The Galef Oceanside Asylum




                                                                          Welcome to the Galef webspot. Our continuing mission is to explore our universe and even if we don't boldly end up where no one has gone before, we hope to make some new friends on the way.         

Our Chihuahuas-in their younger and slimmer days

I have a longstanding interest in the past, the distant past. I have been fascinated by dinosaurs since childhood  and now enjoy learning and teaching about the ever-changing pageant of life on Earth.  This has led me collecting fossils and building models of dinosaurs for years.  Some of my collection can be seen at my office and through links on this page.  Once a year, I carve a pumpkin for Halloween.

For years a picture of Mr. Cichlid graced this page.  He started out as a tiny black and white striped baby the size of the tip of my thumb and grew into a foot-long monster who constantly built hills and valleys in the gravel of his aquarium and threw the rest against the sides.  He scraped his teeth against the glass to make his annoyance known when he was hungry.  He splashed water everywhere when his tank was being cleaned.  He was a Hornet Tilapia and typical of his species he killed all of his original tankmates and made it known that he didn't want any company.  He bit  and drew blood anyone brave enough to put a finger in his tank.  He was a $2 fish who ate $5 of frozen food a month for 16 years.  Most sources say that this fish typically lives around ten years,but he lasted from 2002 until 2018.  In the middle of that summer he started eating less and less and then stopped entirely.  Several times I thought he was gone but he started splashing when I came with the net.  He finally he swam off to the big aquarium in the sky.  I sort of miss him; sometimes...


There isn't much that I can say about this year that isn't obvious and hasn't been decried and deplored by others.  Fairly early in the year it became apparent that my pumpkin, if I were even to do one, would have to involved the Corona Virus.  The question was, how to do it?  I had already seen editorial cartoons showing an asteroid with spikes slamming into Earth and other ways of depicting the chaos and destruction that it caused.  Finally as October arrived, our First Lady told us what she really thought about decorating the White House for the Holidays.  I thought, "What a Grinch!" and found an image from a DVD of the Grinch and Photoshopped her green-tinted image onto the Grinch's body.  Such a great concept deserved more than one twist and therefore the Grinch got another role as a Corona Virus stealing not just Christmas or Halloween, but all of 2020.  Instead of Cindy Lou Who, he shared the stage with a sad little trick or treater holding an empty bag.  For good measure, he got a familiar blond upswept 'do.  Although our house was dark for the big day, my neighbor was more than happy to display my work (and even hinted that he took credit for it when people asked), so it did get some exposure.  In a year when my brother decided not to carve, someone had to maintain the family tradition!  Here is How the 'Rona STOLE 2020!

How the 'Rona
          Stole 2020

How the 'Rona STOLE 2020


I'm back.  For this year's offering I present Dancing With (the) ScarsI have tossed this idea around in my mind for quite a while but was never quite sure how to make the dancers hop instead of appearing to be waiting for the dirge to begin.  I remembered an old image of a couple of satyrs frolicking but wasn't sure that I could find it.  Luckily, a quick riffle through my "archives" (stuff I haven't really unpacked since moving here in 1980) I found what I was looking for, an old promotional piece from KHJ radio listing the top 300 songs of all time as selected by their listeners.  It lent itself to easy modification as a quick web search produced good images of the Monster and the Bride of Frankenstein.  I played musical heads, added some bandages and rips in their clothing and started carving.  Well, I am not too sure which dancer is the star and which is the pro, but the judges definitely gave them 10's (or else) while the crowd reached for their torches and pitchforks.




For the first time in over 40 years, and maybe in my entire life, I wasn't home on Halloween.  We were in Tokyo where the Halloween scene in Shibuya was crazy, even the next day.  But, no pumpkin carving.  Maybe this year I will get back to it.


It has taken me a long tome to get around to posting my pumpkin from 2017.  Facebook has pretty much taken over social media and most of my friends expect me to post it there, usually after my brother puts his on display.  Somehow after that it takes me a long time to get around to the hassles of editing this website and posting it.  Nonetheless, here is my pumpkin offering for 2017:  In space, no one can hear a pumpkin burst.

