Monuments of Golden Gate Park (Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument


Good Evening:

Taste in monuments sure has changed over the course of a century. Golden Gate Park hosts a large variety, and most are fairly mundane statues honoring various types of artists:

Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key

Goethe & Schiller

Goethe & Schiller

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

…which makes me wonder why statues to artists are, um, well, not exactly artistic.

I prefer the simplicity of the modern style.

Entrance to AIDS Memorial Grove

Entrance to AIDS Memorial Grove

Simple, serious, solemn.

But one of the old-fashioned monuments does appeal to me, because the firm of Cebrian & Molera (Jo Mora, Sculptor) brought a little sense of humor to their 1916 effort.

Cervantes and His Two Greatest Fans

Cervantes and His Two Greatest Fans

Presenting the great Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, but not just the great Cervantes; Jo Mora also included Cervantes’ two greatest admirers, Don Quixote de la Mancha and his trusty squire Sancho Panza.

Have you ever read The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha? I have, and not as required reading for some class; I read the book just for the heck of it–and a heck of a good heck it was! Considered by some the first Western novel (great way to start an argument) or the first modern novel (yeah, I’m one of those annoying types who insist that The Tale of Gengi by Lady Murasaki was the first novel overall), DQ does deserve its reputation as one of the greatest books ever, and still reads very today. If you ever have nothing to do and a week to do it in, you would do worse than to read the first and third books which make up the canonical version.

Because that’s what Cervantes wrote. He didn’t write the second book. The second book, a.k.a. Part Two, was a spurious version written by someone using the pseudonym Avellaneda. That sort of plagiarism was winked at/ tolerated/ legal/ encouraged back then, and Cervantes had no recourse but to recruit his friends the good Don and Sancho to serve as um, well, uh–book critics, skewering the “second book” at every opportunity.

Literature used to be very strange.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Efficiency & Trust of the Saxophone, 13 April 2014


Good Afternoon:

At first, it all seemed so very “meta:”


Just a tip basket on the railing of a footbridge next to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (Georgia O’Keeffe fans, rejoice–the retrospective is excellent). No musician, no artist, no writer, no poet, no actor, no mime. Just the tip basket. Busking as conceptual art, I thought; ingenious!

Then the saxophone made itself heard.

I leaned over the railing and observed this gentleman:


So he was collecting tips from two different locations, and trusting that no one would swipe his earnings from the bridge. Impressive faith in humanity! However, I observed that the tip basket had grown full, and remembering the Social Experiment in the Office (Part I here, and Part II there), I chose to serve my fellow artist by adding a dollar of my own and lowering the basket to him using the twine taped to the basket’s handle.

“Wait, wait! Don’t lower it yet!”

This came from a 20-ish young lady with dark brown hair. She fetched a dollar bill of her own from her purse, added it to the pot, and then gave me permission to lower the basket.

“Not yet!”

This came from another 20-ish young lady with dark brown hair. She fetched a dollar bill of her own from her purse, added it to the pot, and then gave me permission to lower the basket.

This time I did succeed in lowering the basket. The saxophonist expressed his thanks for our help and offered to play requests for his supporters.

I moved on, having chores to run, plays to write, scripts to mail, acting to practice, et cetera. Could not help but wonder, though: had I accidentally conducted my own accidental social experiment?

The unanswerable question: would the young ladies have contributed to the support of live music in San Francisco had I not made an effort to present the musician with all of the money that he earned?

Honestly, I have no idea.

Vonn Scott Bair

Riddle of the Day! 13 April 2014


Good Evening:

Examine closely the objects in the picture below.

WordPress 041214 Puzzle Picture

From left-ish to right-ish, top-ish to bottom-ish, they include:

  1. Two (2) tote bags;
  2. A manila envelope containing 2013 receipts;
  3. My 2013 tax returns;
  4. A packet of computer screen wipes;
  5. One (1) box of vegan broth cubes;
  6. My cell phone, nattily attired in an official WordPress cell phone cover;
  7. A collection of recent photographs;
  8. My point-and-shoot camera;
  9. A grip so I can use my cell phone as a video camera;
  10. One (1) bag containing my electric shaver;
  11. One (1) package of gourmet organic chocolate;
  12. One (1) box of anti-gas pills;
  13. One (1) stapler;
  14. Two (2) pens;
  15. Actor’s makeup (foundation);
  16. Dental floss;
  17. A set of paper dominos;
  18. A backup flash drive for my DSLR camera;
  19. One (1) bag of cough drops;
  20. One (1) Mexican professional wrestling lucha libre mask;
  21. and Two (2) boxes of tea bags.


Now here is your riddle: what do they all have in common?

The answer: at approximately 1:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, they all fit inside this:


What’s in your bike messenger bag?

Vonn Scott Bair

The Instant Art of Instant Abstract Art, 12 April 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument)


Good Afternoon:

I won’t write that the Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park is one of San Francisco’s smallest, except that um, well, uh, the Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park is one of San Francisco’s smallest:


That’s pretty much the entire park.

(And I need to stop right now to post a message to WordPress: whatever the admins are doing to this website, please STOP DOING IT. I have now experienced my fifth involuntary logout just to write the first four lines of this post–I have not yet inserted any images. I’m sorry to write this about one of my favorite websites, but–good grief, there’s involuntary logout NUMBER SIX. No, wait: now it’s seven.)

In addition to the monument, six eucalyptus trees were planted nearby in her memory, and one in particular interested me because it gave me the opportunity to practice a common theme of mine, Instant Abstract Art. Essentially, I take a closeup shot of an object until you can no longer tell what it is–all that remains are lines and colors. Such as these pictures of the bark:

DSCN2101 DSCN2107 DSCN2103 DSCN2109

Vonn Scott Bair


On the Threshold of Theater (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold)


Good Evening:

On occasion, one aspect of theater stands out from most other forms of the arts.

Sometimes, you can’t possibly know how the story will end.

The Set of The Two Chairs, 5 April 2014

The Set of The Two Chairs, 5 April 2014

You can skip ahead to the end of a short story, a poem, or a book. In big-budget movies, you already know what will happen even before you fork over your $10-12 (plus the price of popcorn). I haven’t seen the latest James Bond yet, heck, they might not have even filmed it yet, but I probably already know that the dude will still be alive at the end (and somehow, I don’t think that’s a spoiler alert). In low-budget movies, you can’t take for granted that you know how they will end, so they offer a similar experience to theater. Sometimes a good television show will throw a huge surprise at you, so that also counts as a similar experience.

But when you sit in your chair on the threshold of the world premiere of a play, you can’t possibly know how it will turn out before the end. As the above picture shows, you can’t even know what you might see on stage. A movie set in New York City? You probably won’t see the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s just not real. Theater hasn’t these constraints (unless the show wants them), and therefore has greater scope for invention, even though it operates under severe physical constraints. Theater is invention grounded by force in reality.

The above photograph of the set of The Two Chairs (world premiere this month at Bindlestiff by the Performers Under Stress) is a good example. As it happens, I had to opportunity to read the entire script before the show, and still had no idea what to expect. Sometimes happens with the classics, too: Yale Rep once staged a spectacular version of The Tempest featuring eight Ariels.

The Two Chairs is a two-hander (two actors total) about confession, power, domination and control. Both actors did very well on the night I saw the show, but Duane Lawrence has now amazed me in two consecutive plays; he can do astonishing things just by arching a single eyebrow. And that’s another advantage of the theater over other art forms; its sheer visceral nature. Those are real human beings on a stage and sometimes they are only a few feet away from you. Or even less; in one show, my character had a death scene that went slightly awry and my head ended up on an audience member’s foot. CGI just can’t me the same feeling; after a while, let’s face it, it’s just more computer stuff.

Theater: it’s just plain real.

Surprise yourself and check out a play and let it surprise you.

Full disclosure: I know the director and cast of The Two Chairs (the SF theater scene is both big and small; everyone knows everyone). Even so, I still feel good about recommending the show.

Vonn Scott Bair

Oakland: On the Threshold? (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold)


Good Evening:

Downtown Oakland, California used to be dead.

As recently as last year, I could walk the entire length of Oakland’s Broadway from the 12th Street BART station to the intersection with Grand Avenue on a weekend day without seeing another walker at all; maybe a few people working in a fast food restaurant, but that’s it. I would not see another person on the streets until I reached Grand Avenue. Even then, I would not really encounter much humanity until I reached Lake Merritt. If the legendary Paramount Theater did not have a show, downtown Oakland on the weekend was emptier than a scene from some big-budget post-apocalyptic alien invasion/incurable virus/zombie rampage flick.

Sunday afternoon was different. Very.


I had to pick my way through a large assortment of people hanging out in what has become an honest-to-God neighborhood. The area around the intersection of Broadway and Grand has–in less than twelve months!–become a destination, with a multitude of coffee shops, restaurants, a few galleries, and even a nightclub jam-packed with people at 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday (making it a “dayclub?”). Sunday!

Downtown Oakland has begun to look like San Francisco.

Even San Francisco-style murals have begun to appear.

Something has always held Oakland back; for example, the three biggest problems in that city are crime, crime, crime, crime and crime (and yes, I can count). I mean, “Crime in Oakland, California” has its own Wikipedia entry. But there does exist one factor that can push Oaktown over the threshold from “underrated with great potential” to “seriously freaking awesome.” Rents.

In the entire San Francisco Bay Area, you will find two types of rental markets: reasonably unreasonably high rents…and San Francisco. Oakland happens to fit in the former category and right now, it has begun to attract the kind of people who can no longer call San Francisco home, or who would have called San Francisco home if they could have afforded it. Oakland could become the kind of artists enclave that San Francisco might cease to become.

Oakland even has dance troupes that will board the BART trains and perform for money.

That used to be a San Francisco thing.

Vonn Scott Bair

On the Threshold of Power (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold)


Good Evening:

This week’s Challenge has surprised me; did not think that I would blunder into so many examples of the “threshold.”

Once upon a time, architects created palaces, castles, theaters, cathedrals, and civic buildings such as a City Hall with the specific intention (among others) of impressing visitors with their beauty and/or intimidating them with their power, even before said guests entered. Castles of course leaned toward intimidation, the famed opera house of Sydney, Australia leaned toward beauty, and a cathedral such as Notre Dame de Paris perhaps leaned toward both, although that is a theological debate this correspondent shall shun.

San Francisco’s City Hall goes for the good looks.


No wonder newlyweds pose for pictures in front of doors like that!

The State Building on McAllister perhaps leans slightly toward power. The doors are pretty small, but the arches in front of them dwarf people entering or exiting.


No one poses for wedding pictures in front of that.

But I wrote “Once upon a time” for a reason. Presenting the main entrance of the Civic Center Court House:


Can’t even bother to pick up the trash.

I like the old days, when a castle, cathedral, or public building said, “We are here, we are big, and we–are–badbutt!”

Or words to that effect. Pardon my language.

Vonn scott Bair