Thursday, December 31, 2015


I don't know about you but moving from one place to another is NOT my idea of fun. After living in the same home for nearly 30 years one tends to get rather rusty at this. And to be truthful, being older, a LOT older, doesn't help much either.

Packing to move!
What is amazing is how much stuff you manage to accumulate! Even in the assisted living home with pretty much bare minimum space and resources in a room, one manages to collect a load or three of items that need to be moved!

Empty shelves, boxes to stumble over, lists of things to be sure to take or get, moving is a kind of gut retching, cathartic event that helps, or more likely makes, you take stock of what you have and even more, what you need.

We don't realize the quantity of things we have collected until that very moment of moving. Seriously. I think that when the time should ever come where I felt I needed a storage unit, it will be the time to start culling. Some of us try it before the move, others after they move and find there just isn't room for everything they brought. "Where did this come from? Why did we buy it?" What's worse is that often, we can't bear to get rid of it. That's what's made places like PUBLIC STORAGE, A-1 STORAGE and the like a booming business. Those commercials showing the happy homeowner storing their "extra" items also creates a much darker side when you watch "Storage Wars" on cable TV. People just abandoned the items they felt at one time they just couldn't live without. I guess they could.

You tend to forget that when you're setting up your new home from just about nothing, what you have to get just to make it function! The last time I did this was when I was 24. While it has been fun in its own way, it has been back breakingly grueling too. Yet, I look forward to it eagerly.

While I will start with minimal furniture, a bed and reclining chair, a few lamps, my studio work table and a few metal shelves, it will give me a chance to see just what I really need. First off though, I will need a desk. I guess I will finally have to assemble the computer work station I bought several years ago and never assembled (thank the Lord - it's still in the original box) to see if it can double as both a computer work station and office desk. It is L-shaped with a hutch and space for a file cabinet. I doubt I would need much more than that, at least to start with.

The adventure begins. Luckily while I will most likely live in the world of boxes and "stuff" sitting all over the place, my rental condo does have a great deal of storage space. The smaller guest bedroom will be come my studio. I figure the large bedroom can host the computer furniture / office as well as a bed and comfy chair. After all it will be just me and my dog!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out earlier blogs that discuss the everyday design of living in our lives. AND, a wonderful, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Open Letter to Richard Branson of Virgin America

December 23, 2015

Dear Mr. Branson CEO,

On Tuesday, December 22nd, I had a flight of two stages starting in LAX (Los Angeles) on Virgin America's flight 941 to San francisco. Because of a series of storms (Californians freak at the first sight of rain) my flight of 6:50 pm departure was delayed until 8:30 pm. We were assured that our connecting flights, San Francisco to Portland, were also affected and we would be able to continue on. Why we had to stop in San Francisco is anyone's guess. I found out that if I had flown from Palm Springs, CA where I am moving, I could have flown non-stop directly to Portland. However, the reservations were made in September ... months before.

We finally boarded where I noticed the flight was only at best 50% filled and yet we were stacked three to a row as if the flight was full. We finally arrived in San Francisco around 10:00 pm. I asked an attendant where I could find my connection and she directed me to gate 54A, the gate that we flew from. Well, everyone was there, including the plane. We waited and waited. I figured that since we were here so long my suitcase would easily be loaded on the plane. Silly me.

We didn't even take off until after 11:00 pm. Sitting on the tarmac at least a half an hour more we didn't see or hear another flight ... we just sat there engines running as the minutes ticked by. Finally we were airborne and after a very long day of one hectic frustrating moment after another starting at 3:30 am, I fell asleep. We arrived in Portland around 1:30 am the next day.

I went to my carousel to await my suitcase ... waiting and wanting and feeling increasingly hopeless. Every other person including those who were on my flight from Los Angeles got their luggage and I was left with nothing. All of my Christmas presents, many of my medicines and all of the clothes I planned on wearing for a week were in that suitcase. Maybe I should have been one of those piggy passengers who cram as much as they can in their carryons into the overhead compartments holding everyone getting on and off the plane. At least I would have my luggage.

There was an attendant there at the carousel and as I explained my predicament she took down my cell phone number, the address I was staying at then looked at the baggage number on my original boarding pass and assured me that the suitcase would be delivered the next day. Inconvenient but what more could I do or say?

Today, December 23, 2015, is that next day and NOT A WORD OR CALL FROM VIRGIN. We have called and talked to a variety of Virgin American people, all day long and each and everyone is utterly clueless with customer service and all we have learned is that it shows the suitcase is in Portland. However, THERE IS NO ONE AT THE VIRGIN DEPARTURE OR TICKET BOOTHS. We found out they are open only at 5 - 8:00 am and 8:30 - 10:30 pm. What a sweet job that is. How do we know? We called and even went to the airport looking to find someone that could help us. There was no one and we finally gave up, went to eat and and went shopping. I had to buy underwear, socks and a new shirt as well as deodorant as I literally have only the clothing I wore from Los Angeles.

I have never dealt with a company as poorly run as this. Why are you even in Portland? There is no one there, the people on the phone are simply clueless. WHO would ever go to the airport at 5:00 am in the morning. Even more, why would you travel back to the airport at 8:30 pm at night?

I had read a report giving the ratings of world airlines and in the US, Virgin America was chosen as the best. If Virgin America is the best, what on earth is the worst like? This has to be the poorest run and managed airline on the planet. I have flown from Zanzibar, from the Ivory Coast, even Peru and Aswan, Egypt and have never, EVER been treated like this. I paid $25.00 to have Virgin America loose my suitcase. Not only did they lose it, they don't even have the decency to followup on what has happened.

The Christmas gifts in the suitcase were hand crafted painted items that I created. Now, they are gone along with the rest of my belongings ... electric shaver, underwear, shirts, belts, shoes, socks and all the additional medicines I need to use on a daily basis. I am 1,000 miles from home and since my pharmacy is CVS and there are no CVS pharmacies in Portland, I am well, screwed. Luckily at the last moment I removed the crucial daily medicines that keep me alive. The rest are necessary and will have to be replaced, at great cost, when I get home.

Other than going home on Virgin America, confirmed reservations, with what is now merely a shopping bag of belongings only I could lose, I WILL NEVER FLY ON VIRGIN AMERICA AGAIN. I hope that anyone and everyone reading this reports, as I will, to the FAA about this companies deplorable treatment of their passengers. Best ... what, best of the worst?

Mr. Branson, I would suggest you concentrate on either a rocket to the edge of space or an airline that flies each and every day. To you Virgin America may be a hobby but to those of us who use or used it, it is an experience that I simply will not allow you to handle again. May you fly on one of your planes and have your luggage lost. THAT would be sweet revenge.

Alan Krug

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Starting All Over Again

My new home
The last time I set up an apartment as a single man, I was 24. Just back from a two year stint in the Peace Corps, I rented an apartment down the way from where my mother and sister were living in Albuquerque, NM, 50 years ago. I can vaguely remember setting it up, being very poor and trying to find gainful employment in the 1970 recession. I am sure it was very barebones as I ate many of meals at "home," bought a bed, a chair and had not much else.

