Friday, April 30, 2010

"a triumphant return"

About 25 years ago, a group of Southern California train enthusiasts made either the best or the worst investment of their lives, depending on how you look at it.

For the grand sum of $1, they bought the Santa Fe 3751, a 430-ton locomotive that had once played a seminal role in introducing high-capacity, high-speed passenger rail service to the West. Then they set out to get the thing working again, which wound up taking five years, $1.3 million, including cash outlay and in-kind contributions, and the work of nearly 400 volunteers.

Now, the 3751 is about to make a triumphant return to the public rails, the latest turn in what has been both a glorious and tortuous history.

On May 1 and 2, the locomotive will ferry as many as 500 people between Los Angeles and San Diego, pulling 10 Amtrak cars.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Metropolis" sparkles

It's often been said that silent films are a lost art twice over. Not only are movies without sound not being made anymore, but many of the classics of the period also no longer physically exist. That, however, is not the end of the story.

For what's less well known is that pictures long thought to be lost forever, key works unseen for decades, have a remarkable tendency to regularly turn up in ways as exciting and dramatic as the films themselves. And so it is with Fritz Lang's masterwork, "Metropolis."

Sunday night at Grauman's Chinese Theatre as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival (with a full run scheduled at Laemmle's Royal starting May 14), a 2-hour, 27-minute version of Lang's film got its North American debut after a rapturous world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Considered the most expensive German film of its day, "Metropolis" is celebrated as much for its spectacle as its story. Set in a mechanized city of the future where captains of industry live in towers and the slaves who do all the work dwell underground, "Metropolis" is simultaneously an examination of the future, a parable about capital and labor and the complicated story of an enigmatic young woman named Maria, played by Brigitte Helm.

Richard Chamberlain as Katherine Hepburn

During his long, successful career, Richard Chamberlain has played a wide variety of roles. But who knew that he could also do a pitch-perfect impression of Katharine Hepburn?

Chamberlain played opposite the legendary actress in the 1969 film "The Madwoman of Chaillot." He recalls that Hepburn demanded to meet him before he could get the role of Roderick in the comedy.

"I had to fly to France for her to OK me for the part," says Chamberlain, still "Shogun" handsome at 76. "She loved to fool around. We did a scene in this park where I had just tried to drown myself. I was lying with my head in her lap on this park bench. They were lighting the scene and she started fooling around with my hair."

And his ears. Conjuring up the spirit of the late, great Kate, Chamberlain mimics her, saying in her distinctive patrician style, "Oh, little pig ears. Close to your head. Just like mine. It means you are very selfish.' "

Chamberlain is relaxing in the living room of his three-bedroom West Hollywood apartment. His primary residence has been Hawaii for the last 25 years, but last July he moved back to Los Angeles — he's actually a Beverly Hills native.

"This is my hometown and it's great being back," he enthuses. He seems to be busier than ever. The next day, he was flying to Oregon to appear as the world's greatest thief on the TNT series "Leverage."

"My agent just called from England; they want me to do a play there this summer," says Chamberlain, who came to fame nearly 50 years ago as the idealistic "Dr. Kildare" on the NBC series.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


David Wisniewski's Golem, winner of the 1997 Caldecott Award, is not only an outstanding artistic achievement; it is a dramatic re-telling of a story with deep roots in history, religion, and legend. Although this book can certainly be appreciated without any extrinsic information; knowledge of religious history, of other tellings of the tale, and of the artistic techniques used to create the illustrations may enhance understanding and enjoyment for some readers. The web pages linked to this discussion group provide a great deal of background information related to this book, no doubt more than most readers would want to know. The array of contextual content, however, is intended to provide alternative paths for those who desire additional information on any of a number of related topics.

--Kay Vandergrift

"XXXL Chocolate Cake"

Dimensions: 7 inches tall by 6 inches wide

Cost: $10 Feeds: Four people

Available at: Society Café Encore, Las Vegas

Why it’s extreme: Though only 15 layers, this colossal-sized chocolate cake is truly worthy of a photograph when it comes to your table. Dense chocolate cake slathered with globs of chocolate frosting make this cake a little taller and a true treat. The whole cake weighs more than 35 pounds!

The "Big Dog Daddy" Burger

Weight: 4 pounds, 8 ounces.

Dimensions: 10.25 inches high by 8 inches in diameter

Cost: $29.95 for the restaurant’s challenge

Feeds: One person for the challenge, but the burger can feed six people. Available at: Toby Keith’s Bar and Grill, Las Vegas

Why it’s extreme: As part of the Bar & Grill’s 100-ounce, “Big Dog Daddy” challenge, this burger will leave you more than full. And, if you finish everything in the challenge (beer, fries and all) you get a T-shirt. This massive burger (yes, it’s actually the size of a plate) contains a two pound beef patty, 4 ounces of cheese, 4 ounces of lettuce, tomato and onion, 2 ounces of pickle and a 10-ounce bun. The burger is served with a 32-ounce beer and 16 ounces of “freedom fries.”

"Praça de Ronaldo"

Residents living near the Plaza de Ramales, a quiet square in a western residential area of the Spanish capital, awoke one morning recently to find the streets adorned with green and red confetti (the colours of the Portuguese flag) along with an imposing statue of Cristiano Ronaldo, commissioned by a sporting firm.

As reported by Spanish sports daily Marca, the statue of the world’s most expensive player is 10 metres in height and silver in colour, featuring the player standing over a football. The Plaza de Ramales was renamed the ‘Praça de Ronaldo‘ for the duration of the day when the statue was unveiled.

Click on the heading above for more photos.

"a ritual cleansing"

Clear lines in the stony sand formed a 200-foot-long image of the flute-playing Native American god Kokopelli. Beside him was Cicimitl, an Aztec spirit said to guide souls to the afterlife.

"No one has a clue that this stuff is out here," said Alfredo Figueroa, picking his way around a massive foot.

The self-taught historian has made it his mission to guard these huge carvings in the earth known as geoglyphs. On this day, he brought in Aztec dancers to do a ritual cleansing of the site.

Above, Estrella Newman, 76, center, drummer Jesus Figuera, left, and Aztec dancer Netze Cauhtemoc, right, perform a sacred dance around burning sage during a ritual cleansing of the grounds near several giant geoglyphs in the desert near Blythe.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

"My Dog Spot"

His job is selling cars. But just about everyone who lived in California over the last half-century knows that. Cal Worthington, whose "My Dog Spot" commercials made him one of the most famous auto salesmen in history, has owned 27 dealerships and sold more than 1 million cars by his reckoning in his career.

Now 89, he still owns four dealerships, 10 office buildings, two shopping centers, a 10,000-acre ranch, television studio, advertising agency and finance company. He also has a 9-year-old son.

"I get too bored if I don't have something to do," he said.

"Walking in Holden Caulfield's footsteps through Manhattan"

Holden Caulfield was a flâneur. That's not generally how we think of him, this archetype of adolescent alienation, this detester of phonies, this poor little lost boy whose voice — by turns knowing, childlike, cynical and bereft — drives J.D. Salinger's iconic 1951 novel, "The Catcher in the Rye." Yet, from the moment, about a quarter of the way through the book, he arrives by train at Manhattan's now-demolished original Pennsylvania Station building, he is our guide on one of the 20th century's great literary walking tours.

The pond at the south end of Central Park is an object of fascination for J.D. Salinger's narrator, who wonders what becomes of the ducks when it ices over.

(Jennifer S. Altman)

"Legends Over Madera"

The "Legends Over Madera - Air Show" always thrills spectators of all ages with exciting aerobatic performers, rare WWII bombers & fighters, an F-16 flyover and the only civilian four-ship jet flight demonstration team of its kind in the world, The Patriots Jet Team. This headlining act flies the beautiful L-39 jet and performs exciting maneuvers similar to the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds.

