So Close and Yet So Noir…

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Over 5 years ago, we challenged ourselves to track down and watch every film noir made back in the day when noir was noir. It’s been a fun yet bumpy ride mapping our way through cross referenced lists to find rare cinematic gems and plain old lemons. We’ve scoured public libraries, the internet, local video stores, and film noir fests. Now we’re closing in on completing the list.

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But thankfully, there’s always unexpected noirs popping up like weeds wanting their day in the sun. So the challenge continues. At this point, it would be heartbreaking to take a powder on the nightly noir habit.

Luckily, we’ve amassed quite a DVD collection for the dry spells. It was that tippy stack of DVDs that inspired the making of a worthy home for them. We found a couple discarded noir-ish LP covers and worked up a plan for a dapper homemade DVD Case. Over time, we perfected the construction and began selling the one-of-a-kind Upcycled DVD Holder Books.

Recently, we came across this album cover which inspired the making of our latest 52 DVD Holder Book to hit the Etsy shop.

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Inside pocket pages are sewn from repurposed card stock printed with original photography, street art imagery and graphics in keeping with the noir theme.

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Now you too can stylishly tote your film noir library through life’s mean streets.

Meanwhile, we’re hoping to cross a couple more noirs off the list at the San Francisco Noir City 2016, taking us one step closer to wrapping up our challenge… or maybe just a couple films deeper into the shadows.

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Take Note

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It’s the new age of craft coffee. That means single origin, nano roasters, cold press, and pour overs. Kinda makes one miss the old fashioned coffee-counter culture– where a pot was percolating in every kitchen and burning on every diner hotplate, just ready to warm up your cup. The coffee may have gotten better, but don’t you miss a bit of nostalgia with your cup of joe? This urban art journal is a homage to the good ole coffee institutions, compiling coffee signage photographed over the last 20 years. Signs of a different time, to inspire your current caffeinated thoughts.

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Lost in the Past Century – Century Records

Before School of Rock there was Century Records. Nothing against the 6-year-old guitar prodigy or the teen wonderkid singer songwriter, but who doesn’t love a creaky out of tune cover song played by a run-of-the-mill middle school band?

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Century Records was largely a franchise operation. Local recording companies across USA peddled Century’s LP Packages then sent their school recordings to Saugus, California to be pressed and printed. Century was the brain child of a guy named Keyser who was deep into plastics and vinyl.  In fact, Century eventually became a strictly plastics operation and stopped its franchising of school records all together.  But not before creating a library of unique no-frills LPs for amateur tin-ear archeologists to unearth and revive.

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In our unrelenting mission to rescue junked albums, we first ran into these LPs in thrift store bargain bins. They usually have a pretty generic cover with a distinctive sketch of the Century Records Building on the back. Some of the tracks are are pretty good, though we prefer the cuts with plenty of rough around the edges. These numbers illustrate the beauty of the Century Record concept: everyone can get a shot at being a recording artist and have the LP to prove it!

Such dillies include Alameda High School Band’s version of Greensleeves on yellow vinyl, the Byrd Junior High 1964 Band’s medley of hits from West Side Story, and the Wilson Junior High School Chorus’ 1967 rendition of the Impossible Dream. Standards like these become instant entertainment in a way that karaoke never could be.

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A few years ago, it dawned on us that we might be able to find the Century building as sketched on the back of the LPs– after all, Saugus is practically in our own backyard. Armed with a map, some Century LPs, and a camera, we headed north on Highway 5. We were certain this distinctive looking building would be easy to spot. No such luck.

We showed the LP to the owners of a local coffee shop, several gas station attendants, and even the woman on duty at the historical society.  No one had heard of the place let alone seen this building. Everyone was really nice though, and the historical society lady even thanked us for educating her about her own town. Alas Century Records was obsolete– erased from the local memory and urban landscape. We’ll just have to turn to the turntable for solace in Wilson Junior High’s The Impossible Dream.

The Hand Writing is on the Walls

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It tells you where to park, what’s for sale, or how much for a haircut. I may not go in for the advertised clutch job or psychic reading, but I’m sold on the peeling-paint fonts and colorful crooked letters that make the walls come to life. A field trip through the city is a walk through a typographic gallery. It’s as if these walls can talk.

Check out our urban typography mini journal here http://etsy.me/1z0VNzF . Perfect for recording field notes on your urban rambles.

Succulent Tin Cans on a Stick– The Upcycled Urban Garden

Soaking in the last few days of summer. This means enjoying and improving the backyard– a constant work in progress. The summer garden is winding down but the pomegranate tree is coming around. It looked a bit lonely, so we decided to give it some succulent company. A few clippings found new homes in some old tin cans. With some ingenuity and some hardware scraps those tin cans cheat the fate of the trash heap once again!

