Before we go any farther, we must announce that this is a full-fledged...
This Saturday, November 13th, we took Valerie's friend, Michelle, up to Griffith Observatory for her birthday. She had never been; plus, that day was the monthly Public Star Party.
What's a Public Star Party? Well, let me pull this from the Observatory's website: Free public star parties are held monthly with the assistance of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers at the Griffith Observatory from 2:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. They are a chance for the whole family to look at the sun, moon, visible planets, and other objects, to try out a variety of telescopes, and to talk to knowledgeable amateur astronomers about the sky and their equipment.
If you're a geek, this sounds absolutely awesome.
Since we were going for a birthday, we packed a little picnic dinner, spread out a blanket on the front lawn of the Observatory, about 30 yards for the Party, had some sandwiches and cakes and stared at the night sky. To aid with the Party, the Observatory turns off most of the outdoor lighting out front, which made our picnic even more super awesome.
OK, you're thinking, "Sure, that sounds like a fun night, but I wouldn't sound the Nerd Alert." Well, keep reading, I'm just setting the table.
While I put our picnic fixings back in the car, the girls went inside the Observatory to check it out. I rejoined them during the presentation of the Tesla Coil. After cruising through the interior, we tried to make our way to roof where a 12-inch Zeiss telescope resides in the east dome. Unfortunately, they stop letting people in at 9:30 p.m., but we got some nice city views from our perch, nonetheless.
The Party was wrapping up, but some telescopes were still out and people were still looking through them. For example, I saw the moon through a nice lunar telescope. Tried to hold Zoe up to the eyepiece, but I'm not sure if she saw anything.
We join another line, but Zoe bolts off running (as she's prone to do), so I tend to her.
Alright, here's where the Nerd Alert kicks in.
After Val finished looking through the scope, she practically came running up to me, and in a stunned, gaspy voice, says, "The guy with the telescope over there... I can't remember his name... but I think it's the black guy from Star Trek."
"It's the guy who was in Voyager?"
"Yes. I think so."
"OK. I'll check." So I mosey over to the line. As I get close, it looks like him, but when I hear him talk to someone, that's the clincher. It's him. Unfortunately, I was drawing a complete blank on his name. Wasn't until I got back to the car that it dawned on me... Tim Russ.
While I'm waiting to peer through his scope, I ask what it's pointed at. He says it's the Orion Nebula. I ask if the scope belongs to the Observatory or the Society, and with a bit of pride, he says it's his personal telescope.
To recap the scenario that is playing out in front of me: here's an actor from a beloved sci-fi franchise, who has an actual interest in astronomy, and I'm about to check something out in his own scope.... NERD ALERT! I REPEAT, WE HAVE A NERD ALERT!
Luckily, in my line of work, I come in contact with celebrities on a regular basis. But I can't lie... I was a second or two from geeking out/marking out/going total fanboy (circle one that best applies).
As I gazed into his scope, there was a huge cluster of stars right in front of me. I quickly looked back to night sky unaided, trying to find out where I was looking, then looked back into the eyepiece. At this point, the fan took a back seat to the scientist. In fascination, I said, "Man, there's a lot of things up there." Tim responded, "There sure is. It's full of good stuff."
Out of legitimate curiosity, I asked him how his scope compared to the Observatory's. He said that while the 12-inch is pretty good, it's only a refracting scope, while his is a reflecting scope. As the distance from aperture to eyepiece is longer in his scope (due to the mirrors), it's actually more powerful than the Zeiss refractor... but quickly added that Observatory's is still a good scope.
My last question, "So do you all coordinate where you point your telescopes?"
"Nope. it's all random. We each point to whatever interests us. Some of us have dedicated telescopes, like the blue ones for the moon, and earlier today, we had some sun telescopes out."
Yes, the scientist in me was just as jazzed as the fan in me. But with that, I thanked him for the view and returned to Val confirming that it was, indeed, Tuvok.
I don't know about you, but that's a good night filled with stars (ya, that's a bad pun).
If you want to find out more about the Griffith Observatory and/or the Public Star Parties, visit: www.griffithobs.org. Psst, the next one is December 11, 2010.
The World Series crowned the newest World Champion in Major League Baseball.
And your champions?
The San Francisco Giants.
How did my earlier prediction fare? Well, since I said Rangers in 7, I'm going to call that a failure.
The teams were evenly matched, and I don't think my pick was that bad. However, I'm pretty sure that no one would have thought this Series would be done in 5 games. Everyone thought it would go 6, minimum. But then Texas looked suddenly overmatched (or perhaps burnt out).
Nonetheless, the Giants played great baseball and are worthy champions. Congratulations to San Francisco.
October 26, 2010
WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS
Tomorrow is the start of 2010 World Series, featuring the American League Champions Texas Rangers and the National League Champions San Francisco Giants.
Wow. Did I just really write that? And to think, neither are the Wild Card, they both won their respective divisions. Wow, did I just write that, too?
This World Series will be tough to predict, because both teams are evenly matched. The Giants are a bunch of role players whose play is more than the sum of their parts. The Rangers are a bunch of young talents that, also, are playing more than the sum of their parts.
Both teams have pros. Both teams have cons. But in the end... my prediction...
Rangers in 7.
When all is said and done, the best part about this World Series is no matter who wins, it'll be that city's very first World Series victory. And that's always a plus.
See you at the ballpark.
September 28, 2010
I find myself stymied in my creation of new What's Up content. When that happens, you all get the very popular rapid fire/quick shot/one liner pieces.
