Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm Seriously Considering...

...making a trip to Kangerlussuaq, if only to say that I've been there. Has anyone else been or have tips? I've flown over it a few times but have always wondered what it's like to actually visit. I think I'd love the weather.Apparently I'd need to fly into Nuuk, which would be fun since gay marriage is legal there. Something to remember should I find the right travel companion in the meantime. All serious inquiries will be duly considered.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Saw a Similar Sign Last Week at Wilkes Bashford

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

SRO: Paris, Barcelona..The Mission

At one point I seemed to be quite persistent in writing up reviews and observations about shows, films, books and music I consume. I've been a bit distracted about doing that of late. So here is a short glimpse of Friday and Saturday nights' outings.


In theory I despise stage musicals or, more accurately, the people who are all gaga about them. So I surprised myself by accepting an offer to go with R_____ to see 42nd Street Moon's sparse but effective restaging of Coco with Andrea Marcovicci, who is sort of a non-diva diva. She was oddly an icon for my sister in her high school years when appearing as Dr. Betsy Chernak Taylor on the daytime soap Love Is a Many Splendored Thing set in an unusually bland early 1970s San Francisco.

Marcovicci generally got the role spot on with her subdued approach and shedding what seemed to be unrehearsed tears when singing "Always Mademoiselle". The first staging of the show in nearly 40 years, it reminded me that the Andre Previn score is a guilty pleasure up there with "I'll Plant My Own Tree".

I actually saw the show twice during its initial run. First with my grandmother in the winter of 1970, after which I drove my family crazy singing a la Hepburn "Who the devil kay-yours/What a woman way-yours?" The following summer I saw it with my sister, who was pursuing a sadly aborted fashion design career, when it starred the more appropriate Danielle Darrieux.

This clip of the original doesn't quite capture the flash of the mirrored stairs from the good seats we had. It all reminded me of old flagship store of Hall's in downtown Kansas City. My grandmother wore a get up not unlike Hepburn's. Change the skirt to slacks and lose the jewelry, and it could pass for Junk Thief 40 years later.

There was no mirrored staircase in the 42nd Moon production, but it brought back memories of the original. Apparently enough people want to share that memory, since it was announced that less than five percent of seat are still available during its run.

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Also sold out for its run is Barcelona: Un Mapa, the first film I've ever seen in Catalan and bringing back wonderful memories of my November trip to Catalonia. Although it included an old man fond of dressing up as a woman, a fair amount of male full frontal nudity and surreal dialog, it had little in common with Almodóvar, Buñuel or other Spanish film makers. It was defiantly Catalonian and felt like a Pinter play directed by Bergman.

It was also nice to be introduced Pablo Derqui (on the left) who spent his scene wearing nothing but black brief. Nice to meet you Pablo.

While I can still only speak a handful of Catalan words, I am proud that I could immediately distinguish when the characters shifted from Catalan to Spanish

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Zen of Jordy

Am I seeing things or did pint-sized, ultimately exploited, early 1990s disco star Jordy grow up to be Eckhart Tolle? Maybe it's just me, but the resemblance is uncanny. Dur dur, d'etre une New Age Guru. Just don't tell Oprah.

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Northern Comfort

I am really anxious to see Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, which he is billing as a "docutasia" and pulling in stories from his own life, the history of Winnipeg and his usual weird silent era Soviet film influences. It's slowly making its way across the border into New York and may be out west come July.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chevy to Ford/Abstract to Concrete/Green to Red

Starbuck's is draining.
That relic of the old new economy blames California...
...and Florida.
People have retreated to their kitchens.
People in small towns remind us that they don't
cling to Bibles and guns.
But big city boys in Oakland do.
Risotto and robbery fill the nights.
Now they're shooting people in the Mission again.
But it feels so distant in the Wednesday twilight.
Someone was gunned down last night just
a block or two away from where I shoot these images.
I can't help but be drawn to the patina of peeling paint.
I never knew Harrison was so full of green
that is abundantly evident this gray April night.
I pass these green pipes many times a week
but they have never held my fascination the way
they do this evening.
Half way through my snapping, a young woman stops,
transfixed by my image robbery until she says,
"Whatever class your doing this for, I want
to know where it is." I hand her a card
for this blog and enjoy the sounds of her
wistfully reading as she walks away,
"junk...and crime..."

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But We Won't Be Watching the Olsen Twin Videos

After going gaga over the Georges Méliès inspired children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret during the holidays and its Steampunk ethos, Junk Thief may have found a new kids lit book that speaks to him. Diary of Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney lacks the visual sophistication of Cabret, but as the above image shows, it speaks to something very primal and familiar. What is this all saying about Junk Thief if the most compelling new books are those aimed at the "tween" set?

To learn more, this article in New York this week is a good review of this newest submarket.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's Odder Than a Dancing Pig?

Just when the tedium surrounding the Pennsylvania primary reached an absolute breaking point, there was the interesting news of Julie Nixon Eisenhower backing Obama as well as an earlier announcement of Susan Eisenhower doing the same. No word yet on where things stand with Tricia. Maybe it's evidence that new Millennium Republicans are too much for even Cold War era Republicans.

Unfortunately I've not been able to track down any video of the Eisenhower grandchildren dancing around in top hats.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Distant Dreamer

I'm pretty clueless to what is in the top 40 these days besides annoying garbage, but I've been listening to this track by Duffy non-stop since discovering it on KCRW a few weeks back. Apparently the album won't be officially released in the U.S. for another month, but I've liked everything on it so far. To me she is the best thing to come along since A Girl Called Eddy. Mariah Carey? Bleh, forget about it.

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Death and Coffee in Oakland

Yesterday evening while Friendatella and I were killing a little time before the movies at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, we were struck by the Day of the Dead Coffee shop which was dead itself with the doors locked. The blue bonneted vision of loveliness a few doors down reminded us of Bryce Digdug who wore a similar bonnet to the Hunky Jesus pageant a few weeks back. (I've been very proud that this video of mine has received many hits after being linked from several right wingnut sites.)

Like many naive San Franciscans, we ventured into this somewhat upscale Oakland neighborhood where there have been several armed robberies at pricey restaurants. The police described the suspects as "teenage boys in hoodies". That really narrows the field, doesn't it?

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Don't Forget to Put a Flower in Your Hair

Looking for another reason to come to San Francisco? We just officially added a new tourist attraction with gas topping $4 a gallon. Apparently the highest price this weekend was in South San Francisco at $3.29 a gallon, but several places in the city have topped $4, sustaining San Francisco bragging rights of having the most pricey gas in the U.S. There are several reports of stations having people stopping to have their picture taken in front of the signs. I guess that is more interesting back in Omaha than seeing Aunt Louise in yet another picture in front the Golden Gate Bridge or Coit Tower.

So, if you're looking for a reason to come for a visit the summer, you have something you might not find in Texas or Tennesse. Or you might want to want until the holidays when it could reach $5. However, you may have to walk or ride your bike to get here.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Oakland, Chinese Family Values and Le Cochon Danseur

Friendatella (whom I know well enough to call just F'tella) and I went to see a wonderfully obscure film tonight in Oakland's Lake Merritt District called The Curse of Quon Gwon, believed to be the oldest extant Asian American film, committed to celluloid in 1916. Clocking in at just around 35 minutes, it was a tale of a couple dealing with issues of in-laws, contemporary vs. traditional values, and cultural identity. There was also a moment or two of odd footwear and head dresses.

It was coupled with a 90 minute documentary called Hollywood Chinese that was also heavily promoted at the Asian American Film Festival last month where I saw the great documentaries on Anna May Wong and the Long/Leung family but have not gotten around to writing about. For better or worse, having a life has made me a bit delinquent on reporting and critiquing on this blog.

The best part of the evening may have been that I may be turning F'tella into a silent film buff after he went reluctantly to a Louise Brooks flick at last summer's Silent Film Festival. Speaking of which, I am glad to post this clip from one of my favorite discoveries from that festival last year in a retrospective called Saved From the Flames that featured many short Melies films and other early silent obscurities. Dancing, stripping pigs are always a great joy, as the clip below attests.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Not That Cutie

As a Unitarian-Jew, I've not paid that much attention to the Pope's visit, but it just won't seem to go away. Tonight I discovered on the PBS News Hour someone named Father Albert Cutie who apparently bills himself as a marriage expert. Okay, if you were having troubles with your marriage, wouldn't the last person you'd want to go to for advice be a celibate man in a line of work rife with pedophiles? It's sort of like asking a vegan how to cook pork chops.

Even odder, is that a site called
Priest Sunday that describes him as being "Six feet tall, with black hair and vivid blue eyes...energetic, articulate..." That sounds just a tad too TigerBeat for a description for me. Oh, go ahead and describe his muscular thighs and smooth skin craving to be touched while you're at it.

Personally, he looks a bit too much like an anatomically incorrect Ken Doll to me. But then again, I come from a spiritual tradition that puts a bit too much emphasis on male genital mutilation.

In the meantime, perhaps he could head down to Texas to give a little marital counseling to the members of that FLDS compound, or at least a little hair, make-up and wardrobe tips to those wives.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is Rush Limbaugh a Guerneville Bear Now?

I've seriously thought that my next car, if I get one at all, might be a Prius. But you'd never guess that or that I have worked for environmental, sustainable, feminist, progressive causes for two decades as I hear the reactions to the Prius attacks in Sonoma County. It's wrong, and whoever is doing it needs to be brought to justice. But I could understand how someone might be drive to such a crime when I heard an interview with a make-up challenged, Tom's of Maine consuming woman whose car had been attacked. She stared at the damage, whining cluelessly, "How could anyone do this to a sweet little car that's good for the en-VIR-on-MENT?!"

I'm all for leaving a small carbon footprint, but I think we need to inspire not preach at the non-believers. I've lived in enough places where non-believers think baseball bats are covered under the First Amendment. They'll be plowing down the Code Pink members in their HumVee to get that parking space in Berkeley next.

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Keeping on the Theme: Timeless

Since we're on the Cass Elliott theme, this week's latest paranoid news reminds us that her songs have as much relevance today as they did three and a half decades ago. This is the most (and probably only) Zen song I've ever heard about natural disasters. What will be is what will be.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Junk Thief Theme Song

As Witchipoo says, "I love it! I love it!"

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dagmar's Deutsche Miserie

The weather in San Francisco has been horrific this weekend. After an almost too cool few days early in the week, we've had nearly 80 degree temperatures the past two days, making it miserable to be outside but requiring frequent trips into the heat to water plants that aren't accustomed to such horrible temperatures.

That's forced me to be inside much of the weekend but a good chance to complete Lenya Legacy DVD. Those interested in getting a copy can let me know. It's essentially a compilation of (mainly) Brecht/Weill songs introduced by Lotte Lenya and a rare, short documentary on her life and legacy. Mina Mazzini, Hildegard Knef, Nina Simone and Gisela May are all on hand, singing in a variety of languages.

The real joy of this, however, was discovering this very rare clip of Dagmar Krause singing "Surabaya Johnny". I only wish that it were in German, but she's no less dramatic in English. It reminds me why I think no one is better qualified to carry the torch of Lenya and Weill.

Little Dagmar came close to destroying at least a couple of my past relationships as I relentlessly played and played her definitive 1986 release Supply & Demand in which she sang the well known tunes of Brecht/Weill and the much lesser known but even more fascinating songs of Brecht/Eisler, the latter composed during their exile in Hollywood. Brecht and Weill were often praised for their sweet/sour or yin/yang combination, but Brecht and Eisler were more yang/yang, both ardent Communists and a much more intense, didactic experience.

And no one is better equipped to sing tunes like "Deutsche Miserie" and "The Lilly of Hell" than little Dagmar, the pint-sized red head sometimes called "The Voice of Armageddon". Hey, I'd take her over Mariah Carey any day.

I've also been listening to a good number of Dagmar's 1970s tunes with the pop band Slapp Happy, a German group that released mainly English language tunes.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

No Access for Me

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My Neighborhood, Randomly

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lonely House

I've been a bit too busy with work-related projects (albeit very interesting and sometimes profound encounters) the past two weeks that have made me neglect this blog and all of its silliness. Last week I heard Jane Goodall and Sir Bob Geldoff speak, the latter taking a wonderfully profane and provocative stab at American's global philanthropy. On top of that, I was almost going to have the chance to hear Desmond Tutu speak this week but graciously gave up my spot to a board member.

All of this has made me think about abandoning this blog, starting a parallel "serious/real" one or merging them all in the same stew.

After a week and a half where I probably met 400 people, tonight I am cherishing solitude and being in my creaking pre-earthquake home with my cat. I've been listening to Lotte Lenya in heavy rotation today. In theory a "Broadway singer" I equate her to being more a political/folk singer, and remember Dylan speaking of her influence on him. And, remember, in theory, I hate the whole thought of Broadway belters, divas and Judy imitators. Lenya, is none of those. She is just a lonely of Viennese woman I first encountered in 1972. I have vivid memories of her singing the "Bilbao Song" on The Dick Cavett Show that same year and was never able to listen to mainstream pop afterwards. Streisand, that Madonna creature, Celine, etc. Bleh! They are mere vapid, money grubbing capitalist pretenders in the shadow of Lenya.

