Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Around 11 or 12 years ago, a friend called me up and said she'd been taking some theatre combat lessons from a swordmaster she knew from the TV show she worked on and asked if I'd be interested in joining in. I did, along with about half a dozen other women, and I took class for about a year or two. It was great fun.

Our instructor, Anthony De Longis, is an actor and well-known fight coordinator in Hollywood. You can see his work in the terrific film Second Hand Lions and he coached Harrison Ford in bull whip for the upcoming Indiana Jones film. On Saturday, Tony, his wife, and several of his friends performed the arena show for the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, William Shatner's fundraiser for some therapeutic riding programs. So Len and our friends Gillian and Becky went to watch. Gillian's the one who introduced me to Anthony all those years ago.

It was a lot of fun. Bill Shatner's been doing the event for 18 years. Captain Kirk raised Saddlebreds for many years, but appears to be riding Quarterhorses these days. He came into the arena on one and did a little spin (video below) for the audience before turning to emceeing Anthony's show.

Tony and Mary did some fun things on horseback and then Tony and another rider did some lance work before moving on to a mounted sword-fighting exhibition (video below.) Not everything worked as planned, but the horses were generally well-behaved and the audience had a good time.

What really got to the audience was the demonstration by 6 year old rider, Piper. Piper has cerebral palsey and she did some amazing things on the horse she rode, including standing up and laying back and hanging over both sides of the horse. I've always been touched by what a horse can do for those who cannot function on their own legs, from the first time I photographed a handicapped riding program in Rock Creek Park almost 30 years ago. It is amazing.

We didn't have tickets for the dinner and Randy Travis concert, so we stuck around to watch some of the finals of the amateur reining competition. Everyone was impressed by the horses who really built up a head of steam before doing their sliding stops. I know nothing about how the competition is scored, so I couldn't tell anyone whether a 70.0 was better than a 67.5 or not. I also had no clue as to what the ideal movements were in any of the cases. I personally was impressed by the horses who were able to keep their back pivot hoof firmly in the dirt as they spun around on their haunches. Someone will have to let me know if that's what should impress me.

We headed off to dinner at Viva Fresh, a Mexican restaurant just outside the L.A. Equestrian Center, and tried their famous Midori Margaritas. A friend who rides at LAEC said it is traditional to buy a newbie rider a pitcher of those Margaritas when they take their first spill and get back on the horse. A good tradition, but better to not fall off in the first place.

We were seated where we could see all of the string horses from Hollywood Sunset Ranch waiting for their riders to finish dinner to head back up the hills. I don't think riding while under the influence of alcohol is a really good idea, but the romance of that dinner ride is appealing. One of these days, I'd like to get a group of friends together to do it. It's $60, meal not included, but I had an excellent dinner for less than $25, including the $8.00 Margarita.

Geeks Rule!

I have mentioned that I once had breakfast with Chuck Lorre at a Writers Guild Craft Conference at the lovely Bruin Woods up at Lake Arrowhead. The WGA stopped doing the weekends years ago, but Len (who is the member of the WGA) and I really enjoyed the weekends, which consisted of four writers each talking about their work in 90 minute sessions and one two hour or so workshop. The rest of the three days, between meals, was open for hiking, swiming, boating, tennis, or going into Lake Arrowhead to shop.

Chuck had a cold the morning he spoke, and he had taken some heavy-duty medication which was still in effect when we were at breakfast. He was hysterical, and his lecture later that morning had the audience in stitches. Which is what happens to me every time I watch Big Bang Theory, his latest show on CBS. Last night had Len and I laughing until we cried, in no small part because we both were right inside the characters heads.

For those of you who don't watch the show, Sheldon and Leonard (yes, named for the famous actor/director) are research scientists at CalTech (you can see the building which houses the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals outside of one of the windows in their apartment.) Its a Warner Bros. show, which may explain the wide spread use of DC collectibles throughout the place, but the show is peppered with pop culture reference, particularly those which would make regular attendees of Comicon International feel right at home. (In some ways, it is like watching a weekly version of the wonderful Free Enterprise, with as many references to Star Trek.)

Sheldon and Leonard have two colleagues who are regulars on the show: one from India and the other who lives at home with mom, and there's a cute blond across the hall for whom Leonard feels unrequited love. Sara Gilbert occasionally makes an appearance as another Cal Tech scientist and I wish we'd see more of her. With no Aaron Sorkin on TV these days, it's the smartest writing on television.

Last night, Leonard placed an $800.00 bid on a model of the 1960 film version of the Time Machine (first picture, thanks to Google), and, much to his financial horror, he won. The boys all decided they could pay $200 a piece and share it. Then it arrived. It was the full-sized model, not the miniature Leonard had envisioned. Hilarity ensued, starting with the problem of getting it upstairs to the apartment (the elevator hasn't worked in two years.) We were roaring with laughter, in no small part because we both knew Len would have given his right arm to own the thing.

You see, we live in the same kind of home, where once someone said "you can't tell where the kid's stuff leaves off and the grown-up toys kick in." People just like to wander about looking at the collectibles and books. I was even willing to let Len try and bring home the brass and glass version of the Time Machine from the more recent DreamWorks film (below, thanks to Google), which was on display at Comicon the year it was released. Absolutely beautiful. It was bigger than our living room.

