Thursday, May 31, 2012

Freedom is worth fighting for . . .

George Washington and his men crossing the Delaware

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Iditarod" -- another word for EXCITEMENT !!

An Iditarod dog-sled team approaching Rainy Pass during a snowstorm on the evening of Monday, March 5, 2012.

 The Iditarod's only five-time champion, Rick Swenson, approaching Rainy Pass on Monday, March 5, 2012.


A boat on Yamuna River in front of Taj Mahal at sunset. Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India 

The Magic of Iguazu waterfalls in Argentina

A rainbow and the Iguazu waterfalls in Argentina 

Icebergs, Grey Glacier, Chile, Patagonia !!!

Beautiful blue icebergs with the Grey Glacier in the background in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile. At the back you can also see the area where you can walk the famous "W" route.   Talk about excitement -- I just can't get enough of Patagonia! 

Bathing rituals, Varanasi, India

People taking an early morning dip in the Ganga river near Dasaswamedh ghat in Varanasi, India.

Mahout and his elephant cool off in the Yamuna river in India

An Indian mahout washes his elephant in the Yamuna river in New Delhi on May 29.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Spy ‘Garbo’ on DVD

One of the most intriguing figures from World War II is Juan Pujol García from Spain.

The fascinating documentary Garbo the Spy details the life of this double agent who worked for both the Allies and the Axis, becoming the only person awarded by both sides for service during World War II.

The movie hit DVD ($27.95) April 17 from First Run Features, and I recommend you see this — especially if you’re a history or war buff. The film won Best Documentary Film at the 2010 Goyas.

With no training but a need for a job, Pujol García offered to volunteer for British intelligence during WWII. Though he had noble intentions, the British were unsurprisingly suspicious of this unknown man and declined his offer. He then went to the German embassy, offering the same.

Eventually, he built a web of false agents across Europe, feeding fabricated information to Nazis. British intelligence finally offered him a job after they saw that he already was a freelance spy with information and influence on the German side. They code-named him Garbo.

Though Pujol García never fired a single shot, he helped save thousands of lives on both sides during the war. His most notable deed was giving the Germans bad information regarding the Normandy invasion, which led the Allies to a decisive victory.

Pujol García is an intriguing character, and the film creatively uses old feature film footage as well as historical war footage to illustrate the story. The doc also includes songs from Brian Eno and Sparklehorse in the film’s soundtrack, which I particularly liked.

The DVD extras include an interview with intelligence and espionage expert Nigel West, who was great in the film, as well as Sonic Deception: WWII Training Film.

Singapore’s Esplanade

Singapore’s Esplanade neighborhood is home to a 15-acre (six-hectare) performing arts center, the Esplanade Mall, and two outdoor performing venues.

Charter to the Nobility

The reign of Catherine the Great saw the highpoint of the Russian nobility. Catherine had noble estates surveyed and give the possessors title to the land. And so the old service estates became private property. The distinction between votchina and pomestie estates now completely disappeared in law as well as in practice. In 1785 Catherine conferred on the nobility the Charter to the Nobility. For the first time in Russian history a social group had legal rights instead of only duties. The Charter also gave corporate rights to the nobility in each district and province. Each group elected a Marshall of the Nobility who spoke on their behalf to the monarch on issues of concern to them 

"A Lot of History Here"

A storied Los Angeles theater and office complex built by silent film stars that was later owned by one of the city’s most popular televangelists has been purchased by East Coast investors.

The historic United Artists building at Broadway and Ninth Street in downtown Los Angeles was sold by Wescott Christian Center Inc. to Greenfield Partners for $11 million.

Greenfield, a prominent hotel investor, hasn’t revealed its plans for the property that once sported neon signs proclaiming “Jesus Saves.” Representatives of the South Norwalk, Conn., company did not respond to requests for comment.

Silent film stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin were among the founders of United Artists, a movie production company. Pickford, known as “America’s Sweetheart,” posed at the controls of a steam shovel in early 1927 to call attention to the groundbreaking for the United Artists Building, a 13-story movie palace and office complex at 927 S. Broadway.

Construction was rushed with three shifts of workers building around the clock to get the Spanish Gothic-style building done in time for the premiere of Pickford’s film “My Best Girl” just after Christmas. Searchlights were expected to attract a crowd of 100,000 people, who would hear the ceremony from loudspeakers set up on surrounding blocks as far away as Seventh Street, The Times reported. The National Guard was called out in advance to maintain order.

The structure was purchased in 1986 by Glendale-based Westcott Christian Center. One of its founders was Gene Scott, a flamboyant preacher whose broadcasts were heard nationally. He died in 2005.

Downtown Los Angeles has enjoyed a renaissance in the last decade, and some improvements such as condominiums, bars and restaurants have come to the blocks around Broadway and Olympic Boulevard near the United Artists building.

“That area is already starting to form a bona fide neighborhood,” said downtown advocate and blogger Brigham Yen. “Broadway is the most architecturally significant street in downtown L.A., if not all of Los Angeles County.

“That Was The Week That Was”

The success of BBC’s satirical current events programme “That Was The Week That Was” didn’t go unnoticed by American television executives, who normally shied away from satire and making fun of public figures--Bob Hope’s good-natured barbs at contemporary presidents notwithstanding. But the mood in the U.S. (thanks in part to the humour of President John F. Kennedy) was changing in the early 1960's, and the idea of poking fun at the nation’s leaders was more acceptable. The time was right for something different, and NBC decided to see if an American version of “TW3" could work. While it lasted for only one and a half seasons, it proved to be influential enough to plant a seed for more satire in prime time. 

On November 10th, 1963, NBC aired a one-hour “TW3" special, hosted by Henry Fonda and television and radio comic Henry Morgan. With a talented supporting cast (including the up-and-coming comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May), the US version poked fun at its political leaders (including Kennedy; Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and former Vice-President Richard Nixon). Critics liked the special and it did well in the ratings, indicating that people were more willing to laugh at current events. NBC quickly decided to produce a weekly version of “TW3" and scheduled the first episode for January 10th, 1964.

But things had changed by that time: The nation (and the world) was still mourning the assassination of President Kennedy. His vice-president Lyndon Johnson was now in the Oval Office; and America was gearing up for a likely presidential election between Johnson and Goldwater. 

A benefit of the BBC’s decision to cancel the British “TW3" (because of the national elections in that country during 1964) was it allowed that show’s host, David Frost, to join the American version as part of the ensemble cast. Originally, Elliott Reid hosted but Frost took over the job in the fall of 1964 and stayed as host until the end of the American version’s run. Morgan was still on hand, as was comic Buck Henry, actor Tom Bosley (years before “Happy Days”) and a pre-'M*A*S*H' Alan Alda. Feminist Gloria Steinem was a “contributor” to the US version, along with satirist Tom Lehrer, whose gift was writing and singing songs on major issues of the day–nuclear war, pesticide use, sex and so forth. Nancy Ames was the “TW3 Girl,” singing the opening theme song that changed every week as she warbled about news headlines of the past seven days. 

And in the first several months, the show had high moments: Alda and comic Sandy Baron portrayed a pair of warbling segregationist plumbers during a time of civil rights strife; and puppeteer Burr Tillstrom of “Kukla and Ollie” fame staged a hand puppet skit atop the Berlin War that won an Emmy award. Even “TW3's” jabs at television itself were effective. In one episode, a real-life ketchup commercial aired, with hamburger buns flipping their tops when they learned the brand of ketchup that would be used. When the show returned, David Frost began addressing the audience–and dozens of hamburger bun tops fell on top of him! 

“TW3” aired on Friday nights and did well enough in the ratings for NBC to renew the show for the fall–even though it was an election year in the States. While the show made fun of President Lyndon Johnson and his vice-presidential choice Hubert Humphrey, it also took aim at Republican challenger Barry Goldwater and his conservative positions (one episode showed a puppet reading Goldwater’s public statements). Ironically, the presidential elections would spell the end of the American “TW3"–in its own way.

For the fall season, “TW3" was moved from its Friday slot to Tuesday nights at 9:30 PM–against the top-ten CBS rural comedy “Petticoat Junction” and ABC’s new serial drama “Peyton Place.” What’s more, Barry Goldwater found a way to get back at the show and its continued jabs at him. According to the authors of the book “Watching Television,” the September 22nd, 1964 season premiere was pre-empted by a 30 minute special paid for by the Goldwater campaign, delaying the show one week. But “TW3" was pre-empted three out of four times during October when the Republicans (and Goldwater) bought the Tuesday at 9:30 slots on NBC. November 3rd was Election Day, so all three networks pre-empted their schedules (including “TW3") to cover the results. On that day, Americans elected Johnson over Goldwater in a landslide. 

“TW3" finally returned to the airwaves November 10th. It opened with a film of Goldwater’s concession speech and an announcer telling viewers “Due to circumstances beyond control, the regularly scheduled political broadcast scheduled for this time is pre-empted.” “TW3" won the battle against Barry, but lost the war. “Peyton Place” and “Petticoat Junction” swamped NBC in the ratings. As a result, the American “TW3" aired its last episode May 4th, 1965. (An album of Tom Lehrer songs performed on “TW3" became a big hit when it was released that fall.) 

Despite its relatively short life in America, “That Was The Week That Was” and its willingness to take aim at current events paved the way for other more successful shows, including “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” “Saturday Night Live,” “SCTV,” “In Living Color,” “Mad TV” and today’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report”–which owe a debt of thanks to the folks at “TW3". 

Legends of Broadway

In 1962, Carol Burnett was one of America’s fastest-rising comedy stars, having reigned on Broadway as a brassy princess in Once Upon a Mattress and endeared herself to the rest of America as a regular on The Garry Moore Show. Julie Andrews shared a stage pedigree with Burnett, a performer since childhood and the originator of iconic roles in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady and Camelot.  When Andrews teamed with Burnett as a guest on Moore’s program, the chemistry was all too evident.  Burnett told Good Housekeeping in 1963: “In the first five minutes of rehearsal, as eyewitnesses have since reported, it became quite clear to the whole company that one of those things was happening on stage that ‘ardly ever ‘appens between two female performers. There was no jealousy, no upstaging, no competition. Whether it’ sour chemistry or simply that we’re the same kind of nut – as Lou [Wilson, Andrews’ then-manager] said that night – we seem to be at our best in each other’s company.  The next morning everybody was on the phone persuading us to do a one-hour TV special, which eventually (in June, 1962) became Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall.”  The soundtrack to the special was released by Columbia Records, and briefly saw CD issue in 1989.  Come April 3, Masterworks Broadway will celebrate 50 years of the program’s debut with the new release The CBS Television Specials: Live at Carnegie Hall/Live at Lincoln Center, uniting the original 1962 special and the duo’s 1971 follow-up on 2 CDs.

Dr. Kildare

Dr. Kildare is an NBC medical drama television series which ran from September 27, 1961 until April 5, 1966, encompassing a total of 190 episodes in five seasons. The show, which premiered at the same time as an ABC medical drama, Ben Casey, quickly achieved success and helped spark a number of new shows dealing with the medical field.

Kildare told the story of a young intern, Dr. James Kildare (Richard Chamberlain, above), working in a fictional large metropolitan hospital (Blair General) while trying to learn his profession, dealing with the problems of the patients, and winning the respect of the senior doctor, Dr. Leonard Gillespie (Raymond Massey).

The Dick Van Dyke Show

The Dick Van Dyke Show centered around the life of Rob Petrie, a New York comedy writer who lived with his attractive wife (Mary Tyler Moore) and their young son. This critically acclaimed series debuted on CBS October 3, 1961 and ran until September 7, 1966.


Mercedes-Benz presents the new SLK 55 AMG, the most powerful SLK roadster of all time. It comes with a brand new 5.5 litre V8 engine, sporting an impressive 422 horsepower. Other stunning features include the 7 Speedshift transmisson and the performance breaking system, all next to great looks of the car of course. The sports version of the SLK sprints from 0-100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds.

 Be careful that you stay ahead of the roof.

Monday, May 28, 2012

"the largest dam-removal project in North America"

It's the largest dam-removal project in North America, and a second chance for the Elwha River valley, where dams have blocked salmon runs for more than a century. Two dams on the river are being taken out in a $325 million grand experiment that's one of the most ambitious ecological restoration efforts in the U.S.

"Hitting the High C"

Vittorio Grigolo says that his sound has a cer­tain “sol­ar­ità” or sun­ni­ness, com­bin­ing heat and light. “It is the Italian way of singing, it is our pas­sion. The instru­ment is elastic, and we are elastic people – loose, easy, we rely on instinct. Yet we are extreme, and some­times for us life is miser­able."

A Story of Courage

Vann Nath's painting of prisoners being led, blind-folded into Tuol Sleng at night, is an autobiographical scene recalling his own incarceration at the S-21 center in Cambodia.  Displays  of his paintings and sketches depict his own story of capture, interrogation, imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge, and his ultimate survival. Vann Nath's art is not angry, but it shouts the truth about human suffering and death under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. It is also a testament to Vann Nath's and the Cambodian people's endurance that enabled them to prevail over tragedy and pain and continue to embrace life.

Vann Nath passed away in 2011 at the age of 66.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

An ICON from the beginning

The bridge is pictured  as San Francisco celebrates on its opening day on May 27, 1937. To celebrate its opening to the public, military biplanes flew between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge as pedestrians walked across the bridge's span

High Finance -- That's for sure !!!

Cyberspace was a-twitter this week with the news that Ryan Seacrest is buying Ellen DeGeneres's Beverly Hills compound for $37 million.  The 3-acre compound  includes four structures and was formed starting in 2007 through several property purchases on the same street. The 15,000 square feet of interior space include a 9,200-square-foot main house, a secondary house and two guesthouses. The asking price on the compound was $49 million.,0,7941414.story

