In the First Place

2 Dec Wonderwall
Wonderwall

Still from Wonderwall (1968)

I can’t say I have a great sense of how many world citizens who aren’t heavily into sixties culture and music, psychedelia, the Beatles and/or Beatles side projects would know about the 1968 Joe Massot-directed film Wonderwall—a technicolor surrealistic daydream featuring astoundingly attractive people (including Jane Birkin as Penny Lane) and moody acid-inspired background music.

The first time I saw it, it was being screened at the then-annual Mods & Rockers Film Festival, which for a couple years descended on Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood around the Fourth of July. I was blown away by the rich jewel tones, the textures, the heavily embellished costumes and perfect sixties maquillage—and the butterflies. I adore those butterflies.

WonderwallButterflies.jpg

And no, I didn’t bother to make much sense of the freaky goings on. In very short summary, the film is about a peeping Tom who is so bewitched by the model next door that he loses the plot. But really, it’s a 92-minute advertisement for the brilliance that was The Fool design collective. If you like what they did for the sixties, then by default you’ll enjoy this trip down Trippy Lane—even if you’re just tuning out and gazing at it as if peering through a kaleidoscope. (It’s a great one to have playing on a big screen during a party.)

Now Martin Lewis, a specialist in all thing sixties who used to host the Mods & Rockers shindig, offers an excellent rundown of George Harrison’s involvement in Wonderwall here. Merging psychedelic and Indian music—a naturally congruous union as we now know—he created a hypnotic soundscape that is quintessentially George and masterfully suited to these visuals.

The gorgeous masterpiece that was originally left out of the movie but unearthed in time for the film’s reissue is “In the First Place,” composed by Colin Manley and Tony Ashton of Liverpool’s the Remo Four and produced by George Harrison. According to Lewis, Harrison, who also contributed lead vocals, was firm on crediting Manley and Ashton for their work. They’d been through the pop-music ringer and were absolutely deserving of any accolades. Of Harrison’s decision, Lewis wrote:

Close friends say that Harrison’s insistence on sole credit going to a forgotten and long unsung band of pals (and to not take any credit for his performance) is a typically generous gesture by the reclusive ex-Beatle.

For me, “In the First Place” is one of the most intricate and entrancing songs I’ve ever heard in my life. It quite easily makes my Best Songs of All Time list, and I could listen to it over and over again. Luckily a CD and 7″ of two versions of the song were packaged with this amazing collector’s edition DVD box set put out by Rhino several years ago. But you can easily hear the song on YouTube.

In recent past, Sidewalk Society, a band out of Southern California that has done covers for the English psych label Fruits de Mer, did a impressively seamless rendition of the song that is every bit as haunting as the still little-known original. It’s certainly a wonderful thing that Wonderwall lives on.

 

Close to the Heart

21 Jul

I don’t know if lockets are on trend (unlikely), but ever since I visited Keats House in Hampstead, London, I’ve been a bit obsessed with them. I only have two to my name—a white gold and diamond one my parents got me for my thirtieth birthday and a silver one with multicolored stones my late-grandmother bought me years ago. Unfortunately, I never appreciated that one until recently. But back to Keats. I get all misty-eyed every time I think of Fanny Brawne’s locket that was encased in glass as to protect it and the tiny tuft of Keats’ hair, bound by thread, resting inside it. I know preserving things in such beautifully sentimental ways was common in the nineteenth century, but I just found myself taken aback by the romance of it all. I wanted to steal a piece of my husband’s hair and promptly insert it into a locket, but I didn’t have one at the time (and I’d forgotten about my grandmother’s). Now that I have two, I still haven’t done it. I’m thinking of putting my little girl’s hair in my grandmother’s locket, as my daughter is her namesake, and my husband’s in the diamond locket. Although perhaps it isn’t wise to be carrying around DNA these days . . .

I was searching for more lockets and found these—all wonderful in their own way.

I’m not that big a fan of the Tiffany Notes design on the outside of this. The white gold is too shiny for my taste, and the inscription is simply too heavy on the branding. However, the blue inside is just exquisite.

I really love the antique look of marcasite. I usually don’t bother with such large colored stones, but this shade of blush is so charming.

reminiscent of vintage nature illustrations

And I’ve never even attended Ren Faire. (“Gold-tone”—fancy!)

And then there were diamonds . . .

I’m on the fence about the heart pattern, but still find it very lovely.

swoon!

Love, love, love the round shape.

