Sunday, April 26, 2015

Something about a tiny house and RV living

I guess it's a real movement, this tiny house thing. Of course, poor people have always. lived. in. a. tiny. house. It was all the rich left us! And shall we discuss the Roma people who travel (gypsy), and the Travelers, and of course nomads? These, are people, with a traveling way of life. Perhaps they follow their goat or sheep or cow herds from summer pasture to winter pasture. Maybe they travel from a warm climate to a cooler one in the summertime. This life requires a small portable home -- a tent, a wagon, a yurt.

 nomadic pastoralism picture from National Geographic.

In modern times, people would travel, camp, visit, and live in different places going by train, by bus, by plane, and by motorcar, then campers and travel trailers, and motorhomes, and RV's. There is a bit of a hierarchy going on -- the new converts to living in a small space seem to think they are at the top of the new housing food chain since they build what they want and add solar and other technologies pioneered by trailer and RV manufacturers, or they miniaturize and adapt self-contained or "off the grid" solutions that have been used since Time began, and re-popularized in the last few decades.

cute camper with tons of accessories from Sisters on the Fly.

It goes something like this, from all the years of reading, building and research I've done:
1. Tiny house people
2. Small home/apartment people
3. Vacation home/2nd house people
4. RVs, trailers and bigger is better
5. Car campers, mini-trailers, and vans, and smaller is better
6. Mobile home parks, aka, Trailer parks.
7. Homeless.
We all know the disdain most people have for Trailer Parks, and "trailer trash", but it wasn't always like that. After WWII mobile homes and trailers were a fantastic way for returning GI's and their families to get a home of their own very quickly, and before new housing was built to meet the demand for post-war living. Once the GI's left for "sticks and bricks" homes, they sold cheap, and poorer people moved in and as always, the poor and working class are looked down on. (Doesn't have to be that way, but it still is)

In the early 20th century, luxurious motor homes and fancy campers were bought by "rich" people to travel in and have a taste of the rough life they desperately wanted no more of. Funny isn't it, that people of all incomes really do love to live like a homeless wanderer at least for a while with varying levels of modern conveniences. Take a look at RV Hall of Fame Museum historian Al Hesselbart explaining the modern history of trailers and RV's:


When I was in elementary school, Miss Carmella Fontana, the 1st grade teacher, also taught Chorus, so twice a year all of us Yountville kids were drafted into this show activity. We learned songs our parents would like to hear. One song always made me think about the social implications in the lyrics: The Happy Wanderer. A very happy fellow sings gloriously about the fun he has while "tramping" around the country. Tra la la!

Of course, migrant workers, various ethnic groups all over the world and poor working class people lived itinerant lives, not always out of choice. And of course, as always happens, wealthier people, like to romanticize about the classes of people with less money, I suppose to assuage their guilt about paying them such little wages, while feeling sorry for the poor, or hating the poor, yet refusing to take the responsibility for setting up the economic system that keeps people poor in a society that is phenomenally wealthy.
Yes, the more things change -- So it is with this historical knowledge, placing "tiny homes" in context of human history, both ancient and modern, that I find this "new" movement just amusing.
Is everyone who likes the Tiny House, the back to the land, the Homestead, the preppers, the urban farmers, the small is beautiful movements, a jerk, or a rich moron that steals from the poor? NO. of course not. But we do have to take a peek at history and understand the politics and prejudices in how and where we live.

 working class mother in the 1940s.

 a tiny house during the Depression of the 1930s.

It is not a coincidence that at the very time we are back in another rich man vs poor man economy, worldwide, actually, but very obvious in the USA, the romantic version of how poor people live should find amusement with the very wealthy.
During the Depression in the 1930s, wealthy people would dress like tramps and party party party! Recently, hipsters have taken to romanticize hobos (the historical homeless), with hobo-theme weddings and parties!
And of course, Marie Antoinette, pretending to be a simple farm girl, while doing nothing with her power, to actually improve the lives of actual simple farm girls. It is well-studied that,   "Poverty Chic refers to an array of fads and fashions in popular culture that make recreational or stylish – and often expensive – ‘fun’ of poverty, or traditional symbols of working class and underclass statuses. Earlier historical examples of Poor Chic are 1920s Harlem ‘white slumming parties’, Parisian costume balls where the rich adorned themselves in expensive rags, and Marie Antoinette’s 15-cottage ornamented Hameau farm.(Karen Bettez Halnon,Poor Chic: The Rational Consumption of Poverty).

 books about hobo life, intellectual survey of literature examines the disdain in America for the poor.

