Friday, February 20, 2015

Sugar-free Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These (processed) sugar free vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are delicious and very simple to make. Yes there are 14 steps in the recipe but I'm a technical writer so I have to make sure the process is completely and explicitly explained. A normal chef would write this recipe in five steps. (Rolled oats are gluten free unless processed in a facility which also processes glutenous grains like wheat so be sure to check the packaging on your oats if you want to be sure this cookie is gluten free.)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup dates, packed
  • 1 mushed up banana
  • 2 Tbsp all natural almond butter or peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup nut meal (ground from raw nuts: almonds, pecans, etc.)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • Add-ins: dried fruit, dairy-free chocolate chips, flaxseed, seeds, coconut, nut pieces

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Soak the dates for about an hour in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Drain the dates.
  3. Chop the dates, drop them in a bowl and mush them up.
    When finished, they should almost (but not quite) be the consistency of a mushed up banana.
  4. Speaking of a mushed up banana, add it and the almond butter to the dates and mix until combined.
  5. Add the nut meal and rolled oats.
    I grind the nuts in a dedicated coffee bean grinder I use for nuts, flax seeds and the like.
  6. Mix the mush until a loose dough is formed.
    It should be wet and sticky. If it feels too wet to form into cookies, add more almond meal and/or oats.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of your chosen add-in: dairy-free dark chocolate chips, raisins or nuts.
    I've also added a handful of blueberries or a chopped up pear and neither made the dough any less sticky.
  8. Chill the dough for 10 minutes while preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. At 10 minutes, mix the dough and chill it for another 10 minutes.
  10. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  11. Scoop out 1 Tbsp amounts of the cookie dough and form into loose discs on the baking sheet.
    They won’t expand so you can pack them close together (but not touching).
  12. Bake for 20-35 minutes or until golden brown and somewhat firm to the touch.
    The amount of time is dependent on how thick your cookie scoops are. The thicker they are, the more time in the oven.
  13. Remove and let set for a few minutes on the pan, then carefully transfer to a plate or cooling rack to cool. Serve immediately.
  14. Store leftovers in an airtight container for several days, or move to the fridge or freezer for longer term storage.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hazel: The Maid With The Most

Miss Hazel Burke is a single white female who lives with, and works for, George and Dorothy Baxter and their young son, Harold. As chief cook and bottle washer she makes between $75 and $100 per week (including raises) and lives rent-free in a small room off the kitchen of the Baxter residence at 123 Marshall Road in Hydsberg, New York. She is a gregarious busybody with a penchant for telling old jokes and socializing with the other maids in the neighborhood in a collective known as The Sunshine Girls. Hazel's Social Security number is 111-07-7619 which tells us her card was issued somewhere between 1936 and 1950.

Despite having a Social Security number*, Hazel is not a real person but a cartoon from Ted Key, who created the single panel series in 1943 from a dream he had. The print Hazel, published in The Saturday Evening Post, was a huge success and Key was approached to adapt the cartoon for television. The television Hazel debuted in the fall of 1961 and was also a huge hit, ending its first year as the fourth most popular television program in the United States. Its run ended in 1966 after 154 episodes aired on two different networks. Since watching the luminous Shirley Booth in the decidedly charming and criminally underrated film About Mrs. Leslie, and remembering her heartbreaking, Tony and Oscar-winning performance in Come Back Little Sheba, I decided to revisit the actress's most famous role in a binge of the series - available on Shout Factory DVDs.

Hazel is a well-written, nicely-paced, emotionally satisfying piece of television history. The characters are appealing, intelligent and funny and the situations are somewhat atypical for a series from the early 1960s. Some of the themes the series addresses include civic pride, immigration, diet/health, women's rights, divorce, commercialism, class, politics, and racial equality. Although the story templates can be somewhat derivative, each episode ties itself up nicely with some of the story lines even crossing over.


Hazel theme with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by James Van Heusen, sung by the Modernaires
only used in the closing credits of the first two episodes of season one

The first four seasons (which ran Thursday nights on NBC at 9:30 PM) follow the proud Miss as she corrects those who deem to call her Mrs., cooks exemplary food, cleans the house (next door to Samantha and Darren Stephens of Bewitched), runs to answer the telephone, causes (and resolves) havoc for Mr. B (her loving but exasperated employer), helps Missy raise the tow-headed Sport (as she helped Missy's mother before her), bowls an almost perfect game, pals around with her compatriot in cleanliness Rosie, sings with the Sunshine Girls Quartet, increases her vocabulary, helps the dotty Johnson neighbors, infuriates Deirdre (Mr. B’s uppity sister), feeds the blustery Mr. Griffin, dates some eligible gentlemen, rejects a few marriage proposals, turns down successful business ventures to stay with the Baxters, and generally runs the city in which everyone just calls me Hazel.

Although William D. Russell directed every episode of seasons 1 to 4, several more in season 5 and deserves infinite kudos for keeping a consistent tone, it is Shirley Booth who is the heart and soul of the show. Ms. Booth can make you laugh, cry and jump for joy with one line of dialog. Her Hazel is proud and charitable, defiant and warm, nosy and helpful; one can't help but become involved in the shenanigans she causes for family, friends and town folk. Shirley summed up her feelings about Hazel in The Saturday Evening Post. Judging from her words Hazel predates Seinfeld as a show about nothing by thirty years.
Good situation comedy makes the audience feel that the things that happen in their daily lives are important. By dramatizing these things -- actions as commonplace, perhaps, as cleaning out a closet or washing the dishes -- a show can make their lives more interesting.

