Friday, October 30, 2009

La casa nueva de Kasarova

Vesselina Kasarova's official website finally came back online with a completely new (and much improved) look this morning, thanks to much labor of love by her husband, Roger Kaufmann, and their friend Thomas.

Check it out. Her performance schedule makes me want to move to the more cultured continent (Europe)! The distinctly fascinating Bulgarian-Swiss mezzo is now in Madrid for Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri at Teatro Real which will be broadcast on Radio Clásica on November 10th. You haven't heard a truly feisty Isabella until you've heard Kasarova sing Pensa alla patria!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's Cooking: Panang Curry!

I had recently moved to an apartment (with a real kitchen) on the north side of Balboa Park... My mother would never believe this, but I have actually been using the thing to coax the various food items hidden in my flat mate's refrigerator to transfigure themselves into semi-edible food thingy... luckily without having burned the place down or losing a limb (or an eye) in the process.... yet. I'm not being fashionably humble or anything, but I was banned from mom's kitchen (with the exception of the microwave oven) for good reasons.

Anyhow, thanks to good tips I keep reading at Anik LaChev's blog and watching at, I actually survived an attempt at a (rather stinky) Thai curry today.... Panang Beef is
the dish, and here are the list of ingredients:
Beef, coconut milk, panang curry paste, a bell pepper, a carrot, fish sauce, sugar

(I know, I know, it's far from authentic to be using sweeteners when cooking. But hey! Both my flat mate and I are bachelors. Do you really think we keep a fully (or properly) stocked kitchen!?!)
It wasn't an entirely successful coup, mind you. This thing calls for a can of coconut
milk, but I haven't got any and so decided to substituted with skimmed milk instead. That wasn't a particularly good choice since it doesn't have quite enough body to give the final result that stomach-soothing milky flavor.... though it was likely a bit healthier for my coronary arteries.

We didn't have any carrot in the fridge either, and decided at the last minute not to try to substitute that ingredient with the neighbor's cat (de-furring that thing would take too long :oP).
- Anyhow, I started by de-seeding the bell
pepper and slicing it into rectangular bits. Then slicing the beef tips into thin slices.
- put a sauce pan on medium heat and add a tbsp or so of cooking oil
- add 2 tbsp of panang curry paste and spread it around a bit
- add 1/4 cup of preferably coconut milk (if not, try real milk... rather than the skimmed version). Mix everything into this pink liquid.
- add the beef, then bell pepper and carrot. Keep stirring... and add another 1/4 cup of
- after a few minutes, add a tbsp of fish sauce (or salt, if you haven't got the former) and a tbsp of sugar (I used 2 packages of sweeteners I brought home from the coffee shop... that was too much :oP). Stir it occasionally until the meat and pepper (and carrot) are cooked.

I should warn you.... This thing stinks the place up worse than a wet dog! The taste is quite worth it, though (it's always served over steamed rice, though you can try make a sub-sandwich out of it). My first attempt was edible, but I'll definitely not dump 2 packages of sweetener into the thing before tasting it the next time around... And I'll be using whole milk rather than the fat-free one, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's In A Star Rating Of An Item On

Do you know? Do you? I apparently didn't... and I had written quite a few reviews for that site. :o( Here's something you should look out for:

(issue discovered and exposed by Max)
Intelligent Design is a FAILED postulation. It FAILED in its attempt to masquerade as a scientific theory. It even FAILED in the court of law when Christian parents in Dover, Penn sued to remove it from its wrongful imposition in science class at school there (and the trial, Kitzmiller v Dover, was presided and fairly ruled by a Christian conservative judge!).

What Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort are doing is a disservice both to the Christian religion and to science.... and, most of all, to the intelligence of those they are trying to propagate their willful quackery on. Dr. Ken Miller, the guy doing the lecture in the clip below, is a Christian, which means that he and I have a few things to disagree about. What Dr. Miller is NOT, however, is a sucker who abdicates his ethical will to use his god-given (pure figure of speech here) brain and ability to think in favor of lazily believing the BS other gullible human beings want to put in god's mouth.

Questioning what the certifiably unscientific quacks like Cameron and Comfort say about science is NOT synonymous with questioning god. Think about it.... Is there really a bigger blasphemy than to take whatever idiots like these says to be god's truth without even giving a god a benefit of the doubt that something as mystically powerful as that would be capable of sounding as incoherent and self-contradictory as these guys do?

