🏕 It’s the Same, Only Different

Last night, I went to the Alumni Shabbat at Gindling Hilltop Camp. Actually, to be precise, I want to Gindling Hilltop Camp (Channel Islands), as opposed to (Malibu). It was very much the same thing, only different. As, except for one or two readers, you weren’t there, I’d like to share a few observations and gleanings.

As background: The distinction between (Malibu) and (Channel Islands) was driven by a singularity, a point in time that changed some things but not others. The physical facilities that comprised the camps I grew up at are (for the most part) only in memory now, thanks to the Woosley Fire in Malibu, and the subsequent mudslides that destroyed them. But the camp itself is still there: both in the land that is resting and recharging, and the people that have committed to keeping the ruach (spirit), energy, values, and feeling alive. What the people are creating isn’t just a keepsake flame; it is camp at a new venue, the beautiful facilities of Cal State Channel Islands near Camarillo, CA. I was curious, as I drove out to the campus, as to how this would all work.

Camp @ Channel Islands

For the summer of 2019, and hopefully the summers of 2020 and probably 2021, Wilshire Blvd Temple has rented a goodly portion of the southern section of CSU Channel Islands. For WBTC, this has provided the camps a respite home. On the other side of the equation, it has provided CSUCI a windfall in terms of a large rental tenant at a time when the campus is historically under used, a tenant that has improved some areas of the young campus (as a college campus) making it better for the student population in the short term future. In doing this, the model has been the temporary relocation of URJ Camp Newman to CSU Maritime Institute after the Santa Rosa Tubbs Fire, now in its second year while they rebuild the Porter Creek Campus. I think those of us who that have been to Channel Islands hope this summer established a strong relationship between WBTC and CSUCI that will last over the rebuilding years.

You might be wondering how the two camps, one facility, works. I would best describe it as a virtual LAN (VLAN) or a virtual machine: two distinct entities sharing a single physical medium. The camps are of distinctly different size (350 for CHK, 180 for GHC), with different staffs, except for some shared specialists. Times are staggered, so that while one camp is in one part of campus, the other camp is in a different part of campus. There are different dinner seatings, different service seating. But the shared facility allows distinct time for the two camps to come together and form One Camp.

Touring the new facilities, I learned there was a conscious effort to bring pieces of Malibu to Channel Islands. The benches in the chapel are from the CHK chapel; the bima and arks are the ones that survived the fire at both camps. There are benches in “the Zone” from the overlook at Hilltop. The art supplies were rescued from Omanut (Arts and Crafts) at Hilltop, IIRC the poles supporting the shade tenting in the zone came from Kramer. The prayerbooks are from both camps, and contain the pictures and memories of what was. These little pieces provide the conduit from the old to the new, a pathway and connection so that the old energy can continue to flow.

But Channel Islands is a new space, and the Camps have had to invest significantly to transform portions of campus into camp. If you look at the map of the the Camarillo campus, camp has taken over the southern end. The “cabins” are the space marked SRV (Santa Rosa Village), and the quad between LIN (Lindora) Hall and the future Madera Hall (not labeled) is the chapel. The open space between the existing SRV (opened in Fall 2016) and LIN/Madera is “The Zone”, which was a gravel-covered empty space when the camp leased the facilities. The camp has improved the space with grass and wood chips, erecting a shade structure held up by poles from the old ropes course, together with an Israeli dance space (removable sports floor), a volleyball court, a ga-ga pit, benches, and other improvements. The camp has also made improvements in the area shown as Portraro Fields, where a removable climbing structure and ropes course has been built.

Other space used by the camp  include recreational student space such as lounges in SRV, the campus dining facility at ISL (Islands), the ability to use the quad in front of the biology building ALI for Shabbat dancing, improved gymnasium facilities and such. This has allowed for electives (excuse me, chugs) not seen at camp before: cooking, mountain biking, gardening, and such. The new beach facilities in Ventura allow access to the Channel Islands Ranger Station, creating new opportunities for interaction with nature education. Sandy Strauss would be proud.

