Monday, November 30, 2015

Hitting the Right Note --- Day 4/294

Walk: Trader Joe's
Distance: 2 miles and home yoga

Even if it sold tarantulas and boa constrictors, Ciwt would welcome this little service-related shop on her way up the hill to her home.  All her hardware, mailbox, everday coffee shops are becoming high end dress, shoe and jewelry shops, the kinds that can - maybe - keep up with the exploding rents.

But this is a little piano store, and Ciwt loves that the owner is always changing the sheet music to reflect something about the times*.  So subtle. Today he has put The Intimate Christmas sheet music out and dressed Poland's greatest pianist and composer in a Christmas hat.  That, of course, would be .

This prompts Ciwt to remind herself of some facts regarding Frederic Chopin (1810-1849):

The child prodigy published his first composition at age 7 and began performing a year later. By age 8 he was performing in the finest and most elegant Polish salons as well as writing his own compositions. At age 9, he made his public performance debut and enthralled audiences with his technical virtuosity throughout Poland, Austria, Germany and Paris.

It was to the latter city he moved at age 22 at a time when Parisian audiences were thrilling to the dramatic music of Schubert and Beethoven and were not initially moved by Chopin's delicate style. But early on he received a fortuitous introduction to the Rothschild family which opened many doors to recitals, teaching and greatly increased income. Those open doors eventually led in 1838 to French novelist George Sand and one of the most famous affairs in history.

Also one of the most ill-fated.  The two lovers spent a harsh first winter in the south of France in 1839 where Chopin contracted TB.  He was able to recover, move with Sand to her country home south of Paris and spend seven happy, lucrative years living a very elegant lifestyle and composing several of his most essential masterpieces.

But by the mid 1880's the affair and his health were deteriorating, the two became too proud to reconcile and Chopin's health and spirit were broken.  He made an extended tour of the British Isles struggling under an exhausting schedule and made his last public appearance in November 1848.  He then returned to Paris where he died at age 38.  His body was buried there, in Paris, but his heart was interred in Warsaw, near the place of his birth.

Whatever the facts, Ciwt believes the musical geniuses - like Chopin - live closest to the sun.

*See CIWT, Day 341

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Accidental Day at the Movies --- Day 4/293

Walk: AMC Van Ness (Spotlight x 2, Trumbo)
Distance: 3.5 miles, small yoga

Ah, yes, it is definitely that time of year.  Ciwt decided to get her Thanksgiving weekend movie going over early today.  So she got up with the sun, put on her down coat, wool hat and fingerless gloves and hiked 1.8 miles to the theater.  (It's cold here)  When she got to the theater she noticed the line was particularly slow - especially for such an early hour.  People were standing talking to the ticket window for huge periods of time.  Then when it was finally her turn to buy her ticket, she understood why.  The show time had been changed - even though the paper hadn't been alerted.  Everybody was as surprised as she and had to come up with a new plan at the ticket window.

Ciwt didn't want to walk the 3.6 round trip home and back in the cold for the later show she'd come to see.  So, she settled on seeing Spotlight one more time (it held up), reading bits of City on Fire on her Kindle, doing some yoga in her spacious theater seat, walking around the theater a bit and then going to the movie she'd come to the theater for: Trumbo.  Altogether a 7 hour day at AMC Van Ness.

Bryan Cranston was his usual great as Trumbo, and, surprisingly, Helen Mirren played the one role Ciwt has seen that even she couldn't pull off.  Her Hedda Hopper just wasn't interesting or captivating; she didn't have the depth for either of those qualities or for much besides wearing hats and bright pink lipstick.  Maybe Hopper's trivialness, aggressive judgementalism and unlikeability was intentional on Mirren's part because Hopper's anti-communist activities ruined (or even killed) many lives throughout Hollywood in the McCarthy era.

Not a movie for everyone - Ciwt can not imagine anyone under 60 being interested in it.  But for Ciwt staying for Trumbo - with all the gorgeous clothes, cars, stars and recreation of the 40's, 50's and 60's in Hollywood was definitely worth her accidental day at the movies.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

One-Two Punch --- Day 4/392

Walk: AMC Van Ness (Creed)
Distance: 3.5 miles

So much better than you think it will be.  High energy, Up movie with good script, great boxing scenes and wonderful acting. All at just the right time of year. You'll like it.  Ciwt guarantees it. *

*And so do 'her' reviewers.  For instance, here's an 'elevator pitch' from Rolling Stone's Peter Travers: Hot damn! Fruitvale Station director Coogler, 29, turbocharges the Rocky franchise. Jordan is stellar. And so irresistible is Stallone's blend of tough and tender that Oscar should give him points. Yo, Academy!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sketch Pad, Please --- Day 4/291

Walk: Sundance Kabuki (Spotlight)
Distance: 2 miles and home yoga

mentally checked out- Mildred was always focusing on her television programs. Although she was lying in her bed, but her mind was not on Montag or other things happening but on her television.: Alex Noriega, Stuff, Art, Illustration, My Life, Funny, Draw Bunnies, Things, Alex O'Loughlin

What a hard to access time of year for Ciwt is this stretch from just before Thanksgiving through New Years. She can tell by the feeling in the air that she is far from alone on this.  Good time to remember to give dealings with other people lots of space - for everybody's sake.  Good news for retired
Ciwt is that she actually can be home drawing bunnies - with Callie.  Image result for winnie the pooh and rabbit

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Single at Thanksgiving --- Day 4/300

Walk: Sundance Kabuki (Spectre)
Distance: 2 miles and small home yoga

Ciwt loved that every other tree was green except this single orange beauty enjoying the crisp cold and sun at Alta Plaza Park on this Thanksgiving.  A very nice day to be single and grateful for such a beautiful, rich, interesting, and colorful life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Poetic Dog and Other Matters --- Day 4/299

Walk: Opera Plaza Cinema (Heart of a Dog)
Distance: 1 mile and home yoga

Laurie Anderson's Heart of a Dog has gotten such uniformly excellent reviews that Ciwt doesn't feel guilty being the lone voice that says "almost annoying."  Highly personal, arty and precious mediation on life, loss and death - with promised and real dog sort of wafting in and out like a spirit guide.  Certainly excellent in its creativity, but if you are looking for a dog movie, this is not it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Manana --- Day 4/298

Walk: SPCA, Fillmore
Distance: 2 miles and small home practice

Is Manana catching? It means roughly later or tomorrow, and Ciwt feels like she caught a little manana attitude during in her recent trip to the desert.  Maybe because desert air is so clear; Ciwt's brain felt completely open and like she could sense the space from coast to coast.  Different from ofttimes being nearly on red alert living - especially driving - in the Bay Area.  How to explain?  Oh, well, maybe she'll figure that out manana...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Memento CIWT --- Day 4/297

Walk: JCCSF, T. Joe's
Distance: 3 miles and yoga class

Still Life
Abraham van Beyeren (Dutch, 1620-90), Still Life, 1666, 55 x 45 7/8", oil on canvas (Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco)

It's the time of year when Ciwt comes home from the market with bags bursting with comfort food. Which today puts her in mind of those burgeoning banquet feast tables painted often by Dutch baroque artists.  Seemingly straight forward and exquisitely executed, the Banquet Pieces were also complex morality tales.  This duality - celebration of enormous prosperity combined with reminders that riches are vain and fleeting - suited the pious Calvinistic Dutch need to reconcile their new, celebratory acquisitiveness with their religious disdain for ostentation.

Another name given to these still lifes is 'vanitas' paintings.  In the painting above the table is covered with delicacies from all of the world and is evidence of the truly incredible wealth the Dutch were experiencing after their freedom from Spain.  (In their Golden Era, the Dutch were the richest economy in the history of the world, before of after). Yet the painting contains multiple 'vanitas' s- or memento mori,(translation: Remember that you can die) symbols including: the pocket watch representing the passing of time, the empty glass, the plate sitting precariously at the table's which could fall at any time.

