Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Okay, I love Captain Hook so much I wrote a novel about him. (Alias Hook, coming soon to a bookstore near you.) But tossing the character into the chaotic mosh pit that the TV series Once Upon A Time has become hasn't done nearly enough to improve the gene pool in terms of story.

The Irish actor playing him, Colin O'Donoghue, is sexy enough. (Although if you've read your Barrie, you know that Mr. Smee, the bosun, is the Irishman; Hook is pure Etonian-bred English.) O'Donoghue would likely rise to the occasion if the writers gave him anything interesting to do.

But, no. After one brief episode that took place at least partially aboard ship, now Hook is landlocked on the Island of Lost Toys, or wherever it is where half the cast is segregated this season, wandering around with the rest of the superfluous characters—Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Snow White, Lancelot (Lancelot? I thought these were fairy tale characters)—in search of a plot.

And—most egregiously of all—last week they introduced the Frankenstein monster, in the person (at least, the cadaver) of Regina's lost, reanimated stableboy lover. It must have been some kind of Halloween thing; the reanimation sequence was even in black-and-white, performed by a doctor called "Whale." (But if you want a truly clever homage to the classic James Whale movie, go see Frankenweenie).

The weirdest thing about the Hook subplot (and I use the term "plot" in the loosest possible sense) was the backstory establishing his enmity with Robert Carlyle's Mr. Gold. Each is responsible for depriving the other of the woman he loved, which suggests a tedious and prolonged grudge match of vengeance between the two of them if Hook ever gets out of Purgatory. And just so we get the point, Mr. Gold, in his sorcerous Dark Lord persona, is the one who cuts off Hook's hand, equating him in the storyline with—yes—the Crocodile.  (They even call him "Crocodile" in the episode.)

Carlyle remains the best (possibly only) reason to watch the show. But, seriously, give a guy a break! They've already got him playing Rumplestiltskin, the Dark Lord, Beast (in the Beauty and the Beast subplot), and now the Crocodile. How long can he be expected to carry the show all by himself? Talk about the hardest-working man in showbiz!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Who will win the Best Makeup award at next year's Oscar festivities? You can bet on the talented team from Cloud Atlas, the ambitious, visionary saga of love, loss, greed, slavery, and redemption through the ages, co-written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer.

Not only does this intrepid crew remake recognizable actors into various characters in various timelines, it often radically alters an actors' age, ethnicity and gender into the bargain.

The ease with which Asian and Caucasian, male and female, black and white switch roles throughout the film puts Cloud Atlas at risk of becoming a stunt movie, an elaborate game of spot-the-actor. OMG, it's Tom Hanks as that foul-mouthed skinhead British author. There's Halle Berry as a futuristic (male) lab tech with a gearshift for an eye. And isn't that Hugh Grant in tribal war paint? But the movie is rich (some might say dense) enough in ideas, plot, characters, and themes to keep us engaged.

Adapted from the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, the film presents six interwoven stories in different styles and settings (Victorian-era seafaring adventure, neo-noir thriller, industrialized future, post-apocalyptic tribalism, etc). Some civil rights groups are blasting the film for putting non-Asian actors in "yellowface" in a segment set in futuristic Korea (although Asian actresses Doona Bae,  Xun Zhou, and Zhu Zhu also turn up in non-Asian roles in other segments).

But having the same actors play diverse roles across five centuries of civilization also enhances the central motif of humanity facing the same moral, romantic and political issues, over and over again, in every era, where, as one character says, "the smallest crime or kindness" can have unknowable repercussions throughout the ages.

Transitions back and forth between the stories are often ingenious, and overall, the filmmaking is dynamic, despite a few too many vehicle chases and shootouts. And I would have liked more genuine emotional resonance amid all the flash and dazzle.

