Stan’s Obligatory Blog


A new meme?

Filed under: — stan @ 12:18 pm

hollywood sign

Mike over at Franklin Avenue noted that it’s been 10 years since he moved to Los Angeles. And at the end of his post, he writes:

My first day in Los Angeles, after finally finding my hotel, I popped on the TV and watched the news. The lead story? The suicide death of former “Family Feud” host Ray Combs.

If life were a cliche, I would have taken some big lesson out of my first moments in Los Angeles: I’m moving to a town that turns even mild-mannered game show hosts to suicide.

But life isn’t always a cliche, although my first impressions were just as valuable: I’m moving to a town that leads its local newscasts with news of a mostly unknown ex-game show host offing himself.

Reading this, I immediately thought that this might make an interesting blog meme. What was in the news when you moved to Los Angeles? Seems like everyone here is from somewhere else, so it could make for some interesting stories. Post it here or in your blog and leave a pointer to it here. I’d like to see it.

In my case, it was July, 1982. I was just out of college and the first week I was here the big news was the “Twilight Zone” helicopter crash. I’d never really thought before about where movies came from, and that there were actual people whose job was to make movies, and that sometimes things can go wrong. I found that collision of reality and illusion kind of jarring and also strangely fascinating.

So, for everyone who moved to L.A., what was in the news when you got here?


Kid improv

Filed under: — stan @ 8:02 pm

Today we had a small adventure out in the Valley. Cathy had seen a listing for a comedy improv show for kids and by kids. It was at the L.A. Connection in Sherman Oaks. Back in the ’80s they used to do a monthly “improvision” show at the Nuart Theater in West L.A. where they would show an old, bad movie with the sound off, making up new dialog along the way. It was great fun, so we thought that Lucinda might like the kids’ version.

They had twelve kids in the show. They do a class in the afternoon, with the show at the end after the class. They did a number of different sketches. They were pretty good. Lucinda liked the show, and she said that she wants to try taking the class.

We also found out that they are doing a new show on the 23rd with “Cat Women on the Moon“, which was the first movie I ever saw them do, way back in 1982. We may need to go to that.

Three American icons

Filed under: — stan @ 2:31 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was another cemetery sightseeing tour. We rode up to Mission Hills to Eden Memorial Park to see Lenny Bruce and Groucho Marx, and then to the San Fernando Mission cemetery across the street to see Ritchie Valens.

It was cool, overcast, and the forecast called for rain later in the day. We started out from Victory park, heading west on Paloma. At Hill we turned right and went up the hill. Then we went left to get on Woodbury to get out of Pasadena and pass by JPL.

In La Cañada we took Berkshire, Chevy Chase and Descanso to get up to Foothill Blvd. Then we took a left and rode Foothill all the way across La Crescenta and Tujunga, passing by Hanson Dam and into Sylmar, where we passed the “Best Live Poultry” place.

At Maclay we went left and rode through San Fernando. We went right a few blocks to get on Workman, which turned into Rinaldi and brought us to Eden Memorial Park. The guy at the front gate looked at us kind of funny and asked why we were there. We told him we were there to see Groucho Marx. He gave us a map and sent us up the hill. At the top of the hill it became clear that he had misunderstood and given us the map to the memorial service that was being held there that day. So we turned around and went back down the hill. We stopped about half-way down and found Lenny Bruce’s grave. Years ago I took a class at UCLA Extension called “How to Perform Stand-Up Comedy”, and we talked a lot about how Lenny was in many ways the father of modern stand-up. He was one of the first to break the old ‘two guys walk into a bar’ joke-telling mold. And he was rewarded with obscenity prosecutions.

Next, we went down to the big outdoor mausoleum and followed the directions that I’d brought along. We found the door to a small room, where we found Groucho Marx. Each niche has a small holder for flowers. Groucho’s had a cigar in it, which seemed entirely appropriate.

Leaving Eden Memorial, we took a quick left on Sepulveda and went into the San Fernando Mission cemetery. Just inside the front gate between curb numbers 235 and 247 we found Ritchie Valens. I’m not quite old enough to remember the Day the Music Died, but I heard about it when I was growing up.

Next, we got on San Fernando Mission Road and rode back into San Fernando, passing by the mission. (Who’d have guessed it would be there?) Then we went back through downtown San Fernando, pausing briefly at the bike shop for a picture of the “S&M Bicycles” sign in the window. Then we took a right on Glenoaks and headed for home. There was a billboard on a bus shelter there for the San Fernando Criterium, which is coming up in two weeks. Mabye we will have to ride up there again to see it. Continuing south on Glenoaks, I saw the sign for “Stan’s U.S. Guys”. I always take pictures of signs that have my name on them.

We rode through the auto-wrecking ghetto in Sunland, and passed the stinky landfill. Then we turned left on Tuxford, which brought us to La Tuna Canyon Road. Then it was time for that nice four-mile climb up the canyon. As usual, Matt was the first to the top. Jon brought up the rear, saying something about how he needed to do more riding. I was just a bit ahead of Jon. It’s a nice climb, but no matter how you slice it, it’s still uphill.

From the top, we rode down into Montrose and then up Hospital Hill. Then it was downhill the rest of the way home. We rode for a bit with a couple of triathlon people who were preparing for their first Ironman next weekend. I told them about our regular Sunday ride, so maybe they will join us in a few weeks after they’ve recovered.

It was a nice ride.

55 miles.


A portrait of the artist as ‘mildly irked’

Filed under: — stan @ 12:26 pm

This is yet another story from the obituary pages of the Los Angeles Times.

Joyce Ballantyne Brand was the creator of the iconic image of the dog pulling down the little girl’s swimsuit in the Coppertone ads. While it’s not in the same world-changing category as the invention of the tortilla chip, it’s still something that became part of our cultural landscape.

There used to be a big animatronic billboard of this on the Santa Ana Freeway with the motorized dog rocking and pulling the little girl’s swimsuit up and down endlessly.

She also worked with Gil Elvgren and became an artist and model for pinup calendars:

During World War II, one of her college professors — Gil Elvgren, a well-known pinup artist — got her a job at a studio known for producing such calendars. Brand’s women “always had some clothes on or at least a towel on,” she said in 2004. Today, her pinups are collectibles.

“She was an icon for women in a man’s world, especially when it came to her pinups,” her friend Ed Franklin told the Ocala Star-Banner. “She was beautiful and used herself as a model for many of the pinups.”

Yet in all her years of producing commercial art, nothing is better-known than the Coppertone ad:

Brand never quite understood the Coppertone billboard’s appeal and was mildly irked that it was her most famous work.

“It was hardly the only art I ever produced,” she told the St. Petersburg Times in 2004. “But that’s what everybody remembers.”

For the full story:,1,6436495.story?coll=la-news-obituaries&ctrack=1&cset=true

And the St. Petersburg Times interview with her from two years ago:


A very pleasant ride to nowhere

Filed under: — stan @ 9:15 pm

Today’s ride was one of those ‘noodling around not really going anywhere in particular’ rides. But it was a very nice day, so it was a fun time.

We started out from Victory Park and headed west. We rode out to near the Rose Bowl and then went north a bit to Oak Grove, near JPL. We took a left on Berkshire and rode up to Chevy Chase and Descanso. At the top of the hill, we turned left and headed down Hospital Hill.

At the bottom of the hill, we took a little detour to get around the Montrose street market. Then we took Honolulu for a bit before turning down the hill and then taking a detour on some streets that went up and down the hills there in Glendale. Some of the hills were quite steep. I almost said ‘uncle’ and shifted, but I was able to avoid the temptation.

We went up and down a couple of pretty big and steep hills before coming out on Cañada Blvd by the park in Glendale. Then we turned right and headed downhill a bit to Mountain Ave. We turned right there and headed across Glendale.

We took Kenneth for a bit and then went left on Sonora to get down to Glenoaks. Our snack stop was at Paradise Bakery. They have the best chocolate eclairs there. So I got two and snapped a picture of them. They were that good.

After the stop, we headed back across Glendale on Glenoaks. We took it all the way to where it went up and over a short but steep hill to get to Chevy Chase. Then we took a left and rode up the long climb back up to La Cañada. At the top, we took a right and ended up on Inverness for a bit before going left and coming out at the bottom on Highland. That took us into Linda Vista to pass by the Rose Bowl again.

At that point, the route was to go back to the park by way of Orange Grove, but Tommy, Doug, and I decided to do a little more. We took a right and rode up the hill above the Rose Bowl and then down San Rafael, passing by the Old Seismology Lab there. Then we rode down into the arroyo and into South Pasadena. Then we took Monterey Road across and through San Marino, and then got on Huntington. We took that all the way out to 1st Ave in Arcadia, and then up Highland Oaks to Sierra Madre Blvd. Then we took Sierra Madre back home. Like I said, it was a nice day, so it was fun ride.

51 miles.


A cautionary tale about parenting

Filed under: — stan @ 12:48 pm

This past week marked 24 years since I graduated from college. So in honor of that, I went up in the attic and visited my diploma. Well, actually, I had to go up in the attic to check the rat trap, but while I was there I saw my diploma. I had tried hanging it on the wall for a while back in the ’80s, but I just didn’t like looking at it. You see, I didn’t care much for the school I went to. In fact, I pretty much hated it. And when I graduated, I swore a solemn vow to do everything I could to forget about it. I have kept my diploma largely because every job I’ve ever had has wanted to see it on the first day. So I can’t throw it away. At least not until I retire.

This is a cautionary tale because it relates to parenting, and that’s something that is on our minds a lot. A few years ago, we took a parenting class. The teacher talked to us about how to get your kid to do what you want. It’s easy when they are small. When a kid is 3, “because I said so” can actually be a valid reason. But she also said that if you are still saying that when the kid is 16, you’ve failed. This relates to my college experience because “because I said so” is how I chose where to go, which is to say that I didn’t so much choose as have it chosen for me. Which is funny, since my mother always told me that choosing where to go to college was one of the most important decisions I would ever make. I guess I just didn’t understand the subtext, which was “therefore we’re going to make it for you so you don’t get it wrong.” And so this is what I think about whenever we have to make a decision for our child. It’s always tempting to think, “you’ll thank me for this when you’re older”, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. And now that I’m on the other side, I want to always remember that and try not to run roughshod over my kid’s feelings and wishes. Even when she’s only seven years old.


Bring on the dancing horses…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:58 pm

Cathy saw an item in the paper this week about the Fiesta of the Spanish Horse. It was at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. I’ve been by there hundreds of times on my bike, but I’d never been inside. So we decided that this might be something interesting.

We don’t really know anything about horses, but it was interesting to see them close-up and see the riding demonstrations. Apparently, a big part of their training is teaching them the distinctive gait. It looks a bit funny at first, but we got used to it. And in the show, they did it a lot, along with other moves that made the horses look like they were dancing. So overall, it was an interesting thing.

Random sightseeing, and the tiniest house

Filed under: — stan @ 8:18 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was a sightseeing trip to Hollywood and Silver Lake. Part of the route was the regular Foothill Cycle Saturday ride, but then Gene and I took a side trip to do some sightseeing.

We started out at Victory Park and rode over to the Pasadena Elks Club Lodge, where we met the rest of the club group. Then we headed west on Colorado through Eagle Rock. That was where I saw the gym advertising kickboxing for kids. For some reason, I found this to be a funny mental image, so I stopped for a picture.

We rode into Glendale on Wilson, and then took Jackson up to Glenoaks. Then we took Glenoaks all the way across Glendale. A left on Sonora brought us down to Riverside in Burbank, just across from the Bette Davis Picnic Area. Then we crossed the river and the freeway and took a right on Zoo Drive.

We rode past Travel Town and up the hill in Griffith Park. A right turn at the closed gate brought us onto the road up the back side of Mt. Hollywood. This is a nice long climb, and it’s especially pleasant because the road is closed to cars. So it’s just a nice place to ride.

When we got to the intersection by the tunnel, Gene and I went right, down into Fern Dell. We rode down all the way to Los Feliz Blvd, and then went right to get to Franklin Ave. Then we took Bronson down to the cemetery.

Hollywood Forever is home to many stars, and today we were there to visit with Don Adams, who is perhaps best-known as Agent 86 of Control in “Get Smart”. His grave is currently not marked with a stone, but I was able to locate it with some help from the people on the Get Smart mailing list. I gather that his family is still considering trying to have him buried in Arlington National Cemetery, due to his service in World War II. But in the meantime, he is in Hollywood Forever. Also, while we were there, we walked down by the pond to see the cenotaph for Jayne Mansfield.

Leaving the cemetery, we rode back across Hollywood and into Silver Lake. We took a right on Sunset and headed south, passing by Lovecraft Biofuels, which is a shop that does bio-diesel car conversions. Then we took a left on Benton Way and rode up some hills to come out on Silver Lake Blvd right by the reservoir and the dog park.

At Glendale Blvd, we went left, and then right on Fletcher and right again on Riverside. We took Riverside all the way to Figueroa, with a quick side trip down Oros St to see a house I’d seen the real estate listing for last week. This one is even smaller than the one we saw last week, and the one from the week before. This one is 299 square feet. The flyer says that the lot is 1300 square feet, which means that the lot is smaller than my house alone. It was impressively small.

Oh, yeah. Just for everyone who’s not in California, the asking price for the shoebox-sized house was $199,000.

Leaving the tiny house, we rode up Figueroa St to Ave 60, and then over to Monterey Rd and into South Pasadena. We rode all the way across San Marino and then went north on Sierra Madre Blvd, and then we were home.

It was a nice ride.

46 miles.


Oil: Or we’re all gonna die!!!

Filed under: — stan @ 5:57 pm

I just finished reading two books about oil and why we’re about to start running out of it. And actually, neither of these books is of the alarmist bent that says that civilization will collapse when we pass the peak of world oil production. But they make the case that things are going to be difficult, and that day is most likely upon us now.

Twilight in the Desert is Matthew Simmons‘ magnum opus about Saudi Arabia and its super-giant oil fields. They are apparently the largest ever found, and even now they provide some huge percentage of the world’s supply. And the end is drawing near for them. Most oil fields are most productive for 20-30 years, and then they start to taper off. The big Saudi fields have been going for fifty years, and they are showing signs that they are past their prime. And more troubling is that in most cases, when the natural pressure of the field is depleted, they can inject water into it to get the oil flowing again. But the Saudis have been doing this since the 1960s, so they are already doing secondary recovery on their fields. So when they do start to decline, there is less that can be done to try and squeeze out more oil. There is an article available on the web that contains a short version of the information in this book.

Beyond Oil is Kenneth Deffeyes’ companion to his book from 2001, Hubbert’s Peak. In the first book, he told us why the peak of the oil age is imminent, and in this one he refines his prediction to say that the worldwide peak of oil production would be in December, 2005. The rest of the book examines what can be done about that in terms of alternate sources of energy. He’s fairly optimistic in that there are things we can make from coal that will take the place of oil for most applications. But environmentalists will probably shit when they see how dirty that’s going to be.

So no, civilization is probably not going to collapse or even grind to a halt. But it’s going to get dirtier and more expensive. As for me, I just got a new tire for my bicycle, so I’m set for commuting for another five years.


On this day in history…

Filed under: — stan @ 5:31 pm

It was May 2, 1976, and it was the day of my first big race. I was 16, and had no idea what I was in for that day. We all had our old-style leather-hairnet ‘helmets’ on, and I didn’t even know to zip up my jersey collar. When the race started, it was all just a blur. We went faster than I’d ever imagined was possible. But I stayed with the pack, and even tried to break away a couple of times. I didn’t know that first-year riders usually get dropped, so I didn’t get dropped. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know that you’re not supposed to be able to do it. It was great fun.

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