Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why are the makers of MONOPOLY kicking Atlantic City's landmarks off its prime real estate ??

By Rod Kennedy Jr., author of "Monopoly: The Story Behind the World's Best-Selling Game" (2004, Gibbs Smith) and the originator of "Atlantic City, 125 Years of Ocean Madness" (Ten Speed Press).

IN 1935, PARKER BROS. introduced Monopoly, a real estate trading game that has gone on to become the world's bestselling game, with more than 250 million copies sold in more than 80 countries to date.

One of the unexpected side effects of the game's extraordinary success was to make famous — indeed, to make iconic — the streets of Atlantic City, N.J., the seaside town where the original, classic "Number Nine" Monopoly game board was set. Today, it probably would be difficult to find an American child (or perhaps an American of any age) who is not familiar with Baltic Avenue, Marvin Gardens or, certainly, the prime real estate properties of Park Place and Boardwalk.

But 20 years from now, that may no longer be true. Hasbro, the current owner of Monopoly, recently announced that it is coming out with a new version of the game called "Monopoly: Here and Now," which is slated to become the company's new flagship edition. In it, the well-known Atlantic City landmarks will be replaced with "legendary streets, neighborhoods and national monuments from 22 cities — ranging from New York City to Honolulu." Hasbro is holding an online election on the Monopoly website where people can help select the locations that make it onto the new board.

But sadly — and in my opinion, wrongly — Hasbro has omitted Atlantic City from the list of candidate cities, generating an uproar from die-hard fans around the world. After all, what American street is more legendary than the Boardwalk in Atlantic City?

I'm particularly aggrieved by all this. Like many people, I once thought that the vividly colored properties on the classic board were fictional places that existed only as I envisioned them in my imagination. It was one of the great discoveries of my life to learn that these properties really do exist.

On my first visit to Atlantic City in 1973, I was thrilled to actually take a walk on the Boardwalk and to advance to St. Charles Place. The grand hotels that lined the Boardwalk like giant sandcastles were a wonder to behold, and the entertainment piers that jutted out into the sea were awesome.

As I learned more about Atlantic City, here are some things that I found out:

• Mediterranean and Baltic avenues really were "on the wrong side of the tracks" — the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad tracks. Baltic Avenue was known for offering accommodations to African American visitors, and many of the kitchen and housekeeping workers who staffed the hotels on the Boardwalk lived there.

• Oriental Avenue was named for a rug shop and, along with Vermont and Connecticut avenues, once comprised a middle-class Jewish neighborhood that was filled with boarding houses and kosher delis, and dominated by a giant lighthouse where the Coast Guard kept an eye peeled for enemy subs during World War II. On the Monopoly board, the "light blues" are in a sweet spot of low cost and decent return — much as they were in real life.

• Kentucky Avenue once was known as KY-at-the-curb because it was lined with black nightclubs such as Club Harlem at 32 North Kentucky, which featured stars such as Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Sammy Davis Jr. In the early days, Club Harlem hid its gaming in the side room while showcasing the cream of America's black show business talent for a mostly white crowd.

• The President Hotel on the Boardwalk was conceived as a "summer White House," but no president ever slept there. In fact, Calvin Coolidge refused to stay there when he visited Atlantic City. The Taj Mahal of the Atlantic City boardwalk was the palatial Blenheim hotel, built in 1902 — a melange of domes and monoliths with deep porches and hooded windows.

• Atlantic City was considered "free parking" or "neutral turf" for gangsters during Prohibition and where they could gather without fear of being "whacked." In 1929, Al Capone held a crime convention there much like the Elks, Odd Fellows and Shriners.

• The jail was actually in the City Hall on the corner of Tennessee and Atlantic avenues, not on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and St. Charles Place as it is on the game board. Before Atlantic City had a jail, prisoners were handcuffed to trees in the mayor's yard.

• My parents spent their honeymoon in Atlantic City and stayed at the Shelburne Hotel on the Boardwalk. I was born nine months later.

