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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

ZsaZsa writes: Cosmos, dahling, if I have to spend another Friday night this summer cooling my heels in front of a noisy air conditioner while watching whatever movie comes out of that bright red envelop again, I don’t know what I’ll do. Any suggestions?

Cosmos: I know exactly how you feel. Thankfully the San Diego Museum of Art has moved its annual Screen on the Green outdoor film festival to Friday nights…one of the only nights on my calendar that isn’t already spent at a free concert event in the Park.

In case you’ve been in the dog house for the past decade, the San Diego Museum of Art has been screening free movies on their east lawn in front of the Botanical Building every summer since 2001. And though the films begin at sundown, 8:00pm, it’s best to arrive early to mark your territory for this popular community event.

The film selection is generally tied to the museum’s special exhibitions or collections. For instance, this Friday, July 22, Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, will be shown in conjunction with the current exhibition of Gustav Stickley’s Arts & Crafts-style furniture and décor.

On August 5, Burt Lancaster stars in The Train as a French train engineer attempting to stop the Nazis from leaving France with valuable works of art stolen from a museum. Wrapping up the series on August 19 will be the Akira Kurosawa classic, The Hidden Fortress, in collaboration with the San Diego Asian Film Foundation.

As much as Screen on the Green is a great opportunity to see some of the best art-related films ever made, it’s also the dog-friendliest gathering of movie hounds in San Diego. But please be sure to turn off your cell phone before the movie starts.

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If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I make no bones about the fact that the main things I look for in an event are “dog-friendly,” “food,” “music,” and “free.” Fortunately summers in Balboa Park are filled with activities that fit that bill, including the Bird Park Concert Series.

While we generally talk about Balboa Park as if were just one big park—because it is—we sometimes lose sight of the fact that it is made up of numerous parks (including three dog parks) that border a half-dozen different communities. For the past nine years, one of those communities, North Park, has hosted a free music festival in a quaint neighborhood park at the corner of Upas and 28th Street.

You have to love the Bird Park Concert Series’ criteria for selecting performers: family friendly, good for dancing, representing diverse music genres, and local talent who play original music. Meeting those requirements are the three upcoming performers: bluegrass band Virtual Strangers (July 16), the jazz-infused Steph Johnson Band (July 30), and the dynamic salsa/Latin jazz band Latin-A-Go-Go (August 30).

The twilight concerts begin each Saturday at 5:30pm and draw hundreds of individuals, couples, and families from the surrounding neighborhood with four-legged friends and picnic baskets in tow (that’s the food part). I’m truly in doggie heaven “mingling” with animal-loving strangers who are generous with their food or, even better, insist on trying to dance while eating it.

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 From Polar Bears to Penguins, San Diego Natural History Museum, Balboa ParkWhile most residents agree that San Diego, and Balboa Park in particular, are some of the coolest places on Earth, they certainly aren’t among the coldest, which is why we love to live, work, and play here.

The dubious “honor” of the coldest places on Earth of course goes to the two Polar Regions—though certain flippered and fury friends of mine aren’t complaining. In fact, a new exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum examines just how important it is that the Poles stay nice and chilly for both cold-loving critters and us warm weather hounds.

Through special interactive displays, videos, games, and authentic artifacts, Ends of the Earth: From Polar Bears to Penguins transports visitors to two of the most remote and mysterious regions on the planet, beginning with the Arctic Circle, a.k.a. the North Pole, before heading down to Antarctica, the bottom end of the Earth.

Young pups will especially enjoy climbing inside a polar bear’s den, putting on a penguin suit to learn how to walk and slide like a penguin, and testing their skills at the “Feed the Chick Game.” At the end of each main section, visitors have an opportunity to test their knowledge in a four-person video quiz game.

But while polar bears and penguins steal the show, other displays explore various aspects of polar geology, including ice bergs and seasonal ice movements, as well as the fragile existence of other animals, insects, birds, and even plants that thrive in sub-zero temperatures—more power to them!

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International Summer Organ Festival, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park“This is the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like a rock star.”

That’s how young organist Jonathan Ortloff thanked the large crowd for its rousing applause during last Monday’s performance at the International Summer Organ Festival.

Every summer, such top dog performers on the international organ circuit are booked to play in the most scenic outdoor pipe organ venue in the world—and this season is no exception.

But regardless of whether you consider yourself a groupie, each Monday night concert (beginning at 7:30pm) presents an excellent opportunity to pack up your pack, including four-legged members, and treat them to the diversity of music styles only possible on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion's 4,530-pipe instrument.

Depending on the night’s performer, you can hear just about anything, including classical compositions, marches, folk songs, big band, show tunes, popular music, as well as original arrangements by the performer—in other words, these aren’t just church songs.

Looking ahead to next week’s performance on July 4, Walt Strony will feature an American-centric program of music by Stephen Foster, Glenn Miller, George Gershwin, and others in celebration of Independence Day. And two weeks later, on July 18, Samuel Soria will play everything from Bach and Handel to John Williams’ “Theme from Jaws.”

But while you should go for the music, you’ll keep coming back for the great community atmosphere these free concerts draw. Young, old, bipedal, quadrupedal, families, friends, singles, couples, aficionados, and even cat-lovers come together under starry nights in this luminous park setting.

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Twilight in the Park 2011 Spreckels Organ Pavilion Balboa ParkIn case you missed it, summer is officially here—it kicked off last night with the first of 30 free outdoor Twilight in the Park concerts. There is truly no better way to unwind from the rat race than by bringing your favorite pooch and other pack-mates for a howling good time.

Twilight in the Park concerts fill the Spreckels Organ Pavilion with good vibes every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings (through August 25) from 6:15 to 7:15pm. Among the diverse performers, some of San Diego’s favorite party bands will hit the stage for lively sing-along opportunities of rock, country, Motown, R&B, and oldies hits from the past half century.

In fact, the next few weeks alone will bring the Beach Boys-inspired three-part harmonies of the CoolRays on June 23; the Elvis tribute band (complete with impersonator) Graceland on June 28; San Diego’s original oldies show band, The Legends, on July 5; and more 50s and 60s dance tunes from Cool Fever on July 13.

Twilight in the Park concerts are also an ideal time to sample a wide range of other music genres, including Dixieland jazz (July 7 and 14), military band music (July 29), Klezmer (July 12), and Cajun and Zydeco (July 26), to name a few coming up in the next month. (Now would be a good time to browse the full schedule and mark your calendar.)

While concessions aren’t a big part of this event, there’s ample space in the Organ Pavilion to spread out for a picnic or nosh on some take-out—just be sure to bring plenty for everyone in your pack as well as your favorite four-legged blogger.

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