Monday, December 31, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia, Digital Restoration

This weekend I saw the pristine 4K digital restoration of Lawrence of Arabia at the Castro Theatre. Including the 20 minute intermission two thirds of the way through, it was a 4 hour experience. The widescreen image was crystal clear, & the lack of film jitter made it even more stunning. It was especially worth seeing on the big screen for scenes when we watch small figures emerge out of the vast desert. Peter O'Toole is ridiculously pretty, & Omar Sharif is a prince of a man. Seeing Alec Guinness made-up as a swarthy Arab did not make me feel good, though. The depiction of the Arab parliament in Damascas reminded me of the racist Congress scene in Birth of a Nation. Maurice Jarre's symphonic score, played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, often seemed like 80% of the movie's impact.

Lawrence of Arabia, 12.30.2012 Marquee for 50th anniversary restoration of Lawrence of Arabia at the Castro Theatre.There was a line when I arrived about 15 minutes prior to the evening show. I saw 2 families attend with their children. The Castro Theatre organist got into the spirit by opening his set with the Triumphal March from Aida. He closed with the main theme from the soundtrack, which the audience applauded. Both halves of the program began with an overture of the film's music, played while the house lights gradually dimmed.

§ Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
50th Anniversary restoration
director, David Lean
216 min

We Are Legion

Over the weekend I saw We Are Legion, a documentary charting the evolution of Anonymous from a forum of pranksters on 4chan to an anarchic association of real-world activists. The film consists of archival video, commentary from observers of on-line culture, & interviews with members of Anonymous, all of whom look like they were the kids who got beat up in high school. The film links Anonymous to the Arab Spring, Occupy & Wikileaks, making the case that it is a potent political movement. One interviewee went to prison for a year for participating in an attack against Scientology's Web servers. We also see 20-year-old Mercedes Haefer, who was arrested by the FBI & faces a possible 15 year sentence for hacking. Ms. Haefer comes across as a passionate activist in the traditional sense. The film condenses a lot of hacker culture & history & suggests that DDoS attacks are the on-line equivalent of a sit-in. I left feeling that there is a lot more to say on this topic. I saw We Are Legion in the Roxie's funky annex, with an audience of about a dozen.

§ We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012)
director, Brian Knappenberger
USA, 93 min

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic

Walt Disney Family Museum, 12.27.2012 Snow White drawing on door at Walt Disney Family Museum.This special exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum commemorates the 75th anniversary of Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs. It's in a separate building, a short walk behind the museum's main building. The show includes posters, concept art, background paintings, animation ruffs, & cels. There are a few interactive kiosks & brief movie clips. All the artwork is beautifully executed, & much of it is exquisite.

I was surprised that so much archival material still exists, though it was not clear to me which pieces, if any, were actually photographed & appear in the final film. A museum staff member explained that while some of the cels in the exhibit are reproductions, cels mounted on a slanted, as opposed to vertical, surface are originals. Interestingly, Courvoisier Galleries in San Francisco began marketing cels from Snow White almost immediately after the film was released. Another staff member drew our attention to a poster featuring characters from the movie advertising a Swedish laundry detergent. He pointed out Happy, who delightedly handles one of Snow White's undergarments & winks at us.

§ Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic
The Walt Disney Family Museum
November 15, 2012–April 14, 2013

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bayreuther Festspiele? Jawohl!

I'm in shock. This dry-looking letter confirms I can claim tickets for the 2013 Bayreuth Festival, for performances of Lonhengrin, Tannhäuser, Holländer & The Ring. The performance of Siegfried is on my birthday. I've entered the ticket lottery every year since the last time I went in 2003, but I never expected to hit the jackpot in 2013, the Wagner Bicentennial, of all years. It's impossible. I can't believe it.

Besides the confirmation letter, the envelope contained a seating chart & a postcard to send in to reserve accommodations. The next step is to pay for the tickets by bank transfer, but I'm not yet able to think straight.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Last Underground Market

San Francisco Soda Fountain
On Saturday I went to the nighttime edition of the Underground Market, an indie food mart taking place at SOMArts. Every since a New York Times article, the City has been threatening to shut it down, so this was the last event of its kind. There were about 20 vendors, all perky & lovingly proud of their food. Everything looked & tasted homemade.

