Hike at Point Reyes

View of the estuary from the Estero TrailDave and I and our friend Doug spent the day hiking at Point Reyes. We had originally planned to hike somewhere else more inland, but when we saw this morning how hot it was going to be, how hot it already was by 8:30 a.m. or so, we changed our plans and decided to go someplace along the coast instead. So we took Sir Francis Drake Boulevard out to Point Reyes — a quick stop in Inverness for some provisions — and when we got to the information center in Point Reyes and looked over the maps, we decided on the eight-mile hike to Sunset Beach and back.

It was still hot, but nowhere near as hot as it got inland (it was over 100°F where we had been planning to go) and we had a breeze nearly the whole time. Most of the trail has a view of the estuary, and on our walk out it was low tide. We saw a lot of egrets and white pelicans flying low over the shallow areas looking for food. We didn’t see a whole lot of other wildlife, but there’s a remarkable variety of plant life along the way. The whole hike took us a little under four hours. I think I got a little sunburn on the back of my neck and the little toe on my right foot got sore, but otherwise I came back in better shape and better spirits than I set out.

Stopped for dinner on the way back at Sol Food in San Rafael, a terrific if noisy Puerto Rican restaurant. My ensalada con bistec (a salad with thinly sliced steak and grilled onions) was good sized even though I ordered the small, and tasty.

For the last sixteen or seventeen years (and even much longer in Dave’s case) Dave and I have spent all of Pride Weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, working our butts off as volunteers. This year we didn’t, and we didn’t go anywhere near the parade. Nice change of pace.

Now it’s time for a hot soak in the bathtub with a glass of wine, and to bed.

Another Step Ahead

Finished another lyric for the work in prog. Good to feel like I’m moving forward again.

It was a tricky lyric to work out, partly because I have so much more I need to say here than the original librettist did. He just needed to say, “Here we are at this point in a story you all already know,” short and sweet. But I’m taking the well-known story and I’m telling it in terms of a very different time and place, a very different culture, so I have a couple of additional points I need to make, and I didn’t have quite enough notes for all the words I needed to use, not unless I made the lyric so dense with information that the points would rush by too quickly for the audience to assimilate them.

After trying out and rejecting a whole lot of other possibilities, I ended up adding repeats to two sections to give me sixteen more bars to set words on. Not my first choice; I would have preferred to use the number exactly in its original form. But my ear tells me the repeats will make decent musical sense. And anyway, this is such a free-wheeling adaptation that any Opera Purists who would be offended by such liberties with the composer’s intentions will already have stormed out of the theater in a huff well before we reach this point anyway. So what the heck.

Logic Problem

It ought to be one of those SAT questions that tests whether a high school senior can make simple deductions without being distracted by irrelevant information.

1. Which weighs more?

     (A)  a pound of feathers
     (B)  half a pound of lead

2. Which is worth more?

     (A)  a dollar’s worth of tin
     (B)  a nickel’s worth of gold

3. Which is wiser?

     (A)  a wise Hispanic woman
     (B)  an unwise white man

And then several months later a red-faced parent stands up at the school board meeting, waves his son’s lousy SAT scores in the air, and insists that the right answer to question 3 is B and anyone here who thinks the answer is A is clearly a racist.

(Here’s Sotomayor’s remark in its context.)

Sick Day

An odd sort of flu came over me this weekend. I started to feel a bit achy, not badly, just a little, on Saturday evening, and still felt that way Sunday morning. No fever, though, so I didn’t worry too much about it. On Sunday Dave and I did shopping in the morning and visited the Oakland Museum in the afternoon, and the mild achiness persisted. Then in the evening the fever came, and the achiness became more than just mild.

Fever gone again as of this morning, but still very achy. Called in sick today and haven’t moved from bed for very long all day. I’ve been taking a lot of vitamin C since yesterday; that usually chases off a flu pretty quickly for me, but it’s early evening now and I’m not really feeling any better than this morning.

Miguel Covarrubias

Admiral Richard E. Byrd by Miguel CovarrubiasOn one wall at the de Young is a large mural showing the varied animal life in the Pacific Ocean and surrounding areas. I couldn’t recall ever having heard of the artist before, and I didn’t think the mural was anything all that special, but Dave raved about the artist — Miguel Covarrubias — and said the mural wasn’t typical of his best work.

