Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Silly Cinema: The Girl Most Likely To... (1973)

It is a gift when enough time passes to allow one a new perspective on a traumatic event - or even an entire era.  That's kind of how it is with the 1970's.  Instead of making like most vintage enthusiasts and painting the decade as a burning tire fire of fuel shortages, political corruption, excessive body hair, bootie bumping, and - dare I utter the word - polyester, I choose to paint the 70's in finer brushstrokes.  Over forty years since the inception of that much-maligned decade, I think it is time to view those years as a triumph of a color, a triumph of cornball, and a triumph of revisionist history (think all those 1930's/40's silhouettes, think American Graffiti, think "Happy Days").  What better way to revise the past than to get a face-full of plastic surgery and create a future-full of vengeance?!!

Enter "The Girl most Likely To..."
a 70's, revenge-film spectacular

Years ago, under the influence of an unhealthy dose of cough medicine, I watched a rerun of The Girl Most Likely to... (1973) in the wee hours of a sickbed morning.  Waking up the next day, I couldn't remember the name of the black comedy or many of the details; I did remember that I liked what I saw and that the star was a young Stockard Channing.  Some minor investigation (asking around and checking some of my movie-review books - this was pre-internet) resulted in not a single lead.  Cut to many years later when, on a search for something totally unrelated, I stumbled upon the DVD for The Girl Most Likely to...  Needless to say, I whipped out the old credit card and, quick as lightning, I was home enjoying this prime example of wacky tacky cinema all over again.

I had actually thought of the movie fondly and often
as the idea of "a beautiful person who had been
kidnapped by an ugly body" meting out merciless justice
to her tormentors provided a vicarious thrill.

I mean, how could you not love a movie with a tag line like, "They treated
her like a dog.  Now she's a fox.  And she's going to make them pay."

The story of The Girl Most Likely to..., an original made-for-TV movie, is about as straightforward as it gets.  Channing plays Miriam Knight, a lovelorn girl, heavy of body and brow, who must endure the stereotypical indignities and alienation associated with sub-standard beauty in America.

"'Miriam, don't worry.  Your turn will come.'"

Surviving not only the mistreatment of family, friends, and schoolmates, Miriam barely survives a catastrophic accident that results in full-body-and-facial reconstructive surgery.  Astoundingly, the surgery leaves her completely unrecognizable yet, thanks to skillful plastic surgeons, stunningly beautiful (or at least that is expectation of our suspended disbelief).  Her new appearance allows Miriam to exact her wildly-creative revenge on those richly deserving of their comeuppance.  If for nothing else, The Girl Most Likely to... is mandatory viewing for the hilarious scenes of retribution, played always to the slapstick-iest hilt.

It was time to start paying everyone back..."with interest."
It's pretty neat trick, managing to have hair and makeup done underneath the bandages!

Believe it or not, this tale of "an unloved, ugly duckling transformed by plastic surgery into a luscious, lovely lady," was written by that woman all-too-familiar with the surgeon's scalpel herself, Joan Rivers. 

Sometimes looking good is its own revenge, right Joan?
Am I right, Joan?  Joan?  Joan....
(Source, Source)

I'll be the first to admit that the 70's are by far not my favorite years for fashion and culture but I would be lying if I said that I didn't have a soft spot for "The Brady Bunch," The Carpenters, Freaky Friday, and one Miss Miriam Knight, dog-turned-fox.  And, just for the record, I'm no snob when it comes to polyester either.

If you're thinking of creating a "new you" for the new year, might I suggest The Girl Most Likely to... (viewable in its entirety here) as a cautionary tale rather than a how-to guide.  Happy New Year! 


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kitsch-en Kounter: Mexican Corn Dogs

This post is bound to get me in deep "caca" with my sister-in-law, our resident expert on Mexican food/heritage/culture/arts.  Developing a new recipe based on one of Mexico's greatest dietary legacies should have warranted a consultation; however, when culinary inspiration strikes, even familial ties must be cast by the wayside in order to perfect the next big taste sensation.  Forgive me sis...

One part of Southern California's greatness is its propinquity to Mexico.  Members of California's relatively-minute Minteman population would probably take great umbrage with that statement until caught stuffing their greedy faces with carne asada tacos and holiday tamales.

Just about every friend of mine either born in Mexico or born of Mexican heritage (and plenty born in/of neither) look forward to the holiday season with singular purpose; the holidays mean one thing - TAMALES!  Every year, the production line begins with the preparation of the masa, the soaked corn husks, the various fillings, the wrapping, the steaming, and ends with empty plates and distended, yet grateful, bellies.  This year we missed the opportunity to attend any pre-Christmas tamale parties, leaving a gaping hole in my holiday and my heart.  

It's tamale time!!!
I'm not too proud to use prepared masa from the Mexican market.

Convinced that all of the other coronary-inducing food I've ingested this season was simply not enough, I determined that Mr. Tiny's Tamale Shop needed to hang its shingle.  I'd been kicking a few ideas around of interesting tamale fillings but could not get past the concept of a Mexican Corn Dog - a HOT (Dog) TAMALE!

Okay, so my Mexican Corn Dogs may not be featured on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine.  They may not be the next food truck gimmick and they may not be winning any beauty contests at the next Oaxaca State Fair, but they were actually pretty tasty.  As per usual, I made a few missteps along the way, but I think I'll have the proper technique mastered by next year.  Variations on the plain tamale dog include tamale dog with cheese, tamale dog with chile and cheese, and tamale dog smothered in chili con carne.  The inspiration for next year would combine tradition with wacky tacky with Mexican-inspired street food - the bacon-wrapped tamale dog!!!

Halfway through the process I started thinking that perhaps it would be best to leave the cooking of "authentic" Mexican cuisine to authorities on the subject; then I thought better of it.  wacky tacky always wishes to push the corn husk a little bit further and build on the interesting culinary traditions of other cultures.  At the very least, we can help people who don't live in the land of Mexican plenty to understand that food from south of the border is far more than tacos, enchiladas, and beans.

"Tacos, Enchiladas, and Beans" - Doris Day
(This is some kind of promotional video for a restaurant/food distributor 
or something, but it was the only video on youtube for this song) 

My sis-in-law and I can agree on a number of major issues but I seriously doubt that we'll ever be on exactly the same page when it comes to tamales - or tacos, enchiladas, and beans.  Buen Provecho and Feliz Año Nuevo!


Mr. Tiny

Friday, December 27, 2013

Saving Mr. Tiny: A Story of "Summer Magic"

It is never my intention to use this blog as a platform from which to boast.  There are, however, precious few moments in my life that are truly worthy of proud celebration and 2013 shouldn't come to a close before I acknowledge one of the best days of my life.

The combination of an amazing Christmas present and a recent screening of the film Saving Mr. Banks reminded me that I have been remiss in expressing my gratitude for an opportunity that, even months later, I still have a hard time believing to be real.  In the summer of this year we were invited to the 85th birthday party of none other than Richard Sherman!

Did I mention that it was a surprise party?

Held at the incredible home of our friends, the party included Disneyland's Main Street
silhouette cutter, Mary Poppins tribute art, a sing-along with the birthday boy, and
a custom "Golden Record" cake of one of Mr. Sherman's classic songs.

For those who might be unfamiliar with that name, Richard Sherman is half of one of the most dynamic, prolific, and influential songwriting duos in history - The Sherman Brothers.  If you're still not sure of the name, think "You're Sixteen, " "Let's Get Together," practically every song ever sung by Annette Funicello, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie the Pooh, and of course, Mary Poppins.

The Sherman Brothers were not only instrumental in the scoring of Mary Poppins,
they played a huge role in securing the film rites and making sure the film was made.
My favorite scene in Saving Mr. Banks is when "The Boys" win over the tyrannical
Mrs. Travers with the cleverness of their lyrics and the unadulterated joy of their music.

I have it straight from the source that Mr. Sherman
approved of Jason Schwartzman's stellar performance.

Attending the party would have been honor enough, but Tiny & Mary were also asked to perform!  Can you imagine the thrill and the terror of singing a great songwriter's work for the composer himself?  Putting fears aside (well mostly, I might have choked up a bit as I explained how much his music meant in our lives), we performed what has become Tiny & Mary's theme song, "On the Front Porch" (written by the Shermans for Walt Disney's Summer Magic).  We also sang the "Doll On a Music Box/Truly Scrumptious" duet from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  As it turns out, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang duet is Richard Sherman's favorite piece from the Sherman catalog and "On the Front Porch," his brother Robert's favorite.

Elizabeth & Richard Sherman listening to Tiny & Mary
sing - MAGICAL!!!  Unbelievably gracious, Mr. Sherman
thanked us for our performance and didn't even quibble
over the fact that we were singing "On the Front Porch" on
the back porch.  He even remembered us when we had the
opportunity to sing for him again at another party.
(photo by our talented pal, Jimmy Mulligan - thanks Jimmy!)

Someone recently told me that my life looks like one epic adventure after another.  When I am cleaning bathrooms, changing diapers, driving my dad around in his transport van, scouring the oven, and feeling like I haven't a friend in the world, the concept of "adventure" seems a complete mystery to me.  Like everyone else, my life is filled with the daily mundanities that make for terribly-weak blog fodder - until these precious adventures and gifts are bestowed upon me.

Speaking of gifts, the "amazing Christmas present" that I alluded to earlier was a vintage
film poster from Walt Diney's Summer Magic.  We agreed not to exchange gifts this year but
my brother and his wife decided not only to give gifts but to make those gifts incredibly
thoughtful and generous!

I am so appreciative of the musical genius of The Sherman Brothers; nearly every happy, childhood memory I have is underscored by the charm of their brilliant compositions.  I am incredibly grateful for wonderful friends and family members that save Mr. Tiny by gifting me with their love and generosity.  Singing for Mr. Sherman is definitely a gift that keeps on giving.  When, on a cold winter day, I am chilled by the depths of my own ingratitude, I remind myself of that blissful hour and the warm memory of interacting with a man who continues to delight people the world over by sharing his talent and allowing others to do the same - talk about your "Summer Magic!"


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas!

No matter how often I try to face the reality that recapturing the magic of childhood Christmases is impossible, I find that I still subconsciously set unrealistic expectations of what I should be doing and how I should be feeling when the big day rolls around.  In my mind, the day should last longer, the lights should be brighter, the gifts more bountiful, the spirit more pervasive, and the nog just a little more eggy.


I think it's the adult pressure to have a "perfect" Christmas that makes me go a little nutty - "nuttier than a fruitcake," is the phrase that comes to mind.  After all of the planning, prepping, decorating, delivering, shopping, baking, cooking, and cleaning, I'm feeling much more exhausted than festive - and that's before the family comes over!  I guess I'll "yust" let Yogi tell you...

"I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" - Yogi Yorgesson (1949)

Is it wrong to take comfort in the universality of a half-crazed Christmas?  Even in 1949, the mad dash for presents, the bills, and the poorly-behaved relations were common elements at every holiday celebration.  And so I say, so what if all the nuts in my family qualify our living room as its own "Nutcracker Suite," I "yust" go nuts FOR Christmas!  In spite (or maybe because) of the madness, I still "en-yoy" the Christmas holiday and I hope that you do too.

Now that's NUTS!
Here is wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy & Prosperous New Year!!! 


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holy Rollin': Desert Christ Park

As much as we Northern Hemisphere-ians associate the Christmas holiday with frigid temperatures and blankets of purest snow, the fact is that even at its coldest, Bethlehem probably won't dip below the mid-50's Fahrenheit this December 25 (I totally checked weather.com or something).

With Christmas just a few days away, it only seems appropriate to visit California's answer to the barren, sun-scorched terrain of ancient Jerusalem - Desert Christ Park in Yucca Valley, CA.

Constructed in 1951 by designer/evangelist, Frank Antone Martin, Desert Christ Park is a five-acre statuary garden depicting the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  Situated on a sandy hillside, the park is the perfect place to reflect on the joys of the season in a setting not too dissimilar from the first Christmas, I reckon.

The wacky tacky adventure team enjoyed the opportunity to
reflect the attitudes and poses of the 60-year-old desert statues.

It's probably bad form to crash the Last Supper but I have a feeling He'd say,
"There's always room at my table."  What's a few more loaves and fishes, anyway?

Desert Christ Park is not itself a church but its religious nature makes it an ideal candidate for our "Holy Rollin'" series.  Plus, the grounds do include an awesome rock chapel - The Rock Chapel to be exact.

Through the cruciform window of The Rock Chapel, one can catch a glimpse of Christ's ascension.
With a capacity of about twenty people, we think The Rock Chapel 
would make an ideal location for an intimate, wacky tacky wedding.

The real fun of DCP is the opportunity for immersive participation with Martin's scriptural sculptures.

Emily was pretty proud of herself for helping...

Spoonin' and sunbathin'

"Seven heads are better than two," as the old saying goes.

It's been a rough thirty-three years.

I think there is a reason that people flock to the desert for spiritual awakening; America's Southwest has long been heralded for its calming, healing, and centering properties and Desert Christ Park is no exception.  Whether you're of the Christian faith or not, Desert Christ Park will make a believer (in sweet, roadside statuary) out of you.

Group hug!

Although it is difficult for me to understand, I realize that there are folks out there who actually enjoy the cold climes of those parts of the world that experience real winter weather.  I am such a wimp when it comes to the slightest chill that I am thrilled to report that these pictures are an accurate reflection of a Southern California Christmas (it's supposed to be 82 degrees on Wednesday).  My Christmas wish (which could be the beginning of my own personal episode of The Twilight Zone) would be to make like the statues of Desert Christ Park and bask in the perpetual peace and sunshine of the desert all winter long.  I love our winter weather!

"Winter Weather" - The Benny Goodman Orchestra (1941)

Warm or cold, we truly hope that all of your wacky tacky celebrations are merry and bright!  Merry Christmas!

Desert Christ Park
56218 Sunnyslope Dr
Yucca Valley, CA


Mr. Tiny

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kitsch-en Kounter: It's A Marshmallow World in the Winter

The other night at a holiday party, the Rice-A-Roni jingle was getting quite a lot of play (not at all unusual for the types of parties I attend).  Once performed, the song is on perpetual replay in everyone's mind until replaced by something equally infectious; the jingle eventually led to intense and provocative discussions of other processed foods and pre-packaged meal-aids like Hamburger Helper and Shake 'N Bake.  With equal parts pride and embarrassment, I had to admit that in all my years, I had never tried any of these products (fancy, name-brand items were reserved for the rich and famous).  For better or worse, we were raised without the benefit of many packaged and processed foods; that meant no "San Francisco Treat," no TV dinners, and definitely no Hostess Sno Ball snack cakes.  

All these years my parents deprived us of  the "Energy snack!"

On the way home from the same party we were listening to a stellar, Christmas music mix that included "It's A Marshmallow World," as performed by the inimitable Darlene Love (a welcome replacement for the ringing bell of a San Francisco cable car).  After a full night's sleep of digesting lyrics like "It's a yum-yummy world," "It's a whipped cream day," "In winter it's a marshmallow world," and "The world is your snowball," I kid you not when I woke up and exclaimed aloud, "SNO BALL CAKE!!!"  Thus, the next entry into our wacky tacky Kitsch-en Kounter was born.  It's like the song was written by Hostess as jingle for it's snowy, pink treats.

Obviously, reproduction Sno Balls are not an original concept.
This vintage ad for Swift'ning Shortening shows that cotton 
candy-colored coconut cakes are a perennial favorite.

Like a well-formed snowball, all the birthdays in my family are densely packed around the holidays; I knew that the next birthday cake I made had to be an homage to the coconut confection of the same name.

The inspiration - a rich, devil's food cake filled with cream, covered
in a layer of marshmallow and dusted with bright PINK coconut.

Don't get me wrong Mr. Presley, your "Blue Christmas" may be second only in colorful, yuletide magic to Mr. Crosby's "White Christmas," but I think that I have forever been converted to a PINK Christmas! 

