Last Supper in Pompeii

What a wonderful show to mark the beginning of “return to normal” after the pandemic.

Last Supper In Pompeii

Even though the title is called “Supper”, there are actually surprisingly few artifacts demonstrate what dishes were served in Pompeii at 79 AD. But there are plenty about wine and what ingredients were included in a Pompeii dinner.

From top left, clock wise: A fresco of a politician distributing bread to voters; a terracotta jar to fattening dormouse before eating them and a jar to prepare snails (let them empty contents in their digesting system before eating them); A rabbit eating figs before the rabbit will be cooked; a rooster eating pomegranate before the rooster itself will be eaten; carbonized fig demonstrated how fig was served in pompeii–first halved and lay flat, apply honey, then close up with another halved fig like a sandwich, resulting in a giant peanut shaped “coupled fig”; fish sauce that was made from fermented fish, one of Pompeii’s local specialty.

After spending so much time admiring the bronze from ancient China, I’m struck by the common usage of bronze in Pompeii daily life, and their exquisite details. Oil lamps, hand washing pan, lamp stand, fountain fixtures, water heater, wine mixter, wineskin shaped jug, food mold, small dining table, etc.

This bronze statue of Bacchus has its eyes still intact. A rarity thanks to the pumice that enveloped Pompeii at its entirety before the volcanic ash fell upon them. Found this interesting explanation by the Met of what was used to make an eye: marble, frit, quartz, and obsidian.

But what took my breath away and stayed with me days after seeing the show were the three giant garden frescos in the first exhibition hall. The verdant plants, shrubs, trees, blooms, birds were so detailed, accurate and beautiful. Olive trees, bay, oleander, cypress, palm, strawberry, rose, daisy, black bird, dove, pigeon,.

Frescoes from a garden room
Roman, Pompeii, House of the Golden Bracelet, salone 32, second quarter of 1st century AD

The House of the Golden Bracelet was a palatial residence on the western edge of Pompeii, laid out over three floors to accommodate the sloping land scape and the city walls. On the lowest level were the garden and two lavishly painted rooms: a summer triclinium (dining room) and a small reception hall. Both open on one side to a lush garden with a fountain and pools, while beyond the terrace stretches a panoramic sea view,

The north and south walls of the small room (on view here, left and right) are painted with a similar scheme of garden statuary set in a verdant landscape filled

with birds and flora. A scalloped marble fountain is flanked by two marble herms, each holding a decorative panel (pinax) with a relief of a reclining female. The female herm on the left holds a picture lent hold of Ariadne, the lover of the god Bacchus. The male herm, with a satyr’s wild face, holds a panel s a maenad, one of the followers of Bacchus, pair showing of theatrical masks hangs from the top. The garden scenery fresco the middle (to the left) is decorated with a pair of marble circular reliefs (oscilla). Evidence that this room contained a small couch (kline) suggests that it, like the adjacent triclinium, might also have been used for dining.

This show in British Museum back in 2013 reconstructed the actual room of #32. South wall here has a small window.

After some research, I realized there were more fresco in the original UK show but didn’t make it to San Francisco. For example, this three paneled fresco on the south wall of an adjacent room (salone 31).

In the room #31, eastern wall was decorated with glass mosaic instead of fresco, the center opening is no a small window like in its neighboring room #32, but a waterfall cascading down to a small pool at its base.

VI.17.42 Pompeii. Summer triclinium 31, original nymphaeum mosaic pattern reconstructed in exhibition apse. Now in Naples Archaeological Museum.  Inventory numbers 40689A-G. See Conticello, B., Ed, 1990. Rediscovering Pompeii. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider. (194, p. 275-280).
VI.17.42 Pompeii. April 2019, on display in Antiquarium.
Summer triclinium 31, detail of original nymphaeum mosaic pattern reconstructed in exhibition apse. 
Photo courtesy of Rick Bauer.

There is another bigger pool outside of room #31, that has 28 water sprouts built around it. Archeologist has identified room 31 as a dining room. Fountains in the fresco, fountains behind the wall, fountains everywhere.

During my Roman garden research, i came upon this Pliny Younger’s villas and garden letters

At the upper end is a semicircular bench of white marble, shaded with a vine which is trained upon four small pillars of Carystian marble. Water, gushing through several little pipes from under this bench, as if it were pressed out by the weight of the persons who repose themselves upon it, falls into a stone cistern underneath, from whence it is received into a fine polished marble basin, so artfully contrived that it is always full without ever overflowing. When I sup here, the tray of whets and the larger dishes are placed round the margin, while the smaller ones swim about in the form of little ships and water-fowl. Opposite this is a fountain which is incessantly emptying and filling, for the water which it throws up to a great height falling back again into it, is by means of connected openings returned as fast as it is received.Fronting the bench stands a chamber of lustrous marble, whose doors project and open upon a lawn; from its upper and lower windows the eye ranges upward or downward over other spaces of verdure,… In different quarters are disposed several marble seats, which serve as so many reliefs after one is wearied with walking. Next each seat is a little fountain; and throughout the whole hippodrome small rills conveyed through pipes run murmuring along, wheresoever the hand of art has seen proper to conduct them; watering here and there different spots of verdure, and in their progress bathing the whole.

All of these reminded me of moorish gardens in Alhambra.

The New Yorker Digest-A French Art Thief, Edward Gorey, & Colorful Classical Sculptures

1. Jan. 14, 2019

Yesterday the newest New Yorker magazine arrived. As always, Noah has flipped through it before i got home. After dinner, he very enthusiastically urged me to read an article he was interested in, “It is about a museum and a thief!”.

Turned out to be a great read! The French Burglar Who Pulled Off His Generation’s Biggest Art Heist, By Jake Halpern.

“French people are very fond of thieves’ stories when there is no blood,” Stéphane Durand-Souffland, who covered the story for Le Figaro, told me. “For us, Tomic is a perfect thief,” because he “acted without weapons, did not strike anyone, robbed not an individual but a poorly supervised museum, fooled the guards without any difficulty, and chose the works he took with taste.” Tomic was also “polite to the judges,” Durand-Souffland added.

Five paintings Tomic stole from MAM (still missing):

“Pigeon with Peas,” by Picasso

Matisse’s “Pastoral”

Léger’s “Still Life with Candlestick”

Modigliani’s “Woman with a Fan”

“Olive Tree Near l’Estaque,” by Braque

2. Dec. 10 2018
Loved the cover art by Edward Gorey, “Cat Fancy”. Noah was the first to figure out it was not two cats, but one cat with its reflection in a mirror.

Edward Gorey’s Enigmatic World, By Joan Acocella. was a great read. So great that it helped me to overlook how depressing Gorey’s arts are and immediately ordered a couple of his illustrated stories from the library. Reality quickly settled in and I was so glad i only borrowed them instead of buying.

