January 2, 2011

Everyone Stay Palm Desert And Don’t Panic

Good morning and greetings, New Year’s fans. Well, 2010, much like the resolutions I made 48 hours ago to lose weight, exercise more and watch less TV, is now history, so hello 2011. But I must confess that I’m always more excited about the even numbered years. Yes, I know, that seems odd.

I spent a week over the winter holidays in lovely Palm Desert, which is located directly east of Palm Springs for those of you who have never visited this desert oasis. It is a winter haven filled with swaying palm trees, sparkling green fairways and luxurious accomodations for those seeking a Sunday brunch with ice sculptures shaped like a young Dinah Shore.

So while much of the country was as frozen as the gluten-free french toast sticks in my freezer, the desert was as warm as the holiday greeting card I received from Kim Jong II. And rumor has it while I was desert storming a little bit of snow fell in the New York Metropolitan area. It conjures up the words of my old pal Irving Berlin, “I’m dreaming of a whiteout Christmas.”

On our first few days in the southland a little moisture dropped down on the sand traps and putting greens. I’m lucky I brought along my “Sons of Anarchy” poncho, because on December 22, more rain fell in the Coachella Valley than in all of 2009. Because of the constant downpour, you wouldn’t have known this was a desert wonderland of golf, tennis and Indian casinos. It was like the old joke, what happens when the fog lifts in California? UCLA.

The following day, Noah hauled away his ark and the skies returned to their crystal blue persuasion. The snow-capped San Jacinto mountains went back to changing color throughout the day rather than being shrouded by low lying clouds. I’m not sure Moses would have recognized this place, as the palm trees, waterfalls and endless lakes might have confused the guy who parted a fool and his money right after the Red Sea.

But it might have inspired the eleventh commandmant, thou shalt build condos on the golf course with a pool and hot tub within 100 yards surrounded by fruit trees that bloom throughout the winter. Growing up in New Jersey, I was not aware that this warm weather paradise existed. I was happy just watching the traffic flow smoothly on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge.

So normally when I’m in the desert mode I’m shooting photos every day. Sunrises, sunsets, masseuses-in-training, flowers, road runners, gun runners, flocks of airborne Canadian geese and Canadian bacon. But due to sports, weather and traffic and still being in shock from the New York Giants’ collapse against Michael Vick and the Eagles, I was happy just connecting the dots in my coloring book.

Well, that’s not completely true, as I did shoot one lovely sunrise, which I have featured in photos five and six. But since this is the first post of the year, I wanted to bring to you, in the words of author David Halberstam, “The Best and the Brightest,” and let you see for yourself how spectacular the desert skies can be. I didn’t journey out there on a horse with no name, but let me tell you, it was good to get out of the rain.

Photos one and two are my favorite sunrise shots from along the back nine of the golf course at the Palm Valley Country Club. Over the years, people have asked of the second shot, was this taken in Bali, Cambodia, or Staten Island? No, it’s early morning action in the Southern Californian desert, which is great way to start the day before snorkeling in the hot tub.

Photos three and four are a couple of epic sunset shots from the land of the Bob Hope Classic. On the first, the sky turned as crimson red as any Alabama moment that I’ve ever witnessed here on planet earth. The next shot was just off the charts, as I could see from the way the clouds were lining up that the mother lode of sunsets was approaching. It turned out to be better than I had hoped, much like the matzo ball soup at my bar mitzvah party.

I should mention that on our ride up the coast to fly out of SFO the sights were also spectacular, as the storm was in full flow and thousands of gulls flooded the beaches. These were as beautiful gull shots as I had ever seen and would have made for a fantastic storm blog, but we wanted to get to the airport as quickly as possible so we could wait for a few hours as our flight was delayed, which is not the same as CANCELLED, which we experienced on our attempted return home.

And just in case you were were wondering how long it takes to drive from Palm Springs to Santa Cruz, go with 8.5 to 9 hours, just to be safe. And in the parting words of one of my newest best friends, an unnamed California Highway Patrol officer who I met early Wednesday morning just outside of Pescadero, “watch your speedometer.” A simple “Mele Kalikimaka” would have been sufficient.

