Russia-born, North Carolina-based Ola Shekhtman designs architecture-inspired rings that wrap recognizable city skylines around your fingers. A lifetime of moves brings the designer to new cities, which keeps her rolling in iconic geographical inspiration.
There are currently about 12 cities being offered in various metals you can choose from. I want one of each city!
Price: $458,000 Beds, Baths: 3 BR, 1 BA Floor Area: 840 sq. ft. Per the Listing: "Come see this absolutely charming 19th century Victorian Craftsman located in the hills of Montecito Heights. Cozy home nestled on the foothills, surrounded by lush and greenery, with amazing panoramic views overlooking the city atop the hillside. The interior is well maintained with an open and flowing floorplan, features a spacious living and dining area, a kitchen that was updated not long ago with newer white washed cabinetry, granite countertops, breakfast bar, recessed lighting, spacious bedrooms, updated bathroom, and more! Two car garage with potential for rooftop deck. Trendy and upcoming pocket with easy access location to all surrounding areas, walking distance to all your needs, minutes to downtown. Appliances included."
It sure would be interesting to see what this home's interior originally looked like. Did it have built-in bookshelves and seating? A cozy fireplace? True divided light double-hung windows? We can only speculate, as apart from the roofline filagree, there's nary a character detail in sight here. On the plus side, the property, which last traded hands eight years ago for $425,000, does have nice views and a fairly ample 5,800-square-foot lot.
The graffiti-covered ruins at the abandoned Murphy Ranch in Rustic Canyon are legendary not for their colorful exteriors, but for their colorful history, which supposedly involved a group of Nazi sympathizers and definitely involved someone hoping to build a sustainable utopia, inspired by Nazi ideals and centered on an incredible mansion (unfortunately unbuilt). The site is located in a tree-filled canyon in Pacific Palisades, and has become a popular hiking destination. But, according to LA Hikes, Murphy Ranch's days are numbered: many of the ruins are due to be demolished next month, and some of the minor structures are already coming down.
LA Hikes spoke to a city parks ranger who told them that the demolition is set for February 23. The anonymous ranger said that, though the multi-structure compound has been threatened with demolition in the past, "this location has finally became such [an] annoyance for the city that they have finally decided to tear it down." The process has already started on a couple minor structures, like a water tank and a garage, the ranger said. A rep for Councilmember Mike Bonin's office tells Curbed via phone that only some of the more structurally unsafe buildings are coming down, but others will only get anti-trespassing additions, like metal plates on the window openings. Curbed has a call in to the Recreation and Parks Department for more details.
Photo by Hadley Meares
Those looking to check out the ranch before it's gone should be sure to keep their distance. LA Hikes notes that it's already "closed" and no trespassing signs are up to dissuade anyone who'd like to go inside the buildings. Apparently, at least a couple citations have been handed out; on the day the blog visited the ranch, four unlucky teens were cited by the ranger when they were caught sneaking into the ranch's barn.
They call it “Ball’s Pyramid.” It’s what’s left of an old volcano that emerged from the sea about 7 million years ago. A British naval officer named Ball was the first European to see it in 1788. It sits off Australia, in the South Pacific. It is extremely narrow, 1,844 feet high, and it sits alone.
What’s more, for years this place had a secret. At 225 feet above sea level, hanging on the rock surface, there is a small, spindly little bush, and under that bush, a few years ago, two climbers, working in the dark, found something totally improbable hiding in the soil below. How it got there, we still don’t know.
Here’s the story: About 13 miles from this spindle of rock, there’s a bigger island, called Lord Howe Island.
On Lord Howe, there used to be an insect, famous for being big. It’s a stick insect, a critter that masquerades as a piece of wood, and the Lord Howe Island version was so large — as big as a human hand — that the Europeans labeled it a “tree lobster” because of its size and hard, lobsterlike exoskeleton. It was 12 centimeters long and the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. Local fishermen used to put them on fishing hooks and use them as bait.
Then one day in 1918, a supply ship, the S.S. Makambo from Britain, ran aground at Lord Howe Island and had to be evacuated. One passenger drowned. The rest were put ashore. It took nine days to repair the Makambo, and during that time, some black rats managed to get from the ship to the island, where they instantly discovered a delicious new rat food: giant stick insects. Two years later, the rats were everywhere and the tree lobsters were gone.
Totally gone. After 1920, there wasn’t a single sighting. By 1960, the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis, was presumed extinct.
There was a rumor, though.
Some climbers scaling Ball’s Pyramid in the 1960s said they’d seen a few stick insect corpses lying on the rocks that looked “recently dead.” But the species is nocturnal, and nobody wanted to scale the spire hunting for bugs in the dark.
Climbing the Pyramid
Fast forward to 2001, when two Australian scientists, David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile, with two assistants, decided to take a closer look. From the water, they’d seen a few patches of vegetation that just might support walking sticks. So, they boated over. (“Swimming would have been much easier,” Carlile said, “but there are too many sharks.”) They crawled up the vertical rock face to about 500 feet, where they found a few crickets, nothing special. But on their way down, on a precarious, unstable rock surface, they saw a single melaleuca bush peeping out of a crack and, underneath, what looked like fresh droppings of some large insect.
Where, they wondered, did that poop come from?
The only thing to do was to go back up after dark, with flashlights and cameras, to see if the pooper would be out taking a nighttime walk. Nick Carlile and a local ranger, Dean Hiscox, agreed to make the climb. And with flashlights, they scaled the wall till they reached the plant, and there, spread out on the bushy surface, were two enormous, shiny, black-looking bodies. And below those two, slithering into the muck, were more, and more … 24 in all. All gathered near this one plant.
They were alive and, to Nick Carlile’s eye, enormous. Looking at them, he said, “It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age, when insects ruled the world.”
They were Dryococelus australis. A search the next morning, and two years later, concluded these are the only ones on Ball’s Pyramid, the last ones. They live there, and, as best we know, nowhere else.
