Monday, August 31, 2009

Mitsuko Uchida

Even though Mitsuko Uchida is very famous – with profiles in the New Yorker and (this summer) a title conferred by Queen Elizabeth II – I still feel puzzled that she is not MORE famous. She has done every bit as much for Schubert as Glenn Gould ever did for Bach, but the recognition has been a lot slower for Uchida and a lot more muted. It ought to be loud and continuous and universal.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Late Summer Flowers

Weekend gardening in the East Bay, where the climate is warmer and calmer and more consistent than the histrionic daily weather of San Francisco.

San Francisco Skies

Resolute fog at dawn on Market at Church Street

Aggressive morning sunshine at Church & 17th Street

Ravens seeking breakfast behind Mission High School

Cloudless afternoon on Cumberland above Dolores Park

Fog creeping back in, the familiar Spencer Alley perspective

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Morandi Watercolours

Above, a few uncanny samples from a nicely done and inexpensive new book: Giorgio Morandi : Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings, Etchings. Munich : Prestel, 2008.

Giorgio Morandi was born on 20 July 1890 in Bologna, Italy, as the eldest son of Andrea Morandi and Maria Maccaferri. His brother Giuseppe, who was two years younger, died in 1903, and Giorgio lived together with his sisters, Anna (1895-1989), Dina (1900-1977) and Maria Teresa (1906-1994), all his life. The house where he was born in Via delle Lame 57 no longer exists. However, the new house built on the site has had a commemorative plaque on the facade since 1966. After his father's death in 1910 Morandi moved to a flat in Via Fondazza 36 with his mother and sisters, where he lived for more than 50 years, until his death on 18 July 1964.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hot & Overcast

It's unusual in San Francisco, today's combination of hot heavy weather and solid cloud cover. Above, the looming sky beyond the back wall of Potrero Center Shopping Mall, which has nothing but nasty reviews on Yelp, I notice:

A miserable asphalt lot. From the street, it just looks like a blank wall; and on the inside, it's a sea of parked cars. It's unpleasant to traverse, with no shade and hardly any sidewalk or crosswalks.

At the very far end, there are a few shops. None are particularly remarkable – a mediocre sandwich shop, an office supply store that is perpetually going out of business, a dress shop for the overweight. There is also the most dimly-lit grocery store I have ever seen. There are plenty of better alternatives in the neighborhood.

A real DUMP, was better as a car lot before, it literally stinks and is seriously dangerous to drive into or out of due to traffic. 

A great variety of places to go to in this centralized location, so what's not to like? Well ... it smells like urine for one ... and two, getting in and out of the parking lot is more of a navigational hazard. Despite this shopping center's close proximity to my house, I choose to go elsewhere simply due to the fact that its cleanliness is questionable at best and the last time I was there I saw someone squatted over in a corner taking a crap in broad daylight ...

* * *

The Yelp reviewers know more about this mall than I do, since I never go inside it but only walk back and forth past it on the afternoons when I'm meeting my trainer at Diakadi. All the same, one thing I have learned is extreme caution in crossing the four different driveways where cars hurtle themselves in and out of the parking lots at the desperate pace required by the aggressive traffic on the surrounding streets.

An hour or two later and nearer to home the same sky hangs over Mission Dolores and the air remains hot and motionless even though the sun is retreating.

Science journalists presently seem to agree that the earth's atmosphere as revised by human beings will look more and more like this, not just a tendency toward hotter weather but also wetter air and heavier cloud cover.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sidewalk Chalk

New composition by the neighborhood chalk fiend, left under the trees across the street from Mission Dolores. I have not seen any tourists taking pictures of it, but I have seen them standing on it in order to take pictures of the Mission. Visitors to San Francisco tend to look up rather than down.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Textile Designs

France, 1925

England, 1969

France, 1950

France, 1893

USA, 1940

France, 1970

USA, 1945

France, 1810

France, 1898

Finland, 1961

England, 1875

France, 1812

Fabric samples from a 1991 reference book by Susan Meller and Joost Elffers called Textile Design : Two hundred years of European and American patterns for printed fabrics, organized by motif, style, color, layout, and period – with 1,823 illustrations in color.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


A doorway on 16th Street in the Mission. At the outset this Studio/Gifts/Gallery concept must have been a hope-filled San Francisco endeavor.

How sudden was the collapse? It must have occurred at least a year ago, judging by the present level of disintegration.

Where did Posey and Susan go? Did they start up a different atelier in pastures new? Did they take refuge in some nasty law office, temping? Or win spots on Project Runway?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Morning Glories

White picket fence covered with morning glories on Dolores Street in foggy San Francisco. Next door is a large abandoned house, frequently vandalized, and an object of curiosity to the community.

It has been empty for years, which seems truly odd, since if it were fixed up it would probably be worth a couple million dollars, given the size and location and potential vintage charms. People speculate that there must be some kind of endless convoluted lawsuit of the sort that Dickens wrote novels about.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Medal of Freedom

At the laundromat this morning I picked up a copy of San Francisco's most popular gay paper, the free weekly Bay Area Reporter. There I read some unappetizing facts concerning the news coverage of the Presidential Medal of Freedom recently awarded posthumously to Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco Supervisor assassinated in 1978 after less than a year in office.

This federal gesture strikes many of my own friends as an inadequate substitute for the tangible legal protection gays are still consistently denied. But as the B.A.R. points out, there is no consensus in this country that gay rights qualify is a legitimate cause at all. Each episode of this endlessly disappointing scenario is covered on TV and in the press as part of the gay rights "controversy." Those on the opposition side in this "controversy" command a respectful hearing from reporters for whatever murderous, crack-brained slanders they can dream up.

Thus, a professional hatemonger representing the "Campaign for Children and Families" calls a news conference on the steps of San Francisco City Hall the same day that Milk's Medal of Freedom is awarded in Washington. A crowd of journalists shows up and the anti-Milk, anti-gay rhetoric is subsequently broadcast and reprinted as an integral part of the local Medal of Freedom coverage.

The B.A.R. story quotes an email sent by a reader: "It seems pretty rare for a reporter to feel compelled to offer balance on a significant honor to a martyred hero of our community. In looking into the awards I saw no balance given to racist hate groups for the awards given to Archbishop Tutu or Sidney Poitier. Would it be considered appropriate to balance a story about Holocaust martyrs with a statement from a Nazi?"

Sunday Morning Early

The Mission was silent under many layers of fog when I went out shortly after sunrise. Sunday is laundromat day. Earliest is easiest, while the Spencer Alley neighbors sleep in.

San Francisco taggers hit their usual walls last night – walls that get repainted almost daily. This one is in Chula Lane.

Once things are washed I like to air-dry them back at home where there is a spare room that is too small for almost any other purpose.