July 31, 2008

Like Father, Like Sunset

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — geoff @ 9:02 pm


Good morning and welcome to our final blog for July 2008. This month has flown by faster than John McCain flip flops on economic issues. Anyway, during the summertime here on Monterey Bay the skies are usually bankrupt of the clouds needed for our world-class sunrises and sunsets. I actually had not taken any sunset shots this summer until this past Monday evening when out of nowhere, clouds appeared in the western sky. Before you could say, “Let’s drill for oil off the coast” I headed down to Natural Bridges for a light changing experience.

As you can see from the first few photos, the sky was not hurting for clouds. At this point I was just amazed because summer sunsets come around as often as I praise the Bush administration. But it was cloud central as along the coast the gulls were screaming, the cormorants were clustering and the pelicans were flying in formation . But the most fascinating part of this evening extravaganza was when the sky started to change color, almost out of nowhere the whole sky filled with clouds, (photo #3) with an texture I had rarely seen. Overall, just a spectacular display of color and pageantry along the edge of the continent.

One quick news item. Our good friends at Exxon Mobil just reported a record profit over the last quarter (3 months) of $12 billion dollars. In laymen’s terms, that’s $90,000 a minute, or $1,500 a second, which is actually not much compared to over the $3,000 a second we spend in Iraq. Anyway, congratulation, oil boys. You deserve it. While American motorists spend their paycheck at the pump, you guys can go out and party. I guess oil is fair in love and war.

So Sunrise Santa Cruz is going on hiatus from the blogging business for a couple of weeks while I head over to Sunset Beach for some papaya therapy, macadamia nut meditation and trade winds analysis. Throw in some 80 degree water temperature on the North Shore and I’m a happy camper. When I return, we’ll see show you some shots of this tropical paradise in the middle of the South Pacific.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard from a lot of you out there in cyber space. I would love to hear your thoughts on the blog, the baseball races or life in general. You know, reach out, connect. Get in touch. Check in. You know the drill. Until then, enjoy the summer sky, your good health and we’ll catch you around the 18th of August. Aloha, mahalo and Derek Jeter rocks. Later, Olympic fans.

July 29, 2008

Kools And The Gang

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 8:59 pm


Good morning and welcome to the place where sunrises feel at home. On today’s menu we will be featuring a montage of dawn delights from the skies over Palm Desert, California. I journey there once or twice a year for a little rest and relaxation (let’s just say I’ve seen veals more active) and bring my Canon Digital Rebel for some photo fun. This is the true desert, just how Moses first saw it. Palm trees, waterfalls, flowers blooming year round, mountains that change color throughout the day topped off by long green fairways. Ah, the natural beauty of the desert.

And the desert it is smoking hot, which brings us to today’s subject. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found a smoking gun. They claim that tobacco companies deliberately changed the menthol levels in cigarettes depending upon who they were marketing them to – lower levels for young smokers who preferred the milder brands and higher levels to “lock in lifelong adult smokers.” The researchers reviewed industry documents dating back decades on product development and on strategic plans for menthol products. It’s your basic let’s hook em while they’re young.

The study says the tobacco companies researched how controlling menthol levels could increase sales among specific groups. Milder brands with lower menthol levels appealed to younger smokers. The milder products were then marketed to young consumers as the minty flavor would be more appealing to the younger lungs. Virginia Slims had a slogan back in 1968. “You’ve come a long way, baby.” This ad campaign was directed at young women. Within the next two years smoking among girls ages 12 and up increased over 110%.

One document from R.J. Reynolds noted that all three major menthol brands “built their franchise with YAS (younger adult smokers) … using a low-menthol product strategy. However, as smokers acclimate to menthol, their demand for menthol increases over time.” So it’s a menthol health issue. In 1962 Winston’s cigarette “spokespersons” were the Flintstones as they were sponsored by Winston at that time. After Wilma became pregnant though, the Flintstones was sponsored by Welch’s Grape Juice. Is it just me, or did Pebbles look an awful lot like Barney Rubble?

In 1987, R.J. Reynolds marketed low-level menthol varieties to persuade consumers to switch from regular brands and to recruit new, young smokers, noting: “First-time smoker reaction is generally negative. … Initial negatives can be alleviated with a low level of menthol.” Either that or just start them off with chocolate cigarettes and they can just practice blowing chocolate smoke rings.

The researchers concluded that Philip-Morris USA used a two-pronged strategy to increase Marlboro’s share in the menthol market by targeting young adults and older smokers. Marlboro Milds were introduced nationally in 2000 and became popular among young smokers. Then there were the Marlboro Extra Milds for the extra young smoker. The entry of that product coincided with an increase in the menthol level of the regular Marlboro Menthol brand intended for older smokers. The milds were responsible for almost 80 percent of the company’s menthol-category growth that year. Makes me want to grab my lighter at head out to Marlboro country.

