Southern California Photography by Alan Pavlik, editor and publisher of Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik

If you use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me

These were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0

The original large-format raw files are available upon request.

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Visitors from February 28, 2006, 10:00 am Pacific Time to date -

Wednesday, 8 March 2006
Close-Up Photography
Topic: Technical Exercises

Close-Up Photography

The fellow who writes the Book Wrangler and World's Laziest Journalist columns each week for Just Above Sunset, Bob Patterson, recently commented that it was a shame you just cannot do good extreme close-up photography with a digital camera. Nonsense. It just takes some effort and planning. It's quite possible with the Nikon (specs in the right panel). It just takes a bit of effort. And there seems to be a leaning curve.

Samples from late afternoon, Wednesday, March 8, 2006, starting with a small shell on the arm of the old leather chair -

Close-up of basic seashell...

The new California quarter on the windowsill. The lower edge is out of focus as this was shot at an angle (oops).

The new California quarter on the windowsill, close-up.

A collection of coins -

Sand dollar, and coins from the US, the UK and France.

The shell in context -

Homer and the seashell...

Posted by Alan at 5:49 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006 8:58 AM PST
Tuesday, 7 March 2006
Architectural Studies, Downtown Los Angeles
Topic: Light and Shadow

Architectural Studies, Downtown Los Angeles

Library Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi, looms over the old Biltmore Hotel on Pershing Square. (It's called the Library Tower because it was built just behind the main public library downtown - it's more properly the US Bank Building at the moment.)

This is an odd shot from January 26, 2006, previously unpublished.

Library Tower above the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles

And below, Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall (detail) in downtown Los Angeles from the month it opened, October 2003. Architectural notes below the image.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic's home, Frank Gehry's building, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, opened in mid-October 2003 after twenty-six years of arguing and odd fund-raising and various disputes.

To European readers it may look a whole lot like his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Gehry designed this building first, starting with preliminary designs in 1987, but the museum in Spain had an easier time getting from idea to reality, so to speak. When the Guggenheim in Bilbao opened in 1997 the Disney family here, in fact, Walt's widow Lillian, along with some other donors, threw in some serious money, to add to the fifty million that started the project ten years earlier. And, two hundred seventy-four million dollars later, they got this building done.

The two buildings have a lot in common. These are jumbled masses of "organic forms" wrapped in shiny, windowless metal panels. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is wrapped in titanium. Here the façade was originally going to be limestone, but that was too expensive, or would not do at all with the earthquakes we sometimes have out here, so we get brushed stainless steel.

It sounds just fine - a Japanese acoustician named Yasuhisa Toyota worked with Gehry and it's an excellent, warm, "live" hall.

All the art and architecture magazines have other pictures, and cutaways and floor plans. National Public Radio did a segment a few days ago on the French 3-D CAD-CAM software the builders used. The Christian Science Monitor said, "It looks like an exploding metal artichoke." The New York Times' Herbert Muschamp said it was "a moon palace" bathed in "the light of the Hollywood dream." Whatever. It's just a pretty cool building.

Gehry is in his late seventies. He's lived out here for sixty years. I'm sure he's smiling.

Other comments:

"The Disney Hall has been likened to a silver galleon with full sails billowing in the wind. Its abstract shapes provide a brilliant contrast to the conventional high-rise towers of downtown L.A." - Marcus Binney, London Times

"Its silvery cascades are one of the most beautiful sights anywhere in the U.S. If you have seen the Grand Canyon, another sun-drenched, curvy thing of hypnotic power, you have some idea of what Disney Hall is like? Gehry's design thoroughly digests the Western architectural vocabulary without quoting literally from it. The free-form silhouette is just right for a concert hall in multiethnic Los Angeles, a city that doesn't look to Europe for much beyond designer shoes.... What he did was a classical hall for an anticlassical city. In Bilbao, his curves make you think of the Spanish baroque. In L.A., they bring to mind all those magic wands in Disney sketching silver arcs in the air." - Richard Lacayo, Time

"Though the Bilbao museum is undeniably a work of genius, Disney Hall is more mature, more focused, more polished, and more thoroughly resolved as a single experience; and it is better executed in its details. Everything in this rich and complex orchestration of surface and volume, light and shadow, comes together with an assurance and authority that I found astounding... [Gehry] can now, in my view, be counted safely among the most talented builders of the ages, comparable to the great impresarios of inventive architectural form." - Martin Filler,New York Review of Books

"Disney Hall is a defining masterwork - because of [Gehry's] love for music, for Los Angeles and for his art. Its roller-coaster swoops and gleaming curves seem to mirror his formidable energies and ambitions." - Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek

"The technique is Cubist. No seamless image reveals the whole. Disney Hall must be assembled within the mind piece by piece as you approach and walk around it. A Surrealist ethos also suffuses the design: the imagineering impulse of Disney as well as of Magritte. Pumpkin into carriage, cabbage into concert hall, bippidi-bobbidi-boo... Metamorphosis happens, and not only in Walt Disney's classic films. Cities do it all the time. Los Angeles has done it now. The building pulls together the strands of many individual stories and creates an extraordinarily gallant setting in which they can be screened." - Herbert Muschamp, New York Times

"The chief amenity, if it can be called that, is its almost spellbinding beauty. Gehry's is an art of built-in surprises. He desires the surprise of the immediate 'Wow!' And he strives for the delight of longer contemplation. Disney Hall provides both. So, do not be deceived by the beautiful photographs, for as splendid as they can be, they always tend to mask the immense variety of spaces, surfaces and light of the real thing." - Benjamin Forgey, Washington Post

"The outside of Disney Hall lifts the spirits of those who see it from the sidewalk or, this being Los Angeles, from the windows of their cars, and the inside is equally inspiring. The auditorium is the finest interior Gehry has ever made... It may be that restaurants, stores, and housing will rise up around Disney Hall and transform the neighborhood into the urban mecca that so many people seek, but I wouldn't bet on it, and it doesn't matter. Disney Hall is something rarer than a great urban street. It is a serene, ennobling building that will give people in this city of private places a new sense of the pleasures of public space." - Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker

Restaurants, stores, and housing have now risen up around Disney Hall. Downtown is booming, actually becoming a real city.


Mixed mode - looking up from Pershing Square. January 26, 2006.

Architectural mess as seen from Pershing Square, downtown Los Angeles

Posted by Alan at 5:46 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006 6:02 PM PST
Monday, 6 March 2006
Rain Today
Topic: Light and Shadow

Rain Today
Ring-Tail Dove, Hollywood California, Monday, March 6, 2006, in light mid-afternoon rain

The day after the Oscars and the world goes quiet around here. The "after" parties all over - everyone has gone home. The low clouds off the Pacific roofed Hollywood and the light rain began in early afternoon. A good day for a nap. Harriet-the-Cat is keeping an eye on this guy outside the window.

In the distance, wet palms...

Palm Trees, Hollywood California, Monday, March 6, 2006, in light mid-afternoon rain

Posted by Alan at 4:01 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006 4:09 PM PST
Sunday, 5 March 2006
Oscar Day: The Obscure Inside Scoop
Topic: Insider Stuff

Oscar Day: The Obscure Inside Scoop

Ameriquest Soaring Dreams Airship, at the Oscars, Hollywood, Sunday, March 5, 2006
Hollywood, Sunday, March 5, 2006 - The seventh-eighth Academy Awards will be presented soon, at the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood and Highland Center. That's just a mile or two east, so it's a good day to stay home. It's whacky out there. At four in the afternoon from the office window you can see, and hear, one blimp, six or seven helicopters - aerial coverage of the event - and four fixed-wing little planes pulling banners. One assumes they're all in communication with each other, but it's in the mid-sixties and clear all the way up to the layer of stratus at thirty-five thousand feet. Visual flight rules apply - the dark clouds and rain are to arrive at midnight or later. (Elton John's "after Oscar" party is scheduled for the Pacific Design Center's outdoor plaza just down the hill, and the Rolling Stone-Us magazines' party at another plaza there, so the rain may be a problem later.)

The blimp is the "Ameriquest Soaring Dreams Airship" - part of the company's program geared toward inspiring children to "go for their dreams." (The program's website here and their photo album here). Ameriquest is a mortgage-lending company based down in hyper-Republican Orange county, and the founder and CEO, Roland E. Arnall, went for his dreams. He's heading for Amsterdam. Late in the afternoon, February 8, he was confirmed as our new ambassador to the Netherlands. Well, he did raise a whole lot of money for the Bush-Cheney campaigns. The confirmation came sixteen days after his Ameriquest Mortgage Company agreed to pay 325 million to settle allegations of unfair lending practices by regulators in forty-nine of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. It seems a lot of less than wealthy folks were paying some outrageous fees and others were getting suckered into deals they couldn't possibly afford, the getting stripped of everything. Very inspiring. The Los Angeles Times covers the confirmation here. Ah, platitudes about inspiring the children and secretly ripping people off - this particular blimp is just right for Hollywood, the land of dreams, opportunity and opportunists.

And one of the banners is this, below. "Fox Stole Ivy's Scrat"

Ivy Supersonic's banner - Fox Stole Ivy's Scrat - at the Oscars, Hollywood, Sunday, March 5, 2006

"Fox Stole Ivy's Scrat?" What? The Ivy here is "Ivy Supersonic" (Ivy Silberstein). Her website is here - it seems she creates "cartoon character concepts." In 1999 she created a character named "Sqrat" (squirrel plus rat) - a trademarked name and concept. She registered it and everything. And Fox will soon release Ice Age: The Meltdown, a sequel to their first CGI animated "Ice Age" cartoon that did so well. The characters in both include "Manny the woolly mammoth, Sid the sloth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger and the hapless saber-toothed squirrel known as Scrat."

Ivy is pissed. The first movie and now this, with her trademarked character - or close enough. She's sued Fox for a cut of the profits. They say her case is without merit. The case, over the alleged theft of her trademarked and licensed cartoon character, is still pending. She's got ads running in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety - "They Stole the Shirt off My Back... Where is the Justice?" "Fox Stole Ivy's Scrat" has been on posters, postcards, taxi cabs, MTV and Comedy Central commercials and her site has had over a million hits. The banner flew over the Grammy awards thing downtown a few weeks ago. It'll been flown over Fox headquarters here in Los Angeles on and off all month.

This is a mean town. Watch your back.

The air traffic - gone by five (eight, primetime, back east) as the ceremonies began.

Air traffic at the Oscars, Hollywood, Sunday, March 5, 2006

Air traffic at the Oscars, Hollywood, Sunday, March 5, 2006

Ameriquest Soaring Dreams Airship, at the Oscars, Hollywood, Sunday, March 5, 2006

Posted by Alan at 5:54 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006 8:05 AM PST
Saturday, 4 March 2006
Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America...
Topic: Historic Hollywood

Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America...
A poster for a Universal picture, dubbed in French, showing at the German theater, antique store wall, Hollywoodland, Beachwood Drive, Los Angeles

A poster for sale in the antique shop in the middle of Hollywoodland, Beachwood Drive, just under the famous Hollywood sign - a poster for a Universal picture, dubbed in French, showing at the German theater.

CNN Live, three days before the Oscars - Some Say Hollywood Movies Out Of Touch With Mainstream America - ANDERSON COOPER: "Many have asked the question, is Hollywood out of touch with middle America? What better place to find out than the middle of America. This is the geographic center of the continental United States in Lebanon, Kansas."

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair on this matter here, two days before the Oscars:

The truth is that Hollywood has almost never reflected heartland values, from its birth it's reflected urban energy, cosmopolitan taste, social conscience, and pagan fascination, and when it's conformed to conventional pieties, as during the dreariest stretches of the postwar period, when disillusionment and subversion had to sneak in through the shadows of film noir as the topline product stayed shiny, bright, and chipmunk cheerful. Do you really think the racy, wisecracking, night-owl-edition, socially conscious crime dramas and comedies of Warner Brothers in the thirties reflected heartland values? Or those Lubitsch comedies with their flirty innuendos and musky intrigues so redolent of Paris and Budapest? Or the Astaire-Rogers "white telephone" musicals, with their French farce plots and Manhattan-skyline sparkle? MGM manufactured an enduring neo-Victorian mimicry of smalltown America in the Andy Hardy movies and others, but that didn't so much reflect heartland values as reflect the immigrant vision of what the white-picket-fence country they imagined lay east of the Hollywood hills.

Think of the movies now considered classic (or semi-classic) from the great grunge stretch of the late Sixties and Seventies, movies such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, The Last Detail, Five Easy Pieces, Blazing Saddles, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, on and on - do these movies speak to the pieties and platitudes that William Bennett holds dear? Even back then during all the noise and excitement I remember sweet old ladies wondering why they didn't make nice movies like The Sound of Music anymore, and they're still asking that same question today. It may be the same old ladies, having gone through two generations of floral muu-muus. Get over it, grandma! They're not going to make movies like Sound of Music anymore, they barely made them back then.

The heartland issue is such a crock, especially when it's taken up by pseudo-populist pundits who cling to both coasts and wouldn't move to the middle of the country unless the name of that middle was Chicago. Fuck the heartland. It doesn't exist. It's a metaphor for all the simple good things Americans would believe in if they flattered themselves by believing in simple good things. (Go reread Sherwood Anderson or Sinclair Lewis if you want to savor the loneliness and cultureless vacuity of so much of the bedrock America we insist on coloring with Norman Rockwell nostalgia.) It's true that more Americans than usual are unacquainted and uninterested in the Oscar pics this year, but how many Americans saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller when it came out? Or Mean Streets? Not that long ago, the Oscars noms were panned because for being an index of popularity, not quality; now quality prevails in the judging, tastes have improved even at the Golden Globes, and the kvetching chorus is complaining that the finalists chosen aren't commercial enough, and don't reflect the interests and values of average Americans. There's no such thing as an average American anymore (if there ever was), unless by "average American" you mean (as news producers and pundits seem to do) white, middle-aged, heterosexual Christian small-towners and suburbanites who won't even be watching the Academy Awards because it'll be past their bedtime and they have elk to milk the next morning.

P.S.: A good thing for their blood pressure, too, because according to this veteran entertainment observer, the upcoming Oscar show promises to be a "fornication festival," a three-hour Satyricon. The Tom Ford pheromone effect must be pandemic!

Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America. That's what has made the industry successful.

Posted by Alan at 9:08 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006 9:09 AM PST

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