The cabin facilities are also a step up from Malibu: Utilizing the new residence halls, each “cabin” consists of four rooms: two for camps with four campers each, a room with the counselors, and a “clubhouse” chill space. The mattresses are thicker, and they even have mini-fridges. I was discussing with a staff member how different things were from when camp first started in the 1950s. Back then, had this happened, camp would be on the original ground space, with “roughing it” tents, trucked-in porta-potties and showers, and rudamentary outdoor cooking facilities while the campers worked to rebuild. In today’s camp environment, roughing it is thicker mattresses and mini-fridges. Times change. I’ll note that both camps share the dorm space, with Hilltop on the top floors because … well the camp is Hilltop, duh. Counselors have access to the elevators, but campers get the stairs.

Access is an interesting concern, especially for parents of young one concerned about camp sharing space with an active college campus with other tenants. From this older camper’s eyes, security is actually stronger at CSUCI. At Malibu, security was very much physical isolation. At Channel Islands, buildings tend to be locked, with counselors needing key cards and PINs to access. This means that campers are escorted to locations, with an adult always present. There is both camp security personnel and campus police. All camp personnel have identifying wristbands worn at all times; they question folks in camp areas without wristbands. An on-campus police presence means that emergency response is actually much closer. There is also increased use of technology to stay in communication with staff. There’s also not strong outside advertisement of the nature of the camps. All of this is important in these heightened times of security concern. As I noted, you feel safe on campus.

As I’ll discuss in a minute, rebuilding Malibu will take years. Until then, each summer, WBTC will move and rebuild (as necessary) the current rental facility, do the summer, and wipe the slate back to what it was, leasing other facilities for programs through the year. A key question is whether CSUCI will want the relationship with the camps to continue. After all, CSU Maritime held Camp Newman to two years; they must be back at Porter Creek in 2020. My gut tells me they will. Reading the 2007 campus master plan, the 2014 CSUCI 2025 Vision Plan and accompanying slide show, and the overview thereto, it is clear the campus has ambitious plans to expand within their limited footprint. The overview notes: “To support this development, the next major capital expansion phase must be launched to adequately support the programmatic and operational needs of the campus by 2025. With the expectation that very little to no State capital funds will be authorized for new construction over the next decade, the campus must explore alternatives to support critical capital expansion. A comprehensive capital development strategy is therefore critical to allow CI to adequately meet its educational mission over the next decade.” as well as wanting “a concept plan that may potentially include engaging external partners to leverage resources in new and innovative ways to benefit both the University and the CSU.” The windfall from WBTC renting the space could be one of those external partner interactions that benefit future growth. The camps can provide temporary improvements to make that space better for the school-year student population; the space of “The Zone” and possibly the SH2 parking facility seem slated to become the San Miguel Village in the mid-term timeframe (which in 2014 was predicted to be now, but looks more likely to be the 2022-2024 timeframe). This might also impact the 1934 courthouse building (Madera Hall), currently vacant, at the south end of the chapel, which at one time was scheduled to be remodeled, but is also rumored to be scheduled for demolition.

But that’s enough of the digression from this amateur historian. I think that overall, Camp at Channel Islands was, well, camp. Kids are resilient, and it is the people and the programs that make camp special. The basic structure of the programs remained, the activities remained the same, and most importantly, the staff gives the same enthusiasm and love to the campers, imbuing them with the same spirit as always.

To this old timer, especially one steeped in camp history and lore, it isn’t quite the same pioneer spirit. The first two years of its existence, camp was in rental spaces that they remade as temporary JEWISH spaced. The menorah in the background at the CHK chapel dated from the 1951 camp — it was built by campers and trucked to CHK. Campers lived in rudimentary camping spaces, as was done in the 1950s. Even in the first days of Hilltop, campers roughed it, clearing brush, being trucked for showers. That’s romantic history, but one not allowed by today’s legal and safety landscape, nor one likely to be tolerated by today’s parents. What WBT has created at Channel Islands is a truly remarkable bubble: moving the spirit of Malibu to a temporary facility. I will note that campers this year built a replica of the camp’s iconic menorah. It is movable, and perhaps one day will grace the chapel at the rebuilt CHK.

