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Monthly Archives: April 2017

Reagan

A slab of the Berlin Wall in the Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley, CA

About a year ago some good friends from California mentioned in a casual discussion the Reagan Library in Simi Valley: “It’s such a nice place and you guys should go there. And the drive down from there towards Malibu is spectacular” but in the same breath they said: “Oh, but probably you will not want to visit it because you voted for Obama”. It was so funny, at least for me, that one would exclude the other but I was not extremely surprised. We are as tribal as we can be, no matter that we consider ourselves way beyond that. This categorization reminded me several discussions I had in Las Vegas with a gentleman from Louisiana. A very polite and civil gentleman like many of his peers from the South, he was interested to have a chat because we were in the same industry, television, but also because I was from New York, a place where in the southerner conservative understanding live only rabid liberal, anarchist and maybe Communists. He never challenged me but he was always pointing to a different perspective in our visions that were never defined in the conversation whatsoever. But it should have been this way because I was from New York…He confessed at one point that he was part of the Tea Party, a flavor that myself I did not have a chance to encounter in New York so I started to ask him to explain various topics his group adhered to. My interest puzzled him and each and every time I asked him a question he stopped and asked if I was actually a closet Republican and I just wanted to jump the fence. The fact that I was not siding with neither of the parties, sitting comfortably on top of the fence, and I just wanted to understand each person’s perspective was unconceivable for him and he kept asking the same question each time when we met; I had to be part of a tribe, or not be at all.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech

For us who were born and grew up in Eastern Europe, Reagan represented a hero. I don’t know how I would have felt living here in regards to his social policies and I don’t want to speculate about it but his staunch approach toward our oppressive Soviet rulers was music to our ears. He was absolutely right chastising the Democrats’ weak position toward the Soviets and naming them “The Evil Empire”, with its popular culture connotation. I remember talking with my friends about his statement and being elated by his stance while living in Romania under the Communists. We thought that finally the US had a leader that was able to talk to the Soviets using their tone. But walking the library floors I was more impressed by listening to the speeches he made along his eight years of presidency, inspiring, hopeful and sometime joyful in spite of the dire situation the country was going through. After each and every speech I stopped and thought of its powerful message and its intricacies on the world stage. As Maureen Down was pointing in a recent piece in NY Times:…”…Reagan had one key quality that you [Trump] don’t have: He knew what he didn’t know…. President Reagan was confident enough to accept that he needed experts below, deftly maneuvering the strings…”. And you could tell from the way he spoke and was deftly communicated issues. What emanated in most of the speeches is cached in a statement that he made latter after he finished his presidency: “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears.”

What a great difference in speech, approach, attitude and mentality in comparison of what is going now in the White House.

Air Force One and Marine One, Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley, CA

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Shapes and murals in LA

The Broad, Los Angeles, CA

I guess it’s about 20 years since I was for the first time in Downtown LA. I remember that it was dull and dirty and full of homeless people, even way more than in New York at that time. Things were few and far between and you went there just because it existed and it hosted the Los Angeles Museum, LACMA, but not because you really had to walk through it. About 10 years ago I went again and the construction boom was taking its toll on the downtown, many of the beautiful old architecture building being renovated and converted in apartments. A lot of guys from Central America were working in all these buildings, terrified by the presence of my camera. The downtown was still not great, more open spaces converted in parking areas than buildings.

The new Eco Court House, Los Angeles, CA

However things started to change and amazing stuff happened meanwhile. Frank Gehry’s spectacular Disney Concert Hall is neighboring the honeycomb building of The Broad, a new museum of contemporary art. From the top of the City hall you can admire the sprawl of Los Angeles all the way to San Gabriel Mountains. The new Eco courthouse, inaugurated as I understood about 6 weeks ago is glittering in the Californian sun and on a side there are the new police building and the transportation buildings, all quite interesting architecturally. But still is a long way till the LA downtown would become a lively part of the city, a place where you don’t have to hike to find a coffee. But first they have to remove somehow the waste looking parking areas, like the one in front of the Disney Concert Hall. Till then you still can walk between Chinatown and Little Japan or admire Bradbury Building in which Ridley Scott shot “Blade Runner” that has in front a spectacular mural of Anthony Quinn dancing “zorba” dressed in a Victor suit.

Mural by Eloy Torrez

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

The art of Pasadena

Pasadena City Hall and Plaza de Fuentes

Somehow the past was removed from Pasadena. Even its old town, cosmeticized and populated with the new labels that adorn all American shopping streets, has barely a trace of its old times. A town on the popular Route 66, Pasadena was the first to be encountered when you finally reached the sprawl of Los Angeles. The city is clean and proper, with a colonial style city hall but the most astonishing feature is an exquisite museum of art housing the collection of Simon Norton, the Hunts Food original owner. Its painting and sculpture collection is outstanding spanning from the old Italian masters of the 14th century to contemporary art and having an an entire level dedicated to South East Asian and Indian religious sculptures that adorn the entire floor; it is the largest collection of Indian bronze religious statues outside of India.

Simon Norton Museum, Pasadena, CA

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

A day on Route 66

Kingman, AZ

“It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.”…says the song.

The mules in Oatman, AZ

And we got our kicks going on Route 66 but started going from Vegas by Chloride, passing through Kingman, AZ and crossing the mountains on numerous switchbacks to the mule ridden town of Oatman, AZ. The town is preserved almost like a film decor, with mules roaming the street like the cows in India, cars and motorbikes gently avoiding them.

