Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Blue Heaven?

Malibu skies are often blue, but seldom Malibu Blue. Curious, and curiouser.

Are you blue? Apparently Malibu is. It’s even an official web-safe Pantone color: 17-4435 TPX Malibu Blue. I know how Prussian blue, and cobalt blue, cerulean blue, Egyptian blue and French ultramarine got their names and I understand Tiffany blue, named for the gem-quality turquoise that became the signature color of the jewelry firm, but Malibu blue? Who decided that this seaside community should give its name to a slightly muddy turquoise color, and when?

Pantone Color  17-4435 TPX Malibu Blue

Do you see anything here that looks like 17-4435 TPX Malibu Blue?

Of course, no one asks permission to name things Malibu—there’s the brand of rum, the car, the outdoor lighting company, dozens of clothing companies, and even a whole host of competing Malibu cosmetics and skin care products.

For a while, the Malibu City Council had a bee in its bonnet about “branding” Malibu and making money off of its own line of brick-a-brac. Local wits quipped that if Beverly Hills can have a signature perfume, Malibu should, too, provided it smells authentically of waste water and skunk.

Somehow the Malibu blue revolution slipped past me without notice. No amount of Googling here at the Malibu Post revealed its origins, but today the savvy consumer can have Malibu blue tennis shoes, bridesmaid’s dresses, tuxedos, silk ties, hospital scrubs and underwear—the Cleo Lucy bra,  “Designed for the full-busted and full-figure woman." A sales description proclaims: “featured in Ladies Home Journal online in "Bras Beyond Boring Beige.”  

British lingerie firm Panache's "Malibu Blue" Cleo Lucy bra.
Malibu blue Vans

Malibu blue frou-frou.

Not everyone, however, has jumped upon the Malibu blue bandwagon. Malibu Rum seems not to have realized the potential of this color for new and bizarre cocktail options. True, they have a Malibu Red (an unholy union of rum and tequila), and a “ready to drink” “Malibu Blue Hawaiian” that comes in a plastic bag, but they’re clearly missing out on the opportunity to create a Malibu blue zombie.

Malibu Red, but no Malibu Blue, not yet.

There is a blue 2014 Chevy Malibu, but it’s Atlantis Blue Metalic. Clearly they’re missing out, too, unlike Audi, which was apparently hip to the chromatic shift in 2010. was not optimistic about the color:

Nice find here of a Malibu Blue Audi TT RS. Malibu Blue is the reported name of this light blue metallic...we remain not yet won over on Malibu Blue. Visions of Barbie come to mind but we’ll hold off on making a final opinion until we’ve seen it live and in the alloy.”

A Malibu Blue 2010 Audi. 

So, where did all of this Malibu Blue come from? Who knows, but Germancarblog might have been onto something with that thought of Barbie: the original 1971 Malibu Barbie Doll came with a pale aqua swim suit.

The original 1971 Malibu Barbie rocked a pale aqua blue swimsuit.  
An aqua one-piece swim suit for someone famous for wearing hot pink bikinis? Barbie may be plastic but she’s one smart doll. Clearly she was decades ahead of the trend. 

What a relief to know that in 2014, one's bridesmaids can arrive at one's dream wedding attired from their undies to their suede pumps in this particular shade of turquoise, so as not to clash with the groom's bow tie, or the ocean. And if nature won't suffice for a matching bouquet, dried flowers dyed Malibu Blue are the answer to a wedding planner's prayer.

Custom Manolo Blahnik Malibu blue suede shoe—in five heel heights, $595, available from Neiman Marcus.

Blue groom (I saw you standing alone)

Malibu Blue-tinted statice flowers.

There's nothing wrong, really, with 17-4435 TPX Malibu Blue. It's just, it doesn't offer much scope for the imagination. Not when the real Malibu has an abundance of astonishing shades of blue almost every day. Right now we have Dume turquoise, deep Corral Beach blue, and phthalocyanide blue-green Westward wave. There's Santa Ana sky blue, and top of Zuma Ridge sky blue, and the color that the ocean turns during clear winter weather—it looks that way all along the coast on the drive to Oxnard right now. And then there's the translucent after-the-rain azure that is sadly missing from the color scheme this winter. 