I arrived a little before 8p, & the place quickly became a crush of low-key hipsters. It was sometimes difficult to figure out where the lines were. As one of my friends came away from a booth, a woman stopped him so she could photograph his 2 plates of food.

Raw Daddy Ruben Cone
I was excited to eat this crispy flax seed cone & its tangy filling of uncooked ingredients featuring sauerkraut & mustard. It made me think of Bavaria.

Braised rabbit ragu over polenta, with biscuit. One Ninety Seven.
This braised rabbit ragu with polenta & a dense biscuit was hearty.

Moroccan lamb pie. Desperation Bakehouse.
I liked the sweet flavors in this Moroccan lamb pie.

One of my friends bought us these rich moon pies for dessert.

Simply Mochi
I couldn't leave without this sampler of fresh mochi. The dessert flavors, such as strawberry cheesecake, tasted just like their descriptions.

Admission required a hand stamp, as well as a warning that we might encounter food that was technically uncooked.

Another hand stamp was required for alcoholic beverages. It looked like a fish when applied but soon resembled an unsightly birthmark. This was not a cheap dinner, & drinks in particular were overpriced.

§ The Last Underground Market
Saturday December 22nd, 2012
11am-4pm: Drinks, Take-homeables (gifts and packaged items)
6pm-2am: Drinks, Hot Food, Music

A Christmas Cat

This cat, wearing a Christmas sweater & a leash, sat looking into the Peet's Coffee in Upper Fillmore on Saturday morning.

It's quite a beautiful cat. I snapped it's picture from inside Peet's, where I also discovered the owner, an old lady, who proudly explained how she trained the cat to stay on a leash by simple persistence. This is the 2nd leashed cat I've seen this year. Both cats acted weirdly immobile.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jesse Blumberg & Ricky Ian Gordon

House Concert, 12.16.2012 Michael Colbruno introducing house concert with baritone Jesse Blumberg & composer Ricky Ian Gordon.Over the weekend I got to hear baritone Jesse Blumberg in the intimate setting of a house concert, in an airy music room with a high timbered ceiling. The hour-long program consisted of 10 songs by composer Ricky Ian Gordon, who was present & accompanied on the piano. Mr. Gordon is a charmer. He introduced the pieces, shared stories, recited a poem by Marie Howe, & sang one selection. His music is pretty & sits somewhere between Broadway & classical. The songs often had a slow rocking motion. Some felt like lullabies. Mr. Blumberg's smooth, focused sound was easy to listen to. He gave us some lovely falsetto notes & presented the songs in a soothing manner. Even though I was at the back of the room, I felt like he was singing right to me.

The event was to promote the West Coast premiere of Green Sneakers at Fort Mason on February 13th. Mr. Gordon described it as an opera for baritone, string quartet & empty chair. He composed it specifically for Mr. Blumberg to perform. We heard the opera's quiet epilogue, which is also the only time when a piano that has been sitting on stage gets played. Mr. Gordon explained the work's personal roots in his grief at the loss of his partner from AIDS in 1996.

The performance had an audience of about 25 rapt music lovers. Drinks, light food, & Christmas desserts were available before and after. The atmosphere was very cordial, & I had a chance to chat with both performers. Mr. Gordon himself was one of the 1st people to greet me, & he told me we were in the house that Ansel Adams grew up in.

§ Green Sneakers
by Ricky Ian Gordon
West Coast Premiere

Jesse Blumberg, baritone
Del Sol Quartet

Southside Theater, Fort Mason, Bldg D
Tuesday, February 19, 7:00 p.m. (pre-concert talk); 7:30 p.m. (performance)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hard Nut

I had so much fun seeing The Hard Nut at Cal Performances over the weekend. This is the justly popular Mark Morris version of The Nutcracker ballet. The 1st act party scene takes place in the 1960s & is a slapstick comedy all by itself. It's not possible to follow all the on-stage shenanigans. John Heginbotham as Mrs. Stahlbaum is a convincing matron, & he brilliantly cheated the audienced out of a pirouette at the start of the act. Kraig Patterson is a great comic performer as the harried housekeeper & even dances on his toes. June Omura is entirely believable as the spoiled little brother. The show's fact sheet says she is 48! Mark Morris himself portrays the paunchy Mr. Stahlbaum. For the Waltz of the Snowflakes, the dancers create a dazzling snow storm by tossing handfuls of glittering confetti as they leap. The spectacle is worth the price of admission & had the audience cheering.

