Friday, March 30, 2012

Taking a Stand and Making a Difference When it Really, Really, Really Hurts

From the April issue of Vanity Fair magazine and an article called "The Wrath of Putin." The photo is of a man called Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Reading about someone willing to go to prison because he's taken an ethical stand fills me with awe. Rare as it is, when I see it, I cheer on the valiant one, while at the same time I wonder if I could--or would--ever do likewise.

Thus is the story of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the only man who has stood up to the thuggish, corrupt, evil Vladimir Putin and is alive to tell the tale. Alive. But in the darkest prison in the depths of Russia.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting Therapy From Fictional Characters

Two of Alexander McCall Smith's books rest on a table in my living room.

My kind sister sent me two more books in Alexander McCall Smith's series about Precious Romotswe and the characters who surround her at The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana. Have you read them? 

The tales have a sweetness I can't explain. Added to that, McCall Smith grew up in Botswana, and though he now lives in Edinburgh, his affection for and familiarity with this--to the rest of us--exotic place is another appeal of these books. And they are funny and thoughtful. You can't beat all of these things for the quiet joy of a lovely, light read.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Water Accident and Scrub Jay Diversions

Miss Gimpy is very broody right now.

I had just returned home from lunch with old friends--where I heard some particularly distressing news about another family I care about. I went outside to feed my scrub jay friends, to take my mind off things.

It was sunny and gorgeous outside after a week of grey and cold. There was a pile of wood in my driveway--the gift of a kind neighbor who scrounged it for me, delivered it, and chain-sawed it into nice fireplace-size pieces. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mystery Deepens: No Word on Missing Sign! Costume Bank Faces Exile from City Council!

The annoying Sign That Ate Our Orchard remained down today at City Hall--with just the posts remaining to remind us of its bossy message ("Planning For Tomorrow: Eighteen Acres of Opportunity!)

I'm so obsessive, I once again drove over to the-sign-across-town, just to see if that one is still up. It is.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Annoying Sign Disappears!

The annoying sign that blocked the view of our orchard. I've had nightmares about it for some months.

I had to run a few errands before going out to dinner for my birthday.  As I drove by the City Hall, I almost had an accident.  The sign that has been there for two years, that has annoyed me every time I've driven by it?  Yes, that sign. (see above).


Saturday, March 17, 2012

At The Risin' of the Moon ...

The ruins of a chapel near Dun Aengus on the Aran island of Inishmore, off Galway, Ireland. Photo by RC.

Lots of film buffs think John Ford is the best American film director who ever lived. He was talented. His record of four Academy Awards--for The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), and The Quiet Man (1952)--remains unbeaten to this day.

Born Sean Aloysius O'Fearna to a family of Irish immigrants in 1895, his Celtic values and sentimentality inform his work. And though I seem to be the only classic film fan who doesn't like his (truly weird) film The Searchers (1956), today is a good day to celebrate his many, many other winners.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Tilt At Windmills: Therefore I Am

Not too many cities in the world can boast a civic center with grounds that look like this. 

A friend and I handed out more of my leaflets this morning--telling my neighbors in Los Altos what are the plans for our historic apricot orchard. That is--to demolish it, pave it over, and build a bunch of city buildings where the trees have stood for half a century.

Meanwhile, the local paper hits my mailbox each Wednesday and makes me grind my teeth. In it, our mayor is quoted as saying (this week): " It [the orchard] will be preserved in some fashion." This is like saying your dead grandfather will be "preserved in some fashion" when you have him cremated and place his ashes on your mantlepiece.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why No Coverage of Scarf Fracas?

"Reconte moi le Cheval" a scarf by Hermès that salutes the equestrian toys of childhood.

I'll tell you the most astonishing thing about the end of the relationship between Hermès and Nieman Marcus--a business partnership that goes back at least thirty years.

I seem to be the only reporter who has covered the story.  I've Googled around to see if the retail trades have anything more on what has to be a multi-million dollar bust-up. The only story I've seen so far is the one on my own blog.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Library of Congress Photos of my Forefather

My great grandfather, Frank Gordon Latta. Montana, 1939. Born in 1870, he died in 1940. His left eye was damaged by a splinter when he was chopping wood.

I've written elsewhere about my great grandfather, Frank Latta, and his most famous tracking case--the capture of the train robber and extortionist Ike Gravelle in Montana in 1903. I have a link to that story at the end of this one.

Now, a Latta relative has discovered photos of my great grandfather in our nation's archives, taken by eminent photographer Arthur Rothstein, of Columbia University--and later of Look Magazine. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Comparing Them to my Father?

Shoup Park, Los Altos. I think my father was about 85 when this photo was taken.

I've mentioned that I think about my father quite a bit in March, as this is the month he died, two years ago. It was so difficult--seeing him approach the end, and feeling so helpless. The last food he ate was some ice cream I scrounged for him at the nursing home, just before he fell into a coma. "Yum yum," he said softly, "that's good."

Such an appropriate last meal for Dad. Next to pancakes, ice cream was his favorite food.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Latest on Nieman Marcus and Hermes

Is there anything more beautiful than the wearable art of the Hermes scarf?

I've spent several days (in spite of the distractions of my campaign to save the City of Los Altos' apricot orchard and the time I have to set aside to feed my tame Jay friend, Ms. Gimpy) trying to get to the right person at Nieman Marcus, to find out about the loss of Hermes scarves in their stores.

I did get a call back today from their corporate HQ in Texas. An executive told me this "was an Hermes decision, much regretted at Nieman Marcus."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Old Spinster Lady Talks to Birds and Wears Funny Socks

Really this should be a lesson to anyone who lives alone. When you start making friends with the birds in your garden, you are probably not being anything like Snow White or the Rene Zellweger version of Beatrix Potter--but are instead beginning to act like an eccentric old bag lady.  Excuse me while I go get my hair net.

Anyway, at least my "relationship" with this bird has caused me to delve into the peculiarties of iMovie, and begin learning how to use the editing function. I guess when you are a bag lady, you must take your thrills where you can find them ...