Thursday, May 31, 2012

Opera Guild Preview Lecture: Nixon in China

Stephen Hinton speaking on John Adams, 05.30.2012 Stephen Hinton showing video of John Adams in talk about Nixon in China at SFPL.Wednesday lunchtime I heard musicologist Stephen Hinton deliver a preview lecture on Nixon in China, which opens at the San Francisco Opera next week. The 90 minute talk was slow-moving & required a pause for Professor Hinton to reboot his laptop when the videos in his PowerPoint presentation refused to play. It took nearly 25 minutes before he got around to discussing the opera itself. It was helpful when he played musical examples to show the influence of Wagner, Stravinsky, Mozart & Weill on the music, but I came away with only a patchy impression of the opera. He mentioned a recent book, John Adams's Nixon in China, by Timothy Johnson, which might be worth checking out. Terry Ryan of the SF Opera Guild introduced the lecture, & she had her own way of dispatching the sesquipedalian German titles in Professor Hinton's bibliography.

§ Opera Guild Preview Lectures
Nixon in China by John Adams
Speaker: Stephen Hinton
5/30/2012 12:00p
Koret Auditorium, Main Library

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

So Wrong It's Right

Just heard panelist on So Wrong It's Right on BBC Radio 4 describe seeing Nico Muhly's Two Boys, without actually naming the opera. Unfortunately the point of the show is to describe one's worst experiences.

Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau at The Booksmith, 05.29.2012 Chris Guillebeau addressing packed audience at The Booksmith.People packed The Booksmith in the Haight for an appearance by Web entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau on Tuesday night. But 1st we heard from Steve Kamb, a good-looking, happy fellow & creator of a website called Nerd Fitness. Mr. Kamb gave a testimonial about how he turned his blog into a 6-figure business, traveled around the world, & got speaking engagements at Google & Facebook, thanks to Mr. Guillebeau's manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success. Mr. Guillebeau then told us more success stories from his book, The $100 Startup, an inspirational & informational guide to "creative self employment." Mr. Guillebeau has an upbeat & open personality & is no doubt a champion networker. He told us to define our own success & suggested we ask ourselves if we have enough freedom. He also urged us to connect our passion to something useful to the community.

Mr. Guillebeau talked for about 25 minute & answered questions for another 25, mostly about his business. His audience was attentive. I saw one gentleman buy multiple copies of the book. When one of Mr. Guillebeau's fans was told that this was also a book signing, she said, "But I have his book on my kindle!"

§ Chris Guillebeau
$100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You make a Living, Do What you Love, and Create A New Future

The Booksmith
Tuesday, May 29 at 7:30 PM

Monday, May 28, 2012

Golden Gate Bridge Fireworks

Crissy Field, 05.27.2012 Crowd awaiting Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary fireworks display at Crissy Field.The Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary celebration of course ended with a big fireworks show Sunday night. I viewed it from Crissy Field, along with thousands of others. A row of photographers had staked out spots at the shoreline. Miraculously, we had no fog or clouds.

GG Bridge Fireworks, 05.27.2012 Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary fireworks.At 9:29p, all the lights on the bridge went out. After a minute or so of darkness, 2 lines of showering sparks started from each end of the span & met in the middle, turning the bridge into a waterfall of glittering light. Most of the fireworks seemed to be launched from a slow-moving barge near the Marin side, but the coolest effects used the bridge. Sparklers dropped from the bridge in layers, & fan-shaped fireworks sprang up from the span.

GG Bridge Fireworks, 05.27.2012 Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary fireworks.Dancing searchlights were part of the spectacle, & we even heard a few blasts on the bridge's foghorns. The show was set to music, & fireworks forming the outline of a red heart illustrated "I Left my Heart in San Francisco."

Crissy Field, 05.27.2012 Too-bright Klieg lights, post-fireworks display for Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary.After the event, the crowd moved quickly out of the Presidio. I saw a lot of people on bikes. The blinding Klieg lights were obnoxious & did not help me notice the curb, which I stumbled on.

