Thursday, December 27, 2007

The original "Showboat"

In 1927 "Show Boat," with music by Jerome Kern and libretto by Oscar Hammerstein II, opened at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.
Above, Norma Terris and Howard Marsh as Magnolia and Ravenal in the original 1927 production of Show Boat.

There's only one Dietrich . . .

On Dec. 27, 1901, Marlene Dietrich, the magnetic movie star and singer who was considered an international symbol of glamour, was born.

The Mystery of a Mansion

CHANCES are you've seen the grand entry before. And the immense hallway. You've probably seen the kitchen, the dining room and a bedroom or two. Greystone Mansion, the house designed by Gordon Kaufman and completed in 1928 as a gift from oil tycoon Edward Doheny to his son, is a versatile estate that film crews descend upon often for its opulent beauty, acres of manicured grounds and Beverly Hills location.

But there's one room in the house -- a partially subterranean, two-lane bowling alley --that hadn't made it onto the big screen until Paul Thomas Anderson featured it in "There Will Be Blood," his epic saga that opened this week about an oil prospector in turn-of-the-century California.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bugsy Siegel opens Flamingo Hotel

On December 26, 1946, in Las Vegas, Nevada, mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel opens The Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a total cost of $6 million. The 40-acre facility wasn’t complete and Siegel was hoping to raise some revenue with the grand opening.

Well-known singer and comedian Jimmy Durante headlined the entertainment, with music by Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat. Some of Siegel’s Hollywood friends, including actors George Raft, George Sanders, Sonny Tufts and George Jessel were in attendance.

The grand opening, however, was a flop. Bad weather kept many other Hollywood guests from arriving. And because gamblers had no rooms at the hotel, they took their winnings and gambled elsewhere. The casino lost $300,000 in the first week of operation.

Siegel and his New York "partners" had invested $1 million in a property already under construction by Billy Wilkerson, owner of the Hollywood Reporter as well as some very popular nightclubs in the Sunset Strip. Wilkerson had wanted to recreate the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas, with a European style hotel with luxuious rooms, a spa, health club, showroom, golf course, nightclub and upscale restaurant. But he soon ran out of money due to the high cost of materials immediately after the war.

Siegel, who held a largest interest in the racing publication Trans America Wire, was drawn to Las Vegas in 1945 by his interest in legalized gambling and off-track betting. He purchased The El Cortez hotel for $600,000 and later sold it for a $166,000 profit.

Siegel and his organized crime buddies used the profits to influence Wilkerson to accept new partners. Siegel took over the project and supervised the building, naming it after his girlfriend Virginia Hill, whose nickname was "The Flamingo" because of her red hair and long legs.

Two weeks after the grand opening, the Flamingo closed down. It re-opened March 1, 1947, as The Fabulous Flamingo. Siegel forced Wilkerson out in April, and by May, the resort reported a profit, but it wasn't enough to save Siegel.

Convinced that Siegel wasn’t giving them a "square count," it is widely believed that his partners in organized crime had him killed while he was reading the paper June 20, 1947, at Hill’s Beverly Hills mansion. Hill was in Paris, having flown the coop after a fight with Siegel 10 days prior. The crime remains unsolved to this day.

Surviving a series of name and ownership changes, the hotel is known today as The Flamingo Las Vegas, owned and operated by Harrah’s Entertainment. The property offers 3,626 hotel rooms and a 77,000-square-foot casino.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wall of Flames---Chosen one of the Los Angeles Times' Best Photos of 2007

A firefighter from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is dwarfed by flames along East Grade Road on Palomar Mountain. Authorities estimate that about 525,000 were ordered or urged to leave their San Diego County homes as the fires raged in October.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)


Question: Apart from Academy Award attention, what do Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling, left, and Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, right, have in common? Answer: Troubled boyhoods (in Canada for Gosling, Wales for Hopkins), and co-starring roles in the film "Fractured," for which they were photographed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills in April.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

When the flames exploded in the swirling wind . . .

In a last-resort effort to save their lives, 12 firefighters trapped by flames atop a ridge off Santiago Canyon Road in Orange County scramble into aluminum fire shelters. The men were on a slope extinguishing hot spots in swirling wind when flames exploded up the hillside in October, surrounding them with burning brush that left no escape. All survived, and after being examined at the scene by paramedics refused to go to the hospital.
(Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Westin St. Francis Proudly Presents San Francisco’s Largest Holiday Sugar Castle

The Westin St. Francis Executive Pastry Chef, Jean-François Houdré, aka “King of the Castle,” diligently worked day and night perfecting his signature 12-feet rotating holiday Sugar Castle, unveiled in the Tower Lobby of The Westin St. Francis on Friday, November 23.

Originally created in 2005, this magnificent Sugar Castle continually grows larger and more spectacular each year. Resembling a French Chateau from Chef Houdre’s hometown of Bordeaux, the 100% edible castle is made of pastillage (a combination of powdered sugar, egg whites and gelatin dough), gingerbread, sugar, molasses, flour and candy. Weighing over 1200 pounds, this magical castle features more than 20 grand circular towers, approximately 30 rooms, illuminated windows, and is surrounded by a quaint village and a running train.

The castle is entirely edible, and is comprised of the following sumptuous ingredients:
70 pounds of gingerbread
130 pounds of pastillage (Powder sugar egg white and gelatin dough)
40 pounds of pulled and bubble sugar
Royal icing made of 300 pounds of sugar and egg whites
40 pounds of molasses
60 pounds of flour
100 pounds of assorted Christmas Candy And
360 hours of hard work

Wayfarers' Chapel: Lloyd Wright's Tree Chapel

Nestled in a grove of redwood trees along Palos Verdes Drive South, the Wayfarers' Chapel enjoys a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. For over fifty years the Chapel has welcomed countless wayfarers. But, how many know the story of the glass, stone and redwood gem set along the southern coast of Rancho Palos Verdes?
The Wayfarers' Chapel is the creation of two geniuses separated by centuries: Architect Lloyd Wright, son of the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright; and, Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18 Century mystic and theologian. Whereas Lloyd Wright described the outer environmental world and our relationship to it, Swedenborg described the inner world of mind and spirit. It is this dynamic relationship of inner and outer worlds that makes the Chapel unique.

The Wayfarers' Chapel began as a dream of Elizabeth Schellenberg, a member of the Swedenborgian Church who was also the local postmistress of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the late 1920s. She dreamed of a little chapel on a hillside over the Pacific where wayfarers could stop to rest, meditate and give thanks for the beauty and wonder of creation. At that time, the Peninsula was largely open farmland with a two-lane gravel road skirting the shoreline from San Pedro to Palos Verdes Estates. The drive from Los Angeles to the Peninsula was an all-day outing.

Another Peninsula resident, Narcissa Cox Vanderlip, also a member of the Swedenborgian Church, offered to make the dream come true and agreed to contribute land for the chapel site. Mrs. Vanderlip invited a young architect, Ralph Jester, to draw up plans for the chapel. Ralph and his wife Lois were long-time residents of the Peninsula and lived in a Lloyd Wright designed home on Narcissa Drive. Unfortunately, however, the great depression of the 1930s and then World War II delayed the development of the plans for the church.

Following the war, Jester reviewed his sketches of a Spanish mission-type chapel; not satisfied with his design, he urged his friend Lloyd Wright to apply his genius to the project.

This offer came shortly after Lloyd Wright had a profound experience while visiting the redwoods in northern California. While having lunch at a small restaurant, he looked up through the skylights and saw the redwoods arching overhead, forming a cathedral-like surroundings. He vowed that this would be his inspiration if he ever received a commission to build a church. When approached by Ralph Jester, the natural tree chapel took form in his mind.

"I want the trees and their trunks to be seen," he said, "and the space beyond, so that those who worship in the sanctuary will perceive the grandeur of the world around them and beyond them. . .I used glass so that the walls and roof are transparent. The trees, the natural growth, the sky and the sea become part of the Chapel. The glass provides protection, but at the same time gives the congregation a sense of outer as well as inner space."

Lloyd Wright's design of glass, Palos Verdes stone, and redwood beams was a startling innovation and captured the imagination of the Swedenborgian church members throughout the United States and Canada. Church members pledged $25,000 for the building and Mrs. Vanderlip donated over three acres. On July 16, 1949 the cornerstone of the Chapel was laid and the site consecrated. Dedication service was held on May 13, 1951, with the president of the Swedenborgian Church officiating.

In 1954 Wright designed the soaring Hallelujah Tower that goes down two stories into the soil and locks in solidly to anchor the sanctuary to the hillside. At night the tower with its lighted cross is visible for many miles out to sea. Sailors passing through the Catalina Channel call it God's candle. A chime of sixteen bells in the tower proclaims each quarter hour, peals forth at the end of wedding celebrations, and plays for special events and services.

M. I. T. sues Gehry

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has filed a negligence suit against world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, charging that flaws in his design of the $300 million Stata Center in Cambridge, one of the most celebrated works of architecture unveiled in years, caused leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, and drainage to back up.

more stories like thisThe suit says that MIT paid Los Angeles-based Gehry Partners $15 million to design the Stata Center, which was hailed by critics as innovative and eye-catching with its unconventional walls and radical angles. But soon after its completion in spring 2004, the center's outdoor amphitheater began to crack due to drainage problems, the suit says. Snow and ice cascaded dangerously from window boxes and other projecting roof areas, blocking emergency exits and damaging other parts of the building, according to the suit. Mold grew on the center's brick exterior, the suit says, and there were persistent leaks throughout the building.

The suit says it cost MIT more than $1.5 million to hire another company to rebuild the amphitheater, with new bricks, seats, and a new drainage system.

This Little Bit of Heaven Has Everything

California's Carpinteria State Beach is a popular coastal camping spot southeast of Santa Barbara. When day trippers leave, campers can enjoy empty stretches of sand and the sounds of crashing surf. There are hiking and biking trails with beautiful views of the Santa Ynez Mountains on one side and the Channel Islands on the other.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

Orchid fans can get an eyeful at the area's Gallup & Stribling Orchid Farm, billed as the largest orchid-growing operation in the U.S.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

Coventry and Dresden Extending the Hand of Friendship

A bird's-eye view of Coventry, England, home to the cathedral and parishioners who donated money to help rebuild Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany.
The Whittle Arches in Coventry celebrate Sir Frank Whittle, a British Royal Air Force officer who shared credit with Germany's Hans von Ohain for inventing the jet engine. Whittle was born in Coventry.

The Old and the New

A lone figure stands amid the ruins of Coventry Cathedral in 1940, two days after a German bombing raid destroyed the building. The new church, built next to the ruins, is now the home of the Community of the Cross of Nails, dedicated to international reconciliation; parishioners hope to open a world center devoted to forgiveness and peace in 2012.
(Hulton-Deutsch Collection / CORBIS)
The old and new Coventry Cathedral stand in stark contrast to each other. Germans lent assistance to help build the new church as a gesture of unity and peace.
(Richard Klune / Corbis)

Clouds Enhance Beauty

The Semper Opera House and the King Johann monument look even more dramatic under threatening clouds that loom over Theater Square in Dresden.
(Matthias Rietschel / Associated Press)


Dresden's traditional Christmas market, called "Striezelmarkt," began at the end of November with the lighting of the Christmas pyramid. In the background is the Frauenkirche.
(Ralf Hirschberger / EPA)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Celine Dion . . . What a Diva . . .

CELINE DION'S final night in Vegas a week ago Saturday was as over the top of any of her high notes, with its 45-minutes-late start (unheard of in Vegas), a maudlin and self-congratulatory introductory video, 11 standing ovations, 10 minutes of Dion's rambling to the audience about the various shades of meaning the night held for her ("It is amazing what believing and love can do and I can assure you it was worth it.") and those 100,000 rose petals falling on the stage.

Dion's show grossed over $400 million in a run that stretched for nearly five years, and it was a regular sellout. "As a business model we could have kept this going for years," said a wistful John Meglen, president and co-chief executive of AEG Live/Concerts West, promoter for the show. But there is nothing that can be done when a star is ready to move on.

It is hard to remember now what a risk "A New Day" was when the partnership between Cirque du Soleil veteran Franco Dragone and the diva was announced. Caesars Palace agreed to build a $95-million, 4,000-seat venue for Dion's massive show, which would include a band, sets and more than 50 dancers. Harrah's chief executive Garry Loveman remembers thinking what a risk his competitor was taking bringing Dion to Vegas at such cost. "I was nervous," he admits now. Soon he'd have more reason for nerves -- by the time the show opened in 2003, Harrah's owned Caesars but the gamble paid off.
(By Richard Abowitz, Special to The Times)

What is a "Hasselhoff" ???

What is a "Hasselhoff" in doctor-speak? Does eating turkey really make you unusually sleepy? Why is it better to celebrate a big victory with champagne rather than beer?

Those are some of the questions addressed in the British Medical Journal's Christmas issue, which collects some of the more arcane reports the journal received during the year.

A Hasselhoff is a patient who shows up at an emergency room with an injury and a bizarre explanation, said Dr. Paul Keeley of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in a short compendium of newly minted words used by doctors. The term comes from former "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff's bizarre 2006 shaving accident in which he struck his head on a chandelier; the broken glass severed four tendons and an artery in his right arm, requiring immediate surgery.

Even snarkier is the term "Ringo," after Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, which refers to a member of a team who is expendable. Draw your own conclusions.

The turkey myth, which often comes up this time of year, is attributed to the supposed high levels of sleep-inducing tryptophan in the birds, wrote Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman of the Indiana University School of Medicine and Dr. Aaron E. Carroll of the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis in a study of medically oriented old wives' tales that many doctors still believe.

A study of the literature, however, shows that turkey, chicken and beef all contain similar levels of tryptophan, and pork and cheese contain even more. A more likely explanation for drowsiness after Christmas dinner is overeating and, perhaps, consuming wine with the meal.

Shades of Grey Provide Beauty

Frost clings to the branches of pollard willow trees lining a frozen drainage canal alongside the 17th century windmill De Vlieger (The Kite) in the Dutch village of Voorburg, just outside The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Dec. 21, 2007. Freezing temperatures in recent days have left much of the Netherlands cloaked in white frost.
(AP Photo/ Mike Corder)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dickens Did It . . .

One hundred and fifty years ago, in October 1843, Charles Dickens began the writing of one of his most popular and best- loved books, A Christmas Carol. It was written in six weeks and finished by the end of November, being fitted in the intervals of writing the monthly parts of Martin Chuzzrlewit, a work which was causing him some financial anxiety because the public did not seem to have taken to it as readily as to his earlier serials. A Christmas Carol would, he hoped, bring a better financial return.

John Forster, Dicken's biographer, noted how the story, once conceived, gripped Dickens. 'He wept over it, and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself to an extraordinary degree'. 'He walked thinking of it fifteen and twenty miles about the black streets of London', often at very late hours of the night. He kept Christmas that year with an extraordinary zest; 'such dinings, such dancings, such conjurings, such blind-man's buffings, such theatre-goings, such kissing-out of old years and kissing-in of new ones, never took place in these parts before'. Savouring the atmosphere of Christmas in London became part of Dickens' annuai routine. Every Christmas Eve he went to visit the Christmas markets in the East End between Aldgate and Bow, and he liked to wander in poor neighbourhoods on Christmas Day, 'past the areas of shabby genteel houses in Somers or Kentish Towns. "A Christmas Carol" made us all sing, laugh and cry.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Look What Happened in Black Canyon

On December 21, 1928, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Boulder Canyon Project Act intended to dam the fourteen hundred mile Colorado River and distribute its water for use in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Hoover Dam, considered a wonder of civil engineering, was constructed in Black Canyon, on the Arizona-Nevada border. Often referred to as Boulder Dam, the site was officially named after Herbert Hoover, an engineer actively engaged in the dam's development and distribution of its water rights, and president-elect on this day in 1928.

"It's a Wonderful Life"

In 1946 the Frank Capra film "It's A Wonderful Life" had a preview showing for charity at New York City's Globe Theatre, a day before its official premiere.

Mystery Lovers Rejoice !!!

Anti-Social Behavior Orders, commonly known as ASBOs, are the New Labour government’s pride and joy. A child who plays or even loiters in an unfriendly street can, on the complaint of neighbors, have an ASBO slapped on him. If he offends again he’ll be found in breach of his ASBO and thrown in jail without a trial. All this, of course, raises the wrath of everyone’s favorite barrister Horace Rumpole when he is called upon to defend a Timson child who has earned an ASBO for playing soccer on a posh street. As Rumpole tries to get to the bottom of it all, his fellow barristers in chambers decide to highlight the ridiculousness of ASBOs by citing Rumpole for bringing food and his beloved wine into his room, and for causing global warming by lighting small cigars. Another witty tale sure to please the legions of Rumpole fans who eagerly await each new installment.

RUMPOLE MISBEHAVES by John Mortimer, part of the Horace Rumpole, of the Bailey series.

The Minka of Japanese Culture

Once a prominent feature of the Japanese countryside, traditional farmhouses called minka have largely vanished since World War II, been torn down or left to decompose as much of Japan’s population flocked to jobs in the cities. By one estimate, the thatched-roof structures dwindled from about 5 million in the 1960s to about 140,000 by 2002, and the number has since fallen further. Preservationists are working to save the remaining minka, sometimes deconstructing the buildings and moving them elsewhere for use as homes, restaurants and galleries. Several minka have been preserved in the mountain village of Shirakawa-go, shown here, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and now a mecca for artists and visitors seeking a glimpse of the traditional rural lifestyle.
(Gary Gill)

Old World Music with Tibor

Tibor Paul, the German-speaking host of a popular weekly radio program that featured European marches, waltzes and polkas and was a longtime fixture on KPCC-FM (89.3), died Dec. 10 at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego. He was 81.

By 2000, Paul's four-hour broadcast was known as the "European Sunday Concert" and had aired for more than 25 years on KPCC.

"We always marveled at the audience response to the program. There was nothing else on the air like it, and people made an appointment to tune it in," said Larry Mantle, host of "Air Talk" on KPCC, who was the station's program director for part of Paul's tenure.

Resi Langsfeld, president of the German American League of Los Angeles County, said that the community "couldn't wait . . . to listen to his program. He played music that most of the Germans living here had grown up with. It's still being missed. He is part of our history."

"It's clouds illusions I recall . . . "

We've had some most welcome rain which we have needed desperately and today was to be a window between installments as more is expected this afternoon or evening. When I went down to the pier to have my daily walk I wondered whether I was going to get wet. I didn't and when I arrived at the pier what I found was an astonishing display. The cloud formations today were truly amazing---very interesting and everchanging. I'm always amazed at how the clouds are evolving, and how in just minutes, you're looking at a totally different scene, a most wondrous scene.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The World's First Feature Film

The world’s first feature film’. This is the legendary but uncrowned status of Australia’s The Story of the Kelly Gang, a film that hasn’t been seen in its full length for almost a century. In 1906, when it was released in Melbourne, Australia had been a Federation for only five years. The cinema was a young art form, specializing in two-minute fiction films, ‘scenics’ (primitive forerunners to travel films) and news footage. The term ‘feature film’ had already been used to describe the short highlights of screening programmes, including artistic milestones like Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) and The Great Train Robbery (1903). The Story of the Kelly Gang, however, was possibly the first ‘feature’ by today’s standard – judged by length, not artistry. From January 1908, it would tour England as ‘the longest film ever made’. Until we discover otherwise (from, say, the previously unearthed vaults of China or India), it would seem that for that date the claim is true.

The question is: how long was it? Advertisements during the original Melbourne season claimed that the film was nearly 4,000 feet long (running over an hour), but that might have been promotional hype. Media reports suggested every length from 2,000 feet to ‘over one mile’ (5,280 feet), from ‘forty minutes or thereabouts’ to ‘over an hour’. The discrepancies might have been partly due to multiple versions being screened.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Room at the Top: the Empire Suite

The opulent Carlyle Hotel houses a rarefied mix of New York's power elite, who either reside in one of the apartments or stay over in the exclusive suites, at prices beyond belief. Recently, the Carlyle converted one of the residences into the Empire Suite, which at 2,600 square feet is about the size of a typical three-bedroom house.

Of course, the typical house doesn't come with walls upholstered in cashmere or a collection of original artworks curated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection includes "New York at Night" by Berenice Abbott, an extraordinary 1932 photo taken from the top of the Empire State Building just before dawn. All this for a mere -- gulp -- $15,000 per night, not including tax and gratuity. (888) 767-3966 or

Rappelling into an abyss and squeezing into tiny holes may sound like fun but . . .

A visitor pauses to admire Moaning Cavern's rock formations from the 100-foot spiral staircase, which was built from old battleship parts in the 1920s. For regular folk, a 45-minute walking tour is available. For the wild at heart, there's the three-hour adventure tour, which includes a rappel into California's Calaveras County cavern. Now that's a grand entrance.
(Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)

The Christmas Spirit in the City of Light

A huge Christmas tree dominates a Les Galeries Lafayette area where perfumes are sold. The scene at the prominent department store calls attention to two facts: Paris at Christmas is bright, gorgeous and happy, and holiday shopping is an essential.
(Alastair Miller / Bloomberg News)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To take your breath away . . .

The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France. Designed by architect Norman Foster, in collaboration with French bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one pier's summit at 343 metres (1,125 ft)—slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower and only 38 m (125 ft) shorter than the Empire State Building. It was formally dedicated on 14 December 2004 and opened to traffic two days later. The bridge, according to many observers, is one of the most breathtaking ever built.

The Aquadom: The Largest Cylindrical Aquarium in the World

Placed at the lobby of the Radisson SAS Hotel in Berlin, the 25 meters high AquaDom is the largest cylindrical aquarium ever built. Filled with about 900,000 liters of seawater, it contains some 2600 fish of 56 species.
Combined with a vast amount of sandblasted glass, the giant AquaDom gives a transparent-like feeling to the lobby. Guests and visitors are able to travel through the aquarium in a glass-enclosed elevator to reach a sightseeing point and restaurant under the glass roof. Two full-time divers are responsible for the care and feeding of the fish and maintenance of the aquarium.

The Best First Lines of Novels...

As chosen by the editors of American Book Review...(the first 9 of 25)

1. Call me Ishmael.
-Herman Melville Moby-Dick, 1851

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

3. A screaming comes across the sky.
-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, 1973

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
-Gabriel García Márquez (trans. Gregory Rabassa), One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1967

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
-Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
-Leo Tolstoy (trans. Constance Garnett), Anna Karenina, 1877

7. Riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
-James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 1939

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
-George Orwell, 1984, 1949

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

Magnificent Beauty

Multnomah Falls, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, plummets 620 feet to a beautiful pool. It is the second highest year-round falls in the United States and the second most popular destination in Oregon.

This bridge is "jumpin"

The New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville, West Virginia is the second highest steel arch bridge in the United States. The bridge is also the longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet) in the world. Every October on Bridge Day, the road is closed and individuals parachute and bungee cord jump 876 feet off the bridge. Its West Virginia's largest single day event and attracts about 100,000 people each year.
In 1943 the "Skunk Works" was born. The Lockheed Company had a contract with the Army Air Forces to develop a jet fighter built around the British DeHavilland jet engine in only 180 days. The rush was in response to reports that the Germans were flying a jet aircraft. Kelly Johnson with the approval of Lockheed President Robert E. Goss, formed a team of 23 engineers and 103 shop personnel that were mostly pirated from other projects. The team worked in a small assembly shed at the Lockheed plant in Burbank. Some reports indicate that an old circus tent was used owing to the lack of available secure space due to the need of wartime production demands.

In 143 days, 37 days less than the contracted amount, the P-80 Shooting Star made it first flight on January 8th, 1944. The Advanced Development Projects team had it's first success. The nickname "Skunk Works" came from the Al Capp comic strip "L'il Abner" where the denizens of Dogpatch would throw in skunks, old shoes and who knew what else to make that fearsome brew "Kickapoo Joy Joice". The folks at Lockheed started to refer to the building where Kelly Johnson's crew was working as "The Skunk Works" because who knew what they where building.

It was the 1950s that saw the development of one of the greatest designs of the Skunk Works. Driven by a need to conduct overflight reconnaissance of the Soviet Union in order to collect data on the Soviet military and missile work the U.S. goverment turned to Kelly Johnson and the Advanced Development Project team. In 1955 the Skunk Works rolled out the long winged U-2 (shown above). The U-2 could fly at over 70,000 ft. with a range of 4,000 miles. The U-2 was also a money saver. Johnson's team returned $2,000,000 of the $20,000,000 contract. Lockheed also built 26 of the U-2 aircraft instead of the 20 airctaft that was in the contract.

What a beautiful span . . .

East Huntington Bridge (WV 104, OH 607): Completed in 1985, the third cable-stayed bridge in the United States graces the Ohio River.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mel Blanc: the Man with 1,000 Voices

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Dexter is a Showtime original television series starring Michael C. Hall as serial killer Dexter Morgan, who works as a forensics analyst specializing in bloodstain pattern analysis for the Miami-Dade Police Department. The series is based on the novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. The film won TV Program of the Year at AFI in 2006 as well as four IGN awards and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor.