Category Archives: Events

Big Screen Berkeley: Breathtaking ‘Sunshine Superman’

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With a title like Sunshine Superman, you might be expecting a biopic or full documentary retrospective of the career of the hurdy gurdy man himself, Donovan Philips Leitch. If that’s what you’re anticipating when you amble into Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas during the week beginning Friday, May 29, however, you’re going to be in for a shock: there’s nary a hint of mellow yellow anywhere in this film, though the titular song does make a last minute appearance during the final credit crawl.

Instead, Sunshine Superman introduces viewers to Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE jumping movement. If you’re like me, you probably hadn’t even heard of this movement before the recent deaths of several BASE practitioners in extremely unfortunate but not terribly surprising circumstances.

So what is BASE? The acronym stands for ‘building, antenna, span, and Earth’, and its adherents are fearless thrill-seekers who enjoy leaping off extremely tall structures (either natural or manmade). If you’ve ever jumped off the sofa, you’ve probably experienced an inkling of what these folks experience. Maybe. … Continue reading »

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

This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First's production of Glenngary Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre. Photo: Theater First
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GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre, as its run has its final day on Sunday. David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about working-class real-estate salesmen trying to eke out a living in the fast-paced economy of the 1980s and claim their piece of the American Dream became an instant classic of American theatre and is regarded as one of the playwright’s best plays. For details and to buy tickets, visit Theatre First’s website or phone 510-981 8150. … Continue reading »

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A jazz convergence with Hafez Modirzadeh

Hafez Modirzadeh by Walter Wagner
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Conversations with Hafez Modirzadeh often swerve in unexpected directions. The Iranian-American saxophonist/composer is a confidant of jazz legends like Ornette Coleman and a mentor to cutting edge stars like Vijay Iyer. Always looking to expand his conceptual framework, he’s created an enthralling body of music that encompasses classical modes from Persian, Arabic and Turkish music and beyond. A longtime professor of music at San Francisco State where he’s the co-director of Jazz and World Music Studies, Modirzadeh plays an extremely rare East Bay concert 8 p.m. Friday at the California Jazz Conservatory with pianist Mark Levine, bassist John Wiitala and drummer Akira Tana.

Catching up with Modirzadeh recently by phone from his home in San Jose he was eager to discuss his recent Fulbright-funded sojourn to Turkey, but first he wanted to talk about last week’s front page New York Times story about an 11-year-old piano prodigy from Jakarta.

Reading the profile and watching the video, Modirzadeh recalled a premonition about “varieties of intonation eventually coming from our youth to advance consciousness through sound. There’s something about where he’s from, a clear inspiration from gamelan, the shimmer in the beat between the instruments. That’s a key element in a lot of the music I’ve been trying to develop, and I believe that shimmering resonance is at hand, and with it comes our humanity’s resolution!” … Continue reading »

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

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JAZZ ON FOURTH Sunday marks the 20th annual Jazz on Fourth festival, which benefits Berkeley High School’s jazz program. The free festival has raised nearly $200,000 for the program over the last 19 years. In addition to the BHS Jazz Ensemble and combos, Fourth Street will be bopping with Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz Band with Kellye Gray, blues from Terrie Odabi, and salsa with Edgardo & Candela. Fourth Street merchants donate major gifts for a gigantic raffle, and the street will be lined with activities (you can visit Berkeleyside at our booth). There’s beer donated by Trumer Brauerie, and free photos courtesy of Photolab. Jazz on Fourth, Fourth Street, noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, May 17. … Continue reading »

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Jazz blooms in Berkeley with a rich choice of performers

Marcus Shelby
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On any given night one can find a handful of jazz gigs in Berkeley interesting enough to coax even a casual fan out of the house. But this Sunday offers something altogether rare with a convergence of two events that auger well for the future of the scene.

From noon to 5 p.m., the Berkeley High jazz program’s 20th annual Jazz on Fourth Street fundraiser turns the shopping district into a music-filled street party. And at the David Brower Center from 2-5 p.m., Jazz in the Neighborhood celebrates its second anniversary with a fundraiser and concert featuring the lustrous vocalist Clairdee, pianist Ken French, bassist Marcus Shelby, trumpeter (and Berkeley High alum) Erik Jekabson, pianist Glen Pearson, saxophonist/flutist Mary Fettig, trombonist Wayne Wallace, and drummer Hamir Atwal. … Continue reading »

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Bill de Blasio talks inequality with Robert Reich

Robert Reich and Bill de Blasio. Phot: courtesy Goldman School of Public Policy
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“Use your stature” to show leadership on inequality Robert Reich urged New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at the conclusion of a conversation the two of them held in Berkeley today at an event partly sponsored by the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and the Economic Inequality Media Project.

It wasn’t the only joke the UC Berkeley professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor — who, unlike de Blasio is not tall — made about the mayor’s height. When the two first appeared on stage at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse at around 12:30 p.m. they linked arms and Reich proclaimed: “We embody inequality!” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Bike to Work day set for Thursday, May 14

Bike to Work Day will take place this Thursday, May 14th - get out there! Photo: Bike East Bay
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The wheels are set in motion for Berkeley’s annual Bike to Work Day on Thursday, May 14, which is being organized in conjunction with the local Walk and Roll to School Day.

The event, hosted by Bike East Bay, will feature a number of two-wheel-friendly events, including the “Mayor-Palooza Bike to Work Day Ride,” featuring two visiting mayors from Europe, and a pop-up bikeway on Milvia Street.

Bike East Bay and Berkeley High School will also host a morning energizer station at Berkeley City Hall from 7:30-9:30 a.m. serving tasty pick-me-ups from La Note Restaurant and snazzy cyclist swag bags.

