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Review: Dodger Stadium

I hadn’t been to Dodger Stadium for years when I decided to watch a baseball game during daytime like I did when I was a kid.

Having childhood memories of watching men play ball from the bleachers at Wrigley Field and with my best friend at Comiskey Park in Chicago, I first came to the home of the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers with high expectations long ago with my friend Randy, who now runs a baseball academy.

I was not disappointed. The place, which opened for business on April 10, 1962, had become less than ideal, however, under previous ownership. Though I live and work close to Dodger Stadium (and I’ve covered sports, including baseball, for newspapers), I hadn’t attended a Dodger game since before I created this blog.

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Dodger Stadium exterior Summer 2016. Photo by Scott Holleran © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

Seeing this summer’s games at Dodger Stadium brings back the joy of attending a baseball game. Los Angeles is the second largest city in America and LA’s Southern California ethos is distinctly American. But the challenge of modern living here is the same as anywhere in the deteriorating United States. Anything run by the government—hospitals, schools, roads—is a bureaucratic mess. This fact only makes a day at Dodger Stadium more of a marvel.

While I’m sorry to say that the ballpark was built after LA’s government demanded that Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley grant the deed to LA’s Wrigley Field in order to move the team to Los Angeles—and Los Angeles violated property rights, invoking eminent domain, to build it—Dodger Stadium remains an outstanding achievement.

Designed, engineered and constructed with tiered levels and entrances and convenient parking for each area, it’s easily accessible, so I choose to drive, park and walk. It is better to arrive early for a chance to explore the clubs, bars, grills, shops, playgrounds and picture spots. Nestled in the hills of northeast LA, Dodger Stadium affords sweeping views. A seat in the upper reserve section puts the Hollywood sign in plain view. Sights of LA’s skyline, hillsides, suburbs, palm trees and surrounding mountain ranges are all included in the price of admission and the sight lines of the playing field are fine. There really isn’t a bad view of the field, though the creep of sponsor signage is obstructive, especially in right field.

Buying tickets online is relatively painless and the admission process is simple. After a security check, show your smart phone ticket and parking pass or print them and follow the signs to your seat. After a safety announcement, ceremonial balls, pitches and the national anthem, and broadcaster Vin Scully’s context-setting pre-game clip, the Dodgers and opponents take the field. Before the game’s over, whenever that happens, visitors are treated to songs (Rodgers’ & Hammerstein’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma!, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), short promotions, occasional gifts and gambling, cheers, replays on ballpark monitors everywhere and the seventh inning stretch. Alcohol is served for a limited time during the game. Concession prices are inflated, of course, though guests can bring regular sized bottled water, snacks and backpacks. Making a video of the game violates team rules and fans can visit Dodgers.com for details and information on tours, etc. If you don’t want to eat Dodger Dogs ($6), healthy food pretty much means eating a salad (they’re good).

Dodger Stadium Summer 2016. Photo by Scott Holleran © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are rightly focused on athletic improvement (and taking care of Corey Seaver after he was beaned in the right wrist during yesterday’s game against the Phillies) but, judging by my recent game attendance, the stadium meets the ownership’s goal of restoring a safe, family-friendly spectator sports experience. From upper decks to club, premium and box seating, Dodger Stadium offers a terrific game day of baseball. With driving and exclusive Uber deal options, as well as shuttle bus and bicycling accommodations, transportation is relatively accessible. Seats are comfortable, restrooms are spotless, ushers are helpful and everyone is excited to be there.

The reason: to cheer for men of ability to play this wonderful sport with its sense of being suspended in time—and to watch LA’s Major League baseball team play to win. This season, the Dodgers have been in and out of first place and, from group gatherings of co-workers and families to school field trip students, celebrity guests and honored war veterans, the range of spectators primarily come for the grace, thrill and playfulness of the game.

Big screens show player statistics, trivia games, kiss and tot camera shots, welcome historical clips of Dodgers’ numbers 55 (Orel Hershiser), 42 (Jackie Robinson) and six (Steve Garvey) and, of course, those sharp, pre-game roundups courtesy of reporter Vin Scully in his final broadcasting season. Dodgers’ pride shows, from attentive custodians and parking attendants to vendors, cashiers and on-site Los Angeles Policemen. They make the 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium, the nation’s first privately financed ballpark since Yankee Stadium in 1923, a relaxed, friendly and rational refuge from modern madness.

