Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Field Day In Washington, D.C.

In 1925, a photographer captured Mabel Harvey of the McFarland School tagging Virginia Smoot of Columbia Junior High out at third base during the juinor highs' field day in Washington, D.C.

That's a pretty intimidating slide into third - Mabel is to be commended for standing her ground and keeping her foot on the base. Any analogies to the current stand-off in Washington are left to the reader.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Selling Pasta Artfully

This circa 1901-1904 lithographed French advertising poster takes selling macaroni to a new level. The people depicted were France's most famous actors and actresses, three of whom had won the legendary Legion Of Honor, France's highest decoration, established by Napoleon Bonaparte. Among those pictured are Jane Hading (1859-1933) who started her career in Algiers and Cairo at 14, toured America at 29 and was one of the leading actresss of the United States, France and Britian; Coquelin Aine (1841-1904) and Coquelin Cadet (1846-1909), highly accomplished brothers, the elder of whom toured the U.S. with Sarah Bernhardt and appeared on Broadway; Michel Baron (1653-1729), such a sensation at 12, the king granted him his own company. He went on to be the "undisputed master of the French stage"; Mounet-Sully (1841-1916) known best for his portrayal of Oedipus; Gabrielle Rejane (1856-1920), a great rival of Sarah Bernhardt, she was thought to possess rare emotional gifts. The caliber of the actors depicted is so high, it would be the same to see Bette Davis, James Stewart, Clint Eastwood, Humphrey Bogart, Charlton Heston, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn striking a pose for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Actually, that could be a great ad!

Regardless, this ad is eye-catching in composition and color, especially the use of brown for the background, as it is a color that stimulates the appetite and conveys wholesomeness. A few of the people are holding boxes of assorted pasta products, which are visible but subtle - nicely done! It was created by artist Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) and the lithograph poster was printed in Paris by P. Vercasson & Cie.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This Day In History

Except for the communications antennas, Point Loma at sunset doesn't look much different than it must have looked 466 years ago, when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first sailed into San Diego Harbor on September 28, 1542. He had set out from Navidad, now called Acapulco. He and his men sailied against headwinds for five months before they found San Diego, which Cabrillo named San Miguel. They made their way throught the kelp beds and anchored for 6 days before heading on.

Sixty years passed before another ship anchored there. This time, on Nov. 10, 1602, it was Sebastian Vizcaino, who changed the name to San Diego, in honor of that saint's day.

Thanks to phphoto.org and Jon Sullivan for the photograph.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hawaiian Menu Art ~ #2 In A Series

Another aquatint created by John Melville Kelly, this one in 1937. It was eventually included in a series of seven menus for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. This one is called "African Tulip".

The flattering, form-fitting dress worn by the model is a far cry from the garments introduced by missionaries in the 1820s and 1830s. Known as holokus, the hot, baggy, long sleeved dresses were distributed in the hope they would foster modesty and restraint. The etching below, made in 1877, shows Polynesian women none too comfortable and looking somewhat peeved in their holokus. This style of dress eventually morphed into the much more popular muumuu.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Early Morning On The Beach

It's been gray and foggy these past few mornings, not really chilly yet, but autumn is definitely in the air. Did you know "autumn" has only been used to describe this season since the 16th century? Before that, it was known as harvest, but when people started moving away from farms and into towns and cities, the term "autumn" came into use. "Fall" is strictly a North American English term, which derived from "fall of the leaves".

We don't get a lot of color action around here, leaf wise, but the ocean is a constanty changing palette. This week it's been glassy and flat, inky almost, with gray morning skies clearing around noon. We're all waiting for a storm to roll in and give us our first measureable rainfall since last April. We usually get one summer storm, but this year was an exception. Our storms follow a pattern called the Catalina Eddy - they almost always approach from the North, then pass us by, wrap around down by San Diego and come up the coast from the South.

The focus of today's photographs is the preponderance of the color gray - sand, water and sky, all gray.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

The rayon fabric pictured above came from St. John's, Antigua in 1999. If you find yourself on Antigua and you like to sew, there are two great fabric stores downtown. Driving is difficult, as the streets are very narrow, mostly one-way and congested, but find yourself a place to park and spend an afternoon walking the town. The fabric stores are just around the corner from the police station, which is easily spotted, as the wall surrounding it is topped with swords.

Antigua is the largest of the Caribbean Leeward Islands and a prosperous country, with hard-working, friendly people. St. John's is a bustling port city, with a deepwater harbor where cruise ships dock. Consequently, the areas around the docks are touristy and cater to the ships. Try shopping where the locals do - you won't be disappointed.

The fabric pictured was irresistible and we bought the entire bolt. The plan is to sew it into a vintage 1940s style short-sleeved frock, probably cut on the bias.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Than A Face In A Crowd

The photograph of the young woman was taken in 1918, when she was 31. The photographer fell maddly in love with her, left his wife, and they lived together and eventually married in 1924. By then, she was internationally recognized as one of the most important contemporary American artists. In 1928, a series of her paintings of calla lillies brought $25,000, more than had ever been paid for works by a living American artist. She is, of course, Georgia O'Keefe, born in 1887 in Wisconsin, the daughter of dairy farmers. She was named after her father George, an Hungarian immigrant.

The photographer who fell in love with her was Alfred Stieglitz, himself famous as a photographer and art impresario. He took more than 300 photographs of O'Keefe, a portfolio that was unique in that it raised the depiction of individual body parts to works of art in their own right.

Over the years, their individual careers kept them apart for considerable lengths of time, but their devotion to each other never flagged.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hawaiian Menu Art ~ #1 In A Series

A painter and printmaker, artist John Melville Kelly was born in Oakland, California in 1879. He moved to Hawaii in 1923, expecting to stay a year, creating images to promote tourism. He and his sculptor wife were enchanted by Oahu and ended up settling there. Seven images he created were eventually used as menu covers for the famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel. One model, Marion, was his favorite and appears in a number of them.

The first, shown above, is called "Seated Hula Dancer". That's a feathered gourd she's holding, made of a hollowed out gourd filled with seeds, topped with feathers and shaken rhythmically two at a time during the dance. The dancer is wearing a traditional grass skirt and is seated next to a bird of paradise flowering shrub.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The First Day Of Autumn

Getting a new surfboard can make you feel like it's Christmas in September. This board was custom made for my daughter and is so new, it hasn't been waxed yet. Surfboard technology has been changing by leaps and bounds and this board is a prime example. It's made of expanded polystyrene (the same thing styrofoam cups are made of), epoxy, and some cool, retro chiffon fabric. It's 5'11", weighs under five pounds and is a high-performance shortboard, designed for chest-high to overhead waves.

Our town is considered one of the top ten surfing areas in the world, and as the south swells of late spring and summer give way to the stronger north swells of autumn and winter, some of the best surf of the year is on the horizon. Finding the best waves used to mean having the ability to judge how the wind, tide and swell would affect a particular surf spot. Nowadays there are surf cams up and down the coasts, all around the world and watching a live shot of a particular spot is just a mouse click away.

Happily, at this time of year, it's still possible to catch your favorite spot uncrowded, but for a few familiar faces, with plenty of waves to go around.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #20 In A Series

There are 50 types of Coral Bells, all beautiful and easily grown California natives. One type, Heuchera Maximus grows on three of the eight Channel Islands of California, in salty ocean breezes on cliffs and down to the shore. All 50 species are native only to North America and grow readily in the wild and in your garden. One of the prettiest has large rounded multi-lobed leaves, deep purple in color, that form a ruffled mound before sending up stalks of terra-cotta, white or pink colored bells. The leaves are beautiful paired in a bud vase with pink cyclamen. If you need greenery to fill out a bouquet, leaves of heuchera work beautifully, adding texture with their ruffles. They do well in hanging baskets or in a garden border. Coral bells tolerate a lot of shade on the coast, and although they'll grow more slowly, the color of their leaves will be deeper.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

WPA Poster - Farms Need Trees

This poster was an effort of the Illinois Art Project, printed in Chicago between 1936-1940, for the WPA. In response to the Dust Bowl years, artist Joseph Dusek encourages farmers to plant trees to help make the world a better place.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Underground Water

This is a small freshwater stream that emerges from under a 60 foot cliff at the beach. It never runs above ground before it reaches the beach, but it flows all year, day in and day out. Perhaps it's an accumulation from all the gardens of all the homes that have been built further inland. One of life's small mysteries.

