Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Buffy Sainte-Marie

My sentiments exactly!

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Or more like... oops! Rummaging through all of my mother's grandmother's and grandfather's stuff.... which means that I am looking at their great-great-great stuff. What is remarkable is that I had an opportunity to ask questions of three generations who was THAT? and why... but rarely did that conversation materialize. There are daguerreotypes of Civil War members on both sides. Or at least I am guessing.... Who were they?

THEN, I found a newspaper clipping of someone my grandmother used to talk about, Maytor McKinley. They were good friends. My grandmother made friends from on high to the little person on the corner with shards for shoes. If you left my grandmother somewhere to do something you would find her in a conversation most likely, with the least of us having a wonderful time.

Maytor H. McKinley was very rich. He owned a huge mortuary. The painting that I found that I thought was Pat Brown was McKinley. I did find Pat Brown's photos, though not of my grandfather's oil portrait of him. Sinatra supported Pat Brown and my grandfather was Sinatra's personal photographer for almost 10 years, so, of course there would be shots of Pat Brown.
Paul Conrad, 1970

But I found what was on the back of the clipping interesting, too. It is of a Conrad political cartoon of Reagan shouting with the ' hippies' "SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT DOWN!" How amazing. So the hipsters wanted the gov to shut down because of all of the corruption and Reagan wanted it shut down so that the rich could do what ever they wanted.... Isn't it amazing how two groups so different can have the same goal for different reasons? Which is more productive?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flying to Oklahoma

It's really not the flying that's bad - it's the business of flying, or the flying business, that messes with the enjoyment and the convenience and even the safety of flying.
So, I bought my ticket and then bought a two way ride on the airport shuttle via the internet. The shuttle was to come about 2 hours before take off. And as the time when the shuttle should have come, passed, I decided to call the company to find out where they were. The lady answered and asked my name and then, rattled off my address confirming I had paid for my trip to the airport.

I asked when the shuttle would arrive, she said that it was about a mile from my door and then walked away for 15 minutes. Then, I hung up and the called again but the man that answered, said I did not have a confirmed pick up... I said I did and to please find my name. He did, and said the driver said I was a no show and drove away. There went 27 dollars. After some time with a rush of high blood pressure, I found that the confirmation had my address wrong - instead of 71 they had a 17.... He said to get a taxi .... so, I did. That was an extra 60 dollars to get to the nearby airport. When I got there, the flight was delayed by two hours because of weather. This was a connecter route. Oklahoma has very few direct flights. SO I sat there.
Finally, the plane came in, and then, some folks got off and they started to load the cargo bay with luggage. They called us up and we dutifully stood in line while they called over the PA for folks to volunteer to not get on the flight. A few folks did, but if I did, I would miss my connector to Oklahoma and would be stranded in Denver.... where all the weather was.

When I finally got on board someone behind me said they needed folks to get off because ... wait for it... THE PLANE WAS TOO HEAVY!!! The decision... fuel vs passengers... usually is done while making the plane and then before booking the plane.... This is what airlines must do all of the time, but this four seat across bird was maybe half full. What in hell was wrong? Then as we pulled away from the building, the stewardess said that the air conditioner was broken but not to worry.... "at 2500 feet it's really cool up there!" WHAT!?? Just as we pointed our noses toward the runway under the intense heat of 100+ outside, the pilot said the tower said all of Denver was closed and we would not be allowed up for at least another 1/2 to and hour. I got my things, and walked up to the cockpit and said, "I need to get off." When I looked behind me a number of other passengers were doing the same thing.

The United Airlines gal at the counter gave me a ticket for a one way shot to OK if I could get to LAX from where I was, BUR. I walked to the Economy Rent a car and that would have cost 50 bucks. So, I crossed the street to the shuttle and they got me someone who would take me to LAX for.... 26 dollars.

I got to LAX and on the plane to Oklahoma, but the seats were TINY! and TWISTED! You could not site straight because the seat by the window was leaning in toward the cabin because it was not attached horizontally. It hurt my back just to sit.

While I was writhing, I saw the weather pass by. Lots of lightening.

I prefer the train. It's much more civilized.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back at Petropavlovsk from Uzon

Russ is back at the town of Petropavlosk downloading pictures of his trip and sampling. He has not been able to shower for two days because the hot water is broken. So, he says, he has the table at the coffee shop all to himself.

