The Summer of Our Discontent

Earthquakes. Hurricanes. What’s Next?

The last several weeks have seen some serious damage done to North America: hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean; then earthquakes in Mexico. There was even a small quake a few days ago whose epicenter was only two miles from me. I shouldn’t be surprised if a volcanic cone started pushing up through the ground the way Paricutín did in Michoacán back in 1943.

Of course, the one really, really serious volcanic event on this continent would be for the Yellowstone Caldera to blow, the way it has three times before: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 630,000 years ago. Each explosion made major changes to the map of North America. If Yellowstone did in fact blow, the only good news is that it would take out Washington, DC, along with everything else east of it.

I’ve already written about Nibiru, though I disbelieve most Christian projections of doom. I merely think it’s wishful thinking on the part of Evangelicals, who, just perhaps, may be realizing that they’ve f*cked up really bad this time. They want to be raptured up quickly so they don’t have to take any more blame for destroying what once was a perfectly viable country.

 

 

Reading at the Farmers Market

The Book Is Open to Sir Arthur Quiller Couch’s Cambridge Lectures

Today started with a visit to the dentist. Apparently, my teeth are continuing to be ground to powder by the action of my jaws. Within the next year, I will need three crown replacements, beginning next month, with one of my right bottom molars about to be crushed to smithereens. So it goes. After the appointment, I took the 720 bus to Wilshire and Fairfax and walked up to the “Original” Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax.

There, I finished reading Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein, which I loved, and dipped into the Cambridge Lectures of Sir Arthur Quiller Couch. I’ll probably give the latter another chance, butit’s not looking good. Too many untranslated quotations in Greek. I can usually tolerate Latin, but Greek, well, it’s Greek to me.

In a Cool Shady Corner of the Market

One of the things I love about the Farmers Market is that I could sit and read for hours without anyone bothering me. So what if all the chairs are of the folding variety. If I need variety, I can always get a nice cup of English Breakfast tea or a tasty Po’ Boy sandwich, which is what I had today. The variety of eateries at the Farmers Market is almost endless: American, Israeli, Chinese, Seafood, Malaysian, Louisiana Creole, Japanese, Mexican, Brazilian, Italian—you name it! And much of the food on offer is high quality.

The Farmers Market is full of European and Asian tourists on a typical day. This morning, a whole busload of French trooped past me while I was drinking a lemonade.

I like the idea that this place is not what the tourists expect when they think of Los Angeles. My guess is that their picture of my city is half a century or more old. The only stars in Hollywood today are on the sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard.

From Out of Nowhere: Bam! Nibiru!

It’s All Over This Saturday

For feeble-minded Christians, especially those who believe in all the cockamamie conspiracies that are “revealed” by self-proclaimed prophets, Earth can possibly be destroyed this coming Saturday by a roving hidden planet that no one has seen yet. That planet has variously been called Nibiru and Planet X (among other things). That’s the prediction of David Meade, a self-published author whose subject matter is astrology and the Bible. How can such a planet, supposedly larger than the Earth, be at one and the same time invisible and moving very, very fast?

This whole Nibiru/Planet X catastrophe has been predicted several times before. Even Meade originally set the date in October, but revised his prediction because of the recent eclipse. I would have thought he would base his prediction on that well-known Beast of the Apocalypse, Donald J. Trumpf—but no.

Sometimes I think these Christian conspiracy theorists have altogether too much time on their hands.

My suggestion is that, on Sunday, September 24, the survivors of the Nibiru disaster gather together to mock David Meade and his kind. You can do so by contacting him at DavidMeade7777@gmail.com—if, that is, he doesn’t close that e-mail account beforehand.

 

Fun with Calvin and Hobbes

I Miss Calvin and Hobbes

Let’s face it: I never really grew up. I sill love the comics. My day is not complete until I have read the comics in the Los Angeles Times, which I have delivered at home daily and Sundays. I still miss many of the cartoon strips that no longer appear, going all the way back to Walt Kelly’s Pogo. I also loved Gary Larson’s The Far Side, Johnny Hart’s B.C. and The Wizard of Id, and Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts. Fortunately, some great comic strips come back: I am thinking of Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County, which now appears with new cartoons on Facebook.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes lasted from 1985 to 1995, but you can see all of them at Gocomics.Com. I am slowly re-reading the entire work of this great cartoonist and philosopher.


When the Sunday paper arrives, I still read the comics starting from the bottom of the last page and ending up with the top of the first page. Some habits never die.

Juggalos 1 Trumpf 0

There Were Two Rallies in Washington DC This Weekend: Guess Which Was Larger

This weekend was the so-called Mother of All Rallies (MOAR) of Trumpf supporters. Hundreds of mental defectives wearing red, white, and blue and waving American flags made as much noise as they could.

Also in Washington on the same weekend was a much larger, less violent demonstration, consisting of Juggalos and Juggalettes, the mostly young supporters of a band called Insane Clown Posse (ICP), were protesting the 2011 decision by the FBI that the movement was a gang. It’s not. The followers of ICP consider themselves a family. Although the songs they follow appear to be violent, they do not generally translate into violent actions by the Juggalos. (How very unlike the Trumpf Brownshirts!)

The whole seemingly violent Dark Carnival atmosphere of ICP is in fact a form of therapy which actually helps their followers cope with broken families, joblessness, bad relationships, and other misfortunes.

Perhaps our Presidente will take a cue from them. He would look great in black and white clown markings, and they would be wholly appropriate on him.

 

At the Santa Barbara Zoo and Mission

Meerkat on Guard at the Santa Barbara Zoo

Today I rented a car to take Martine and me to Santa Barbara. My 1994 Nissan Pathfinder has a brake warning light and ABS warning light, requiring me to take it into the shop on Monday. (Even without the warning lights, I would have rented a car. It would be far cheaper than towing the Nissan great distances.)

It doesn’t take long to “do” the SB Zoo, which at 30 acres merits about two hours, more if you want to sit down and take in the atmosphere. It is only a few hundred yards from Cabrillo Beach, which makes it all the better. And today was a relatively cool day.

After the zoo, we had some extra time, so we revisited the Santa Barbara Mission—founded in 1789 by Padre Fermín Lasuén, who took over the entire chain of twenty-one missions for Padre Junípero Serra after the latter’s death. I know that the Spanish missions were involved in the suppression of the local Indian tribes, yet remain as so many islands of peace dotting the California landscape.

The Santa Barbara Franciscan Mission

As we were touring the mission’s museum, one of the old Franciscan padres introduced himself to us. He looked frail, probably in his eighties, but was friendly. We toured the old church and the adjoining small cemetery as well. According to a sign in the cemetery, there are some 800 Chumash Indians buried there, not to mention the Spanish conquistadors and subsequent American settlers and their families.

On the way home, we decided to skip the coastal route (there was serious construction on Route 1 in Santa Monica) and the even more crowded U.S. 101 in favor of Route 126 through Santa Paula and Fillmore. It added perhaps ten miles to our trip, but it was more restful driving through all that farm country. Plus, we stopped at Cornejo’s fruit stand near Fillmore to buy some white peaches and plums.

Gemina

Gemina, the Giraffe With the Crooked Neck

Tomorrow, I will take Martine to one of our favorite places, the Santa Barbara Zoo. Martine will probably leave me at some point in the next two or three weeks, so I want to spend some of that time revisiting places we love.

Although Los Angeles has a bigger zoo, it is so crowded and so constricted by constant construction that visitors have a hard time negotiating the paths without getting run over by harassed parents pushing strollers. As their website says, the SB Zoo has 500 animals and only 30 acres. That’s just about our speed, and tomorrow promises to be a nice day.

The most remarkable animal we have seen at the Zoo is the late Gemina, the giraffe with the crooked neck. The following long quote is a release from the zoo that I thought I’d like to pass on to you:

If you visited the Zoo between 1990 and 2008, you probably saw an unusual giraffe. Her name was Gemina and she had a crook in her neck.

Born at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (now San Diego Safari Park) in 1986, Gemina was a Baringo (or Rothschild’s) giraffe, and joined the Santa Barbara Zoo’s giraffe herd when she was just about a year old.

Her neck seemed normal until a bump appeared when she was around three years old. Slowly, over time, it sharpened into a distinctive “V”, which interrupted the graceful curve of her neck.

Though she was examined by veterinarians, a cause for the crook could not be determined. The good news? In spite of her appearance, she didn’t exhibit any signs of being in pain.

In fact, the crook didn’t hamper Gemina’s life at the Zoo. She received normal treatment by zookeepers, ate normally, gave birth to a calf, and was an accepted member of the Zoo’s giraffe herd. She was beloved by our guests, locals and visitors alike.

Long before I came to work here as the Zoo’s publicist, management had decided not to sensationalize Gemina. We could have emblazoned her image on t-shirts and made banners with her silhouette, but that’s not our style. She was a member of the giraffe herd, and not to be exploited. We responded to media requests, but didn’t push out the story.

But Gemina became an icon in spite of our low-key approach. In its second season (2004), “The Bachelor” filmed a sunset dinner at the giraffe exhibit, and the couple met Gemina. In the 2005 television show “Miracle Workers,” she was the source of inspiration for a young boy with severe scoliosis. In 2007, she was voted Number One of the “Seven Wonders of Santa Barbara” in a local radio station poll.

Martine at the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2007 … in Happier Times

By then, she was 20 years old, which is elderly for a giraffe in captivity. We threw a party for her 21st birthday, knowing that her time was nearing an end. Many of us had tears in our eyes when Zoo Campers, wearing self-made giraffe hats, sang “Happy Birthday.”

She lived another five months, before she stopped eating and her health declined. Gemina was humanely euthanized on January 9, 2008. It was a sad day at the Zoo.

But her memory lives on. Gemina is still the most asked-about animal at the Zoo, even eight years later. A children’s book, “Gemina the Crooked-Neck Giraffe,” written and illustrated by Karen B. Winnick, was released in 2013, and is still for sale in the Zoo Gift Store (all proceeds benefit the Zoo).

Now, her fans can again visit Gemina. Her distinctive top six vertebrae, skull, and jawbone have been preserved and rearticulated, and are now on view in a display case as part of the Zoo’s “Animals…Inside Out” art exhibit in the Discovery Pavilion’s Volentine Gallery.

It’s free, with admission, to view Gemina and the exhibit of cool animal x-rays. Gemina’s skeleton is on view 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends.

Thanks goes to Skulls Unlimited for her skeletal work, and to TruPart, a Ventura company, for building the display case free of charge.

Gemina reminds us all that being different is just fine. She’s a reminder to me not to blithely feed the media’s appetite for the odd and outrageous. That we can tell a quieter story, about being accepted in a herd of your peers and loved by a generation of visitors. That one giraffe can still stand tall, even with a crooked neck.