Speaking of Marlboro, there have been many “Marlboro Men.” In 1992 “Marlboro Man” Wayne McLaren, who was dying of lung cancer, made an appearance at the Phillip Morris annual shareholder’s meeting to ask the company to voluntarily limit its advertising. Phillip Morris Chairman Michael Miles responded “We are certainly sorry to hear about your medical problems. Without knowing your medical history, I don’t think I can comment further.” The longtime “Marlboro Man” died three months later. Another “Marlboro Man,” David McLean died of lung cancer in 1995. Which begs the question, where are the Marlboro women?

“For decades, the tobacco industry has carefully manipulated menthol content not only to lure youth but also to lock in lifelong adult customers,” said Howard Koh, a co-author of the paper. William Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest tobacco company, said the study’s conclusions are not supported by the facts cited. One 1944 print ad for Philip Morris cigarettes claimed that “When smokers changed to Philip Morris, every case of nose or throat irritation–due to smoking–either cleared up completely or definitely improved.” How dare they call them “cancer sticks.”

“At our company, our marketing goal is to find ways to effectively and responsibly connect brands with adults who smoke,” Phelps said. “Those brands are designed to meet the diverse preferences of adults who smoke. What we disagree with are the authors’ conclusion that menthol levels were manipulated to gain market share among adolescents.” I say don’t let those wacky warning labels about cancer and emphysema ruin your day. Light up and leave me alone. In 1934, Camel cigarette ads advised you to “Smoke as many as you want. They never get on your nerves.”

Greg Connolly, one of the report’s co-authors, said the tobacco industry was careful not to talk about adolescents in the documents he reviewed, mostly from the ’80s and ’90s. “They talk about young smokers. For me, that’s just a euphemism for going after adolescent, first-time smokers,” Connolly said. An excess of 400 million cigarettes are smoked in the United States each year. This would translate into more than 23 million gallons of nicotine. What a pretty sight that would be.

Congress is considering legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco. And while the bill would ban fruit and candy flavorings, it would allow the continued sale of menthol-flavored brands. The advocates are pressing for an amendment to ban menthol. Brands marketed as menthol cigarettes make up about 27 percent of the U.S. cigarette market. While overall cigarette sales have declined, sales of menthol cigarettes have been stable in recent years. What I love about menthol is the mint like flavor that improves the perceived taste and lessens the impact of nicotine’s bitter flavor and scent. Maybe that’s why smokers of menthol cigarettes find it harder to quit. Personally, I’d rather fight than switch.

That’s our dog and pony show for today. Coming up on Friday we are going to switch gears and go to the evening skies as an outstanding sunset blew into town Monday night. So enjoy the desert rises, the last week of July and the warm summer days. Later, USA fans.

July 27, 2008

C’mon, Lets’s Go, The Coast Is Clear

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — geoff @ 9:16 pm


Good morning and greeting, July fans. Ah, the good old summertime when the days are long, the nights are warm and the Yankees are back in the pennant race. Growing up in newest of Jerseys, fireflies would make their appearance on summer nights, lighting up the skies with nature’s wonderment. In California all I see are mosquitoes with tiny flashlights. It’s just not the same.

We just returned from a weekend visiting my favorite middle brother and his family in Marin County. The ride along Highway 1, or the Great Pacific Highway and over the Golden Gate Bridge was as lovely as a Venus Williams’ passing shot. The cloudless blue skies gave the Pacific Ocean a turquoise-aqua kind of look and that works for me because I’m an Aqua Velva man. My daughter remarked it looked like Hawaii with kelp. Usually on this merry ride north we will at least see some fog as we hit the Sunset District of San Francisco but Saturday was smooth sailing. The 45 minute ride up the coast from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay definitely ranks as one of the beautiful in California. Not Big Sur beautiful but close.

The return trip was a little different because as soon as we hopped on Highway 101 in Marin we could see a fog bank the size of Haystacks Calhoun. As we crossed San Francisco’s most famous landmark the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see the second tower of the Golden Gate until it was right upon us. The fog and gray skies stayed with us all the way down the coast till we hit Waddell Creek and the Santa Cruz county line. Then all of a sudden, before you could say. “What happened to Phil ‘We’ve become a nation of whiners’ Graham,” the skies opened up and it was sunny and blue the rest of the way. The weather around this great country of ours is so diverse, and today I got a little reminder of the magic.

Moving along, before Sunrise Santa Cruz goes on hiatus for a couple of weeks, we are once again going back to the basics and featuring a week of sunrises. Today’s is from a storming Monday from a few December’s back where the skies were dark and the waves were huge (photo #3) as the swell battered the coastline as daylight hit the beach. I called this series “Blue Thunder” as the Allman Brothers beat me to “Stormy Monday.”

That’s all she wrote for today. On Wednesday we’ll journey down to southern California and show you some color in the desert sky. We’ll also discuss a smoking hot topic so stay tuned to this cyber station. So enjoy the sky, enjoy the day and we’ll catch you on the rebound. Later, Olympic softball fans.

