Thursday, June 26, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

East Room of the White House after redecoration by the Grant administration. The walls of the third floor were so heavy, and the room so vast and under-constructed, the ceiling was sagging. So big beams had to be added to reinforce the ceiling. (The floor sagged, too, when large crowds were present. So the staff would go down to the first floor and temporarily prop it up with poles until the party was over.)

The Grants wanted a more contemporary look, which fit their Midwestern/Mississippi River Valley tastes. The architects called this style "Pure Greek". Wags in the city called it "Steamboat Gothic".

It was all torn out in 1902 when Teddy Roosevelt re-did the room.

I wish I could fly. Then I could fly away from people who have no open minds, who would rather demonize me than discuss, and I coulnd't feel so beat up all the time.

I'm not posting much, because I've been doing research on the china owned by Abraham Lincoln.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's cute about a dog sleeping with its breakfast? I often cuddle my pancake mix or sausage links before ingesting them...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Here is More Tales of the City's Paul Hopkins and Billy Campbell. (Having seen Campbell in SFC's Helix, he seems hardly to have aged a day!)

I'm sorry Paul Hopkins's career hasn't taken off the way Billy Campbell's did. I think people unfairly compare him to Marcus D'Amico's "Mouse", and denigrate Hopkins as the "Darrin Stevens" of the Tales mini-series. Frankly, I thought Hopkins was better in the role, and terrific in Mambo Italiano.

Yes, it was just a walk-on in Mambo. That's the problem with much of his later career. He's an excellent actor and still good looking, but hasn't gotten any leading parts. That's what bugs me about Hopkins: He's clearly capable of doing far more.

A white dwarf star in the galaxy M82 has gone nova (or, at least, the 11.5 million-year-old light is just reaching us now). M82 is a starburst galaxy, which means it is relatively young and generating a large number of new stars. But white dwarfs are the remains of old stars, and there shouldn't be more than a handful of these in M82.

What's more, when a white dwarf begins feeding off a nearby neighbor, it can collect enough material on its surface to go supernova -- and that's just what has happened.

So don't look a gift nova in the face: Just enjoy this great astronomical event!
Go Gojira! Be happy.

Hunky Navy amnesiac Bill Williams picks up weary dime-a-dance girl Susan Hayward in the spectacular film noir from 1946, Deadline at Dawn.

Williams plays a naive kid from the sticks who is visiting New York City on a 24-hour pass before his ship leaves. This is the New York City of 1945, jammed with people, full of sailors and soldiers seeking quick sex and good times, and chock-a-block with sleaze and corruption. Williams wakes up at a newsstand, clutching a bunch of bananas and not really sure how he got there. The newsstand boy says he seemed to be really drunk, and had been badgering a fruit seller for those bananas. When he sat down, he passed out.

But there's a catch: Williams discovers $2,500 in cash in his pocket. How did it get there? Who was he with? He only dimly recalls the girl he met earlier that night, and where she lives. But he's woozy, frightened, not sure how to proceed. He starts to walk, and the crowd moves him along the street toward a dance hall. There, anyone can dance for five minutes with one of the girls, just a dime, just a dime... Williams goes inside, just to sit down and think for a bit.

Once inside, he sees dance-girl Hayward being harassed by a sweaty foreigner. The guy wears gloves, has a skin condition, won't stop pestering her... Williams buys her remaining tickets to save her. But like most dance-hall girls, she's been on her feet for almost 18 hours. She's weary, sad, alone, cynical... Almost foolishly, Williams tells her his story.

And then he makes the terrible admission: He might have committed murder earlier that night....

Now, with just six hours until he has to be back at his ship, Williams and Hayward are facing a deadline at dawn: Solve the mystery and clear his name, or get on that Navy ship -- in which case he's sure to be charged with murder.

Plus gratuitous sexy Bill Williams shot.

Unveiling of the General William Tecumseh Sherman Monument in Sherman Plaza, President's Park, Washington, D.C., in the United States in 1903.

Sherman died on February 14, 1891. Within days, the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, a veterans' group for those who served in the Army of the Tennessee, began planning a memorial to their late commander. On July 5, 1892, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the Sherman Monument.

