Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holiday Shout Outs

It's that festive time of the year again! I'm too well stuffed to think of anything interesting to say so I'll cop out by giving a shout out to a few do-gooders I've heard about recently... in no particular order:

Jefferson Lab is making science fun and easy to understand with their excellent
Youtube channel.

This is how real science is done, mates! You observe a phenomenon and make predictive guesses (hypotheses) on what makes it go the way it does. Predictiveness is the key! If this causes that to happen, then what will happen if I do this and that to it? This is what makes a scientific guess (hypothesis) special. You can falsify it against real observation and see if you guessed wrong or not.

2. Rachel Maddow, the adorable (though at times in a rather irritating manner) and
as-smart-as-a-whip host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show and at Air America Radio is making it hard for me to completely give up on journalism.

Photo: The Rachel Maddow Show

She is quite to the left of me and we disagree on a few issues, but she has convinced me that she always does her very best to get the facts straight before reporting them... And that in the rare occasions that she doesn't she always promptly corrects herself and apologizes. Never mind what David Frum says. The lass is an honest and straight shooter who is also a pleasure to both agree and disagree with!

3. Prince William of Wales spending a homeless night out on the frozen street of
London for a good cause. It is too easy to sit in a well heated home while lumping all street people together as being deserving of their misfortunes. Some are, to be sure, but many more aren't and it really doesn't take much to help them get back on their feet. It takes guts for a prince to voluntarily have a taste of it without shining a spotlight onto himself (only one photo was released well after the deed was performed). Photo: Centrepoint/AP

I think his mum would be proud!

4. Joyce DiDonato. The American mezzo-soprano not only burns down the stage with her intensity and superb skills every time she goes to work, but also keeps a refreshingly down to earth and regularly updated blog that allows us outsiders a good glimpse at life as a deservedly successful performance artist.

Photo: Sheila Rock

She also posted the best holiday greetings on it this year with a generous gesture worth imitating!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to all my friends and readers, of course! Thanks for putting up with my smorginess all this time. I'm taking your remarkable patience for granted now and hereby impose upon you yet another one of my operatic indulgences...

This is the marvelous Vesselina Kasarova really rocking the boat (or rather, the concert house in Bremen) with Ariodante's final bravura aria, Dopo notte. Merrily accompanying her from the orchestra is Maestro Harry Bicket (obviously from his pace setting... another rock music lover in disguise as a classical conductor!)!

Monday, December 21, 2009

San Diego Bay lighted both naturally and unnaturally

It's the holiday season in San Diego. I was missing the snow and cold of winter until I went to see the 'Parade of Lights' on the bay Sunday night and realize how nice it is here this time of year. Back in the Midwest the Mississippi and the Missouri would be mostly frozen by now!
This is a favorite little hidden corner between the Convention Center and Embarcadero Marina Park - South. A glimpse of lingering autumn?

Anyhow, I got to downtown rather early at the cost of missing the football game. :oP I was rewarded by views like these, though...

Embarcadero Marina Park - South, looking northeast toward the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The Fishing Pier jutting into the San Diego Bay at the tip of the park

It doesn't get any more romantic a setting than this, does it?

This was the 38th edition of the Parade of Light and quite a few San Diegans showed up to cheer on the procession of lighted boats of every denomination (there were even some lighted kayaks out there along with the yachts, sail boats, and tall ships!)... after having watched the San Diego Chargers snatched victory from the charging jaws of the Cincinnati Bengals to clinch their NFL division, of course.

In the background is the lighted San Diego-Coronado Bridge.

So... if you hear "Go Chargers!" being roared around in the midst of all the Christmas noels being sung in the clip below, now you know why.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all!

