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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Season Greetings to All

Tomate Farcie wishes to presents her best wishes to all
for happiness, health and prosperity
for the coming new year.

* * *

For many people, the Christmas season is an opportunity to throw parties and get together with loved-ones and family.
For many others, the Christmas season is a lonely time.

For some, Xmas is more than anything about making money.
For most, Xmas is more than anything, about spending money.

Christmas decorations start popping up everywhere in the City right around Thanksgiving.

Traditionally, Macy's has the cutest display ever of live baby dogs and cats.
It is actually a real animal adoption event organized by the SPCA.
As you can imagine, that is possibly the most popular window in the City. Seriously, who can resist puppy love?!!

I tried to photograph the puppies but these photographs didn't come out very well. (Maybe a virtual Santa out there will give me some advice as to what kind of filter I need to get for my Canon G9 in order to take better pictures of windows displays? I sure could use the advice as I've had my share of trouble before with reflextion and window shots!)

Awww, what the heck, it's Christmas. Here is one of the puppies' shots...

I've posted the rest of the puppies' shots over here. I'm warning you, these pictures may not be technically correct but they're pretty cute! ;)

I don't know if you can see it very well on this picture, but St. Nick is sitting in front of a HUGE Bavarian cucko clock (additional close-up shots here).

We had one almost like this one when I was growing up. It had 3 weights and of course the cuckoo was coming out every hour and once every half hour. My father - who reads this blog from time to time - is going to be really surprised to see a thing like that on the blog!

Between the dogs, the cuckoo clock ("coucou" in French), the Christmas music and the ice-skating rink around the corner, for a brief moment, I thought I was having an out-of-body experience or something and was looking at my childhood again...

Usually early December, but sometimes even earlier, you can attend one of the many tree-lighting ceremonies in San Francisco. This one took place in front of the Bank of America building.

Remind me to show you in the future what it really takes to put up a giant Christmas tree like the ones I posted here. You'd be surprised!

Naturally, San Francisco decorates her cable cars!

But remember, the holiday season isn't just about Christmas.

According to the Chabad of San Francisco (a non-profit Jewish organization), San Francisco was the first city in the world to proudly display a giant Menorah in public. You can attend the lighting of the Menorah in Union Square, for 8 consecutive days in December, immediately after sun down. I happened to be there on the 4th evening (click on the link to see what happened).

By the way, did you know that every year, the U.S. Military tracks Santa's comings and goings? Now, now, I know it's tempting but don't go blaming Bush for that !!! ;) Apparently, they've being doing this since 1955.

People are increasingly concerned about the environment. Some of you are probably thinking as you are going down this post, that all these Chritsmas decorations must use up a lot of energy. And what about Santa? Have you ever wondered about Santa's carbon footprint? An airline company from New Zeland did, and came up with this idea.

Originally, I was going to post one of my favorites Christmas songs I had just found on uTube the other day, but I changed my mind and decided to make you a little "video" on Animoto instead.

What do you think?

A little over the top, maybe? Like this entire post? ;) Oh, don't worry, as soon as I get back to work I will probably get back to posting about broken cars and other equally fun stuff ;)

In the meantime, let me present my warmest season's greetings to all of you, and especially to those of you who are spending the holidays alone for whatever reason.

Peace, TF

Click here to see The 12 Days of Christmas with the King's Singers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (it's actually an incredible, fun performance).

Macy's puppies here

Close-up of the cuckoo clock here

Additional photographs of the Macy's window here

Macy's animal adoption events details here

Additional pictures on my photoblog

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reliving childhood memories

A couple of days ago, out of a blue, one of my good friends e-mailed me to ask me if I'd be interested in going to the San Francisco Opera to see the Nutcracker Ballet performance.

I haven't seen a ballet performance close-up and personal since I was in Paris... a long time ago!

Ballet takes me way back, actually. My sister was a pretty good ballet dancer when she was a kid. I couldn't dance to save my life but she was more disciplined than me and took classes for a number of years. She had the little ballet toe-shoes and professional "tutu" outfits from Repetto and everything.

From time to time, a little trip to childhood is exactly what the soul needs to repair itself.

If you can't revisit the places or the people in person for whatever reason (for example if you live about half-way around the world from everything and everyone you grew up with), find another way to do it.

Go see a Nutcracker ballet performance again, for instance.

It took me all of 3 seconds to email my friend back to say that I would be delighted to attend.

We arrived early, so we could explore the premises a little bit and maybe sneak a few pictures before everybody got in. The time we spent exploring the premises as absolutely worth it!

