Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Costumes from the 1940's

I have a book of novelties chock full of old goodies, circa 1940-1950. There's a whole section on costumes, thought I'd share some of my favorites, for better or worse...

Perfect for the hoi paloi:

Costumes for the homely...

...and the comely...

For an international flair:

Politically Incorrect to the power of 10:

Glow-in-the-Dark Plutonium Makeup

Harmless. Right.

It's a hat-that-makes-the-back-of-your-head-look-like-a-monkey costume:

Barrel of laughs:

Can't...resist...the power....of the......TIE:

Just. Plain. Wrong.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Gewgaw, Mammy String Holder

In the 1950's, this would have been mounted to the wall of the kitchen. A ball of string would be loaded into the hollowed cavity behind her ample belly, with the string dispensed through the poor woman's bosom.

This is sure to offend anyone of color who steps into my home, so I camoflage it in my display cabinet behind the peon-riding-a-burro coaster holder, fat n' nekkid german woman ornament, and the Injun Tooth Tepee.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dead Trees

There are two dead trees on the corner.

When pine trees die, they become tree-shaped bombs. If they catch fire, they'll explode and send out flaming pine needle shrapnel.

These are two very dead pine trees - they've been brown and crispy for months. I suspect the lack of water did them in. They straddle three telephone poles, and overhang the apartment building - I suspect over the years they've dropped nice big piles of dead needles on the roof. Makes you feel all warm and cozy at night just thinking about it.

Like a bad neighbor, I've called the Evironmental Department at Torrance City Hall - I was directed there by the fire department. I felt really bad calling the fire department to bitch about a couple of dead trees when they've been risking their lives fighting hell-on-earth this past week. I was probably just another paranoid crazy in a line of paranoid crazies.

They're right. I own my nutty. Overgrown kindling bugs the hoo-ha outta me.

Everytime I drive by the dead twins, I give them the evil eye. I should be giving the absentee owner the evil kick-in-the-butt for having neglected them for so long. There isn't a good excuse for the neglect these two trees have suffered. They've never been very attractive, but at one time, they were sort of green. The drought has pretty much taken its toll on what remained of their good looks. This, and maybe a pine bark beetle or two.

My next stop: Southern California Edison. I like their 'no prisoners' attitude - they don't like trees that threaten their lines. They may not get over here for a couple of weeks, but they will come, and they will eventually remove the dead duo.

In the meantime, I'll continue to watch the pitiful pair, and hope for the best.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Gewgaw, Where does it all go?

Where does this crazy Torrance lady put all this gewgaw stuff??

In case you were wondering, we don't live like this guy's mom. That's called mental illness, or 'crazy horder syndrome'. Seeing that nightmare makes me feel quite normal. My house is vacant in comparison. Well, not really vacant. But I do have a few tricks for keeping things under control.

One way to not be overwelmed by little tchokas is to hide them. I have alot of baskets or little wooden boxes I hide things in, like this:

I get to keep little goofy stuff around that I can pull out at a moments notice, but I don't have to dust it, risk vacuuming it up, or look at it - but I know it's there.

Another way to control the clutter monster is to put thing in trays. Trays give the impression that you've made a modicum of effort to get things under control. Here's a tray within a tray:

By definition, gewgaws are the opposite of good design. In good design, form follows function. Does that mean a gewgaw is completely useless as well as tasteless? Of course not. There are always creative uses for things:

Buddha has been reincarnated into a toothbrush holder. In a previous life, he was a planter. By the way, we don't collect toothbrushes. The men in the family open up new toothbrushes without tossing the old - but that's another story.

Theming a group of items make them look like object d'art rather than a bunch of dust collectors:

Please ignore the dust on my object d'arts.

If you run out of room indoors, you can always look to the great outdoors. There, under a shrubbery, ceramic mushrooms feel right at home.

A rubber snake winds its way around cactus.

Oh, look...it's a garden gnome. What house is complete without a garden gnome?

The best way to cage the collection beast is to relegate it to a display cabinet. If I were really disciplined, I'd get rid of things as I acquired 'new' things - I think this is what a professional house organizer would recommend. I just keep piling things on top of one another. I think of it as an assemblage.

Hopefully, my assemblage doesn't fall out when I open the door.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My SECOND Verbotomy definition!

Holy Smokes, another of my definitions made it on Verbotomy! Ooooh, it's a good one - check it out!


I couldn't be more proud - again, sniff...

... let me take this moment to troll for votes....my word for today's definition is : Dejavogue.

Of course, you're welcome to come up with your own, darn it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Taste of Torrance, 15 minutes of fame

Ever wondered how many movies, videos or TV shows feature the stylings of the City of Torrance? Ever had relatives visit from back east and didn't know what to do with them for an afternoon? Here's some movie and TV locations I've found at IMDb, and dozens of other sites around the web - I've put links to the sites where I found some of the information:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TV. Parts of the show are shot at Torrance High School on Carson St. Just a few blocks away is Buffy's house, located on Cota Ave. The Town Hall of the evil Mayor is actually a chiropractic office at 15411 Crenshaw Blvd.

• Torrance High School appears in: Beverley Hills 90210, She's All That, and Not Another Teen Movie, "Skin" (2003), Bruce Almighty (2003), Cursed (2005), Hot Chick, The (2002), She's All That (1999), Whatever It Takes (2000), Wild Life, (1984)

• Skaterdater (1965) This movie was about The Imperial Skateboard Team from Torrance, California.

• American Beauty (1999): South Torrance High School.

• White Heat (1949), starring James Cagney and Virginia Mayo: The last spectacular sequence is filmed in Torrance at a refinery on top of a tanker, known as a Hortensphere. Location was 198th Street and Figueroa, now known as the Torrance P.O. area - no longer a refinery.

• Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The (1984): ARMCO Steel Plant - 524 Border Ave.

• Bad Santa (2003): Filmed at the Del Amo Fashion Center - mostly in and around the defunct Montgomery Wards Department Store, which has since been torn down. Del Amo's International Food Court made appearances in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) and Valley Girl (1983), starring a very young Nicholas Cage. Comedy Central's Reno 911 has also used Del Amo for shootings.

• Lifeguard (1976), starring a very young Sam Elliot: Torrance Beach

• Swap Meet (1979) Took place at the Rodium Open Air Market, on Redondo Beach Blvd.

• The Student Nurses (1970) Filmed at the Harbor Convalescent Hospital on Vermont Ave., which is actually in Torrance P.O.

• Longest Yard, The (2005): Murdock Stadium, El Camino College

• Television show, The OC: Old Torrance, "The Model Shoppe", 1415 Marcelina Ave.

• Spice of Life, starring Dee Wallace-Stone:Billy's Deli and Cafe

• Bewitched (2005) with Nicole Kidman: Hows Market on 190th Street.

• Fat Albert (2004) South Bay Galleria (ok, not in Torrance, but right on the border in Redondo Beach.)

• Independent film, Dominion 2006, Filmed on location in Torrance.

• Volcano (1997) Scene filmed at Western Ave. and 190th St.

• Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) Shots include the Harbor and 405 Fwys, the Ronald Moran Cadillac (now a Hummer dealership) on Hawthorne Blvd, and a Mazda dealership (possibly the one that was is 190th Street.) Much of the movie was shot around Long Beach, Carson, and Torrance, so you're bound to see someplace in that movie you recognize.

• Deadline Auto Theft (1983) This is 'Gone in 60 Seconds' with additional footage and some editing. (Also the movie "The Junkman" (1982) - some scenes shot in Torrance.)

Batman TV Show (1966), Episode "Surfs Up Jokers Under". Filmed at Torrance Beach

• Huell Howser's California's Gold: The International Printing Museum (ok, actually not in Torrance, but on 315 Torrance Blvd. in Carson.

• Dogtown (1997) much of the film shot in Torrance - although it's supposed to look like the Midwest.

Godzilla (1998)Set of the Brooklyn Bridge was built on a vacant lot near Torrance Airport.

Torrance Rises 1999, Mockumentary. Through sheer determination and a little bit of luck, Richard Koufay leads his dance troupe from small town Torrance, California to the Metropolitain Opera in New York City for the MTV music awards.

Coffins I like

I know this is a little macabre, but what the hey - it's almost Halloween.

My idea of a good funeral is being buried for less than the cost of an expensive meal. I don't want strangers handling me, shooting me up with formaldyhyde, sewing my eyes shut, and putting bad makeup on my face. Nor do I want to be hermetically sealed until my festering gasses explode. Just burn me up, good and proper.

However, I might consider these as possible candidates for my final containment.

"...a tisket, a tasket, I'm buried in a basket..."

Just. Plain. Cool. Would keep it in the garage, and only wipe it with a diaper.

"Fra-gee-lay..." And I would demand they pack me in excelsior with a leg lamp.

Just like Tutankamon! Except cardboard.

Completely biodegradable and 100% groovy.

I decided to live it up - I urned it.

Must be Shaq's.

Finding Nemo - and a little surprise.

And finally...

What, no triple word score?

The Gewgaw, Whistling Astro Mug

If you blow into the rocket-shaped handle, it whistles - if you're 5 years old with a mouth full of milk, this could get fun.

The graphics are pretty weird - the astronaut has little claw-like fingers and toes, and a really, really skinny forearm. Exhaust blows out of his flimsy backpack.The bottom of the mug has a line of copy, written around a circle, "PERSONAL PROPERTY OF Japan".

I guess now that the cat is out of the bag, Japan will be asking for their mug back.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Junkin' Gems

It was a very good day of junking. I found some lovely items, some to keep, some to sell - one large matt glaze aqua green vase by Pacific Pottery - a Sacramento, California company that has been out of business since the 1930's. Less than $9. It now has a home next to the Royal Haeger on my kitchen sill.

Another unique item I found was a large Madonna and Child Hakata doll from Japan. Hakata dolls are traditional pottery figures - typically idealized women, samurai, children or other brightly colored figures. During the Korean War, US servicemen brought them back, but the Japanese made specific styles for the gaigin market. So, the colors of the 'souvenir' dolls are less vibrant but more realistic.

Although the 's-curve' pose is typical of a Madonna/Child figure, this has some unique characteristics. There's no veil on Mary, nor is there an indication of a halo. She's wearing shoes. The faces are Japanese, although the wavy hair and blue green eyes are certainly western. Japanese goddesses are often portrayed with long, loose hair, so this could be a nod to that in a very subtle way. Although some of the paint on the robe has rubbed off, it's quite lovely, with a very skilled painting technique, especially on the faces. Under five bucks.

Oh, and two bakelite bangles for $2. Lucky day.

Several other found items are now in my booth at Memory Lane. I keep the best ones for me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taste of Torrance, Southern California Live Steamers

Not clams, not oysters, but trains! Unfortunately, the trains weren't running the day I took the photos...

You don't have to fight traffic to crispy Griffith Park to catch a little train ride with the kiddies. Tucked behind Wilson Park, on the southeast side, is The Southern California Live Steamers, and free Little Train Rides! FREE! What could be better than that!?

When? The first Sunday of the month, except July, from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. It's run by volunteers. These people must love what they do.

Leaving Torrance for a moment...

After a lovely train ride, you can take a short jaunt down the road to the Lomita Train Museum, a charming place to oggle over cool train paraphernalia, while the kids explore a real train engine and caboose.

A wee bit of trivia: Irene Lewis, who donated the museum to the city of Lomita, and husband Martin hosted club meetings of - you guessed it - the Southern California Live Steamers.

Another bad plan

There's a group of 'townhomes' going up behind my home. I'm not happy about them.

For one, although they are being constructed to condominium spec, they are rentals. Expensive rentals, I suspect. I tried fighting City Hall a year ago when the little sign went out in front of what was then a tiny single family home. I found out this ain't an easy task, especially when the neighbors don't bother to show up at the hearing. I fought the good fight, however. No one can say I didn't do my part to discourage yet another faux Spanglish-Mediterrimitation McRental by some out-of-town developer.

The framing is just beginning, the slab was poured sometime during the last few weeks. One thing I noticed today: ten feet of 'green' space isn't much, even if it is the width of the building. That is the minimum amount the city requires. My side yard is wider than that.

Imagine a back yard that's about as deep as a bathroom.

I went down to the city to look at the plans, just to make sure that, in fact, the area was as it was spec'd, and to let them know I'm watching. It's a very good thing I did, as I noted that the architect snuck in a little surprise in the 'green' space - a pad for trash receptacles. This is as a result of a complaint I had during the permit process - no one had spec'd an area for storing trash. Apparently, they can't compel someone to place their trash cans in the garage. So, as an afterthought, they thought they'd put 1) a dumpster, or 2) several trash cans adjacent to my back yard.

That made me a little unhappy. So, I shared that bit of unhappiness with Aquilla, the young woman in charge of this project at the City of Torrance Planning Department. According to her, the location was established to prevent trash cans from ending up on the street, or in front of the buildings, as per my request. She neglected to note that I also stated I didnt want trash cans in the back of the property adjacent to my back yard in the green space - which, of course, is where the current plans indicate they are located. This also means the already tiny green space has shrunk by several feet.

