Friday, July 31, 2009

Hawaii's Own Dance

The hula is a dance unique to the islands of Hawaii. Although most people picture hula dancers wearing grass skirts, it wasn't until the late 1800s that the dancers switched from kapa cloth to grass. Kapa cloth had been made for centuries by pounding and dying mulberry bark, a laborious, time consuming process. Kapa cloth was used for swaddling babies, loincloths, skirts and blankets. The dancers Captain Cook and his sailors observed in 1779 were kapa clad. With the arrival of missionaries around 1830, mass produced cotton and wool cloth became widely available and the tradition of pounding bark fell by the wayside. The art was eventually lost until it was revived only recently.

The missionaries didn't look kindly on the hula and this sums up their reaction succinctly: "The natives would practice in the hot sun for days on end. Drums pounded, gourds rattled, singers chanted, and hundreds of dancers wearing garlands of green leaves and flowers and dog-tooth anklets moved endlessly to and fro in lines, their brown skin glistening with sweat, with no sign of boredom or tiredness." For a while, the hula was banned from towns and performed only in the countryside.

These days, luaus staged for tourists expose the tradition to people from all over the world.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vintage Travel Posters ~ #5 In A Series

This is the oldest and the last of the Italian travel posters in this series. This colorful, vibrant Art Nouveau lithograph poster was made to attract visitors to Livorno's resort season 1901 Exposition, featuring local arts and industries. This was a local effort,not produced in conjunction with any national tourist board. The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, who was a commercial artist of wide renown. This was printed in Milan by the famous G. Ricordi & Co. who did so much to promote young musicians of the day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finding Inspiration

The author of The Weaver Of Grass blog has invited her readers to describe a source of their inspiration, and it's a pleasure to participate. Thanks for hosting, Weaver!

Summer around here means lots of beach going and gardening, but it is also my busiest work time of the entire year. All the Christmas stock needs to be finished by the end of summer, because the orders start building in September and continue through the end of the year. Odd as it sounds, that means summer on the inside is nonstop glitter, mica, angels, stars, Santas and snowflakes.

My greatest inspiration for this line of work has been a life long love of Christmas and a collection of vintage ornaments and decorations that has been building for over 30 years. My fondest memories of Christmases past revolve not so much around gifts received as family traditions maintained and expanded. It's a blessing to make a living doing something so enjoyable and it delights me to hopefully add a little magic to the celebrations of others.

Update: Anyone wishing to see some of my wares can click here or on Vintage Ornaments in the sidebar on the right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A German Expressionist

Born in 1877 in Germany, Gabriele Munter showed an uncommon talent for art at a young age. Most art schools accepted men exclusively, but at 25 she found a place at the Phalanx School, whose director, Wassily Kandinsky became not only her teacher, but her lover, as well. They traveled through Europe together and the Impressionists in France had a strong influence on her work. In 1911 she and Kandinsky were two of the artists who founded Der Blaue Reiter, The Blue Rider, a group of artists considered the most avant garde in Germany.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Munter and Kandinsky sought refuge in Switzerland. Kandinsky was forced to return home to Russia, never to see his fiance Gabriele again. She returned to Germany after the war and didn't work again until after 1928, and then in an altered style.

Living in Germany during World War II, Gabrielle hid works by Kandinsky and the other artists of The Blue Rider from the Nazis, who considered them subversives, degenarates and enemies of the State.

Both of these paintings were made by Gabriele Munter prior to World War I.

Monday, July 27, 2009

By The Tumbling Water

This long legged fellow has paused beside the stream, in the sunlight, probably waiting for something tasty to float by.

Another charming photograph from neighbor Chris Mayne, taken just east from here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Old Custom House In Monterey

Contemporary accounts say the old Custom House in Monterey was built by the Mexicans around 1827. The writing on the back of this old picture differs somewhat. It says the front part of the adobe building went up in 1814, constructed by the Spaniards to conduct royal business and as the social center for the Spanish aristocracy. It reads, "Beneath the Spanish flag, pressing matters of state were settled and gala balls were held" and that the center section was built by Mexicans around 1821, when they wrestled independence from Spain.

Whichever account is accurate, it is agreed that the Custom House, situated on Monterey Bay, is the oldest public building in California. On July 7, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, Commodore John Drake Sloat claimed 600,000 square miles for the United States and raised the Stars and Stripes over the Custom House for the first time. Those 600,000 square miles later became the states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Music Amongst Friends

At her home in Carmel some decades back, Joan Baez is joined by Earl Scruggs and his son Randy. They're playing a song written by Bob Dylan in 1964, one he never recorded himself. To my mind, Bob Dylan is one of our greatest poets, living or otherwise.

Seems like only yesterday
I left my mind behind
Down in the Gypsy Cafe
With a friend of a friend of mine
She sat with a baby heavy on her knee
Yet spoke of life most free from slavery
With eyes that showed no trace of misery
A phrase in connection first with she I heard
That love is just a four-letter word

Outside a rambling store-front window
Cats meowed to the break of day
Me, I kept my mouth shut, too
To you I had no words to say
My experience was limited and underfed
You were talking while I hid
To the one who was the father of your kid
You probably didn't think I did, but I heard
You say that love is just a four-letter word

I said goodbye unnoticed
Pushed towards things in my own games
Drifting in and out of lifetimes
Unmentionable by name
Searching for my double, looking for
Complete evaporation to the core
Though I tried and failed at finding any door
I must have thought that there was nothing more
Absurd than that love is just a four-letter word

Though I never knew just what you meant
When you were speaking to your man
I can only think in terms of me
And now I understand
After waking enough times to think I see
The Holy Kiss that's supposed to last eternity
Blow up in smoke, its destiny
Falls on strangers, travels free
Yes, I know now, traps are only set by me
And I do not really need to be
Assured that love is just a four-letter word

Friday, July 24, 2009

Last Night, Looking West

Leaning out the living room window, looking west, if one holds the camera just right, it's possible to get a photograph with no power poles, wires or other houses. The setting sun turns the neighborhood kentia palms, giant bamboo, eucalyptus, jacaranda and Torrey pine trees into silhouettes against a colorful sky. The sun is setting noticeably farther south now, as the days continue to shorten.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vintage Travel Posters ~ #4 In A Series

Two more in this series of vintage Italian travel posters. The poster above was created most recently, in 1951. It's a lithograph of the coastline of Liguria, created in Genoa and printed by S.A.I.G.A. gia Barabino & Graeve.

The lithographed poster below was made 31 years earlier, in 1920 and shows a view of the San Remo coastline, as seen from a terrace above.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Turning Four In Chinatown

It's hard to tell for sure which child is turning four at this birthday celebration, held in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1912. This charming photograph is copyrighted by Mr. & Mrs. Wong Sun Yue Clemens and part of the collection of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cheery Cherries

One of the best things about summer is bountiful stone fruit. This basket of Rainier cherries was set aglow by last evening's setting sun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Foolproof Flower Gardening ~ #16

This hardy perennial is called Golden Feathers. It is neither golden nor feathery, but this miniature chrysanthemum is hardy and a dependable bloomer that reseeds itself profusely. It has a delicate, apple green foliage that sets it apart from other flowering plants and it mixes well in borders. The daisy-like flowers are rather generic, but its rapid growth, ability to fill in gaps and the sheer number of blossoms make it a choice garden performer.

If the plant gets leggy, cut it back to almost nothing and it will regenerate and bloom time after time. It's not the greatest cut flower, but the color of its foliage makes it a beautiful addition to bouquets. Once you introduce this hard working flower into your garden, it's there to stay. You can gather the seeds and scatter them or transplant seedlings that have come up on their own.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Creating A Monster

The sand was warm, the breeze was light and even though the ocean is still in the 60s, it was more shades of blue and green than there are words to describe the colors. It all started out innocently enough - a cute, furry squirrel approached a beach goer who was eating blueberries. Said beach goer was happy to share and tossed a few tasty morsels the squirrel's way.

The squirrel didn't mind that the berries landed in the sand. Once he'd gotten a taste of them, however, he threw caution to the wind.

His next move was a fearless, no holds barred lunge for the whole bag! He was definitely a lot cuter darting away than lunging forward.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On The Road In South Dakota

Out for an afternoon drive in a bison-drawn cart in Pierre, South Dakota in 1910.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Remembering The El Cortez Hotel

When the 15 story El Cortez Hotel opened in San Diego in 1927, it was such a big deal that one third of the population of the city - 50,000 people, turned out for the landmark event. For years to come, the Spanish Colonial Revival marvel remained the tallest building in San Diego. It had the world's first outdoor glass elevator, and in the 1950s, my parents took my sister and me to the Hotel, just to ride in it.

This circa 1950 postcard shows cocktails being served in the "Sky Room", with a sweeping western view of San Diego Bay, Coronado and Point Loma in the distance.

Although no longer a hotel, the building has been beautifully restored and the rooms turned into apartments. Now there are some 30 buildings in the city skyline that are taller, but none with the landmark status of the El Cortez.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vintage Travel Posters ~ #3 In A Series

Here are two more Italian travel posters, both lithographs created in 1920 for the Italian Tourist Board. The poster above shows Naples, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background and a glimpse of the Bay of Naples, as seen from the terrace of a fortress. The artist is unknown.

The poster below was created by Vittorio Grassi, whose posters we've noted before. This lithograph was printed in Rome and shows the countryside of Assisi, as seen through a tower window.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making Do

In 1935, between the nationwide Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the Midwest, hundred of thousands of people were displaced. Many headed West, in hopes of finding work in the fertile fields of California. Squatters' camps of tents and shack homes sprang up from Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley in the north to Coachella Valley and Imperial County, east of San Diego. These pictures were taken by the government, with the goal of documenting the extent of the migrants' plight.

There were more people than jobs, and despite the government's efforts, there weren't enough jobs to go around until the start of World War II, in 1941.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Remembering Our Friends In Uniform

Lightning illuminates the sky behind an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron 147 aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. The John C. Stennis and Carrier Air Wing 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. This U.S. Navy photo is by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Elliott Fabrizio.

In this U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., pararescuer Staff Sgt. Lopaka Mounts comforts a Texas resident during a search and rescue mission following Hurricane Ike last Sept. 13th.

Our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are deployed across the globe, protecting our freedoms and representing our interests. If you'd like to show a service member you care, one of the best organizations out there is Operation Gratitude. They put together hundreds of thousands of care packages, fulfilling wish lists posted on their site, not just at Christmas, but all year long.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Surfing Like A Bird Sings

In surfing magazines, the majority of people featured in the pictures aren't the best surfers, they're the surfers who are sponsored by the people who have something to sell. Namely, the people who buy advertising in said magazines. Consequently, on any given day, on many California beaches, you'll see unheralded surfers who surf circles around the chosen few.

Case in point: my neighbor, Kevin. It's a rare day when he is not the best guy in the water, regardless of where he surfs or what the conditions are. He designs and builds the boards he rides - long boards, shortboards, paddle boards, stand up paddle boards, paipos - he's a master of them all. Kevin surfs like a bird sings - joyfully, naturally and with an enthusiasm that's positively infectious.

My daughter took these pictures of Kevin yesterday afternoon, making the most of small, glassy, summertime conditions on a sparkling California Sunday.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Foolproof Flower Gardening ~ #15

You need absolutely no gardening skills whatsoever to get the tree mallow to grow. Also known as lavatera, this evergreen shrub will grow rapidly to 8 feet tall and reward you all summer long with pale pinkish flowers with deep purple centers and dark rose veining. Don't be afraid to cut this plant back hard - it tends to grow openly and your trimming will keep it more full and bushy.

The tree mallow will thrive in the full sun, in the ground or in a container and can take the cold down to 10 - 20 degrees. If you're planting several, be sure and keep them spaced at least 6 feet apart and plant them where they'll get good drainage. Its gray-green maple-shaped foliage is attractive and a good color contrast to other shades of green and its dependable blooms make it a worthwhile addition to your flower garden.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dali Atomicus

Force of nature Salvador Dali, captured in 1948 by photographer Phillippe Halsman, who titled his gelatin print "Dali Atomicus".

The image is in the collection of the Library of Congress.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Seagulls, Surf & Squirrels

Despite the summer crowds of tourists and locals alike, there were still a few solitary waves to be had earlier this week. The surf was small, but the wind held off and the tide was just right. The water temperature is an unseasonably cool 61 degrees, barely above our winter temperatures. That's my daughter, above, riding her shortboard and throwing some spray on a shoulder high sparkling afternoon breaker.

This gull was unperturbed by passers-by and kept his eye on the water, his feathers lightly ruffling in the breeze.

The squirrels who live in the cliff above the sand forage for snacks in the greenery.