Hazel also subtly addressed women's rights. Dorothy Baxter is a mother with her own interior decorating business; this allows her to be home and to work. She was often found working in her studio or hosting guest star clients. Over its five seasons, Hazel had numerous guest stars who went on to, or were plucked from, established acting careers. Many of the following played recurring characters.
  • Diane Ladd (original Flo in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) plays one of Mr. B’s many cousins, Sharlene.
  • Harold Gould (Rhoda, The Golden Girls) appears in several seasons
  • Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet) appears as a maid in Hazel’s nightmare.
  • Maidie Norman (The Well, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Airport ’77) is approached by Hazel to sign a petition to keep industry from razing a city park - if she is registered to vote. Ms. Norman, an African American woman, is registered. (I also spotted an African-American mailman and county employee in episodes of season 5.)

  • Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show, Blazing Saddles)
  • James Stacy (Cagney and Lacey)
  • Philip Ober (Vivian Vance's husband, I Love Lucy)
  • Doris Singleton (Carolyn Appleby in I Love Lucy)
  • Lurene Tuttle (Julia, vaudeville, radio)
  • Ellen Corby (The Waltons)
  • Jamie Farr (MASH)
  • Alan Hale, Jr. (Gilligan's Island)
  • Barbara Shelley (Village Of The Damned)
  • Mabel Albertson (Jack Albertson's sister, What's Up Doc)
  • William Schallert (The Patty Duke Show)
  • Ken Berry (Mayberry RFD, Mama's Family)
  • Dabney Coleman (9 to 5, Buffalo Bill)
  • Leif Erickson (westerns among other gigs)
  • Frank Gifford (football) plays himself looking to buy a bowling alley
  • Claude Akins (Movin’ On, BJ and the Bear)
  • Lee Meriweather (Miss America, Batman)
  • Jack Dodson (The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D.)
  • Bonnie Franklin has an uncredited walk-on in season five. Ironically ten years later she would star in One Day At A Time, the CBS situation comedy created and written by Whitney Blake. Blake herself was nixed for the part as being too old, much to her consternation.
  • Don Kirshner (Rock Concert) is credited as a music consultant

This pilot episode features Edward Andrews as Mr. B
the part played in the series by Don DeFore

The regular members of the cast are also uniformly excellent (especially Don DeFore and Cathy Lewis holding their own against the powerhouse Booth) and deserve mention.
  • George Mr. B Baxter (1961-1965) ... Don DeFore (wonderfully plays an endearing foil to Hazel)
  • Dorothy Missy Baxter (1961-1965) ... Whitney Blake (a stunningly beautiful woman whose graciousness and love for Hazel shines)
  • Harold Sport Baxter ... Bobby Buntrock (a charming child actor who died in a car accident at the age of 22, eight years after the series end)
  • Rosie ... Maudie Prickett (Prickett plays kind-of prickly)
  • Harvey Griffin ... Howard Smith (one of Mr. B's many clients and Hazel's many suitors)
  • Deirdre Thompson (1961-1965) ... Cathy Lewis (played to the hilt by the underrated Lewis, Mr. B's snooty sister can never quite one up Hazel - not for lack of trying)
  • Harriet Johnson (1961-1965) ... Norma Varden (wonderfully dotty)
  • Herbert Johnson (1961-1965) ... Donald Foster (wonderfully dotty too)
  • Harry Thompson (1961-1965) ... Robert P. Lieb
  • Steve Baxter (1965-1966) ... Ray Fulmer
  • Barbara Baxter (1965-1966) ... Lynn Borden
  • Susie Baxter (1965-1966) ... Julia Benjamin
  • Millie Ballard (1965-1966) ... Ann Jillian (It's A Living, Mae West)
  • Mona Williams (1965-1966) ... Mala Powers
  • Fred Williams (1965-1966) ... Charles Bateman
  • Jeff Williams (1965-1966) ... Pat Cardi
  • Smiley the dog (Harold's pet)
  • Black cat (Susie's pet)
Special kudos to William D. Russell who directed 136 of 154 episodes: all of seasons 1 through 4 and 11 of 29 in season 5.

The ratings dropped from #4 in season one to Top 30 in season four when NBC cancelled it. Shirley Booth purchased the rights and worked out a deal with CBS for another season. Season five was to follow The Andy Griffith Show on Monday nights at 9:30 PM. After looking at the payroll, Booth and the other producers decided not to renew the contracts of DeFore and Blake. CBS was also looking for younger demographics so George and Dorothy were sent overseas and younger actors were hired for the roles of Steve and Barbara Baxter, George's brother and wife, who became Harold's caretakers. Bobby Buntrock didn't make a lot of money so dropping him wouldn't have balanced the budget and keeping him preserved continuity.

The context of the season five episodes stayed the same: Hazel works for a blustery (albeit younger) man of the house and his pretty blonde wife. The role of George and Steve Baxter's snooty sister Deirdre was even usurped by Barbara Baxter's friend Mona Williams who, with her husband Fred and son Jeff, lived next door and appeared in a number of episodes. (Thankfully, Cathy Lewis makes several season 5 appearances as well.) Most surprisingly, Hazel gets out of her uniform quite a bit to sell houses for the younger Baxter's real estate office - even dressing as a beatnik in My Son, The Sheepdog, the series' ode to rock and roll. Ultimately though, season five ratings were worse than season four and Hazel was cancelled for a second time.


From baking cookies to driving the Baxters to paying a toll Hazel
filmed a myriad of opening credits. Here is a mashup of five seasons worth.

Most recently, the story of how Hazel found her way to the Baxters has been revamped as a musical with music by Ron Abel, lyrics by Chuck Steffan and book by Lissa Levin. (In the 1950s, Key adapted his cartoon into a play which Booth read; reportedly, she liked the character but didn't think the play held up for two hours.) Hazel, A Musical Maid in America was showcased for producers (with direction by situation comedy and theatre veteran Lucie Arnaz) in October, 2014. The latest news brings it to Broadway sometime in 2015. Only time will tell if the Maid With The Most can match the success of her print and television runs with a live action run on the boards.

WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE

Season Four of the Hazel DVD set released by Shout Factory contains digital ephemera in the form of a Screen Gems promotional booklet for potential advertisers of the television series. It contains text about the show and the characters, some Ted Key illustrations and a preface by Peter Key, the cartoonist's son. I probably shouldn't have done this (since it's not technically public domain) but I've put this booklet to PDF. Email me for a download link.

*Hazel's Social Security number is revealed when she takes a part time job in Masterson's Department Store (season 1, episode 12).

See my Pinterest page for more pictures of Shirley Booth and the cast of Hazel.

Follow Michael,'s board Hazel, the Maid with the Most on Pinterest.

See Peggy J. Shumate's Pinterest page for even more pictures of Shirley Booth and Hazel.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Download Free Music From Your Library

Do you have a library card?

li·brary kard noun \ˈlī-ˌbrer-ē kard, -ˌbre-rē kard; British usually & US sometimes : identification that permits someone to temporarily take home literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) that are kept in a building and are for use but not for sale
I have a library card with the New York Public Library system. On my first perusal of the library system's web site one year ago this week, I found a link that lead me to Free Music!


Freegalmusic.com allows anyone with a current library card to download three songs a week for free. These songs are 256 kbps, in the MP3 format and contain no DRM encoding. In my recent searches I have seen some music that is currently out-of-print but still downloadable from the library system - which must have some ragged old compact disc in a dusty branch somewhere. What a treat!
Freegal also allows logged in users to stream three hours of music a day. FREE!
To find out if you can download and stream using Freegal Music, you'll have to search the web site of your local library to see if they partner with Freegal. You can connect to the web site from the New York Public Library site using this link and check out the music selection ... but cannot log in (or download) without a valid library card. Recently I've downloaded:

  • Carrie Underwood
  • Mark Ronson
  • Hozier
  • Michael Jackson
  • Bob Dylan
  • Kaye Ballard
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Foo Fighters
  • Beyonce
  • Elvis Presley
  • Pink Floyd
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Daft Punk
  • Pitbull
  • Miles Davis
  • Meghan Trainor

There's also an app for it! The Freegal App allows you to search and browse the Freegal Music collection of your library, and to download, store and play your Freegal MP3 files on your smartphone. OverDrive is another service. It is a virtual check out/return catalog of digital books and music. Good for Kindle/eBook/audiobook users. Not sure how the return actually works but I have no doubt that it does.

This information was originally published when I saw this sign, splashed with a picture of Leona Lewis, that I found in the Rose Garden branch of the San Jose Public Library when I lived on the left coast.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

How Colleen Moore Broke Into The Movies


Portrait from How I Broke Into The Movies

With the recent discovery, restoration, and availability on Warner Archive disc of Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin, I thought this an opportune time to post the second world internet premiere from the book How I Broke Into The Movies. How I Broke Into The Movies was published in 1930 and contains articles on the title theme written by movie stars of the day like Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Al Jolson, Greta Garbo, and 53 other notable actors. The first article from the book was published in my posting on Marion Davies. This second article was written by the inimitable flapper with the black helmet who starred in the discovered films previously mentioned, and might possibly be the first time (although not the last time) that Colleen Moore took pen to paper as a published writer.

This article continues after the WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE break.


How I Broke Into The Movies by Colleen Moore
Right click to open the image in a new tab.

Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin are the last silent films Colleen made - although technically they are sound synchronized. In the time following Al Jolson's history-making You ain't heard nothin' yet, studios were transitioning to sound by releasing silent films with timed music and sound effects recorded to shellac discs. The disc was started when the movie began and thus movie and sound were synchronized. Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin were both discovered in an Italian archive almost ten years ago; fortunately, the Vitaphone discs for Why Be Good? were complete and available but only the final disc of Synthetic Sin was found. For the theatrical showings and on disc, Why Be Good? is sound synchronized while Synthetic Sin has a piano score until the last reel when the disc is used.*


These pictures of domestic goddess Moore were published
in the January 1922 issue of Pantomime magazine.


Colleen's career started in 1917 with an appearance in The Bad Boy. She, like many other actresses of the time, wore her hair in long curls to emulate the most successful and highest paid actress of the time, Mary Pickford. It wasn't until 1923 when Colleen was begging First National Studio for the starring role in their film of the best-selling novel Flaming Youth that her mother offered this sage advice: Why don't we cut your hair and then make [the studio] give you a test for the part? Out came the scissors, Colleen got the part and Flaming Youth became her biggest film hit to date. The film made Colleen Moore a huge star (and for a time the highest paid actress in Hollywood). Girls everywhere cut their hair into a Dutch bob and copied her style of dress. Before Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Joan Crawford, Colleen was the quintessential flapper.


This clip is all that remains of Flaming Youth the
film that put Colleen Moore, and flapperdom, on the map.

Several other films with Colleen are available online including the WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE of the (public domain) silent film Ella Cinders which I've (personally) scored using (public domain) jazz tunes from the 1920s courtesy of archive.org. Ella Cinders was a huge hit for Colleen in 1926. Based on the popular comic strip of the time (and the tale of Cinderella), Ella Cinders enters her hometown beauty contest to win a chance to make movies in Hollywood. Of course, there's a mean stepmother and two ugly stepsisters as well as a ball and a handsome prince, and Colleen excels as the put-upon Ella. At this point, her skill as an actress had been honed for almost ten years and her comic mug as she learns to act from a book (similar to the scene of Marion Davies' acting mug in Show People) is classic. Colleen is poignant, pretty and priceless.

WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE


I've uploaded Colleen Moore's Ella Cinders with a custom score
using jazz tunes from the 1920s to both archive.org and YouTube.
A list of the songs and artists is below.*

The Scarlet Letter is Colleen's last film, a 1934 talking version of the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. It's a mashup of a movie, starting with humor and then veering down the dramatic path with the classic story of adultery. Colleen is fine in her performance but the movie is a little too mundane to be engrossing, coming down to a curio best viewed by fans of Colleen Moore.

The Power And The Glory was the first screenplay written by Preston Sturges to be made into a movie, and won the 1933 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film is often cited as a precursor in narrative style and theme to Citizen Kane. Colleen herself has called it out as her best and she is wonderful in an understated performance (aging from her 20s to her 60s) playing off her equally skilled co-star Spencer Tracey. The version available on YouTube looks to be from television with hard-coded Spanish subtitles (the credits are not original) and can be seen in six parts.

Colleen Moore was a smart woman and realized the historical significance of the motion picture business and her involvement in it. In 1944, she donated fifteen of her movies to the Museum of Modern Art where she felt they would be stored and protected. Unfortunately, MOMA did no such thing and the films were left to rot when they were finally discovered again in the 1970s. Thus, many of Colleen's films, if available, are incomplete and in poor condition. This is why the discovery and restoration of Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin has been celebrated.

Colleen left acting after The Scarlet Letter and turned her talents to a hobby that she had since childhood: dollhouses. Her love for dollhouses started when she was four years of age and her father made her one out of cigar boxes. Over time, he made three more and Colleen began collecting miniatures for the houses. Kathleen's Collection (as it was called) continued into adulthood and bade her father to ask one day in 1928 Why don't we build a fairy castle to house your collection? The set designers and construction people of First National Studio became the architects of what was referred to as Colleen's Folly. The interior has running water and electricity, solid gold chandeliers (studded with diamonds and emeralds), scores copied in tiny notes by composers such as Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin and leather-bound miniature books written in small-scale handwriting by Noel Coward, Sinclair Lewis, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edna Ferber and John Steinbeck (among others). You will also see glass slippers small enough to fit a 5-inch tall Cinderella, a pistol so small enough to fire tiny silver bullets, a floating spiral staircase, unsupported and a carved ivory floor. Now referred to as Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle, it has a scale of one inch to one foot and has been on display at the Museum of Science and Technology in Chicago since 1949.

In 1968, Colleen published her autobiography called Silent Star. Although it certainly dealt with her films and marriages (three to the point at which it was published), she also recounts many stories of other actors that she lived through first hand or heard from others. She recounts among other infamous tales, the Fatty Arbuckle trials, the William Desmond Taylor murder, Wallace Reid's drug addiction and death, Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand, D.W. Griffith's fall from Hollywood grace, and the marriage of Jean Harlow and Paul Bern. It's a fascinating and charming look at the early days of Hollywood and the writing reflects Colleen's effervescence.

Having spent her post-Hollywood years earning a living in real estate and finance, the publisher of Silent Star asked her to pen a second book and in 1969, she published How Women Can Make Money in the Stock Market. In 1986 a third book was published in which Colleen played a major role. In 1967 King Vidor (a lifelong friend who also directed Colleen in The Sky Pilot in 1921) started researching the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor for a movie that financial whiz Colleen would produce. The film never came to fruition but Vidor's boxes of research were found after his death and became the nucleus for the best-selling book A Cast Of Killers by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick.

Colleen had no children of her own but was mother to the children of Homer Hargrave, her third husband who died in 1965; they had been married since 1936. In 1982, she married for a fourth time. She died six years later of stomach cancer, leaving behind a legacy of laughter, wonder and imagination.


This interview was published in a 1929 book by Lee Shippey called
Personal Glimpses of Famous Folks and Other Selections from the Lee Side o' L.A..


This interview was published in the March 1922 issue
of Pantomime magazine, an early Hollywood fan magazine.

See my Pinterest page for a slew of
pictures of Colleen from throughout her life and career.

*For more information on sound synchronized films, see the Vitaphone Project. Other Colleen Moore web sites include The Silent Collection featuring Colleen Moore and The Colleen Moore Project.

*Listing of songs used in Ella Cinders:

Friday, December 12, 2014

What is Art ... Amnesty?


Courtyard at MOMA PS1

As I warmed in the dinette with a cup of tea at MOMA PS1, the Long Island City adjunct to the Museum of Modern Art, the smell of hot lunch permeated the once-upon-a-time school building and the lining of my stomach, the latter causing some quiet growling. My friend arrived and we traversed the galleries finding ourselves fascinated by (the exhibits) Zero Tolerance, Samara Golden's The Flat Side of the Knife, Francesco Vezzoli's Teatro Romano and The Little Things Could Be Dearer. Nothing caused more discussion and consternation though than Bob and Roberta Smith's Art Amnesty. Art Amnesty begins in the museum courtyard with four dumpsters marked THROW YOUR ART AWAY. Somewhat perplexing but when we walked into the Art Amnesty gallery, I put two and two together, came up with four, and found a fascinating concept. According to the guidelines @BobandRoberta:
... are offering an opportunity for artists to dispose of their artwork at MoMA PS1, and to retire from making art. Beginning October 2, artists are invited to deposit their art in dumpsters located in the museum’s courtyard, which will be emptied as needed throughout the period of the Art Amnesty. Those who wish to exhibit their work one final time before it is destroyed may bring their art to the 2nd Floor Main Galleries, where museum staff will install it for public view. The museum will accept work under the Art Amnesty during regular hours, subject to certain restrictions outlined in the submission guidelines. The exhibition reprises and expands upon their Art Amnesty originally presented at Pierogi Gallery in 2002.


