Monthly Archives: July 2022

The Academy Museum in LA

The Academy Museum opened to the public on September 30, 2021, in Los Angeles and became an immediate success. It’s across the street from the impressive Petersen Auto Museum. Ruth & I wanted to see it when we had the opportunity and that presented itself last week. Because of COVID, movie going has waned, so this new museum gives this industry an exciting new venue to promote itself. It works especially well to renew interest in movie-going.

The first exhibit that people see is Back Drop: An Invisible Art about how movie making began. Level 4 up an escalator at this exciting new venue, offers lots of exhibits about how the magic of making movies and attending them is created. Ruth had the opportunity to win an Academy Award and took advantage of the chance to see how this feels.

Rather rapidly, the visitor is learning a lot about how animation is done. Shrek, Toy Story, and Frozen are used to create excitement about animation. This was followed by a large but temporary display about the films of Spanish film master Pedro Almodovar. We learned about some of his early films that we knew nothing about and have had a chance to view a couple of them like Volver, which stars one of his favorite actresses Penelope Cruz. Exhibits like this tend to be kept for about a year and usually change in September.

The focus on superheroes was next with Stars Wars stars featured and a pleasant focus on The Terminator. A whole room, it seems, is devoted to the film magic created by Citizen Kane, which is often said to be the best movie ever made. We have had the chance since returning home to see it and 2 more dynamite movies that we missed; both Real Women Have Curves starring America Ferrera and the Academy Award winning and controversial A Fantastic Woman from Chile have unspooled on our TV. We otherwise would not have seen both of these more recent films. Both films are exceptional and relevant movies.

There are many Oscars on view that have been donated to this new museum for display purposes. Only Hattie McDaniel’s award is dark because this first Academy Award winning Black actress donated it to Howard University, which misplaced it. Halle Berry’s fine tribute to her is in the next room. All of the Oscars seen are originals as are the outfits worn on Academy Award night by Cher and others.

Towards the end of this experience there is a huge focus on The Wizard of Oz including a pair of the Red Slippers on display that was actually used in the film that was not so successful at first. In the next room are some costumes used in movies. The most impressive is the one designed for Midsommar and Carmen Miranda’s still interesting dress worn in a 1940s film.

The Academy Award focus ends for now on several documentaries, and some much appreciated early movie posters were on view.


San Diego Tiki Bars

Ruth & I just got back from California where Tiki Bars are still very popular entertainment. We went to one in San Diego and really enjoyed its ambiance and its drinks. It was called False Idol. Others in the area were the TIki Hut, Forbidden Cove, and Noble Experiment. False Idol was at 675 West Beech Street in an area called Little Italy where we had eaten earlier in the day. We were quite lucky to get into False Idol on a Saturday night, and we had to wait for seating at the bar where I enjoyed a fruit based, alcohol free drink and Ruth had a mai tai with a flower adorning it. Reservations are a great idea.

We were also in LA to see the new Academy Museum across the street from the Petersen Auto complex and near LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits. This new museum was busy and worth seeing but also hard to get in. More about it later. There are also Tiki Bars in Escondido, Sacramento, San Gabriel, and other places in California. I suspect they are busy too. False Idol was a dark place where a line quickly formed near us to get in. I especially like the name Trailer Park after Dark to name a current tiki bar.

Tiki Bars started to gain popularity during the Trader Vic era. This global restaurant chain still maintains headquarters in Emoryville, CA, and it still operates 17 restaurants around the world. Trader Vics sold its first mai tai in a Polynesian setting in 1944. These Polynesian culture restaurants sprang from New Zealand Maori beginnings. Only the Trader Vic’s in Atlanta is still opened in the USA. We still miss the one in Portland and its food and rum drinks. The Trader Vic’s in Oregon near us at 3195 West Broadway, alas, closed in 1996. The one in St. Louis closed even earlier. We still miss its Hawaiian themed ambiance, its elaborate cocktails, and its cultural decor. Portland is still home to one of the best tiki bars in the world with Hale Pele.

For some unexplained reason, tiki bars are still accepted on the West Coast. San Diego has a relatively new one called Miss B’s Coconut Club that opened in 2016. San Diego is listed as the 8th most expensive city in the United States to visit. This is largely because of a major military presence and a big focus on medical devices. San Diego is said on another list to be the 6th most expensive city to visit. Five of the cities on this list are in California that has some surprises. The presence of San Francisco on this list is not one of them, but Oakland and San Jose are to me. Los Angeles is the 5th California city on this list and no surprise with so many new neighbors from there. Honolulu remains the #1 most expensive US city to visit.

Visiting a tiki bar is once again a hip thing to do at least on the West Coast.


Towns Named Birmingham and Lima

I was going to write towns named Birmingham today but could not find enough of them to write about. There are 14 of them in the United States, one in England that is the largest Birmingham of all with more than 2 and a half million people, and one in Saskatchewan, Canada. The Birmingham in Alabama has 212,000 citizens living in it, but is unfortunately the only real Birmingham around. The Birminghams in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Iowa are too small for consideration. The Birmingham in Kentucky was destroyed by the filling of Kentucky Lake. This name is Gaelic and derives from the Old English word for a tribe of people called the Beormingas They settled in England where Birmingham is today. Birmingham grew from a medieval market town into an industrial powerhouse in the 20th century. But then I began thinking about Limas.

There are some fairly large Limas in the United States. The ones in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and especially Ohio are fairly large now. There are 60 Limas in the world with the largest one becoming the capital of the South American country of Peru. The Lima in Pennsylvania is pronounced Lye-ma. The Lima in Ohio is now a city of about 36,000 people and full of surprises as it turns out. The Lima in Montana is named after the Lima in Ohio and was originally the town of Allerdice, but the Lima in Ohio was named for the city in Peru.

Of interest to me. There was an outbreak of cholera in Ohio in the 19th century. The dirty water that caused the problem was not discovered until 1886. The citizens of Lima, Ohio, built an opera house in 1882 that was so revolutionary and renowned that many New York theaters were modeled on it.

Many famous people were from Lima, Ohio. They include early TV host Hugh Downs, the football star Ben Roethlisberger, Al Jardine, one of the founders of the Beach Boys, and the comedienne Phyllis Diller, who became a friend of my mother when they both lived in St. Louis and had large families. Over time Phyllis Diller wrote several books. My favorite title was her 2001 tome named “Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse”.


The Most Popular Trees

The red maple is the most popular American tree. It used to be the elm. The other maple tree in the top ten list produces syrup. Ruth and I went to Springfield, Illinois, to explore maple syrup making several years ago. There are 2 pine trees on the most popular list, the loblolly and the lodgepole. There are also 2 firs on the list, the Balsam and the Douglas. It’s hard to tell the difference between a fir and a pine tree. Yesterday I dissed the sweetgum as a dirty tree despite its wide use. The tree in 10th place is the only oak, the white variety. The 10th tree on the most common list is my favorite, the Flowering Dogwood. This is partially because it’s a regional tree that grows wild where I grew up, and it was fun to look for the exploding white variety each spring.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, most of the American elm trees died due to the Dutch Elm Disease. This is why this particular tree is called the tree of death. It was the most common tree around America in the 19th century. The Chicago area used to be the place for us to see many elm trees but no more. The largest stand of elm trees is now found in Winnipeg, Canada, where our son was stationed for 2 years. There is no cure for Dutch Elm Disease, but there are now disease resistant varieties available that have saved a species that is 20 million years old. There are now several varieties of elms available, but it is still an uncommon tree. I personally like the Florida elm among the abundant varieties of these returning trees.

I also like aspens. They are in the willow family with poplars and cottonwoods, which traditionally grow along streams. The Quaking Aspen thrives in northern regions and can be seen from Canada to Alaska. There is nothing as beautiful to me as a Colorado stand of aspens. An aspen grove is truly a thing of outstanding beauty! Swedish aspens are increasingly popular to tree planters. The Swedish Columnar Aspen was not discovered until the 1920s and looks more like a poplar tree to me.

Aspens began life in Sweden. The Swedish aspen was not discovered until about 100 years go, and it looks nothing like the Colorado type. To me the Swedish Columnar aspen looks more like a common cypress tree. There are six varieties of them, and they grow to be about 45 feet tall.

Trees as a subject is expansive. I need to leave further discussion of trees to the experts before I get into birches, beeches. spruces, and sarsafras trees. My favorite stand of birches is at Principia College near a bluff overlooking the Illinois River. The sarsafras tree reminds me of my very first travel experiences in Arkansas with some generous neighbors.


Maples Abound Too

There are lots of oak towns in the USA. The oak, however, is not the most popular tree in the USA. Research shows that the most popular tree in the United States is the red maple. The sugar maple ranks #6, just under the Quaking Aspen. How did that happen? There are only about 16 Aspens in the entire world.

There are 8 aspens in Sweden alone. More about that coming up. The sweetgum is the 3rd most popular tree here. Ruth was shocked when I told her that because she hates to sweep up sweetgum balls. Two of the most popular trees on the list are firs, and 2 are pines. There is only one oak in the top 10 because the white oak is a very common tree here. However, there are about 600 kinds of oak trees around the world.

There are only 12 towns with maple in their names, and 11 of them are in the United States. There are towns that include the word maple in several states. The Maple in Canada’s Ontario is very small. There are Maples in Wisconsin, South Carolina , Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arkansas. Four of the towns with “maple” in their names are unincorporated. Most of the towns using the word maple are followed by another word. For example, the Maple in Wisconsin is Maple Bluff, a town with more than 1,000 people living in it. It’s on Lake Mendota in the Madison area and is not too far from the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired building called Monona Terrace that straddles 2 huge lakes. Maple Heights is a suburb of Cleveland in Ohio and is a city of more than 23,000 people.

The champion maple state, however, is Minnesota. In this state are 5 major towns with “maple” in their names, The Minnesota town names are Mapleton, Maplewood, Maple Lake, Maple Grove, and Maple Plain. Maplewood and Maple Grove are suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The largest maple town in Minnesota is Maple Grove with a population of more than 61,000 Minnesotans.

There is a Maplewood in Missouri too. I grew up near Maplewood, MO in the St. Louis area, which has a population of more than 8,000. Maplewood had at one time many fine restaurants and was a middle class ring community with a great community pool.