Monday, May 31, 2010

It's a bird . . . it's a plane . . . it's ? ? ?

Mike Conway, of England, goes airborne before crashing into the fencing after colliding with Ryan Hunter-Reay (37) during Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 30, 2010.

(AP Photo/Mark Miller/ May 30, 2010)

"the gentlemanly Hall of Famer"

You might say that actor Eddie Frierson is infatuated with Christy Mathewson, the dominating pitcher who was part of Cooperstown's inaugural class of inductees.

For nearly half his 50 years, Frierson has brought the gentlemanly Hall of Fame right-hander to life on stage in the one-man play "Matty: An Evening with Christy Mathewson."

Written and performed by the actor, it's a labor of love that drew glowing reviews during an off-Broadway run in the 1990s. These days, with Frierson dressed in dead-ball era New York Giants flannels and cap, it is reprised up to 20 times a year by the actor, a former Santa Monica High baseball coach and UCLA walk-on.

"I figure I can do it for at least another five years," says Frierson, who already has outlived his subject, who was 45 when he died in 1925. "I was going to retire it a few years ago, but it's too much fun and people keep asking me to do it."

"Muggle Quidditch" ???

Bronx High School of Science lost 50 to 30 to Lenox High School of Lenox, Mass., as Central Park played host to an exhibition of Quidditch, the soccer-like game invented by "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling.

In the books, Quidditch is played by wizards and witches on flying broomsticks. The real-life version with Muggles — non-magical folk — started in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont and is now played at more than 150 colleges and 100 high schools.

In Muggle Quidditch, chasers try to throw the quaffle — a volleyball — through a hoop. For defense, beaters hit opposing players with a bludger — a dodgeball. The team's seeker runs after the snitch, a fast runner holding a tennis ball in a sock, which the seeker has to grab like the flag in flag football. In the fictional game, the snitch is a winged ball.

The players race around after quaffles and snitches while holding their brooms between their legs.

"This version of the game is the best it could possibly work in real life, short of flying brooms," said Alex Benepe, 23, commissioner of the International Quidditch Assn.

Benepe said Sunday's exhibition was intended to announce the incorporation of the Quidditch association as a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Quidditch and literacy education.

Documentary Honors All Fighting Men Who Served Their Country

When Chew-Een Lee was growing up in western Sacramento during World War II, he was eager to enlist in the military to fight for his country. He joined the ROTC in high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps as soon as he graduated.

"I wanted to dispel the notion about the Chinese being meek and obsequious," said Lee, whose father was a farmer and prominent figure in the Chinese community in Northern California.

But to Lee's disappointment, he was given a job in a language school rather than a combat billet. He stayed in the Marine Corps after the war and in 1950, as an infantry platoon leader, he got his long-awaited chance for combat as Marines from Camp Pendleton were deployed to Korea. His bravery at the battle of the Chosin Reservoir — a Chinese American officer battling Chinese army troops who had surrounded the American forces — is part of Marine Corps lore.

And now it is the subject of a documentary, "Uncommon Courage: Breakout at Chosin," set for broadcast on Memorial Day on the Smithsonian Channel.

"His fighting style was ferocious and his leadership was inspirational," Joe Owen, who fought beside Lee and is now 85 and retired in upstate New York, said in a telephone interview. He said Lee "was always up with the assault squad."

The weather was frigid; the mountainous terrain was rugged; weaponry was often unreliable at subzero temperatures. The Marines were mostly untested in battle, but Lee had driven them hard during training to make them sharp.

The Chinese regulars, disciplined and numerous, assaulted in waves. Fighting was close in and fierce, including with bayonets. Lee, a lieutenant, was assigned to lead several hundred troops to reinforce a Marine company holding a position that was key to allowing thousands of Marines to move southward and escape the Chinese encirclement.

"I would have kicked ass and done whatever was necessary," said Lee, 84, retired and living in Washington, D.C. "To me, it didn't matter whether those were Chinese, Korean, Mongolian, whatever — they were the enemy."

Wounded, he refused to be evacuated and, after getting medical attention, stole a jeep to get back to the front. While other officers shed all insignia to avoid being targets for snipers, Lee donned an orange vest so that his men could see him in the blinding white of the snow.

David Royle, Smithsonian Channel executive vice president for programming and producing, said he was drawn to Lee's story as emblematic of the courage and loyalty that is central to Marine Corps culture. The documentary makers rounded up former Marines who served with Lee and whose memories of the battle remain sharp.

Tom Bradley terminal at LAX -- into the 21st century

Travelers arrive at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, where they are greeted by high-tech lighting and a video screen that projects a time-lapse photograph of vehicular traffic at LAX.

Los Angeles as seen from the Goodyear Blimp

An aerial view of downtown Los Angeles from the Goodyear Blimp, shot with a fisheye lens. May 27, 2010. Click on the heading above for more spectacular aerial views on the Los Angeles Times website.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

You'll find it at Geno's

Geno's Steaks is a Philadelphia restaurant specializing in cheesesteaks, founded in 1966 by Joe Vento. Geno's is located in the South Philadelphia neighborhood at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, directly across the street from rival Pat's King of Steaks, which claims to have invented the steak sandwich in 1933. The cheesesteak has become a signature dish for the city of Philadelphia

"puzzling your way around Florence"

Feel like puzzling your way around Florence, Rome or Venice this summer? And we mean in a fun way. Select Italy, a Chicago-based tour operator, has started "Made Easy" tours that give a sampling of each city for those with little time but lots of curiosity. Each tour features an interactive, high-tech scavenger hunt that provides clues through cellphone texts to help travelers solve a puzzle. Activities and prices vary. The Florence tour, for instance, includes a reserved ticket to see Michelangelo's statue of David, plus a two-hour guided bicycle tour past all the must-see buildings and monuments. For a weekend date in June, it cost $88.34 a person for two or $80.36 a person for four. Info: Select Italy, (800) 877-1755,

—Mary Forgione

Gardens and Vistas

A self-guided tour lets visitors to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., discover architect Julia Morgan's floral and aquatic outdoor contributions at their own pace, without a guide.

(Jan Fietsbel, Los Angeles Times)

"Chez Colette"

Colette was a woman whose life arced across one of the most fascinating periods in French history, from the ebullient belle époque to the German Occupation and slightly beyond. For half a century, she scandalized Paris, lopping off her long schoolgirl braid and varnishing her toenails, gallivanting around town in an apparent ménage à trois with her husband and his girlfriend, cross-dressing for her lesbian lover, baring her breast onstage, divorcing, remarrying and seducing her teenage stepson.

Whenever she hit rock bottom, Colette remade herself, resulting in a resumé that reads like the Yellow Pages: journalist, critic, pornographer, music hall performer, lecturer, screenwriter, advice columnist, beautician (though her aging looks were no advertisement for her skills).

A naturally liberated woman, Colette despised feminists. She ate gluttonously and got fat; loved animals but monstrously ignored her only daughter; saved her third husband, who was Jewish, from World War II concentration camps while earning a living writing for the Nazi-controlled press.

Seemingly every insult you can throw at Colette sticks. In spite — or maybe because — of that, she earned plaques that mark her passage all over France.

"Older than old"

This statue at Los Angeles National Cemetery was thought to have been erected in 1942, but it actually dates to 1896. About 10,000 Civil War soldiers are buried here.

Cheryl Wilkinson, a student of Waugh's, researched the cemetery for her honors thesis and found that the statue dates to at least 1896, when a Times article mentioned its arrival.

Wilkinson also disputed a book about military cemeteries that says it is the likeness of a Revolutionary War soldier.

She pointed to the figure's kepi (hat) and the "US" stamped on its haversack to show that it was a Civil War soldier.

Though the name of the sculptor is unknown, it's questionable whether he saw combat since the figure is shown doing something a soldier would never do: draping his hand over the muzzle of his rifle.

(Steve Harvey, For The Los Angeles Times / May 29, 2010)

"That was then and this is now"

Las Vegas —A prominent sandstone arch at Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada has collapsed.

Park rangers said it appeared Natural Arch was claimed by forces that would eventually destroy about 300 other arches in the park: gravity and erosion.

They said horseback riders notified them about the damage Wednesday, and no one has reported seeing it fall. It's unclear exactly why and when the arch collapsed, but there's no evidence of vandalism, rangers added.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Beginning of the Gigantic Oil Leak

In this aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned on April 21.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"the longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered hypersonic flight"

An X-51A Waverider flight-test vehicle successfully made the longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered hypersonic flight May 26 off the southern California Pacific coast. The more than 200 second burn by the X-51's Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne-built air breathing scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 6. The previous longest scramjet burn in a flight test was 12 seconds in a NASA X-43. Air Force officials called the test, the first of four planned, an unqualified success. The flight is considered the first use of a practical hydrocarbon fueled scramjet in flight.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"overnight stays - $153 -- the view - priceless"

Yosemite's hike-in High Sierra Camps are so sought-after that the pickings can be slim for travelers who wait to book overnight stays during the short summer season. The good news: If you stay two consecutive nights at Merced Lake Camp (with dinner and breakfast daily), the park concessionaire will throw in the third night — a $153 (plus tax) savings. Merced Lake Camp boasts more cabins than the other High Sierra Camps. It has a good inventory in July and August; its two nearest neighbors, Sunrise and Vogelsang, are sold out for the season. The bad news: The Merced camp is a long walk. Count on 14.6 miles by the shortest route from Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Road. Check availability online: or call (801) 559-4909.

Here's a spectacular shot of Multnomah Falls in Oregon"

While visiting Portland, OR on a short weekend trip in March, "llien" decided to make the drive out on an early Sunday morning in order to beat the crowd so that he and his wife could enjoy the falls all to themselves.

Submitted May 20, 2010 to Your Scene -- Los Angeles Times, by "llien"

"You can get back to the place but not the time"

America's iconic buffalo, some say, have made a comeback. But with more than 400,000 bison in mainly fenced, commercial herds in the U.S. and Canada, they are not the free-roaming breed of yore. But today, an attempt is underway to relaunch wild herds on public and tribal lands in Utah, Colorado and South Dakota.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"It's never too late"

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — It's never too late to earn your college degree. Just ask 94-year-old Hazel Soares.

The San Leandro woman was one of about 500 students to pick up diplomas Saturday during a commencement ceremony at Mills College, an Oakland liberal arts college for women that also offers coed graduate programs.

"It's taken me quite a long time because I've had a busy life," said Soares. "I'm finally achieving it, and it makes me feel really good."

Soares, who has six children and 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is believed to be the world's second oldest person to graduate from college.

Sierra Club Seeks Legislation for Mountain Preservation

Hikers follow a trail near the middle fork of Lytle Creek in the Cucamonga Wilderness. "Our aim with this legislative proposal is to protect the one-third of the Angeles National Forest that is still unspoiled open space," said John Monsen, regional representative of the Sierra Club. "The trick is to get it introduced in time for this Congress to vote on it. If it is delayed another year, there is no telling what will happen."

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

"The Fork in the Road"

If there’s a place in Pasadena where two roads diverge and is easily accessible to the public, Bob Stane would like to stick a fork in it.

The 18-foot fork has stood at South St. John and Pasadena avenues since Halloween, when Stane’s friends erected it as a surprise for his 75th birthday. The unusual monument caused a stir with residents and city officials overwhelmingly in favor of the tongue-in-cheek art.

The fork is rooted in land owned by Caltrans and leased to Pasadena strictly for landscaping use, Caltrans spokeswoman Maria Raptis said. In November, Caltrans agreed to allow the fork to stay for six months. Although that deadline has passed, Raptis said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard recently sent a letter to a Caltrans director asking that the fork be allowed to stay. A discussion on the fork’s location is forthcoming, she said.

But Stane, who co-owns an Altadena coffee gallery and showroom with the fork’s creator, Ken Marshall, said he spoke to a Caltrans official who gave him until the first week of June to find a new plot for the fork.

“They think it’s dangerous, that it might fall over, and they’re afraid people will run across the street to be photographed with the fork and be run over,” Stane said.

Stane has spent the last month scouting places where the fork could be relocated. He envisions a spot where it can serve as a landmark for large crowds. Although Stane and his friends once hosted a canned food drive at the fork, a planned Valentine's Day celebration was canceled by the city due to possible traffic issues.

Stane's ideal location? “Where Colorado Boulevard hits Orange Grove. It’s got a great big lawn, and that’s where the Rose Parade starts. It would be great if the parade came and turned right at the fork on the road.”

-- Corina Knoll (Photo: "The Fork in the Road," at South Pasadena and St. John avenues. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Doris Eaton Travis -- 1904-2010

Doris Eaton Travis became the youngest Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl when she was hired at age 14. She became a principal dancer in 1920.

Doris Eaton Travis, the last of the legendary Ziegfeld Follies chorus girls who wore elaborate costumes for the series of lavish Broadway theatrical productions in the early 1900s, died Tuesday. She was 106.

"a gentle greenbelt"

The freeway is jammed, traffic is crawling and motorists are steamed. On top of all that, they want a 100-acre park.

That describes the plan to roof-over a half-mile stretch of the Hollywood Freeway in downtown Los Angeles and turn it into a gentle greenbelt.

The idea of a $700-million "cap" covering the freeway between Hope and Alameda streets in the Civic Center area is the latest in a series of proposals to convert airspace above local freeways into public parkland.

"Legends of Hollywood Stamp Series"

WASHINGTON (AP) — Katharine Hepburn, star of such classic movies as "African Queen" and "Little Women," took her place on a U.S. postage stamp Wednesday.

The 44-cent stamp was dedicated in ceremonies in Old Saybrook, Conn., and is on sale nationwide.

The red-haired actress becomes the 16th star to be honored on the U.S. Postal Service's Legends of Hollywood stamp series.

During her long career Hepburn won four Academy Awards, the first for her performance in "Morning Glory" in 1933.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Photographs of the American West"

Michael Light’s astonishing photographs of the American West, at Craig Krull, are neither fairy tales of untouched splendor nor horror stories of desecration. They are both at once — vast, aerial views of marvels and mistakes, often within the same frame. While the images could easily be enlisted to support any number of environmental causes, they are not arguments in themselves. They don’t clamor or plead. They show, as Light puts it, “What We Do,” as humans, as Americans.

Above: Michael Light's photograph of Barneys Canyon gold mine in Utah (2006).

"Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music"

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne (June 30, 1917 – May 9, 2010) was an American singer, actress and dancer.

Horne joined the mike chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of sixteen and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood where she had small parts in numerous movies, and more substantial parts in the films Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather. Due to the Red Scare and her progressive political views, Horne found herself blacklisted and unable to get work in Hollywood.

Returning to her roots as a nightclub performer, Horne took part in the March on Washington in August 1963, and continued to work as a performer, both in nightclubs as well as television, and releasing well received albums. Horne announced her retirement in March 1980, but the next year starred in a one woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which ran for more than three hundred performances on Broadway, and earned her numerous awards and accolades, and she would continue recording and performing sporadically into the 1990's.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Celebrating the "Jumping Frog"

This year marks the centennial of Mark Twain's death, and the Calaveras County Angels Camp Museum has a new display celebrating the author.

"Active Volcano 'Concepcion' is Deceptive"

LOOMING: Volcan Concepcion, viewed from smaller volcano Maderas on the Nicaraguan island of Ometepe, hasn't erupted in 50 years but is capable of "ash burps." It rises 5,280 feet up from Lake Nicaragua.

(Megan Kimble)

"Valley of Fire State Park"

Dramatically sculpted, chiseled and twisted red rock formations dominate the 35,000 acres of Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Here, Elephant Rock greets the sunrise.

(Dan Blackburn / For The Los Angeles Times)

"fabled luxury"

Outside, it's just another building in an Oxnard office park — though it's the only one flying the flags of the U.S. and France.

Inside, it's an homage to automotive luxury, an assemblage of French Art Deco cars of the 1930s and 1940s with such fabled names as Hispano-Suiza, Delahaye and Delage. Shown above is a 1939 Delahaye Type 165 Cabriolet.

They are the kind of cars that cost small fortunes and inspire great passions. As the British actor and bon vivant Peter Ustinov put it: "One, of course, drives an Alfa Romeo and one is driven in a Rolls-Royce, but one gives only a Delage to one's favorite mistress."

In the building once used by the late Times publisher Otis Chandler for his collection of muscle cars and hunting trophies, a Los Angeles philanthropist named Peter Mullin is offering jaw-dropping views — by appointment only, at — of French luxury cars and furnishings of a certain age.

Opened last month, the Mullin Automotive Museum displays more than 100 rare vehicles, mostly with bodies custom-made by French carriage builders.

"his greatest achievement"

Lang regarded "M," which opened in 1931, just two years before he fled Nazi Germany for a long if less storied Hollywood career, as his greatest achievement. Judging by its regular placement on all-time-best lists, many critics concur.

"M," which systematically tracks the separate quests of the police and the underworld to catch a child killer who's terrorizing Weimar-era Berlin, was among the first titles released in the late '90s by the Criterion Collection, which issued an upgraded version with a digitally restored transfer in a fine two-disc set in 2004; this week Critierion is making the film available on high-definition Blu-ray.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

" A True International Hero"

The ultimate humanitarian, model diplomat, star of the UN. Those are just a few of the ways one might describe Sergio Vieira de Mello.

A Brazilian diplomat, Vieira de Mello dedicated his life to the United Nations system, accepting field assignments in the most dangerous, conflict-ridden places on earth. He quickly became known as a brilliant mediator, intent on listening to and considering all sides of any argument. Assignments in Bangladesh, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru, Lebanon, Kosovo and East Timor (to name just a few) gave Vieira de Mello the opportunity to demonstrate his skills, winning him widespread respect among fellow humanitarians, world leaders and the people he served.

An upcoming HBO documentary, Sergio (based on the biography by Samantha Power), gives us a peek into Vieira de Mello's life. Through interviews and powerful video footage, it also depicts his devastating death in Iraq, which followed the explosion of a truck bomb that caused the collapse of the UN headquarters in Baghdad where he was stationed.

"Storied" History

Castle Clinton National Monument/earlier New York Aquarium (1896-1941)/earlier Emigrant Landing Depot (1855-1890)/earlier Castle Garden (1824-1855)/originally West Battery (1808-1811, renamed Castle Clinton, 1815). Lt. Col. Jonathan Williams and John McComb, Jr. Open to the public: 7-5 daily. 212-344-7220.

Until recently, one of the most vitally involved structures in the city's life and history. Built as West Battery for the War of 1812 to complement Castle Williams across the waters on Governors Island (it never fired a shot in anger), it was originally an island fortification some 300 feet offshore, connected to Manhattan by a combination causeway bridge. Twelve years after the war it was ceded to the city. As a civic monument it served for the reception of distinguished visitors at the very edge of the nation (General Lafayette, Louis Kossuth, President Jackson, Prince Albert). Remodeled as a concert hall and renamed Castle Garden, it enjoyed a moment of supreme glory in 1850 as the site of the P.T. Barnum-promoted American debut of the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind. Only five years later it was transformed into the Emigrant Landing Depot, run by N.Y. State, where some 7.7 million new Americans were processed. Scandal led to its closure, and the processing of immigrants was transferred to federal control, at the Barge Office in 1890 and at Ellis Island in 1892. Changed by McKim, Mead & White, it became the New York Aquarium until 1941.

It was doomed by Robert Moses' call for its demolition to build approaches for his ill-fated harbor bridge to Brooklyn -- today's Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. A loud civic clamor and the reported intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt miraculously saved it though it languished inside a construction fence for decades. In 1946 the ruin was named a National Historic Monument. In 1986 it became a ticket office for the boats to National Park service attractions in the harbor.

"After the Rain"

Seal Beach After the Rain

Best of Your Scene, Los Angeles Times: January 2010 by DavidK

Ushuaia, Argentina

Sunrise over Beagle Channel - Tierra del Fuego.

Best of Your Scene, Los Angeles Times: March 2010 by Eric @ LA

Submitted March 28, 2010

The Treasures of Disneyland

Rivers of America, drained in January, is expected to be refilled this week. In its bed were found hundreds of cellphones, countless pacifiers and half a canoe.

(Paul Hiffmeyer, Los Angeles Times / April 20, 2009)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"From Silent to Sound"

Everyone knows that silent films gave way to sound ones, but that transition didn't happen at the snap of a finger. For a few years, studios produced both silent and sound versions of the same feature. This UCLA Film & Television Archive program recently provided the unprecedented opportunity to see the surprisingly dissimilar sound and silent versions of the 1930 circus melodrama "Rain or Shine," both directed by Frank Capra. The different choices Capra made in the two mediums couldn't be more fascinating.

Adorable Lion Cubs Remain Nameless

The triplet African lions born at WCS’s Bronx Zoo earlier this year, and romping around in the spotlight for the first time just last week, still need names. Their mom Sukari and father M’wasi (or rather, their handlers) have turned to the Daily News for help, and the paper has asked readers to submit names. Now they report back saying it's turned into a battle between boroughs. Some want the names to be Bronx-based, one man suggesting, "Belmont for the male, Morrisania and Melrose for da goils!" Others are simply suggesting their favorite boroughs, with names like: Brook-Lyn, Bronxie and Queenie.

The paper is milking this for a while, with voting not taking place until May 16th. This leaves these little ones without names for weeks more to come! So what should we call them in the meantime?

The "Jaws House"

Ken Kesey told us that “Some things are true, even if they never really happen.” What if a woman was never killed in a house that looks like it might gobble you up if you’re not careful? What if that crime felt true? Then where are you? Well, the answer is, of course, Los Angeles.

The Sowden House was built in 1926, for artist and photographer, John Sowden. He wanted a startling space with a large central courtyard where he could stage plays and parties for Hollywood’s elite. He hired his friend, Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) to design it. Lloyd worked as construction manager (and occasional designer) for his father’s three Los Angeles projects. Like those homes, Lloyd used textile block construction. He arranged these blocks into crests, transforming the house into a Mayan Temple. Its jagged peaks lead to its nickname, the Jaws House (as it looks like the gaping maw of a great white shark.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Latest in Eco Technology"

The Chinese Pavilion, Expo 2010 Shanghai China
Eco Factor: Sustainable pavilion designed for the Shanghai World Expo 2010 harvests solar energy and rainwater.

The Shanghai World Expo 2010 has a reputation of being a window to the future and designers are leaving no stone unturned to develop hi-tech pavilions that mostly use green technologies that the world is in need of today. Atelier Feichang Jianzhu has come up with the plan for the Shanghai Corporate Pavilion for the World Expo 2010, which aspires to mesmerize visitors with the latest in eco technology.

That Was Then and This is Now

The 2009 Charlie Saikley Six-Man Volleyball Tournament. Photo by John Post

The 1979 Charlie Saikley Six-Man Volleyball Tournament. Photo by Robi Hutas

"The Lost Reels of Pancho Villa"

The Vietnam conflict has been called the first television war, beaming visions of battlefield carnage directly into America's living rooms. But the first cinematic war likely was the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1920, a multiphased, internecine conflict that left at least 1 million people dead. And its biggest "star" was Pancho Villa, the daring, strategically brilliant leader of the guerrilla army that helped seize control of the country's northern and border territories for the rebels.

The curious symbiosis between the former outlaw-turned-commander and the fledgling U.S. film industry lies at the center of Gregorio Rocha's unconventional, first-person documentary "The Lost Reels of Pancho Villa." The 49-minute film was screened Monday at REDCAT, along with "La vengaza de Pancho Villa" (The Vengeance of Pancho Villa), a black-and-white quasi-documentary made in the 1930s by Edmundo and Felix Padilla, a father-son team of Mexican filmmaker-exhibitors.

A New Face for an Old Friend

The Tropicana Las Vegas is getting a $165-million makeover that will transform the landmark hotel and casino, which opened in 1957, from a Vegas antique into a Latin vixen. By April 2011, the Tropicana will have a new facade, new rooms and suites and reimagined restaurants and bars designed to evoke the glamour, rhythm and style of South Beach, Fla., with just a dash of Havana. Beyond a new décor (look for white marble on the casino floor and other main walkways), the casino will boast a new poker room and a new race and sports book. The rooms and suites will have warm sunset colors, bamboo furnishings and windows framed by white plantation shutters. The pool area, now closed, is scheduled to reopen next month as a tropical beach resort complete with gaming, bars and restaurants. Info: (888) 826-8767,

— Terry Gardner

His Last Battle

Sunday's episode of "The Pacific" — the eighth of the 10-part HBO miniseries — depicted the death of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone (played by Jon Seda) during the first day of fighting on Iwo Jima. William Lansford, a Marine and Angeleno, also fought that day in Iwo Jima and recalls his friendship with the famous Marine gunnery sergeant and his last day

In late 1944, after two years in the Pacific as a Marine with Carlson's Raiders, I rotated stateside and received a 30-day furlough. I was supposed to rest, visit my family and enjoy life among civilians, but none of it really worked.

Unable to adjust to the complexities of wartime civilian life, I lied to my parents, saying my leave was up, and boarded a bus for Camp Pendleton with a week left of my furlough.

In Pendleton I reported and was assigned to Company C, 27th Regiment of the newly formed 5th Division, but being early, I was told I'd find the area deserted. They were right. The new barracks stood empty, the bunks had no mattresses, the rifle racks were bare, the empty halls echoing.

Outside again, I was surprised to see a young Marine smiling at me. He wore khaki, with sergeant's stripes, and in no way resembled the muscular giant depicted in oils on a recent cover of Collier's magazine. Actually, he looked much like any other Marine, but what caught my eye was the tiny blue ribbon spangled with white stars pinned over his other ribbons. It was, unmistakably, the Congressional Medal of Honor and the smiling guy was John Basilone.

Serving with Basilone was a brief but golden period of the war for me. He never barked like the other gunnery sergeants but ruled like a wiser, older brother looking after his younger siblings, with humor and a style all his own. Under the hot California sun, with our faces stuck in the dust of Camp Pendleton, he could pick up a draggy machine gun drill with "Awright, ya goldbricks. Ya cut the time on settin' them guns up or don't expect no liberty come Friday!" And we did it because we knew he was the best machine gunner in the Corps and we wanted to be like him.