Sunday, December 30, 2007
Best Sex Writing 2008 is out, and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel is posting interviews with those of us in the anthology. Here's mine, about my Nerve story on volunteering for a study to determine how much sensation men lose after circumcision.
By the way, I feel I owe the readers of this blog (whoever's left) an apology. I've been under one of the nastiest deadlines of my life trying to complete the Messiaen book in time for January screenings, tentatively scheduled to begin in LA Jan 19th! I spent the week of Thanksgiving preparing the transcript, the subsequent weeks pulling stills from the movie (watching much of the film frame by frame, and that's 30 per second for 52 minutes), another week arranging text and image in Photoshop, which I sized improperly so it all has to be done over once I have the director's commentary finished, and that's what I've been doing nonstop for the past eight days. Meanwhile I also ordered a 15-page proof so I can see how colors and layouts look on the page. So I've been busy! And stressed out! Behind in email and other commitments! I have managed to get to a couple of holiday parties, however, including an elk feast prepared by Martin's brother Friday night and the Underworld Party at Space 550 last night. Remember that public-speaking strategy for not getting nervous, to imagine everyone in their underwear? I wasn't nervous all night.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Here are a few of my favorite pages from the book so far. They are incomplete--the white space at the bottom will hold a sort of "director's commentary," possibly in my illegible handwriting. At this point I have no idea what it will say. In any case, this is a work in progress, so whether or not you know the movie, feedback is welcome! Share your thoughts in the blog comments or email me (paulfesta at gmail dot com).
Also--remember to click on the images for bigger versions (important when there's 10-pt font to read!).
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
One Week After
A week has passed since the devastating container ship crash that dumped 58,000 gallons of toxic bunker fuel into our beloved Bay. Thousands of us have banded together to push the cleanup agencies to let us help strip gunk from our shorelines, hold the polluters responsible, and make sure that something like this never happens again. San Francisco Baykeeper has been leading the way by patrolling our waters and coastlines, watchdogging the agencies, mobilizing volunteers, organizing safety trainings, and testifying in front of our elected officials. Your outpouring of community support and concern has been vital to our efforts. Thank you very much!
Volunteer Trainings and Shoreline Cleanups
The City of San Francisco will be leading daily cleanups for trained workers. Call 311 to find out where to go or visit http://www.sfgov.org/site
For cleanup schedules, visit www.cityofberkeley.info
Half Moon Bay
Hearing on the Oil Spill
Oil Spill Response Fundraisers
Email us at email@example.com if you want to sponsor a fundraiser!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Trompetus zigconia (Gomphus floccosus)
| Thank you for your support in response to Wednesday's oil spill. We appreciate the outpouring of offers to help and we'll keep you updated on opportunities as they arise. It'll take all of us working together to clean up our precious Bay after this oil spill's destructive wake. |
While we are heartened by the overwhelming interest in getting involved in a clean up, a word of caution: chemicals in oil can impair breathing and may lead to long-term health affects. If you are not properly trained in oil spill clean up and rescue, please stay away from polluted beaches and stay out of the water to keep yourself and your families safe.
As of Friday evening, the first opportunity to volunteer is for those interested in attending a public workshop. The Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response is holding the following informational wildlife care trainings.
November 10, 9:30 - 11:30 PM
November 10, 1:30 - 3:30 PM
November 10, 5-7 PM
Friday, November 9, 2007
I wept when I read the news about the fuel spill, 58,000 gallons into San Francisco Bay, which has threatened hundreds of thousands of birds, closed our beaches and reached the Farallon Islands and the Sonoma County line.
I wanted to know if there was any way to volunteer or donate to help in the clean-up. Here's what I've found so far:
I sent these guys $100, far more than fiscal responsibility dictates in my case. But they do great work and will be on this case for years.
--Coastal Commission (http://www.coastal.ca.gov/oilspill/ospndx.html)
--San Francisco Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center (http://www.ibrrc.org/contact.html)
The volunteer numbers for these groups are consistently busy, but keep trying...
--Let your elected officials know you're pissed.
This accident was preventable, and, as the Chronicle reports, the response was inexcusably slow.
Democrat Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement that she was "very troubled by the Coast Guard's delay in delivering accurate information to the public and the city of San Francisco. ... Many questions remain as to why it took an entire day to determine the gravity of this spill."
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom promised that the city would take legal action against whoever is responsible for the spill and expressed irritation that his office, like many, learned the true scope of the spill after 9 p.m.
The Chronicle broke out a separate story on this guy's spotty record.
