Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So here's my most sincere wish for the new year: may it bring comfort and joy to those who suffer. May we see an end to so much senseless war and bloodshed. And as far as resolutions go... don't worry about a few extra pounds or a disorganized office. Instead, may we strive together as a world community to bring peace and prosperity within the reach of all families.
We'll take a cup of kindness yet.
Happy New Year, everybody.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I'd love to hear what this song sounds like. (It would be named "Huntington Drive.")
Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
But tell me (those of you who love to put on your secret filmmaker hats and play these little Hollywood games,) if this were a setting in a movie, what would happen here?
(I still seem to have the classic automobile fairy looking out for me: check out the great old cars parked in the shot!)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I just love the little Christmas tree in the park next to Meridian Iron Works building, just below the Mission Station platform. Sure, there are bigger, flashier trees ... but this one is just right, tucked into a little corner of South Pas. It brings to mind my very favorite Christmas poem, written by (my very favorite poet) ee cummings:
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I shipped the last of my holiday packages tonight -- with a spectacular view from the parking lot. I know the tradition calls for snow and icicles but I sure love Southern California's winter wonderland.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The Bronze Age archaeological sites Newgrange in Ireland and Stonehenge in Britain were carefully designed to align with the solstice sunrise and sunset points. Throughout human history, this event has marked the point where the sun reverses ebbing and is, in effect, reborn. New life, new beginnings, new hope... these are the hallmarks of midwinter, and people have been celebrating variations on this theme as long as there have been hearth fires to gather around.
From celebrating the reemergence of Amaterasu the sun goddess in 7th Century Japan to the ancient Slavonic 10-day festival of Koleda; from Soyalangwul, the traditional winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and Hopi Indians to Burning the Clocks, the fairly recent tradition in modern Brighton -- this time of year is has been revered in amazingly similar ways by just about everyone who has ever graced this planet. My personal favorite has to be Saturnalia -- the outrageous Roman midwinter celebration that was an ancient combination of Burning Man, Mardi Gras and a Grateful Dead concert. During this week-long festival, men and women exchanged clothes, slaves and masters played role-reversal, and enough social mores were happily abandoned to cause even Caligula to try and limit the celebration to five days.
Today, Wiccans and other neo-pagans honor this day as Yule, while last night Iranians celebrated Yalda -- a Zoroastrian festival commemorating the longest night of the year. Tonight, at sundown, the first day of Hanukkah begins with the traditional lighting of the first menorah candle. Next week the seven day celebration of African heritage known as Kwanzaa will commence with the lighting of the kinara. And, of course, there is Christmas -- the Superbowl of all midwinter celebrations, and the biggest birthday party in the known world.
Whether your midwinter feast includes latkes, yalda watermelon or fruitcake -- happy midwinter, everyone. Bless'd be, Shalom Aleichem and God bless us, everyone!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
While I love the yuletide season's vivacious front with all the ho ho ho-ing and spiked nog and shiny new toys ... what speaks to me is the yearning behind it. When I noticed this scene the other night, I thought it symbolized every holiday homecoming that finds you at the same time lost and found, changed and same, happy and sad. And it reminded me of one of my favorite poignant Christmas songs by Walter Kent and Kim Gannon. It has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Dianna Krall, but I always think of the particularly wistful rendition by Johnny Mathis.
I'm dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do.
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you...
I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me.
Please have snow, and mistletoe,
And presents on the tree.
Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas,
If only in my dreams.
Friday, December 19, 2008
(For a few more recent snowy mountain images from around the San Gabriel Valley, check out my overflow blog Glancing About. )
Thursday, December 18, 2008
But on second thought, Orson Welles lurking in a Santa costume is an idea that Gregg Toland could have totally wrapped his lens around...
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Day is pretty straightforward in its narrative, but Night always feels like a deep breath of possibility. Sure, it's the stuff of nightmares and fog, unknown footsteps and deserted streets. But it also has all that moonlight and cricket song and those wonderfully dim streetlamps that cast such long, pretty shadows. Plus, no ringing phones or appointments -- and the kids are asleep. (Usually.)
Night is melancholy... but also hopeful. And that's one of my favorite combinations.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
UPDATE: Looks like some of his friends regret leaving Southern California...
Monday, December 15, 2008
This one is tough and I'm feeling rather silly. How about:
Archaeologists believe they may have discovered the remains of an ancient temple of the Goddess of San Gabriel Valley Topiary.
Nah, that's not quite right. Anyone else have a better caption?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I often hear long-time residents complaining about the traffic on Huntington. I just don't get it because I've never seen any real traffic on it. Go to Pico or Olympic on the west side at any time between the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM where gridlock is the norm and the driver behind you will lean on the horn if you don't manage to roll into the intersection .05 second before the light changes. Now that's traffic! But I know... it's all relative.