Even though I have been assured that Hasbro will continue to produce the classic "Number Nine" version of the game for the time being, I fear the "Here and Now" version may signal its eventual demise — just as gambling and casinos did for the grand hotels and entertainment piers in Atlantic City itself. I call on Hasbro to continue to promote and keep the classic edition in print for many years to come, lest it make the same mistake Coca-Cola made when it nearly destroyed the company by taking Classic Coke off the shelves

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TIMES PAST IN L A: May 30, 1897: J. Philip Erie, described in The Los Angeles Times as "a wealthy New York civil engineer and inventor," rolled his $30,000 gasoline carriage out of a garage on 5th Street, cranked it up and took off.

About eight people were aboard as his carriage went down Broadway to 6th Street, south on Main to 7th Street and then east to his home in Boyle Heights. Erie conducted further trials, but engine overheating was an unsolvable problem.

The photograph above is of J. Phillip Erie driving Boyle Workman at Hollenbeck Park in his self-built automobile in Los Angeles in 1897. Mr. Erie, the mechanic, sits at the helm in a suit and a brimmed hat, steering the tall, boxy automobile with a stirrup-handle while tending the side break-lever. The wheels are spoked and seem to bow out in the front. Mr. Workman, the son of Los Angeles civic leader, William H. Workman, sits in the back seat wearing a long overcoat and dark hat.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Amsterdam Reflections: A sense of timelessness permeates the Netherlands' capital city where a maze of canals creates 90 small islands. Amsterdam is a city of repeated patterns provided by the way that each building along the canals are of a similar width and height, a result of deliberate and far-sighted town planning. Few cities throughout the world can match it's architectural homogeneity.


A walk through Biosphere 2, near Oracle, Arizona, is a fun way to see what humans might require to survive off-planet. Built in the late 1980s, Biosphere 2 was designed as an airtight replica of Earth's environment — complete with a rain forest, desert, agricultural areas and human habitat — and used in an experiment to see how people might live on the moon or Mars. The experiment ended after three years, and no one has lived inside the sealed domes since 1994. The structure, however, has become a working research facility, and visitors can tour the three-acre ecological laboratory. You can see exhibits examining "Climate Change and Life on Earth," as well as walk through areas where the Biospherians lived and worked. The tour price is $19.95 for adults; $12.95 for ages 6-12; children 5 and younger are admitted free.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Jason Dottley, Patrika Darbo and Leslie Jordan

Critic Les Spindle had this to say about Sordid Lives: Writer-director Del Shores' spirited revival of his award-winning comedy includes several actors from the original 1995 staging and the 2001 film adaptation. The seasoned Shores rep players blend like a symphony orchestra, sending the audience into gales of rafter-shaking laughter. The veteran satirist serves up an outrageous send-up of scandal and angst in rural America--Knots Landing by way of The Jerry Springer Show. The incident bringing a cuckoo clan together is the death of the matriarch, who tripped over the wooden legs of the married man (Mitch Carter) with whom she was sharing an adulterous tryst. That's only the tip of the iceberg in the family hall of shame, highlighted by the plights of the institutionalized drag queen Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan), who thinks he's Tammy Wynette, and the young soap actor (Jason Dottley) about to reveal his homosexuality.

It's hard to pick favorites in this exemplary ensemble, but the sublime Jordan elicits the biggest belly laughs, then artfully segues to instantaneous poignancy. He shares his big scene with the marvelously funny Rosemary Alexander as the horny, deranged psychiatrist--kindred spirit to Laura Schlessinger--determined to "dehomosexualize" him. The actors portraying the neurotic daughters--Dale Dickey and Mary-Margaret Lewis--beautifully ricochet their punch lines off Ann Walker, whose droll underplaying as the third sibling is divine. As the high-strung neighbor Noleta, the hilarious Patrika Darbo is part Roseanne, part Ethel Mertz. Newell Alexander, Carter, and Earl Bullock delight as the chagrined victims of a wives' revenge scheme, right out of Thelma and Louise. Sarah Hunley brings down the house with her deadpan delivery as a sloshed barfly. Dottley provides a superbly nuanced characterization as the prodigal son, yearning for acceptance by his homophobic mom (Lewis).

Adding a country-western kick to the proceedings is Debi Derryberry, who croons the title song and scene-bridge numbers, with excellent piano accompaniment by Joe Patrick Ward. In this don't-miss production, Shores' sparkling masterwork has aged like fine wine.