Aside from KPBS's excellent recap of what happened at Kitzmiller v Dover, those really interested in knowing how Darwin's theory of evolution stacks up against the pseudo-science that is 'intelligent design' should see this very lay-friendly 2 hrs long lecture Dr. Miller gave a few years ago?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Trip to Kobey's

My flatmate and I and another friend went roaming around Kobey's Swab Meet at the San Diego Sport Arena on Sunday. It's a pretty cool place where local merchants (and people who are looking to get rid of stuff they had been hording in the garage) come to dump off their stuff for cheapskate-friendly price on the weekends.
We got there rather late at 2PM, though. It was looking quite gray and foggy, so many of the merchants were already packing up, though not before I had broken my budget and bought up 3 opera CDs and a pocketbook version of Aristophanes... Couldn't believe that I actually didn't have a full CD version of Beethoven's Fidelio! Now I'll get to listen to the whole thing with the amazing Kna (Hans Knappertsbusch) conducting Sena Jurinac and Jan Peerce. A promising cast if there ever was one!
There were also several good fruits vendors there trying to ensnare me with their deliciously ripe persimmons and pomegranates. We haven't got any spare room left in the fridge or in the food cupboard at the moment, though, so no food shopping over the weekend.
My flatmate found a replacement earphone for her iPod, and her friend went positively bubbly at the sight of the foreign currency & rare coins shop. We ran into this cute little soap bubbler and her magical floaty round rainbow making solution on our way out.

She was having quite a time spreading the perks around the swab meet. Too bad I don't chase bubbles all that well these days... only caught 4 or 5 of them while fumbling the rest.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Buy Me If You Can...

Ads twirlers are downtown San Diego's resident street artists. I was walking down 6th Avenue at the eastern outskirt of the Gaslamp Quarter the other day when I ran into this dude at the corner of 6th and Market.

He was a good sport and tried a fancy move for the benefit of my little camera.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview With Esther Barr, A Metalworks Artist Who Turns Copper Into Living Sea

While walking around the Embarcadero Marina Park (north) in San Diego last month during Artwalk2009 looking at tents filled with fantastic arts and crafts by local artists yours truly ran into a positively entrancing exhibit of repoussé capturing marine animals and birds so vividly that I wondered if I hadn't unwittingly escaped into a 5th dimension and an alternate universe where all living things were made of copper and grew on walls... and that maybe I was much an exhibition to them as they were to me!

The metalworks that had me well surrounded that Sunday afternoon was the creation of Esther Barr's imagination and adept handy work. The metalwork artist from Massachusetts now lives and works in Burbank, California (in Los Angeles area) and was kind enough to grant me a cyber interview posted below:

Smorg: How did you get into metalworks art? Why did you decide on copper repoussé as your specialty?
EB: I was only fifteen when I first saw an artist working in copper relief while on a family trip to Israel. We visited many galleries in Safed, an artist colony, where one of the artists was kind enough to invite us back to his studio while he was working on a copper relief piece. This event did not make an immediate impact on me, as it took nearly 25 years before I finally decided to try to form a design with a piece of metal.

I had always wondered what art medium I was really best suited for. Between films I would sometimes work on an oil painting, watercolors, pastels
or printmaking. One day I decided to look up repoussé on the Internet. I found a workshop given by Sharon Anhorn and it changed my life.

Smorg: You grew up by the sea in Massachusetts. How has your upbringing influenced your art?
EB: Marblehead, Massachusetts was a wonderful place to grow up. We were only a couple of blocks from the ocean in one direction. In the other direction there was open undeveloped land (unfortunately no longer there), and a trail that had once been the old railroad tracks. The arts were very important to the town, and I was lucky to have very talented and encouraging art teachers in the public schools.
Every summer for a week The Festival of Arts takes over "Old Town" which is very historic and has a picturesque Town Hall where the original painting "The Spirit of 76" resides. Boston was a little over 30 miles away, so I was able to frequent the Boston Museum of Arts as well as the city's numerous galleries.

Smorg: Were your parents supportive of your career choice?
EB: There was really never any doubt that I wanted to be an artist when I was growing up. My parents were very supportive of my career choices. They supported me when I chose to study at Rhode Island School of Design as an Illustration major and again
when I decided to change my major to Experimental Film Animation and study at California Institute of the Arts.

The most fortunate part is that we never really talked about how I would eventually make a living while I was going to school. This allowed me to concentrate on first trying to become a better artist, and just letting the future take care of itself. When I
decided to quit animation after a 20-year career to become a fine artist, it was valuable to know that I had to take the time (over 3 years) to develop a body of work before I could even think of exhibiting and selling my metal works.

Smorg: Any favorite artist who influences your style?
EB: No particular artist had an overall effect on my work but I
have always loved the Arts and Crafts movement and especially Art Nouveau, which borrows forms from nature and can be highly stylized. When I began to work in metal I didn't want to just re-create the standard metal work images from the past (gingko leaves, pine cones, etc). Most important to me was that I wanted to be able to continue to keep the same feeling of movement I had when designing animation special effects and to now translate this in my images on metal.