Oddly, this driving dream is named after heir to the Southern Pacific Railway fortune, Henry Huntington who introduced the Pacific Electric Railway as a vehicle for developing the fertile landscape surrounding Los Angeles. The railway stretched east into the San Gabriel Valley, hugging the hills directly south of the San Gabriel Mountains. When the mighty car began to eclipse the humble train, more areas of track were converted to roads and divided highways. By 1953, most of Pacific Electric track had been replaced with bus routes.
Here's a quick snap on Huntington at sunset yesterday. It's always fun to try and capture the magic hour moment as the sky blasts you with technicolor tricks before suddenly fading into the muted grays of twilight. I think I was a fraction of a second late, here, and I was shooting with low megapixels to squeeze more shots out of a full memory card. But isn't it pretty?
Okay, for all of you who have emailed me concerned that I might be shooting pictures while driving, please understand that I pull over and park at the curb to take all road pictures. The only exception is the tunnel shot where I actually stopped on the late night empty road and shot out the drivers side window with my hazards on. I've shot pics from the passenger side while my hubby drives, but I'm not idiotic enough to try drive-and-shoot tactics. Plus, I'm an overprotective mom whose little one is almost always strapped in the car seat during the day. So... you can all rest easy that the streets of South Pas are safe...
Now, carry on!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
South Pasadena is famous for its historic homes, many built before 1930. They stand side by side under heritage trees, lining the uncomplicated and perfectly orderly street grid.
But don't think for a minute that you have the whole picture.
Forget the river rock and pitched roof lines below -- the hills of South Pasadena are filled with classic examples of mid-century modern through postmodern 1970s architecture. Post and beam? Check. Rambling ranch? Check. Chalet-style? Check. Wooden tree-house style homes with huge picture windows and terrifyingly spindly poles holding up wrap around decks? Check! Near the water tower, you'll find eclectic little houses clinging to steep slopes and nestled along hairpin curves. This one certainly grabbed my attention. A pea-green mod with a pink plastic Christmas tree? Yeah, baby!
You can still feel the free-spirited optimism of the era in which these homes were built -- and with spectacular views around every curve, it's hard not to be in a good mood.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
As Jimmy Stewart said, "Merry Christmas movie house!"
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The sun has long been set,
The stars are out by twos and threes,
The little birds are piping yet
Among the bushes and trees;
There's a cuckoo,
and one or two thrushes,
And a far-off wind that rushes,
And a sound of water that gushes,
And the cuckoo's sovereign cry
Fills all the hollow of the sky.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
And it makes me happy every time I pass by.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I might never have noticed this sidewalk entrance to the apartments at 1616 Fair Oaks during the day ... but look at the enchanting way it glows in the night. (Nice bit of San Gabriel Valley topiary, too!)
1616 has such a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I'm sure there's a great short story here. Or a love song. Or TV series about time travel. Or a poem about flowers and curving steps and math...
Or maybe it's just a nifty address with a lovely entryway.
Friday, December 5, 2008
But even that is nothing compared to the way things used to be. Our home, like many in our neighborhood, was built in 1900. Laundry for the original owners was far more involved than anything we've ever known. First of all, forget hubby tossing in a load of whites. Victorian wives were expected to not only launder but often make all clothing worn by the family. Laundry had to be soaked, rinsed, boiled, stirred, bleached or blued, starched, wrung out, hung up and then ironed (with an actual iron that had to be retrieved from the fire.) Water often had to be fetched from wells and carried back home. If the water was too hard, it had to be boiled with wood ashes -- or Borax -- before being used.
And soap? Think of this next time you lug a box of Tide from the store. Most Victorian women had to make their own lye soap and use it to scrub soiled items on a washboard. For tough stains? Kerosene. Bleach? Try salt and lemon juice. And sometimes human urine. (I couldn't make this stuff up.) After scrubbing, laundry was then agitated by hand with a "dolly" -- a cute name for a long stick with some wooden pegs on the end that women used to stir, poke, jiggle and otherwise beat the heck out of whatever they were trying to get clean.
No wonder every cookbook had a recipe for absinthe and laudanum was sold over the counter!
Starch was a necessity of Victorian life in an age where wrinkles and limp collars were a sign of a slovenly character. Starch, of course, was made at home. Victorian housekeeping manuals are filled with various instructions on how to make the "best" starch -- wheat? Potato shavings? Sugar? Rice water? Take your pick -- but you had to pick something because only the most unkempt homemaker would neglect this important aspect of clothing maintenance.
After starching, the homemaker commenced to hanging all clothes to dry on outdoor clotheslines. (Hopefully, the above activities could be completed before mid morning as to maximize the sunlight. Victorians wore a lot of velvets -- and velvets not only took forever to dry, but they also tended to grow mold quite easily if left damp for too long.) After the laundry dried, the lady of the house moved on to the ironing -- with not one but many various implements set upon the stove top or into the coal fire. General irons, fluting irons for pleats, "mushroom" irons for puffy sleeves, "tally" irons for bows and strings and flat irons for sheets and pillowcases. (Yup, a proper Victorian lady had to starch and iron those, too.)
And all of this was accomplished while wearing corsets that limited normal respiration by up to 70%.
Needless to say, while I enjoy my home's architecture, and its vintage light fixtures, doorknobs, wood floors, picture rails, wooden built-ins and wavy-glass sash windows... I have no desire to journey back to the year it was built. And if my washer or dryer ends up on the fritz, this retro laundromat will certainly do in a pinch!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
So what does a brutal murder have to do with our fair city? Steve Hodel -- a police investigator with 24 years experience -- believes he has finally uncovered the elusive killer: a South Pasadena High School graduate, and (get this) his very own father! You can read all about the library's event here, and watch a local news story about it here.
Moving from real life crime to mystery fiction, The South Pasadena Library's next Author's Night is on January 22, at 7:00PM and features the Edgar Award-winning author of the fantastic Mas Arai mystery series, Naomi Hirahara -- who just happens to be another South Pasadena High School graduate. Prior to Ms. Hirahara's program, renowned jazz master (and South Pasadena resident) Elliott Caine will perform a freewheeling set of “Blue Note” style jazz. No tickets or reservations are necessary, and the entire community is invited to attend.
Thanks to our fabulously cool City Librarian Steve Fjeldsted for keeping me updated on all the famous -- and infamous -- goings on at our wonderful library ... and for not thinking I'm terribly weird for creeping around the place in the dark.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
It's a little too perfect...
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Now, if you could reclaim any wonderful old toy, what would it be?
Monday, December 1, 2008
I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
Where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in...
Okay, so you won't find nodding violets or sweet musk-roses here, but you might just dance with delight after a yummy meal in this bistro's cozy, comfortable setting. Which brings me full circle -- and how apropos, given the current theme. I don't know the history of this lovely quilt, but it always captures my attention. Although it's a traditional textile, it's also quirky and magical and eclectic. (Kinda like South Pasadena.)
Be sure to circle around the other City Daily Photobloggers, and have a look at the many creative and diverse images from all over the world.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Okay, everyone. It's been a while since we've played this game but I can't resist with props like these.
Go ahead and channel your inner Fellini and tell me: if this were a scene for a movie, what would happen here?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
There is so much to be grateful for today ... Thanksgiving groceries, the rain, the photogenic sky, the sweet joy of family, the ability to wax rhapsodic, or to complain, the tenacity of progress, the fact that humor almost always trumps melancholia, the sheer enormity of human potential and capacity for charity, the unwavering truth that light follows darkness and the knowledge that no matter how scary or uncertain life is -- it's also silly and stubborn and rooted in grace.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. The glass is most definitely half full. And after the rain, maybe even a little more than half.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
(Actually, after the intense fires recently, rain is considered a potentially dramatic event. )
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Which is why I love night photography. Unencumbered by something as limiting as biology, the camera sees nightscapes in a wholly different way. I think the camera captures night the way it looks in dreams. I don't recall this corner of Mission and Fair Oaks being quite this magical when I actually shot this picture. Or, maybe it was ... and I just needed the camera to reveal it to me.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I still haven't managed to really capture the soul of this place in any of my pictures of it. But I keep trying...
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Lately, our shock-value media takes a grim and alarmist view of the world -- nattering daily about the burgeoning economic disaster like a sadistic doctor yelling, "this is going to REALLY HURT! And I mean REALLY REALLY BAD!!!" as he preps a patient for unavoidable surgery. How I wish for more wise and even-keeled journalists like Alistair Cooke, an Englishman who spent a lifetime reporting on the American experience. He was once described as a modern day Alexis de Tocqueville -- an outsider whose unique perspective offered insight into our nation's psyche.
"In the best of times," Cooke said decades ago, (when another era's people faced another disaster,) "our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the 1st place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby."
Or to toss stuffed animals in the air with a multicolored parachute. Life is good. (And when you get right down to it, happiness really isn't that expensive.)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
But sometimes I guess you have to see through the actual subject down to the beauty of the message. Photographs are like that too, right? Sure, on the surface this is just an ordinary picture of the McDonald's drive through on Fair Oaks... but aren't those primary colors beautiful in the morning light?
Art, success, reality ... I think the definitions are open to interpretation. It's all in how you look at things.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I love Southern California!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wine Styles is dedicated to offering unique labels and hard to find wines at low prices. (Most bottle here are under $25.) Although Wine Styles feels like a one-of-a-kind boutique, it's actually part of a chain. The first Wine Styles opened in Coral Springs, Florida back in 2002, founded on the idea that wine shouldn't be the sole domain of snooty Frazier types -- that it should be brought down to earth and made more affordable and more fun. The company evolved into a network of 150 individually owned stores in 24 states, Puerto Rico and Mexico. I put this in the category of Whole Foods or Trader Joes -- all started out as neighborhood shops whose products and services were so good they ended up going nationwide.
In addition to the impressive number of unusual blends and classic varietals, Wine Styles also specializes in wine-related goodies and gadgets as well as fully customizable gift baskets. Shopping is easy for those of us who don't pour over copies of Wine Spectator -- here, taste "styles" are clearly marked -- are you feeling fruity or mellow? Bold or silky? Wine tasting and wine classes are also available.
(Here's a date night made easy: after you select your bottle, pick up a great movie at Videotheque -- it's right next door!)
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I know, I know... a lot of this is just a viral advertising scheme to get everyone who bought an expensive Canon digital SLR to throw down more bucks for a weird, low-tech camera. But let's take away the marketing tricks and just look at the idea...
Don't think, just shoot. Don't think, just shoot again. Forget setting up a frame or manipulating the light. Don't think, just shoot. Somewhere in this lighthearted approach you might discover wonderful little details of everyday life (sometimes literally) right under your feet.
Like here, for instance. Why had I never noticed the abstract beauty of the train tracks crossing Mission at Meridian in the late afternoon?
(Hat tip to my fellow Los Angeles photoblogger Kevin at The Jimsonweed Gazette for the inspiration to think -- and shoot -- outside the box.)
Monday, November 17, 2008
No offense to this old beauty but I'm glad we've made progress in fighting fires.
Today, area firefighters continue their grueling and heroic work as much of Southern California burns. The fires extend over 34 square miles since breaking out on Thursday -- from Los Angeles County to the east in Riverside and Orange counties, and northwest in Santa Barbara County. Over 1000 homes have been destroyed, and more residents are being asked to evacuate despite calming winds.
The Pasadena Marathon was canceled due to poor air quality -- but "poor" doesn't begin to describe it. The nearby San Gabriel Mountain range that usually provides Pasadena and South Pas with such a beautiful backdrop was rendered invisible by a veil of thick smoke and ash. This is the first time in the 20 years I've lived in Los Angeles that the air was actually too bad to stay outside.
The Los Angeles Red Cross is already assisting victims, and Goodwill Southern California is coordinating donations of food, clothing, and other necessities. Meanwhile, we all watch, and worry, and wait, and hope for no wind and lots of rain.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
All those advanced 21st Century solutions coming from a great old building that looks like the setting for an atomic age Twilight Zone episode or a film noir confrontation between Fred MacMurray and Barbra Stanwyck? I love it! The old Day-Ray sign is my favorite in South Pas ... well, maybe second favorite right after the wonderful neon sign for Gus's BBQ. (Incidentally, Gus's is right up the street from Day-Ray.) Even the name Day-Ray is right out of a Philip K. Dick version of the future.
Retro meets high tech... things like this make my inner nerd very happy.
Friday, November 14, 2008
What lingered in my mind as I drove away was something Gandhi said: "If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children."
I must say, this is the most beautiful back parking lot I've ever seen. If you turn down the street between the high school and the church, you can't miss it. It's a stunning evening view ... this mural on one side of the road, and this glowing column on the other.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It must be true... because I can't remember the cross street here on Oak where I snapped this picture. (Idle details...)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Several great local restaurants are owned and operated by the same family -- the quaint French bakery-inspired Wild Thyme (just down the street from Shakers,) Pasadena's sophisticated Central Park Cafe, Beckham --the cozy English pub and grill (also in Pasadena) and fifties-themed Diner on Main in Alhambra. Each is a local favorite, but none quite compete with the flat-out comfort and coolness of Shakers. Not poseur cool -- you know, like the kind of hipster nouveau diners that have a juke box turned into an aquarium, pop art retro advertising lithographs and a drink menu that includes a "Bogart Martini." I'm talking authentic cool. At Shakers, you half expect Dean Moriarty to walk in and sit down at the counter.
The food is yummy and affordable, the coffee is strong and the kid's menu comes with crayons and a coloring page. Come hungry, savor a meal of good, old fashioned favorites and be sure to take home a loaf of the famous zucchini bread.