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.

Bird of the Day

2010_0616_bird

Here is the latest example of why it’s fun to have a camera handy when you’re outdoors. This bird –  a bushtit, according to George, was one of a big swarm of a couple dozen that zipped off to the next group of trees to the south a second or two after I took this picture. Wait! Maybe the title of this blog entry should have been, “One in the Bush,” or maybe “Bushtit in the Bush!” Oh well, maybe next time.

Indian Walking Stick Head

2010_0323_stick_bug_headThis is something you don’t see every day – yet.

This creature is called Carausius Morosus, commonly known  as the Indian Walking Stick because it’s from India and it looks like a walking stick. I’ve reported on these guys once before. Here is a close-up look at one of its little eyes.

Apparently these insects are voracious eaters. They come to America as pets, selling for around $10. The females lay thousands of eggs, and the resulting spawn enjoy munching on the local California gardens as much as we do. No doubt having more competition for our calories will result in our becoming leaner and more efficient.

Ming the Merciless

Ming the MercilessHere is “Ming the Merciless, Emperor of Mongo, otherwise known as Charlie Middleton”.

Friends of the family thought this was a cute name for an essentially nice cat. What they did not know is that the animal you see in this 1973 photograph actually is Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo. Here’s the story – back in the early-to-mid 1960’s, my dad was a writer for Bill Burrud, well-known for his syndicated travel shows on TV. One of the old-time hands from Hollywood who worked on the team was a guy named Barney A. Sarecky, famous for saying “All houses are haunted. All persons are haunted. Throngs of spirits follow us everywhere. We are never alone.”

Barney Sarecky was the man responsible for producing the Flash Gordon movie serials starring Buster Crabbe back in the 1930’s. It turned out that “Charlie Middleton” was a real alien who had been stranded in America around 1910. He was a shape shifter on his home planet, and enjoyed considerable success in vaudeville and the first couple decades of talking pictures. Barney hired him because it seemed a natural fit and because he didn’t have to pay more than scale.  One night at a Hollywood party, for reasons that remain a mystery, Middleton changed into a cat and discovered that he was unable to change back into human form (his original life form did not breathe our air).

The cat lived with Barney until the old producer died. My dad agreed to take him in after that, and Ming the Merciless, Emperor of Mongo, otherwise known as Charlie Middleton, lived out the rest of his days on Rutherford Drive in the Hollywood Hills.

The Parents Are Black

Ocean Beach ParrotsOcean Beach has a colony of parrots, originally from northeast Mexico, who have decided to kick back and enjoy the Bohemian vibe and counterculture traditions of OB. I love these birds and how colorful and loud they are. When they finally showed up, I called Alexis on her cell phone. As a result of a bad connection and mutual senility, the conversation went something like this:

“Alex, the parrots are back!”

“What? Parents? Black?”

“The parrots are back!”

“The parents are black? Whose parents are black? Who cares?”

“No, not black, back.”

“Back? Whose parents?”

“Not parents, parrots. The parrots are back.”

“Huh?”

It’s a good thing that my wife and I are so well educated. Who knows what our efforts at communication might look like otherwise? Anyhow, the cool birds have returned and here is some proof.

Tuff Catt 1969

Tuff Catt

This is an old-fashioned street tomcat who understood the meaning of freedom. He would come and go at will, disappear for months on end, reliably doing exactly as he pleased. He was old in the 1950’s. By 1969, when this photograph was taken, he had cheated death so many times that death decided to go elsewhere for business.  These days Tuff Catt is in his mid-60’s, emerging out of the shadows of old Hollywood from time to time to check up on things.

The Feast of St. Gertrude

Easter Dinner?

Fat Cat in Danger?

St. Gertrude of Nivelles, Abbess, is the Patron Saint of Cats. Today is her day. Personally, I must say I am outraged that St. Gertrude would be invoked to support a controversial idea that is being discussed in various right-wing circles across America today.

I’m not thinking of the so-called conservative commentators who have been speaking out against pet ownership. They say common people shouldn’t be allowed to keep pets, because they can’t afford to take care of their kids. Plus, according to them, having pets tends to distract people from their work, which should be their principal concern even when they are not at the workplace.

I’m also not thinking about others, from more progressive circles, who contend that people shouldn’t own pets bigger than hamsters because cats and dogs have too big a carbon footprint, never mind what their real feet do to the furniture.

I say it’s going too far to tell poor people that they should eat their pets! That’s right, you heard it here first. Some of the anti-pet crowd seriously wants to establish something called the Feast of St. Gertrude. That would be the day all the fattest animals in the neighborhood would be roasted and eaten. A quick glimpse at the calendar would suggest that, seeing as how St. Gertrude’s Day typically takes place during Lent, it wouldn’t make a good feast day.

Organizers tell me that the Feast of St. Gertrude would be set for the day before the Super Bowl. Could the powers of modern advertising, combined with widely-foreseen future food shortages in America, make the Feast of St. Gertrude a reality? Wait and see.

Immigrant Parrot

Ocean Beach Parrot 1

Everybody knows that San Diego is one of the nicest places to live. At least that’s what people say. It turns out that we’re not the only species that likes it here. Take this bird, for example. This is one representative of a “sustainable colony” of parrots that has taken up residence in Ocean Beach. No doubt these are non-conformist birds who want to sing their own special songs. This they do with great enthusiasm and high volume.  They’re loud birds.  I’m glad they’re here.

As a bonus, here’s another tiny flower you’d miss if you weren’t careful.

Daisy

Elegant White Pooch 1997

Scott and IceThe elegant white pooch is an Arctic Wolf named Ice. You don’t see magnificent predators like this one every day. One great thing about having a gigantic white wolf for a pet is that you don’t have to buy it any food! This friendly animal is fully capable of feeding itself. Another bonus: a huge howling white wolf like this one makes the perfect guard dog.

Yes We Can!

Dragon Eats A Cracker

Millions of people all over the world have been inspired by President Obama. Americans are pulling together as never before.

We can learn from the past. We’ve shared hard times before. This picture was taken back when President Jerry Ford was encoraging us to wear “Whip Inflation Now” (WIN) buttons. The cat’s name is Dragon. Back in the spring of 1974,  he made national headlines when he decided to forego expensive meat-based cat food in favor of plain saltine crackers. Sure, he was just one cat, but he was prepared to take a stand against high cat food prices.

President Obama is a lot smarter than Jerry Ford.  Mr. Obama is not going to ask us to wear silly buttons. He may, however, ask us all to spend a few years eating saltine crackers.  And we’ll all say, “Sure, Mr. President, if it helps to pay for corporate tax cuts!”