Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday in the City

I started out at the Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason. It took up most of one of those Fort Mason pavilions, & there was a sizable, mostly female, crowd. Lots of friendly people hawking various arts & crafts. Fun to browse. I think this is what happens when you have too many people graduating from art schools.

From the Long Now Foundation, I bought a ticket to the Mechanicrawl, which turned out to be a triumph of packaging over content. All the venues that the ticket supposedly allows you to access are generally open to the public & either free or cost about the same as the ticket. I toured the USS Pampanito, a restored submarine, & the Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien. The engines were running on the Jeremiah O'Brien, so you could experience the heat & the motion of the gigantic crank shaft. It has a certain romance. They even pipe 1940's music on deck.

For me the most overwhelming part of the Mechanicrawl was the walk through Fisherman's Wharf. I'm an SF native, but I rarely find myself in Fisherman's Wharf. I could not believe how crowded it was & what an embarrassing tourist trap it is. I saw the Bushman, whom I'd never even heard of before, & he did not come across as a happy guy. We also saw an ambulance take away the victim of a cycling accident & passed by 2 teenage girl missionaries, whose hook was a sign reading "Free Encouragement".

In the evening I was in another crowd, this time at the Castro Theatre for the Silent Film Festival screening of The Man Who Laughs. I'd say this movie is an average product of the tail-end of the silent era, which is to say that it is well-constructed, has high production values, & has a full complement of pathos, drama, romance, humor & spectacle. It ends with a breathless, harrowing race against many obstacles to reunite the good guys. Conrad Veidt stars as a grotesque worthy of Lon Chaney. He looks like The Joker in Batman, except that the Joker was inspired by this movie.

Before the screening we got the usual festival line-up of obligatory speeches. Sadly, the representative from the Library of Congress referred to Conrad Veidt as "The Man of a Thousand Faces", which got an outraged response from the audience. Organist Clark Wilson was the true hero of the evening, though. He played non-stop for 2 hours, never flagging, & whipped up a symphonic sound that not only matched every dramatic climax of the film, but also made the dramatic structure clearer.


Zander said...

Thanks for coming to Mechanicrawl. Just so you know, the 'special' part was that the Jeremiah O'Brien's engine was running (usually it requires a $100 ticket to see that and all day because you go out on her). And I am not sure if you saw it, but dockside the folks at the Pampanito had a Mark IV TDC computer that no one outside of them has ever seen.

Axel Feldheim said...

I was part of a group of 5 that did the Mechanicrawl together, & we all somehow missed seeing that computer. A pity. When I got my ticket, I also picked up a sheet of paper listing the venues, but it wasn't clear what things were special to the Mechanicrawl.

Brian said...

I assumed the "Man of a Thousand Faces" line was intended to be a joke- nevertheless, it didn't go over very well. Unlike the movie.

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, if it was a joke, I didn't get it either. The knowledgeable & enthusiastic film festival audiences at the Castro are awesome & can make even an average movie seem 10 times better. I loved it when "Homo" the dog got the biggest ovation of the show.