I'll have a pink Christmas!
I was surprised to find that a twelve-pack of Sno Balls was just under three dollars - leaving me wondering why it is so much cheaper (in the short run) to eat junk food.  Instead of pondering the complexities of a serious subject like my own place in America's obesity epidemic and healthcare crisis, I grabbed the Sno Balls and a box of Copitos (some strange, pink coconut/marshmallow blob on a chocolate cookie trying to horn in on the pink coconut craze) and made it out of the store for just over four dollars!

My Sno Ball is a three-layer, devil's food cake with whipped-cream filling.
The icing is a pink-tinted, marshmallow buttercream with dyed-to-match coconut.

Now is the time when I must admit that I still have not had an official Sno Ball snack cake; I didn't save any room after indulging in a hefty slice of my own creation.  Beyond their 1940's provenance and ultra-kooky aesthetic (immortalized in John Waters' Hairspray), I think Sno Ball's are best appreciated from afar (or in the form of a homemade dessert).

Our Sno Ball Tableau
My usual more-is-more philosophy kept nagging me as I patted on the last flakes of pale-pink coconut.
I racked my brain for additional decoration ideas until I remembered that I was trying to recreate the
 simplistic beauty of the original Sno Ball.  Even without adornment, the wacky tacky Sno Ball Cake
is sure to have Mr. Tiny dreaming of a pink Christmas!

"It's A Marshmallow World" - Darlene Love

Have you ever had a Sno Ball or Rice-A-Roni for that matter?  In what color do you dream your Christmases? 


Mr. Tiny

p.s. If you've got a hankering for a Sno Ball, you're welcome to come over.  I have a dozen with your name on them! Ho-Ho-Hostess, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Citizen CANE: Logan's Candy

Keeping area dentists in business for the last eighty years, Logan's Candies (est. 1933) is definitely the sweetest part of downtown Ontario, CA.  Logan's is the destination for dipped chocolates, seasonal sweets, and old-timey candies of all sorts (allsorts included) all year long.  Although, the store really comes to life at Christmastime with those sticky-sweet stars of the season - CANDY CANES! 

Unlike dense, artificially-flavored, mass-produced, store-bought candy canes, Logan's candy canes are crisp, airy, delicate, delicious, and hand-pulled.  For years we've talked about attending the evening candy-cane-making demonstrations offered during the holidays, but this was our first trip to see the magic, mystery, and meaning behind Logan's special brand of candy canes.

The wacky tacky adventure team didn't even wait for the demonstrations
or free samples; Jesse, Mary, and Emily dove right in sour gummy-peaches,
chocolate truffles, and almond clusters.  I seriously had to make like Mrs. 
Gloop and tell all these Augustuses to "save some room for later!"

Logan's has a signature stripe pattern on their canes that has not changed since day one.  It was a thrill to watch the masters at work and see a blob of molten, caramel-colored sugar transformed into 400 crooks of minty deliciousness!


This was my favorite part of the demonstration.
To create samples, a length of warm candy cane
is placed in a press, removed in a rope, and whipped
against the marble counter.  Voila, perfectly-
sized, pillow-shaped candy cane tasters!

Ever the holiday-enthusiast, Emily was inspired by the samples
to don her festive, if altogether-mismatched, candy cane antlers!

Emily wasn't the only one getting in on the act; we were allowed to bend a couple of canes that were hot off the press!

We made a "W" and a "T" for "wacky tacky."
The "W" also doubles as an "M" for "Mr. Tiny" - how very handy!
Owing their shape in no doubt to my crazy grill, my lips 
can only be described by one immortal word - "Rosebud."

A warm and wacky tacky, "Thanks" to the great folks at Logan's Candies for their delectable holiday tradition!  Please be sure to visit Logan's for all of your candy needs.  Their bending genius isn't limited to candy canes; they make Stars of David, clovers, Easter baskets, hearts, and more!

Do you fancy yourself a "Citizen Cane?"  Have you ever played a candy cane bender, if only for a day?  Is there a candy store specialty in your neighborhood without which you just can't imagine enjoying the holidays?  However you celebrate, we hope your holiday season is as sweet as Logan's beautiful candy canes!

