21 October 2016
Recently, I took myself to the Legion of Honor, to look at an exhibition of paintings by the Brothers Le Nain. At the round pool, near the entrance, a dozen or so birds, which I took to be grackles or starlings, were skimming the water, glancing the surface for a second or two, stirring up the water with their wings and tail feathers, creating bursts of spray. The birds, which are non-aquatic as far as I know, made many such passes over the water. Whether these flights were play or hygiene, I could not tell, but they made a joy-filled beginning to my visit. (20.x.16).
04 September 2016
Channel surfing tonight (7.VII.16), I came upon Dick Cavett's 1970 interview with Salvador Dali. SD spoke, not quite coherently, in a mix of English ("with a Catalan accent" he said), French, Catalan, and Spanish. He was dressed to match. SD pronounced himself to be a passionate royalist, looking forward to Prince Juan Carlos's ascent to the Spanish throne (which came to pass in 1975). He consistently referred to himself ("Dali") in the third person. SD presented, and talked about, half-a-dozen pieces, including one which he made on the spot, a broadsheet-size charcoal drawing for Dick Cavett, who had asked for an autograph.
Tonight (Thursday, 5.V.16), as I was waiting for a 5 outbound at McAllister and Gough, numerous fire trucks, an ambulance and other equipment appeared from all directions, very noisily, with sirens and flashing lights. One vehicle pulled up beside me. A fireman leaned out his window and asked, "Did you call anything in?" No, I indicated, with a shake of my head. "You haven't smelled smoke or anything?" he asked plaintively. Again, no. Men from one truck raised a ladder to a window, while others hung about, axes at the ready. Alas, my bus arrived, threading its way among the trucks, before I could learn the outcome of the excitement, but it appeared that all would be well.
Tonight (Wednesday, 4.V.16)) I took myself to the Conservatory to see Jonathan Dove's opera 'Mansfield Park,' a charming, ingenious, and delightful presentation of the Jane Austen story. The players included a little terrier, who was as well-rehearsed as anyone in the cast.
This afternoon (29.IV.16), I took myself and a friend to the deYoung Museum, to look at some permanent galleries (especially paintings of the Hudson River School) and the Oscar de la Renta exhibition, a not uninteresting presentation of ball gowns and whatnot. Out of the very numerous crowd at the exhibition, an old lady whom I did not know emerged before me and said, very enthusiastically, "Aren't you just thrilled to bits by all this?" "Totally!" I replied.
The other day (14.IV.16), on the train to Santa Barbara, a teen boy took the seat beside me. After introductory remarks, we discussed the ingredients in a can of soda a previous passenger had left behind. Said the boy, "My mom says, 'If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!'"
After lunch at Arlequin on Hayes (13.III.16), I took myself to the Conservatory to hear a concert version of Henry Purcell's 'The Fairy Queen'. The conductor announced that the work is "a lot of silliness" and urged us to behave accordingly. But we were a restrained, polite opera crowd, applauding some singers somewhat more than others, not too loudly cheering our favorites, but still managing to bring the conductor back for three curtain calls. A good time was had by all.
This evening (26.I.16), the marquee of the Castro cinema informed me that 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' was playing. Alas, I had arrived far too late to see the film. But it put me in happy recollection of a question someone asked me once, when she refused to believe that I had reached the age I claimed to be --- "Are you sure you don't have a portrait in an attic somewhere?"
Yesterday (25.I.16) I passed the Mechanics' Monument downtown, a 19th century sculpture in heroic style, portraying naked male figures struggling to operate a disproportionately large metal punch press. On this strange work, someone had hung a sign on which were painted the words, "Love is awesome!"
12 January 2016
A Christmas gift: M B Ingham's book 'Scotus for Dunces. An Introduction to the Subtle Doctor' (thanx, JH). For years, I've avoided 'For Dummies' books on the supposition that I'm not a dummy. But now, reality confronts me with John Duns Scotus, whom I read a little in my student days, and whom I know less about today. What I learned over lunch: Scotus is named for Duns, the town in Scotland where he was born. His name became a term of disapproval - 'dunce' - in later centuries. His writing was (is?) apparently too subtle for many people.