Tuesday, March 9, 2021




Once upon a time a publisher publicly impugned science fiction writers, so a bevy of science fiction writers deigned to embarrass selfsame publisher.  Three dozen fantasy and sci fi writers under the nominal guidance of James D. McDonald devised a  perfect revenge--their own equivalent of the "Bad Hemingway Competition" or the "Bullwer Lytton Bad opening sentence to a nonexistent turgid novel" competition-- and wrote a smoldering trainwreck of a terrifyingly bad novel entitled Atlanta Nights, authored by "Travis Tea." They did not consult with one another to guarantee zero continuity whatsoever, and let the typos, plot holes, nonsensical passages, grammatical errors and legendary incongruities rip.

Those legendary incongruities would be: characters change gender and race; characters die and reappear without explanation; there's a missing chapter; two chapters have the same number; two chapters are word for word identical; the denouement, such as it can be, is in the middle of the book; and lastly, the most incoherent chapter of all was "written" by a random text generator based on patterns found in previous chapters. 

And the impugning publisher accepted the manuscript on Dec. 7, 2004 for impending publication. Legal advisors to the wacky bunch promptly convinced them to divulge the truth, and the offer was retracted. However, available in print it remains to this day, and all proceeds go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.

Saturday, February 27, 2021




Once upon a time in 1960, this was the place in the L.A. basin where kids went to learn English horseback riding if one didn't want to deal with that harsh fellow at Flintridge or sit Saddle Seat at Portuguese Bend, Palos Verdes. Everyone else wanted to be a cowboy. I sure didn't, so my begging paid off and finally my parents drove me all the way out there. It was so long ago that there wasn't a 405 freeway: one went thirty miles along Sepulveda Blvd. from Los Angeles to Newhall, then followed now lost highways to the riding stable. The 1960 brochure pictured herein even features this now  unfamiliar map. 


ALERT- let me explain what "drag hunts" (second pic) used to mean, nothing to do with Ru Paul! In formal drag hunts like Valley Hunt Club a lone rider would drag the scent of fox or coyote (usually its urine, came in a bottle), hunting hounds would follow the scent all over the land, and riders would follow the hounds. An arbitrary end was chosen. I never experienced Onondarka's drag hunts, but since they kept no foxhounds, I presume a lone rider with a huge head start left markers for the other riders to find over a large hunt field. Activities like this were more prevalent in East Coast Pony Clubs. English riding styles, as I wrote were still in the distinct minority.















For two years I enjoyed a weekly group lesson at this heavenly place (my sole raison d'etre in my dysfunctional family environs.) The horse camp was for families more well-heeled than mine, despite the insane pre-inflation prices listed. Onondarka's star teen rider when I was there was future Dressage Olympian ☆☆Hilda Gurney ☆☆☆




 I wish to reiterate to my blog friends that I had no genuine riding talent, just persistence over the years. That and the love of animals, which the domesticated ones pick up on, were my sole equestrian safeguards. Onondarka (said to be a Native American vernacular for Place of Horses) had effective and humane methods of instructing young horse-crazy kids, so effective that they served me well thirty years later when I could afford to ride under my own steam. Onondarka Riding School eventually was subdivided and paved over, but at least its instructors founded another English equestrian place a further forty miles away called Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village, around the western-most end of the San Fernando Valley.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


Private reserve of my childhood books, all, dare I say, dog-eared and thoroughly re-read. Despite the Arabian peninsula and deserted island fantasies of the first and second books, the Walter Farley 'Black Stallion' series were based largely upon, believe it or not, modern Thoroughbred and Harness racing of the author's era. One gets a hint of this direction in the ending of the fabulous 1979 "art movie for children," The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard with visuals courtesy of the greatest cinematographer in the entire film business, Caleb Deschanel.

Besides the ancient Oz books I inherited, the newer ones also have an equine theme. For instance, "The Silver Princess of Oz" featured the title character's sidekick steed (pictured below.) "Ojo in Oz" and "The Emerald Wand" were both plot-heavy with unicorns.  

Half the alchemy of the Oz series was its illustrations. Although the writing became public domain, no reprints succeed except those with the original or with the best possible retro illustrations which also encapsulate the magic. Most older titles use its initial publication art by John R. Neil, a contemporary of original Oz authors L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson.

All illustrations pictured here are by Neil with the exception of the third one, cladistically placed with the unicorns, fair usage © by William Stout, an always amazing contemporary artist also justly celebrated for his paleontology and fantasy paintings.
















Thursday, January 7, 2021


Screen captures from the second episode of the 2020 limited series HBO remake of Perry Mason, as set in 1931 Los Angeles. Great looking series with unpredictable plot twists, and time travel window into the very lost world of old L.A., where any building older than a year is considered a teardown.

