Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Calvin and Hobbes have returned to the comics pages of the Los Angeles Times--Welcome back guys, we've missed you! During the all-too-brief time it ran--from Nov. 18, 1985 to Dec. 31, 1995--"Calvin and Hobbes" was simultaneously the most old-fashioned and the most innovative comic strip in newspapers. Its creator, Bill Waterson, returned to the principles of polished draftmanship, visual imagination and character-driven humor that have been the source of comic strips' popularity since their inception in the 1890s. But he applied those venerable principles in new ways to make his strip personal, contemporary and very, very funny. The Times is reprinting "Calvin and Hobbes" through the end of the year.
It's been almost 34 years now, since one of the best-known criminal mysteries of the Northwest fell from the sky to become a legend. On Thanksgiving eve in 1971, D. B. Cooper hijacked a Seattle-bound jetliner and parachuted into the night, $200,000 in ransom money tied to his waist. It remains the nation's only unsolved skyjacking. Did he survive? The weather was awful, he jumped over a dense forest of pine and Douglas fir, he wore only a suit and loafers, and one of the two parachutes he used was defective. On the edge of Lake Merwin, 30 miles north of Portland, Ariel became famous as the place authorities thought Cooper may have landed. Soon after the highjacking, when the weather broke, local police and the FBI set up camp near the Merwin Dam and sent scuba divers into the lake. They also searched Ariel's winding roads, small waterways and much of the thick forest that shrouds Southwest Washington. They found nothing. Here are the facts behind the legend: On Nov. 24, 1971, a thin white man in his 40's dressed for business, checked in for a Portland-to-Seattle flight. He gave his name as Dan Cooper (hours later, a reporter mistakenly identified him as "D. B. Cooper," which stuck.) During the short flight, Cooper told a flight attendant he had a bomb and opened his briefcase to show what may have been just that. When the plane landed in Seattle, Cooper released the passengers. In return, he was given four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills. Cooper then ordered the pilot to fly toward Mexico at an altitude no higher than 10,000 feet. Once airborne, a flight attendant observed Cooper tying the bags of money to his waist. He strapped one parachute to his chest, the other to his back. Several minutes later, the pilots noticed a cockpit light indicating that Cooper had opened the plane's rear door and extended the stairway--made possible because the plane was not pressurized at low altitude--and vanished into the freezing rain. Many leads have been followed, and more than 1,100 "serious suspects" have been looked into since 1971. Substantial leads still come in each year. Maybe someday a hunter or hiker will stumble over something that will solve the mystery of D. B. Cooper. The illustration above is an artist's rendering of what D. B. Cooper looked like in 1971 and what he might look like today.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Don Adams, the Emmy Award-winning comic-actor who played bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart on the hit 1960s spy-spoof series "Get Smart," died Sunday of a lung infection. He was 82. The clever and satirical sit-com, created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, was filled with sight gags (one character, Agent 13, hid in mailboxes, water fountains and clocks), and ingenious gimmicks (Smart famously phoned headquarters with a dial phone implanted in the sole of his shoe). "Get Smart" spawned two of the most popular catch phrases of the decade: "Sorry about that" and "Would you believe . . .?" The latter was uttered by Smart whenever someone didn't believe one of his preposterous fabrications--as illustrated by the time KAOS' Mr. Big (played by Michael Dunn, a dwarf) cornered Smart and was ready to kill him. Thinking fast, Smart says, "At the moment seven Coast Guard cutters are converging on us. Would you believe it?" Mr. Big: I find that hard to believe." Smart: "Hmmm . . . Would you believe six?" Mr. Big: "I don't think so." Smart: "How about two cops in a rowboat?" "Get Smart" won two Emmys for best comedy series and Adams received three Emmys for his leading role in a comedy series.
