April 28, 2013

It Takes A Village To Raise A Sunrise

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 9:58 am

Good morning and greetings, landscape fans. You know, it’s not easy being a sunrise photographer. It requires a strong commitment and immense dedication, as one must be ready to go to work close to one third of the year. It’s an unusual situation when your work day comes to an end before most people have separated themselves from their dreams.

It was Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, known to his friends as Buddha, who said, “Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart and soul’s inspiration give yourself to it.” Wise words from the holy sage, who was also a hell of a first baseman.

So in living the sunrise life, four months of the year become sacred times, when there’s the possibility of the sky lighting up like a Hanukah menorah. The early Aztecs said, right before they were massacred by the Conquistadors, “if you do something you love, then it’s not work.” Furthermore, Irish poet Oscar Wilde once quoted between sips that “I put all my genius into my life: I put only my talent into my works.” After consulting with Confucious, I still have no idea where he was going with that.

I don’t consider taking pictures of a sunrise, sunset or a baby porcupine hard work. It’s a labor of love having the privilege to photograph God’s magnificence. That is, when he isn’t slamming the coast with that damn marine layer. To shoot a good sunrise takes some preplanning, a little bit of luck, and most importantly, a camera which a charged battery.

Donald Kendall, the former CEO of Pepsi Cola, once said to his neighbor that “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” I can relate to those words, as there have been a few times in my life that I have decided to take the Pepsi Challenge. Later on, I regretted some of these actions. I would have been much better off sitting back and having a Coke and a smile.

So this being late April, I’ve been slowly weened from photographing the delightful action from above, as the spring skies have been duller than a Taliban group therapy session. I didn’t get into this business for the money, as much like Henny Youngman, “I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock.” No, photographing sunrises and sunsets has been like the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve never thought of it as work. Which is good, because who wants to let something so pure be tainted by money? I’ve never got caught up in the commercialization, which is why I would never mention that my photos are available for sale right now on my website, www.SunriseSantaCruz.com, and would make lovely Mother’s Day gifts. That would be way too tacky.

No, I just do it for the pure joy and the artistic integrity. I’m not competing with anyone, although my Rabbi has stated on the record that I could be the most prolific sunrise photographer in the country. Well, I’m not saying I am, (yes, I am), but I would be honored to just be considered a candidate for the Jewish sunrise photographers Hall of Fame. And from what I hear, entry into this exclusive club involves receiving is a five pack box of Yehuda Passover matzos, rated #1 best tasting matzo by the San Francisco Chronicle, as tested by culinary experts and chefs in a blind tasting panel. If that’s the case, how did they find their way to the building?

So these days, I’m just photographing flowers and bunnies and filling future blogs will glorious moments from the past. They say you can’t put your arm around a memory, but when I go to my computer and look over sunrises and sunsets past, I reexperience the joy of the moment and it is glorious. And then I sob uncontrollably for a while, but I’m working on that.

I love what I do and don’t believe it will ever get old. And the best part is there no deadlines, just headlines. In the words of ventroloquist Edgar Bergen, “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” Charlie McCarthy couldn’t have said it better, although I was always more of a Knucklehead Smith fan.

So for today’s photo fare, we are heading back to the morning of February 16, 2013. I had slept the night before in a toaster, so I woke up and popped out of bed to a fantastic sunrise. I was all over the terrain that morning, as I shot images of this dawn beauty from more locations than Jamba Juices on the central coast.

The morning color in the sky over Monterey Bay and Steamers Lane was just spectacular. This was one of those classic Santa Cruz mornings were everything was right in the digital world. After that my day was off and running.

So this is my philosophy. “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. I knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or gazelle…when this sun comes up, you better be running.” Or as big game hunter Groucho Marx once told Zeppo, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

On to some late night humor. “U.S. intelligence agencies have put together a psychological profile of Kim Jong Un. They say he’s a narcissist, and he is obsessed with Hollywood, obsessed with plastic surgery, and obsessed with the NBA. It’s a condition we know as ‘Kardashianism.’” –Jay Leno “You’re probably saying to yourselves, “What big American pointless cultural event is coming up in a couple of days?” The NFL Draft, of course. The New York Jets say they will take the best athlete possible in the draft. They’re going to take the best athlete available. It’s the same strategy the Kardashian sisters use.” – David Letterman

“You know what the worst job in America is? It’s newspaper reporter. I guess the pollsters forgot to ask the guy who cleans the toilets at Dodger Stadium how things are going for him. The Internet celebrated a major milestone yesterday. It’s the eighth anniversary of the very first video uploaded to YouTube. YouTube was founded in 2005 by a small group of visionaries who asked the question, “What if nobody in America ever got anything done ever again?” – Jimmy Kimmel.

So that’s our last blast for April 2013. The roses are exploding in my front yard so get ready for some May flower power. We’ll catch you scoring 34 points on Saturday while putting on one of the greatest fourth quarter playoff performances in NBA history. Aloha, mahalo and later, Nate Robinson fans.

April 21, 2013

Should We Eat Here Or Get It To Escargot?

Good morning and greetings, rock and roll fans. If you’re a baby boomer and music is your mistress, then you might have a memory of February 7, 1964, the day the Beatles arrived in New York to party with Ed Sullivan. I remember the excitement when they stepped off the Boeing 707 at Kennedy Airport before Pan Am lost their luggage. There was pandemonium on the tarmac, as people were sobbing, screaming and waving banners, and those were just the skycaps and taxi drivers. It had been a hard day’s flight for these lads, who had been working like dogs. The British Invasion had begun.

This was the start of a classic period, when British pop stars and rock and rollers came to the USA and blew the ears and minds of American youth. Many people were caught by surprise, as even Paul Revere didn’t know they were coming. We’re talking groups like The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Dave Clark Five and Herman’s Hermits. Yes, Mrs. Brown certainly had a lovely daughter, as these groups would have an impact on the US music scene that has lasted longer than my membership to 24 Hour Fitness.

Now some thirty years after the twenty years ago today when Sgt. Pepper taught his band to play, there’s another invasion hitting the shores of America, but it doesn’t involve super groups or groupies. In a story written by Barbara Liston for Reuters, South Florida is fighting a growing infestation of one of the world’s most destructive invasive species. No, not the Justin Beiber music tour, but the giant African land snail, which can grow to be the size of a rat, and whose favorite hobbies are gnawing through stucco, plaster and retirement communities.

More than 1,000 of these marauding mollusks are being caught in speed traps each week in Miami-Dade County, while some have been spotted taking in Heat games at American Airlines Arena. Over 117,000 in total are now in custody facing deportation charges since the first snail was spotted by Ponce de Leon Jr. in September 2011.

And there are more on the way, as the snails will soon emerge from underground hibernation at the start of the state’s rainy season. Denise Feiber, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture, says the snails attack “over 500 known species of plants, pretty much anything that’s in their path and green.” That being said, I have a message for all cucumbers. Run!

According to Billy Ocean, in some Caribbean countries like Barbados, the snails’ shells blow out tires and hair on the highway and turn into hurling projectiles from lawnmower blades. At the same time, their slime and excrement coats pavements and walls, which is driving the local taggers crazy.

A typical snail can produce about 1,200 eggs, a pound of bacon and a side order of toast each year. These slow-moving creatures, like telemarketers, are a real pest for homeowners, as they have a fondness for stucco, which they devour for the calcium content they need for their shells. Researchers have found that snails pay very close attention to their intake of calcium so as to meet the daily nutrient requirements for healthy mollusks.

The snails also carry a parasitic rat lungworm that can cause a form of meningitis, which can really be a downer at parties. Fortunately, no such cases have yet been identified in the United States or Hawaii.

These are not the first exotic species to invade the Sunshine State. Numero uno would be the infestation of the giant Burmese pythons, which have took taken up home in the Everglades and are reproducing faster than the Octomom on her best day. Burmese pythons can grow to be 26 feet long and more than 200 pounds, and they have been known to swallow victims as large as alligators or a Rush Limbaugh. Constrictors snakes kill their prey by coiling around it and suffocating it, unlike Rush, who suffocates his victims with billowing hot air.

