Thursday, September 8, 2022

The torch is passed to a new era

 Queen Elizabeth II had been the Queen of England well before I was born. Many people have lived a decent length and died with her on the throne. It's pretty darn amazing for someone to be in the spotlight for so long and maintained a nearly impeccable record. There have been many scandals in her family, and yet she sailed through them all with such dignity, a true rock for the Brits and just about everyone else to look up to. The UK had been very blessed to have a monarch like her. 

Queen Elizabeth II in 2012 (West Midlands Police)
Charles III in 2015 (Arnaud Bouissou)

Rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth II. Long live King Charles III! 

Monday, July 25, 2022

From the good old golfing days

Back in fall of 1993, the last semester of my studies at Professional Golfers Career College in Murrieta (the college have long since moved to a bigger and more modern campus in Temecula), I spent every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the driving range of either Menifee Country Club, Sun City Golf Club, or the newly opened Red Hawk Golf Club, giving free swing lessons as the practical part of the college's Techniques of Teaching class.

It wasn't my favorite part of the course. I was there at the college mostly to pass the time while I got old enough to be allowed to play on professional tours, and never intended on any teaching or club professional career. I was what they'd call a 'visual learner'.... What I really looked at tended to get pretty well imprinted in my head, and became hard to get rid of (forget). So, I avoided looking at any golf swing that I would have any problem assimilating into my own swing. When I would go out golfing with others, I'd take very good care to not look directly at their swing. I'd just look at the ball being hit, but not the hitting process.

Naturally, that didn't work very well when I had to correct other people (especially amateur golfers)' swing. My professor, the late Gordie Severson, who happened to also be my own swing coach back then, found that endlessly amusing and got into a wicked streak of sending for me when he'd find particularly obnoxious golf swings that needed fixing. In hindsight, I suspect that was his way of building my tolerance for exposure to really hideous stuff some people do in the process of trying to hit a dimply little white ball...
But I digressed...

Anyhow, the most memorable swing I still can't get out of my head to this day (bless you, Gordie!), I was called to after having scored a much nicer looking swing on the other end of the golf range at Sun City Golf Course. I arrived at the appropriate stall and glanced at Gordie who was trying very hard to hide a growing smirk on his face while indicating that I should take over trying to fix the swing of the grumpy looking gentleman in front of him.

I resigned myself to being on the butt end of another unintentional practical joke from my golf professor and turned to have a glancing look at as the man made a few practice swings. Wouldn't you know it, it was one of the most beautiful golf swings I had ever seen! Something of a very fluid mix of the swings of the young Davis Love III and Steve Elkington; exquisite use of leverage while being beautifully compact at the same time. 

I couldn't believe my eyes. I think I even broke into a very hopeful smile at the thought of being able to actually look at a golf swing full on without fearing having it stuck in my head and messing my game up.

Then the man stepped up and put his iron clubhead behind the ball...

Two full minutes went by, and he still had not progressed into the swing from his address... If you golf, then you know, two minutes standing on top of the ball translates to an eternity and a month. His beautifully relax stance transformed into a tense huff and puff, veins were popping on his neck and forearms. My heart sank... this gorgeous golf swing was going downhill fast.... and he hadn't moved an inch. I glanced back at Gordie, who had turned beet red and was quivering in place from a heroic effort to stifle a chuckle.

'Bastard!' I cursed under my breath, as I watched my designated 'pupil' finally inched his club into a jerky and laborious backswing, took a long pause at the top, and then proceeded to bash down on the ball, producing a perfect shank that nearly took the golfer in the next stall out.

"Well?", snarled my pupil, "What did I do wrong?"
'Oh, you caught me by surprised and I didn't have a good look,' I lied as my pants let off a wisp of smoke, 'Could you hit another one at the 150 banner for me, please.'

Nearly six more minutes, and only two actual swings (and two completely murdered range balls... and they were the abominable two-piece craps of golf balls rather than the wholesome but soft three-piece balata spheres that I was used to hitting) that produced rather undesirable results along with a stream of vocalized grumpiness,... and I was out of stalling option. Luckily for me, I had begrudgingly seen many golf swings in my teens to have one that seemed to offer the solution.

One of the ladies I had golfed with in tournaments in Asia back around 1991 had this weird habit of swinging the club forward past the ball before taking it back into a proper backswing. I never understood before why she did that, but she was a pretty good ball striker for it. So I got up to demonstrate to Mr Tense how I would like him to, as a matter of experiment, when he next addressed the ball, to swing the club forward to point toward the target before taking it back into the real swing and then just go on to hit the ball.