Note extinct public transportation system "the Red Car" trolley in the background which they tell me went from the beach to the next county inland, hence the extreme spread of Los Angeles. Imagine, you could take comfortable public transportation from Santa Monica beach to San Bernardino county. Imagine, you could take comfortable public transportation from Santa Monica beach to Redlands. It took me a while to recognize the red car, seen in this first screen capture, because they had just been dismantled in my youth.

Perry Mason features great ensemble acting and diversity that's part of the normal tapestry just like in real life, with strong women's roles, and the best Private Investigator since Jim Rockford (The Rockford Files.) Granted,the character is a much more troubled guy, but just as interesting and gets beat up just as much! Three of its most interesting casting choices: Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) as a fictional Aimee Semple McPherson character; Chris Chalk (actor/writer/producer) as Paul Drake, whose character traverses the nasty Jim Crow vestiges of 90 years ago; and Veronica Falcon (iconic Mexican actress/choreographer) as a main character's love interest (and boy, does she convey instant acting authority!)


You can't beat the visuals, it's like a big budget film. In a place where so much of our history has been deliberately demolished, L.A. as it once was within living memory of some is fascinating for us locals. This looks like my paternal grandparents' daily world. Plus guessing what was filmed where provides extra fun for us locals. Here's a link for the curious *LINK


 That's a character weeping on the floor to the left of Perry Mason (actor Matthew Rhys.)

It's nothing like the dramatic but charming, 1950s original television series with Raymond Burr. With no small amount of violence, it's an intelligent re-thinking of the same Earl Stanley Gardner character as a younger man in 1931 L.A. In fact one of the writers placed an insider's joke with someone instructing Mason, new to the law, that "nobody confesses on the stand in court!" which of course was the hallmark of the TV series! This 2020 HBO 8-episode, limited series was much better received than perhaps even the cable network had guessed, with high audience approval and solid positive reviews. It was renewed for a second season, but disrupted like everything else.

My better half  Mr. Twister says the actor is looking in the wrong place for the viewfinder, despite the authenticity of the vintage camera, but adds "well, maybe he could see through the viewfinder of his Kodak (Nagel) Vollenda 127 like that."



Last night's fare: 1967's Playtime, directed and written by France's legendary Jacques Tati. I haven't chuckled out loud so much in ages. 

It was filmed in 70mm originally to play on giant screens, and the director is fond of longshots, so keep your eyes everywhere in crowds. The long restaurant scene is masterfully hilarious, with its unfinished interior decor so ultra-modern that when it continues to fall apart around diners, they consider it part of the Modernist architecture experience.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021


Rest in peace RLB Indiana Jones, March 12, 1994 to Dec.12, 2020.  Indy earned 2002 Sport Horse of the Year in Dressage in the National Show Horse Registry, the first of his breed to do so as noted in the records of the American Horse Show Association. 

 Below, showing with his primary trainer Christy Monfort astride in a dressage show. (Other trainers were Tricia Hamilton and Claudia Roberts. As a result, Indy knew far more dressage technique than I ever would.) That one year I could afford to show him, Christy would win the first prizes, and I'd add a few points with my second places in the less complex dressage classes. Otherwise, I rode him on the trail in dressage saddles, unlike most of the Western buckaroos in our native Southern California. In the following pics, Christy is riding him correctly, I am the other one (and yes, uncooperative thyroid plays havoc with weight variation over 23 years of documentation.)(All photography by me except the ones of me, by Kurt Ingham, Christy Monfort, Kathleen Hellman and Liz Taylor.)





I bought Indy (Indiana Jones, so named because he was an adventure to ride) when he was three years old, a grey tobiano pinto National Show Horse whom I knew would lighten, as do all greys, into pure white. His coloration not remaining visibly pinto is probably the only reason he was affordable to me. So we were partners for twenty-three years together. He always was a bright eyed and friendly as this headshot implies. He was a "sosh" (social) and liked nonstop company human or equine: luckily I could afford to keep him in a riding academy's large dirt pasture with shelters and with two other horses with whom he loved to play.

Also below with pics of Indy's darker coloration when young, a pic of Indy as a foal, and his famous American Saddlebred sire Rhythm Commander. National Show Horses are a recognized breed, made up of part American Saddlebred horses and part Arabian horses. It's a good nick (cross breeding success) and breeds true. Arabians give endurance, athleticism and very amiable, people-loving natures (they had to be sufficiently calm and friendly to share a Bedouin's tent in a sandstorm in the desert): Saddlebreds also give athleticism, showy trotting action, guaranteed comfortable gaits, friendliness, larger size and two extra gaits that come naturally with training to encourage same. I could make Indy slow gait on the trail when he was anxious (Arabian trait)(and euphemism for frightened) and the few times I rode him at a rack (the faster version of the gait) it was thrilling.