Today Dave sent me a link to a site that has more information about Covarrubias and pictures of some of his artwork, and my God, Dave was right, the guy was brilliant. This one here is a caricature of Admiral Richard E. Byrd, done for the December 1934 issue of Vanity Fair.

Ah, the Wonders of Technology

When I click on the link to the page, I’m told that before I can access it, I need to log in to my account. (That has never happened before, and I’ve been accessing these pages several times a week for years.)

When I try to log in to my account, I’m told that the password I used is not valid. Have I forgotten my password? I can enter my email address and my password will be emailed to me.

When I try to have my password emailed to me, I’m told that no account exists for my email address.

When I try to register a new account with that email address, I’m told that I can’t because an account already exists for that email address.

There Are Days When It Becomes Very Clear Why the Three-Martini Lunch Was Invented

I have more things to do today than I have time to do them, and they are all supposed to be top priority. I’ve been told I’m being assigned three new books to develop with a new author, on top of all my other new books that need editing, some of which are quite a few months behind schedule. And as soon as my lunch break is over I will be taking time out of my day to give a couple of interviews, because that’s top priority, too.

(To be fair, the new books are all with the same author, so they will by necessity be dealt with one at a time. But still.)

I’m drinking a large iced tea at Peet’s while I work on my blog, but something a bit stronger would go down well right at the moment. Oh well.

The Gold Scab

Dave and I were at the de Young Museum on Sunday afternoon. I haven’t been there more than once or twice in my life, and probably not in well over a decade; Dave, on the other hand, has been there many times throughout his life (he grew up in the Bay Area), and he’s familiar with a lot of the collection.

I could only vaguely remember anything in the museum, and it was a bit of a shock to me to come across an oil painting by Whistler that I didn’t remember ever seeing before and couldn’t remember knowing anything about, The Gold Scab. But when I pointed it out to Dave, it turned out the painting was an old acquaintance for him.

I was surprised at myself for not knowing about this painting. Whistler is one of my favorite painters, and his Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., is one of my favorite places. Whistler painted the room for his patron Frederick Leyland, but as the work progressed, the two men quarreled increasingly bitterly over it, and over how much Leyland should pay Whistler for it. Even after they’d finally agreed on a fee, Leyland shaved shillings off it as a deliberate insult. They never reconciled after that.

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, by James Whistler The banner at the top of this blog is adapted from the mural Whistler painted on one wall of the room. The peacock on the left represents Whistler himself, and it is fleering at the peacock on the right, who represents Leyland. Leyland’s peacock has silver shillings in among its gold breast feathers, has silver shillings in place of eyes in its tail feathers, and is standing on a pile of gold coins and silver shillings. (The whole wild story is both sad and funny, and the loss of Leyland’s patronage was a self-inflicted blow to Whistler’s finances that he never recovered from.)

As I said, I couldn’t remember having even heard of The Gold Scab before, though I checked my books when I got back home and it’s definitely mentioned; I’d just forgotten it. But I immediately recognized the painting as a cruel caricature of Leyland — the fact that he looks like a man in a peacock suit decorated with gold coins is an obvious giveaway to anyone who knows the story of the Peacock Room, and I remembered what the man looked like from Whistler’s full-length portrait of him. Evidently Whistler wasn’t content with having painted his contempt for Leyland on the man’s own dining room wall, but had to produce an additional three oil paintings mocking him, of which only this one is known to have survived.


On Sunday Dave and I spent the afternoon at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, and then saw the new animated movie Up in the evening.

Up is a lot of fun, with great animation, good characters, a lot of pleasant sentiment without getting gooey, and a wonderfully ridiculous story. The main character is a cranky old man, the kind who sits on his porch and yells at people to get away from his property, and yet the way the story is set up, ten minutes into the movie and you are completely on his side. The other central character is an irritatingly helpful kid in a Boy-Scout-like group called the Wilderness Explorers, and one of the many sweet touches in this movie is that Russell is drawn as Asian and not a word is ever said about it.

Dave tells me that the movie is also a fanboy’s delight, containing all kinds of references to much-admired animated movies from Pinocchio to Howl’s Moving Castle. I didn’t catch much of that.

I cared for the second half of the movie, though, less than the first half. From the point where one character is revealed to be a stock archvillain of the Evil Mastermind genre, the movie becomes a rescue adventure culminating in a way-over-the-top action sequence that is partly meant to be exciting and partly meant to be tongue-in-cheek. It seems like every movie of this sort has to lead to one of these and they’re all trying to top each other and I’ve grown kind of tired of the pattern.