The first Target run
This time around, well, I am stunned by what it takes to live alone! Who designed this manner of living? Most of my expenses have come from setting up a kitchen! I like to cook but I'm discovering every room in the house needs things! I have made a variety of runs to Target and Big Lots, Kmart, even The Dollar Store and as each room gets further along in getting set up, I find that I need to get more things, so many "more" things I need to make lists! What you forget is that each room needs many of the same things; trash cans and they all can't be the same, Kleenex, hand soap, towels, paper towel holders, placemats ... the list goes on and on.

My condo, while not all that large is for a single man more than big enough. It has a living room, a dining area, two bedrooms, two baths, a huge walk in closet and storage all over the place. I just discovered a closet in the hallway! There is an interesting covered patio with access from either the kitchen or the master bedroom, bigger than the room I currently live in. Every room has a lighted fan with a handy movable remote no less, even the "patio" area just outside the kitchen.

Kitchen ... now there is another word for money pit. I like to cook so started off simply ... plates, cups, glasses, silverware. But then I realized I needed pots and pans, and knives and then the list got bigger and bigger. Friends gave me a crock pot and a microwave luckily but I needed a coffee maker, larger than the tiny one I currently have in my room, mixing utensils, a wine cork screw opener, beer opener, whisk for eggs, even casserole dishes. OMG! I am sure every woman reading this is getting a big laugh out of this. They KNOW! Their husbands are clueless! The drawers are now full of things as are the cabinets. All I can say, is I better cook. The investment, even if most of it came from Big Lots is impressive. The one thing I can't find is a good cast iron skillet. I make a mean Chinese soup that requires one and so the hunt continues. I'm sure Palm Springs and environs has a complete kitchen store. Many men like to cook and out there usually want the best!

After I get what little I have here out there, furnishing comes next. Currently I have a very comfortable bar height table and chairs from Kmart of all places. At $199.99 with a table that could seat 6 and four chairs I couldn't resist. The neighbors came over to put it together for me and were amazed it was so well designed and sturdy. Those chairs and table are rock solid.

Living Room View
Is it worth it? Well, see for yourself. This is the view I get every morning from my living room windows. As the sun rises the huge mountain range west of Palm Springs turns salmon colored. It is simply stunning. During the day its rather bland, a collection of tans, fawns and grey but IS impressive in its size and scope climbing to over 13,000 ft. The mountains are actually a threesome, one higher than the one in front of it. We already had a dusting of snow and even rain!

Am I glad I am moving? Yes. It gives me a chance to start all over again in a new place and continue to do the things I enjoy ... create, cook, travel (the Palm Springs airport gets you all over the country and thus the world) and make new friends. Something is always going on here and it feels like a small town. With the winter snowbirds you meet people from all over. Here its "live and let live."

If you have suggestions on how I can set up an even better condo, please feel free to comment. Friends are going to take me consignment shopping. You get to choose from a wide variety of items being sold after an owner either moves, dies or remodels ... a kind of passion out here in the desert!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check earlier ones ... all have a focus on design, the designs of our world that we live by! Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Why I Will Never Use Über Again: A Cautionary Tale

I am 70 years old. I have been using computers since I was probably in my 30's, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Because I appeared to be "with" it by taking a class in "Basic Computer Language" the company I worked for made me their internal computer expert. We won't into that but suffice to say for about 40 years I have had some kind of a working knowledge of computers or at least technology.

My first foray with Über was last week when I had to be at the courthouse in Pasadena, probably a 6 or so mile drive. Since I have already discovered using buses in Los Angeles and environs is a sometime thing, I was scared of arriving too late. After all my lawyer told me, "Be on time!" So, I turned to Über for a day before dry run. What a mistake that was!

The problem begins with your entry of HOME on the Über iOS software that runs on my iPhone 6. I could enter my address all I wanted but it would show me addresses I had no idea where they were. The receptionist here at the home was familiar with it and tried to help. She didn't get any better results than I did even after closing, deleting and doing a hard restart on my phone. What was really frustrating was that it kept showing the driver, who was going to pick me up, a street address that I didn't even know where it was! Finally he called and I had to ask where he was and give him directions to the home. I mean how hard can it be? Commonwealth crosses Garfield, a major north south street in the San Gabriel Valley two blocks south from Main St. An hour into this he finally arrived. Can you imagine arriving late for a court date?

I gave him the address of where I wanted to go explaining this was a dry run for tomorrow morning. I had to be in court and couldn't take a chance with buses. One of my connecting buses has a very bad habit of just not even coming! We chatted and once underway there were no problems. His phone was calling out directions and while I wouldn't have gone that way myself we got there in about 15 minutes as opposed to an hour on the bus, assuming the bus came. Once we got to the courthouse I said fine, lets go back. The fare was around $15, far more expensive than the bus. What I didn't know was that I was being charged for EVERY mile he drove hunting for me. So the hour he was hunting me down at the wrong address, I was being charged.

I complained at their followup email saying I was very unhappy. It wasn't the driver it was Über's buggy software. They gave me a $10 credit back. Evidently I found out they could follow the drivers path and they agreed with me, the starting and ending points were wrong. Well, now I was a happy camper. I would use them for my trip to the airport.

However, happy or not I still didn't want to risk being late to court so asked the home if they could drive me there. They agreed. Our driver, however, didn't come to work until 8:00, would that be enough time? Since it is nearly a straight shot I said yes.

After getting back to the home and not eating my lunch, a friend said why don't you leave now. I am free and can pick you up in San Bernardino earlier. By now I had the key to my truck but not having driven in 10 months, then finding a way over to get it, I didn't feel up to it, especially a 90 minute or more drive to Palm Springs. So, you guessed it, I texted Über. I needed to get to the CalState Metrolink Station, probably by car a 15 minute ride. There was a train leaving at 1:00 pm so I would make it in time when I texted them at 12:30. I was packed and ready to go.

Again he had trouble finding the address. On their real time map he was minutes away on Garfield. Where he went next is anyone's guess. About 10 minutes later, and yes, I was outside looking for him, he drove down the street going east. When he saw me he started a u-turn and was nearly hit by oncoming traffic. The adventure began.

Using Über's software we listened to the instructions they gave. I tried to tell him how the bus did it but before I knew it we were flying down the freeway heading west. We flew by the Metrolink Station. I finally made him pull off the freeway before we entered downtown Los Angeles. "Where are you going?" I asked (probably yelled). He was following the robot's instructions. Maybe theres a CalState Metrolink Station on Mars, I don't know, but by now it was 1:00 pm. Suddenly I see Union Station on my left in downtown LA. Stop I yelled. Let me out. He tried to pull another u-turn again getting us nearly broadsided. I ran into the station but discovered that the train had left and the next one was about an hour away.

