Day of the Dead, Rancho Dominguez - 03 NOV 2018

Originally a three day celebration consisting of Oct 31st (All Hallows Eve),  Nov 1st (All Saints Day) and Nov 2nd (All souls Day), it has evolved into a single Day of the Dead celebration here in Los Angeles, perhaps based on Mexico delaring Nov 1st - Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Deat) as an official holiday back in the 1960's. 
This year we went to Rancho Dominguez to catch their event.
It was a small event: several alters, handful of gift vendors, one beer vendor, one food vendor and some very colorful Aztec dancers of all ages.
Unlike Halloween, which is mischief (trick or treat), ghouls and monsters, Day of the Dead is a colorful celebration of life with love and respect for deceased loved ones.
Pierced paper (papel picado) chiseled paper folk art varies from crude to finely elaborate. Today's versions were massed produced, machine cut plastic.
Alters (ofrenda) are decorated with flowers, family photos, toys and food to welcome spirits. The spirits of departed family and friends are believed to visit these alters during the celebration.
There were several alters, including one for beloved pets.
Marigolds are said to help the spirits of the dead find the way to their alter.
This little girl (she was under 10) looks very grown-up in her festive make-up.

Genghis Khan: The Exhibition - 07 AUG 2018

Since February the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA has a special exhibition on Genghis Khan. 
Closing this month, it features artifacts from private collectors from Mongolia, Azerbaijian and the United States. 
Some of these objects have never been seen outside of Mongolia, and this is its' only Southern California stop on an international tour.
After Khan's death, the sons of his first wife, Borte, created the largest contiguous empire in history.
The Mongol Empire went as far north as middle Russia, east to the China Seas, south to Vietnam and India, and Turkey and Iraq on the west.
Genghis had 500 secondary wives and consorts, and today DNA shows 1 in 200 men may be his direct descendant as they have an identical Y chromosome.
This Imperial Passport (Yuan Dynasty, c. 1240 AD) is large enough to cover a dollar bill. It is one of two known Kublai Kahn passports and the inscription reads: "I am the emissary of the Khan. If you defy me, you die."
Emperor's Sword (gold, turtle shell, wood parquet inlay c. 1290 AD), Mongolian sword refurbished in 1760 AD for presentation by Chinese Emperor Quian Long.
Mongol nomads carried a portable eating set on their sash or belt as traditional Mongolian clothing did not have pockets.
Ming Dynasty Powder Horn (c. 1600 AD)
The design of a powder horn has been universal since gun powder was created.
Eggshell Porcelain Bowl (c. 1750 AD)
Signage: This bowl was painted by Castiglione, an Italian monk and painter to the court of 18th century Emperor Qian Long of China. Mongolian life was an enduring artistic theme in China.
Women in Khan's time, in addition to domestic duties (child care, cooking, etc.) they managed and milked the animals, produced butter, cheese, yogurt and after battles, they collected arrows and finished off wounded enemy soldiers.
The ceramic Ding water pitcher is c. 1250 AD and the copper ladle is early 19th century. Note the hinge to collapse for travel.
Hunnu Carved Leopard (206 BC - 25 AD)
Signage: The Hunnu (Huns) lived beyond the Great Wall in the area we know as Mongolia. Although they were rivals to the neighboring Han Chinese, they had some customs in common, including the use of leopard, rather than the dragon, as a symbol of the Royal House.
The sting ray skin on the handle sparkles like glitter on fabric.
Tibetan-Mongolian Hutug (pocket knife) c. 1750 - 1800 AD, has a bone handle with coral decoration.
There was a performance with one dancer and this musician playing the morin khuur, horsehead fiddle with two strings made of horse hair. Click on my YouTube link to hear this instrument: Morin Khuur (Horsehead Fiddle)

Silver, Copper Mongolian Cup, 19th Century
Mongols embraced many religions, from Buddhism to Islam, Manichaeism to Eastern Christianity.

Black Jade c. 1750 AD
Genghis Khan developed one of the most comprehensive codes of law and morality as part of his structure for a new world society. 
This exhibition was worth the drive to Simi Valley.

SpaceX "Mr Stevens" San Pedro, CA - 18 JUL 2018

On January 19, 2017, I wrote about SpaceX's Falcon 9; now we have "Mr Steven" docked on Terminal Island. Yes, Mr Steven is a strange name for a recovery vessel which will be used to catch the cast-off rocket fairings.
In April, the Port approved a 30 year lease on Terminal Island for SpaceX to build a manufacturing plant which will create it's future mega rocket. This is where Mr Steven is docked.
Weighing nearly 200,000 pounds and 200 feet long, it has been seen making impressive aggressive turns and sprints up to 20 knots (23 mph).
A test run took place yesterday and it must have been successful as we spotted them unloading a fairing.

Lotus Festival, Echo Park, CA - 14 JUL 2018

Echo Park was modeled after Shipley Park in Derbyshire, England where the 1st superintendent of the Los Angeles Department of Parks, spent his boyhood summers. 
In 1890, shortly after the new governmental agency was created, the man-made reservoir was turned into a beautiful lake.
This 29-acre park has the largest lotus bed in the United States.
The 38th Lotus Festival was hosted this year by The People's Republic of China.
There were many vendor tents, food trucks, a beer garden and a constant flow of performers.
We heard a Chinese orchestra playing traditional instruments and songs. 
There was even a dragon boat race.
You never know what you will see in Los Angeles, such as this women walking her kitten.
Over the nearly 130 year history, this park has gone through more than one cycle of prosperity, decline, revival and renovation.
The WPA boathouse was constructed in 1932.
Lady of the Lake by Ada May Sharpless was sculpted in 1934 as part of the Public Works Art Project:
There are four bas reliefs on the pedestal:
 Central Library
 Los Angeles Harbor
 San Gabriel Mountains
Hollywood Bowl
There are all kinds of vegetation and wildlife.
The original lotus plant, Nelumbo nucifera, was introduced in the 1920's by the famed evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who's coliseum-esque church is across the street.
This plant can live for more that 1,000 years.
Apparently, not if it has to fight Los Angeles abuse, pollution and a mysterious blight... the last plant died in 2008.
There were several years when the Lotus Festival only had paper flowers.
The lake was drained in 2011, as part of a two year, $45 million rehabilitation project on the park.
The boathouse was refurbished, the lake was cleaned, a shooting fountain installed, along with fresh grass and a variety of native plants.
Best of all, was the reintroduction of the lotus from descendants of the original stock.
How was this possible?
In 2005, a Reseda horticulturist stole a single plant from Echo Park.
Being a reproduction specialist, he turn that one plant into a thriving business.
Seven years later, for $30,000, the city was able to purchase 376 lotus plants propagated from that stolen plant.
Who says crime doesn't pay?