Archive for February, 2014

Exploding Stars, Black Holes & Lick Observatory

Astronomer Alex Filippenko, Ph.D., of UC Berkeley, will discuss Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes and the Crisis at Lick Observatory, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, February 26, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.

Dr. Filippenko, Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at UC Berkeley, is a world-renowned expert on some of the most dramatic fields in astronomy, including exploding stars, black holes and cosmology. An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This discovery, based in part on work done by him at Lick Observatory and elsewhere. Voted the “Best Professor” on the Berkeley campus a record nine times.

The first remote mountaintop observatory in the world, Lick Observatory has a remarkable record of discovery spanning 126 years. Lick remains a world leader, such as the discovery and monitoring of exploding stars; the search for planets orbiting other stars, especially Earth-like planets; and the study of giant black holes in the centers of nearby galaxies.

Located on the summit of 4,200′ Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range east of San Jose, Lick is used to develop and test new instruments, such as the “adaptive optics” systems that can give telescopes on Earth clarity that matches or exceeds that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Filippenko was involved in the development of a 0.8-meter robotic telescope at Lick Observatory (KAIT, the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope) that obtains data automatically, every clear night. With KAIT, they have found over 300 supernovae in the past five years.

The UC Berkeley Office of the President has decided that the university’s funding for Lick will be terminated by 2016–2018, given the financial pressures on UC. This crisis has inspired a group of Silicon Valley and Bay Area leaders to begin a serious search for alternative sources of funding to sustain this Bay Area institution. The lecture includes what Lick is all about and why we need to keep it going.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the Smithwick Theater.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
7:00 pm

Admission: Free
Parking: $3.00

(650) 949-7888

Madama Butterfly brings magic and tears to Opera SJ

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san (Madame Butterfly). Photo by Pat Kirk.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to see Opera San Jose’s tremendously entertaining production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, starring one of opera’s most dastardly villains: Lt. BF Pinkerton.

When you have two strong, educated, feminist women in the audience of Madama Butterfly for the first time, you can expect a lot of crossed arms, raised eyebrows, and smirks.  But though the story of an American lieutenant – who believes wives can be as changeable and temporary as the screens in his Japanese home – is barely tolerable, the opera as a whole is gorgeous, tragic, emotional and an auditory blessing.

The story:  Lieutenant BF Pinkerton signs a 999 year lease on a house in Japan that (Bonus!) comes with a free geisha wife!  Even better, the lease is also sort of month to month, and Japanese divorce laws are subject to the whim of a husband, so it’s a win-win deal for Pinkerton.

Not so lucky is sweet young Madama Butterfly, who has fallen in love with her husband and believes this is a till death do them part situation. Unfortunately, Pinkerton has other ideas, and already plans to get a “real” wife when he ships back to America.  Sweet 15 year old Butterfly, to Pinkerton, is merely a “toy” for sex while he’s in Japan, and there is a lot of talk of “breaking her wings” and pinning her for display purposes.  Nice.

Cast 1: Tenor James Callon as BF Pinkerton and soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Even better, Butterfly gives birth to Pinkerton’s son after he leaves for America, and during the entire three years he is gone she believes he will return to meet his son and they will be a permanent family.  On the contrary, Pinkerton plans to return to Japan with his new American wife, and take the child from Butterfly to raise as their own.

Without giving away the ending, you can assume it follows the typical line of opera tragedies.  However, I have learned that the last few seconds of Opera SJ’s show, which brings a swift karma payment to Pinkerton, was added for this production.  I don’t know how opera purists feel about this change, but for me it made the whole story much more palatable.

I have always known I am very lucky to be able to see all these opera productions for the last several years.  This show, however, I felt truly privileged.   The music and singing is beautiful perfection as always, but in Act II Madame Butterfly sings “Un Bel Di” (One Beautiful Day), and it was a magical experience.  I have never felt that before at the opera, but Cecilia Violetta López made me feel I was present for something important.  By the end of Act III López is singing with tears in her eyes, and they were still present during the standing ovation at the end.  Cecilia Violetta López, having previously charmed me as Leila in The Pearl Fishers, has earned her place in this company, and should be considered a huge benefit to Opera SJ.

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san (Madame Butterfly). Photo by Pat Kirk.

Resident tenor James Callon is a perfectly awful BF Pinkerton (in the best way possible) with an amazing voice as usual. Lisa Chavez and Zachary Altman (Suzuki and Sharpless) are spectacular as the only two characters who speak any sense.  And special mention goes to an actor who really deserves mention: Sammy Tittle as Butterfly’s son.  Sammy is quite young and the part requires him to be on stage for much of the show.  He was a quiet scene stealer because he was so absolutely perfect.

There are many visual treats in this production.  The main feature of the set is a changeable lighted screen at the back of the stage.  This provided an impressive opening when the curtain went up.  The screen was lit with giant red and white stripes, and the figures of Lt. Pinkerton and friends standing at attention in uniform set the scene and mood immediately.  Later in Act I Madame Butterfly and her friends and sisters appear in their full geisha costumes and make-up, and gorgeous multicolored parasols.  But while there were some individual scenes that stood out, I was underwhelmed by the stage setting as a whole.  I have seen some drop-dead stage designs at Opera SJ before, and I was really looking forward to being immersed in a gorgeous Japanese setting.  On the contrary, I was not.  However, this is a minor disappointment in what quickly became one of my best experiences at the opera.

I am open about not knowing anything technical about opera, but I know entertainment and a great show when I see one.  Not only is this show now one of my favorite operas I’ve seen so far (and by now I’ve seen quite a few), but some scenes moved me in ways I’ve never felt before.  It’s a show that is suitable for both opera experts and opera newbies.  It’s a show you should not miss.

Madama Butterfly
Opera San Jose
Through March 2nd
California Theatre

 

Free fundraising show in memory of Ryan Viri

Ryan Viri worked at Johnny V’s downtown, where he protected patrons and tried to keep everyone safe while they spent time downtown listening to music.  On the morning of February 12, 2014, he was fatally stabbed after work by someone he had previously thrown out of the bar and on whom he had called the San Jose Police.  Crye Wulf BPM is putting on a free show at Johnny V’s to help raise money for Ryan’s funeral and medical expenses.  The show is February 20, at Johnny V’s, and it’s for ages 21 and over.  Funds will come from the bar profits, and a donation jar will also be available.

If you can’t make that show, or the music isn’t your type of thing, you can still donate to the cause at GoFundMe.

Metblogs sends its condolences to the family of Ryan Viri.  My son was friends with Ryan, and he and many others have been crushed by the loss of a good person with a big heart.  Let’s hope the mayor can get this type of crime under control, as the loss of life in San Jose recently has been far too tremendous.

DONATE HERE
February 20, 2014
Johnny V’s
31 E. Santa Clara Street, San Jose
Doors open at 9pm

 

 

The Best Valentine of all time

Honey and Holly

So you’re looking for someone who will love you forever and ever, never withhold their affections, and ask for nothing in return?

Head over to the Humane Society Silicon Valley this weekend.  All bonded pairs are priced 2 for 1 through Sunday. 

Take Honey and Holly, above.  They love to play together and will occupy each other for hours, and they will love you forever if you can give them a good home.  But they aren’t the only pups looking for a forever Valentine!

Foster dog showcase tomorrow 12-2! Through February 16th all adoptions are 2-for-1 fee so you get twice the love!

Prefer online dates with purrr-fect profiles? Check out these available singles, ready to warm your lap immediately!

Humane Society Silicon Valley
901 Ames Ave, Milpitas, CA 95035
Phone:(408) 262-2133
Hours:  10:30 am – 8:00 pm

“Like” their Facebook page to get regular adoption updates and deals.

 

R. Buckminster Fuller brings a creative mind to The SJ Rep

"R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE!"

My review of R. Buckminster Fuller is way late, but let’s be honest here, it’s because this amazing show just might have been too smart for me.  I didn’t understand every word Fuller said, and I can’t comprehend some of the concepts he was talking about, but I do know it was one certifiably entertaining show.

Let me clarify: I didn’t sit there stupidly wondering what was going on.  The show is profoundly interesting.  I often found my mind wandering while Fuller was talking, but I was just thinking more carefully about something he had said earlier.

Rick Lombardo is taking a risk by bringing R. Buckminster Fuller to the Rep because I don’t think the show is for everyone, but with great risk often comes great theatre.  This is not your typical show, and the show is not for your typical audience.  On the other hand, it may bring in a new audience to the theatre, which is always a good thing.

R. Buckminster Fuller was the science/philosophy/architecture/social science teacher you wish you had.  He was likely a genius, and not only ahead of his time, but ahead of our time as well.  His genius comes with a hypo-eccentricity, which perhaps made it difficult for people to take his ideas seriously, or at least see them to fruition.

I went into this one man show not really sure who Fuller was, only knowing that he had something to do with inventing the geodesic dome.  My mind is currently so crammed full of theatre shows, independant films, and trying to finish a stack of fat library books that I had a very difficult time trying to drum up interest in a show about science. But I have faith in Rick Lombardo, so I went in with the knowledge that Lombardo was likely going to knock my socks off.

I will say that instead, Ron Campbell knocked my socks off with his portrayal of the amazing Fuller.  Campbell is charming and engaging and makes this show more than a science lesson.  As Fuller, he tells the story of his difficult childhood, and explains how his brain works and how he came up with a lot of his ideas.  He was an amazing man, and the show is cerebral and enjoyable.  What better place to hold this forward-thinking show than in the heart of Silicon Valley? Our town was built by forward thinkers, on ideas that were ahead of their time, and concepts that most people could not comprehend.

Let’s not waste any more time here and get this published so you can buy your tickets.

R. Buckminster Fuller
Through February 23
The San Jose Repertory Theatre

 

The Realities of California’s Drought In Santa Clara County

calero creek fish loss

We’ve all heard the stories and seen the photos on the news about just how bad the drought is in California and other states. But today, as I left my neighborhood of green lawns and gardens and drove out into the country I noticed new evidence that took my breath away. Along one of my favorite riding trails runs Calero creek, an area full of wildlife. Fish, crayfish, birds and of course raccoons, skunks, opossum and the occasional bobcat rely on the daily releases from the reservoir to keep the creek flowing. So do the farmers and homes who use wells and creeks for watering their livestock.

As of yesterday the creek is no longer flowing. The banks are dry, and although there are some areas that still hold a small amount of water, those will dry up soon too.

In a 100 yard section of creek bed I saw scores of fish dead or dying. The remaining pools of water are getting smaller and the wildlife trapped in them will die as well.

Unless we get significant rain, there will be few or no releases of water from the reservoir in the near future and the death toll in the creek is heartbreaking.

According to a resource at the Santa Clara Water District offices, all of the reservoirs that use imported water (pumped in from the California Aquaduct for example) are significantly reducing or completely stopping outflow to the creeks. This includes Calero, and Almaden reservoirs.

According to the water district staff person I spoke with, the California department of fish and wildlife (CDFW) is working with the Water District and tough calls have to be made.

The CDFW has closed several streams to fishing until they determine water flows are adequate. You can find a partial list here. Other streams deemed not as important because there aren’t steelhead present, are simply being “turned off”.

What can you do?
It’s time to take our heads out of the sand folks. Take a look at this photo of what is left of the wildlife in Calero creek and ask yourself if you really need to keep your grass green or take a 15 minute shower. Start thinking about how you can conserve.

The  Santa Clara Valley Water District is asking for a 10% reduction in water use. To meet the reduction goal, the water district will double rebates paid to people who conserve water, promote water conservation laws in cities and use technology to convert the county’s wastewater into drinkable water within five years. But that’s in 5 years. We must conserve now.

Learn more about the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.

And while you’re at it. Pray for rain!

 

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Free admission to the Santa Cruz Museum on the the first Friday of every month!

Museum exhibits focus on the natural history of the Santa Cruz region and the Monterey Bay.

Wildlife & Habitats — On display… Owls, Hawks, a Golden Eagle, Reptiles, Amphibians, Foxes, Coyotes, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Jack Rabbits, Brush Rabbits, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret,
California Quail, Hummingbirds Song Birds, Nests, Calls, Squirrels, Raccoons, Skunks
Monarchs and Banana Slugs

The Garden Learning Center provides examples of sustainable garden techniques and was designed to promote water and soil conservation, increase ecological diversity, and keep harmful chemicals out of our watershed. Interpretive panels throughout the garden illustrate concepts in sustainable gardening, and introduce visitors to common native plants suitable for planting in our region.

Geology of Santa Cruz — The Museum features fossilized bones of whales, dolphins and an entire sea cow skeleton – related to several species of manatee and dugong gliding through different waters today.

Learn about Monterey Bay Marine Life in the touch pool, featuring live local intertidal plants and animals. Adjacent to the touch pool you’ll find examples of shells found on regional beaches. Examples of typical marine and shore birds are also displayed.

Parking is available on Pilkington Avenue or in surrounding streets. From April-September you must get a free parking permit from inside the Museum to park on the museum-side of Pilkington Ave. Public transit, Santa Cruz Metro.

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
1305 East Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Friday, February 7, 2014
10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Free admission also on:  03/07, 04/04, 05/02, 06/06

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.