As if missing the train wasn't bad enough, it turned out my fare was $16 for what should have been at most $5 (its 25¢ on the bus), my fare leaving from Union Station was doubled now to over $13 and I had to wait about an hour for the next train. Tell me, is this any better than riding the bus? It took an hour to get to the LA Convention Center on the bus Thanksgiving Day. It cost me, as a senior about 50¢. Today I tried to leave before my usual bus service begins. I did get to San Bernardino about 90 minutes earlier but I had to ask, was it worth all the aggregation? I think not.

The bad thing about Über is you must make arrangements at that very minute. You can't say, can I have you pick me up tomorrow at such and such time? Or make sure I can get to the airport on the 22nd. No. It has to be done now, when you want to leave with a different driver every time with varying abilities. It seems strange. They have your phone number and have to call you anyway. Why not book in advance and have them check on the pre-arranged date? I surely would opt to do that. My complaint with Super Shuttle or Prime Time is that they try to cram as many people in their buses as possible going around and around the arrival concourse hoping for one more body. Then once underway give you literally a cooks tour of your area. I have had them drive by my exit where they could have dropped me off and been back on the freeway in a flash. After a long flight you can count on another 2-3 hour ride home. I know its Los Angeles but even then there are limits.

There have been more followup emails. I wrote and said that after two awful experiences in two days, back to back, that I would never use them again. They apologized and said they would apply a credit on my next ride. I wrote back and said, just give me a credit on my card as there will never be another ride with them. Now I keep getting emails asking if the problem has been resolved. No, I say, it hasn't. Where's is my money? Or as Jerry MacGuire said, "Show me the money!"

What AM I going to do? Another friend said I should take the bus to the South Pasadena Gold Line Station, ride down to Union Station and walk up to the Fly-Away bus that is pretty cheap; $8 last time I rode it. However, I will be dragging a suitcase and a computer bag and dragging that on the first bus, then the Gold Line car and finally through Union Station all the way to the bus terminal seems daunting. I am 70, not 30. I guess I could drive my truck out and park it at some long term parking lot and after I compare the costs, that is probably what I will do.

Oh, I might add that in talking to another friend his experience was similar to mine. If that is true, he was in Chicago, how on earth has this company grown? Why would anyone use it if their software is so buggy and literally unreliable? I get rid of buggy software sticking with those that actually work. Über has a lot to learn.

Thank you for reading my blog. I discuss a variety of topics because I believe anything that humans touch is a conscious design that works or in this case doesn't! Please check some of my earlier blogs.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Planning For Christmas Gift Giving

Ah, the possibilities
I don't know about you, but I am always reluctant to give items I have created as gifts. I am always afraid that it will be considered cheap, not something anyone would like. This year, with vastly reduced finances I find that I have no alternatives.

Whether it is a canvas, or in this case a birdhouse, it begins as a blank slate. Because of my advertising training in Journalism School, and the directors insistence that we make pencil sketches of the ads we were to create (yes he even collected those too!) I always make a sketch of what I want to do. It may not always look that way but I find that it gives me a place to start, a kind of roadmap of where things are supposed to go. Like, with all things artistic, I often go on a tangent and what I originally design may not look like that at all. We try but, well, what can I say? Here is a case in point.

While this birdhouse is a bit bigger than the tiny ones I am used to working with, the original design called for a snowman's holiday. By that I mean snowmen all over the place.

The first step was painting the background ... of course! I used a variety of colors to give the feeling of distance. Even the trees got lighter and smaller as they moved away from the front. Somehow, along the way, I felt that even while bigger, this birdhouse was still too small for a bunch of snowmen. Instead I created a small village on the front and one side letting the hills and forests follow around the rest of the birdhouse.

The piece de resistance was the roof. You can see the star side here, the other has a half moon similar to the one used by Proctor & Gamble. I don't like dull boring roofs anymore so always want to jazz them up. I then used some Elmer's glue mixed with water and coated the entire roof. Once that was done I sprinkled gold glitter all over the surface letting it fall and stick wherever it wanted. The effect is of a snowy, wintry day with the moon and the stars overhead. It doesn't get better than this! The ladies at the home loved it!

The other lesson here was creating the trees. While they were indicated with triangles, I remembered seeing a technique using a brush, perpendicular to the surface, and dabbing on the branches. This was the first time I had done this, other than in classes I had taken in Las Vegas. Using a very small brush I found that I didn't have to be so precise and that let a little color show though from behind it. I loved the effect. Then to jazz it up a bit more there was random snow giving the feeling of a forest and a snow covered village. The final touch was making all the trees up front look like Christmas trees using red dots of color. The effect is truly amazing.

Everyone here at the home loves it and I think secretly pine for one of my creations as a gift. I have sold one in fact. No one realizes the amount of work each piece takes. It is literally a painting ... but on a wooden surface.

Using the original sketch I have in fact begun a new birdhouse, this time larger that has snowmen all over the place! The hills are there getting lighter and lighter in the distance, the trees are also smaller and lighter as they move away from the front. But there are snowmen everywhere and I think soon to be added to the roof as well. The trick will be to make them appear to be standing on it in some kind of 3D look! Ah another challenge.

I still have time and only a few people to give gifts too. There are some other items I have created here at the home that may well end up wrapped for family and friends.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out the previous blogs. I try to cover all things that man designs from birdhouse, haircuts and beards, computers, movies, software, Apple and all the rest. I want to make people aware of the fact that everything in our lives is designed. Nothing just happens.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Shopping at the 99¢ Store

My oh my ... what you can buy!
Every now and then my assisted living home has trips to various local businesses. They make bank runs, trips to a nearby Indian Casino, Walgreens, Target and even Wal-mart a few cities away. I had a chance yesterday to go shop for items at the 99¢ Store with my list. 

Since I am on a very limited budget, 99¢ for very simple things is a great deal. I had never been to one during the Christmas season before but after checking it out yesterday I was stunned at what you can get. Lots of Christmas wrap, ribbons, Christmas cards, decorations, ornaments ... the list goes on and on. Goodness. Considering that much of this has a lifespan of at best a month and much of that one day why spend more? You can completely furnish your home for less than $100.

My concession this year, and I do love Christmas, is to help decorate our facility. I bought the little red tree you see above to grace my room. I also bought some Christmas cards ... that actually say "Merry Christmas", a pack of 18 for 99¢

What really drew me though was getting the 81 mg aspirin I need to take each day. For 50 pills, you got it, 99¢. For not many more at the local RiteAid or CVS its $5 and often more. So, since I didn't have to drive, this was a deal! There are many drug store items, many with name brands available ... toothpaste, mouth wash, bandaids, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and so very much more. The only drawback is that what you see today may not be there tomorrow! For makeup mavens, they have a lot of that as well. Since I have no idea of how good or bad it is, I noticed many such items in carts.