How they got there is a mystery. Maybe they hitchhiked on birds, or traveled with fishermen, and how they survived for so long on just a single patch of plants, nobody knows either. The important thing, the scientists thought, was to get a few of these insects protected and into a breeding program.
That wasn’t so easy. The Australian government didn’t know if the animals on Ball’s Pyramid could or should be moved. There were meetings, studies, two years passed, and finally officials agreed to allow four animals to be retrieved. Just four.
When the team went back to collect them, it turned out there had been a rock slide on the mountain, and at first they feared that the whole population had been wiped out. But when they got back up to the site, on Valentine’s Day 2003, the animals were still there, sitting on and around their bush.
The plan was to take one pair and give it to a man who was very familiar with mainland walking stick insects, a private breeder living in Sydney. He got his pair, but within two weeks, they died.
Adam and Eve and Patrick
That left the other two. They were named “Adam” and “Eve,” taken to the Melbourne Zoo and placed with Patrick Honan, of the zoo’s invertebrate conservation breeding group. At first, everything went well. Eve began laying little pea-shaped eggs, exactly as hoped. But then she got sick. According to biologist Jane Goodall, writing for Discover Magazine:
“Eve became very, very sick. Patrick … worked every night for a month desperately trying to cure her. … Eventually, based on gut instinct, Patrick concocted a mixture that included calcium and nectar and fed it to his patient, drop by drop, as she lay curled up in his hand.”
Her recovery was almost instant. Patrick told the Australian Broadcasting Company, “She went from being on her back curled up in my hand, almost as good as dead, to being up and walking around within a couple of hours.”
Eve’s eggs were harvested, incubated (though it turns out only the first 30 were fertile) and became the foundation of the zoo’s new population of walking sticks.
When Jane Goodall visited in 2008, Patrick showed her rows and rows of incubating eggs: 11,376 at that time, with about 700 adults in the captive population. Lord Howe Island walking sticks seem to pair off — an unusual insect behavior — and Goodall says Patrick “showed me photos of how they sleep at night, in pairs, the male with three of his legs protectively over the female beside him.”
Now comes the question that bedevils all such conservation rescue stories. Once a rare animal is safe at the zoo, when can we release it back to the wild?
On Lord Howe Island, their former habitat, the great-great-great-grandkids of those original black rats are still out and about, presumably hungry and still a problem. Step one, therefore, would be to mount an intensive (and expensive) rat annihilation program. Residents would, no doubt, be happy to go rat-free, but not every Lord Howe islander wants to make the neighborhood safe for gigantic, hard-shell crawling insects. So the Melbourne Museum is mulling over a public relations campaign to make these insects more … well, adorable, or noble, or whatever it takes.
They recently made a video, with strumming guitars, featuring a brand new baby emerging from its egg. The newborn is emerald green, squirmy and so long, it just keeps coming and coming from an impossibly small container. Will this soften the hearts of Lord Howe islanders? I dunno. It’s so … so … big.
But, hey, why don’t you look for yourself?
What happens next? The story is simple: A bunch of black rats almost wiped out a bunch of gigantic bugs on a little island far, far away from most of us. A few dedicated scientists, passionate about biological diversity, risked their lives to keep the bugs going. For the bugs to get their homes and their future back doesn’t depend on scientists anymore. They’ve done their job. Now it’s up to the folks on Lord Howe Island.
Will ordinary Janes and Joes, going about their days, agree to spend a little extra effort and money to preserve an animal that isn’t what most of us would call beautiful? Its main attraction is that it has lived on the planet for a long time, and we have the power to keep it around. I don’t know if it will work, but in the end, that’s the walking stick’s best argument:
I’m still here. Don’t let me go.
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
by Lyz Lenz on Pictorial, shared by Jia Tolentino to Jezebel
There’s a scene on the CBS show Criminal Minds in which JJ, a pregnant FBI profiler, halts a conversation about a killer to put headphones over her pregnant belly. She tells the others she doesn’t want her child to hear the gory details of the conversation, as if talk of dismembered women will permanently scar the developing fetus still inside of her. The rest of the team of analytical thinkers readily assent to JJ; no questions are asked.
and they saved their fugliest swimsuit just for her!
Ever since vowing not to retouch
their models a couple of years ago, Aerie—American Eagle’s lingerie and loungewear offshoot aimed at younger women—has continued their non-Photoshopping tradition with their #AerieREAL campaign. Their latest ads feature 19-year-old self-proclaimed Wilhelmina “curve model” and “Queen of In-Between” Barbie Ferreira.
Architensions designed a writing pavilion in Brooklyn, New York that looks at the relationship between the person using it and nature within its surrounding urban setting. Located in a protected outdoor garden, the tiny pavilion lets its users create imaginative worlds through writing and drawing with the help of isolation that it provides.
Built on a concrete plinth, the pavilion is clad in black stained cedar on the exterior and natural pine plywood for the interior, which keeps it bright and open. It was designed as a sectional shape helping light to enter creating optimal writing conditions for the user.
The angular roof was designed to allow lots of light to enter the space.
Inside, it’s kept sparse as not to distract. There’s a folding writing table with a chair.
The Staircase is an excellent piece of documentary.
I can vividly remember the first time I binge-watched a TV show: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's eight-hour crime documentary The Staircase, a rare splurge on a DVD boxed set, bought because it reminded me of the great southern gothic murder trials of my childhood, like the Haysom murder trialrecently profiled in The New Yorker. I remember it so well because, shortly after starting it, my then-girlfriend and I got into one of the biggest fights of our then-new relationship. I don't remember what it was about. I do remember that we went on watching it almost straight through, anyway, and we've been pestering Serial and Making a Murderer fans about it ever since. (Reader, I married her.)
