Monday, August 31, 2009

"Creative Operative"

Barbara Lauwers Podoski, who launched one of the most successful psychological campaigns of World War II, which resulted in the surrender of more than 600 Czechoslovakian soldiers fighting for the Germans, died of cardiovascular disease Aug. 16 at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington, D.C. She was 95.

One of the few female operatives in the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime predecessor to the CIA, she found creative ways to undermine German morale. The multilingual Barbara Lauwers, as she was then known, primarily interrogated prisoners of war from her base in Rome. An antagonistic Nazi sergeant under her questioning in 1944 mentioned that Czechs and Slovaks were used to doing the Germans' "dirty work" along the Italian front. Lauwers, a private, realized there was an opportunity to flip the loyalties of her former countrymen. She quickly borrowed the Vatican's Czech and Slovak typewriters and prepared leaflets in both Czech and Slovak languages that urged the conscripts to change sides, telling them that they were being used. "Shed this German yoke of shame, cross over to the partisans," she implored them. Within a week, many Czech and Slovak soldiers who had been working for the Germans crossed the Allied lines and surrendered. At least 600 had her leaflet in their pockets.

Makeover for Battleship Missouri

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - The "Mighty Mo," the World War II battleship best known as the site of the formal surrender of Japan in 1945, is heading to the shipyard for repairs.

The Missouri, now a decommissioned vessel called the Battleship Missouri Memorial, will leave its historic spot at Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row in October.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our Hero . . . Ichiro

Barring injury, Ichiro Suzuki easily will exceed 200 hits again. It will be his ninth consecutive 200-hit season, breaking the record held since 1901 by Wee Willie Keeler.

"Sounds reasonable to me" ???

His "Once in a lifetime"

Three-foot, seven-inch Eddie Gaedel, hired by owner Bill Veerk of the Cleveland Browns, tips his hat to the crowd during his one and only appearance on Aug. 19, 1951.

"Making a Comeback"

Andean condors were once hunted to near extinction. Now teams feed and track the giant carrion-eaters, brought from U.S. zoos, and have increased their numbers tenfold.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Inspiration for the Emerald City

L. Frank Baum was 43 years old when he completed his most famous story in 1899. He promptly signed and dated the manuscript, under the words "With This Pencil I wrote the MS of The Emerald City." (It was retitled "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" just before publication in 1900.) The blend of magic and fakery in the White City of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 likely inspired Baum.

Fire Season

This picture shows the Morris fire behind the city of LA as seen from Palos Verdes on Thursday Evening. Submitted August 27, 2009 by Pete Shackle.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Endangered tiger cubs take the stage

Three male Amur tiger cubs made their debut at Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo.

Formerly known as Siberian tigers, the Amurs are listed as a critically endangered species. Males weigh 400 to 650 pounds and can be up to 11 feet long. In the wild, they live in eastern Russia and northeastern China.

The cubs were born June 2 to mother Basha and father Kazek. They had been out of view while they bonded with their mother and grew.

It's Basha's first litter. She was born at the zoo in 2003.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Honoring those yabba-dabba-doo-ers, Hanna-Barbera

The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills is hosting a 70th anniversary salute to the television animation pioneers. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera met at MGM in the 1930s.

TEAM EFFORT: William Hanna, seated, and Joseph Barbera meet with key staff members, from left, Dino, Pebbles, Fred Flintstone, Wilma, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. (Hanna-Barbera)

"Solar-powered" air conditioning

Everyone knows solar power can heat homes and generate electricity. But on a rooftop in Downey, Southern California Gas Co. engineers are using solar mirrors to cool down their offices.

Engineers are testing two technologies that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto pipes with water running through them. The heated water powers a thermal process in a chiller that cools the cold water used in air conditioning units.

"When we tell people we heat water up only to cool it down, they don't get it at first," said David Berokoff, a technology development manager at SoCal Gas. "But all this technology has been around for a while. We're just trying to bring it together so we can get it out to our customers as soon as possible."

The initiative is the latest in a move by SoCal Gas and its parent, Sempra Energy, to wean businesses off gas and push them to use more solar power. For businesses, the technologies could mean substantial savings.

"The Fall of the Berlin Wall"

In what government and arts officials are calling the most ambitious commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany, a symbolic re-creation of the wall that once separated East and West Berlin will be erected across Wilshire Boulevard in November.