There is a long list of destructive non-native species that thrive in the state’s moist, subtropical climate, with many of them now starring in their own reality shows. Experts gathered last week to seek the best ways to eradicate the mollusks, including use of a stronger bait approved recently by the federal government and providing them with one way bus tickets to western states.

Investigators are trying to trace the snail infestation source. One possibility is a Miami Santeria group, a religion with West African and Caribbean roots, which was found in 2010 to be using the large snails in their rituals. This was the premise for an episode on “Miami Vice,” a show I watched religiously for fashion tips. But according to Ms. Feiber, many exotic species come into the United States unintentionally in freight or tourists’ baggage or colons.

“If you got a ham sandwich or an orange from Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, and you didn’t eat it all and bring it back into the States and then discard it, at some point, things can emerge from those products,” Feiber says. That’s why when I’m vacationing in the Caribbean, when I order I always ask for my mollusks on the side.

The last known Florida invasion of the giant mollusks occurred in 1966. A young boy, who was a big “Magnum, P.I.” fan, returned to Miami from a vacation in Hawaii and brought back three snails and and an “Eddie Would Go” t-shirt. His grandmother eventually released them into her garden, where the population grew in seven years to 17,000 snails. The state then spent $1 million and 10 years eradicating them. Hey, kid, next time, when you want to bring back a souvenir, I got two words for you-macadamia nuts.

Feiber says many people and an anesthesiologist in the Satellite Beach are unfamiliar with the danger when viewing the snails as cute pets. “They’re huge, they look like they’re communicating with you, and people enjoy them for that.” The bottom line is, when large snails like this are released into an environment where, unlike myself, they have no natural enemies, they will thrive and cause massive devastation.

It was Russian author Ivan Turgevev who once said, “Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail, but man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly as slowly.” And that, my friends, is why I never wear I watch. And finally, I believe it was either Tom Selleck’s barber or the Dali Lama’s brother who came up with this nugget of wisdom.” The week seems to go by at the speed of a snail. Unless it’s the weekend. Then the snail rides a F****** ferrari.”

I have partied with these giant snails on my trips to the Garden Isle of Kauai, and have posted an image of one in today’s photo fun pack. And we are heading back to the skies today, as I have over twenty sunrise and sunsets from the fall and winter sitting on the runway of my archives, waiting for clearance. This sunset was a beauty from the night of January 7 at Natural Bridges State Beach, when both the sky, sand and my heart and lungs glowed with beauty and joy. I always love photographing the remaining arch, because not only is this art, but it’s history. And erosion, like time, waits for no one.

On to a some late nght humor. “The Coachella Music Festival started today. It’s held every year in the California desert. A whole weekend of peace, love, and $10 bottles of water.” – Craig Ferguson “For those of you who aren’t familiar with Coachella, it’s a big music festival in the California desert. If you didn’t get tickets or if you’re too far away, just get high and pass out in a dumpster behind Trader Joe’s. Just like being there.” – Jimmy Kimmel “According to a new study, our views on immigration are changing. For example, when asked if they support a path to citizenship, 40 percent of the respondents said, “Si.” – Jay Leno ”

“It was revealed today that someone sent President Obama a suspicious letter containing the poison ricin. It’s a deadly poison made from beans. They said it’s the third worst substance you can send in the mail behind anthrax and packing peanuts. A man in New York City is convicted of stealing more than $376,000 worth of copy machine toner from the law firm he worked for. They’re known for their work with big corporations and investment banks, and also for not ever having any toner in their copier.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“A 14-year-old boy from China is the youngest golfer to ever compete in The Masters. During his round of golf today, the Chinese boy made two birdies, an eagle, and an iPad. DC Comics introduced its first-ever transgender character. The character is called “Wonder If It’s a Woman.” A new report claims that almost half of Justin Bieber’s 37 million Twitter followers are fake. Even more disturbing: The other half is real. Tom Cruise made his first public comments about his divorce from Katie Holmes. He said, “I didn’t see it coming.” Apparently Katie kept her divorce papers on top of the refrigerator.” – Conan O’Brien

So that’s a wrap. A birthday shout out goes today out to my Stanford cycling pal, Jim Buser, the creator of Duck and Cover, who was the first person to ask the world,”What if the hokey pokey isn’t what it’s all about?”

So as we try to wash away and the evil and madness around us, try to enjoy the first round of the NBA playoffs. We’ll catch you coming into your own after the all-star break and showing NBA observers who was the best shooter in the league this year. Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

April 14, 2013

You’re Cicading On Thin Ice

Good morning and greetings, severe weather fans. As many of you and my hairdresser know, I’m fascinated by the diversity of weather throughout the United States. Last Wednesday was a perfect example of the weather map going wild and crazy, as the nation experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, which put me under a lot of barometric pressure. Or in the words of Clint Eastwood, “I tried being reasonable, but I didn’t like it.”

Now Clint Eastwood is a true American classic. And never more so as Inspector Harry Callahan in the movie “Dirty Harry.” As he said to a serial killer, in one of the classic movie lines of all time, “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?”

Now there’s a man who had little regard for rules but always got results, which is not what we’re getting in the battle for gun control. The former mayor of Carmel also had a few words to say on this highly controversial issue. “I have a strict gun control policy. If there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”

Getting back to the good, bad and not very pretty from last week’s meteorological front, Wednesday was a doozy. In Santa Cruz, the day was as lovely as California Attorney General Kamala Harris, with warm breezes softly kissing my cheeks as the thermometer reaching 83 degrees. However, in the midwest, it was a different story, as blinding snow and driving winds left thousands without power. The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency, even though the Cardinals shut out the Reds Wednesday night. As author Margaret Atwood once said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Or at the very least, not have to deal with a powerful spring storm spiraling in your back yard.

For those of you planning a trip to the midwest, let me give you a little Ohio Valley perspective. Here they were, ten weeks away from the summer solstice, in the middle of what is referred to as “Black Swan” extreme weather conditions, which is not to be confused with an Amanda Knox extradition. We’re talking ice, sleet, plagues, flooding, locusts, hail and heavy snow, creating treacherous driving conditions. They only time I want to notified about a severe ice warning is when it’s in my drink. Throw in a few killer tornadoes into the picture and they’re at a spring breaking point.

But the early days of last week were some kind of wonderful here on the central coast, as the birds were singing, the butterflies were floating and the bees were humming. And that leads us into today’s topic du jour.

According to wiki.answers.com, where I usually shop for pants, there are about one million species of insects in the world, half of which have somehow taken up residence in my house. Scientists and census takers estimate that there are 200 million insects for every human in the world, while less than one hundred supermodels have graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue. So it stands to reason if we’re talking insects, we’re talking billions and billions and billions and billions. And billions.

Well, if you like to hear insects screaming, and you know I do, the place to be in the next few weeks is the east coast. In a story written by Daniel Stone for National Geographic News, cicadas, the cousins of katydids, katydidn’ts and crickets, are preparing to overrun the landscape from North Carolina to Connecticut after living underground like Weathermen fugitives for the last 17 years.

Much like the female black widow spider, who sometimes washes down the male with a glass of milk after mating, the are some quirks that go along with cicadas and breeding. They spend their lives, like a Chilean miner, in complete darkness underground, sucking the fluid out of the roots of trees, shrubs and unmanned jacuzzis. They don’t bite or sting, and help the earth by moving around nutrients, recycling, planting trees and buying local. The periodic cicadas will not come popping out of their burrows until the ground is 64 degrees or the NBA playoffs begin.

At the end of their lives, they emerge to shed their exoskeletons, mate, watch a little TV and die almost instantly. This completes a lifecycle that humans and the Neilson family have studied for centuries. We’re talking about a four to six week period, or the time it takes for a Haagen-Daz bar to leave my bloodstream. That is, if they can avoid predators like birds, raccoons, foxes, skunks and reality show producers. The next generation will emerge in 2030 to repeat the cycle, probably around the same time “Mad Men” returns for its seventh season.

Now we’re talking several million cicadas per acre, which will bring the noise level up to slightly above a Dixie Chicks concert. The noise is the mating call of the male, which is similar in tone to the begging sound of the American male. To make themselves look appealing to the females, male cicadas resort to popping a set of muscles on their abdomen in and out, which can also be seen poolside at spring break locations around the country. But here’s the kicker. These 17 year cicadas are affected by the massosporan fungus, an infection that is the equivalent of Cicada STD. It is spread through mating and causes the abdomen of adult cicadas to fall off! And you thought herpes was annoying.

I was back there when they emerged one spring in the Garden State of New Jersey. The year was 1962, and I was nine years old and studying for my driver’s license. All of a sudden, they were everywhere, like tourists from New York trying to find their way to Palisades Amusement Park. I remember my friends and I collecting them in paper grocery bags. I will not say what we did with them, because the statue of limitations concerning the laws of insect genocide may still be in effect.

For today’s photo engagement, we are heading back to wacky weather Wednesday. This was to be the first April sunset I had photographed in years. After checking out the dinner time sky, the clouds and my basal body temperature, I grabbed my Serena Williams windbreaker and quickly headed up the north coast to Davenport.

When I arrived at my usual spot on the cliffs, I noticed new signs had been posted on the Monterey Cypress trees, stating that trespassers would either be prosecuted or persecuted. Well, God knows my people have been persecuted enough, so I took at quick shot of the cliffs and then bolted out of their faster than Carlos Quentin leaving Dodger Stadium Thursday night.

The wind was blowing harder than my son’s Abnormal Psychology final at UC Santa Barbara as I approached the bluff overlooking the Pacific. Then the sun, clouds and light proceeded to do their thing, creating beauty and awe on a night when little was expected. I believe it was Oprah’s pilates coach who once said, “Surprises are beautiful because they come without waiting.” And as they say in the restaurant business, good things come to those who are waiters.”

On to the late night. “After withdrawing from public life Anthony Weiner is ready to stick it back in. Folks, that takes balls. Sadly, we know he has them. Weiner’s brother pointed out, ‘No one has been harder on him than he has been on him than he has been on himself.’ And we all know how hard he can be on himself.” –Stephen Colbert “Former Congressman Anthony Weiner said that he’s considering running for mayor of New York City. If nothing else I’m sure that he’ll provide some stiff competition. Come on, he’s the total package. I don’t want to be too hard on him. I don’t have a bone to pick with that guy.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Little is known about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un other than the fact that he is ruthless, he supports torture, and he is a huge basketball fan. I’m sorry, that’s not Kim Jong Un. That’s Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice. I had them confused.” –Jay Leno “In high school Kim Jong Un starred in a production of the musical ‘Grease.’ That’s also where Kim met his first wife, Olivia Newton Jong.” –Conan O’Brien “Dealing with the North Koreans is very difficult. They have a history of making irrational decisions to divert the world’s attention from the fact their system has totally collapsed. No wait, sorry. I was thinking of NBC.” –Craig Ferguson

“This week on the ‘Today’ show, Chelsea Clinton said she’s open to running for political office one day. When she heard that, Sasha Obama was like, ‘Cool. How does secretary of state sound?’” –Jimmy Fallon “It was this day in 1967 that Russia sold Alaska to the United States for 2 cents an acre. You know why they sold us so cheaply? Just to get rid of the Palins.” –Jay Leno

“President Obama is in trouble for saying that California Attorney General Kamala Harris is good looking. When asked for comment, Bill Clinton said, ‘That guy is out of control.’” –Conan O’Brien “Because Obama said California Attorney General Kamala Harris was attractive, people are calling his remark sexist. Now the President is overcompensating and trying to balance it out. Today he said Attorney General Eric Holder has a great ass.” –Jay Leno “During a fundraiser, President Obama raised some eyebrows when he called California’s Kamala Harris, quote, ‘the best-looking attorney general in the country.’ Of course he said it was just a joke. Then Michelle was like, ‘Well, here’s another one: What’s black and white and sleeps on the couch?’” –Jimmy Fallon

So enjoy the last few days of the NBA regular season and nows it’s on to the playoffs. And here’s a shout out to my father, Daniel Gilbert, who celebrated his 96th birthday last Friday with a haircut, a Chinese feast and disbelief. As we chanted at dinner, ‘Four more years, four more years.”

We’ll catch you trying to will your team into the playoffs before suffering a devastating injury that left Laker and all NBA fans reeling. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kobe Bryant fans

April 7, 2013

Close Your Eyes And Fake A Wish

Good morning and greetings, national pastime fans. Yes, the baseball season is underway, but from the way the Yankees played last week, I probably won’t start paying attention until after the World Series. I know the regular season is 162 games and that championships aren’t won or lost in April, but let’s face it, this New York team is older than the combined age of Derek Jeter’s last two girlfriends. Throw in the steroid sidelined Alex Rodriquez, who hasn’t bunted for a hit since he dated Madonna, and the Yankees hopes for contending this season might be shorter than A-Rod’s relationship with Cameron Diaz.

That being said, Hope Solo still springs eternal, as the flowers are blooming and the pollen count is higher than our military alert because of North Korean leader Kim Jong Incredibly Young, who has threatened to attack the U.S. with diversified nuclear missiles and marinated short ribs. I don’t want to say this 28-year-old stud puppet is a maniac, but he’s running his mouth and worrying more people than top donors threatening to withhold all money from any Democrat who doesn’t support President Obama’s background checks on guns n roses.

This up-and-coming dictator may be one crazy son-of-a-bitch, but enough of the talk of war. Kim JU, why don’t you stop the tough talk and go back to what you do best, watching basketball, collecting Nike sneakers and starving your people in slave labor camps.

Moving along, April 7 was a big day in the Gilbert household, and not because I spent the afternoon schmoozing with NBA legend Jerry West. It was a double birthday occasion, as my son Jason and brother Brad celebrated the day they took that once-in-a lifetime trip through the birth canal and then popped out of the womb and into a world full of rainbows, gumdrops and NFL football. Jason was supposed to have exited my wife on April 6, but after her water broke we decided to take in dinner and a movie, so his jumping out point came just after midnight, which forever bonded with my youngest brother, along with Russell Crowe, Francis Ford Coppola and Kong Sun Chan, better known to his close friends as Jackie. Those first 60 minutes of new life were truly a rush hour.

So that got me to thinking, how did all this cake, candles and wishing we were either younger or older come into play? Well, thanks to the folks at tokenz.com, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the birthday experience.

More than 9% of all people celebrate their birthday in August, more than in any other month in the year. This has always been a bummer for August born kids, as later on, they get gyped in the birthday gift department when friends are away on summer vacations. Just ask any young Leo.

The world’s biggest birthday cake was created in 1989 for the 100th birthday for the city of Fort Payne, Alabama. The cake weighed in at 128,238 pounds and used 16,209 pounds of icing. If you visit Fort Payne, stop by City Hall and grab a piece as this mother of all sugar substances is still active.

Sir Paul McCartney’s birth certificate was auctioned off in March 1997 for $84,146. It is believed to be the world’s most expensive birth certificate. On a similar vein, on my daughter’s last birthday, her wish was to receive the world’s most expensive gift certificate to Forever 21.

In 1996, the Sultan of Brunei hosted the world’s most expensive birthday party to celebrate his 50th birthday, at a whopping cost of $27.2 million. $16 million went to Michael Jackson, who gave three concerts, while each guest left with a party bag filled with stickers, a yo-yo and $500,000 in cash.

A recent survey suggests that more people are born on October 5 in the U.S. than on any other day. This means that conception would take place on New Year’s Eve. Thus we smile and wish others, “Happy New Year.”

The origination of the birthday cake was started by John Stamos and the early Greeks, who used to take round cakes to the temple of Artemis, the Goddess of Moon. The custom of lighting candles was started by Plato because it made the cake glow like a moon. His buddy Socrates believed that the gods lived in the sky and that by lighting candles it helped to send a signal and a prayer. Today that’s called texting. People still make silent wishes before they blow out the candles, and after sixty years I am still waiting for one of them to come slightly true.

The song ‘Happy Birthday,’ is recognized as one of the most popular in the English language, along with ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ ‘For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ It is was written and composed back in 1893 by two sisters, Mildred J. Hill and Dr. Patty Smith Hill, a teacher and principal at a school in Louisville, Kentucky. However, the sisters vehemently denied writing the lyrics, “You belong in a zoo. You look like a monkey…”

The most famous rendition of this song was sung by Marilyn Monroe, when she serenaded JFK with, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” a sultry rendition that made more than Congress rise and cheer. She would be found dead three months later. She passed away far too young. In her words, “I’m not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.” Unfortunately, much like my first modeling agent, she was as troubled as she was beautiful.

Let’s finish with a joke. Every morning a man passes a house on his street and sees a woman in her front yard beating her husband over the head with a French bread. This goes on for months until one morning he passes the house and sees the woman beating her husband with a large eclair. Later that day he meets the woman in the street. “Aren’t you the woman who beats her husband with a French bread?” asks the man. “Only today, I could have sworn you were hitting him with a big cake.” Oh, I was,” replied the woman. “Today is his birthday.”

On to the photos. Weather forecasters predicted that last Thursday’s rain would be the finale for the wet season. So that morning, I threw on my Brittney Griner poncho and headed up to the Arboretum at UCSC. A light mist was falling when I arrived, creating ideal conditions. The Arboretum, which has the largest collection of Australian and New Zealand plants outside of their native countries, was deserted expect for rabbits, quail and madly buzzing hummingbirds. The flowers were loaded down with moisture from the steady overnight rain, and the resulting photos were just dewlicious. As author Ruth Stout once said, “I love spring everywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden,” as I did in my youth, in the Garden State of New Jersey.

On to a little late night. “Yesterday President Obama shot baskets at the White House and made only two shots out of 22. Even Dick Cheney was like, ‘That guy needs to learn how to shoot.’ “President Obama went only two for 22. It’s tough times for Obama – one minute, he’s asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling; the next, he’s asking them to lower the hoop.” –Jimmy Fallon

“North Korea is now threatening the United States with all-out war. You can see they’re stepping it up. In fact, they released 10 more photos of Kim Jong Un looking through binoculars. Tensions continue to mount in this North Korea situation. The U.S. has moved a Navy warship off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. Is that going to scare the North Koreans? If you really want to scare them, don’t send a warship. Send a Carnival cruise ship.” – Jay Leno

“The federal government says it will do one more study on the risk of cellphone radiation. Or as the guy with the third ear growing out of his neck said, “That’s cool. Take your time.” Last week Justin Bieber had to leave his pet monkey with customs officials in Germany after he entered the country without the right paperwork. Officials told him, “You have to leave your little friend behind. And the monkey said, “Sorry, Justin, I guess you’ve got to stay.” – Jimmy Fallon “Model Heidi Klum was in Hawaii and saved her 7-year-old son from drowning. The rip tide pulled him out, and Heidi jumped in the water and saved him. I was surprised the kid isn’t a better swimmer. He’s half seal, isn’t he?” – Jay Leno

So birthday wishes go to my son, who turned 19 and now admits he enjoys giving tours to prospective students and their families at UC Santa Barbara almost as much as taking it to me one-on-one, and to my brother Brad, who just came back from a heli snowboarding trip to Alaska. If you haven’t been on top of a glacier recently, you can check out his blog at


And one more birthday thought goes out today to my webmaster/math teacher of the year friend Kevin Deutsch, who will admit in private that the chow fun here is better than it was in Laguna Beach.

We’ll catch you scoring 40 plus points in three straight games while showing NBA fans why the New York Knicks will be a dangerous team come playoff time. Aloha, mahalo and later, Carmelo Anthony fans.

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