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.