Sunday, February 28, 2010

Aber Etwas Fehlt

 Ever sensed that something was wrong with something (or someone,) before you could pinpoint exactly what it was?  I'm suspicious that part of our brains run on autopilot.
For example, years ago my brother told me he was at the mall and noticed an odd man.  He couldn't articulate what made the guy stand out, but something seemed off.   It took a few more seconds before my brother noticed this detail:
The guy was missing an arm.
My brother was mortified.  He knew it wasn't nice to stare, but whoops, he'd been staring!   His autopilot brain noticed right away and hit the "something's wrong" alert.  Meanwhile, his thinking brain couldn't figure out what was wrong at first.  By the time he thought,Oh!  He only has one arm.  I'd better quit looking at him, because that's rude, it was too late. 
I bet this happens a lot.   Did the guy with one arm know the mind works this way?  Or does he think Geez, so many gawkers.  People have no shame!"
 It doesn't just apply to strangers at the mall.  Autopilot brains notice stuff.   I live in California, but nowhere near the flammable wilderness.  Yet, I can be at my appartment with the blinds drawn and notice the slightest orange tint in the daylight.  Again, I'm not thinking gosh, there's a subtle amber tint filtering in.  I conclude there's a distant fire.  It' more like I'll be reading a book, think hmmm... something's off... it a forest fire?  Then I turn on the news and confirm my suspicions.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Annoying Orange

I found this on the other day. I suspect my current lack of sleep might contribute to my amusement: When your brain is half melted, an orange making stupid noises seems very funny

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olvera Street:: An Ally Goes a Long Way.

Contrasty sunlight, my old camera, and a small card didn't do Olvera Street justice.
Neither does a casual glance (as in Oh, look.  T-shirts and cheap knick knacks. ).
It started as a plain alley (between Main Street and Los Angeles Street).    In the 1930s it was converted into a Mexican themed marketplace.
Check out this old pic I found .   Even with the souvenir carts, it still looks ally-esque. 
(Image from
A far cry from the 2010 street that's bursting with Mexican  food, garb, candy, crafts, and souvenirs.
My favorite part is the  Avila Adobe, a historic home dating back to when Los Angeles was part of Spain (and soon after, Mexico).

(Image from
Sadly, by the 1920s, this once magnificent house was crumbling, and condemned!
Luckily, Avila Adobe (or what was left of it) was restored.   You can tour it for free.  It's furnished  to look like it could have looked in mid 1800s.    Actually I'm surpised it's not more famous.  Most buildings in Los Angeles that we consider "old" are maybe 50-100 years old.  The Avila Adobe is almost 200 years old!
Some purists quibble with labeling Olvera street as "the birthplace of the City of Los Angeles."  
As the wikipedia page suggests:
"The Avila Adobe aside, however, the buildings on the street date from at least a hundred years after the founding of the city in 1781, and have little if any authentic association with the city's founding, or with its former status as a Spanish, then Mexican outpost."
Still, the land that it sits on was certianly part of the earliest chunks of the city.  For example, the original aquaduct ended in the old plaza (south of the street's enterence).   So I'll forgive the oversimplification.   

Arcade Building: 540 S. Broadway

This beauty, also known as the Mercantile Arcade (original name), Broadway Arcade and Spring Street Arcade, dates back to the early 1920s. Who knew they had malls back then? Okay, so the upper floors were mostly office buildings, and the ground floor shops sported a lot of "practical" shops where you'd pick up stamps and office supplies. Still, it's lovely, and even beter, it's still here!
Visit this cool site for more details about the Arcade Building (and similar arcades).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Clifton's Cafeteria Part II: The Teapot.

 Old photos and memorabilia are can be found throughout Clifton's Cafeteria. This teapot, (in glass case on the third floor)  has a story to tell (Click for a larger image):

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cliftons Cafeteria!

I'd heard of Clifton's,  but never got a chance to eat there until recently..  It's a  cafeteria.  Not the catered- food- courty cafeterias you'd find at the airport or on college campuses.  It's the fiberglass pastel tray kind.   The cups of tapioca pudding kind.   Cubes of red jello..  Meat 'n' starch.   Mac 'n' cheese.  No brand name bags of chips or cookies or pretzels here.  It's the kind of cafeteria I remember when I was little.  By my teens, they'd vanished.
Clifton's (actually Clifton's Brookdale) survived.   It's very much like an old cafeteria, with some exceptions, including
  • has a rocky stream running through it, which is
  • Tinted with colored lights and
  • Fed by a waterfall which is
  • Surrounded by fake pine trees and bushes and ferns, where
  • A moose, an animatronic raccoon, a fishing bear and other wildlife frolic..
That's right, it's a cafeteria in the woods.
To reinforce the theme, back lit photos of coniferous forests adorn the walls, as do  antique saws and knotty trunk cross sections.  A two story mural of a forest covers one wall..   I always knew the place had a rep for being a  loony with the decor, but was still floored.   This place made a casino look like a waiting room at the dentist.   It made a Thomas Kinkade painting look like a memo pad.  It made a screensaver look like a test pattern!.

