June 19, 2011

Summer Better Than Others

Good morning and greetings, summer solstice fans. This spring was a walk on the wild side on the weather front, as killer tornadoes, ravaging floods, raging wildfires, record-breaking heat, Anthony’s weiner
and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child all made national headlines. It was a very difficult time that many Americans and particularly Maria Shriver won’t soon forget.

But as Monday is the final day of our annual spring fling, I thought we
would look ahead to summer and all the fun that is Santa Cruz. When the words summer and fun are combined with free admission, all day-ride passes and a lost children’s center, we can only be talking about one place. That would be the only remaining major seaside amusement park on the West Coast, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Before there was the Boardwalk, there was just a beautiful,lifeguard-free, white sand beach. Back in 1865, before Safeway, Starbucks
and Panda Express splashed onto the scene, an enterprising gentlemen named John Leibrandt opened a public bathhouse near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Holy SPF 50 ultra sweatproof sunblock, Batman! Soon other bathhouses followed along with boogie board rental shops as tourists of every race, creed and color began visiting Santa Cruz.

They had heard of the Catalyst and of the healing properties of salt water, so they traveled by planes, trains and automobiles to immerse themselves in this highly-touted “natural medicine.” This was bigger than clam chowder in a bread bowl as soon more stores and businesses opened including Sears, Jamba Juice and Pizza My Heart as tourists flocked to the central coast to take the cold water plunge.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was founded in 1904 by local businessman and entrepreneur Fred Swanton, who wanted to create a Coney Island on the west coast. We’re talking Nathan Hot Dogs on a sour dough bun along with an amusement park full of fun, games and a variety of souvenirs to satisfy everyone from Grandma to the annoying friend who’s afraid to go on any ride. All this along an incredibly beautiful mile long stretch of the Pacific Ocean. It was just the way Spanish explorers envisioned this prime piece of oceanfront real estate
when they first sailed into Monterey Bay.

So Fred Swanton erected a domed casino on the beach along the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Unfortunately, less than two years later, the building, much like LeBron James and the Miami Heat in this year’s NBA Finals, went down in flames, along with a salt water taffy stand. But this Santa Cruz-based visionary would not be deterred, and he soon built a new casino, ballroom, boardwalk, pleasure pier, indoor swimming pool, ashram and meditation center.

The grand opening of the new boardwalk inspired an inaugural ball, with one band being directed by John Philip Sousa and the other by Mr. Eddie Money. There was also a congratulatory email message from President Theodore Roosevelt and a twitter from Sarah Palin, who claimed that she was just on a summer vacation with her family and that this road trip had nothing to do with her trying to sell more books.

The Boardwalk’s top attraction is the Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster built in 1924, when Al Davis bought the Oakland Raiders. Giant Dipper creator Arthur Looff once said the ride’s design was intended to evoke a “combination earthquake, balloon ascension and aeroplane drop,” or how Bin Laden might have felt when he realized it was not Domino’s Pizza but Navy Seals knocking down his door.

Now, I don’t want to say that that I’m not a big roller coaster fan,
but if I want to experience the highs and lows, thrills and excitement and gentle terror that is the Giant Dipper, I’ll just watch my stock portfolio play along with the Dow Jones average. And I don’t even
have to be buckled in.

The Giant Dip was built in just 47 days at the cost of $50,000, or what I spend each year on electroshock therapy and Chinese food. The Dipper and the Looff Carousel are both on the United States National Register of Historic Places along with the new “Burger” restaurant on Mission Street. The Boardwalk itself is a California State Historic Landmark. For summer seaside fun with an assortment of rides and attractions that make visitors wish they could afford to live here, the Boardwalk is the place to be.

For today’s photographic faceplate we are serving up six shots of the
Boardwalk that you won’t find in National Geographic or Popular Mechanics. The first photo was taken during a pelican feeding frenzy in the waters of Cowells Beach. We continue with a shot from later that evening followed by more photos from this prime piece of real estate that considers the Wharf, Steamers Lane and Lighthouse Point close and personal friends.