 For a larger clearer look at van Beyeren's painting, this link will take you to the Legion's collection.  For those with a bit more interest in the art of the Dutch Golden Era and the painting above, Ciwt once wrote a paper as follows. N.B. before leaving:  Like all things, Ciwt's comfort food bonanza usually vanishes with the end of the darker, colder, holiday season.  

During the later 17th Century when this painting was executed the Dutch had freed themselves from Spanish rule and also become a preeminent banking and naval power with trade routes and colonies extending into Asia and the New World.  Art flourished in this wealthy, self-confident environment free from the constraints of Catholic Church patronage and was highly prized by a rising and justifiably acquisitive middle class.  But this new mercantile, banking and seafaring bourgeoisie was also largely Calvinist Protestant and rigidly tempered by religious and moralistic disdain for ostentation.  Perhaps to reconcile the two conflicting mindsets – materialistic exuberance and religious piety - Dutch collectors came to favor low-key works – portraits, landscapes, seascapes and still lifes such as this work. Artists began increasingly to specialize in certain types of work, as van Beyeren did, first in fish portraits and later in sumptuous banquet paintings or pronks.

Among Dutch still lifes a subgenre flourished in the early to late 17th century (the time of this painting) again tempered by Calvinisn.  Known as vanitas paintings, these still lives included collections of objects symbolizing the inevitability of death and the transience of earthly achievements and pleasures.  Known as momento mori (reminders of death) the objects are often placed amidst the sumptuousness and splendor of exquisite material and natural objects as they are in this masterful van Beyeren Still Life.  

Van Beyeren was extensively trained in guilds of The Hague, his native city, and Amsterdam among other Dutch venues. His painterly skills are fully honed by the time of this later vanitas.  Witness the beautifully rendered Delft bowl, the glass decanter and pedestal plate, the exquisite silver fish platters, the succulent peaches, the rich, flounced satin tablecloth, gold trimmed and shimmering in the artful light.

But the materialistic swoon is jarred by a disproportionately large, vividly orange lobster which makes multiple references.  The lobster is a complex sea creature, hard, crusty, dangerously clawed on the outside with insides that are sweet, succulent and easily perishable.  As such the lobster begins to shift the viewer’s mind toward the more complicated momento mori objects and to toward essences rather than surfaces.  There is a half-eaten peach, a peeled lemon, a used napkin, a rather dilapidated ribbon, and, most especially and directly in front of the lobster’s fixated eye and pincer, an open and presumably ticking timepiece.  Somebody has been here and is now gone, the fruit will rot, the bread will go stale, that which is momentarily brilliant in the intensely highlighted foreground is weighted toward the edge of the table with the suggestion that it is destined to fall again into the dark from which it emerged.

Indeed the overall composition of the still life speaks of time passing.  Beginning from the dark left corner of the table to the highlighted cantaloupe just above the right midline  there is a upward and right moving diagonal which captures the momentary exuberance of the rapid Dutch economic ascent .  But virtually the entire rest of the painting opposes this upward thrust from the massive, murky upper section and to the smaller but similarly dark passage that comprises the lower part of the painting.  The objects on the table are unstable: they are tipped sideways like the Delft bowl or spilling forward like the grapes, the dilapidated ribbon, the used napkin, and most poignantly the lobster’s largest claw.  These over hang to the extent we are no longer sure just where the front edge of the table is. The soft, billowy grey tablecloth will not support weight and begins to transmute into a sort of shroud toward which all the objects are moving. In fact, the entire weight of the painting is moving forward toward the viewer and he or she is included in this inexorable passage from the dark into the light and then back into the dark.  Momento mori: Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

Many of van Beyeren’s techniques foreshadow modernism: the washy, impressionist brushstrokes of the background, the bravura, mildly tenebrist lighting and especially the cubist-like perspective.  Although not always to the liking of the conservative, realistically minded bourgeoisie of his era and therefore less famous than some of his artistic contemporaries, we begin to see why van Beyeren is now considered one of the most talented Dutch still life painters of the second half of the 17th Century.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Have Flag, Will Travel --- Day 4/296

Walk: Cinema Club (Where to Invade Next), Dosa, Trader Joe's
Distance: 3 miles 

Where to Invade Next

Michael Moore is back. He has grabbed his camera and an American flag and taken his choir of screen followers all over the map preaching about things other countries have right from food in French children's schools to women's rights in Iceland.  One reviewer calls this new documentary, Where to Invade Next, "an extended infomercial for socialism," another says "impishly funny" and yet another says "consciousness raising."

Ciwt guesses they are all correct.  But Ciwt is not in Moore's choir (in truth she has avoided all Moore movies until today) so it's easy for her to say the movie was also waaay too long and over simplified and Moore really, really needs to attend to his weight and health. If you are in his choir, you will probably like Where to Invade Next quite a lot.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Very Good, But Not Buying --- Day 4/295

Walk: Clay Theater
Distance: 10 blocks

Ciwt didn't buy it: Peggy Guggenheim as "a kind of art collector who never existed before."  This was the central idea that launched and united the documentary Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict.

Maybe Ciwt has seen too many collectors; virtually all of them become addicts.  Art collecting is addictive.  Also Ciwt can't help but think - just off the top - of the Medicis, the Popes/Catholic Church, Katherine the Great, probably the Pharaohs, the various Emperors of China, and a host of other patron-collectors that existed before and Far surpassed Ms. Guggenheim.

Also the movie supports a certain absence of morality.  For openers, Peggy Guggenheim's atrocious mothering, the constant affairs (This to Ciwt was Guggenheim's true addiction; she labeled herself a nymphomaniac).  The depersonalization, predatory (in her sister's case, murderous) behaviors by virtually everyone we meet in the movie go from there.  Ciwt isn't being a scold, but it seems as if the audience is expected to join the film maker in allowing awe of Guggenheim's alluring riches and high artiness to override common humanity.

You don't learn much in depth about Guggenheim or the myriad of early and mid-20th century artists and advisors who circled around her and she around them (including with most in a carnal sense).  But the movie is a  marvelous 'scrapbook' of these artists and a treasure trove of famous artistic talking heads along with a newly discovered audio of her last interviews.  On that level it is a must see for art lovers of the pre-war avante garde (Duchamp, Tanguy, Magritte, Man Ray, Mondrian, Picasso, the list goes on and on) and the New York School (Pollack, de Kooning, Motherwell, and many more), critics, gallery owners.  They are all there to be seen and heard but not especially understood.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Airport to the Celebrities and Regular Retreaters --- Day 4/294

Architect Don Wexler (left) explains the plans for the new Palm Springs airport terminal to Dave Hamlin in this 1960s photograph.
Architect Richard Wexler* and the airport he designed in 1966.**

Palm Springs International Airport.  Still very sophisticated and modern today.

* See you back in San Francisco tomorrow.  Meanwhile see CIWT 4/291 for more on Richard Wexler
**(Fyi, Palm Springs turned 75 in 2013).

Image result for palm springs airport

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Planet Wind --- Day 4/293

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm Near Palm Springs


For San Franciscans who miss the wind, there's this down here in Palm Springs.  Gets sort of other-world artsy the more Ciwt looks at it....

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Here's Where Ciwt is Today --- Day 4/292


Residents and visitors of Indian Wells enjoy luxurious amenities ad outstanding dining at the Indian Wells Golf Resort’s award winning Indian Wells Club. Indian Wells homeowners have access to an array of amenities and resident benefits.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Return to the Desert --- Day 4/291

Distance: 1.5 miles and yoga class

Image result for palm springs sign
Ciwt has trouble taking Palm Springs seriously even though that's where she's heading off to tomorrow.  Her brother has a place there and it will be nice to spend time with him as well as getting reacquainted with the area.

Once upon a time she spent some time there with a boyfriend who had bought an old architect- designed mid-century modern house in the movie star Old Las Palmas section of Palm Springs.  As she remembers, Frank Sinatra's desert home was just down the block and the architect's name was Donald Wexler. Wexler pioneered the use of steel in creating flat-surfaced, industrialized residential buildings which were way ahead of the current time and contrasted so dramatically against nature they were photographed extensively and became enormously popular.  Wexler is probably best known for his Alexander houses which he designed for developers George and Robert Alexander.Image result for palm springs airport wexler  Sneak preview: He also designed the Palm Springs Airport.  Stay tuned...

