Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mummies of the World at California Science Center

This should be categorized as 'History Visiting Los Angeles' but I'll settle for event. The largest touring mummy exhibit ever is in Exposition Park afor a few months, and I went to see it yesterday.

Mummies of the World opened at the California Science Center earlier this month, and you do need to buy tickets in advance. 

On to the good stuff that I learned from the exhibit.

FIrst, not all mummies are from Egypt. The tattooed babe to the left, for example, lived in Peru at least 600 years ago. Up close, you can see the impression of a woven fabric on her chin--fabric that was wrapped over her face after death.(American Exhibitions furnished this and other photos for Mummies of the World.)

The exhibit has mummies from South America--one is the oldest mummy ever found, a 6500-year-old baby--as well as from China, Hungary and other sites--including, of course, Egypt.

BTW, do you know technically what a mummy is? I didn't. It's a dead body whose soft tissue (as opposed to its skeleton) has been preserved. By that definition, a peat bog body is also a mummy, and yes, there is a bog body in the exhibit.

Second, not all mummies are human. This fellow is a cat, mummified and wrapped during the Ptolemaic period of Egypt (Cleopatra's era). An Egyptian falcon mummy was also exhibited--archaeologists have found over one million falcon mummies in Egypt!

Finally, and this was a big part of the exhibit, not all mummies are intentionally created. The most interesting mummies there occurred naturally:

  • The hyena who got caught in a cave and starved to death. The arid cave preserved its body and fur.

  • The afore mentioned 6500-year-old baby. The desert air of high-altitude Peru mummified him/her (they're not sure of the sex)

  • Three members of the same family--father, mother, and infant--who died in the early 1800s and were mummified along with 250 other folks, buried in a crypt in their village in Hungary. Something about the air and lack of humidity in the sealed crypt mummified all the bodies, which were discovered in 1994.

So. Go see the show. Take your kids and gross them out. Dead bodes, leathery skin and bones, a weasel head and a dozen or so other animals, videos showing CT scans of the bodies--even one poor, naked Egyptian mummy with his mummified penis...gives a whole new meaning to the word shriveled. What's not to love? 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hollywood Mosaics

With all the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of Hollywood's Walk of Fame, this seems appropriate. This is the far right panel of the huge mosaic ornamenting the front entrance of the Chase Bank (formerly a Home Savings and Loan) and Sunset and Vine.

Millard Sheets created the building and the mosaics, and this particular branch was his favorite. Besides the large mosaics on the front, displaying the names of hundreds of movie luminaries, there are also mosaics on the back of the building (including Mary Poppins) which I'm going to save for another entry.

Howard Ahmanson, who owned Home Savings and hired Sheets to design his bank buildings, died about the same time this branch opened in 1968.

The black marble that alternates with the pictures panels contains 480 names. If you click on the photo at right, you should be able to read some of those names on a much larger image. The movie star names are of Academy Award winners between 1937 and 1968, and of pre-1937 actors selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

When the building opened, the original Pathe camera used by Cecil B. DeMille to shoot The Squaw Man--the first full-length Hollywood movie--was on display. I honestly don't know if it's still there, because I arrived after the bank closed. However, The Squaw Man was shot at Sunset and Vine in 1913, when there was nothing but an empty field on the spot.

Nearby--at Vine and Selma--was the barn rented by DeMille and his partner Jesse Lasky as an office for their new film company. The barn was moved from the Vine and Selma location in 1926. Today the barn houses the Hollywood Heritage Museum, across the street from the Hollywood Bowl.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Los Angeles Daily...well, Occasional Photo

Definitely not going "Daily Photo," though I love those sites: Paris Daily Photo, Daily Photo L.A., etc. I'm waaaay too lazy to commit to posting every day. (Sometimes, I'm even too busy, which is a very nice feeling too.)

But on yesterday's long summer evening, ye olde Schwab's sign on Vine near Sunset just presented such a lovely opportunity.

What does the sign stand on? A building I would call streamline moderne--but what's in said building? Lofts? At street leve, there's a Linens and Things store... but I think the Schwab's sign is on top of a restaurnt. Not Cafe Was--that is the place with the red umbrellas.

