amazoncover.jpgYosemite & the Southern Sierra Nevada: A Complete Guide

"This is the definitive (as well as wonderfully eccentric) guide to the immensity of the southern Sierra and Owens Valley. John Muir would be pleased."

--Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear and In Praise of Barbarians

In bookstores nationwide from Countryman Press. For more information, or to plan your trip, check

Sierra Survey up and Running

Posted on 10 January, 2008 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail

Selling Santa Monica®

Pico Kenter stormdrain in Santa Monica, CA, U.S. EPA photo

Toward the end of March 2006, "the unforgettable beach city" played host to its first annual Santa Monica Destination Brand Summit.

"A city can be considered a brand much like a greeting card,” said Gary Sherwin, president of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau. The goal, he explained, is to create a feeling. “A brand is actually an emotional connection between a product and its customer. Think of the way you feel about entering a Starbucks or even walking into Disneyland. Chances are you are buying both products for more than good coffee or thrill rides.”

the folks behind the brand

The mayor made his entrance riding a Segway-brand Human Transporter.

Meanwhile, between the Loews Beach Hotel, where the summit took place, and the Santa Monica Municipal Pier, to the north, the beach, for its high levels of indicator bacteria (total coliform, fecal coliform and enterococcus), had just received its usual monthly report card: F. According to Heal the Bay: “Illnesses typically associated with swimming or surfing in water contaminated with these bacteria include stomach flu, ear infection, upper respiratory infection and skin rash.”

Said Duane Knapp, chairman and president of BrandStrategy Inc., consultant to the city: “When you think about a destination brand, it is really about a science. This is not art, this is about substance.”

To get at the root of how “customers” felt about Santa Monica, Knapp had organized a series of focus groups with both tourists and locals, which last group he referred to as “stakeholders.”


Tourists, in general, lauded the city’s “friendly and healthy people, the beach, shopping opportunities, the overall atmosphere… and feeling of cleanliness and safety.” They weren’t so pleased about “homeless people and solicitors, traffic, the high cost of hotel, restaurant and other services, the lack of things to do, and the lack of public transportation.” The stakeholders, it seemed, “do not have enough enthusiasm to brand Santa Monica as a destination.”

For the time being, until something catchier came along (SayWA, etc.), the Brand Promise was to read as follows: “Santa Monica--the best way to discover Los Angeles; an unforgettable beach city experience filled with eye-catching people, cutting edge culture and bold innovations. It is the essence of the California lifestyle.”

Posted on 8 April, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | Comments1 Comment | EmailEmail

Outstanding Example of Land Use


By 1987 it had been agreed that Hadrian's Wall--that is to say, those stones that remained of the old Roman border fortifications in the northern part of what is now called England, in the UK--met three important criteria toward achieving the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site:

US National Guardsmen at work on triple border fence, San Diego, USA, 2004. “Once built," said Jim Peugh, Chair of the San Diego Audubon Society, "this fence will never be taken down.”

1. "Bearing an outstanding testimony to a past civilisation;" 2. "Being an outstanding example of a building and technology which illustrates a significant stage in human history;" and 3. "Being an outstanding example of landuse which is representative of a culture."

In July of 2005, "part of the Upper German and Raetian frontier between the rivers Rhine and Danube" was added to the portfolio--as "an extension of Hadrian’s Wall." In the same stroke, the name of the project was upgraded to Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. UNESCO referred to it as a "transnational property."

According to Hadrian's Wall Country: "Other parts of the frontier will be added in due course."

border-fence-imperialbch-ap.jpgBorder Fence, Imperial Beach, San Diego (AP)

Other countries clamoring to "put forward their sections of the frontier": Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia.

"The Frontiers of the Roman Empire WHS could in time embrace the line of the entire frontier of the Roman Empire from the Solway Firth to the Atlantic coast of Morocco."

UNESCO's description of Hadrian's Wall: "The site consists of sections of the border line of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent in the 2nd century A.D., part of what is known as the 'Roman Limes.' All together, the Limes stretched over 5,000kms from the Atlantic coast of northern Britain, through Europe to the Black Sea, and from there to the Red Sea and across North Africa to the Atlantic coast. Vestiges in this site include remains of the ramparts, walls and ditches, watchtowers, forts, and civilian settlements, which accommodated tradesmen, craftsmen and others who serviced the military."

To our knowledge, by the second quarter of 2006, there had not yet been serious considerations--on the part of UNESCO or the relevant branches of the US Department of the Interior--toward the historic/cultural conservation of border fortifications along the edge of what was then the Southwestern United States of America.

Posted on 29 March, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | Comments3 Comments | EmailEmail

Narcissus' Puddle: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home

Cornfield Valentine: I Love Donna

On 17 December, 2001, Space Imaging's IKONOS satellite caught this sentiment in a field in Bee County, Texas, about 100 miles south of San Antonio

According to Wired News, Donna was not impressed.

By March of 2006, Massachusetts contractor-turned-realtor-turned-big-idea-guy, Colin Fitz-Gerald, was making headlines and doing radio interviews--and had his new business more or less up and running at The plan, it seemed, was to make lots of money by selling rooftop advertising space targeted at the fast-growing satellite imagery audience.

"I'm currently launching with no money, no real experience running a business on the internet, and no real solid business plan," said Fitz-Gerald. "But I figure there's a lot of blank roofs and a lot of advertising that could go on the roofs."


A roofing company in Northern California seemed slightly more organized.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, construction was already underway on a collection of 300 "man-made islands shaped into the continents of the world." The total cost of the project was estimated at US $1.8 billion. Individual islands were to be sold to "selected private developers" starting at US $6.85 million.

Welcome to The World

Here on Earth, we found ourselves momentarily nostalgic for the days when people looked upward to the sky for guidance--or distraction--rather than downward upon themselves. Then we found this cool gallery of ancient observatories, as seen from above.

Posted on 17 March, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | Comments3 Comments | EmailEmail

How Ed Went

Wildflowers at Cabeza Prieta NWR

Looking out on this panorama of light, space, rock and silence, I am inclined to congratulate the dead man on his choice of jumping-off place; he had good taste. He had good luck -- I envy him the manner of his going.

--Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

On 14 March, 1989, after four days of esophageal hemorrhaging, the day after the anniversary of Lake Powell's creation, Edward Abbey died at his home near Tucson. He was 62. His instructions to his wife re: what to do with his body, as published in Outside Magazine:

He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake. No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag... Disregard all state laws concerning burial. "I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree." said the message.

As for graveside ceremony: He wanted gunfire, and a little music. "No formal speeches desired, though the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the urge. But keep it all simple and brief." And then a big happy raucous wake. He wanted more music, gay and lively music. He wanted bagpipes. "And a flood of beer and booze! Lots of singing, dancing, talking, hollering, laughing, and lovemaking." said the message. And meat! Beans and chilis! And corn on the cob.

He was buried, mostly in this manner, somewhere in the Cabeza Prieta desert of southern Arizona.

Years later, David Peterson (editor of Confessions of a Barbarian), wrote a piece in Backpacker Magazine about his trip to visit the grave. Doug Peacock, who was with the man when he died and later buried him, chronicled his own experiences in an article called "Chasing Abbey" (August 1997, Outside Magazine).

Somewhere out there a rock is supposed to bear this chiseled inscription:

January 29, 1927-March 14, 1989

It was not intended to be found.

"If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture - that is immortality enough for me," he had written. "And as much as anyone deserves."

Posted on 14 March, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | Comments3 Comments | EmailEmail

Urban Park for the Valley of the Smoke

Cultural Monument #82

What to do with the biggest vacant lot in downtown LA?

The last crop of corn had long been harvested from the erstwhile Chinatown Railyards. After one agricultural cycle, the Not A Cornfield Project was planning a sendoff party for Friday, March 31. The California State Parks Department, on that date set to resume stewardship of the 32-acre plot, announced a design competition for a new park.


"The community surrounding this park has clearly said they want something unique and special on this site," said Ruth Coleman, Director of State Parks. "We are looking for a design team that is capable of integrating the community involvement with the most ingenious designs to create an iconic park. We are looking for a sustainable design that captures the major historical and archeological significance of the site."

The competition, co-sponsored by the California Parks Foundation, was free and "open to all interested candidates." Deadline for bids was set for 5 p.m., 17 April, 2006.

Here's what it sounds like onsite.

Posted on 8 March, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail

Pollution Without Borders

smog over Beijing, 5 March, 2006, as seen from NASA's Aqua Satellite

Early in March, NASA began launching aircraft over Mexico. Thus began phase one of a two-phase Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment, or INTEX-B, the purpose of which was to study the flow of pollution from Mexico--and later Asia--into the United States.

“Though we don’t have any control over pollution coming from other countries," said atmospheric chemist Hanwant Singh, "we can try to predict the quality of our future air and climate based on its source."

Read more in The NASA News Archive.

Posted on 8 March, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail

Continuity and Interruption in the West Village

famous artist/movieman's old barn to become "high-rise," winter 2005

On Greenwich Village, from Italo Calvino's Diary of the Early Days in New York (1959-1960):

...the way the area looks is threatened by property speculation which plants skyscrapers even here. I signed a petition to save the Village, for a young female activist collecting signatures on the corner of Sixth Avenue. We Village people are very attached to our own area. We also have two newspapers just for ourselves: The Villager and the Village Voice.

On Corruption:

Everyone's conversation these days is about American corruption, the corruption and greed in the institutions of power, the newspapers, etc., which they say has never been so rife.

On Color TV:

Perry Como's show was interrupted every so often by advertisments for a firm that makes food products, and for ten minutes you saw plates of spaghetti with a hand pouring sauce over them, all in colour, and plates of meat and salad, with explanations about how to prepare it all. Wonderful. It should be introduced as soon as possible into underdeveloped countries.

Posted on 1 March, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | Comments2 Comments | EmailEmail

Funny Ha Ha

127174-280683-thumbnail.jpg Ordinarily we like to jump and wallow in mud of our own making, but here we couldn't resist. Check out the extensive Mr. Fish collection at

Posted on 24 February, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail

Off the Ground in NYC


In mid-February 2006, New York City's mayor was thinking big. Superstar architect Santiago Calatrava, designer of hundreds of fantastical bridges and buildings worldwide, had conjured images of an aerial tramway connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan via Governors Island (home of all-quiet and closed-for-the-season Governors Island National Monument).

We found ourselves reminded of AT&T's television advertising campaign, "Ski Lift," which had its debut February 10, using similar imagery to "lift U.S. Olympians to the top of a mountain in Torino while, in the process, lifting the viewer — and all Americans — to similar heights in spirit."

"It's an elaborately overblown structure for such a limited function," wrote Nicolai Ourousoff of The New York Times in a Critic's Notebook column re: the Governors Island concept, "and it would tamper with one of the world's most spectacular views. But Mr. Calatrava's sketch is really nothing more than a teaser to give the project some desperately needed cachet. The underlying message to developers is that the city will go to remarkable lengths to overcome Governors Island's isolation from tourists milling around downtown Manhattan."

Click to read more ...

Posted on 23 February, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail
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