Sunday, January 29, 2006
The photo above taken by John Pennock (Lonely Planet Images) is a dramatic image of the Canary Islands' Tenerife harbor breakwater at sunset. The Canaries, conquered by Spain in the late 15th century, are Europe's Hawaii. The chain of seven major islands was raised from the Atlantic Ocean by volcanoes. Cruise ships dock at the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (shown below).
Saturday, January 28, 2006
I was taking my daily walk and as I neared the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier I turned to walk in toward the beach when I noticed a curious sight in the sky. High above the structures a large number of birds were circling. There were perhaps a hundred or more birds flying in close formation like a swarm of bees. I walked on and as I neared the start of the pier I could see that the swarm was coming closer and that they were flying lower. Then the realization hit me. These were Richard's friends. They were waiting for him a couple of blocks from the pier where he parks his car and then they proceeded to escort him on his walk to the pier. Then I saw Richard coming down the sidewalk with his following close at hand. Richard wasn't feeling well but that didn't prevent him from keeping his daily appointment with his friends. Each day Richard comes to the pier to provide food, fresh water and, on warm days, a shower for his feathered friends. Below is the collage I used with my May, 2005 posting about Richard's daily visits to dispense kindness and sustenance to his growing number of friends. Richard, I hope your recovery is rapid and complete. Manhattan Beach is enriched by your presence.
Friday, January 27, 2006
IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE NICHOLAS BROTHERS, THEN YOU'VE MISSED THE MOST SPECTACULAR, MAGICAL "ALL NATURAL" SPECIAL EFFECTS IN CINEMA HISTORY
Fayard Nicholas, the elder half of the show-stopping Nicholas Brothers tap-dancing duo that thrilled audiences during the 1930s and beyond with their elegance and daring athleticism, has died. He was 91. The picture above shows Fayard (on the left) and his brother Harold.
The self-taught Nicholas Brothers — Fayard and Harold — tap-danced their way from vaudeville and Harlem's legendary Cotton Club to Broadway and Hollywood. Known for their airborne splits and acrobatics, the handsome, dapper duo is considered by many to be the greatest dance team ever to work in American movies.
The Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them "the most amazing dancers I have ever seen in my life — ever."
When filmgoers saw the Nicholas Brothers' dazzling acrobatic routine in the 1940 movie musical "Down Argentine Way" (starring Don Ameche, Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda), they were known to applaud and stomp their feet until the projectionist rewound the film and played the dance sequence again.
Fred Astaire considered the Nicholas Brothers' "Jumpin' Jive" dance sequence in the 1943, all-black musical "Stormy Weather" the greatest dance number ever filmed. "With its spectacular splits and leaps, their 'Jumpin' Jive' number is easily the most exhilarating dance routine in all of cinema.
The show-stopping performance, set in a large cabaret with the Cab Calloway band playing, has the brothers jumping onto tabletops and leaping off a grand piano onto the dance floor in full splits.
The highlight of their breathtaking, synchronous routine occurs when they leap over each other in splits while descending an oversized staircase. "That was one take, coming down those stairs … jumping over each other's heads," Nicholas told The Times in 1989.
Their first major film musical, "Kid Millions" featured Eddie Cantor (1934). "The Big Broadcast of 1936" followed. The Nicholas Brothers appeared on Broadway in "The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936" and in 1937 they worked with ballet choreographer George Balanchine in the Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical-comedy "Babes in Arms."
These two were giants among the legends.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
it opens up like a roomy van.
The $23,000 Toyota FJ Cruiser created a big buzz at the recent L.A. auto show and is due to be available this spring.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Monday, January 23, 2006
Thursday, January 19, 2006
I felt inspired today. Of course, I always feel inspired after taking my daily walk at the seashore and out on the Manhattan Beach Pier. But, today was special. As I walked out on the pier, I saw the puddle of water that told me that Richard had been there showering the pigeons, feeding them and providing them with fresh water. (On May 19, 2005, I did a full posting on Richard and his wonderful project---Check the Archives, May 2005). I'm always reassured by that puddle. The wind was very strong today and the sea gulls were enjoying it immensely. They appeared to be floating, or suspended by an invisible string as they rode on the wind like a kite. Today there were very large waves. It's always exciting to watch those large waves come rolling in, and to see them crashing against the pier. Sometimes if you position yourself just right in relation to the sun, you can see lovely rainbows as the water from the crashing waves flies up into the air. The pelicans were out in formation today conducting their fishing excursions. I"m always amazed to see the pelicans flying along, and then one by one peeling off into a dive straight down into the sea. I try to watch carefully to see if they got their prey. Oh yes, a day at the seashore always reminds me of what a wonderful world we live in and how blessed many of us are.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Friday, January 13, 2006
No, it's Legoland in Carlsbad, California where a Lego-block replica of New York City is bathed in the glow of a pyrotechnic sunburst.
