Saturday, August 29, 2009

Apollo 11 - What dreams can do

"Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together." Eugene Ionesco

On July 20th NASA and our world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing mission of Apollo 11. The picture above has become an iconic image of humanity's dreams, hopes and achievement. For me, it was a symbol of a future I could live with now.

When I look at the images of what the Apollo Program aimed to achieve and finally achieved, I'm humbled by my own small thoughts. The image here of Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon shows what anyone can do if they only had dreams, hopes, courage and the fortitude to pursue. And most of all, it was the result of a collective idea inspired by John F. Kennedy.

Okay, part of the fuel that fed the fire of desire was to out beat the other guy (Russia). But it was a race to show ability and superiority without killing. Isn't that a better way of fighting the other side?

I understand it is human nature to prove you're better than the other. And that is what ideology, religion and all beliefs have in common. The reality is, we have to fuel that need.

I hate the thought but that's why corporations want more money, so the executives and stockholders can live better and have more than others. That is why leaders who can't solve domestic and economic problems call for wars on others so they can divert their inability to inspire their people to dream and achieve. It's their way of feeling they are better leaders than others by harnessing the human need to be better than others. That is why religious leaders who themselves lack the vision to lead, call their flock to hate others who don't share the same beliefs. That is why people who lack integrity put other people down or men put women down, or adults who abuse children do what they do- because humans have the innate desire to want to be better or have more than others.

What happened to channeling those destructive and wasteful energies toward useful and beneficial competition? NASA's research has led to countless inventions of new processes, equipment, materials etc., that have helped society and improved quality of life. It has employed countless millions at all levels of ability and education.

All the greatest and most effective leaders in our past have always inspired us to dream the impossible, and achieve it simultaneously. But in the last couple generations, we have seen the loss of that inspiration. Instead, it has been replaced by greed and dogma. Both of which come from lack of vision and have no long term benefit for humanity. Instead, it provides that instant satisfaction of having more than the other for very few.

I miss those calls for us to dream and compete on a higher plane. Those were the times when people rallied along side each other, sharing the work, hopes and pride of achievement. Those values seem to have disappeared. I find that even I have strayed from that path.

I hope that looking at the images and the video below will reinvigorate your dreams and hopes as well as your fervor to achieve them as they have for me.

"Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Finally! Calling it for what it really is.

I wish all Democrats would learn from Congressman Barney Frank calling out the lies being spread by the crazies in our country. Why don't they confront the 'twisted' for twisting heresay, which seems to dominate the discussion about healthcare reform?

The squeaky wheel always gets the attention and the grease. The GOP and the crazies have proven that point for the last 8 years and they seem to be doing just as well now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Me and my IPHONE - Downtown L.A.

O and I decided to photograph downtown L.A., so we could play with our wide angle lenses. We were the only patrons at this parking lot on 4th and Grand.

The days must have been long before the advent of cell phones and PDAs for a lone parking attendant. His shift would not end for another 5 hours. Lucky this guy had his IPhone.

BTW: This photgraph was taken with the 35mm Summilux 1:1.4.

Hollywood Bowl - Music under the Stars

I always love going to the Hollywood Bowl during the summer. O and I had our opportunity when my cousin came to town for a visit. So together with a friend, we went to listen to Mozart under the stars.

Mozart was truly a genius. He knew how to push all those emotional buttons with his collection of musical notes. He did it again this time with the help of the conductor Nicolas McGegan, the L.A. Philharmonic and Canadian piano soloist Louis Lortie.

McGegan said that Mozart would think up of a symphony over a few days while eating breakfast wit his wife and then write it all out in 1-1/2 days. Talk about superhuman feat. Not to mention he wrote 600 pieces of musical compositions, 40 symphonies (there is a dispute as to whether it was 40 or 41), 25 concertos and 20 operas. All of this before he died at the age of 35.

What is great about the Hollywood Bowl (the place) is the fact that it's an open air amphitheater. People bring or buy dinner and sit on their benches or in their boxes and eat. So when you're there with everyone drinking and noshing, you feel like you're part of a larger community. This feeling is rare in a town like Los Angeles, where every place and everyone feels isolated from each other. That doesn't mean we chatted with everyone around us. And we didn't. But it is a nice feeling to be able to share for a few hours.

We heard:
Overture to the Marriage of Figaro
Piano Concerto N.23, K.488
Symphony No. 40

Technical Difficulties

I'm sorry I haven't updated my blog this last weekend but my laptop won't let me save any photos because of too many files in my RAM. After deleting many files, I am still facing the same problem. I hope to solve it by this coming weekend. Sorry again for the invconvenience!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I was surprised and not surprised, when I read on June 25th, UNESCO's World Hertiage Committee announcement that Dresden, Germany, a World Heritage site since 2004, was delisted. This was because of a badly needed 4 lane bridge called the Wald to relieve traffic congestion scheduled for construction near the city center.

Dresden is often referred to as the 'Florence' of germany because of its Baroque and rich historical heritage. I'll be honest, I have not been to Dresden as of date. But that has not stopped me from admiring its Architecture from far away.

I was particularly excited when after being obliterated in World War II, the City painstakingly rebuilt every important piece of architecture and in 2005, it culminated in the completion of reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). It symbolized not only the strength of overcoming the ravages of war but the honoring of the spirit of human achievement. The reconstruction also confirmed the appointment of Dresden as a worthy World Heritage Site.

For those of you not familiar with what the criteria of qualifying for being a World Heritage Site, then please click here at the UNESCO's World Heritage website for the Criteria. It's an important organization that seeks to support and maintain what are the essential foundations of humanity and culture.

I show here a photo of Dresden and one of the simplest Baroque bridges, built in 1728. This is followed by the drawing comparing the design profiles and size of the various existing bridges in Dresden and the new proposed Waldschloesschen bridge. and finally renderings of some of the proposed designs of the new bridge.

I was shocked to see the designs of the proposed bridge Waldschloesschen Bridge. The desire to make an individualistic design statement seem to be at the forefront of the engineer/designer's mind. This is obviously supported if not encouraged by the city planners and officers. It is no wonder Dresden was delisted from the list of World Heritage sites.

Since the last decade, design has emphasized the "me" concept. "Look at me", I'm an object to be admired. Every architect or engineer who has made a name for themselves have all resorted to ignoring the context of existing buildings and landscape that surround the area. While others who have attempted to "blend" in garnered little to no recognition. This seems to go hand in hand with our whole society's problem of everything is for "me". Which, if you extrapolate it, is the result of our collective economic and social problems we are dealing with throughout the globe today.

The chosen design by Eisenloffel, Sattler & Partner follows the idea of ignoring context. If you look at all the existing bridges, with the exception of the Blue Wonder, all the bridges have simple profiles that do not compete with the surrounding baroque buildings. In fact, the old bridges do not celebrate itself but rather connects you to the buildings that should be celebrated.

On the other hand, the World Heritage committee was also rather unrealistic. Without considering cost, they insisted on the City of Dresden building a tunnel instead. The bridge costs approximately $226 M, while a tunnel would make it cost prohibitive. It is a arrogant and ridiculous idea.

In order to select a designer, the City issued a competition. I do not understand why the City did not request for a bridge design that addressed the issue of context. While I have not seen all the entry designs submitted, from the four proposed designs shown in this article which includes the winning entry, it does not appear that it was a real criteria.

If the design statement is the celebration of a historical city, then all other design statements need to support it. So why didn't the city or the design firm(s) come up with a proposal that was perhaps similar to the existing low profile bridges? Why not take cues from those designs instead of the current uninspired design? In fact, it is one of those - "look at me" designs. But this time, the "me" does not know it's ugly.

What a shame that a city would throw away all their efforts of rebuilding what is historical with a new bridge that counters every aspect of what they have achieved so far. And worse, the designers who should have considered this, did not give a rats ass except for their insatiable avarice for recognition.

Photo by: Dr. Torsten Henning view of Frauenkirche and the Augustus Bridge
Bridge comparison drawing by: Gmd
1 Bridge Rendering by: Unknown
4 Bridge Renderings by: DDP, from Der Spiegel
Birdseye rendering of bridge by: Unknown

Friday, August 7, 2009

Madeleine Bistro - Vegan Restaurant

Since O was in earnest to lose weight, our friends wanted to take us out to a vegetarian restaurant. It was an experiment, considering O has a reputation of being a 'meat and potatoes' man.

Madeleine Bistro restaurant is located in Encino on Ventura Blvd. If you blink, you could miss it on account of the dark brown glass storefront. The entrance is nothing to write home about. The interior is plain Jane.

Once we walked in, we were greeted by two very nice waiters. We were excited to try some new and different food and perused the menu for quite a long time. Our friends had a list of the best dishes recommended by their friends who kindly set up the reservation for us. The list was practically the menu. We wanted to try everything so it was hard to decide.

Chef Dave Anderson treats every dish like a gourmet dish. He's also an award winning chef. Yet the prices are extremely reasonable. An average dish costs around $10-13. The service was wonderful.

Appetizers started with Kaisespaezle (German mac'n cheese) (photo); The Bigger Macque (two no beef patties, special sauces, lettuce, cheese...) (photo shows 1/4 missing as our friend dug in before I could take the picture) and Red Beet Tartare.

Main course consisted of Philet no Phish (Filet of Fish in a bun); Chicken-fried Seitan with Mashed Potatoes (photo), Lemon-rosemary Seitan with a delicious grilled Asparagus Crepe (photo), Chopped Raw Summer Vegetables Primavera with Cucumber Capellini (photo).

Dessert closed the meal with Strawberry Shortcake with Peach-lemongrass Sorbet and a Chocolate Souffle and Vanilla Sorbet, compliments of our friends' friends.

Everything was delicious with one exception, the red beet tartar being bland. The food was surprisingly filling and some sauces creamy.

However, all of us did come to the same conclusion: We felt that a menu made up signature of dishes trying to emulate meat dishes seemed rather unoriginal. We were hoping to sample tasty dishes that were unique to the flavors of vegetable oriented ingredients. The closest one was the Raw Summer Vegetables Primavera. Although we did not try the Green Papaya Salad, it looked very original from across the table.

All in all, I would recommend the restaurant for first timers, experimenters and vegetarians. As for us, it was a fun and delicious try and I would go back with other vegetarians. But it didn't sway my taste buds to return frequently to this restaurant. And definitely not O's or our friends.

18621 Ventura Boulevard
Tarzana, CA 91356
Tel: (818) 758 6971

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

We elected Democrats and not Republicans

Dear Elected Democrats in Government (with special attention towards Blue Dog Democrats) and Mr. President:

After watching and reading parts of the health care debates and issues, which you have been grappling with, I just want to scream from shear frustration.

With few exceptions, you all seem to have no commitment to our collective future. Your true motive of prolonging your own political career and power struggle is showing all too clear from your thin skinned 'concerned' faces.

As a result, the one chance you've been given to be able to ACT on the convictions you once touted to get you elected, is about to be thrown away. It's a once in your life time opportunity. And you would have only you to blame.

For the first time, the Republicans have no credibility. The Democratic Party has the floor and the spotlight to itself. You have the chance to actually effect change for the better of this country. You have the chance to banish selfishness and greed from the business of governing and protecting citizens of our country.

The Republicans should be a side show compared to the Democrats. You shouldn't be fighting but already implementing conscious and benevolent policies. Yet all you do is squabble about cost. This seems so disingenuous considering you were quick to add more money to pay for the 'cash for clunkers' program which benefits industry in the end. Or you're quick to say yes to paying for weapons, war, drilling of oil in sanctuaries, and everything that allows business to profit.

What happened to the constituents whose back you built your entire campaign and career on? The people need a system that considers them first before profit. The health and lives of the people, who built and continue to build this country and voted for you because you would help them, should be your first priority. That's part of your duties holding an office in government.

You have already compromised the health reform bill by not eliminating the private health insurance system. Their goal has been always to make money at the expense of people- of lives. Now you're arguing on behalf of them, the health insurers and pharma-companies, by fighting against the proposed competitive government health insurance system. 'Because it will drive the health insurances' and health corporations' prices down and not allow them to make a profit.'

Isn't that what the Republican's have come to stand for? You're helping them not only win on their issues on your turf, but you're helping them build a stronger united front based on yours, the Democratic Party's weaknesses. It's utterly incredulous. The Republicans are laughing at us on their way back to the office we all collectively fought so hard to kick them out of.

It's unconscionable to think that profit has priority over human life!

Your hypocracy is outrageous. But that's probably why the world is in such dire straits right now. It's the example you set to your constituents and the world. For you, it's okay to pretend you care when in reality you don't. You say we need health care reform and then you turn to the corporate lobby for your campaign donations. Your lies offends the trust which the people of this country gave to you.

When you reach office, the smell of power and what power gets you helps boost your ego- your greed. Assistants are at your beck and call. Immoral and even criminal actions can be swept under the carpet because everyone around you enables that to happen. Living the high life sure beats the low and humble life. No holds barred. And all you have to do is pretend- tell the people what they want to hear. They're too stupid or busy trying to live their lives, let alone watch your every move.

It's our fault too. We want you to deal with that horrible business of politicking. We're too happy to give that part of the job to you.

Over the years, a life of public service (you serving the public) has been redefined by people like you. It's now about the public serving you instead. But that's what you want us to believe, so we won't hold you accountable. We'll don't be too comfortable on your ideas. As my father-in-law once said, if you live in the public eye, you will die by the hand of the public eye. Keep this in mind.

But most of all, think about if you had not run for office. You were like the ordinary person- the person whom you pounded the pavement on cold rainy days or hot sweltering nights to cull their vote. Put yourself in their shoes. You voted for someone you thought you could trust. And he or she turned out to be a lying politician like you. What would go through your mind right now? What would you do?

Should I be cynical and think that you would do exactly what you're doing now- that is to lie and step on the people who voted for you. Just so you can live out your dreams of power? Or could I hope for the thoughtfulness and caring that helped get you elected?

I hope it is the latter.


(For those who want to understand the issues of healthcare reform, please click on below.)

from NYT Global Edition Opinion Page July 25 2009

from NYT Opinion Page July 26, 2009

Logo credit: U.S. Democratic Party

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Michael Jackson- Remembered

Friends of ours came to visit us from Munich. They had never been to Los Angeles before so we decided to take them for a tour of Hollywood Boulevard and Grauman's Chinese Theater. All around you were a cacophony of different languages. The place was packed with tourists from all over the world.

After looking at foot and hand prints of movie stars dating back to when the the theater was opened in 1927, you felt the flow of humanity and its history (albeit a short one).

O and I pushed through the crowd, when suddenly, traffic stopped to a halt and no one was able to move. Luckily I was able to slip through a gap and found everyone staring down and taking photgraphs of the ground. Flowers, photos, cards, long letters encircled the sidewalk star of singer, Michael Jackson. Nearby, a young singer hoping for a break, sings Michael Jackson's greatest hits. I was struck by the desire for a person remembered. Combine it with sheer curiosity.

Michael was a tragic figure- a result of our collective desire for a 'star'. He gave it to us in exchange for our disguised consumer 'love' for him. I think Michael wanted more than what the public could give him while he was alive.This symbiotic relationship was always tentative- based on the mood of either side. It was fragile at best.

Now that Michael's gone, I find myself listening more often to his music. Reminiscing my youth. Perhaps it's why there's so much publicity over him. He was the symbol of our childhood- past, present and future.