He wasn't keen on it, but as nothing else seemed to have worked for him lately, why not try this weird youngster's strange suggestion. As anyone would predict, the first swing didn't produce a good hit (it's quite a change going from the normal start of any golf swing), but it was still the most solid hit he had that morning. So he tried some more.

It was amazing to see the gorgeous Davis Love III/Steve Elkington-esque golf swing rematerialized and making contact with golf balls on that range. Even Gordie was at a loss for words. (Served him right!) He could diagnose the problem as well as I could, of course, but telling someone to relax.... and actually getting any relaxation out of them. Now, that was a dilemma.

It was a good learning experience for both me and the golfer (who left the range that morning never being told to relax at all). I still don't like looking at other people's golf swings even though I don't golf anymore, but I learned then to appreciate being exposed to different things and ideas. You never know when they would come in handy in giving you more choices of solutions to problems, and understanding why people do things differently. There are as many different ways of smashing the golf balls as there are of skinning a cat.... so to speak.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy Independence Day

It's 4th of July. The founders of this country was nothing if not resilient in the face of division and a whole lot of tribulations. 13 different states stuck together despite of their differences to form a new nation... One that definitely has not lived happily ever after.
Even familial siblings fight and think differently about things, but they still love each other and their parents (well, usually, that is). So, my American brothers and sisters.... Happy Independence Day.

Think of it as the old Sunday dinner or something similar when despite all the fights we have had of late, we sit together for a peaceful meal (firework going off and all). Thankful for what we have, and hopeful to make it another week, probably still fighting all the time, but remembering that we are a family.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Halfway thru 2022...

 I've been very neglectful of this blog... So much has happened since I last regularly posted, and I'm proving to be quite the stellar procrastinator! 

Well... It is July 2022, and where I live in Coastal Southern California you could walk around thinking that the COVID19 pandemic is long over with. Masking isn't even required on public transportation (buses and trains) anymore. I've had 3 shots of the mRNA vaccines, and will have the 4th one when I become eligible. I still mask up going on buses and trains, and when in a crowd. 

Despite all the cycling I do, my immune system is suboptimal, and there is a couple of friends that I visit now and then who have no immune system to speak of (cancer survivors dealing with chronic genetic disease). The last thing I want to do is to bring them that (or other) bug. Sometimes I do get curious looks, but nobody has given me a hard time about it. 

To be honest, it's been difficult trying to post things without adding to the negativity that seem to permeate the air the last few years. There was supposed to be a big relief when the final result of the 2020 presidential election came in, but as everyone knows... that last president we had did his best to screw the whole country over on his way out. It doesn't help that my chief roommate of the last 5 years is a big supporter of his (I live with a family of 5, and their living room TV is on nearly 24/7... tuned exclusively onto Fox News). We don't talk politic in the house, but it's there just under the surface. I haven't been out of my room much when I'm in. All the devious nonsense coming out of that TV all the time is a big deterrent.

Don't get me wrong, I make it a point to rotate my news channel through out the week, one of the seven days being on Fox News.... The last thing I want is to become detached from reality by staying cozy in my own little echo chamber. It doesn't make me a smart cookie, but it does deter me from becoming certifiably delusional. But... Fox News days are just horrendous days where I can feel my limited supply of brain cells dying by the millions. It's hard to believe that the anchor people there can be so determined to turn everything they report into anti-liberal (or even anti-centrist/moderate) propaganda. 

La Dolce Vita by Vincent Figliola
There has to always be this 'us against them' slant... And the 'them' is not some real threats like the more and more hostile to humans climate, the real infectious diseases with high morbidity rate (that render many people unable to return to normal function/work), the Putin-led Russian army that is destroying a neighboring country out of pure spite, the hostile agents that are always trying to hack our various systems, or even the minority faction of Americans who are trying to do away with our separation between church and state in order to turn this country into a theocracy, etc. The 'them' for Fox News anchors are nowadays basically anyone who refuse to grovel at the stinking toes of Donald J Trump. You know it's dire when refusing to side with Trump (even when not siding with his opposites) is regarded as the same as being his enemy. 

Not all cyclists are the lycra-cladded speedsters.

In a way, they remind me of a division in the cycling community these days. Only a small fraction of cyclists are rabid vehicular-cyclists who think everyone should drive their bike the way they drive their car on the street (so that there is no need for bike infrastructure to make separate and relatively safer room for bikes to get around town with), but, oh boy, are they so hugely disproportionally loud compared to the more muted majority. And... they also echo-chamber the heck out of themselves into believing that there are the field leaders that everyone else ought to look up to. 

But they aren't. The not-so-eager-to-make-noise majority is actually more sensible and sane, and not so deluded in some delusion of grandeur (probably why they aren't so loud despite of their numbers)... It would be so nice if they are more compelled to speak up and shatter some delusions when it counts. Like... at election times, or when the various government agencies (like SANDAG or CalTrans) ask for feedback for their upcoming public mobility plans.  

Speaking of which, SANDAG is looking for feedback for their Comprehensive Multimodal Corridor Plan (CMCP) for the Southbay to Sorrento Valley portion. We the public have until July 15th, 2022 to provide the feedback on how they are planning to make this busy commute corridor safer and more efficient for all modes of transportation (automobile, bikes, public transportation, foot, ..., hooves? Anything but teleportation!). The plan can be reviewed and feedback provided HERE

Have your say, or forever hold your peace.... Or something like that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

San Diego Opera's 2021-2022 Season Announcement

Sorry, folks, no time to properly write, so I'll just paste below the San Diego Opera's latest press release.

San Diego Opera Announces 2021-2022 Season

· Fall Concert Series Featuring Stephanie Blythe, Michelle Bradley, and Arturo Chacón-Cruz

· Return to indoor mainstage performances at the San Diego Civic Theatre with productions of Così fan tutte and Roméo et Juliette

· Beth Morrison Production’s Aging Magician to make its triumphant debut at San Diego Opera

· Important and exciting debuts by a number of young singers including Pene Pati, Gihoon Kim, Kristina Mkhitaryan, and Reginald Smith, Jr.

· Soprano Alisa Jordheim makes her welcome return as Despina in Così fan tutte and principal guest conductor Yves Abel returns to lead performances of Roméo et Juliette

· Fall Concert Series supported by The Conrad Prebys Foundation, our 2021 Season Sponsor

San Diego, CA – San Diego Opera is excited to announce its 2021-2022 season, which returns to theatres indoors, after a reduced 2020-2021 season that saw the Company perform innovative drive-in productions during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The season begins on Saturday, October 23, 2021 at 7:30 PM at The Balboa Theatre with a special concert by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe. Stephanie will draw from her vast repertoire of opera and Broadway to present a concert of arias and art songs, as well as a few surprises. Stephanie Blythe made her Company debut in 2014’s A Masked Ball as Ulrica, sang in the Company’s Verdi Requiem that same year, and returned in recital later that fall for We’ll Meet Again: The Songs of Kate Smith. She was scheduled to sing the title role of Gianni Schicchi last season, the first time the lead role was to be sung by a mezzo-soprano, but that production has now been postponed to the 2022-2023 season.

The season continues on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at 7:30 PM at The Conrad Performing Arts Center, Baker Baum Recital Hall with a concert by soprano Michelle Bradley. Michelle dazzled audiences in her 2019 Company debut as Aida and will perform a program of soprano arias, spirituals, and art songs in this intimate concert.

San Diego Opera is very excited to welcome the Company debut of Arturo Chacón-Cruz in concert on Friday, December 3, 2021 at 7:30 PM at the California Center for the Performing Arts, Escondido. Arturo Chacón-Cruz has established himself in recent years as a leading tenor with exciting appearances in renowned theaters and concert halls across the globe. He has sung over 60 roles in more than 30 countries. He is the 2005 winner of the Operalia Competition. Audiences can expect an exciting concert of opera favorites, zarzuela, mariachi, and personal favorites of the Mexican tenor.

The San Diego Opera Vocal Concert Series is supported in part by The Conrad Prebys Foundation, our 2021 Season Sponsor.

San Diego Opera’s mainstage series returns to indoor performances at the San Diego Civic Theatre on Saturday, February 12, 2022 at 7:30 PM for the first of four performances of Mozart’s delightful comedy Così fan tutte. 

Così fan tutte marks the welcome return of soprano Alisa Jordheim, who dazzled local audiences and critics as Gilda in 2019’s production of Rigoletto, as Despina. She is joined by a number of young artists making important house debuts including baritones Reginald Smith, Jr. as Don Alfonso and Gihoon Kim as Guglielmo, who both recently competed in the 2021 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, which was won by Mr. Kim. They are joined by tenor Konu Kim as Ferrando, and mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey as Dorabella. Così fan tutte tells the story of two young soldiers who disguise their identities to test their lovers’ fidelity. 

Will the women fall for their "new" suitors as the opera's title ("All women do it") suggests? Filled with humor and keen insight into human nature, this opera features some of Mozart’s most seductive music. Director Tim Nelson makes his Company debut staging the opera and San Diego Opera’s Chorus Master Bruce Stasyna conducts. Così fan tutte was last presented by San Diego Opera in 2005. Additional performances are February 15, 18, and 20 (matinee), 2022. Così fan tutte will be performed in Italian with English translations above the stage.

Gonoud’s heartbreaking tragedy, Roméo et Juliette continues the mainstage season at the San Diego Civic Theatre when it opens on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at 7:30 PM for the first of four performances. Making important Company debuts for these performances is tenor Pene Pati as Roméo, a role he has sung to critical and popular acclaim. He will be joined by soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan, also in her Company debut, as Juliette. Other House debuts feature baritone Yunpeng Wang as Mercutio and mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit as Stephano. Returning singers include bass Simon Lim, who was last heard as Ramfis in 2019’s Aida, as Friar Laurent; tenor Adrian Kramer, last seen as Don José in 2017’s The Tragedy of Carmen, as Tybalt; and bass Colin Ramsey, last heard as Colline in 2020’s La bohème, as Count Capulet. 

San Diego Opera’s Principal Guest Conductor, Yves Abel, leads the orchestra for these performances and stage director Matthew Ozawa makes his Company debut staging the operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous play. Roméo et Juliette was last presented by San Diego Opera in 2010. Additional performances are March 29, April 1, and 3 (matinee), 2022. Roméo et Juliette will be performed in French with English translations above the stage.

Paola Prestini’s Aging Magician makes its triumphant San Diego Opera debut as part of the 2021-2022 season. Aging Magician was originally scheduled to be performed in March of 2019 but was cancelled because of COVID-19, making San Diego Opera one of the first professional opera companies to cancel a performance due to the pandemic. San Diego Opera is pleased to be able to move this production to this season as a symbol of perseverance and hope. Produced by Beth Morrison Projects, one of the most influential and innovative taste makers on the forefront of the “indie opera” movement, Aging Magician opens on Friday, May 13, 2022 at 7:30 PM at The Balboa Theatre. Additional performances are Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 2 PM and 7:30 PM. Aging Magician will be performed in English with English text above the stage. 

Aging Magician tells the story of Harold, an eccentric and aging clockmaker who is nearing the end of his life. He has been working on a children’s book, called The Aging Magician, and is at a critical point in his story. Should Harold kill off the magician? Should he allow him to live? As Harold ponders these decisions he finds himself transported to a magical place where fiction and reality collide. Aging Magician stars Rinde Eckert in his Company debut as Harold. Aging Magician features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, also in a Company debut. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus have appeared with the New York Philharmonic, The National, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Wye Oak, Shara Nova, International Contemporary Ensemble, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Barbra Streisand, Arcade Fire, Sir Elton John, and Grizzly Bear, among others, in recent seasons. The director is Julian Crouch and the conductor is Dianne Berkun Menaker, both in San Diego Opera debuts. The composer is Paola Prestini. These are the first performances of Aging Magician by San Diego Opera and the West Coast Premiere of the opera.

Pre-season artwork available at:

Only subscriptions to the 2021-2022 season are now on sale. Single tickets will be on sale at a later date. A subscription for the two Main Stage operas begins at a low $70. A subscription for the three vocal concerts starts at $105. Tickets to Aging Magician begin at $35. Subscriptions start at $210 for a full series including the Main Stage operas (Così fan tutte and Roméo et Juliette), the Vocal Concert Series, and Aging Magician and goes up to $1,180 for a full-season of prime orchestra level seating on Saturday nights, the Company’s most popular day. Casts, repertoire, and scheduling are subject to change.

At the heart of every reopening plan is the safety and well-being of our audience, artists, and staff. While it is impossible today to know what our safety protocols will look in the future, we will be taking careful steps to ensure the safety of our guests and employees. Additionally, the different theatres we perform in all have different policies that will be enforced. Guests should visit our website at for the most up-to-date safety policies. It will take all of us working together to keep each other safe. Before arriving to any in-person San Diego Opera performance, we ask that our staff and patrons perform a self-assessment. If they are feeling unwell or showing any symptoms of COVID-19, we ask they do not attend the performance. Our Patron Services team is happy to exchange tickets for our patrons for another time.

Senior citizen discounts of 15% are available to the Main Stage series on Tuesday and Friday subscription packages. Senior citizen discounts of 15% are available to the dētour Series on Saturday subscription packages.

Military discounts (active and retired) of 50% are available to the Main Stage series on Tuesday and Friday subscription packages. Military discounts of 50% are available to the dētour Series on Saturday subscription packages.