Friday, August 31, 2012

Music to Chill By

Stressed out with the new school year? Work getting you down? Headlines making you want to pull your hair out and hide under the bed? There is nothing worse than being bald, stuck under a bed. Don't do it! I say you need an excuse to cut out early, mute the phone and go for a joyride with some relaxing tunes.
It's time for another installment of Laurie's Friday Playlist!
As usual, you can find all of these songs on iTunes, Amazon and most other MP3 sites. (What I really need is a Glimpses Playlist App! I'll put that on my to-do list...) Also, I tend toward musical multiple personality disorder and have no problem following electronica with Willie Nelson.
Ready? Okay! Today I bring you...
Laurie's Answer to a Chill Pill -- a Playlist for Stressful Times:
Let's start out with a nice mellow groove Love is Here to Stay performed by Harry Sweets Edison and his orchestra. It's my very favorite rendition of the oft-recorded song, and a timeless way to calm down and feel better about the world.
Nice, right? We'll keep the relaxing vibe with a great B-side from U2, circa 1985: Love Comes Tumbling. I actually met U2 in 1989 and tried to impress Bono by discussing the hidden messages in this song. He wasn't impressed. (Hint: there are no hidden messages in this song.) I love the trance progression and dreamlike quality and I just swear there is something subversive in those lyrics somewhere.
Feeling relaxed? Good. Let's move into another ethereal song. This is a cover of Kanye West's Stronger performed live on BBC Live Lounge by 30 Seconds to Mars. I still can't believe anyone turned a hip hop dance song into deep, space-rock anthem. You've just got to love the Led Zeppelin-like angst in Jared Leto's plaintive falsetto at the end.
Did someone mention Led Zeppelin? (Petrea Burchard, I'm looking at you.) Everything on Laurie's Playlist need not be obscure. There is nothing better than Ramble On for a Friday drive.
There now, aren't we feeling like our problems are about a zillion light years away? Stay with me as we revisit a 90s band I wish had not broken up. Here is Blue, by The Verve from my favorite of their albums: A Storm in Heaven.
While lingering in the 90s, I can't resist adding Inertia Creeps by Massive Attack from their pivotal album Mezzanine. I love the Middle Eastern beat and dark undercurrents of this track. (The entire album is a mindblower, including samples from artists like Isaac Hayes and Zeppelin.)
Let's have a little world beat with I Ka Barra by Habib Koité and Bamada. If you like Paul Simon's Graceland/Rhythm of the Saints period, you'll love this. (Incidentally, I discovered this track free in my Windows Vista music folder. Who knew Microsoft could be so hip?)
Moving from Senegal all the way to Latin America, I give you Louie Cruz Beltran performing Esperando. I first heard Beltran when he played last month at the South Pasadena Concert Series in Garfield Park. (I apologize for the short song sample on this link. Just trust me and download the entire song.)
Speaking of South Pasadena, Civilians by Joe Henry was recorded at the Garfield House in 2007. The album features guest musicians Loudon Wainwright III, Greg Leisz, Van Dyke Parks and another name South Pas locals recognize: Bill Frisell.
Let's finish up with our mellow mix with a song that is particularly special for Jon and me. (This one's for you, groom.) Nobody can feel blue or misunderstood or worked up with a song this hopeful. Here's I'll Be Your Mirror by The Velvet Underground featuring Nico.
Happy listening!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

South Pasadena Family Tree

Ever wonder about the history of the majestic Moreton Bay fig tree outside the South Pasadena Public Library? It certainly seems primordial -- like a remnant of our earth's distant past. Little Bit once said that she thought the tree surely must have been around when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Even though I could imagine generations of pterodactyls making nests in that beautiful tree, I knew it wasn't that ancient. But I was genuinely surprised when it was revealed last year that the tree is barely 100 years old.

For years, nobody knew the story behind the beloved tree. I've heard all kinds of rumors, though. One guy told me it had been a sacred worship spot for the Gabriolino/Tongva tribes. I always liked that idea, and could imagine remnants of pottery resting just underneath those gnarled roots.

