November 30, 2014

Photo Essay: In Praise of the Flightless Planes at Palm Springs Air Museum

Even after having spent weeks at a time living in Joshua Tree, there are still plenty of places I haven't yet visited in the area – from the High Desert to the low.

It's not that they're new – after all, the desert doesn't change so quickly – but that there's just never enough time to do everything.

I've been aching to spend some time down desert, but my current budget doesn't allow for much travel or even one overnight stay, so I decided to make Palm Springs a (200 mile, five hour) day trip.

On my way to Robolights (which, honestly, was worth the trip), I had just enough time... check out the collection of warbirds at the Palm Springs Air Museum...

...which includes a Grumman A-6 Intruder and a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk on their front lawn alone.

You can get up close and personal with many of these historic fighter aircraft of the various Armed Forces efforts of the 20th Century... the McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet...

...and a Grumman F-14 "Tomcat."

Once you actually pay admission and enter the museum, there are two hangars full of planes...

...the North/European...

...and the South Pacific...

...devoted to World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, respectively.

Outside on the tarmac, adjacent to the runways of the Palm Springs Airport, there's a Sikorsky H-34 helicopter...

...which was designed and built for the Navy in 1954 but was also used by the U.S. Army and, lastly, the Marines during the Vietnam War.

The museum closes at 5 p.m., but during the winter, that's too late.

You've got until about 4 p.m. before the sun dips behind the mountain and you lose all the light.

But just before you lose the sun, the light is fantastic...

...illuminating planes like the Navy's 1958 Grumman C-1A Trader "Blue Ghost #6"... well as other fantastic tail art...

...and glimmering off the propellor of the F4U Corsair.

Many of these plans operated from relatively small carriers, like the Grumman F8F Bearcat ("Bob's Bear").

A few of the static planes have been displayed showing a cross-section of their wings or other parts...

...but some of these planes (like perhaps the "Simply Wicked" Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 jet fighter "Notorious Natasha"?) have been completely refurbished, and can still actually fly.

A surprising highlight of the museum is the Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" from the Korean War, built in 1950 by Kaiser Aircraft Company.

This particular model was left abandoned in Alaska...

...and then purchased with the intention of creating an educational exhibit in honor of the fallen soldiers of the war.

Its condition was kept as original as possible (with some restoration for comfort and safety) and you can actually go into it and sit in the cockpit and walk around.

But this puppy won't ever fly again – what was salvaged had been cut off from the rest of the plane, just in front of the wing.

For those that are grounded forever, basking in the golden sun, it's a good life in Palm Springs, where they can be restored and stay that way, not exposed to the humidity or other weather elements that tend to erode and age historic artifacts like this.

I guess not all birds have to fly.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Blackbird Airpark, Before Open Hours
Photo Essay: The Proud Bird Restaurant, Before Closing
Photo Essay: Long Beach Airport's 90th Anniversary Fly-In
Photo Essay: Planespotting at Santa Monica Airport
Elegy for the Flightless Bird

November 29, 2014

The Art of Master Puppeteer Bob Baker, Upon His Passing

Bob Baker, master puppet-maker and puppeteer of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, died on Friday of natural causes at age 90.

I refuse to grieve. He wished for no services, no sadness at his passing.

Although we never met, and I never actually saw him in person, he brought me a lot of joy during my time in LA. And so in lieu of mourning, I would like to honor his memory, and, more importantly, his creations. Here follows a photo essay of some of his marionettes – common and obscure – that were on display at the Blue 5 Art Space in conjunction with this year's LA Puppet Fest back in April. Having just lost my job, it was when I needed them the most.

This is a tiny sampling of the over 3000 puppets that serve as the rotating cast for the various productions of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, built by Bob himself, their moves and dance routines choreographed by him as well.

Petunia (c. 1955)

Tomato (c. 1952): from KTTV's "Revolt of the Vegetables"

Mrs. Broccoli (c. 1952): from KTTV's "Revolt of the Vegetables"

Hollywood Mouse (c. 1981)

Opera Singer (c. 1950)

Dodo Bird (c. 1954): an extinct bird performing an extinct dance, The Charleston

Cleopatra (c. 1960)

Gorgeous (c. 1981)

Sugar Plum Fairy (c. 1959)

Elephant with Girl (c. 1952)

There are lots of great puppeteers at the theater now that have been carrying on Bob's legacy for a while, as his age advanced and as he went into hospice. The theater building has been threatened with demolition and development several times even since I moved here. No one really knows what will happen next, or where the puppets will go if they lose their stage and storage space.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes at Bob Baker Marionette Theater
Photo Essay: Fiesta! at Bob Baker Marionette Theater
Photo Essay: Christmas With Puppets
Photo Essay: Puppets on a Spring
Photo Essay: Puppets on a Spring, Addendum: Equinox Edition
Photo Essay: Halloween at the Marionette Theater

Photo Essay: Riverside's Festival of Lights at Mission Inn

I am the rare Angeleno who, in conversation with someone visiting from Riverside, can namecheck that person's hometown sights and attractions – the university, the art museum, the folk art taco place,  the tiny mountain, and such. But, unlike many Angelenos, I get around.

I just, however, discovered the Mission Inn: though not a mission or even built on the site of a mission, one of the Historic Hotels of America, and home of Riverside's annual Festival of Lights.

With humble beginnings as a two-story adobe guest house in 1876, the Mission Inn is now a sprawling property...

...where over four million lights are hung every Christmas... what they call a "Dickensian" celebration of the holidays...

...but much more lavish.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate all year, and not just during the holidays...

...since the historic property was saved from demolition by its current owners in 1992.

Their annual decorations are as diverse as the architectural styles of the hotel itself...

...which is generally considered Mission Revival...

...but incorporates other influences as well, including Spanish and Moorish.

The lights are turned on during a ceremony with music, vendors, carriage rides...

...a skating rink, Santa...

...and a huge crowd.

The hotel conducts daytime docent-led tours for its guests and visitors alike, so I look forward to returning to see the inside in all of its (reportedly haunted) splendor.

Just when I thought I'd almost run out of places to explore, the Universe wags its finger at me.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Making a Mountain Out of a Hill
Photo Essay: A Robot Christmas Nightmare at Robolights
Photo Essay: Cactus Lights
A First Time for Everything