Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Tower Stripped Bare

The bureau chief takes lots of photos of the San Francisco skyline, some of them featuring two towers that seem situated fairly close to each other. Both towers have construction cranes atop them. I featured them in blog entries on June 12, 2013 and again on August 24. It took me a while to figure out that while the tower on the right was being constructed, the tower on the left was being deconstructed.

This photo is from June 11 of this year. (Please click.)

This photo is from August 18.

This is from September 1.

And this is from November 16.

I wondered if they were going to take the whole building down and emailed the San Francisco Chronicle's excellent Architecture Critic, John King, to ask him that question. He replied that the building in question was the former AAA office building. It had been sold and the new owners had stripped off the utilitarian concrete facade and intended to sheath it in glass and remodel it into high rise apartments to feed SF's insatiable hunger for housing.

The building is now modestly covered in fabric. This photo is from today. I'll update when the building reveals its final form.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Japanese Animals

Recently the bureau chief was given a gift of rice crackers which had been bought in Japan. The crackers are very tasty and the packaging is wonderful. Apparently the animals depicted are racoons. This menacing looking guy is reminiscent of the racoons who sit on the back deck of the bureau and stare in at us.

These guys are way too happy and goofy to be Bernal Heights racoons.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Swedish Sisters Sing So Sweetly

They put tears in Paul Simon's and Patti Smith's eyes.

First Aid Kit performs Paul Simon's "America" at the 2012 Polar Music Prize. You can skip the ad after 5 seconds.

First Aid Kit performs Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" at the 2011 Polar Music Prize.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Andy Goldsworthy

The bureau chief first became aware of Andy Goldsworthy's work through the 2001 film "Rivers and Tides" which I highly recommend. 2001 was also the year that the Goldsworthy piece "Stone River" was installed at Stanford University. In the following years 4 more Goldsworthy pieces were installed in San Francisco. In 2005 "Drawn River" was installed at the De Young Museum. Since then three Goldyworthy pieces were installed at the Presidio.

The link above gives pictures and the lowdown on the making of the Presidio pieces but I've photographed all three so I'm adding some of my pix. Here's "Spire" installed in 2008.

Here's "Wood Line" installed in 2010.

And here is "Tree Fall" which was just installed last month. The cracked mud is a really wonderful effect.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Doggie Diner Doggies Yarn-Bombed!

I posted images of the Doggie Diner Doggies on this blog in 2010. I did not explain at that time that each doggie once stood above a restaurant of the long defunct Doggie Diner chain. At the demise of the chain various collectors snapped up the doggies. A collector named John Law got three of them and put them on a trailer so that they could attend various events around town. Madame Le Chef and I spotted the doggies this Saturday past in front of a house on upper Folsom. They had been wonderfully yarn-bombed.

We stopped the car and I took several pictures. Other people were doing the same.

It turns out the doggies were there for a big Halloween party that was happening that night.

News of them spread around the hill and they came to the attention of Bernalwood, our neighborhood blog. They scooped me by a day and had lots of additional information and a photo of the Doggie Diner which once stood in our neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fiesta on the Hill

Bernal Heights had its annual street fair on the Sunday just past. Several blocks of the main drag, Cortland Ave., were closed to traffic and all the usual street fair things were there. Yes there were pony rides for the kids, food stands, bands, merchandise and information. The bureau chief got there later in the afternoon after a cold wind from the sea had thinned the crowd. It's interesting that some people make a living by traveling all around the state from fair to fair.

These stands have the classics.

These are more diverse.

It's all new to the kids.

This was new to me also.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Steam Powered Art

For ten years in a row, the San Francisco Center for the Book has hosted an event on the street outside their front door where prints are made from 3 ft. by 3 ft. linoleum blocks by making a sandwich of the inked block, paper and various protective layers and running a steamroller over it. We attended this event last Sunday. The photos are a mixture of mine and Madame Le Chef's. (Please click.)

Normally the steamroller is a modern compact machine but this year the organizers were able to get in contact with some steam enthusiasts up in Willets CA and voilà, an actual steam powered steamroller.

The paper was put down carefully.

The protective layers were added. You can see the backup modern steamroller in the background on the left side.

The steamroller got up a head of steam.

Things got rolling.

The layers were peeled away.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blame it on Fidel

The bureau chief really likes this 2006 French film (La faute à Fidel) by Julie Gavras. When we first meet our nine-year-old heroine, Anna, she's not a very likable child. The influence of her Cuban refugee nanny and her conservative Catholic grand parents have turned her into a miniature right-wing snob. She's at a family wedding and is browbeating the other children into eating their oranges with a knife and fork, like proper people. Her political and social stances are particularly ironic since her parents, Parisian professionals, are moving further and further to the left. This is the early 1970s and her father has become a strong supporter of the Allende government in Chile, while her mother is working for abortion rights in France.

Anna has a will of steel but, like all children, has no autonomy and is forced to be pragmatic when the things around her start to change. The whole cast is excellent and Nina Kervel-Bey is wonderful as Anna.

Julie Gavras knows about growing up with leftist parents since her father is Costa-Gavras. She has made a film with a perfect balance of comedy and drama. I recommend it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ridiculously Intense Sunset

The bureau chief does not use any sort of photo manipulation with the exception of occasionally straightening the plane of a picture. Basically I snap the picture with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 and the result comes from the interaction of the light and the digital sensor. I make this preamble because the following shots, taken on the evening of September 1st, are rather otherworldly.

The reflection in the bureau's windows.


And one more.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

We recently watched this 1971 film after not having seen it for decades. I would have to take another look at "Nashville" before crowning "McCabe" Altman's masterpiece but I strongly suspect it is. It has his usual dark humor but the wintery shots of the town of Presbyterian Church (actually built for the film), the purposely hazy photography and the use of Leonard Cohen's melancholy songs give a yearning quality to the film that's not present in most of his work. Cohen's "The Stranger Song" fits the film like it was written for it. It wasn't.

Apparently it was Altman's intention to debunk the Hollywood propagated myth of the American Frontier and he succeeded admirably but he also made his most beautiful film. The acting is all excellent and Julie Christie is amazing. Take another look at this film.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Local Pride

The invaluable neighborhood blog Bernalwood has again posted the news that, contrary to received wisdom, the steepest street in San Francisco is in our stomping ground of Bernal Heights and that the block of Ripley St. where the bureau is located is the 6th steepest street in San Francisco.

I'll repost a couple of photos that would make you suspect that our street is pretty steep.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Skyline

The bureau chief has neglected the bureau for too long. Here are some pictures taken over this summer. We start in a biblical mode with the Second Coming.

And the clouds opened up.

And now our friends the cranes in the evening.

And in the morning.

Red (pink) sky at night, sailor's delight.

And speaking of red, we have backyard plums with a backyard spider.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Streets and Music Machines

San Francisco has a fine tradition where, on a given Sunday, the city limits the main drag of a neighborhood to human powered traffic only. It was the Mission's turn last Sunday (7/31/13). The sky was grey but it was a fine event anyway. (Please click.)

Kids and parents could walk down the center of the street.

And bikes could be ridden without fear of traffic.

Turns out there is a wonderful tradition of lowrider bikes in the Mission.

And some of them are music machines.


This is clearly not any sort of lowrider. It was powering a DJ table set up next to it. I do admire the portholes.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Bling Ring

Sofia Coppola directed four feature films before "The Bling Ring". "The Virgin Suicides" (1999) was promising; "Lost in  Translation" (2003) was very good; "Marie Antoinette" (2006) was pretty but boring and "Somewhere" (2010) was really, really boring. The graph of her career was not looking good but I am pleased to report that "The Bling Ring" is a decent film.

It's a very contemporary meditation on the intertwined subjects of the surveillance state and the cult of celebrity. It's a fiction based on a real crime spree where a group of bored, materialistic and celebrity obsessed Southern California teenagers used social media and celebrity gossip sites to find out when various celebrities were out of town so that they could burglarize their houses. They got away with it for almost a year and stole an estimated 3,000,000 dollars in luxury goods. Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton were among the victims and Hilton, in her weird disarming way, allowed the film crew to shoot a number of scenes in her house.

The film is darkly comic and also skillfully anxiety producing. It's not boring. When the Bling Ring kids do their break-ins, security camera footage of them is intercut with the regular footage and there is always the sound of helicopters in the distance. Since we know they were eventually caught we keep waiting for the moment.

The young actors are very good. Katie Chang, as Rebecca Anh, the leader of the gang, brings a casual sociopathic edge to her role and Emma Watson leaves Harry Potter far behind with her portrayal of Nikki Moore, the most self-deluded, narcissistic and and unintentionally amusing of the bunch.

This is not a great film but it's worth seeing. I'm once again interested in what Sofia Coppola's next project will be.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

The bureau chief finds films of Shakespeare's comedies problematic. It turns out that comedy is not as timeless as tragedy and 400 year-old jokes are often not funny to contemporary audiences. The Shakespearean clowns are a particular example of this problem. If the film maker can't find a way to make what they're saying clear, without changing their lines, their scenes become dead spots in the film. This was the case in Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film of "Much Ado About Nothing" in which Michael Keaton played Dogberry, the head of the Night Watch.

Joss Whedon, who adapted and directed the latest film of "Much Ado", solved the clown problem. Nathan Fillion plays Dogberry as a thick-bodied middle-aged dunce of a Police Chief who tries to look wise by endlessly taking off and putting on his mirrored shades. With the exception of one female cop, his deputies are on the mental level of the cops in "Reno 911!" The shorthand works.

Whedon cast two male parts with actresses and also starts the film with a scene without dialogue that indicates that the lead characters Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) were lovers in the past. He shot the film in his own house, with an excellent company of non-stars, in just 12 days. The black and white cinematography looks great. The actors wear modern clothes---the women in dresses and the men in suits with semiautomatic pistols in shoulder holsters. Those things and the cool music make it seem that the film is taking place in the 1960s. I don't know why that seems appropriate.

The film takes a little while to get going but ends up being amusing, exciting and even moving. I recommend it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

This Is The End

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's "This Is The End" is 20 minutes too long but has some very funny (gross) scenes and provides the strange pleasure of watching part of the current generation of young actors making fun of their public personas. We saw the film the day after it opened, at a 4:30 PM showing and every seat was sold out. I'm not surprised. The film has lots of desperate, low tech, end- of-the-world energy which makes it fine summer fare. I won't list the large cast or detail the shameless high jinks but will merely recommend it as totally suitable vacation entertainment.