“We’re expecting a record-breaking turnout,” said Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director at Bike East Bay. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘I Am Big Bird'; ‘100 Year Old Man’

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Fancy feeling warm, fuzzy, and feathery next time you go to the movies? Then make plans to see I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, a delightful piece of cinematic iconography opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, May 15.

Public television’s “Sesame Street” first aired in 1969, and (with apologies to Kermit the Frog and Elmo) Big Bird soon became the show’s most popular character. Ever since, he (or is Big Bird a she?) has been played by puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who also created the eight-foot, two-inch tall vertebrate.

Now 81 years of age, Spinney remains active and continues to appear on “Sesame Street” whenever Big Bird’s presence is required, though his apprentice takes over for some of the trickier and more physically demanding scenes. When not treading the boards in his super-sized costume, Spinney also provides Oscar the Grouch with his grumpy, trash-talking persona. … Continue reading »

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Events

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

Edible Schoolyard. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD PLANT SALE The 13th annual Edible Schoolyard Plant Sale and Celebration opens at 9 a.m. Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. There’s delicious, locally made food, music, student-guided tours of the garden, raffle prizes and, needless to say, plants. Get your spring garden going with tomatoes, vegetables, fruit trees and berries, herbs, perennials, annual flowers and more. There will be gardening advice on hand for beginners and experts. The event takes place Saturday, May 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Martin Luther King Middle School, 1781 Rose St. (near Berryman Street).Continue reading »

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In Berkeley: The First Annual Rafael Manriquez Festival

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Rafael Manriquez is no longer here to sing his own songs, but the Chilean-born troubadour’s friends, family and colleagues are making sure that his poetic calls for justice continue to reverberate.

Born in Chile and based in the Berkeley area from 1977 until his death in June 2013, the composer, vocalist and master of various string instruments wrote songs that have been performed and recorded across the Americas. On Saturday La Peña presents the First Annual Rafael Manriquez Festival, an event featuring a talent-laden cast including Jackeline Rago, Avotcja, Fernando Torres, Ricardo Valdivieso, Esteban Bello, Axel Herrera, Hugo Wainzinger, and Lichi Fuentes (Manriquez’s former musical partner in the beloved and widely traveled Grupo Raíz).

The ambitious undertaking marks the release of a lost Manriquez album from the 1980s, El Pajaro Vuela (The Bird Flies), featuring Bay Area Latin jazz stars John Santos and Rebeca Mauleón. Some of the funds raised during the concert will go towards the production of a new Rafael Manriquez CD with 14 unpublished songs discovered as unfinished recordings in his archives. While many of Saturday’s performers have several of his songs in their repertoire, the festival is designed to introduce less familiar or unheard Manriquez tunes.

“All of these musicians have made a tremendous effort to incorporate a song of Rafa’s that they didn’t know,” said Marci Manriquez, who along with her brother Manuel Manriquez will also perform a song of her father’s on Saturday. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten’

Don't Think I've Forgotten
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I wrote a brief capsule review for Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll when it played CAAMFest earlier this year. Generously received at the festival, the film now gets a general release, opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, May 8.

Understandably, a mournful air hangs over filmmaker John Pirozzi’s nine-year labor of love. Cambodia suffered two doses of massive slaughter in the late 20th century: first courtesy the United States Air Force, which dropped almost 3 million tons of bombs on the tiny Southeast Asian nation, displacing 30% of the population and killing around half a million Cambodians; secondly, in the period following the 1975 ascension to power of the Khmer Rouge.

At first, many Cambodians considered the Khmer Rouge an improvement on the corrupt Lon Nol government that had preceded it. Things changed quickly, however, when Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and company implemented a massive program of social leveling designed to teach the educated classes the value (if not the dignity) of labor. … Continue reading »

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Events

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

The oldest house in Elmwood Park, according to BAHA whose Spring Tour is on Sunday May 3. Photo: BAHA
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BAHA SPRING TOUR/ELMWOOD Sunday brings the always popular Spring Tour of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. This year, the tour is centered on the storied Elmwood Park neighborhood. A total of 11 homes will be open to the public for the $45 ticket price ($35 for BAHA members). Stroll through houses designed by Bernard Maybeck, Julia Morgan, Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., John Hudson Thomas, Maury I. Diggs, William Porter, and Charles M. MacGregor among others. A 1905 sales brochure for the then new Elmwood Park area depicted bucolic wooded lanes and the promise of a soon-to-be-established Key Route line to the future Claremont Hotel, according to BAHA. A tour map, illustrated guidebook and refreshments are provided. Order your tickets online and collect them at Will Call (in front of John Muir School) on tour day. BAHA Sprint Tour, Sunday May 3, 1-5 p.m. Details on the BAHA website.  … Continue reading »

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Rent Romus, and past and future Finns of West Berkeley

Rent Romus
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The determination to explore his Finnish ancestry didn’t come to Rent Romus in a sudden epiphany or a burst of inspiration. Rather, the Richmond saxophonist and composer spent years painstakingly parsing The Kalevala, a compendium of epic poetry, folklore and mythology that played an essential role in sparking Finnish national identity in the mid-19th century.

Eventually, he created a singular synthesis of postmodern jazz and traditional Finnish music in The Otherworld Cycle, an expansive suite he presents 4 p.m. Saturday as part of the Annual Vappu Spring Festival at Berkeley’s Finnish Kaleva Hall. The event, which also includes a buffet supper, a silent auction and a performance by Heikki Koskinen’s Kaleva All Stars, harkens back to a time when West Berkeley was commonly known as Finntown (more on that later). … Continue reading »

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