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Monthly Archives: September 2006

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We Live Here, Too

We Live Here is a new series running on the Fine Living (a.k.a. HGTV for yuppies) channel dealing with out of the way restaurants, bars and activities in certain cities. Out of curiosity, last night we tuned into the installment which profiled my native city of Phoenix, a bizarre experience which Christopher has hilariously detailed here. My main problem lied in how the show had, as guests, a trio of supposedly diverse Phoenicians (including one local politician) — but all three had this myopic “I like this, so everybody else must like it, too” kind of viewpoint. Talk about annoying.

Belle of the Beach

The L.A. Times has a good story on Marion Davies, specifically the gloriously tacky Santa Monica beach compound that William Randolph Hearst built for her in the ’20s (thanks Christopher!). Although the main buildings in the compound are no longer standing, area residents want to refurbish and reopen the place as a community center. The article also has a good bio on the actress — do people still think she was a talentless bimbo? Guess so.

Magazines? So 20th Century

Slate’s Jack Shafer ruminates on what makes a magazine great and selects Chicago-based Stop Smiling as a shining example in a world of dross. I gotta look into that. Although I now get most of my non-book reading done online, there’s an intimacy in holding and paging through a nice, smart mag which is definitely missed staring slack-jawed at a monitor.

I could so relate to the opening paragraphs in that article, having been something of a magazine junkie awhile back. Reflecting on publications I subscribed to in the years 1990-95: Rolling Stone, Spin, Raygun, The Village Voice, The Nation, Utne Reader, Entertainment Weekly, Artforum, MacWorld, Wired, Interview, Harpers Bazaar, Details, The New Yorker. Of those, only Entertainment Weekly remains a regular fixture in our mailbox (although the mag, having gotten progressively dumber in the last few years, is straining my last nerve).

Notes on Freelancing

Work-wise, I’ve been having a lot of balls in the air at once lately. And it’s showing up in the lack of updates to this page. Sorry.

Speaking of which, a veteran illustrator provides some great advice in 17 lessons in 17 years of freelancing (via Drawn!). I’ve been doing this for coming on three years now — and I still feel more like a slumming househusband than a proper freelancer. The part where I get stuck is in the self-promotional aspect of this biz. The combination of not being a natural salesperson and being easily discouraged leads to much frustration; a boxful of unsent promo postcards is testament to that. I would also add a point about the importance of having a “kill fee” for first-time clients (especially individuals). It saves a lot of headaches in the long run. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to have a really good year where a client doesn’t flake out on me.

Having a good website also helps a lot — check this one for Canadian illustrator/letterer Ray Fenwick. I wish I had as distinctive a style. Neat stuff.

Gruesome Twosome: Feelin’ Mellow Edition

Lani Hall: “Love Song”
LP: Sun Down Lady, 1972

Nanette Natal: “Knowing You”
LP: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, 1969

Today I’m digging the kind of music that comes across like a cup of warm coffee on a Sunday morning — mellow, yet invigorating. Lani Hall’s “Love Song” was recorded shortly after the singer left Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, and based on this tune it was apparent that she desired to sound as little like her former band as possible. Producer Herb Albert (soon to marry Ms. Hall) was going after an easygoing L.A. vibe here, with a little bit of funkiness and a haunting quality in the lady’s voice. I don’t know much about Nanette Natal, but apparently early in her career she made a splash as a teen folk prodigy in the Janis Ian vein. “Knowing You” is quite an extraordinary song, starting out introspective and quiet before it launches into a simmering groovy ’60s vibe. Both of these are short-but-sweet overlooked gems, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Cow Cow Boogie

There’s something fresh and different, yet oddly familiar, about the drawing of grazing cows adorning Safeway’s new milk carton packaging. As soon as I saw them, I told Christopher that somebody at Safeway obviously likes Charles Harper! Compare Harper’s illustration from the 1958 Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook at right with the milk carton illo below.

More art by the fabulous Harper can be browsed at the flickr Charles Harper illustrations fanclub.