That’s it for now. Nice to write something after my rather brief Internet hiatus (which was relaxing by the way—it’s amazing how much more calm I am without having the weight of everyone else’s lives on my shoulders). Also impressive that the spam sites kept visitors coming.

In Preparation for 35

3 Jul

Something about turning 35 in the fall—and something about having a kid all my own (she’s also my husband’s, I suppose)—has compelled me to put a lot more thought into my well-being, which I’ve managed to neglect pretty much since I could think for myself. I’ve ingested disgusting amounts of fast food, copious amounts of sugar, excess caffeine, over-the-counter medicine, and slathered on toxic makeup since I was about 13 . . . the list of offenses is endless, really.

My dad, bless him, allowed me to repeatedly order and eat 20-piece boxes of Chicken McNuggets in my tween years—and I could inhale a box in about 10 minutes.

As far as wastefulness, well jeez. As a household, we’re working on the waste—but as long as you eat on the go or don’t prepare everything from scratch—and by “scratch,” I mean items that don’t come in any packaging whatsoever—there will be waste. Our main bin and recycling bin aren’t overflowing each week, but it would be wonderful to shop mostly at the farmers market and wean ourselves off of prepackaged food, even if it is Trader Joe’s.

Little by little, I’m trying to turn things around to look my best as I enter my forties and beyond, but more importantly, feel my best. I also yearn to set a good example for my little darling in hopes of making her a conscientious little citizen.

The revelation began with the documentary No Impact Man about New York writer Colin Beavan, his journalist wife Michelle Conlin, and their ridiculously cute daughter, Isabella. Seriously, if you’ve no interest in environmental discourse whatsoever, watch the film for Isabella.

To die for, right?

The documentary came out a couple years ago, but if you aren’t familiar with Colin Beavan’s project, his goal was to essentially reduce his family’s environmental footprint to nil over the course of a year. As the Beavans discuss in the documentary, the public’s reception to the mission was lukewarm. The documentary received loads of press aside equal parts, if not more, criticism. What about the fact that Michelle Conlin writes for Business Week, a periodical whose production kills forests full of trees? It’s unrealistic—who would ever be able to live without so much? It’s a publicity stunt . . . on and on. And you know what? All these people have points. Absolutely. But I understand what Conlin was attempting to do: (a) raise awareness of the things people could do to lessen their impact on the environment if they so desired (as well as raise awareness of himself as a writer, but hey, we all have to make a living—especially writers!) and (b) show the uneducated masses ways that a Fifth Avenue-dwelling family used to all the trappings of New York life managed to do with less. Most importantly, I enjoyed learning the ways that scaling back contributed to more quality time with their daughter, weight loss, overall better health, and greater peace of mind. I related most to Michelle, a self-professed shop- and crap-TV-aholic with a penchant for Starbucks. She survived. I could survive, too.

I’m so into trying to be okay with less right now. Some of it is forced, given the way the economic situation has affected our family, but I want to feel good about it in my heart of hearts.

Another source of inspiration has been Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet. My husband decided about a month-and-a-half ago that he was finished with meat, and hasn’t touched it since. We both were vegetarian years ago, but somehow filet mignon made its way back into our lives. I hadn’t felt swayed any which way as far as meat-eating was concerned, but given the almost-35 thing, I have been cognizant about my sugar, fat, sodium, and caffeine intake, and have been a little worried about it, to be honest. I haven’t had a physical in years, but I’m betting my cholesterol is getting up there, if it isn’t there already. Sensing that I needed to start eating in a more wholesome manner—and learn how to make my daughter enjoy eating things that are good for her—I put The Kind Diet on hold at the library and have been fixated on its content ever since. The idea that whole grains, beans, and vegetables will make me feel full, reverse bad things happening in my body, and perhaps correct my skin (yay!) appeals, obviously. And I don’t want to go on a Meat is Murder rant, but for the first time, I was moved toward vegetarianism for the sake of the animals.

Will it satisfy? I don’t know. While my husband attempts to master the whole vegan shebang, I will embrace the “Flirting” chapter and take baby steps. I hope I like it. I doubt I’ll evolve into a health nut (not that there’s anything wrong with it!), and I don’t need to start wearing hemp shoes or anything, but I’m fairly certain the inner workings of my body have been on a roller coaster ride, and I know my crappy diet is to blame.

Probably more in this vein to come.

Post-first-vegan-dinner edit: Fried udon noodles with cabbage, garlic, paprika, onions and some other stuff. We forgot to purchase broccoli and mushrooms to go in it like we intended! At any rate, it was tasty, with a lingering spiciness. Not exactly In ’n’ Out tasty, but seriously—even though I want tasty, I’m not willing to eat a burger for it at this point. If anyone has delectable veg/vegan dishes, send them on over!

Velvet Summer

24 Jun

I was attempting to compile a bunch of fashion photos to help me sort out my summer look, which at the beginning of the season I vowed would be something that represented the titles NewRo Summer or Velvet Summer. I don’t really do summer in a  sundress/shorts/barely-there clothing kind of way. My gams don’t really have it, you see, so I must cover them. Anymore, this tends to result in jeans and various tops—with a cute pair of shoes on a good day—maybe. Still rather dull. Very dull—who am I kidding? I do accept that I will swelter in these parts, but not as much as when I was in my Levi’s Sta-Prest and polyester 511 phase. Oh dear me. There’s nothing like sweaty legs enveloped in non-breathable polyester to make you feel sexy in the dead of summer.

So, anyhow . . . I was trying to sort out a post that would help me wrap my head around enjoying summer fashionably without going the shorts and dresses route, but, unfortunately, a stylist I am not. The task grew tedious about ten minutes in, not helped by the fact that my computer is running unbelievably slow. I do feel as though I’m dialing up on a 24.4 connection, which actually makes me a bit nostalgic—but enough of that for now!

What I did find, though, was this post by The Cherry Blossom Girl which reminded me of how I would do summer if I had all the right clothes and slightly better legs. The vibe of it all is precisely what I’m going for. And yes, if I actually had girlfriends, no toddler/stepchildren, and if my husband were away and would ever give me his blessing to break free from our wannabe mid-century modern look for something more Gothic and/or romantic, a night like this with all the trappings would be a night of bliss. Of course the shoot didn’t take place in summer but at Christmastime. It figures I would be so into it. I see absolutely nothing wrong with black lace, candlelight, and frill for summer, though. Now I just have to get out of my Rufus Wainwright T-shirt and try a little harder.

Some highlights from the post:

Some other not-very-summery idears:

Love the idea of blouses all summer long—wouldn’t love steaming them, though. Photo © HopelesslyDevoted on Etsy

Chuck Cecil’s “Swingin’ Years”

21 Jun

I’ve taken to sweetening each Saturday morning with big band happiness and Chuck Cecil’s warm voice. (Not that I trust Wikipedia to give me all the facts, but there’s mention of Mr. Cecil having attended the wedding of Marilyn Monroe and her first husband, Jim, in his entry. Interesting.) The two were meant for each other, I’m telling you. Big band and Chuck Cecil, that is. Clearly Marilyn and Jim were not.

If you have something like this to play big band out of, all the better:

1960s Magnavox radio/turntable/record holder

Our radio is actually a bit dinged up, obviously needs a dusting, and isn’t the prettiest of its kind—but it was $25 at the Salvation Army, and it sure makes listening to records in the jazz, singers/standards, and Christmas genres enjoyable. Sometimes clear as a bell just doesn’t cut it. Who wants to  listen to Bing and Frank without some crackling in the background?

But back to Chuck Cecil and his syndicated “Swingin’ Years” program. I’m not sure what it is about listening to big band and swing that results in some sort of fabricated sense memory, as if I’d actually danced to these tunes with my honey in our living room before he was shipped off to Europe. It’s such a bizarre sensation—to feel as though you’re being transported back to a place you never were. My head dizzies in the same fashion when I listen to choral music on Classical KUSC. I’d like to think it’s a past lives thing, but I’d never have the guts—nor would I be capable of maintaining any level of seriousness for any length of time—to be hypnotized to find out. I enjoy it, though—whatever it is. It keeps me going back for more.

And, honestly, in this era when soul-touching music is scarce—at least in my opinion (of course, I am losing my sense of cool and not caring too much about it), having things like Chet Baker or Glenn Miller or Ravel to turn to is a welcome alternative. My only hope is that the public continues to generously contribute to the few remaining jazz and classical stations throughout the country. It’s tiresome to listen to one pledge drive after another, but I’d rather bear with it than face an absence of nearly uninterrupted quality music—especially over my morning coffee.

Edit, April 21, 2014:

The L.A. Times reported on January 27 that Chuck Cecil had made the tough decision to part ways with KJazz due to technical difficulties producing “Swingin’ Years,” his show that has delighted listeners since 1956. The weekend program aired on KJazz for 12 years. According to the article, “The show will continue to be available online, streaming via WPPB.” Read the article here.

