August 11, 2013

A Walk Is Better Than A Hit

Good morning and greetings, summer vacation fans. About ten years ago, my personal physician suggested that I should get more exercise. Now up until until my mid- forties, I had been playing full court basketball five a days and week and playing half court on Saturday, as it was my people’s Sabbath. I was in fairly good shape and was considering a career as a personal fitness trainer and hand model.

But then reality came calling, and it was a bitter pill to swallow. Work. I remember walking during this time and spotting a youngster dribbling a basketball, as he headed over to the park to play hoops. My heart sank like an open jumper, as the realization set in that I was no longer footloose and fancy free and that my life had changed.

But I was determined to make the best of it. It was not an easy task. Looking back on it today, those five days of work were longest days of my life.

So I discussed with my physician the exercise options that were open to me. Swimming was out, as I may have drowned in a past lifetime. I could go bike riding, but I never really built up a sweat riding my beach cruiser along West Cliff. And riding a stationary bike is just not that scenic, although it saves a lot of wear and tear on the tires.

Bowling, badminton and cliff diving just weren’t vigorous enough, so it came down to running. I had run track in high school, but those were the short sprints. I was never really excited about running long distances as my shoulders hurt from this activity. It was probably because I’m highly sensitive to the feelings of everyone around me and that I had the body fat of a young veal.

So I decided to start running around my neighborhood to work up a sweat, so that my heart knew I was still alive. I started strong, as I used to be able to run a good mile and a half before the heart palpitations set in.

And then something nutty happened. Instead of getting stronger so I could leap tall bushes in a single bounce, I found the more I ran, the weaker I got. This was not a case of what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I had to face a harsh reality. My Olympic dream was over.

But out of this darkness came shining light, as my failings led me to my weekday strolls along West Cliff Drive. I still needed to get some exercise, and what better place to take in the sights while kick starting my heart and soul.

So the weather last week was not unusual here on the central coast. It’s nothing like what I experienced in the summertime back east, when it was hazy, hot, and most consistently, humid. I’m not saying it was like that all the time, as there were pleasant summer days, but the unbearable humidity dominated the headlines. It was hot when I awoke and the air conditioners would still be humming when I drifted off to sleep.

This is in contrast to last Wednesday morning, when I woke up to a light mist or what the locals calls rain. I remember putting the heat on in my car as I headed down to the cliff thinking, I can’t believe they refer to this as summer weather. Still, there was a certain charm to walking through the dreary fog and precipitation, as the pelicans, cormorants and gulls weren’t giving it a second thought.

Then came Thursday, and the sun was peeking through the clouds as I exited my westside abode. When I got to the parking lot at Natural Bridges, there were the faint signs of a fading rainbow alongside the remaining arch. I took this as a good sign. The ground was wet but the air was warm. We’re talking short sleeve weather, a rarity on summer mornings. I’m always somewhat shocked to see the sun or my under eye circles in the early part of the coastal day.

I was more than pleasantly surprised at this rapid turn of events, but I shouldn’t have been, as I had been down this road before. As I strolled along with my faithful golden companion, the sun was gleaming across the water, and a gorgeous cloud bank painted the eastern sky above Lighthouse Point.

As I headed south, a seal popped its head out of the water at Stockton Avenue, while further out, a great egret was hanging out in the kelp beds. The air was a glorious temperature, and despite the fact that I had woken up at 4:40 am and couldn’t get back to sleep no matter how many sheep I counted, life was good at that moment.

However, by the time I returned home, the clouds had come in and and erased all this morning majesty. I got lucky on this day, so I guess timing is still everything. Just a great day to take a walk on the mild side in this cold water paradise.

For today’s photo conclave, I am featuring moments from three sunrises for the price of one. The first and third were taken from the end of my street along the upper westside. The skies above Monterey Bay conveniently lit up on these two January mornings, which made the silhouette of the tree of life that much more vivacious.

The middle rise was shot during the same month from the cliffs above Cowell’s Beach, looking across to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. For you folks keeping a scorecard at home, last January was a fabulous month for sunrises. Just goes to show that they do make sunrises like they used to.

On to the late night humor. “U.S. embassies are closed all around the Middle East this week due to a terrorist threat. What happened was the U.S. intercepted a conference call of 20 al-Qaida operatives. Twenty on one conference call! Who is their carrier? I go under a bridge and my cellphone drops the call, but they can get 20 people in one call from a cave? I guess you all heard about this terrorist threat the president warned us about. One of the reasons al-Qaida is upset with the United States is because we are giving aid to Yemen. We didn’t have a choice. When life hands you Yemen, you give them Yemen aid. This story just gets crazier: Two more women have come forward to accuse San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of sexual misconduct. That brings the total to 13 — or as Filner calls it, a groper’s dozen.” -Jay Leno

“As our studio audience knows, the security today for President Obama was incredible. In fact, first lady Michelle Obama already had the Secret Service sweep the president’s dressing room for chips, pizza, ice cream. This weekend President Obama celebrated his 52nd birthday. For his birthday, Michelle Obama jumped out of a cake and told him he’s not allowed to have any. Happy birthday to President Obama! He will be 52 years old on Sunday. If you’d like to get the president a gift, you can’t go wrong with Edward Snowden. He would love that. You can see that the President is getting a little grayer. In fact, they are starting to call him “The Silver Fox.” That’s because most of the silver in his hair was caused by Fox.” – Jay Leno

“Alex Rodriguez was suspended from baseball for using performance-enhancing drugs, but then he appealed, so technically he can still play. Last night he played his first game since the suspension and hit a bloop single. And then he said, “Imagine how far that would have gone if I was still on steroids!” Baseball suspended 13 players for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, most notably baseball’s highest paid player, Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees. A-Rod is suspended for 211 games. That is an odd number, but .211 is what they calculated his batting average would have been without the drug.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Fifty years ago today was “the great train robbery.” Robbers got away with $63 million in cash from a postal train in Britain. My father worked for the post office at that time. He was supposed to be working on the night that it was robbed, but he had the flu. He called in sick. Coincidence? All I know is right after the great train robbery, we ate well around my house. Yes, that is the night we got a brand new potato. I like heist movies. “Oceans 11″ was a good one. Then there was “Oceans 12″ where they robbed the people who went to see the movie.” – Craig Ferguson

“The Boston Globe newspaper has been sold for $70 million, even though 20 years ago it went for $1.1 billion. I couldn’t believe that story when I saw it for free on the Internet. LeBron James of the Miami Heat had to report for jury duty today. Of course there will be 11 other jurors to help decide the case, but you know he’ll wind up doing it all by himself. The NFL is about to get its first full-time female referee. Good for them. It will be a little different though. When a player asks her what he did wrong, she’ll say “Oh, you know what you did.” – Jimmy Fallon

So let’s it for August. I’m taking some time off and heading to the Garden Isle in South Pacific to study the mating habits of the chocolate covered macadamia nut. I shall return on September 2nd.

We’ll catch you showing the world the Australians can produce great TV crime dramas. Aloha, mahalo and later, “Underbelly” fans.

August 4, 2013

Tune In, Turn On, Look Out

Good morning and greetings, August fans. There’s a special feeling to the start of a new month, as those not-so-distant memories of July are replaced by fresh images of August on calendars throughout my heavily fortified office. A few years back, there were 28 different calendars adorning my office walls, which meant the nature and landscape changed significantly from month to month. Still, I never knew what day it was.

Now I’ve mentioned on occasion that I’m a fan of the machine that transmits and receives moving images, known to some as the “boob tube.” Now this moniker has a couple of different meanings, of which I’ll let Gloria Steinem do the explaining. To some it’s known as the “idiot box.” I say you’d be an idiot not to own one.

The world is full of critics of this medium, which for too many folks becomes extra large over time. Ernie Kovaks called television a medium because, “It is neither rare or well done.” ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry fired back, with “they say ninety percent of TV is junk. But, ninety percent of everything is junk.” And you know what they say, one man’s junk is another man’s TiVo pleasure.

I would disagree with 90 percent, as I’m more comfortable with a solid eighty-five. But for me, that fifteen percent of the written word, translated into dialogue and action, is just heavenly. It’s an escape into a world that always welcomes me with a smile and a handshake, as we are very comfortable old friends. It’s one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had, dating back to the fifties when life wasn’t as nearly as colorful, and all things, including my future, was in black and white.

Television is not for everyone, as there are some major front and side effects. The real danger is its effect on children, teenagers and some family pets. The tube is locked and loaded with programs that present risky behaviors such as premarital sex, alcohol and drug use and not studying for the SATs as cool and exciting. The problem is, they rarely portray the dark side of the consequences that go along with these actions. If you don’t believe me, just watch sixty seconds of “The Jersey Shore.”

I’m not here to preach about the dangers of children watching televison. We all know that children who are glued to the tube have seen more acts of violence involving murder, mayhem and destruction they will see in real life in a thousand lifetimes. There is nothing beneficial in any of this programming. Children think the behavior they see on the tube is the norm and acceptable, and some will try to imitate it. I got caught up in it during my Don Johnson/Sonny Crockett faze with ‘Miami Vice.’ “You gotta know the rules before you break ‘em. Otherwise, it’s no fun.” Now that man had a sense of fashion.

Young children can’t distinguish televison programs from commercials, especially if their favorite character is pushing some sugary product. Television plays an enormous role in the lives of the citizens of this great nation. In the words of humorist Dave Barry, “If you surveyed a hundred typical middle-aged Americans, I bet you’d find that only two of them could tell you their blood types, but every last one one of them would know the theme song from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’

But there is another danger out there involving young children and television, which I wasn’t aware of until I ran across this story written by Andrew M. Seamen for Reuters. And it’s a shocker.

In a new study, a child is rushed to an emergency room in the U.S. every 45 minutes with an injury that’s related to a falling television. And all this time when I thought the sky was falling, it was actually flat screen TVs. Even Chicken Little is shaken.

From 1990 through 2011, researchers found that about 381,000 children and teenagers were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for TV-related injuries. More than half were caused by falling TVs, another 38 percent by children running into the them. The majority of the injuries were to boys and about 64 percent of the injuries were to children less than five years old. Two-year olds were the age group most likely to be hurt. As I child, I remained unscathed, although I once suffered a paper cut while thumbing through TV Guide.

Here’s what’s happening. Flat-screen TVs are selling faster than hotcakes from the griddle. The older televison sets, which we used to adore but are bigger and bulkier, are being relocated to bedrooms, playrooms, top of dressers, tunnels, safehouses and underground bunkers. The problem is these dinosuars of yesteryear may tip over, because their new locations were never designed to support TVs. And that’s how the dinosaurs went extinct.

But there is a simple way to protect your children from the dangers of falling televisions. “If you have a TV at home, it doesn’t matter if it’s a flat screen or a tube model, that TV must be anchored to a wall,” says former Navy man Gary Smith, the President of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance who headed the study.

And all this time I thought it was the programs the kids were watching that was the enemy to be feared. I knew there were certain dangers in life for our youngest, but I always thought it was cars, MTV and going into the water too soon after eating. It’s our youngest of our youth who must beware of what’s falling from the skies and counters. As poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “As soon as there is life, there is danger? Who knew he was talking about TV?”

For today’s photo adventure, we go back to the evening of January 9, when I headed out to the end of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and I shot this beautiful sunset. I don’t often get to include the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse in my evening shots, as I like to shoot further north along West Cliff, but on this night, while shooting west across the water, it was a welcome addition.

I love the wharf, as there’s usually some photographic action that goes well with warm sour dough bread and creamy clam chowder. And if you’re out there, stop by Gilbert’s Gift Shop, and check out some images of my work that are available for purchase or just for your viewing pleasure.

On to some late night. “A new poll came out and says that most Democrats think Anthony Weiner has basically lost his mind. Weiner said, ‘The important thing is I haven’t lost my phone.’” –Conan O’Brien “Anthony Weiner has vowed to continue to fight. He said he is staying in the race because he cares deeply about the people of New York — except for the one he is married to.” –Jimmy Kimmel “It seems an audio sex tape that Monica Lewinksy recorded for Bill Clinton at the height of their affair back in the 1990s has now been leaked to the National Enquirer. With all these scandals involving Anthony Weiner and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, it’s nice to see an old pro come out of retirement and show these guys how it’s done.” –Jay Leno

“Edward Snowden, the guy who leaked all that information about the NSA, finally got to leave the Moscow airport this morning after being held there for five weeks. When asked what he wanted to eat, he said, ‘Anything but Cinnabon.’ Congress has a month-long vacation coming up, but House Republicans are being pressured to use their time off to reach out to women, young people, and minorities. So they all got together and decided to go to a Selena Gomez concert.” –Jimmy Fallon “In a new interview, Republican Senator John McCain implied that he might vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. McCain’s getting old. He also said he’d consider voting for oatmeal.” –Craig Ferguson

“Russian President Vladimir Putin was on vacation last week, and apparently he caught a giant 46-pound fish. Putin called it a crowning achievement, while the manager of the aquarium said, ‘What am I supposed to do? He’s president.’” –Jimmy Fallon “A high school in Arkansas is letting teachers carry concealed weapons. So now when students want to ask a question, they raise both hands.” –Conan O’Brien “It is not looking good for Alex Rodriguez. There’s a good chance he could be banned from baseball for life. How good? He got 2-to-1 odds from Pete Rose.” – Jay Leno

“More problems for America’s creepiest mayor, San Diego’s Bob Filner. An eighth woman has now come forward to say that she was sexually harassed by him. She said she would’ve come forward sooner but the line was too long. In what has to be the most outrageous defense ever – this is real – Filner’s lawyer said if there’s any liability, it’s the city liable for failing to give the mayor sexual harassment training. Oh, come on now. Just shut up!” –Jay Leno “Facebook has a new feature that allows you to see what you were posting a year ago. You just log on to Facebook and click on the “I’m wasting my life” button.” – Conan O’Brien

So that’s our first blast for August 2013. Sweet 16 birthday wishes go out on Wednesday to my lovely daughter Aimee, who pitched two shutout innnings and made the defensive play of the game on a line drive shot up in middle in her victorious GALS championship softball game last week. Got to love a lefty who can throw strikes all day.

We’ll catch you showing the world that great new shows appear on cable networks like FX in the summertime. Aloha, mahalo and later, “The Bridge” fans.

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