Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Eiffel Tower"

Photo by Daniel Johansson

"All On The Edge"

Photo by Stuart Bellamy

"Pathway to the Peaks"

Photo by Kevin McNeal

The Magical Shifting Sands

Photo by Bill Kutcher

"The old book of nature. It's magic, you can jump inside!"

Photo by Vittorio Pellazza

Yosemite's Half Dome

A beautiful shot of Half Dome by Yen Huynh

Dubai is well on its way to becoming the #1 tourist destination in the world.

This is what downtown Dubai will look like around 2008-2009. More than 140 stories of the Burj Dubai have already been completed. It is already the worlds tallest man made structure and it is still not scheduled to be completed for at least another year.
The Burj Dubai. Construction began in 2005 and is expected to be complete by 2008. At an estimated height of over 800 meters, it will easily be world's tallest building when finished. It will be almost 40% taller than the current tallest building, the Yaipei 101.

Hydropolis, the world's first underwater hotel. Entirely built in Germany and then assembled in Dubai; after many delays it is scheduled to be completed by 2009.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hamburg Heinrich Hertz Turm

Photo by alex.roschkow on Flckr.

Would you believe . . . this is the Pittsburgh they talk about ???

Photo by ckelley on Flickr.

Seattle . . . after the storm

There was a crazy freak snowstorm last night and let me tell you, it was not easy getting up Queen Anne hill, even with chains. I took this shot just as the snowstorm was blowing over. When I first got here, everything was completely hidden but then the end of the storm passed revealing the city. I really like the dramatic clouds in this shot. If you look you can see the snow covered rooftops, and I love how the sky over the city takes on sepia tones during stormy weather at night.

Oddly enough, it's beautiful and sunny again today.

Photo by Cap'n Surly on Flckr.

N Y, N Y

Marriott Marquis Time Square looking West.
Photo by respres on Flckr.

Brisbane, Australia

Photo by modu li on Flckr.

The Lights of Tokyo

Photo by zachwass on Flckr.

Germany's Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne

Photo by Curnen on Flckr.

Los Angeles' Disney Concert Hall

Photo by Zsasaki on Flckr.

Hello Taipei

Photos by fjny on Flckr.

"Through the Clouds"

Photos by fjny on Flckr

Creativity That Knows No Bounds

Mel Brooks convinced Warner Brothers to finance an uproariously tasteless comedy about a black western sheriff. Directed, co-written and co-starring Brooks, Blazing Saddles was one of the biggest moneymakers of 1974. Brooks was successful in doing what he wanted, and had found two co-stars with great chemistry who would appear in his later films- Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn. Brooks was nominated for a Best Music Score Academy Award for Blazing Saddles.

Brooks then went on to create a remarkable string of comedy films. Young Frankenstein followed in 1974, and once again Brooks had a hit. Brooks directed and co-wrote Young Frankenstein, a parody of the Frankenstein movies. Brooks was nominated for another Academy Award, this time for Writing. His creativity knows no bounds.

Revival of a San Diego Landmark

The Balboa Theatre was designed by San Diego architect William Wheeler and built in 1924 as a combination movie palace and vaudeville house.It served those functions and others. It was a Spanish-language cinema in the 1930s and later housed circuses and ice shows. With storefronts and a narrow bank of hotel rooms along its 4th Avenue side, the building became a flophouse for sailors during World War II and had a stint as a rent-by-the-hour bordello.

Though not built as a legit house for plays and musicals, the building has a fly loft for hanging scenery and feels to theater connoisseurs like a historic Broadway house, such as the St. James in New York.

Slightly reconfigured to meet disabled-access requirements, the Balboa now seats 1,300. A movable orchestra pit for 40 players makes the relatively shallow stage amenable to off-Broadway shows and smaller musicals.

Acoustical consultants McKay Conant Hoover deemed the reverberant acoustics excellent for instrumental and vocal music, but recommended dampening the resonance for amplified presentations. Acoustical banners, made of three layers of theatrical velour, can be electronically lowered over the sidewalls of the theater, Senior Project Manager Gary Bossé said.

A pierced screen above the orchestra pit hides the theater organ. Ornate plaster grillwork in the ceiling accounts for the acoustical effects. And unique in Westlake's experience of 75 historic American theaters, a pair of 28-foot-high grottos flanks the proscenium. Within each is a sculpted mountain scene with a working waterfall -- painted plaster kitsch from one perspective or, perhaps, a knowing nod to the theater's namesake, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, credited as the first European to see the Pacific.