State Pilot Commission records show that Capt. John Cota, who was in charge of navigating the Cosco Busan when it hit the bridge, has been involved in a number of ship-handling incidents and was reprimanded last year for errors in judgment when he ran a ship aground near Antioch.
Cota, 59, is a master mariner, and veteran of 26 years as a ship pilot. He was involved in four "incidents" over the past 14 years and on several other occasions was "counseled" for perceived mistakes in ship handling.
Contact California's US senators and Gov. Schwarzenegger and tell them we need tighter restrictions on fuel vessels, the companies running them and the people operating them, that come in and out of San Francisco Bay.
Contact Mayor Newsom and let him know you support his efforts to bring the perpetrators of this tragedy to justice and to do whatever is in his power to prevent this from happening again.
I stumbled on this new Washington Post/ABC News poll while researching a question for the novel. The poll has a lot of interesting results in addition to the record number of Americans supporting civil unions (55 percent), for instance that men and women support legal abortion in equal numbers.
Odd that this poll didn't get any media--I can't even find it on washingtonpost.com.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Whenever I remove myself from human society in order to get some serious writing done, I expect my mood to nosedive. In this instance, shut in a small cabin with the dog and the novel and a woodstove, I have not helped myself with my choice of reading material--Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and, read by the author on CD, Beloved. This is my first exposure to Foer, and while, 230 pages into the book, Oskar Schell is irresistible, Foer's stylistic and typographical experiments are not (he might find this funny--my copy from the San Francisco Public Library has a handwritten note indicating that there is "writing on pp. 208-216"). Toni Morrison's mostly whispered performance of Beloved is devastating when it isn't totally inaudible. Toni, speak up! Don't you know everyone's listening to this in the car?
Between American slavery, 9/11 and the firebombing of Dresden, who needs Seasonal Affective Disorder? I am counterbalancing all of the above with five-hour pool-playing sessions with Pierrot across the valley, every other night, and, on alternate nights, practicing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, whose first movement is the happiest music written after the death of Schubert. Ludicrous piling on of intense, throbbing, cherry-popping, Ecstasy-fueled happiness! If Tchaikovsky were alive today he'd be writing music for circuit parties.
Which is such a good segue to the other thing I read today--Steve Martin's personal essay in the New Yorker about his first regular comedy gig, at Knott's Berry Farm in the 60s. It includes this vignette:
Working on a college project about Charles Ives, (college roommate) Phil (Carey) landed an interview with Aaron Copland...Three days after we left Los Angeles, Phil and I arrived at Copland's house, a low-slung A-frame with floor-to-ceiling windows, in a dappled forest by the road. We knocked on the door, Copland answered, and over his shoulder we saw a group of men sitting in the living room wearing what looked like skimpy black thongs. He escorted us back to a flagstone patio, where I had the demanding job of turning the tape recorder on and off while Phil asked questions about Copland's creative process. We emerged a half hour later with the coveted interview and got in the car, never mentioning the men in skimpy black thongs, because, like trigonometry, we couldn't quite comprehend it.I know next to nothing about Copland's life, but in my imagination he was the nerdy bookish side-kick to Lenny's high-living, dry-fucking, student-molesting sot. It really warmed my heart to learn that Copland was getting his share of scandal and thong.
The other lovely thing from the Martin essay:
Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.I will take comfort in this while both are in short supply.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
"These are wrenching times for San Francisco’s historic gay village..."
Broadly speaking, Patricia Leigh Brown got the story right: the Castro has become a gentrified version of itself that is too precious and expensive to welcome gay refugees from those terribly benighted flyover states, and the need for such a mecca has diminished as those places have become less benighted.
The trouble with the story is that it mixes up distinct phenomena: gentrification, straightification, and Halloween, and it tries to freshen a story without acknowledging that it's twenty years old and far more complex than the story makes it seem.
The Castro is a neighborhood, not a museum. It changes gradually but sometimes radically. Since turning gay thirty years ago, it has followed the gentrification trajectory that has revived or plagued urban neighborhoods (depending on your point of view, which is probably determined by your income) since the Reagan administration at least. What happened in the Castro isn't very different from what happened in SoHo or the Haight Ashbury over the hill--in fact, according to Randy Shilts in his brief history of the neighborhood in The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, it was because rents were going up around Haight and Ashbury that young immigrant gays transfered operations to 18th and Castro. Like artists (which many of them were), gays made the Castro attractive and comparably safe. The neighborhood was unaffordable twenty years ago, a disappointment for young people who wanted to move there whether they were seeking refuge, community, easy sex, or all of the above. It became especially unaffordable, like most parts of San Francisco, after Marc Andreessen commercialized the Web browser twelve years ago. The idea that Arquitectonica condos mark some sort of sea change is nonsense.
the prospect of half-million-dollar condos inhabited by many straight people underscores a demographic shift.