But as to not hit that well too many times, I'll do it differently today. Each piece will be in the form of a haiku. That's right, party people... I'm going to drop some Japanese poetry on you.
For those that don't know...
1) a major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons.
2) a poem written in this form.
So is everybody ready? Let's see where this poetic train takes us.
Online friends numbers.
My Facebook, three sixty-two,
"I like your belly.
It's squishy," says my daughter.
Well, that's one of us.
Must visit Vegas.
Not been since my honeymoon.
Can't win on the Rez.
Off to Buffalo.
Zoe's first time in the snow.
Yes, photos to come.
When I write haiku,
I count syllables on hand.
What of it, chico?
I can't lie on this,
So stoked for Tron: Legacy.
Yes, I am a nerd.
Stupid Twilight films.
Breaking Dawn in '11.
Wife complains of wait.
I miss the outdoors.
I yearn for Yosemite.
We should take Zoe.
Angels miss playoffs.
Baseball loses relevance.
Hey, Football is on.
Surprisingly, the math works.
Lesson learned from wife:
If too many Irish on,
Do NOT board the ship.
Fun fact for drinking:
Museums don't like spilled beer.
Stinks up the Rembrandt.
If I ever own bar,
Name will be, "Rusty Badger."
Mauls, causes lockjaw.
If you commute far,
Buy inflatable sex doll.
If fans like haiku,
Check your local coffeehouse.
Might take show on road.
So considering that I've now published my poetry, does that mean I can call myself a poet? Chicks dig poets.
'Tis a veritable buffet of random musings from the world famous head of Demosthenes.
Welcome to the Jungle
Can someone please explain to me what's with all the Guns 'n' Roses on the airwaves these days. I don't think I heard "November Rain" this often... ever. I can't be sure it got this much airplay when it was first released.
Now don't get me wrong, I do like the GnR, but come on. In all fairness, the constant airplay they're getting is showing the world that this music is ageless and will stand the test of time. But I have to wonder why, all of sudden, I can't get away from Guns 'n' Roses. Seriously, to harp on "November Rain" again, me and Val were cruising down the street, and no joke, heard this song 4 times in the span of 20 minutes on the various radio stations pre-set in the car.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, while I wouldn't consider it their best song, "November Rain" is my favorite GnR song... mainly for the guitar solo at the end).
Now I have three possible theories why we're getting a full load of Guns 'n' Roses.
1) As mentioned above, people are realizing that these songs, especially from "Appetite for Destruction," are solid songs. Awesome then, awesome now, so why not play it more often.
2) Stations have no choice but to play Guns 'n' Roses because the musical landscape in the rock and alternative genres blow right now. I'm not a music critic by trade, but a lot of stuff being released now is questionable at best (that could explain why Bieber is such a draw... discuss amongst yourselves). If stations are finding out that people are tuning out the newer stuff, they'll have to play the familiar songs to keep their audience (of course, this could just be indicative of the corporate radio establishment in general).
3) And a last, out of left field theory. Maybe, just maybe, because Guns 'n' Roses latest album "Chinese Democracy" sucked so bad, that some stations are playing the older stuff to prevent the legacy from tarnishing. Truthfully, I haven't heard anything from "Chinese Democracy" played on the radio, so while I can't judge the music on its merits personally, the lack of airtime is evidence enough that the album tanked.
In any event, I really don't mind the extra GnR airplay, but I do find it mysterious. And I do love a good mystery.
While We're On the Subject
As a brief segue, I think we can all agree that Slash is one of the best guitarists on the planet. I personally believe that it's near impossible to say who is the best. There really is no barometer to identify "Number One."
But in addition to Slash, I would have to insist that the following be included in the "best ever" discussion...
Tom Morello (from Rage Against the Machine)
Jimmy Page (from Led Zeppelin)
Pete Townsend (from The Who)
The Edge (from U2... who I think is often overlooked)
Tom Dumont (from No Doubt... vastly underrated given the genre he's in)
This is by no means a definitive list, but again, these names need to be mentioned if talking about the best guitarist around.
Violating the Laws of Science
I'm really having problems with the Law of Mass Conservation. For those not scientifically inclined, it states that mass can not be created or destroyed. Sure, there is the caveat that the law applies to a closed system, but I still have problems with it.
Let me break it down. Say you have a kilogram of mass is a vacuum. No matter what you did to that kilogram of mass, it will still be a kilogram (even if it was in a solid, liquid or gaseous state).
But that law does not hold up when quantum mechanics are applied. If said vacuum had a kilogram of mass, plus one tiny particle of anti-matter, once they come in contact, the mass will lose an amount equivalent to size of the particle of antimatter. Lost... as in it's annihilated.
Plus, let's factor in Einstein's theory of relativity. If matter can be converted to energy, the matter will cease to exist as mass.
Yes, some may argue that mass and matter aren't necessarily the same things, and that the law will hold up time and again in closed systems. But that first argument is simply semantics, plus cosmically speaking, the universe is not a closed system (not by a long shot).
So what's really my beef? I think modern science is handcuffed by this law that I really think prevents the application of relativity to future scientific breakthroughs. But then again, I could be way off. I was, after all, a history major.
Some Are More Expendable Than Others
So the big movie around town is "The Expendables," featuring nearly all of the action movies stars... except one.
I'm not talking about Chuck Norris, because if he was in the movie, it would be called, "Chuck Norris and 10 Other Guys That Just Sit Back Drinking Lattes and Watch Him Kill the Population of a Small Nation."
No, I'm talking about the biggest snub of all. Where the hell is Michael "American Ninja" Dudikoff?
How can the star of the "American Ninja" series of movies (all cinematic masterpieces) not be in this movie? I'm dumbfounded.