As with any great American city’s baseball team, Dodger fans make attending baseball at the stadium a unique experience. My favorite part of seeing the Dodgers compete at Dodger Stadium, besides getting seriously if temporarily away from the egalitarian rot wasting the world, is being among decent, hardworking and happy Southern Californians who cheer for the Dodgers to win. Baseball is still the great American sport. LA’s renewed Dodger Stadium is once again one of the best places to watch men play ball.


Related link

The History of Dodger Stadium (April 10, 1962)

Nationalism, Statism and Propaganda

This month’s major political conventions will be historic. Nationalist Donald Trump, presumptive nominee of the philosophically bankrupt Republican Party, and welfare-statist Hillary Clinton, presumptive nominee of the New Left-dominated Democratic Party, are the most untrusted and, incidentally, unpopular presidential candidates in modern history. Clinton, exonerated this week by the Obama administration under a cloud of suspicion after the attorney general met with her spouse, the ex-president Bill Clinton, will be the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major party. Trump, generating controversy as always and this time by re-posting a Star of David superimposed on a pile of money via social media, will be the first non-Republican and explicit anti-capitalist nominated by the party which once advocated some degree of capitalism and individual rights. Both will be nominated in American states which were once great industrial centers; Clinton in America’s first capital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trump in Cleveland, Ohio.

Look for what today’s digital public relations, marketing and social media types call optics at the GOP (July 18-21) and Democratic (July 25-28) conventions. Halting, hair-splitting, cackling Clinton may try to come off as softer, less harsh and hostile and more easygoing as a leader; the safer choice. Spewing, ear-splitting, rambling Trump may try to pass himself off as essentially charismatic and strong, less harsh and hostile and more decisive as a leader; the stronger choice. He will try to be a man of the people, an unapologetic village crier and throwback to pre-Obama days, undoing Obama’s legacy by throwing up tougher, state-sponsored fixes at the strongman’s sole discretion. She will try to appear as a woman of the people, a servant carrying on the Obama presidency’s New Left agenda while silently signalling that the age of statism and egalitarianism—policy dictates defining one’s identity by race, sex or culture—has just begun. The next few weeks will be heavy on optics for two power-lusting frauds in American politics.

Look closer for signs of propaganda, however. Whether at the statist’s or the nationalist’s convention, despite whatever riots, anarchy and attack may be carried out, the coming conventions and 2016 will be filled with symbolism and signs of what’s to come. Trump is a master of this—Clinton is not—as he demonstrates by tagging media personalities, streams and channels to generate greater exposure and attract new followers (read my post on The Circus Cycle). Though Trump polls as a loser, polls have been wrong for years, from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s upset loss to this summer’s Brexit victory. I suspect the Trump voter conceals his planned vote from others. Watch for propaganda to foreshadow (unless Libertarian Gary Johnson is elected president) the new presidency.

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Buy the Book

Propaganda, as shown at a recent exhibit at the Richard Riordan Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles, has the power to push a civilized nation to dictatorship. Through visual manipulation, such as digital memes, cartoons and posters, especially in today’s increasingly anti-conceptual, perceptual-level culture, the public can more easily be persuaded of certain assertions. National Socialist propaganda, including promotions for Hitler’s Mein Kampf (which translates as My Struggle), was thoroughly premeditated. Read Leonard Peikoff’s The Cause of Hitler’s Germany for a fundamental explanation of Nazi Germany.

As displayed in “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda”, which runs at the Downtown LA library through August 21 (read about the traveling exhibition here), the Fuhrer (“leader”) and his top Nazis clearly grasped the importance of graphic arts in disseminating their philosophy of duty to the state and submission of the individual to serving others, i.e., altruism, in the name of the god-state-people-race. In certain cases, graphics and images glorify the upshot of National Socialism in practice: mass death and total government control of the individual’s life.

The exhibitionproduced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, shows how “the Nazis used propaganda to win broad voter support in Germany, implement radical programs, and justify war and mass murder”. The exhibit continues in Texas and Louisiana (see the schedule here).

Nazi Propaganda Poster LAPLNazi propaganda posters, movies, art and designs also illustrate attacks on Jews, capitalism and profit. There are other lessons, too. Note the cult of personality employed to foster worship of the charismatic leader. Observe similarities to recent U.S. campaign themes, such as Obama’s “hope and change” paraphernalia, the controversial “Ready for Hillary” capital H with its arrow, and, of course, Trump’s chronic emphasis on himself as the charismatic leader for nationalism, bellowing against others—illegal immigrants, Moslems, Apple, businesses that trade with China—as causing America’s downfall. Clinton, and especially Sanders, target others, too—businesses, Apple, traders on Wall Street, the wealthy—and both sides explicitly target the individual for persecution.