We weren't alone in loving it. Created by the French filmmaker for Canal+ in 2004, The Staircase tells the story of Michael Peterson, a crime novelist who is arrested for the murder of his wife, Kathleen, a telecom executive, after she is found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their Durham, North Carolina, mansion, from an assault or a fall. Told in eight 45-minute segments that blend shocking twists with the fascinating tedium of the courtroom, it directly inspired Serial and paved the way for Making a Murderer: a crime documentary that uses the length provided by the serial format to immerse the viewer in the socioeconomic worlds of the accused and the extraordinarily complex machinery that is a high-profile criminal trial.
The Staircase was just re-aired by Sundance (and is available to stream on its website through March 16) to ride the Making a Murderer wave, but it's no cynical cash-in. It still holds up, and now makes a compelling companion piece to Netflix's hit series in its remarkable similarities and considerable differences. On the most basic level, it's like a proof of concept for the documentary serials that follow. The O.J. trial and Court TV proved that American audiences could consume the marginalia of marquee trials in bulk quantities; films like Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line, Frederick Wiseman's Domestic Violence (like Making a Murderer's Laura Ricciardi, Wiseman studied law), and Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinovsky's Brother's Keeper could make documentary art from them. The Staircase tries to combine the approaches, and though its harsh cinematography makes Making a Murderer look like the work of Iñárritu, it, too, gains richness through an accretion of detail.
As with Making a Murderer, it gets enough material for a long day's journey into nightmare by embedding with the defense — a top legal team, their client, and the client's family. In this case, Michael Peterson and his family could not be more different than the subjects of MAM: Where Steven Avery is a borderline learning-disabled laborer living in a trailer on his family's scrap yard in rural Wisconsin, Peterson is a hyperarticulate, learned writer who showily smokes a pipe and quotes Shakespeare. Avery's marginal, blue-collar family is warily monosyllabic when talking to the filmmakers and press; Peterson's lawyer brother and bright college-age kids can meet his (very expensive) attorney on the same intellectual terms.
Peterson's money opens doors. After his arrest, he makes his bail immediately despite it being just shy of a million dollars, and continues to spend on a lavish defense that the film follows in comparable detail. With only one trial to cover, The Staircase spends a lot more time than Making a Murderer on how the defense builds its case outside the courtroom, which includes a trip to Germany to investigate a key incident in Peterson's early life. At one point, his lawyers discuss commissioning a scientifically valid survey — the kind news outlets often do, requiring hundreds or thousands of responses — to address a seemingly tangential aspect of his defense, at a cost of $30,000. The documentary even features one of the matinee idols of true crime: Henry Lee, the forensic scientist made famous by the O.J. Simpson trial, the 1986 woodchopper murder of the flight attendant that inspired Fargo, and the JonBenét Ramsey case. A political consultant once told me that a campaign is thrilling because it's like a start-up company: You assemble a team of brilliant people with diverse skills, put together a complex collective system on the fly, and then one day it's just over. Few people get that kind of a legal defense, but it's all the more interesting for being rare.
Peterson may be on the far end of the socioeconomic spectrum from Steven Avery, but in one critical aspect, he's not all that different. (And here you are owed a spoiler alert.) Despite his success and wealth — and the film spends plenty of time in his lavish yet homey New South mansion as he drinks wine and cooks attractive food with his attractive family — Peterson is nonetheless marginalized. Over the course of the film, it comes out that Peterson is bisexual, and much of the case turns on the specifics of his sexual orientation. Peterson claims that his wife knew, and that he was devoted to her romantically even as he pursued extramarital sex with men. The prosecution uses his emails with a young male escort (and the military-themed pornography on the Vietnam veteran's computer) as his motive to kill his wife when his infidelities are, theoretically, discovered.
In fact, the role of Peterson's opaque sexuality motivated de Lestrade to make The Staircase. His previous documentary, the Oscar-winning Murder on a Sunday Morning, focused on a black teen falsely accused of murder, and he saw The Staircase in the same vein. “It is obvious to me that if the wealthy, famous, white writer Michael Peterson hadn’t been bisexual, the case would never have come to court,” he told TV Week in 2006. “It appeared to me that Michael Peterson’s case could also be a story of exclusion, of segregation, but of another kind.”
“Do you really believe that Kathleen knew that Mr. Peterson was bah-sexual?” Freda Black, one of the prosecuting attorneys, says in her closing statement, in a pointed twang. “That it was okay for her to go to work while he stayed at home and communicated by telephone and email with people who he was planning on having sex with? ... I don't mean to offend anybody, but [the escort] did say they were gonna have anal sex.”
“You saw the rest of the things on the computer,” she continues, moving on to the pornography. “Once again, these things are so filthy, you cain't even show them on tee-vee. Filth. Pure-T [sic] filth. This isn't people involved in a relationship. This is just any which-a-way. This is called 'hard-core porn.'”
And then, with all the puckered fury of Dana Carvey's Church Lady: “That's not the way soul mates conduct themselves. That is not.”
This was the trial of a man who lived in a wealthy neighborhood in a city dominated by an elite university, Duke, which, along with the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University, form the Research Triangle, one of the best-educated regions of the country. (Michael Peterson graduated from Duke and studied at UNC; Kathleen Peterson was the first woman accepted to the school of engineering at Duke.) But it was also the South in 2003, and Black squeezed out every last bit of her accent in detailing his proclivities.
After we finished binging on The Staircase, we were pretty convinced of Peterson's guilt, for reasons that would dig up more spoilers than is worth it. But that was a long time ago, and there have been significant developments that further complicate things, as de Lestrade covered in 2012 in a two-episode sequel, The Staircase: Last Chance. According to de Lestrade, he's not convinced either way. And after a decade of observing the legal system — and bingeing on the murky world of Making a Murderer — I'm less sure than I was then. Not just about determining Michael Peterson's guilt or innocence, but how any jury determines it in any difficult case. And that's chilling.
Ricardo Medina Jr., an alumnus of Power Rangers, Haim Saban's too violent but still somewhat earnest TV show about a team of color-coded action heroes, is the latest former cast member to find himself in a dark story lines offscreen. Last year, the 36-year-old—who played Red Lion Wild Force Ranger in 2002, and has been in a variety of Power Rangers productions since—was picked up for allegedly running his roommate Josh through the abdomen multiple times with a sword. Medina was never charged, owing to a lack of evidence, after his attorneys claimed he had been defending himself and his girlfriend in his Green Valley home. Medina, upon his release, said he was “very, very, very sorry for what occurred.”
On Thursday, this Chekhov-with-jumpsuits plot continued as Medina was hauled back into jail, facing a murder charge and a life sentence for the stabbing. Prosecutors plan to ask for bail to be set at $1 million.
The ranks of former Power Rangers already include at least one convicted murderer. In 2004, Skylar Deleon, who as a 14-year-old appeared on the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series, drowned an elderly couple after posing as a potential buyer of of their yacht, the Well Deserved. (During a fake test drive, killers tied the victims to the boat's anchor and threw them overboard.) Deleon was sentenced to death in 2009, as was a co-conspirator named—as if this story were not strange enough—John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Deleon's wife got back-to-back life prison terms, and two accomplices also went to jail.
In a far smaller post-Power Rangers misstep, the original black Ranger, Walter Jones, was arrested for drunk driving in 2009. The original yellow Ranger, Thuy Trang (who was Vietnamese-American; the suits used to be race-coordinated by color), was killed in a car accident at 27 in 2001.
Sometimes baby animals need a little help, and that’s exactly what an about-to-hatch African Penguin received at Poland’s Zoo Wroclaw on December 28.
Photo Credit: Zoo Wroclaw
The Penguin chick, named Janush by keepers, was positioned abnormally inside his egg. With his head underneath his wing, Janush was unable to turn and push his way out of the egg. To assist the little chick, keepers removed the egg from the nest and gently extricated Janush from the shell.
Once they knew the tiny chick was stable, keepers tried to place Janush back in the nest with his parents. Unfortunately, mom and dad were tending another chick that had hatched earlier in the day. Penguin parents can be quite aggressive when defending their chicks, and keepers were unable to place Janush back in the nest.
So, keepers took over as Janush’s parents during the first critical days of his life. Because the chick was still absorbing nutrients from his yolk sac, there was no need to feed him right away, but controlling the temperature was important. Janush moved to a well-ventilated incubator where he could stay warm.
The next day, keepers began feeding Janush a “milk shake” made from chopped fish and vitamins via a syringe. Fortunately Janush has a good appetite and doubled his weight in the first week. He feeds four times a day, and at night he snuggles beside a plush toy in his incubator. In the morning Janush greets his keepers with loud squeaks to let them know he’s hungry.
In the wild, African Penguins are native to South Africa’s coast and nearby islands. Because people have harvested so many fish from these waters, there is little left to sustain the Penguin population and the species is listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Oil spills have affected the population, and guano mining disturbs nesting sites. Breeding programs in zoos around the world are an important part of efforts to save African Penguins.
A refreshable Braille tablet "could make topics like science and math more easily accessible to the blind," said Signe Brewster at Technology Review. Borrowing from microfluids technology, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a full-size tablet that uses liquid or air to fill tiny bubbles, which pop up on the display to form the blocks of raised dots that make up Braille.
Existing refreshable Braille displays typically use plastic pins pushed up and down by motor, but these tablets are bulky and expensive, and can only show one line of text at a time. Braille use has declined with the rise of text-to-speech software, but it's still essential for conveying more visual concepts. "Anything where you want to be able to see stuff written down, like coding or music or even just mathematics, you really have to work in Braille," said professor Sile O'Modhrain, who collaborated on the tablet.
The Oakland Museum of California’s current mash-up exhibit called “Unearthed: Found + Made” explores the art inherent in geology — or is it the other way around? Together in one room, artificial rocks made by a cutting-edge artist hang out with naturally sculpted stones that were selected following the principles of an ancient traditional art form.
The traditional art, based on natural rocks, is called suiseki. It’s a practice akin to bonsai, imported from Japan. Where the bonsai artist cultivates miniaturized trees, the practitioner of suiseki (“water stone” in Japanese) selects naturally shaped stones that suggest a landscape. The effect in the viewer is a sublime sense of the large and universal embodied in the small and individual.
Paired with these natural stones are works by Jedediah Caesar. Caesar creates art from found objects that he immerses in resin and then uses as the raw material for sculptures, wall hangings and other forms. Cut in slices and hung on the gallery wall, this composite material resembles the polished stone of a futuristic building. It’s beautiful in a Mad Max way, as if someone who only read about rocks decided to make some.
Suiseki dates back more than 1,000 years in Japan and less than a century in California, but our state has recently become a hotbed of activity. “Unearthed,” running through April 24, is the museum’s first show of this material, contributed by members of the California Suiseki Society and San Francisco Suiseki Kai.
Like people, stones acquire character from experience. This geological analogy with living things is part of what makes suiseki tantalizing. Practicing suiseki is not so much creation as it is curation or recognition, as if one were to collect the figures we see in clouds. Nature is the sculptor and the stones are portraits — but we decide what they’re portraits of.
The art of suiseki consists in collecting the right stones, gently adding a hand-rubbed patina to their surfaces, and mounting them for display on a custom-carved wooden stand. They gleam in the museum’s lighting like petrified Rembrandts.
Because I write a lot about rocks, including suiseki, I was asked to be a consultant for this show. The task I undertook was to examine each stone, as if I were a geologist in the field, and describe it in terms of its rock type. This was so the museum could put the right word on the specimen’s label, the way the Mona Lisa is decribed as “oil on poplar.”
