Monday, November 30, 2009

On Dolores

Bright afternoon in San Francisco on the last day of November.

Pagoda & Palms

View from Fillmore near Japantown at sunset in San Francisco.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dior & Germany

A few images from Christian Dior and Germany, 1947 to 1957 published by Arnoldsche in 2007 in conjunction with an exhibition at the Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The show documented Dior's aggressive marketing activities in Germany immediately following World War II, and was supplemented with many surviving Dior dresses from the wardrobe of famous German movie star Marlene Dietrich.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The former Newton Tharp Commercial School shares a block of prime San Francisco Civic Center real estate with the former High School of Commerce. They both sit just south of Symphony Hall and are disgracefully derelict. Newton Tharp (above) has been completely abandoned for decades. "Commerce" (as its elderly alums still fondly call it) as seen below – with glimpses of its lavish glazed polychrome ornamentation – houses administrative offices of the San Francisco Unified School District, though the fabric of the building is so shabby, seen up close, that it too looks abandoned.

According to municipal documents, "the entire city block bounded by Van Ness Avenue, Fell, Franklin and Hayes Streets, Assessor's Block 815, Lot 1 ... is within the boundaries of City Landmark No. 140. The site and its buildings are also designated as a contributing property within the Civic Center National Register of Historic Places and local Historic Districts."

In plain language, this designation apparently means that the worthy old buildings will not be torn down but will merely be quietly permitted to rot away.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

People are said to get up at first light on the Friday after Thanksgiving in order to start their Christmas shopping. Perhaps they do, but I didn't see any likely-looking shoppers in the drizzly half-light of the Mission this morning. Most likely the legendary shopping was happening downtown, but in my own neighborhood the majority of people I observed outside at dawn were homeless sleepers, bundled under as many layers as they could find.

A small bit of the Mission Dolores graveyard can be seen above (from the Chula Alley side) through the chain link fencing topped with triple strands of barbed wire.

The last photo was taken through the window of a BART train stopped at the MacArthur Station in Oakland at the end of the day – with the sun on the way down and the halfhearted rain still coming and going. The vague & smudgy view is toward San Francisco in the west, where I was returning after coffee with a friend in Berkeley.


My old alarm clock died the other night. It was about five years old and had cost $5.95 at Walgreen's. I bought a neutral-looking white cube-shaped replacement at Cliff's in the Castro for $8.95. But when I put the batteries in back at home, it turned out I had purchased more than I could possibly have hoped for. That's when I read the fine print on the outside of the box:

"Living in a fast paced society
brings a lot of pressure and stress to people. How to soothe and relieve these problems has been an important project to researchers and scientists for years. They have discovered that light and color change can bring a significant improvement on these problems. Our cutting-edge product MoodiCare clock is made based on that idea. The special features are: it can soothe and relieve your pressure and stress which are caused by many other factors such as work. It is a fully functional alarm clock, it changes colors with 7 different choices. Your mood can be adjusted while the clock's colors are changing. Please enjoy the MoodiCare color-changing clock with good mood!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

November Trees

A mixture of San Francisco street trees and East Bay street trees, all doing their California best to look right for Thanksgiving.


My first purpose in visiting San Francisco's Asian Art Museum on Wednesday afternoon was to see the new show (running until Jan 10, 2010) Emerald Cities : Arts of Siam & Burma. It consists largely of textiles, statues, furniture and paintings from the collection of Doris Duke, donated to the Museum only a few years ago by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and never displayed before. I could not take pictures inside that exhibition, of course, but good images are available through the Emerald Cities link above. Gigantic leather shadow puppets stand out in my memory, mirror-encrusted seating pieces with cushions of an amazingly intense green silk, smiling winged divinities presiding from pedestals, a flamboyantly scalloped court costume once worn by an actual royal but ultimately the property of an anonymous actor (after the British overlords wiped out the monarchy in 1885). There was a kind of double melancholy in contemplating all this booty, lost successively by the aristocracy that brought it into being and by poor Miss Duke at her demise in 1993 ("the richest girl in the world" as she used to be called, notoriously adventurous and notoriously unhappy).

I could not leave without also taking in my favorite part of the museum, the marble-vaulted arcade on the second floor where architect Gae Aulenti contrived floods of natural light for the ceramics in their cleverly inconspicuous plexiglas cases. There, photography is permitted, and I did the best I could, working around reflections.