Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Trashy Recology Neighborhood

Large residential garbage and recycling containers have mysteriously appeared in my Civic Center neighborhood over the last week in spots where they don't belong.

They sit on the middle of the sidewalk on McAllister Street...

...with one burnt-out recycling container sprawled across the street from City Hall.

The containers are parked next to a Veterans Building public garbage can...

...and along the sidewalk at Franklin and McAllister Streets.

The waste disposal company in San Francisco is currently called Recology, but under various previous names, the Italian-American, worker-owned company has had an unbroken monopoly on garbage contracts since the 1930s.

According to a thesis By Rose Doris Scherini, "The Italian American community of San Francisco: a descriptive study":
"This monopoly of the scavenger business by Italians has been an economic boom for the ethnic group; immediate employment was provided for unskilled immigrants, and economic advancement was facilitated by stock-sharing. Until recent years, when workers of varied ethnic backgrounds have been hired, the scavenger work force was almost entirely made up of Ligurians. Employment was usually arranged by a relative already in the employ of one of the companies. In the thirties and forties, the Scavengers Protective Association (S.P.A.) also played a social role in the community; its annual picnic was a major event, well-attended, even by non-Italian mayors..."

Recology has been much in the news lately as their no-bid contracts have come under increasing fire from Potrero Hill activist Tony Kelly and retired San Francisco judge Quentin Kopp while the Board of Supervisors is trying to fast-track a new contract with the company for a waste landfill in Yuba County. (Click here for the recently laid-off Sarah Phelan's article on the issue at the Bay Guardian.)

Another bit of bombshell news is the participation of Recology in the astroturf "Run, Ed, Run" campaign to urge "caretaker" San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to run in this November's election even though he very publicly promised he would never do so. John Cote wrote a story at the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday (click here) that was unusually blunt about the sleaziness of Lee's sponsor Rose Pak and her shakedown of Recology for money, signatures, and personnel, which professional public relations liar Sam Singer is claiming was all the fault of an unnamed rogue executive at the company. The Bay Citizen this morning also chimed in with an expose of Recology and its connections at City Hall (click here), including its long, cozy relationship with both Ed Lee and former mayor Willie Brown Jr.

When asked about her association with the company, Chinatown fixer Rose Pak simply lied and said she had never even heard of Recology which doesn't seem very credible. Maybe Ms. Pak should walk west a couple of blocks the next time she's visiting her protege Ed Lee in the Mayor's Office at City Hall, and she'd see all the mysterious garbage cans with the Recology logos on them littering the sidewalks. They look like an omen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Peruvian Food Festival in Civic Center

On Sunday, the central dirt plaza in Civic Center was framed by a Peruvian food festival, the Third Annual, though the first I can remember.

The event was free and informal...

...with musicians and radio personalities singing and speechifying in Spanish onstage...

...and a couple of dozen food booths vending Peruvian comida specialties.

The food looked looked greasy and autentico...

...and their website (follow the link) has a hilariously translated description of the event:
"Festival de Comida Peruana 2011 is all about the Peruvian Cuisine and Cultural. The Festival is intended to expose everything that Peruvian to the rest. This year there where be 24 Food Vendors to better serve attendees and Exhibitors displaying Art and tapestries for Sale. Don’t Miss Out this year will be even better."

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Schwabacher Concert in Yerba Buena Gardens

Friday evening's Merola Opera Program concert in Herbst Theatre was repeated al fresco on Sunday afternoon on the Yerba Buena Center lawn.

The crowd was a perfect size, the weather couldn't have been lovelier, and even the amplification for the outdoors was handled well.

Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald above played emcee, detailing the complicated opera plots to set up each scene...

...and mezzo Deborah Nansteel above as Princess Eboli in "Don Carlo" reaffirmed the marvelous impression she made on Friday.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Schwabacher Summer Concert 2011

San Francisco Opera's summer training program for "emerging artists" gave its first public concert on Friday evening in Herbst Theatre, and this year features a particularly strong crop of young singers, including tenor Scott Quinn (left) and baritone Guodong Feng (right) above, who sang the Great Bromance Love Duet between Don Carlos and Rodrigo in Verdi's "Don Carlo."

This was followed by another same-sex love duet between Elizabeth Zharoff as Giulietta (left) and Laura Frumm (right) as Romeo above in a long excerpt from Bellini's retold version of Romeo and Juliet called "I Capuleti e I Montecchi" that features two sopranos as the teenage lovers. Zharoff has one of the loudest, most powerful voices I've ever heard with not a lot of modulation in volume, but it's a beautiful, rich instrument which is full of promise. It was all wrong for this music, and her voice seemed more mezzo than high soprano, but who cares? Mezzo Laura Krumm, meanwhile, had a silvery voice that sounded more soprano than mezzo.

Joshua Kosman at SFGate just wrote an interesting article about the Merola program singers trying to puzzle out exactly what their voice types might actually be (click here) since many operatic singers' instruments don't mature until their late 20s or early 30s. Bass-baritone Joo Won Kang (left) and tenor Cooper Nolan (right) above seemed comfortable with their respective voice types as they sang the Bromance Hate Duet from Donizetti's "Lucia di Lamermoor"

Deborah Nansteel (above center) had the most exciting voice of the evening. She was part of a trio from "Don Carlo" as the mezzo Princess Eboli who is out for some serious revenge after being spurned in love. Nansteel's voice is a budding Leontyne Price/Shirley Verrett wonder, and who knows whether she should be singing mezzo or high soprano? Whatever her voice type is, it's exquisite.

Nansteel is reason enough to go to Yerba Buena Gardens tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) at 2 PM when the same concert is going to be given free outdoors. I just hope they are not overamplified in the outdoor gardens because these singers can definitely project their voices without it.

Plus, you can hear Joo Won Kang (above right) twist himself up in knots as "Rigoletto." He possesses a great bass-baritone that was used repeatedly throughout the concert in small roles, and invariably it was almost always the most distinctive male voice.

For good, detailed accounts of the concert, check out Not For Fun Only and The Opera Tattler. The two correspondents have hardly poked their heads out into the musical world since their recent Wagner "Ring" immersion at the San Francisco Opera, and it was good to see them again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bach's Mass in B Minor

The First Annual San Francisco Summer Bach Festival put on by the local American Bach Soloists started their ten-day event at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music last weekend. They began with a pair of chamber concerts followed by the large Mass in B Minor on Sunday afternoon. All in all, the Mass was given a wonderful performance, and it is being repeated this Saturday evening (click here for more info), a concert I'd recommend highly.

The performers were a mixture of students and professionals, with the chorus above mostly consisting of the latter. I recognized a number of "extra chorus" members from the San Francisco Opera in their midst, and overall the group was superb.

So was the mostly student orchestra under conductor Jeffrey Thomas (above center), who kept the music lively over its two hour span. The only real problem were the soloists who were also students, and who suffered in their roles next to the glories of the professional chorus and the more accomplished instrumentalists. There were three exceptions, however, in countertenor Brennan Hall (above left), countertenor Gerrod Pagenkopf (not pictured), and tenor Jon Lee Keenan (below).

The Mass in B Minor is basically a 19th century discovery of an early 18th century work by J.S. Bach that he left to posterity, quilted together out of various earlier pieces.

Though its reputation is forbidding, the music is essentially virtuosic and even jolly, and its wild contrapuntal choruses need to be heard live to be appreciated. Check it out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

World Cup Final in Civic Center

A fairly large crowd showed up in Civic Center at noon on Sunday for a large-screen telecast of the Women's World Cup final between Japan and the United States.

SF Rec & Park Director Phil Ginsburg did a white hetero bro handshake with District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell above before announcing the contributors such as PG&E and Recology who had made the public telecast financially possible.

Why does Mr. Ginsburg or anybody else seem to think these contributions are free and with no strings attached? The truth is the exact opposite.

There were plenty of United States flag emblems everywhere and most people picked them to win over the tiny Japanese players.

However, the Japanese women's team had already beaten the German Valkyries in the quarterfinals which was considered an impossibility, and then beat the equally tall Amazons of the Swedish team in the semifinals.

The seesaw battle went into extra time and was finally settled by penalty kicks with the miraculous Japanese pulling out one last victory. It was a great game.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! at The Opera

A small queue started forming Thursday afternoon in front of San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House for a taping of the Chicago-based NPR comedy quiz show, "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!"

The tickets reportedly sold out the 3,000+ seat opera house within minutes of being offered to the public and the large line on Thursday was for the 200 standing room tickets that went on sale at 6PM.

Fans of the hour-long show, which started broadcasting in 1998, are fervent. The mother and daughter duo above drove from Santa Barbara six hours away to watch the taping.

My "Domestic Partner" Tony above recently became one of the show's addicts and I stood in line to buy a ticket for him while he finished his work day. He thoroughly enjoyed the evening, though the eventual 45-minute show took over two hours to tape because its quick-witted, rapid-fire improvisations are actually the result of editing out the boring stuff.

The dullest and most longwinded person onstage, according to Tony, was the special guest Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder whose lengthy replies were in complete contrast to the 140-character brevity of his social networking site. The edited version that aired this morning, meanwhile, made Mr. Stone sound fairly witty and to the point.

The funny tweet above from the standing room line refers to the "awkward-yuppie level near critical mass," while Tony couldn't help but notice that the lesbian couple critical mass was also off the charts, possibly because Paula Poundstone (center right) is one of the regular guests on the show.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Japanese Women Triumph Over Swedish Women

Another small crowd happily assembled on the packed dirt in Civic Center Plaza Wednesday morning... watch the Women's World Cup semifinal matches being held in Germany.

After the United States beat France in the first match, Japan took on Sweden.

This appeared to be a total mismatch in favor of Sweden just in terms of the players' height.

Near the end of the match, a Japanese visitor to San Francisco (above) came up to me and asked the score. "Japan 3, Sweden 1," I told him and his reaction was funny. "That's incredible. I can't believe it."

The final between the United States and Japan will be broadcast on the big screen in Civic Center at 11:30 AM this Sunday, and let's hope Rec & Park Director Phil Ginsburg (above right) figures out how to get the word out to a larger public.