Long before there was the instant gratification of e-mail and cell phone communication, the inexpensive and always welcome picture postcard was one of the world's premier forms of long-distance contact. If on a vacation to some exotic place, you would step into a local drugstore, spend a nickel for a card that colorfully illustrated the sandy beaches on which you were lounging or the mountainside you were skiing down, drop a "wish you were here" line or two, address it to friends and family, affix a one-cent stamp and drop it in the mail. Back in 1894, the post office licensed the production of such cards, and Kodak even marketed a special paper just for the booming business of postcard publishing. Folks went nuts for the next several decades. Ah, the good ol' days, the nostalgia it calls up from the early-1900s golden era of such mail. You name it, there was a postcard for it. Sites, cuddly pets, famous people, holiday greetings, joke cards, etc., that made visits to the mailbox an adventure and "Send us a postcard" part of the traditional vacation send-off. In time, it would turn millions worldwide into collectors. If you would like a taste of what it was like in the good ol' days, stop into Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum for a look at its fascinating Wish You Were Here! collection at 3 p.m. on January 4 during its family fun day with special activities for kids. The exhibit runs through June. Then, next July, a second edition of the museum's permanent collection will go on display, offering a second helping certain to provide a fun visit around the world and a glimpse of a bygone culture. The museum is located at 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd. Call 817-738-1933. --Carlton Stowers
Stomp It Up
The performance group STOMP is popular because it plays to our primal, indigenous roots. And because banging on crap and making loud noises is cool. STOMP has mostly stayed in the realm of stage performance and has been doing the same stuff for a while, meaning the aforementioned banging on crap. But now, the boys and girls of STOMP have taken their rhythmic talents to the IMAX screen to make Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey. The film visits five continents and explores the cultures and traditions that make up the roots of STOMP. Pulse is being shown at the Omni Theater at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1501 Montgomery St. in Fort Worth. Adult tickets are $7, and senior/child tickets are $5. Call 817-255-9540 or visit www.fwmsh.org. --Mary Monigold
It Takes a Village
We see the same people, listen to the same stories and experience familiar sights and sounds day after day. Everyone needs a bit of uninhibited impromptu. The First Friday African Village Night delivers just that. S-Ankh Rasa, founder of KUMAASI African Ensemble, saw a need in the Dallas area for a better understanding and teaching of traditional African music. He began Village Night, which allows participants to creatively express themselves through the improvisation of African instruments. Dancing is encouraged, even for those who seem to have two left feet. Members of the African ensemble believe that everyone is part of the same village and should therefore celebrate in life together. Village Night begins at 8 p.m. on the first Friday of every month at Reciprocity, 210 S. Tyler St. Admission is free. Call 214-298-5858. --Danna Berger
For some blood and some time, earn a T-shirt
The spirit of giving shouldn't end as soon as Santa leaves town, you know. So, to keep the charitable ball rolling, why not pay heed to the fact that January is National Blood Donor Month and drop into one of the Carter BloodCare centers and keep giving? It all kicks off on the weekend of January 3 and January 4 at the Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville at 2401 Stemmons Freeway and Fort Worth's Museum of Science & History, 1501 Montgomery St. in Fort Worth, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. And it doesn't end there. Through the month you can register at area donor centers and receive a free commemorative T-shirt in exchange for a potentially life-saving pint. Then there's the NBC 5 Healthfit Expo on January 10 and January 11 at the Dallas Convention Center, 650 S. Griffin St. Not a bad way to be a quiet hero. Call 1-800-DONATE-4. --Carlton Stowers
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It's OK, they're with the band
The band kids are invading Dallas, coming from all over the country armed with brass, strings and percussion to prove that marching-band participation is actually pretty cool. To the doubtless envy of their more athletic peers, they'll participate in the Cotton Bowl. At the SBC Cotton Bowl Music Festival, the bands and several dance teams will participate in four days of musical competitions and workshops before taking the field at the big game. The high school contingent, at least 2,000 in all, will march through historic Fair Park joined by the Oklahoma State University Cowboy Marching Band, the University of Mississippi Marching Band and the Kilgore Rangerettes. The festival was developed by SBC and the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association to extend the legacy of the Cotton Bowl Classic to future generations. The parade is at 3 p.m. Thursday in Fair Park. Admission is free. Call 214-665-1310. --Stephanie Durham