But here's the, er, bottom line for me: at nearly three hours in length, does the movie pass the butt test? It did for me. No squirming, no checking my watch, I was interested in the stories throughout. And how often do you see a movie any more that you can talk about for hours later? (Read more)


New Music Works launched its 34th Season last week with another live music program built around vintage silent films. This is a great idea pioneered last year with the NMW presentation of the beautifully restored 1926 Art Deco classic, Metropolis, accompanied by a terrific new score written for the film and conducted by NMW Artistic Director Phil Collins

This year, the film of choice was the weirdly haunting 1919 German Expressionist masterpiece, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It's a wildly inventive piece of filmmaking for its day, with its surreal, hand-painted sets, and cadaverous, yet sympathetic "somnambulist" forced to do the bidding of the evil "Herr Doktor," who belatedly discovers a will and conscience of his own. And it's always a treat to see it on a big screen.

It was also a treat to have composer Richard Marriott in the house, whose original 1987 score for Caligari was performed live by NMW at this screening. Maestro Collins introduced Marriott from the stage, who spoke about his work with The Club Foot Orchestra (a Bay Area ensemble highly esteemed for composing and performing live scores to accompany vintage silent films), and how he came to write the Caligari score, after channel-hopping upon the movie one night on Channel 9.

Also on the program was the surreal 1927 short film Ghosts Before Breakfast, by DaDaist Hans Richter, accompanied by the largely percussive and playful 1982 piece, "Revenge Before Breakfast," by Henry Bryant.

The experimental 1944 silent short, At Land, directed by and featuring Maya Deren, rounded out the bill, an evocative piece in which a female (nymph? spirit?) appears to crawl out of the sea and slither into a swanky dinner party. Despite the composer credit for John Cage in the program, the 15-minute film was accompanied by dead  silence. Lucky for me, Art Boy knows something about 20th Century music and explained it was an homage to a famous Cage composition, "4:33," which consists of four-and-a-half minutes of silence. But I wonder how many other audience members didn't get the joke, which was never alluded to from the stage.

In fact, there could be more acknowledgement of the audience in general from the stage. It would be nice if Collins or someone else from NMW came out to welcome the audience and thank them for their support at the start of the program. It could even be an amplified voice from offstage, just a little touch of showmanship to let people know the show is about to begin.

Pairing up avant garde film and music is a productive idea I hope NMW continues to explore in the future. With a little tightening up in the presentation department, consider the possibilities!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Funny script, extreme blood, in genre satire 'Seven Psychopaths'

Irish playwright Martin McDonagh made quite a splash—albeit a bloody one—with his first feature, the brilliant, brutal, scathingly funny, fiercely moral In Bruges.

The good news is he's back with more boys behaving badly in Seven Psychopths. The bad news is, it's no In Bruges.

Still, even almost-there McDonagh is better, smarter, and funnier than your average bear. This time, the story concerns an Irish filmmaker named Martin in Hollywood, trying to write a new screenplay. It's not exactly McDonagh's 8 1/2; it's more like his Alex In Wonderland, a well-intentioned and often entertaining sophomore effort that doesn't always hit all its marks.

As self-referential to its genre as a Scream movie, its film-within-a-film format allows McDonagh to deconstruct the crime/buddy/gangster thriller, and point out all its clichés and weaknesses, while trading on them shamelessly. The degree of bloodletting is utterly absurdist, but the character comedy is still funny, even if it lacks the cohesion and moral force of its predecessor.

Colin Farrell plays the blocked screenwriter as a wary, wide-eyed Everyman. (His eyebrows alone deserve their own Oscar.) His job is to play straight man to a looney-tunes cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, and Christopher Walken, who is extra terrific as the movie's weary, tattered soul. (Read more)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Silent movie fans, unite!

One of the most spellbinding, eeriest, and earliest proto-horror films ever, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, is coming to town this week. Here's your chance to see it on a big, big screen at the Rio, Friday night, at the kickoff event for New Music Works' 34th season, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: A Live Soundtrack Experience.

Robert Weine's 1919 German Expressionistic masterpiece concerns a demented carnival fortune-teller who keeps a sleepwalking somnambulist in a permanent trance-like state to do his evil bidding. Breathtakingly bizarre visuals include moody chiaroscuro lighting, and menacing forced-perspective interiors and exteriors, which add to the sense of haunting weirdness. 

