Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Meet my pal, Gary Shapiro, proprietor of the best weekly radio program on books and authors that you've never heard—unless you happen to be up and about at 2 am, Sundays, which is when his excellent show, "From The Bookshelf," airs on KUSP. Happily for the rest of us, the digital age has finally spawned something useful—the podcast—by which anyone, at any time, can listen to Gary's archive of fascinating author interviews.

For years, "From the Bookshelf" was hosted by Santa Cruz's own, beloved Billie Harris at 8:30 Sunday evenings on KUSP (snuggled in between the venerable "Poetry Show" and Michael Lambert's smooth jazz). Billie's focus was on local authors reading from their works; it was my very great pleasure to be her guest on a few occasions, reading from my novel, or from selected Good Times columns. But when Billie left town to be closer to her grandchild a few years back, and Gary inherited the show, he decided to do something completely different.

Gary likes to talk to writers about their work, and he's put together an impressive (you might even say staggering) roster of interview subjects who have written a diverse range of books—novels, story collections, historical non-fiction, true crime, graphic novels, memoirs, biography, you name it. Since Gary loves music and movies, many of his guests have written showbiz biographies on everyone from Hedy Lamarr, Joan Crawford, and Busby Berkeley to The Monkees, The Beatles, Tom Waits, and Bozo the Clown. Some of his guests are celebrity authors in their own right (Cloris Leachman, Peter Bogdanovich, and—what a coup!—Cynthia Lennon). He's especially fond of musicians who have written memoirs: Rodney Crowell ("Chinaberry Sidewalks"), former Go-Go Belinda Carlisle ("Lips Unsealed"), and even Andy Williams ("Moon River and Me")who breaks into song on the air.

As an interviewer, Gary is always prepared; not only has he read each author's book, he also knows their subject. Discussing the book "Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley," with author Jeffrey Spivak, Gary knows enough to compare Berkeley's dance extravaganzas Footlight Parade to Forty-Second Street, cite and describe his own favorite musical number (the irresistibly insane, "By A Waterfall," pictured here), after which he plays a snippet of the song on the air. Discussing the edgy story collection "Classics Mutilated" with editor (and former Santa Cruzan) Jeff Connor, Gary plays a song illustrating the mash-up philosophy in alt music that inspired the book's remix of "classics" (ie: public domain work like "Huckleberry Finn") with current "monster lit" sensibilities.

And in general, Gary just has a reliable sense of who will make an interesting interview. His conversation with veteran L. A. Times rock critic Robert Hilburn is not to be missed; discussing his memoir, "Corn Flakes With John Lennon," Hilburn waxes profound on everything from the fine art of interviewing Bob Dylan, to the reasons that only musicians who write their own material ever seem to stand the test of time. ("The songwriter has the best chance of a continuing dialogue with the listener," Hilburn opines.)

Topics of books under discussion range from the Peanuts comic strip to the JFK assassination; from Harry Houdini, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Great Depression, to Mary Lincoln, Bobby Fischer, and the history of Alcatraz Island. And that's just the tip of the literary iceberg. But don't take my word for it. Log on to "From the Bookshelf," tune in, and hang out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Despite drenching rains (geez, what next, a plague of locusts?), the Big Creek Pottery show went on at the MAH over the weekend. Settling in for a four-month run (through july 17), the exhibit features 70 gloriously functional pots from Bruce and Marcia McDougal's personal collection—their own work (like Bruce's pitcher, right), an abundance of student work, and several pieces by the master craftsmen and women who taught workshops at their school over the years. These include diverse work from such iconic ceramicists as John Glick, Michael Cardew, Warren McKenzie, Toshiko Takaezu, John Reeve, Jim and Nan McKinnel, Michael Casson, Karen Karnes, Cynthia Bringle, and a few other names I'm sure I'm forgetting.

While personal styles vary widely, what all the pieces in the show have in common is their functional aesthetic. Insisting that their students learn the basics of pottery-making—from building their own kickwheels to throwing and glazing clay, to a variety of firing techniques—the McDougals and their guest instructors promoted the ideal of beautifully hand-crafted work wedded to utility. The work in this show is a testament to that ideal, a happy blurring of the distinctions between humble pottery and "fine art." These wonderfully glazed platters, jars, bowls and covered pots, elegantly shaped pitchers and vases, command as much respect as any other artwork you'd find in a museum gallery, yet they're just itching to hop down off their pedestals and get to work in a functioning kitchen.

