Friday, 22 July 2016

hot hot hot

Theres a heat wave running through Southern California at the moment.

Yesterday we recorded 104F and today it is supposed to be warmer. The helicopter in the picture is one of the ones used to put out the fire close to Cahuenga Boulevard.

We headed for the Farmer's Market and had fun looking through the varied stalls.

There's plenty of fresh fruit and a whole range of food to eat at this bustling 75 year-old market. Never far from Hollywood moments, we happened upon Patsy d'Amore' Pizzeria. That's a one-time Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin hangout. Time for a song anyone? Pizza pie?

And right alongside the market, via a trolley bus is a whole modern mall style shopping area, giving a further excuse to explore.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Paramount Pictures

As well as being opposite the Chinese Theatre, with its evening premier of a new movie, we decided it was about time to visit the only full-size movie studio still working in central Hollywood.

That's Paramount Pictures, now owned by Viacom. We travelled there by taxi, and the driver didn't know the right entrance, so we even managed to get in through the big gate used in many movie scenes - that's just before we 'U-turned' to exit again to find our correct way in.

Paramount Pictures was founded in 1912 as the Famous Players Film Company by Adolph Zukor, who had been an early investor in coin-in-the-slot nickelodeons. The company went through numerous reconstructions, mergers and acquisitions and I'd count the blending with Desilu Studions (the Lucille Ball TV show company) as a landmark.

We also saw the dressing room that Lucille Ball took over from Katherine Hepburn, and the side entrance that Hepburn used to take into the studios on her bicycle, with a stunt double arriving for her at the main gate.

Paramount was a great example of the production line company, with writers, directors, actors and production facilities all arranged around a square inside the grounds.

In their heyday they could churn out 100+ movies per year. Now its more like a dozen. Indeed, the 12 stars around the Paramount logo originally represented the first stable of Paramount stars, before the phrase 'film star' had really been coined.

Of course, the modern shifts to Netflix, Amazon, HBO and similar mean that there's a chunk of the facility used for third party productions and the latest (gossip alert) new mini company to move in is the Di Caprio/Scorsese duo, who have just taken office space.

We toured the massive studio in a golf cart, with an amiable 'page' named Jason driving us around. There were many interesting moments as we travelled past huge shed structures housing the studios and a massive timber storage warehouse where they have the resources to build things like -er- the Startrek Enterprise.

An amusing moment for me was seeing the 'sky' which had been painted onto a vast wall under Cecil B de Mille's instructions. After the studios won the first ever Academy Award for a film called 'Wings' they were criticised for filming the plane scenes against a clear sky. They were told it looked as if they had used models instead of real planes and a blue backdrop. It was actually all real, but the clear skies of L.A. don't have so many clouds (look at the gate picture at the top of this post). So Cecile B de Mille asked for a vast wall to contain a fake and slightly cloudy sky.

The adjoining car park in front of the sky is also special. It takes a whole day to flood it and it can then be used for seascapes, with the sky in the background. The famous parting of the red sea was filmed here, as were many other air-sea rescue scenes over the years,

We also explored inside the studios. They were getting ready for the next Dr Phil show, which has a ridiculous amount of lights and 11 cameras for a day time sofa type show.

And of course the props department where I could try out a teleport from the brand new released today Star Trek Beyond movie. The New York Street scene was also available to walk about. It was being cleared from one production and set up for another one that evening. No pictures though, not allowed.

Certainly a bustling studio, with the bulk of productions now maybe skewing more towards television and presumably box-sets.

I've visited other movie sets, but this one really gave a sense of the busy workload being processed.

elephant in the convention

There's surprisingly limited information from outside the USA here on mainstream telly.

The only European news is either sport-related or about Pippa Middleton (and that news item is sponsored by the local Mercedes dealer).

The all-consuming story is the Cleveland Republican Convention, which to my English view comes across as something of a stage managed pantomime,

I don't think America really does panto (it doesn't even work in the spelling checker), although there's some fantastic explanations being rolled out for things like Mrs Trump plagiarising large chunks of one of Mrs Obama's old speeches.

There were plenty of denials earlier (oh no she didn't, etc) - that Mrs Trump had written it herself, then later it was with a team of writers, it's gradually all slid away (Oh yes, she did) and a hapless speech drafter has been found to take the hit.

Then we get Mr Christie, playing an oleaginous hit-man (look behind you), brought in to character assassinate Mrs Clinton. It's unremitting stuff with, by British standards, very unbalanced coverage.

Tonight's latest is Mr Gingrich explaining that Weapons of Mass Destruction are being assembled to nuke American cities.

Just in time for 'Designated Survivor' (aka Jack Bauer?) to be shown on US telly.

There's also been scarcely covered protests outside the conference, a collection of Republicans who are staunchly against their selected 'Over the Top' GOP candidate.

Not forgetting the booed speechmaker Ted Cruz who didn't endorse Trump and pointedly said 'vote with your conscience' just before Trump appeared.

Plus rumours that the funds are running out for the Republicans. Clinton has already spent $35m on television advertising, Trump hasn't used any direct TV adverts and despite their mogul identifying database called Themis, the backers (with a few exceptions like that Las Vegas Casino owner) seem hard to locate.

Naturally, all the 'best' speeches are timed to be around prime viewing times, along with some dynastic speechmaking by the rest of the Trump clan - some positioning already for 2020.

Presumably next week's Democrat session will be Clinton's equivalent event, with still months to the vote, which is hard to characterise even as a vote for the 'least worst'.

And whilst the current conference is going on, there's hardly a peep of news about anything else.

Well, except 1) The plague of nasty mosquitoes invading the USA, 2) the dangerous hotdogs that have been recalled across the whole country, 3) The massive sewage spill along Californian beaches 4) The continuing wild fires, like the one we saw yesterday quite close to the Hollywood sign.

Fire, poison, pestilence, flood...Hmmm.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Beverly Boulevard

There'll be a few more unprocessed iPhone pictures this week, as we wander about around L.A. and beyond. This was breakfast at the hotel, before we hit Beverly Boulevard.

We've dropped into the Roosevelt Hotel in the past, but never stayed until now. It built in 1926 and financed by some big Hollywood names including Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Sid Grumman.

It's a great refuge along the bustling main drag of Hollywood Boulevard, and its Spanish Colonial architecture includes a fantastic lobby, with a vaulted ceiling and a three-tiered fountain. Excuse my weird angled photograph, but it's better than no picture.

The Tropicana Pool pool we sat by for breakfast was painted by David Hockney in 1987.

We're up on the 10th floor (of 12) and have a great view across the never sleeping Los Angeles.

I sneaked up to the Gable-Lombard penthouse, (well the lift went there of its own accord). Its a 3,200 square-foot duplex with an outdoor deck with views of the Hollywood Hills and the Hollywood sign. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard used to be able to stay there for $5 per night.

There's another suite named after Marilyn Monroe who lived suite at the hotel for two years early in her career.

The Blossom Ballroom on the ground floor hosted the first ever Academy Awards, with, in those days, only 270 Academy members in attendance and before the word Oscars had been coined.

There's been a gazillion other stars stay at the hotel, as well as, of course, us.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

dreamliner to LAX

I always think the 787 Dreamliner sounds like the name of a plane in a sci-fi novel, rather than a real Boeing. Our one was named after Greta Garbo, and we had some rather comfy big seats in row 2. Always good to turn left when boarding a plane ;-)

That's where we've been for the last eleven or so hours, flying at 40,000 feet and 510 mph on that diagonal course across the Americas, after the ice and show of Greenland, then north east Canada to south west California, where we've now landed.

Then pick up a car and onwards, navigating the streets of LA into Hollywood, where we're staying at the Roosevelt Hotel, right opposite what I still think of as Graumann's Chinese Theatre.

Monday, 18 July 2016

hey there jet airliner

All this news suggests it's time to get out of the country for a while.

Got to keep keeping on.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

memories of Istanbul

Years ago, I worked in Turkey. It was an enjoyable experience, with friendly people and plenty of interesting areas to explore in the down-time.

In those days, we referred to Istanbul as an edge city. Poised on the link between Europe and Asia, a key part of the Silk Route.

We'd mainly be based in the European side, but even then there was always something in the shadows. We usually stayed in a big hotel and because we were there for quite some time, they usually upgraded us to opulent suites, which gave me the challenge of keeping my paltry belongings corralled.

Outside the hotel we'd see an armoured car, literally parked on the lawn. There were airport-style metal detectors to get into the hotels, although as a business suited pale-face, I would usually get whisked through a fast track.

It was the same when we visited the office blocks in the well-heeled area. Security like an airport to get into a building. A follow on from the late 1990s assassination of Özdemir Sabancı, who, along with the general manager of Toyota, had been gunned down by the leftist DHKP-C in his heavily fortified office.

Indeed, the central office blocks were tall and western looking, although there would be strange bazaars, selling anything from white goods to brand new cars, literally outside their gates.

Yet, walking around in the non-tourist areas with a local person was safe, with the inexpensive best local food and sights just a block or two away from the inflated main tourist drags: "wanna buy a carpet?" etc.

Back then, we could see progress and expansion in the central areas, although a few kilometres away there were small houses stacked one on top of another crowding every available hillside, reflective of this single city of 14 million people.

When we did cross the big bridge into Asia, it also had a military presence. One time we were stopped by the men with guns, the soldiers turning around our beaten up european taxi and hailing us a different equally dusty one for the rest of our now asian journey.

The Turkish generations in Istanbul have seen it all...Greek Byzantium, Roman Constantinopolis, Nova Roma, the Ottoman Empire and eventually the Turkish Republic. Even in my time there it was difficult to make sense of the unbalanced and limping democracy.

When I was there, at least the European side of Istanbul kept secular and religious matters apart.

Compared with travelling further into the middle east, this area still operated with a mindset easily understood if not fully accepted as a European.

But progressively there's been changes to the way of life with an increasingly authoritarian leadership that rejects secular separation, limits human rights and creates new tensions.

I said we referred to it as an edge city. Still the case with the violent coup d'état attempt of the weekend.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

in which I watch American Odyssey on box set

I'm about 6 or 7 episodes into the American Odyssey online box set at the moment. I've been enjoying its fairly straightforward conspiracy plot set mainly in the middle east with Anna Friel playing the lead character.

There's backroom twists in the tower blocks in Manhattan and Washington, and wide-eyed hackers and implausibly well-connected protesters. There's certain characters who exceed the law of co-incidence throughout the scripting.

It's told linearly as well, which isn't always the case nowadays and there's various artefacts used (like a USB stick Mcguffin) which helps keep the central story focussed. Although there's some mobile-phoney in the story-telling, it mostly keeps to a more physical form of interaction.

It's fairly derivative and sometimes over-acted but as a single series I'm certainly going to watch to the end.

It indicates something about American and British viewing too. The titling on the episodes is Odyssey, but NBC had 'American' stapled to the front to attempt to gain market interest from patriots. I sense some "What about if we..." script meeting moments to throw extra trinkets into the story.

In US ratings terms it didn't work and some controversial 'US soldier co-operating with Ansar Dine' moments could confound some audiences. It certainly did to the CIA operative in the safe house (Trope alert).

Friday, 15 July 2016

Non Disclosure Agreement : Brexit, Borders and UK International Trade Relations

The upper layers of the new Cabinet have now been selected. I achieved a moderately good hit rate with my predictions, and although I'd suggested that Brexit was multi-part, the formality of it in the Mrs. May setup is sharper than I might have envisaged.

Critics appear to be saying that the new Cabinet is quite right-wing. If true, then it is at odds with the fairness test logic of May's first statements from the podium outside Number 10.

Her words seemed to be about inclusion and the jettisoning of the old privileged Eton chums and Notting Hill set. She used the Unionist word as well, which looked to be a grab across some of Labour's turf. I'll assume her honesty in these opening words.

How it will all work in practice leaves plenty of questions.
  • The two part Brexit team drives two of the main elements - exit and trade. The third component related to borders doesn't seem to have the same emphasis?
  • Boris Johnston (F.Off) is the potential third member of that group and is usually shown in the middle in TV photo reportage. A better option might be to simply put him on planes and send him a long way away?
  • It also begs a few questions about whether Johnston is capable of operating under instruction?
  • The two top Brexiteers are sensible positioned to ensure that Brexit has Brexit people running it. Some of the things that David Davis has said/written already might be at odds with how things work, although this might be genuinely about being an 'unreasonable man' in order to better negotiate?
  • Interviewers keep asking detailed Brexit questions. If it is to be a proper negotiation, then some things will need to be kept quiet. I think Angela May understands this, but there's a few loose cannons around. Like in big business, a need for some confidentiality agreements, non-disclosures or similar. Some overt words about talking to press and embargoed content would not go amiss. Not the Official Secrets Act, which would be seen as too State specific.
  • Hammond as Chancellor is a good idea. An agenda to borrow cheap money and develop strong infrastructure is finally in play, although that Hinckley 'Osborne easy picking' might be a bad decision and blow up (not literally because it will never be finished). The erstwhile ideology of free markets needs to be tempered by acquiring some proper industrial strategy. Hopefully Hammond has the nous to look beyond Osborne's Treasury fundamentalism before jumping?
  • Some of the telly commentators are already saying that driving Brexit alone is a big enough agenda topic. I disagree and think that the added tracks of driving infrastructure, industry and non-London all seem like sensible and parallel tasks. Some are quite intermingled with what happens to UK as a new style of trading nation.
  • There's some substantial re-organisations in the mix too. The logistics can't be allowed to impeded progress, it should not be about deckchair positioning. There's also a worry here similar to that cartoon showing the multiple office block for Brexit people at a cost of -er- £350m per week.
  • Jeremy Hunt is probably on borrowed time. I guess that he wasn't the first choice for the ongoing NHS position and that he will need to do something spectacular to stay in position.
  • Many commentators are lamenting Gove's departure. He gets portrayed as intelligent and as a reformer. I'll give him some credit for parts of Justice, but he messed up Education and it will take ages to unravel the damage. And his miscreant performance throughout the recent campaigns suggest that he should be kept a long way from power.
  • Some people have been fooled by Osborne. Among other things they say he had a strong fiscal policy and promoted the Northern Powerhouse. I don't think so. His focus on austerity helped create the wreckage and was instrumental in creating hardships. His high visibility appearances around the country to unveil new locomotive nameplates or put a brick into a wall were accompanied by opportunistic speeches which re-used the same funds over and over again. Too many half-truths.
  • I mentioned loose cannons. Letwin could be one. He's probably annoyed that his football has been taken away and now he's sounding off to the media about the lack of UK negotiators for the E.U. thing. I know he was part of Cameron's brain in the old setup, but someone needs to tell him to put a lid on it.
  • A largely new team also needs to develop personal networks and because of the whole E.U. exit process, these relationships will need to extend far and wide. Just about all of the Cabinet should have a concerted role to play in that area. Work it.
At present we have to assume that this team knows what they want to do and are purposeful enough to drive it because we shamefully have no credible opposition. The Labour tail chasing continues and a decision won't pop out until late September. If Mrs May asks her A Team to work through the full summer then we could be much further along with some developed ideas.

should I update the 2008 iMac?

I'm using the secondary iMac today (as pictured - except I've gone all cordless) because the main one is still being fixed. It's still a lovely machine and was the main system for about four years.

The repair shop phoned with some interesting news. Apparently my broken 2012 iMac gets (Yippee) a free service replacement of the fusion drive.

My older iMac is from 2008 and I hadn't bothered to update it for El Capitan until now. It still works okay, although the disk is slow compared with the newer model. Curiously the whole machine is gradually speeding up as it sorts itself out, However, I'm thinking about a further upgrade of the innards for this one, to solid state disk.

It may sound bonkers, but I have a feeling that this more modest machine would get a new lease of life from such an update. I updated my Thinkpad with SSD ages ago and it was so much faster afterwards.

I've taken the 2008 iMac to bits once before. Interestingly, the older 3 cm thick iMacs are a lot more accessible than the newer 'thin' ones. The magnetic glass screen was a brilliant idea. So on the older machine, I think I could do the SSD change myself.

Not until after the other one returns though.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Thursday Thirteen: Mac panic attack edition, requiring new fusion drive.

  • An unexpected gap today. There'd normally be a computer in that spot.
  • Instead, it got 'the clicks'.
  • That's the tiny ticking sound that indicates there is something wrong with the disk.
  • It actually had a panic attack. You don't see them very often on a Mac.
  • Fortunately, I backup everything to at least a couple of other places.
  • It now needs a new fusion drive. I've replaced drives in most of the Macs at some point.
  • This one looks particularly tricky because of the glued glass and bonded screen behind which sits all the gubbins. My other iMac is easier because the front glass is held on with magnets.
  • So this one has gone to the repair place instead.
  • It should come back with a new pristine version of El Capitan.
  • It means I'll have to reinstall all the software, which can be a licence headache.
  • Maybe it's a good opportunity to prune a few items.
  • Meanwhile, I'll have to use something else.
  • So, below is a picture of the highly rare and least popular of all Mac messages, following a kernel panic and meaning something probably hardware related has just crashed.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

margin of possibilities

I was reading this paper from the farm shop today and noticed a small article about an Italian medieval manuscript, where a 14th-15th Century child had drawn in the margins.

The University of York has been getting child psychologists to help identify the picture which they say could be a human figure and cow or horse.

Bananas, I say (or more likely banane), it's obvious to me that the item on the right is a horse in chain mail armour and that the item on the left is the knight, with one of those squared off suits of armour.

The way the knight is smiling and has big eyes, I'd say it was the child artist's father, too.