Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I've got a few minutes before I put on my fancy dress and head out to Larry and Fuzzy Niven's house for their annual New Year's Eve extravaganza.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays (There Are So Many)

Just in case I don't get another chance to post before Thursday (a distinct possibility), I wanted to wish all of my readers a very merry Christmas (a white one if you'd like it), a happy Hanukkah, a joyous Kwanza, a cool Yule, a silly Saturnalia, or whatever mid-winter festival you celebrate.

We will, as usual, spend Christmas eve going from a brunch at Emily's to a Polish Vigilia at Karen and Michael's, and to a gift exchange at Elayne's. On Christmas itself, we will do a big brunch and Christmas present extravaganza at home with my son Michael and our friends Karen and Michael (we have a lot of Michaels in our lives.) Then we'll either watch one of the many Academy screeners which has been bestowed upon us or head off to the cinema (not nearly as muchly anticipated since the Lord of the Rings finished its cycle) for something bigger than 46". Dinner will most likely be at Hop Li on the Westside, since Chinese restaurants are the ones most likely to be open (and a good choice for lapsed-Catholic/Jewish marriages, which we and Karen & Michael have.)

I used to do a big Christmas spread. That was before Christmas became my anniversary. I did it last for our first anniversary and decided I didn't need to work that hard any more. I miss the dinner, but not the stress.

This year marks our 17th anniversary. The modern gift is furniture. I started with that big dining room table and I'm looking at new living room seating.

I finished decorating the tree last night, making it the first time in years that the ornament boxes will be back in the garage before Christmas morning. My gifts aren't wrapped yet, but I've still got time for that.

Enjoy. There's so much to be happy about this year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow? Yes, Snow!

It doesn't happen that often, but sometime snow does stick for a little while--at least as long as it takes to pull out a camera and find a good location. I photographed the mountains to the north of the San Fernando Valley from the parking lot of the Performing Arts Building at Pierce College. The snow level was at about an elevation of 1500 feet. It's pretty amazing how it just stops at a particular level. This was on Thursday morning at about 8 a.m. Most of the snow melted before noon.
This photograph was taken from the parking lot near Victory Boulevard on the Pierce campus, again looking north. I just love the juxtaposition of palm trees with snow-capped mountains. I'm just glad I didn't have to drive in it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unseasonable Weather

It's cold. Not New England or Midwest cold, but California cold and damp. I actually considered putting a blanket on Ace last night. If the clouds would rise off the mountains, I would see snow. Oh, someone just oppened a door--there is snow on the mountains in the northeast part of the Valley.

We got a lot of rain, starting around midnight Sunday night. At one point yesterday, there was a downpour at Pierce, and at my house a few blocks away, it was hailing. Len called to tell me about it. It didn't stick. The black clouds were low and big and I almost expected to see a thunderstorm with snow.

Dinner last night consisted of heating up the stock I made from the Thanksgiving turkey and throwing in some dry, mushroom-stuffed tortellini. I ate it with grated Parmesan cheese and some stale baguette. Perfect cold-weather food.

We are currently in a lull in the storm, so it is sunny and the grass and leaves glisten in the wet. The weather reports threaten snow flurries down to 1000 feet between tonight and tomorrow night. I have lived here long enough to actually catch the rare snowflake on my car. I do not look forward to these things.

I did prepare for another dip in temperature by pulling out my favorite fake-fur hat that I bought on a trip to Chicago many years ago. It is very warm and screams "it's winter!" I also decided to wear my leather coat, which goes over my heavy sweater, necessary for a day in my too-cold office.

Since it is the day of the President's Brunch here at the college, I'm wearing my large, designed by Elizabeth Taylor, two-headed horse pin from Avon. It is quite festive, with three faux tear-drop pearls and many rhinestones, and looks festive on my red knit top. One of these days, I'll have to post pictures of some of my favorite horse jewelery. I've only been collecting it since I got Ace, but I do have some very pretty pieces that I've found at flea markets and antique shops. Like my sterling, my jewelery is unlikely to break in an earthquake, making it an appropriate collectible in Southern California.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Revisiting New Mexico

I promised to put up pictures of my trip to New Mexico, and I've finally got a little bit of time to do it. The first photograph shows that all the conveniences of home are available in a little roomette on the train. I could plug in my computer and have a picture of Ace to look at. There wasn't Internet access, but I suspect that will happen someday. I found a really nice backpack for my 17" Mac and my Nikon, which also held the stuff I needed for overnight.

The room converted into upper and lower bunks, although I think the upper bunk would have been on the narrow side. During the day, the potential two occupants could sit across from each other and play cards, because there's a fold-away table between the seats. I didn't try to use the shower on the train because it was hard enough to use the sink with all the jostling. But I really enjoyed having a room of my own.

This is my friend Melinda's house, which sits on 10 acres outside of Santa Fe. It was designed by her husband, who now works in Las Vegas for some large architectural firm, and it is spectacular. I am especially jealous of the kitchen, which is enormous.

I photographed the house in the early morning, from outside of the guest house, called a casita. In the next photograph, you can see the guest house. I've had offices which were smaller, and the shower was huge.

The bathroom and closet of the casita were far bigger than any I have in my house and I loved the fire place in the sitting area. I was able to pick up the wireless Internet from the house, so I made a few of my posts from there after I said goodnight to Melinda and the pets in the main house. Fortunately for my allergies, the casita is a cat-free zone. This photo was taken late afternoon the day I arrived. Look at the beautiful, blue, western sky.

And here's the view looking out to the south and west from the living room of the house. I'd love to see it with the 11' Christmas tree Melinda had last year.

I've had concepts of dream houses in the past, but the cost of land and construction has pretty much put a dream house in the category of "Not in This Lifetime." Melinda has a lot of sweat equity in the house--they did a lot of the work, like laying floors and painting themselves--and I'm not sure I've got that kind of energy, either.

Here's Melinda with the handsome Vento, her Lusitano stallion. They make a lovely team in motion. He's a really sweet horse who likes being the center of attention and he's got great moves. Melinda's trainer showed her a "new gear" when I watched a lesson. At his first show--I think he was introduced at second level--the judge wrote "a bit of an over-achiever, isn't he" after he had a hard time coming to a halt and did a piaffe instead. She's going to go great places on him. I'm looking forward to watching his progress when they come out to L.A. for a couple of months this winter.

This is the train station in Lamy, where I arrived and departed. It was built in 1880, and the sign in the ladies' room reminded people that the pipes are also that old. There was some wonderful tile work inside, and I was quite taken with the cage surrounding the ticketing area, as shown in the next photograph. Lamy has about four buildings, including an old deconsecrated church that gets used for location-shots. There used to be a good restaurant, but I guess not any more. I met a photographer at a workshop in L.A. almost two years ago who had relocated her business from here to there. I wished I had contact information for her.

The Lamy station is the stop for Santa Fe, which is about 20 minutes away by car. My friend Lira thought it was where she transfered to a bus to go to Denver, but I'm not sure if she's correct about that. While I was waiting to board the train to come back to L.A., I had to wait for several organized groups of travellers to disembark for the buses into Santa Fe. There were also several groups who had priority in seating before I was assigned a seat coming home. I was far less impressed with the way I was treated on the return trip than on the east-bound route.

Here's the Southwest Chief as it arrives in Lamy on November 6. My request for a window seat was ignored and I was put on the aisle next to a college girl who was on her way to visit her sister in Ventura. She had a hard time sitting still and was up and down and in and out a lot. During the day, I could understand it. At night, when I was trying to sleep, she managed to trip over my legs several times, which made for a bad night's sleep for me.

Still, traveling by train is far more civilized than flying, and is a lot more relaxing than driving.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Shoes Don't Fit

I've got a high level of frustration right now because the Old Mac Boots I ordered for Ace and for which I paid a premium for expedited shipping do not fit. Apparently, Gayle had an older sizing chart from the catalogue and we ordered based on that. The boots are much too small--small pony sized. Now, I've got to send them back and hope that the next pair actually fit. Because he has virtually no heel on his left fore hoof, it looks like his foot is much longer than it actually is--he's as hard to fit as I am. He's also missing hoof wall on that foot because of the seedy toe and the trim the vet did.

I think that Victoria mentioned some soft boots. I'd sure like the information about them because I'm afraid he's going to bruise himself on the rocks in the arena if I let him out without a foot covering. He's definitely getting stir crazy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Australia--The Movie

If you have a chance to go to a Variety screening event, skip it unless you are on a VIP list. We got to the theatre about an hour and 45 minutes before the film was scheduled to run. There were already 200 or so people in line in front of us. Our friends joined us about 10 minutes later when the line started disappearing around the corner out onto Sunset Boulevard. One of our group found out that the theatre seated 400 people, so we should have no trouble getting in, right? Wrong!

When they started moving people inside, things were going along. Then they started slowing way down. When it got to the point where there were about 10 people in front of us, it simply stopped. Eventually, Len went in to check to see what was happening. That's how we got in. People had been jumping the line, so Len was told that there were scattered seats and VIP reserves left. We had been told that all such reserves would be released at 20 minutes ahead of the screening, and it was almost show time. Then Len got asked if he was a VIP. "Well, I created Wolverine, so I suppose I'm a VIP." "Are you on the list?" "Well, I did R.S.V.P."

The next thing he hears is "I've got one of Mr. Jackman's guests here." So Len and I got in, but our friends, unfortunately didn't. They were quite cool about it, because Len is The Famous Len Wein and they think he's entitled to the perks which sometimes accompany that.

We really enjoyed the movie, but we like big, sweeping, romantic adventures with comic moments a lot. The critics have not been kind, but I intend to see it again in a theatre. It's a BIG picture. Like the other Baz Luhrmann films I've seen, there's an interesting framing device and point of view. This story is mostly told from the POV of a young half-breed Aboriginal child and he's wonderful. I had not read that the "lost generations" was part of the story, since most of the press concentrated on the director and two main stars and the bombing of Darwin (the event of which I was not previously aware, either.) As I've said before, any film where Hugh Jackman takes off his shirt (more than once) and rides horses (for a good part of the show) is a must-see in my book. It is Nicole Kidmann's film, though.

Russell Crowe was originally cast in the part played by Hugh Jackman and Hugh was supposed to play the part that David Wenham has. I will note that I can't recall seeing David Wenham on horseback at all during the film (I might have missed it), but I got the definite feeling from the Lord of the Rings extras documentary on the horses and riders that David Wenham was not much of a rider when he played Faramir. (For all of my horse-friends: if you haven't seen it, the documentary is part of the extended release of The Return of the King, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. Even if you have no interest in the film, you'll enjoy the documentary.) Hugh told a funny story on Jay Leno's show last Thursday night about training to ride in this film. He had a memorable turn on horseback in Central Park in Kate & Leopold, and, while he's not Viggo Mortensen in a saddle, he rides fearlessly.

After the three hour film, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin (Luhrmann's wife and the production designer), and Hugh Jackman came out for a Q&A with a Variety editor. At the time they would have opened the questions up to the audience, they had to shut things down because a midnight showing of Twilight was scheduled for the theatre. Boo, hiss. We managed to get ourselves down to the door where Hugh was being hussled out so Len could say hello in the crush. Hugh looked very tired, but he'd been through a non-stop day.

We tried to find our friends in the restaurant, but it turned out they had eaten early and not used the comp tickets they were given for their troubles. We got home in time to back up the TiVo and watch Hugh's appearance with Leno. Charming, as always.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

People Magazine Finally Gets It Right

It has taken 7 years, but People Magazine has finally named Hugh Jackman the Sexiest Man Alive. As far as I'm concerned, all it took was a shot of Wolverine's bare back in the fight cage of the first X-men film and I understood the "drool buckets" the women who camped out in line had brought along. He is, I can say from giddy experience, even better looking in person. That he is incredibly gracious and kind makes him even more attractive.

While Hugh has been an also-ran for the title for a number of years (starting just after X-men), losing out to boys like Brad Pitt, it's nice to see a real man get the award. Why is it there are so few American actors under the age of 40 who come across as men, rather than boys?

We'll be at a screening of Australia tomorrow night. Could Hugh be looking at an Oscar(R) to add to his Tony(R) and Emmy(R) Awards? I will let you know what I think later this week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fires Return

Thanks to Victoria for her concern about us in the latest firestorm. It's been a little hectic, so I haven't had time to write. But we are in no danger.

Our house is fine, being about 10-12 miles from the latest Sylmar blaze. The smoke has been pretty bad. The winds blew everything into the southwest San Fernando Valley, so we're back to wearing masks again. It was terrible on Saturday, a little less so Sunday, and improving again today.

This time, the direction of the wind made Chatsworth air much better than air in Woodland Hills. The winds were terrible, but the air was clear. I had to spend much of Saturday at the barn waiting for my vet to show because of Ace's new lameness. He had a difficult time getting from the Equestrian Center, in Burbank, to the barn because of rolling blackouts and traffic snarls and freeway closures due to flames. The intersection of the 118 and the 405 was closed, so traffic was being stopped or diverted at the 405 and 101. I had to take my son to Westwood for work on Saturday morning and I took surface streets up over Mulholland Drive, which gave us quite a view of the smoke pouring out of Sylmar. It did keep me out of traffic.

I feel so bad for all of the people who lost homes this time around: over 400 in a Sylmar mobile home park and dozens more in Montecito and down in Orange County. The winds have died out, making it easier for the fire fighters to contain things. There's no sign of rain, however.

As for Ace, his always problematic left fore foot is traumatized again. He had seedy toe which was "interfering with the integrity of the hoof," so the vet pulled his shoe and pad ("I like what your farrier is doing") and trimmed away the parts of the hoof that were separated at the sides of the foot. He's supposed to get his foot soaked for 3 days in epsom salted water (yeah, right), betadine on the trim spots, and bute twice a day for two weeks, before he gets checked again. I've got to get an easy boot for him so we can go for a walk, but it will be at least a month before he gets a new shoe. The bars on the inside of that foot just don't grow they way they should, giving the farrier a problem and Ace a sore foot.

It will get better. I'm trying to figure out how I get up to the barn twice to medicate Ace on Thanksgiving when I've got 20 people sitting down to dinner.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Great Earthquate Shake Out

Our campus is participating in a Southern-California earthquake response simulation. In about 55 minutes, I'll be calling in damage reports to our response center. People on subways will find that the vehicles have slowed to a crawl.

This is supposed to represent a 7.8 earthquake. The 1994 Northridge quake was 6.8, so this would be 1000 times worse. 1994 was bad enough, thank you. But I'd rather have an earthquake than a tornado or hurricane any day. The worst is over pretty quickly.

Like most people, I'm sure my house is no longer ready for another big quake. The mess that broken alcohol bottles and jelly beans can make on your floor is something I will never forget. Then there was the dancing refrigerator which moved about 3 feet into the center of the kitchen. The fallen book shelves were not much fun to put back (and they had been nailed into the wall!) It was 10 days before we stopped sleeping in the living room because being trapped in the bedrooms during aftershocks was a scary thought.

And, of course, we still laugh about my mother calling before the first shaking had stopped. She was watching the morning news when the special report came through during Eastern Standard Time. I had better things to do than work my way through broken glass in the dark to the only phone working in the house--which I told her before I hung up. The phone didn't work again until a day later. Electricity was out for at least a day. It took a week to get the gas back on. But people were outside barbequing while back east, the snow and ice was so bad there was no school for a week. A friend said "I'd rather have your disaster." I agreed.

It was the first time I remember relying on on-line communication to find out how people were doing. List serves kept reporting when someone had been heard from. Friends who were able to reach us by phone (when they worked again) would then post to let others know we were all right.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Proud of the USA and Los Angeles, Disappointed in California

I'm home again and mostly rested from the New Mexico adventure. If you are taking an overnight train ride, a roomette is the way to go. On the way home, I didn't have one. The young woman in the next seat kept hitting my legs as she climbed over me during the night and kicked me in the side two or three other times in her sleep. Then there were the people with headphones which did nothing to block the sound (they'll be deaf a lot earlier in life than I will) and the people who had to check e-mail every 15 minutes--the light is blinding when you are otherwise in the dark. Next time, it's either a sleeper or I'll have to fly.