What Ciwt remembers best are two things: her boyfriend's anxiety/buyer's remorse (he sold within a frantic year) and hours and hours inside the house, the car or any place that was air conditioned. Because he had to be there in all months to supervise the near constant renovating, there were no escaping the hot months when the temperature was 80 by 10 a.m. and kept on rising to upwards of 108.  Until she looked at the weather in today's paper and found the article below*, Ciwt assumed Palm Springs was that hot all year round.  She's happy to find that's not the case, but a little nervous now herself because she didn't leave room for heavyish outerwear and hopes she won't come home with a cold.


November Weather in Palm Springs

What's the weather like in Palm Springs
in November?
In November the average morning temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 Celsius. The sun rises at 6:18 am.
Mid-day in November the temperature reaches a high of about 78 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 Celsius. As the sun sets at 4:46 pm the temperature drops back down to an average low of 64 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 Celsius. The average total rainfall in November is about one quarter of an inch or 0.29 inches.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Under the Wire --- Day 4/290

Walk: CPMC, JCCSF, Monday errands
Distance: 4 miles and yoga class

Image result for almost forgot
Not great traveler Ciwt was so busy trying to remember how to pack for Palm Springs Areca palmwhere she's been a few times years ago - but is heading for soon - she almost forgot CIWT.   Mum's the word though because she hasn't told Callie. Stay tuned....

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Poet Through Loving Lens --- Day 2/289

Walk: New Italian Film Festival (Leopardi)
Distance: 14 blocks and small home yoga

Image result for leopardi movie

The movie, Leopardi, 2 1/2 hours with an illness-racked, deeply pessimistic 19th century poet-philosopher-genius was amazingly absorbing for Ciwt today.  This was due in part to the superior acting of Elio Germano in the lead role and virtually every scene. Image result for Leopardi movieAnd in even greater part  for Ciwt to the entire movie being shot in historic, sumptuous, beautiful Italian locations: Racanati, Florence, Naples. Related image

If Ciwt were Italian, she would probably know all about Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) and be able to quote his beloved, lyrical (and downer) poetry.  He is a literary hero there where his existential angst was fundamental to the intellectual formation of the state of Italy. His tomb was long ago declared a national monument.  For her part, Ciwt, as an uninitiated viewer, left Leopardi feeling there were many gaps in her understanding of the man. But this didn't matter to her all that much because she'd felt the movie's reverence for Leopardi and had been thoroughly engaged time traveling to romantic 19th century Italy.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Trickster and Dog --- Day 4/288

Walk: Vogue Theater SFFS New Italian Film Festival (Italo) (I, Harlequin)
Distance:  All the way to Historical Italian towns and beautiful countryside - 6 blocks away

Director, Matteo Bini, and SFFS Film Programmer, Rod Armstrong

Film buff Ciwt had the opportunity today of seeing two excellent Italian films so new to the U.S. that they aren't even on Rotten Tomatoes. Broadening and enriching in many ways and such an easy way to travel to Italy as well as other centuries.

She has always been drawn to the figure of Harlequin with his diamond pattern clothing and quick, quirky trickster air.  But she didn't know much about his character or the Commedia dell'Arte, both of which have come through theater tradition since the 16th century.  Today's I, Harlequin and the Q & A with its director, Matteo Bini, gave her a thoroughly entertaining and thoughtful opportunity to make up for that.

Italo, the other very good film, is based on the true story about a friendly golden retrieverImage result for italo the dog  (is there any other kind?) who opens the heart of an entire Italian town.Related image (the real Italo)  Of course and deservedly, the movie did what every dog story always does to Ciwt.  Brought her to tears - as proved by Ciwt's blurry photo of the director, Alessia Scarso, and her translator  in the Q & A after the film  .
Translator, Director Alessia Scarso, Rod Armstrong