Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Tuesday Night Memo: The First Anniversary

A Tuesday Night Memo /
Musings about my life filled with
music, sport and urban travel.
A Tuesday Night Memo celebrates its first anniversary on January 26.  The year has passed quickly.  Yet, there's been so much to write about. And, now that I have an iPhone, I can jot down ideas and store them electronically for instant retrieval instead of trying to commit them all to memory.

Has it really been a year since I launched this blog?

The pleasure of our gardens /
Calla lily.
Here's some background about my blog:  I started writing A Tuesday Night Memo as a means of sharing musings about my life filled with music, sport, and urban travel and to foster community with my friends, family and Facebook colleagues while giving me an opportunity to hone my writing skills.  People who know me well know that I'm passionate about these three areas: music, sport and urban travel.  Additionally, I have used my blog as a vehicle for sharing news and photos about our flower gardens at home. These posts always seem to generate great interest and enthusiasm.  Maybe, it's because of the pretty shapes and colors of the flowers?

A European icon /
The Eiffel Tower on
a spring day in Paris.
Up to now, I have "blogged" 80 entries for A Tuesday Night Memo. Among the subjects I have written about include:  my appreciation of tennis champion Roger Federer, CNN International, classical music, validating our travel through pictures, my interest in wine, photography as art or science, the Giants winning their first World Series since moving to San Francisco, and a profile of Issues, my favorite news and magazine store in Oakland, Calif. I have combined my interest in digital photography with my blog, which has enabled me to illustrate my posts with nice visuals to match the words I write.

A favorite local destination /
Issues, Oakland, Calif.
The feedback you have given me after reading my posts is not only very much appreciated, but I also find it very useful.  Most of it has been positive, but sometimes it's also been critical. Whether good or bad, I've found the feedback a learning tool. From time to time, I like to sneak a peek at my blog's statistics, which are the key indicators showing how many total "hits" the blog has received, which entries have been read the most, and what countries comprise the blog's readership.  The numbers are modest, but nevertheless interesting.

Alondra de la Parra /
"Summer, the Symphony
and the Maestro" is
my most widely-read
blog entry.
Here are a few fun facts about A Tuesday Night Memo I thought you might enjoy:

* Since May 2010 (the earliest date data is available), my blog has been read in at least 19 different countries, including  the United States, Canada, Mexico, France and Russia ~ even India, Brazil and Australia.  The top 10 countries for readership of my blog include  the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Russia, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, South Korea, China, and Germany.

* The biggest spike in my blog's readership happened last October after A Tuesday Night Memo received notice in the Class Notes section of Macalester Today, the alumni quarterly for my alma mater, Macalester College. (Hopefully, a few of my fellow alums bookmarked the page and have been coming back to it regularly.)

* The most widely-read blog entry has been "Summer, the Symphony and the Maestro," about a young (29 years old) and energetic conductor, Alondra de la Parra, whom I saw conduct the San Francisco Symphony last July, with over 300 hits.

Writing about wine /
One of my many
Looking ahead, a few ideas that I'm eager to explore this year include:

* Is imagination more important than knowledge?
* My recent visits to Bay Area museums.
* Connecting our world through music and media.
* My continuing fascination with British television.
* Urban cities: cosmopolitan vs. metropolitan.

In the meantime, I've thoroughly enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you throughout the past year, and I look forward to another exciting year that awaits us.  By the way, I think I know which side of the debate I'm going to take between imagination versus knowledge.

Stay tuned.

All photographs by Michael Dickens; copyright 2004, 2010.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The pleasure of our gardens, part 14

Calla lily / Our first bloom of  the season

One of the many joys of living in northern California is gardening year-round, including winter.  With daytime temperatures reaching the mid-60s last weekend, my wife and I took advantage of the opportunity to get outside and catch up on some overdue yard work and to spend some quality time in our gardens.

We have been waiting what seems an eternity ~ actually a couple of months ~ for a warm, dry weekend.  Because the sun doesn't always shine on cue, we've endured many weekends of rainy and often-chilly temperatures. Certainly, it doesn't measure up that what many of my friends across the country in the East and Midwest have endured:  namely, sub-freezing temperatures and snowy blizzards.  But, we do get spoiled by our moderate, year-round climate.

Our fuchsia / A colorful edition to our front yard

So, with sunny skies aplenty on Saturday afternoon, I mowed and edged the lawn and pulled some weeds, while my wife trimmed back branches to several of our rose bushes; pruning them will come soon.  Then, it was time to take stock of what all of the winter rain has meant to our garden:  Our camellia bush, which has been blooming consistently since November, still has several blooms; ditto for our azalea.  Meanwhile, our fuchsia has enjoyed quality growth thanks to the abundance of rain this season.

Our camellia bush / Late season bloomer

Finally, the first of our calla lilies, which reside on the cool and shady east side of our house, is about a week away from opening its spathe (the part of the lily that is white and shaped like the bell of a trumpet).

Each of our plants has its own growth cycle during the year. Luckily, there is always something in bloom.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gustavo and the L.A. Phil Live

Gustavo and the L.A. Phil Live / A hit at the multiplexes

On Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Philharmonic hit the big screen ~ more than 450 of them throughout the United States and Canada ~ in a high-definition, multimedia spectacle that allowed audiences to see and experience the larger-than-life passion and charisma of conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

My wife and I attended the L.A. Phil Live at the AMC Bay Street cinema in Emeryville, about a 15-minute drive from our house. It was a nice alternative to watching NFL playoff games at home on TV.  I was surprised by the near-capacity turnout for the afternoon event.  Last winter, I went to a mid-week closed-circuit broadcast of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion that featured guests Elvis Costello and Heather Masse at the same multiplex that was modestly attended. Thus, I was skeptical.

However, I'm happy to report that the AMC Bay Street HD visuals and 5.1 surround sound audio looked and sounded terrific. And, just as importantly, the stadium seating was comfortable (with ample leg room) and provided excellent sight lines.  Added up, the $22 ticket price was worth it.

Inspiring performance / The L.A. Philharmonic  performed
works by Adams, Bernstein, Beethoven and Brahms.

Musically, Sunday's program at L.A.'s Disney Concert Hall was both interesting and inspiring.  It began with "Slominsky's Earbox" by John Adams, inspired by Stravinsky's "Chant du Rossignol," and was followed by "Symphony No. 1 (Jeremiah)" by Leonard Bernstein, featuring soloist mezzo-soprano Kelly O'Connor, who stood in the middle of the orchestra.  After intermission, the audience was treated to a wonderful performance of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92," whose second movement is featured in the climatic scene of The King's Speech.  For an encore, the orchestra performed Brahms's "Hungarian Dance No. 1."

All smiles / Gustavo Dudamel knows how to play to the camera. 

The closed-circuit broadcast included backstage interviews with Dudamel and O'Connor, before and during the concert, as well as rehearsal footage of Dudamel going over the repertory with the orchestra.  Clearly, the magnetic Dudamel was the star of the show ~ and throughout the broadcast, there were numerous close-ups of this dynamic, 29-year-old Venezuelan conductor.  Dudamel knows how to play to the camera, and he was very much at ease throughout the entire broadcast.  And, I learned, conductors like Dudamel come off the stage feeling quite thirsty after conducting a complex piece like Beethoven's Seventh, which he did from memory.  Quickly, a valet handed Dudamel a glass of water, which he consumed in no time at all before returning to the stage for further bows and applause.

With the exception of a couple of middle school-aged kids sitting near me who, judging from their inattentiveness throughout the event, looked as if they were dragged into this bit of high-brow culture by their mother instead of being allowed to see Tron or the Harry Potter movie that played next door, our audience was composed mostly of seniors ~ the same age-group that regularly supports the popular Live at the Met opera multiplex broadcasts.