But that guy was wrong.

I also heard that it was the tree chosen to gather and declare the incorporation of South Pasadena as an independent city. I liked that story, too. Can't you just see a bunch of Victorians celebrating their new town at the dawn of the 20th Century beneath those branches?

Nope. That story is completely wrong, too.

As it turns out, lifetime South Pasadena resident Bill Kloezeman cleared up the mystery last year. The tree was planted in 1930 by Bill's father Willem Garret Andries Kloezeman (also known as Bill) when South Pasadena's Carnegie Library was being moved from Diamond Street to the center of town. City Librarian Steve Fjeldsted wrote about it on the library website:

"Many years ago while driving around town, the elder Bill Kloezeman used to tell his son about all the work he’d done around town, including his planting of the Moreton Bay Fig. Another well-known project of Kloezeman was the annual placement of a lighted star on the top of the water storage tower atop Bilicke Hill in the Altos de Monterey.

At the time of the planting the Moreton Bay Fig was a young potted tree and about 6 inches in diameter. When he planted it, the senior Kloezeman was working for the City’s Street Department. Bill (Sr.) worked for the City of South Pasadena from 1926 until he retired in 1972, a remarkable stretch of more than 45 years. While working for the Street Department in the 20’s and 30’s, Kloezeman planted many other large trees in town that are still around as well. Later he also worked for the Fire Department in the 40’s and the Water Department in the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s, until he retired as a Water Service Foreman on January 15, 1972. Willem “Bill” Kloezeman passed away on September 7, 1981."

It might not have a history of pterodactyls, tribal rituals or city incorporation, but who cares? At merely 100 years young, that just means our beautiful fig tree will be around even longer for us to make more memories, and maybe even come up with a few more mysterious stories about it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Musings for a New School Year

It's back to school time. Most of South Pasadena's kids are putting their noses to the grindstone in SPUSD's public schools. Others are attending private progressive schools like Waverly, Waldorf and Sequoyah or the highly academic Polytechnic. Some are in charter schools. A few are homeschooling. A few are even unschooling. But each child is preparing for a future we all hope is bright, happy and prosperous.

There's a tendency to ask every young person the same question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Adults start in with this as soon as a kid starts crawling out of the crib and reaching for stuff.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" We ask when a kid reaches for a baseball. "Are you going to be a ball player?"

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" We ask when a kid reaches for a paintbrush. "Are you going to be an artist?"

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" We ask when a kid reaches for his dad's computer. "Are you going to be an engineer like your father?"

It's natural, I suppose. After all, each of us had to pick something to be at some point. But wouldn't it be nice if we didn't try to put our kids into neatly labeled boxes before they've even had a chance to reach for enough stuff to know what they really want?

The current public school educational model is built around one principal: teach to the standardized test. While this paradigm certainly evolved from the good intention of making sure all kids could read and write, it has devolved into a system that tries to cram kids with varying talents and capabilities into one-size-fits-all.

Don't get me wrong ... I know that there are many things that just have to be memorized. From multiplication tables to French verb conjugation, education involves the consumption and retention of a lot of facts. But with a focus on memorizing the "right" answer, we've forgotten about all the wonderful discussion and reasoning it takes to find that answer -- not to mention the beautiful dissent of alternative answers. Teaching to the test requires all kids to be at the same place on the same map at the same time. But if we all march in lockstep, following the same map, is there any room left for trailblazers? How about those who might uncover something remarkable by spending extra time before moving along?

We have, in a way, removed a lot of the stuff that our kids can reach for, so that when we ask what they want to be when they grow up, the answer has to fit within one of the four possible answers on the test form.

I remember when I was in second grade and I told my teacher that I wanted to be an actress, a writer, an astronaut, a ballerina, a veterinarian and the Queen of England when I grew up. I went to elementary school in the 1970s when the popular educational model stressed freethinking and an open classroom. My second grade teacher didn't steer me toward a more realistic, productive way of thinking when I told her my plans. Nope. She just clapped really loud and said, "Right on, Laurie!" Lucky for me, that was also an era when my expansive daydreaming was called "creative" instead of ADHD.

