Sunday, April 29, 2007

Generation V

I'm a kid of the music video age, that period squeezed between the vinyl and eight tracks of the 70s and the MP3 files and iPods of the 90s. During my high school and college days, my pop culture world was most heavily influenced by Night Tracks, MTV and VH1.

In celebration of that proud musical heritage I've decided to resurrect a little of that heady time when the whole world seemed to stop for every time a music video by a major artist debuted. I'll be putting some of my favorite forgotten videos here in periodic posts under this same title.

For my first installment I've chosen The Psychedelic Furs, a pop punk band from England made famous in the States by its title song for the movie "Pretty in Pink."

I rediscovered the band a few years ago when I heard "The Ghost in You" while listening to the on board music during a flight to Germany.

As soon as I got home I bought the band's greatest hits CD. Here are a couple more of my favorites from that disc.


"Love My Way"

Looks like the band is touring again and stopping on the Left Coast in July, including a date in San Diego.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Flower power

They say you have to stop and smell the roses. So that's just what my buddy Fergal and I did today.
Like the rest of San Diego, the rose garden on the edge of Balboa Park's museum row is in full bloom.

This cluster of desert plants sits just a few yards away from the rose garden on the upper edge of a canyon that cuts through the center of the park.
Mounted cops . . . woof!

New Orleans rising

My buddy Tommy from New Orleans thought my previous post with the Google Earth images of hurricane damage cast too negative a view of the city 20 months after Hurricane Katrina.

He's probably right. I'm more than a year removed from my life in New Orleans, and my perspective on where the recovery stands is sure to be off the mark.

Tommy wrote this in an email to me:

"Most of us here have moved on from looking at the destruction of Katrina. The way I see it, you're either focused on the future or dwelling on the past. We're all tired of looking back, and it's becoming boring to hear people constantly whine about it."

As proof of the city's forward strides, he sent along these amazing images of building projects either underway or well into the planning stages.

This first highrise, Trump International Hotel and Tower, is a 70-story mixed-use building being developed by The Donald himself. At 716 feet, excluding a 126-foot spire, the tower would easily surpass One Shell Square as the city's tallest structure and would become the tallest building along the Gulf Coast outside of Houston.

A recent Times-Picayune article reported that Trump plans to break ground on the project this summer and complete it in late 2009. Trump International would mark the most significant high-rise construction in the city since the 1980s when the oil bust put the office-tower market into a coma.

Trump had announced plans for the building before the hurricane hit. His commitment to the project in the wake of the storm certainly expressed an element of moral support for the region, but it also represented an important vote of confidence in the city's future prospects.

A local developer wants to construct these side-by-side, 35-story towers in the New Orleans suburb of Jefferson. The $590 million residential towers, dubbed The St. Raymond, would be the tallest buildings in Jefferson Parish.

Their airy, straight-out-of-Dubai designs were dreamed up by famed New York architect Daniel Libeskind, who was a finalist in the World Trade Center master design contest.

The developer is tapping the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, which provides tax incentives for investing in areas damaged by Katrina.

Another group of local developers is building Tracage, a 24-floor, $60 million luxury condo tower on the edge of the Warehouse District. Ground was broken in November, and the building is scheduled to be completed in early 2009.

Lastly, work on Colonial Condominiums is nearing completion on the edge of the French Quarter at the corner of Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue. Though this project won't grab the skyline attention that the others will, it's important because of its location in an area outside the French Quarter boundaries that had struggled to attract significant investment before Katrina.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Orleans - A view from above

I grabbed these remarkable overhead shots of New Orleans using Google Earth. Google updated its satellite images of New Orleans in early April after being criticized for swapping earlier post-Katrina images with views of New Orleans before the hurricane. You can read about that controversy here.

Based on the foliage in the unflooded areas and the angle of shadows, my best guess is that these satellite images were taken sometime in late 2006 or early 2007.

Click on any image to view it larger.
The lower Ninth Ward near the Industrial Canal levee break.
The 17th Street Canal levee break, offering a stark contrast between the flooded side of the waterway in New Orleans (right) and the unflooded side in Metairie.
The gardens surrounding the New Orleans Museum of Art were ravaged by the flood.
One of the areas where mountains of debris were piled.
An area in the Uptown neighborhood where the line between flooded and unflooded is clearly drawn.
These pilings on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain used to hold Jaegers, my favorite place to eat boiled crawfish.
Two of the most recognizable post-hurricane symbols: blue tarps and FEMA trailers.

This block of houses, located across from Notre Dame Seminary, burned for days after the storm.
My old street and house in the Bywater neighborhood.
The word "HELP" painted in the chaotic days after the hurricane on the street just around the corner from my house.
The French Quarter pretty much looks as it always has.
As does the Central Business District.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another Saturday . . . another dog park

Here are the results of my first trip with Nero to Nate's Point near the Cabrillo Bridge on the west side of Balboa Park.

The final scene showing the jet flying over downtown San Diego was shot from Cabrillo Bridge, which crosses Route 163 and leads to the park's large cluster of museums.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

April showers . . . in SoCal!

It rained, no, it poured in San Diego yesterday. Here's the proof.

I grabbed this radar image just after a line of storms moved across the city from the south late yesterday afternoon. Several other lines had already moved through the area. All told, the skies dumped just over half an inch onto the city. I even heard some thunder.

Click on the 24-hour precipitation map below to view it larger. My office is near Fashion Valley, just to the right of downtown and San Diego Bay.

Meanwhile, the mountains just east of the city got a light dusting of snow overnight.

This is a Webcam image from the obervatory on top of Mount Laguna taken around 1 p.m. today. Notice the patches of white stuff on the ground.

Amazingly, it was the largest deluge that I've seen since moving out here a year ago. Normally, when we get rain it falls in trace amounts as a drizzle or mist, nothing like the monsoons that regularly sweep through south Louisiana.

Things get kind of crazy here when it storms because people aren't used to driving in the pouring rain. The roadways tend to develop dangerous slick spots during showers because they accumulate a lot of oil on their surfaces during the long periods that separate storms.

The California Highway Patrol responded to 176 crashes in the area between noon and 10 p.m. yesterday, about triple the normal rate. Read the Union-Tribune's take on yesterday's weather event here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The crawfish are coming

Tickets went on sale today for the 19th annual LSU San Diego Alumni Crawfish Boil. And in keeping with Louisiana tradition, this pre-event turned into a party of its own.

We downed mimosas and bloody Mary's as dozens of people stopped by Kristy's MVP, the San Diego sports bar that serves as the chapter's official gathering spot, to reserve 10-person tables for the Saturday, May 26 event (Labor Day weekend).

The crawfish boil sells out with about 3,000 people each year and must be one of the best mini-Cajun food and music festivals this side of the Rocky Mountains. See my earlier posts about this event here and here.

Chapter leaders and ticket buyers hovered around a map of the event's footprint, which included locations for the music stage, food and merchandise booths and plenty of beer stations. This year's boil is happening on the practice field next to Qualcomm Stadium, the home of the NFL Chargers.

I've managed to rustle up enough people to reserve two side-by-side tables, but I still have four seats available at the table where Rex and I will be sitting. The tickets are $45 each, which covers five pounds of boiled crawfish and all the beer and soda that you can drink.

If you want to buy some of my spare tickets, send me a message through the comment option at the end of this post. Provide a contact name, phone number and/or email. Since I screen all comments before they are published, your message will be withheld and your personal information will not appear anywhere on this blog.


I couldn't make this stuff up

Since we're on the topic of people who never should have been given a microphone, you kids should know about Wing.

Who is Wing? Well, aside from being a woman who clearly has far too much spare time on her hands, she's a Hong Kong native who immigrated to New Zealand about 10 years ago and started taking singing lessons as a hobby.

For a while, her "career" was limited to gigs at local nursing homes and hospitals. But then those crazy boys at South Park discovered her and wrote an entire episode around her covers of Abba songs.

Almost overnight, Wing became an international cult sensation.

While her tone-deaf and rhythmless deliveries of Abba standards are enough to make your ears bleed, her covers of AC/DC heavy metal hits -- including "Back in Black" and "For Those about to Rock" -- are nothing short of apocalyptic.

Don't believe me? Then check out these videos of Wing singing some of her most gut-wrenching karaoke tunes during a performance at a university in New Zealand.

"Mama Mia"

"I Want to Hold Your Hand"

"In the Ghetto"

"Over the Rainbow"

"Close to You"

Haven't suffered enough yet? Then check out Wing's webpage and these samples of some of her other recordings.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Downtown . . . the video

For David and anyone else who might be wondering, the video accompaniment is a cover of Petula Clark's hit song by Elva Connes Miller.

Better known as Mrs. Miller, Elva made a splash in the mid-1960s with her startling renditions of contemporary pop tunes like this one. (Read more about Mrs. Miller here and here. )

"Downtown" appeared on an album titled "Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits."

If you're like me, Mrs. Miller's voice will draw you in like a bloody car crash alongside a highway. On a more personal and slightly troubling note, photos of Mrs. Miller trigger my memories of Miss Ahmie, an elderly Cajun woman who babysat me and my twin sister when we were small.

Want to hear more from this one-of-a-kind diva? Then click here to listen to her takes on these hits -- "A Hard Day's Night," "Let's Hang On" and "Monday, Monday" -- and others.


The challenge: Finding a spot to spend part of Saturday afternoon reading the newspaper, sipping a drink, eating a bite and enjoying a view of the water that wasn't too windy or cool.

The answer: The 40th floor bar at the top of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego.

Back on the ground we walked through nearby Seaport Village, a Disneyesque waterside tourist spot, where we watched this unusual ship steer through the bay.

The 656-foot-long Capricornus Leader is a car carrier capable of transporting 6,500 standard autos or 5,300 luxury vehicles in its 12-deck hold. The ship sails for Japan's Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha.

Monday, April 09, 2007

We've entered the Web video age

We've taken the plunge into the world of Internet video by posting this clip we made over the weekend during our day trip to a palm oasis at Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Click the play button above. We shot the video with Rex's high-testosterone Canon digital camera for his buddy Mariano in Argentina.

This could be the beginning of a whole new blogging obsession.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Desert road trip

We spent Sunday afternoon hiking to this palm oasis near the visitors center at the Anza Borrego Desert State Park , located about two hours east of San Diego.

The cluster of palms sits on top of a spring that bubbles through a fault and flows down the mountain.

Some of the desert plants growing near the visitors center, including some ocotillo.

We didn't encounter much wildlife, just this lizard and this frog (below) being held by a kid who caught the critter in the spring. I'm sure he was breaking half a dozen federal and state laws just by touching it.

We found some of these ancient divots, known as morteros, in huge slabs of granite. The holes were created by native Americans grinding seeds.

We lost the trail at one point, but Rex used his super powerful ballerina pose to get us back on track.

On the way home we watched clouds pour like water over the eastern side of the mountains that separate the desert from the heavily populated coastal region of San Diego County.

Saturday in the park

Nero and I explored another one of San Diego's 13 dog parks this weekend at the end of Grape Street on the eastern edge of Balboa Park. The no-leash area overlooks several small canyons, providing some pretty fantastic views.

Click on the pics to make them larger.

Nero made a few friends.

That's the Navy hospital way on the other side of a canyon that runs through Balboa.

Downtown San Diego provided the backdrop for a nearby golf driving range.