I don't often read memoirs, but this one hooked me right from the start. Greene was not allowed to apply for employment as a state trooper because "it's not a job for a woman" (this was in the 1960s). She follows the path of wife and mother, but becomes an investigator by volunteering for search-and-rescue teams.
Her struggle to have a personal life runs through the book and adds a moving dimension to her effort to achieve expertise in her chosen specialty, finding missing persons. As she progresses from volunteer to assistant to licensed private investigator, we learn along with her about this surprisingly quirky field.
For instance, there appears not to be a legal definition of "missing." Therefore law officers will not spring into action just because you say your spouse/child/friend is missing. Whether it's a wilderness rescue, a custody dispute, or an unexplained disappearance, there are patterns in these kinds of cases. Missing children are usually found downhill from where they were last seen. Suicides are usually found uphill.
Read it for the introduction to a peculiar profession. Read it for the story of a strong woman who insisted on having a career spanning the 1970s and 1980s. For either or both, it's a good read, much thanks to co-author Gary Provost,
Back in June, as boarded-up windows became normal in San Francisco, I posted about artists using the new blank plywood to create casual works of art, including these mousey characters who say peculiar things.
This pair has been in place for weeks, and now local folks have pulled out their markers and engaged in conversation with them, mostly taking exception to the original sentiments. As arguments go in this contentious era, this one isn't especially nasty. In fact, it's practically civil, though not always correctly spelled.
From what I read, we're probably at least six months away from a vaccine that will begin to let us all go back to living normal lives. That should give the local artists and art-appreciators plenty of time to generate further modes of discourse. Since we're stuck here, we may as well enjoy watching it play out.
What is going on here? In the center of this jolly scene of people enjoying a day at the beach, a woman plays a guitar. Facing her is a man holding sheet music for her to read. Everyone else in the scene wears swimsuits or other light clothing, but he wears a dark business suit. Everyone else has a ruddy complexion, but his face is chalky white.
A closer look shows the man's eyes are closed. The guitarist isn't reading the music. She is looking at us from the corner of her eye, as is the harmonica-playing man behind her. No one else in the group looks out at us.
Who is the mystery man? Why has he joined these people on the beach? Why are the two musicians looking away from the sheet-music he's holding?
This picture is part of a set of frescoes in the Beach Chalet on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. The frescoes were painted by Lucien Adolphe Labaudt as part of a Works Progress Administration project in 1936.
If I remember correctly from the displays in this room, the faces of the people in this scene are taken from members of the artist's family. Also I think I recall the song on the sheet-music is "Red River Valley." Judging by the view of the Marin Headlands in the background, the scene must be on Baker Beach.
Please let me know if you have any ideas about what the artist meant by including this ghastly figure.
The Crocker Galleria is a privately owned public open space (POPOS). Built in 1982, it is an example of San Francisco requiring builders of tall buildings to provide places for relaxation open to the public. The bigger the building, the bigger the POPOS. For lots of info, including a map of their locations, visit the city's planning website
This one is in the form of a mall with casual food service on the first and third floors and retail on the second. It also features two roof terraces reached by stairways from the top level. The glass roof, inspired by Bernini, lets the place feel like it's outdoors.
In years past it was a bustling spot for strolling, lunch, coffee, and resting downtown. A few years ago the take-out food vendors started closing. The pandemic has accelerated that trend. But it's still a magnificent spot for recreation.
Psychologist Maria Konnikova spent a year learning to play poker, specifically Texas Hold 'em. Why? Because, it is the game that most closely models real life. Some games depend entirely on skill---chess, for instance. Some games depend entirely on chance---matching coin flips, for instance. Texas Hold 'em balances skill and chance.
In her research as a psychologist Konnikova studies decision-making. She wanted to know how professional players decide when to bet, call, check, hold 'em and fold 'em. She met the guys with degrees in math and charts full of statistics. They're not the ones who win. She met the guys who psych out the other players. They win sometimes. The big winners focus on how they make decisions and how they perceive chance.
Her interest was not purely academic. She read the fundamental books for players and apprenticed with a top professional player. She staked herself, started with online poker, played some small tournaments in off-the-strip clubs in Las Vegas and worked her way up to international tournaments with the best of the best.
