Thursday, May 31, 2012

Photo Essay: Savannah Memorial Park Pioneer Cemetery, Memorial Day



This Memorial Day, I decided to take a visit to Rosemead, CA, where many of Los Angeles County's founding fathers (and mothers) are buried.

There are plenty of war veterans there too, but I chose to visit the more neglected, overlooked graves...



...the crumbling...



...the old...



...the cracked...



...the infants, with no living family to place flowers or candles atop slightly displaced stones...





The generic...



...the consumed...





...the twig- and moss-covered...













...The split...











..and the sprouted.









Many of these headstones, which lie flat on the ground rather than standing up like modern ones, have virtually sunken into the ground, their perimeters literally exhumed from the encroaching earth, now set into little depressions rather than the little mounds you'd expect to see at a gravesite.



So many darling, beloved babies and infant sons and daughters lost, with no one left to mourn for them...except me, photographing them in memoriam.

Related reading:
Photo Essay: The Faces of Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Photo Essay: Past the Mission
Gloom (Photo Blog)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes at Grauman's Chinese Theater



When I was back home earlier this month, Maria asked me if I ever did any cheesy touristy things in LA, like taking a tour of the Chinese Theater.

I said, "No, not yet."



And then this weekend, I had my chance.



I always knew the Grauman's Chinese Theater - familiar to me for decades as "Mann's" Chinese Theater - as the locale of hundreds of Hollywood movie premieres and Walk of Fame star dedications, foot- and handprint-making in awkward, bent-over, cleavage-spilling poses.

I had no idea of its place in Hollywood's architectural and cultural heritage.



Built relatively quickly to open in 1927, the Chinese Theater was Sid Grauman's latest (and last) venture in his game of one-upsmanship against himself, having already made a splash with other elaborate movie palaces - namely, in Downtown LA with the Metropolitan, and nearby in Hollywood with the Egyptian.



Quite staggeringly, even after drastic renovations in the late 1950s and in the early 2000s, the Chinese Theater still stands...



...some original elements missing (like the original chandelier, and some light bulbs which have gone out)...



...its large screen (perhaps the largest in LA) still showing first-run films as in its heyday, still premiering them with all of the glitz and glamour as ever.



Brick walls are ornately painted with Chinese icons, poured concrete ceilings are painted to give the appearance of wood, columns are coated in plaster to appear as stone...



...and even though the singer's boxes and crystal ornaments on each side of the stage are gone (the latter having been removed in the advent of sound, since they rattled too much)...



...everything still shines, glitters, and glows.



The ushers (and usherettes) no longer appear in full Chinese regalia, but one lovely lady does sit in lobby to greet the moviegoers.



The ladies room is still very much of a lounge...



...though some bulbs have gone out there too.



Backstage, there are no longer dancers comprising Sid Grauman's "Cast of Thousands" in his famous prologues which often delayed the start of a film several hours.



Down below, under the stage (which was lowered in the '50s), you can no longer climb the stairs up into the orchestra pit.







Babies no longer cry in the cast and crew nursery.





Upstairs, the dressing rooms have been converted into offices.



Original etched windows still stand in the panes, but Sid no longer peers through them from his office chair.



The projection room operates on a primarily digital platform instead of off the classic reels...



...but it still is showing movies for thousands of adoring fans.

Related Reading:
Photo Essay: Inside Governor's Island: Fort Jay Movie Theater
Behind the Mask

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Photo Essay: Millard Canyon



Millard Canyon is an area of the San Gabriel Mountains foothills that has been carved up by several different entities for years.



Part of the canyon, through which a creek runs, spawning a vast biodiversity in the creatures, flora and fauna that populate it, is controlled by the Angeles National Forest...



...while part of the public trail is controlled by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy...



...and yet another part is privately owned, and hopefully soon to be purchased by the Arroyo Foothills Conservancy, whose work in Rubio Canyon will greatly contribute to the foothills' open spaces, and who conducted some guided tours of the area a couple weekends ago.



A vast area of Millard Canyon has been greatly impacted by human presence - mostly vis à vis the recreational and residential cabins that pepper the trail, where people have lived and planted landscaping that has dramatically altered the botanical constitution of the canyon, mostly because of the introduction of invasive species (e.g. vines).



But despite a relatively well-marked trail...



...and some relatively easy creek crossings...





... it is possible to feel wild out there, far from vehicular and foot traffic. In fact, we never saw another hiker...



...and we never saw anyone coming out of those cabins.



Nature has taken control of the area, with several downed trees...



...plenty of plants (including thriving poison oak)...



...tiny, camouflaged flogs living in the creek...



...and abundant wildflowers.







By the boundary of the currently privately-owned land, indications of infrastructure start to manifest...








...before emptying out into a residential neighborhood.



Millard Canyon isn't hard to navigate through - you just follow the creek - but it's a biologically sensitive area, and the trailhead isn't easy to get to.



Hopefully when the AFC completes its land purchase, they'll be able to both protect the native species and make the area more accessible for public use.

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