Monthly Archives: January 2010

Roswell is out of this world

UFO MuseumA mysterious flying object crashes on a farm outside of Corona, New Mexico, in 1947. The debris, and quite possibly the remains of alien creatures, are taken to the Roswell Army Air Base, and an elaborate cover-up ensues.

Roswell, New Mexico, has built a reputation on UFO lore and conspiracy theories. The truth is out there, and millions of people have flocked to the town of 50,000 to find it. The UFO Museum and Research Center on Main Street presents an overview of what has become known as “The Roswell Incident,” including exhibits about the timeline of events, eyewitness accounts, the cover-up and general UFO phenomena. Founded in 1991, the museum also has the largest selection of UFO souvenirs in the world.
Alien Fetus in Goo

One thing the museum store didn’t have was unhatched alien eggs, something a friend of mine had told me she had purchased on a visit to Roswell a few years ago. I followed green two-toed footprints over to the Roswell Space Center at 116 E. 2nd Street to pick up my own alien fetus for $1.75.

Space WalkWhile at the souvenir shop, I got more than I bargained for; I was introduced to the Space Walk, a dark tunnel filled with painted scenes illuminated by black lights. Conceived by local artist Larry Welz, the Space Walk is a journey through the past, present and future of space exploration as viewed from the deck of a space ship. Come to find out, you can see more of Larry’s work in the form of interstellar murals painted on the side of buildings (check out the one behind the McDonald’s shaped like a spacecraft on Main Street) or the alien eyes on lamp posts throughout town.

If UFOs are your thing, this is place to be. Better yet, make your plans now for the 2010 UFO Festival, which will take place July 1-3, 2010.

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Filed under New Mexico, Novelty, Roswell, Souvenir, Uncategorized, United States

Woodrow Wilson House extends exhibition of presidential mementos

Artillery Shell

Cracked artillery shell painted by French artist Émile Gallois (1882-1965). The painting depicts the town of Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine, France. Strategically situated on the Moselle River, Pont-à-Mousson was the scene of heavy fighting during World War I. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

What do you get the president who has it all?

Ideas abound at the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C., which has extended its exhibit of 101 treasures from around the world through January 17, 2010. Included in the exhibition are an impressive collection of gifts, curios, and awards, many of which were presented by foreign dignitaries over the course of President Wilson’s two terms in office.

Among the treasures on display is a hand-painted French faience platter, weighing 32 pounds, presented during Wilson’s historic trip to Europe in 1918-1919. A stained glass medallion, also from France, features medieval glass salvaged from the Cathedral of Rheims, which was damaged by German artillery fire during World War I. Hand-painted porcelain plates, tributes from the King and Queen of Belgium, depict peaceful scenes of Belgium before the war. Elaborate gold and silver “freedom caskets” acted as offerings from the grateful people of Britain.

A lavish collection of gifts of state from Abyssinia (Ethiopia), including crowns, javelins, and a lion’s mane cape, were presented to President Wilson by the first Ethiopian diplomatic mission to the United States in 1919. Two sets of samurai armor were gifts from Japan. Other treasures include intricate ivory scrimshaws, examples of Inuit art, porcelain, silver and a beaded belt rumored to have been made by Pocahontas—an ancestor of Wilson’s wife, Edith Bolling Wilson.

Check out more photos of items in the exhibit here.

Wilson Peak rock

The top of Wilson Peak in the French Alps. Presented to President Wilson by the city of Chamonix, France in 1918. The mountain, formerly bearing the name of German explorer Dr. Piltscher, was renamed Wilson Peak by the Association of Guides and the Municipal Council of Chamonix on August 15, 1918. During the ceremony the American flag was planted on top of the mountain and at dusk the glacier crevices were illuminated by fireworks. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

Silver Pendant Head piece

Triangular silver pendant headpiece with silver tassels. This headpiece was among the gifts presented to President and Mrs. Wilson by the first Abyssinian (Ethiopian) mission to the U.S. in July 1919. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

Micronesian fan

Tortoise shell and coconut fiber fan from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. A traditional Micronesian handicraft, fans of this kind were used as personal accessories or for fanning the embers of a fire. Photo courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson House.

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Filed under Authentic, D.C., North America, Souvenir, Uncategorized, United States, Washington

Don’t Sweat It

Sue Venir store at the Houston airport.

Sue Venir store at the Houston airport.

As the curator of the Souvenir Museum, I am most in my element when I’m out in the world discovering the things that make us different.

On a layover in Houston this week, I had time to peruse the travel trinkets at Sue Venir (located in terminal B). I spied a crossword puzzle tie for the business traveler, jewelry for the ladies, NASA snow globes for the kids and the classic “Don’t Mess with Texas” t-shirt.

Texas Sweat hot sauce

Texas Sweat hot sauce

But it was the Texas Sweat — a five-ounce bottle of hot pepper sauce — that got me thinking about how the offbeat souvenir hunter is attracted to the yuck factor. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t want to eat or drink a product that is labeled as “sweat.” And yet, this is the second time during my travels that I would be willing to pay for it.

Pocari Sweat

Japan's energy drink Pocari Sweat.

Japan produces a soft drink called Pocari Sweat, which I picked up on a layover at Tokyo’s Narita airport a few years back. The beverage admittedly tastes pretty good, but I definitely would not have purchased the product if it had a more mundane name. It’s either marketing genius or a cross-cultural language snafu (which is an entire blog post in and of itself).

Texas Sweat, on the other hand, is aptly named. I imagine the beads of sweat that might form on my upper lip and forehead after biting into a morsel of food coated with the spicy sauce. The name makes sense and helps it stand out among the other competition in the hot sauce field.

Hot sauce is a highly collected commodity. My ex-brother-in-law’s collection included brands like Colon Cleaner, Lawyer’s Breath and Pain is Good.

The Texas Sweat would make a great addition to his collection, or a good starting point for the Souvenir Museum’s own.

Cost: $5.99

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Filed under Food and Beverage, Houston, North America, Texas, United States

Possum Fur Nipple Warmers

It may be cold outside right now, but I don’t have to be. I own a pair of Possum Pam‘s Possum Fur Nipple Warmers that I picked up on a trip to New Zealand in 2002.

Possum Fur Nipple Warmers

Stay warm and save the New Zealand forests at the same time!

The possum is considered a pest in New Zealand. The non-native animal was brought to the country by European settlers in the early 1800s for the establishment of a fur industry. Without a natural predator, the possum population grew out of control, causing an ecological nightmare for indigenous plants and wildlife (including the beloved kiwi bird, a national icon).

Conservation efforts have helped reduce the number of wild possum. Fur from wild-caught possums can be found in a wide range of products in New Zealand, from bed spreads to these fabulous nipple warmers. But as Possum Pam’s founder Pam McKinstry has said, “There would have to be a lot of cold nipples out there to stem this tide of destruction.”

If you’re going to be in New Zealand in the near future, help save the forests of New Zealand and pick up a set of nipple warmers. Belly or willy warmers are also available.

Cost: $9 NZD or approximately $6.50 USD

Here are a few other products made from possum:

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Filed under Apparel, For Her, New Zealand, Novelty, Oceana