Monday, August 24, 2009

The Big Deal About All Things Little

Some of my favorite bloggers capture minute, obscure details of daily, urban life. I love the gorgeous reflections (verbal and photographic) by Reya of (After) the Gold Puppy and Susan of Art Spark Theater who has been re-enacting great movie scenes with little people.

This weekend I picked up the book Little People in the City that features the work of Slinckachu of London. From benign to high crime, he captures it all and is fast becoming one of my favorite artists and bloggers. I am already conspiring on how I might re-enact similar scene in my 'hood.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Such a Shame About Little Ouida

Standing in line with her bottle of Chardonnay at the Valu-Rite Market in Nyack, Ouida was reminded of that old line “A bottle of wine has as many calories as three cups of gravy.” Which doctor was it that always said that? Or was it from one of those wretched encounter groups with the promise to empower you to "take charge of your life"? Of all the abuse Ouida had endured in her life, nothing was worse than these groups where she had to sit in a circle and hear a bunch of self absorbed losers recount the tedious details of their boring, pointless lives. She started to turn and take the wine back to the refrigerated aisles with rows of Samuel Adams and enormous bottles of Kenwood but she halted. Maybe she might go back and grab some Easy Gravy Mix just out of spite.

Perhaps we should go back to where it all started at Dr. Baumgartner’s clinic in Utica where he studied Quida and Frieda for four years. Having written extensively about sibling confliction, Dr. Baumgartner said nothing equaled the Vogle sisters. Quida would turn scarlet red when Frieda was introduced as her “twin”.

Storming out of the room, Quida would scream “We are nothing alike!” And, indeed, only into his third year of research did Dr. Baumgartner learn that this was, in fact, true and that Ouida and Frieda were not twins but surviving triplets, their sister Lita having died mysteriously in a bathing incident involving choking with multiple rubber duckies.

Determining Ouida’s role in this was always murky, and Dr. Baumgartner chose to overlook it and instead focused on trying to break through Ouida’s rages and hysteria. When she took up an interest in gardening, it seemed there had been something of a breakthrough. The fact that her two favorite flowers – foxglove and oleander – were potently poisonous seemed to escape Dr. Baumgartner.

Mrs. Vogle took it as a sign of great progress at the girls’ ninth birthday party when Ouida burst onto the dance floor with Dr. Baumgartner in a joyous twist as “Under the Boardwalk” played at full volume. Mrs. Vogle was less excited, six months later when she found Ouida snuggled next to the doctor in his bed.

Things took a turn for the worse when Frieda turned violently ill after drinking a cup of hot chocolate Ouida had prepared for her. Only after returning from the ICU and noticing freshly cut oleander by the sink – and no vase in sight – did Mrs. Vogle start having doubts.

But Frieda’s sudden death after three days at the hospital put the family into such a spin there was no time nor energy to ask questions that probably should have been raised. And, after four years of intensive analysis with Dr. Baumgartner and no progress nor answers, Mrs.Vogle was ready to stop asking questions and just let mysteries rest.

When Ouida turned 15, the Vogles had reached a point of having lost the will to object when Dr. Baumgartner asked for the girl’s hand in marriage. In an unexpected turn of events, he left his practice and opened Godiva Vineyards on the outskirts of New City. The label on the bottle of a nubile nude nymph on horseback resembled Ouida too much for her mother’s comfort, but at this point she was happy just to have peace in the house so she and Harry could watch “Sing Along with Mitch” on TV trays, chewing their Stouffer’s Salisbury steaks and sipping Godiva Chardonnay in Dixie cups.

Dr. Baumgartner was found dead in the vineyards four years later, by what the authorities -- likely too distracted or too tired of hassles -- determined to be natural causes. Ouida sold the vineyards back to the Valduccis at triple the price she and the doctor acquired them for but with four times the production. She lived briefly in Montreal and then opened a small photography studio in Binghampton before settling in Nyack where she has lived quietly for the past 35 years. She can be seen strolling the streets in her Burberry coat, checking out books on Catalan culture at the library and buying brass tipped walking sticks at the flea market.

For years she was a regular at the Ebb Tide Lounge on Herman Street until her weight got out of control and her looks began to sag. Now she can be seen every afternoon at precisely 4:38 p.m. (except Tuesdays, an oddly sacred night when she drinks only filtered water) in the line at the Valu-Rite with her signature bottle of wine. As the checker scans the bar code and glances at Lady Godiva on the label, does he see any connection to the woman swiping her Chase debit card and raising her collar before punching in her four digit PIN?

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What We're Seeing in the Mission (and Noe Valley)

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Friday, August 21, 2009

What We're Seeing in the Mission

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What We're Hearing on Our iPod

Actually it's great Stax era soul. I love the hit "Don't Mistake My Kindness for Weakness". Sage advice.

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What We're Seeing in the Mission

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another Chapter In The Epic Process of Transfering All My Joni Mitchell LPs to MP3s

...almost there...

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What We're Seeing in the Mission

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sittin' Around, Hangin' Out, Doin' Our Thang

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Solving the Riddle of Lora Direnzo

This afternoon after listening to an NPR piece about the perils of too much internet, too much "Facebooking" and after seeing two Facebook "friends" voting yes on surveys bashing universal health care and supporting Glenn Beck, I was ready to say goodbye to it all -- not life, mind you, but blog, vlog, "personal networking" and all of that nonlife.

Just as this thought was hitting me, the message below popped up in delayed response to this post from more than a year ago

"To solve the riddle of "who was Lora Direnzo"....she was a real person. She immigrated from Canada to NYC, and finally to SFO. She lived many many years on Montgomery St in SFO. She was a flight attendant for The Flying Tiger Line. Her job allowed her to travel "off the beaten track" and she collected music along the way, music of every genre. She didn't look at all like Kim Novak, she was a very tall, dark haired Italian woman. In her youth she was a stunning woman. I flew with her for 25 years and knew her as well as anyone. She never let people get too close. She was a loner, always in her own world. I often wondered if she was lonely, but I think the music was her friend. If you happened to be on the same floor in a hotel while on a layover you could always hear music coming from her room. Sadly she died in January of 2008. She was 77. I was in her apartment once, and was amazed at what she "collected". So...if you own an album with Lora's name on it, know that you are holding one of her treasures. She was a unique woman."
-- CLee

I hadn't even made it to the third sentence before my cheeks were drenched in tears. I can fully explain why or how the story of Lora touches me on such a deep, deep level. Perhaps because I could say many of the things could be said about me -- okay, save from being an Italian woman.

We often think about what our legacy will be, especially if it will not be carried on by our bloodline, by some great work we created or some noble change we brought about. What if all that is left behind is a memory of our strong independence, our sense of taste and style, respect of our remaining co-workers and the scattered debris of our belongings in thrift shop bins. These humble remnants may be the profundity of life. Tonight, I pulled out that record of Lora's and lit a candle for her, conjuring up images of her in her finely tailored wool uniform as she served coffee over the Pacifc with grace and style.


Octogenarian Aristocrats Gone Wild

As you may have heard, 85-year-old very old line aristocrat Gloria Vanderbilt has written a dirty book. Though it's receiving paltry reviews at best, more than a few people have noted how the dual image on the cover oddly resembles a certain prematurely gray talking head on CNN and, for that matter, the Diane Arbus creepy shot of him as an infant.

Although I would love to see that episode of the Love Boat where she and Halston appeared, I was never a fond of her "fashion design" era which was about as tacky as family member Amy pitching spray wax.
Most people seem to have long forgotten her more interesting design career as a collage artist. Back in junior high school I devoured her book on the topic and would love to get my hands on a copy again. Her above work for Liberace is an example of what she was capable of back then.

The idea of a member of American near royalty writing such a book at 85 is intriguing, and I have mixed feelings about her appearance at this age. She is a bit creepy looking at times, but also remarkable. More intriguing to me is that voice. We simply don't hear that kind of voice these days. For all his pedigrees, Anderson doesn't sound that different than a guy that grew up in suburban St. Louis. But Gloria speaks with the diction I associate with early teacup drama talkies and women (such as my mother) who studied with elocution coaches. In Gloria's case it's not likely constructed and the voice of a woman from a class a notch or two above the Beales and the Bouviers. Apparently she's also done a version of the book on CD, but I'm not sure I am quote ready to hear that voice reading those words.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Find the Cost of Freedom

I am fairly easily confused, but lately things have been really getting out of hand. Birthers, death panels and other new nonsensical concepts pop up every week, and I'm having trouble figuring them out. Apparently our freedom is at stake. If the screamers are lot listened to, we are at risk of losing our freedom to be uninsured and over charged for health care.

Freedom has always been a confusing concept to me, and there have always been so many contradictory messages about what it is and what it means. Forty years ago while Janis Joplin was telling us that it was nothing left to lose, Up with People was telling us that "Freedom Isn't Free". While they never clarified what the actual cost of freedom was (I've heard that it was about $7.34 an ounce back then), they did reveal the master plan for their death panels in their signature lyric that went "If more people were for people, there'd be a lot less people to worry about and a lot more people that care."

Glenn Close rarely talks about her years with Up with People, but it is safe to assume it played an instrumental role for helping her find her inner loon in Fatal Attraction.

When sugarless gum was introduced in the early 1970s, marketers realized that it was much easier to swallow (or chew) if it was presented as sugar free instead of sugar less. That sort of support the Joplin theory that freedom is another word for nothing left to lose.

The same marketing firms need to start convincing people that are uninsured that they should celebrate that they are insurance free, and millions of soldiers risked their lives so they could have that freedom. In fact, many of those soldiers are insurance free themselves.

Whenever I step into Skecher's outlet at 22nd and Mission, the clerks great me excitedly saying that have a great sale going on -- buy one pair, get the second pair half off. This sale has been going on uninterupted since around 2001. When I ask if I can buy one pair for 25% off which is the same net savings as I would get were I to buy two pairs, they refuse to deal. They then say, "Go ahead, buy two pairs. You've got nothing left to lose."

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

J-Pop Week in San Francisco - #2 (シド「夏恋」)


J-Pop Week in San Francisco - #1

Just when I thought I knew every Pizzicato Five tune, here is a new one.

Plus this incisive interview with Maki and Konishi by Brandy Wine from 15 years ago is journalistic excellence without parallel.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

J-Pop Week in San Francisco - #3 (メガマソ アメリカ村 ~アメリカ村インディーズ~ )


Monday, August 10, 2009

In Defense of Lard

Now, will Alice Waters finally come out in favor of MSG?

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Has San Francisco Finally Arrived?

Though some people might argue that she is risking over exposure, I am glad to see that Hello Kitty is coming back to San Francisco to co-chair the J-Pop Summit in Japantown next weekend that heralds the opening of New People on Post Street. I think the term co-chair is very crucial and subtle, just as she chose to serve as the co-grand marshal of this spring's Cherry Blossom Parade.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Talk, the 1970s and Tequila-Anaconda

Over vegan vittles tonight, Joni Mitchell came up in conversation with an old friend. Joni -- bitter, rich and bonding with her grand child over cigarettes (which she has described as a "healing herb") in her Malibu mansion -- has slowly re-engaged with the world and recording industry that a decade ago she dismissed as a cesspool of bimbos and profit (not prophets). Perhaps she needed profits to maintain her lifestyle.

Oddly, my favorite album of Joni's has always been one of her most derided opuses -- Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. Its title is at once revelatory and redundant. It has a 16-minute opus about the plains of Canada, photos of Joni in black face drag king make up and a tune about "Muslims holding up Washington". Yet, the most mysterious lyric -- one that holds many questions but few answers on the internet -- is this one from "Talk to Me":

There was a moon and a street lamp
I didn't know I drank such a lot
'Till I pissed a tequila-anaconda

The full length of the parking lot!

Oh, I talk too loose
Again I talk too open and free
I pay a high price for my open talking
Like you do for your silent mystery

Many want the "Blue" period Joni, the "Court and Spark" Joni or even the "Hejira" and "Hissing Lawns" Joni. But this is the one that I most love. The one that had just enough success and bravado to share the realities of romance, a tad too much booze and the search for something beyond Paprika Plains.


What We're Seeing in the Mission

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

It Brings Me Considerable Pleasure... know that there is a Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield, Mass.