Monday, August 30, 2010

"No bites at a chance to own history"

Who doesn't love a bargain? With a lot of history thrown in, who can resist?

Apparently many people can. In this case, the bargain is La Miniatura (shown above), a Frank Lloyd Wright house; the price has been slashed from $7.7 million to just under $5 million. And still no takers.

But there's more! Wright's Ennis House in Los Feliz is also up for sale, and the price for that has been cut in half, to under $8 million. Again, no one's buying.

Why? Who is willing and able to take care of these historic homes? The answer is complicated, of course. The Times' Column One feature explains, and says La Miniatura might even end up taken apart and shipped to Japan.

The Ennis House, shown below, was built for Mabel and Charles Ennis in 1924 on a hillside overlooking the city of Los Angeles.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Men Who Ride Mountains"

Grant Rohloff was born in Hollywood, California in 1935 and started surfing in the early 50's. His love of the sport led him to a brief apprenticeship with Surfer Magazine founder and legendary surf filmmaker John Severson, which in turn led to his own career as a still photographer and filmmaker. Grant's first project, "The Wonderful World of Surfing," was released in 1960 and was followed by 12 other surf films, including the highly acclaimed "Men Who Ride Mountains." Rohloff always began his movies with a comic scene in keeping with his mission to not only inform with his films, but to entertain. To Grant, filmmaking, photography and surfing were much more than a vocation; they were a way of life.

Surfboard that doesn't need waves

"six times faster than the speed of sound"

Sydney, May 1 (ANI): The US military is preparing to test an experimental aircraft, called 'WaveRider', that can fly more than six times faster than the speed of sound on ordinary jet fuel.

Officially, it's known as the X-51, but some like to call it the WaveRider because it stays airborne, in part, with lift generated by the shock waves of its own flight.

"big, glassy swells occasionally approaching 50 feet high"

Dwarfed by a massive wave, Tyler Smith competes in the finals of the 2006 Maverick's Surf Contest at Pillar Point, Northern California's most famed surf break, near Half Moon Bay. Smith was one of 24 top big-wave riders from around the world who got 40 hours' notice that the waves would be just right -- and that meant big, glassy swells occasionally approaching 50 feet high.

Photo by Frederic Larson

"Lineage II made this guy unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, and bathing"

A federal judge is allowing a negligence lawsuit to proceed against the publisher of the online virtual-world game Lineage II, amid allegations that a Hawaii man became so addicted he is “unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing or communicating with family and friends.”

Craig Smallwood, the plaintiff, claims NCsoft of South Korea should pay unspecified monetary damages because of the addictive nature of the game. Smallwood claims to have played Lineage II for 20,000 hours between 2004 and 2009. Among other things, he alleges he would not have begun playing if he was aware “that he would become addicted to the game.”

Ten Tony's

Albanian children named after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair pose in front of his picture at a July welcoming ceremony in Pristina.

Kushtrim Ternava / EPA / July 9, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

"the largest spaghetti sauce bath of all time"

Once a year, tens of thousands of tourists gather in a town in Spain to hurl over one hundred tons of overripe tomatoes … all in just one hour. When the festival is called to a halt fire houses are used to clean the streets as well as the participants. For this brief but amazing food fight the size of the town quadruples, drawing visitors from all over the world to participate in the largest spaghetti sauce bath of all time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Flights of Fantasy"

The team U Fly Like A Girl plunges 30 feet at Rainbow Harbor, a not-untypical showing at the Red Bull Flugtag. All the gliders landed in the drink, but one went farthest: Peepin' it Real of Newport Beach (98 feet).

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times / August 21, 2010)

Another opening of another show . . . in Las Vegas

The Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa's westward-facing side of the hotel tower has a special feature -- a light show on the windows (see below). There has been no official mention of it whatsoever on the hotel's website or by the press. Little is known what the show is officially called, who designed it, or how long it will be displayed each night at this point, but photos taken of the testing phase show difference from the eastern side of the tower.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Learning about the massive South American "terror bird"

From the size and shape of the beak, researchers have always known that the massive South American "terror bird" was a predator. Now they know precisely how the bird killed — wielding its huge skull and hooked beak like an pickax and repeatedly chopping at prey until it succumbed.

The 5-foot-tall, 90-pound Andalgalornis steulleti, whose skull was nearly twice the size of a human's, went extinct millions of years ago, but Argentine and U.S. researchers have been using CT scans and biomechanical reconstructions to deduce how the flightless predators killed. Their findings were announced Wednesday.

"Demolition" ????

A view of Undershaw, built by Arthur Conan Doyle and where he lived for 10 years, writing such classics as "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Architecturally, the house is not considered noteworthy, and Conan Doyle's connection with the place is not considered strong enough.

(Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times / August 18, 2010)

"Charlie Wilson's War"

The hard-partying and influential Texas congressman helped funnel money and weapons to Afghan resistance fighters to battle occupying Soviets in the 1980s. His story, including an alleged hot tub-cocaine scandal, inspired a 2007 Tom Hanks film: "Charlie Wilson's War"

"Tip Toe Through the Poppies"

A woman holds an umbrella as she walks through a poppy field in full bloom at the Showa Memorial Park in Tachikawa, suburban Tokyo. Visitors were able to enjoy some 2.5 million poppys until the end of May at the park.

(Photo by TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images / May 15, 2010)

Marina Bay Sands

A view of the Marina Bay Sands hotels (background) with its Skypark on top in Singapore. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)


Indian schoolchildren form a shape corresponding to the new symbol for The Indian Rupee as they sit on the ground at a school in Chennai on July 16, 2010. India unveiled July 15, a symbol for its rupee currency that it hopes will become as globally recognised as signs for the dollar, the yen, the pound and the euro.

(Photo by STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

"Off the Wall"

An Indian pedestrian walks past a wall mural depicting a tiger in Bangalore.


"Among the fish"

A swimmer dressed in a mermaid costume performs at Chinagmai zoo aquarium in Chiang Mai province on August 3. Chinag Mai zoo aquarium is South East Asia's largest living museum with nearly 20,000 examples of marine creatures.

(Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images)

"2.2 million litre Oceanarium"

Children watch as a diver wearing a suit commonly used 100 years ago takes a walk through the 2.2 million litre Oceanarium tank at the Melbourne Aquarium. The Aquarium's diving team are stepping back in time, donning the suit which weighs 75 kgs, to display it to the public.


"a nostalgic trip down Route 66"

Radiator Springs will celebrate California’s car culture with a nostalgic trip down Route 66 when the fictional film town built for and by cars makes its debut at Disney California Adventure in 2012.
Cars Land, the 12-acre themed land under construction at DCA, will feature three new rides set amid a faithful re-creation of the isolated red rock desert town populated by Lightning McQueen and other animated vehicles in the Pixar movie “Cars.”

On the "Kapitan Khlebnikov"

More than 88 years after his death, explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton continues to make news. The latest is the opening of 11 bottles of Scotch whisky found at an ice hut in Antarctica that he used. The whisky is being analyzed by experts who are overwhelmed to be sampling (not drinking) a 19th century recipe that’s no longer made.

You can make your own toast, whiskey or otherwise, to Shackleton at his remote grave on South Georgia during a monthlong Geographic Expeditions trip that tours the Weddell Sea, where the explorer’s ship became trapped in ice for hundreds of days after setting out from England in 1914.

The voyage: The expedition will sail aboard the Kapitan Khlebnikov, a Russian icebreaker that was said to be the first to circumnavigate Antarctica carrying passengers on tour in the late 1990s. The ship holds 112 passengers. In this year’s trip, it will tour Elephant Island, the Weddell Sea, South Georgia and other points and include a helicopter tour for aerial sightseeing.

The deal: The cost of this voyage starts at $21,990 per person, based on double occupancy. Those who book before Aug. 31 will receive $2,000 off. Airfare and taxes aren’t included.

"Top to Bottom"

A Chinese worker at a construction site in Suining, in southwest China's Sichuan province. Chinese officials have hastened to point out the country's low per capita income, 100th in the world, even as the nation become the world's second largest economy.

(AFP/Getty Images / August 20, 2010)

The demolition of "underdog individualism"

Some architects reach the point where even a minor or obscure example of their work becomes significant. That may be the case with architect John Lautner, whose underdog individualism has propelled his reputation skyward.

Supporters hope Lautner's prestige can help save one of his earliest commissions, a 1951 house north of Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills known as Shusett House. The current owner, Enrique Mannheim, wants to knock it down and build a new place to live. The demolition could come in the next few days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Before talkies, there was Vitaphone

If you know about Vitaphone shorts, the news that a newly restored selection is ready for public viewing courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive is all the information you need. If you haven't heard of them, be prepared for a genuine time machine experience that will revolutionize your thinking about the way sound came to Hollywood.

Though conventional wisdom has it that Al Jolson singing and talking in 1927's "The Jazz Singer" is where sound all began, in fact, Warner Bros. had been producing short subjects that featured top vaudeville acts talking, singing and playing musical instruments since 1926.

Between 1926 and 1930, Warner Bros. used its Vitaphone system to produce more than 1,000 brief films that included jazz bands, comedy acts and opera singers. But because of the cumbersome nature of the system, the shorts disappeared from sight so completely that the 11 screening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood will be getting their first public showing in more than 80 years.

Though 20th Century Fox was working on the sound-on-film method that eventually became the industry norm, Vitaphone used a different technology, one that synchronized the photographed image with simultaneously recorded 16-inch 33 rpm phonograph records.

The filmed portion of these Vitaphone shorts have long been at the Library of Congress, but no one was able to hear what they sounded like until 1986, when a huge trove of recorded discs was found in a vault hidden behind a sound department screen at Warner's Burbank studio.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's coming up soon . . .

It's coming up soon, but Harry Connick Jr. isn't exactly sure yet what program he, his big band and the Los Angeles Philharmonic are going to be performing at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday and Saturday.

Actually, he didn't much like planning in advance during his recently concluded 13-performance Broadway run either. As he told one New York reporter: "It would kill me if anyone who saw this show twice saw the same thing."

What he does know is they'll be playing some songs from his Grammy-nominated album of American classics, "Your Songs," which has propelled a world tour that has already taken the Connecticut-based entertainer to such places as Europe, the Middle East, Australia and China. At the Neil Simon Theatre, as at the Bowl, audiences just had to wait to know that night's mix of romantic ballads, big-band jazz, New Orleans funk and amusing patter.

Betty Buckley sure to be a delight !!

"Betty Buckley in Concert With Seth Rudetsky" is scheduled on Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. at UCLA's Freud Playhouse. Buckley won a Tony for featured actress in a musical for "Cats" in 1983.

Never-Ending Conflict

Israeli army engineers remove cement blocks from a security barrier in Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb annexed in 1967. The blocks were set up during the second Palestinian "'intifada" or uprising in 2000 to block gunfire from adjacent West Bank towns.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Restored Dignity

Charlie Chaplin stayed there. Noel Coward wrote "Private Lives" from the comfort of one of the suites. The all-night costume balls, boozy dinners and back-room business deals are things of legend in this city once known as the Paris of the Orient. And then suddenly, with the outbreak of war, the party was over at the Peace Hotel.

There is no other landmark in Shanghai so closely associated with the city's storied history. The hotel's heyday lasted a scant eight years, from its opening as the Cathay Hotel in 1929 to the outbreak of fighting between Japan and China in 1937. The hotel, along with much of Shanghai, fell into disrepair.

Today, it has returned to its boom-time roots. After three years, $73 million worth of refurbishment and more than a few delays, a meticulously restored and updated Peace Hotel reopened last month, hoping to offer visitors the modern equivalent of 1920s luxury. (At modern luxury prices: rooms start around $350 a night.)

Expect some "MAGIC"

As if Cirque du Soleil needed more visibility in this world, the Grove in Los Angeles will host a special day featuring performances from Cirque's Las Vegas productions — "Mystère," "O," " Criss Angel Believe," "Viva Elvis," "Kà" and "Zumanity."

The free event will take place Aug. 22, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Grove with activities for children. Starting at 1 p.m., there will be brief performances from the aforementioned shows that will last for much of the afternoon.

Last year, Cirque du Soleil put on a similar free show at the Grove as part of its 25th-anniversary season.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"30 years and 3,300 hours"

Carson Entertainment Group, which owns the archive of the late-night host's 30 years on "The Tonight Show," is set to announce Wednesday that it has digitized all 3,300 hours of existing footage from the program and created a searchable online database for producers and researchers.

The library will initially be available just for professional clip-licensing purposes, but the company also plans to release 50 full-format shows on DVD and post a rotating series of historic clips for public viewing on

Shown above is Johnny Carson with Muhammad Ali on "The Tonight Show."

"The truth is not always something rosy"

Their weapons are brushes; their battlefields are canvases. And here in China, where political dissent often leads to prosecution, the works of avant-garde artists can sometimes appear as threatening as a mass protest.

Enter the Gao brothers, Qiang and Zhen, soft-spoken siblings who have long used startling images of Mao Tse-tung as a focal point for their sculptures, paintings and performance pieces.

"I don't consider myself a dissident at all," said Gao Qiang, 48. "I never even think about this question. I just use art to express what I want to express."

Regardless, they have become two of the most incendiary figures in the Chinese contemporary art world.

Over the years, authorities have raided their exhibits, confiscated their pieces, jailed their associates, and turned off the electricity in their studio. The brothers — who are scheduled to have their first solo show in Los Angeles in September — have been denied passports and were forbidden from leaving the Chinese mainland for more than a decade, up until 2003.

"The truth is not always something rosy," said Gao Zhen, 54. "Often it involves conflict, strife. I hope we can get at the truth through our art."

The recent opening of "Portraits," their latest exhibition in Beijing, served as an unambiguous reminder of the brothers' delicate position in a country that still places tight restrictions on freedom of expression, including art.

New plan for Century Plaza

After backing down from a contentious proposal to demolish the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel, the owner has unveiled plans to construct a high-rise real estate development next to the Space Age landmark that would transform the tenor of Century City's streets and dramatically alter the skyline.

The $1.5-billion proposal calls for two 46-story skyscrapers holding hundreds of condominiums and offices to be built behind the renowned hotel on Avenue of the Stars. Nearly half of the guest rooms would be replaced by luxury condos as part of a top-to-bottom makeover.

A large portion of the lobby would be hollowed out and left open in a move to connect the new buildings, shops and plazas with nearby streets and improve the flow of pedestrians. Planning and construction are slated for completion by 2014.

Monday, August 09, 2010

"Sold !!!!!" . . . for $30 or $40 million !!!

It's just a used car sitting in an Oxnard office park, but it's got low, low mileage and a great paint job.

It's also the world's most expensive automobile, fetching a reported $30 million to $40 million at auction earlier this year.

The 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic — one of only three produced — is sleek, sensuous and the first big splash at the Mullin Automotive Museum, which is putting it on public display for about three months starting next Tuesday. Reservations are required and may be made at

"architectural wonders of photographer Julius Shulman"

The Getty Research Institute's Special Collections section includes the archives of architectural photographer Julius Shulman, including 260,000 negatives as well as photographs featuring the full sweep of California modernism.

Soon you can rent an electric car

Beginning as early as January, electric cars will be available at the nation's two largest auto rental companies.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, North America's largest car rental firm, unveiled plans last week to offer about 500 Nissan Leaf all-electric cars, initially at dealerships in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Seattle.

The announcement came a few months after Hertz , the world's largest car rental company, said it planned to offer Nissan Leafs at a handful of locations in the U.S. and Europe, including New York, Washington and San Francisco, next year. A fully charged Leaf has a range of about 100 miles.

"a landscape of massive spires"

Pinnacles National Monument, a landscape of massive spires and sheer-walled canyons east of Salinas Valley, would become California's newest national park under legislation introduced in Congress recently.

Rising out of the chaparral-swathed Gabilan Mountains in central California, the 26,000-acre area of volcanic rock formations is a nesting place for the endangered California condor, North America's largest soaring bird, with wingspans up to 9 feet.

Friday, August 06, 2010

"Because it's there"

The documentary, 'The Wildest Dream', is an absorbing look at George Mallory's legendary 1924 attempt that deals with the climber's fate and his legacy in an unusual combination of ways.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"no greater compliment"

In the world of zoos, there is no greater compliment than having an animal named after you. So it was little surprise to find a rare snow leopard cub frolicking at the Los Angeles Zoo in early 2007 named Tom — after Tom Mankiewicz, the chairman of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn., the institution's fundraising arm.

"I thought it was perfect," recalled Gail Oppenheimer, who with her husband, Jerry, donated substantially to the zoo, earning them naming privileges.

Oppenheimer named one cub Jerry, after her husband, and the other Tom, after their close friend who had persuaded them to be generous donors.

"He loved it," Oppenheimer said. "He thought it was hilarious."