Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This year's Pritzker

Over the course of its 31-year history, the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honor, has been awarded almost exclusively to individual men. It has gone just once to a woman -- to Zaha Hadid in 2004 -- and twice to a pair of architects: in 2001, when Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Switzerland got the nod, and 1988, when the winners were Gordon Bunshaft and Oscar Niemeyer.

This year's Pritzker, announced Sunday, will begin to fill both gaps at the same time. The award is going jointly to Kazuyo Sejima, one of the most prominent female architects in the world, and Ryue Nishizawa, her (male) partner in the acclaimed Tokyo firm SANAA.

"a new zero-emission electric"

Nissan announced pricing for its highly anticipated all-electric Leaf automobile Tuesday. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the 5-door hatchback will be $32,780 when it enters the market in December, or $349 per month if leased.

Applying the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles reduces the price of Nissan's zero-emission Leaf to $25,280. Californians are also eligible for an additional $5,000 rebate through the Air Resources Board.

"We wanted to be equivalent on a monthly operating cost to an internal combustion vehicle that's similarly equipped. That set the precedent for the price," said Trisha Jung, director of EV marketing and sales strategy for Nissan North America in Franklin, Tenn.

To determine its price, Nissan looked at the vehicles it felt were most likely to be cross-shopped by customers, she said, including the gas-powered Honda Civic ($22,255 MSRP) and hybrid Toyota Prius ($25,830 MSRP).

"Price," Jung said, "is important. It's is one of the favorite questions we've gotten over the past few months. We know consumers care about that."

"There was a lot of cigarette smoke, rain and booze"

Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode are on a mission -- to prevent our film-noir heritage from fading away.

Muller is founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation; Rode is on the board of directors. Every year they produce and host the Noir City Film Festival in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The 12th annual festival at the Egyptian Theatre, "Lust & Larceny," opens Friday and continues through April 18. None of the films in the festival, which was co-programmed by the American Cinematheque's Gwen Deglise and Grant Moninger, are available on DVD.

"The type of movie fan that goes down to the Egyptian Theatre is not the same type of person who is going to go in to see 'Double Indemnity' and 'Out of the Past,' because they have seen that," says Rode. "We really believe the obscure films are what draw people into the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood."

Even though the official film-noir period was relatively brief -- 1941 through 1958 -- there were hundreds of films made in the genre during that time. Not only is film noir part of our culture, says Rode, "it is part of our history of the mid-20th century.

"When people went off to war and came back, the country left its adolescence and became adults. Watching 'Andy Hardy' and 'The Thin Man' movies after World War II didn't cut it for audiences because of the life experiences of people."

So heroes became anti-heroes; leading ladies turned into femme fatales who were not above murder to get what they wanted. The films were shot at night, on location. There was a lot of cigarette smoke, rain, booze and fedoras. Humphrey Bogart, Lawrence Tierney, Dick Powell and Richard Conte were among the kings of noir, with Barbara Stanwyck, Claire Trevor, Janis Carter, Cleo Moore and Joan Crawford the queens.

Unfortunately, a lot of these noir greats are disappearing from view. Both Rode and Muller hope the festival will lead the studios to restore, make prints and eventually release these films on DVD.

A Tribute to the late Bruce Lee

HONG KONG (AP) — Bruce Lee's wife and daughter on Tuesday unveiled an exhibition of the late kung fu star's personal items, photos and movie posters in Hong Kong.

The exhibit, which includes a boxing head guard and a pair of sunglasses used by Lee, is part of a tribute to the late actor at the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival. The festival is also hosting a seminar on his work this Sunday and screening nine of his movies in honor of what would have been his 70th birthday later this year.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Nice Smile Goes a Long Way

People who smile a lot are usually happier, have more stable personalities, more stable marriages, better cognitive skills and better interpersonal skills, according to research. Science has just uncovered another benefit of a happy face. People who have big smiles live longer.

Researchers at Wayne State University used information from the Baseball Register to look at photos of 230 players who began their careers in professional baseball before 1950. The players' photos were enlarged, and a rating of their smile intensity was made (big smile, no smile, partial smile). The players' smile ratings were compared with data from deaths that occurred from 2006 through 2009. The researchers then corrected their analysis to account for other factors associated with longevity, such as body mass index, career length, career precocity and college attendance.

For those players who had died, the researchers found longevity ranged from an average of 72.9 years for players with no smiles (63 players) to 75 years for players with partial smiles (64 players) to 79.9 years for players with big smiles (23 players).

This isn't a bunch of psycho-hooey, the authors said. Smiles reflect positive emotion. Positive emotion has been linked to both physical and mental well-being. They added a caveat to their study: "The data source provided no information as to whether expressions were spontaneous or in response to a photographer's request to smile." Still, big smiles are more likely to reflect true happiness than partial smiles.

Maybe the non-smilers were thinking about batting averages.

The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.

SMURFS on Demand

Quentin Tarantino won’t be playing Brainy Smurf in the big-screen version of “The Smurfs” after all. “There were conversations about it, but it didn’t work out,” says Hannah Minghella, president of Sony Pictures Animation, which is making the movie with a blend of live-action and animation. “Quentin is such a fanboy that it was part of the appeal.”

Tarantino won’t portray the little know-it-all Smurf, but other notable names are lining up with intense interest about joining the tribe of miniature blue imps. “You have no idea,” Minghella said of the blue-in-the-face lobbying by agents who want their stars to be part of the revival.

So far, the ensemble includes Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf, Katy Perry as Smurfette, George Lopez as Grouchy Smurf and Kevin James as Hefty Smurf and Alan Cumming (who has prior experience in the wild blue yonder of cinema) as Gutsy Smurf.

Hank Azaria, the stalwart of “The Simpsons” who memorably chewed the historic scenery in “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian,” will be Gargamel, the sour sorcerer who just absolutely hates the tiny blue folk.

While most Americans recognize the Smurfs from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon that ran from 1981 to 1990 -- and the mountain of tie-in merchandising -- what they might not know is that the little people were created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Peyo, whose real name was Pierre Culliford.

“The property is 50 years old,” Minghella said. “In Europe, it has never ceased to be a current popular phenomenon. It still airs in prime time in certain countries around the world.”

"Death Bear" takes your memories to his cave

A biting wind whipped down a dark street, where a man crouched in the shadow of a building. He pulled on black gloves and glanced up and down the avenue. Satisfied that no one was watching, he pulled a mask the size of a beach ball out of a bag, pulled it onto his head and wriggled it into place: snout in front, eye holes over his own, rounded ears pointed skyward.

Death Bear was ready for his mission.

A man in the second-floor unit of a nearby apartment building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn was desperate to get rid of something that was too torturous to keep but impossible to discard.

The anguished individual had turned to Death Bear, a macabre performance artist who silently walks the city streets in a one-man quest to relieve people of painful remnants of the past: love letters, photos, gifts, dog tags, underwear -- a lot of underwear, it seems -- anything that might reduce an otherwise well-functioning person to a sniffling wreck. His service has spread through word of mouth and the Internet.

The Call of Nature

Reporting from Apache Junction, Ariz. - Taylor Sanford Jr., a 76-year-old Texan who fell in love with the Arizona desert, couldn't imagine being unable to visit Lost Dutchman State Park to see its scattered fields of golden wildflowers.

So Sanford strode into a community meeting here recently and wrote a check for $8,000, the estimated cost of keeping the park open for a month.

The retired airline captain is just one of many who are donating money or time in hopes of saving Arizona's suffering state parks.

The trouble is that you can't negotiate with the "little man who wasn't there"

A great segment with Mark Shields & David Brooks on the PBS NewsHour one pre-election Friday, which included these nuggets:

“JIM LEHRER: Remarkable time in our country, David?

DAVID BROOKS: It is. Even as the economic mood goes down, the political mood really does go up.

And I’m personally very excited about it, and excited about the day, but even excited about the mood that has already happened. I mean, Obama talks about changing the tone. He really has. Republican senators are saying they hear more from Obama than they did from Bush. He’s had conversations with conservatives, with liberals.

And he’s demonstrated he’s not a guy who is partisan.

Now, what I mean by that, with some people, when you disagree with them, you get the sense that it’s like a little status battle, that their side is a little better than your side.

And he has absolutely none of that, in part because he is so self-confident. But there’s no status. It’s not a cultural war. Like, with the Clintons, there was a little cultural war, with the Bushes. There was a little status. You know those Democrats, you know?

But, with him, there is absolutely none of that. And, therefore, disagreement doesn’t carry a lot of the emotional baggage that it might otherwise.

JIM LEHRER: What about the expectations saying — there’s already stories now, oh, the expectations are so high, there is no way in the world that the country cannot be anything but disappointed with Barack Obama, because the expectations are so high.

MARK SHIELDS: Boy, we will find an angle, won’t we?”

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rickshaw Pullers

Kolkata is the last city in India where the hand-pulled carts ply regularly. A ban failed, because the rickshaws can navigate narrow streets, and the city's pool of poor readily supplies pullers.

Booze and Talent

Robert Sellers’s “Hellraisers” is completely unapologetic about its party-hearty premise. He has slapped together a string of outlandish stories about four of the British Isles’ most stylish drunken actors, and he doesn’t even pretend to have turned those stories into a coherent book. “Hellraisers” wants only to be a rowdy collection of greatest hits, and it lives up to that fun-loving ambition. It reels off riotous tales about Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed without giving a moment’s thought to what those tales might mean.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Beauty of Alaska-in (for more -- click here)

Whispy clouds veil the snowcapped peaks of Mt McKinley in the Denali National Park of Alaska.

View of the peak of Mount McKinley in Denali NP, Alaska. Here Mount McKinley is viewed from the southeast on a bright blue day in September.

"the best female pilot in the country"

Elinor Smith Sullivan, who was considered one of the youngest and most daring pilots in the 1920s when she set a number of flying records, died March 19 in Palo Alto, she was 98.

The pioneering aviator, who was known by her maiden name, was born Aug. 17, 1911, in Freeport, N.Y.

Smith made history and headlines at 17 when she flew beneath all four of New York City's East River suspension bridges. She also broke the women's solo endurance record and, at 19, her fellow fliers named her the best female pilot in the country. She beat out Amelia Earhart to win that honor.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The "EN-V" is pronounced "envy" and why not ??

SHANGHAI (AP) — It's not quite as foldable as the space vehicle that cartoon figure George Jetson pops into his briefcase as he bops into the office.

But the EN-V concept car, GM's "automobile solution" for the future, just might fit into an apartment foyer.

General Motors and its Chinese partner SAIC will showcase the "Electric Networked-Vehicle" launched Wednesday in their joint pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, which opens May 1 and runs for six months.

The EN-V, pronounced "envy," is GM's latest effort to burnish its credentials as a future-focused, environmentally friendly company and shed its image as the bastion of the gas guzzling Hummer. The automaker is in the process of winding down Hummer after a deal collapsed to sell it to a Chinese heavy equipment maker

"mummies on view"

Industrial development in northwest China has gradually unearthed a surprising past -- a 4,000-year-old civilization of farmers and herders with European, rather than Asian, ancestry.

These ancient people eked out a living in the arid lands north of Tibet now known as the Tarim Basin.

Chinese construction crews have found mummies nearly every year over the last three decades. Three of the mummies will be on view at Santa Ana's Bowers Museum as part of the exhibition "Secrets of the Silk Road: Mystery Mummies from China," which opens Saturday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Seven Dwarf's in "lock-step"

William Jefferson Clinton, known to friend and foe alike as a gifted political orator, showed he hasn’t lost much in that category in the nine years since he left the White House. Presidential speeches to the Gridiron—an organization of Washington journalists—are supposed to be humorous, and Mr. Clinton knew the drill well from his time as a regular dinner guest during his term.

He praised a speech given earlier in the dinner by the night’s Republican speaker, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, thusly: “Orin, he’s the wittiest of all the Republicans. That ‘s sort of like saying he’s the tallest of the Seven Dwarfs.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unusual Architecture in Bahrain

Construction of the Bahrain World Trade Center began in 2004 and was completed in 2008 at a total cost of US $150,000,000.

The Hell of High Water

The St. Jean Baptiste bridge over the Red River was already impassable last week, long before the flood crest, which is expected late this week.

"long-missing footage of the Beach Boys"

The long-missing footage of the Beach Boys performance at "The T.A.M.I. Show" has been restored for the special-edition DVD.

Dick Clark Productions / March 22, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Natural Beauty"

It is difficult to fathom that there could be a plot of ground in California that hasn't been extensively tramped across, camped on, photographed or blogged about.

If anything comes close, it's the proposed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area, a half-million-acre section of the inner coast range that is home to some of the most biologically diverse landscape in the state, ranging from unspoiled rivers and rolling oak woodlands that begin near the town of Winters to the craggy 7,000-foot peak of Snow Mountain in the Mendocino National Forest, 100 miles to the north.

Wedged between the Bay Area and Sacramento and spanning six counties, this 100-mile swath has not been completely overlooked. State and local groups have pressed hard to unify a patchwork of land managed by more than a dozen federal, state and local agencies into a national conservation area.

That low-key but steady campaign was brought into wider focus when the corridor was included on a list of prospective national monuments in an Interior Department draft document leaked to the media in February.

The Most Amazing Pictures Of New York City. Buildings, Skyline, Ocean, Streets...Everything! can be found at this awesome website -- CLICK HERE !!

The New York skyline
The Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building and the New York skyline
Central Park
The famous Brooklyn Bridge

"a marvelous slide into an emotional abyss"

It is clear that we read for pleasure; what is less obvious are the varieties of pleasures we experience. Pleasing isn't always pleasant. Take Caroline Blackwood's stories -- they are rare in their brutal exposure and are deeply troubling to read. Yet "Never Breathe a Word" (The Collected Stories of Caroline Blackwood) is nothing less than a marvelous slide into an emotional abyss.

"dramatic transformations"

In recent years, China has undergone a series of dramatic transformations. Some are so profound they've rendered obsolete the very terms once used to describe the country. Can we still refer to China's cities as Third World, now that Shanghai has more skyscrapers than all of America's West Coast cities combined? And can we call the country Communist when the party has capitalist members and a military wing that sometimes seems like a diversified corporation?

Compared to "the falling blade of a guillotine"

Thanks to the punishingly high standards he set for himself -- not to mention a less-than-sunny way with potential clients -- Abraham, who was born in Austria and moved permanently to the United States in the mid-1960s, completed few buildings in his long career. He was far better known as a teacher and the creator of primitive, hauntingly powerful architectural drawings.

But his modest output did include one truly remarkable building: the Austrian Cultural Forum, a knife-thin, 24-story tower that opened in 2002 in midtown Manhattan as an outpost for exhibitions and discussions about Austrian culture and politics. Abraham's design for the Forum prevailed in a competition that drew entries from 226 Austrian firms -- essentially "every born Austrian architect who could walk," as Abraham put it at the time. It called for a tough, unforgiving piece of architecture: a 280-foot-tall, 25-foot-wide building squeezed between taller neighbors on East 52nd Street. Abraham famously compared its sharp-edged facade to the falling blade of a guillotine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lashing the stays of the Brooklyn Bridge

Vanishing Culture

A 1,200-pound stone head of an Aztec moon goddess has moved into the Getty Villa. So have life-size statues of a warrior adorned with eagle feathers, a duck-billed wind god and a demon known as the Lord of Death.

Made between 1440 and 1521 and on loan from Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology and the Templo Mayor Museum, the massive artworks are among 64 sculptures, paintings and works on paper in "The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire." Opening Wednesday, it's the most surprising exhibition yet to appear at Southern California's bastion of classical Greek and Roman antiquities.

The Villa has raised eyebrows with temporary installations of contemporary art related to its collections and exhibitions. But Aztec art? At a museum devoted to art made many centuries earlier on the opposite side of the world?

"It's probably not what you would have expected at the Getty Villa," says Claire L. Lyons, the Getty's antiquities curator who organized the show with John M.D. Pohl, a pre-Columbian specialist and research associate at UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. "But we have long been interested in expanding beyond the classical Mediterranean." "In Search of Biblical Lands: Nineteenth-Century Photography of the Ancient Near East," to appear in 2011, will explore historic sites and pastoral life on the eastern margins of the Mediterranean.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The New York Aquarium

The New York Aquarium at Coney Island is the place to go to learn about aquatic life. The Aquarium has been a part of the city since December 10, 1896 when it opened at its first location in the Battery's Castle Clinton (above)in Lower Manhattan. The oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States, the New York Zoological Society assumed care of the Aquarium in 1902. In the Aquarium's early years, the facility housed only 150 specimens. Today's version of the Aquarium is home to over 350 species of aquatic wildlife and over 8,000 specimens.

The Aquarium lasted in the Battery until 1941 when it was relocated to Coney Island because of the construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. (The Aquarium's inhabitants were temporarily housed at the Bronx Zoo.) The New York Aquarium opened on the Coney Island boardwalk on June 6, 1957, part of a larger plan to revitalize the area. The entire project cost $9 million and used 1.25 million gallons of water. When the aquarium was opened, a New York Zoological Society brochure on the facility boasted “many hundreds of fish species, marine and fresh water, tropical, temperate and arctic, beautiful, weird and downright hideous.” A big attraction, the facility served over 400,000 school children during the first school season it was open.

"It's a sandy slope"

(Letter to the Editor from Kathryn Gray)

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I loved to slide on waxed cardboard down the dune in Manhattan Beach's Sand Dune Park. My mom, who also grew up in Manhattan Beach, ran free on the dunes in the '30s.

I'm saddened to hear that now the dune may be closed. My grandpa, Ralph Dorsey, Los Angeles' chief traffic engineer, worked tirelessly on the Manhattan Beach City Council and as mayor to expand recreational opportunities. He'd be dismayed to see kids and adults shut out of Sand Dune Park. That's not how Manhattan Beach used to work.

Our family has a house near the top of the dune, and we sympathize with neighbors who are concerned about overuse. Luckily, there's a sensible middle ground: Allow the dune to be shared, with some well-thought-out regulations. Let's keep recreation open to all!

Kathryn Gray
Manhattan Beach

Aaron Copland in Hanoi

HANOI -- This year marks the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam. The country is still a tender land, but the Vietnamese have long known how to profit from their various invaders over the past millennium.

American tourists, for instance, are now targets for hawkers of Viet Cong souvenirs around Hanoi’s Opera House. The theater is a scaled-down model of the Paris Opera’s Palais Garnier, and it was thus a glaring symbol of colonialism until the French were overthrown in 1954 and Ho Chi Minh made it a historic site for important political occasions, even if music and dance remain its main business.

On Friday night, though, the hall saw a different détente. American and Vietnamese musicians joined together to premiere new works by young composers from both countries and one by Elliott Carter, who is 101 and was born two years before the 600-seat Opera House was completed.

Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” perhaps the most touching musical depiction of America as a tender land, closed the program and proved a moving culmination of two weeks of the Ascending Dragon Music Festival here, a cultural exchange between Southwest Chamber Music and the Vietnam National Academy of Music.

"It's the best-kept secret for 25 years"

It is known simply as the Japanese Garden. But to those familiar with this 6 1/2 -acre oasis, tucked away in the middle of bustling Van Nuys, it is affectionately referred to as "Gene's Garden."

Since its dedication in 1984, Gene Greene has overseen this inspiring display of native plants, exotic birds, trees, waterfalls, lakes and streams - a public treasure that many don't know exists.

"It's the best-kept secret for 25 years," said Greene, who worked closely with the landscape architect who designed the garden.

"Days of Our Lives" continues

With CBS' "Guiding Light" having been extinguished last year and its "As the World Turns" due to end in September, there was at last a modicum of reassuring news for daytime soap opera fans Friday: NBC said it had renewed "Days of Our Lives" through the 2010-11 season.

The serial is due to celebrate its 45th anniversary Nov. 8. Executive producer Ken Corday is the son of the show's creators, Betty and Ted Corday.

NBC said its decision was based on improving ratings for the program. Through 25 weeks of the current season, "Days of Our Lives" is averaging 3.3 million viewers, the network said, a 10% improvement from the same point a year ago and its best showing in the past three years.

"Won't You Be My Neighbor? Day"

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mister Rogers cared deeply about his neighbors and his neighborhood, both in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and in real life.

Now, friends and colleagues of late television icon Fred Rogers want to honor his legacy with a national day of volunteering on his birthday. Rogers, who died in 2003 after battling stomach cancer, would have been 82 on Saturday.

David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," said volunteering meant a lot to Rogers.

As a boy, Rogers volunteered at his hometown hospital in Latrobe, Pa., rolling bandages for soldiers during WWII. And, Newell said, public television, where Rogers' series began, relies on volunteers.

The idea for the Won't You Be My Neighbor? Day grew out of Sweater Day, which Family Communications Inc. of Pittsburgh has promoted over the past several years to honor Rogers. Rogers created the company to produce his show and other family friendly educational fare.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Island-hopping teen burglar eludes police ???

Colton Harris-Moore, infamous teenage "barefoot bandit" and cult hero, are you back at it again?

The San Juan County sheriff didn't find you amusing Thursday as he dealt with your latest alleged crime, and television news cameras descended on Orcas Island for any tidbits about you.

Sheriff William Cumming knows somebody was taunting the cops by drawing in chalk 39 cartoonish footprints on the crime scene's red concrete floor, and writing near one of the doors, "C-YA!"

The owner of that Orcas Island grocery isn't laughing — he says he had more than $5,000 damage in computers kicked around, with one left soaking in a stainless tub.

Plus, $1,200 taken from four cash registers.

And for good measure, an entire blueberry cheesecake, plus produce and some unbaked meat-and-cheese-filled croissants.

And then there is the management company that takes care of a $600,000 Cirrus SR22 four-passenger single-engine plane that somebody stole that same night — flying it from Anacortes to the little airport at Orcas.

Harris-Moore, 18, is a suspect in several other similar plane thefts.

Whoever flew the expensive plane wasn't very experienced and upon landing the Cirrus went off the runway and into mud.

But, says Tim Lewis, owner of Corporate Air Center in Mount Vernon, it seems only the wheel fenders were damaged.

Lewis says the high-end plane "is a complex airplane that's easy to fly," so somebody without legit flying lessons could have flown it. Still, says Lewis, "You don't need much of a mistake to crash."

It was Kyle Ater, owner of the Homegrown Market & Gourmet Delicatessen in Orcas, who made the first report of the latest alleged Harris-Moore doings.

By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter

"the old-fashioned Ferris wheel"

In the midst of one of the worst recessions in decades, tiny beach-side amusement parks along the California coast are reporting robust business and big crowds while most of the state's big theme parks have seen shrinking revenue.

Small, privately owned seaside parks, such as Pacific Park at the pier in Santa Monica (above), Belmont Park in San Diego and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, don't have multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns or 3-D attractions as do Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood. But they boast something even more appealing to penny-pinching tourists: Free admission.

As a result, vacationers are turning to old-fashioned Ferris wheels and carousels over expensive, high-tech thrill rides.

A dying star as photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The spectacular new Imax film "Hubble 3D" will be studied by astronomers, academics and Hollywood special effects artists for years to come. It's a movie that not only puts you in space but lets you travel through it with a speed and wonder that would make James T. Kirk go a little weak in the knees.

The 43-minute documentary follows the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis on their May 2009 mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. A 700-pound Imax 3-D camera accompanied them, anchored in the cargo bay, loaded with a mile of film. That translates into 8 1/2 minutes of footage to chronicle a 13-day mission.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Classic DVD

Two of the most influential TV series that came from radio -- "The Abbott & Costello Show" (above) and "The Goldbergs" -- are arriving on DVD in newly restored editions.

"a power is able to make you do something you don't want to do."

ance is reeling from a documentary about a psychological experiment disguised as a game show. Researchers staged a fictitious reality show to see how far people would go in obeying authority, especially if television reinforces that authority.

The disturbing results have alarmed the French.

The fictitious game show had all the trappings of a real TV quiz show, including a beautiful and well-known hostess, and a raucous audience. A group of contestants posed questions to a man sitting inside a box in front of them in an electric chair.

The hostess and a chanting audience urged the players — who had levers in front of them — to send jolts of electricity into the man in the box when he gave an incorrect answer.

Even when the player screamed out in pain for them to stop, 80 percent of the contestants kept zapping him. In reality, the man in the electric chair was an actor who wasn't really being shocked — but the players and the audience did not know that.

The documentary makers say reality television relies increasingly on violent, humiliating and cruel acts to boost ratings. They say they simply wanted to see if we would go so far as to kill someone for entertainment.

Christophe Nick produced the documentary, The Game of Death, with a group of scientists and researchers.

"Most of us think we have free thinking and so we are responsible for our acts," Nick says. "This experience shows that in certain circumstances, a power — the TV in this case — is able to make you do something you don't want to do."

The idea that something deeply rooted in the human psyche makes most of us unable to resist authority is not new. The French documentary was based on an American experiment carried out in the 1960s by psychologist Stanley Milgram.

Milgram had participants delivering what they believed were electric shocks to a man every time he answered a question incorrectly. In that experiment, 60 percent of participants obeyed the sadistic orders until the end.

The French documentary, which was broadcast in France on Wednesday night, included footage of the Milgram experiment.

Sociologist Jean Claude Kaufmann says the French version combines Milgram's use of authority with the power of live television. He says the result in the French experiment — a higher percentage of participants willing to shock the subject — shows that the manipulative power of television further increases people's willingness to obey.

Television talk shows ruminated over the documentary Thursday. Comparisons are being drawn to the manipulation of the masses in Nazi Germany. One of the game show participants, Jerome Pasanau, said in an interview that he was still haunted by the experience.

"I wanted to stop the whole time, but I just couldn't. I didn't have the will to do it. And that goes against my nature," he said. "I haven't really figured out why I did it."

Pasanau told the TV host that he felt intimidated and isolated on the fictitious game show set, and that the crowd was overbearing. The host countered by pulling up footage of Pasanau pumping 460 volts of electricity until the actor pretending to be electrocuted seems to keel over dead.

In the footage, the game show hostess yells: "And you've won!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Chavez Ravine" (1929)

Anyone who has driven around Los Angeles in the last 50 years knows Millard Sheets' art, even if they don't know his name.

For Home Savings of America, he designed the distinctive white marble branch banks and their artistic decorations, sometimes collaborating with others, starting in 1952. (Many of those buildings became branches of Washington Mutual and now Chase bank.) The stripped classicism of the architecture is enlivened by Sheets' specialty: stylized mosaic murals and wall reliefs.

The décor has a certain period charm, even if the already shaky conceit of a prosperous, postwar American equivalent of Renaissance-era Medici bankers as art patrons has inescapably curdled in our era of too-big-to-fail banking scandals. But there was never any doubt that Sheets, who died in 1989, believed in the notion. He was by most accounts as conservative in his political outlook as he was in his art.

At the Pasadena Museum of California Art, a useful if rather uninspiring exhibition of 23 oil paintings and 60 watercolors looks at the roots of Sheets' undeniably prolific career.

"Flying Horse"

PHOENIX (AP) - It's not every day you see a horse fly.

But with the greatest of ease, a heavy-duty helicopter plucked a mustang named Colorado off a western Arizona river sandbar Tuesday morning, reuniting him with his owner.

Colorado spent five days stranded on the sandbar along the Gila River about 36 miles southwest of Phoenix.

"The Great Escape" tells the story of a heroic group

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. A.P. Clark, a World War II veteran who played a key role in the elaborate breakout from a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp that inspired the movie "The Great Escape," has died. He was 96.

He became a pilot after graduating from the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1936. During World War II he flew with the 31st Fighter Group, the first American fighter unit in the European Theater, according to an Air Force Academy biography.

Then a lieutenant colonel, Clark was shot down by German fighter planes over Abbeville, France, in July 1942, and spent nearly three years as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III in what is now Poland. He is credited with managing the production and hiding supplies in support of the escape of 76 POWs from the camp in 1944.

Mt. McKinley or Mt. Denali ???

Anyone can propose a name for a feature of American geography. And hundreds do. Alaska's effort to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Mt. Denali has been blocked for three decades by lawmakers from President McKinley's home state of Ohio.

(AL GRILLO / Associated Press)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dream House Raffle for Special Olympics, March 19, 2010

Don’t miss your chance to win the home of your dreams!

Special Olympics Southern California is raffling off a luxurious $2.2 million home in Studio City, south of Ventura Blvd, The 5,000-square-foot, custom home has 5 bedrooms. One grand-prize winner will get to choose between the dream house or $1.5 million in cash.

We could use another Pulitzer

James McGrath Morris sees parallels between Gilded Age media baron Joseph Pulitzer's time and ours, pointing out that when Pulitzer (1847-1911) began to shape "yellow journalism," newspapers were going out of business and readers were bemoaning the end of journalism as they knew it. Pulitzer charged ahead, boasting that the color pages of the New York World emerged from the state-of-the-art printing presses "like rainbow tints in the spray." Indeed, the World seemed like something entirely new in the staid universe of American newspapers, perhaps as revolutionary then as the Internet today and as provocative as the practitioners of advocacy journalism on Fox.

Morris' magisterial new biography, "Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power" (Harper: 560 pp., $29.99), is the first since W.A. Swanberg's 1967 work to reexamine the strange life of the man who was born to a prosperous Jewish family in Hungary and reinvented himself in the United States. He cut his eyeteeth as a cub reporter in St. Louis, and went on to buy one newspaper after another, each one bigger than the last.