Category Archives: Events

What goes around comes around: ‘Vinyl’ at OMCA

Photo: Courtesy of Raphael Villet
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Vinyl, it’s not just for DJs anymore. The Oakland Museum of California’s new interactive exhibit Vinyl: The Sound and Culture of Records, highlights the resurgence of the LP and the enduring appeal of leafing through a bin of albums searching for unexpected aural pleasure.

Opening on Saturday, which is also international Record Store Day, the exhibition features listening stations, a newly commissioned art work by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Walter Kitundu, hundreds of albums, and thematic playlists — dubbed “curated crates” — by an array of cultural figures, including BAM/PFA’s Steve Seid (remembrance of life as a teenager), actress and spoken word artist Aya de Leon (musical influences growing up and becoming a parent), and Berkeley-based novelist Michael Chabon (growing up as a nerd).  … Continue reading »

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

Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
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RESOURCES ROUNDTABLE California has been quite dry this year — but Friday’s roundtable on the drought will be anything but. The Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative is hosting its annual day of panel discussions and lectures on April 18. This year’s Resources Roundtable is titled “California’s Drought: Challenges and Opportunities.” Speakers — including several UC Berkeley professors — will trace the deep history of dryness in the state, and consider the current obstacles to, and potential for, addressing drought. The $10 tickets provide access to all events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley 14-year-old photographer goes to White House

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Andrei Crandall, a 14-year-old student at Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley, got the opportunity of a lifetime recently when he was invited to the White House by the President’s personal photographer, Pete Souza, and ended up snapping his own shots of Barack Obama.

Andrei and his two mothers, Kathleen Crandall and Lori Gitter, were invited to meet Souza on Sunday March 30 for a private tour of the photographer’s offices in the executive building, as well as the West Wing and the Oval Office.

The middle schooler was then invited back the following day to the White House to take photographs of the President at the ceremony on the South Lawn honoring World Series winners the Boston Red Sox.

Crandall took pictures alongside photographer Chuck Kennedy in a special area set aside for the White House photographers.

It all started over a year ago when the then 13-year-old emailed Souza asking him for advice, and Souza not only responded, but became something of a mentor for the aspiring snapper.

But the path to the White House started even further back than that, as Crandall showed promise from an early age. … Continue reading »

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Review: Berkeley Playhouse’s ‘Spelling Bee’ is a winner

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If you only see one musical this year… you don’t go to enough musicals, my friend. But you’re in luck: Berkeley Playhouse has opened a one-month run of the Tony-award-winning The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show is a winner on its merits — with a sweet, funny, rollicking story — but also provides a great opportunity to appreciate how theater works to create place, mood and emotion out of seemingly thin air.

The musical, which originated as an improvised skit set in a school spelling bee, involves a handful of finalists in the titular Putnam County bee, along with moderator, Rona Lisa Peretti (proud champion of the 3rd annual bee), troubled Assistant Principal Douglas Panch, and “comfort counselor” (a parolee armed with hugs and juice boxes), Mitch Mahoney.

The show is reminiscent of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (coming in Berkeley Playhouse’s 2014-15 season) in having adults play children, though there are adults, both present, and painfully absent, here too. Spelling Bee contains some wonderful (verging on the heartbreaking) acknowledgment of the impact of adults on a kid-centric world, e.g., in the “tiger parenting” that drives contestant Marcy Park, or the void that contestant Olive Ostrovsky hopes desperately to fill. … Continue reading »

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Cardinals trounce Bears in first ever birding Big Game

Maureen Lahiff and Jack Gedney search for birds on the UC Berkeley campus. Photo: Peter Maiden
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Ten birding Bears! Four song-filled hours! Sixty-four species! But alas, no victory.

The Berkeley birding team organized by Golden Gate Audubon Society fell eleven species short of their cross-bay rivals on Sunday morning, in the first ever Cal-versus-Stanford Big Game birding competition.

The Stanford team spotted 75 species to Berkeley’s 64. Berkeley may have been undone in part by the humble sparrow.

“We had a lot of sparrows,” said Rob Furrow, a Santa Clara Valley Audubon member who led the Stanford team. “White-throated Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows.” … Continue reading »

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Vintage baseball: Grit and gore, yes, but much more civil

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There were no victory dances when the Berkeley Clarions beat the Oakland Colonels on a recent Sunday at Albany Memorial Park. There were no high-fives, no fist-bumps, and no expletives from the losers. Such unruliness is not permitted in the gentleman’s game of vintage base ball — and high-fives won’t become standard practice until about 100 years in the future.

The Clarions, and the five other teams that comprise the Bay Area Vintage Base Ball (BAVBB) league aim to reenact the game of 1886, adopting the retro rules and rituals. Players of base ball — two words until the 20th century — want to harken back to an era predating $200 million contracts and performance-enhancing drugs. It’s baseball stripped down to the basics.

“People don’t realize the game has changed so much,” said Matt “Ranger” Petty, president of the league. “When they see modern baseball, everybody has bulky equipment and super salaries. There was a time when it was sort of a grittier game.” … Continue reading »

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Barbara Chase-Riboud in Berkeley: Revelatory, ravishing

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Barbara Chase-Riboud: The Malcolm X Steles, is an exhibition not to miss. It’s inspirational, revelatory, ravishing to look at, and a dramatic contrast to The Possible: the experimental, hyper-interactive, buzzing, booming art-making project organized by local artist David Wilson that will occupy most of the Berkeley Art Museum through May 27.

Chase-Riboud had her first solo exhibition at the UC Berkeley Art Museum in 1973, at the invitation of the museum’s founding Director (now Emeritus) Peter Selz. At the time she was only the third female artist to have had a solo museum show in the United States. She was certainly the first female African American artist to have earned that singular recognition.

This stunning installation of Chase-Riboud’s sculpture and drawings is a home-coming of sorts: the triumphal kind of homecoming you dream about, where the locals are amazed by the magnificent things you’ve accomplished in the intervening years. One good reason for our amazement is that the artist has lived in Europe, Paris mostly, since the 1960s. And while she’s well-known in Europe — not only for her visual art but also for her numerous novels and books of poetry — we in the U.S. are only just catching up with her work. … Continue reading »

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

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CAL DAY This year, Cal Day‘s theme is “One day. A million stories,” but it should probably be “One day. A million things to do.” The annual UC Berkeley open house is filled with lectures, tours, family-friendly events and information sessions for prospective students. Highlights include an exhibit featuring “the most disgusting animal on earth,” a panel of Cal’s Nobel laureate professors, and a student fine-art sale. The campus will be abuzz with activity beginning 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 12. For full details, visit Cal Day 2014 online. … Continue reading »

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Free events celebrate Berkeley’s revamped libraries

Kids browse the bookshelves at the December 2014 opening of the South Branch. Photo: Richard Friedman
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Call it a “library warming.”

As a way to celebrate the completion of its branch renovation campaign – and highlight the dozens of community programs it presents each month – the Berkeley Public Library is hosting a month-long party.

The Branch Out! celebration will bring concerts, art exhibits, pop-up libraries at food truck gatherings, a sleepover party for stuffed animals, mindfulness meditation, and that beloved event – author readings – and much more to a branch near you in April. … Continue reading »

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Review: ‘The Galapagos Affair,’ a gripping documentary

Dore Strauch and Freidrich Ritter standing at home - MS uncat
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Remember that awful film version of the board game ‘Clue’ that came out in 1985? No? Despite featuring a solid cast (including Martin Mull as Colonel Mustard and Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum!), Clue (the movie) really was pretty forgettable – but for some reason I couldn’t get it out of my mind while watching The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, a gripping documentary about small-island intrigue opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, April 11.

We last visited the Galapagos Islands during teen sailor Laura Dekker’s brief stopover in Maidentrip. The Galapagos in this film, however, seem quite different: seen almost exclusively in black and white via thoroughly remarkable (and almost too good to be true) footage shot during the early 1930s, the islands project an aura of bleak, ominous majesty – hardly a welcoming rest spot for ambitious young sailors. … Continue reading »

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

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 A ROCK OPERA THRILLER This weekend, First Look Sonoma and ROCKIT Opera is presenting three performances of the world premiere of composer/librettist (and Berkeley local) Sheli Nan’s SAGA of the 21st Century Girl: A Rock Opera Thriller. The new opera stars Crystal Philippi as a disturbed young girl struggling to cope with her self-absorbed mother (Valentina Osinski) and gutless father (Jo Vincent Parks) and their dysfunctional home. Portraying various aspects of the predatory impulse are the Shadows, both hilarious and genuinely frightening, portrayed by Alexis Lane Jensen and John Duykers. The company says the show, with its “completely original narrative with haunting musical themes is dynamic, captivating, and humorous at times.” SAGA is recommended for mature audiences. SAGA opens tonight and there are performances Saturday and Sunday. The show is at the Osher Studio, 2055 Center St. in downtown Berkeley. Visit First Look Sonoma online for details. … Continue reading »

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Lost and found: Nathan Clevenger Group and the Lost Trio

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When it comes to discovering new bands, musicians make the best sources. Over a quarter century covering music I’ve found that the surest way to hit upon unfamiliar sounds is by paying attention to the colleagues mentioned by musicians. Which is why my ears perked up a few years ago when several players I greatly respect made a point of praising Albany guitarist/composer Nathan Clevenger, who leads a talent-laden sextet dedicated to extended dreamscapes that unfold with their own quirky, internal logic.

The Nathan Clevenger Group performs Wednesday at the Berkeley Arts Festival performance space at 2133 University Avenue as part of a double bill with the Lost Trio, a collective ensemble featuring saxophonist Phillip Greenlief, bassist Dan Seamans and drummer Tom Hassett. A long-time Oakland resident, Greenlief is an inveterately inventive improviser with a three-decade track record as a creative force. He was one of the first players to drop Clevenger’s name to me, noting that he’d watched him develop from an avid listener in the mid-90s to a composer and bandleader possessing his own unmistakable sound. … Continue reading »

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Not to be missed: Shotgun Players’ ‘The Coast of Utopia’

The Coast of Utopia: Salvage
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Sir Tom Stoppard’s famous, award-winning trilogy, The Coast of Utopia (2002), centers on a group of Russian philosophers, radicals, anarchists and socialists in pre-revolutionary Russia (1833-1866). If the subject matter doesn’t sound enthralling, rest assured that one of Stoppard’s gifts is exploring arcane subject matters and infusing them with excitement, humanity and heart.

Shotgun Players produced the first two fascinating productions, Voyage and Shipwreck in 2012 and 2013. This year, the final and best, Salvage, as well as the first two plays, can be seen in repertory now at the Ashby Stage. Led by Artistic Director Patrick Dooley, Shotgun has taken a very complex series of plays, with difficult language, numerous characters and copious scene changes, and succeeded in presenting intriguing and beguiling dramas … all with fine acting.  … Continue reading »

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