Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sew What?! A Trivial Tropical Frock

I certainly hope that I don't convey too strong an air of expertise on any subject.  The sad fact is that, like the effervescent Ms. Lee sang, "I know a little bit about a lot of things."   I have a solid Jeopardy-esque knowledge up to about the $600 level; after that, I feel particularly proud if I happen to phrase the correct question - if I remember to phrase it in the form of a question at all.  I can die a happy man if I get Final Jeopardy correct before the last "bum-bum" of that anxiety-inducing music.

Having a broad base of trivia clogging the cortices (I learned that one from Jeopardy) of my brain makes my authority on the subjects to which I can speak, well, quite trivial actually - especially sewing.  I try not to get so intimidated by the glory of the garments produced by the unbelievably-talented sewists/tailors/seamstresses with which I am acquainted via blogs and in real life, that I give up completely.  However, being mostly self-taught, terribly impatient, and buttery of finger, I try to stick to trivial pursuits (see what I did there) with sewing projects that are low-input/high-impact.

Last weekend Tiny & Mary were asked to perform at a co-ed, Hollywood, "industry" baby shower.  Wanting to make an impression (really good or really bad is better than indifferent, right?), I decided to whip up a last-minute frock for Mary.

For this project I did something I never do;
I followed directions!!!

Most of the time, I will design something first and
then alter an existing pattern or work off of a sloper
to draft my own.  This time I cut and sewed
Retro Butterick B5137 as printed.

Well...mostly as printed.
I love the idea of a floor-length, afternoon gown but not knowing what
shoes she'd be wearing, I decided a shorter hemline would be more versatile.

I had this red-on-tan, tropical-print cotton in the stash for years after having purchased yards and yards of it for $0.99 per yard at one of my prized fabric outlets.  Figuring that we are still in the throes of summer, I decided that the style and print were still seasonally-appropriate, if a little wild for a baby shower.  Never one to leave wild-enough alone, I determined that the only way to top this ensemble off was a matching turban.  In my mind I envisioned some glorious, 1940's, Good-Neighbor-Policy-come-to-life a la Ethel Smith in "Blame It on the Samba."

What I actually saw in the finished product was more reminiscent of the lovely, bahiana-style women who attended my mom and her siblings when they lived in Brazil and Panama (Army brats).  It was an odd pattern - basically an extreme A-line muumuu with the fullness appropriated by a wide cinch belt of my own making.

Incapable of tying a proper bow, I opted to loop the
neckline bow through a second, fabric-covered belt
buckle that matches the buckle of the actual belt.

I don't know about you, but the front yard photo shoots that I use as the default background for every "Sew What?!" post, have grown extremely tiresome for me (usually the photos are taken as an afterthought as we head out the door to an event).  I wanted to find an interesting alternative but I didn't feel comfortable taking photos at the home where we were performing.  Requiring a quick stop at the drug store for some snacks supplies, I had a sudden burst of inspiration.  Wouldn't it be funny/unexpected to have the ambiguously-ethnic glamour of Mary's dress juxtaposed against a backdrop of cold remedies, orthopedic insoles, and enema kits?!?!?!

Not really...
Unable to catch my vision, Mary ended up looking 
more like a crazy spokesmodel for generic toilet tissue.  

Although, I do believe that economy packs were the grand prizes 
offered on several Eastern European game shows of the 70's & 80's.

I blame myself really; among many other subjects, I am no expert photographer either.  Back to the front yard we go!


Mr. Tiny

Monday, August 26, 2013

Signs of the Times: Arby's

Several years ago I went with some friends into a local vintage store, hoping that browsing would not turn to buying; I need not have worried.  As I perused the display case that held scads of vintage eyeglass frames, the proprietress walked over and said, "Oh, I don't think I'll have anything in there big enough for you."  It seems my shopping shame knows no bounds.  Even when it comes to glasses, I will forever be relegated to the "Husky" department.  Well, big & tall eyewear, here I come!

The same sort of "size-ism" applies to hat shopping too; I once had to have an XXL hat professionally stretched to fit my giant skull.  Because my cranium is so disproportionately-large compared to those of the general population, I have been forced to get especially creative in finding retail outlets for my apparel/accessory options.  Thank goodness for Arby's; if it wasn't for them I would never have been able to buy a 10-gallon hat off the rack, er, post!

Finally, a hat that fits!
Arby's enormous hat sign was designed by the Peskin Sign, Co. of Youngstown, Ohio (Source).

