January 28, 2008

World Clique

Everything this week was colored most sadly by the sudden failing of Dan and Carol's beloved cat Oprah. Four years ago she had a successful surgery for a brain tumor, with the understanding that the tumor would probably grow back in about two to four years. Early this week Dan and Carol came home to find that Opie could no longer walk, and her doctors confirmed their fears that the tumor had returned. They made the hardest decision a pet owner has to make, to put her to sleep before her health and quality of life deteriorated further, and Friday morning I sat with her in my arms and said my last goodbyes. Purring her motor purr, she looked up into my face and stretched out her paw onto my shoulder, as if to comfort me as I cried. She was a very special kitty who filled many lives with love and was loved dearly in return. We all miss her terribly.

Partly as therapy I spent the week working my way through Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You story by story. I love her deadpan and hyper-realist style, brightly showcased in these short and easily-digestible chunks. Every so often she hits on a turn of phrase like the one in the title of the collection that is so emotionally poignant it takes my breath away. I do find her stories best consumed in moderation, however, not unlike her art.

Something that rewards you for spending a bit more time with it is the classic French film Children of Paradise. I'd seen it once before many years ago, long enough to have forgotten how exactly the relationships between Garance (as portrayed by Arletty with perfect inscrutability) and the four leading men work themselves out. Director Marcel Carné miraculously was able to complete the entire production in Nazi-occupied Paris, and one way to read Jacques Prévert's script is as a vast allegory about World War II. However, the story also works as epic romance as it follows the men who pursue Garance, a woman who believes, in her own words, "Love is so simple."

After being transported to 1820s Paris by the film, Saturday afternoon I found myself back in plain old Silicon Valley, but it was the Valley as I'd never considered it before. Last summer SFMOMA commissioned Italian photographer Gabriele Basilico to spend a month taking pictures in the Bay Area, a part of the world he'd never visited before. I will talk more about the amazing photographs themselves at a later date, because on this afternoon I was at the museum primarily to hear Basilico speak about his work. After a brief introduction by SFMOMA senior curator of photography Sandra Phillips, the photographer described the "slow-paced gaze" he has developed over the course of his career, and how he applies it to cities and areas in transition. Stanford communications professor Fred Turner followed with a riveting presentation about our region's built environment, using Basilico's photos as a jumping-off point to debunk some popular myths about Silicon Valley. Dick Walker, geography professor at UC Berkeley, then gave a brief historical overview of the Bay Area to further contextualize the pictures, before everyone returned to the stage for a closing discussion. Basilico has created an extraordinary document of this area at a particular moment in its history, and I was thrilled at the chance to get his personal perspective about the project.

I needed something base after all that cerebral activity, so later in the evening I went to Mezzanine for some beers and some oontz oontz oontz. Melissa Logan of Chicks on Speed was DJing and had brought a pile of addictive Euro-techno with her, and it certainly got me running onto the dance floor. I am embarrassed to admit I couldn't make it all the way to the scheduled Safety Scissors performance, much less to the headlining set by Lady Miss Kier (of Deee-Lite fame). My only excuse is that I had to DJ myself early the next morning.


No One Belongs Here More Than You
Children of Paradise
Gabrielle Basilico: From San Francisco to Silicon Valley
Lady Miss Kier
Chicks on Speed
Safety Scissors

Posted by nightfall at January 28, 2008 10:31 PM