The Observer on Kenneth MacMillan’s Last Work, The Judas Tree

In June, self was soooo lucky: she got to watch the ballet Mayerling at the Royal Opera House, and loved it. She wasn’t feeling well (just like now; something about London, trying to do too much) and nearly went home after the first intermission. Then, while standing at the refreshments bar, she met an American woman who lives in New York and who gets annual subscriptions to the New York City Ballet. This woman flies to London to watch ballet, that is how big a deal it was for her. Upon finding out that self was planning to leave early, the woman said: “You can’t leave early. The pas de deux (or was it the gran jetés) in Act III are spectacular.” So self stayed. And she did get to watch that spectacular Act III.

This is a very, very long introduction to a review of Kenneth MacMillan’s final work, The Judas Tree, which is about gang rape. Gulp?

Anyhoo, the protagonists are a gang of construction workers at the Canary Wharf Tower. In the foreground, an East London construction site.

Several men enter. We understand them to be builders, although their muscle-mag appearance and narcissistic attitudes make them an unlikely labour force.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


More Reflecting: Seeing “Mayerling” Last Night

The Daily Post Photo Challenge this week is REFLECTING.

Can self just say she arrived sick and barely able to keep upright. But damn — the Royal Opera House!

Seeing it for the first time was — awesome.

Plus, the adjoining bar/restaurant: All that glass! All that light!

Perfect for this week’s Photo Challenge!

Before the start of the ballet, self dashed to the bar to order some hot tea. She wound up sharing a table with an American woman, a ballet aficionado who has season tickets to the New York City Ballet and watches “thirty ballets a year. At least.” Self confided that she wasn’t feeling well and might leave during one of the intermissions.

And the womans said: The pas de deaux in Act III are spectacular. Don’t leave.


The Bar at the Royal Opera House, 8 p.m. Saturday, May 13

And then, the interior of the Royal Opera House itself:


Waiting for the beginning of Kenneth Macmillan’s beautiful, stunning ballet, “Mayerling”: Saturday, May 13

More of the Royal Opera House Bar. At intermission, self went up an escalator to the “Bridge” over the bar, from which she got a jaw-dropping view of Covent Garden, at 8 p.m.:


Center Top, the “Bridge”: A side escalator takes you to it, and from there you can see all of Covent Garden. SPECTACULAR. Especially at sunset.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fan Fiction Writer Appreciation Day

Today is Fan Fiction Writer Appreciation Day on tumblr.


To show her appreciation, self is quoting from the most recent chapter of a fan fic she’s been following since the start of the year.

“Double turns, Katniss, this isn’t a district company!” Plutarch shouts at her as she drops out of her first turn. Katniss hadn’t even realized she’d singled the piqué and she nods as she goes into her second turn, a double this time.

“They should also be clean, Katniss!” Plutarch sounds exasperated with her. Katniss breathes out, and does the last four piqués into a soutenu, finishing with a pas de chat. She holds herself there, waiting for Plutarch’s nod of approval, then drops her arms when nothing comes.

Oh, down the rabbit hole self goes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Fall 2012: Exhibits and Movies To See

Currently at the de Young:  Rudolf Nureyev, A Life in Dance.  Self really really wants to see this!

Opening at the de Young on January 26:  Girl With a Pearl Earring:  Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis and Rembrandt’s Century.

Zack saw Cloud Atlas and said it was awful.  Any movie with Tom Hanks + Halle Berry is, to self’s thinking, a miss.  These two still do not seem to have come up with the right formula for how to age their careers gracefully.

But here are some current movies self dearly wants to see.  The capsule reviews are by San Francisco Chronicle movie critic Mick LaSalle.

  • Argo:  That Ben Affleck can direct a film this smart, this gripping, is no surprise any longer, but still — his account of a rescue effort during the Iran hostage crisis is as precise as it is suspenseful.
  • The Details:  A rare thing, a moral study masquerading as an arch comedy, it’s the story of a mild-mannered doctor whose life begins to fall apart seemingly because of a run of bad luck, but really because of his own moral slackness.  A smart and very interesting film, starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks and a remarkable Laura Linney.
  • A Late Quartet:  The simmering life disappointments and age-old resentments within a classical string quartet come to the surface when the oldest of their group (Christopher Walken) develops Parkinson’s disease.  The film is low-key, but with extraordinary performances (Imogen Poots, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener) and incendiary moments.
  • Lincoln:  An amazing film from Steven Spielberg, featuring one of the year’s best performances, with Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, working every possible angle to pass the 13th Amendment in the waning days of the Civil War.  It feels like history come to life.  Wonderful.

The Man says The Ancient One pees indoors about twice a day, on average.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Of Interest in the Arts Section of Yesterday’s New York Times (Tuesday, 10 April 2012)

Self feels moved, for the first time ever, to quote from a Michiko Kakutani review.  This one’s on the recent publication by Famous Publishers of Only The Best Fiction and Poetry (Farrar etc) of The Complete Poems by Philip Larkin.  Here’s how the review begins:

“Deprivation is for me,” Philip Larkin once observed, “what daffodils were for Wordsworth.”  He was right, of course:  unhappiness, loss, disappointment, boredom and fear of death are the bread and butter of his verse.  Larkin was the Eeyore of poets, the Debbie Downer of modern literature.

(It is really really funny that Kakutani compares Larkin to Eeyore and to Debbie Downer, but she gets even funnier with the very next sentence, which self will refrain from posting, as she realizes she is wading into muddy waters)

On p. 2 of the Arts section, self begins reading what sounds like it’s going to be a glowing review, by Brian Seibert, of a new ballet by Avi Scher, performed by ballet star Herman Cornejo. Self is intrigued by this sentence:

The young choreographer Avi Scher likes to say that he has a mission:  presenting top-quality ballet dancers in intimate spaces at affordable prices.

For that alone:  All Hail, Avi Scher!

Alas, the rest of the piece laments that Mr. Cornejo’s “gifts” were “wasted” by the choreography (“Emotional incoherence,” Mr. Seibert writes, is “typical” of Mr. Scher’s work):  “For no apparent reason,” Seibert continues, “Ms. Kuranaga (partnered with Mr. Cornejo in the piece “Phased”), kept curling up on the floor like a pill bug . . . ” Uh.  Self will stop right here.  She feels so bad for Mr. Scher.

And then there’s The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, which self decides to skip, because only once in the past almost four decades of doing the Times Crossword Puzzle has self ever managed to solve a complete puzzle, and it is just mighty frustrating.

And then, in the “Arts, Briefly” column comes the real smasheroo:  David Byrne and Fatboy Slim have collaborated on a new musical, which is purportedly (Self is so proud of herself:  it’s not easy slipping a word like “purportedly” into a blog like hers) a “deconstruction of the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines.”  Why oh why oh why oh why did David Byrne and Fatboy Slim decide that Imelda was a worthy subject for their sublime talents?  Worse, what led them to feel that it should be staged at the Public, an icon of theater-dom, to presumably enthusiastic reverence and widespread applause?

When self was just a struggling 22-year-old administrative assistant, she used to live right around the corner from the Public, in a sublet on Eighth and First.  How she saved and scrimped her miserable $800/month salary (Thanks much, Famous Accounting Firm of Ernst & Whinney!)  just so she could watch every single one of the productions!

Of course the article is accompanied by a visual:  there is Imelda in her trademark terno with —  is that a peacock on the front?  OK, some type of bird appliqué — and a hair-do that is something of a cross between the Amy Winehouse bee-hive and the Doris Day flip, of course lacquered to helmet-like perfection by the strenuous application of salon hairspray.

But wait — didn’t David Byrne, several years ago, decide to bike around Asia, and wasn’t one of his stops Manila?  Self knows because the book he wrote about that experience was reviewed in The New York Times.  So in his biking around Manila, he did display a very adventurous spirit, because, as dear blog readers well know, someone like David Byrne could have sat around all day in the lobby of the Peninsula sipping Remy Martin, if he had wanted to.  After all, he is David Byrne.

And he probably likes Filipinos — as, who wouldn’t?  Filipinos are the best, absolutely the fun-nest people on the entire planet!  And he must have gotten to know a number of ordinary people —  self means while he was biking around.  He presumably didn’t tell people he met while biking:  “Hello, I am David Byrne, famous lead singer and songwriter.”  They probably thought of him as just another white adventurer, of the kind that are becoming more and more common in places like Bacolod and Dumaguete and Siquijor.

Self, haven’t you ever heard of the saying, Quit while you’re ahead?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Tonight’s Oscar Tele-Cast — Not!

As self happened to mention in previous blog post, she is going through Oscar withdrawal symptoms.  For the first time in who-knows-how-many years, self will not be watching tonight’s awards ceremony because she is the guest at a dinner in her honor in Menlo Park.

Never mind that she’s not that enthusiastic about this year’s crop of Best Picture Nominees.  She will still “lay it on the line” for her Oscar favorites, and check back on the winners as soon as she gets home.

Caveat:  Self still hasn’t seen “The Artist.”  At this point, watching it feels awfully redundant, since it cleaned up so many “Best Actor” awards already.  She hasn’t seen “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” because it’s about 9/11, and she’d rather write her own 9/11 story instead of watching someone else’s.  She hasn’t seen “The Help” because it reminds her of herself in the Philippines:  Daughter of (Horrors!) Rich White Southern Family Stands Up for the Equality of Domestic Servants!  She lives that script, she doesn’t need to watch a movie about it.

She hasn’t seen “Moneyball” because she hasn’t liked the last three or four movies with Brad Pitt.  She hasn’t seen “The Tree of Life” for the same reason.  She hasn’t seen “War Horse” because it is Spielberg in semi-nostalgic mode.

Of the Best Movie Nominees self has seen, she favors “The Descendants” (So Bacolod.  Really)

And now to the ostensible reason for this post:  Meryl Streep.

From the 23 January 2012 issue of The New Yorker, self learns that, not too long ago, La Streep “invited a dozen of Britain’s most influential female journalists to a dinner, to be cooked by” none other than herself.  The journalists were all agog (According to the article, one of them tweeted:  “Meryl Streep is five feet 6 inches.  Does that mean flats for Islington kitchen table supper on Saturday night?”)

According to the article (written by Lauren Collins):  “In the States, The Iron Lady is a movie, but in Britain it’s a litmus test.”  In other words, Margaret Thatcher the politician is as polarizing in Britain as Sarah Palin is over here.

Thatcher was the woman who once said (quote via Mitt Romney, Jan. 6, New Hampshire):  “Sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.”

The movie, according to the article, portrays an “aged, doddering Thatcher” who spends all her time “watching home videos in her housecoat and drinking too much Scotch.”

The film was widely viewed in Britain (“took in more than three million dollars” —  by way of contrast, “The Queen,” starring Helen Mirren, earned “about a third as much”)

More:  “In Chesterfield, a group of former female coal workers, calling themselves the Real Iron Ladies picketed the multiplexes.”

Which brings to self’s mind where she and the husband were on Friday evening:  self had gotten tickets to Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company (If self had known how controversial this group was, she might have thought twice, but no.  Not aware of the slightest breath of scandal concerning the “Brand Israel” event, self plunked down her credit card.  When we got to the theater, we saw a few picketers.  “Watch this ballet if you support the government of Bibi Netanyahu,” intoned one woman, handing self a pamphlet.  Inside the Novellus Theater, we encountered a collection of modishly clad young ladies —  most in heavy boots, sheer black tights, short frilly skirts, and leather jackets — and some businesswomen types who were in charge of herding the audience unmolested to their seats.  That was when self learned she had plunked down the big bucks for what was only to be an hour of performance.  Even in New York, you get at least an hour and a half of dance performance for each show.  Grrrr)

And now, self finds it impossible to return to the subject of Margaret Thatcher and La Streep’s fabulous dinner for the influential British journalists (Streep greeted the guests at the door, “barefoot and flanked by a dog.”  In return, a journalist described the dinner prepared by Streep as “a student supper, but done in a much more swish way.”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Kanlaon: 2012 New Year Resolutions

New Year’s Resolution # 1Never fear putting aside a “classic” in favor of “light reading.”  She’s already implemented this one, bypassing Tom Wolfe’s wordy Bonfire of the Vanities (about New York 80s investment bankers, yucch.  Self much prefers repeat viewing of “Margin Call” when she feels the need for a banker fix.  At least, she can stare at Zach Quinto’s hairy forearms) in favor of an impossibly romantic confection by James Collins, Beginner’s Greek.

New Year’s Resolution # 2Go for spa treatments as often as one can.  It is worth getting pampered, even if it means pushing plastic to the limit.  This one self will begin implementing next week, when she tries something called “Body Lush.”  Has no idea what that involves, but it’s a couple of hours.  When she signed up, at first she thought she heard “Body Lash.”  So she asked the receptionist if that meant being gently whipped with willow branches (har, har, har).  Receptionist froze, stared at self.  Then it turned out the word was “Lush”, as in “Lush Skin.”  Oh.  “Oxygen infusion,” the receptionist said.  Okey dokey!

And, just take a look at the white van self and her Indian host, Mrinalini, will be using to tool around the following towns in India:  Kasauli, Baikunth Resort, Bir, Chandigarh, Bikaner, Nagaur, Udaipur, Mumbai!  The visa application process is a bear, and yesterday self decided to have her passport pictures re-taken ($13.50 for 2) because she didn’t want to look like a madwoman to the officer at Indian immigration.  But she is quite pleased with the van.

It is worth it, to take a break from wiping up after the Incontinent Ancient One, for two weeks.  She is even sparing the husband, for she’s paying through the nose for a kennel with 24-hour vet.  Which brings self to New Year’s Resolution # 3Never hesitate to pay others to do a job that requires bending or cleaning up.  When one gets to be a certain age, “do-it-yourself” should remain strictly in the realm of the virtual.

BTW, Mrinalini tells self that the cost of hiring a driver for two weeks around India is something like $200?  Why is self still in Redwood City, with the ever-present stress of photo enforcement ???  Someone, by the way, lifted the beautiful gold wreath that she bought from Costco back in November.  It was son who first noticed it missing.  Self is quite crestfallen to have to accede to husband’s dictum:  Anything in the front yard that can be stolen, will be stolen.  Therefore, put nothing nice in the front yard.  Let it get overgrown with weeds.  Never paint the trellis.  Make it seem as if an eccentric old couple live at xxxx H______ Street.  If the neighbors mutter, smile back sweetly.  Indicate stooped back.  Better yet, put index finger of either hand to head, rotate.

New Year’s Resolution # 4Try and watch at least one dance performance in 2012.  The hub professes to find them “boring.”  Dance is not boring.  Think “Pilobolus.”  Think Baryshnikov in his prime.  Think, for heaven’s sake, Matthew Bourne at the Brooklyn Academy of Music!  Self will explore Batsheva Dance Company (from Israel, coming to Yerba Buena Center in late February)

New Year’s Resolution # 5Find a way to insert the “B” word as often as possible, into any conversation, no matter how un-related to the topic at hand.  For instance:  When are you going to have that story ready?  Bacolod!  When are you going to fix the gutters?  Bacolod!  How much longer are you going to keep traveling around the world?  Bacolod!  When do you think The Ancient One will breathe her last?  Bacolod!  See, dear blog readers?  It’s easy as pie!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

This Weekend: San Francisco’s Eighteenth Annual Pistahan Parade and Festival & San Jose Jazz Festival

Niece G is back in town!  Yay!

This Saturday and Sunday is the Eighteenth Annual Pistahan Parade and Festival at the Yerba Buena Gardens (on Mission between 3rd and 4th Streets).  Self has missed this for the last four or five years, boo.  She’s not going to miss it again.  Niece says she can meet us there.  Son wants to take Amanda to see the city.  And self badly wants to see the exhibit on 17th century Dutch and Flemish painters at the Legion of Honor.  Whew!  She can’t believe all these good things are happening —  at the tail-end of summer!

Here is more information about the Pistahan:

San Francisco’s Annual Pistahan Parade and Festival

Saturday, Aug. 13 and Sunday, Aug. 14

Yerba Buena Gardens

The Dance Pavilion is one of the main attractions.  There will be Open Ballroom Dancing —  Tango, Latin, Line —  performed by the Filipino American Ballroom Dance Club.  There will also be the Sampaguita Dancers, and Mission District Fil-Am Seniors, as well as many other dance clubs, performing folk as well as cultural dances.  On both Saturday and Sunday, there will be a Latin dance class led by instructors from Cheryl Burke’s Dance Studio.  Various youth groups will get to show off their HipHop skills.

Performances begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and continue until 5 p.m.  There’s also an Adobo Cook-off, at 12:30 p.m.

The following day, Sunday, there’s a calamansi cooking demo, at 1:30 p.m., as well as a balut-eating contest, 1:30 p.m. on the Bayanihan Stage. At 3 p.m. Sunday, performances give way to “Open Public Dancing.”

Here’s the link to the official Pistahan website.

*          *          *          *

Also this weekend, Aug. 12 – 14, is the San Jose Jazz Festival.  Multi-talented Filipino Jazz musician Bo Razon will be performing at the Festival tomorrow, Friday, 8 p.m., at the Salsa stage with members of Santana and the group Karabali.

Bo Razon has performed with renowned artists like Patti Austin, Julia Fordham, Michael Shapiro (who will be performing with him tomorrow) and Earl Zero, among others.  Over the last few years, Bo has performed in World Music concerts in Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid.  From 1998 to 2006, he taught Afro-Latin rhythms and the music of the African diaspora in the Americas at the College of Music at the University of the Philippines.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

KULARTS: 25th Anniversary Fall 2010 Season!

ANNOUNCING KULARTS 25th Anniversary Fall Season!

KulArts celebrates its 25th year through comedy, theater, dance, visual arts, workshops and more in another jam-packed season!

Kulayan Art Exhibit, Pistahan Arts Pavilion
Aug. 14- 15
Yerba Buena Gardens

HOI! Fire in the Hole! A long form improv comedy show with
Rene Gube and Eugene Cordero
Friday, Aug. 20, 8 pm
Saturday, Aug. 21, 8 pm
Bayanihan Community Center
1010 Mission Street, San Francisco
$15 General, $13 Advance, $12 Student/Senior Read the rest of this entry »

May 18 is International Museum Day

Self has just learned that the International Council of Museums has designated Tuesday, May 18, as International Museum Day.  Since 1977, museums all around the world have been invited to participate in this annual celebration.  The theme for 2010 is “Museums for Social Harmony.”

Here are just a few of the participating countries/museums:

Azerbaijan:    In conjunction with International Museum Day, museums throughout the country will hold special events to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Azerbaijani composer, Uzeir Hajibekov.

Greece:    The National History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest will organize a series of events under the subtheme “Geodiversity:  The Other Aspect of Biodiversity.”

Mongolia:    The Choijin Lama Temple Museum will organize a “Tsam Dance Mask” performance.

The Philippines:    The Museo de Oro of Xavier University will be organizing “a day festival featuring indigenous dances of the Tinguians of Abra province and Matigsalug Manobo of Bukidnon.  The theme is that the indigenous people of the north (Luzon) come together with the indigenous people of Mindanao in building peace through the arts, music, dance, and culture.”

United States:    In commemoration of International Museum Day, the following museums will offer free admission on May 18 (The below is just a partial list) :

  • Museums in Erie County, Ohio
  • Selected Museums in Arizona (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art; Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg; River of Time Museum in Fountain Hills; Artpace, San Antonio)
  • American Folk Art Museum
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Frick Collection
  • New Orleans Museum of Art
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • Walker Art Center
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Yale University Art Gallery

(YAY!  Sole fruit of self’s loins just walked in the door!  And he is sooo skinny!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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