Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Live! At Largo at the Coronet!

Ah, Largo. Owned and booked by just one man, its very independence gives it the right to be a bit eccentric. One might even call the ticket procuring process byzantine. Even so, after attending two performances there last week I have to give it a grudging thumbs up over venues like the Wilturn operated by Live Nation or some other mega-conglomerate. My reasoning? Access!

I never did brave Largo when it was at its tiny former location on Fairfax Avenue. I wasn't dedicated enough to get in. But now, in the quaint old Coronet Theater, Largo seats 250 people. Better yet, it doesn't matter who you are. We showed up early to get our tickets the night of Aimee Mann's Christmas Show, and guess what? Fourth row center. For all I know Ben Stiller might have been there with Oprah Whinfrey. I wouldn't know, since they would have been seated far behind us if they had shown up later. It truly seems to be first come, first serve. This was borne out later in the week when we returned to see genial comedian Paul F. Tompkin's show. This time the folks behind us were talking loudly about the various T.V. shows they appeared on. A zoo keeper given better seats than industry insiders? At Largo it seems possible.

It was a happy day for the Coronet Theater when Largo owner Mark Flanagan took an interest in it. Without his intervention it would have been demolished and turned into an Urban Outfitters, another chunk of Los Angeles history preserved only in photos. The fact that it was saved seems important to me. As the photo at the right shows, Bertold Brecht and Charles Laughton rehearsed here in 1947. The small bar next door, now incorporated into the Largo courtyard, was once the original Troubadour where Woody Guthrie used to play.

In its day, the Coronet was apparently quite grand. Works by Picasso and Chagall lined the walls. Legend has it that Igor Stravinsky helped paint the lobby. Eugene O'neill, Jimmy Stewart, and Charlie Chaplin attended performances. The photo at the left shows Chaplin with his fourth wife Oona.

I wonder if they're sitting in our seats?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Story of One Shallot's Teeth

I work at a zoo. I don't know why, but many people seem to think that zoo = place to drop off unwanted pets. Let me assure you, this is not the case. True, the zoo I work at houses a large number of rescued parrots and primates. So many, in fact, that we can barely keep up with them all. But unwanted pets? Well, when was the last time that you saw a house cat in a zoo exhibit?

Even so, many animals are abandoned by our back gate every year. Bunnies are a particular problem where I work; at one point someone dumped about 50 of them in the park next door! Everyone did their best to get them to a rabbit rescue, but not before they were traumatized by dogs, cars, and who-knows-what-else!

So I guess it was only a matter of time before I ended up with a hard-luck rabbit of my own. We already have something of a menagerie at our house. But this guy was just too pathetic to trust
to fate. So I took him home and named him Shallot.

Shallot is blind in one eye, was emaciated, and has terrible problems with his teeth. His front teeth grow so crookedly that they curve in four different directions, with the top two growing backwards into the roof of his mouth. No wonder he was so skinny! He couldn't chew vegetables at all. He was surviving by picking up small pieces with his tongue and pulling them into his mouth. He lived with some other bunnies at the zoo for a while, but it was obvious that he couldn't compete with them. So I finally brought him home.

Turns out, he's a wonderful guy! I was afraid that the fact that we have to take him to the vet every two or three weeks to get his teeth trimmed would make him skittish. Far from it! He roams my studio, grooming my ankles while I work at my desk, and generally brightens up the place. He doesn't seem to mind his carrier, and has been designated a "well-mannered bunny" by my vet's office staff.

Now that he is healthier and more robust, the next step is to trim all his teeth. For that he'll have to stay at the vet all day and be mildly sedated. I'll probably still have to dice up his food really finely, but it should improve his ability to chew. So wish Shallot luck! Hopefully by 2010 he'll be eating almost like a normal rabbit.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Trees' Knees

I'm from The South. A part of the south that many people don't consider The South, true, but that doesn't mean that I don't miss tropical rain storms and humid summer nights.

What it does mean is this: I had to have a vintage cypress knee lamp in the new house. Fortunately my mother had given us one years ago. Now, for the first time, we have a place to put it. So this weekend we bought a shade and finally unpacked it. Its mid-century kitsch quotient blends perfectly with our decor.

What exactly are cypress knee? Parts of the root that stick up above the soil, and often the water level, of marsh or swamp growing trees. What do they do? Well, they certainly aren't meant for lamp bases, but no one seems to know what they really do for the tree. One theory is that they function as part of the gas exchange mechanism, but the trees seem to grow just fine without them. It is odd, though, that they seem to appear much more often on trees that live in flooded areas.

Before laws were passed banning the cutting of the knees in wetland areas all manner of objects were made from them. Not just lamps; clocks, sculptures, candy dishes, you name it. But only one eccentric man held a patent on the idea of using them in this way: Thomas Gaskin. According to an article from RoadsideAmerica.com, he actually opened a museum in Palmdale, Florida to showcase his knees, one of which is said to have resembled Josef Stalin. His knees were renowned for a satiny look, which he achieved by removing the wood fibers one by one with his tongue.

I doubt that my cypress knee lamp has such an exotic pedigree. But it does remind me of my Florida roots, and of the "old, weird" America that existed before I was born.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Meet the Roul-roul Partridge

I like charismatic mega-fauna as well as the next person. Elephants, tigers, emus... let's face it, they're hard to miss, and often a delight to watch. But what of shy mini-fauna? I think some of them should have a chance at the spotlight too!

So without further ado, I give you Rollulus rouloul, the roul-roul partridge. I imagine that this little bird is all but invisible in her forest home in Indonesia. Of course, I know her as an aviary denizen, and quite a stunning one, with a dark green body, black head, and brown wings. But even in an aviary she is easy to overlook until you get to know her. The Roul-roul that I work with is actually rather personable once she warms up to you. I ply her with meal worms, so she often follows me around the exhibit when I clean it, hoping that I might unearth some bugs for her to munch on.

Roul-rouls in the wild are threatened with habitat destruction, although they seem to be more adaptable than many forest birds. That's good, because this species is monotypic, meaning that there are no other species in their genus.

Unfortunately captive breeding of these guys is out of the question at my zoo since we only have the one female. Too bad, since the male is even cuter than the female. He bears a serious expression and a shocking red crest, which together make him look like some sort of tiny gladiator. Roul-roul is such a mouthful for such a little bird. Maybe they should have been called the Spartacus partridge.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Snake Plant, Don't Do Me Wrong!

A stark fact: I suck at growing plants. No, this isn't false modesty. I would never make it as a horticulturist. To make matters worse, my mother has a house full of plants. She even works in a plant nursery... on top of a mountain where it snows. I live in sunny SoCal and can't grow a thing. Worse yet, on those rare occasions when I do get something to grow my cats invariably eat it.

Even cacti. I think they have issues about sharing the house with other living things.

Still, plants look nice and I'd like to have some. So I'm trying again. And I'm doing the smart thing this time: I'm basing my plant buying on movies I like. Basically this means just one thing: Sanseveria. Lost Highway is one of my all time favorite films. Sure, the couple portrayed in that story line is a bit more dysfunctional than Gabriel and I... but they seem like they have about the same level of plant expertise

Not to mention the fact that this plant seems to be all over the TV show Mad Men. We are trying for a sort of Atomic Ranch vibe for our place, so...

After I bought one I did a little research and learned that not only are they
often called snake plants (much cooler than your average non-ophidian plant) but they are also named after Raimond de Sangro, a prince of Sanseviero who was a horticultural patron during the 18th century. Too bad he wasn't the patron saint of horticulture, because I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Live! At El Rey Theater

The last several months have been very good for seeing bands here in SoCal! Earlier in the month we saw the Pixies at the Hollywood Palladium, and that inspired a blog post about that wonderful dance hall, one of my very favorites.

This time we saw the Fiery Furnaces at El Rey Theater, my absolute favorite place to see music. As a hight-challenged American, actually being able to see and not just hear bands is

Finally, in 1994, it became the El Rey that I know and love today. We've been there many times, seeing the White Stripes, Aimee Mann, the Walkmen, and lots of others. This time we not only arrived in time to see the opening acts, we actually liked them! Dent May went first, with his "magnificent ukulele", followed by Cryptacize, a band I had never heard of before which turned out to sing fabulously idiosyncratic yet endearing melodies. Of course the Fiery Furnaces did a fantastic job. Go see them if you get the chance!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pity the Poor Opossum

Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing the new Wes Anderson film Fantastic Mr. Fox. I really enjoyed the movie, but the role of Kylie, Mr. Fox's sidekick, got me thinking: ever notice how rare it is to see a positive portrayal of an opossum in the media? Or any portrayal of an opossum, for that matter?

I find this a little odd, since opossums are quite ubiquitous throughout the warmer parts of the U.S. But they are also very shy and quiet; many people have never even seen one, despite the fact that they have probably stood within three feet of one on any given night of the year!

I'm a bit biased of course, having cared for hundreds of these odd
marsupials when I worked at the California Wildlife Center as a vet tech. I loved treating them. Nothing this side of baby tapirs is cuter than a tiny fuzzy baby opossum. Many people find them ugly as adults, with their myriad sharp teeth and naked tails, but they are really quite docile. I've been bitten by everything from squirrels to monkeys, and I can safely say that opossum go out of their way to spare your flesh.

In fact, there are really only two thing that they love to bite: mice and rats. Forget cats as rodent control. Your friendly neighborhood opossum has that job well in hand! They are not obligate carnivores though, and will happily clean up any fallen fruit or old cat food you have lying around your yard. They will even slurp up the snails and slugs that plague your garden! And like the kitchen fairies we all wish we had to do the dishes while we sleep, opossums render their services under cover of darkness. So spare a thought for your quiet neighbors. They really have your best interests at heart.

Want to find out more? Go to the Opossum Society to learn all there is to know about opossums!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

And the Winer is...

