Monday, May 21, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse

Yesterday's eclipse was visible in eastern parts of Asia and western parts of North America. San Francisco was too far south for the "Ring of Fire" effect but we did get a partial eclipse on a nice sunny evening. Of course you can't look directly at the sun without special equipment, which we didn't have, but Madame Le Chef, the scientist in the bureau, had read that you could make a lattice with your fingers and observe the shape of the crescent sun in the shadows of the lattice.

It worked.

Not sharp but you can see it.

The light was rather strange. Some people down the hill were setting off fire crackers, either to celebrate the celestial event or to scare away the moon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound To Lose

When I heard the music of the Holy Modal Rounders in the later 60s, I loved it. I didn't know the source material then, but it was basically Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music" performed while under the influence of LSD and Methamphetamine, with a wonderfully weird and funny sensibility. The original Rounders where just Steve Weber and Peter Stampfel. Later Stampfel and Weber were in the original Fugs. And even later the Rounders went electric with a bigger band and, for a few years, had the actor and playwright, Sam Shepard, as their drummer. The Rounders and The Fugs were the anarchic humorous side of the drug rattled New York folk scene.

The 2007 documentary "The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound To Lose" finally made it to Netflix and the bureau chief and Madame Le Chef watched it. It's well worth looking at if you're curious about the Rounders and that (in retrospect) amazing epoch, but the central insight that I got from it is that wretched excess can be a great aide to creativity in the short run but is a very bad plan for survival in the long run. Stampfel was saved by the love of a good woman (how Victorian) in the person of Betsy Wollheim, his second wife. He gave up the LSD and the Meth. Weber transitioned into full on alcoholism and is basically a rolling disaster, although still very talented. Antonia, Stampfel's first wife and the cowriter of a lot of his early songs, stuck with Meth for decades more and the neurological damage she did to herself is painful to watch in the film.

Although most of the Rounders songs are lively and funny, a few have a haunting quality and the exemplar of that is "Bound to Lose'. It works well in the title of the film, since the Rounders were never able to financially capitalize on their wild talent, but it's also just a damn good song.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Love Crime

S.F. Chronicle film reviewer Mick LaSalle gave Alain Corneau's "Love Crime" an excellent review when it opened here but didn't write the one thing that would have made me see the film  immediately, instead of several months later on DVD. The film has a "perfect murder" plot. The bureau chief is a sucker for perfect crime plots, although it's rare that things work out truly perfectly for those involved. I don't rate the film quite as highly as M. LaSalle but definitely recommend it. It's got two excellent and attractive actresses, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier, and a perfect murder plot. What else do you need?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On The Waterfront

Once the premier port of the West Coast, San Francisco was pushed aside by Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland. It didn't have room to expand into containers and by the 1970s was dead as a major cargo port. Today we still have ship repair and cruise ship visits but that's about it. This is a floating dry dock near Mission Rock. Please click.

Ships anchor out in the bay.

Being San Francisco, there's art.

Here's a statue of Giants' great Willie McCovey standing next to McCovey Cove. Behind him you can see the DUKW of the last post passing by.

Here's AT&T Park where the Giants play. (At least it's not Tidy Bowl Park.) Aside from the name, it's a really nice park.

Finally, here's the marina next to the park with the Bay Bridge in the background.