In addition, she claimed that they could request, but couldn't compel the owner to cover the trash area with some sort of structure to prevent the cans from being left open, and trash blowing hither and yon. This gave me an idea.

My next stop: Building and Safety. When there are harborage issues, garbage, or safety and health problems with an apartment or residence, you contact Building and Safety. They can issue fines or warnings, and they are quite good about it. They can make you a very unhappy camper if you don't comply with their requests. I put in a complaint with them about the existing plans. My hope is Building and Safety will compel the owner to place some sort of shed or structure around it to make it less of a nuisance.

If the owner doesn't want to be bothered by calls from the city on a regular basis, intiated by yours truly, I'd highly recommend he do it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Gewgaw, Windup Chinaman

Now, I'm not using the term "chinaman" because that's how I would refer to a person of Chinese ancestry - it's just the obvious choice given what this item is. It joins the ranks of the windup nun, boxing rabbi and windup lederhosen and all the other toys available through the Archie McPhee website. You won't find mine there, so don't bother looking.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Gew Gaw or Gewgaw defined

What's a gew gaw? For one, I found it's spelled 'gewgaw'. Silly me.

Well, it's:

a continental, a curse, a damn, a darn, a hoot, agate, bagatelle,
ball, baseball bat, bat, battledore, bauble, bean, bibelot, bijou,
bit, blocks, brass farthing, bric-a-brac, button, cent,
checkerboard, chessboard, club, cockhorse, cricket bat, cue, curio,
doll, doll carriage, farce, farthing, feather, fig, fleabite,
folderol, fribble, frippery, gaud, gimcrack, golf club, hair,
halfpenny, hill of beans, hobbyhorse, jack-in-the-box, jacks,
jackstones, jackstraws, jest, joke, kickshaw, knack, knickknack,
knickknackery, marble, marionette, mig, minikin, mockery, molehill,
novelty, paper doll, peppercorn, picayune, pick-up sticks, pin,
pinch of snuff, pinprick, pinwheel, plaything, puppet, racket,
rag doll, rap, red cent, rocking horse, row of pins, rush, shit,
snap, sneeshing, sou, sport, steelie, straw, taw, teetotum, top,
toy, toy soldier, trifle, trinket, triviality, tuppence, two cents,
twopence, vanity, whatnot, whim-wham...

I'm kinda liking the sound of the Weekly Whim-wham.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


I love Halloween. On October 1, I hauled out all the Halloween decorations and put them out.

The smell of fall in the air drives me to thrift stores in search of pieces that will make the perfect costume. Not for me, of course, for my son. And this year, my son and his friend. They're dressing as the Blues Brothers.

If I bought or rented these costumes, I'd pay alot, and they would look cheap - or something wouldn't fit, especially since Jake and Elwood are usually more popular with the adult crowd, and not two 6th graders, one who weighs about 70 pounds, the other 130.

Two years ago, I put together a knight costume from the following: One woman's thriftstore blouse/pajama top, one sparkly disco tank top, one pair of my capri leggings, one pair of thrift store boots, my studded belt, toy shield and sword, and one drawing of King Arthur's coat of arms. The disco tank was the 'chain mail', and the blouse was the tunic.

The year before that, it was Indiana Jones. I found everything at the thrift store - very cool felt/leather hat, leather shoulder bag, leather holster, leather jacket, even a whip. It looked (polish my nails on my shirt) fantastic.

This year had its challenges. I had to find two black suits, two thin black ties, two 'fedoras' and two pair of matching sunglasses. The challenge? I'm cheap. At least they both had black pants and a white button-down shirt. The hats and glasses were the easy part. I snagged two of each at the Party America store. Total price: $17. Those were the most expensive purchases, but I knew there was no way I was going to find two real (and cheap) fedoras, and what kid is going to want to wear someone's old glasses with nose grease and sleepy crumbs on them?

I bought two black suit jackets for less than $3 each - one at the Salvation Army, and one at Discount Center. One is actually from the 1960's. I found one black tie so far - $0.99. It's about 1.5" thick at the widest part. I found another at Goodwill, but they wanted $3 - hey, I bought a suit jacket for that price, I wasn't about to drop that much for a tiny strip of fabric. I'm still looking.

Of course, during my costume search, I turned up a wrought iron black cat. I've decorated it with purple lights. I'll be putting it outside sometime during the coming weeks. In the meantime, it's keeping the other two cats on my fireplace company.

I have some thoughts for posting this month, my favorite of all the non-summer months. More Halloweenish stuff to come.