On to the late night festivities. “Congressman Weiner has entered a
treatment program. Amazingly, it’s the only thing he’s entered during the entire Weinergate scandal.” –Conan O’Brien “Congressman Anthony Weiner has just checked himself into a treatment center for people battling chronic sexual dysfunction. Checked in? He’s already
there, it’s called Congress. Congressman Anthony Weiner has announced that he’s not resigning in the wake of the scandal. One thing we know about Weiner is that he knows how to stand firm.” –Jay Leno

“The Chairman of the Republican Party Ed Cox said that he would use the incriminating pictures from Anthony Weiner to defeat him. So now we have Cox versus Weiner. This just doesn’t stop!” –Jay Leno “Anthony Weiner wants to be mayor of New York City. So we may go from a guy that looks like a jockey to a guy that likes how he looks in
Jockeys.” –David Letterman “After searching online for eight minutes for pictures of a congressman’s penis you have to start questioning yourself. And now we find out Weiner’s wife is pregnant. The only thing that could make this right is if it turns out she got pregnant by Arnold Schwarzenegger.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Arnold Schwarzenegger’s housekeeper says Maria Shriver became suspicious after noticing similarities between Arnold and her 13-year-old son. For instance, after serving as class president, he left the sixth grade with a $42 billion deficit. The housekeeper said the affair wasn’t all Arnold’s fault because “it takes two.” Then Anthony Weiner said, “Actually, it only takes one.”–Conan O’Brien

“President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have agreed to play a round of golf together. Imagine the two of them at the end of that golf game? Boehner will be crying over his score and Obama will be giving three explanations as to why his score is actually better than it appears. One of bin Laden’s wives said he was a sex machine. In fact, he was the only man who could find her jihad spot.” –Jay Leno

That’s our last blast for spring 2011. Congratulations go out to my Santa Cruz-based parents, Lee and Daniel Gilbert, who on Saturday celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary. Being their oldest has really been a treat. Or as my father likes to say, “Lee, why didn’t we have a daughter first?”

So get ready for summer and we’ll catch you running the break. Aloha,
mahalo and later, NBA draft fans.

March 7, 2011

Words Fly Over The Rainbow


Good morning and greetings, no-fly zone fans.  Welcome to March, the month that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb chop.  I hope it’s been a good week, or at least fair or partly cloudy for all you who are reading or skimming this.  So from the halls of Monterey Bay to the shores of Tripoli, let’s go right to the news.

That Moammar Khaddafy, or if you prefer the Hebrew spelling, Gadhafi, is really quite the character.  Up until now, my favorite colonels were Klink and Sanders, because those herbs and spices are so damn finger lickingly good.  But these gentleman having nothing over this lovable maniac from Libya, who’s been in power for four decades yet seems as delusional as the leaders of the Republican Party.

The colonel and his son, along with their original recipe chicken, cole slaw and biscuits, insist there is no rebellion going on in their country, and then they go out and blast away at the opposition like they’re quarterbacks on Super Bowl Sunday, except the bombs they’re completing are real.  I’ll give Khaddafy credit, this guy looks like he walked straight out of central casting, as he has that cunning, desert fox dictator look down to a fine science.  And I sympathize with him because I know how it feels to have $30 billion in assets seized, that really can put a damper on the day.  And just my luck, with the way things have been going, it looks like I’ll never get the money back I lent to Hosni Mubarek.

You’ve got to love any tyrant who can deliver a speech, much like many of my early posts, that is meandering, disjointed and has little to do with reality.  I remember years ago when I started this blog that, I, much like the Colonel, urged my readers to fight with me “to the last man and woman.”  Okay, so maybe I was a little needy.  But to my credit, I never blamed radical Islamists for giving young people drugs that goaded them into a frenzing of rioting and posting comments on this site.

