Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Duck World Premiere, June 7-28!

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Good Evening:

And good heavens…less than two weeks until my next world premiere, The Duck at the 14th annual Sheherezade festival of very short plays at the Exit Theatre in downtown San Francisco.

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My life has gotten rather a bit maddening this month of May. Between rehearsals and performances for Jinshin Jiko at the Fringe of Marin theater festival, plus meetings & correspondence for a film project in the first weekend of June (I’m the screenwriter), I haven’t had a chance to attend more than the first rehearsal of my own play The Duck (you can read the seven page script here and here).

Normally, I prefer to attend a few early rehearsals and a few late ones. The early ones so I can listen to my howlingly bad tone-deaf dialogue and fix the script, the later ones so I can marvel at how the cast and crew have salvaged the show. This time around, people keep saying the same two words, over and over. The second most common: “stunning.” The most common? “Beautiful.”

I feel most curious to see the first run-through of the entire show; apparently, I have something good.

Director Wesley Cayabyab selected an amazing cast that carries the play to whole new levels, and they have worked very hard on a challenging little play, even if only 7 pages long. Here are two of the actors, Rick Homan as an FBI agent, and Leontyne Mbele-Mbong in the lead role as the amnesiac Hope Judith Hauser.

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The third member, Cameron Galloway, is one of San Francisco’s best comedic actors, but as the other FBI agent, she is tackling one of her most serious roles.

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I keep hearing that The Duck looks really good at this stage, but knowing almost nothing of the rehearsal process, it feels like I have a surprise present awaiting me in June.

Anyway, Wily West is a terrific small theater company based in San Francisco, which has produced a number of Sheherezade short play festivals, an annual event of the Playwrights Center of San Francisco. If you need just one more reason to visit my home town next month, Sheherezade 14 might prove the perfect “just one more reason” you need.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Peculiar Perils of the Positive Workplace (Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist)

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Good Evening:

The negative workplace has received so much attention in so many media: books, books promoted on talk shows, movies based upon the books promoted on talk shows, novelizations based upon the movies based upon the books promoted in talk shows, not to mention comic strips like Dilbert, songs like “Take This Job and Shove it,” and movies like Office Space (when I first saw this flick, I thought it was a documentary about working in the private sector with real-life events recreated by actors).

But what about the positive workplace? In a peculiar twist, no one discusses the disadvantages of working in an environment where everyone gets along with everyone else, or even likes everyone else. It feels as if the positive workplace was Terra Incognita on 16th Century world maps where “there be monsters.” And there do be monsters. Here is a partial list of the monsters I have faced in the past few weeks in my positive workplace.

  • Bread laced with veins of dark chocolate;
  • Official Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies;
  • Official Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies;
  • Peach coffee cake;
  • Blueberry coffee cake;
  • Trader Joe’s Chocolate-Covered Orange Sticks;
  • Trader Joe’s Chocolate-Covered Raspberry Sticks;
  • Almond-Chocolate candies from the local farmers market;
  • Two huge boxes of bagels, bear claws, and other pastries;
  • and official San Francisco Giants PEZ Dispensers with candy.

Remember; that is a partial list.

A happy work environment is a fattening work environment.

One of my co-workers has chosen to do something about it, using one of San Francisco’s twistiest stairways.

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This co-worker, who sometimes brings in home-baked zucchini cake, has dedicated this year to getting himself back in shape, and he uses the 14 floors of San Francisco PUC Headquarters as part of his regimen. Twice daily, he will walk the stairs all the way to the top floor, walk the stairs all the way down to the first floor, and then walk back up to our floor. Any exercise instructor will tell you that resolutions to get healthy become much easier if you recruit friends, and since everyone likes everyone else in my department, he has lots of friends to recruit.

Therefore, at 10:00 and 2:30 he walks the aisles, calling out “Stairs?” to all and sundry, and anywhere from 5-20 people will answer the call and join him. If you walk very, very slowly, it takes only ten minutes; if you walk briskly as I do, between 7:15 and 7:30.

Co-Worker Finishing Her Morning Stair Exercise.

Co-Worker Finishing Her Morning Stair Exercise. Taken with an iPhone 4.

Evidently, stair walking seems to have the reputation of being one of the best exercises; I have heard others call this a “total body workout,” although I feel a tad skeptical–how does this work the arms and upper body?  I recently began to carry two-pound weights to work me uppers. Nonetheless, walking this many stairs once or twice a day is great on the legs, heart and lungs (and everyone knows that the first rule of Zombieland is “Cardio”).