How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States

After Ferdinand De Wilton Ward Jr. became notorious as a Gilded Age financial schemer of rare weaselly ingenuity, his picture appeared in a manual of phrenology. The shape of his “low-top head, very broad from side to side,” was said to explain why Ward had shown the “Secretiveness, Cunning, Acquisitiveness, Destructiveness” to bilk investors, shame and bankrupt a former president and try to kidnap his own son.
Within the large Ward clan Ferdinand remains “the family sociopath,” although each of his parents was a candidate for that distinction. It took a great-grandson of Ferdinand’s, the prizewinning historian Geoffrey C. Ward, to write the scandal-filled but eminently fair book that airs this dirty laundry.
Geoffrey Ward has reason for backhanded pride when it comes to his great-grandfather’s malfeasance. Ferdinand was not just any crook; he created a Ponzi scheme before Charles Ponzi was even born. He can legitimately be called the Bernard Madoff of his time, and he had the public infamy and prison sentence to prove it. Ferd, as he was known, was incarcerated at both the Ludlow Street Jail and the Tombs in New York, but it was not until he reached Sing Sing that his gifts as a con man really reached their peak. Thanks to well-placed bribes he got a nicer-than-average cell and the privilege of wearing a straw hat, not a striped one.
Before the arrival of this book, “A Disposition to Be Rich,” which takes its title from Ferd’s mother’s excuse for his problems, not much was written directly about Ward’s chicanery. There are several reasons. His illicit financial dealings were best known as a sad footnote to the Ulysses S. Grant story, since Grant became Ward’s woefully ill-informed partner in the firm of Grant & Ward. (Specialty: securities rehypothecating, or “pledging the same paper over and over again to borrow money, paying the interest on one loan out of the principal for the next, hoping that things would somehow balance out one day.” 

And the Panic of 1884, which was prompted in part by the collapse of banks exploited by Grant & Ward, had other causes, among them the depletion of European gold reserves. The eloquent bursts of fury at Grant & Ward from Mark Twain, Grant’s friend and protector, are better remembered than the misdeeds that provoked them. Twain spoke of cursing Ward “with all the profanity known to the one language I am acquainted with,” as well as “odds and ends of profanity drawn from the other two languages of which I have a limited knowledge.” 

Finally there was little firsthand evidence of the Ward story. A trunk full of Ferd’s Sing Sing papers has been in Geoffrey Ward’s possession since 1965, but it took him years to examine the letters and family memorabilia inside. Mr. Ward has been understandably slow to tackle this subject. He has also been busy writing “The Civil War” with Ken and Ric Burns and winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for “A First-Class Temperament,” his biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He has written many other books, some with Ken Burns, on subjects ranging from baseball to tigers. 

But “A Disposition to Be Rich” is a special accomplishment. It is a most peculiar labor of love. It begins by describing the fractious lives of Ferd’s parents, the chronically embattled clergyman Ferdinand De Wilton Ward Sr. and his gloomy wife, Jane Shaw Ward. First as missionaries in India, then as part of a combative Presbyterian faction in Geneseo, N.Y., these parents helped set the stage for their youngest son’s misdeeds. Ferd’s father seems never to have gracefully given up on a feud if he could keep fighting. His mother rued the fact that she had ever borne children and specialized in writing guilt-provoking letters about her impecuniousness. As for these parents’ attitude toward Ferd, “both were right to be worried about his conscience,” Mr. Ward writes in this book. “It would eventually become clear that he had none.”
Born in 1851, Ferd grew up in his mother’s depressive shadow. Later he developed such fine penmanship that he became a secretary to S. Hastings Grant. This opened the door to a business relationship with the Grant family and then to the general. 

And at 26 he approached James D. Fish, president of the Marine Bank, an institution that Ferd’s dishonest borrowing would later destroy. Ferd solicited Fish’s help as a mentor and collaborator. 

Ferd projected signs of great prosperity, used his extravagance as a lure for investors and had the charm to keep them from withdrawing funds. He once appeared, uninvited, at the home of General Grant late at night, knowing that Grant’s guests included William H. Vanderbilt and others Ferd wanted to impress. The reason for the late-night call, he said, was to present Grant with the profits from an investment that had supposedly tripled during the course of the business day. On a similarly tricky occasion an investor tried to withdraw $50,000 from Ferd’s firm, only to have Ferd offer him $250,000, claiming that the man’s money had quintupled in the space of six months. The man was mollified, and the nonexistent $250,000 was reinvested. Grant & Ward could then continue to bamboozle. As the financier Henry Clews put it, “It is marvelous how the idea of large profits when presented to the mind in a plausible light has the effect of stifling suspicion.”
The scheme succeeded from 1880 to 1884. That it lasted even four years can be ascribed to Ferd’s and Fish’s trading on Grant’s reputation. Ferd let it be thought that his firm was investing in lucrative but hush-hush government contracts. Later, investors were so embarrassed that it became difficult to find witnesses who would testify to this dissembling. 

Geoffrey Ward cuts his great-grandfather no slack. He describes a whiny, bullying, self-pitying narcissist who, once caught, didn’t even try to justify his behavior. The best things to be said about Ferd Ward are that he was reckless and ruthless enough to be worth reading about. And that when he tried to kidnap Clarence Ward, Geoffrey’s grandfather, he at least had some kind of reason. Clarence’s mother, Ella, had died; Ferd wanted access to her estate even if he had to steal his terrified boy in the process. Yet, somehow, “A Disposition to Be Rich” is written without malice. Every page of this book attests to a sane streak in the Ward family — Ferd’s best effort notwithstanding. As George Bernard Shaw said, “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.

"a bottle coating so slick that every last bit of ketchup slides out quickly and easily"

The research institution that brought you the fax machine and GPS has come up with another potentially world-changing invention: a bottle coating so slick that every last bit of ketchup slides out quickly and easily.

In what could be a disruptive technology for the ketchup industry, an MIT professor has found a solution to getting the last sticky globs of ketchup (or honey or jelly) out of a bottle.

No word yet on how it could affect ketchup sales, but the technology uses a new type of food-grade coating that has the slipperiness of a liquid, but the rigidity of a solid. In other words, it makes the ketchup come out faster, destroying the notion of "Anticipation," the popular ketchup jingle from the 1970s.

The slick coating -- dubbed LiquiGlide -- was developed by the Varanasi Research Group, a lab run by Kripa Varanasi, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

Varanasi's lab has put videos online showing ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and jelly sliding right out of containers treated with LiquiGlide, urged by nothing more than a gentle tilt of the container itself.

Varanasi, who worked at GE and did research for DARPA before starting his lab at MIT, is surprised and amused by the amount of attention his upgraded ketchup bottle has generated.

"It just went completely bonkers," he said.,0,2644692.story

It's Magic

Lit Motors calls it the C-1, but the San Francisco start-up's untippable motorcycle seems nothing short of magic. It uses gyroscopes to stay balanced in a straight line and in turns in which drivers can, in theory, roll down their windows and drag their knuckles on the ground.

Is it a motorcycle? A car? Neither. It's an entirely new form of personal transportation, presuming it gets off the ground.

The all-electric vehicle is fully enclosed and uses a steering wheel and floor pedals like a car. But it weighs just 800 pounds and balances on two wheels even when stopped, making it more efficient than hauling around a 2-ton four-wheeler and safer than an accident-prone bike.

"Most people don't drive motorcycles because they're dangerous," said Lit Motors founder and C-1 creator Daniel Kim, 32. "We're bringing safety to motorcycles with car-like controls that everyone's familiar with," Kim said of his self-stabilizing two wheeler, which, if it goes into production in early 2014 as planned, will be made with a steel unibody and glass windows to protect drivers from the weather and objects that might crash into them, leaving enough room behind the driver's seat to carry a passenger, groceries or suitcase.

Final Voyage

The USS Iowa passes under the Golden Gate Bridge as it's towed out of San Francisco on Saturday, May 26, 2012, The 887-foot long, 58,000-ton battlewagon is being towed to the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, where it will be transformed into an interactive naval museum.

 (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Paul Chinn)

Golden Age superheros

Having successfully reintroduced a number of their Golden Age superhero characters (Flash, Green Lantern, etc.) during the late 1950s, DC Comics asked writer Gardner Fox to reintroduce the Justice Society of America. Fox, influenced by the popularity of the National Football League and Major League Baseball, decided to change the name of the team from Justice Society to Justice League.[1] The Justice League of America debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28 (1960), and quickly became one of the company's best-selling titles. Fox wrote virtually all of the League's adventures during the 1960s, and artist Mike Sekowsky pencilled the first five years. 

The Justice League team roster has been rotated throughout the years with characters such as Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Zatanna, the Elongated Man, Red Tornado, and dozens of others.

Ryan McPartland is AQUAMAN

While awaiting transport to Miami, Florida, a young man named Arthur Joseph Curry is washed out to sea when a storm ruptures the tank he is in. This Arthur Curry, whose origin closely resembles that of the Golden Age Aquaman as well as that of Neptune Perkins, is the son of oceanobiologist Dr. Phillip Curry. Arthur's mother, Elaine, died in childbirth and Dr. Curry was forced to use a mutagenic serum on his son when he was born three months premature. Arthur has lived his whole life in the main tank of his father's research facility at Avalon Cay, his only window to the outside world being television.

Shortly after his arrival in the sea, Arthur is mentally contacted by the mysterious "Dweller of the Depths," a deformed humanoid with tentacles instead of hair and a left hand made of water. The Dweller urges him to help King Shark, who still bears scars from a previous battle with Aquaman during the recent Crisis. The Dweller, confusing Arthur for Aquaman and calling him his "charge," tells Arthur and King Shark of a prophecy regarding Arthur's future, a prophecy which seems to be a distorted version of the original Aquaman's history. The Dweller reveals that the original Aquaman was "transformed into one akin to a great and terrible enemy of your people and became the vessel of power strange, ancient and terrible."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"the promise of an adrenaline rush"

In the 1970s, disco-themed skating rinks were all the rage. In the '80s it was paintball battlefields, followed in the '90s by urban skateboard parks.

And now comes the zip line — an elevated cable ride that zips harnessed riders downhill at high speeds, powered only by gravity.

Across the nation, these rides stretch over canyons, vineyards, island tourist towns and even zoos. Since 2001, the number of zip lines built in the U.S. has soared from 10 to more than 200, according to zip line experts.

Today, zip lines rise above parts of Catalina Island, run through the forest near Big Bear and tower over San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where riders get a bird's-eye-view of giraffes, rhinos and antelopes. A 720-foot-long ride has been proposed to race over parts of Venice Beach this summer.

"They are spreading like fast-food hamburger joints," said Mike Teske, technical director for a Maui–based zip line company, who also heads a panel drafting national safety standards for zip lines.

The craze is fueled by a resurgence in the popularity of outdoor activities, greater availability of insurance, and cheaper construction costs for zip line platforms due to the housing slump, according to builders and operators. The prices to ride vary widely: It costs $10 to ride an 800-foot zip line at a KOA camp in Santa Paula, for instance, but $112 to ride two zip lines at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

In addition, builders and operators point out, zip lines have wide appeal to both young and old. The only physical demand is the climb up the steps of the platforms, where guests wearing harnesses are hooked to a pulley that allows them to travel along the zip lines' steel cable, with typical speeds reaching 35 to 45 mph and faster. The most advanced zip lines have built-in brakes. On the basic models, riders must slow themselves with a gloved hand.

Like roller skating and paintball battles, the promise of an adrenaline rush draws many first-time riders.,0,7531165.photogallery?index=la-me-zipline02_kzqywcnc

A Small Convenience

“It looks awesome in here,” Marnie says upon seeing the studio for the first time, even though they have been a couple since 2007. “It looks like a Target ad. It's perfect.”

“A Target ad?” an annoyed Charlie responds, showing a hint of an emerging backbone. “It's not quite a Target ad, but whatever.”

Whatever, indeed. Charlie's apartment turns out to be more complex than Marnie could imagine. Conceived by production designer Laura Ballinger Gardner, submitted to series creator Lena Dunham for her approval and then built from scratch — all in just four days — the fictional 12-by-12 studio set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn is a character unto itself.

What Is Fashion ???


What Is Fashion ???

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 What Is Fashion ???

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Arches National Park, Utah

Entrada and Navajo sandstone has been sculpted by erosion into a whimsical rock garden that includes the largest collection of natural arches on earth, as well as windows, pinnacles, spires, fins, balanced rocks, and pedestals.

"self-driving vehicles"

The future has arrived.

California state senators have voted 37-0 in support of a bill that would allow self-driving vehicles on California streets and highways as long as a licensed driver is aboard, CBS reports.

Self-driving cars, which were pioneered by Google's autonomous Prius in 2010, are designed to be safer than human-driven vehicles.

"Human error is the cause of almost every accident on the road today. If autonomous technology can reduce the number of accidents, then we also reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on California's roads," sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), explained to the Los Angeles Times. "For me this is a matter of safety."

Self-driving cars, or "autonomous cars," use radar, video cameras, lasers and a database of information collected from manually-driven cars to navigate. The cars are meant to prevent accidents caused by humans, who can't see in every direction at once and who can be sleepy, distracted or drunk, FOX reports.

Autonomous cars are also desgined to improve the fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and enable cars to talk to one another to improve traffic flow, USA Today reports.

Google posted a video in March of its autonomous Prius being test-driven by a legally blind California man, Steve Mahan. In the remarkable video above, Mahan can be seen behind the wheel and even eating a taco while driving. However, a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman said in response, "In order to legally drive a vehicle in California, it must be done so by an appropriately licensed driver," PC Magazine reports.
Padilla's bill, SB 1298, would establish safety and performance standards for autonomous vehicles. After a number of California lawmakers test drove Google's autonomous Prius, the bill received unanimous bipartisan support and will go to the Assembly next month.

"I had the pleasure of going out for a drive on the autonomous vehicle," California state Senator Alan Lowenthal told Reuters. "I have to say that there are some still issues with it, but it's a better driver than I am."

The progress of the bill comes weeks after Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Oklahoma all announced plans to consider similar legislation, Wired reports. Nevada and Florida already have similar laws in place.
If passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Padilla's bill would go into effect in January 2013.

Above the BMW i3 concept (L) and the BMW i8 concept (R) were on display at the 42nd Tokyo Motor show in Tokyo on November 30, 2011. 


One of the "Great Wallendas"

Stuntman Nik Wallenda is in a debate with sponsors over whether to use a safety device when he attempts to cross Niagara Falls on a high wire next month.

Wallenda doesn't want to use a device, such as a harness or net, he told an NBC News affiliate - but sponsors, who are funding the event, say otherwise.

"A lot of them have threatened to back out," Wallenda told WGRZ.

"I'm telling my managers, 'I don't want to wear a line,'" he said. "I'm fighting with everything in me to make sure that doesn't happen, and that's always been my dream to do it without."
 Nik Wallenda has said he'll back down if sponsors won't. (David Duprey/Associated Press)

Sponsors might be forgiven for wanting Wallenda to take safety precautions.

On June 15, the 33-year-old daredevil will attempt to become the first person to walk directly over Horseshoe Falls - the biggest of Niagara's three waterfalls - on a high wire. The steel cable will extend 470 metres from the U.S. to Canada - suspended nearly 53 metres above the churning and deadly waters below.

"A huge company would say, 'You're name's on this... if this guy loses his life are you going to going to lose your reputation?' So we are working adamantly to get those problems resolved and hopefully we will," Wallenda told WGRZ.
Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of the famed Great Wallendas, a travelling family circus troupe dating back to 1780.

He first set foot on a practice wire at age two, and has since set six Guinness World Records for feats including "highest tightrope crossing by bicycle" and "largest human pyramid on a high wire." He says he has dreamed of crossing the falls since he was six.

Because of that, Wallenda has said he'll back down if sponsors won't.

"This is my dream," he said. "If they force me to wear a mechanic or a safety line I'm not going to give up my dream."

Equality ??? Yes? No?

Male and female citizen militia members - Spanish Civil War

Federico Garcia Lorca

This weekend I leave sunny southern Colorado to head out to, also sunny, southern California to prepare for Long Beach Opera (LBO)’s upcoming production of Osvaldo Golijov’s flamenco-infused contemporary opera, Ainadamar. This will be my second production with LBO and I am beyond excited to be a part of what is sure to be yet another musical and artistic triumph for this daring, unconventional opera company.

Golijov’s Ainadamar recounts the unjust execution of Spanish playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Lorca’s life and death are replayed through flashbacks by actress Margarita Xirgu, Lorca’s muse, dear friend, and greatest proponent. To put it simply, Ainadamar is a musical and cultural revelation. Golijov brings together authentic Spanish, Arabic, and Latin American musical traditions with his own striking brand of composition which just happens to have more than subtle hints of Baroque influence…which I was personally thrilled to hear!

I’ll be performing the role of, Falangist guard, Javier Jose Tripaldi who just happens to be a real historical character. Tripaldi was present at the execution of Lorca and played a sadly telling role in the process. Did I purposefully leave that extremely vague? You bet! If you’d like to know the rest of the story, come on out on May 20th @ 7pm or May 26th @ 8pm and experience Ainadamar in person!

Man survives plunge over Niagara Falls

BUFFALO, New York (Reuters) - A man survived a 174-foot (53-meter) plunge over Niagara's Horseshoe Falls on Monday but sustained life-threatening injuries, Canadian police said.

The man, whose name has not been released, became only the third person known to have lived through a fall over the massive cataract without safety devices.

Canada's Niagara Parks Police said witnesses reported seeing the man climb over a retaining wall about 20 feet above the brink of the falls at mid-morning and deliberately jump into the swift waters.
He surfaced a few seconds later in the lower Niagara River Basin below, near an observation platform, police said.

He "was located by a Niagara Parks Police officer along the rocky shoreline as he collapsed in waters that were up to the subject's waist," police said in a statement.

In a rescue that lasted about 30 minutes, staff from several agencies extricated the man, thought to be about 40 years old.

He had sustained life-threatening injuries and was flown by an air ambulance to a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, for treatment, the statement said. Police were investigating how and why he went over the falls.

The Horseshoe Falls, one of the world's most popular tourist attractions, sends about 675,000 gallons (2.6 million liters) of water over its edge per second. It is one of two massive waterfalls, along with the American Falls, that span the U.S.-Canada border.

Decades ago, daredevils would tempt fate and go over the Horseshoe Falls in barrels or other protective devices - and were often killed. That is now an illegal stunt that can result in a fine or jail time.

In 2009, an American man survived an unaided plunge over the falls, after a U.S. tourist survived a suicide attempt over the falls in 2003. A young boy who was wearing a life jacket survived a fall over the cataract in 1960 after the boat he was in capsized.

Monday, May 21, 2012

“gateway to the Pacific"

My arms are flung across the deep,
Into the clouds my towers soar,
And where the waters never sleep,
I guard the California shore.

Chief Engineer, Joseph Strauss (upon completion of the Golden Gate Bridge, 1937)

Celebrated by poets and painters, known as the “gateway to the Pacific,” the Golden Gate Bridge has been considered the the iconic symbol of San Francisco since it was finished in 1937. 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of this remarkable landmark.

To celebrate the bridge's 75th anniversary,  fifteen artists from the Bay Area and around the world will create on-site installations responding to the bridge as an icon, historic structure, and conceptual inspiration. Adopting the title "International Orange" from the bridge's color and organized by the nonprofit FOR-SITE Foundation,  the exhibits and installations will occupy selected areas of all three floors and the spacious courtyard of the historic Fort Point building.

"Among the Spirits of the Long Ago People" by Howard Terpning

Petroglyphic carvings and paintings on the rock formation indicate that the visitors are in a spiritual place, blessed by the long-ago people. Numerous locations like this exist throughout Montana and Wyoming, always high on a mountain, close to the Great Spirit, with a spectacular view of Mother Earth.
For centuries, Indian people have made the difficult journey to these sacred places to give thanks for their blessings and to pray for success in hunting and in battle. Today, they continue to visit these sacred places as their forebears did, leaving small pieces of trade cloth and handmade objects decorated with beads or feathers as gifts for the gods.
Unveiled at the Masters of the American West in February, it won the Thomas Moran Memorial Award for Painting and sold for $900,100.

"two-tower megaproject"

We haven't heard much lately about The Vermont, the proposed two-tower megaproject across from the subway station at Vermont and Wilshire. Developer JH Snyder has gotten some good news from Uncle Sam: the Housing and Urban Development department announced on Friday that they were giving Snyder a $12.5 million loan, which will fund the retail and parking components of the project. The Community Redevelopment Agency was supposed to push $17.5 million toward this project last year; it's not clear if it got to Snyder before the CRA was killed by Governor Brown. Anyway, HUD describes the project as thus: "The Vermont will provide approximately 35,000 square feet of retail space, 464 market-rate apartment units, and 910 indoor parking spaces." The towers will be 22 and 28 stories and there will also be a quarter-acre central courtyard. We've seen a lot of action going on at the site, though a building permit was just pulled a week ago. The project has two architects working on it: Jerde Partnership and Harley Ellis Devereaux.
· No Vertical Mall, But Two Apartment Towers for Vermont and Wilshire [Curbed LA]

Hancock Mansion

John C. Austin designed "Villa Madama" for Henry Hancock's widow, Ida, on the northeast corner of Vermont and Wilshire in Los Angeles. Completed in 1909, demolished in 1938. 



Arab Against Jew

 I wonder what happened to Amnon ???
A Palestinian youth who converted to Judaism reportedly enlisted in the Israeli military. Amnon Yitzhak-Shachar, who was born Ayman Abu-Zubuch in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, reported to Israel's main draft office last week and was mobilized, Ma'ariv said Sunday. According to the newspaper, Yitzhak-Shachar would not mind serving in a combat unit and fight his former compatriots in Gaza. 
The Palestinian Israeli became interested in Judaism as a teenager, when he accompanied his father to work in Kfar Saba. He said his parents banished him from Khan Younis after his conversion, and that he chose his new first name, Amnon, after the surname of the Israeli family that adopted him.
The truth is that there are more family connections with our Palestinian cousins than one might initially imagine. There are quite a number of Jewish women who, for various reasons have converted to Islam and gone to live in the territories with partners, and Palestinian men who've married Jewish women in Israel (somehow I think it doesn't happen as often the other way). At the beginning of the second Intifadah, an American-born, Kippa-wearing friend of mine who lives in Jerusalem once told me he was very nervous whenever he was called up to miluim because a cousin of his mother's had converted to Islam and gone to live in one of the major West Bank cities. He didn't want to find himself in a situation where he'd be fighting against his real second cousins.

"a hopeless-romantic"

David Schwimmer received his breakthrough role in 1994 when he was cast as Ross Geller in NBC's situation comedy Friends, a series that revolved around a group of friends who live together in Manhattan, New York City. He played a hopeless-romantic paleontologist who works at a museum and later becomes a professor at a university. Schwimmer notes when first approached about the role of Ross, he turned it down, but accepted the role afterwards.[6] Executive producer Kevin S. Bright said that he had previously worked with Schwimmer,[7] the character of Ross was written with him in mind, and he was the first actor cast.[6] Schwimmer based Ross on Nicolas Cage's role of Charlie from the 1986 film Peggy Sue Got Married.[8] The show debuted on September 22, 1994 and was watched by almost 22 million American viewers.[9] Friends quickly developed a loyal audience, with the show and Schwimmer receiving strong reviews. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was complimentary of Schwimmer, calling him "terrific".[10] Variety's television reviewer, said: "All six of the principals, especially (Courteney) Cox and Schwimmer, appear resourceful and display sharp sitcom skills."[11] For this performance, he earned an Emmy Award nomination in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1995.


Players celebrate after winning the annual Lelo match in the village of Shukhuti, about 290 km (180 miles) west of Tbilisi, April 24, 2011. The villagers of Zemo (upper) Shukhuti and Kvemo (lower) Shukhuti have played the game every Easter Sunday for generations, with each side trying to carry the 16 kg (35 lbs) ball to their end of the neighbouring villages. 

REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili (GEORGIA - Tags: SOCIETY RELIGION) 

Israeli soldier guards Palestinian teenager Khalil Hashash at check-point near Nablus

An Israeli soldier guards Palestinian teenager Khalil Hashash, 16, who was arrested at Hawara check-point, near the West Bank city of Nablus.  Israeli soldiers arrested the Palestinian youth who was attempting to smuggle four pipe bombs hidden in a crate through a military checkpoint near the city of Nablus, Israeli and Palestinian security sources said.

Pakistan Heats Up

People cool off at a canal in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday where the forecast for Monday was for a high of 107 degrees. — AP/PTI