The USA elected Barack Obama and Los Angeles soundly defeated Proposition 8. Unfortunately, the rest of the state (except for San Francisco, I'm pretty sure) didn't see this assault on equal protection for what it is. I just read the papers which have been filed to overturn the effects of 8 on the basis that it is a revision of the California State Constitution, not an amendment, and therefore illegal. It seems like a sound argument to me. Keith Olbermann did a special comment about this strange result last night. I'm surprised that he had such a hard time identifying anyone in his extended family who is gay. I came up with several without any effort. In terms of friends, I couldn't even begin to do a count. When you live and work among artists, you are in the most accepting of communities. I hope that Proposition 8 comes to a quick and deserving end.

Ace, for all who may be wondering, was glad to see me, although a bit stand-offish when I first showed up, as if to say "where the hell have you been?" He may have a "hot" nail from his visit from the farrier on Saturday. I noticed a bob during lessons yesterday and Gayle called to say it doesn't show at the walk or slow trot, but he's dead lame when he moves out. Left front hoof, of course. I've called Tim and I hope he can get out to see Ace before leaving for a trip home later this week. Poor Ace.

I haven't done more than load into Lightroom the 1000+ images I took in New Mexico. Most of them were of my friend Melinda riding Vento, the wonder stallion from Brazil, so there'll be heavy editing of the blurry images. Pixels are so much cheaper than film, so I don't skimp on the making images end of things. Melinda rode in an enclosed, indoor arena, so it was slow shutter speed, little depth of field, and high ISO. Not the best combination for great pictures, but I've probably got a few nice images in there. The pictures of her house are quite nice, though. Eventually, I'll put some up here.

We're having a brief bit of autumn out here. It was chilly last night and this morning, but 90 degree temperatures are promised for the end of the week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did

Training for the Out of State Attorneys was scheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday in Albuquerque. Melinda drove me into Santa Fe to pick up my car and then I followed her back to the house and over to her barn to see Vento, her handsome Lusitano stallion. I watched her lesson and took off for the 60 or 70 mile drive to the IBEW building for election protection training.

Despite the fact that I told the folks when I volunteered that I would be staying with a friend near Santa Fe and getting assurances that they would put me somewhere in that county, the envelope I received put me at a school in eastern Albuquerque. In order to get there by 6 a.m. on election day, I would either have to get a hotel room in Albuquerque or leave Melinda's by 4 a.m. I was not happy, but I eventually got someone to say there might be a chance to change assignments after the training was over.

There were 200-300 lawyers in the room. The largest contingencies were from Texas (where there was no chance of Barack Obama winning, so the lawyers went where they might do some good) and California (which was pretty much guaranteed to go for Barack), but there were also lawyers from Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Arizona, Oregon, and Canada. We were told that we should think of ourselves as firemen, and a good day would be one without a fire. We were given our instructions on what to look for and what to do and told to take masking tape and plain paper along with us to cover any t-shirts that couldn't be removed which might have material considered to be "electioneering" and could result in a voter being denied the right to vote.

As I was waiting to see if there was some lawyer who didn't show so I could switch assignments to one closer to my friends, another lawyer was explaining that she was sharing a vehicle with someone who was going to be at a location in Santa Fe and she couldn't get to her spot 35 miles north of Albuquerque. My assignment was five or six miles away from her colleagues, so we were able to switch. I still had to be up early, but not quite as early, and the distance was half of that for my original assignment.

I headed across the street to the Office Depot, where I ran into one of the other lawyers and we decided to share the supplies we were supposed to buy and split them. I suspect he might have needed them more than I did, but I doubt I'll ever find out for sure.

I called Melinda, who told me she had gone into Santa Fe to work at the Obama headquarters and we picked a rondezvous location so we could have dinner in town before going back to her place. We met up with our friend Parris at Tomasito's for good Mexican food which would have been even better if I could have had a margarita, but that wouldn't be a good idea when I had to drive and then get up early Tuesday morning. We got back to the house around 10 and I went to bed as soon as I could prepare things for the next morning.

The alarm went off much too soon and I managed to fall in the dark on my way down to the car. I've got a nice bruise on my shin. The drive to the San Filipe pueblo took about an hour, and as I said in my last post, I had a little trouble finding the exact location, but eventually it all worked out.

Everyone was incredibly friendly and in that I was fortunate. Late in the morning, I got a call from the war room to make sure I was all right because one of the lawyers in another location was threated with arrest for doing what she was legally there to do.

The only real problem of the day was that the vote scanner broke 5 minutes into the election day. I called the war room and about 90 minutes later someone came to fix it. People who voted in the interrim had their ballots sealed and they were scanned at the end of the day after the doors were locked.

My companion for the day was a resident of the pueblo named Deryl. I met a number of members of Deryl's family through the day: his mother, brother, niece and nephew, and aunt. Deryl's got a brother who's served two or three tours of duty in Iraq with the national guard. Deryl's a student at the University of New Mexico where he is majoring in political science and minoring in Indian studies. He used to work in management and burned out, so he's getting his degree and thinking about going to law school. This was his first time working for a campaign. He said that one of his instructors had gotten tickets for students to see Michelle Obama speak and he went and filled out one of the cards which asked for donations of time and money. He decided to volunteer as part of a class he was taking which appeared to be challenging Native American students to overcome the traditional apathy or indiference toward political involvement. Deryl was a non-lawyer volunteer for Voter Protection and he took his work quite seriously. He also took the time to call and text friends and family to make sure they were going to get to the polls to vote before the day was done.

I wound up calling the war room several times during the day. I had to check about the rules for convicted felons who had served their time and parole being able to vote and I called again when we found out that there was someone from the Department of Justice dropping by the polling place. It turned out there were several other Federal observers present inside as well, but I'm still not sure why. HQ was glad to get the information.

Voters came and went fairly steadily throughout the day. There were times of high traffic, but it never took anyone more than 10-15 minutes to get through the process. Food was provided to anyone who dropped by and the workers were kind enough to bring coffee and offer hot dogs to me. As a non-resident of the county, I was not eligible to be in the polling place itself. Unlike people doing electioneering who can't be any closer than 100' of the building, non-partisan voter protection people could be as close as 50'. It was a little difficult to get that close because of parking, but we were within 100' at all times.

Deryl and I spent a lot of time talking about law school. He had a lot of questions about the LSAT, the bar exam, and what it was like in law school. I recommended he read The Paper Chase and One-L. I learned about life on the reservation, which is about 17,500 acres and has a new school and a casino on the other side of I-25 from the main part of the village. It is a "conservative" tribe, meaning they are serious about following tradition and it seemed that almost everyone spoke the native language as well as English. It really helped to pass the day.

One of the other people I met was a young woman, who, like Deryl, was working on her first campaign. Barack Obama had impressed her, so she worked to get her people to register to vote, going door to door in the pueblo to talk to them. She told me that it was hard work, because so many people in the pueblo did not believe that voting didn't really have any effect on their lives or that it would do any good. It was not their way. It was especially not the way of the women who believed that it was the men's place to make these decisions. She believes that things are changing and it is important to make an effort to become involved to have a say in the direction the community will take. She told us that she had been talking to the "grandmas and grandpas" and pointed out that they needed to be concerned about the kind of lives their grand children would have. Then she said that she had gone to the grocery store where she got into a discussion with a clerk about voting and the clerk said that her grandmother had gotten a visit from someone who had so impressed the grandmother with their arguements for voting that the grandmother had announced that she was going to vote for the first time. The girl realized that she was the person who had convinced the grandmother to vote. I said to her "doesn't it make you feel really good to know you've made a difference like that?" and she positively glowed with pride.

Talking to these two young people and seeing the difference they were trying to make in their communities made the entire trip worthwhile. Barack Obama is having the same effect on them that Jack and Bobby Kennedy had on me.

The pueblo has about 1000 registered voters and by the end of the day almost 600 of them had come into vote. The people there were ecstatic. It was by far the largest voter turnout they had ever had for anything. It was clear to me from the beginning of the day that Barack Obama was the candidate of choice for most of the voters and the only electioneering I saw was for Obama. The Republican challengers were in the poll for only a small part of the day--they really didn't have much to do and, apparently, were no where near as prepared as the Democratic challenger was.