So kitschy! So Tacky! I loved it!
 It's been around since the 1930s.  At one time it even sported an organ player and live canaries for ambiance.   I'm rather surprised it lasted.  So many cool and unique places have been demolished in Los Angeles. .   More cynical owners might have thought This place is too passe for [insert decade here] and stripped away the fun.   
The third story of the cafeteria sports Victorian decor.   It's not as crowded as the woods.
Notice the diners at the end, viewing traffic on Broadway below.  Decades ago you went to this part of town when you wanted to go shopping or watch a movie.   I bet people had fun watching the streetcars (when we had them) and the lights of the movie marquees.
Sadly, my camera was being cranky so some pictures didn't make it.  I can't show you the spread of food.  Nor can I show you the mini chapel-grotto-cave (and what was inside!)  I can't show you the waterfall.
Sounds like a good excuse for me to return.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Charles Phoenix's "Disneyland" tour of Downtown Los Angeles made a stop at Chinatown.
The original Chinatown was demolished long ago to make room for Union Station.  This one, so I hear was built by movie set designers.
  It smells (and sounds like) firecrackers.
This was once a restaurant.  Now it's a gift shop.
Check out the details in the paint!
I fell in love with this boar.  I'd have bought him if I had a place to put him.

Alert the fire department.  There's a cat in the tree!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Union Station

I took Charles Phoenix's "Disneyland" tour of Downtown Los Angeles on Sunday.  It's an eclectic mix of history, architecture, culture and kitsch.. 
My only regret is that I didn't take more pictures.  I have a fossil digital camera with a limited image card.  I'd meant to buy a better one, but lack of time (and my tightwad ways) got the better of me.
We started at Union Station.   Built in the 1930s, it's the size of a blimp hanger and covered with intricate tiles and panels.  As I feared, light from the huge windows washed out most of my internal photos.  The restaurant (now closed but well-maintained), turned out o.k.

As did this...

A cone of rocks rises incongruously from a tiled bench.  Phoenix calls it "The Matterhorn".  There is a resemblance.   I like it best up close. 

Note the cobalt blue bottle.   Are any modern products sold in these?  I've seen brown and green bottles on store shelves, but no blues.  Where did the blues go?

*current tours are sold out, but click here to check for more.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Three Ugly Truths

Remember the first time you heard your voice on tape?  I do.
It startled me. I expected it to sound the way it did in my head. It didn't! 
That stupid sounding voice is me?I sound like a gray-toothed rube! And I'd  thought I was a normal kid! Oh, the horror.

The next ugly truth came a few years later.  I taped myself singing along to the radio.  I used an earpiece to hear the radio (and to make sure it didn't drown out my voice.)  Playback was revealing.
I sounded terrible!   Demented!  This was me singing?!   All this time I thought I was a normal singer.  Now I knew better.
The final horror happened when I was a young adult.  I saw- gasp- myself on videotape.   What a slap that was!  That's me!? I thought,  That fidgety, freaky, pale, high strung, lunatic was me?   And  I'd  thought I was a (semi) normal adult.  Now I knew better!
 I bet I'm not the only one who was horrified the first time they heard their voice or saw themselves on videotape.   Were you?

Friday, February 05, 2010

The "I amTelling You Something" Pose.

If you watch clips from old Saturday morning cartoons  you'll spot characters making the same basic poses.   The arms are thrust down at forty five degree angles, bent up into a weird half shrug, or a combo of the two.  I think it's cartoon shorthand for "I am telling you something."  Or, to be snarky, "I am telling you something you already know."
For example, two cartoon kids are playing catch.  The ball crashes through a window.  Kid one assumes the  pose and says "Oh no.  The ball went through the window!" (thanks for clearing that up).  Kid two, also posing, observes, "Mom's not gonna like this!" (in case you were wondering).
Where did these poses come from?   I rarely see them in real life.  Who thought it was a good idea to animate so many characters like that?   I try not to criticize other people's art*.   Any idiot can say "That's bad" or "You're doing it WRONG!"...
...but something about the really cheap, badly written cartoons  makes me picture some cynical suit running the show with the kids are so stupid that they'll watch anything philosophy.   Plus the  Artists don't know &*#! about business so why should I take suggestions from them?  attitude.
I'm aware that animation is expensive and shortcuts need to be taken, but still...
Or am I just being cranky?

*Okay, I still make fun of Thomas Kinkade, but I figure with the bucks he's raking in, he wouldn't mind.