On the trails bordering the hills of the Angeles Forest, and at right, with my better half on a friend's Arabian. this northeast section of Federal parkland has endless, lovely trails from easy ridin' ones to "I'm never coming here again!" hairy (nobody likes cliffs this steep) ones. Unfortunately it remains a target for arsonists and mentally disturbed homeless who make cooking fires in the 80mph winds of our hot Santa Anas. We had to evacuate for huge wildfires six times in the last ten years. One of these fires burned down our stable and all of our saddles and tack, but no one cared because all the horses were saved.

Right, us in a lesson
What we ended up doing the most as he got older, whiter and a trifle less frisky and I got more and more painfully damaged from life: hacking around our beautiful boarding ranch bareback (above). People who don't ride have trouble understanding the relationship between rider and horse. I simplify it for them thusly: a) it's as if your dog had lived for 25 years with you instead of half that and b) horses are halfway between a pet and a sports car: there is mutual love, but there's always a performance issue at hand. Actually, it's more like the sport of sailing (were the sailboat alive): a lot of fun for a lot of prep and post work, and a great deal of unpredictable forces of nature changing what one does all the time. It makes total sense to me that Poseidon was considered the god of both The Sea and of Horses. 
Horses, like people and dogs, do not die easily on their own, so when Indy colicked badly for the third time in his life, the vet said that unlike the other two times, his vital signs and heart rate now were so bad that there was no other choice. Unlike illnesses with people and dogs though, one has to make this life and death decision within seconds of diagnosis. The vet thanked me for being a loving owner to him, saying, "So many horse owners wail 'I'm not ready, I'm not ready!' whereupon I have to firmly remind them it's not about them, it's about the horse. They are in terminal agony." In this short conversation, I learned that painkillers only last for about five minutes when the patient is that badly off. If  the horse is still standing, everyone has to run away from his side the second the veterinarian gives the injection, because the 1,000 pound horse falls over immediately.  
I stayed with his body for two hours waiting for the truck that takes horses to landfills, the only option in a densely crowded metropolis like Los Angeles. (this ranch is the only 600 acre private boarding facility therein, and it abuts the public trails of the Angeles Forest for endless riding possibilities.) I looked at all the surrounding majestic hills and marveled that Indy and I actually had ridden over all them, and on both sides of the highway, with many wild rides with trainers and other friends, plus too many to count oddball to scary adventures.  I avoid funerals, but this experience taught me the importance of vigils: thinking about all the good in the deceased's life to try to block the pain of losing them. I cried on and off for the entire two hours, which didn't get it out of my system like I wanted.

Someone from the boarding barn fortunately reminded me before I left that up until that last terrible morning, Indy was happy and playful for every day of his life. That helped. What also helps is an amazingly poignant passage by novelist Irving Townsend. Usually only the first three sentences appear online, in reference to grief of losing a dog, but the complete words were written about losing a horse:
 “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."
"The life of a horse, often half our own, seems endless until one day. That day has come and gone for me, and I am once again within a somewhat smaller circle.”
 – Irving Townsend “The Once Again Prince”
Good bye, Indy...

Thursday, December 17, 2020







Above, Lavone Barnett-Seetal with Jeremy White in their band The Blessings; right: she said this was her favorite shot of herself by me. Rest in peace Lavonne Barnett-Seettal, who passed away in this terrible week of cancer. 

She was a gracious lady and a true blueswoman/gospel singer extraordinaire, same vocal league as Lisa Fisher/Merry Clayton/Lisa Kekaula, someone whose emotions and vocal talents are inseparable from their lives. I remember her staring down a violent drunk at The Tearaways show into submission. Our artistic world is always so fragile, as today has proven, it helps to remember the strong ones.

Above, gloriously singing with her band The Blessings, and jamming with Nashville's The Tip, immediately jumping onstage when they covered the Rolling Stones'  "Miss You."

Above, Lavone receiving her birthday cake onstage during a Blessings' gig. As a popular singer in the biz, one also found her backing John Fogerty in his 2019 tour, as member of a few side groups like the Malonettes, and as head choir director and Gospel choir director in a number of universities over the last two decades.  She was also a much loved vocal coach.  Below, so many great, memorable gigs with The Blessings.                                   

Above, last gig in 2020 before
elected officials' civic laws silenced Los Angeles' music, (with too many clubs' signs inevitably changing from "temporarily closed" to "permanently closed") few with concern that it might be forever for personnel and businesses alike.

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