Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pavlovian Conditioning

I've been noticing this for a while now but every time I put on some sunscreen to go riding, I have a form of Pavlovian response to the scent of Coppertone Sport on my face, arms and legs.  Coppertone sunscreen always reminds me of the two weeks every year that we spend in Hawaii, where every day from morning until evening, sunscreen is a necessity.  Coppertone represents good times, worry-free, vacation and fun and obviously, my response to this conditioned stimulus is one that associates what's coming next -- an ocean swim, a cold drink and maybe a luau later on.  When I put it on prior to riding my bike (here in the mainland, of course), all that seems to be missing is the saltwater and I'm transported to the land of Aloha.  It's a strange but totally expected response given that Pavlovian conditioning is commonly accepted as truth.  However, I do wonder if when we go to Kauai this year, whether putting on Coppertone will elicit memories of my bike rides through Rancho Cucamonga. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

On Hold

Just like I put cycling and guitar playing on hold for about a decade, I seem to be on this trend where some of my artwork are going to the back burner.  In particular, I used to do quite a bit of photography and relief prints.  Printing photographs was not cheap and in particular, was very frustrating especially with inkjet technology not giving me the fidelity I'm looking from.  Often, what gets printed is ever so slightly different than what's on the computer screen.  Couple that with the cost of ink cartridges and paper means I don't miss the medium that much at all.  Linocuts, on the other hand was always a lot of fun to do -- even though I wasn't very good at it.  It was always messy but equal parts rewarding and frustrating.  For a while, I was doing a lot of trial and error and wasting linocut blanks -- and as with photographic printing, got expensive.  These days, I do mostly drawing and some painting but someday, I'm hoping to revisit photography and relief printing.  Someday.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

That Time Already?!

Not too long ago, Sam was born at Cedars Sinai the day after the summer solstice in 1998.  We knew this year at Day Creek Intermediate School will go really fast as he prepares for his summer before starting high school.  Spring break last week, meant over 80% of the school year is over but nothing came stronger as a reality check than the packet for Los Osos High School that he took home yesterday.  It's only 2 miles away but mentally, it's as far as I've imagined him being away from home.  Next week, when we meet with the Los Osos school officials, it'll be as real as it gets.  Three years of middle school went fast; four years of high school will be 33% longer but will go just as fast, I think.  JJ is really not too far behind and soon enough, both will be in college.  Yikes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So Many Guitars So Little Time

I love my guitars!  Steel string, nylon nylon, acoustic, electric, vintage, new, American, Japanese, Mexican, dreadnoughts, OM, travel, custom and most importantly, Fender Stratocasters and Taylor acoustics.  Headstock profiles of my dozen favorite guitars.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Five Years Ago Today

I took this portrait of the Maura and the kids on the Sunday, March 26, 2007.  It's hard to believe that five years can go that fast but Sam is shown here before he hit his growth spurt.  He's now 5'6" and would have been only a couple inches short of his mom's 5'9" height.  JJ, his typical character, posed cross-eyed in this shot.  And in the background, hanging in our Pasadena living room is a painting I just completed a couple months prior.  I can't remember why everyone was somewhat dressed up but I think she was about to take them to Sunday school at the time.  I know this was the last day of my pastel class at Pasadena City College.  This was also the last day of a particular phase of my life as I knew it.  The following day, she went in to Cedars Sinai for tests to resolve some abdominal pain.  Life wasn't quite the same after that day.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

King Harbor

I remember a time when King Harbor in Redondo Beach was a crumbling wooden structure until some storm effectively rendered the whole pier unusable.  When I lived in Hermosa Beach, El Segundo and Santa Monica, riding through the parking lot was always tricky having to deal with cars, tourists and locals.  That was years ago and these days, I am the tourist who visit a couple times a year.  Last Friday, after seeing my accountant in Gardena, the kids and I decided to have spend some time in the South Bay.
The kids wanted to play the arcades at the boardwalk -- which unfortunately didn't open until 2pm during the school week.  To see an empty marina on this cloudy March morning is not totally unusual until about summer, when the place is flocked by tourists.   Not sure whether or not the kids have outgrown the arcades but it's always fun to collect all those tickets to get a silly prize that is worth a mere fraction of how much one spends playing the games.  But hey, it's all in the name of good fun.  The arcade at King Harbor is all about being a young again.
And finally, in spite of having just eaten seafood the night before at King's Fish House in Rancho Cucamonga, the kids wanted to get some fresh fish at Captain Kidd's.  I've been going here for as long as I can remember being in Los Angeles.  Not much had changed and Captain Kidd's will probably outlive me and my children.  We ended up waiting a bit for the kitchen to open at 11am but worth the wait.  Clam chowder, popcorn shrimp and Alaskan white fish made for an early lunch that hit the spot.  Years from now, my kids will probably be driving out to Redondo to continue this tradition that my parents started with me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hele On To Kauai