There is another component to living in a smaller home, with less stuff. It has lately come to be called "Ecological Footprint", another modern variation of a back to the land movement that started again in the 1920s and 30s by people such as Scott and Helen Nearing, proponents of self-sufficiency. The Footprint awareness campaign grew out of all the activity of the 60s and 70s about "saving the Earth", and now we have global warming and climate change, and the rise of uber-manufacturing of massive amounts of stuff we don't need and we don't want. There is a yearning for simpler times, like Little House on the Prairie, but with solar and 24/7 internet and Netflix.
The Nearings wrote The Good Life, and were "advocates for simple and sustainable living skills, social and economic justice, organic gardening and vegetarianism." Nearing, with his PhD in Economics supported the "new economics" stating in 1913, "that the economists part company with the ominous pictures of an overpopulated, starving world, prostrate before the throne of 'competition,' 'individual initiative,' 'private property,' or some other pseudo-god, and tell men in simple, straightforward language how they may combine, re-shape, or overcome the laws and utilize them as a blessing instead of enduring them as a burden and a curse."

Part of the social change going on right now is a reaction to the Worldwide Economic Crash caused by the world's largest banks, Wall Street, insurance companies, large corporations and large financial concerns and arrogant behavior by the wealthy.  Combined, the precarious and reckless nature of the powerful to care about nothing but money for themselves and give no thought to social destruction and chaos, have made many millions of people take their newly-found political awareness to become more self-sufficient, as a self-protection scheme. Many are now asking themselves, Could we live in a tiny house?


 After a long century of buying products, consuming factory made goods, and being "modern middle-class people", here is combined all the culmination of the lessons learned in the last century: Buying less, recycling, re-using, growing your own food, preserving and canning it for the future, and deciding to eat food grown locally for better flavor and safety concerns. It's the Homestead movement, back again, that appeals to people on the Left, and the Right.

This also includes the rejection of GMO corporate "food", and the want for organic food which is more nutritious because We are what we Eat. From our food, to our shelter, 2 very basic human needs, springs the smartness of living in a smaller home with less stuff.  

Less Stuff. More Time. Less Stuff thinking really makes you question everything you buy. Do you need 3000 square feet with 4 televisions and rooms you never live in except on 2 holidays a year? Do you really want to work 40 to 60 hours a week, with commute time, to pay for a huge mortgage on a huge house, and pay huge property tax bills, and 3 cars, and all the repair bills, and all that lawn to mow and all the stuff you own gets crammed in a garage??!?

Rainwater collection, sharing libraries for household tools and even rent a car for 3 hours... all these things are not-so-new ways of living, but they are becoming very popular in the hive mind of people today.
Back to the way poor people live -- they almost always have had a garden, they make their own clothes, and do their own home and car repairs, DIY, rather than pay someone else, and also trading work for items is a basic part of thrifty living practiced since humans made neighborhoods, then towns, then cities. With the rise of the merchant class, the middle class, and the social payment programs, people have had more financial freedom, but also more dependence on banks, Wall Street and corporations, to manage the world's money supply and the precarious way that they do and don't do, their work, seldom cautiously and carefully diligent towards us. US.

Sure, cutting back, living in a smaller home is COOL even if you don't want to think about the larger implications to the economy and our personal health. Whatever your reasons, do it! Join us! Embrace all the different ways we can live, for now and into the future.
You can choose a very simple life in a small home, an apartment, or a van or trailer or RV. You can build your own and join the worldwide communities that already live with a smaller demand on the planet and its resources as we barrel towards 8 billion people. Just jump in and live free.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Gibson Girls and Instant collections

Maud Davis Baker was a pioneer in the world of photography. She was one of the rare American women who had her own photography studio in the 1890s in Helena Montana. At a time when women were not allowed much freedom, Mrs. Baker had a studio of her own and made a living from her art. Later in life, in the 1920's, she moved to Hollywood and was a member of the growing art crowd in LA, the Hollywood Art Association and the Hollywood Woman's Club with her daughter Viroque Baker.
I've just listed is this charming collection of portraits mounted on sepia paper and signed by Baker. It has 13 lovely women, likely high school or college graduates, most with the fad hairdo of the day, the Gibson Girl, invented by popular illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. About 1890 he wanted to draw a version of a young  American woman of the times, that wasn't a free-thinker or suffragette. The Gibson Girl is the opposite of the late 1800's "New Woman" who wanted liberty, freedom, a career, and the right to manage her own life as a human and not as a wife or second class citizen.  Gibson's girl, however, is smart, rich and enjoys her freedom. You can read more at wikipedia. 