An entire gamut of blues is visible from the top of Point Dume on a clear day.

There’s blue jay blue, too— often one of the brightest Malibu blues on a gray day in the garden, unless you are lucky enough to have an overwintering western blue bird in residence. 

Mussel-shell blue—one of numerous authentic Malibu shades of blue.
If the drought ever ends, we can look forward to ceanothus blue covering the hills, and all over the acres scared by the Springs Fire, the ephemeral blue of California canterbury bells. Until then, here's wishing you blue waves, blue skies and blue horizons—colors that are beyond price and still free to everyone.

Why stop at blue? Why not enjoy a splash of Malibu Crimson, Violet and Orange?

Color in sky, Prussian blue
Scarlet fleece changes hue
Crimson ball sinks from view
Wear your love like heaven,
 Wear your love like heaven,
Wear your love like heaven.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Endless Summer

Smokey Bear says it all. 

The title of the 1966 surfing film is intended to generate visions of eternal surf and sun—a surfer’s Shangra La, but the Endless Summer we’re experiencing during what is suppose to be winter this year is more like hell than heaven, and there hasn't been any surf in weeks, either.

It was 82 degrees in the parking lot of Malibu City Hall at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 15, and 84 at Pepperdine University at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. After what feels like an eternity of gale-force winds, the Santa Anas have diminished today, but the red flag warning is still in place. 

After weeks of wind and fire danger, everyone in wildfire danger zones—and that’s most of Southern California these days—are feeling not so much nervous as exhausted. Smoke from the Colby Fire and news footage of burning homes is a reminder that the danger is real and constant. That fire, like the catastrophic Corral Fire in Malibu in 2007, was started by an illegal camp fire. 

Smoke from the Colby Fire, more than 50 miles away, drifts past Point Dume. We've only had a quarter inch of rain so far, not enough to wake the giant coreopsis flowers from dormancy or even generate the growth of winter grass. I am reminded of Fredrick Hastings Rindge's description of the great drought of 1863: "In November, 1863 there was a regular downpour, and it did not rain again until November, 1864."

Smoke from the Colby Fire turns sunset sullen and ominous on the evening of January 16. The wind was so powerful at Corral Beach that I couldn't hold the camera steady, even with the monopod. I had to lean on the car to get this shot.

Humans aren’t the only ones feeling the stress, the drought and heat are impacting local wildlife, too. 
Snakes that normally hibernate are active. I spoke to a woman on Wednesday who found four rattlesnakes on her porch last week. Gophers, desperate for green food, are eating things they normally leave alone, including inedible bulbs, like narcissus, and even bitter and tough pomegranate, citrus and oak roots.

There have reportedly been nine incidents of pet animals attacked or taken by coyotes in the Point Dume area in the past two weeks. Coyotes, desperate for water and food, are taking chances that they would never take during a normal winter. The consequences are tragic for pet owners and ultimately for the coyotes.

Coyotes are increasingly coming into conflict with humans, as the drought forces them to seek food and water in residential areas. Residents can help prevent conflict by making sure small animals are not left alone outside, small dogs are walked on short leashes, instead of retractable leases, gaps in fencing are closed, and potential attractants like trash cans, BBQ grease, fallen fruit and birdseed are removed. 

I wrote this piece for the Malibu Surfside News on coyotes a couple of weeks ago. I talked to Camilla Fox, executive director of the Coyote Project, for the article. Her organization has excellent tip on how to safely and humanely keep coyotes away, available here.

Like the coyotes, deer are also moving into developed areas in search of green food and fresh water. This is the Pepperdine herd. These animals are usually sleek and appear healthy but looked a bit seedy this week. The one major thing residents can do to help the local deer population is to stay alert when driving and especially to slow down at dusk, when deer—and other animal jaywalkers, including skunks, are most active.

While no one wants to encourage coyotes, a safe, clean, consistent water source that is far enough off the ground to discourage coyotes and other interlopers, can be a tremendous help for wild birds. Even this rufus hummingbird has been showing up at the backyard birdbath this week. The dew that hummingbirds usually depend on for hydration is in short supply.

Honey bees and other beneficial insects also benefit from a safe water source.
NOAA is forecasting at least 10 more days of high pressure and a possible return of the Santa Anas next weekend. We can only hope February and March will bring much needed rain, and that endless summer will give way to winter at last, and the hope of spring.

This is the last leaf of autumn in our garden, clinging stubbornly to the otherwise bare liquidambar tree through all the gale force Santa Ana winds of this crazy un-wintery winter. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reality Check

He thought he saw an Elephant,

That practiced on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
“At length I realize,” he said,
The bitterness of life!”

He thought he saw a buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His sister's husband's niece.
“Unless you leave this house,” he said,
“I'll send for the police!”

He thought he saw a rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The middle of next week.
“The one thing I regret,” he said,
“Is that it cannot speak!”

He thought he saw a banker's clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A hippopotamus.
“If this should stay to dine,” he said,
“There won't be much for us!”

–Lewis Carroll

Around here, no one would be surprised. We would just assume Carroll's mad gardener had stumbled upon a film shoot...

Did you know that “Removing the Safety Tip from an Imitation Firearm” is a violation of California Penal Code section 20150(A) and can lead to misdemeanor charges? A group of film students who were shooting a scene at the Point Dume Headlands just found that out on Thursday.
Here’s the press release from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station:
A Malibu sheriff’s deputy was flagged down at about 10:30AM Thursday and told that a male suspect was waving a handgun near other people close to Point Dume Nature Preserve.
A search immediately began by sheriff's deputies from Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station, California State Park Rangers, and a sheriff's helicopter.
During a coordinated area search including the nearby cliffs, deputies soon saw a suspect pointing a handgun at the head of a young woman who had her hands raised in the air at Little Dume Beach in Malibu. A person nearby was holding a camera and filming them.  Other people were in the area.
Malibu sheriff's deputies and park rangers detained the suspect and six other people on the beach.
An examination of the realistic looking gun revealed it was a replica handgun with the orange plug tip removed. The orange tip was installed by the manufacturer to ensure people would know it was not real.
The group said they were college film students shooting a movie for school. No notice had been given to law enforcement, there was no film permit, there was no security, and no signs indicating it was a film project and for the public not to be concerned. The suspect said the orange plug had been removed to make it look like a real gun.
The suspect, a 20-year old film student from Valencia was arrested for a misdemeanor, Removing the Safety Tip from An Imitation Firearm, violation of California Penal Code section 20150(A).
There was a serious incident involving assault at the Point Dume Headlands a couple of years ago, so one can appreciate why law enforcement took this incident seriously, but so many bizarre things go on at Point Dume State Beach—many of them film related—that any walk in the park can turn into a trip to the back lot of the Twilight Zone.
For many Malibuites and visitors, Point Dume State Beach is a favorite place to watch for migrating gray whales in winter, or to enjoy the sunset. For the film industry, it's a convenient location to film desert islands, or any other seaside location, including the South Pacific and the beaches of Normandy on D Day. Car commercials and artfully directed ads for exotic-sounding prescription medications are filmed on the beach all the time, so are lots of other things. Let's take a quick look:
Even when you realize the giraffe is part of a film shoot, it's still incongruous. This entire tropical mise en scene was for a 2009 Russian beverage commercial. The giraffe is Willie G., a celebrity in his own right who was known for his sweet nature, and was reportedly one of the only giraffes working in Hollywood at the time. 
A warp in the time-space continuum at Westward Beach appears to have momentarily transported the traveler back to the early 1960s, where beachgoers, serenaded simultaneously by a man with a ukulele and a portable transistor radio, recline amongst awesome vintage metal coolers and longboards. 
This beach party turned out to be yet another advertising shoot for some kind of European beverage brand.
When you think you have the beach to yourself on a quiet early morning or late evening winter walk, often you don't. What's going on down there? Let's take a closer look:
I suspect they didn't have a permit either, but since the only shooting involved a camera, no one called for the swat team. This photographer and his model had to clamber in over the rocks at low tide to reach the secluded cove just east of Westward Beach. Hollywood does things on a bigger scale. Or at least, it used to, before the park was a nature preserve and protected by the state.

This is the same cove, shown here in a 20th Century Fox production still from the original 1968 Planet of the Apes. The track was built to accommodate the camera dolly and provide access to the sets built in the cove. Later filmmakers have had to rely on CGI to make major modifications to the Point Dume landscape. Copyright 20th Century Fox.
The 1968 Planet of the Apes crew created this, too, right at the base of the cliff, for arguably one of the most iconic scenes in B-movie history. Copyright 20th Century Fox.

Here's gizillionaire industrialist Tony Stark's house from the recent Ironman movies, perched precariously on top of the Headlands. However, unlike the Planet of the Apes era, no actual sets were constructed here for any of the Ironman films, which is probable good, since the ├╝ber-modern architectural bluff-top mansion is about to be nuked by the bad guys in this film still. Photo copyright Paramount Pictures.

The same location, sans Stark mansion. Once upon a time, the top of the Point was a Chumash shrine site. Miraculously, nothing has ever been built on the top of the headlands since that time except for a WW II-era lookout post. However, there were plans once for a hotel, complete with fake lighthouse. The plans progressed to the stage where the top of the hill was flattened, but the project was stalled during the war.

And then it's said that the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus have been known to descend for an evening of revelry, accompanied by Apollo's dolphins dancing in the bay, but perhaps it's best not to speak of such things, for fear it turns out to be something hopelessly mundane, like an ad for tooth whitener or  a new psoriasis medication, instead of a miracle of rare device. Around here, you just never know...

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

—William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Future Past

A Malibu family races to greet 2014 at sunset on Zuma Beach on the last day of the old year. © 2014 S. Guldimann

“I think Divination seems very woolly. A lot of guesswork, if you ask me.” 
—J.K. Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban

What will 2014 bring Malibu? I’ve heard a lot of prognostication this week, ranging from the fate of the wildly unpopular development plans in the Civic Center area and at Trancas, to the upcoming city council election. The threat of wildfire continues to overshadow predictions for 2014. Some are expressing concerns that debris from the Japanese tsunami, including radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, will be impacting the coast this year, others say a crash in the sardine population will impact sea birds and marine mammals. But there are pleasant things, too: predictions that record numbers of gray whales will arrive this spring, and rumors of additional park acquisitions in the Santa Monica Mountains. However, the future inevitably takes one in unexpected directions, no matter how many tea leaves or crystal balls are consulted.

The fact that this community isn't named “Billowbay,” “Midocean,” “Happyland,” Hygenia Park,” “Puritan,” or “Zumaland” is a reminder of some of the near misses, the alternative futures, that Malibu has avoided.

Frederick Hastings Rindge, who purchased the entire Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit in 1892, gazed into the future with dreams of his own city. Equal parts poet, evangelist and real estate developer, Rindge called the process of inventing a “mental city” a “privilege peculiarly Californian,” and shared the list of heartfelt but truly dire names he dreamed up for Malibu. Here’s an excerpt from his 1898 book Happy Days in Southern California:

Did you ever, in your mind, build a town, or lay out a city site on land you owned? It is very interesting, — even if it should not come true. About the sitting-room table did your household ever consider that matter, and all agree that John should lead the Christian life of the place, and Douglas should be president of the bank, the best bank of course, and Ruth should teach the school, and every one should have a place ? Open sin would be kept out, and happiness would be found in ever so many places beside the dictionary; and lots would be worth so much, and so many at such a price would amount to — dear me, what a prodigious sum! What great good you could do with it! And then we discussed our city's name. What a task it was, to be sure; what merriment the various propositions caused! The business member of the group wished our city to be called Port Pasadena, Sunnyside, Summershore, Wonderland, Happyland, Safehaven, Glenhaven, Resthaven, Safeport, Seabright, Stillwater, Bestbay, Billowbay, Bluewavebay, or Stirling. " Take your choice," said he.

The poet wanted the name to be either Foothill Park, Mountainside Park or Canyonside Park, Runningbrook, Deerbrook, Seabrae or Braemar, Edgewood, Midocean, Contentment, Peacedale, Waverley, Serenity, Diadem, or Switzerland. I should have said we had two or three town-sites, in different localities ; hence the great variety of descriptive names. We had not decided which city we would build first, don't you see? The practical member said, " Oh, let us name it something that means something; let us call it Enterprise or Industry or Recreation." Hereupon the poet sighed. And he sighed again when the facetious member remarked, "Why don't you call it Sunshine or Seek-no-further, or best of all, Climate, and then you'll catch the Eastern crowd." To counteract the uncalled-for levity on the part of this last destroyer of sentiment the classical scholar then said, " Now to give it true dignity its cognomen should be Hygeia Park, Ozone, or Aristos." Then the member who had been studying Spanish upspoke and said, "It seems to me we should call it Gloriosa or Marina." The historian slowly said, "Would not history suggest the name Zumaland?" 

Cattle mill in corrals beneath a massive railroad trestle built as part of the Hueneme, Malibu and Port Los Angeles Railway, circa 1915. The railroad, one of many visions of Malibu that didn't come to pass, was never completed.

There was but one more to speak, and he was the student of truth. Said he, "Among so many it is hard to choose, but there are still some good ones left. Permit me to propose Christland, Palestine, Puritan, Archangel, Evangel, — and Hopehaven for my preference next to the first; since there is no hope for man save in Christ. Neither is there ultimate haven for man save in heaven. Thus the name Hopehaven stands for all that is dearest to mankind." 

If you have never laid out a town in your mind, begin now. You will never regret it. Even if the trolley never comes your way, you will say to yourself, "Well, how I did enjoy my mental city in anticipation; the realization could never have been so joyous, so it is all right that the plough still turns up my city's streets, and that those great, tall office buildings are still only castles in the air." By all means build a mental city. That is a privilege peculiarly Californian.”

After days of sun and Santa Ana winds, coastal fog returned during the first days of the new year, blanketing the coast and reminding residents that the weather, like the future, is difficult to predict. © 2014 S. Guldimann

In the end, the name Malibu, not Zumaland or any of Rindge’s other flights of fancy, stuck and became the name of the community.  The name, shortened from the title of the original Spanish land grant, is a Spanish version of a Chumash place name meaning “where the surf sounds.” 

Rindge wasn’t the only one with visions of what Malibu would become. In 1925, real estate promoter John Russell McCarthy, in his book “These Waiting Hills,” predicted:

 “Homes, of course, will rise here in the thousands. Many a peak, perhaps, will have its castle. Far back from every road, on crest, slope and canyon rim, homes will rise on green estates...Lawns will displace toyon and sumac. Cedar and pine and maple and pittosporum will send down tractable roots in appointed places. That mighty Australian family, the Eucalyptus, will bring forth their flowers nearly all the year round. Slopes that have known water only in the days of winter rains will find their thirst quenched.”

 “These changes the hand of man will effect in the Santa Monicas, but the essentials—height, outlook, sun and sea—will remain,” wrote McCarthy. “Wide slopes of chaparral will remain...gardens of sage will still invite bees. Deer will still feed...squirrel and coyote and hare will follow their ancient custom by day and night...Here in the midst of beauty old and new, people from all over the world will come to live, bringing with them the best thought and custom that their old communities provided. Is it altogether vain to think that, given such people and such a place, a new and better kind of community will arise?”

At that point, McCarthy’s prognostication takes wild flight:

 “The airplane will soon become common; may easily predominate within a few years.  Green landing fields will checker the summits. Hangers will hide under green vines and trees. Sedate business men will ride in five minutes from their hilltop homes to their city offices. Mother will take the kids for a spin before breakfast, out over Russell Valley and down by the sea at Malibu. The family blimp, even, will not be a stranger to these hills.” 

Later developers have dreamed of local lunacy that has included multiple marinas—one at the Malibu Lagoon, a second at Big Dume Cove; a super-highway; a nuclear power plant; multiple offshore oil rigs; and more recently, a giant, floating liquefied natural gas terminal.  People with a different vision of Malibu's future fought to make sure those things didn't happen. They wrote a vision statement for the city  that states: 

Malibu is a unique land and marine environment and residential community whose citizens have historically evidenced a commitment to sacrifice urban and suburban conveniences in order to protect that environment and lifestyle, and to preserve unaltered natural resources and rural characteristics. The people of Malibu are a responsible custodian of the area’s natural resources for present and future generations.

That fight continues.

I’m waiting for my personal dirigible, but the future could still turn out all right. We won’t know until we get there.

Happy 2014! May it bring happiness, peace and all good things.

One of the first sunsets of the new year sets the sky on fire. © 2014 S. Guldimann