Conrad Veidt (later to play suave Nazi villains in American films like Casablanca) is strangely poignant as the fragile, reed-thin, hollow-eyed somnambulist, Cesare. Not a monster himself, he's manipulated in monstrous ways by his keeper, sinister Dr. Caligari (the scenery-chewing Werner Krauss).

Still, the shots of Cesare, all in black, creeping like a shadowy spider along the walls of Walter Reimann's surreal dreamscape of a set are among the most indelible images in all of horror cinema. I get chills just thinking about it!

At Friday's event, the 51-minute film is accompanied by an original music score by contemporary Bay Area composer Richard Marriot, performed live by the NMW Ensemble under the baton of Artistic Director Phil Collins.

Also on the bill is Ghosts Before Breakfast, a surreal 1927 short by Dadaist filmmaker/artist Hans Richter, accompanied by the composition "Revenge Before Breakfast" (1982) by Henry Brant, and At Land (1944), an experimental short by Maya Deren, featuring Deren and John Cage, accompanied by the composition "John Cage, 4:33" (1952). The NMW ensemble will also perform Erik Satie's 1920 composition, "Furniture Music." Complete program begins at 8 pm.

If you remember last year's NMW presentation of another silent, classic, Metropolis, as fondly as I do, you know you're in for a treat! Yes, there will be a costume contest Friday night, so dress up as a character from Caligari, or your favorite piece of furniture, to compete for the Best Costume prizes. Click here for ticket info, or visit the NMW website.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I don't know about you, but it seems to me they can't bring on the Captain Hook character soon enough in the second season of TV's Once Upon A Time.

The curse was broken at the end of last season, and the suddenly un-enchanted denizens of Storybrook remember their fairy tale lives, although for some reason that escapes me at the moment, they can't go home to their fairy tale realm. But now, the scriptwriters have no idea what to do next; like the proverbial spaghetti noodle test, they're throwing everything at the wall to see if something, anything sticks.

Evil queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) is under some kind of house arrest in her mayor's mansion, out of the action. There are early indications that the writers are trying to soften her character up this season by re-introducing an even more dastardly wicked queen, the mother who made her what she is, previously seen only in flashback. This would be fatal to the show; Regina's ruthlessness is one of the series' few constant pleasures.

The other one is the great Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold. You never know from one week to the next if he'll prove to be a good guy or a bad guy, but he always has a private agenda, some angle of self-interest, and that's what makes him so interesting. (Along with Carlyle's deliciously acrobatic and insinuating voice.) But we haven't seen enough of Mr. Gold this season, either.

Instead, the bulk of the narrative action so far falls to the designated "heroes" in the cast, and you've never seen so many shades of vanilla. At the moment, storylines are unfolding on three fronts, none of them interesting: the folks in Storybrook are trying to figure out how to get home, under the dubious leadership of Prince (yawn) Charming; angsty Emma and virtuous Snow (as in White) have tumbled though a mystic portal into some other enchanted plane, where they team up with another couple of personality-challenged females—Sleeping Beauty, and the so-far-underwhelming warrior Mulan—to battle ogres and elude Regina's poisonous mommie dearest; meanwhile, everyone's backstories continue to play out in flashbacks to the original fairy tale kingdom.

The mystery of how these stories fit together may be more trouble than it's worth solving for an increasingly disenchanted audience. (Okay, for me.) The writers must know it; the end of last week's episode teased a shot of a sailing ship, with a promise to introduce "one of the most despicable villains of all time." Hmmm...that's a bit harsh, especially if you've read my History of Captain Hook on stage, page, and screen.

Even if this Hook is still a villain, if he can hold his own against Gold and Regina, he'll be worth his weight in bullion in a show that desperately needs a breath of fresh sea air. It's promising that they have a sexy young Irishman playing the part, although the fatality rate for sexy young males on this show is pretty, er, grim.

Remember the hunky Huntsman/Sheriff? The queen squashed his heart like a bug. Mysterious stranger August/Pinocchio was last seen turning into wood (and I don't mean in a good way). And didn't Ruby/Riding Hood devour her own sweetheart during a werewolf interlude in her backstory?

If Hook is a hit on the show, I'll be waiting to see what kind of backstory they invent for him, and how it differs for the one I wrote for him in my upcoming novel, Alias Hook.  That's the great thing about a character who's been around as long as Captain Hook (107 years and counting)—he's always ripe for a new interpretation.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Pacific Rim Film Festival promotes cross-cultural understanding

The aloha spirit returns to Santa Cruz when the 24th Annual Pacific Rim Film Festival unspools this week. Originally inspired by the Hawaii International Film Festival, and dedicated to cross-cultural understanding around the theme, "When Strangers Meet," the six-day event runs October 19-24, offering twenty films from countries all around the Pacific Rim at five venues countywide. In addition to the Del Mar and the Rio, festival films will also screen at the Riverfront Twin, Watsonville Center, Cabrillo College, and the Crocker Theater at Cabrillo College. As always, all films are screened free of charge to the public, with the exception of the closing night benefit.

The biggest crowd-pleaser of the Festival may be the opening night offering, THE TOPP TWINS: UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS (New Zealand, 2009, 100 minutes) Leanne Pooley's delightful documentary introduces us to two of New Zealand's most beloved cultural icons: Jools and Lynda Topp. Farm-bred twin sisters who started out as street-corner buskers, singing, yodeling, and playing guitar, they are also cheerfully upbeat lesbians, and tireless anti-nuke, pro-civil rights activists.

As comediennes, the twins are like a two-woman Monty Python troupe with a rotating cast of comic characters of all ages, genders, and classes. As musicians, their songs are infectious, witty, and heartfelt, and as personalities, they are irresistible. So is the film. I guarantee you'll come out humming the tunes. (Plays at the Del Mar, Friday, 8:30 p.m., and at the Rio, Monday, 12 noon.)

Speaking of tunes, one of the most democratizing things about the humble ukulele is that everyone can play it. But not everyone can play the uke like Jake Shimabukuro. Takashi Nakamura's terrific documentary, JAKE SHIMABUKURO: LIFE ON FOUR STRINGS (USA, 2012, 60 minutes), explores the life and sudden, meteoric career of the awesomely gifted young Hawaiian-born uke virtuoso, who's carved out an international career as a solo concert artist playing everything from The Beatles, to classical, to jazz. If you can't even imagine Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the uke, wait till you hear Jake's full-blooded rendition! (Plays at the Del Mar, Saturday only, 8 p.m. O&A to follow with director Nakamura.) (Read more)

For more details, check out the PRFF website or visit their Facebook page.


Here's what we did on our Open Studios "vacation" (meaning—the one weekend that Art Boy & I have off from his own OS). These Westside artists will all be open for "Encore," this weekend, as well.

It's always fun to visit ceramic sculptor Peggy Snider, on Meder Street (on the way to UCSC). The rustic shelves of her workspace are loaded with lively clay creatures ready for a good home—winged angels, muses, sun-haloed wisewomen, human figures just about to take flight, and fanciful critters of indeterminate species. Don't miss the column of animated little faces made from bits of leftover clay that decorate her door jamb ("Nothing goes to waste around here!" Peggy laughed.)

More winsome pieces decorate the railing of her side deck; stroll along until you get to the steps leading down to her enchanting sculpture garden. This is a meditative space perfect for gazing at her larger, more formidable and hypnotic pieces.

Over on National Street, painter and mixed-media artist Glenn Carter is showing a range of work. Some are monumental works in progress destined for a gallery show early next year, but he also has walls full of small, intriguing framed pieces with an interesting history: they were created from large mixed-media on paper pieces that  Carter felt were no longer working. So he cut them up into smaller bits, then ripped, repurposed and recombined the various elements into a completely new series with an energy and mystery all its own.

Carter works with all kinds of materials, from large steel monoliths and a giant, dried agave root, to wire, string, cheesecloth and wax. His wide-open two-room studio is a terrific display space for his work. And while you're there, take a moment to wander the brick pathways that wind through the fantastic succulent gardens he and his wife, Denise, have put in over the years. Who wouldn't feel creative in such a beautiful space?

The oil paintings of Westside artist and art teacher Isabell Fearnsby are moody and mysterious, especially her renderings of iconic local places like Shopper's Corner, the Boardwalk, and the Rio Theatre. I like how she imbues this image of the Del Mar with a haunting, otherworldly feel.

The plain pegboard display of unframed pieces on the lawn of her Sacramento Street home could use an upgrade, and her painting studio inside is tiny. But we enjoyed watching her at work at her easel.

While we were there, she was working on the underpainting of a new piece, and it was interesting to see how she gridded out the canvas and mapped out where the most compelling focal points would be. The chance to view the artistic process in action is a big part of the appeal of OS.

It's too bad paperwork artist Will Marino doesn't show more of his process for us conceptually-challenged types. The simple explanation is posted in his San Juan Avenue studio that his raw materials are used, vintage dartboards whose coiled paper interiors are deconstructed, refolded and rewound. But I still can't even imagine how he gets such extraordinary effects.

The color, texture and detail of his wall pieces are simply amazing.  This one is called "Big Sur #2: After the Fire," combining wound paper with pieces of charred wood. He makes vivid use of greens in some landscape-themed pieces, but his monochromatic pieces are just as visually intense. 

So are his sculptural pieces. A forest of proud, majestic cones dominate one area, while a variety of sinuously arching, leap-frogging, slinky shapes pop up on shelves and other surfaces. And don't miss the Steampunk-style, hand-cranked paper cone extruder in one corner. It's hands-on all the way with Marino's exceptional, one-of-a-kind work. Don't miss it!

Studios will be open for this final, Encore weekend from 11 am to 5 pm. Let's hope this gorgeous weather holds out!

Friday, October 12, 2012


Hundreds of participating artists throw open their doors to the public during the Open Studios Art Tour. Beth Allison Gripenstraw throws a party—and you're invited!

This copiously creative ceramicist, watercolor painter and jewelry-maker doesn't just spruce up her workspace for OS; she creates an entire alternative universe that visitors are happy to get lost in.  Every year at OS, her Westside house on Towne Terrace (off Mission) gets a makeover into some fantastic new environment.  Two years ago, it was Alice's Wonderland. Last year, Beth staged an African safari, a trip she never took in real life, but imagined and recreated in a series of bold, fanciful paintings and animal print ceramic vessels and tableware.

 This year, we're off to Paris to commune with the Bohemian art scene, ca 1920. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview this week, and if you loved Midnight In Paris, you'll want to put Beth at the top of your OS to-do list this weekend.

The centerpiece is the transformation of her dining room into the Lapin Agile, the Montmartre cabaret where Picasso and his buddies hung out to smoke, drink, and argue about the meaning of art. And guess what—they're all still here!
Enlarging black-and-white photos on the computer, and with incredible attention to the details of vintage clothing and accessories, Beth recreates a dinner party for eight renowned artists. You'll see Frida Kahlo in her embroidered Mexican blouse, beads, and coronet of flowers, and Picasso peering out dubiously from beneath his beret.
Paul Gauguin arrives straight from the islands, in tropical whites, and sporting a lei, while Diego Rivera unbuttons his tailored waistcoat over his impressive girth.
Vincent Van Gogh wears his straw painting hat and a faraway look in his eyes. And I love Salvador Dali's dashing white silk aviator's scarf and old school tie.

Modigliani and Claude Monet are also in attendance, along with famed artist's model Kiki lounging on the banquette in back. Sure, not all these artists were alive at the same time in real life, but that's what artistic license is all about!

In addition to the period glassware, vintage cigarette packs, ashtrays, and cutlery with which Beth festoons the table, she's created plates, bowls, and saucers inspired by each artist's work. (Here's a dinner plate featuring her take on a Frida self-portrait.) I also love Beth's version of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

To get you more in the mood, old black-and-white silent films will play on a nearby screen while an old record player will spin Edith Piaf and other French cabaret music. Oh, and did I mention there will be an absinthe bar in the corner?

And this is just one room. Beth promises a French bistro with wine and cheese on the balcony, a French farm market in the driveway, and an artist's atelier adjoining the dining room, complete with easel and model's couch, where various ceramic wares and jewelry will be on sale.

Meanwhile, her living room gallery space will display Beth's big, fun, colorful paintings of travels real and imagined: to Mexico, Hawaii, France, and Africa.

Beth is # 228 in your OS Guide. She'll only be open this weekend, so don't you dare miss her! Check out her website to see what she's been up to lately, and I'll see you there.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


If you love dogs, you'll love Frankenweenie, Tim Burton's sweetly subversive story of a boy and his (recently deceased) dog. When loyal little Sparky gets hit by a car, heartbroken young Victor sews him up and reanimates him, Frankenstein-style, in his home-made attic lab.

Reinventing a short film he made almost 30 years ago, Burton crafts a black-and-white, 3D, stop-motion animated feature in loving homage to James Whale's horror classic, full of monster movie in-jokes and hilarious sight gags. The lab scene is deliriously fun, as Victor generates electricity  using a spectacular lightning storm outside to drive every household appliance in the attic capable of rotation—electric fan, bike wheels, the reels of a film projector, a record-player turntable.

Victor's grade school science teacher is a Vincent Price lookalike with an unpronounceable Slavic name; his classmates are junior ghouls in the making, from eager young hunchback E(dgar) Gore to a pint-sized Karloff clone, to a budding mad Japanese scientist. The tombstones in the pet cemetery are shaped like crossed dog biscuits, a fishbowl, or a fire hydrant, with inscriptions like "Goodbye, Kitty."

Heroic little Sparky (an adorable little pooch of indeterminate breed—to say the least) gets to save the day when a herd of grotesquely reanimated pets invades the town, led by a giant Turtle-zilla (named "Shelley," natch).

Everyone should recognize the burning windmill finale from Whale's original Frankenstein, but only connoisseurs (like Art Boy) may get Burton's reference to vintage '50s sci-fi B-movie, Invasion of the Saucer Men, at the very end, when all the townsfolk gather their cars in a circle and turn on the headlights for one last energy burst.

Frankenweenie is loads of silly fun, but best of all, it offers plenty of genuine resonance about the bond between people and their beloved pets.  You'll want to hug your own little guy the minute you get home!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


What? You say you can't get to London for the fall theater season this year?

Here's the next best thing: why not enjoy London theater in the comfort and privacy of our own Del Mar Theatre, right here in downtown Santa Cruz.

Through the miracle of modern technology, Britain's acclaimed National Theatre of London is providing a live feed of each of the plays in its Fall 2012/Winter 2013 season to movie theaters worldwide. Productions in the National Theatre Live program are presented digitally, in HD, one Thursday evening a month, with an encore matinee the following Sunday, in the Grand Auditorium of the Del Mar Theatre.

The offering for this month, The Last of the Haussmans, debuts this Thursday (October 11), 7:30 pm, with an encore performance Sunday (October 14) at 11 am. The irrepressible Julie Walters (left) stars in this new dysfunctional family comedy by playwright Stephen Beresford. She plays an aging, ex-hippie matriarch retired to a seaside town in Devon, where she's visited by her two wayward grown children (Helen McCrory and Rory Kinnear), a granddaughter, and a couple of locals, for a summer of drinking, nostalgia, recrimination, inappropriate romances, and broken dreams.

This is the second season that these broadcasts have been available locally, but it's still the best-kept secret in Santa Cruz. In a theatrical town like ours, that supports so many stage companies, large and small, the NT Live program deserves to be better known.

NT Live productions have ranged from updated classics like A Comedy of Errors and She Stoops to Conquer,  to the blistering political satire of Collaborators, to challenging new plays like the recent adaptation of Mark Haddon's bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

In the recent production of Frankenstein, playwright Nick Dear's new take on Mary Shelley's classic novel, directed by Danny Boyle, lead actors Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in the modernist PBS reboot) and Jonny Lee Miller alternated in the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his Creature.

The program's very first offering, the Commedia del'Arte-inspired romp, One Man, Two Guvnors, was praised by many smitten critics as the single funniest theatrical performance, ever.

So don't miss out. Here's what's in store for the rest of the season. Admission to the Del Mar is $15, with discount tickets of $13 for seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers. Come see what you've been missing!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Time to get your arts on! The Open Studios Art Tour starts this weekend. 

I'll be reporting from the field in two weeks, after Art Boy and I get to go out and visit other studios. In the meantime, say hello to some new favorites and returning veterans who will be opening their doors this weekend (October 6 and 7) in South County.

Here's looking at you, kids! James Aschbacher (aka Art Boy) will be showing  some new  painted art mirrors, along with his whimsical mixed-media acrylic and oil on wood paintings.

People who only know James' public murals around town are often surprised that he makes paintings that fit inside the house as well. Indeed, he does, and an Aschbacher on the wall is like a mystic portal into an enchanted realm of playful cats and dogs, flying fish, dancing eggs, and floating lovers.

James is #110 in the OS Calendar/Guide, here in beautiful midtown Live Oak. Stop in and see what's new!

Aptos ceramicist Jacquie Walton (#43 in the OS Guide) has been potting up a storm. Her beautiful vases, vessels and lamps pay homage to vintage Arts and Crafts design houses like Rookwood and Grueby.

This year, she has lots of new work inspired by classic Redlands, Tiffany, and Teco pottery. All Jacquie's work is hand-thrown (she doesn't use molds) and her glazes are exquisite!

Check out the preview portfolio on her Facebook page:

Fanne Fernow took a break from OS last year, but this year she's back at 17th Avenue, Live Oak, with plenty of strong new work.  Many of her new pieces combine the figurative elements (animals, women, madonnas) so beloved by her early collectors with the meditative encaustic techniques she's been perfecting over the last couple of years.

 The results are vibrant, complex, graphic AND fun! Take a look for yourselves!

Every picture tells a story at Fanne's studio this year. "Long Time No See" (her happy dog painting at the OS Preview Show at the Art League) is a sally to her early fans.  A pair of her cheeky cat paintings, "What Took Her So Long?" and "She Was Blue," continue the saga, accompanied by an entire wall of bright, buoyant paintings in the "Flowerhead Sisters" and "Black Madonna" series. 

And don't miss yet another new series of intricate, triangle-pattern abstracts like the hypnotic "In the Gloaming."

Also welcome back assemblage artist Faye Augustine. (Another Live Oakie, she's # 125 in the OS Guide.) MIA from OS for the last few years, she's back, showing new paintings on wood, a few vintage assemblage pieces, and lots of the 3-D work that is just so Faye—small altar pieces, voodoo dolls, and her "Creepy Doll" line of painted and embellished fabric critters with attitude!

I took a good pic of the dolls too, but the digital camera ate my photo. Must have been voodoo at work! Better stop in and see them in person.

This is just a teeny tiny fraction of the artists throwing open their studio doors this weekend. Pick up a copy of the OS Guide, get the OS App, or visit the OS website to see them all. Studios are open to the public 11 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, so get out there and get inspired!

Monday, October 1, 2012


Well, this is exciting. Check out the cover for my new novel, Alias Hook!

My designer (who is also my editor; talk about multi-tasking) just sent this over from Snowbooks. She tells me the yellow bits will be in shiny gold foil, and the lettering will be embossed. Pretty cool for a trade paperback!

 I just love the script for the title, perfect for an 18th Century gentleman privateer penning his memoirs. And I like the tilt of that ship at sea, a visual metaphor for the shipwreck Hook's life has become.

(I had nothing to do with this cover, btw, as much as I'd love to take credit fo it. All I asked was that the designer steer clear of anything involving a large, shiny hook—too literal and way too Spielberg. Happily, she was way ahead of me!)

My publication date has been moved up to March, 2013. At first, the book will only be available in bookstores in the UK (and online, of course), but, as Hook himself might say, tomorrow the world!

In the meantime, take a look at my recent post on one hundred years of Captain Hook in the popular media, and why I think he's ripe for redemption.