3. Oct. 29, 2018
This is truly a fascinating read. The white washed classical sculpture from ancient greek and roman were actually colorful, so similar to the colorful statue in Chinese temples. I find this incredibly reassuring. The world has so much in common since ancient times. lovely.
The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture By Margaret Talbot

The Crown, Walker Evans, and more

  1. The Crown

During the holidays, I binge watched Netflix’ first two seasons of The Crown. Loved it! Just like a news paper article said, it is hard not to hit the pause button from time to time and google like mad to confirm or learn more about history incidents used by the show’s plot line. “Could that be true?” “Was he/she really that bad?!” more often than not, the show seemed rather accurate. It is also so entertaining. I’m particular fond of the show’s presentation of Churchill in his later years. The interaction between him and his portrait painter Sutherland was especially moving and memorable. In the 2nd season, i really loved the episode “Dear Mrs. Kennedy.” It made me laugh and then cry.

2. Walker Evans at SFMOMA

During one of our outings with Noah, we visited SFMOMA and stumbled on a marvelous show, “Walker Evans“. It is a retrospective curated by Clément Chéroux. An curator who recently joined SFMOMA from Pompidou. This happened to be the only US venue. Earlier this year, it was showing in Paris. What made the show truly enjoyable not only the amount of materials presented (400+ photos), but also the context of each theme contained in the exhibit. One gets to see not just Evans’ photography, but those who inspired him, the sign post he took a picture off and subsequently took it home, his house where the sign posts were used as decoration, his postcard collections, magazine articles he wrote, etc. etc. It was like a 360 degree history lesson surrounding his photography.



3. A few interesting reads from The New Yorker
– Profile: A Tech Pioneer’s Final, Unexpected Act – Jan. 1, 2018 Issue
– Profile: Jim Simons, the Numbers King – December 18 & 25, 2017 Issue
– Fiction Cat Person – December 11, 2017 Issue


SFMOMA has been closed for three years since the summer of 2013. This May, it reopened its door. I finally had a chance to visit today. I’ve read the New Yorker article on the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. I’ve devoured all the local newspaper articles on the new design. I even subscribed to SFMOMA’s instagram. I was fully prepared to love the new space.

But i didn’t.

Many have detailed how the new design will “open up” the lobby by removing the original zebra stripped granite stairs. When Mi went there a few weeks earlier, i was eager to find out his first impression of the lobby. “The Lobby? it looked the same.” He wasn’t sure what i was hoping he would have found.

The same?! how could it be the same?

Then today i saw it and I knew. It was not the same, but the new design definitely did not “open up” the lobby. Maybe the new architect underestimated the power of the dark granite floor, the entire lobby was just as dark as before. Worse, removing the zebra stripped stair cases actually removed the focal point of the entire building. The stair used to connect the lobby all the way to the giant diagonal sky light above. The stairs kept the visual element flowing from the stripped dark granite lobby to the stripped airy skylight above, It was a transition and linchpin, going from dark to light.  With that gone, the giant sky light floating high above, and the dark brooding space weighted even heavier on the visitor’s visual experience. Now there was nothing to connect or transition the two.

That dark brooding feeling stayed with me almost the entire visit, all seven floors(2 floors more than before) of it!

The newly added side stairs that connected all seven floors were somewhat hidden from view. Itself was very airy and bright. The geometrical style, the narrowness of it, and the visual interconnectedness from floor to floor reminded me of both de Young and New York MOMA. But one has to appreciate it when you are in it, very unlike the zebra stripped granite stair case, it contributed zero visual element to the entire building. It is functional and pretty. But somewhat disconnected from the rest of the museum. Often I had to look at the floor map to locate it.

When i look back on the photos i took, i noticed i took a photo of the large square window almost at every floor. It reminded me of the windows in SuZhou Museum. These windows were all designed to frame a very different view of the city or the museum itself. It also became a magnet to the visitors. I personally feel my being drawn toward the windows was because the rest of the museum was so dark and heavy. I really needed that light from each window to breath.

The exhibition space also didn’t flow quite right, either. It felt like a disjoined odd rooms laid around randomly. I constantly had to look around or double back to see if i missed any room completely. Maybe it has something to do with all the current exhibition were pieces from the museum’s own collection. There currently isn’t a significant new exhibit.

The much raved white rippling backwall couldn’t be viewed at its entirety by any visitor. It was meant more for some drones flying high outside at certain angle. As an visitor, you get to see pieces of it here and there.

The giant living wall with Calder’s mobile sculpture was very lovely. But i don’t understand why the cafe inside wasn’t extended to the living wall so we could enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while admiring it. Instead, you could either drink coffee inside the dark space on the other side of the floor, looking at fluorescent screens displaying modern art, not even has a view to the living wall. Or you could taking selfie of yourself freezing to death with the massive, super lovely green living wall and the colorful sculpture.  You couldn’t even take your coffee into that courtyard while you taking the selfie. urgh!

During my previous visit pre-renovation days, the giant skylight was never far from one’s view. But this time, when i happened upon it on the 5th floor, i was so surprised. until i turned that corner, i totally forgot about its existence. And once I finished walking pass the darling sky bridge. I promptly forgot about it again.

I went back to read the 2013 New Yorker article again. It described the firm’s specialty as to manage “Pschology of space”, removing frustrations from people’s movement inside a public space.

It sounded very nice then. Now looking at the new museum, i started to wonder whether they spend too much energy trying to direct human foot traffic like guiding big school of fish in the sea, but they didn’t pay enough attention on the visual pleasure that also matters to these human “fish”.

We used to enjoy walking around in SFMOMA because the architecture element was fun and we enjoyed taking random photos while we were in it. But after seeing its public spaces once, Mi didn’t even want to go back in with me today to see the exhibit. “Somehow the whole architecture just turned me off. I have no desire to go back unless there is a brand new big show that i really want to see.”Mi said this morning.

Looking through the old materials from the museum’s own collection, glimpse of single pieces from the old masters reminded me of all the showed i enjoyed viewing it here before. Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Robert Bechtle, George O’Keeffe. I hope SFMOMA could put up new great shows like they did before. Then maybe we would have a chance to learn to love the new architecture space of the museum itself.

Until then, I will probably not be coming back.



J.M.W. Turner Show at de Young Museum

Went to see J.M.W. Turner show at de Young last Friday.
I didn’t know much about Turner beforehand, the introduction on de Young site looks interesting because they amassed 60 of his paintings!

Afterwards my feeling was mixed. In general, his watercolor had much better quality and consistency than his oil paintings. But he did paint some amazing ocean scenes in Oil. “You can’t do this in watercolor.” Gui explained to me.

Other than the ocean scenes, most of his other oil were pretty blah. The curator tried very hard to find something nice to say about them, but the words couldn’t help the paintings themselves being so unremarkable.

On the other hand, i liked almost all of his watercolors.

The entire exhibit allowed viewer to photograph all the paintings except two watercolors from private collections. Ha. One of them i really liked. It was called “Lake Lucerne, the bay of Uri from above brunnen 1842”. As i pulled out my phone to type this title into my phone, the security guard was on high alert and stood right over my shoulder to make sure i won’t sneak a photo of it.

I didn’t think i would be able to find it on-line. but i was wrong! here it is! 🙂

Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George

Before today, when I thought of O’Keeffe, I thought of sensual flowers, abstract paintings, New Mexico, subdued color tone. Everything about her was cool, collected and quiet.

The Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George show at de Young changed everything. Her work could actually be so vibrant, colorful and warm. There were so many paintings I have never seen before and they were all so good!

She painted so many beautiful trees! Why isn’t there a Georgia O’Keeffe’s book of trees? I would never grow tired of looking at them.

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake

And amazing landscapes and even barns.

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake1

And her still life could totally stand up to Cezanne’s. Look at those rich and saturated colors!

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake2

Under comparison, her signature petunia and abstract almost seemed boring.

Modern Nature- Georgia O'Keeffe and George Lake3

The show also quoted many of her own words, which were so beautifully written. Now I’m curious to read more of her writing (e.g. My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz)


After snap this photo, i’m told there is no photo allowed. So i had to type them down her words on my phone.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way… things i had no words for.

I had a garden at lake George for some years. The growing of corn was one of my special interests–the light-colored veins of the dark green leaves reaching out in opposite directions. And every morning a little drop of dew would have run down the veins into the center of this plant like a little lake–all fine and fresh. 1976


Corn, No.2, 1924

New Yorker 1/21/2013 – “Ganster Squad” & “Psychology of Space”

“Ganster Squad” has gotten pretty bad reviews all around. The latest from Anthony Lane was really funny.

Gosling, who did such demanding work in “Blue Valentine” and “Drive,” must have laughed when he got the “Gangster Squad” script and realized that his principal duty, as Sergeant Jerry Wooters, would be to deliver The Look. You know the one: imagine that your local animal shelter sends out a fund-raising leaflet, and Gosling is the beagle on the cover. It never fails.

Another article from this issue of the New Yorker that i liked is about the Norwegian architecture firm: Snøhetta. “The Psychology of Space” – Solving the problem of Times Square. The firm’s most famous work is the Norwegian National Opera House in Oslo. The roof of the opera house become a public square that attracts lots of residents and tourists.

Rising from a fjord, Snøhetta's Oslo Opera House has become a kind of public square.

Rising from a fjord, Snøhetta’s Oslo Opera House has become a kind of public square.

The firm is also chosen to build the SF MOMA expansion project (2013-2016).

expansion_design_from_ybca expansion_design_howard_entrance_view

The article spent most of its attention on how Snøhetta will solve the Times Square problem. One interesting aspect of the article is how observant these architects are. They are trying to understand how people use a public space and what will appeal to them. The main problem of current Times Square is “Ninety per cent of the people using TImes Square are pedestrians, yet ninety per cent of the space was devoted to cars.” Once Snøhetta is done, TImes Square will look very different. Snøhetta’s landscape architects made an interesting observation during their survey of the place.

“…Times Square isn’t flat. It’s actually hammock-shaped.” Three creeks once flowed together near the low point, not far from the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Ave. Although the old streambeds are now buried deep beneath asphalt and concrete, the depression they created remains. … “We blew up a photograph and connected the dots of all the heads of all the people, and when we did that the elevation change was obvious. There’s an eight-foot drop over two or three blocks, and that’s the reason the area floods in a heavy rain. ” The topography of the square compounds the sense of congestion, creating a kind of “nightmare” zone near the bottom of the hammock; to a pedestrian walking there, the crowds to the north and the south seem to be pressing down from above. Snøhetta can’t change the city’s contours, but its redesign should reduce the sense of menance, by widening the pedestrian space near the pinch point.

I’m so looking forward to the completion of this. Times Square always seemed such a claustrophobic place to me. It was a place I desperately wanted to escape from the first time i set foot there.

A couple of other highly interesting tidbits the architect at Snøhetta shared with us in the article.
1. Architect as sheepdog

Both the TImes Square and the Oslo Opera projects are attempts to use architecture to alter a city’s relationship to itself. Both also depend on successfully managing the complex psychology of public space – a Snøhetta specialty, and a field in which the firm has drawn insights from an eclectic range of sources. Dykers told me that among his architecture influences for Times Square are books and articles about livestock management by the animal scientist Temple Grandin, Whose work has been informed by her autism. “There’s so much emphasis on consciousness in philosophical discussions,” he said. “But I think consciousness is a small part of who we are. I have a friend who had a sheepdog, and he said whenever he had a party it would herd the guests. It would tap their ankles or their knees, until, by the end of the evenig, everyone at the party was in one corner. The dog was happy, but the important thing was that nobody noticed. As architects, I think, we have to try to be like the sheepdog at the party.”

2. Gum Splats and Subway Doors

Dykers and I … took the subway uptown to look at the site. As we waited for an express at Fourteenth Street, he said that in most stations you can anticipate where the doors of the next train will open by looking for concentrations of chewing-gum splats near the edges of the platforms. (Subway riders apparently tend to spit out gum either just before entering or just after existing a train.)

How fun!

While i was searching for their design images, i came across this interview. Quoting an interesting Q&A below:

What are the big differences between working in the United States and internationally?

There are different ways of understanding what an architect does. In the United States, clients like to be heavily involved in the design process and often like multiple alternatives to choose from. In Europe, where we’ve done much of our work, if you come to the table with several alternatives, they’ll say, “Why are you showing us these” We hired you to provide us the best. What are these other two things doing here??

New York City Trip Highlights

Gui said once that the biggest advantage of living in SF is you rarely gets “post-vacation-blues” because this is such a damn beautiful city. No matter which vacation spot you just returned from, SF is so unique and lovely that it could always hold its own ground.  The only exception will be during the summer of SF. 🙁

For the first time in his 22 months of living on earth, Noah tasted the sentiment of “home sweet home” last Saturday night when we got back. He stepped into our living room and started screaming in joy to be reunited with his old toys and familiar surroundings. I figure he probably had no idea what had happened in the last week while we were in NYC. Maybe he thought we have moved to NYC for good.

Chatting with Gui on the phone this morning, she laughed, “my apartment looked so NEW!”  I nodded in agreement, “yeah, our place has so much SPACE! and my roses are blooming like crazy in the BACKYARD!”

Before i’m settling into the comfort of San Francisco living. I want to record a couple of more highlights of our trip.

1. High Line Park in Chelsea

I’ve seen lots of photos of High Line park on the net, i’ve heard the rave review of its design. I had very high expectations of this park.

High Line Park Photo from the web.

High expectation usually means disappointment when one sees the real thing. But not high line park. It exceeds even my hyped up expectations. It is original, creative, and such a perfect fit for New York City. When design is done right, it not only provides pleasing and original visual, but it is also highly functional.  It is such a perfect park for this metropolitan.  Even for visitors like us, we thoroughly enjoyed it during our short visit.  The elevated pathway gives every visitor more space to breathe and a different perspective of the city.

Pictures don’t do its justice. One has to experience High Line park by being there to appreciate it. The environment, the sound, the various aspect of the neighborhood as you stroll along the park pathway from 14th street all the way to 30th.

Noah Loves Highline Park

so did i…

2. Met Opera

I’ve only heard of Wagner’s The Ring Opera series from serious Opera lovers. When Gui suggested Siegfried as pat of our NY trip. I happily agreed. Even though it is five hours long. I haven’t seen an opera for over three years. It was such a treat. Not only the stage design and lighting were creative and beautiful, but also the story line and music were rich and full of twists and turns (unlike most typical opera’s story line that just goes on and on about some silly love story).  Not to mention the thrill of being entertained by real actors for such a long stretch of time!

Watching this in New York City added another layer of attractiveness to the whole experience. It is one thing to drive home after a show like we do in SF. It is totally different to walk into the warm night, catching a subway train at Columbus Circle, surrounded by the still alive nightlife of a big metropoli. It makes the whole experience more “alive”. It made me feel part of a city–an almost alive organism that has its blood running 24/7.

We loved Siegried so much that we wanted to watch the next and final opera of the series which was scheduled to show on the Thursday of the same week and it is six hours long! But all the sub-100 dollar tickets were gone by then. We didn’t want to shell out $250 per head. Maybe next time when it comes to San Fran…

3. Metropolitan Museum

I forgot it was supposed to be the Louvre of the States until i saw the room after room filled with Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and Monet. Until we asked a gallery attendee 10 minutes before closing time, “Vermeer?” and he replied, “We have five Vermeer…” FIVE!!

What a treat!

Vermeer @ Met

Picasso @ Met

Modigliani @ Met

City Living

1. Crossroad Cafe
A serendipitous morning like this makes me appreciate the beauty of city living.

For the first time, we made it to Crossroad Cafe on Delancey street for breakfast. Because I heard they have bagels shipped from New York City. The bagel was so-so. But their patio was spacious and beautiful, with nicely landscaped trees, plants, and bird-bath. It reminded me of those cute little courtyards of “bed and breakfast” during our travels. In the back of the courtyard, a large wrought iron gate framed the languide view of Embarcadero Blvd. with the expansive bay as its backdrop. San Francisco Marathon was in full swing on the boulevard. The morning was overcast but temperature was perfect. Warm coffee in hand, sitting under the shade, surrounded by lush garden, watching the runners passing, what more could one ask?

2. Two Picasso Exhibits
There are currently two Picasso exhibits on display in San Francisco. After seeing both, I much prefer the less expansive and less crowded The Steins Collect MATISSE, PICASSO, AND THE PARISIAN AVANT-GARDE at SFMOMA. Maybe because i’ve been to the PIcasso museum in Paris a few times, so the paintings in de young seemed less impressive to me. Meanwhile, those in SFMOMA seemed more interesting partly because many are new to me, partly because having both Picasso and Matisse on view made the exhibit richer and more interesting.

3. Foggy July
In my limited experience of living in SF, July has always been the most foggy and cold. Last July was especially so. I remember having to wear thick sweaters at night after coming home with Noah. This July, heavy morning fog materialized as usual, but temperature has remained warm. We can wear short sleeves at home most days. Bliss. Cereus has been blooming nonstop in the last couple of weeks.

The Trial and Tribulation of a KDFC Listener

San Francisco Bay Area had an excellent classical radio station, called KDFC. It occupied its own preset dial in our car and our stereo system. Same was true for our friend Gui & Matthew. We also bookmarked its website on our phone and laptop so we can pinpoint what was playing at any given time, too.

The frequency was not terribly strong, and especially bad around where we live now. So after we left Cole street, we haven’t been able to listen to it at home. We still had it in our car.

One day out of the blue we found out that it was bought by public radio. What does it mean? I vaguely remembered hearing about people protest such a move, but it didn’t really register in my mind until i get in my car one day and found out 102.1 FM no longer broadcasts classical music! Only then did i realize this has been the one and only classical radio station in the entire bay area.

It became unbearable when i drove to work a couple of times last week. I found myself turning off the radio all together. There must be a way!

Last weekend, i sat off to find a way.

Starting from kdfc’s website, where i learned the radio station has changed its frequency to 89.9FM and 90.3FM. Didn’t sound so bad! Happily, i started tuning my stereo at home trying to see if we can get any signal. Nothing but white noise. 🙁 Same for the car radio when we were driving around for errands.

What else? indicated that web streaming is another way, that means i need a speaker set for my laptop at home and probably a dedicated laptop if we want to listen that way semi-regularly. Not practical for the car.

Then i saw it has an iphone app that turns the phone into a little radio. This could work! Our car has an Aux cable that can connect to a MP3 player. At home i will only need a speaker set for an iphone.

I quickly tried the app on my iphone. it worked great! And we also have ZM’s old iphone 2G that had been laying around doing nothing. We could use the iphone 2G at home and use my iphone when we get in the car.

Except ZM had unlocked the iphone 2G when he just got it so he could use a non-ATT SIM when he was traveling. It means the phone’s OS was frozen in time. The time it was frozen in happened to be pre-app store. I decided to upgrade the phone even if it means it would be locked again. Since we weren’t planning on using it for a phone anyways.

But what i didn’t expect was that once upgraded to its proper OS minus the hacking, I can no longer activate the phone without a proper AT&T sim! Now i have a little brick that only allows me to dial 911. urgh.

So back to jail break land. Being the original iphone is like being the only dinosaur survived the ice age. I went through three different processes, which all claimed to work for iphone 2G. but none did succeed. Just when i thought all hopes were lost. Last night, i found yet another jailbreak site for the original iphone. Lo ‘n’ behold, it worked!

Finally, we welcomed KDFC back to our lives. Oh, the Joy!

“Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond” @de Young

After seeing the amazing “Birth of Impressionism” exhibit at de Young in July, we’ve been impatiently waiting for the second half: “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond”.

It is finally here!

Gui and I went to see it yesterday (a Thursday). And we were disappointed.

It is good and worth seeing, but not great. Certainly not as great as “Birth of Impressionism”. Maybe because of the famous names in the title, it was a lot more crowded than the previous exhibit. As a result the overall enjoyment of the show was further diminished. 🙁

“Birth of Impressionism” was great because it was so consistently good from beginning to the end, great paintings in every section. Quality of “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond” was very uneven, it had a few good Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne; basically each artist had its own room, less than 10 from each artist; quantity-wise is far from enough, quality-wise it is not impressive either. And the proportion of paintings in the “Beyond” part was too large–about half of the show, and paintings in the “Beyond” section were uninteresting.

My favorite painting from this exhibit is “The Portrait of Gaustav Geoffrey” by Cézanne.

The Portrait of Gaustav Geffrey by Cezane

The Portrait of Gaustav Geffrey by Cézanne

WebMuseum has a detailed commentary about this painting, parts of it explained why i liked it so much.

It is not a revealing study of the face, but an image of the man of books, the writer among his things. Cézanne often reduces the singularity of human beings; he is most happy with people like his card players, who do not impose themselves, who are perfectly passive or reserved, or immersed in their tasks. The portrait becomes a gigantic still life. The world of objects absorbs the man and lessens the intensity of his person; but it also enlarges him through the rich and multiple surroundings. His repressed activity is transferred to the complicated articulation of his books, the instruments of his profession. Indeed the arrangement of the books behind him, projecting and receding, tilted differently from shelf to shelf and ending in the open volumes below, seems more human than the man, reminding us of a long twisted body in classic counterpoise, like Michelangelo’s Slave in the Louvre, a work that Cézanne admired and drew.

I’ve read and re-read Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, which used to be one of my favorite biographies. I’ve cried so hard during each read. Despite Stone’s fictionalizing of Van Gogh’s life, the book gave one a vivid image of the artist and its inspiration, as well as all the backstories of each of his painting. I remember the famous yellow room was painted in anticipation of Gauguin’s visit, and it was used to decorate the room.

While visiting Italy last fall, I finished reading Moon and Six Pence on my iphone. Even though i was never crazy about Gauguin’s paintings, the book painted a good portrait of the artist, and gave a complete overview of his life.

I fell in love with impressionism after my first European trip in 1997. I feverishly read on the period history, and browsed through every artist in this category at WebMuseum. At that time, one of my favorites was Cézanne. I search high and lo for his paintings on line, downloaded them and made them into my screen saver. I used to sit in front of my computer and watch the slide show over and over, mesmerized.  I never thought i would love a still life till i saw those done by Cézanne. Naturally i felt cheated when there were only two still life by Cézanne at de Young this time. What a let down!

Even with its shortcomings, this exhibit still delighted me. It was like seeing old dear friends again after long absence. Makes one feel all warm and fuzzy inside…

“Birth of Impressionism” @ de Young

Went to see “Birth of Impressionism” @ de Young with Gui since she has a membership at the museum and offered to bring me in for free! We were hoping today being a weekday we might be able to see the exhibit without the crowd.

How wrong we were! It was totally “people mountain people sea”! 🙁

Luckily the exhibit itself is really good! Both the quantity and quality of paintings are not to disappoint. Quite a lot of them were new to me even though i’ve been to d’Orsay a number of times before. Made us looking forward to the next installment in late September: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay.

Sisley and Cezanne are still my favorite. I also enjoyed quite a few Manet (e.g. The Fife Player), The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868), American expatriate Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.” The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)…

San Francisco is not so bad after all. Gui and I were content as we walked out into the dismal summer afternoon of SF: cold, windy, and cloudy.

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)


The Dancing Lesson by Edgar Degas (1873–1876)

The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)

The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler(1871)

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler(1871)

The Bulb @ Albany, CA


I hope…
The weather holds…
But you don’t need the sun
to make you shine
-Graffiti Poetry on “The Heart Castle”, The Bulb, Albany, CA

An editor friend of ZM, Han, came to SF in June, they were collaborating on a 40 page photo journal project for Han’s magazine in China, called City Pictorial. The subject is hippies in San Francisco. At the end of Han’s stay, ZM took Han to The Bulb in Albany, interviewed a few homeless “residents” that ZM had befriended on the Bulb. They call themself “The Landfillians”. Han fell in love with the landscape, which was industrial ruins covered by wild flowers, vegetation and art installations. Han begged ZM to him back there 2 more times and worked from day to night photographing the place. Han called the bulb “The Paradise.”

ZM took me there last Saturday. And I understood.

Emotion vs. Logic

ZM downloaded an odd movie a couple of weeks ago, and we watched it with the Gui’s.

None of us bought into the argument of the movie. My comment was, this felt like a movie made by Google people, because it is so single-minded about being scientific, worshiping logic. Gui’s comment was, this made the same mistake that economists made about economy, both assumed people are rational beings, while in reality people are not rational at all.

Today i read this interesting article via Isaac’s FriendFeed – “Goodbye Google | stopdesign

Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.

Later, there is a followup article “Apple Is a Design Company With Engineers; Google Is an Engineering Company With Designers“.

This is, I believe, why Google’s products (many of which are great and innovative—I remain a devoted Gmail fan, for example) will always fall short of achieving the emotional connection that people feel to an iPhone. There’s no one with real power there who has a good sense of what makes a product beautiful or when it feels “electric.” You can’t quantify that sort of thing through study or harness collective brainpower to coerce it—someone just has to know it when they see it.

I couldn’t make up my mind whose side to take.

Both methods have its merits, obviously, both companies are super successful. From the outside, one would think Apple would be more human more interesting and cooler. But if you ask me which company I would rather work for, i would have to say, Google.

Because being emotional and human has its drawbacks. Rationality and data-worship has the advantage of all democracy, sure, it is not as glamorous and couldn’t put up jaw dropping performance as a dictatorship or authoritarian government (think 2008 Olympic opening ceremony), but it has its nicety and peacefulness. It is reliable, reasonable, and repeatable.

But what i couldn’t decide is which method produces better product. Or whether Google’s obsession with consensus means death by committee, or the grave for creativity?

i can’t think of evidence of either. Just like what Doug Bowman said in his original farewell message. “I can’t fault Google for this reliance on data. And I can’t exactly point to financial failure or a shrinking number of users to prove it has done anything wrong.” Sure, Google’s product couldn’t “achieving the emotional connection that people feel to an iPhone”, but the appeal of Google’s product is its utility, its usefulness. A lot more people needs tools that work than the tool that looks cool, right?

but it sure is nice to look cool too…

still debating…

——Update an hour later—-
Started reading Doug Bowman’s twitter. It is the best twitter stream i’ve ever seen. suddenly i understood why i had been so against twitter before. The many @blahblah reply drives me nuts. It made twitter stream completely unreadable, for person who is not that “blahblah”. One thing i like about Blog was the fact you could browse back and read about a person’s way of thinking, views, and interests, like a novel or a collection of essays. Twitter sprinkled with all these random @blah reply always broke that continuity. And the fact i care about author A’s thoughts doesn’t mean i would care for all of her friends’ thinking too… But Doug’s twitter has very few such interruption, which made his twitter stream enjoyable to read.

saw this from him, and i think i start to lean toward his side.

# Argh! Visual design by committee NEVER works; you end up with mediocrity every time. When will my colleagues learn this?5:07 PM Oct 17th, 2008 from twitterrific

A recent experience at work, trying to put together a presentation by committee also had the same effect. design by committee is similar to doing things follow a process, guarantees mediocrity. but what about teamwork? and when everyone pitches in, result is always better than my doing it on my own?!


——Update six hours later—–
Was talking to Gui about this over dinner. She has read the original farewell msg, but she didn’t see the other one about Apple versus Google. When i told her my thoughts on democracy versus dictatorship. She laughed, “what democracy? isn’t the difference between Apple and Google really just the difference between the founders? Steve Jobs versus Larry and Sergey?”

Good point.

William Kentridge: Five Themes @ SFMOMA (2)

Went to SFMOMA again this afternoon. Turned out it is a “family day”, i.e. free admission to all!

Finished watching the remainder of “Soho and Felix” series, and watched “HER ABSENSE FILLED THE WORLD” again.

Walked through the entire exhibit from beginning to the end a couple of more times, spent time looked at the final drawings, browsed through all the series again, including some of the films.

Realized that another powerful element of all of his work is the music. Really great music that matched the story telling on the screen really well.

My least favorite of the five series is “the Nose” on Soviet, cuz it seemed the most abstract and too slogan-like. The one touched me the most is “Soho and Felix”, it is the most personal and romantic. The funniest and most enjoyable and lighthearted is “Artist Studio” – while paying tribute to movie techniques, i think his presentation was the most clever and varied. “Shadow Procession” was beautiful to watch from artistic point of view, but the subject is too brutal and harsh for a second viewing, i couldn’t bear it. “Magic Flute” was thought provoking, but similar to “Shadow Procession”, subject is too heavy, that i couldn’t watch it again, especially the “Black Box” piece.

A New York Time article on the exhibit and William Kentridge at large: Nosing Around in Many, Many Forms . In addition to the article, it listed a few video clips that are worth watching.

Bought the exhibit catalog. But haven’t watched the DVD yet. I think i’m a little over-dosed on all of his arts and ideas. Would need to take some time to get a little distance before diving back in again… When i do, there will probably be a third installment on William Kentridge.

William Kentridge: Five Themes @ SFMOMA


I just spent three hours in SFMOMA, until the final minute before their closing time. I was literally chased off the exhibition floor, because i had four more short films to go in the final theme “Soho and Felix”. What made leaving most agonizing was they kept showing the remainder of the films as they started chasing people out, why couldn’t i stay? just 20 minutes longer?!

Luckily our membership will last till summer. So i think i’m going back tomorrow to finish where i left off and maybe watch some of my favorite segments in various themes again.

Today is the first day of the opening of the show. Luckily many people are like me, they probably never heard of a South African artist called William Kentridge before. It was not crowded.

ZM stumbled on the exhibit by chance yesterday when he took his group of friends from New York there and it happened to be member’s preview day for the show. He came home all excited and told me to go, “So creative! Fantastic! Unbelievable work! We didn’t want to leave.”

It is probably one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. My degree of enjoyment of the show is comparable to how i felt after seeing the Matisse-Picasso exhibit in NY MOMA back in 2003. The content are drasticaly different between the two. But my feelings were equally high, mesmerized, and satiated.

The material itself is mixed media, mostly animation films involving charcoal drawing, puppet, real footage, shadow play, and music/opera. There are also final drawings on display, as well as etching, collage, sculpture, and installation. The subject has a wide range, from lighthearted materials such as artist self-portrait, humor, love story, to sober political topics such as apartheid, soviet union’s prosecution, migration, and colonialism.

The diverse media, the fantastic imagination, and the cleverness sprinkled through William Kentridge’s works reminded me of Dali Museum in Figures outside of Barcelona, Spain. This is the kind of work that i think Dali would be creating if he was alive today.

I love how he left charcoal smudge after he erased what was there before. It looked like the mark of memory in time, shadows of what had been when all things had passed… Then i read what William Kentridge had to say about these smudges.

The imperfect erasures of the successive stages of each drawing become a record of the progress of an idea and a record of the passage of time. The smudges of erasure thicken time in the film, but they also serve as a record of the days and months spent making the film – a record of thinking in slow motion.
– SF Chronicle, “William Kentridge: Five Themes at SFMOMA

I love the three films in the Magic Flute theme. The operatic music, the miniature stage sets, and the mechanic controlled puppets taking turns came on stage.

I love the way he present multiple installation in each theme, and you have to watch all of them to see the multiple facets he had intended to tell one story. I’ve seen other modern art installation with multiple screens, but no one had mastered the interconnectedness as well as William Kentridge, and no one had made the experience so intriguing, enjoyable, and sometimes, beautiful.

I love the title of one short film in the theme “Soho and Felix”, when his wife left him, Soho’s empire started crumpling physically (this film was made in 1991 i think, but the crumpling of tall building eerily resembled 911). At the end, over the flat world filled with ashes, stood Soho alone, and the sky was filled in with big block letters, “Her Absence Filled the World.” It almost made me cry. Just almost.

will try to write tomorrow after i see the remainder of the show… The SF MOMA site did a good job presenting this exhibit as well. The interactive feature is especially interesting.

Just found the press release from SFMOMA regarding the exhibit. It is organized by SFMOMA and Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida. After premier at SFMOMA, it goes to Fort Worth, WEst palm Beach, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Jerusalem in 2009-2011.

Don’t know why it has to hide in such a pdf instead of on the site page itself, but the Five Themes are:

  • Parcours d’Atelier: Artist in the Studio – it contains multiscreen projection “7 Fragments for Georges Méliès(2003)”
  • Thick Time: Soho and Felix – contains nine short animated films made in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2003 (this is located on the opposite end of the exhibition floor, i almost missed it. Ended up watching this at the end.).
  • Occasional and Residual Hope: Ubu and the Procession (1996, 1999). One of the hardest one to watch because it is about apartheid.
  • Sarastro and the Master’s Voice: The Magic Flute (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007). My favorite!
  • Learning from the Absurd: The Nose. On Soviet Union.

The exhibition catalog will include a DVD containing films by Kentridge and some background on their making.
It will also contain comments on his work never published before. Kentridge turns out to explain his art as brilliantly as he produces it.
– SF Chronicle, “William Kentridge: Five Themes at SFMOMA

Definitely getting the exhibition catalog! 🙂

Quality of his video on youtube is not very good, these two are less shaky so you won’t feel dizzy watching, might gave you some idea on some of his methods.

The Mission – ZM’s New Photo Project

When we first moved to San Francisco, it took ZM a little over a year to get over the fact that he has left Manhattan, and he started appreciating our very unique San Francisco neighborhood Haight Ashbury.

When we moved to our new neighborhood, naturally ZM started missing Haight Ashbury. Luckily this time it only took him a few month to fall in love with our new neighborhood. The proof is this new project of his, The Mission. As a Christmas present, Gui helped him build a flash site for the project. Lately, ZM mixed some street voices he collected and merged with Jesse Cook’s new age guitar music as the background music. The result is very lovely.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

In me the tiger sniffs the rose

In Me, Past, Present, Future meet
by Siegfried Sassoon

In me, past, present, future meet
To hold long chiding conference.
My lusts usurp the present tense
And strangle Reason in his seat.
My loves leap through the future’s fence
To dance with dream-enfranchised feet.

In me the cave-man clasps the seer,
And garlanded Apollo goes
Chanting to Abraham’s deaf ear.
In me the tiger sniffs the rose.
Look in my heart, kind friends, and tremble,
Since there your elements assemble.

Henri Rousseau. (French, 1844-1910). The Sleeping Gypsy. 1897. Oil on canvas, 51″ x 6′ 7″ (129.5 x 200.7 cm). Gift of Mrs. Simon Guggenheim, On view at MoMA, NYC

Cities and Ambition by Paul Graham

I first read Paul Graham’s essay “Cities and Ambition” a while ago. I loved it so much I remembered distributing to all my friends and got into a high energy discussion with my sister, both violently agreeing with Paul Graham’s assessment of many cities in his essay.

Today the link showed up again on, and I read it again. Still love it. Can’t believe i didn’t blog about it the first time around.

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you should be richer.

What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you’ve been meaning to.

When you ask what message a city sends, you sometimes get surprising answers. As much as they respect brains in Silicon Valley, the message the Valley sends is: you should be more powerful.

That’s not quite the same message New York sends. Power matters in New York too of course, but New York is pretty impressed by a billion dollars even if you merely inherited it. In Silicon Valley no one would care except a few real estate agents. What matters in Silicon Valley is how much effect you have on the world. The reason people there care about Larry and Sergey is not their wealth but the fact that they control Google, which affects practically everyone.

Here is one where my sister couldn’t agree more about berkeley. She should know, she lived there for 10 years.

I’d always imagined Berkeley would be the ideal place—that it would basically be Cambridge with good weather. But when I finally tried living there a couple years ago, it turned out not to be. The message Berkeley sends is: you should live better. Life in Berkeley is very civilized. It’s probably the place in America where someone from Northern Europe would feel most at home. But it’s not humming with ambition.

even though sis is thoroughly disappointed at Berkeley being so lack of ambition, it actually sounds like the ideal city for me. In my mind, San Francisco/Bay Area is largely that way too. At least the part of the bay area that matters to me, they are all sending me the same message “live better.” yay!

I found the following couple of paragraph intriguing.

A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but something you can’t turn off. One of the occupational hazards of living in Cambridge is overhearing the conversations of people who use interrogative intonation in declarative sentences. But on average I’ll take Cambridge conversations over New York or Silicon Valley ones.

A friend who moved to Silicon Valley in the late 90s said the worst thing about living there was the low quality of the eavesdropping. At the time I thought she was being deliberately eccentric. Sure, it can be interesting to eavesdrop on people, but is good quality eavesdropping so important that it would affect where you chose to live? Now I understand what she meant. The conversations you overhear tell you what sort of people you’re among.

Although in real life, I don’t have much dependency on eavesdropping. Maybe cuz i’m a rather anti-social person, i find interesting/passionate conversation with a couple of close friends a lot more satisfying, which is more essential to me.

Here is the message from LA.

The big thing in LA seems to be fame. There’s an A List of people who are most in demand right now, and what’s most admired is to be on it, or friends with those who are. Beneath that the message is much like New York’s, though perhaps with more emphasis on physical attractiveness.

Last but not the least, Paris and London. I’ve actually seen more bookshelves (full of books) in Paris than in any other city (granted, i’ve never really visited anyone in Boston, so i don’t know what the bookshelves density is like there.)

Paris was once a great intellectual center. If you went there in 1300, it might have sent the message Cambridge does now. But I tried living there for a bit last year, and the ambitions of the inhabitants are not intellectual ones. The message Paris sends now is: do things with style. I liked that, actually. Paris is the only city I’ve lived in where people genuinely cared about art. In America only a few rich people buy original art, and even the more sophisticated ones rarely get past judging it by the brand name of the artist. But looking through windows at dusk in Paris you can see that people there actually care what paintings look like. Visually, Paris has the best eavesdropping I know.

There’s one more message I’ve heard from cities: in London you can still (barely) hear the message that one should be more aristocratic. If you listen for it you can also hear it in Paris, New York, and Boston. But this message is everywhere very faint. It would have been strong 100 years ago, but now I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all if I hadn’t deliberately tuned in to that wavelength to see if there was any signal left.

NTY: Forging a Chinese Scent

United Colors of Benetton will release two perfume especially designed for Chinese taste. It will be called Energy Games, referencing Olympic Games.
Forging a Chinese Scent, By CHANDLER BURR Published: May 10, 2008

And so the Benetton team designed as its feminine scent a fruity floral perfume with mandarin, lychee, cranberry, peach and — for its pure clean scent — osmanthus. They added synthetic musks, since those molecules are often used in laundry detergent and read as clean notes.

Benetton’s masculine scent was based on a mixture the creative team called frosted lavender, which combines a traditional male classic scent with the big freshness of yuzu (a Japanese citrus), mandarin and a little bit of pineapple. This was reinforced with fresh ginger and, in the base, soft amber and cedar and sandalwood.

Benetton will introduce Energy Games Man and Energy Games Woman two months before the Games begin.

Leonard Cohen

I liked The Street from Leonard Cohen when i heard it on NPR earlier this year. As mentioned then that i didn’t find more of his poems that i liked. But after reading this interesting review from Orpheus: Poet with a poor voice, he quoted the lyrics of Joan of Arc that i really like. So I found some more interesting lyrics on-line: The best of Leonard Cohen. Note to self, when searching for good stuff in the future, try append “Best of” to the query. 🙂

Joan Of Arc

Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc
as she came riding through the dark;
no moon to keep her armour bright,
no man to get her through this very smoky night.
She said, “I’m tired of the war,
I want the kind of work I had before,
a wedding dress or something white

to wear upon my swollen appetite.”
Well, I’m glad to hear you talk this way,
you know I’ve watched you riding every day
and something in me yearns to win
such a cold and lonesome heroine.
“And who are you?” she sternly spoke
to the one beneath the smoke.
“Why, I’m fire,” he replied,
“And I love your solitude, I love your pride.”

“Then fire, make your body cold,
I’m going to give you mine to hold,”
saying this she climbed inside
to be his one, to be his only bride.
And deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and high above the wedding guests
he hung the ashes of her wedding dress.

It was deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and then she clearly understood
if he was fire, oh then she must be wood.
I saw her wince, I saw her cry,
I saw the glory in her eye.
Myself I long for love and light,
but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?

Bird on the Wire

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.

Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”

Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

So Long Marianne

Come over to the window, my little darling,
I’d like to try to read your palm.
I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy
before I let you take me home.
Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began
to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

Well you know that I love to live with you,
but you make me forget so very much.
I forget to pray for the angels
and then the angels forget to pray for us.

Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

We met when we were almost young
deep in the green lilac park.

You held on to me like I was a crucifix,
as we went kneeling through the dark.

Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now.
Then why do I feel alone?
I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
is fastening my ankle to a stone.

Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

For now I need your hidden love.
I’m cold as a new razor blade.
You left when I told you I was curious,
I never said that I was brave.

Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

Oh, you are really such a pretty one.
I see you’ve gone and changed your name again.
And just when I climbed this whole mountainside,
to wash my eyelids in the rain!

Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began ..

A Day of Cello

Yesterday’s glorious sunshine was replaced with calm gray. A cloudy but still crisp day, if that’s possible.

As I walked into the cool autumn afternoon, Jacqueline du Pré’s Dvorak Cello Concerto came on in my headphone. Her passionate play matched so well with the overcast. The originally gloomy air suddenly seemed to be emotionally charged with energy. The entire bus ride to downtown was turned into a whirlwind journey. Humans are genius at creating something as beautiful, varied, and inspiring as classical music. I was so reluctant to turn it off as I got to the shopping center.

Came home as the dusk faded away, I started listening to Janos Starker’s Bach Suites for Solo Cello. This music was so rich and massive, it made me feel warm in the evening chill, warm and happy (okay, i didn’t get to Suite #2 then).

Drinking hot chocolate and finished listening to the rest of Bach Suites for Solo Cello during the evening. Then moved on to happier music given to me by Matthew – “Altre Folie” a bunch of early music from 1500-1750, performed on old instruments, performed by Jordi Savall‘s ensemble HESPERION XXI. It contains music from a wide range of geographic regions, including Peru(!), England, and of course Vivaldi. The night is still young, the night sky is still clear, there is a half moon shining down onto the peaceful city. Where is the rain?

Clicking on the album cover above you get to the detailed description of what a Folia is. A form of a dance music originated in Portugal’s country side, and often performed on Viol (viola da gamba, the ancient form of Cello). I’m not sure if any of the music in this album is performed on Viol, maybe it is all on on modern day violin?

For anyone who is interested in viol itself, check out this movie “Tous les matins du monde” (All the Mornings of the World). It is about a famous viola da gamba player Monsieur de Sainte Colombe. The movie strongly resembles Barry Lyndon‘s mannerism and cinematography. But the story is simpler and worth seeing. Many music was played on the ancient viola da gamba throughout the movie. Jordi Savall and his ensemble did all the music adaptation and performing for the movie.

Enough cello for one day. 🙂

A Foggy Day – Billie Holiday

Was trying my best to fill up my ipod, before the trip. Listening to Billie Holiday non-stop almost. Such silky voice, such rich emotions.

A Foggy Day

by George and Ira Gershwin

A foggy day, in London town
It had me low, and it had me down
I viewed the morning, with much alarm
The British Museum, had lost its charm

How long I wondered, could this thing last
But the age of miracles, it hadn’t past
And suddenly, I saw you standing right there
And in foggy London town, the sun was shining everywhere

It was great fun…

While i was writing the review on Bourne Ultimatum, i thought of this song, because the expression “It was great fun” jumped into my mind at the end…

The version i heard was sang by Billy Holiday. A Sinatra classic:

It was just one of those things,
just one of those crazy flings.
One of those bells that now and then rings,
just one of those things.

It was just one of those nights,
just one of those fabulous flights.
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings,
just one of those things.

If we´d thought of it,
´bout the end of it, when we started painting the town,
We´d have been aware that our love affair
was too hot not to cool down.

So goodbye, dear, and Amen,
here´s hoping we´ll meet now and then.
It was great fun but it was just one of those things.

It was just, just one of those nights,
just one of those fabulous flights.
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings,
just one of those things.

If we´d thought of it ´bout the end of it,
when we started painting that town.,
We´d have been aware that our love affair
was too hot not to cool down.

So goodbye, goodbye, bye-bye, goodbye, baby, and
Amen,here´s hoping we´ll meet nown and then.

It was great fun but it was just one of those things.

[The New Yorker]:Lang Lang & Yundi Li, 300

Another issue of The New Yorker, another full day reading pleasure.

1. Musical Events: The Wow Factor: Lang Lang and Yundi Li at Carnegie Hall. by Alex Ross.

Reading how other people write about music is always an indulgence. The words and phrases sound almost better than the music itself to my ears.

On Lang Lang:

This work(Bartók Second Concerto), written in the wake of nineteen-twenties neoclassicism, sparkles with Baroque-style counterpoint and Classical melodic play. Lang Lang, who deserves credit for taking on such non-standard fare, flew through the music with ease, but his touch was too hard. He tended to bang out chords at the end of a phrase, relying on extraneous accents to give shape to a line rather than finding its inner contour. Bartók’s requests for leggiero, dolce, and grazioso—light, sweet, graceful playing—often went unheeded; p became mf, mf became ff. Only in the final movement were he and the composer fully in synch. Grins broke out in the audience during the climactic passage where the pianist pounds the lower end of the instrument in tandem with the timpani and bass drum.

On Yundi Li:

Yundi Li is a cooler presence. His playing is refined, almost severe. He has an intelligent way of shaping phrases, controlling dynamics, varying articulations. When Liszt uses the word dolcissimo in the score of the First Concerto—as sweetly as possible—Li responds in kind; he’s a more naturally poetic soul than Lang Lang.

In the concerto’s finale , when orchestra and soloist trade dotted rhythms back and forth, Li kept barrelling ahead of the rest of the ensemble; you wanted him to enjoy these showy phrases a little more, pick up a trick or two from the swaggering brass. Still, it was a captivating performance, the kind that you remember as much for its quiet stretches as for its “wow factor,” to borrow a term from “American Idol.” Let’s hope that Li branches out from his favorite Chopin and Liszt. He could deliver a superlative performance of the Bartók Second.

Some funny notes on Lang Lang and Yundi Li’s style:

The two pianists have a few things in common: both were born in China in 1982; both can execute rapid figuration and double octaves with almost irritating ease; both record for the Deutsche Grammophon label; and both are notable for the variety of their hair styles, ranging from the wavy to the spiky and back again. But they’re hardly interchangeable.

2. The Current Cinema: Men Gone Wildby David Denby (reviewiong “300” and “Shooter”)

The funniest line from this review on “300”:

Pop has always drawn energy from the lower floors of respectability; this movie, in which fan-boy cultism reaches new levels of goofy chaos and sexual confusion, draws energy from the subbasement.

Noted that just revamped their website. I like it much better. At least it is finally making use of the FULL screen!

Sempé! Sempé!

I fell in love with Sempé’s cartoons back in 1997, when i walked in a reprint shop in Palo Alto and saw this drawing on the wall.

It was all framed and the labeled price is over $60. I wanted something cheaper, maybe a non-framed version. But couldn’t find it in the store. I went to another branch of the Reprint in Berkeley, they don’t have it either. After much agonizing, debating whether to buy it, worrying someone might already bought it, i eventually went back to the Palo Alto store and brought it home with me. I became obsessed with the artist, wanting to know who he is, why he draw the way he did, etc. etc.

At that time, there weren’t that much information about him on line. I tried all the bookstores and, trying to see if there are any information about him, and of course, trying to collect his works. To my surprise, there was almost zero information about him anywhere. He seems to only exist when i receive an occasional New Yorker magazine with his cartoon on the cover. So i collected The New Yorker magazine covers.

Then last year, when the Chinese site opened, i wanted to write an article about Sempé. Low and behold, i found a lot more Sempé cartoons on line. Then i was told there was actually an Sempé cartoon exhibit in Beijing!

Today, when i tried to search for a particular choir cartoon by him that i remembered from his collection “Musicians”, I came upon this wonderful site that has a good summary about him and lots of interesting links: read yourself RAW – Profile – Sempé. One of the links turned out to be a New York Time interview with Sempé in 2006 – Jean-Jacques Sempé’s Tales of Two Cities!

This look distinctively New York City…

This must be Paris…