Stair walking also does good things for your eyes; ten minutes away from the monitor always benefits them. This activity has also become one of the departments favorite social events, as we catch up on each other’s personal lives, make fun of the people who walk too slowly, make fun of the people who walk too quickly, and trade opinions on the latest plot twists in our favorite TV shows. At first, workers from other floors would stare at our curious caravans as if we were nuts; these days, we encounter/pass/run into/run over increasing numbers copying our regimen.

The Fifth Floor "Twist" from Below

The Fifth Floor “Twist” from Below

I have still haven’t decided which provides the greater challenge, and a physical therapist will have to answer this question: which is better for your health, one stair at a time, or two stairs? Personally, one-at-a-time works the middle and outside-middle of my thighs, about 6 inches below my hips, while two-at-a-time makes me breathe harder and puts a lot of stress on the muscles around my knees. So I use either one depending upon my mood.

The stairs themselves are not easy to climb. The number of stairs in each flight always varies, and we have the weird “twist” as well. At the fifth floor, the stairs stop twisting upward in a clockwise direction, twist inward, and then continue to twist upward in a counterclockwise direction. As you can see from the above picture, it feels kinda weird. Also, each step is a bit shallow, so that my heels never touch anything solid, and it becomes that much harder to generate lift.

Another View of the Fifth Floor "Twist"

Another View of the Fifth Floor “Twist”

So far, my co-worker has had great but financially punitive results; he has taken over four inches off his waist, but also had to replace his entire belt collection and buy a new set because the old ones didn’t fit anymore. For that matter, I need to add a pair of holes to mine.

But how did my co-worker talk all of his buddies into joining him in such strenuous exercise?

Simple. He added an incentive.

Anyone who accumulates at least 100 complete walks by August 31 gets a reward. He will cook dinner for you–and since he is literally an award-winning amateur chef, he will cook one heck of a fine meal. But what does he cook that made him literally an award-winning amateur chef?

Baby-Back Ribs.

So if anyone endures the peril of losing weight by August 31, he or she can put all of that weight back on in one sitting. See what I mean? Working with people you like, and who like you, has its disadvantages.

And in case you’re wondering…I sometimes bring in homemade cookies.

Beware.

Vonn Scott Bair

Jinshin Jiko at the Fringe of Marin Festival

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Good Evening:

I have a role in a terrific one-act play entitled Jinshin Jiko, a ghost story that will appear at this year’s Fringe of Marin theater festival. The play takes place in a Japanese subway, and the title roughly translates as “human accident,” a term used to for people who commit suicide by jumping in front of trains. We perform on May 24 and May 25 at 2:00, and May 30 and May 31 at 7:30. For more information and tickets, please visit the Fringe of Marin website.

During tonight’s tech rehearsal at the theater, I noticed an odd phenomenon of light when I looked up at the ceiling. First, take a look at the pictures below, all taken with my iPhone 4, all unedited. The question is simple: how many colors of paint do you see?

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The correct answer: a lot fewer than you think. Aside from a little brown wood trim on the edges of the first and last pictures, there’s only one color in all of these shots. It’s the off-white color you see in the left-hand side of the middle photograph. Yes, they all belong to my “Someone Notices the Contrast of White on White” series of pictures, but I have never seen such color changes resulting from shadow, the angles of light, and nearby lamps.

Anyway, I feel most fortunate to have become a part of Jinshin Jiko; we have a really good combination of script, director and cast. I hope you can attend. After all, how many good reasons to visit the San Francisco Bay Area are there?

Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco’s Newest & Biggest Mural

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Good Evening:

This one could not have been easy. I don’t know if this is San Francisco’s largest mural, but during The Magic Hour, it looks rather fairly reasonably spectacular.

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I just wish the Moon would stop shrinking when I photograph it. You can find the mural in a desolate part of San Francisco’s East Coast near Illinois and Amador (actually, it’s quite lively during work days–people only become rare on the weekends) where sidewalks disappear and the streets look like they appeared in at least one Fast & Furious movie.

At least for a while.

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In truth, the land in this neighborhood is being recycled–big environmental cleanups everywhere, followed by thousands of units of new housing. If San Francisco is not change, then San Francisco is not at all, and this is needed change. However, I can’t help but think of the effort that went into this work of art. This might be San Francisco’s biggest and newest mural, but I can’t say that it will last forever.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Minimally Artistic Art of Instant Minimalist Art: Grey Series, Recent Pictures, 18 May 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art)

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Good Evening:

Frequent visitors to The San Francisco Scene–Seen! have become familiar with this phenomenon but might still remain baffled: I really really really like studying the color grey. Grey might seem dull to most folks; perhaps that attracts my attention, seeking to find the sometimes interesting in the usually dull. I know a professional photographer who likes to say, “Do not photograph an interesting object; photograph what is interesting in the object.” I like his approach, which might explain why I sometimes find grey a work of art.