There's a place I recall
Not too big, in fact it's kinda small
The people there know they got it all
The simple life for me
Hele on to Kauai
Hanalei by the bay
Wailua river valley is where I used to play
The canyons of Waimea standing all aglow
The magic of the garden isle is calling me back home
When I was young, not too smart
I left my home, looking for a brand new start
To find a place that's better still
Now I know, I know I never will
Hele on to Kauai
Hanalei by the bay
Wailua river valley is where I used to play
The canyons of Waimea standing all aglow
The magic of the garden isle is calling me back home
Hele on to Kauai
Hanalei by the bay
Wailua river valley is where I used to play
The canyons of Waimea standing all aglow
The magic of the garden isle is calling me back home
It's calling me back home

(words by Bruddah Iz)

We've only been to the island of Kauai twice -- once in 2005 and again in 2007.  The island had been given us countless memories, a time of innocence.  Compared to the Big Island, Maui or Oahu, we actually get to relax over there.  Some driving but mostly just hanging out and enjoying each other's company.  Little did we know, Kauai will always hold a special place in our hearts.  We haven't been back since and I'm just wondering if it's too soon to return.  Without Maura, something will not be quite right.  But then again, I think Kauai is where her spirits are and I know at the very least, I will find peace there.
Kauai is all about swimming in the ocean several hours a day.  We had swim clothes from breakfast up to the time we change to get ready to eat dinner.  Here's Sam in 2005, missing a front tooth washing off sand from his shorts.  Not a care in the world when in Kauai.
Photo I took during the flight to Lihue in 2005.  Maura read the Kite Runner for most of the flight.  She is most happy when on a flight to the islands.
The kids enjoying Melona bars outside JJ's Broiler in 2005.  We discovered Melona bars on the kids first trip to Oahu in 2002.  They've been enjoying them ever since.  I think we're going back to Kauai this summer.  I cannot avoid this beautiful island much longer.  Hele on to Kauai.
True story: In 2005, we were driving home from a remote beach and decided to stop by the side of this winding road that overlooks Hanalei valley (above), where they have tons of taro fields.  I pulled over and we were milling about and I was snapping away with my camera.  Guy in a silver BMW 735i pulls up, gets out for a couple minutes to look at the valley and gets back into his car.  I didn't even notice who it was until he started getting back into his car with a very familiar smile.  A 007 smile.  None other than Pierce Brosnan.  Maura didn't even notice.  I would not have noticed except for a quick glance.  Turned out he's a local.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Break 2012

After spring break 2012, the kids have about 8 weeks of school left then it's summer vacation.  At the very least, I was able to take them to Las Vegas and Universal Studios to enjoy some much needed break since they started school on the first week of August.  We did go to a couple Hard Rock Cafe's and I was able to resist spending money except for a some guitar pins. And Universal Studios was definitely highlighted by the King Kong 360-3D experience.  It's hard to describe but it's really good.  KK360-3D is part of the Universal Studios tram tour and most likely, we'll be back before the summer is over.  The pass we got is for 5 visits over a 12-month period.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dream House

What I really mean is that I had a dream with this house in it.  This was our Pasadena house that sold in 2011 and was the central character in my dream.  In the dream, I was inside the place I called home for 15 years with the buyer's family, who I met briefly in real life.  In the foggy sequence of events, they hadn't moved in because the person who was squatting in the back bedroom had not really moved out.  It was definitely a dream of the past, present, truth and fiction all in one jumbled mess.  Why dream of a house or an owner who I never really knew?  And who was the squatter in my dream?  Is this a case of seller's remorse where I wish I never really sold the property?  But like a person, our Pasadena house was there every day for 15 years.  Sam spent the first decade of his life there and JJ's first memories were formed in that modest 1500 square foot home.  I guess some memories are just hard to let go.
When the house sold, I had put in a new front lawn and updated the sprinkler system.  For years, we would water manually as Pasadena seems to be in a constant state of drought.  Mario, our gardener who came every Saturday morning didn't really have to do much mowing as it was for the most part, brown and dry St. Augustine grass.  When I set the automatic sprinklers with the new lawn, I ended up paying over $80 a month on water -- and no one was living in the house for at least a few months.  The exterior also had been painted to get a more modern look and curb appeal.
 The old woman who previously owned the house, Elsie, obviously had drapes from the 60s.  The first thing we did in 1995 was to take down all the fabrics and removed the carpeting.  Throughout the whole house was dirty, brown carpet which to our surprise covered these 1 1/2 inch oak hardwood floors, which when refinished was absolutely beautiful.  The crown moldings, which were all over this 1935 house, was repainted along with every room.

The last two photos show the living room in 1995 and in 2011.  In the time between these two photos, this living room witnessed my kids coming home from the hospital when they were born; a few dozen family gatherings; quiet evenings and countless movies; and of course, Maura take her last breath.  I had put in new hardwood floors in 2010 in all the rooms (except the 3 bedrooms and 2 baths) in order to help sell the house and obviously, add value.  The memories of this house will probably stay with me for as long as I live.  I will probably continue to dream of it for years to come.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Backyard Oasis

After seeing the exhibit at Palm Springs Art Museum on the culture of swimming pools and photography in Southern California, I can't help but look through my photographic archive with a fresh perspective.  In this picture I took sometime in the summer of 2007, there are several things that stand out as I look at it.  First of, this is a goggled, 9-year old Sam posing for me as I snapped away.  Gone is the little kid as Sam has now grown to 5'6" as he approaches 14.  Also, gone is the pool in the background.  My brother's house in Bradbury had the most amazing pool in his backyard that we had access to all year round.  He had since moved to the Pasadena Rose Bowl neighborhood and currently does not have a pool but I see him getting one soon.  And finally, in the far right is Maura, relaxing in the shade, playing lifeguard and just overall enjoying time with family.  I'll miss Sam the little kid but he's grown up and will continue to do so for a little while.  We miss Norm's pool but there'll be other pools.  We'll always miss Maura.  It was a good time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Art Outside Los Angeles (Pacific Standard Time #8 and #9)

Pomona (technically, Claremont) and Palm Springs are obviously not known for their art or art museum but I would not have otherwise visited these art institutions if it had not been for Pacific Standard Time.  Pomona College Museum of Art is within the Claremont Colleges and the exhibit reminded me of a time when art was just plain old wild, crazy, sex, drugs, anything goes.  Not that I lived that era but there was a definite 60s or 70s feel to every piece they showed in this small museum just a short walk from Claremont Village.  Names that regularly make the MOCA rounds in LA (Baldessari, Burden, Chicago) had significant stays in Pomona in the period 1969-1973.  About 75 miles to the east is the Palm Springs Museum of Art.  My visit last week was my first to the museum as well as to the city of Palm Springs and was not disappointed both in the art as well as the vibe of the city.  I knew moving to Rancho Cucamonga did bring me closer to the desert communities and driving home from Palm Springs on a Friday afternoon took a lot less time than driving home from LACMA or MOCA or The Getty.  "Backyard Oasis" is all about Southern California and I would recommend it to anyone who loves this place -- from LA all the way to Palm Springs.  The center of attraction are four David Hockney (Polaroid) collages of swimming pools and they are just phenomenal.  No one does collage better than Hockney.  Period.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Electric Loves

Up until this year, I only lusted after acoustic guitars.  Taylor acoustic guitars in particular.  So it was a repressed behavior for years when I only had one electric guitar -- my trusted old 1997 Fender Stratocaster.  I haven't really had a need to get more than one electric guitar -- until last year, of course, when I started jamming with the kids who picked up bass and drums lessons.  I've since acquired via Craigslist two other strats and a telecaster.  Like my acoustics, each one of these has a unique sound and feel through a combination of wood, neck shape and pickups. 
 2001 Fender Delonge Stratocaster in Seafoam Green

 1997 Limited Edition American Standard in Burgundy Mist with matching headstock

 Headstock of Diamond Anniversary Fender Stratocaster in Blizzard Pearl

 Tex-Mex Pickups of Diamond Anniversary Stratocaster

2009 Warmoth Telecaster with Spalted Maple Top

Diamond Anniversary Neckplate

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Prime Numbers, Math and Art

I read the other day that the largest prime number known to man is the M39 prime -- a monstrosity of a number that is 4,053,946 digits long.  Why mathematicians are constantly looking for the largest prime is beyond me.  It's not clear if they are looking for some cosmic significance if, by remote chance, some super powerful computer says that you have found the last ever prime number possible.  The search for the exact value of the number Pi is in the same category as "why and what for?" Man, especially mathematicians like to think that there is some order in this universe that provides for elegance in our number system.  Artists, on the other hand, endeavor to find some inner meaning in something that is completely the opposite.  While mathematicians crank away at barreling through the complexity of number, artists labor at finding peace in simplicity and conciseness.  Are artists and mathematicians on diametrically opposite sides of the equation?  Hardly, I think.  Both are actually looking for meaning and in the process of doing so, throw away most, if not all, forms of pragmatism.  They may actually coexist even but the actual benefits to mankind of their labor, is not clear.  After I read about the M39 prime, I was thinking, what if I create a series of drawings of prime numbers.  Even just writing down as many prime numbers as I can in one day, how old will I be by the time I get to M39?  After working on the first prime (above), I pretty much decided that I'd be better off spending my time doing other things.

"The First Prime" (2012) - gel ink pen on paper