Many straight people? This is reportorial laziness pure and simple, not just because of the safe, virtually meaningless "many," but because it smooths over the single most salient difference between the gays generally and the true victims of urban gentrification (primarily disadvantaged ethnic minorities but also young people generally and artists, though they're typically part of the problem). By and large, the gays have held onto the Castro. The blacks have not held onto the Fillmore. The Italians have not held onto North Beach. Yes, there are strollers and same sex couples marauding through the streets of Eureka Valley, but they were there ten years ago and they were there thirty years ago. As for the gays, the new arrivals may be unable to afford an apartment at Diamond and 19th (join the club), but their older gay brothers and sisters have double incomes, most of them have no kids, and they have jobs in venture capital and law and high-tech. They have stock options. They get their nails done. The gays are getting pushed out of the Castro and other gays are moving in.
And what about those huddled masses of young gay men and women, yearning to live in the gay ghetto? Brown clearly did not do her research at night. There are more fun parties, packed with younger and far more ethically diverse gay crowds, on almost every night, in the Castro, than at any time in my memory. 440 Castro (formerly Daddy's) is packed with kids on Wednesday nights. So is the Bar on Castro on Thursdays, the Cafe on Fridays. These multiracial young people may not be able to call the Castro home--yet--and they may never want to. But they sure do party there, and as the story reports from shrinks with the 'Net-addicted, depressed gay clients, the night life ain't nothing.
The last thing that bothered me about Brown's story is lumping in the Halloween debacle with the gentrification issue. Unrelated! Except, perhaps, if you're going to draw some sort of analogy with the uncostumed straight Muggles wrecking the party for the rest of us. Is the Castro in the grip of a crime wave, of which the Halloween shootings are an integral part? Show me the numbers. I'd be extremely surprised if crime rates in the neighborhood are significantly worse now than they were ten or twenty years ago.
I gave up on Halloween in the Castro long ago, and it had less to do with unwelcome heterosexuals than unparticipatory spectators, teenage rowdiness and, frankly, boredom. That straight woman whose babies wear "I love my daddies" t-shirts? At least she's trying.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
there were all these arms that came out
they kicked sand in his face too--I want to hear
it makes me so upset I want to cry
It's People Magazine so you can't expect a reply to email. Don't believe what you hear at the farmer's market. Sit down.
In pictures is she all goofy? No, they all look like him.
We're all chasing the earth's shadow. What else are we doing up here?
What would you do if I wore this outside?
Everything looks OK, as long as you're 15.
Why else would you have water patience?
Monday, October 22, 2007
On Saturday night I went back to ODC Dance Theater with James and our friends Barbara and Lyman for the third and final night of Donna Uchizono's "Thin Air." Rob scored us front-row seats and, at least for James (who danced with the Silesian Dance Theater in Bitom, Poland for the '99-2000 season), the show lived up to my hype. Beforehand we went to dinner at Walzwerk on South Van Ness and had the only mediocre meal I've ever had there. Don't go on a busy night; on a slow one, it's an ace kitchen.
The following day my old friend Emma Moon--another Yale-Juilliard-Yale boomerang--invited me to the symphony for a program of new music: Liszt's Totentanz, Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, and Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. Most people probably don't consider any of that new music, but in fact I had never heard a note of it.
When the house lights dimmed and the concertmaster had tuned the orchestra, Kurt Masur came out with a diminutive man in casual black slacks and a black shirt. This guy was a little bit of a zhlub--not just the outfit but the careless management of his remaining hair. Oh shit, I thought as the audience applauded tentatively--Masur accidentally came out with the janitor. It seemed so terribly embarrassing for everybody, but only for a moment, because the janitor proceeded to sit down and play the living daylights out of the Liszt.
