Recent photographic meditations upon a recurring subject.
Vonn Scott Bair
I’ve shied away from overt politics in The San Francisco Scene–Seen!, because let’s face it, the vitriol and hostility in the online world has gotten a bit excessive. Only a little, but enough to dissuade me from participating. However, I recently sent a message to a group of friends, which a few encouraged me to repost elsewhere. So here goes. My first, only and probably last political blog post.
What the GOP Primaries *Really* Need.
Even with the recent departures of Democratic and Republican candidates, the number of people running in the primaries remains too great. Even worse, among the Republicans it can be almost impossible to distinguish amongst them, as they only seem to compete to have the exact same far right opinions as the other candidates, only more so. Most of them even compete to wear the exact same suit, only more so, compete to have the exact same American flag pin, only more so, and have the exact same hair, only more so.
And it’s so hard to get rid of them! Just look at one man who did drop out. Rick Perry kept his campaign going weeks after he could no longer pay his people (http://news.yahoo.com/perrys-cash-strapped-2016-campaign-stops-paying-staffers-154529015–election.html), in fact, his campaign was not yet doomed because he had a pair of Super-PACs to pay the bills for him. Who are these Super-PACs? I don’t know. One article only stated, “…A pair of pro-Perry outside groups, each with ‘Opportunity and Freedom’ in its name…”
So we have a bunch of vague looking white men competing for the GOP nomination, with a few exceptions. Interesting that Mr. Trump, Mr. Carson, Ms. Fiorina and Mr. Rubio, who look so much different from What’s-His-Name, What’s-His-Name, What’s-His-Name, et cetera, either have done well or are doing well in the polls.
Well consider this: I watch a lot of soccer. Don’t care where it’s played, don’t care who are the teams, I will happily watch a game. Now combine my (limited) knowledge of soccer with my (limited) knowledge of Rick Perry’s Super-PACs.
And that’s when it hit me–I know what America needs more than anything else during the Republican primaries.
Yes, soccer jerseys. Think of the last time you saw a soccer match. If it wasn’t a nation v. nation match, you saw something like Seattle v. Portland, a Juventus v. Real Madrid “friendly” (what a misnomer that is!), an Arsenal v. Chelsea UN-friendly, or similar. If you saw these teams, you saw their players. If you saw their players, you saw their jerseys. If you saw their jerseys, you saw the fronts of their jerseys. And if you saw the fronts of their jerseys, what did you see?
That’s right. You saw advertising. Advertising from corporations that forked over vast sums of money to sponsor the clubs so that you can see their names/logos on your 50″ flat screens.
And that is why the GOP candidates need to wear soccer jerseys. So Americans can know who sponsors them. Let’s face it: thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, so much money from so few donors will flood the election that nobody runs for Commander in Chief anymore. They run for Minion in Chief. And the time has long since passed when America needed to see the GOP candidates in denim overalls and goggles.
America deserves to know who will become the masters of the next Minion in Chief. After all, the Minion in Chief will work for them, not for us. To paraphrase Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update character from 40 (!) years ago, “Hello, I’m a billionaire, and you’re not!”
Therefore, soccer jerseys with advertising. At least we’ll know who’s running the Minion who’s running to run the country on behalf of the person who’s running the Minion.
There is no other way you can tell the GOP candidates apart.
We can wait for the general election before making either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Sanders wear their jerseys. Seriously, if you can’t tell those two apart… (hint: Mr. Sanders has only one pair of underpants)
You don’t have to thank me, but it’s all right if you do.
I sure hope this doesn’t get me into too much trouble.
Vonn Scott Bair
I know what I saw today, but I have no idea what I saw today.
At about 11:15 a.m., on a stretch of Market Street from 10th Street to Van Ness Avenue, in the space of three minutes, I watched four homeless men (all Caucasian males who looked 40-50 years old) separately and independently walk into heavy traffic, indeed, they walked into heavy traffic towards the heavy traffic.
I have no idea what I saw.
I might have seen four almost simultaneous attempted suicides. In fact, the 14th time I saved a human life involved a man who was attempting to kill himself by walking into traffic. Incidentally, none of them got hit, not even close, not even the one at Market and 10th who wandered into oncoming traffic in four different lanes.
