Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Bit of Light in the Grim Anniversaries.

The past week is that weird time of the year when, in the course of three days, we have a trilogy of back-to-back tragic anniversaries -- the San Francisco Earthquake and fire (April 18, 1906); the Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995) and the Columbine massacre (April 20, 1999). I left San Francisco last week to be in Denver where there were a few people from Oklahoma, so these three sad anniversaries were top of mind. I was in Oklahoma at the time of the 1995 bombing and routed through Denver the day of Columbine, so they hold special meaning.

Believe it or not, I wasn't around for the 1906 earthquake.

I just came across the great videos above by Rick Prelinger of The Long Now Foundation. Some great images of Bay history that I've never seen and interesting commentary.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Never Underestimate a Basenji Princess

Those of you who follow us on Facebook may have heard that my little princess is facing a challenge. Bow may have a brain tumor. Yesterday, I took her to a specialist where she had an MRI and spinal tap. She whimpered, shook and snuggled next to me as a specialist gave her opinion about her brain scan.

It might be an could be could be a tumor. The latter is most likely and could be treated with radiation and/or alternative treatment. Right now she is no different than any other day besides having the back of her neck shaved for two anesthesias. She still has energy to chase pigeons, to give grief to the nasty Bichon Frises down the street and glad to take an afternoon sunbath.

In 1994, my cat Bunter developed a horrid urinary tract infection, and his bladder grew the size of a baseball. My vet tried to convince me that the only "humane" option was to have him put down. I stared him in the eyes and said, "Do everything to make sure this cat will survive, no matter the cost." A month later, Bunter was back one and lived another 14 healthy years. I am taking the same strategy with Bow, knowing that our days are limited even if we have another decade together. In the meantime, please light a candle for Bow and send out a good vibe.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Obscure Moments in Presidential History

Here we witness a very ugly scene at the 1959 White House New Year's party a few martinis into the evening. After several drinks, Edith Head grew weary from hearing about her "Mamie bangs". She finally lashed out to clarify that her hairstyle had nothing to do with the First Lady and then unleashed an assault on her fashion sense or the lack there of. This then went further down the rabbit hole as a toddling Edith made several crude jokes about Ike, Mamie and "banging". Ike then came to his wife's defense and is seen here in a shot that exhibits his previously concealed "diminutive" stature next to a stalwart Ms. Head.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Did We Mention...

...that Caetano Veloso is coming back to San Francisco tonight? And we will be there!

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Canyon Dreams

Have you ever been curious why some old thought or experience keeps coming back to you for no apparent reason, and then you step into a music or book store and there is an embodiment of it? That happened to me tonight after a week or so of Laurel Canyon coming into conversations several times for no apparent reason after not thinking of the place for years, and then tonight I walked into Dog Eared Books and came across the book Canyon of Dreams. It embodies the amber hued southern California music and film world of the late 1960s and early 1970s that held a fascination to me when I was a pre-teen. How fitting that I'll be back down there in a couple of weeks.

I'm especially pleased to see multiple references to Mama Cass' house which served as the Gertrude Stein salon of the era. There are a lot of references to the long forgotten Nurit Wilde who seems to embody the era more than even the better known of the era. While I am pleased that there is a fair amount of reference to Tim Buckley, I was saddened that Juddee Sill is not mentioned once.

One of my favorite references to that era was k.d. lang's Invincible Summer, an under-rated album that makes my least favorite season seem almost appealing.

And this site has some good history of the canyon.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

What Are All These Strange People Doing Here?

March Madness has advanced to April Angst, so we apologize for not much content.

An anonymous friend (a.k.a. Friendatella) tipped us to this 1966 classic to entertain you until we have time to produce more original content, sometime in the next two weeks when things get back to more normal and less travel. You can't go wrong with a cast that includes: Basil Rathbone, Francis X. Bushman, Patsy Kelly, Boris Karloff, Deborah Walley, Tommy Kirk, Nancy Sinatra anbd Susan Hart.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Further Adventures in Celebrity Babysitting

After her recent success of tending to Sonny Angel while his alpha mom was working on a big project, Grace Slick has been called in again to watch over the wee one of America's leading all female couple -- Julia Morgan and Edith Head. Here we see Grace hovering over both Sonny Angel and his buddy Bunny Angel. All seems to be going well.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Little Mr. and Mrs. Biggs

In one of my first Sepia Saturday posts, I wrote about my paternal grandparents Acy and Cassie Biggs. Acy (above, around 1949) was the eldest son of his nearly dozen siblings but was paralyzed in a farming accident when he was in his 30s and was confined to a wheel chair for the remainder of his life. Like many families struggling through the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, most of his siblings and his parents -- John and Mattie Biggs below on their wedding day in 1888 -- migrated to California.
The two branches of the family -- the large one in southern California and the smaller branch remaining in Oklahoma -- had little connection during the 70 years after the separation began. Although I met a few of them through the years, most of their names and stories were mysteries to me.

When my mother died in 2004, I got an email from a second cousin who said that he had been building a family website chronicling the history and that he wanted to connect the Oklahoma and California branches. I was the living bridge, a member of the Oklahoma branch who had been living in California for ten years. Slowly, I have had the chance to meet more and more of the California cousins and have learned first hand stories and histories that had been vague memories and legends up to then.

The cousin who contacted me, Mike, has the diligence of a reporter, reaching out to many long disconnected family members, and the site he built is quite detailed and organized. One of the most interesting tidbits is that although I am a bit over six foot two, I am the exception to my namesake, and my great grandfather John stood just under five feet, often referred to as "Little Mr. Biggs". I've since had the chance to visit the neighborhood in Torrance where the family settled. Ironically, one of my closest friend's family settle just a few blocks down the street, having migrated there in the 1940s from China.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Theme Thursday: Boxes

(Okay, maybe it's cheating to post a "rerun", but April is a really crazy month. Thus, we're repeating this post from January for this week's Theme Thursday focus: boxes.)

Do you have a guardian architect? Everyone should have one.

My architectural ambitions are on a decidedly small scale -- at least as far as the physical dimensions if not the design and execution. Like food, architecture is one addiction we always need and cannot abstain from as we might chemicals or gambling.

Late in his life, my father started designing wood boxes such as the one on the left. They pleased me at the time but have come to be more cherished in the years since he left since he was completely self taught in making the splices, deciding on the lines, the finishes. More than a few of them remind me of mud mosques rising from the desert in Mali, testaments of individual imagination and not one particular school of design.

Over the years I have collected a number of boxes from India -- some acquired there and, more recently and oddly at Borderlands Bookstore, home of Ripley the hairless cat. While their volumes of sci fi, occult and fantasy have never grabbed my fancy the boxes have.

More than once I've commented that I am probably the only person who has bought them not for drug storage.

Over the past six months I've been delving deeper into the legacy of the boxes or assemblages of Joseph Cornell, not brave enough yet to make my own and wanting to define exactly not just what will go in them but why things will go in them. I've slowly been procuring little items, from ceramic, metal and glass objects to the perfect extractions from nature, driven by not just Cornell but also the 16th and 17th century cabinets of curiosity.

How all of this weaves back to architecture is that lately I've been making little paper boxes in homage to favorite architects. While much of his work is too ornate for me, I love many of the patterns of Owen Jones and recently made the little boxes using some of his wallpaper designs to fashion tiny hatboxes, just big enough to fit those little Japanese kewpies into. Jones may have been a Victorian, but he did adhere to "the grammar of ornament".
It might seem ironic then that my guardian architect is Louis Sullivan whose work and life move me on a deep level. Though credited with being the father of the American skyscraper, it is often said that his work anticipates modernism without actually creating it. That is because he was quite fond of ornamentation. Yet I would not say that his work is ornate. To my mind Sullivan was a modernist but not afraid to be passionate, and his ornamentation echoes and harmonizes with nature not against it.

So tonight I made what I anticipate will be a growing series of Sullivan boxes, this one pulling elements of his "jewel box banks" that grace many small Midwest towns and filigrees from some of his Chicago work. It wouldn't be complete without a likeness of the master architect himself. I wonder if I am the first person to develop a line of 19th century architect action figures.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dada Dog Walk in Dogtown

Bow and I went to our class with Emma last night in Dogtown and saw this reminder. We're very true to dada and always clean up after ourselves.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

MAGPIE TALES: The Holy Terror

(Our contribution to the latest Magpie Tales)

We never fully understood the story behind the egg that grandmother always kept next to her locked box.

Aunt Mildred told us that locked within the box were the two characters pictured on the egg. "Never open that box, or it will release the man and that flying red...creature. Your grandmother and I locked them in there when we were your age so you will never have to be terrorized by them."

We didn't really understand the word "terrorize" back then, though we heard our mother often speak of the pug-faced Johnson twins over on Gravenstein Lane as being "holy terrors". We knew that we liked that contradiction, like sweet and sour pork. We came to call the Johnson Twins "Sweetie and Sourpuss" or sometimes the "piglet twins", to the point we forgot that their names were really Randy and Rusty.

One morning we went to the front parlor and saw that the egg was gone. Neither Grandmother or Aunt Mildred would share details. "Oh, it's still around. You just shouldn't have all of your prized things on display and should alternate them now and then so you have a better appreciation of them. Don't you like the new one better."

We regarded the glass figurine of a ballerina centered formally on a tiny doily to be far more terrorizing than the old beloved egg. But we let it rest. We never saw the egg again. Did it take flight, or did it hatch and release the flying red...creature. Maybe it's out there somewhere laying more eggs in other households.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Mi Gusto Caballero Reynaldo

Have I become so terminally unhip that I missed him over the past 15 years or are there others out there who have never heard of Caballero Reynaldo? All I have to say that I am hooked and in love.

Though never a particularly big fan of Frank Zappa, Reynaldo's take on "Lumpy Gravy" above is making me want to reassess his entire catalog. You've got to admire a man who sings the Sex Pistols, Kurt Weill, Nancy Sinatra, Ethel Merman and Zappa all in a mix of Spanish and heavily accented English.

He's sort of a combination of Spike Jones, autotunes, Alvin and the Chipmunks, El Vez, Bjork, Miguel Bose, Pizzicato Five, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Ennio Morricone and Cher. And his take below on "Jesus Christ Superstar" is definitive. "So Jew are de Christ? Jew are de greet Jesus Christ? Come on dee king uv dee yous."

Reynaldo is represented by Hall of Fame Records in Valencia, Spain.

They appear to have an interesting stable of equally endearingly insane artists.

I really didn't need another reason to get back to Spain, but now the need to get back is even stronger.

It's pretty funny to see what the Zappa-files say about him here.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Junk Thief TV - Season 4, Episode 6 - The Easter Special

Junk Thief welcomes Easter. We will heading over this afternoon to the San Francisco Mix Tape Society to present our take on the theme "Fools Rush In". Alton V. Yowells has stepped in to present "Fools Rush Inn: Love Songs from Ludlow". As you may know, Alton is a professor of desert studies and reptile science at Ludlow State University. Please join us at the Make Out Room where Alton's tape/CD will be presented.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Yellow...and Pink...and Lavender...and Red...and Green...

The long monsoons are finally lifting, and this is a bit of what is emerging in the back garden (and front beds). Bow is enjoying a chance to sniff some new scents emerging with the arrival of April. There is much work to be done, but it's encouraging to see the calla lilies emerging as well as the California wildflowers in their pots in the tiny greenhouse.

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