Go to his photo stream and blog to read and see where he went and what he did...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Water comes and goes in a wetland in California

Putting out traps for an insect study at Mugu can be a challenge if the area is inundated with the tides. One site this year I will only set sticky traps while the other sites I set drop traps (85% water, 14 +% ethanol, a couple of squeezes of Dawn dish soap). Diptera is the group that is found in most abundance. Hemitera in some places is second, but Hymenoptera is usually the second most abundant insect Family with Chalcids, Halictidae sometimes Apidae making the second group very challenging to identify. I have been looking at the insects of Mugu since 2001 and somehow I collect something that stumps and surprises me - which is wonderful!

Every time I walk out in the marsh I feel great peace. The birds, like this little Plover which was running around the clumps of algae in the collecting pools, mostly try to ignore me if I am not too close. As the algae dies and dries it turns white. All of the little horn snails, Cerithidea, and the crabs make clicking noises in the mud. The soft breezes and the distant waves are sweet.

As the water evaporates in low tide, the smallest particles at the top of the mud bank dry faster then the heavier sediment, and start shrink and crack. The water in the mud below is exposed to the air and starts to dry too puling away and cracking along the same lines. There are fungal rings that grow as the water recedes - though not in this picture - like the flower rings in vernal or ephemeral pools.

When I walk in these area I sink sometimes up to my knees. But the little birds, like the plover above, leave tracks on top. But if you look at the bottom picture, a stilt left its footprints and its middle long toe continued to crack beyond the impression. For just a second, when I saw the tracks, 'reptile' jumped to my mind... until I looked closer.... Mugu does not have reptiles THAT big....

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Back at Mugu!

Cicindela gabbi! So, pretty! It has taken up residence in the Central Basin of the Estuary of Mugu. There were many larvae burrows so next year the place will be jumpin'... that is unless the plovers feast on them!
There is something magical about the wetland. The birds, so many of them, call to each other and at each other. Some places I get yelled at because I am too close to nests or feeding grounds. As the sun sets the seed pods glow with the back light.
Fungus in concert with algae produce incredible colors. The blacks are really black and the green puts your eyes in a twitch!
It's almost like going to the moon - no, Mars.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Russ in Vladivostok on his way to the Volcanoes in Kamchatka!

This is the view from his room in Vladivostok...

You can follow his exploits on his blog and twitter....

Internet and phone service is poor in Russia, and what is there is very expensive.

Russell in Seoul skipping across River!

You can get a feeling for the size and scope of the water body. Russ was impressed with Seoul. He said it was like China but cleaner and kept up. He said he would definitely return to explore more.

Here is the mid town River.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Who was my grandfather?

Over on the right side of my blog is a link to my grandfather's work presented by a Hollywood television and movie archive. Since my mom's death, I have been going over mountains of photos and letters and notes and drawings from my family. My immediate family was not very big - I was an only child and so were my mother and grandmother. My grandfather had two brothers and only the oldest had children (2) that lived to have children.

I had on an earlier occasion, posted an image and a post of my grandfather's studio - which was 'stolen' by an unscrupulous partner who changed and altered documents putting himself as owner and removing my grandfather. We nearly lost everything but somehow kept our house and car. My parents and I lived with my grandparents and who knows, under the stress of it all may have contributed to my parents divorce. We were hungry, and if not for a wonderful Greek man, Nick, who had a hamburger stand around the corner from my grandfather's studio, and who fed us just about everyday, we would have really suffered. At this point in time, my mom was 22 - 23 my father was 24 - 25 my grandfather was 41 - 42 and my grandmother was 42 - 43..... and I was 2 - 3.
My father helped my grandfather rebuild the building on Argyle. That's he with the jack hammer.

My grandfather is hoisting the block of cement into trailer.
And in the end, my grandfather taught my father how to really work with his hands and that was my father's trade from then on - construction. He was a black jack dealer in Vegas for a number of years. It was easy to do if you had a photographic memory. However, before he died, we was a forman for Los Angeles Airport's retro-fit in the 1980's.

But here is my grandfather who was younger then my father in the last image (Ted was a father at 19), trying to make a living as an artist. He had quite a sense of humor. And, I think I have spotted a theme in much of his work ....

The overriding passion of my grandfather was his art - photography and painting. Though, he created more photographs then paintings, he had the opportunity to paint portraits of some very famous people... idealizing them. His photographs were carefully lit and retouched creating an image of perfection or just plain better then life. Here is California's 31 Attorney General, Jerry Brown's father, Edmund G. (Pat) Brown. This portrait was started before he had become Governor. (Edit: this is not Pat Brown, but rather....)

