May 2003


On Castro between 18th and 19th. This is a hip little restaurant which claims to be Burmese, but is probably better classified as pan-Asian. I went here with my friend Ann on a Saturday night, and the wait wasn’t too bad, but we just beat the rush. The staff is pretty friendly, the decor is nice, but it’s kind of loud, like many popular restaurants in San Francisco.

The menu has a lot of noodle dishes, including quite a few vegetarian options. there are also some main entrees which come with rice. You get your choice of noodles — spinach ramen, udon, or linguine. i think your milage will vary quite a bit with some of the dishes depending on the noodles that you get. There’s also a special drinks menu with some really interesting fruity/tropical mixed drinks as well as this sort of alcoholic frappe that Ann thought was rather tasty.

We got the appetizer sampler plate ($10) which was much larger than we anticipated, and had samosas, spring rolls, satay tofu, and this grilled onion bread, along with four associated sauces. Everything but the tofu was pretty tasty. I found the tofu, which was deep fried, dull and a let-down after the tasty tasty onion bread. For a main course we split the Apricot Glazed Pork with udon ($8.50). The pork was delicious, and the sauce complimented it well, but was a little milder than I had expected.

I would definitely go here again to try some of the other intriguing menu options, perhaps before or after seeing a movie at the fabulous Castro St. Theater. Apparently this owners of Nirvana also own a restaurant called Nan Yang in Rockridge, which I will have to check out sometime…

On Washington between Stockton and Grant. This is a dim sum place in Chinatown with a high ratio of Chinese to non-Chinese people, and menus mostly in Chinese on the wall. With non-simplified characters even. It’s a small place compared to the huge eateries — the food is brought around on trays, not carts.

As far as the food went, it was greasier than a lot of dim sum that I have had, but pretty good otherwise. I rather liked their ginger-pork dumpling, but by that time I had had so much to eat I couldn’t really appreciate it. In the end, it cost a table of nine people only $8 each, which was pretty fair, given the amount of food we managed to put away. I’d give it about a 3/5 rating against Dim Sum Restaurants I Have Known.

A play by Peter Weiss. The full title of this play is: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Directiong of The Marquis de Sade. As you can tell from the title, it’s quite insane, but also quite amazing. The original English-language production of this play was by Peter Brook, who wrote the last book I read, and his essays were riddled with references to this play. I’m reading this with Ginny, so hopefully afterwards I will rethink some of my thoughts about it, but here are my initial impressions.

The play is exactly what the title suggests. The Marquis de Sade has written a play to be performed by his fellow inmates for the head of the asylum and his family. The performance consists of many episodes, monologues, songs, and so on. Every time the politics becomes too inflammatory, the authorities try to clamp down on it. The prisoners are supposed to doing this drama to rehabilitate them, but instead it serves to agitate them further. The scenes are often violent (Sade being whipped), grotesque (Marat picking at his scabs), and disturbing. The way in which the actions of the characters interact with the words they are speaking is really profound at times, which is one of the major strengths of the play.

I think that in order to really appreciate this play you have to be able to see it performed, and have an idea of what it might look like. A lot of the conventions Weiss uses are Brecht-like in nature, especially announcing the scenes, the actors commenting on the action, etc. But there is this incredibly rich extra layer that the actors are playing crazy people who are playing historical characters in this reenactment of Marat’s murder. As a result, the alienation works on multiple levels, and there are multiple “truths” to be found depending on how you want to interpret the action.

What I feel I learned the most from this play is that there are ways to make a series of images or tableaux almost to tell a story, and that the text can serve these images or it can accompany them, or even subvert them. That is, I shouldn’t feel obligated to cajole the text to serve up the images. The images form their own truth, and the text its own truth. I think if I rewrote A Head for Ganesh I would gut it and come up with some more images and do it almost in this style, but less insane/homicidal and more insane/burlesque. The beauty of the play was in its extremes.

I am particularly excited that Berkeley is doing Marat/Sade as the spring production, and that I have done a Brecht before and can sing. The goal is to get myself into a sufficiently prepared academic state so as to audition and get a part, because I think that doing this play could possibly be one of those life-altering theater experiences. That’s how I felt after doing Good Person of Sezuan, certainly.

Corner of Shattuck and Addison in Downtown Berkeley

I have been to this place a few times, and it’s always been pretty good. The food is not fantastic, but there is a lot of it, and it’s all tasty. The menu is pretty diverse — sandwiches, crepes, and some kebab-type dishes as well. I almost always get a savory crepe, which run about $6.50 – $7. They have several options — latin spice, bombay curry, a “cannelloni”, chicken pesto, and so on, including several vegetarian options. The plate comes with the crepe, a salad, and a generous helping of potatoes cooked with rosemary. I found it pretty filling — don’t go here if you’re looking for a light meal. The dessert crepes are pretty good as well, but also pretty standard, and they run about $3-5.

The decor nothing fantastic, but in the evenings when it’s less crowded they play Arabic pop music, which is always entertaining. At lunch it gets pretty crowded and the service is slow. I think it makes a pretty good place for an early-evening dinner before going to a movie.

Four essays by Peter Brook, a well-known director, about the Deadly, Holy, Rough, and Immediate theater. Each of these essays is a little gem. Sometimes he rambles on, and sometimes he seems maybe too serious, but in the end, this book left me feeling more excited about the potential that theater has. When I read this the first time, two years ago, it made less of an impact on me, but rereading it brought much of what I have seen in the intervening time into sharper focus. Even when he is criticizing the state of Deadly modern theater, he points the way to new ideas and concepts. Or rather, they are old ideas and concepts that have been forgotten. I recommend this book to anyone who is getting bored with theater, or who feels like the whole endeavor is pointless.

On the other hand, it did make me feel like everything I have written so far is pretty much junk. I mean, it was good to write it, but I feel like I should be able to say something more in a play. Not that I must serve a Higher Purpose or something like that, but there are important things that I want to say, and I should really try to serve those in the writing. In that respect, the things that I have written before, and that I write now, are important to build technique, and i shouldn’t get so attached to them. The Empty Space is liberating in that respect as well.

I would label this as a must-read for just about anybody who cares about theater. In the book, he talks about the horrible state of contemporary theater (Deadly), the theater as ritual and elevating (Holy), in-your-face theater that uses all the dirt and grit of the brothel, barroom, and street (Rough), and his own approach to directing (Immediate). There are a lot of examples drawn from Brooks’ own experience that really help contextualize their comments. They aren’t thought experiments, they really happened. His exposition of Brecht and his importance is about the best explanation of “alienation” that I have read. His discussion of Shakespeare will make people who think the Bard pass&eacute sit up and take notice. The only drawback to the book is that the tone is a little too formal in its rhetoric, so sometimes pages have to be read and reread. Repetition, representation, assistance — that’s what it’s all about.

The theater department at Berkeley had a booksale where everything was $1. And so, after a self-imposed abstinence from the pleasure of buying books I went and bought not one, not two, but 17 books related to the theater. The trick is now to find a place in my bookshelf for them, since it’s completely full.

After the booksale I went for lunch, which was large and full of potatoes. After that I went to a reception for the groundbreaking of a new bioengineering building — since the Governor was attending, the catering was a notch or two above the Safeway carrot-and-celery platter. And they had Bogle wine, which I rather like.

Between all this buying and eating and eating I felt like I had expanded to epic proportions. The food will go away. But I think it’s high time I started the purge cycle of my reading bulemia…

Well, I slept on it, and when I woke up in the morning I didn’t want to destroy the whole site and replace it with a “under construction” sign. Saw Matrix II with my roommate last night in Emeryville. There’s this gigantic mall (open air, since it’s California), and nobody there. I mean, the place is huge, and it’s summer, so you would think the movie theater would at least have a line. The whole place felt like Disneyland, minus the huge scary walking cartoon characters. Which, incidentally, are usually women, even if the cartoon character is male. I’m not sure why that is, but oh well.

Maybe I will write something this weekend. Idle hands are the devil’s playground after all.

I’ve been mucking around with the stylesheets on this site, and have gotten little-to-nothing done for my prelim studying or research, or anything that would make me a useful human being. But basically, the system seems to work. Which is good, because I was half-afraid I was going to break it into tiny pieces. Added the reads section, and will probably add an eats section later. And maybe for some real nerding I’ll have a mini-research journal, but that seems a bit excessive. I’d have to make some more progress on my research.

Next on the agenda — the EWB website. I guess I need to learn CSS for real soon, or I’ll really be confused.

This is a slim novel that won Thornton Wilder a Pulitzer for fiction. It tells the stories of five people who lost their lives when an old vine-and-board bridge collapsed in Peru. The Marquesa, Esteban the copyist, and Uncle Pio are all inhabitants of Lima, and all are connected in ways which the book manages to reveal very gracefully. The best thing about it is that these relationships don’t seem at all forced, and so seem all the more truthful. The whole thing is framed as an attempt to “set the record straight” about who these people were, their secret dreams and aspirations, and how they all came to be on the bridge on that fateful day.

I’m going to have to reread Our Town and The Skin of our Teeth now, to see if there are similarities between those and this novel, maybe in style.

In a fit of impulse-shopping online I bought the domain name ergodicity.net and then decided to buy some hosting and put a site up. I wouldn’t expect too much of it though.

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