Thursday, August 27, 2009


Yesterday when the radio announcer said there was a brush fire burning "in the hills above JPL," I lost a breath. I walk Boz in the wild lands near the Jet Propulsion lab.

Losing a breath is appropriate. Pasadena is once again situated between two brush fires, one in Glendora (the Morris Fire) and one above La Canada Flintridge (the Station Fire). It smells like a camp fire around here. If we didn't have to breathe it in and out all day I'd almost call it pleasant.
Today I went to the Devil's Gate Dam to get a photo of the fire over La Canada Flintridge. Readers of Pasadena Daily Photo might remember another glimpse of the mountain here. That's the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) on the lower right, obviously not threatened by the fire. The winds are moving in the opposite direction. Good news, sorta. That smoke is going away from us but the Glendora smoke is heading here as I type.

I drove over to La Canada Flintridge and up into the hills to get a better look. (The air is worse over there.) The best place I could find in the time I had was on a neighborhood street below the hilltop, under some wires that were buzzing and crackling. I don't know if it had anything to do with the fire. Maybe, maybe not. I could also hear the water-dropping aircraft but I couldn't always see them.

Wait. Let's zoom in on that shot. You still might have to click on it to see.
Sure enough. A helicopter. Seems awfully small to be fighting such a big battle.

The aircraft left to get more water. While they were gone the smoke shifted and billowed. It's beautiful, really. It was hard to tear myself away--from a safe distance, that is.

John took this one on the way home from work. The view is from a corner a little less than a mile from our house. The fire is, I would guess, a good twenty miles away.
Bless those firemen. They are crazy and brave.

Update: the Station Fire subsequently grew to historic proportions and I continued to blog about it on Pasadena Daily Photo.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

On the Trail Of...

If you've been following along on Pasadena Daily Photo you know about the al fresco art exhibit I attended last weekend at Oak Grove Park. The exhibit, called "On the Trail Of," was sponsored by NewTown and funded by grants from Pasadena Art Alliance, the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission and the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division. A few more shots:

Above, one of Three Untitled Framing Devices by John O'Brien and Cielo Pessione, "placed in relationship to where an interesting panorama could be framed." I found that you could frame the panorama with the device, or you could frame the device against the the panorama. Each device was mounted atop a base etched with a quotation. This one, by Annie Dillard, said, "Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you."

Below, Richard Newton's Seek no evil - Fear no evil - Be no evil echoed the Tarot by interpreting three of the cards in a traditional deck. I found them all striking, but Fear no evil was especially spooky when viewed from the high path in the misty woods.

Neil Fenn's Watershed Temporary Aesthetic Improvement Program entailed the "wrapping of large numbers of rocks in blue translucent plastic paper" alluding to, among other things, "the purposes and functions of a watershed." If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see the meticulous work that went into creating this, with "water" trickling down from the hilltop.

Many thanks to Barbara Ellis for the photo above. (You may remember Barbara; she was good enough to lead me/us on a tour of Caltech for Pasadena Daily Photo in March.) The picture is of one of six works entitled Ponds, by Toti O'Brien. "In plain view and sheltered from casual view, ceramic boats suggest journeys, real and imagined, liberating and confounding, chosen and serendipitous." I would also add, enchanting. They were small and hard to find, even with our map of the works. I saw four before I had to go. Barbara stayed to go back over the path and find the rest. Below you see how easy they were to miss, and how much they were worth looking for.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blurry Women

There's a reason this photo is blurry but you can't blame me, because I didn't take it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Art Night Extras

A few photos from Art Night, March 2009. Other images are here and here.

First stop was the Armory Center for the Arts.

A CBS2 camera crew was at the Armory Center. The artwork is by Gifford Myers. (Inspiration for this shot, Eric Tenin, Paris Daily Photo.)

Contemplating the photographs of David Scharf at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Also at the PMCA, Seismic Sea by Ned Kahn, an interactive piece. The description on the card beside it encouraged people to step on its base or tap it, to create "the interplay of water, light and shadow."

I didn't have my tripod with me, so unfortunately my night shots from Sidestreet didn't work. But do check them out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Getty

I recently visited the Getty Museum. The art is wonderful, of course, but for me the architecture is the highlight. Some folks complain that Los Angeles doesn't have decent architecture. It's true you won't find a magnificent historic building on every block in LA, like you will in Paris or London. And some parts of LA are so ugly as to be soul-killing. But we do have great architectural works here. One of them is the Getty Museum.

Architect Richard Meier created a remarkable complex. My favorite thing about it is how the eye is directed. The whole place is about views: up a flight of stairs, around a sinuous bend, across a panoramic garden. Even the tram ride that carries you from the parking lot to the hilltop center is engineered to surprise the eye.

Looking south.

Lines of sight.


A fixed gaze.

Visit the art, but don't miss the building.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crystal Cove

John and I skipped town for a couple of days over New Year's. We visited a place many people never see: the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages in Orange County, California.

At Crystal Cove the beach is pristine. The Cottages themselves are a historic district. The surrounding area is overcrowded, overbuilt, sadly spoiled California coastline so I won't show you that part.
A stretch of MacArthur Avenue heading into Corona Del Mar.

It's not easy to reserve a cottage at Crystal Cove. Rentals open up something like six months in advance and fill up in about five minutes. After that you might find a cancellation if you're lucky, but you have to think ahead. We were of the "lucky" variety. We received our stay as a gift from some very generous friends.
The view from our balcony to the southeast.

The view from our balcony to the northwest.

A few things you may notice from these shots: One, fog. Two, no crowds. The beach isn't private, it's a state park. But it was cold, and the cove isn't easy to get to. (More on that in a minute.)

You might also notice that our view looked over some shabby rooftops. Those cottages are unoccupied and awaiting renovation. The Cove has quite a story behind it, which I can't begin to tell in a short post. Briefly, the state bought the Cove a while back to save it from developers. That's good, otherwise it would look like the rest of the cheek-by-jowl pseudo-Spanish Lego that surrounds it. Some cottages have been fixed up, some haven't. Money is needed to complete the work. More on that here.

Boo Radley's beach house.

Some of the beach colony is a ghost town. On a foggy day it looks positively sad. But Crystal Cove has a sweet quality. The people who work there are dedicated to preserving it. And we liked breakfast at the casual Beachcomber restaurant. It was pricey but delicious, with good service. For dinner we went into Corona del Mar for a great meal at a more elegant place called Oysters. It was our Christmas gift from John's parents. For less than what we'd have paid at the Beachcomber we got a delicious meal including drinks, and a superb black truffle and edamame bruschetta. (Seriously. I'd never heard of it before either.)

The Beachcomber Restaurant.

Many of the cabins have kitchenettes so you can bring your own food. But they get away with charging a premium at the Beachcomber because they have a captive crowd. Remember I said it's not easy to get to Crystal Cove? In summer it's no big deal. But in winter, you may not want to bundle up and walk up the path away from the colony, through the tunnel, up the hill and across the windy parking lot all the way on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway. It's no big deal for the kids, but the retirees probably don't relish it. Or women walking alone. (Even though the cottage rental office furnishes flashlights.)

The tunnel.

Then again, you might be at Crystal Cove to escape the crowds you run into in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar. It might be worth it to you to stay in the Cove for all your meals, where for a brief time you can forget there's a world out there.

Some gift, eh?