Category Archives: Arts

Big Screen Berkeley: The Cranes Are Flying

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Tbilisi is the capital city of the republic of Georgia – one of the pawns in what is now being touted by some (including Mikhail Gorbachev) as a ‘new cold war’. Previously known as Tiflis, Tbilisi was the 1903 birthplace of Soviet filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov and the youthful stomping grounds of one Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili, also known as Joseph Stalin.

Stalin would become one of history’s greatest monsters, while Kalatozov’s greatest film would only be made possible by the dictator’s death in 1953. Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying) plays at Pacific Film Archive at 5:30pm on Friday, Nov. 28 as part of the series ‘Discovering Georgian Cinema’, and remains a classic of the post-Stalin era – the only Soviet film, in fact, to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? The city’s hidden murals

Osha Newmann mural, Trinity Methodist Church; photo John Storey
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Murals are usually front and center, loud and clear, impossible to miss. In my systematic wandering of Berkeley, I have come across several hidden murals. Murals in and of themselves are quirky, and the fact that a mural is not easily seen makes it even more quirky.

In addition to the previously published Jane Norling mural that was originally painted in San Francisco and now can be seen if you peek over her Berkeley fence, I have found three (or four, depending how you count) hidden murals.

The first, “Winds of Change,” appears on what used to be the eastern wall of the Co-Op Credit Union on University Avenue. The Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley, which we knew simply as the Co-Op, operated from 1939 until 1988. In its prime, it was the largest cooperative of its kind in the United States or Canada. The University Avenue store was opened in 1937 by the Berkeley Buyers’ Club, an organization founded by members of the Upton Sinclair-inspired End Poverty in California. The Co-Op closed in 1988 as a result of financial and internal governance disputes. … Continue reading »

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Swinging through Venezuela with the VNote in Berkeley

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The music of Venezuela is one of the great cultural treasures of the Americas, a fabulously verdant tradition in which the intermingling of indigenous, European and African influences has yielded a vivid array of musical forms. No-one has done more to spread awareness of these riches than Jackeline Rago, a percussion expert and master of the diminutive four-string cuatro, Venezuela’s national instrument. Her longtime band, the VNote Ensemble, celebrates the release of a beautiful new album Urbano at the California Jazz Conservatory on Friday.

A quartet featuring Donna Viscuso on flute and harmonica, bassist Sam Bevan, and percussionist Michaelle Goerlitz, VNote has honed a sumptuously syncopated body of work integrating modern jazz with folkloric Venezuelan forms such as joropo and merengue (not to be confused with the popular Dominican dance style). One reason that Venezuelan songs and grooves haven’t gotten much traction outside the country is that until recently the nation’s musicians tended to stay home.

“Venezuela is a country where people consume what they produce, including music,” Rago says. “Our artists are famous within the country, and we’re really proud of our musical roots. It’s something like Brazil or Cuba on a smaller scale. But meeting a Venezuelan musician outside of the country is rare, because there are few of us here.” … Continue reading »

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Like Terrence Malick? Make time for ‘The Better Angels’

The Better Angels
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Are you an admirer of Terrence Malick? If so, you’ll definitely want to make time for The Better Angels, a black-and-white tone poem reflecting the best and worst of the director’s style opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Nov. 21. If, on the other hand, you don’t have much time for his frequently meandering efforts, you can probably give it a miss.

Written and directed by A.J. Edwards (who got his start working with Malick on both The New World (2005) and The Tree of Life (2011), The Better Angels was produced by Malick. It takes place in the woods of Indiana circa 1817, where a young boy is being raised in treacherous frontier conditions.

Spoiler alert: the young boy is Abraham Lincoln, though the film doesn’t name him until the final credit crawl. A brilliant young lad (Braydon Denney) who’s the apple of mother Nancy’s (the excellent Brit Marling) eye (she proclaims early on that her son “has a gift…he asks questions I can’t answer”), Abe doesn’t always get along quite as well with rough-edged farmer dad Tom (Aussie expat Jason Clarke). … Continue reading »

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Police hold art show to raise money for turkey baskets; fundraiser tonight at Berkeley Underground

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After a two-year hiatus, the Berkeley Police Association has brought back its holiday “turkey basket” program for families in need.

The association is holding an art show Wednesday night, Nov. 19, to raise money for that program by selling photographs by three Berkeley Police officers. The charity event takes place at the recently opened Berkeley Underground nightclub in downtown Berkeley, at 2284 Shattuck Ave.

Officer Stephanie Polizziani, who helped organize the event, said the department used to raise money for turkey baskets — containing a turkey and fixings for sides and dessert — until two years ago when the program lapsed due to a lack of funding.

Polizziani said she was inspired to organize the renewed effort after the department received numerous inquiries over the past two years from people who had come to rely on the program. … Continue reading »

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Jake Silverstein, new editor of New York Times Magazine: ‘The East Bay shaped my view of the world’

Jake Silverstein: the recently appointed editor of the New York Times Magazine grew up in the East Bay
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In March 2014, Jake Silverstein was tapped for one of the top jobs in journalism: the editorship of the New York Times Magazine. A 1993 graduate of Berkeley High School, Silverstein, 39, has deep roots — and a deep affinity — for Berkeley. Surprisingly, he didn’t write for the Berkeley High Jacket, but he did pen stories for the high school’s literary magazine and acted with an independent theater group. His first real professional journalism piece was an East Bay Express story on Ed Gong, the famed piano mover.

Silverstein is a poet, author of the 2010 fiction/non-fiction hybrid book, Nothing Happened and Then it Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction, and a barbecue lover. His deep love of long-form narrative nonfiction took him from the Big Bend Sentinel in Marfa, Texas to the editorship of the Texas Monthly which was nominated under his stewardship for 12 National Magazine Awards. It won four, including one for general excellence.

He grew up in an intellectual family in Oakland. Silverstein’s mother, Marsha Silverstein, is a psychotherapist in Berkeley who also works with the Ann Martin Center. His father, Murray Silverstein, is a poet and an architect with the Berkeley firm JSWD Architects. He is also the co-author of numerous books, including Dorms at Berkeley: An Environmental Analysis and Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design. (Silverstein used his father’s business address to get into Berkeley High.)

Silverstein was in Berkeley recently to give the keynote address at The Latest in Longform: The Berkeley Narrative Journalism Conference 2014. For many of the journalists in the room, there was one overriding question: will Silverstein’s West Coast upbringing (and his years in Texas, another sort of western frontier) give a different spin to the Gray Lady? … Continue reading »

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‘Breakfast with Mugabe’ at Aurora packs a powerful punch

Dr. Peric (r. Dan Hiatt*) delves into Robert Mugabe’s (l. L. Peter Callender*) past over breakfast in Aurora Theatre Company’s West Coast Premiere of Breakfast with Mugabe
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An intimate power struggle between Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, and Dr. Andrew Peric, a white Zimbabwean psychiatrist, is the compelling concept of Aurora Theatre’s gripping, finely acted drama, Breakfast with Mugabe.

British author Fraser Grace based his riveting play, first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2005, and then off-Broadway in 2013, on news reports that a white psychiatrist had been called to treat a severely depressed President Mugabe, to cure him of being haunting by the malicious spirit of a rival who died under dubious circumstances. Set right before the 2002 Zimbabwean elections, the tense sessions between the two men illuminate the racial, political, historical and emotional divide between blacks and the white landowners in Zimbabwe and, for that matter, in all of formerly colonial Africa.  … Continue reading »

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

Students at Le Conte Elementary enjoy persimmons from the school's tree. Photo: @BerkeleyDineOut on Twitter
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BERKELEY DINE OUT Berkeley schools district-wide incorporate gardening and cooking into the curriculum. The idea is that the school gardens produce healthy habits and interdisciplinary lessons, along with the fruits and vegetables. But the program has lost federal funding and needs help. To support the garden-based learning program at 16 BUSD campuses, participate in Dine Out on Thursday, Nov. 13. A portion of all bills at over one dozen popular Berkeley restaurants — from Café Clem to Comal — will go directly to the program. See the full list of participating restaurants. … Continue reading »

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New music in Berkeley: Leaping into unexpected realms

Caption: Cal Performances and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players present Project TenFourteen, a series of four concerts featuring world premieres commissioned from 10 different composers.

Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
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There’s something irresistible about experiencing a composition at its premiere, about the possibility of witnessing an imaginative leap into unexpected musical realms. On Friday, East Bay trumpeter Ian Carey reprises his new work Interview Music: A Suite for Quintet + 1 at the Hillside Club, where he’ll be recording the suite with his talent-laden ensemble. And on Sunday, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) launch Project TenFourteen at Hertz Hall, an unprecedented season-long collaboration with Cal Performances featuring 10 newly commissioned works premiering over the course of four concerts.

Sunday’s inaugural program looks auspicious indeed, with Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz’s commission “Corpórea” for an orchestral nonet with a balance of strings and winds, and Elena Ruehr’s “It’s About Time” for a string oriented sextet. The program’s defining presence is 85-year-old éminence grise George Crumb, who’s represented by three works, including two premieres. The latest of his many settings of poetry by Federico García Lorca, “The Yellow Moon of Andalusia” features mezzo soprano Tony Arnold, Kate Campbell on amplified piano, and percussionists William Winant and Nick Woodbury, while “Yesteryear” is a radically reworked piece for Arnold and pianist Kate Campbell. … Continue reading »

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New club aims to spice up downtown Berkeley nightlife

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Berkeley is saturated with places to eat and drink, but conspicuously missing is a place to dance afterwards. Soon that will change, when a nightclub called Berkeley Underground opens this weekend in the basement space at 2284 Shattuck Ave.

Owners Lisa Holt and David Shapiro, who also own BUILD Pizzeria upstairs, envision a multi-purpose venue that will one night host an internationally known electronic dance music act, and the next a private bar mitzvah party.

“This needed to be something that would marry the idea of being a fun club that people would go to in the evenings, as well as being a live performance venue for all those bands and music artists and comedians that don’t really have a place to go,” Holt said. “If you’re going to go to the [Berkeley] Rep, you need to fill 1,000 seats. And it’s just seats – there’s no milling around or dance floor.” … Continue reading »

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‘Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me': Terrific, inspiring documentary

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I’ve never cared much for country-western music, but there are exceptions to every rule — even this one. Consider the recordings of Glen Campbell: though deeply rooted in country (and reflecting that genre’s frequently melancholic tint), Campbell’s recordings were melodic enough to tickle my fancy and (more importantly) crossover to the pop charts. His recording success allowed Campbell to become a national television and film personality, with his own small-screen variety hour and a significant role opposite John Wayne in True Grit (1969).

Until recently, however, it had been a fallow few decades for the veteran entertainer. That changed in 2011, when Campbell publicly announced he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and would soon be retiring from show business. A final (excellent) album, ‘Ghost on the Canvas’, was released later that year, followed by a 2012 farewell tour that serves as the focal point of Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, a terrific documentary opening at AMC Bay Street in Emeryville on Friday, Nov. 14. No playdates are currently scheduled in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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New book documents Berkeley’s New Deal legacy

WPA workers and EBRPD staff put finishing touches to the roof of the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park. This photo is one of the many published in Berkeley and the New Deal by Harvey Smith. Photo: EBRPD
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John Hinkel Park, Civic Center building, the Berkeley Rose Garden, much of Berkeley High School, Malcolm X school, the Brazilian Room Tilden Park — all these and many more projects came about because of the New Deal public works program.

A new book, Berkeley And The New Deal, by local author Harvey L. Smith, documents in words and more than 200 vintage images Berkeley’s 1930s and early 1940s New Deal structures and projects which have left us with a lasting legacy of utilitarian and beautiful infrastructure.

Smith will give a talk on his new book on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2-4 pm at the Berkeley Historical Society, 1931 Center St. Admission is free and wheelchair accessible. … Continue reading »

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

Berkeley Half Marathon organizers are expecting 10,000 runners to participate this year. Photo: berkeleyhalf.com
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HALF MARATHON Running out of ideas for things to do this weekend? Spend Sunday, Nov. 9, in your sneakers. It’s the second annual Berkeley Half Marathon, which takes racers through the Cal campus, Gourmet Ghetto, Fourth Street shopping area, and along the beautiful Bay Trail. If the 13.1-mile journey sounds daunting, participant can opt to run a more reasonable 5 kilometers instead. The race starts (8 a.m.) and ends (12:30 p.m.) at Civic Center Park at 2151 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Registration costs $25-$115, and supports Cal Athletics and the Berkeley Public Schools Fund; last year’s event brought in $30,000. Non-runners may want to check out the list of street closures. … Continue reading »

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