July 24, 2008

Here’s The Scoop On The Hoop


Good morning, beach lovers. When a old friend flew into town back in May, despite the fact that she’s a Red Sox fan I decided to show her a few of the tasty treats on the north coast. One place I thought she’d like is Hole in the Wall Beach.   And in case you’re  wondering where the name comes from, just check out the first photo. When you come down the steep path from the parking area you are greeted by Panther Beach to the right and this massive arch.   This truly amazing sight is less than ten minutes from Santa Cruz and one of the hidden wonders of the north coast.

Hole in the Wall offers a beautiful wind-swept beach, towering cliffs and spectacular rock formations (photo #4.) This jewel along the coast is only accessible at low tide and has more natural beauty than a Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest. Nature has gone wild with sea stars (photo #5) of every race, creed and color and tide pools packed full of sea anemones (photo #6.) This is a place you definitely want to visit.  Bring and friend and a camera.

It’s also a great place to toss around a frisbee. And speaking of toys, it’s hard to believe in the age of iPhones, Xbox 360s and educational video games like Grand Theft Auto, that the Hula Hoop once was the hippest toy around. That’s right, boys and girls. All the hoopla began 50 years ago when entrepreneurs Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin sought a trademark for a plastic cylinder based on a similar toy that had enjoyed modest success in Australia’s school yards. Before long, the Hula Hoop had more hips swiveling than Elvis Presley on amphetamines.

Wham-O Inc. sold more than 100 million Hula Hoops at a suggested retail price of $1.98 apiece after just a year on the U.S. market. In the words of Bob Barker, “the price was definitely right.” “It became a real piece of Americana,” says toy historian Tim Walsh, whose book about Wham-O is scheduled to be published in October. Just like baseball, apple pie and cigarettes.

The Hula Hoop became so ubiquitous that the former Soviet Union banned the toy as a symbol of the “emptiness of American culture.” In response, the United States banned borscht as a symbol of ” a really weird colored soup” and forbid Americans from playing Russian roulette.

Not long after that, the Hula Hoop became a glaring example of the toy industry’s now familiar boom-and-bust cycles. Almost as quickly as they became a household staple, millions of Hula Hoops began collecting cobwebs in garages, closets and malt shops across the country. “The Hula Hoop was the grandaddy of all fads,” says Chris Guirlinger, Wham-O’s vice president of marketing and licensing. This was followed by Pet Rocks, the Chia Pets and voting Republican.

Like a Brett Favre pass in the NFC Championship Game, Hula Hoop’s downward spiral nearly ruined Wham-O, which had increased production to satisfy the once-frenzied demand for the toy. Fortunately, the company had developed another offbeat toy – a flying disc called the Frisbee – that took off just as Hula Hoop sales plummeted.  I could be wrong, but I believe this Frisbee thing is starting to catch on-no pun intended.

Saddled with a glut of unwanted Hula Hoops, Wham-O stopped manufacturing the toy until 1965, when Knerr and Melin came up with a new twist: They inserted ball bearings in the cylinder to make a “shoosh” sound. That helped revive interest in the Hula Hoop, which still makes money for Wham-O. Ironically, I threw out one of these “shooshers” two nights ago as it had snapped. As a youngster I had a Hula Hoop. I loved putting backspin on it so when I would throw it out it would come spinning back to me. That’s unconditional love between a boy and a piece of plastic.

Wham-O has had other iconic toys like the Superball, Slip ‘N Slide and the Make Your Own Diet Pizza Oven, but none of them came close to enthralling kids like the Hula Hoop once did. But the Hula Hoop might be poised for another spurt in popularity. It’s one of the activities featured in a new Nintendo Wii video game promoting physical fitness. Sadly, at this point in life, I prefer hula dancers to hula hoops.

That will do it for another week in the blog land.  Coming up on Monday we’ll return to the color in the sky.  So enjoy the Hole in the Wall, have a great summer weekend and we’ll catch you on the offensive side of the line.  Aloha, Yankee fans.

July 22, 2008

I Just Met A Girl Named Korea

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:17 pm


Good morning and greetings, weather fans. Today we are going to go back to my roots. No, I’m not talking my blonde-haired days as a young child growing up in New Jersey but rather what inspired me to create this site-shooting spectacular sunrises over the Pacific Ocean. And today I’ve got a fabulous one for you. This early morning magnificence is from a few years back in late November. As you can see from photo #5, my dog Summer also enjoyed the experience and insisted I call this shot “Golden Dreams.” I’m so fond of photo #3 that I’m using in this year’s calendar for Open Studios. One word describes this morning-epic!

Over the next week or so I’ll be hitting the archives and showcasing a few more feature presentations from Lighthouse Point, starring Dawn Skies, Its Beach and a cast of waves that have traveled thousands of miles to appear in these moments. So stayed tuned because the color and the drama of Santa Cruz’s world class sunrises are coming your way.

