Splendid New Children’s Book

Violet and Winston
by Sonya Sones and Bennett Tramer
illustrated by Chris Raschka
Dial Books for Young Readers

By Ava Tramer

Violet and Winston represents the first display of the combined talents of teen novelist Sonya Sones and television writer Bennett Tramer.  Caldecott Medal winner Chris Raschka filled the book with fanciful illustrations, setting a whimsical stage for the three stories about Violet the confident swan and Winston the bumbling duck.

Sones and Tramer extracted humorous anecdotes from their 25-year-marriage as a rough basis for the tales, which manage to be amusing and touching at the same time.  In “The Noisy Eater,” Violet hilariously struggles with Winston’s manners, foiled at every attempt to be sensitive to her friend.  In “The Missing Glasses,” Violet leads Winston on a search adventure all over town, showing how Violet and Winston’s personalities make them the perfect pair of friends.  “The Garage Sale” shows Violet’s more sentimental side, and sweetly emphasizes the strong bond between these two birds.

But why should you trust my opinion about Violet and Winston?  My last name bears a suspicious resemblance to the last name of one of the authors, and, at 22 years old, I hardly fall into the age range of the target audience (3 to 8 years old).  Why don’t you trust the reactions of three young children instead?  Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to read Violet and Winston to a seven-year-old girl, a four-year-old boy, and a six-month-old girl.  The seven-year-old laughed all the way through the book and the four-year-old kept pointing out funny and interesting details in the illustrations.  Even the six-month-old was clearly a fan of the book: she joyously tried to eat it, cover and all.

Barnes and Noble on the Third Street Promenade has copies of Violet and Winston signed by the authors.  Visit sonyasones.com for more information.

Whither the Sunshine

By Ava Ttramer

Gradually warming
Highs: 64-72; Lows: 52-55

Hot and sunny
Highs: 72-77; Lows: 46-49

Clear and hot
Highs: 80-88; Lows: 55-58

And Santa Monica…
This weatherwoman is done with complaining about the boringness of Santa Monica weather (at least for the time being).  After an extended jaunt on the East Coast, she had forgotten how nice sunshine is, and how much it should be appreciated.  There is nothing quite like the feel of warm sun beating down from the sky.  Those of you who never stray from Santa Monica’s sunny shores, I hope you appreciate how nice it is to have weeks upon weeks of warm, unchanging weather.  The upcoming week is an exemplary Santa Monica weather week: highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s, with clear, sunny skies.  Enjoy it, and remember to be grateful!

The Unmaking of Santa Monica Proceeds

The newest member of the Santa Monica City Council, Gleam Davis,
was appointed about a month ago to replace  the late Herb Katz.
Council member Bobby Shriver has just begun his second four-year term.

In contrast, the other five members —  Ken Genser, Bob Holbrook, Pam O’Connor, Richard Bloom and Kevin McKeown —  have spent a  total of 77 years on the Council. Yet, with the notable exception of Holbrook, they seem to know nothing about Santa Monica, or its residents.

When elected officials know  nothing about the people they are supposed to represent or the place they allegedly oversee, there’s bound to be trouble, as was demonstrated at Tuesday night’s Council meeting.

During a discussion of City Hall’s latest dingbat proposal, several Council members boasted, as they are  wont to do,  that they were  making a “world class city,”  and the proposal would accelerate the transformation.

Actually, they are not making a “world class city,” they are making a mess. In any case, neither I nor anyone I know who isn’t on the City payroll wants Santa Monica to be a “world class city.”  We want it to be what it is –  a great old  beach town  that is gorgeously located on the  storied  Southern California coast.

But City Hall isn’t listening. It’s too busy making its “world class city.”
Clearly, City Hall planners and consultants and their Council acolytes see  Santa Monica as a movie set that they can rearrange or derange at will.

The planners have never had more willing and ardent co-conspirators than Bloom, Genser, McKeown and O’Connor, The City Charter calls for  citizen politicians serving part-time for token pay to represent the residents. But Bloom,  Genser, McKeown and O’Connor have  made Santa Monica their profession.

Really? Yes. Imagine  McKeown NOT riding his bike to more meetings than there are. Or Genser NOT reading the fine print and peppering staff with abstruse questions, but almost always ignoring the whole.  Or  Bloom and O’Connor NOT involving themselves in regional quasi-official  organizations.

Only a die-hard Panglossian would see this as good news —  proof of the quartet’s devotion to Santa Monica and its residents and its   willingness to go the proverbial extra mile on our behalf.

In fact,  they have a vested interest in what happens here. Never mind  the state of the town, or the well-being of the residents. Their egos are on the line. Further, they reserve their primary allegiance not for the town or its residents, but for City Staff  and the ubiquitous, and very expensive, consultants, who  write all their material.

Judging by the projects and policies the four have approved, despite their years on the dais, they know as little about planning and design as they know about  Santa Monica and its residents.

The principal subject at Tuesday’s  night’s  Council meeting was an inter-departmental proposal that the Civic Center, Santa Monica High School, the Light Rail’s proposed western terminus, the new Bloomingdale’s, the Santa Monica Pier,  Palisades Park and the freeway be combined in a world class municipal mosh pit at the heart of this world class city.

Their timing is bizarre. City Hall has spent four years and untold millions of dollars on the state- mandated revision of the land use and circulation elements of the General   Plan (LUCE). When it is finished and approved, it will  serve as  a sort of blueprint for the next 20 years.  But it remains unfinished, and is deeply, perhaps fatally flawed.

Surely, the mosh pit, which has been  on City Hall computers for months, should have been folded into the LUCE and presented as a part of the whole.

But, for reasons of its own, City Hall chose to lead with the mosh pit and Bloom, Genser, McKeown and O’Connor chose to wave it on, and so the unmaking of Santa Monica proceeds.

CITY HALL TO US: Surprise!

Anyone who’s lived in  Santa Monica for any length of time knows that City  Hall  likes nothing so much as taking us by surprise.

Among its recent surprises are “The Strategic Framework” for the revision of the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan (LUCE),  which, if implemented, will fracture the townscape, the mega-“Village” it proposes building in the Civic Center, its apparent acceptance of the absolutely wrong location for the Expo Light Rail maintenance yard, and the Big Blue Bus Store.

At tonight’s City Council meeting, the “professional planners,” as they call themselves, from five City departments will introduce preliminary plans for tying the proposed Light Rail station at Fourth  and Colorado to the Santa Monica Pier to Palisades Park, to the glitzy new Bloomingdale’s that is replacing the drab old Macy’s (the professional planners’ adjectives) to  the Civic Center to Santa Monica High School to the freeway to  make the biggest, nastiest knot in Southern  California history.

In the process, the once elegant and serene Civic Center will be reduced to a traffic circle, and much of the freeway, west of  Fourth Street will be covered by “decks.”

There are numerous examples of bad planning around town, but this inter-departmental  job is monstrous.

Read the staff report (go to www.santa-monica.org/ and click on City Hall, City Council Information, Agendas, 2009, March 24, item 8A ). Go to the meeting. Watch the meeting on CityTV (channel 16, 5:45 p.m.)
Email  the Council members. Now!

If we don’t  step on this  monstrously bad plan quickly , the Council majority will approve it, just as it has approved so many other bad plans.

Whither the Spring Break

By Ava Tramer

Clear and sunny
Highs: 65-70; Lows: 46-53

Warm and clear
Highs: 70-78; Lows: 38-47

Mostly sunny
Highs: 75-87; Lows: 42-56

And Santa Monica…
It’s March, ladies and gentlemen, and spring has officially arrived.  We all know what that means: SPRING BREAK!!!!  WOOOO!  However, those looking for fun in the sun in Santa Monica might do well to look elsewhere.  The peak temperature this week looks to be a high of 70 on Wednesday, but other than that, Santa Monica does not have much to offer in the way of spring break fun in the sun.  Well, I take that back.  You may find ways to have fun even if the weather is not completely warm.  And yes, there will be sun.  In fact, it looks to be a mighty clear and sunny week.  But the temperatures just won’t rise high enough for a good splasheroo in the ocean; if you go swimming, you’ll be likely to come out of the water chilly and blue.  But the weather is lovely outside, even if it’s not perfectly and comfortably warm all the time, so enjoy the sun’s golden rays.  Just bring a sweater along for any breezes that blow your way.