Summer doesn't end for another few days, but we've seen the last of the beach crowds for the year. After Labor Day, tourists are few and far between and most everyone on the beach is a local.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The 1919 Canadian National Exposition

To celebrate victory and the end of World War I, the city of Toronto hosted the Victory Year 1919 Canadian National Exposition. The illustration above is a part of the lithograph poster created by artist James Edward Hervey MacDonald (1873-1932) to advertise the pending celebration. The grueling experience of war and losses suffered were still fresh in peoples' minds and the artist used subjects with a war theme. The beautiful woman holding the British flag represents Canada triumphant, with the soldier standing beside her. There is an airplane overhead, flags of the allied forces, with the exposition grounds in the background. The lithograph was published by Rolph, Clark, & Stone, Ltd.

The Canadian National Exposition, still held every year in Toronto, is Canada's largest fair and the 5th largest in the world.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This Day in History

The Battle of Antietam was fought today, 146 years ago, on September 17, 1862. It was the bloodiest battle of not only the American Civil War, but the bloodiest day in American history, with 23,000 men lost. It was the first major battle of the Civil War to occur on Northern soil. Confedrate General Robert E. Lee and his troops had made their way from Virginia to Sharpsburg, Maryland, where they engaged Union troops led by General George B. McClellan. 86,000 Union troops battled 45,000 Confederates back and forth across corn fields and although outnumbered 2 to 1, the Confederates battled the Union forces to a stalemate. Lee withdrew to Virginia and shortly thereafter, President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. That announcement led France and England to abandon plans to recognize the Confederacy.

The picture above is an 1888 lithograph by Kurz & Allison that shows the clash of forces at the stone bridge at Antietam. The photograph below was made by an army soldier and is part of the collection of the U.S. Army Military History Institute. It shows President Abraham Lincoln joining his generals shortly after the battle.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #19 In A Series

Known as either meadowfoam or poached egg plant, this California native is a low growing annual with lime green foliage and a white flower with a large yellow center. It is very hardy and will tolerate poor, clay soil. It self sows handily and blooms from May to August in the northern part of the state and is a great favorite of bees. Home gardeners have much success with this plant, but care must be taken to keep it contained, as it will readily spread and make itself a home in lawns.

Monday, September 15, 2008

WPA Posters ~ Two Montanas

Both of these Art Deco posters were made for the Unites States Travel Bureau, funded by the WPA, which was created during the Great Depression by FDR's New Deal. In an attempt to lower unemployment, the WPA hired millions of people from all walks of life, including artists. These posters are from the "See America" series, created under a Federal Art Program and made between 1936-1938 to promote tourism in Montana. The first shows an Indian encampment next to a lake and the second shows a horse and rider in the mountains.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

My mom is a seamstress of extraordinary talent. When we were kids, she made all of our clothes except shoes, socks and underwear, always with the finest attention to detail. Heart shaped mother of pearl buttons, lace edged petticoats, matching red flannel pajamas for Christmas, dotted Swiss Easter dresses, and transformative Halloween costumes. She taught her daughters proficiently and we learned to embroider at 8 and make our own clothes at 11. Her patient instruction and creativity led me to work in my teens and early twenties as a professional seamstress of mens' aloha shirts, walking shorts and swim trunks, a lifelong appreciation of design and love of fabrics. Silk, rayon, cotton, corduroy, and velvet especially.

Most of my travels have been to tropical climes and instead of tourist trinkets, local fabrics have been the memento of choice. Some pieces of yardage have been waiting to be made into just the right garment for over thirty years! A few have been pulled from the wooden chest, to be shared for their beauty, color and design. Also included, periodically, will be some hand embroidered projects.

The silk yardage above was purchased in St. Thomas in 1970, made by Liberty of London. The same shop had floor to ceiling shelves, filled with Liberty cotton lawn and silks. The clerk would push a wheeled ladder down the aisle and climb up to pull your choices from the shelf. With each fabric, you were given a woven "Liberty Of London" label to sew into your finished garment.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Snail's Place

Snails and slugs are second only to insects in their number of species. Although marine snails outnumber their terrestrial brethren, land snails live almost everywhere ~ from the mountains to the sea, across meadows, deserts, woodlands, marshes and gardens. Their kin, the slugs, are simply snails with no shells.

As the snail grows, so does the shell. The shell is made of calcium carbonate, which is used medicinally in antacids. The shell forms a logarithmic spiral, and is in most species right-handed. They propel themselves on a "foot" which they lubricate with mucus to reduce friction. As rippling contractions pass across their bodies, they slide forward. Their eyes are at the ends of the tentacles on the top of their heads. They prefer dark, moist, leafy places where they can munch endlessly and they can eat their way through an entire marigold patch overnight. They have natural predators, but retract into their shells for protection. The world's largest snails live in Australia, weighing in at 40 pounds and 30 inches long.