Joyeux Noël à tous!
Frohe Weihnachten an Alle!
Buon Natale a tutti!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Apartmentful of Influenza

It's the second week of December and Mr. Winter is enjoying a breezy visit to San Diego, impressing the town with his sheer wetness. My nose is so taken with it all that it is trying to run off with him while I'm being distracted by the heatedly argumentative Mr. Flu (who dropped in uninvited and tried to steal the turkey!). Apparently Mr. Flu has been roaming around stirring up arguments across the neighborhood (what a baddie!). My flat mate is staying clear of him, though can't seem to avoid running into his slightly milder mannered brother, Mr. Cold.
Needless to say, ours is a rather infectious household at the present. Though I should report that I'm ahead in my tug-of-war with that formidable Mr. Winter (Mr. Flu not withstanding) and will likely get to keep my nose (even though it has now gained a rather off-putting runny quality in the process). Another good news is that even though I'm coughing like a meowing fur ball manufacturing machine, there remains no evidence whatsoever to suggest any trans-speciation event from a household Homo sapiens to a Sus scrofa domestica (in other words, I still can neither speak Swinese nor oink convincingly).

Being bummed from having to put up with the duo of microscopic house guests is definitely not conducive to cooking. So I dug out the bottle of cheaters' tom yum curry paste from the cabinet, some mushrooms I found hiding in the forest that is trying to pass itself off as the interior of the refrigerator, and the bag of shrimps that has been pining away in the freezer for months (evidently waiting for the sea level to finally turn my apartment into a beach front property), and dumped them all into a pot of boiling water...

Seasoned the thing with fish sauce, lime juice, and lemongrass... And, voila! A (mostly) liquid bowl of sinus Drano to keep my flat mate and I warm and cozy. One of these days I might learn how to make a proper pot of Tom Yum soup without using the cheaters' paste (they are sold at Asian markets here for around $1.25 a bottle)... But not while sneeze-inducing Mr. Flu and Mr. Cold are still around!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Out And About All Weekend!

I finally got to hear Beethoven's ninth symphony live on Friday night when the San Diego Master Chorale and the San Diego Symphony under Jahja Ling had their first of three performances of the piece at Copley Hall in downtown San Diego.

Those not familiar with classical music would still probably know a bit of Beethoven's 9th as the famous 'Ode to Joy', of course. That bit of music comes over 50 minutes into the piece, though. The monstrous (in more ways than one) symphony is a remarkable composition that looks both backward and forward in its resolve to enjoy life in all its manifestations. A study in musical story-telling (Wagner probably got his 'Leitmotif' idea from Beethoven's last symphony) that made use of dissonance without losing sight of the virtues of melody and harmony. A genius Beethoven was, he was also mindful that music is communication and that communication is a two-way street (in other words, it ain't no fun just talking to oneself when there are others around). He pushed the envelope without forgetting to make sure that what he was trying to say could be readily shared by his audience... (which is definitely not something I can say of many melody-hating composers that came after him).

Anyhow, it was quite a good performance. I should admit that Jahja Ling always strikes me as someone a bit too even-tempered for the Romantic Period music (especially the moody works of Beethoven), but he did some serious exorcising from the podium on Friday night and elicited quite a spirited performance from the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

In stead of a bass soloist, they used the baritone Nathaniel Webster to ring in the choral
finale of the symphony, so some vocal gravity was missing even though there was an additional shine to the optimism of the piece. Robert Breault (tenor) and Mary Dunleavy (soprano) were in very good form and had no problem soaring over both the orchestra and the (exasperatingly reliably splendid) San Diego Master Chorale. Rounding out the solo voices was pleasingly dusky voiced (if a bit under-projected) mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor. The capacity audience clapped everyone back for 3 well deserved curtain calls. A definite good start to the holiday season!

Saturday morning saw the 46th edition of the North Park Toyland Parade. Even the weather must have been looking forward to it and the multitude of clouds turned up to watch the event while staying high enough above the ground to avoid raining on the crowd of local residents lining University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Streets.

I'm afraid there wasn't any horse this year, though the equine-deficiency was well substituted by the cheerfully wheeled Derby Dolls and a fleet of spiffily shined hot rods.

My flatmate and I also invaded Balboa Park on Saturday evening to catch a bit of December Night celebration. Judging from the size of the crowd, the sluggish economy sure didn't put much damper on the local holiday spirit....

Though the flu is doing a bit of that to my head so I'll have to write up on it later (my nose is putting on a good show of liquefying itself). Hope December has started well wherever you are!