It isn't that the sign at my local Arby's is unique among the nationwide chain, it's that, among the square, molded, lightbox signs of the the fast food world, the Arby's sign (continuing the tradition of awesome, oversized, novelty neon) creates a unique and distinctive silhouette in skylines throughout the nation.

Oh, the glory of the buzzing neon and chasing, twinkle-light border of that enormous 10,000-gallon hat!

This is in no way intended to be an endorsement of the "deliciousness" of Arby's.
I can count on two fingers the number of times I have eaten at Arby's in my entire life...

The Arby's sign in action!

Because the last time I ate at Arby's was at least twenty years ago, I simply cannot vouch for it.
In fact, every time I see an Arby's, I am reminded of The Simpsons episode where a
character, crazed with starvation, is heard to utter, "I'm so hungry, I could eat at Arby's."

But there was a limousine in the parking lot, so you know it's fancy!

Instead of wallowing in the kind of self pity induced by an abnormally-huge noggin (seriously, we used to have "Big Head" contests at work and I would always "win"???), I choose to count my blessings, not the least of which is a big, sturdy body that prevents me from looking like a life-size bobble head.  Also among my many blessings is the surprising amount of 10-gallon-hat-themed videos that are fitting to share with you.  Enjoy!!!

"Ten Gallon Stetson" - Bill Haley & The Saddlemen

"My Stetson Hat" - Ethel Shutta & Company from Whoopee!

"Ten Gallon Hat" - Smiley Burnette


Mr. Tiny

Friday, August 23, 2013

Kooky for Kustom Kulture II

Leave it to old chucklehead over here to tell you about something cool with only days left to go experience it for yourself.  For well over a month, the Huntington Beach Art Center has played host to "Kustom Kulture II," a collection of paintings, sculpture, photography, poster art, automobiles, and artifacts that documents Southern California's Kustom Kulture scene - but we hadn't had the chance to go until yesterday.

Nick, Mary, Ben, Erika, Mr. Tiny, and Fabian
Tell the truth, if you saw this group headed towards your gallery/museum,
you'd quickly flip the sign to closed and lock the door, wouldn't you?

It wouldn't be much of a Kustom Kulture exhibit without the big names - Robert Williams, Ed Hardy, Von Dutch, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, George Barris, et al.  Many more artists were included and if my reporting skills weren't so abysmal, then I might have remembered a few of their names and credited them accordingly.

I liked this piece less for the masterfully-executed, mixed-media renderings and more for
the story of the artist who in a few short sentences described his Jayne Mansfield
encounters from supper club floor show, to shoe shopping, to decapitation.

I loved seeing Dali stuck inside of a surrealist landscape.
More than anything I love that frame; I'm a sucker for a gaudy, gilt frame!

Now that's a lucky cat!
In photograph, these almost look like two-dimensional paintings, 
but they are incredibly-detailed, sculpted figures - even the slobber!

Look at these cornballs pretending to be art connoisseurs.

George Barris was here.

Mary and one of the Munster Koaches.
I know that it is a showpiece, but if I have one complaint it's that it is way too shiny.  I want tarnish and cobwebs!

Erika puts on a very special, Munsters-themed performance.

When it comes to lowbrow art, I only like it one way - lowbrow.  Lowbrow with overly-thoughtful, highbrow tendencies is a big turn off to me.  I think that is why so many people connect with Ed Roth's art; there was no pretentious message behind Rat Fink.  Even if Rat Fink was symbolic of something, it was of abandoning pretension and enjoying the many pleasures of life - real wacky tacky.  As much as I appreciate their work, I think some artists can take themselves way too seriously.

Venus on the half shell in giant work boots with 5 o'clock shadow and a stogie.
This is but a small extraction from a much larger work of art
by Robert Williams...I think he's trying to tell us something. 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

They're from Boyle Heights...

I've never been a huge fan of Von Dutch until I read these words.  Amen and amen!
"Use any of my stuff you want to.  Nothing is original.  Everything is in the subconscious, we just 'tap' it
 sometimes and 'think' we have originated something.  Genes make us more or less interested in certain
 things but nothing is truly original!  Copyright and patents are mostly an ego trip." - Von Dutch

Scabbo!  Revolting and awesome all at the same time!

Of course, the star of any Kustom Kulture show is the work of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth.  It sounds bizarre, but I think there is something so wholesome and innocent about his imagery; it is like being a child, taking all of the grossest, coolest, craziest things one can think of and putting them all together.  There is no fancy training, no respect for tradition, no overt political agenda - just a reckless abandon, speed, and fun!