Space Pumpkin


This has been a very strange year.  The election was very close to Halloween and the scary stuff just keeps coming.  The closer the time came to start carving, the more apparent it became that the theme this year had to be political.  After all, Trump looks like a pumpkin already, orange and bloated.  I had ideas running through my head of Donald and Hillary as zombies, mired in some sort of muck they were flinging at each other.  Then that infamous recording of Trump bragging about his ability to get away with anything surfaced.  Not that it was surprising, of course.  He had already bragged that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and get away with it, so why would he expect any penalty for a little libidinous liberty?   When it came to a pumpkin inspiration, it was too much of an image to ignore.  The Donald shed his human skin and appears as more the predator he is.  Tex Avery's amorous wolf seemed a fitting avatar, only his heart couldn't be shown beating out of his chest as I am unconvinced that Trump has one.  At the same time, the hands are appropriately small, although obviously large enough to grab a c*t and get away away with it.  This was really not a great year for choices though.  Hillary has her own space, shown as the empty (pant)suit and of course, the pants are on fire. 

Trick or Trump


Last year I said that I got a lot of pumpkin inspirations while on a trip to Israel.  These may keep me busy for a few years, or at least until something else gets my attention.  This year's pumpkin is the story of David. The title in Hebrew reads,
 Face it, juvenile delinquents have been trashing other peoples' pumpkins for as long as they have been carving them.  Usually they grab them and throw them in the street but sometimes they find other ways to gore the gourd.  Here a youthful David has fired his sling at a large Philistine pumpkin on a Canaanite ritual stand.  His missile has nailed it in the forehead and knocked it off its stand.      Actually, David has a motive beyond undirected teenage angst.  After he finishes his vandalism, he is wants to put a Price-Tag label on it.  Well, that and target practice for an upcoming engagement tomorrow with some guy named Goliath.

Hebrew pumpkin smashing


In spring this year I went to the Middle East and came back with several ideas for a pumpkin running through my head.  Then over the summer, horrifying images started coming out of that region as an army of thugs called ISIS began spreading their ghastly version of barbarity across the cradle of civilizationThe image of the new boogie man in his black suit gripping a helpless hostage dressed in a pumpkin-orange jumpsuit has become seared into the world's consciousness and provided a potent, if disturbing, inspiration for this year's carving.   The Arabic inscription translates to: "JIHADI PUMPKIN CARVING"

Pumpkin Jihad


Beginning in August people often ask what I am planning to put on my pumpkin for Halloween.  I usually try to avoid committing to anything that early as I often change my mind, sometimes as late as a couple of weeks into October.  This year I had several ideas rolling around in my head like unrestrained pumpkins in the back of an SUV driven by a typical Highway 78 commuter.  Then I went to Berlin and found a new inspiration.  While I almost never reveal my plans before it is time to start carving, I do sometimes give people a hint of what may be coming.  Last year, for example, I did allow that I was going to do a Spanish theme.  This year I told the curious that I had been inspired on my trip to Germany.  I don't know if they expected to see something with a horned helmet or a feverish Otto Dix inspired nightmare, but what really impressed me during my recent visit was the Neues Mueum, home to Nefertiti and one of the best museums of Egyptology anywhere.  As I toured the displays I saw a number of depictions of smiting Pharaohs.  Ancient Egyptians made war on a lot of their neighbors and fiercly defended their own turf from invasions.  Any time their army won a battle (and even when they didn't), the Pharaoh would present an account of his triumph by being depicted in the smiting pose.  This usually showed the king of Egypt holding his enemies by their hair and preparing to whack them with a club or a sword as they cowered before him.  Hierarchical proportion was important and the Pharaoh was big while his hapless enemies were little.  One of the most fascinating Pharaohs was Akhenaton.  He was possibly the strangest of the Pharaohs.  While most Pharaohs had to satisfy a pantheon of gods, Akhenaton decided that there was only one god, the Aten.  The Aten was the Sun God and all worship was to be directed to Him.  This was the first known monotheistic religion and happened hundreds of years before the Old Testament was written.  Furthermore, while most Pharaohs were fierce and led their armies on expeditions to pillage the lands around them and expand their empire, Akhenaton moved his capital to a new city, Amarna, and settled down to spend his time sun worshiping and hanging around with his wife and children.  His wife was the gorgeous Nefertiti, so you can't really blame him for wanting to spend his time with her instead of riding around the desert with a bunch of soldiers who hadn't bathed in weeks.  Anyhow, during his reign there weren't a lot of expeditions to commemerate in stone and actually the international prestige of Egypt plummeted as nobody was afraid of a Pharaoh who acted like a flower child.  So this got me thinking, if there weren't any enemies to smite, perhaps Akhenaton could at least smite something, especially if it doesn't put up much of a fight.  So here he is, smiting a pumpkin.  As far as worhiping the sun is concerned,  there may have been some misunderstanding on this point.  Perhaps the object of their worship was a pumpkin.  They are both round and orange.  This would make sacrificing a squash a pretty reasonable ceremonial enterprise.  I already mentioned that Akhenaton was ahead of his time.  Now it looks as though he came up with the Great Pumpkin over three thousand years before Linus!  One thing about Akhenaton though.  He was a really weird-looking guy.  He had an overly long face with big lips, large breasts and wide hips.  Instead I chose to depict him as a manly Pharaoh, more along the lines of Rameses the Great.  After all, I wouldn't want the subject of my pumpkin to be unbelievable.


