Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another page of history being torn from the book

The San Gorgonio Inn, long a mainstay of travelers along the various routes between Los Angeles and the desert, is in the process of being purchased by the City of Banning, which has stated that it is their intention to tear down the building in the name of Redevelopment.

The building shown above was constructed in 1931 after a fire destroyed the oldest portion of the Inn, which dated to 1884. In its earliest incarnation, it was the Bryant House, then the Hotel Banning, then the San Gorgonio Inn starting in 1921 when John Livacich purchased the property from long-time owner Floretta Fraser. Now, this mainstay of Banning's downtown is in danger of being torn down.

Tearing down a building like the San Gorgonio Inn, when all of the Pass area is formulating a San Gorgonio Pass Heritage Corridor to celebrate their past, is unjustifiable. Please help send a message to the City of Banning to put their creative minds to work in developing a plan that would allow for the adaptive reuse of the San Gorgonio Inn.

The "Ever-changing" London skyline

Impressive Taipei, Taiwan skyline is indeed beautiful

"Assault Breacher"

Reporting from Camp Pendleton - Weighing 70 tons, traveling up to 45 mph and possessed of a smash-mouth name, the Assault Breacher Vehicle is the Marine Corps' latest answer to a perennial problem of offensive warfare: how to push through the barriers and booby traps of an enemy's outer defenses.

Over the decades, Marines have used various strategies to breach defenses, involving heavy vehicles or, in some cases, sending Marine engineers into minefields to set, by hand, line charges loaded with explosives.

"Breaching is always the hardest part of an assault," said Sgt. Carl Hewett, a breacher operator stationed here.

In the 1990s, the U.S. Army decided it could not afford to continue developing such a complicated, maintenance-heavy vehicle. But the Marine Corps persisted -- funding the development and testing from its own discretionary budget funds.

In December, the 42-foot-long assault breacher was used in combat for the first time, as Marines pushed into a Taliban stronghold called Now Zad in Afghanistan's Helmand province. The brass were pleased with its performance.

Now, as the Marines plan a much larger and more complex assault in the same province, the vehicles, which cost $3.75 million each, are being touted as part of a strategy for routing Taliban fighters.

"the Elephant Racing Club"

Just how an Elephant Racing Club materialized at Orange County State College, now Cal State Fullerton, in 1962 is a matter of debate.

One story credits a whimsical bureaucrat who drew up the application for forming clubs on campus. Next to the space marked "Name," he wrote "Elephant Racing Club" as a hypothetical example.

Another version credits the dean of students, who had taught in India.

He supposedly joked about a pachyderm competition when students were searching around for a spring-madness-type exercise.

Whatever the explanation, the Elephant Racing Club was formed, and challenges for a competition were sent to several schools.

Some cynics recall that the theory was that no one would respond, enabling Orange County State to declare itself the winner.

But the Coast Guard Academy signed up, mentioning that it had an elephant donated by Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, for some good deed.

After several days of negotiations, though, the academy admitted that the elephant was nonexistent. The school's football coach commented, "I've got some guys who move like elephants," but he didn't want to enter any of them in the race.

The publicity, however, prompted more than a dozen other colleges, including Harvard, to agree to Orange County State's earthshaking idea.

All of a sudden, it was a reality -- the First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History, as organizers called it. Others dubbed it, less grandly, the Run for the Peanuts.

The funny thing was: No one had an elephant. But that was no problem.

A theme park called Jungleland in Thousand Oaks did, and agreed to rent several elephants for any needy team, along with handlers. A few out-of-state entrants managed to scare up some beasts from local circuses.

A cornfield on Orange County State's still-rural campus was chosen for the race.

"It was perfect," recalled Jack Hale, a student organizer. "The farmer who used it had already picked the corn."

On the May 11 racing day, colorful banners hung from the temporary stands.

"College bands pumped out a stream of elephant music to regale the spectators and mollify the elephants," wrote Jack Smith, The Times' man on the spot.

A telegram was received from former Vice President Richard Nixon, who advised officials to use an official Amateur Athletic Union "wind-measuring machine at the race course. An aiding wind greater than 4.77 mph will render your times unofficial and unacceptable at the world level," he joked.

A scandal was exposed when it was discovered that Santa Ana College's entry, Rudy, "turned out to be two Santa Ana students in an elephant suit," Smith wrote. "The subterfuge was discovered when the zoologist tried to take its temperature."

Cal Lutheran's entrant, meanwhile, looked more like a turtle than an elephant, the judges noticed.

Their suspicions were "confirmed by Orange County State's professor of zoology," Smith wrote.

Cal Lutheran admitted that Torty was a 550-pound elephant turtle but characterized it as an "early model elephant."

Torty was not only allowed to compete, but was also given a 96.2-yard head start in the 100-yard race. After all, Torty deserved some respect since its age was estimated to be 150.

Several races were held so there would be no herds of more than four elephants thundering across campus at one time.

The winners included Kinney II, Long Beach State's 4-ton pachyderm, who "loped 50 yards past the finish line, scattered a bank of spectators and thundered home to the compound," where a dinner of hay awaited, Smith wrote.

James Kott, Kinney's dashing rider, stayed aboard the animal all the way, revealing, "I dug my feet in his side and held on to his ears."

Torty came in last despite its head start.

The extravaganza was deemed such a success that it was staged again the next year at the Los Alamitos Race Course. Because women were allowed as riders, it was retitled the Second Annual (and First Coeducational) Intercollegiate Elephant Race. Others clung to the Run for the Peanuts.

Particular attention was paid to Bonnie Lynne Volk of Sarah Lawrence College, whose stretch pants burst mid-race, forcing her to appropriate some of her creature's colors.

Despite the success of the shows, the sport of elephant racing never caught on.

The only exotic animals who currently race at Los Alamitos are dachshunds -- and that's for just one day a year.

Looking back, Hale suspects that his school grew understandably nervous about the dangers of elephants and decided not to stretch its luck with any more races.

"Can you imagine the courage of the administration to let us kids pull this thing off back then?" said Hale, who rode a mount named Sheba without incident.

The year 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of the First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History.

If a reunion is held, as expected, perhaps one of the original beasts could attend. After all, Torty would be only about 200 years old now.

Shown above is Remesh Mehra, on an elephant named Capt. Hook, displaying a plaque from the race, which was held at a cornfield on the rural campus of what is now Cal State Fullerton. (Cal State Fullerton)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One of National Geographic's Best Photos of 2009

Marlene Dietrich . . . always mysterious

MAXINE: always one step ahead

"90-year-old landmark theater to close" ??? . . . . Oh! I hope not!

The Pasadena Playhouse will close Feb. 7 after the final performance of its current show, "Camelot," as leaders of the 90-year-old landmark theater search for ways out of serious financial difficulties.

Among the options they are considering is a bankruptcy filing.

Executive director Stephen Eich said the playhouse is essentially out of cash and faces more than $500,000 in immediate bills, as well as payments on more than $1.5 million in bank loans and other debts that have dogged the nonprofit company since the mid-1990s. Thirty-seven employees learned at a staff meeting Thursday that they would be out of work.

Eich said that tapping into $6 million donated for a capital campaign to refurbish the playhouse was not an option. "It just would not be any way for us to solve the problems of the place," he said.

Eich said that he, longtime artistic director Sheldon Epps and the playhouse's board will instead try to develop a plan to set the company on its feet, rather than keep it going on the hand-to-mouth basis that became impossible in a down economy that took a toll on donations.

Founded in 1917, the playhouse was designated in 1937 as the state theater of California. Actors such as Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman have been associated with it through the years, and the current company has launched productions that went on to runs elsewhere: The musical adaptation of the hit film "Sister Act" is currently playing in London, and "Looped," a one-woman show about Tallulah Bankhead starring Valerie Harper that was seen at the playhouse in 2008, is to open on Broadway this spring.

"What a loss it would be if the theater is not able to come back," said Leslie Uggams, who opened as Lena Horne there a year ago in "Stormy Weather," a musical biography of the jazz great that was the playhouse's last box office hit. "It's gorgeous, it's historical. I just loved the theater, the people who worked there, and the audiences who came seemed so loyal. What a shame that would be."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Watts Towers

The Watts Towers in Los Angeles -- looking good !!!

The Big "W"

Construction crews and staff members work to ready the W Hotel in Hollywood for its grand opening Friday.
The W Hollywod Hotel and Residences at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue.
The hotel lobby includes a pedestrian bridge and a corkscrew-shaped chandelier.
Inside, Christian Moeller's sculpture "Pushing" is among the works commissioned for public areas.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great Photo by Don Bartletti

On a clear, cold and breezy early morning, the moon sets behind the Oceanside, Calif., pier as offshore winds lift plumes of spray from the crashing surf.

Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ABBA dances into London

ABBA, the spangly Swedish quartet that gave the world "Waterloo" and "Dancing Queen," has sold 400 million records since its 1970s heyday and spawned the hugely successful stage and film musical "Mamma Mia!"

And now there's ABBAWORLD -- a new museum-cum-theme park in London with enough music, mementos and memory-lane appeal to satisfy even the most fervent ABBA fan.

ABBAWORLD's Swedish organizers promise the exhibition -- which opens to the public today -- will be "a place for total interaction" with the band. It tells the group's story in 25 rooms spread over 30,000 square feet.

'Candid Camera' made cop famous

Victor Cianca, 92, a Pittsburgh police officer who rose to fame when "Candid Camera" broadcast footage of his flamboyant way of directing traffic, died Sunday in Pittsburgh, days after suffering a heart attack, said his son Richard.

In 1964, "Candid Camera" aired footage of Cianca directing traffic in Pittsburgh, using his arms and legs to keep cars moving. He often took slow, silly bows, would play an imaginary violin when a driver gave an excuse for a traffic violation and would pretend to sleep if a vehicle was driving too slowly.

Later, he had a cameo role in the movie "Flashdance."

Mimi Perloff

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

In frigid northeastern China, in the city of Harbin is hosting its 26th annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Massive buildings built of ice from the frozen surface of the nearby Songhua River, large scale snow sculptures, ice slides, festival food and drinks can be found in several parks in the city. At night, visitors who endure the bitter cold will see the lights switched on, illuminating the sculptures from both inside and outside. This year's festival opened January 5th, and will remain open until some time in February. Collected here are several photos from just before the festival, and of the opening night.

"resort without walls"

The city of Avalon as seen from the "casino" building. The Santa Catalina Island Co., which chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. bought in 1919, has embarked on a series of projects to turn the city into a "resort without walls."

(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Was he the greatest athlete of all time ???

In 1913, strict rules regarding amateurism were in force for athletes participating in the Olympics. Athletes who received money prizes for competitions, were sports teachers or who had previously competed against professionals were not considered amateurs, and were not allowed to partake in the Olympics.

In late January 1913, U.S. newspapers published stories that made claims Thorpe had played professional baseball. It is not entirely certain which newspaper first brought the story; the earliest article found is from the Providence Times, but the Worcester Telegram is usually mentioned as the first. Thorpe had indeed played professional baseball in the Eastern Carolina League for Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1909 and 1910, and had received a small amount of money for playing.

The AAU decided to retroactively withdraw Thorpe's amateur status, and requested the IOC to do the same. Later that year, the IOC unanimously decided to strip Jim Thorpe of his Olympic titles, medals and awards, and declared him a professional.

Thorpe received great acclaim from the press. In 1950, an Associated Press poll among sportswriters voted Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century, while another poll elected him as the best football player over the same period. By the end of the century, memories of Thorpe had faded a little, but he still was listed near the top of many "athlete of the century" lists.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Spectacular Photo of Dolphins at Play

Dolphins play in the sparkling waters of Australia's Jervis Bay.

A "Royal" treat !!

Australia's Royal National Park, originally uploaded by l&coolj.

Oasis Of The Seas -- The World’s Largest Cruise Ship

He might have had an interesting conversation with Rush Bimbo . . . er, Limbo . . . oh, whatever!

Oscar Levant, a chain-smoking, pill-popping actor, concert pianist, composer and wit, enjoyed hurling barbs at other celebrities, even fellow TV hosts.

"Parc Güell"

Parc Güell: this extraordinary park is one of the best of the Güell family, patrons and promoters of Gaudi. Originally created as the site for the summer residences of the Barcelona bourgeoisie, Gaudi built the public area and then the project was abandoned due to the lack of funds.

There are three houses built, one of them being The "Gaudi Hause Museum." The entrance to the park is already a passport to his particular world, with the "Watch Tower," a sinuous, long mosaic tower crowned by a spectacular cross, and the "Guardian House" architecture in which Gaudi reminds us of the fairytale of Hansel & Grëtel.

Queen Mary Scottish Festival in Long Beach

The Queen Mary, built on the banks of Scotland's River Clyde more than 75 years ago, pays tribute to its homeland each year with a weekend of bagpipe bands, Highland dancing, sheep-herding dogs, sports contests, whiskey tastings, lots of food and a self-guided ship tour.

When: Feb. 13 and 14

Cost: $20 a day, or $26 for a two-day pass. For children ages 5 through 11, $13 a day, or $17 for a two-day pass

Info: (562) 499-1650,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lotus Evora

Every time I write about a high-performance sports car, I'm guaranteed to get letters from readers to this effect: "How can you possibly glorify the Badminton Dual-Cowl 87B? No one needs a car that goes 200 mph, costs $300,000 and gets five miles per gallon. With all that's going on in the world [climate change, war in the Middle East, balance of trade etc.]. For shame. For shame!"

All right, then. I present to you perhaps the most fun available on four wheels: The 2010 Lotus Evora. No, not fun. Joy. Inexpressible, diamond-showering, running-naked-through-a-field-of-virgins ecstasy. Handling perfection. This is transit gloria, and it is sick.

In my career as an automotive journalist, I've never written these words: I am going to buy one.

Oh, and it gets about 30 mpg.

(Click on the heading above for the rest of this article by Dan Neil)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Storms hit Southern California"

The sun sets on the Redondo Beach Pier Monday as storms hit Southern California.
(photo by Chris Miller of the Beach Reporter)

'St Nicholas' is Russian

View of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral 'St Nicholas' in Nice, southeastern France, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. A French court ruled that Russia is the owner of a magnificently ornate Russian Orthodox cathedral on the French Riviera resort of Nice which was erected by Czar Nicholas II nearly a century ago.
(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

USS Los Angeles

After more than 30 years of service, the famous hunter-killer submarine USS Los Angeles, which helped revolutionize how the United States submarine service operated at sea during the Cold War, arrived in Los Angeles Harbor on Wednesday, and will undergo a semi-public decommissioning Saturday at a public event in San Pedro.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is."

-Sir Francis Bacon

"a friendly tussle"

Source: e-mail attachment

"Like the return of an old friend"

Poor little rich “Camelot.” Ever since its 1960 Broadway debut, the show has had to soothe its bruised self-esteem: It is regularly roughed up by critics, but comforted by the salve of its colossal box-office receipts.

Born in the shadow of another Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe blockbuster, “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot” now spends its middle years eclipsed by that far cheekier King Arthur and the Round Table musical, “Spamalot.”

A commercial juggernaut despite its perennial second-class status, “Camelot” has always had a sure-fire weapon in Loewe’s majestic score. Lerner’s lyrics have their clever moments as well (“In short, there’s simply not/A more congenial spot/For happ’ly-ever-aftering Than Here/In Camelot”). And the harmonious treasures of the original cast album you or your parents probably have tucked away in some attic box are the chief pleasure of David Lee’s new trimmed-down production, which opened Friday at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Doug Carpenter, Shannon Stoeke and Shannon Warne