Music on Mondays (1-19-15)—One man come in the name of love

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

In 1997, Jim and I visited Atlanta, our main interest being the site of the 1996 Olympics and Centennial Olympic Park bombing, and the CNN headquarters.

mlkAfter our Atlanta visit, I considered The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, 35 acres, the most interesting place in Atlanta that we had visited—the Sweet Auburn Historic District, King’s boyhood home, and the historic Ebeneezer Baptist Church where both King Jr. and King Sr. were pastors.

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday and, in California, a state holiday, I thought I’d explore songs about Martin Luther King Jr.

When I went looking for such songs, interestingly I found two by a little Irish band called U2.

Whoever thought that such a historic man in the United States would be of such interest to a band from Ireland?

Both songs, “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” and “MLK,” are from U2’s classic 1984 album, “The Unforgettable Fire.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Interestingly to me, “The Unforgettable Fire” reached #1 on the album charts in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, but only #5 in Canada and #12 in the United States.

“Pride (In The Name Of Love)” made it to #1 on the single chart in New Zealand, #2 in Ireland, and #3 in Britain, but only #27 in Canada and #33 in the United States.

I think that’s telling considering that we still have significant racial problems here in the United States. Maybe Canada is more closely aligned to the United States than I once thought….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Out & About—The La Jolla tide pools

Out & About

Any time is a great time to visit the San Diego coast, but when the low tides get really low, it’s time for a visit to the various tide pools along the coast. One of the best is the La Jolla Tide Pools.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

La Jolla Tide Pools, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The lowest of the low tides, and the highest of the high tides, present the best opportunities to see (low tide) or witness (high tide) things that normally can’t be seen or witnessed. To find the low and high tides for San Diego, visit San Diego Tides.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego beach houses of the extraordinarily wealthy

Picture of the Moment

Yesterday afternoon’s low tide was one of the lowest we’ll have in January, which means that the tide pools along the coast required a visit.

Depending on where you go to see the tide pools, sometimes the little ol’ beach houses command one’s attention, like these two beach houses in La Jolla:

San Diego beach houses

Click on the image for a larger version.

La Jolla is one of San Diego County’s enclaves of the rich and famous. In 2008 & 2009, La Jolla had the highest home prices in the nation, an average price around $2 million.

It’s one of the places politicians stay when they come to San Diego.

John McCain owns a home in La Jolla…. Mitt Romney lives there. Racquel Welch…. Robin Wright Penn…. Shane Harper….

There are rich Republicans and rich Democrats there. Probably some rich Independents, rich Atheists, rich Wiccans, and rich Satanists….

La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Location of the two beach houses:

La Jolla beach houses

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Friday Flower Fiesta (1-16-15)—It’s aloe season in San Diego!

Friday Flower Fiesta

The San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park both are internationally recognized zoos, but they also are internationally recognized arboretums and botanical gardens, too.

Now is a great time to see both the critters and the plants because it’s aloe season here in San Diego.

Here are some recent aloe pictures:

1Aloe

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

2Aloe

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3Aloe

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4Aloe

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5Aloe

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6Aloe

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7Aloe

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8Aloe

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9Aloe

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10Aloe

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#11: Villa Montezuma

San Diego Historical Landmarks

The Villa Montezuma is unique in its appearance and its history. It is located in the historic Sherman Heights neighborhood at 1925 K Street.

The City of San Diego owns Villa Montezuma and operates it as a house museum. It was being renovated when I was there, so I did not get to go inside, which means a future trip to get interior pictures.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Villa Montezuma was built in 1887 by the William and John High, two wealthy ranchers and real estate developers. It was built specifically to lure Jesse Shepard (neé Benjamin Henry Jesse Francis Shepard) to living in San Diego. And it worked!

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Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Jesse Shepard was a renowned pianist, composer, singer, spiritualist, mystic, poet, and, using the pen name Francis Grierson, an author. He was born in Birkenhead, England, on September 18, 1848. Soon afterwards, the family moved to the United States, eventually settling in Sangamon County, Illinois.

As a youth, Shepard attended the last of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 in Alton, Illinois. Lincoln’s spiritual strength and the atmosphere leading up to the Civil War inspired his two books, The Valley of Shadows and Lincoln, the Practical Mystic.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1869, convinced of his musical talent and charm, as well as a great deal of self-confidence, went to Europe in search of his fame and fortune, a quest that continued throughout his life until his death, while performing, in 1927 in Los Angeles at the age of 79.

