Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's always fun to visit a couple of old friends

Calvin and Hobbes


(Photo taken in Ocean Park, CA by mabut)

"Impossible Perspective"

(Photo taken in Los Angeles by Asier Ibañez)

Talk about traffic jams and gridlock ????

Thousands of birds -- mostly Caspian terns -- take flight at dusk in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

The Ferris Wheel -- Still a Favorite

(Photo from the recently held Orange County Fair)

Nice Shot of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate

(Photo by frankinho on Flickr)

Eye-Catching Excitement

On September 4-7 in Bismarck, N.D. the 39th annual United Tribes International Powwow will showcase more than 1,500 dancers and drummers from 70 tribes.

The Spectacular Art of Jiang Zhi

Conceptual Photographer and Artist Jiang Zhi's Rainbow N.2, 2006

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Aston Martin Rapide

Prediction: The Aston Martin Rapide will make the competition – the Porsche Panamera, also due in 2009 – look like used strudel. The Rapide, based on the guts and innards of the DB9, is stunning, flashier than the tinfoil tassels on a burlesque dancer. The Panamera, um, isn’t.

Honda's Mystery Hybrid ?????

We don’t know what to call it; we don’t know what it looks like. But we do know that Honda has said “Prius-Schmius” and will field a cheap, high-mileage hybrid that will seat four or five and cost less that Toyota’s beloved eco-dumpling. Honda will also field a zippier hybrid based on its CR-Z (pictured) and, in 2010, a Hybrid Fit.

Bay Breasted Warbler
Swainson Thrush
Painted Redstart

Emerging Architect

Xu Tiantian is founding principal of DnA Design and Architecture, an interdisciplinary practice of city planning, urban design, and architectural design based in Beijing and Issaquah, WA. The office’s projects address “new relationships between architecture and urbanism in contemporary culture” particularly in the “interaction of program and context.” Recent projects include the Ordos Art Museum, Inner Mongolia; Xiaopu Culture Center, Beijing; Songzhuang Art Centre; Jinhua Architecture Park Public Toilet; public activity centers in Baixi Resort, Changbai Mountain; and private residences in Tokyo and Seattle.
Xu received her B.Arch from Tsinghua University in Beijing and her MAUD from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. She has taught at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) School of Architecture in Beijing and has been a guest critic at numerous schools including Peking University and Tokyo Chiba Institute of Technology. Shown above is her proposal for a visitors' center in Baixi.

Chinese architect thrives on innovation

Above, Pei Zhu’s proposal for the Art Museum of Yue Minjun resembles a river stone.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Civil War Re-Enactment

Visit Huntington Beach and tour large scale Confederate and Union encampments as more than 200 re-enactors stage famous battles of the Civil War. The two-day event includes live canon and weapon demonstrations, actors in full costume, food vendors and a Civil War-era band.

On Saturday the first battle will be at 1:30 p.m. and the second at 4 p.m. Sunday features a church service at 9 a.m. then a battle at 11 a.m. and another one at 2 p.m. Admission is free.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Amid the rubble -- double trouble

A Barack Obama lookalike has been turning heads in Denver but Gerardo Puisseaux is in actual fact a Cuban immigrant from Miami.

Puisseaux was a construction worker until six weeks ago when he was hired by Spanish-language news channel America TeVe (

In his new guise as a budding television star, Puisseaux goes wherever Obama goes, causing confusion all round.

"Sometimes I get tired because everybody stopping me, a lot of questions, sometimes political questions," he told The Rocky Mountain News.

"I am not Obama."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Little League . . . Big Effort

Tokyo Japan's Takumi Ozeki pitches to Lake Charles, Louisiana in the consolation game of the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania August 24, 2008.


An automobile that emits virtually nothing but water vapor

BMW claims "Our long-term EfficientDynamics strategy can be summed up with one vehicle: the BMW Hydrogen 7. As the world's first luxury performance sedan with hydrogen drive, it runs on the most plentiful element in the world and emits virtually nothing but water vapor. And because the infrastructure for refueling a hydrogen internal combustion engine is not yet complete, the V-12 engine also runs on gasoline at the push of a button, though emissions will result. But all it takes is the power of the Hydrogen 7's 12-cylinder, 260 horsepower engine to prove the capability of our EfficientDynamics. The BMW Hydrogen 7 is not available for purchase at this time, but is considered to be a milestone in bringing forward hydrogen as the sustainable fuel for individual transportation."

"On a global level, hydrogen technology addresses the growing gaps in the supply of fossil fuels. More specifically, it is the only fuel that can allow for a reduction in the overall emission cycle, while meeting our energy needs in a sustainable way. Besides, not many fuels can be produced from renewable sources such as sun, wind, water and biomass."

Save Our State Parks Campaign

In response to the Governor's January 10 proposal to close 48 state parks and reduce lifeguard staffing on 16 state beaches, the Foundation quickly developed a statewide campaign to generate attention about the proposal and mobilize Californians to oppose the draconian measure. To see how you can help keep State Parks front and center in our legislator's minds when they are crafting California's budget, click on the link below:

"The Lost Spy" by Andrew Meier

ON THE night of Feb. 20, 1939, three Soviet secret policemen knocked on a door at the Hotel Moskva in the Russian capital, asked to see the (fake) passport of its occupant, gave him a few minutes to gather some belongings and whisked him away to the notorious Lubyanka prison. Charged with espionage, he was questioned for almost a year before being sentenced to eight years in Norilsk, a mining center hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle and one of the bleakest islands in the Gulag Archipelago.

So far, so routine. Something like this occurred to millions of Russians during Stalin's paranoid regime. But this arrestee was different. He was an American citizen named Isaiah Oggins. And he was not spying for his native land. Since the 1920s, he had been a Russian spy, working in several countries, including his own. Andrew Meier's "The Lost Spy," a biography of Oggins, is, necessarily, a little vague on those matters. Putting it mildly, it is not in the nature of a secret agent's work to leave an easily documented record of his clandestine activities.

Nevertheless, "The Lost Spy" is utterly fascinating, a sad and sinuous study of true belief carried beyond all reason by a man who committed himself to the labyrinthine way without once, so far as Meier can determine, openly discussing what motivated him or offering an ideological rationale. That makes him, in some sense, a perfect spy, a guy who took his secrets with him to his unmarked grave.

From the John Kobal photography collection

Katharine Hepburn, by Ernest Bachrach, in 1935. "What was unique about Hollywood photography is that the stars would work with the same photographers over and over again," Kobal Foundation Chairman Simon Crocker said. "There was a trust. They knew that the studio's only job was to make them look fabulous."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Richard Ehrlich photographs an archive of Holocaust cruelty"

FOURTEEN months ago, Richard Ehrlich left his office at the UCLA Medical Center, flew to Berlin and rented the best digital camera available. With the 39-megapixel Hasselblad safely stowed, he drove about 250 miles to the small town of Bad Arolsen and found his way to the International Tracing Service.

Ehrlich, a veteran urological surgeon with a second career in photography, had pulled plenty of strings to take pictures in the sprawling, six-building complex. But what he found was beyond comprehension: 50 million documents of Nazi atrocities in the world's largest Holocaust archive.

The vast repository would become the subject of hundreds of photographs, shot over seven intensely focused days and winnowed to a 54-image portfolio. He started in June 2007 and returned in September, taking long views of the storage system and close-ups of individual items, including Oskar Schindler's list of people who escaped death by working in his factory, a pile of snapshots confiscated from prisoners, badges that Jews were forced to wear, the order that sent Anne Frank to Bergen Belsen, where she died in 1945.

If the records and artifacts were placed side by side, Ehrlich says, they would form a 16-mile path into the minds and practices of Adolf Hitler's followers, who attempted to eradicate Jews and others deemed defective or undesirable. The materials -- divided into sections on incarceration, forced labor and migration -- are stored on shelves and in cabinets, arranged in neat rows in a former military facility.

Orderliness -- "the banality of evil," as Ehrlich calls it, quoting author Hannah Arendt -- is part of the story.

"Taking a Break"

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which whisks visitors 2 ½ miles up Chino Canyon, north of the city, will close Sept. 8, 2008, for annual maintenance. It is scheduled to reopen Sept. 27, although visitors should call ahead to be sure. For Labor Day weekend, the tram begins running at 8 a.m. daily, and the last tram from the top leaves at 9:45 p.m. Tickets cost $22.25 for adults and $15.25 for children 3 to 12. Info: (760) 325-1391.

Hotel with a past . . .

This is what the Willard, now the Willard InterContinental, looks like today. The term "lobbyist" was coined here.
(Willard InterContinental)

The Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., circa 1900s, sits at Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th St. NW.
(Willard InterContinental)

Lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in the 1900s.
(Willard InterContinental)

The modern-day look of the Willard Hotel's lobby.
(Willard InterContinental)

1952 was a long time ago

Republican nominees for president and vice-president (respectively) Dwight D. Eisenhower, left, and California Sen. Richard Nixon share a laugh at Chicago's Blackstone Hotel on July 12, 1952.
(Associated Press)

Foshay Tower Caught in the Middle

The Art Deco Foshay Tower, once the tallest building in Minneapolis, is now dwarfed by neighboring skyscrapers. After a major renovation, the Foshay has been reborn as a luxury hotel — the W Minneapolis.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Mary Tyler Moore Immortalized

Who can turn the world on with her smile? Mary Tyler Moore in bronze. Her famous hat toss — as seen in the intro to her 1970s TV show — is immortalized in downtown Minneapolis. The Republican convention is set to begin, but for visitors of any political stripe, Minnesota’s fraternal twins — Minneapolis and St. Paul — have much to offer.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

La Miniatura

Frank Lloyd Wright's Millard House, also known as La Miniatura, is considered one of the best examples of the famed architect's textile-block designs. Situated in a tree-covered ravine overlooking a pond, it features an open floor plan and more vertical lines than typical Wright designs.

Did you ever wonder ???

HOW CAN we explain the incompetence, the scandals, the corruption, the waste, the giveaways, the bridges to nowhere and the no-bid contracts in Washington, D.C., today? "Fantastic misgovernment of the kind we have seen is not an accident," Thomas Frank writes in "The Wrecking Crew," "nor is it the work of a few bad individuals." Those who run our government "have not done these awful things because they are bad conservatives; they have done them because they are good conservatives." They want government to fail, he argues, because that gives them a stronger argument for cutting regulations and taxes that reduce corporate profits. Some may see this as a powerful argument for electing Democrats this November.

All things come to an end

Fireworks explode during the closing ceremony in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 24, 2008. The stadium is also known as the Bird's Nest.
REUTERS/Eric Gaillard (CHINA)

"The Fabled California Zephyr"

California Zephyr Railcar Charters owns and Operates Three Historic Passenger Cars. The Silver Lariat, Silver Rapids, and Silver Solarium, were built for the fabled California Zephyr, and were in continuous service from 1948 to 1981. They were purchased from Amtrak in 1985, and upgraded to modern Amtrak standards. These cars are capable of traveling most anywhere in North America, primarily on Amtrak trains or special trains.

Patagonia's Grey Glacier

Grey Glacier, Patagonia, Chile

Grey Glacier is part of Torres del Paine National Park, which also is home to those jagged peaks you see on the Patagonia clothing logo. The whole area is South America's answer to Alaska -- vast spaces, dramatic seasons, looming mountains, exotic creatures, enormous quantities of ice and water.

A "Solar-Powered" Dream"

BEIJING -- It has the wingspan of a commercial airliner, the weight of an automobile and solar panels to provide enough electricity to light a very large Christmas tree. If this strange contraption actually flies, for some it will be as great a feat as anything achieved at the 2008 Olympics.

Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss psychiatrist best known for his 1999 trip around the world in a balloon, is trying to repeat the journey in a solar-powered airplane.

In 1981, U.S. engineer Paul MacCready flew a solar-powered airplane across the English Channel and inventors have been tinkering with the technology ever since. But previous models of solar planes could fly only by day. Piccard and partner Andre Borschberg are developing a prototype at a former military base in Dubendorf, Switzerland. Its wings, which span about 198 feet, are covered with photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. At night, the plane will run on excess electricity stored in batteries. The engineering challenge is to generate enough power to fly the plane and charge the batteries and to keep the weight under 3,500 pounds, about the same as a mid-size car.

Piccard and Borschberg hope to conduct a test run of the single-pilot plane in the spring and by 2011 have a slightly larger two-pilot version to fly around the world.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Flipping Around"

Carl Edwards executes a celebratory flip after winning the3M Performance 400 last Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

A Los Angeles "Classic"

When it comes to classic Los Angeles roadside attractions, few can top the smiling boy in the red checkered overalls hoisting a towering burger above his shoulder.

Aficionados of Bob's Big Boy hamburger chain have been mourning the beloved outpost on Wilshire Boulevard near La Brea Avenue. The Big Boy on Wilshire (above)closed at the end of July and is now more than 80% demolished, said Chris Nichols, chairman emeritus of the Modern Committee of the Los Angeles Conservancy and author of a book on Wayne McAllister, who designed many well-known Big Boy coffee shops.

"Is it possible that Mickey Mouse now belongs to the world ???"

Brand experts reckon his value to today's Walt Disney Co. empire at more than $3 billion. Acts of Congress have extended Mickey's copyright so long that they provoked a Supreme Court challenge, making Mickey the ultimate symbol of intellectual property.

All signs pointed to a Hollywood ending with Disney and Mickey Mouse living happily ever after -- at least until a grumpy former employee looked closely at fine print long forgotten in company archives.

Film credits from the 1920s revealed imprecision in copyright claims that some experts say could invalidate Disney's long-held copyright, though a Disney lawyer dismissed that idea as "frivolous."

Although studio executives are not yet hurling themselves from the parapets of Sleeping Beauty's castle, the unexpected discovery raises an intriguing question: Is it possible that Mickey Mouse now belongs to the world -- and that his likeness is usable by anybody for anything?

Sheraton Gateway Hotel sold for $97 million

The Sheraton Gateway Hotel outside Los Angeles International Airport has been sold by Los Angeles real estate developer Kor Hotel Group to a Chicago-area investor for $97 million, a real estate brokerage said Thursday.

