Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Person's Checkroom From the Year 2011: Things Lost and Things Found

The found photo of my father.

As the years go by, I've begun to think of each year as a large Lost and Found checkroom, where things turn up that have been missing and from which other things go missing, perhaps to turn up in another year, perhaps to vanish forever.

Above is something I found this year: a photograph of my father I had never seen before--a picture of him lost for at least four decades.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

To Whom We Owe so Much: Even Our Pursuit of Happiness

That's Lady Mary there on the sled with me as the sun comes out after the snowstorm in Denver. Hard to spot her in her snuggle bunny suit.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Just wanted my friends to see at least some of the Col's family on Christmas morning in snowy Colorado. Fire on the hearth. Blessings galore. Sled in the snow.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Once Upon a Christmas Birthday ...

 One memorable Christmas Evethe silly knit cap was from me and Sis bought Dad a toy helicopter--which I believe he has just launched (with a blow pipe) into the rafters.

December 22, 2011 (Earth time)

Dearest Dad;

Today is your birthday and though I realize time is no longer a concern for you, we still have to slog along down here by the calendar and the clock. So, when December 22 rolls around, I always think of you--well, I always think of you anyway, but on 12/22 I think of you more often.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Maybe I Should Not Have Read That Book ...

Part of the apricot orchard the covers the ground between our City Hall and our Police Station. You and I see this and say, wow that's pretty. Someone else sees it and exclaims (as they do in a recent city brochure) "Eighteen Acres of Opportunity!"

It is curious how one book can resonate so differently with the same reader at different times in her life. I first read How the Irish Saved Civilization on a long business trip across the Atlantic, and I found it so witty and diverting I didn't even scowl back at the surly flight attendants.

Cahill's premise, that Irish monks laboring away in scriptoria saved the Great Books of the Greco-Roman world while Europe was awash in manuscript-burning barbarians, may be debatable. But he makes such a delightful case for it, it sounds like it ought to be true.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Serfs Don't Coming Hanging 'round My Door!

Drawing by John Tenniel from the 1868 edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, from my own collection. 

"The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small.  'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round." Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Rob Long (who didn't write Alice in Wonderland, by the way, we'll get to that in a minute) is a very funny writer whose credits include "Cheers." He is also a conservative who produces biting, laugh-out-loud satire for the political magazine National Review.

That's why I was surprised to read a serious Rob Long piece [National Review November 14, 2011] in which he focused--almost to his chagrin--on what he called "the kernel of truth" in Occupy Wall Street.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Invasion of the Body Snatchers in my Old Home Town

What a pretty orchard it is. Tell it adios. The suits want it plowed under.

In my hometown we have an ill-mannered, fat lady mayor who always reminds everyone at each city council meeting that she got her MBA in Marketing at Stanford.

I used to have a high opinion of Stanford until I found out they gave out MBAs in Marketing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Those New City Sidewalks? Gosh--They Sure Don't Look Like a Million Dollars

Our new, seven-figure sidewalks after just a few months of use.

We had new sidewalks installed in downtown Los Altos this past summer--which surprised a lot of people since we had new sidewalks installed just ten years ago and the ones we had looked really nice.

Some of the stone benches even had wonderful tromp l'oeil paintings on them by acclaimed local artist Jan Meyer.  Looking at these new one--I sure miss the old.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"To Secure The Blessings of Liberty For Themselves and Their Posterity ..."

Pearl Harbor survivors Ted Ivey of Cupertino, California at left, and Warren Upton at the Moffett Field Museum's reception honoring the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. The photo is by artist Anna Jacke.

A crowd of more than seventy five people stopped by the Moffett Field Historical Museum, Wednesday, December 7, 2011, for a reception and art exhibit in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. Among those present, were five special guests who on that day were young men in uniform serving on ships and at bases around that famous anchorage.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Art and Free Expression on The Seventieth Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

The Roy Chapmans on Christmas morning, 1941. The winter darkness seems to mirror the mood of my grandmother Mary, my grandfather Roy, and my father's sister, Helen. Only family friend David, whom the Chapmans were caring for because his father had been called up, seems to be excited about Christmas. My father, along with most soldiers that year, did not get Christmas leave.

America awoke to terrible news on this day seventy years ago. The Japanese had bombed our Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Thousands of sailors and soldiers were dead.

My father was already in uniform on that day.  His reserve unit had been called up in July, 1941 because President Roosevelt knew this day might come.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Of The People, By the People, For the People?

Downtown Los Altos, California, summer 2011.

In my little hometown, we've been living a construction nightmare for a year. Based on the letters to our local paper, the Los Altos Town Crier, the majority of our citizens have been mystified, then angry, to see every downtown intersection torn up during the past twelve months.