His belief in himself resulted in a growing popularity in the salons of Paris. That popularity resulted in countless invitations to many countries where he would spend weeks or months at the homes and estates of many noted men and women of wealth and influence, entertaining such titled patrons as the Czar of Russia, England’s Prince of Wales, and Alexander Dumas, the great French novelist.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1871, while in St. Petersburg, he expanded his interest in Eastern mysticism, and when he returned to the United States in 1874, he visited the celebrated medium, Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy.

While living in Chicago, Shepard gave seances and claimed to be in touch with ancient Egyptian spirits, putting on a musical performance which included singing “in two voices,” made possible by his great vocal range. He sometimes claimed that the spirits of famous composers or pianists performed through him and he considered his musical talents to be the result of intuition rather than study and practice. His concerts were usually given in dimly-lighted rooms, and described as “mysterious and entirely unique.”

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sources at the San Diego History Center indicate that, in 1885, Shepard met Lawrence W. Tonner, a man fifteen years his junior, but who became Shepard’s secretary and devoted companion for over forty years. Was Jesse gay? According to the Villa Montezuma Museum itself:

It’s possible, but Jesse was a private person regarding his personal life. Unlike other writers, he never alluded to the nature of his relationship with Tonner in his writing. (Homosexuality was illegal and not openly discussed then. Also, in our modern times we don’t understand how privacy was respected and valued then.) We honor the more than 40-year relationship and devotion between Jesse and Tonner, who were together until Jesse’s passing in 1927.

Tonner’s name seldom appeared in articles by or about Shepard and he did not even rate a listing in the San Diego City Directory during the years that he and Shepard lived in the Villa Montezuma.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Shepard first visited California in 1876 on a musical tour during which he played and sang at several of the old missions. At San Diego, he wrote: “I found the Mission in ruins, with owls roosting over the dilapidated doors. But what a mysterious charm this old ruin cast over that placid region, serene in an atmosphere of transcendental silence.”

Shepard returned to San Diego in 1886, making San Diego and the Villa Montezuma his home for two eventful years, delighting audiences with his musical galas which always ended with his own musical composition, “Grand Egyptian March.” Sadly, I could not find a rendition anywhere of any of his music. I did, however, find a review of one of his 1878 performances.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Stained-glass windows costing $7,000 depict his two favorite composers, Beethoven and Mozart; Rubens and Raphael, two of his favorite artists; and Shakespeare, Goethe, and Corneille, his favorite poets.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In December 1889, Shepard announced that he was leaving San Diego permanently, giving a public farewell concert on December 17, the same day on which he completed the sale of the Villa Montezuma and all its furnishings to David D. Dare.

Contemporary news stories indicate that the Villa Montezuma was built for $19,000 and that it was sold to David D. Dare, in 1889, for $29,000. Dare, called “a high-flying financier,” had ruined a bank in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before moving to San Diego. In San Diego, he opened a bank and a cable car railroad and swindled many trusting investors before the bank examiners began investigating his affairs. In addition, Dare was forced to sell the Villa within a month after its purchase, thus beginning a cycle of chronic turnovers that would plague Villa Montezuma throughout its history. Dare fled to Europe in 1890, and never returned.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Villa Montezuma was designed by the architectural firm of N.A. Comstock and Carl Trotsche, and the builders were Cheney & Leonard. One interpretation for the name is that it is close to Mexico. Another is that when the Shepards left England, they came to America on a migrant ship called “The Montezuma.”

A benefit dinner given for Shepard on the evening of May 29, 1927, marked his final performance. Lawrence Tonner described the occasion:

“It was Sunday evening… We had a number of people invited for a musical recital at our home — about thirty. A collection was to be taken up. Mr. Grierson had played a number of his marvelous instantaneous compositions on the piano and had given the company a talk on his experiences and impressions of France and Italy.

“He turned to the instrument and announced that the next and last piece of the evening would be an Oriental improvisation, Egyptian in character.

“The piece was long, and when it seemed to be finished he sat perfectly still as if resting after the ordeal of this tremendous composition. He often did that, but it lasted too long and I went up to him — he was gone!

“His head was only slightly bent forward, as usual in playing, and his hands rested on the keys of the last chord he had touched.

“There had not been the slightest warning. He had seemed in usual health…and he had been smiling and laughing with the company even a few moments before he passed away.”

Villa Montezuma flourishes as a center for art and music, with exhibitions, recitals, poetry readings, and receptions held regularly in its beautifully and handsomely furnished rooms. In other words, there might be a few more blog posts about Villa Montezuma in the future!

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Opinion—I’m going with Monsanto on this one, for the moment

Opinion

Many decades ago I wanted to be a researcher for a forestry company like Weyerhauser. I wanted to find new ways to use what trees provided, to make new products that might help us save some of those beautiful forests. Kind of a conflict of interest, I guess, to work for a forestry company that specialized in clearcutting whole forests but looking for ways to cut (pun intended) the amount of clearcutting….

Texas A&M UniversityWhile working towards a degree in forest management at Texas A&M University, a degree which I never have used (it looks pretty hanging on the wall, though!), I did gain an appreciation for how research is done, and I’m a big proponent of peer-reviewed research published in respectable (i.e., well-established) journals.

Conflict of interest…. Peer-reviewed research….

That brings me to Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO).

According to Wikipedia (and yes, I do like Wikipedia both because I am a volunteer editor there myself and because Wikipedia requires valid sources and citations rather than opinions):

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food. The term GMO is very close to the technical legal term, ‘living modified organism,’ defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, ‘any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology’).”

When I was working towards my Bachelor of Science, in 1975 the world population was a little over four billion. To put that into a time perspective:

AD 1 – 200 million
1000 – 265 million
1955 (when I was born) – 2.756 billion
1975 – 4.068 billion
2000 – 6.070 billion
2015 – 7.324 billion

Friday Flower Fiesta with Topaz GlowMy interest in biotechnology increased significantly in 1984 when Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), “Father of the Green Revolution,” agreed to teach and do his research at my alma mater, Texas A&M University. Dr. Borlaug had used biotechnology techniques to increase worldwide food production, particularly in Mexico, Pakistan, and India. For his contributions to increasing the world’s food supply, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He continued teaching and doing research at Texas A&M right up until his death in 2009 at the age of 95.

Friday Flower Fiesta 12-19-14 Russel Ray PhotosBorlaug’s work to increase crop yields was, in his view, a means to curb deforestation, a view with led to the “Borlaug Hypothesis,” that increasing the productivity of agriculture on the best farmland can help control deforestation by reducing the demand for new farmland.

From Wikipedia:

“Assuming that global food demand is on the rise, restricting crop usage to traditional low-yield methods would also require at least one of the following: the world population to decrease, either voluntarily or as a result of mass starvations; or the conversion of forest land into crop land. It is thus argued that high-yield techniques are ultimately saving ecosystems from destruction.”  (Angelsen, A., and D. Kaimowitz. 2001. “The Role of Agricultural Technologies in Tropical Deforestation.” Agricultural Technologies and Tropical Deforestation at the Wayback Machine (archived September 29, 2005). CABI Publishing, New York.

That’s all well and good, but Borlaug’s work has resulted in a big-time industry in genetically modified organisms, ultimately dumping much of the GMO criticism directly on Dr. Borlaug.

According to Wikipedia:

“Throughout his years of research, Borlaug’s programs often faced opposition by people who consider genetic crossbreeding to be unnatural or to have negative effects. Borlaug’s work has been criticized for bringing large-scale monoculture, input-intensive farming techniques to countries that had previously relied on subsistence farming. These farming techniques reap large profits for U.S. agribusiness and agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto Company and have been criticized for widening social inequality in the countries owing to uneven food distribution while forcing a capitalist agenda of U.S. corporations onto countries that had undergone land reform.

“Other concerns of his critics and critics of biotechnology in general include: that the construction of roads in populated third-world areas could lead to the destruction of wilderness; the crossing of genetic barriers; the inability of crops to fulfill all nutritional requirements; the decreased biodiversity from planting a small number of varieties; the environmental and economic effects of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides; the amount of herbicide sprayed on fields of herbicide-resistant crops.

“Borlaug dismissed most claims of critics, but did take certain concerns seriously. He stated that his work has been “a change in the right direction, but it has not transformed the world into a Utopia”. Of environmental lobbyists he stated, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.

IMG_8360 faa stampSo we are back to Monsanto. I’m not naïve enough to think that Monsanto doesn’t want money, and they think they have found a way to make significant amounts of it. I’m also not naïve enough to think that companies (and extraordinarily rich people) are going to do the right thing just because. Life doesn’t work that way, which is why governments need to step in to control things.

Unfortunately, governments throughout history have been shown to be corrupt. In the United States today, courtesy of the United States Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision, corporations are people and are free to buy as many politicians and governments as they can afford.

Framed flower orbI’m all for Monsanto making money off of its GMOs, and I’m all for those GMOs being used to solve world food, health, and housing problems. In order for me to have confidence in their work and their research, though, I need to continue to see that work and research published in peer-reviewed publications.

The main reason is that many corporations sponsor academic research, so the academic researcher might have a desire to make the research conform to the needs or wants of the corporation. That’s where the peer review comes in. Well-respected, peer-reviewed publications send research out to other people for review, and the researcher doesn’t have a choice as to which people the publication sends the research to. Sure, the researcher can advocate for specific people, but the publication editors may or may not choose those people.

Photographic Art by Russel Ray PhotosWhen I worked at Texas A&M University from 1983-1987, I worked for the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter, all under the tutelage of Dr. Bernard Shapiro, a foremost researcher in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance. Dr. Shapiro often got requests from various publications throughout the world (Science, Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Chemistry, Journal of Magnetic Resonance, et al.) to review research, and I had the pleasure of compiling his comments and sending them off to the publications.

In conclusion,

  • as long as human population growth increases out of control,
  • as long as men are not willing to put a condom on it,
  • as long as women are not willing to take a pill the day after,
  • as long as Republican politicians continue to try to control a woman’s right to choose,
  • as long as we have selfish people like the Duggars, and
  • as long as we have peer-reviewed research,

I’m going to go with Monsanto on this one so that at least no one has to starve to death.

I will continue to watch the situation, though, and continue to read peer-reviewed research in established publications rather than listen to sound bites or reading sound bite Internet memes.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#10: Torrey Pines Area, part 2

San Diego Historical Landmarks

If you missed Torrey Pines Area, part 1, here it is.

Let us start at the far north of the Torrey Pines Area as defined by this map:

Torrey Pines Area

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That blue just below Carmel Valley Road is Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. It’s a great place to go train watching since Amtrak, Coaster, and BNSF freight use the single track through the marsh.

Amtrak under the Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach near San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those trees you see on the hill behind the bridge are torrey pines in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

The torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) is the rarest pine species in the United States. It grows only in a small area here in San Diego and on Santa Rosa Island, one of the islands in Channel Island National Park off the coast of Southern California.

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I went to the Reserve at 7:00 one morning and did everything within my power not to just sit out there and watch the trains go by. Long-time readers probably realize how difficult it was for me to ignore the trains. Nonetheless, here’s a walk through a couple of the trails in the Reserve:

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The first time I visited the Reserve was back in May 1993. As I remember it, there was very little sunshine to be found on the trails since it was a fairly dense forest of torrey pines. Sadly, the pines slowly are losing their fight for existence due to drought, insect attacks, and pollution from nearby developments and roadways.

There are two named beaches below the 400-foot cliffs of the Reserve: Torrey Pines State Beach and Blacks Beach. Blacks Beach is one of the world’s largest and best naturist beaches. It is difficult to get to because one has to navigate trails down the 400-foot sandstone cliffs, and each time you go, the trails are different due to erosion from human traffic and rainfall during the winter weeks.

My knees don’t like me going up and down cliffs anymore, so these pictures are from a trip a couple of years ago:

Blacks Beach

Stairs to Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

IMG_7122 framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Torrey Pines Golf Course is San Diego’s best and most beautiful course, and it’s a municipal course! It is where Tiger Woods won his last major championship, the U.S. Open, back in 2008.

Torrey Pines Golf Course

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Overlooking the golf course is The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a AAA Five Diamond hotel:

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is in the Torrey Pines Area. UCSD was established in November 1960, and in just 54 years has risen to prominence among universities worldwide, with U.S. News & World Report recently ranking it as the 18th Top World University.

The campus has many unique buildings and public art, and is worth spending a day just walking around gawking at everything. The library, shown in the first picture, is named after Theodore Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss.” Geisel was a La Jolla resident when he died, and many of his works are in the Geisel Collection in the library.

Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego

UCSD Sun God

University of California San DiegoUniversity of California San Diego

Computer Science & Engineering Building at University of California San Diego

House at the University of California San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Across the street from the campus is the historic Torrey Pines Glider Port. I have been known to sit there for hours at a time and just watch the hang gliders.

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Glider Port

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

On the beach below the Glider Port is the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founded in 1903, and one of the world’s foremost oceanographic institutions. The Institution is now a part of the University of California San Diego, and also includes the Birch Aquarium. Take an afternoon to visit the Aquarium because the view of the beach and ocean is unparalleled, and the aquariums and fish are pretty nice, too!

Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego

Scripps Institute of Oceanography, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

At the very south of the Torrey Pines Area is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Salk Institute, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Salk Institute was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. It often is ranked as the premier biological & biomedicine institute in the world.

Constant praise is heaped upon the architecture, but I find it to be absolutely atrocious. Bare concrete everywhere; just depressing and oogie.

Salk Institute in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There you have it. An absolutely gorgeous and historic area, so if ever you are in San Diego, take a day out of your schedule and go visit the Torrey Pines Area in La Jolla. You won’t regret it.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat