Monday, October 22, 2012

Goat Hill Politics

We here at GHPALS do not take political positions. But we cannot help but notice the flood of campaign mailers filling up our mailboxes. Being a literary society, we read them all, and admire the photo-shopped art They are, after all, some of the most amusing fiction printed today.

And it gives us an opportunity to explain Costa Mesa to those who've never heard of us, much less been here. (Too bad if you haven't. You're missing a great place.) We do seem to make the news a lot for a small city of slightly more than 100,000 people.

Most of Costa Mesa's citizens for the most part live and let live types. Many of us are here because we don't want to live in places like Irvine, where everyone else tells us what we can and can't do. The kind of people who move here are individualists, and want to be left alone and, for the most part, leave other people alone. But that doesn't mean we aren't willing to face up to things that need to get fixed.

And when we find them, we don't badger others to fix things for us, we try to fix them ourselves. That often puts us at the bleeding edge. But it is why we have one of the most successful shopping malls anywhere in the US, and why it's at the intersection of two major freeways (South Coast Plaza, originally constructed in bean fields by the 405 and 55 freeways that ran through undeveloped property, People around here needed a Sears store.). It's why we have lots of private schools and small businesses. It's why we have some of the most successful charitable organizations in the county (no government formed SOS or the Soup Kitchen, concerned citizens did). It's why our city councils have not been afraid to tackle controversial issues, and why our voters don't hesitate to shout out disagreement, in council meetings and at the polls. Votes are why we have an Ikea on South Coast Drive and not the two tall buildings proposed by the Segerstroms in the 1980's. (Voters approved propositions disapproving them.)

Our own citizen action rescued and restored the Estancia adobe, and the Costa Mesans at the Costa Mesa Historical Society keep it preserved today. (If you haven't been to the museum they operate, it's worth a visit just to see the aerial photos of Goat Hill.)

It's why here on Goat Hill we have a fabulous Victorian house with all kinds of beautiful brick work and stained glass windows. Drive by the corner of Santa Ana Ave. and Costa Mesa St. to see the handiwork of a Costa Mesa couple. They did the work themselves; they couldn't have done it in Irvine.

It's why a house on 19th street has a canon on the roof. And one down the street from it has built a pirate ship in the front yard for Halloween. And why when the family who built a fabulous Snoopy Christmas display in their front yard fell on financial distress, the City took it over and does it in front of City Hall. (They are looking for volunteer performers, so if you can sing or play an instrument, call them. You'll get great exposure.)

And it's why we have two independent special districts providing our water (Mesa Consolidated Water District) and sewer/waste (Costa Mesa Sanitary District) needs. MCWD was formed in 1960 when several smaller districts merged and a whole bunch of elected officials gave up their seats to do it. Can you imagine that happening today? It might in Costa Mesa.

In this election a major issue is the proposed Costa Mesa Charter. We've always kind of been the servants quarters for Newport Beach, though we look down on them, not the other way around, thanks to geography. We here at GHPALS keep up on the doings of the rich folks down below the mesa. Our local paper covers both towns, after all. We are amused by the flyers that say a charter puts all the controls in the hands of a 5 member city council, when the Newport Beach citizens will soon be voting on a whole bunch of charter amendments. 

As near as we can tell, that puts control in the hands of Newport Beach voters instead of Sacramento. And we here at GHPALS trust our neighbors a whole lot more than we trust those strangers up north, however well intentioned they might be.


Ted Washington and Puna Press

You meet creative people in the oddest places. We met one at Cabrillo National Monument. In the gift shop, of all places.

It was the Monday after Comic-Con, and we visited the monument before we left town. While the kids walked to the lighthouse, I bought post cards. Naturally I visited with the man who rang me up. It came out that we'd been at the Con, and so had he. He had a table in Artists Alley. He showed me some of his work and I was impressed. I was sorry I'd missed him all those times I'd walked down those aisles.

He gave me a bookmark instead of a business card. Bookmarks are a wonderful way to publicize oneself, as I found with Jason Andrew Bond and his book "Hammerhead." I know I look at Mr. Washington's drawing whenever I use it, and it keeps him in my mind. I'd resolved to write about him on this blog, but never remembered when I was near the computer. But today I finished my book and brought the bookmark down with me to scan it.

Every time I look at the drawing I see something different. An eye looks out of his bookmark, a detail from his drawing Mary. But there's so much more than just an eye. Sometimes I see a woman with her arms folded. Sometimes I see a baby swaddled in a blanket. Other times I see a basket floating on a calm ocean, far from the city lights in the background.

Ted Washington uses pen & ink to produce lovely images. The back of the bookmark lists his accomplishments:

1st place, 12th annual art competition, Veridian Gallery, New York City (Anne Lampe, Whitney Museum of American Art, juror)

Best in Show, Most Promising New Artist, 20th La Quinta Arts Festival

Featured artist, Competition Spotlight, The Artist's Magazine

Artist of the New Millenium, Strathmore Artist Products

There's an interesting interview with him at Ted Washington in the Union-Tribune San Diego.

His page on shows his latest book. The cover features a black lab, and he captures the shine on a dog's fur perfectly. I'd want this one for a pet.

I'll certainly look for him next year in Artist's Alley.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Another Look at the USS Iowa

This is an actual, un-doctored photo we took on our visit to the Iowa. Those are the big guns in the background.

It's too good not to share with all our Goat Hill friends.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Modelland" is a Great Book for Girls

One of the best things about Comic-Con is the ARCs, advanced reader copies, passed out by book publishers. I usually come home with a year's worth of good reads. Today I was moving a pile of them, and one of my favorites was in it.

Last year, Comic-Con 2011, I picked up "Modelland," by Tyra Banks. I was sitting in a room waiting for a panel to start, and this book was on top of that day's pile. So I started reading it.

The book sucked me in. The setting is perfectly established in the first three pages. 

The next two pages describe the protagonist. How can an ordinary female resist "Have you ever seen her? The girl whose face not even the meanest person you know would describe as yuck but who you'd never in a million-no, a trillion years describe as alluring either...Have you ever seen Tookie De La Creme?...Tookie was a Forgetta-Girl, one of the most forgettable girls in the entire world. But maybe not for long."

I loved this book. And everything about me should have made me hate it, since I don't care anything about clothes, hair or make-up. 

I went to a "charm school" in high school. When the teacher told us that with lots of practice we can get our morning-makeup routine down to 11 minutes, I quickly calculated the time lost over a year I would spend on my face when I could be sleeping. I stopped listening.

What a terrific name, Tookie De La Creme. And as a Forgetta-Girl myself (until I open my mouth and talk to you), I immediately loved her.

Her family is awful, but so amusing. And she understands them. She finds herself in a setting she did not choose, and might not have chosen. But she does the best she can with what she's got, in all the ways she can think of.

Tookie reaffirmed that one cannot judge a book by its cover, or a woman by her surface beauty.

All the girls in my family are too young for this book. But I'll give it to them when they're older, whether they are into hair and makeup or not.

"Hammerhead," A Review

We promised a review of "Hammerhead," by Jason Andrew Bond, after we blogged about his very creative marketing campaign. He had friends pass out signed bookmarks at Comic-Con. The book is available in print and digital formats through Amazon.

I liked it. A lot. The bookmark had a link to a sampler, and it sucked me in. I really wanted to know why someone was trying to kill a ship breaker. Jeoffrey Holt works at a reverse shipyard in the Nevada desert. We've all seen pictures of those people on the coast in Bangladesh who break apart huge ships for scrap. Well, that's what Holt does. Except the wrecks he strips aren't the hulks of seagoing ships, but space-going ones. Sky ships.

And on his way to work one day, he's almost killed. And not by accident. But it turns out he isn't just any old ship breaker. He has skills he has not used in many years, but which one never really loses. They just get rusty.

As he tries to figure out who exactly is out to get him, and why they didn't just leave him alone, he finds out it really is about more than him. And the trail he follows is interesting and kept me reading it long after my husband had fallen asleep. That does not happen very often.

I look forward to reading more by this author, and he has just published a new book, "Mortal Remains." My copy was just delivered and I'm going to read it as soon as I finish "Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, by Rob Salkowitz.

Costa Mesa Seaman Geoffrey Scott Schelin, RIP

This blog covers our town, the people who live here, and our connections through the arts. We often go to museums to see art, and we here on Goat Hill have the Orange County Museum of Art nearby. When we want exposure to history and other cultures, Bowers Museum is just up the freeway. But southern California has museums dedicated to our history as Americans; this blog post is about one of them.

We recently visited the U.S.S. Iowa  ( at its new home in San Pedro. What an impressive museum. The best kind. Lots of hands on, get up close and personal things to see. The docents are knowledgeable, entertaining and very approachable. (A great day trip is a visit to the Iowa followed by a trip to Fort MacArthur, just up the hill. There you can see the coast artillery post that defended our coast from battleships like the Iowa. Just outside the Fort there's a terrific park that overlooks the ocean. It has picnic tables and a lighthouse you can visit.)

Walking around the deck was an amazing experience. We stood next to the Iowa's immense gun turrets and tried to imagine what it was like to be aboard when those big guns fired. The videos they showed were impressive, but could not recreate the way the ship itself reacted to the forces released.

As we rounded the turrets the words "Costa Mesa" on a plaque caught my eye. Of course I stopped to read the whole thing. The subject was the explosion in Turret 2, which is closed to visitors. On April 19, 1989, USS IOWA was conducting a firing exercise approximately 260 nautical miles northeast of Puerto Rico when 47 sailors were killed in an explosion in the Turret 2 Gun Room. This tragedy remains the largest post-World War II peacetime loss of life in U.S. Navy history.

One of those sailors killed was Geoffrey Scott Schelin, 20, seaman, from Costa Mesa, and it was his name that caught my eye. I cried. I come from a military family, and the loss of this young man, and all the others, in a peacetime accident is just too sad. All their names were on this plaque, and I read them all. And I remembered Rochester Street, near my house in Costa Mesa, was named for a local man killed in Europe in World War 1.

I remembered the explosion on the Iowa, and the subsequent investigation. The whole family read "A Glimpse of Hell," by Charles C. Thompson and watched the James Caan movie based on the book. As we went through the ship, I looked for other signs of the explosion. The gift shop did not sell Thompson's book, which I found interesting. 

Once we were home I dug through the bookshelves to find our copy of Thompson's book, and googled the explosion to find out what happened to the survivors in the 20 years since his book was written. The Senate Armed Services Committee had called for an investigation by independent experts, and the man who lead that team had written a book, "Explosion Aboard the Iowa," by Richard L. Schwoebel. So I immediately ordered it from Amazon. It was as interesting as Thompson's book, maybe even more so because the author merely discusses the technical investigation and experiments his team conducted.

The ancient Egyptians believed that as long as a person's name was preserved somewhere, the person would survive in the afterlife. The brave men who died on that battleship deserve to have their names preserved forever, so here they are, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Adams, Tung Thanh, 25, fire controlman 3d class, Alexandria, Virginia
Backherms, Robert Wallace, 30, gunner's mate 3d class, Ravenna, Ohio
Battle, Dwayne Collier, 21, electrician's mate, fireman apprentice, Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Blakey, Walter Scot, 20, gunner's mate 3d class, Eaton Rapids, Michigan
Bopp, Pete Edward, 21, gunner's mate 3d class, Levittown, New York
Bradshaw, Ramon Jerel, 19, seaman recruit, Tampa, Florida
Buch, Phillip Edward, 24, lieutenant (jg), Las Cruces, New Mexico
Casey, Eric Ellis, 21, seaman apprentice, Mount Airy, North Carolina
Cramer, John Peter, 28, gunner's mate 2d class, Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Devaul, Milton Francis Jr., 21, gunner's mate 3d class, Solvay, New York
Everhart, Leslie Allen Jr., 31, seaman apprentice, Cary, North Carolina
Fisk, Gary John, 24, boatswain's mate, Oneida, New York
Foley, Tyrone Dwayne, 27, seaman, Bullard, Texas
Gedeon, Robert James, III, 22, seaman apprentice, Lakewood, Ohio
Gendron, Brian Wayne, 20, seaman apprentice, Madera, California
Goins, John Leonard, 20, seaman recruit, Columbus, Ohio
Hanson, David L., 23, electrician's mate 3d class, Bison, South Dakota
Hanyecz, Ernest Edward, 27, gunner's mate 1st class, Bordentown, New Jersey
Hartwig, Clayton Michael, 25, gunner's mate 2d class, Cleveland, Ohio
Helton, Michael William, 31, legalman 1st class, Louisville, Kentucky
Holt, Scott Alan, 20, seaman apprentice, Fort Myers, Florida
Johnson, Reginald Jr., 20, seaman recruit, Warrensville Heights, Ohio
Jones, Brian Robert, 19, seaman, Kennesaw, Georgia
Jones, Nathaniel Clifford Jr., 21, seaman apprentice, Buffalo, New York
Justice, Michael Shannon, 21, seaman, Matewan, West Virginia
Kimble, Edward J., 23, seaman, Fort Stockton, Texas
Lawrence, Richard E., 29, gunner's mate 3d class, Springfield, Ohio
Lewis, Richard John, 23, fire controlman seaman apprentice, Northville, Michigan
Martinez, Jose Luis Jr., 21, seaman apprentice, Hidalgo, Texas
McMullen, Todd Christopher, 20, boatswain's mate 3d class, Manheim, Pennsylvania
Miller, Todd Edward, 25, seaman recruit, Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Morrison, Robert Kenneth, 36, legalman 1st class, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Moses, Otis Levance, 23, seaman, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Ogden, Darin Andrew, 24, gunner's mate 3d class, Shelbyville, Indiana
Peterson, Ricky Ronald, 22, seaman, Houston, Minnesota
Price, Matthew Ray, 20, gunner's mate 3d class, Burnside, Pennsylvania
Romine, Harold Earle Jr., 19, gunner's mate 3d class, Bradenton, Florida
Schelin, Geoffrey Scott, 20, seaman, Costa Mesa, California
Stillwagon, Heath Eugene, 21, gunner's mate 3d class, Connellsville, Pennsylvania
Tatham, Todd Thomas, 19, seaman recruit, Wolcott, New York
Thompson, Jack Ernest, 22, gunner's mate 3d class, Greeneville, Tennessee
Welden, Stephen J., 24, gunner's mate 2d class, Bethany, Oklahoma
White, James Darrell, 22, gunner's mate 3d class, Norwalk, California
White, Rodney Maurice, 19, seaman recruit, Louisville, Kentucky
Williams, Michael Robert, 21, boatswain's mate 2d class, South Shore, Kentucky
Young, John Rodney, 21, gunner's mate, Columbia, South Carolina
Ziegler, Reginald Owen, 39, gunner's mate, Port Gibson, New York