Mark Morgan started tapdancing five years ago, but when he broke his leg in San Francisco, he moved to Santa Rosa and kept on dancing. He has a plate in his leg, but still keeps the beat. I caught him tappin' in downtown Santa Rosa last night and had to take a video. He is busking partly for fun, partly to keep busy. When he's not doing electrical work or welding, he practices his dance moves. He says he just finished his part for a music video for SF band Urban Cigar Crisis, so keep an eye out for him.
More words will come tomorrow, but for now, just enjoy the view!
Flying via zeppelin is one of the most incredible airborne experiences one can have. It's majestic. Have you ever flown in a comfortable space? There's very little noise, plenty of space, not too many people, the atmosphere in the cabin is fine, there are windows everywhere, two of them open up and you can stick your head outside. This is referred to as "zep head." I highly suggest it.
This particular company serves champagne and pretty much unlimited snacks during the flight, which is much appreciated. It's a good thing cell phones must be turned off, because otherwise most of the flight would be spent tweeting or telling other people how amazing the experience is, and I would have missed stunning view of the Russian River, Armstrong Redwoods, Bodega Bay, Petaluma (we circled the Petaluma High Trojans football game. Because of the time we were there, I think it might have been the junior varsity game).
The cockpit is right there, and I felt like a kid looking at all the dials and switches with awe and wonder. I even got a chance to talk to the pilot, Ben Travis. Even though, as a pilot, he can fly plenty of different craft, he not just prefers flying zeppelins, but referred to it more of a lifestyle. He said there's a group of pilots who do this, and they are all so enthusiastic, it's like a small, very dedicated network of pilots. Once you go zeppelin, you never go, uh, back, I guess. (Nothing rhymes with zeppelin.)
It's filled with helium, and is about 20 feet longer than a 747 airplane. The cabin only holds twelve passengers (and two crew members), and really you want to stay under 30 knots, so it's not the most economical or speedy way to travel. But our two hour flight used less gasoline than our 15-minute shuttle from the airport terminal to the runway. And it's so comfortable, business could be conducted in the cabin with ease. To buy and operate a zeppelin from scratch might cost around $25 million euro. For a billionaire who possibly owns multiple private jets this is a drop in the bucket. And there's a company who flies out of Moffett Field in the South Bay who is experienced and can set this up. Are you listening, Larry Ellison? Sandy Weill, do you read me? Tim Cook, where you at? Hey Mark Zuckerberg, how cool would it be to show up to places in a zeppelin? All you need is 22 acres of open space, you don't even need to land at an airport.
But really, the question I had the whole time in the back of my mind was, "Is it taboo to listen to Led Zeppelin on a zeppelin? Is there like, some sort of unspoken rule not to do that?" I asked after the flight, and apparently there's nothing against it. If Led Zep reunites with John Bonham's son on drums, as has been rumored, I think they should tour in the zeppelin, not in a bus.
See this site for more info on the wine country flights.
He was bad news from the start.
You know the type. The kind of of guy you just get a bad feeling from.
For this year's Jive writing contest, we're asking for a 400-words-or-less piece of fiction around the wrong sort of man. He could be a boyfriend, a politician, a supermarket checker, a drifter. Something's off, but something draws you in. Something happens, and it isn't always his fault. We want to read what your sharp fiction-writing minds have to say about this guy. Just make sure that your story at some point contains the phrase, "He was bad news from the start."
Our favorite bad-news entries will be published in our Fall Lit Issue, and we'll have a party and reading with the winners that very night, Oct. 17, at Copperfield's Books in Montgomery Village at 6pm!
Send your entries to email@example.com.
Deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 5pm.
At 2:04am last night, I had just watched "Mother Jones’" astounding video of Mitt Romney at Marc Leder’s home and I couldn’t sleep. This is surprising because I have a two-month-old and can usually pass out on command whenever the opportunity presents itself. But after listening to the GOP candidate lampoon that “47 percent” of Americans who believe they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing,” the people who allegedly should “take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” I lay under our hand-me-down comforter shaking while I held my sleeping daughter.
Almost a year ago, I unexpectedly found out that I was pregnant. I had just quit a job with health insurance for my current part-time position, which I love, but which is 30 hours a week and does not offer benefits. After making the Esurance rounds and a dozen phone calls and realizing that, no, pre-existing conditions are not a myth, my husband and I discussed Medi-Cal.
