Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to perform in Aliso Viejo? It’s true!

One of the special gems of British Columbia if not North America itself is the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (www.vancouversymphony.ca).  Conducted often by its profoundly artistic Music Director, composer and pianist Maestro Bramwell Tovey, the “VSO” always delivers important and beautiful classical musical programs in the Northwest, acts as a showcase for the world’s greatest musical talents, presents and records excellent music for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, serves as a laboratory for up-and-coming Canadian artists, new musical compositions and English language Opera, and is a forum that features Canada’s best and most gifted musicians.

Sadly, the VSO has been a secret from California audiences, as it has not seen a West Coast American tour seen 1979.  But that drought is over.  A deluge of music from the VSO is in the process of showering itself all over the West Coast and California in the next week or two, with performances scheduled to include Santa Barbara’s Granada Theater at 4 pm Sunday, January 27th; the Soka Performing Arts Center at Soka University in Aliso Viejo at 8 pm on Monday, January 28th; and 8 pm Tuesday, January 29th at the McCallum Theater for the Performing Arts in Palm Desert.

Maestro Tovey himself with be conducting the very lively Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, and there will be a performance of the famous, difficult, romantic and beautiful Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor by Jon Kimura Parker, a highly accomplished pianist who has been awarded “The Order of Canada”, the country’s highest civilian honor.  Composer-in-residence Edward Top’s “Totem”, a VSO commissioned original piece, is also making its World Premiere during the tour.  Classical music fans will absolutely love this up-lifting set of performances.  For ticket details see the website listed above.

Photo of Maestro Bramwell Tovey courtesy Vancouver 125, Flickr.

Stanley Cup Champions LA Kings Open Long-Awaited New Season

The Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club surprised hockey fans across North America with their 8th-seeded win of the coveted Stanley Cup last year, and with their entire championship team returning are a good bet to repeat this season; however, after the end of a gruelingly long “lock-out” labor dispute, the season will be hardly half as long as their championship year.  The Kings open their season at home on Saturday, January 19 at Staples Center downtown against the legendary Chicago Blackhawks into just a 48 game season, with only 24 home games this year.

Eight years ago the National Hockey League staged a similar short season after a labor dispute.  Under the new Collective Bargain Agreement, the NHL and Players Association will have ten years of peace.  Hopefully these disputes will not greatly reduce enthusiasm for the sport among fans; but here in California, there is every reason for fans to get ready for a great season.  No Stanley Cup Championship team has ever returned to the ice completely intact, like the Kings.  Only a few teams have won back-to-back Cups.  Though the season may be short, it may be a really historic one for Los Angeles hockey fans.

Of California’s other professional hockey teams, the San Jose Sharks, also open their season on Saturday but in Calgary, Canada vs. the Flames, and the Anaheim Ducks will face the Canucks in Vancouver at Rogers Center the same evening.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas at Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

California Turkey round-up!

Last Thanksgiving season California Political Review gave readers our first inside scoop on the best turkeys in the state.  This year, we are not talking about the new Democrat super-majorities in both Houses of our state legislature, though they are all surely

Janice’s turkey

Shelton Farm’s turkey ranch in Pomona Valley. Courtesy of their website.

turkeys!  We are instead talking about the very best Thanksgiving turkeys, grown right here in sunny California!  According to the California Poultry Federation, over 15 million turkeys are grown annually in California.  California is in the top 6 states for turkey production, with almost $200 million a year in total business.

One of the very best fresh turkeys available is through Gelson’s Markets in southern California, branded as Shelton’s and from Pomona Valley since 1924.  Shelton’s produces great regular and organic chickens on a regular basis for Gelson’s and their turkeys are just as good.  Shelton’s turkeys include USDA guaranteed free range and non-antibiotic birds that are both fresh and frozen and outside of southern California can be found at select natural food stores and finer markets.  Shelton’s birds are better because they are raised in open pens for up to a 1/2 year and are never feed artificial growth stimulants at any time.

Foster Farms, based in Livingston, is a major California-based producer of turkeys through its large processing plant in Fresno.  A huge producer of chickens as well, Foster Farms received an award from the state in 2005 for environmental leadership.  Foster Farms raises good birds that are distributed at major super-markets throughout California

While Foster is one of the biggest quality producers in the country, California is also home to a number of smaller producers that focus on various aspects of providing the public a great turkey.  Branigan’s Turkey Farm was established in rural Woodland in 1942 and raises about 20,000 turkeys a year.  Its’ birds are all natural, no hormones or antibiotics, are free range, and are raised a little longer than some other brands.  Branigan’s turkeys are available through their plant year round (530-662-4205) or through grocery stores with specialty meat departments, mostly in northern California.

Diestel Turkey Ranch is based in beautiful Sonora in the Sierra Nevada foothills, have been in business since 1949, and I can say I have enjoyed their turkeys for years.  The emphasis here is on sustainable farming, natural quality and good taste.  They allow the public to actually visit their ranch.  Their number is 888-4-GOBBLE.

Another good turkey comes from California’s Central Valley, Mary’s Free Range, Organic, and Heritage Turkeys.  Mary’s has been in business since 1954.  Mary’s turkeys roam a farm four times the size of the average commercial turkey ranch, and their organic turkeys are raised on feeds that do not contain any animal by-products, GMOs, antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals.   www.marysturkeys.com.

We like to slow roast our own turkey overnight on a very low setting, and bast the bird frequently to be sure it is nice and moist.  We usually don’t do much by way of seasoning so we can enjoy the taste of the turkey itself.  But we’ve tried a few other recipes and one similarly simple slow roast recipe we like is from Wolfgang Puck and is available at the Food Network website here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/wolfgang-puck/whole-roasted-turkey-recipe/index.html.

And what is the appropriate wine to pair with a turkey?  We think a California Pinot Noir is nice, or a great Santa Barbara Syrah like 2010 Melville “Verna’s Estate’s”, currently $19.99 a bottle at www.klwines.com.

Lake Tahoe still gleams

A vacation at Lake Tahoe remains one of the most reaffirming statements about why it is good to live in California.  Sure, the hard times in our state have hit Tahoe, too.  A number of small businesses that cater to seasonal tourists are now sadly shuttered.  The lake-view Nevada-side Casinos, like Harrah’s and Harvey’s at south shore, are not as full of wagerers as they used to be, and the headliners don’t seem to be booked like they used to be at Harrah’s “South Shore Room.”.  The Cal-Neva at North Shore, once “owned” by Frank Sinatra, doesn’t have live blackjack or craps anymore.  The restaurants have changed and some have closed, like the iconic “Petit Pier” at Tahoe Vista.  It appears that a pretty good number of lakeside homes are up for sale, and that the housing market has slumped just as it has in the rest of the state.

But the Lake is still there, as well as the 77 mile road around it.  And it remains the most beautiful, big, clear, cold, bluest lake in the world.  The blue jays are still there.  Emerald Bay still gleams.  The Ponderosa Pines still emit the wonderful sage perfume that smells of summer at Tahoe.  The economy may suck, but Tahoe is definitely one of the many reasons we Californians have a reason to not give up on our state.

We had a terrific time there for three days and nights last week and I’m glad to share some pictures here.  Including a picture of the best dessert ever, the “Baked Tahoe,” a feature of the Lone Eagle Grill at the Hyatt resort at Incline Village.

Some members of your California Political Review team.

 

View from our room at the Hyatt Incline Village

The Marina at the Hotel.

The beach at the hotel as seen from the outdoors cocktail lounge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Island in the center of Emerald Bay from our boat.

The “Baked Tahoe”. Hard frozen vanilla ice cream atop a nut brownie covered with caramelized marshmellows and drizzled with chocolate sauce and crumbled almond toffee.

Cars

Almost two hours into waiting in line at California Adventure for the new Cars ride, I suddenly had the awful thought that perhaps the line itself, mimicking our insane traffic, was the ride. In other words, you stand in line for a couple of hours, edging your way slowly toward your destination, and then they immediately send you out of the area with an expression of thanks for taking the time.