Here’s a little taste of the late night. “This morning President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ into law. He would have signed it last night, but supporters of the bill didn’t want to miss last night’s episode of ‘Glee.’” –Conan O’Brien “President Obama signed into law the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ What does it say about us that we think gay men can handle armed combat, but can’t handle marriage? The census shows there are more than 308 million people living in America. The amazing part is: More than half of those people are Americans.” –Jay Leno “Sarah Palin is getting into the Christmas spirit. Today, she shot a partridge in a pear tree.” –David Letterman

So that’s our first blast of 2011. Hopefully, the new year will be filled with joy, good health and hope that things will be better for so many Americans. And if not, maybe they’ll be more garlic shrimp in my next takeout order. It’s great to be back in the saddle with my cyber audience. We’ll catch you running a deep fly pattern. Aloha, mahalo and later once again, Dwyane Wade fans.

April 11, 2010

Anyone Have Room For Desert?

Good morning and greetings, spring break fans. For many years, the Gilbert family spent this week in the lovely confines of Palm Desert. But this year, due to health care reform, the pollen count and my agoraphobia, we decided to stay in the Cruz. They say home is where the heart is, along with the pancreas and spleen. Or in the words of Ricky Ricardo, “Lucy, you’ve got a lot of ‘spleening’ to do.”

Although we didn’t make the trip to this southern California desert oasis, we still had some golden images from a few months back. On the trip to Palm Desert over the winter break, we experienced gorgeous sunrises, spectacular sunsets and a menu at Sherman’s Deli the the size of a Buick. Since the shots of the corned beef and chocolate chip rugelach were a little fuzzy, today’s photo buffet will highlight some appetizers shot from the skycam.

As I said, there were a couple of sunrises that just blew the doors off the color meter. We featured the first one back in January, (Would You Like To See The Desert Menu,?) so here comes his little brother. It’s an awesome feeling seeing the desert sky light up along the back nine of the golf course at the Palm Valley Country Club. It’s probably quite similar to the way the early settlers must have felt when they first experienced the desert, except without the hot tubs and pools, spa and massage rooms and the Sunday all-you-can-eat-buffet up at the Clubhouse. There’s just something so basic and natural about melting ice sculptures alongside eggs benedicts and freshly carved prime rib.

So while I was having a threeway musically with Debbie Boone and Whitney Houston (“You light up my life,”) the sky starting to turn into a coloring book. This would be photos # 1-4. For the final two, we turn to the late afternoon skies as the clouds were exploding all the way from Joshua Tree to the Morongo Casino. Just a great way to end the day before heading out for a vegetarian feast at LG’s Steak House.

While on this December sabbatical from the marine layer of the central coast, we also experienced a rare desert rainbow, snowfall on the San Jacinto mountains and flying saucer-like clouds at sunset. We’ll take a look at these desert treats somewhere down the line along with my tips for desert vegan dining. Who needs tri-tip when you can rent in sprout city?

So today is Monday, April 12 and it’s a special day. My father, who supplied my mother with the initial ingredients in making me the shell of a man I am today, turns 93. Yes, boys and squirrels, 93! That’s bodes very well for me and my time share in Tuscany.

But let’s focus on the man who used to tell me in my formulative years, “Geoff, it’s easier to get an ‘A’ then it is to get an ‘F.’ To this day, I still don’t understand how that works. He also encouraged me to have hobbies, take classes and join political organizations. Well, I’m not sure if watching more TV than the Neilsons or being sunrise boy counts, but let’s put it up on the tote board anyway.

My father and his young bride (my mother, who’s 84) live one mile away from me and are constantly hounding me to take them water skiing, roller skating and to the Yan Flower for the war wonton soup. For years, over plates of shrimp and lobster sauce, my father would tell me how proud he was of me and ask if I was going to finish my soup. His words, much like my rib cage, remain close to my heart. 93, unbelievable! Years of martial arts training has left my body feeling exhausted at age 57, so I can’t imagine what nine plus decades might feel like. I’m going to need a walker with TiVo.