"The Expendables" isn't even worth seeing now.
Trapped in 2005
My beloved computer, a Mac G5, appears to be trapped in 2005. At the time of purchase, all Apple computers were running on PowerPC chips. Now, they all run on Intel chips. Why does this matter? Because it has now become practically impossible to upgrade to anything. I'm running OSX TIger, and can not upgrade to Snow Leopard because it's only designed for Intel-based Macs.
At first, I thought, "Hey, here's an excuse to get one of them new 12-core Mac Pros." But as I thought about it, I realized I don't need to. Sure, my computer is stuck running top of the line software... from 5 years ago... but I still find that it gets the job done, and then some. Adobe Creative Suite 2 is just as effective as the new CS5. Final Cut Pro works just fine. And I can sync my iPhone with no worries.
So even though my computer is now on notice, truthfully, I could probably milk another 5 years out of it. I love Macs.
Go Team Venture
I think "The Venture Bros." may be one of the most underappreciated gems of animation out there. I've started to bring Zoe on board, which is good, because I need to balance out the Caillou intake.
I don't want to call it a parody or a satire of Jonny Quest type shows... let's call it an homage (even though there is a character that is an actually parody of Jonny Quest as a secondary player - it helps that the network owns the rights to both shows).
The sad part is that I can't tell you why I'm in love with the show. Could be the over-the-top characters, the bombardment of both fresh and obscure pop culture references, the tight plot writing... or maybe because it consistently makes me laugh.
Let's just put it this way: "Waylaid by jackassery" has now entered the DMO-Valerian lexicon. And can you really go wrong when the Sovereign of the Guild of Calamitous Intent is a shape-shifting David Bowie? No, no you can't.
New episodes are coming in September. Check your local listings (psst, it's on Adult Swim/Cartoon Network). But while you're at it, why don't you go buy Seasons 1-3. You'll thank me later.
Before I Forget
Samurai Jack is also a top notch animated series, and it's being played on Boomerang. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.
And I can't lie, Zoe sounds so cute when she call him Sam-eye Jack. Oh, and for the record, Zoe loves Samurai Jack, and could care less about Thomas the Tank Engine. Suck on that, Sir Toppem Hat.
How Do You Pronounce That?
One of my best friends, Jenny, has a sister who is having a second baby. Jenny's sister is married to a Greek guy, and they decided that the baby would have a decidedly Greek name.
Jenny asked me what I thought a name could be (since I have a hearty Greek name, myself). It really could be anything, so I told her the possibilities are endless.
Just the other day, Jenny's mother asked her if I had produced any insight. Jenny told her something along the lines of, "the choice of names is endless."
Her mom came back with, "How do you pronounce that? En-les?"
Really. That's the story as it was told to me. Jenny said she was on the floor, crying with laughter. When I heard it, I was doubled over laughing. Regardless of what Jenny's sister and her man choose to name the baby, it will forever be known as Endless. (p.s. Greg... you're welcome).
One-Nil to the Arsenal
Hooray! The English Premier League is back in action.
Just an FYI.
You'll Always Be a Planet To Me
This shirt is on sale at the Griffith Observatory gift shop.
We'll never forget you, tiny dancer.
On January 7, here in this very What's Up, I listed 7 resolutions for me to achieve (I didn't call them New Year's Resolutions because I came out with them a week later).
So, almost 8 months later, how have I fared...
Run more - ACHIEVED. Not only am I running more, I'm actually working out.
Eat better - Jury is still out on that one.
Be more consist with What's Up - ALMOST THERE. Start of the year was askew, but last two months have been solid, and I've actually planned ahead. If I can finish on the course I'm on, I'm going to call it "achieved."
Do a stand-up comedy gig - Not yet.
Be more accessible to my friends - ACHIEVED
Gamble more - Not yet.
Go to more L.A. Galaxy games - Not yet.
I said hitting 4 out of 7 would be deemed successful. Well, I'm at 2 1/2 out of 7, but I really like my chances to hit, in all seriousness, 5 of them.
And lastly, it's time for another round of FACEBOOK FOLLIES ...with bonus commentary.
You know what I'd pay good money for... an all-you-can-eat McDonald's buffet. Not as an everyday thing. Maybe one every other month. Ok, once a month.
Rumor has it that Yo Gabba Gabba is aired in England, but all the voices are dubbed over with British-accented ones. Somehow, I can't imagine DJ Lance Rock with a cockney accent, but I'm sure it's AWESOME... gov'ner. Imagine the trauma caused when you grow up thinking DJ Lance is English, but then find out later he's not. Childhoods will be crushed.
Some people like early Beatles, some like later Beatles. Some people like early Elvis, some like later Elvis. Strangely, the same can be applied to The Wiggles. I, for one, am a later Wiggles man. Not to say I like Sam more than Greg, I like the later years of the Greg era.
Unless it's also a submersible vehicle, I don't think Zoe needs a car seat called the "Nautilus." Atlantis? Sure. Endeavor? Why not? Nautilus? It's just too cliche. (just ignore the fact that my two suggestions are named after Space Shuttles)
Things said last night: "Did you guys say that Gary Oldman is such a great actor that you didn't realize he was black?" It really sounded like that's what they said. Of course, I was in the kitchen and they were in the living room, so I didn't have a clear line of hearing. Apparently, they were talking about Gary Oldman as Sirius Black. Not as funny as what I thought they said.
Things heard at work today: "My husband is not allowed to touch my vegetables." Really, an innoculous statement, but hilarious out of context.
So I've started exercising regularly, and I've started drinking regularly. I've tried my luck as a sober, fat guy. Let's try the slim drunk route. Here's the rules. I either work out, or I drink. Not both, but I have to do one each day. And surprisingly, I work out more than I drink. ?!?!? I'll let you know how it works out in the end.
One Last Thing
The next issue of What's Up was going to be a feature called Foursquare vs. Gowalla. But now that Facebook has launched "Places," it kind of feels that this is a moot point. We'll see how I feel in two weeks.
The biggest myth roaming the world today is that Verizon is getting the Apple iPhone in immediate future. This is a myth that has been around since the launch of the first iPhone and it is a myth that will not die.
This urban legend is driven by "reports" suggesting Apple's on the brink of an announcement, "experts" who are predicting that this would be a smart move and a moneymaker, and Verizon customers who are either loyal to, or stuck with, Verizon and want the hottest must-have phone since, dare I say, the Motorola StarTAC.
But here I am, to be the wet blanket for all you hopeful non-iPhone owners. Apple is NOT releasing a Verizon iPhone.
Bold words, I know.
There are two major reasons why. 1) Control. 2) Reach.
For starters, let's talk CONTROL
As the story goes (as I heard it), Apple first approached Verizon with the iPhone, but Verizon passed. Why? Control. If you're a Verizon customer, you know everything cool you want to add to your phone has to go through Verizon. Ringtones, photos, apps, etc. Example, on a AT&T non-iPhone, you could simply add an mp3 file (perhaps one you made yourself) to your phone and use it as a ringtone. On Verizon, that is impossible. You have to pay Verizon for a ringtone of whatever they have available. Verizon wants control of your phone, and has exhibited Apple-like control throughout its history, though it did loosen the grip a little bit later on with the new Android phones (it had to in order to keep pace with the iPhone).
Apple, as mentioned, is a control freak. Apple wants full input over how it's phone is run (hence, no Flash). Steve Jobs recently said about some of the decisions it's made with the iPhone that they want to preserve the user experience as they envisioned. You're not reading that wrong. He basically said that we, the consumers, will use the phone as they tell us to and we'll like it. Surprisingly, most of us are okay with this.
So after being shunned by Verizon, Apple went to #2 carrier AT&T, basically said, "Hey, we'll give you the best phone ever, a ton of new customers, but you'll have to let us dictate almost everything associated with it." AT&T, eager for a game-changer, heartily agreed, and signed an exclusive deal slated to run through 2012.
Yes, the exclusive contract. Another reason you won't see a Verizon iPhone in a long while. But that aside, Apple made AT&T their bitch. Why would they want to give that up? Consider this. In order to appease Apple, AT&T allowed them to offer month-to-month data access for the new Apple iPad. Does anything think that Apple could have gotten that at Verizon or anywhere else? Absolutely not.
As I mentioned before, Verizon loosened it control on its phones with the new phones running Android. It sort of had to. Android was built as an open-source operating system (in contradiction of Verizon's status quo), so for users to experience Android's full capabilities, Verizon had to relax a little. But it would be hard to believe that one day, Verizon will allow the sort of arrangement Apple has with AT&T. If it does that with Apple, other manufacturers will surely demand similar conditions in their agreements, and Verizon could lose some major revenue (which I doubt they are interested in).
Let's talk REACH
Right off the bat, let's lay this out. If Apple had originally gone exclusive with Verizon, instead of AT&T, all the problems AT&T has been blasted about, Verizon would have experienced as well. Don't you dare deny it. Verizon's network would be overwhelmed, just like AT&T's, and people would be clamoring for Apple to make an AT&T phone. People never seem to look at the big picture like that, or consider that angle.
For Apple though, going with AT&T worked out better for them as they weren't forced to make two different phones. Excuse me, but I'm about to drop some technobabble.
AT&T runs a GSM network. So does the rest of the planet. Verizon runs a CDMA network. Only Japan and South Korea do as well. If Apple went with Verizon, it would have to make a CDMA phone, and a GSM phone to sell to the rest of the planet. But it didn't have to make two phones. The iPhone is a hit in almost every country it's sold in. And let's talk about Japan. Though a CDMA country, it recently upgraded the nationwide network to 3G, and the iPhone is now sold in Japan. So there really is no incentive to make a CDMA phone for Verizon.
Also of brief note, the iPhone brags that you can talk on the phone and surf the web at the same time (this is true). Telecom experts agree, Verizon's CDMA network could not do this. Does Apple want to make a phone that would automatically be "inferior" to every other iPhone?
To be fair, if all the carriers adopt the universal 4G network format (I think it's called LTE, but don't quote me on that), Apple would make a new iPhone to run on it, and Verizon customer would suddenly have a phone that could run their provider. But I don't think Apple will need to go to Verizon until that point.
Sure, it could be argued that in order to maximize reach, and in light of Android's ascent in the smartphone marketplace, Apple could (and should) make a Verizon iPhone once the exclusive contract runs out. This remains doubtful as Verizon has thrown its weight behind its Droid line of phones (I mean, it was also selling the Microsoft Kin, a phone liked by many critics, but you wouldn't know it because Verizon gave it zero in-store love). If the exclusive contract runs out, and Apple did decide to take the phone to other carriers, I wouldn't be surprised if they first went with #4 carrier, T-Mobile, as they are also on a GSM network (fyi, #3 carrier, Sprint, is on CDMA like Verizon).
