Total Pageviews

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Christopher Hitchens in Santa Monica (canceled)

Earlier this month I noticed that Christopher Hitchens would be speaking on Tuesday night June 29th at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Santa Monica.

Christopher Hitchens is one of most outspoken atheists in the world. He's the author of several books, including God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The Portable Atheist: Essential Reading for the Nonbeliever.

Believe it or not, as a Christian, I was looking forward to hearing him speak. I'm convinced that a faith that's never tested intellectually isn't much of a faith. Besides, I survived 4+ years at UCLA. What's another 30 minute lecture?

Decided to read up and prep a bit before hand.

The Rage Against God is by Christopher Hitchens' brother, Peter.

Like his brother, he rejected Christianity at a young age and embraced atheism. But unlike his brother, Peter eventually returned back to a dynamic, vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. His book, The Rage Against God, chronicles his journey from atheism to faith.

A friend and colleague of mine recommended the DVD
Collision. Wow. Excellent. This film chronicles a series of informal debates between Christopher Hitchens and author, pastor, and Christian intellectual Douglas Wilson. At Washington State University, a Christian fellowship and an atheist/agnostic group both "endorsed" the film before a screening. How often does that happen? It's very balanced and - in my opinion - intellectually challenging to both believers and skeptics.

Tuesday afternoon June 29th I walked by Barnes & Noble and saw this:

What? Cancelled!

When I asked a sales clerk why, she said "because of personal issues."

I jokingly told a friend "it's because he heard we'd be showing up." Ha! Sure. As if.

I was sobered to later learn that he canceled this (and several other west coast engagements) because he's recently been diagnosed with cancer. I'm sorry and saddened to hear that.

Despite his virile rejection - hatred might be a more appropriate word - of God, let alone Christianity, I'll be praying for him.

Perhaps I'm being very naive, but I figure, if God could change my life, He could certainly change his.

© 2010


"Twilight" Zone: Los Angeles Premiere

One of the more unique aspects of living in Los Angeles is the chance to experience a Hollywood movie premiere.

Last November I randomly came across the premiere of New Moon, second installment of the "Twilight" series at the Mann Village Theater located in Westwood Village, next to UCLA.

My office is less than 100 yards from all this.

An entire city street was blocked for the big event, with several thousand fans lined up for a glimpse of the film's stars who would be arriving later that evening. I was just passing through and wasn't planning on sticking around.

UCLA co-eds studying (or trying to study) while waiting.

Broxton Avenue was completely closed off for the premiere. A large crew had been there since early morning and was continuing to get things set up.

The Mann Village Theater is located approximately seven miles west of Hollywood and hosts premieres like this throughout the year.

Lots of red carpet, lights and crowd control barricades.

More red carpet. This stuff can't be cheap, even if they buy it in bulk.

I wonder if they re-use it.

Probably not.

Another view down Broxton. As popular as the "Twilight" series is, I had never heard of it. What can I say? I work as a campus minister to university professors. Let's just say they have their minds focused on other things.

Fans (the vast majority of whom were young women in their 20's) were lined up along both side of Broxton for a glimpse of the stars when they showed up a couple hours later.

Last minute touches: crew member vacuuming the carpet in front of the theater.

More fans lined up across the street along the corner of Broxton and Weyburn.

The view away from the red carpet makes everything look a bit less glamorous. While Broxton was blocked off, the rest Westwood Village still has to function, with Weyburn open to traffic.

Traffic rolling by along Weyburn, with lights and red carpet of the Premiere behind the barricades. To the left is the Mann Village Theater and to the right (serving as an overflow theater) the Bruin: These links are to some previous posts on these two theaters.

"We came all way from Ohio to get bit by Edward." Shouldn't it be "all
the way from Ohio?" Sorry about the blurry picture - taken from my car as I was heading home.

As I said, I hadn't even heard to this film series until I stumbled across this premiere. OK, now I know it's some sort of romantic vampire movie and that third installment, Eclipse, opens today (technically last night at 12:01am).

In the meantime, I look forward to taking my kids to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third film in "The Chronicles of Narnia" series later this year:

© 2010


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pet Iguana: Third Street, Santa Monica

Seeing someone out and about with a large pet iguana is uncommon, even for Los Angeles.

Some students from our summer ministry and I were out on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica a couple of weeks ago. We came across this guy with a large (OK, huge) pet iguana in his lap. Had to stop for a moment and take a couple photos.

"Mom, can I
have a pet iguana for Christmas - pleeease?"

Saved a trip to the Los Angeles Zoo.

Another "experiencing L.A." moment.

© 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Coming to America

One hundred years ago today, June 23, 1910, my great grandfather Josef arrived in the United States from Poland, which at the time had been absorbed into the Austria-Hungarian Empire, aboard the steamship Deutschland, pictured above. He was 25 years old.

A few months later he sent for my great-grandmother and my 10 month old grandfather.

I am forever humbled and grateful for the decision they made to come to America.

Like most immigrants of that period, they passed through Ellis Island. In fact, much of what I know about my great-grandparents' arrival came from the Ellis Island website a few years ago.

My wife and I were at a conference in New York City earlier this year and were able to take some extra time to see Ellis Island. It's been beautifully restored to a museum and historic monument as part of the National Park Service.

The decisions and sacrifices of my ancestors one hundred years ago made this visit especially meaningful to me.

As I've posted previously on this blog, I wonder how the decisions and sacrifices I am making today are going to affect my great-grandchildren?

As a Christian, I'm reminded of the Psalms and the concept of impacting "the next generation, even children yet to be born." (Psalm 78:6).

Even children yet to be born. One hundred years from now, I hope that my "someday" grandchildren and great-grandchildren will celebrate the bi-centennial of the arrival of our ancestors to this country . . . and maybe even a decision or two their grandfather/great-grandfather (me) made.

Here's to celebrating "arrival day" - and continuing to make decisions and sacrifices that influence the next generation.

© 2010


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beyond June Gloom

Los Angeles, along with the rest of coastal Southern California, experiences a unique weather pattern, known as "June gloom"

Throughout the spring and early summer, this means very thick low fog along the coastal regions. Ironically, coastal Southern California experiences more sunshine in January than June.

There are several ways to deal with June gloom: ignore it, wait until around noon when it "burns off," drive inland away from the coast, or - perhaps the most interesting - get above it.

One of my favorite hikes in Los Angeles gets above it. It's a fairly easy hike along the western ridge of upper Temescal Canyon, accessible from the top of the Palisades Highlands (in Pacific Palisades).

A recent hike, which started in thick fog, slowly gave way to hints of blue sky as I climbed a bit in elevation.

Sunrise through the edge of the fog a little before 6am. Pretty neat.

More blue sky ahead. On this particular morning, the coastal fog topped off around 1600 feet. While the rest of Los Angeles was socked in, the peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains poked through, making for a great hike.

Turning around, the normally visible Santa Monica Bay and city of Los Angeles were blanketed in low coast fog.

Looking northwest, fog up against the mountains of the upper Palisades Highlands and Topanga Canyon. This entire area is part of the extensive Topanga State Park. Here's a link to a previous post on Topanga State Park:

Another view looking back towards the city. An slight ocean breeze caused the fog to literally pour up and over the ridge I was just on.

I ended up walking another 30 minutes or so, to where the Temescal Ridge Trail connects with the Rogers Road Trail. If you're really ambitious can take this trail and either hike or mountain bike 5 1/2 miles south to Will Rogers State Historic Park. I opted for the easier route back to where I started.

Heading back, the fog against the mountain peaks made for some pretty stellar views. Glad I had my camera. In previous blog posts, I've shared some thoughts on how the creation points to the Creator This was definitely my experience on this hike.

A mountain peak, guessing about 1800 feet, peaking though the fog.

Bright morning sun and blue skies while the rest of coastal Los Angeles was still under a thick blanket of fog.

Looking into upper Temescal Canyon. Here's some previous thoughts on coastal fog and a similar hike:

Weird. No, this isn't a double exposure. Just fog surrounding the same peak on the eastern ridge of upper Temescal Canyon.

This entire area is within Los Angeles city limits.

I've often hiked this ridge with a group of guys from my church. Amazingly, we rarely - if ever - see anyone else on this trail.

A final shot - this one of "1729" - or what a local hiker calls "High Peak"- on the eastern ridge of Temescal Canyon. Another link to this hike:

I headed back into the fog, and to my car.
I would definitely recommend a hike along the western ridge of upper Temescal Canyon.

Directions to the trailhead: take the Pacific Coast Highway to Sunset Blvd (in Pacific Palisades) and turn north. Continue four blocks up Sunset and turn LEFT at the 2nd light: Palisades Drive. Continue up Palisades Drive 2 1/2 miles pass a traffic light and continue another 1 1/2 as it curves to the left and becomes Chastain Parkway. At the 2nd stop sign you'll be at Via Las Palmas and turn RIGHT at the Via Las Palmas.

click on this map for a larger view

Via Las Palmas is technically a "private" street - but with public access to the trail head. Continue up Via Las Palmas one block around a traffic circle and continue another short block to the parking lot. There is a parking lot, a bathroom, and a drinking fountain at the trailhead. Walk across the street and follow the paved trail, which becomes a dirt trail after about 1/8 of a mile. Continue to the ridge where you can either turn left (north) and enjoy the hike I took, or turn right (south) to Skull Rock - and eventually back to Sunset Blvd.

click on this map for a larger view

© 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rooster Mobile: Santa Monica

Tuesday night three students and I were coming back from an outreach in Santa Monica. Driving along California Avenue (between 17th & 18th Streets) we came across what can only be called the "rooster mobile" parked along the street.

Had to stop. Even by Los Angeles standards, this is wacky.

What in the world? Guess Josh (student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) was still hungry.

This is something you expect to see at a county fair or car show. Not parked in a residential neighborhood.

Can you imagine your neighbor parking this out front of your house?

Is this even legal? I guess so.

Can't believe I've never seen this before.

OK, I really want to know the story behind this car.

Where did this amazing rooster head even come from?

How did the owner attach it?

What's it like driving around town?

And the tail. The MASSIVE tail.

How does that even affect the handling?

Can you even open the truck?

Would you want to?

Josh (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) Steve (Cal Poly, Pomona) and Matt (Cal State Fullerton) - 3 of the 70 students investing their summer here in Santa Monica. More on that in a later post.

In the meantime, I'm curious to know the backstory on the "rooster mobile."

© 2010


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Providing Hope

Hope Gardens is an outreach of the Union Rescue Mission, providing shelter and long term solutions for ending homelessness for children and single moms who would otherwise would be living on the streets.

It's an outstanding ministry - and in danger of closing.

According to this article from the Los Angeles Daily News Hope Gardens will have to close it's doors unless $2.8 million dollars can be raised by the end of June.

Hope Gardens will never have the glitz or glamor of Cahuenga Peak, the open space next to the Hollywood Sign recently purchased to the tune of $12.5 million

Providing more than just food and shelter, Hope Gardens is providing long term solution to end homelessness. We love that vision. And we think it's worth investing in.

Here's the link to their site:

© 2010