Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Decorating Ideas For Every Room In Your Home - 1969 - Part 2

My post on the fabulous 1969 thrift-store find, Decorating Ideas For Every Room In Your Home, was such a popular one, that I've decided to follow up with even more Decorating Ideas... You can never have enough decorating ideas, it's true. But also, this is the tutorial that really helped me hone in on the focal-point idea for room decor. There are so many focal points throughout these  "dramatic living rooms," "gracious guest rooms," "clever children's rooms" (etc.), that I'm forced to make my own arbitrary decisions about what exactly is the focal point.

This time around, I decided that if I were back in 1969 (I would be five years old, wearing flowered frocks and listening to a lot of Monkees), and I was actually within one of these rooms, what would be the one thing I couldn't stop staring at and obsessing over. That would be the focal point. I actually used to do this as a child because, as you will see, decorating ideas were pretty freaky back then. Our tastes have gotten more bland and generic, so I don't know if this technique would apply to today's decor. But my five-year-old self still finds time to stare and obsess over objects in people's homes. I just don't say anything out loud.

Here's the cover. I wish someone could bring back the Woman's World Library publishing house, so I could build on my collection of outmoded decorating manuals.

An idea for an attic space, from the back cover. Wouldn't this make a great gathering space for your 60s-era witches' coven? Plenty a Black Sabbath could be ritually celebrated here!

Obviously in this dining area, the mural with its latticed dividers would hold my interest, but is that the focal point that would weird me out the most?

Nope, I'm going with the artwork in the traditional frame for this one. Really, the entire room is one big den of weirdness, but this would catch my eye and hold it, once I got over the hot-air balloon motif over there in the corner.

What is the deal with this, anyway?

A girl's room! This should be easy. What's the focal point?

I'm going to go with the green seal with acid-red flippers.

Seal wearing ribbon, looking dapper

But if you picked the fuchsia fish on the bentwood rocker, I will accept that answer.

Felted fish

Another girl's room. This time an older girl, coming into her own.

I bet you think I'd be obsessing over the teen-idol pinup board.

British invasion bulletin board
I'm not saying it's not eye-catching, in a room full of eye-catching situations, but knowing me, I'd be staring at this area and mulling it over quite a bit.

Skeptical sculpture

A living area with everything shoved to one side of the room!

Including this...whatever it is...Jesus, what is this?

Very tortured art
And look at this. Oh my God...I am now completely mesmerized and will be until the end of time...

Hypnotic lamp full of balls

Here's a sitting room with Colonial-on-Peyote flair.

This would freak me out more than a little.

It's staring at you

Another sitting room, this time for groovy people.

I'd be zeroed in on this all night here.

Frightened creature sculpture

I call this our squiggly room. It's better on an empty stomach, it's true.

Do you like our artwork? It cost $700! Well, do you like it? Stop gaping and answer me!

Bad-trip artwork

One more, I promise. What's the freaky focal point? Take your time. This one is a little tricky.


I'm scared in this room—so very scared

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 Recap Tweets

Almost completely by accident, I recapped season 6 of Mad Men in tweet form. Perhaps this is the ultimate solution to timely recaps, with no chance of Internet burnout. Also, a great format for lazy writers—one or two koan-like sentences, and you're done.

Relive the stylish downward spiral of America's favorite mid-century anti-hero, Don Draper, as he drags everyone who cares about him down the elevator shaft of his empty persona! Will Peggy ever find true love, other than her new cat? Is Bob Benson a nicer version of Don Draper, and why is he attracted to Pete anyway? Will Pete ever see Tammy conscious again, and what will happen to the size of his sideburns once he gets to California? Joan and Bob are buddies—how 'bout that? Dawn needs a better storyline, that's for sure. Sally needs better parenting, that's for sure. Did you want more Planet of the Apes references, or was it the right amount? Megan and Sylvia, eh, who cares? I don't answer any of these questions. I'm just a Mad Men conduit.

