Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bee Bath

The bees were lovin' this leaky outdoor plumbing when I came across it in one of Pasadena's city parks.

We have an abundance of parks. Abundance is good any time, especially in this time of shortages.

It must take a lot of effort to keep all that plumbing in good shape.

We have a budget shortage, so perhaps that's why the leak hasn't been fixed.

Or maybe no one's noticed.

We have a shortage of water, so maybe I should report it.

Then again, maybe I shouldn't. It pleases the bees, and we also have a shortage of bees. 

For a fanciful and funny take on beekeeping and bees, visit this recent post by Shell Sherree
I just posted a photo of a huge wasps' nest on Overdog.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cold Confection

I came across this gate back in April, then came across it again last night while looking through my photo files. It's on the property that once belonged to the Merritt Mansion and is now part of the Ambassador Campus. When you step through the gate, a little stairway takes you from the lower garden to an upper garden. I posted about the Merritt upper garden last May, soon after I wandered there taking photos.

For those who don't want to click the links: industrialist Hulett C. Merritt was one of Pasadena's early millionaires. He built his mansion on Millionaires' Row in 1905 for a cost of $1,100,000. That gives you a general idea of how fancy the house was, and still is. It's a big, old wedding cake of a place, one of the few surviving mansions along Orange Grove Blvd. You don't normally notice it from the street, though, because it's flanked by a couple of modern buildings that were built by Ambassador College when it bought the property.

Those ill-conceived flanks look like giant ice cube trays, which conceal the wedding cake in their chilling shadows. But you can stroll on the property at Green Street and Orange Grove Avenue and discover this remnant of Pasadena's past for yourself. Do it soon; the property has been purchased. Changes will happen. Let's hope they won't be drastic unless, for example, ice cube trays are removed to reveal wedding cakes.

Wander far enough and you'll find this gate. Let it lead you to the gardens. It only takes a little imagination on your part to enjoy a glimpse of its heyday.

Did I mention I like archways? I think I mentioned I like archways.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Invisible Selves

photo by John Sandel

In yesterday's post I said, "I'm sorry some kids don't have art class in school today." I was referring obliquely to school budget cuts, not to any school district specifically. The first comment that came in was from J+P, who some of you know is my husband. I was asleep when, soon after midnight, he typed in his comment, "Kids don't have art classes any more? WTF?"

He must have stewed all day. I asked his permission to use his 5:18pm comment for today's post. The photo, too, is his.

Okay, so, what—now we’re supposed to start calling art & beauty &  self-expression luxuries? Because some benighted wart of a legislature can’t figure out how to reapportion its weapons allowance?

I’m thisclose to resigning my commission in a species which tells me that beauty and losing-one’s-way-in-the-forests-of-metaphor are less valuable than carnage over oil, or someone’s holy book. We can’t afford to teach kids art? So, then, the painters at Lascaux and Altamira—I guess they had it pretty comfy, 15,000 years ago. That must be why they handed their works of hallucinatory reportage down to us … not because they were in constant danger of attack from man & beast, nor cowed by nature’s baffling whims. They could afford art and its fierce timesink.

And what of the heroes lost to Nazi murderers—the Karels, Kleins and Weisses who withstood torture and starvation and still found a way to make art? They smuggled out symphonies and novels written on toilet paper rather than let their inspiration & craft fade away like smoke from a chimney. But we just can’t shift a few bucks out of the “Hummer” column into the “fingerpaint” column.

It makes my head smolder. We spend our present and bankrupt our future; this is no problem merely of money. When Shelley called poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” he didn’t mean just writers and he wasn’t just being smug. Art has a power to drive the human imagination which war nor politics nor terror can ever match. But sometimes I wonder: maybe we know that and it scares us …

Art is central to our survival—it’s food for our invisible selves. Jesse Helms may have vilified Robert Mapplethorpe's photos because he knew about the towering outrage in the “Guernica”; and the subversive punch of Soul On Ice.

That’s pretty risky stuff, no? Better not let the kiddies get none o’that into their heads. But if they’d had a little more free expression as kids, the Stalins and Cheneys and Ahmadinejads of the world might have trained their energies into something positive.

This year, we cut the art budget. Gotta save the bucks, Charlie. Never mind the future—our appropriations guidelines were laid down for us …

Us. Never “them.” Never the kids. Always—us. It’s like we never got past the sixth grade, but we’re the ones with the plutonium.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mess Up Your Paintbox

When I was a kid there was always art class in school. From fingerpainting in kindergarten to more sophisticated projects later on, my classmates and I had a chance during the school day to make something.

My junior high school art teacher was an unperturbable man with silver hair and dark-rimmed glasses who moved slowly through the room as we worked. I won't lie, sometimes we giggled and passed notes--it was junior high, after all. But most times we worked furiously, engrossed in our projects. Art was a fun class. We looked forward to it.

I feel guilty for not remembering the teacher's name. But more importantly, I remember him encouraging me to "mess that up a bit" or "try splashing." I thought he was terribly sophisticated and wise.

I didn't become a great painter but I learned to mess things up a bit. For a girl who felt internal pressure to get things perfect, this was a valuable lesson.

I'm sorry some kids don't have art class in school today. However, there may be hope in the workshops at Paintbox Kids, 1383 E. Washington Blvd. You can sign your little one up for "Ladybug Picnic with Queen Laura," "Lego Engineering" or even "Light Saber Training," which I must witness before I die. (Can a fly on the wall have a camera?)

They also offer open studio, which your child can attend with or without you (check the website and/or call for the details). An open studio full of kids making art sounds like wild fun to me. I hope they mess the place up a bit. I hope they try splashing.

What do you do to mess up your paintbox?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Literary Lane

It would be tempting to move in at this corner just for cachet. One pictures thatched roofs and stone garden walls overgrown with vining roses. Alas, although this San Marino corner is mere blocks from the Huntington Library and Gardens (a stroll through which evokes images of 19th century Europe), this corner is built with 20th century ranch-style homes, and expensive ones at that. The cachet here is San Marino itself, where the median list price of a home, as of July of this year of all years, was just under two million dollars.

I wonder what Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th century poet/diplomat, would think of this corner. The guy was no slouch--even Shakespeare studied him. He was accustomed to wealth, not of the ranch-style home kind but of the castles and kings kind. If Chaucer came to town I suppose we could take him to the Huntington, but where else would we go?

Here's a Google map for you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zen Monday: #112

Zen Monday is the day you experience the photo and give us your thoughts rather than me telling you what I think the photo's about.

I look for a photo worth contemplating or, failing that, something unusual or silly. And unless I absolutely must say something I stay out of the comments box to avoid influencing the discussion.

There's no right or wrong. We're here to have fun.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No Matter What

I took this one some time ago, obviously from the car. (Don't worry, I pulled over.) Today's a fine day to post it.

Westminster Presbyterian Church, at Pasadena's border with Altadena, is a magnificent building. I've been remiss in not posting many, many photos of it. Of course it's the first thing most people photograph in town and because I'm contrary I haven't done so. But you'd think by now...

I have friends who attend Westminster and it seems like a lovely congregation. One of these days I'm going to sneak a peek inside.