someone who claims to not be a philosopher - that's either deep or deeply troubling.

So, I guess I would have to confess I am interested in geology with a bent toward archeology as well. I can't pass by any interesting rock without considering its shape (as above) or it's age, how it came to be in the shape it's in as well as how it it came to be here. I owned a home in New Milford and when I moved in I was lucky enough to have the previous owner leave a few things that I consider treasures. I had never seen petrified wood before, but knew this rock was something special when I saw this in the corner of the garage. The pattern of the layers was too tight and defined to be regular sedimentary rock and although heavy, still looked like a piece of wood.It was dense, weighing about 5 pounds and about 7 inches long by 4 inches high. The unique part of this rock is what is left of the center of the tree known as the heartwood. This is an inactive part of the tree (an understatement in this case) which is there to strengthen the tree. (I keep wanting to call it "pith", but so far I can't find any research that will support this.) It has petrified to an almost ceramic quality.
I do see rocks for sale at tag sales, usually the ornamental kind polished geode slices, and the occasional section of amethyst (I'm sucker for that). I was at a Bridgewater sale and found a selection of interesting rocks I couldn't identify and one I couldn't pass up.
I have looked this over a hundred times. It is a smooth stone with a continuous ridge wrapping around it so as to appear to have be bound, or bound to something. The wrapping is as hard as the rock, which is about 4" x 3" and weighs about 1.5lbs.
I want to believe that is is a ancient artifact, like a stone axe, or weapon of some kind. It lacks any dirt or collected sediment in any of the creases. It is in almost too good a condition, and it may be a reproduction, but of what?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Freedom Land?... Are we there...yet?

Happy belated Independence Day!

There are so many more distractions these days that prevent the younger set from experiencing the boredom we suffered in the suburbs of our post-war parents. Sure I'm dating myself, but I want to continue on this roller coaster of nostalgia neuralgia.

In this post I want to explore some of those amazing destinations we never got to see but sure were hooked by the commercials and print ads. How far was the nearest amusement park to your house? Growing up in White Plains, NY I was just out of reach from Rye, Playland. I was taken there a couple of times by my parents and it was both magical and frightening . It was sensory overload and I did all I could to keep the dream alive that we would go back again. I never did get my fill of that place, though I did try begging and pleading. I am still getting over the fact that the Danbury Fair was only 40 miles from our house and we never went, but that was before air conditioning and 65mph speed limits.

Fast forward to present day - I drove one Saturday to a Ridgefield tag sale simply because it was there. It looked like any other, maybe they were moving, or downsizing, or maybe they just wanted to make room and a little cash at the same time. There are some sales that you just know they’re going to be good. This one may have been easy to spot because of the condition of not just the house but the landscaping as well. This was a quality garage sale, though there wasn’t a cornucopia of treasure; in fact, there wasn’t much treasure at all. Rather than give up, I kept looking, and finally I was rewarded with a cardboard box of old theme park books. Similar to the kind of pile one accumulates after years of travel; there were fliers, brochures, maps, and few post cards thrown in. There wasn’t a great quantity of items but there was one that really grabbed me, but the appropriate time to reveal that will have to wait until September. It was the age of the Disney books that lead me to purchase and then there was this other one I'd never heard of...

At the close of the 1950's Walt Disney was on his way to creating the theme park and entertainment empire we know today. But at that time The west coast Disneyland was all there was, Walt hadn't yet decided to build in the middle of a swamp in Orlando. So, take one disgruntled Disney park designer and add an East coast millionaire and together they made a plan for putting a "Disney-Like" theme Park in a part of the country untapped by Walt. All they needed was a piece of land near a few major highways, just like Walt's...

Built in 1960 at a cost of approximately 65 million it was the largest theme park in the country. With the United States as the "theme" the park design was laid out in this obvious shape.
Each section was devoted to a section of the United States and included attractions based on the area.(Click for an almost readable image) Apparently Alaska and Hawaii weren't um, free? Although somewhat negative as an homage to the good 'ole USA when you get to the mid west there was nothing more exciting than a visit to the
burning embers of that once great city, oh well, I suppose it's better than the slaughter houses they could have focused on. Unfortunately, Freedom Land suffered from some bad luck and poor planning. Despite its proximity to NYC there was no subway service to the park. The swampy land adjacent to the park created large swarms of mosquitoes in the summer. The highways that were right nearby were inadequate for handling the initial response to the park and massive traffic jams occurred. All these things combined with some other interesting tidbits (found here) contributed to the closing of the park after only 4 years.

Walt picked the Florida property and purchased it almost as Freedom Land closed. It was gone before I was born, so I can't blame my parents for not taking me.