Also, Holy Harry Hamlin, this was so awesome:

 I can't wait for the final season, when everyone goes full-on hippie.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer Movies from the Isle of Stinkeroo

There's a saying, probably started by a movie publicist, "Nobody ever set out to make a bad movie." I would add, "Except during the summer blockbuster season." Because that's when filmmakers tend to wave their hands in the air like they just don't care, budgeting for the biggest stars, the most extravagant visual effects, and anything left over can go toward that crap written on a piece of paper—what's it called?—oh yes, the screenplay. You know, the story.

Being a movie snob is not my choice—it's a necessity. I personally don't have a big budget to blow on bad films, so I have to be particular. I like my movies like I like my men—quirky, fine-looking, with some intelligence and genuine humor. That's not generally the call of duty during the summer season. Do I judge a movie by its trailer? Yes, millions of dollars went into these marketing ads, so use them to your advantage. What are they selling you? Often times, a whole lot of stinkeroo, but you be the judge!

World War Z - I don't care who says it's good (so far, mostly YouTube comments only), when I'm watching some TV with my kid and this trailer comes on in the middle of Major League Baseball, or Hockey playoffs, or something sporty and all-ages in nature, I DON'T WANT MY KID TO SEE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE BEING PLOWED OVER WITH GIANT VEHICLES, OR GETTING SUCKED OUT OF AIRPLANES. I don't care if they're zombies or not (no one looks like a zombie in this trailer).

If I find this imagery greatly disturbing, how will my 11-year-old feel about it? Since he's a sweet-natured person with anxious tendencies, my guess is: pretty bad. I don't know because every time this trailer has aired, I quietly turned off the TV in order to steep in my hatred for the Hollywood CGI violence industry that gives us ever-more graphic massacres in the name of entertainment. Plus there's Brad Pitt's cute kids and darling wife to worry about, for that human element. So I guess we put all our survival anxieties on them and forget about the millions who are plowed under within moments of this trailer. Hey, fuck you. That's not how my heart works. I can confidently report that this movie was not marketed for me

Kick-Ass 2 - A little teenage girl beats the shit out of people and slices them up with knives. Lots of fists smacking into heads, cars blowing sky-high, Jim Carrey looking manic (and having second thoughts about all this), and a dog-bite to the balls—creative! This doesn't even look fun. Unless being cured of ultra-violence by torture like Alex in Clockwork Orange is your idea of fun.

The Purge - An American utopia is in our grasp because all crime is legal for 12 hours a year. Don't even try to understand the logic of this premise. Just sit back and watch Ethan Hawke's family be terrorized in a brutal home invasion. Brutal home invasion films are now a cottage industry. If it takes a futuristic Utopian concept to bring us one more of these brutal home invasions, so be it. Perhaps we get the brutal home invasion films we deserve.

This Is The End - A bunch of successful comedy guys face the apocalypse together. It's the ultimate end-of-the-world buddy-film vanity project with crunching bodies and mansion-as-lifeboat humor, plus Emma Watson wielding an ax. So, you get a brutal home invasion too. I liked all these guys so much better when they were sidekicks, co-stars, ensemble players, you know—in small doses.

Does anything in this trailer make you actually laugh?  Because I do remember laughing at everyone in this cast in other projects over the years, but this...just....no. Even with a duct tape gag—which cannot lose. Small doses, guys—from small doses comes great, concentrated comic moments. From overblown concepts—much potential mediocrity.

You're a studio exec at Disney and you're running out of adaptable summer blockbuster superheroes. You mentally run down the list of B-grade comic-book fodder from years gone by: Green Lantern, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor (for God's sakes, Thor), multiple Hulks—done—all done in multiple screening formats with varying degrees of success. Hmm, no She-Hulks yet...naaah... she's hot, but look at Wonder Woman—in development hell for decades now...that leaves...nothing. Wait! What about...The Lone Ranger. The guy in the white hat and mask with his monosyllabic Native American sidekick, Tonto.