The selection of an artist in 1896 to design the monument was highly controversial. Danish-American artist Carl Rohl-Smith won the competition based on the success of his statue of Benjamin Franklin, which was displayed in front of the apse of the Electricity Building at the 1893 World's Fair. During the monument's design phase, Rohl-Smith died, and his memorial was finished by a number of other sculptors.

Rohl-Smith designed the equestrian statue of Sherman so that it depicted him on the day he rode up Pennsylvania Avenue at the head of the Army of the Tennessee on May 24, 1865, to celebrate the end of the Civil War.

Four bas-relief panels adorn the sides of the monument: "The March Through Georgia"; "The Battle of Atlanta" (in the background, the XVIth Corps is shown repulsing the attack which saved the Army of the Tennessee from defeat, and a troop arrives to take the body of General James B. McPherson from the field of battle); "Sherman by the Campfire" (Colonel S. H. M. Byers said he often saw Sherman standing or walking by a campfire at night while his men slept); and "Missionary Ridge" (depicting the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863).

There are two major figure groups. The western group depicts "War" as an older woman who is tearing asunder her clothing, trampling on the body of a dead soldier while vultures perch around her feet. The eastern group depicts "Peace" as a young woman naked from the waist up. At her feet, a nude young girl tends a wounded young boy dressed in tattered pants, while a nude boy lies in the grass feeding a bird.

There are four figures at each corner of the monument. They represent the artillery, infantry, cavalry, and engineers.

Two hundred and four wooden pilings were driven into the ground to help support the monument. The pilings had to be sunk 35 feet lower than anticipated due to the existence of groundwater at the site.

The monument was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on October 15, 1903. The monument is located on the exact spot where Sherman, along with President Andrew Johnson and General Ulysses S. Grant, reviewed the Army of the Potomac on May 23, 1865. Sherman led the parade of the Army of the Tennessee past this same site the next day.

On February 18, 1904, Congress legislatively gave the name "Sherman Plaza" to the area where the monument stands.

In 2011, the statue underwent a $2 million restoration.

The Sherman memorial is a contributing element to two National Register of Historic Places: the Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C., (added in 1973) and to the President's Park South (added in 1980).

John P. Navin, Jr. (born July 24, 1968) was an American actor. He was born in Philadelphia and did mostly teen roles during his brief career. His most famous appearances were in the 1981 Tom Cruise film Taps and the 1983 film National Lampoon's Vacation. In this latter film, he played Cousin Dale -- the chunky-but-hunky rural boy who spends his time lounging around the farm in a baby-doll t-shirt, being molested by older boys and masturbating a lot.

Dunno what he's doing now. He's pretty much dropped off the grid.

Friday, June 20, 2014

From atop the Washington Monument, looking east across the National Mall at the Smithsonian Castle (right) and the U.S. Capitol (distant left). The photo was taken some time between 1885 and 1915.

According to the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, a whopping 37.9 percent of D.C. households didn't own a vehicle in 2012. That's up a strong 2.4 percent from 2007. The District of Columbia now ranks behind only New York City with the highest number of households without an automobile.

Other cities with high rates of non-car ownership? Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are all above the 30 percent mark.

The city with the most cars? San Jose, California, where a measly 5.8 percent of households are automobile-free.

The nationwide average for households without a vehicle is 9.22 percent.

Superman.... if he dressed like Power Girl.

Unca Donald, you kinky old son of a bitch!!!!!!

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... Amos Kendall used his newspaper, the Argus of Western America, to build the Democratic Party into a national political power, was one of the most influential members of President Andrew Jackson's "Kitchen Cabinet", invested heavily in the telegraph, and was one of the most important figures in the transformation of the American news media in the 19th century?

Paleontologists have just announced the discovery of a brand new type of horned dinosaur -- Mercuriceratops!!

The 77-million-year-old creature was a relative of the far better known Triceratops. But weighing in at about 2 tons, Mercuriceratops gemini was half the size of Triceratops. What's so special about Mercuriceratops? It had large, bony wings jutting out from either side of the lower part of its frill.

Mercuriceratops is named after Mercury, the Roman god of messengers. Mercury is often depicted wearing a helmet with wings on either side of it. The genus name "gemini" comes from the Zodiac sign of Gemini, the Twins -- because there were two jutting frills.

Researchers think the wing-like protrusions were designed to attract mates.

They found the first specimen on private land in Montana in rocks known as the Judith River Formation. This speciment is now owned by the Royal Albert Museum in Alberta. The second speciment was found in Canada, proving that the first speciment was a new species -- not an aberrant mutation or disease growth. The second specimen, too, is going to the Royal Albert Museum (they found theirs in a former quarry in Dinsoaur Provincial Park).

The map shows you where they found them.

Night of the Hunter. A fantastic movie, that just came out on blu-ray! I'm watching it Saturday night.

"Ah, little lad, you're staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of Right-hand, Left-hand? The story of good and evil. H-A-T-E. It was with this left hand that old Brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E. See these fingers, dear hearts? They has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends. The hand of love. Now watch and I'll show you the story of life. These fingers is always a-warring and a-tugging, one agin t'other. Now watch 'em. Old Brother Left-hand. Left-hand hates a-fighting. And it looks like Love's a goner. But wait a minute! Hot dog! Love's a-winning. Yes, sirree. It's Love that won. And old Left-hand Hate is down for the count."

Like a typical closet-case, Peter Parker does Flash Thompson's homework -- but Flash refuses to give Peter his **ahem** reward, and instead goes out with a girl and disses Peter in the high school hallway.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Never a good idea....

He's got legs.

The "Brain Room" of the HAL 9000 computer from the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey and from the middle of 2010.

Arthur C. Clarke specifically says HAL stands for "Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic" computer -- and is NOT a letter-shift from IBM. Had he realized it would be interpreted as a letter-shift, he says, he would have named it something else.

Clarke initially wanted to call the computer Socrates, and to give it a robotic body so it could move around. In early script drafts, Socrates is asked early in the film to turn off the units for hibernating scientists Kaminski and Whitehead, but it cites the "First Law of Robotics" (never allow, or through lack of action allow, a human being to be harmed). This was a nod to the Rules of Robotics in Isaac Asimov's novels.

Clarke then gave the computer a female persona and named it Athena. In this script draft, Bowman tries to revive Dr. Whitehead after the death of Poole but Whitehead dies. Bowman then tries to realign the antenna outside the ship, and Athena tries to stop him from leaving.

The idea for having HAL's voice degrade as his memory is taken away came from a demonstration Clarke had seen of a voice synthesizer and how it could change speech.

Although the female persona was changed back to male prior to filming, Stanley Kubrick had actress Stefanie Powers provide the voice of HAL during rehearsals. Actor Nigel Davenport provided the voice of HAL on the set, but he was released after a while because Kubrick felt his voice was too British. First assistant director Derek Cracknell provided the voice of HAL on-set afterward, and even Kubrick fed the actors some of the more mundane lines. Kubrick cast Martin Balsam to dub HAL's lines in post-production, but replaced him with Douglas Rain after Kubrick concluded that Balsam had a voice that was "too American".

It's not clear who designed the HAL 9000 lens and faceplate that is seen throughout the movie. Eliot Noyes & Associates, a computer design firm, did early work on "Athena" for the film, but their concept was rejected.

The HAL 9000 faceplate features a Nikon Nikkor 8mm F8 lens. A red light projected behind the lens created the red glow effect.

The "Brain Room" of HAL 9000 was actually three stories high. Actor Keir Dullea was suspended from wires (which extended behind him, out of sight) to allow him to "drift weightlessly" toward the higher-level memory banks. Dullea moved slowly to mimic the effect of weightlessness.
I've been taking Lisinopril for my high blood pressure. It works, really well. It also gave me a hacking cough, a sort throat, swollen sinuses, vocal chords that gave out easily, and lungs full of water. When I'm not coughing, I feel short of breath. And I'm so tired, I've been taking three or four naps a day, each of an hour's length.

Well, after two weeks on the drug, I bailed. It's not uncommon for people to have a problem with Lisinopril, and my doctor says the water gain, coughing, and all the rest should go away in four or five days. He put me on a new ACE inhibitor, in a different class, which I should tolerate better.