A wonderfully heartwarming L.A. Times profile on Chuck from December 19, 2013.

Someone from Chuck’s camp (“Chuck” even—could it be?) commented with a link to his Facebook page, which I recommend readers check out and like—because surely you appreciate his longtime contribution to your weekends as much as I do.

Also, someone called Whit directed me to Chuck Cecil content over at shermanoaks.wordpress.com, which includes, among other tidbits, an interesting L.A. Times article from 2000, as well as some clips.

Learn a Language Instead of Reading 140-Character Posts from 150 People You Don’t Know

18 Jun

Not that I don’t read Twitter updates, because I did succumb a couple months back. But I try to keep my viewing to no more than fifty folks; and if it starts becoming a whole lot of drivel, I have absolutely no problem not logging on for a few hours. I jest. I’m honestly not that into the Twitter thing. However, I do wish I could bypass it—and Facebook—and perhaps scale back my blog reading to learn a language with the sliver of time I have left after upholding my daily obligations.

I studied Spanish for years in high school and college, but didn’t continue on; so ninety percent of those verb conjugations I memorized exited my brain ages ago. I took a semester of conversational French once upon a time. My accent was amusing at best; and, needless to say, the end of the semester marked the death of my dream to recite Colette and Baudelaire in French to myself in the mirror every morning. Because that’s romantic . . . I do, however, feel an obligation to my world community to resume or learn anew at least one other language. When I found Livemocha, I thought for the first time that learning a language post-school days actually seemed feasible.

Before I go on, I want to mention how I ended up visiting Livemocha in the first place. A Facebook friend posted a link to Stumbleupon.com—“another excellent time-waster,” she wrote. And it so is, but I also was pointed to some very interesting and useful blogs after I entered my tastes and interests and whatnot into their little blog generator apparatus. I fear this is beginning to sound like an ad for the site, so blah, blah, blah . . . and then I ended up on this post, which lists a bunch of “semi-productive” things to do while avoiding real work. Thanks, Stumbleupon! I never mentioned suffering from terminal procrastination, but you’ve got my number, quite clearly. So that’s how I found the language-learning site.

The sad truth is that I haven’t had time to utilize the site. I’m so very anxious to, though. You simply note your native language; which language you’re eager to learn, and what skill level you’re shooting for; and then you’re hooked up with online tutorials and the opportunity to converse with native speakers of your desired language in real-time. Could be creepy; could be cool. I’m really hoping it’s cool. If anyone gets to this before I do, please let me know how it goes.

In conclusion, I leave you with a thought from the ever-cosmopolitan Eddie Izzard:

Photo © Dennis_Wong on Flickr

Ren Faire for Genteel Cyclists?

17 Jun

If you caught my previous entry, “An Elegant Bicycle,” which I nearly typed in as “En Elegant Bicycle” (good morning, grey matter!), you know that I’ve quite suddenly caught cycling fever, if only because a dignified-looking bike and some smart shoes simply make the whole practice appear so effortless and pleasurable. It wouldn’t even be appropriate to use the word cycling if I’m doing it. Leisurely pedaling, perhaps. Slow ride . . . take it easy. Although, I’m almost certain the latter is about something else.

Anyhow . . . as I was flitting about the WWW, researching high-priced leather seats and other accoutrements that would help round out this likely fleeting passion, I happened upon a little something called Tweed Run, currently in its second year in London, but making its way to New York and Toronto this fall. It’s touted as a “metropolitan bicycle ride with a bit of style,” and as you can see from the photos below, participants fully embrace the motto, don their best Jeeves and Wooster getups, and pedal into the sunset.

Photo © murphyz on flickr

Photo © murphyz on flickr

Do you suppose any bit of their ensembles was purchased at H&M?

Oh, and here’s the great flier artwork:

Missed it, darn it!

Am I the only one who thinks this looks ridiculously fun—apart from the possibility of getting flattened by a double-decker bus? Or, is it actually a bit Ren Faire-ish, and we’re pretending it isn’t because mustached hipsters dressed as Victorian gentleman are riding vintage bicycles around, and that’s hopelessly charming? (Actually, as a rule, I don’t do mustaches; but in this case, it kind of works.) Will vintage Raleighs soon become part of the Urban Outfitters catalog alongside turntables, Lomo cameras, and fixed gear bikes? Probably. Oh well. Go me for catching on a hundred years too late. It doesn’t matter much where I live, anyway.

The more and more I carry on with delving in and out of interests, the more I believe I must’ve been a gentleman of yore. But that’s another story for another time.