The text below reads: "EGYPTIAN PUMPKIN SMITING"
The pumpkin regards the Pharaoh with wedjat eyes.  The wedjat was the Eye of Horus, a major good luck charm in Olde Egypt.
They are a bit hard to read, but the heiroglyphs on the cartouche to the left of the pumpkin read, "PUMPKIN-HOTEP" meaning "The Pumpkin is Pleased".
Well, the smitee may not be so happy, but the squash in the sky is smiling down on the scene.  After all, it is beaming pumpkins down on everyone. 


In some ways every day in Spain is Halloween.  While the Spanish are currently a world power in soccer, basketball and tennis, their most famous sporting enterprise is torturing bulls in front of an admiring crowd.  What better inspiration for a pumpkin than a ritual slice and dice of the sort that has inspired artists including Manet and Picasso on canvas, Bizet for an opera and Hemingway in the pages of The Sun Also Rises?   I hereby add my work to that of these august artists.  While I considered changing Hemingway's title to The Pumpkin Also Rises, I decided it would take up too much surface space.  Instead I chose to spin off Blood and Sand, a 1941 movie starring Tyrone Power and Rita Hayworth, about a matador (and a girl).  What, you never heard of it?  Well, neither had I.  Still, what a great title!  Of course, pumpkins don't spill blood, so I did have to twist it a bit. 



Pablo Picasso is one of the most fascinating characters of the 20th century.  I have seen a lot of his paintings, drawings and sculptures and one of his most impressive and famous masterpieces is Guernica.  I haven't seen that one...  I may have actually seen it when it was at the Metropolitan in New York, but I would have been pretty young and don't remember.  I got close a couple of years ago when I was in Madrid, but ended up spending the day at the Prado and didn't get to the Reina Sofia where it now hangs.  Well, I have seen plenty of his paintings with guitars, I'm just not that sure that I actually found the guitars.  About Guernica...  It is an image of utter horror and outrage at the bombing of a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War, an atrocity ordered by Franco against those opposing him, which incidentally gave the Kondor Legion of the German Luftwaffe a chance to practice aerial bombardment for an upcoming engagement.  A bull and a horse are ensnared with the villagers in that reign of destruction and terror.   While I didn't actually seen Guernica in its entirety, I did see a lot of preliminary sketches that Picasso made.  When I began trying to think of a theme for my pumpkin this year, I didn't have to think too long.  Consider how pumpkins must feel about Halloween; sort of the same sense that turkeys must get as Thanksgiving approaches.  From there, the design practically drew and carved itself.  Hence, this years magnum squashus, "Pumpkin with Guitarika."  I had to get a guitar in there somewhere!  By the way, the reason for the "k" in guitarika instead of a "c" is that the Basque spelling for the town is actually Gernika.  While most of the faces were borrowed from Guernica, of course they had to turn into pumpkins, with supplicant hands replaced by foliage.  I broke up the composition into a variety of cubist planes and added eyes, ears, facial parts and a leaf from other Picasso paintings throughout his career.  And, of course, the guitar.  I just referred to cubism, but lets be real, when working on a pumpkin, the proper term is roundism.



This has been a pretty frustrating year on a lot of levels and I was trying to think of a design that would reflect my feelings.   Of course, from a standpoint of having it tough, consider how it must be for pumpkins this time of year.  I'm going to guess it's pretty similar to how it is for eggs at Easter and turkeys around Thanksgiving.  I think Edvard Munch, an expressionist, expressed it best in his famous painting DIE SKRIK, or as it is popularly known, The Scream.  Of course, he expressed it from the point of view of a human.  Naturally, I had to do it from the point of view of a pumpkin.  One more thing; Munch showed the other people on the bridge headed the other way and ignoring the anguish.  In my version, he is coming up from behind, and he has a knife.




