It's no secret that I love to yap about comic books. I've been doing exactly that for Good Times coming up on two years now. But video games are a medium that I’m just as passionate about - specifically ones involving Mario and Zelda which means I loves me some Nintendo. Now I've been a complete loyalist to the company ever since I scored an NES action set on that sweet 6th birthday of mine. I've never so much as allowed a competing console to be connected to any of my televisions growing up. I even have my own Nintendo fan-site that I've been running for a while in addition to a Virtual Boy that's collecting dust on top of my entertainment center right now (how's that for the street cred, kids?).
I never really realized how amazing wine is. When I say that, I don’t mean that I haven’t tasted all sorts of amazing wines and enjoyed their after-effects. What I mean, really, is the grape and the incredible subtly that it takes to make wine and the enormous variations of grapes that can stand alone or be mixed with other grapes to produce varietals. Having spent a week in Napa, Sonoma, Santa Rosa and the North Coast interviewing Winemakers, grape growers, distributors, and an array of people involved in California’s enormous wine making industry, I have a whole new appreciation for the grape.
Anyone that knows me knows that I love Alan Moore - and anyone that knows that knows that of all of his gifts to the comic book world, his 16-issue revamp of the (I guess) classic 50's British hero Marvel Man (Miracle Man in the states to avoid the obvious legal entanglements) towers as my personal favorite of his. Hell, it's probably even my favorite comic book ever written.
While I've never actually read much of the source material that Mr. Moore's run set out to deconstruct, it's for good reason. The guy was a blatant ripoff of DC's Captain Marvel, complete with his own family and magic word that transforms him into a superhero. I never felt like I was missing much but it looks like I'll get the get the chance to find out since this week Marvel releases the first in a series of fancy hardcovers collecting a bunch of those original comics from over a half century ago. While I can't imagine it being all that great it's still nice to see old titles like this maintained for historical value and not just left to vanish into oblivion.
Tips on how to book a show at The Abbey Coffee, Art & Music Lounge
Tucked away behind Vintage Faith Church at 350 Mission Street, The Abbey Coffee, Art & Music Lounge has helped ignite a bit of a singer-songwriter revolution in Santa Cruz. Celebrating its second anniversary this month, The Abbey is a family-friendly, nonprofit venue, owned and operated by the church. With a built-in Sunday crowd, the venue showcases an eclectic blend of local and touring musicians.
A coffee house first, The Abbey only showcases music on Saturday and Sunday evenings, with a rare Friday night performance for special occasions. Volunteer booker Bennett Gibson works for Apple by day and handles booking by night. Gibson prefers e-mails that are short and to the point. Include your band name and a link to your music for a more immediate response. Still trying to keep its own head above water, The Abbey has no budget to pay artists yet, but you can sell your merch (no house cut) and the audience is known to be generous with a tip jar. The bottomless coffee cup can also be a perk for those who enjoy a coffee buzz in the evening.
Once again Santa Cruz has thrust itself into the limelight. The brainchild of Homer Henard developed out of his sheer interest to make surfing relevant again, bridge the gap between surfers and skaters all while promoting world peace. The white-hot YouTube video below (produced and directed by Chris Killen for Ruse Entertainment at press time was recorded at 1.5 million views) has taken the internet by storm, inspiring thousands of kids across the planet to Tarp Surf.
Last week I visited several towns along the Northern Coast: Booneville, Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Philo, Westport, Santa Rosa, Napa and Sonoma. I ended up spending three days in Mendocino, two days longer than expected, because there were so many people of interest to interview. Two that come to mind are Sharon Peterson, owner of the Highlight Gallery and Jessica Norris, director of the Mendocino Art Center.
The Highlight Gallery on Main Street started as many galleries here have, as a cooperative gallery with an emphasis on fine woodworking. Mendocino, a former Mill Town has been host to some of the finest woodcrafters in the world and has had a close relationship with the nearby College of the Redwoods. The college offers a variety of community-based classes, including its world-famous Fine Woodworking Program started by master woodworker James Krenov.Sharon, an artist who showed me some of the finest examples of woodworking I have seen in a long time. Because, there is a long-standing relationship between Mendocino and Santa Cruz, some of the work was by Santa Cruz artists.
The Mendocino Art Center was established on the grounds of the former Preston mansion, which was featured in the James Dean movie East of Eden. When the mansion burned to the ground in 1957, Bill Zacha acquired the entire park-like property with a $500 deposit. By 1959 the remaining carriage house had been converted to the nucleus of the Art Center, while other outbuildings and animal sheds became the first studios. Now the Art Center is an educational and exhibition facility as well as home to Mendocino Theatre Company. Needless to say, for a small Mill Town there is a lot going on in the arts.
Or at least here are the top five things that I read about since I wasn't actually there:
5. Dexter: Season 5 Trailer - (Heads up, do NOT click on that link until you've seen the unbelievable finale to season 4 from last year) Michael C. Hall has already earned his status as one of the finest actors of this generation for his performance as David Fisher on HBO's masterful series Six Feet Under - but man, if he isn't close to outdoing himself on Dexter: Showtime's profoundly addictive series about a serial killer with a moral code who only pursues those who deserve to be murdered (aka other killers).The new season kicks off this September and the trailer unveiled offers a glimpse at yet another year full of the kind of high caliber storytelling the show's become known for.
This past weekend I arrived in Sacramento just in time to enjoy Sacramento’s 2nd Saturday Art Walk. The event was started by artist Michael Himovitz over 20 years ago as a way to bring art lovers together once a month. Michael passed away 15 years ago, but his legacy lives on in a monthly event that now draws several thousand people each month. The streets were lined with musicians, artists and vendors everywhere I went. By nightfall there were thousands of people in the streets (which the city closes off) all with that celebratory air about them.
I met with Lucas Himovitz, Michael’s son, to get a tour of the various activities that take place each month. We went to four or five galleries, all of which were packed with people and ironically, by 2nd Saturday standards gallery owners thought it was a slow night. As the organizer of Santa Cruz’ s First Friday Art Tour I was amazed at how many people were out enjoying both the local art and the street party atmosphere. I met several local bands that had set up in parking lots and allies who have been playing the same spot for years and making a livelihood. Art sales were brisk and everyone was well behaved, even with a minor police presence. Makes you wonder. This week I will be heading to Napa, Sonoma and Mendicino. See you on the road.
"It makes you feel good to know that there’s other people afflicted like you." -
Harvey Pekar 1939 - 2010
Harvey Pekar was known for being many things: A writer, record collector, husband, father, grouch - but more than anything else he was known simply for being himself. I first became aware of American Splendor (Pekar's long running autobiographical comic strip) when the brilliant movie adaptation came out back in 2003 and I was immediately fascinated by his unique approach to a medium more well known for ripped up good guys beating up on ripped up bad guys. Alternatively, American Splendor focused on the mundane everyday aspects of life and the accompanying frustration that was inevitable. To put it in Harvey's own words: "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff," and within the pages of his book it was that and much more.