from Art Amnesty

The Art Amnesty gallery displays a lot of art; some of the larger pieces are actually very good, a scattered few wouldn't be out of place on their mother's refrigerator and much is very bad but all of it will be disposed of when the exhibit closes on March 8, 2015. There is some real garbage including a Merrel brand shoe marked as Champs that someone removed in the museum and a banana peel enclosed in an empty plantain chips bags. The exhibit seeks to answer the questions:
Why are some people artists while others are not? Was Joseph Beuys an idiot when he said everyone is an artist? Do artists think they are a cut above the rest of us? Are the arts a good in themselves, or is it much, much, more complicated than that?


from Art Amnesty

As I walked around the gallery I wanted to contribute. I surmised that the use of the word amnesty gives anyone the right to offer up art. At the very least I would've brought in a tshirt I designed for my crew d'tees line just to hang it in a nationally recognized museum - adjunct. But alas, all I could do was leave the gallery and visit the bathroom. I was still hungry so I ate a banana I had while listening to my friend urinate. When he had zipped up, I said that I should bring my banana peel into Art Amnesty. He was somewhat aghast but I countered that the point of the exhibit is amnesty, defined as a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense; in this case the offense being whatever the artist deems to be art. After some discussion, my friend pulled an empty bag of plantain chips out of his jacket pocket and said I might as well use this garbage too. When I realized that bananas and plantains were of the same fruit family but used (primarily) in different cultures I realized that by putting the banana peel into the plantain chip bag I was illustrating global assimilation. Much to my friend's consternation my art had turned into a collaborative piece.


Global Assimil- ation in Art Amnesty

I walked into the gallery and started explaining my thought process to the docent before asking if he really wanted to hear my thought process. He replied in the affirmative so I told him everything and he was perfectly fine with it - even smiling. Then I asked if he had some paper I could tape the bag to. He handed me a sheet and a stapler. Then I asked for a pen so I could title it. He directed me to a table with colored pencils and crayons and said I could use whatever was there. (Much of the art work in the gallery had obviously been done at this table.) So I wrote three lines on my paper:
  • GLOBAL in yellow signifying the sun
  • ASSIMIL- in blue signifying the sky
  • ATION in brown signifying the earth
I handed my art to the docent, filled out my I NEVER WANT TO SEE THIS WORK OF ART AGAIN pledge, signed the I WILL ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO BE ALL THAT THEY CAN BE. CHOOSE ART AT SCHOOL. pledge (which is to be mailed to Jeb Bush), and my art was hung up (fittingly) next to the art work that I had deemed my favorite when I first walked through the gallery.


from Art Amnesty

As we walked home, my friend was resolute in his disgust. He said what I hung up was garbage, plain and simple. (What about the shoe? The Shoe!) No matter how much verbal diarrhea I explicated, my friend could not grasp the concept of Art Amnesty: that using the word amnesty in the exhibit's name allows anyone and everyone to contribute art, precluding judgment on said art and allowing anyone and everyone to proudly proclaim I am an artist. I might even go back with one of my crew d'tees tshirts!

PS: The day after my validation as an artist at MOMA PS1 I went grocery shopping and was asked to sign my credit card slip. When I handed the signed slip back to the cashier she told me I had the signature of an artist. That's two validations as an artist in one week!


Teatro Romano


Mirrors as The Flat Side of the Knife


from Zero Tolerance

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fast & Easy & Spicy (Oh My) Pumpkin Seeds

  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (crushed)

  1. Preheat oven to 250°
  2. Crush the salt and red pepper flakes using your mortar and pestle
  3. Combine all spices in a small bowl
  4. Toss raw pumpkin seeds in oil/hot sauce mixture
  5. Add spice mixture to seeds, tossing all as you pour
  6. Bake seeds on foil covered cookie sheet for 50 minutes, tossing the seeds with a spatula every ten minutes or so
  7. Refrigerate water with ice cubes for medicinal purposes

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Brief History of Plastic Surgery in Hollywood

1927

In 1927, Hal Roach releases Anything Once a Mabel Normand short in which Nora Hayden plays the rich Mrs. De Puyster who has a face lift in anticipation of presenting herself at the costume cotillion. Ms. Normand plays the dry cleaner's assistant saddled with the task of bringing the cleaned costume to Mrs. De Puyster's home. Knowing how Mabel can be, hijinks ensue.


See Mabel Normand in the two reeler on archive.org.

1973

In 1973, Elizabeth Taylor has a face lift in the hopes of saving her marriage (to Henry Fonda in a small, yet pivotal role). The film was considered quite controversial back in the day for its interpolation of graphic footage of a face lift procedure.


See Elizabeth Taylor in Ash Wednesday on YouTube
or email me for a link to download a VHS rip.

2014

In 2014, Renée Zellweger walks the red carpet after years out of the spotlight.


Bonus: Totie Fields Talks Plastic Surgery

In what looks to be the late 1960s Merv Griffin had discussions with plastic surgeon Dr. Kurt Wagner on his eponymously titled talk show. Guests included Victor Borge and Totie Fields. Totie Fields is a big supporter of plastic surgery. Interestingly many believe that it was the plastic surgery she had on her eyes which initiated the health issues that lead to her death. For more information on the life and career of comedian Totie Fields, see Totie Fields: A Blography.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

How Marion Davies Broke Into The Movies


Portrait from How I Broke Into The Movies

The best silent film actors allow the viewer to hear their voices despite the silence (and the piano); this talent makes Marion Davies one of the loudest of the era. Watching her lampoon her own image in King Vidor's superlative 1928 comedy Show People is a revelation. As Peggy Pepper she conveys naiveté, passion, humor, poignance and arrogance without uttering a sound. This becomes even more fascinating when you read her 1975 (transcribed from tape) autobiography The Times We Had. When she speaks of her time as a performer - which started on the stage at 13 years young - she remembers only how bad she was.

