Wednesday, October 28, 2009

S.F. Museum of Modern Art: Avedon Exhibit

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- "There is nothing more fascinating on Earth than the face," said photographer Richard Avedon, whose exhibit at the S.F. Museum of Modern Art runs through November 29. Featuring nearly 200 of his black and white photos, this exhibit is a testament of intense communication between artist and subject. Stark. Raw. Emotive.

Look for the Andy Warhol and Factory ensemble portrait taken in 1969. This provocative piece of art stands 12 feet high and 50 feet wide. It delivers the double take that both shocks and delights with wry humor and compelling insight into the human condition --a hallmark of an artist's connection to divine flow.

Noticeably missing at this exhibit is the iconic portrait of German actress Nastassia Kinski posing with a snake gently kissing her ear. This early 80's Vogue magazine image became a sensation. Nearly two million posters were sold, rivaling the vintage Farrah Fawcett red bathing suit poster.
Go to the second floor and watch the 87-minute documentary film featuring Avedon's life, it will offer context into this successful artist's career.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monterey Bay -- Have Pumpkin, Will Kayak

MONTEREY BAY, CA – Karen let out a shriek and I quickly turned around to see an elephant seal practically dive-bomb her kayak. A little too close for her comfort, she sighs with relief and then laughs, yet another story to tell about paddling magical Monterey Bay.

I am here with the Crazy Cayak Krew (CCK), a group of 14 raucous, fun-loving kayakers, hell-bent on adventure. We are paddling outside of the Monterey Bay Aquarium among sea otters, pelicans, and a wayward white egret who sits atop the kelp bed staring intently on what could be his breakfast. Bob, our leader, has a pumpkin strapped on the front of his kayak and if you think that’s weird, listen to this, the pumpkin is wearing a child’s life vest and has a name: Mr. Wilson. We hoop and holler on the undulating sea—as the swell surges us into a hypnotic trance, then silence.

We finish our day by paddling through the harbor and marveling at pelicans sunning themselves next to restaurant diners. Life is good on the water.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Duarte's Tavern -- Stepping Back In Time

PESCADERO – The locals call it “Doo-ertz.” I call it “Doo-ar-taze.” We all call it rockin’ good-cookin’. I am at the historic, one-of-a-kind, 1890’s Duarte’s Tavern with my friend Shirish for lunch. This award-winning James Beard Foundation “American Classic” restaurant is the ideal place to take a break if you are traveling the California coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. It’s two miles inland through fertile farmlands and unspoiled wetlands.

We sat in the back where the nostalgic original bar from 1894 offers a more authentic old-world experience. We tried the house specialty—artichoke soup, in deference to the thistle-like plant that grows in volume on the coast. I sampled the sautéed halibut—right out of nearby Monterey Bay, served with mushrooms, green and red peppers, and onion. Shirish noshed on the grilled shrimp and cheese sandwich, rich and decadent. The wine d’jour is a School House Cabernet 2006 from the Paso Robles region. If you can, try and make it on a weekday, otherwise expect to wait, this place is hoppin.’

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Farm to Fork: Enjoying nature’s bounty

MADERA, CA -- Fresh. Local. Organic. That’s the motto of T & D Willey Farms. I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat of Tom Willey’s electric cart as we drive the 75 acres of his and wife Denesse’s Madera farm. There are rows of French Breakfast radishes, Rosa Bianca eggplants, Russian kale and more than 50 varieties of crops—all organic, a Garden of Eden. At this farm, there is no mechanized harvest. In fact, the yellow crookneck squash are picked with white cotton gloves to protect their sensitive skins. Talk about a labor of love.

Every part of this productive farm radiates health and vitality. In large part because of the Willey’s commitment to old-fashioned farming, “We do not use any toxic pesticides,” said Tom pointing to a stand of sunflowers—a habitat strip that attracts beneficial insects for pest control, “we focus on plant nutrient and soil quality. That’s the best possible protection.”

The Willey’s send me home with a box of fruits and vegetables similar to what their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers receive. “I can’t just show you this produce, you have to taste it” said Tom, loading the box into my trunk. I pop a firm red grape into my mouth and marvel at the flavor, complex yet simple. Divine. The rest of the grapes sit on my lap for the journey back to Sacramento. Farm to Fork? Uh-ah…these babies are farm to mouth—thanks Tom!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Journalism’s Future: Carrying the Fire

BERKELEY, CA -- “Real journalism gives you news that you didn’t know that you needed,” said Professor Neil Henry, Dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. “The challenge in this digital era is how do we monetize it, so our students can get paid for their work?” Henry said that 50 percent of all reporters have lost their jobs in the last ten years. “You can advertise for free on Craig’s List. The revenue stream supporting newspapers is diminishing.”

Henry remains optimistic that the future of journalism will eventually transform into something viable. He uses the movie Quest for Fire as the metaphor, “we’re carrying the fire into the new age—we are carrying the values of balance and fairness.” He cites a collaborative project between public broadcasting station KQED and the Graduate School of Journalism that’s getting a lot of press in the journalism circle. “It’s called the Bay Area News Project and it’s devoted to news delivery for the Bay Area,” said Henry. “Warren Hellman, a descendent of the Wells Fargo family gave us $5 million in seed money to develop this project. He told us ‘this is what my great-great grandfather would have done.’ ”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Farm to Fork: What’s an omnivore to do?

BERKELEY, CA -- Michael Pollan holds up a box of Fruit Loops, calls it an “edible food-like substance” and asks the audience: “How about a new label that says, ‘better than donuts?’” The crowd breaks out into raucous laughter at the sheer audacity that Fruit Loops has a check mark next to healthy choice—courtesy of the industrial agriculture marketing machinery. “We’re no longer growing food,” said Pollan “we’re growing food for manufacturing.”

I am at UC Berkeley, where wildly successful food-guru author Pollan “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” is a journalism professor. The six-foot Pollan looks Berkeley-cool with his sports coat and wire-frame glasses. The near-capacity crowd of 1800 at Zellerbach Hall is a combination of gray hair seekers and hip, with-it students—all trying to get a grip on the best way to approach the unscientific pleasure of eating. Pollan claims we’ve undergone 150 years of diet change and it has taken a tremendous toll on our health.

“How do we escape the western diet without leaving civilization?” He offered a few rules to help guide the omnivore’s dilemma:
--If it has more than five ingredients, don’t eat it.
--Avoid any foods you’ve seen advertised on television.
--Don’t get your fuel at the same place your car does.
--Avoid foods that never rot—like Twinkies.

My personal favorite tip is the seven words on the "In Defense of Food" book cover. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.