December 19, 2010

Are You Swedish? No, I’m Finished.

Good morning and greetings, Johnny Winter fans. We’re winding down the year here at Sunrise Santa Cruz as the end of 2010 rapidly approaches. But before we do, I want to mention a couple of celestial events coming up on the calendar as a free service to my non-paying subscribers.

Early on Tuesday morning, the full moon will pass through the shadow of the earth, producing one of the most beautiful shows the skies this side of “My Fair Lady,” a total eclipse of the moon. This is not to be confused with a total eclipse of the heart or when I blew off Carly Simon to fly up to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun. Okay, so maybe I was a little vain.

Then 16 hours later at 6:38 EST, after a marvelous night for a moon dance, the sun will reach a point where it will appear to shine farthest to the south of the equator, which will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn and just south of the island of Tongatapu, where I normally do most of my holiday shopping for mumus. This will mark the moment of solstice, when winter officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere and I celebrate by ironing my warmer shorts.

It was Randy Newman who said “short people have no reason to live,” but they can rejoice on Tuesday as it will be the shortest day of the year. And it was Dr. Phil who said it is always darkest before dawn, and beginning on Wednesday, the days grow longer and the nights grow stronger than moonshine. I learned that as I traveled down the Ventura Highway in the sunshine with the free wind blowin’ thru my hair. God bless America.

So with the days and my attention span winding down, what have I learned this year? My first thought is very little, as it’s possible I’ve forgotten more than has entered my medulla oblongata. They say you’re not getting older, you’re getting wiser. Take my word for it, I’m just getting older.

Alright, maybe I’ve learned a few things. Actually, it’s not that I’ve gained any new insights, it’s just that what’s important has edged closer to the forefront of my mind. I’ll go with my top three, because any more than that and I’ll start channeling Oprah.

Number one on my hit list of importance is health. You can have all the money in the world, and if you do, please contact me. My wife had some major health issues last year, and a day doesn’t go by that when I wake up I’m not grateful that she’s healthy. Well, that and the fact the she doesn’t kick me anymore when I snore. For a while, I felt like a pinata on that mattress, and I would have told her to stop but wanted the candy.

Number two is family. I’ve got an entourage of parents, brothers, half-brothers, sister-in-laws, step-sisters, cousins and an aunt, uncle and Johnny Drama. Many have known me pretty much from the start as a young boy growing up in Appalachia, and there’s something special about someone who knows where you’ve been and is alway going to know where you’re going.

Number three is friends, and I’m not talking about Courtney Cox or the lovely Jennifer Aniston. Friends may come and go, but the great ones stick around. They’re different from family because there is no blood obligation. Of course, some come with baggage, but since I’m not a sky cap, I don’t deal with that. Friends melt in your heart, not in your hands.

So for our final photo expedition of 2010, we journey back to a gentler, simpler time, back before we all got so caught up in our daily lives that we sometimes forget what’s really important. I’m talking December 7th of this month. The sky was lining up to put on a better show than Janet Jackson at halftime of the Super Bowl XXXVIII, and I was not upset when the heavens didn’t malfunction.

The canvas of colors started slowly, but once the sky started to glow it was just outstanding. For me as a photographer, humanitarian and former hand model, photo number five is what it’s all about. Just a wonderful moment to be alive and living on the planet. For a sunrise and sunset boy like myself, it doesn’t get much better than this.

The last shot is of another photographer who was lucky enough to be taking in the sights that night. I wanted to showcase the color of the clouds as the reflection blazed on the sand. All in all, a fantastic night on the digital front. This is one I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Here’s our final salute to the late night. “According to a new poll, 51 percent of Americans feel that their lives were better two years ago before President Obama took office. To which President Obama said, ‘Join the club.’” –Jay Leno “Today President Obama met with a group of top CEOs to discuss creating new jobs. They said they’d see what they could do and then all went back to China.” –Conan O’Brien “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had to go to the hospital today because of a kidney stone. On the bright side, the stone was the first thing in months passed by a member of the Obama administration.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Time magazine is now ranking the best tweets of the year and, according to Time, the best tweet for 2010 was written by John McCain. Experts say it’s even more impressive because McCain thought he was opening his garage door. Anderson Cooper has announced that the title of his new show is just ‘Anderson.’ I think I speak for everyone here at ‘Conan’ when I say, ‘God, what an ego on that guy!’ Ukraine announced plans to open Chernobyl, their nuclear disaster site, to tourists. They say it’s just like Disneyland, except the 6-foot mouse is real.” –Conan O’Brien

So that’s our final blast for the year. I’m going to take a week off and head out to Palm Desert for some relaxation, revitalization and hopefully a few revelations about why the corn beef tastes so good at Sherman’s Deli.

But before that, birthday wishes go out to my oldest friend, Steve Margolin, who hits the big 58 on Wednesday. Steve and I go way back, as we’re talking pitching duels in Little League, train rides to Amsterdam and late night runs to Hop Kee in New York’s Chinatown for those sweet and sour memories. We both grew up in Anderson Avenue in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and not a day goes by where he doesn’t beg me to come back.

So thanks for tuning in this year. I hope you’ve been enjoying the ride and that my words have added some joy to your life. We’ll return with some spectacular desert action in 2011. In the meantime, be good to yourselves and we’ll catch you at the goal line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Dwyane Wade fans.

October 3, 2010

You Never Forget Your First

Good morning and greetings, Open Studio fans. We’re at that magical time of the year where local artists in Santa Cruz County open up their homes and studios to the public. And once again, yours truly is part of this incredible harmonic convergence of arts, crafts and finger foods.

But before we chat about landscape and nature photography from the westside of town, let’s talk a little weather. After a summer that would have left an eskimo’s teeth chattering, the local thermometer hit the century mark on September 25, shattering a 73-year-old-record, which might have been the Doors first album, in which Jim Morrison said to grab some matches and “come on baby light my fire.” This was the first album I ever played over and over again as I still have “no time to wallow in the mire.”

Anyway, this record-breaking heat, the same kind I used to feel from the Feds, was brought on by a high pressure ridge that built up over the entire state. This surpressed the marine layer and any thoughts I had about why I’m never finished medical school.

Then Monday rolled in and the thermometer soared to 103, which tied the record set back in 1970. And as we all know, the tie goes to the runner and with a suit and jacket. But then on Tuesday, things started to cool off once again, as a result of a that high pressuring ridge weakening, like myself when confronted by a piece of chocolate layer cake. This brought in the marine layer and a tall glass of milk.

But if you think it was warm on the central coast on last Monday, it was baking like my honey glazed Easter ham in downtown Los Angeles, where the thermostat hit a scorching 113. I don’t want to say it was a tad warm, but it was so hot, squirrels were handling their nuts with potholders. And at the Betty Ford Clinic in Palm Springs, they said, “screw it. Open the bar. Drinks for everyone.”

Let’s venture on to the photo frontier. Following a warm Tuesday afternoon, parades of clouds gathered in the sky, so I headed down to Stockton Avenue primed for Disney action. This was to be the first sunset of the fall season and it was a winner, winner, chicken dinner.

The waves were pumping full force and the locals were getting big rides up and down West Cliff. As you can see from photos 4 and 5, pink was the flavor of the night, as clouds filled the sky with a full 360 degrees of color. As the title reads, you never forget your first, although sometimes those memories, like the essay I wrote for my college admissions, gets a little hazy.

I’ve been as busy at dusk as a beaver on steroids, as I shot two more gorgeous sunsets this week. In the words of the boys from Thin Lizzy, “spread the word around, the color is back in town.”

On to the late night fun. “At the UN, President Obama called on other countries to help us track down and eliminate radicals and extremists. But they told Obama, ‘Hey, the tea party is your problem, buddy.’ These Tea Party groups are very conservative. In fact, 58 percent of Tea Party members now believe Joe Biden is a Muslim. “President Obama’s approval rating dropped again. Things are so bad, Muslims are accusing him of being Christian. ” –Jay Leno

“Bob Woodward has written a book which states that the White House agonized over the decision to leave Iraq. Too bad no one agonized over the decision to go into Iraq.” –David Letterman “Bristol Palin has denied rumors that she’s dating The Situation from ‘Jersey Shore.’ If The Situation becomes Sarah Palin’s son-in-law, he’d still have the most normal name of any boy in the family.” –Jimmy Fallon “There’s a new opera about Bill Clinton. I don’t know how it ends, but I bet it isn’t with the fat lady singing.” –Craig Ferguson

“President Obama has written a children’s book. Why not? He’s got nothing else on his plate. “Obama’s book is called ‘The One-Term Engine That Could.’” –David Letterman “In a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama said he has Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones on his iPod. Unfortunately, the question was ‘Do you have a plan to fix the economy?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama has listed the songs on his iPod. The Tea Partiers are checking to see if ‘Born in the USA’ is on the list.” –Jimmy Fallon “BP announced earlier today that they have created a new Safety Division for offshore drilling. In related news, General Custer has just hired a lookout.” –David Letterman “While in New York City, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Louis Farrakhan. I’m not sure where they met, but I think we can rule out the Carnegie Deli.” –Jay Leno

So Open Studios is the next two weekends. I’d love for any of you readers of Sunrise Santa Cruz to come by and check out the photography but more importantly, we can bond for a moment live in person, as this cyber experience of me writing and posting doesn’t take the place of human interaction. And if that’s not enough of a draw, then there’s also juice and cookies. I guaranteee it will be a fun experience and if not you get your money and karma back.

So I hope to see you at Open Studios this coming weekend. Birthday wishes go out on Wednesday to my cousin Gina, who’s an incredible artist and has always had the good fortune to share the same initials with me. And on Thursday, the Dean Smith of anathesiology, Dr. Michael Schur, celebrates his big day. How he finds time to perform his medical duties and write for “The Office” has always amazed me.

So enjoy the baseball playoffs and we’ll catch you later in the postseason. Aloha, mahalo and later, Willie Mays fans.

September 26, 2010

A Night To September

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — geoff @ 5:39 pm

Good morning and greetings, autumn fans. The fall season is upon us as the summer of 2010, much like my aspirations of sitting on the Supreme Court or dunking on a basketball court, are now history. But the last night of summer left behind a tasty little digital imprint, as yours truly sensed there would be color in the western sky and seized the moment like a fresh pan of eggplant parmesan just out of the oven, which comes with a side of penne pasta and toasted gluten-free garlic nuggets.

So let’s go back in the Chinese calendar to last Tuesday night, before the fall equinox hit me like a blackjack dealer at Harrah’s. Coming into this evening, I had not photographed a sunset the entire summer, and as you know, I’m a big fan of dusk. And there had been nothing on the sunrise front either, so an entire season went by in the sky without me even doffing with my lens cap.

But then the final evening of summer rolled in and clouds covered the sky like Darrelle Revis on Randy Moss running a fly pattern. Before you could say “Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson,” I grabbed my camera and headed over to a little park by my house that overlooks an arroyo and the mountains above UC Santa Cruz.

Now, as many of you and my rabbi know, I’m looking for the reflection action on the water and sand when I shoot sunsets, but because of the positioning of the sun and my daughter, this was not possible on this evening. Or in the words of Mick Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need.” I think I got it but you be the bailiff.

The first shot sets up the location and then we move into zoom mode, or as they say in Israel, “zoom gali gali gali, zoom gali gali.” As our forefathers and mothers penned in the Bill of Rights, we’re guaranteed the best sunrise and sunsets occur in late fall and winter. But every once in a while some early clouds sneak in to remind me why I’m captivated by color in the sky and pilot episodes during the new fall TV season.

As you can see, it helps to have a zoom to capture the colors along the horizon. The next night the autumn harvest moon rose, and without my zoom lens I’d be shooting like the Cleveland Cavaliers without LeBron James. Dead or on life support.

Now not to get too sentimental, but since there are only three days of September left on the calendar before October blows in, I thought, what do we really know about this month? So let’s take a nostalgic look back at some classic events from our ninth month. Or in the words of the Happenings, “see you in September, see you when the summer’s through.” And for those of you keeping a scorecard, that hit rose to #3 on the Billboard charts back in 1966.

The first permanent white settlement in what is now America was founded in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565. The next day they discovered that the men couldn’t jump. California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850, which later inspired the songs, “California Girls, California Dreamin’” and for sushi lovers, the California roll.

Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa sighted the Pacific Ocean on September 25, 1513 and claimed it for Spain and Penelope Cruz. Chile declared its independence from Spain on September 18, 1810 and then announced the creation of the chile relleno.

Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the 25 hour bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814, which had little effect on its defenders. This so impressed the lawyer, Francis Scott Key, that he wrote the poem and later penned the first draft of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida along with Iron Butterfly. Revolutionary War patriot Nathan Hale was put to death as a spy by British on September 22, 1776. He said “I regret that I have only but one life to lose for my country, and that I will never vacation in Hawaii.”

Congress passed the Selective Service Act, providing for the first peacetime draft in U.S. history on September 14, 1940. Canada’s population doubled the next day. And finally, on September 14, 1963, much to her surprise, Mary Ann Fischer of Aberdeen, South Dakota gave birth to four girls and a boy, the first surviving quintuplets in the United States. The next day she ordered two breast pumps and signed a deal with Fox TV.

The late night boys are back in full force. “You know this Tea Party candidate, Christine O’Donnell is causing a lot of controversy with her kind of unorthodox views. She’s come out against masturbation. You know what that means? She’s out of touch with those voters who are in touch with themselves.” –Jay Leno “She hates masturbation, which is ironic, because she owes her nominations to a bunch of jackoffs. Her detractors say she’s homeless, jobless, and can’t pay her taxes. And her supporters say, ‘Finally, someone who represents the average American.” –Bill Maher

“In Delaware, Christine O’Donnell won a huge upset in the primaries, but she has some problems. Karl Rove has accused her of lying. When the guy that told 300 million Americans there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq says you’re lying, he knows what he’s talking about. I don’t know a lot about Christine O’Donnell, but she has some interesting views. She has come out against masturbation. And you thought the war on drugs was unwinnable. This Christine O’Donnell is a very conservative woman. Not only is she against premarital sex, she is against masturbation. She even wants to outlaw beef jerky.” –Jay Leno

“Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is taking criticism because she once said she dabbled in witchcraft. Yeah, everyone is talking about this. O’Donnell was like, ‘If one more person claims I’m a witch, I will take legal action against them and their little dog, too! Sarah Palin made a high profile appearance at a Republican fundraising dinner in Iowa. She didn’t actually say she’s running for president. She just winked it in Morse code.
Carl Paladino, New York’s Republican candidate for governor, said that Manhattan is home to smug, self-important, pampered, liberal elitists. He sounds just like my butler.” –Jimmy Fallon

“The premiere of ‘Hawaii Five-0′ was a great episode. The cops were looking around and they accidentally stumbled upon Obama’s birth certificate.” –David Letterman Everybody is talking about Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Obama’s War.’ In the book, he says Joe Biden called Middle East advisor Richard Holbrooke, ‘the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever.’ Then Rahm Emanuel’s like, ‘What am I, invisible?’ Bristol Palin made her debut on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and after a lot of speculation, Sarah Palin was not there to see it in person. However, she could see it from her house.” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our last blast for September. On the entertainment front, my eyes are bleeding from the first week of the new fall TV season so here’s a quick review. My favorite new sitcom is, “Raising Hope,” on Fox, which I found quite amusing. On the drama front, the winner was “Boardwalk Empire” on HBO. Love that Atlantic City locale. Remember, it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

So enjoy the late September heat wave and we’ll catch you at midfield. Aloha, mahalo and later, Denard Robinson fans.

August 1, 2010

The Baked Apple

Good morning and greetings, August fans. Well, July 2010 is now history, and it will not go down as the warmest month of my life. Officially, that would have been November of 1952, when I spent the month perfecting my back stroke in the amniotic fluid. Which reminds me of the old joke, “waiter, there’s a fly in my soup. Force of habit, sir. Our chef used to be a tailor.” Or “don’t worry, the spider on your bread will get him.”

Anyway, I was at my daughter’s championship softball game last Wednesday night, and I don’t want to say it was chilly, but my electric blanket was shivering. Now, while we’ve been experiencing frigid summer weather, folks on the east coast have been sweating like Levi Johnston alone with Sarah Palin on a moose hunting trip.

I bring up this meteorological data up because my wife, children and various nannies just left on a ten day trip to New York City. Now, my bride has spent some time back east enjoying the wonders of the heat and humidity, but my son and daughter have never enjoyed that special feeling of extreme discomfort one gets from being in an summer sauna. As the slogan says, I love New York, especially when the humidity is over 100 percent.

Back in the old country, on those days of stifling heat and unbearable humidity, we would just lock down the compound, turn on the air conditioning and wait for Yankee baseball. And of course, there would be runs to the sacred Pizza King for a slice or a chicken parmesan sandwich. As I used to tell our family psychiatrist, “a slice a day keeps the doctor away.”

Which brings us back to New York, New York, the insomniac city that never sleeps. So much to do and see and be afraid of. The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Museum of Unnatural History, Yankee Stadium, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, Ground Zero, Little Italy, Big Italy and of course, Chinatown, featuring Hop Kee at 21 Mott Street, a true Cantonese experience that’s open till 4am on weekends. Reports are that the lo mein and wor shu gui chicken are still why God created chopsticks.

Throw in the Disunited Nations, Late Night with David Letterman, Rockefeller Front and Center and riding the New York City subways and you’ve had yourself quite a day. I would love to have gone on this trip and visited my ancestor’s sacred burial grounds, but Tommy Wolfe called to remind me that “you can’t go home again,” so I had to pass.

So for those of you who’ve never been to New York or who just love Derek Jeter, here are a few fun facts about the city they say is the greatest in the world. It was once said, if you stand at Times Square long enough, you’ll see the entire world walk or crawl by.

The Dutch purchased the island of Manhattan (really its southern tip) from the Algonquin tribe for trinkets, tools and some duct tape worth about $24. With that they built the Holland Tunnel. More than 60 percent of NYC’s residents do not own a car, a percentage higher than in any other city in the United States. Of the 60 percent who do own cars, 50 percent have had them stolen. The New York subway system is the largest mass transit system in the world with 468 stations and 842 miles of track that runs 24 hours a day. An average of 4.9 million people ride the New York City subway each weekday, with 3.9 million wishing the person next to them would move over a little bit.

New York City has 4,000 street food vendors selling hot dogs, pretzels, falafel, kebobs, and fake Rolexes. The first pizzeria in the United States was opened in NYC in 1895 by Gennaro Lombardi and his brother Pepperoni. Toilet paper was invented by NYC resident Joseph C. Gayetty in 1857, after enjoying a desert of plum pudding. America’s first vending machines were installed in the subways of New York City in 1888, and were broken into for the first time later that same day.

New York’s Yellow Cabs are yellow because John Hertz, the company’s founder, craved daffodils and learned from a study that yellow was the easiest color for the eye to spot. The “New York Post,” established in 1803 by Alexander Hamilton, is the oldest running newspaper in the United States and the place were my thoughts about the NBA could be consistently read by inquiring minds throughout the 1990′s. And finally, New York City is the most populated city in the USA with more than 8.2 million people. 37 percent of the city’s population is foreign-born, which makes this the U.S. city with people utterering obscenities in the most foreign languages at 170.

Moving on to our photo festivities, I like to start out each new month with some color and play-by play. Now, I shoot sunrises and sunsets in August about as often as I admire what the Republicans are doing in Washington, so it came as a bigger surprise than my SAT scores when this sunset hit the skies back on August 5, 2008.

I was shooting this parade of clouds from Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive. What added to the drama were the unending chains of pelicans flying thru this glowing festival of light, with some more than sixty strong, adding a Nature Channel bonus to this blessed event. And if that wasn’t enough, a rainbow appeared in the eastern sky, making this the most photographically spectacular August evening since Chelsea Clinton’s bachelorette party.

On to the late night. “Vice President Joe Biden has declared that the heavy lifting is over for the year, and it’s time to begin campaigning and talking about the White House’s accomplishments. The heavy lifting might be over, but it sounds like the heavy shoveling is just beginning.” –Jay Leno “WikiLeaks has posted over 90,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is outraged, the White House is furious, but British Petroleum is relieved: ‘Finally, a leak we had nothing to do with.’” –Jay Leno “Leaked documents show that Pakistan has been taking American money and using it to fund the Taliban. The Pakistanis are denying it, and they’re like, ‘The Taliban bought those iPods with their own money.’” –Craig Ferguson

“Congress’ approval rating has hit an all-time low of 11 percent. To give you an idea of how bad that is, the BP oil spill is at 12 percent.” –Jay Leno “BP is firing its CEO, Tony Hayward. They’re negotiating a settlement for $18 million. Boy, that’ll teach him.” –David Letterman “BP CEO Tony Hayward complained that he was unfairly ‘demonized’ in the U.S. over his handling of the Gulf oil spill. In response, demons complained that they were unfairly compared to BP CEO Tony Hayward.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Continental announced a new feature called ‘self boarding.’ There’s no ticket agent taking your boarding pass anymore, and you scan it yourself as you board the plane. It’s part of Continental’s ‘Terrorists Fly Hassel-free’ program.” –Jay Leno “A federal judge has blocked Arizona’s immigration law. Immigrants have been celebrating and throwing confetti. The governor of Arizona said, ‘Sure, now they’re showing us their papers.’” –Craig Ferguson Starbucks’ profits went up 37 percent in the third quarter of this year. They say they owe the increase to their new strategy of opening a Starbucks inside an existing Starbucks.” –Jimmy Fallon

So Jeb Bush is running for president. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but thank God, ladies and gentlemen, the comedy recession is over! “A lot of security at the Chelsea Clinton wedding, a huge security detail, and that’s just to keep Bill from the bridesmaids.” -David Letterman “Facebook now has 500 million users. The previous record holder was heroin.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our first blast for of the new month. Special birthday wishes on August 7 go out to my favorite daughter Aimee, who’s turning sweet 13 and growing more beautiful and entertaining every day. Celebrating on this same day is my old Hermosa Beach pal Bruce Meyers, who when he hears the word “strand,” doesn’t think hair. Also joining the parade this day is my old Syracuse partner in crime, Rhonda Starer, who first turned me on to the the wonders of Hop Kee and chow fun. Then on the 8th, my favorite microbiologist, Dr. Charlotte Borgeson, celebrates her special day with cake, ice cream and a lecture on the wonders of mozzarella cheese.

Reports from the Big Apple say the humidity is on hold, so my family got luckier than Heat fans in Miami. So enjoy the good moments of the day. And if you know someone who’s not doing so well on the health front, say a little prayer for them. We’ll catch you down the left field line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Lance Berkman fans.

July 18, 2010

Roses Are Red, Whales Are Blue

Good morning and greetings, capped oil well fans. Well, the weather, much like my love for skinny jeans, has turned here on the central coast, as the fog, chill and gloom have been temporarily replaced by clear, sunny skies. But the blue sky, warm breezes and clam chowder in a bread bowl are not the only things that have returned, and as an incredible number of blue whales came to party in Monterey Bay about two weeks ago. Combine that with the reaper fans who swam here to see Blue Oyster Cult at the Boardwalk on June 25, and the bay’s burnin’ for you.

In a story, or “In-A-Gadda-Vida” for you Iron Butterfly fans, written by Laith Agha for the Monterey Herald, July 7 was once of the most extraordinary whale watching days ever here on Monterey Bay. Nancy Black, a marine biologist and owner of the Monterey Bay Whale Watch, says this is the first time since 2003 that blue whales or Dodger fans had been seen in any sizable numbers in the Monterey Bay.

At the time, including humpback whales and Miami Dolphins, 140 baleen whales were feeding in local waters. They flocked to Monterey’s waters to visit the acquarium and to feed on the abundance of krill, a favorite food of baleen whales. Instead of teeth, blue and humpback whales trap their food with baleen, a flexible bone structure that looks like a gigantic comb and acts as a filtering system that sieves small animals from ocean water, which is the same process I used to filter thru the sweet and sour shrimp at the Mandarin Garden’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

Because of the ecotourism, Northern Pacific blue whales typically breed and vacation 400 miles west of Costa Rica, then head north and toward the coast to feed. Though they often are spotted around the central coast from July to October, they have been spending the past few feeding seasons fattening up near Santa Barbara and farther south. This is because that is where the most krill has been and many are Laker fans, says local blue whale expert Tony Lorenz.

The prevalence of krill in local waters depends largely on oceanic upwelling, a wind-driven process that causes nutrient-rich water from the ocean depths to move toward the surface. So it’s not just the Kareem that rises to the top. Conditions have not been right in recent years to support large krill populations in the waters around Monterey, Lorenz says. Because blue whales primarily feed on krill and the fact that the Warriors only have made the playoff once over the last 16 years, they have not come around much.

At 75 to 100 feet long and upward of 100 tons, blue whales are the largest animals on Earth. They are larger than any dinosaur or anyone in Yao Ming’s family. To satisfy their appetites, they eat 4 tons of krill and a sandwich each day. There are about 10 million krill and a kosher pickle in each ton. Krill and avocado salad are the only things blue whales eat. The tiny shrimp-like creatures cluster together and whales ingest hundreds of thousand of them on at a time along with cocktail sauce and a few Ritz crackers.

Because of unregulated whaling in the first half of the 20th century, the blue whale was nearly hunted to extinction. That’s why I’m not crazy about harpoons or anyone mentioning my blubber. About 360,000 were killed from 1900 to 1966, when the International Whaling Commission banned hunting of blue whales. The global blue whale population is estimated at 10,000, with about 2,200 believed to live in the Pacific Ocean off North America or in Capitola.

Because of their size and oil inside them, blue whales were one of the most hunted whales for centuries. By the early 1900s they were almost extinct and rebuilding the species or a franchise is not easy, just ask Golden State Warriors fans.

The whales seem to be using long range communication or Facebook, as they can hear each other from a couple miles away to try and get the word out about the krill a minute. When blue whales have shown up in the past, they have been known to stay through summer and fall, then some head south as late as Christmas while the Jewish whales stayed thru Hanukah.

But how long they stay this time will depend on the food supply. “They could be here for a few days or a few months,” Black says. “We hope they’ll stay around here for a while.” Most likely they’ll stick around until, in the words of BB King. “the krill is gone.”

Let’s move onto this week’s photo entry. It was exactly three years ago today that I was heading down to the Boardwalk the see the fabulous Eddie Money in action. As I walked along West Cliff Drive, I spotted a pelican feeding frenzy in progress and hustled back to my car, grabbed my camera and proceeded to take more shots than Cav’s owner Dan Gilbert did at LeBron James after he announced he was joining Dywane Wade in South Beach.

Some kind of bait fish was running in the bay as the pelicans were dive bombing into the water like baseball fans going after a Derek Jeter home run ball at Yankee Stadium. It was a warm, beautiful night as I joined the pelicans to soak in the Money Man’s medly, including my personal favorite, “Wanna be a rocker, wanna be a rocker, wanna be a rock n’ roll star.” Eddie, who’s been performing here for years, was in classic form that evening. In his words, “I remember coming here in the 70′s when I was snorting South American countries.” All his greatest hits and a geography lesson.

I took the last couple of shots of the gulls and the coastline after the show. Just a classic combo of nature and rock, as there was a whole lot of shakin’ going on along the edge of the continent. The Money Man hits the Boardwalk this summer on July 30, with two shows at 6:30 and 8:30. And the best part is, the sand, sea, and sounds are free. As they say at Fort Knox, rich or poor, it’s nice to have Eddie Money.

And here’s the late night. “Rush Limbaugh had an apartment here in New York City. He sold the apartment for $11.5 million. That is $2.5 million for the apartment and $9 million for what they found in the medicine cabinet. But it was a huge apartment — 4,000 square feet of space. No, wait a minute, that’s Rush. Sold it for $11.5 million. It has a very narrow view. It overlooks the flaws of the Republican Party.” –David Letterman

“Let me say congratulations to Spain. They won the World Cup yesterday. Spanish people all over the world celebrated in the streets, except of course, in Arizona.” –Jay Leno “South Korea has new robots along its border with North Korea that can detect and kill intruders. Meanwhile they’re installing robots along the U.S. border that say ‘Hola.’” –Jimmy Fallon BP is putting a new cap on the leaking oil well. It could capture up to 90 percent of the disgusting filth that’s spewing from there. And if it works, they’re going to try the same thing on Mel Gibson.” –Craig Ferguson

“A lot of people continue to be very upset by the fact that we can’t get Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden? We can’t even get Roman Polanski. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away. He was a tough guy. Within five minutes in heaven, he fired God and told Jesus to lose the beard.” –Jay Leno “If you know anything about the big spy swap here in New York City, there were 10 spies and they were running around New York City stealing secrets. They arranged a big spy swap. It was very exciting. We sent them 10 spies, and they sent us four spies, plus a Cuban pitcher.” –David Letterman

So that’s it for this week’s entertainment. Last Wednesday, a gopher came out of a hole in my front yard and saw his shadow, which means at least six more weeks of saying, “what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan?” On a more positive note, congratulations go out to my cousin Gina, who’s softball pitching daughter Julie gave birth the same day to a 8 pound, 11 ounce boy. Reports are both mother and son Landon are doing well while Gina is warming up in the bullpen.

So enjoy the super selection of summer fruits and let’s all look forward to the day when we start to rebuild the Warriors and this country. We’ll catch you on the warning track. Aloha, mahalo and greetings, Joe Lacob fans.

May 9, 2010

Are You Through Cormoranting And Raving?

Good morning and greetings, Dwight Shrute fans. That’s right, my son Jason’s favorite TV show, “The Office,” is starting to grow on me, and the beet farming Mr. Schrute is quite the character. Throw in Jim, the insane Michael Scott and the rest of the gang, and this show is the “Seinfeld” for the texting generation. Because of my hand modeling career and my undercover work for NASA, I don’t get to watch it as often as I like, but when I do it rarely disappoints, unlike the road to Hana, last season’s New York Giants or my senior prom.

Last Thursday was an interesting day, as I like my stress served medium rare. The Dow Jones plummeted 1,000 points in 15 minutes, due to either a high speed trading glitch, the Greek credit crisis or the Raider’s cutting ties with quarterback JaMarcus Russell. This free falling of the market cost investors and Bernie Madoff’s son’s billions. But it’s only money, and in the words of billionaire Paul McCartney, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” Yes, that may be true, but it really does buy everything else. Well, except for peace of mind, which, American Express says, is ‘priceless.”

But some good things happened on Thursday. As I headed out onto my walk along West Cliff Drive, I noticed the cormorants had returned to the shelf along the cliff (photo #1) just outside of Natural Bridges. They had been gone for close to a year, or about the last time I shaved. They’re here to build nests (photo #2,) talk sports and go on Facebook.

They had been nesting in this spot last summer, until one day when they just vanished. They had seemingly destroyed their nests and hightailed it out of there faster than you could say, “Steve Carell.” I soon learned that there wasn’t enough food in the area and they were starving, so they flew the coop and rented condos in Tahoe for the summer. It missed seeing the eggs hatch and the babies being born, but fortunately, the “Sons of Anarchy” returned to FX that week, and nothing nourishes and replenishes the soul like the adventures of an outlaw motorcycle gang.

So I shot away like Annie Liebowitz in bankruptcy court on this beautiful spring day along the Pacific coast. A gull joined the action and squawked away (photo #4,) making a sound I hadn’t heard since my wedding night.

Two years ago, when I was shooting the cormorants in this same spot, gulls starting attacking me as I waded in along the ice plants. I thought to myself, wow, how interesting, here’s one species of birds protecting another. Somebody get me National Geographic on the phone. Well, it turns out my theory of birds of a feather sticking together was incorrect, as I was walking too close to the sea gulls nests and they felt threatened. I hadn’t seen that kind of aviary anger since Larry Bird choked Dr. J in the eastern conference finals back in the 80′s.

While I was snapping away, another group of birds flew into the picture. At first, I thought they were cornish game hens and immediately starting boiling some wild rice. Then I realized these grayish winged objects were pigeons as one landed on a stool nearby. Many of us think of pigeons as dirty little birds that don’t do much good for society, like the Republican party. But this little squab, who landed on the fence nearby and I named Walter, seemed different and conjured up my thoughts on KFP, who proudly proclaim, “we do pigeon right.”

The final shot was taken as I was walking down near the lighthouse and came upon this pelican, who was just a few feet off the path. Since he allowed me to get within a few feet of him, I immediately thought that he was either sick or a fan of the blog . He was an absolutely beautiful bird and his feathers gleamed in the sun, much like my hair does after using my daughter’s tropical coconut shampoo.

Pelicans along the west coast have had health problems in the recent past and this fella looked hungry, so I put a $20 bill in his bill and pointed him in the direction of the Crow’s Nest. There he ordered an ice tea, the calamari appetizer and a fish taco, and then flew out of there without leaving a tip. So now we know he must have been sick, because in the bird world, pelicans are known as very good tippers.

Let’s move on to the late night, “Something very suspicious happened over the weekend. A car parked at, like, 45th and Broadway, very suspicious. And I’ll tell you the most suspicious thing about the whole episode was that the guy found a parking place. Thank God the car bombing was thwarted by an alert carjacker.” –David Letterman “The bomber’s name is Faisal Shahzad. What, is Snoop Dogg naming terrorists now? They’re still looking for his brother, Fo Shizzle. They don’t know where he is.” –Jay Leno

“Anyway, police raided this guy’s house. I guess it’s in Bridgeport, Conn. Some of the neighbors say the suspect told them he worked on Wall Street, so they were relieved to find out he was just a terrorist.” –Jay Leno “Authorities say Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, went to terrorist camp in Pakistan. Honestly, who are these parents that are sending their kids to terrorist camp?” –Jimmy Kimmel “Yeah, they plucked a guy off a plane. They say he was a moody loner. Last year, he vacationed in the tribal regions of Pakistan. Well, no red flags there.” –David Letterman

“Speaking of terrorism, two new videos from the Pakistani Taliban seem to show that their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is alive, even though the U.S. thought he was killed. So, either our intelligence is wrong or they’re just shooting the new movie, ‘Weekend at Hakimullah’s.’” –Jimmy Fallon “The Iranian dictator, Ahmadinejad, is in town. He has got a busy schedule. Today it is the U.N. And then tomorrow, he’s going to be on ‘The Rachael Ray Show,’ filleting a camel.” –David Letterman “It’s Cinco de Mayo, or as they call it in Arizona: May 5th.” –Jimmy Fallon

“On Monday, British Petroleum promised to pay all necessary cleanup costs for this oil spill. And they said they will do it, no matter how much they have to raise gas prices.” –Jay Leno “British petroleum, these boobs running this operation, they said: ‘O.K., now wait a minute. It’s just going to be a P.R. nightmare. What can we do? We’ll give everybody a free tank of gas. All you have to do is drive your car right down next to the Gulf of Mexico.’ They say the oil spill has the potential to kill more wildlife than a Sarah Palin hunting trip.” –David Letterman “Well, scientists are predicting that the oil from the BP spill will eventually reach the shores of Florida. So if you hated visiting your grandparents before, wait until you’re hosing down their oily bodies after a long day at the beach.” –Jimmy Fallon

One more environmental note. There’s bad news for Crimson Tide fans, as thick blobs of tar have begun washing up on the shores of sweet home Alabama. These BP boys were about as prepared for this spill as I was for changing for my first diaper.

I spent Friday afternoon at a track meet in lovely Pebble Beach, and then triple jumped home and shot a cute sunset that evening. So with my camera as healthy as LeBron James’ elbow, we’ll continue to photograph life as we know here in this cold water paradise. I hope Sunday was a good day for all you mothers out there. We’ll catch you at the free throw line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Rajon Rondo fans.

April 18, 2010

The Lizard Of Oz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — geoff @ 8:24 pm

Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans. Yes, once again it’s the time of year when I climb the stairway to basketball heaven, or as TNT so elegantly states it, “40 games in 40 nights.” Despite the Golden State Warriors barely missing out on the playoffs, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen my wife so excited about the postseason. Or in her words, “when are these games going to be over?” NBA, where amazing marriages happen.

But even as prepare for my annual pilgramage to baskeball mecca, I still have time to stay in touch with important world events. Once again, something caught my iris and cornea this week that I felt should be shared with this audience. It comes from Associated Press writer Jim Gomez, reporting from Manila in the Philippines, with some natural enhancement from yours truly.

In a study released in late March, researchers have concluded that a giant, golden-spotted monitor lizard discovered in the forested mountains of the Philippines six years ago is a new species. The 6.5-foot-long lizard was first spotted in 2004 in the Sierra Madre mountains on the main island of Luzon when researchers saw local Agta tribesmen carrying one of the dead reptiles along with a pair of Imelda Marcos’ black stiletto pumps.

But it took until last year to determine it was a new species. After capturing an adult, researchers from the University of Kansas and the National Museum of the Philippines obtained DNA samples that helped confirm the lizard was new to science and not involved with any terrorist attacks in Indonesia.

The Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard feasts on fruits, snails and puppy dog tails rather than carcasses, unlike many monitors, including its larger relative, the Komodo dragon. It has unique claws that allow it to climb trees to reach its favorite fruits and open jars for small native women.

“I knew as soon as I saw the animal that it was something special,” said Luke Welton, a graduate student and cheerleader at the University of Kansas and one of the co-authors of the study.

It is not that unusual to find a new species of tiny fish, frog, insect or politician these days. But Welton and his colleagues said it was a “rare occurrence” to discover such a large vertebrate, particularly on an island hit by deforestation, nearby development and sky high health care premiums. They compared their find to the 1993 discovery of the forest-dwelling Saola ox in Vietnam, a new monkey species discovered in the highlands of Tanzania in 2006 and the discovery of Ross Perot on the presidential ballot in 1996.

Eric R. Pianka, a lizard expert and badminton player at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an e-mail interview that it was an “incredible find.” Fran Tarkenton and Cathy Lee Cosby both agreed, saying “that’s incredible.”

“This is truly a spectacular discovery,” Pianka said, which is the same way I felt when I learned my new TiVo could record two programs at the same time. “Worldwide, there are about 60-plus species of monitor lizards. In all probability, some as yet undescribed species will be found on various islands in Indonesia, along with voting ballots from Florida from the 2000 Presidential election” he said.

The new lizard is related to two other fruit-eating monitors in the Philippines, all of which have seen their numbers drop significantly due habitat destruction, hunting and trapping for the pet trade and baby boomers need for baby monitors.

“We hope that by focusing on protection of this new monitor, conservation biologists, policy makers and Angelina Jolie can work together to protect the remaining highly imperiled forests of northern Luzon,” said Rafe Brown, leader of the team that discovered the new species. And if that doesn’t work, “we’re just hoping that Sarah Palin won’t try to shoot any from a helicopter.”

Wait, there’s more. In an article written by James Owens for National Geographic News, “You could stay in that forest for years and have absolutely no idea that these monitors are there,” says biologist and trapeze artist Daniel Bennett. Much like myself, “they are incredibly secretive and spend all their time high up in trees, more than 66 feet above the ground.” Similar lizard species spend less than 20 minutes on the ground per week, he added, and that’s just to pay bills, go shopping and watch a little Sportscenter.

Scientists captured specimens of both this new species and the extremely rare but closely related Gray’s monitor lizard. Capturing both types of lizards was crucial, because it allowed the team to inspect the two monitor lizards side-by-side and detect subtle differences that can help determine whether the animals represent different species. One particularly revealing trait was the double-ended penis common to monitor lizards. The shape of this reptilian feature is unique to each species. It’s like I always said, two heads are better than one. To check out a photo of this bad boy, go to http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/04/100407-new-giant-lizard-varabus-bitatawa-biology-letters/

So let’s move from reptiles to the amphibians of the sky. Besides new head shots for my modeling portfolio, I haven’t been doing any shooting as of late as there’s been less color in the sky than at a Tea Party clam bake. But then on Tuesday night, some clouds rolled in and if my helicopter hadn’t been low on gas, I would have zoomed up to Davenport to shoot this night from atop the cliffs. So instead, I journeyed over to a little park by the arroyo and shot this six pack of April magic.

Some gentle colors filled the sky but it was nothing compared to the Eyjafjallajökul volcano in Iceland that exploded again on Wednesday. It blew a hole in the ice that created a black cloud of smoke and ash that created havoc in airports from Paris to Teterboro along with vivid red and lavender sunsets. This volcano last erupted in 1821 and was active for two years, so who knows how long we’ll have seismic activity. If you’re like me, and are fascinated by volcanoes, tornadoes and sun dried tomatoes, this is nature at its wildest. It was truly Ash Wednesday.

One more note about this spectacle that is blowing out tons of molten rock. Just eight miles down the seismic path from this lava party is Iceland’s largest volcano named Katla. Volcanologists say she’s about 40 years overdue and if she blows, the force could be one hundred times more powerful than this week’s fireworks display. With that will come massive eruptions, incredible explosions and billowing clouds of ash, which sounds a lot like the first season of Magma, P.I.

Let’s move on the late night fun. “According to the Pentagon, al-Qaida has been so weakened financially that they’re turning to crimes like drugs, prostitution, and adjustable-rate mortgages. I think that’s called Al Karma. Actually, Al Qaeda should have seen it coming. You know who’s in charge of the finances? Osama ben Bernanke. KFC coming out with their new Double Down sandwich. It’s bacon and cheese wrapped inside two pieces of fried chicken. In fact, today, Al Qaeda said: ‘We quit. When it comes to killing Americans, we can’t keep up with you guys.’” –Jay Leno

“President Obama signed a historic treaty with the Russian president today. Not everyone’s happy about it. Fox News said it was a ‘summit between a powerful communist leader and the president of Russia.’” –Craig Ferguson “There’s a rumor going around that Hillary Clinton could be Obama’s choice for the next Supreme Court justice. That’s a lifetime appointment that would take up all of her time, or as Bill Clinton calls it, ‘She’ll take it.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Sarah Palin’s daughter is speaking out. In an interview, Bristol says she realizes she was totally unprepared to be a mother. Hey, it’s better than being a mother that’s totally unprepared to be vice president.” –Jay Leno

“Conan O’Brien announced today that he will move his show to TBS. Later in the day, Jay Leno announced that he will also move his show to TBS. Tiger’s Woods is obviously under a lot of stress. It’s very difficult to play when you have a padlock on your underpants.” –Jimmy Kimmel “FedEx announced this week that it will add four new electric trucks to its delivery fleet. Four electric truck! Well,
let me be the first to say, welcome back glaciers.” –Seth Meyers

So that’s our show. The weather was spring perfect this weekend for the first two days of the NBA playoffs. There were eight games on Saturday and Sunday, so I was able to venture outside and spend some quality time amongst the blue skies, warm breezes and scent of roses during full timeouts. So enjoy your ash free skies and we’ll catch you at halfcourt. Aloha, mahalo and later, Dirk Nowitzki 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.

February 7, 2010

It’s Texture, Not Conjecture

Good morning and greetings, Super Bowl fans. That’s right, Super Sunday has come and gone, much like American families’ dreams of realistic health care costs. And congratulations to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. They pulled off a impressive comeback in beating the Peyton Manning and the Colts, 31-17. Games like this make me harken back to those incredible Super Bowl moments, like when the ring around Janet Jackson was revealed during that infamous “wardrobe malfunction.”

But let’s get down to those vital game statistics. No, I’m not referring to total passing yards, time of possession or who had the most talked about tv commercial, I’m referring to what makes this day a sacred holiday-Super Bowl snacking.

Now we know that Super Sunday is the number three day in terms of food consumption after Thanksgiving and Yom Kippur. $55 million was spent on snacks for this Woodstock of caloric consumption, along with ten million man (and women) hours of Super Bowl food preparation. And according to the Institute of Insane Food Intake, the IIFI, Americans devoured 15,000 tons of chips, 4,000 tons of popcorn and 200,000,000 hours of tv commercials. So if we lined up every chip, it would produce a trail of 293,000 miles, or what for me is a good week’s cardiac workout. A string consisting of all that popcorn would circle the earth almost 5 1/2 times, which would be equivilent to the same amount of time it will take the Republicans to pass anything proposed by the Obama administration.

But the winner of the big enchilada on Super food day in terms of sales is our friend the avocado. The California Avocado Commission, (or the CAC, not to confused with the ACC,) which is more believable than the Warren Commission, says that 12 million pounds of avocado were sold in preparation for the game. What this means is this nation’s party-loving, football-watching, gambling fanatics gorged themselves on an estimated 8 million pounds of gaucamole. Holy chips and salsa, Batman. And last but not least, according to Hallmark Cards Inc., the Super Bowl represents the number one at home party event of the year, bigger than New Year’s Eve, a Mary Kay event or the other Olsen twin.

For today’s starting photo lineup, we journey to the most Natural of Bridges State Beach, where I had gone to shoot the sunset. It had rained all day and the sun decided to make a late afternoon appearance. The action on the horizon was nothing special, but the color radiating from the cliffs was off the charts. We’re talking gleaming, golden chocolate, a color of which I’ve only seen once before at this location, and that was during an out of body experience. In the words of Stevie Wonder, “Golden lady, golden lady, I’d like to go there. Take me right away.” I was there.

We then move on to the sand, and while the iceplant-lined cliffs were bursting with color, the billions of granules of tiny rocks were experiencing the same visual gold rush, as the beach was lit up like Rockefeller Center at Christmas time. We then move on to another interesting sand pattern that caught my eye, much like the first time I glanced at an NBA stat sheet.

We then travel cross-town over to the eastside, where I shot the sunset from the cliff above the Rivermouth. This is where the San Lorenzo River meets the Pacific Ocean. I sent this shot to a dedicated blog reader from southern California whose comment was “it is hard to believe that is water. It almost looks like sand with plastic wrap on top.” And it also clings tight, is microwave-soft and helps keep food fresh.

We end our texture experience with my favorite shot from this genre. This photo was taken on January 23, 2008, on the night of one of the most fabulous sunsets I’ve ever experienced in men’s clothes. The image is the sunlight shining on the streams of water on the sand at Natural Bridges. I call this shot “Another Planet,” the place I wish I had been rather than watching the New York Giants play the second half of this past season.

Let’s move on to the late night experience. “The president won’t be at the Super Bowl either. In fact, in a show of some sort of spirit of cooperation, he’s invited a group of top Republicans to watch the game with him at the White House on Sunday. That should be a lot of fun. Going to need a two-thirds vote before they pass him the Doritos.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama is very shrewd about bringing the Republicans into the White House for the Super Bowl party, because he feels like if he can get them to pass the dip, maybe they’ll pass health care.” –David Letterman At the town hall event, President Obama also said jobs will be our No. 1 focus in 2010. He then added, ‘Specifically, mine and Biden’s jobs.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“You folks excited about the Super Bowl coming up Sunday? And the New Orleans Saints’ fans, I’m telling you, they have waited a long, long time for their team to get into the Super Bowl. Not as long as they waited for FEMA, but still, it’s been a very long, long time. “I think it was Bill Clinton who popularized the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. But don’t confuse that with another Clinton policy — ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Hillary.’ That was a whole different policy.” –David Letterman This is unfortunate. I heard that John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth have legally separated. Under the reasons for separation, Elizabeth Edwards just wrote ‘see news.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“They’re now coming out with the new, 75th edition of Monopoly, this time with a round board. And actually, they’ve updated the whole game. In the new version, the banker is a Wall Street CEO He overextends mortgages, he loses the bank, and when things go under, he uses his get-out-of-jail-for-free card. So it’s all very realistic. Here is a historical fact. It was on this day in 1690, the first paper money was printed up in the colony of Massachusetts. The pilgrims realized that when they ran out of money, they could just print more. Thus, the federal government was born. Toyota is recalling 2.3 million cars because of two problems — unintended acceleration and possible brake problems. Things are not looking good for Toyota. In fact, today, two crash test dummies refused to get in the car.” – Jay Leno

That’s our Super Bowl report. Now that NFL season is officially over, I can focus my attention on what’s really important in life, NBA baskeball. If you had a chance to pick up Saturday’s Santa Cruz Sentinel, you might have seen a shot of my son on the front page, playing the role of point guard for the PCS Pumas. His team is undefeated in league play and heading for it’s first league title. And all this without cheerleaders at the nation’s number one academically-rated charter school. So enjoy the record snow in Washington, D.C., the NBA all-star game and be ready for the onside kick. Aloha, mahalo and later, Sean Payton fans.

January 3, 2010

Would You Like To See The Desert Menu?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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