Presented by Del Shores in association with Far From Right Productions and Linda Toliver and Gary Guidinger at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A. Variable repertory schedule. Feb. 3-Apr. 23. (800) 595-4849. (There are just a few more performances at the Zephyr Theatre before the show opens in Palms Springs).

Leslie Jordan and Rosemary Alexander Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 20, 2006

ELUSIVE: Last officially seen in 1944

The search for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker in the swamps of Arkansas has ended for the season with no confirmed sighting, wildlife experts said Thursday, but they plan to start looking again in late autumn.

The "Lord God bird" — so-called because of the exclamation it prompted from those who first saw it — was last officially seen in 1944. But eyewitness reports and a four-second video of the ivory-bill in flight in 2004 convinced many scientists that the crow-sized woodpecker was not extinct, as had been presumed.

An intensive six-month search in the Big Woods of Arkansas failed to turn up any new sightings, bird experts and wildlife officials said. "Certainly, we're somewhat disappointed," said Ron Rohrbaugh, director of Cornell University's search for the bird. "But we have had enough of these kind of tantalizing sounds and possible encounters with birds … that we still have a lot of hope that there might be a pair."

Twenty-two full-time field biologists and 112 volunteers have monitored the birds' probable habitat in eastern Arkansas since December, but the effort ended for the season this month after tree leaves emerged, cutting visibility. The search will resume in late fall, when the trees are again bare. "We're still in high gear; we're still going to keep searching," Rohrbaugh said.

Four people reported seeing birds this season that might have been ivory-billed woodpeckers, but the sightings were so fleeting they could not be confirmed, wildlife experts said. In all four cases, those who allegedly saw them reported the characteristic band of white at the trailing edge of the bird's wings. The more common pileated woodpecker, found in much of the United States, is about the same size as the ivory-bill but lacks the white swath. Aside from using human observers, searchers installed remote microphones and cameras in the Big Woods. Scientists at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology will review the thousands of hours of these recordings for possible signs of the bird. (from Reuters)


Kyle Busch made it two for two at Lowe's Motor Speedway by winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Concord, N.C. Busch, who became the youngest winner in series history last year when he won the race at 20, crossed the finish line 3.154 seconds ahead of runner-up Terry Cook in a Chevrolet.
An earlier posting on Kyle on September 5, 2005 told how this extraordinary young man had donated his $241,065 winnings from a race to Hurricane Katrina relief. Here's a real winner.

Friday, May 19, 2006


The comparison shown in the above graphics was made in December 2003 just prior to the inauguration of the Airbus.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


May 18, 1926: Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, pastor of Los Angeles' Angelus Temple, reportedly disappeared while swimming off Venice Beach, prompting authorities to believe that she had drowned. The next day, The Times described the reaction: "At Angelus Temple last night, with Mrs. McPherson's mother, Mrs. Minnie Kennedy, on the platform continuing the travelogue on Europe where her daughter left off the night before, the tears and smothered sobs of 500 followers belied the oft-repeated words: 'Aimee will come back to her temple!' "

A massive search ensued, and one follower drowned looking for McPherson. A month later, she turned up in Arizona, saying she had escaped from kidnappers. But a story soon circulated that the evangelist had been off on a romantic getaway. The district attorney doubted her kidnapping claim and convened a grand jury to investigate but later dropped the case.


BAGHDAD — The U.S. military is deploying a laser device in Iraq that would temporarily blind drivers who fail to heed warnings at checkpoints, in an attempt to stem shootings of innocent Iraqis. The pilot project will equip thousands of M-4 rifles with the 10 1/2 -inch-long weapon, which projects an intense beam of green light to "dazzle" the vision of oncoming drivers. "I think this is going to make a huge difference in avoiding these confrontations," said Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the commander in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq. "I promise you no one — no one — will be able to ignore it."

But so-called tactical laser devices have been controversial in the past. A protocol to the Geneva Convention bans the use of lasers that cause blindness, and human rights groups have protested previous U.S. attempts to employ such weapons. A decade ago, the experimental use of tactical laser devices by U.S. Marines in Somalia was curtailed at the last minute for "humane reasons," according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which called their use "repugnant to the public conscience" in a 1995 report.

