Thursday, April 17, 2014

Used Book Sale at Fort Mason

The Friends of the SF Public Library are holding their Spring Book Sale at Fort Mason this week through Sunday. It's probably not the most efficient place to find a specific book, but browsing can be fun.

It's $3 for hardcovers, $2 for paperbacks. Other items like CDs are $1. On Sunday, everything goes for a dollar. Shoppers often fill shopping carts.

The collectibles area has interesting titles, though these are priced at more than a few bucks.

The last thing I need is more used books around my apartment, but there were no lines at the registers, so just for fun I bought this wonderfully judgy pocket guide to composers, from 1943. Wagner is called "the Führer of nineteenth century opera."

§ 4th Annual Spring Book Sale
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library
April 16-20th, 2014
10 AM-6 PM
Fort Mason Festival Pavilion

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

49 Geary Round-Up

Vivian Maier
Wilmette, Illinois
Girl In Clown Costume

circa 1967-1968
Tuesday lunchtime I peeked into a couple of galleries at 49 Geary. The Scott Nichols Gallery has a selection of photographs by the enigmatic Vivian Maier, a prolific & posthumously discovered street photographer who worked as a nanny in suburban Chicago in the 1950's & 60's while creating an archive of 100,000 negatives. Her work has only been known since 2009, but she is already the subject of news reports, exhibitions, books & 2 documentaries. The whole thing sounds like a post-modern stunt, but the pictures on display have an immediacy that is often arresting. There's a sense that the photographer saw something meaningful each time she snapped a picture. The images would not be out of place next to Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus or Henri Cartier-Bresson.

John Chiara    
155 Somerset
, 2014
Camera Obscura Ilfochrome Photograph, Unique
34 x 28 inches
In the Haines Gallery, I enjoyed the washed-out colors & ghostly atmosphere of pictures of homes in the Excelsior district, taken in series by John Chiara with a camera obscura. There are no negatives, & the images were developed directly on photographic paper about a yard high. Unfortunately the exhibit does not show the camera obscura itself, which must be huge.

David Sokosh
Mike's Arm, Brooklyn

The Robert Tat Gallery is also featuring photography without negatives. David Sokosh's contemporary tintypes are made using 19th century processes & lenses, so each photograph is a unique object. The subjects look like they could have come from the 19th century as well. The dusky images have a potent presense & feel vaguely fetishistic.

§ Vivian Maier
Out Of The Shadows
Scott Nichols Gallery
February 6 – June 14

§ John Chiara
de • tached
Haines Gallery
March 6 - April 26, 2014

§ David Sokosh
American Tintypes
Robert Tat Gallery
March 6, 2014 - May 31, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
This afternoon I was at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown, mainly to stop by the food bazaar for an unagi bowl. This is the 1st weekend of the festival, which culminates in a parade next Sunday afternoon.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
There were a lot of people enjoying the street fair, so some of the booths had long lines.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
Sponge Bob was spending the day as a tout for the Boy Scouts.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
People played games of Go in the street.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
There are 2 outdoor stages, as well as the usual exhibits & street vendors.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
The origami exhibit is small, unfortunately, but these colorful hot air balloons look like they were fun to make.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
I saw fine displays of Lolita fashion among attendees,

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
... as well as cosplay folks having a leisurely day out.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
These slightly skittish furries behaved like escapees from a Disney park, trying to act natural in the crowd in order to avoid recapture.

§ Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
Saturday and Sunday April 12-13 and April 19-20, 2014
San Francisco’s Japantown

Friday, April 11, 2014

Opera Parallèle Preview

Wednesday evening Opera Parallèle previewed their up-coming double-bill of Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel & Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias, which will have 3 performances at YBCA, April 25 - 27. Conductor Nicole Paiement enthusiastically gave a slide talk about the 2 composers, arguing that they go well together because of their shared sense of aesthetics. Both drew from popular music, excelled at melody & experimented with the boundaries of tonality & dramatic structure. 7 singers were on hand to perform excerpts from both works, accompanied by industrious pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi. The young cast all sounded fresh & strong & dropped into their scenes with ease. Mezzo Renee Rapier was wonderfully sultry demonstrating the contrast between sprechgesang & singing in the Alabama Song, & soprano Rachel Schutz was such an engaging actress as Tirésias that I was ready to hear the rest of Les Mamelles right then. John Bischoff was standing in for just this performance, but his orotund bass voice was striking.

Director Brian Staufenbiel explained the production's "Überstory," which amalgamates the 2 works. First we'll hear Mahagonny, set in a dystopian future, where nomads search for water in a world where natural resources have been depleted. A theater troupe, dragging a boat on wheels across dry land, stops to perform Les Mamelles, followed by a "retrograde reprise" of Mahagonny. According to blogger SF Mike, who's a super in the show, we'll see a real decomissioned boat on stage. SF Mike's determined face can also be seen in the show's publicity photos.

Opera Parallèle PreviewThe Poulenc will be presented in a re-orchestration for smaller orchestra, which has its US premiere at these performances. Members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus are participating as well. When Maestra Paiement momentarily lost her place during her talk, she let out a "Merde!", which she translated for us as "that means a flower." "I forgot!" During the Q&A, Mr. Staufenbiel hinted that Tirésias would get rid of her breasts in a surprising manner quite different from what is in the libretto. A wine reception with the musicians & Opera Parallèle administration followed the preview.

§ Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspie
Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Opera Parallèle
Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director / Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director / Concept Designer

Rachel Schutz: Jessie/tirésias, La Cartomancienne
Gabriel Pressier: Bobby/le Mari
Thomas Glenn: Charlie/lacouf, Le Journaliste, Le Fils
Daniel Cilli: Billy/presto, Le Directeur
Hadleigh Adams: Le Gendarme
Aleksey Bogdanov: Jimmy/ Le Monsieur Barbu
Renee Rapier: Betty/ La Marchande De Journaux

§ Sneak Preview
Sol Joseph Recital Hall, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
6 p.m. April 9, 2014
Free and open to the public
Handouts:  Les Mamalles, Mahagonny

§ Open Rehearsal
Town School for Boys (formerly the Exploratorium) 2750 Jackson Street
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. April 19, 2014
Free and open to the public

§ Performance
Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts’ Lam Research Theater
8 p.m. April 25, 26, 2014 and 2 p.m. April 27, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I was sold on Sharknado by its title alone. This low-budget disaster movie was made for the Syfy channel & was so bad that it picked up bigger audiences with each re-airing & eventually made it onto late-night cinema screens. I was elated to see it for myself at a Midnight Madness show at the Clay Theater over the weekend.

A tornado strikes LA, resulting in flash floods, the destruction of the Santa Monica Pier, & giant man-eating sharks dropping from the skies. Homemade bombs are used to disperse land-based waterspouts, & at the climax the hero chainsaws his way out of the belly of a shark. A fleeting reference to global warming & a MacGuffin involving a bowl of shark fin soup hint at an ecological theme.

There couldn't have been more than 20 people at the midnight screening, but there was much vociferous laughter & howling nonetheless. I felt enjoyably like I was 12 years old again. A sequel set in New York is in production, called Sharknado 2: The Second One.

§ Sharknado (2013)
dir: Anthony C. Ferrante

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

SFS Rehearsal with Blomstedt & Carey Bell

San Francisco SymphonyLast week, a friend who is a San Francisco Symphony subscriber took me along to a closed rehearsal for donors. We sat in the 1st row of the loge & watched conductor Herbert Blomstedt rehearse the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto with soloist Carey Bell, the Symphony's principal clarinetist. There was a reduced orchestra, grouped closely around Maestro Blomstedt, who stood on the stage floor instead of a podium. The arrangement had a cozy feeling. The violins were split, with the cellos next to the 1st violins. The piece's important snare drum was right behind the violas. Many of the musicians wore brightly-colored leis, which they had apparently received at a luncheon before the rehearsal. The youthful Mr. Bell, resembling a graduate student more than anything else, wore a t-shirt with a picture of Brahms on it. When my friend pointed out an elderly man with a cane onstage, it took me a while to recognize principal cellist Michael Grebanier.

There was constant starting & stopping, & Maestro Blomstedt gave a lot of instructions to the players. He sang the opening melody before giving them their 1st cue. He seemed to be making sure that everything had a light but clear articulation. Mr. Bell's playing was smooth, tidy & calm, though he got looser in the rehearsal's 2nd half. At one point the orchestra applauded his execution of a particularly tricky passage. Toward the end of the rehearsal, Maestro Blomstedt attempted a run-through without stopping, but just as they got into the home stretch, a union timekeeper appeared onstage, began stealthily approaching the conductor, like a cat stalking its prey, & cut the music off mid-stream.

For those who arrived early, there was a lecture by Alexandra Amati-Camperi of USF, who gave a detailed breakdown of the concerto. A woman seated next to me asked if I played the clarinet, because she saw me writing notes.

§ FRIENDS Private Rehearsal
San Francisco Symphony 

Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
Carey Bell, clarinet

Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 12:30p
Davies Symphony Hall

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Austin Kleon at Flax

Last week Austin Kleon give a talk to an SRO crowd of creative-looking people at the art store Flax. His new book, Show Your work, reframes self-promotion as social sharing & is aimed at those wanting to promote themselves better. It's a somewhat cartoony book combining words & pictures & looks like a fast read.

Mr. Kleon comes across as a friendly inspirational speaker for the Millennial Generation. He drew pictures on a flip chart to illustrate his slogan-like points, such as "Your work does not speak for itself" & "Share your process." We learned about the genius -- the stereotypical lone creator -- vs. the "scenius," which is a network of people stealing & then sharing one another's ideas. Mr. Kleon warned us not to become human Spam, & said if you want to meet someone, don't email them. Instead, shine a spotlight on them.

In the Q & A, Mr. Kleon earnestly provided helpful & pragmatic answers. Flax employees offered cookies & beverages to attendees. A man who saw me taking notes sidled up beside me & whispered, "Why buy the book when you can just write it all down?"

§ Book Signing with Austin Kleon
Tue, April 1, 5:30pm – 7:00pm