My friend Melinda, meanwhile, spent the entire day canvassing voters in Santa Fe. Parris joined her for the afternoon. Just as they were getting ready to head to Parris' place to watch the returns, panic errupted in Obama headquarters in Santa Fe because they thought they had under-performed in voting and there was this frantic thought that they needed to get more voters out to meet the 75% turnout they thought they needed to win the state. As it happened, many, many people had voted early and the results for New Mexico were called for Obama very soon after the polls closed at 7 p.m.

By the time I got to Parris' and George R.R. Martin's house around 8, virtually all of New England had been called for Obama. Then Pennsylvania was called. And then Ohio. As soon as Iowa was called, I called my sister and thanked her for keeping her Iowa registration and going to Iowa to vote. I watched my former home state of Virginia called for Obama, courtesy of that communistic Northern Virginia, not the real Virginia. At 9 p.m. our time, when the polls had closed everywhere, MSNBC called the election for Obama and we drank champaign to celebrate the coming of age of our country and the election of an articulate and smart President. My friend Karen, who spent the past week working on the election in Las Vegas (something like 1500 lawyers went to Nevada to be part of election protection there), called me to share the moment. It was just great, after the disappointments of 2000 and 2004.

We've spent the past 24 hours giggling and weeping. Melinda alternates between saying "we did it" and "I can't believe we did it." When we went shopping in Santa Fe today, people couldn't stop talking about what a great day yesterday was. Melinda kept pointing out that I had come out from L.A. to work on the election and people thanked me for what I consider to be a very small role in a very big effort. There is so much work to be done, so much damage to repair, but Barack Obama is an inspirational leader who has the potential to be this crisis' FDR. I have great hope and I am so glad that I took the time to be a part of one incredible day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day Three in New Mexico

I can't stop weeping, I'm so proud of what happened today in my country.

I'm also exhausted. I left Melinda's at about 4:50 a.m. to go to San Filipe Pueblo, located about 50 miles from where I am staying. It was pitch black when I left, and so dark when I got to the reservation that I wasn't sure I was going in the right direction. I found the building I was told to go to, but there was no indication that was the polling place. A car stopped and the driver rolled down the window. She let me know the location had been moved to another building and asked me to follow her.

The gate to the building wasn't opened until well after 6, so my first call into the voter protection war room was at 6:15 a.m. The second call was when the place finally did open. The third was when the voting scanner machine stopped working after only a few votes. It took about an hour and a half, but the scanner did get repaired and the 75 or so votes which were cast in the interim were scanned at the end of the day. The turn-out was far in excess of any prior election at the pueblo and it was quite clear that Barack Obama was the candidate of choice for most of the voters.

I'm too tired now to write about my fellow voter protection volunteer for the thirteen hours we stood outside the polling place and about the warm and friendly people I met. And now I'm going to wrap myself in the thought that intelligence and competence is no longer a crime in this country and that elections can be won on the issues and I am going to sleep.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Day 2 in New Mexico

I'm tired, having driven to and from Albuquerque today for my training as an out of state attorney heading for the New Mexico polls.

Much to my chagrin, I was assigned a location in the eastern part of Albuquerque, about 90 miles from where I am staying. I told the folks in advance that I'd be staying near Santa Fe and I was told I'd be assigned there. No such luck. Fortunately, I was able to trade my assignment with another lawyer who was here with still another lawyer and the two of them were sharing a car. His assignment was about 8-10 miles away from the one I originally had whereas hers was half way to Santa Fe. That's easier for me to get to by 6 a.m., but I'll be up at 4 a.m. to pull that off. Hence, I am on my way to bed.

But not before reminding you all that every vote does count and the stakes are just to high to stand idly by. The country is in a big mess and it will take a lot of work by a lot of people to change things for the better. Go vote, and get someone else to the polls as well.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Arrival in the Land of Enchantment

I just noticed my computer is on California time.

I got to my destination in New Mexico right on time this afternoon. I'm stunned that the train was actually early getting into Albuquerque, so there was a long lay over for folks who wanted to go out and shop. I figured I'd be back down tomorrow for my training, so I gave it a pass and enjoyed a little more quiet time in my roomette. We got to Lamy where I discovered I had no cell service to call my friend to pick me up. Fortunately, the pay phone did work and Melinda came and got me a little while later.

The weather was gorgeous today. When we drove to Union Station last night, it was raining. In fact, it rained most of yesterday in L.A. There was a storm early Saturday morning, but the rain managed to stop and hold back so I could have my lesson on Ace. I was told that water came down in sheets in Chatsworth around 5:30 a.m. There was less rain in Woodland Hills until the afternoon, when poor Muffin was asleep outside and stayed laying out in the rain until Len went out and literally had to drag her inside. It was so sad. We bundled her up in a towel and an old bath robe to dry her off.

My train left L.A. at 6:45. I had dinner at 7:30 and was back in my roomette by about 8:45 and decided to go to sleep. It's very relaxing to sleep on the train, listening to the sound of the rails. At one point I woke up and looked out the window--the stars were so bright, I could see them without my glasses. I think we were near Flagstaff or Winslow. Lots of empty space with no streetlights to obscure the heavens.

We crossed over into New Mexico at breakfast time and I watched Gallup go by the window. I've stopped there to fill up my tank going west a couple of times. It's a lot more relaxing to let someone else do the driving.

Melinda and I went into Santa Fe for dinner. The restaurant was pretty empty. It's between summer tourist season and ski season, so things are quite quiet. I'm hoping to get to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum on Wednesday, which I've never had a chance to visit. And I'm planning to get to the Nambe outlet--I love Nambe serving pieces.

But tomorrow, I got to Albuquerque to get trained for my duties on Tuesday. Melinda's going to be at Obama HQs in Santa Fe on Tuesday and we are planning to gather to watch the returns after the polls close with some other friends. We're hoping for a celebration, not a wake.

Vote. It does count.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I hear it is snowing in the North East, something I can remember from growing up in the Catskills. It is no fun dressing up in a costume only to have to put on a snowsuit to keep warm while going door to door. In California, I can just watch the mountains. Snow as backdrop, the way I like it.

To all of you who actually see trick or treaters at your door, have a fine All Hallow's Eve and don't eat too much leftover candy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shrinking the "To Be Read" Pile by My Bed

I finished two books in the past two days. I tend to read when I eat meals alone and sometimes I get in a page or two before I sleep. If I am intent upon finishing something, it gets dragged along with me everywhere.

Len got me a pre-publication copy of our friend Neil Gaiman's new novel The Graveyard Book and it's been waiting to be read for several months. Lately, Neil's been touring all over the place reading it for charity. It's aimed at a far younger audience than I am, but I've always enjoyed good YA and kiddy lit. In this book, a toddler escapes the slaughter of his family by crawling out of the house into a nearby cemetery which has been turned into a park. The residents take him in, name him Nobody Owens, and raise him. In the process he learns a few good skills from the ghosts and other denizens. He becomes quite resourceful in protecting himself from the killer who needs to finish the job he started at the beginning of the book.

It's a perfect little book to read for Halloween. I especially liked a short exchange which was a shout-out to Alan Moore's Watchmen, a riff on my husband's favorite line from the graphic novel: "you don't understand, they are all in here with ME." I think it is debuting quite high on the best seller lists, so it isn't hard to find a copy for an avid young reader's trick or treat bag.

The other book I just finished is Travels with Charley:In Search of America by John Steinbeck. This is one of the books I picked up in Salinas at the Steinbeck Center back in August. I'd been slowly picking at it, but got a rush to the end this week. I am profoundly struck by the timeliness of the book, which is far more than a travelogue of Steinbeck's months driving around the United States in the autumn of 1960. His northern journey took him to a number of places near those I traveled to in my first trip across country by car in 1974, where we took a month to get from New York to Stanford University (one of Steinbeck's own stomping grounds.)

