Friday, October 29, 2010


Did you love monster movies as a kid? I know I did. Lucky for me, my mom was a big fan of all kinds of movies. Our family watched all the classics on TV, via The Late Show, Million Dollar Movie, The Fabulous 52. But it was mostly Mom and me who curled up together with a bowl of hot popcorn to watch Saturday afternoon monster movies.

The misunderstood monster heroes of the '30s and '40s were our favorites—The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Bride of Frankenstein. Bela Lugosi's suave, courtly Dracula probably had the all-time greatest single line of monster movie dialogue: invited to join an unsuspecting guest in a toast, the silky old bloodsucker demurs, "No thank you. I never drink … wine." But the one we loved best was dear old Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster. No other actor who ever strapped on the bolts and the boots ever brought the same measure of poignant heartbreak to the role.

Not that we only watched the classics, not by any means. Probably our single favorite movie, ever, was The Brain That Wouldn't Die, a no-budget, 1962 sci-fi epic of such resounding idiocy, it's kind of endearing. It's about a rogue scientist who keeps the severed head of his girlfriend alive in the lab while he haunts strip joins and beauty pageants to find her a hot new body. It's just so wrong, on so many levels (the closing-titles credits even misidentify it as The Head That Wouldn't Die), that we could never get enough of it; we had to watch it again every time it was on.

But monster-loving kids not fortunate enough to grow up with my mom had no one else to turn to in their addiction but Forrest J Ackerman. Longtime editor of "Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine," the monster movie bible, "Forry" not only ceaselessly promoted the genre, he amassed a personal collection of some 300,000 items of monster movie memorabilia in his lifetime of fandom.

At this most witching time of year, it's appropriate that Santa Cruzans Al Astrella and James Greene have just published a book about Forry's amazing collection, "A Forbidden Look Inside the House of Ackerman" (Midnight Marquee). Read their story here, and plan to drop by Atlantis Fantasyworld from 2-5 p.m., this Halloween Sunday, where they will be signing copies of their book. Come in costume and receive a special treat!

(Top: Munsters memorabilia from the Al Astrella collection.)

Monday, October 25, 2010


Remember Mudzimu? It was a tiny, beautifully landscaped little art gallery across the street from Salz Tannery (before it became "THE Tannery"). Its proprietor, longtime Santa Cruz resident Braden Coolidge, specialized in stone sculpture in the Shona spirit by contemporary artists in Zimbabwe, often paired with the 2-D work of local artists like Melinda Baker, Anna Oneglia, Kent Perry, and James Aschbacher (infamous in these posts as Art Boy). Far more than just an art dealer, Braden traveled often to Zimbabwe, developed close friendships with individual artists and their families, and worked tirelessly to import and show their work in the States.

But Fortune turned her wheel, lovely little Mudzimu was bulldozed to make way for a storage locker, and Braden moved on to galleries in Carmel and Santana Row. But he continues his relationship with the artists of Zimbabwe, most recently in setting up the gorgeous new exhibit, Celebrating Nyanhongo: A History Carved in Stone, at Gallery i Fine Art on Cannery Row in Monterey.

Claud Nyanhongo was a pioneer in the sculpture revival that began in the late 1950s. No less than five of his extraordinarily gifted offspring are featured in the Monterey show: Gedion (whose work has been widely shown and collected in Germany, France, England, Hong Kong, Africa, and the States), his sisters Agnes and Marian, and brothers Wellington and Moses.

We've always loved Gedion's work, but we may be prejudiced; not only have we had the pleasure of getting to know him over the last few years, during his frequent visits to Santa Cruz, he and Art Boy once swapped artwork. James did a painting of Gedion's family, and the next summer, Gedion brought us a portrait he'd carved of us in rich, black serpentine. We were thrilled! We met Moses for the first time last year; one of the youngest members of the clan, he's already doing remarkable work. Both Gedion and Moses were down in Monterey on a grey, rainy afternoon last weekend for the opening of the Nyanhongo show.

Gedion (above, with the tools of his trade) has described his sculpting as a process of setting free the spirit that's already alive within the stone. To wander among the dozens of pieces in the Monterey show, figurative, animal or abstract, is to revel in the spirit of Shona culture and tradition. Mothers cradle babies, fish wriggle up out of the stone, birds preen, lovers coo and spark. Many of the figures are strong females, declaring their pride or poised for flight.

Carved from native Zimbabwe stone (serpentine, opalstone, green serpentine, springstone), the pieces offer a visual symphony of color and texture. Some are smooth, polished to a sheen in tones of black, green, copper or grey, others feature much more of the rough natural stone. The most interesting pieces combine the two.

Look at my favorite, Moses' "Crazy In Love." (Thanks for posing, Moses!) The lovers' rough-hewn clothing and the detailed texture of their hair sets off their polished, glowing faces, joined in a kiss. But it's those wildly expressive hands, gesturing off in all directions at once, that tell the rest of the story!

And feast your eyes on James' favorite, Gedion's haunting, provocative "With My Treasure." From her transported face, we can see what comfort and solace she gets from running it through her fingers. But what exactly is her treasure? It could be grain or sand, or diamonds or gold, or the spirit of life itself flowing out of the heart of the stone.

This is an irresistible show, even within the strict confines of a gallery setting—white walls, hard edges, slick glass surfaces. But these sculptures are like beautiful pedigreed animals in a pet shop: each one needs to go to a loving home to be lived with, so its true spirit can emerge and thrive. In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour of the show right this minute, but you owe it to yourself to cruise down to Monterey (685 Cannery Row), and experience these pieces in person, in all their sensuous, tactile glory.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Jesse Eisenberg gets to erase his genial nice-boy image in David Fincher's The Social Network. As Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg, on the brink of founding the facebook phenomenon, he's snarky, sarcastic, and rude, peering out a the world with cold-eyed reptilian disdain. A narcissist unable to shift the conversation away from himself for two minutes at a time, and arrogant as only the deeply insecure can be, he belittles his girlfriend for not keeping up with his mercurial monologue. No wonder she dumps him, and when she does, all he can think of is rushing back to the dorm to go online and have his revenge. Nowadays, we call this online bullying. In 2003, it was the birth of a $25 billion empire.

I have no idea whether this portrait of Mark Zuckerberg is in any way true or accurate. But I must confess I've always found something a little creepy about the Borg-like stealth of facebook and the way everyone needs to plug in, hook up, and drop out of real life. Resistance is futile, all right; every time I delete one invitation to join out of my inbox, six more pop up in its place.

Maybe it's because I'm just not much of a joiner. Groucho Marx, once famously said that he refused to join any club that would accept him as a member, and that goes for me too. When Santa Cruz used to hold its own First Night celebration, reports of 20,000 people thronging downtown were reason enough for me to stay home. The virtual crowd on facebook is something like 500 million.

Set aside for a moment, the Big Brother implications of everyone plugged into the same "social network," where any competent hacker can locate, steal, use, or spread your most private and intimate information. (Or monitor your Friends, your purchases, and your political affiliations.) The larger point is, as a society, we're already vastly over-stimulated. Who needs more input? My inner hermit requires a lot more downtime than I'm getting now just to rattle around inside my own brain for awhile and see what's there. Space is at a premium in there; I don't want it so cluttered up with the random chatter of the Borg, I can no longer hear or identify my own thoughts.

"Freakishly addictive," a character in the movie says of the fledgling facebook. What freaks me out is the pack mentality involved, that adolescent need to do everything your friends are doing (and nothing that they aren't).

In the Harvard milieu of the movie, we see a busload of strippers shipped in for a boozy frat party, idiot pledge rituals (involving sub-freezing temperatures and live chickens), the public humiliation of coed girls ranked online for their relative hotness, the vindictiveness of boys who can't get laid. This is "the total experience of college" the movie Zuckerbeg is so eager to capture online? Who wants to stay in college forever? Remember when they used to tell us the best years of our lives were in high school? Only for the extremely unlucky. The rest of us grew up and moved on.

There aren't many of us left who are still not on facebook. Very soon it will be like not having a microwave, or a cell phone, or an iPad. (Oh wait, I don't have any of those either.) I'm all in favor of community, and I'm grateful for anything that brings people together rather than dividing them, but I still prefer to socialize with real friends, offline and in person. (Preferably over a nice bottle of merlot.)

(Obscure Movie Reference: My title is in homage to the wonderful 1958 British sci-fi cheapie, Fiend Without A Face, whose genetic-mutant creatures were malicious brains, propelling themselves about on their rotating stems.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


How's your Italian? If it can stand a little brushing up, I'm pleased to announce the return of the monthly Italian Film Series presented by the Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz. Dedicated to promoting Italian language and culture in Santa Cruz, this group lost its film venue last year when the Vet's Hall downtown was unceremoniously shuttered. But now they're back with a new Fall Film Series in a new home at the Cabrillo College arts complex.

In the new series, "Directors of Italian Neorealism" (presented under the auspices of Istituto Italiano di Cultura, San Francisco) a classic film from the Italian postwar Neorealism movement of the 1940s and '50s will be spotlighted every month. A genre devoted to the human condition in stories of ordinary people struggling to survive in a radically changing world, Italian Neorealism was often shot guerrilla-style in the streets, often with non-professional actors instead of stars. The series launches this Sunday (October 24) with Roberto Rossellini's seminal 1945 classic, Open City (Roma, Citta Aperta); the film will be introduced by Dr. William Park, Faculty Emeritus, Sarah Lawrence College. As always, the film will be shown in Italian, with English subtitles. Showtime is 7 p.m., Sunday, in the VAPA building 1000, Art History Forum room 1001, Cabrillo College.

Speaking of the Dante Society, my friend Marta raves about the immersion Italian language classes she's taking through the society. Informal classes take place in the private home of one member or another; instead of formal lessons, the participants immerse themselves in the culture and language, mostly by making like Italians—eating, drinking wine, and talking!

It must be paying off: Marta and her husband, John, just returned from Sicily, where she had a high old time haggling—in Italian—in the marketplace.

(Above: Dante e Beatrice sul Ponte di Santa Trinita a Firenze, by Henry Holiday (1883) From the Dante Society website.)

Meanwhile, there's more movie news from the Santa Cruz Film Festival. Director of Programming Julian Soler announces the creation of a new competition award. The Spirit of Action Prize will be awarded to the competing festival film that best advocates a call to action around a significant and relevant issue.

Five to six films will be accepted in competition for the Spirit of Action Prize. Narrative and documentary films that meet the criteria will be considered. Submissions will be accepted through February 25, 2011. Visit the SCFF website for details.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The hits just keep coming at the Aptos Weekend Classics movie series. Run, do not walk this weekend to see the inimitable Marx Brothers in Duck Soup. It's ranked #5 on the AFI's list of all-time comedies, but #1 on the far more exclusive and reliable Jensen-ometer of funniest movies ever made! (Narrowly edging out The Producers—the original version, with Zero Mostel—Annie Hall, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) Freedonia's going to war, and who better to lead the country straight to Hell than Groucho Marx as shyster politico Rufus T, Firefly, batting his eyelashes at Margaret Dumont whilst pondering how best to plunder the treasury. "If you think the country's bad off now, just wait 'til I get through with it!" he sings jauntily at his inauguration to the office of High Chancellor.

Although the film was made in 1933, with Hitler on the rise in Germany, allusions to American politicians of more recent vintage are, sadly, as timely as ever. But expect laughs, not polemics, in this hilarious satire of war, politics, jingoistic patriotism, and military machismo. 68 minutes of pure comedy bliss, and I better not find out you missed it! (Plays Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m., at Aptos Cinema, on a comedy double-feature with Mae West in She Done Him Wrong.)

Speaking of four-star movies, the cool thing about the very excellent new John Lennon drama, Nowhere Boy, is that it's not about The Beatles. That hallowed name is never even mentioned. At the end of the film, John (played with sass, heart, and deadpan bravado by Aaron Johnson, above) is about to go off to Hamburg with his band, and his Aunt Mimi dismissively remarks that she's forgotten their new name. (Up to this point, they've called themselves The Quarrymen.) John replies only with a teasing, "Do you really care?"

No, she does not; it's all the same to her what his band is called and who the current members are. But it wouldn't have been the same to us, or to history. Nowhere Boy got me to thinking that despite the conventional wisdom of the day (or this day), it wasn't just a blithe, random conjunction of timing and luck that made The Beatles what they were. In the film, we see John recruit his first band through a haze of ciggie smoke in the boys' loo: anyone who owns an instrument is in, no proficiency required. As the band acquires its sea legs at neighborhood fairs and school dances, personnel come and go, like the rotating icons on a slot machine. It's hardly ever the same lineup twice as the band self-prunes and re-invents itself.

But when John meets Paul McCartney in the film, something clicks, like a pair of oranges (or should I say Apples) synching up. After the initial sarcasm from John, the would-be Teddy-boy with the smart mouth, he drops his pose to soak up everything he can learn from the younger boy about guitar chords and musicianship. When Paul's mate, George Harrison, makes a late-inning appearance toward the end of the movie, another apple clicks into place; a few more peripheral band members will rotate in and out, but the three of them remain the core of the band, all the way to Hamburg and the destiny that awaits them there.

So, no, The Beatles were not just any garage/skiffle/rock band. There was alchemy at work when these boys first clicked and sparked. John had the drive, the dream, and the showmanship, Paul the innate musicality, the looks, and the voice, George the technical chops. They honed their style, substance, and subversive wit in the tough, steamy clubs of Hamburg, grew up together as musicians and men, and emerged two years later as The Beatles. And it couldn't have happened any other way, or with any other guys.

Btw, at the press screening for Nowhere Boy last week, I was shocked, shocked, to learn that two of my esteemed fellow scribes were completely unfamiliar with the backstory of John Lennon and The Beatles. For those of us who grew up in the '60s, Beatle bios were Chapter and Verse; we devoured them in 16 Magazine and other fan mags, and in the plethora of biographical books, authorized and otherwise, that flooded the market to cash in on their fame. That's why I was so impressed with Nowhere Boy; it gets the tone of that postwar, working-class setting and era just right.

(Above: George, John and Paul, ca 1958, as seen on

Just a reminder, Santa Cruz's favorite free film event, the Pacific Rim Film Festival, kicks off tomorrow night at the Del Mar with a gala premiere of The Chef of South Polar. (Scroll down for my mini-review, a couple of posts back.) Music, food, dance, traditional folkways and eco-politics are spotlighted at this year's fest. Now in its 22nd year, this popular event once again offers viewers a cinematic voyage of discovery around the Pacific Rim of Asia and the Americas. In a program of 18 drama and documentary films, transporting viewers to such diverse locations as Nepal, Bolivia, Korea, New Orleans, and the Marianas Islands, this cinematic sushi bar invites us to sample the exotica of other cultures, while reminding us how much we have in common, despite our cultural differences.

This year's six-day event unspools Friday, October 15, through Wednesday, October 20, at three countywide venues: the Del Mar, the Rio, and the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. All films are presented free to the public, except for the closing-night benefit, and many screenings will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker.

Insider tip: Don't miss Old Partners, an incredibly moving Korean docu-drama about an 80-year-old farmer, his 76-year-old wife, a treasured ox, and vanishing traditional folkways. You will weep like a baby. Also, check out A Village Called Versailles, an inspiring short doc about a Vietnamese settlement in New Orleans that celebrates how a community can band together for positive political action.

Read my GT PRFF preview for a complete schedule of films and showtimes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In case you've forgotten how much creative energy is percolating around in our county, taking yourself off on the Open Studios Art Tour is a great way to fall in love with Santa Cruz all over again. Since Art Boy and I had last weekend "off" (he'll be open again for "Encore" next weekend), we spent Saturday and Sunday visiting other artists on the tour. Some are veterans we've been fans of forever, others are brand new discoveries (at least to us) that I can't wait to tell you about.

We got a jump on the weekend Friday night with a preview party at the home of dynamic mother-daughter duo Beth and Allison Mae Gripenstraw. Long beloved around town for her fun, festive bird and animal-print ceramic table settings, and her more recent series of whimsical watercolor paintings, Beth has now joined Allison in a new venture, Cold Heart Company. Heart-shaped hair clips, ceramic cocktail rings and resin tile bracelets in brightly painted patterns are the specialty of the online shop, along with an eclectic mix of lidded pots, trays, and paintings; red hearts, black ravens, peacocks, and poppies are among the recurring themes. Charming miniature ceramic tea sets (complete with itsy-bitsy sugar spoons) were also part of the OS display, as well as a selection of Allison's extreme stiletto high heels with a kick—hidden paintings under the instep (hearts, Dia de los Muertos, even the Frankenstein monster and his Bride). If you've ever been to Beth's house, you can imagine how spectacular it looked. "Alice in Wonderland" was the theme of the night, and if you know why a raven is like a writing desk, please do let her know ASAP!

Under blue and sunny weekend skies, we joined the crowd at the rambling Victorian homestead of pastel artist Mary Offerman and oil painter Lance Sims. The rustic setting (chickens, fruit trees, vegetable gardens) hidden in the heart of the Seabright area, is a delight, and the rural theme continues in Mary's warm, evocative pastel landscapes and still-lifes with fruit. My favorites are the rural villages in vibrant colors nestled like jewels in the green French countryside (where Lance and Mary have taught many painting and pastel workshops). And yes, they will be open for Encore weekend.

Across the street from Mary and Lance, we found printmaker Melissa West. Her medium is linoleum block prints in both open and limited editions, and her subjects include a fanciful series on martyred saints, like her winsome piece in the Art League show, "St. Christina the Astonishing." She also has a far more eerie series (in stark black-and-white with touches of blood red) based on that most spooky and suggestive literary genre, children's fairy tales. Her work comes in a variety of sizes, including some sweet little 1 1/2" x 3" original linos of cats and owls. Drop by next weekend and take a look.

It's always fun to visit the workshop/home of fabric sculptor Susan Else. Her house on Escalona Drive is absolutely amok with her lively quilted 3-D figures, caught in the act of scurrying about: they dance in the corners, lounge over the fireplace, even climb ladders in her various wall pieces. Her piece de resistance is a five-foot tall rotating Ferris Wheel (created in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Boardwalk), with her figures—parents, children, gawkers, necking lovers, camera-toting tourists— occupying every seat. And don't miss the giant fabric chessboard in her workroom. All the pawns on one side are babies; all the other pawns are stretching, preening cats. I was so taken with all those quilted kitties, I didn't even notice what kind of creatures the larger pieces are, so if you go check it out on Encore weekend, please do let me know!

And how is it that I've lived in Santa Cruz since dinosaurs roamed the earth, and never before crossed paths with Peggy Snider? Her hand-crafted ceramic sculptures are poetic, inspiring, wry and wonderful, from large, shamanistic totems (with mysterious faces, animal heads, moons, stars, haphazard stairways and intriguing doors) to elegant female figures cloaked by the sun, or by ocean waves, or dancing on the earth, to her smallest, most poignant little creatures. Wandering through Peggy's hilltop garden aerie at the end of Meder Street, you'll find work that celebrates community, the human spirit, and the rhythms of nature and the cosmos. The wise-woman faces with their clear, steady gaze that decorate so many of her pieces suggest the wisdom and healing of time.

I realized I'd seen one or two of her pieces in the sculpture garden at Sierra Azul down in Watsonville. But meeting Peggy for the first time and her delightful extended "family" of work made me a collector on the spot. Although Art Boy joked, "My wife wants to buy your cheapest piece," it wasn't the insanely reasonable price tag that drew me to my treasure; the little half-figure in a rough, matte white finish with turquoise highlights, unfurling its wings to the heavens, spoke to my heart. There are plenty of treasures left if you go see Peggy on Encore weekend, and don't miss Arin Duggins' beautiful beadwork jewelry on the way in.

Over at the Tannery, Fanne Fernow is showing an eclectic mix of vintage and new work. Long beloved around town for her big, bright, graphic paintings of dogs, houses, lips, even dancing salt-shakers, accompanied by wise and witty snippets of text, Fanne has segued into the far more demanding medium of encaustic. Her new work is all about color and form. Her visual mantras of monochromatic squares perforated with neat, even rows of tiny dots invite the contemplative gaze. In her companion "Monkey Mind" series, the patterns of dots swoop and swirl about through geometric shapes in beautiful, subtly shifting colors, like a hyperactive brain that can't rest. Fanne is showing both styles of work through Encore weekend, along with a recent series of Mary/Madonna icons. (Here's the one Art Boy and I fell in love with last year (above); she blesses our kitchen every day.)

It was after 4 p.m. on Saturday, with less than an hour to go in the event, before we made it over to see Katharina Short on Stanford Avenue. As always, it was a pleasure to stroll through her backyard garden with her detached, hobbit-house studio. Tina opted out of OS last year, busy with the raising of her twin boys, but she's back this year with lots of new work. In addition to her trademark large, winsome acrylic paintings of floating couples, families, gardens, and animals, she has some lovely large decorative pieces based on floral and seed motifs, as well as new, smaller work.

We've loved Tina's work for years, but, well, let's just say that part of the deal when you choose to make a living (and a life) as an artist and a freelance writer is resisting the urge to spend money. On this afternoon, however, when I came round a corner and found a small, sweet little triptych called "Life Boat," the urge became a lot more insistent. It pictures a couple nestled together under the stars in the central panel, a tiny house and decorative tree rooted to the earth on one side, and a little boat on the sea sailing off on life's adventure on the other. Art Boy liked it too, and the price was reasonable for its size, but a Libra and a Virgo do not make snap decisions, so we said our wistful goodbyes and headed out for one last studio.

At about ten minutes to 5, heading back across town from the West Side, Art Boy suggested we stop in to see if Tina still had the painting. It would make perfect karmic sense if she did not, we knew, since we're always advising our OS attendees to claim what they like (or at least put it on layaway) right away; chances are it won't be there if they come back later. Nor were we encouraged to see a little knot of visitors standing appraisingly before the wall where "our" painting still hung. But wait: they were looking at the beautiful bird painting above it! Art Boy obligingly took the bird painting off the wall and carried it over to another wall where the other collectors could get a better look; meanwhile, I stood in front of "Life Boat" the way a passenger might be dispatched to stand in the last parking space in a free lot downtown while the driver hastily maneuvers the car around.

Fortunately, no one challenged me. I divulged our plan to Aaron, Tina's husband, and when the other collectors had gone, Art Boy asked if Tina and Aaron would be interested in trading for an Aschbacher. To our delight, they said yes! To sweeten the deal, he offered to do a commission just for them, in exchange for "Life Boat." So now, they get to decide what they want in their personal Aschbacher, and we have a week (until they bring us the painting during our Encore weekend) to decide where it will live in our house.

Meanwhile, my Peggy Snider piece already has a home—on a square of turquoise tile above my kitchen sink, where it greets me every morning with a speculative rustling of its feathers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Sadly, Marc Chagall will not be participating in Open Studios in Santa Cruz this year. But a record 320 artists are opening their studios to the public, and there are still two weekends left to see them in their natural habitat.

I know what you're thinking: so much to see in so little time. That's why I'm providing art lovers with a handy, sanity-saving to-do list to help you get the most out of your customized art tour.

First, get with the program. The OS Calendar/Guide is a 15-month calendar with a color photo of the work of every OS artist, along with their addresses, websites, phone numbers, shoe sizes, mothers' maiden names—well, you get the idea. Supplemental indexes list artists alphabetically, and according to medium, while the map is indispensable for finding that tiny mountain retreat, or converted off-road garage that the artist calls home. Map and calendar listings also tell you which artists' studios will be open which weekend. (South County, from Watsonville to the Yacht Harbor was last weekend; North County, from the Yacht Harbor to Davenport is this weekend, October 9-10. Anything goes on the third "Encore" weekend, October 16-17, where participating artists anywhere can open for one last hurrah.) A great tool for contacting local artists year-round, the calendar costs $20 and is still available throughout the county.

Next, hie thee off to the Open Studios Preview Exhibit at the Art League (526 Broadway in Santa Cruz), to view OS artists' work up close and personal, and get a more accurate idea of proportion, color, and material. Believe me, seeing the work in the flesh will save you hours of driving time later, as you zero in on who you really want to visit. Most artists also provide color postcards of their work free to the public in the Art League lobby. Exhibit hours are 11am to 5pm Wednesday through Friday and 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, through October 17. The OS Calendar/Guide can also be purchased at the Art League.

Finally, make a plan. This is a self-guided tour; it's up to you to decide who you want to see and when and where you want to go. One word of advice—even the most intrepid Open Studio art tourist can't be expected to absorb more than about eight to ten studios in a day, before the eyes glaze over and the brain cells gear down to zombie mode. So pace yourself. Choose your artists carefully and try not to visit more studios than you can actually appreciate.

Artists studios are open from 10am to 5pm each weekend of the event. Do your homework, grab a friend, hit the road and enjoy!


Just a reminder that tickets are available starting tomorrow for the 1st Annual Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Reading, November 6, at the Cabrillo Recital Hall. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robet Hass will read his work. Selections from Mort's final book, "The Dark Figure In the Doorway: Last Poems" will be read by Gary Young, Joseph Stroud, and Stephen Kessler. It's a free event, but seating is limited and Mort had a legion of fans, so tix will be required for admission. Get your free tickets at Cabrillo Bookstore, UCSC McHenry Library, Bookshop Santa Cruz and Bookworks; they won't last long!

FOODIE ALERT: If you love to ogle exotic food in exotic settings, look out for The Chef of South Polar, the opening night premiere in the upcoming Pacific Rim Film Festival, Santa Cruz's favorite free film event. It's a wry and delicious fiction film based on the true story of Jun Nishimura, a young Japanese Coast Guard cook on a year-long assignment to a remote outpost in Antarctica, cooking for an 8-man research team. In an environment so hostile, not even a virus can survive, mealtimes are the highlight (and the most important bonding ritual) of the day, and these guys aren't about to settle for energy bars and Tang. Bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of frozen food, the ever-resourceful Chef Jun lovingly handcrafts elaborate gourmet meals that see the team through every possibly adversity: homesickness, cabin fever, broken long-distance romances, suicidal depression, and the greatest calamity of all—running out of ramen noodles! Suichi Okita directs with a light, but resonant touch, and Masato Sakai is wonderful as Chef Jun. The Chef Of South Polar kicks off the PRFF on Friday, October 15, at the Del Mar, 7 p.m. (It screens again Saturday, October 16, at 1 p.m.) Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis, so start planning now. (And whatever you do, don't go to this movie hungry!)