Sunday, March 29, 2009

After the Fire

The Blue Sky Reserve is recovering from the huge fires that devastated San Diego County. Correction to original post: a commenter pointed out that it was only 18 months ago -- in fact, in October, 2007. See this article: Witch fire roars across northern San Diego County. We saw a few piles of charred trees, some trees that were still partly dead, a few badly burned utility poles, and much new growth. The regeneration is remarkable!

Blue Sky Walk

We took a walk this afternoon at the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve. We walked 5 miles with an 800 foot total climb, and ended up at the dam that holds Lake Ramona, a large reservoir. Across the valley, you can see another reservoir, Lake Poway. The landscape was beautiful: woodlands, streams, rocky hilltops. The spring wild flowers are beginning to bloom.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Absolutely bizarre Mona Lisa

Watch to the end to see Mona Lisa in this totally weird video. Thanks, Elaine, for telling me about it!

What is BOSU?

I've been taking various fitness classes including BOSU. It's the name of the activity, as well as the name of the piece of equipment: an air-filled dome that is used like an aerobics step. BOSU is harder than step, because balancing on a squishy dome is more difficult. After all, balancing on a step is no different from standing on the floor.

The instructors I've had use the BOSU in various creative ways. You can do steps up and down, backwards or forwards squats, jump or hop up (and step down). You can turn it over, put your hands on it, and do "burpees" or run with your legs out behind you. You can lie down on it or sit against it and do an abs workout. You can combine it with weights or weighted medicine balls. Today we did a lot of high-cardio exercises on the BOSU. I could barely keep up.

It's fun to try new forms of exercise. The alternate class involves lying on the floor to stretch with my fellow little-old-ladies -- this is much more challenging, even if I flag from time to time. I hope that BOSU gets back to Michigan before I do.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eric Mendelsohn

At the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary art, I bought a book about Eric Mendelsohn (1887-1953), a German-Jewish architect with a distinctive and innovative style. Though the book claims that Mendelsohn is neglected, lists quite a number of books about him and his work. This one is inexpensive (it's the kind of book you impulse buy in museum gift shops). It has interesting pictures, though the text is not brilliant. The cover shows the Einstein Tower, built in 1918-1924.

Mendelsohn was a leader in the Modernist school, which included Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius. His early works were designed and built in Germany, but he also designed pre-war buildings in Jerusalem and for the Weizmann House and the campus of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovoth, Israel. After 1940, he designed several synagogues and other buildings in the US, including a synagogue very close to where I grew up in University City, MO. When I was young, I knew the building was unusual, but I don't think anyone was aware of the fame of its architect.

A few years ago, we lived on the Weizmann campus, and I visited the house and the other buildings there, which were restored in around 2000. It was at that time that I became aware of Mendelsohn's history and work. Last December, we walked around the area of University City where his building still stands. No longer used as a synagogue, the building now houses a performance arts school.

The following are my photos of these buildings, the first two on the Weizmann campus, the second two of the synagogue.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Best quote of the day:
For some years past, people who pretended to scholarly study of literature had to master the opacities of deconstructionism, which the uncharitable insisted was an assertion that texts have no meaning, demonstrated by example. -- from John McIntyre
I was just thinking about deconstructionists, and how they all had something to hide. If you had written something to be ashamed of, no wonder you would come up with a theory that texts meant nothing. How could they have made fools of so many intelligent people for so long?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wedding on the Beach

The La Jolla Shores Hotel evidently sets up weddings right on the beach near here. Late Saturday afternoon beach-goers were numerous, doing their own thing, not paying much attention to the bride in the white train and the groom in white shirt and pants, the bridesmaids all standing in a bunch in dark formal dresses, and the little flower girl all in white, even shoes and tights, scrambling in the sand. White rose petals were scattered in the sand between the chairs.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Baby Elephant, Wild Animal Park

This baby elephant is only two days old. Birthweight: 225 pounds. We also saw a baby black rhino, a tiny baby cheetah, and a number of baby antelopes. The giraffe babies are a little older: maybe more like elementary school age.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Arny & Tracy's Photos

Arny and Tracy are visiting from Pennsylvania. Yesterday we watched two ravens and a hawk in a sort of battle overhead at Torrey Pines Park, and Arny shot fabulous photos of the birds chasing each other. Today we were in downtown La Jolla to see the baby seals and pelicans, as illustrated.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

See Under: LOVE

David Grossman's book See Under: LOVE makes for uneven reading. It's divided into 4 sections. The first section, titled "Momik," is brilliant. From inside the mind of a boy named Momik, we learn about the Holocaust. Momik is growing up in Jerusalem, surrounded by damaged adults whose arms have mysterious numbers, and who talk in a kind of code about what they remember from "over there." He constantly tries to figure out what happened, and becomes isolated and desperate as he feels he must fight the Nazi "beast." I felt as if I understood the Israeli experience in a new way, as I read this painful story.

The next two chapters don't in my mind live up to the promise of the first section, especially the one titled "Bruno" which is a kind of reverie about Polish author Bruno Schulz. For one thing, I've read Shulz's work, and I view him as overrated and hyped. Grossman is entitled to his opinion, of course, and no doubt has a superior ability to judge, but still, I don't like this type of fictional ressurection of the author -- who died in 1942 at the hands of the Nazis. No matter about Shulz, I also didn't like the switch from the literary style of the first section -- internal monologue from a child's point of view -- to the second, which was kind of phantasmagoric; it seems to be written a sort of alter-ego of the author/Momik grown up. His life, Shulz's life, made up life... maybe it's too meta-something for me.

Near the end there's a clue to all the meta stuff, maybe:
"Across the empty pages of the notebook in which the story was to be written, a single word flashed through the sleepless night: BEWARE. But of what was he supposed to beware? And to what end had he built a fortress around himself so adeptl all these years? Mama and Papa never said. They left an order: Beware. So you'll survive. ANd later when all the wars are over, there will be time to sit and talk about the full implications of the life you guarded so fiercely."

I didn't really like the third section either, which is even more meta. It's an imaginary conversation or encounter between a Jewish victim and a concentration camp official, going back to some of the same characters. I didn't think it succeeded nearly as well as "Momik," either. Finally, it ends with Kazik, a baby who lives and grows by years for every minute of his life. Again, phantasmagoric.

Finally the last section, "The Complete Encyclopedia of Kazik's Life," is an alphabetical list of Hebrew words with definitions and stories about Kazik, other characters, and abstract terms. Even more meta.

Unfortunately the work is a translation, and the order of entries in the "Encyclopedia" builds significantly. Thus the translation into English has to be in Hebrew alphabetical order. So "See under:" always refers to an English word, but you can't go look for it unless you know the Hebrew original word. This is very confusing and I think disrupts the author's purpose, if I have any idea what his purpose was. It seems like a totally different type of writing also from each of the other sections.

Do I sound like a clueless reader? I think that's what I am. Sorry.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Reading Plans

I have a huge stack of books that I plan to read; three of them just arrived from What ambition! I am almost done with rereading Iain Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost. I might be done tonight. The stack will probably take three or four weeks.

I should just take a photo of the spines, but instead, here's the list of books I plan to read or reread:
  • David Grossman: See Under: Love
  • Karen Maitland: Company of Liars
  • Diane Ackerman: The Zookeeper's Wife
  • Virginia Woolf: Jacob's Room & The Waves (one volume, 2 novels)
  • Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger
  • Jacques Attali: La crise, et apres? (recent gift from our friend Michelle in Paris)
  • Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina


Here's a random car that I photographed from our moving car on the freeway in L.A. I'm fascinated by the old cars everywhere in California. Yesterday I saw a VW bug with LITTLE tail lights. It was moving too fast and I didn't get a picture. Of course there was a surfboard on top. I've already posted some of the old VW and other 60s era vans -- then called a VW Bus -- still being driven. (See Old Cars)

Sometimes they still have the yellow on black license plate that was assigned permanently to them when they first became a California vehicle 40 odd years ago. I'm going to try for more good photos.

Monday, March 02, 2009

San Diego Wild Animal Park

These are Lenny's photos from last Saturday -- so much better than mine! It turns out the weather was exceptionally hot.