What's the difference between a dead snake lying in the road and a dead lawyer lying in the road ??
Answer: There are skid marks in front of the snake.
Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps ??
Answer: New Jersey had first choice.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
In 1950, Ben Hogan, nicknamed "Bantam Ben" because of his small size (145 pounds) and called the "Hawk" by fellow players because of the way he studied a course, matched Sam Snead shot-for-shot on the last day of the Los Angeles Open. Hogan was making his miraculous comeback from a near-fatal automobile accident and was leading when he finished his final round at the Riviera Country Club, a course that became known as Hogan's Alley. Snead beat Hogan in a week-delayed 18-hole playoff, 72 to 76. Shown above is a piece of artwork, just like Hogan.
Seattle's Space Needle takes an active, if nonspeaking role in that city's New Year's Eve fireworks extravaganza.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Evangelical leaders said Friday that they were embarrassed and incensed by televangelist Pat Robertson's assertion that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had suffered a massive stroke, was stricken by God as punishment for ceding the Gaza Strip and a portion of the West Bank to Palestinians last summer. "I'm appalled that Pat Robertson would make such statements. He ought to know better," said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U. S. Protestant denomination. "The arrogance of the statement shocks me almost as much as the insensitivity of it," Land said. We've all heard how "power corrupts," and apparently it is the brain that is corrupted. It's sad how some men of God come to believe they are God.
Nicknamed The Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf grew from a frail street singer to a proud icon of French culture. One of her CDs, "The Immortal Edith Piaf", showcases her career through those unique recordings where the naked emotion of her singing overwhelmed all who heard her.
Edith Piaf was born in 1915 in Belleville, a poor district of Paris which she forever regarded as her spiritual home, and she became closely identified with the vibrant creative spirit of the city in the 1930s and 40s. Paris at that time was the intellectual and artistic centre of the world, home to composers Ravel and Stravinsky, artists Matisse, Leger and Picasso and writers Proust, Gide and Cocteau. Cocteau became utterly absorbed by Piaf and described her impact on him with unalloyed wonder: “Every time she sings you have the feeling she’s wrenching her soul from her body for the last time.”
Piaf’s early repertoire was dominated by the songs of Maryse Damia, an impassioned artist known as La Tragedienne De La Chanson who had recorded an interpretation of Gloomy Sunday to rival Billie Holiday’s, and was also noted for performing dressed entirely in black. Piaf herself adopted this style years before Juliette Greco and the 1950s existentialists emulated the same dress code at Le Tabou. Piaf has been "the" French singer, the Parisian street-bird, the dark cabaret muse "par excellence". She was a wild tormented soul when she sang; a tiny silhouette dressed in black, with bony white hands that looked like wounded doves. An illustrious talent, her voice was unique, moving and incendiary. We almost begrudge 'The Sparrow' for having been so colossal (she was only 1m40 tall). Nobody can measure up to her. She is "the" French singer - for whom we are still searching in vain, for an heiress. But Piaf was more than just Piaf, she came after a period which had engendered Cocteaus, Sartres, Chagalls... And she herself gave birth to Montands, Aznavours, Becauds... Piaf was France. A France without marketing, promotion, a hit parade . . . simply talent and, above all, passion.
In September 1958 Piaf was involved in a serious car crash, which weakened her declining health still further. Just a few months after the accident Piaf would collapse halfway through a concert in New York and had to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency operation.