We'll see.

It's no wonder, then, that I don't feel like writing or posting.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ah, that classic Judy Garland look in The Wizard of Oz!!

Only, it wasn't so classic...

Richard Thorpe was the first director on The Wizard of Oz, and he hired MGM's top costumer, the mono-named "Adrian" (aka Adrian Gilbert) to design the costumes for Garland. That's right costumes. Garland was supposed to change dresses several times during the picture!

Adrian's initial dresses had Garland decked out in several ultra-frilly "party dresses". As far as I can tell, there are no photographs of these dresses, and none of them still exist. Thorpe soon had a change of heart, and decided that Garland should wear just a single dress throughout the picture. For this dress, Adrian designed a blue pinafore with binding hems at the top (below the bust) and bottom of the dress.  The material for the shoulder straps had a a moire-pattern, and the dress was pleated at the waist.  Plain darker-blue banding was sewn as a decorative feature onto the dress at about knee-length.  (Recreations often miss this feature.)  Large pearl buttons attached the shoulder straps to the waistband. The dress was designed to be worn with a gauzy (almost see-through) white blouse. The blouse had puff sleeves with heavy white plain banding at the hem.  The blouse also featured three pleats on either side of the placket, white buttons, and very broad, rounded collar with plain white banding.  A blue string bowtie with white polka-dots was tied at the neck. The collar tended to ride up with wear and hide Garland's neck. (Not cool.) We have photographs of this dress, and a faded original (or, perhaps, it is one of many copies made for her use in the film; no one is sure which) still exists. In these photographs, Garland is wearing her natural hair color and style. (Garland's hair would actually be darkened from its natural medium auburn. Under the brights movie studio lights, it would appear much lighter.) Thorpe also wanted Dorothy to have lots of curls, and be heavily made up. (Images of these make-up tests have not survived.) His goal was to depict Dorothy as a sort of kewpie doll -- a child's fantasy of what a child might be.

An all-blue version of this test dress was also created. The dress appeared to be the same, but the shoulder strps, hems, decorative band, waistband, and bowtie were apparently grey.  The blouse, too, was the same in design but now dyed the same blue color as the dress.  This dress was apparently rejected as too uniform in color.

Thorpe had spent several months in pre-production on The Wizard of Oz, and filming began on October 12, 1938. But he was fired two weeks later, after MGM executives felt he didn't have the sensibility to direct a fantasy children's movie. He was replaced by George Cukor.

Now, in those days, directors were under contract to the studios. They worked on whatever they were assigned. If someone fell ill or had an accident, it was not uncommon for another director to fill in on the project while the primary person recuperated. There wasn't any down-time, either. This was an era in which MGM released a whopping 42 A-list feature films during the year, another 10 B-list pictures, and more than 100 short subjects. If a director finished a picture and his next feature film wasn't due to start for two weeks, he didn't get a break. He (they were invariably male) filled in doing pre-production, B-unit, or reshoots on someone else's film. It wasn't unusual for someone even of Cukor's caliber to do pre-production on a film and then hand it off. Motion picture studios back then were assembly lines, not vanity projects like they are today.

George Cukor was appalled at the work Thorpe had done. He threw out almost all the footage as unuseable. Cumor removed all the make-up from Garland's face, and restored her naturally wavy hair. Cukor was also dissatisfied with the dress, and had Adrian design a simpler ensemble.

The new dress had raised white polka-dots all over it. We don't have color photos or a sample of this dress, unfortunately. ABC-TV recreated the dress (in pink, oddly) for a documentary, however, and you can see that one below. This dress is called the "two-strap dress". Instead of a single strap over each shoulder, the broad strap becomes two. The straps were also sewn to the dress, rather than buttoned to it. The hem of the straps and the upper (bustline) hem were trimmed in white lace loops, while the decorative band was eliminated and banded lower hem replaced with a simple hem.The band covering the wasitband pleating was also removed, to allow the pleating to be seen.

Adrian's first blouse for this two-strap dress was originally ornate. He retained the white color, gauzy fabric, and puff sleeves. But he reduced the collar in size by half, and then trimmed it with pleated, hemmed fabric similar to the blouse. The five-button placket was replaced with a simple placket of the same blouse material, rounded at the bottom. On either side of the placket he used the same pleated, hemmed treatment he used for the collar.

Cukor didn't like that blouse on damned bit. A much simpler design was then created. A heavier (but still barely translucent) white material was now used for the blouse. The placket in front was gone, replaced with buttons down the back. The collar was gone, replaced by a heavy band about a half-inch in height around the throat. The dress was pleated around the throat, and the lower edge of the band trimmed in light blue rickrack. The puff sleeves were retained but lengthed (now extending down to the elbow), and the upper edge of the banded hem trimmed in blue rickrack as well.

Adrian experimented with an apron over the dress. The thought was that, as a working girl on a farm, Dorothy would wear an apron to cover her dress. This apron could later be removed to allow for a "change of costume" later in the picture. The apron was of a heavy grey and white gingham. Its broad shoulder-straps covered the dress straps, and it had a band covering the pleats around the waistline. Portions of the shoulder straps and bustier were trimmed in blue rickrack, and there two large pockets sewn on either side of the front (also trimmed in rickrack). The lower hem was banded in the same material as the apron. The apron was about three inches shorter than the dress.

The apron was quickly abandoned, however, as it seemed to cover up Dorothy with too many layers of clothing.

Cukor left The Wizard of Oz after just a week, to work on pre-production on Gone With the Wind. Victor Fleming took over. Based on conversations with Cukor, Fleming ordered one final change to the dress.

The final form of Dorothy's dress was a bright blue (rather than sky blue) pinafore with white checks. The straps went back to a single narrow one over each shoulder, were hemmed but not trimmed, and were fastened to the waistband with large pearl buttons. The upper hem of the dress (along the bustline) had an inch-and-a-half band hem in the same fabric as the dress, and a two-inch-wide band covered the pleating at the waistline. A decorative band was added at knee-level, although the fabric here ran diagonally to the fabric of the dress. The lower hem was a simple turned hem. The blouse was kept nearly the same as in Cukor's final version, although the sleeves were shortened slightly.

That is what you see on film.

What's your chance of escaping poverty in America? Just 8 percent, the smallest -- by a HUGE margin -- of any industrialized nation in the world.

Remember that GOP lie about "in America, anyone can be rich if you just work hard"? It's bullshit.

Rep. Paul Ryan and his ilk are claiming that Obama's policies have worsened upward mobility by making people more dependent on government. The most recent study, using a huge amount of data, disproves that. It also shows that upward mobility is almost impossible in America.

The key factor? Sharply rising incomes at the top of the ladder holds back talented people lower down.

Godzilla X MechaGodzilla from 2002 is probably the best Godzilla movie ever made, in terms of plot and special effects.

The film opens with Godzilla rising from the sea during a typhoon for the first time since 1954. (Toho Studios decided to reboot the series.) A young female lieutenant attacks Godzilla with a maser-tank, driving the creature mad and leading to many deaths. Fast-forward four years, the the Japanese military has salvaged the bones of the 1954 creature from beneath the sea to build a DNA-computer-driven MechaGodzilla to defend the home islands. The "metal dragon" has a new deep-freeze ray which may stop Big G. But the use of Godzilla DNA in the computer means MechaGodzilla goes out of control -- sending Godzilla back into the sea, but also destroying most of the cities in its path. As the military races to fix MechaGodzilla, Godzilla returns...

The plot hangs together fairly well, and the battle scenes -- almost all done in suits, not CGI -- are superb. None of the ponderousness or slowness of previous films. These are guys moving fast and violently!!!!

I also found the cinematography pretty decent. Most Godzilla films look as if they were made by high school students, but this one has actual, Hollywood-style cinematography!

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that when the Old Patent Office Building in Washington, D.C., was closed in 2001 for extensive renovations, there was no plan to cover the courtyard and create a new interior space -- until two years into the renovation process, when Smithsonian officials secured a $25 million pledge from Robert Kogod (a real estate development executive) and his wife, Arlene (heir to Charles E. Smith Construction fortune), to add the canopy?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014