Saturday, January 29, 2011


After the success of their fall film series on Italian Neo-Realism, the Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz is back with a new winter season of Italian cinema. Screening one Sunday a month for the next three months, the new series is devoted to "Italian Directors of the '60s," a molto bene area of study if ever there was one.

First up this weekend is the provocatively titled Sedotta e Abbandonata (Seduced and Abandoned). Director Pietro Germi followed up his huge international hit, Divorce, Italian Style, with this 1964 satirical comedy about the dubious results when an old-school father demands that the cad who got his teenage daughter pregnant marry her. No Marcello or Sophia in this one, but a dewy young Stefania Sandrelli stars as the plucky bride/ mother-to-be. Screens this Sunday, January 30.

Other directors spotlighted in the series are Michelangelo Antonioni (The Eclipse, screening February 13) and the one and only Federico Fellini (8 1/2, screening March 20). Dr. William Park, Faculty Emeritus, Sarah Lawrence College, will introduce each film, and lead a discussion with the audience afterwareds.

Films screen at Cabrillo College, VAPA At History Forum Room 1001, 7 pm. Admission is free. For more info (and cool poster art) click here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Get ready for the biggest party in the Santa Cruz arts community since the demise of the old Hearts for the Arts. That would be the Gail Rich Awards, celebrating its 15th anniversary this Wednesday, January 26, at the Rio Theater, where six new inductees will be initiated into the tribe and presented to a grateful public.

Don't expect suspense. Recipients are announced in advance; Price-Waterhouse is not involved. There are no winners or losers, because it's not a contest, just a chance for the community to come together and celebrate some of the folks who make this the kind of place we all want to live in.

Under the auspices of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County Associates, the idea behind "the Gailies" was hatched at the Sentinel by arts reporter Wallace Baine and photographer Shmuel Thaler. They were looking for a way to honor the abundance of creative artists—dancers, craftspeople, musicians, writers, artists, actors, entrepreneurs, teachers, clowns, exhibitors, purveyors—who make our home town so culturally rich. The award, "recognizing people in the arts who inspire our community," is named for the late and still beloved Gail Rich, onetime Sentinel arts correspondent and member of CCSCC Associates, who was a tireless champion of the local arts scene.

The original plan was to recognize each year's new honorees with a lavish photo spread in the Sentinel, featuring Shmuel's dynamic black-and-white portraits and Wallace's adroit commentary. Then someone got the idea to stage an awards ceremony in the beckoning intimacy of the Kuumbwa, an event that quickly took on a life of its own. These annual Kuumbwa events (always in January, when it's usually pouring outside) became the place to schmooze and be schmoozed with all strata of our thriving arts community. Wine was poured by the ever-gracious Robert Kelley of Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre (who went on to receive his own Gailie with co-founder Diane Cypher), and there was always a spread of fabulous local treats after the ceremony. Peter McGettigan (also a future Gailie recipient) started filming the event for rebroadcast on Community TV. After a few years, there were so many folks lined up outside in the rain, hoping to get in, that last year they switched to a new venue at the Rio.

While we all miss the intimacy of Kuumbwa, the sheer capacity of the Rio ensures that no one has to resort to Machiavellian ploys just to get a seat. Master of ceremonies Wallace's jokes are just as funny and the montage of Shmuel's photos just as impressive in a larger auditorium. Of course, the Rio is an alcohol-free venue, but that didn't dampen the spirit one iota at last year's event.

We're even looking forward to clear skies this year. So come in a party mood to celebrate this year's honorees: photographer Bob Barber, singer Lori Rivera, musician Bryn Loosley, artist Rose Sellery, Rick "Ukelele Dick" McKee, and artist/writer T. Mike Walker. Doors open at 7:10 pm sharp; showtime is 7:30 pm. Admission is free. Read all about it at the CCSCC website. And to really get in the groove, check out this cool slideshow of all 84 of Shmuel's fabulous photos of Gailie honorees.

Speaking of people who are an asset to our community, did you see the exhibit, "Transfigurations" by local photographer Jana Marcus? Begun as a thesis project at San Jose State University, this important show documents a handful of transgendering men and women who allowed Jana to photograph the stages of their progress and record their unique stories. From the initial showing at SJSU in 2004, various reinventions and updates of the exhibit have been seen in New York, Seattle, Illinois State University, Stanford University and San Francisco, as well as local showings at the Attic in 2006 and at Cabrillo College last fall.

As a pioneering work in the still marginalized field of LGBT studies, the exhibit has garnered many awards and citations. For years, fans have been pestering Jana to bring it out as a book, but no such luck in today's belt-tightening, play-it-safe publishing environment. So this month, Jana decided to get a grip on her destiny and posted the "Transfigurations" book project on, the website that functions as a kind of creativity matchmaker, presenting artistic projects in need of funding to a cyber-pool of potential donors. Response so far has been tremendous. Donations accepted until February 23, but the project looks like a go. Click here to see how she's doing and cheer her on.

(Above: Jana hangs her exhibit at the Attic, May, 2006.)

Monday, January 24, 2011


Coming soon to a TV screen near you, six critics, two shows, and lots of ideas about cool movies to put in your Netflix queue. A few of us whose job it is to go to the movies so you don't have to convened on a soundstage at Community TV yesterday (at an ungodly hour of the morning) to discuss our favorite films of 2010.

The occasion was a special edition of the Cinema Scene TV show, and our genial host was Richard von Busack, longtime film critic for the Santa Cruz Weekly and Metro newspapers. Going tete a tete with Richard over our faves of the year were Wallace Baine of the Sentinel, Greg Archer of Good Times, Bruce Bratton of Bratton Online, filmmaker Aleandro Adams, and me.

No, there were no knock-down, drag-out brawls this time out. With barely enough time for each of us to squeeze in our top five picks, there was no chance to challenge each other over them, so the gloves were definitely on. (If you're looking for a fight, come see Bruce, Wallace, and me when we debate the best and worst films of the year at our pre-Oscar discussion at the Nickelodeon, Sunday, February 20.) But the Cinema Scene show may surprise you with the diversity of titles offered up by our humble selves, some of which you may have never even heard of. These are movies we think you should run out and rent (or stream, or channel; whatever) right now, so check it out.

Community TV veteran Peter McGettigan produced the two-part show (aided and abetted by one-man film crew Emory Hudson), which should begin airing soon on CTV Channel 27/Charter 73, possibly in the old Cinema Scene time slot, Sundays and Thursdays at 8:30 pm. Or maybe not, so keep an eye on the CTV schedule. I'll let you know when it airs as soon as I find out.

(Not so obscure movie reference: apologies to the classic Yankee Doodle Dandy, in which Jimmy Cagney (as showman George M. Cohan) reads an issue of "Variety" with the headline: "Hicks Nix Sticks Pix.")

(Btw, Greg was kidding about his pick for Best Movie of the year. Seriously.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Western women are at war with their bodies. We're obsessed with our weight; it's sort of a mass psychosis fueled by the media with its slinky supermodels, and undernourished, heroin-chic pop divas and movie stars. Back when the first Bridget Jones movie came out, a male colleague of mine complained that Bridget "only wants to get married." He was missing the big picture. The majority of women in Western culture, whatever their ethnicity, sexual persuasion, or actual body type, believe absolutely in two things: that they are too fat, and that no one will ever love them because of it. Bridget's attempt to find love by reshaping her body is a seminal experience millions of women share.

Like most females, I was on some fad diet or other from about age 13 up into my early 30s: high protein, no carbs; all carbs, no protein; the grapefruit diet, the cube steak diet, the Scarsdale Diet, you name it. But the trouble with dieting is as soon as you start depriving yourself of foods you like, you suddenly can't stop thinking about them. (Pizza! Pasta! Popcorn!) When you divide your eating life into two separate entities— on or off the diet—you're liable to eat twice as much as normal when you're off the diet, and endure twice as much self-loathing when you grudgingly go back on it.

Of course, on none of these half-wit regimes did I ever alter my weight on any dramatic level. But the tyranny of the scales used to dictate my mood for the rest of the day, and since I somehow never seemed to wake up in the morning 30 pounds lighter than I'd been the day before, my moods tended to be pretty foul.

So what's the solution? Here's what worked for me: throw away your bathroom scale. Ours broke years ago, and it's extraordinary how liberated I've felt ever since. It may sound like killing the messenger, but as soon as we got rid of the scale, my unhealthy obsession with my weight went with it. Which is not to say I started chowing down like a stevedore: just the opposite. As soon as formerly forbidden foods were no longer off limits, I stopped craving them so much, and started eating more sensibly. I found out you can eat whatever you want, as long as you pay attention to how much you're eating. It also helps to start moving. Most days, Art Boy and I take a walk around the harbor here in Live Oak, to see what the otters and sea lions are up to, and soak up some rays (if there are any). It's not drudgery; it's fun. It's not a diet; it's a lifestyle. "We eat therefore we walk," that's our motto.

True, we live in a slothful, overfed society, and anyone whose health is threatened by serious obesity owes it to herself to control her weight. But for the vast percentage of us hovering somewhere between anorexia and full-tilt obesity, it's much more effective to give up the useless and unhealthy cycle of dieting, learn to accept who we are, and get on with our lives, already.

All this occurred to me leafing through a copy of "Shut Up, Skinny Bitches," the new anti-diet book co-written by my friend and Good Times editor Greg Archer. Okay, the title is a tad flippant, but Greg and co-author Maria Rago, PhD. delve into the psychology behind women vs weight, explore eating disorders, and address the inner hungers that we try to satisfy with mere food. Having just picked up the book, I'm heartened to find entire chapters devoted to "Shut Up About Hating Your Body," and "The Scale Is Not Your God." Here-here!

Me, I'm the proof of the pudding. Once I gave myself permission to stop worrying about my weight, I discovered I had better things to think about than food. When I accepted that Nature did not intend me to be willowy, when I was able to make peace with my body and stop blaming it for all my perceived problems, I was free to go out and live my life with a lot more gusto. This body has served me well, in good times and bad, and I find I'm no longer interested in pummeling it into submission. And as soon as I stopped denying myself those so-called forbidden foods, I was no longer haunted by unattainable visions of, say, bittersweet chocolate, or Gayle's ciabatta. Every now and then, I eat some. And guess what? Life goes on.

Greg will be debunking diet myths and reading from "Shut Up, Skinny Bitches" at Bookshop Santa Cruz Thursday night, at 7 pm. Forbidden foods are promised, so get there early for a ringside seat!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Not to out anybody, age-wise, but hands up, everyone who remembers the original Hearts for the Arts. For 20 years, it was the second-most important event of the year to the local art community (after Open Studios), an annual art auction staged at the Civic Auditorium on the Saturday closest to Valentine's Day as a fundraiser for the Santa Cruz County Cultural Council. Hundreds of artists donated original pieces of art (often, but not exclusively, with a hearts/love/romance motif) in return for tickets for self and spouse to the event. The rest of the tix were snapped up by eager art patrons, some of whom saved up all year (as Art Boy's collectors often told him) to be able to finance their Hearts addiction on the big night.

It was always a mob scene. With doors opening at 4 pm, the Civic was jam-packed by dark, with eager attendees jostling each other between the dozen or more Silent Auction tables set up on the floor, or thronging together at the central feeding trough where the hors d'ourvres were laid out. (In later years, they sensibly removed the food to a spacious tent outside.) You could buy drink tickets for local wines at libation stations strategically placed around the perimeter, but Art Boy and I soon figured out it was easier to pack in our own repast (Tupperware dishes of pasta; baguettes and cheese, a bottle of champagne, flute glasses), and set up camp in the first row of the bleachers, literally a front-row seat for the festivities.

There might be anywhere from 2-300 paintings, photographs, ceramics, jewelry, or other smaller objets d'art available for bidding on the Silent Auction tables. After they were all sold off, the decks were cleared and the tables replaced by rows of folding chairs for the Live Auction, where another 50-60 pieces of art were presented. Bidding was always spirited from both the floor and the bleachers, enhanced in no small part by the many servers roving up and down the aisles dispensing free bubbly and chocolate. There's nothing like sugar and alcohol (my two favorite food groups) to get the crowd in a party mood!

Hearts was always a festive event, full of balloons and whimsy. Attendees could be as dressy (or not) as they wanted (as you can see by the photo of Art Boy and moi at Hearts, 1993); tuxes, ball gowns, and spats mingled with jeans and Birkinstocks. Artists loved it. Anyone could donate and everybody did; it was the one night a year we could expect to see every other artist in town and hang out together. It was also a great opportunity for art lovers to discover the work of new artists, and for artists and collectors to meet each other. Best of all, proceeds went to CCSCC, which funds Open Studios and the SPECTRA program for teaching art in the schools.

(Barbara and Kent Perry, Dan May, Carrie Jacobsen, d.hooker, Faye Augustine, and Art Boy, Hearts, 1994)

In these belt-tightening times, no one has the wherewithall to stage an art auction on a masive scale like Hearts any more. These days, the principal Spring fundraiser for CCSCC is Primavera, a gala event that combines an auction of select artwork, services, and other goodies with dinner, entertainment, and a theme party up at Chaminade.

But in the meantime, the folks at Artisans Gallery downtown are staging a mini-Hearts for the Arts revival. For one month, now through February 14, pieces of artwork donated by many local artists will be on view in the gallery as part of an ongoing silent auction. Proceeds will go directly to SPECTRA, so drop by now and leave a bid. Then come to the reception for artists and public alike, next First Friday, February 4, 6-8 pm, and see how you're doing.

We all miss the original Hearts like an old friend, but the spirit of supporting the arts lives on at Artisans.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


If there was a Santa Cruz Hall of Fame, Bill Raney would deserve a seat of honor. Most of us know him as founder, original owner emeritus, and all-around Grand Poohbah of the beloved Nickelodeon Theatre. Less well known is the fact that, just before moving to Santa Cruz, Bill was embroiled in an adventure as brimming with drama, action, comedy, and pathos as any epic movie.

In 1967, just after he and his first wife, JoAnne, sold their first movie theater in North Beach, they packed up their 10-month-old son, Xerxes ("Zerky"), and a Dachsund named Tarzan, flew to Munich to pick up a new VW bus, and embarked on an intended European vacation that evolved into an extraordinary 13-month journey around the world. On the road, Bill wrote letters about the days' events for his toddler son, hoping to capture the flavor of the journey that Zerky was probably too young to remember on his own. These letters, rediscovered and re-edited some 42 years later, make up the backbone of Bill's recent memoir, "Letters to Zerky: A Fathers Legacy to a Lost Son, and a Road Trip Around the World."

It's an amazing story. I had the opportunity to read several early drafts, and I was always sucked in by the immensity of the journey, and the twists and turns along the way—from Western to Eastern Europe, Turkey to Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (at a distant time, as Bill writes, "when people in the Islamic world admired America"), from India to China, and finally back to San Francisco—oh, the intrepitude!—by freighter.

If you have any interest at all in travel, travel diaries, or world affairs, come relive Bill's incredible journey tonight at Bookshop Santa Cruz, during their Locally & Independently Published Authors Night. Joining Bill will be nutritionist Rebecca Rovay-Hazleton, reading from her book, "Choosing Health," local surf veteran Thomas Hickenbottom, reading from his surf novel, "Local Tribes," and Julie Anne Morley, reading from her novel, "Cole Creek." Come out and support BSC in their tireless efforts to support local wordsmiths!

In other news—stay tuned for my next post, where Ill get all nostalgic over another beloved Santa Cruz arts institution, Hearts for the Arts, and tell you all about how it's being reinvented by the folks at Artisans Gallery.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Looks like clear skies for the first First Friday Art Tour of the new year. In honor of the (slowly) returning sun (hey, technically the days ARE getting longer, although you'd never know it at about 5:30 on a pitch-black January evening), why not take a stroll around town for a sunny afternoon of art in unexpected places. Or head out this evening and hit the receptions, where many venues are sure to offer wine, live music, and/or little nibbly things.

Joining traditional venues like the Santa Cruz Art League (its current show is "This Is Santa Cruz: local artists interpret what Santa Cruz means to them," where I got this uncredited image), the Felix Kulpa Gallery (15 neon artists), and the MAH (exhibits include work from the Association of Clay and Glass Artists of California, photographer Lawrie Brown, and miniature trains), you'll find art shows in banks, cafes, shops and boutiques all over the place, from the Eastside to the Westside to Davenport. From "The Masculine Series" of photographs by Midori at Pure Pleasure, to Neno V. Villamor's "Cycles of the Feminine Self," relief sculptures in handmade paper at Camouflage. Get all the info here.

And don't forget to drop by the R. Blitzer Gallery in the old Wrigley building for the closing night reception for the Art For Art exhibit. Remember, 20% of art sales from this show go to benefit the Santa Cruz Artists' Assistance and Relief Fund (SCAARF) to aid local artists experiencing a career-threatening emergency. Get there early to really appreciate the size and scope of this epic new gallery space. Maybe I'll see you there!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I'm concerned about the state of writing here in the new millennium. Not only my own writing, which obsesses me quite enough, thank you, or the scary prospects for the future of writing and reading in the text-and-tweet society. I'm mostly worried about the ways writers and readers are and are no longer being served by traditional publishing, once the principal venue for getting the written word into the hands of the reading public.

Over on the writers' website, Red Room, their book editor-in-residence, Alan Rinzler, recently posted an informative blog advising new writers how to find and choose a freelance editor-for-hire. It reads a lot like the advice writers used to be given for finding an agent to rep their work to a publisher: check out references (if any) and credentials, talk to other authors who have worked with the potential editor, try to find out if his or her work habits and creative vision mesh with your own. Rinzler goes on to invoke the sainted memory of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Charles Scribner's Sons publishing house in the early 20th Century whose dedication and expertise helped to midwife the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe (in particular, the mighty behemoth that would become Look Homeward Angel) into literary classics.

But it seems to me the crucial difference between the Maxwell Perkins era and our own is that Perkins was actually employed by Scribner's to nurture its authors. This was back in the day when a publisher would take on a promising new writer and team him or her up with a simpatico in-house editor to develop the writer's career.

These days, new writers who are still learning their craft are also expected to somehow locate and purchase the services of a freelance editor (and just trust to the Force thy can find a good, or even competent one, judging from the experiences of other writers responding to Rinzler's post) before they've made one dime off their writing. And all this before they've even landed an agent—let alone a publisher. A hired-gun of an editor who may or may not be invested in developing the writer's career over the long haul.

Would Perkins and Wolfe have had such a prolonged, profound, and productive relationship if Perkins had been an editor-for-hire paid for out of Wolfe's own (threadbare) pocket?

Here's my other question: if books are pre-edited before they even get to the agent, and arrive at a publishing house camera-ready, as it were, what is it that editors at publishing houses do all day, if they're not editing books? I'm just asking.