United Liquor, 05.27.2012 Line at United Liquor, post-fireworks display for Golden Gate Bridge.Once I was back in the Marina neighborhood, the line at United Liquor indicated that the party went on.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary

Golden Gate Bridge, 05.26.2012 Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio.The masses are expected today at the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary festivities taking place today from the Marina Green to Fort Point. Yesterday I walked through the area for some iconic views without the crowds. The purpose of the celebrations seems to be to distract people from crossing the bridge this weekend.

Presidio Movie Screen, 05.26.2012 Inflatable movie screen being set up in windy conditions in the Presidio.The windy weather was already causing problems for an inflatable movie screen being set up in the Presidio for an outdoor showing of It Came from Beneath the Sea.

Before the Bridge, 05.26.2012 Before the Bridge exhibit in the Presidio barracks.A nearby barrack currently houses a generic but informative exhibit about the bay before the bridge. I learned that there are 57 licensed bar pilots who each make an average of $450,000 a year guiding ships through the bay.

Crissy Field, 05.26.2012 Sound check for Crissy Field stage.Big tents & a stage were being set up on Crissy Field. I watched raise a lighting truss & heard a band do their sound check.

Fort Point, 05.26.2012 Bunting decorations by Allison Smith inside Fort Point.Fort Point is open for visitors, & 16 artists have been invited to install their works throughout the building. I got there too close to closing time & park rangers kicked me out before I had a chance to visit all 3 floors, but the art will be there through October.

Chrysopylae, 05.26.2012 Doug Hall's Chrysopylae video installation in Fort Point.I hope they can keep Doug Hall's 2-screen video installation operational. The images majestically convey the scale of the bridge, the shipping traffic that passes beneath it & the life surrounding it.

Golden Gate Bridge, 05.26.2012 Golden Gate Bridge & Fort Port.It's been a bit cloudy today, but I'm hoping it clears up for the fireworks tonight. I plan to tramp out there again for the 9:30p spectacle.

Hilary Hahn plays Prokofiev

Hilary Hahn, 05.25.2012 Sign announcing CD signing at Hilary Hahn's appearance with SF Symphony at Davies Hall.Friday night's program at the San Francisco Symphony, led by Osmo Vänskä, began with a big orchestra on stage for Minea by Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. The 20 minute tone poem began with a startling burst from the percussion & brass & continued loudly. In the 1st half something made a whooshing, surf-like sound, & a percussionist made a sound by dropping a heavy chain. The contrabassoon had a prominent solo, & I liked William Bennett's twisty oboe solo, played with a dense tone. The 2nd half was a continuous crescendo led by drumming from the percussion section, which included bongos. The orchestra played blazingly throughout. I noticed a couple of violinists with earplugs. The audience cheered for the noisy finale, & some people stood.

Violinist Hilary Hahn was soloist for Prokofiev's 1st Violin Concerto. She has a cool demeanor & sounded consistently graceful & pretty, even when tackling aggressive passages. In the 2nd movement she made a striking effect with her truly glassy ponticello tone. The concerto's unusual soft ending was controlled & airy, & the audience responded with a standing ovation. Ms. Hahn gave us an encore by Tina Davidson, which begins with the violinist making sounds by pressing down forcefully on the strings with just the left fingers. The piece was lovely, & its use of multiple voices evoked Bach. When Ms. Hahn returned for another bow, she told us, "I got permission to play one more" & gave us a fluid & ringing movement from Bach which complemented the Davidson piece nicely.

Line for Hilary Hahn, 05.25.2012 Symphony patrons waiting in line to have their CDs signed by Hilary Hahn after a performance.After intermission, Maestro Vänskä led a brilliant Shostakovich 6. He does a lot of knee bends & cues everything. His left hand is often up in the air.  I agreed with a friend who described the sound Maestro Vänskä got as "bright & sparkly." The drawn-out 1st movement maintained tension, & Timothy Day's flute solos were intense & forlorn. The following shorter movements had a manic energy. Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik dug in for his 3rd movement solo & sounded very Russian. The evening's final seconds were like a train about to run off the rails, both frightening & thrilling. The audience coughed demonstratively between movements & gave the concert a rousing standing ovation. After the performance, I saw Ms. Hahn signing CDs in the lobby.

§ Hilary Hahn plays Prokofiev
San Francisco Symphony
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Hilary Hahn, violin

Kalevi Aho: Minea
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No.1
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 6

Tina Davidson: Blue Curve of the Earth
Bach: Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in a minor, BWV 1003

Fri, May 25, 2012 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Midsummer Mozart at Noontime Concerts

Noontime Concert at Old St. Mary's, 05.22.2012 George Cleve & Midsummer Mozart Festival musicians at Noontime Concert at Old St. Mary's.Musicians of the Midsummer Mozart Festival led by George Cleve played a short but satisfying Noontime Concert at Old St. Mary's yesterday. Maria Tamburrin was soloist for Mozart's Andante in C for Flute & Orchestra. Her playing was assured, & she added ornamentation & a brief cadenza. A chamber orchestra of 9 accompanied her elegantly. 8 musicians then performed Mozart's Divertimento for Oboe and Strings. The music went at a graceful pace & felt buoyant without being bouncy. Oboist Laura Griffiths gave a nicely smooth articulation to her solos. 1st violin Robin Hansen played spryly in the Menuetto. Maestro Cleve has an easy manner & gave clear, anticipatory cues. The gentleman seated in the pew in front of me clearly enjoyed the performance, frequently tapping his foot to the music. The audience responded with warm applause, as if we were all old friends of the musicians, & several people stood. An elderly gentleman presented tiny potted plants to the orchestra. Maestro Cleve genially addressed the audience before each piece & listed the programs for his up-coming Midsummer Mozart Festival concerts.

§ Noontime Concerts
Members of the Midsummer Mozart Festival Orchestra
George Cleve, conductor

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Andante in C for Flute and Orchestra, K.315
Flute Solo: Maria Tamburrino

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Divertimento for Oboe and Strings, K.251
Oboe Solo: Laura Griffiths

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 - 12:30 p.m.
Old St. Mary's Cathedral

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Maker Faire Bay Area 2012

Bay Area Maker Faire 2012., 05.19.2012 Inflatable Instructables robot mascot at Bay Area Maker Faire 2012. I spent the weekend in San Mateo, again helping out at a friend's booth at Maker Faire. His particular project required a lot of explanation, & I got hoarse from talking in the noisy expo hall for 2 days. Someone said that 115,000 were expected to attend. There were moments when I got dizzy surrounded by the crowds.
Bay Area Maker Faire 2012

I spent most of my time at the booth but did manage to run around & see a few things. This BrollyFrock spits fire & water, & seeing it lit up at night was one of the perks of attending the faire as a maker.
Bay Area Maker Faire 2012, 05.19.2012 Lock-picking class at Bay Area Maker Faire 2012.

There were a lot of participatory activities. Here, people were learning how to pick locks.
Bay Area Maker Faire 2012

This giant lizard is a vehicle, outfitted with couches & a sound system. His skin is made from tire treads, & he breathes fire.
Bay Area Maker Faire 2012

I'm glad I got to see one of these anything-goes pedal bike races. The figure-8 course encourages collisions as well as displays of bad sportsmanship.
Bay Area Maker Faire 2012

The R2 Builders Club was a big hit with the many families at the event. Hobbyists like this are the heart of the faire.

The corporate presence was strong. Our 8'x8' space was directly across from a huge Oracle booth. Someone from General Electric replied to my tweets with the purpose of luring me to their booth. Employees of Microsoft twice came to our booth to promote their experimental desktop application.
Human pinhole camera, 05.20.2012 Human pinhole camera viewing the annular eclipse at the end of the Bay Area Maker Faire 2012.

The annular solar eclipse occurred right after Sunday's closing time, & makers gathered outside to view it with a variety of improvised pinhole cameras.
Bay Area Maker Faire 2012, 05.20.2012 Solar eclipse being live-streamed at Bay Area Maker Faire 2012.

Streaming video of the eclipse fittingly ended the event's 3-day live Web-cast, which was hosted by a cheerful lady named Brooklyn.