This is partly because our city installed new sidewalks and benches downtown just ten years ago. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Amazing Tale For Our Time--Two Centuries Old and As Modern as Today

I picked this book up in a Dublin shop and I couldn't put it down. Read Wedlock, by Wendy Moore and your jaw will drop and stay there as you read this true tale in which the victim finally--with the help of a small cadre of servants--prevails over her abuser.

Even today, one of the worst things that victims in abusive relationships must face--whether it is a child with an abusive parent, or a person with an abusive spouse--is how little credence the rest of the world places in that person's suffering. We just don't want to believe that the nice man down the street has a layer beneath the one we daily see--and that in this underside of his life he is very frightening.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Origins of Dracula in Dublin

St. Michan's Church, Dublin.

Bram Stoker and his book Dracula (1897) may not freely associate in your mind with Dublin. But the author was born in Dublin, attended Trinity College, and began his career as a free-lance theater critic in the city.

In Ireland, there is speculation that what he saw in a tiny north side church, may have played a part in the vampire story that made him famous.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ringing the Changes at Christ Church

On the walkway near the roof of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on my way to the bell tower. I seem to be holding onto that book bag for dear life. (It was windy.)

One of my favorite mysteries--in fact, one of my favorite books of all time--is The Nine Tailors, by the late Dorothy L. Sayers. Written in 1934, it takes place in and around a medieval church and uses the obscure art of English change ringing (of church bells) as one of the important elements of the story. 

It is a wonderful book: and if you haven't read any Sayers, this is a lovely introduction to her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, the shell-shocked veteran of the Great War and second son of the Duke of Denver. 

This is all leading up to the fact that today, on a tour of the bell tower of Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral, I actually met my first expert in change ringing, who, at least, attempted to explain this unique feature peculiar to English churches.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Let Slip the Dogs of War: But Not Right Here!

Government Buildings, Dublin, early in the morning.

It took me several days of getting my bearings to figure out that my little Georgian hotel sits just a few steps  from the Dáil Éireann, the home of the Taoiseach--the Irish Prime Minister--as well as their lower house of Parliament. It is a bit like being in a hotel across the street from the White House and the Capitol.

This formidable set of structures sits between the National Library and the National Museum of Archeology, so when I went to see these museums I noticed, through the iron fence, lots of men and women in the nearby courtyard with cell phones stuck to their ears--called mo-biles here in the Euro Zone--rushing about between meetings.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Walking Through the Heart of Dublin

Dublin statue of James Joyce.

"There are two important books in every Irish home," said my young guide, a student of history at Trinity College, Dublin.

"The Bible and James Joyce's Ulysses." He paused an Irish pause.

 "Alas. Both unread." 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Visiting the Book of Kells

Am I in focus yet?

I've been lucky enough to have seen the Book of Kells once before on a trip to Ireland in the 1980s. It seems to me we walked into the Long Room of the Trinity College Library and looked at it in a glass case, open to one page. The story they told us then about the one thousand year old manuscript was that a page of it was turned each day, so that visitors could come and see something new and beautiful in it each time they were there.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Its a Long Long Way to Tipperary

Merry Christ's Mass to you--in Celtic

I'm just getting oriented--a good word since I traveled a long way to the East from California--and after a day on the road and a longish nap today, I left the hotel for a stroll on Dublin's famous Grafton Street.

Ah, there's that famous Celtic restaurant now!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visions of Celtic Lands

On my first trip to Ireland.

I've been planning a trip to Ireland--a country I haven't seen now for more than two decades. I do have Celtic in my background--McHutchison was my paternal grandmother's family name--but it is, I believe, of the lowland Scot variety.

I like to pretend I'm related to T.E. Lawrence, whose father was the Anglo-Irish baronet Sir Thomas Chapman. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blame It On Catherine Oxenberg

Robin interviewing Catherine Oxenberg in Los Angeles, on the set of ABC's "Dynasty."

For some reason I decided to look up the actress Catherine Oxenberg on the 'net, and not just her bio: I looked up some recent photos of her as well. That was my mistake. The worst viruses I've ever been spammed by, have all come from celebrity photo sites. Something I, for the moment, forgot.

I had interviewed the blonde beauty early in her career, when she had a part during the last couple of seasons of the ABC series "Dynasty."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Irving Bacheller Pops Up Again

Irving Bacheller on the grounds of his estate in Winter Park, Florida, circa 1930s.

I was awarded a grant several years ago to research the life of writer Irving Bacheller, a best-selling novelist in the first half of the 20th century.