But as I got older I remember being worried that I wouldn't make the "right" choices for my future. The Violent Femmes summed up all four years of my high school angst with one line: "I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record!"

Our kids are getting this kind of stress earlier and earlier. I recently heard a group of parents talking about how they were worried that their kindergartners weren't being challenged enough by the academics at their school.

"My son should be reading at a first grade level," one dad said. "He's capable of it. I expect more."

I couldn't help but remember my own kindergarten, where my biggest challenges were nap time, the sand box and paste.

My drama teacher once asked me something that resonates with me to this day. She had lived through the Holocaust, traveled the world and seemed to have fit four or five lifetimes into one.

"It's not what you want to be that matters," she said. "The bigger question is who do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be yourself? Or do you want to be a character that someone else told you to be?"

Sometimes who we want to be involves switching the what around a few times to find the best fit. And those standardized tests don't always have the answers we want to choose. Sometimes the answer is "Other." Sometimes it's "None of the Above." Sometimes the answers change as the times change. After all, today's brilliant career choice is tomorrow's outdated job description.

When we get older and look back at our lives, we often realize that the test answers didn't give us our direction and purpose in life, anyway. What really mattered were our own questions we dreamed up while doodling in the margins.

Here's to a new school year.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cool Art

Want a great spot to escape the August heat? Head on over to San Marino to The Huntington Library and Art Collections. Last week I ducked out of the 100 degree blast and into the cool, comforting European Art gallery. (Gainsborough portraits! French marquetry pieces! Really icy air conditioning!!!)

Figurative art lovers, be sure to check out the latest exhibit of 16th and 17th century drawings: Royals, Courtiers, and Confidants: Early English Portrait Drawings on display until October 29th.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga

The Gold Line tracks sweeping underneath the Oaklawn bridge traverse the same terrain as a bygone Southern California railway. Posting this picture is a great excuse to link to a wonderful collection of photographs from an era when Los Angeles boasted the largest interurban electric passenger rail service in the entire world. Check out the Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society.

Friday, August 24, 2012

to look up at the second-floor balcony

He went back into his own apartment, sauntered in as if he weren't damning luck. If he'd bumped into her on his return from the box, he could have bungled at his doorway for the key, discovered which apartment she entered. He walked inside, slamming the door after him. It had been years since he'd seen a girl who could set him jumping. The redhead was it. He went out to the kitchen and although he didn't want a drink, he poured a double jigger of rye and drank it neat. The slug calmed him but he wandered back into the front room, wanting an excuse to slip out into the patio, to look up at the second-floor balcony.

--Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Exploring the Medium

Sometimes you really have to experience the artwork from a different perspective. This kid has the right idea ... literally joining the exhibit of botanical mobiles created by other children at this summer's SPACE Art Camp.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When a Staircase is More Than Just a Staircase...

"Mommy, I promise nobody will mind if I explore up there..."
"Sweetie, we have no business up there. People are working in offices up there and we have to go home."
"Maybe they want me to say hello."
"Saying hello is lovely, but we have to go now."
"Maybe somebody is really, really, REALLY having a bad day and they need a hug."
"That may be true, but we still have to go now."
"Mommy, I don't mean to be rude but I think you're being selfish. Don't you want to go help those people?"
"Help WHAT people???"
"The poor, sad people upstairs."
"Why do you think those people are poor and sad?"
"Okay. Maybe they're not poor and sad. Maybe they just have some really cool stuff up there and we're missing it. Mommy, we're missing it!"
I didn't move.
She didn't move either.
"Okay," she said. "I'll go with you because you said so. But I hope when I grow up I still have a sense of adventure."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Protest Picture

