In the News

Bulldozer ballet performed at groundbreaking for Conservatory

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music celebrated groundbreaking for its new Bowes Center, at 200 Van Ness Ave., Thursday, with a rite that included speeches by Mayor London Breed and, of course, Conservatory President David Stull. Among those in attendance were Ute Bowes, who with her late husband donated $46 million for the building, and other donors of more than $5 million, including Eileen Blum, Bernard and Barbro Osher, Timothy and Virginia Foo, Carol Casey, and Gordon Getty.

After the ceremonies, the Conservatory sent along a video of what must have been the most unusual musical offering on Van Ness in the history of that performing arts neighborhood, the bulldozer ballet, as performed to the Triumphal March from “Aida.”

From Vanity Fair, February 2016, Evgenia Peretz’s essay about cover girl Megyn Kelly: “The brightest star at Fox News, Megyn Kelly is a newly minted feminist icon. … Her occasional, yet highly entertaining, bucking of the conservative party line … has even earned praise from liberals such as Chris Matthews, Joy Behar and Gayle King. … It’s not uncommon for the casual left-of-center viewer to say, in spite of himself, I kind of like her. … And she owns her own sexuality in a way that feels real and lighthearted.”

From, Oct. 26, 2018, Sonia Saraiya’s essay: “The myth that Megyn Kelly would turn into a thoughtful conservative-female journalist has never been more transparently false. … In a season of scammers, Kelly’s emerging as the consummate con woman. She sold us all exactly what we wanted to believe in.”

P.S.: Overheard by Mark Abramson on Castro Street: “On Halloween night I’m going as Megyn Kelly … in blackface … looking for a job.”

Mary Ann Brownstein was volunteering at Park Day School in Oakland last week, when a first-grader answered a question almost correctly. “Close, but no cigar,” she told him. “What’s a cigar?” he asked. “It’s like a big brown cigarette,” she answered. “What’s a cigarette?” he asked.

“Times have changed,” says Brownstein. “In this case, for the better.”

There’s no dialogue in Godfrey Reggio’s 1983 “Koyaanisqatsi.” The 85-minute-long film was shown at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts on Wednesday night, and at the movie’s start — when at least one of the invitees was wondering whether everyone else knew what koyaanisqatsimeant — images of cave paintings are seen as a chorus of bassos performing the Philip Glass score say the word in an ominous-sounding chant.

Foundation founder Nion McEvoy described it as not only a favorite of his but also relevant to the foundation’s current show, “No Time,” about relationships between humans and the natural world. That exhibition, he said, had been inspired by Orville Schell’s “Coal + Ice” exhibition, picturing devastation we humans have wreaked on the natural world.

The movie begins in those caves but quickly moves to nature, showing massive rock formations, mountainsides, cloud shadows skittering across hills … while the incessant rhythms of Glass music flow on all the while. When the filmmaker turns to urban scenes — traffic moving in ribbons of light, commuters swarming like insects — the music, sounding ever louder, and the images, moving ever faster, form a kind of unstoppable visual and aural vise the viewer can’t escape. There are scenes in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and even San Francisco, though this audience was way too cool to shout out, “There’s the Bay Bridge.” Yes, that was there, too.

Near the end of the film, we learn that koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word that warns of environmental tragedy on several fronts. The first: “If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.” Googling to see whether the word is broadly used, I found “Koyaanisqatsi” had a subtitle: “Life Out of Balance.”

This phrase wasn’t shown with the movie’s opening frames; perhaps it was added after the film’s 1983 release. It’s hard to think back and remember that time: Seems that environmental awareness was something on the level of knowing it wasn’t good to throw cigarette butts out of the car windows.

We’ve come a long way, baby, but the path to awareness doesn’t seem to have led us away from the edge of the cliff.