One positive aspect about the color is that shadows play well with it. Here is a shot of a boring wall near Van Ness and Market that only becomes interesting twice a year , and only for a few minutes.

Market Street, 26 April 2014, 4:16:38 p.m.

Market Street, 26 April 2014, 4:16:38 p.m.

You get these shadows only every six months.

I saw this diagonal shadow pattern on a bridge on Illinois Street near Amador, along San Francisco’s East Coast.

Illinois Street Near Amador, 10 May 2014, 7:31:17 p.m.

Illinois Street Near Amador, 10 May 2014, 7:31:17 p.m.

This time, a nice contrast of horizontal vs. diagonal.

Such extreme shadows along walls (I call it “light shaving the wall” because I don’t know the correct term) will throw rougher textures into their greatest contrast, as in this picture, also taken along Market Street on the same day as the first.

Market Street, 26 April 2014, 3:41:30 p.m.

Market Street, 26 April 2014, 3:41:30 p.m.

We have a building a few blocks down on Golden Gate Avenue whose eastern wall frankly has little visual appeal. Most of the time.

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And perhaps it still does, but I like it. Sometimes.

Across from PUC HQ on Redwood Alley you will find the backside of Superior Court, and between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. every six months (notice a pattern?) the curious and useless ledges that stick out–actually, pigeons looking for love do find them useful–will cast extremely long shadows given that they only stick out about 6 inches from the wall.

Redwood Alley, 14 May 2014, 5:08:26 p.m.

Redwood Alley, 14 May 2014, 5:08:26 p.m.

I hope everyone had a good weekend and looks forward to a good week.

Vonn Scott Bair

Beauty Is in the Stomach of the Beholder (Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art)

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Good Evening:

It’s cracked.

It’s misshapen.

It’s lumpy.

It’s ugly.

It’s the first loaf of bread I’ve ever baked.

My First Loaf of Bread!

My First Loaf of Bread! (taken with my iPhone 4)

I think it’s a gorgeous work of art.

I used one of the most popular recipes in the history of the New York Times, Jim Lahey’s legendary no-knead bread of the Sullivan Street Bakery. I can vouch for the success of the recipe, especially if you have the patience to wait 18 hours for the yeastie boys to wake up and get hungry.

Actually, I should write that it was a gorgeous work of art. For proper aesthetic appraisal, approval and appreciation, in one sitting I deposited the entire loaf into the custody of that renowned art historian and critic known as my stomach. Blind to the visual defects but alert to the inner beauty of my sculpture, that august art critic rated my work 4.5 stars out of 5.

I’m pretty sure I can score that last half-star. Just need more practice.

Vonn Scott Bair

Work As Work of Art (Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art)

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Good Evening:

In a city as committed to public art as San Francisco as it is to business, sometimes the two combine. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission headquarters on Golden Gate Avenue (my workplace) represents one such example:

SFPUC HQ, 16 May 2014, 1:30 p.m.

SFPUC HQ, 16 May 2014, 1:30 p.m.

The long strip in front is “Firefly,” one of two environmental sculptures by Ned Kahn that you will find in the building. “Firefly” never looks the same twice, thanks to the small clear plastic squares vibrating in the wind. What follows consists of a shot taken at 1:30 today, followed by a second take from approximately the same spot at 5:10. The late afternoon winds introduce a green element into the shot.

"Firefly" 1:30 p.m., 16 May 2014

“Firefly” 1:30 p.m., 16 May 2014

"Firefly" 5:10 p.m., 16 May 2014

“Firefly” 5:10 p.m., 16 May 2014

The entrance hall features another Kahn work, “Rain Portal,” a sort of fountain (for lack of a better term) with a sort of frieze of squiggly clear plastic pipes, down which drips drops of recycled water. Here is an extreme closeup of one of the panels.

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And then there’s the “Escher stairway,” as I and only I call it. When the building opened, this became by far the most popular photographic subject of the people who worked there.

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The Escher happens to rise directly behind “Firefly,” which yields an interesting sort of “instant Cubist” view of Northern San Francisco.

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Methinks that “Work of Art” shall prove one of the most popular WP Photo Challenges ever. My city alone could yield a few dozen posts from yours truly alone.

Vonn Scott Bair