Arts & Culture

Arts & Culture

Your neighborhood streets on wry (hold the Sesame)

Avenue Q and Insignificant Others: musical comedies with bite
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"Who are the people in your neighborhood?" Wasn't that the consciousness-raising question we were coaxed into asking as tots by the irresistibly catchy song stylings of public television? Well, if they're the mix of humans and Muppet-esque monsters of Avenue Q, they're strikingly but only superficially reminiscent of the denizens of that sidewalk utopia propagated by PBS children's programming. Read more »

Deep digs into rock's catalogue

The "Under Review" DVD series looks at the music behind rock's drama
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DVD Chrome Dreams' Under Review DVD series is one of the better things to happen for music geekdom since 180-gram vinyl or the twofer CD reissue. Where else are you going to find sober analysis of Captain Beefheart's mid-'70s tragic band period or an in-depth discussion of the four Mott the Hoople albums that came out before All the Young Dudes (Columbia, 1972)?

My first brush with the series came a couple of years ago, with one of the earliest installments, Queen under Review: 1973–1980. Read more »

Code unknown

"Dark Matters: Artists See the Impossible" pictures black ops, hidden cops, and shadow streams of puzzling information
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The CIA maintains a number of "black sites" around the world where suspected terrorists are "disappeared." You can get a recipe for Irish Eyes Chicken Pot Pie or instructions on how to commit suicide on the Internet. Thousands of starlings spontaneously converge in a suburb in Rome where Benito Mussolini once planned on holding an exhibition celebrating Fascism. I love having dreams. There are more than 130 revolving restaurants around the world.

These are all interesting tidbits. But what do they mean? Read more »

Ocean of motion

In its 16th year, the WestWave Dance Festival ebbs and flows
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What can one say about a producer who schedules four programs with a total of 20 world premieres and gives four evenings to choreographers, two of whom the audience most certainly has never heard of? At the very least, this shows guts and a willingness to trust the artists who've been engaged.

Joan Lazarus, the longtime force behind the WestWave Dance Festival, has always embraced risk. She has also shown a singular commitment to local dance, which has not always paid off. For the past few years, the event has struggled to find a new identity. Read more »

Nerd resurge

Geek heroes sweep screens big and small
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ZEITGEIST This year just may go down as the one when nerds finally ruled the school, scattering HP calculators, parentally purchased button-downs, and World of Warcraft guild master credentials as they tripped on their own shoelaces on their way into WonderCon or the Lick Observatory. The infestation of all screens big and small hasn't been quite so intense since the Ronald Reagan–era '80s, when nerds were regularly toasted on TV's Happy Days, then found fame in the cineplex's Revenge of the Nerds (1984). Read more »

Black and white and color

Shots seen round the Bay Area and beyond by 10 sharp-eyed photographers
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One of the most exciting aspects of being a newspaper editor is recognizing a wave of activity that isn't connected to government mind control or onslaughts of corporate-sponsored and mass-marketed art. This kind of spontaneous mass energy is happening via photography in San Francisco right now. August is known as a slow month, but the city's galleries are alive with contemporary photos. Read more »

Two for the road

Music and mayhem, the Kiki and Herb way
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"This is the first day of my life<\!s>/ I'm glad I didn't die before I met you." Yes, it almost feels like that in the afterglow of Kiki and Herb's Alive from Broadway tour, which wound up a too-brief engagement at the American Conservatory Theater's Geary Theater on July 29. As a longtime duo pulled from retirement after their 2004 Carnegie Hall farewell (and for purported septuagenarians), Kiki (Justin Bond) and Herb (Kenny Mellman) are in incredible shape. Read more »

Man vs. room service?

Eating grubs and influencing people on the Discovery Channel
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On the Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls parachutes into remote wildernesses, from the swampy Everglades to the freezing Scottish Highlands, and finds his way out, seemingly on his own. However, in an article posted on the BBC News Web site July 24, survival consultant Mark Weinert alleged that Grylls spent some nights in a hotel during the Hawaii episode, among other solo-survival no-no's. Whatever the case, Man vs. Wild is, in my opinion, the greatest nature-survival show since Marty Stouffer's Wild America. Read more »

Our Springfield soft spots

Ten (out of 10,000,000) reasons why we love The Simpsons
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1. Tress MacNeille Julie Kavner and Hank Azaria always get props, but how about throwing down for my hero, the voice behind characters such as scathing Agnes Skinner, the brilliant-when-coherent Cat Lady, single working woman Cookie Kwan ("Stay outta the West Side!"; "Sign here, initial here, kiss me here!"), and Cookie's sex-predator pal Lindsey Naegle, who appears as everything from a network executive ("We're losing male tweens! Read more »

Give a hoot (or else)

Berkeley's Pacific Film Archives' film series gives environmental concerns the depth Gore's film avoided
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WILD WILDLIFE Had director Davis Guggenheim attempted to explore all the creative possibilities that lie behind such a name as Al Gore (get it?), An Inconvenient Truth would have been a much more interesting and way scarier film. Not that turning a pressingly threatening environmental issue into unforgettably blatant propaganda isn't frightening. Read more »