Taiko no Tetsujin

This weekend was the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival, of which I saw a sukoshi. Saturday night, the San Francisco Taiko Dojo had a show at the Kabuki theater. I’ve seen them twice now, and they’re just amazing.

The first time I saw them was last year at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. That show literally knocked the wind out of me, from the spectacle of the drummers and the sheer power of the sound. It’s not just about the drumming, as the performances are highly choreographed with all kinds of jumping from drum to drum and waving the sticks around in Tai-Chi-like movements, but not dull. Both of the shows I’ve seen combine contrasting elements: traditional Japanese culture with modern spectacle; eastern rhythms with western rhythms; Asian with Native American culture; celebration with reverence; group unity with individual personal expression, percussion with dancing; and discipline, order, and control with wild, abandoned, banging the shit out of some big-ass drums. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

SF Taiko Dojo Float Sunday, I walked up to Japantown to see the Grand Parade. This turned out to be an awful idea, mainly because the weather was ungodly hot (for SF) and I’m not used to walking farther than down to the corner to get cigarettes. By the time I got to Japan Center, the sweat was rolling off of me like I’d just been hit by a tsunami. I saw all the Japanese women walking with their breath masks on and finally understood that it was probably to avoid the overpowering stench of overweight hairy gaijin who’ve overexerted themselves. It was also really crowded.

The parade itself was kind of cool, but it was more of a community thing than a “taste of Japan” thing. The SF Taiko Dojo had a float, though, which rocked. They really are spectacular.

You Are Beautiful

As I was driving back from Walnut Creek today, I saw that someone had put the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” on one of the freeway overpasses. I couldn’t tell if it was intended for a specific driver or if it was just a general bit of good-will graffiti, so I decided to take it personally. It took a minute for my cynical mind to kick in, to be reminded of the hundreds of “Practice Random Acts of Kindness” bumper stickers that I used to see every day in Marin and Berkeley, how the drivers of the cars were almost always unrepetent asses, and how the sheer repetition of seeing the same pre-printed message on car after car sapped any meaning from it. I also began to suspect that the message was inspired by that Christina Aguilera song.

But before that, I was just struck by the idea that someone would go the trouble of making a sign just to make total strangers feel better about themselves, that kind of completely altruistic carpet-bombing of good will. It was done with yellow tape on the fenced sides of the overpass, in huge, sloppy letters, and with the sun going down behind the hills, the words glowed like neon. Driving over the hill, the first thing you could see were the words glowing as if they’d just popped into your brain, before you could see the bridge or the tape or have any idea how it was done. And then after you’d passed under the bridge and gone on through the tunnel, the words lingered if you closed your eyes: “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.”

Welcome! Smiles, everyone! Smiles!

This is my new website. It’s going to have pictures from vacations, stuff I’ve written about movies, any useful software I manage to write, and whatever else I can think of. It’s mainly intended as an outlet so I don’t go on lengthy tirades on message boards, but if there’s an audience for it, all the better. Notice how the pictures change when you move the mouse over them; that alone is worth the trip!