Larger than life on the big screen /
Gustavo Dudamel

Sunday's L.A. Phil Live attendance and overall positive response (based on newspaper accounts I read in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times) gives me hope that this kind of event will become more commonplace. Think about it: It's great outreach for classical music and serves as an excellent vehicle for introducing Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic to a newer, broader ~ even hipper ~ audience.

I'm looking forward to the experience, again.

The L.A. Phil Live series (http://www.laphil.com/laphillive/tickets.cfm) continues on March 13 with Dudamel conducting an all Tchaikovsky program and concludes on June 5 as Dudamel conducts an all Brahms program.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 ~ My Year in Pictures

Self portrait / Me and my iPhone camera.
At Macalester College, 12/27/10.

As most of you who follow this blog or are friends of mine on Facebook know, I'm an avid photographer.  As picture taking has matured from film to digital, the hobby of photography has become easier and more affordable ~ no more buying and storing film ~ and I make it a habit to bring my camera (a Canon PowerShot A570 IS) with me wherever I go or travel. Thanks to the recent addition of an iPhone, I now have two sources for taking pictures.

As a digital photographer, I have become my own editor. For instance, if I take a photo that I'm not happy with, I can easily delete it and re-shoot the photo, then edit it for clarity. Now, thanks to social media like Facebook, uploading and sharing photos with a large group of friends is fast and simple.

During the past year, I've taken more than a thousand photographs of people, places and things.  In revisiting the photo albums I've shot over the past 12 months, I've pulled together a group of 65 photos, including the above self-portrait (taken with my three-week-old iPhone), that I'm pretty excited about.  They cover a variety of things important and interesting to me: Flowers and nature, sports, music, urban landscapes in cities like San Francisco and Seattle, as well as pictures taken during the summer and winter seasons.  And, there's also a few selections from the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., a first-time experience for me.

You may recognize some of these photos, such as the Queen Elizabeth roses, that appeared in my blog during 2010.  No two Queen Elizabeth roses ever seem exactly alike.  Others, like Claes Oldenburg's "Cupid's Span" ~ which is a very visible public art display along the Embarcadero in San Francisco ~ always fascinates me no matter the time of year.  Last month, I photographed "Cupid's Span" on an unusually warm, December Tuesday morning. Returning four days later, I captured it on a foggy, chilly Saturday afternoon.  It's the same public art display, but the weather radically changed its color and appearance.  That is why I always tote my camera along with me whenever I visit San Francisco.  You just never know what you may encounter that is worth photographing.

Now, presented in chronological order from January to December with identifying captions is:  2010 ~ My Year in Pictures.  I hope you enjoy the exhibit and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Cheers and Happy 2011!

1/14/10 ~ An early bloom in our garden: A Pristine rose.

1/14/10 ~ One of the season's first Calla lilies in our garden.

1/23/10 ~ Oregon State coach Craig Robinson (President Obama's
brother-in-law), standing, observes his team against Cal at Haas
Pavilion, Berkeley.

1/30/10 ~ Winter sky, afternoon southern exposure, 2:28 p.m.
I took this photo standing on our deck where there's always
a great view of the sky ~ day or night.

2/2/10 ~ The Ferry Building, San Francisco, 11:31 a.m.

2/14/10 ~ Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, 10:29 a.m.
I took this photo standing across Taylor Street from
the cathedral in Huntington Park.

2/14/10 ~ Grace Cathedral labyrinth, 12:21 p.m.
The Kei-Lun Martial Arts troupe welcomes the
 Lunar New Year of the Tiger.

2/17/10 ~ Apolo Anton Ohno (front) in a 1,000 meter heat race
during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Vancouver, B.C.

2/18/10 ~ Women's curling at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games
in Vancouver, B.C. was our ticket of the day.  There were four
matches going on simultaneously during our session.

2/18/10 ~ Canadian skip Cheryl Bernard puts the curling stone
into play for Team Canada during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Our seats were right on top of the action at the curling rink.

2/19/10 ~ Opening face off of the Belarus-Sweden
men's hockey game in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
There were many NHL players on both squads.

2/19/10 ~ The Olympic Flame, Vancouver, B.C., 5:54 p.m.
We waited in a queue line for about an hour to get an up close
and personal view of the Olympic Flame.

2/20/10 ~ Riding a water taxi under the Burrard Street Bridge to
Granville Island in Vancouver, B.C. during the Olympic Winter Games.
The bridge beautifully frames the snow-capped mountains.

3/6/10 ~ Battle of the Bands outside Haas Pavilion
following the Cal-Stanford women's basketball
game. This is the Stanford drum major.

4/29/10 ~ Our orange roses are in full bloom in the backyard.

5/8/10 ~ A Queen Elizabeth rose in full bloom in our backyard.

5/15/10 ~ Two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher
Tim Lincecum of the Giants versus Houston at AT&T Park.
Who knew in May the Giants would go on to win the World Series?

5/15/10 ~ Claes Oldenburg's "Cupid's Span" along the Embarcadero.
We enjoyed a post-game walk from AT&T Park to the Ferry Building
after a Giants' victory.

5/19/10 ~ A Queen Elizabeth rose in full bloom in our backyard.

5/24/10 ~ Another Queen Elizabeth rose in our backyard garden.
Throughout the year, our Queen Elizabeth rose bush was our most
 prolific one.

5/30/10 ~ Puget Sound as seen from Discovery Park, Seattle,
12:04 p.m.  Exploring nature in Discovery Park is one of my
favorite things to do when visiting Seattle.

5/30/10 ~ Busker fiddlers at the Folk Life Festival on the
Seattle Center grounds.

6/6/10 ~ Window display and an interesting reflection in front of
Article Pract, Telegraph Ave., Oakland, Calif.

6/19/10 ~ Bay Bridge and beyond.  I took this photo looking out
from a parking garage on Howard St. near the Embarcadero.
That's Oakland in the distance.

6/27/10 ~ Indoor labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.
I took this photo at 10:36 a.m. prior to the 11 a.m. Eucharist service.

6/29/10 ~ Alliums.  They start as delicate, airy globes ... 

7/7/10 ~ Target Field, new home of the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis.
The team was on the road during our summer vacation, but
we took a guided tour.

7/9/10 ~ Aftermath of June 18 tornado, Albert Lea, Minn.

7/10/10 ~ Painted Lady butterfly, photographed during a picnic at
my in-laws' house, Albert Lea, Minn.

7/12/10 ~ A little squirrel, a big tree, a tall climb ahead ...
I took this photo in my in-laws' back yard, Albert Lea, Minn.

7/13/10 ~ Sunset on Lake Minnetonka, 8:25 p.m.  I took this photo
from the pier at Maynard's in Excelsior, Minn.

7/21/10 ~ Artisan breads by Mike the Bejkr at the Pop Up General
Store, Oakland, Calif.

7/30/10 ~ Portraying Degas in the Ballet Studio.
I took this photo during the run of  the "Birth of Impressionism"
 show at the De Young Museum of Art, Golden Gate Park.

8/1/10 ~ Blue Bottle Coffee Co. kiosk at the Temescal Farmer's
Market held on Sundays throughout the year in Oakland, Calif.

8/1/10 ~ Sailboats on San Francisco Bay, 2:23 p.m.  I took this
photo from Fort Mason, San Francisco.

8/1/10 ~ Sea gull along the waterfront at Fort Mason, San Francisco.

9/4/10 ~ The Seattle Space Needle, 9:59 p.m.
I took this photo while attending the
Bumbershoot Music and Art Festival.
9/5/10 ~ Ichiro Suzuki at bat in the bottom of the first inning for
the Mariners in a game against Cleveland at Safeco Field.

9/6/10 ~ The Clientele perform on Labor Day at the Bumbershoot
Music and Art Festival, Seattle.  This British band has been a longtime
favorite of mine.  It was my first time seeing them live. 

9/6/10 ~ Jenny and Johnny perform on the Mural Stage at the 2010
Bumbershoot Music and Art Festival, Seattle.

9/23/10 ~ San Francisco City Hall at night, 7:29 p.m.

10/14/10 ~ Queen Elizabeth rose against a backdrop of
the blue sky and clouds, 8:27 a.m.

10/15/10 ~ The No. 2-ranked Cal women's volleyball team:
All for one and one for all.  The Bears reached the NCAA
championship match for the first time in school history.

10/27/10 ~ San Francisco City Hall at night during the
2010 World Series.  The outside lights were filtered orange in
honor of the Giants playing in the 2010 World Series.

11/3/10 ~ Giants rookie catcher Buster Posey during the team's
World Series victory parade in downtown San Francisco.

11/13/10 ~ The front door at A Verb for Keeping Warm, a new knits,
textiles and accessories store in Oakland, Calif., that grew
into a brick and mortar store from a website.

11/14/10 ~ 2009 Black Mountain Vineyards Merlot.

11/18/10 ~ Almost full moon, 6:15 p.m.  I took this photo
standing on our deck.

11/25/10 ~ Thanksgiving Day, Oakland, Calif.
We enjoyed our Thanksgiving Day meal at Lake Chalet.

11/25/10 ~ Thanksgiving Day, Oakland, Calif.,
walking along the shore of Lake Merritt
after our meal at Lake Chalet.

11/26/10 ~ At Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.  It's match point
 as the Cal women's volleyball team wins its first
Pac-10 volleyball championship.

12/7/10 ~ Along the waterfront of the San Francisco Bay, 11:23 a.m.
That's Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge in the background.

12/7/10 ~ Another view of Claes Oldenburg's "Cupid's Span" while
walking along the Embarcadero in San Francisco.  That's the
Ferry Building clock tower in the far background.

12/10/10 ~ Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas leads the
San Francisco Symphony in concert at Davies Symphony Hall.
Our seats in the First Tier provided a good view of MTT conducting.

12/11/10 ~ Venerable Red's Java House, along the Embarcadero.
Red's Java House is a short walk from AT&T Park. 

12/11/10 ~ A view of "Cupid's Span" on a very foggy afternoon.
I took this photo at 3:09 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon walking along
the Embarcadero from AT&T Park to the Ferry Building.

12/11/10 ~ The F-Line street cars connect Fisherman's Wharf with
the Castro by running along the Embarcadero and up Market Street
in San Francisco.

12/14/10 ~ Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Gough) performing at
the Swedish American Hall on upper Market St. in San Francisco.
I was impressed with this quaint and ornate music venue.

12/18/10 ~ Christmas tree ornaments.
I took this photo at the Palace Hotel in
downtown San Francisco.

12/19/10 ~ Inside the Nave at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco on the
Fourth Sunday of Advent.  I took this photo just minutes before the
start of the 11 a.m. Eucharist service.

12/25/10 ~ Christmas Day, Albert Lea, Minn.
I shot this photo during a post-breakfast walk my wife and I
took in Lakeview Park.

12/25/10 ~ Christmas Day, Albert Lea, Minn.
I was impressed with the fresh snow that adorned many outdoor
trees and made for a most festive winter atmosphere.

12/26/10 ~ Fountain Lake, Albert Lea, Minn.
Minnesota's 10,000 lakes freeze during winter and Fountain Lake is
no exception.  At the center is a hut used for ice fishing.

12/27/10 ~ Old Main at Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minn.
This was always my favorite building on campus while I was a
student.  Most of my history courses were in Old Main.

All photos by Michael Dickens, copyright 2010.