Los Angeles 2: Electric Boogaloo

While my first Los Angeles post was about Saturday night, most of what I’m including in this post took place on Friday.  We had arrived on Thursday night, and after a bit of sleep, we were ready to go see Los Angeles like proper tourists.

This awesome little Starbucks had just opened next to the hotel, and after briefly caffeinating, we were ready to go see the city.  (We sat on that deck once or twice, later in the weekend.  It’s really very nice.)

We started out a little before lunch, and Amelie’s friend Wendy met us at the metro station closest to the hotel.  We had a short list of things we wanted to see, so we set out on foot.  Halfway to our first destination, I realized that we were in front of the Webhosting company I’ve been using since about 2003.   Hi, Dreamhost!

We also walked right past The Bradbury Building, a lovely old built in 1893.

If this looks familiar to you, it’s probably because it’s used often in television, movies, literature, and even comics.  The Bradbury is where Sebastian’s apartment was located in Blade Runner, and there’s a Blade Runner sign posted near the stairwell detailing the movie’s production at the Bradbury Building.

Later in the day, we went to City Hall to take advantage of the free observation deck on the 27th floor.  I wish we had known that the night before this, they were shining the Bat Signal on City Hall in memory of the recently departed Adam West.  I would have liked to have seen that. Our visit was mid-afternoon on Friday, so no Bat Signal.

Across the street from City Hall is a signpost showing all of the sister cities of Los Angeles.

Once we went inside the Main Street entrance to City Hall, we went through metal detectors and checked in with the security desk.  First we took an express elevator to the 22nd floor, followed by another elevator to go up to 26.  On our way up, we saw the Mayor’s office, which in no way tempted us to knock.

After the elevator to floor 26,there’s one flight of stairs up to the observation level.  Inside, there’s a lectern set up, which leads to mugging for the camera, of course.  The first two are Amelie and her friend Wendy, and the third is me doing my best Shatner.  I’m not sure why podiums make me go full-Shat, but there it is.

Once we were done playing with the lectern, we went out to the observation part of the observation deck.  While City Hall isn’t the tallest building in LA, the observation deck goes all the way around the building for 360 degree views of Los Angeles.  You can even see all the wonderful LA traffic!

City Hall is just a block or two away from the Los Angeles Times, which gave us a pretty great view of that building.

This is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a Frank Gehry building with a pretty interesting face.

Union Station is the main train station for Los Angeles.  We walked through it when we first reached LA the night before, and it’s a very pretty station.  It’s also much larger than I realized-  the red roof here is all part of the station, along with the many tracks behind it.

Here’s part of the Los Angeles skyline, as seen from City Hall.

The Hollywood sign and Griffith Park observatory are both visible from City Hall, but it was kind of hazy so this was the best shot I got on Friday.

I took a few dozen photos from the observation deck, but mostly it just looks like rambling cityscape.  Here’s a nice picture of tall LA buildings from sidewalk level.

During our walk on Friday, we also walked right past  the Angel’s Flight funicular.  It was originally opened in 1901 about a block away, and was moved to its current location in the mid-1990s. It’s been closed since 2013, but is currently being restored with some safety enhancements and should re-open later this year.  I’m sad it wasn’t open- I love a good funicular.

This next picture was not taken on the same day- this was a different part of our visit, where we were at a Hollywood metro station which was closer to the Griffith Observatory.  There’s a Dash bus line which runs between this metro station and the Observatory on a regular schedule.   You can actually see the very top of the Dash bus in the bottom edge of this photo.  Not pictured:  A tiny Rocketeer taking off from the Observatory to fight a Nazi zeppelin.

You can always tell where you are in LA by the decorations in the Metro.   Not sure you’re in the station closest to the Griffith Observatory?  Just look for starfields in the station’s rafters.

The last picture in this post is not related to anything else in the photo- it’s just a Korean restaurant where we had dinner on Sunday night.  We all thought the name of the place was pretty entertaining.  The food was delicious, if a bit zippy for my tastes.  I had Kimchi pancakes, and tried Soju, a clear Korean liquor that was similar to vodka.  Tasty stuff.

Have you been to Los Angeles City Hall? 

Peter Dinklage and I Have One Thing In Common

I never really gave much thought to the place where I was born. I’ve only been there twice. The first time is when I was born, before I went home to the family home in nearby Livingston.

The second time was in 1997, when the entire family went to Jersey for our cousin’s wedding. During that trip, my brother and I took the rental car for a brief day-trip to check the place out. I was a little curious about my birthplace: Morristown, New Jersey.

While we were there, we walked around the downtown area a little bit, walked by the hospital where I was born, and also walked through a park in the center of the town. Unbeknownst to me, the Morristown National Historical Park is the site of General George Washington’s encampment from December 1779 to June 1780, and there’s a Washington museum on site.jon-in-morristown-2016_08_01_21_43_27_001

The picture to the right is of Jonathan standing in front of the equestrian statue of General Washington.  This was the first moment that I had any inkling that my birthplace is interesting on its own, and since then I’ve found out a few other neat facts about the town.

  • During Washington’s encampment in Morristown, Alexander Hamilton was present. It was during this stretch of time that Hamilton met and courted his future wife,  Elizabeth Schuyler.
  • The Morristown Green is also the site of  a statue commemorating the meeting of George Washington, the young Marquis de Lafayette, and young Alexander Hamilton.  (I’m gonna have to go back some time to see this one, probably.)
  • The 1780 court martial of Benedict Arnold also happened in Morristown.
  • There’s an additional encampment from the revolutionary war situated on a hill which gives clear views to the North, East, and South, while being backed by mountains on the West.  This encampment, created by order of General Washington in 1777, has the hilarious and awesome name of Fort Nonsense.    (Note to self:  I’m totally gonna steal that for my next apartment.  “Hey, let’s go back to Fort Nonsense and watch movies!”)
  • Peter Dinklage was born there, four years before me.  He’s no Alexander Hamilton, but he’s really good at drinking and knowing things.

Does your birthplace have any interesting history?

First Folio and Video Game Art

me-prosperoI’ve always been a big fan of William Shakespeare.  Visiting the Globe Theater in London was a highlight of that trip.   I like the bard so much that in the early 1990s, I had a costume party for his birthday with a “dress as your favorite Shakespearean character” theme.  That’s me there on the right, dressed as Prospero from “The Tempest.”  The costume started with a mustache to match the beard, but it kept falling off whenever I had something to drink.

Since I’m a fan of Shakespeare’s work, you can probably imagine how excited I was when Amelie told me that Florida International University’s Kendall campus is showing Shakespeare’s First Folio at the Frost Museum.

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The Frost Museum is a four story exhibition hall with multiple exhibits going on at all times.   This nifty globe is right in front, and from a distance, I thought for a moment that it might be one of the many versions of Sfera con Sfera that is out in the world.

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Until February 27th, the fourth floor of the Frost museum is home to an original 1623 edition of the First Folio.   This is a national traveling exhibition organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The book will be displayed in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  When the book reaches Tulane University,  New Orleans will reportedly celebrate with a jazz funeral for Shakespeare.

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The First Folio was published seven years after Shakespeare’s death, and it contains 36 of the Bard’s plays.  (The Frost museum website says that it contains eighteen plays.  I’m curious about the discrepancy.  Perhaps older printings of the First Folio didn’t have all 36?)

On exhibit, it is stored in a temperature (and probably humidity) controlled case.    Photographs were allowed as long as you used no flash and as long as you didn’t actually touch the glass.

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The book on display is opened to the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet.  You can see it there, in the bottom-left part of this image.  I am incredibly fond of the old spellings of things, like queftion and fleepe.  However, that may just be because I need more fleepe.

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While Shakespeare’s First Folio will be gone after February 27th, the Art of Video Games exhibit will be sticking around until mid-April.  Organized by the Smithsonian American Art museum, this exhibit looks back at “the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies.”   Plus it shows a history of all the game consoles, from the Atari 2600 and Colecovision all the way up to modern gaming systems.

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It was especially interesting to see this through Amelie’s eyes-  she’s about five years younger than me, and she didn’t reach the US until the mid-80s, so her first video games were not quite the same as my first video games.

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Of course this is where most of my favorite games lived during middle and high school- the Commodore 64.  I had a C128, but I ran it in C64 mode almost all of the time.  I was always a one-button-joystick sort of guy.  I have an incredibly difficult time with the newfangled game systems that have two sticks, a directional pad, four buttons, and two triggers.  Get off my lawn, you over-complicated controllers!

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There were other nice exhibits in the Frost, but those two were the most interesting to me.  I shall wrap up this post with a picture of Amelie playing Secret of Monkey Island.  Those old adventure-quest games were fun, weren’t they?

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Should you wish to see the First Folio or the Art of Video Games, know that the Frost Museum is free and open to the public.  The address is and the hours are 10-5 Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5 Sunday, and closed Mondays and most holidays.

What was your first video game?  What was your favorite?

The Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo-Tokyo Museum in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo is a museum that details the history and culture of Tokyo during the Edo period.  The museum is in a multi-level building with a very interesting structure.  The main entrance is up that red escalator on the left.

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One of the first things you see after entering the museum is a life-sized replica of the Nihonbashi, the bridge which has crossed the Nihonbashi river since the 17th century.  The first wooden bridge was constructed in 1603.  The Nihonbashi was rebuilt with stone and a steel frame in 1911.

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Looking over the rail of the bridge, you can see a life-sized replica of an old Newspaper office.  You can get on the seat of the penny farthing, the bike with a giant front wheel.  It doesn’t go anywhere, however, which was very disappointing.

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On the far side of the bridge is an area with models of castles and other buidings from the Edo period.

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I didn’t take very good notes as to what the models represented, but they’re incredibly detailed.  They reminded me a lot of Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.

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Look, a tiny palace!

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The detail on these buildings and courtyards is extraordinary.

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This demonstration involves lifting heavy buckets on a pole.  However, the metal guides prevent you from lifting them too far, which makes it even more awkward.  I tried this, and it made a terrible noise when I extended the ropes too far.

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Boats! Boats! Boats!

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I deeply regret not taking the time to photograph the placards that explain what these items are.  It’s been four months already since I left Japan, and the best I can come up with now is, “ooh, tiny Japanese people!”

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Royalty may get a comfortable seat, but I can’t help but think the whole contraption would be faster if it were a little bit less ornate.

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Some sections of the museum covered more recent times.  I thought the Subaru 360 was kind of neat.

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The 2-door rear-engine 360 was Subaru’s first production automobile.  It was manufactured from 1958 to 1971.

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The next two pictures are a scale model of a type of hot air balloon bomb that was sent out by Japan during World War II.  The Fire Balloon (fūsen bakudan) was a hydrogen balloon with a variety of bombs and incendiary devices attached.  Used in conjunction with the Pacific jet stream, the Fire Balloon was the first device to have intercontinental range.

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Between 1944 and 1945, the Japanese Navy launched over 9,000 fire balloons toward North America.  About three hundred were confirmed to have reached the United States and Canada, but most of them caused little or no damage.  Six people (five children and a woman) became the only deaths due to enemy action to occur on mainland America during World War II.  One of the Fire Balloons landed near Bly, Oregon, and one of the children triggered the bomb.   The site where this happened is marked by a stone munment in the Mitchell Recreation Area in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.  The Canadian War Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario, has a full, intact balloon on display.

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This is a Model T used as a taxi in old Tokyo.

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This is a replica of  the Ryōunkaku, Japan’s first western-style skyscraper. It stood in the Asakusa district of Tokyo from 1890 until the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923.  The earthquake destroyed the upper floors, and the tower was so severely damaged that it had to be demolished.

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This sign shows how the tower looked after the earthquake, and details the subsequent demolition of the tower.

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The Boodo Khan is one of Sony’s earliest audio systems.  The Boodo Khan name was also applied to early Walkman models, but this is a component system for home audio.  Collectors and audiophiles still rave about the audio quality on these boxes.

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This is a very pretty phone booth.  I think it looks a little bit like a lighthouse.

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Have you ever been to the Edo-Tokyo Museum?

Osaka

In the second weekend of my time in Japan, I did some very intensive travel.  I started in Hiroshima, and on Saturday afternoon, I hopped over to Osaka.   I took the rail directly into the center of town, dropped off my bag at the hotel, and immediately set out to see stuff.

One of the first things I checked out in Osaka was the Castle.  On my way there, I walked past this building and I really wish I had paid more attention to what it is.   All I know for sure is that it’s attached to the Osaka Historical Museum, the curved building to the left.

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Osaka Castle is in a very large green space with ascending walkways spread out over fifteen acres.  I wasn’t expecting the way to the castle to be quite so twisty.  You walk through several large gateways to get there, and this was the first one.   This is Otemon gate.

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This charming fellow with the Samurai’s top-knot is Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the founder of the Edo period.  He’s the ruler who built Osaka Castle.  The original version of this statue was destroyed during World War II, and this one was remade in 1943.

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I quite like these little Samurai guys.

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This is the castle itself.  According to local legend, Godzilla destroyed it in 1955 by pinning another giant monster against it.  It has since been rebuilt.

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Every once in a while, I have to stick myself in here so you can see that I was really there.  Truly!

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I kept walking through the grounds, past the keep, only to discover that the walkway to the castle from the other side was significantly less shorter.  Much less scenic, however, until you get to this side, just past the moat.

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With my mission to see Osaka Castle completed, my next task was to find Amemura, or Little America.  “Amerikamura” was founded in the 1970s in Shinsaibashi, where it was a central place for the import of fashion from the United States.  It has since become a place with a trendy nightlife, and a rather interesting blend of American culture into the area.    I knew I was getting close when I saw this giant kitchsy bowling pin.

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The most well-known landmark of Amemura is arguably a scale model of the Statue of Liberty atop one of the buildings.

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This is how I knew for certain that I was in the right place, because there’s not really much else to indicate that you’re in Little America.

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Before returning to the hotel for the evening, I had one more thing on my to-do list.  I wanted to go to the Umeda Sky Building, sometimes referred to as the Floating Garden even though it isn’t really a garden.  That tall building with twin towers in the center is the building in question.

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When you get closer, you can almost see why it’s called the Floating Garden.  Two tubes contain the escalator up to the very tall observation level.

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At the top side of those escalator tubes is a round open-air observation deck with amazing views of Osaka’s skyline.  While this isn’t taller than some of the other places I’ve been on this trip, it’s still pretty nifty.

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“Over Macho Grande?”  “I don’t think I’ll ever get over Macho Grande.”

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I’ve pointed out Love Locks in Regensburg, Cologne, and Paris, and here they are again in Osaka.

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I digress.  Here’s the amazing view to the other side of the observation deck.  If you look carefully, you can see my reflection near the center bottom, as I took this photograph.

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Osaka contains over 19 million inhabitants, which makes it one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

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It’s still not as crowded as Tokyo, though, or at least that’s how it feels.

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I want to say that this is the Dojima-gawa river, but I have no clue if I’m reading the maps correctly.    Pretty view, though, don’t you think?

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By the time I was done at the Umeda Sky Building, I went back to my hotel room near the train station.  I had a very nice room, and the view from my hotel room window was pretty nifty.

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In the morning, I took a little side trip before getting on the train to the next destination.  On that side trip, I happened upon a giraffe made of Lego.    The building over the giraffe’s shoulder is the Osaka Aquarium, but that will be the next post.

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Have you ever been to Osaka?