The view from the Balboa's balcony (top) takes in the theater's twin waterfalls. Retractable acoustical banners (above) help fine-tune the house's sound.
One of five Wonder Morton Organs made in 1928 and 1929 was installed in the Loew's Valencia Theatre in New York. This photo was taken in the 1960s, before the organ was dismantled and stored. It is being restored for the Balboa Theatre in San Diego.

Midnight Insanity celebrates 20 years

MONEY and fame do not automatically bestow respectability. But anniversaries might. Just ask Mark Tomaino.

The 46-year-old theater producer witnessed camp movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" grow from an obscure, fringe obsession to material worthy of none other than the grand marquee of the Hollywood Bowl.

Tomaino led his Rocky Horror theater troupe, the Long Beach-based Midnight Insanity, to perform at the bowl at the 30th anniversary of "Rocky Horror" in 2005. Now another big anniversary looms on Midnight Insanity's horizon.

It will celebrate 20 years, or more than 1,121 weekly performances, of mouthing the smart-alecky double-entendres of "Rocky Horror" songs such as "Sweet Transvestite" and "Dammit Janet" -- all with the male and female actors performing in fishnet stockings. The anniversary transports this Long Beach troupe a long way from its beginnings at creaky Orange County cinemas. On Jan. 19, members performed at the elegant Royal Theater on the Queen Mary.

(By -- Andrew Asch)

A Dance of Memory and Hope

Born in Vietnam and trained in Paris, choreographer/performer Ea Sola creates vital contemporary works grounded in the traditional culture, music, dance, and history of Vietnam. With twelve livewire dancers from the National Ballet of Vietnam and a traditional Vietnamese music ensemble performing new music, Drought and Rain Vol. 2 is a reflection on the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of the next generation. “The young person carries the memories of the old warriors…peace belongs to them when they take the responsibility…” (Ea Sola) Drought and Rain Vol. 2 recently received its U.S. premiere in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fawlty Towers Was Inspired Comedy

Fawlty Towers is one of the best-known, and most-loved, series from the halcyon days of British comedy—the 1970s.

It starred John Cleese as irascible Torquay hotel owner Basil Fawlty, and Prunella Scales as his domineering wife Sybil—his “little nest of vipers”. Connie Booth played Polly the dependable maid and general assistant, and last but certainly not least, little Manuel superbly played by Andrew Sachs—the tyrannized waiter from Barcelona, dogsbody and subject of frequent physical attacks by the demented Basil! Terry the Chef, played by Brian Hall, was employed for the second series.

The other regular guests were the slightly senile Major Gowen (retired), and the hard of hearing old dears Miss Tibbs & Miss Gatsby.

"The Viking of 6th Avenue"

Moondog was the pseudonym of Louis Thomas Hardin (May 26, 1916 – September 8, 1999), a blind American composer, musician, cosmologist, poet, and inventor of several musical instruments. Although these achievements would have been considered extraordinary for any blind person, Moondog further removed himself from society through his decision to make his home on the streets of New York for approximately twenty of the thirty years he spent in the city. Only in the final decades of Moondog's life did the public begin to appreciate the extent of this man's talents, primarily because of his stubborn refusal to wear anything other than his own home-made clothes, all based on his own interpretation of the Norse god Thor. Indeed, he was known for much of his life as 'The Viking of 6th Avenue'.

The plan is to transform Los Angeles

Sonny Astani walked into a Westwood movie theater in 1985 and saw the film that changed his life: "Blade Runner," the science-fiction tale that imagined a dystopian Los Angeles where jet-powered cars zoom past skyscrapers covered with enormous, cinematic advertisements.

Decades later, the Iranian-born businessman is determined to bring some of those futuristic images to life. His plan? Attach an animated sign 14-stories tall on the 33-story condominium project he is building in downtown L.A.

The proposed sign would loom 12 stories above the sidewalk at 9th and Figueroa streets, facing the 110 Freeway. And city planners say it would represent a first in the city's residential architecture -- a sheet of light-emitting screens spaced close enough to form a vast electronic image, yet far enough apart to allow occupants to look outside.

"My intent is to do something so unique that people will drive downtown to see it," said Astani, who moved to the United States in 1976. "It will make the building famous for the people who live there."

Astani's proposal is only the latest controversial effort to bring massive advertising and colorful light shows to the neighborhood anchored by Staples Center and L.A. Live, the hotel and entertainment complex that includes the recently opened Nokia Theatre (shown above).

Civic boosters promised two years ago that L.A. Live would transform Figueroa's entertainment district into Times Square West -- a California counterpart to the bright lights and in-your-face advertising seen at Broadway and 42nd Street in Manhattan.
An artist rendering showing a development called Concerto being built by Astani at 9th and Figueroa.

(By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer)

Gold Standard: 1927 Yankees

Their name evokes an image that has become shorthand for head-shaking, awe-inspiring dominance, dropped into press box and sports bar conversations 80 years after they pummeled their last opponent. The 1927 New York Yankees are the standard by which all baseball teams are measured, even by those that have eclipsed some of the club's achievements. With 116 victories in 2001, the Seattle Mariners won a half-dozen more games than the '27 Yankees, but no one refers to the '01 Ms (failed to win the pennant) in hushed, reverent tones.

The '27 Yankees made their mark with offensive exploits that seemed otherworldly at the time, their reputation driven by two of the game's most legendary larger-than-life figures, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927, breaking his major league record of 59, set in 1921. He also had 164 runs batted in, a staggering total, except for one thing: It ranked only second on his own team. Gehrig finished the 1927 season with 175 RBIs, a .373 batting average (Ruth hit .356) and 47 home runs. That year, the American League most-valuable-player award went to Gehrig, not Ruth.

Joining them in the Yankees' "Murderers' Row" batting order were second baseman Tony Lazzeri (.309, 102 RBIs) and outfielder Earle Combs (.356), both future Hall of Famers.

Playing a 154-game schedule, the Yankees were the first team in baseball history to occupy first place every day of the season, finishing with a record of 110-44 and a winning percentage that would hint at Ruth's eventual career home-run total: .714.

(Christine Daniels, L. A. Times)

Frank Lloyd Wright's La Miniatura

Frank Lloyd Wright had a radical idea for low-cost construction when Alice Millard, a rare book dealer and antiques collector, commissioned him to design a house in Pasadena.

He would use concrete blocks, "the cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world," the architect wrote in his autobiography. "Why not see what could be done with that gutter-rat?"

On Saturday, 1,000 architecture buffs got a view of what could be done during a rare tour of La Miniatura, the flawed jewel of a structure Wright built for Millard in 1923. The event, the first public opening of the house since 1992, was sponsored by Friends of the Gamble House.

Andy Brokenshire, a self-proclaimed "huge fan" of Wright, flew five hours from Toronto to tour the house, which is in the midst of a years-long restoration.

"His stuff is just magnificent," said Brokenshire, who works in advertising. "I remember as a kid seeing this house in a book. It's wild to think that I'm actually going into it."

United Arab Emirates' Dubai -- Just Like L. A.

Traffic flows in Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf. Dubai, a glittering capital of consumerism, has opened its Shopping Festival, which attracts millions of people every year to its spectacular malls and shops.
(Charles Crowell / Bloomberg News)
The opulent, towering lobby of the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.
(Jumeirah Group)
Visitors to the Mall of the Emirates take a break from shopping at a cocktail lounge-restaurant with a view of Ski Dubai, a mall attraction that offers an indoor ski slope.
(Charles Crowell / Bloomberg News)

Throwing the Bull or Whatever ???

Greg Potter of Queensland, Australia, is thrown off of Big Bucks in the championship round during the 2005 Professional Bull Riders Frito Lay Scoops Invitational at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Limbo Craze

WASHINGTON — President Bush's approval rating has slumped to 31% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, the lowest of his presidency and a warning sign for Republicans in the November elections. The survey of 1,013 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, shows Bush's standing down by 3 percentage points in a single week. His disapproval rating also reached a record: 65%. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

"It is a challenging political environment," acknowledges Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, "but we are confident that ultimately voters in November will recognize that a Democrat Congress would simply not be equipped to ensure either economic or national security for our nation."

Bush's fall is being fueled by erosion among support from conservatives and Republicans. In the poll, 52% of conservatives and 68% of Republicans approved of the job he is doing. Both are record lows among those groups.

Moderates gave him an approval rating of 28%, liberals of 7%.

"You hear people say he has a hard core that will never desert him, and that has been the case for most of the administration," says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin who studies presidential approval ratings. "But for the last few months, we started to see that hard core seriously erode in support."

Only four presidents have scored lower approval ratings since the Gallup Poll began regularly measuring it in the mid-1940s: Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the first George Bush. When Nixon, Carter and the elder Bush sank below 35%, they never again registered above 40%.

Truman twice sank into the low 30s and then rose into the 60s, but the third time his rating fell, it stayed below 40% as well.

