Sunday, March 29, 2009

MAN o'WAR ~ "The Greatest Racehorse" ~ 1917

Man o' War, (March 29, 1917, Nursery Stud farm, Lexington, Kentucky - November 1, 1947, Faraway Farm) ~ considered by some to be the greatest Thoroughbred racehorse of all time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


On Saturday March 21st, Cousin Clae and I drove to Aptos just beyond Santa Cruz to celebrate our first cousin Jim Wylie’s 80th birthday. The actual day was St. Patrick’s Day last Tuesday, but he wanted a party on the weekend.  Jim is the oldest living first cousin on my Dad’s side, and I’m the youngest. He’s almost exactly twenty years and one month older than I. He looks great! So I guess there’s hope for me.  Of course, Jim’s positive attitude accounts for much of his appearance. 

It drizzled on the way, but was pretty nice while we were there. Dear Rose and Prince Rupert came along for the ride and stayed in the car during the party. About eighty guests attended the catered event at a lodge in the Aptos village park.

Jim’s daughter Robin asked me to wear one of my kilts. (I have four: my Dad’s Gunn tartan, the Bell family tartan given to me by Dennis, and two versions of the Graham tartan, that had been Dennis’.) I ended up wearing the Gunn tartan. At least three others wore the Gunn, which looks a little like Black Watch – with a touch of red. Altogether there were about ten guests in kilts. Jim didn’t wear a kilt, but he did wear a Gunn tartan tie and a Woolrich railroad vest. Jim and his family are going to Scotland for a Gunn Clan Reunion later this summer. (check out my post on 11/30/2008.) 

The party was loads of fun. The drive back over Route 17 in the rain, however, was treacherous.  I was extremely grateful to make it home without incident. 

Sir Anthony van Dyck ~ March 22, 1599 ~ December 9, 1641

Self portrait:Anthony van Dyck:

Sunday, March 15, 2009


"They may say I can't sing,
but they can't say I didn't."
Florence Foster Jenkins

February 13–March 15, 2009
by Stephen Temperley
Directed by Vivian Matalon

"The remarkable Judy Kaye (Sweeney Todd) returns to A.C.T. in the outrageous Broadway role that earned her a Tony Award nomination. A fresh, original adventure, Souvenir imagines the story of real-life Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite and tone-deaf diva who thought she was a great soprano. Broadway's brilliant Donald Corren plays her wry accompanist, who chronicles Florence's unlikely rise to cult status, culminating in an infamous sold-out Carnegie Hall performance. A heartfelt, wickedly funny look at the limits of self-perception and the unpredictable nature of friendship."
(Courtesy of ACT website)

My friend Adam and I went to one of the final performances of "Souvenir" last Friday. It was one of the funniest shows I've seen in years. Adam said it was the funniest live show he had ever seen. We laughed and guffawed...even snorted at times...then cried and cheered!

I had had my doubts that two actors could pull off a two hour show by themselves. Happily I was mistaken.

Because I was reading a book instead of the program notes, I only glanced cursorily at it, and thought at first that the accompanist was Edwin McArthur. I was quite surprised, because he had been Kirsten Flagstad's vocal coach and accompanist and was a friend of my Father's. He also was the conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony, in which I played 'cello for a season before moving to San Francisco.

It turned out that he HAD been Florence Foster Jenkins accompanist, but was fired by her because he couldn't keep a straight face. That made me feel a lot better about him. But it was strange that he had played for her at all. It reminded me of my late W & J Sloane customer/friend, Miriam Cameron, who had been the personal assistant to Sally Rand, the fan dancer, back in the Thirties. Miriam was rather straight-laced. But I guess, people do what they have to... especially in a Depression!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

50th Anniversary of TIBETAN UPRISING ~ 1959

More than 80,000 Tibetan men, women and children were killed by Chinese troops after the 1959 uprising. (Photo Courtesy Of Robert Kaleta.)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Verdi's LA TRAVIATA premieres in Venice ~ 1853

Monday, March 2, 2009


Yesterday --on another rainy Sunday afternoon, as I took BART to Civic Center to change to the MUNI METRO to go to dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the Castro before going to a two-hour Schola Cantorum rehearsal at the S.F. Girls' Chorus building near Van Ness Avenue-- I had my head in a book, as is my wont. My friend Adam K had given me his copy of Wm. Paul Young's novel The Shack, a moving story about dealing with tragedy and loss. It's beautifully written... and I've been taking my time reading it-- interspersed among several other things. I was also reluctant to face the tragic abduction of the little girl. I'm such a wuss at times.

Anyway, just as the protagonist met the triune God --whom his wife called "Papa"-- in the person of a large black woman in the shack where his daughter had been murdered, we arrived at 16th Street... and a trio of musicians boarded the train. The ensemble consisted of a saxophonist, bass drummer, and a tuba-wrapped cornet player on his knees. I didn't stick around to hear him play um-pah-pah on the tuba, since I was going only one more stop, but the whole interlude seemed to fit the incongruity of the book I was reading.

The night before I heard an extraordinary performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor played by the stunningly beautiful Ann-Sophie Mutter conducted by MTT and the San Francisco Symphony. It was certainly the fastest version I've ever heard ...and was absolutely brilliant! I wished my sister Cynthia could have gone. The rest of the concert was a relatively obscure overture by Prokofiev and two sets of waltzes by Ravel -- one written before World War I, the other, after. Ravel was clearly the master orchestrator!

Earlier in the afternoon, my friends Adam and Justin visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They said they had a marvelous time visiting the sea creatures. Dennis and I went there at the time of David and Lissa's wedding in Carmel on my parents' wedding anniversary, September 1st, six and a half years ago. What wonderful memories!

Saturday morning I had attended a lecture on the Library of Alexandria and its revival. Fascinating! The location of the older library is now under water. Such was my rainy weekend following S.F. Ballet's "Swan Lake" with Adam on Friday night. Now to face a drizzly Monday morning back at work.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)