We're nowhere near as organized as Harlan Ellison's house (which is like a museum) and our stuff tends to have dust on it (forbidden in Harlan's place), but there are some very cool things, like the statues of as many of Len's characters as we've been able to find and afford: Swamp Thing, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and others. Like Sheldon, Len's clothing also features comic book characters, with a strong preference for those of his own creation. T-shirts, aloha shirts, hats, ties and jewelery, you name it, he's got it.

The boys of Big Bang Theory would be right at home if we invited them over for dinner. Of course, the fan boys of Big Bang Theory would probably all be stammering and unable to eat in the presence of The Famous Len Wein, LFL. I've seen that enough times over the past 19 years.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Expanding the Franchise, Hobbit Style

Guillermo del Toro is off to New Zealand for the next four years to direct "The Hobbit" and what I've read is either "a sequel to The Hobbit" or "a prequel to The Hobbit." I had hoped to get Guillermo, who is a fan and acquaintance of Len, as one of our "Creative Voices" for the series here at Pierce, since he lives not far away. I guess that isn't happening any time soon.

While I really hoped that Peter Jackson would direct, Guillermo is a good choice and Peter Jackson will produce. Weta is, I presume, doing all the special effects and props.

There's an awful lot of material which could constitute a prequel to The Hobbit, but they've already done a sequel, and it is called "The Lord of the Rings." When I first heard about two films being made, my reaction was "what do you do to fill up the time?" It is a short book and aimed at a very different audience than The Lord of the Rings. The stage play only takes two hours. I know. I've seen it twice. My sister starred in it when she was in high school. She made a fine Bilbo Baggins. (I also caught a children's theatre production of it in Washington, D.C. when my son was little.)

I really started thinking about what might make a movie betwixt The Hobbit and LOTR when I read Heidi MacDonald's report about Guillermo on The Beat and I suddenly had a flash of inspiration: there's the untold story about what Aragorn is up to as a ranger between the time of the Hobbit (when he probably met Bilbo at Elrond's; it's quite clear in the book of the Fellowship of the Ring that they are old friends) and LOTR, such as riding to war with Eowyn's grandfather (referenced in the extended Two Towers), looking for Gollum (in the book of Fellowship of the Ring) and protecting the border with other rangers. Clearly, Legolas and Aragorn have some history (based on the exchanges of the council of Elrond--Legolas might even have been at home when Bilbo visited the Woodland Elves) and somewhere along the way Aragorn and Arwen fell in love and had to deal with her father's disapproval.

That's it! An Aragorn film. I'm there. And so are a lot of my fellow female aging boomers who get the vapors over Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Alternative Transportation

I was running errands yesterday, including a brief stop at the local farmer's market. As I was leaving, I noticed the bumper sticker on the car in front of me: Bush/Cheney For Prison. Thumbs up to that.

I drove down to Santa Monica to look at a Breezer bike called the Villager. The Villager is one of several Breezer bikes designed specifically for commuting. Unfortunately, the shop doesn't keep the Breezers in stock. They order them as needed. I'm not buying a bike without trying it out, especially one that costs $850. They told me they would be willing to get one in if I put down a deposit, and, if I didn't want it, they'd give the deposit back. Thanks, but no thanks. Then the sales guy I talked to said they'd get one of the lower priced bikes in--the frame is the same--and I could come in and try that out, without a down payment. That's a much better deal, so we'll give that a try. There are only two Breezer dealers in the area and I'm planning to stop by the one in Hollywood to see if they actually have on in stock tomorrow.

I'm trying to buy a bicycle before Bike to Work Month starts next week. I'm not the Employee Transportation Coordinator for Pierce College, which means I'm supposed to be in charge of promoting all kinds of ride share and alternative methods of commuting to reduce air pollution under the South Coast Air Quality Management District rules. Setting an example by biking, since I live about a mile from here and most of the commute can be done on the Orange Line bike path, seems like a really good idea. It won't work when it rains and it probably won't work when it gets really hot in the summer, but it should be just fine for now. My son goes everywhere by bike and bus, since he still doesn't have a drivers license (unbelievable to most people who know L.A.)

The object of the SCAQMD rules is to reduce emissions during peak morning hours of 6-10 a.m. If I bike in the morning and go home to get the car at lunch so I can get up to Chatsworth to my horse in time for lessons after work, I'm within the spirit of things and I qualify for a $1/day benefit. I think I should be permitted to ride Ace to work as an alternative method of transportation, but my zoning won't allow him in the back yard. Wouldn't it be great if hitching posts become common again because of fuel prices?

The good news from my little excursion yesterday is that I was able to balance on the bicycle with a little effort. It's a good thing that the one I tried out had breaks in the peddles, because I automatically went for them rather than the hand breaks. That should tell you how long it has been since I've actually ridden a bicycle!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Horses on TV

I caught a program on our local PBS station called Arabian Horse: The Ancient Breed last night. For all I know, it may just be a puff-piece created by the Arabian Horse Association, but I do love looking at the animals. Unfortunately, I missed the first 15 minutes and TiVo isn't very communicative about when it might be on again. It's not so good that I'm willing to shell out the money to buy the DVD, but it is interesting enough that I'd like to watch the rest of the show. I particularly liked the segment on the ranch in Nebraska that has a herd of Raffles descendants who are amazing cow horses. The rancher says they outlast quarter horses day in and day out because they have such endurance.

