Whale Watching season is upon us

Whale Watching
click to embiggen, there are 2 whales in this picture

The whales are making their migration north from Mexico.  We are rapidly approaching the zenith of their numbers.  The fam and I made the trek to Dana Point to take advantage of the season as we “heard” that area tends to have the best whale watching.  We were not disappointed.  Our 2 hour cruise left us with memories that will last a life time.

We used the services of the Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching and rode out on the “Dana Pride” at noon yesterday.  We saw many sights as we cruised out past the sea lions on the break water and out to sea.  There were several pods of dolphins feeding out at sea.  What was really amazing was watching them follow our boat and play in the wake as we moved around them.

The captains on the boat are real experts at whale watching.  The offer up a narrative of what to look for as well as what you are watching.  They stay in touch with other Whale Watching boats to expedite the finding of whales by sharing information via radio where they can be found.  (Spoiler alert…we saw something that is rarely witnessed by us land dwellers and you need to make the jump to read about it).  Continue reading “Whale Watching season is upon us”

Sandra Tsing Loh at the Santa Monica Public Library

Schoolchildren_reading_1911
Ah, simpler times.

Books and media about the modern-day dilemma of finding the “right” private school for your 4 year old to attend is so overdone.  Someone needs to write a book about the travails of not interviewing, and not being interviewed by, elementary teacher-professors; about having to live with the fact that your horrible neighbors spawned their demon child the same time you did, which means their child is in your kid’s class, and there’s no imposed playroom interview to evaluate whether Chucky “fits in” with the class of ’09; and about not receiving weekly newsletter reports about how much the class is learning about organic farming.

Enter Sandra Tsing Loh, who makes an appearance on Tuesday at the Santa Monica Public Library to promote her newest book, Mother on FireMother on Fire is a memoir of her experience touring private and public school grounds in search of the right kindergarten for her daughters and (spoiler alert) chooses the public school and becomes a total PTA mom to boot.  It’s free, and you can pick up tickets an hour before the 7pm showtime.

I’m personally hoping that Tsing Loh also will offer an editorial on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” an essay published in this month’s issue of The Atlantic Monthly.  There, she uses her extramarital affair and subsequent divorce  (“Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance”) as a vehicle to rail against marriage (“…isn’t the idea of lifelong marriage obsolete?”).  Even though she would have a bit more credibility if she wasn’t writing this in the aftermath of a tumultuous divorce, it is a fascinating read.  Much more interesting than the kid’s story, anyway.

Patti Smith 2fer in Santa Monica

pattiPatti Smith sprang forth in that rush of NYC bands in the mid-’70s that included the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Blondie. All regular performers at CBGB in Manhattan’s Bowery, they were the cultural descendants of the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, the MC5 and Warhol, living in a broken city with a thriving underground art scene that is still relevant today. (See how long you can go while sifting through current culture without coming upon a direct reference to Andy. Go ahead, try it.)

And Lucky You has two opportunities one opportunity, in what remains of summer, to bask in the presence of what remains of that era’s royalty, namely one Ms. Smith, in Santa Monica, starting this weekend. The first one costs $30; the second is free.

On Saturday, August 1st, Santa Monica Museum of Art will be the setting for An Evening with Patti Smith, featuring an improvisational performance by PS and clips from Steve Sebring’s 2008 documentary, Patti Smith: Dream of Life. (7 PM; $30, Sold out, but the doc is now on DVD.)

Then, on Thursday, September 3rd, Patti Smith and her Band will perform at the closing night of the Santa Monica Pier Twilight Dance Series, a two-month program of free concerts that began in early July. (7 PM; free)

Maybe some of you were lucky enough to be at her season closer show at the pier  two years ago (I was) and need another shot (I do.)

Super cute “no smoking” posters set to nauseate entire city

cutenosmokeAt first, I thought I was looking at a sale flyer for Pavillions.

Not being a smoker, I usually find second-hand smoke annoying in outdoor dining areas at restaurants, on beaches and at other public spaces. But do I need a cutesy ad campaign with precious graphics and copy to announce that smoking is a big fat no-no?

How about a simple, official-looking “No smoking allowed under penalty of law” sign instead of this silly poster campaign that the city of Santa Monica is spending $150,000 to execute? (There are four other versions.)

Instead of stating forthrightly that smoking in an area is illegal, why make it seem like it’s an option if you’re really not in the mood for yucky asparagus?

In 2007, Santa Monica banned smoking in most popular public spaces, like the Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park. The ban also applies to outdoor common areas such as bus stops, ATM lines, local beaches and 20 feet from the entrances of any public building.

In 2008, the law was extended to include restaurants’ outdoor dining and waiting areas.

In today’s NY Times, Adam Radinsky, Santa Monica’s deputy city attorney, says he thinks the cuteness  factor is “playful, a fun type of campaign, not too much the government telling you what to do, not too Big Brother-ish.”

I like to think I’m as liberal as the next Whole Foods shopper, but is a touchy-feely, Sesame Street approach to enforcing laws supposed to inspire confidence in government?

10:19 a.m. At The Los Angeles National Cemetery

lancIt’s not an entirely annual tradition, but over the last six Memorial Day weekends, I’ve paid visits to the Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood more often than not. Surprise: I like to bike there, and today was no exception.

With more than 85,400 veterans interred across its 114 acres, the cemetery — 120 years old this year — is a solemn and poignant and historic place any day, but on this particular weekend with each grave bearing a flag it is especially so.

Since the official ceremony is tomorrow, this morning was quiet. Not more than a handful of visitors were on the premises. Nevertheless when my friend Hap and I arrived we were told immediately by the groundskeeper to walk our bikes so we wondered why, but respectfully obeyed the order and locked up near the chapel to wander around on foot.

I’m the kind of sap that won’t stand for a fallen flag and will go way out of my way to right the ones that I see downed.  But graves unadorned as those two that I found near to where we’d secured our bikes? Inconceivable.

I made things right at the first grave with one flag found just stuck in the ground near nothing in particular. But I wasn’t so fortunate with the second site. So I tried the chapel door and it was locked, but a lady approaching it told me where the restrooms were.

“Thank you, but I don’t need a restroom. I need a flag for a grave I found without one.”

Continue reading “10:19 a.m. At The Los Angeles National Cemetery”

Dance, Dance, Revo-Fusion

Lucy RicardoWhenever I think of dancing, I think of two things:  Dorothy Parker, an unlikely piano-thumping dance studio teacher turned Algonquin Round table regular, waxing poetic about how to best get John the Baptist’s head on a plate in  “Salome’s Dancing Lesson,” and Lucy Ricardo trying to plie.  Apparently, the dance studio conceit is alive and well outside New York and here in LA – witness the Oxford Street Dance Theater, created by two UC-Berkeley grads (A ha! Another one of us!).  Every year, the dance troupe presents an annual show emoting the clash between the intricacies of modern dance and the complexities of an outside world that currently is confronting xenophobia masked as swine flu hysteria; sadly increasing unemployment rates; and Harvard-educated, formerly practicing attorneys who become First Ladies and fulfill their matronly role by answering tough – but important! – questions from kids about the White House being haunted.  This year’s presentation, “Fusion,” runs on selected dates from May 7 to 17 and, as one of my colleagues and Oxford Street troupe dancers tells me, promises to be quite the event, complete with props.  Hopefully, John the Baptist’s head stays home – but it’s not called a Dance Theater for nothing.

Oxford Street Dance Theater presents Fusion
The Miles Memorial Playhouse
1130 Lincoln Blvd
Santa Monica
Tickets $15 in advance here/$20 at the door
Various dates from May 7 – 17.

Restroom art of Los Angeles: Gates of India

Please pass the saccharine
Please pass the saccharine

For the third installment of this occasional series, I again fail to stay within the actual borders of Los Angeles proper, straying again into one of those Island municipalities that dot our landscape within LA county.  Tonight found a strange lesson in the kitsch back rooms of the ever hip city of Santa Monica.

My journey for the evening took me first to Santa Monica’s Laemmle theater to see the documentary Enlighten Up!, which carries the tagline “A skeptics journey into the world of yoga.” I will return to this after the fold, but let me foreshadow the after-movie dinner at Gates of India, around the corner from the theater.  Such is the source of this installment’s artistic sampler.  In defense of the restaurant, it has a distinct disconnect between its serving area and its restroom, a pattern I somehow expect to find throughout this series.  The front room is quite replete with fairly interesting Indian artifacts, with nary a whiff of Hallmark Americana schlock.

Continue reading “Restroom art of Los Angeles: Gates of India”

Songs about Los Angeles: “Rooming House on Venice Beach” by Johnathan Richman

veniceI have always loved Johnathan Richman.  Apart from, y’know setting the stage for punk music to exist (along with, admittedly, Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, the Velvet Underground, and Television), Johnathan has the special virtue of having never sung a lyric that was negative or really critical of any topic he addresses, after 35 years of performing.  No cynicism, no biting wit, no sour recollections.  Sure, Johnathan has presumably been in, and definitely sung about relationships, cities around the world, social situations, and whatnot, but he always finds joy and humor in everything.  He also seems to have a special attachment to singing about places, though most especially of his hometown, Boston.

Johnathan sings of “Nature’s Mosquito” that “You see, God put me here just the same as he put you, so I’m nature’s mosquito. And that means I’m gonna go bite-bite-bitie-witie-wite-sir.”  Or of a discarded “Chewing Gum Wrapper,” “These colors move me more than most of what I see today.  I love the faded colors like would end up at the dump,  My heart goes bumpety, bumpety, bumpety bump.” Or yet again, of his “Dodge VegOMatic” that although it sits in the parking lot, with brakes of glass and tires of vinyl, he “likes this car a lot.”

Not all of his songs are quite as silly, but they all have a joie de vivre to them.  Singing about Los Angeles is not different.  […] Continue reading “Songs about Los Angeles: “Rooming House on Venice Beach” by Johnathan Richman”

Planned Parenthood’s Food Fare or: An Ode to Julia Child

The first time I ever watched Julia Child in action was actually on a show marked by her inaction: on Cooking with Master Chefs, she curiously peered over the shoulders of various “master chefs” (Jacques Pepin, Border Grill’s Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, Alice Waters, etc.) as they cooked.  It’s to her credit, and fault, that I love food, can get totally snot nosed about food reviews, and budget my income so I have a good meal at Mozza instead of a new pair of jeans (which I sorely need).

Beyond cookery, Julia was an unabashed supporter of a number of causes, including Planned Parenthood.  She even wrote a fundraiser letter on their behalf in 1982 (“Few politicians will take the risk of publicly supporting either contraception or abortion – and who is ‘for abortion’ anyway?  We are concerned with choice.”).  Apt, then, was her appearance at Planned Parenthood’s inaugural Food Fare in 1979, a food tasting and fundraising event.  As the event became an annual bash, she made subsequent appearances, even managing to get out there in 2002, two years before she died at 91.  Now, that is commitment!

Filling Julia’s big shoes at this year’s Food Fare (at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium) were Suzanne Goin (chef-owner of Lucques and AOC) and Nancy Silverton (former owner of La Brea Bakery and current co-owner/chef of Mozza).  Sadly, there were no cooking demonstrations; they were present just to autograph their respective cookbooks.  There also were tasting booths, vendors selling womanly wares like purses and children’s goods, and, as this was a fundraiser, a silent auction.  The tickets themselves weren’t cheap: $125 for the day session and $175 for the more happening night session.  I usually am extremely skeptical of well-to-do crowds congregating for fundraisers in which their donations help boost their ego, and, incidentally, their cause, but this event generally smacked less of privilege and more of an old-fashioned benefit ball.

Chatting with Suzanne Goin about her new restaurant, food tastings, and winning strategies for silent auctions after the jump.

Continue reading “Planned Parenthood’s Food Fare or: An Ode to Julia Child”

NY Times spotlights Venice shops

The NY Times’ The Moment blog posted this morning about a few new shops in Venice. NYT continues to ramp up their LA coverage for the SoCal print edition, so it’s nice to see that happening on their website too.

Businesses mentioned are Big Red Sun, Venice Beach Wines, C.A.V.E. and Parker Pettit.

Sorry OC, didn’t mean to moon you!

This summer has sorta sucked in terms of getting to the beach for water play.  Probably the worst in 8 years.  Between a wreck that laid me up for a while, kids in summer school, kids in summer camps, summer basketball league in The Valley of all god forsaken places, time to round everyone up for a day at the beach has been next to impossible.

Today finally all the schedules came together.  The boys and I finally got to go to the beach.  Water play day for the boys. We grabbed the boogie boards and headed straight down the 605.  Even the commute gods wanted us to play today as they cleared the freeway for us an we were at our summer home in Bolsa Chica, good old Tower 22 in 30 minutes.  Thank you someone for watching out for us.

For the rest of the story you need to make the jump…I am a stinker after all. Continue reading “Sorry OC, didn’t mean to moon you!”

Doo Dah Surf on Saturday

dds07-surf-j.jpgdoodah2.jpgSo I just heard about this and I can’t believe I didn’t know about it sooner: apparently, since 2002, Doo Dah Surf Day has celebrated the mellow, playful vibe of surfing and has been a reminder to the surfing community to chill our & have fun (‘cuz on our increasingly crowded breaks, it can get a little claustrophobic & aggro). And this goofball surf-play-date happens again this Saturday at 7:30am, Sunset Beach, Pacific Palisades. Dress in your weird, wacky best & goof off, because this is one day no one’ll care if you take off in front of them.

There’ll be a raffle too, with proceeds going to the Surfrider Foundation. Donations will be accepted from 7:00 a.m. until 9:45 a.m; the raffle begins at 10:00 a.m.

There are lots of hilarious costumes (some behind the jump), but this one, along with the cute guy with the lawn chair (what?! surfers are hot!), is my favorite.

Continue reading “Doo Dah Surf on Saturday”

Modern Decay: Redondo Beach Car Wash

I’m back in Hollywood at last. My new temporary digs are on Las Palmas, a stone’s throw and ten months away from the Oscars. Runyon Canyon is still only an easy walk away from here, and the button-cute Cafe Audrey is just down the street.

But before I set about Hollywood-blogging I still had something I wanted to point out about Redondo Beach. I crashed with a friend there for three or four weeks and I was struck by the clean, salty, beach-white prettiness of the place. And then, right in the middle of all of this sparkling architecture is the Redondo Beach Car Wash:

Redondo Beach Car Wash

I find the decay of modern architecture fascinating, especially when it’s so glaringly out of place as this thing is. I found a break in the wall and climbed in to take some photographs, some of which you can find after the jump:

Continue reading “Modern Decay: Redondo Beach Car Wash”

Offshore Report (December 5)

December 1st marked the beginning of another year of the Grey Whale Census and Behavoir Project. No Grays have been official added to the migration tally yet this year, but several have been spotted in the area before December 1st. The census takes place at the Pt. Vicente Interpretive Center during daylight hours, rain or shine, until May 15th.

dolphinicon.gif2007 marked one of the best Blue Whale seasons in southern California. (This was in stark contrast to last year, which was certainly disappointing, with whale watching boats out of Santa Barbara failing to see Blue Whales for days on end.) 3-5 Blue Whales are still being spotted in the area, including off of Pt. Vicente and Portuguese Bend this week.

dolphinicon.gifOther species spotted this week include 3 Fin Whales (observed lunge feeding), Pacific White Sided Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins (with calves) & Common Dolphins.

dolphinicon.gifWeather for on-shore observation will be good today (and probably pretty cool with the huge waves) but dodgy later this week with the coming rain. However, naturalists have observed that Gray Whales often come closer to shore after the first rains of the year (the influx of fresh water may be useful for removing parasites). So look sharp if you’re close to the shore later this weekend.

See daily updates from the Gray Whale Census here.