Sunday, September 10, 2017

Outlander - the TV series

The Missus is a devotee of the "Outlander" book series.  She has read each and every one and reveled in the kilt and heaving bosom plot lines.  When Starz started showing the video version of the books, she turned up her nose at it when she viewed a preview.  "That is no Jamie" she sniffed about the leading kilt-man.

The other day I realized that the first episode is available on the On-Demand app on our cable system and best of all, it is free so we watched it.

I thought it was all right and the Missus enjoyed it but no Starz channel for us.  Los Angeles County library to the rescue!   They have both season 1 and season 2 on DVD so we now have the first 6 episodes waiting to be watched.

(None of this is going to make any sense to those who don't have a passing familiarity with the story line)

In the show, the husband of Claire in 1945  (Frank) seems to be a decent chap:  loving, drives a cute MG convertible, adores his wife, served in the Army during the war (as did Claire).  His failings?  Well he is a history professor so he loves to research the past and explore old ruins.  If he isn't careful, he'll become an old ruin himself someday.  Claire seems to be hoping for something more exciting in a man.

And, when visiting Scotland what do you know but she is transported through time to 1743 Scotland!  Where she meets men in kilts!  Brawny men with muscles!  And claymores!  And have Scots accents!   And, she is rescued by a young brawny man with muscles who is wearing a kilt and wielding a claymore in her defense.

Pretty much everything husband Frank up in 1947 isn't.   I saw once again that the cut goes between exciting and dependable.    Women say they want dependable but they desire exciting.  

It can be tough being the dependable one.  Hang in there Frank, she'll come back to you eventually.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Walkin' in L.A.

This story actually started a couple of years ago when the Missus won a walking tour of Los Angeles at a silent auction fundraiser for a local repertory theater (now sadly defunct).  We all know that 'no one walks in L.A.', at least according to the song but we and 12 of our friends were eligible for a guided 4 hour walking tour of downtown Los Angeles.

Actually, it was a compact section of downtown, because downtown L.A. is pretty darn big.  What we we were to see were historic buildings, many of them now re-purposed into office buildings and lofts.

The amount of construction and renovation going on in the downtown area was amazing.  Energetic young people are swarming to downtown L.A. and bringing their money with them.  It is great to see the city coming back to life.

We saw many structures but I only photographed a few that I hadn't documented previously.

Our group (9 was all we could round up) met in at Pershing Square on a beautiful Saturday in May with our guide and we set off.



Our intrepid group getting the low-down from our tour guide before we set off

The Subway building, now an office building.  Not the Red Line, but a previous subway that ran trolleys underground into downtown.  This was the terminus in downtown

The guide said that the terminal was mobbed during WW2, the height of its popularity



One of the street level windows in the terminal showing a trolley and passengers

A trolley entering the tunnel outside of downtown L.A.

Here is an excellent write up on the original subway and the interior which we didn't get to see:



We found this Fiat 500 behind the Bradbury building.  Since Young Son is a proud owner of a red Fiat 500 Turbo Sport, we needed his picture with this version.  How anyone could fit in that car is a mystery...


Pretty much the whole day we were downtown this CH54 Skycrane was hard at work lifting things to the top of a building.  It was quite loud and echoed a lot.

The former headquarters of SoCal Edison.  Lots of marble and art, all in a cool, hushed setting

http://wikimapia.org/8654533/One-Bunker-Hill-Southern-California-Edison-Building

A mural of water being brought to the city (I think)

The central library, always a favorite of mine.  I love the quote

Politically incorrect murals involving the founding of California and Los Angeles.  I imagine it won't be long before they are shrouded or taken down all together.  The library and the murals are a treat and should be seen





After our tour ended we headed to Clifton's a fixture in Los Angeles for decades and decades.

Clifton's has to be experienced at least once when living or visiting Los Angeles:



the building has three levels of tables available with the food served on the ground floor.  It was mobbed at lunch time but emptied out by 1 p.m.

The second floor


Amazingly life-life taxidermy on display!




We finished our giant lunch and headed back to Pershing square, foot-sore but happy.  It was a great walking tour and highly recommended.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Grouch goes flying! Part III


After my flight in the T-6 was done Young Daughter treated me to viewing some other warbirds from a competing group known as the Collings Foundation.  Their planes arrived the same weekend as the CAF's B-29 and let me tell you, the CAF boys were not happy about it.  They explained to me that the Collings foundation is much better funded than the CAF and having them show up at the same time as 'Fifi' was pulling potential revenue away from the CAF's efforts.  I was told that they lose over $100k a year flying Fifi based on revenue for rides v. operating costs.