As it happens, there is a ride at the end of the line, and what a ride it is. Disney spent more than a billion dollars of the $4 billion it put into refurbishing California Adventure, and it’s easy to see where the money went. I don’t know if I’d wait two hours in line again for it. In fact, I won’t. But it’s certainly everything that you would expect from the folks at Disney.

Since I spent 22 minutes in line for every minute that the ride lasted, let’s start off talking about the line itself. In order to accommodate first-month queues, the line snakes, in true Disney fashion, through all sorts of twists and turns to give you the illusion that you’re almost there when in fact you aren’t. Disney was actually the first amusement park to take its lines and do something interesting with them, first to give people the illusion that the waiting time wasn’t so god awful, and second in order to entertain them while they were waiting. Other parks have copied this innovation, but innovation it was when Walt first had the idea of curving lines around and giving people something to look at other than each other.

The Disney philosophy is that you may not notice everything, but “you can feel perfection.” Accordingly, they like to design with an idea that perhaps only one visitor in 100 will notice a given motif, material, or piece of background music, but the other 99 will experience the deep satisfaction that attention to detail provides.

So it is on the long way for Cars. First, there’s the vista of the ride itself. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, or even through the Four Corners location where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. Then you’ve got a sense of what the imagineers have cooked up. It doesn’t look like a Disney version of the Grand Canyon; it looks like the Grand Canyon. That’s not easy and it’s not cheap. But they did it.

While you wait, you see pairs of cars go by. The cars seat six and look like classic 1960s convertibles. One of the conceits of the experience is that you are actually racing against the other car in your pair, although I found myself getting so caught up in the ride itself that I forgot to notice if we won or lost. But now I’m ahead of the story.

Disney of course is masterful at creating rides that load people quickly. (An art they acquired sometime after creating the Submarines, as we all know.) Cars loads up like Small World on steroids—people are in and out of the cars as quickly as in a Parisian bordello.

Did I just say that? Yes. I did.

Once you get loaded, you don’t immediately start to move quickly. Instead, the first two minutes or so of the ride are consumed with a slow-moving interior section where your car seemingly is about to crash into a truck and then veers off at the last minute (think Indiana Jones), passes through big doors into artfully decorated space tricked out to look like a tire store (think the interior of Splash Mountain), and only finally gets you out onto the track, against your “opponent,” for perhaps 75 seconds of spirited racing.

You don’t have to be a roller coaster aficionado to enjoy Cars. In fact, if you are, the ride will let you down. Instead, you move along a twisting track with one steeply banked turn, a couple of quick ups and downs, and some speedy straightaways—a kinder, gentler version of Big Thunder Railroad. If anything, the racing part is just too short. The ride is over all too soon, especially if you spent two hours or more developing shin splints as you circled slowly toward the loading area.

Cars may be brief, but it’s exhilarating, visually arresting, and just plain good fun. If I weren’t so important, I would have stuck around the park and gone single rider a couple of times. If you’re not familiar with single rider, it’s one of the secrets that makes Disneyland bearable on busy days. Just tell the person at the front of that ride, or many others, Splash Mountain and the Grizzly Peak water ride in California Adventure, that you are in fact a “single rider.” You’ll get to cut the line and you’ll be given a place as soon as one opens up, radically shrinking your wait time. Single rider is one of the best-kept secrets in Disneyland, or at least it used to be until now.

Perhaps the wisest course of action is to head over to Cars as soon as you enter the park, get a fast pass, go do a bunch of other stuff, and then return to Cars at the appointed hour. This way, you can avoid the long line and your party can be seated together.

Why would a grown man spent two hours in line for an amusement park ride?

Because it’s fun. Cars is fun. It’s a lot more fun than driving in real cars to Disneyland. But everybody in southern California knew that already.

(New York Times bestselling author Michael Levin runs BusinessGhost.com, America’s leading provider of ghostwritten books.)

Jim Sills, Conservative Political Consultant, Remembered

Jim Sills, Jr., a dedicated conservative who was a political consultant based in San Diego County, died unexpectedly earlier this month just after completing a very successful set of election victories.  One of those surprise victories was the election of long-time conservative activist Gary Kreep to the Superior Court of San Diego County.  The following is a remembrance of Jim Sills penned by Superior Court Judge-elect Gary Kreep.

Jim Sills, Norm Olney and I met in 1969 at University of California at San Diego, where we were all students.  Jim became editor of a student newspaper, DIMENSION, that Norm, Jim, Karl “Klutz” Keating (of the film “The Incredible Bread Machine” fame), and I worked on, with other students there.  At Jim’s suggestion, we formed a Chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) at UCSD, because the College Republicans were mostly a bunch of liberals who did nothing to oppose the left on campus.  We three battled against the left on campus in very real ways, and we earned our stripes in the conservative movement.  We brought William F. Buckley, M. Stanton Evans, Congressman John Ashcroft, Ernst Van Den Haag, and other conservative intellectuals to UCSD to speak.  We stood up to Herbert Marcuse, Byron King (then National Secretary of Students for a
Democratic Society “SDS”), and future Communist Party USA leader Angela Davis, all who were on our campus in those days.  Although the media covered it up, there was regular violence on the UCSD campus, including one night when Jim was attacked from behind and knocked onto concrete, and a brick was thrown at me, narrowly missing my head–that same night, radicals unsuccessfully tried to firebomb the Dean’s Office there.  We often had to work at night to do our conservative deeds, for fear of physical attacks by the left, and reprisals by the anti-conservative UCSD campus administration.

I went on to become California State Chairman of YAF, and Jim was my Executive Director, both of us working out of an office in Kearney Mesa.  We managed to pull a few “coups” in those days, including Jim arranging for a mobile billboard to be donated one weekend for use by YAF.  It was placed in the parking lot of the Towne & Country Inn, in Mission Valley, for the 1976 Republican State Convention there.  It read “CALIFORNIA YOUNG AMERICANS FOR FREEDOM WELCOMES RONALD REAGAN”.  Future President Reagan was attending the Convention, and the billboard landed me a personal meeting with then former Governor Reagan, who thanked me for the billboard and for the support–it was one of the highlights of my life.

Jim also was the architect of YAF’s San Diego City Council Attendance Awards, in which we handed out nicely made plaques for good attendance, and lampooned those who failed to appear for their City Council meetings.  We gave former City Councilman, and former Congressman, Bill Lowery the “Vacationer of the Year Award,” for his 7 vacations from Council meetings in one year–the award was presented by YAFer Greg Dundas, who was wearing bermuda shorts, tennis shoes, white socks, sunglasses, and a Hawaiian shirt for the ceremony.  We also gave a map of downtown San Diego to another Member of the Council, who had missed 44% of all meetings that year.  The media loved it, covered it, and laughed like crazy at our antics.  One former San Diego City Councilman, who later became a San Diego County Superior Court Judge, one day showed me plaques that I had given him years before for his good attendance that were hanging in his Court chambers, and he told me how he was proud of the awards.

Jim, Norm, and I stayed friends every since.  As anyone who knew Jim could tell you, he NEVER talked about himself, or what he was doing for his clients, or, for that matter, who his clients even were in any specific election.  But Jim let a few of us have a little look inside Jim.

After my near death experience in 2010, Jim told me about his brother having similar heart bypass surgery a few years before, and how he had come through that just fine–he was trying to encourage me that I could resume a complete life after essentially dying twice in the hospital.  According to those present, when Jim first came to the hospital, and he saw me all full of tubes in my mouth, and attached to a lot of machines, as the doctors fought to save my life, he started crying.  He also brought me a 1959 Willie Mays baseball card–he knew Willie was my childhood hero.

This year, it is no exaggeration to say that he was, in large part, responsible for my election as a San Diego County Superior Court Judge.  He died the Friday after the election, before I re-took the lead in the balloting for the final time in one of the closest judicial elections in San Diego history.  However, I believe that Jim has been watching down on the vote counting, and he now has one of his big smiles on his face, happy that I won the election.

Jim Sills, upper right, with, counterclockwise, Norm Olney, Kevin Olson, and Gary Kreep, circa 2003

Jim was a true friend, and I’m not ashamed to say that I have been crying too since I found out about his death.  Jim had a profound, and positive, impact on my life, and I will miss him greatly.

Congrats to L.A. Kings, Stanley Cup Champions!

Courtesy L.A. Kings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings who have brought the fabled hockey Stanley Cup to the Kings organization for the first time in history!  On Thursday downtown Los Angeles will celebrate with a big parade!  Details on the noon start time and parade route can be found here:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/06/kings-parade-la.html

 

 

I got my Stanley Cup Tickets! Go Kings!

While the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils battle it out for the Eastern Division Championship in the National Hockey League, the rest of us in California who are rooting for a Stanley Cup Championship are carefully considering our ticket options.  And I did nab two for the big 3rd game, the first game in Los Angeles, on Monday night June 4!  I’m hoping the Kings will continue their streak of winning 10 playoff road games in a row on the road and will be coming to Los Angeles on that day two games up for the coveted Stanley Cup.  Wow, we will be

Picture of Dustin Brown, Team Captain, courtesy LA Kings.

giving those dreaded Canadian teams a comeuppance if we win the Cup, regardless of all the Canadians working for us!

 

CA Everest Team Leaving For Summit Bid!

After all the planning, preparation, acclimatization climbs, and getting rested and strong at Base Camp we are leaving for our summit attempt!  We spent the last couple days doing our final preparations as we have watched the weather show signs of improvement.

This season on Mt Everest has been characterized by higher and more consistent winds than normal.  We have watched the upper reaches of Mt Everest get blasted by 120+mph winds for most of this spring.  The summit of Mt Everest is high enough to be in jet stream force winds (it’s at an altitude where commercial airliners normally fly!), but to see the winds consistently blast the summit week after week with no abatement is unusual.  Each season in May the jet stream moves north of the Himalayas and raises in altitude as the weather pattern changes when the summer monsoon season begins to build to the south over India.  Sometimes the jet stream lifts off of the summit for as short as a couple days and other times it stops tickling the top of Everest for as long as a week or more.  Currently the weather is showing signs of this activity starting to occur.  We are receiving forecasts of a “medium” confidence level that are confirming what we’re seeing.

Our high camps are now in place and an advance team is heading up to the South Col where our highest camp is located at 7955m/26,100′.  This team’s job will be to carry up and anchor fixed rope into the steeper parts of the route to offer us protection while we climb.  With all our logistics in place and seeing what we want in the weather pattern the time is right for our summit attempt.  Here is our projected schedule:

May 15:  Climb from Base Camp to Camp 2 (6495m/21,309′)
May 16:  Rest at C2
May 17:  Climb from C2 to C3 (7406m/24,300′)
May 18:  Climb from C3 to C4 (7955m/26,100′)
May 19:  Summit Day, return to C4
May 20:  Descend from C4 to C2
May 21:  Descend from C2 to Base Camp

Climbing with us will be our faithful companion Kancha Nuru Sherpa.  Kancha is from the town of Phortse in the Solo Khumbu region of Nepal.  Many strong Sherpa’s have hailed from Phortse and they are fiercely proud of their reputation.  Kancha speaks good English having grown up walking to the neighboring village of Khumjung where Sir Edmund Hillary helped establish a school for the Sherpa community in 1961.  Following in the footsteps of the legendary Tigers Of The Snow including Tenzing Norgay who climbed with Hillary on the first ascent in 1953, Nawang Gombu who climbed with the first American Jim Whittaker in 1963 and became the first person to summit Everest twice, and many others Kancha first reached the summit of Mt Everest with Kurt Wedberg on May 21, 2008.  He has gone on to reach the summit each year since then.  It will be a pleasure to climb with Kancha once again on this summit attempt.

Our first goal on this climb is safety.  We plan to climb as safely as possible and return from this trip healthy.  Assuming we can stay within an acceptable margin of safety our second goal is to reach the summit of Mt Everest.  While we can’t eliminate danger we plan to do everything we can to minimize the risk.

Thank you to everybody for your continued prayers and support for our climb.  We have appreciated all the comments and well wishes thus far and we can definitely feel your support from half way around the world.  We will do our best to keep you updated on our progress along our journey and look forward to connecting with you all upon our return!

(You can follow the team’s progress on the Sierra Mountaineering blog.)