Saturday, February 28, 2009


This is the base of a large eucalyptus growing in the middle of the Panhandle.

Gift Plant

Back on February 12th I put up a post on Spencer Alley about this DRAGON and his cloth companion FISH who live in my office at the library and help me in my work. The next morning my daughter emailed me:

i love the FISH and DRAGON post!

it appears that 1 of your succulents is not doing as well as the other 2. the one on the right looks especially happy and robust, but the one on the left appears to have dwindled to a nubbin. Let me know if i may pick up another one for you sometime, to replace the nubbin?

The succulents and the small attractive pots had constituted a gift to me from my daughter and son-in-law. Last evening the pair of them made their way over to Spencer Alley so that we could all three have dinner on Mission Street at Weird Fish (our regular spot). In addition, they collected the bag I recently put together for my daughter, using fabric from a vintage coat she had supplied.

They brought me the new succulent my daughter had observed the need for, and we traded each other our (perceived) objects of beauty.

Here it is, the new succulent. After my haircut this morning I took it to my office and planted it, supplanting the nubbin. I had thought to save the nubbin alongside the new plant, but the nubbin fell to dust at the merest touch.

And here they are, the trio with one of the members being a new member.

In order to give them a bonding experience I posed them in front of one of the framed paintings in my office, not coincidentally painted by the very donors of the plants and pots.

I hope I can keep this thing in health and maintain the rosy-fingered-dawn effect at the tips of its tentacles.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Great News

It is always a gamble buying tickets for San Francisco Ballet. I try to guess which performances my favorite dancers will dance, but I am doing this guessing when I am ordering the tickets months in advance of the performances. Cast lists for upcoming performance dates are only posted on the San Francisco Ballet website a few days in advance of performances, so I just found out today who will dance in the performance I will see on Sunday of the new production of Swan Lake. Yuan Yuan Tan, my favorite, will dance the Swan. This is the best news the weekend could possibly offer.

Pflueger Architects

This is one of the staircases in the library where I have worked for the past twenty years. It winds its way up three floors, and of course I am up and down it many times every day, poking into various parts of the book collection. The building opened its doors in 1950. Brushed aluminum and terrazzo must have seemed at the time like the latest word in practical modernity. Milton T. Pflueger was the principal architect.

From what I can gather, Pflueger Architects were a reliable, middle-of-the-road firm. They are better remembered by local historians than by scholars of architecture, having designed scores of public buildings in California, most of them modest in scale and budget. The library building as a whole, after almost 60 years, is antiquated and inconvenient in many respects. But I give the Pfluegers credit here. The staircase still looks elegant. And it functions perfectly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


All morning it rained, and then in the afternoon the sun came out. More storms are arriving. I seized this perfect glowing interval for a trip to the laundromat.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I ordered this book for the library last year from Sylph Editions in England. Editor Anne Hogan interviewed former Balanchine dancers, including Violette Verdy – who is eloquent about Balanchine's place in a dance lineage reaching back to the Renaissance. Verdy's explanation of artistic "succession" is both concrete and subtle.

I ordered this book for the library last year, yes. But only have the chance to enjoy it now, because it had to be sent off to the bindery (where the turnaround time is several months) as soon as it arrived. Though beautifully designed and printed, it is only available as a large-format paperback and ordinary library use would have wrecked it – without a protective hard binding.

Photo above is the book's frontispiece: Balanchine sitting at the piano unselfconsciously transforming his bandaged fingers into an imaginary dancer.

Above, a famous rest break (reproduced thousands of times) at the School of American Ballet during the earliest Balanchine years.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carneval in Cologne (2009)

A German festival documented by this generous photographer.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Have been reading the huge new Taschen book on Tadao Ando, and on page 447 is –

his GROUND ZERO PROJECT, a proposal for what to put where the World Trade Center used to be. No one asked Ando for his input. No one as far as I know paid any attention to his idea.

There were, of course, dozens of conceptions and plans and models, culminating in the "Freedom Tower" that actually began to go up in 2006, a monstrous ugly design. In fact all the designs in serious consideration looked about equally bad – equally offensive, equally arrogant, equally kitsch.

Ando could have done the job with dignity and compassion. Big surprise that he was never in the running.

"As the drawing makes clear, the proposal for Ground Zero is essentially a small section of a massive subterranean globe. The emergent section clearly suggests that most of the globe is not visible, but can only be sensed."

"If we are to fill the void at the site of the lost World Trade Center, it should not be with architecture, but with a 'place' to remember and reflect on events. I propose creating a memorial tomb. In section the tomb is a segment, one sixth of a circle, whose radius is one thirty thousandth of that of the earth, the height of this landscape being about 30 meters above ground level, the visible section of a great sphere. I think that what we need now is the courage to construct nothing more."

Philip Jodidio, author of the Ando book, dryly comments that the architect is not so naive as to imagine that "the very valuable land where the Center stood" could be permanently deprived in this way of its income-producing potential. Ando knows all too well that "the courage to construct nothing more" is exactly the form of courage Americans singularly lack.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Shopping in the Rain

This is loyalty. A straight male friend persuaded me to make my way downtown in the rain today to help him renew his wardrobe. The building above was not one of our destinations, but it caught my eye anyway. De Beers Diamonds occupies the ground floor (they are paying $400 per square foot for their 3200 square feet of San Francisco retail space in this renovated 1908 building at 185 Post – recently encased in tinted glass by local architects Brand + Allen). My daughter is particularly fond of this building in its renewed state because it changes color according to the weather.

No, our principal destination was the vast flagship Banana Republic store at Grant and Sutter, which for a Sunday afternoon (even in the rain) was eerily deserted. But no real surprise there, since everywhere one turns there is more evidence of the New Big American-Generated Worldwide Depression.

Aside from clerks and mannequins, the place was depopulated. So we got offered a lot of help. My friend likes to shop for clothes only once a year, then buys a lot, and throws out the old ones, and then is joyful not to have to think about it for another year.

I stayed outside the dressing room, making the best discriminations I could every time the dressing room door popped open to reveal another outfit. Then I'd serve as middle-man to request additional sizes and colors. Altogether it took only a couple of hours to find perhaps fifteen well-fitting, workable, non-dull but non-strange garments.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Paris Sunsets

Source here

Graffiti Paris

A new book from Abrams just came across my desk at the library. Fabienne Grévy and her father have spent the past 20 years recording Parisian street art, and the best of their archive is packaged here.