Sunday, November 19, 2017

War of the Worlds Opera


 
War of the Worlds opera logo
 
I am freakishly obsessed with the 1940s air raid sirens that still dot L.A.’s urban landscape. Erected during WWII and active through most of the Cold War, they were a major part of my childhood, when we had to practice ducking-and-covering under our school desks every time the sirens were tested (at 10AM the last Friday of the month). 

Although decommissioned many decades ago, a majority of the sirens continue to quietly stand guard today. Most people don’t even notice them, but I think they’re marvelous: rusting artifacts of a time when America knew exactly who its enemies were. 

No wonder, then, that I was thrilled to hear that three air raid sirens were being reactivated as part of a new public performance based on War of the Worlds, Orson Welles’ infamous radio play. Staged as an opera at Disney Hall, in downtown Los Angeles, the concert was interrupted by live radio interviews, detailing a Martian invasion around the city. The interviews were being remotely broadcasted from sirens located within one mile of Disney Hall. I immediately reserved tickets for one of the sites.

 

 Site 1: Olive and 1st


Site 2: Main St. between 3rd and 4th

 
Site 3: Hill St. between 7th and 8th
 
Anxious to see how the sirens had been retrofitted for the performance, we scoped-out the three remote sites last weekend. Sure enough, the sirens got a fresh coat of paint and new up-to-date black speakers. We also got to see puppeteers rehearsing with one of the Martian aliens—very exciting! This looked to be a fun event and indeed it was.

 

 Puppeteers rehearsing with mechanical Martian


Tim, Karen and I were greeted by three soldiers when we arrived at our assigned site yesterday afternoon. They told us to remain calm, even though they themselves were visibly nervous about something. The “stage” was setup in an empty parking lot on Hill St. About 200 white folding chairs faced the small platform as well as, of course, the air raid siren, which ended up being the centerpiece of the production.

 

 Soldiers, General Lansing (one of the opera singers),
and air raid siren in the background
After a short while, we heard an orchestra warming up through speakers placed behind us. The narrator, actress Sigourney Weaver, was introduced and the opera began. The music was suitably eerie as we listened and waited.

 

 Soldier taking aim at the menacing air raid siren (no!)
About five minutes into the concert, Sigourney politely interrupted with news that “incandescent gas” from Mars was hurtling toward L.A. at “an enormous velocity.” She advised that there was nothing to worry about, but reminded the audience to take note of the nearest exit in case we had to suddenly flee. Soon there were reports of “cylindrical objects on poles in the sidewalk” doing strange things as our siren started emitting high-pitched noises. Turns out L.A.’s innocent-looking air raid sirens had been hiding dormant Martians for 70 years and now they were coming to life! Sure enough, we were soon joined by a large mechanical creature, crawling along the sidewalk and threatening our space.

 

 Under attack!
Not only was it fun hearing our siren “speak” again after all these years, but the actors’ dialog was very L.A.-centric. Lines like “a loud, metallic bang was heard as far north as Tarzana” and “enemy tripod machines over the Cahuenga Pass” had us howling with laughter. In the end, music—and the controversial “titanium” skin covering Disney Hall—saved the day. But we were warned that “our world [is] being watched closely/With envious eyes/By a great intelligence.”

 

 Disney Hall and its titanium skin


So. Much. Fun.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Disneyland at Halloween

 
 Disney California Adventure (DCA) decorated for Halloween

It's been four years since we did Mickey's Halloween party at Disneyland, so we decided to go again this year. Fireworks. A special Halloween-themed parade. Plus Disneyland after dark. Who can resist? 

The Halloween party is one of the only times adults are allowed to wear costumes into the parks. Great to see entire families dressed as the Incredibles or favorite Disney villains. We don't cosplay, but we did dress in matching Halloween outfits and got rave reviews. So. Much. Fun! 


 Matchy-matchy!

Long lines for photo opps with various Disney characters. But because attendance is limited, we practically walked right onto our favorite rides. Well worth the extra fee to get into the party.

Happy Halloween, y'all!


Scary Cozy Cones at DCA

 
Even the most benign buildings are suddenly creepy
at Halloween

 
Ofrenda for beloved Cars character Doc Hudson
(voiced by late actor Paul Newman) 

 
Día de los Muertos in Cars Land

 
Sleeping Beauty's Castle awash in scary images

 
Haunted Mansion

 
Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws

 
Magnificent Maleficent

 
it's a small world

Monday, August 21, 2017

Total (well, Partial) Eclipse

 
Partial eclipse that was seen in totality in other parts of the country
 
I foolishly scheduled a minor medical procedure for this morning, before realizing this was also the day of the total eclipse—an event that hasn't spanned across the United States in 99 years. I had already canceled the procedure once and so didn't want to reschedule again. However, as soon as the nurse began her preparations, I mentioned that I was hoping to be done in time for the eclipse. She nodded politely.

Two hours later, Tim and I were heading home just as the moon started to cover the sun. As we drove along Venice Blvd., we saw several people standing outside, wearing protective glasses and staring up at the sun. The peak of the eclipse was happening at 10:21AM and it was already 10AM. Would we be home in time to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event? And would our neighbors let us borrow their eclipse glasses, because I hadn't even bothered getting any since I assumed I'd be stuck indoors at the doctor's office.

We pulled up in front of the house at 10:10AM. Happily, our across-the-street neighbor came over immediately and offered us a welder's mask that he was holding in his hand.

"Use this," he said as we tried glancing up at the sun. "The protective glass will shield your eyes."

Sure enough, I put on the mask and could see the moon partially covering the sun. "Cool!" I yelled. 

Pretty soon other neighbors emerged as we passed around the welder's mask. It was a wonderful moment: standing in the street all together, sharing an historic moment, if only for a few minutes.

Our eclipse was only partial—about 60% coverage—but it was part of a much larger national event that brought people together under the shared banner of nature and science. A small thing, perhaps, but such a reliefeven if just brieflyduring a month marked by violence in Charlottesville and national divisiveness. 

Thank goodness for heavenly bodies . . .


Sharing a once-in-a-lifetime experience*

 
Selfie: our neighbor Elizabeth in the welder's mask*

 
Even the neighborhood dogs got into the act!*


*Thanks to Elizabeth for letting me use her photos!

Touring DTLA

Despite a serious need to relax more during our well-earned retirement, we managed to squeeze in not one but two tours of places in downtown L.A. last Friday. The first was the L.A. Streetlight Museum, located in the city's Public Works building. Open for only 30 minutes a month, the museum is managed by the Bureau of Street Lighting, which decided two years ago to share and celebrate some of the most beautiful lamps that have illuminated—and still light—Los Angeles since the late 1800s. It was a short but fascinating visit.


Lamps from the late 1800s, plus an old switch box

Early 20th century lamps

 
 The lamps (on concrete pedestals) that 
we grew-up with—and still love—
when we were kids


1930s lamps


1950s beauties

 
1940s


Specialty lamps for UCLA (left) and Chinatown (right)


Still lighting DTLA (see below)

After a quick nap back home, we took the lightrail back to DTLA for a "Modern by Moonlight" tour offered by the L.A. Conservancy. Starting at the Central Library before sunset, we ventured north and west only a handful of blocks over the next two hours. The views were, of course, magnificent. We do love our city . . .

 
Bonaventure Hotel before sunset

U.S. Bank building (formerly aka "The Library
Tower") with the real library in the foreground

Wonderful old lamps we saw at the
Streetlight Museum with the new Wilshire
Grand in the background

Across the street from the library

The most beautiful building downtown: Los Angeles
Public Library

Tallest building in L.A.: Wilshire Grand 
pointing skyward

Looking south down Flower from the Bonaventure

Thursday, August 10, 2017

STLV 2017

 

The big annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas is akin to a celebrity cruise: Even though you're confined to the same space with the same 5000 people for five days, you're never bored thanks to a jam-packed schedule of activities that include panel discussions, interviews, trivia contests, costume competitions, photo opportunities, and lively nighttime entertainment. Plus there's always the chance you'll share an elevator ride or two with your favorite stars.

Karen and I enjoyed last year's convention, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek (ST) TV show, so much that we decided to return again last week. This year's theme: the 30th anniversary of our favorite and arguably the best of all the ST series, Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). Even Tim decided to tag along and took many of the photos below. 

 
 TNG anniversary logo

Arriving at the con
 
Convention highlights included: a museum of costumes and artifacts from the upcoming new TV show Star Trek: Discovery; behind-the-scenes slides narrated by ST creator Gene Roddenberry's assistant; an early morning program featuring concept art for new ST starships (I was one of the few women in the audience!); Klingon karaoke; a panel discussion of my favorite TNG episode, "The Inner Light;" a mash-up costume contest, where cosplayers cleverly used iconic non-Trek elements to create new ST characters (see several examples below); competitive compilation of Sir Patrick Stewart's top-ten non-Trek roles (our nominations did not win); and a closing night concert by the Rat Pack, several "minor" ST actors who wear tuxedos and sing standards with a special—and usually very funny—twist. And, yes, we did get to ride the elevator with a couple of our fave ST actors: John deLancie, who played Q on TNG and Star Trek: Voyager, and Robert Picardo (twice!), the Doctor on Voyager.

Celebrating ST:TNG

 
Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard)

 
Michael Dorn (Klingon and security officer Worf)

 
LeVar Burton (Geordi) and Brent Spiner (Data)

 
 TNG costumes: Guinon and Data

Borg Queen's skull and spine (cool!!)

 
Wearing my Ten-Forward t-shirt in front of a replica of
Ten-Forward, ST's first intergalactic bar

Other Celebs

 
 William Shatner (Captain Kirk)

Kate Mulgrew (Voyager's Captain Janeway)
 
 Star Trek: Discovery

 
Klingon armor (made on a 3-D printer!!)

 
Klingon helmut

 
Klingon uniform

 
 On the bridge of Discovery (replica)

 Favorite Costumes

 
The Gorn (Tim's fave)

 
Guinon (bartender extraordinaire
on TNG)

 
Klingon females: the Duras sisters (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

 
Klingon (original series)

 
"Plato's Stepchildren" (original series)

 

Green Orion women and Ferengis

 
Vulcan ambassador

 
Kermit as starfleet officer

 
Captain Cruella deVil and commander Spot

 
The "away team" (Wrath of Khan)

 

 
(Can't remember its name!!)

Best Mashups

 
Santa Gorn and ST Jack Sparrow (left)

Miss Gorn

 

 
ST Elvis

 
Snow White and the Seven Worfs

Klingon Jedi

 
Wookiee Klingon

 
Steampunk science officer

 
"Walking red . . ."

All the Rest

 
Up early to see the costume parade

 
Parade participants

 
Even dogs cosplayed!

 
 Great signage

 
In Klingon as well as English

 
Klingon karaoke: Duras sisters singing "Killing Me Softly" 
(in Klingon!)

 
Live long and prosper. . .