Above: An Original Oil Painted by Steve Tack for "Legends Over Madera Air Show 2009."

Monday, April 26, 2010

"This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection"

Carol Burnett and Tim Conway are making their first appearance together on an L.A. stage Tuesday night at a Writers Bloc program at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. They will talk about Burnett's sweet, sad and delightful new book of memories, "This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection," and take questions from the audience.

Famed Matador Gored

Over the weekend, doctors in Mexico struggled to save the life of Spain’s most celebrated matador, José Tomás Román Martín, after a bull tore a six-inch gash in his left thigh on Saturday in the Mexican city of Aguascalientes. The bullfighter, who is known to fans and the media simply by his double-barreled first name, José Tomás, needed 17 pints of blood and three hours of emergency surgery after being gored by an 1,100-pound bull named Navegante on Saturday afternoon.

According to a report in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Monday, the matador’s manager, Salvador Boix, said that he was communicating with doctors and was now “out of danger” after the 15th goring of his career. The injury on Saturday was considered the worst of his career, so much so that as doctors attended to José Tomás at the bullring they appealed to fans in the arena to donate blood, The Associated Press reported.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"The case of the coconut"

A duke in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club displays a gold coconut during this year's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. That coconut, if that's indeed what it was, sparked a negligence suit and an only-in-Louisiana legal drama that continues to this day — one that has commanded the attention of two district judges, an appellate court panel, and now, possibly, the Louisiana Supreme Court. It also has generated reams of deeply weird deposition transcripts that mix Perry Mason earnestness with a touch of Marx Brothers.

(Patrick Semanksy / AFP/Getty Images / February 15, 2010)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"a different kind of bicycle"

A radically different kind of bicycle is making inroads across the globe. Click on the heading for more info.

"The Lucio Costa Plan"

Can Brasilia really be just 50 years old?

When the new capital of Brazil was dedicated by President Juscelino Kubitschek on April 21, 1960, its grand avenues, laid out by Lucio Costa, and dramatic modernist buildings by architect Oscar Niemeyer seemed to symbolize one thing: the crisp newness of the modern world, unburdened by history or context.

In fact, Kubitschek was so eager to call attention to the city — built from scratch in a remote spot 600 miles inland from the old capital of Rio de Janeiro — that he held the dedication ceremony while most of Brasilia was still under a cloud of construction dust.

"Exhibit honors Apollo venue"

Michael Jackson's fedora, Ella Fitzgerald's dress and Louis Armstrong's trumpet are together in a Washington exhibit celebrating the famed Apollo Theater that helped these stars to shine.

The Smithsonian's not-yet-built black history museum is bringing New York's Harlem landmark to the U.S capital. The first exhibit focuses on the Apollo, where many musical careers were launched. It opens Friday at the National Museum of American History.

Curators are showcasing some newly acquired items for the museum slated to open in 2015 on the National Mall, including the hat from Jackson's 1984 Victory Tour, which museum officials said was purchased at a recent auction.

—Associated Press

"Murder, while sleepwalking?"

Writer-director Allen Wolf loads "In My Sleep" with so much psychosexual baggage you wish he just focused on one emotional affliction to propel this mediocre whodunit. Instead, we're taken on a bumpy ride with main character Marcus (Philip Winchester), a sex-addicted, commitment phobic masseuse with mother and father issues, who may or may not have killed Ann (Kelly Overton), his best friend Justin's (Tim Draxl) susceptible wife.

Click on the heading above for the whole story.

"Dead Poets Society"

A former teacher who founded the Dead Poets Society of America and traveled 15,000 miles to document the graves of poets has a new mission: to create a Dead Poets Remembrance Day on Oct. 7, the date that Edgar Allan Poe (above) died.

Amateur poet Walter Skold of Freeport, Maine, launched his new endeavor Friday, beginning a 22-state tour of the graves of fallen bards. He's enlisted 13 current and former state poets laureate to help drum up support.

"Of course, it takes a little chutzpah to say we're starting a holiday," said Skold, who left his job as a public school technology teacher to pursue his passions of poetry and photography. "But we believe it's a really good idea, and we hope it catches on nationwide."

—Associated Press

"Spring;s Grand Entrance"

Lilac curator Rudy Schaffer strolls through an array of lilacs at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

"Venice home clad in sedums and other succulents"

You may have heard of living walls, but how about a living box? The exterior walls of the new wing of the Bricault family's Venice home are clad in sedums and other succulents, which soften the contemporary architecture so it looks like a plush, verdant floating cube.

Owner Paul Bricault likes the way the horticultural house gets people talking. "Everyone who comes here looks at it with this quixotic expression. We get all sorts of questions, including, do we have roots coming through the inside walls?"

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

"a natural spectacle"

In a natural spectacle rare in an urban environment, a swarm of Vaux's swifts flies with a view of the moon before funneling into a chimney at the 84-year-old Chester Building in downtown Los Angeles. The birds are migrating northward.

Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / April 23, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

TCM Classic Film Festival to be in L.A. from Thursday to Sunday

Movies that include 1954’s ‘A Star Is Born (above),’ ‘The Story of Temple Drake’ and ‘The Day of the Triffids’ have been laboriously restored for the screenings. (Los Angeles Times)

'The Day of the Triffids' On Black

I was in the backyard this afternoon looking for my daily photo, when I heard strange whisperings.I looked around but could not see anyone. I went back to looking for my photo of the day then noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye. It was them, the plants, they were shaking up towards the sky, suddenly a strange light appeared in the sky , very weird indeed.

Maybe Project 365 is effecting me, maybe the challenge of having to find something different and interesting each day is finally getting to me, maybe I need a holiday. :-)

Something silly, for a change

Words and photo by "aussiegall" on Flickr -- to visit the website click on the heading above.

The new "Maserati GranTurismo Convertible"

Behind the convex grille on the new Maserati GranTurismo Convertible is a 4.7-liter V-8 that produces 433 horsepower.

The Maserati GTC is a heavy car. At 4,365 pounds, it's 200 pounds heavier than the coupe version because of the retractable roof. But that weight just melts away on takeoff.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

"Museum can't sell rare Ansel Adams prints

FRESNO, Calif. — The bankrupt Fresno Metropolitan Museum has agreed to return six Ansel Adams photographs to his son, who had objected to them being sold to pay off creditors.

The move will settle a lawsuit by Michael Adams and his wife, Jeanne, who gave the famed nature photographer's prints to the Met in 1983 but maintained they did not give permission for them to be sold.

The museum closed in January after going into $4 million debt.

The photos being returned are of Yosemite National Park, Mount McKinley and Lone Pine in California, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona. Adams' attorney Rene Lastreto says the photographer never intended for private collectors to hang those prints in their living rooms.

In exchange, the family will give the museum other Ansel Adams prints of equal value for the October art auction.

Information from: The Fresno Bee,

Secrecy could be Sinister ??

The launch of the X-37 pilotless space plane Thursday will be closed to the public, with only Pentagon-sanctioned photographers allowed. (U.S. Air Force / April 12, 2010)

For Dramatic Photos of the Blaze -- Visit National (Click Here)

Fire boat crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, April 21, 2010.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"a virtuoso sitar player"

Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / April 14, 2010

Sitar virtuoso Paul Livingstone plays at Throop Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Pasadena.

The Many Faces of the Iranian Soldier

Julia Morgan: "probably the first female architect to practice independently in the United States"

One of Julia Morgan's most famous works, the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle, was modeled after a Greco-Roman temple, with neoclassical statues and colonnades.
Julia Morgan, famous for designing the opulent Hearst Castle in San Simeon, also worked on dozens of community facilities such as the Berkeley City Club and its stately indoor pool.
A petite woman known for her Mediterranean style and love of Spanish missions, Julia Morgan designed 720 buildings, including more than a dozen YWCA buildings and other facilities for working women.

"continued dominance of competitions robotic"

Hope Chapel students continued their dominance of competitions robotic, as they steered a low-slung, four-wheeled creation named 32 to victory in a frenetic, soccer-like tournament, vanquishing 57 other school teams from the greater Los Angeles area.

Hope Chapel Academy’s win in the FIRST Robotics competition at the Long Beach Arena marked its fifth regional title, to go along with a world robotics championship in 2005.

School mascots led cheers while about 1,000 spectators watched the Beach Bots team from Hope Chapel use remote-control joy sticks to pilot their 32 to victory in the finals. On a playing field with five other robots, 32 darted around the field of play, corralling soccer balls and “kicking” them toward a goal, and gained bonus points by using its single, vertical arm to hang from an overhead bar.

Off to see "The WIZ"

Mira Costa drama students (Left to right) Ben Silva, Spencer Ellman, Kelianne Safarik and Tyler Duncan lead a high school cast in a soulful performance of The Wiz.

Photo by Colleen McSweeney Mitchell

"Who's on first?" -- Abbott and Costello

After living in Manhattan Beach for 45 years, the daughter of legendary Lou Costello never imagined she’d be attending a performance of her father’s most famous comedy routine at an elementary school in her neighborhood.

But last Friday, Paddy Costello Humphreys found herself as Grand View Elementary School’s VIP guest during its annual reader’s theater performance of the famous Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine, also known as “Baseball.”

“Nothing would please my dad more than for something like this to occur,” Humphreys said. “I know that for a fact. He loved children.”

Humphreys had no idea that for the past eight years, a part of her father’s legacy has been kept alive by library media specialist Heidi Snively, who performs the comedy skit 31 times each year — once for each class — during the first week of baseball season. With baseball bats and hats for props, the teacher of each class plays Abbott opposite Snively’s Costello in an informal performance during each grade’s weekly library time.

(by Andrea Ruse)

"a state-of-the-art $ 9.8 million aquatics center that is scheduled to be completed by September"

The Redondo Beach Unified School District is building it. And they want you to come.

The district, as part of its $145 million school bond construction, is building a state-of-the-art $ 9.8 million aquatics center that is scheduled to be completed by September.

School board president Todd Loewenstein and Superintendent Steven Keller last week appeared at the Beach City Health District board meeting to begin a discussion about how the two agencies can work together to make the new facility broadly available to the public.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Hollywood Star Walk"

Take a virtual tour of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Los Angeles Times’ virtual tour puts readers on the streets of Hollywood to visit the nearly 2,400 stars on the Walk of Fame. Shown above is Bruce Lee.

Select a category to learn more about the bombshells, cowboys, crooners and other entertainers who are honored on the walk. An interactive map then takes readers to the exact location of each star along the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. To take the tour, click on the heading above.

Is Hollywood calling ??

Arnold Schwarzenegger, apparently taking a break from the budgetary troubles that have dogged him during his governorship, may be making plans for his own future. Will he return to Hollywood ??


Timothy Olyphant plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, a man sent to bring justice to a place he didn't want to see again -- Kentucky. Created by crime novelist Elmore Leonard, the FX show is starting off strong, drawing huge numbers in its premiere. Alongside Olyphant, the cast includes Nick Searcy, Jacob Pitts, and Erica Tazel.

"Vampire Weekend"

There is something fresh and very now about the youthful and optimistic virility of Vampire Weekend. Taking the stage after an aged and somewhat (although deservedly) pompous Echo & the Bunnymen, the boys of Vampire Weekend looked very much like well-groomed hooligans on spring break in the Hamptons.