Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ok I'll admit it! I'm a Giants fan, that's the only logical way I can explain my enthusiasm for a team 14 games below 500. I'm still hoping they can make it to the playoff. I went to an afternoon game today, it was an incredible day warm with blue skies. The Giants hit four homeruns and earned a victory. It was my first Giants' victory to enjoy this season.

At the game we talked about the hurricane Katrina and the people stuck in New Orleans and the surrounding destruction on the Gulf Coast. It's so striking that
the wealthiest country in the world is so unsuccessful removing it's sick, poor and old from the storm's path.

Today the Governor of Louisiana curtailed reach and rescue operations to prevent looting. It isn't difficult to tell what has more value human life or private property. Where's the National Guard to secure New Orleans from looters? Oop I forgot they're in Iraq oh well we have our priorities. Also, you're not looting when you're getting food for survival. The spin on the suffering of fellows Americans to blame the victim is gross.

Now instead of just ranting I need to find out to help. A source for what's happening the Times-Picayune.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Wednesday in the middle of the week isn't usually a movie evening but considering the weak choices on network TV any night is movie night. But the summer selection of movies has been pretty weak so my choice was a blast to the past France 1957, Elevator to the Gallows.
What attracted me to the film was a review on NPR, which stated the film's score was by Miles Davis. A movie with a jazz score cool, I have to admit my bias against Miles Davis his spousal abuse lowered his star with me but noir cinema and jazz is a difficult brew to ignore.

Elevator to the Gallows is playing at the Lumiere Theater on California St. I believe the neighborhood around the theater is called Polk gulch it's a lively urban area. You can take the cable car the runs in front of the theater East up to Nob Hill or you can walk South on Polk street and watch the dance of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood.

The theater was pretty disorganized I probably could have walked in without paying and to my shock the small screening room was crowded, I got stuck in the third row having to read subtitles well above eye level.

The film was cool, a very French noir crime-love drama. I felt like I should light a cigarette after watching such crime, tragedy and love ah how French. Miles' score worked in the film, it was subtle adding to the mood of the film but not creating it.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Escape from Fog City, It's a cold and gloomy night, oh wait a moment it's morning. Who can tell with the constant fog in the Richmond District. I haven't seen the blue sky from my living room window in weeks. August is usually a warm month, well that might be true in other parts of the Bay Area but not in my hood by the sea. Well if the sun doesn't come to me I'm heading to the sun in San Jose.

This weekend San Jose is hosting one of the largest free Jazz Festival on the West Coast, the San Jose Jazz Festival. I rode Caltrain our regional train system, to travel down the peninsula to San Jose. The round trip is kind of pricey at $13.00 but you do have off and on privileges for the day, nice for the weekend traveler. Daily commuting cost would be a killer, but with gas around $3.00 a gallon it's probably a wash. The train Station has had a face lift since my last visit. The Station is South of Market near SBC Park and the whole area is changing so fast with new shops and condos. At the station I purchased my ticket, grabbed a coffee and boarded, the seating was comfortable, clean and uncrowded.

The Jazz Festival is the one event that spurs me to San Jose, the Festival is held downtown in and around Plaza de Caesar Chavez Park , there are several stages, excluding the Main Stage my favorites are the Youth Stage in the Tech Museum of Innovation and the San Jose Rep Theatre. The Youth Stage features young musician, I'm encouraged seeing Jazz being played and appreciated by another generation. The San Jose Rep is indoors and air conditioned it's a comfortable place to hear music and beat the heat. Best surprise was hearing The Bad Plus this group could swing, flow into the avant garde and has a rock aesthetic. I really enjoyed them and their percussionist Dave King was skilled and entertaining. Eddie Palmieri the great Latin Jazz Pianist is always a must see. Since being introduced to him at Yoshi's I'll see him whenever possible. I have to mention the pleasure of seeing Ernestine Anderson a performer whose singing career spans over 50 years and sung during the big band era.

It was a mellow day my only complaint was a rude vendor...but I won't elaborate just someone who lost a customer for life.


Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some days are made for chores, this Sunday was made for straightening up the pad, washing dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and grocery shopping were the happenings. But during the day's productivity I gave myself a break and saw two documentaries a double feature, a yin and yang of cinematic energy, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Rize.

The movies were showing at my neighborhood theatre The Four Star, this is my favorite movie, spot, walking distance from my apartment it's a small family run theatre with two screens. The second theatre has back rows with only two seats, great to get comfortable in...a home theatre away from home.

Rize is an interesting documentary capturing the creative spirit of adults and children in Los Angeles developing new styles of Hip Hop dancing, Clowning and Krumping.

The film focus was Tommy the Clown, the man who started by performing at children parties and develop an urban style of clowning and dance. He also opened a dance academy and now has a troupe of young dancers/performers. The film gives a sense about the these dancers struggles in their communities where there are few options for young people. Dancing provides a means for achievement, therapy and balance for lives assaulted with so many negative distractions and dangers.

David LaChappelle was given a wealth of material and I would have enjoyed learning more about individuals dancers. Also, because of his background he has a tendency to stylized images and there's a thin line between dance documentary and extended music video. Sometimes I felt like we were slipping into music video land.

Chappelle has received many compliments for juxtaposing African dancers with the Hip Hop dancers but I felt this was a cheat. We don't learn anything about the African dancers, were they participating in religious ceremonies, funerals, wedding? Who, what and where in Africa? We have no idea, we all know dance styles, body movements of African-American still retains many Africanism. I don't believe this is some type of mystical genetic link but one element of African Culture that wasn't stolen away by slavery. Like the non- traditional language structure used by many Black American, to Bill Cosby displeasure, it has African roots. The images visually were nice but told us very little.

The movies strength is it portrays how in environments with limited resources people continue to strive and make their way in our callous world.

A totally different vibe, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was shot in San Francisco in the beautiful Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. The film is about the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and the man who took care of them Mark Bittner.

Parrots is a quiet film, simply and beautifully shot we get to know the parrots as individuals as they live within their birdland urban community. Mark Bittner is our tour guide into their lives, he documents the parrots for three years. We learn about how the parrots probably arrived in San Francisco and survive.

Mark Bittner life is another element in the film, a man searching for his place on the planet. He ends up living rent free in one of the most exclusive areas of San Francisco documenting wild parrots. Once homeless and usually unemployed his desire to not compromise his life has taken him on an interesting journey.

I call the films ying and yang of energy maybe this is true. Spiritually I felt the films were very close both dealt with individuals working to find their place in this world. Going against the roles society has placed on them to achieve for themselves.


Friday, August 05, 2005

I have to admit to crying about the dearth of good young black vocalist and the waning of soul music. Black pop music seems super slick today, pretty faces shaking their bodies singing mediocre songs and lacking a heart felt soulfulness. Where are tomorrows Gladys Knights, Millie Jacksons, Patti Labelle, Chaka Khan and Aretha? I know each generation creates their own music. It reflects their experiences and how they want to express themselves to the world. I always feel the majority of music being produce is for the market that young artists aren't challenging themselves or their audiences.

Last night renewed my faith that soul music won't completely fade into bling bling plastic soulless songs. We drove to Concord, a suburban town in the East Bay to the Chronicle Concord Pavilion for the Sugar Water Festival featuring Queen Latifah, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Floetry. It was fantastic program, these women can sing, the stage wasn't filled with 100 dancers or ultra special effects but talented vocalist and musicians. Each artist had something unique to bring to the stage, a realness in the performances that allow the audience to feel a real connection a soulful experience. Intelligent thoughtful lyrics with jazz, reggae, rock, hip hop, and blues influences interwoven in the music.
Jill Scott

A few comments about the Concord Pavilion, we purchased general seating tickets on the lawn, the night was warm and the hill's grass was well manicured. We had blankets and snacks, everything went well getting a comfortable spot. Monitors perched around the stage provide us distant attendee's artists' close-up, I forgot my binocular so this was appreciated. The sound quality was good except the BASE was too high and reverberated like the boom from cars when their drivers get hyped. We might like the cars that go BOOM but not during a concert please. Erykah Badu performance had the Base under control - but everyone else had problems. Even with some questionable sound engineering it was an inspiring show, yes there is soul out there. Now if we can get some radio airplay...........
Erika Badu


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