Saturday, August 25, 2007

SFS at Yerba Buena Gardens

This Friday at noon half my office went off to the Embarcadero to snap pictures of Barry Bonds, while I headed to Yerba Buena Gardens to hear the San Francisco Symphony. It was a send-off for their European tour. The weather was sunny, so there was a good sized-crowd, & a lot of them were wearing these bulky lime-green sun hats. I soon realized that these were not really hats but soft plastic lunch boxes that PG&E was giving away. To shade themselves from the sun, people were wearing them on their heads. The lids worked well as sun visors.

Anyway, when I arrived the symphony, under the direction of MTT, was already playing the scherzo movement from Shostakovich 5. It sounded pretty good. The playing was pointed & light. This was followed by MTT making some humorous remarks which I couldn't hear well. Then soprano Lise Lindstrom sang the final scene of Strauss's Salome. I've never heard of her before, but she has a beautiful tone & was obviously very technically assured. I couldn't see her from where I was sitting, but I assume that she is young as well. It was a solid performance. According to the Chronicle review, Deborah Voigt will be the soloist on the actual tour, so Ms. Lindstrom only got to sing here & in the "Bon Voyage" concert on Wednesday.

The 50 minute concert concluded with the last 2 movements of Tchaikovsky's 1st Symphony. The finale was loud, energetic & fun.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Library Branch Opening

Did I mention that my local Marina Branch Library finally re-opened August 4th, after being closed for something like 2 years? The opening ceremonies was quite the neighborhood occasion. Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Mark Leno & State Senator Carole Migden showed up to speak. A youth group did a lion dance to bless the building. Free food & shoulder bags were distributed. There were so many people that I decided not to wait to try to get in once the doors were officially opened.

I did my own inspection of the re-opened branch a couple of weeks later. Even though there is clearly more floor space in the new building, it didn't really seem that much bigger. The most obvious improvement is the bright area in the front for circulating CDs & DVDs.

I expected that they would have a lot more computers, for both Web browsing & for accessing the catalog. Of course I prefer the on-line catalog to the old card catalog, but one problem with the on-line system is that there can sometimes be a wait to use the catalog terminal. One never had to wait to the use the physical card catalog.

Yoshitoshi Prints & Jason Shiga at the Asian

Visited the Asian Art Museum today to see the current survey of Yoshitoshi prints. I've been attracted to his nervous line & disturbing imagery every since I first found out about him. This particular exhibit has so many light-sensitive prints that only half are on display at a time. All the prints are in beautiful condition & have vivid, delicate colors. Because they are hung chronologically, we can see that his most characteristic works, the most controlled & refined, come at the end of his career. His best images have a psychological intensity to them that make me suspect he was a somewhat disturbed individual.

This visit was an extension of my earlier visit to see the opening of the Tezuka exhibit. I saw more of the video documentaries about Tezuka's career. No question that he wanted to be the Japanese Walt Disney. He even created his own version of Fantasia.

Also in the galleries today day was the local cartoonist Jason Shiga. He had on display his 5' x 5' matrix of his interactive comic Meanwhile. Seeing this thing in person is probably worth the museum admission price alone. Shiga was set up in the the lobby where visitors could watch him ink his latest work & have the opportunity to chat with this unique personality.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More Kiarostami at PFA

On Saturday, August 4th I was back at the PFA for a program of the 2nd & 3rd parts of the Kiarostami trilogy that started with Where is the Friend's Home? In And Life Goes On Kiarostami travels laboriously by car back to the village settings of Where is the Friend's Home? But now this area has been devastated by a real-life earthquake. The movie is a both a documentary & a fictionalized version of this trip. The deceptively simple story is full of small, meaningful gestures that reveal much about human nature, determination & how art manipulates reality.

The final film, Through the Olive Trees, seems to be a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the previous film, adding another layer of meta-fiction to the trilogy. It too is full of small but telling observations of human behavior. Both these films end with a culminating long take in long shot in which characters are reduced to abstract points of motion within a much larger natural landscape. In these last moments, the movies transcend the narrative, & we get an almost god-like perspective on acts of human striving. These have got to be classic film endings. I'm still wondering why I didn't know about Kiarostami years ago.

Mundane Journey: Sidewalk Garden

If you're hanging out near the Panhandle, check out the sidewalk on the SW corner of Hayes & Central. Someone has beautified it with planters, creating a sort of sidewalk garden. After enjoying the plants, repair to Central Coffee, a cool neighborhood cafe on the NE corner. It must be a hip place because there were 2 of those gearless bikes parked outside during my visit on Friday morning.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Alex Ross Book Tour

Alex Ross, the super-smart classical music critic for The New Yorker, has posted his book tour for his up-coming The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. Now I can officially stalk him (& Linda Ronstandt!) here in my home town. Actually, I always thought that even I could be a classical music critic, until I started reading him in the New Yorker & in his excellent blog.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Revolution in the Streets

At lunchtime today, I stopped to hear a Latin dance band playing in the sunken plaza below The Wall on Sansome near Bush. They were basically singing The Communist Manifesto, telling us to leave our jobs for the rest of the day & walk out on The Man. The band was having a lot of fun performing & encouraging us to cast off our chains. I felt very receptive to their message today. They are Carne Cruda.

A co-worker told me that yesterday he ate lunch at the Cafe Venue in the Mills Building. While he was there a group of "revolutionaries", some of them masked, made their way into the Mills Building. Three minutes later they noisily ran out again, chased by a guard.

Last week I saw a group of costumed college students invade the Citicorp Center on Sansome & Sutter during lunch & perform a skit urging the corporation to go green.

Has the rebellion begun?