Monday, February 27, 2006

Elephants on Parade

Every six months or so, the Asian Art Museum takes a small room between the Korean and Japanese galleries, and turns it into a curated "theme" room with so far not very interesting results.

Previously, the theme was Shadows and Masks: Performance Something-or-Other.

Presently the room is devoted to mostly East Indian representations of elephants.

I don't usually covet objects in museums particularly, but this elephant rug is an exception.

There is a great West Coast science-fiction writer named John Varley whose future tales are set after superior aliens arrive on Earth to communicate with intelligent life. However, that category consists of whales and dolphins. Humans are regarded as ants, who are quickly forced into outer-space exile in underground shelters on the moon.

It was probably just an oversight on Varley's part, but my version of the tale would include elephants along with whales and dolphins as earth's wise, beautiful, intelligent life.

In India, elephants have long been worshiped, decorated, and even turned into warriors.

Though there's absolutely nothing Asian about it...

...I still longed to see a large blow-up of the great "Dovima with Elephants" photo, one of my favorite images in the world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ballet Rodeo

One of the best deals in all of San Francisco is weeknights at the Opera House during the San Francisco Ballet season.

A balcony seat will only set you back $8, which is cheaper than a movie, where there's no great live orchestra playing.

Since it's not very crowded, you can use your ticket to stand behind the rails of the orchestra section if you want to get closer. This is where most of the ballet students hang out cheering on their colleagues in between gossiping sessions.

The ballet audience is younger than the opera crowd...

...with lots of gay pairs...

...and old girlfriends.

My friend Thad Trela was manning one of the entrances as a "hospitality" person who is allowed to grab a free seat after his greeting duties are over.

I went to "Mixed Program #3" on Wednesday the 22nd with my neighbor A. who had never been to the ballet before.

She was astonished at what more experienced balletomanes look upon as a convention: the ass-crack tights on the male dancers which allows you to see, well, everything. The first ballet was by the old Martha Graham dancer/choreographer, Paul Taylor, to one of my favorite pieces of music by Richard Strauss, a sweet-sounding ballet suite written in 1943 consisting of orchestrations of Couperin harpsichord pieces. The ballet was fine, though I have to confess here that most ballets give me the giggles, and the lack of appreciation is entirely my fault.

My laughter was sincerely derisive during the second ballet, "Magrittomania," choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, one of the principal dancers at the company. The choreography was emotional, tormented and Russian, which was fine, but the music was an ungodly horror. It was an amalgamation of a dozen of Beethoven's Greatest Hits, from "Fur Elise" to themes from the Third and Seventh Symphonies, and one Yuri Krasavin (perfect name!) had reorchestrated them into something more moderne. Instead of being a perfect meeting of two great composers, a la Strauss and Couperin, it was more like the weird bastardizations of classical music used during "Ice Skating" at the Olympics.

The last ballet was the best, Agnes de Mille's 1942 "Rodeo" with the impossibly beautiful Aaron Copland score. I've heard the thing thousands of times on classical radio stations over the decades and never had a clue what scenario it was supposed to be illustrating, which is basically "tomboy wants a man and can't get one until she puts on an ugly dress and dances with the two cutest guys."

My neighbor A., who is a bit of a tomboy herself, was disappointed only in that the piece hadn't been updated Lesbian "Brokeback Mountain" style, where the heroine would get to dance off with the woman, rather than the man, of her dreams. I could see her point.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Eritrea Wants a Border

Last Monday the 13th, there was yet another photo-op protest in the Civic Center Plaza in front of San Francisco's City Hall.

It was organized by a group of Bay Area folks who are originally from the new African country of Eritrea, which is on the northeastern side of Ethiopia, along the Red Sea.

The two countries, regions, what-have-you have been waging a bitter war over sovereignty for the last 30 years, and an agreement over a permanent border was signed by "The Independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC)" in Algiers in 2002.

To read more about the history of the place, there's a good historical entry in Wikipedia (click here)...

...and for the official Eritrean word on the Monday the 13th Worldwide "Peace Rally," click here.

The most touching part about the flyer they were handing out was its naivete.

Their handout read, in part:
"Ethiopia continues to violate the Algiers Agreement, UN Security Council resolutions, and international law. It is militarily occupying sovereign Eritrean territory, in violation of UN Charter. Due to its rejection of the EEBC's decision and procedures, all demarcation activities have come to a halt. The EEBC has been forced to close its offices."

It continued:
"The Role of the U.S. Government: The U.S. must fulfill its legal and moral obligations to enforce the EEBC's decision without further precondition. U.S. failure to enforce demarcation will further destabilize the Horn of Africa, a region of strategic importance to U.S. security and the global war against terrorism."

In truth, the United States government could care less about the vast majority of its own citizens, let alone a bunch of obscure Africans.

Still, let's give these people credit for thinking that a public protest will make a difference.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Satanic Love Cult at City Hall

At various times throughout the year, usually for holidays and special events, the remarkable night lighting of San Francisco's City Hall gets the full colored gel treatment.

The Christmas season, for instance, features green lighting which gives the building an Emerald City look.

On February 13th, the night before Valentine's Day, the lights went red and made the place look startlingly like Satan's Palace, and the full moon rising over the dome only emphasized the spookiness.

So here's a Special Scary Valentine to Le Domestic Partner, Tony...

...and "I Love You, You Sinful Creatures" Valentines to Jay in Long Island and Heidi in Santa Barbara. xxx

Saturday, February 11, 2006


To download a PDF copy of The First Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, otherwise known as "The Bill of Rights," click here.

This flyer is being produced in honor of the Reverend Robert Warren Cromey's 75th birthday on Thursday, January 16, 2006, and is going to be distributed at the weekly Peace Vigil in front of the San Francisco Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue. The vigil meets every Thursday from noon to 1:00 PM, and will continue to do so until the United States stops invading and bombing other countries. It is organized by a remarkable group of religiously-affiliated people: the American Friends Service Committee, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Peace Fellowship and San Francisco Friends Meeting.

Friday, February 10, 2006


At 10:45 PM on the night of Wednesday the 9th, a high-speed police chase ended with the fugitive crashing at high speed into another car that was trying to cross the intersection of Franklin and McAllister, directly below my apartment.

The fugitive ran from his car but was tackled by the police at the corner of Van Ness and McAllister a block away.

The accident could easily have been fatal, but providentially that was not the case and the driver whose car was smashed into seemed more stunned than hurt.

The next morning, h. brown sent out a "Watching City Hall" note to friends about the latest shenanigans involving the San Francisco Police Department, Mayor Newsom, and the rich people he works for. Here are a few excerpts:
Newsom surrenders to Cowboy Cop Brass (to offer $100 million today)

In a cynical ploy whose certain failure cannot be measured until he's safely on to the next office purchased for him by Donald Fisher, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is set today to advocate increasing the City's dysfunctional police department by a full third.

The dipshit who convinced the Mayor to call for adding 700 new police officers to a department that refuses to fly helicopters, walk beats, ride buses, man kiosks, civilianize the Office of Citizens Complaints, and keep track of punk-ass rogues needs his own ass kicked by Captain Greg ("You got a problem with my being charged with brutality 80 times?") Corrales."

"It positively strains credulity that any mayor would call for a further empowerment of San Francisco's gangster police force. At last evening's meeting of the Police Commission, Chief Heather ("I demand an apology!") Fong downplayed her department's refusal to fully staff as required by law and brushed off questions as to why it has taken her over 2 years to hire 2 of 72 new civilian positions created by the Board of Supervisors to get more cops back on the street.

People, the cops have no intention of reforming. They not only refuse to keep a public record of their most violent members ... they not only refuse to discipline them ... instead (according to the Chron), they promote them into teaching positions.

Yeah, the head crackers become Training Officers. Talk about a fuckin' upside down world. And, they dominate the OCC staff with 'light-duty' officers whom the department's union steward testifies, bully the civilian staff and gum up investigations."

"They mock the Mayor. Police Officer Association head Gary Delugnuts told Mayor Newsom that he should jog to work a different way if he was tired of seeing drug dealers in the Tenderloin. This is the same prick who carries a loaded gun, bulging off his fat ass, while he insults the person and families of Police Commission members. A clearly frightened Commission President, Louise Renne addressed Delugnut's threats thusly: "Oh, that's just Gary being Gary.".

Gavin, the SFPD needs taken apart and put back together differently. It cannot get worse. The first step is to stop hiring, not increase it. If the Chronicle series proved one thing, it is that the department not only has no intention of reforming their violent ways, but is, in fact, perpetuating them by hiring out-of-town recruits with a strong propensity for violence. The last thing in the world you want to do is to add more knuckle-draggers to this army of barabarians. But, that is exactly what the Mayor will propose 2 hours from now."

h. brown turned out to be correct about Newsom's speech in conjunction with the awful Supervisor Fiona Ma at the Police Academy later that morning. For a link to the Mayor's press release, click here.

h. brown continued his polemical outburst:
Gavin's handlers fear Cindy Sheehan

Now, this is only an educated hunch and since we all know that my educated hunches are only right around 90% of the time ... this '700 new cop solution' from Newsom ... I think, anyway ... is a reaction to the announcement by the Nation's leading Anti-War activist, Cindy Sheehan that she may run against Dianne Feinstein for the U.S. Senate.

"You see, Gavin's people know that Feinstein is retiring. Yeah, Dick Blum's gotten all he can out of the old girl and he's putting her out to pasture at their new 15 million buck digs in Pacific Heights. Although Blum wanted the missus to work until she fell dead in her tracks, he approved the transition to Newsom several months ago. Sources in D.C. say that the senator has been unable to walk into the senate chambers under her own power for nearly 2 years."

"Fisher & Shorenstein know that although a late-entry by the empty-headed Newsom can succeed against Green Party challenger, Todd Chretien and any other Democrat presently on the scene, Gavin cannot beat Cindy Sheehan."

"So, they want to pad Gavin's resume in a hurry and throwing money at the gangster police department, while stupid, can be spun as a bold new move. See if I'm not right."

Actually, h. turned out to be only partially correct, because Cindy Sheehan called a press conference in the Civic Center Plaza to announce that she had decided not to run for the Senate.

The event started with the arrival of a Code Pink contingent...

...and a brief introduction from the annoying Medea Benjamin.

For an added bit of surrealism, there was a group of in-line skaters...

...circling the plaza in a promotional stunt for the Winter Olympics on NBC.

Leading the group was one of my favorite people in San Francisco, the Sk8 Godfather, pictured above.

Cindy Sheehan came to the podium and started off uncertainly, remarking how beautiful the day was and how her dead son Casey wasn't around to appreciate it.

She talked about how Senator Feinstein, while declaring she was opposed to the war in Iraq, kept voting for every piece of legislation funding the invasion and occupation.

"That's like telling a friend you're unhappy about them being a drug addict and then giving them a pile of money to buy drugs. It makes no sense at all."

Sheehan related her quandary about whether she would be more effective in getting the troops out of Iraq as an "outsider" or as somebody trying to work within the political system in a senatorial campaign, and announced that she has decided to remain an Outsider.

This came as a huge relief to the professional Democratic politicos. The gentleman who was being interviewed above told me that it was a wise decision because "Sheehan would have made the Democrats look like a laughing stock," which struck me as ridiculous.

They're already a "laughing stock," and it's not because of Ms. Sheehan.