This book may seem a little off my subject---Dark Stories. But, like Konnikova's previous book, it is research for my dark stories. When I read The Confidence Game, I didn't know I was going to write a book with the title, The Con Man's Son. Similarly, I don't know that I'll write a book about professional poker players. Probably not, in fact. But I will be writing about characters who make decisions.
It's hard to say what kind of show this is. My first impression was satire. The show pokes fun at the preoccupations of creative twenty-somethings in Manhattan. But in the midst of all the laughs a story takes shape in which Dory becomes convinced an acquaintance, Chantal, is still alive, even though her family is grieving her loss.
Dory's friends help her look for Chantal, but the investigation suffers as the friends seem incapable of focusing on anything but themselves. In each episode, just when I'm expecting this to turn into a murder-mystery spoof, something happens that gives me a genuine chill.
Somehow the writers of Search Party have found the tunnel that connects the absurd and the uncanny. In a lot of ways we're in David Lynch territory. I've just finished the first season. Two more are available for streaming, and there's talk of a fourth season. It's a half-hour dramedy, definitely worth a try for something funny, suspenseful, and off-beat.
See also Search Party (2017) and Search Party (2020).
A hit man (Tom Cruise) hires a cab driver (Jamie Foxx) to drive him around Los Angeles because he has several jobs to do in one night. Of course, the hit man has to keep the cab driver on a short leash.
The premise yields plenty of possibilities for complications, reversals, and shoot-outs, and the movie does not disappoint. When you have Tom Cruise in a film, you have to give him more than one chance to run and gun.
The film exceeds expectations when it comes to character development. Jamie Foxx totally convinces as an average guy who wants nothing to do with crime and killing. And he's equally convincing when his character learns that sometimes you do indeed have to kick some ass.
The real star of the show is screenwriter Stuart Beattie who gives these two great actors a lot to work with. Between the action sequences, and sometimes during, their world views collide. They challenge one another to explain their actions.
And, the screenwriter creates a totally original scene when the hit man goes with the cab driver to visit his mother in the hospital and charms her.
On a visit to San Francisco, we saw Seabiscuit at the Metro Theater on Union Street. As you can see, it's not a theater any more, and at the moment it's boarded up because of the pandemic.
Movie theaters were already declining before the pandemic. The Metro turned into an Equinox gym in 2014, according to San Francisco Theatres, an excellent blog on the subject (Thank you, Carol Ann Riordan!).
Seabiscuit was an entertaining movie based on an entertaining book about an unlikely champion thoroughbred horse. Seeing it here had special resonance because one of the three principal characters, Charles S. Howard, played by Jeff Bridges, started out in San Francisco.
We saw the movie with Ann's parents and her sister and brother-in-law. Afterward we walked up the street and had dinner at a restaurant. It made a nice family outing. I suppose in the future we'll be making memories such as: We all went to my uncle's house because he had the largest flat-screen and after the movie we had food delivered.
The Cliff House sits on on the western edge of San Francisco, just around the corner from the Golden Gate straits, and just below Sutro Heights Park. Beyond it is Seal Rock (actually a collection of rocks), on which there used to be sea lions (not seals). Beyond that is the Pacific Ocean.
The building you see here, completed in 2003, is the sixth to occupy this site. The previous five were also called the Cliff House and, like this one, were restaurants in which to enjoy a meal and the view. At low tide, diners sometimes see people with fishing poles walk out to the rocks and stand on them while attempting to catch fish.
The Cliff House in all its incarnations has a storied history as part of a one-time entertainment district that included Sutro Baths and Playland at the Beach. Since 1977 it has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Looking for a good thriller? Try this documentary.
As the title suggests, this is a movie about triplets separated at birth. They discover one another by accident when two of them attend the same college. They rejoice and live their adult lives as brothers.
All this comes out near the beginning of this 96-minute film. It's an amazing story, but there's much more. As they discover the circumstances of their birth and their adoptions, the intrigue deepens. In a present-day interview, one of the brothers describes what they discover as "like some Nazi shit."
The way director Tim Wardle tells their story is worthy of Hitchcock. Each segment of the movie reveals the facts of a stage in their lives and includes one loose end, which leads the brothers and those who help them to the next stage. The suspense deepens until the end.
If you didn't know this story is true, you wouldn't believe it. You literally cannot make this stuff up.
Andy Goldsworthy's Spire has stood on a hill near Inspiration Point in the Presidio of San Francisco since 2006. On June 23, 2020, someone set fire to it. An investigation is ongoing, but so far nothing is known publicly about who did it or why.
I wrote about Spire in March of last year. It was the first of four sculptures in the Presidio by the world-renowned artist. Standing ninety feet tall, it was made of a collection of trunks from Monterey Cypress trees planted by the U. S. Army in the 1880s.
Most of Spire still stands. It is being evaluated for structural integrity. No decision has been made about whether it will have to be removed.
Informed about the vandalism, the artist had this to say: "The burning of Spire goes too deep for my own words. Besides, Spire has always spoken for itself and will perhaps now speak with an even greater eloquence after what has happened. If anything, its epitaph will be better written in the memories, thoughts and words of those who have lived with it over the past twelve years....What I do know is that art doesn’t give up. It is resilient and fights back. It is part of our collective and personal hard-won immunity."
For anyone who has ever wondered what the neighbors are up to, this is a fun read, assuming your idea of fun is watching things go very badly for a young mother trying to be a good neighbor.
We follow Emily and Ben in their new home as she attempts to befriend the woman next door while being a full-time mom to a toddler. This neighbor seems anxious and unwilling to communicate. Her husband, the doctor, is stand-offish to the point of rudeness.
The story is told from multiple points of view, so we also get to follow the doctor as he goes out to the shed behind the house every evening, and we find out what he does there. Thus we know what Emily is walking into before she does.
I enjoyed the way the author lays out the facts so we can see a pattern, and figure things out before the characters can. But things don't always go the way we expect, and that is fun too.
The prose is conversational and the various elements of the story---dialogue, description, thought, action, backstory, etc.---are in good proportions. It's and easy, enjoyable read.
Lisa Stone has four recent thrillers and twenty-seven novels written as Cathy Glass.
Back in 2003, on a visit to San Francisco, we saw School of Rock at the Alexandria. I enjoyed it. A lot of the scenes had a real heartbeat, even though overall it was the familiar story of the eccentric teacher/coach/captain who leads his students/team/crew to victory or at least personal growth.
The Alexandria is NOT a victim of the pandemic. It has been closed since 2004 after operating since 1923. A year ago, the city's Planning Commission approved a plan to turn it into a center for after-school programs, including a swimming pool. No action so far.
The twenty-five years during which I have visited and lived in San Francisco have coincided with the decline of movie theaters. I'm photographing those that are left.
If you've been frustrated by travel restrictions and desperate to get on an airplane and go somewhere, viewing Red Eye might make you content to stay home. The opening sequences follow Lisa Reisert (Rachel MacAdams) into an airport where she gets delayed by one cancelled flight after another and winds up on a red-eye flight to Miami. The depiction of the crowded airport and more crowded airplane bring back the horror that is air travel.
It gets worse for Lisa when her seat-mate Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) turns out to be a very bad man prepared to force her into aiding his evil plot by making one, seemingly innocent phone call from the plane while in flight. Too bad for Jackson he has picked a fight with a woman who has vowed never again to be a victim.
Red Eye was a critical and commercial success for director Wes Craven, the highly influential director of horror films. Fifteen years after its release, the viewer still marvels at the section of the film where the two stars are mostly confined to their seats on the airplane. Somehow Craven makes it feel dynamic.
At 85 minutes, it's a perfect length for a suspense thriller. It ticks like a stop watch and offers substantial thrills, relieved by Craven's signature grim humor.
Painting houses black is recommended by realtors and house-flippers as a way of making a quick sale. The architecture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle hates it, and it has called it a sign of gentrification.
Three weeks ago, I posted a photo of a row of Victorian houses in which all but one are painted in in traditional light colors with contrasting trim. One of them is painted black . . . almost.
A closer look reveals it is really dark gray with black trim and some silver and gold highlights. These variations give the house a sense of proportion, but the overall effect is still black. As a long-time friend remarked, it looks like the Addams' Family's home.