Populux is cool, isn't it?

My sister-in-law had one about a year ago, my niece just finished one, Jill at Sollillllooqueey is completing hers. A friend just told me she'll be starting one in a month or so. Lindsay Roberts has done it 11 times, courtesy of ORU.

Is everyone and their mother getting a kitchen remodel? Am I the only one with band-aid colored tiles - tiles that have cracks from hitting them with frozen peas? (my bad.) Am I the only one with a vinyl floor with faux wood vinyl molding? Does anyone else have faux bricks glued to the side of their cabinets? Anyone else light their stove with a match? Does anyone else find pictures of their appliances in housekeeping magazines from 1960?


I know. Genocide, war, pestilence, global cooling/warming all trump my petty kitchen concerns. I'm green, but not because I recycle.

I've considered doing the job piece meal, but the problems have a 'domino effect.' I considered having my cooktop rechromed, but it would cost about as much as a new cooktop. So, I thought, I'd replace it. But, my burners are built into the countertop - you'd have to rip out the tiles to replace the cooktop, which means that it wouldn't match the other countertop (even if I wanted flesh-tone tiles, where would I get them), so you'd have to replace that. The tiles are built up and around the window and sill, so the old window should be replaced too - so, shouldn't I do the rest of the windows? The sink is old, and the tiles are built around that too, so, the sink would have to come out. Of course, I have no dishwasher - wouldn't it be wise to get one? Which, of course means that the cabinets have to come out. Ok, so what if I just do the floor - I'd have to replace the molding, which would most likely damage the wall, as it's attached with industrial strength glue, which means plastering. Of course, then I'd really want to rip out the Z-brick that's falling off in spots anyway, which means the cabinets would have to be refinished, or replaced, which means I really should consider reconfiguring the whole layout....blah, blah, blah.

Solution: entire kitchen remodel. Well, not really, because I don't have enough disposable income for a new kitchen, especially one that will pass muster with me. See, I already know what I want, and it'll cost a fortune. I hate compromise. So, it looks like I'll have to keep telling myself, 'vintage kitchens are charming!'


Maybe I should tackle the bathroom instead...or find poorer friends.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

H.E.L.P. Caring for the Elderly

I have two sets of elderly parents. I see that inspite of the fact that my parents are in good health and take good care of themselves, there are things they have difficulty doing. My dad is legally blind, he can't drive. My mom is also blind in one eye, and her hearing has a lot to be desired. My in-laws have their share of health problems - diabetes, failing eyesight, back problems.

My heart goes out to persons who are old and don't have family to care for them. That's not uncommon these days. Children leave the area, work, or are estranged, a spouse dies. Long term neighbors move away. The elderly are easy to ignore, especially in a youth obsessed area like Southern California.

Torrance has a nice guide to services for the elderly (or Older Adults, as they put it.) It addresses many needs - companionship, estate planning, health care, home repair, taxes, elder abuse, transportation - there's got to be 100 phone numbers on the printed guide I keep in my drawer.

Unfortunately, the print is pretty small, and so this guide is more for a friend or relative that cares for the Older Adult. If you know of an elderly person who lives alone, check on them once in awhile. If you notice a change in behavior, get involved. Is their home in need of repair? Slip a print-out of the online version of this guidein their mailbox (enlarge it!). This guide is also available at the Torrance City Hall, and at libraries around the city.

Taste of Torrance, Mid Century Office

I really like mid century modern. There are not too many commercial examples in Torrance. This is one is located at the corner of Carson Street and Arlington Ave. I'm sure any architects out there will correct my description of this structure, but it looks like an A-frame to me. I love the overhang on the roof, the wall of glass in front, and the rock walls flanking the windows. I think there may have been a ball light beneath the overhang at one time.

On Sepulveda Blvd, just west of Hawthorne, is another example that looks very much like this. Yet another one is in Gardena on Redondo Beach Blvd. (at least it was there last time I checked.) I think most if not all of them were originally real estate offices.

I'm sick of the faux mediterranean/spanish style that seems like the norm these days. Give me a building that looks like this anyday.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Gewgaw, Confucius Ashtray

Confucius say, 'Double entendre.' You decide which one is the most appropriate.

Here is a real K'ung Fu Tzu quote that does sound suspiciously like the one on the ashtray:

"He who will not economize will have to agonize."

I read in Wikipedia that Confucius, as a chid, placed ritual vases on the sacrifice table. I wonder if he was responsible for emptying the ashtrays.