Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Abandoned Places: Zoos

Griffith Park Zoo opened in 1912 with all of 15 animals, the second zoo in Los Angeles, the other being the Eastlake Zoo which had been in operation since 1885. By the 50s, it was drawing two million visitors a year. Even so, it was decided that the facilities were underfunded and inadequate and a new zoo, the Los Angeles Zoo, was built not far away and the animals transferred. The Griffith Park facilities have been left as ruins.
Photo by junkyardsparkle and used under the linked license.
Below photos by Don Barrett and used under the linked license.

Riber Castle Wildlife Park (Riber Zoo)
The castle dates back to the 1860s, but it was used as a zoo for about four decades at the end of the 20th Century. Rumors of animal cruelty actually led to raids by animal activists and some animals being released into the wild. Currently, the castle is only a shell.

Belle Isle Zoo
Photo by waxyams and used under the linked license.
Photo by t-dawg and used under the linked license.
Photo by Michael Cory and used under the linked license.
The Belle Isle Zoo is/was in Detroit. There was some scandal involved with the mayor who ordered the closing of the zoo (in order to save the city money). He's in jail; the zoo is closed.

Your bonus photos today are from Zuckerfabrik Greuben, an old mill in Germany built in 1872. But it spent time in the early 20th century as a chocolate factory and as manufacturing plant for aircraft engines during World War II. Its post World War II uses have been less glamorous, and it closed in 1990.

Below photos courtesy of opacity.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Abandoned Places: Ypsilanti State Hospital

The Ypsilanti State Hospital was kind of a rush job. Evidently, the 20s weren't good for the mental health of Americans and by 1930 the existing mental institutions were experiencing some overcrowding. Okay, a lot of overcrowding. So the Ypsilanti hospital was thrown up in Michigan and opened within a year of when construction began. In its first few years, it was one of the only mental institutions in the United States to get favorable reviews based on its conditions for its patients.

That's not a condition that would last. By the end of World War II, two new wings had been added and the hospital was still overcrowded. Perhaps because of this or, maybe, because it was one of the newest facilities, the Ypsilanti hospital was used for various types of experimentation: early flu vaccinations were tested, studies on the effects of milontin, and, um, LSD. During the 50s, the hospital facilities were used for several films about psychological practices, including two about the effects of prefrontal lobotomy.

Perhaps the most interesting thing, though, was some early work and experimentation in group therapy. It seems that during the 50s Jesus was one of the patients at the hospital. Actually, there were three of them. I guess they didn't get the memo about the trinity not all being the same dude, because they were all going for the Jesus aspect. At any rate, Milton Rokeach thought that putting all three of them in a room together, making them confront their delusions, might force them to see reality. That's not really how it worked out, but he did get a book out of it, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.

Generally speaking, the 80s and 90s weren't a great time for mental institutions, and the Ypsilanti facility was shut down in 1991 during the push in Michigan to close down all of its mental hospitals.

All photos courtesy of opacity.

Your bonus for today: pictures from the York Street Jail.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Abandoned Places: Xanadu Houses

I'm not gonna lie; X was... difficult. I mean, X is always difficult, but it was difficult enough for this theme that I began to think about cheating. But then! Then I found the Xanadu houses! The Xanadu houses were designed as homes of the future in the late 70s and early 80s. The had computer controlled environments, were ergonomically designed, and, most importantly, were made of polyurethane foam. The foam was meant to allow for quick construction.

Of the three Xanadu show homes that were built, the one built in Kissimmee, Florida, not far from EPCOT, proved to be the most popular, drawing over 1000 visitors a day at its height. However, due to the quickness with which the technology in the houses became obsolete (they used the Commodore 64 (can you imagine trying to run a house, today, from a Commodore 64?)), they never became more than a curiosity. Which turned out to be a good thing in all likelihood as the polyurethane proved to be not very resistant to mold and mildew. After being abandoned for several years at the end of the 90s, the Kissimmee house, the only one left at that point, was overgrown with mold. It was finally demolished about a decade ago.

Unfortunately, I could find no photos of the houses that are available for use, but you can see a gallery attached to the short article about the homes at io9.

For today's photos of abandoned places, I'm actually going to share some images of things that (mostly) have no place to be or I liked but did not cover. Enjoy!
 Above and below two photos by Klugschnacker under the linked license.

This next item is not exactly abandoned, but...
Those are views of the Aral Sea, what was once one of the four largest lakes on the planet. In the 60s, the Russians began diverting water from the various rivers that fed the sea. The view on the left is from 1989, the right from 2008. As you can see, the sea is almost non-existent at this point. It's considered one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Here is what it has left behind:
Aral photos by Martjin Munneke and used under the linked license.

A few other images that escaped posting:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A to Z Flashback: 2013 -- How To Be...

All the background here is the same as it was in my last flashback post so, rather than go through all of that again, just click the link to check it out.

Which brings us to last year's theme: How To Be...
You can go back and read the intro post, or you can go off of this summation: With the Internet, we can be whatever we want to be. Or, at least, we can find out how to be whatever we want to be. Or, more specifically, as a writer, I can find out how any of my characters can be whatever I want them to be, and I never have to leave my house to find those things out. Pretty amazing, don't you think.
And, yeah, I'm pretty sure last year's theme was my wife's idea, too, although I didn't seem to mention that in the intro post. Oh, well, I'm sure it's there somewhere.

So here's the A to Z of "How To Be..."! Remember, you can still leave comments. The posts won't bite. Probably. Okay, well, one of them might smash you, but, other than that, you're probably safe.

How To Be...
an Archaeologist
a Brain Surgeon
a master Chef
a Demolition Expert
an Electrical Engineer
a Fighter Pilot
a Genetic Engineer
a Human Cannonball
an Incredible Hulk
a Juggler (this post contains a juggling lesson from our very own A-to-Z founder, Arlee Bird)
a Knight
a Lumberjack
a superModel
a Ninja (the favorite post of Alex Cavanaugh)
an Ornithologist
a Paleontologist
Q (you just have to read this one to understand)
a Race Car Driver
a Super Spy (this is the one that explains how the "How To Be" idea came about)
a Translator
an Umpire
a Ventriloquist
a Werewolf (my number one most viewed post of all time... by a lot)
an X-ray Technician
a Yodeler
a Zen Master

After the series was over, I summed it up with a post about what the series had really been about:
How To Be... a Writer

Based on the popularity of the werewolf piece, I followed it up about six months later with
How To Be... a Vampire
Surprisingly, that post has not really proven to be all that popular. The werewolf post continues to get dozens of views each week. Sometimes, the Internet is weird.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Abandoned Places: Wolf House

Jack London was one of the first authors to decide on writing as a career. Let me re-state that. He wasn't a writer that began making a living at it; in deciding what he wanted to do (and he'd already done many different things, from oyster pirate to tramp), he chose writing as a career through which he might be able to pull himself out of poverty. Writing was his job, and that's how he treated it.

And he did become successful at it. He was one of the first fiction writers to become an international celebrity and amass a fortune through his fiction. He has several enduring classics to his name.

In 1905, at 29 years of age, he bought his true passion: Beauty Ranch. Everything he did and wrote after that point, all 11 years of it, was for the success of the ranch. Except for the part where he wasn't actually very good at managing things and tended to spend the fortune he was making as quickly as he made it. [You can read more about London's life and folly in my essay in Indie Writers Monthly: Vol. 1, Issue 2.] One of his largest investments, and one that didn't work out for him, was Wolf House.

London spent the equivalent of a couple of million dollars to build Wolf House on the eastern slope of Sonoma Mountain in Glen Ellen, California (not all that far from here). It was a house meant to last the ages. As London said, a house that would, barring an Act of God, stand for a thousand years. Unfortunately, that Act of God occurred just weeks before the completion date of the house, the house that took years to build: It caught fire. He was almost correct, though, the volcanic rocks he had used to build the frame of the house withstood the fire, so the shell still stands, 100 years later.

The pictures here are mine. They include pictures of Wolf House and some of the other abandoned structures from the ranch.
What Wolf House would have looked like.
There's a story behind the cacti.
The stone marks the site where London's ashes were placed. It's not clear (at least not to me (there was conflicting information)) whether his ashes were spread on the stone or if the ashes were spread on the ground and, then, the stone was placed on the spot. The stone is from Wolf House, though. Not a stone from the building but one of the ones from the building of the house.