Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Prayer for Iraq

The final Thursday noon peace vigil of the year took place on the 29th in front of the brutal Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue.

The massive, inhuman architecture of the building is perfectly consonant with the villains presently in charge of the federal government.

Though a number of us already assumed that this was the case, over the last year it has been publicly announced that our federal government is spying on all of us without warrants, paying journalists to feed us the party line, lying about everything almost reflexively, kidnapping people off the streets of the world and then torturing them at secret gulags, destroying the environment through extraordinary stupidity and greed, all the while looting the treasury for the Bush/Cheney cronies.

The tide, or in this case the tsunami, seems ready to turn however, partly because of fate such as the Katrina Disaster and partly because of the work of fairly selfless Radical Pacifists like the group of four "peaceworkers" who were kidnapped over a month ago in Iraq. Nobody knows who or why they were taken. The kidnappings could have been more economic than political, which seems to be a common occurrence in Iraq these days, or it could be a prelude to another American government psy-ops (psychological operation) outrage like the Nick Berg beheading. (Yes, the poor young man was beheaded but the internet video we were all forced to watch featured Evil Muslims who looked phony as did the internet "beheading." Hasn't anybody watched the crypto-fascist "24" TV series?)

The website to learn more about the Christian Peacemaker Teams is here. To learn more about what's going on in Iraq right now, Patrick Cockburn has a good article up today (click here). He's one of the few writers I trust on the subject and he's been there in the middle of it, unembedded. My prayer for Iraq is that we, the White Western JudeoChristian World, gets the hell out of that poor country and that we're gone by this time next year.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

California Dreamin' on Such a Winter's Day

San Francisco has been buffeted by monsoons through most of the Christmas holidays, but there was a break in the storms on Wednesday, the 28th.

Not going anywhere for the holidays has been a complete tonic, with no stress and lots of leisure.

Plus, it's always fun to pretend to be a tourist in San Francisco...

...and take the ferry boat to Sausalito.

The excuse was to treat my friend Ellen to a 50th birthday lunch.

The view and the light...

...were extraordinary.

The 4:50 PM return trip from Sausalito to the Ferry Building...

...even featured a sunset...

...framed perfectly by that old suicide magnet itself, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Monster Japanese Screens

At the Asian Art Museum, a special exhibit opened this month called "Traditions Unbound: Groundbreaking Painters of 18th-Century Kyoto."

Kenneth Baker, the art critic for the "San Francisco Chronicle" gave the show a rave review and tried to explain why the paintings on view were "groundbreaking," with limited success. Click here for the full review.

The show has been divided into two parts with Part One on view through January 8th and Part Two from January 11th through February 26th. Though the official explanation is that the pieces are insanely valuable and delicate, so they can only be shown for a certain amount of time, the truth seems to be that they just ran out of room. The museum really should consider remodeling the first floor so they would have more gallery space for big touring shows, and less soaring hotel lobby/gift shop space.

Almost all of the Kyoto "paintings" are on gigantic folding screens that sometimes run the length of a 40-foot wall.

They are wonderful to look at, though the reflecting glass enclosing them gets annoying. The ideal experience would be to lay down on a Japanese mat, sipping on sake, while surrounded by these beautiful screens. Oh well, in an alternate universe somewhere.

On the second floor, where the rotating permanent collection resides, there were more monster screens in the Japan section of the museum.

Most of these were older than the Kyoto screens by 100 to 200 years.

The stables was definitely one of my favorites... was the landscape...

...with the red sun.

In the Korea section of the museum, past this wall-size modern painting of a sacred mountain in North Korea...

...was my favorite monster screen.

It was from the 19th century and belonged to a ruler who longed for his days of scholarship and the accoutrements of the trade.

Can you imagine an American politician with the equivalent? I can't.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Birthday, Buddhist Christmas Baby

My friend Heidi in Santa Barbara has had to compete with the Big J for birthday attention all her life, and in reality the historical Jesus was probably not born on December 25th like she was.

Heidi's been a practicing Tibetan Buddhist for some time, so think of this as a birthday card for her.

Since starting this blog, I've met some very interesting new people who I would also like to wish well.

Happy Winter Solstice to the East Coast Witch.

Feliz Hanukkah to h brown and his Burrito Salon Crew, along with Albglinka at Albert's World of Artsy Fun.

Peace on Earth to Markley and all of his Radical Pacifist friends.

Though I haven't met them, I get awfully good vibes from Peteykins in Washington DC and Lance in New York State and Kit in Buenaventura. Merry Christmas, Dudes.

And to the would-be revolutionaries like Kimo and Pedro and Clark and Eddie, Happy New Year. It's going to be interesting.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Coke in the Tenderloin

A large production crew from Los Angeles came to San Francisco last weekend for a four-day shoot on a huge, expensive commercial for Coca-Cola.

There were hundreds of extras involved in each day's filming...

...some playing participants in a mock parade...

...while most of us were stationed on the sidewalk as spectators...

...being herded around by young production assistants.

I joined the first day of shooting underneath a freeway around Harrison and Division Streets when the weather was so cold and so wet that it felt certain half of the participants were going to come down with pneumonia by the end of the day...

...particularly the poor, underdressed cheerleaders from the Crenshaw High School band who had been brought in from Los Angeles.

This last day of shooting was much warmer than the first and the rains were briefly in abeyance.

The block-long parade was being filmed on Taylor Street between Turk and Eddy Streets in the Tenderloin.

One block makes a huge difference in the downtown Tenderloin neighborhood...

...and this particular block is one of the craziest in the entire city.

The San Francisco Chronicle's website has this to say in their "tour section" area:
Repeatedly described in most tourist guides as "the worst neighborhood in San Francisco," the Tenderloin thrives despite its bad rap. Sure, there are loads of drug dealers, addicts, prostitutes and mentally unstable street people, but if you can get past that, you'll find it is also one of the city's most exciting and diverse locales.

Getting its funky, florid nickname from the days when policemen were paid more to work its mean streets, thereby affording the cops better cuts of meat, the Tenderloin is moving up these days.

Most of the extras were suburbanites from around the Bay Area...

...and it was interesting to watch them calmly hang out...

...with speed freaks talking to themselves...

...and drunks in wheelchairs ranting as they passed by.

Actually, everyone got along just fine, partly because a parade... usually amusing...

...and generally surreal.

Plus, the faux Miss New Mexico was stunning.

One of the parade contingents looked familiar to me, Cheer San Francisco.

I played on a short-lived, infamously fun softball team for a gay leather bar called Chaps back at the beginning of the 1980s.

During one game, a teammate from Hayward brought along some friends who were former high school cheerleaders and who wanted to take it up again.

To be honest, the team found them a little embarassing at the time, but in the intervening 25 years...

...they've become a small empire according to their website (click here), with chapters all around the country.

As some kind of karmic payback for the miserable Saturday, the shooting wrapped up early at lunch, and we were paid a full-day rate and sent home before the monsoons started up again. Hurrah!