Lucky to have been brought up around this (k)ulture, I was particularly excited to visit again with one of Roth's most celebrated works.


Famous on screen and off, the Surfite can be spotted in the
background of this still from Beach Blanket Bingo.

Annette & Big Daddy
When my favorite worlds collide!

Shag's homage to 60's hot rod/surf culture and Big Daddy Roth.

The Surfite model kit

The installation was a recreation of the Revell model kit cover -
tiki shack, ukulele, and beach bum included.

Speaking of beach bums...I can't take these goons anywhere!

If you're in or around Orange County, CA, I suggest a little trip over to the Huntington Beach Art Center for a dose of "Kustom Kulture II."  It was the perfect way to cap off our kulturally-rich summer after going to The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood for a screening of the Robert Williams documentary, Mr. Bitchin'.

Trailer for Robert Williams Mr. Bitchin'

The "Kustom Kulture II" exhibit officially ends on August 31 but Saturday, August 24, is the closing reception and panel discussion with the curator of the exhibit and some of the featured artists.  It's never too late to get some Kulture!

Kustom Kulture II
Huntington Beach Art Center
538 Main Street
Huntington Beach, CA


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chow Time: Howard's Famous Bacon & Avocado Burgers

This, my friends, is an unprecedented Chow Time post.  I have made a promise to myself that I won't post about places that I haven't been.  I won't post about crafts I haven't made (unless I'm featuring a talented crafter that I have met/interviewed).  I won't shill merchandise that I have never tried or for which I have no affinity.  Basically, I won't manufacture a blog out of thin air (let's face it, there is nothing thin about me, even the very air I breathe) based on something about which I have no personal knowledge and/or experience...until now.

Howard's Famous Bacon & Avocado Burgers - Culver City, CA

To be absolutely fair, I have been to Howard's Famous Bacon & Avocado Burgers in Los Angeles, CA (see above photo); I just haven't eaten there.  The irrefutable flaw with that point is that I have no reasonable explanation for my self-inflicted fast.  Self control has never been one of my virtues and usually when confronted with a hamburger (a bacon & avocado burger no less), I go from willing participant to grease-stained glutton before I can even consider the option of abstinence.  At the time, I believe I heard myself say, "I'm not hungry;" knowing that those words have never before escaped my lips, I think I might have been temporarily possessed by some evil force (it says a lot about my character that several weeks after the fact, I'm still grieving the missed opportunity).  On that day, for reasons unknown, I watched as my compatriots enjoyed the spoils of Howard's famed kitchen while I sated myself with photos of the interior, the staff, the patrons, and of course the bacon & avocado.

While the menu looks extensive, it is essentially burgers, dogs, sandwiches, and fries.
The most important item on the menu is "Cash Only."

With the style and locale of a post-surf hangout, Howard's (est. 1971) really looks like a set from Village of the Giants, Fireball 500, or any number of low-budget teen movies from a particular era.  Happy with my surroundings, I learned that, aside from food, there is much to appreciate about Howard's Famous Bacon & Avocado Burgers.

There's this, of course.

And this.
The dining room consists of about five formica booths that cradle diners
in the saturated tones of raspberry sorbet.  Old, faded lobby cards are
shellacked to wooden plaques as a half-hearted nod to the history of
the nearby studios.  The decor is so spare and unaffected that it almost
reads as intentional.

And this.
Although this is far from her greatest film, I am a sucker for Deanna!

And this.
Compositionally speaking, there is nothing even remotely redeeming
about this photograph, except for the confluence of COLOR!

The trash receptacle, enrobed in salmon and marine blue formica, set against
the aqua counter, mid-tone beadboard paneling, the orange scalloped molding
and grill hood, the quilted, stainless backsplash, the red fire extinguisher, the
creamy-vanilla walls, and the mint-green "Employees Only" area are mere
supporting players to that woman in the magical magenta ensemble!
Howard's is a colorful place.

Howard's could serve just about anything and I would still find its lack of refinements charming.  Nevertheless, with food paramount to the overall Chow Time experience, Nick & Cynthia were anxious to discover the glory of Howard's.

Cynthia shows off her Bacon & Avocado Taco (we were expecting a simple bacon & avocado taco
but it was actually a bacon & avocado cheeseburger taco!).  Nick, unamused by what he believed
to be Howard's ironic, post-modern plating style, dives into a bacon-free, veggie burger.