Back to CONTROL for just one second
There is one angle (which apparently, I'm the only to note it) that could be at play with all these so-called reports on an upcoming Verizon iPhone. AT&T has bent over backwards to do whatever Apple has asked of them. But to prevent them from being complacent, maybe Apple is leaking these reports to spur AT&T to keep improving. Perception, oftentimes, is reality. A well-placed rumor and AT&T scrambles to ensure their gravy train has no reason to leave them. I personally don't think Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple are that shady... but never say never in the tech industry.
The Morale of the Story
Besides the history lesson, what's the point of this little diatribe? Three words: "shut up, people." Until Steve Jobs stands in the middle of Moscone West and says, "Here's the Verizon iPhone," stop talking about it. Much like the boy who cried wolf, eventually, we'll get to the point where we really won't care if we get to the point where you can smugly brag that you told us so.
(in the spirit of full disclosure: I got my first cell phone in the early 90's with L.A. Cellular, which became Airtouch, which became Verizon Wireless. Tried Sprint for 30 days in 2000, which was crap and went back to Verizon. The Mrs. wanted a cell phone and asked for Cingular as they have rollover minutes. It made more sense to be on the same carrier and I switched to Cingular, which became AT&T. I was with AT&T for 6 years before I got an iPhone a couple of months ago)
Leading up to and on Demosthenes XXXVI, the Mrs., the Danger Diva and I opted to take in some of the culture and academia that is readily available in the Los Angeles area. We took in a little art, we took in a little science.
First up, the art.
On my birthday itself, we strolled to the westside to hit up The Getty Center. This wasn't our first visit, but this was the first chance we had to really explore the museum and the grounds.
Now, I'm just going to come out and say it, but as a fan of architecture, I found the museum and its surrounding area much more awe-inspiring than the collections within it. That's not to say that the art, sculptures, and decorative goods were not fantastic, but on my next visit, I can see myself spending about half of it outside.
But let's focus on the actual art inside.
It's become apparent that me and the Mrs. like differing styles of art. I like interpretive art; paintings and the like that are trying to depict a scene or tell a story. Val likes portraits. You know what story that tells me? "I'm sitting." But hey, to each their own.
The Getty's permanent collection focuses a lot on... (standby, my daughter just strolled in with a cheese grater. I'll be back in a sec)... (why must my 2 year old decide to run around the house with an item that can scratch her face off? That's why she's called the Danger Diva. I won't lie, it's hard to get in a rhythm to write about art when you've got to chase around armed toddlers. Where was I? Oh yes)... European painters, mainly from the 1600's to the 1900's. Strangely, I found some pieces to be quite unimpressive. But that's my personal take on it. I want art to wow me. I want to see detail, I want to see emotion, I want to look at something and be overwhelmed that a man has the talent and the hand to create something magnificent. Many pieces failed there.
But to the Getty's credit, it strikes a balance between the detailed and the plain, catering to both art lovers that enjoy the grandiose (like myself) and art lovers that appreciate simplicity. There was a lot of stuff I like, and a lot that I didn't. But then again, that's art for you. So when you go, go with an open mind, and see what styles draw you in. Ultimately, that's the best thing about art: it allows you to make up your own mind about what you're looking at, without ever feeling that you're wrong.
In addition to paintings, there is sculpture to be had at The Getty and thanks to the exhibition, "Foundry to Finish: The Making of a Bronze Sculpture" (it runs though January 2, 2011), I learned the steps involved to make a bronze sculpture. Highly enlightening. The Getty also features a sculpture garden in its southwest corner, and it's total crap. First, there aren't that many sculptures there, and the ones there blow. Ya, I said it.
There is also a pavilion that features photography. The exhibits there showed me that that medium allows anyone, with an artistic vision or not, to exploit their surroundings. In the exhibition titled, "Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties," (running through November 14, 2010) the adage "a picture is worth 1000 words" is plainly evident. However, those 1000 words can be anything without any context. I could tell that a story was trying to be told, but I couldn't tell you what it was. I think the problem is was that I'm pretty confident that I could better. Art should inspire, not make you think you're looking at hacks.
The featured exhibition was "The Spectacular Art of Gerome." The art was very well done, and the exhibit was well curated. It runs through September 12, 2010. I'd check it out if I were you.
My favorite pieces in the whole Getty Center were...
"Three Lovers" by Theodore Gericault
Theodore Gericault's only known erotic painting, this small oil sketch depicts two lovers locked in a passionate embrace while their languid companion calmly watches from the left. The woman's nudity and relaxed pose evoke the classical tradition of representing repose after lovemaking, a tradition that is also evoked by the way her voluptuous figure complements the statue of Venus above. Encoiled in her lover's arms and with her legs provocatively exposed, the woman in white is an active participant in the amorous act rather than a passive object. With a modern directness, Gericault captured the intensity and energy of human sexuality in a manner very different from the idealizing conventions of his age.
Why I like this is that we call this art, but if this were to be re-created today, it would be deemed pornographic. Even judging by the description, it plainly states that we're looking a sex scene, no moralizing or justifying. I think we're all OK with that.
"The Return from War: Mars Disarmed by Venus" by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder
Amid the disarray of Vulcan's forge, Venus leans into the embrace of her lover, Mars, who is transfixed by her alluring gaze. Caught up in his attraction to the aggressively seductive goddess, Mars is no longer able to carry out his military exploits. Venus removes his helmet, while mischievous cupids cavort with his sword and shield.
Look at Venus. Back in the day, that body shape was considered sexy. We need to get back to that line of thinking. Curves are awesome and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
"Astronomer by Candlelight" by Gerrit Dou
In an arched, window-like opening, an astronomer works late into the night. Concentrating, he reads an astronomical treatise and measures the distance between two points on a celestial globe. The candle he holds provides the only source of light; it illuminates his face, the book, the precious globe, the beaker of water, and his hourglass.
