April 6, 2014

The Son, The Moon And The Births

Good morning and greetings, April fans. Well, last week we started off the new month with some spring showers, which according to my Mariah Carey wall calendar, will then lead to May flowers.

However, at my humble abode on the highly desirable upper westside of Santa Cruz, the gophers and rose bushes are already in full bloom, as my front yard is bursting with color, fragrance and a network of freshly dug tunnels that the recently captured Mexican cartel boss El Chapo would be proud to list on his resume.

Yes, the smell of spring is in the air. As I said to my wife the other day, “If I had a rose for every time I thought of you, I’d be picking roses for a lifetime.” And she replied, “Just remember to turn on the dishwasher before you come upstairs.” Ah, another Hallmark moment.

It was back in 1967 that the Beatles released their psychedelic studio album, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ Which brought us this classic Lennon and McCartney line, “It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper’s taught the band to play.”

So with a shout out to Billy Shears, I thought we might take a quick look back at what was happening two decades ago. Because if you don’t remember the past, you’ll never remember the future.

Taking a look at 1994, ‘Forrest Gump’ was number one at the box office and ‘Seinfeld’ was TV’s most popular show, as they were all masters of their domain. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The number one hit on the song charts was ‘All I Wanna Do’ by Sheryl Crow, a baseball strike cancelled the World Series and the Wonderbra was relaunched and celebrated as one of the greatest fashion innovations in history. Who knew?

And it was twenty years ago today, on April 7, 1994, that the world witnessed the start of the Rwandan genocide, where for a 100 day period, an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Rwandans were slaughtered, going down as one of the most horrific and shameful events to occur in our lifetimes.

But out of darkness on this day came a shining light, in the form of a child, the birth of my son, Jason. He was supposed to have entered the world a day earlier, but due to my wife’s reluctance to go to the hospital after her water broke, his entering into the universe was delayed.

Now April 6 was a day to remember. We arrived in the morning at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, where I sensed that getting a kosher lunch was going to be a little tricky. All the birthing rooms where full, so they led us to the kitchen area and told us to wait. Ironically, there were bagels and cream cheese there to greet us, so the kosher action might still be a go.

We were supposed to meet our doula, who was going to be Allison’s labor coach. She was also a custom’s agent, and it turned out that day she had to go on a raid and was a no-show. This put me right up on the front line, as I was now husband, coach and the lifeline to our doctor, who didn’t want to make an appearance until our son’s cranium was crowning.

Allison took a long time before being fully dilated. As her coach, I kept flashing the bunt sign, but the runners weren’t moving. Finally, at 1:47 am, Jason flew the coop, and we were no longer just a couple, but now a family.

The next 60 minutes were the highest moments of my life, as I couldn’t believe what had popped out of my wife. We just sat there and stared at him like mental patients. Eventually a nurse came in to clean him up and took my order for some matzo brie.

Jason is now a second year pre-med student at UC Santa Barbara, majoring in biological sciences and beach volleyball. He’s grown into a compassionate young man with an thirst for knowledge, who still will occasionally let me beat him playing one-on-one. He really wants to make a difference. It just goes to show that sometimes the apple falls far away from the cherry tree and keeps rolling.

But Jason already had some company on this day. Back in 1959, in Manhattan’s Beth Israel Hospital, my brother Brad entered the picture. Neither my brother Paul or I attended the birth, as we were too busy watching ‘Crusader Rabbit,’ the first animated series produced specifically for television
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Brad grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Amherst College and then headed west to seek his fortune. When he is not snowboarding, he is the President and CEO of People Productions, a video and digital based media company based in Boulder, Colorado.

Now Brad is his middle-aged years has become somewhat of a daredevil, unlike yours truly, who won’t leave his feet. His favorite hobby is heli-snowboarding, where the helicopter drops you off on the top of the glacier. I always feel that urge to accompany him on these trips, but I’m just not myself around avalanches.

So a couple of weeks ago, the helicopter dropped my youngest brother off at the summit of an Alaskan glacier, and while he was sitting on a cornice, it collapsed underneath him, sending him tumbling down a sheer 800 foot drop. He thought he was going to die, or at the least have something great to blog about.

It was a terrifying situation and when he finally stopped falling he was alive. However, his left knee took the brunt of the fall, with all the ligaments blown out like strands of linguine.

So for Brad’s 55th birthday, he’ll be at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado, prepping for major knee reconstruction surgery the following day. The outcome could have been much worse, but he’s facing a lengthy rehab program, with lots of physical therapy and sponge baths.

I’m just glad he got out alive and with use of all his limbs. Like his Denver Nuggets, he won’t be seeing any postseason action this year. But along with the Nuggets’ small forward Danilo Gallinari, who’s been sidelined all season with a knee injury, he’ll be back in uniform some time next year. So happy birthday, brother.

To check out his Alaskan escapade, click on http://www.glutenfreesnowboarder.com/2014/04/not-every-powder-tale-has-a-happy-ending/

As I mentioned earlier, we started off last week with some wet weather, and this brought some spectacular rainbows into prime time viewing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in photo mode, but it did not stop me from going back into the archives and bringing a few back into the light.

We start off with a lovely full arc double rainbow over the Santa Cruz Wharf, followed by another double shot off of West Cliff Drive.

We then jet over to the South Pacific, with a couple of doubles on Kauai’s beautiful Hanalei Bay. We finish up with the grand finale at Sunset Beach on Oahu’s famous North Shore, just step’s away from Ted’s Bakery, home of the world famous chocolate haupia cream pie.

I love these multicolored masterpieces of reflected and refracted light. It’s like what Charlie Chaplin had to say about rainbows. “You’ll never find one if you’re looking down.” Unless, of course, you’re at a gas station.

Or as my rabbi once told me, “We may run, walk, stumble, drive or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or to miss a chance to see a rainbow along the way.” Because that’s where happy little bluebirds fly.

On to some late night humor. “The Secret Service arrested a man today after he tried to scale a fence at the White House. They reportedly said to the man, ‘Sorry, but you still have two more years, Mr. President.’ A new study on unemployment shows that it is now harder to get a job at Wal-Mart than to get accepted at Harvard. Of course, it’s a lot easier if your dad went to Wal-Mart.” -Seth Meyers

“Willie Nelson’s stuffed armadillo has been returned after being stolen from a Las Vegas show. And I’m sure Willie was happy to get it back, considering what it’s probably stuffed with. That’s right, 75 percent of Americans think marijuana eventually will be legal, while the other 25 percent said, “What, it’s illegal?” – Seth Meyers

“California is having to drive 30 million salmon to the ocean because this year’s drought has dried up the rivers that normally get them there. Unfortunately, to make the salmon comfortable, the truckers had to drive against traffic.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Everybody’s excited about the beginning of baseball season. The Yankees are off to a rough start. They are 0-and-2. Alex Rodriguez, who is no longer a Yankee, sits home nights watching the games and injecting himself with dip.” – David Letterman

“The Discovery Channel just announced plans for a new miniseries. It’s hosting a race to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon. So technically savvy individuals can compete to see who can get their spacecraft to the moon first. It will be televised live. The show aims to prove that people who are bright and determined and work hard can accomplish anything we already accomplished 50 years ago.” – Jimmy Kimmel

So enjoy tonight’s NCAA basketball championship. By the way, after viewing the top prospects in the McDonald’s All American Game last week, our college basketball guru, Dr. Michael Schur, has the Duke Blue Devils once again cutting down the nets in next year’s NCAA Final in Indianapolis. Seems the Dukies have reloaded.

So we’ll catch you coming back from a knee injury and displaying the explosiveness that makes you one of the top young guards in the game. Aloha, mahalo and later, Eric Bledsoe fans.

February 9, 2014

Milkweed Does A Body Good

Good morning and greetings, precipitation fans. Well, some rain fell on our drought ravaged central coast last week, but forecasters and soothsayers claim that it was not nearly enough to make up for what so far has been one of the driest rainy seasons on record. What the weather boys and girls are basically saying is that we would have to double the amount of rainfall over the next four months to get back to the normal.

Now that could happen, just like the Democrats and Republicans back in Washington getting together to agree on tax cuts, jobs growth, health care, federal spending and gun rights. I’ll just put away my umbrella for now. As I’ve often remarked, I love walking in the rain because then no one knows I’m crying.

Or as my daughter Aimee says, “I like to cry at the ocean because only there do my tears look small.”

On to another unfortunate subject. In a story written by Mark Stevenson for the Associated Press, there is trouble in the world of the danaus plexippus, which for you non-scientists, are monarch butterflies.

Back in late January, experts and four out of five lepidopterists (butterfly specialists) who recommend milkweed for their patients, say that the incredible and little-understood annual migration of millions of Monarch butterflies spending the winter in Mexico is in danger of disappearing. This was after their numbers dropped to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1993, as reported by researchers from the Sinaloa Drug Cartel.

The big problem is the loss of the milkweed plant that the monarchs feed on for survival. The finger of blame is being pointed at the genetically modified crops and urban sprawl in the United States and extreme weather trends, along with the dramatic reduction of the butterflies’ habitat in Mexico due to illegal logging of the trees they depend on for shelter and orange flight.

After steep and steady declines in the previous three years, the orange-and-black butterflies now cover only 1.65 acres in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City, compared to 2.93 acres last year. They covered more than 44.5 acres at their recorded peak in 1996. That was also the year that Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from Michael Jackson, though I don’t think there is any connection.

Because the monarchs clump together by the thousands in trees, they pay very little in rent and utilities, and are counted by the area they cover.

While the Monarch is not in danger of extinction, the decline in their population is not a happy thought for butterfly or pinata lovers. For you statistics nuts, it has morphed into a long-term trend and can no longer be seen as just a year-by-year or seasonal event, like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano or the running of the Bulls in Chicago.

The announcement came on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or what we in the business call NAFTA, which saw the United States, Mexico and Canada sign environmental accords to protect migratory species such as the Monarch. And according to my sources at the U.S. Customs, the Border Patrol and Baja Fresh, that is the last thing these three countries were in agreement on.

Lincoln Brower, a leading entomologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia and one of my favorite experts on bugs says, “The main culprit is now genetically modified herbicide-resistant corn and soybean crops and herbicides in the USA, which leads to the wholesale killing of the monarch’s principal food plant, common milkweed.”

This is particularly true in the midwest, where most of the butterflies migrate from. Extreme weather, including severe cold snaps, unusually heavy rains and droughts in all three countries have also played a role in the decline. Hey, but if Sarah Palin says there’s no proof of global warming, that’s good enough for me.

As we know, the migration of monarch butterflies to our California coast has been in steep decline, so we should step up and start planting our own weed, er milkweed, to help out the cause.

In Mexico, their annual trek is the world’s biggest migration of Monarch butterflies and the third-largest insect migration in the world, after a species of dragonfly in Africa and mosquitos coming in through my screen door in the summertime. The migration is a source of pride and heritage to the people of this region and should not be lost or stolen.

Writer and environmentalist Homero Aridjis says, “The governments of the United States and Canada have washed their hands of the problem, and left it all to Mexico. I think President Obama should take some step to support the survival of the Monarch butterflies.”

President Obama is scheduled to visit Mexico on February 19, with events scheduled for Toluca, a city a few dozen miles from the Monarch’s reserve. Then he’ll knock back a couple of chimichangas, down a Corona and try not to see any decapitated heads along the roadside before heading back on Air Force One.

So I say this. There are plenty of monarchs throughout the world, so there is no danger of extinction. But as our Commander in Chief, if you were man enough to call the shots so that Osama Bin Laden to now sleeping with the fishes, you could probably figure out of way to make life easier for our little fluttering friends. Or as Michelle whispered to you in the White House garden, “If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

So on that note, today I’m featuring some monarch butterfly shots from some classic westside locations. We’re talking Natural Bridges State Park, the Alan Chadwick Gardens at UCSC and the parking lot outside Subway. As they say, “Think fresh, eat fresh. The way a sandwich should be.”

Or in the words of Conan O’Brien, “Subway has announced a major new campaign to get people to eat healthier. I’m no health expert, but maybe the first thing to do is not sell people piles of meat and bread by the foot.”

On to some late night. “The Seahawks had a great slogan: “Why not us?” That’s what they would say to each other before the game. That is much better than the Broncos’ slogan: “Hey, why not hike it over the quarterback’s head?” People were partying in Seattle on Sunday night after the game. They were singing, they were laughing, they were hugging complete strangers, dancing in the streets. Basically, the same thing they’ve done every night in Seattle since they legalized marijuana.” – Jay Leno

“It wasn’t much of a Super Bowl game. The Seahawks beat the Broncos 43-8. You know how after the game the winning players go to Disney World? Some of the Seahawks went halfway through the third quarter. It cost $4 million for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. I’m always surprised at which companies elect to pay that. How did a pistachio company afford $4 million? What kind of mark-up are they getting on those nuts?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“After appearing in a commercial during last night’s Super Bowl, people are accusing Bob Dylan of selling out. Today Dylan responded by saying, “Everyone needs to calm down, have a Bud Light, and relax at a Sandals Resort.” – Conan O’Brien “The NFL announced that veteran referee Terry McAulay will lead the referee crew at Sunday’s Super Bowl. So if you had him in your referee pool . . . please contact Gambler’s Anonymous. You have a problem.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Hillary Clinton is encouraging Hispanic families to read to their kids. She’s also telling Asian families to ease up on the math so the rest of us can catch up.” – Conan O’Brien “CVS is no longer selling cigarettes. They say, “It’s the right thing to do for our customers and our company in their path for better health.” I go to CVS all the time. If they want to promote better health, maybe they should stop selling Cheese Whiz, Circus Peanuts, Little Debbie jelly rolls and all the ingredients for meth.”- Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s the show. We’ll catch you blazing away like an all-star point guard and keeping your team in the playoff hunt in the western conference. Aloha, mahalo and later, Goran Dragic fans.

September 15, 2013

The Bay Of The Jackal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — geoff @ 10:41 am

Good morning and greetings, late summer fans. You know, life is full of surprises and prizes, and I don’t just mean the kind you find in a box of Cracker Jacks. If you keep your eyes open and your wings spread, you never know what you’ll encounter in the the journeys that lie ahead.

So with that thought, let’s go back to last Tuesday, when a light rain and my radio career were falling when I awoke. Since the coast looked drearier than the news I had received the day before, I decided to try and clear my head by walking around my neighborhood. It’s not nearly as exciting as skipping along the edge of the continent, but it does get my heart pumping and that’s just what my psychiatrist ordered.

So with my Steely Dan poncho on my back and my trusty golden companion leading the way, we set off into the mist. What immediately came to mind was a couple of classic Woody Allen lines, “Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable,” and ‘Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering-and it’s all over much too soon.” Okay, so I was a little down.

But what happened next caught me completely by surprise, as standing not 30 feet away was a large coyote, who was licking his lips like wanted to order something off the menu. Now I’ve partied with a few of these jackals on the westside, and my greatest coyote moment was when I photographed one in the rain outside of Natural Bridges State Park. The amazing thing was that when I first saw him, I was without my camera, so I raced home and luckily when I returned, he was still there, talking to an insurance salesman.

So there he stood, his tan pelt dusted with moisture, eyeing my two legs like a couple of medallions of cocker spaniel. I waited at the edge of the arroyo, hoping for a roadrunner to zoom by so as to distract him from sizing me up like a Yom Kippur appetizer. And after a few minutes, this wily creature trotted down the street and disappeared back into the Animal Planet. I stood there and quietly took my place back at the top of the animal kingdom.

Now early one morning two weeks ago, I watched the movie “Life of Pi,” the story of a boy who is shipwrecked and ends up stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger and Cincinnati Bengal’s cheerleader. The film was a visual masterpiece, and the 3D images of fish, waves and clouds were extraordinary. With these images seared in my mind like some ahi tuna, I headed down to West Cliff, and was immediately taken in by the flocks of the birds flying over the water.

In my mind I was back in movie mode, but this was the real thing, and it was fantastic. I then equated the relationship between the boy and the tiger onto my oceanside journey with my golden retriever. While there was not a life and death issue at stake, she can be as dangerous as the big cats if you don’t pet her enough.