Not allowed to chip, scratch or even touch the suiseki, I did my best. Truth be told, lots of rocks are impossible to pigeonhole. Unlike the names we give the different species of living things, the names geologists assign to rocks are arbitrary labels imposed upon a continuum. Most suiseki seem to be metamorphic rocks — rocks that started out as sediment or as lava, then were transmogrified by heat and pressure and underground fluids.
California’s best specimens come from the Franciscan Complex, the Sierra Foothills and the Mojave Desert. Here the rocks have undergone metamorphism, giving them complex internal structure. After that, they are carved by wind, rain and rivers.
One very common feature of our suiseki stones is that they’ve been gently broken into sharp pieces, like a cracker in your fingers, and then healed. Geologists call this process brecciation and name the resulting rock breccia (BRET-cha). That’s what I did too.
It was a confounding experience that heightened my usual response to suiseki. If suiseki is superimposing human ideas upon unthinking nature, what is geology? The geologist considers truth a kind of beauty, but what kind of truth is beauty?
And that’s just the suiseki part of the exhibit. Like water over stone, Caesar’s intriguing modern experiments play off the luster and sublimity of the ancient practice. Or is it the other way around?
The exhibit’s opening statement keeps things simple and maybe we should too: “Extraordinary beauty can be found in the ordinary. The artworks here come from the ground.”
Never thought we’d associate the word pothole with delicious, but there’s a first for everything. Mosaic artist Jim Bachor is taking on the unique project of filling potholes and turning them into tasty works of art, appropriately named “Treats in the Streets.”
Intrigued by the ability of mosaics to last throughout the years, Bachor beautifies what is typically considered an ugly nuisance of the streets. Dangerous holes are given a bright, colorful makeover that bring smiles to the faces of passerbys on the streets of Chicago and Jyväskylä, Finland.
The fourth in a series of dispatches from freelance writer Brandon Reynolds aboard the USCG icebreaker Polar Star, on its annual resupply mission to the Antarctic research base, McMurdo Station. It’s a critical task imperiled by the nation’s aging, shrinking fleet of ice-breaking ships.
After about a week, we encounter ice. Like a Popsicle on a hot day, my feelings about it changed fast and were never quite the same after. Here is a full and true account of my relationship with ice:
DAY 9 – Miles of Ice to Get Through
What Polar Star really is, is the world’s greatest toy. She’s a big red boat that smashes up ice and makes a terrific sound as she’s doing it.
This spirit of playfulness infects the first days of icebreaking. We’ve reached the ice coming off Ross Island, which is home to Mt. Byrd, Mt. Terror and Mt. Erebus–an active volcano. And somewhere up there, on the other side of the island is McMurdo Station.
We celebrate with a day off the ship, playing around on the ice.
I hop off with the crew and soon orcas and minke whales pop up in the open water at the stern.
People smoke cigars on the ice and play football and walk around to nowhere in particular. I spot a group of people standing around a couple of toddlers running around flailing their arms. What in the screaming heck is that? Penguins. They’ve found us.
This may be the strangest and most amazing place in the world. Penguins, whales, a volcano, a big sheet of ice, us and a boat are near the coldest and driest place on Earth.
A pod of orcas shows up in the pool behind the ship, spy-hopping like great big Whack-a-Moles. One of them, before disappearing back into the dark waters, winks at me.
DAY 10 – Carving Our Way to McMurdo Research Station
The ice is one big sheet connected to Ross Island and we’re going to jigsaw it apart with this ship. We’ll cut a straight line through all that gleaming whiteness for the next few days and then carve a turning basin somewhere up ahead for the supply ships to maneuver near McMurdo, then head back out, then come back, and on and on, “turning big ice into little ice,” as they say around here. Sounds like a real hoot!
DAY 12 – Land Ahoy!
‘Everything rattles on its hinges, except your teeth, which rattle in their sockets.’
Amid all the ship’s shaking, I finally see McMurdo Station! It looks like a moon base or a mining town or a mining town on the moon, perched as it is on the barren black rock of Ross Island.
DAY 13 – Chattering Teeth
Ice mostly comes in white and blue. When I get tired of looking at it, I can go below and feel it as though I’m sensing the world in Braille.
Living on a ship as it breaks through five to eight feet of ice is exactly what you’d imagine. You’re living through a controlled earthquake during the day and at night it’s like sleeping through a car crash.
Everything rattles on its hinges, except your teeth, which rattle in their sockets. You’re troubled by how quickly you come awake when they start smashing ice at 0800 and then you’re troubled a few days later by how easily you sleep through it.
Oh and here comes McMurdo again, still just sitting there, not in the ice, not vibrating.
DAY 14 – Things Break
Here’s a fun game to play:
1. Build a state-of-the-art icebreaking vessel 44 years ago.
2. Send it all around the world. Let it age.
3. Retire it for a couple of years. Unretire it.
4. Send it to Antarctica.
5. Watch how many things break.
The vibrations are hell on this ship. Screws unscrew. Things break. And the mechanics who repair this ship on a (no kidding) daily basis do not seem ruffled when bolts shear off or alarm bells wail. They climb down into the guts of the thing, repair it, and we’re back underway.
DAY 15 – We May Be Crazy
I’m going to tell you something: There’s a lot of goddamn ice in the world. And the real aim of Operation Deep Freeze is apparently to run over all of it. The ice in your freezer? Polar Star makes every single cube. You know who doesn’t think about this? The people over at McMurdo who are probably laughing at us right now as we mow their lawn. And come to think of it, you’re probably laughing at us too: you with your liquid water up there, laughing as we make our way through a great big diaper of ice on the world’s chilly bottom.
Brandon R. Reynolds lives in Los Angeles but currently summers in the Antarctic Circle. He has written for San Francisco Magazine, SF Weekly, The Atlantic, and Oxford American (not the dictionary). On Twitter @sonnyborderland.
The precarious status of Syria refugees has certainly become a hot button issue in the news, and considering the fate of people facing that conflict is so uncertain, discussion of the country's cuisine is bound to be less of a priority. Fortunately, Southern California is a place where Syrian people face no such dangers, and their culture has started to thrive. Approximately 60,000 Syrian-Americans live in Southern California, and they're opening more and more restaurants all the time.
Syrian cuisine delivers large flavors, bolstered by spices like allspice, cinnamon, clove, plus the iconic, and fragrant, Aleppo pepper, which is named for the country's largest city. Of course Syrian cuisine shares considerable overlap with neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turkey and nearby Armenia. Still, a more rustic through-line and some unique touches and dishes help to distinguish Syrian cuisine food from other Levantine cooking traditions. The San Fernando Valley serves as a hub for Syrian people (and chefs) in L.A. Tour the country's cook through these four restaurants in the Valley.
In 2014, Wafa Ghreir debuted Kobee Factory next to her family's Burbank liquor store. She moved to L.A. from Homs, Syria, four decades back and still showcases her great-grandmother's recipes. The space isn't much to look at, with pastel green walls lined with traditional garb and photos of ancient Syrian sites. However, this is the L.A. restaurant with by far the deepest roster of Syrian dishes.
[Msabbaha from Kobee Factory]
Kobee, aka kebbe, is a staple of Syrian cuisine. Yes, other countries in the region combine ground beef and either bulgur or cracked wheat, serving the combo raw, baked, or deep-fried and football-shaped. In Syria, they also grill kobee. Kobee Factory features juicy patties mixed with beef ("red meat") and bulgur that are filled with ground beef, pine nuts, and spices and grilled. Ask them to add minced jalapeños if you prefer more of a kick. (They don't have jalapenos in Syria. Instead they use haskouri peppers, which are longer, thinner and milder, but unavailable Stateside.)
The soft sausage falls somewhere between boudin and soondae on the encased meats spectrum
Musadeen is an off-menu special involving lamb intestines stuffed with rice, ground beef, and spices. A heaping bowl of links arrives in beef broth seasoned with allspice, cinnamon, bay leaf and onion. The soft sausage falls somewhere between boudin and soondae on the encased meats spectrum. Slice and dip in a bold blend of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic to enliven matters.
Msabbaha is a hearty tahini dip that's dressed with red onion, tomato, dried fava beans, and ameshi, a crumbly house-made Feta. Scoop with house pita chips. They also make comforting kishik, a soup featuring wheat that's been soaked in yogurt and dried in the sun, along with toppings of ground beef and pine nuts.
If you call ahead, they should also be willing to make magloba, a mountain of rice folded with fried eggplant, chicken and almonds that's layered and baked into a dome. Mehshi is a play on stuffed grape leaves that's supersized to squash, which contains ground beef and rice and arrives bobbing in tomato-based broth.
Even though Kobee Factory has only been operating in Van Nuys for less than two years, the family clearly has a grasp on the neighborhood and has quickly become a community hub, and not just for homesick Syrians. —14110 Oxnard St, Van Nuys, CA
Esso Mediterranean Bistro
If not for a traumatic eye injury, Elizabeth Mirzoian never would have opened Esso Mediterranean Bistro. She was teaching at an Armenian school when her son, a student, sustained the severe injury. She couldn't stand to be at the school anymore once her son's vision suffered. She resigned and started cooking more at home for her three kids, husband Jack, and a parade of friends. Encouraged by all of the positive feedback, Elizabeth opened a bistro in the back corner of an Encino strip mall, opting for her nickname as a little girl in Aleppo.
The space is simple enough, with a small patio, nine speckled tables inside, with earth-toned art-lined walls and lively Arabic music playing on the sound system.
Esso specializes in several Syrian dishes, including Kebbe nayye. This appetizer eats like a restrained tartare, with smooth, lean, finely ground raw beef folded with crunchy cracked wheat. Chopped parsley, raw white onions, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dusting of Aleppo pepper help to round out the texture. The dish comes with chopped jalapeño submerged in lemon juice, designed for invigorating dips.
[The spread at Esso Mediterranean]
Chef Mirzoian excels at making charcuterie, such as martadalla, which is a cousin to the more familiar mortadella. Smooth slices are either crafted with ground chicken or beef, along with garlic, spices and pistachios. Unlike in Italy, this version comes on a bed of iceberg lettuce with punchy pickled cucumbers and pungent garlic paste. Magheaneh has even closer ties to Armenia, though Esso makes that spiced beef sausage in-house as well.
Ready to taste the best protein-style burger on the planet?
Ready to taste the best protein-style burger on the planet? Skip the lame lettuce wrap and go right to ras nahnah. Chef Mirzoian marinates a fried beef patty with garlic and mint, grills and serves the in a bath of lemon, garlic and dried mint. A sprinkling of Aleppo pepper further boosts the flavor profile
Esso also runs daily specials like dolma. However, these aren't your standard stuffed grape leaves, which also go by that name. Instead, every Thursday, Chef Mirzoian blends ground beef and rice with garlic, lemon, tomato paste, Aleppo pepper paste, and mint before stuffing squash, bell pepper, cabbage, baby eggplant and, yes, grape leaves. She bakes and plates the flavorful quintet with a side of lebni, thick condensed yogurt that delivers tang that helps to dial down the dish's considerable flavor. —17933 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA
In a Van Nuys strip mall, you'll find Kebab Halebi, halebi being what people who hail from Aleppo call themselves. George Ghadanian learned Syrian recipes from his uncles before immigrating to the U.S. to open a restaurant. He later imparted his knowledge to son Krikor, who founded the nearby (and also excellent) Koko's in Van Nuys. Now Krikor's sons George and Raffy Ghadanian run this restaurant not far from the massive concrete artery known as the 405 freeway.
