Remember when it was considered weird that President Richard Nixon met with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office?

I don’t, not really. How old do you think I am?! But I’ve seen the pictures, and always was more amused than puzzled.

Fast-forward some five decades and now I find it terribly amusing at how a White House visit has given the vapors to my betters in the national news media. They seem indignant that our celebrity culture is caricaturing itself. Must be the competition.

Speaking of head-scratchers, Noozhawk’s collection of unique news curiosities drew an audience of 118,721 readers this past week, according to our Google Analytics.

This is my take on your Top 5 stories during that run. I shall remind you that this is my opinion column. Don’t make it weird.

1. Man Found Dead in Vehicle Parked in Neighborhood Near Goleta

What’s that saying? “If you see something, say something?”

In a Noozhawk exclusive, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover told our Tom Bolton that residents of the Sungate Ranch neighborhood near Goleta had called in to report something amiss. It seems that an unfamiliar vehicle had been parked for several days in the 5000 block of Whitney Court, off South San Marcos Road and Hollister Avenue.

Deputies — accompanied by emergency personnel — responded to the Oct. 8 calls and made a grim discovery: A dead man inside the vehicle parked near the clubhouse of the small development, less than a mile east of Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.

Given the emergency response, I’m guessing callers had described something more than just a suspicious vehicle.

On Oct. 10, authorities identified the dead man as Anthony Castanon, 32, of Santa Barbara.

Hoover said the cause and circumstances of the death are under investigation. Lab and toxicology test results are pending.

2. Graffiti Vandals Cause $30,000 in Damage at Santa Barbara Mission

Santa Barbara Mission

From Martin Luther … to this. (Amy Mayfield photo)

Vandals attacked the Santa Barbara Mission in the early morning hours of Oct. 10, splashing a 25-yard swath of red paint across the doors and front of the historic Catholic church on the Upper Eastside, breaking windows, splattering paint high up on the façade, and scrawling epithets and the word “rape” all over the place.

Lost without a spellcheck function for their night-writing crusade, they misspelled “genocide” as “genecide” — removing any doubt about their intellectual heft.

Santa Barbara police spokesman Anthony Wagner said detectives were processing evidence left at the church, one of Santa Barbara’s most beloved attractions. I pray there is usable surveillance video to help catch these cowardly dolts.

In September of last year, vandals decapitated a nearby statue of Father Junípero Serra, drenching its hands in red paint and spray-painting “murderer” on the base. The statue has not been replaced, and that modern-day lynching remains unsolved.

Mob rule appears to be all the rage these days, but such violent and willful destruction of property has no place in a responsible society. Indeed, it must be condemned any time it surfaces.

History is not always black and white; as it unfolds, it’s rife with shades of gray and full of complexitites. Then, as now, the men and women who made it were imperfect human beings. We should not ignore their choices or actions, but we must understand that our nation is the sum of all of those parts — and stronger because of it.

Without room for respectful debate and thoughtful conversation, our Republic cannot hope to survive. It’s way past time for Americans to start remembering that.

3. SpaceX Falcon Rocket Thrills as it Returns to Vandenberg Air Force Base

Rocket

This SpaceX launch was especially dazzling — on so many levels. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

In a spectacular aerial light show that was seen throughout the West Coast, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base the night of Oct. 7.

Such liftoffs have become technologically routine for VAFB, which SpaceX has been using to send satellites and other equipment into orbit for several years now.

Launch

Phoning it in. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Previous launches have included first-stage landings that direct the rockets’ boosters to set down on robotic drone ships stationed in the Pacific Ocean. This one, however, marked SpaceX’s first land touchdown on the West Coast.

The Falcon 9 blasted off at 7:21 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-4 East on South Base.

Eight minutes later, the rocket’s stages separated. At that point, the first stage returned to VAFB so it could be used again while the second stage continued on with its satellite payload destined for a lower Earth orbit.

The rocket’s launch, the separation of its stages and the expected re-landing drew the attention of tens of thousands of space spectators up and down the Central Coast. Our Janene Scully watched from a Vandenberg Village vantage point that was packed with onlookers who cheered, oohed and aahed, and chattered excitedly at the heavenly fireworks.

“That was pretty amazing,” said Emily Kerbach, a Fresno resident who formerly lived in Lompoc. “My legs are shaking. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

When a loud sonic boom sounded after the separation, the crowd erupted in applause.

The dazzling display was enhanced by what is known as a “twilight phenomenon,” which occurs when sunlight highlights the rocket’s exhaust plume just after liftoff. As the plume condenses in the cold and the rocket gains altitude, the contrail appears to go through a vivid and rapid change of rose, blue and green coloring.

4. Investigators Hunt for Clues in String of Santa Barbara Arson Incidents

Fire

Pershing Park, and the start of a long night. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

An arson spree kept Santa Barbara firefighters busy the night of Oct. 7 and continuing into the wee hours of Oct. 8.

According to city Fire Marshal Joe Poire, two palm trees were set ablaze just after 10 p.m. adjacent to Pershing Park near the waterfront.

About 90 minutes later and a mile to the west, he said, a third palm was reported on fire at Las Ondas and Shoreline Drive across from Shoreline Park on the Mesa.

That call was followed 10 minutes later by one reporting another palm tree fire three blocks west at Shoreline and Santa Rosa Place, Poire said.

Around 2:45 a.m., a final call reported a hedge on fire in between two residences in the 1400 block of Shoreline almost to Thousand Steps.

There were no injuries in the incidents, but Poire said two of the deliberately set blazes posed “significant threats” to nearby homes.

The incidents are under investigation, he said.

5. Bill Macfadyen: Is Amazon Primed to Plant Its Flag in the Heart of Downtown Santa Barbara?

Amazon

Building anticipation. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Because … Amazon.com! Rumors that the online retail juggernaut will be moving into the soon-to-be-former Saks Fifth Avenue building in downtown Santa Barbara seem to be giving the area a new lease on life.

After years of watching State Street’s increasingly depressing hollowness, we’ll take the win.

                                                                •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Actress Jensen Buchanan Gets Jail Time for DUI Crash That Caused Severe Injuries.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

“Cocaine hippos” keep a circus alive: Dead Drug Lord’s Hungry Hippos Apparently Thriving In and Around Colombia Compound.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

This past week, my Instagram feed caught the SpaceX launch, from downtown Ventura.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Seals are just dogs of the sea. HT @hilarious.ted via Instagram.

(李闵 video)

                                                                 •        •        •

How You Can Help Noozhawk

Talk is cheap. Professional news gathering is not. If you like what you’re reading on Noozhawk and think our reporting is essential to the community, please support our work by becoming a member of our Hawks Club.

While most of Noozhawk’s revenue comes from advertising and sponsorships, we believe that reader contributions are a vital source of support — financially and fundamentally.

Your loyalty membership helps us continue to provide you with unmatched local news and in-depth reporting on the issues that you care about.

Please note that personal contributions to Noozhawk are not deductible as charitable donations.

Thank you for your support.

— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

A dark-haired man in glasses with a beard and a mustache smiles at the camera

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.