Shoulda paid more attention, but my focus (as usual) rested on food and the great meal I was about to have. Cafe Was, btw, presents some very exciting cocktails.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mosque Mosaics

Today's mosaics are on the King Fahad Mosque of Culver City, on Washington Blvd. According to the Taco blog, the minaret of the mosque stands over 70 feet high, and the mosque itself can hold at least 2000 worshippers. It cost $2.16 million to build, which was financed by private donations, and it opened in July of 1998.

Prince Abdulaziz Ibn Faud Ibn Abdul Aziz, Minister of State and Cabinet Member of Saudi Arabia, contributed one million dollars for the land purchase. Two former presidents, Gerald Ford and George Herbert Walker Bush praised the Mosque, which all consider a marvelous gift from King Fahd.

I wondered why Taco blog would have such comprehensive information (I show only a teensy bit of it here) as well as many photos, but their heading mentions "Street Art" as a topic (along with tacos), so there you go.

Switch to the Wall Street Journal, which claimed in 2004 that the "$8 million" mosque, the largest of several King Fahd built throughout the US, was under investigation along with other Islamic charities. Apparently the Saudi government's Ministry of Islamic Affairs kept this and the other mosques supplied with books and teachers from Saudi Arabia. It may be the operating/management organization that is technically the Islamic charity: the Islamic Foundation of Shaikh Ibn Taimmiyyah.

Another bit of trivia mentioned by the newspaper is that two of the September 11th hijackers visited and spent time there--but may be as meaningful as pointing out that a serial killer once stopped by a major cathedral.

Here is a close up of the pillars, which really are beautiful. Even the potted plant has a mosaic on it!

This is a Suni Mosque, btw.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Big Red Car Routes in 1905

Found a great ad for the Los Angeles-Pacific Railroad (the Red Cars) from 1905, advertising the "Balloon Route." Sounds like a Party Train, if I read it correctly! The Balloon Route took you all over LA County, with stops going north to Laurel Junction (as in Laurel Canyon) and Hollywood, then east to Los Angeles and the 4th Street Station and down to Sawtelle and the National Soldiers Home--that outlines a big loop, the "balloon."

Cars then went due west to Santa Monica--the balloon's tether, I guess. From there you could go on to weekend destinations along the coast, but it might be hard to pull yourself away. After all, Santa Monica, "the oldest and most widely known beach on the Coast, situated on the bluff overlooking the sea" had the "famous Hotel Arcadia, Fine Bath House, Pleasure Pier, FIshing, excellent surf bathing..."

Here are some descriptions of the other stops:

  • Playa del Rey, the Play Ground of the King--"One of the most beautiful resorts on the Pacific." Apparently, there was a huge auditorium and convention hall there, as well as "Still water bathing and boating on the Lagoon" and a pleasure pier and surf bathing.

  • Venice of America, with Parlor Car Service!

  • Ocean Park, one mile from Santa Monica. "Bathing, fishing, and every form of beach attraction, including large dancing pavillon, pleasure pier, bath houses and roller coaster."

  • Redondo. "At this beautiful beach overlooking a fine natural harbor is located the far-famed Redondo Hotel, commanding the great ocean front, rivaling all others for grandeur of view." They spared no superlative in those days, huh?

And here's what the ad says about Hollywood. Remember, this is 1905--no movie connection yet. "Beautiful Hollywood, "The Bridal Chamber of California," a city of artistic homes. The "Outpost" of Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, Whitley Heights, Laughlin Hill, and many similar beautiful places, including the home of Mr. Paul de Longpre, the celebrated flower artist."

This Balloon Route Map, borrowed from the USC page on the Big Red Cars, is dated a little later but the route itself seems the same. The picture above of the Red Car is from San Pedro.com.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Humble, Out-of-State Mosaic

This week was spent traveling in New Mexico (Yay!) I expected to find to find some pretty snazzy mosaic art among the galleries at Santa Fe and Taos, but perhaps I was not looking in the right places. (I did see fantastic, incredible paintings and sculpture--especially along Canyon Road in Santa Fe--just not mosaics.)