My grandfather bought the best example of a 'fixer-upper.' His studio was truly a disaster. My grandfather and my father re-built the building from below the ground and up. My mom used to take me to the studio and one memory exists. One tantrum my mom took me into the bathroom ("silence on the set") and I cried so loud my mother was beside herself stuffing what ever food in my mouth. I don't recall crying. I just remember being very scared of the flushing toilets in that building.
So this is the before shot (above) and below is the after.
Ted did television programs and radio and stills. The photo on the bottom was probably shot of Ted when he was at CBS just as television was beginning.
This final shot for this story was of Ted testing taking pictures of himself on a trampoline before asking Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. to jump up and down. Crazy! Perhaps I will publish the 'Boys' jumping in Sergeants 3.
As I said there was a theme to his life.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Must find happy, or at least, interesting things

So, I am writing a grant to do a study. I am putting together my family's lives in museum grade folders and boxes... sorting through their photographs and personal letters. I am finishing my paintings left for too long on the easels. I am taking care of two more cats (my mother's) and another set of houses (thank you Eddie, for all your help). And I miss my mother and her parents terribly.

I sort of feel like the fly (Drosophila sp.) in the video. - I have been swallowed up by a ton of stuff. I mean, I was just minding my own business when ...... WUMPH! I am gone! This is the larvae of a Cicindela trifasciata sigmoidea.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Holly is gone

They called me yesterday saying that she was breathing heavily and that she had pneumonia. This was her fourth time in one and three-quarters months that she had developed this condition - usually from aspiration. At the nursing home, her first day last Saturday, she started pulling at her oxygen tube, "... don't care don't care..." I could not see myself doing anything like that to her. I put it back on and she acquiesced. She had pulled her feeding tube out at least four times in the hospital. The first week of her hospitalization, she looked at her arm with the two vein 'pic' lines (tubes going up the inside of her arm and into her deep large vein) she said, to me, "take these off, help me up and take me out of here." Then, the second week she started going downhill. She had been in the hospital for so many weeks.

This last Tuesday afternoon, early, before I set out to go to the nursing home, the doctor called to tell me that he was shocked to see her in such a condition. So thin. So weak. "Do you understand her condition?" he asked me. I could rattle off what she was like before April 4, when she had this devastating stroke. And I could tell him all of the moments and doctor decisions that lead her to atrophied muscles lying in bed until that day... "No. Do you understand how she is. Do you understand palliative care?" "I know of hospice type care," I said. "No. Palliative care is a subset of Hospice care. In your mother's condition we are talking about quality of life. ... We can take the tubes out and give her some pain medication." "I would like for her to not have pain and to not have fear" I said, "but I have trouble taking out her tube feeding. She may look like she is not there but, some times she is..."

I was troubled by the doctor's jump to tell me this without meeting me. This was a Kaiser facility. I could not see myself giving the orders to essentially kill my mother. I knew she hated the tubes and being in these beds, having people wash her, and poking needles in her. But she was my mother.

SO, yesterday they called me and I came down to look at her breathing hard. She was heaving hard, trying to breath. Even with the tank oxygen going in her lungs she was gurgling and her eyes were slits staring no where in particular. I called the doctor and said "ok" And then he said, "You made the humane decision..." I had to go outside and look at the mountains, the sky, some tree somewhere. But the nursing facility was a horrid place - depressing. Cinder block and beige. The parking lot faced a Ukrainian Church and the rest of the community were of parked cars and dumpy little houses and lots of trash in the gutter - this was Hollywood.

I went back in and just held her hand and looked into her eyes and asked, "Can you see me?" The doctor was late and I listened and watched her. "I love you, Little Girl." Many times in my life my mother seemed like my little sister. I stayed there and holding her hand, smoothing her hair, watching her chest heave until she got too tired to breath. She had a pain in her chest, she winced, and then lost the color in her face. The nurse came in and I said, "She is gone."

I was thankful I did not make her decision for her.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Little fragile people

My little mom had a stroke on Easter Sunday. She had been weak and not taking good care of herself for a few years. In November, 2009, when I was preparing to go to Cuba, she finally agreed to have someone come and cook for her and take care of her for a few hours and days a week. That was a hard bargain to make with her!