What is so alarming about the 2016 presidential election, and what makes National Socialist propaganda particularly relevant, is the erosion of freedom of speech in America. Obama’s administration attacks free speech, from censoring news to censoring movies and intimidating Americans who would exercise free speech (read Obama Vs. Free Speech). Clinton, who once proposed outlawing divorce for couples with children, has been a part of Obama’s assault on the First Amendment and she sought to evade public and press scrutiny during her entire four years as secretary of state while denouncing an American film as the cause of an Islamic terrorist act of war on the United States. Trump, who cuts off microphones at press conferences, proposes eliminating free speech by weakening libel law and jokes, then says he means it seriously, about having journalists targeted for state-sponsored death.

NaziFlowChartThese are explicit policy ideas, plans and actions. Insidious state sponsorship of media and the arts, like something emanating from the Nazi flow chart pictured here, includes quasi government control of the Oscars (Michelle Obama Ruins the Oscars) and arts and technology conferences (SXSW).

As the free press, too, diminishes with the spread of quasi-government control of industry, subsidizing state-favored cable TV monopolies like Time Warner and Comcast which own and operate major media (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros. Pictures, MSNBC, NBC, Universal Studios), coupled with the dumbing down of American education and culture, it becomes both easier and less apparent for the state to impose controls, cronyism and influence, i.e., blacklists. Only this summer did Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, change its name to the term “tronc” (without the quotation marks but with the bad punctuation), an amalgamation of “Tribune online content” in what appears to be a bid to seem modern, generic and anti-conceptual.

Convergence of today’s aggregated, dumbed down media with secretive, oppressive censorship cannot be far behind.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, whom the world lost last week, lived his entire life warning of the danger of staying silent while ominous government insidiously gains the power to destroy life. As the summer of ’16—with Clinton, tronc and Trump—goes down shoveling propaganda in conventions and toward a darker history, this is the moment to stay tuned, call statist and nationalist propaganda what it is and speak out.

Travel: McCrea Ranch

Last night’s Cowboy Cookout and Ranch Tour at movie star Joel McCrea’s ranch in Southern California was perfect. The air was a bit chilly. But, with everyone helping to make the annual Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation fundraiser a success, from bus driver Pete and ranch staff to the poet, the band and McCrea’s grandson Wyatt, who lives there, the place was warm, relaxed and rooted in Western culture. Guests added Hollywood glamour.

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McCrea Ranch. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

You’ve probably seen Joel McCrea’s movies. Whether romancing Claudette Colbert in Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story or Veronica Lake in Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels or leading as handsome, freethinking young Dr. Kildare or in Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, he was a commanding presence on screen. But the underrated, underappreciated actor—who was 6’4 in height—was most comfortable in Westerns, appearing with his wife Frances Dee in Wells Fargo, Cecil B. DeMille’s Union Pacific opposite Barbara Stanwyck, Wichita, as Bat Masterson in The Gunfight at Dodge City, opposite Randolph Scott in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, usually as lead and hero of the motion picture. I’d recently seen him as the title character in The Virginian, the 1946 Western. After that, McCrea appeared in mostly Westerns, including his last picture, 1976’s Mustang Country.

Apparently, the Golden Age-era movie star made the Western part of his life. Encouraged by his mentor, humorist Will Rogers, McCrea bought the first thousand acres of private ranch property in Ventura County—what’s now northern Thousand Oaks, California—in the early Hollywood years and made ranching a labor of love. Eventually, Joel McCrea would buy a sprawling ranch where he lived with his wife of 57 years and raised three sons, Jody, David and Peter. Today, a small portion of the original McCrea Ranch in the Santa Rosa valley is left, including the main house McCrea had built and remaining outbuildings, such as the bunkhouse, chicken coop and milk house.

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McCrea Ranch. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

Yesterday, foundation docents and park staff showed the grounds. There’s a road leading up to the house, with a large kitchen and original appliances—including the elevated refrigerator to accommodate McCrea’s height—master bedroom, reading or sun room, Mrs. McCrea’s writing room, living room and the boys’ rooms above the garage. It’s a stone’s throw from the avocado-shaped swimming pool and the trees and vegetation Mr. and Mrs. McCrea planted. The 1,400-square foot visitor’s center has photographs and films on McCrea and his family in movies and at the ranch. Being there, it’s easy to imagine Joel McCrea riding horses and milking cows (he did both). After he died in 1990, Frances moved into the bunkhouse. Mrs. McCrea never lived in the main house again.

