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Friday, July 27, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 6

Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, WY

Since this is a vocabulary exercise, I'm going to throw a question out there: what is the word for those little bowls carved by trapped pebbles in stony riverbeds, the kind that look as though God came down with a ball-peen hammer and indented the stone while it was still just slightly molten? It took me a minute today to remember that a porcupine has quills, not spines. Yesterday I saw my first porcupine outside of a zoo, right in our driveway as I was riding my bike out to the road. At first I thought he was a clump of grass that had been uprooted and deposited in the red gravel, and I was going to move him. Then he moved, and craned his neck around to have a look at me. He had a cute black face, and his quills lay back as though windswept. I never realized how green they were, as though the god of field grasses had tupped a black possum. I did a little mudra, the kind that usually works with dogs, to convey my good will but it was lost on him. He shambled toward the tall grasses as I got my camera out; he was unhurried and kept his quills aimed at me. I wondered if they were the same quills that had to be removed from one of the colony dogs last week.

The evening light was thrown far across the western sky, elusive through the thin spots in the cloud cover as phosphenes glimpsed by rubbed eyes. The rains had compacted the dirt, so scaling the hill was twice as easy, like swinging a fungo bat, and I wanted to keep on riding, into the night. Lightning over the eastern hills turned me back.

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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.