Also I spotted a hole puncher that I wanted for projects I do here at the home so got one of those as well. You always need to make a hole in something so the price was irresistible!  There also was paper, notebooks, folders, paper clips, scissors, pens, mechanical pencils and much more. The dividers you put in your notebook weren't here today. Tomorrow? Who knows? There was also a variety of cheap frames that when grouped probably would look pretty good. Insert interesting images and no one will notice a 99¢ frame.

To be a good shopper I recommend that you make a list, before you go. Be flexible.  Check off each item as you find it. However, depending on how much quality you want, you could just about add nearly every accessory you could ever want for your home. Glasses, coffee cups, plates, glass and a wide variety of plastic bowls, an amazing assortment of kitchen utensils, pots, pans, foil, aluminum pans for turkeys and ham. Besides these items you can also purchase a wide variety of food items ... canned, packaged, items in both refrigerators and freezers. A wide variety of fresh items, both fruit and vegetables are available. You could really live cheaply for sure. However, you have to live cheap with whatever is available at the time.

While I'm sure saying this is not what the big box stores want to hear, I feel that there is a place for such a store, especially for items with a life of at most a day. Judging from the absolutely packed parking lot, I would say I'm late to the show! The secret is definitely out!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to read earlier blogs on a variety of subjects based on  design ... ways that we have designed our lives and the objects we use!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Finding Purpose in Sensuous Flowers

Two Amaryllis' by Alan Krug
The past few months have been hard for me artistically. I just didn't have the artistic interest and frankly the drive anymore. I did seem to find joy in teaching my crafting class to a group of seniors where I am living now and came up with some fun ideas that I felt they could do. Unless I was challenged by the class however, alone in my room the paints and blank canvases seemed to glare at me. My students are very busy. For myself personally, nothing.

Months ago I started a painting and then halfway through I stopped; it just sat there ... glaring at me from my craft shelves, shaming me almost for not finishing it. I just couldn't. It was a plant the activities director had given me to give color to my room. Spare and bare, it was lifeless. A pot with blooming red Amaryllis' seemed just the trick. I put them on a table outdoors and could see them from just about anywhere I sat in the room.
New Workspace

I took a liking to them but just couldn't seem to capture the colors and that spurred me on. Sadly, the original photo, now deleted, that I took and printed also just didn't capture what they represented to me. So, with some pluck I took artists license.

First I painted the background in DecoArts Black Green mixed with a little Brown Umber and then adding olive allowed the colors to lighten from upper right to bottom left. It seemed a perfect background for the colors that were to follow.

Using a white pencil I sketched out the flowers easily enough but kept getting lost in the petals complexity. Finally I gave that up and just sketched and painted the outlines when I realized that I would lose everything else when the background color was put down first anyway. It was at this point that I started to lose it. I just couldn't go forward.

Using a back stapled canvas I allowed the background and flowers themselves wrap around all sides. It just seemed to make sense and wouldn't require a frame. Once the red petals were put down and some of the stem and leaves were indicated I stopped. I just simply stopped. It wasn't that I didn't have the time ... man do I have time around here. I just found other ways to use that time. I started going to the gym, got a bit more involved in the home, made a few friends, read more and found myself watching TV more too. In the past I would paint and use the TV for background noise. Now, I actually watched TV and found some wonderful PBS shows, HBO had some movies and documentaries I had never seen ... the list went on and on. In fact, I have written columns of what I have seen! The one thing I didn't do was sleep more. Night time gave me at most 5-6 hours a night and maybe a nap after lunch. What I did do was try to walk at least 30 minutes every day. Maybe that's it. You NEED sleep to be creative!

Then a week or so ago, I looked at that darn painting and feeling sorry for myself in the midst of my radiation treatment, put my painting apron on, retrieved the colors I had used originally and started painting. Here I was in the midst of radiation therapy and had to stay close to home, actually close to a toilet as diarrhea was a very real symptom that hit me the hardest. Tired of TV and reading, I found myself immersed again. It didn't take but two more days of maybe 3 - 4 hours a day. People don't realize the amount of time painting, crafting, writing ... any of those things take.

One of the delights of an Amaryllis is that it is very sensuous. The way the flowers open, leaves rise up and then twist and turn about the flower stem. The throat of the flower is usually one color and literally splashes out onto the petals in vivid contrast and surprising ways. The stamens are also wild and plentiful and colorful picking up the color of the throat. Truthfully what's NOT to like? Only I didn't. I couldn't wait to give it to the person who gave me the flowers to begin with. Why? Because it would remind me of a period that I wanted to forget. Hopefully the gardener it was given to will appreciate his gift as much as I appreciated the gift he gave to me.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out earlier blogs that cover a wide range of subjects with an emphasis on designs for living that we deal with each and every day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Halloween In Palm Springs Where Men Will Be ... In Costume!

Design follows us everywhere in our daily lives. The TV shows we watch, the articles we read on the Internet or for the Luddites, newspapers, everything we do and see has been designed by someone to inform, sell, gladden or sadden us. In exactly the same way, our lives are designed by us from the influences we see all around us each and every day. The difference is that some certainly have more fun than others!

I had an opportunity to spend Halloween in Palm Springs and I must say, OMG! I hear that the show
I didn't know what to wear!
So I chose this.
in West Hollywood is even more spectacular (depending on your point of view) but oddly enough getting there is much harder than going to Palm Springs. You might get there but have to find a place to park and certainly walk a lot farther than we did!

I will say however, the denizens of Palm Springs certainly have no lack of imagination or for that matter sense of design. As you can see here to the right, we have a parlimentary wig, dress coat complete with shirt and tie, sunglasses, a fan and of course those legs! The first time I saw him I ran into someone else. Later, getting up the nerve to photograph him he struck up this pose for me. Few are shy.

Costume Emcee
In the course of the evening we saw the pope with his girlfriend, our Jesus bartender, along with two Polynesian beauties. There was even a contest for best costumes with an Emcee as outrageous as the rest! Don't you love that hair? Her beautician must live in New Jersey.
Swan Lake Anyone?
I would never, EVER consider dressing like this but I did enjoy the time it must have taken to create these costumes and of course looking.

One in particular was outstanding ... one that must have taken hours to create ... the lady dressed like a swan. Putting that together was similar to what you might see at the ballet or theatre. Amazing.

The overwhelming theme of course is to have fun. Whether you are an out-of-towner (and the snowbirds are here in force) a local or worker, everyone gets in the spirit! It's not just for the kiddies anymore, that is for sure.

To say that we didn't have fun would be to tell a lie. It was fun and some costumes were definitely more outrageous than others easily earning nearly if not an X rating.While the streets and bars were crowded everyone had a great time. I sure know that I did!

The Pope and friend
Jesus the Bartender 

Sitting and observing all this I realized that Halloween has morphed from Mom and Dad or, in my case big older brother, marching up and down the street getting goodies with a child to something far more involved. New Orleans may have Mardi Gras but today most big cities have nights of rivalry centered around Halloween. It is a time to let go, to regain that childhood dream of being someone else if even for a night. The number of year-round Halloween stores attest to that!
Polynesian Beauties

I can remember a few years back going to the pet store a few days before Halloween and seeing owners and their pets waiting patiently to be photographed by the photographer set up in the store.  While I know many dog owners, in particular, give their dogs almost childlike status what I saw before me took my breath away. The owner and the dog wore matching outfits ... elaborate ones like I saw here. Bumblebees, Dracula's, ghosts and so very much more. I started to laugh, got nasty stares, hurried outside to really laugh and finally once calmed down, went back in, bought the dog food I needed carefully averting my eyes so I would't gape or laugh anymore. The urge to return with my camera was hard to resist. Now with an iPhone you get almost professional quality right on the spot. I could have taken pictures to my hearts content. I don't know if the owners would have been as happy as the Palm Springs crowd but it certainly would have been worth the effort.

I wanted to point out here, like it or not, costumes require a great deal of time and designing effort. You get out of it what time you put into it. They inspire us to have an suspension of belief giving us the permission to live in a fantasy world. It is in the designing that it is so much more fun!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please review some of the others as well. All are written with design in mind, some are artistic and some merely my reflections of the world in general.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Angelenos Will Never Embrace The Bus, Part 2

I am angry, a very angry bus rider that was stiffed by a bus I needed to take today to get to Pasadena.
Montebello Bus Lines
I sat over 50 minutes waiting for a bus that never came. In this case it was to ride a Montebello Bus Line, line 30, that in my experience is never on time. I sat across the street from my doctors office, where I get daily radiation, needing this bus to get up to Huntington Drive, about a 45 minute walk, about a 10 minute bus ride. Yes, if I had known.... Then I connect to a Metro Bus that heads to Altadena just north of Pasadena.

The Metro Line of buses and trains are more or less on time but they are down far more than I feel they would be in Chicago, New York and even Atlanta. I can't even begin to recount my embarrassment as I called and told the person I was meeting that I couldn't get there. There was no bus. Even if it showed up late I would never have gotten the connecting bus I needed. So there it is ... why only the poor or those that have the time, use the bus.

I am convinced if the middle and upper classes used and depended on mass transit like those in New Jersey, Philadephia and New York City suburbs that here in Los Angeles you would see a change probably almost overnight. We are so married to our cars that you see long lines of cars on every freeway at rush hour with one person in them as you whiz by them on a huge Metro Link train or the small Metro lines ... the Blue Line, the Gold Line, the Red Line and the Purple Line with more to come maybe if we are lucky by the 22nd Century.

However, unlike China, that could build an 800 mile long high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai in two years, its taken more than three years for the Gold Line to go from the Sierra Madre Station in Pasadena to Arcadia, CA a distance of maybe 10 miles. As far as I know, that new extension isn't open yet. Again ... get the middle and upper classes to use them and they will not stand for this kind of behavior.

Metro built themselves a huge multi story building that looms over Union Station and all the Amtrak, Metro Link and rail service lines in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange County. Maybe its time to empty that building and force every employee in them to attempt to use what they manage and have designed. There probably would be many changes especially if you said there will be no parking anywhere around so, well, take the train or bus to work. I would suggest that every bus line in the county make the same requirement of their employees as well. Let them see what we have to put up with in an up close and personal manner. Again, if they had no place to park, there would be so many changes and done so fast that it would literally make the public's heads spin. THAT IS CHANGE!

The fares continue to go up and services are changed and dropped each and every year. It seems that the idea that people just gave up is beyond their ability to comprehend.

I like taking the Train and with an app that gets me around on buses because even when you get anywhere in LA, the cost to park your car would be the same as taking and paying for 5 or 6 of your closest friends. Yet, the bus has to arrive in a timely manner. They don't.

Much of the blame has to be with the city and country planners. Streets that are already burdened with traffic are seeing even more buildings rise. Wilshire Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd. are truly Dante's seven circles of hell. It can take an hour, AN HOUR, to go three or four miles at rush hour. I have seen people walk faster than the traffic. Its not just Los Angeles either. Many cities in their rush to get that property tax have done the same thing. The quality of life plummets. This cavalier attitude has got to change. With streets and freeways crumbling, the time has come to make big changes. Make it easy and timely to get mass transit. Maybe rather than getting even bigger, our mass transit systems may need to get smaller with more of them. Should they compete? I don't know. They rarely do. Maybe its time to completely re-think what needs to be done. We are all tired of the same pat old answers. Maybe its time to truly think it through "out of the box."

Thank you for reading my blog. This Blog discusses a wide range of design issues. While painting is important we endure design, good and bad,  each and every day in the things we do and use. They are not always to our advantage. Please check out some of the other blogs!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

WHY Angelenos Will Never Embrace The Bus

After years of driving, I had my first experience actually riding two different bus company lines today. Without wheels and wanting to go to Pasadena, CA to church, I decided to give it a try. My only other choice was to walk and later I had to do just that. It was 99º out when I did.

It seems that most buses provide bus racks
There is a great Apple App called MOOVIT that gives you just about perfect step by step instructions to use public transit. Now if only the bus lines would be as conscientious. I'm just sayin'.

Metro Bus in Los Angeles
In my case the first bus I took was a Montebello Bus (MB) that conveniently posts their bus signs for bus stops; many are the same places that LA's Metro lines stop. The difference is Metro clearly marks which bus lines stop there, MB lets you guess. Beside arriving well past the posted time, I was on my phone calling about "if" the bus was actually running, when it appeared. It was the right bus number posted on my phone but their sign gave you no clue. Looking at my phone I discovered I was already running late and worried about connecting buses. To go a mere 6 miles required three different buses and two different bus lines. I chose one that seemed easy to follow but there were more choices, one including buses and getting on the Metro Gold Line - a train! To drive it would take about 15 minutes, to take the bus 1 hour and 15 or so minutes, if you were lucky. Since this was a Sunday there were fewer buses. However, you would think they would be more on time, not less. Not one of the buses I rode was anywhere near full. A few passengers had bikes and used the racks like old pros. A nice touch.

The next bus was at a strange confluence of Atlantic and Garfield just below Huntington Drive (confused? well it is when you ride the bus). You have to walk from Garfield over to Atlantic to catch a Metro Bus. At least the posted Metro sign thoughtfully assured me by posting the numbered bus I was looking for that was going north. When the bus arrived, I put in the fare and told him I needed to get off at Colorado, the main east-west drag in Pasadena. As we rode north through South Pasadena to Pasadena on a street I've driven a million times, I realized that all of my doctors were "on the way" to Colorado. Since the transportation at the home is spotty at best, its good to know.

Our stop was just north of Colorado and then I had to cross the street to catch the next bus going east. It finally dawned on me that I might be able to use my Metro Train card. I could. The driver explained to me, after I put in my fare, that it was just like getting on the train, you "tap" the card and depending, subtracts money from the card. Here I worried about having enough dollars, quarters and dimes to pay the fare. At least with your Metro card its just a tap away!

Amazingly I got there on time, a 75 minute journey including a 5 minute walk.

The Inter-Pacific Red Car
I hoped that going home was simply a reverse of my trip north but I must have hit some key wrong because my instructions suddenly disappeared. I had to enter my "current location" which showed where I was on the street asking where I wanted to go. I found out where I had to start. Its amazing really. It knew exactly where I was and showed me how to get there; if I was driving, but I wasn't, so had to rely on the best App I could find. I have about 6 different Apps on my iPhone 6 and MOOVIT is the only that gave me what I needed using public transit. I got lost on my last stop and had to walk over a mile home. It was again my fault though the MB sign was a mystery; the bus late.  Which bus stops here? I don't know if MOOVIT covers other places, the only one I care about is the Los Angeles basin, with one of the worst public transit systems in the world.

Public transportation in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 20th Century was one of the finest in the world. Long before LA was a 100 mile wide megapolis, you could go from the beach in Santa Monica to the desert in San Bernardino, a land of nearly limitless orchards, Long Beach to Mt. Low, high up in the San Gabriel Mountains. With the introduction of the automobile came freeways and freeways replaced trains until the last line to Long Beach ended around 1962. Disney's amazing film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" chronicles the destruction of public transit that occured. Ironically when after six failed voting attempts to get Angelenos to pony up the billions required to create train lines, with finally government help, the old Long Beach, now called the Blue Line, was the first to go back online. However, it is not an easy connection. You have to get on the Red Line, then exit and get on the Blue Line to head south.

After a few days using subways in New York City and New Jersey Transit, you realize how convoluted we made riding anything Metro touches. While it's easy to blame Metro executives, the fractured city-states of Los Angeles are also partly to blame as well. Places like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Westwood fought tooth and nail to stop Metro from "polluting" their neighborhoods. Only when revenues started to fall, the public began to avoid the congestion of getting there were discussions suddenly back on the burner.

LA Surpasses NYC with worst traffic in U.S.
Several years ago I was meeting a friend at the Wiltern theatre at the meeting of Western and Wilshire Blvd. for a concert. I had to come from Rosemead Blvd. and the I-10 freeway driving to Pasadena's Sierra Madre station, taking the Gold Line to Union Station then take the Purple Line. I got there in a bit over 60 minutes. He, traveling on Wilshire Blvd. from 26th St. in Santa Monica, a mere few miles away, took more than 90 minutes. As you can see there is a crying need for public transit but, either no one wants to build it for fear no one will use it. My last stop at the time was under a huge new condo. If I worked in a place where I could avoid the streets I'd move there and probably regain my life! What is missing is a coordinated plan that allows and pays for increased public transit to avoid the freeway and street congestion we suffer from. Buses? Why buses? They use the same lanes as cars and are trapped just like cars with only more victims inside. I've seen people walk faster than the bus drives!

You might question, who rides the bus, who rides the train? Well, poor people who simply cannot afford to own a car but many others who just don't want the hassle of driving on congested freeways and paying increasing car parking lot fees. It is indeed a unique mix of the rich and poor. However, fares are not cheap. I mean they had to pay for the huge Metro Skyscraper that looms over Union Station. Projects that should take a year or two take decades. China built an 800 mile high speed train track from Beijing to Shanghai in two years. The link from the Sierra Madre Station in Pasadena needed 6 months of "testing" to go as far as Arcadia, maybe a distance of 7 - 8 miles. It took them years to even construct the line. They already had the right of way even.

Until getting on a bus or train with lines that make sense, well signed, are on time and meet the needs of the public, not the needs of the powers that be, even congested freeways are not enough to get them to switch. Like I said I knew how to get from point A to point B, just not on a bus.

Thank you for reading my blog! I urge to you please read some of the earlier postings. They all refer to how we have designed our lives.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Ubiquitous Cell Phone: The Good and Not So Good

The crowd group texting
Today, after radiation treatment, I went to the gym to do my normal routine much to the delight of my oncologist, and possibly for my own wellbeing as well. As I was about an hour later than usual for some reason I noticed that the crowd was generally in their 20's-30's and that cell phones were just about in everyones hands. I was robbed once in a gym and take nothing of value ... let alone my iPhone.

Phone used for music 
It struck me as a bit odd and annoying. In between their very short sets, they were so busy texting they had no idea that someone may have wanted to use the machine they were merrily texting on. As a culture, we have become completely addicted to our cell phones. I think that in about 20 or so years, doctors of the neck and spine and chiropractors will have jobs for the rest of their lives from necks ruined by citizens literally bent over phones.

Many patrons of gyms bring their own music even though the gym plays music often at near ear numbing loudness. Unless their headphones are better than anything I have ever used, it must be annoying to listen to two sets of music. As I observed that after lifting their weights, like the man on the right, they then take a looooong rest between sets and text away or even stopping to see what the alert brought them.

Tests have shown the dangers of phone use, especially texting. It is said that the death rate texting while driving is about the same as drinking and driving. We just can't seem to get away from them. They take up just about every free minute and some that aren't so free. More and more places are forbidding phones because they are annoying especially when you have to hear another's talking.
Just because you are riding a bike you are a risk

Why is the cell phone so dangerous? First of all, you are trying to picture in mind's eye the person you are texting or talking too. Your mind struggles to see nuances that are not visible. We become so intent that we literally have no idea of our surroundings. I remember getting rear ended once. The cops finally made the woman turn off her phone ... she was still talking. I think she was so busy chatting that she didn't see we were all stopped. When you are on the phone you do not see a thing. I can hear already, "I can multi-task." Studies have shown that we delude ourselves if we think that is true. You can do a variety of things but NOT in the same instant of time. You go from task to task and think you are multi-tasking because you don't stop. Ever been to a restaurant and seen a group of four at a table? Usually all four are busy with their phones ignoring that fact that living breathing people are right in front of them. I have even heard where they text each other ... mere inches away! We have become a society that wants contact just not with real people.

Sending a picture to Grandma
The cell phone or "smart" phone with dumb users has also become the camera of choice. It can be used for family shots as this wonderful mother and child photo shows. Its a fast way to keep family members in touch or upload instantly to Instagram or Facebook. Sometimes the uploaded pictures that seemed so clever at the time will turn out to be, ugh, unfortunate down the road. It is quite common now for employers to ask for an applicants Facebook name and they then peruse their postings. Those drunk photos at the last party do not make many selling points.

Hey, look at me!
And as we learned in the Wiener episode in New York, "selfies" are also quite popular. There are many guys at the gym, which are lined with mirrors, taking photos of themselves to post or impress someone. My gym has it posted that cameras are not allowed. I wonder if anyone has considered the cell phone. They now have cameras as good as most point and shoots and in some cases better with the advantage of getting that photo uploaded in seconds!

Even in its archaic state the first photos taken of the passenger plane making an emergency landing in the Hudson River were taken by an early iPhone. It was posted in minutes and made it to most newspapers front page. The photographer won awards for it.

Selfie's begat selfie sticks that after ruining several valuable pieces of art are now banned in most museums. Who wants a hole in a $100 million Van Gogh? Who will pay for its restoration? It became a problem that no museum wanted to deal with. The obvious choice? Ban them.

Cell phones are amazing video cameras as well. We see acts by the police recorded. The new iPhone has movie camera recording ability even with stabilizing for sharp, non jittery images. Recently a young movie director made an entire movie, and won awards for it, using his iPhone 6 Plus. Its been known for awhile now that making a digital film is much cheaper. However, the cost to equip every movie house in the country with digital projectors would cost billions. Consumers though have taken matters into their own hands and bought huge TV sets with stunning resolution and wait for the DVD, often with better sound and clarity. Your phone might be able to record baby's first steps and be seen in all its glory, maybe even bigger than real life, on your TV or Facebook, in seconds.

I can remember walking in to MacWorld as Steve Jobs was finishing his keynote speech for the first iPhone. What we saw was nothing like what people thought it would be. What is was supposed to do, well, most of the attendees, Mac Heads for sure, thought there was a bit too much cannabis being smoked over at Apple. I had Motorola's RAZR, the most advanced phone at the time and it was miserable to use. If I wanted to do or change something I would look for a 16 year old and have them do what I wanted. When I got my first iPhone its ease of use was stunning. I could do in a few short taps what all other phones could never do.

However I don't think anyone dreamed what they would become. David Pogue spoke the next day at O'Reilly's books saying the iPhone would be the definitive device of the 21st Century. Turns out he was right.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out some of the earlier postings. They all cover in one way or another how design affects our daily lives.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Never Settle For Just Plain

A new unfinished frame
Ever wander through a store and stumble on the craft department? I don't just mean what you find at Hobby Lobby, Michael's, JoAnns's or A.C. Moore, I've noticed that stores like Target and Walmart are carrying some of these same items. Paints, brushes and even wood frames, birdhouses all at varying prices. The wooden frame shown here was $1 at Walmart. It is about the same price at Michaels.

Here is the finished frame

A dollar? Well, you gotta get that, right? So you get a frame ... what do you do with it? I know that I have talked about this but I feel that each project, no matter the cost of the platform, be it a birdhouse, tray, platter or picture frame, presents a wonderful opportunity to think outside of the box. That is what prompted me to try this project.

Detail of a Crazy Quilt Frame
Since I started creating a variety of items using a "crazy quilt" design where I painted fabrics just as you might see on a fabric created quilt, I painted these items that seemed to be a hit. I won an award from DecoArt for my original "crazy quilt" birdhouse prompting me to try other that sold well on my former Etsy store.

I don't know about you, but finishing a wooden frame, either with a stain or a color didn't offer much of a challenge. As you can see here, the same frame painted is totally different. 

Right now, let me point out that it can a tedious process. Here's why:

First you have to select base colors of your fabrics. I used six (6) base colors. They were used at least twice on the frame. Since I wanted this to be a holiday frame, I decided to choose colors that would be found on Christmas wrapping paper.

Once the base "fabric" color is painted then each color would have its own, unique pattern. As you can see in the detail, these patterns again are similar to patterns would find on Christmas wrap. And let me tell you when you finish some patterns you are so very happy.
Even the back must be painted - here I used
a solid color

To complete the effect, I use a golden ink pen that you can paint on acrylic paints to create stitches, the final touch for my Crazy Quilt frame. This takes between one to two hours. You may not need to do this but "stitching" the fabrics together in paints add a final finishing touch.

To be honest, it is pretty easy to do. But remember it also takes a lot of time. I recommend you work on several items at the same time as you must allow the paint to dry since each painted fabric has the same design. It is too easy to smear paint used on one side as you work on another. Trust me, I know all about this! Its a pretty good thing acrylics dry quickly. It is relatively easy to repair or recreate but being careful saves having to waste time doing this exact thing. Go ahead try it. Since most of you already have the paints and brushes it's a small cost to experiment with a new style.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read some of the earlier blogs. I cover a wide variety of crafts, books, movies and more ... all items that depended on someone's design. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

My, My, Concerts Have Sure Come A Long Way: Going to the Foo Fighters Concert

One of the earliest live concerts that I saw, other than those in college, and we had some pretty good acts I might add, was a Sonny and Cher Concert is a city park in Seattle, WA. In those days all you needed was a fair sound system, a few lights and an enthusiastic large crowd. This was at their height too, 1967. How things have changed.

Electric Sign at Honda Center
Saturday I was with a friend who got tickets for the Foo Fighters Concert at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. Normally an ice skating arena for the Ducks hockey team, it does a nice job of making things accessible for concerts. It was packed and all the groupies were out on the floor. The bands leader, Dave Grohl, had broken his leg falling off a stage somewhere in Europe but didn't let that slow him down ... not one bit! The stage was set up with a long runway and he rode an electric cart up and down it from the stage to everyones delight!

Dave Grohl on his electric cart!
As much as I wanted to go, I was afraid I wouldn't know any of their music but when I went to that old standby, iTunes, I found clicking on their music I was more than surprised at how many of their songs I knew! I hadn't memorized the lyrics as many in the audience had but at least I knew the tunes.

My other fear was that I would be the oldest one there by several decades, not that it mattered but you do get tired of being stared at as if you are, say, a living fossil. There were other grey beards as well!

Watching all this I realized that what was once a simple production - an audience, lights, some kind of speakers and play music for the fans has changed from music oftentimes to a "production." We have come a long ways from "I Got You Babe" played forever in the movie "Ground Hog Day" to Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift or the Foo Fighters. Just think this all must be loaded on a truck. Sounds like "Ground Hog Day" to me!

Watching the bands take down and put up the next day at the Kaa Boo Festival in Del Mar, it has become something much greater than those early days. AND, it took somebody(s) to design and implement it. At Del Mar there was much scurrying around as the crew for the next band set up. I was in fact awed by all that went on and wondered how they could do it over and over again in venues that were never the same.

Honda Center filled for the Foo Fighters seen from the Nose Bleed section
I can't help but believe that long on-the-road concerts are grueling for just about everyone involved. Lessons must be learned at every stop, adjustments made to provide not only the best sound but the best show for the audience. I'm sure it doesn't take much to defeat the original purpose but also what we don't know won't make any difference anyway. 

Sometimes artists have great opening acts but Saturday night was not one of them. One of he biggest problems to me is the volume of sound. It is so loud that besides being unable to think, you are subjected to a volume of sound that almost makes you deaf. I couldn't understand a word they said and, of course, had never heard of them before so didn't know their music. It was hard to even pick out the tune. Loud does not make for great music.

While loud, the Foo Fighters were a bit different. You could recognize the music and on the first bar
Foo Fighters on stage
or two, the audience came to life. In fact they played a solid 2 1/2 hours straight!

Watching all this, studying what they were doing, you realize that concerts, like everything else in life, are designed for a certain affect. The huge video screens showed details we would never see, the sound was well, loud but tunes and voices were audible, the lighting was at times dramatic and changed with the flavor of the music. The overall effect is to surround you with an otherworld experience. It does too!

They are returning to Anaheim again next month and I heard people say they were coming back for that concert. I must be callous but unless they had a new album I wouldn't want to come back for a year or two.

Thank you for reading my blog. Why not take the time to read my older blogs that comment on a variety of ways our lives are designed.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Beards & Hair: A Short History of Men's Facial and Head Hair Styles

For many years, something upwards of 30 years, I wore a beard. I am not sure why but it seemed a logical next step from years of wearing a mustache. When I worked for Kmart in the early 70's we manager assistants were told NOT to wear beards, mustaches and the like by the corporate office in Troy, MI. I rebelled and grew a mustache, something I could do in a week. Every other man in our store, located back then and maybe even today in the backwater of Los Angeles County, Lancaster, CA grew a mustache too.  Few would visit us from Troy, MI and the manager, who didn't dare, supported our rebellion. I had tried earlier when I was in the Peace Corps but it was so hot and muggy in West Africa, I sweated so much I could feel the rivulets of sweat go down every hair! However, I moved on to a beard in the more civilized San Gabriel Valley, just east of the Los Angeles city limits. 

Post Metrosexual beard and hairstyle. 
All that's missing here are the tattoos.
Bin Laden
Recently I have become aware of the beards the post Metrosexual men have been wearing. Never much of a fashionista, a short jaunt to Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade recently made me totally aware that the young men were dressing differently than what was being worn in Alhambra. There are many Asians in my area now and they are probably as tuned in to the latest fads as anyone but even they couldn't match what I had seen on the west side. As I perused "People" magazines in doctors offices I saw this was what all the stars were wearing as well.

There were many young men that didn't look all the different than the model (above left) with a kind of pompadour on top with hair shaved on the sides and well, a Bin Laden styled beard. Neat and ratty.

General Grant - Savior of the Union
Never having seen this fashion before I wondered why would young men ape a face style from a man (Bin Laden above right) or group that we have fought now in wars for at least 14 years - the Taliban, ISIS and other Arabic terrorist groups. Yet we have a history of beards in the United States and looking farther into this realized beards are here today and gone tomorrow.
General Ambrose Burnside

The founding fathers were generally beardless, nary a mustache. However, by the time of the Civil War, just about every general and the Union President sported a beard. Why, we will never know. Someone was a trend setter and soon the fashion swept the nation. 

President Abraham Lincoln

There were a variety of styles to choose from ... a full beard like General Grant shown here or a modified moustache shown on General Burnside. That Grant won the war and Burnside was a disgrace seemed to have no affect on fashion. President Lincoln had a modified scraggy beard usually favored by Quakers and the Amish, eschewing the fancy twists and turns of some of his peers.

After the Civil War beards fell out of disfavor unless you were a settler who didn't care or have the time on the plains as railroads brought thousands of farmers to settle the land from around the world. Working class men rarely sported a beard. Class equaled head fashion.

King George of England
Europeans made beards acceptable again at the beginning of the 20th century. King George of England as well as Czar Nicholas of Russia had beards that sported a rather dandified mustache with many modifications. Captain Smith of the HMS Titanic also sported such a beard. Two years later when World War 1 started soldiers didn't have the time to preen themselves. Beards fell out of favor. The 1920's and 30's saw clean shaven men. Their frivolity was spent on suits and shirts and hair styles that we would recognize today. Suddenly men dressed much we do today and beards were a thing of the past. Women's styles were more drastically changed.

Lionel Richie with his Afro
Instead men worked with their hairdo's. Anyone remember the Afro? It wasn't just for the African Americans either. 

I sported an Afro being told it would hide my growing bald spot that started in my 20's. I don't know why women go through curling! Finally I started wearing it short after seeing a "combover" flipping in the wind. After that I swore that I would never ever do that, and never have.

The Afro was followed by the "shag" I think pioneered by Rod Stewart. Men, pretty much, didn't wear a beard but by then I did. There were a few mustaches, but mighty few. Again they were long droopy types recalling a cowboy on the farm. My father-in-law wore a beard for many years and since I had very sensitive facial skin it seemed the answer to a whole range of problems. When it was discovered that I had a blood disorder and had to beware of any kind of cuts when put on blood thinners, the beard was for me the best solution. It was bad enough shaving under my chin and neck!

Rod Stewarts shaggy cut
For awhile now, men have sported a two or three day unshaved look beard. It was popular everywhere ... movie stars, thugs and the average Joe on the street. I always thought it looked like you were too lazy to shave that day. When the clothing ads starting using models with that look it really took off. I remember reading an article written by some fashionista saying it was "sexy" and turned women and probably other men on too. I remember wondering if she had ever kissed a man with a 3 day beard. Like kissing sandpaper. I guess girlfriends and wives are good sports.

Hugh Jackman forgot to shave today
There were many, many styles in between. Marlon Brando, James Dean, Elvis Presley and the Fonz with their pompadours, the buzz cut and totally shaved heads especially favored by African-Americans, styles that faded sometimes and then suddenly returned. Remember the spiked Homer Simpson "does"?  With the likes of Justin Bieber ... hair piled on the top of his head and cut short on the sides the market was open again. The one good thing about these styles, if you had a head of hair to do it with, was that when a fashion died, you could always get another haircut.

What is so amazing to me is the need for men, who I guess spend as much now on certain grooming products as women, to follow a trend and yet within it be strive to be different, creating an element of individuality. This trend I believe started with tattoos. Tattoos could be individualized to the man but the fact you had them made you part of a group. I remember as a child only red neck, white trash ever had a tattoo. It was usually one or two on a bicep and usually 
Fashion elements combined - from the 50's to the 21st Century
covered by a t-shirt. Suddenly everyone had one. Many tattoos are undeniably beautiful in the here and now but give them 15 - 20 years when skin begins to sag. I remember my son being enamored with the huge eagle on the chest of our 80 year old neighbor who seemed to always be shirtless. However, one look and you knew the huge eagle on his chest had landed. 

While a tattoo is forever, mercifully haircuts seem to change like the weather. We live though in an era today where  our heads have elements of all past trends ... pompadour, military buzz cuts, beards of the Taliban and enough tattoos to please the Yakuza! The man shown here on the right has all these elements, even the rolled cuffs on his jeans ala James Dean! Where once this would have be been anathema to all regular people, it has become acceptable when movie stars such as Angelina Jolie and other stars sport such additions to their bodies. Why is it acceptable? Will the next generation continue this or will they, like the Boomers generally avoid doing this? 

These elements are conscious designs that we create for our lives seeking a kind of individuality within a carefully chosen group. I do have to wonder though, how many people wake up the next day and wonder why did I do that? This may not be a bad time to invest in laser tattoo removal!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out my other blogs that cover and whole range of comments on the designs that shape our lives!