Although an incessant plant eater, snails play their part in Nature's balance. Hand picking and relocating is recommended. The picture is of an ordinary California garden snail, just relocated away from the begonias.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #18 In A Series

The Toyon is a native California perennial coastal sage shrub that has acclimated itself to chaparral and oak woodland areas, as well. It grows from the San Francisco Bay area south to Baja California. It is an evergreen, with flowers that attract butterflies and when the bright red berries mature in the autumn, they attract mockingbirds, robins, coyotes and bears. The plant is propagated by the bears and coyotes, who spread its seeds in their droppings.

Native Americans used the leaves medicinally for a tea to treat stomach disorders and dried and stored the berries to eat with porridge. Early settlers added sugar to make custard and wine, and the leaves and berries were both used for dyes.

Also known as Christmas Berry or California Holly, some say that Hollywood was named for this plant, as it grew profusely over the hills in that area.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WPA Poster ~ Pennsylvania Amish

This WPA poster was made between 1935-1940 and is called "The Little Red Schoolhouse". It was created by artist Katherine Milhous. She portrays sweetness without tipping into saccarine and included traditional Pennsylvanian Dutch style elements and earthy colors. The pie-crust edge on the lawn area and the art nouveau whiplashes are used to good effect and are especially interesting as this was created in the era of Art Deco. The symmetry of the birds in the sky really works. This was a Pennsylvania Art Project.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Experiencing A Supreme Pleasure

When the photograph above was taken by Carl Van Vechten on the streets of Paris in 1934, the man who looks more like a wax mannequin was 30 years old. He had painted his most famous work, "Persistence Of Memory", when he was 26.

Born in Catalan, Spain, in 1904, he grew to be a skilled draftsman who became best known for his surrealist paintings. The 1st Marquis of Pubol, his full name was Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech, known to the world as Salvador Dali. Less known is that in addition to his more than 1,500 paintings, he collaborated with Walt Disney on a short cartoon, "Destino", which was nominated for an Academy Award and further dabbled in film when he worked with Alfred Hitchcock. He also sculpted, worked in costume design, created logos and television advertising.

Considered an eccentric, known for his waxed moustache, walking cane, cloaks and flamboyance, he is famous for having said, "Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali".

Monday, September 8, 2008

Autumn In The Air

This is the view (through the screen) out the kitchen window and onto the patio. Doing the dishes is no chore when one can watch the hummingbirds make their way from basket to basket, hovering as they gather nectar. Summer is almost officially over, the days are getting shorter, the sun is setting further and further south and it's almost time to plant daffodils and Duch irises again.

Here on the coast, autumn is an even better planting time than spring. Things planted now will get a toehold and when spring comes, they'll really put out the new growth. If you've been gathering and saving any seeds this year, now is the perfect time to cast them about. Once the flower beds are weeded, the soil turned and the bulbs in, we like to cast seeds into the wind and let them fall where they may. It may be more random than uniform planting, but the flower beds will look more natural and the seeds that sprout will be hardy.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #17 In A Series

The quaking aspen is much loved for the gentle rustling sound it makes in the slightest breeze and its explosive yellow color when autumn arrives. This California native grows mostly from 5,000 to 12,000 feet but can be found occassionaly as low as 1,500 feet. That gentle rustling sound is caused by its flattened petioles. The petiole is the small stalk that attaches the leaf blade to the stem. The petiole of the quaking aspen is flattened from side to side and along the entire length, so the slightest breeze causes the leaves to tremble, hence the name "quaking".

This is a fast growing tree and can reach heights of between 66 and 80 feet. It has a whitish gray smooth bark with black horizontal marks and pronounced black knots. As the tree matures, the leaves become almost round.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thomas ~ The Cat Who Visits

Thomas spends an inordinate amount of time staking out our birdbath. He doesn't know he's white, of course, or that he sticks out like a sore thumb. He blends into the shadows as best he can and holds a crouch perfectly still, ready to spring into action at the first flutter of a feather. If a dog walks by, he jumps to his feet and glares. Dogs three times his size slink away, intimidated by "the look". He'll fall asleep at his post sometimes, lulled by the warmth of the sun and the sound of the breeze in the leaves. When he wakes up, he yawns, stretches and ponders whether his taste runs to elusive birds and gophers, or whipped cream, with catnip on the side, available on demand.