But his is not the only birthday that April brings. Belated wishes go out my blogging, snowboarding and gluten free brother, Brad, who celebrated the big day last Wednesday in Vail with a downhill runs in fresh powder up to his thighs and a flour free cake. When an NBA player hits the game winning three-pointer at the buzzer and the phone rings, I always know who it is. It’s either my youngest brother or one of those damn telemarketers calling from New Dehli.

But April 7 is not the only day when someone close to me came flying out of the birth canal. My pre-law son, Jason, also shares this April occasion, as my water didn’t break till late in the day. To say I’m fond of this child (and his blonde sister) is putting it mildly-when you see your child take his first step, or says his first words, or perform his first 360 spin in the lane, it’s really something special. But now he’s a young man who can block my shot and demand the car keys. So a belated happy sweet 16 to my volleyball setting son.

One more birthday shout out goes to my web designer/new age guru/right handed power hitting friend Kevin Deutsch, who celebrated his big day on April 8. Without this former CIF Player of the Year out of Laguna Beach’s help, this blog would an email with some scribbling on it, like the essay on my college application about the danger of going into the water less than a half hour after you’ve eaten.

Bring on the late nite. “You know, 30,000 people showed up for the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House today. Or as Fox News calls it, a ‘socialist free food giveaway.’” –Jay Leno President and Mrs. Obama hosted the annual White House Easter Egg Roll today. Dozens of children gathered on the White House lawn to roll eggs toward a finish line while the president cheered them on and Republicans tried to block them.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Today, President Obama threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals’ game. Obama took a short windup and threw a high-arcing pitch. Of course, Democrats saw the pitch as moderately close to the middle, while Republicans are calling it ‘way to the left and possibly socialist.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Next week, the president of China will be at the White House. And good news — he has no plans to foreclose. And in a major reversal of U.S. policy, President Obama has narrowed the conditions under which we would use nuclear weapons. He said we’d only use them against Iran, North Korea or Fox News. President Obama announced this week that he is opening more sites for offshore oil drilling. Do you know what that means? If we find enough oil, we could one day invade ourselves.” –Jay Leno” During a speech at the White House, President Obama said that ‘teleworking’ from home can boost efficiency. Kind of interesting advice from a guy who just flew 13 hours to Afghanistan to say ‘what’s up.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Well, yesterday, a 7.2 earthquake hit southwest of Tijuana. They say the earthquake was felt by 20 million Mexicans, and that was just here in L.A. The Labor Department reported that the economy added 162,000 jobs last month, all of them bodyguards for Tiger Woods.” -Jay Leno “People were standing in line around the block all weekend to get an iPad. Out in Arizona, John McCain was waiting in line for an IBM Selectric. Experts believe the iPad will revolutionize the way people procrastinate.” –David Letterman “Michelle Obama held a town hall meeting on C-SPAN to answer questions from kids about her anti-obesity campaign. The most popular question from kids was, ‘Why are you doing this to us, lady?’” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our look at what I didn’t do on my spring vacation. Coming up next week, we’ll return to the highways and byways of the central coast. So enjoy the final few days of the NBA regular season as the playoffs begin on Saturday. I don’t want to say I’m excited, but I have my clothes picked out the thru the conference finals. We’ll catch you in the first round. Aloha, mahalo and later, Russell Westbrook fans.

January 3, 2010

Would You Like To See The Desert Menu?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — geoff @ 8:14 pm

Good morning and greetings, January Jones fans. Yes, the first decade of the new millenium, much like my quick first step on the basketball floor, is now history. And like the season finale of “Sons of Anarchy,” I wanted our first sacrificial offering for 2010 something special. And I believe if you click on this week’s photos, in the words of my personal choice for man of the decade, George W. Bush, “Mission Accomplished.”

A few years ago, when I started to devote my early morning/late afternoon life to this sunrise/sunset obsession, an idea floated thru my mind like a Karch Kiraly set at match point. After seeing a book displaying a year’s worth of sunsets shot from the Oakland hills starring the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought to myself, what about a book featuring sunrises from all 50 states? How stars and stripish would that be?

Then I thought to myself, that’s too much territory to cover, and besides, I’m exhausted just going to the bank and CVS, so like a garter snake, I scaled the project back and thought, why don’t I just do the western states? Sunrises from Albuquerque, Boulder and Tucson, kind of a Diana Ross, “Ain’t No Mountain High” theme. But then I thought, I need to take a nap after trekking thru the gigantic new Safeway on the westside, so out went New Mexico, Hannah Montana and sweet home Arizona. Kind of the less is more school of thought.

So, in moving ahead with this mental menagerie of early morning imagery, I settled on the idea of dawnbusters from just the Golden State. Yeah, that’s the ticket, sunrises from up and down the coast of California. And maybe we’ll throw in a little Death Valley, Squaw Valley and in keeping with my new totally organic vegan lifestyle, a couple of Nature Valley granola bars.

But then I thought, it’s an awfully large state, and for sunrise workers the day ends absurdly early, so I thought, forget the whole state, we’ll stick with northern California. But then I thought of all the wear and tear of driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, so I got down to the Pigeon Point and thought, let’s just focus on sunrises and sunsets from Santa Cruz County. But then I thought, can I really handle the pressure of driving to the eastside or Capitola in the morning? Why don’t I just stick with my eminent domain and photograph sunrises from Lighthouse Point and West Cliff Drive.

And that, boys and squirrels, is where we find ourselves today. Somebody call Maria, it’s a Westside Story. My ambition runneth over.

That brings us to today’s photographic extravanganza. To start off the new year we are jetting from the coast to one of Moses’ favorite locations, Palm Desert, where there was no burning bush but where I burned everytime I heard the name George Bush. My digital mission was to part my own reddish Sea while bringing down ten commandments, or at least six photographs that were worthy of this cyber jury.

During my holiday tour of duty, where I ate like a ravenous shetland pony, I witnessed droves of exotic desert clouds, two spectacular sunrises, one fabulous sunset, one surprise rainbow, two turtle doves and a Partridge Family in a pear tree. Today’s entree, which comes with your choice of soup or salad, is a sunrise from the final week of December. I shot it on the back nine of the golf course at the lovely Palm Valley Country Club, where I spent ten rigorous days of hot tubbing, movie watching, pleasure reading and snacking like Orson Welles on Jenny Craig. There was no smoke on the water, but there was definitely fire in the sky.

Palm Desert is east of Palm Springs, about an two hour drive from the City of Angels, which for you Dodger fans is Los Angeles. It’s located in the Coachella Valley, which is surrounded by the San Jacinto mountains, which change color throughout the day, depending on cloud cover and the daily special at Sherman’s Deli, with two convenient locations for you fresh rye bread, hot corn beef and stuffed cabbage fans. I believe the group America summed up the desert experience best back in 1972 with the words, “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name. It felt good to get out of the rain.”

So let’s catch up on the late night action. “There are a lot of holiday parties coming up at the White House. Obama is getting ready to host the Administration’s first Hanukkah party tomorrow. Kind of an embarrassing moment, though. Today, after they lit the menorah, Biden blew it out and made a wish.” –Jimmy Fallon “During an interview last night, Oprah Winfrey asked President Obama what grade he would give himself for his first year in office and he said a ‘B-plus.’ Then, Oprah shook her head and said, ‘I didn’t pay for a B-plus.’” –Conan O’Brien “Big day for President Obama. He accepted his Nobel Prize today and then got right back to the business of running two wars.” –David Letterman President Obama’s daughter Sasha says that she already bought her dad’s gift. She won’t say what it is but she did say, ‘It’s something he likes.’ Which begs the question: How did an 8-year-old get her hands on a carton of Marlboro Lights?” –Conan O’Brien

“Computer technicians in Washington say they have found 22 million missing emails from President George W. Bush’s Administration. And you can tell the emails are from the Bush Administration because they all begin, ‘Dear Santa. According to a new poll that just came out, 44 percent of Americans wish President Bush were back in office. However it’s only 20 percent if you exclude comedy writers. Former President Bush is writing his memoirs and he says they will focus on 12 major decisions he made in his life. The weird thing is, 11 of them were made by Dick Cheney. Former President Bush is currently working on his memoirs and he said he’s completed about 85 percent. His exact quote was, ‘I’m halfway done.’” –Conan O’Brien

“A man in Minnesota was arrested on Monday for trying to throw tomatoes at Sarah Palin during a book signing. Luckily, Palin was able to shoot them out of the air” –Seth Meyers
“It sure is cold. So cold that Osama bin Laden was seen hiding in the border region between Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.” –David Letterman “The wife of Al Qaeda’s second in command is now calling on women to become suicide bombers. To qualify, they must be able to push a car loaded with explosives, because, as you know, women aren’t allowed to drive over there.” –Jay Leno “In China, an animal trainer taught his monkeys Kung fu — and then they attacked him using his best kung fu moves. Luckily, they were no match for the parrot he’d taught to fire a gun.” –Conan O’Brien

So, resolution fans, that’s our first blast of the New Year. I hope everyone had a somewhat relaxing and enjoyable holiday, as this was a difficult time for many families throughout our nation. As for myself, I’ve been shooting away like Annie Leibowitz in bankrupcty court and the six pics photo features are now lined up in my computer like jets sitting on the runway at LAX. So much like Kobe Bryant fans and LeBron James lovers, we have a lot to look forward to this year. So get ready for the NFL playoffs and we’ll catch you in running the deep post pattern. Aloha, mahalo and later, Philip Rivers fans.

May 31, 2009

Film At 11

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Good morning and greetings, Grand Funk Railroad fans. That’s right, folks, “I’m your captain” and thanks to my paint-by-the-numbers GPS system, “I’m getting closer to my home.” And dammit, “We’re an American Band. I saw Grand Funk guitarist Mark Farner play last summer at the Friday night concerts down at the Beach Boardwalk and he rocked Santa Cruz. I also saw Mr. Eddie Money, “Back in the 70′s when I was here, I was snorting South American countries” and the Gin Blossoms. We are talking tremendous rock and roll shows for the price of free.

For many years I passed on these mini-Woodstocks down at the beach and then one evening checked out Peter Noone and Herman Hermits and I was hooked just like Mrs. Brown and her lovely daughter. The sand, waves, barking sea lions, annoying tourists, alcohol, litter and cigarette smoke-it doesn’t get much better than that with rock and roll music blasting out over Monterey Bay. To quote the great Duke Ellington, (not to be confused with North Carolina Ellington,) “Music is my mistress.” And as Pablo Cruise once told me, “Love will find a way.”

For today’s photo fare we are going back, as the Chambers Brothers would say, in “Time.” As I’ve mentioned before, I joined the digital revolution in 2005, and much like when I broke down and ate Chinese food for the first time, a new sweet and sour world opened up for me. I had been shooting with a Canon AE1 for many years and was happy as a clam with the format. Focus, shoot a roll of 24, develop and see what I’ve got. A surprise in every envelope. Sometimes joy, sometimes disappointment, like seeing my SAT scores. But today we are going with some jump shots that worked for me, like an open 18-footer from the left side of the key.

For our first image, I went with one of my many cypress sunrise shots, this one entitled “Sky on Fire.” For years I shot the sunrise in front of the cypress tree along West Cliff before one day I finally dawned on me (no pun intended,) that this damn tree was blocking too much of the sky. I then joined moveon.org and started shooting down at Lighthouse Point.

Which leads me to photo #2, which in honor of Tommy Gavin and the “Rescue Me” boys, I call “Fire Engine Sky.” For a month in my late youth I shot with the slide format, and this red alert is a result of my slide period, which I also refer to as my first year of Algebra 1. I was using some film called Kodak Extra Color and as you can see from the rouge and the purple haze in the sky, they definitely didn’t cheat me on the color front. Not to toot my own Lena horn, but the Communist Party named this shot their 2004 photo of the year.

For our next two vertical entrees we move north (although some might say west) along West Cliff Drive. For some reason this morning I mistimed the sunrise. I woke and saw a beautiful red cumulus ribbon covering the sky. I then scooted down to the cliff and caught the aftermath (or was it afterscience) of the sun rising over the fog bank which I call “Glory Clouds.” Karma, clouds, parsley, sage, rosemary and time were on my side that morning.

We then move up to Swift Street to see a double rainbow doing stand-up in the Pacific. This was the beach that I lived across from during my West Cliff wonder years from 1975-1989. Living on the edge of the continent and photographing rainbows was not easy, with the daily distractions of migrating whales, countless chains of sea birds and endless droves of roller skaters. And definitely not in that order.

For our last two shots we are moving out of town but staying in state. The fifth shot is from New Year’s Day, 2004, back in Palm Desert, when the sky lit up with brilliantly colored, cotton-puffed clouds that just blew my mind. As I’m writing this I’m reminded of another fantastic, blood-red sunset from Palm Desert that I will feature later this summer. Due to technical difficulties, I did not make it out to the desert this year but from what I hear Sherman’s Deli (with two convenient locations in Palm Springs and Palm Desert) is still doing major rye bread, corn beef and chocolate rugala business without me.

The final shot was taken in lovely Hermosa Beach sometime in the 1990′s. There weren’t a lot of memorable moments of color in the sky during my decade in the southland but this was one of the nights of photo greatness. Living in the most densely populated city in the U.S., I found myself engulfed in the warm Pacific while the sun was setting from April thru October. Throw in third row season tickets to the Lakers at the Fabulous Forum during the Magic Johnson years, which was a magical and James Worthy experience in itself and sunsets took a back seat to the Laker Girls. Hermosa Beach was like living in a giant outdoor health club, but that’s a sideout story for another blog.

On to the late night news. “Well, the big story is the Supreme Court. President Obama has found his nominee. She is a Federal appeals judge. Sonia Sotomayor, a Latino woman, how about that? So, you know what that means. Ruth Bader Ginsburg no longer the hot chick on the court. If confirmed, Sotomayor would be the country’s first Hispanic judge. In fact, her first order of business, deporting Lou Dobbs.” –Jay Leno “History was made today when President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first female Hispanic justice to serve in the U.S. Supreme court. Obama said this should help keep the court from leaning too far to the white.” –Jimmy Fallon

“North Korea tested another nuclear bomb. The fear is that North Korea will sell this nuclear weapon to some unstable, volatile world leader, you know, like Dick Cheney.” –Jay Leno “There are some people who are saying that maybe Dick Cheney is setting himself up to actually run for president. You know, it makes sense. Republicans are looking for fresh blood, and Cheney just had some yesterday.” –Bill Maher

“Barack Obama and Dick Cheney have been going at each other all week. This is like big-time wrestling, isn’t it? Man, it’s like charisma versus arrhythmia. I can’t believe Dick Cheney keeps giving speeches. He’s appearing on TV news shows. It’s like he thinks he is still president. A new pentagon report says that 1 in 7 inmates released from Guantanamo Bay has gone back to terrorism. Surprisingly, the other 6 are working in customer service.” –Jay Leno

So I hope you enjoyed today’s blast of colors from the past. And congratulations to the Lakers and the Magic, who will meet in the NBA Finals that begin on Thursday. What this means is no LeBron James, who put on an INCREDIBLE show during the playoffs but who failed to show up for the Game 6 postgame press conference. It guess it all comes down to the words of Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “Defeat is worse than death, you have to live with defeat.”

As you can imagine, there are few more Fuji like images in the archives that we will later revisit. On Friday morning, I took a few shots of a coyote in the misting rain which we’ll see coming down the pike. So enjoy the Kodak colors and we’ll catch at the Staples Center. And welcome to June. Aloha, mahalo and later, George McGinnis fans.

August 17, 2008

Are You North Shore About That?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:07 pm

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Good morning and greetings, photo blog fans. Sunrise Santa Cruz is back from the lovely South Pacific and we are ready to pick and roll. Ah, there’s nothing like being on vacation, getting away from the daily grind of shooting mainland sunrises and sunsets over the blue Pacific. It’s a different world on the the North Shore of Oahu. Take it from a rugged outdoorsman like me, it’s not easy going from a cold water paradise on Monterey Bay to the crystal clear 80 degree water on Sunset Beach. Somehow, I was able to make the tropical transition and relax Olympic style at the place known as the Jerusalem of surfing.

After a five hour flight from San Francisco filled with delicious airline snacks (well, a can of soda and a napkin, anyway), we landed at Honolulu International Airport, remembered the Alamo and headed to the North Shore. It’s about a 40 minute drive past the Dole Plantation thru the pineapple fields to surfing’s holy land. The most famous coastline of surfing on Earth lies at latitude 21,950 north, longitude 158,112 west. The Hawaiian islands comprise the most isolated archipelago on the planet, located more than 2,000 miles southwest of the United States and light years away from the layered sweatshirt dominated climate in Santa Cruz.

This geological miracle called the North Shore is home to waves that are considered the most powerful on earth. Or in the words of oceanographer Dr. Ricky Griggs, “The swells hit the northern shore of Oahu with their power intact, not slowed by any other island chains or continental shelves. What breaks on the North Shore is North Pacific power, pound for pound the most powerful wave on the planet.” Fortunately, the good doctor is referring to wintertime action. That is why yours truly brings his family over in the summer, when the swell is as gentle as a kiss from Oprah.

So we rented a house right on the sand at Sunset Beach. As you can see from photos #1 and 2, the beach and landscape are spectacular with very few people in sight. The third shot is the view from our deck and the colors are just dreamy. The weather and sky would be in constant flux. One second it would be deep blue and then a minute later the warm rain would come, bringing rainbows (photo #4) and then back to blue within minutes. Like they used to say when I lived in Boulder, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

Speaking of Boulder, my Colorado-based brother Brad made it to the North Shore and forced me to accompany him on early morning snorkeling trips to Shark’s Cove (photo #5), a five minute ride from Sunset and right across the street from the wonders of Foodland. Just 50 yards off the Kam Highway, a different world lies beneath the water’s surface. Fish of every race, creed and particularly every color swim in the coral reefs right off shore. We’re talking orange, yellow, pinks and purples, just super exotic colored fish available to anyone with a mask. What I liked most was the feeling of being surrounded by a group of hundreds of silver fish. It was surreal feeling and just an incredible display of what God has put into his sea collection. Just an awesome way for a land based former hand model to start the day.

The North Shore is also home to legendary surfing spots like the Pipeline and Waimea Bay (photo #6.) In honor of our 50th state we’re going to go with the Hawaii theme thru the Olympics and beyond. On Wednesday we’ll take a look at some of the wildlife on the island. And let me welcome a bunch of new people to the blog. I think you’re going to like the ride. So enjoy the day, the beach views and we’ll catch you for wildlife Wednesday. Aloha, mahola and God bless chocolate. Later, macadamia nut fans.

July 29, 2008

Kools And The Gang

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

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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 15, 2008

Franks For The Memories

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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

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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 1, 2008

Hawaii Is The Sky Blue

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:27 pm

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Good morning and welcome to July, 2008. Since we are talking Hawaii today I thought we’d go tropical and head over to Sunset Beach on the north shore of Oahu. Sunset Beach is one of the classic spots where the big boys flock to in the wintertime. Along with Pipeline (“The Pipe”) and Waimea Bay, it is where the Triple Crown of Surfing is held. However, at this time of year, except for a rare swell, the waves break as gently as a summer’s breeze and that’s when yours truly heads over there for a little rest, relaxation and a variety of plate lunches.

All these photos were taken from the area (Mother’s Beach) where the locals hang out and where I will be parking myself in August. The water temperature is around 80 degrees, the trade winds blow in the afternoon and the beach is always open. The flowers smell like perfume from heaven and the fruit is sweeter than candy. It’s the summer school course I never mind repeating-Tropical Paradise 101.