In 2006 - the last time I had to put her in the hospital, after her hospital stay, she did not want to live closer to me. She did not want help. She wanted to be alone. And she did not want to do much of anything except to watch TV. In 2006, I called her (I call her everyday) and when she spoke, she slurred her words. I asked her if she had been drinking enough water and she said, no. I thought she sounded so bad was because dehydration is very serious for older people in hot summer days... But, maybe, she had a stroke then. She never really recovered her strength to walk well.

This time, April 4, she called me in the morning to say she thought she was having a stroke. I drove to her house and called the paramedics to meet me at her house. They carried her down the 43 steps so that I could take her to the hospital... My mom's car has been sitting with dust and leaves since 2006 - I turn it over now and then - even drive it a bit. I suggested that she not drive in 2006 because her reflexes were so slow... I thought maybe I could take my mom to an open parking lot somewhere, like parents do to teach their kids to drive... to see if she could drive it... but that never happened. "Nice car" said one of the paramedics. "It only has 9k miles" my mom said, "but my daughter won't let me drive it!" They looked at me and smiled.

When we got to hospital she could still move her arm and leg and could talk. But, the next morning, she had a full blown stroke and lost the function of her right side. She now has a hard time speaking. And she hates the feeding tube (she aspirated her food and developed pneumonia the first week) and has pulled it out several times.

Last week she has asked me to take her home... "Let's get out of here!" "I am going to get up!" "Take these (the tubes and sensors on and in her arm) OUT!" Then last Monday she looked at her right arm that was swollen from edema "Oh my!...." I think something dawned on her that something was wrong. I noticed that she used her left arm exclusively but never looked at her right arm. Then, yesterday the nurse asked her if she could lift or move her right arm. "YES!" The arm did not move. She did not realize it did not move. Then the nurse pinched her arm and she said "OUCH!" That is a good sign that she might get function back. Her right leg did move when the nurse asked her to move it. that, too, is a good sign.

My mom has spent the time from 2006 to now basically watching TV. When I visit her, her eyes do no meet mine when we... no, when I talk. TV captures her time.

Yesterday, the TV was on to a regular program rather then the pretty nature photos offered by the hospital. The nurse asked her to look at her when she spoke to her.... "What year is it?" "2010" "Good!" "What month is it?" "..uh..." eyes back to the TV "...uh.." The nurse said, "Look at me. It is April." "Where are you?" "...uh...' eyes wandered toward the TV.... "I don't know" "You are in the hospital. Do you know why?" asked the nurse. "No!" She looked at me. "You had a stroke." said the nurse.

The pretty pictures allowed my mom to converse with the nursing staff and me. The programs took her attention away and she did not talk or look at people. Talking and connecting is important for her recovery.

Poor little people....

Friday, April 02, 2010

Herding Cats - That is what it is like pulling folks together

.... Pullin' folks together to do something like cleaning a River....
This is one of my favorite spots....


Monday, March 22, 2010

What the San Gabriel Mountains Look like w/out Buildings

This image was stitched and smoothed (sky only) from 6 photos taken on the top of the ridge of the Whittier Narrows Dam. The sky was breathtaking. Most of the buildings and the cities that fill the Valley from the Natural Area to the Foothills were obscured by the vegetation in the Natural Area and in the Flood Zone (Liquefaction Zone) of the Whittier Narrows.

This is where I was standing... on top of the dam which has been paved for bicycles....

See that Edison tower in the middle of the picture? .... I was to the right of it... The street is Rosemeade Boulevard (19).

This is what it looks like after a rain INSIDE of the dam..... (sure is a good thing there is a Dam there.... because... well, I will show you in a bit...)

There is a whole community RIGHT UNDERNEATH THE DAM!
If anything should compromise the Dam these people would be in danger.

Route 19 is where I was standing when I took the panorama shot. The Whittier Narrows Dam is what is between a lot of people and their homes and their families AND a lot of water.

Better, that the Flood Plain not be tampered with, don't ya think?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Whittier Narrows Trash Bolus - the Dam of the Forgotten River

Ed Barajas is the 'birder' who has documented the Federally Endangered birds in the Whittier Narrows. He has been documenting when the birds come in and when they nest and when they leave, for 10 years. The Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation which is part of the Los Angeles County Public Works collects Ed's work for their records of the Endangered animals in their jurisdiction. It is also the County's job to clean up the trash.

This years rain brought more then the usual trash - it brought tons of plastic and balls. It has filled the area behind the Whittier Narrows Dam - as usual, but his year it has spilled over the dam and into San Gabriel River where people boat and fish.

