31 March 2009

Haiku 90

If all your moments
Were like the one you just spent
Would you miss the world

30 March 2009

Haiku 89

A rotting apple,
Half a loaf, half a bottle:
Impromptu still life

29 March 2009

Haiku 88

Clinging to darkness
As noisy bright day intrudes
Clinging to silence

28 March 2009

Haiku 87

Why should I pull weeds
Unwatched, unwanted, cut down
They bloom and prosper

27 March 2009

coming right up

So on Sunday (March 29) I will be down in the Mission, checking out the intriguing line-up at the Switchboard Music Festival, and many thanks to them for contacting me and offering me a pass.

Unfortunately that will no doubt leave me too tired (too many late nights, too much allergy medication!) to check out the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in their final concert this season, which takes place on Monday (March 30), sounds totally dreamy, and is very conveniently located at the Yerba Buena Center.

Haiku 86

Breath flows in and out under
Artificial lights

26 March 2009

Haiku 85

Dreaming while ambling
Daytime phantoms, nodding friends,
Dreaming of dreaming

25 March 2009

Haiku 84

As surprising as
The coral claws of pigeons,
Or their rainbow necks


Night-blooming jasmine,
Is it you scenting the dark?
I hope that it is.


Are we all dancers,
Our bodies hurtling through space
Then disappearing?

24 March 2009

Haiku 83

Soft grass underfoot
Budding branches overhead
Light breeze of springtime

23 March 2009

Haiku 82

Strangers on a train
Sitting, standing, ignoring
Strangers off a train

22 March 2009

Haiku 81

Weeds and fallen twigs
Look much more significant
With those long shadows


Ice cream afternoons
As they melt slowly away
Leave sticky sweetness

21 March 2009

Haiku 80

Quickly glancing up --
Fading light and rising wind --
I bend back to work

20 March 2009

Haiku 79

Always a surprise:
Dawn, sunset, flowering trees,
Resurfacing pain


Forgetting your face
Surprised me for a moment,
But then I was fine


The form of our times:
Brief, fleeting, fragmentary
Like stolen glances

19 March 2009

Haiku 78

Walking down the street --
This is the visible world
(I wonder at that)

18 March 2009

Haiku 77

Fog-shrouded city:
Hillsides, bridges, houses, boats,
Strangers with strange lives

17 March 2009

Haiku 76

Yellow sun sinking
Into the darkening blue;
Green light at sunset

16 March 2009

Haiku 75

Atomic yellow
Peeps bright peeps chick peeps glowing
Pink lurid bunnies

15 March 2009

Haiku 74

Drooping in the dust,
Exhausted leaves of summer
Hanging on in spring


The Matador's cape
With a flourish swirls between
Horror and beauty

14 March 2009

Haiku 73

This month's magazines
Accumulating in piles,
Drifting garageward

13 March 2009

Haiku 72

Lights burn day and night
So that the stars are blinded
How we fear the dark


These tears of anguish:
How ridiculous they are,
How tired you must be

12 March 2009

Haiku 71

Waxing and waning,
The moon keeps its office hours.
We go like clockwork.

11 March 2009


Cutting Ball Theater’s terrific season continues this week with the opening of Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) by Will Eno, and if you go this Friday March 13, as unfortunately I cannot since I will be listening to the Brentano Quartet, you can also attend a 6:30 Q&A with Eno, director Marissa Wolf, and Cutting Ball artistic director Rob Melrose.

The season opened with an excellent production (directed by Rob) of Victims of Duty, an Ionesco play that made me realize he was more than Mr Rhinoceros and Bald Soprano, but first I’m going to talk about seating. So I sit down in my reserved seat, with the middle aisle on my left. To my right is a prune-faced crow who immediately starts complaining to her husband, as if I’m not sitting right there able to hear every word, even though my presence appeared to be the crux of her whining, about how crowded she is and no she didn’t want to switch because that wouldn’t help and I’m right on top of her.

I had a bit of sympathy. It’s not easy going through life feeling physically dwarfed and threatened, and it’s possible an old woman would feel that more than a man (though a man is just as, if not more, likely to be physically threatened). There she was, petitely sandwiched between two men, though both were taking care not to touch her, and I should point out her husband was roughly my size except overweight. And clearly it had been at least forty years since anyone had been right on top of her. Maybe I should have worn long sleeves. I had the distinct impression my bare biceps were disturbing her flesh in some way.

But I am extraordinarily careful not to intrude on other people’s space. And I’m not exactly the most massive guy around; I see plenty of men at the theater who are taller or bigger, yet less considerate. I don’t know what she would have done if I had actually been fat and slopping into her seat (something that has happened to me several times), instead of just larger than she liked. So I spent the performance tense with the intrusive consciousness of her proximity. What really gets me is that there was an empty seat next to her husband and she could easily have asked him to move over and thereby solved all our problems. Stupid bitch.

I mention all this not just because her behavior was rude and irritated me (though it was and it did) or because the space-sharing issue comes up all the time in theaters (though it does). I mention it because of the odd way in which this exchange acted as prelude and mirror to the play we were about to see, in which Choubert, a fairly mild-mannered middle-aged man (played by David Sinaiko the night I saw the play, and I’m glad to say that in his last few roles he is resisting the temptation to rely on crazy energy and is instead giving subtler, more modulated performances; also, in this case his older appearance really worked in the context of the play, which I felt was to some extent about aging and isolation) is suddenly confronted with an ominous and somehow sexually threatening intrusion from the outside in the form of The Detective (the always excellent Ryan Oden) who calls on him and Madeleine, his wife (the always ditto Felicia Benefield). So many of the labels slapped on art movements – Gothic, fauvist, impressionist, minimalist, absurdist – started out as dismissals. The so-called theater of the absurd is really a more accurate picture of our lives than what passes for realism. When Madeleine starts bringing in cup of coffee after cup of coffee after cup of coffee, it’s really just our daily routines in time-lapse. It’s slapsticky, but also, to me, a poignant echo of I have measured out my life in coffee spoons. This feels much more like life than those plays with carefully “little” remarks and artfully ordinary sets.

Before I mention the set further, I should also praise the two actors in smaller roles, Lisa Woods as The Lady and the very talented Avery Monsen as Mallot with a “t” (the name makes sense if you see the play) and Nicolas d’Eu. I've praised Monsen before (click on the Cutting Ball label on the right) for his performances in Taming of the Shrew and Endgame.

I always love the Cutting Ball’s stage design, and I really appreciate that within their small theater and I assume small budget we always get beautiful, evocative sets instead of bare stages. The set for the Ionesco (by Michael Locher) was Choubert and Madeleine’s comfortably bourgeois and intellectual book-lined apartment (though I was amused to see several of the bumble-bee spines of Cliff’s Notes on the shelves).

The set for this season’s second play, Mud by Maria Irene Fornes, was also quite beautiful: racks of white shirts on two walls and of black shirts on a third, as if Salvador Dali had collaborated with Jean-Baptiste-Simeone Chardin (this one was designed by Liliana Duque). This play was the directorial debut of Cutting Ball Associate Artistic Director Paige Rogers, and the direction and acting were taut and intense to the finish. But I have to say I did not like the finish.

The play opens with Mae (Marilet Martinez) ironing one of the shirts, arguing with Lloyd (Alan Kaiser) her sick boyfriend/roommate. A third man, Henry (Garth Petal) soon joins the ménage. I don’t want to go into the plot too much because what makes the play interesting is not the plot, but the moment-by-moment shifts in and struggles for power and love among these three. Certain themes recur – the schoolbook describing the ocean that the woman struggles to read, arguments over who took whose money and how it’s going to be replaced, arguments over who is helpless and who needs to be helped.

At the very end, Mae decides she’s going to leave, and Lloyd, now recovered, grabs a gun and shoots her. The two men carry her back onstage and she dies, repeating one of the passages from her schoolbook heard earlier about starfish or something – something that clearly has now become a sentimental metaphor for her desire to escape, a metaphor that closes off everything we’ve just experienced.

It’s the melodramatic imposition of a “plot” and a “theme”; in the shadow of this ending, the play becomes “about” her yearning for a better life. The play changes from something that must be attended to and experienced, and becomes instead something we can wrap up in an easy, comfortable, and frankly tired and tiresome formula: “she tried to escape but of course the men had to stop her with violence.” This sentimental narrative doesn’t really match what we’ve seen; it just offers us a way to stop thinking about it. Until that ending, though, it’s a gripping work; I wish Fornes had avoided the easy solution at the end, but then endings are often difficult; how odd that the stagiest moment of a stage work should be the falsest.

Haiku 70

Silver moon shining
Through black lace willow branches;
Finally, silence

10 March 2009

Haiku 69

Sad flowerseller
Rotely offers wrapped roses;
Hedges are blooming

09 March 2009

08 March 2009

Haiku 67

("spring forward" day)

The subtly lengthening days
Just jerked and jumped up


Time-abundant land
Shimmering plentifully,
Where the lost hours go


Of the fructifying hours,
Arcimboldo hours

07 March 2009

Haiku 66

The days grow warmer;
Imagined stridulation
Of unseen crickets

a sentence at once so obvious and so bizarre it stopped my eyes in their tracks

"Ant sex seems utterly alien."

from the 26 February 2009 New York Review of Books, in Tim Flannery's review of The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies by Bert Holldobler and EO Wilson

06 March 2009

Haiku 65

(a quartet for the Ligeti Requiem, which I heard last night at the SF Symphony)

Moaning through the mist
The pratfallen dead cry out
To warn the living


This is how the dead
Issue warning and mourning
To themselves, the lost


Rumbling from the depths
And rising to the Heavens
This pain, this beauty


(for the woman sitting next to me)

Flip through your program;
There is nothing to explain
Why you won't listen

05 March 2009

Haiku 64

Unheard-of music
In an unseen blank landscape
Emptied by white light

04 March 2009

Haiku 63

Nights before neon,
Puddles were silvered by stars
Instead of rainbows


(for MF V-D and Angela Arden)
How did it happen?
Like vermouth in martinis --
It was just that smooth

03 March 2009

Haiku 62

The train's other side:
It's a different world-view
Out of those windows

02 March 2009

Haiku 61

Rains falls night and day
But the earth is still bone-dry;
The jars are empty

01 March 2009

Haiku 60

Landscape by Lorrain
Crack it open; you will see
Another Bosch Hell


Yellow smudge of sun
Through steel-blue cumulus clouds
Green trees gently wave


Football in the rain
Aged, you will recall playing
Shirtless in the rain