Monday, March 31, 2014

What's New, Blue? A Tour Of The Latest Dodger Stadium Renovations

On Monday, The Militant joined about 55 people and five hipsters on a tour of the new 2014 season renovations at Dodger Stadium, as well as a glimpse of things most fans, especially the disadvantaged ones who can only afford tickets in the upper tiers (i.e. The Militant), don't get to see.

Now, The Militant has toured the stadium before (which included a foodie conversation with Andre Ethier and seeing Mr. Scully's back), and last year The Militant got to post about the 2013 stadium renovations -- the first permanent stamp on the facilities since Our New Guggenheim Overlords took over (The Militant will not use this post to gripe about the whole Time Warner Cable debacle, and the team's disappearance from many (non-cable-privileged) households, though he just did, indirectly).

This Janet is also in control. She gave us an awesome tour of the new Stadium improvements.
But this year, there were new goodies in store, and who better than to show it than Janet Marie Smith,  the Dodgers' Senior Vice President of Planning and Development. In case you're not familiar with her name, she's been a longtime sports executive with a background in architecture and urban planning. As an architectural consultant, she was responsible for the much-emulated retro ballpark design at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. She also oversaw the conversion of the 1996 Olympic Stadium in Atlanta to Turner Field. So, she definitely knows her stuff.

She talked about changing the look and function of the Dodger Stadium grounds while at the same time keeping the design faithful to the early 1960s design, namely claiming some of the parking lot blacktop space to expand the stadium perimeter. The first part of that was achieved last year, with  the Reserve Level plazas, created to establish the clear separation of stadium grounds and parking lot, and provide more people/activity space, as well as to establish unique landmarks for each level and area (because of that, did you know that Dodger Stadium was the 7th most Instagrammed site in the entire world in 2013?).

Let's look at the numerous photos that took The Militant a long-ass time to resize and upload, shall we?

Gotta love the signage on this one.
Smith consulted with Peter O'Malley and discovered an unused late-'50s design
for stadium signage.  These signs faithfully employ not just the look, but the materials as well.
Juicing up is frowned upon for players, but perfectly welcome for your mobile devices.
These charging stations are found just outside the Reserve Level.
Ever wanted to know what the Dugout Club looks like? Here ya go. The field level is right above.
Deep below Field, near the Dugout Club entrance, is all 40 of the Dodgers' Gold Glove awards on display.
On the opposite side, the team's 1981 World Series trophy (the '88 trophy is getting polished).
Kershaw's Cy.
The Press Interview room. Everyone got to play Donnie for a few secs.
Deep below the 3rd base-side Field Level stands is a corridor...
Pump You Up: The Weight Training Room!
Look out Jamba and Robek's -- The Dodgers have their own smoothies!
Found in the Weight Training Room
Matt Kemp knows this room pretty well.
We found the stash.
At the end of the corridor, we end up in the land of Wilson and Jansen.

Above the new bar that overlooks the bullpen. Get it?

Some Sanrio surprises at the Stadium.
The new plaza outside of the Right Field Pavilion. If you liked it, then you should've...

Los Angeles has yet another eatery called "Tommy's."

Lasorda was asked to pick the bobble head that would get the
life-sized treatment outside his restaurant.
He picked the Hall Of Fame one.

The visitor's bullpen. There's also a bar overlooking this one too.
Excellent idea, huh?

The pedestrian walkway at the Sunset Gate got new striping and lighting.
It's also meant as an entrance for bicycles (they assume people will be walking and not riding their bikes up the hill...)
The Militant is hungry for a Dodger Dog now. Even more, he's hungry for some baseball. He may or may not be there on Opening Day on Friday, but he's definitely ready for the season! Go Dodgers!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Staking Out The Damage From "La Habra Shakes"

Welcome to La Habra, home of...uh, La Habrans?
After attending the Huell Howser Day festivities at Chapman University on Saturday, The Militant, along with one of his operatives, decided to head up the 57 to La Habra and survey some damage from the previous night's La Habra Shakes quake-o-rama.

After exiting Imperial Highway and heading west (no, his operative was not a big nasty redhead), we looked intently for some earthquake damage. Perhaps some broken glass, perhaps a fallen masonry wall, anything to report to you, the blog-reading public!

The Militant drove and drove...hmm. Nothing.

We turned north on Beach Boulevard. The Militant spotted a cracked window at the True Value Hardware store on Beach Blvd and Lambert Road. Hmmm, maybe....

This may or may not be earthquake damage. No, really.
The "X"-shaped crack had some vinyl tape on the top two extremities. The tape looked clean and therefore relatively new, but its relationship to the earthquake cannot be determined for sure.

We drove on east on Whittier Blvd, discovering La Habra (of all places, right?) has an El Cholo Spanish Cafe, but NOT discovering any quake damage. We went into a residential neighborhood to see if there were any downed walls...nada.

We turned west on La Habra Blvd (we spotted two glass company trucks parked in a liquor store parking lot -- perhaps done with their installation), and back south on Beach. Right after leaving the La Habra city border at Hillsborough Drive, we spot some yellow police tape along the sidewalk just half a block south and...lo and behold...EUREKA!

We found damage! Woot!
At last, confirmed earthquake damage! This masonry wall fell over out into the sidewalk. And since people out in this part of town don't even bother to walk, you can rest assured that no one was hurt.

So there you go, we did not come up empty-handed after all! Yes, there was some damage from the #LaHabraShakes, but it wasn't very obvious. The town largely looked as if nothing happened. For those of you who did sustain damage, The Militant hopes it's manageable and all repairs are relatively easy and affordable.

If any of you spotted any quake damage, please share with The Militant in the comments or via email or Twitter!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Amazing Place: Inside Chapman University's Huell Howser Exhibit

The classic shot of The Huell at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve greets visitors to Chapman University's new Huell Howser Exhibit, now open to the public.
No figure has been an influence and inspiration to The Militant Angeleno more than the late, great Huell Howser, a man who needs no introduction to readers of This Here Blog (and if he needed to be introduced, you probably shouldn't be reading This Here Blog). The untimely passing of the legend early last year kind of left The Militant literally dumbfounded, perhaps even to the point where he sort of stopped blogging. He was all set to go to Howser's unofficial official memorial at Griffith Observatory in January 2013, even going so far as to discover a Greek Theatre-to-Observatory hiking route to circumvent the clusterfuggin parking situation that day, but after learning that The Humble Huell Himself did not want a public memorial, The Militant wanted to honor his wishes. He since learned it was a nice event, though part of it became The Tom La Bonge show. But The Militant digresses...

On Saturday, Chapman University, the sole recipient of The Huell's archives (Well, at least the non-Videolog/Visiting... material, which remains KCET property) opened their new Huell Howser exhibit at their Leatherby Library building called, "That's Amazing! Thirty Years of Huell Howser and California's Gold" with a daylong event of the same name. The event attracted several thousand Huell devotees of all ages (the majority being over 50 though...) which also featured people who have been featured on some of his shows. The Triple-A was a major spinor of the event and gave away Cali maps with locations of California's Gold episodes.

The line for the Huell Howser exhibit was pretty damn long.

The main attraction was the exhibit, which has a long-ass line that queued around the building with a wait of almost an hour.  Sure, anyone can go to this exhibit Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with hardly any line, but dammit, The Militant don't go to Orange County that much, so he might as well stay in line!

It felt much like going to a Disneyland ride, which was just a few miles away (Guess this is what the O.C. is all about...). Once in the door, he heard the familiar Tennessee drawl of The Huell fill the room, almost as if he was there (or maybe an animatronic Huell greeting visitors before reciting The Gettysburg Address, no, wait...). But it was just a video screen showing a montage of The Huell (Even Huell had a montage).

Interactive stuff.

The master video tapes.
Worth their weight in...wait for it...
California's Gold.
Once inside, groups were led down a rather mundane-looking staircase to the basement level, and finally into the poppy-colored room, which had a California map on the floor with every Cali's AU episode's locale labeled accordingly. The exhibit followed Huell's life from childhood (his family dog was called "Hey Boy") to his early years in his native Volunteer State to the start of his KCET programs and CaliGold. There were also artifacts like a video camera, his desk, a case with mementos either from the show and given to him, as well as another room which had his personal book library, his shirt, and a room wherein all of his California's Gold (and associated shows - remember, Videolog and Visiting... ain't included) master tapes are stored. People can possibly view them eventually, albeit with archives staff approval. The archive staff person said they're real protective of The Huell's public image and didn't want anyone to see anything that was...un-amazing (hypothetically speaking, say, if The Huell cussed out someone on camera or something like that).

Huell Howser's editing desk. The rack of manila folders contained potential show topics at the time of his retirement in late 2012...shows that were never made!
A display case featuring various Huell Howser mementos.
The archives room (note his shirt in the back).
The other major attraction to the Chapman University event was the screening of the new documentary, A Golden State of Mind: The Storytelling Genius of Huell Howser, a 50-minute glimpse into his life and worth ethic, which begins with his early Tennessee days, follows his career to New York and Los Angeles, and features interviews with California's Gold production staff, subjects and The Huell Himself. Even a 2012 Huell Howser parody is featured. The end of the documentary talks of his demise in January 2013 and one of his last shows, a 2012 California's Gold episode focusing on Jacaranda trees, which many found symbolic and introspective with regards to his condition at the time.

You can see the exhibit any time now, but if you missed the documentary screening, don't worry, Chapman plans to screen it again later this year and perhaps make a DVD out of it, with a possible airing on KCET sometime in the future.

Whether you're watching Huell's shows via Chapman's online video archive, at the university exhibit itself, or on good ol' KCET, it's easy to feel as if Huell Howser is immortal. And in a way, he is now, living on for all eternity through his numerous shows. But there were shows he never got to shoot, places he'd yet to discover, and even in the 15 months since he left us, new people, places and things worth discovering.  Huell can never be replaced (though The Militant once confessed to one day being his successor), but it's the mission of The Militant, and many others out there, to fill in the void, however little we can.

And what would The Huell say to us today? Well, assuming The Militant were in fictional San Dimas and traveled in time via a funky phone booth outside of the Circle-K, going back in time to pluck Huell Howser from the not-so-distant past, he would probably say, "Be amazing to each other."

This dude's shirt says it all.

Friday, March 28, 2014

La Habra Shakes!

Just 11 days after the Shamrock Shake rattled Southern Cali, we got an even bigger seismic muffin tonight: A magnitude 5.4 5.1 quake centered in La Habra, in northern Orange County, happening at 9:09 p.m. (too bad it wasn't centered in the Inland Empire).

The Militant was in his Compound, listening to the Dodgers vs. Angels Freeway Series exhibition game at The Stadium over the radio (because the damn games are all on cable now...), when he felt a soft shaking sensation in The Compound, which kinda lasted a lot longer than the Shamrock Shake.

Not sooner did he consult Twitter for the quake info was The Militant confronted with tweets asking for his personal christening of tonight's quake. Okay, let's see. La Habra...uh...umm...March 28...uhhh...

Damn, he knew this would happen.

Welp, it took all of 15 minutes, but he finally came up with a nom de tremblement:
Yeah, okay, it's nowhere near as witty as the #ShamrockShake, The Militant admits, and the "La Habra Stakes" reference will go over more people's heads, but, dude, he ain't got much to work with!

No one was hurt during this quake, but there was moderate damage in the La Habra/Brea/Fullerton area, including a water main burst and a rockslide in Carbon Canyon.

Again, The Militant did not feel any of the aftershocks, nor did he feel the 3.6 foreshock earlier in the evening at 8:03 p.m.

The cool thing though, was that there was a baseball game going on, and all of Los Angeles (well, those privileged enough to afford Time Warner Cable, that is) were blessed to listen to Vin Scully's first-ever (in all of his 56 years in Los Angeles) earthquake play-by-play:

Tonight's final score:
Los Angeles  5
Los Angeles de Anaheim  4
La Habra  5.1

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Doin' The Shamrock Shake!

Did you feel it? You may or may not have! A magnitude 4.7 4.4 earthquake rocked our world this morning at 6:25 a.m., centered in Westwood Encino, the largest quake felt in Southern California since the 1994 Northridge 2008 Chino Hills temblor.

The Militant was in his Compound, sleeping in his bed, and woke up at around 6-something a.m., realizing he'd slept through the night with the lights on and having forgotten to brush his teeth. So he brushed, shut the lights off, and went back to sleep, lying there as the morning sun was lighting up the sky, when he felt a brief but definitely noticeable shaking, which lasted but a few seconds.

The Militant, instinctively ready to waken up his trusted portable computing center (a.k.a. his lappytop) and scour Twitter for the initial magnitude and epicenter location, stopped himself short for a brief while before tweeting, "The Militant felt that." See, we've had a bunch of sub-4.0 quakes over the past few years, and The Militant hadn't even felt a single one. But he felt he could say more about today's tremor.

Then he realized today was St. Paddy's Day and quickly thought of any witty connections with the quake. Quake. Shake. Shamrock. YES!!!!  Consider it The Luck of The Irish (even though The Militant may or may not have any Celtic heritage of any percentage), but in the span of all but four minutes after el temblorito, he decided to tweet thus:
And the rest was history. #ShamrockShake it was. Top O'The Mornin' To You!

Though the day was mostly associated with KTLA's Chris Schauble and Megan Henderson ducking and covering (as every Los Angeles area native is taught in school -- one of the few things the LAUSD actually teaches you), media outlets everywhere went with the #ShamrockShake moniker for this morning's seismic event. Even KABC's most excellent Marc Brown mentioned not only the #ShamrockShake, but credited The Militant by name on the air!

It was aired on the 5 p.m. Eyewitness News newscast, which The Militant unfortunately missed, but others bore witness to the historic mention:
The Militant made his mark on society today. The world will never be the same. He also didn't feel any of the subsequent aftershocks. A 4.4. ain't no big deal, but he did feel that one. The Militant normally jokes that "No earthquake under a 5.0 is worth mentioning," but he may or may not have to lower that threshold. Where were you when you felt today's #ShamrockShake?