Why I Collect View-Master

I’ve had several people reach out to me recently to talk to me about View-Master collecting. Weird for multiple reasons not the least of which is that I could point you in the direction of several people who are much more dedicated to View-Master collecting than I am.

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I liked View-Master as a kid because it dovetailed nicely with my love of movies, TV, and escapism in general. I’ve always loved visual media. I have a degree in film studies, and I’ve always loved picking things apart. I didn’t know this was called semiotics when I first started doing it, but I guess that’s a big piece of what I liked about View-Master.

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Other things I like about it include seeing things I normally wouldn’t or couldn’t see, playing with a mid-century novelty device, getting to peek into the past, picking apart and considering the images and their composition and meaning, as well as the device’s overall connection to pop culture over many decades. I also have this pretty sweet spreadsheet I get to work on whenever I get new reels, and that is deeply satisfying.

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There are also individual reels and recurring themes I enjoy. That list includes flaming dolphins, weird dioramas, great dioramas, sad animals in zoos, images of countries I’ve never visited (often from the 1940s), the delightfully crazy way people once bored holes into ancient trees just for the novelty, the way folks could touch all the walls on a cave tour and didn’t even care they were ruining it for future generations, and the way white ladies sit overdressed and contemplative while staring at a landscape, to name a few.

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There’s certainly an argument to be made that View-Master is a particularly upper middle class and white thing. I don’t think I’m qualified to do that topic justice but it’s important to acknowledge it, I think. Reels and viewers have never been expensive so they weren’t intended for the wealthy, but the images presented in the reels, by and large, offers a glimpse into the destinations of wealthy or worldly white people on vacation at mid-century. I’m not sure if I found it relatable or aspirational when I first started collecting. I didn’t grow up taking vacations regularly. We did little road trips and saw lots of interesting landscapes along the way, however.

One thing I always liked about View-Master, once I began learning about it, was that the creator thought of it as a way to bring the world to everyone. I liked that idea very much. And it’s something I always think about when I see a reel on a topic I haven’t seen before. I liked that they have reels on the history of Chinese art, on how to identify a variety of mushroom types, and that it was used as a tool to teach pilots.

I like it because I still think it’s a tool and a toy that teaches me new things all the time.

I Was Teenage a Podcast

I forgot to post about the podcast I was on for work as editor of restaurant development + design! I was just listening to their new season and realized I never mentioned that I had done their show. The host is lovely and the topics and people are interesting.

I keep thinking we’re going to launch a podcast at work eventually, but we’re already spread fairly thin. But thought I’d post about it all the same for posterity.

Last Fall in NYC

I haven’t updated with anything meaningful in forever.

So I was going through some photos and decided to post some pics from my trip to NYC with my boss last October. She won a super cool “top women in media award” and invited some of us from the office to go with her to pick it up.

We went for a walk from Grand Central to Times Square.

Grand Central Station was right next to our hotel.
Grand Central Station was right next to our hotel.
Times Square
Times Square
Hedwig--Wish I'd had time to see it!
Hedwig–Wish I’d had time to see it!
Times Square
Times Square

Later, I dragged my co-worker Tracy to the Empire State Building after dinner on the night we were there and it was pretty gorgeous!

Times Square from the Empire State Building
Times Square from the Empire State Building
Chrysler Building from the Empire State Building
Chrysler Building from the Empire State Building

I had the next morning to myself and wanted to go for a long walk on the Upper East Side because everything I know about the world I learned from TV, and I figured if Gossip Girl taught me anything it was how to navigate the Upper East Side. So I left my hotel, hailed a cab to the Starbucks closest to Blair Waldorf’s house (he drove me through Central Park to get there) and walked all the way back to Grand Central Station.

Blair Waldorf lives at the top.
1136 5th Avenue, overlooking Central Park.

I got a coffee and a yogurt and went for a walk.

I had a yogurt on the Met Steps, just like Blair Waldorf does every morning.
The Met!
The Guggenheim Museum
Walking on 5th Avenue along Central Park
I left 5th Avenue and saw a bunch of high-end shops, like Kate Spade, etc.
I even cruised past Serena VanDerWoodsen’s house because it was on the way to my hotel!
And I ended my little Gossip Girl tour where the show started: Grand Central.

I’m a dork. And my trip amused me.

ASBPE Gold Award!

I forgot to post but a couple of months back I attended the American Society of Business Publication Editors’ ASBPE awards and won the Gold for Best Use of Social Media for Foodservice Equipment & Supplies!

It was pretty neat because I had already won the Gold when I was nominated for Best Use of Social Media in the Tabbie Awards. So I’ve won both of the highest honors for social media in business publishing!

Just hadn’t posted in awhile but felt like tooting my own horn!

I Grew Up In Flint — and I’m Glad I Left

There’s a post on PolicyMic making the rounds among my Facebook friends called “This is America’s Most Apocalyptic, Violent City — And You’ve Probably Never Heard Of It” and it’s about my hometown, Flint, Mich.

I read it and didn’t think much of it. I take issue with the very premise. Flint is kind of famous for its endless failures and always makes one of the top spots in every variation of the “America’s Most Dangerous Cities” lists that seem to come out several times a year from various news sources. We also have a fairly famous movie enshrining Flint’s endless failures–Roger & Me, of course.

I’ve rarely encountered people in the Midwest who’ve never heard of Flint, even if everything they’ve heard is bad (and it usually is).

The article I linked above made the rounds on Facebook as anything about Flint does among the locals and those of us who grew up there. And it sparked a lot of “but what about the resurgence” talk and a few people even made lists of their own, counting down their favorite things about the city.

I was struck by the simplicity of the lists, because they were the kinds of things anyone would say about a place they lived and liked and the lists basically boiled down to: I love some of the people here and I have a favorite restaurant and also there’s a lovely cultural scene (that is really a sub-culture as I know just as many people who don’t visit any of the city’s cultural amenities as I do those who do).

However, because we’re talking about Flint, there were a few things people liked about the city that sent a shiver up my spine and reminded me that I’m glad I left. Someone posted that they liked how “tough” Flint is, how it sharpens people because it’s a hard city to thrive in.

My husband and I have long-joked about the idea that Flint is “tough”, but it’s an aspect of life there that I don’t miss at all and, in fact, am very happy to not have to deal with anymore. Tough conditions harden people, make them distrustful, fearful, and angry. And the longer I’m away from the Flint the less hard I am, and the more grateful I am for the opportunities I have to be soft and vulnerable. Vulnerability is a skill I’m still learning to enjoy.

This is a very silly example but this past month my husband built a fun piece of “yard art”–a perfect replica of Snoopy’s Dog House from A Charlie Brown Christmas–and it includes items that could easily be stolen. And I wondered what, if anything, would be snatched from the dog house from our yard in suburban Chicago. So far, nothing has been stolen. Not even the silly First Prize ribbon we pinned to the side of it.

But when we went back to Flint for Christmas the topic of the dog house being stolen was brought up repeatedly. “You think it’ll be there when you get back?” “Anything missing from it yet?” Questions like that cropped up every time we talked about it with Flint-area friends and relatives.

When we got home? Everything was still there, even the First Prize pin. And I know it’s a small, silly thing–and much worse and more dangerous things are happening everywhere, all the time–but it’s the little things that remind me it’s a relief to not have to endlessly worry about battening down the hatches and securing what’s yours before somebody else takes it. The world doesn’t need to be as tough as it is in Flint and I’m glad that I don’t have to be anymore.

Shout-Out to Everybody Who Hates Christmas

This is a little bit different and totally depressing, so I’d skip it if I were you:

I don’t hate Christmas. I just understand people who do. You see, I had a tiny pity party for myself in the Christmas wrapping paper aisle at Target earlier this month.

My parents and grandparents are dead, as are a few other key people from my childhood. I live in a different state than the one I grew up in and I don’t live within 30 minutes of dear friends let alone family. I have a stepbrother I never see (though I adore him) and I don’t have any kids of my own.

Mostly I’m fine with all of that (or at least at peace with it). I am very connected via technology and have lots of great friends that live all over the place that I regularly talk to. I’m not prone to pity parties, not really.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t mention a tiny Target pity party from early in December. But sometimes I worry that I focus too much on the unpleasant memories of the people I’ve lost–it makes the grief easier to swallow. Mostly I try not to think too much about them because I fear the space where they used to be will become a sinkhole and I’ll lose myself in it.

But I know those are melodramatic thoughts, not true to life. In real life your father can die on the prettiest spring day you’ve ever seen, and the birds will just keep on singing. Life goes on. And the people I’ve lost each left their mark on me, helped formed who I am. I carry them with me in my head even when I’m not conscious of it.

Still I lingered over the glittering Christmas ornaments and silly knick knacks at Target, not thinking of much beyond my own house until I turned down the wrapping paper aisle. I had to stop short and beat a hasty retreat as I was briefly overwhelmed by feelings of grief.

I loved to pick out presents, agonizing over just the right gift, hoping it was the right fit, the perfect color, the gift that would make the person receiving it feel like I understood their style, their sense of humor, had phoned Santa directly and picked an item off their secret wish list (yes, I am an egomaniac).

But that was just the start because there is really nothing better than a gorgeously wrapped present! My mother was an exceptional gift wrapper. Picking out our wrapping paper was an annual tradition–it all had to match or complement. She loved foil wrapping with big bows and ribbons. One year we did all red foil with gold ribbons and bows and Christmas morning felt like an episode of Dynasty it was all so glamorous! And that was before we’d even opened the presents.

So I was flooded with all of these happy Christmas memories sparked by the wrapping paper aisle. My mother’s love of decorations and wrapping paper. My maternal grandmother’s tendency to be silly and crack us up at the Christmas dinner table–she once made little edible people out of the relish tray and happily made dirty jokes about pickles to scandalize my father’s mother! My father’s unbridled enthusiasm for a good Christmas dinner–we often had Cornish game hens, which were more fun than tasty if memory serves. His mother’s amazing cookies and breads and the piles and piles of food she’d make for just our immediate family on Christmas Eve. My grandfather carefully assembling a Barbie Dream Swimming Pool like it was as important as any project in his wood shop. And those thoughts made me happy but also terribly sad.

Sometimes the hardest thing about the happy memories is that I’m the only person alive to remember them.