Logan's Candies
125 W B St
Ontario, CA



Mr. Tiny

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Paint Me A Winter Window


Remember when every grocery store was outfitted with a lobster tank?  Do you remember when the same grocery stores ran perpetual coloring contests for prizes so spectacular that you often took multiple copies of the coloring page in the event of a mess-up, neurotically over-thought your crayon choices, and stayed within the printed lines like your very life depended on it?  Do you remember when the facades of theses supermarkets were nothing more than great, gleaming, glass canvases just waiting for the deft hand of a skilled artist to anoint them with something far more sophisticated and substantial than posters advertising discounts on canned peas and frozen/defrosted ham hocks?  At Christmastime it was these very grocery stores that transformed into veritable winter wonderlands with a just few strokes of the master's brush.

Welcome to the wonderful world of window painting!

It always seemed to me that holiday window painting ushered in the Christmas season; after Thanksgiving, one would be hard pressed to find a supermarket, a hardware store, a bank, or a coffee shop whose window panes hadn't been visited by a skillful "Jack Frost."  It appears, however, as monolithic, windowless grocery stores, and political correctness have taken their jackbooted foothold, that window painting has taken a backseat to dispassionate displays of joyless, holiday-neutral consumerism.  On my first venture out to look for holiday window art, I was disheartened to drive for miles and miles without a single example to document.  It was as if, in unison, retailers were joined in singing a chorus of "Little Jack Frost, Get Lost."  Just when I thought hope was lost, I began to see a few holiday holdouts - with all of the usual suspects present and accounted for.

The obligatory Santa Claus adorns so many windows and doors
that it is hard to chose a favorite.  The obvious choice for many
would be the rock 'n roll Santa (or even sexy siren Santa), but I  am
quite partial to the primitive, noseless, coal-eyed Santa (top-right).

A Southern California sleigh ride

There is no shortage of evergreen varietals in our neck of the woods; we have spongey, blobby, stack-y, and zig-zaggy.

Don't worry, the improbability of a Snowman coexisting happily with a
swordfish is not lost on me (even if said swordfish is wearing a Christmas cap).
I guess that is why I love the realism of the gleefully-melting snowman with
tyrannosaurus arms sticking out of the lowest part of his corpulent frame.

I really like the white wreath with the ornaments of primary colors
but it pales in comparison to Santa's long-lost reindeer, Bootsie!

I can't be the only one who used to whittle down one end of
the candy cane into what can only be described as a shiv, can I?

The reason for the season is surprised to find Himself
on the window of Northgate Market in Santa Ana, CA -
one grocery store committed to making their windows
work for them at Christmastime.

For all of the regular Christmas characters that were represented, there were one or two "misfit toys"
to round out the bunch.

"'Buon Natale' means Merry Christmas to you.
Buon Natale and lots of fun; Happy New Year to everyone.
This is the window of one of our new favorite places, Claro's Italian Market.

Apparently, for some folks, Christmas has a lot to do with steaming bowls of tripe
soup and seafood; a fan of neither, I can wholeheartedly get behind the custom
of Christmas tamales but I definitely draw the line at rooster eggs...

It is worthy of note, sociologically-speaking, to recognize that every single example of holiday window painting that I encountered was in a neighborhood marked by predominantly-minority populations.  I'm thrilled to know that even if "Main Street, USA" isn't painting its windows this holiday season, that Southern California's diverse communities are keeping a wacky tacky art movement and holiday tradition alive!

In my frenzy to present the best winter windows, I should
acknowledge that not everyone celebrates in the same way.
I don't think that an outward display of one person's celebration
diminishes the validity of another.  I honestly believe that there
is something interesting and worthwhile to be learned from most
faiths/traditions/schools of thought.  More importantly, I believe
that when a flying octopus wishes one a "Merry Christmas," one
should not be offended.  One really ought to be excited; it is a well-
known fact that most flying octopi are agnostic.

"Little Jack Frost, Get Lost" - Frankie Carle & His Orchestra

I may not agree with the sentiment where holiday window 
painting is concerned, but it's got a good beat and I can dance to it.

Have you ever made like Jack Frost and painted some winter wonder on a window?  Do shops in your hometown deck their windows with boughs of temporary, tempera holly?

Season's Greetings from Mr. Tiny to you!


Mr. Tiny