Oatman Hotel looking like in a western movie, but with bikes in front instead of horses

The Oatman Hotel is the classical western movie hotel, unchanged by times, the only one left out of the many that were aligning the town’s main street in its heyday of the gold rush era. Instead of horses, its front parking is filled by Harley Davidson ridden by bearded guys with the hair held by bandanas, all proud of their shiny metal horses.

The restaurant inside the Oatman Hotel covered in dollar bills inscribed with dedications

Oatman Hotel’s inside restaurant is completely covered in many layers of dollar bills, all written on with dedications from the people who visited. Dollar bills hangs from the ceiling, from each and every pole, doors, windows and if you want to add yours you just have to stick it on top of the others many bills. Quite an interesting perspective of a town that once was covered in the gold dust from the surrounding mines.

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande, CA on Route 66

From Oatman, the road goes through Needles, CA where some signs of the old Route 66 hotels are still standing and follows Interstate 40. But to our surprise, when the road takes a southern detour off the Interstate to Cadiz and Chambless and further to Amboy, it was blocked being declared impassable. We rode many times this stretch of the road and took pictures and shot video around the Chambless graffiti covered old gas station and of the Amboy’s Roy Dinner famous sign. So reluctantly we took the I-40 and tried repeatedly to get back on Route 66 but all accesses were blocked till we got in Ludlow, where its old motel is still standing and a sign was stating that the road is impassable 36 miles toward Arizona.

..and Elmer himself telling us the story of his ranch

But from Ludlow we were able to continue to LA on Route 66 getting our kicks through California windy stretch of the road, to Dagget, by Peggy Sue’s 50s dinner driving all the way toward Victorville and stopping at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch where we had the chance to chat and even record a conversation with Elmer who was just hanging out while his wife came home after doing some shopping. He told us that he started to collect bottles when he was six year old and kept hanging them creating this fabulously interesting exhibit. The trees are made of metal poles with welded metal rods to hold the bottles and their tops are decorated with various found object. Beside all, a rail road crossing sign, many gas stations pumps and an old Jeep add to its eeriness.

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

The “High Roller”

The view over Las Vegas from the High Roller

Inaugurated about three years ago, the High Roller, the Ferris wheel in Las Vegas is topping over the city giving one of its best perspective. At 550 feet, it is currently the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world.

The LINQ promenade, Las Vegas, NV

The wheel was also part of revamping an area that was left behind so its access is now peppered with all sort of Las Vegas classic joints of food, clothing and other entertainment. The tickets for the Ferris wheel were originally planned to cost less than $20 but probably construction budget overruns put it nowadays to a whooping $52 for a night ride that last about 30 minutes. There is a bar on some (or all?) of the wheel’s cabins to keep Vegas spirit alive but for the moment no slots were installed…..

The LINQ promenade, Las Vegas, NV

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Our dream of flying

Flying in VR at NAB in Las Vegas

I think that was a curse that confined the humanity to be stuck to the ground. In our dreams we always want to get light and fly over or away from our muddy surroundings. But if we could not do it for real, or with some kind of Ikarus type contraptions, for sure we can do it virtually as this guy does in this image flying through high-rises over Manhattan. Each year at the NAB, the TV broadcaster show in Vegas, is an emphasis on one technology and this year it looks that almost everybody wants to talk or do Virtual Reality or VR.

Would you really wear this?

Either there are compact devices with all cameras incorporated or sets of cameras that are mounted on somebody’s head or a simple gizmo that is connected to your iPhone, everybody is into the VR business. Fad or not, the technology is cool, way better than the 3D that was monopolizing the convention floor several years ago. The fact that you would ever come home and get your contraption on your head to the see the news in VR is another question. Meanwhile wherever you go on the convention floor you bump into people with goggles on their heads looking at a immersive video.

The main pass time in NAB: watching VR…

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Angel’s Landing

The lower ascent to Angel’s landing, Walters Wiggles, Zion National Park, UT

Zion hints to the vision of a promised land. And this meant for the Mormons who arrived here after the exhausting march of Brigham Young and the members of Church of Latter Day Saints fleeing persecution in Illinois, first in the Salt Lake Valley and further in south-eastern part of Utah. Zion represented for them the promised land, the place of peace and understanding where they can live happily and prosper. And not surprising the name of the park was coined by one of the first settlers, Isaac Behunin, who had a cabin around the area.
The area became a National Monument in the beginning of the 20th century and renamed as Zion National Park latter on.

The last hour of the Angel’s Landing climb is all about the chains

The peaks surrounding the canyon are most spectacular, inviting for exploration.
Angel’s Landing is one of them, becoming somehow the most popular hike in the park. It stands so singular and tall inside the canyon that it was assumed that only angels can land on its top.
Its popularity increased substantially since I last climbed it, when I was surrounded by just a dozen people. When we went today for the climb, the access road to the peak was mobbed and the entire route all the way to the top looked like a busy boulevard absolutely packed with people. Its first part, named Walters Wiggles, is a set of switchbacks that lead to the last half mile hike that is eased by the chains nailed to the mountain. It is rated as a difficult hike, for experienced climbers, but the reality is far from it: in many places in the world this would be considered a regular hike where you have just to pay attention. But considering the number of people and especially kids who try to climb it and gave up on the way, as we noticed, maybe its dangerous flag is a good caution. The view from the top where the angel landed is spectacular but just be careful when you go down….

Finally on top, Zion National Park, UT

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Blog, USA