The Wall Project, painted by professional and amateur artists, will close Sunday afternoon traffic on one of the city's busiest thoroughfares for three hours on Nov. 8 beginning at 3 p.m. The project involves the Culver City's Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War, the city of Los Angeles, the German Consulate General in Los Angeles and other partners, and will be officially announced Thursday.

"a devastating last walk"

The Bridge Of Sighs of Venice, Italy was built at the beginning of the 17th century with the purpose of connecting prisons and interrogation rooms in the Palace of the Dukes, its beauty masks what was likely a devastating last walk for condemned prisoners. It's said that one could hear their sighs as they looked one last time upon the outside world before being locked up, their graffiti is still visible on some of the concrete cell walls.

Wedding Chapel on Wheels

A 1942 fire engine converted on 'Trick My Truck' with stained-glass windows and a pipe organ offers brides and grooms a sense of adventure. It's cozy, but fast.

Opus Dei backs film project

Roland Joffe knows his latest film will be controversial but says it is not meant as a response to "The Da Vinci Code," whose bad guys were members of the Opus Dei movement of the Roman Catholic Church.

Joffe is in Argentina directing a biopic of Opus Dei founder Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, who sided with Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and allegedly spoke positively of Adolf Hitler. The church dismissed the controversies before Escriva was canonized as a saint.

Opus Dei is financing the film, "There Be Dragons," but Joffe said it isn't a propaganda project. Opus Dei members on the set said he has "creative space" to make the film he wants.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Human Nature" just is . . .

Since the late 80s Human Nature has been forging a career that has led them to become one of Australia's most successful boy bands. As teenagers in high school, brothers Andrew and Michael Tierney joined school friends Phillip Burton and Toby Allen to form the group 4Trax. Together they performed in talent contests and in clubs as well as busking on the streets of Sydney.

By the mid 90s they began searching for a record deal and upon hearing their demo tape, Sony picked them up immediately, at which point the band changed their name to Human Nature. Their first album Telling Everybody was released in 1996 and its popularity led them to secure support slots with Michael Jackson and Celine Dion.

Wilshire Center Project ?????

The Proposed Project includes the demolition of approximately 54,000 square feet of existing commercial uses and the construction of a new mixed-use development consisting of residential condominiums and retail space. The Project includes two residential condominium high-rise buildings (Wilshire Tower and Vermont Tower) above a 4-level above grade parking podium and a one-level retail structure. The Wilshire Tower will include 287 units within 18 floors above the podium level (348,000 square feet of floor area) and the Vermont Tower will include 177 units within 10 floors above the podium level (211,000 square feet of floor area). Both residential buildings will include a combined total of 464 residential units built over 4 levels of above ground level parking, approximately 27,000 square feet of commercial retail space and up to 14,000 sf of restaurant area on the ground floor, and 2 levels of subterranean parking. The proposed transit-oriented project is designed to incorporate a mixture of activities that support and encourage pedestrian activity in close proximity to the Wilshire/Vermont MTA Metro Red Line Station.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"the last Tommy"

The WWI medals of the last Tommy are now on display in a museum in Cornwall.

Harry Patch, who died last month aged 111, fought in the trenches with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.

Before he died, he said that he wanted his eight medals to be permanently shown at the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry Regimental Museum in Bodmin.

Major Trevor Stipling, curator at the museum, said: “We're very pleased and very proud.

"He wanted them to go on permanent display for the public to see rather than being put away at the back of a drawer where nobody would see them.

"We saw him regularly at our rally days and he made several donations to the museum.

"He never spoke much about the actual battlefields but he always had a yarn – his yarns were really amazing."

The medals, which include the British War Medal, the Allied Victory Medal and two French Legion d’Honneur awards, will be displayed in a special centrepiece case until October, when they will be displayed among other medals won by soldiers from the same regiment.

Archie to marry Veronica

Archie, the redheaded comic character, has proposed to Veronica. Betty, the blond girl next door, got the shaft after 67 years of trying.

Apparently in the comic world this is old news. We heard about the engagement Friday afternoon after The Associated Press moved a story about Richmond, Va, comic book owner Dave Luebke who was so upset he sold his Archie Comics No. 1 issue.

"Betty is it. Not Veronica," he told the AP. "This is serious."

Don't feel too bad for him. Luebke took home $38,837 after Heritage Auction Galleries sold it Friday.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Fabled Shinkansen

An economically ascendant Japan surprised the world in 1964 by building the world’s first high-speed bullet train. Japan's Tokaido Shinkansen debuted that year and hit speeds of 125 mph (201 km/h) on its Tokyo–Nagoya–Kyoto–Osaka route. Today, Japan has the most extensive high-speed train network in the world.

One of Arizona's wonders

At Horseshoe Bend,vistas from the cliff's edge offer crisp views of the Colorado River 1,000 feet below as it cuts a horseshoe shape into the land. Greenery lines the river on both sides as reddish-orange and yellow rock strata rise from the banks.

"a self-indulgent getaway"

One of Mexico's most luxurious hotels, Las Ventanas al Paraiso is a renowned destination for hosting weddings, anniversaries and self-indulgent getaways. The resort is a collection of white buildings with red-tiled rooftops, perched high on the Corridor's cliff tops that overlook the ocean. The grounds are lavishly landscaped with flowering bougainvillea and towering palms. Moreover, if you find the exterior stunning, just wait until you see the rooms, which feature Talavera vases and carved headboards and dressers! It offers an extremely rich colonial Mexico ambiance. The dramatic location, in Los Cabos at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, nestled on fine white sands along the sparkling-blue Sea of Cortez, is incomparable.

The world's largest river cruise ship . . .

The world's largest river cruise ship, the Victoria Jenna, begins its maiden voyage Sept. 6 on the Yangtze River. With 189 cabins and a passenger capacity of 378, the ship will sail Three Gorges itineraries. Rates start at $920 per person, double occupancy. "Apart from its size and technological upgrades, a major advantage for the Victoria Jenna is the number of suites," said Victoria representative Larry Greenman, referring to the 40 suites. "The Junior Suite and Shangri-La Suite categories are usually the quickest to fill up on most sailings. With the Victoria Jenna, this will be less of an issue." All cabins have televisions with HBO and CNN, private bathrooms with showers and tubs and private balconies. The ship has two dining rooms, a fitness room and a lecture room for talks and lessons in tai chi, Mandarin and mah-jongg.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"the passing of an era"

The cathedral bells pealed for an entire hour, tolling not just one man's death but the passing of an era.

Harry Patch was 111 when he died two weeks ago, and his body was laid to rest Thursday after a memorial service here in the medieval city of Wells, in southwestern England.

But it wasn't for his longevity that hundreds of mourners lined the streets and gathered solemnly on the cathedral lawn under rainy skies. It was to honor Britain's last survivor of the trenches of World War I, the last man on these shores who bore firsthand witness to the blood-soaked conflict that forever changed Europe and the course of the 20th century.

"a mission to find potentially habitable worlds"

NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, has made radical new discoveries about a hellish planet a thousand light years away -- proof, scientists say, that the craft will be able to carry out its mission of finding other Earths in our galaxy, provided they exist.

Kepler, which was launched in March, is the first spacecraft with a mission to find potentially habitable worlds. Over the next few years, as it circles the sun in an Earth-trailing orbit, it will scan 100,000 stars in the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, looking for planets.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Here SHE is, the USS New York, made from the World Trade Center !

The USS New York was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center. It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, LA to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept 9, 2003, 'those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence,' recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. 'It was a spiritual moment for everybody there.'

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Water Skiing’s Unsung Pioneer - Jack Andresen

In 1933, Jack Andresen. then 16. saw a picture in the New York Times of a French woman, Maggie Savard (who later became an official of the World Water Ski Union), jumping on skis on the French Riviera. Using the picture as a scale, he made a crude pair of skis from pieces of ash and bent the tips in steam. “They were eight feet long and eight inches wide. and had simple toe straps for binders. Remembering his experience with aquaplanes, Andresen attached hooks to the toes of the skis, facing backward. His homemade towline had a single handle and two short looped lines attached to the main line six feet from the handle. The loops were put on the hooks so that the boat would actually tow the skis as it would tow an aquaplane. Then, at least theoretically, once the skier was up, the line could be hauled in hand over hand and the loops unhooked to facilitate "free skiing."