Smorg: You are living and working in California now, though. Is the coast here very
different from back east? Do you look at, say, an octopus here and wonder about its counterpart in the Atlantic Ocean?
EB: I have mostly concentrated on creatures from
the Pacific, but I did create a horseshoe crab piece. I admit that I wasn't sure if anyone here would even know what they were, let alone want artwork of a blue-blooded spider (they are not crabs, and have copper based blood) on their walls. To my surprise the piece got a lot of attention and now resides with a geologist who lives in Utah.

Smorg: You also worked with film companies, providing them with special effects animation. What are some of the films where we can see your work in? Tell us a bit about your experience during the project? Any favorite anecdote?
EB: I preferred moving from project to project, studio to studio. The longest stop in my career was my last at Dreamworks Animation. I had been designing effects for Steven Spielberg's company, Amblimation, when Mr. Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg both asked me to join their new studio. Their first project was "The Prince of Egypt"
The studio was in its infancy, so I was able to get involved in both helping to organize the effects department as well as suggesting designs and concepts for the film. It was a great experience to be at the studio in the beginning.

Smorg: I was mesmerized by your Boundless copper relief. It's a still of a fish jumping out of the waves, I think, but the fish seems to have a past and a future somehow. It isn't that it is lifelike, but that it has a life and would jump off from that copper sheet it is barely contained in if only it could.... which could make for an unsettling occurrence. Anyhow! Did you base that work on any real fish you witnessed in a stream somewhere or is he purely the product of your imagination? How close is the final work to what you had in mind when you started sketching it?
EB: I am really pleased to hear that you could feel what I did when I created this piece, I couldn't say it any better than you did. "Boundless" is an adult Chinook salmon in the ocean, starting to make his final journey back again to his original fresh water birthplace.
While traveling the Pacific Northwest I fell in love with travels of salmon and their incredible life cycle transformations, as they migrate from their freshwater birthplaces to the ocean, and later struggle back to return to their place of origin. Their sacrifice perpetuates the species.

When I started this piece, I only had a rough idea of what the final piece would look like. My original designs are often very rough sketches on multiple pieces of paper. Most of this final design was created directly on the copper. I prefer to work intuitively this way and let the piece evolve while I work on it.

Smorg: What sort of music do you enjoy listening to? Do you have it on the stereo while working?
EB: I have a very eclectic music collection, some classical, blues, jazz, rock, Broadway musicals etc, but lately I have mostly been listening to music from the 70's such as Cat Stevens, Leo Kottke, and James Taylor.
I usually have either music playing or one of the two local public radio stations.

Smorg: What are you working on now?
EB: I continue to work on my water creatures but I have decided to also take to the air and feature a new bird series. My first subjects have been hummingbirds.

Using torch-fused glass enamels over my hummingbird reliefs creates a multitude of abstract colors. This is predominately achieved with only one color of glass. The torch heats the metal unevenly causing the copper to oxidize at different rates as the powdered glass fuses. While firing, all I can see are concentrations of bright yellows and oranges, but this gives me a sense of what the piece might become. When the piece is cooled down I finally see the results and either the piece is finished or needs further heating or additional glass enamels.

Smorg: Where can we see your works? Any exhibition planned soon?
EB: I am working on my 2010 schedule of exhibits. Email me from my website for an exhibit schedule and gallery page. You can also find me on Facebook.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bienvenue a l'automne

Autumn is here. A few trees are changing their leaves, though there still aren't enough of them around to preventing me from really missing October in the Midwest.

There is nothing like packing a light lunch in a sandwich bag and going out for a hike along Katy Trail in NW Missouri this time of year... when there isn't a twister in the forecast, that is!

At any rate, autumn on the Pacific Coast has charms all its own, too, crunchy surf is one of them. I took a little trip up to Solana Beach a few miles north of here over the weekend (sort of a reward after all the moving), and came away with a few beach photos. The music used in the clip is 'Le porte bonheur (The Lucky Charm)' by La grande Sophie. I don't know exactly how grand she is in real life, but she sure rocks on my stereo!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cannon battles on San Diego Bay (Sept 2009)

Been busy moving and didn't get around to posting this... from the last weekend of September rather than this first weekend of October. The Maritime Museum had another good smoke cannon shoot out between the Californian (the State's official tall ship) and the visiting Lynx.

I'm afraid both ships were staying up in the Crescent area close to Harbor Island, so I, stuck at the end of Broadway Pier and way too lazy to walk that far up, didn't have very good shots of them. The video parts of the clip were as close as I could get it (this cheap-ish camera can't zoom that far).

The revenue cutter Californian is the taller ship with cleaner (ahem.. or whiter, if you will) sails. The priveteer Lynx is a bit smaller, but no less feisty. They were shooting at anything that moved.... cruise ships and yachts included.