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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Free Concert (really!) at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

One of our first years in Los Angeles, we learned that the
Walt Disney Concert Hall would be hosting an afternoon of free, short concerts. Free, really?

Yes, really. OK, this was something we could actually go to - with our kids. We trucked down there Sunday afternoon after church - even found free street parking a block away.

It was crowded, but very manageable.

It was nice to see that there were other families and kids there as well.

This was back in 2007 - our kids were 8 and 5 1/2. We had to wait about 30 minutes to get in, which wasn't bad, but we should have brought a couple more things to keep them engaged while waiting in line (my son was smart and brought his electronic "leapster" game).

Heading inside.

I've seen hundreds of photos of the outside of the building - but never anything with people.

And I've never seen photos of the interior, which was very impressive. The Walt Disney Concert Hall has a strict policy against photography during an actual performance, so I limited to my interior photos to a couple before the concert began.

The concert was relatively short - just 40 minutes - which was perfect for our kids (I don't think our would have lasted much longer than that).

Glad we went. A real "experiencing L.A" opportunity.

Apparently, this is something that's offered every couple years or so, including earlier this month. They also offer free tours of the Concert Hall throughout the year.

Here's some additional information, and photos.

© 2010


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Coming to America, Part II: OG = Original Golec

100 years ago today,
October 20, 1910, my great-grandmother Katherine Golec and my grandfather Bruno Golec arrived at Ellis Island aboard the ship President Grant.

Four months earlier, my great-grandfather, Josef Golec came to the United States from the village of Ślemień (pop 1977), near Żywiec Poland. Once he got settle in the Chicago area, Josef sent for his wife and son, Katherine and Bruno (my great-grandmother and my grandfather).

My grandfather, Bruno, was just 10 months old when he arrived in the United States.

Chicago in the 1920's

Here he is (on the left) several years later with his parents - my great grandparents - and his brothers Walter and Louis. "OG" means several things. I'll go with Original Golec.

In interacting with some folks from Poland, turns out Żywiec (where the Golec side of my family is from) is famous for a couple of things:

First: beer - and the Zywiec brewery. Maybe that's why my great grandfather Josef Golec ended up running a tavern in the Chicago area? According to my relatives, Prohibition (1920-1933) didn't seem to put a dent in his business.

Second: Paweł and Łukasz Golec.

You've never heard of them? Neither had I, until a few months ago. The Golec brothers, Paweł and Łukasz Golec founded a Polish folk-rock group, Golec uOrkiestra, in 1998 in the village of Milówka, just south of Żywiec.

Apparently, the Golec brothers have become very hot stuff. In an address given at Warsaw University, President George W. Bush mentioned one of the group's songs, saying: "Today's own Poland's orchestra called Golec's, is telling the world, "On that wheatfield, I'm gonna build my San Francisco; over that molehill, I'm gonna build my bank."

I found this video on YouTube of the Golec uOrkiestra preforming in 2009 at the opening of a European Youth Olympics in Finland. It's a fun video, and a great taste of what they sound like.

So, are Paweł and Łukasz Golec my cousins? Are we related?

Same last name, same relatively small city in southern Poland.

Sure, why not.

They've apparently played in the USA - in Chicago (of course).

Wonder if they'll ever make it to Los Angeles?

Or, if I'll make it to Żywiec?

As I shared in a previous post last June, I'm so grateful for the decision my great-grandparents made to come to America.

I also wonder how the decisions and choices I'm making now will affect my great-grandchildren one hundred years from now.

Meanwhile, here's a shout out - a "Cześć" - to my cousins (Golec and otherwise) back in Żywiec.

© 2010


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bridges & Small Worlds: California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA

One of the most unique modern buildings buildings in Los Angeles is the California NanoSystems Institute located on the UCLA campus.

I walked by the exterior of this building for years - having no idea what the interior courtyard (pictured) looked like.

Taking a shortcut earlier this year while on campus - I discovered the CNSI's interior courtyard with it's six different bridges connecting different random floors and parts of the building to each other.

Here's a arial view from google earth, where you can see the six different bridges. To the right is the UCLA south campus "court of the sciences."

The interior courtyard isn't really a courtyard.

This being Los Angeles, it's a parking lot.

You can see how the entire western side of the building cantilevers over the parking lot area - a pretty impressive feat of engineering.

Another shot of the bridges. It felt like a movie set.

From up above, you get another perspective. As this is a working research facility, access to several of the bridges was limited. I think it was OK walking around and taking pictures, but I didn't want to walk across a bridge only to find the door on the other side locked.

Thinking about it, I don't think I saw anyone walking on any of them the entire time I was there. That doesn't mean they're never used - but they did seem under used.

A final shot.

Apparently, the CSNI building is a "secure facility" (their words) but offers tours by appointment:

While maybe not worth a special trip, the California NanoSystems Institute is worth stopping by and seeing if you're any where near UCLA.

Here's their website.

© 2010


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Full Immersion

photo credit: Colin Crawford, Los Angeles Times

Recently, I've enjoyed a series called "Framework" found on the on-line edition of the Los Angeles Times, featuring photographs from the past and present. This one, entitled "Car, pool" caught my eye.

On March 18, 1984 Managing Editor Colin Crawford took this shot of a car that ended up on the bottom of the swimming pool at the Costa Mesa Inn (located south of Los Angeles in Orange County).

Reflecting back, Crawford said, "The good news is that because there was no loss of life or major injuries, it’s an image that you can look at and laugh about. The things we Southern Californians do with our cars never cease to amaze me."

Great photo. A combination of technical skill, and being at the right place at the right time.

A link to the original photo can be found here.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Windows to the World: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Earlier this year I took my two kids and their three cousins on an afternoon homeschool field trip to the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park.

The museum is $9 for adults, and only $2 for kids 2-12.

There's also a "free day" on the first Tuesday of the month (which should be avoided if you don't like crowds).

If you're looking to save a buck, here's a handy link to museum "free days" throughout Los Angeles.

The Natural History Museum and the adjacent California Science Center are both great, especially if you have kids.

Walking inside, you'll find a very impressive dinosaur display inside the main rotunda (think "Night at the Museum").

There's a lot to see - as we've been here many times and I had five kids in tow, we limited our visit to the large North American and African animal displays on the first floor.

The Natural History Museum has been around since 1913 - and is coming on it's 100th anniversary. These dioramas in the North American animal wing have been here since 1925.

These 85 year old displays continue to impress.

In fact, walking around I kept thinking "they looked better than when I was a kid." Turns out, that's actually true. They were completely refurbished and "relamped" in 2006.

While the west wing is dedicated to North American mammals - the east wing (above) focuses on African mammals.

The African section was opened in 1930 - and was also refurbished in 2006.

My son and his cousin "on safari" - and trying out his new camera. These are really amazing displays.

Most impressive picture of the bunch: I actually got five kids to hold still for a photo.

Back in 1930, these dioramas were state of the art technology. Most zoos were steel and cement cages, photography and film were limited to black and white images, and travel to these locales was difficult and expensive.

The average person would never have been able to have seen these places in real life.

Eighty years later, the scenes are still difficult to see in the wild, but for a different reason. Many animals that were plentiful in 1930 like the Black Rhinoceros (above) have been hunted to near extinction - and are now on the endangered species list.

My son (right) and his cousin in front of of the lowland gorilla display.

These animals continue to evoke a sense of awe and wonder. These dioramas are really windows to a much larger world than most of us will ever experience.

African lions - and my son coming up with a makeshift tripod (a tip from his dad).

As a Christian, I'm reminded that over a hundred different animals are mentioned throughout the Scriptures. They're important not just because they serve as "examples" or "illustrations" (although they do) but because they're part of the larger Creation - of which we as people have been given stewardship.

Stewardship. The concept seems almost archaic and the word has gone out of fashion, but it really best captures the attitude of our brief stint here on earth: leaving the earth - both in a moral, spiritual, and physical sense - in better condition for the next generation.

African Oryx. The museum has a couple of videos explaining both the history and the work involved in creating and maintaining these dioramas. I found them fascinating - and worth my time.

And, with or without kids, so is a trip to the museum.

Here's their website. The Natural History Museum is located next to USC and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum - where the USC Trojans play. Check their website as traffic and parking make a trip to the museum nearly impossible on a "game day."

© 2010


Not the Getty

High above the Pacific Coast Highway, sporting incredible ocean views, sits the Getty Villa. It's the former home of billionaire J. Paul Getty, and was the original Getty Museum. The much larger Getty Center in Brentwood now houses most of the artwork, but the Getty Villa Malibu (technically in Pacific Palisades) still features the Getty Greek and Roman Collection.

You can easily spot the Getty Villa on the hill driving up or down the PCH. It's a recognizable landmark to both visitors and residents alike. There's just one problem.

It's not the Getty.

The building you're looking at is known as Villa de Leon. Built in 1926, it's a large private residence overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. Ever since J. Paul Getty began opening up his estate to the public in the mid 1950's, people have assumed that the huge mansion perched on the hill is "the Getty." Even among people who live in the area, it's probably one of the most mis-identified buildings in Los Angeles.

Villa de Leon sits above the entrance to the Getty Villa, hence the confusion. The Getty Villa is actually not visible from the street and is located up a private road off the PCH.

The Getty Villa (above) is in an incredible setting, with amazing Greek and Roman artifacts, and best of all - free admission.

Meanwhile, Villa de Leon sits overlooking the Pacific, continuing it's job as one of the most mis-identified landmarks in Los Angeles. According to International it's currently for sale for $15 million. Not sure if the foundation has been worked on since these pictures were taken a couple years ago, as closer inspection reveals:

Major cracks. Click on the image above, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

The problem ultimately isn't the house - it's the hillside it was built on, part of which has collapsed during winter storms, taking an entire garden terrace with it. Ouch. Reminders of "building your house on the rock" (see the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:24-27) come to mind.

The home is located at 17948 Porto Marina Way, Pacific Palisades, 90272. Here's a view from the top showing the extent of the collapse of one of the hillsides.

Zillow gave the home an estimate between $3-$5 million since 2001. It apparently sold for 10 million dollars in 2007. Zillow currently has it valued at around $8.9 million.

These pictures were taken a couple of years ago. Looks like a lot of work was being done on it.

Obviously the owners of this property are in a completely different league than most of us.
Thanks to google (which I've used many times on this blog) mere mortals like us can have an idea what the interior looks like.

photo credit:

Nice floor. Reminds me of Hearst Castle but, ironically, on a "smaller scale."

Can't argue that the street it's on, Porto Marina Way, has a great view of the Pacific Ocean. This is looking south towards the PCH with Santa Monica in the distance.

Getting back to the original idea - calling 17948 Porto Marina Way "the Getty Villa" doesn't make it the Getty, even if a majority of people do so.

As a Christian, I'm reminded that Christianity isn't based on popular opinion, or what a majority of people think, but on historic fact. Almost two thousand years ago, St. Peter, an eyewitness to Jesus' life, ministry, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension wrote:

"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (II Peter 1:16).

The resurrection of Jesus isn't true because Christians believe it - we believe it because it's true.

I found yet another website incorrectly listing Villa de Leon as the Getty Villa: Angel City Art

And while on-line "stories" and (much more common) "word of mouth" continue to perpetuate that the big house on the hill is the Getty Villa, the facts reveal something else.

A trip to the actual Getty Villa is worth your time (visit the website ahead of time - you need a parking reservation). Here's some thoughts and tips from a previous blog post.

And be sure and give a shout out to Villa de Leon when you visit.

originally posted 11/18/08

© 2010