Publications

Stagetology.com: Wesley Stace

As an honest artist, Wesley Stace doesn’t mind a clear assessment of his 25-year career in music. As an optimist, he doesn’t struggle to find the bright side. “I’ve never been a household name, it’s true,” he agrees. “But that means I’ve never had a big song that I have to sing over and over….

Has Burning Man gone commercial?

As far from the “real world” as it may seem, Burning Man is a part of our world – money, income inequality and all. Does that make Burning Man commercial? Or is it a valiant and largely effective effort to balance a culture in which money warps our politics, our religion, even our personal relationships? The answer is yes. And no. Or, as in real life, somewhere in between.

Contradictions at Milan’s Expo 2015

The Roman ruins and Renaissance cathedrals are getting some competition for tourist dollars this year from something decidedly contemporary: Milan’s Expo 2015, this year’s international exposition. Having opened in May to great fanfare – as well as charges of incompetence and indictments for corruption in its construction – features acre after acre of spectacular national pavilions that focus on this year’s theme: Food production.

To live life unburdened by stuff

I really did love my stuff. I even used a lot of it. And I had a lot: My gorgeous Victorian home in downtown Sacramento held closets full of clothes, a kitchen crammed with utensils, a garage full of sporting gear, a formal dining room, a roomful of records, even a library, floor to ceiling with books. So much stuff. These days, I have a backpack and a duffel bag

On the media covering the Kings

If you’re sick of the Sacramento Kings drama, imagine how reporters covering this story must feel after spending the last four months—or four years or seven years or 13 years—poring over every angle. Each mayoral press conference, every new civic suitor (Anaheim, Virginia Beach, Seattle), city-council votes and arena studies, those task-force meetings or cryptic pronouncements from the brothers Maloof. This past week in New York City was just the latest twist in a winding, convoluted plot that is beginning to rival All My Children in its length, complexity and unexpected turns.

I heart New York, I heart Sacramento

New York City was the dream. I visited here dozens of times, got married here in 1983 and came here to blow off steam when I was divorced 12 years later. I overstayed my welcome with some friends and pushed it with others. I took a year off in 2006 and sublet a place on the Upper West Side. So, when I finally signed a lease last fall, it was a beginning, but it also felt like the realization of a decades-old dream. After numerous tentative starts, I can finally call myself a New Yorker.

Hurricane Sandy & climate change

By the end of the week, this storm revealed the extent to which climate change may soon be affecting many millions of people—because it already has. The deniers will continue to deny—it’s what they do—but if Manhattan is not safe, if the “Capital of the World” can be plunged into darkness so quickly, so completely, what does the future hold for other cities?

A Life without Artifacts

Six months ago, I was living in a 1,600-square-foot, two-bedroom 1880 Victorian, with a formal dining room, a huge kitchen and bathroom, a foyer, a parlor and a library. A library full of books. Beautiful books, some mine for 30 years, some my grandfather’s for much longer. But after two years of dealing with the twenty-first century American Nightmare—bad loans, unemployment, short sale, foreclosure—along with a perfect storm of even more personal losses of family and friends—I’ve had to learn to let go.
So I’m letting go with a vengeance.

What I Saw at the Hyperlocal Revolution

Much of this piece, which was intended to be about journalism, is instead about money. Perhaps that’s the ultimate message, as journalists everywhere are discovering. As journalists, we’re nothing if we don’t tell the truth, backed up by solid reporting. But unless someone, somewhere, is bringing money to the table, our political insights or critical acumen or familiarity with the machinations of city hall are mere dinner party—or Facebook—fodder. Without the money, we don’t have jobs. And “citizen journalism” notwithstanding, without journalism jobs, we don’t have journalism.

All Things Must Pass: A Farewell

Over my nearly three years at The Sacramento Press, I’ve written some nice farewells to folks who’ve left us, and I’ve even had to fire a couple of people. But now I find that the tables are turned: I was laid off yesterday as Editor in Chief of The Sacramento Press. It was a cost-cutting measure, done to get this young company to profitability. Not the way I wanted to help get there, but you do what you can.

Commentary: You can breathe now

This morning’s announcement that the Kings will be staying in Sacramento is unalloyed good news. Whether or not the Kings staying in Sacramento is ultimately the “right” thing for Sacramento is still up in the air; but today, it is very much a good thing. Whether that remains true going forward depends on a lot of things coming together.

Commentary: Auditing the Auditors

As we in the Sacramento Press newsroom digested the news that a newly hired deputy city auditor was resigning – as a result of one lunchtime phone call to auditor Gerald Silva from our city hall reporter, Kathleen Haley – I marveled at several things. First, that the Sacramento Press’ inquiries had caused a city official to resign. Despite what people might think, that’s not the most rewarding thing a journalist can do. But when the official and his boss have hidden damaging information from city staff and the public – in this case that Silva was fired for his role in a sexual harassment lawsuit while working for San Jose’s city government – well…that’s good stuff. But there’s more to marvel at.

Commentary: Choosing Reality Over Dreams on K Street

One sign of a world class city is that its citizens don’t sit around dreaming up ways to hit that one grand slam that is going to instantly vault it into the status of “world class” cities. Ideas like the Saca twin towers. Like Aura. Like the Sacramento Boqueria. Big projects that promise much but ultimately come to nothing. I believe in dreaming big. But right now, in this town, we need a success. And success isn’t going to come in one fell swoop, with one grand gesture. It is going to come with something that is already happening on K Street: critical mass. The Promenade on K project offers just that.

Ratings Agencies Seek a Dismissal

Moody’s Investors Service Inc., Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings asked a judge today to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two California investors who claim the companies gave inflated ratings to inferior bonds. The companies named the bonds “investment grade” to achieve more sales of their rating services and didn’t downgrade the bonds until Lehman filed for bankruptcy in 2008, plaintiff Ronald Grassi said.

Commentary: A “Strong Mayor”?

Sometimes you can want something so much, and push for it so hard, that you end up creating the opposite of what you wanted. Which is perhaps how we’ve ended up with such a weak mayor. That was never more clear than on Tuesday night, when Mayor Kevin Johnson’s dogged pursuit of a “strong mayor” remake of the city charter went down – spectacularly – at the hands of a city council united against him.

Commentary: In These Hard Times

These are the times that try men’s souls, it’s true. And you see a bit about people in their reactions to the bad news, not always appealing. I admit my own vascillations between hope and despair, particularly in the way I talk – one day I’m quoting terrible news, the next I’m sayin’ it ain’t so bad. Strange times. But I had a conversation with some good friends the other night, outside the Torch Club, and the conversation turned to the economy, and the gloom. And several of the conversants – all guys in their 30s and 40s – opined that, in times like these, the cops were spread thin, and the best insurance against hard times was a shotgun.

Black September at The Sacbee

A Bee Business story on this week’s buy-outs was long on numbers, but it didn’t mention a single name of the very real people who are leaving The Bee this fall. So I’m going to drop the commentary and just list those who are leaving. Read the names, remember the people – and the stories. These are the people who made The Bee what it is…was. And the names say it all.

Sacramento’s Hottest Blogs

So you want to know what some folks really think? Check their blogs. For better and worse, bloggers can say whatever they think—and they do. Prolifically. Bloggers generally aren’t pros—their work often lacks professional editing and fact-checking—but there’s little question on where they stand, and that’s their appeal. Local bloggers who write about Sacramento give a street-level view of the city with an aura of authenticity that more managed media can lack.

Proposition 8 can go to voters

A ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California can go to voters in November, a judge ruled, over
the objection of an advocacy group that said state Attorney General Jerry Brown improperly changed its wording. A group opposed to same-sex marriage sued the state claiming Brown’s changes to the measure’s title and summary — the first words voters see on their ballots — could sway Californians to vote against it.

NorCal’s Greatest Outdoors

Sun, sand, trees, trails, water, wildflowers, wildlife. Many such words come to mind when we daydream of summer in all its coming glory. And now it’s here. In our guide to the outdoors, we explore a variety of ways for you to put our region’s great weather and ample natural amenities to good use. From hiking and cycling to swimming, kayaking and more, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So let’s take it outside.

Purple Heart Memorial

Dan Gehweiler, accompanied by his wife and toddler son, as well as by his parents, accepted the award quietly. It was more than two years in coming, but it was welcome nonetheless. Speaking the day before the ceremony, Gehweiler recounted the afternoon of Aug. 29, 2005, when his truck hit an explosive device on the road back to his base. The shrapnel tore through the floor of the truck he was driving and “a hunk of metal the size of a golf ball” lodged in his right arm.

The Paul McCartney interview

You’d think that people would have had enough of Paul McCartney. But you look around you and you see it isn’t so. With a sold-out show at Arco Arena on Wednesday, yet another album in the Billboard Top 40 and a seemingly endless stream of books being published about his first band, the Beatles, McCartney is the object of enduring interest, especially for baby boomers who grew up with the Fab Four.

Taming and Marketing John Lennon

John Lennon been turned into a soft-focus pop icon, a pinup for peace. A driving force behind that, all agree, is Ono, who, as Lennon’s widow, creative partner, business partner and manager of his estate and legacy, has revised the man. Now, he comes across as a dreamy house husband, not as the firebrand who wrote the raw, violently emotional “Yer Blues” and “Working Class Hero.” Instead, we get the Lennon of clouds and dreams and childish doodles, widely available as lithographs – “limited edition,” of course.

Room To Grieve: A memorial hike

When she set out to hike 200 miles of the John Muir Trail, Anne Arthur, 57, wasn’t aiming to make a statement. She just wanted to go on a hike, the kind she and her husband had planned to do. “We’d been trying to get back to backpacking,” she says of her hiking plans with her husband of 22 years, Jeff. “It was an activity in which we both felt alive; it was something that we shared.” But that was before Jeff, 58, died unexpectedly last November. And before Anne was forced to think about her life and her dreams in a new light.

Jerry Garcia, 10 years gone, 2005

From the time he first stepped on stage with the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, dubbed “Captain Trips” by his following, exhibited the kind of charisma that would make him a revered cultural figure. Even after his death at 53 from heart failure 10 years ago today, his influence echoes among the younger musicians and fans of the booming jam-band genre. The same is true for older fans who – long ago won over by the music – sport J. Garcia ties with their business suits and drink J. Garcia wines at suburban dinner parties.

Nature’s prodigal children

Nature is disappearing, and not just where we notice it. Certainly, the natural world is going under the bulldozer at a frightening rate, from the Brazilian rain forest to North Natomas. But that’s not all that concerns Richard Louv.

What worries the journalist and author is that nature is disappearing from inside us. People are spending less and less time in natural settings and, he says, are losing touch with nature in many different ways.

Amateurs drive Infineon Raceway

Someday, anthropologists will be able to explain the human fascination with speed. Until then, we’ll just keep driving fast, faster and faster still. It’s how some of us are wired. Last week, several dozen NorCal members of the Rocklin-based CFRA, including Wong and others from the Sacramento area, brought their search for thrills to Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point Raceway), just off Highway 37 in Sonoma.

Brian Wilson Wows S.F. with ‘Smile’

To say that a well-known artist was ahead of his time is a critical cliche. It might seem doubly ludicrous to say that about Brian Wilson, whose songs and productions for the Beach Boys in the first half of the 1960s virtually defined his time. But Wilson’s greatest work, largely written and recorded in 1966, got too far ahead of his time, his band and his audience, and even of Wilson himself. But Thursday night at Davies Symphony Hall, Wilson, his music and his audience finally all caught up to the music he dared not release in 1966: “Smile.”

Underground Dining in Oakland

The Host greets us at the door. We’ve met him before, when he was wearing a T-shirt, handing out handbills at a music festival. But now he’s wearing a black dress shirt and colorful tie, and his manner is gracious and welcoming.
He is fairly beaming with pride, for we have arrived at our undisclosed location. The air smells of onion, cumin and candle wax. We have found The Restaurant.

A day on Angel Island

Angel Island looms large in the geography of the Bay Area, but it also occupies a special place in time.

It’s been revered by early residents, such as the Coast Miwok tribes, and used by various branches of the U.S. military for nearly 100 years. It was the first place many Asian immigrants touched ground upon arrival in America.