Andresen's first ride was in April of 1933 on Glen Wild Lake. "It was much too cold," he remembers. '`I'm not sure what made him decide to try it that early." A friend had a 10-horsepower boat behind which they carefully rigged the ropes and hooks. Says Andresen: "When I was ready, I hollered, 'Hit it!' Oddly enough. I have no idea what possessed nee to say that. but I guess it stuck. He pulled me off the dock and to my surprise. I was still standing five seconds later. I guess I rode about half way around the lake, maybe half a mile, then got the nerve to pull back on the loops and unhook the fronts. By then the short lines were limp anyway, so it didn't really make any difference.

“I was fully dressed because I didn't want to get any colder than I had to, and was trying to figure out how to land. We came by a dock with a protruding diving board, so I motioned to him to slow down and I kind of wrapped myself around the board as we came by. It wasn't too graceful, but it was a dry landing." Andresen competed in the first water ski tournament organized by the AWSA soon after meeting Hains in 1938. Somewhat ironically, Bruce Parker won the overall title. Parker had been impressed with Andresen at the exhibition two years earlier, and had asked Andresen to show him how to get up on skis. Parker had taught himself the rest and incorporated water skiing into his aquatics show at Long Island's Jones Beach. "By the time the first competition came up," says Andresen, "Bruce was probably the most proficient skier around."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"Ferocious talent"

The Chimaera of Arezzo has arrived at the Getty Villa on the edge of Malibu, the first time the famous ancient Etruscan sculpture has traveled to the United States. When you see it, you'll know immediately why the magnificent bronze is regarded as a textbook work of art. The Chimaera grabs your attention and won't let go.

Not bad for a mythological monster that's more than 2,400 years old. The sculpture shows how one masterpiece can be enough to anchor a thoroughly satisfying exhibition.

A Chimaera fuses the body of a fire-breathing lion with a coiling serpent in the place of its tail, capable of guarding the rear flank; for good measure, a horned goat emerges from the lion's back. Altogether this chomping, hissing, butting flamethrower is a hybrid as frighteningly improbable as something from “Alien” in the movies or a Blue Dog Democrat in Congress.

The ancient Chimaera (pronounced ki-MEER-uh) was dug up at the gate to the Tuscan town of Arezzo in 1553. Now it stands in grand isolation on a pedestal in the center of a Getty Villa gallery. About 4¼ feet long, it pulls back on its haunches with its front legs stretched out, talons unsheathed, like a wounded animal refusing surrender.

The roaring head, encircled by curving rows of tufted fur, strains upward and bends to the right. Behind it the goat's head mirrors this pose but in the opposite direction. So the bodily motion goes down, back, up, left and right, yielding a marvelously animated dynamism. Skin is pulled taut over powerful musculature, while parallel curves, alternating shadow with light, articulate the beast's gaunt rib cage. This is an animal with living, breathing innards, not just a ferocious outward demeanor.

Look closely and you'll spot a couple of stylized floral rosettes on the goat's neck and the lion's hind end — in fact, engorged drops of blood, spurting from stabbed flesh. The beast has been wounded, no doubt from the fatal assault by the long-lost bronze figure of the Greek hero Bellerophon riding his winged steed, Pegasus — victors in the mythical ancient battle. The Chimaera of Arezzo is what remains of a surely amazing sculptural grouping, fabricated by a supremely gifted artist and his bronze casting crew, circa 400 B.C.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

"Making a comeback"

Thirty-three years after being classified an endangered species, the El Segundo blue butterfly is flourishing on 200 acres of sand dunes near Los Angeles International Airport.

Entomologist Richard Arnold, a consultant to the airport, said Wednesday that the butterfly population there has grown to 35,000 to 100,000 insects, depending on the year, up from a few thousand when the federal government placed it on the endangered list in 1976.

JetAmerica never gets off ground

At least one airline discovered that bargain fares alone are not enough to stay in business during these times of economic gloom.

JetAmerica, a fledgling discount airline that drew headlines by offering $9 promotional fares, was grounded even before taking flight. The Clearwater, Fla., company suspended sales to all markets and will immediately begin offering refunds to customers.

JetAmerica was to begin July 13 offering flights to Toledo, Ohio; South Bend, Ind.; Melbourne, Fla.; and Lansing, Mich. Service to larger airports in Minneapolis and Newark, N.J., were also in the works.