Category Archives: Arts

Want to know about the Grateful Dead? Go back to school

Grateful Dead play Greek Theatre Berkeley. Photo- Ken Friedman
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References to the Grateful Dead are everywhere — on pints of Cherry Garcia ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, or at the San Francisco Giants’ Jerry Garcia Night.

The late lead singer has “become this sort of cross between Santa Claus and Smokey the Bear, this kind of patron saint in many ways,” said Peter Richardson, a lecturer in humanities at San Francisco State University.

But behind these watered-down homages and caricatures is a complicated and unlikely story — one that Richardson explores both in a book due out in January, and at a new course beginning October 1 at UC Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). … Continue reading »

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‘Art and Craft': Spotlight on the life of an art counterfeiter

riff-2014 - Art and Craft - Still hi-res
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In his cheeky 1973 documentary F for Fake, Orson Welles related the words of one of the world’s foremost art counterfeiters: “Do you think I should confess? To what? Committing masterpieces?” You can see his point: the greatest counterfeiters have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of patrons and museums around the world. They must be doing something right.

Mark Landis belongs to this special class of human beings. A man who spent decades replicating artwork from the old masters to Dr. Seuss, Landis’ unusual talent is highlighted in Art and Craft, an engrossing feature opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Oct. 3. … Continue reading »

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Going blind and deaf will not defeat Rebecca Alexander

Rebecca Alexander writes about losing her sight and hearing in her new book, Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found. She is holding her mini goldendoodle, Olive.
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Rebecca Alexander’s world is slowly getting a little darker and quieter.

Every day, she loses a little sight. And a little hearing. But the 35-year-old athlete, spin teacher, therapist and new author refuses to let the shutting down of her senses defeat her.

Alexander suffers from Usher Syndrome type III, a rare genetic disorder that leaves most people deaf and blind by the time they are in their 40s. Alexander, who will be speaking about her new book Not Fade Away at Head Royce School on Monday, Sept. 29, and Books, Inc. on Fourth Street in Berkeley on Tuesday, Sept. 30, now has only about 10% of her vision left. She can see directly in front of her, but has no peripheral vision. It’s like “the end of one of those old Warner Bros. cartoons on TV, where Bugs Bunny sits in the center of the screen waving goodbye as the picture becomes an increasingly smaller hole, until it’s finally gone, leaving only blackness. That’s all, folks,” she writes in the book. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Mark Bulwinkle’s steel artworks

"Quirky Berkeley"
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For more than 40 years, Mark Bulwinkle has lived life on his own terms, doing what he wants to do every day with a unique artistic vision, a welder’s torch, and a Yankee work ethic. His art, especially his cut-steel sculptures, add a genius quirkiness to Berkeley.

Bulwinkle grew up in a house on the Boston Post Road in Weston, Massachusetts. Weston is the wealthiest suburb of Boston and has the highest per capita income in Massachusetts. When Bulwinkle was young, Weston had one of the highest ranked public school systems in Massachusetts.

Next stop for Bulwinkle was the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a BFA in 1968. Pittsburgh impressed Bulwinkle — something about that steel. He describes being in Pittsburgh after a bucolic childhood in Massachusetts as like being on Mars. He then earned a Masters in Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972, focusing on printmaking. He liked San Francisco. He describes it as appearing to a boy from Weston, Massachusetts as “the thirteenth moon of Pluto.” … Continue reading »

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Announcing: The Uncharted Ideas Festival 2014 program

Uncharted 2013-3
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Berkeleyside is excited to reveal the program for the second annual Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas. The festival takes place on Friday Oct. 24 and Saturday Oct. 25 at the Berkeley Rep and the Freight & Salvage in downtown Berkeley, with a cocktail party in the middle at the University Club on top of the Cal Memorial Stadium. You may already have heard about some of the incredible speakers festival-goers will get the chance to meet. Today we announce the full program and schedule. Tickets for the two days are available early-bird rate of $290 ($100 less than 2013 prices) until Oct. 6 at Full schedule and venue details, as well as speaker biographies, are also listed there. … Continue reading »

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Meow Meow does sophisticated cabaret at Berkeley Rep

International singing sensation Meow Meow is flanked by her two dancing boys Michael Balderrama (left) and Bob Gaynor (right) in the world premiere of An Audience with Meow Meow at Berkeley Rep.

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As the curtain opens, the Australian multitalented and internationally admired artist, Melissa Madden Gray, known as Meow Meow, sparkles and shimmers sitting high above the stage in an elaborately feathered get-up. Then, in the first few minutes, as smoke from her cigarette amusingly wafts out of the cigarette-less side of her face, we understand that we’re witnessing much more than a traditional song and dance act.

An Audience with Meow Meow is more like a comedy of the absurd, a burlesque, with physical comedy at the beginning and some sober and somber moments at the end. A large part of the charm of the performance is trying to figure out where Meow Meow is heading. So I don’t want to give too much away. … Continue reading »

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‘Jealousy': Beautifully shot, affecting and to the point

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Sometimes a one-word title doesn’t tell you much about a film, but sometimes — Todd Solondz’ 1998 feature Happiness, of course, being a prime example — that single word can be downright duplicitous. For better or worse, truth in advertising laws don’t apply to the movie business, and a one-word moniker can lead even the canniest of viewers astray.

And then, of course, there are films like Philippe Garrel’s La Jalousie (Jealousy). Opening on Friday, Sept. 26 at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, Jealousy’s title bluntly describes exactly what you’re about to see on screen, in all its painful glory.

Jealousy begins with a heartbreaking close-up of a woman learning that her man is about to leave her. Trembling slightly, tears rolling down her cheeks, she is Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant); he, Louis (director’s son Louis Garrel) a tousle-headed stage actor with a mop of dark curls and a way with the ladies. … Continue reading »

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

Coastal cleanup day is Saturday Sept. 20 -- a chance to help keep our local coastal areas beautiful. Photo: Clean Water Program
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COASTAL CLEAN UP DAY On Saturday Sept. 20 citizens throughout Alameda County will join volunteers worldwide for the 29th annual Coastal Cleanup Day. Last year the international event drew close to 650,000 participants in 92 countries, who picked up more than 12.3 million pounds of trash, according to the Ocean Conservancy. To help Alameda County residents find an event near them, the Clean Water Program Alameda County has compiled a list of local creek and shoreline cleanup events organized by its member cities and agencies. Visit Clean Water Program online for details of how to get involved.  Continue reading »

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Review: Maya Lin at Berkeley’s David Brower Center

Portrait of Maya Lin, photo credit Walter Smith
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Art/Act: Maya Lin – an exhibition of environmentally themed sculpture and interactive work by the internationally known Chinese-American artist, architectural designer and creator of the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, D.C. (1982) — opens at the David Brower Center in Berkeley on Friday, Sept. 19.

Lin’s show is something of a coup for the Brower, and a rare opportunity for Bay Area residents to experience her current work on their home turf.

Lin created her landmark piece at age 21 while still an undergraduate in architectural studies at Yale, having won a competition against 1,441 other submissions. In subsequent years, she has directed her vision toward projects — often site specific sculptures and earthworks — with environmental themes. … Continue reading »

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‘The Zero Theorem:’ Terry Gilliam’s twisted brain on view

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The very first new release I ever reviewed for Berkeleyside was Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Released in January 2010, it was Gilliam’s best effort in a while – and now, four years later, he’s finally completed a feature follow-up, which (while not quite being up to Imaginarium’s standards) will still satisfy the director’s many rabid fans.

Opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, Sept. 19, The Zero Theorem once again allows viewers to explore Gilliam’s decidedly twisted brain, a cavernous place resembling a slightly surreal dystopia of the near future, or, perhaps, a parallel universe of the now. It’s also a place not so very far from the one seen in the director’s 1985 classic Brazil. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s own return to town to perform jazz the LA way

UCLA Charles Mingus Ensemble
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You’ll rarely get an argument on the streets of Berkeley by disparaging Los Angeles. While oft-maligned as a cultural wasteland, LA actually boasts a vast, vibrant and well-entrenched cultural scene that continues to draw the East Bay’s sons and daughters, particularly standout players from Berkeley High’s vaunted jazz program. On Sunday, several recent BHS graduates return from the Southland to perform at Freight & Salvage with the UCLA Charles Mingus Ensemble under the direction of composer James Newton.

Originally created as part of a class that Newton teaches as a professor of ethnomusicology in UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music (he’s arguably the most celebrated jazz flutist of the past four decades and a longtime collaborator with Berkeley percussionist/bandleader Anthony Brown), the group took on an identity of its own during a tour of Macedonia and Kosovo earlier this year. … Continue reading »

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What will Oakland food scene look like in 10 years?

Leo Foster, pastry student at Laney College. Photo: Andrew Ellis
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Andrew Ellis has a new book coming out called Oakland: New Urban Eating. Or at least he hopes he does, if he can crowd-source enough money to start printing it (the Kickstarter campaign ends on Sept. 24 and is not far from its $5,000 goal). Ellis, an ethnographer and also a talented photographer, talked to Berkeleyside NOSH about the project which promises to shed light on many of the lesser known Oakland food spots as well as those that tend to hog the limelight.

What led you to create this book?

The concept began as a simple cookbook project between a couple of friends over drinks in an Uptown bar back in August 2012. At the time, I was working for a strategic consulting firm in San Francisco called Collective Invention as a researcher and designer. We brought our clients, usually educational organizations, into the “future” by looking at current trends across diverse sectors, interviewing experts, and then creating plausible scenarios of a world they might soon be living in.

There was always this question posed about what their sector (and the world) might look like in say, 10 or 20 years down the road. I decided to pose this same question to the folks I was interviewing out in the Oakland food scene. The city seemed to be changing so rapidly that I could already imagine my book being dated by the time it came out. Creating a book as an artifact in time during this transformation with a kind of “futurist” perspective made the most sense. … Continue reading »

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Be knocked out by people you don’t know at Uncharted

3 speakers:
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When Berkeleyside unveils the detailed program of Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas 2014 next week, we know people will look for the names they recognize. Here’s a pro tip: the best speakers, the ones likely to knock you out, are almost invariably the ones you didn’t know.

Buy your tickets now to take advantage of the early bird price. Only two weeks before prices go up!

Take Mina Girgis (pictured top right) whose Nile Project will be performing at Cal Performances in February. Girgis has brought together more than a dozen instrumentalists and singers from Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda to bridge cultures, traditions and politics. And their music highlights the environmental and societal challenges along the world’s longest river. … Continue reading »

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