There was also a segment on the Arabian Nights show from Florida and a literacy program built around Farley's Black Stallion books. Confession: I wasn't given the Black Stallion at the right age to read and, sadly, it doesn't read as well to an adult unlike the wonderful King of the Wind. Also, Farley didn't really know anything about horses when he wrote the Black Stallion, which sticks out like a sore thumb if you've studied equines. I think I got as far as the Black taking off in Brooklyn when I said "enough." Nevertheless, I can understand how kids could be absolutely enchanted by the story and anything that gets kids to read is fine by me.

I've also been trying to catch this season's episodes of Equitrekking. I've seen about four of the seven shows, which a different PBS station has been running. Again, it's a little tough to track down the episodes to set the TiVo for when they come on, usually at 2 a.m. One of the episodes took place entirely in Ireland, which made me want to make vacation plans. My niece went to Ireland for vacation a couple of summers ago and stayed at a place where she took riding lessons and could also have taken falconry lessons. I've threatened Len that falconry is the next tbing I'm taking up because it fits right in with archery, horseback riding, and sword fighting. Somebody might conclude I've watched Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood too many times, but it would be impossible to watch that wonderful film too many times.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

April in New York, but Not for Me

I managed to get my husband out of the house this morning. At 6:45 a.m. Len doesn't do mornings that early unless he sees them from failure to go to bed the night before. We're getting too old to do that any more. We dropped off Michael at his job on time for his 7:00 a.m. start, and then I drove to Van Nuys Airport so Len could pick up the shuttle to LAX for his 11 a.m. flight to New York. Taking the bus saves me (or some really good friend) the aggravation of dealing with rush hour(s) traffic and the nightmare that is the loop through the LAX terminal.

I'm stunned that he actually got his suitcase packed before we went to bed last night. He's got his tuxedo for his appearance on What's My Line Live on Stage on Monday night, April 21, at the Barrow Street Theatre (27 Barrow Street) at 8 p.m. His 90 year old uncle is going to get into New York to see the show, and we expect a number of other friends will also be there.

Len was extremely jealous to find out that this weeks' Mystery Guest was Dick Cavett and my sister kept him company for most of the evening. We're both big fans. He spoke to my sister yesterday and told me that she was Cavett's wrangler and that from the moment she met him to the moment he was finished for the evening, she never stopped laughing. Dick Cavett was absolutely charming and the funniest man she had ever met. I love hearing that my sister is having a good time helping out with the show. I've had a great time doing the stills out here and I'm sorry I can't go to New York with Len this week.

Len will also be attending New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javits Center from Friday through Sunday being "the famous Len Wein." I know he's doing a memorial panel for his friend Steve Gerber at 11 a.m. on Saturday, but I don't think he's got a firm schedule for anything else. It's been almost 20 years since I've been to the Javits Center. I hope the transportation out of there has gotten more reliable.

I've been thinking that I should ask Len to take the subway a little further up Broadway from my sister's place to Columbia University to pick me up a sweatshirt from Teachers College. I haven't had one in years. I'm also compiling a mental shopping list from Zabar's, but I imagine it might be harder to get food through airport security than it used to be. On my last trip to New York, I brought back a 14 cup Cuisinart from Zabar's. That was on September 7, 2001.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

And the Final Jeopardy Answer Is...

I've probably mentioned before that we watch Jeopardy! religiously. Maybe even that I once relayed an entire episode by telephone, question by question, to Len, who was sitting in an airport lounge in L.A., waiting for a flight to London, while I was in Cleveland for law school.

We get a big kick out of Categories with People We Know. Or Categories That Len Created. Obviously, that's not what they are called on the show, but that's the effect for us.

Last night, the Final Jeopardy category was "Science Fiction," a Category Full of People We Both Know. After we both proclaimed we were betting our bank accounts, the house, the dogs, the horse, and my son, we speculated on just which of our friends would be the answer or the creator of the answer. The answer, roughly, was "These creatures were based on the effect rabbits had after they were introduced to Australia and reproduced uncontrollably."

We started laughing hysterically because we lead such strange and interesting lives. The question, of course, is "What are Tribbles?" Tribbles were created by the young David Gerrold for his Classic Star Trek episode, The Trouble with Tribbles.

The first time I photographed David was in 1973. In 1989, David introduced me to Len, saying he was someone I needed to photograph for my exhibit of science fiction professionals. The next day, as I prepared for the shoot, I said to Len "David said I should photograph you, but I'm at the point in this project where I'm shooting people whose work I don't know. So who the hell are you, anyway?" The rest, as they say, is history.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ranch Antics

The wind kept up all weekend in Chatsworth and, with the temperatures dropping today, I wonder if we'll still have wind when I go for my lesson this evening. Right now I'm watching a heavy breeze out my window, although that's not necessarily a clue as to how things will be 7 miles north of here.