In terms of the alumni night itself: we had about 20 people there for Hilltop, including two friends from my days at camp (1969-1979). There were about 100 attending for CHK, from what I understand. That mirrored the attendance of campers: Hilltop was a younger session right now, and those have been undersubscribed this summer, especially by the girls. Kramer was an older kid session, and those have had strong attendance. In talking with staff, we surmised it might have been concerns about younger kids on a college campus, or not having the same camp feeling. From what I saw, neither should be a concern, and hopefully parents will bring their kids back next year. I understand that Newman By The Bay had a similar problem their first year of temporary relocation.

But What of Camp in Malibu?

For this old-timer, that was a key question of mine. I had been thinking before the Shabbat of how the land in Malibu must feel, devoid of the spirit of children that it had felt for almost 70 years. It must be quite lonely. Here’s what I learned.

After the fires, almost all of the buildings were destroyed. To my understanding, what was left at Kramer was the “new” Dining Hall, the conference center behind it, and the infirmary/office structure. The pool and amphitheater remained, but no buildings. The Piness bathrooms at the top of the hill in the boys cabin area, and one girls cabin. Most of what survived was actually already scheduled to be demolished before the fire as part of a central camp remodeling that was nearly funded, as the “new” Dining Hall was already outgrown, and the other buildings were showing their ages. At Hilltop, much of the Omanut / Pool / Roth / Lookout structure survived, although one fence burned and the pool equipment exploded. At both camp, benches and a few items in the chapels survived.

The fires of November may have destroyed buildings, but the floods of the subsequent winter reshaped the land. At CHK, portions of Yerba Buena and the cliffs below flowed into chapel; the CHK benches were rescued for the Channel Islands Chapel. The creek was rerouted, taking out what had been the Nature area. Areas were covered in mud and debris fields. Embankments molding the creek were washed away. It sounds like the most significant mud damage was at CHK; I haven’t heard of significant mud flows at GHC — most importantly and surprisingly, the road to Hilltop survived unscathed.

I asked if there was drone footage or images for those of us that want to see. WBTC has them, but is controlling the story as the events were extremely traumatic to many children and adults. Although there are some of us detached enough to handle them, the camp staff’s job is to protect people and rebuild carefully. I can appreciate that care and concern.

I learned that campers from the older leadership sessions visited Malibu briefly this summer. They weren’t there to rebuild at this time, but more to celebrate survival. I heard of story of dancing on the plaza at Hilltop, with the campers providing the music with their voices. I’m sure the spirit of the land appreciated the joy, and it helped the land recover.

Given this, recovery will be a long process — I’d guess Malibu won’t be back until at least 2022. There will be rethinking about how to rebuild smartly  — both for fire resistance, the new size of camp from when it was originally built, and how to make the hodgepodge that was there into something purpose-built to serve the community. I’d imagine deep consideration on thinking the flow through camp to keep it safe in the future from fire and flood. Plus all this work must go through the California Coastal Commission, an entity that did not exist when the primary structures of camp were first built. What we can do until then is support the camp with our spirit in alumni groups, donations to camp recovery, and spreading the word that #KramerNeverStops and #HilltopNeverStops, and that folks should send their kids to camp at Channel Islands.

There also seems to be collection of camp history online. I learned of a site, One Camps, that has collected music and history and cheers and all sorts of stuff; I plan to explore it further.

Cal State Channel Islands

This was my first time visiting the campus, although I have a cousin that is a Computer Science student there (at least I think he’s still attending there). I found it to be a beautiful campus. Most of the new buildings have been constructed in the style of the 1930-1940 hospital buildings, and the only way to tell them apart is the depth of the windows. I took time to drive around most of the space. I think there ground footprint is larger than CSUN. There appear to be some buildings are are still unused — possibly due to their historical usage, asbestos remediation, or design in relationship to campus needs. Most of the older buildings appears to be on the southern portion of campus.

In researching online, I saw a few stories on the history of the facility that became CSUCI, with accordant rumors therewith. As I scientist, I know those rumors are bunk. As a historical romantic, I can’t help but think that any negative spirits that might have remained at the transition back in 1998 have been balanced and negated by the joy of learning that occurs in the halls of CI, and the happiness of children and the good times and good memories being created. Knowledge is light, and light always dispels darkness.



