Monday, February 8, 2016

Some more Pink Martini

I have been a fan of the eclectic music group "Pink Martini" for many years.  Two years ago the Missus and I saw them on New Year's eve at the Disney Concert hall.  What a show!

This Christmas the Missus surprised me with tickets to see them right in our own happy little valley!  We went tonight and were treated to yet another wonderful show.  They sang a song or two that we heard at their previous concert but also many that were new to us.  The crowd loved them and gave them a standing ovation.

I particularly liked this song, a Croatian tune as sung by them at a previous performance.   If  possible, I think they did an even better job at our performance.

If you ever have the chance to see Pink Martini in concert, don't pass it up.  You are guaranteed a fun and enchanting show.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The S.S. United States - Saved!

I have a love for classic passenger ships.  Perhaps it is the era that they existed in that I am in love with but the beauty and gracefulness of the liners of the day are enthralling.

Some years ago I was flying into Philadelphia when the plane flew low over the river on its approach to land and we passed over a classic liner tied at a dock and also a derelict looking Navy cruiser.  I had to find them!

The liner turned out to be the S.S. United States.  The cruiser was the U.S.S. Des Moines docked at the Navy yard.  It has since been scrapped but the United States remains.

I managed to find my way to the area where the ship is docked.  Although I couldn't get to the liner I could see much of it from outside the fence.  The grand old ship was looking very sad.

The S.S. United States is the fastest liner ever built.  In an era where crossing the ocean quickly was the goal, the United States stood out, crossing from New York to Southampton in 3 days.  The government participated in funding the construction of the ship, looking to use it as a troop ship in a future war.  It never served but benefited significantly from the government funding.  The hull design and engines were a national security secret.

I read a fascinating book about the naval architect who designed the ship.  The book "A Man and his Ship"  is a great read about the era and the people who lived it.  I highly recommend it.

The liner was a victim of declining passenger volume as airliners carried people across the ocean in less than a day.  The ship was tied up and the interior fitting auctioned off.  Later it was gutted in preparation for conversion to a cruise ship but the plan fell through. Later  Norwegian Cruise lines purchased it with the intent to rebuild it but 9/11 put an end to those plans.

Recently the ship was weeks away from having to be scrapped since the non profit foundation that owned it could no longer afford to maintain it.  Just this past week Crystal Harmony cruise lines announced that they were purchasing the ship to rehabilitate it into a luxury cruise ship.   I hope and wish this comes to pass although I am a bit skeptical.  60 plus years of salt water immersion must have thinned the shell plating by now but I do hope it comes to pass.  This living link to our past where one man's vision could come to pass through sheer force of personality needs to be once again sailing the seas.

The ship in its glory days
Sad and neglected in Philadelphia.  Hopefully it will be restored to its former glory!

The Grouch's visit Blade Runner (and other attractions)

So, through a series of events the Grouch family ended up with two free round trip tickets on Metrolink which were set to expire in a couple weeks.  

Young Son wanted to go to downtown Los Angeles to visit several places so we decided to make it a family event.

This past Saturday we headed to the local Metrolink stop to board the train to Los Angeles.  It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny.

Much to our surprise, the train was full to the point of standing room only.  The Missus and Young Son found seats and I managed to get a seat after a stop went by.  Our departure was delayed by a fight that was ongoing when the train arrived.  The young man was removed by the Sheriff's deputies and we were on our way.  Our train was full of 'unusual' people including one disheveled woman loudly proclaiming her Belize citizenship and denying  that she was 'from' the U.S.

We arrived at Union station where we were merged with the mob of folks departing from our train and others.  Another loud confrontation was playing out between two train passengers as we headed out to the street.  I must say that I am not germ-phobic but I had an intense desire to disinfect myself after traveling the length of the pedestrian tunnel and through the terminal to the outside.

Our itinerary included two Japanese anime shops in Little Tokyo, the Bradbury building as seen in "Blade Runner" (possibly young son's favorite SF movie of all time), Angel's flight, and of course lunch (my favorite).

The trip back on the train was much more pleasant and conflict free.  We were treated to a bridal party being photographed in the terminal while we were waiting for our train to board.  The reception was being set up in the old ticket area of the terminal.  The bride and groom were young and happy and everyone looked to be having a grand time. 

The city was showing at its best that day.  Clean, sunny, friendly, and warm, even the bums and panhandlers seemed to be enjoying the sun and warmth.

The Missus knitting and waiting for the train to arrive at the start of our journey.  Little did we know the excitement that waited for us on the train!

At Union station and ready to start our day's adventure

The Missus waits patiently for Young Son to finish his browsing at the anime shop

A comparison of the movie locations in the film and in reality from Blade Runner

Here we are at the Bradbury

I remember an elevator like this in the old building that my mother took me to for doctor's appointments somewhere in Pittsburgh in my youth

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Young Son reads all about it

The Million Dollar theater across from the Bradbury building and seen in the movie

Some of the detail on the building front

The locally famous Angel's flight, a baby version of Pittsburgh's inclines.  No longer in use after several accidents in the past.

The Missus starts up the 150 or so steps to the top

Made it!

Filming activity - we saw a Mission Impossible movie being filmed nearby some years ago.  No idea if Tom Cruise was present or not

The happy visitors with City hall behind

All done and headed home!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


The final episode of "Galavant" was on this past weekend.  This delightfully wacky musical comedy half hour show reminds me of a fractured Disney fairy tale as redone by the Coen brothers.  The signing and writing is top notch and the send up of all of the standards of fairy tales is laugh out loud worthy.

The show was almost canceled after the first season but somehow managed to make it back for season two which sadly just finished but ended with the hope and promise of yet another season.

Young son picked out many "Lord of the Rings" references in the final two episodes which he enjoyed seeing.

If you can catch this in reruns, do watch it!  Any show that features Weird Al Yankovic and Kylie Minogue has to be seen.

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Generation War"

I watched episode one of "Generation War" today on Netflicks.  It has been described as the German "Band of Brothers" but it is more than that, a combination of the home front and the fighting on the Russian front from the German perspective.  Five friends (two brothers in the Army, two girls, one an Army nurse, the other a singer and girlfriend to a Jewish man, and the Jewish boyfriend of the singer vow to meet again in the spring of 1941 in Berlin for Christmas.  As the Missus said, that probably won't happen.

A very realistic and powerful drama, poignant and sad.  Good thing there are only three episodes, I wouldn't be able to handle more.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The chimney is saved!

So, our fireplace and chimney has been on life support for at least 10 years if not longer.  It is of a curious construction, no longer done, of prefab concrete, molded to look like bricks, shipped from a factory in the Midwest, stood up like the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi, and toppled like ninepins in the Northridge earthquake - except at our humble house. It survived the earthquake but probably is when it picked up many of its cracks.  We have been told by successive chimney sweeps that the concrete is cracked and in danger of falling down, catching the house on fire, or both.
I had a chimney expert look at it about 3 years ago who told us that the design was fatally flawed and it needed to be torn down and a custom chimney/fireplace installed for about 20k.  I passed.

This fall the chimney sweep cleaned everything and told us to never use the fireplace again due to the cracks.  Nice to hear this after cleaning it and charging us a cool hundred for the job.

I refused to give up on the fireplace if for no other reason that the Air Quality board hates fireplaces almost as much as the Attorney General hates firearms owners and dearly would like all fireplaces blocked off.  These days new homes aren't even allowed to be built with wood burning fireplaces.  Well phooey on you both!  I started calling around and found a local guy who said that he could indeed save our fireplace and chimney for only $4,000.

The chimney is receiving a stainless steel heat pipe surrounded by heat proof concrete to stiffen the chimney and seal the cracks.  The flapper thingy is being relocated to the top of the chimney and the 'firebox' is being coated with the same fireproof concrete.  The crew was busily working on it all day today and I got to peer up the chimney while laying on my back next to the crew chief Michael who explained how it was all working.  I wondered how Santa ever fit down such a small opening.  Micheal looked like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, all soot and grinning teeth.

Tomorrow it is to be finished and then a 10 day wait for the concrete to cure after which will be our first wood fire in  the newly done fireplace!  Once again I've stuck my thumb in the eye of officialdom here in the People's Republic of California.  Take that Mr. Air Quality Management District official!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Little Boy" the movie

Our church offered a showing of the movie "Little Boy" this past Friday.  To entice attendees they offered free popcorn and candy to the audience.  Say no more, we were there!

The Missus and I were skeptical about the film.  After all, it was being shown at the church.  What if it was religious and we had to discuss it afterwards?   We vowed to sneak out if it was too sappy.

It wasn't sappy, there wasn't a test afterwards, and I defy anyone, even the most cynical, to see this movie and not have tears in your eyes when it is over.  We were moved by it.  And, they got all of the WW2 American and Japanese uniforms, kit and weapons correct down to the Japanese hand grenades used in the combat scenes!

It was a great evening.  if you have the chance, see the movie, ignore the professional reviewers who hated the sentiment and message of the movie and prepare to be moved.