Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Who was that masked man?"

Two of the biggest special-effects films of 2011 are "The Green Hornet" (January 14) and "Green Lantern" (June 17). While both movies are based on venerable properties (the title heroes date back to the Roosevelt administration), average moviegoers may have trouble keeping them straight. They'll be asking that old question: "Who was that masked man?"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System launches its first F/A-18E Super Hornet on Saturday Dec. 18 at Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, N.J

A railgun is designed to fire bullets without using explosive charges, relying on the repulsive force of electromagnetism instead. And the Navy has found a way to use that power to propel jet planes, too.

In a test conducted December 18 at a test site in Lakehurst, N.J., Naval Air Systems Command launched an F/A-18E Super Hornet using the power of electromagnets -- a technology the Navy hopes will eventually replace the archaic-sounding steam power currently used to catapult planes from the decks of aircraft carriers.

“I thought the launch went great,” said Lt. Daniel Radocaj, the test pilot from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 who piloted the first plane propelled by the new technology, which the Navy has named Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS.

“I got excited once I was on the catapult, but I went through the same procedures as on a steam catapult. The catapult stroke felt similar to a steam catapult and EMALS met all of the expectations I had.”

Newer, heavier and faster aircraft will require more force to catapult from the carrier decks than steam-powered systems can supply. Electromagnets will be able to deliver, and allow for smooth acceleration at both high and low speeds, increasing the carrier’s ability to launch aircraft, the Navy said in a press release.

The technology was first tested out by the Navy in 2004 with a full-scale, half-length prototype, where more than 1,500 launches were conducted. The EMALS will be a key element on the next-generation carrier U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford. Had this newest test failed, Wired's Danger Room pointed out, the Ford would have to be re-designed to include steam catapults.

The Navy made headlines at the beginning of the month by testing a new weapon also based on railgun technology, which used electromagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.

The result: a weapon that can hit a target 100 miles or more away within minutes.

An electromagnetic railgun offers a velocity previously unattainable in a conventional weapon, speeds that are incredibly powerful on their own. In fact, since the projectile doesn't have any explosives itself, it relies upon that kinetic energy to do damage. And at 11 a.m. today, the Navy produced a 33-megajoule firing -- more than three times the previous record set by the Navy in 2008.

U.S. Navy / Kelly Schindler

Blizzard Slams East Coast

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 27: Snow falls in the early morning hours in Manhattan's East Village December 27, 2010 in New York City. A winter storm is pounding the East Coast of the United States and is expected to deliver a foot of snow for New York City and New England while snarling post-Christmas travel.

"Over the River"

They've got trouble right here along the banks of the Arkansas River.

It all has to do with the artist Christo, whose lavish and iconoclastic installations invariably create controversy wherever unfurled. And in this postcard-pretty corner of Colorado, about 115 miles south of Denver, renowned for fly fishing, whitewater rafting and the vertigo-inducing Royal Gorge suspension bridge, it is no different.

For 18 years the artist has had his sights on a stretch of river that runs through Big Horn Sheep Canyon between Canon City and Salida for a project he calls "Over the River." The proposed installation would suspend translucent panels of fabric over 5.9 miles of the river in staggered intervals, visible from U.S. Highway 50 and by rafters floating underneath.

It would be the latest installation by the man who wrapped Berlin's Reichstag building in fabric and erected 1,760 giant yellow umbrellas in California's Tejon Pass.

If approved, "Over the River" would open in summer 2014 for two weeks. It would take two years to build and cost at least $50 million (Christo says he is already in for $7 million). The Bureau of Land Management is expected to decide the project's fate in the spring.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"helping motorists find vacant parking spots"

The often tedious hunt for a parking place soon might become less irritating in at least one part of Los Angeles.

At City Hall on Wednesday, officials unveiled an iPhone application — the first of its type — to help motorists find vacant parking spots in Hollywood, one of the most-visited places in the world.

For an introductory price of $1.99, drivers will be able see which streets have open spots, as well as blocks that are closest to them with the most vacant spaces.

The "Parker" application delivers information about parking-space time limits, pricing and whether meters take credit cards or coins. It also directs motorists to the nearest public or private parking lots and garages as an alternative to street parking.

"The most expensive show ever to reach Broadway"

The most expensive show ever to reach Broadway, " Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" has been plagued with bad press ever since taking off. From the numerous delays to reports of injured performers, the musical -- which stars Reeve Carney, above, as Peter Parker -- is struggling on nearly every front. Previews finally began in late November, with an official opening now set for Jan. 11.

>( Bruce Glikas, Associated Press )

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sea gulls are the only flying objects seen during a hushed sunrise on Cocoa Beach, Fla.

(Stefano Paltera / For The Los Angeles Times)

"Lunar Eclipses provide "rare views"

A view of the 2008 lunar eclipse over Griffith Park Observatory.

(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

"Get in line !"

The rangers at California's Yosemite National Park, who last summer moved to reduce crowding and mishaps on the cables near the top of Half Dome by requiring hikers to reserve weekend permits, have decided to make those permits an everyday requirement.

The Half Dome cables are generally in place from mid-May through mid-October, depending on the weather. The first permits will be available at 7 a.m. March 1 for climbing the cables in May and June.

The permits – which are expected to sell out rapidly – limit foot traffic on the Half Dome Trail to 300 day hikers and 100 backpackers per day, with no same-day permits issued. The permits will be made available three months in advance, at the beginning of each month. So if you want to climb in July, it’s wise to try for a permit reservation on April 1.

Although the National Park Service likes to describe the permits as free, every permit requires a nonrefundable $1.50 “service charge” that goes to the concessionaire that handles the permit.

Park officials said the permit requirement was prompted by the growing popularity of the Half Dome route. Once the park started requiring permits on weekends, the number of weekday hikers increased dramatically, leading to the same safety worries the led to the permit program in the first place.

Before the permit system was put in place, a park service study found that as many as 1,200 hikers per day were hiking near the summit of Half Dome, steadying themselves on the granite rock face by gripping a pair of cables on stanchions for the final 400 feet of ascent. (The Sierra Club placed the cables in 1919.) From 2006 to 2009, four hikers died in falls on or near the cables.

Last summer, once permits were required for hikers on Friday, Saturday, Sundays and holidays, rangers say rescues and accidents on and near the cables dropped noticeably, and there were no deaths.

Moreover, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said, "we noticed a major difference" in how prepared the permit-bearing weekend hikers were, versus the weekday, non-permit hikers. Many of the people without permits, she said, "were still showing up with Tevas on, without enough water, not enough food, or no lights."

Now the same restrictions will cover every day that the cables are up.

Permit reservations can be made at the website or by calling (877) 444-6777. Each climber will be required to have his or her own permit, and up to four permits may be obtained under one reservation.

The Half Dome Trail, a 17-mile round trip, gains 4,400 feet in elevation from the valley floor. Hikers typically take 10 to 12 hours to complete it. Technical rock-climbers are still free to climb without permits, so long as they first summit Half Dome by other means and then descend using the cables.

Above, climbers, using cables, make their way up Half Dome at Yosemite National Park. (Photo by Scott Gediman)

Does Billy the Kid deserve a pardon ??

Nearly 130 years after the death of Henry McCarty, alias William Bonney, but better known as Billy the Kid, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will take some of the final hours of his administration to decide whether to pardon the baby-faced gunslinger.

Richardson will review evidence that in 1881, one of his predecessors promised to pardon Bonney for killing a sheriff in return for his testimony in a murder case. The record suggests that New Mexico territorial Gov. Lew Wallace later reneged on that promise.

Richardson has promised a decision by Dec. 31, his final day in office.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"The Heart of the USS Monitor"

When archaeologists and Navy divers recovered the warship Monitor's steam engine from the Atlantic in 2001, the pioneering Civil War propulsion unit was enshrouded in a thick layer of marine concretion.

