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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Virgin America begins flying between O.C. and San FranciscoVirgin America begins flying between O.C. and San Francisco

Virgin America, the upstart carrier founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, began flying between Orange County's John Wayne Airport and San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday for as little as $49 one way.

The launch of the low-fare service began with a glitzy party on the airport tarmac where celebrities, such as rapper MC Hammer and the cast of reality show "The Real Housewives of Orange County," welcomed passengers on the first flight from San Francisco.

The reception, with rock music and bikini-clad models, was vintage Branson, who got off the plane wearing a swimsuit and clutching a bodyboard.

Since its launch nearly two years ago, the airline has shaken up the industry by offering low fares and unusual onboard amenities such as mood lighting and wireless Internet.

At Los Angeles International Airport, Virgin America has helped drive fares lower. And analysts anticipate a similar reaction at John Wayne Airport, which traditionally has had higher fares than other airports in the region because of a cap on the number of flights that can operate there.

The start of Virgin America's service at John Wayne came just nine days before Southwest is expected to start its San Francisco service from Orange County. Southwest is offering $44 one-way fares when bought in advance, or $5 less than Virgin America.

"Finally Orange County's got a really good, first-class airline for everybody to use," Branson said before he left to do some afternoon kite surfing in Laguna Beach.

SOURCE : http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-virgin30-2009apr30,0,185005.story

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ballet polishes up Balanchine's 'Jewels'

Amazing how rapidly George Balanchine's 1967 "Jewels" has become a global ballet experience.

Until 15 years ago, New York City Ballet was the only company to dance the first full-evening "plotless" ballet; just 10 years ago, "Jewels" had never been seen on the West Coast. Today keepers of the Balanchine faith travel the world tending to the spirit of "Jewels" - Miami City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, the Kirov, the list goes on.

Fresh from coaching their "Emeralds" roles at Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet, Balanchine ballerinas Violette Verdy and Mimi Paul have migrated south and lent their wisdom to the San Francisco Ballet production of "Jewels" that opened Saturday. To say "Emeralds" sparkles thanks to their coaching would make a deeply soul-enriching ballet sound merely pretty.

"Emeralds" is the most poetic of the three sections that make up "Jewels," because of the metaphorical suggestiveness Balanchine drew from his selections of Fauré music. When Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith took a step on each quarter-note in the "walking" duet Saturday, their movements seemed dictated by the tragic march of time, an idea reinforced when a pause in arabesque brings ticking-clockwork arms and legs (and a brisk andante tempo from conductor Martin West). In the opening pas de deux, the corps de ballet was not just a backdrop of 10 beautiful women, but a force of fate pushing Lorena Feijoo and Seth Orza (on loan from Pacific Northwest Ballet) apart.

Earlier San Francisco Ballet performances in 2002 and 2003 were not devoid of that poetry, but Saturday's interpretation brought new insights in the female solos. Each became a richly imaginative reverie; Tan and Feijoo seemed to be doing the steps not for the audience, but for attendees at a party only they could see swirling around them. Feijoo's smile over a raised shoulder looked like a reaction to compliments from an invisible admirer. Yet none of this appeared at odds with Balanchine's scorn for affectation. Clearly his famous directive, "Don't think, dear, just do," oversimplified his desires.

The other two panels of "Jewels" had more verve and crispness than ever, thanks to a constellation of perfect casting. I have never seen Vanessa Zahorian be naughty, but devilish Pascal Molat brought it out in her in "Rubies," where their interplay seemed a spontaneous response to Stravinsky's teasing Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. The even more surprising breakthrough was for Elana Altman. A stately but often inward dancer, she relished her power in the "tall girl" role, all swaying hips and knowing smile.

In "Diamonds," to the last three movements of Tchaikovsky's "Polish" symphony, Sofiane Sylve underlined the ballerina's nearly untouchable self-sufficiency, a quality very much embedded in the choreography, with Pierre-François Vilanoba privileged to follow after, waiting for any opportunity to lend his hand.

My only serious complaint is that San Francisco Ballet has adopted Tony Walton's astral backdrops - a scattering of stars crystallizing into chandelier formation has a particularly Liberace-like effect in "Diamonds." But the distraction is minimal with so many fine dancers in the corps glinting to catch your eye (and the powerfully fleet soloist Frances Chung dancing like a born principal in "Emeralds"). These dancers reveal why "Jewels" is now seen the world over - and why it should be seen again and again.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Emirates adds to San Francisco service

Amid a recession that is hitting air travel hard, Emirates Airlines said Tuesday it is expanding its service from San Francisco.

The high-end airline said it will begin daily non-stop service on routes between Dubai to San Francisco and Los Angeles starting May 1. The Dubai-based carrier already offers three weekly flights linking San Francisco and Los Angeles to the United Arab Emirates.

Emirates said it is able to expand service because it has additional planes delivered by Boeing Co.

“We have been very successful with our new West Coast routes in the past four to six months,” said Emirates senior vice president Nigel Page.

Global air travel is on the decline. Passenger traffic has declined 10.1 percent globally between February 2009 and February 2008.

Emirates flies to more than 100 cities around the world.

SOURCE : http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2009/04/20/daily27.html

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Disney museum to open in San Francisco

For years, some of Walt Disney's most precious belongings have been locked away in a former Army storage building in San Francisco's Presidio.

Now, after nearly a decade of efforts by his eldest daughter, and help from the company that bears his name, Disney is getting his own museum, the first to focus solely on the life and work of the father of animated film.

Don't expect Disneyland north when the Walt Disney Family Museum opens in October in the historic Presidio. Instead what designers, Disney historians and family members, led by Diane Disney Miller, are planning is a $110 million museum filled with technology and artifacts chronicling the ups (and a few downs) of Disney's already much examined life.

The Disney showcase will help cement the Bay Area's reputation as the center of animation, said John Lasseter, a friend of Miller and chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. The Oscar-winning Lasseter began his animation career at Disney.

"Walt Disney has become synonymous with the Disney Company, and I think the museum will educate people and remind people it was the vision of one man," Lasseter said. "The Bay Area is so associated with technological innovation and it's applied here in so many different fields. Having the museum here will really celebrate not only his artistic achievements but his technological ones as well."

The Walt Disney Family Museum will have the unmistakable mark of his family foundation, the project's sponsor, which selected the location and in recent years has been on a mission to separate the public's image of the man from the company that he spawned.

SOURCE : http://www.mercurynews.com/lifestyle/ci_12179355

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Friday, April 17, 2009

San Francisco International Film Festival

If there's one thing we've learned about the San Francisco International Film Festival over the past 52 years, it's that it isn't about to have any kind of midlife or identity crisis.

The reason is simple: So long as there are movies being made and people to watch them, folks in San Francisco will find a way to celebrate them, which ought to stretch far beyond the next 52 years.

First things first: This year's festival features 170 films from 62 countries playing Thursday through May 7.

SOURCE : http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/17/PKA116UTMJ.DTL

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

San Francisco Sunday Streets Events announced Thursday for April 26

Sunday Streets organizers and community groups will gather at the corner of Jeffersonand Hyde Streets on Thursday to announce the locations of the activities and events being offered at the kickoff of Sunday Streets on April 26, when a stretch of San Francisco roadway from AT&T Park to Aquatic Park will be open for free recreational activities.

Sunday Streets 2009 kicks off along the Embarcadero on Sunday, April 26 between 9AM-1PM. The Bayside portion of the Embarcadero will be closed to auto traffic from AT&T Park to Aquatic Park, providing 3.4 miles of open space to enjoy.

Tens of thousands of Bay Area residents took part in Sunday Streets last summer, which opened local roads on Sunday mornings for physical activity.

Modeled on a 30-year old program started in South America, Sunday Streets creates routes for local families, kids, and adults to walk, jog, and bike, and participate in group exercise.

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to the two inaugural Sunday Street events in 2008, Sunday Streets will expand to six Sundays this year.

http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=23058

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Inside Green Day's Secret Show in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO — In its second guerrilla-style gig of the week, the rock band Green Day unveiled songs from its new album, "21st Century Breakdown," due in May. The band, which is from the Bay Area, booked the DNA Lounge, a 500-capacity club here, just 24 hours in advance and alerted fans six hours before the 10 p.m. start time. Tickets sold out in 20 minutes. The intimate space let the band - which routinely plays stadiums — get personal, with the members grabbing outstretched hands, taking requests and crowd surfing.

Billie Joe Armstrong, the singer and guitarist, vowed to play its new punk opera "from front to back"; the often melancholy songs chronicle the lives of a young couple living in the first, tumultuous years of this century. The second half of the show included songs from 2004's "American Idiot" and older hits, and the audience seemed grateful for the chance to sing along. At one point Mr. Armstrong seemed to forget some lyrics and brought a stunned female fan on stage to sing in his place. Mr. Armstrong, the drummer Tré Cool and the bassist Mike Dirnt occasionally seemed weary of playing their 1990s mega hits. After "Basket Case," Mr. Armstrong made his fingers into the shape of a gun and put them in his mouth.

Long after midnight the crowd filtered out into the street. Jonathan Pirro, 24, a student with a blue mohawk, clutched a drumstick tossed into the crowd by Tré Cool. "That had a wonderful feel of spontaneity," said Mr. Pirro, pumped up on seeing big stars in a small club. “The new album has this big, huge, sweeping feel and it just sounds like they're having more fun."

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