9.27.2007

But first, this:

I mentioned that I had some Chair Porn to post for you (because I know how much you love that stuff), as well as a new On My Hard Drive item, but first, I wanted to do this:

Last weekend we watched Fracture, with Sir Anthony Hopkins, et al.

The movie was pretty good - we enjoyed it. But for me, the movie was equally enjoyable just with the setting and cinematography. It was filmed in and around LA, and featured some very interesting and cool landmark spots, two of which I will tell you about here.

First item on the docket is the Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall. There are several scenes and several other shots of this building. Both inside and out. I'm sure you are familiar with this place, at least you are if you read here often at all.

As I noted there are several shots of this place - overhead long shot, 2 lobby scenes, and 2 scenes inside the hall itself. It's a pretty impressive place.

Then there is The Sherman Estate. This is a wonderful huge house built behind large fencing, shrubs, trees and hills. Here is the description from the film's producers:

The Crawford home was another architectural wonder located in the Encino area of the San Fernando Valley, where the company spent several weeks shooting at a private estate. "The house sits behind these big gates like a cement and glass bunker with a buttressing overhang," recalls Hoblit. "It must be 80% glass, supported by struts, but you can see from one end of the house all the way to the other, all the way through it, side to side, end to end, anywhere you go. It would be a little unnerving to live in a house like that, but fortunately it's pretty well-hidden."

The Sherman estate is protected on all sides by giant hedges, walls, gates, and a formidable hill that leads to a guest house and tennis court which perch high above the pool and backyard. It is also surrounded by a small orchard of orange trees, rose bushes, lavender and blooming flora. It has been used in films before, but has never been showcased to this extent.

Hoblit and Morgenthau particularly liked the reflections and double images that occurred when shooting through the house and its many layers of glass, a circumstance usually considered a mistake in traditional camera work. They frequently placed their cameras outside the house to film scenes going on inside, another rare occurrence for Hoblit, who calls himself a "stickler" when it comes to being close to the action, but in this case took advantage of his ability to use his cameras as the eyes of a voyeur.

Hoblit calls the house "camera-friendly" and says "it was just made to order; a real gift," while Morgenthau believes the opposite, but attests to how good the house looks on camera.

"It was very film-unfriendly, but it was worth every bit of effort and heartbreak and stepping on top of each other," the cinematographer says. "It was a classic, Schindler-influenced building, where the interiors and exteriors flowed from one to the other, but it was not easy," he laughs.


I have tried to find image references to this place online, as well as references to other films that have shown this house, but I could find nothing. The house has a decidedly oriental influence to it, somewhat like FLW's early prairie works. I guess you're just going to have to rent the movie and check it out for yourself. It's a bonus that the actual movie is enjoyable, and the bad guy also drives a Porsche Carrera GT. You car sluts might want to check that out as well. Corvette?? PPhshaaww... whatever.

9.26.2007

Popular Local Sports Broadcaster Caught in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Or something like that.

Channel 2 news (CBS) here in SLC reported last night that their sports reporter Dave Fox had entered a Plea in Abeyance in a mortgage fraud scheme that supposedly had him falsifying documents and statements related to the over-inflation of a home in the hoity-toity-and-at-the-same-time-very-mealy neighborhood called the River Bottoms in the Provo area.

Fox's plea is essentially a guilty plea without admitting guilt. His lawyer paints him as the victim, and the court has agreed to dismiss the charges (Failure To Occupy/Communications Fraud were the official charges - as it is in most mortgage fraud schemes) in return for Fox's testimony against the several other participants.

Fox wasn't on the news broadcast last night. I wonder how long, if ever, it will take for KUTV to put him back on the air.

Court documents help tell the story, which goes far beyond Fox. The documents show that Fox and Atkin intentionally, knowingly or recklessly devised a scheme to defraud another. Court documents show the two men falsified home loan documents to make money on a quick resale. Joe Christensen, director of the State Insurance Fraud Division, said, "This is the first level of a multi-level investment that involves millions of dollars and fraud and more than a dozen people."

Investigators say it's a big case involving at least a dozen people who allegedly conspired to inflate the value of real estate they bought, sold and borrowed money on.


What's even more interesting to me are the comments that accompany the news story as posted over at rival station (and LDS Church-owned) KSL (NBC).

read the story and check the comments

And coming shortly to this spot: a post about "chair porn" and a post on Jaco Pastorius, bass player who changed the face of modern jazz forever, who died 20 years ago last Friday. Sadly.

