A Birthday Celebration

Lana and ScottHere is a fine picture of Lana May and me right after we wrapped up an hour on a jet ski. Look how happy she is! We are celebrating her 15th birthday. It was the first time she ever really got to drive a powerful vehicle. Lana got skillful quickly and loves going fast. The good news is that she didn’t go too fast for me. I’ve always enjoyed speed. Carlsbad Lagoon is a great place to have fun on the water. We also enjoyed perfect weather.

Remember the first time you got to drive something that would go a lot faster than a bicycle? I was less than two months past my 11th birthday when I started hanging out with my uncle’s motorcycle racing crew. Now I have reached the age where I’d just as soon have somebody else do the driving. It’s good to know that Lana is capable. It’s also nice that she enjoys going fast, although it means I am going to recommend that she drive a 1977 AMC Gremlin with a slightly damaged engine when she turns 16 in a year.

Surfing MadonnaAlexis took us out for coffee afterwards. We got to sip beneath the protective presence of the Surfing Madonna!

Art Camp 2012

The San Diego Zoo is one of the great attractions in southern California. I still remember touching the Galapagos Tortoises at the SD Zoo during my first visit more than 50 years ago. When I was a kid, I spent most of my summers in various swimming pools, libraries and science fiction conventions. Not once did I attend a summer camp. Who needs camp in Hollywood if you’ve got good student discount movie passes and daily chances to swim? No, I never did go to summer camp and I can’t say I ever felt especially deprived.

The San Diego Zoo Art Camp actually is set up for all ages. I didn’t require any special dispensation to be able to attend. There’s a lot to be said for the experience; certainly it was a highlight of the summer for me. It is much different to go to the zoo for a day and spend an hour at a single exhibit compared to a typical visit where you’re trying to see as much as possible. It’s also cool to go to the zoo for several hours a day, five days in a row.

There is a lot to be said for hanging out with children, too. The kids ranged in age from 8 to 14. All of them were charming and most of them were accomplished young artists. It was a pleasure to spend the week with Elana, getting behind the scenes glimpses into the working of the zoo. We both enjoyed studying and practicing the art of drawing, too. The teacher was generous with her knowledge and patient with her students. Here is my elephant and Lana’s giraffes, to show you what we were up to.

 When we were at Art Camp back in 2010, Elana got a great photograph of an outraged and hungry tiger. Maybe it was a little risky for me to dangle her over the protective barrier just to get a really good picture, but I figured it was a good way for us to bond, plus it’s invaluable for young people to face death and live to tell the tale.

This year it was my turn to get a spectacular picture of a deadly predator without the presence of bars or glass barriers in the way to mess up the shot. Here’s the picture – a furious and ravenous crocodile!

Hungry, Angry Croc!

These animals are impressive killing machines, but they have a tender side too – they care for their babies with far more attention to detail than most reptiles. They have eyes as acute as owls and also superb hearing. Crocs can swim and run very fast, too. They tend to be ambush hunters, lying in wait for unsuspecting prey. This was my big advantage. Surprise was on my side. Most captive crocodiles are not used to guys with cameras making a hurried run-through in order to get a quick photograph!

As you can see, the picture was well worth any short-term danger. Sure, I know a lot of idiots get killed at zoos every year. They drop their camera into the tiger cage and try to retrieve it, or they want to pet the nice panda or polar bear. Those folks are Darwin Award candidates for sure. What the High Cabal doesn’t want you to know about are all the people who take less outrageous, more calculated risks for the sake of art.

OK, I understand that it is against the rules and generally accepted notions of common sense for an ordinary middle-aged clown to risk life and limb for a photograph. Still, nobody got hurt. It is true that the croc did go after me a split-second after I took the picture, but the fact that I’m writing this is proof that he didn’t get me. It’s also true that some of the zoo attendees were quite frightened by the sudden action in the crocodile enclosure. I admit that I didn’t expect to have quite such a close call, and it’s also true that I didn’t know that the croc would end up slamming into the glass so forcefully. I imagine a few of the folks were a little flustered by the experience. Well, I say that the picture was worth it. You be the judge.

Art Camp

Elana's Tiger

The San Diego Zoo is a spectacular place. This week Elana and I are attending watercolor art camp. We spend some time with the animals and then create paintings of them. Here is a great picture Lana took today of a hungry and angry tiger.

I figured it would be OK to help get a better photo by dangling her into the tiger enclosure, and I’m sure you agree that this would be a much less interesting picture if there were bars or reflections off the glass to get in the way of our view of this magnificent predator. Plus, it’s important for parents and kids to bond. Not only do we get  a great photo, but a young woman gets a chance to look death in the face without fear before her 12th birthday.

Scott's Tiger

Here is my watercolor of the same animal.

Hope for the Future

Elana and I have been listening to a lot of hit music on the radio together, and watching some of the videos. A few days ago this 11 year-old gave me a splendid reason to watch the latest controversial hit. Have you seen it?

“Scott, there’s a new video with Lady Gaga and Beyonce.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh.  My.  God.  It’s the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen…”

After she filled me in on some of the details, I had to go watch it for myself.  It happens this song, “Telephone,” is one I noticed on the radio a couple of weeks ago.  I really liked the song a lot from the first time I heard it.  Thinking about what the video might look like, I had mental images of the two divas dancing in a packed club and being frustrated with their cell phones.

If you haven’t seen it, the music is only on for a bit less than half the time of the video.  I think this is better – drastically better – than “Thriller” or anything Madonna or ZZ Top or Duran Duran put out in the 80’s, or any music video that has followed. Watching this video reminded me of how I felt the first time I heard “F*** the Police” or “Anarchy in the UK.”  I think it’s totally brilliant, up there with Little Richard, Elvis and the Beatles.

My gentle and well-educated wife likes the classics, you know, life-affirming art such as “Romeo and Juliet.” For me, this video is a lot more entertaining than a lot of Shakespeare, and it gets the job done in ten minutes instead of several hours.

I admit it: for many years I have been whining about how everything in Western Society is in a terminal decline. Finally I find something I can point to as a sign of hope for the future – and my family and most of my friends disagree! They think this is “just vile and depraved.” Oh well.

Stepping Out

2009_0222_out_with_doggie1

Like going swimming, taking the dog for a walk (or vice versa) always is a good idea. Who knows – maybe there will be some good flowers to look at and photograph!

Vote McGovern 1972

1972 McGovern Campaign Poster

We begin 2009 with a Presidential innaguration coming up and hundreds of millions of people all around the world yearning for peace.

Here’s a campaign poster that has been on the wall since I was 13 years old. See the big burning pile of American wealth behind Mr. Nixon? We’ve been stoking that fire ever since, sadly.

Mr. Obama has promised to spend more, not less, on war. What a tragic waste.

Art by Rosco Wright 1970

The Final Frontier

Here’s a splendid bit of visual art that’s been on display in various rooms I’ve slept and worked in. Rosco  Wright and my parents were friends at the University of Oregon way back in times that appear to have been mostly black and white, and in the decades thereafter.

Gardner Street School

Gardner Street School

Gardner Street School is a block north of Sunset Boulevard and a few blocks west of La Brea. I showed up here for first through fifth grade and I hadn’t been back inside the place since the last day of school in June of 1969. I used to walk half a block to buy the occasional hot dog or baseball bubble gum pack at the Sunset Grill twenty years before it was made famous by Don Henley.

My nephew Sam just started school at Gardner, and Halloween gave me a chance to take a fifth grader of my own to the party. The school is a lot more crowded than it was when I went there, and the nicest building was destroyed by an earthquake a couple of years after I left, but the place is very much the same.  We took the kids out to collect candy.

40 years ago to the day, Alexis and I went trick-or-treating with a big swarm of kids in the same neighborhood. Quite a few of the old houses have been replaced by big apartment buildings, but a surprising number of the old places have been restored with loving care.  The trees are 40 years older and seemed gigantic and vigorous. Most importantly, the streets were crowded with friendly, happy people. Plus, we agreed with most of the political signs on the lawns!

For no extra charge, here is some art I did at Gardner Street School at about this time of year back in 1968.

RIP Professor Whitebread

Charles Whitebread died a few days ago at the age of 65. He never smoked cigarettes but lung cancer killed him anyway. I knew him at USC and in the bar review business.

Professor Whitebread was one of the best lecturers I ever watched and listened to. He joined the faculty at the USC Law School in the summer of 1981, which is when I started my first year at the same institution.

I took three classes from him: Criminal Procedure, Gifts Wills and Trusts (GWATS), and Juvenile Law. His classes were packed and people didn’t skip many sessions.  Each 50 minute lecture was a model of clarity and precision, engaging and entertaining. This guy loved and respected his students. He showed up prepared and he inspired everybody to care about the material the way he did.

Here is a drawing of Professor Whitebread that I put on my folder for Gifts, Wills & Trusts back in the spring of 1983. I respected this professor, but I developed a fierce contempt for law school. The only thing about law school that was an improvement over junior high was the fact that it was OK to drink alcohol in class.

Listen to Charlie tell a quick story about a marijuana dealer, a fleeing felon, and hot pursuit.

Law School Doodles 1983

25 years ago today, I was a second year law student at the University of Southern California. Here is what was on my mind as I sat in one of the big amphitheater classrooms. A typed translation of the scribbling follows, below.

Law Student Doodles

“I sold pot in the U.S. A quarter ounce. It cost me 40 years in jail, where I have been raped and beaten. The Supreme Court says this is not cruel and unusual.”

“Hi! I’m a rich, deceased lawyer. My picture is up in room 1 of the USC Law Center. I was convicted of tax fraud, but over the years I donated $160,000 to USC.”

“I’m Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Who says my brains need to be reasonably related ty my job?”

“I’m a haggard USC 1st year law student, the victim of a brutal socialization (brainwashing) process. I feel as if my arms have been tied behind my back.”

“I’m a woman associate at a large law firm. My chances of becoming a partner are cut by my dislike of playing softball and my interest in becoming a mother as well as a 1st rate attorney.”

“I’m a fertilized egg in the womb of a poor woman. I present a threat to the life of the woman I’m inside. The courts say it’s OK for the government to deny the woman a free abortion, despite the direct threat to her life.”