We didn’t want to apply—and we almost didn’t. We had the best intentions, or at least we thought we did. We both work. We have two cars, even if they are both older than people who can reproduce. After visiting the county office and waiting in line with pregnant teens and a guy talking to his own toes, we felt like we didn’t have any right to use the state’s scant resources, when so many other people obviously needed dollars from this dwindling money pool more. Our line of reasoning was also, of course, a naïve and sort of pompous way of setting ourselves apart, but we didn’t see that at the time.
We decided to have our baby at a birth center, largely because it cost roughly a fourth of the hospital’s out-of-pocket estimate. Still, we didn’t want to apply for Medi-Cal. We knew that we could be transferred during labor, but I’m 26 and healthy, and our growing baby seemed to be doing fine. We would take care of our own expenses, we reasoned, because although the “entitlements” Romney talks about were probably necessary for plenty of people in plenty of circumstances, we were responsible Americans, dammit, and we would foot our own bills.
When my water broke, yellow and thick with meconium, and I had to be transferred from the Birth Center to Memorial, I was glad my mom had insisted we apply. When my beautiful, fat baby burst into the world covered in the greenish tar; when she started wheezing and choking and had to be whisked off to the NICU; when she developed pneumonia on her first day in this world and had to be hooked up to oxygen; when it was the only thing giving her tiny, heaving chest any relief, I was glad we had applied. When we got the bill for her ten-day stay and it was enough to keep us from ever paying off our student loans or buying a house or sending our daughter to college, I was glad we had applied.
Angry and jotting down incoherent notes about how this whole experience did NOT make us entitled victims despite the words of this presidential candidate last night, I realized, sadly, that on some level I still believe it does. Every time I pull out my little Edith’s Medi-Cal card and read the numbers aloud, I feel guilty. Even though I know this experience was purely circumstantial, that we work very hard and pay state taxes and just happened to fall through the lower-middle gap, I still feel like it was my fault, like we’re no longer worthy of the title “responsible.” Probably not unlike the millions of others in our situation, I’ve internalized the myth that Romney laid out in chilling language while seeking donations from a private-equity manager in Boca Raton last May.
But then I look at my 12-pound daughter breathing easily and the guilt melts away.
It’s tough to pick one standout memory from the Kendall Jackson 2012 Heirloom Tomato Festival. There were dozens of chefs serving a variety of tomato-themed samples, a copious amount of wine, a great Latin band, the giant centerpiece tent with over a hundred different types of tomatoes cut up for sampling, the lovely weather, the interesting people, the interesting outfits, celebrity sightings, beautiful scenery—it’s almost too much to take in at once. Luckily, this annual event seems to get better each year, but get your $85 general admission tickets early; this one sold out in advance.
Starting with the food, because that’s probably the main draw, it was a mix of local restaurants and a host of others food purveyors, with catering companies and tomato product companies. Upscale plates like savory tomato and bacon bread pudding from John Ash mingled with Everyman food like wood-fired pizza with tomatoes and pork cracklins from Johnny Garlic. Then there was the unique, like the tomato, watermelon and mint gelato from Fiorello’s, which had a long line most of the afternoon.
There were seminars on wine tasting and a competition between two Top Chef contestants, but with so much food and wine to try I didn’t get to see any of them. I did hear the music, as the Carlos Herrera Band played several sets throughout the day, and the Latin flavor could be heard throughout the grounds. Very good sound system, as well. Top notch, all the way around.
The tomatoes were the star of this day. Under the central tent, over 175 different varieties were up for sampling, varying widely in taste and names. Some are named after taste, some after appearance, and some, like God Love, are named by the whim of the grower. Personally, I would name them all after Pokémon. When I ran out of Pokémon, it would transfer over naturally to names of bosses from the Megaman video game series. If there were any left after that, maybe start naming them after the sayings on Frank Rossitano’s hats in the sitcom 30 Rock.
Some dishes that stood out to me were either fantastically original, extremely creative or simply perfect. One such dish was the tomato sushi from JoAnne & Jimmy, a catering company of sorts from San Francisco. They host pop-up dinners from time to time and Jimmy, also known as Culinary Institute of America-trained Master Chef James Corwell, uses his imagination and skills to create interesting menus. He’s been perfecting this sushi for years and hopes this 4-month-old company will help create a buzz for this and other specialties.
He starts with great sushi rice, forms it for nigiri and dabs a bit of wasabi on top. Then he carefully fillets tomato, removing the skin and seeds, placing each piece atop a bed of rice before wrapping it with a thin seaweed seatbelt. The result is an incomprehensibly accurate visual representation of maguro tuna, but it’s completely vegan. It tastes great, as well, with the familiar taste of sushi rice and the unexpected flavor of tomato combining into a new sensation that wouldn’t leave my mind.
Another dish that captured my imagination was the scallop on toasted tomato bread with clear tomato gazpacho from Bistro Boudin in San Francisco. Yes, it’s the same company that makes the sourdough bread. But the bistro is upscale, and chef Misael Reyes wanted to create something special for the festival that would really highlight tomato without forcing it to be the focal point of the dish. His scallops were delicious, and the bread for the toast points he made from scratch, folding tomato puree into the dough. The highlight was the gazpacho, which he says was clarified for four hours through strainers and cheese cloths to finish as a semi-opaque, very flavorful shooter of tomato soup in a totally un-traditional way. If the voting boxes hadn’t been collected before I went to cast my vote, this would have been my choice.
Reyes said he had never made tomato bread or tomato gazpacho before this attempt, and seemed happy with how it turned out. He says he might have had a different opinion, however, if it were he and not his sous chef that did most of the strenuous straining of the soup.
Right next to Reyes and his crew was a sweet tomato dish that stood out to me, the heirloom tomato and apricot spice jam bars with oatmeal streusel by chef Reneé Pisan at Chloe’s French Café in Santa Rosa. These little gems were perfect in consistency, not too sweet and packed with tomato flavor, with just the right amount of oats on top for texture.
It was so balanced, and the combination of apricot and tomato made a great jam. I could spread that on toast, make a sweet pizza, dollop it in yogurt or just spoon it into my mouth like a slob. I don’t care, I just want more of it.
The weather was perfect, the grounds are beautiful, outfits ranged from shlubby to stunning and even traffic and parking weren’t that bad. This was the 16th KJ tomato fest, and already I’m planning on how to get in next year. The cadre of volunteers seems able to handle every task, from chopping tomatoes to delivering water to pouring wine, and I suspect the abundance of eager free labor has something to do with free admission to the festival. Either way, hats off to them; these tomato enthuiasts made everything run smoothly.
Guy Fieri was there, and he was cool and pretty down-to-earth. We talked for about 10 minutes about how much he really thinks the North Bay is the best place on Earth. As much as I tried to find something to find fault with about the guy, because we all know controversy sells more than praise, I couldn't disagree with him on that one. But really, bro, outta my league? Let's let her decide that one.
The tickets are a gift from the Santa Rosa Symphony, performing Beethoven’s Consecration of the House, Ravel’s Bolero, Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto performed by SRS conductor laureate Jeffrey Kahane, and Copland’s Canticle of Freedom, featuring the 100-voice Symphony Honor Choir. The Symphony also commissioned an orchestral work, Sonoma Overture, by Petaluma composer Nolan Gasser. It’s worth going just to hear Kahane play Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto, let alone see it.
Yes, it will be visible from the nosebleed free seats, because, as the symphony points out, “Most of the lawn seating will not have a view of the stage; however, large outdoor screens and a state-of-the-art sound system will facilitate an exciting experience for all.” This means the pressure is on the camera crew and director to create an exciting experience for those 2,700 who are sure to gobble up the free seating. Even though it’s free, tickets are required (though they will be available at the gate, is still available). Presumably, seating on the lawn is first come, first served.
As of right now, there are still very good seats available at the $25 tables directly outside the hall. Those might be worth the price, too, but make sure your seats aren’t in the “half stage visible” section. For both the free and $25 lawn seats, patrons are invited to bring their own picnic, but not alcohol, to the concert. Box lunches, wine and beer will be available for purchase. For the free lawn seats, feel free to bring low chairs or blankets. Ever been to a concert at the Shoreline in Mountain View? It might be like that, but not built on a mound of old garbage. Check out the Santa Rosa Symphony's website for details and tickets.
Today we're hearing that the Pacific Sun, the weekly paper in Marin, has been sold by its current owners Embarcadero Media.
UPDATE: Editor Jason Walsh has made the announcement official.
The new owner is Bob Heinen, one of the initial employees and an early shareholder in Embarcadero Media, the Palo Alto-based company that has owned the Sun since 2004.
Heinen, who will relocate to Marin from Menlo Park and become publisher of the Sun, served as a senior financial and operations manager in Embarcadero Media until 2005, when he left to pursue other media-related projects.
According to the release, the Sun will stay in its current offices. The current staff will remain, except for current publisher Gina Allen—an unusually conservative figure who's signed petitions in support of Chik-Fil-A (adjacent), reposts about "Obama's Racial politics" and has a strange understanding of Planned Parenthood.
The Pacific Sun is the country's second longest running altweekly, established in 1963. Longtime owner Steve McNamara sold the Pacific Sun to Embarcadero Media in 2004.
This makes for a busy day in the altweekly media world. Village Voice editor Tony Ortega announced this morning that he's leaving the long(est)-running altweekly, and the Voice's irreplaceable Music Editor Maura Johnston appears to have been laid off, too.
A couple years back I got into reading about the movement towards living with more simplicity and minimalism. I checked out books at the library with titles like Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin and read the many blogs that began to leap on the minimalist bandwagon. I never ended up narrowing down my things to what only fits into a backpack, but I did learn to actually interrogate my buying habits and to think long and hard before I buy things, asking myself, "Do I really need this right now?"
I've lost interest in pretty much all of the minimalist bloggers and writers since that time, except for one— Tammy Strobel, the blogger behind Rowdy Kittens, a site that espouses simple living and ways to find happiness outside of consumer culture. After being featured a 2010 New York Times article, Strobel's blog took off, garnering her a book deal in the process.
Strobel, who recently moved to Yreka from Portland, Oregon, has a new book out on Sep. 18. It has the ultra-long title of You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too and was published by Novato-based New World Library. A quick look at the chapter titles gives a good idea of what the book covers: Changing Your Relationship with Stuff, The Power of Debt, Sell What You Can. Give the Rest Away, Time is the Only Real Wealth. . . It's a compendium of the ideas of writings that have formed the core of the Rowdy Kittens philosophy and approach for the past four years.
What I like best about Strobel's writing is her willingness to discuss how she's struggled towards minimalism. She doesn't make it seem easy, but she does make it seem like a worthy challenge. Since beginning the blog, Strobel and her husband have moved out of their Portland apartment and into a tiny house, similar to those created over at Tumbleweed, and it's fun to check out the many photos of the house and life in general, taken by Strobel. I also admire her dedication to coffee, books, writing and enjoying the small things in life. She has a friendly, engaging writing voice that never comes across as superior, unlike some of the other minimalist bloggers out there. After reading the book, I was re-inspired to work on paying of my student debt and cut away the things that just don't matter when you really think about it.
Strobel embarks on a book tour this month and the first stop happens to be at Copperfield's in Sebastopol. Be sure to ask her about living without a car and what it's like to actually make a living as a blogger. Also, how essential is coffee to her creative process? Tammy Strobel appears on Tuesday, Sep. 18 at Copperfield's Books. 138 North Main Street, Sebastopol. 7pm. 707.823.2618.
Rohnert Park’s 50th Anniversary is this Saturday, Sept. 15, with a parade, festival and fireworks at the high school football stadium. There’s a car show, live bands (Wonderbread 5, Counterbalance, the Rotten Tomatoes and the Poyntlyss Sistars) and contests like... a tricycle race. It all starts at 11:30 in the morning.
I grew up in Rohnert Park, and have many wonderful, vanilla memories of the city. But this event, a 50th anniversary celebration, feels like the leftover scraps of every Founder’s Day parade (which the city hosted annually until the late ‘90s) combined together into a celebration scraploaf of some kind, thrown into the microwave and served to the soon-to-be-disappointed kids eagerly awaiting “meatloaf night.”
It started to go downhill when the city made a big deal in a press release of having Wonderbread 5 headline the celebration. $5,000 for a cover band playing songs from an era completely unrelated to 1962, when the city was founded. Completely unrelated to the entire idea of a 50th anniversary. It wasn’t like the city covered this up—it was a point of pride, a “look what we got HERE” kind of boast. Like Wonderbread 5 is Bon Jovi or something. (To be fair, Wonderbread 5 is very good at what they do, and Bon Jovi would only be a minor upgrade).
Then, nothing. We heard nothing about what would be there, what events would take place. There was some hubbub about the “Friendly City” sign being renovated, and that’s now completed by a David Armstrong, who apparently took on the task mostly on his own. Raised the money and kept moving forward until it got done. Looking at the city’s official website, there is no reason I would attend this event. There’s even this weird, “Mr. Lucky Legs” throwback competition from the 1980s, which crowns the man with the most unique, hairiest or manliest legs.
The parade is actually Rancho Cotate High School’s annual homecoming parade, upon which this celebration has glommed. That’s cool—it’s a very hometown thing to do. But Rancho started the homecoming parade on its own six years ago after a long hiatus. For the city to simply absorb it into its own event is poor taste considering the decidedly un-friendly relationship it’s had with the school district in the past. Hopefully this is a sign of things changing, but to an outsider it’s awfully disconcerting.
The whole event feels as though this were planned in part by those who planned the city 50 years ago, but without the good time that was surely had by those guys. The Friendly City may be clinging too tightly to a past where red was a different kind of gang color and black folks and homosexuals weren’t allowed into dining rooms of civilized people.
Rohnert Park can at least be commended for creating an event, something city officials have, lately, left up to the minds of local businesses. Results of those events have been varied. This celebration will surely be a good time for those with any interest in “bed races” or standing around with a can of beer, nodding and saying, “yeeeep… mmmmmhmmmm.” But for everyone else, it’s sure to be a quick peek at the vendor tents, and then back home to the Real Housewives marathon.
I love documentaries almost as much as I love free stuff, almost as much as I love getting two things I love at once. When all three come together, it's a miracle I don't explode. The Emmy-winning PBS Independent Lens series is showing every second Tuesday of the month through June 2013 at Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol. Free movie night is awesome enough, but also: what else are you gonna do on a Tuesday? The series begins tonight at 7pm with Half the Sky: Turning Opression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. For more, see Rialto Cinemas.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2012 — Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
A landmark series based on the book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky follows celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde as they travel through six countries to meet inspiring, courageous individuals confronting oppression and developing real, meaningful solutions for women and girls through health care, education, and economic empowerment.
OCTOBER 9, 2012 — As Goes Janesville by Brad Lichtenstein
America’s middle class is dwindling, and the debate over how to save it is nowhere fiercer than in the normally tranquil state of Wisconsin. In Janesville, as jobs disappear and families are stretched to their breaking point, citizens and politicians are embroiled in an ideological battle about how to turn things around.
NOVEMBER 13, 2012 — Solar Mamas
Rafea — a 30-year-old Jordanian mother of four — is traveling outside of her village for the first time to attend a solar engineering program at India’s Barefoot College. She will join other poor women from Guatemala, Kenya, Burkina Faso, and Colombia in learning concrete skills to create change in their communities.
JANUARY 8, 2013 — Soul Food Junkies
Soul food lies at the heart of African American cultural identity. The black community’s love affair with soul food is deep-rooted, complex, and in some cases, deadly. Soul Food Junkies puts this culinary tradition under the microscope to examine both its significance and its consequences.
FEBRUARY 12, 2013 — The Powerbroker
Whitney M. Young, Jr. was one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders of the civil rights era. As executive director of the National Urban League, he took the struggle for equality directly to the powerful white elite, gaining allies in business and government, including three presidents.
MARCH 12, 2013 — Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines
Trace the fascinating evolution and legacy of the original comic book Amazon, Wonder Woman. From her creation in the 1940s to the superhero blockbusters of today, pop culture’s representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.
APRIL 9, 2013 — The Island President
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is confronting a problem greater than any world leader has ever faced — the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. His is the most low-lying country inthe world; a minor rise in sea level would literally erase it from the map.
MAY 14, 2013 — The Revolutionary Optimists
Amlan Ganguly teaches the children of Kolkata’s slums to become leaders in improving their own community’s health and sanitation. Using street theater, dance, and data as their weapons, the children have cut malaria and diarrhea rates in half, increased polio vaccination rates, and turned garbage dumps into playing fields.
JUNE 11, 2013 — Love Free or Die
Love Free or Die is about a man who has two defining passions that the world cannot reconcile: his love for God and for his partner Mark. The film is about church and state, love and marriage, faith and identity — and openly gay Bishop Eugene Robinson’s struggle to dispel the notion that God’s love has limits.