I think this is my favorite piece on display. And I couldn't tell you why. I looked at it and said, "I like this. I really like this." Whether it's the detail in the contrast or the fact that it speaks to me in relation to my interests, I walked away from this painting feeling pleased. Again, isn't that what art should be doing?
If you're going to The Getty Center, and I recommend that you do, this is the museum in Los Angeles, not the Getty Villa in Malibu (that's where the Classical items are displayed). For more info, check getty.edu. It gets bonus points for being open until 9 p.m. on Saturday nights.
Griffith J. Griffith
The science part of our adventure is at the Griffith Observatory located in Griffith Park, named after Griffith J. Griffith (really, that's his name).
From field trips in elementary schools through my most recent visit, I can say that the Observatory is one of my favorite sites in Los Angeles.
The Griffith Observatory underwent a multi-year renovation project, and it looks better than ever now. The existing building is aglow in all its art deco glamour (it's also aglow thanks to a Tesla coil that's featured there). But the brand new lower level adds a touch of modern aesthetic that adds more physical room to help capture to enormity of the universe (and I'm not being glib).
In fact, the entire wall opposing the planets display in "The Big Picture." At 152 feet long and 20 feet high, The Big Picture is the largest single astronomically accurate image, and features the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. It's made up of real observational data of a part of the sky showing over a million real stars, galaxies, and other celestial objects. A photo posted here wouldn't even come close to doing it justice.
Of course, if you want to sit and discuss astrophysics with Albert Einstein, you can do that, too.
In addition to usual observatory fare, it also feature 3 different planetarium shows, and free public viewings through its 12-inch telescope (if skies are clear enough). And though it's closed on Mondays, the Observatory is open until 10 p.m. the other days of the week. If you are interested in astronomy, even if just on a mild amateur level, the Griffith Observatory is the place to be. For more info, check griffithobservatory.org.
So here we are, at the end of another wonderful FIFA World Cup. That, of course, brings us to the latest installment of the What's Up World Cup Wrap Up. Cramming all 64 matches into an article of What's Up is always a daunting task, so enough of the pleasantries and let's kick this pig.
All in all, there was so much good about this Cup. Conversely, there was so much bad about this Cup. As I always like to end on a high note, let's start with the bad... and we'll do it countdown style.
Bad Thing #5: Swarm of Mutant Bees
Yes, vuvuzelas have their fans. And they can suck it. Making noise for the sake of making noise is ridiculous. It definitely didn't add to watching the games at home, and I can't imagine that they added anything to the games in person. Sure, they are alleged descendants of some African flugelhorn... blah, blah, blah. Frankly, there were an annoyance.
The first weekend of the Cup, I was watching a game with my dad, and it became apparent that he's not a fan of the vuvuzela. He kept telling me, "They have technology to tone that out. You should send an e-mail to ESPN to have them fix that, because it's bugging me to the point where I don't want to watch it." Come Monday morning, I started reading everywhere on the interweb that millions of people shared the same view as my father.
Maybe I'm spoiled by watching the English Premier League. They have no music... err, noise-makers. They chant. They sing. They are in harmony. And equally as effective is creating an awesome in-game atmosphere. The World Cup games were aurally annoying, and they shouldn't be.
FIFA responded to the complaints by saying it's part of having the Cup in South Africa. While I can't fault that defense, I hope they work with the folks in Brazil (hosts of the next World Cup in 2014) and minimize any abhorrent noise-makers.
Bad Thing #4: African Soccer
With the World Cup in South Africa, and a record 6 African countries in the tournament, this was to be the year that African soccer made a big splash on the world stage. Alas, it didn't happen.
South Africa became the first host nation not to advance to the knockout stages; Nigeria and Cameroon vastly underperformed; and Ivory Coast and Algeria had respectable showings but didn't have the performances that would warrant advancement.
Ghana was the only team to advance, and was a botched penalty kick away from the semi-finals (and 2 more games guaranteed... more on this later). The upside for the Black Stars was that they played hard every game, and showed that they should be considered not just a plucky underdog, but a viable contender. Even with the pressure of the entire continent on it, they performed when they needed to, and should be applauded for an excellent run in the Cup.
But what about the rest of the continent? Shouldn't this have been the year where as many as 3 African nations realistically could have advanced into the later stages? And with so many talented African players plying their trade in Europe on the club level, we are not overestimating anything here.
I mean, even the president of Nigeria was so dismayed by his team's performance that he banned them from international play for 2 years as punishment (luckily, this was smartly rescinded, but El Presidente's frustrations are not his alone). The worst part of it was that it wasn't just Africa that feels let down. I think it's safe to say the whole world was hoping for some more African love in this World Cup, and it didn't happen. That could lead to a global perception that African soccer isn't at the higher level we all thought it was at, and that's sad, because it really is better than this. All of Africa will have to really think how they are going to re-build from this showing.
Bad Thing #3: True French Fashion
It is one thing when a team comes to the World Cup tournament, has a bad showing, and then goes home in quasi-shame (see: Honduras who ended up with a draw and two losses, but didn't score a single goal; or see also: North Korea, who ended with three losses, including a 7-0 loss to Portugal [not a typo]), but it really is another when a team completely implodes like France did.
In a nutshell: after their second game, coach sends star player home after altercation between the two. In true French fashion, the other players revolt by, again in true French fashion, staging a one-day strike and refusing to practice. Oh, and they still had a game left against South Africa, which had implications as to who would advance from the group.
The worst thing about it all is that it started to overshadow some of the other better stories happening at the World Cup. France, you want to have some bitter in-fighting? Great, but keep it to yourself.
However, maybe this public meltdown is just soccer karma for the Henry handball against Ireland in the final game of World Cup qualification that sent France to the Cup and Ireland home. Just sayin'. But speaking of which...
Bad Thing #2: The Hand
The end of Uruguay-Ghana match was one of the most exciting games in recent history. And I'm going to come out and say it... I have no problem with the handball at the end of extra time.
Let's set it up. After a spirited, back-and-forth match that saw the game tied at the end in regulation, it was off to extra time. At the closing moments, literally seconds from the final whistle, Ghana has a free kick and sends it into the box. Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez saved his goalkeeper by clearing a shot off the line, but when the rebound was coming in for a sure go-ahead goal, Suarez stuck his hand up and prevented it from going in.
Make no mistake, that was an illegal play according to the rules of the games. And despite the lightning quickness of the play, the ref saw it and blew his whistle. And the punishment was properly delivered. Suarez was given a straight red card (which ejected him from the game, and suspended him from the next game, if any), and Ghana was awarded the penalty kick.
At this point, Ghana's top scorer, Asamoah Gyan, stepped up to take the penalty kick (note, he has already scored on two penalty kicks earlier in the tournament). He beat the goalie, but sent the ball high and off the crossbar. Ghana would later lose the game in the PK shootout.
The "Bad Thing" here is not the handball, but the reaction that it has gotten. People were calling Suarez a cheater, and was booed relentlessly whenever he touched the ball in the third place game. People, listen up. He is not a cheat.
Let's throw out the whole "anyone would have done the same in that situation" argument (while it has merit, it's totally irrelevant to this). It would be one thing if he handled the ball and it was not called by the refs. But that didn't happen. Whether instinctual or premeditated, Suarez saved his team, but was rightly punished. Ghana had every possible opportunity to make this discussion moot, but Gyan missed that PK (and it wasn't even that the goalie denied him, Gyan muffed it) and the Black Stars petered-out in the shootout.
So please don't buy into that "Suarez single-handedly killed Ghana" line of logic (pun intended). Ghana had their chance at glory, but didn't finish. If we're going to lay blame, look elsewhere.
Bad Thing #1: Like You Don't Know Where This Is Going
I really do hate to beat the dead horse that is World Cup officiating, but it was so ridiculously bad this year, that the normally stubborn FIFA had to finally concede and admit that they'll look into it.
The first signs that officiating was crap this year was that the U.S. had two different goals, in two different games, called back for... I'm not sure I know the reasons, even now. But then it got worse.
The two plays that stand out for just how bad the officiating was, were:
1) the Tevez goal in the Mexico-Argentina match
2) the Lampard "goal" in the England-Germany match
The Carlos Tevez goal was bad because the Argentine striker was so far offsides, a proper metaphor would fail to capture the atrociousness of it. It's not uncommon for a player who is offsides, but barely just, to be missed by the linesman. But Tevez? Wow. And here's where it gets weird. The stadium showed the replay, offsides and all, on the big screen which allowed Mexico, the fans, and the rest of the world to see that error. What does FIFA do? It says that stadiums shouldn't show replays like that. WHAT? Really? Instead of worrying about preventing errors like that in the future, they move swiftly to avoid criticism of said errors in the future. Ridiculous.
But the creme de la creme of bad calls was the Lampard strike (and I apologize that I don't have a video or photo for your review). With England trailing 2-0, they score to bring it to 2-1. 60 seconds later, Frank Lampard's shot from the edge of the box strikes the underside of the crossbar and bounces down, with the referee ruling the ball had not crossed the goalline. But the replay will show that ball bounced down in the goal, well within it, and it wasn't even close. It was a goal.
Some tried to argue that had it counted, England would still have lost 4-2, instead of 4-1. But that's flawed logic. Had Lampard's goal counted, Germany and England would have been tied 2-2 at the half. In that scenario, both teams are starting the second half even, as opposed to England playing catch-up.
I've said in the 2006 edition of the What's Up World Cup Wrap Up that what soccer needs is more officials on the field. Had the goal-line judges been implemented like many had suggested even before the Cup, this would be a non-issue. But how bad an issue is it? FIFA actually apologized to both Mexico and England. It has never done anything like that before (fat lot of good that did now).
This may be the final piece of evidence that FIFA has to relent and consider revamping its officiating. FIFA has longed maintained that human error is part of the game. While a noble sentiment, it shouldn't be a non-playing human's error that costs a team a game.
But enough of the bad.
Take a deep, cleansing breath...
...now let's focus on the good.
Good Thing #5: South Africa Off the Pitch
A lot of question marks hovered over this tournament. Would South Africa be ready in time? What about the crime? Will it be a disaster? On and on and on.
Well, as it turns out, everything went swimmingly. Sure there were some hiccups, but in the end, everyone will walk away satisfied. And the biggest winner? The country and people of South Africa. There is a nicely written article in the Los Angeles Times that highlights this point.
And as far as eyewitness accounts, I was following Drew Carey on Twitter which proved to be entertaining and informative as he was in South Africa, visited a lot of places, and posted a lot of photos.
Now, I can't go into great detail as I was not in South Africa myself. However, if even half of the items that were written about it turn out to be true, the World Cup will prove to be the kind of catalyst that will help South Africa progress as a nation, and South Africans progress as a people. And yes, just because of soccer.
Good Thing #4: "An Absolute Firecracker"
Here in the United States, Landon Donovan's winner against Algeria may be considered the goal of the tournament. But in my opinion, one that is shared by almost everyone around the world, Dutch captain Gio van Broockhorst's howitzer strike was the goal of the Cup. Perfect from foot to net. See for yourself.
I'd be hard pressed to find a prettier goal.
Good Thing #3: Pleasant Surprises
These are the teams I want to see more of and in more Cups.
Uruguay: The hosts and winners of the very first World Cup, they fell off the face of the soccer world for a long time, but showed up nicely and reminded everyone that they can still play. Even though they went to the 3rd place game and lost, they'll still be welcomed home as heroes (even Suarez).
Greece: Look, I'm allowed a little bias every once in a while. It is my website after all. But to my Greek peeps, you gotta stop resting on the laurels of the Euro 2004 Championship. No one is underestimating you anymore.
Slovenia: The smallest nation in the tournament. Could have advanced. Should have advanced. Good, scrappy team.
New Zealand: 3 games, no losses. Conversely, 3 games, no wins. Finished with 3 ties, but could have advanced. I don't want to say that they're too inexperienced to know how, but that what it felt like. I hope they make the next Cup.
Germany: With Michael Ballack out with injury, people wrote Germany off. Dare I say, they are a better team without him. You know when the Germans are considered, "a plucky, young team with a bright future," that's bad news for everyone else. All I'm saying is if they learned how to play without him and managed to get to and win the 3rd place game, it'll be interesting to see how he'll add his talents to an already strong team.
Good Thing #2: The Americans are Back
Where to start, where to start.
Well, to be honest, we have to start with the fact that, on the whole, the United States did not play great soccer during this tournament. Yes, they have spectacular moments and highlight reel fodder, but in all but one game, they coughed up an early goal (waaay early), and then had to claw and scratch their way to a tie.
But, as we're still being honest, despite screwing the pooch a few times, the United States showed that they could rise to the challenge. In 3 of their 4 games, they did earn the tie. So one could assume that if they were to actually play a full 90 minutes (as opposed to the last 30), and worked on their defensive foibles, the U.S. Men's National Team could be a force to be reckoned with.
I could go on and on about what the U.S. needs to fix, but I don't think it's really a surprise (need some depth on the back four, and a premier striker, which I still believe is young Jozy Altidore once he harnesses that potential). Instead, let's focus on the good things, and there were plenty.
Landon Donovan has silenced his critics with a solid performance in the Cup. That first goal against Slovenia was priceless. And more importantly, he not only has shown us that he can play consistently, but handle the pressure of such a high-stakes event.
Michael Bradley (yes, the coach's son) has developed quite nicely as the stabilizing force in midfield. Not surprisingly, he netted that important second goal against Slovenia.
The U.S. is in good hands with its crop of goalkeepers (no pun intended). Tim Howard kept the Americans in games when things looked to get out of hand.
If this core group (along with Clint Dempsey, Benny Feilhaber, and Maurice Edu) can stick together and play in the 2014 Cup, with a few added pieces, things could get interesting.
But the best thing that the United States did was make an entire country care about soccer. Seriously! Don't believe me? I submit, for your review, the following.
Mind you, this was a weekday morning. And people took time out of their lives to watch a game. The Americans are back, baby. All of us.
Good Thing #1: World Cup Virgins
The World Cup Final featured two teams that had never won the World Cup, and that's awesome. For the Netherlands, this was their 3rd Final appearance, and it was Spain's first. And it's always so pleasant to see fresh faces hoist the Cup (no offense Brazil, none to you either Italy).
It was a little disappointing that the Final game itself was so... blah. To be fair, both teams played their game according to plan. As evident in their previous games, Spain's methodology is to keep pressing, keep chipping away, and score that late goal to eke out a 1-0 win. Same for Netherlands, who like to sit back, play solid defense, and then hit the gas on the counterattack when their opponent over-commits. The Dutch had no less than 3 chances, and tanked them all. Spain finally chipped away enough to earn the win in extra time.
For the record, I was rooting for the Dutch (no real reason), so I'm OK in calling out that they were playing like little whinny bitches. They're better than that, but in the end, looked class-less.
But not to take away from the Spanish. They played hard, got some key saves from their goalie, Iker Casillas, and earned their win and their first ever World Cup (and can now shed the title of "Best Team to Never Win the Big One"). Congratulations, Spain.
Bonus Random thoughts:
-Based on the Bracket Predictor on ESPN, I said the final four would be: Brazil, Argentina, U.S., and Italy. Umm, ya. The final four were: Spain, Netherlands, Uruguay and Germany. Of my four, only Argentina managed to reach the quarterfinals. Glad I didn't have any money on it this year.
-Did you notice how the World Cup trophy is transported in a Louis Vuitton case? Classy.
-I listened to the two semi-finals on the radio. In both games, they had to take a break for station identification... in both games, a goal was scored during that break. Really? What are the odds?
-There didn't seem to be a big ad campaign showdown between Nike and adidas this year (or if there was, I missed it, which should be another indicator). I think Nike's "Write the Future" ad was the best of anything I've seen this year. I mean, when you have an animated Cristiano Ronaldo nutmegging Homer Simpson, that's commercial gold.
-Brazil is now getting ready to host the 2014 World Cup. But pretty soon, the locations of the 2018 and 2022 Cups will be revealed. If I was a betting man (and I am), I'd say England gets '18 and the U.S. gets '22. You heard it here first.
-Don't forget, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup will be in Germany. That's only a year away. Get your tickets now.
And that, my friends, brings an end to another What's Up World Cup Wrap Up. Until next time, keep the game beautiful.