In May we visited the Prado in Madrid.  It is definitely one of the great art museums.   There is room after room of incredible art and while I didn't go through it with carving a pumpkin in mind, as Halloween approached, I got to thinking about some of the images I had seen there.  While the work of artists from all over Europe are on display, there is a definite emphasis on Spanish artists.   I considered Zubaran's Lamb as a pumpkin, bound and calmly waiting to be carved.   I thought of Las Meninas, by Velasquez, redone as a rather orange royal family being captured by one artist while being carved by another.  I also considered some of the paintings of the Emperor, Carlos V, such as his mounted portrait at Muhlberg.  With his Habsburg jaw, he's already almost a pumpkin.  But then I realized that there was already someone whose art already reflected a far more twisted view of humanity than the darkest Halloween night.  While Goya began his career painting fluffy "cartoons" for translation into tapestries and then switched to carefully veiled satires in his portraits of the royal court, his painful dealings with the dark side of the Spanish soul and the events of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in the early 1800's resulted in what are called his "black paintings".  Some say that a typical sight in a Spanish art museum is a white wall hung with dark squares, but Goya probably took this motif farther than anyone other than Rothko in his final days.  While all of the paintings from this late period in his life are dark and despairing, probably none is darker and more despairing than Saturn Devouring His Children.   Well, I had to go Goya one better.  Not only do I depict the frustrated deity's infanticidal culinary choice, I show him after having first baked them in pies.  Shades of Titus Andronicus!   Goya worked in oils, and the palette he chose resulted in black pairings.  Had Goya worked instead in squash, he would have been famed instead for his period of black and orange.

Here, then is my 2009 Pumpkin,  PUMPKIN EATS HIS CHILDREN

By the way, if you are interested in seeing the original Goya painting on which this was based, along with learning a lot more about Goya and his art, check out ARTSY'S GOYA PAGE.  There are links to a lot of other artists there as well, including Munch and Picasso, featured in some of my other pumpkins.  No Charles Knight though...



We spent a week in Bavaria last month, and along with the onion-domed churches that are so characteristic of German architecture, we were very impressed with Ludwig II's fantastic castle, Neuschwanstein.  The walls  inside are covered with murals  inspired by  scenes from Wagner's operas.  I figured that if tales from Wagner were good enough for the King of Bavaria, they were good enough to appear on my pumpkin.  Here, in a scene from  Wagner's final opera, Parsifal, a naive and wild young man who is unaware of his noble birth and fantastic destiny, has stumbled into a magic realm.  In a hunting mood, not unlike a certain vice-presidential candidate, he has shot the first thing he sees.  Sadly, his victim is a gentle and peaceful symbol of this mystical kingdom and he is immediately taken to task by a noble knight whose job it is to ensure the safety of all creatures near the holy castle.  While Parsifal gestures in protest that he is innocent, his action will have far reaching consequences... but that is another story.   Well, in the original story, it was a swan that Parsifal shot, but this is Halloween!



For those of you not up to date on your Cordon Bleu technique, the writing on the steps reads,

"La Méthode Française de tailler le citrouille".

Bon appetite!


Here are some links to some of my other pumpkins from the past:

2006:  Aztec Calabeza Carver.   After spending several days in Mexico City where the Aztecs once spent a lot of time making ritual sacrifices, this depiction of the source of pepitas seemed to make a lot of sense.   Chac mol is keeping the priest company and awaits his share of the filling.

2005: Samurai Pumpkin Carver.  This is also called the Zen of Kabocha Seppuku.

2004: BAD Halloween.  Birds Are Dinosaurs.  This was my spin on the classic Knight rendering of dueling Laelaps, an early name for Allosaurs.

2003: Hellvis.  Condemned to play the accordion for eternity.

2002: Death Takes a Holiday.  Hey, this IS Oceanside, remember?

1992:  Tilting at Windmills.  Just because you are tilting at windmills doesn't mean there aren't any dragons!

1991: Rubbed the wrong way!  Be careful how you wish for what you want.

1990: Dueling Dinosaurs.  A somewhat modified version of a John Gurche painting.  I substituted a Triceratops for the Styracasaurus.


Also, if you want to see another take on Pumpkin Carving, check out my brother Barry's website, Jack O'Lanterns by Barry Galef!  Barry goes for a more high concept type of approach.  He seems to be in the Opera Seria genre, while I tend more to stay in the Buffa style.

During the years that our son was in school in northern Califonria, we made a lot of trips up and down this state.  An important part of our history is the Mission system that was Spain's attempt to colonize California while stopping the Russians from encroaching from the north.  There is a lot of controversy about the Missions and the people who were here first, but the old buildings and the museums associated with them are among the most fascinating places you can visit.  Between the 1770's and 1820's, twenty one Missions were founded between San Diego in the south and Sonoma in the north.  We were able to visit all of them, and some of our impressions are here, at Style Elements of the Missions







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