Sunday, February 27, 2011

Doing the "Bertillon"

Police officers in the early 1900s study the Bertillon method, an idea whose time has gone. Before fingerprints, cops checked size of feet, fingers and heads to identify criminals.

(Library of Congress, Library of Congress / February 27, 2011)

Remember when . . . ?

Here's a corner of the battlefield, as 13 year old Bobby Fischer, (R), of Brooklyn, New York, fought out a chess battle with 21 opponents, (20 of them adults), simultaneously in the lobby of the YMCA in Jersey City. Bobby won 19 of the games, lost one and drew one. Play took five hours. Proceeds from the event would help Bobby go to the U. S. National Open Chess Tournament in Oklahoma City, July 16-28, 1956.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

FLW's Favorite

When Frank Lloyd Wright completed the Ennis house in 1924, he immediately considered it his favorite. The last and largest of the four concrete-block houses that Wright built in the Los Angeles area remains arguably the best residential example of Mayan Revival architecture in the country. When The Times' Home section convened a panel of historians, architects and preservationists in 2008 to vote on the region's best houses of all time, the Ennis house ranked ahead of the Modernist Eames house, the John Lautner spaceship-on-a-hill known as Chemosphere and the Arts & Crafts beauty the Gamble house.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"The story of Tonto with Silver and the Lone Ranger"

At first glance it appears to be a casting choice with the potential to derail Johnny Depp's otherwise stellar movie career. Depp, known for his edgy roles and wacky on-screen personas, has been cast to play Tonto, the Native American sidekick to the Lone Ranger, in a forthcoming Hollywood version of the 1950s TV show.

Depp's Tonto, however, will be rather different from the original ally who stuck by his cowboy friend through thick and thin. Instead, his character looks set to be at the heart of the film and have the dominant role in its narrative.

Director Gore Verbinski is taking inspiration for the central relationship not from the dusty reels of the TV show, but from literary classic Don Quixote. In the new version, the Lone Ranger turns out to be a misguided fool and Tonto the voice of sanity, akin to Quixote's companion, Sancho Panza.

"The only version of The Lone Ranger I'm interested in doing is Don Quixote told from Sancho Panza's point of view," Verbinski told the Los Angeles Times's "Hero Complex" film blog last week. Suddenly it becomes a lot easier to see why Depp would take the role. "I was honest early on with Johnny that Tonto is the part. We're not going to do it [straight]; everyone knows that story. I don't want to tell that story," the director said.

To be "Built in the USA"

The Boeing Company has received a contract from the U.S. Air Force to build the next-generation aerial refueling tanker aircraft that will replace 179 of the service’s 400 KC-135 tankers.

The contract calls for Boeing to design, develop, manufacture and deliver 18 initial combat-ready tankers by 2017.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Cheek to Cheek"

The forever young octogenarian Barbara Cook and the eternally boyish Michael Feinstein made this live recording during their engagement at the deluxe nightspot Feinstein's at Lowes Regency last season.

At Oran Z’s Pan African Black Facts & Wax Museum

This is one of the first things I was able to focus my eyes on when I visited the museum, which looks like a garage crammed with someone’s collection. You’re bombarded with so much stuff: wax figures of Frederick Douglass and Barack Obama, toys and knickknacks, slave artifacts and sports memorabilia. Pieces are in disarray too, like wax figures on their backsides somehow being worked on. The Thurgood Marshall figure was sitting behind a judge’s bench and dressed in a robe. Nearby, in the witness stand, was a figure of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Movieland Wax Museum, which went out of business, had originally built this set for the TV show “Perry Mason,” and it looks like it’s straight out of the 1950s. Oran Z himself, who arranged the installations with such care and devotion to his heroes, will take you on the tours. He’s a very passionate man and wants to educate everyone on his understanding of African American history. I haven’t been on a tour any shorter than three hours.

— Artist Kristen Morgin, as told to Jori Finkel

Exhibitions at the Getty Center and the Pomona College Museum of Art put the focus on photography and China

"Three Coolies" photographed by Lai Afong.

(Afong, Lai, The Getty Research Institute / February 22, 2011)

"The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage"

Douglas Waller has written a splendid biography of the larger-than-life man who ran the legendary forerunner of the CIA.

