Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cuban Maracas and Mexican Sombreros

I'm slowly getting back into the mood for outfit posts.  I received this deadstock blouse as a gift from my friend at the Robot Exchange.  I'm in love with bows, tie necks, and ascots.  I bought this 1930s celluloid brooch off of Etsy last year.  It's a tiny working Cuban maraca, which has the hilarious side effect of making me want to shimmy around while wearing it.  It's the same color palette as my Mexican novelty skirt, which has little caballeros playing guitars.  
Outfit details: 
1950s rhinestone cateye sunglasses: Etsy
1950s Celebrity blouse: Robot Exchange
1950s patent leather belt: Estate
1950s Mexican novelty skirt: Ebay
red crinoline: Ebay
assorted Bakelite bangles: Ebay
1930s La Conga brooch: Etsy
shoes: Poetic License

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mid-century Photographs from the CF&I Steel Mill archives

While I was putting together the Pueblo Modern show, I spent a lot of time tracking down photographic images from some local sources.  I had some wonderful images that were provided for me from families that grew up in our post-war neighborhoods and also some civic event photos, such as parades and fairs from the Pueblo Library district.  By far, the best resource that I found for images was the CF&I Steel Mill Archives.  Their images go back to the turn of the century and are an absolutely brilliant resource and  teaching tool.  Most of the really old images have already been scanned and cataloged, but the photos from the recent past were still in folders, untapped.  My lovely friend Sara, an archivist at the Museum, let me peruse all the images with some very fashionable protective gloves. ;)
   The Kadoya Gallery was able to enlarge quite a few of the images to be displayed at the Pueblo Modern Exhibition, but honestly, the entire show could have JUST been CF&I images.  I hope the museum will eventually open up a section to display some of these treasures, but in the mean time I'd like to share some of them here.

Eat your heart out, Mad Men!

Interested in industrial history? Check out the Steelworks Museum.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Posting Spaces, Saving Places Event

A special, mid-century themed, blogging event highlighting the relevance of this era through fashion, photography, travel, leisure, and hobbies.
Portland, OR
Janey Ellis of Atomic Redhead on Preserving the Past
Portland, OR

 Jessica Cangiano of Chronically Vintage on fostering a love of history in young children
British Columbia, Canada

Joanna Van of  Dividing Vintage Moments on preserving vintage clothing.
New York, NY

Frances Swiecki of Polka Polish on Living in Vintage
Cambridge, MA

Stephanie Lynn of The Girl with the Star Spangled Heart on loving history through fashion.
Dayton, OH

Daffne Laurito of A Vintage Nerd on What Makes us Vintage Girls
New York, NY

A Special Thanks to Noel Kerns for agreeing to let us highlight his hauntingly beautiful photographs of vacant and abandoned buildings.

Jeff & Kelly Kunkle of Vintage Roadside
Portland, OR

Rich Sommer, actor on Mad Men, of Rich Likes Games
Los Angeles, CA

Just Peachy speaking about picking Mid-Century photo locations
Pueblo, CO

Game Design and Modern History by Jason Matthews

When I think about American 20th Century History, I always think back on a scene in the Simpsons.  It’s the last day of school, and Bart and Lisa’s teacher is desperately cramming the last bits of US history into the final minutes of the school year.  The school bell rings and the kids pour out into the street.  The teacher frantically calls out after them from the window of the class room.  “Wait, wait!” he yells.  “You don’t even know who won World War II yet!”  He pauses slightly, and says “We win!”  Then the kids go marching home chanting USA! USA! USA! 

I think most of us have experienced something similar.  American history keeps expanding, but the time to teach it is static.  So ironically, the recent past is the period of American history that receives short shrift, even though the civic lessons contained within it may be the most relevant to the operations of our democracy. 

My own connection to modern American history follows the quintessential bit of writer’s advice “write about what you know.”  Well, I do not write.  But I do design games, and I am passionate about history.  So game design allowed me to merge two passions, and I turned to subjects with which I had some familiarity.  My first game, Twilight Struggle focused on the Cold War.  And if you studied political science in the 1980s, like I did, functionally, you studied the Cold War in all its forms.  So when Ananda Gupta and I settled on this topic for a game, it was a matter of editing what I knew about the Cold War and distilling it to game form rather than an elaborate research component first.

Ananda and I got lucky.  We designed a game that suited the public mood in a strange way.  We were entering the age of terrorism, and the post-911 world.  In weird ways, it was scarier, more uncertain and more complex than the world of the Cold War.  And suddenly, there was a little bit of nostalgia for the old world order.  So people were receptive to our theme, and ultimately to the game play.  So we had a very gratifying success in the hobby game world.

I think games are a superb way to teach history, and teach it to Americans in particular.  Generally speaking, American historical knowledge is so low, any exposure is an improvement on where we start out.  Personally, I learned all my geography that way.  The realities of World War I’s entangling alliances were brought home to me through Diplomacy, and I literally had no knowledge of what happened between the Romans and 1066 in England until I played Britannia.  Education, cleverly disguised as entertainment, is always the best.  It seeps into the brain without resistance.  The lessons are intuitive because the interrelationships are illustrated for you, and become self-evident, rather than a function of rote memory.  The competitive aspect of gaming helps keep engagement levels up.  When I was in junior high, the honors history teacher employed gaming as a teaching technique.  The kids would walk around the school talking about the fun game they were playing.  I was not in honors history in junior high – which 30 years later -- is somehow still a sore spot.  But in any case, even then I wondered how backwards is this?  Why are the kids who enjoy history the ones who are getting the engaging pedagogy?  The rest of our junior high was slogging through their least favorite subject (and it is America’s least favorite subject), using the same old approaches to teach stale material. 

So it has been extremely personally gratifying to have teachers approach and talk to me about using Twilight Struggle and my other games as teaching tools.  And while I didn’t design them for classroom use initially, its really fantastic to know that they are being used in that sort of classroom setting.  Equally gratifying though, is meeting a somewhat younger crowd who have been introduced to the Cold War through Twilight Struggle.  It makes me feel old, but the reality is that a high school senior this year will only have vague recollections of Bill Clinton, and the Cold War is totally a matter of obtuse history.  Most amazing of all is hearing stories of how Twilight Struggle helped bridge generational gaps – helped a father explain what he did in the military --  while his child was young. Then it becomes a tool of connecting personal history and context, and that kind of history is the most impactful of all. 

Ananda and I used a simple approach to our game design.  We accepted that the premises behind the Cold War were true.  That it was a struggle between two “super powers”, that they functionally controlled all of their allies behaviors, that the domino theory was true, etc. etc. etc.  All of these presumptions are debatable and the subjects of intense scholarship.  However, our purpose was not ever to provide a true simulation of the world from 1945 to 1989. A simulation sets the expectation that it will provide results that are predictive.  Our objective was to provide a game that captured the flavor and feel of the Cold War.  We were trying to get inside the psychology of it, so that players felt the tension, the second guessing, and the perceptions of the participants.  To a certain extent, the fact that historians and political scientists will correctly argue that the domino theory was always a sham is beside the point.  American policy acted as if it is true.  And in Twilight Struggle, the game system encourages the players to accept these same biases as reality.  To a certain extent, teaching history through games is like acting before microphones.  If you want to get your point across, it has to be exaggerated so they can see it all the way in the back.  If the performance is too subtle or nuanced, it will get lost in the other details.  I like to think we’ve succeeded in conveying a bit of the feel of the Cold War through our game, and in so doing, helping our players absorb some lessons and history without a painful lecture to get the point across.            

My hope is that more game designers will follow suite with relatively light games that explore history, but build the historical detail into the game system.  I believe Volko Ruhnke has been doing heroic things with his games on modern, low intensity conflicts, but there is room for many more designers in this space.  I think Twilight Struggle illustrated that the audience is already there.  And like those school kids in the Simpsons, they’re just waiting for someone to tell them who won World War II!
A Special Thanks to Jason Matthews for this contribution, and a shout out to my super cute friend Gillian Bland for taking these pics with me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Have we been short changed?

                                         A guest post by that guy I married...Wade Broadhead.
I'm honored to have an opportunity, from that beautiful dame I married, to talk about one of my favorite obscure topics: Mid-Century storefront alterations. Now, I'm not an expert (um... yes, there are experts, and I know them!) It can be easy to get behind the beauty of Palm Springs Modernism, Arapahoe Acres in Denver, or your local "high style" bank, but these permutations in your Downtowns are tough to swallow for some.  These buildings are often "short changed" as 'change' is THE defining aspect of Modernism. Our automobile-centric new suburbs rolled out the streamlined Modern look, but we forget that through the 1950s, many Downtowns thrived and they too became:  "Modern".

1940s fur vintage dress Just Peachy, Darling
These are buildings that were built in 1904 or 1884 and by 1950 they were hopelessly 'outdated' with annoying details and architectural elements. Solution: storefront makeover. A cheap applique, some 'architectural makeup' could conceal all those hopeless interesting and articulated storefront elements into a modern masterpiece.  My favorite is this aluminium 'slip cover' on this turn of the century building. This building now tells two stories, one of the Progressive Era and one of the Streamlined Modern Era (1930s-40s).  
The second building has a secret jewel that I didn't notice for years. The multicolored recessed terrazzo entryway stamped 'Hughes' is a secret relic, like an architectural artifact speaking to an earlier era when the building wasn't used for excess medical supplies.  These buildings are difficult for preservationists. Which part is significant? What if someone wants to remove the 40s storefront to reveal the 1910  storefront? They are less problematic for non-preservationists, who often live with disparate juxtapositions, and generally enjoy such strangeness side-by-side. Your downtown can be both Historic and Modern, the more stories you can tell with your buildings the richer they are. 
Outfit details: 
1940s Heidi of New York Fur shoulder capelet coat- Robot Exchange
1940s Elinor Gay floral dress: Robot Exchange
white elbow length gloves: an estate
nude seamed stockings: Ebay
Teal spectator shoes: Miss L. Fire

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