(If I had to pick my personal best of show, it would have to be Bruce McDougal's playful pair of goblets. They're about 8 inches tall, wide-bowled, and glazed in deep midnight blue, but Bruce has unleashed his inner cartoonist with the stems: two sturdy little figures bear up one goblet bowl; the other stem is a jaunty little robed wizard.)

Visitors should also prepare to be amazed at how the Solari Gallery has been transformed with a few new coats of paint, in colors personally selected by Bruce and Marcia. Gone are the plain, white gallery walls, replaced with a palette of the vivid, earthy, folk art colors—curry, deep brick, pea-soup green, aqua—that the McDougals surround themselves with every day.

These colors not only provide a suitably warm setting for the pots, they make an effective backdrop for the 140 vintage black-and-white photographs from the heyday of the school (open from 1968-1983) which is really the heart of the show. Simply as a time capsule of '70s-era commune life (not to mention the hairstyles and clothes), these photos would be worth the price of admission! Kudos to guest curator Karen Thuesen Massaro for amassing this wealth of material (including a display box of old BCP flyers, brochures, and several other pieces of fascinating paper ephemera, as well as correspondence from some of its esteemed visitors) into a coherent, thematic, and relatively chronological exhibit. Check it out this week on the First Friday Art Tour.

The flyer that launched a thousand enrollments

(My only suggestion: move the identifying labels to the front of the pedestals. Too many of them are posted around on the sides, which makes them harder to see, especially if there's a crowd in the room.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011


New MAH exhibit celebrates the alchemy of fire, clay, and imagination that was the Big Creek Pottery School

Bruce and Marcia McDougal have always thrived on "the excitement of the moment." Ask what this means, and Marcia offers a typically direct and resonant response: "Like the first time your baby smiles at you."

The McDougals' lives as artisans, craftpersons, and local cultural icons have been full of such incandescent moments. Potters, jewelry-makers, teachers, hoteliers, international travelers, collectors of doors from all over the world, longtime proprietors of the Davenport Cash Store and Bed and Breakfast, they have been at the heart of cultural life in Santa Cruz County for close to 50 years. But it's their role as founders of the fabled Big Creek Pottery School, up Swanton Road, from 1968 through 1983, that is currently drawing them once more into the spotlight. The McDougals, their work, and their school are the focus of a major retrospective opening this week at the Museum of Art and History: "Big Creek Pottery: A Social History of A Visual Idea."

The exhibit is guest curated by Karen Thuesen Massaro, herself an accomplished ceramic sculptor, educator, and Santa Cruz County Artist of the Year for 2003. Massaro moved to Santa Cruz from Wisconsin in 1980; she was never a student at Big Creek Pottery, but she remembers seeing enticing ads for the school in "Ceramics Monthly" magazine as an art professor in the Midwest. But it wasn't until she curated the exhibit, "Time and Place: Fifty Years of Santa Cruz Studio Ceramics," for the MAH in 1997, that she met the McDougals in person. Interviewing them for that show, she became fascinated by both the history and influence of BCP. (Read more)

That's Marcia and Bruce today (above), still intrepid, and full of ideas and enthusiasm. Here's a photo from the multi-media MAH show of Bruce evaluating student work hot out of the kiln at BCP, 1970.

The Big Creek Pottery exhibit opens at the MAH this Saturday, March 26, and will be on view through July 17. (Click here for more info.) The show includes 70 pots and some 140 vintage photos, so plan to spend some time and take it all in.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


A dream cast, a marvelously rugged locale in the Hawaiian Islands, one of the most durable and enticing works in all of Shakespeare's canon (with a sly, feminist twist), and the inimitable touch of visionary director Julie Taymor: what could possibly go wrong with The Tempest? The answer is, not much, in Taymor's long-awaited screen version of Shakespeare's most wistful, magical, and elegiac final play. True, some parts bump along, and the film as a whole offers less of the sheer visual rapture-per-frame than her masterful debut feature, Titus. But this is still vintage Taymor, necessary viewing for anyone following her remarkable career, and an insightful adaptation that in many ways strips down Shakespeare's tale to its essential humanity.

In Taymor's gender-bent revision, the mighty Helen Mirren stars as "Prospera." A wise ruler devoted to study and science, she's suffered the fate of so many studious women who are in the way of somebody else's plans: she's been accused of witchcraft and exiled with her daughter to a remote island by the usurper brother who now rules her kingdom. The uninhabited island is alive with magical forces, which the seething Prospera (the ultimate Woman Scorned) has imperiously enslaved. The airy sprite, Ariel (Ben Whishaw) is bound to do her bidding after she released him from a magical prison. The native-born "monster," Caliban (the great Djimon Hounsou, caked in variegated mud and rags) is her beast of burden.

12 years later, as a ship carrying many of her friends and enemies from court goes sailing by, Prospera uses sorcery to call up a fearsome storm, wrecks the ship, and conspires to land all the passengers ashore to taste her revenge. Much wandering about the island ensues, as the audience plays Name That Actor. Yes, that's Chris Cooper as the usurper brother, Antonio, and David Strathairn as the stoic, noble neighboring king, Alonso. Tom Conti emanates twinkly goodness as Alonzo's old counselor, Gonzalo, sympathetic to Prospera. For comedy relief, we have Alfred Molina as the drunken butler, Stephano, and Russell Brand as court jester Trinculo, the buffoons that poor Caliban mistakes for gods.

(Btw, I, for one, think Brand is perfectly cast as the jester, beribboned, in his tattered dandy's finery, with his working-class accent and pragmatic opportunism. Trinculo is not one of Shakespeare's wise, soulful clowns, like Feste or Lear's Fool, and Brand dives in with the antic brio of an innate funnyman who understands he has to be amusing or starve. Check out this video of Brand's hilarious 5-minute improv on his character's backstory to see how he gets into the spirit of the thing.)

Meanwhile, Prospera's now-grown daughter, Miranda (Felicity Jones, as a barefoot wild-child) falls in love with the first white man she's ever seen—Alonso's stalwart young son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney, of the band, Carney, and star of the upcoming Spider-Man Broadway musical). But the most profound relationship is between Prospera and Whishaw's wonderfully fey, yet heartfelt Ariel, who serves her with glee, yet risks her wrath daring to remind her of her promise to set him free. With a female Prospera, their usual master-servant, parent-child relationship takes on a complex new dynamic (especially as they bandy about the question of love). She may use him to her own ends, like Elizabeth I deploying one of her besotted courtiers, but its Ariel's poignant suit for justice that helps restore this wily female sorceress to her full humanity.

What disappoints about this film is that so much of the magic feels so earthbound. Titus was such a visual treat because of the way Taymor made her simple, yet dazzlingly poetic stagecraft work onscreen—the eerie, percussive dance of marching soldiers; fountain statues morphing into live figures in a bathhouse; yards of blood-red ribbon issuing from a tongueless mouth. But most of her magical effects here are CGI. You can feel Taymor's delight in being able to realize her wildest images onscreen, and, sure, it's a kick when Ariel tears across the screen in all directions, growing huge and tiny, racing rings around himself. But it just doesn't have the same "cool" factor, in terms of sheer ingenuity.

Still, the package is intriguing. The music by longtime Taymor collaborator Elliot Goldenthal combines electronics, soaring chorales, and peppery pagan-influenced rhythms. Sandy Powell's costumes range from the punk aesthetic of black leather and chains to the sort of found plumage and ruined finery one might scavenge on a deserted island. This Tempest is certainly roiling with ideas, and if it's not Taymor's most successful work, it nonetheless sweeps you along for the ride.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


DIY art show won't be here long

Usually, I'm all for planning ahead. (Hey, I'm a Virgo!) But seizing a window of opportunity that opens up unexpectedly can lead to happy surprises as well. Case in point: the tasty new DIY exhibit up for just a few more days at the Santa Cruz Art League.

When local artists Carol Bowie and Sefla Joseph heard the SCAL gallery space was going to be vacant for 11 days between exhibits, they did what any red-blooded American entrepreneur would do: they called up some of their friends and said, "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!" That show is "Polishing the Mirror," featuring the work of ten Santa Cruz County artists at the top of their game.

The SCAL gallery is the perfect place for such a scaled-down, intimate show; each artist has plenty of space for a representative sample of work, but there's also enough breathing room between pieces for the viewer to wander around and see everything. About half of the pieces are paintings, mostly figurative, loosely exploring the thematic idea of "Who's there now," gazing back out of the mirror.

Bowie is showing some handsome new larger works in oils, in what she calls "somber" colors, in keeping with this introspective theme. Many depict a figure (or figures) rendered in bold, linear strokes that recall her vibrant etchings, placed before a solid background. (She's also having some cheeky fun painting life-sized department store mannequins.) Joseph also contributes some newer work, figures sketched in bold colors, captured in moments of reflection or discovery.

Carol Jeneid is showing some larger landscapes with a series of small (about 12" square) mixed-media pieces with a lot of graphic energy. There's something vivid, yet emotionally muted in the color palette of blues, greens, and rust in which Susan Dorf paints her impressionistic portraits and figures. (That's her intriguing, "She Sings to Them," above.) Dorf's trio of "Muses," one morphing into a ripe pomegranate, the others moodily mysterious, was my favorite.

Another favorite was Susan Leone Howe's "Stagelight," a dynamic whirlwind of movement, tension and color, in which figures seem about to spin off the canvas in the midst of confetti colors and pulsing stars. Also featured are Barbara Bartel's abstract series of watercolor portraits, "About Face," and the mixed media of Bill Clark.

"Star Gazer," by Peggy Snider (above)

Complementing the 2D work are pieces from ceramicist Peggy Snider (inquisitive, piquant-faced figures from her "White Album Collection"), the compelling, demon-haunted spirit figures of clay sculptor Tom Wolver, and an impressive selection of handmade antler and driftwood baskets from Larry Worley.

"Shaman's Bowl," by Larry Worley.

There's plenty to ponder and enjoy in this show, and it'll disappear like Brigadoon after Sunday, March 20, so put down that keyboard and go!

And speaking of limited-time-only offers, the Dante Aligheri Society of Santa Cruz is presenting one of the all-time classics of Italian cinema (or any cinema) this week: Otto e Mezzo (better known as 8 1/2). The great Federico Fellini directs this 1963 masterpiece about love, art, memory, and cinema. Marcello Mastroianni stars as a celebrated filmmaker turning to the women in his life—past and present—while trying to draw inspiration for his next movie. Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee and Sandra Milo lead the femme cast.

The movie won Oscars for Foreign Language Film and Black-and-White Costumes—proving that the absence of color in no way interferes with a film's visual panache, especially in the hands of a maestro like Fellini. (Fun factoid: from the '40s to 1967, two Oscars were awarded every year in each of the three visual categories—Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costumes—one for color and one for black-and-white. Since then, hardly anybody makes movies in B&W any more, which is cinema's great loss.)

8 1/2 also spawned various adaptations, most notably Paul Mazursky's Alex in Wonderland (1972), with Donald Sutherland, and the lavish Broadway musical, Nine—which, in turn, was made into a movie in 2009, starring Daniel Day Lewis. But Fellini is the real deal. Don't miss this chance to see it on a big screen, and if you've never seen it before, your film education starts here. Showtime is 7 pm, Sunday, March 20, at the VAPA Art History Forum Room 1001, Cabrillo College. Admission is free, and you're invited to come early with an Italian snack and non-alcoholic beverage to share. Visit the Dante Society website for more info.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Feeling pummeled and over-stimulated by modern media? In particular, do you long for a richer, more meaningful and exalted musical experience than American Idol? (Present season excepted, of course; go James!)

Wouldn't you love to return to days of yore when music was unplugged and awe-inspiring?

Well, you won't need Mr. Peabody's Way-back machine to experience the grandeur of vintage music sung live onstage when our very own Santa Cruz Chorale teams up with guest chorus the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble next Sunday, March 20, for a live concert at Holy Cross Church.

Be prepared to bask in lush choral music from five centuries; program will include selections from Renaissance/Baroque composer Antonio Lotti to Johann M. Haydn, and Johannes Brahms, from Anton Bruckner to special arrangements of folk songs from America, Canada, and South Africa.

Now in its 28th year, the Santa Cruz Chorale is currently under the direction of Christian Grube, formerly of Berlin University of Arts. It's a community-based volunteer adult chorus made up of ordinary local folk with an extraordinary passion for music. A recent addition to the group is my friend Bill Raney, founder and former owner of the Nickelodeon Theater, and author of the travel memoir Letters To Zerky. Which only goes to prove that however much you have going on in your life, you can always make room for one more activity you love.

Btw, there's nothing like hearing vocal music as the gods intended, live and in person. When Art Boy and I were in France for the first time a few years back, we and our traveling companions visited Chartres Cathedral on a Monday in June. The town of Chartres is a jumble of stone cottages, timbered houses, and cinderblock apartments crammed together on the steep hills leading up to the cathedral. (All cathedrals in Europe were built on high hilltops to impress centuries of pilgrims and penitents with their proximity to God.)

Despite the unusual volume of cars and tour buses parked every which way in every side street and alley, we found an available stretch of curbside and parked at the foot of a steep cobbled lane. Up we trudged in the late afternoon sun, the looming Gothic spires of the cathedral always visible up ahead in the spaces between the buildings crowding the lane on both sides. And as we ascended, glorious medieval chants came wafting down from on high, like a chorus of angels. How atmospheric, I thought; they're piping out chants for the tourists.

But I was wrong—blissfully, rapturously wrong. As we gained the square facing the cathedral, we saw a robed chorus singing live in the churchyard adjoining the cathedral, moved outside to make room for the thousands of faithful crowding inside for the service. Pagans that we are, we had unknowingly stumbled into Pentecost Monday at one of the greatest pilgrimage destinations in all of Europe.

Pentecost commemorates the moment the Apostles were seized with the Holy Spirit.And as we all stood there, bathed in sublime, centuries-old choral music, I knew just how they felt. Swept up in such music, you don't have to be an Apostle, nor even a Christian, to feel a little Holy Spirit.

Showtime for the Santa Cruz Chorale and the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble is 4 pm, Sunday, March 20, at Holy Cross Church. Click here for ticket info and get in the spirit.

(Above: All roads lead to the cathedral in Chartres.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Johnny Depp has always been an experimental character actor trapped in the body of a guy who looks like Johnny Depp. But he finds a way to do an end run around the burden of his own good looks—and unleash his inner clown—in Rango, an abundantly silly and entertaining animated family comedy in which Depp brings voice and life to the film's unorthodox hero, a bulbous-eyed green lizard with big dreams.

Directed by Gore Verbinski (who has shepherded Depp through all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies), from a very funny script by John Logan, Rango both spoofs and celebrates the traditional Western set-up about a lone stranger in a hard-luck pioneer town. (Complete with a hilarious owl mariachi quartet singing a ballad of the story as it unfolds.) Big kudos are due to Industrial Light and Magic for its remarkable CGI animation; sure, the anthropomorphic cast of reptiles, rodents, and birds talk, walk upright and wear clothes, but each creature is rendered in impressively lifelike detail, right down to the tiniest scale and whisker. But the film is also a freewheeling pastiche of movie references (all genres, all eras) that will keep trivia fans on their toes, while amusing the young'uns with its slapstick verve. (Read more...)

One very cool thing about this movie is the way they filmed it with all the actors actually playing their parts on a soundstage together. Using an updated digital version of rotoscoping (the motion-capture cel animation technique pioneered by Disney in Snow White), Depp and his co-stars acted out entire scenes together on camera, from which their animated characters' physical movements were generated. This not only imbues the characters with loopy humanoid grace, the actors playing off each other keeps the dialogue fast and fresh as well.

Watch this funny featurette about how they shot it, then tell me your'e not dying to go see the movie right this minute!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


The '60s returned to Santa Cruz with a vengeance last Sunday, when the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County held its annual Primavera fundraising event up at Chaminade. Lured by a fashionista's dream theme, "The Far Out & Fab 1960s," guests were invited to participate in a silent auction with cocktails, a live auction of big-ticket items onstage with the effervescent Rob Slawinski of Slawinski Auction Company, a lavish sit-down dinner, and dancing to—who else?— the White Album Ensemble.

As usual here in Santa Cruz, when costumes are involved, the crowd really got into the spirit of the thing. Art Boy and I were volunteers at the event, working the silent auction room, which gave us a ringside seat for the flashback fashion parade. Every nanosecond from the span of '60s culture was represented, from Mad Men-style sheath dresses and bouffants to mod Swinging London ensembles (vinyl caps, go-go boots, paisley, bell-bottoms) to fringed hippie vests, tie-dyed T-shirts, Afros, and love beads; from Holly Golightly to Andy Warhol.

Most local folk faced with this kind of fashion challenge head straight for one of the fine costume emporia we have in this town. The praises of Closet Capers and Cognito were sung throughout the evening among the most severely duded-up participants. Me, I just strap on my miners' headlamp and go spelunking into my own closet, where old clothes never die, they just get shoved to a less prominent part of the rack.

Sadly, the old bell-bottom blue jeans with the floral print patches I sewed all over the butt that I actually wore in the '60s have long since disintegrated. Another obstacle to recreating the full-press hippie look I paraded around in in high school is that I no longer have that long, lank, Janis Joplin hair. But I did unearth the flowing gauze number pictured above, with the lacy yoke and batwing sleeves. Reader, I got married in this dress, and I was delighted at the chance to finally wear it a second time.

True, it's not technically from the '60s (for those of you keeping score at home, I bought it for $21 at Santa Cruz Imports in 1978), but it's completely true to the hippie/earth mother spirit of the times. In fact, my inspiration was Mother Nature in that vintage TV commercial for margarine. ("It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!") I should have had a circlet of flowers in my hair, but it was pouring rain all day Sunday and I opted not to dash out to Beverly's for faux fabric daisies. But now, as I scrutinize myself in that little, unadorned gold headband, I think I look more like a refugee from a low-budget Jane Austen movie. Well, at least I'm wearing an athentic macramé necklace, actually hand-made for me in the '60s by my friend Diane Plummer.

Btw, that's CCSCC Events Coordinator Ann Ostermann on the left, in her groovy lime-green mini-dress. Next to her, in the Carnaby Street duds, Isaiah Williams, chief event expediter and natty dresser (in any era). Then myself, and the ever-fetching Art Boy. Thanks for a great party, Ann!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Lion or lamb, March has snuck in while we weren't looking, and that means it's already time for another First Friday Art Tour. As always, there are venues as far afield as Harvey West (the Michaelangelo Gallery, featuring printmaker Robynn Smith), UCSC ( a closing night reception for the retrospective of the work of painter/printmaker Geoff Morten at the Porter Faculty Gallery, and Chip Lord's "Public Spaces" exhibit at the Sesnon), and the Davenport Gallery (the collective, mixed-media show, "Our Oceans").

But now that the days are getting perceptively longer (she says hopefully), FFAT is a great opportunity for local artists, art lovers, and schmoozers to reconnect with our downtown and see what's new. Local favorites showing downtown this month include James Aschbacher (aka Art Boy), showing his folk art-inspired mixed media on wood paintings at Artisans Gallery (above), Jane Gregorius, with a series of mixed-media monoprints from her "Church Series" at Lulu Carpenter, and Coeleen Kiebert's expressive clay sculpture at Felix Kulpa. This is also the last week to catch the excellent Clay and Glass show at the MAH.

What's extra fresh for this month? How about local childrens' art on view at two downtown locations. Over at L'Atelier Salon, on the corner of Pearl Alley, check out mixed media artwork from the students at Westlake Elementary K-12. The piece above is uncredited, but boy, do I love it! There's nothing like a kid with a paintbrush (or some torn colored paper) to capture the pure joy of self expression.

Then take a short stroll down to Louden Nelson Center to see work from the students at Mission Hill Middle School. Teacher, artist, activist, and one-woman dynamo Kathleen Crocetti presides over the art department at Mission Hill, and she's always dreaming up exciting new things for her students to do. This show is called Machines of Memory Boxes, featuring student artwork inspired by the work of Joseph Zirker, which was shown at the MAH last fall.

Finally, the new downtown offices of Cruzio (in the building formerly known as the Sentinel) is open for business and participating in FFAT for the first time. Five artists affiliated with the UCSC Digital Arts and New Media MFA program are staging a tech-based installation (sound, light, video and sculpture) in the Cruzio workshop for a First Night "interactive artistic experience." Okay, fine, but if you're like me, you just want to know what's been going on in that space for the last two years. Will some vestigial spirit of the old Sentinel printing press come thrumming through the fiberoptics into the new media? Drop in 5-9 pm Friday night and pick up the vibe.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Due to popular demand (thanks, Annie!), here's a peek at my 2011 Oscar Barbies. It was such an uninspiring group of nominees, costume-wise (all modern women in contemporary clothes, yawn...) that I almost didn't bother. But I decided to do Natalie Portman in Black Swan because I just happen to have a 50-year-old Barbie ballerina outfit in my possession, and when will I ever have another chance to use it?

Once I got into the spirit of the thing, I didn't want to be rude and leave anyone out, so here's the rest of the Best Actress lineup. Most of them anyway; I opted not to do Nicole Kidman, since I didn't see Rabbit Hole. Instead, I added Melissa Leo in The Fighter, in all her trampy glory. (Clutching a pair of boxing gloves that I happened to have left over from an old Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby Barbie.)

To the far side of the "Oscar," that's Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, Jennifer Lawrence's mountain girl in the frigid Ozarks in Winter's Bone, and Michelle Williams as the embittered young wife in Blue Valentine. Like I said, not much to work with this year, but, hey, it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.

My favorite real-life, grown-up outfit at the Oscars this year? Annette Bening's beaded, Art Deco-patterned metallic number in shades of black and silver. Okay, she missed out on the Oscar she deserved, but she gets my vote for the coolest dress—sort of a cross between slinky Fortuny glam and Robot Maria (from Metropolis). And this is absolutely the last thing I have to say about the Oscars for the rest of the year. Promise.