A Reassuring Thump

At the darkest moments during the recent mass walkout and union-organizing unpleasantness at the Santa Barbara News-Press, acting publisher (at the time) and editorial page editor Travis Armstrong was under the kind of pressure few ever go through. Acknowledging the pressure was indeed intense, Travis revealed during a recent short conversation that he “put in a lot of hours” during the imbroglio and was exhausted from the effort but couldn’t sleep. “I tossed and turned until I heard the thump on my front door [of the latest edition of the paper being delivered],” he said. “As soon as I heard that,” he continued, “I knew everything was OK and was able to turn over and go to sleep.”

Cold Remedy of the Year

During this year’s Montecito Association Beautification Day award ceremony on the Village Green in front of Tecolote, John Venable was pronounced Montecito’s “2006 Citizen of the Year.” Before accepting the award, the robust Montecito Trails Foundation president offered a “surefire one-hundred-percent-effective prescription” for the common cold to a small group of fans and admirers: “Red wine, dark chocolate, and strawberries. It has anti-oxidants, kills free radicals, and gets rid of colds,” Venable said, before adding, “I got it from the French.”

Jack, The Therapy Dog

His name is Jack and he is a Golden Retriever, but his other job is that of a therapy dog at Cottage Hospital. Jack was born February 2000, at Saddle Creek Farms in Ojai and moved to Montecito in June of that year, at the age of four months. “Jack is an excellent Frisbee catcher and loves to swim with me and the dolphins,” says Nicole Teasdale, Jack’s mom, who outfitted Jack for his Halloween jaunt down Coast Village Road.

The Dr. Laura Action Figure

Just in time for Christmas, the 11-inch tall Dr. Laura Talking Doll (“America’s Real Action Figure!”) at $29.95, comes equipped with 23 quips, bits of advice, admonishment, questions, and/or observations. Push her button and Dr. Laura preaches, teaches and nags with comments like: “Imagine yourself thirty years in the future looking back at yourself right now. Are you proud of what you see?” or “What magic do you think is going to transform your life without your participation?” or “You're not living with your boyfriend. Only married people ‘live’ together. You're just a ‘Shack-Up Honey’!” or “If you're even thinking about divorcing if you have kids, remember this: they'll no longer have a home. They'll always be visitors at Mom and Dad's new home.” And of course, Dr. Laura’s pet phrase: “Now, go do the right thing.”

Dr. Laura tells us she worked for over a year “getting the doll just right,” and to make sure “it didn’t look like ‘Barbie.’” Her radio audience voted for the various quotes and from that she chose the top 23. Dr. Laura “family” members get a 15% discount on the price of the doll, and Ms Schlessinger says there is no fee to become a family member, only registration, which will also get you first crack at tickets to her One Woman Show, jewelry online sales, a monthly newsletter, and more.

The Dr. Laura Action Figure will be a fine addition to my personal collection that now features President George W. Bush, Ann Coulter, and Donald Trump. If you are looking to build a collection of late 20th-century and early 21st-century figures, or simply desire to hear more of Dr. Laura at the push of a button, go online to: www.DrLaura.com.

The Retiring Mrs. Graffy

Former Santa Barbara Planning Commissioner, former Santa Barbara City Council member, and former Second District Supervisor, Jeanne Graffy is retiring yet again, this time from the Board of Realtors, which is planning a retirement party for the popular politician. Date is Tuesday, November 21, at the Cabrillo Pavilion across from the carousel. Time is from 5 pm to 7 pm; wine and appetizers will be served. RSVP at 963-3787, to make sure, they say, there’ll be “enough vino on hand.”

The New Santa Ynez Valley Journal

Former editor-in-chief Eva Van Prooyen and MJ publisher emeritus James Buckley founded the Santa Ynez Valley Journal almost four years ago; the paper has been published every four weeks since its inception, but intentions have always been to go weekly. A new team has purchased the paper from Eva and Jim and they too plan to increase publishing frequency, probably in February or March. The paper’s new owners are longtime Santa Ynez Valley residents whose roots go deep; they have kept current Editor-in-Chief Alison Herson on, as well as all the regular writers and columnists, so changes, at least initially, will probably be minimal. All of us here wish them the best of luck in this endeavor.

Country Currents

Santa Barbara Navy League is, according to country-bluegrass group Country Current lead singer/guitarist Master Chief Musician Wayne Taylor, “the largest Navy League in the world without a port.” Emcee Doug Crawford, in his opening remarks before the group’s free public concert on Friday, October 27 at First Presbyterian Church on Constance Street, added later that, “without the hard work of Santa Barbara Navy League,” not only would the concert we were about to enjoy not happen, “we would not have ships visiting our fair town.” Crawford then thanked the Woods/Claeyssens Foundation for the donation that allowed them to present the free (to the public) Country Current concert, which was a knee-slapping, heel-stomping, howling mixture of guitars and fiddles, banjo, mandolin, electric bass, steel guitar, and deep vocals, played by an expert seven-man Navy crew. Santa Barbara is day eight of a 13-day tour of Country Current, called “the Blue Angels of country music” by Crawford, who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance before the start of the show.

The Navy League’s mission, Crawford reminded the 350 or so attendees, is “to support the men and women of the sea services: Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and U.S. Navy.” Santa Barbara Navy League has adopted the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, and has also adopted two Coast Guard units in Santa Barbara: The cutter Blackfin, and the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment.

Reverend Peter Buehler gave a short invocation, and Karen Crawford, President of Santa Barbara Navy League Council, made a special presentation, and then the boys in blue broke loose.

