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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 3

Technology dates us and the imprint is language. George called it an "icebox." I still refer to "records" that I own when in fact I'm referring to CDs. Some expressions endure though they make less and less sense over time (like the people who use them): "waiting by the phone." Now we cannot but wait by the phone. The only exception is the young sot, the free man, stumbling down Valencia Street, who is too drunk when he leaves the house to remember his cell. Such a nice double-entendre there, even if you refuse to sentimentalize the unwired, the state of nature, the alcoholic. Technology hasn't made us any happier, they say. The slapstick terrorists converged to destroy a data center, but nobody took them seriously. "We have TNT," they warned people who continued their cell phone conversations, their IM chats, their file transfers. But TNT is just slightly older technology, trinitrotoluene, with hard "i"s, nails in a bomb, like the erections implicit in "sodomite" and "catamite." Yesterday I alternated between "African American" and "black" when describing the suspects to the cops. These kids had thrown a stink bomb down the hill and hit an Indian guy walking with his two young daughters. His pants smoked and his skin burned. I immediately picked up my cell and called 911. The operator, a black woman, was the first to ask me the suspects' race. "African American," I told her.

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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 R├ęcollets.

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