The recently renovated hotel with 802 guest rooms on West Century Boulevard has been acquired by Harp Group, according to brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, which represented the seller.

"The LAX hotel market has performed extremely well in recent years with occupancies for the major hotels topping 80%," said John Strauss, an executive vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle. Room rates have been rising over the last five years.

It was the third-largest hotel sale in Los Angeles County this year. The Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena -- formerly a Ritz-Carlton -- sold for $165 million, and the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City was acquired for $366.5 million.

Kienholz -- still controversial

In 1966, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art put up a retrospective exhibition of Ed Kienholz's work, the County Board of Supervisors threatened to shut it down.

The artist was a local hero, known for wrestling with tough social issues through gritty assemblages of cast-off objects. None of his art conformed to conventional standards of beauty, but the supervisors deemed one piece particularly offensive, even pornographic. “Back Seat Dodge ’38,” a sculpture of a drunken sexual encounter, had to go.

It didn't. Instead the show became a succès de scandale. But 15 years later, when the museum bought "Dodge," some members of a support group that contributed to the purchase resigned in protest.

This year, when an effort to buy another troublesome Kienholz gathered force, fundraisers had reason to worry. "The Illegal Operation," an indictment of back-street abortion, would appear to be a much harder sell.

So it came as quite a surprise when the mission was recently accomplished without ruffling feathers. Though the museum won't disclose how much it paid, sources close to the fundraising effort say the price was about $1 million. A coalition of 16 donors provided funds to buy it from its longtime Los Angeles owner, the Betty and Monte Factor Collection. The new acquisition will go on view in February at LACMA -- after returning from an exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

"Walking With Dinosaurs"

WHEN THE angry, life-size mama T. rex came roaring through a curtain to defend its young during the St. Paul, Minn., run of "Walking With Dinosaurs — the Live Experience," Kristi Curry Rogers momentarily stopped thinking like a professor and responded like a protective mom herself.

"I have a 5-year-old daughter, and at that moment I thought, 'I'm really glad she didn't come with me,' " said the dinosaur expert from Macalester College in St. Paul, who was there to apply the cool eye of science to one of America's hottest entertainment tours. "The adults gasped, and almost all the young children started crying."

Since last summer, what's likely the BIGGEST cast ever to command a spotlight has roamed America's arenas, to the accompaniment of smoke, sound, light effects and dramatic music -- and a fact-filled narration by an actor-ringmaster playing the part of a paleontologist.

The 42-foot-long T. rex and nine mobile giant dinosaurs made their Southern California debut with 10 performances scheduled at the Honda Center in Anaheim and a seven-show Staples Center engagement runs Sept. 25 to 28. At the controls are a driver at the bottom of each creature, and two-member teams of high-tech puppeteers stationed in a booth high above the floor. Five smaller carnivores that round out the cast are inhabited by realistically dinosaur-suited actors who have no intention of being confused with Barney.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Laugh a lot at "Spamalot"

Broadway fare seems to have trouble succeeding in Las Vegas; however, not "Spamalot" at Wynn . The show, which is a slapstick adaptation of the cult-classic film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," is all about the laughs. The story line loosely follows King Arthur and his knights as they search for the Holy Grail.

The cast with John O'Hurley playing the lead role of King Arthur and Nikki Crawford as The Lady of the Lake is rock solid poking outrageous fun at everything. "Spamalot" features a chorus line of dancing divas and knights, flatulent Frenchmen, a killer rabbit and the only legless knight on the Strip, which is an example of how ridiculous the show can be. To everyone's delight, many references in the show have been staged and written about Las Vegas. The show's closing song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" epitomizes what Las Vegas is all about... fun and frivolity.

Oui . . . Montreal tops in new Monopoly game

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (AP) — Bye bye, Boardwalk. The Quebec metropolis of Montreal snagged the most expensive spot on a new global version of Monopoly, unseating the Atlantic City fixture as the board game's most prestigious property.

Montreal will be joined by the Latvian capital Riga, which grabbed the game's No. 2 Park Place spot, and 20 other world cities when Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition goes on sale later this month. Other cities featured include Cape Town, Jerusalem, London, Paris, New York, Rome and Taipei.

The latest version of the board game will be printed in 37 languages and sold in 50 countries, toy maker Hasbro Inc. said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards will highlight global cultural fare, from Brazil's Carnival celebration to Ireland's St. Patrick's Day festival.

Created with Atlantic City street names in 1935 by Charles Darrow, more than a dozen versions of the game that allows players to become pretend real estate moguls are sold today.

Hasbro said nearly 6 million votes were cast during an online contest to name the cities featured on the global edition of the game.

Monopoly Here & Now will be available Aug. 26.