The Whittier Narrows Dam next to the Whittier Narrows Nature Center is halfway down the San Gabriel River - between the mountains and the ocean.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Visited Russ last week... They loves my shoes.

We drove up to Davis in Russ's car. Going over the 5 Freeway in the Tahachapis Grapevine there was lots of fog.... no, water vapor coming up from the ground. The last few weeks of rain turns to mists and low clouds when the sun warms the soil. The brown hints are from the suspended dirt from the Valley below.

At Russ's apartment I met his cats. Very cute. They loved my shoes and found that my toes without socks had the same flavor. To each their own, I say.

They wanted to show how much fun it was to play in the new boxes and tubes Russ puts in the living room....
They do love Russ very much and they have such sweet temperaments. But, they do want to sleep in all of the places he wants to sit.

When I went home on the train I did some work and then fell asleep.... only to be awakened by something.... seemed like... it was someone saying how beautiful the scenery was...

After all the "oooooos" and "aahhhhhs" and the train rounded the corner... we had a wonderful view of the San Luis Obispo Men's Colony or, Federal Prison. And right next door was the sanitation treatment plant. We could view them both from above.

Don't get me wrong. The prison offers many things to help the men get back to normal after they finish their time. And, the treatment plant is very important. It was just such a contrast. However, about an hour or so before, we went past an area I did find depressing... Housing developments crushed together on plots of once fertile farmland. The homes were on sale for 150K but were first going for 350K over two years ago. There was a TargetCoscoHomeDespotChickenThing monster retail mess and parking lot about 10 miles away. No trains. No busses could be seen. Just lonesome highways connecting the islands of houses perched in an area without real services....

CSPAN.... ???? I can't believe my eyes!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow makes ALL the difference!

After the hard rain storm two week ago, I drove down to Whittier Narrows to see how things were doing at the Dam. There was water up to the Dam and much was diverted. But, as I was inspecting things, I noticed what surrounded me to the north - mountains of snow.

I love snow. However, I love it somewhere I can look at a distance and where I do not have to wear snow shoes. And I know that that snow is melting into the aquifer for me, my neighbors, and mostly the wild outdoors.

So this is what it looked like. I pieced the images together and did not try to make it look like I shot it with my grandfather's Widelux

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sometimes, things take longer to finish

Okokokokokok! YES! Some things just take longer then I expect them to take. But then again... I think they are better for the extra time. And, I started another painting - it's on the floor beneath the burned trees....

I can hear my grandfather tell me that I should not over work a painting... something he confessed was his 'issue'. He used to ask me whether I thought what I did was an illustration or a 'painting'? There is a difference.

An illustration does NOT hold the same exalted position as a painting. Illustrations contain mostly a singular purpose - to illustrate something that someone has said or written or, to sell something. A painting is more because it must capture more then a photograph ever can, and should have meaning beyond what you first see. And most importantly, a painting must be something that you would like to wake up to in the morning - every morning - and perhaps see something new each day. Can you imagine?

To paint is to do something - as far as my grandfather was concerned - special. And, that not only should it last, visually, but it should move people, emotionally. So, with that haunting my brain, I have not finished these to pieces.... BUT, I think I am close!

It is taking me FOREVER to capture what I see in the water of the estuaries of California. The diatom cover and mixture of algae and fungus - sounds like fun, HUH!? - I think it is getting there... I keep looking at it and seeing more that I should do... I want this piece to say something about all the estuaries I have visited here... sigh. And I have a few insects to add and some fish that tolerate brackish water, just under the surface. The salicornia needs some purple for the time of year, too.

The burned trees are coming along. They are scary in a way. The grasses below them are all non-natives and in the real world, are a problem of our forests that have roads - we bring the seeds of weeds where ever we go. To see this actual spot up in the San Gabriel Mountains of these burned trees is startling. It is a tough image to begin with let alone to make this work more the just an illustration.

The one artist my grandfather felt was capable of painting a painting in a medium other then the 'royal medium' of oil, was Adrew Wyeth. I agree with my grandfather on this point(we had our differences and discussions). Wyeth's most beautiful work was done in tempera. I think I could look at his paintings forever and see more every day.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Fructose = obesity + diabetes + fatty liver

This is a 'must see' video on the biochemistry of fructose on the body. As Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology points out, fructose is a toxin and is metabolized just like ethanol (which is a toxin) but you don't get the buzz. What you end up with... after eating thousands of meals with high amounts of high fructose corn syrup .... is high blood pressure, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease.... and weight gain.