But for now, as much as I love bloody crackdowns on my own people, let’s get away from arms embargos, trade sanctions and personal interventions and get back to our subject at hand.  Back on the morning of February 16, the morning light was outstanding, as the sun’s rays were shooting down through the clouds as I walked along West Cliff without my camera.  Later that morning, it Nathan hailed, aiding to the pagentry of the day.  So being a savant, I thought it might be a good idea to head down to the beach at sunset time, as the weather this day, much like my trip through the birth canal, had been rather wild.

Because of the earlier rain and my glowing aura,  the beach was deserted at Natural Bridges.  As you can see from the first photo, the clouds were somewhat ominous.  Then all of a sudden, before you could say, “we do chicken right,” the sky darkened and it starting pouring, which of course, is great for my camera.  And then, much to my sunny delight, a beautiful, full arc, double rainbow rose in the sky, that made me feel like I was back in Kansas with little Toto.

Because of my location, I couldn’t get the shot of the rainbow dipping into the Pacific, but as Mick Jagger once told me, “you can’t always get what you want.”  Fortunately, while the rain was pelting down upon me, I got what I needed.  Seeing that rainbow light up the sky was quite entertaining, much like last week’s episode of ”The Good Wife.”  Not as intense as the drama on “Southland”, but something that Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Danny Reagan on “Blue Bloods” would have appreciated.

You can see in the final shot that the post rainbow clouds were just phenomenal.
That leads to the question, what is a rainbow?  Four out of five scientists say it is a band of colors in the shape of an arc that is formed from reflection, refraction, and a psychotic reaction of the sun’s rays inside millions of raindrops.  They appear, in the words of B.J. Thomas when “raindrops keep falling on my head,” as when it is raining in one part of the sky and sunny in another.  Those are classic rainbow conditions, my friends, and when they are happening, I immediately fly into rainbow alert a la mode, which goes great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

From what I learned from the radar map back in weather school, the sun is always behind you while the rain is in front when a rainbow or unexpected guests appear.  So, if my coordinates and karma are correct, the center of the rainbow’s arc is always directly opposite the sun or any other family member, like Alice, when she’s ten feet tall.

Most people, or people who need people, who are the luckiest people in the world, think that the colors of a rainbow are apple red, tangerine orange, mellow yellow, Mean Joe greene, Vida blue, indigo girls and violet parker.  Well, believe it or not, Mr. Wizard once told me that a rainbow is made up of an entire other group of colors.  We’re talking colors that my eye, my dog or even my periodontist can’t even see.

Now how is it that we are able to see rainbows?   We are able to see the colors because light of different colors is bent when it travels from one medium, like the air and into another, in this case, the water of raindrops.  When all the colors that make up sunlight are combined, they look as white as the crowd at a Tea Party rally, but once they are refracted, they break up into colors we see in a rainbow or at the snack shacks we see along the beach at Wakiki.

Now listen closely, boys and squirrels.  Every person, no matter what race (like the 100 meters), creed or color sees their own personal rainbow.  What that means is that when you are staring at one like me, while snapping away like Annie Liebowitz at a bankruptcy hearing, you are seeing the light bounced off of certain raindrops.  The person or sailor next to you may seem to be looking at the same rainbow, but they may be seeing light reflecting off other raindrops from a completely different angle.  Are you confused?  Don’t worry, just click your heels three times and ask for Dorothy.

Now here are a few more fun facts about rainbows.  It was Sir Issac Newton who discovered the seven distinct colors of the visible spectrum with the help of his brother Fig.  Phil Collins wrote quite eloquently in Genesis 9 that rainbows are God’s promise.  And everything we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and text exists between the frequencies of red and violet.  I have no idea what that means, I just like the way it sounded, like my voice on Sportstalk radio.  And they say the ladder to heaven is built of rungs which are the colors of the rainbow.  Personally, I’ve always been more of a “Stairway to Heaven” guy, because I do remember laughter.