It just boggles the mind that so many homeless have hit upon this method of attempted suicide.
Unless it wasn’t.
When four homeless men wander into traffic in such a small area, the possibility exists that a tainted batch of the current cheap street drug has warped their minds. Or it could have been just a coincidence that four perhaps mentally ill homeless men happened to wander into traffic at the same time. Unless this was a perverse version of Russian Roulette–maybe they get killed, but if they get injured they can try to sue drivers.
It just doesn’t seem possible that one person witnessed four strange events almost exactly alike in such a small time frame. Five, if you count my 14th. Honestly, I have no idea what’s going on. Seems like some kind of bad craziness taking hold in San Francisco.
Unless it was all just a coincidence.
I don’t know what I saw.
Vonn Scott Bair
Sunday night in downtown San Francisco could not have gone much better for culture vultures. The Playwrights Center of San Francisco sponsored a fund raiser in which 8 groups of playwrights, directors and actors wrote, directed and acted in 8 short plays. I happened to play a role in this project: aside from providing breakfast for everyone on Sunday morning, I contributed 2 of the 3 required elements for each play.
The required theme for each play was “Surprisingly Unexpected.” Didn’t come up with that one (my offering: “This Is the End of the World As We Know It”), but I did contribute the required noun and the required line of dialogue. The noun: “Escape Vehicle.” The line of dialogue: “But what about the strawberries?” Thought the poor playwrights would suffer. Thought very wrong. The show was great.
Think for a moment of what kind of play you might write with the theme “Surprisingly Unexpected,” the noun “Escape Vehicle,” and the dialogue, “But what about the strawberries?” Offhand, I can recall these:
Surprisingly unexpected, aren’t they? And yes, they all included escape vehicles and strawberries.
San Francisco playwrights have excellent imaginations.
After an excellent show, maybe the best 24-hour playfest the PCSF has done, I wandered down to the cable car turnaround on Powell Street, where a gentleman with what appeared to be a 4.5 inch reflector telescope hosted a “Saturn Party,” wherein he offered free viewings of the planet. A little different, even by San Francisco standards.
Just around the corner, in front of the Gap store, stood Clare Means. Who? Clare is a tall woman with Pre-Raphaelite hair, an acoustic guitar, and quite a gift for songwriting in the genre some might call Americana. She currently has a curious sort of nationwide tour in progress: she travels from city to city, busking on the streets with her guitar and portable amp, performing songs from her two current CD collections, collecting dollars to pay for gas and food–basically trying to make a name for herself without a record deal and with an advertising budget of zero. Dropped a dollar in her guitar case and listened to “Look Who’s Lucky Now,” a great intro to her music, which you can find on iTunes. Have heard a lot of musicians and bands that deserved only the greatest success never came anywhere close. Clare Means is just the latest of the bunch, but it would feel pretty darn good some day to see her name on a Top 20. I mean, come on, Pre-Rephaelite hair. Dang.
I even found two dimes on the sidewalk.
Sunday night was that kind of night.
Vonn Scott Bair
I enjoyed a very good Sunday brunch at La Urbana on Divisidero, one of the seemingly millions of new restaurants to open in the wake of San Francisco’s latest tech boom. Pricey, yes (you learn to expect that at brunch places on Divizz), but the portions are quite substantial and very well done (the “house made” sausage was at least twice as big as I expected). But just as tasty–the conversation at the table next to me.
“The thing is, she is so aggressive, all the time. She is always pushing her employees and herself. Driven. You should hear her do sales presentations. She is so passionate, she always pushes for the best deals.” And so on and so on.
You’ve probably heard women executives described in this fashion all the time.
Except you haven’t.
If you have any misconceptions, put them aside. Every single word of this monologue was spoken as praise. This probably does nothing but tell you that I am very, very, very old, but I hear women executives described with this vocabulary all of the time, but never as praise always as criticism. This has struck me as unfair for a long time–many Apple employees loved Steve Jobs for how rough he could get, he sometimes making them cry–but in the past, when I’ve heard women described as aggressive and/or pushy, it always sounded like a complaint and not a compliment.
The demographics at this table might interest the sociologists amongst you. Two heterosexual couples, the men looked 30-35, the women looked 25-30. The speaker was one of the women. Another detail that interested me, but probably does nothing but tell you that I am very, very, very old. The men did not interrupt. They just listened, and nodded, not speaking until she had finished.