"CRONY CAPITALISM is the name of the Republican game. Their slogan is 'take care of your friends and leave the risks of the free market for the suckers.' That would be John Q. Public. From Halliburton's overcharging in Iraq to Enron's manipulation of the California energy crisis and now the emerging hurricane reconstruction boondoggle, we witness what happens when the federal government is turned into a glorified help desk and ATM machine for politically connected corporations." The exerpt above is the first paragraph in Robert Scheer's column in today's Los Angeles Times. He goes on to detail "the defining case study on the deep corruption of the Bush administration and the GOP" which involves Jack Abramoff who is under federal indictment on wire fraud and conspiracy charges, and who also is the subject of congressional and FBI investigations.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Iran is seeking to revive its carpet industry by weaving the world's biggest rug, which will weigh 35 tons, cover 7,100 square yards and cost $8.2 million. Two working shifts of 1,000 weavers working for fourteen months nonstop will soon start work. Hand-woven carpets are Iran's top non-oil export, but the industry has been hit by cheaper knockoffs made in Pakistan, China and India. The picture above shows the current record-holder: a hand-woven, single-piece carpet in the main praying hall of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
A supernova may have led to the extinction of the mammoth and other large creatures on Earth 41,000 years ago. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory believe that an explosion about 250 light years from Earth coalesced into low-density comet-like objects that rained onto our planet 13,000 years ago.They believe they have found evidence of the supernova's initial shockwave--mammoth tusks peppered with tiny impact craters produced by iron grains traveling about 6,000 miles per second.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Time is running out on traditional parking meters lining curbs around Southern California. Some motorists couldn't be happier. Those pesky coin-gobblers have tormented motorists since the first one popped up on an Oklahoma street 70 years ago. Soon, drivers with no change in their pocket may be able to pay to park by credit or ATM card. Those whose meter is about to expire may be able to get a text message on their cellphone warning that they face a ticket if they don't move their car or feed the meter. That same cellphone can be used to electronically deposit more money in the meter without the motorist having to return to the street. West Hollywood has installed these fancy new meters on Sunset Boulevard for a six-month trial run. Pasadena has a pilot peogram to evaluate four types of high-tech parking meters, and Los Angeles is planning its own evaluation for January. Many motorists are embracing the new machines with credit cards in outstretched hands. Others, however, aren't, and are saying the new meters are too confusing. Shown above are two students using a credit card to make payment in West Hollywood.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
The Cocoanut Grove opened on 21st April, 1921 and quickly became the top spot in Hollywood. The interior contained palm trees (said to have been props from Rudolph Valentino's classic 1921 film The Sheik) with stuffed monkeys hanging from them and a blue ceiling painted with twinkling stars. The Cocoanut Grove became Hollywood's premier nightclub and on any given night a host of the most famous celebrities of the day could be found partying the night away. The list of stars who stayed and lived at the Ambassador Hotel reads like a Who's Who of the Rich & Famous. In 1930, the Academy Awards were presented at the Grove. It was the third Academy Awards presentation but the first time that a gold statuette called "Oscar" was introduced. The first Golden Globe awards were given out here in 1944. Many parties have been held here for many Hollywood legends. Joan Crawford won over a hundred dance trophies at the Cocoanut Grove, competing in their dance competitions. Judy Garland made a spectacular comeback concert here after several years of illness and the album Judy Garland at the Grove was recorded here live. After a run of 68 years, the Ambassador Hotel and Cocoanut Grove closed forever in 1989 leaving us with fond memories of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Frank Gehry, internationally acclaimed architect, unveils vision for world-class basketball arena and mixed-use complex for downtown Brooklyn. The development spearheaded by Forest City Ratner Companies will bring professional sports to Brooklyn along with new residential units, commercial and retail space and six acres of public space including a park on the Arena's roof, ringed by an open-air running track that doubles as a skating rink in winter with panoramic vistas facing Manhattan. Sounds like paradise.
Monday, September 12, 2005
The corn is growing. Rows of it are rising from the dirt right on schedule at the "Not a Cornfield" project, a 32-acre, $3 million art installation taking root this summer at Los Angeles State Historic Park. The growing plants--hundreds of thousands of them--are turning what once was an abandoned rail yard in the industrial flatlands near Chinatown into a sea of cornstalks that sway and shift in the breeze. The vast conceptual art piece is meant to serve both as a point of celebration for the multiethnic history of Los Angeles' old core and a beacon for downtown's gradual revitalization. But where corn stops being corn and becomes an important artwork is leaving some visitors a little stumped. One observer asked: "Three million dollars ?? You could've bought a Van Gogh for that." The image above is titled "Cornfield with Cypress," by Vincent Van Gogh.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
On July 20, 1969, as commander of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon. His first words after stepping on the moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," were televised to earth and heard by millions. But just before he reentered the lander, he made the enigmatic remark "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky." Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival cosmonaut. However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs. Over the years many people questioned Armstrong as to what the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" statement meant, but Armstrong always just smiled. On July 5, 1995, in Tampa Bay, Florida, while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question to Armstrong. This time he finally responded. Mr. Gorsky had died, so Neil Armstrong felt he could answer the question. In 1938 when he was a kid in a small midwest town, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit the ball, which landed in his neighbor's yard by the bedroom window. His neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky. As he leaned down to pick up the ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky. "Sex, you want sex?! You'll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!" A true story . . . Now you know. ADDENDUM: A friend has just informed me that this is an urban legend and he is correct. It makes a cute story but it is just that . . . a story. . . SORRY!
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
This is Telc in the Czech Republic. It lies at the midpoint of the old King's route from Vienna to Prague. It is the best preserved Renaissance town north of the Alps and was recently added to the UNESCO list of international heritage sights. Photo by izarbeltza.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Little is left to chance in the brave new world of parking technology. Meters are triggered by remote sensors and customers pay for street time by cellphone. And soon you may be able to forget about rubbing the traffic officer's chalk mark off your tires because your apt to be foiled by parking enforcement vehicles outfitted with GPS-enabled cameras that scan your license plate to reveal how long you have occupied the space. Wire grids are being installed under the pavement in some places to trigger sensors whenever a car pulls in. The information can be sent wirelessly via radio signals to traffic enforcers so they know when time runs out on any parking spot in town. The meter resets itself as soon as the car pulls away, so the next car has to pay the full fee. In Sacramento, California, officials have solved the turnover problem by booting cars that repeatedly overstay their street time. Yes, it seems we are entering "a brave new world."
Sunday, September 04, 2005
England's London Bridge Tower is an example of the new type of residential towers being built today. A dramatically tapering silouette form makes sense with wide floor plans near the ground level for retail or cultural space and condominiums on the upper floors. Smaller floors near the top mean that residents will never be more than a few steps from their windows and views. Two-thirds of the 66 floors in London Bridge Tower, due to be completed in2009, will contain homes and hotel rooms.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Just outside Charleston Harbour on February 17, 1864, the conditions were cold, bone chilling and quiet. The situation was desperate, frightening and a turning point in history. A lookout aboard the Union Navy's largest ship was tired, cold--but restless. Talk of a Confederate secret weapon was in and out of his thoughts. Suddenly he spotted something move in the chilly waters. A porpoise? There were certainly a lot of them around. But something about this one didn't seem right. While the cold bit through the lookout's coat, 8 men poured sweat over hand cranks that powered a spinning propeller while their captain manned the dive planes--steering man, iron, anxiety and raw courage toward its final destination. The alarm rang out. This was definitely no porpoise. Nor was it debris floating from a war-torn Fort Sumpter. This was something bizarre. The ship's cannons could not target an object so low in the water. Shots rang out and bullets ricocheted as other union sailors joined in the frantic firing of revolvers and rifles. The object continued to approach at about three knots. Below the waterline--as bullets bounced off its cylindrical body, the H. L. Hunley rammed her long metal spar into the stern area, planting a 135 pound torpedo into the Warship Housatonic. The men inside the Hunley lunged forward from the impact, then quickly backed their sub out as the 150-foot attached detonation rope played out. Within seconds, the world rocked and every man, above and below, became enveloped in a concussion of destruction. The explosion caused the USS Housatonic to burn for three minutes before sending the sloop-of war collapsing to the bottom killing five sailors. The Hunley then surfaced long enough for her crew to signal their comrades on the shore of Sullivan's Island with a blue magnesium light, indicating a successful mission. The shore crew stoked their signal fires and anxiously awaited the Hunley's safe return. But minutes after her historic achievement, the Hunley and all hands onboard vanished into the sea without a trace. That night history was made. At the same moment, a mystery was born. The Hunley became the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship. But why had she suddenly disappeared? What caused her to sink? And would she ever be found? The world would have to wait until the tools of modern technology could begin to unlock the secrets of the Hunley. In 1995, author and adventurer Clive Cussler found the Hunley resting on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. After being lost at sea for 137 years, the Hunley was revealed on August 8, 2000, seen for the first time in her entirety, from bow to stern and top to bottom. It was indeed a remarkable moment in history. The investigation continues and each day we come closer to solving the mystery of why the Hunley never came home.