On to some great late night.  “Protests continue in Libya. It was reported that most of the protests are being organized on a dating website, which explains why half the protest signs say “No Gadhafi” and the other half say “No fatties.  They’re saying Gadhafi is “disconnected from reality.” According to the State Department, Gadhafi thought this year’s Oscars were fantastic.”–Conan O’Brien  “I thought the Oscars were supposed to be young and hip and I only saw all these old people. Then I realized I was watching “60 Minutes.”–Craig Ferguson  “The Oscar statue is about thirteen inches in height and weighs about 9 pounds. Oh wait, that’s Tom Cruise.”–David Letterman

“Moammar Gadhafi is starting to sound a little crazy. Al-Jazeera canceled his show, “Two and a Half Shiites.  Gadhafi said his people “love him.” I think that’s what he said. It was hard to hear over the rebel gunfire.”–David Letterman  “Everyone is saying we have to take control of Moammar Gadhafi. We can’t even control Charlie Sheen.  Charlie Sheen said that he’s now more popular than President Obama, at which point Mike Huckabee accused him of growing up in Kenya.”–Jay Leno

“Oprah has been invited by Egypt’s new government to do a show from Cairo. So they’ve replaced one power-mad tyrant who’s been ruling for 30 years with another one.” –Conan O’Brien  “Sarah Palin is going to India to make a speech. She’s hoping to visit some of those Indian casinos she’s heard so much about.” –Jay Leno  “Bristol Palin is releasing a book called “Not Afraid of Life.” Meanwhile, Sarah Palin is releasing a book called, “I’m Afraid of Books.”–Jimmy Fallon

“‘King Kong’ opened 78 years ago. It’s the story of a woman that gets carried away by an ape. The same thing happened to Maria Shriver.” –David Letterman  “Twitter was down for two hours on Saturday. It was terrible. I had to call random people in the phone book and tell them what I had for lunch.”–Jimmy Fallon  “The price of gas here was up to $4.50. When I started pumping, it was only $3.85.–Jay Leno

So that’s our first official blast for March.  If you like college basketball, and what true American doesn’t, this is a month to savor like your first Haagan Daz bar.  So be grateful for your clean water and we’ll catch you at midcourt.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Kevin Love fans.

February 28, 2010

Pedal To The Medals

Good morning and greetings, ice dancing fans. Yes, February 2010, much like my keen eyesight, razor-sharp hearing and six pack abs, is now history. Our second month of the year is unique, as much like my status in my high school hoops days, it is the shortest month on the calendar and flies by faster than my son in the open court with his new driving permit.

February also brought us the Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada. For those of you who may have missed out any news from north of the border, today we are featuring complete gold medal coverage from our award-winning correspondent from north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now here, in his own words, is the guy who followed me out our mother’s birth canal, Paul Gilbert.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been a visitor in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Well, it’s been more of a virtual vacation, as I’ve been riveted to my TV set watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I didn’t think I’d be anywhere as interested in them as the Summer Games, but once the curling competition started, I was hooked. C’mon, name another sport where your team includes people sweeping brooms like they’ve just had 50 triple espressos? I wish they would come over and clean our house.

There was such a potpourri of athletic competition to choose from, it was like sifting through the menu at a Cheesecake Factory. To get things off on the right ski, I was curious to see if Lindsay Vonn would look as good in high def as she did in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Actually, I was hoping that Brooklyn Decker would qualify in the Super G-string and wear her cover outfit, which was the size of a large snowflake.

As it turns out, Vonn ended up riding a roller coaster on the slopes. Gold medal, crashes, disqualifications, and the media doing everything it could to provoke a cat fight with her teammate, Julie Mancuso, who clearly did not enjoy playing second fiddle, especially after getting the unintentional shaft in the slalom, when Vonn did a pinky swear with the snow fence. The fact is both are great athletes and male or female, it takes a lot of balls to compete in a sport where you’re hurdling down an ice-covered mountain at 90 MPH.

Loved those crazy, high-flying snowboarders working the half-pipe (which they used to smoke after each competition, until the Olympic drug-testers ruined the party). Shaun White was truly amazing, as evidenced by replays that compared his run with the second place finisher and White was about 20 feet higher (OK, insert joke here). We all know he created his best tricks on the private half-pipe his sponsor, Red Bull, built him in Colorado and the question is, does his famous Double McTwist 1260 come with fries?

I enjoyed some of the speed skating events, especially the short tracks where competitors jockeyed for position like New York City cab drivers. The South Koreans were amazing, I wonder when they became a speed skating superpower, id the North Koreans threatened a nuclear response? I think the Dutch coach might want to take a long vacation before heading home for his public execution and I’m now considering wearing a red headband, growing a little soul patch and changing my name to Apolo. Oh-yes.

In deference to my lovely wife, I also watched some of the ice dancing. There are moments of grace and artistry, but whoever designs those costumes must be the rejects from the first round of Project Runway. It’s hard to take a sport seriously where the athletes dress like Halloween on Acid on Ice.

The figure skating competition felt a little drawn out, but since I can barely stand on a pair of skates, I have to admire the skill of these athletes and their ability to perform under pressure. I was glad to see Evan Lysacek beat that sourpuss, sore loser Russian. That’s what you get for dressing like Lenin doing Liberace and having a bad shag haircut.

On the women’s side, Yu Na Kim of South Korea breathtaking and seemingly effortless performance was mesmerizing. And whose heart didn’t go out to Joannie Rochette, the Canadian skater whose mother died on her way to watch her compete? This reminded me of the many side stories that make up a whole other side of the Olympics, which is how an athlete’s parents sacrifice their time, energy and money to support their children and then, have to live vicariously through the both victories and the defeats. Truly, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

As usual, NBC decided to tape delay the most popular events and play them back in prime time. That meant I had to avoid reading the news online or watching SportsCenter before I tuned in for my nightly Olympics fix. And since the New York Times is my browser homepage, it’s hard not to notice when you see a headline like USA UPSETS CANADA!! Then again, haven’t the Canadians been upset with us for the last forty or fifty years?

The USA hockey team beating Canada in the first round was immensely satisfying. I don’t watch a lot of hockey, except for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are incredibly intense, but this was just as riveting. My adrenaline was pumping so hard that I was throwing crosschecks into my son and got called for high-sticking the dog.

The gold medal game was equally intense, a fitting end to the Olympic competition. Just when it looked like Canada had it in the bag, Team USA scores with twenty-four seconds left to send it into overtime, which put the entire population of Canada on suicide watch and sent our puppy into a frenzied “who let the dogs out, eh?” But in the end, hockey’s best player, Sidney Crosby, did what the great ones do. Will his way to victory. So as for as a repeat of “do you believe in miracles?” let’s see if the Knicks sign LeBron.

As for the TV coverage, there were so many commercial breaks that Bob Costas might as well have said “we’ll be right back after this brief glimpse of actual sports action to bring you more commercials from Vancouver.” I don’t quite understand how NBC can claim to have lost $200 million on these Games, when they ran 200 million commercials.

Got to give Costas his due, he’s the consummate pro. He switches seamlessly from sport to sport and brings out the best in his guests. NBC pulled out all the stops on the various commentators and expert analysts in each sport, but one person who received mixed scores in my book was Mary Carillo. Some of her up close and personal pieces were good, but when it comes to late night comedy, she ain’t exactly Wanda Sykes.

All kidding aside, the reason I enjoyed watching the Winter Games so much was to see great athletes competing at the highest level of their sports. They have put in thousands of hours of practice, endured injuries and hardship, and basically dedicated their entire lives to perfecting their performances. While some are multi-millionaire professionals, the majority are not making the big bucks. They’re doing it for the love of their sport, the honor of representing their country and the ultimate challenge of being the best in the entire world at what they do. No matter how bureaucratic and corporate the Olympics have become, in many ways, it’s still the purest and deepest experience in the sports universe.

So it was a great ride while it lasted and now, looking ahead to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, my daughter is immersed in her training for Olympic Gold in Downhill Texting. And knowing her, she’s already planning the photo shoot for Sports Illustrated.

Do me a favor, cancel your subscriptions, now.