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Check out our Hobo Tin Can Beer Holders (cause everything goes better with beer!) and some of our other upcycled wares here: http://etsy.me/1i9heEp

City Lights

CityLightsSprouting skyward out of the cracked bubbling blacktops of abandoned city parking lots, the rusty streetlights quietly weather out their last stand against the next nondescript stucco development that will inevitably usurp their real estate. Admiring these geometric giants orbiting above the urban sprawl, one can begin to imagine how the past was lit.

To see a bunch of old LA streetlights standing together in one random parking lot, check out Vermonica created by Sheila Klein.

You can find more photos of  Los Angeles’ urban landscape at stripeycity.

We Honor Folk Artist Leonard Knight

Leonard Knight, the creator of the magnificent Salvation Mountain near the Salton Sea, passed away several days before Valentine’s Day. We visited this visionary artist 10 years ago and snapped this shot that captures his love of life.

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He embodies the religious style of ephemeral imagery & graphic art created by folk & street artists all across the USA. These works show up on almost anything–from the sides of trailers, storefronts & windows to the junkyard landscape of the late W.C. Rice’s Cross Garden in Prattville, Alabama.  The homegrown art in unsuspecting environments often speaks louder than the godly messages– for us it’s more about the art.

ImageImageImageCheck out more images at  stripeycity on Etsy or take a sightseeing trip around your own neighborhood and see what you might find!

Art is all around us

Museums are inspiring, but sometimes a shuffle around the city is just as good if not better– easy on the eyes and the wallet. Slow down and you might catch a masterpiece before it disappears.

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This art seems to pop up as magically as it is erased from the cityscape.

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Who’s behind the art? Does it drive up sales of mufflers or psychic readings? Either way, it’s great wallpaper for the city.

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Hats off to all the urban artists who make our city colorful and interesting. Any neat street art in your city?

See the day in the life of one street artist here. Take notes on your own urban art ramblings in a  Street Art Mini Journal.

Lost Weekend

Some juice joints modernize by switching out neon signage for plastic, covering old worn bar wood with laminate or selling out to a hipster who fumigates, reupholsters and reopens with higher prices and younger clientele.  Downtown Los Angeles has a few of the latter with King Eddy’s Saloon the most recent to get the make over.doghouse_blogscBut if you’re lucky, you end up as just a wink in a camera bug’s eye and nary a mention on the internet like the Dog House, a rundown bar across the street from MacArthur Park that disappeared without comment sometime in the 1980s.  Besides this shot taken from the window of a passing car, the Dog House’s only other appearance is in the background of a scene in some obscure low budget flick that dropped out a sight a few years ago.  The Dog House would belong in the Bar Hall of Fame, if there were such an institution.  There is a Drinkers Hall of Fame for those who care for such places.  You can chance upon it if you drive east out of LA on the old Route 66 though the bar signage got the modernization treatment mentioned above.  Inside it’s as nondescript as a striped down ranch house in the Valley but the painted sign that once attracted drinkers on the side of the bar is still something to admire in old photos like the one snapped on an escape from the city several decades ago.

drinkershalloffameblogwmEven before digital shutters made spending $$ on film obsolete, fools like myself took as many shots as our fingers could tap out in the hope and prayer that out of several rolls of 36 at least one brilliant shot would surface.  That’s one of several reasons why I don’t remember taking many of these photos, that is the where, when, why, who and whatever.  Like DL’s Beef & Beer.  What was this simple storefront?  A precursor to Wurstkuche where instead of Belgium brew and artisan sausage they served Bud and ground beef?  beefnbeerblogwmThe Zimba Room.  Now here’s a sign I pass nearly everyday on Beverly Blvd in Echo Park but you’d never recognize it.   The white letters were painted over long ago so now it’s just a huge chunk of blue metal hanging on the side of a true flop house called the Lafayette Hotel.  The Lafayette is a dump that no hipster would ever consider giving the gentrification make over.  Any fumigation would involve torching it to the ground.  But imagine if you can the bar that was once accessible from the front, a place called the Zimba Room.  Zimba…the imagination is rich with visuals…zimbaroomblogwmLike Zimba, the name Taxi Bar inspires the mind to wander and dream of stories best found in detective novels.  Taxi Bar is still visible on Third, a block or two before the street dips down into downtown.  Unfortunately the sign, with blue & white letters, a star and arrow,  was switched out several years ago by all new vinyl.  Probably the only good part of the joint and now that’s gone too.

taxi-barblogwmStep back in time with some photo postcards of bygone Los Angeles Bars.