Steinbeck's description of the sameness of American cuisine is magnified today, and I can only imagine what he would think of the saturation of chain restaurants throughout the country. He'd probably really like the locatarian movement. I loved reading of his decision to go to Yellowstone National Park, even though he mostly avoided the National Parks on his trip as "too touresty," and how he had to beat a hasty retreat when Charley went wild over the sight and smell of bears. I so related to visiting his sisters in Salinas to get his absentee ballot and how outraged they were that he was voting for John Kennedy. When they told him his father would be turning in his grave, Steinbeck told them that if his father were still living, he too would have changed parties. He met wonderful characters, like the actor, and frightening characters, like the racist hitchhiker in the South. Throughout it all is the wonderful personality of Charley, an older standard poodle, who kept him company during the trip.

I also had a light-bulb moment when I realized what a familiar Norman Rockwell painting was all about. It's a picture of a little black girl in her go-to-church best clothing, with faceless adults walking with her. She's got to be the little girl in the part of the book where Steinbeck made a point of going to New Orleans to see the horrible white women who were daily screaming obscenities at small children on their way into an integrated public school.

I remember the news stories of the integration of the southern universities, but this slipped by my notice in the copies of Life and Look that I read in my grandfather's barber shop. Or maybe somebody hid those issues from me, because it is very disturbing to the adult me to read about these atrocities against what Steinbeck described as a "mite" of a girl, actions which would have given me nightmares when I was almost as young as she. Thus I learned of the "Cheerleaders" who Steinbeck derided as a group of people (to use a later phrase) looking for their fifteen minutes of fame, who would scream at this little girl and the little white boy and his father who also attempted to enter the school and then run home to watch themselves on television.

If you do a Google search of "New Orleans Integration Cheerleaders" you can read about this protracted battle, about a child who was afraid to eat her lunch (teachers found her sandwiches stuffed in her locker) because one of the women would hiss at her each day "we're going to poison you so you choke to death," and about white people who lost their jobs or apartments and had their property destroyed because they attempted to break the blockade and send their children to integrated schools. It is a shameful part of our history.

Reading about this brought the recent actions of Sarah Palin and John McCain into sharp focus. Their campaign has reached back to pull those same kinds of disgusting actions into today's world. They are the Cheerleaders, urging the people on who people yell "kill him" or "terrorist" or indicate that Arabs or Muslims are an acceptable object of hate, fear, or loathing in order to block Barack Obama's bid to be President. We are being forced backward to a time better recognized for the evil it generated than as some kind of rosy picture of white America. Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. Those who are taught history by unreliable teachers are even worse off.

Despite this, I have great hope that next week we will elect an intelligent, thoughtful, gracious man to be President of the United States, which would impress the John Steinbeck of Travels with Charley.

Vote. And volunteer to get other people out to vote. It isn't too late.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yes We Carve

My friend Gillian held her annual pumpkin-carving party this afternoon. With the temperatures as high as they've been this week, it is unlikely that the pumpkins will make it to Sunday unless they are refrigerated.
As you can see, we've got some talented carvers in the group. Lisa Klink did the cat on the left, a bas relief which left a layer of pumpkin to diffuse the light of the candle. Craig Miller did the nice bats on the right.Indiana Jones, done by Nicole Dubuc, was one one of the most complex carvings of the day, although the portrait of Darth Vader you can see in the center of the bottom row in the group photograph was also impressive.
In past years, more people have done double-sided carvings like this graveyard with ghosts projecting from the back of the pumpkin that Genny Dazzo made. This may have been the only pumpkin with projecting images this year.

Three of us got into the spirit of the election by using the patterns from to produce pumpkins with the Obama for President logo. It was a great idea, and, as Gillian said, we won't have any problem identifying what year the carvings were done.
The pumpkin in the center on the bottom row of this last photograph was an original design by my husband, Len Wein. He likes designing his own and does a great job with it. In past years, he's created a Swamp Thing and a Batman.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Absentee Ballots Are Counted in California

Last night at dinner with Paul Levitz, the publisher of DC Comics, we were having a discussion about absentee ballots. One person at the dinner table insisted that absentee ballots aren't counted in California unless the election is close. This is simply not true, according to the California Voter Foundation:

Will my vote by mail ballot actually be counted?

All Vote by Mail ballots that are returned to county election offices by 8 pm on election day are counted. After the 2000 election, a popular radio talk show host suggested on air that absentee ballots in California are not counted unless the contest is close, and unfortunately this piece of misinformation ended up being repeated to the point where many people became concerned that their absentee votes had not been counted.

All votes legally cast in this state are counted, regardless of whether they were cast at the polling place or submitted via mail through the vote by mail voting process. It may take a little longer to incorporate all of the vote by mail votes into the final election results, but they are all counted.

Vote by mail ballots must be returned to county election offices and received by those offices by the time polls close (8 pm) on Election Day in order to be counted. Late-arriving vote by mail ballots are not counted (just as you would not be able to vote if you arrived at your polling place at 9 or 10 pm).

Don't let anyone talk you out of voting by saying your vote won't count. It does.

And while I'm on the topic of the election, I hope everybody heard Colin Powell say on Meet the Press what I'd like to shout from the mountains every time Sarah Palin or John McCain whips their troops into a xenophobic frenzy:

“ ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no. That’s not America. Is something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”

It should not matter if a candidate is a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Budhist, Catholic, or atheist. "Under God" was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance (which had its beginnings during the Spanish-American War) until the McCarthy era. There is no religious test in the Constitution for any office, though it seems to take a long time to break down that barrier in public life. Just ask David Levy Yulee, Lewis Charles Levin, Louis Brandeis, Jack Kennedy, and Keith Maurice Ellison.

Pizza for the Horses Tonight at Shakey's

Horse and Pony Rescue Ranch, Inc. (HAPRRI) is having a benefit to help pay for the board and feed for several rescue horses, including Montana and baby Willow, about whom I've written earlier.

The benefit is tonight, October 22, at Shakey's Pizza, 10340 Reseda Boulevard in Northridge, California from 5:30 to 9:30.

I've got a flyer that I'm supposed to take with me for it, but I know that members of Family Equestrian Connection will be at the restaurant before I can get there with flyers for people who show up. I'm pretty sure that HAPRRI gets a percentage of the sales during the evening.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood (and I know some of the folks who read my blog are in the neighborhood), please drop on by to support the horses. Ask for a flyer from the folks who are handing them out and say I sent you.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Friends

One of the coolest things about the Internet is finding people you think you've lost. Last year, I wrote a piece about a childhood friend who had moved away when we were in junior high school. I hadn't seen her since the summer we graduated from our different high schools. She found the post, which mused about her birthday, and got in touch with me, which was just wonderful. I hope we don't lose touch again.

I've had cousins find me because of this blog, as well. Some of the others (and I've got a lot of them, rather like the character in My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding) follow what's going on in my life because of it. I wish more of them were on Facebook, which I'm finding to be a great way to know what my nieces are up to (most of the nephews aren't on it.)

Earlier this year, people with whom I graduated from high school put together a list serve over on Yahoo. This is in anticipation of the momentous graduation anniversary we've got coming up next year. Cautious, because my high school memories resemble nothing less than a 1960s version of Mean Girls, I signed on. It's worked out just fine, even though discussing politics would be a remarkably bad idea. (In all fairness, I had a great time going to three reunions, starting with the 15th, since time heals most wounds, but I haven't made it back to one in a long time.) The best thing about the list serve is that someone decided to get in touch with people who moved away before we graduated, so, last week I had dinner with a different friend who left during junior high when her parents moved away.

Felice and I had a lot in common back then, because we were both of the bookworm variety of child. We've got a lot in common now: she wound up going to law school as a second career, just as I did. She lives near Buffalo, which I would consider a prison sentence during the winter, but I do envy the fact that her house is on three acres. Just imagine how much Ace could enjoy that in the summer. The lake effect would kill the benefit every February.

We reminisced about the Ogden Free Library, our favorite place in my home town. She talked about how her mother had to go to the librarian to explain that she was entitled to look at all of the adult books--there was some sort of age limit for the adult sections. I can't remember what it was, but I do remember that I got past it as well. When you read at a high school level in second or third grade, such limitations are criminal.

Felice's husband is also a reader and a quote from Douglas Adams played a part in their courtship. We discussed a lot of books and writers over dinner, many of whom have become friends of mine over the year--either because I photographed them or because I was the lawyer for the Science Fiction Writers of America for so many years. Felice and Keith are planning to come to L.A. to attend the Nebula Awards, which will be great fun for them and I really look forward to seeing them again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Prophetic Fake News

Thanks to my dear friend Neil Gaiman for mentioning this January 17, 2001 article from The Onion, "Bush: Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Over." Click the link and read it, even though it may well make you cry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hofstra on the Map

Like many people of my age and older, I first heard of Hofstra University when I listened to Bill Cosby's routines about going to Temple University and playing football. Hofstra would beat Temple 900 to nothing. It's a very funny routine and can be found on one of Cosby's first L.P.s (remember those?)

The Hofstra I attended was no sports powerhouse. The days of football glory were behind them and the days of basketball greatness could only be seen in a crystal ball. I went there because they had an experimental program called New College, where I could earn my B.A. in three years. I was in a great hurry to get to law school. So was most of my first year class. As those of you who've read my blog know, I took a few detours before entering law school 20 years after I started Hofstra. I did, however, get my B.A. in three years at New College.

Tonight, Hofstra takes the stage as the location of the third debate in this presidential season. I'm looking forward to exterior views of the campus, which has changed a lot since I went there. The photograph above, which I found online, is the Unispan, the foot bridge that connected the north campus, with its community center and dormatories, to the south campus where the library and most classrooms were when I attended. I hear there are now two of them.

Robert Davi (whose time at Hofstra overlapped mine) used to sing opera on the Unispan because of the great accoustics when it was empty. The place was pretty much deserted on weekends when I went there because so many of the resident students were from Long Island and would go home on the weekends. I rather liked the quiet.

The law school was founded right after I graduated and quickly rose to national prominence, but before that, the school had a noted theatre program and graduates who went on to stellar careers in entertainment: Francis Ford Coppola, Lainie Kazan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Walken, and Susan Sullivan. Overlapping my time were Peter Friedman (who was the star of the theatre department my first two years at Hofstra), Mike Starr, and Ron Kovic. The founder of Digital Domain, Scott Ross, was in my first year class at New College (he had a lot more hair then) where all 150 of us took lecture classes together in the morning. Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, is a more recent graduate.

I spent a lot of time with theatre majors, many of whom did reside in the dorms and I was good friends with a theatre tech major named Arturo Porazzi, whose name I often see attached to Broadway productions. Dinner with the theatre majors was always a lot of fun and the shows at Hofstra were professional-level. Hofsta holds the oldest college Shakespeare festivals in the country and I saw Peter Friedman star as Hamlet and later in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. There was a great production of Richard III a couple of years later. My first year, Spectrum (the musical comedy production) did A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and my third year it put on Patience. The Hofstra production of Three Penny Opera went on to win many awards in a national college theatre competition.

I occasionally run into fellow Hofstra Alumni, but rarely run into people who went to New College. My good friend Karen is one of the great exceptions. We became friends after meeting at an interview when I was looking for a clerkship during law school. We graduated together, but she was a year ahead of me. I recognized her name because of her nick-name. We had actually taken an elective class together, but we travelled in different circles.

So tonight, I have a choice of watching the debate at home or heading over the hill to Century City to watch the debate with a group of Hofstra Alumni at an accounting firm. I was rather enthusiastic about this until I realized it would probably not be an Obama crowd like the Al Franken party was. Despite our anti-war protests back in the late 1960s, Nassau County was Republican territory. New College contained most of the long-haired, hippie-freak, anti-war contingent. Hofstra proper had a strong ROTC program and a big Greek contingent when I was there. New College students were, and alumni still are, insistent upon referring to themselves as "New College" as opposed to "main campus" students.

I just read about a huge reception Richard Nixon got at the Nassau Coliseum in 1972--the Coliseum borders Hofstra to the West--and about the 5000 doners who attended a fund raiser right on the campus for Bob Dole during his run for President. Democratic voter registration has just exceeded Republican registration by a few hundred voters in Nassau County, and local Republican party officials try to downplay that fact.

I think I might be better off going to a non-political alumni event another time and looking for a Move-On party here in the Valley tonight.

Fire Season Part 4

We got an unexpected holiday yesterday when the president closed down the school at 10 a.m. I got out about 11:30, caught some lunch, and went to check on Ace. Gayle had moved Ace back to his own barn because the air was so much better than it had been the day before and there were no close hot spots from the fire. In fact, once I got off campus, I thought the air was so much better than it had been on Monday that I couldn't figure out why they had closed down school. (AQMD had rated the air really bad, but gave an all-clear for Wednesday.)

I could see smoke occasionally curl up from behind the ridges, but the worst of the fire had moved on to Simi Valley to the west. Ace was settled in with clean water and I gave him his snack before I left. His meal buckets were already for today. We won't be riding for a few days--time to let the air and his lungs clear out. The vet Gayle consulted said the horses will begin coughing, which shouldn't worry us unless it is accompanied by fever. The coughing will get rid of the crap in their lungs, since we couldn't find horsey dust masks to put over their noses. I wish we could have gotten those goggle masks which are put on race horses. The fly masks don't help much, but they were better than nothing for keeping goop out of their eyes.

The wind is down to nothing this morning, but it promises to be very hot with humidity less than 10%, so the red flag warnings are still up. The Senson/Porter Ranch fire is 20% contained, but I can't see any smoke on the San Fernando Valley side of the mountains. This is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fire Season, Part 3

Ace had a lot to say about his current living arrangement and kept calling to me when I left the barn last night. The winds keep shifting, but so far things are north and way west of where he is. The air, however, is a different story. I wish there was a mask we could put over their noses to keep them from breathing in this smoke.

I had no trouble getting to him last night, even though the news report talked about heavy street traffic. I went to his boarding facility and picked up his Strongid and snack, which I took to him and then cleaned out his stall. It's a good thing he's gotten used to the goats at FEC--he hated the Boer goats when he was at Pierce and now two of them are in the pen next to him. Ally, the Arabian filly that boarded near his stall at Ranch at the Falls was in the Arena at FEC--that barn had a mandatory evacuation yesterday morning. Fire was my big fear the entire time Ace lived there, because it was right on the hills and there have been bad fires there in the recent past. If the FEC horses have to evacuate, they will be going to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, because there is no place closer with space, including here at Pierce.

The air is not as bad as it was yesterday morning, nor as good as it was when I left work yesterday. I didn't hear the winds pick up until early this morning, but they were bad up in the hills. In addition to the uncontained Porter Ranch fire, the flames moved east to Granada Hills and one of my co-workers discovered the house where she rents a room was being evacuated as she started to come to work at 5. I think she's happy that most of her personal property is in storage somewhere in the south part of L.A. She says she grabbed both of the first edition books she had that were signed by Bill and Hillary Clinton and got out.

Len and I discussed where the artwork is that will pay for a new house (above the insurance pay-off.) My computer and hard drives where I keep my digital images is packed and ready to go. If we had to evacuate, I'd also try to get the four drawers of the file cabinet housing my 20 years of portraits of science fiction writers and artists into boxes and into the car. They are my most valuable assets, much more valuable than my saddles, which can be replaced. Harlan Ellison called last night to let us know we can go to his place, along with Michael and our "two dogs." Harlan missed the memo that there are three of them again.

We're going to be all right. Our house is going to be all right. There's 7 miles between us and the fires. It's Ace's lungs which may not be all right.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fire Season Part 2

What a difference a few hours makes. Porter Ranch is up in smoke, very close to where Ace is. I'm having my trainer move him to be with her horses, in case of an evacuation. I got a call saying they could bring him to Pierce, but I don't want to do that--yet. The news reports have the fire skirting Chatsworth and heading down into the canyons on the way to Malibu. The evacuation area is north and west of where Ace is--and includes the barn he was at 18 months ago. I'll get to him in about two hours, unless traffic is blocked. I'm a lot more stressed than I was this morning.

Fire Season

The winds are hitting 65 mph and the air is moving from north east to south west, so we are getting the residue from the fires burning in Hansen Dam. Hansen Dam is a big horse area in Los Angeles, but I think the horses are being evacuated to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, which is probably six miles south of the fires.

At the moment, Pierce College is really in no shape to accept horses because of the construction going on by the stables to put in the new arenas. The school horse lots are also under construction, so the school horses are taking up the 18 stalls of the mare motel. I just heard my boss indicate that there's a new flare-up somewhere, so despite the construction, we may be getting evacuated animals before the day is out.

Right now, the north west corner of the valley where Ace is still has clear air. The wind direction is still to the east . When I went up to the Performing Arts Building parking lot this morning, there was a clear division between smoky air and clean air, but it was creeping westward. I won't be able to upload pictures until later.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Just Got My Life Back

I have finished my tax return duties for 2007. My husband will go to the accountant tomorrow. I faxed off the numbers today.

I need to find a way to make Ace a deductible dependent. I guess I should start licensing pictures somewhere. Then he can be a prop.

Or my friend has to sell her screenplay where the horse is based on him and he can take up acting. I could be a stage mom.

In the mean time, I can spend hours with him this weekend without guilt. Hooray!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Molly and Willow Get a New Home

I'm taking a class in multimedia storytelling which is supposed to teach me how to use Final Cut Pro, Sound Slides, Flash and DreamWeaver. So far, I'm not totally getting Final Cut Pro, which tells me I should sign up for the class which is dedicated to FCP in the Spring. Or I need to go out and buy a good book. Or I need to have my friend Becky, the professional film editor (she worked on Spider-man 2 & 3, a couple of the X-men films, and a whole lot more), come by with her equipment to give me lessons. The first project is due next week and I'm on shaky ground with the technology, I'm afraid.

I did go out and shoot my first story for the Sound Slide presentation. My group is doing a multimedia package on the impact of the economy, and, as I've mentioned before, I'm looking to cover animals being neglected and losing their owners.

My trainer Gayle started a 501(c)(3) horse rescue charity many years ago called Horse and Pony Rescue, Inc. (H.A.P.R.I.) They got a call about some badly neglected horses a couple of weeks ago and one of Gayle's other students, Scott, decided to take on a thoroughbred mare and her three month old filly. Molly--whose name has now been changed to Montana--and Willow arrived at Davis Ranch on Saturday. The filly is beautiful, despite having caught her leg in something at the place from which they were rescued. The mare is emaciated, but in much better shape than she had been when first rescued about a month ago. The interim holding ranch managed to put about two hundred pounds on her, but there's a long way to go.This is what Molly/Montana's backbone and ribs looked like when she arrived on Saturday, after two weeks of good food. She was giving everything she had to feed her baby. Apparently, the place that owned her was feeding the horses Pig Chow. From the description, it sounds like the place was the horse equivalent of a back yard puppy mill.

Scott built a really nice 24 x 30 stall for the horses which will be divided into two 12 x 30 stalls when the baby is weaned. They will be well cared for by the entire Family Equestrian Connection. I'll be taking follow-up photographs of the horses to show how they progress. I'm also supposed to be setting up a news and color blog as part of the class (as if I need to be writing another blog) and I'll post the name as soon as I come up with one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Political Party

Like most people, I'm looking forward to the train wreck which is coming up in the form of the Vice-presidential Debates. It won't be quite as much fun as the one I went to for the first Presidential Debate. In the photograph above, comedian and political commentator Al Franken, candidate for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, addresses the crowd at a back-yard fundraiser in Los Angeles last Friday night. I saw several people I recognized and even a few that I know, like screen writer Josh Olson (A History of Violence.) Al was planning to do commentary during commercials, except there were no commercials. He did have some remarks at the end, before running off to House of Blues where Dan Ackroyd was having a big-ticket benefit for the campaign.

If you look closely at the photograph below, you can see SNL alum Laraine Newman next to the man watching television. Julia Sweeney was also in attendance. That's Al Franken sitting at my feet watching Jim Leher on the television. At one point, Mr. Leher was absolutely struck dumb by something that John McCain said. I wish I could remember what it was. I have fond memories of photographing Jim Leher in my studio in Virginia for an ad campaign more than 23 years ago. He was very nice, and gave me a lot more than the 10 minutes I was told I would have with him.
I'm hoping the moderator on Thursday night asks Sarah Palin about Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

While a number of the people at the fund raiser were disappointed that Barack Obama didn't lay into McCain and were very unhappy that he kept acknowledging points where he agreed with McCain, the polls indicate it was a winning strategy. Obama looked presidential and McCain looked rude and angry. It was as if McCain mentally pictured Obama as the enemy, wouldn't look at him, wouldn't acknowledge him, in order to eviserate him. No wonder no one has nominated him for Mr. Congeniality.


For those of you who asked, here's a picture of Dexter, our new golden retriever. He was three in May and we've had him for all of two weeks. He's made himself right at home. He has the world's longest tongue.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Mexico in November?

I got e-mail from the Obama campaign yesterday asking me to be one of their lawyers on the ground in New Mexico for the election.  I've got a place to stay, and my friend Melinda has even offered me the use of her car as well as her guest room.  

I'm thinking about taking the train.  I like the idea of 18 hours of solitude.  Of course, the train is no longer a way to be out of contact.  Cell phones have changed all of that.  The train is cheaper than driving, but I haven't checked airfares yet.  It's a bit more than a two hour flight, which is obviously increased by the amount of time you've got to spend in security theatre.

The other thing I've got to do is make arrangements for an absentee ballot.  I've never done that before.

Len's a bit disappointed that I won't be home because he wanted to have an election return party.  I suggested he'd be just as happy if he went to someone else's party for the company.  Of course, we'd like different results than we saw the last time around.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tina Fey Strikes Again

Tina Fey's Saturday Night Live turn as Sarah Palin in the interview with Katie Couric was hysterical and frightening. Hysterical because it was spot on. Frightening because most of it was verbatim from the actual interview. Just how scary is that?

I see a guest star Emmy in Tina Fey's future.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Weekend Plans and Television

My spousal unit Len Wein is being interviewed at noon at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday. It should be a fun day. It sounds like a smaller version of the L.A. Times Festival of Books which is held in the spring. He'll be on stage at the Comics, Sci-Fi, and Beyond Pavillion from 12-1 ("Watching Len Wein: In Conversation with the Book Editor and Video Game Writer of Watchmen"), and then at the Golden Apple Comics booth for an autographing session. He'll be followed on stage by Ray Bradbury. There seems to be a fair number of celebrities in attendance, among them Adrienne Barbeau, Robert Wagner, Heather Thomas, Ed Begley, Jr., and Laraine Newman. Len's connection with Adrienne Barbeau and Heather Thomas? Both actresses have been in Swamp Thing productions, Barbeau in film, Thomas on the television series.

I'm going with my camera and audio recorder.

Sunday night, the Amazing Race returns to television, so we'll be gathering up the usual gang to have dinner and cheer. Rumor has it that at least one of the teams may have someone from the science fiction or comic book fan community.

The season premier of Big Bang Theory did not disappoint. We were particularly delighted when Sheldon started listing his favorite X-men in order, starting with Wolverine, who then got shifted to second place by Professor X and then to third place by Nightcrawler coming in second. Since Len created both Wolverine and Nightcrawler, we considered it a winning night. Sheldon had also called Hallie Barry his fifth favorite Catwoman, putting her behind every other actess who has played Catwoman on television or screen: Julie Newmar, Michelle Pfiffer, Ertha Kitt and Lee Merriweather. There was also a wonderful riff early on where Sheldon explains that he couldn't ever be Green Lantern, but with enough money (it was put much more creatively), he could be the Batman. When Leonard questioned that, Sheldon did a scary impersonation of Christian Bale's "I'm Batman." We love this show.

Monday, September 22, 2008

No Wonder I Can't Get the Taxes Done

The accountant called again. I'm sure I can get the 2007 taxes done if we'd just clear two full days to finish with Len's receipts.

It was a pretty packed weekend. We went to the County Fair on Saturday (my legs still hurt), signed Dexter's adoption papers on Sunday afternoon (picture to appear on the rescue website soon), went to see Janis Ian in concert at McCabe's Sunday night, and stayed up to watch the Emmy(R) Awards when we got home (much better on TiVo when you can zip past commercials and the gags laying eggs.) Tucked in were two riding lessons (one where I stayed glued to the saddle when Ace dropped his rear end about a foot to spin and spook) and communication with my farrier, who managed to do Ace's feet when I couldn't be at the barn. It may be the very first time I haven't been present when my boy got his pedicure. He was just fine without me, I hear.

Janis' concert was just great. She's telling stories from the autobiography between songs, which means she's doing a lot more talking than I've seen her do in the past, but it makes for a most intimate evening. McCabe's is a very small venue--it seats about 150 people in packed quarters. Two hours before show time, it was a display room for instruments. I think they've got a magic closet somewhere to store the guitars while chairs take their places. We arrived early to pick up our tickets, give Janis hugs, and go to eat dinner. Janis suggested Lares, a Mexican place about two blocks closer to the ocean than McCabes.

It turned out I had actually been in Lares once before: Alexa Price-Whelan, daughter of the great science fiction illustrator Michael Whelan and his wife Audrey Price, wanted to throw a surprise 25th wedding anniversary for her parents a few years back and we spent a day checking out potential locations. Lares was one of them. I can report the food was fantastic.

I picked up copies of both the autobiography and the double CD to give as Christmas or birthday presents for friends and Janis personalized them all for me. It's nice to get my shopping done early.

I did not intend to watch the Emmy Awards, but I got sucked in by the train wreck that was the opening and Jeremy Piven's dig at it when he picked up his award for supporting actor in Entourage, a show that plays quite well out here but I can't imagine where the audience is outside of L.A. With HBO or Showtime, it might not matter. I loved every one of Tina Fey's acceptance speeches for 30 Rock. She's an amazing writer. It was great to see Martin Sheen's pitch to get out the vote and Tommy Smother's speech upon receiving an Emmy he should have gotten 40 years ago. How far we've come and how little we've advanced in so many ways.

It really pissed me off when Kirk Ellis, the scriptor for John Adams, was cut off during his acceptance speech for best writer of a miniseries. I guess if you aren't also an actor, what you say doesn't matter. Tina Fey's line about how saying you're a writer is a great way of getting rid of people at a party may work in many places, but not at one of our soirees. In our house, writers are stars.

This weekend reminded me of what a great life I've got--pretty much what I would have dreamed of living when I was one of the "ugly duckling girls" that Janis' At Seventeen refers to. I've been lucky enough to meet, and sometimes become friends with, people whose books I would read or whom I would watch on television while I was growing up. The first time I watched the Emmy Awards and saw someone I knew on the show was around 20 years ago when my friend George R.R. Martin was working on Beauty and the Beast. Over the years, the show has become more like a visit to a book store: know her, photographed him, had her to dinner on Thanksgiving, saw him at a party. Last night, we saw Gary Owens sitting near the front of the stage before he did his reprieve of his announcer role from Laugh In. I remember the night Gary had to convince my then 9 year old son that he really was "Powered Toast Man" at a party at Larry Niven's house and the night that Gary had dinner with Len and I at a CSU Northridge event at the Radford Studios Lot. Watching Sally Field reminded me of the time I photographed her and got 3/5 of the top half of the Washington Post Style Section to the writer's one column. A print hangs in my office. Alan Alda was only there in clips, but his photograph is also over my desk from another shoot for the Post. There's a letter from Tom Hanks in my filing cabinet, graciously declining my invitation to be the keynote speaker at the 2001 Nebula Awards, but with a message to be delivered to the assembled audience. Tom Bergeron turned out to be a fan of Len's work when I photographed him at What's My Line Live on Stage a couple of years ago--we've been fans of his since he did a morning television show back in the 1990s and during his stint on Hollywood Squares. The Mary Tyler Moore Show clip referred to Lou Grant, but I had a wonderful night once at Harlan Ellison's house watching Ed Asner and Harlan trying to outdo each other with insults. It would have made Don Rickles proud.

Len is a voting memeber of the TV Academy. I hope that one of these days we'll get to go to the party, but only if Ellen Degeneris or someone genuinely funny and sharp is the host. Last year should have told them that "reality show hosts" is a bad idea. Last night should have put to rest the idea that what they say on their own shows isn't scripted by a writer. It was pretty embarassing all round. Jeff Probst's dimples get him through a lot, but Heidi Klum? Give me a break.

Maybe if they didn't waste time with these multiple "hosts," writers would be able to give their acceptance speeches in full. For those of you who missed it, Kirk Ellis praised the Age of Adams as a "period in our history when articulate men articulated complex thoughts in complete sentences." Bravo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I Need a Commission

Alex Ross is one of the great comic book artists. His paintings for covers and pin ups are spectacular. He's done some wonderful Superman art. He worked with my friend Kurt Busiek on Marvels and Astro City. He even did the art for the Oscars(R) several years ago. The hot item for all of us liberals at Comicon International this year was a tee shirt with art called "Obama for Change." Connie Willis, Melinda Snodgrass, and I all went home with them.

We've got some peculiar rules at work, so I've been reluctant to wear it, but I wanted to show it to two of my co-workers. Since it's so cold in the office, I figured I could keep it covered up with my shawl, which I did. I had to come up with the contact information for Graphitti Designs when I showed my colleagues the shirt and Graphitti got several orders today. Here's the artwork:I admire the fact that Alex refused to do John McCain as a superhero, although I hear that IDW Publishing is doing superhero books of both Obama and McCain this fall.

Animal Rescue in a Depressed Economy

If anyone in my part of Southern California is working with a horse or dog rescue program, I'd love to have you get in touch. I'm supposed to be doing an audio slide show due on October 7 for the multimedia storytelling class I'm taking and I've decided to do a piece on how the economy is having an adverse effect on our animals. I intend to get in touch with the shelter up in Santa Clarita which had to take in the horses from the rescue place that wasn't feeding or watering them and the people at the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue have told me that they are getting animals in more quickly than they can get them adopted because of the economy. I'd also like to talk to someone who runs a boarding facility where people have just walked away from their horses, which I hear is going on a lot. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Party Planning

It's official: Janis Ian will be my Toastmistress for the 2009 Nebula Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles on April 25. SFWA sent out a press release this week. She was the first person I contacted when I was put in charge of next year's awards, and she agreed to it immediately. She loves science fiction and it is as big a thrill for her to do it as it is for us to have her.

Janis is in L.A. for a few days, appearing at the Studio City branch of the L.A. Public Library tonight at 7 p.m. as part of their Distinguished Speakers series. It's free, but space is limited. She's signing her autobiography at Book Soup in West Hollywood at 2 on Saturday and is doing a concert at McCabe's in West Los Angeles on Sunday evening (which is sold out.) Her tour schedule can be seen here. She'll be on the road for a while longer this year promoting the book and singing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Political Fun-draiser

I have an invitation to go to a fundraiser for Al Franken and watch the first Presidential Debates next Friday. I'm really tempted. It's only $100. Only a tank of gas for many people.

Franken is running against a-long-haired-hippie-freak-rabble-rouser-anti-war-protester-turned-Republican-for-political-expediency with whom I was in college named Norman Coleman, the junior Senator from Minnesota. I asked a friend if she wanted to go with me (she actually worked with Normy on anti-war stuff back in the day) and she expressed concern that another Democrat in the Senate was less important than a Democrat in the White House, and she needed to send as much money as possible to the Obama campaign. She has a good point, but I can't help but think it would be a fun evening with people I ordinarily would not meet.

After I posted the two paragraphs above, I got a request to post the information about the event, so here it is:

The First Presidential Debate

Watch it Live with
Al Franken
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate

Please Join Hosts: Marylin Bitner, Nancy Harkness, Owen Husney, Lynda Keeler & Bob Merlis, Noah Mamet, Carla Olson & Saul Davis, Carole Shammas & Darryl Holter, Julia Sweeney

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Home of Carole Shammas & Darryl Holter
440 S. Mccadden Place
Los Angeles, CA 90020
[ View Map ]

Fan: $100/person ~ Promoter: $2300 (Co-Host Give/Raise)

Contribute online at
or for more information or to RSVP, contact Jordan Markwith at or (952) 548-6041.

Primary donations up to $2300 must be given by September 9th.

Thank you for your support of Al Franken's campaign and your generous
commitment to help increase our Democratic majority in the Senate!

If you can't make it to this event, and thus don't want a ticket
but would still like to contribute to Al's campaign, click here to do so.

Paid for and authorized by Al Franken for Senate