Speaking of magical moments, good news for those of you planning that dream vacation in North Korea. This much talked about country, located to the north of the DMZ, is home to a phantom hotel that is stirring back to life. Once dubbed by Esquire magazine as “the worst building in the history of mankind,” the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel is back under construction after a 16-year lull in the capital of one of the world’s most reclusive and destitute countries. They’re literally starving for tourists.

According to foreign residents in Pyongyang, North Korea, Egypt’s Orascom group has recently begun refurbishing the top floors of the three-sided pyramid-shaped hotel whose frame dominates the Pyongyang skyline the same way I used to dominate Mr. Universe contests. The firm has put glass panels into the concrete shell and installed telecommunications antennas, even though the North forbids its citizens to own mobile phones, ham radios or Batman decoder rings.

The hotel consists of three wings, a couple of thighs and a drumstick, rising at 75 degree angles capped by several floors arranged in rings that are supposed to hold five revolving restaurants, an observation deck and a miniature golf course. A building crane has for years sat unused at the top of the 3,000-room hotel in a city where tourists are only occasionally allowed to visit but are forbidden to buy souvenirs, post cards and infants.

“It is not a beautiful design. It carries little iconic or monumental significance, but (much like myself) is a sheer muscular and massive presence,” said Lee Sang Jun, a professor of architecture at Yonsei University in Seoul. The communist North started construction in 1987, in a possible fit of jealousy at South Korea, which was about to host the 1988 Summer Olympics. They apparently wanted to show off to the world the success of its rapidly developing economy and its many different recipes for braising short ribs.

A concrete shell built by North Korean architects emerged over the next few years. This proud country put a likeness of the hotel on postage stamps and packs of baseball cards and boasted about the structure in official media. According to intelligence sources, then North Korean leader Kim Il-sung saw the hotel as a symbol of his big dreams for the state he founded, while his son and current leader Kim Jong-il was a driving force in its construction and choice of movies in the hotel’s pay-per-view.

Speaking of Kim Jong-il, or as he likes to be referred to as, the “Dear Leader,” I find something very charming about a diminutive (5’2″,) platform shoe wearing, bouffant hair-styled dictator whose draconian economic policies have caused the starvation of MILLIONS of his people. He is also the commander of the 4th largest standing army in the world and major film buff who is a lover of fast cars, gourmet foods and fine liquors, which are tough to procure north of the 38th Parallel. The Korean people worship this little Napoleon like he is God, but we all know there’s only one God and that was Michael Jordan.

By 1992, work on this non-Holiday Inn was halted. The North’s main benefactor, the Soviet Union had dissolved a year earlier and funding for the hotel had vanished like the San Francisco Giant’s hope for a pennant this year. For a time, the North airbrushed images of the Ryugyong Hotel and centerfolds from photographs. As the North’s economy took a deeper turn for the worse in the 1990s the empty shell became a symbol of the country’s failure, earning nicknames “Hotel of Doom,” “Phantom Hotel” and “Hotel California.”

Yonsei’s Lee, Sara Lee, Bruce Lee and other architects said there were questions raised about whether the hotel was structurally sound and a few believed completing the structure could cause it to collapse. It would cost up to $2 billion to finish the Ryugyong Hotel and make it safe for room service, according to estimates in South Korean media. That is equivalent to about 10 percent of the North’s annual economic output or what a washed-up Shaq earns per season.

Bruno Giberti (no relation,) associate head of California Polytechnic State University’s Department of Architecture, said the project was typical of what has been produced recently in many cities trying to show their emerging wealth by constructing gigantic edifices that were not related in scale to anything else around them. “If this is the worst building in the world, the runners up are in Las Vegas, Shanghai and Fort Lee, New Jersey,” said Giberti.

So if you’re looking for a place to rest your head in North Korea, I hope today’s post has been helpful. I’d like to welcome some new people to today’s blog who I met on Sunday at the Art, er, Wind on the Wharf festival. So enjoy my second favorite Santa Cruz sunrise, these waning days of July and we’ll catch you on Friday. Aloha, summer league fans.

July 17, 2008

Things Go Better With Coca

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — geoff @ 9:43 pm


Good morning, music lovers. Today we head over to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, the site of Sunday’s Art On The Wharf Festival. I shot this series of photos back in June, as I never ceased to be amazed by sea lions in their “rafting” formation. The up close and personal shots are from the boat landing where you can walk up and be within a few feet of those barking beauties. The one thing you can’t experience through these images are the sounds of snorting and breathing as the lions of the sea relax in the bay. And it’s one of those things that one, or perhaps two can only experience at the edge of the continent.

On Wednesday we spilled the mustard about a hot dog war that is raging in the U.S. On another battle front, the U.S. has been waging a “war on drugs” for decades and here’s a news flash, we aren’t winning. In a recent United Nations study, it was reported that Colombian peasants devoted 27 percent more land to growing coca last year. The U.N called the increase “a surprise and a shock” given the intense efforts to eradicate cocaine’s raw ingredient. When President Bush was asked for his reaction, he said it was more of “shock and awe.” The thirst for the cold, crisp taste of coca knows no season.