Whew. Thank you, brother. Now, being a big fan of the lunar year, I’m always jacked up for the start of the new month and flipping to a fresh page of the calendar. It’s the same feeling I get when popping off the top of a Tropicana Orange Juice or ripping open a package of Pepperidge Farm Orange Milano cookies, a semi-religious experience without the jolt of sugar. I was going to blast out some fabulous winter color to welcome the Ides of March, but then Friday evening came so we shifted Disraeli gears.

Ominous-looking storm clouds and herbal tea had been brewing all morning, as the heavy rain started to fall in the early afternoon. Throughout the day, the sky was as gray as Richard Gere’s hair at a Free Tibet fundraiser. Towards early evening, I gazed into the western sky and spotted an opening in the horizon (photo #1.) At the same time, clouds were coming forward from the east and a small rainbow made an appearance (photo #2.) It paled in comparison to the rainbows I viewed on Saturday in San Jose, which were as fabulous as the dialogue in “The Hangover.”

The wind was whipping off the coast as the sun slowly dropped thru the cloud cover and cast a gorgeous shining light on the churning waves (photos #3-4-5) before disappearing and heading to China. Adding to my dusk delight, hundreds of gulls were cruising south as a full moon appeared from behind the clouds (photo #6). Bingo! A fantastic end to a day that had shown no potential for greatness just minutes earlier. Kind of like Conan O’Brien’s final “Tonight Show” appearance.

On to some late night humor. “The Winter Olympics is apparently a big thing for a lot of people, and America has won the most medals. The only sport I really get into is snowboarding because that’s the only sport where they perform a half pipe just after smoking a full pipe.” –Bill Maher Dick Cheney loves snowboarding. He thinks it’s waterboarding, but colder.” –David Letterman “Tiger Woods was adamant that his wife Elin never hit him with a golf club. I guess his Escalade fell down the stairs.” –Jimmy Kimmel

It’s a great day for former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was released from the hospital today. He’s doing well. Doctors say he’ll be up and shooting lawyers in no time.” –Craig Ferguson “Something weird happened in the hospital. When they were putting the electrodes on him for the EKG, he suddenly started screaming, ‘Stop! I’ll tell you everything you want to know! It was a fun day for the head of Toyota U.S.A. today. He had to appear in front of Congress. “I have to say, it was actually refreshing to see a car company C.E.O. appear before Congress and not ask for $10 billion.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our first blast for the month of March. Coming up next week, we’re going to continue the guest mode as we’ll feature nature photographer Judy Bingham on these cyber pages. This will be a pick six pack of photos you will not want to miss. So I hope you enjoyed our Olympic coverage as we can now return our full attention to the NBA and SCCAL varsity volleyball. We’ll catch you in the paint. Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

August 23, 2009

Hawaii All The Long Faces?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 9:01 pm

Good morning and greetings, back to school fans. After last week’s chronicling of my papaya-filled North Shore adventure, I thought it was time to moveon.org and take a look at some of the summer floral madness that colors the westside of Santa Cruz. But then I came across an article written by Mark Niesse of the Associated Press, and before you could say “Holy chocolate covered macadamia nuts,” I knew what direction this blog was heading. And that would be due west, back to the islands.

Hawaii turned 50 years old last Friday, but there were no parades, no fireworks, no displays of native culture, not even a damn luau. Organizers of the observation were not even willing to call it a party. It is simply a “commemoration,” one that is sensitive to a painful history of the Hawaiian monarchy’s overthrow and unresolved claims of Native Hawaiians. Or in the words of “The Honeymooners” Ed Norton, “That’s the surprise. There ain’t gonna be no party.”

Alaska, by contrast, which joined the union in January, 1959, embraced their 50th anniversary of statehood with concerts, fireworks, a prize-winning float in California’s Rose Parade and a dunk tank featuring Sarah Palin. Were residents excited to see the former Governor/Vice Presidential candidate turned Lens Craft model getting moist in a wet t-shirt? You betcha.