Young Daughter and I were able to view many planes and actually climb aboard the B-24 and B-17.

The B-24 holds a place in my heart because my father was a Norden bombsight tech during WW2 and although fortunately never leaving the U.S. flew frequently in bombers as part of his technical duties.  I had a picture one time of a B-24D that he flew in.  He told a tale of causing a B-24 to sit back on its tail when he walked to the back while it was sitting on the ground.  Since the plane was empty his weight was enough to tip it back!

the B-24 never received the publicity that its competitor the B-17 received.  The B-17 crews called the '24 'the crate the B-17 was shipped in' due to its plain looks.  It lacked the ruggedness of the '17 but it could fly further, faster, than its more glamorous competitor.  It excelled at long distance missions over the Pacific and the Atlantic patrolling for submarines and surface ships.

Actor James Stewart flew more than a dozen missions as a pilot of a B-24 over Germany and suffered from PTSD for the balance of his life.  He went on to become a Brigadier General in the USAF reserve, finishing his career with at least one B-52 mission of North Vietnam.  That is when Hollywood stars were real men!

A truck salesman that I knew when I worked in Chicago was a flight engineer in a '24 near the end of WW2. Because the fuel tanks leaked on the plane when descending to land, the bomb bays (which rolled up like garage doors) were opened first to vent the plane of the gas fumes.  His job was to go back on the narrow walkway to inspect that all was copacetic before they started the landing.  He wore no parachute as there was no room to squeeze through the confines of the plane.   As he stood on the catwalk the plane lurched and his foot slipped and he was left hanging on dangling over the abyss.  He managed to pull himself back up and in and reported back to the pilot that all was good.  The pilot snarled at him 'G-damn it, what took you so long'?!



A beautiful P-51 painted as one of the 50s Air Guard Mustangs.  It was configured with a second seat where the fuselage fuel tank would be to give a lucky person a ride.

B-25, another WW2 fav of mine.  I've liked them since I saw the movie "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" as a kid.  Great flying scenes.  The '25 was a workhorse of North Africa, Italy, and the Pacific.


The B-24.  A later model than the one my father flew in, this one has a power nose turret which forced the bombardier to crawl under the turret to use the bomb-sight.  Later in the war, the use of the bomb-sight was abandoned and all planes in the formation dropped their bombs when the lead ship did.  There was no accuracy and massive civilian casualties resulted.

Oxygen tanks for the crew, looking forward to the flight deck.

Young Daughter contemplating the belly ball turret.  At 5'4" she didn't think she would be able to fit in it.

The waist gun view of the B-17





Here's that catwalk I mentioned!
The flight deck and flight engineer's position when not manning the top turret.


the B-17.  I used to watch these planes weekly in the TV show, "12 O'Clock High".  A childhood friend's father was a bombardier for  a '17, was shot down over Germany and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.  To me, he was just my friend's dad.

The Bombardier position in a '17 was a lot more spacious than in the later B-24s.  Not much protection from German fighters making their favorite head-on attack except a single .50 gun in the nose.  Another gun is positioned on each side of the nose to deal with passing fighters.  I wonder how many friendly planes in the formation took hits from other U.S. planes in the excitement and fear of leading a German fighter hurling through the formation?

The loneliest positions in a bomber.  In a previous job I met a fellow employee who had been a tail gunner in a B-52D during the Christmas raids over North Vietnam.  25 years later he still spoke in hushed tones of seeing B-52s on fire dropping from the formation.  Another 'greatest generation' but sadly much under appreciated.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Movie Review: "Their Finest"

We've been wanting to see the new movie "Dunkirk" that is getting outstanding reviews.  Young Son saw it and gave it four stars.  We hoped to see it last night, but as usual my 12 hour a day job (I love my job!) prevented me from getting home in time to see it.

Instead we rented "Their Finest" a British comedy from 2016 about the making of a propaganda movie about Dunkirk (see the connection?) that against all odds, turns into a touching story of heroism and love about Dunkirk - and the movie is too.

The heroism is demonstrated by the unstoppable Mrs. Cole who powers through the male dominated movie making biz and the bureaucratic obstacles of the Ministry of Propaganda to help write the successful script for the movie.



It was a funny movie in a sophisticated way with a nice developing love story, some pathos, and a triumph.  I loved the Welsh accent of Catrin Cole being someone who is courious about the origins of peoples's accents.  I had seen this movie advertised on PBS during the series "Home Fires" where another woman had the same accent which I couldn't identify.   Mystery solved.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/their_finest_2017




We enjoyed it and I recommend it.  It was a fun night of movie watching but we still need to see "Dunkirk".   If nothing else, I'd like to see how it compares with the 1958 version that I saw on late-night TV many years ago.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Grouch Goes Flying! Part II

Before the T-6 ride I had the opportunity to see Fifi, one of two flying B-29 bombers in the world today.  It flew in for rides to those lucky enough to have the dough for a hop in this great aircraft.  the other B-29 known as 'Doc' was also recovered from China Lake.  Both had survived decades as targets for aerial bombing, neither having been hit in all that time.  I'd like to think that the Navy pilots intentionally missed the planes.

My friends and I visited 'Doc' in Inyokern many years ago when it had just been dragged through the desert from China Lake, prior to its restoration.  It is great to have two of these aircraft flying again!




Fifi waiting for the next group of eager passengers

This person must have enjoyed the ride!






The Missus was getting some walking in while waiting for Young Daughter to show up for my T-6 hop.  I'm being confident of my masculinity and watching her purse while she went for a walk.

Starting the engines is quite a production!

Also giving rides was this C-45, a variant of the AT-11 that my Dad flew in when testing Norden bombsights.  He talked fondly of the plane.   The day that he died a C-45 flew low over me as I walked in the mountains.  I like to think it was his spirit winging his way to heaven and to my Mom and Sister.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

the Grouch goes flying! Part I

Over a year ago the Missus and Grouch kids banded together to buy me a rear seat ride in a P-51 Mustang WW2 fighter for my 62nd birthday.  I was so excited and greatful!

I called the airfield to arrange the ride only to find out the engine had crapped out on the plane.  I was told it was going to be a couple of months before the plane would be ready for flight.   A couple of months turned into a year and it still wasn't ready.  I wanted to take a ride before fate intervened in some manner and I missed out on a ride altogher so I opted for plan B:  A ride in a T-6 Texan WW2 advanced trainer.


We see T-6s overhead at Grouch estates frequently.  There are some that fly out of Van Nuys and others come from airfields around Los Angeles.  It is a popular warbird with so many made during WW2 and so many surviving to this day.  Some T-6s flew in military service outside the U.S. until the 80s.  South Africa flew large numbers as advanced pilot trainers until then and may have been the last government to do so.

SAAF high-jinks in a T-6, 1964


I picked my birthday weekend as the time for my ride.  It happened to correspond with the arrival of one of two operable B-29s 'Fifi', as well as a host of other WW2 aircraft.  I was in heaven!

I met my pilot who is a corporate pilot in his day job and flies for the CAF - Camarillo on the weekends.  A great guy, full of personality and fun stories.  

It was time for the ride!

During the ride the pilot let me do some gentle turns.  He rolled the plane twice and then we did some low level flying along a ridge.  What a blast!


'My' T-6 waiting for me with Fifi taxing past


Meeting the pilot

Getting in wasn't easy.  Imagine getting in with a flying suit and seat parachute dangling beneath your butt!

The pilot telling me not to jump out of the airplane if the engine quits.  


Ready to go!

Wheels up

Time to come back

I had a blast!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mr. and Mrs. Grouch Head South Part V

All right then!  Picking up where I left off a couple months ago, the last day of our time in the Palm Springs area saw us visiting an earthquake fault and doing a bit of late afternoon off-roading.

We visited a park near the city that covers an earthquake fault that traps and channels water in a very dry landscape.  Because of this, giant palms have crowded into the two areas where the water pools.

At the park entrance, a vintage home with furnishings serves as the park office.  A path loops from the first oasis to the second, where fish can be seen in the pond.  




The video is from someone who visited the area in 2010 but it seems to still be the same in 2017 when we visited.



The giant palms at the first oasis




A nice bridge over the first pond


The palm oasis and the terrain between.


At the second oasis and pond


Actual fish!


Now for some off-roading!




We finished our day with off roading into the evening and then headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for the long drive back to Los Angeles.  Another successful trip!