Saturday, January 31, 2009

31 January

Franz Schubert
b. 1797

Tallulah Bankhead
b. 1903

Thomas Merton
b. 1915

Mario Lanza
b. 1921

Norman Mailer
b. 1923

Carol Channing
b. 1923

Jean Simmons
b. 1926

Kenzaburo Oe
b. 1935

Philip Glass
b. 1937

Derek Jarman
b. 1942

I intended initially to include a portrait of Anna Pavlova, whose birth certificate says she arrived on this planet (for its own good) on 31 January 1882. Later I discovered that she did not die with the same birthday she was born with. Czarist Russia had stayed with the Julian calendar, which Europe had abandoned at the Pope's decree in the 16th century. The Bolsheviks implemented the "new" calendar in 1918, and that is when Anna Pavlova's birthday got transformed from 31 January to 12 February. And this was especially disappointing to me because the amusing lists of notable people who all have the same birthday are invariably bogged down by too many persons of the male gender. Anonymity was a form of enforced respectability for almost all women until very recently. I remember reading in some forgotten English novel that "the name of a decent woman would appear in the newspaper only three times in her life: when she was born, when she married, and when she died."

So, we will resolve the ambiguity of Anna Pavlova's birthday by including her on the date she was born with, even though it would have been a different date if she had been born in Europe.

Anna Pavlova
b. 1882

Friday, January 30, 2009


The front page story in today's San Francisco Chronicle announced that after such a dry January this will almost surely be a third year of drought in Northern California.

Scarves and mittens at the beginning of this week, and shorts and tees at the end of it.

The plant world acts very vernal. At bottom, the cherry blossoms are starting, just today I noticed the first ones.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

San Francisco Ballet

The Ballet sent me a pass for a dress rehearsal in the Opera House at mid-day. I arranged not to go to work.

More of our pseudo-summer, intensely blue.

The invited Ballet "Friends" dutifully started lining up an hour early outside the North Carriage Entrance.

And the quick and spry at the front of the line (including me) took center front seats in the Grand Tier. We saw the Dress Rehearsal of Program Two, three contemporary pieces by Stanton Welch, Val Caniparoli, and William Forsythe. To my great joy Yuan Yuan Tan was in today's cast, even though I find it difficult to breathe whenever she is on stage.

The Welch (pretty and tender) and the Forsythe (stark and strong) easily canceled out the pretentious awfulness of the middle piece, apparently conceived by Caniparoli as the love child of Martha Graham and Bob Fosse.

People left happy, and the sun was still shining. My last thought was of Muriel Maffre, the company's figurehead in William Forsythe, and how much she is missed since her retirement two seasons ago. Katita Waldo and Elana Altman did surely battle valiantly to occupy the Forsythe space as it was defined and inhabited by Maffre. Before she left there were two genius dancers in the company and now there is one.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Giovanni Bellini
Baptism of Christ

Peter Paul Rubens
Anatomical Studies

Angelo Bronzino
Portrait of Luca Martini

Paul Nash
Flight of the Magnolia

This is my shameless monthly plug for my favorite arts magazine, the London-based Apollo.

Images above are details of pages in the current issue.

Reptile on Valencia

I was on my way to Flax Art & Design when I got sidetracked by the sidewalk itself.

Mission Controversy

Noticed several of these posters in shop windows around the neighborhood this afternoon. There's a site called stopamericanapparel created by a group that wants to persuade the city to deny American Apparel's permit application, because Valencia is not a home to chain stores yet, unlike almost every other shopping street in San Francisco. But this is a battle laced with irony because American Apparel has worked for years to cultivate the very same twenty-somethings now bent on blocking this new outlet (which would be the fourth American Apparel store in San Francisco, which is probably more of them than such a small city really needs). I see that certain other community-commentary blogs are reacting with sarcasm to the fact that the stopamericanapparel group meetings are held at the Makeout Room, and "the odds of not finding anyone at the Makeout Room wearing American Apparel on any given night are practically nil."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Emmanuelle Alt, fashion director of Paris Vogue.

Images from The Sartorialist and Jak & Jil

Mission Neon

Stretch of 16th between Guerrero and Valencia, including (left to right) TokyoGoGo (with neighboring tree), Big Lantern (neon), Adobe Bookshop (brown), Idol Vintage Clothing (blue), and Kilowatt Bar (in an olden-days San Francisco fire house).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Votive Offering

Discovered with due wonder at the foot of the Madonna built into the wall that protects the cemetery at Mission Dolores, a wall and a history brought to you by the aggressive organization that first colonized San Francisco in 1776.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Retrospective Ventriloquism

As a reliable best seller, John le Carré gets unfairly dismissed by critics, it seems to me, who lump him with John Grisham. I personally think John Grisham deserves all the trashing he gets, but that le Carré is among the more careful and thoughtful of writers who do genre. Here is a set-piece, my exhibit A, from p. 203 of his new novel:

"Did she hear him? And if she did, why then was she smiling? Her voice was changing. It was younger. As she started speaking again, a brighter cadence entered it, a softer, fresher, more Viennese lilt, that put a forgiving gloss on even her severest observations. And to the younger voice, a younger figure: still prim, still respectfully upright, but more active and flirtatious in its gestures. Stranger still was the fact that her very style of speech seemed chosen to please the ear of someone superior to her in both age and station, whereas Bachmann was neither; and that, by an unconscious act of retrospective ventriloquism, she was evoking not merely the voice of her vanished youth, but the voice in which the relationship with the person she was describing had been conducted."

Cold Day

Late afternoon in Dolores Park with crisp silhouettes and a powerful wind. Earlier in the afternoon a friend came over and we set out all bundled up to walk in the bracing air, but we had barely set out before one of the rainy periods started. Consequently, we gave up. Later, all was clear. A volatile sky.Add Image

Alley Variations

Three versions of more-or-less the same view down the short, steep-sided tunnel of Spencer Alley out to where it opens onto 16th Street. Different weathers and different cameras.