"Historically it's been pretty devastating to presidents at this level," Franklin says. Even Republican members of Congress are "now so worried about their electoral fortunes in November that he has less leverage with them than he normally would with his own party controlling Congress."

(By Susan Page, USA TODAY)


Good news for Rush-haters.

Not only has the controversial conservative radio talk-show host got a sore throat, but he's anguishing over the inadequacy of the current field of Republican presidential candidates.

Finally, he'd had enough of these impure candidates and all these questions about his endorsement, and he just blurted out to Jim in Kansas City and a few million others listening in: "I can see possibly not supporting a Republican nominee."


Across the country, people were dropping their coffee cups, choking on sandwiches, fainting and driving off the road. The king of conservative talk radio not supporting the Republican nominee? "And I never thought that I would say that in my life. This stuff is very tough."

No kidding. It's tough enough just listening to him. "You don't have a genuine down-the-list conservative," he noted. So, he advised, a Republican voter must look at "variables."

For example, Rush said: "It's easier for me to support a Romney than a McCain, for example. Because I believe his conversion is genuine. And he's not lying about his past positions. He's not trying to tell people they're wrong when they assess his past positions. He explains why he changed his mind."

Finally, Rush was running out of time. "I'm telling ya," he said, "it's gonna come down to which guy do we dislike the least. And that's not necessarily good."


Saturday, January 26, 2008

"I climb it because it's there."

A man climbs up a frozen artificial waterfall in the Swiss mountain resort of Pontresina.

$200,000 will send you up 60,000 feet into outer space

NEW YORK - Future passengers aboard Virgin Galactic spaceliners can look forward to cushioned reclining seats and lots of windows during suborbital flights aboard SpaceShipTwo, a concept interior of which was unveiled by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

The air-launched SpaceShipTwo is designed to seat eight people - six passengers and two pilots - and be hauled into launch position by WhiteKnightTwo, a massive carrier craft currently under construction by Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn said.

For an initial ticket price of $200,000, Virgin Galactic passengers will buy a 2.5-hour flight aboard SpaceShipTwo and launch from an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18,288 meters), while buckled safely in seats that recline flat after reaching suborbital space. A flight animation depicted passengers clad in their own personal spacesuits as they reached a maximum altitude of at least 68 miles (110 kilometers).

While the spacesuit designs are not yet final, they will likely be equipped with personal data and image recorders to add to SpaceShipTwo's in-cabin cameras, Whitehorn said.

"If it was ready next week, I'd be there," Alan Watts, who has traded in two million Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer miles for a ride on SpaceShipTwo, told "I'm really looking forward to it."
I forgot why I posted this picture.

There's a lot to like about Santa Barbara

Shoreline Park, in foreground at left, is a well-manicured coastal park in Santa Barbara, California where families can enjoy a picnic while scanning the ocean surface for whale spouts. The 15-acre park is high on a bluff, overlooking the beach and harbor, with a whale tail-shaped bench located near the cliff's edge -- a perfect spot for whale watchers.
(Spencer Weiner, Los Angeles Times)

Here's one for the "poor unfortunate victim" file

DENVER -- Scott Anthony Gomez Jr. made his first break from the Pueblo County Jail two years ago.

He pushed up a ceiling tile, hoisted himself into the ventilation system and climbed until he reached a roof. Then he shinnied down the wall on bedsheets fashioned into a rope. Caught two days later, he was back in his cell.

The next time, Gomez again pried loose a ceiling tile and vanished into the guts of the building. But as he tried to rappel on bedsheets down the side of the 85-foot building, he fell.

Now the would-be Houdini is suing the sheriff of the southern Colorado county, saying authorities caused his injuries by making it too easy to fly the coop. "Defendants . . . did next to nothing to ensure that the jail was secure and the plaintiff could not escape," says Gomez's lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money.

Filed this month in federal court in Denver, the case has attracted attention statewide and on the Internet, mostly from people chuckling and fuming at Gomez's legal efforts.

"It doesn't pass the straight-face test," said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor, who took office one day before Gomez's second escape one year ago. "He is the criminal here, not the sheriff. He is the one who committed the crime."

No, the prison below is not the one Gomez escaped from.

When you think of a prison, the first thing comes to your mind is stoned walls and a huge gate with armed watch towers. That’s not the case in Leoben Justice Centre, Steiermark, Austria. In fact here you can find the world’s best looking prison, which houses a complex of courts, offices of Judges, and prison.
Unlike prisons we see in movies and documentaries, this one looks to be better than dorms of many universities