Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chavez Ravine Deal

As if anyone needed an additional reason to severely dislike the Los Angeles Dodgers, let me take a moment to remind my gentle readers of the Dodgers and the Chavez Ravine Deal back in the late 1950s.

PHOTO CREDIT: Unknown photographer (United States), Eviction of the Arechiga family from Chavez Ravine so the Dodgers could build their stadium, May 8, 1959, photograph, 4 x 5 in., Regional History Center, Department of Special Collections

It's a story of broken promises, wicked land deals, slimy business proceedings, highly questionable political wrangling, mayoral lies, forceable evictions, eminent domain, and baseball. Now remember, I love baseball and I love my San Diego Padres - which should explain my distaste for that team 130 miles up Interstate 5.

But alas, this story, often forgotten, must be told and retold and is really quite well told by cartoonist Carlos Saldana in a wonderful Flash-animated cartoon you can watch on your computer by clicking this link: The Chavez Ravine Story. The short of the story, however, is that basically the City of Los Angeles kicked out a huge group of Chicano Americans living self-sufficiently in the Chavez Ravine area -- three whole neighborhoods' worth! -- bulldozed their homes, and promised to rehouse them by building high rise public housing projects in their place. The city then proceeded to give the land (and more) to the Dodgers so they could own it and build themselves a field of dreams, Dodger Stadium. It is a tale of woe, indeed.

Go Padres! Beat L.A.!
(I'm talking about the L.A. Dodgers, not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, ha!)
((why can't we beat you guys this season?))

Sunday, April 17, 2005

OPERA REVIEW: San Diego Opera performs Samuel Barber's "Vanessa"

It's Saturday night, the final dischordant curtain falls, Mary and I turn to each other, we signal with a quick head-bob toward the aisle, and head straight for the exits as a soft trickle of applause follows us the Civic Theatre doors. It is the San Diego Opera and their performance of Samuel Barber's 1958 American opera, "Vanessa."

PHOTO CREDIT: John Gibbins, San Diego Union-Tribune / Get those two off that stage, quick! Soprano Carol Vaness (as Vanessa) and tenor John McVeigh (as Anatol) sing to their hearts' content, and our gentle ears' malcontent.

Nothing against American opera, and nothing against modern opera for that matter, but this was quite honestly a stinker. The uncomfortably weird (for lack of a better adjective) score seemed pulled out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The lead actress playing the opera's namesake, world renown Carol Vaness, was shrill and piercing, especially in her warbly upper register. John McVeigh as Anatol was both small in stature and vocal prowess, seeming to become enveloped whenever singing alongside either Vaness or Margaret Lattimore, who actually played a brilliant Erika. The problem with this opera was threefold.

1) The Story - pretty lame, even to opera standards. Act 2's cliffhanger ending gave us hope for an interesting finale. We've got a secretly pregnant Erika running into the snowy northern woods because she can no longer stand that the father of the child is marrying her aunt. The engagement party goes running after her in a mad panic, Vanessa with them. There's a shriek, then the curtain falls. I'm ready for the intermission to end in hopes that the story can redeem our 2 hour 45 minute evening. Instead of redemption, we've got Vanessa, her mom, and a doctor friend of the family sitting around in Erika's upstairs bedroom waiting to hear back from the search party. Nice way to completely stop the momentum.

2) The Music - awful. Barber didn't give his singers a decent aria all night. Maybe it was Vaness' shrieking or McVeigh's littleness. Or maybe it was just the fact that the second a character seemed to start up something good, another character would break in and once again kill the momentum.

3) The Performance - While Lattimore did a fine job as did Richard Stillwell as the doctor, they couldn't overcome the lead's vocal antics, the lame story, and awful music. The sets were wonderfully designed by San Diego Opera's own Michael Yeargan.

Ah well. I always try to keep an open mind with the modern operas, especially those in English, and always make a point of seeing the more experimental operas each season, but this one just couldn't hack it and quickly finds itself at the bottom of our opera list.

Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra," which we saw last month (March 26) remains our favorite of the 2005 season and hails at the top of our all time favorite operas list.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

House painting is done!

As of 10:35 a.m., our house painting is completely finished! Our odd blue and blue-gray house has seen a radical transformation and now really feels like home (after having lived here for 14 months). The formerly stark white garage door as well as the front yard walls and iron railings have also been painted to match the house and roof for a crisp, clean look. We are gradually putting the front landscaping together and have already finished the rose garden alongside the main driveway, the patio area in front of the kitchen windows, and one of the larger planting areas in front of that. All our trees and roses have sprung back to life for a healthy run at the spring, summer and fall. And our Austrailian Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerfolius), standing prominently inside the driveway turnaround, just keeps getting taller every week - a serious grower that was needed practically no water since planting last year.

So, family and friends, drop by and visit us sometime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

3.9 earthquake rumbled us awake this morning

A 3.9 earthquake rumbled through east San Diego County this morning at 4:06 a.m. It was centered less than six miles from our house and, as you can imagine, shook us awake and sent us springing for the internet to see just how close it was. This was an interesting quake for us, being Southern Californians through and through, because we actually heard it before we felt it. It almost seemed like a 50-foot boulder was rolling down Vista Grande Road and past our house. It was loud and the shaking was stiff and rumbling; unlike how quakes felt when I lived in Huntington Beach where it the earth sloshes around as if floating on the water (HB sits atop a large water table). Where we live in El Cajon (actually, unincorporated county land), it's all decomposed granite, and the earthquake really hammered home that soil composition reality. A couple minutes later there was a smaller aftershock that we hardly felt, but definitely could hear. This is the first time I've ever heard a quake but not felt it.

There appears to be no damage or injuries to report on this temblor.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

We're having our house repainted

We've crossed into 75% complete territory on our house repainting. We've gone from a gray-blue/blue motif to a more earthy beige/tan. Check out the photos page of Lai.motif to a catch a preview before you come by and visit us this summer. The house is being painted by Ed Shelton Painting; Ed goes to our church, Foothills Christian Church.