Ours is an age of high resolution, Photoshop and 16 megapixel cameras with automatic settings and high ISO noise reduction. We can preview, delete, edit, sharpen edges and correct noise. We can airbrush every single picture of ourselves we post in social media. We can even shoot a major motion picture on an iPhone, and edit it on an iPad.
Don't get me wrong, I love all this stuff. I'm a big techie geek and a voracious early adopter of most things digital. But, I'm beginning to wonder where the fun is in something that has become so easy. Even the free-spirited, shoot-from-the-hip lomography movement of a few years ago has transformed into a club with rules, and an excuse to overcharge for analog photography equipment. Anyway, with Instagram's ubiquitous hipster retro filters, everybody is a lomographer.
I recently saw a T-shirt that said "Digital Cameras are Democratic."
Far be it from me to be anti-democratic.
I guess I'm just suffering from high def overload. I don't always want my camera to correct my mistakes. I don't want to edit out all the blemishes of life. It's bad enough that magazine covers have begun turning women into digital robot people. My actual world isn't blemish-free and tack sharp. I'm also weary of artificial nostalgia approximated with Polaroid overlays and 10% added grain.
I guess I'm tired of pictures that are too controlled. Sometimes the best memories are the ones where we couldn't control anything and made mistakes.
So here's a big mistake. I don't even know what the subject in this picture was, much less how it ended up in my camera. It showed up in my photo file like a lovely little artistic poltergeist reminding me that an image is never reality, and it certainly isn't hyperreality. Sometimes it's just the representation of a feeling.
My feeling about this? Kinda like I just got away with something. A little rebellious. And what's a democracy without a few rebellions?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ordinary Place

"To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them."

--Elliot Erwitt

Friday, August 17, 2012

Arty Wench

Ever wish you could literally immerse yourself in art? Well, that's what I did at last month's South Pasadena Art Crawl. (See how I turned a goofy photo after a few glasses of wine into a truly highbrow endeavor? I'm good that way.)
Carnival Cut-Outs were scattered along the South Pas business district, giving South Pas art lovers a chance to "get into the picture." And, you know, we all kinda wish we could be in pictures. The Cut-Outs were conceived by Marie Miller and created by local artists as part of a collaborative project sponsored by our friends at SPACE and the South Pasadena Arts Council.
For a small city, South Pasadena has a ginormous collective of creative people.
SPACE is not only an incredible gallery, but it offers creative workshops for developing artists of all ages. (Little Bit just finished up a week of Art Camp there.) Find out more about the terrific programs at SPACE here.
South Pasadena Arts Council provides a great networking resource for local artists, writers, filmmakers, actors, set designers, singers, performance artists, photographers, directors and art patrons who want to make sure the arts thrive in South Pasadena. Find out how you can join us at SPARC here.
And you thought this post was going to be about drinking beer. (Well, the Orange Grove Park building was once a beer garden ... but that's another post.)
The things I do in the name of art.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Home Alley

If the South Pasadena Downtown Revitalization Project had not gotten hung up in litigation and a bad economy, our little town might have had a bowling alley to ride out summer's hottest days. Oh well, East Pasadena is an easy drive and that's where you can find 300 Pasadena. It's cool not only in terms of air conditioning but also because of the high-styling decor and dance-y tunes.

The sense of accomplishment I felt after bowling a strike was a good indication I should probably aim higher with my goals. Then again... nah. Set up another frame!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Carrot Noir

Whenever I drive through Monrovia, I can't help but smile as I think about the hard boiled novelist Raymond Chandler living there with his wife in a sweet little bungalow. (Yes, it's true. Chandler lived in Monrovia!) I always wondered what they cooked in that sunny kitchen while Philip Marlowe's dark fate waited on a blank sheet of paper in Chandler's typewriter? (Angel food cake, perhaps?)
Author and smart aleck Mark Crick gives us a better idea in his fantastic book Kafke's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes. All the recipes in Crick's book are delightful, but I am partial to the one included below. Okay, wise guys. Let's eat:
Lamb with Dill Sauce (à la Raymond Chandler) 1kg lean leg of lamb, cut into large chunks 1 onion, sliced 1 carrot, cut into sticks 1 tablespoon crushed dill seeds, or 3-4 sprigs fresh dill 1 bay leaf 12 peppercorns Half a teaspoon salt 850ml chicken stock 50g butter 1 tablespoon plain flour 1 egg yolk 3 tablespoons cream 2 teaspoons lemon juice I sipped on my whiskey sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim’s, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner’s handshake. I took out a knife and cut the lamb into pieces. Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved. I threw the lot into a pan with a bunch of dill stalks, a bay leaf, a handful of peppercorns and a pinch of salt. They had it coming to them, so I covered them with chicken stock and turned up the heat. I wanted them to boil slowly, just about as slowly as anything can boil. An hour and a half and a half-pint of bourbon later they weren’t so tough and neither was I. I separated the meat from the vegetables and covered it. The knife was still in my hand but I couldn’t hear any sirens. In this town the grease always rises to the top, so I strained the juice and skimmed off the fat. I added more water and put it back on the heat. It was time to deal with the butter and flour, so I mixed them together into a paste and added it to the stock. There wasn’t a whisk, so using my blackjack I beat out any lumps until the paste was smooth. It started to boil, so I let it simmer. I roughed up the egg yolk and cream and mixed in some of the hot sauce before putting the lot back into the pan. I put the squeeze on a lemon and it soon juiced. It was easy. It was much too easy, but I knew if I let the sauce boil the yolk was gonna scramble. By now I was ready to pour the sauce over the meat and serve, but I wasn’t hungry. The blonde hadn’t showed. She was smarter than I thought. I went outside to poison myself, with cigarettes and whisky.
--Mark Crick

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Things Left Behind

It's strange the things that mean something to you when your parents die.
Years ago, when my father passed away after a lingering decline, I thought I would want something to remind me of his many years as a swimmer and diver. One of his medals, maybe, or an old sweater with championship patches. The Diver, The Swimmer, The Coach -- these were my father's archetypes, the defining edges of his public portrait, the words most used to describe him in the many articles written about him during his life and in the eulogies and obituaries after he was gone.
But what ended up touching me the most as I went through his things was not an obvious symbol. Instead, I was moved by the articles he had written in his high school newspaper. Sure, he was Olympic-bound and fueled by his dreams of broken records and winning teams, but he was also a thoughtful, funny kid trying to make sense of a changing world which, in the late 1930s, was as murky as a pool that had not been cleaned all winter.
I guess I had never realized that my father was also a bit of a philosopher, a homespun good-guy poet with words to spare. By the time I came along three decades had passed. And by the time I was aware of him, he was just Dad. Much older, much more quiet and too busy working (he was The Coach, after all) to write more than mortgage checks and possibly the words to the Sunday crossword puzzle.
So, I kept those articles as a reminder of the father I didn't know: the person he left behind to become the one he needed to be to raise his family. Those articles connected me to that spark we share as human beings. The one that warms and inspires us when we are young. The one we often pass along like a relay torch to our children.
Something similar happened when my mother died a few months ago. I thought it would be her paintings that would mean the most to me. After all, she was an artist for most of my life. I remember her easel set up in the kitchen. It was something she could do while she cooked dinner, she told me. It didn't take away from her time being a wife and mom.
There was canvas after canvas of beautiful, impressionist images. Beaches, wildflowers and iconic Paris street scenes painted in a Texas kitchen by a woman who never traveled further east than Louisiana.
I love the artwork, but what really touched me as I sorted through her things was her old Yashica TLR camera. I remember when she started learning photography. I was in junior high and barely paid attention to what she cooked for dinner anymore. Her easel had been put away and, instead, she said she was going to learn to take pictures like a pro.
A pro, she said, was someone who had to spend more time than what could be done while she was in the kitchen.
She spent long hours in photography classes and even longer hours wandering around town looking for subjects -- and possibly herself. Her photos were similar to her paintings: full of romance, with soft edges. She captured a world in that camera that she wished she could live for herself -- an idealized, lovely world that didn't hurt, didn't age, and didn't let her down.
My mother tried on a few more creative hats after that -- writer, jazz singer -- but always with the same part time hobby spirit she gave to her paintings. Never again did I hear her talk about becoming a pro at anything. Never again did she really take time away from cooking dinner.
My sister shipped me that old camera the other day. As I held it, I not only remembered my own early photography training -- ironically, it was the exact same model I learned to shoot with in high school -- but I remembered my mother from long ago when she dared to expand her horizons through a viewfinder. She wasn't much older than I am now, and I think she hoped she could freeze time in that wonderful, black box. Or maybe make a new time for herself.
I can relate.
I think we don't really see our parents -- the whole of them -- until they are gone. Little by little, we piece together the parts that never made sense when we were children. The things we never noticed, or perhaps didn't care about, are often the ones that make the most sense when we are left behind, sorting through the remains.
I'm looking forward to shooting a roll of 120 film on Mom's old camera. Maybe I'll see the world like she did all those years ago. Maybe I'll find what she was looking for or, more likely, a piece of myself that I didn't even realize was missing. One thing is for sure: I'll probably be late for dinner.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Floor Show in the Sky

Sure, it's pretty, but this daytime moon has nothing on the 2012 Perseid meteor shower. The astronomical event kicked off Friday night but it expected to hit its peak tonight. In fact, NASA says it's supposed to be "the best meteor shower of the year."
Those NASA scientists aren't known for hyperbole, so I say we all look up and watch the show. Depending on sky conditions, we can expect to see 60-100 meteors an hour. Not only that, but the brightest planets Jupiter and Venus are lining up for a center stage position. We will even be able to see the red giant Alderbaron adding a touch of color. (How like a star to wear red to a black tie event...)
It's nice of the solar system to offer some nature-made fireworks after the recent excitement of the Mars rover Curiosity. (Honestly, after Curiosity landed the other night I think I heard the cheers from JPL all the way down here in South Pas!)
Go outside and look up tonight, everyone. If you can get out of the city you'll have a better view. Check out the Dark Sky Finder map for the best spot to avoid light pollution. Bring your smartphone and play Citizen Scientist: NASA wants your help counting meteors!
(With everyone looking up tonight, maybe someone will finally figure out what the heck is going on in the night sky above our neighbors in Studio City...)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

On Heatwaves, Bad News and Butterflies

I could post yet another photo of the flies that are buzzing around my kitchen. I could post a photo of the wilting hydrangeas, the backyard thermometer that tells me it's 105, or the patch of paint on the west wall of my house that is cracking from the onslaught of blazing August sun.
It's easy to zero in on what's wrong, even if it's just a small part of the overall picture. I'm not just talking about how it's easy to overlook months of heavenly weather and complain when we are sweating out a brief heatwave. It's also easy to focus on the latest scandal or tragedy as proof positive that things are desperately bad in the world and we're smack dab in the middle of impending disaster.
But what's the point?
My dad once said, "If you play outside enough, eventually you'll get caught in the rain. Who knows, you might even be unlucky enough to get struck by lightening. Just don't let the idea of getting zapped keep you inside."
My dad was one of those people who always looked for the grace in things. In fact, he would have made a great PR man with his ability to put a positive spin on any situation. I remember going to see him in the hospital, one of the many times he was in intensive care. He was hooked up to a dozen machines with electrodes on his chest, a tube in his nose, an IV in his arm and compression sleeves on both legs.
"How are ya, Dad?" I said.
He looked awful, and I felt scared, and the beepbeepbeep of his heart monitor made me think about life's undignified fragility, about inevitable endings and the seemingly random hands of Fate's card game.
"I'm great!" Dad said.
His voice was small and cracked but his big, booming spirit drowned out the mechanical beep and, in the absence of any Kings or Aces, he offered Fate a beautiful bluff.
"There's a ball game coming on the TV," he said, "and the nurse is smuggling in an extra piece of peach pie!"
I guess I'm just trying to say that we should place all things in context. We should enjoy the ball games and peach pies. And if we look past the kitchen flies, we might find a butterfly in the garden.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Look Up!