✡️🏕️ And The Processing Continues … But #KramerNeverStops and #HilltopNeverStops

It has now been a week (but it seems much longer) since we learned that Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp were essentially destroyed in the Woolsey Fire (together with a number of other camps, including Camp JCA Shalom, Camp Bloomfield, the Salvation Army Camps, and I’m sure many others, including former BSA, GSA, and other camp facilities). At CHK, all that I know remains are one or two cabins that were cinder-block, the Arts and Crafts area, the new dining hall (although it sustained some damage), the conference center/infirmary/office complex, and of course, Inspiration Point. At Hilltop, all that remains are some cinder-block cabins, the Arts & Crafts center / Pool / Roth Room, and of course, the menorah at the top of the hill.

We know, of course, that camp will rebuild. The facilities were insured, the congregation has both means and motivation, and the alumni are an active group. The camping may be away from Malibu this summer while construction occurs; there is no formal announcement of the 2019 location yet, but camp will happen for the kids. My hope, for 2019, is that the kids can return to the Pioneer spirit: returning to the grounds to recover artifacts and material, and creating new art out of the old memories to ensure that what was camp is remembered in what camp becomes.

For those of us who are alumni of the camps — from the old-timers who were there in the very beginning going back to the Presbyterian Conference Ground days to the first days in Malibu, to the folks there when only CHK existed in the 1960s, to the pioneers and kids of the 1970s (my generation), to the generations since in the 1980s and beyond — for all of us this has been an interesting week. Memories that were in the background are resurfacing. Facebook groups are providing an avenue of reconnection within camp generations, and establishing new connections between the generations. We’re sharing pictures, stories, artifacts. Most importantly, there’s a sense that we’re here, camp lives within us, and we will be there with boots on (and walkers, as necessary 🙂 ) to rebuild however and whenever we can. Camp was a safe spot for many, a formative spot for all, and it made us who we are today. From a group that was created last Sunday morning, we are now over 1,500 strong. Unified and voice in spirit. We’re ready to take the values of Al Slosha D’varim and use them to bring camp back through Torah values, our hard work (avodah), and donating funds (g’melut chasadim).

For me, the destruction has reopened the good memories of the period from 1969 to 1979, the good people, the good times. It reminded me why I go to Malibu whenever I can afford to (either in terms of time or funds). Camp is where I had great joy, but it is also where I had sadness. It was at camp that I learned that my brother had died, cutting the session I went to in 1970 short (and I will always be grateful for the caring from my counselors — Sandy Strauss, Scott Shershow, and Joel Saltzman). But it was also at camp  that I acquired self confidence  and grew into who I am today. The place and the beauty will return; the scars will heal. Out of the ashes something stronger will form; there will be a new generation of pioneers rebuilding camp.

And it will be good. Very very good.

My first year at camp – 1969

P.S.: If you want to donate to the camps, visit here.

P.P.S.: If you want to see what happened, here are some good news reports from ABC 7 and NBC 4; an exploration right after the fire; an article from the LA Times; and an article from the Huffington Post.


C-H-U-C-K Chuck

He always used to seemingly dislike when people would add “C-H-U-C-K Chuck” into “Justice, Justice“.

Yesterday, word came out that Charles Feldman, long-time Director of Music (in the days before Reform had Cantors) at Wilshire Blvd Temple, and long-time camp director of Gindling Hilltop Camp, and long time maestro of Jewish music, passed away. It wasn’t a surprise; I had heard he was in a board-and-care home up in the Antelope Valley. But still, the news was sad. And the world wept.

I attended the Wilshire Blvd Temple Camps for 10 years, between 1969 and 1979; I was at Hilltop starting in 1972. For all but that first (and possibly second) year at Hilltop, Chuck was my camp director. So many memories: his voice, his kindness, his friendly nature, his leadership, playing anagrams after-hours.