After an exhilarating one-hour performance, drummer, Musician First Class Leon Alexander, explained that there are nearly 200 members of the U.S. Navy Band, and they break up into specialty groups like Country Current, Jazz Commodores (big band), a 40-voice choir called the Sea Chanters, and a modern group called the Cruisers (contemporary music, modern jazz, top-40). A concert band performs classical music, and a ceremonial band features marching music that one hears during ceremonies at places like Arlington Cemetery, and in the Presidential Inauguration Parade. Alexander’s main gig is with the Cruisers, but he calls himself a “Jack of all trades” and plays classical music and country. He said he has played at the White House for Condoleezza Rice, for the Chief of Naval Operations, and has “a busy touring schedule.”

Master Chief Musician Wayne Taylor, lead vocalist and director of this tour, confided that he was worried about the acoustics before the concert. “Generally,” he said, “churches are tough places to play,” although he was relieved that the sound carried well.

Musician First Class Frank Solivan is another versatile member of Country Current. He plays electric guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, and possesses a singularly haunting voice that seems perfectly suited to country music. Solivan explained that in order to become a member of the band, one must audition (he sent in an audition tape, as all candidates must). If selected, one is automatically upgraded to E-6 (First Class).

The rest of this talented group consists of Chief Musician Keith Arneson on banjo, guitar, and vocals, Chief Musician Patrick White on fiddle, mandolin, and vocals, Musician First Class Brad Corbin on steel guitar, and Musician First Class Joseph Wheatley on electric bass and vocals; Musician First Class Christopher Trupe handled the sound support.

After the concert, Navy League members, other guests, and band members converged at the nearby home of Annette Carrel for a further celebration.

Long-Winded Bianca Jagger

It was, after all, the 23rd Annual Evening For Peace, presented by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, co-founded by Montecito’s David Krieger. Previous honorees include Harry Belafonte, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Walter Cronkite, Michael Douglas, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Daniel Ellsberg, Harrison Ford, Jane Goodall, Robert Muller, the Dalai Lama, Queen Noor of Jordan, Ted Turner, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This year’s honorees were Blase Bonpane, honored with a Distinguished Peace Leadership Award, and Bianca Jagger, who was presented with a World Citizenship Award.

The most interesting point in the evening, for me anyway, was the patron reception that began at 5:30 pm and during which guests mingled with Ms Jagger and other Nuclear Age Peace Foundation supporters.

Two of those supporters included conductor-composer Dino Zonic and Lila Sabafi, who are planning a giant “peace walk” from the World Trade Center to the United Nations at the commencement of next year’s UN General Assembly in September 2007. They expect some 100,000 people, dressed in white, to participate. At the UN building on East 44th Street, Dino expects to conduct “Rhapsody of the New World,” his 35-minute symphony in the cause of world peace. He’ll conduct again at Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center a couple days after that, before heading off with his symphony to Israel (Haifa, Tel Aviv, Caesaria, Jerusalem), Mexico, and back to Sarajevo, “in order to bring more light and more balance to the people, in a way that has never been seen before.” In Israel, “It will be the first time in history,” he suggests, “that a Muslim conductor will share the podium with an Israeli.” It will be televised.

Dino is composing another symphony piece called “Abraham’s Children,” to play in Israel and Lebanon, the purpose of which will be “to show how we all can live together. Jews and Muslims who live together and love together.” Dino is also writing what he calls a “World Anthem,” that combines the U.S., Russian, French, Italian, and other national anthems into one grand international anthem.

Mr. Zonic plays piano, but is basically a composer-conductor. He says he has performed in Vienna, London, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Sarajevo – 15 countries in all. He came to the U.S. as Cultural Ambassador of Bosnia at the time of the peace accords conducted by the Clinton administration. That was when he met Bianca.

Once the award ceremony got underway, Blase Bonpane delivered a reasonably cheerful short speech and graciously accepted his award. The mood and tone of the evening turned sour, however, when Ms Jagger began an angry and interminable tirade, mostly against George W. Bush, but against past and present U.S. foreign and domestic policy as well. The evening was supposed to be about peace, but Ms Jagger seemed angry about everything.

Do other “celebrities,” I wondered, visit places like Nicaragua, Cuba, China, or Saudi Arabia, to receive awards and then deliver bombasts against the host country?

In any case, many of us stood up to leave as Bianca continued turning pages during her polemic, with no end in sight or sound. She didn’t seem to notice; perhaps she is accustomed to emptying a room. A sweet older couple one table over seemed to be enjoying the speech more than others; they had both fallen asleep on each other’s shoulders and snored contentedly, setting an excellent example for those too timid to leave.

American Girls, And Their Dolls

The Junior League of Santa Barbara invites girls along with their families and friends to celebrate the spirit of American girlhood at the American Girl Fashion Show on Saturday, November 18 and Sunday, November 19 at 1 pm and 4 pm: a total of four shows at The Woman’s Club of Santa Barbara – Rockwood.

Proceeds from the fashion show will benefit Junior League projects supporting Children At-Risk in the Santa Barbara community.

Attendees will see historical fashions – from daywear and sleepwear to special-occasion clothing – just like the American Girl characters, Kaya, Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, Kit and Molly, might have worn.

The event program includes tea-party style refreshments, party favors, and door prizes, along with special souvenirs and chances to win dolls and accessories from American Girl brands.

The fashion show is not recommended for girls under 5 years of age. The cost per person is $28, which includes the fashion show, refreshments, party favors, and a tax-deductible contribution. To order tickets, visit www.jlsantabarbara.org to print out a registration form. Raffle tickets are also available and may be purchased in advance for $2 and $5. For more information contact Joie Horton, sbjoie@cox.net or call 805-448-3080.