August skies are trying to get your attention.

(For the mother load of ethereal Arroyo Seco sky images, check out Shanna Galloway's blog View.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Daydreaming of Winter

Am I the only one who starts fantasizing about cold weather right about now? I don't mean shovel-the-snow-in-the-driveway, get-out-your-lambskin-gloves East Coast/Midwest cold weather. Please! This is Southern California!

I'm just ready for black tights, root vegetable stew, hot toddies, roasted marshmallows, down comforters and, for the love of heaven, no more flies in the house.

Anyone with me?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Still Life with Pepsi

I've been thinking a lot about finding new subjects to write about and shoot. Sure, part of it is because the people in my life literally run from me with talk-to-the-hand motions whenever they see me take off my camera lens cap. Also, after 4 years of daily photoblogging a city of only 3-odd square miles I worry that I might be running out of things to cover...
But it's more than that.
We live in an age that allows us to lay in bed and check out a Paris webcam from our iPad. We can digitally call up images of all the world's great landmarks, great artworks, great moments in photojournalism and enough YouTube cat videos to fill the National Film Archives. Photography tricks that once took decades to learn in a darkroom can now be replicated with an iPhone app. The complete works of Shakespeare, The Age of Reason and Grays Anatomy and can be downloaded to your Kindle in less time than it takes to walk over to a bookshelf.
There's a whole lot of big stuff to see, read and do, right at our fingertips. There's so much to see, in fact, that we're often buried in our smartphones instead of taking in the scenery around us. Although, to be fair, we're not always looking at great works of art or reading Shakespeare. There are all those cat videos, after all.
My point? Let's not forget about the little stuff around us. It's the little stuff around us that counts. It's always the little stuff around us that counts. In fact, I think that right after Socrates said "I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing," he backed it up with, "Hey! Look at the cool footprints I just left with my sandals!"
Or maybe I just read that on a blog somewhere.
I was sitting in my office the other day trying to figure out something big and important to write about. Then, I noticed my cup on the table. It's not worthy of mention on Mashable. It will never have its own webcam. It won't be included in a Century's Best Invention website and it doesn't even include a cat. But it's a nice grounding reminder of the little, insignificant wonder that is all around us.
There's no app for that.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Noir Moderne

“I wouldn't presume to define noir - if we could define it, we wouldn't need to use a French word for it - but it seems to me it's more a way of looking at the world than what one sees.”

― Lawrence Block

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Langham Huntington Pasadena

Sure, the Langham Huntington Pasadena is technically next door to South Pas, but it's close enough to feel like part of the neighborhood. Plus, exploring the grandeur of this early 20th Century hotel feels a little bit like going back in time to when South Pasadena's own Raymond Hotel was in its heyday. When you walk along the grounds of this gorgeous place, you can imagine what it was like back when Henry Huntington was his generation's big mover and shaker...

Then, you can come back to the 21st Century and take a digital photo of the cute baby ducks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


It's the first of the month, and that means Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. This month's theme is Numbers.
If you walk around the grounds of South Pasadena High School, you'll see these tiles embedded all over the place. For years I tried to figure out what they meant. Was the architect an obsessive compulsive who really needed to count? Were the numbers a reminder of South Pasadena students' reputation for great math skills? Did the entire sidewalk design come out of a big Tile By Numbers box? Was it a horrific reminder of the relentless, unending passage of time?!
Eventually, Mister Earl told me the numbers represented graduating classes of the high school, and that every year was (or would be) represented.
I like my obsessive compulsive story better. (All together now: one, two, three, four... ahhh. I feel better already.)
City Daily Photo is in the process of changing servers, so this month's collection of worldwide Theme Day posts can be found here. (Many thanks go to Julie of Sydney Eye for setting up the alternate blog for Theme Day posts.)