Even before meeting William Randolph Hearst, the man who became her benefactor, mentor, and life-long lover, Marion's career was in gear. She had always wanted to be a performer and followed in the footsteps of her older sister as a pony girl (small dancer of any age), a chorine and a Ziegfeld showgirl in the New York theatre. By 1917, she had written a photoplay called Runaway Romany; the script was directed by her brother-in-law and gave Marion her first (starring) role in pictures.

The article continues after this WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE


This is an article written by Ms. Davies for a book published in 1930 called
How I Broke Into The Movies. It contains similarly written articles by Joan
Crawford, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Al Jolson, Greta Garbo
and 53 other notable actors. Right click to open the image in a new tab.


Marion's affair with the married William Randolph Hearst was fodder for gossip columnists throughout her life. Initially it was their relationship alone and the 25 years age difference. In the early 20s came the death of Thomas Ince aboard the Hearst yacht (fictionalized in the 1997 play The Cat's Meow) and the financial success of her (Hearst produced) Cosmopolitan Pictures dramatic vehicles such as When Knighthood Was In Flower and Little Old New York. In the later 20s, Hearst and Davies were building the Santa Monica Beach House in Southern California and Hearst Castle at San Simeon in Northern California while Marion's career rose to even greater heights, financially and critically, with breakout comedy roles in Quality Street, The Patsy and the aforementioned Show People.


The full movie is on archive.org.

When films started to speak, Marion was worried about her transition. She had always fought a childhood stutter - way into adulthood - and didn't think she could speak lines without it getting in the way. But she did! Although none of her sound pictures reached the classic heights of her silents, she co-starred with some of the (soon to be) biggest stars in Hollywood: Bing Crosby in Going Hollywood (1933), Gary Cooper in Operator 13 (1934), Clark Gable in Polly Of The Circus (1932), Dick Powell in the Napoleonic era semi-musical Hearts Divided (1936), Cain and Mabel (1936) and Robert Montgomery in Ever Since Eve, her last film made in 1937. (Davies is also credited as producer on many of her films, both silent and talkers.)


This clip from the 1930 musical The Florodora Girl
not only shows her comic expertise and musical
background but proves Marion was game for anything.

In 1941, a film was released that cemented a skewed image of Marion in the minds of the public for decades to follow. Orson Welles' Citizen Kane concerned the titular newspaper magnate and his no-talent wife Susan Alexander. Because it was commonly agreed that Kane was a thinly veiled version of Hearst, it came to be that Alexander must be a thinly veiled version of Davies. With a poor self-image, Marion herself undoubtedly believed the gossip.

Fortunately, Welles himself set the record straight in the foreword he wrote to Marion's autobiography. And in 1992 This is Orson Welles, a book by Welles and Peter Bogdanovich (director of the 2001 film version of The Cat's Meow) confirmed that Samuel Insull's building of the Chicago Opera House, and business tycoon Harold Fowler McCormick's lavish promotion of the opera career of his second wife, were direct influences on the Citizen Kane screenplay. Welles called Marion an extraordinary woman.

After leaving her career, Marion spent the rest of her life caring for the elderly Hearst (who died in 1951) and doing charity work. Davies had always been a very astute business woman, investing in California real estate rather than the stock market; this simple decision left her very well off and she even gave $1 million to Hearst himself at a time during the 1930s depression era when his fortunes were turning to bankruptcy.

Marion married 11 weeks after Hearst's death. It is said that Horace Brown encouraged her drinking - which was always somewhat out of control. (Hearst was a teetotaler.) Although she filed for divorce twice it was never finalized before Marion died of stomach cancer on September 22, 1961.

An odd postscript to the Hearst/Davies love story became a newspaper headline on October 3, 1993 when Marion's niece Patricia Lake died of lung cancer. Part of the decades of gossip concerned Ms. Lake who is the daughter of Marion's sister Rose. Right before her death she proclaimed that she was indeed the daughter of Davies and Hearst; Marion had told her this when she was a young girl of 11 and Hearst confirmed it on her wedding day when the couple gave her away. Although published in her obituary, the claim could never be verified and has never been commented on by the Hearst family.

Another Marion Davies WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE

The relationship of Davies and Hearst was fictionalized in the 1985 television movie
The Hearst and Davies Affair starring Robert Mitchum and Virginia Madsen.
The movie is not great but tries hard. If you're a fan of Marion it is very watchable
with Virginia Madsen turning in a charming performance. It has never been released
digitally but if you'd like a rip of the VHS tape, leave a comment with your email.
I also have downloads of the out-of-print (and unavailable elsewhere) When
Knighthood Was In Flower
, Quality Street, Marianne and several others.

More Marion Davies digital ephemera including a documentary on her life


The Brat starring Marion Davies and Joel McCrea aired
as an episode of the Lux Radio Theater on July 13, 1936.

See my Pinterest page for a slew of
pictures of Marion from throughout her life and career.

Finally, Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies was produced in 2001
and narrated by Charlize Theron. Out of print, the DVD goes for hundreds of dollars but
the documentary is available for viewing on MySpace. Watch it now before it's removed!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Roasted Cannellini Beans Instead of Popcorn

  • One can cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt (the salt that looks like hail)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Drain the beans. I don't rinse them.
  3. Put beans in a bowl and toss with some olive oil to coat them lightly - maybe a tablespoon, maybe not.
  4. Add sea salt (the kind that looks like hail, did I say that?) Your discretion.
  5. Dump on cookie sheet and cook at 425° for ten minutes.
  6. Remove the beans from the oven and lower the temperature to 400°.
  7. Gently turn the beans in the cookie sheet over using a spatula.
  8. Return the beans to the 400° oven for 25 minutes or until they seem crunchy. The beans are very hot at this point and I've burned my tongue more times than I care to remember testing for crunchiness but I got the hang of it and they are delicious and nutritious when watching a movie.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986)

These six videos were posted (and originally recorded on VHS tape, I assume) by lovelightpeace. They include the meat of a couple of episodes of The Ellen Burstyn Show, a situation comedy that ran on ABC for 13 episodes in 1986 and the summer of 1987. The videos don't include title credits, commercials or end credits and the episodes run into each other but seem to be complete.

The show had three powerhouse actresses in Ellen Burstyn, a very young Megan Mullally and an even younger Elaine Stritch (big kiss) as grandmother, mother and daughter (not respectively) all living under the same roof. Megan Mullally's character also has a young son played by Jesse Tendler, a very natural child actor who holds his own against these ladies. The first follows the family dog's pregnancy and the second has Mullally's character trying her hand at mom Burstyn's profession: writing. For a sitcom, the writing is intelligent...which holds no surprise when I see Ellen Burstyn's name attached to the title.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DREAM ON: The Official ABBA Bootlegs

How can a bootleg be official? I made it so on ABBAnatic: The Alternative ABBA Web Site.

It's been over twenty years since I bought my last ABBA bootleg. To this day, I still receive email missives from ABBA hoarders begging me to sell a copy of Little White Secrets or the three volume Missing Pieces. And you know what, despite my previous responses in the negative, I've decided it's time to upload files of these bootlegs to this here Internets (sic) so ABBA fans the world over can enjoy them as much as I have. No money need change hands.

The first files to drop are the tracks from Dream On. This cd is subtitled Solo Rarities & Guest Appearances and it lives up to the moniker. From the remixes to a healthy sampling of songs vocalized by Michael Tretow, ABBA's long-time engineer, this cd is one of my personal favorites. The sound quality runs from very good to tolerable (the Tretow songs). Most of it was recorded directly from vinyl. Dream On Too is the companion CD and will be available soon.
  1. SOS (3:17)
    This, Agnetha's Swedish solo version of the ABBA classic, is commercially available on other compilations, specifically På Svenska.
  2. Yo No Fui Quien Dijo Adios (4:06)
    This is the Spanish version of Agnetha's single I Wasn't The One Who Said Goodbye.
  3. I Won't Let You Go (5:54)
    An excellent remix of one of my favorite Agnetha songs. The original is on the album Eyes Of A Woman.
  4. Let It Shine (3:44)
    This mix, subtitled The Bright Remix, is just that, a brighter, more dance-oriented mix of the cut from Agnetha's final album I Stand Alone.
  5. The Last Time (6:50)
    This extended remix is also off Agnetha's album I Stand Alone.
  6. Shine (6:23)
    This extended remix is taken from the title tune of Frida's 1984 album Shine.
  7. Fernando (4:09)
    This, Frida's Swedish solo version, is commercially available on other compilations, specifically På Svenska.
  8. Chiquitita (5:19)
    Recorded live at the United Nations, this cut was released only on the UNICEF concert album The Gift of Song; now out-of-print. The best part is hearing Gilda Radner introduce the group in her best put-upon Swedish accent.
  9. Bravo Tu As Gagne (4:37)
    A beautiful French version of The Winner Takes It All by the esteemed Mireille Mathieu - she of the black hair helmet and glasses. Her voice has a timbre similar to Agnetha and with Benny, Bjorn and Frida providing backup one could almost swear ... A real find on this cd!
  10. Paper Dolls (3:23)
  11. Bottom Coming Up (2:47)
  12. Moonbeams (2:49)
  13. I Can See What You Mean (3:25)
  14. Sandwich (2:57)
    The five songs above feature Michael Tretow, ABBA's long-time engineer, on lead vocals. Benny and Bjorn play piano and guitar, respectively and Agnetha and Frida sing back-up. Curiosities at first, I enjoy listening to them, especially Moonbeams; a song that only lists Agnetha on piano and Frida with backing vocals.
Email me or leave a comment if you'd like a link to download a ZIP of the music and CD art.
9/10/14 : I received a cease and desist order so unfortunately the download is no longer available. Enjoy the text, add a comment telling me how much you enjoyed it and sign it with an email address so I can say thanks.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

crew d'tees - adventurously designed shirts

I've been creating graphics and collecting (public domain) illustrations for years. In California, I had the space to screen my designs on tee shirts like Andy Warhol but in New York I have no factory that's not digital. So I uploaded my images to Skreened.com, an on-demand screen printing site, and ordered some tee shirts. They looked great (much cleaner than my manuals) so I decided to offer them up for the one or two others on the internet who might like to wear one.

crew d'tees is the name of the shop and it's a riff on the French word crudité (raw veggies and dip) by way of a crew neck tee and the theme - an evocation of bygone days with some sex thrown in. I've also created designs to celebrate silent film! They can be fun and thought-provoking. Visit the shop by clicking the skreened.com designer button above, or via this crewdtees.com link. Here's a sampling of some tested images. I do reserve the right to add (or remove). More to come especially the really trashy ones.

All crew d'tees graphics and images are copyrighted and protected under copyright laws.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Keeping Fit With Rudolph Valentino

In 1923 Rudolph Valentino, the silent screen's infamous Latin lover, published an 81 page book called How To Keep Fit. And for the last few months, I have been doing just that with Rudolph. In the book, he tailors his exercise activity by the coast on which he happens to be: outdoor types of exercises in California and indoor types of exercises in New York. Fortunately, having just moved to New York from California myself, it is the New York, anaerobic type exercises that he has documented with photographs.

I've cherry-picked fitness information and photos from the book (excising the wrist rolls) and organized it in an easy-to-follow format. Mr. Valentino's circuit can be done at home, day or night, without much apparatus or expense. Every body part is accounted for and Valentino has limited the movements so that a period of fifteen to twenty minutes each day completes the circuit. There is a link at the bottom of the article to download the complete book (with wrist rolls) in PDF format.