Ignoring the advice of her doctors and her closest friends, Piaf still refused to abandon her singing career. In spite of the fact that she would frequently relive her New York disaster, collapsing on stage several times in mid-performance, Piaf could not imagine life without her music. In 1960 Piaf began working with the young French songwriter Charles Dumont who would offer the singer the most famous song of her entire career, "Non je ne regrette rien" (No Regrets). Piaf was totally bowled over by the song and promised to premiere it at her next major concert, which happened to be L'Olympia. (Piaf had promised Bruno Coquatrix that she would appear at L'Olympia at the beginning of 1961, to help the director save the famous Paris venue from bankruptcy). Piaf threw herself into the lyrics of "Non je ne regrette rien" body and soul, and her performance at the Olympia that night would go down in music history as one of the most legendary concerts of all time.
In the summer of 1961 Piaf would meet a young Greek singer by the name of Theophanis Lamboukas. Theophanis, or "Sarapo" as Piaf preferred to call him ("Sarapo" being Greek for "I love you"), would be the last in Piaf's long line of husbands and lovers. Just as she had done with so many of the previous men in her life, Piaf would take charge of Sarapo's career, using her name to launch the young unknown.
In September 1962 Piaf returned to L'Olympia to give her final series of concerts at the legendary Paris venue. On 25 September the singer was a special guest star at the international premiere of the film "The Longest Day". Appearing on a stage erected on the top floor of the Eiffel Tower, Piaf gave the performance of a lifetime, singing her greatest hits to a massive audience which included royalty, heads of state and a crowd of international celebrities.
A few days after this triumphant concert, Piaf went on to marry Theo Sarapo at a private orthodox ceremony on 9 October 1962. After an extended honeymoon, the couple would return to the music scene, performing their famous duo "A quoi ça sert l'amour ?" at the Bobino in February 1963.
Two months later Piaf would fall into a coma. The singer would spend the last months of her life, slipping in and out of consciousness in her villa in Plascassier near Cannes. Piaf would finally pass peacefully away in her home in the South of France on 11 October 1963, dying on the same day as her old friend Jean Cocteau.
The news of Piaf's death caused a national outpouring of grief. She was forbidden a Mass by the archbishop of Paris (because of her lifestyle), yet her ceremony at Pere-Lachaise was bombarded by forty thousand fans. Charles Aznavour, whom she helped launch in show business, recalled that Piaf's funeral procession was the only time, since the end of World War II, that Parisian traffic came to a complete stop. Tens of thousands of fans flocked to Paris on 14 October to follow the singer's coffin to its final resting-place in the Père Lachaise cemetery. Today Piaf's tomb remains one of the most visited sites at Père Lachaise, thousands of fans making an annual pilgrimage to the cemetery to lay flowers on her grave.
Meanwhile, more than thirty years after her death, Piaf's legend continues to inspire the French music scene. In 1996 the phenomenal success of the Paris stage musical "Piaf je t'aime" proved that thousands of Piaf fans old and new were still eager to relive the dramatic events of the singer's incredible lifestory.
Since Piaf's death in 1963 a host of international stars - including Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Hallyday, Serge Gainsbourg and Liza Minnelli - have been lining up to record their own versions of Piaf's legendary songs. French pop star Etienne Daho recently recorded a modern upbeat version of "Mon manège à moi" and in 1997 Charles Aznavour, one of Piaf's closest friends and most fervent admirers, recorded a new version of the Piaf classic "Plus bleu que tes yeux". Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, studio technicians were able to resurrect Piaf's voice from old recordings and mix it with Aznavour's vocals, producing a stunning virtual duet.
Friday, January 06, 2006
The Crazy Horse monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota was started in 1948 and the face has been completed. Below, there's a museum, conference center, restaurant, theater and gift shop. The widow of Polish American artist and accomplished sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski works tirelessly to finish his work. "It was his lifetime and it's my lifetime," she says. The completed sculpture will portray Sioux chief Crazy Horse, on horseback as shown below.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Lucille Meyer, believed to be one of the city's oldest native residents, marked her 109th birthday on Friday, Dec. 30. The mother of two has 20 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild who was born last fall. She is believed to be one of the oldest survivors of the great earthquake and fire that destroyed the city in April 1906. Meyer was 9 when the earthquake and resulting fire struck, burning the city for four days and destroying the Meyer family home. The experience of watching the city burn and living near the wreckage still haunts her every time there is an earthquake.