Archive for April, 2007

Whoa, Nellie!

For the first time in 13 years, the Warriors are in the playoffs! As they prepare for their best-of-seven first-round series against the mighty Dallas Mavericks, subplots abound: Will Warriors coach Don Nelson, edged out a few years ago by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (and still engaged in a yucky salary dispute with same), wreak his revenge? Will the recent regular-season mastery of the heretofore lowly Warriors over the Mavs extend into this series? And, perhaps most important, will Warriors center Adonal Foyle -- former guest on this show, new U.S. citizen, and just a really great guy -- finally win his way into Nellie's rotation?

We'll begin to find out the answers to these pressing questions at tomorrow's 6:30 p.m. tipoff in Dallas. And as always, the obsessive Warriors blog Golden State of Mind will be covering all the angles. Hey, I'm verklempt!

April 21st, 2007

Life Nell

In recent months, as I've tried to do my own little part to help save the Earth via the nascent (meaning still disorganized) Project Quixote, I've had the great pleasure of meeting people who've actually been devoting their lives to the cause of fighting global warming. Some are neighbors of mine. Some -- bless their patient souls! -- are in government. One is a friend of my brother's who taught himself about energy and then actually wrote energy legislation for several states, including ours. Oh, and I also met Al Gore, who I think has been doing pretty good job of getting the word out.

The cumulative effect of hanging out with these people has been to give me a sense of hope -- albeit, nothing close to certainty -- that people may yet respond to this unprecedented global challenge with unprecedented global resourcefulness. The one thing that I am sure of is that it feels a helluva lot better to try than to stick to my usual practice of drawing the blinds and curling up in a ball. And I know, too, that I'm intensely grateful to folks who, by example, show that it's possible to move forward through our finite lives even while facing infinite-seeming obstacles.

A bonus is when they also provide lots of free food for me and my crew! Such was the happy case when Nell Newman swung by our studio to tape the interview that will be broadcast tonight (at 7:30). Newman, the head honcho of Newman's Own Organics, had arranged for a, like, huge box of their stuff to precede her. (I can assure you all the products found happy homes.) I found her to be remarkably unscathed by a relatively happy childhood with famous actor parents -- and in remarkably good shape, too, considering all the snacks she has access to. Perhaps it's all the surfing she does.

In any case, we talked about her helpful, down-to-earth book, Newman's Own Organics Guide to a Good Life, and other stuff, like predatory birds (a passion of hers). She also checked out the "Wandering Josh" piece we did for this show, which features a visit with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (an energetic advocate of green-osity), a trip to the educational, inspirational Berkeley Marina Shorebird Nature Center, and an off-the-grid experience at the offices of Local Power -- an organization run by Paul Fenn (pictured), the friend of my brother's I alluded to up top.

Between the studio conversation with Nell and the field visits for the WJ, my crew and I learned a ton of stuff about how we can help make things better. (And, yes, we collectively probably gained a ton of weight as well -- but we can probably work it off by building windmills and such. ...)

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April 16th, 2007

Getting Centered with Walter & Albert

Wow, time flies when you're broadcasting! Is it possible that we'll be taping the last show of our second season on Thursday, April 26? (Yes.) It's going to be a really cool event, too, for a number of reasons. One is that we'll be doing it at the beautiful, renovated Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Another is that it'll be our first episode taped in front of a live audience -- which you can be part of! And to top it all off, my interviewee will be Walter Isaacson, whose new biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe, is being greeted as rapturously as his best-selling life of my doppelganger Ben Franklin.

Hey -- now that I'm thinking about it, maybe Einstein's special theory of relativity could help explain why time has been going so fast lately! In any case, between Walter and Albert and the JCCSF, I imagine we should be able to formulate a workable theory -- or, at the very least, enjoy some tasty Jewish pastries (which, as I understand it, are relatively healthy). ...

1 comment April 13th, 2007

Benefit for Creativity Explored

Years ago, when I had first moved to the Mission District (where I lived happily for many years before heading to the East Bay), I repeatedly passed a beautiful storefront on 16th Street, filled with all manner of lovely, intriguing paintings and sculptures. One day I headed inside the studio -- and was fascinated to learn that the talented artists working there were all developmentally disabled. I had stumbled on the headquarters of Creativity Explored, an organization dedicated to helping artists with these disabilities to create, exhibit, and sell their art.

Ever since then I've been a huge fan of the place -- and so I was especially honored when I was contacted by its executive director, Amy Taub, and invited to participate in their third annual San Francisco Notables fundraising event. The bash -- hosted by S.F. District Attorney Kamala Harris and featuring live music by rock 'n' roll hero Jonathan Richman -- takes place tomorrow, April 12, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the 111 Minna Gallery. (Details and tix here.)

I'll be there, along with an unbelievable number of hecka-cool folks; all we "notables" had to do was allow artists from Creativity Explored to do our portraits, which will be sold at tomorrow's benefit in a silent auction. (Amy mentions that there will be not one but two portraits of me -- including the one pictured above, by Gordon Chin. I love it!) Oh, and did I mention there will be lots of great food? (Well, there will be.)

Last year the event sold out, so they're recommending that you purchase your tickets in advance. See you there!

2 comments April 11th, 2007

There Are No “Good” Wars

warThat's one of the excellent points that documentarian Ken Burns makes in the interview running tonight (at 7:30). He and his colleague Lynn Novick were visiting KQED to talk about their upcoming series The War, which will begin airing on PBS in September. Burns of course rose to fame with his series The Civil War, and he talked with me about how he initially resisted returning to the theme of armed conflict. Indeed, talking with them both, I felt as though I could sense the emotional toll that years and years of research into the horrors of war had inflicted.

The series' perspective is a particularly democratic one -- focusing as it does on the experiences of the soldiers themselves, as well as their families. (Burns and Novick felt that the story already had been told many times over from the viewpoint of the leaders.) But with so many potential protagonists, the challenge was to find an organizing principle for their bottom-up narrative. They ended up focusing on four representative American towns and interweaving the stories of how inhabitants of each were affected by the war. Also, they paid particular attention to the searing experiences of Japanese Americans, who were forced into internment camps and then -- amazingly -- recruited from those very camps to fight in the front lines. My wife is Japanese American, and her parents and grandparents were all placed in these camps -- so I confess that I was feeling especially emotional when we discussed this subject.

ken & lynnAs guests, Burns and Novick struck me as being especially "present" during the interview -- answering my questions not by rote but with real consideration. (This must be especially challenging when on the kind of whirlwind media tour that Burns's success has engendered.) Their emotional openness, in turn, made me feel okay about my own shakiness as I tried to consider the unthinkable suffering endured in this war that I believe was "just" but agree with Burns was not -- could not possibly have been -- "good."

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April 9th, 2007

Door Stories

Why is this blog item different from every other blog item?

Well, first of all, I'm writing it at the home of our friends the Millers, who are about to serve a sumptuous Passover feast.

Also, their computer (which I'm working on now) has one of those wiggly, ergonomically correct keyboards -- which is kind of freaking me out: it's like trying to type while your hands are drunk (possibly from Manischewitz).

And finally, in honor of my people's historic exodus, I am trying to make this item entirely leavening-free.

So here goes:

DelroyTonight's show (at 7:30) features an interview with one of my favorite actors, Delroy Lindo, whose work I admired long before I learned that he lives here in the Bay Area. Lindo's intensity and intelligence always come through, even in monosyllabic action films, though where he really gets to shine is in movies of substance -- like The Cider House Rules, Malcolm X, or (most recently) the delightful dramedy Wondrous Oblivion. After a childhood in England and Canada, he received his acting training at A.C.T. in San Francisco, and eventually gained prominence with Broadway roles in "Master Harold" ... and the Boys and Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

Now he's directing -- and in our neck of the woods, too! His production of Tanya Barfield's powerful, complex play Blue Door begins previews at the Berkeley Rep on Friday and opens on April 11. (I wasn't looking at the computer screen as I was typing that last bit, and on this wiggly keyboard it initially came out as "'k'gsd fl;kg'ks dflgskz 'z'''''k"!) Based on my reading of the script, I'm anticipating that Blue Door -- a multi-generational meditation on history and identity, performed by only two actors -- will be quite a tour de force. If you go catch it at the Rep, maybe I'll see you there!

For now, however, I'm going to start heading toward the Passover table. There's a gefilte fish coming this way with a mean glint in his eye, and I'd better take care of this situation before it gets out of hand. ...

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1 comment April 2nd, 2007

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