§ Maker Faire Bay Area 2012
May 19 & 20
San Mateo County Event Center

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Phantoms of Asia

Asian Phantoms Media Preview Wednesday morning the Asian Art Museum held a media preview for its Phantoms of Asia exhibit, a large show featuring contemporary works by 31 artists. The event began at the giant red lotus in Civic Center Plaza, where about a dozen of the artists posed for their class picture.
Asian Phantoms Media PreviewWe were instructed to stand by for an address by Mayor Ed Lee, who arrived after a chilly, half-hour wait. He was proceeded by a fellow making his way leisurely through the plaza while expressing his political discontent into a megaphone.
Asian Phantoms Media Preview Back inside the museum, curator Mami Kataoka led a tour of exhibit, with the artists themselves each speaking a few words in front of their own pieces.
Asian Phantoms, 05.16.2012 Installation by Sun K. Kwak at Asian Art Museum for Phantoms of Asia show.There are over 60 works, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations & videos. Many of the works have a strong conceptual element that is present but unseen. Sun K. Kwak's installation of a filigree of black masking tape might trace the North Court's qi.

Phantoms of AsiaThe curator has purposefully interspersed these contemporary works among the museum's traditional objects on all 3 floors, so that a walk through the show is also a tour of the comprehensive permanent collection.

§ Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past
Asian Art Museum
May 18–September 2, 2012     

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Aardman's animated The Pirates! Band of Misfits is extremely silly. A happy pirate sets out with his rag-tag crew to win Pirate of the Year at all costs. Though full of anachronisms, the action takes place in the Victorian era, with Charles Darwin & Queen Victoria as the villains of the piece. I was aghast at the film's version of Queen Victoria, who is truly nasty, brutish & short. I liked the detailed sets, no doubt crammed with jokes I totally missed, though I was at least quick enough to notice the sign for a Chinese dentist named "D.K. Ying." The stop-motion animated figures have the familiar ping-pong ball eyes, wide mouths & large hands of other Aardman characters but lack the hand-molded feel of Wallace & Gromit. The movie is aimed at kids, though the books on which it is based are apparently not. I saw it in 3D, which enhances the film's environments but is not essential. I was the only person at the lunchtime matinee. Definitely spooky & absolute validation of my slacker status.

§ The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012)
Directors: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt
88 min

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert

Courtesy of John Marcher, I attended the New York Philharmonic's 2nd concert at Davies Hall on Monday. The long line at the men's room told me right away that the house was packed. The NY Phil fielded a large orchestra, with at least 9 stands of violins in each section, as well as 2 harps. The program began with a high-energy performance of Berlioz's Le Corsaire Overture. All the musicians played out, & the orchestra made a brilliant sound. Concert master Glenn Dicterow was soloist for the Bartók Violin Concerto No. 1. The piece is in 2 large movements that are each one long statement for the violin. Mr. Dicterow read from the music, & his playing was consistent & sustained. The orchestra supported him nicely. I was impressed that Mr. Dicterow returned after intermission to resume his 1st chair duties for Debussy's La Mer & Ravel's La Valse. The orchestra's brash, out-going manner made the Berlioz, Debussy & Ravel sound the same to me. For some reason I found myself focusing on the bassoons during La Valse.

Conductor Alan Gilbert looks great on the podium. He's in constant motion & seems to be conducting along with the orchestra rather than leading. He sometimes resembled someone in an aerobics class & went airborne on the final chord of La Mer. The audience gave the performers a cheering standing ovation & remained standing for a cute 2nd encore in which 5 members of the brass section stood up & played a jaunty Dixieland piece. They even marched around as the audience clapped along. I was unexpectedly seated in the same row as the Opera Tattler & signaled to her my dismay that she followed a Met Ring Cycle with a performance of La Bohème a week later.

§ New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert
New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert, conductor
Glenn Dicterow, violin

Berlioz: Le Corsaire Overture
Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 1
Debussy: La Mer
Ravel: La Valse

Chabrier: España
Dixieland(?) Brass Quintet

Mon, May 14, 2012 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Monday, May 14, 2012

How Weird Street Fair

How Weird Street Fair, 05.13.2012 Part of the costumed crowd at How Weird Street Fair.Last month someone told me about the How Weird Street Fair, accurately describing it as a congregation of artsy, Burning Man types. On Sunday afternoon it spread out in 4 directions from the intersection of Howard & 2nd. It was the attendees themselves that supplied the weird, a good proportion of them showing up in impressively elaborate & well thought-out costumes. & if you didn't arrive in costume, there were plenty of funky clothing vendors to help make you look interesting.

How Weird Street Fair, 05.13.2012 Dancer atop speakers at How Weird Street Fair.I might have lingered, but huge speakers surrounding the fair blasted the streets with a powerful electronic thumping that sounded like an earthquake, amplified. It rattled my internal organs & deafened me, though it did inspire primal dancing in others. The $10 donation seemed excessive, as did the security screening, since the crowd was very well-behaved despite the party-like atmosphere. As I waited to enter, someone handed me a free sample of chocolate milk & another person offered me a skinny can of lite beer.

§ How Weird 2012
Sunday May 13th from Noon to 8pm
Howard & 2nd Streets, Downtown San Francisco

NCCO: Zwilich World Premiere

New Century Chamber Orchestra, 05.13.2012 Valet parking attendance in front of Herbst Theatre. I believe they were waiting on attendees of the New Century Chamber Orchestra.The audience at Saturday night's concert by the New Century Chamber Orchestra seemed unusually well-heeled, & there was a row of valet parkers in front of Herbst Theatre. NCCO are an extroverted ensemble, & since there is no conductor the musicians constantly watch each other. They played Grieg's Holberg Suite with forward-moving tempos. In the Sarabande, it was nice to hear bass player Anthony Manzo's round, plump sound & cellist Susan Babini's taut yet expansive playing.

The premiere of Ellen Zwilich's Commedia dell'Arte, a bright concerto for violin, was preceded by a video in which Ms. Zwilich & Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg describe the Commedia dell'Arte characters which inspired it. The piece is cute. Each movement prominently features a different percussion instrument. A violist plays the slap in the 1st movement, against the solo violin's short, fast phrases. In the 2nd movement, cellist Michelle Djokic elegantly shook & tapped her tambourine while the soloist played long, high lines & imitated the twittering of a bird. Concert master Dawn Harms hammed it up on the toy drum in the 3rd movement, which has a swaggering motion. The 4th movement opens with a cadenza reprising previous themes & is a non-stop run. Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg played alertly & definitely acted as both conductor & soloist. She rocked her hips as much as she played the violin. Ms. Zwilich was in the audience & came on stage, still carrying her purse, to take a bow with the performers.

The beginning of the 2nd half was delayed while Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg & the orchestra waited for someone seated near the stage to silence their mobile phone. The musicians were focused throughout Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht. I liked the deep rumbling tremolos of the cellos & bass. Candace Guirao played a calmly controlled viola solo, & Ms. Babini's cello solos had an expectant feel. A series of accented chords evoked repeated grasping. The orchestra remained motionless at the end, & there was a long silence from the audience. It was a bit odd to follow this with comedic variations on "Happy Birthday," but the orchestra was having fun, & the parodies of Beethoven, Brahms, Hollywood film music & ragtime were especially convincing.

To close, Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg read a prepared speech acknowledging out-going NCCO President Paula Gambs in most appreciative terms. Three more musicians joined the orchestra for the solemn Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations, played in honor of Ms. Gambs. Ms. Gambs was then asked to come on stage where she was made an honorary member of Musicians Union Local Six & received a proclamation from the mayor's office. Ms. Gambs joked that she was available to play the finger cymbals.

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

Edvard Grieg: Holberg Suite
Ellen Zwilich: Commedia dell'Arte (World Premiere Commission)
        Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht
Peter Heidrich: Happy Birthday Variations

Edward Elgar: "Nimrod" from Variations on an Original Theme for orchestra ("Enigma"), Op. 36

Saturday, May 12, 2012, 8pm
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sunday Streets in the Mission

I really like the idea of Sunday Streets, which temporarily turns nearly 2 miles of Valencia & 24th into a pedestrian zone. I was especially grateful that the event was free of the usual vendors, so it did not feel like just another street fair. Instead pedestrians & bicyclists freely roam the thoroughfare, though the 2 types of traffic are not really compatible. The weather was gorgeous, so lots of people were out. It was also one of the rare events reminding me that children actually live in San Francisco.

Devoted volunteers monitored the through-traffic at every intersection.

There was plenty to see along the sidewalk, such as public displays of yoga,

a lecture on the history & mythology of Mission Creek,

& an apparently spontaneous jam session by neighborhood residents. If the masses I saw are a true reflection of the area's residents, then the Mission is now more hipster Brooklyn then ethnic enclave.

I also enjoyed discovering the Incline Gallery, which occupies 3 long, narrow ramps at the back of a building, & Photobooth, which specializes in tintype portraiture. There will be 3 more closures on the 1st Sundays of June, July & August as well as similar events in other neighborhoods.

§ Sunday Streets 2012 Season Schedule (subject to change):
March 11: Embarcadero- Season kick off
April 15: Great Highway/Golden Gate Park
May 6: Mission
June 3: Mission
July 1: Mission
July 22: Bayview/Dogpatch
August 5: Mission
August 26 Chinatown
September 9: Western Addition/N. Panhandle Alamo Square
October 21: Outer Mission/Excelsior


Volti, 05.05.2012 Waiting for start of Volti's concert at St. Mark's Lutheran.Saturday night I heard Volti's concert of new choral music. Volti's 20 members are assertive singers & make a big, centered sound. Even their dissonant intervals never sound harsh. Music Director Robert Geary gestures clearly, & entrances & cut-offs are square-edged. The concert also featured Ancora, an 11-member chorus of teenage girls drawn from the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir. They performed one piece in the middle of each half of the program.

Of the 5 composers on the program, 4 were in attendance. Ken Ueno described the trajectory of his A lettrist bottle in terms of his experiences of displacement & of life's traumatic shocks. He suggested that the piece's final counterpoint expresses the idea of American exceptionalism. The work begins with hard, short clusters of notes but then develops into a sustained texture. The chorus hisses at one point & hums quietly at the end. The text is by the composer, but I could not distinguish any of the words. Ancora's graceful & polished tone was appropriate for the pretty Song-Gatherings by Eric Tuan, one of Volti's tenors. The text of Delusional Paths by Tom Flaherty sounds contemporary even though it comes from poems by Stephen Crane that are over 100 years old. The music's feeling of forward movement fits the words, & there is an overall sense of a journey. Mr. Flaherty was present to take a bow.

Other Floods by Tamar Diesendruck starts with solo voices singing single syllables which coalesce into words & dissonant harmonies. It culminates with a huge, ringing final chord. There was an extended episode of paper crinkling by someone in the audience midway through. The composer Francisco Cortés-Álvarez, looking like a college student, spoke before his 2 pieces that ended the program. Ancora gave his Galope, based on a nonsense text in Spanish, a light-hearted performance. Besides singing, they clap, hiss, click their tongues, declaim & whisper. The day on which the World didn't end has a text in English that jocularly describes the unfortunate behavior of 16th century Germans responding to an apocalyptic prophecy. It has a hodgepodge construction, with sections of the chorus often singing in opposition & solo voices popping out with snippets of narration. Before launching into the piece, members of Volti broke into laughter, but their performance was diligent & provoked light laughter from the audience. Attendance at St. Mark's Lutheran was sparse. I sat in the balcony with only 10 other people.

§ Volti
Robert Geary, artistic director

Pathways, Floods and Delusions

Ken Ueno: A lettrist bottle (2012, World Premiere)
Eric Tuan: Song-Gatherings (2012)
Tom Flaherty: Delusional Paths (2010)
Tamar Diesendruck: Other Floods (2010)
Francisco Cortés-Álvarez: Galope (2010
Francisco Cortés-Álvarez: The day on which the World didn't end (2012, World Premiere)

Saturday, May 5, 8:00 PM
St. Mark's Lutheran Church

Friday, May 04, 2012

SFIFF Wrap-up

SFIFF 55, 04.30.2012 Happy hour at the festival lounge of the San Francisco International Film Festival.The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival finished up last night. Though I did not make it to some of the bigger events, my festival experience looked like this:

Films: 14
Q & A's: 9
Times I had a free seat next to me: 1
Ballots submitted: 10
Parties: 2
Happy hours beers: 3
Complimentary glasses of red wine: 2
Tweets: 21

SFIFF 55, 04.30.2012 The complete San Francisco International Film Festival calendar at a glance. Red dots indicate sold out screenings. Take in festival lounge.The multiple lines at the Kabuki could be confusing, & I always had to ask someone if I was in the right place. I was impressed by the unfailingly patient & appreciative audiences. It may be that all those volunteers in yellow t-shirts were really running the festival. And of course even that guy behind the bar in the festival lounge turned out to be a film producer.

Chasing Ice

Thursday night I saw the documentary Chasing Ice at one of the last programs of the 55th SF International Film Festival. The film follows nature photographer James Balog, founder of the Extreme Ice Survey, which focuses time-lapse cameras on glaciers for years at a time. Placing the cameras & then retrieving their pictures requires death-defying climbs, & the resulting footage records a deflating glacial landscape. We also see mesmerizing film of huge glaciers breaking apart, a process that is both destructive and majestic. The size of these events is hard to grasp, even when a picture of lower Manhattan is superimposed over a glacier to provide scale.

James Balog, 05.03.2012 James Balog at screening of Chasing Ice at SF International Film Festival.The film is a work of advocacy & features Mr. Balog as spokesman, raising awareness of the immediacy of global climate change. He played that role at this screening, confidently fielding questions from the audience afterward. It was surprising to hear him call Walmart a "green" company, but I agreed when he said that science & art make a good collaboration. One woman was anxious to tell us that no one ever mentions the consumption of meat as an environmental problem, & another accused Mr. Balog of "seducing people away from political activism."

Festival programmer Sean Uyehara introduced the event & acknowledged the festival's army of ubiquitous volunteers. He rightly described them as the face of the festival.

§ Chasing Ice
director, Jeff Orlowski
USA, 2012, 74 min

55th San Francisco International Film Festival
Thu, May 3    7:15 / Kabuki

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Golden Gate Awards

Golden Gate Awards, 05.02.2012 Navad Lapid receiving New Directors Prize at Golden Gate Awards.Winners of the Golden Gate Awards were announced at a private event at Rasselas on Wednesday night. These awards are presented at the San Francisco International Film Festival for shorts, new directors & feature documentaries & have cash prizes up to $20,000. The organizers were keen to move quickly, herding people into seats at precisely 8:15p. Filmmaker Barry Jenkins emceed & joked that he was chosen because the host should be "bald, slim & suave." Various jurors announced the winners, but only a few of the recipients were in attendance. I enjoyed the title of a prize-winning short called Workers Leaving the Googleplex, even though I hadn't seen the film. I did see The Waiting Room & was happy it got the Bay Area Documentary Feature award. Director Peter Nicks was there, & he was patient when I buttonholed him & asked him all the questions I had while watching his film. I was amazed to learn that almost half the footage really was shot on one day.

Though a friend warned me against it, I did try one of the chicken drumettes on offer. They were indeed too spicy.

§ 55th San Francisco International Film Festival Winners

§ Golden Gate Award Documentary Feature Winners
Documentary Feature: It’s the Earth Not the Moon, Gonçalo Tocha (Portugal 2011)
Honorable Mention: Meanwhile in Mamelodi, Benjamin Kahlmeyer (Germany/South Africa 2011)
Bay Area Documentary Feature: The Waiting Room, Peter Nicks (USA 2011)

§ New Directors Prize: Policeman, Nadav Lapid (Israel  2011)
Honorable Mention: OK, Enough, Goodbye., Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia (Lebanon/UAE 2010)

§ FIPRESCI Prize: The Exchange, Eran Kolirin (Israel/Germany 2011)

§ Golden Gate Award Short Film Winners
Narrative Short: Surveillant, Yan Giroux (Canada 2011)
Documentary Short: I’m Never Afraid!, Willem Baptist (Netherlands 2011)
Animated Short: Belly, Julia Pott (England 2011)
Bay Area Short, First Prize: Aquadettes, Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper (USA 2011)
Bay Area Short, Second Prize: Workers Leaving the Googleplex, Andrew Norman Wilson (USA 2011)
New Visions: 20Hz, Ruth Jarman, Joseph Gerhardt (England 2011)
Family Film: The Storyteller, Nandita Jain (England 2011)
Family Film Honorable Mention: The Vacuum Kid, Katie Mahalic (USA 2011)
Youth Work: Metro, Eric Brownrout, Nick Escobar (USA 2011)
Youth Work Honorable Mention: Life as a Collage, Forrest Penrod (USA 2011)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Day

Just a glimpse of the 99% occupying the Financial District at noon on May Day. A band nearby played The Internationale.