But there is trouble in paradise. Surrounded by royal guards and tourists who can’t find the North Shore, Her Majesty Mahealani Kahau and her government ministers hold court every day in a tent outside the palace of Hawaii’s last monarch, passing laws, slicing and dicing pineapple, papaya and coconuts and discussing how to secure reparations for the Native Hawaiian people.

Kahau and her followers are members of the self-proclaimed Hawaiian Kingdom Government, which is devoted to restoring the Hawaiian monarchy overthrown in 1893. Nearly two months ago, while tourists cruised Wakiki Beach, they stormed the gates of the old Iolani Palace, and they have politely occupied the grounds ever since, operating like a government-in-exile while selling maps of the star’s houses on the island of Oahu.

“We’re here to assume and resume what is already ours and what has always been ours,” said Kahau, who is a descendant of Hawaii’s last king and was elected “head of state” by the group. Unlike my montra, “If nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve.”

The Hawaiian Kingdom Government, which was founded seven years ago and claims 1,000 followers, uses its own license plates, recipes for rice and macaroni salad and maintains its own judicial system. In recent years, members have voted to dissolve the state of Hawaii, its land titles, welfare programs, public schools and surf shops. They also claim the right to confiscate all bank assets in Hawaii.

The organization’s actions do not carry the force of law, and the state has mostly taken a hands-off approach. It has not confiscated any of the license plates, for example, or arrested anyone for using them. However, they have seized some mangos and bananas from the group that were suspiciously overripe .

Hawaii has about 200,000 Native Hawaiians out of a population of 1.3 million. The Hawaiian Kingdom Government is just one of several native organizations that claim sovereignty over the islands, tapping into a strong sense among Native Hawaiians that they were wronged by history. I’m not a historian and have never played one on TV but I think they’ve got a pretty good case.

More than a century ago, a group of sugar planters, wind surfers and other businessmen, most of them Americans, overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy with the support of U.S. military forces. Queen Liliuokalani was imprisoned at the ornate Iolani Palace, built in 1882 by her brother, King David Kalakaua. Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a state in 1959.

“We are definitely trying to correct a wrong that we feel has been done to us as a people,” said Hawaiian Kingdom Government spokesman Orrin Kupau. On April 30, members of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government stormed onto the palace grounds in the heart of Honolulu and shut the gates behind them, leading to a few tense hours before they finally reopened the entrance so tourists could take pictures, buy postcards and “Give Us Our Damn Island Back” bumper stickers.

Every day, Kahau and about a dozen of her government officials meet in the tent for guava juice and sweet rolls. Every evening, they fold up their tent and go home to watch reruns of “Hawaii Five-O” and “Magnum P.I.”, returning in the morning. State officials have largely ignored them, and police have made no “Book em, Dano” arrests. The Hawaiian Kingdom Government has said it has no intention of resorting to violence.

Every week, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government obtains a public-assembly permit that allows it to occupy the grounds of the palace, a museum, a shaved ice stand and a popular tourist attraction next door to the state Capitol. As far as the state is concerned, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government is treated the same as any other group that wants to conduct activities on public ground and secede from the United States, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. “As long as they comply with the permit conditions, they may continue to request permits to meet,” she said.

Those conditions prohibit the Hawaiian Kingdom Government from interfering with access to the palace, harassing pedestrians, collecting money, posting banners, hang gliding, sail boarding, Zodiac rafting or entering several government buildings. It is unclear how the organization’s members intend to oust the state government. They also want reparations in the form of housing, low-cost health care, cash and macadamia nut farms. The kingdom slapped a $7 trillion fine on the Hawaii state government in 2007. So far, no payout from Uncle Sam.

That’s the island report. We’ll take Friday off for the 4th of July but come back with something fresh and exciting on Monday. So enjoy the holiday weekend and maybe for a moment think about what we are celebrating besides the birth of fireworks. Enjoy the beach, mahalo and I’m out of here.


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