He's not well-known today. But, when I was writing a small book about Winter Park, Florida, I kept stumbling across his name. He had a winter home in Winter Park, and I discovered that in his day, he was a big literary light to shine in such a small town.

Now, I've stumbled upon the old fellow again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Gunking" and "De-Gunking" on Ascension

I've just received a booklet of my father's tales and reports about Ascension Island, from Shari Parkhill of the Ascension Island Heritage Society

They are a treat for me and, I hope, will help researchers of the future get a glimpse into the daily lives of the young men who freed the world back in World War II.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Out of the Past ...

I have many happy memories of being young and foolish. I don't have any idea if I was actually happy back in the days of my youth: but looking back--from the perspective of a wiser person who has lived the joys and sorrows of the life that intervened--looking back has often brought a smile.

At least it did until the Internet came along, and Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Myspace and and now I can actually see the people that brought these smiles to my face, not through the gauze of my imperfect memory, but it the harsh glare of an overhead fluorescent light as if on a Skype call from the past.

I want my old misty, gauzy memories back please.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When Artists Went to War

An American Thunderbolt ground crew in England, cleaning its guns on June 6, 1944. By artist Ogden Pleissner, for Life Magazine.   

Following a trail of facts that lead to an interesting story is what reporters love to do. That's how I happened to learn about the artists who went to war in World War II.

I stumbled upon the program when I found two framed color prints of Ascension Island in my father's things. My father had served on Ascension and I could see the prints were of really good paintings.  But, they had captions beneath them and looked as if they had been cut from a magazine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I am Not James Herriot, But ...

You can't tell she's Ms. Gimpy when you see only her side view.

I''m still monitoring the progress of the Blue Jay I dubbed Ms. Gimpy after an accident immobilized her right leg, September 19. Actually, I never did know if it was her leg, hip, or pelvis. But, after she hopped around on her left leg for three weeks, she began to put weight on her right again.

She continues to heal and to visit. How can I spot her?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Ghost on the Sculpture Committee

"Imagine That" by artist Tom Williams. Lincoln Park, Los Altos, California.

I got a call this week from someone looking for Faye Chapman. Faye is my late mother, and since I kept the family land line when I moved into the family home last year, this kind of call isn't uncommon.

Usually it is someone looking for a donation. But this time the call contained a surprise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There's Nothing New Under the Sun

Robin and Kimberly at our Echo Drive home with friend.

Keeping the rain off the rhubarb and the locusts off the grain goes back a long way.

I had to search the attic of my brain for memories of how my ancestors kept the crows away (see the previous story). The word "scarecrow" emerged from the foggy mists of my failing synapses.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Attack of the Killer Crows! Or: Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds May End Up in A Pie

Many people in California don't even have lawns anymore: it is that water conservation thing and a good change it probably is.

But my lawn has been here for half a century. It was attached to the house my sister and I inherited. So, I was unprepared for the terror that awaited me when ...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Case of the Brazilian Haircut: A Snip of the Good Neighbor Policy in World War II

My father on leave in Recife, Brazil, 1943, had this studio photograph taken for his mother and father.

I have been having a conversation--by email--with a young man from Brazil, who is writing a book about his country's role in aiding the Allied victory in World War II. President Roosevelt called it the Good Neighbor Policy, and it was of enormous help to the U.S. in many ways.

The writer found my website about the U.S Army Corps of Engineers who built Wideawake Field on Ascension Island, and, since Ascension is in the Atlantic, about midway between West Africa and Brazil's state of Natal, he wrote to ask if my engineer father had any experiences in Brazil.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who Is John Galt and Where is He?

Ayn Rand. Photo courtesy of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Europe is looking really bad. Like it will blow up at any moment. Not blow up as in ICBMs: but kabooming into some sort of unprecedented economic chaos. Then, I just read a piece by economic journalist Michael Lewis about how the city of Vallejo, California is actually in bankruptcy, the city of San Jose is pretty close to it, and the entire state of California is next. Followed by the whole of America, I guess.

I started remembering how, in that crazy Ayn Rand book, Atlas Shrugged, this character called John Galt takes all the smart, creative people to a secret valley in Colorado and starts America over again. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Doin' That Facebook Thing

Ed Heiland and Robin Chapman at WESH-TV News in Orlando.

You may or may not believe this, but I've tried very hard not to make this blog about recherche du temps perdu. That is: I try to live in the present: and the present, at present, is a pretty fascinating place to be.

Still, when I had to join Facebook to add a comment to the page of a friend, I discovered this gave me my own Facebook page and my life began to spiral out of control from that moment. Because it was there I discovered all my old pals from the biz.  What a hoot and a half.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

USS Macon Anniversary and Exhaustion!

Just me and the Macon model. Alone at last.

The 78th Anniversary Celebration of the arrival of the USS Macon to (then) Naval Air Station Sunnyvale--later NAS Moffett Field--was a huge success, thanks to the help of the staff of NASA/Ames Research Center--the present landlords of the old Navy base.

The story of a retired engineer and his single minded mission captured the hearts of the public and brought NASA and the Moffett Museum and Historical Society a lot of attention. It seems people couldn't get enough of the tale of the man who vowed to bring the USS Macon home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Dawn is Breaking: Quick Get Some Glue!

The edge of Moffett's Hangar Two at left, and then, across the field from that, the famous Hangar One, as the sun comes up over the Santa Clara Valley. The moon still shines on California's Coast Range, in the distance.

I was up at oh-dark-hundred this morning, in my volunteer role, escorting a news crew from KNTV in San Jose, for the Moffett Museum. We headed in the dark over to Moffett's Hangar Two so reporter Bob Redell, from the local NBC-TV affiliate, could do some early morning live reports on Jack Clemens and his hand-built, flyable model of the old airship, USS Macon.

A twenty-foot-long flying toy blimp! Good pictures for television and that's for sure.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Birdman of Alcatraz

My stories about the the wounded Blue Jay in my backyard, prompted a Facebook discussion among some of my friends about the film, Birdman of Alcatraz. As this film approaches its fiftieth anniversary, I thought it might be a good time to revisit one of Burt Lancaster's best roles.

Burt Lancaster in Birdman of Alcatraz.

In Birdman of Alcatraz, we have already begun to feel ourselves siding with the apparently persecuted prisoner, Robert Stroud, when he finds a wounded sparrow during a solitary walk in the prison yard. 

Once he has befriended that little bird, any doubts we might have had about the title character, played by Burt Lancaster, fall away. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Story of Ms. Gimpy and Mr. Peanut

Ms. Gimpy still slightly favoring her right leg. This photo captures her hopping on her left, using her right as a stabilizer.

I got to know two Blue Jay fledglings this summer, almost by accident. The two noisy youngsters began coming around to visit when I was in the garden.

One day, I dug into my cupboard and found a few stale almonds for them. Our friendship was sealed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More Classic Horror for Halloween

Last October we listed ten of the best Classic Horror Films for Halloween. This year, we toss a few more into the hopper. Here's to frightening fun ...

Dead of Night (1945) I first saw this creepy English classic in the 1980s when I rented a VHS version of it from Erol's in Washington D.C. It is a series of tales, linked together by the story of an architect who goes to spend a weekend in a country cottage and discovers it is the house he has seen in a recurring nightmare. Since each tale is unique, you can't tell where this is going: so the ending is a goosebump-raising surprise.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Soul Man of the New Machine

The San Jose Mercury news made Steve Jobs' death its top story: "above the fold" in newspaper parlance.

He died Above the Fold, in more ways than one. He was so iconic, just a photo of him and a couple of words in a Silicon Valley newspaper were all that were necessary. His name may have been in small print, but his image was writ large.

He was from my hometown, Los Altos, California. But like most geniuses, he came more from the planet inside his head than anywhere else. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Old World Designs" for Needlepoint

A small business success in Menlo Park, California.

Little shops come and go in suburban villages these days, so it is always intriguing to discover one that has been serving customers for more than two decades. Old World Designs--a nirvana for needlepointers--is one such story.

Its owner, Linda Mendenhall, doesn't just do all the smart businesswoman things--marketing, marketing, marketing, and supplying what her customers need--she has one more key to success.  She turns her customers into friends.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The USS Macon Returns to Moffett Field

The model of the historic rigid airship USS Macon moored in Moffett Field's Hangar Two.

It was quite a day for retired engineer Jack Clemens. He has spent three years building a scale model of the historic US Navy dirigible USS Macon from the specifications of the original rigid airship.

Facing trials and tribulations that involved a cat pouncing on the delicate model (well, it did look sort of like a bird--to a cat), to getting the balsa-and-Mylar craft tangled in a tree, Clemens' journey has not been uneventful. Today, for the first time, he took the remote-controlled model successfully aloft at Moffett's Hangar Two. And a crew from Canada's Discovery Channel was there to record it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Deja Vu Development Loop: Again

Downtown Los Altos, California. Strict height limitations and zoning codes have kept its village character intact, thus far. This is a photo from the city's web site.

Greed is not good, in spite of what Gordon Gekko so famously said in the movie Wall Street. Bernie Madoff and the truly creepy underbelly of the "mortgage crisis" should be a lesson in that--if nothing else. But it certainly is ubiquitous.

In charming little towns across America where the real estate gets pricey, you can bet there will be a sudden symbiosis of developers-realtors-business property owners-Chambers of Commerce, and, ta-dah, politicians to "redevelop" the "downtown core" to get "more feet on the street," while, supposedly "preserving our village character." 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Teaching The Value of the True

It is autumn in Northern California. I heard, then saw, a flock of geese honking over the house this morning, traveling in their V-shaped formation to a destination further south. It made me think back to previous autumns, and lessons my father taught me, so many years ago.

Kim at left and Robin and autumn leaves from the apricot trees in our first Los Altos house. 

Among the finest things my father gave to me were the lessons he taught by example. He kept his word. He was on time. He did not do a job by half. He paid his bills. He was never intentionally cruel to anyone--though he sometimes was so without intent, through an excess of frankness. (I watched him all his life trying not to do this last thing.)

He operated openly with his fellow man and kept no hidden agenda. Most of all he sought the truth in everything.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ghosts of the Old Airship USS Macon

It's the U.S.S. Macon. Almost.

When you see it in a photo--in two dimensions and without the benefit of perspective--it looks like the reincarnation of the 1930s Navy airship the USS Macon. Its perfection is a tribute to one man's fascination with history.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fifty Jobs in Fifty States

I  just saw a very funny talk by a young man from Los Altos, California, who found himself in the painful predicament that only the scion of a privileged family could understand.

His graduation from USC unfortunately coincided with the serious downturn in our nation's economy. After three years of sending out resumes and facing chronic rejections--while enjoying the perfect environmental and intellectual climate of a hometown filled with professional families living in gracious homes--his father told him it was time--in the vernacular--to "get a life."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fate of Ms. Gimpy

Ms. Gimpy returns. You can see her right leg isn't working and she is balancing on her left.

Ms Gimpy stopped by for breakfast again this morning! She has more pep and is doing a much better job of working around her still troublesome right leg. She did have a tough time with a shelled peanut:  the Blue Jays usually use both feet to hold one while they chip at it with their beaks. She perched on the top of the bench, had trouble with her balance and had to flutter to the grass. But she got the peanut and then hopped up on Dad's old umbrella base and looked around as if to say: "What? You've never seen a leg-challenged bird before?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Late Breaking News on Leg Breaking Jay

Ms. Gimpy.

I wasn't sure what I would find when I went out this morning, after reporting to you on my day, yesterday, watching the wounded Jay bird fledgling, who somehow managed to get her leg broken.

I sat out back this morning, with bird seed at the ready.  After about ten minutes, she flew over. She made it through the night!  Good show!

The Bird With the Broken Leg

One of my fledgling Blue Jay friends showed up at breakfast yesterday dragging her right leg. Then her sibling chased her away from the food and she limped and fluttered away and spent the morning hiding out in one of my shrubs.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Great Moffett Paint Out Concludes

Diana Jaye and Susan Watson paint Shenandoah Plaza at historic Moffett Field.

Thanks to the president of the Moffett Historical Society and Museum, Herb Parsons, and board members Diana Parsons and Tom Spink, we were able to open the museum on this Sunday, in order to accommodate more artists for our Great Moffett Paint Out.

Usually the museum is like that movie: Never On A Sunday. But the artists needed our Facilities. And I don't mean our drinking fountain. So we made an exception.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Great Moffett Paint Out: Day One

Artist Robin Mize gets down to work.

Thirty two landscape artists from all over the San Francisco Bay Area, converged on Moffett Field, Saturday, September 17, 2011 for Day One of the Great Moffett Paint Out. We had absolutely perfect weather. As my father used to say: "It was a CAVU day"--ceiling and visibility unlimited.

Artists spread out all over the 1000 acre property to paint whatever they wanted to paint in this sunny, breezy spot on the edge of San Francisco Bay. The event was sponsored by the Moffett Museum and Historical Society.

Great Moffett Paint Out!

I'm off this morning to Welcome the Artists participating in the Great Moffett Paint Out.  I had this sign made to hang above the Moffett Museum door to welcome them, and though in small form it looks humble enough ...

In reality it is eleven feet wide and three feet high.  I hope it will let them know how welcome they are.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

California 'Cots 2011

An apricot orchard in Los Altos Hills.

I drove up into the hills above my house today. The windy roads took me a couple of miles in distance and a few hundred feet up into the foothills of the Coast Range. And into the past.

If you don't look too closely, Los Altos Hills still look charming and rural, the way the Santa Clara Valley looked when I was growing up here--before it was Silicon Valley, the home of high tech billionaires.

Today, I was in search of apricots, and my quest involved a nexus of old and new.