Howard's claim to fame is that they were the first to marry a hamburger with what I believe are the two ingredients that can be added to almost any food to improve the balance of flavor, texture, and the overall eating experience - bacon and avocado (at the very least, they were the first to make a giant billboard with marquee lights announcing the beautiful union).  We have friends who, after moving to California from the opposite coast, mock every menu that has something "California style,"(includes bacon and avocado).  Simultaneously filled with pride for California's delicious culinary contributions and pity for the tragedy of unrefined palates, I leave our friends unnamed in hope that, in their anonymity, they will have time to reflect on the shame of their speciousness (before they are deported from California's borders on the grounds of gastronomic treason).

The Bacon & Avocado Taco

Gratuitous fry shot

And then there was this.
It became clear with this photo that a proxy recommendation sufficed in honoring Howard's
with the wacky tacky Seal of Approval.  Much like a shark in attack mode, Cynthia was so
intent on devouring her combination bovine/porcine prey that her eyes rolled back in her head.

"Mmmmm...them's good taco burger!"
I genuinely appreciate the signage and the seating and the swell atmosphere at Howard's, but next time, there will be burger!

Howard's Famous Bacon & Avocado Burgers
11127 Venice Blvd #7
Los Angeles, CA


Mr. Tiny

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sew What?! Baby Elephant Walk

At first, I couldn't decide if this was a "Sew What?!" project or a just another Crazy Craft.  When I examined the fundamentals, I realized that the only supplies involved were cotton fabric, thread, batting/fiber fill, ribbon, and some pom-pom fringe - no yarn, hot glue, beads, popsicle sticks, felt, rhinestones, feathers, foam, puffy paint, or sequins.  Furthermore, the only techniques involved were machine and hand sewing - this was definitely a sewing project!

Mary and I have been invited to perform at a private event, to be exact, a baby shower (a co-ed baby shower, no less).  I know that we are paid entertainment, but I have a hard time showing up completely empty-handed to a party.  Not knowing the host and hostess (the expectant parents) very well, not knowing the sex of the unborn baby, and not knowing if/where they're registered, I figured that I could put my stash-busting skills to work and make something that was mostly gender-neutral and suitable as a small token of congratulations for the proud mama and papa-to-be.

This is what I came up with.
I started making these stuffed animals and then, for some reason, decided that they needed to be wearing bathing suits.
The cool cat wears jams and the dainty elephant wears a floral, yo-yo bikini edged in pom-pom trim.
They were all ready in their bathing costumes, so I had to take them to the beach.

There are many unusual sights along the Southern California coastline, none so strange as the fully-grown, fully-dressed man laying down in the sand to spread out tiny towels and a miniature umbrella for his stuffed animals.
Would it have been less weird if I had made a little picnic too?

Sun worshippers!
"Everybody had matching towels!"

Aware that I have already shared this song multiple times, I couldn't help but include "Stuffed Animal" again, both for its thematic relevance as well as my love for the bizarre lyrics as so eloquently delivered by Annette in a 1960's peignoir.

"Stuffed Animal" - Annette Funicello

So deep in the thick of stuffed animal making, and excited by the fact that the cutest nephew in the world was coming to town, I decided to make yet another miniature mammal.

This particular kid is obsessed with three things: pumpkins, trains, and PIRATES.
 I thought it would be fun to make a pirate elephant...and it was.  I started with the same blue, floral
material used to create the bikini-clad elephant's body but used a red-and-white stripe for the legs.
Sticking with the red, white, and blue color scheme, I used navy-and-white polka dot fabric for the
pants and eye patch and a red bandana for the head scarf (the ears go though machine-made
buttonholes), and multi-stripe grosgrain ribbon for the sash.  A PATRIOTIC PIRALEPHANT!!!

I gave it to him when we picked him up from the airport and he loved it (a welcome surprise from a
kid who likes something for one minute and then throws it in a corner never to acknowledge its
 existence ever again).  He even asked to sleep with it at night.  Yahoo!

After all of these baby elephants (and one cat), there was really only one other song that would underscore this post perfectly.

"Baby Elephant Walk" - Henry Mancini
as performed by The Lawrence Welk Orchestra

I hope the recipients of these animals will like them.  My favorite part of this project was that it required zero trips to the fabric store; I used only what I had on hand!  Have you ever made a stuffed animal?  What do you think of homemade gifts?  Are they corny or cool...or both?

Here's hoping that the waning days of summer (Northern Hemisphere) are treating you well!


Mr. Tiny