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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

With all the activities going on throughout Balboa Park this time of year, I understand it may be possible for some folks to overlook that it’s also Top Dog Photo Contest season. Accordingly, I would like to use this blogspace to clear up some confusion and offer a few words of advice to my fellow shutterbugs participating in this year’s contest.

I’m seeing an awful lot of pooches right now running around Balboa Park with cameras and smart phones taking pictures of the Park’s lush scenery. And as much as I don’t want to discourage such activity, remember that the annual Top Dog Photo Contest awards the best photos taken in Balboa Park of a dog, not a photo taken of Balboa Park by a dog.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park Top Dog Photo Contest, Jedi, 2012 WinnerNow that I’ve gotten that important detail out of the way, here are a few other pointers to bear in mind:

Lighting — As tempting as it is to pose your puppy in a cool shaded area, make sure he or she is lit by adequate natural light – but not too much. For the best lighting, come to the Park in the early morning or early evening. No one, canine or human, looks particularly fetching in a photo taken in direct sunlight during the lunch hour.

Rule of Thirds — Though it may seem natural to perfectly center your pooch in the photo (and some prize-winning photos have done just that), you can create a more dynamic composition by pushing elements of interest to one-third of the picture grid, either top/bottom or left/right.

Frame Your Elements — You can also take advantage of lines in architectural or landscape features to lead the viewer’s gaze and establish a border in your picture.

Remove Background Distractions — Before snapping that winning shot, make sure a park visitor hasn’t wandered into the picture frame or there isn’t a corner of a blanket, camera bag, or trashcan in view that will catch the viewer’s eye.

Take a Variety of Shots — See what happens if you zoom in, step back, adjust the angle, take the shot from above or at ground level. It may take a little experimenting to find Fido’s or FiFi’s best side.

But don’t obsess too much.The submission deadline for the 2014 Balboa Park Top Dog Photo Contest is August 4, which will be followed by an online vote of the top 25 finalists.

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Matilda the hamster writes: G’day Cosmos, Being an Aussie, I sometimes feel my adoptive family here in the States doesn’t quite get me. What do you reckon is the best way to teach them about Australian animal culture and behavior?

Cosmos: Having spent way too many hours watching the San Diego Zoo’s live koala cam, I’ve decided in my next life, I’m coming back as a koala bear. They are the true Zen masters of the art of eating and napping all day!

San Diego Zoo, Nighttime Zoo Entertainment, photo (c) San Diego ZooBut I’m sure you want your family to know that there is more to the Australian animal kingdom than koalas and kangaroos—which is why you should send them straight to the San Diego Zoo’s Koalafornia Dreamin’ Nighttime Zoo.

Like you hamsters, many Australians are creatures of the night, making the Nighttime Zoo summer evening hours the best time to visit the new Australian Outback exhibit to see not only koalas and kangaroos, but also wombats, Tasmanian devils, dingos, and wallabies.

The late afternoon and evening hours (until 9pm through September 1) give pack members of all ages special opportunities to learn all about Australia in entertaining ways. At the top of each hour, beginning at 4pm, pups can go on a jumping journey with the Roo Crew, and then on the half hour, beginning at 4:30pm, the Outback Band hits the Front Street Stage for some super hula hoopin’ fun.

At 6:30pm in the Hunte Amphitheater, acrobatic characters bring to life an Aussie legend in the nightly show Australiana II: Return to the Outback. And lastly, no trip down under would be complete without a “Walkabout”—a special parade at 8pm to close out the evening’s festivities.

If that isn’t enough to give your family a new appreciation for all things Aussie, there are plenty of free Crocodile Hunter videos you can stream for them online.


Photo: Nighttime Zoo Entertainment, (c) San Diego Zoo
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Films in the Garden, The San Diego Museum of ArtFor someone of the canine species, the garden is ground zero for all kinds of fun and mischief. Humans simply have no idea what I can turn up in soft, recently replanted soil: crunchy insects, old bones, missing parts from a child’s toy, and, of course, fledgling flora.

One thing I never expect to find in a garden of any kind is classic films and hundreds of people watching them. But that’s exactly what The San Diego Museum of Art will be “growing” in their sculpture garden this summer when it launches the Films in the Garden outdoor film series on Monday, July 14.

Formerly known as “Screen on the Green,” SDMA has moved its long-running summer film screenings into the cozy confines of the May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden, already home to a number of colorful visual treats in the form of 20th-century sculpture.

The four films in the series will screen under the stars every other Monday starting at 8pm and include Blood and Sand with Tyronne Power and Rita Hayworth (July 14); 1492: Conquest of Paradise, a unique retelling of the Christopher Columbus story (July 28); the Audrey Hepburn classic Roman Holiday (August 11); and the Wim Wenders’s sci-fi drama Until the End of the World (August 25).

This family-friendly event encourages folks to bring a picnic basket, though no outside libations are permitted. For packs unable to pack adequate provisions for the night, the sculpture garden’s restaurant will offer a selection of light snacks and beverages, including a full bar.

Be sure to arrive early to mark your territory as seating inside the sculpture court is limited.

Posted in Museums | add a comment

Joaquin Sorolla, portrait of William Howard Taft, San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park, Cosmos BlogIf you’re a patriotic pooch like me, then you are undoubtedly wagging your tail over the fact that the calendar gods have seen fit to schedule July 4 on a Friday this year, making for a perfect three-day weekend to celebrate our great country. But you are also probably wondering how you are going to fill all three days when most fireworks shows don’t last more than 30 minutes.

What some folks may not realize is that there is more to celebrating America than eating charred hamburgers covered in beach sand (though I’m normally not one to complain). In Balboa Park, for example, bipedal citizens can take part in a number of American-themed exhibitions and events this weekend:

  1. Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse: How the Military Shaped San Diego examines the U.S. military’s deep and long history with the region, a story so big it encompasses the San Diego History Center, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the Veteran’s War Memorial and Museum (and venues beyond Balboa Park).
  2. Sorolla and America at The San Diego Museum of Art reveals the special relationship Spain’s top dog artist, Joaquin Sorolla, had with the U.S. art world at the turn of the 20th century, one that included the painting of an official portrait of a U.S. president (William Howard Taft).
  3. Surf Craft — Design and the Culture of Board Riding at the Mingei International Museum surveys the evolution of a unique American art form, highlighting the central role of two alpha dog surfers from San Diego.
  4. The House of U.S.A. Lawn Program at the International Cottages will enable patriots of any breed to extend their Independence Day weekend festivities all the way into late Sunday afternoon thanks to an all-American menu of potato salad, baked beans, apple pie, and, of course, hot dogs.
  5. The Spreckels Organ Pavilion Concert, also on Sunday afternoon, serves up a howling good selection of patriotic tunes performed by Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton. Howling dogs are of course always welcome at these free outdoor concerts.
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Marketers do everything they can these days to get a leg up on their competition. As a result, marketing buzzwords tend to come and go like a hashtag in a social media feed. Yet I can’t help but think the word “eventizing” was coined to describe what the International Summer Organ Festival has been doing for over a quarter century.

International Summer Organ Festival 2014, Balboa ParkWhat else would you call presenting a diverse range of top dog musicians from around the globe under the stars on one of the world’s largest outdoor organs that also happens to be 100 years old and situated in the largest urban cultural park in North America? And if that wasn’t enough “eventizing,” the weekly concerts are free, pet friendly, and the perfect place for a family picnic!

But wait! There’s more! as commercials for my favorite as-seen-on-TV pet products always say.

In addition to playing a distinctive style and genre of organ music at each Monday night concert, certain festival performers eventize their own event. Take next week’s performance on June 30 for instance, when Monte Maxwell from the United States Naval Academy performs with the Navy Band Southwest, one of the U.S. Navy’s finest and oldest continuing musical organizations.

Then on July 14, rising star organist Wyatt Smith is joined by soprano Priti Gandhi. The following week (July 21), San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton brings along special guest Marco Labastida, a tenor. And on July 28, Danish organist Sven Ingvart-Mikkelsen offers a program from medieval times to the present with bombarde player Jens Roemer.

As always, the 10-week series is capped off by the alpha concert events of the summer in Balboa Park: Silent Movie Night on August 18, when Scottish organist Donald McKenzie accompanies projections of two classic silent films, and the festival finale on August 25, featuring San Diego’s current Civic Organist, Dr. Carol Williams, who performs with the Moonlight Serenade Orchestra.

Since advertisers tend to chase their own tails more often than not when it comes to (re-)inventing the latest fad, it’s nice to know some programs are buzz worthy based solely on their own merits.

Posted in Concerts and Events | add a comment
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