Saturday, July 30, 2011

Staycation Part 1

Our summer is drawing to a close but we continue to find delights in our city. In the adjoining neighborhood of Glen Park there is a steep flight of stairs that starts on Laidley St. (Please click.)

It's very green.

Art or protective fetish?

Headed for the light.

The Bureau's own hill seen from a neighboring one.

Worship me mortals!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bastille Day

Last year Mme Le Chef and I were in Paris on July 14, this year we were in Point Reyes, which is a 90 minute drive from San Francisco as opposed to a nine hour flight. There a no similarities between the two places, but each has its beauties.

Limantour Beach.

The marsh.

Local fauna.

The shore.

At day's end.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Clarion Alley

While taking a postprandial walk with a friend, we went through Clarion Alley, which is pictured in the man-shaped cutout. (Please Click.)

The haunting.

That damn Mission.

The persistence of memory.

Through the wonder of the internet, I discovered the quote is from Rumi.

Word Art.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

The bureau chief dislikes 3-D as, apparently, does Werner Herzog who none the less used it in his film, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams", in order to make the most of a special opportunity. Herzog was anointed by the French government to make a cinematic record of the Chauvet Cave in southern France, the location of the oldest known paintings by humans. The cave will never be open to the public because people's breath would destroy the delicate 35,000 year old works of art. It is only open to scientists for a very limited time every year.

The film begins with the camera moving through rows of grape vines in what appears to be a Steadicam shot but then rises up and flies above the vineyard (at the end of the film we see that the camera is mounted on a model airplane). As it soars above the landscape it reveals the central problem with 3-D. The trees and vines below don't look real, they look hyper-real, as if we are looking at a diorama or an architectural model. Smart people have pointed out that 3-D actually diminishes the power of a panoramic shot, minimizing the perceived vastness of it. This was not an issue in the confines of the cave where the filmmakers had to stay on a two foot wide walkway and were not allowed to touch anything. The prehistoric artists had incorporated the bulges and curves of the rock in their painting and 3-D allows the viewer to appreciate this.

The paintings are amazing. They are not stylized but very realistic, very observational, like pages torn from a Renaissance artist's sketch book. At one point it's mentioned that the paintings were done over a 5,000 year period before the cave was closed by a rock slide. 5,000 years is how long we have had writing, in other words, recorded history. This allows one to appreciate the magnitude of 35,000 years, back when our forebears coexisted with our cousins, the Neanderthals.

Herzog documents the paintings extensively and interviews the Paleontologists, who are a charmingly quirky bunch. At the very end of the film there is a Herzogian moment. The director learns that there is a nuclear power plant within a 50 mile radius of the cave and that an entrepreneur is using the warm waste water of the plant to raise tropical plants and albino crocodiles. He can't resist the opportunity.

This is a very cool film.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Return of the Agile Goat

The bureau chief and his comrades in the BHP treasure a quote from a 1894 article in the San Francisco Chronicle describing then semi-rural Bernal Heights as, "That paradise of the agile goat and the speckled hen." On Friday of last week, one block off of Cortland Ave, Mme Le Chef and I saw this.

The goats weren't exhibiting any special agility but were exhibiting a healthy appetite. Apparently it was a flock brought in to eat the weeds around the Holly Park Reservoir.