Zombie Squirrels! That's right, I used a random number generator and came up with the numeral 11, which corresponds to Zombie Squirrels' entry in my first ever blog give away! The prize? Three cat toys from my etsy shop, The Frog Bag. He picked some of my favorites too:

the nudibranch,

the trilobite,

the Asian tapir.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered! If you are disappointed that you didn't win, don't fret! I'd like to offer 10% of any item in my shop to anyone who puts "Blog" in the notes to seller. Thanks again, and may all of your cats be happy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nautiloid Extravaganza!

This probably will surprise no one, but I love nautiloids. I mean, come on. A squid that lives in a shell? That may have as many as 90 tentacles? And that moves via jet propulsion? What's not to love about this animal? Oh, and did I mention that they are mysterious? Well, they are. Seldom found at depths of less than 100 meters, they can go as deep as 700 meters. And what are they doing down there? Well, catching fish no doubt, but maybe also consorting with unnamable elder gods. Ok, so maybe that last part just means that I've been listening to that wonderful Literary Lovecraft podcast too much....

But truly, is it any wonder that so many people are inspired by the
elegant symmetry of the chambered nautilus? Gabriel and I even found it a fitting subject for our marriage announcements. He drew this beautiful illustration for the front, and we had them printed up with our wedding date on the back. I think that we had by far the most beautiful announcements I've seen, if I do say so myself!

I was reminded of my fondness for all things nautiloid this evening while I was browsing for holiday gifts. Of course I started looking at things I was interested in instead, so here for your viewing pleasure I offer some of my finds:

This lovely piece was done by Noadi of etsy. She calls it "Arctic
Water Nautilus Necklace" and I must say I adore it.

Next up is Sandra Healy's gorgeous wood carving...

And then I found this in QueenBeeloved's shop , which is apparently made from gourds! If I had $350 I'd buy it right now.

But I guess that wouldn't be right, in light of the fact that I started out with the intention of buying things for other people. Ah well. At least now everyone knows what to buy me for Christmas!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meet the Crowned Pigeon

What's that lovely big blue bird over there? You say it's a pigeon? Really?

Yes, believe it or not, that's exactly what this 5 pound turkey-sized bird is! Hailing from the swampy forested lowlands of New Guinea it lives on fallen fruit, seeds, and insects in the wild. In captivity it gets a similar diet, with the addition of specially formulated pellets.

Not only is it one of the worlds biggest extant pigeons, it is also a close relative a one of the most famous, the lamentably extinct dodo bird. But unlike the dodo this bird can fly, and makes a great to-do about it when flushed from cover.

The crowned pigeons I know certainly act like the popular idea of dodos as well, tending to lie down in the path of a hose or rake instead of stepping aside like any other self-respecting bird.

Dodoish or not, they are wonderful birds to work with. Seeing them every day makes me very aware of what we could loose if we aren't careful. After all, dodos only exist as stuffed displays in museums now. Hopefully that won't be the fate of the fantastical crowned pigeon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The First Frog Bag Give Away!

Do you want to win some cat toys? Sure you do!

All you have to do to enter is post a comment below, listing which three cat toys from my etsy shop you'd like to have.

The winner will be picked at random on Tuesday November 17, a week from today.

Please also include a way to get in
touch with you in case you win!

Thanks for entering!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Live! At the Hollywood Palladium

Last night Gabriel and I went to a Pixies show. We see a fair amount of live music; some of it in glorified storefronts or up-cycled warehouses, some of it in shiny new clubs, some of it in revamped theaters like the Wiltern or, in this case, the Hollywood Palladium. I always feel that the old theaters have a lot more romance to them.

This was our fourth time at the Palladium, having seen Bob Dylan there last month and the Decemberists during the summer. We attended a tattoo convention there a couple of years ago too, before it was renovated. Still, I knew very little about the place.

Then, last month, we found a bit of ephemera at a flea market that got me wondering. This item is a picture sleeve. Apparently the Palladium once employed professional photographers who would snap a picture of you and your sweetie dancing. Inside, there's room for the photo and for autographs. Just in case you ended up rubbing shoulders with movie stars, I guess!

Obviously, this place has quite a history! After a bit of snooping I found out that it opened in 1940, on the site of the original Paramount film lot. Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey orchestra played the first night. It was designed, in all its art deco splendor, by Gordon Kaufmann. He also designed the Greystone Mansion, Santa Anita Racetrack, and the Los Angeles Times building, so we can thank him for much of what I think of as "romantic L.A.".

Over the years it became a bit seedy. But along the way it saw the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Cure, Lawrence Welk, the MC5, Taj Mahal, and even President Kennedy grace its stage. A serious nadir came in the early 90's, when a brawl forced a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch performance to be canceled.

But now it's back! The renovation is subtle, but it has done wonders. The floor is still polished wood, preserving its dance hall roots. The concession stands still blend unobtrusively with the flow of the crowd, evoking a more genteel time. When gazing at one of the chandeliers you could almost believe it was 1940 again. That is, until you catch sight of someone taking a picture of that same chandelier... With their iPhone.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Our new house came with an added bonus: a front porch! So that means just one thing this time of year... Jack-O-Lanterns! Enjoy!

Here they are before darkness falls...

And after... Not bad, considering how long it's been since we've carved any pumpkins!
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