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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm still here dammit


The last few days several weeks six months have been a blizzard, a blender of deadlines and stress hormones, and now, though I have some practicing and rehearsing to do before the Stephen Pelton Dance Theater open studio on Saturday, and a great deal of thank-you-note-writing and gift-giving in response to the outpouring of generosity I experienced from friends and family leading up to April 18 in Grace Cathedral, my life has finally emerged from its long sojourn in the psychic wasteland of perpetual emergency. I now have time to blog. 

The only problem is that I have so much to blog about that I had to overcome a lot of resistance before opening up this page. I can't do it in chronological order - I'll never get caught up. So here's the most recent thing first, my posting of the video from the SF and LA Messiaen centenary shows. I know this is a lot to ask, because you never write, you never comment, but PLEASE rate and favorite these videos. Random, unpredictable and probably imaginary elements of my plan to dominate the Messiaen centenary depend on it. 

Thursday, April 17, 2008

pressed, part deux


On my way to first rehearsal with Steven Vanhauwaert, I picked up the SF Weekly and was crestfallen as I thumbed, backward, through the paper and reached the beginning of the film section without seeing the item about Grace Cathedral. Then, there it was, with grayscale hollering Eisa Davis - the second of three events promoed in the Night & Day section on page 19. What is the opposite of crestfallen? Me when I saw this placement.

I was further cheered in Union Square when I saw, at the TKTS booth, a stack of the San Francisco Arts Monthly, with its front-page mug of blue hollering Eisa. Steven and I had a very good first rehearsal, not good enough to be unlucky, but plenty promising. Then we dropped his things off at the Huntington and tromped around the city for the next four hours - Mario's Bohemiam Cigar Store for sammies, Washington Square Park to eat them, the adventure of the 30 Stockton, the 14 Mission back to my place where we picked up Ziggy and Grover and brought them to Dolores Park.

Fast-forward past Steven's departure for the Huntington spa, my two-hour early evening nap, solitary dinner, reasonably careful practicing. And then, as I was putting the violin down, I felt James's presence at the door, and I had this overwhelming and uncanny sense he was going to tell me I had more coverage in the Chronicle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

pressed


Yesterday, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik picked up the Gatsby story and gave 4/18 in Grace Cathedral a prominent mention. Today's issue of the SF Weekly has a write-up with a nice headline: "Waiter, there's a cultural icon in my sanctuary." There might be one or two more clippings in the offing in the next couple of days, but I feel unlucky saying more.

Heklina talked up the event at Cher night last night at Trannyshack, this despite my failure to materialize, as Death, on time in her opening number ("I Found Someone"). She dressed me down backstage and then needled me about it onstage and so I found myself in trouble for the fourth time for being late, in one form or another, since the run-up to 4/18 began a few weeks ago. I am very much looking forward to the life that begins May 3, when it is impossible for me to be late, because I will have absolutely, blessedly nothing to show up for.

One of the lovely things about conceiving, producing, financing, directing, shooting, lighting, editing, distributing and marketing a film is that it makes writing a novel seem like going on vacation. Far be it from me to complain - I'm really excited about Friday. My foxy Belgian pianist lands at SFO in a few minutes and we have our first rehearsal, at the church, this afternoon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Two radio interviews Thursday


By chance, I am on two radio shows tomorrow and they're both on 91.7 listener-supported public radio KALW.

The first show, Artery ("cultural coverage that pumps blood to your brain"), airs about ten minutes before the 9 a.m. Terry Gross. It's a terrific piece, I think, with nicely integrated clips from Albert Fuller, Ana Matronic, Marga Gomez, and Harold Bloom. (Here's the mp3 if you missed it on the air.) I could nitpick at a few things - I didn't describe Christianity per se as repulsive, but its martyrdom art. And for my taste the introduction's use of the terms "liberal" and "conservative" - not to mention "bigotry" to characterize Messiaen's religion - is far too reductive. As always, you miss some things that wound up on the cutting room floor along with your stuttering, malapropisms and retractions, and on this issue of Messiaen's amalgam of theological orthodoxy and musical radicalism, I argued in a missing part of the conversation that some of Messiaen's theology - especially concerning the manifestation of God's voice in birdsong, and the unvarnished eroticism of his love of Christ - hardly qualifies as reactionary. Still, the reporter, Nathanael Johnson, got to the heart of things - he illuminated meaningful themes about belief and aesthetic bliss that I wanted the film to sound. It was gratifying to listen to his synthesis.

