Friday, September 28, 2012

"a relic before his time had come"

He was consigned to be a relic before his time had come. Henry Pu Yi started out life as an anachronism, a boy emperor of a fading dynasty. He died as a forgotten footnote, a stooped gardener assigned to the Beijing Botanical Gardens where he tilled the earth that had supported his Qing Dynasty predecessors for nearly 300 years. Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the 10th ruler of the Manchu Dynasty, was born to the gilded splendor of the Forbidden City and ascended to the throne in 1908. Just three years later, a nationalist putsch ended the infant's reign. At the tender age of six, the Son of Heaven was out of a job. Twelve years later, in 1924, Pu Yi was ejected from his prison palace by an ambitious warlord. He fled to Tianjin, where he cavorted as an exiled and extravagant playboy, full of imperious airs but no imperial mandate. That mandate, however forced, was reinstated in 1932, when invading Japan set up the puppet regime of Manchukuo in northeastern China. Tapping the disgruntled ex-Emperor as figurehead ruler, the Japanese promised him a kingdom to match his royal breeding. In 1934, Pu Yi slipped into silken robes emblazoned with dragons and formally ascended to the throne of Japanese-occupied Manchukuo, fueled by hopes of a revived Qing Dynasty. Pu Yi proved a brittle ruler who lashed out at cowering servants to compensate for his sense of powerlessness. With the Japanese surrender in 1945, his dreams of empire were dashed, and the chastened Emperor was trundled off by advancing Soviet troops to the Russian Far East, where he spent five years dreading his return to the country he had betrayed. On releasing him into Chinese hands in July 1950, the Soviets heightened the ex-monarch's fears, assuring him that he would be executed by a wrathful populace. Moscow was wrong. By not killing Pu Yi, the Chinese communists avoided making him into a martyr like Nicholas II in Russia or Louis XVI in France. Instead, he was to be fashioned into a Maoist role model, proof that even the most pampered royal could be reformed. Pu Yi spent a decade in jail, where he underwent relentless thought reform. In addition to admitting his complicity in Japanese barbarity in Manchuria and professing communist zealotry, Pu Yi also learned more practical things like how to brush his teeth, wash his feet and tie his shoelaces. On Dec. 4, 1959, Comrade Pu Yi, a 54-year-old who could now dress and groom himself, was issued a special pardon and entered life as a private citizen.In 1960, Pu Yi was sent to the Beijing Botanical Gardens to begin work as a gardener and handyman. The preserve was not far from Pu Yi's old Forbidden City haunts, but it was worlds away from the splendor of imperial China. He lived with his fifth wife in a dilapidated courtyard house, shuffling occasionally to the library to conduct historical research on his defanged and unloved dynasty. Just hours before he died, unmourned, of cancer at a Beijing hospital in 1967, the medical staff reportedly had to link arms to keep the Red Guards from storming the ailing Manchu's ward. Nearly three decades later Pu Yi and his clan finally enjoyed a reprieve. In 1995, his widow was allowed to transfer his ashes from a public columbarium to the Western Qing Tombs, where five of the 10 Manchu rulers are interred. Just a few years before, a sanitized Qing revival had begun. Manchu-style banquets became the rage in Beijing, and state-published recipe books illustrated the proper ways of preparing, for example, a tasty sheep's ear. Cashing in on the hype surrounding Bernardo Bertolucci's 1988 film The Last Emperor, the Chinese tourist bureau even began offering tours of landmark places in Pu Yi's life, including his spartan prison cell in Fushun. The Botanical Gardens, where the deposed Emperor spent many of his final days, were not part of the itinerary. Curious tourists had to make do with official photographs of Pu Yi tending his plants. Those graying portraits evoke a bittersweet Chinese Gothic, a diminutive, bespectacled man standing solemnly with his gardening tools. The one-time Emperor nurtured the earth lovingly, professing himself content with watering his patch of the motherland. In 1960, armed with his first voter's card, Pu Yi voiced the hopes of the great Chinese agrarian revolution: I, along with my 650 million compatriots, was now the owner of our 9,600,000 sq km of land. Perhaps he had forgotten that he had once been responsible for more than just a little plot of flowers. Indeed, as a very little boy, Henry Pu Yi had once owned it all.

"his road warrior days will soon be over"

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - George Strait is getting ready to park his tour bus.

The enduring country music superstar announced Wednesday during a news conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum that he will embark on his final tour early next year. Strait will play 21 dates in 2013, then 20 more in 2014 on The Cowboy Rides Away tour. He plans to continue recording music and making occasional live appearances after that, but his road warrior days will soon be over.

