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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birds of Paradise: Palisades Park, Santa Monica

One of the unique features of Los Angeles is the incredible variety of plants and flowers found here, the vast majority of which have been imported from other places in the world.

The South African "Bird of Paradise" is a great example of a flowering import that thrives along much of coastal Southern California. The Bird of Paradise is the official flower of the City of Los Angeles (yes, L.A. has an official flower).

Saturday, January 2nd - while much of the country was still enjoying their "white Christmas" - I took some time to walk around Palisades Park, a long, narrow park on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The Latin name for these plants is
trelitzia reginae, the common name: Bird of Paradise, or Crane Flower. They bloom year round, including the winter months. Here's some more info from the good people at wikipedia:

These flowers are a reminder to me of the words St. Paul, a leader in the early Church. Almost two thousand years ago he appealed to those outside of the faith: "We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn . . . to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and sea and everything in them . . . He has not left Himself with testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." (Acts 14:15, 17)

Joy. A friend on the East Coast recently challenged a group of us to think about making more of
joy based appeal when communicating our faith with others.

A common argument against Christianity is summarized in the simple "what about suffering?" In other words, if God exists, why is there suffering?

Perhaps a more difficult question - at least philosophically - is "what about beauty?" If God doesn't exist, how do we account for the beauty we see around us?

St. Paul's appeal was based on joy: from the beauty we see around us, the rain, the crops, the food we have. The Creation itself points to a Creator. Of course, this was and is just a starting point to understanding and embracing the gospel.

With Easter coming up in just eight days (Sunday April 4) I wonder what it would take for the traditional Easter Lily to be replaced with the Bird of Paradise as the flower of choice for Easter.

More so than even Christmas, it is - or should be - the ultimate joy filled holiday.

Additional reviews on Palisades Park can be found here:


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Funkytown Bus (South Santa Monica)

Driving in Santa Monica along Lincoln Blvd, just south of Pico, I rolled past this bus.

I have no idea what the story is behind it, but it's definitely colorful - and adds to the overall ambiance of south Santa Monica/Ocean Park community.

How come I never see a "church bus" that looks like this?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Best Pictures: my favorite L.A. themed films, Part II

In honor of tomorrow's Academy Awards, I came up with a list of my top ten favorite films that take place here in Los Angeles. Here's Part II:

Stand and Deliver is based on the true story of Garfield High School math teacher Jaime Escalante. A great, inspiring film.

I was paying my way through graduate school working a substitute school teacher (just a few miles from Garfield High) when the film came out in 1988 - so I particularly enjoyed it then, as now.

7. A similar film is the 2006 Akeelah and the Bee. Looking elsewhere on the web for more information, this film is either "completely fictional or "based on a true story" - I'm not sure which.

While it may have some unavoidable clich├ęs, it's an inspirational, highly recommended film. Plus, a major scene was filmed on my in-laws street (they live near USC) which was fun to see. If you've got kids, this is the one film on the list you want to put on your queue.

8. After seeing the film Friends with Money (2006), living here in Los Angeles my wife and I often refer to having "Friends with Money moments."

The film follows four women here on the westside of Los Angeles - where people with money are surrounded by people who wish they had money.

It's the Los Angeles that the rest of the world both loves and hates.

Although it's just a drama, for us it was like watching a documentary. Want to know what it's like to live in Los Angeles? I suggest watching Friends with Money. Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief drug use.

9, If you want to know what it
was like to live in Los Angeles 30-40 years ago, Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001) is a good place to start. The only true documentary on this list, this film follows the Zephyr surf and skateboard team that emerged out of south Santa Monica in the late 1960's and 1970's (this film is not to be confused with the 2005 drama Lords of Dogtown).

The footage of the Zephyr team surfing in the wreckage of the old POP amusement pier is incredible, as is watching how a group of local teenagers redefined skateboarding, giving birth to the entire "extreme sports" movement.

I've checked this film out a half a dozen times from our local L.A. public library - I guess I should just buy it!

10. No list of movies that take place in Los Angeles would be complete without including Ridley Scott's 1982 film
Blade Runner. The film, which takes place in 2019, is a dark vision of a futuristic and very dysfunctional Los Angeles. According to an article on wikipedia:

Blade Runner continues to reflect modern trends and concerns, and an increasing number consider it one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. The film was selected for preservation in the in the United States National Film Registry in 1993 and is frequently used in university courses. In 2007, it was named the 2nd most visually influential film of all time (the first being Star Wars) by the Visual Effects Society.

As a Christian, I've also watched Blade Runner (especially the opening scenes) and asked myself: "what would it mean to live out my faith in that kind of environment? What will it mean to live as a Christian in the future? What does it mean to live as a Christian today?"

Getting back to the Academy Awards tomorrow night, as we don't have don't have network or cable TV, I'll be playing board games with my kids instead. For everyone else, enjoyed watching.

Here's hoping Up or The Blind Side do well.

Neither of which - surprise - take place in Los Angeles.


Best Pictures: my favorite L.A. themed films, Part I files/2009/02/

I thought it'd be appropriate to celebrate tomorrow's Academy Awards (which I'm not planning on watching) by listing my top ten favorite films that actually take place in Los Angeles:

1. Topping the list is
Crash (2006). There's a good reason why it won Best Picture. It's a powerful, moving film dealing with the racial and cultural animosities in modern Los Angeles. Rated R for language, sexual content and some violence.

2. A similar film is the 1991 film
Grand Canyon, starring Danny Glover and Steve Martin, which also deals with the racial and ethnic divides here in Los Angeles. Both Crash and Grand Canyon could really take place in any major American city.

As a Christian, I wish that more Christian movies (yes, this is really a genre) dealt with issues like this, rather than the usual sentimental fluff.

Both Crash and Grand Canyon are great films, despite the fact that they seem to have more questions than answers.

The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, chronicles the life of a young Howard Hughes from the 1920's to the 1950's, much of which took place here in Los Angeles. This including a Hollywood Premier in the late 1920's, Hughes crashing a plane in a residential neighborhood in Beverly Hills, and the flight of the famed "Spruce Goose" in Long Beach in the 1940's.

The Rocketeer also has a couple of scenes featuring Howard Hughes, but that's where the similarity ends. The Rocketeer is pure fantasy - and one of the few films on the list I'd even consider appropriate for kids. This 1991 period adventure film from the folks over at Disney is rated PG for mild violence. And great soundtrack, too.

5. Even less appropriate for kids - and what I would not consider a family film - is the 1988 Touchstone (a division of Disney) production Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Roger Rabbit. The visuals are incredible, winning three Academy Awards. I really enjoyed the setting: Hollywood 1947, involving the "Big Red Cars" of the Pacific Electric, Los Angeles' old mass transit system.

On the other hand, the language, sexuality, and honestly creepy violence do not make it appropriate for kids. If you think that all animated or Disney films are family friendly, think again.

More films in Part II