Great writing, reading celebrated at TwainFest!

Giant puppets representing Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe roam Old Town San Diego State Historic Park during 2019 TwainFest!
Giant puppets representing Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe roam Old Town San Diego State Historic Park during 2019 TwainFest!

Today I enjoyed one of my very favorite San Diego events. I headed to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park for a celebration of great writing and reading at 2019 TwainFest!

Literature is the focus of this annual festival–the most famous 19th century literature and writers in particular. Produced by Write Out Loud, TwainFest features live readings, performances, period music and costumes, games, and a variety of fun activities for the entire family.

Kids not only develop an appreciation for classic books, but they experience the joy of creativity!

Here comes a tall Mark Twain puppet walking through Old Town San Diego!
Here comes a tall Mark Twain puppet walking through Old Town San Diego!
A noon parade circles the Old Town plaza during 2019 TwainFest, where great writers and reading are celebrated!
A noon parade circles the Old Town plaza during 2019 TwainFest, where great writers and reading are celebrated!
Many characters in 19th century period costume could be spotted at the annual event.
Many characters in 19th century period costume could be spotted at the annual event.
Musical entertainment on the main stage. Fiesta de Reyes presents TwainFest by Write Out Loud. Laughter, Levity and Literature.
Musical entertainment on the main stage. Fiesta de Reyes presents TwainFest by Write Out Loud. Laughter, Levity and Literature.
This sea captain might have been an acquaintance of Herman Melville. He has been joined by Lewis Carroll's Red Queen.
This salty Captain Swordfish might have been an acquaintance of Moby Dick author Herman Melville. He has been joined by Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen.
I met Walt Whitman, who told me this is his first time at TwainFest.
I met poet Walt Whitman, who told me this is his first time at TwainFest.
One of many fun games at TwainFest. Spinning the Wheel of Fiction, in order to solve a literary clue.
One of many fun games at TwainFest. Spinning the Wheel of Fiction, in order to solve a literary clue.
Characters and scenes from Mark Twain's stories could be colored, like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
Characters and scenes from Mark Twain’s stories could be colored, like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
Anyone could walk up, grab a marker, and help write several Never Ending Stories.
Anyone could walk up, grab a marker, and help write several Never Ending Stories.
A performance of a magical folk tale in the Japanese Kamishibai tradition.
A performance of a magical folk tale in the Japanese Kamishibai tradition.
Lively music from 19th century San Diego adds life to the cultural event.
Lively music from 19th century San Diego adds life to the cultural event.
Some fun musical accompaniment nearby.
Some fun musical accompaniment nearby.
Kids were learning how to play drums and the fife.
Kids were learning how to play drums and the fife.
The young and the young at heart could play Victorian era games on the grass, including wheelbarrow races, sack races, egg races and the game of graces.
The young and the young at heart could play Victorian era games on the grass, including wheelbarrow races, sack races, egg races and the game of graces.
A crazy wheelbarrow race is underway. It's hard not to fall out when you turn!
A crazy wheelbarrow race is underway. It’s hard not to fall out when your driver abruptly turns!
Visitors to TwainFest could learn how to make simple books by folding paper and applying fancy cover designs with a glue stick.
Visitors to TwainFest could learn how to make simple books by folding paper and applying fancy cover designs with a glue stick.
Of course, a literature themed event must include lots of classic books.
Of course, a literature themed event must include lots of classic books.
Shelves full of books!
Shelves full of books!
Some history reenactors had set up a Civil War era field encampment.
Some history reenactors had set up a Civil War era field encampment.
Union soldiers in uniform appear at attention.
Union soldiers in uniform appear at attention.
The nearby Headquarters Post Office contained more costumed participants.
The nearby Headquarters Post Office contained more costumed participants.
A working telegraph was on display.
A working telegraph was on display.
While walking about, I noticed many smiling volunteers handing out TwainFest programs.
While walking about, I noticed many smiling people handing out TwainFest programs. (I’m sure Write Out Loud always welcomes new volunteers.)
Stories were being told at the Casa de Estudillo about immigrants, the descendants of early California, and the road to women's suffrage.
Stories were being told at the Casa de Estudillo about immigrants, the descendants of early California, and the road to women’s suffrage.
At the Old Town Courthouse Museum, people could take a literacy test to see whether they could vote in the election of 1872.
At the Old Town Courthouse Museum, people could take a literacy test to see whether they could vote in the election of 1872.
Political illustrations and cartoons from print over a century ago.
Political illustrations and cartoons from print over a century ago.
Young people were enjoying a Mad Hatter tea party, with Alice and other Wonderland characters!
Young people were enjoying a Mad Hatter tea party, with Alice and other Wonderland characters!
It appeared that some people had already painted Tom Sawyer's fence with whitewash!
It appeared that some people had already painted Tom Sawyer’s fence with whitewash!
Is that the Red Queen or the Queen of Hearts? I get them confused.
Is that the Red Queen or the Queen of Hearts? I get them confused.
Don't be an idiom. (You probably don't want to be an oxymoron either.)
Don’t be an idiom. (You probably don’t want to be an oxymoron either.)
More dramatic words were being read inside Old Town's one room Mason Street Schoolhouse. I recognized funny passages from Tom Sawyer.
More dramatic words were being read inside Old Town’s one room Mason Street Schoolhouse. I recognized those funny wart-cure passages from Tom Sawyer.
A puppet show delights kids in Old Town's plaza.
A puppet show delights kids in Old Town’s plaza.
The smiles go on and on during TwainFest...
The smiles and good times live on and on during TwainFest…
...thanks in part to this amiable if somewhat satirical fellow.
…thanks in part to this amiable if somewhat satirical fellow.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Wizard of Oz glass panels at Coronado Library.

Five years ago I blogged about the Wizard of Oz festival which was held in Coronado’s Spreckels Park. After checking out the festival, I took three photos of the beautiful Wizard of Oz glass panels inside the Coronado Library, which is located across Orange Avenue from the park.

Last weekend during my visit to Coronado I enjoyed looking at the panels again. I had stepped into the library to photograph pieces of art by two internationally famous artists. (I’ll post those photos at some point in the future, probably after Comic-Con.)

The thing is, as I paused in front of the wonderful Wizard of Oz artwork at the entrance to the children’s room, I suddenly realized I hadn’t posted photos of all the fun scenes. So I will right now!

This colorful Wizard of Oz Children’s Library Entry Portal was created by artist Brenda Smith.

Enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A few short stories about light in one’s life.

To an ancient person, light is a life-sustaining gift from a distant bright god. To a modern person, light is electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the eye’s retina. To an artist, light might be some of both . . . and much more.

When I write, I’m never certain what precise thing light represents. In many stories it seems to symbolize a life-sustaining hope, or a radiation of the spirit detected by the heart. It might signal a burning love, living with eyes wide open, or intangible rays from beyond that define life’s shape. A glimpse of ultimate truth. A bright gift that is magical, momentary, precious.

I don’t know. What is light to you?

Following are seven short works of fiction where light is an integral part of the story:

Light at the Edges

The Firefly

One Lone Candle

One Strange, Shimmering Dream

How to Paint Angels

A Dance in the Lightning

Walking on Light

Images from Witches’ Night in San Diego!

It’s April 30. Tonight is Witches’ Night!

Certain witches in San Diego haven’t gathered on a dark mountaintop or in a deep forest to work their magic, however. I know this because I spotted them this evening in Balboa Park’s Federal Building, future home of the Comic-Con Museum!

For an enjoyable hour and a half I listened to San Diego State University history professor Elizabeth Pollard and Beth Accomando of KPBS discuss the ancient belief in witchcraft, what distinguishes it from superstition, religion and science, and how witches have been characterized and dealt with by the people of different eras.

Fictional witches discussed ranged from Erichtho and Meroe of ancient Roman literature, to the three witches of Macbeth, to Circe as envisioned by the Pre-Raphaelites, right up to the Wicked Witch of the West, Maleficent, and others we readily recognize today in our popular culture.

Before sitting down in the Comic-Con Museum’s auditorium, those in attendance were able to look at some cultural artifacts, a chilling video loop of Häxan from 1922, and several rare books in the collection of the San Diego State University Library. The main attraction under glass was a scarce early edition of Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) printed in 1494–only fifty years after the Gutenberg press!

Here are a few images from tonight. But please excuse me–I have to go make sure my door is locked, because it’s getting close to midnight!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Photos of Shakespeare celebration in Balboa Park!

Today I headed into Balboa Park to enjoy a special event celebrating Shakespeare’s 455th birthday!

Many activities were centered in sunny Copley Plaza, the hub of The Old Globe’s Conrad Prebys Theatre Center. There was an outdoor performance of Shakespeare in Exile by Grossmont College Theatre Arts students. There was instrumental musical entertainment, a sonnet writing contest, and even an Elizabethan ruff-making station. Inside the lobby of The Old Globe, costumes from some of their past Shakespearean productions were on display.

A bit after noon high school students from all around San Diego gathered on the steps of the Timken Museum of Art. After a welcome speech, a fantastic parade featuring many Elizabethan costumes began along El Prado. Several students were presented with achievement awards at the foot of the Lily Pond as their classmates shouted approval, then the youth fanned out to perform scenes from Shakespeare and other famous plays on several stages along El Prado.

Here are photos that provide a flavor of this truly awesome annual event!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

The little-known studio of an amazing artist!

A small army of Japanese kokeshi fill the James E. Watts Studio in downtown San Diego.
A small army of life-size Japanese kokeshi fill the James E. Watts Studio in downtown San Diego.

I had an utterly amazing experience today.

I was walking through downtown San Diego, along Seventh Avenue, when I noticed a small table saw out on the sidewalk. It was set up in front of an unmarked door–one that I’ve passed many times over the years. When I peered through the open door my eyes nearly popped out of my head!

Through that mysterious door I saw a wonderland!

A friendly person told me that I might step inside. That very cool, funny and interesting guy was James E. Watts, a local artist who has been creating unique works of imagination for decades in San Diego. His pieces have appeared in a variety of exhibitions and at important museums, including both the San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Why the table saw? James Watts was just beginning a new sculpture of Quasimodo, and wooden blocks would be used to form the interior structure. Thin aluminum sheets nailed to the surface would produce the sculpture’s skin.

As you can see from the above photograph, his studio is dominated by a series of these large sculptures. They are based upon Japanese kokeshi, and his fun, symbolic pieces represent all sorts of characters from literature and history. He showed me a female Atlas, Don Quixote (with two small horses), Prometheus, Pandora, Jonah and Leviathan, and Joan of Arc. The humorous, collage-like skins were originally lunchboxes, signs, cans and other bits of colorful aluminum.

Another cool piece he showed me appears to be a combination of the Shroud of Turin, a horizontal religious shrine, and that wacky game Operation. Human anatomy is partitioned. Old age is contemplated. Bones fill box-like compartments. Colorful foam dots and dashes spell out a message in Morse code around the perimeter. The word BEAUTIFUL appears beneath the skull. (If you decipher the Morse code message, please leave a comment!)

And so I found myself standing in the middle of a fantasy world turning my eyes every which way. Rampant creativity jammed every wall, crammed every corner, was stacked high upon the floor. I could have happily lingered in that extraordinary studio all day long.

Thanks to James Watts for showing me around his artistic playground! There’s a special, little-known nook in the heart of San Diego, where one man’s imagination produces great treasures, and now I recognize the door!

James Watts near some artwork in progress. The wood blocks will fill the interior of a hunchbacked Quasimodo. I was told a bell will be placed atop the literary character's head!
James Watts near some artwork in progress. The wood blocks will fill the interior of a hunchbacked Quasimodo. I was told a bell might be placed atop the literary character’s head!
On the left a female Atlas holds up the world. To the right Don Quixote appears ready to tilt at windmills.
On the left a female Atlas holds up the world. To the right Don Quixote appears ready to tilt at windmills.
Many nudes also decorate the walls of the art gallery. They are done in various styles, reflecting famous painters of the past.
Many nudes also decorate the walls of the art gallery. They are done in various styles, reflecting famous painters of the past.
James Watts opens up a brain pan to reveal a brain!
James Watts opens up a brain pan to reveal . . . a brain!
So much cool artwork that I could barely take it all in.
So much amazing, cool artwork that I could barely take it all in.
Like a playground for a creator whose imagination seems to have no limits.
Like a playground for a creator whose imagination seems to have no limits.
I was told this abstract piece represents that brave person who stood in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
I was told this abstract piece represents that brave person who stood in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
An imaginative piece that represents the artist's contemplation of aging. Those colorful dots and dashes form a Morse code message!
A playful piece that has emerged from the artist’s contemplation of aging. Those colorful dots and dashes form a mysterious Morse code message!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Cool photos from Steampunk Day at the Library!

A guy with a super cool steampunk outfit spread his mechanical wings for a photo as I entered the library!
A guy with a super cool steampunk outfit spread his mechanical wings for a photo as I entered the library!

Check out these cool photos from Steampunk Day at the Library!

I headed over to San Diego’s Central Library early this afternoon not really knowing what to expect. And what I experienced absolutely blew me away!

San Diego Steampunk, Gaslight Steampunk Expo, and the Friends of the Central Library put on an event that still has me smiling as I write this! You wouldn’t believe all the awesome steampunk costumes and gizmos and props and gadgets and inventions and artwork that filled a good chunk of the library’s first floor. I saw original stuff inspired by Lewis Carroll, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne… Some of my favorite authors! There were also a couple lectures and something called Tea Dueling, which I missed. Perhaps next year…

The participants, most of whom are makers, were all super friendly and eager to tell me about what they had created. I pocketed lots of business cards and flyers, and have tried to provide photo captions that accurately describe what I came across.

So what did I see? Take a look!

Steampunk Day at the San Diego Central Library promotes S.T.E.A.M. learning. Readers, students and imaginative people can explore history, science and technology!
Steampunk Day at the San Diego Central Library promotes S.T.E.A.M. learning. Readers, students and imaginative people can explore concepts in science and technology! And enjoy excellent literature and learn some history, too!
Dozens of local steampunk enthusiasts had gathered in the library to have fun and provide creative inspiration for young and old alike.
Dozens of local steampunk enthusiasts had gathered in the library to have fun and provide creative inspiration for young and old alike.
A super nice lady had a table full of steampunk crafts she had made. Like others participating in the event, she is a member of San Diego Steampunk.
A super nice lady had a table full of steampunk crafts she had made. Like others participating in the event, she is a member of San Diego Steampunk.
Library visitors during Steampunk Day could pose with Victorian costume accessories and props for a cool photo.
Library visitors during Steampunk Day could pose with Victorian costume accessories and props for a cool photo.
One of the first things I saw was an awesome model of Jules Verne's Nautilus from the classic Disney movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!
One of the first things I saw was an awesome model of Jules Verne’s Nautilus from the classic Disney movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!
Richard Ferrell aka Colonel Malcolm Weatherby was holding a ray gun at the ready. Like many other steampunk enthusiasts, he makes his own props.
Richard Ferrell aka Colonel Malcolm Weatherby was holding a ray gun at the ready. Like many other steampunk enthusiasts, he makes his own props.
This ray gun from Steampunk Arsenal is made of glass bottles and imagination.
This ray gun from Steampunk Arsenal is a fusion of glass bottles and imagination.
It's The Mad Hatter! And her mobile table is set for tea! Or perhaps A Moveable Feast. (Okay, I'm sorry--it's the library.)
It’s The Mad Hatter! And her mobile table is set for tea! Or perhaps A Moveable Feast! (Okay, I’m sorry–it’s the library.)
I didn't get the names of these folks, but they had some of the most inventive stuff. The blue liquid on the right is composed of captured moonbeams.
I didn’t get the names of these folks, but they had some of the most inventive stuff. The blue liquid on the right is composed of distilled moonbeams.
That gadget up at the top of this photo propels a courageous adventurer through time.
That gadget up at the top of this photo propels a courageous adventurer through time.
I believe this guy said he's Gandalf the Brass. His staff emits different colored light, depending on the magic. Should he defeat a Balrog, he might become Gandalf the Gold.
I believe this guy said he’s Gandalf the Brass. His staff emits different colored light, depending on the magic. Should he defeat a Balrog, he might become Gandalf the Gold.
Steampunk writer Madeleine Holly-Rosing had a table displaying some of her books. If you like reading steampunk fiction, you should probably check it out.
Steampunk writer Madeleine Holly-Rosing had a table displaying some of her books. If you like reading steampunk fiction, you should probably check it out!
Madeleine Holly-Rosing is author of comic book series Boston Metaphysical Society. Kind of like a steampunk The X-Files I was told. Sounds cool!
Madeleine Holly-Rosing is author of comic book series Boston Metaphysical Society. Kind of like a steampunk The X-Files I was told. Sounds cool!
Maleficent greeted me at the Steampunk Public table. I learned she's not really evil, just a bit misunderstood.
Maleficent greeted me at the Steampunk Public table. I learned she’s not really evil, just a bit misunderstood.
And look at all the cool contraptions created by Steampunk Public! Sheer fun and human creativity!
And look at all the cool contraptions created by Steampunk Public! Sheer fun and human creativity!
In a glass library display case I discovered steampunk collage art by Ramona Szczerba. She calls these curious vintage fictions.
In a glass library display case I discovered steampunk collage art by Ramona Szczerba. She calls these curious vintage fictions.
Imaginative costumes exhibited during Steampunk Day by the San Diego Costume Guild. They create costumes from many eras.
Imaginative uniforms exhibited during Steampunk Day by the San Diego Costume Guild. They create costumes representing many different eras.
Goggles and top hats everywhere!
Goggles and top hats everywhere!
A British explorer or officer or character from an alternate reality--not sure which! But he was super nice!
A British explorer or officer or eccentric character from a weird alternate reality–I’m not sure which! But he was super nice!
Taking an image using patented Spectral Photography.
Taking an image using patented Spectral Photography.
Kids in the Children's Library were busy making Mad Hatter hats!
Kids in the Children’s Library were busy making Mad Hatter hats!
A super spooky steampunk vampire was looking me over, perhaps getting a bit thirsty. Fangs for nothing!
A scary steampunk vampire looked me over when I stepped outside. Perhaps she was getting a bit thirsty. “Fangs for nothing!”
More awesome steampunk cosplay near the Central Library's auditorium.
More awesome steampunk cosplay near the Central Library’s auditorium.
This guy on the time machine materialized from the future right as I took a photo. I don't know whether he saw any Eloi or Morlocks.
This guy on the time machine materialized from the future right as I took a photo. I don’t know whether he saw any Eloi or Morlocks.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of fun photos for you to share and enjoy!