Sand, mud and corrosion combined with minerals in the deep waters off Cape Hatteras, N.C., to cloak every feature of Swedish American inventor John Ericsson's ingenious machine, and they continued to envelop the 30-ton artifact after nine years of desalination treatment.

This month, however, conservators at the Mariners' Museum here and its USS Monitor Center drained the 35,000-gallon solution in which the massive engine was submerged and began removing the 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of concretion with hammers, chisels and other hand tools.

Working slowly and carefully to avoid harming the engine's original surface, they stripped off more than two tons of encrustation in their first week of work, gradually revealing the details of a naval milestone that had not been seen since the historic Union ironclad sank in a storm in December 1862.

"This is a technological marvel. It was cutting-edge in its day. But what's really neat is revealing all the wheels, oil cups, valves and other parts that the Monitor's crew used to operate the engine," said conservation project manager Dave Krop.

"If you consider that it spent nearly 139 years underwater, it's in outstanding shape — though some of the wrought iron has seen better days. And there are some copper alloy parts that look brand-new when they're first uncovered — like they just came off the shelf."

Smaller, more compact, yet just as capable as other steam engines of its day, the Monitor's vibrating side-lever engine was the ideal match for Ericsson's revolutionary warship.

Its long, low, horizontal cylinder enabled the engineer to place it below the vessel's waterline as well as behind a thick armor belt — and that well-protected position virtually eliminated the vulnerability associated with the much larger and more easily targeted engines of the day, most of which towered above the deck of a ship.

Ericsson was so confident in his engine's capabilities that he ignored orders to equip the vessel with masts and rigging.

And it astounded Union and Confederate observers with the way it performed in its historic clash with the rebel warship Virginia — also known as the Merrimac — in the March 8, 1862, Battle of Hampton Roads.

"If the turret and the guns were the Monitor's muscle, this steam engine was its heart," said historian Jeff Johnston of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper

Commentary by Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic

If you were looking for symbolic bookends to the year in architecture, you could do worse than to start with the January opening of Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper and finish with the recent run of "In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards," a musical-theater production about controversial plans to build a mammoth Frank Gehry-designed development in Brooklyn.

This was the year we began to make real sense of the fallout from the economic crisis and the boom years that preceded it. The Burj and "In the Footprint," odd as it might sound, were in that sense two sides of the same coin, two cautionary tales about Brobdignagian urban dreams unique to the architecture of the last decade.

Opened with great fanfare on Jan. 4 as the tallest building in the world, the 2,717-foot-high Burj Khalifa, designed by Chicago architect Adrian Smith, acted instantly as a kind of 160-story Rorschach Test. For some critics it was a technical and aesthetic triumph, a productive marriage between broad-shouldered American capability and Dubai's vast ambition. The trouble was that unlike its oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi — or even tiny nearby Qatar, which this month landed soccer's 2022 World Cup — Dubai built its skyline not on petroleum reserves, of which it has few, but literally and metaphorically on sand, attempting to turn speculative growth itself into an economic engine.

The bottom, of course, ultimately fell out of that Ponzi-like strategy. When the Burj Khalifa opened it was almost entirely empty, and it has stayed that way: A report last month revealed that of its 900 condominiums, a staggering 825, or 92%, remain vacant. (Most were sold to real-estate investors who now cannot find tenants.) The Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin and others have pointed out that vacancy is nothing new in the history of super-tall buildings, and of course they're right: the Empire State Building was mocked as the "Empty State Building" when it opened in 1931.

But the Burj is a different architectural animal simply because it's unclear — even now — whether Dubai will in any of our lifetimes figure out a way to fill the massive number of high-rises, gated communities, office parks and other architectural wonders it built over the last decade. ( Manhattan in 1931 was in a deep economic trough, to be sure; but it had many decades of expansive growth in front of it.) Click on the heading above for the complete story.

"Horse Feathers" (1932)

For those who love Marxist comedies — as in the Marx Brothers — their early Paramount films are far funnier and more anarchic than the more staid MGM releases. Here Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo take on the institution of higher education in this wild and crazy farce. Groucho plays Professor Wagstaff, the president of Huxley College, who decides to bolster enrollment by staging a winning football game. Zeppo plays his son, Chico is a bootlegger and ice salesman and Harpo is the dog catcher who is more interested in catching women. The smart, funny script was penned by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and S.J. Perelman, and Ruby also co-wrote the musical numbers that include the classics "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It" and "Everyone Says I Love You."

"It's a Gift" is a real treasure !!!

W. C. Fields, "It's a Gift"(1934) provided much praise for Mr. Muckle and Carl LaFong. They were involved in two of the best gags in what is arguably W.C. Fields' most satisfying comedy. Fields, who helped write the script under the nom de plume of Charles Bogle, plays Harold Bissonette, a small-town shopkeeper who is constantly being beaten down by his family, friends and customers, such as Mr. Muckle (Charles Sellon), a cranky blind man who is hard of hearing and by turns destroys everything in sight at Bissonette's store. Another high point finds Bissonette trying to sleep on the family's porch, where he is harassed by an insurance salesman looking for a man called Carl LaFong. The final scene was shot at Fields' own, new 7-acre estate in Encino.

David Osborne produces music and magic

By Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Las Vegas — The pianist zipped through "Sleigh Ride" in the sumptuous casino lounge, his breezy rendition sailing by gamblers who'd sipped too many whiskey-and-eggnogs.

The jaunty melody competed with beeping and blinging slot machines named Zeus and Stinkin' Rich. One patron nodded off next to a still-smoldering cigarette. Another tried to accompany the piano, tipsily, with a harmonica.

But on this mid-December night, David Osborne endured the quirks of the Bellagio casino's Baccarat Bar with smiling cheer. He knew that on Monday, he was scheduled to play the White House. Again.

The casino pianist, somewhat improbably, is also a presidential pianist. Osborne has helmed White House holiday events during three administrations, briefly glimpsing commanders in chief unscripted and unvarnished.

One president and his wife wanted John Lennon tunes interspersed with Christmas favorites. Another burst into song himself. A vice president even tried to lure the pianist into a policy debate.

For lounge players such as Osborne, the White House is pretty much the ultimate gig. But like a lot of lounge scenes, the patter matters almost as much as the playing. And as in all show business venues, getting there depends a lot on who you know.

Osborne's entree into such a rarified world came through a mix of salesmanship and serendipity — and the help of a U.S. senator and a former president. For the whole story, click on the heading above.

Phil Cavarretta, 1916-2010

Phil Cavarretta, who was the National League's most valuable player in 1945 when he led the Chicago Cubs to their last World Series appearance, died Saturday in Lilburn, Ga. He was 94.

Cavarretta died of complications from a stroke, his son, Phil Cavarretta Jr., told the Associated Press. He also had suffered from leukemia for several years.

Cavarretta, a left-handed-hitting first baseman and outfielder, played 20 seasons with the Cubs from 1934 to 1953 before playing his final 77 games in 1954 and '55 for the cross-town White Sox.

In a statement, the Cubs called Cavarretta "a local hero and a tremendous player." He ranks in the top 10 in most of the team's offensive categories.

Cavarretta led the National League in batting in 1945 with a .355 average as the Cubs won the National League pennant. They lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series and have not won a pennant since.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Designs on Film"

With hundreds of rare photographs, set sketches, and original renderings showcasing films of every era and genre—many shown here for the very first time—author Cathy Whitlock offers movie fans a backstage pass to 100 years of Hollywood’s most memorable film sets. In the vein of Deborah Landis’s Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design, Whitlock’s Designs on Film delivers a fascinating tour through Hollywood’s back lots, including the stories of how numerous movies came to their final on-screen looks—whether by collaboration, conflict, or divine chance. Movie enthusiasts, set designers, and fans of classic and modern Hollywood will thrill for this look behind the scenes of Tinsel Town’s greatest triumphs. The illustration above was for the 1937 film "Lost Horizon."

How to Care for your Poinsettia

Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place in indirect light. Keep the plant from touching cold windows.

Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts from radiators, air registers or open doors and windows.

Ideally poinsettias require temperatures of 60 to 70°F. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life.

Check the soil daily. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer. Water when soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water. Wilted plants will tend to drop bracts sooner.

Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month. Do not fertilize when it is in bloom.

Poinsettias will look nice through the holidays, and for a number of weeks thereafter.

"Who will play Roland Deschain ???"

Director Ron Howard has hinted that the likes of Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman are under consideration for the lead role in his film adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.

The Apollo 13 director, who is heading up the project with producer Brian Frazer and screenplay writer Akiva Goldsman, admits that it will be a difficult task finding the right actor for the role of gunslinger Roland Deschain.

"Sure, [Craig and Jackman] are some names, and on The Dark Tower fansites they're all about Viggo [Mortensen]," Howard told the Los Angeles Times, when asked about the actors he was considering.

Although the project is yet to be given the official greenlight, Universal Pictures and NBC have announced plans to showcase the series as a multimedia project across both film and television.

"We're moving quickly now, as quickly as we can, and I feel challenged in the most exciting ways," Howard added.

The Dark Tower, a series of seven titles which began in 1982, is often thought of as Stephen King's magnum opus, and has spawned both a spin-off game and comic book series.

The first film in the series is currently targeted for a release in 2013.

"a phenomenon that has defied explanation"

The striking rings of Saturn are an anomaly in the solar system. While the rings of other planets are dim and composed of nearly equal parts rock and ice, those of Saturn are much brighter and are more than 95% ice, a phenomenon that has defied explanation — until now.

Using sophisticated new computer calculations, planetary scientist Robin M. Canup of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., has shown how the rings could have been formed by the violent destruction of a moon very similar to Saturn's largest remaining moon, Titan.

Gravitational forces from Saturn could have stripped the moon's icy mantle away, scattering the water to form not only the rings but many of the dozens of smaller moons now orbiting the planet, and sucked its rocky core into the body of the planet, Canup postulated in a report published online by the journal Nature.

Canup's idea "offers an attractive solution to the problem that answers several questions at once," wrote Aurelien Crida of the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis in France and Sebastien Charnoz of Paris Diderot University in an editorial accompanying the paper. The model, they said, "offers, for the first time, a convincing starting point for a consistent theory of the origin of Saturn's rings and satellites."

Planetary scientist Matthew M. Hedman of Cornell University, who was not involved in the research, added, "This makes sense, given what we know about the rings and the history of the outer solar system. It's a fairly complete story of what might have happened."

Southland Fall Colors

It takes a hard heart not to swoon when the liquidambars that line so many streets in greater Los Angeles conduct their flaming descent into dormancy. As if entire city blocks drawn together in a season finale weren't an eloquent enough elegy for a calendar year, the scarlet confetti of crape myrtle trees and the golden last gasp of ginkgos join the orchestra in a way that makes November and December the Southern Californian equivalent of fall back East.

"to circumnavigate the globe"

Singer Pat Boone has purchased a second home on the residential ocean liner the Utopia.

Expected to launch in 2013, the ship will circumnavigate the globe and stop at locales with sporting and cultural events such as the Cannes Film Festival in France, the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix and the Melbourne Cup horse race in Australia.

"Everyone in my family is thrilled about having future family reunions on the Utopia and traveling the world without leaving our home on the sea," said Boone, a Beverly Hills resident.

The 199 residences range from 1,453 to 6,100 square feet and are priced from $3.9 million to $25 million. The listing price for a unit similar to the one Boone purchased is $4 million. The exact purchase price was not available.

Buyers purchase a 70-year right to use the residence much like a land lease. Fees are about 4.5% of purchase price annually.

"a replica of the ill- fated Lusitania"

A 37.5-inch-long replica of the ill- fated Lusitania, the star lot in an auction of antique toys collected by the late Malcolm Forbes and his sons, sold for $194,500 at Sotheby’s in New York yesterday, setting a record for a toy boat at auction.

The publishing magnate bought it in 1983 for $28,600. The actual Cunard ocean liner was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915.

Overall, the sale’s 237 lots, which included toy knights and the earliest surviving Monopoly game, handmade by its inventor, Charles Darrow, failed to stir as much excitement as expected.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Niemeyer to be honored

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer celebrated his 103rd birthday Wednesday with the launch of a museum dedicated to his career.

The Oscar Niemeyer Foundation outside Rio de Janeiro will house exhibits about the legendary architect's 70 years of work.

Niemeyer is responsible for more than 600 modernist projects around the world. They include the sweeping concrete structures that house Brazil's government in the capital, Brasilia, and U.N. headquarters in New York.

Niemeyer is still working and has won numerous awards, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988. Shown above is the Oscar Niemeyer‑-Cathedral de Brasilia.

NEW Manhattan Beach Library coming soon

In the initial planning and design phase the new $17M City of Manhattan Beach Branch of the Los Angeles County Library will replace the existing one story 12,500 SF facility with a two story 20,000 SF facility located on county owned property in the city’s civic center in downtown Manhattan Beach. The new library will occupy only half the area of the site that the existing library does, allowing for the expansion of the civic center plaza with open space in the form of grass and trees. This area of the site will almost double the area of the plaza and feature a gentle slope creating a modest amphitheater for outdoor performances and events of all kinds. The library will face both Highland Avenue, the main arterial through downtown, and the plaza at the heart of the civic center. The new library will include a dedicated children’s library, community meeting room, teen center, adult collections, reading areas and public access technology. A key component of the ground floor is the children’s library as the current one is the most heavily used in all of the county library system. At the second floor dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean are afforded with a sweeping panorama from Malibu to the north to Palos Verdes and Catalina Island to the South.

Artist renderings: Three proposals for a downtown L.A. football stadium

An artist's rendering of the Gensler proposal of the new football stadium for downtown Los Angeles.
A look at the inside of Gensler's proposed football stadium for downtown L.A.

In this artist's rendering of the HKS Sports and Entertainment proposal, you get a good view of where the new stadium would be in relation to the rest of downtown L.A.
A view of the outside of HKS Sports and Entertainment's proposed downtown L.A. stadium.

In HNTB's proposal, the new football stadium would sit alongside Staples Center.
A view of the inside of HNTB's proposed stadium.

"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death" -- Auntie Mame (1958)

The Patrick Dennis novel was a runaway bestseller – and it was soon followed by a stage version starring Rosalind Russell, who was born to play the madcap Mame in this story of an eccentric, fast-living society woman of the 1920s who “inherits” her nephew when her brother died. Determined to “open doors” for her adoring nephew, Mame exposes him to everything from bootleg gin to oddball characters – all the while doing battle with her nephew’s ultra-conservative trustee, who is equally determined that the boy’s life remain free of “certain influences.”

This is a knockout show, and Rosalind Russell delivers a knockout performance in it – easily her finest comedy performance since 1939’s “The Women.” She is extremely well supported by the sadly under-acknowledged Coral Brown in the role of Vera Charles, an actress who passes out in Mame’s apartment with considerable regularity, and Forrest Tucker as the Southern gentleman who becomes her knight in shining honor; the supporting cast, which includes Fred Clark, Peggy Cass (particularly memorable as Agnes Gooch), Jan Handzlik, Roger Smith, and Joanna Barnes is equally flawless.

"The Zodiac Screen: A Hidden Treasure at New York’s Port Authority"

At the dawn of the Jet Age, when people dressed up to travel and airlines presented menus, WorldPort architect Walther Prokosch commissioned sculptor Milton Hebald to create a dramatic gateway to New York and the United States. Hebald created the Zodiac Screen, a sculpture that’s fanciful creatures, symbolic of the passage of time and of our place in the cosmos, deserve to romp again in public view. WorldPort: The Pan Am terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport was created in 1960, and in 1961 Hebald began creating the prolific sculpture that spanning at 24 by 220 feet would become the largest sculpture in the world. This would give people a lasting impression of their arrival and departure from the United States’ entryway to the world. Thirty-six years later, Pan Am filed for bankruptcy and the conservative Delta Airlines took over the terminal, ordering the historic sculpture to be removed. Now, after almost two decades, this treasure still rests in a hanger of the vast New York Port Authority awaiting return to its previous glory. The Zodiac Screen is Hebald’s legacy. Known for his various sculptures throughout the world, Hebald’s dream is to find the Zodiac Screen a new home. Created in bronze, there are 12 unique pieces, Aries, Aquarius, Cancer, Capricorn, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Pisces, Sagittarius, Scorpio, Taurus and Virgo. Each piece is a representation of Hebald’s vision, and his unique contemporary baroque style. The 91-year-old Hebald states, “The creation of this sculpture took the greater part of my life. I felt that it truly related to all people. For some it spoke to astrology, others history, but even more so it spoke of beauty, love, and aesthetic gratification. I have never been more proud of one of my creations. I can happily go to my resting place knowing that people can once again enjoy the Zodiac”.

"the world's most expensive Christmas tree"

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - When they deck the halls in opulent Abu Dhabi, it comes with gold ornaments and gem-studded bows on a towering Christmas tree. The $11 million symbol of the season has become the latest extravagance at the Emirates Palace hotel, which boasts its own marina, heliport and a vending machine that pops out small gold bars.

The hotel's general manager, Hans Olbertz, was quoted in local newspapers Thursday as saying the 43-foot (13-meter) faux fir has 131 ornaments that include gold and precious stones such as diamonds and sapphires.

Olbertz told Dubai's Gulf News that he worked with one of the jewelers in the hotel to create a "unique tree and experience for our guests this year." The hotel may later contact Guinness World Records for a possible bid as the world's most expensive Christmas tree.

The Guinness web site lists a $10.8 million tree put in 2002 in Toyko with 83 pieces of jewelry from Piaget Japan.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hollywood History

For nearly four decades Hollywood historian Marc Wanamaker has indulged his passion: collecting photographs from location film shoots in Los Angeles dating back to the early 1900s.

Now, he hopes his new book featuring more than 200 vintage images, including Harold Lloyd dangling off the side of a building above 8th and Spring streets in the 1930 film “Feet First,” will remind the film industry of the city’s rich heritage at a time when much of production is migrating elsewhere.

Wanamaker, a film history consultant and former curator of the Hollywood Heritage Museum, has collected about 250,000 still photographs that document the countless hotels, ranches, parks and beaches across Los Angeles that supplied the backdrop for some of Hollywood’s greatest films.

He has published his choicest photographs in the newly released “Location Filming in Los Angeles,” highlighting the diversity of locations that drew filmmakers to Los Angeles as early as 1907, when director Francis Boggs was assigned by a Chicago studio to film some beach scenes for “Monte Cristo."

Malibou Lake provided the bucolic Bavarian backdrop where Frankenstein's monster (Boris Karloff) befriends a young village girl as she tosses flowers into the water.

'Frankenstein' (1931), (Bison Archives)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"From another angle"

Denver Art Museum: The crazy angles of the museum's signature Frederic C. Hamilton building, completed in 2006, can make it tricky to hang paintings. But this shiny, pointy vision with its titanium fa├žade adds a provocative energy to the city skyline.

Info: (720) 865-5000,

Whatever your heart desires . . .

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco: Opened 2008. Aquarium, planetarium, rain forest, undulating green roofscape — this building in Golden Gate Park has them all. Adult admission, $29.95. As a bonus for lovers of art and panoramic views, there's the De Young Museum (opened 2005) across the road. Yes, it looks like a rusting hunk of scrap metal, but head for the free observation tower and you won't be disappointed. Info: (415) 379-8000;;

"Under protest from architects and urban design aficionados, the city considers allowing large company signs atop the tallest buildings"

The skyline of Seattle is seen from Kerry Park, with Mt. Rainier in the background.

(Robert E. Klein, Associated Press / December 14, 2010)

Monday, December 13, 2010

New "Civic" arrives next month

American Honda Motor Co. said it will show off the new-generation Honda Civic at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. It will be the ninth generation of the Civic and will go on sale in spring 2011.

"the sun sets on another beautiful winter's day"

The skies behind majestic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park take an eerie glow as the sun sets on another beautiful winter's day.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories' by Simon Winchester

"The Wreck of the Minotaur" by J.M.W. Turner catches the feel and power and impression of the sea. It's one of the artworks used to illustrate Simon Winchester's "Atlantic."

(J.M.W. Turner / Harper Collins / December 12, 2010)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vekoma/Chance Morgan Dive Pretzel coaster

The prototype Dive Pretzel coaster, built in conjunction by Vekoma and Chance Morgan, proves the most visually intriguing of the rides proposed for the Orlando Thrill Park. Riders would climb to the top of a 148-foot-tall vertical lift before diving into a series of tight giant loops that make the 2,000-foot-long track look like a tangled ball of steel.

Troupe Vertigo -- "How dey do dat ???"

The live indie rock of Nightmare & the Cat, and the mind-boggling movements of a new kind of street circus will make watchers wonder, How is that possible?


Nestled on a tattered strip of Hollywood Boulevard between a nail salon and a marijuana dispensary is an iron-gated alley that ends at a large raspberry-red door.

It’s nondescript signage at best, but what takes place inside may be one of the city’s best kept secrets—Cirque School. Still stunning but no longer surprising acts need not apply here. This cavernous space is the home of Troupe Vertigo, whose dizzying acts defy gravity and leave its few, lucky audiences in awe. It’s a far cry from Ringling Bros., and yet it’s not Cirque du Soleil. It’s a genre all its own—a yet to be defined branch of a centuries-old circus culture.

The warehouse turned gymnasium has been retrofitted as a practice facility for this boundary-breaking urban company. Exposed brick walls house dangling trapezes, steel hoops and brightly hued ropes, which serve as the apparatuses for the elite group’s jaw-dropping acrobatics.

Troupe Vertigo was conceived two years ago by circus gurus and life partners Aloysia Gavre and Rex Camphuis, in keeping with their dream of a more impactful form of circus. Gone are the masks, costumes and grandiose showmanship that have defined circus for generations, replaced by rhythmic dance and aerobatics, feats of athleticism and true human power stripped of artifice.

Dog Survives Being Hit by Train

RIVERSIDE ( KTLA) -- A dog is recovering at a Riverside animal shelter after she was found bruised and bleeding in the middle of some railroad tracks.

A group of workers discovered the dog lying on the tracks Thursday morning near Chicago and Marlborough Avenues.

When animal control officers got there, they say the female Terrier-mix had a serious abrasion on her head and her right ear was also badly bruised.

Officers say the dog may have been dragged by a train momentarily. Luckily, veterinarians say her injuries do not appear to be life threatening.

Perhaps, FABULOUS, once again

When sports and music fans look at the Forum in Inglewood they see the glorious past — days of Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky, nights with Elvis Presley and Led Zeppelin — but more cynical souls see a creaky 43-year-old venue that long ago became a local afterthought.

Now there may be a third view of the Forum — a venue that has a chance to be fabulous once more. A big name from the East Coast is close to finalizing its purchase of the venue and plans a major refurbishment of the 18,000-seat arena, which never recovered from the 1999 departure of its signature tenants, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Kings.