Category Archives: Arts

The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Nancy Rubin in front of a poster showing one of her photographs that is included in a new group show at Abrams Clagxxx gallery. Photo: Courtesy
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PHOTOGRAPHY SHOW Berkeleyside contributing photographer Nancy Rubin’s work is among the pieces featured in a new group show at the Abrams Claghorn gallery. A reception for The Art of Seeing show takes place Saturday Dec. 10th, 5-7 p.m. at the gallery on Solano Avenue. See work also by Maria Budner, Mary Elliott, Leonard Farwell, Steve Haimovitz, Becky Jaffe, Zohra Kalinkowitz, Deborah Lichtman, Ann Low, Don Melandry, Aphra Pia, Emmy Randol, John Rice, Diane Rice, Nancy Rubin, Cliff Saunders, Monika Schrag, Larry Statan, Carol Thomas and Theresa Thomas. The gallery also offers many handmade items for sale in its gift section. Abrams Claghorn is at 1251 Solano Ave. Visit the gallery website for full information.

zineEAST BAY BOOK AND ZINE FEST The seventh annual East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest (EBABZ) is back in Berkeley, at the David Brower Center, on Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Meet, support, trade and see how much our community has grown since last year’s event. EBABZ is an all-volunteer-run/organized event. Sadly, Ara Jo, its main organizer, was killed in the Ghost Ship fire. All funds go towards paying “featured workshop instructors, panelists, lecturers and worker bees who strive to uphold a safer space of information and ideas!” Find information on the EBABZ Facebook event page. … Continue reading »

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A ritual for Theresa Hak Kyung Cha at BAMPFA

Dohee Lee performs a ritual for the late artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha on Tuesday as part of BAMPFA's "Full:Adapt" program. Photo by Pak Han.
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Though Theresa Hak Kyung Cha spent her formative years in Berkeley, the innovative Korean-American artist is most often associated with New York City. It’s where she made an indelible impression as a polyglot writer in the early 1980s, and where her life was so cruelly cut short by a depraved rapist.

On Tuesday Dec. 13, Oakland performance artist Dohee Lee presents a ritual at BAMPFA “to bring her spirit back to her home,” she says. Part of the museum’s monthly series focusing on experimental music and performance that coincides with the full moon, Full:Adapt also features a performance by Congolese-born San Francisco choreographer Byb Chanel Bibene’s Kiandanda Dance Theater and taiko drummer Jimi Nakagawa.

Cha is best known for 1982 book Dictee, a wildly ambitious and unsettled work often inadequately characterized as a novel. With an array of fleeting characters including Joan of Arc, the Greek goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, and the Korean revolutionary Yu Guan Soon, the book was influenced by the experimental film and video work Cha did during her years at UC Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley lawyer on the secret to avoiding lawsuits

Lainey Feingold
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Lainey Feingold is a long-time Berkeley resident, a disability civil-rights lawyer, and an author. She has worked with the blind community for more than two decades to increase access to information and technology. Feingold, her co-counsel, and clients have negotiated deals with Bank of America, Major League Baseball, CVS, the City of San Francisco and dozens of others – all without filing a single lawsuit. Now she tells the story of how that happened – and how others can use her method — in her new book, Structured Negotiation, a Winning Alternative to Lawsuits.

Berkeleyside recently caught up with Feingold to learn more about her work and her new book.

 What is Structured Negotiation and why did you want to write a book about it?

Structured Negotiation is a way to resolve legal disputes without lawsuits. I’ve used the process for 20 years so I know that it is capable of achieving great results. My cases focus on digital and information access for blind people – things like accessible websites and mobile applications, talking prescription labels, accessible pedestrian signals, and Talking ATMs. But the process is suitable for other types of claims as well. The method is cost-effective, builds relationships, and avoids so much of the conflict and stress that is part of a typical lawsuit.

Lawsuits play a very important role in society, and they are an important tool in any advocate’s toolbox. I wrote my book to offer advocates and lawyers another tool. … Continue reading »


Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Old Stone’, ‘Fire at Sea’

Gang Chen in Johnny Ma's 'Old Stone'
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Over the last few decades the term ‘film noir’ has been increasingly misused. Where once it represented a distinct type of story – one in which the central character finds him or herself trapped in a predicament not entirely of their own making – it’s since been applied to routine police procedurals, gothic thrillers, and any film (especially those filmed in black and white!) with a suspenseful and tricksy plot.

Director Johnny Ma’s Lao Shi (Old Stone), opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Dec. 9) is a noir in the original sense. Coming as a total surprise (and really coming out of nowhere), it’s also one of the best films of the year.

Gang Chen plays the title character, a taxi driver who runs into a motorcyclist when a drunken passenger distracts him. Though the accident wasn’t exactly his fault, Lao finds himself caught up in a maze of trouble in which the police, the victim’s family, their insurance company, and the jerk responsible for the accident unintentionally conspire to make his life impossible.

Gang delivers the understated performance of the year as Lao Shi, whose personification of sadness and regret summoned memories of Carlo Battisi’s unforgettable Umberto D in Vittorio De Sica’s 1952 film of the same name. De Sica’s film, of course, was neo-realism not noir, but Umberto D’s plight would certainly fit comfortably in the noir realm. … Continue reading »


Photos: The early days of Berkeley’s now-gone Print Mint

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When the Reprint Mint closed in late November, Telegraph Avenue and Berkeley lost another portal to our past. It was an important cultural institution for more than 50 years.

Don and Alice Schenker opened the Print Mint as a picture-framing shop on Telegraph Avenue in 1965. … Continue reading »

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Kronos Quartet’s ‘Strange Fruit’ Saturday at Zellerbach

Kronos Quartet--John Sherba, Sunny Yang, Hank Dutt and David Harrington-- perform at Zellerbach Hall on Saturday.  Photo by Jay Blakesberg.
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Kronos Quartet lives in the vanguard. The celebrated San Francisco string ensemble returns to Zellerbach Hall Saturday for a Cal Performances concert with three new works from Fifty for the Future, a program that turbo charges the group’s longtime practice of commissioning and presenting music by young composers.

But the emotional centerpiece of Saturday’s concert is likely to be the Bay Area premiere of ‘Strange Fruit,’ a song that was written and recorded before any members of Kronos were born. Arranged by trombonist Jacob Garchik, a gifted New York-based improviser and composer who’s collaborated widely with Kronos over the past decade, the anti-lynching anthem made famous by Billie Holiday has taken on a new resonance.

Berkeleyside recently caught up with Kronos violinist David Harrington just after he returned from a European tour, where the quartet performed the arrangement in Warsaw as the third encore “in a program of music written by Jewish composers,” Harrington said. “I introduced it saying that in my opinion this song is right at the center of most of the problems that exist in our country.” … Continue reading »

KPFA honors Phil Elwood, jazz critic, pioneering disc jockey

Phil Elwood on the job at KPFA. The station dedicates the Phil Elwood Music Library on Saturday, before airing a documentary about his legacy at 2 p.m.
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FM radio was an obscure broadcasting technology when Phil Elwood started sending out jazz over the airwaves on KPFA, a station that was just three years old when he came on board in 1952.

On Saturday afternoon the station honors one of its foundational voices when the Phil Elwood Music Library is dedicated to the late disc jockey before an 80-minute radio documentary about Elwood’s legacy airs at 2 p.m. It’s a labor of love spearheaded by Elwood’s son, Berkeley resident Josh Elwood, who has been taking care of his father’s vast archive of interviews, articles and broadcasts. Elwood died at the age of 79 in January 2006, just one month after his wife Audrey.

A radio pioneer, Elwood was one of the first people to spin jazz records on an FM station when he started his “Jazz Archive” program on KPFA in 1952, a weekly show that ran until 1996. The son of UC Berkeley agriculture professor Clifford Franklin Elwood, he was a proud Berkeleyan who graduated from Berkeley High in 1943. He earned a history degree from Cal, served in the Navy, and spent several decades teaching history at Albany High (the great jazz singer Denise Perrier was one of his students). … Continue reading »

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Storyteller Joel ben Izzy has new book on Hanukkah (or Channukah or Chhhanukah or Chanaykayah)

Joel Ben Izzy
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Joel ben Izzy has been regaling audiences around the globe for years with his delightful stories, many with a Jewish twist. A graduate of Stanford University and a long-time Berkeley resident, ben Izzy brings humor and pathos to the tales he spins. He has performed and led workshops in 35 countries (he is also a story consultant, helping companies and organizations better tell their own stories), and his six recorded story collections have garnered numerous awards.

Ben Izzy wrote his first book, The Beggar King and the Secret to Happiness, after he  unexpectedly lost his voice, threatening his career. Now he has written a fictionalized prequel of sorts geared to middle-school kids 10 and over. (Although it is a fun read for adults, too). Ben Izzy will be talking about Dreidels on the Brain all around the Bay Area in December (just in time for Hanukkah, which is spelled every which way in the book) with his first appearance Thursday at Books, Inc. in Berkeley at 7:00 p.m. Berkeleyside caught up with the author before his book tour began.

You have been a teller of stories for more than 30 years, mostly in oral form. You wrote one book for adults, The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness. Why did you decide to write a book for kids over 10?

For one thing, I love telling stories to kids that age, when there is so much at stake. I wanted a chance to go back to that time, when I was miserable and confused, wondering whether I should believe in magic or miracles or anything at all.

Dreidels on the Brain is also something of a prequel to my first book. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness is a memoir, set in modern times, based on the true story of the journey that began when I awoke from surgery to discover I could no longer speak. That book included a couple forays into my childhood and the stories of my family — my mother’s smile, my father’s inventions and my grandmother’s insanity. Readers told me they wanted to hear more, the story behind the story.

Technically, Dreidels on the Brain is a novel, or perhaps a “fictionalized memoir.”  Because it’s set in 1971, when I was 12, it’s now considered “Historical fiction.” Oy! I was going for “Hysterical fiction,” but what can you do? … Continue reading »

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Berkeley author shines light on nature on our doorsteps

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Berkeley-based author Nathanael Johnson’s book Unseen City was published in April, but its subject matter — the close examination of, and appreciation for, the nature that directly surrounds us — has provided him with particular comfort in the past few weeks.

“I’ve been finding peace by focusing intently on the life in front of my nose these days — there’s some relief in knowing that the antics of ants will continue even if the antics of a certain chaos president leads to global nuclear war!” he said a few days ago.

Scroll down to read an excerpt from Unseen City and for a chance to win a copy of the book by sharing your local nature photos.

Johnson will be giving a free public talk about his book Wednesday Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m., at a Shaping San Francisco event at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics on Valencia Street.

Unseen City‘s subtitle provides a good descriptor of what the father of two and food writer at Grist set out to achieve with this, his second book: “The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness.”

The idea for Unseen City came to Johnson  when he realized he couldn’t teach his then toddler-age first daughter the names of many local trees, as he didn’t know them himself. He decided he would explore the natural world on his doorstep with his daughter and write a field guide about it, grounded in their observations, and drawing on the help of experts. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Rainbows!

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Editors — Berkeleyside readers have been sharing some wonderful photographs of rainbows with us recently, so we thought it was timely to publish this Quirky Berkeley post.

Tom Dalzell: I roughly divide my posts into two groups. First, a major manifestation is a collection of photos taken at a single location. Second, an aggregation is a collection of photos taken around town. Presented here is an aggregation, a few of the many photographs of depictions of rainbows that I have collected in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Arts Festival space closes; Jake Shandling is back

Priced out of Oakland, Jake Shandling returns to Jupiter on Saturday.
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No one expected the Berkeley Arts Festival space to last as long as it did. The storefront venue, at 2133 University Ave., opened in the summer of 2011, the latest in a string of found spaces procured by Bonnie Hughes that have enlivened Berkeley’s arts scene with a steady flow of musical performances, classes, theater and dance.

Several weeks ago, word came down that construction of the 205-unit Acheson Commons apartment complex is ready to proceed, and the venue’s final performance takes place 8:30 p.m. Monday with the premiere of Oakland saxophonist/composer Phillip Greenlief’s “Index,” a conducted improvisation featuring the sprawling OrcheSperry.

Over the past five years Greenlief has performed in the rough-hewn room in a wide array of settings, while also coordinating shows by an improbably impressive array of touring artists. “I feel so lucky I’ve been able to book things there,” Greenlief says. “A lot of people are still on the road trying to promote the music. You can’t always get a gig at SFJAZZ, Yoshi’s or Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a space. It’s been golden. In the best sense of the word it’s a great community space, so low key and informal.” … Continue reading »


Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Seasons’

Lynx on the loose in 'Seasons'
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Wildlife documentaries used to be fun and educational diversions: while watching cute animals frolic in the wilderness, you also got to learn about the magical ‘circle of life’ that made all that frolicking possible. Well, unless it was a Werner Herzog wildlife documentary — then you got to see the food chain in action, up to and including human beings. But I digress.

Alas, those happy days are long gone, and such films now trigger nothing but feelings of dread and ennui in your scribe’s tender heart. In the middle of our planet’s sixth period of mass extinction – a period for which human beings themselves are responsible — how is it possible to enjoy up-close-and-personal footage of guileless bear cubs and innocent squirrels without feeling more than a twinge of guilt?

Despite it all, filmmakers Jacques Cluzaud and Jacques Perrin have managed to make a wildlife documentary suitable for the 21st century. Previously responsible for 2001’s Oscar nominated Winged Migration, the duo’s newest feature, Les Saisons (Seasons) opens at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Nov. 25.

At first, Seasons appears to be a fairly typical cinematic paean to nature – and it’s certainly possible to enjoy it on those terms. But there’s also a message about the Anthropocene era that becomes clearer as things proceed. … Continue reading »


Author Jeff Chang: Is resegregation the unexamined issue of our time?

Jeff Chang will be speaking Nov. 29 at Berkeley Arts & Letters. Photo: Jeremy Keith Villaluz
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Hours after Donald Trump was elected president, UC Berkeley students and others took to the streets to protest a man they felt was unsuited to lead the United States. The next day, 1,500 Berkeley High students walked out of school. Across the country, thousands of people rallied against Trump and what they saw as his racist, sexist, divisive message that blamed immigrants and people of color for this country’s woes.

In his new collection of essays, We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, Bay Area author, hip-hop historian, and director of the Stanford University Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Jeff Chang reports on and examines the unrest that has exploded onto the streets in the past couple of years. (Chang was also appeared at the Berkeleyside-produced Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas in 2014, in conversation with Berkeley author Adam Mansbach).

Chang’s new book, according to the publisher’s description, “links #BlackLivesMatter to #OscarsSoWhite, Ferguson to Washington D.C., the Great Migration to resurgent nativism. Chang explores the rise and fall of the idea of “diversity”, the roots of student protest, changing ideas about Asian Americanness, and the impact of a century of racial separation in housing. He argues that resegregation is the unexamined condition of our time, the undoing of which is key to moving the nation forward to racial justice and cultural equity.”

Chang will be appearing at the Hillside Club Nov. 29 as part of the Berkeley Arts & Letters series. In advance of his talk, Evan Karp, the organizer of the series, asked Chang about his concept of ‘resegregation’ and other matters.

Evan Karp, Berkeley Arts & Letters: I was preparing for our event and then the election went down, and, like many people, I’m left with a lot of complex questions and anxieties. But if I had to boil it down to one question it would be: what now? To be more specific: how do the election results change the conversation on race (generally) and resegregation (as you describe it)? … Continue reading »

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