An "apple" is worth $300 billion

Apple Inc. has pulled off a string of runaway hits — like the iPhone and the iPad — that have revolutionized every industry they touched. It has become the world's second-most-valuable company, worth more than $300 billion.

But when shareholders meet Wednesday at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, the buzz will not be about Apple's next sleek new gadget or soaring profits. Much of the talk will be about Chief Executive Steve Jobs and what Apple would do without him.

The secretive Apple has been reluctant to talk publicly about Jobs' battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant. But the uncertainty shrouding his latest leave of absence has unsettled investors and rankled corporate governance experts, who say the company's fortunes are inextricably linked to Jobs.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Bare Facts"

Naked volunteers pose for the American photographer Spencer Tunick on the Swiss glacier Aletsch, the largest in the Alps, as part of an environmental campaign about global warming, August 18, 2007. The campaign, organized by Greenpeace, was aimed at drawing attention to melting Alpine glaciers.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP - Getty Images

"249 days without a government"

Belgians have been marking a near world record of 249 days without a government, due to political deadlock following June elections last year that failed to produce a clear winner.

Despite the ongoing political crisis, residents used Thursday to hold a "chips revolution", honouring a favourite national dish, with various events going on around the country.

"Of course it is serious that we have no federal government," Kris Peeters, the Flemish minister-president of Flanders, said.

"But on the other hand, I appreciate very much the humour of certain actions."

In Ghent, a Dutch-speaking region, organisers say 249 people stripped naked to mark the days of the crisis, while a group of people calling for a unity government are using the occasion to press their cause.

"Creepy crawler: The hunter, who insists it is not a hoax, posted the image on the Wildgames Innovations website"

The hunter said he was lying in wait in the pitch black when a ghoulish spectre filled his sights.

Its eyes glowing in the light of his torch, it leapt from the undergrowth and flashed a look at the camera before vanishing back into the bushes.

The hunter, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was so frightened he said he broke the camera but retrieved the image from its undamaged memory chip.

The picture was taken on a reserve in Berwick near Morgan City, Louisiana.

Internet users agree the whole thing is merely a hoax - and one comment posted claimed the figure had been stolen from a video game he had seen two years ago.

"Classic Hollywood"

Every cinéaste has a list of films and performers they wish would have won Academy Awards, or even been nominated. But tastes were often different during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and what was considered superb back then might seem dated and creaky these days. Whereas, numerous films that were overlooked for awards in their day have since been embraced by critics, historians and film buffs.

So, on the eve of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, Classic Hollywood tries to make up for past mistakes — or at least reward deserving films — with some retro film awards -- call them the Classics. Above, Charlie Chaplin in "City Lights."


The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel opened in 1927, financed by such Hollywood luminaries as MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer and superstar couple Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. As soon as the hotel threw open its doors, it was the place to be seen in town. On May 16, 1929, the first Academy Awards ceremony was held in the hotel's fashionable Blossom Room. The winners had been announced to the press three months earlier. It was the only time the awards were held there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park

One of the most beautiful and interesting places you're likely to visit,Anacapa is a very small but dramatically jagged island located about 12 miles off the coast, just north of Los Angeles, California. It takes about an hour to get there by boat and there were huge ocean swells during our boat ride out, making it feel like a rollercoaster ride. once on the island, there is not really anything to do but enjoy the views, wildlife, and watch the ocean waves smack against the rocks below.

(excerpts and photos from the randomSPACE blog -- click on the heading above to visit the randomSPACE blog)

"El Alisal"

Today, if you wanted to rub shoulders with prominent thinkers, writers and entertainers, you'd probably try to wangle an invitation to one of Arianna Huffington's salons at her Brentwood mansion.

In the early 1900s, however, you'd head to the home of Charles Fletcher Lummis in what is now Highland Park.

Lummis, a prolific writer, champion of the Southwest and, for a while, Los Angeles' head librarian, played host to some of the biggest movers and shakers of his time, including humorist Will Rogers, naturalist John Muir, attorney Clarence Darrow and composer John Philip Sousa.

In 1895 Lummis bought a three-acre plot of land for himself, his wife, Eve, and their two small children in the Arroyo Seco that would become his home and the site of his "noises."

He called the house El Alisal, Spanish for "place of the sycamore" in honor of the some 30 sycamore trees on the property. He built the concrete and rock home, which boasted a circular 30-foot tower, almost solely by himself, lugging boulders from the arroyo for the exterior walls.

Does your bread have quinoa, amaranth, spelt and Kamut ?

Ancient grains may sound like something you'd find in a museum or at an archaeological site.

But these days, they're turning up in the bread aisle. At markets from Whole Foods to Vons, shoppers can choose from a growing number of breads made with so-called ancient grains, including quinoa, amaranth, spelt and Kamut (a patented variety of wheat).

Claims about the breads abound: They're said to be packed with whole grains, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and they're supposedly safe for people with wheat allergies or gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease. But although the ancient grains are undoubtedly healthful and tasty, not all of the claims hold up.

Speaking of "Believing in Freedom"

Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting "George Washington Crossing the Delaware" before the Battle of Trenton.

(The Bettmann Archive / February 20, 2011)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

a "perfect storm" of angst

Readers take note. If you're already convinced that vaccines cause autism, that vaccine-preventable infectious diseases no longer threaten children's lives here and abroad, and that certain modern, anti-vaccine gurus are motivated by nothing but tender concern for your family's health, Seth Mnookin's "The Panic Virus" is not the book for you.

If, on the other hand, you want to learn how a "perfect storm" of angst, deception and reckless media fanfare led to years of backlash against childhood vaccines, step right up. It's apt that "The Panic Virus" opens with the quote: "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on." The person who said this, 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, did not hesitate to rail against the "truthiness" of our age. Nor does Mnookin, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair whose books include "Hard News," about the New York Times and its scandals.

"the first black woman to headline on Broadway"

From the 1920s through the early '40s, Ethel Waters was probably the most famous black woman in America: a bestselling recording artist, a popular nightclub performer, the star of five Broadway shows and several Hollywood movies. After a grim period of little work as she aged and gained weight, Waters triumphed again as an African American matriarch in the 1949 film "Pinky" and in the lyrical 1950 stage adaptation of Carson McCullers' novel "The Member of the Wedding."

By the time Waters died in 1977, however, she was better known to most Americans as an elderly, large, devoutly religious woman who frequently appeared at Billy Graham's fundamentalist Crusades. People had largely forgotten the glamorous crossover artist who belied stereotypes, the first black woman to headline on Broadway at the Palace — the mecca for all vaudeville performers, the star of a groundbreaking Broadway drama ("Mamba's Daughters" in 1939) that empathetically depicted three generations of African American women. One of Waters' biggest hits, the sultry, heartbreaking "Stormy Weather," is remembered instead as Lena Horne's signature song.

Donald Bogle's comprehensive biography "Heat Wave" aims to restore Waters' stature as a pioneering African American entertainer and to elucidate the complex personality of a woman whose life was as turbulent as her career. Author of the groundbreaking "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Film," Bogle is well-qualified to provide the cultural and social context necessary to fully understand both Waters' accomplishments and her shortcomings.

"$300 million Concerto"

Developer Sonny Astani has begun marketing his $300 million Concerto at 9th and Figueroa project in downtown Los Angeles.

The project includes a trio of contemporary structures, including two 30-story glass towers and a mid-rise loft building. Despite the sagging economy and an over-abundance of condominiums crowding the L.A. market, Astani’s project on a 100,000-square-foot parcel near LA Live and Staples Center in downtown’s South Park neighborhood is slated to begin delivery of 77 lofts in the mid-rise building in June, followed by the 271-unit first tower in the fall.

"Welcome to Beverly Hills! You have arrived"

Even on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, one of the world's most expensive stretches of commercial real estate, the nation's economic woes have claimed a longtime employee.

Because of budget problems, the city's visitors bureau has laid off its official ambassador, who has welcomed hundreds of tourists and visitors on Rodeo Drive for the last 11 years.

Gregg Donovan, 51, the top-hat-wearing former hotel concierge, got his walking papers last month. No longer will he stroll Rodeo Drive, welcoming tourists to such high-end stores as Gianni Versace, Jimmy Choo and Battaglia. No longer will he address visitors with his signature greeting: "Welcome to Beverly Hills! You have arrived."

Friday, February 18, 2011

"he lived his dream"

Jerry West and his family just gathered on stage as he pulled the gold rope that unveiled the statue of him here at Star Plaza at Staples Center, as purple and gold streamers exploded from a nearby cannon.

The statue depicts him mid-stride, dribbling down the court, ball in his left hand, wearing his No. 44 gold Lakers jersey with those short shorts, raggy white socks, low-top sneakers and his face in a kind of half-grin, as if he sees an open path to the basket.

"To think of a little boy who had an opportunity to live his dream, and maybe to exceed it, that is very special," West said, holding back tears.

-- Baxter Holmes

Jose Espinoza

Born in 1971 in Mexico City, from an early age he showed qualities for drawing, studying a degree in Architecture at the IPN, standing out brightly with the means of graphic expression as watercolor, gouache, and others, after almost two decades of life professional and self-taught experience with other media such as oil, pastel and acrylic, like many other architects return this passion for painting as a late vocation overflowing with an irrepresible need for visual expression using mainly online gallery to display his artwork .

The interpretive Artwork up the gallery, called IDENTITIES is fundamental iconic and figurative, about the cultural symbols that make up the author's environment. The medium chosen for this series helps to contextualize it is the genuine amate bark paper , from the Nahuatl "amatl tree-leaf" hand made in its various shades, and made from the same ancestral technique 3000 years ago for the realization of pre-Columbian codices, using mainly acrylic or mixed media with gold leaf, taking special care to enhance the feature-rich bark texture. Another element representative and also places it within contemporary art is its chromaticism.

Initially called the "yoke of the architect" take the hyper-realism, (a fundamental part of architectural expression), and having the intention to stay in, but the momentum quickly running out to undermine his chances for the richness and intensity of pictorial expression as chromatic wide and varied. Being in expectation of the broad and intense ability of each subject and work.

"Southern California's all-time coolest athletes"

(Clockwise) Johnny Weissmuller, Sandy Koufax, Magic Johnson, Billie Jean King, and "Gorgeous" George Wagner are on top of Chris Dufresne's list of Southern California's all-time coolest athletes.

(Associated Press; Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images; Nick Ut / Associated Press; Harry Harris / Associated Press; Associated Press)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This gorilla thinks he's a man

The "Great Mind Challenge"

"Jeopardy!" has a new champion, and its name is Watson.

During the Wednesday finale of the three-day "Jeopardy!" challenge that pitted all-stars Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter against an IBM supercomputer, the machine beat the men. Watson finished with $77,147, Jennings with $24,000 and Rutter with $21,600.

The win is a publicity coup for IBM, which created Watson as part of its Great Mind Challenge series. The company hopes to sell Watson's question-answering technology for use in hospitals and on call-center help desks. The last time IBM created a man-versus-machine challenge of this scale, it built Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

The lands being slowly washed away

"Sun Come Up" — In the opening moments, an interviewer asks a group from the Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea, "Will your island sink first or will everyone die of hunger?" The lands in question are being slowly washed away due to sea-level rises that many associate with climate change. The traveling group of young people from the islands has no negotiating experience and nothing to bargain with anyway, yet must make the arduous journey to persuade locals in neighboring Bougainville — still recovering from a civil war — to surrender land for the relocation of thousands.


Instead of All-Stars, NBA fans were almost treated to All-Silence.

The NBA was about to go live on television in 1964 for one of the first times, a major opportunity for a struggling league, when the game's top talent threatened to back out of the All-Star game a few hours before tip-off.

Long before the labor lockout in 1998-99 and before whatever awaits the NBA this summer in a new labor negotiation, in 1964 a group of players became pioneers of a sort, banding together to fight for a pension, among other things.

The howling blizzard outside the Boston Garden was an appropriate metaphor for what was happening inside on that January night.

Angry team owners fumed in a hallway inside the arena as their star players, including Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson, barricaded themselves in a locker room and announced they would not play unless they were guaranteed benefits originally forwarded to the commissioner's office the previous summer.

The players wanted a pension. They wanted athletic trainers on every team. They wanted improved playing conditions — no more Sunday afternoon games after a Saturday night game.

The players had tried to tell Commissioner Walter Kennedy that they were serious at a meeting several months earlier.

"We brought in our reps," said former Boston Celtics All-Star Tom Heinsohn, "and they kept us in the lobby and never brought us upstairs."

The owners were definitely listening now.

Heinsohn was the president of the players' association, a position for which he had plenty of practice. He studied labor relations as a student at Holy Cross. He worked on pension plans in an insurance business during NBA off-seasons. His father had been a union official.

He was the one handing the All-Stars a sheet to sign as they arrived at the arena.

"We had a fairly good consensus as they dribbled in," Heinsohn said. "We relayed what we wanted to do and they all signed the paper that they would support this thing.

"We went down and talked to the commissioner at about 5 o'clock and told him that because they hadn't met with us, we were not going to play unless they met our demands. They had a board of governors meeting that day and nobody talked to us."

The game was a couple of hours from tipoff. The line of irritated owners grew quickly outside the locker room.

The NBA was nothing like it is today. It was a nine-team league that did not have a large national following. The minimum player salary was $7,500 — a star such as Heinsohn never made more than $28,500 — and most players had a second career to make a living. (Today, the average NBA salary is $5.8 million.)

The All-Star game was being televised for the first time in 1964 — a big deal to the league and the owners, who were not pleased to hear about the budding revolt.

"At times, certain owners would try to get their players out of the locker room and browbeat them," Heinsohn said.

Red Auerbach, the Boston Celtics' general manager and coach, angrily told Heinsohn that he was "the biggest heel in sports."

Lakers owner Bob Short approached the locker room in a fury.

"He said to an Irish cop that guarded the door, 'Tell Elgin Baylor if he doesn't get out there, he's through,' " Heinsohn said.

Baylor's response: Sorry, Bob.

Lakers star Jerry West, then 25 and in his fourth season, stood his ground with Baylor.

"I was young and just trying to feel my way along and build a career for myself," West said. "[Short] said to us very threateningly, 'If you don't play in this game, you're probably never going to play again.' I then said, 'I'm never going to play a game.' I am pretty defiant."

West's mood was steeped in his belief that players were not getting what they deserved.

"The players were controlled by the owners," West said. "All of us felt like we were slaves in the sense we had no rights. No one made anything then. You had to work in the summer. It was the stone ages of basketball."

The minutes moved rapidly inside the locker room. Tipoff time was approaching. A chance at major TV exposure was evaporating quickly.

Finally, Kennedy made a decision. The commissioner met the demands of the players, who were overjoyed.

"He formally recognized the players' association and agreed to the pension plan and all the other things," Heinsohn said.

The game was delayed about 15 minutes. The Eastern Conference defeated the West, 111-107, but all the players were winners that night.

In the photo above, West All-Stars Bob Pettit and Jerry West look for a steal as the East's Oscar Robertson, bottom, falls to the court during the NBA All-Star game at Boston Garden. The East won, 111-107. (Associated Press / January 15, 1964)

The "Nano Hummingbird"

A pocket-size drone dubbed the Nano Hummingbird for the way it flaps its tiny robotic wings has been developed for the Pentagon by a Monrovia company as a mini-spy plane capable of maneuvering on the battlefield and in urban areas.

The battery-powered drone was built by AeroVironment Inc. for the Pentagon's research arm as part of a series of experiments in nanotechnology. The little flying machine is built to look like a bird for potential use in spy missions.

The results of a five-year effort to develop the drone are being announced Thursday by the company and the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Equipped with a camera, the drone can fly at speeds of up to 11 miles per hour, AeroVironment said. It can hover and fly sideways, backward and forward, as well as go clockwise and counterclockwise, by remote control for about eight minutes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Make your own interpretation about this piece of "pop art"

Source: unknown

"underground cities over 2,500 years old"

Kapadokya, Turkey is home to hundreds of linked rooms that, together, form an ancient system of underground cities over 2,500 years old. Areas are separated by narrow corridors lit once lit by oil lamps as well as other architectural devices for maximizing the defensibility of the spaces. Settlement initially started on the surface, then slowly moved underground over time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“I’m perpetually lonely"

Lady Gaga told Vanity Fair contributing editor Lisa Robinson that she tries to avoid having sex because she is afraid of depleting her creative energy—“I have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone they’re going to take my creativity from me through my vagina.”

She also says that she doesn’t trust anybody and doesn’t know if she ever will. Gaga tells Robinson, “I’m perpetually lonely. I’m lonely when I’m in relationships. It’s my condition as an artist.” Regarding men, she says, “I’m drawn to bad romances. And my song [“Bad Romance”] is about whether I go after those [sort of relationships] or if they find me. I’m quite celibate now; I don’t really get time to meet anyone.”

"the most over-the-top get-up on the carpet"

After a string of more sartorially subdued award shows, the Grammys are usually a welcome relief, with plenty of flash and sometimes shocking outfit choices. But this year, the artists who walked the red carpet left the sequin pasties and overly themed outfits at home, favoring relatively tame metallic gowns, dresses with angular cutouts and animal prints.

Nicki Minaj, wearing the most over-the-top get-up on the carpet, was clad head to toe in a leopard print. (And, yes, it was literally head to toe, as the platinum hair close to her head was painted with leopard spots and a cotton candy-esque tower of more blond hair spouted up like the Bride of Frankenstein's signature do.) The look was created for her by Givenchy Haute Couture, right down to the leopard-print leggings and booties.

"A vivid past, a hazy future"

Hugo Martinez Tecoatal descends the front steps of the Casa del Mexicano in Boyle Heights. The muralist has covered the landmark's interior walls with scenes depicting Mexican culture and history. The Casa went into foreclosure in October and could be auctioned off on Friday.

(Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times / February 15, 2011)

"the elegant pianist who expanded the boundaries of jazz by adding an orchestral sensibility and a mellow aesthetic to the music"

George Shearing, the elegant pianist who expanded the boundaries of jazz by adding an orchestral sensibility and a mellow aesthetic to the music, has died. He was 91.

Shearing died Monday of congestive heart failure at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said his manager, Dale Sheets. Shearing had not performed publicly since taking a fall at his New York City apartment in 2004, but he continued playing piano.

A prolific songwriter, Shearing once introduced "Lullaby of Birdland," written in 1952 in celebration of the fabled New York nightspot and its radio show, by saying: "I have been credited with writing 300 songs. Two-hundred-ninety-nine enjoyed a bumpy ride from relative obscurity to total oblivion. Here is the other one."

Shearing, who was born blind, first came to America from his native England in 1946. His first job was intermission pianist at a New York club during a Sarah Vaughan engagement. He took a similar post at another club during an Ella Fitzgerald engagement and sometimes filled in her for pianist, Hank Jones.

He continued as a struggling, scale-earning unknown until early 1949, when he hit on a formula that would establish his jazz identity.

Leonard Feather — the jazz critic, producer and composer who discovered Shearing in 1937 — suggested that the pianist add a guitarist and a vibraphonist to the standard rhythm section to make up a quintet. The personnel in that first group were diverse both in race and gender and included John Levy on bass, Denzil Best on drums, Marjorie Hyams on vibraphone and Chuck Wayne on guitar.

The group went into the recording studio and came out with "September in the Rain," which sold nearly a million records. Their first New York engagement came in April 1949 at the Café Society Downtown. They then went on a national tour, and by the end of the year, Shearing's group was voted the No. 1 combo in a reader poll by jazz magazine Down Beat.

With this group, Shearing developed what came to be known as "the Shearing Sound," which involved not only the makeup of the band — vibes and guitar generally were not both found in quintets — but also the style in which he played the piano. He used the "block-chords" technique to create a big, lush, orchestral sound. In his book "The Jazz Years: Earwitness to an Era," Feather wrote that Shearing "developed a new and unprecedented blend for his instrumentation."

In that technique, a New York Times writer noted some years ago, "both hands play melodies in parallel octaves with a shifting cloud of chords in between."

Shearing worked primarily with his quintet for much of the next three decades. The personnel shifted but over the years included some of the finest names in jazz, including Cal Tjader and Gary Burton on vibes and Joe Pass and Toots Thielemans on guitar, though Thielemans was better known as a harmonica player.

From the early 1950s on, Shearing had steady work in the recording studios, first with MGM, where he was under contract from 1950 to 1955, and then with Capitol Records for 14 years. With Capitol, he recorded albums with some of the best singers of the day, including Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson and Nat King Cole, and achieved substantial chart success in the late 1950s and early '60s.

Though the commercially successful quintet was his bread and butter, Shearing in time began to feel limited by it and grew tired of life on the road. At one point, he told New Yorker jazz critic Whitney Balliett, his quintet did 56 concerts in 63 days.

"George drives himself harder than you notice," bassist Al McKibbon once told Feather. "One night in Oklahoma City, I saw him literally fall asleep in the middle of a chorus of 'Tenderly.' He woke up with a start and carried right on."

Shearing disbanded the group in 1978. For most of the rest of his career, he appeared mainly in solo, duo or trio settings.

His work in duos and recording contracts with Concord Records and then Telarc in the 1980s seemed to revitalize him. He recorded five albums with singer Mel Torme that were critically and commercially successful.

His autobiography, "Lullaby of Birdland," was published in 2004.

Born Aug. 13, 1919, in the Battersea district of London to working-class Cockney parents, Shearing was one of nine children. He started playing piano and accordion at age 5 but didn't receive formal musical education until he spent four of his teenage years at the Linden Lodge, a school for the blind.

It was there that he learned Bach, Liszt and music theory. It was also during that time that he became interested in jazz by listening to recordings by American pianists Meade Lux Lewis, Earl Hines, Art Tatum and Fats Waller.

At Linden Lodge, Shearing showed enough potential to earn a number of scholarship offers from universities. But after graduating, he went to work in a local pub where he earned about $5 a week and tips for his playing.

Within a year, he had joined Claude Bampton's big band, a 15-piece unit made up of blind musicians who played compositions by Jimmie Lunceford and Duke Ellington.

Feather discovered Shearing playing as a swing accordionist in a London jam session. He quickly arranged for Shearing to record for English Decca and, although that recording date was not Shearing's first, it was the one that set his career in motion.

With Feather's help, Shearing got a regular radio program on the BBC. He had a Dixieland band and was also his country's leading boogie-woogie pianist. Soon he was being called Britain's answer to the great American pianist Teddy Wilson, and for seven consecutive years he was chosen his country's most popular jazz pianist by Melody Maker magazine.

While playing in an air-raid shelter, Shearing met his first wife, Beatrice Bayes, known to friends as Trixie. They married in 1941 and had one daughter, Wendy Ann, before divorcing in the early 1970s. He later married Eleanor Geffert, who survives him, as does his daughter.

Over the years, he played for three U.S. presidents — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan — and for Queen Elizabeth II. He was knighted by the queen in 2006.

Nat King Cole, the always urbane and elegant singer-pianist,

Nat King Cole fans have a Valentine's week treat in store this year: His estate will begin posting episodes of his groundbreaking 1950s series “The Nat King Cole TV Show” for digital downloading on iTunes.

For a too-brief period in 1956-57, the always urbane and elegant singer-pianist hosted some of the most revered names in jazz and pop on his NBC series: Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Belafonte, Johnny Mercer, Mel Tormé and Peggy Lee, among others

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Classic Hollywood"

The hot and heavy clinch on the beach between illicit lovers Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr as waves engulf them in the 1953 Oscar-winning drama "From Here to Eternity" still epitomizes erotic sizzle.

"Classic Hollywood"

George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in the rain-drenched tear-inducing conclusion of 1961's romantic classic "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Sometimes it's hard to tell what is real"

In movies these days, it is often hard to tell what is real. Is that really an arrow sticking out of that man’s head? Is that alligator actually eating that boy? And how did that woman in the tutu change into a swan?

When watching the new action film The Eagle, starring Channing Tatum, it is hard not to get the impression that everything connected to the filming looks like it might actually have been incredibly difficult. But maybe not. With computer assistance, anything could be made to look grueling, particularly the earthy exterior scenes photographed in Scotland and Hungary.

"a new generation of killer drones"

An unmanned, bat-winged stealth bomber made its first demo flight in California, marking the first step in the Navy's development of a new generation of killer drones.

The experimental warplane, named the X-47B, took off from Edwards Air Force base, shot to 5,000 feet and flew a racetrack pattern over a dry lakebed during the 29-minute demo flight on Friday, the Navy said in a statement.

"Today we got a glimpse towards the future as the Navy's first-ever tailless, jet-powered unmanned aircraft took to the skies," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the program manager for the plane, said in a statement.

Military leaders see the plane as a major shift from the current fleet of robotic aircraft.

Combat drones are usually controlled remotely by human pilots, but the X-47B can carry out extended missions controlled by a computer and is designed to fly faster and farther than existing jets, like the Predators and Reapers used in Afghanistan.

It's also the first drone capable of taking off and landing aboard an aircraft carrier in the ocean.

Slightly smaller than the B-2 stealth bomber, the X-47B carries laser-guided bombs and can fly at 40,000 feet at speeds faster than 500 miles per hour.

1911 Curtiss A-1 Triad

The Curtiss A-1 Triad was the first Seaplane and Amphibian ever made. The name "Triad" stands for three: land, air and water. Curtiss developed the Triad for the U.S. Navy. The A-1 Triad which Curtiss himself had test flown on Feb. 25, 1911, was the first seaplane to fly in this country, the first amphibious aircraft and the first U.S. Naval aircraft. It earned Glenn Curtiss the title of "The father of Naval Aviation".

"How do you solve a problem like Maria?"

The honking you hear along Park Avenue in Echo Park isn't coming from motorists.

It's just Maria the Goose, out for a spin with her friend Dominic Ehrler.

Ehrler is a retired investor who was befriended by the web-footed waterfowl 10 months ago at Echo Park Lake.

"When she first started following me around like a dog I got goose bumps," Ehrler said. "David Foster, one of the parks people here, finally introduced me to her. He said, 'You know you're being stalked! Her name is Maria.' "

These days, Maria greets Ehrler each morning about 8 when he rides his bright red motor scooter down the hill from his Figueroa Terrace condo.

Then she leads him around the lake as Ehrler pulls out a bag of tortillas retrieved from a store trash bin and feeds the park's other geese.

"I especially look for sick birds or ones that are hurt," said Ehrler, 65.

Maria gets her own two tortillas as she waddles at Ehrler's side along the park's paved pathways. At the end of their jaunt, she stands guard at his feet, pecking and biting strangers who step too close to her friend.

After about an hour, it's time for Ehrler to go. Maria is there to give him a sendoff.

Ehrler fires up his scooter, and Maria steps in behind it. When he pulls out of the parking lot Maria races down the sidewalk, launches herself from a curb and takes off after him, flapping her wings and honking her way for two blocks down Park Avenue, inches from his helmet.

"Oncoming motorists are always surprised. You can see their eyes get real big when they see Maria behind me. She's a big bird," he said.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"the foundation stone of the contemporary novel of espionage"

Erskine Childers was born in London in 1870 and educated at Cambridge; he married an American, fell in love with Ireland and served with distinction on the English side during World War I. Later he joined the Irish Republican Army, running guns and fighting against the British — offenses for which he was arrested, sentenced and swiftly executed in the Irish Civil War of 1922.

His was a life of tragic gallantry and compromised loyalties, issues very much at the heart of his sole novel, "The Riddle of the Sands," first published in 1903 and newly reissued, enshrined indeed, with the shiny black spine of a Penguin Classic and as a new edition from Adlard Coles Nautical, complete with maps and photos of places of the novel's locales. The story features two young Englishmen who, while sailing among the treacherous waters and shifting sands of the Frisian Islands, stumble across secret German plans to invade England.

"The Riddle of the Sands" has been described by John le Carré as the foundation stone of the contemporary novel of espionage and the creation of an archetype — the smart, resourceful loner who finds himself in danger but manages to cope. The book does indeed predict not only Le Carré's Smiley but also John Buchan's Richard Hannay, the best heroes of Eric Ambler's wonderful books … and even James Bond.