Climbing (a little of) El Capitan

If the goal is to get to the top of a granite tower such as 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite and get a workout doing it, there are good trails to the top. Pulling oneself up a sheer rock face seems, well, inefficient. Not to mention difficult. And dangerous. But as I discover during my first day of rock climbing, the sport has an advantage that outweighs all these disadvantages: It is a thrill.

The Dead, no longer Grateful

The Grateful Dead has always been great in theory: stylistically omnivorous, loose, improvisational and radically democratic, never doing the same show twice. But the band has at times gone to the down side of those ideals: unfocused, self-indulgent, rudderless, and sometimes just musically inept. Sunday night, returning as The Dead (the “Grateful” discarded in honor of singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995), the band delivered on the theory. Its first show in the Sacramento area in nearly a decade was a triumph.

David Bowie’s last tour, 2004

David Jones has had 40 years now – his first recording, as lead singer of the King Bees, was released in 1964 – to perfect being “David Bowie.” Friday night at the Berkeley Community Theatre, Bowie, now a svelte and energetic 57, gave a sold-out audience of 3,200 the most concentrated and perfectly packaged “Bowie” that he has yet mustered.

The gracious outdoors?

The great outdoors is so great, in large part, because we get away from all the concerns and pressures that add so much stress to our civilized lives. So saying that manners matter in our outdoor activities – observing the proper “outdoor etiquette” – seems almost oxymoronic.

After all, isn’t going into the wild a chance to let loose our inner wildness? Well, yes and no.

Snowshoeing season

Not everyone who enjoys winter sports yearns to be traveling at insanely high speeds.

While the downhill thrill lures many to the slopes, others are answering a more laid-back call: Come to the snow, and shoe.

Boarding and skiing are great fun, but so is the winter-sports family’s more pedestrian cousin: snowshoeing.

It was 40 years ago today, 2004

It’s tempting to write off the media attention being paid to the 40th anniversary of the arrival in America, on Feb. 7, 1964, of The Beatles. People have been talking, thinking and writing about that moment for, well, 40 years. So, what’s new? A handful of stars will do a tribute to The Beatles on Sunday night’s Grammy broadcast. Books and DVDs and CDs and articles keep coming. And no matter how much you love The Beatles, you’ve got to think: Isn’t this overdoing it?

Diving lessons: Thailand’s Koh Tao

Vacation is not the time for multitasking. Especially on a classic beach vacation, days spent vegging out, dining out and splashing about are as ambitious as one need get.

Still, if you’re like many active people, a few days of nothing but relaxation can get a bit … dull. So, while you’re on vacation – even just a beach vacation – you also can learn a thing or two.

A trail of their own

The path toward amending the 1985 Parkway Plan, which governs the use of the 32-mile American River Parkway from Sacramento to Folsom, is even longer than the parkway itself: Citizens groups representing different sports and areas, various regulatory agencies and members of governing bodies from the Board of Supervisors to the state Legislature will study, vote on and ultimately enact any changes.

Diving with the Great Whites

Great whites come to the Farallon Islands, a small group of guano-encrusted rocks 26 miles outside of San Francisco Bay, because of who else goes there: sea mammals. Specifically, elephant seals, which are mobile repositories of fat big enough to give Jenny Craig nightmares.

Such a sight – dryly referred to by Savedra as “a feeding event” – is said to be spectacular.

When The Beach Boys First Hit

It was no accident that the L.A.-based Beach Boys played their first big concert – anywhere – at Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium 40 years ago today, on May 24, 1963. It happened because of a precocious promoter named Fred Vail, a 18-year-old Sacramento State College student who wanted to help his alma mater, El Camino High School, raise money for its graduation party.

Tower Records up for Sale, 2003

The realization that Tower, which was born in Sacramento and grew to include stores all over the world, is not indestructible has prompted many to reflect on the pivotal role Tower Records has played in area culture – and in pop culture in general. In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s in particular, Tower defined cool in Sacramento – though some may have seen it as arrogance – and it provided a unique common ground for people of varied tastes and interests. No one is more surprised at Tower’s impact than the man who founded it – Russ Solomon.

The Rolling Stones live, 2002

Yes, the Rolling Stones are, as they have long claimed, “the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World.” They proved it again Friday night at PacBell Park in San Francisco, where their latest tour began a three-night Bay-area stand that concludes Tuesday night at the Oakland Arena. But at the same time, it felt like a missed opportunity to see what the Stones can be beyond “the Greatest Classic Rock Hit Machine in the World.”

Cher’s Endless, Fabulous Farewell

When Cher says goodbye, she doesn’t get all weepy and sentimental; she wants you to see what you’ll be missing when she’s gone. Thus, it was with bravado and swagger that Cher brought her Living Proof Farewell Tour to Arco Arena on Sunday night. It was a show that explicitly aimed for Fabulous, and pulled it off in style. “Ladies and gentlemen … and flamboyant gentlemen,” she wryly said after her second song. “Welcome to the Cher-est show on Earth.”

Mare Island charts a new course

The biblical phrase “to hammer swords into plowshares” has a nice, logical feel to it. And it’s a relatively simple operation: Once the hammering’s done, you hitch up a mule and start plowing.

But what if your “sword” is a 5,000-acre naval base that was in operation for nearly 150 years and built everything from Civil War sidewheelers to Cold War nuclear submarines?

R.I.P., George Harrison, 2001

George Harrison wrote his own epitaph: “All Things Must Pass.” He sang that song in 1970, just after the passing of the Beatles, the group that made him famous. And with his death at the age of 58, Harrison leaves behind a profound body of work in music and film. But the millions who mourn his passing mourn more than the loss of a great songwriter.

Grey deLisle’s new The Small Time

“I have nothing in common with perfect people,” says Grey DeLisle. “I’m not interested in them.”
Likewise, DeLisle — who made her recorded debut last year with the Hummin’bird Records release The Small Time — has no interest in perfect music. “Contemporary country music doesn’t have any pain in it,” she says. “It’s boring. It’s got no darkness. It’s too perfect.”

Dirk Hamilton Live at the Palms

Cheered on by 50 or so die-hard fans (including his mother), who seemed to know the details of every song of this native son, Hamilton gave a performance full of heart and soul. He and Hayes drove through stripped-down versions of his songs from his major-label heyday in the ’70s, but focused on songs from the string of independently released albums he recorded since moving to Austin a decade ago.

Remembering ‘Rosie’ the Riveter

When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Ollie M. Hawkins, a young woman in Flagstaff, Ariz., watched her three brothers and a cousin march off to war. “I wanted to help bring the boys home – my boys, all the boys,” she says at her home in Oakland. “That’s why I came to California.” Now 84, Hawkins has finally seen her home-front work remembered, with the dedication last month of the new Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Richmond.

Heart Strings: Music and family

For violinist Jaime Smith, the words “family” and “music” have always been virtually interchangeable. Smith, now 24, has followed music wherever it would take her: first to the position of concertmaster of the Sacramento Youth Symphony; then to Boston, where she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music; then to Athens, Greece, on a Fulbright scholarship, where for the past year she studied and made friends and a new life, full of the Greek music she loves. And on Sept. 25, music led her into the path of a speeding car.

Flying for a million miles

I recently spent a week traveling hopefully, never really arriving for long, in and out of eight countries and 11 airports, on 14 flights on eight airlines. What I hoped for — and am still hoping for — was the brass ring for many veteran travelers: the big frequent-flier miles score. My companion and I would travel about 13,000 miles, but we hoped to bag many times that: half a million frequent-flier miles.

Pumped and Pampered in Palm Springs

You don’t have to play golf, or be retired, to have fun in Palm Springs. If you play your cards right, you can finish a week in Palm Springs in dire need of a vacation. If you’re an athletic thrill-seeker of any age, you can beat yourself up here, but good. Fortunately, you can also pamper yourself within an inch of heaven. By alternating the two – activity and passivity, the hard and the soft, the challenging and the relaxing – one can theoretically find a blissful middle ground of total physical satisfaction.

Kurt Vonnegut: Interview

Ask Kurt Vonnegut how it feels to be immortalized on a shopping bag, and he doesn’t hesitate. “It feels as though I should be dead, ” he deadpans wearily. Although his literary profile has been low since his heyday in the ’60s and ’70s, when he was one of America’s most popular and influential novelists, the 73-year-old writer is quite alive and still writing.