"fighting for his life as he hunts his older self"

In a futuristic gangland in the year 2044, a 25-year-old assassin named Joseph Simmons (Gordon-Levitt) works for a mafia company in Kansas City as a "Looper". Loopers kill and dispose of agents sent by their employers from corporate headquarters in Shanghai from the year 2072. Loopers are foot soldiers, paid on the condition that all targets must never escape. When Simmons recognizes his target as a future version of himself (Willis), his older self escapes after incapacitating him. The failure of his job causes his employers to come after him, forcing him to fight for his life as he hunts his older self.

Diaoyu controversy still looming

Talking about the Diaoyu islands, China’s late leader Deng Xiaoping said in 1978 that “We believe that we should set the issue aside for a while if we cannot reach agreement on it. It is not an urgent issue and can wait for a while. If our generation do not have enough wisdom to resolve this issue, the next generation will have more wisdom, and I am sure that they can find a way acceptable to both sides to settle this issue.”

When meeting Suzuki Zenko, a member of the lower house of the Japanese Diet from the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party on May 11, 1979, Deng said that consideration may be given to joint development of the resources adjacent to the Diaoyu Islands without touching upon its territorial sovereignty.

"a blithering idiot named Inspector Dreyfus"

Herbert Lom, the actor who played Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies and was memorably reduced to eye-twitching madness dealing with Peter Sellers' imbecilic Inspector Clouseau, has died. He was 95.

Lom died Thursday in his sleep at his London home, said the actor's son Alec.

A Czech native who immigrated to England just before the start of World War II, Lom carved out a prolific career that included a starring role as the King of Siam in the original 1953 London production of "The King and I."

He also appeared in scores of films over more than 60 years, including playing a crime-gang member in "The Ladykillers" (1955), Napoleon in "War and Peace" (1956), a pirate chieftain in "Spartacus" (1960) and the title role in the Hammer Films production of "The Phantom of the Opera" (1962).

But he was "badly typecast in British films," Lom told Australia's Daily Telegraph in 1999, "and it needed an American, Blake Edwards, to take me away from endless villainous roles and into the comedy of the Pink Panther films."

Lom's first time out as the long-suffering Charles Dreyfus was in "A Shot in the Dark," the 1964 follow-up to "The Pink Panther," writer-director Edwards' 1963 hit that introduced Sellers as Jacques Clouseau.

"I was invited to have lunch at the Dorchester with Blake Edwards," Lom told the Edinburgh Evening News in 2002. "He told me he had seen me playing heavy villains and thought I was funny.

"At first I didn't take it as a compliment. But then he explained that he did not want a comic actor who would play Dreyfus for laughs."

Lom viewed his involvement in the Pink Panther films playing "a blithering idiot named Inspector Dreyfus," as a highlight of his career.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mr. “Moon River”

In his prime, Iowa-born Andy Williams, who died Tuesday night at age 84 at his home in Branson, Mo., was more popular than Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj combined. From 1962 to 1971, millions of Americans tuned into his weekly variety show to watch such stars as Dinah Shore and Perry Como, but were often surprised by appearances of such then-unknowns as Elton John, the Mamas and the Papas, BeeGees and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Yes, he introduced the world to the Osmonds, but he also booked international superstars such as Antonio Carlos Jobin and displayed a crazy, absurdist humor — check out Cookie Bear and “The Walking Suitcase” in skits on the Web — which calls to mind the wacky comedy embraced by present-day late-night hosts Dave Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon.

While the Beatles and their British brethren invaded American radio in the ’60s, Williams continued to have hit records, especially in England where his singles outsold records by the Rolling Stones, Kinks and The Who.

Over a career that spanned more than 50 years and survived numerous fads and trends, Williams had 27 Top 40 singles. He absolutely owned the American pop charts in the ’60s, scoring with such smashes as “Days of Wine and Roses,” “On the Street Where You Live” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ which was a favorite of the late Robert F. Kennedy and his wife Ethel.

Williams is even more revered today for two popular songs that have become American standards: his signature song “Moon River” (it was never released as a single because his record company feared such lines as “my huckleberry friend” were too confusing and old-fashioned for teens) and the Christmas classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which will forever be ubiquitous every December.

His holiday TV specials, on which he was surrounded by children and wore the most brightly colored pullover sweaters this side of Lawrence Welk’s singers, continue to draw an audience in reruns.
Need more evidence of Williams’ staying power?

“Moon River,” written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer and introduced in the 1962 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” is a favorite with musicians young and old. Current pop stars from the Killers, R.E.M and Morrissey have covered the song in concert. Even local New Kid Joey McIntyre did a credible job, but no one has surpassed Williams’ version. Even more impressive, fans of ‘The Simpsons’ know his mellow croon melts the heart of Springfield bully Nelson Muntz. Ha-haw, indeed!

"a 1924 super-light Dormoy Bathtub ???"

SEATTLE — Ed Kusmirek has built something special. Starting in his family room, then continuing in a garage near his house in Renton, Wash., he's fashioned what looks like an elaborate go-cart with wings.

It's a precise replica of a vintage airplane, a 1924 super-light Dormoy Bathtub. Almost six decades ago, Boeing Co. retiree Kusmirek hatched the dream of re-creating this particular piece of aviation history — and flying it.

Now with his airplane built, the 84-year-old needs only approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and a quick refresher of his flying skills to take it up.,0,4718556.story

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Uli Biaho Tower, Pakistan

It is a peak near Trango Towers and Baltoro Glacier in the Northern Areas of Pakistan . 
It consists of two main peaks, 

Uli Biaho Tower (listed by Roskelley as 19,957 feet, and by Kopold as 6109 m (20,058 feet));
and Uli Biaho Peak (Kopold: 6417 m), which as of 2006 was unclimbed.

K2 is in Pakistan

It is the second-highest mountain on Earth, only after Mount Everest . 
It has a peak elevation of 8,611 m [28,251 feet]!!!;_ylc=X3oDMTBvZ2VoZGRnBF9TAzM5ODMwMTAyNwRhYwNuZXh0TWVzZw--&pSize=200&sMid=12&fid=Inbox&mid=2_0_0_1_13597095_AOkNw0MAAFW9UGDttQyDxneQGCQ&sort=date&order=down&startMid=0&.rand=1548713487&filterBy=&m=2_0_0_1_13604761_AOENw0MAAFedUGIGFAnaxxv3xa8%2C2_0_0_1_13603558_AO8Nw0MAAJzrUGH9EwA%2FrBgAJhU%2C2_0_0_1_13602320_AOkNw0MAAGrPUGH8CgjRfGgUrLY%2C2_0_0_1_13601232_AOgNw0MAAK8WUGHKowldZTShZaU%2C2_0_0_1_13598907_AOANw0MAAC47UGFbkwmViH%2FGWiw%2C2_0_0_1_13597709_AO4Nw0MAAUH3UGEsKw6jJklnrDY%2C2_0_0_1_13597095_AOkNw0MAAFW9UGDttQyDxneQGCQ%2C2_0_0_1_13595894_AOENw0MAAH%2F2UGDd6wb4hX%2B%2Fn04%2C2_0_0_1_13594601_AOMNw0MAAQaGUGDESwRZ%2BmMc2IE%2C2_0_0_1_13593207_AO8Nw0MAAUdcUGC%2FFwqLFk1RrzU& 

Beautiful Pakistan

Laila Peak , Hushe, Karakoram Range , Pakistan .

It has a distinctive spear-like shape. One of the most beautiful & scenic 
snow covered mountains of the world.

The Laila peak has been climbed only twice.

The Great Trango Tower , 6,286 m (20,608 ft)

The east face of the Great Trango Tower features the world's greatest nearly vertical drop.
[aka Tallest vertical mountain of world]

Located in Gilgit-Baltistan Region of Pakistan . This is one of the most difficult mountains to climb.;_ylc=X3oDMTBvZ2VoZGRnBF9TAzM5ODMwMTAyNwRhYwNuZXh0TWVzZw--&pSize=200&sMid=12&fid=Inbox&mid=2_0_0_1_13597095_AOkNw0MAAFW9UGDttQyDxneQGCQ&sort=date&order=down&startMid=0&.rand=1548713487&filterBy=&m=2_0_0_1_13604761_AOENw0MAAFedUGIGFAnaxxv3xa8%2C2_0_0_1_13603558_AO8Nw0MAAJzrUGH9EwA%2FrBgAJhU%2C2_0_0_1_13602320_AOkNw0MAAGrPUGH8CgjRfGgUrLY%2C2_0_0_1_13601232_AOgNw0MAAK8WUGHKowldZTShZaU%2C2_0_0_1_13598907_AOANw0MAAC47UGFbkwmViH%2FGWiw%2C2_0_0_1_13597709_AO4Nw0MAAUH3UGEsKw6jJklnrDY%2C2_0_0_1_13597095_AOkNw0MAAFW9UGDttQyDxneQGCQ%2C2_0_0_1_13595894_AOENw0MAAH%2F2UGDd6wb4hX%2B%2Fn04%2C2_0_0_1_13594601_AOMNw0MAAQaGUGDESwRZ%2BmMc2IE%2C2_0_0_1_13593207_AO8Nw0MAAUdcUGC%2FFwqLFk1RrzU&

Monday, September 24, 2012

"This Is Cinerama"

Sixty years ago, Hollywood was in deep trouble.

Movie attendance was in decline because people preferred to watch "I Love Lucy" on television in the comfort of their own homes. To lure them back into theaters, a new widescreen format called Cinerama was introduced, debuting Sept. 30, 1952, when "This Is Cinerama" premiered in New York City.

And it worked.

Hosted by travel writer and journalist Lowell Thomas, who was also one of the producers, "This Is Cinerama" featured simultaneously projecting images from three synchronized projectors — the movie was shot with three interlocked cameras in a process known as three strip — onto a deeply curved screen. The system, which re-created the full range of human vision, was invented by Fred Waller.

Though the film seems dated today — the three separate panels are clearly visible — one can understand the impact this film made around the world as viewers were plunged into the seat of a roller coaster or traveling across country on the nose of a B-28 bomber.

"This Is Cinerama" also took viewers to faraway places such as the La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy, to witness a lengthy sequence from "Aida," a bullfight in Madrid and water-skiing demonstration at Cypress Gardens in Florida.

Despite the fact it was only in a limited number of theaters, the film was No 1 at the box office. Studios stood up and took notice. Less than a year later, 20th Century Fox presented its first widescreen CinemaScope epic "The Robe," and other big-screen formats followed suit including VistaVision, Todd-AO and Super Panavision 70. Cinerama's legacy can be found today in the popular big-screen format Imax.

The ArcLight celebrates the format's 60th anniversary Friday through Oct. 4 at — where else? — the Cinerama Dome with presentations of 12 Cinerama titles. Highlights include popular films from 1962 "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" and "How the West Was Won," and "It's Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World," from 1963 and 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey," which was shot in Super Panavision 70.
The festival also features the premiere of "In the Picture," the first three-strip Cinerama movie that has been made in 50 years. The short tribute to Cinerama was directed by film editor David Strohmaier, who has been digitally restoring and remastering several of the Cinerama features and previously directed the 2002 documentary "Cinerama Adventure."

Strohmaier, who grew up watching Cinerama movies, recalled that the success of these films was "so "immediate you couldn't get tickets. Cinerama was breaking records right and left."

By the 1960s, he said, "there were 274 theaters around the world who showed these movies. Downtown Tehran had a Cinerama theater. It became an event. Cinerama was more a phenomenon than a fad. It lasted a good 12-13 years." (Eventually, the high cost of producing three-strip films become too steep and the studios stopped producing them.)

On Tuesday, Flicker Alley is releasing the Blu-ray and DVD of "This Is Cinerama" and the 1958 "Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich" in a format called Smilebox, which replicates the curved screen of the theatrical Cinerama experience.

"I think 'This Is Cinerama' is as significant a picture as 'The Jazz Singer,'" said John Sittig, the ArcLight Cinemas director of projection and sound.

" 'The Jazz Singer' was not the first talking picture and it wasn't even 100% talking, but it was it the one that everyone points to, and it is the same with 'This Is Cinerama.' There were several widescreen movies in the 1930s and Disney did stereophonic sound with 'Fantasia'…"

"This is one that really struck culturally with the public," said Flicker Alley's Jeff Masino. "I find the films such a fascinating record of the world 60 years ago."

For more information on the Cinerama events at the Cinerama Dome, go to For Flicker Alley information, go to

"As the Stomach Turns"

The Carol Burnett Show is a sketch comedy television show starring Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. It originally ran on CBS from September 11, 1967 to March 29, 1978 for 278 episodes, and originated from CBS Television City's Studio 33 (also known as the Bob Barker Studio). The popular variety show made the stars household names with such sketches as As the Stomach Turns, Went With the Wind (a parody of Gone With the Wind featuring a scene with Burnett as Scarlett O'Hara in the dress made from a window curtain, complete with the curtain rod), Carol & Sis, Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins, The Family (which would later spin off into a show called Mama's Family), Nora Desmond (Burnett's send-up of Gloria Swanson's character Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard), and Stella Toddler. The long-running show was frequently nominated for Emmys, and won three times.

The Ear Tug

Through this program, Burnett became known for her acting and talent, and for ending each show by tugging her ear, which was a message to her grandmother who had raised her, letting her know that she was doing well and that she loved her. 

"$95 million apartment project"

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - During the height of the Downtown housing market, few projects sounded as exciting as the one proposed for 1340 S. Figueroa St. Architecture enthusiasts were breathless over the plan for Daniel Libeskind, the designer of the acclaimed Jewish Museum in Berlin and the master plan architect for the World Trade Center site in Manhattan, to work on a 43-story tower just a few blocks south of L.A. Live.

Like many of the projects broached several years ago, the development from Korean company Human Technologies LLC never came close to breaking ground. Now, the site is being envisioned for a far more modest development.

The ironic part is that, while the new plan lacks the spectacle of one with the Libeskind imprimatur, it is far more likely to happen. In fact, a developer aims to break ground on a $95 million apartment project next year and open a pair of seven-story towers with a combined 247 units in 2013.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Adventurer with No Fear

Dean Potter -- he’s the Yosemite big wall climber who lives on the edge. He’s gone up El Cap AND Half Dome in a single day. Both of them. Yikes.  National Geographic  picked him as one of the 10 Adventurers of the Year in 2009. He is also a favorite on YouTube for his wingsuit  flight off the Eiger in Switzerland. He “flew” like Batman for 2 minutes and 50 seconds. He covered about 9,000 vertical feet and soared for4 miles. If you keep track, that makes him the longest BASE jump ever. He’s 39 and let’s hope his machismo doesn’t get the best of him. He’s not too far from Ker-splat.

Half Dome -- "on the plank"

Half Dome is in California's Yosemite National Park.

Photo by David Husted

"adventure on the rocks"

It sounds like something you might order in a bar, but it's actually the business model for a year-old Tucson company: "adventure on the rocks."

The locally owned company, Pangaea Mountain Guides, provides climbing instruction and also offers adventure trips around the United States and abroad.

"Forming the company was all about the sense of adventure - getting to remote areas for climbing and introducing other people to it," said Alexis Finley, co-owner of Pangaea.

Finley and his fellow owners, Jon D'Auria and David Merin, are like other guide services in that they teach climbers of all skill levels at cliffs in the Catalina Mountains and elsewhere around Southern Arizona.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Magical World of Mystere,r:9,s:102,i:75&tx=106&ty=122&vpx=400&vpy=41&hovh=225&hovw=225

"The Pyramid of the Magician"

Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills of Yucatan during the late Classical period, flourishing between the 7th and 10th centuries AD. Uxmal translates as 'thrice built' and, whatever the actual number, the numerous building phases are reflected in a variety of architectural styles. The city was abandoned in the 10th century after apparently coming under Toltec influence. The currently used names for many of the structures were coined by the conquering Spanish and are neither indigenous nor do they indicate the actual functions of the buildings. An example is the Nunnery so named for its similarity to the convents of the Spaniards. This structure was actually used as a school for the training of healers, astronomers, mathematicians, shamans and priests.

The Pyramid of the Magician, at 100 feet the tallest structure in Uxmal, is more accurately named. According to ancient legends, a magician-god named Itzamna single handedly constructed the pyramid in one night. From archaeological excavation, however, we know that the pyramid was constructed in five superimposed phases. The legendary association of the pyramid with a magician may be understood as an indication that the structure, and indeed the entire sacred part of the Uxmal complex, had ancient and ongoing use as a mystery school and ceremonial center. It is also interesting to note that the entire city is aligned with reference to the position of the planets then known, with Venus predominating, and that the pyramid of the magician is oriented so that its stairway on the west faces the setting sun at the time of summer solstice.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Soreq Cave is packed with stunning natural sculptures

SOREQ CAVE, Israel — This prehistoric cave on the slopes of Israel's Judean Mountains has always felt a little otherworldly.

Like other dripstone caverns, Soreq Cave is packed with stunning natural sculptures formed by hundreds of thousands of years of mineral-rich water drops slowly leaving behind a rock residue.

On the roof is a hanging forest of different-sized rods, resembling icicles, giant carrots, elephant trunks and twisting octopus tentacles. Rising up to meet them from the limestone floor are 30-foot sand castles, spiraling rock towers and billowy hills that resemble coral reefs or heads of cauliflower.

As if it wasn't strange enough, a recent ecological makeover has added a lighting system as spectacular as it is eerie.

Glowing amber spotlights fade into midnight blue mixed with circles of emerald, bathing the 50,000-square-foot cave and its formations in almost hallucinogenic color. Programmed to change every few minutes, the lighting turns a bright sunrise orange before slowly transforming into a deep purple.
"It's like the cave is breathing," said guide Boris Kripak, a Russian-born archaeologist who works at the cave, which was discovered in 1968 during rock-blasting for a nearby quarry.

The Hollywood-style lighting wasn't installed for artistic or aesthetic reasons. Instead, the colors were selected as part of a decades-long ecological battle to keep the cave's stalactites and stalagmites as pristine as possible.

By using only a limited part of the color spectrum of light and focusing on certain shades of orange, blue and green, scientists are betting the new system will eradicate one of the cave's biggest threats: algae.,0,2076541.story

"275 square feet is just right"

NEW YORK — Scott Elyanow had clung to the red, long-sleeved sweatshirt with the words "Marblehead High School" for 20 years. It had softened with age, like the memory of the long-ago love who had given it to him.

But Elyanow was nearing 40, and what he had gained in years and wisdom he hadn't gained in living space — his apartment measures 275 square feet, including the bathroom, kitchen and an entryway with overhead clearance of 5 feet, 7 inches. So he took a picture of the sweatshirt for a keepsake, then tossed the worn piece of clothing into a "purge" pile, a system Elyanow has adopted during his seven years living in a so-called micro-studio apartment in New York City.

"I really, truly don't accumulate stuff," said Elyanow, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats. He lives and works in Manhattan's West Village, where the crooked, cobblestoned streets are lined with 19th century buildings famous for charming but cramped apartments.,0,2296195.story

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beijing International Triathlon Race

Athletes begin the swimming stage during the 2012 Beijing International Triathlon at Qinglong lake park Fengtai District on September 16, 2012 in Beijing, China.

(September 15, 2012 - Source: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Barbra Streisand sets Hollywood Bowl date for concert tour

Babs is coming to the Bowl.

As part of her 2012 concert tour -- her first in five years -- Barbra Streisand has added a performance at the Hollywood Bowl on Nov. 9. The 8 p.m. concert is the only scheduled Los Angeles stop on the tour.

The concert is expected to feature the 70-year-old singer performing some of her most famous numbers, as well as appearances by jazz trumpeter Chris Botti and the operatic pop tenor group Il Volo.,0,3776778.story

William Kapell's mastery of the keyboard

It was on the return trip from a tour to Australia that pianist William Kapell's plane crashed outside of San Francisco. Dashing, handsome, and with a pompadour that would make James Dean envious, Kapell was groomed by his handlers as a classical music glamour boy, although from a purely artistic standpoint he was thoroughly serious. In retrospect, Kapell likewise shares with Dean a life cut short and a concurrent status as a legend, though not every legend produces a body of work consistently worthy of such footing. There are almost no dead spots in Kapell's slim but instructive discography. In a way, this hard-working pianist had no time to produce bad recordings, although there is the inevitable wonderment about what Kapell might have done had fate allowed him to mature past his 31 young years. With RCA Red Seal's Kapell Rediscovered: The Australian Broadcasts, such wonderment may well be satisfied, as these recordings reveal that in the final months of his life, Kapell was making something of an artistic breakthrough. His intense and dynamic playing matures in a way that is striking, even for Kapell. Fortunately, he lived in a time when television was not quite king, radio broadcasts of classical music concerts were common, and hobbyists enthusiastically recorded such broadcasts for their own amusement on home disc-cutting machines. These broadcasts, made between July and October 1953 and literally representing some the last playing Kapell did in public, were captured in just such a way. Although certain individual items, such as the Rachmaninoff "Piano Concerto No. 3" and the Mussorgsky "Pictures at an Exhibition," were previously known and circulated to a small extent, Kapell Rediscovered recovers the full extent of Kapell's Australian broadcasts and puts them in the same place for the first time. It also introduces Kapell's interpretations of works such as Debussy's "Suite bergamasque," and presents the whole in the best sound possible. In terms of sound, Kapell Rediscovered is certainly not for the general public; while most of it is easily tolerable, there are numerous interferences -- crispy surfaces; a stray, distant radio voice yammering its way through Kapell's only reading of "Clair de Lune"; distortion; and other vagaries endemic to home recordings made on radio sets. You have been warned, though ears skilled in listening to historical recordings -- and many of Kapell's most die-hard fans come well equipped in such measure -- will not have any trouble picking the player out of the noise. There is occasional patching from other recordings to cover gaps, and this can be momentarily distracting, though is necessary in order to deliver a complete performance. Nevertheless, RCA Red Seal's Kapell Rediscovered is a first-class job of restoration, and in a sense, it is for the Kapell collector that has everything -- and RCA's 1998 Kapell Edition is practically everything -- yet this is far better a historical set than such a cliché would imply

American Queen

American Queen Steamboat Company specializes in overnight cruises onboard an authentic paddlewheel steamboat. Bringing Mark Twain's America to life, each itinerary provides a rich experience along the Mississippi and its tributaries. From vibrant cities such as St. Louis and St. Paul to southern treasures like Natchez and Vicksburg, American Queen Steamboat Company provides memorable journeys through America's heartland.

Citadel on a Minnesota bluff

Fort Snelling, anonymous painter, circa 1855 -- the fort was built  overlooking the confluence of two great rivers -- the Mississippi and the Minnesota.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

"The city where the skyscraper was born"

The city where the skyscraper was born just can't get enough of these supertowers. But for the dozens of massive buildings proposed in Chicago, very few actually come to fruition.

Though construction began in 2007, today the Chicago Spire exists in a state of limbo. Many consider it a dead project. A few believe it could still be completed. It's more likely that this project will be resurrected in a smaller, less ambitious form. After all, the foundation has already been built, and this is one of the few remaining pieces of land along the city's lakefront that can be developed.

The Spire was originally proposed as The Fordham Spire. It was going to be the first Windy City project for Spanish architectural superstar Santiago Calatrava. Though he has graced the shores of Lake Michigan before with the Quadricci Pavilion up the road at the Milwaukee Art Museum, having a showcase project in Chicago is a much better feather to have in one's architectural cap.

The Spire's position at the point where the Chicago River drains Lake Michigan would have put it in the center of the city skyline, and made it an unmissable focal point in the thousands of photographs taken by tourists each day.

In its original form, this building lived up to its name. It was truly is a spire -- A svelte, tapering form topped by a needle. It was later revised, and the final design eliminated the needle piercing the sky. The entire shaft evolved into a more blunt, yet refined, form.

In a New York Times article about the building, it was compared to a drill bit, a blade of grass, and a tall twisting tree. Others have compared it to a lighthouse, a zucchini, and even an exclamation point.

The inability to quickly categorize the shape is exactly what the architecture world has come to expect from a Calatrava design. It is both geometric and organic. It takes a simple form and twists it in the wind like so many of his other bridges and buildings. In this case, quite intentionally. Though the architect held and stroked a snail shell through many of the design meetings he had in Chicago, Calatrava has stated that the intent of the twisting and rising form was to pay homage to the American Indians, by echoing the smoke from their campfires along the edge of Lake Michigan.

Each of the building's floors were designed to be anchored to a central column. But each would also be offset from the one below. With each progressive level, the result would have been, indeed, something very much like a drill bit.

The original plan called for the bottom 20 floors to be occupied by a hotel, while the rest of the building was to be filled with 1,200 luxury condominiums. The final configuration eliminated the commercial aspect, and resulted in an entirely residential building. That was a great disappointment to those who believe Chicago needs another sky-high observation deck.

Before economic troubles finally sank this project, its biggest obstacle was zoning. The parcel of land selected was only zoned for as 540-foot-tall building and a 350-foot-tall building. The developer managed to assuage the city, neighborhood groups, and local open space activists by developing a riverfront plaza with six stories of parking underneath. The developer also promised to pony up nine million dollars to turn a disused chunk of lakefront land into DuSable Park.

The City of Chicago has wanted to create that park for decades, but could never come up with the money. The developer planned to use the future parkland during construction, and then afterward turn it over to the city with the cash so that it could become a public space. A survey of the site today shows that neither of those things happened.

At this point, whether the park will ever be built is anyone's guess. The construction crews packed up and left in 2008, and the banks have been fighting over the scraps of what's left in the courts for years. Some day the world may change enough so that this project will once again catch the attention of some visionary who can make it happen. But it's not likely soon, and if the economists are to be believed, possibly not for decades to come. 

"the largest development in the city's history"

Designed by global architecture, design, planning and consulting firm Gensler, and developed by AEG WorldWide, the Ritz-Carlton Tower is part of the L.A. Live sports and entertainment complex, including the GRAMMY Museum, headquarters for ESPN, and the Nokia Theater. The 4-million-square-foot L.A. Live, adjoining Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center, is considered to be the largest development in the city's history.

The façade will be composed of a metal and glass curtain wall; the glass will reflect the skyline in shades of blue and green. Residences—offering room service, housekeeping, and valet service—will begin on the 27th floor and rise to the 52nd floor. Interiors will be fitted out with luxe details, including kitchen cabinetry by Italian kitchen manufacturer Snaidero, available in three finish options: satin teak, dark oak, or ice white high-gloss lacquer.

According to LA Curbed, prices will run $1.8 to 2.6 million for a two bedroom (1,700 to 2,600 square feet) and $2.8 to 5 million for a three bedroom unit (2,000 to 4,300 square feet).

"classic harmony is timeless"

The McGuire Sisters, Phyllis, Dorothy and Christine, have come a long way from the tiny church in Middletown, Ohio where they began singing when Phyllis (the youngest) was four years old in 1935. Their classic harmony is as timeless and smooth today as it was in 1952 when they burst upon the music scene. During their outstanding 46-year career they managed to rack up a long list of hits - such as "Sincerely," "Just for Old Times Sake," "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," "He," "Sugartime," and "Muskrat Ramble" - just to name a few.


“Everyone says I’m a jumper, and it’s true—I love fast action onstage"

Kleber Rebello can rock an audience with multiple pirouettes and steps that ricochet into a grand jeté. The 21-year-old Miami City Ballet soloist hit his irrepressible stride as the Harlequin in Balanchine’s La Sonnambula and the scene-igniting Mercutio in Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. “Everyone says I’m a jumper, and it’s true—I love fast action onstage,” admits this Rio de Janeiro native, an apprentice just two years ago. “But I also get into deep emotion.” For Rebello, who trained at Escola de Dança Spinelli and Companhia Brasileira de Ballet before coming to the Miami City Ballet School, perfecting neoclassical technique has involved an artistic growth spurt he calls radical. This let him reach into his soul for a haunting Melancholic in The Four Temperaments when MCB took Paris by storm last summer. The dancer will keep aiming for both heart and humor when Giselle’s peasant pas de deux and Franz in Coppélia come up for him this season, along with a Liam Scarlett world premiere, at Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami-Dade, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and the Kravis Center in Palm Beach. —Guillermo Perez
Photo by Kyle Froman, Courtesy MCB.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

"Making Do"

“American officers frequently employed reindeer teams in crossing the Dwina River and in going about Archangel. Here are two officers with a team they have just engaged. A Russian young lady is also a passenger” 03/07/1919.

They could be twins

Tsar Alexander III (top right), with his brother Vladimir and some cousins.

72nd Highlanders

William Noble, Alexander Davison and John Harper of the 72nd Highlanders, the Crimea, circa.1854-56 


View of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Baku, 1910.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Emergency Brake"

Don't dismiss "Premium Rush" as just another action movie.

The film centers on a bike messenger in a bad fix, and its grunge sensibility is the antithesis of what we've come to expect from the genre.

The bodies, most prominently Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Wilee (as in that speedy cartoon coyote), are more string bean than bulked up.

And the most dangerous weapon isn't a weapon at all, but the skill and moxie it takes to race through Manhattan on a bike without brakes.

Directed by David Koepp, who co-wrote the clever script with John Kamps, it's got intellect as well.

Wilee made it through law school, but for now he finds the freedom of the streets more compelling.

The pace is dizzying and the stunts elaborate. Instead of explosives, the filmmakers play with speed.

It's a total rush to watch Wilee ride like a demon to avoid one, a bad cop played by Michael Shannon.

And the soundtrack? It rocks.,0,7573950.story

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

" near-constant aerial surveillance"

Lancaster City Council voted unanimously last week to begin near-constant aerial surveillance of its city on May 1. City leaders say the program will allow police to respond almost instantaneously to crime when it happens; opponents say constant surveillance by the government infringes on the the privacy rights of citizens who have done nothing wrong.

As KTLA reports, the surveillance will be done by a piloted Cessna 172 fixed-wing aircraft for 10 hours a day and will cost the city $300 an hour, or about $90,000 a month. The technology, developed by the Lancaster-based Spiral Technology, Inc., includes the use of infrared imaging. "The camera could spot a home invasion robbery or track unsuspecting criminals. It could note car accidents so patrol cars could get there more quickly," city officials told the Los Angeles Times. Lancaster will be the first city in the nation to use the technology, which has previously only been used by the military, NASA and a few other federal agencies, according to KTLA.

"the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic convention"

As is traditional, first lady Michelle Obama will be the featured speaker on the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Thursday.

But the buzz in the political sphere and in the city is all about San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who has the distinction of being the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic convention.
Outside of Texas, however, Castro is essentially unknown.

He talked to All Things Considered's Audie Cornish, yesterday. He was at the NPR broadcast box at the Time Warner Cable Arena, which overlooks the delegate floor.

"I'm very excited but also a little bit nervous," he said. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't."

This is a big stage and Castro, with his youth and charisma, has been compared to President Obama. If you remember, back in 2004, when the president was just a senatorial candidate from Illinois, he delivered a powerhouse performance at the convention in Boston. The speech catapulted him from obscurity to the national spotlight and eventually the presidential nomination just four years later.

"President Obama is someone of a unique talent and I'm the mayor of a city," Castro told Audie, downplaying the comparisons. "I'm just here to try to do my best and be myself. I don't think that I'm in the same league with the president.

Above:  San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, left, and his twin brother State Rep. Joaquin Castro give an interview during preparations for the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Monday.

"Action Pro"

Pro skater Ryan Sheckler won Male Skaterboarder of The year at Arby's Action Sports Awards at Center Stage in 2006 in Burbank, California.

"stepping out from the 87th floor"

Prince Andrew has completed his abseil down the Shard skyscraper in London on Monday to raise money for charity.

Nearly £300,000 was raised, which will go to educational charity The Outward Bound Trust, of which the prince is chairman, and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

The 52-year old royal said the most difficult part was stepping out from the 87th floor of Europe's tallest building.

Monday, September 03, 2012

"The Apartment"

Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote this darkly comedic 1960 film, which won Academy Awards for best film, director, screenplay, film editing and art direction-set direction. Adult and sophisticated — especially for its time — "The Apartment" presents a seamy side of office politics.
Oscar nominee Jack Lemmon stars as one of the young worker bees at a New York city insurance company, more ambitious than most. To make his way up the corporate ladder, he gives his keys to the firm's company managers so they can have clandestine affairs in his apartment. Shirley MacLaine, also an Oscar nominee, plays the elevator operator secretly having an affair with the nasty personnel director (Fred MacMurray).

What it says about work: It's a white-collared jungle out there.,0,4445024.story

"The Pajama Game"

Doris Day played Babe Williams, head of the grievance committee at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory, in the film that was adapted from a hit Broadway musical. Babe fought for her fellow employees to get a raise, but sparks (of love) fly when she and shop superintendent Sid Sorokin (co-star John Raitt) get closer. The legendary Bob Fosse staged the numbers, and Day created some memorable scenes as Raitt's character courted hers. 

( UCLA Film and Television Archive )