People can and have said and written much about how the tech boom has negatively changed San Francisco. Have you heard of the documentary Million Dollar Shack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBjXUBMkkE8). Amazing well produced effort and well worth a look. But the tech culture has yielded some positive changes as well, and praising women for aggressiveness counts among them.
Vonn Scott Bair
Shouldn’t love be considered, for lack of a better term–ordinary?
Unfortunately, it seems the answer is yes.
Do you consider yourself a reasonably well-informed person? So do I. Now consider this–what do you and I read in the news, see in the videos, hear on the radio? War, murder, mass shootings, executions, terror, sometimes discussed by people as full of anger, hatred and bile as the events of which they bloviate. If your knowledge of the world came solely from the news, you might not even know that love exists.
Good thing we can turn off our computers and televisions, huh?
Good thing we can take off for a walk in our neighborhoods, huh?
Good thing we can see people in love as if love was only ordinary, huh?
Given that San Francisco is not Scotland, perhaps that counts as (extra)ordinary.
Vonn Scott Bair
Does your city…have a bench like this?
Actually, probably yes; lots of cities like to convert mundane civic objects into objets d’arte. I happen to like this bench because it pivots 360 degrees. The bench represents part of a combination sidewalk park/recreation area called Outpost, and you will find it on Market Street near Sixth Street. These two gentlemen got a kick out of playing with the bench.
Vonn Scott Bair
So there I was sitting in the only stall in one of the San Francisco Exploratorium’s men’s rooms tonight, minding my own business and ignoring the two men outside using two of the three urinals, talking to each other, clearly friends. A third guy came in and made use of the third one. I don’t know whether or not the first two knew the third, but the third young man started the conversation.
“Do you guys take drugs?”
“Wow, you really get to the point.”
“Seriously, I’m looking to do drugs, but I don’t wanna the drugs I use now.”
“What’re you using?”
“I’m doing pills, but they’re way too you know, they’re messing me up. I wanna do mushrooms, you know, go organic, that green lifestyle thing, but I haven’t found a source in this town yet. I want more like natural drugs-”
At which point, I flushed my toilet. When I emerged, the three young men were facing the wall, looking straight ahead, acting as if total strangers, speaking nary a word to each other.
People ask me where I learned to write such great dialogue in my plays and screenplays. I say, “Riding on public transit, and pooping in public rest rooms.”
Vonn Scott Bair
PS–All photos taken with an iPhone 6 Plus, unedited.
One of these days, maybe just maybe your correspondent will finally break down and subscribe to Songlines Magazine, a very fine periodical devoted to the world of music, the world in music, and world music in particular. Each issue includes one or two sampler CDs (remember those?) containing sample songs featuring that issue’s featured artists–and one of these days I will learn how to write coherent English sentences.
The current issue (#111) puts Seckou Keita on the cover–and if you are also a hard-core lover of kora music you will immediately start looking for this issue. The issue includes two CDs. The first is the usual Songlines sampler.
The second–well, that is your official Puzzle of the Week!
The second CD includes the following: a song by a band called Jaffa Road (Jaffa is a place in Israel); another song by a band called Delhi 2 Dublin (referencing India and Ireland); and a song by Ayrad entitled “Moroccan Gospel.”
And here is YOUR Puzzle of the Week! What is the title of the CD?
You probably did not guess correctly. Not unless you own the issue.
The title of this CD is–believe it or not–Canada Now (Canada Maintenant).
It consists entirely of Canadian music. Or at the very least, music by Canadian musicians.
No one can deny that almost all recent developments in the music industry have caused a lot of pain for the artists, as fewer and fewer superstars grab more and more of the attention and money, except that they suffer as much from illegal downloading as anyone else (in terms of actual dollars lost, perhaps more, but I don’t have the numbers). Musicians share the very reasonable hope that they can support themselves with work they love, but their fans have developed the expectation that music should be free, possibly as an offshoot of the original idea that information wants to be free (sometimes attributed to Stewart Brand, late 1960s).
The one positive development? Music itself.
How on earth does a balding, late middle aged, pot-bellied, government bureaucrat white boy like yours truly even know that the kora exists?! Have you seen one of those things?! The kora is The Elephant Man of the guitar family, the horribly misshapen, deformed and monstrous mutant offspring of the unholy dalliance between an oud and a diddley-bow that the family keeps locked up in the basement out of shame–and yet the kora produces gloriously ethereal and beautiful music equal to anything else in the world.
How did I first hear of this West African instrument?!
The truth is that I don’t remember. Somewhere in the past decade, I blundered into In The Heart of The Moon, a collaboration between the late Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate and became madly enraptured with the performance of Toumani on one of his own koras–but even that doesn’t count as my first encounter with that strange-looking instrument. Nonetheless, we all know where I first encountered the kora. On the Internet.
We have entered an extraordinary era, one in which it has become more difficult than ever for musicians to make a living, and yet more easy than ever to discover each other, learn from each other, and experiment with each other, drawing inspiration from music and musical instruments that we might never have encountered even a decade ago.
Making Napster, the iPod, YouTube et alia very bad news for the musician–and very good news for the musician’s music.
I feel so glad I don’t work in music. Feels much better that I just enjoy the sound.
Especially since I never steal music.
Vonn Scott Bair
At first, I thought she had fallen in the middle of a group of UC Berkeley students at the Downtown Berkeley BART station as she thrashed on one bench. Then I thought she was tripping on bad drugs when she sprang to her feet and ran all the down to the east end of the platform. Then I thought she was just plain bat-bleep crazy when she sat on another concrete bench and tied herself into one odd contortion after another.
Then she stood, lifted one foot over her head in a stretch, and practiced some soft shoe steps.
So I was wrong three times. This young woman was an aspiring dancer, practicing and performing, and to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, “dancing real good for free.”
No editing at all–BART stations have weird light that makes pictures hard without expensive equipment or time to prepare or experience in bad lighting conditions.
And when she finished her performance-slash-practice, she ran all the way to the other end of the platform to catch the Fremont train home.
Vonn Scott Bair
A collection of doors and doorways in San Francisco that serve as boundaries between interiors and exteriors.
First, three from the SOMA (South Of MArket) neighborhood:
And four from the same day in the Upper Haight, where exotic doorways are key to retail success.
The Upper Haight has changed drastically in recent years, becoming more of a haven for exotic imported clothing stores than for hippies. Surprisingly, aside from a few bars, the street basically shuts down after about 9:30 p.m. even on weekend nights. It has become that retail-oriented, and one hopes that tourists don’t feel too disappointed.
Vonn Scott Bair
At the boundary of day and night, at the boundary of sand and sea, you will find the fisherman.
You will find the sort of sunset that JMW Turner would have loved. Shame he never travelled to California.
Vonn Scott Bair
As I’ve written before, it seems that one means of measuring a city’s health consists of counting the construction cranes hovering over neighborhoods like birds hovering over chicks. And as I’ve also written before, I have zero economics training and have no idea if my curious notion has any basis in fact.
These triplets have hovered over Van Ness Avenue for the past few months at three separate sites.
However, not everything in San Francisco is going up. This will soon come down.
This building on Van Ness and Golden Gate used to be a McDonald’s restaurant (I don’t care if it’s McDonald’s or MacDonald’s because–well, I just don’t care). Perhaps I have led too sheltered a life, but it didn’t seem possible that one of their franchises could ever shut down. Certainly, this one seemed busy enough, but as I have written before, I have zero economics training. No doubt the building will soon come down and another yellow crane will hover over the site as another apartment building goes up. Meanwhile, a few more shots of the shuttered site.
Something already rising on the property: weeds.
From Bair’s Dictionary: “Weeds, n.: Plants that exist solely to make a mockery of human pretension and endeavor.”
Vonn Scott Bair
The original inspiration came from the New York Times, but no one in my family can resist experimenting with recipes. For us, cookbooks are less textbooks and more like collections of timidly proffered suggestions to ignore at our pleasure. The original recipe called for honey only as a glaze, but that didn’t seem quite flavorful to me.
Feta with Honey-Apricot-Mustard-Thyme Glaze
You may use a small wheel of Brie as a substitute, however!, you must use a whole wheel, not a cut wedge. The Brie must be covered entirely in that famous white rind or it will melt into nothingness.
Vonn Scott Bair
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