Right then a large chain of pelicans came upon us. Now flocks of pelicans flying by are no big deal, but this group seemed to have no end. I immediately started to count, and I gave up when I hit 160. The gathering was at least 200 strong, and I just stood there and watched in amazement as these prehistoric-looking birds kept changing formations and exchanging tweets as they headed north up the coast.

This image marinated in my mind all week, and then last Wednesday, I was back again on West Cliff in search of answers to the question, “Why do bad things happen to people with good hair?” But before I could take a look within, wave after wave of pelicans flew by in formations on their way south. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. There was something incredible happening to the south in Monterey Bay, and it wasn’t the combo seafood sliders at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing.

I later learned these fish-loving sea birds were joining an epic number of humpback whales, who were feasting on the massive anchovy blooms in the bay. In an article written by Nadia Drake for wired.com, marine biologist Nancy Black says there were “tons and tons” of anchovies in the area, more than have been seen in years. She spotted one school estimated to be 200 feet deep and more than a mile long by the way Sheryl Crow flies. Black estimated that there were 250 whales in the bay, the most she’s seen in her 26 years in the area, which has provided folks with the best whale watching since the humpbacks left Notre Dame.

And best of all, sports fans, this wild scene with the humpbacks blowing giant underwater bubbles to herd the fish into a bait ball and then go to town was happening right in the giant submarine canyon located in our front yard. It’s nature gone wild on Monterey Bay. I chalk it up to another prize awarded along the journey, but one that requires some dramamine for those of us who aren’t so crazy about the motion of the ocean, if you catch my continental drift.

So for today’s floral display we are heading back to our 50th and most tropical state. My brother Brad joined us on our recent adventure to the Garden Isle, and the home he stayed in had grounds that looked like botanical gardens. The variety of exotic plants were simply amazing, with one flower more vibrant and exotic than the next. But being a simple man, its the basic garden variety plumeria (photo #8) that does it for me. The fragrance of these flowers drives my olfactory system aloha wild. It is the true scent of the islands. Well, either that or Old Spice.

On to the late night humor. “Fox opposes a Syria peace plan because its modus operandi is to foment dissent in the form of a relentless and irrational contrarianism to Barack Obama and all things Democratic, to advance its ultimate objective of creating a deliberately misinformed body politic whose fear, anger, mistrust, and discontent is the manna upon which it sustains its parasitic succubus-like existence.” –Jon Stewart

“You can tell that fall is coming. The leaves are changing faster than the White House position on Syria. “A new survey found Americans clicked on Miley Cyrus stories 12 times more often than stories about Syria and President Assad. Well, that makes sense. Wouldn’t you rather watch a twerk than a jerk?” –Jay Leno “John Kerry has given Syria one week to hand over its chemical weapons. And if they don’t . . . he’ll give them another week.” –Jay Leno

“Secretary of State John Kerry said that Arab countries have offered to pay the entire cost of unseating Syria’s president if we take the lead militarily. They will pay for the whole thing. See, this is how global politics works. We invade Syria to get money from Saudi Arabia that they got from us for putting their oil in our Japanese cars so we can pay back China all the money we owe them.” –Jay Leno

“The United States is going to make a deal with Russia and Syria. What could possibly go wrong? Here’s the deal: Syria will turn over their stockpiled chemicals and we send them Alex Rodriguez. Syria is now saying they will agree to give up their chemical weapons if Miley Cyrus agrees to give up whatever it is she is doing. McDonald’s is now serving steak. Nothing says fine dining like rolling down your car window and screaming out, “medium rare!” – David Letterman

“Today was the primary for mayor of New York City. The city had to use old, lever voting machines from the 1960s because the electronic machines were too hard to program. Of course, it was awkward when Anthony Weiner said, ‘That’s not a lever.’” –Jimmy Fallon “If Christine Quinn wins the New York City mayoral race, she’ll be the city’s first lesbian mayor. Which is why her campaign slogan is, ‘Christine Quinn: as far away from Weiner as you can get.’” –Conan O’Brien

So the final post of summer 2013 is in the books. For all of you Rosh Hashanah fans, I hope the upcoming year will be a sweet one. For New York Giant football fans, you have my severe sympathy.

We’ll catch you doing more than signing autographs and wowing a national audience by throwing for a career-best 464 yards in the loss to number one ranked Alabama. Aloha, mahlao and later, Johnny Manziel fans.

July 14, 2013

Out Of The Light And Into The Dark

Good morning and greetings, food lovers. A few years ago, a young friend of mine suggested I write a blog about the variety of meals I prepare for my parents, family and the bands of gypsies who always want to spray my roof or pave my driveway. I never thought it would be that interesting to hear about my adventures with chili sauce, carmelized onions and broken eggs and dreams, as I’ve never followed a recipe when preparing a meal or a lifestyle.

But then I saw an story written in the New York Times that caught my culinary attention. It stated that if chicken producers could breed a bird with four legs, this would more than delight fowl growers, as the demand for thighs and legs is growing faster than KFC spread their finger lickin’ franchises throughout China. Who knew fried chicken and fried rice could ever co-exist so nicely in the land of rising dim sum?

One thought on KFC. A few years ago In Pakistan, anti-American protesters set fire to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. They thought they were attacking a high-ranking U.S. military official named Colonel Sanders. Despite intense interrogation of the employees afterwards, the attackers learned nothing about the Colonel’s eleven secret herbs and spices recipe and were left with just biscuits, cole slaw and a burnt out, extra crispy building structure.

Back in this country, the demographics are shifting and the new kids on the block prefer the darker blend of the bird. This has something to do with the influx of immigrants from Asia, Latin America and the North Shore of Oahu, as the look on grocery shelves is a changin’. Now you’re more likely to see lemon grass and sriracha peppers rather than Lemon Pledge and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club spices.

Now I’ve always been a dark meat man, whether it be chicken, turkey, or carrier pigeon. In my later years I’ve grown particularly fond of boneless thighs, although I haven’t figured out how those chickens roam the free range without a bone in their legs. And after years of exclusively living on the dark side, I admit that I can enjoy the virtues of white meat, as I’ve opened my mind to new ideas and sauces. Who says a leopard can’t change its stripes?

There are thousands of chicken recipes to choose from including piccata, tetrazzini, cacciatore, catchabreak and the American favorite, nuggets, which even chickens find puzzling. And it doesn’t take years of schooling at the French Culinary Institute to learn how to make chicken surrender to good flavor. All you have to do is find any kind of juice, marinade or some concoction that turns into a liquid, pour it over those waiting thighs, pop it in the oven for forty five minutes, and voila, poultry magic. Or as we said back in the old country, “Don’t cook tonight, call Chicken Delight.”

Personally, my favorite recipe involving the boneless wonders is one of my Italian specialities-chicken parmesan. Food critics from around the world and my son agree that this is a big time winner on the scallopini front, as the chicken, when covered by a layer of mozzarella cheese and savory tomato sauce, is as tender and moist as my eyes after watching an episode of “Friday Night Lights.” Clear eyes, full heart, garlic knots forever.

Chicken Parm is just one of my Italian selections, along with meatballs and spaghetti, baked mostaccioli and my pasta a la Sophia Loren. I believe my children would be happy if I served them pasta seven nights a week. I’m just glad it’s nutritious and doesn’t pack any pounds around the the waistline. In the words of British writer George Miller, “The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.”

Now since this is a family show, I’m not going to get into the physiological or psychological reasons why there is a difference between white meat and dark meat. Let’s just say it’s all about the energy these birds are extending in parts of their anatomy and leave it at that.

Now according to a study done by the Drumstick Institute, most dark meat contains more zinc, riboflavin, flavoflavin, jennifer flavin, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, amino acids, orange sunshine and iron than white meat. So although it may be fattier, there are some benefits to the tanner of meats. I believe it was either President Herbert Hoover or Robert Hoover from ‘Animal House’ who said, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Yes, the time has come to decriminalize dark meat chicken. The skies are not falling.

To sum up my feelings about our nation’s preference changing from white to dark, let me paraphrase Nobel prize winning writer Rabindranath Tagore, who said, “Faith is the bird that feels that light when the dawn is still dark meat.” Thank you and good night.

For today’s photo portion of our program, we are taking a stroll down the street from where I currently reside. For some reason, whether it’s the tilt of the earth’s axis or my past life karma, on two mornings this past year I failed to make it to the edge of the continent for the dawn experience, and I had to settle for shooting on a bluff overlooking the westside. I tried to take advantage of the silhouette action from the trees, as the sky lit up with color and the sun rose without paying much attention to my position. I didn’t capture the vivid color of the clouds reflecting on the water, but I did bring a little something home to talk about around the dinner table.

On to some late night humor. “Great news for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. He’s just been named Cinnabon Customer of the Month in the Moscow Airport.” –David Letterman “NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been offered asylum in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. Or as Snowden put it, ‘Prison it is!’” –Jimmy Fallon

“With Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer running for political office, New York City is changing its nickname to “The City That Never Sleeps With Its Wife.” Despite his prostitution scandal several years ago, Eliot Spitzer is running for comptroller of New York. He’s paying someone $800 a day to collect signatures to put his name on the ballot. He said it’s the second best $800 he’s ever spent.” –Conan O’Brien

“Mexico has replaced the U.S. as the world’s fattest nation. The U.S. is now number two. The Mexican government has done a lot of research. It turns out their people eat way too much Mexican food.” –Conan O’Brien “Mexicans now are trying to cross the border just to ask, “Are you going to finish that?” ‘ Jay Leno “It turns out the Pakistan police pulled Osama bin Laden over for speeding. Pulled him over and wrote the guy a ticket. So listen. I don’t want to hear any more of this nonsense about Pakistan being lenient on Osama bin Laden, OK?” –David Letterman

“One of the world’s leading scientists said he believes the human species was probably created when pigs mated with chimps. And that is how we got “Jersey Shore.” So it turns out that men really ARE pigs. There is scientific evidence.” – Jimmy Kimmel “A video has surfaced of Justin Bieber urinating into a mop bucket. Critics are calling it the best thing Justin Bieber has ever released.” – Conan O’Brien

“Last Thursday we celebrated our 237th year of independence from Great Britain. And our 10th year of dependence on the Chinese.” –Jay Leno
“It’s been a bit of a week for the Supreme Court. Yesterday they ruled that it’s okay for gay people to get married. Today, they ruled it’s okay for straight people to rollerblade.” –Craig Ferguson

“It’s now 32 NFL players that have been arrested since the Super Bowl. To give you an idea of how bad it’s gotten, now when a team says they’ve hired a new defensive coordinator, they’re talking about a lawyer. 31 players have been arrested just since the Super Bowl. In fact, a lot of teams are switching to the no-huddle offense because players aren’t allowed to associate with known felons. The show “Cops” is now on the NFL network. That’s how bad it’s gotten.” – Jay Leno

So another week has past as the summer rolls along. We’ll catch you playing in one of the most dramatic finals in Wimbledon history and giving the English fans something to boast about besides their muffins. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andy Murray fans.

July 7, 2013

Here’s To The Red, White And Blue Whales

Good morning and greetings, marine life fans. Let’s face it, life is good if you live on Monterey Bay. When I walk along West Cliff Drive, I’m always fascinated by the waves, the changing skies and the people who pass by who don’t make eye contact. I see seals, dolphins, broncos, sea otters, sea lions, sea biscuits and the passing whales. I always stop in my tracks and watch them glide through the water, surface and then go back under as I await their next appearance. That’s the view you get from being a land bound creature. However, offshore is where the real action is, and that’s where we’re headed today.

You may have missed this story from back in mid June written by Jason Hoppin in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The description of the events in our front yard called Monterey Bay blew what little is left of my mind, as it described a kind of excitement unseen by yours truly.

It seems on this late spring day the bay was teeming with a lunch special for a variety of whales. This brought about a sight seen by a few but missed by the masses. The action was so spectacular that I wanted to bring it back into the July light.

The date was June 15, and giants of the deep were putting on an unbelievable show. Boat captains and calamari lovers estimated that at least 30 blue whales, which, next to the cast of “Baywatch,” are some of the most spectacular creatures ever to grace the ocean’s water, were involved in a feeding frenzy seven miles off shore in a place called Soquel Canyon. I have extensively researched these so-called “frenzies” at various all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. It’s a world where mu shu pancakes meets Animal Planet and anything can happen, especially if there’s any sweet and sour sauce lurking in the area.

Now on a good day, blue whales measure about 90 feet. If you are thinking in terms of sports, this is the length of a basketball court, or almost a third of a football field, which means you’d need three first downs to just go end to end with these giants. Their tails alone are as wide as a Greyhound bus. Just imagine the earth’s largest dinosaurs swimming in the ocean. Now imagine them all jacked up and feeding on krill like a Yom Kippur fast had just ended.

If you could find a scale big enough, these big boys and girls would weigh in between 100 and 150 tons. Don’t bother them with Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig as much like myself, they’re not interested. Their tongues are the size of a Buick and get better mileage. And I don’t want to say that whale calves are big, but after a year of formulating inside their mother’s womb, these cute little babies emerge weighing three tons and measuring 25 feet. Try fitting that into a car seat.

And if you think your baby was a big eater, listen to this. For the first year, a whale calf dines on nothing but mother’s milk and cookies and gains 200 pounds a day, which leads to body issues during the teenage years. And in case you were planning a vacation, you can fit about 100 people inside a blue whale’s mouth. And these mammals have no need for cell phones, as they can communicate with relatives and other whales over a thousand miles away.

So what happened on this day all came about because of the wind. The spring breezes shoved the warmer surface water aside, which allowed much cooler water, which was filled with more nutrients than a Jamba Juice Peach Pleasure smoothie, to come up from the ocean floor. This process is called upwelling, which is great for hungry whales but not so good for family members of the lower species like krill, squid or members of the NRA, because on this day, they were the “blue plate special,” with a pun definitely intended.

Let’s just say that blue whales have a large appetite. How large? At one meal they can down four tons of krill along with a dinner salad and small dessert. According to Ken Stagnaro of Stagnaro Charters, on this Saturday, the ruckus out at Soquel Canyon was put in play by the krill getting trapped against the canyon walls by the tides with no way out. This led to “side by side, dozens of blue and humpback whales continually surface lunging (which is also my favorite way of eating) at the massive schools of krill, sometimes swimming within yards of the boat. We sat nearly motionless for nearly 90 minutes as the largest animals in the world gorged on the sea surface for everyone to see.” And all meals include an 18% gratuity added to the total before any discounts.

What made this day even more remarkable was that the blues don’t usually make an appearance until the NFL preseason, making this open sea dining experience that much more remarkable. There are usually humpback whales in the bay, but the blues were an unexpected late spring treat. Also on display were the orcas, the killer whales who like to dine on seals, dolphins and baby gray whales, and who along with Japanese and Norwegian whalers and Sarah Palin are the only natural predators of the blues.

It was nature gone wild this June day on Monterey Bay, which was first discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo back in 1542 while searching for a junior college. And it was all made possible by the wind, which brought to the surface more culinary riches than could be found at all the Red Lobsters, Long John Silvers and Bubba Gump Shrimp Companies in America. Monterey Bay, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Stop by, admission is free.

For today’s photo entree, we are going back to March 15. This day started on a fabulous note, as I photographed a beautiful sunrise down at Lighthouse Point. And then that evening, color returned to the sky, as I started my photographic trek at Stockton Avenue before moving up to Natural Bridges to complete the daily double sunrise/sunset experience. Any time you can get two for the price of one is a good day on the photography front.

There’s no late night action this week so I’ll throw in a joke. A woman stormed up to the front desk of the library and said, “I have a complaint.” “Yes, ma’am?” “I borrowed a book and it was horrible!” “What was wrong with it?” “It had too many characters and there was no plot whatsoever.” The librarian nodded and said, ‘Ah. So you must be the person who took our phone book.”

So that’s our first blast for July. Hope you enjoyed the holiday week as now the summer of 2013 is in full swing.

We’ll catch you surprising the NBA world by turning down more money and signing a free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

March 31, 2013

Don’t Blame Me, I’m Just A Slow Lunar

Good morning and greetings, Final Four fans. This past March had a few memorable sunrise and sunset moments, which came as a surprise as last year at this time, there was less going on in the sky then what my resume shows from college graduation to the present. So I was happily surprised Tuesday night when I saw a cloud bank still open at sunset time. Unfortunately, my timing, like my answers decades ago on the SATs, were slightly off, and I arrived a few minutes too late to capture the prime time moments. It was then that I recalled the words of John Denver, “Sunshine, on the water, looks so lovely. Sunshine, almost always, make me cry.”

So as I dried my tears, my interest and the sun started to disappear into the spring clouds, as I sensed there would be less color forthcoming than could be seen at a Tea Party “Bigger is Better” rally. I was about to hightail it back to the warm confines of my humble westside abode, when all of a sudden, in the words of Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise,” as a full moon appeared on the horizon. It was, much like finding out that I had made an overpayment on my 2012 taxes, a very pleasant feeling, as I had not been following the phases of the moon as closely as the playoff races in the NBA’s western conference.

So I decided to hang around and watch this beautiful orange sphere rise over my spirit and Monterey Bay. It had been a while since I had photographed a full moon, and it added a little extra skip to my step on a night when I really hadn’t gotten my money’s worth and had been left wanting more. Well, the full moon rising made up for it. It reminded me of the time I met the Buddha on the road. He told me, “Three things cannot be long hidden: The sun, the moon, and the truth. After that I didn’t want to kill him.

So as the moon is one of our constant companions in the sky, let’s take a look at some fun facts about our crater and cream-filled orbiting friend.

The moon is our closest neighbor in space. Much like a waiting room at a Greyhound bus station, it is a rocky, airless world that is the earth’s only natural satellite, unless you have Direct TV. My personal trainer and many astronomers believe the moon was formed after an object bigger than Bill O’Reilly’s ego smashed into our Mother Earth four and a half billion years, around the birth of John McCains’ parents. The material from the Earth and the colliding object eventually came together to form the moon and later the Big East Conference.

The surface of the moon, like a case of bad acne, is loaded with craters, which come from asteroids, comets and Ajax that have collided and colluted with the moon’s surface. Unlike the Shadowbrook Restaurant, the moon has no atmosphere, and with no weather, the lunar craters, like Dick Clark over the years, remains well preserved.

According to AAA, the moon is about 250,000 miles from Earth. To get there traveling by the speed of light would take 1.52 seconds. By rocket ship, we’re talking 13 hours, by car, 130 days with a few stops for gas, and by U.S. mail, ah, just forget it.

Since there is no atmosphere, wind or weather, footprints left on the moon by astronauts or martians will remain visible for at least ten millions years, which adds up to a whole lot of calendars. Water was discovered by the Arrowhead Company back in 2009, along with tiny ice cube trays strewn along the moon’s surface.

When astronaut Alan Sheppard was on the moon doing the broad jump for mankind, he hit a golf ball and drove it 2,400 feet, which is nearly half a mile by the way Sheryl Crow flies. He then choked and missed the putt for par.

When aboard our favorite satellite, you can jump six times further, carry objects six times heavier, but will still have trouble sneezing with your eyes open. And according to Weight Watchers, if you weigh 100 pounds on earth, you would weigh 16.6 pounds on the moon. The moon, “Where No Food is a Sin.”

Despite repeated pleas from Pink Floyd, there is no “Dark Side of the Moon.” The moon happily spends its day rotating around the earth, so all sides of the moon are hit by the Father, the Sun and the Gulf Coast at some point. Temperatures on the moon can drop to 250 degrees below zero, so if you go, you might want to bring a poncho.

In a survey conducted in 1998 by the You Got To Be Kidding Me Institute, 13% of those surveyed believed that the moon was made of cheese. The response was split evenly. 50% said Swiss, 50% went with Monterey Jack.

Canada was the third country to enter the space race. However, instead of sending astronauts, they sent their national hockey team along with a backup goalie from the Montreal Canadians.

Under the category of “I did not know that,” the honeymoon is a named after the full moon in June, as it fell between the planting and harvesting of crops and was traditionally the best month to get married. No word on what moon annulment is named after.

And finally, the Slovakian psychiatrist Eugen Jonas created a method of birth control and fertility based on the full moon. Thus, from his research came the term, “I’m going in for a moon landing.” And I believe it was either the Lennon Sisters or John Lennon who said, “Yeah we all shine on, like the moon, the stars and the sun.” That’s all good and well, but what I want to know is, if Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, who will be the first woman? I’m going with Madonna. Just a hunch.

On to the late night. “Bill Clinton now says he wishes he had supported gay marriage back when he was president. Clinton said at the time he was too busy campaigning for open marriage.” –Conan O’Brien “Last year there was some trouble at the White House’s Easter egg hunt. One kid looking for eggs turned up Obama’s birth certificate.” –David Letterman “Yesterday former CIA director David Petraeus apologized for having an affair with his biographer. He said he hopes this begins a new chapter in his life. It got awkward when he said, ‘Any of you ladies want to write it?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Happy birthday to retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She’s 83 years old today. And listen to this: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court wished her a happy birthday. Last night President Obama celebrated Passover by hosting a seder at the White House. There was an awkward moment when Sasha asked, ‘Hey, I thought we were Muslim.’ During its trip to the Middle East, President Obama helped restore Israel’s relationship with Turkey. Now, onto the final hurdle – restoring Israel’s relationship with pork.” –Conan O’Brien

“John Kerry visited Iraq and also Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Dennis Rodman.” –David Letterman
“Wal-Mart will test a new delivery method for customers who order online. They’re asking shoppers to drop stuff off for other shoppers on their way home. In exchange, Wal-Mart would give them a discount on their bill. So if you always wanted to work for Wal-Mart but didn’t want to get bogged down with the paycheck and healthcare, this is for you.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“North Korea is warning the U.S. that war with South Korea may break out at any minute. Or as Obama put it, “Can’t believe I’m doing this. Get me Dennis Rodman.” Yesterday President Obama told reporters that his NCAA tournament bracket is busted. Obama said they were the worst picks he’s ever made — then he looked at his economic advisers and said, “Ehh, maybe not.” A man in Pennsylvania was arrested for hunting deer in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. Or as Jeff Foxworthy put it, “Eh, too easy.” – Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our last lunar blast for March 2013. We’ll catch you hitting a clutch 3-pointer bomb from the outskirts of Dallas that sent the game into overtime and then your Michigan team into the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. As for the Kansas Jayhawks, “All they are is dust, or should I say, Russ Smith in the wind.” Aloha, mahlao and later, Trey Burke fans.

March 24, 2013

Wherein Butterflies The Problem

Good morning and greetings, springtime freshness fans. As we all know, last Wednesday was the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox or thank God it’s not winter anymore. It’s a day when the equator, the center of the sun and my car’s brakes are fully aligned, which includes a free rotation of my seasonal conciousness.

For the next three months and throughout the NBA playoffs, the sun will gently warm my heart and the northern hemisphere, which will bring smiles to those living in the Mountain West and Great Lakes region and New England states, where recently it has been colder than a reception for Mel Gibson at a B’nai B’rith luncheon.

On the first day of spring, temperatures were up to 25 degrees below my usual scoring average, with more snow than you could find at a Pablo Escobar stash house. The calendar may have read late March, but the ground was snow covered and frozen, which reminds me of the Woody Allen line, “Who bothers to cook TV dinners? I suck them frozen.”

So how cold was it? It was so cold down at a city morgue, you couldn’t tell the stiffs from the guys who worked there. A guy fell out of bed and his pajamas broke. Republicans were actually hugging Democrats while waiting for the bus. A chicken was seen walking down the street with a cape on. Sherwin Williams needed a third coat. And it was so cold that a guy saw one dog trying to jump start another. At least that’s what he thought he was doing.

The arrival of spring also means thousand of college students heading south across the border to sunny and cartel free Mexico, to celebrate and inebriate the annual ritual of spring break. We’re talking places like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Myself, I was always more interested in fast breaking than spring breaking, as because of my Quaker upbringing I don’t drink alcohol or jump off balconies from my hotel room.

I know the draw of surf, sand, suds and sun is a powerful one, but boozing it up was never my thing, as it interfered with my study of the Torah. I’m just kidding, I was always much more of a Kaballah man. But those decapitating cartel boys, who have total disregard for bystanders, umpires and referees would deter me from heading south to where the party never stops. But being a tanned hard body, I can still relate to the words of Robin Williams, who says “Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party.”

So on that note, we’re heading down to Mexico. In a story written by Mark Stevenson for the Associated Press, scientists reported last week that the number of Monarch butterflies making it to their winter refuge in Mexico dropped a shocking 59 percent this year, falling to the lowest level since comparable record-keeping began 20 years ago. It was the third straight year of their decline of the migration from the United States and Canada to spend the winter living in mountaintop fir forests in central Mexico. Six of the last seven years have shown drops, and there are now only one-fifteenth as many butterflies as there were in 1997. This is not good news as I have spent half my life chasing the bright, elusive, butterfly of love.

So what are the reasons? The World Wildlife Fund, one of the groups that sponsored the butterfly census, blamed climate conditions, jealousy of moths and agricultural practices, especially the use of pesticides that kill off milkweed, the Monarchs’ main source of food. The butterflies breed and party in the U.S. in the summer, and then migrate to Mexico in the winter. Mexico says they have down their part to protect the butterfly reserves by eliminating large-scale illegal logging and promoting the movies of actress Salma Hayak, who once said, “I keep waiting to meet the man who has more bats, er balls than I do.”

The loss of milkweed in the U.S. makes it hard for the butterflies to lay eggs, and for their young that do hatch to find enough food to grow to maturity. In addition, unusually hot or dry weather can kill eggs, meaning fewer adult butterflies. South of the border, unusual cold weather, lack of water, tree cover and mariachi bands means that Monarchs are less likely to survive the winter and reach adulthood. And thus they will never see Eva Longoria’s new reality TV show, “Devious Maids,” based a Mexican series that that follows four maids who work in Beverly Hills but dream of their own success. And all this time I just thought she was a desperate housewife. Or as the former Mrs. Tony Parker once put it, “I find it a turnoff whenever men aren’t into some kind of sport.” And that, my friends, is why I watch NBA TV.

Lincoln Brower, an entomologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, says, “To blame the low numbers of monarchs solely on what is happening north of Mexico is misleading. Herbiciding of soybean and corn fields that kills milkweed is a serious problem, but the historical decline over the past 19 years has multiple causes. All three countries need to face up to the fact that it is our collective activities that are killing the migratory phenomenon of the Monarch butterfly.” So some fingers, including the middle, are being pointed. And I believe it was either actress Jessica Alba or Mexican writer Oscar Funetes who said, “What the United States does best it understand itself. What it does worst is understand others.”

The head of Mexico’s nature reserves, Luis Fueyo, said there are still some problems to be solved at the wintering grounds in Mexico, including some scale-logging and water availability. The Monarchs don’t drink any water throughout their long migration until they reach Mexico, and the mountain streams in the area have been affected by drought, human use and pinata parties. No butterfly lives to make the round-trip. The millions of Monarchs cluster so densely on tree boughs in the reserve that researchers don’t count their individual numbers but rather measure the amount of forest they cover. It’s just another reason why they can’t see the forest through the trees.

This winter, the butterflies covered just 2.93 acres, down from 7.14 acres last year. That doesn’t bode well for us, as who knows what we’ll be seeing this fall in the eucalyptus groves at Natural Bridges and Lighthouse Field. It doesn’t sound promising. So the final word on this situation south of the border comes from Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who said ” I would rather die standing than live life on my knees.” Viva la revolution, and for you Elvis and Ann Margaret fans, “Viva La Vegas.”

For today’s photo enclave, I’m featuring a group of butterflies at play. The final shot shows the Monarchs clustering in the trees at Natural Bridges State Park. When you look up at this sea of orange and black, you’re viewing one of the true wonders of nature, as their migration north to reach this safe haven, much like me trying to get back down to my high school weight, is brutal. Or as Jennifer Aniston once said, “I love the feeling of being in love, the effect of having butterflies when you wake up in the morning. That is special.” I can relate, as I’ve always savored the early stage of being in love, when I woke up feeling like a happy caterpillar.

On to some late night humor. “A guy in Great Britain found a way to make cars run on coffee. The good news is if cars start running on coffee, it means once again I can smoke at the pumps. Are you folks excited about St. Patrick’s Day? It’s the day I tell Irish jokes written by Jewish writers.” – David Letterman “To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Carnival Cruise had all their toilets overflowing with green water.” – Jay Leno “For many colleges, this is spring break. College kids will go to places like South Beach to make mistakes they will cherish for a lifetime. Spring break is an important American tradition. It’s how we grow a new crop of MTV teen moms.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Last night on “The Tonight Show,” during the monologue Jay Leno called NBC executives “snakes.” The response came quickly. “Jay Leno has crossed the line and gone too far,” responded the snakes. The new show “Bates Motel” premiered last night. It was very suspenseful. The whole time watching it I was thinking, “Will that guy get stabbed? Will he survive to see the next week?” I’m sorry, that’s while I was watching “The Tonight Show. Julius Caesar was romantically involved with Cleopatra for 14 years. After he dumped Cleopatra, there were rumors that Julius Caesar fathered an illegitimate child by a housemaid. But those rumors turned out to be false. It was actually Caesar’s cousin, Julius Schwarzenegger.” – Craig Ferguson

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced that he supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Or as illegal immigrants put it, “Who do you think’s going to build that path?” Kate Middleton revealed that she wants to have a boy, but Prince William is hoping for a girl. However, they both agree that no matter what gender it is, its nanny will love it just the same. Burger King is now offering a turkey burger on its menu. Or as horses put it, “Nope, still us.” There’s talk that “Today” show host Matt Lauer is the top choice to replace Alex Trebek when he leaves “Jeopardy.” Or as Alex Trebek put it, “Who is Matt Lauer?” – Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our Monarch update. I hope you have been relishing the incredible play this week of LeBron James and of March madness, as we are now down to what my daughter will be turning in August, the sweet sixteen. Enjoy the week and the celebration of matzos. We’ll catch you shocking the world by going alley-oop crazy and pulling off the biggest upset in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. Aloha, mahalo and later, Florida Gulf Coast University fans.

March 17, 2013

She’s Got A Cricket Inside, But She Don’t Care


Good morning and greetings, daylight saving time fans. I think most of us enjoy the light later in the day, as now I don’t hop into my pajamas till at least 8 pm. Light is a very simple concept, although Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb. Ellen DeGeneres summed up the situation for all of us when she said, “In the beginning, there was nothing, God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.”

As many of you know, I’m very much into sports, although most of my exercise these days come from dragging my heels, pushing my luck and jumping to conclusions. And I’m talking all the sports, including football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, snowshoeing, knock hockey, bass fishing, skeet shooting, ping pong, synchronized swimming, jai alai, bird watching, dog sledding, sky diving, bull fighting, jump roping, log rolling and darts. And that’s just what I’m into on weekdays.

But there is one sport that I’ve never really gotten into, and that would be cricket. For some reason, this bat-and-ball game never really captured my fancy, unlike canoeing, jump roping or my favorite, body building. But for sports fans in many countries, cricket is right up there on the top of the menu, and that’s where we’re headed today.

In a story written by Frank Elaridi for ABC News, a Salt Lake City food company has a new line of energy bars that have people chirping because of their unique ingredients. The company, named Chapul, perhaps because that’s where you might want to go after eating one of their products, has an energy bar that includes, coconut, ginger, lime, and you guess it, crickets.

A chart on their website shows that both cows and insects are 57 percent protein, but cows are 43 percent fats, while insects are just 22 percent fats. No word on centipedes, arachnids, or Arby’s new roast beef sandwich.

According to Chapul founder Pat Crowley, ” What this basically means is that insects have similar protein contents to livestock, but are healthier because they have less fat. We thought the people who would be most receptive are environmentally conscious people who already eat healthy products and energy bars and who wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Insect diets are common in many countries but not in the United States and Europe. That is because many Americans have ants in their pants.

Crowley wants to introduce insects into American cuisine, but there is a psychological barrier that Americans have about eating insects because it isn’t part of the culture. That is, unless you go bike riding with your mouth open. He wants to introduce insects into the American diet by using ingredients like chocolate and peanut butter, the way sushi was introduced into American cuisine with the California Roll. Holy Jiminy Cricket! For some reason, this really bugs me.

According to Steven R. Kutcher, an entomologist based in Arcadia, California, there are insects in almost everything Americans already eat. Hey, the FDA allows up to 450 insect fragments in every one-pound box of pasta. The average American consumes about 20 pounds of noodles every year, so you crunch the numbers. It’s like the old joke, ‘Waiter, what’s that fly doing in my soup? Don’t worry, the spider on the bread will get him soon enough.”

“When you eat rice, flour, beans, there are going to be insects in them, but people don’t see them,” Kutcher said. “So that’s always been part of the human diet, especially before there was processed food.” Kutcher says although insects are high in protein while low in sodium and contain no trans fats, there is one negative aspect to snacking on them.

“The downside is, with something like crickets, they have spines, claws and exoskeletons made from chitin and it’s not digestible, so it goes right through you,” Kutcher says. “When you eat crab or lobster, you don’t eat the whole thing, you take off the shell. With something like crickets, you can’t remove the chitin.” No chit?

Chapul grinds the crickets into a flour in its bars so there are no legs, claws or antennae present, which makes for good eating but bad reception. When they are ground up that way, the chitin is still not digestible, but consumers don’t have the problems that come from eating all the body parts and they still get all the nutrients. So this way they have a leg up on the competition.

So what do crickets taste like? Seafood, veal chops, Doritos Loco Tacos? “It’s not quite like chicken,” Crowley says. “It has an earthy taste like sunflower seeds. The insects are pretty mild tasting, so it tastes like whatever you flavor it with. It’s like popcorn, if you flavor it with butter, it taste like butter.” Waiter, I’ll have the fried rice, shrimp and broccoli and the crickets in black bean sauce.

The esteemed TV star, Dr. Oz says that chitin in its ground form is a fat blocker and good for one’s health. That may be all good and well, but I’ve always preferred Beatles on a CD, not as a side dish. As I fumigate the thought of insect ingestion through my mind, I get butterflies in my stomach. If we’re going to start eating what’s crawling, hopping and buzzing around us, we’re heading down a new frontier on the culinary highway. Well, either way, I think I’ve finally figured out why those mantises have been praying about all these years.

Now I have a confession. I previously said that this year’s sunrise and sunset season ,much like my infatuation with Kim Jong Un’s new wife, was pretty much over. This was based on the fact that in the past, there has been less action in the sky in March than visa requests to visit North Korea. But I was wrong, as there was a spectacular sunset Thursday night, a gorgeous sunrise Friday morning followed by another pretty sunset that evening. I don’t know if it was the result of global warming or my digital karma, but I managed to photograph a couple of these events. In the words of the singer Meat Loaf, who I happen to love with mashed potatoes, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

For Friday’s sunrise, I started shooting from the cliffs above Cowells Beach, before moving over the Steamers Lane to capture the sun rising over the water and the mountains of Monterey. But the favorite photographic moments came when I moved onto Bird Rock along West Cliff Drive, and I was able to capture the sun rising through the trees, which was almost as exciting as the NBA action on Friday night. It was some unexpected late winter beauty, and I savored it like last week’s episode of “Justified” on FX, but without the TV MALV rating for language, violence and thank goodness, no nudity.

On to some late night humor. “The big news is the new Pope. His name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio. If you’re saying to yourself, “Boy, that name sounds familiar,” you’re right. For seven years he was the ace reliever for the Yankees. With the selection process going on for the new Pope, there’s a lot of papal trivial. For example, did you know that no Pope has ever in the history of the church been elected without carrying Ohio? The cardinals each write down their choice on a small slip of paper and put in a silver chalice and then they mix all the names up and they’re drawn out. It’s the same thing they do for the Vatican’s Secret Santa.” – David Letterman

“In accordance with Vatican tradition, the cardinals in the papal conclave will release white smoke when a Pope is chosen. The practice was started by those two ancient leaders, Cardinal Cheech and Cardinal Chong.” – Jimmy Fallon “After tours of the White House were canceled due to budget cuts, Donald Trump offered to pay for them. All he’s asking is they rename it the Trump White House and Casino.” – Conan O’Brien “Mayor Bloomberg tried to ban giant 16-ounce sugary sodas and a judge overturned the ruling. And I said, “Thank God I don’t have to drive to Canada to get my Mountain Dew anymore.”- David Letterman

“Thanks to daylight saving time, we lost an hour this weekend. If you’re watching this show, you’re about to lose another hour. Everyone is talking about is these Google glasses. People are already worried about radiation from cellphones. So why not make a device that you can put next to your eyes all day?” – Craig Ferguson “According to reports, Saudi Arabia is considering dropping public beheadings because of a shortage of government swordsmen. You don’t want amateurs to cut people’s heads off because that could be barbaric.” – Jay Leno

So that’s our last blast for winter. Birthdays wishes go out on Wednesday to my esteemed writer/editor/deluxe dessert making pal Martha Lawrence, who’s one of the few people in the continental U.S. who never mistakes Encinitas for Escondido.

We’ll catch you streaking up and down the court while running the show for the hottest team in the NBA west. Aloha, mahalo and later, Ty Lawson fans.

February 10, 2013

Does Anybody Really Know What Valentime It Is?

Good morning and greetings, Valentine’s Day fans. What a great day this has become for chocolate lovers, romantics and stalkers of the world. On this day, one can display his or her affections with a card that someone else wrote (“I never believed in miracles and then I found each day has turned into one because of you,”) some sugar that we probably don’t need, or some jewelry that we can always sell on eBay if the relationship doesn’t work out. Meanwhile, many folks not involved in a relationship get left out in the cold and hope this day passes as quickly as possible. Now that may be a little cynical, but I think I’m right on the Eddie Money without two tickets to paradise.

But being a hopeless romantic, I always get caught up in the holiday spirit. However, last year, when I presented my wife with a box a chocolate matzos, she seemed a tad disappointed. I’m not sure if chocolate covered unleavened bread conveyed the thought of thanks for loving me, always being there and sharing the same DVR taping system. So this year, I’m going to do it right and go with dark chocolate pretzels.

I was immediately smitten when I met my future bride. I remember early on, an offer I made when she was looking to move into the oceanfront house I was living in. “Come live in my heart and pay no rent.” She then asked if that included utilities. An hour later, I told her that a hundred hearts would be too few to carry all my love for her. She blushed and then went out and bought a dozen defibrillators.

So Valentine’s Day is always a special occasion for us. I remember last year as she told me between commercials, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” And then I held her closely and said, “If I could be anything in the world, I would want to be a teardrop, because I would be born in your eyes, live on your cheeks, and die on your lips.” And then I lobbed this winner, “When we met, it was not my ear you whispered into, but my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” Now that, my friends, is a Hallmark moment.

So in honor of this day of love and chocolate, here’s a joke that made me chuckle. A prince was put under a spell so that he could speak only one word each year. If he didn’t speak for two years, the following year he could speak two words and so on. One day, he fell in love with a beautiful lady. He refrained from speaking for two whole years so he could call her “my darling.” But then he wanted to tell her he loved her, so he waited three more years. At the end of these five years, he wanted to ask her to marry him, so he waited another four years. Finally, as the ninth year of silence ended, he led the lady to the most romantic place in the kingdom and said, “My darling, I love you! Will you marry me?” And the lady said, “Pardon?”

So it was a good week on the weather front, as we had sun, clouds, rain, light, darkness and some golf. Last Wednesday, on a crisp morning at Natural Bridges, frost was covering the sand as I observed nineteen snowy egrets lined up in a row like bowling pins. Of course, being a semi-professional photographer, I didn’t have my camera or passport with me, so I raced home, grabbed it and was back before you could say “Zero Dark Thirty.” Or in the words of Jessica Chastain to CIA chief Tony Soprano, “I’m the motherfu****** who found this place.”

By the way, last three flicks I’ve seen all been big-time winners, tremendously enjoyable cinematic experiences. We’re talking “Argo,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” I walked out of all three saying , “Wow, that was great at a matinee price.

So getting back to the beach, the snowys were still there when I returned but in a slightly rearranged order, so I headed down to the far end of the beach to shoot these birds of a feather huddled together in the cold weather (photo #1). Also included is a smaller group shot and one of a dynamic duo. Then it was on to photographing a group of pelicans that had gathered for their morning coffee and sardines on the remaining arch. It was a great way to start off a chilly day on Monterey Bay.

The final photo is my Valentine’s day shot, as a caught a group of lovebirds, er pigeons, perched on a telephone wire basking in the morning sun. Next week we’ll return to the fabulous winter sunrise and sunset experiences, as I have many sitting on the runway waiting for clearance. They range from good to classic fantastic, and all will be seen. Because that’s the way we roll at Sunrise Santa Cruz.

On to some late night humor. “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wants to become the first Iranian to go into outer space. He wants to study the effects of anti-gravity on anti-Semitism. Monopoly is getting a big makeover. They want to make the Monopoly game more modern and bring it up to date to reflect our current culture. Like, in the new version of Monopoly, the banker never goes to jail. This is kind of disturbing. The Justice Department has concluded that the president can order drone strikes on American citizens. And today, Rush Limbaugh came out in favor of Obamacare.” – Jay Leno

A Justice Department memo claims that President Obama has the right to order the assassination of an American anywhere in the world. Isn’t that crazy? In a related story, Donald Trump has gone into hiding. The justice department is saying that President Obama can order drone strikes on American citizens, that he can do that. In a related story, this is the last Obama joke I’m ever doing on this show. U.S. employers just added 157,000 jobs to the economy. Of course, most of those were for backup dancers for Beyoncé. During the Super Bowl there was a 35-minute blackout. Afterwards Lindsay Lohan said, “So that wasn’t just me.” – Conan O’Brien

“Pakistan is opening an amusement park and a zoo in the same town where the raid on Osama Bin Laden took place. The zoo is pretty cool, but I’ve heard you won’t be able to see the seals until it’s too late. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently got a smart phone. And you can tell it’s a smart phone because today it left North Korea. Last night runners from around the world competed in the annual race to the top of the Empire State Building. But there’s already a scandal brewing. It turns out one of the competitors tested positive for elevator.” – Jimmy Fallon

“A new report by economists lists the world’s most expensive cities. It turns out the most expensive city is Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo unveiled their new tourism slogan today. Their slogan is: “Tokyo: We’ll leave you brokeo.” – Craig Ferguson “This weekend a couple from Connecticut will have the longest marriage ever recorded in the U.S. They got married more than 80 years ago. They said the secret to their long-lasting marriage is love, compromise, and the fact that neither one of them has been able to hear a word the other one has said in more than 30 years.” – Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our Chinese New Year report. I think the Year of the Snake is going to be a good one for my cyber readers and burmese pythons. We’ll catch you showing NBA fans why you’re the top scoring point guard in the league and an all-star in just your second season. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kyrie Irving fans.

January 6, 2013

Name, Rank and Cereal Number

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — geoff @ 12:20 pm

Good morning and greetings, January Jones fans. Well, the first week of 2013, like my hopes of maintaining a washboard stomach over the holidays, is now history. As of this writing, my waistline is looking more like a washing machine. Or as Oprah once told me, “A waist is a terrible thing to mind.”

However, I’ve always been happy about my name. Geoffrey. Well, except during my school days, when a substitute teacher came into my classroom, picked up the seating chart and tried to pronounce my name. Then we were on our way to mispronunciation city. “Geeeoooofree. Goffrey. Goofy. Sven.”

I love the double initital action. GG. Geoffrey Gilbert. There’s just something about the aligned symmetry, like a Brigette Bardot, Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe, Jesse Jackson, Summer Sanders or Kimmy Kardashian.

I first became aware of the power of names back in 1964, when I heard the song sung by Shirley Ellis called the ‘Name Game.’ It went like this. “Shirley! Shirley, Shirley bo Birley Bonana fanna fo Firley, Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley.” Okay, so it’s no “Stairway to Heaven,” but it’s a wonderful memory of a misspent youth. And as she said, “And there isn’t any name that you can’t rhyme.” And I thought, “Surely, she must be kidding.’ And she replied. I don’t joke. And don’t call me Shirley.”

I was named Geoffrey after my grandfather Gustav, who passed away before I was born. So my parents decided to go with the first letter ‘G’ in his honor. So there were some decent choices like Glenn, Greg, Gary or Gorgeous. My mother said I got lucky, as their accountant was named George and at one point were leaning in that direction. On an odd note, their insurance guy was named Ringo and the plumber went by John. And they named my brother Paul. They said if he had been a girl, they would have gone with Mick Jagger.

Anyway, my name works for me. I am Geoffrey Gilbert. However, at some point, for some unknown reason my father starting calling me “Geppo,” which then morphed into “Peppo,” which left me feeling abysmal. I also recall him saying, “Jefferson Gilbert, I do declare,” which made me feel like I had joined the Confederacy. Or as Granny from the “Beverly Hillbillies” once described this time in history, “When the North invaded America.”

The name Geoffrey means “God’s peace,” which I gave my parents very little of as a colicky baby. However, my mother had the means within her to soothe her screaming child, but for some reason, she chose to treat me as a friend.

My mother and father had free rein in choosing my name, as they could have gone with Chase, Jackson or Brad Pitt. However, not all parents have that same right. In a story written by Anna Andersen for the Associated Press, a 15-year-old from Reykjavik, Iceland is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name (Blaer) given to her by her mother, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic. Turns out it is not on a list of names approved by the government. Who knew?

Iceland, like a handful of other countries including Germany, Denmark and the Banana Republic, has official rules about what a baby can be named. However, on the flip side, you came name your dog, moose or reindeer anything you want. Most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules. State officials maintain this will protect children from embarrassing names like Road Kill, Sissy Boy or Rush Limbaugh.

Blaer’s mother said she learned the name wasn’t on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it. Oops. I believe it was either Larry King or Confucius who said, “Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.” Hey, we all make mistakes. Or as comedian Red Skelton put it, “All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner.”

Her mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, said she had no idea that ‘Blaer’ wasn’t on the list. A panel turned down her name on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness. In case you find this curious, join the club.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland than in many other countries as everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. However, this does not create any confusion, as the population of this country is quite small. The phone book is known as the Yellow Page.

This is the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court. Choices like Caroline, Chelsea and Carmen Electra have been rejected because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet. “Satania” was unacceptable because it was deemed too close to “Satan” while “Brad” was rejected because it too close to “Bra” and Jennifer Aniston.

Bjork Eidsdottir says she is prepared to take her case all the way to Diana Ross and the country’s Supreme Court if a court doesn’t overturn the commission decision on January 25.

“So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name,” Eidsdottir said. “It seems like a basic human right to be able to name your child what you want, especially if it doesn’t harm your child in any way. And my daughter loves her name.”

So here’s my thought. If Gwyneth Paltrow can name her daughter Apple, then Blaer works fine for me. It’s really a lovely name. And if you know me, you know I’m all about the love. Or as John F. Kennedy once told White House intern Mimi Alfrod, “Forgive your enemies but never forget their names.”

So to start off the new digital year with a bang, as our first photo lunch box will feature the last sunrise I shot in 2012. The date was December 30, and what started out as a pleasant morning sky blew up into a full on, wonderous delight of color accompanied by a backdrop of big waves. As a local artist described the sky to me that morning, “the clouds were doing gymnastics,” and the Russian judge scored them a 9.8.

It was a morning where the sky just got better and better, and I’d like to think that my future days will be headed in the same direction. The philosopher Voltaire once noted, “The present is pregnant with the future.” French poet Paul Valery wrote that “The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.” However, I’ll stick with the words of American journalist William Allen White who remarked, “I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” Oh, I believe in yesterday.

On to a little late night humor. “Some people are concerned 2013 will be an unlucky year because of the number 13. As compared to those lucky years like 2012 and 2011.” – Jay Leno “Well, Al-Jazeera has purchased Al Gore’s old TV network, Current TV. So it’s now owned by Al-Jazeera. And listen to this: $500 million. This is a little something Al Gore has come up with called “global fleecing.” – David Letterman “I’ve got to admit, I love the show “Doomsday Preppers.” It’s about people making bunkers to survive catastrophes they know will happen. A nuclear war, viral epidemic, Fox canceling “Glee.” It’s all going to happen.” – Craig Ferguson

So that’s our first blast of 2013. Let’s hope it’s going to be a great one, as it has been so far for the Golden State Warriors, whose early season performance has shocked the NBA world. We’ll catch you having the best season of your career while putting MVP type numbers. Aloha, mahalo and later, David Lee fans.

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