The Pentagon has canceled several programs for the stronger "blinding" lasers, in adherence to the Geneva protocol, according to Human Rights Watch. But the group has said that even less powerful "dazzling" lasers, similar to the one to be deployed in Iraq, can cause permanent damage. One Washington-based defense analyst said American troops and commanders should not underestimate how the laser could complicate relations with Iraqis. "If this 'safe' high-intensity laser damages retinas, we're in for a whole new type of [angry] Iraqi civilians," said Winslow T. Wheeler, who spent three decades as a Capitol Hill staffer and is now at the Center for Defense Information. The military, however, has apparently decided the risks can be minimized through proper training and are worth taking to help U.S. troops ward off suicide attacks and to reduce accidental shootings of Iraqi civilians. "I have no doubt," Chiarelli said, "that bullets are less safe."

A military standards panel analyzed the laser — a modification of a more powerful system used for aiming heavy machine guns — and found that the device could be harmful to the eyes when viewed from about 75 yards or closer, the manufacturer said. Lt. Col. Richard Smith, deputy director of the Joint NonLethal Weapons Directorate at the Pentagon, said Wednesday that the deployment of the laser, which has been under development for a decade, marked an important milestone for nonlethal weapons. "This is really the first time the visually overwhelming devices have actually been used," Smith said. "This was based off needs of war fighters and commanders in the field. They have several incidents a day where a vehicle is coming at a group of soldiers…. These dazzlers can reach out a couple hundred meters and give solders added security."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


A concours d'elegance is the sort of car show you'd expect F. Scott Fitzgerald to host — world-class cars displayed on carpet-like lawns. Each year, there seem to be more of these elegant affairs, from Miami to Pebble Beach. Such shows have ringed L.A. for years. Now one is coming to the heart of the area.

On Sunday, the Rose Bowl will host its inaugural Concours d'Elegance, featuring 300 vehicles — American classics, European exotics and five classes of Ferraris. Organizers, hoping to make it an annual show, have mapped out four future dates at the stadium and adjacent golf course. This year, there are "a lot of winners from Amelia Island and Pebble Beach, including a 1904 Pope Toledo and a '36 Bugatti (shown in the photo above)," said Pat Spears, president of the Assistance League of Southern California, sponsor of the event. An earlier posting on December 12, 2005 featured the newest Bugatti Veyron which sells for $1.25 million.
Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $30 (free to children younger than 12); (323) 469-1973, Ext. 239, or http://www.laconcours.com .
1949 Ferrari 166

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN ?? . . . armed with birdseed and a broom ??

Today was a little disquieting for me. I took my daily walk down around the pier and found no reassuring puddle by the lifeguard station. Richard had not made his daily appearance to care for his feathered friends. There were not many pigeons hanging around either which made me wonder if they knew somehow that he was going to be so late or maybe even miss a day. Of course I know that anyone can be thrown off schedule, even someone as regular and dependable as you, Richard. I hope that all is well with you, Richard, and that whatever it was that threw you off schedule was a small matter of no great consequence.

A Red Hot Chili Day at Tommy's 60th Anniversary Party

The chili-smothered tamales lured Ron Farris, now 72, to the famous red-shingled shack to satisfy his then-pregnant wife's 2 a.m. cravings. The double cheeseburgers with extra chili prompted Kody Johnson to once pay $55 for a cab ride to the same corner stand from Los Angeles International Airport before boarding a flight home to Logan, Utah. And the mere thought of the tantalizing chili rustled 17-year-old Charles Harris and his friends out of bed at 3 a.m. Monday to make the drive from San Francisco so they could line up with hundreds of other customers who shared similar cravings — and stories.

All were on hand Monday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Tommy's Original World Famous Hamburgers, the 24-hour eatery at the corner of Beverly and Rampart boulevards near downtown. Tommy's is now a chain with 29 outlets, but this is where it all started. In honor of the occasion, Tommy's was selling a chili-topped cheeseburger and drink for 60 cents. The location, which normally serves 15,000 customers a week, had 15,000 hamburger patties and 400 gallons of chili on hand for the special promotion.

In health-conscious, sushi-loving Southern California, Tommy's is as much an institution as it is an addiction for lovers of its greasy fare. "The chili is what draws us more than anything," said Farris, who shared his family's obsession with Tommy's and was honored as the winner of the restaurant's Ultimate Fan Contest. For the Farris family, Tommy's is a tradition. As a high school baseball player, Farris won the fast food joint's "Orchid of the Week" award for best athlete. His wife, Tommie, remembers the frequent "Tommy runs" she and co-workers at Western Airlines would make. And their youngest daughter, Lori, had a hankering for a Tommy's burger when she was pregnant, her husband trekking all the way from Pasadena.

If it's decor or ambience you want, Tommy's is not the place. Most customers stand at wooden counters lining the walls next to the parking lot as they gobble chili-drenched burgers, tamales, hot dogs and fries. Paper towel dispensers line the walls. And patrons fetch their drinks from large coolers. What do you expect for a $1.70 burger? (written by Arin Gencer, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer). Happy Birthday Tommy---May there be many more!
Tommy's in 1964

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On this day in 1927, Guy Bush went the distance for the Chicago Cubs in a 7-2 18-inning win over the Boston Braves.

Braves pitcher, Charlie Robertson, almost matched the feat, leaving with one out in the 18th.

SAN FRANCISCO'S first skyscraper is being transformed into luxurious private residences

Developer's conceptual rendering
The old Chronicle building was built in 1690.


The Merapi volcano, Indonesia's most dangerous, is spewing burning ash, rock and molten lava, forcing thousands of people living on its slopes to flee their homes. It last erupted in 1994.


WHEN "The Da Vinci Code" opens Friday in the U.S., one of the first places moviegoers will see is the Louvre, where the story starts. Director Ron Howard was allowed to film in the museum, so moviegoers will see the real thing: architect I.M. Pei's Pyramid, the 1,450-foot Grande Galerie and the Salle des États where Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" hangs. For some viewers, scenes shot there will fly by, but lovers of the Louvre may pause between handfuls of popcorn to admire the museum in the heart of Paris that saw record-breaking numbers of visitors last year.

Since the filming there last spring, the museum has distanced itself from the movie, reflecting the French art establishment's well-known scorn for popular culture and the Louvre's weariness with the phenomenon created by "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown's controversial 2003 mystery about the supposed secret history of Christianity. Officials at the museum aren't publicly linking the dramatic increase in visitation — from about 6 million in 2000 to 7.5 million last year — with the novel, even though 57 million copies of the book are in print in 44 languages.

After all, the Louvre is not a movie set. It is a world-famous art gallery and museum of mankind in the surpassingly beautiful abode of French kings, like London's National Gallery, British Museum and Buckingham Palace all rolled into one. The Louvre has been standing alongside the Seine for more than 800 years, first as a medieval fortress built around 1190 by crusading king Philippe Auguste (Philip II) and then as a rambling royal palace on which a long chain of French artists and architects put their marks. The kings of France were insatiable collectors, so when the palace opened as a museum in 1793, the treasure-trove became the property of the French people.

After the French Revolution, art kept rolling in, acquired through donations, pilferage during the Napoleonic Wars, field work by French archeologists and a now-defunct law that allowed curators to bargain-shop in customs-office basements for artwork barred from exportation. The Louvre has 300,000 works of art spanning almost 9,000 years of human civilization, including 52 Rubens, 12 Rembrandts and, thanks to the connoisseurship of Francis I in the 16th century, more Da Vincis than Italy (or anyplace else). "The Louvre is the book in which we learn to reach," French painter Paul Cézanne wrote in a 1905 letter.

The museum today

NOW, there is even more to the museum, largely because of a huge project launched in 1981 by then-French President François Mitterrand. The Grand Louvre, as it is called, put a modern glass pyramid designed by American architect Pei at the center of the classically French building ensemble; doubled exhibition space by opening the northern wing, formerly occupied by the French Finance Ministry; and gave the complex a subterranean shopping mall. When the $960-million Grand Louvre was first announced, the French protested. It was too expensive and ambitious. Critics scoffed at Pei's pyramid, and journalists dubbed Mitterrand "Ramses II" for the Pharaoh whose building lust is documented in the museum's Egyptian wing. But the complaints subsided when the Grand Louvre reached completion around 2000. With a new entrance in the middle of the Cour Napoléon, the museum seemed far more user-friendly and Pei's controversial pyramid became a beloved landmark.

The staircase in the Pyramid

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


May 10, 1912: Southern California aviation pioneer Glenn Luther Martin made history when he flew his "hydro-aeroplane" over the ocean from "the waters of Newport Bay to the shore of Avalon, Catalina Island," The Times reported, under the headline "Most Daring Exhibition Ever Given By Birdman." Martin flew the 33 miles in his Avalon Zipper, the longest flight yet made over water, The Times said.
"He landed amid the tooting of horns and the shouts of a multitude of people whom he surprised by swooping down from the clouds," the newspaper reported. On his return flight he carried the day's mail from Catalina — another first. Glenn Luther Martin (1886-1955) began his impressive aviation career in Santa Ana, CA. In the photo above Martin is shown making an aerial delivery of the Fresno Republican newspaper in 1909.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lillian Asplund, 99; Last U.S. Survivor of Titanic's Sinking

Lillian Gertrud Asplund, the last American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, has died. She was 99. She was just 5 when she lost her father and three brothers — including her fraternal twin — when the luxury liner hailed as "practically unsinkable" went down. Her mother, Selma, and another brother, Felix, who was 3, survived the Titanic's sinking off Newfoundland in the early morning of April 15, 1912. Asplund was the last Titanic survivor with actual memories of the event, but she shunned publicity and rarely spoke about the tragedy in the North Atlantic. Among the more than 700 who survived, the two who are still alive were too young to remember the disaster. Barbara Dainton and Eliza Millvena Dean, both of England, were less than a year old when the jewel of the White Star Line struck an iceberg.

More than 1,500 people died on the maiden voyage of the ocean liner whose sinking has long gripped the public's imagination. That is partly because many prominent and wealthy passengers were on board, including Benjamin Guggenheim, who sipped brandy and smoked cigars with his valet while the ship went down. Mainly, it is because its owners had arrogantly trumpeted the ship, billed as a technological marvel, as "unsinkable." In the end, the vaunted network of watertight compartments had not been built high enough.

The Asplund family had boarded the Titanic in Southampton, England, as third-class passengers. They were on their way back to Worcester from their ancestral homeland, Sweden, where they had spent several years. After the ship struck the iceberg, the family went to the ship's upper deck, Asplund's mother recalled in an interview with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette shortly after returning to Massachusetts. "I could see the icebergs for a great distance around," she said. "It was cold and the little ones were cuddling close to one another and trying to keep from under the feet of the many excited people…. My little girl, Lillie, accompanied me, and my husband said, 'Go ahead, we will get into one of the other boats.' He smiled as he said it."

Rescued by the steamship Carpathia, the surviving Asplunds were taken to a New York City hospital before returning to Worcester to live with Selma Asplund's sister. Because the family lost all of its possessions and life savings of $700 on the Titanic, the city of Worcester held a fundraiser and benefit that brought in about $2,000 for them. In 1951, the family moved to Shrewsbury. Asplund never married. She worked at various secretarial jobs. She retired early to care for her mother, who was said to have never recovered from the tragedy. Selma Asplund was about 90 when she died on the 52nd anniversary of the sinking in 1964. Felix Asplund died in 1983 at 73.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Was one of History's Greatest Villains really one of its Greatest Heroes ??

Will we ever know ??

"You know how to add, don't you ??" . . . . . A dark night, a mysterious dame and a gumshoe looking for clues in the case of the vanishing wages

I Was working late in my D.C. office. I'd been running some new simulations on my macro-model, but nothing was converging, so I figured I'd close up my spreadsheet and find a corner in some dark speak-easy to lick my wounds.

That's when she walked in. She had a neckline as low as the Nasdaq in '01, curves like sine waves and a dress tighter than the global oil supply. She had my attention even before she pulled out two reports I'd seen that very morning.

"I'm sorry to barge in on you like this," she said in a voice that gave my calculator a power surge. "I didn't know where else to turn."

"You came to the right place, doll," I said. "I see you've got the first-quarter GDP report, along with the new compensation results." I'd been puzzling over these numbers all day, but what, I wondered, could this tall glass of ice water want with them?

"That's right," she purred. "I need to know why GDP is up 4.8%, the strongest quarter since 2003, yet real wages are falling." Yeah, I thought, you and everybody else who works for a living.

"Why the interest?" I shot back. She didn't look like a Democrat.

"I wish I could tell you. But I work for some powerful people" — now I knew she wasn't a Democrat — "and they'd be very upset if they even knew I was here."

"Why me? Why don't you ask your powerful friends to explain why the economy's racing ahead but leaving working stiffs behind?"

She got kinda sulky, and I kinda liked it. "They wouldn't know where to look. What's worse, most of them think it's great when wage growth decelerates because with no inflationary pressure from labor costs, it means the Fed can take a powder on rate increases."

"Tell me about it, sister. I've been leaning on Bernanke for months on that point, but he doesn't return my calls."

Needless to say, I took the case. I wasn't sure what game little Miss Conflicting Reports was playing, but I figured I'd play along for now.

Fact is, I'd been asking the same question myself. Every quarter we seemed to be getting great news on top-line statistics — GDP, productivity, profits — yet the typical workers' real earnings were down 2% over the recovery. Guys like me don't like it when things line up that way.

I headed for the union hall, figuring some of those guys might have an angle. Problem was, with private-sector unions down to 8% of the workforce, the hall had become a Starbucks. I got a vanilla chai latte to go and beat it.

I decided to head for the new economy, so I looked up some managers and professionals in the service sector. I found them, all right, but they didn't have any answers. As of the first quarter of 2006, their compensation had lagged inflation for three quarters running.

This was more serious than I'd thought. Whatever was driving a wedge between overall growth and living standards, it was reaching pretty high up the pay scale. I wasn't sure what mess I'd gotten into here, but it was time to confront the doll that got me into it.

I caught up with her in her penthouse, a place that had "housing bubble" written all over it. I know my wealth distributions, and this kitten came from the top 0.1%. I don't like playing the sap — it was time for some class warfare.

"OK, gorgeous. Drop the 'two Americas' line and give it to me straight. You know as well as I do where the growth is going. What's your game?"

She nibbled her lip and looked up at me real sweet. "I suppose if I told you I'm just a girl who cares about the bottom 99%, you wouldn't believe me."

She supposed right.

"All right, I'll come clean," she said, slumping in a chaise lounge that probably cost the average income of the bottom fifth. "I work for the Republican National Committee, and we're starting to get spooked by the president's poll numbers on the economy. We figured if we don't get a little trickle-down soon, it could hurt us in 2006, not to mention '08."

I kicked myself for not seeing it sooner. "So you don't give a damn about the structural factors driving the productivity/wage gap: the declining unions, low minimum wage, the profit squeeze, slack job creation and, most of all, the way globalization is sapping the bargaining clout of the American worker, blue and white collar alike."

"Why should I?" she said, finally showing her true colors. "Any intervention would just cuff the invisible hand, doing more harm than good." She was Milton Friedman with the body of Scarlett Johansson. I had to get outta there.

"You're wrong," I shouted, staggering toward the door. "You can't see it, but these two reports are a microcosm of everything that's right and wrong with this economy. Tell your people that whoever understands and articulates this disconnect, along with a convincing policy agenda to reconnect growth and living standards — that's who wins the big tamale."

I was wasting my breath. She had me bounced by a security guard as pumped-up as ExxonMobil's profits.

I brushed off the dust and headed for the office. You'd think a case like this would be dispiriting to a guy like me, but you'd be wrong. Sure, she made me mad, but I saw things clearly now, and her little scheme was about to backfire.

There's an electorate out there that's looking for some economic stewardship. Maybe I'm just one economist in this big, crazy city, and maybe the other guys got the deep pockets. But the way I see it, we can shape our economic outcomes so that everyone gets a fair shake, not just the chosen few. I opened up a spreadsheet and got to work.
(written by Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute)

Saturday, May 06, 2006


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Undefeated Barbaro stormed into the lead at the top of the stretch Saturday and won the Kentucky Derby convincingly for a trainer hailed as a hero 17 years ago. Michael Matz led three children to safety after United flight 232 from Denver to Chicago crashed into an Iowa cornfield. Now, nearly two decades later, the two brothers and their sister were in the grandstand at Churchill Downs cheering the strapping bay colt onto his sixth consecutive win.

Given a masterful ride by Edgar Prado, Barbaro delivered a smashing 6 1-2 length victory in beating a full field of 20 3-year-olds -- considered one of the toughest in years. With Sinister Minister and Keyed Entry setting the pace, Barbaro settled in right behind and made his move around the far turn, just as he had in winning his first five races. The Florida Derby winner, making his first start in five weeks, had plenty left in the tank to hold off Bluegrass Cat. Steppenwolfer was third, and there was a dead heat for fourth between Brother Derek and Jazil.

Barbaro becomes the sixth undefeated winner, following Smarty Jones in 2004.

Friday, May 05, 2006

"Call us crazy; you'd be right"

In January 1998, waves as high as 20 feet battered local beaches in California. North of Ventura, this Solimar Beach home was attacked by the huge waves.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo used a wall of glass etched with angels as a boundary line between the grand Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the humming Hollywood Freeway below in Los Angeles.

Monday, May 01, 2006


How many of these Grand Old Burma Shave Road Signs can you remember ??

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

For those who never saw any of the Burma Shave signs,

here is a quick lesson in our history of the1930's and '40's.

Before there were interstates, when everyone drove the old 2 lane roads,

Burma Shave signs would be posted all over the countryside in farmers' fields.

They were small red signs with white letters.

Five signs,

about 100 feet apart,

each containing 1 line of a 4 line couplet......

and the obligatory 5th sign advertising Burma Shave, a popular shaving cream.

Here are more of the actual signs:

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

And my all time favorite:
Burma Shave

Do these bring back any old memories?
If not, you're merely a child.
If they do - then you're old as dirt...


Jane Russell, a heartthrob of major proportions in her heyday and a trouper today, takes the stage again at 84, singing the songs of the '40s. It's five minutes to show time in Santa Maria, California. Jane Russell gingerly folds her glasses and sips her Sprite. At 84, she needs a little help up the single step to the tiny stage in the darkened hotel bar. Her eyes aren't what they used to be — she has macular degeneration — and she wears hearing aids in both ears. But the still-statuesque silver-haired woman decked out in a turquoise gown and heavy shell jewelry is unmistakably the brassy, sassy Jane Russell of yesteryear, the buxom bombshell whose pinup image defined the concept of longing for millions of GIs in World War II. In the right light, her imperious gaze still can smolder.
In 1999, after her third husband died, Russell moved from a Montecito mansion to a standard-issue subdivision in Santa Maria, home to her youngest son and his family. "When I moved up here, there wasn't a lot for seniors to do," she said. "And we were all so sick of today's music." Like a troupe of eager youngsters working to pay off Pa's mortgage in a 1940s movie, Russell and a couple of pals decided to put on a show. They work the first and third Fridays of the month at the Radisson Hotel, although Russell has just taken a travel leave that will last into the fall.

There was a time when she headlined with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Now she performs with a local choir director, a lay preacher, a retired police officer and half a dozen others, many in their 70s and 80s. Most in the audiences at the Radisson are older folks as well. The revue — called "The Swinging Forties" — runs from about 6 to 9:30 p.m. so they can get home early. "Nine-thirty!" Russell said, freshening her tangerine lipstick. "Can you believe it?" When she made her name in show business, such early hours would have been out of the question. .

For five years, sizzling still photos of Russell paved the way for the release of her first film, 1943's "The Outlaw." Until then, thanks to sultry shots of Russell reclining on a haystack with a come-hither look and a gun, she was the most famous star in the U.S. not yet to have appeared in a movie. Eventually, she became known in films like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" for a having quick wit in addition to a voluptuous body.

But it was the body that moved men to grand gestures, like the troops in Korea who named two embattled hills in her honor. Even the censors were given to lyricism, including the Maryland judge who ruefully noted that in one film, Russell's breasts "hung over the picture like a summer thunderstorm spread out over a landscape."

Deeply religious both then and now, she looks back with regret at the unrelenting publicity over her bounteous figure. "Hollywood gook," said Russell, who later sided publicly with an industry panel that urged the removal of provocative scenes from one of her films. "It was nauseating." (The above comments are excerpts from today's Los Angeles Times) Hang in there, Jane---we'll always love you and you'll always be beautiful.