Archive for May, 2010

U Can’t Touch This!

The Master Blister Beetle (Lytta Magister) secretes a chemical called Cantharidin in its joints.  If you touch the beetle, the Cantharidin can cause painful blisters on your skin.  No wonder this beetle didn’t seem bothered by us taking a closer look as it crawled along Death Valley – we’d be stupid to cop a feel and the beetle knew it.

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“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”

Last night, the L.A. Conservancy’s 24th annual “Last Remaining Seats” film festival kicked off with a screening of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (1967) at the Los Angeles Theatre. Time hasn’t dulled the edge of the satire: the film is based on a mock self-help management book by Shepherd Mead first published in 1952. Robert Morse played a window-washer who climbs the corporate ladder with the help of his “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” manual; Michele Lee played his Girl Friday. Morse and Lee took the stage with “Mad Men” creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner for a brief chat before the lights went down. As they watched the film with the audience, they must have been pleased to hear everyone laughing and applauding throughout the screening. After the show, I was taking photos of the Theatre when a man asked me to take a photo of him and his friends with my camera. One of his friends was Michele Lee; she was very gracious in accepting my compliments on her performance.

Portuguese Point, Abalone Cove

The beach along Abalone Cove in Palos Verdes is covered in large smooth stones.  When the tide rolls out, the ocean rakes away the top layer of stones.  The sound of the stones scraping against each other is very similar to ice cubes rattling in a cocktail shaker.   During low tide before sunrise and around noon, starfish and sea anemones are visible in the tide pools that form along the coast.  Abalones were once abundant in this area before over-fishing drove the population to extinction.  It was late afternoon and the tide was rolling in as I took this photo of Portuguese Point.

Skull Cave, Uluru / Ayers Rock

In Central Australia lies Uluru / Ayers Rock, a massive sandstone formation surrounded by miles of desert. At 348 m (1,142 feet) high and 9.4 km (5.8 miles) in circumference Uluru is best seen from afar, where it’s easy to imagine that a giant once smashed his enemy’s skull into the stone’s eroded surface.

My mom and I hiked around the base of Uluru in July 2008. It was winter and our first time in the desert. For most of the day, we were the only two people on the trail. It was mind-blowing to stare at the horizon and see nothing but desert and sky in all directions.  I remember the silence.

Allied Arts Guild: The Barn Woodshop

Tom, who owns The Barn Woodshop in Menlo Park, noticed me lurking in the bushes with my camera during my first visit to the Allied Arts Guild in March 2009.  He invited me to look around the Barn once I was finished shooting flowers in the garden.

The Barn is 125 years old, and has housed a Woodshop for the past 81 years.  In the Barn, Tom gave me a pin to mark my hometown on a world map he uses to track visitors.  Tom traveled around the world before returning to his family’s business of building and restoring heirloom-quality furniture.  He likes not knowing who will come through the door of his Woodshop each day.  Once, he repaired some furniture for Shirley Temple; she still lives nearby in Woodside.  These days, Tom works on a steady stream of commissions from Stanford faculty and Silicon Valley honchos who trust him to restore their treasures with sensitivity and integrity.  When I told Tom about my hobby of re-finishing discarded tables and chairs, he offered to teach me how to cane chairs.  I didn’t accept his offer right away, even though Scott encouraged me to give it a try.  Now I’m really glad I did as Tom taught me how to weave cane and replace torn sheet cane.  These skills may come in handy the next time I find a broken chair on the sidewalk!  Before we moved to L.A. last fall, Tom fixed a pair of rosewood chairs that I had inherited from my grandfather.  Now, I visit Tom every time I’m in town.

Last weekend, we visited friends in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and San Francisco.  At the Guild, I renewed my contract with the Artisan Shop to consign prints of my photos and accepted Tom’s offer of display space for my photos in the Barn’s new showroom.

“Greedy Eyes”

On Wednesday night, we had drinks in downtown L.A. at the Rooftop Bar above The Standard Hotel.  Scott and his colleagues were mingling on the north side of the roof.  I decided to slip away and enjoy the silence on the south side after a real estate developer / men’s self-improvement writer mistook me for a lawyer because of my “greedy eyes”.  I took this photo of the pool as the sun set behind me.

Allied Arts Guild: The Artisan Shop

Allied Arts Guild is an artists guild in Menlo Park where Ansel Adams once maintained a studio.  Prints of my photos are sold at the Guild in the Artisan Shop and The Barn Woodshop.  Since 1929, the Guild has provided an inspiring environment for working artists, beautiful gardens and shops for visitors, and support for critically-ill children at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.    

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I booked a string of “blind dates” with people who had graduated from the same schools I did in Canada.  I met Grace, a fellow alumna of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, over coffee in March 2009.  We had such a nice time that we arranged to meet again at one of her favourite haunts:  Allied Arts Guild.  We had lunch at the Guild and stayed all afternoon to smell the roses.  

In January 2010, I decided to start selling prints of my photos.  Although we live along Gallery Row in L.A., I considered the Guild a better place to try my luck.  I called the Artisan Shop and introduced myself to the manager to see if she would help me make good on my new years resolution.  We arranged to meet the following weekend.  She looked over my work with her assistant and chose several framed prints to display in the Shop.  I sold my first print that week:  a picture of the Berkeley Campanile which I had taken after meeting another Rotman alumna over lunch at UC Berkeley.  In March, our friends Maricki and Castaña visited us in L.A.; I enlisted their help to deliver more of my prints to the Shop.  Now, I deliver prints to the Guild whenever I’m in town.

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