The good new is that the estimated cocaine production increased only slightly in Colombia and other Andean nations to about 994 metric tons in 2007 from 984 metric tons the year before as cultivation has shifted to smaller, less-productive plots in more remote locations. Coca is on the highway to anywhere and always good to the last drop. I’m just glad they reported in under 1,000 metric tons. And by the way, who is venturing deep into jungles of guerilla territory and counting all this tonnage? The accounting firm of Whitney Houston and Robert Downey Jr.?

The net increase in 7Up and coca farmland came despite record U.S.-backed eradication efforts that disrupted the growing cycle, says General Oscar Naranjo, the chief of Colombia’s police. “These young crops are less productive, both in the number of leaves and in terms of the potency of the leaf.” Coca farmers in remote locations can’t get chemicals needed to process the leaves as easily and complain that it is really difficult to get any decent food to go. Coca is that ice cold sunshine and pure as sunlight.

Still, coca farmers are aggressively tearing down forests to make way for crops and laboratories, and the young plants will eventually produce much more coca if eradication efforts don’t keep up. So what they’re saying is no matter how much money and poison we spray on this country there’s really no way to stop the coca. Coca is the pause that refreshes.

“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” said Antonio Maria Costa, director of the U.N. Office on Drugs, Crime and Soft Drinks. Coca is around the corner from anywhere. You can’t beat the feeling.

In all, 382 square miles of coca cultivation were found in Colombia last year, up from 301 square miles in 2006. Total cultivation in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – the world’s three principal sources of coca – grew 16 percent to 181,600 hectares, or 701 square miles. Coca adds life and what you want is a coca.

Costa noted in his statement that “just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents, Frito banditos and real estate agents.” It’s Red, White and Blue You and good till the last drop.

Farmers are quickly replanting and minimizing the damage from aerial spraying by planting herbicide-resistant hybrids and coating plants with cane juice, said Bruce Bagley, an international studies professor at the University of Miami. “Areas that have been sprayed have then been brought back into production,” Bagley said. “It’s time for aerial spraying to give way to other programs.” I say, have a coca and a smile.

Washington has spent more than $5 billion to help Colombia combat its long-running insurgency and the world’s largest cocaine industry. That’s because it’s the real thing. About 80 percent goes to the military and 20 percent to social efforts to wean farmers off coca. If I read Professor Bagley’s analysis, the eradication program in Colombia has been a complete failure. Opium production is at an all-time record high in Afghanistan. Coca is the best friend thirst ever had.

Let me sum up the situation with a slogan from 1939. Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca Cola. I know I do. Enough said. Because of Art on the Wharf, no blog on Monday, but coming up on Wednesday, we’ll show you some colors you’re going to want to tell your friends about. So enjoy the sea lions, have a fabulous weekend and I hope to see you on Sunday. Aloha, cola fans.

July 15, 2008

Franks For The Memories


Good morning and greetings, baseball fans. In the two previous blogs we’ve gone back to my days of shooting with film at 11. Today we will return there for one final time, but instead of viewing the horizontal highlights, we’ll be exploring the vertical vortexes of my photographic mind.

We start off along West Cliff Drive at Swift Street with some double rainbow action before moving down to Lighthouse Point for a shot I took in the late 70′s of the white water smashing up against the cliff. These were the days before fences, surf museums and the internet. Next it’s another West Cliff classic as on this morning I somehow mistimed the sunset but caught the sun rising up with these glorious clouds in the sky.

Next it’s out to Palm Desert for another sunrise delight and then it’s back to Lighthouse Point. This is actually an early digital shot but I liked the reflection and the verticality for this montage. We then head to Stockton Avenue for the sunset cruise as the group of cormorants flew by on their way to Happy Hour at the Crow’s Nest. You know what they say, birds will be birds.

I’ve written about the war in Iraq and our escalating and deadly conflict in Afghanistan. Well, there’s another battle going on with much at steak. America’s two largest hot dog makers are waging a wiener war, hoping to win over customers and secure the No. 1 spot atop the stagnating frankfurter market. The latest round in the long-running feud comes as Kraft Foods Inc.’s Oscar Mayer brand gives its signature hot dog a perm and a makeover aimed at stealing momentum from Sara Lee Corporation’s Ball Park Franks. To quote Laker Coach Phil Jackson from this year’s NBA Finals, “Momentum is a strange girl.”

Kraft hopes its reformulation, a massive promotional campaign and free relish will attract new customers with a zestier, meatier recipe for its all-beef dog. “Consumers are continuing to look for higher flavors, beefier, juicier hot dogs and we saw that as an opportunity to grow that portion of our business,” said Sean Marks, the top dog in the marketing department for Oscar Mayer. Both suburban Chicago food manufacturers claim the designation as the nation’s top hot dog brand, based on separate readings of market research, sales data and mustard connoiseurs. Hot dog consumption, at least among adults and pro athletes, has hit its lowest level since the mid-1980s. What a bunner.

