Category Archives: Arts

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

Hummingbird. Photo: Steve Napoli
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LIVE OAK PARK’S 100TH BIRTHDAY North Berkeley’s first nature park, Live Oak Park, celebrates its 100th anniversary Saturday afternoon. The Live Oak Park Centennial Celebration and Ice Cream Social will include an old-time BYO community picnic and traditional games like croquet and three-legged races. Wavy Gravy and the Berkeley High Jazz Combo will be there. And, at 2:30 p.m., the 100 Dog March will see dogs and their companions ramble around the park’s perimeter. Everyone is encouraged to wear period costume, or at the very least a straw hat! The Berkeley Art Center is organizing outdoor art activities on the bridge that leads to the Art Center. The Live Oak Park Centennial Celebration is on Saturday Sept. 13, noon to 4 p.m., 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.
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Uncharted speakers just keep doing extraordinary things

Saru Jayaraman
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One of the thrills about putting together Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas 2014 is that our speakers keep doing extraordinary things. It’s hard to keep up. We have Nobelists, Pulitzer winners, and Grammy recipients. And more and more is happening in the run-up to Uncharted on Oct. 24-25!

We just wrote on Berkeleyside about astronomer Josh Bloom‘s $110 earthquake early warning alarm. It’s more than a clever bit of tinkering – it could herald a new era of safety devices for all of our homes.

Tanya Holland has just published her Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook, with a forward by Berkeley’s Michael Chabon who wrote that Holland and her Oakland restaurant are a way to “ponder the historical spirit of the city or skip straight to the fried chicken.” … Continue reading »

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Getting old in Berkeley (Old-Time Music, that is)

The Bucking Mules: one of the many bands performing at the Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention which kicks off next Tuesday. Photo: BOTMC
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In Berkeley everyone gets to be old, at least for a few glorious days.

The 11th annual Berkeley Old Time Music Convention, which runs from Tuesday Sept. 16 to Sunday Sept. 21 at venues around the city, presents some of the countries finest folkies, including young players who are finding their own voices in American roots music. The festival opens on Tuesday at the Pacific Film Archive with a screening of the documentaries “Banjo Tails” and “Musical Holdouts,” with both followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

With jam sessions, workshops, panel discussions, square dances and the famous Berkeley Farmers’ Market String Band Concert (first place: one bag of rutabaga; second place: two bags of rutabaga), the BOTMC offers many opportunities to experience the music. … Continue reading »

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Politics and prose are all in a day’s work for Erik Tarloff

Erik Tarloff. Photo: Terry Lorant
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When the bestselling author Erik Tarloff turned up for an interview at Berkeley’s Elmwood Café in July, he had left an empty house. His wife, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, the former economic advisor to President Bill Clinton and a professor at the Haas School of Business, was in Aspen consulting with U.S. leaders. Tarloff had remained behind at their Berkeley home as he prepared to depart for Stockbridge, Mass., where the Berkshire Theater Group was gearing up to perform his new play, “Cedars.”

This interplay between writing and politics has been a constant in Tarloff’s life, and one that seems to inform his writing. He was born in Los Angeles to screenwriting parents who were blacklisted in 1953 because of their affiliation with Communism. The family had to move to England so his father could find work. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘God Help the Girl’ and ‘Mobilize’

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Since 1996, Scottish musician Stuart Murdoch has earned a decent crust writing songs for his musical projects Belle and Sebastian and God Help the Girl. Now, apparently eager to further stretch his creative muscles, Murdoch has directed his first feature film, and it’s a winner.

Taking its title from the second of Murdoch’s pop outfits, God Help the Girl (opening at San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre on Friday, Sept. 12t – sadly, no Berkeley play dates are currently scheduled) is cinematically analogous to Murdoch’s best songs: bittersweet, literate, and wryly humorous in equal measure, it’s bound and determined to win over even the most curmudgeonly of hearts. … Continue reading »

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‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ fires up Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre

Rapture Blister Burn at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau … Betty Friedan … Phyllis Schlafly … Dr. Phil … feminists and anti-feminists are all fodder for amusing academic banter in Gina Gionfriddo’s engaging and entertaining Rapture, Blister, Burn now at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company through Oct. 5.

A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize, Rapture reunites a graduate school triangle after 12 years of separation — Catherine (Marilee Talkington), now a single, feminist scholar and author-cum TV talking-head in stiletto heels; Catherine’s former roommate, Gwen (Rebecca Schweitzer) a graduate school dropout, now a self-righteous, priggish wife and mother of two; and Gwen’s husband, who she snatched from Catherine while Catherine studied abroad, Don (Gabriel Marin), now a pothead, porn-watching, disciplinary college dean. … Continue reading »

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Recommended: 10 great recent books by Berkeley writers

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Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so.

So far as I can tell, people living in what has become my home town of Berkeley, California, have been writing an inordinate number of really good books in recent years. That’s probably because the town attracts creative people like . . . well, should I say, like flies? No, that wouldn’t fit.

For example, we have our own famous “Three Michaels” — Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker), and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma). They’re hardly alone. It’s tough to stumble into any corner coffee shop here and not find some future Pulitzer-winner hunched over a laptop and the coffee cup by her side that’s been empty all day. … Continue reading »

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

Date night
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DATE NIGHT — WITH THE KIDS! On Saturday, Sept. 6, parents can bring their kids on a date night. Yes, you read that right. The fun evening of entertainment and cocktails being held at the Kala Art Institute will benefit CEID, an innovative local school for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Parents get the cocktail date night where Lisa Rothman, a former producer and host for KPFA and KALW, will perform the one-woman show “Date Night at Pet Emergency,” while the kids attend the preschool’s pajama pizza party, learning sign language and meeting a service dog. Rothman says she’s doing the show as her way of saying thank you to the school which helped her son (who was born with a neurological disorder called apraxia) speak. Kala Art Institute, 2990 San Pablo Ave., 5:30-8:30 p.m. Show and cocktail reception, $60, pizza party for kids, $25. Advanced registration for childcare required. Tickets can be bought on Eventbrite. … Continue reading »

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Safra: The sound of coexistence at Berkeley’s Ashkenaz

Berkeley’s Jewish Middle Eastern ensemble Safra makes its Ashkenaz debut on Sunday
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If only coexistence was as easy in the Holy Land as it is on the bandstand. The East Bay ensemble Safra, which makes its Ashkenaz debut on Sunday, has developed a sumptuous body of Sephardic music drawn from North Africa’s intermingled musical traditions, combining Hebrew lyrics, Middle Eastern instrumentation, and popular melodies from the Middle East and beyond. The band’s vision isn’t so much utopian as a refraction of an increasingly riven region’s shared cultural heritage.

Launched in early 2013 by two Berkeleyans, vocalist Eliana Kissner and oud player John Ehrlich, Safra quickly took shape with the dynamic percussion tandem of Debbie Fier on dumbek, riqq and bendir, and

Susie Goldenstein on dumbek and riqq. For Sunday’s show, the quartet will be joined on violin, oud and percussion by the Bay Area’s great Moroccan musician Bouchaib Abdelhadi, a master of cross-cultural collaborations (Bruce Bierman teaches Yemenite dance before the concert). … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Mark Olivier’s Colusa Avenue beach trash sculpture garden

Capodillo at 1106 Colusa Avenue.  Photo: John Storey
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Colusa Avenue between Marin and Hopkins is not well traveled, but people who have heard about Mark Olivier’s incredible — as in unbelievable — front yard at 1118 Colusa often make a point to go there.

Olivier, a carpenter who found himself as a sculptor, has created a fantastical display from found objects. He walks the Albany Bulb and other beaches to collect trash, mostly plastic, that has washed up. He takes the trash home, sorts it in boxes and bins. And then the magic happens: unexpected animals and masks and figures and machines. … Continue reading »

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Stanley Kubrick’s early films offer rich rewards

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I’ve always been a little ambivalent about Stanley Kubrick. I never grokked the appeal of his science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), found much of A Clockwork Orange (1971) offensive (which was probably the point, but still), and — as much as the word ‘bravura’ could have been invented to describe the filmmaking displayed within it – The Shining (1980) has always left me cold.

On the other hand, there’s the enduring black comic brilliance of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Bomb (1964), the first-half perfection of Full Metal Jacket (1987), and the quiet, literate triumph that is Barry Lyndon (1975). Based on those three films alone, I consider myself a pretty big Kubrick fan.

The director’s early films, however, also offer rich rewards. Pacific Film Archive’s forthcoming series, ‘Eyes Wide: The Films of Stanley Kubrick’, provides film fans an opportunity to view the director’s complete works (thirteen features over a period of five decades) in (almost) chronological order. … Continue reading »

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

Berkeley based singer/songwriter and youth mentor Austin Willacy will perform at the Subterranean Arthouse on Saturday. Photo: www.austinwillacy.com
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THREESOME: ARTISTS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE The eye-catching title refers to an artistic trifecta — performance, visual, and literary. All three modes of expression will be squeezed onto one bill at the Subterranean Arthouse on Saturday, August 30. Berkeley based singer/songwriter Austin Willacy will perform, as will performance poet Graham Hackett, who goes by LoosiD. East Bay artist Laura VanDuren’s sculptures will be on view.  The show begins at 8 p.m. at 2179 Bancroft Ave. Tickets are $15-20. … Continue reading »

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Washing the blues away with Lavagem in Berkeley

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Everyone knows about Brazil’s famously exuberant carnival celebrations, which bring millions of people onto the streets for all-night samba-soaked revelry. In Salvador da Bahia, the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture, the Lavagem do Bonfim rivals carnival when it comes to communal celebration, though it’s not nearly as well known. On Sunday, the Casa de Cultura at San Pablo and Hearst is hosting a festival marking Brazilian Independence Day with a Lavagem inspired by the traditional blessing ceremony that culminates on the steps of the Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim after a long percussion-powered procession through Salvador. (Watch the video above to get a taste.)

The celebration opens in the morning with free dance classes and features performances on the main stage from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Lavagem procession and blessing takes place at 2 p.m. For Conceição Damasceno, the founder and guiding spirit of the Casa de Cultura, the ritual is more about staying connected to her Bahian heritage than with summoning the orixás, the syncretic deities of Candomblé that combine Yoruban and Catholic mysticism. … Continue reading »

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