While we are officially in full recession right now (yes, that includes San Francisco!) you coudn't tell by looking at the people in attendance.

First of all, the place was absolutely packed (photograph above was taken ahead of the performance).

I looked around me during the performance... there wasn't a single seat open! And pretty much everybody around me was exteremely well dressed, especially the children. I don't mean just dressed up, I mean expensive, sophisticated outfits and haircuts.

That little girl was afraid of the guy in the rat costume
and started screaming at the top of her lungs
the minute she laid eyes on him.

There were a lot of very young children around. Surprisingly, the little ones remained absolutely quiet throughout the entire performance, even when they shot the cannon!

Perhaps they were all super quiet because they were in complete awe...

I know I was.

I've watched a lot of ballet before, including the Nutcracker, but nothing quite as entertaining, dazzling, magical.

Of course, the dancers are extremely talented; but what particularly blew me away was all the technical effects, the staging, the choices of colors for the decorations and the costumes, even the themes they had chosen for the toys, and, of course, the choreography ... all of it was very well done, indeed.

Some parts of the dance performance seemed identical to the traditional European choreographies I had seen in the past, but the story as they presented it yesterday takes place during the 1915 San Francisco World Fair...

This Chronicle article explains a little more.

Naturally, we were not allowed to photograph during the performance, but PBS has filmed the performance last year and is going to broadcast it again tonight as part of their "Great Performances" on many of their channels around the country (Channel 9 in Marin, San Francisco, and Oakland, at 8:00 p.m. PST)

You might want to try to catch it and just let these talented professional entertainers amaze you.

* * * * *

Additional resources:

Also check out the blog of Maria Kochetkova, principal dancer, San Francisco ballet, and possibly the same young lady I photographed above with the dancer in the rat costume and the little screaming kid.

And here is a little preview video.

Degas reproduction from this website

All other photographs for this post , photographed at the San Francisco Opera House, © Tomate Farcie, 2008

Happy holidays everybody!

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Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Monday

It's Monday and I dread starting another week. Last week was pretty horrible, as if I was locked into some kind of weird cycle of some sort and everything I touched turned to sh...

Coincidentally, the moon was at its fullest, and I don't know about you but I'm a firm believer that the full moon affects the way people act. Don't believe me? Just ask anyone who works ER, law enforcement, bartenders ... they'll confirm.

So, to start the week with a smile, I couldn't resist posting this:

Not to your liking?

Oh, well, then you might like this one instead:

Bill Gates receives 'attention' from a fan

I know it's old news, but it still tickles my funny bone from time to time.

Have a nice week, everybody.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How old is old for a car, anyhow?

- Sure, this car was a great deal ... for the one who sold it!"

This is not my car, but close. This model is slightly newer than mine, and a little bit of an upgrade over mine, if you can believe that. I have the proletarian version of that CRX (without any options). But these old Hondas are pretty durable and even fun to drive, believe it or not.

I think the biggest cosmetic difference between this guy's car and mine is that I'm using a different kind of duct tape (I use transparent packing tape so you don't notice it as much) and I don't need quite as much as he does to hold the car together (well not yet).

Also, I still have the original paint job on mine, well, what's left of it, to be honest.

The engines of these cars can go on "forever," but the bodies are not built to outlast everything, especially when you park them in the street all day and they have to take all kinds of abuse from vandals, or from idiots who barely know how to drive, let alone park their huge-ass cars other than bumping into yours repeatedly to try to make enough room for their tanks to fit into the "compact car" spot next to yours, and they don't even realize that by doing that, they're directly hitting the hood or the side of these smaller cars, not the bumpers!!! But I digress ...

Photograph from www.foundationpc.com/cars
One of my first cars looked almost exactly like this Dodge Dart '66 or '63. I bought it when it was at least 20 years old already, and ran it to the ground. It was built like a tank and gas was cheap, then.

Have you ever owned and operated an old car? Never? Once? More than once?

I've always had old cars.

The one I currently own wasn't always old, in fact it was considered pretty sleek and sexy back in the days when I got it.

Now it's become a little bit like me in some ways, I mean overall it's pretty reliable and it'll get you wherever you want to go in one piece (most of the time), but you have to remember to handle it somewhat politely or else she gets cranky (the car, I mean).

And of course, it helps if you keep up with maintenance, which I definitely had on my To Do List for a very long time but didn't get to ... Water under the bridge now (no pun intended).

A smart thief can pick your lock and get away in seconds, and you'll never know until it's too late. Put your stuff in the truck or better yet, don't leave anything at all in the car, if you can help it.

The good part about owning/operating a car like mine (other than dirt cheap insurance and registration fees) is that you don't really have to worry about someone stealing it.

Hondas like these were on the hot list of most stolen cars years ago and I had my share of brake-ins, at the time, even in Marin County.

But these days, my car tends to works in mysterious ways, and that characteristic alone, I believe, has become its most effective anti-theft protection.

What do I mean by that? Well, it stalls a lot when it's not ready to go, for instance. And what makes it ready to go? Oh, it decides...

Don't worry, it's safe to drive and does not present a danger to anyone else on the road, but it's a little quirky and you have to kinda trick it a little bit to get it going.

I'm used to it by now, but my guess it that any would-be robber would promptly abandon the piece of sh... within blocks after it stalled on them one too many times.

Saddly an unavoidable part of urban life

In the last 2 or 3 years, vandals have destroyed both locks on the driver and passenger sides of my car, and pretty much already stole everything that was worth stealing inside the car. They took the crappy factory-installed radio, the second-hand speakers I had bought at the Ashby fleamarket some years back, and some little odds and ends floating around inside the car, but never the car itself, not yet at least.

I guess if you're a car thief or a dope dealer looking for a free ride, you probably don't want to be seen in a vehicle held together by duct tape, and sound like someone tied a bunch of pans to the tail pipe ...

Not to mention that if you're running away from the Police, it probably won't do you any good if the car keeps stalling on you! :)

I think the neighborhood punks probably know all about my car by now and they usually leave it alone for the most part, but you never know and I always worry when I work late, that I'm going find it with the "broken window treatment" one of these evenings.

What a pain that would be.

Oh, sure, I've been tempted to get something a little better looking, more reliable, more confortable, but why bother? It is a city car, after all, mostly left on its own in the streets all day long and way into the evening, so I guess as long as it runs, I'll put up with it.

- One of these days, this piece of sh... is going to drop you in the middle of the city!
- No, that was its last ride. I just emptied my bank account today and got another one.
(Food for thoughts, uh.)

And put up with it I do.

Ever noticed how old cars tend to fail when you are the most stressed? At least that's my experience.

My old cars usually can tell what neighborhood I'm driving through, and I've noticed they always feel more comfortable melting down somewhere deep in the ghetto, or anywhere far, far, far from public transportation, or on some piece of freeway where everybody else is flying past me at 85MPH, or some other place really inconvenient, like downtown San Francisco, or wherever else it is impossible to stop anywhere without causing major commotion... Never fails.

Old cars also know what time of the year it is more important to break down to really get your attention. When I was going to night school, for instance, they used to break down right around finals. Now I mostly commute using public transportation, but I do take the car to and from public transportation, and I also drive it on those days when I have to cover a number of different locations in the same day and don't want to be spending the best part of the day waiting around for Muni and BART, or Ferries and what not. I also take the car to do my local grocery shopping and stuff. Guess when the car is going to break down, on Saturday morning on a local trip to Trader's Joe, or during the middle of a workday when I'm stressed and running around, 3 counties away from home? They know.

And if you happen have stuff in the back of the car that you could not possibly carry home by yourself if your life depended on it? They know that, too.

- Are you sure this old thing is gonna hold?
- Oh sure, I just paid $29.70 for engine repairs!

(OK, this is obviously an old cartoon!)

So yesterday, my old car's radiator and part of the engine blew up on the Bay Bridge during morning commute hour. I was close enough to the metering lights but not quite. Smoke, steam and stuff came out from under the hood without any warning, then the hissing sound and clunking noises followed, or was it the other way around? I don't know, anymore, I was too freaked out and too focused on trying to get the car somewhat out of the way and not get rear-ended, that I don't really remember the chronology of events before the melt down.

I didn't get rear-ended and I didn't cause a chain accident, and I can thank my lucky stars for that.

By the way, if you got to work late yesterday because you got stuck behind me when Cal-Trans had to close the lane I was in to get my old car out of there, feel free to thank me in the commenting section, I won't mind.

Nothing anyone can say or do to me today is going to make me feel as bad as the way I'm going to feel tomorrow or the next day when the mechanic hands me the bill ... Let's face it, when your car is towed, still smoking, into a garage, they know they can pretty much do whatever they want on the car, and just hand you a bill.

What are you going to do, refuse the repairs and push the car out of there yourself to the next place?

I'm seriously considering a Zip Car service, now. At some point, with an old car, you hit the point of diminishing returns, when it no longer makes any fiscal sense to keep them going, and all other options are cheaper.

* * * *

Cartoons on this post all come from this website

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