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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

It looks like the barking heads in Washington are no longer dragging their tails when it comes to bringing the troops home from Afghanistan this year. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, there’s no denying that all our returning service members and their families deserve a hero’s welcome, whether they call San Diego home or are just passing through for some much needed R&R.

If there weren’t already a million reasons for men and women in uniform to scout Balboa Park’s amenities this summer, the Blue Star Museum program is adding one more: free admission at participating museums for active duty military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve, and up to five family members through Labor Day.

Over 2,000 museums and cultural attractions across America, including a dozen in San Diego, are participating in this year’s program, and many of those museums are right here in Balboa Park:

  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Mingei International Museum
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego Hall of Champions
  • San Diego History Center
  • The San Diego Museum of Art
  • Veterans Museum and Memorial Center

Summertime is always the best time to see top dog exhibitions in Balboa Park, and this summer is no exception. At the San Diego History Center, for instance, military families can see the unprecedented collaborative exhibition Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse: How the Military Shaped San Diego and its satellite display at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.

The San Diego Museum of Art is rolling out two blockbuster shows this summer: Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain and Sorolla and America. On June 21, the Mingei International Museum opens the very cool Surf Craft — Design and the Culture of Board Riding, and the Museum of Photographic Arts explores the legacy of the legendary photographer Ansel Adams in After Ansel Adams — to mention a few highlights.

Of course the only active duty service dogs permitted in museums are those certified to accompany people with disabilities.

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Cosmos Blog, Ethnic Food Fair, NewmanNewman writes: Dear Cosmos, As Memorial Day weekend approaches, I’m getting more nervous about the Ethnic Food Fair on Sunday. It seems every year I get so overwhelmed with all the choices, I end up missing something good.

Cosmos: We must be litter-mates adopted by different families, because I used to have the very same problem. Even though many of the 30 cultures that participate in the House of Pacific Relations Ethnic Food Fair serve similar dishes each year, certain ones will throw me a curve now and then. And by the time I realize it, I’m stuffed to the jowls and can’t swallow another bite.

Ethnic Food Fair, House of Pacific Relations, Balboa Park, Indian dancer girl, photo by Richard BentonIn recent years, thankfully, the Ethnic Food Fair organizers have become quite web savvy and now post the complete menu of each culture’s offerings well ahead of time. Though to be honest, I don’t know if they do this to be helpful or cruel (in a good way).

Regardless, now that the Ethnic Food Fair menu is live, I can formulate my approach in advance. I can even create a schedule of which food station I’ll be sniffing and begging at for scraps in coordination with the day’s schedule of cultural entertainment.

Though I’m still in the early planning stages, here’s what my morning looks like: I’ll start at the House of France for French pastries and éclairs and the House of Denmark for aebleskiver (sphere-shaped pancakes) and kringle (stuffed pastries). The House of Italy will fuel my day-long scavenging with espressos, cappuccinos, and Americanos.

Once lunchtime rolls around, I’ll be rolling over to the House of Argentina for sausage sandwiches and sausage rolls, the House of Norway for an open-faced shrimp sandwich, and the House of Turkey for a beef kebab sandwich. And once those appetizers are consumed, it’ll be time for a meat pie from the House of Scotland, carne asada nachos from the House of Mexico, and potstickers from the House of China.

If all goes according to schedule, that should leave me ample time (and intestinal space) to hit four to five more houses (toe-nails crossed). If not, well, there’s always next year.

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With our recent run of record-breaking spring temperatures, it’s clearly never too early to think about the coolest places for us hot dogs to chill out. Being a longtime Balboa Park resident, I’ve learned quite a few tricks that both old and new dogs can easily learn to beat the heat.

Journey to the South Pacific, IMAX film, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Balboa ParkFirst and foremost, it’s important to realize that as the mercury rises, so does the AC (and dehumidifiers) inside most Balboa Park museums in order to protect fragile artworks and artifacts.

To put it another way, for less than the price of Costco’s cheapest window air conditioner, my bipedal readers could buy an annual Balboa Park Explorer pass and spend a year’s worth of excessively warm days inside the climate-controlled galleries of over a dozen different museums.

In addition, many museums regularly show movies. So instead of running to the multiplex for the latest “blockbuster” that will be sitting in your nearest Redbox machine before you can say “I can’t believe I spent $12 on that turd!” you can chillax in one of four different state-of-the-art theaters within Balboa Park.

Pawing through this week’s schedule, the Reuben H. Fleet is currently showing the very cool underwater adventure Journey to the South Pacific inside its unique full-dome IMAX theater. The San Diego Natural History Museum shows movies like Ocean Oasis and Great White Shark 3-D in its giant-screen theater all-day long, included in the regular admission price. The Museum of Photographic Arts will be featuring the Japan Film Festival in its cozy screening room this Sunday, May 18. And the San Diego Air & Space Museum presents pup-friendly films, not just in 3-D, but 4-D!

And for us four-legged critters, who generally can’t enter the indoor cultural attractions, it’s worth pointing out Balboa Park has trees, lots of shady trees, something that no San Diego public beach can offer.

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As a young female fresh out of obedience school, I made a conscious decision to focus on my career, one that would eventually land me this gig as Balboa Park’s premier doggie blogger. Though I don’t regret the decision to choose a career over starting a litter, I do at times feel I may be missing out on some of those special moments I see many families share while visiting Balboa Park together.

Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, Balboa Park, photo by Chris ZookThis is doubly the case on Mother’s Day, when hundreds of children and grandchildren treat their family matriarchs to the kinds of experiences that only happen in Balboa Park. Between the dozens of cultural attractions and numerous gardens, there is always something any birth mother would love regardless of what her pups’ budget may be.

For instance, some mom-friendly exhibitions on view this Sunday at the various museums include Function and Fantasy: Steven and William Ladd at the Mingei Museum, which showcases the unusual style of these two top-dog designing brothers as applied to jewelry, textiles, and wearable accessories.

Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities at the San Diego Museum of Man demonstrates the power of creating folk art in the lives of women and families all over the world. And Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain at The San Diego Museum of Art offers an eye-opening look into an important period of Henri’s work through a gorgeous selection of paintings.

Being Balboa Park on a Sunday afternoon, there is no shortage of free outdoor activities as well. Among them, sauntering through the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, taking in a special Mother’s Day concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, browsing scores of finely crafted works by living glass artists at the Art Glass Guild Annual Spring Sale in the Spanish Village Art Center, and, of course where four-legged old maids like me can usually be found, chowing down at the International Cottages’ Lawn Program, hosted by the House of Norway.


Posted in Stuff to Do | add a comment

Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park Dr. Carol Williams, Easter Sunday Concert, photo by Raymond RoyI have a confession. I don’t actually go to Balboa Park every Sunday afternoon when the Park is full of activity, including a number of free events such as the lip-smacking Lawn Programs hosted by the International Cottages and the 2pm concert in Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Following a big Sunday brunch, I’m sometimes just too dog tired to drag my tail off of the couch. This past Sunday was no exception. I would’ve loved nothing more than to take in a well-attended organ concert as part of the Earth Fair celebration. But after a late-night and a bit of the hair of the dog the next morning, I decided it would be best to curb myself in the creature comforts of my own living room for the rest of the day.

However, thanks to the Spreckels Organ Society’s new Ustream feed, I was able to enjoy Sunday’s relaxing concert event as though I was there in the fir. Launched a few months ago, the live streaming of each Sunday’s organ concert was made possible when the Wi-Fi hotspot in Balboa Park was greatly expanded and strengthened last summer thanks to the efforts of the Balboa Park Conservancy, the Balboa Park Online Collaborative, and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria.

To stream the organ concerts live on your computer or mobile device, visit the Spreckels Organ Society’s nifty new website just before or after 2pm on Sunday and click the “Follow” button to join the party. An integrated social stream allows listeners to bark their thoughts and comments during the concert.

If you’re kicking yourself for missing last Sunday’s live concert or Ustream, you can still watch a recording of it throughout this week. There is of course no substitute for being there, but it’s nice to know that our current Internet age allows lazy dogs like me to not miss a beat.

Posted in Concerts and Events | add a comment
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