Sunday, December 31, 2006

Junk Thief TV - Episode Four

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I hate to make it a big production...

...but here are the first three episodes of Junk Thief TV. I hope to have a year-end round up of the high and low points of 2006 before the year ends. A bit less caustic than what is the norm here, and perhaps a sign of things to come in 2007.

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Junk Thief TV

The big premiere episode with a glimpse of things to come and introducing co-host Millie the Glass Eyed Wonder Cat.

Junk Thief TV - Episode Two

This episode is very Weimas and features guests Louise Brooks and Lotte Lenya. Also includes Objectified Sports look at the game of cricket.

Junk Thief TV - Episode Three

A somewhat wistful episode of Junk Thief TV featuring Claudine Longet and Cass Elliott.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

JunkThief TV -- Get Ready!

I am very pleased to introduce Millie the Glass Eyed Wonder Cat who has been in the JunkThief family for over 50 years. She has just signed on to be the co-host of JunkThief TV coming in 2007. Get a taste of what is to come, and meet Millie in the flesh (err, plaster and glass...) with this dazzling new JunkThief video.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reasons Pending

My aunt's memorial service today was everything that she was -- tasteful, brief, dramatic, dancing around and with spirituality, mysterious, frustrating, peaceful, precise. confident, frightened, angry, confusing, graceful, distant. The woman from Episcopal church presiding over the service used the word "regal" at least 15 times. She said my aunt reminded her of a number of actresses the golden age, a list that included Loretta Young, Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and then, she added, "though not actresses, Jackie Kennedy and Babe Paley."

It was the first time I heard confirmed what I suspected when I got the news of her death. Like the precisely orchestrated service itself, the death itself was of her own design. Every sign was there, and the vicar said she felt it wasn't due to depression, just the sense of control she felt was so crucial.

I've started building a list of snapshot memories of this experience that I will likely write up later.

My cousin said that the death certificate said that the cause of death listed "reasons pending," but he added, "We know. We know."

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I could have been here today

Headlines of the past 36 hours
  • I got a customer alert call from Orbitz at 5 a.m. yesterday about the cancellation of all flights through Denver.
  • I spent most of the next four hours trying to get through to customer service at Orbitz and United. The 5-8 voice prompts all ended with a hang up call.
  • I worked with the travel agent who books my business trips on alternates. I often whne that I have to go through an agent instead of just booking it myself. This time, I consider him my best new friend since he finds a ticket, albeit at three times the original cost, 10 hours longer and with 1000 more miles.
  • At 7 p.m., I begin a series of flights that take me from Oakland to Portland to Houston to Oklahoma City.
  • The slight conjestion I had in the afternoon is developing into a miserable cold as I am wedged into the seat on the long Portland-Houston flight next to a two-year-old boy named Alberto who reaches out for my fingers several times and kisses my shoulder midway into the flight.
  • I arrive in Oklahoma at 10:30 a.m. where it is a glorious 28 degress (I'm not being ironic; I'm a winter person) and bright, crisp and clear. If it were like this year-round I would move back.
  • I arrive at my aunt's memorial service 20 minutes before it starts.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Molene - The Legend Returns

Have I happened to mention the huge concert on New Year's that my dear friend Molene Jackson is putting on? Her first in, well...a while.

Tickets sold out 90 seconds after of going on sale, and one poor matron from Rye, New York, was trampled to death in all the hub bub surrounding the release of the tickets. I've heard that some tickets have shown up on eBay for $10,000 but I question how long they will last.

I've known Mo since 1980 when she was working in a catheter factory. She now works in a dairy products factory but is still an eternal legend all the same. I just feel honored to have been able to have helped with this little video promoting the concert.

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Oklahoma City - Mother City of the Modern Metropolis

I'm off to Oklahoma City for Christmas and my aunt's funeral. That's sort of like saying you're going to a party to celebrate with rat poison and champagne, but that's the reality.

Often the butt of jokes, I thought I'd present two bits of invention that even natives are unaware of -- the parking meter and shopping cart. Now what would our 21st century lives be like without them. While Ira Gershwin pondered that the movies and radio might be passing fancies (no doubt having a vision of DVDs and podcasts even back then), he did not include these two jewels of urban convenience.

The parking meter, I must admit, has little personal connection, but not so the shopping cart. The invention of one Sylvan Goldman, a great plains Jewish entrepeneur who headed the old Humpty Dumpty chains. My mother was his personal assistant in the mid-1950s, a time that included only one brief vacation to San Francisco with my dad and sister. She came back, and learned that she was expecting.

When she went into Mr. Goldman's office to announce the news, he told her that he had been eyeing her for the position of the first female VP in his chain, and really encouraged her to consider daycare as soon as possible afte the pregnancy. She would not re-enter the work force for another 16 years. I've always wondered if the child carrier on those carts was her parting shot or something Mr. Goldman dreamed up as she left the room.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

8 New Junk Thief Videos - Just As I Am

I've been working on a family video project that is posted over at my other YouTube site. This is the G-rated as opposed to the PG-13 material on the other one. It has evolved from putting old Christmas pictures to music to a 45-minute epic and sort of the Criterion edition of family movies with more likely to come. I'm actually looking into launching an alternate family blog, though a cousin in Riverside has done that for my father's ancestors.

Of possible interest JunkThief regulars is this 5:25 minute video on my maternal grandfather and me. It's a chance to see JunkThief at age three ham it up at a family gathering when the dance floor was cleared after a Brenda Lee hit. After performing most of the score of the musical from "Once Upon a Mattress" I continued riffing by creating my own songs on the spot.
Some people talk about peaking to early, and I think I may have that day. I can't remember a time when I felt more creative, more safe and more loved. I've come close to it a number of times since then, even in my adult life. But nothing equaled the high of that day. There has never been a moment again when I felt everyone in the huge room loved me just as I am.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

40 Years Ago...and Today's Loss

I got in from buying Christmas presents tonight and found a message from my sister. The tone in her voice and the decidedly brief message that ended with "Call me tonight, even if it's very late," told me that she was not going to be delivering good news. But what could it be after six years of nursing, burying and saying goodbye to ailing parents. Was there a bastard sibling we'd not known of suddenly showing up on the scene? Twenty years of unknown tax liens on the family property.

Well, it was sad news. Our Aunt Barbara, the last living blood relation of our parents generation, died this afternoon. She was found with a note "do not resuscitate." She was 69, and considered an incredible catch in her day. She was always the supporting player, the Lee Radziwell to my mother's lead row in our family. She had her brand of style, but she always felt insecure. Those are strong words to say about someone who died less than 24 hours ago, but I say them with great respect. I share a birthday, September 26, and a gap of 19 years between us.

She frequently tried to convince me that we shared much in common by the nature of our star signs, much to my mother's chagrin. (Not the star sign, but that she would dare to say that we were similar.) Despite my mother's constant discouragement, I often longed for aunt Barbara's style and sense of taste. I remember my mother telling me at age six that Barbara did not own a lamp in her home while ours were all purchased with Green Stamps.

My mother characterized her as selfish and driven by material things. Yet I remember her as generous and the one that bought me my much lusted after Nehru jacket in 1967, taking me to the road show of "Funny Girl" on Christmas Day of 1968 that included reserved seats,intermission and a deluxe, 48 page program. Taking me to the Nelson-Atkins Gallery for the opening Henry Moore installation, and then having tea and dainty sandwiches with Westport dowager docents. Attending a brunch with her "bachelor friends" on Carey Place in 1973, each of whom circled me like carnivores as they told me I had "obscene luck" to have an aunt with so many Yves Saint Laurent scarves and ability to be so witty even before the third martini.

Her final days had tragedy, but I will recall the image of her in 1962 as her Impala convertible ground the unworthy gravel in our circle drive with impeccable grace, her Dior scarf performing a ballet in front of our face in the late September prairie wind. I will miss what she was and what she could have been...

Friday, December 08, 2006

My Jazz Age Grandparents - The Movie

One of several reasons there has not been a lot of content recently here at JunkThief is two fold.

First, my work computer went bust, and I decided that it was also a good time replace my now four-year-old personal computer with a new VAIO. Besides speed and looks, it has a much better DVD making program. What had started out as a simple project of putting a 7-minute montage of old Christmas photos with music (which I was almost finished with around the time of the crash), has evolved into an already 30+ minute epic documentary. Actually it's a series of short 5-7 minute documentary films about my ancestors and other kin. Imagine a cross between MTV and a Burns brothers docs. Or maybe it's better described as video tone poems. Though historical, they are much more mood pieces conjuring up both good and sad memories of the past.

Fortunately it is much more about happy memories, especially about my mother's parents. I loved both sets of grandparents. Both came from modest backgrounds, but my father's parents faced enormous obstacles to the end and endured with valour more than achieving great goals. My mother's parents were a different story. Always employed during the depression, ever stylish and fiercely ambitious, I always wanted to grow up to be just like them.

The only bad memory I have is that my grandfather died young at 62 -- 40 years ago December 26. My grandmother followed him a decade later. It's only been recently that I could see my resemblence to my grandfather, maybe the best Christmas gift I could imagine.

Making the documentary was a way to remember them the way I will always picture them as in the photos with this entry -- eternal icons of the Jazz Age.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ready to Pull the Rug Out...

...and, no, not to San Francisco, though I've given it thought many times. What I am planning to do in the next six months is remove the horrid carpet in my hall and den/dining room/library. I've threatened to do it for many years. But now, as I move into the new year, it is something that I can really see happening in the next six months. Maybe a summer project.

I've often called it "church basement" carpet. But only after reading this did it become so obvious that I can't believe I have missed it before. It's the same carpet that is in BART trains. Disgusting but not quite as disgustingly filthy as that carpet is. With the onset of winter when the carpet gets its worst, I've already done a pre-season cleaning, but it seems rather futile and like caring for some unwelcome lodger. Regardless, I plan on it being gone by this time next year, a real reason to celebrate the holidays next year with a house filled with glistening wood floors.

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