A quick rinse before heading for home.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vintage Travel Posters ~ #2 In A Series

This pair of travel posters from Italy are especially intriguing because they were created in 1938, when the winds of war were blowing across the European continent. Benito Mussolini had been the leader of Italy since 1922 and he had imposed fascism across the country. Although he preferred France over Germany in the early 1930s, he allied himself with Hitler in 1940.

Luigi Salomone created the photomechanical halftone print above. It shows an historic street in Florence and was printed in Rome. The one below is a lithograph of Verona, artist unknown, printed in Milan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Old Country

Some of my favorite stories are ones my grandmother told about growing up in Hungary, what she called "The Old Country". She came to America at the age of 6, but life in the Lower East Side of New York City in 1900 was so harsh, they returned to Hungary and my great-grandfather came back to America alone. He sent for his wife and four daughters once he'd gotten settled in Indiana.

One of the best stories involved a band of gypsies camped across the river from the family farm in Pest. Grandma crossed the river without permission and joined the gypsies in a meal. They roasted a pig they'd found floating down the river. The punishment my grandmother received wasn't so much for joining the gypsies as for having eaten meat plucked from the river.

The circa 1880 photograph is from the Library of Congress and the caption reads "Happy Romanies".

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Seeing With A Brush

When my daughter was growing up, one of the local moms used to give art lessons in her back yard. It's over 20 years later now, the children are grown, and Carole Mayne travels extensively, blending colors and capturing shadows and light. Her oil painting above is called Antico Venezia.

Carole painted the oil above much closer to home. That's a westerly view to the Pacific Ocean at the San Elijo Lagoon.

My daughter, Carole's long ago student, painted the picture above of her favorite local surf spot, Swamis.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Getting Squirrely

Pulling down the driveway, home from the grocery store, wondering aloud when we'd see the squirrel again, lo and behold, there he was on the wall, mouth full of macadamia nut. He stayed put long enough for a quick snapshot before making a beeline across the top of the wall to hide in the shade of a royal palm and a stand of giant bamboo. With my approach, he paused long enough for one curious glance before scurrying into the branches of a cape honeysuckle vine and his previously secret burrow at the base. We thought he lived in the woodpile, where we've been tucking peanuts for him, but he's obviously been operating from a more secure location.

The local skunk population increased recently from one to four and we're curious if the squirrel population does the same.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Summer Night in 1968

Surely you've never wondered what this blogger was doing on this night in 1968. But truth be told, the answer is - going with my friend Kirk to see Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground double-billed with Quicksilver Messenger Service at the San Diego Hippodrome.

Located at the corner of Front and West G Streets, the Hippodrome was a grand old relic from the days of great theaters built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Unfortunately, it gave way to the wrecking ball of urban renewal many years ago. It was a great venue - dark and loud! Back then, Quicksilver, being from San Francisco, was the more familiar and popular band, at least in San Diego, and was the band with top billing.

Their music holds up remarkably well, 41 years later. Pride of Man, Mona, Gold & Silver and Who Do You Love are all well worth another listen.

The original concert poster pictured above was printed in black on silver paper and created by artist Rebecca Galdeano.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Fourth Of July ~ 1916

The image is from 1916, part of the Harris & Ewing Collection in the Library of Congress. A young girl, dressed as Liberty, attends a Washington D.C. 4th of July parade.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What The Beach Looked Like

The sun's still been struggling to break through the marine layer, even this far into summer. A good swell materialized from somewhere, and the size of the surf jumped from practically flat to almost overhead overnight. So when my daughter was heading for an early afternoon surf and asked me along, it was an offer that couldn't be refused.

These youngsters were engrossed in their sandcastle.

This father and daughter each had a different opinion on what direction to take.

These fellows were a little intimidated by the size of the surf and the strength of the surge.

This young woman got her share of waves and was ready to head home.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vintage Travel Posters ~ #1 In A Series

One of my blog friends, Nina, recently traveled to Italy, France and Scotland, and her colorful posts from Rome and Bologna inspired me to blog a series of old Italian travel posters this month.

Both posters are color lithographs, printed in 1920 and sponsored by the Italian Tourist Board, officially know as Ente Nazionale perle Industrie Turistiche. The one above was created by Vittorio Grassi. Both posters were created to promote travel to Venice and feature the iconic Venetian canals and gondolas.