Even though we couldn't ride, Ace did get quite a bit of turnout time on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, I let him out with Mini, the miniature horse owned by the other attorney at the ranch. She owns Beau, a thoroughbred, and Reina, who may be a quarab. The attached video shows Ace in a few moments of actual interaction with Mini and then a brief look at Jake (Ace's neighbor on the north side) and Reina, who has the trimmed tail. Ace is more into parallel hanging out rather than actual play.

As you can see from the video, the arena is bordered on one side by the stall runs, so the turned-out horses can get up close and personal with the ones left behind bars. I tried, but failed, to capture Ace getting back at Sebastian, the huge thoroughbred in the stall to the south of Ace's, as Ace would trot down the row of stalls, lunge to nip Sebastian, and turn tail and dance out of Sebastian's reach. I think it makes up for all of the times Ace has gotten nailed by Sebastian with no place to escape if he fights back.

On Sunday, after Tim had finished Ace's feet and I was getting ready to let him back into his stall with fresh water, shavings, and a snack waiting, I saw that Sebastian was getting caught up in his blanket. Sebastian had managed to unbuckle one of the fastenings in front (my friend Melinda's horse Vento is a genius at this) and had pulled the blanket partially off his prodigious rear end, so as he stepped forward, he was stepping on the blanket and blocking preventing further movement. All of the other clips were still in place, so the elastic bands were wrapped between his legs.

The horse's size intimidates me and I had no intention of trying to go into his stall to fix things. He's not terribly fond of me, because I keep waiving him away from me and my horse when we're in the run. Nevertheless, I got him to come over to the rail where I tried to get the blanket back in place. He stood while I adjusted it and then promptly ripped at the front and got it off his butt again. Not that I could blame him. At 11:45 it was probably close to 90 degrees and he was definitely overheated.

I had no idea when or if his owner would come by that day, and neither of the phone numbers on her contact sheet work (I've tried to reach her before), so the only safe solution was to get the blanket off. I got him to come over to me at the fence again and I unbuckled the fasteners at the side of the blanket and the one back-leg fastener I could reach. Then I got the other fastener in front, which he had been frantically trying to work open. He stood remarkably still while I pulled the blanket off his back and dropped it to the ground, where I hoped he would just step out of the last elasticized fastener. It caught on his leg wrappings, but I managed to reach to get it to the ground (I'm amazed he didn't kick at me) and then he did step out. The yellow blanket is pretty filthy, but at least Sebastian didn't break a leg.

Ace acts as if a blanket is going to eat him and he would probably have been in the next county if that was the way I took his off. We need to work on that (even though I don't have to blanket every year, which is why he acts as if he's never seen one most of the time) and bicycles. Every one that rolled by while we were doing his feet on Sunday was grounds for a startle. I had warned Tim to beware of motorcycles, but Ace barely blinked at the several that went by the gate. Those bicycles were a different story entirely. Since I'm planning to take biking up for Bike to Work month in May, I'm thinking we may need to desensitize him to those silent monsters.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wind, Again

Over the past 16 months, I've lost more riding time to the wind than in the previous 8 years combined. At least, that's what it seems like. We had to cancel my lesson yesterday because of high winds in Chatsworth, and that was after waiting all day to find a different window than my 11:15 scheduled time. Gayle gave thought to canceling Friday evening as well, since she had to cancel most of the lessons during the day, but my barn isn't as bad as hers is sometimes, so Friday worked out.

I'm up earlier than I would be on a Sunday because my farrier called to say he could do Ace today if I had the time. Since Ace has really worn down one of his shoes over the past 6 weeks, I thought it was a good idea. Tim has been attempting to even out Ace's shoulders with a little corrective shoeing, and it seems to be having a small effect. If it works, it might help curb his habit of dropping that shoulder and spooking to the right. I've gotten a whole lot better at stopping the move as my seat and hands have improved, but he's amazingly fast.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Viggo Neeperie

Thursday night I attended a meeting of the camera club for which I've been asked to judge pictures next month. One of the technically best photographs submitted was of Viggo Mortensen on location for The Road, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. Cormac McCarthy also wrote All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men. He's a very hot novelist in Hollywood these days.

The competition theme was "low key" and the photograph was definitely that, the figure of Viggo and the child playing his son emerged from a dark background in very beautiful, warm, low, directional light. The shot was taken somewhere in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, which I know only because someone (not the photographer, who was not present) volunteered the information. I am curious as to whether the photographer is a member of IATSE Local 600 or was some other crew member with an illegal camera on the set (only Local 600 members--of which I am one--are supposed to shoot stills.)

It was a really nice photograph, but Viggo looks like he's channeling Steve Railsback as Charlie Manson in this role. He's got a skraggly dark beard and what may be long, Aragorn-type hair (he had a hat or hood on), but his great bone structure looked more prominent than usual. I know roughly what the story is about, so he's probably lost weight to get the right look of deprivation. It's just disconcerting to see him look so much like Steve, a terrific actor who is an acquaintance of ours. (I was totally chilled by Steve's performance in 1976 television movie Helter Skelter, made long before I met him. The performance stands the test of time and, although good, the actor in the remake didn't make my hair stand on end. Steve is also very good in the very strange film, The Stuntman.)

I'm still debating whether I'll go to see The Road. If I do, it's only because Viggo's in it. I got through both A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, but I did cover my eyes a lot. Otherwise, The Road is the kind of story I don't really want to see if I'm looking for "entertainment" (I've heard the ending.) But based on that photograph, it will be hauntingly beautiful.


Another long week at the office is almost over and I am looking forward to two riding lessons on Ace (if the strong winds in the forecast don't materialize) and some quality time with my husband. We used to spend many Sundays wandering through the various flea markets in the Los Angeles area, but since I bought Ace, I can't afford to indulge in that very often. In the days when Bristol Farms had a store in our general neighborhood, we used to go for samples and to look at the beautiful packaging. Our current Sunday "religious" experience still involves food--often a trip to the Hollywood Farmers' Market.

Located a block west of Vine and for two long blocks south of Hollywood Boulevard, it is one of the largest farmers markets I've been to out here. We can find at least one every day of the week, and there are two others closer to our home that we go to when there's not enough time to go over the hill on a Sunday morning. In Los Angeles, you can never tell who might also be out shopping. I had a nice conversation with David Selby (from Dark Shadows--the original--and Falcon Crest) at the Studio City market one Sunday. A few months ago, Nancy Silverton of the La Brea Bakery and Mozza was signing cookbooks at the Hollywood market. I've made almost every recipe in her bread book, including sour dough starter from the grapes I grow in my potager.

We generally start the event by finding breakfast, and, as far as I'm concerned, there is no better street food than the Green and Sweet Yellow Corn Tamales from Corn Maiden. Unlike the otherwise excellent sweet corn tamales from El Cholo or El Coyote restaurants, Corn Maiden's are not stuffed with cheese, an unnecessary ingredient. I like the mild tomatillo salsa on them, but I could just eat them plain. Corn Maiden does have an on-line store to order the tamales for frozen shipping (and they have many with sweet or savory fillings), but I just love being able to indulge in one hot out of the steamers as I peruse the other kiosks. The price has jumped from $2.25 to $3.50, due, no doubt to the rise in corn prices, but they are worth every penny.

Once Len has found a more substantial breakfast--last week he tried the bacon and egg quesadilla at another stand--we can go off looking for vegetables, fruits, cheese, nuts, and plants. Last week, there were lovely tomatoes, both the traditional red ones and heirlooms in a variety of colors, including the "black" tomatoes I'm showing here and big baroque shaped orange and yellow ones.

In the category of unexpected surprises, there was someone selling organic non-alcoholic margarita mixes. After tasting, we purchased the very tart meyer lemon and somewhat less tart pomegranate varieties. We haven't had a reason to try them with tequila yet--we don't drink that much and it's likely we'll have the unopened bottles around for months.

There are several stands dealing in artisan cheeses. I'm partial to the goat or sheep milk varieties and there's a dealer who has an outstanding--really outstanding--aged gouda, which we will sometimes purchase and not share with our friends. I love it with a good apple. At the Encino Farmers' Market, a dealer who has a wide range of artisan cheeses is trying to open a store in the same building where I used to have my law office along Ventura Boulevard. It's a real good thing that I'm no longer renting space on the second floor, but we keep driving by to see if they've gotten it open. Sadly, not yet.

What looked really good at last week's market were the strawberries. I got a three basket container for $3.00 from this dealer and took them home to serve for dessert at the weekly dinner and television night we're doing while we wait for the return of the Amazing Race.

The strawberries were wonderful with a warm, almost flourless, chocolate cake from Trader Joe's and French vanilla ice cream eaten while we watched the latest installment of the HBO biography of John Adams. Was anyone else creeped out by the scene with John and Abigail tearing each others clothes off when they were reunited in Paris? It was rather like watching your parents having sex--one of those things you'd rather really deny ever happened. I said "eyweuh" out loud, and our friend Becky immediately agreed that it was something she didn't need to see.

I can be such a prude.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I don't blush--much. I do scuff my toes a little when I get a complement, and Victoria Cummings at Teachings of the Horse has given me two "aw shucks" moments recently, the first with the Excellent rating for my blog and the second, more recent one this morning for "Excellence in Equine Care," no doubt for spoiling my Arabian Prince on a regular basis (and probably, though she didn't know it until now, for giving him better regular medical care than I bother for myself.) I thank Victoria very much for both of these designations. I'm happy to know I'm not just writing to myself every day.

I've been working on my list of places to pass the Excellent Award on to, which is why I didn't put it up here earlier. I'd happily give the award to each of the blogs written by other people I've got listed on the right side of the page. These are the ones I do check every day. Many of the blogs I read regularly have nothing to do with horses, but then, mine is pretty eclectic. So let me pass on an Excellent Award to:

The Patry Copyright Blog by Bill Patry, one of the geniuses of intellectual property law. I met Bill when he worked for the Copyright Office and I was a photographer in the D.C. area and I have nothing but respect for him, even if he may have gone over to an evil empire (he's now Google's chief counsel.)

