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Super suffragettes

by Roberto Friedman

Hans the Franz wants you! — to exercise your democratic right to vote, before it's too late. Photo: Steven Underhill
Hans the Franz wants you! — to exercise your democratic right to vote, before it's too late. Photo: Steven Underhill  

On the eve of this historic and Very Important Election, we can't say it better than Hans the Franz does with his spectacular outfit. He's out there in the Castro District streets, resplendent in his declamatory onesie, and it's all in order to get out the vote — and we mean way out.

Send a message in local, state and national contests that the horrible stub-fingered Vulgarian in the Oval Office, and his Vichy enablers in Congress, do not represent us, do not stand for what we and our fellow citizens are all about. Send a message to dangerous right-wing crazies that they shouldn't feel free to indulge their worst impulses. Return America to its better nature. This is the time to restore good old humanity to the U.S. of A. Count us in, and count our ballots!


An architects rendering of the Penthouse Recital Hall in the San Francisco Conservatory of Musics new Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts. Photo: Courtesy Mark Cavagnero Associates  

Musical grounds

Out There was excited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony last week for the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts in San Francisco's Civic Center. A major expansion for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM)'s campus, the Bowes Center is a $190 million performing arts center and residential tower that will occupy 200 Van Ness Ave., right across the street from Davies Hall, and in near proximity to the Opera House, SFJAZZ Center, the SFCM's main building, and other arts venues that are making Civic Center such a burgeoning and vibrant arts district.

The new, 12-story building will provide housing units for 420 conservatory students, as well as two new concert halls, practice rooms, classrooms and a recording studio, a restaurant and lounge. It meets the needs of both housing and performing space. That's why lead architect Mark Cavagnero called it not just a building, but also "an organism for music."

At the ceremony, San Francisco Mayor London Breed pointed out proudly that the 27 residents who once lived in the building that was razed for the new center will be able to move back and be housed in the new residence at the same stabilized rent they were paying in the old one, proving that it's possible to create new housing in the city without displacing anyone. SFCM President David H. Stull praised the leadership in City Hall, including Supervisor Jane Kim, for helping to move the project through city permitting processes, and for other support. He called the center "a beacon for the innovative artists who will lead the next generation."

From an audience standpoint, the most exciting features of the Bowes Center are its two new concert halls. The Jewel Box Recital Hall on the lobby level, seating 100, will have sprung floors to accommodate dance performance, and will be open to the streetscape by virtue of its floor-to-ceiling glass walls. The Penthouse Recital Hall on the 11th floor, seating 200, will offer a fabulous view of City Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, and the Van Ness Avenue scene. A rooftop terrace on the 12th floor also overlooks the glamorous cityscape. We're promised expert acoustics throughout; 90% of the concerts will be open and free to the public.


At the groundbreaking we noticed the row of shovels that meant that city and school officials would soon be tossing the traditional heaps of soil into the construction site. But before they did, two giant bulldozers performed a synchronized ballet to a brass chorale and fanfare performed by a student band. You haven't lived until you've seen earthmovers spin and gavotte in unison to live music. If this is the kind of innovation that SFCM fosters and encourages, future audiences have all sorts of pleasures in store!

Less is more

"Less: A Novel" by San Francisco author Andrew Sean Greer (Back Bay Books), winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is now out in paperback, and a friend made sure we had a copy. It's the hugely entertaining tale of (all fictional) failed novelist Arthur Less, once loving partner of poet Robert Brownburn and hanger-on of the Russian River School, who receives a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend and thus needs to skip town. Less accepts invitations to all sorts of writers' gatherings worldwide to furnish an alibi. And so we have the pleasure of seeing Less deal with absurd literary conferences, teaching posts, writing retreats, travel articles and other excuses for his yearlong journey, from Mexico City to Turin, to Berlin, Morocco, India and Japan, before he returns to San Francisco and his nest on the Vulcan Steps.

"He floats through the Frankfurt airport in a dream, thinking: Passport, wallet, phone, passport, wallet, phone. He passes through miles of leather handbags and perfumes and whiskeys, miles of beautiful Turkish retail maids." If you are a writer who has ever been in these circumstances, or know a writer who has, this book is for you. We chuckled up a junket.


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