The main event of the island commemoration was a low-key, daylong conference reflecting on Hawaii’s place in the world. But behind the tourist-friendly tropical images of beaches, sunshine and teriyaki beef plate lunches, many natives, lifeguards and Tahitian dancers remain uncomfortable with the U.S. takeover of the islands and the idea that businesses have exploited Hawaiians’ culture.

“Instead of state government having huge parties and fireworks, we’re having a convention,” says Manu Boyd, cultural director for the Royal Hawaiian Center. “That shows the strength and spiritual power of the Hawaiian people, whose shattered world has not yet been addressed.” Or as Mick Jagger says, “Love and hope and sex and dreams, I’m shattered.” My main man Manu is not a happy camper.

Sovereignty groups advocating independence from the United States make up a minority, but many residents recognize the long-standing issues associated with the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy, the islands’ annexation and past harms to the Native Hawaiian people. Hawaii was admitted into the United States on Aug. 21, 1959. About 94 percent of island chain’s voters supported statehood. Opponents argue that the vote was tainted because the only choice on the ballot was to become a state or remain a territory — independence was not an option. I believe I saw this movie, it’s called “Shaft.”

The Hawaiian kingdom was overthrown in 1893 when a group of white businessmen, after a day of snorkeling off Molikini, forced Queen Liliuokalani to abdicate while U.S. Marines came ashore. This never would have happened if Queen Latifah had been manning the thrown. She would have kicked some royal butt.

“This newfangled idea of celebrating statehood shows that people don’t understand Hawaii’s history, or if they do understand, then they’re celebrating a lie, a theft, that essentially stole a people’s right of self-determination,” said Poka Laenui, a Hawaiian and attorney who has worked for independence for more than 30 years. The natives are pissed and I don’t blame them. Or as it stated in my rental car agreement, “Remember the Alamo.”

Along with statehood came striking changes to the islands, as the first commercial jetliner’s arrival in Honolulu just a few weeks earlier began the dawn of the tourism era. Today, Hawaii’s economy depends on tourism as its primary industry, with nearly 7 million visiting the islands in 2008 to snap photos of Pearl Harbor, swim in the warm tropical waters and purchase every possible concoction made from pineapple at the Dole Plantation store.

One way Hawaiians are moving toward having a voice in their self-determination is through legislation pending in Congress that would treat them similarly to Native American tribes and Alaskan natives. After a decade of efforts, the measure could pass into law as soon as this year with the support of Hawaii-born President Barack Obama. Or as the sticker says, “Lucky You Live Hawaii.” Well, we’ll see about that.

On to round two of our North Shore photo funfest. The first image is the lovely view from the deck of our Sunset Beach cottage, followed by a rainbow shot from the front yard. Then it’s on to our neighbor’s papaya tree and some coconuts that fortunately didn’t conk us on the head. We conclude with the sunrise from our first morning followed by the sunset that evening. These were taken the day before my camera went into early retirement and forced me to re-examine my life, liberty and the pursuit of tree-climbing geckos.

On to some late night humor. “I didn’t think this day would come. Squeaky Fromme tried to assassinate President General Ford. She’s been let out of prison. She was paroled. Is she going to get a job? If you think about it, there aren’t many jobs for unstable, gun-toting women, unless she wants to run for governor of Alaska.” How about this? Brett Favre is coming out of retirement and joining the Minnesota Vikings. He’s getting $12 million from Minnesota. Talk about cash for clunkers. Now, here is a statistic — 90% of all paper currency has traces of cocaine. Ninety percent of all paper money in this country, traces of cocaine. Had a $20 bill today. I thought Ben Franklin looked a little jumpy.” –David Letterman

“It’s been reported that former Vice President Cheney is hard at work on his memoirs. It’s called ‘The Five People You Meet in Hell.’” –Conan O’Brien “You remember John Edwards? He finally admitted he’s the father of his mistress’ baby after denying it for over a year. So it’s a pretty classic case of whoever denied it, supplied it. Fortunately, some good news came out of the whole thing, he agreed to join Bristol Palin on the abstinence tour.” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our report from the South Pacific. I’d once again like to thank all the firefighters that had a hand in putting out the Lockheed fire that raged last week along the north coast. This past Friday the air was choking with ashes-I hadn’t seen smoke that thick since my last Doobie Brothers concert.

But the skies above Monterey Bay are once again fresh and exciting, as we had some sunset action on Saturday night. So enjoy the summer breeze that makes you feel fine and the final days of August. Loved watching the Yankees beat up on the Red Sox this weekend. We’ll catch you in the deep center. Aloha, mahalo and later, Usain Bolt 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.

December 28, 2008

December The Alamo

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:21 pm

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Good morning and greetings, vacation fans. I normally spend the first part of the winter break meditating along the lovely fairways of the Palm Valley Country Club in Palm Desert , but due to programming changes we decided to stay here at home on the central coast. I miss the desert experience-nothing like cascading waterfalls, palm trees swaying in the wind and orange, grapefruit and tangerine trees in full bloom in late December. Throw in the San Jacinto mountains changing color as often as Henry Paulson changes his plans for use of the bailout money and you can imagine what Moses saw when he first ventured to the desert on a horse with no name. It must have felt good to get out of the rain.

Anyway, it’s been clear and cold here in Santa Cruz as the rest of the nation has been bombarded by snow, ice and blizzard conditions. It’s been particularly frigid in New York. How cold has it been? It was so cold in New York City last week that Bernard Madoff asked if he could actually go to hell early to warm up. And it was so cold that the Statue of Liberty was actually holding her torch under her dress. Thank you, Jay Leno and his staff writers.

Staying in the area has allowed me to catch some coastal highlights that I normally miss at this time of year. Our photo funhouse today features moments from our twelvest of months. We begin and end with sunrise splendor from Lighthouse Point. The rainbow hails from Christmas Eve. The skies had been gray all day but just before sunset the sun dropped thru and horizon was suddenly flooded with bright yellow light streaming from the north. At the same time, a vivid double rainbow appeared in the east which I shot over the trees at Natural Bridges State Park. I hit the coast as the colors of this beauty were fading but seeing the rainbow flowing into the ocean with the plethora of white water was just an amazing sight. It would have even been more amazing if I had recorded it digitally rather than in my offshore memory banks.

2008 has been an challenging year, with the mortgage crisis, the stock market crashing and the Yankees not making the playoffs. And according to Conan O’Brien, “The White House staff has been briefing Barack Obama’s team on a series of worst-case scenarios that could face the country after President Bush leaves office. Apparently, the absolute worst case scenario is that Bush doesn’t leave office. On the positive side, the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, the Giants won the Super Bowl and the Giants won the Super Bowl. I’m really hoping for good things in 2009, like the Giants repeating as Super Bowl champs but I’m not holding my Eli Manning breath on that one. But fortunately, Ford Motors is working on a brand new car called the Fusion. It’s a hybrid that runs on a combination of gas and bailout money-Jay Leno.

Now here’s some more good humor, these jokes courtesy of my weight-training (he says it will make him quicker) son, Jason. A man walks into a psychiatrist’s office with a cucumber up his nose, a carrot in his left ear and a banana in his right ear. He says, “What’s the matter with me?” The psychiatrist says, “You’re not eating properly.” And a woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen. Ugh!” The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “The driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off – go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

So that’s our last blog for 2008. I hope you’ve enjoyed these stream of unconciousness postings as they have been picked up by my medulla oblongata for the 2009 season. Yesterday (Sunday) was this year’s daily double as I shot both a gorgeous sunrise and a dazzling sunset. Combine that with ten hours of NFL football and some Kobe Bryant NBA action and I’m a happy camper. So bring on the NFL playoffs and congratulations to the Golden State Warriors for knocking off the world champion Boston Celtics last week. Now go back to Maui, Don Nelson. So enjoy the final days of 2008, have a fantabulous New Year and we’ll catch you in 2009. Aloha, mahalo, peace and later, Sunrise Santa Cruz 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 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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