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Stateside With Rosalea: Arts Edition

Movie Review: "Pearl Harbour"
Blam Blam Blam. There are no Hawaiians in Hawa'i'i.

Music Review: The Pinkos on KALX
Anyone old enough to remember Zwines nightclub in Auckland (or even the classic Blams' melody alluded to above) is by definition a boring old fart well past the use-by date punks had stamped onto their foreheads back in the late 1970s. But punk still lives and in the Pinkos has transmogrified into a band with no bass. The singer-songwriter of the group, Vanessa Veselka, is a union organiser and she plays acoustic guitar. The only other band member is Steve Moriarty, who plays drums and sings backup. Their debut CD is on eMpTy records, which said of the Pinkos' earlier EP that their songs "address politics and raw emotionalism with a smirking wit and poetic poignancy." I'm so rejuvenated by their music that later in the week I yell out "Yeah, Bob Dylan!" when someone asks at a staff birthday party who else has a birthday that day. People look at me askance. I am punk again.

Theatre Review: The Misanthrope at Il Teatro 450, SF
Sunday night I set out to see the Pinkos live at the Covered Wagon in San Francisco, thinking I might catch "Dirty Blonde" - a play about friends who idolise Mae West - beforehand. Serendipity being what it is I happen to get into a BART train carriage where someone has left Friday night's Time Out newspaper supplement, and something else catches my eye instead. "Moliere's classic comedy is set in 1950s Hollywood" it says of "The Misanthrope", being performed by Women in Time. The theatre is at 449 Powell Street, in one of the more salubrious parts of the city and, of course, I can't find it so I go and ask the doorman at the Sir Francis Drake hotel, which seems to be 450.

Il Teatro 450 is across the road, in an old office building and it reminds me of Bats Theatre in Wellington. The same small lobby space made the most of, the small audience space - in fact it's in a worse state of disrepair in the sense that up two flights of stairs, where the conveniences are, there is actually a mushroom growing out of the carpet where the fire hose drips. The adjoining office spaces seem to be used by drama studios and when a series of very loud "F*** you!"s in various experimental tones come booming down to where I'm waiting for the doors to open, the person sitting next to me raises his eyebrows and says: "Drama. Modern. David Mamet, perhaps.", in response to my raised eyebrows and best guess: "Audition? Sopranos." It turns out he's the theatre cricket for the Examiner, and he laughs heartily throughout the show, so I hope he gave it a good review.

The production is damned good. It is staged very simply, and uses the cunning device of a tv set with its back to the audience for the housekeeper, Basque, to watch as he tidies away the props while the actors change for the next scenes. It's the sound that's used - old tv commercials, sitcoms, and live congressional hearings from the 50s - that particularly place it in that era, along with the costumes and the drinks cart. Unfortunately for me, I spent a good part of the play trying to figure out when the Hollywood Ten would appear. This is because the programme "Notes from the Director's Desk" go into the story of the McCarthy hearings and their effect on Hollywood in great depth. Of course the connection is that "The Misanthrope" is about the disastrous effects saying what you truly think can have on your personal relationships and career, but I'm too much of a theatre dunce to realize that. Great acting. Don't miss.

Book review: "Squibob: An Early Californian Humorist"
Leaving the theatre I realise it's nearly 11pm, and I become a little uneasy about walking to Folsom St, where the Pinkos have probably already played their set. I don't know if it was always so, but now that the horse police patrol on Market Street has started shooing the homeless and the drug dealers out of that part of town the side streets, like Powell, have sprouted their own mushrooms, so to speak. If only the Grand Central Rail Road that Lt. George Horatio Derby surveyed from Kearney St to Folsom St back in the 1850s existed I wouldn't have had to walk those mean streets.

Even if you've never heard of Lt. Derby you've probably read stuff by someone who emulated his style and admired him greatly - Mark Twain. Under the pen name of 'Squibob' - and later, after someone stole that from him and used it in a rival SF paper, 'John Phoenix' - Derby wrote the most appallingly funny newspaper columns during his time in California in the 1850s. At one point, standing in as editor of the San Diego Herald while the real editor was up in Ess Eff, Derby persuaded practically the whole county to vote for the Whig candidate for Governor instead of for the Democrat for whom the real editor had been out to bat for months previous. Derby enraged the army - he was a topographical engineer surveying for dams and railroads - by, among other things, sending them countless drawings of the ridiculous uses to which a ridiculous change in their uniforms could be put to.

Also while taking advantage of holding the reins at the San Diego Herald for six weeks, he put out a pictorial edition using the little printers 'icons' to tell stories such as great sea battles - setting a whole row of ships of varying sizes horizontally and then the final one vertically. Later, writing in Ess Eff again, he lampooned the money that was being spent on surveying a railroad route he yearned to be working on, by writing his story about surveying the Grand Central Rail Road in San Francisco. Derby died of a 'softened brain' just one month after the Civil War began in 1861.

I haven't been to see "Pearl Harbour", but in not one of the hours and hours of television 'news' from Disney's ABC or other networks, nor in the screes and screes of information about this 'much-awaited entertainment event' is any mention made whatsoever of the people who had a 2,000-year-old civilisation in place on those islands until a small clique of Eastern United States' businessmen persuaded the US Congress to annex Hawaii in 1898. Neither the indigenous people nor the plantation labour, brought in largely from Japan, were given the vote. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii wasn't yet a state.

The hype is enough to make even the veterans balk. As Al Neuharth, "USA Today" founder, and one of 50 'old folks' saluted in "Album of Memories" by NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw - which tops the list of books about the generation that fought in WWII - said in this weekend's USA Today: too much is enough.

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