Sunday, May 31, 2020

Murderous Police Protest in Civic Center

There was a small demonstration in front of San Francisco City Hall early Saturday afternoon protesting murderous police forces after the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis.

The racial mix of the demonstrators was heartening.

Besides black people, who receive the brunt of police brutality in this country...

...there were Asian supporters...

...and old white people who sensibly brought portable seating.

The closest law enforcement employees to the protest were parking and traffic officers blocking Polk Street to vehicle traffic...

...while shooting the breeze.

Further away, in front of the California Supreme Court building, were members of the San Francisco Police Department projecting their usual unfriendly, hostile, don't-talk-to-me manner.

Every town in America has cases of non-white people being murdered by police and with the advent of mobile phone cameras, we are finally seeing the unvarnished truth for ourselves. The argument that there are just a few bad apples is nonsensical. There are decent people who are law enforcement officers but police culture itself is rotten to the core: racist, corrosive and uncaring towards the general populations they are supposedly being paid to protect.

In front of Bill Graham auditorium, there was another police contingent looking more like a street gang ready to rumble than "peacekeeping" officers.

To add insult to injury, we are paying for the generous salaries and pensions of the brutalizers through local taxes. It's no wonder people are rioting.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Allegra and Sara Make a Music Video

Pianist Allegra Chapman (above left) and soprano Sara LeMesh were music students at New York's Bard College together, and both of them are unusually intelligent and gifted artists who have been gracing the small stages of the Bay Area for the last three years. Their latest collaboration is Chordless, a piano-vocal duo specializing in adventurous music, and this Friday they are launching an online premiere of a music video. The moderator of the video/Zoom webinar will be Kate McKinney, SF Ballet public relations person extraordinaire and a close friend of both artists. Following are her preview notes for the event.

On Friday, May 29 at 5 pm, Chordless — the duo comprising pianist Allegra Chapman and soprano Sara LeMesh — will present a music video of The Night in Silence Under Many a Star from George Crumb’s Apparition. Filmed in February in Marin, the video portrays LeMesh and Chapman as friends who have been parted by death, grappling with their respective realities among redwoods and the golden coast. The video’s premiere is hosted through Zoom and is followed by a moderated Q&A session with the creative team. The event, which is free and will last around an hour, will address what it takes to create music in the digital world, from technical and theoretical standpoints, and is designed to be informative for professional musicians and amateurs alike. Registration is available via Eventbrite (click here).

Allegra Chapman writes: "It is wonderfully liberating to experiment with expressing music in a completely different way from anything I learned in school. We created a narrative for the final movement of Apparition, taking inspiration mostly from non-classical music videos. We don’t play visibly at all in the video and depict a story on top of the musical narrative. I really have to thank Sara for the push to try something new. I have no idea how to critique what we’ve all created, and also no idea how to anticipate how others will critique it. All of these unknowns bring up new "performance" fears for me. All I know is that this video expresses something I feel I need to express at this moment in time and that I want to share it with people. Sometimes I wonder if those urges aren't the most important elements of making art anyhow!"

Sara LeMesh writes: “This music video is one of my favorite projects to date. I really believe film and classical music go hand in hand and can’t even think of a movie without a classical piece playing in at least one scene. While performing a work like Apparition live is rewarding, the audience can only grasp one part of the performer’s interpretation. It was so fun to create a narrative that illuminates the meaning of Walt Whitman’s poetry, beyond what a live performance can do. I hope people enjoy this format and I can’t wait to work on another music video in the future.”

Friday, May 15, 2020

Mission Bay Stroll

The trick to pandemic strolling in San Francisco's downtown these days is to find routes with the least people and/or sidewalk tent encampments. Last Saturday, Seventh Street going South of Market turned out to be a sleeper hit in both categories.

We turned left under the freeway and found ourselves in Mission Bay, where all the new businesses servicing the new housing were closed except for a Gus's Market on 4th Street. It was not only mellow by pandemic grocery store standards but the take-out sandwiches were perfect for a picnic along a thin strip of park fronting the north side of the canal.

The public walkway on the other side of Mission Bay has been under construction for ages, but has finally been completed, and it's a gorgeous new city oasis.

So far speeding bicyclists and scooter riders haven't ruined the wide pedestrian walkway like they have the Embarcadero sidewalk.

It was easy to distance six feet across and most people wore masks, except for a few comically selfish young things who strode around in their own digital, mobile bubbles.

The views across the inlet to the remaining houseboats in what used to be called China Basin are charming.

The fancy new apartment housing fronting the walk is gated but beautifully landscaped and open to public view.

The houseboats remind me of Sausalito, where a Bohemian artists community existed on the water for decades. The houseboats still exist, but were gradually surrounded by very wealthy people, which always changes everything.

I am glad the developers grandfathered the houseboats into the new Mission Bay neighborhood...

...and felt envy for those who were able to shelter in place in such beauty.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Knowledge Is Golden

About 50 unmasked people stood on Polk Street in front of San Francisco City Hall last Saturday from noon to 2PM while a small contingent of masked police officers stood in a line on the other side of the street. We were on our way for a bit of exercise when we bumped into one of the protestors at the corner of Polk and McAllister waving a "FREEDOM IS ESSENTIAL" sign, and I could not contain my anger. "Where do you live, asshole?" I yelled at him. "I want to visit and infect you and your neighbors because that's what you're doing in mine."

The protest was organized by a slick right-wing website called It not only advises how to construct signage with LARGE TYPE and dark magic markers, but suggests the word-for-word messages. There is also an online store where you can purchase LIVE FREE T-shirts and caps for $25-$30.

The California protests were scheduled for Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, Sacramento, Ventura, San Diego and San Francisco. Besides Sacramento, all the targets are coastal cities, which is odd since you would think their message might be better received in the Central Valley cities of Fresno, Bakersfield, Redding, and so on. This is probably because it is all theater and there is more press coverage if they stick to the more liberal areas of the state. Since they are not adhering to safe distancing guidelines, I wish the police would arrest them and book them at the Hall of Justice above.

That will never happen, partly because the prison system doesn't need the extra burden right now in the middle of a pandemic, but it is past time to start issuing fines to these yokels, not for their ignorant, dangerous message but for endangering the public safety of others.

The Death Cult of ignorant Americans led by the Orange Mussolini is astonishing and disturbing, a surrealist sideshow to the actual war between the novel coronavirus and humanity.

Americans are not going to be allowed into the rest of the world for at least a couple of years because we are demonstrably diseased.

May knowledge win in the end.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Hayes Valley Ramble

Turf battles between a pair of tent encampments near Franklin and McAllister Streets heated up this week, and Friday morning a contingent of San Francisco Sheriffs and SFPD arrived.

The gentleman on the sidewalk above had spent most of the previous day threatening and screaming at an adjoining group while brandishing a golf club and heavy-duty wire cable. After holding him for 20 minutes Friday morning while running an identity check, the officers eventually let him go.

What actually went down is a complete mystery, but only reinforces an inclination to stay at home these days.

The body needs exercise, however, so we went for a short walk in the Hayes Valley neighborhood later in the afternoon...

...admiring once again Shawn Bullen's 2016 bee mural on Ivy Street.

At Patricia's Green on Hayes Street, a controversial tree clearing project has involved chopping down ficus and palm trees (click here for a Hoodline article by Teresa Hammerl).

One of those palm stumps has become a painted plinth for an elephant sculpture...

...whose tusks have been chopped off, mirroring its truncated pedestal.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Hayes Street Shutdown Art

Tara Mechani, the fifteen-foot female Buddha by sculptor Dana Albany at Patricia's Green in Hayes Valley, has gained a few accessories recently, namely gloves and a mask.

The pandemic shutdown has gone on long enough that most storefronts in the Hayes Street shopping district are boarded up.

The silver lining is that murals have been commissioned from local artists...

...such as Nora Bruhn above...

...who has painted two gorgeous floral pieces on opposite corners.

acoté, a fashionable French clothing store at the corner of Laguna and Hayes... featuring a trio of murals that are timely...

...and delightfully whimsical.

Animals of all sorts are represented, from a bird... a fish... a big cat.

This Mighty Mouse Ratfink cartoon character appears in various poses around the block, but my favorite is in front of True Sake, America's first store dedicated to the Japanese rice wine.

The store's opening in 2002 was a clear marker of the complete gentrification that was about to overwhelm the neighborhood, so it was especially amusing to see the post-it graffiti added on by some joker.

Across the street at PROXY, there were are a few more graffiti-style installations...

...including this striking bit of stenciling.

On the other side, there was a fitness enthusiast doing pushups, who I preferred to view as a solo performance artist doing a Men's Health version of a Marina Abramović routine.