Act II tells a separate story about a round-the-world search for the hard nut that will undo a princess's unfortunate disfigurement. The national dances appear in weirdly satirical versions, such as an Arabian dance featuring a highly suspect figure in a burqa. The Waltz of the Flowers is another highlight. It's cheeky, unclassical & rude, yet also beautiful. At times it reminded me of a synchronized swimming routine.

The large sets by comic book illustrator Charles Burns are distinctive & creepy & do not feel at odds with Tchaikovsky's often sinister score. The Berkeley Symphony, led by George Cleve, sounded great. There were nice woodwind solos, & the orchestra had a velvety texture. The music flowed soothingly. I loved hearing the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir sing from the stage.

The Hard Nut, 12.15.2012 Intermission at The Hard Nut, Cal Performances.The performance received an enthusiastic ovation & cheers. The dancers looked like they enjoyed the show as much as the audience. I did not see many children, though a father & his young son sat behind me & giggled frequently, especially at the unisex corps de ballet in the Waltz of the Snowflakes & the Waltz of the Flowers.

§ The Hard Nut
Mark Morris Dance Group

Music by Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker)
Choreography by Mark Morris
Production based on the work of Charles Burns

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra
George Cleve, conductor 

Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir
Robert Geary, artistic director

Marie: Lauren Grant
Fritz: June Omura
Louise/Princess Pirlipat: Jenn Weddel
Dr. Stahlbaum/King: Mark Morris
Mrs. Stahlbaum/Queen: John Heginbotham
Housekeeper/Nurse: Kraig Patterson
Drosselmeier: Billy Smith
Nutcracker/Young Drosselmeier: Aaron Loux
Barbie Doll: Chelsea Lynn Acree
Robot: Spencer Ramirez

Sat, Dec 15, 8 pm
Cal Performances, Berkeley
Zellerbach Hall

Monday, December 17, 2012

Very First Concerts

Talk about young audiences: Last night I received an announcement for a series of concerts aimed at "babies, toddlers, and children," presented by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. The programs last 20 minutes & include musical games & short selections of classical music. They will take place in Berkeley & San Mateo in January, & admission is free. The press release mentions "tumbling mats as an alternative to chairs," which sounds like a great idea even for concerts for adults that are particularly long. I might have considered going to Einstein on the Beach if I had a mat to lie on.

§ Very First Concert 2: The Art of Listening
San Francisco Chamber Orchestra

Jan. 19 • Sat. 10:30am, 11:10am, & 11:50am • San Mateo
Congregational Church of San Mateo, 105 N. Ellsworth Ave. (Upstairs Youth Room)

Jan. 21 • Mon. 11:00am & 12:00pm • Berkeley
The Crowden School, 1475 Rose St.

SantaCon 2012

SantaCon 2012, 12.15.2012 SantaCon participants on the 19-Polk.I made the mistake of taking the 19-Polk to my afternoon destination this past Saturday & so got a front-row seat for SantaCon, the modern revival of the yuletide tradition of misrule that once got Christmas banned in this country. Young people in Santa outfits, or simply in red apparel, prowled the sidewalks & lined up at bars all along Polk Street from Union Street to Geary.  I saw a team of Santas pulling a large wooden sleigh with female riders down the street. A posse of wassailers rode the bus with us for several blocks. They were buzzed but well-behaved.

SantaCon 2012, 12.15.2012 SantaCon participants on BART.I rode BART to the East Bay in the evening, & there were Santas in every car, in various degrees of booziness. The official San Francisco SantaCon Web page clearly states "This is not a bar crawl" then lists about 50 participating clubs & bars.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market

As testament to the success of the DIY movement, I've been to 4 indie craft fairs within the past month without even trying. When I visited the Renegade Craft Fair late Saturday afternoon, it was bustling, & I was told that it was even more crowded earlier in the day. The Concourse Exhibition Center was jammed, & there was a feeling of abundance.

Up-cycling is the name of the game here, though there was something suspect about this drum cymbal turned into a hanging ornament by Chime Jewelry.

I'd want this glow-in-the-dark bigfoot t-shirt from Maiden Voyage Clothing Co. on my Christmas list.

Heidi Gibson's custom miniature paintings were too precious for words.

The cuteness quotient of both vendors & shoppers was near lethal. Grace Hawthorne of Paper Punk did a good job pulling me in by letting me fold one of the components from her paper toy kits. I bought a granola bar from the cheery folks at Awesome Bar but ended up giving it to a friend who skipped his dinner. He claimed it was indeed awesome.

§ 4th Annual Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco Holiday Market
December 15 + 16,  2012
11am-6pm both days
Concourse Exhibition Center

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Philharmonia Baroque: A Bach Christmas

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, 12.14.2012 Audience at Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra at Herbst Theatre.Friday night I heard Philharmonia Baroque's Christmas-themed, all-Bach program. Guest conductor Masaaki Suzuki has a great head of white hair. He gestures vigorously & cues all the entrances. He led with consistently fast tempos, though the speediness was somehow never pulse-quickening. The famous Air of the Orchestral Suite No. 3 felt arid. The trumpets often struggled to keep up with the rapid tempos.

The chorus of 23 for the Cantata BWV 63 & the Magnificat sounded happy & clear. Alto Fabiana González makes a clean, solid sound. Soprano Sherezade Panthaki has a pure, pretty voice that made me think of a bird in flight.  Bass-baritone Dashon Burton has a deep, open sound, & there is a nice relaxed quality to his singing. Tenor Dann Coakwell's voice is clean & unstrained. He looked joyful & emotionally involved while performing. Soprano Claire Kelm moved back & forth between the chorus & the front of the stage to sing the soprano II part in the Magnificat. Oboist Marc Schachman Gonzalo Ruiz played clean & mellow obbligato solos in the cantata & Magnficat.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, 12.14.2012 Intermission at Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra concert at Herbst Theatre.This concert presented the earlier E-flat version of the Magnificat, which seemed pretty similar to the standard version in D, except for a couple of interpolated choruses in German. Ms. Panthaki sounded mellifluous in the Quia Respexit. The voices of her & Mr. Burton, while both attractive, did not really blend in their duets. Organist Hanneke van Proosdij did double duty playing one of the recorder obbligatos in Esurientes implevit bonis, while harpsichordist Charles Sherman took over the organ. The male choristers did a nice job making their 16th notes in Fecit potentiam sound distinct & separated.

The concert was well attended & the audience quiet & polite. They applauded especially for the chorus & soloists. A phone rang from somewhere just before the Suscepit of the Magnificat.

§ A Bach Christmas
Philharmonica Baroque
Masaaki Suzuki, conductor

Sherezade Panthaki, soprano
Claire Kelm, soprano
Fabiana González, alto
Dann Coakwell, tenor
Dashon Burton, bass-baritone

Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director

J.S. BACH Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068
J.S. BACH Cantata No. 63 Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63
J.S. BACH Magnificat in E-flat major, BWV 243a

Fri, Dec 14, 2012, 8:00 pm
The Herbst Theatre,
San Francisco


Yesterday I saw Steven Spielberg's reverential costume drama about Lincoln's machinations to pass the 13th Amendment through the 1865 Congress. Daniel Day-Lewis is physically convincing as Honest Abe, though I never got used to the high, reedy voice he gave the president. The movie's Lincoln is a tall, folksy Buddha. He's consistently calm, clear-minded & slightly detached.

It's a big production, with a cast of hundreds. They must have had an impressive budget for facial hair. Diffuse & smokey lighting gives the movie a luxuriously thick atmosphere. I was impressed by a meticulous shot in which the sun's rays just peek over the roof of a building in the background. The script by Tony Kushner is almost entirely debates & conversations in which everyone speaks in complete sentences. The movie is long, & I had plenty of time to ponder if it is actually a gloss on the Obama presidency, but I did not come to any conclusions.

§ Lincoln (2012)
Director: Steven Spielberg
150 min, US

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nadine Sierra's Salon at the Rex

Nadine Sierra, 12.12.2012 Nadine Sierra at the Rex Salon.I really enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of soprano Nadine Sierra's Salon at the Rex. She sang a varied program in Italian, German, Russian, French & English that ran a little over an hour. Her voice is polished & even & slightly dusky & her communication warm & direct. She did a nice job making everything smooth & connected, starting with the Handel aria Lascia ch'io pianga, to which she added a few soft, discrete high notes. She sang selections from Strauss's Lezte Blätter with a strong focus. The fearful atmosphere of Die Nacht was powerful & suspended. Rachmaninov's Six Romances had a similar fullness of emotion. She was intense & anguished in In My Garden at Night & flirtatious & conniving in The Rat Catcher. The unsettling ending of A-oo lingered. She was an outgoing Juliette in 2 excerpts from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, which she said is her favorite operatic version of the story. She ended the program with a song mocking The 12 Days of Christmas, written by Fred Silver, who was her vocal teacher when she was 10 years old.

Accompanist Tamara Sanikidze is a secure pianist. She is also an exuberant talker, though she was still overcome with the emotion of the Strauss when she began introducing the Rachmaninov songs, which she described as the most "out there" music he ever wrote. She was glad that we had no translations of the Russian in our programs, which would just get in the way of our emotional imaginations. She also explained that "A-oo" is a Russian forest call as well as a kind of primal scream.

The audience was cordial & applauded especially enthusiastically for the Gounod. Someone requested an encore during the Q&A, but sadly the performers had not had time to prepare one. The Hotel Rex did not have the usual wine bar set up for this performance, & it took longer than it should have to purchase a pre-show drink in the lounge. Just before the performance Ms. Sanikidze chatted briefly with The Opera Tattler & me, then excused herself, explaining, "We have to go kick some ass!"

§ Nadine Sierra, soprano
Tamara Sanikidze, piano

San Francisco Performances
Salon at the Rex

G.F. Handel: Lascia ch'io pianga from Rinaldo

R. Strauss: From Letze Blatter, Op. 10
     Die Nacht
     Die Georgine

S. Rachmaninov: Six Romances, Op. 38
     In My Garden at Night
     To Her
     The Rat Catcher
     The Dream

C. Gounod: Je veux vivre!
Dieu! quel frisson...Amour ranime mon courage
from Roméo et Juliette

Fred Silver: The Twelve Days After Christmas

Wednesday, December 12, 6:30pm
Hotel Rex

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

NCCO Open Rehearsal

New Century Chamber Orchestra, 12.10.2012 Open rehearsal, New Century Chamber Orchestra, Herbst Theatre.Monday morning I heard an open rehearsal for this week's concerts by the New Century Chamber Orchestra. They worked on Vivaldi's 4 Seasons. Each movement features a different violinist of the orchestra as soloist, with music director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in the 1st & last spots. Dawn Harms was virtuosic in the 1st movement of Summer, & she joked around with her stance when Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg admonished her not to face the cellos during her solo. Candace Guirao was capricious in the 1st movement of Autumn, playing with a lot of contrasts. Iris Stone played the slow movement of Winter deamily, & Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg called out a "bravo" to Karen Sor's strongly grounded 3rd movement of Summer. Each musician simply stands up for her solo turn, so Jennifer Cho, playing the Adagio from Summer from the back of the stage, expressed concern that she could not hear the rest of the orchestra.

This was a working rehearsal, & the musicians engaged in discussion after each movement. They do not hesitate to make suggestions or request cues, & the atmosphere is supportive. Changes occur incrementally. It was interesting to see them decide on using a single viola for the slow movement of Winter through a process of negotiation rather than fiat, after Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg warned the violas not to sound like chihuahuas. Liza Zurlinden had a very detailed list of notes for the ensemble for the last movement of Autumn, including the use of col legno.

New Century Chamber Orchestra, 12.10.2012 Complimentary donuts & coffee, New Century Chamber Orchestra, open rehearsal, basement of Herbst Theatre.The mid-morning audience was sparse but engaged, & they applauded each of the soloists. During the break complimentary coffee & donuts were served. This rehearsal covered all of the Vivaldi, but the complete program includes Handel's Entrance of the Queen of Sheba & contemporary works by Clarice Assad & Lera Auerbach.

§ New Century Chamber Orchestra
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Music Director

Open Rehearsal for Soloists of New Century

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Le Quattro Staggioni, Op. 8, nos. 1-4
(The Four Seasons)

La Primavera (Spring), RV 269 in E major
I. Allegro    Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Violin
II. Largo    Hrabba Atladottir, Violin
III. Allegro    Anna Presler, Violin

L'Estate (Summer), RV 315 in G minor
I. Allegro non molto    Dawn Harms, Violin
II. Adagio    Jennifer Cho, Violin
III. Presto    Karen Sor, Violin

L'Autunno (Autumn), RV 293 in F major
I. Allegro    Candace Guirao, Violin
II. Adagio Molto    tutti violins
III. Allegro    Liza Zurlinden, Violin

L'Inverno (Winter), RV 297 in F minor
I. Allegro non molto    Robin Mayforth, Violin
II. Largo    Iris Stone, Violin
III. Allegro    Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin

Monday, December 10, 2012, 10am
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Christmas Book Tree

Readers Bookstore, Fort Mason
This festive holiday tree made of a old books, Christmas lights, & a coffee mug topper is on display in the Readers Bookstore at Fort Mason. The titles do not seem to be Christmas related. A nearby signs states that books from the tree will not be for sale until after the holidays. I was also glad to see that there is cafe in the bookshop again.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

New York's Photo League

Contemporary Jewish Museum, 12.04.2012 Exhibit on New York Photo League at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.This week I took advantage of the Jewish Contemporary Museum's free day to see The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, a show featuring street photography of New York in the 1930's & 40s. The selection is large & inclusive, & there were many names I did not recognize. All the images strike a balance between the aesthetic & the documentary, & every social issue depicted feels dismayingly relevant. A page from the 1947 New York Times is on display, & its headlines could be from today's paper.

I was drawn to the pictures of children, such as a little boy caught by Davd Robbins at an Antiwar Demonstration, 1941 & a little girl with a supercilious expression in Ann Copper's Girl Along a Parade Sideline, New York, 1950. Arthur Leipzig's frenetic overhead view of Chalk Games, Prospect Place, Brooklyn, 1950 might be the source for Eric Drooker's rejected 9/11 New Yorker cover. I was intrigued by the snippet of a 1953 film called Little Fugitive, showing a little boy buffeted by the crowds at Coney Island. It has the look of a neo-realist film.

The Jewish Contemporary Museum is a fortress. Before entering I had to unzip all the compartments in my shoulder bag for inspection & go through their metal detector twice. When I pulled out a pencil to take notes, I was warned not to bring any writing implements into the Ezra Keats exhibit.

§ The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936–1951
Contemporary Jewish Museum
On view through January 21, 2013

Monday, December 03, 2012

Bazaar Bizarre Holiday Show

Sunday afternoon I checked out Bazaar Bizarre, the big indie craft fair, at the Concourse Exhibition Center. A friend neatly sums up the artwork at these fairs as "owls, bikes & whales." The event was well-attended, & most of the merchandise, vendors & shoppers could fairly be described as "cute." Many of the attendees were families. I felt like I was in a nursery school.

Old maps were a popular item to upcycle. Here Granny Panty Designs folded origami flowers out of them.

A serious-looking fellow showed me a menu of squiggly, whimsical images that he could draw with a sewing machine. He used a bicycle to charge the battery that ran his machine.

I did not expect to see the many food items for sale, all with really nice packaging. Sweet Lauren Cakes, based in Bernal Heights, offered cakepops in packages that could have come off the shelves of an up-scale retail shop.

T-WE's colorful labels & tidy boxes made their boutique tea blends look very appealing.

The folks of Milton & Small sold out their cold brew coffee, poured into bottles that made the product look like an old-timey patent medicine.

All this hand-made stuff is not cheap, but most of the vendors I asked seemed to be having a good weekend. I saw several attendees wandering the aisles drinking wine out of plastic cups.

§ Bazaar Bizarre San Francisco
Saturday December 1st & Sunday December 2nd 2012
Concourse Exhibition Center

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Robin Sloan at Arion Press, 11.27.2012 Author Robin Sloan speaking at Arion Press.Tuesday evening I heard local author Robin Sloan read from his 1st novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, in a gallery space at Arion Press in the Presidio. The affable Mr. Sloan described how he was inspired to write the story after reading a friend's tweet mentioning the concept of a 24-hour bookstore. The book seems to be a fun read that is steeped in the cultures of both San Francisco & Silicon Valley. In the Q&A, Mr. Sloan was asked about the accuracy of his portrait of Google, & he characterized it as "affectionate exaggeration." He also proudly verified that Hadoop is a real technology. Mr. Sloan is quite sunny about the publishing business & averred that owners of eReaders buy more books, both digital & print.

Arion Press, 11.27.2012 Gallery at Arion Press.The event was preceded by a wine reception, & the gathering was literate & cultivated. Arion Press board member Kevin King introduced Mr. Sloan. Mr. King pointed out the book's glow-in-the-dark cover & challenged the author to defend his optimistic vision of the compatibility of old & new technologies.

§ Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Robin Sloan

November 27, 2012, 6:00 p.m.
Arion Press

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thielemann Berates Beijing Audience

My Beijing-based correspondent recently witnessed Christian Thielemann scold an audience at the National Centre for the Performing Arts while on tour with the Dresden Staatskapelle:
"...he abruptly cut-off the first solo trumpet note of the Rienzi overture (which was not the first work of the program), turned three-quarters around to the audience, and berated them in English for not taking their seats quietly enough."
Our Man in Beijing goes on to explain that the Rienzi overture was the 3rd Wagner overture on the program & that there was apparently seating of latecomers combined with jockeying for better seats. He reports that the audience was silent after their reprimand & adds, "The audiences in Beijing are noisy by US standards."

§ Dresden Staatskapelle
Christian Thielemann, Conductor

Wagner: Overture to Tannhauser
Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod, from Tristan und Isolde
Wagner: Overture to Rienzi
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor

3. November 2012
Beijing, National Centre for the Performing Arts

Joyce DiDonato | Drama Queens

Weill Hall, 11.20.2012 Interior of Weill Hall, Sonoma State University, awaiting performance of Drama Queens by Joyce DiDonato.Last week I was fortunate to hear mezzo Joyce DiDonato in a recital of Baroque opera arias, accompanied by Il Complesso Barocco. Ms. DiDonato must be at the top of her game, & she sang with complete control. All the pieces fit her voice comfortably, as if tailored for her, & her sound was always warm, attractive & even. I loved hearing "Disprezzata regina" from Monteverdi's Poppea. It moved restlessly from emotion to emotion, & Ms. DiDonato nailed every dramatic turn. I wanted to hear the rest of the opera.

She sang lovely quiet passages & a beautiful decrescendo in "Piangerò la sorre mia" from Handel's Giulio Cesare, though the audience applauded prematurely at the end of the B section. "Madre diletta, abbracciami" from Porta's Ifigenia was softly plangent, & Ms. DiDonata gave the long opening note a different coloration on the repeat. Her runs & trills were clean & controlled, & "Brilla nell'alma" from Handel's Alessandro sounded like a hoedown. She offered 3 encores & seemed like she could give more. The house lights stayed up during the performance, & she often looked around at the audience. She joked that it was good to be wearing a dress again in San Francisco, & she playfully sang the pitch when the orchestra took a long time tuning before the Scarlatti in the 2nd half.

The young musicians of Il Complesso Barocco were a lively bunch who stood as they played. 1st violin Dmitry Sinkovsky was their leader & an extravagant soloist for a Vivaldi violin concerto. He performed a wild, improvisational cadenza in the 1st movement that was fun & funny. He often looks like he's running in place & frequently plays to his fellow musicians, his back to the audience. There was lots of bowing off the string & a flashy up-bow staccato in the 3rd movement. It was exuberant, & some in the audience gave Mr. Sinkovsky a standing ovation. The men of Il Complesso Barocco wore red socks that matched Ms. DiDonato's elaborate red dress.

Weill Hall, 11.20.2012 Mopping up wet floors at Weill Hall at Sonoma State University, before Drama Queen performance by Joyce DiDonato.The bright wooden interior of Weill Hall at Sonoma State University is inviting, & the acoustic is clear. The facilities staff conscientiously mopped the floor as patrons came in from the rain. It was a pity that there were so many empty seats. It took my concert companion & I nearly 2 hours to drive to Rohnert Park from Oakland, & we were dismayed to find no food available at the hall.

§ Drama Queens
Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano
Dmitry Sinkovsky, violin | director
Il Complesso Barocco

Antonio Cesti (1623-1669)
"Intorno all'idol mio" from Orontea
    Orontea, Queen of Egypt

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Sinfonia (Presto-Grave-Presto) from Tolomeo ed Alessandro

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
"Disprezzata regina" from L'Incoronazione di Poppea
     Ottavia, Empress of Rome

Geminiano Giacomelli (1692-1740)
"Sposa, son disprezzata" from Merope
     Irene, Princess of Tresbisond

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto for violin and strings RV 242, "per Pisendel"

Giuseppe Maria Orlandini (1676-1760)
"Da torbida procella" from Berenice
     Berenice, Queen of Palestine


Johann Adopf Hasse (1699-1783)
"Morte col fiero aspetto" from Antonio e Cleopatra
     Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt

George Frideric Handel (16S5-1759)
"Piangerò la sorre mia" from Giulio Cesare
     Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt

Passacaglia from Radamisto

Giovanni Porta (1675-1755)
"Madre diletta, abbracciami" from Ifigenia in Aulide
     lfigenia, Princess of Mycenae

D. Scarlatti

"Brilla nell'alma" from Alessandro
     Rossane, Princess of Persia


Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739)
"Lasciami piangere" from Fredegunda

Guiseppe Maria Orlandini (1676 - 1760)
"Col versar, barbaro" from Berenice

"Brilla nell'alma" reprise?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 8 p.m.
Weill Hall, Sonoma State University

Thursday, November 22, 2012

An Area 51 Christmas

I'm completely in favor of this Christmas window display in the Marc Jacobs store in Pacific Heights. Apart from presents beneath a saguaro cactus hung with lights, nothing says Christmas in the Southwest like a space alien crash landing in the Nevada desert. His UFO prop looks like it could be an actual working vehicle, though of the terrestrial wheeled kind.

Muni History & Children's Books at SFPL

It's pretty amazing to see this die cut, Halloween-themed Muni fast pass from 1977. That's something you can't do with a Clipper card. It's in a small exhibit about Muni, crammed into a few cases on the 5th floor of the main library. A 1931 map shows a trolley line on my street, so my neighborhood was probably better served back then than it is now. One can easily read the entries in a hand-written accident log, & I really liked seeing an employee publication containing cartoons lampooning Muni riders & workers. They are nicely drawn & actually funny.

Children's Book Illustration, 11.19.2012 Children's book illustration at the SF Public Library.
Also on the same floor is an exhibit of children's book illustrations, displaying both original art & printed books. The selection favors refined artwork. Drawings by Charles Feiffer, Maurice Sendak, & one of the 1st illustrators of Harry Potter are included.

§ Cussed and Discussed: 100 Years of the Municipal Railway in San Francisco
San Francisco History Center
San Francisco Main Library
November 2, 2012 - January 24, 2013

§ Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustration
Skylight Gallery
San Francisco Main Library
September 15, 2012 - December 2, 2012