Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Metropolitan Opera Revises its Season to Capitalize on Star Wars

Time for a night at the opera!

Vincenzo Bellini, Norma Padme

An important leader in a time of political strife has a forbidden lover, bears him two children, is betrayed by him, and dies.

Casta Diva

Richard Wagner, Siegfried Skywalker

A young man of secretly noble parentage takes up his father’s sword and sets out on a quest in order to become a hero.

Is that a call to adventure, or are you just happy to see me?

Giacomo Puccini, La Boheme La Rogue

A rag-tag group of attractive people, united by their rebellious nature, share companionship before tragedy strikes.

Who do you think sings Musetta's Waltz? My money's on Chirrut.

Giacomo Puccini, Madame Butterfly M. Anakin

After naively swearing loyalty in his youth to a cruel man, Anakin refuses to doubt his master for years. When he finally realizes the truth, says goodbye to his son and chooses to die with honor.

"I'll promote you above grand moff when the robins make their nests."

Georges Bizet, The Pearl Fishers The Space Pirates

Han and Lando are good friends who go way back. They talk a lot about how they would never betray each other. They even have a duet about it. It’s an amazing duet. Then comes the sudden but inevitable betrayal.

Trust me.

Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto Jar Jar

The screw-ups of what would generally be a harmless comic relief character result in devastation.

I refuse to put a pic of Jar Jar on my blog, so here's Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto.

Gioachino Rossini, The Barber of Seville The Pilot of the Resistance

Poe Dameron, the titular pilot of the resistance, isn’t even the main character. He’s just a charismatic guy who is good at solving problems for the protagonists.

Dameron! Dameron! Daaaaaamerooon!

Gaetano Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor Kylo di Chandrila

Family pressures and a generations-long conflict between rival groups culminate in a dramatic domestic stabbing. Be prepared for lots of red!

Didn't wear white to dramatically show off blood splatter?
Then get to some snow to bleed out on, ASAP.

John Adams, Nixon in China Tarkin in Alderaan

Instead of destroying Alderaan, Tarkin visits in hopes of gaining influence. Everything goes okay until a polemical dance number horrifies Darth Vader and drives Princess Leia mad with power. 

Seriously though. Imagine Leia singing "I am the child of Organa" and then having a stare down with Mon Mothma.

Image info:
Norma: Wikimedia
Siegfried: Ken Howard for the Metropolitan Opera
The Pearl Fishers: Ken Howard for the Metropolitan Opera
Rigoletto: Cory Weaver for San Francisco Opera
Lucia di Lammermoor: Theater Byte/Metropolitan Opera

P.S. Snoke is the Queen of the Night. Pablo Hidalgo has confirmed this.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Leaving San Francisco, Keeping the Poems

China Beach

I knew it was going to happen eventually: getting priced out of San Francisco. For the past few years, the SF housing crisis and its astronomical rents have been international news, and I don't live in a rent-controlled unit. Friends and co-workers, especially those starting families, have left the city in droves to find slightly more affordable housing. Others have been subject to suspect "owner move-in" evictions. In 2015, quintessential San Franciscan cartoonist Paul Madonna was evicted from his Mission apartment and studio. When my roommate and I got notice that our rent (which has gone up annually for years) would be increasing by $600 a month, it was time to leave.

I'm not a lifelong SF resident. I moved to the city in January 2009 with my copy of Broke-Ass Stuart's Guide to Living Cheaply in San Francisco (I can't imagine what the most current edition recommends). However, I am a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, and I wonder if eventually I won't be able to afford to live within a three-hour radius of San Jose, the city where I was born.

I spent a lot of time on the 38 Geary

In the meantime, however, I've signed the lease for a tiny but lovely Oakland studio (where I'll be able to have a cat!), and look forward to exploring a new city. And I'm not completely leaving San Francisco - like scores of other East Bay residents, I'll be crossing the bay every weekday morning to the Financial District, where I work as an administrative assistant. But I will miss the Richmond District, the "uncool" but formerly affordable neighborhood I've inhabited in three different apartments since first arriving in the city.

This weekend I hauled two large bags of books to sell to Green Apple Books, the Inner Richmond landmark and my favorite bookstore in the world. Afterwards, I stopped by 6th Ave. Aquarium, the crowded, sketchy store where a shark for sale inspired my poem "Wobbygong Shark $299.99." While saying a mental goodbye to the area, I thought of how San Francisco, and especially the Richmond District, has shaped my writing. Perhaps because of "write what you know" and the city's own varieties of beauty and ugliness, San Francisco is the setting for two of my (unpublished) novels and various poems.

Sharks and stingrays for sale at 6th Ave. Aquarium

When I first moved to the city, the places I explored on the weekends were mostly tourist hotspots. One favorite place to go was North Beach. There, I would eat cannoli at Stella's and browse at City Lights Books. A disturbing incident there became my poem "City Lights, Dirty Window." Looking back, I think of how differently I would have handled the situation as an early-thirty-something instead of an early-twenty-something (of course, the creep probably knew better than to target someone who would break his nose). I can now see the statues mentioned from my office building, where they stand as a reminder that art and darkness exist side-by-side in this city.

Corona Heights Park

Long before I moved to the city, the Richmond District was important to me. It was a family tradition to meet my late maternal grandparents for lunch at Louis', the little clifftop diner overlooking Seal Rocks and the ruins of Sutro Baths. My mom shares memories of outings to the long-gone Playland-at-the-Beach, where now stands the Safeway I go to for seaside grocery shopping.

One thing I love about the Richmond District is this proximity to the ocean. I live close to China and Baker Beaches, but sometimes I also visit Ocean Beach, which is the western border of the Richmond and Sunset Districts (and San Francisco itself).  In February, I joined thousands at Ocean Beach for a protest of the Trump administration. I tried to capture the feeling of this popular - but still wild and dangerous - beach in my poem "Ocean Beach, Late November."

Ocean Beach (in July)

The Richmond District is also known for its fog. While a bane to some, the fog, known as Karl to many, is generally beloved. I love and will miss the way light halos through it. The often repeated experience of going to a movie at the 100+ years old 4 Star Theatre and then walking home through the fog led me to write "The 4 Star Theatre." When the poem was published, I was touched to get an email from someone who had used to live in the neighborhood and had recognized the little theater.

With the fog comes the foghorn. The plaintive, demanding sound can be difficult for new residents to sleep with, but you soon get used to it. My most distinct memory of the foghorn comes from September 2009. A few weeks earlier I had undergone a thyroidectomy at UCSF due to papillary thyroid carcinoma (a type of thyroid cancer). I was back at my then-apartment at Clement and 16th Avenue, and was looking in the mirror, getting ready to peel off the final bandage from my neck. The foghorn made for a spooky soundtrack as I slowly revealed my scar.

The 4 Star Theatre

I'll miss my neighborhood. I'll miss the fog, the foghorn, the cold beaches, the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Sutro Tower. I'll miss walking to the Legion of Honor, one of my favorite museums. I'll miss my apartment's bay windows. I'll wonder about the future of the city, which at the moment only seems interested in welcoming those making six figures. But I'll always have my San Francisco writings, and for that, I am thankful.

Sutro Tower

All photos mine.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Time Binge and Purge: A Gluttony of Fun

It's hard to think up images to illustrate book review posts, so here's my hand
holding the most recent book on the balcony of my hotel room in Amsterdam's
beautiful Museum Quarter. Sorry, did this caption turn into a humblebrag? I
really just took this as a fun pic to show the author. It wasn't mean to be a dick
move. Sorry. (But I was totally just in Amsterdam.)

Disclaimer first: I "know" Martina Fetzer, the author of the books I'm about to write about. I put "know" in quotation marks because our only contact has been through Twitter, and she could actually be a loosely organized group of serial killers pretending to be a single author. It happens.

But assuming she is Martina, I "met" her when she wrote, via tweets, an extremely stomach-churning and yet hilarious pornographic story involving a mutual friend (Starfall webcomic creator Adam Blackhat) and Donald Trump. I was in a long line at the post office while she was tweeting this opus, and it was the only time (thus far) I almost wet myself trying to hold back laughter while waiting for a certified mail postmark. So I bought her book Time Binge.

The book in question

Time Binge is a time-traveling comedy starring supernatural-investigating secret agents (and lovers) Eddie Smith and Arturo Brooks; Patience Cloyce, a Puritan teenage girl executed for witchcraft in the 17th Century; Lemon Jones, a teenage girl from a 23rd Century hipster colony on the moon; and Hudson Marrow, an eccentric and immortal renaissance man.

Hudson invented the time machine, and, as tends to happen, things got out of control. Now Agents Smith and Brooks need to save the world - or at least Manhattan - while also dealing with the past and future traumas that complicate their relationship. Meanwhile, Patience dutifully tries to adjust to her new surroundings and early-21st-Century-history buff Lemon delights in vintage Brooklyn.

Slight spoilers ahead as the sequel is discussed after the next "damn it, what am I going to use to illustrate this book review post?" image.

I told Martina I kept picturing Agent Smith as Agent Smith from The Matrix,
but she told me he looks more like Wash from Firefly. (My car is also named
Agent Smith, but I don't picture Agent Smith as my car.)

Fetzer's skill in balancing a Rube Goldberg machine of a plot, compelling characters, Airplane!-style zany humor, and sincere human drama returns in Time Purge. This sequel, released March 21, finds the make-shift family of Smith, Brooks, Lemon, and Patience alive in contemporary Manhattan. Smith, however, is not adjusting well to happily-ever-after. He and Brooks spent their entire relationship knowing Brooks would die, and now that they have a reprieve as a cyborg and an immortal with also-immortal teen daughters, he flounders.

After Smith's emotional instability results in an international, televised incident, the couple finds a maybe-enemy, maybe-ally in Godwin Zane, an obnoxious actor/would-be Elon Musk-ish CEO/actionless superhero (his powers are lava and being gray). Also there's a vampire problem, the return of the universe-threatening rift, and (at last!) Fetzer's specialty: a scene of off-putting, disappointing sex.

For Lemon and Patience I'm picturing something along the lines of Amandla
Stenberg and, despite the too-modern 1872 clothing, Victorine Meurent in
Manet's The Railway. (Obviously not Victorine Meurent in Manet's Olympia.
Patience would be mortified.)  

Fetzer's books are a fun, moving delight - and there are at least three more planned! I'm impressed by her bravery in self-publishing (and by her doing it so well), and I hope her cast of characters find the audience they deserve. You can buy the books (in various formats) here, and her author website is here.

Image info:
Time Binge and Time Purge covers: J. Caleb Design
Amandla Stenberg: Ben Toms for Teen Vogue