Bonus: on the Web page, Artery bestows upon OH MY GOD its first quotable criticism (actually the first thing pretty much anybody has said about it beyond "cool idea"):
"a beautiful and insightful book."
FYI - the text-only edition (no pictures, and only $15 as opposed to $40 for the fully illustrated version) is now available.

The second radio show I'm on tomorrow is Out In The Bay. It airs at today at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday April 13th at 2:00 p.m., with simultaneous streams at kalw.org. After that, you have 3 months to get the podcast or on-demand version out of the outinthebay.com archive.

Nine days until 4/18! Between now and then I have to get through two fundraisers, a number of rehearsals, a panel discussion at Grace Cathedral Sunday the 13th at 9:30 a.m. and several thousand more logistical details that need to be resolved by next week.

Also, if anyone knows how to get the print media to return my calls, let me buy you a beer

long-term loan

I don't normally walk Ziggy after sunset, especially when the days have lengthened to such a luxurious extent, but today was crazy what with my fiasco of an Out In the Bay interview (I was twenty-five minutes late because I biked to Daly City before I realized I missed my Persian left off Mission) and a stopped bathroom sink drain and a hurt Plantar's fascia after the 12-mile hike to and from Murietta Falls yesterday with Barry Owen, Dan Becker and Fenton Johnson, and, oh, several million other gripes that seem, frankly, minor in the light of last night's nightmare featuring a mushroom cloud in Alameda setting the bay on fire. I could have blown off Ziggy's second walk, James having given him his first in the very late afternoon after having bought a plumbing snake and fixed the bathroom sink drain himself with his bare, butch hands, and with Ziggy's fuckbuddy Grover over for a doggy-style early evening (James and I have long since exhausted our embarrassment over this torrid canine affair). But despite my hurt feet and litany of sorrows, or perhaps because of them, I decided to walk Ziggy through the gloaming to Dolores Park, where, in order to avoid a mano-a-mano soccer game, I perambulated (as I normally don't) under the klieg lights just south of the tennis courts. There I spied, in the grass and glare, the following volume:


I walked past it. I'm not in the habit of picking things up in Dolores Park - they are more likely than not to have been peed on by dogs, people, or both. I make an excpetion for keys and dog tags, several sets of which I've retrieved and at least tried to return to their rightful owners (bounty so far: one bottle of mid-priced Sangiovese in exchange for a whole dog harness with tags attached, and several rings of unclaimed keys). But a few steps past the book, I thought of the poor Mission High sophomore who had dropped it, and of the grief with which he would report to English on Wednesday, and so I backtracked, and picked it up, and opened it to discern its rightful owner. And I read:



I am happy to have this book restored to me after twenty-two years. I am also anxious to inform Megan Hiatt, Daniel Handler's senior-year girlfriend, that the book is safe.

Poignantly, when I got home, a card fell out of the book, wishing Ronnie a Happy Birthday, with love from Tom, Susan, Emma and Adam. If any of the above are out there and reading this, I will buy Ronnie a new edition. I think it's still in print. Just make sure to put your name and registry in it this time.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco


I am happy to report a new bullet point on my resume. I am now the official historian of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco, whose inaugural goal is to get the following initiative on San Francisco's November ballot, and pass it:
"Should the City and County of San Francisco rename the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Facility the George W. Bush Sewage Plant?"
As historian, my primary responsibility is preparing a documentary on the endeavor. On Friday, I got footage of Chicken John discussing our project with Fox News Radio. Chicken, a former mayoral and supervisorial candidate, is no spring, um, no babe in the woods, but nevertheless he seemed taken aback by the treatment he received from the right-wing Fox motormouths. T. Wayne Pickering, whose brainchild this is, thought the interview went as well as could be expected. In any case, right wing radio is the least of our worries - only humorless liberals could stop this movement.

Don't miss our first public meeting:

Wednesday, Apr 9, 2008, 6:00 PM
Zeitgeist - 199 Valencia St

About Me

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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 Récollets.

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