That Tonto (doesn't Tonto mean fool in Spanish?) might run us afoul of actual Native American actors—get PR on it, pronto! We'll cast Johnny Depp—king of the hipsters. He'll make Tonto cool, like he made a Little Richard/Keith Richards-based pirate cool. Doesn't he claim he might have Cherokee ancestors, or maybe Creek—one of those? Put him in some mime paint with a dead bird on his head, but call it a spirit animal. Put in a bunch of train explosions, Monument Valley, a madame with big hair—all those chicks in brothels back then had big hair—it's going to be big, Pirates of the Caribbean big, madame with big hair big. Big, big, big!

Big big big big big!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Reality TV Quick Sketches

I caught this horrid cold yesterday and now I'm sicker than a new season of Hoarders. What to do when a virus has taken over the entire upper body, including my brain? Watch reality TV and make some quick portrait sketches, of course. These are some of the people on the TV that we invite into our homes each week (or each day, if you have a little bit of a TV-addiction problem). No particular order and no particular theme. I just liked drawing these faces today.

Milan is an assistant to plus-size fashion-designer diva, Kenyatta, on WE-TV's House of Curves. I thought a show about plus-size fashion would be interesting (How do you design for curvy bodies? Where do you sell such items? How do you work within the larger fashion world that caters to an ideal shape that most women can never obtain?), but I was wrong. The show appears to be heavily scripted for maximum meaningless bitchiness. Milan's parents want her to go to dental school but she's finding herself while serving specialty tea drinks to her boss, who invariably rejects them with a wave of her hand. Look at her cool neck ornament! I did not do it justice in this quick sketch.

Let's move on to Hoarders, which always inspires me to clean my house thoroughly, even while in the middle of a chest cold. Fredd and her husband Fuzzie live in a big house that Fuzzie's Dad paid for. They've stuffed it with collector and would-be art-project items, such as comic books, fake-bloody mannequins, videos, record players, dentist chairs, scary masks—like me and my friends in the olden days of San Francisco Bohemia.

Except they're in their 40s, still don't have jobs, and expect Fuzzie's father to keep paying their bills, which includes the rent on an 8,000-square-foot warehouse full of motorcycles, a birthing table, and more useless crap. They claim the warehouse is necessary because it has at least $10,000 worth of potential merchandise within, but come Hoarders clean-up day, their sale only nets $900 before the rest gets junked. Still, paying Fuzzie's Dad the $900 is, according to Hoarders' therapy-speak, "A step forward," so kudos. And they get to keep a basket full of broken vibrators should the need to use them for an art project ever come up.

Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms, ladies and gentlemen. I think the image speaks for itself.

Bobo from Finding Bigfoot. I watched this once and couldn't believe it's a series. A group of Sasquatch researchers travel the world to, as you might guess, find Bigfoot. It would be cool television if they could actually find Bigfoot, but don't count on it. Still, nice work if you can get it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Movies You May Have Missed - "Smithereens" 1982

In her first feature, Smithereens, Susan Seidelman focuses on Wren (Susan Berman, who was first spotted in an off-off-Broadway theater audience)—one of cinema's true narcissists. Seidelman says in her DVD commentary that before any characterization was set, she always visualized the red sneakered feet of Wren, endlessly walking the sidewalks of the city—a sort of new-wave bag lady and hanger-on to a dying music scene. The film is a testament to Seidelman's artistic eye, which is definitely attuned to visual storytelling.

Why she chose such an unlikable character, she won't say. Smithereens is an unspoken criticism of the fringe dwellers of a scene, particularly when it loses its artistic edge and is about to turn into something easily commodified. In this case, when punk merged into new wave.

Wren isn't a successful hanger-on. She can't get any kind of action, not even the groupie kind. The musicians at the Peppermint Lounge won't put up with her, their antenna finely tuned to her parasitic type. Her sister's nightmarish family in New Jersey knows better than to loan her money. Her landlady evicts her for not paying her rent, and her co-worker won't take her in. Only Paul, passing through from Montana, living in his graffiti van before heading to the woods of New Hampshire, shows any interest in her before realizing he's made a terrible error in judgment.

It's a bleak world Seidelman creates, despite the bright colors and youthful energy that fuels the underground. In the opening shot with no dialogue, with no faces in fact, Wren is cast as a petty thief with petty desires. Constantly in motion, seemingly going nowhere, Wren's search for a patron or cohort, or at at the least an acquaintance, is that universal and generally repugnant quest for fame—without noticeable talent or application. Plastering photocopies of her face throughout the subways and abandoned buildings of the city is her first course of action, until she can latch onto someone more successful

Enter Richard Hell as Eric, a musician trying to make a record deal in Los Angeles. Casting Hell in the film gives it some needed punch. Eric is every skinny, cute musician who not only can't be relied upon, but might actually land you in jail. Fighting the demons of addiction and punk-rock burnout at the time, Hell saunters through the artist's loft of his mind with mischievous charisma intact. In his DVD interview, he regrets playing such a money-grubbing user when he was a committed artist at the time, but the film would probably tank without his presence.

Everyone in the cast does a good job of staying in character—even after a long delay in filming (noticeable in Wren's altered hair lengths), but Hell lends an authenticity to the desperate Bohemianism. You can read more about Hell's musical contributions and how he voluntarily dropped out of the scene in his autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. It will put you in the right frame of mind to commit artistic mayhem.

Hellooo, Richard Hell
Wren, who Seidelman calls (without rancor) a cockroach, just keeps going, and will not be denied her dose of rock star limelight. Or so she hopes. Midwestern Paul stands by, sullen, while fending off prostitutes who are probably all better companions than Wren. Street pimps, creepy roommates, and assorted "it" girls pass through, adding their timeless ambiance to a vanished world. Most of us could now never afford to live in the neighborhoods shot on the sly in Smithereens, and that's my answer to the question: why watch it at all?

Cookie Mueller—muse to John Waters and Nan Goldin—in her memorable cameo

Seidelman was part of the 70s-era underground film scene in the city, where musicians and amateur filmmakers converged among bombed-out blocks of rubble and decay. It was an artists' paradise, if you could get the film lab to defer payments long enough to complete your project starring all your friends. And it's gone now, gutted for gentrification.

Another plus is that Seidelman had originally studied fashion design but hated sewing, and so ended up applying all her style to her new-found love of film. Smitherens is rich with images that can only come from an artist's eye. Every low-budget shot in this $60,000 feature is composed with color, texture and painterly qualities in mind. When I can't take Wren and her self-centered mind-set anymore, I just focus on her patterned, spray-painted world and I'm very content to do so.

Wren was inspired by Giulietta Masina in Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, and similar to Godard's rootless pop-culture protagonists in his early films. Seidelman's quirky new-wave character study hides an existential European sensibility in plain sight. Those expecting wacky hair-gel high-jinks—this is not the film for you. Those of us who came of age in the late 70s and early 80s—maybe we've misremembered the bad times in that foggy neon glow, but here they are, for your consideration. Smithereens was the first independent film to go to competition in Cannes, setting a precedent and launching Seidelman's career. Here's to her tenacious independent vision, and that wonderful, stylistic eye.

Plenty of high-speed film-stock shots with one or two supplemental lights for a gritty look and feel
THAT'S setting a scene
Blink and you'll miss Chris Noth in his first role
Wren finally suspects that something is amiss, but will she ever figure it out?

Poster - self-portrait photocopies, red sneakers, checkered sunglasses—all you need to know in one shot.

The trailer features some of the Feelies-heavy soundtrack. The Feelies' consistently nervous rhythms connect us with the year 1982 and Wren's restless search for something outside herself.