He's surprisingly expressive for a cat, with lots of inflections and nuances in his meows, and not shy about raising his voice. He head bumps, nuzzles, and wants to be held just so, reaching out his paws. He stops by almost every day, usually just for a snack and scratch, and an occassional snooze. He comes in the back door and leaves via the living room window. He springs onto the window ledge, pauses to listen for birds and slips away, leaving us glad to be part of his domain.

Friday, September 5, 2008

WPA Poster ~ Wildlife

Another in a series of WPA posters from the Great Depression. They were all created at the behest of the Department of the Interior, to employ artists and to attract citizens to enjoy the great outdoors. This one was painted by Frank S. Nicholson, part of the New York City Art Project, between 1930-1940.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

San Diego's Stingaree District

What is now called the Gaslamp Distict is one of San Diego's main tourist areas, within walking distance of the Convention Center and the new baseball stadium. During the boom years of the 1880s, up until 1916, this same area was the Stingaree District, known for its dance halls, gambling houses, brothels, saloons and opium dens. Comprising a roughly fifteen block area that also included Chinatown, local law enforcement generally looked the other way, hoping to keep the 120 openly illegal establishments contained in one area, away from polite society. The boundaries were 1st and 5th and Market and K Streets. The proximity to the harbor and downtown made it a popular destination for sailors and businessmen alike.

When the railroad came through in 1885, San Diego's population jumped from 5,000 to 35,000 in 2 years. Wyatt Earp owned 4 saloons and gambling halls for a time, after his Tombstone, Arizona days. San Diego's first granite building, the four story Louis Bank Building, housed the Golden Poppy Hotel, run by Madame Cora, a former fortuneteller turned madame. Another famous house of ill repute was the Canary Cottage, run by Ida Bailey, where the Horton Grand Plaza stands today.

Periodically, the citizenry would get up in arms over the unsavory goings on in the Stingaree and a police raid would ensue. In 1916, a sweep by the police netted 138 women working in the bawdy houses. When they were brought before the judge, 136 agreed to leave town the next day and 2 agreed to reform.

The photograph above shows a small section of the Stingaree, circa 1912.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #16 In A Series

Few plants look so delicate, yet are so hardy as the columbine. This is a California native perennial that once introduced into your garden, will self sow and delight you for years with its beautiful nodding, fairy-like flowers and elegant, lacy greenery. Sierra columbines, that grow in the wild, prefer meadows, woodlands and alpine conditions and are mostly yellow, with an occassional pink or white. Your local nursery or garden center will have columbines in color packs, quart and gallon containers that are acclimated to wherever you live in the West. They have been a staple in cottage gardens across the globe for years and make beautiful cut flowers for your arrangements. They are routinely ignored by snails and slugs and thrive in full sun or semi-shade.

The photograph is an old postcard, dated 1914 and postmarked Pueblo, Colorado.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Pink Bower Vine Of Beauty

It was easier finding a replacement arbor than a replacement plant to grow on it. For years we had a great climbing Lady Banks thornless yellow rose growing up and over the arbor, but a strong winter storm some years back knocked the whole thing over. It blocked the entrance to the driveway, so the wood had to be busted up with an axe and the massive rose bush pulled out by a pick-up truck. As a replacement, we tried a type of jasmine that was highly touted and smelled good, but it was a jumbled mess and only stayed nice at the top. That got pulled out, too. We planted an evergreen vine with velvety slipper shaped flowers, called the Pink Bower Vine of Beauty. It has nice waxy leaves variegated in green and pale yellow and pale pink flowers with deep red throats that bloom half the year. It grows steadily, doesn't shed too much and is not attractive to pests. Also, it has a light, open climbing habit and is not dense or heavy and is unlikely to topple an arbor in a storm. If you're in need of a flowering climber, the Bower Vine may suit you.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

We celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September. It started as a labor union "workingmens' holiday" in 1882 in New York City and spread to other unionized metropolitan areas until it was eventually made official by Congress in 1894. We celebrate the contribution workers have made to the strength and well being of our country.

The photograph above shows workers in Manhattan, many stories above ground, working on the Metropolitan Tower, facing the East River in New York City, circa 1908.