About 956 million packages of hot dogs were sold to U.S. retailers in the past year. That’s on top of the estimated 30 million hot dogs that Major League Baseball fans down each season at the nation’s ballparks along with droves of garlic fries. And with grocery sales of about $2 billion last year hot dogs are far from being discounted. And here’s a number for you stat fans. 48 percent of American children aged 18 and under will eat at least one hot dog in the next two weeks. A few might even open a book.

Kraft, the world’s second-largest food company, is also spending the summer promoting its line of snack-sized hot dogs by sending its new “Mini Weinermobile” on a nationwide marketing tour along side the full-scale model. Funny, my salivary glands did not react to that last sentence. Meanwhile, Sara Lee is touting its angus beef franks, turkey franks, whole-grain buns and fluffy pound cake that it announced back in May. As I’ve sung in the shower many a time, “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.” But in reality, “Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener. That is what I truly like to be. ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer weiner. Everyone would be in love with me.”

Now that we’ve knocked off the main course, here’s some desert news. Americans last year spent $12.4 billion on ice cream, frozen yogurt, creamsicles, fudgicles, flying saucers, push-up pops and similar products in 2007. Though it may sound like a lot, the ice cream market is barely growing as sales rose just 1.8 percent between 2006 and 2007. What growth the industry is seeing comes from two contradictory trends. Increased demand for “decadent” products like ice cream with candy or other goodies mixed in and also for the healthier ice cream like the lower-fat slow churned kind. Yeah, you’ve got to love that slow churned double fudge brownie. Toss in a box of chocolate chocolate Haagen Daz bars and I’m climbing the stairway to sugar heaven.

That’s our Wednesday edition of Food for Thought. I hope you a caught a little bit of the all-star game last night from Yankee Stadium. My childhood home in New Jersey was just 20 minutes from “The House that Ruth Built” in the Bronx and going to the stadium was always a thrill. Bucky Dent, ‘Louisiana Lighting” Ron Guidry, Goose Goosage, Mickey Rivers, going to Yankee games was always a religious experience. Sort of like a bar mitzvah followed by a Hells Angels’ brunch. So enjoy the vertical colors, these summer days and we’ll catch you on Friday. Aloha, Derek Jeter fans.

July 13, 2008

No Guns, No Hits, No Errors


Good morning and greetings, Guns N Roses fans. Today we are once again going “old school,” back to the days before digital photography became my best friend. It has become the pleasant obsession that is constantly on call in my cerebellum. Or to put it in simpler terms, in the words of the Doobie Brothers, “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.” Or as the Army recruiters like to say about being a landscape and nature photographer, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”

For today’s photo journey we’ll start by heading north to San Francisco’s most famous landmark. No, not Barry Bonds flaxseed oil farm, but the mysterious and lovely Golden Gate Bridge, where they are not only raising the one-way toll crossing to $6 but also having discussions on suicide barriers. We then hop back on my Harley Maxima and head down to another very visually pleasing landmark along the coast, the sea of yellow grass at Pigeon Point. Then it’s back to the sand along the San Mateo County cliffs at San Gregorio Beach. When I saw the sun glistening on this fast moving creek as it rushed towards the Pacific I had to come to a jump stop, take off my chaps and get down and funky to capture this gull filled moment.

We then cruise out to lovely Palm Desert for some reflection action along the back fairway before moving on to the most outrageous sunset I’ve ever seen in the desert. This was a New Year’s day mother lode a few years back. When I saw these clouds lining up about an half hour before sunset I knew I was in for a desert treat. This was the real desert storm. We end today’s negative tour with a November sunrise at Lighthouse Point. I was shooting slides that day with Kodak Extra Color film and as you can see from the rouge in the sky and sand it was red delicious.

So here’s a story that’s going to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Hold on to your holsters for this one. According to a new study by a gun control group, more than 30,000 firearms and legs are unaccounted for from gun dealers’ inventories nationwide.

Furthermore, the group, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says its finding probably underestimates the missing firearms. This is because the data that was used from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Drawers, Firearms and Explosives, was drawn from inspections that were conducted at gun dealerships in the 2007 fiscal year. Just 10,000 dealers were inspected, one-sixth of the nation’s total. So what they’re really saying is that it’s possible that perhaps it’s closer to 180,000 guns that are on the loose. I guess that’s why I’m wearing bullet proof shorts.

The center is calling for increased regulation of gun dealers. The way it is now, dealers need to keep a record of acquisition and disposition of firearms, but not a regular inventory. And remember Charlton Heston fans, guns don’t kill people, it’s people who kill people.

“We’ve seen that guns that dealers claim are lost are frequently sold to gun traffickers and sold off the books,” said Daniel Vice, a senior attorney for the Brady Center. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling Morley safer by the second.

The center was founded by James Brady and his wife, Sarah, after a 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan that left Brady, the White House press secretary, partly paralyzed. This center sees a direct correlation between missing firearms, street violence and MTV’s Spring Break.

And this may come as a shock to those of us not packing heat, but the National Rifle Association sharply criticized the report. “No one in America should place any faith in any alleged study coming from the Brady campaign,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. Once again, it’s not rifles with scopes that kill people, it’s snipers that kill people.

A spokesman for the firearms bureau, Nicholas Colucci, said that in his experience, many gun dealers did take inventory annually or even more frequently, although not required to do so by federal law. That reminds me of the line from “The Honeymooners” when Ralph tell his boss that 9 out of 10 bus drivers like to shoot pool after work. Then Norton chimes in, “Ralph, I think the average is higher than that.” Thanks, pal of mine.

Colucci also said shops from which most of the 30,000 weapons were missing had since gone out of business, some because their licenses had been revoked as a result of the inspections. No firearms were missing, he said, at 90 percent of the inspected businesses. Whew, I guess I can rest my bullets now. But I believe we can then go back to the original point of this story. What about the other five-sixths of the dealers who weren’t inspected?

That’s it for the news of the day. Tune in Wednesday when we’ll look at some more colors from the kalidescope of the life here on the central coast. I’ll leave you today with a quote from one of my favorite wordmeisters, Mr. David Lee Roth. He walked into a bar, sat down to have a drink as a rather attractive woman slithered over and said, “Nice gun.” Replied Diamond Dave, “Nice holster.”
I believe that sums up my feelings on gun control and Van Halen. Have a great day, enjoy the colors and get ready for Beijing. Later, Olympic fans.

July 10, 2008

No Ifs, Ands Or Butts


Good morning and greetings, photo fans. As we are all aware, time is flying by. Unless, of course, you’re locked up in solitary confinement at a fancy resort like San Quentin. Then, perhaps, time is not moving quite as rapidly as it does for the rest of the general and major population. In the words of Mick Jagger, “Tiiiime is on my side, yes it it.” I’m wondering if he meant the left or right?

I’ve been shooting digital photos since 2005. However, not to be negative, there was a time that I was using a process called film. I realized the other day as I searched through my photo albums looking for a picture that I ultimately couldn’t find that I have been taking shots of the sites and mounds of the westside and north coast for many years. I was amazed at how far back the archives went. No, I’m not talking cavemen rubbing two sticks together at sunset but West Cliff Drive in the 70′s. Today’s shots are from the days of yesteryear when negatives were the positive. Unfortunately, I have managed to permanently misplace many of them but who knew at the time that I’d ever need those extra dendrites.

I call the opening shot of the sunrise at Lighthouse Point “First Light.” Then it’s moving on to the lone cypress tree on West Cliff for an image I refer to as “Sky on Fire.” Then it’s your classic rainbow over the cypress tree from the same location. As we move to the evening hours we come upon a cloud convention taken from Stockton Avenue. And here’s the beauty of it all. Shots two (Sky on Fire) and four (sunset clouds) were taken the same day-it’s the ultimate daily double, Jeopardy fans, the double dip of sunrise and sunset from the same day (November 17, 2005.) It’s a westside classic. Then it’s onto to the coral salmon sand at dusk at Natural Bridges followed by another sunset that if I had been wearing any would have knocked my socks off.

Some of these pictures are smoking hot, and that leads us into today’s laugh and learn segment. As it turns out, offering a cigarette is as common as a handshake in Egypt, where the culture of smoking is so entrenched that patients sometimes light up in hospital rooms. You know you’re in trouble when your surgeon walks into the room puffing away on a Newport or Pall Mall. Or as the much-trafficked Stevie Winwood would say, “Light up or leave me alone.”

But now the government is getting serious about the health risks, beginning a campaign of visual warnings about tobacco’s dangers. And to show just how seriously they are taking this issue, smoking is no longer allowed in the emergency rooms or in the hospital ICU units, just in the general population areas. Furthermore, patients are no longer allowed to smoke during certain surgeries. No longer will we hear the doctor request, “Scalpel, gauze, ashtray.”

Starting August 1, cigarette labels in Egypt will be required to carry images of the effects of smoking: a dying man in an oxygen mask, a coughing child, the Marlboro Man in an oxygen tent, Joe Camel’s funeral and a limp cigarette symbolizing impotence.

It is a major step in Egypt’s fledgling anti-smoking campaign and a dramatic change in a country where public discussion of smoking’s health risks and NHL hockey are nearly nonexistent. The impotence image may have a particularly strong effect on Egyptians as well the dachshund not entering the tunnel and a pharaoh not being able to climb the old pyramid.

The photo of the limp cigarette comes with the warning that “long-term smoking has an effect on marital relations” – a somewhat milder version than the European Union has recommended for its member countries, which states directly that smoking causes impotence and shows a discontented young married couple sitting apart in bed watching Dr. Phil.

Twelve countries, including Canada, Jordan, Bird, Magic, Brazil and Thailand require graphic photos of the effects of smoking to be printed on cigarette packs. Many have reported success in at least reminding smokers of all the fun associated with lung cancer and emphysema. But the campaign faces a tough challenge among Egypt’s totally addicted, mummy-loving, smoke ring blowing citizens.

Egypt is one of the top 15 smoking countries in the world and they are not referring to supermodels sunbathing in the parks of downtown Cairo. Nearly 60 percent of all adult males in the country of 79 million people use tobacco in some form, compared with 24 percent of men in the United States. This might have been what Deep Purple was referring to when they sang “Smoke on the water, fire in the Nile.”

While anti-smoking campaigns have been in place for decades in the West, the issue has not even been on the agenda in Egypt or the Middle East. According to the American Cancer Society, in the 1990s, when smoking in the developed world declined, it increased 8.6 percent in this region. They were actually going for a double digit increase but ran out of Bic lighters.

So here’s Egypt’s master plan. A month ago, the country’s tobacco control department was launched, though it consists of only two people in a closet-sized office with no telephones and an annual budget of just $12,500. They also have a printer with no ribbon, a fax machine but no paper and a Omar Sharif autographed hookah for office and holiday parties.

For the new label requirements, authorities field-tested a variety of images. They found that warnings linking tobacco with death were not particularly effective with Egyptians, because dying is perceived as inevitable anyway. Hopefully the same theory doesn’t hold true with showering. Also, images of diseased lungs left people confused about what was being shown as many perceived it to be a tar and nicotine party.

Instead, the new warnings focus on threats to health and, particularly, to family, like the effect on children and pregnant women and the risk of impotence. “We need something to give the smokers a shock that they are in great danger,” said Dr. Mohammed Mehrez, head of the tobacco control department. I’m with you, Doc. I believe it all comes down to the words of “The Honeymooner’s” Ralph Kramden when asked by his pal Ed Norton, “Mind if I smoke?” Replied Ralph, “I don’t care if you burn.”

That’s our health news for the week. Tune in again Monday when we’ll go back in the time tunnel and check out some more classic photos from when I was still dealing with film hesitation. Now, I click away like Madonna at a Kabala retreat in the Catskills. So have a beautiful weekend, enjoy the colors of the cliff and let’s hope the fires fade in California. Aloha, mahalo, thank you firefighters and I’m outta here.

July 8, 2008

Son Of A Beach


Ah, the good old summertime. All across the nation and up and down the central coast, fans of the sand are hitting the beach in record numbers to escape the smoke and Miami heat. As for myself, my favorite childhood memory (besides my actual birth) was getting up at the crack of dawn and heading out to Long Island to enjoy a sandwich dominated beach orgy of waves, sand crabs and the occasional jellyfish. Ahh, memories. In honor of the this sun-screened filled tradition, I thought we would take an offseason look at some of the hot spots along the coast.

We start out at wintertime at the Main Beach along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, where yours truly will be making an appearance Friday night to see Mr. Eddie “Wanna Be A Rock n Roll Star” Money performing at the bandshell. He’s bringing free tickets to paradise. We then move up to West Cliff Drive to check out of cloud-filled day at Cowell’s Beach, before hitting a big wave day at my favorite photo locale in Santa Cruz, Its Beach. Why it’s named Its I don’t know. I’ve got a theory but remember this is a PG rated site.

When then jet 12 miles north up the coast along Highway 1 to the lovely vista of Scotts Creek State Beach. When I drive this route I never tire of this spot-it’s as visually pleasing as anything I’ve seen on my brief time on the planet. It’s also a place where I used to collect abalone shells that I would find washed up into the sand after a winter storm. Next it’s to the carved out cliffs at Ano Nuevo, where the largest population of northern elephant seals gathers to feed, read, and breed, and not necessarily in that order. For a final shot we had north to Montara on the Pacific Coast Highway and take in the sights of the coastline along Devil’s Slide, where they are currently building a tunnel so when the road slides there is an alternate route. In the words of the legendary Jerry Garcia, the friend of the Devil’s Slide is a friend of mine.

There are many beaches that didn’t make today’s cut. We could start at Natural Bridges, then head to Four Mile, Laguna Creek, Shark’s Tooth, Davenport and the windiest of them all, Waddell Creek. That’s not even mentioning Bean Hollow, Pescadero and Pigeon Point. We’ll save those for round two.

I was going to write about the smoking problem in Egypt but we’ll save that for another day. I thought we’d end with a little humor. Since I couldn’t find any jokes I liked about beaches I thought we’d go with love and sports.

A husband and wife were both golfers. The wife was feeling a little neglected and wanted to know how much he loved her. “If I were to die tomorrow,” she said, “and you remarried, would you give you new wife my jewelry?” “What a terrible thing to ask,” exclaimed the husband. “Of course not.” “And would you give her any of my clothes?” “No honey, I wouldn’t. I can’t believe you’re even asking me that.” What about my golf clubs?” “No. She’s left-handed.”

That’s our show for today. Enjoy the beach and we’ll catch you under the umbrella. Aloha.

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