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McCrea Ranch Main Home. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

The house he’d had designed and built is filled with fireplaces, books—Frances McCrea was an avid reader and Joel McCrea, whose forefather signed the Declaration of Independence, was a serious student of American history—and portraits of Lincoln and Washington. This is a modest, family home, which is not open to the public. So, while the property meets the foundation’s goal to conserve the region’s history and lifestyle, and South Pasadena native McCrea is the embodiment of the healthy, tanned, good-looking, hardworking outdoorsman with which one associates Southern California, the rustic ranch evokes the man and his chosen values. It is here that the movie star lived, worked and enjoyed privacy. The place exudes McCrea’s unique ability to shuttle between relaxed, easygoing charm and hard-driving loyalty to one’s personal code.

Donors attending last night’s Cowboy Cookout—including Western artists and intellectuals such as Eric Heisner, William Wellman, Jr., whose father directed McCrea in The Great Man’s Lady and Buffalo Bill, and Bruce Boxleitner (Contagion, Tron, CBS’s Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Gods and Generals, ABC’s How the West Was Won)—joined Wyatt McCrea in toasting McCrea Ranch as a place worth preserving as it once was. So do I, especially to study, experience and honor McCrea Ranch as home and land where Joel McCrea cashed in on what he’d earned—as an example of where a man once lived the honest, productive life he’d portrayed in the movies.

Capitalism on Chicagoland’s North Shore

Spending my youth in the suburbs north of Chicago often made me curious about its origins. There were exotic American Indian names, mysterious trails, woods and tales of corruption, scandal and murder amid the lush, green bluffs and flat, fertile soil, not to mention the lakefront, the railroad and the industry. I know I’m scratching the surface, but I’m enjoying writing about the towns, villages and enclaves north of Chicago in a newspaper history series I conceived and developed with my editor, David Sweet, earlier this year.

The theme is capitalism—the entrepreneurial spirit—on Chicagoland’s North Shore.

Glencoe, Illinois waiting station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Talking with local and regional historians, curators and scholars, my research yields new takes on local myths and legends, facts about iconic names, dates and places and, above all, clarity about the men who forged new paths, pioneered Northern Illinois, fought for the Union during the Civil War and settled some of the nation’s most creative, productive and wealthiest towns. These men were largely men of vision and reason and they were farmers, frontiersmen, traders, industrialists and, mostly, individualists. Telling their stories, including notorious facts in the history of these towns, is more rewarding than I had thought possible when I first offered to write the articles.

These front page and cover story articles, which include bits on America’s first recorded serial killer, the only bridge ever designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright and the invention of Christmas bubble lights, Girl Scout cookies and Frenchmens’, Indians’ and religionists’ plans for the area near and along Lake Michigan north of Chicago, are currently available online for free. Read about Glenview, Wilmette and Glencoe. Know that there are more stories to come.


Related

Murder in Kenilworth

Feature: Teen Depression and Suicide on Chicago’s North Shore

Sheridan Road: My First Intellectual Activism

Sheridan Road: Former State Senator Roger Keats

Sheridan Road: Interview with Kathryn Cameron Porter

The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens

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The Sower (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

During a recent visit to the Sunshine state, I discovered the former home of Albin Polasek (1879 – 1965) one of America’s fore­most 20th century sculp­tors. The home is located on a small lake in central Florida in a town called Winter Park. The modest waterfront home, adjacent chapel and property have been turned into a museum and gardens showcasing his remarkable work.

Polasek (pronounced by the tour guide as Pull-ah-chek), a Czech-born immigrant to America who adopted the representational art method of sculpture, cre­ated “fig­u­ra­tive works of sound com­po­si­tion based upon the true struc­ture of nature”, according to the museum, which explains on its Web site that

His goal was to show the essen­tial unity of head or fig­ure and the beauty of ‘move­ment,’ the flow of one mass into another. He felt that move­ment made the dif­fer­ence between a work exud­ing life and some­thing inan­i­mate.

The museum is set far enough back from the busy avenue to provide a placid atmosphere for a leisurely visit. The $5 admission includes a general video introduction to Polasek’s ideas, life and work and a tour through much of the home and chapel, which he had built for his private religious purposes. Though he was Catholic—he followed his brother, who was a priest, to America—it’s clear from his work that his views do not align with Catholic Church doctrine.

For example, I was informed that Polasek sculpted one of his most famous works, Victorious Christ, which depicts a strong and exalted Jesus Christ on the cross, because Polasek did not approve of depictions of pain and suffering (the original is in a cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska). Though much of Polasek’s over 400 works are religious, many include essentially secular or distinctly non-Catholic themes, such as his Man Carving His Own Destiny (another version appearing elsewhere on the grounds as Evolution). Polasek sculpted and carved in stone, bronze, plaster and wood. He painted, too.

Eternal Moment

Eternal Moment (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

Born in 1879 in Moravia (now Czech Repub­lic), Albin Polasek appren­ticed as a wood­carver in Vienna before immi­grat­ing to the United States in 1901 at the age of 22, according to the museum. After work­ing as a wood­carver, he began for­mal art train­ing at the Penn­syl­va­nia Acad­emy of the Fine Arts in Philadel­phia, where he learned clas­si­cal sculpt­ing tech­niques and first cre­ated Man Carv­ing His Own Des­tiny (1907) and Eter­nal Moment (1909). Polasek became an Amer­i­can citizen in 1909.

While in Rome on an arts fellowship, his Sower (pictured above and below) earned critical praise and he returned to America and established a stu­dio in New York City until, in 1916, at the age of 37, Polasek was asked to head the Sculp­ture Depart­ment at the Art Insti­tute of Chicago, where he remained for nearly 30 years.

The museum bio says that Albin Polasek retired to Win­ter Park, Florida, in Jan­u­ary 1950, at the age of 70, design­ing the home and hav­ing it built on Lake Osce­ola. It is there that he had a stroke, which left him partly paralyzed, and married his close friend and for­mer stu­dent Ruth Sher­wood, the first mar­riage for both. Polasek was 71 and Sher­wood was 61. When she died 18 months later, he married a second time to a woman named Emily who is credited with encouraging his work.

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Vic­tory of Moral Law (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

Despite his condition, Polasek was able to work with his right hand – my tour guide told me that an assis­tant would help and added that, at one point, someone who’d worked on Mount Rushmore aided in the creation of at least one work – and Polasek com­pleted 18 major works, includ­ing the anti-Communist Vic­tory of Moral Law (1957) as a response to the Hun­gar­ian uprising against the Soviet Union. The serpent slithering around the world of the sculpture (pictured here) represents Communism.

Polasek had the chapel built on the property because, I was told, he did not like to attend church services and he sought solitude and serenity in prayer. A priest occasionally though not often came to the Polasek chapel for a mass. The chapel is the last part of the tour before the gardens, where guests are welcome to continue self-guided along the lakefront path and examine works such as Eternal Moment and others. The docent was courteous and knowledgeable, though not scholarly.

After the  tour, I circled the gardens, took my time and came back into the house on the other side. The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens are a modest property, located close to the Winter Park Public Library, Rollins College and the Alfond Hotel, which is owned and operated by the college. I ended my visit in the gift shop, having toured the house, where Polasek worked, the chapel, where Polasek’s Catholic Stations of the Cross are on display, and the gardens. The Sower and Man Carving His Own Destiny are located in the front of the house. I was first to arrive for the tour and last to leave. The whole visit took a couple of hours. I think most people stayed for an hour, maybe a bit longer.

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The Sower (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

Of course, Victory of Moral Law and Man Carving His Own Destiny are thematically appealing to me and their execution in various forms (Polasek kept creating and improving) is something to behold. Everything he made, even a statue of Woodrow Wilson he was commissioned to create and woodcarvings for an epic nativity scene he made as a boy in Europe, expresses something meaningful. The male and female nudes are beautiful. A child’s face depicts pure joy. The Sower, from a story in the Bible, sows seeds of good will throughout the world. All of these and the sum total of the experience made the trip to the Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens very nourishing.

But learning more about the artist, who is buried beside his first wife with his own 12th Sta­tion of the Cross (c. 1939) in Winter Park’s cemetery, is an unexpected highlight.

Polasek left Europe for America, settled in the Midwest, carved in wood, changed his mind, went to school, learned, sculpted, earned awards and fellowship in Rome, returned to Chicago, led the Art Institute’s sculpture department for 30 years, moved south to a town founded by a Chicago businessman, survived a stroke, continued to make sculpture and married for the first time at the age of 71, marrying once more when he’d lost the one he’d loved. He appeared to have lived in pursuit of happiness and I think it shows in his best work. Crucially, he understood what the freedom to create means to the creator; he did not take liberty for granted.

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Man Carving His Own Destiny (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

As Albin Polasek wrote:

I am like a piece of rock which has been bro­ken off of the Carpathian Moun­tains in the heart of Czecho­slo­va­kia. Later this crude stone was trans­ported to the Land of the Free: the United States of Amer­ica. This block of stone was myself. Through the oppor­tu­ni­ties that this coun­try gave me, I started to carve out my des­tiny…”