When the ancient Polynesians invented surfing, they often used a paddle to help them navigate. Fast-forward a few millennia, and Stand-Up Paddleboarding, or SUP, finds itself trendy again. Part of its increasing popularity is that standing upright allows surfers to spot waves more easily and thus catch more of them, multiplying the fun factor. Paddling back to the wave becomes less of a strain as well. The ability to cruise along on flat inland water, surveying the sights, is another advantage. Finally, its a good core workout. If youre sold on the idea, schedule an intro SUP lesson, free with board and paddle rental, and you may find yourself riding the waves like a Polynesian king.More
Llewelynn Fletcher's immersive sculptures beguile the senses. Sasha Petrenko's site-specific installations and performances strive to capture a dynamic, living planet. Austin Thomas hides heady themes in seemingly austere drawings, photos, and sculptures. She also cobbles together site-specific social spaces which she calls "perches," but which are obviously kick-ass treehouses, minus the trees. These and other artists are contributing super-sized works for "Just Passing Through: Sculptures and Installations" at the University of San Francisco's Rooftop Sculpture Terrace. "Just Passing Through" promises to challenge notions about how we inhabit or pass through space, or at least provide a lovely respite in a busy city.
"Just Passing Through: Sculptures and Installations" is open to the public 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and runs through Dec. 11 at Kalmanovitz Hall, University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton St., S.F. Free; 422-5178 or usfca.edu. More
Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 11
Weird little marvels are the works of Ron Nagle, the ceramicist whose work has helped prove that a sculptor who works in clay can be a serious presence in the art world. Nagle has been making vessels and intimate-sized sculptures since the 1960s, when he was associated with the norm-busting California ceramics movement and studied with one of its prime forces, fellow abstract-expressionist Peter Voulkos. A species of one, Nagle has continued to create compelling and painstakingly crafted pieces that are elegant yet unsettling. His sculptures contain puckered surfaces, unusual textural juxtapositions, amorphous shapes, and a surreal look. His cups, some of which have been overglazed and repeatedly fired, appear to have come from a tea party on Mars. With diverse influeneces, including ceramicist Ken Price, abstractionist Cy Twombly, still-life painter Giorgio Morandi, and California cool-car culture, Nagle is a distinctive artist and a San Francisco spirit. To learn more, come hear his lecture at the San Francisco Art Institute — his first appearance there since his 1978 Adaline Kent Award exhibition.More
R.I.P. R.E.M., Masters of a Beautiful, Eclectic Rock 'n' Roll
By Dan Weiss
on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 12:11 PM
click to enlarge
In case you still needed to know the difference between R.E.M. and U2, R.E.M. just broke up and U2 dies only when Bono is put in the ground.
Whatever today's (honestly shocking) announcement means about R.E.M.'s 31-year-career, well, what did anything ever mean with this band? It'll be remembered for making a lot of the most beautiful guitar music of the rock era -- but R.E.M. will really go down in history for making meaninglessness a virtue that ended up selling millions of records.
The band's name, for one thing, could've been Cans of Piss or Negro Eyes. But those weren't meaningless enough. Four guys equally influenced by the Sex Pistols and the Byrds (and decidedly more by "Yummy Yummy Yummy" than the Beatles) realized they didn't want to be offensive because that pegged them too easily. Naming themselves R.E.M., mumbling lyrics that turned out to be "Up to par and Katie bar the kitchen door/ But not me in" -- that's when people started asking questions, and they only really stopped around the time the band started printing its lyrics with its records. Which was 1998, when Bill Berry departed and it was never the same R.E.M. again.
Among the band's greatest acts of dada:
Releasing '80s albums with classifications on the spine like "File Under Fire" (Document) and "File Under Water" (Reckoning). Then-label I.R.S., which would long bemoan the band's refusal to try and hit the mainstream, even gave into the spirit for the Eponymous compilation and put File Under Grain up the side.
Embracing typos. The members of R.E.M. left Lifes Rich Pageant and "Feeling Gravitys Pull" without apostrophes. When Green was printed with the number "4" in the tracklisting replaced by "R," they rolled with it. It added to the mystery they were cultivating, despite being four open-humored Southern gents who first claimed they signed to Warner Bros. because of Bugs Bunny.
Several albums into his career, singer Michael Stipe once told an interviewer that the Murmur and Chronic Town-era lyrics he no longer knew, but that he knew how to sing them. He called it "syllabizing," approximating the sounds from playing them every night, even though the meanings had been lost in translation. This was a novel idea, that the words were now just code and existed only in the memory as music. All signifiers in music disintegrating into nothing but melody and beat is a common idea with the electronic crowd, or with Western listeners who embrace The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, say. But in hit-single rock 'n' roll, this was new. One such hit single was "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" which turns a psychotic beatdown threat to Dan Rather into a sort of admission: "I never understood the frequency, uh-huh."
Embracing, well, everything else. If I can be an old person for just a minute, it's infuriating to see a band like Animal Collective garner praise centered around "They based a song on a Frankie Knuckles house anthem" and then also "sampled the Grateful Dead." In the same year! My first concert ever was Beck on the Odelay tour in sixth grade, so alt-rock eclecticism was never unnatural to me, but even then it was the biggest thing about Beck. R.E.M. had a lot of biggest things about them, especially "Losing My Religion," which comes on Out of Time in sequence after a rap from KRS-One fades out a "piss-take" on the radio. The other named guest on the album was Kate Pierson of the B-52s. This was the same year that U2 was said to be saved by a newfound infusion of European dance and industrial trends, though with U2 it was the story. R.E.M.'s attention was never centered around one sound at a time, or else its members would've played a whole lot more mandolins.
For R.E.M.'s next record, Led Zep's John Paul Jones arranged strings. Back in 1987 the band covered Wire's cold-droning "Strange" in a swaggering New York Dolls glam-rock style, piano and all. R.E.M.'s weirdness and ability to adapt to any environment, genre, or guest collaborator is often overshadowed because it wasn't the whole story. But its members were masters of everything. They'd go on to work with Warren Zevon, William S. Burroughs, Thurston Moore, Patti Smith, Q-Tip, Dashboard Confessional, the Decemberists. And these were not indie tastemakers even in the Kurt Cobain sense. The members of R.E.M. were hit purveyors worth $80,000,000 sixteen years after they began.
Of course, the eclecticism wasn't the whole story. The music was. The band wrote about anything and everything. Sometimes about nothing. Subjects of its hits included Andy Kaufmann; an apocalypse summed up as "birthday party cheesecake jelly bean boom"; a friend of Stipe's who had trouble finding literal direction; advice against suicide; and "shiny happy people holding hands." The band wrote two different choruses with "I'm sorry." It played with its own mythology, threatening "I'll eat the lotus" on "Be Mine" and claiming to have already done it on, yup, "Lotus." The members wrote several fine protest songs against Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr.: "World Leader Pretend," "Ignoreland," and "Final Straw," respectively. They made loads of beautiful music unknown to radio: "Wendell Gee," "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us," "Sweetness Follows," "Laughing," "Tongue." They even wrote good songs following Berry's departure, though they did indeed lose their way (on the frustrating Reveal and Around the Sun in particular) and repeat themselves (I liked return-to-rock Accelerate and this year Collapse Into Now a lot, but couldn't shake the feeling of needlessness).
This is one of the few bands that really deserves to break up. The members of R.E.M. exhausted everything they could make themselves do. They put out a best-of, live albums and DVDs, revisited unfinished songs from their youth, re-released all their albums, toured for good causes, parlayed a song into a Jim Carrey film, made new hits from the chord progressions of old ones ("Imitation of Life"), yet also deviated from their sound entirely ("Airportman"). They released one last video with Peaches called "Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter." And now they are done.