It is not necessary to spend much time at these exercises. Approach them with a spirit of energy and concentration. Let one follow after the other but make no attempt to exhaust yourself.Your exercises should be stimulating rather than fatiguing.Continue each movement until only slightly tired and then go one to the next one, making sure that you do each one with spirit and energy.

And as Rudolph stresses throughout All who have mechanical defects should take care when following this regimine.

  1. Exercises 1-4: Neck, Spine
  2. Exercises 5-9: Back
  3. Exercises 10-13: Chest, Shoulders
  4. Exercises 14-16: Abdomen
  5. Exercises 17-23: Arms
  6. Exercises 27-30: Legs
  7. The Tonic

Exercises 1-4: Neck, Spine


Perform these neck exercises (primarily for the upper spine) with a vigorous stretching action. The manner of execution has everything to do with successful results. It loosens the vertebrae of the upper spine and acts as a tonic upon the central nervous system. Bring the head far forward stretching hard and then bring the head far backward. It is more important to do them energetically a few times than carelessly a great number of times.


Turn your head far to one side and then to the other, stretching the chin as far over each shoulder as you can comfortably.


The bridge is partly for the neck and partly for the back. Lower the body to rest upon the floor and raise it back to this position. Support your weight with your hands until your neck is developed enough that you can rely on it to support the body. Repeat 5 or 10 times as a pure strength building exercise. (Ed. Note: Even those without mechanical defects should take care with this one.)

Exercises 5-9: Back


This body-twisting exercise wrings the spinal column, maintaining elasticity. With arms outstretched to the sides, bring the body far around to one side, then far around to the other side. Stretch in each case so as to twist the spine as much as you can, thus stretching the internal organs as well.


Side-bending exercises are best performed with your arms outstretched to each side as in the photograph. Swing one arm high over the head as you bend over, and then reverse. Bend as far to each side as you can as this liver-squeezer will compress, stretch and stimulate the internal organs.


Bending far backward is more effective with arms outstretched upward, as in the photograph. The first time you attempt this you may not be able to bend far back. Take care in your attempts. Perform in conjunction with the following at least ten times, possibly twenty.


Reverse the preceding movement. Don't touch the floor but stretch the arms backward between the legs.


Rotate the entire upper body from the waist up in a circle, first around in one direction and then the other. Bend forward horizontally, then swing around far to one side, continue backwards (photograph) and around to the other side.

Exercises 10-13: Chest, Shoulders


All movements which stretch the arms above the head can be recommended for improving the general posture of the body. With a starting position of arms at the sides, swing the arms up sideways and high over head, repeating five or ten times. Next execute a similar movement, swinging the arms straight forward and upward high over the head. In each instance, stretch vigorously upwards and observe what it does to your chest - they are actually deep breathing exercises. Inhale, raise - exhale, lower.


Clasp your hands behind your back, then pull the shoulders backward and downward. Execute this exercise with an energetic stretching impulse. Relax for a moment and repeat at least ten times.


Clasp your hands together and vigorously pull your arms across the front of your chest. Vary this by lowering hands to waistline, raising to the front of the face and finally clasping behind the head (as in the photograph below). Repeat five or ten times in each position. The harder you pull, the greater the benefit, the more you will like this exercise.


This is the behind the head hand clasp pull described above.


This exercise is just the reverse of the preceding inasmuch as it involves pushing the hands together instead of pulling, and it employs just the opposite muscle groups.

Exercises 14-16: Abdomen


The old reliable is best done with arms folded as in the photograph, lying down, rising, and repeating ten to 20 times. Supplement this exercise with the raising of the legs while lying on the back, either to the vertical position or bringing them way back to touch the floor with the toes behind the head.


While easier when the feet are braced, holding them down with concentrated mental effort is preferred.


Arrange furniture as shown in the photograph, clasp your hands behind your head and lower the body until the head touches the floor. The rise to a sitting position and repeat ten times.

Exercises 17-23: Arms


The dip may be done on a level floor with the body held straight and rigid, lowering the chest to the floor and pushing up again to arm's length. It is easier if performed as in the top photograph, with a table, or between the arms of an arm chair. Hold the body rigid, bend elbows, lowering the body, and then push up to arm's length, repeating ten times.


This manner of the dip is more advanced. The two photographs (with feet on table) are self explanatory. If you are not able to do this, practice on a level floor for two or three weeks. When you can do this with the feet on the chair you will find it extremely interesting.


You will need a bar. Nearly every man can chin himself once or twice. Can you do it ten times, or twenty times? You can reverse the position of the hands for variety.

Exercises 27-29: Legs


In a deep knee bend, lower the body to a squatting position, then rises to a standing position, repeating and continuing for ten or twenty times. In each case as you rise to the standing position, rise high upon the toes thus bringing into action the muscles of the calves. Hold a weight to make the exercise more effective.


This one leg deep knee bend is regarded as a test of strength and coordination. Squat and rise first on one leg half a dozen times, and then on the other.


It is most readily done by stretching the arms forward to maintain balance.

The Tonic


Place hands on the floor about 2 feet away from the wall. Throw your feet up against the wall as in the photograph. The purpose is to correct any prolapsus of the vital organs and to readjust or balance the circulation of the blood. When taking this position two to three times in succession, this exercise is like a tonic. Valentino also has a chapter on better eating - as do I.

WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE: This isn't technically a WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE because I downloaded the book from a torrent. Kudos to the originator of the torrent and the scanner of the book. I am uploading it to archive.org so that the book will be available for generations to come...or at least until the planet implodes. Whichever comes first.


THE END