Archive for October, 2008

An L.A. Times article today on the excellent success of the island fox captive breeding program on Santa Rosa Island reminded me that in a few days it will be the fourth anniversary of my trip to Santa Rosa’s neighbor Santa Cruz Island with a team of fellow Los Angeles Zoo docents.

Invited by The Nature Conservancy to help build pens there for the expansion of its captive breeding program, we spent the better part of four days in the island’s interior (normally off-limits to outsiders) working on the slopes of a small valley near the historic and ridiculously picturesque Stanton Ranch erecting four 600-square-foot pens where the remaining housecat-sized wild foxes would be caught up and installed to better ensure their safety, increase their drastically low numbers, and ultimately enable their survival.

Historical nutshell time! The foxes lived perfectly on the Channel Islands with bald eagles and mice and blue jays and bugs and native human inhabitants for as much as 16,000 years, but that all began to change when between 1947 and 1971 some 1,800 tons of DDT and an unknown amount of PCBs were dumped in Torrance, making its way through sewer lines into the bay near Palos Verdes where it spread. Bald eagles on the islands eventually ate fish tainted with the pesticide and died off, and in their place came opportunistic golden eagles from the mainland, with a far greater taste for flesh than fish. With no baldies to harrass them, the golden eagle couldn’t help but thrive by exploiting unchecked a virtually endless food supply in the expanding populations of feral pigs–  an ecologically disastrous byproduct of the farming and ranching that took place on Santa Cruz for more than 150 years. The golden eagle wasn’t picky and would gladly eat island foxes, too. And as if the eagles weren’t enough of a threat, the pigs contributed by basically rooting up much of the native vegetation, thereby both reducing the food available to the fox and also leaving them few places to hide and escape the eagles. Seriously, by 1994 when the animal was listed as an endangered spicies there were populations of foxes on some islands that barely numbered in the double digits. In the course of the recovery effort that began in the late 1990s, the golden eagles have been trapped and relocated, bald eagles have been successfully reintroduced, and the pigs — some 5,000 of them — have been killed off.

With my departure from the zoo a year after my visit to Santa Cruz Island, I confess I haven’t been keeping as abreast of the island fox recovery efforts these past few years. So it came as a surprise to learn that the captive breeding program has been so successful that the pens we built have actually been closed since last year – and for good reason: they’re just no longer needed.

In 2004,  there were less than 60 foxes on Santa Cruz island. Now it’s estimated that there are more than 400 — and growing. Populations on Santa Rosa, San Miguel and other islands in the Channel chain are also on the rise.

Though the part that I didn’t hesitate to play in that complex and successful process was infinitesimally small, the amount of pride I take in it is huge.

A photobook I made of images from the excursion can be viewed here on Shutterfly.  Or the full photo album can be seen here.

Way back in October 2001, the boss of where I worked at that time implemented a program wherein during the regularly scheduled monthly meetings he wanted his employees to give presentations. The topics could be about pretty much anything, so I was one of the few to actually volunteer for a time slot and then got to work putting my thoughts down in a paper I titled “Bicycling For Fun & Profit,” the first — and incomplete — draft of the narrative which I just accidentally stumbled on whilst diving around the archives on my back-up hardrive..

Some of it seems so quaint now: Gas at $1.50 a gallon. Me resolving to bike 1,001 miles in 2001. Pretty much the total lack of any so-called bike culture (at least in its current and evolving form) worth mentioning.

I remember boiling a lot of the info down into a bulleted, Powerpoint-style presentation and probably have that file somewhere, but anyway… if it’s your bag or interest, a glimpse of me prepping to preach the power of the pedal from the wayback is on the other side of the jump (replete with a photo of my old Raleigh mountain bike — still sporting a number from what looks to be an LA Marathon ride —  at rest on the L.A. River Bikeway around Atwater Village).


Agh. I waited too long. For the past however many days I’ve been snickering ever time I biked by a monster billboard north of Venice Boulevard at National, and of course I knew better to get a snap of it while I could, but I didn’t and this morning, it’s gone. Bah.

The billboard up until yesterday was part of a mega ad campaign promoting the DVD release of a 50th-anniversary edition of  Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and most prominently featured the above classic moment when Prince Charming is about to bestow the kiss that will awaken her from her comatose state.

I’d seen several variations on the promo featuring different scenes accompanied by the headline of “See More Than Ever Before,” but whoever created and approved the pairing of that headline with the above image of Charming positioned atop the pronated babe either is really really numbskulled or — more likely, gawd bless ’em —  knew exactly what the hell they were double entendre-ing.

“Sleeping Booty,” anyone?

Here in the city of anglez, membership has its privileges on all sorts of levels — one of them being preferred access to the variety of municipal pay tennis facilities (8) and golf courses (10). It doesn’t come free, of course. There’s an annual fee attached to each; $15 for swatters of the fuzzy ball and $25 for whackers of the dimpled one.

Nor does possession of the respective pieces of plastic grant you free passage onto those fields of play. It’s $8 an hour for tennis and a varying fee depending on what set of holes you want to play on. Basically all the cards do is allow the city to collect some personal information on you in exchange for being provided a member number with which to navigate through moderately clunky automated systems to schedule a court or a tee time, depending on availability.

Certainly walk-ups are welcome but without a reservation the risk of standing around and waiting is always a possibility.

Anyway, I had previously possessed both of these cards, but let my tennis one lapse when I decided to confine my on-court antics to the downtown YMCA’s rooftop courts. I failed to renew my golf one when I entered into that two-year period of not picking up my clubs (except to move them to the basement).

But after my round at Roosevelt last month with my friend Joseph Mailander, wherein I learned he’s also a player of tennis, I figured it was time to re-up to better enable and speed any future play dates. And now both have arrived, though sadly only after having to print out applications and employ stamps and envelopes and checks and photocopies of proof of residency like it’s 1995, not with the online ease one might otherwise expect to be the standard today.

PS. Speaking of archaic, someone with big enough golfballs in the Golf Division of the L.A Dept. of Recreation & Parks needs to march up to their boss who needs to march up to their boss and teach them two words: graphic artist. If there’s ever a card that needs some visual stimulation, it’s that one. And can somebody help that poor hunchbacked guy zip up his fly, dammit?

PSS. Yeah, you’re funny, but no the “D” on the golf card is not indicative — at least not intentionally — of the level of my game. It’s one of four rotating priority designations allowing early tee-time access on specific weekends throughout the year.

In learning about another cyclist getting attacked on the Ballona Creek (via Damien Newton on Streetsblog LA), I first “chewed with my mouth closed.” In other words I seethed in silence, digesting the angrifying news without posting a hyperbolic comment in response.

Then yesterday after reading the comment of a fellow bike commuter whose response to the incident was to stop riding the path in the afternoon rather than risk getting mugged, I chimed in that my resolve to ride the creek had not been weakened, and that I was disgusted that witnesses to the victim’s state reportedly ignored his need for assistance:

These parasites don’t frighten me. They enrage me. I will not stop riding the bikeway. I will ride it farther. I will ride it slower.

As to the pair of passing cyclists David reports ignoring his distress and failing to offer even the slightest assistance, that kind of despicable behavior is almost as unacceptable to me as the assault.

I wish David a speedy recovery.

In the comment immediately following mine a reader whose screename is “Paulobak” felt the need to butcher my bravado:

This is a very dangerous area that is the turf of the most dangerous west side street gang.

I know those guys are scum but

Your John Wayne attitude is dangerous.

Again I chewed on this for a bit, but it really rankled me as to why this person would so readily accept the evil these punks do and instead target me for a sideline snipe for being unwilling to so summarily cede the creek to them. So I responded thusly:

@Paulobak: I’m not sure I understand your knock. My attitude is “John Wayne” how and dangerous to whom?

Since the August attack I’ve made a dedicated effort to include the creek between Inglewood Boulevard and Duquesne Avenue in my morning and late afternoon/evening commutes. It’s not heroic. It’s simply a matter of accepting the risks and drawing the line — of not being willing or able to surrender the creek to the scum when so many others did. To date I have pedaled the path pretyy [sic] much every workday since with little in the way of negative encounter or incident.

And now in the wake of last week’s attack — and again when another rider such as commenter Victor demonstrates a faltering resolve — my comment above is simply a way of adamantly stating my stand is the same as it ever was, with the amendment that no distressed rider would go unaided by me.

Yet such a position prompted you to take a whack at me as cavalier or “dangerous,” which on the surface is laughable given the true danger is the thugs and the apparent free reign they have all up and down the Ballona. So again I ask who am I potentially endangering other than myself? And if the answer is no one — which it is — then the question is why do you possibly care? And the answer is you don’t. Not in the slightest.

So the only conclusion I can come to is a philosophical one: that you take issue with those such as myself who don’t fear anything other than fear itself.

In retrospect I shouldn’t have written “don’t fear anything…” in that last line. I should have written “try not to fear anything,” since I’m not always successful in keeping my courage. But I’m always trying to. And so to me, the far more dangerous — and frightening — attitude is that of Paulobak’s.

Aha! My mom-away-from-mom (otherwise known as my mother-in-law) Jeanette is quite the crafty one. Not only in the wonderful handmade things she designs and makes (most recently for us a really cool Halloween card), but also in her ability to tag me from her blog to participate in a meme that a fellow blogging craftian previously ensnared her in.

Jeanette writes:

Here are the rules:

  1. Link your tagger.
  2. Share seven facts on your blog – some random, some wierd.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of the post by leaving names as well as links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Done, done and as follows, done:

  1. I have logged almost 5,600 miles commuting by bike across Los Angeles this year and have managed to avoid all vehicles in motion and at rest, except for one. And it was at rest.
  2. As a child I taught myself how to tie my shoelaces in an effective manner but one lacking both efficiency or style. I tie my shoes the same way to this day.
  3. A piece of my hip bone was removed and installed to serve as the reconstructed bridge of my nose when it was destroyed along with other facial parts and systems in a motorcycle accident 13 years ago. Thanks to an excellent cosmetic surgeon the extracted section of bone was shaped so precisely a planned titanium screw to hold it in place was not required.
  4. I walked 28 miles last Saturday from one end of Western Avenue in Los Angeles to the other. It took more than 11 hours. I did this with five other fantastic urban explorers for fun. Some say, I have a weird idea of fun.
  5. I carry kibble and jerky treats with me in my backpack should I encounter any hungry stray dogs on my bike rides.
  6. I have never been to places like Rwanda and Zanzibar and Argentina, but I have never been to New York City.
  7. I have a story that’s been in my head for a couple years that I’ve finally started writing involving a young boy, a certain mythological fairy that collects teeth on a pay-per basis, and a monster living in the kid’s closet. I want to go into details here, but if I do then I won’t write it.  Personal bias notwithstanding, it has the potential to be quite entertaining. Unless I fuck it up.

Seven totally random bloggers I tagged (seriously, I do not know them at all, I Googled “random blog” and randomly tagged the following (I hope they don’t hate me too much for it):

  1. Random Blog
  2. My Random blog
  3. Random Good Stuff
  4. Random Camera Blog
  5. Random Blog From A Random Person
  6. My Random Blog
  7. Blog Random

Way back in another life when I was the theater critic at-large and filing a theater review every Monday for the Pasadena Weekly newspaper, I once found myself at Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse seated directly behind one Richard Sylvan Selzer — far more recognizable as Mr. Blackwell, the self-styled arbiter of taste most famously known for his dishy annual “worst dressed” list.

Before the intermission I found myself the focus of several disdaining over-the-shoulder glances from him and at the break I was decidedly on the receiving end of Mr. Blackwell’s disgust — not because of the standard if unfashionable theatergoing sportcoat-and-slacks ensemble I happened to be wearing that night, but instead  because I was annoying him with my laughter.

Mind you, we weren’t watching “Hamlet” or “Antigone.” In fact, it was a production of “By Jeeves” by Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber — a farcical musical comedy for sure and one done well enough to suit my funnybone, but apparently shame on me for deigning to enjoy the ensuing hilarity far too out loud for Mr. Blackwell’s comfort.

Standing when the house lights came up, he spoke to the gentleman accompanying him and wearily said  loud enough that he’d be having a much better time except for “braying” behind him.

So I turned to my date and said “Mr. Blackwell thinks I sound like a jackass, but at least I don’t act like one — at least not before the third act.”

I turned back to him and met his tinted-lensed glare at me until he and his partner adjourned to the lobby. When the curtain went up they had not returned to their seats, opting either to leave the theater entirely or be re-seated among far more humorless patrons.