9.21.2007

Brutalist Architecture: Not What You Think

Here's your dose of architecture school for the day. Brutalist architecture sounds like something different than it is. The term Brutalist Architecture originates from the French b├ęton brut, or "raw concrete", a term used by Le Corbusier to describe his choice of material. It grew out of the modernist and minimalist schools of thought, and was made into its own category by none other than Le Corbusier himself, and the most well known building is the Boston City Hall building.

The style involves repeating heavy geometrical patterns, usually using poured concrete for its main material. Usually the surface remains unfinished, leaving the impressions of the forms used to pour the concrete, usually wood - this leaves the impression of the grain on the exterior of the building.

Here's a picture of the Boston City Hall. If you have a creative mind, you can see influences here from Frank Lloyd Wright's very early Prairie styles in the repeated upper patterns, although FLW's patterns were often inspired by Japanese style, and used for natural light.















The other distinguishing feature of this style is that the utility of the building is shown on the outside. For example, you can tell where the Mayor's office is in the picture, or the City Council Chambers, etc, by looking at the OUTSIDE of the building.

The other major building associated with this style is the Hunstanton Secondary Modern School, in Norfolk. It is unique in that the water storage facilities for the school are prominently displayed on the outside of the structure, rather than being hid on the inside.

"But in its day (1949-54) it was revolutionary. A homage to the great German modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, its steel-frame construction with brick and glass panels was more like a factory. Wondering where to put the water tank on all those flat roofs, the Smithsons instead set it high on a freestanding tower like a heroic campanile."


Here is a picture of the school from the period:













While the style of this school doesn't match the pattern of main utilitarian spaces being visible from the outside, this building, designed by Smithson, is generally thought to belong to the Brutalist style because of its water tower.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled, time-wasting web surfing.

9.19.2007

The two fastest reviews you'll read all week:

Okay, first one:

We went to see Spamalot over the weekend... it was great - we were thinking about going to LV to see it over Thanksgiving, and we were also thinking about going to NYC to see it, and one or two others as well.... but we decided to see it here, now.

The comedy was true Pythonesque, and it was timed perfectly - there were the killer rabbits, the Frenchmen, the minstrels... it was funny.

"Always look on the bright side of life." Words to live by.




Then, second item: We went to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet last night. He turns 87 in December, and wanted to come, thinking he might not make it out again. He is aged - he's thin and old. But still plays very well. The Quartet was great, and after one or two songs, they got the "ensemble" feel going, having ironed out kinks not intonation and being able to hear each other. Bobby Militello on Alto Saxophone and flute was particularly prodigious and I enjoyed his playing a lot. A couple of drum solos by Randy Jones, although stellar, went on just a tad too long, but that's okay. Michael Moore was on bass, and was also a great player.

The concert was a benefit for the GAM foundation here, producer of a yearly series of concerts called Jazz at the Sheraton... the foundation was in trouble a year or two ago, and there were several artists that came to the rescue, along with a private donor or two, who helped rescue it, and I'm really glad they did. We really like their concerts.

On the way home we wondered if they ever get tired of playing "Take Five", the song for which they are probably most famous. We also had a chuckle during the concert when we commented to each other that instead of mixing the audio monitor feed for the band, the two guys on the side of the stage were really there to provide emergency resuscitation should it be needed in a hurry.

Lots of Blue-Hairs in the audience.

The FED lowered rates, why didn't my mortgage payment go down?

So, the FED lowered two rates yesterday, and the S&P 500 index is up about 3.5% over the two days... so this is a good thing right?

Ask yourself this question - "what does that mean to me?"

If you answered with some form of "now the rate on my variable-rate mortgage will go down...", you should realize that your variable rate mortgage is tied to an INDEX, not the FED rate. more than 90% of variable rate loans are tied to the LIBOR, which is short for London Interbank Offered Rate.

As the LIBOR goes, so goes the rate on your mortgage.

Have you been watching the news on the LIBOR lately? I didn't think so.

Here's a snap-shot:

The British Bankers' Association said the overnight LIBOR -- the interest rate banks charge each other -- remained steady at 6.47% on Monday. The rate, however, remained significantly higher than the 5.87% rate seen on Thursday and Friday. Three-month and twelve-month LIBOR rates set fractionally lower than on Monday, the association said.


From 5.87% to 6.47% is more than a half-point move in the WRONG direction. Overnight. The London folks were sitting on the sidelines watching the Great American Credit Fiasco, thanking their lucky stars that they hadn't been sucked into it, then they realized they HAD been sucked into it when it was noted how many British and European institutional lenders and banking organizations were SHAREHOLDERS in the very same American funds that were now showing themselves to be nothing more than junk bonds.

When they discovered that, the LIBOR went from 5.87% to 6.47%.

And if you have a one-month LIBOR loan (the rate is calculated every month), your rate moved .6%. Overnight.

I bet that was fun.

And in the category of "It's not the rate, it's the program", here's something else...

The FED lowers the rate to try to bring some capital back into the markets, which, if you have been watching the markets in the last two days, you know it HAS, but here's The Thing:

No institutional bank/buyer (who has money available) is going to put its money back into the bond market until the big lenders can prove that they are making responsible loans that will perform and not end up in foreclosure. It's that simple. And as long as those institutions AREN'T buying loans in the secondary market, the lender who made the loan has to keep it, tying up money that could be freed up and loaned out again. This KILLS any lender that isn't THE MOST CONSERVATIVE LENDER ON THE PLANET.

For example, yesterday, Countrywide said they are OUT of any kind of loan business that is not Super Prime, in an effort to convince the market that they are making responsible loans now, please buy them. This is the same Countrywide who, in the last three weeks has borrowed more than 20 BILLION dollars in an effort to stay afloat and make loans.

Until the banks begin to trust lenders again, it doesn't matter what the rates are.

Compared to 12 months ago, there are about 25% of the loan programs available now that were available then. Some may say that's a good thing - we'll see how many lenders exit the business. I can tell you that banking industry layoffs are putting a drag on the economy. Couple that with looming foreclosures, BKs, which will surely follow, and we might be looking at a perfect storm.

My advice for people in the markets: I hope you were holding significant gold futures. Seriously.

9.17.2007

The wee Wii injury

A few weeks ago we had my brother and his family at our house for a few days. On one of those days, he needed to run an errand over the local electronics mega-store. I didn't go because I probably would rather have sharpened the tines of a fork, and eaten them all. I like shopping that much.

So it served me right.

ThatOneWife arrived home with "a little extra"... I got that bilious feeling in my throat again.

When what to my wondering awe - out pops a Nintendo Wii.

Um, yay. I must have made "that face", because she looked at my brother with that "see, I told you he would brutally murder us all in our sleep if I bought that.." look.

So, yeah - I hate that crap - pretty much the whole bunch of it, and we've about had them all, from the nintendo 64, all the way through the GameCube, etc., and about every stop in between. Hate em all. Not because they are inherently BAD, but because we have kids who don't feel bad about sitting in front of one of those things for 19 hours a day, only to go to bed and do it all over again the next day. This can go on for four months straight. I'm told these young bipedal humanoids are not unique in this way.

So I hate.

I was told this was going to be a Christmas gift for these young individuals, and it was whisked away to the dark recesses of, well, wherever Christmas presents go to hibernate til That Day.

BUT, here's the thing. After the relatives had left town and I had been given a change to become acclimatized to this object living within my little castle for a few days, she GOT IT OUT OF ITS WRAPPER. I was told how wonderful it is, how it's not like Those Other Games.

How about a big nice warm cup of WHATEVER?




So anyway, in a play to help me Forgive and Overlook, out it came. It came out on a weekend when we didn't have any kids around, so we can still keep it a secret and let Santa bring it. Not only did brother convince Her to buy the box, but a few games in addition.

So, yeah, this game is different. You've certainly heard about the tennis, and the golf, and the whatever else, more interactive, blah blah blah...

But you know what??









"He liked it, he really liked it, hey Mikey!!"

Anyway, it is pretty derned fun. So much so that this weekend, we bought the new Tiger Woods PGA golf game for it. Both our shoulders and right arms hurt now, thanks to the clever little tennis game, and the golf game.

At this point, the kids will be LUCKY to get that game.

Seriously.

Robert Downey Stewart, Jr.

I saw a recent picture of Robert Downey Jr. recently, and wondered if he was trying to channel Rod Stewart. If so, somebody should tell him that you should wait til the other person is DEAD first.

Just sayin.

Architecture Info Clearing House

Looking back a little bit, it occurs to me that I haven't posted much architecture here in the last while, so get ready for "A Little Too Much Information."
First, you have probably heard that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought a mansion in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the last 6-8 months. Pitt has been very involved in the redevelopment effort there, sponsoring a "green" initiative project that will have the Platinum level of LEED approval - which is the greenest of all building practices. Brad Pitt's New Orleans Project

Second, if you missed it, here are some pictures of Frank Gerhy's little project down the road in Lehi, Utah:







































Third, here is what I (not so secretly) wish for myself one day:










































































































9.13.2007

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater as you've never seen it before


Apparently, I'm not the only FLW Nerd out there.

Check out the movie.

No, really, check it out, you won't be sorry. I'll wait right here.

9.12.2007

A steak by any other name is just meat.

A couple of weeks ago we went out for dinner. It had been a long time since we had treated ourselves to a nice bottle of wine and a good steak out on the town.

Just a bit of background here - there are 2 kinds of "dining", one is when you're just hungry, and you don't to have to rustle up something for the kids at home, and you pile them in the car to make it easy. For this kind of dining, one usually ends up at some sort of chain restaurant like Applebee's or Chili's or some sort of neighborhood grill. The other kind of dining is when you think about it for two weeks, plan a spot and look forward to it with your salivary glands working overtime the whole time. For us, these occassions don't bring us to any sort of chain restaurant at all. Typically, when we are after a nice culinary experience, we don't look to the chains to provide it.

So anyway, almost a year ago now, there was a Ruth's Chris steakhouse opened up here. Our city had been briefly flirted with by Morton's, but they ultimately decided to bag it, since the liquor laws are so stupid here.

But Ruth's Chris came. I was generally excited about this, because I had eaten at the Ruth's Chris in Las Vegas once, on a trade show stay there. One thing you need to know about me is that I am pretty much a carnivore. I love beef. Well prepared beef. It doesn't have to be giant, but it does have to be good. In years past, it did need to be giant AND good, but now it just has to be good.

When I ate at the RC in LV several years ago, I ordered the Filet Mignon, and I swear, the animal that made it had to be two stories tall. It was the biggest I had ever seen. I wasn't looking for that this time, but I was expecting a little more out of the entire experience.

Dining in Salt Lake has a bit of a redneck flair to it, no matter how much you spend. No matter what, you're looking at a pretty loud and distracting evening. It's very difficult to find a restaurant that is QUIET, nice, has great food and impeccable service. I have eaten at several Morton's Steakhouses before in different cities, and they nail the entire experience. And Spencer's here comes a LOT closer to this - and you can enjoy a nice cigar afterward in an adjoining area - at least for now. That will be going away in the not-too-distant future. Thanks Utah Legislature - I needed someone to get right in there and tell me how to live my life. But I digress.

Anyway, the food was good all in all, but not spectacular, but as I said, I was put off a bit by the atmosphere. It was too loud for us to comfortably hear a conversation between the four of us. We had a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon though, the SILVER OAK CABERNET NAPA'01/02. It really set the steak off in a great way.

A day or two afterward, both ThatOneWife and I remarked that although the experience was nice, and it was nice to get dressed and go out to a nice dinner, we had each had better steaks from our back yard grill.

There are several USDA grades of beef (8 to be exact), but they are mainly broken down into four categories: Prime, Choice, Select, and Standard. There are variations within each of those categories. Almost all "Prime" beef brought into any city (at least around here) is reserved for restaurants, leaving the "Choice" category for the local butchers and grocers. I have a butcher that we go to when we want to spend a little more, but stay home and cook. They cut my beef while I wait, and I can choose the piece I want. Thicker and smaller around is better than a thin one the size of a volkswagen tire. ("That's what SHE said" - sorry - juvenile joke there...)

Usually, when I prepare it, there are two ways I will do it. The first option is for when I don't have four hours. I will set the meat out to get to room temperature - this relaxes the grain of the cut, allowing oxygen into it, and it will cook up more tenderly. About a half hour before I cook it, I season it with some peppery spices - I like the "Montreal Steak" seasoning you can get in the grocery stores. I put that on, and rub it in a bit to make sure it sticks. The peppery part of that rub will be accentuated with a nice Cab, Shiraz, or even a Chianti

On the other hand, if I decide to spend the time, I'll get the steak to room temperature about 1.5 to 2 hours before I want to cook it. Then I take about a cup of a decent Cabernet or Shiraz, mix in about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and some fresh garlic to taste. I stir til the sugar is dissolved into the wine, making it sweet and a little thicker than it was when it came out of the bottle. I'll paint this stuff onto both sides of the steak and let it sit for maybe just over an hour - any longer, and the meat absorbs too much of the wine and loses some of its "beefy" taste.

About 20 minutes before I want to start cooking the steak, I turn on the grill full blast, and leave the lid down. This heats it up nicely to close to 500 degrees. I'll scrubb off the grill, and paint it with olive oil. I then throw the meat on there, at high heat, leaving the lid open, for about 4-5 minutes, then turn it over, leaving it on that side for about that same time. While much has been written about whether "searing" the meat actually improves the taste by locking in the juices, it's still a matter of preference. Once I have done that, I'll move the heat down to a medium high for the rest of the cook time. I will only turn the steaks one more time, to even out the cooking on the inside. I leave the lid open all the time the meat is on the grill. We're grilling here, not "baking" or poaching our steak. I'll leave it on there til the internal temperature reaches about 135-140 degrees, then take it off the grill and let it sit for about 5 minutes. It'll finish cooking to a nice medium rare, the way steaks should be eaten.

With that high heat, the meat will slightly caramelize the coating you put on it, adding to the complex tastes.

And there you have it - I wasn't really going to go through and do a post about how to cook your meat, but that's what came out anyway.

Sorry for the long post.

9.07.2007

RIP: Luciano Pavarotti















O Sole Mio - He was famous for that song, among a raft of others. Elvis once heard an English translation of the song, and recorded a version for release in 1960. The song?

It's Now or Never.

It was a number one song in 1960.

You will be missed. Your life transcended your identity. You were my hero for lots of years, and now you are gone.

I've written about you before. You are still the measure of talent in your field, and forever will be.

Farewell, and congrats on a life well lived.

Serendipity

I almost always mistake that word for "stupidity"... but anyway...

A couple of interesting posts showed up in the RSS feed this morning.

First, I've been following the story about Apple cutting its iPhone prices, and making the early-adopters show their true colors as whiny, entitled little weenies. Which prompted this to show up this morning over at the CafePress.com web site:
















Funny stuff.

Then, I was reading some other stuff, and noted that Harley Davidson has lowered its earnings expectations for this next quarter, and has removed its entire earnings guidance for 2009 altogether. ("Guidance" numbers are used by analysts to help keep track of how a company is doing versus its own projections, and is then used to help substantiate stock prices and "buy/hold/sell" ratings for the stock.)

The story is that now that we Americans are no longer able to tap the equity in our homes, using them like ATM machines, we aren't buying the stupid things we used to buy, like big motorcycles, cars, boats, and luxury items in general. In short, we have to now go back to EARNING the things we want...

But, we WANT, WANT, WANT, don't we??

We are definitely an entitlement society, and until we figure out how to earn the things we want, we are going to be in trouble. If you dare, take a look at the national debt numbers. Pretty staggering.

So, on to another subject - I was reading an interesting post over at a friend's blog, and he talked about the birth of his kid, about 3 years ago. He noted that due to an umbilical cord issue, the youngling had to spend some time in the NICU right after the blessed event.

Two of our kids are twins - boy/girl twins... they are an interesting pair. Couldn't be more different from each other. The boy came out with a black eye, first, with a look on his face as if to say, GEEZ, get me OUTA here, that chick's got a mean left jab! The girl half showed up all pristine and pretty. Being twins, they were a tad early, and born via C-Section. So they didn't have the funky cone-head thing going on.

In this picture, the boy half is the tallest one, standing in the back row - this picture is a year old. The girl half is third from the left in the front row, with the strawberry blond hair.

They were both shy of five pounds each, which meant that they had to spend some time in the hospital before they gained enough weight to go home. The boy spent more time in the NICU than she did, because he also had a lung that needed a little help to finish becoming fully baked and inflated. Over the next several months of his life we had him back at the hospital a couple of times because of this same issue. We worried about him at the time, but it really wasn't that big a deal.

About 6 months ago, they turned 17. He is 6'3" and his football program listed him at 220 pounds, but he's really about 185 now. No matter what his actual weight is, he is a tank of a kid - long and lean. He has always been a happy-go-lucky easy going kid, rolls with the punches, nothing really bothers him too much. Typical kid in that way. When it was time to hand out punishment for this or that, and when a swat on the arse was warranted, he took his in stride, never cried, as if to say, "yeah, dude, that didn't really hurt."

As for the girl twin, if you so much as looked at her funny, it was a personal affront, and that was typically all the punishment that was needed, for that 10 minutes, anyway. She has always been mischievous, the social butterfly, and that is still the case today. She is having a bit if a hard time with her mother these days, and although that isn't a good thing, she is spending a bit more time over at our house than she usually does, and we are happy for that. She is a person who needs fairly consistent social input, and sitting around watching a movie or something like that isn't really an option for her. She needs to be out there doing stuff with friends. She will always be one of those who has a ton of friends all through her life - she still gets calls from old friends who moved away several years ago, who come into town and want to do something with her. She finds that both weird and very satisfying all at the same time.

No real point to all that, just some fun memories. That's all.