Archive for March, 2007

War Stories

PhilipDespite the fact that Philip Kan Gotanda cleverly plied me with wine, I nonetheless have a clear memory of our conversation -- which you can catch on Monday night's episode (at 7:30). And from what I can recall, the Berkeley-based playwright and filmmaker was a marvelous guest -- filling me in on his wide-ranging, passionate, questing body of work.

Gotanda's latest play, After the War, which will have its world premiere at A.C.T. on Wednesday, is arguably his most ambitious: it explores the cultural interactions -- often tense, though sometimes tender -- in the Fillmore District in the period following World War II. As Japanese-Americans returned from the internment camps to which they'd been forced by a shameful government edict, they found many of their former Japantown residences now occupied by (among others) African-Americans who'd come up to work in the city during the war. Gotanda's protagonist, a Japanese-American jazz musician, must try to navigate the roiling cultural waters of his place and time. Having read the play but not yet seen it, I can't wait to get to A.C.T. and check out how director Carey Perloff has brought this sprawling tale to life on stage.

One thing I have seen is Life Tastes Good, the delightfully quirky feature film that Gotanda wrote and directed (it'll soon be out on DVD). I'd also love to visit Mashiko, the Japanese town where he once studied pottery -- but I'm pretty sure such a trip would be outside our show's research budget. Well, at least BART can get me as far as A.C.T. ...

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March 25th, 2007

O Peggy?

PeggyI'm fairly sure I asked some decent questions of local author Peggy Orenstein about her marvelous new memoir, Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Fertility Doctors, An Oscar, An Atomic Bomb, A Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother. But there was so much to talk to her about -- I mean, just covering everything in that subtitle could take up a whole miniseries! -- that I was hoping that you, gentle blog reader, could help continue the conversation.

Peggy has graciously offered to respond to your own questions, comments, and stories (via the "comment" link at the bottom of this item) -- so please, chime in! The subject of fertility is such an emotional one for many of us -- as is, of course, the more general topic of parenthood and its complexities. Peggy and I are really looking forward to hearing from you!

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5 comments March 19th, 2007

Why I Love Riding BART

So I get on the BART train at Montgomery station yesterday afternoon, about to head back to Berkeley -- and just as the doors are closing, a guy runs on. He's tall and thin, and dressed like David Byrne without irony: well-tailored, old-fashioned suit, black briefcase, and a big, blue-and-gold striped bowtie wrapped around his skinny, R. Crumb-ish throat. I'd guess he was about 55 or so.

So he's just made it onto the train, and he takes a moment to look around gratefully and sweatily, then sits down across from me -- next to a guy roughly his age, but in most other ways his polar opposite: big, bushy gray beard, faded proletarian overalls, reading a section of newspaper that he's probably fished off of the floor. To be honest, the bearded guy looked a bit like he might go off at any minute -- not someone you would necessarily choose to sit next to, unless perhaps you were fixing to get an earful about the Trilateral Commission.

So the train rumbles out of the station. After a few moments, the sweaty skinny guy turns to the bearded guy and says, "This is the Richmond train, right?" Without looking up from his paper, the bearded guy grunts what sounds like "Yeah." The sweaty guy nods, and the train rolls on.

I peek at them covertly as we plunge under the Bay: they're like the Completely Mismatched Duo. One vaguely and irrationally happy, and wearing a big, garish bowtie. The other vaguely disgruntled, possibly due to a life of foiled revolutionary struggle and perhaps exacerbated by the untimely death of Jerry Garcia.

As the train approaches Ashby station, the bearded guy puts his paper back on the floor, stands, and prepares to debark. He stretches, girding himself for the afternoon's continuing struggles. The doors open. Scruffy Dude starts to head out -- then, at the last moment, turns back to Skinny Guy, saying: "Nice tie."

Now here's the thing. I was there. I realize that could read as if it had been said in a mocking way. But it hadn't been. The compliment was genuine -- perhaps with a little ironic spin on it, but not at all malicious or snarky.

Nor was it received as such. Skinny Guy smiles widely and genuinely: "Thanks!"

The doors shut, and the train rolls on towards Downtown Berkeley. The guy with the bowtie is still smiling. So am I.

2 comments March 14th, 2007

No New Show Today …

... for the excellent reason that we are pre-empted (next week as well) by KQED's March pledge drive, which will help pay for stuff like ... this show! (All that coffee I drink doesn't grow itself, you know.)

But just in case you'd still like to catch me interviewing some people this week -- albeit in the Luddite forum of live theater -- then let me tell you about an event coming up this Friday, March 9, at Stanford University. Starting at 7 p.m., at Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium, I'll be performing my comic monologue Love & Taxes -- followed by an onstage conversation with Stanford law professors Barbara Fried and Joe Bankman (who are both brilliant and incredibly engaging, by the way). And the whole thing will be free and open to the public!! (It's being sponsored by Stanford's Program in Ethics in Society.)

So if you want to catch some neurotic monologuing, followed by cool conversation, please join us at the Dinkelspiel (along with your family and friends). As far as I can tell, all you have to do is show up and walk in! (You can find info and a map here.)

March 5th, 2007


This morning my son asked me, "Daddy, is the meaning of life to find out the meaning of life?"

I've had several cups of coffee since then, but I'm still not close to an answer.

March 3rd, 2007

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