Others from my era at camp have posted on Facebook with their memories. If the measure of a person and a life well lived are the lives that you have impacted for the good, then Chuck will be remembered well. Tradition teaches that we live on in the memories of others. In that respect, Chuck will continue to live on through the music he has left behind, through the people he has influence and how they have passed on that influence down the generations, and through the memories of the man at his piano, leading songs and completely happy.

You can hear his beautiful voice on the camp album Cherish The Torah, in the songs “Sim Shalom” and “Sanctification“. Here is a short summary of Chuck’s career at Wilshire from the time he stepped down.

According to a post from Liz Biderman Gertz on Facebook, those who wish to honor Chuck Feldman’s memory may donate to the following scholarship fund:

Academy of Music Performance and Education scholarship fund
854 West Lancaster Blvd
Lancaster CA 93534



Camp Family

Last night, there was terrible news out of Santa Rosa for anyone that loves Jewish summer camps: “As many of you may have heard, since 10pm last night, forest fires have been burning in Sonoma and Napa counties. It is with tremendous shock and sadness that we share that the majority of the buildings at our beloved Camp Newman home have been destroyed.” (URJ Blog Entry)

I never attended URJ Camp Newman. I spent 10 years of my youth at their competitor and sibling: the Wilshire Blvd Temple Camps (Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp) in Malibu. All I knew was that there were two other Jewish camps in California, the Conservative’s Camp Ramah in Ojai, and UAHC’s Camp Saratoga (later Camp Swig) in Northern California. I never knew, for example, that UAHC had purchased land for a new camp, Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, in 1997; nor that they had closed Camp Swig in 2004 moving camp operations to Camp Newman. The reason for the closure of the Saratoga facility was economic: the land was in an earthquake red zone, and the cost of updating and retrofitting the buildings was prohibitive. They moved what camp art they could to the Newman site, and closed the camp and attempted to sell the land (which upset a lot of people). The sale fell through, and I could find no clear information on what happened to that land other than a paywalled reference that it was sold in 2010.‡

But Jewish summer camp is special, and I know the hours I’ve spent worrying anytime there is a fire near Malibu. I remember helping at camp after a fire, and I remember how close fire has come to destroying buildings at camp. I can only imagine the spiritual pain that Saratoga / Swig / Newman campers, staff, and alumni are feeling,

Buildings will be rebuilt. The ground will be scoured for artifacts and art that survived (ceramics and concrete are wonderful that way). There will be a re-sanctification and new energy, and the spirit will return. This summer will see the camp return to pioneer roots for sure, with temporary rougher facilities and a spirit of re-creation for the future generations. Art will show a rebirth through fire, just as the literal fires of the Holocaust were followed by a rebirth of Jewish spirit.

What has surprised me through this, however, is how I have been touched by destruction at a camp I’ve never attended. The larger Jewish Camp family is truly a family: whether CHK or GHC, Ramah, Kutz or Newman, or Alonim, or any of the myriad of camp options, we are all in pain when “camp” is hurt.

I wish the URJ Camp Newman community a refluah shleimah — a speedy recovery. Those financially able to help could visit the camp’s donation page. #NewmanStrong

[‡ ETA: It looks like it was sold to a group called Valley International Academy, but their current webpage puts them in Campbell. That may be an administrative office, because other pages still show them in Saratoga. There is also an Environmental Impact Report and architectural documents for a rehab into some new center by a group called Valley Inception, LLC (which would destroy many of the original cabins) in 2015. They are a technology firm, and as for use, all the EIR says is “rehabilitate an existing camp / retreat facility, Camp Saratoga, through obtaining Architecture and Site Approval (ASA) and Grading. Proposed project scope includes demolishing (9) existing cabins, consolidating and building four (4) new camper / staff cabins, one (1) facility storage building, reconstructing the existing Norris House for administration functions and various site improvements such as installing new parking lot, internal access serving the new buildings, ADA and utility upgrades. […] A similar rehabilitation was proposed by the previous organization, Camp Swig, and approved in 2002. Upon completion of the rehabilitation, subject facility will resume operation hosting a variety of programs in varying durations year-round. Summer programs may be as minimal as days or weeks, while school year programs will be longer. ” Thus, it appears this is now a boarding school.]


News Chum Stew: Onesies and Twosies

Observation StewLast night, we had a Shabbabaque at Temple (“Shabbat” + “Barbeque”). There was a bunch of food leftover, and so I brought some home — the sliced tomatoes and roasted zucchini — and threw it into a crockpot. That’s a great thing to do with leftovers: make a stew (and I intend to suggest formalizing that next year*). Just like at the Shabbabaque, I’ve got loads of leftovers — onsies and twosies of news articles — that don’t make a coherent dish. Perhaps they’ll make a good stew. What do you think?

Jewish Summer Camp

Food and Eating

Local Returns and Departures

The Body


What’s Left



Saturday Stew: A Little Bit of Everything

Observation StewNote: In case you missed my posts earlier this week, I had one with a collection of articles related to why I decided to support Hillary Clinton; a collection of articles related to food and diet; and a summary of the shows that I’m planning to see at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival. But now it is Saturday, and I’m staring at the list of links I’ve accumulated over the week… and realizing there’s not a coherent theme buried in there.  You know what that means — it is time to make News Chum Stew!



News Chum Stew: This and That

Observation StewIt’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve made some news chum stew, and I’m hungry for a nice heaping bowl. Please join me, and let’s discuss some of these:

  • Inclusion and Integration. Let’s start with an article I chose just for the graphic, which is appropriate for the Oscars tonight and #OscarsSoWhite . I had seen others use this graphic before with respect to diversity discussions, and I realized that it is also wonderful to explain security system engineering, and how security truly needs to be included in the engineering discussion, not just considered in a separate area.
  • Food and Health. Here are two articles related to food and health.The first explores how the proton-pump inhibator heartburn meds (such as omeprazole, which I take) may be associated with a higher dementia risk. This is of concern to me; it is why I’m trying to wean down on the meds (I’m at every other day). Specifically, a new study links the widely used PPIs — which include Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec — to an increased risk for cognitive decline, though researchers caution the study has limitations, and does not show a definite cause. PPIs have recently been linked to kidney disease, heart disease, and deficiencies of B12 and other vitamins. While patients have reported side effects of the drugs, not taking them often results in stomach pains and worse heartburn as the drug leaves their systems.

    The second highlights a fascinating finding about pasta: Reheating your pasta makes it healthier for you. When pasta is cooled down, your body digests it differently, causing fewer calories to be absorbed and a smaller blood glucose peak. And reheating it is even better – it reduces the rise in blood glucose levels by a whopping 50 percent.

  • Cruz and Gluten Free. It seems society just wants to hate and bully. We’ve all seen various people, shapes, and trends become scapegoats for society’s extended mockery. Recently, Ted Cruz marched into the frey by declaring the military shouldn’t provide gluten-free meals. This promped a lovely editorial in HuffPost asking people to stop making fun of the gluten-free diet (which was the real article that prompted this item). Yes, I know there are many folks doing it because the diet is trendy and they believe it will help them. The problem is that if people start feeling that folks only do it for trendy reasons, then they won’t be careful in making things truly gluten free. That can create significant health problems for those that are Celiac and truly must eat gluten free.
  • Kitchens and Shopping. If you’re a cook, you’ve probably gone shopping at those high end kitchen supply stores. Have you gone to a restaurant supply store. It’s quite fun. We’ve gotten a few things there that we use every day. Here’s a good article on what you should be buying at a restaurant supply store. I particularly recommend the cutting board advice: get a really large one you can sit over your sink. You can then rinse and cut without the water going over your counters, and scrape the cuttings right into the disposal. They also have colored boards, so you can segregate vegetable from meat boards.
  • Humor and Jews. This article got an incredible amount of shares when I posted it on FB: Mad’s Al Jaffe explaining how Mad helped make American Humor Jewish, bringing in Yiddish along the way.
  • Calculators and Caller ID. Recently, an app on my Android Phone informed me it was using Caller ID, and I needed to go into its settings if I didn’t want that. The app, PowerCalc, and yes — it is integrating CallerID to make money for its authors. Needless to say, I want to find a different calculator app now.
  • Cars and Satellites. Here’s a real interesting one. I work in El Segundo, and regularly drive now Nash Street. I’ve never thought about why it was named what it was. However, a posting in an LA History group on Facebook provided some fascinating history. Evidently, what is now the Boeing Satellite Facility at Imperial Highways and Hughes Way used to be the Nash-Kelvinator Assembly Plant. Thus: Nash Street.
  • Names and Processors. A number of years ago, picking a processor was easy. You went for the latest x86 and clock speed. Then came Pentium and Celeron and Atom, and now there are Cores and iX and more. Here’s the first cogent explanation I’ve found of Intel Processor naming. This will be a big help next time I go processor shopping. I wonder how they differ architecture-wise, in particular in memory mapping and privilege rings — things us cybersecurity folks care about.
  • Tuna and Pianos. Get it? Piano Tuna? Nevermind, I’m here all week. You may have seen the recent Android commercial where they play one song on a regular piano, and one song on a piano where every key makes the same note. You might have wondered whether they made a square piano to do it, in order to have all the strings the same length (remember: a piano has the same number of strings as a harp; it is just that they are buried in a box and hit with a hammer). Here’s a Scientific American article on what they did, and exploring if you could make all strings sound the same just through tuning.
  • A, B, C, D, E, and F. If you are old enough, you remember the days before “forever” stamps, when postage changed so frequently they issued lettered stamps worth make up postage between the old rate and the new rate. One wonders if they would issue negative postage stamps now, given that stamp prices are set to go down 2c in April. That’s right. Down. From 49c to 47c. I’d wait to buy that “forever” postage.
  • Maps and Places. We’ve all heard about it, but is it really done? Atlas Obscura explores the legend of fictitious place names on maps. Can they really be used to copyright a map?
  • Restaurants and the San Fernando Valley. A couple of articles on restaurants and the valley. The first explores 118 Degrees, a new raw vegan GF restaurant. The second is supposedly the essential valley restaurants, although I find some a bit trendy for my taste (and as usual, then tend to think only of the Boulevard, instead of the Northern valley). This becomes clear when they mention Lum Ka Naad’s outpost on the boulevard, instead of mentioning the original location near CSUN (which is about a mile from where I live). PS. While we’re talking about the valley, here’s an obit of interest: Rabbi Gordon of Chabad in the Valley has passed away. Z”L.
  • Malls and ShoppingTowns . In the news recently was an article noting how the Beverly Center mall near Cedars Sinai is getting a makeover. I remember this area well: I remember when the mall was built in the 1970s (drove by it on the way to WBT). It replaced the beloved Beverly Playland. The redevelopment is part of a trend of mall redesign, where developers take what were indoor malls and make them outdoor strolling areas. Think “the Grove” or “Americana at Brand”. What goes around, comes around, I guess. I remember when this was done at places like Fallbrook; I also remember when outdoor malls were turned into indoor malls (Panorama Mall; Sherman Oaks Fashion Center). They are about to do a similar transformation on the Westside Pavillion (which folks remember used to be a little lovely outdoor shopping center with a Vons and May Company). Should be interesting to watch.

Lastly, I’d like to highlight a few “GoFundMe”s of interest, related to folks I know. Orlando de la Paz was the scenic painter at the Colony; he recently had a stroke and is raising support funds. Jolie Mason worked with me at SDC; she’s now running the LA Radio Reading Service, a group that is raising funds for studio upgrades. Bruce Kimmel, a producer out here in LA, is raising money for an LA Themed Musical, which will premiere at LACC around May 13 for two weeks.  The family of one of my counselors from camp days is raising funds for his care; he’s dealing with a brain tumor and the prognosis isn’t good. The LA Theatre Community is raising funds for its legal fight against Actors Equity; they’ve already raised 75K. Lastly, the Men of TAS are raising funds to improve the Social Hall Kitchen; we’d love it if you could help.


Weekend Chum Stew: Food, Fiddler, Fonts, &c

Observation StewYesterday was a crazy day, and I didn’t get the news chum stew on the stove. Today is chilly and rainy, so I’ve made an extra big pot: