Friday, February 27, 2009

The St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral is located on the Red Square in Moscow, Russia. A Russian Orthodox church, the Cathedral sports a series of colorful bulbous domes that taper to a point, aptly named onion domes, that are part of Moscow's Kremlin skyline.

The cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of the Khanate of Kazan. In 1588 Tsar Fedor Ivanovich had a chapel added on the eastern side above the grave of Basil Fool for Christ, a Russian Orthodox saint after whom the cathedral was popularly named.

Harajuku: Japanese Futuristic Church

This futuristic non Catholic church is located in Tokyo and it was first unveiled by the design firm of Ciel Rouge Creation in 2005. The ceiling is specially made to reverberate natural sound for 2 seconds to provide a unique listening experience for worshipers and tourists.

Lotus Festival NOT !!!

Visitors peer down in search of blooms, but the famous lotus beds in Echo Park Lake appear to be in their final throes. It’s likely that there will be no lotus at all for the first time in the 31-year history of the city's annual Lotus Festival.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"a theatrical evening of melancholy, sarcastic, sentimental and severely comic numbers"

Working with composer Mort Shuman, Eric Blau translated a number of Jacques Brel's songs into English and fashioned a theatrical evening of his melancholy, sarcastic, sentimental and severely comic numbers. "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" opened at the Village Gate in Manhattan in 1968 and was still going strong more than four years later. It played briefly on Broadway and has since been produced off-Broadway and in regional theater groups.

Eric Blau, 1921-2009.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Do you believe in miracles ???

The "Miracle on Ice" is the nickname given to a February 22 medal-round men's ice hockey game during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, in which a team of amateur and collegiate players from the United States, led by coach Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviet Union team, who were considered to be the best international hockey team in the world, 4–3.

The U.S went on to win the Gold Medal by beating Finland (4–2) in their final medal round game.

Indians sign 16-year-old catcher from Czech Republic

Scouring the globe for talented baseball players, the Cleveland Indians plucked one from Eastern Europe a Czech mate behind the plate. The club signed 16-year-old catcher Martin Cervenka of the Czech Republic to a non-drafted minor league contract on Saturday.

Beijing has an excess of ultra-luxury hotels

The owners of a new ultra-luxury hotel maintain an air of confidence in the face of adversity. The 234-room Pangu Plaza, which opened in December, charges as much as $17,750 a night for a suite. The sushi bar, where the cheapest lunch special is $265, cooks its rice in mineral water flown in from Japan. The walls in the hotel are covered with silk, the floors with marble -- Italian of course.

The New Fashions: Always good for a laugh

I suspect they may be planning a bank robbery or perhaps holding up a stage coach -- they certainly could hold up traffic!!!

A Hike-in-lodge

Lost Trail Lodge, six miles northwest of Squaw Valley and four and a half miles northeast of Truckee, California is a backcountry destination. Once at the lodge, guests are virtually cut off from society.

"a musical steeped in optical illusion"

“Pippin” — which tells the story of Charlemagne’s young son, who strikes out on his own after rejecting his father’s tyrannical ways — is a musical steeped in optical illusion. (“Magic to Do” is one of its most memorable songs.) The crew’s resident magician is Tobin Ost, the scenic and costume designer. Ost devised a series of stage holes 8 inches in diameter that the cast can open and close from below using a simple hinge mechanism.

Above, Michael Arden, left, and Tyrone Giordano, who jointly portray the title character, rehearse with the hands.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Taking on a "slab"

Big-wave surfer Will Skudin races along the face of a tube that is forming. When the slab rolls out of the deep, it does not rise, but sucks all the water up in its path. The result is not a wall with a front and back, but a hole.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You've heard about the "Million Dollar Mermaid" -- How about the $1,000,000 feet ???

Around this time every year, accessories designer Stuart Weitzman debuts a one-of-a-kind pair of Oscar shoes festooned with $1 million worth of precious gems. It's a stunt he started in 2002, when "Mulholland Drive" actress Laura Elena Harring (above) pranced down the red carpet in diamond-encrusted sandals. Since then, actress Regina King and singer Alison Krauss, among others, have worn the high-profile "Cinderella" slipper, and the ploy has always garnered lots of publicity.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

“The Impossible Dream” still possible

Mention “Man of La Mancha” to anyone and chances are he or she will start booming out “The Impossible Dream” -- verse after relentless verse. This breakaway hit, which was trotted out by nearly every baritone who could get himself booked on a variety show in the ’70s, has more or less eclipsed the classic 1965 musical from which it was spawned.

The song, however, is best appreciated in its dramatic context. And the great thing about Reprise Theatre Company’s production, which opened Sunday at the Freud Playhouse, is the loving way it attends to the story and its defense of imagination and unrealizable dreams. When you have literary source material this good — and Dale Wasserman’s book does a commendable job of framing and condensing Cervantes' epic novel “Don Quixote” — there’s really no reason to waste it.

Architecture by Thom Mayne

The impossible-to-miss Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology, wrapped in red-orange panels and seeming to crack and heave around its midsection, as if squeezed by a vise, has been the topic of animated latte-line and cocktail-party conversation in Pasadena since its scaffolding came down last year.

The three-story, 100,000-square-foot building, which stretches its long, low, fractured mass along a prominent site on California Boulevard, engages the city -- and the public -- more pointedly than any other of the university's buildings. It seems eager to start a conversation or pick a fight, depending on your point of view, about the appeal of aggressively contemporary architecture. It has been the most anticipated of the many campus building projects initiated on Caltech's leafy, low-rise campus by David Baltimore, the biologist and Nobel laureate who was president of the university from 1997 to 2006.

And yet the Cahill Center's architect, Thom Mayne, founder of the Santa Monica firm Morphosis, calls it, with something of an apologetic shrug, a conventional building, "probably the most conservative" he's done.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

4,660 miles in just 13 days

Tiny songbirds such as martins and thrushes can travel as far as 311 miles a day in their annual migrations between the Americas -- three times as far as researchers had previously believed -- biologists found in the first study to track the birds to their wintering grounds and back.

The birds fly two to six times as fast heading north in the spring as they do heading south in the fall, perhaps in a competition to reach the best breeding sites and attract the fittest mates, ornithologist Bridget Stutchbury of York University in Toronto reported today in the journal Science, which released the study online Thursday.

One industrious female martin flew the 4,660 miles from the Amazon basin to Pennsylvania in only 13 days -- with four of them spent on stopovers.

The new data were obtained using miniature geolocators, about the size and weight of a dime, attached to the birds' backs much like a schoolchild's backpack. The same technology was used in 2006 by Scott A. Shaffer of UC Santa Cruz to demonstrate that shearwater gulls fly a huge figure-eight over the Pacific Ocean during their migration, traveling as much as 46,000 miles in a year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The walls still talk at San Francisco's Angel Island

The receiving building at Angel Island burns in this 1940 photograph. After the station was shuttered, it was turned over to the state park service and slated for demolition in the 1970s. But a sharp-eyed ranger spotted the ghostly verses on the walls, and demolition was canceled.

But as Angel Island Immigration Station reopens Sunday after a $16-million refurbishment, the walls have begun to tell a more complex tale, revealed by a new generation of scholarship and the discovery of more inscriptions.

Poems, yes, including about 80newly discovered Chinese verses. But there are also writings from many other nationalities. Desperate demands in Japanese: "Get me out of here fast!" Impatient orders in German: "Close the doors. There's a draft." A simple tally in Gurmukhi, a script used by Sikhs: "100 days. Tara Singh." Carved birds and a shrine to good fortune, with a butterfly and a basket.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"On the Origin of Species"

The house that helped rock the world sits on a country lane in Downe Village, Kent, south of England. For 40 years, Down House was the perfect place for Darwin to think, write and enjoy family life out of the spotlight. The home has undergone a three-month, $1.3-million makeover for the bicentennial and is to reopen to local residents on Thursday (Darwin's birthday), and the general public Friday.

Here, the great scientist worked with inexhaustible patience in his Victorian study, staring for hours at specimens through a microscope or pondering the riddle of life. In a black armchair specially fitted with wheels, Charles Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species," the book that forever changed the way we look at the world around us -- and at ourselves.

Charles Darwin

2010 Olympics coming to Vancouver

The Richmond Oval will be home to speed skating for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. A breathtaking venue on the banks of the Fraser River, the Oval will be a hallmark of sustainability, accessibility and world-class sportsmanship and will become an international gathering place for wellness and sports excellence.

Which Way . . . Israel ???

A worker walks next to a rotating billboard in Tel Aviv showing Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli President Shimon Peres is expected to ask one of them to try to put together a governing coalition.

"Midnight Ridazz"

The loose network of bicycle enthusiasts, rogues and hipsters known as Midnight Ridazz spends the Valentine's weekend in Slab City, the site of an abandoned World War II Navy base, playing zombies, which is the theme of this monthly bike meeting. Participants are advised to bring fat-tired bikes, fake blood, lots of water and a significant other to share in the romance and adventure of the four-day camping trip. Slab City, 770 E. Beal Road, Niland, Calif. Fri. to Mon. $5.

"Films for Lovers"

Capping a weeklong series of "Films for Lovers," the Aero presents the heady, V-Day double feature of "From Here to Eternity" and "Casablanca" (above). The two black-and-white classics, of 1953 and 1942 respectively, offer much in the way of well-worn though durable tropes -- each film iconic to a fault with signature scenes of love and loss -- that have become synonymous with romance itself. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. 7:30 p.m. Sat. (323) 466-3456;

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Whom can you trust ???

The minister who didn't practice what he preached. The superstar ballplayer who wasn't content just to ingest sunflower seeds. The politician who pontificated but didn't pay his taxes. The investment manager who bilked friends out of millions.

How many more hits can we take? Beats me; ask Michael Phelps.

It can't be good for the psyche to see so many glorified figures portrayed as flawed or fraudulent characters. Makes you wonder whom you can trust, what you can trust. What, exactly, is real out there?

Sadly for some of us, this isn't our first painful lesson in disillusionment. The first came years ago. And no, I'm not talking about Santa Claus.

I'm talking about discovering that something in which you believed, even in the face of doubters, wasn't real. It was about coming to grips with the fact that this world isn't always what it seems and that you can't always trust what you see and hear.

It's called the painful truth.

Great Park to become a reality

An artist’s rendering shows the proposed Botanical Bridge area of Great Park. Officials may have a development plan by the end of June, an Irvine spokesman said.

"Down and out in Beverly Hills"

One of the most sought-after tickets in Southern California, a permit to enroll a child in the academically acclaimed Beverly Hills Unified School District, may soon disappear.

Because of a funding shift, the wealthy district's financial incentive for accepting out-of-town students will end, probably within the next two years. So, as the district prepares for the change, many Beverly Hills residents say they want its $57-million budget spent for only students who live within its boundaries.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond was honored Friday as the MusiCares Person of the Year.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Avalon Treasure

The Iconic Casino building, an Art-Deco treasure on Catalina Island.

"You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself." -- Galileo

The revolution was not his alone. The idea was actually an ancient one, and other scientists had embraced it along the way. But it took Galileo and the telescope he built to prove the truth to the masses: Earth is not the center of the universe.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the year Galileo turned his first crude telescope to the heavens. Through it, he observed spots on the sun and shadow patterns proving that the moon had mountains and valleys. These visible "imperfections" helped overturn thousands of years of traditional belief that everything in the heavens must be smooth, perfect and unchanging.

The United Nations has declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy, hoping to provide millions of people with the opportunity to learn more about the universe and about the discoveries of Galileo and others. This is a good thing. But astronomy is not just about science, and Galileo's revolution was not just about knowing Earth's physical place in the universe. It also was about human perspective -- our cosmic perspective -- and about how we should understand our place and purpose in the universe.

One need not be religious to see that a cosmic perspective gives some universal meaning to our lives. We may be only a tiny part of a vast universe, but we are here, and as a species, we have accomplished great things. We have created staggeringly beautiful works of art and music, we have performed acts of love and generosity that make even the most cynical among us quake with emotion, and we have developed mathematics and science that have enabled us to learn our place in the universe.

These are achievements of consequence. But the cosmic perspective also should teach us some humility, because the central lesson of Galileo's discoveries is that we humans are no more central to the universe than our planet or star. Future generations and alien civilizations may enjoy our human creations, but no one will come running to our rescue if we choose to destroy rather than to create.

Sadly, this lesson in humility seems not to have taken hold, despite the 400 years we have had to absorb it. Nearly everyone is now aware that we are not the center of the universe. But emotionally and behaviorally, our species still acts as though the whole of creation somehow revolves around each of us personally. How else can we explain tyrants and dictators? Or religious fanatics who believe that their God actually wants them to kill those who think differently? And before you let yourself off the hook, ask yourself honestly if you don't at least sometimes think that those who are poorer, sicker or otherwise less fortunate than you are also somehow a bit less central to the universe than you are.

As we think about science during the International Year of Astronomy, let's also show that we can finally absorb the lesson that we are not the center of the universe. This year, try extending a little more kindness to your fellow human beings, in recognition that we are all equally important. Try to demonstrate an understanding of the fact that we all share the same small planet by taking a better care of it. And perhaps most important, especially as we confront a time of crisis both for the economy and for international peace and security, remember that we must create our own legacy.

Friday, February 06, 2009

See's Honored

She showed up at City Hall with boxes of See’s candy to hand out, although that wasn’t why Charlene Nichols was treated Thursday like a milk chocolate cordial.

Los Angeles Cultural Heritage commissioners politely turned down her samples of milk almond, vanilla buttercream and maple walnut candies but unanimously accepted her recommendation that the original See’s chocolate factory be designated a city historic-cultural landmark.

The two-story structure at 135 N. Western Ave. hasn’t been the site of a candy box assembly line for decades, but Nichols urged that it be recognized as the birthplace of Charles Alexander See’s confectionery dynasty.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

"There's a legitimate opportunity to make us part of the stimulus package" -- Stephen Martin, National Park Service

The economy was a shambles. Millions of Americans were out of work. Saying something drastic needed to be done, the newly elected president announced a massive economic stimulus package aimed at repairing the nation's sagging infrastructure and putting people back to work.

The first "emergency agency" established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which eventually put 3 million men to work in the national park system.

Yosemite National Park's Half Dome is reflected in the Merced River in this view from Sentinel Bridge. Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps replaced climbing cables on the mountain, among other projects in the park.

The Yosemite Valley can be seen from inside the Wawona Tunnel, which CCC crews constructed in 1933.

Snow covers the banks of the Merced River and the Pohono Bridge in Yosemite National Park. Citing the CCC as a model, the National Parks Conservation Assn., is pushing for the development of a National Park Service Corps. The group estimates that investing stimulus funds in parks would create roughly 50,000 jobs.

The setting sun lights the face of El Capitan, left, and of Half Dome, far right, in Yosemite National Park. There were about 600 CCC camps in various national parks during the program’s 10 years. Yosemite had more than most, with 10 encampments scattered throughout the park, from the Valley’s meadows to the high country and atop El Capitan.

Sparks rise from a roaring fire at the Lodge at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park. The rustic, rock-and-timber buildings and massive lodges constructed by highly skilled CCC artisans are now famously part of the national parks’ visual style, often referred to as “parkitecture.”

Light from a dining room at Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel glows on the snow-covered ground outside. The park’s 6,816 CCC enrollees built walls and buildings using rocks and trees. Those projects remain in the park today and help create Yosemite’s rustic look.

The rising sun casts a deep shadow on granite walls in a view from Yosemite's Cook Meadow. About 300,000 men joined the CCC in three months, which at the time was the most rapid large-scale mobilization of men the country had ever witnessed.

Jerry West and Elgin Baylor are together again

The two players who put the Los Angeles Lakers on the map are honored at the Coliseum. Elgin Baylor, left, and Jerry West pose in front of a bronze plaque at the peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, honoring their achievements when the Lakers played at the adjacent Sports Arena.

It's on to new challenges for the legendary Elton John

Elton John will close his Las Vegas Strip show, "The Red Piano," on April 22.

The show made its debut in February 2004 at the Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace. After initially signing on for 75 shows, John's engagement was extended.

The casino says the closing show will be the 241st performance. The offbeat production blends the singer's top hits with elaborate video montages created by David LaChappelle.

John's show alternates with other Colosseum headline acts, including Bette Midler and Cher. A casino spokeswoman said there was no word on a replacement.

Mabel Normand: QUEEN OF THE PIES

Mabel Normand was born November 9th, 1892 on Staten Island, New York. Mabel went to work as an actress at the Biograph Company, and Director D. W. Griffith realized that she was not just an actress, but a comedienne. Griffith wasn't keen on comedy, so he shifted the directorial duties over to Mack Sennett. Here, Sennett directed Mabel in her first comedy role, "The Diving Girl", 1911. Sennett eventually won her over, and the majority of her films were directed by Sennett. When Sennett left Biograph, he took Mabel out west with him to start his new "Keystone Studios" in the San Fernando valley of California.

If you're old enough you'll remember this SUPERSTAR

He presented the first Academy Awards -- in his office. He founded what would become USC's film school. He was the first to press his hands and feet into cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, with his wife, who was America's sweetheart. He co-founded a movie studio with Hollywood's greatest director and two of its biggest stars.

If the name Douglas Fairbanks doesn't ring a bell, that might be because he's been dead for 70 years. Or maybe it's because his greatest achievements were in silent films.

Either way, Jeffrey Vance's biography "Douglas Fairbanks" retells the story of the man who became one of Hollywood's first superstars.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A look inside Clifton's Cafeteria

The décor at Clifton’s Brookdale in Los Angeles was inspired by a Santa Cruz Mountains lodge and includes fake trees and a cabin.

A mystery portrait of Obama as a young man?

An Ojai couple bought the oil painting, which had been done by an obscure L.A. artist. But their efforts to find out if the future president was the subject have proved futile.

Scrawled on the back is a notation that says: "BARACK OBAMA (casual attire)." Strokes of teal and burgundy provide a vibrant contrast to Obama's even more colorful striped shirt, evoking a late '70s disco vibe.

Indeed, the portrait appears to be the 44th president in his early 20s, casually seated in white slacks and that mod shirt, stylishly open at the collar. Little is known about the artist, Alan Adams, other than that he worked in Los Angeles for many years and, possibly, briefly in Hawaii.

UPDATE: (Feb 7, 2009) A mystery canvas that appeared to be a portrait of Barack Obama as a young man probably will never hang in the Smithsonian.

On Friday, the daughter of late artist Alan Adams said she's certain the subject for the colorful painting was not the future president but a model who posed for a group of fine-art painters in Los Angeles.

The twentysomething man in the oil painting bears a striking resemblance to President Obama, Jennifer Adams Zobelein agreed. But the portrait was probably painted no later than 1974, when her father stopped working with the portrait group, she said.

"Let the fur fly . . . "

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has opened up a new front in its battle for the bunnies with a full-page advertisement in today's Hollywood trade paper Variety that brands fashion designer Giorgio Armani "Pinocchio Armani" for apparently breaking a promise not to use animal fur in his clothing collections.

Beneath a photo of the designer, at right, that has been altered to give him the elongated nose often associated with the fibbing marionette, is a plea to this year's Oscar-goers: "Until Mr. Armani makes good on his promise, please choose somebody else's clothes to wear to this year's Academy Awards."

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Spam Architecture" by Alex Dragulescu

"This year alone, more data will be generated than in the cumulative history of humanity," says Dan Goods. "Stuff is being collected in all sorts of interesting forms and piling up somewhere. What do we do with it?" It's an apt question for the Too Much Information Age, and to address the query, Goods and co-curator David Delgado have rounded up a collection of geek-friendly installations on display through April 12 at Pasadena Museum of California Art's "Data + Art" exhibition.

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

The success of the BBC's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" in 1979 lies in the realism, not only of character portrayal--and the acting of Alec Guinness has achieved as definitive a performance as Olivier's Richard III or Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell--but of the way in which intelligence institutions work. But the claim for realism must not be pressed too far: Le Carré has admitted that the vocabulary used was invented: babysitters, lamplighters, the Circus, the nursery, moles--though he was also amused to discover that real agents had begun to appropriate some of his vocabulary once the stories were published. Moreover, much intelligence work is bureaucratic and boring: Smiley's reflections turn the drudgery of reading files into a fascinating intellectual puzzle which, unlike the real experience, always produces significant information.