I am also working on a DVD compilation I'm tentatively calling Lenya Legacy that includes a rare documentary on her life, live performances and people whose style she influence -- from Gisela May to Nina Simone to Betty Carter. (For the record, I despise Teresa Statas' attempts to hold herself up as the worthy successor to Lenya's legancy. Her arch, formal approach missed all that was special about Lenya. I vote for Dagmar Krause, not her.) The best description I've come across of Lenya is that she had a voice that "sounded like that of a child that had seen things it should not have seen". Even after the war, having been abused as a child, working as a teen prostitute, starring in Cabaret, and even working with Burt Reynolds, there was so much quivering innocence in her voice, a broken heart that had been stitched together and was able to shine light in the darkest alleys.

I think my favorite song she sang was "Lonely House". If you've not heard her version, I hope you take time to hit the link. There's something at once hilarious and deeply moving about how she hits those notes to belt out "even STRAY DOGS find a friend". While I consider Nina Simone's take on "Pirate Jenny" to be a definitive song of my youth, I have to say the rendition of "Lonely House" by Betty Carter below comes close to matching it. I need to be giving thoughts to compiling a similar DVD on Betty Carter.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Interactive Sunday: Another Bachelor Girl Weekend

One of the best parts of up picking up vintage LPs at the Community Thrift Store (besides the fact that an often pristine LP costs little more or less than a single track on iTunes and sounds so much better), is that they often come with interesting back stories.
That was the case today with my finds of a few Mystic Moods Orchestra, Michel Legrand and Les Baxter LPs that were scattered throughout the bins. Only after I got home did I notice that there was a rubber stamp imprint letting me know that these had once been the property of one "MISS LORA DIRENZO 1526 6TH ST". Although it was not clarified which city that address was from, I feel strongly that Miss Direnzo was at this intersection of Sixth and Avenue B. What you think?

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So who was this Lora? A quick search revealed that there was a Lora DiRenzo who graduated from high school in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1946, and a woman of the same name who published a now out of print book of photographs of unknown topics. If she's still around, she'd be around 79 or 80. Did she stay forever a miss? How did her record collection make it all the way to the Pacific? Did she lose interest in the exotica of Les Baxter (best known for arranging the early records Yma Sumac and regaining hipster status in recent years through frequent samplings on Thievery Corporation albums) or does she also have them uploaded in her iPod? Was the woman with amber tinted white hair talking to herself as she ambled up Valencia pushing a shopping cart?

I prefer to believe that Lora is still out there somewhere, still hip and with it eight decades on, sometimes thinking back to her swinging bachelor girl days in 1950s Manhattan when she'd just come back from Haiti photographing traditional voodoo ceremonies. I picture her putting on a track like "Sway (Quien Era)" from Caribbean Moonlight while having a getting-ready-to-go martini before heading out with some friends to hear Dexter Gordon or Sonny Rollins play at some smoky downtown club until her eyes made contact with some charming yet slightly dodgy guy in a black turtleneck who'd just arrived from Lima.

What's your story on Lora?

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Junk Thief Visits The City of Unnatural History

I am back from four days in San Diego, a place I've not visited in at least three years and have suffered not a second because of my absence.
My stay was at the incredibly odd Manchester Grand Hyatt at a productive conference but a conference all the same.
The waterfront and and convention center areas embody what I tried so hard to keep an open mind about but just could not help coming back to my long standing assessment: everything in San Diego is either bland, freshly dusted and sterile or smarmy, spooky and spiky.
Downtown has the feeling of having cropped up around 2003 with no sense of place or history.
The "historic" Gaslight District is pleasant, and I enjoyed sidewalk dining as folks from Omaha and Mobile milled by as the sun set. But it too feels much too quaint and pre-meditated. It has the first Urban Outfitters I've ever entered and was immediately greeted by clerks who asked if they could be of any help.
Despite having the nifty red trolley system to take you there, "Old Town" feels a lot like Branson on the Pacific. Even history feels manufactured here.
As in the past, Balboa Park proved to be a nice respite from Topeka on the Pacific, Blandiago or California Lite as many people call it.
I also enjoyed Balboa Park's desert gardens which I don't recall touring before. For the record, it was eight or nine degrees warmer in San Francisco while I was down south. But it's not just the weather that makes me glad to be back home. A little grit in the right place always makes me like California a bit more.

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