Jane in Progress by Jane Espenson, a television writer acquaintance of ours who writes plenty of good advice on scriptwriting for newbies and wannabees. Jane's currently on Battlestar Galactica, but is quite well-known in our circles for her work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Wolfmanor Wisdom and Whimsy is written by Noel Wolfman who divides her time between producing animated films and making cloth dolls and selling patterns for them. There are lots of lovely pictures of things I'll never have time to make on her blog, but I might sometime get around to putting together the horsey-plush to cover a tissue box pattern she gave me! Noel is sort of the Martha Stewart in our crowd (but she'd probably agree that I'm better in the kitchen though I can't touch her in decorating.)

Behind the Bit by Stacey Kimmel-Smith recently had a post with videos of all different breeds of horses riding dressage at Grand Prix level. Loved watching the Arabian sport horse, although I though the canter pirouette was a little clumsy. The blog's got a lot of information and links on it.

Julia Sweeney has a very entertaining blog which I stumbled upon recently, not that I can remember exactly how. I've really enjoyed reading it.

I've found some wonderful horse-related blogs because of the links that Victoria and Arlene at Gray Horse Matters have up and from there on it's been a real adventure to find out what is available. As it happens, Victoria and Arlene have beaten me to handing out awards in that arena. But I can easily give my dear friend Melinda Snodgrass the Excellence in Equine Care Award because she raised beautiful, healthy Arabians (including my beloved boy) and is now beyond happy with her Lusitano stallion Vento, whose antics are taking up quite a bit of space at Melinda's Musings blog. Melinda is a novelist and television writer who lives in New Mexico. She's also an upper-level dressage rider. Her new novel, Edge of Reason, is due out in a matter of weeks and can be pre-ordered on Amazon and you can get a sample of it here. I read the manuscript several years ago and I'm looking forward to the next book in what is planned as an urban fantasy trilogy. Melinda gets the Excellent Award for blogging as well, because her posts on writing and politics are well worth reading.

I would also like to pass on the Excellence in Equine Care Award to Gayle Paperno, my trainer at Family Equestrian Connection. Gayle doesn't have a blog, but if you know anyone who is looking for a safe, classical trainer who is great with kids and adults with baggage in the Los Angeles area, I can't recommend her enough. She's the one who makes time to check on Ace and give him his lunch every day at a different barn than her own while I'm at work 7 miles away. She is all about what is best for the horse.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pulitzer Prizes

Congratulations to Tracy Letts, playwright of August: Osage County, for his well-deserved Pulitzer Prize. I expect my niece and the rest of the cast will be doing the happy dance when they prepare for the show tonight. I can only imagine this will extend the show and make a London premier more likely. Next stop: the Tonies.

And mega kudos for those talented people on the fifth floor of the Washington Post building (where I hung out for about five years) for their six Pulitzer Prizes. I read the Post every day, thanks to the wonders of on-line publication, and I still think it's the best newspaper in America (sorry NY Times, which I also read every day.)

And how about that Bob Dylan? Good thing there are liner notes so you can find out what he's singing.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One Less Star in Hollywood

Before Morgan Freeman became the Voice of God, that part was owned by Charlton Heston.

He was Michelangelo, Cardinal Richelieu, El Cid, Andrew Jackson, Judah Ben-Hur, Christopher Leiningen, George Taylor, Robert Neville, Robert Thorn and dozens more in a career stretching back more than half a century. He was an action hero and a real movie star. He was one of those actors, like Sean Connery, who just filled up the screen by standing there. I have a vague recollection of him arriving late to the Academy Awards and picking up the speech that had been started by some poor actor trying to fill in because of traffic problems in L.A., but once he was on stage, he was in command.

Back in the days when I chaired the rights committee for ASMP, we set up a fund for our lobbying and other legal work on behalf of photographers' copyright rights. One member who sent in a sizable contribution offered her husband's considerable connections in order to further our efforts. I got the call to follow up on the offer. Even though I knew just who Lydia Clarke Heston's husband was, the last thing I expected was for him to answer the telephone.

As I heard the voice, all I could think was "Moses just answered the phone" and "calm down, you can't sound like an idiot!" It was all I could do to explain who I was and why I was calling and ask to speak to Mrs. Heston. He was most gracious in explaining she was not in and when I should call back. I thanked him, hung up, and immediately called my mother to scream "you'll never guess who I just talked to!." When I finally reached Mrs. Heston and said I was surprised when Mr. Heston answered, she laughed and replied "he just can't stand to hear the phone ring."

I did not have the opportunity to take her up on an invitation to visit when I was in Los Angeles a few months later but after I graduated from law school and was practicing law here, ASMP asked me to represent their interests in Sacramento on sales tax matters and requested that I ask the Hestons for their assistance, "since I had developed that relationship." That's a finer point than I would put on it, but I pulled out the address book (remember those?) and reached Mrs. Heston directly. She recalled our earlier conversations but said I would really need to speak to her husband who made those kinds of decisions. She would have him call me.

When I checked my office phone later that day, I heard the message "Ms. Valada, this is Charlton Heston." My husband heard it and insisted that I keep the recording (it's somewhere in storage, I think.) I returned his call and we spoke for a while (I wish I had THAT on a recording because he quoted a passage from Shakespeare) but he made some remark about whether he could be much help in Sacramento, since the Democrats were pretty much in charge there. I thought, but did not say, "Mr. Heston, I'm old enough to remember when you were one." I mentioned that we would be attending the Alex Theatre screening of Ben-Hur in Glendale the next night and he told me to be sure to come up and introduce myself, which turned out to be the only time I ever actually got to meet the Hestons. They were an elegant and gracious old-Hollywood couple, he tall but slightly stooped because of a riding accident in Major Dundee, she petite and attentive to his needs. They were married for 64 years, no doubt close to a Hollywood record.

We did get to see him do a reading at the public library with Lynn Redgrave one evening. I don't remember exactly what he read, but one thing was from a centuries-old copy of the King James' Bible, a massive tome he presented with great flourish. As David Steinberg put it "God spoke, in the voice of a Northwestern graduate." No more.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Perfect Match

Thanks to Linda Polk's blog Hoofbeats, I found this cute little quiz to determine what my horse profile is. Big surprise: I am an Arabian (although with champagne taste on a beer budget.)

Arabians are arguably the most beautiful breed of horse in the world. The bright, enourmous eyes, the graceful arching neck, and the famous dished face. You have a fiery temper, it takes quite a rider to tame your spirit. In a good mood, you may be found elegantly trotting the length of the fence with elevated gaits, and your mane and tail waving like flags in the wind. Everyone envies your beauty... but beware if they make you mad!
Your owner is most likely to be rich, and own a famous arabian breeding barn. You'll probably have an entire web site dedicated to you.
Your colour will most likely be: Reddish Bay, Dapple Grey, Palomino, or a glimmering Chestnut.

The blog has some wonderfully funny posts, including a couple on strange horse laws and computer programs. Well worth digging through old posts to find them.

Off the Nightstand

After what seems like months, I have finally finished reading The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz. I'm still mulling over my thoughts about the book. I consider the Beatles to be an amazing success story: four kids from a poor city in post-war England manage, by talent and hard work, to take the world by storm. This is a typical American success story, but an extremely unusual British one, where class seems to trump everything and is not absent in the tale related in this tome. My big problem with the book is that I found it rather depressing, because the author treats the Beatles story as a tragedy.

I certainly agree that there are huge elements of tragedy at work, but the book ends with the break-up made official in 1970. They really walked away from the party when they were still in demand and then proceeded to have reasonably successful careers thereafter. I understate. That's not a tragedy from the Beatles P.O.V., just the audience's.

I've got a few quibbles with the book because of inaccuracies that anyone who was a fan in 1964 could spot, which, of course, makes me wonder about what else is wrong. In my case, there are two photographs which have captions that are dead wrong, and the information on one is carried over into the text. One shows George Harrison and Pattie Boyd at what is described as Paul McCartney's 21st birthday--an event that happened 8 or 9 months before they actually met on the set of A Hard Day's Night. The other is a picture of George and Pattie together "soon after they met on the set of Help!" Help was filmed a year after AHDN, and the couple had been together for a year by the time cameras rolled on the second film. So the book has them hooking up during the filming of both films, which is quite wrong. I hope someone fixes this in the next edition.

George and Ringo come out of the story as incredibly nice guys and Paul as not too bad (and very level-headed) except for a bit of an ego. I can forgive that. John, however, is a different story. With his temper and insecurities, he was a very talented, chauvanistic, and bigoted cad who was really lucky to not have a serious prison record. Meeting Yoko turned him into a toxic mess. She's a villain in the piece, an egotistical con artist with delusions of talent who latched on to John by preying on his insecurities in order to further her own "art." Brian Epstein doesn't come off too well either, as the book reveals huge mistakes on his part in signing deals for them. What a mess he made of the copyrights to the Beatles songbook, not to mention the merchandise and record royalties. It is astonishing to try and realize how much money the Beatles generated despite these mistakes and the 90% tax rate in Great Britain in order to still achieve millionaire status.

During the time I was reading the book, Paul McCartney's divorce was in the headlines (almost 40 years after the break-up of the Beatles) and even the death of Neil Aspinall, one of their oldest friends and once the head of Apple Corp., made the news last week. For me, it's really hard to believe that it's been 44 years since they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show or that Paul McCartney has already passed that magic age of 64. Where does the time go?

Last night, Len woke me up to watch an old episode of "I've Got a Secret" which plays right into all this. "I want you to see who the guest is." I knew immediately--it was Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles. I knew not only because I had just been looking at pictures of him in the biography, but because I remember watching that episode of the show when it first aired in 1964 and his "secret" was that he "used to be the Beatles drummer." I didn't remember the particulars of the interview at all, which was pretty much a total PR fabrication. Best made it sound like it was his own decision to leave the Beatles and said that he wanted his own band. He was very pleasant, a bit shy, and when asked if he "regretted leaving" the Beatles gave some sort of an "only when" response. Since he was sacked by the Beatles after George Martin wasn't impressed by his abilities, he displayed a good deal of class. In a continuing bit of ironic timing, Pete Best's youngest brother is actually his half-brother, fathered by the lately deceased Neil Aspinall with the much older Mona Best. It's funny how things tie into each other.

I never got to see the Beatles play together live (in the flesh, not on Sullivan) and that's one of the things I can't put under my "it's never too late to have a happy childhood" list of things to do. I did see Paul McCartney play with his old back up band, Wings on their first tour (great performance, scary to be with that many people in a festival-seating event.) John and Yoko I passed in the 59th Street Subway Station one Saturday night in the early 1970s when I lived in New York and before that I saw them do"Give Peace a Chance" at an Allard K. Lowenstein benefit (in an audience-participation sing-along conducted by Mitch Miller at the Filmore East, if you can believe it.)

Excuse me while I go off and play the Beatles 1.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Best Laid Plans

My excitement of having three and a half lovely days to spend quality time with Ace and three lessons on him was severely dampened when I arrived at the barn on Friday afternoon. There I discovered a skip-loader racing through the arena depositing loads of DG into the run areas of the first three stalls and various workers using compacting devices, drills, hammers, and other implements of noise and destruction (or construction, depending on your point of view.) Needless to say, there were 10 horses in various stages of distress over the disruptions.

Let me make it perfectly clear. I don't object to the work being done--the stalls needed 12" of DG, not 2" over a foot or more of sand and I am surely happy to have a tack room almost outside of my stall door--I'd just like to know when things are going to happen so I can make plans accordingly. Communication seems to be lacking in most people who run barns but don't actually own horses. I had moved up my lesson to the afternoon and Gayle couldn't change it back to after 5 when I discovered the mess. What was more, there is no way this will take less than a week to finish. Horses have to be swapped out of their stalls and there needs to be a bit of time for the DG to set before they can be returned. They are working from early morning until about 5 p.m. and they left the skip loader in the arena on Sunday, making a turnout unsafe.

Gayle came at 3 on Friday and longed Ace during what should have been our riding time. It was good for him to concentrate on work with the havoc at the other end of the arena. He's doing much better about carrying himself and keeping the side-reins loose instead of leaning into them. Since we couldn't do our 11:15 on Saturday morning, I got to the barn, tacked Ace up, and walked the half mile over to Family Equestrian Connection's base barn to take my lesson in that arena. Gayle wasn't certain I'd be able to ride, since Ace hasn't spent a lot of time there and the distractions include a lot of noise and visual distractions. Plus there's the matter of walking under the overhang where the hay is through a small gate and past the goats. We did fine until I opened the gate and a truck spun out across the street in an attempt to pull a tree out by its roots. Ace nearly ran me down--something he's never done. Gayle came out and schooled him through the gate one step at a time, three times in a row. He left with no problem after the lesson. In the arena, we did just fine and then I let Ashley, Gayle's young assistant, take Ace for a real spin. He was tired when we walked home.

Sunday was the boy's birthday. If the skip-loader hadn't been in the arena, he would have had a nice turnout. No such luck. But I did bring him a special bran mash, for which he was greatly appreciative, as you can see. For a fastidiously clean horse, he sometimes lets his enjoyment get the best of him. He wouldn't listen when I suggested he take a drink to soften the crust left on his nose.

About the time he finished his snack, Patricia from RiverBottom Belles showed up to do a bio-scan on him. I am not entirely sure what goes on with the blinking lights and all--I'm cynical enough to call it California woo-woo medicine--but he really relaxes during the treatment and it doesn't cost all that much the few times a year I've been doing it. I'm told it helps in healing and maybe it is related to the things I got hooked up to when I was recovering from my broken arm. I just figure there's no harm done and he doesn't object to standing there with a silly horsie kippah and someone running a scan all over his body. It takes about 45 minutes and he's very cooperative.

His next door neighbor, Sebastian the Thoroughbred, has turned out to be a real thug. On Saturday, Sebastian took a piece out of Ace's dock and on Sunday he tore a big scrape across Ace's throat. It will all grow back, but Sebastian's got almost 2 hands over Ace, a boarding house reach, and is being fed 6 flakes of alfalfa a day by an owner who makes it to the barn maybe twice a week. He's got a lot of pent-up energy and Ace won't back down.

Instead of spending Monday with the boy, I worked on tax stuff and went to the barn for a lesson at my usual time of 5:15. Ace had been moved to the far stall since his was next to the one being dug up for resurfacing. It made it extremely inconvenient to get him tacked up and he's only got partial shelter if we get the promised rain tomorrow. He was also very twitchy. Why they couldn't bother to move his manger instead of feeding him on the sand, I have no idea. I moved it myself. They also didn't do anything to close off the feeder window into the actual stall, which is used for hay and feed storage. He could easily stick his nose in and tear open a bag of pellets or otherwise get into trouble. I went and moved that stuff as well. At least they did provide water buckets and fill them.

Because the construction was done for the day and the skip-loader was no longer in the arena, we were able to take our lesson. Unfortunately, we had to be really careful because the arena hasn't been dragged in weeks and no requests to do it have been honored. The area where the skip has been driving was more even than the rest of the arena, so that's what we used. It was an altogether terrific lesson with much progress being made.

I finished the day by ordering too much $1 sushi when I met my husband at Samsala. It's amazing how a special can wind up costing far more than the regular combo.