From Pesach to Easter

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From Pesach to Easter

The last two weeks marked two major events, which signify death and rebirth. The Jewish holiday Pesach, which is known as Passover in English, and which started on the 11th of April this year, commemorates events that are estimated to take place around 1450 B.C. years ago, when the Hebrew slaves left Egypt, guided by Moses. It happened after God inflicted ten plagues on the Egyptians. Before the last plague – the death of the firstborns, God instructed the Hebrews to mark the doorposts with the blood of a lamb. When the angel of death was on his way to do his job, he saw the markings and passed over (“pasach” in Hebrew) the Hebrews’ marked dwellings. As a result of the death of the Egyptians’ firstborns, the Hebrew slaves were reborn in the desert as a Jewish nation, but even there, after forty years of travelling, the old generation with a slavery mentality had to die, to be reborn as fighters, whose task was to capture the Promised Land. During the next generations this story was retold again and again every year during the celebration of Pesach for the Jews living in Palestine.

One of those events took place in Jerusalem probably between the years 30 A.D. and 33 A.D. After having the Passover meal (the last supper) with his friends, a Jewish teacher by the name Yehoshua (which means in Hebrew Savior), who was teaching about the end of the world and salvation, was arrested, tried and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged and finally crucified by the Romans, who attached sign on top of his cross stating “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The name Jesus Christ is the Greek translation of the Jewish name Yehoshua or Yeshua, and is equivalent, where Christ is Greek for anointed, mashiach or messiah in Hebrew. Many years later his teachings and stories were recorded in the four canonical gospels, referred in the New Testament Epistasis. It was claimed that three days after Jesus’s crucifixion, his body disappeared from the tomb and he had been seen alive. For almost two thousand years the death of the “Jewish King” led to the birth of a new religious tradition for non-Jews, followed by 2, 18 billion Christians in over 200 countries.

On April 16th was Easter Sunday, which commemorated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and was widely celebrated all over the world. There is a controversy about the name Easter that has its origin with the goddess of the Anglo-Saxons named Eostre. In French, Easter is Paques, in Italian it’s Pasqua, in many other languages the transliteration of the Greek word for Easter, Pascha. I found out about this in the story by R.R. Reno, which appeared in the April 15-16 Review of The Wall Street, titled “The Christian Passover”. Regardless of the name and how you celebrate, both holidays signify “death” of the winter and the “birth” of a new life – spring.

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P.S. In San Francisco one of the places to celebrate Easter is on the top of Mt. Davidson, the highest elevation, with incredible views on the city. I was there at 6 AM on Sunday morning. I wanted to share with you images of the gathering of hundreds of worshippers in front of the huge cross, which belongs to the Armenian Church and to witness death of the night and the birth of the new day (thankfully rain started after the festivities were over). Hope my four images will tell some story.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Life is a Game

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Life is a Game

“Life is a game, all you have to do is to know how to play it.” I thought about this quotation, by an unknown author while driving to Golden Gate Park with Leo, an eleven years young boy, and his mom. During our short acquaintance I found out that he is a straight A student, plays the drum, likes sports, has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, plays hockey and basketball and wants to be an architect, when he grows up. I was really looking forward to spending time with him. His mother expressed concern that Leo was spending too much time playing basketball on his cell phone. I had no idea what she was talking about until they arrived. Knowing his interest in basketball, I showed him photos of the basketball game I was invited to two years ago. When I opened my computer and showed him the images, he got excited. Leo knew about this particular game, recognized the players and shared a lot of trivia information, and about basketball in general. After lunch, Leo asked to use my computer to play a new game on the internet. This kept him busy for awhile. Any attempts to interrupt his game and to talk about anything else didn’t work.

It was a very pleasant afternoon and we decided to drive to Golden Gate Park to take a walk around the Stow Lake. This is a very beautiful area any time of the year, and Elfa and I often come here. Leo constantly held his cell phone with yet another basketball game and was not interested about the lake, since, he said, “it is dirty”. Jokingly, I told him that the fish are playing basketball there. “No, they are not”, he replied, since “there are no scores”. “Is playing the game not enough?” I asked. “No, he responded, you need to score”.

When we arrived at the lake, he wanted to stay in the car to keep playing. His mom encouraged him to get out because outside he can play yet another game – Pokemon on his cell phone. As we walked, It was showing every trail in the virtual reality and a person moving along. From time to time, he encounted spots which added to the scoring system. I pointed out a poodle on the road to him, and asked where it is on his phone. “It was not there when the game was designed”, he replied. How about those trees with the cluster of pine cones? The view of Downtown and the Golden Gate? How about the owl’s cooing at the top of the tree?” The game was not reflecting real life, regardless of how exact the GPS was showing the details on his cell phone. When we were back in the car, I mentioned that I am planning to write a story about life as a game, and Leo’s mother responded that it is not a game, since any game needs rules and there are no rules in real life. I think that there are rules, and we just need to learn them. After all, it was Mother Theresa who said, “Life’s a game, play it.”

Enjoy and Share.

P.S. The basketball game I attended on March 11, 2015 was between the San Francisco Patriots and the Detroit Pistons. I was invited to the VIP section by Chase Bank and was allowed to bring in a small camera though the security guard did not realize that it had a very long zoom lens. You can see four images from that experience. I made prints from three of them, and framed them as a present for Leo’s birthday. I am sure he will grow up as a very accomplished human being (perhaps an inventor of yet another game), and together with other kids from his generation, might even create new rules for the game we call life.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Hayes Valley

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Hayes Valley

It is difficult to imagine today, but the part of our city, which is now known as Hayes Valley, used to be known as the Mission Creek area, which included seasonal Hayes Creek. Hayes Valley would have been thickly covered with wildflowers every spring and the native people who belonged to the Ohlone Tribe and who lived in this area for 10,000 years, would come here to gather food. When it rained in the winter, Hayes Creek cut diagonally through the area that is currently Hayes Valley. The creek is now underground year-round. In the 1850s, the area became part of the Western Addition neighborhood, in an effort to expand the city to the West of Van Ness Avenue. In 1855, a committee was formed to name the streets of this development. One of the members named Michael Hayes has been instrumental in naming Hayes Street for his brother Thomas, a wealthy land owner. Another committee member, former milkman, Charles H. Gough, named the central street in Hayes Valley Octavia, in honor of his sister Octavia Gough. He also named parallel street Gough.

During 1950s, the area was part of an elevated section of the Central Freeway of U.S. Route 101, which was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. After the eventual demolition of the concrete monster, the neighborhood revitalized and became one of the trendier sections of San Francisco, with an eclectic mix of boutiques, high end restaurants and hip stores, as well as new apartment buildings along Hayes Street.

In the place where the concrete freeway used to be, the city built a neighborhood green area, and named it Patricia’s Green for Patricia Walkup, a local activist. There is a playground for children, sculptures and benches. On one side of Octavia Boulevard, there are residential buildings and on the other, resides a Biergarten and Smitten Ice Cream with a constant line of people. Further up, there is Loving Cup that sells great frozen yogurt and rice pudding. Young people are everywhere. One evening during the week, we tried to have dinner in the area without a reservation. We were lucky to find parking on Gough Street but had to walk five blocks before we found an available table at a restaurant. The area is close to the main performance venues of our city; Davis Symphony Hall Opera House, the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and a recent addition – the San Francisco Jazz Center. We are fortunate to live in an incredible and dynamic city.

Enjoy and Share.

P.S. I love to come here with my camera and to just hang out. I sometimes bring along a book and sit on the bench, indulging with some frozen yogurt. And of course, I encounter people who become my models. One of them, whom I photographed through a window, was reading “Cool Gray City of Love. 49 Views of San Francisco” by Gary Kamiya. It is a great book about San Francisco’s history, which I read while working on “42 Encounters in San Francisco.” Both books are available on Amazon.com. Meanwhile, enjoy the four portraits of people I encountered in Hayes Valley.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

When Is The Last Time You Visited The SFMOMA?

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When Is The Last Time You Visited The SFMOMA?

Our daughter Alona is an art adviser. She recently moved back to the Bay Area from Paris, but has to travel frequently to visit art shows and to meet with her clients. One of her destinations is New York. She arrived from there recently, and was literally at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) a few hours later, for the opening of the show where works of two masters were shown next to each other. French artist Henri Matisse, who was born in 1869 and died in Paris in 1954, and an American painter Richard Diebenkorn who was born in 1922 in Portland, Oregon and died in Berkeley, in 1993. Alona went back to the Museum the next day and encouraged us to see the show ASAP. I always liked the works of Matisse. Years ago, I saw an exhibit of his work, “The Cut- Outs” which he started creating in the late 40’s at the age of eighty, when he could not paint any more. For some strange reason those simple designs had a very strong emotional impact on me, and I even started crying. Richard Diebenkorn’s early works were associated with abstract expressionism. His later work was instrumental to his achievement of worldwide acclaim. What was remarkable in this exhibit at the SFMOMA, was to see works of those great masters side by side. Richard Diebenkorn often acknowledged the impact Matisse had on his thinking and practice of creating art.

Of course seeing only one large exhibit in the Museum would be enough, and since the exhibit is open until May 29,th we are planning to return during the week and to spend more time absorbing this remarkable art. However, there was also another interesting exhibit that I could not miss. The early works of the famous American photographer Diane Arbus, who lived and photographed in New York in the 50s and 60s. I’ve previously seen her later work, but seeing the beginning of her photographic journey, which are black and white images taken on the streets, encouraged me to keep shooting.

When the new SF MOMA opened to the public on May 14, 2016, it was a sensational event. The building was built to house an incredible collection of the modern art which belonged to the Fisher family, who made their fortune by owning the GAP Company, which they invested into art. According to Alona, this brought San Francisco on the level of the great world cities and we can see and experience an incredible world of art without travelling to other parts of the world. When you visit the museum, plan to have a meal at the café on the 5th floor in the Sculpture Garden and leave space for their delicious desserts.

Enjoy and Share.

P.S. As I’ve demonstrated to you before, visits to art shows for me, are an opportunity to create my own art by capturing the people and surroundings and sometimes self-portraits.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Summer of Love in March?

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Summer of Love in March?

“Be sure to wear a flower in your hair”, was the opening of the SF Chronicle Datebook article titled, “Summer of Love Far Out in S.F.”. The article shared that starting on Sunday, March 12th, there will be a celebration of the events, which took place in San Francisco in the summer of 1967. That “Summer of Love”, as many as 100,000 people, mostly young people dressed in hippie fashions gathered in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

These young people, who were sometimes called flower children, were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values, and opposed the Vietnam War. It was also a time when a large number of hippies traveled to California to hear their favorite bands such as The Who, The Grateful Dead, the Animals, Jefferson Airplane and others. Musician John Phillips of the band The Mamas & The Papas wrote the song, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”

We were not yet in San Francisco at that time. In 1967 we lived in Riga, Latvia. I was twenty, and my summer of love was with my soon-to-be wife, Elfa. We got married in August, 1967. Nevertheless, since it was our generation, the waves of the “dissidents”, according to the Soviet authorities, the hippie movement reached our shores as well; especially through contraband music records. Reading the article in the paper raised my hopes that, though I missed it fifty years ago, I will have a chance to participate in the celebration of the begotten era. What surprised me is that the event was planned to take place on Valencia Street. From my previous story on September 9th, 2016, you might remember that Valencia Street had very interesting history, but it has quite a distance from the center of the hippie movement in the Haight-Asbury.

The celebration of Summer of Love was hosted by the non-profit, It’s Your District and Sunday Street SF and was the first event in the series of celebrations through October 1st in other neighborhoods.

When I got there, I found that ten blocks of Valencia Street were closed from 16th to 26th Street. San Francisco knows how to celebrate, but this was not what I had expected. A lot of young people just strolled along the street gravitating to the shady side, since it was beautiful warm 70°F afternoon. Here and there, bands played rhythmic music, and some people danced. There were a multitude of children, dogs and a well-behaved crowd. A few policemen just strolled along, or were giving children police star stickers. Vendors who tried to sell hot dogs were not very busy, since all the local cafés and restaurants were filled. The owner of the local ice cream store Xanath Ice Cream was giving away free cones with the frozen yogurt to children and seniors (I got one). I only saw a few people of my generation (I photographed one, probably a former hippie, riding naked on a bicycle). It seems that for the new generation, the events that happened fifty years ago, are not relevant any more. The clothing style and taste of music has changed, and the generation of the former hippies probably got wise enough to know that “you cannot step into the same river twice”, which was coined by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who was born in 544 B.C.
Enjoy and Share.

P.S. I encountered a few people who wore a flower in their hair. Some of them were dressed up in elaborate costumes (except for the naked guy with a flower). I picked up four images to share with you.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature