Yesterday I had my thinking cap on and was trying to come up with compelling cover image ideas for our winter issue of Boheme, a pocket guide to retailers, wineries, breweries and spas in the North Bay. I want a photograph to evoke winter in the North Bay and wine country, something visually appealing but not too staged or phony. A couple walking through a yellow-leafed vineyard with sweaters on? Someone sipping a cup of hot chocolate? A crab boat?
Then I saw the cover of the new Sonoma magazine. The magazine is generally quite beautiful with lavish photography, attractive layout and well-written articles that seem designed for the nightstands of affluent guests at the Hotel Healdsburg. But this issue's cover image killed me. It looked like a parody of J Crew catalog: an old pickup truck with a holiday wreath on the grill and precariously stacked presents on the roof. At the wheel is what looks like an adorable springer spaniel. You know, just your typical wine country scene. I guess the owner of the vintage truck was driving through his vineyard on his way to deliver his cargo of handmade and sustainable gifts to all his fellow winemaker friends while his beloved dog waited in the cab. He better watch his speed though because those presents are threatening to topple over at any moment.
The wine county is a place, but also a trope that's built on mythologized images of bucolic bliss and rustic charm. I've never seen a better example of this fantasy than Sonoma mag's current cover.
One of my favorite parts of my job as editor the Bohemian is working with artists and photographers to create each week’s cover. The cover almost always relates to our feature story and is designed to be eye-grabbing from up to 10 feet away and make readers say, “hey, that looks interesting. I better pick that up and read it.”
For our fall literature issue last month, I wanted an artist to illustrate the winning entry in our annual fiction contest, “The God’s Eye” by Jeff Cox. I reached out to Brooklyn illustrator extraordinaire Danny Hellman. He’s inked work for dozens of magazines and newspapers. I sent him the winning story, an Agatha Christie-esque story about a stolen jewel, and asked him render a scene. I thought the illustration he sent me was spot-on. It showed a woman on her knees looking for the missing jewel while a sinister man with a gun loomed in a doorway behind her. A big eyeball floated between them. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the story: the thief stashed the jewel in the empty socket behind his glass eye, hence the floating eyeball on the cover). But that’s not what a few readers saw.
I got angry calls and letters complaining that the image was “sexist,” “salacious” and “detestable.” One writer said the image portrayed an impending rape. Does a woman on the floor automatically signify sex or rape? Could there be another connotation? Not in the mind of these readers. Sexist and disgusting. Case closed. Never mind they didn’t actually read the short story to which the illustration referred.
Alternative weeklies are known for publishing some pretty provocative stuff and by that measure I think the cover was rather tame. I’ve seen more sex and violence on the cover of magazines in the supermarket checkout line.
Violence against women is real and is not something I take lightly. The cover image drew on the tradition of pulp fiction and was intended to be visually striking, but puzzling enough to get readers to open the paper to find out what was going on. What is she doing on the ground? What’s up with that eyeball? To readers who were offended and saw nothing but sex and violence, consider the possibility that your interpretation was wrong.
This Saturday, Oct. 11, the immersive multimedia performance known as Bella Gaia will be exhibiting a special display of their world music and dance performers accompanied by breathtaking scenes of cosmic imagery. The multi-sensory experience combines images of Earth and nature courtesy of NASA satellite photographs paired with live performances of music and dance from around the world. It is coming to the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium for a very rare performance, and for one night only.
The ensemble’s purpose is to deepen appreciation for our planet and the environmental challenges it faces. And it seems to be working; data from a NASA-led survey shows that “90 percent of the audience reported a transformed perspective of the Earth, and a doubling of respondents say that the Earth plays a more important role in their personal lives and their family” after attending Bella-Gaia.
“At the time, I had no idea what to do, how I would do it, or what it would look like,” says creator Kenji Williams. “But chance meetings, introductions, and a stubborn persistence led me to win several grants to start production, and develop the project. It really grew organically, through synchronous meetings, and collaborations. Bella Gaia chose me, not the other way around!”
It began with a collaboration between Williams and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who had lived on the International Space Station for over a year. Williams recalls: “I asked him 'what changed when you went into space?' and he told me that before he went to space, his favorite planets were Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, but once he went into space and looked out the window of the space station, he completely fell in love with planet Earth, and Earth became his favorite planet. I just got really inspired by this story, and got me thinking 'How could I bring this transformative effect that Mike Fincke had, to those of us who cannot yet go to space?' This was the primary motivation that led me to create Bella Gaia.”
“The long term goal is to create our own stand-alone custom theater,” says Williams. “Bella Gaia currently exists on multiple platforms using HD and traditional theaters, full-dome planetarium, and more. But I would like to design a theater screen and stage that combines the best of all these different types of experiences, into one ultimate experience.”
His vision is to scale up the technology and audience relationship to the performance in a new theater entirely different from anything in existence, one that caters to the many aspects of the experience of Bella Gaia and reaches more people.
At their upcoming show Bella Gaia wishes to build support for their latest single, "Biosphere Pulse”, and their forthcoming album Bella Gaia—Beautiful Earth which has a release date of Nov. 11, as well as to share this audio-visual extravaganza with the North Bay.
Tickets are $25-$75. Click here for more info.
We were on the road from Santa Rosa to Bolinas on Wednesday in the luxe and powerful Grand Marquis, rolling large and in charge, with morning business concluded: Check in with the Santa Rosa office, whack out some online business, get ready for next week’s issue.
My companion had previously dumped his car at the wrecker’s in Santa Rosa with the tow guy, and needed to grab a check for his car; now he had money burning a hole in his pocket, even after blowing $72 at the Santa Rosa Barnes & Noble and some tea at the nearby Peet’s on the main downtown drag.
We purred through Petaluma, stopped at the McEvoy Ranch for some olive oil and information—and then debated and discussed in great and animated detail, the various Pt. Reyes Station lunch options down the road—Station House Café, Osteria Stellina, Pine Cone Diner.
The piscatarian in the car emphasizes that he doesn’t eat meat, though I did recall selling him a large, barbecued and quite deliciously nasty Polish sausage at a recent Bolinas Community Center Fund-Raiser…hmm. Well.
We all have our little slips now and again.
I was about to have one of my own. I turned 47 about a month ago and decided to lay off the red meat awhile.
Maybe a long while.
Maybe until lunch Wednesday, after we rolled into Pt. Reyes Station with hunger and mirth on the mind—and the Pine Cone in our sights.
The Pine Cone Diner falls into the category of institution. You can know this even if you’ve never been there before. As diners go, it is not especially cheap, but as Marin County eateries go, it’s very affordable.
It’s a diner, and diners are by, for and of the people. I come from Long Island. We know diners, and we know when someone’s trying to jack you with some $23 offering of grandma’s meatloaf.
If journalism, at its best, is about afflicting the comforted and comforting the afflicted, let’s afflict the comfort food wannabes that ape diner food and try to convince you that macaroni and cheese is haute cuisine because you rubbed your truffles on it. The Pine Cone Diner is not one such place. Its comfort is built in, unaffected, even a little cranky at times. That’s cool.
Goshamighty, all this talk of food reminds me that I had the craving. I had the mind-eyeball for a cheeseburger, a fat, juicy burger. With a dollop of mayonnaise squeezed on the side of the plate, for extra-dipping pleasure. With French fries, glorious French fries bathed in the oil of excess.
But I thought of the pact: lay off this stuff, man.
So I scanned the menu, and scanned it again. I ignored the cheeseburgers with great effort, I scoffed at the turkey burger, I shot poison darts at the garden burger. One or two items sounded like Alice Waters was hiding under the placemat, and I ignored those, too.
And then I spotted it. Patty melt!
Hey, I thought, that’s a big step-down from the big and juicy burger. It’s verily a compromise. Why, it’s practically like ordering cottage cheese on a fantail of iceberg lettuce and some treacle-fruit from the can, right?
The Patty melt, to put the finest of points on it, was an exquisitely humble take on the old standby: butter-grilled rye, sautéed onions, melted cheese of indeterminate origins, and that godforsaken patty of love-hate-love, cooked to perfection. It’s Marin Sun Farms meat—comes from right down the road. It’s good for you.
In retrospect, I should have ordered the double patty melt.
The year was 2008 and the New York Football Giants were in the Super Bowl. I was sober and single, living in New Haven, Connecticut, and I settled in for the game.
And what a game it was!
On the menu: A six-pack of Kaliber non-alcoholic beer, and a bag of peanuts in the shell. A pile of socks and other random stuff next to my chair, to throw at the television as the incredibly tense game wore on.
That was, perhaps, the greatest night of my life. Sad, but true. The New York Football Giants won the game, now considered one of the Greatest Super Bowls Ever. A true nail-biter. I must have thrown 50 socks at the TV that night.
That Super Bowl was memorable for “The Catch,” the most insane pass play in the history of the game: Eli Manning to David Tyree, deep in the fourth quarter. Tyree somehow trapped the ball on his helmet and kept a fourth quarter drive going that would end in Victory! Victory! Victory!
(Oh, you say: “The Catch” in these parts refers to the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark end-zone game capper in the 1982 NFC championship. Nice catch, Clark, and thanks for beating the hated Cowboys—but that was no Tyree grab. I’ll fight anyone for bragging rights to “The Catch.”The loser’s on the hook for some tasty fake beers.)
I drank that whole dang six-pack of Kaliber that night and felt like a drunken reveler when those last seconds ticked off and the Giants had, very improbably and with the miracle of The Catch, won the game. I toasted the Boys in Blue with that final Kaliber, collected the socks, and went to bed. In the morning: No hangover!
Hangovers suck, I try to avoid them whenever possible, and, as such, I’ve tried just about every available non-alcoholic beer there is on the market. My taste for the stuff is split across two poles: I love the extremely bland Busch non-alcoholic beer, mostly because you can drink ninety cans and feel you’ve done a fine job of hydrating yourself. It’s healthy!
On the other end, the delicious, nutritious Kaliber, which is made by the Guinness folks, has that same rich, creamy and slightly bitter backbite that characterizes the stout. It’s the upper-class non-alcoholic beer, and for my money, anyway, it blows all the other high-endish non-alcoholic offerings out of the water.
The popular St. Pauli Girl non-alcoholic version is one that comes to mind, and I’ve tried it. I’m a pretty bitter person at times, but even that stuff is too much for me.
Back a few months ago we did an online exclusive interview with Kurt Stenzel, a San Francisco–based composer who scored and played the spooky, synthy music on Jodorowsky’s Dune. Kurt’s an awesome guy, a veteran punk rocker from New York who loves him some Devo, Hawkwind and Jethro Tull.
The film that Kurt scored, you might recall, was about the kooky filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and his failed attempt, in the 1970s, to make the filmic version of Dune, which was eventually made by David Lynch. That version was pretty terrible by most accounts, despite—or was it because of?—the presence of Sting.
Not so the documentary. Just as Jodorowsky’s Dune was taking off—numerous indie-film award nominations, a national release—Stenzel talked with Nicolas Grizzle about the film and his work on it.
But just two freaking days after Grizzle spoke with him, Kurt suffered a massive stroke, and he's still recovering from it. Geez.
Three-plus agonizing months later, the good news is that Kurt went home this week—finally got out of the hospital. His fiance Jen reports that he's relaxing at home and checking out the remastered soundtrack to Jodoworsky's Dune—as they await the arrival of the 2 LP soundtrack on vinyl. That's fine medicine indeed.
But he needs yer help. Kurt has a long way to go, as he racked up some mighty medical bills while his recovery has slowly unfolded. His health insurance has run out, according to his partner—and those suckers won’t cover speech rehabilitation in any event.
Such times as these: Kurt’s partner created a gofundme account with a goal of generating $100,000 to pay off the bills and get him set up in the new home with the medical gizmos he'll need moving forward. As of today, Kurt’s received over $20,000 from 172 people through the gofundme portal—in just one week. Help this man heal!