Friday, April 30, 2010

This Just In: Sea Lions Love Comics!

A few months ago we finally made it back to San Francisco. Much as we love it there it's just far enough away that we seldom get around to making the trek. True, we did attend the Treasure Island Music Festival last fall, but that was all about the rock and the roll and the giant Ferris wheel, not about sight seeing.

This time, though, was for my birthday. So along with visits to all the museums and bookstores (and of course the Tiki Room) we had to visit the sea lions that hang out on Pier 39. I helped to rescue more than a few marine mammals during my tenure as a wildlife vet tech a few years back, so I thought they would be happy to see me. Boy was I wrong! Hardly any of the big stinky critters even bothered to show up.

As it turns out, I shouldn't have felt slighted. In fact, we were lucky to see the few that did show up. Last November the 1,700 or so sea lions that had been hanging around Pier 39 for the last 20 years decamped suddenly for parts unknown. Only recently have a few stragglers returned. No one knows why they left, no one knows where they've been, and no one knows if they'll return.

Today, however, I learned where they are right now: Oregon. That's right, all those sea lions just packed up last fall and moved to the Oregon coast. What could possibly be in Oregon to tempt them? More fish? Well, maybe. Rain? They're already soaked. Hipsters? They can see plenty of those in San Francisco. I believe that leaves just one thing: comic books. As far as I can tell, a large percentage of American comic book creators live in and around Portland. The sea lions must just be getting as close as they can to this comic book mecca.

Will they ever return to Pier 39? I think it's unlikely. The rents in San Francisco are a little high for most comics professionals.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hey You! Wanna See Something Cool?

Now that I've got your attention, let me introduce you to the first eight pages of ELDRITCH, a comic currently in competition over at Zuda.

All I can say is: it starts with Charles Darwin in a bathysphere and gets wilder from there. You really should just check it out for yourself. There's no way my description will do it justice!

Currently ELDRITCH is in second place, with just a few days left in the month. So do me a favor and go vote! The winner becomes an ongoing series, and I for one really want to find out what happens next.

Zuda's accounting can be a little opaque. Votes are secret, but apparently the public favorites, ratings, and comments have some weight too.  A handy guide is provided at the right, cribbed from ELDRITCH artist Drew Rausch's blog.

Once, many moons ago, Gabriel and I had a comic in competition on Zuda too. It was called The Crooked Man, but we didn't get out the vote enough to win. Doesn't Charles Darwin in a bathysphere deserve better? Vote ELDRITCH today!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Live! At the Arlington Theater!

Traffic in Los Angeles is a funny thing. When planning an evening out, one always thinks one will somehow magically be handed a reprieve. An 8 o'clock show all the way up in Santa Barbara on a Tuesday night? Sure, why not? That'll take, what, maybe 45 minutes?

Then reality sets in, usually accompanied by whining. Why did we ever leave the house? We've seen Elvis Costello lots of times. Why did we find it necessary to pay to torture ourselves like this? Should we just turn around? Let's just keep going, maybe it will be worth it. It had better be worth it!

Amazingly, last Tuesday at the Arlington Theater, it the trip really was worth it. After sitting in the car for more than two hours we finally arrived with minutes to spare. We flew past the beautifully tiled stand-alone ticket booth and made it into our seats just as the lights went down. But even harried and cross after battling traffic, I couldn't help but be awed by this amazing theater.

Mr. Costello also failed to disappoint. He played solo the entire show, relying just on his voice (sometimes without amplification) and a variety of stringed instruments. The song choices ran the gamut, from some of the first he ever recorded to shiny new creations. He seemed to be enjoying himself too, and made frequent reference to the theater surrounding us.

Indeed, it's difficult to ignore. Built in 1931 on the site of the old Arlington Hotel (destroyed in an earthquake in 1925), the Arlington Theater was built to impress. It's sort of an atmospheric fantasy Mission Revival style, and quite unlike any other example I've seen. Intricate tile work covers every surface, random mermaids infest the scroll-work outside, and the theater itself is fashioned to evoke a village plaza at night complete with stars and a moon set into the ceiling overhead.

All of this splendor was originally created as part of the grand Fox West Coast Theater circuit. The main floor and balconies hold 2,000 people. Even the foyer is heavily painted and lit by specially designed lamps, earning the Arlington the distinction of starting life not as a mere movie theater but as a film palace. Today it is also the premier preforming arts venue in Santa Barbara, having been restored and refurbished in the mid-70's.

Bottom line? The show was great, the theater was fabulous, but the next time I drive to Santa Barbara on a Tuesday I'm taking the day off work and leaving Los Angeles around lunch time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What I Learned at the San Bernadino County Museum

As advertised, I did manage to make the trek to attend a very rare event: an actual lecture, by an expert, about tapir paleontology! It was very exciting to hear about advances in the understanding of tapirs here in SoCal. The talk was given by the San Bernadino County Museum Curator of Paleontolgy, Eric Scott.

A few highlights (any errors or omissions are of course mine):

* Once upon a time, about a million years ago, there were tapirs right here! Well, maybe not in this exact spot, since I live in a tall house and am currently sitting on the top floor, but they may well have wandered through what is now my back yard.

* Unlike their cousin the horse, tapirs have changed very little since the Pleistocene. So it is sometimes difficult, especially given
the paucity of tapir fossils, to make distinctions between extinct species. Even so, there is a fair amount of evidence based on size and tooth structure that there may have been as many as four different species just between Baja Mexico and southern California. It was an embarrassment of tapirs, I tell ya!

*All that dirt that used to fill up the Grand Canyon? Yeah, that's what the Anza Borrego dessert is made out of. The Colorado River used to flow that direction, before the San Andreas fault helped open up the Gulf of California

*Florida, where I'm from, was even richer than California in tapirs. If only I'd known that when I still lived there. They never teach the interesting facts in school!

All in all, the trip was well worth it. And thank you to the Tapir Preservation Fund for the photos! I love tapirs, and the fact that they look like relics from the past just makes them that much more charming.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Attack of the Twitter Trucks!

I'm not usually one to care about the latest food trend, or the latest trend in general. And I'm certainly not usually the first in line to for the Proud to be an Angeleno Parade. But I have to admit that there is one thing that we are doing well here in the City of Angeles. And that thing is Twitter Trucks.

I don't know if this idea is nation-wide yet, but it should be! If you are unfamiliar with the concept, here's the low down: these are trucks, much like the old fashioned and unappetizingly monikered "roach coaches", which drive around the city and sell food to anyone who walks up with cash in hand. And here's the twist: these trucks are gourmet. You might actually want to eat something from one of them! And since this means that you might actually want to find one, you need a way to figure out where they are. So they use Twitter. Perfect!

Gabriel and I tracked down the Grilled Cheese Truck tonight where it was parked outside of Amoeba Records. It was just like being back in high school. Except that then a night out might mean a greasy grilled cheese at Denny's, followed by a trip to the mall where I would probably end up with a Cure album on cassette. Tonight's outing resulted in gruyere and apple slices on French bread, followed by the purchase of a couple of jazz albums on vinyl. To be fair, the albums were Gabriel's purchase (and so is the photo), so I guess I'm not as grown up as I think I am.

If only we could have figured out where the cupcake truck was for dessert.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April is Frog Month!

Here at The Frog Bag Blog we love frogs. How much? So much that the whole darn blog is named after them! Not only the blog, but the etsy shop too! Sadly, I can't take credit for the month of April being "Frog Month" though. I'm not sure who did the leg work on that one, but I'm glad they did, since it gives me a chance to talk about these magnificent amphibians.

Believe it or not, frogs are among the most endangered animals
on the planet. They have made it through many previous extinction events (including the one that wiped out all of the non-avian dinosaurs) but will they survive humans? That remains to be seen.

So, in honor of Frog Month and our dampish frog friends, I thought I would highlight a couple of things we can do to help them out. First on the list?

Drink more tap water!

How does this help? Well, Americans alone drink somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 BILLION bottles of water a year. Most of these bottles are not even recycled. All that plastic requires a lot of oil to produce: enough to fuel a million cars for a year! And oil isn't the only thing wasted... three times more water is used in the production of each bottle than ends up inside. Most of what's inside is just processed tap water anyway, which you could do much more cheaply at home with a filter. Some "big box" brands even have higher levels of contaminates than are allowed in tap water!

So, where does this leave frogs? Well, processing oil into bottles and then transporting the bottles to shops around the country contributes tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere which in turns contributes to climate change. And we all know how much frogs hate climate change! Most are adapted to only live in very narrow ranges of temperature, so even a small shift can have dire consequences. In addition, using all that extra water depletes rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs. In other words, the very places that frogs call home.

You may be wondering "why care about frogs?" Aside from the fact that frogs are unique and beautiful, they are also the muppet-like face of many important ecosystems. Save the frogs, save the planet, save ourselves. Easy as 1-2-3! Well, maybe not that easy. But at least it's a place to start...

Special thanks to Save the Frogs! for use of their photos and some of the information contained above.

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