The soloist, Louis Lortie, was a total joy to watch--not fun like watching Liberace, young black & white Liberace with the dazzlingly anodyne smile and the wink, ever-ready no matter how many hundreds of notes per second his fingers are flawlessly and charmingly processing. What showed up on this guy's face was a performance unto itself, and a great performance, free of the laborious grimaces that disfigure the faces of so many pianists, and full of evidence, if his playing didn't already drive home the point, that every phrase of the music was part of an incredibly vivid and theatrical narrative. I found myself challenged, as a performer and as a listener, because the story on his face spurred me to listen for more, to hear better, to imagine harder, the way Jody Foster directed one of her child actors: "I want you to go out there and pretend really hard." Lortie is a virtuoso pianist, but more importantly he is a virtuoso pretender. And that's why his impersonation of the janitor was such a nice touch, because it said: It makes no difference what you see when I appear before you, for in a moment I will pull jewels, skulls, succubi, God and the blood-drenched history of Europe out of this piano. He made good on the threat, and when he was through, every single person in Davies Symphony Hall wanted to fuck him.
The Beethoven is a spectacular white elephant of a piece, a musical Moby Dick in its discursive structure and grandiosity. I enjoyed it, especially Lortie's solos, but through much of the piece, as through much of the Liszt, I was reminded of Josefa Heifetz's nasty observation that "variations aren't music." Alexander Nevsky was dazzling--my appreciation of Prokofiev only waxes and never wanes the more I hear. I hadn't heard the symphony chorus in many years and was delighted to see Apparition of the Eternal Church star Ron Gallman in the tenor section, and, newly installed at the first desk of cellists, my old conservatory, SF Symphony Young Musicians Award DC vacation, Lowell High and Juilliard comrade Amos Yang.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I'm reminded of Margaret Cho's response to the last Pope's homophobia: "Oh, you a real good judge of normal! Livin alone with all yo mens, in your gowns, surrounded by the finest antiques in the worl..."
Rowling Reveals Harry Potter SecretsSaturday, Oct. 20, 2007
By GINA ELLIOTT
The big revelation of the night came when she was asked if Dumbledore had ever found love. With a sigh, she seemed on the verge of saying no, but then revealed, "my truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay." After a collective gasp, the audience roared with applause. Rowling was clearly astonished by the positive reaction and exclaimed, "if I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!" She went on to say that she thought Dumbledore had fallen in love with Grindelwald, a Dark Wizard he defeated in battle in 1945, which possibly made it forgivable that he had not seen Grindelwald's true nature, because "falling in love can blind us to an extent."
Nothing she did on television is half as hilarious as this segment from her 1979 off-Broadway show Gilda Live, which I discovered courtesy of YouTube:
A year ago, not having seen the Radner act since adolescence, James and I put together this Emily L. tribute, set to the Lovermakers' tune "Shake That Ass," for Trannyshack's Hairisson Street Fair celebration Hair Ball.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Yesterday, since I wasn't going to a second showing of Appommatox, I was free to accept comps, from my old Youth Orchestra pal Rob Bailis, for a showing of Donna Uchizono's "Thin Air," which plays twice more at ODC Dance Theater (which Rob directs), tonight and Saturday.
"Thin Air" was the perfect antidote to my night at the opera, though at first I didn't recognize it as such. The piece started out with three dancers perched on ladders, bobbing their heads. They bobbed, then they kept bobbing, and when they were through with that they bobbed some more. I didn't think to check my watch but experientially it was about a quarter hour of bobbing. Then, very slowly, someone raised an arm. I thought Oh no. This.
Oh no quickly turned to oh my god. Somewhere early in the unfolding of her ideas (in my case, after the bobbing) Uchizono got our attention and she did not relinquish it until the house lights came up. She has a virtuoso sense of scale, zeroing in on riveting miniatures in one scene and zooming back out to big stark pictures in the next. Her use of video projection was actually poignant. I could try to describe some of her devices but choose not to, because there's so much pleasure in the surprise of watching them emerge.
That said, I'm going to go again Saturday and bring James. For the sheer concentration of interesting ideas, for the high success rate of its many experiments, you should go see this for yourself. So should the creators of Appommatox. Ticket information is here.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I spent most of the day working on this variation of the New York premiere poster and the DVD cover art. It will also appear on t-shirts for sale after the show, because documentary filmmakers gotta eat. I'm looking forward to the screening, after which I have 22 hours in which to get nervous about giving the Fantaisie premiere. The Fantaisie (1933) is one of only three pieces that Messiaen wrote for violin and piano, and that's including the single movement from the Quartet for the End of Time. There's no recording of the Fantaisie. So I'm guessing that even in a group of Messiaen scholars, the vast majority of the audience will never have heard the piece.
Click on the poster for a larger version:
Thursday, September 27, 2007
- Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”—The New Yorker; “Stunning”—Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”—Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."—San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des Récollets.
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