A lion statue welcomes diners to Kebab Halebi, which houses twin dining rooms. Choose a side and upon walking in you'll receive a complimentary plate of house-made pickles, including cucumbers, cabbage, and turnips.
[Ras nana at Halebi]
Ras nana, spelled differently here than at Esso, is an even bigger standout item here. A ground beef and lamb patty the size of a personal-sized pizza is flame-broiled until it forms a sear, and is then submerged in a piquant pool of lemon juice, crushed garlic, olive oil and dried mint. You may want to tilt the remaining juices into your mouth by the time you slice your last bite of meat.
Sometimes, the Syrian touches are subtle. For dips, the differences may come down to spicing. For instance, Kebab Halebi's rich, nutty hummus comes with a dusting of Aleppo pepper and aromatic ground fenugreek. After experiencing two meals at the restaurant, it's no wonder that Ghadanian family recipes have attracted customers to their restaurants for three generations. —15333 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA
This restaurant dates to 1996 near Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. Chef Eli Janesian and wife Talin have owned Koko's since early 2009, taking over for long-time owner Krikor "Koko" Ghadanian, who was mentioned earlier. Eli ran a falafel stand in Aleppo before relocating the family to L.A. He worked as a jeweler before training with Ghadanian and eventually buying the restaurant.
Janesian makes almost everything in-house. He butchers whole lambs in the back. He also pickles his own turnips, cabbage, cucumber, and if you time the season right, apricots.
Eggplant kebab is a house specialty, sometimes called ourfa kebab. The name refers to Şanlıurfa, a province in southeastern Turkey that currently borders Syria. During the genocide, which lasted from 1915-1917, thousands of Armenian people fled from the area to Syria, bringing this dish with them. Janesian alternates layers of mix of minced beef chuck and lamb rib meat with eggplant slices that get smoky on the grill.
Koko's also serves an array of kebabs, a wealth of dips, and of course his signature falafel, but the most unique dish they have either on or off-menu is probably Janesian's olive salad. Mediterranean green olives join fresh oregano leaves, pomegranate seeds, scallions, olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate juice and dried, ground bell pepper to form a tangy plate that will punch you in the mouth.
To many people, a lot of the food at these four restaurants might taste the same as what you'd find at Lebanese or Armenian restaurants around L.A. However, the deeper you dive into Syrian cuisine, the more you'll recognize the differences. Considering thousands of Syrian-Americans already live in L.A., and family members are looking for safe harbor, don't be surprised to find more Syrians immigrants land in the city. Yes, some of them are bound to open restaurants to help earn a living, given their culinary backgrounds. When that happens, you'll be equipped with some of the tools to help decipher their delicious cuisine. —16935 Vanowen St, Van Nuys, CA
Do you hear that? It's da Vinci, from the grave, swooning at the perfectly symmetrical proportions. (Forte debuted the fully-committedlook at Fox's "All Star" party yesterday). Very chic, and remember — please shave responsibly.
If you thought his last publicity stunt was insane, his next will have everyone talking. He’s planning on getting a full body wax and shave because he’s planning on going fully nude in a mock slave auction. He’s planning on doing full body blackface and be shackled on his neck.
I guess Anna Duggar saw Josh Duggar in rehab and timed it so she could get pregnant. According to multiple reports, the wife of the child molester/porn star lover/cheater is pregnant with the fifth child of the couple.
A family insider has spoken with Life & Style about the pregnancy and Anna’s reaction to having another child with Josh Duggar due to his indiscretions. However, she’s not reacting the way most people would assume. Apparently, Anna now sees their unborn child as a “sign that God has forgiven Josh for his many sins.”
“Anna announced that she thinks she is pregnant again,” the family insider told Life & Style. “She believes the baby is a sign that God has forgiven Josh for his many sins, and she’s vowed to stand by her husband.”
You often hear about the APW readers who hit the “fuck it, let’s elope” threshold (which, seriously, more power to them)—but what really fascinates me is people who have that attitude from the get-go. Like this couple. Adorable baby aside, they chose to tie the knot in Salvation Mountain, a large-scale outsider art project that’s in the middle of a desert. It’s colorful, fun, and oddly infamous (Coldplay made a music video there, for example). Since a trip to the mountain is on my bucket list, I just had to share a few photos of Claudia and Uli’s badass elopement, and find out more about how it came to pass.
Turns out, the couple traveled from SPAIN to travel around California in a mobile home for a month at the tail end of maternity leave (man, European parental leave is way more fun than ours…). As Uli put it:
We’ve known each other since 1997, having met during holidays in Spain. After living together for about twelve years, our little baby girl Florentine was born in February. Due to the fact that Claudia was on maternity break at the moment, we decided to make a little road trip in the U.S. for about four weeks altogether. We hadn’t been to California yet, so all this was very exciting. And we thought that these surroundings and our road trip would be the ideal chance to have an unusual wedding.
But how did they find this particular weird corner of the universe to get hitched? Uli explained:
We were traveling with a mobile home from San Francisco to San Diego. We were loving the easy-going vibe, and since we are planning a wedding reception back in Europe (Ibiza) next year we thought: what makes the wedding special? It was hard to tell, but we decided that we wanted a special location during our road trip. And to make it only about us three. We were looking for a place with a “rock festival” attitude, and, for us, Salvation Mountain was the most interesting location! We even got married in easygoing clothes, because that’s us.
The beloved show The X-Files is coming back to TV on Jan. 24, and on Tuesday's Jimmy Kimmel Live, Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) got a wise-cracking new partner, Agent Keith (Kimmel). "They figured since you guys have been away for awhile, you might need some help getting back into the swing of things," Keith explained. Mulder and Scully protested, then gave us a full blast of '90s nostalgia to prove Keith's point: AOL dial-up, huge mobile phones, Hootie and the Blowfish. "What is that, a GameBoy?" Mulder asked when Keith pulls out his smartphone. "This isn't the '90s anymore," Keith finally said. "We've moved on." Just not from The X-Files. And then Keith had a suggestion Mulder and Scully literally embraced. Watch below.
In a recently published Scientific Reports study, Newcastle University researchers found that praying mantises use 3D vision when they hunt. How did scientists determine this? By showing the insects images of prey both before and after outfitting them with old-school 3D glasses, of course.
Here are adorable photos of what this research looks like in practice, courtesy of Newcastle University:
The glasses are attached with beeswax.
"Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency," said study leader Jenny Read. "We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world."
Did you know that if you really don't want to be forced to go through the airport scanners, then you should dress head-to-toe in sequins? Our Publisher Ariel learned all about that when she flew home from the Philadelphia Lovesick Expo…
I went straight from the Philadelphia expo to the airport to fly home to Seattle, and was just the right mix of rushed for my flight and "Zero Fucks to Give" that I opted not to change out of my J. Von Stratton floor-length gold sequined gown until I got to the gate.
This resulted in a free upgrade to premium seating (thanks, Alaska Airlines!), a very amusing 20 minutes waiting in line at security, and then the biggest lesson of the weekend: TSA scanners cannot see through sequins. When TSA saw me coming, they were like "Oh man, you're going to light up like a Christmas tree," and when I saw the body scan… yep. Exactly that.
Apparently this is a known thing for TSA: sequins reflect the scanners. If you have a few sequins on your shirt, it looks like polka dots. If you're wearing neck to floor sequins, you are essentially a glowing security hazard and so you get a mandatory pat down.
So there I was, barefoot in a gold sequined mermaid gown, getting the full pat down from a TSA agent who was cracking up the whole time, even as she's telling me how she's going to use the back of her hand to pat down my gold sequined butt crack.
I laughed with her through the entire thing, because why not?
Jonathan Nichols, a law student at Seattle University, knew something was up when he started getting calls from the Lamborghini dealership back in 2012. Then came the pictures of bikini-clad women, the offers of backstage passes, and the party invitations. The calls and texts trickled in slowly until August 12, when he told the Seattle Times his phone started "blowing up off the hook." Nichols did some Googling and discovered that the Seattle rapper Anthony Ray, better known as Sir Mix-A-Lot (of "Baby Got Back," "Posse on Broadway," and Rhyme Cartel Records fame), was born August 12. "That's when it all made sense," he said.
Nichols, who's originally from El Paso, was about to graduate, and he'd gotten a local Seattle number to prepare for the job search ahead. Without warning him (or Mix, for that matter), Verizon gave Nichols the rapper's old cell-phone number. When the Times' Nicole Brodeur informed Mix of the snafu, he simply said, "Poor fella."
He also had some advice for Nichols, who's so far resisted any of the tempting offers meant for Mix:
"Don’t check any text messages in front of your wife," Mix advised. "That would be the first thing. And don’t answer any texts by saying 'Yes,' because people take 'Yes' differently with me. And usually you end up opening your wallet."
And one request:
"Tell him any really sexy pictures — little in the middle, and if she’s got much back — give them the new number."
For several days prior to the birth, a wild female Sea Otter had been using the protected basin of the Aquarium’s Great Tide Pool to rest from the winter storms. The night before her pup was born, just as the Aquarium closed, she was spotted slinking into the pool.
According to Monterey Bay staff, it’s rare for a healthy Sea Otter to visit the pool so frequently. The mystery was solved around 8:30 a.m. on December 20th when Aquarium staff witnessed a new pup resting on the proud new mom’s belly!
Photo Credits: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Since the event, Aquarium staff, volunteers, and visitors have made their way to watch a conservation success story take place.
Monterey Bay Aquarium will keep the public updated on this new otter family—even though mom may decide to head back out to the wild at any time. Currently though, she’s still grooming her pup and enjoying the comfort of the Great Tide Pool. Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s web page for further information: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Program has been studying the threatened Southern Sea Otter since 1984 with the aim of understanding threats to the population and promoting its recovery. They also rescue, treat and release injured otters; raise and release stranded pups through a surrogate program; and seek homes for Sea Otters that can't return to the wild.
Southern Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) once ranged from Baja California to the Pacific Northwest. But, by the 1920s, they were almost extinct due to intensive hunting. They were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1977. Monterey Bay Aquarium and their partners have contributed to the protection of the Sea Otter population in California.
Recent research by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Aquarium suggests that the Sea Otter population growth rate is limited by food availability. Meanwhile, the risk of a major oil spill remains a serious threat.
Sea Otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of life in Monterey Bay. They're also a keystone species, determining the kinds and health of species in near-shore environments. They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. Without Sea Otters, urchins prevent kelp forests from forming important habitats for many animals. Similarly, their consumption of crabs in estuaries reduces predation on snails. The snails graze algae that otherwise choke eel grasses.
Sea Otters are also good indicators of ocean health. Since they are a top predator of invertebrates along the California coast, changes in their health can make scientists aware of variations in the ocean environment itself.
By 1911, when Sea Otters gained protection under the North Pacific Fur Seal Treaty, a small group of perhaps 50 otters survived along the remote Big Sur coast. Since then, they've slowly expanded their range and grown in number to nearly 3,000. As of 2014, their range extends from south of Half Moon Bay in the north to south of Point Conception in the south—only a small part of their historic range.
(All information courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium)
Zoo keepers report that Karamel is very protective of her cubs, which is a natural behavior that female Cheetahs exhibit in the wild.
Breeding Cheetahs, which are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a high priority for the staff at White Oak. With Karamel’s litter of three cubs, 133 Cheetahs have been born at the center.
Though they are the fastest mammals on Earth, Cheetahs face many hurdles in the race against extinction. Loss of suitable habitat is the primary threat to these cats, as well as persecution by farmers protecting their livestock. Cheetahs’ unique genetics and their nutritional requirements make captive breeding especially challenging.