Call it a gallery wall, or a collection, choosing to decorate your wall with a group of objects, some pictures, some frames, some paintings, and whatever strikes your fancy can really add that free-spirited bohemian aura. If the objects all share 1 or 2 similarities, it will come together as an artistic whole.

Perhaps the similarity is color or shape, maybe it is subject matter such as a grouping of  dog paintings and pictures, or maybe beach theme art and crafts. When choosing a collection to hang together add differences as well as sameness. Strive for different colors in the same family, and don't forget texture. If it is too bland, hang a few baskets, or rough weavings, or hang some antlers. Although hipsters have overdone it recently, it will come back to popularity because it is an element of casual decor that is always in style. It adds a cabin, cozy, arty look to almost any arrangement.

I've just listed an antique hand carved walnut frame. It combines patina, authenticity and gravitas to any grouping of objects. This one is at least 100 years old, and likely even older. It has no markings. It can hold a photo or painting that's 8" x 10", but I've always loved it alone, loving the grain, the patina and the texture.

Here's a few more rooms with great collections arranged with a bohemian artsy vibe in mind. These are on Pinterest, so if they are your pics, let me know and I'll give credit.

Friday, April 3, 2015

ICU Vintage Glasses and Vintage Sunglasses

The invention of eyeglasses occurred about 700 years ago in Italy. The medieval glass guilds produced magnifying glass and some smartypants in 1284, two monks living in a monastery, actually, are credited by historians with making and promoting the invention of eyeglasses with 2 magnifying lenses, secured in a primitive frame to sit on your face, supported by your nose which just sits there protruding out and not doing much else.

By 1300, the Italian glass guild adopted a regulation for these magnifying lenses naming them "vetri da occhi". Half-blind people went wild for the magnifying eyeglasses.
Can you imagine? I can, since I've been wearing glasses for long-distance accurate viewing, and reading glasses for short-view reading for almost 20 years.

Yes Yes you can reuse a vintage frame and have new prescription lenses or just plain modern shaded glass installed.
funkomavintage always has a selection of hand-chosen vintage eyeglasses and vintage sunglasses. Some will be suitable for your prescription glasses, some will be for daily use, and all will have cool style, delightful fashion and all the classics you love.... RayBan, B&L, aviators, nerd glasses, military pilots styles and all the crazy shapes of the midcentury. Visit funkomavintage for vintage glasses here, and over here too.

Scroll to the bottom and learn how to measure for a well-fitting pair of glasses.

The historical record gives Benjamin Franklin, in 1760 or so, while in London, the credit for inventing bifocals or split lenses. In a frame, 2 pieces were installed with the bottom one having a magnifying lens and a piece of clear glass in the top.

When buying vintage eyeglass frames be sure to choose ones with barrel hinges if you want to change the lenses to your prescription, whether sunglasses or magnifying lenses. Only these heavy-duty hinges will support the frames and the lenses and help keep the glasses in the right shape for your face. Your optician with set the frames to your face so your eye will see through the lens at just the right place to give you the excellent vision you want.

Eyeglass shapes change with fashion and with technology. There are the modern classic shapes like these 2 vintage frames and of course, round, oval, rectangles, cateyes, and large oversize frames, Big Eye, became very popular in the 60s and 70s, and continued on through most of the 80s, when frames started getting smaller again. By the 90s, frames were turned into long rectangles just to make a new fashion.
The shape that has always remained popular,  year in and year out, are the classic curved square in simple black frames or in clear colors, or wild colors and patterns.

Here's a pretty good example.
This vintage pair has a nifty twist. These are magnifying flip-ups. The whole lens assembly flips up away from your eyes, and flips down only when you need to the see tiny work, such as in brain surgery, needlepoint, and reading tiny numbers on your prescription bottles, and the warranty information on your iPhone.

 The best frames have been made in Italy, France, Germany, and until about 30 years ago, the USA. Once the US moved its once-high-quality manufacturing to cheap ass China and other untalented and careless assembly lines, there are no quality glasses or frames made in the US anymore by large firms. A few micro-businesses have just started but they use imported frames and glass and just do assembly here in the US.

Ray-Ban invented pilot glasses and aviator frames for the US military, and they're now classic styles. Ray-Ban has had a long run of inventing frame shapes that everyone loves. The Wayfarer, the Clubman, the Shooters, and now they are knocked off by the billions.
Ray-Ban was bought by Italian firm Luxottica, and though you would assume this Italian brand would make a very fine pair of glasses, every pair of new frames I've bought in the last few years have been cheap and flimsy. That's very sad, but that is the reason why I choose a sturdy vintage frame for all my eyeglass and sunglasses needs. It's why funkomavintage sells great vintage glasses.

The most common material for modern frames is a kind of plastic because the technology improved so much since 1900, that it soon shoved metal, real tortoise shell, rigid leather and carved horn (hornrim), and wood, out of the way. Glasses are still made of high-quality gold-filled and silver coated metals, aluminum and others, but plastics are far and away, the most popular. Early plastics were gutta-percha, celluloid, and then nylon blends, acetate blends, and now widely used, strong and versatile, cellulose-acetate, we call zyl or zylonite. There are a lot of choices in modern frames.

Lenses are also made of modern space-age plastics, and not just glass anymore. Who can recall, a friend, with "Coke-bottle glasses" ??

 The American industry of fine eyewear developed after the Revolutionary War in the late 1790's because of British import embargoes. Hundreds of American eyeglass makers sprung up, and the US became a leader in quality glasses.

In 1853, Mr. Bausch and Mr. Lomb combined their talents and formed Bausch and Lomb, B&L became another American success, known and sold worldwide.

In 1869 the American Optical Company was founded and you know them as "AO's".

  And cateyes, we cannot forget Cateyes! The most popular frame of the 50s and 60s, was invented by Altina Schinasi in the late 1930s. She called them Harlequin, and fashion magazines dubbed them cat-eye eyeglasses.

Here is a pair of Tura cateyes, always famous for their innovative use of aluminum after WWII,

A slightly updated version of the black vintage classic eyeglasses with boxy square frames, shows a bit of the ol' cateye influence.

Cateye influenced, and oversized, these fashion forward 60s sunglasses had a neat springy hinge. It has gone kaput, but the glasses still work great and look fabulous!

NOW THESE!  So mod and cool, these are big squares for cool people.Vintage 60s sturdy black plastic frames are just waiting for that special face. 

How to Measure:
Width, between hinges: 5 inches, or thereabouts for an adult face. Then the lens width and heightWidth from tip to tip, and also the width of the nose bridge. An optician can adjust almost any pair of frames to fit you very well, if the frame is almost perfect on you. They can't take a large frame and make it small, or vice versa, but small adjustments are common.

You will often see a measurement like 22/46 or something, on vintage frames and that is an optician code for sizing. If your glasses have a code, and you like the fit, you can shop that way.
The code is in millimeters, with the meaning of the first number being the width of the nose bridge.  The second number is the width of the glass/plastic lens without the frame, at the smallest width.
Usually, you'll need 3 or 4 measurements.
You can measure your fave pair sunglasses  to start figuring out your size. Just remember, sunglasses are a bit bigger than corrective frames/lens combos.

The temples are the side pieces of the glasses frame that fit over your ears. Start that measurement from the hinge straight to the bottom end of the temple.  That's usually around 5 inches, but can be less or more. Once again, fashion changes a few things. There are no standards!

If your optician won't use your vintage frames, try a different business before you give up. Over the last 20 years as vintage frames have become more popular, many opticians will do it, as they have learned to be careful of vintage materials. Sometimes though, your chosen vintage frames just won't work for new lenses. Well, then, you have a fun pair of glasses. Try again to find a different optician. This reuse trend isn't going to go away, and more opticians will learn the tricks of the new and renew, eyeglasses trade.