Mosaic Monday was saved by a mailbox in Madrid--pronounced MAH-drid--a small town on the Turquoise Trail. Madrid is an old mining town that's become an art colony and shopping mecca. The drawing on the link shows you Madrid, but the drawing is way too clean! Where is the dirt & gravel, the old train engine, the delapidated structures reminding you that this is, truly, a recovered ghost town? Highway 14 runs through Madrid, but you have to slow down to five miles per hour as you drive through. That's not a joke. Think of driving past the main entrance to the mall. Five miles an hour.

Bikers love to stop at Madrid, as well as tourists of all stripes. The few dozen old homes (and a couple of railroad cars) host all sorts of art, textile, and curio shops; the prices are reasonable (unlike Santa Fe); and there's good restaurants hidden there too.

Fun place. Just be careful to avoid the gabbing pedestrians.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mosaics...they're everywhere!

Mosaics are never commonplace, but they turn up in suprising places once you start looking. Here, for example, are signs on the entrance/exit to a mall parking structure.

The mall is The Promenade on the Peninsula in either Palos Verdes or Rolling Hills (who can keep them straight?). I think The Promenade used to be the Peninsula Center, an appellation that only boomers remember and which now googles to a cluster of stores west of the Promenade. My memory may be faulty, but in the 80s and 90s I'm pretty certain this was an enclosed, three-story mall. I loved shopping there at Christmas time because it was the only mall that wasn't jammed with people...good for me, bad for the merchants.

Come to think of it, was there even a parking structure back in the 1980s?

Now The Promenade at the Peninsula has gone open air and is doing much better.

I can make a vague link to an open air shopping center of the early 60s. When the city of Pomona wanted to revive its downtown area, business leaders teamed up with Millard Sheets, the famous artist and teacher who designed many of the Home Savings and Loans for Howard Ahmanson. Sheets got Ahmanson to build a 6 or 7 story Home Savings that would anchor an open-air mall in Pomona on 2nd Street. By closing the street off to pedestrian traffic, it became the first open-air pedestrian mall west of the Mississippi, or something like that.

So, my point is that going open air can certainly revive a shopping area. It did for Pomona, at least for a little. (Only a little, actually. Within a few years, business fell off and the streets became streets again. There my analogy falls short, because the Peninsula Center was never a downtown business district like Pomona, and never had cars driving down its promenades.)

I'm off on vacation for a week; forgive the rambling. The mosaics in Rolling Hills Estates (I checked; that's the right city) were an expected delight.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


According to Hector Tobar's column in the Los Angeles Times, Edendale was one of LA's first artistic communities. Tobar researched the place because of a woodcut he saw at the Huntington Library. The carving by Paul Landacre showed Landacre's own Edendale home in the 1930s, with two coastal oaks and a stairs that still exist--though the house (now a city historical site) is empty and abandoned. It overlooks the Glendale Freeway. I tried to see the place online, but--as Tobar reported--the street is blocked off and crumbling. Google maps don't go there.

The exact location of Edendale is "the valley that now separates Silver Lake from Echo Park" per Tobar.  He went to Landacre's house and emphasized its history as a landmark in a bohemian neighborhood that is nearly forgotten--yet extremely influential in the image it created, of Los Angeles as a haven for artists and creatives.

The essay is excellent; I don't want to repeat it here--go to the Times and read it!

But when I went to my Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and CountyLos Angeles A to Z, Edendale is mentioned as an area of Glendale where motion pictures got their start. Wikipedia has a good amount of info on that, with paragraphs on Selig-Polyscope, Bison Studios, Fox Studios (which took over Selig-Polyscope in 1917 and allowed its biggest star, Tom Mix, to set up a 12-acre Mixville for shooting westerns), Max Sennett and the Keystone Kops.  Lots of Keystone Kops and  other silent comedies--including Charlie Chaplin's first film--were shot in Edendale.

And (per Wiki), Tom Mix's horse Old Blue was buried at the property, at what is today the northeast corner of Glendale Blvd & Silver Lake Blvd!

Here's the online chapter on Mixville that Wiki used as a source.